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Oratunga and Arkaroola - October 2009. Pictures and Report by D. Munday.

At 8am on Sat 3rd October 6 cars from the Adelaide Jeep Club met opposite the ‘Old Spot’ Hotel on the Main North Road. The vehicles included a Commander CRD (trip leader), JK Rubicon, KJ Cherokee, a TJ , a Disco 3 TDV6 & a Prado (petrol V6). Apart from the TJ all vehicles were towing camper trailers (and in the Prado’s case an off road caravan).

As we headed north it was great to see the countryside finally looking green after recent rains in the Southern Flinders Ranges. The creeks around Melrose were flowing strongly on the way up although less so on our return 6 days later. In contrast the Northern Flinders was quite dry & the Arkaroola area in particular is desperate for some much needed rain. We were very fortunate to have absolutely brilliant weather all week - Fine sunny days around 19 degrees C.

We arrived at Angorichina Station (~10kms East of Blinman) mid afternoon after an easy drive up the bitumen all the way to Blinman. We then had 10 kms of unsealed road before arriving at the property. We set up camp in a lovely gorge alongside a creek bed and the kids had a great time exploring the area. After drinks & nibbles then dinner we had some tasty toasted marshmellows and a chat around the campfire.

The following morning (Sunday) we set off around 10am to drive the well marked “Oratunga Loop” 4WD track – some 4-5 hours covering 38 kms . This included a stop for lunch at the Artimore Ruins- built as a Depot Sheep Shearing Shed in the 1860’s. In the 1870’s up to 80,000 sheep were shorn here each year. The track notes provided by the station owners (Ian & Di Fargher) were excellent and included descriptions of historical points of interest, lists of flora, birds & wildlife seen, local research re the yellow footed rock wallaby and geology. The drive was very enjoyable with great scenery typical of the Flinders Ranges with steep tree lined gorges, rocky and gum tree lined creek beds surrounded by high ranges covered in plenty of ‘greenery’ for a change! The track was moderately difficult in places with some steep rocky sections, particularly the final climb to the top of Mount Lucius which tested out the front bash plate on the Prado! Once up there the 360 degree panoramic views were a highlight. We completed the Oratunga Loop following the track down from Mt Lucius returning to our campsite mid afternoon. Following an early tea that evening we drove up to the top of a nearby hill to witness a superb sunset over the Western Flinders Ranges with a full moon rising behind the opposite range shortly afterwards. The evening was completed with another campfire, marshmellows and chat about the day.

On Monday 5th Oct 2 Jeeps in our group returned to Adelaide & the remaining 4 vehicles including the Commander, JK Rubicon, Disco 3 & Prado drove up via Chamber’s Gorge to Arkaroola caravan park. We opted for powered sites as the unpowered area didn’t really appeal. Indeed the powered sites had much better views of the surrounding ranges and we were then close to showers & toilets- which in view of the very dusty conditions were much appreciated!

On Tuesday we drove out to Paralana Hot Springs which are both hot & radio active (low level!). The track was rated as 2 Wheel Drive but it was very rough & we wouldn’t recommend taking an ordinary 2WD car along there without risking some stone damage or punctures. The impressive Mountain Ranges to the West contrasted starkly with the flat plains including Lake Frome (in the distance) to the East. Following a walk around the hot springs and morning tea we returned to the caravan park for lunch via an alternate route -the station 4WD backtrack which soon had us selecting low range with some steep climbs and gullies strewn with sharp rocks. Fortunately none of us got any punctures. After lunch the kids went for a swim in the caravan park (but the adults declined the cold water!).

Later that afternoon (Tuesday) we had a most interesting & enjoyable 3 hour guided “bats & bubbly” tour with an excellent guide “Ryan” who drove 12 of us in the back of a Toyota “Troopie” (used for the famous Ridge Top Tours) to various local sites including an abandoned small Gold Mine (Lively’s Find) and the Arkaroola water hole. We saw numerous Euros (Kangaroos) and a variety of birds and then on our return journey we finally found a group of 6 Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies much to everyone’s pleasure. The tour finished early evening with Sparkling Shiraz (and soft drinks for the kids), cheese & crackers, Emu Pate & Smoked Kangaroo!

On Wednesday we all set off on the acclaimed Echo Camp Backtrack self drive 4WD track (4-6hrs). We were given comprehensive track notes and a map but raised our eyebrows slightly whilst each driver was required to sign the Indemnity Waiver which advised us of the “Extreme 4WD track” & “Advanced Driver skills” required. It also advised that a search & rescue party would be sent after us should we fail to return by the appointed finish time (5pm) and that we would be responsible for any costs involved if the search was not required!! There were bold red warnings all over the map provided to us too! Having digested all that we set off and as soon as we entered the track (via padlocked gate) we began a very steep rocky, rutted climb up side of a hill and then a similar steep descent down the other side. The scenery was spectacular and we stopped at various sites along the well marked track including Echo Camp waterhole, Bararranna Water Hole and Stubbs water hole (where we stopped for lunch). Following a short walk down the Arkaroola Creek at Stubb’s waterhole we did find a pool of water if somewhat green! After lunch we then turned off onto the optional Mt Jacob (4WD) Backtrack which was quite rough but included impressive views following a short steep climb to a lookout.

In summary the views & scenery were absolutely stunning, the track was very challenging but there were no dramas to any vehicle or passenger and we had the whole track to ourselves.
That evening we all ate at the Native Pines restaurant at Arkaroola Village and then Nicholas M & John C attended the Astonomical Observatory tour and both thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

On Thursday it was time to pack up & leave Arkaroola driving back to Rawnsley Park caravan park. We found an excellent area of unpowered sites close to showers & toilets with Rawnsley Bluff as a backdrop. We had a most enjoyable afternoon & evening around another campfire before returning to Adelaide via Clare rather dirty & dusty but all safe & well on Friday.