AL­PANA STA­TION, SA

Ex­plore one of the best 4x4 tracks to be found in South Australia’s pic­turesque Flin­ders Ranges.

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AL­PANA Sta­tion, a 200km² work­ing sheep prop­erty just out­side the Flin­ders Ranges Na­tional Park, is lo­cated on the main road north of the pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion of Wilpena Pound and a few kilo­me­tres south of the small out­back town of Blin­man. The sta­tion has been in the Hen­ery fam­ily since 1878 and the fifth-gen­er­a­tion own­ers of the sta­tion, David and Sally Hen­ery, opened the prop­erty to the pub­lic in 1995 of­fer­ing a range of ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions. As well as shear­ers’ quar­ters with shared fa­cil­i­ties of­fer­ing ba­sic but com­fort­able ac­com­mo­da­tion, the sta­tion has both pow­ered and un­pow­ered camp­sites. Each of the four pow­ered sites has an ad­ja­cent pri­vate en suite bath­room, pro­vid­ing campers a level of com­fort and con­ve­nience not of­ten en­joyed in what is a rel­a­tively re­mote area.

Any­one seek­ing a se­cluded get­away for a few days could do worse than stay at the Hen­ery’s Nun­gawurtina Hut. Built in the tra­di­tional style used by the orig­i­nal 1880s set­tlers, this na­tive pine and pug hut, nes­tled in a se­cluded val­ley 7km from the home­stead, is ideal for those wish­ing to get up close and per­sonal with na­ture. The hut sleeps six peo­ple and fea­tures 12V so­lar light­ing, an open fire, gas stove and toi­let (but no shower or re­frig­er­a­tor). Ac­cess to the hut is via a rough and rut­ted sta­tion track re­quir­ing a high clear­ance 4x4, mak­ing it an ideal place to rest up for a few days – the Hen­ery’s can pro­vide trans­port to and from the hut for any­one with­out an ap­pro­pri­ate ve­hi­cle.

Al­pana also pro­vides sta­tion tours and a guided tag-along drive

to Blin­man Pools. This area of per­ma­nent wa­ter­holes and springs can oth­er­wise only be ac­cessed by way of a 12km re­turn pub­lic walk­ing track from An­gorichina Vil­lage to the west of Blin­man. At the time of our visit in September the Flin­ders hadn’t seen rain for six months and, with the wa­ter level in the pools quite low, we elected to visit them an­other time when the coun­try will be lusher. The Flin­ders Ranges is a great place to visit at any time of the year, but af­ter sig­nif­i­cant rain in Au­gust/september – when na­tive shrubs and wild­flow­ers are mak­ing the most of their brief grow­ing sea­son – it is noth­ing short of spec­tac­u­lar.

One of the sta­tion’s scenic high­lights is Sun­set Hill, lo­cated 4km from the home­stead via a 4x4 track. This high point on a bare ridge of­fers com­mand­ing panoramic views over the sta­tion to the east and Lake Tor­rens to the west. As its name sug­gests, sun­set is the time to be there – ide­ally with a bot­tle of your cho­sen poi­son.

The sta­tion is dog-friendly and visi­tors are wel­come to bring along the fam­ily pooch, pro­vided they’re prop­erly con­trolled. As with all graz­ing prop­er­ties, dogs must be kept on a leash for the safety of both stock and wildlife – and the po­ten­tial for poi­son­ing from 1080 baits laid for foxes and wild dogs. Al­pana Sta­tion rarely uses poi­son baits but, when it does, it’s never near the ac­com­mo­da­tion or camp­ing ar­eas.

For 4x4 en­thu­si­asts, the Mt Sa­muel self-drive track is a knock­out. Its ‘chal­leng­ing’ de­scrip­tion is ac­cu­rate, as Mt Sa­muel of­fers one of the most tech­ni­cally de­mand­ing pub­lic self-drives you’re likely to find in the Flin­ders. The five-hour one-way trek is slow due to sharp washouts punc­tu­at­ing the rut­ted and rocky

ANY­ONE WITH­OUT SE­RI­OUS 4X4 EX­PE­RI­ENCE MAY STRUG­GLE WITH WHAT LIES AHEAD

track ev­ery few me­tres as it climbs slowly through dry, shaly hills stud­ded with na­tive cy­press. The first chal­lenge in­volves a short, steep climb up a series of small rock ledges in a nar­row creek bed, which would most likely be a wa­ter­fall fol­low­ing heavy rain. Sally Hen­ery sug­gested re­mov­ing our tow hitch be­fore start­ing the drive and, while this has never been an is­sue for the lifted Prado, it proved to be good ad­vice as the Mt Sa­muel track reg­u­larly chal­lenged both front and rear clear­ance.

A long climb to the high­est point of the drive ends just be­low Mt Sa­muel it­self, where the more ath­letic can walk to the sum­mit in about 30 min­utes. It’s worth tak­ing a break at this point on the drive just to soak up the at­mos­phere and the stun­ning views to­wards Lake Tor­rens in the west.

From this high point be­low Mt Sa­muel, it’s then a fairly se­ri­ous crawl down­hill in first gear low range into the aptly named Mt Bug­gery Gorge. Any­one with­out se­ri­ous 4x4 ex­pe­ri­ence – or with­out some­one guid­ing them through the tough spots – may strug­gle with what lies ahead.

Upon leav­ing Mt Bug­gery Gorge, the track crosses a wide, dry creek to enter a pic­turesque val­ley which it fol­lows sev­eral kilo­me­tres south to meet the road to

Blin­man. The scenery is ex­cel­lent and the val­ley rel­a­tively green and lush, de­spite the ex­tended dry spell – it would be spec­tac­u­lar when car­peted with na­tive grasses and wild­flow­ers af­ter rain. This lat­ter part of the drive – de­spite be­ing more open – still keeps driv­ers on their toes, given the dips and wash-aways that reg­u­larly punc­tu­ate the rough track.

With great scenery, pleas­ant and wel­com­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion, and 4x4 chal­lenges aplenty, Al­pana Sta­tion will please any­one who ven­tures to the Flin­ders Ranges.

just GOR­GEOUS THE rugged vi­o­let-hued Hey­sen Range paints the hori­zon heading north to Al­pana Sta­tion through the Flin­ders Ranges NP via the spec­tac­u­lar Bun­yeroo Gorge Scenic Drive de­tour. IT WAS ALL WORTH IT WHEN WE AR­RIVED AT THE COAST

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