SUNDAY 6 MAY ARKAROOLA
We had an early start this morning, getting up at 6.45am, to get fed and ready for the Ridge Top Tour, which departed from the Village at 8am. We walked up there from camp.
The Ridge Top Tour, which cost us $99 each, is a special feature of Arkaroola and worth every cent. In my opinion, it was a must-do for every visitor to Arkaroola.
The resort’s special open backed 4WD vehicles traverse tracks across some of the most ancient landscape parts of the place. The open sides also facilitated tourists taking photos.
Apart from a short distance at the start, the route is not open to the public – the only way to travel it and see some truly spectacular country, is by this tour. Given the rather “hairy” nature of parts of the route, it is not surprising that they do not allow unsupervised travel on it. One puts a lot of faith in the track knowledge and driving competency of the tour guides!
John and I had done this tour before, on a previous visit, but this whole area was new for M, and we were more than happy to have the four and a half hour experience again.
The whole journey was so unique and so breathtakingly spectacular. This was one experience that was made for superlatives.
The route climbed the tops of ridges, with vistas to Mt Gee and Mt Painter, then ultimately climbed steeply – and I mean steeply – with sheer drops each side – to Sillers Lookout.
Here were 360 degree views, back over the ridges we’d traversed, across the Freeling Heights and the deep Yudnamutana Gorge, and over the flat country to the east and Lake Frome.
Here also was where our driver had to execute a multi-point turn around, without us on board, in a very restricted area.
Mt Painter was the site of the early uranium discovery and workings 1923-24, and then later 1940’s workings.
The track we had taken on the Tour was actually built by Exoil NL when they were exploring the area in 1970. Arkaroola were able to take it over and keep it as a very special experience.
We had morning tea provided at Sillers Lookout, where we spent about half an hour. Then retraced the route to the Village. This was not a track to be driven at any speed, incidentally! Crawling along definitely called for.
On the tour, we learned that kangaroos have a hairy nose; euros and wallaroos have a partly hairy nose; wallabies have a dog like nose. Identification by this method does assume that one is close enough to the critter to inspect said nose!
There had been recent renewed prospecting for uranium in the region, which was of concern to the Arkaroola people. Marathon Mines was rumoured to have found good quality uranium under Mt Gee. But because of some Heritage listing, they would have to tunnel under, for about 8kms, to get at it. Even the prospecting and sampling was causing obvious damage – we saw signs of this in places along the track, as well as places where sample bags were stacked, awaiting transport. Some of the Ridge Top Tour route is outside the actual Arkaroola property. It was mining companies in the 50’s that first put in a number of the tracks around Arkaroola.
The whole area was very dry. The last really good rains had been in 1974! But that is within the normal climate parameters for this area. There was a small amount of rain a little while ago.
We arrived back at the Village at 12.30pm.
After a quick lunch at camp, we unloaded the stuff carried in Truck on the back passenger seat and in the floor well – stored it all in M’s tent. Then the three of us were able to pile into Truck, drive back down the Balcanoona road, then drive the 13km track into Weetootla Gorge camp ground and trail head, in the Gammon Ranges National Park.
From the camping area, we walked along Balcanoona Creek, criss crossing it a few times, then through the little, narrow gorge section that is called Hells Gate and on to the junction where Worturpa Creek came in on our right.
There was a small waterhole in the creek there – very pretty.
We retraced our route, back to Truck. It had been about a 5km walk, in total. The sun had been at a good angle to show the valley features.
It was an attractive walk, and comfortable going. We were “wearing in” our walking muscles again.
On the drive back, we stopped and collected some firewood from the roadside. It was convenient just to be able to throw branches and small logs up on top of the roof rack – with its sides, the timber would stay there for the drive back.
Back at camp there was a brief flurry when M could not find her watch. After much hunting about, it was found at the back of the back seat in Truck – must have fallen out of her pocket while she was riding in the back seat.
Then more seriously, John could not find his wallet anywhere. This was a step up from the regular “Have you seen my glasses?” This caused a huge hunt and a degree of panic, especially as he couldn’t really remember when he last had it.
Eventually John walked up to Reception with the intent of posting up a notice. But the wallet was there! Some wonderfully honest person had found it lying by the side of the road out to the south, driven back to the Village and handed it in. John worked out that he must have left it on the shelf-like front mudguard of Truck and driven off. Eventually, after a few kms, it had vibrated off and fallen by the road side. That was a real scare!
After tea, we sat around the camp fire that John had lit in our fire pit, watching the moon rise, studying the stars, and dissecting the day that was. It had been a big day.
I was already into camp mode – yawing my head off by the campfire, going to bed between 8 and 9pm. Back home bed around midnight was my norm. It must be all the fresh air and exercise – plus not spending much time under artificial light – made me really tired, really early. Or just in synch with the natural world?