ARKAROOLA RIDGETOP TRACK, SA

The chas­sis-bust­ing Ridgetop Track will scare the be­je­sus out of many trav­ellers, but the views make it all worth­while.

4 x 4 Australia - - Front Page - WORDS AND PHO­TOS AN­THONY MCDON­ALD

SILLERS Look­out, at the ter­mi­nus of the Ridgetop Track in Arkaroola Wilder­ness Sanc­tu­ary, must be one of the best views in the Aus­tralian bush. It takes in 360-degress of the spec­tac­u­lar Flin­ders Ranges, a jewel of out­back South Aus­tralia. Sillers can only be reached in one of Arkaroola’s open Land Cruiser tour ve­hi­cles, and it can’t be driven by the gen­eral pub­lic, but it’s a place that shouldn’t be left off the itin­er­ary of any ad­ven­ture. The Ridgetop Track was blazed in the late 1960s by Ex­oil Ltd, as part of more than 150km of tracks that were carved out of the rock that is Arkaroola, in the com­pany’s thirsty quest to find ura­nium. It was all for noth­ing, as the ura­nium had been leached out of the hills many mil­len­nia ago and de­posited on the plains to the north, where one of the planet’s rich­est bod­ies of the metal now lie.

The track fol­lows the ridgetops as it winds its way to­wards its fi­nal des­ti­na­tion at Sillers; a craggy el­e­vated look­out upon which the act of turn­ing around a car re­quires a great deal of skill and bravado. Ex­oil Ltd chose the ridges as they of­fered the line of least re­sis­tance, and from there all of the tracks ra­di­ate to the far ex­trem­i­ties of the prop­erty. To get to the ridges means

a lot of steep climbs and de­scents, and that’s what makes the Ridgetop Track so chal­leng­ing.

The jour­ney be­gins as you leave Arkaroola camp­ground and spend the first five or so kilo­me­tres trav­el­ling through Why­whyana Creek. The sur­round­ing ge­ol­ogy ex­posed in the rock walls shows the forces at work that cre­ated what we now know to be the Flin­ders Ranges.

It’s not un­til you reach the locked gate that you feel true ad­ven­ture is about to be­gin. A steady climb out of a very rough gully takes you past a ge­o­log­i­cal fault that in it­self is amaz­ing, be­fore tak­ing you to a look­out that fea­tures a 360-de­gree view of the sur­round­ing coun­try­side.

The track then me­an­ders through coun­try that own­ers would once have clas­si­fied as arable, but to the un­trained eye

looks like waste­land. Very soon the track takes a sin­is­ter turn, with eroded and seem­ingly im­pass­able sec­tions that would test the ar­tic­u­la­tion of any ve­hi­cle – deep, chas­sis-twist­ing, bot­tom­less pot­holes ap­pear mid-de­scent and would frighten the bravest of driv­ers.

All along the jour­ney there are places to mar­vel at. The yucca plants at Split Rock, and the an­cient un­der­ground gey­sers that once lay hun­dreds of me­tres be­low the sur­face, are now are ex­posed to the world. Those fa­mil­iar with Sir Dou­glas Maw­son’s work know he spent ev­ery spare mo­ment re­search­ing these hills.

The jewel in the crown is Sillers Look­out. A steep nar­row rib­bon of track has the word fore­bod­ing writ­ten all over it, and it ap­pears out of nowhere. Crest­ing a rocky and ex­tremely off-cam­ber piece of track, the zenith ap­pears and it’s these mo­ments as a driver that make you gulp. It looks dev­il­ish and it can make you doubt your ve­hi­cle. This is the last place you’d want to score a flat tyre or bro­ken driv­e­line com­po­nent, and it’s the point in the drive where many are glad not to have driven their own 4x4 ve­hi­cle up here.

It is one of the most spec­tac­u­lar views you will ever see, and it makes you feel so in­signif­i­cant when a con­ti­nent is laid out be­fore you in its rawest form.

The Arkaroola Ridgetop Tour should be on any tourer’s bucket list!

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