Wilpena Pound, Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia - An Ancient Beauty
Flinders Ranges - Razorback ridge on the Bunyeroo Gorge drive
All images Copyright Millie Brown
Only four hundred kilometres north of Adelaide exists a world of extraordinary, ancient beauty and grand landscapes. It is one of Australia's great tracts of scenic beauty. A land of sweeping plains and ragged mountain ranges. It is Adnyamathanha country, and it tells the story of its people.
It's finally spring and I'm dying to get out of the city and away from my computer screen. Months prior I had been successful in bidding through travel auctions for a stay at the Wilpena Pound Resort in Adnyamathanha country, and after one cancellation due to a lockdown, it was mid September and I was finally on the road from Adelaide.
The Adnyamathanha people (meaning rock or hills people), refer to themselves as Yura, and are the proud traditional owners of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. Ikara, meaning meeting place in the native Yura Ngawarla language.
Covering 90,000 hectares the park is home to spectacular gorges, world renowned geological and fossil sites and many significant and sacred sites of the Adnyamathanha people, including the sacred site of Wilpena Pound or Ikara
Ikara Wilpena Pound is made of thick layers of super-hard quartzite that have been squeezed along the east-west and north-south axes, forcing the strata upwards and creating the 17 x 7 km natural amphitheatre, and if you look closely you'll find sedimentary layers dating back 800 million years. These layers contain fossils of multi-celled organisms that existed before they evolved and grew skeletons.
Basically, if you love rocks, you are going to love the Flinders Ranges. While Australia has the world's oldest visible geology on Earth much of it can be found right here.
Before settling into my safari tent on my first afternoon, I took the opportunity to sit peacefully underneath the old and beautiful river red gum on the lawn of the resort to hear Ringo, an Adnyamathanha man welcome myself and all arrivals to sacred Adnyamathanha country.
Listening to the dreaming stories of the Adnyamathanh people before exploring this magnificent area of the Flinders Ranges leaves you with a lasting impression of how sacred and important this country is to its people.
"There's mythology right across the flinders Ranges. People look at it as beauty and wildflowers. Adnyamathanha people see beyond that because we see the stories of how we have survived. It's like a book to us, telling the stories of our creators" - Cliff Coulthard (Adnyamathanha elder).
The Adnyamathanha people retain a strong spiritual and cultural connection to this land and Ikara Wilpena Pound remains an important sacred site, a place where rituals and significant ceremonies took place.
The encircling cliffs of this mountain ring (the pound) are said to be the bodies of Akurras (dreaming serpents). St Mary Peak, Ngarri Mudlanha (the tallest peak of the Flinders Ranges) is the male head and the female head is Beatrice hill.
The only way to grasp fully the magnificence and grandness of this natural wonder is to see it (and photograph it) from the air. To give you an idea of its immense size, it's 8 times the size of Uluru, and covers nearly 8,000 hectares!
The afternoon I was due to take an open window flight to capture Ikara and other parts of the Flinders Ranges from the air, was the day extreme wind blew into this part of the world and we weren't able to take off! For scenic or photography flights head to Wrights Air.
To learn more about the Adnyamathanha dreaming stories click here.
A morning cup of tea at my safari tent at Wilpena Pound (and time to map out my day)
Another morning cuppa (I love my tea) listening to birdsongs (ps I only use tea bags when I travel !)
My new magpie friend joins me to see what he can find!
Unzip the tent for bush views. Nearly time to pull the boots on!
A group of emus quietly making their way into the bush as I arrive at Ikara Wilpena Pound
The exterior of the Ikara Wilpena Pound resort
The landscape near the start of the Bunyeroo gorge drive
My first full day I have set aside for a leisurely exploration of one of the most beautiful scenic drives in this area of the Flinders. The Bunyeroo gorge drive. I have 2 spare tyres, and am hoping I won't need them. (I do need one)!
The drive is best taken from east to west (I didn't know this until it was too late)! Also a tip, while most of the road is doable with a 2WD or AWD SUV as I had, there are parts that are quite rocky (and it's most probably where my tyre was punctured). It's also a good idea to check road conditions before heading out.
I leave the car for a walk and am circled by this magnificent bird
The landscape of the Flinders Ranges is the result of uneven weathering of hard and soft sections of rocks. Quartzite forms the high peaks and ridges, and the softer materials such as siltstone, mudstone, and shale have been worn away to form the valleys and gorges.
The vegetation in the Flinders emits terpenes, which are plant compounds that combine with ozone in the atmosphere and give a blueish tinge to the distant views.
Peek-a-boo! I'm not sure if this is a Western Grey kangaroo or a Euro kangaroo (both are timid).
To see the yellow footed rock wallaby head to Brachina Gorge.
Road to Wilpena Pound at dusk
Landscape taken from Stokes Hill at dusk (blur and soft focus are intentional)
The sun sinks behind the ranges, taken at Stokes Hill (not far from the Ikara Wilpena Pound resort)
Post sunset with a glass of wine, of course... it's Australia after all!
For those that are interested, here is a little sunset photography tip, and one that I was given many years ago.
Most photographers pack up as soon as the sun has sunk! Don't do this, things can get really interesting after the ball of fire has disappeared, the light is forever changing, stick around and you will capture magical moments for quite some time afterwards....you're welcome!
The Flinders Ranges is a truly extraordinary place with a rich cultural and geological history. There are so many incredible experiences to be enjoyed, and a wide range of accommodation from luxury stays to the many well equipped camping grounds. I hope one day you have the opportunity to visit, it will blow you away!
My next Flinders Ranges adventure will be coming to you from much further north, (a 3 - 4 hour dive from Wilpena, more if you are me with a camera), including 150 km of unsealed road, all of which will land you inside a wildlife sanctuary and on to the 'top of the world' in Arkaroola. See you soon!
©2021 Millie Brown | All rights reserved | Photos may not be reproduced without consent
WILPENA POUND DETAILS
Wilpena Pound offer cultural walking tours, 4WD tours and scenic flights. The welcome to country ceremonies are held daily, confirm the start time with reception.There are also many hikes or treks (from easy to challenging, short to long).
Ikara Wilpena Pound Resort Reservations:1800 805 802 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wilpena Scenic Flights: (08) 8648 0004 or Email: email@example.com
OTHER STAYS & EXPERIENCES
....there are many, many more (refer here)
No images may be used without consent