AUS­TRALIA: HEART OF THE FLIN­DERS

A VISIT TO THE FLIN­DERS RANGES WILL TAKE YOU BACK IN TIME … WAY, WAY BACK.

Vacations & Travel - - Contents - BY DANIELLE LAN­CASTER

A visit to the Flin­ders Ranges will take you back in time.

Apair of cheeky Mallee Ring­necks are busy as the sun rises out­side my eco villa on Rawns­ley Park Sta­tion, in South Aus­tralia. The colour­ful par­rots are joined by many other feath­ered friends, a few wal­la­bies, and the oc­ca­sional kan­ga­roo all feast­ing, fever­ishly, on the na­tive flora.

Rawns­ley Park Sta­tion is owned by Tony and Julieanne Smith, who are fourth-gen­er­a­tion cus­to­di­ans of the sta­tion that sits at the foot of Wilpena Pound, or ‘The Pound’ as lo­cals call it, within the Flin­ders Rangers in out­back South Aus­tralia. ‘The Pound’ is the jewel in the Flin­ders crown of sprawl­ing rugged ranges where, at its widest, it stretches

100 km within a 540 mil­lion-year-old re­gion that re­mains wild and rel­a­tively un­touched.

Our drive from Ade­laide to the sta­tion on the new four-day Flin­ders Ranges Out­back Tour with Kan­ga­roo Is­land Odysseys (owned by the SeaLink Travel Group) is pep­pered with treats: meet­ing Shane Hamil­ton, the pub­li­can at Or­ro­roo Ho­tel, and his pet cock­atiel Frank; bar­gain shop­ping in bric-a-brac shops in Burra; vis­it­ing out­back gal­leries; and en­joy­ing en­ter­tain­ing com­men­tary about the chang­ing scenery and re­gions.

As we head fur­ther north into South Aus­tralia’s out­back, we drive through tow­er­ing columns of ochre­ous rocks painted in vary­ing earthy pig­ments and care­fully crafted by Mother Na­ture. Flocks of emus es­cort us from one high­light to an­other: we spot en­dan­gered yel­low-footed rock wal­la­bies, shin­gle­back lizards and painted drag­ons; wan­der around cen­tury-old ru­ins; and test our taste­buds with plat­ters of Aus­tralian game that in­cludes emu pâté

– an ab­so­lute favourite.

One of the many high­lights of this out­back odyssey was bed­time at Rawns­ley Park Sta­tion, which fea­tures a re­tractable ceil­ing. Each night I would drift off to sleep in pure com­fort watch­ing the ever-chang­ing night sky above me. It was heav­enly.

Two days out of the four-day tour were spent at

Rawns­ley Park Sta­tion where we learn more about the sheep, the his­tory of this work­ing sta­tion, and life in this re­mote part of South Aus­tralia.

Owner Tony takes us on a Sun­set on the Chase Tour, past his mobs of merino sheep to a sum­mit high on the range where we en­joy sparkling wine and canapés while ad­mir­ing the rugged land­scape and beau­ti­ful sun­set.

That night, we en­joy a three-course din­ner fea­tur­ing Rawns­ley home-grown lamb pre­pared by head chef, Jar­rod Crispin, where we are joined by Matthew Law­son, of Kir­ri­hill Wines, who ex­pands our ap­pre­ci­a­tion of South Aus­tralian wines. Held monthly, it’s worth tim­ing your stay for this de­light­ful de­gus­ta­tion paired with lo­cal wines.

We are up with the spar­rows the next morn­ing as we have booked an op­tional ex­tra ad­ven­ture: to fly like an ea­gle with pi­lot Fe­lic­ity Brown, of Chinta Air, and en­joy a bird’s-eye view of the land­scape. Fe­lic­ity is one of five fe­males who hold a com­mer­cial pi­lot's li­cence in Aus­tralia and she loves to show off her ex­ten­sive back­yard, which is breath­tak­ing.

Af­ter bid­ding Rawns­ley Park Sta­tion farewell we head fur­ther into the South Aus­tralian out­back with our guide

Peter Roberts, who pa­tiently pulls up to find the en­dan­gered yel­low-footed rock wal­la­bies, tiny towns boast­ing the best Cor­nish pasties and great cof­fee shops where I stock up on home-made good­ies such as chut­neys, jams and honey. We also visit look­outs with spec­tac­u­lar 360-de­gree views.

But the Flin­ders Ranges is not all about ex­cep­tional views and great food. This land goes back … way, way back. In the mid-1980s, Ross Fargher, who runs Nilpena Sta­tion, dis­cov­ered a fos­sil site on the side of a hill, just up from the shear­ers’ quar­ters. Dur­ing a tour of the prop­erty, Ross ex­plains that the site is home to an­cient crea­tures that be­long to the old­est an­i­mal ecosys­tem on Earth. We have the chance to find a fos­sil – and each of us do – ex­plore the wool­shed and out­build­ings and take in the views over this des­o­late land­scape where time seems to have stood still.

Our ap­point­ment for din­ner won’t wait, so we hot­foot it into Parachilna for sun­set in front of the fa­mous Prairie Ho­tel. Here, the low­er­ing sun il­lu­mi­nates more ru­ins and sets them aglow, while oth­ers cast long shad­ows, mak­ing us won­der what life here a cen­tury ago would have been like.

Rais­ing our glasses, we toast the end to an­other fab­u­lous day against the back­drop of a stun­ning sun­set and en­joy bright con­ver­sa­tion with the lo­cals who proudly tell us about this spe­cial cor­ner of Aus­tralia. To fin­ish the night, I walk out­side to wit­ness the stars stretch­ing from hori­zon to hori­zon.

Our fi­nal day starts with a leisurely break­fast at the Prairie Ho­tel be­fore mak­ing our way to Ade­laide for flight de­par­tures. Noth­ing is rushed, and we stop and see more ru­ins con­trast­ing against a textured ta­pes­try of crops be­fore lunch at Paulett Wines in the Clare Val­ley and our farewell and fi­nal bou­tique food and wine tast­ing. South Aus­tralia’s out­back has won many hearts on this trip, and one of them is mine. •

Open­ing im­age: Look­ing across the Flin­ders Ranges in South Aus­tralia’s mag­nif­i­cent out­back. Clock­wise from above: Sun­set in Parachilna can be beau­ti­ful with views such as this from the front of the Prairie Ho­tel; Ru­ins line your scenic route like...

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