Up, Up and Away

10th July, Wilpena Pound, Australia

Manda writes:

Yesterday's experience of driving Ethel on unsealed roads made us realise that the poor dear was just not cut out for this type of terrain. If we wanted to see more of Flinders Ranges, there were only two options available to us: hire a 4WD or go up in a plane. We did some investigation into what was available and, to our surprise, found the flights to be reasonably priced. We opted for a half hour plane trip and better still, they had room for us this morning.

Our pilot picked us up from Rawnsley Bluff and flew us over Wilpena Pound, pointing out landmarks such as Tanderra Saddle, St Mary Peak (the highest peak in Flinders Ranges) and the ABC Range (on account of there being 26 peaks in this range). The views were spectacular from up here and we got a totally different perspective seeing the ranges from this angle. It almost felt like we were in a different location to yesterday, as we looked down at the ice cream-like landscape below us.

A gorge snakes its way inside 'the pound'.

These ranges were created by movements of the tectonic plates and sculpted from erosion. "Not created by volcanic activity nor a meteor, despite it looking like a crater," explained our pilot, Joe, with a grin not too dissimilar to a Cheshire cat. I can tell that Joe is proud of being a pilot and so he should be with an 'office' as beautiful as this one! He only works in the Winter months as it gets very hot in the Summer and hardly any tourists come out to visit. Trekkers have apparently died in the past, hiking up the gorges, caught off-guard by the unforgiving sun.

Joe continued to fill us in on the history about this place. Rawnsley Bluff was named after a man sent out here to do some surveying but who evidently didn't have a clue. He basically blagged his way into the job and was given food and shelter for four months in this beautiful area before anyone realised he was a fraud. How he still managed to get a range named after him is puzzling! Not bad for doing nothing for four months!

The peaks surrounding Wilmena Pound give away their original source - oceans from millions of years ago (the lines showing the different sedimentary layers).

The flight was calm and we only noticed turbulence flying across the rim of Wilpena Pound. Joe pointed out the only homestead in the centre of Wilpena Pound, an area of some 80 square kilometres. I guess they don't need to worry about keeping the noise down in case the neighbours complain!

The Heysen Range shows various different bands of rock. It almost looks like a spine snaking its way up into the distance.

On the way back to the airstrip, we flew by the Chase Range. "You can see some lovely sunsets here," commented Joe. You sure can and we can attest to this, having seen it just yesterday evening. Spectacular scenery from the ground and above, nice blue skies and a lovely sunset, all in all we were very lucky with this trip to Flinders Ranges.

We drove back to Port Augusta and stocked up on groceries, ready for our impending journey over to the west. It's gonna be a long drive ahead - see you on the other side!