At the heart of the 800 million-year-old quartzite and limestone Flinders Ranges lies the richly coloured and textured Wilpena Pound. Shaped by the weathering and uplifting of land over time, the natural amphitheater is 17km long and 7km wide. The appeal is not only with the unique beauty of the ancient geology but the indigenous ties, European farming history, accessibility and abundant wildlife.
The Dreamtime stories of the local Adnyamathana people say that Ikara (Wilpena) is a creation of huge serpents (The Akurra) that formed a whirlwind whilst devouring a group about to hold a corroboree and initiation ceremony. The bodies of the serpents now form the outer ridgeline of Wilpena.
I’d have to say that Wilpena combines everything that I love about the Australian outback; the rugged beauty, the isolation, the stillness, the challenging trails to rewarding vistas.
The drive there follows the giant spine that is the Flinders Ranges. Many brick homesteads lie abandoned in paddocks, most of the time in ruins, signifying the challenge settlers faced in sustaining a way of life on the semi-arid landscape.
I put my tent up on the edge of the lake at Rawnsley Park Station. The front door opened out to views up to Wilpena’s Rawnsley Bluff. In winter, the lack of moisture in the air causes temperatures to plummet at night, so it can be quite chilly getting up to photograph the sunrise.
Given the multitude of walking opportunities at Wilpena, it was bound to be a challenge to choose one to suit. We decided on the 14 km return trek up to Rawnsley Bluff which took a detour to views across the inside of the Pound itself.
From the ground it is hard to get an appreciation for the unique shape of Wilpena. Had I a bit more money I would have taken a plane flight. I’ve included a photograph from Stuart Phoenix to detail what I missed out on.
Late in the afternoon light I took my Honda across some pretty rough roads to see Wilpena from a few different angles. Hucks Lookout and Stokes Hill Lookout both provided some pertinent foreground interest to characterise the region.