I gaze over this beautiful view from my perch on top of a rock in the Flinders Ranges some 280 miles north of Adelaide in the great Australian Outback. I have hiked up here this morning to try to establish a wifi signal. I know, it seems funny that I should come all this way to spend time searching for a signal, but this moring, I received an email from my 12-year-old son, Shiv, who needed help with his algebra homework.
The voice of the computer crackled as it took a few minutes to connect. I was staying at the Arkaba homestead, nestled in a quiet, serene little valley. Not far off are towering granite outcrops just made for adventurous four-wheel drives. Saw-toothed peaks encircle the majestic natural amphitheater of Wilpena Pound’s giant stone crater. Among these ancient landscapes, the timeless terrain showcases a kaleidoscope of outback experiences.
Once the link solidly connected, Shiv’s face lit up as I raised my smartphone to give him a full sweep of my surroundings — the same one you saw when you opened this email. He shares my passion for spirited travel and is game for just about anything.
Nature created this perfect place for dramatic treks and incredible star gazing under a brilliant sky. It is easy to see why the area is such as favorite with hikers and nature lovers. The Flinders Ranges are the largest in South Australia. The discontinuous ranges stretch for over 265 miles from Port Pirie to Lake Callabonna. The first humans to inhabit the Flinders Ranges were the Adnyamathanha people (“hill people” or “rock people”) whose descendants still reside in the area, and the Ndajurri people who no longer exist. Cave paintings, rock engravings and other artefacts indicate that the Adnyamathana and Ndajurri lived in the Flinders Ranges for tens of thousands of years. Occupation at the Warratyi rock shelter dates back approximately 49,000 years.
Wildlife occupaying the lands include red kangaroos, western grey kangaroos and wallaroos and the yellow-footed rock-wallaby, which neared extinction after the arrival of Europeans due to hunting as well as predation by foxes, but that has now stabilized. Other endemic marsupials include dunnarts and planigales. Insectivorous bats make up a significant proportion of the mammals. The region is home to large numbers of bird species including parrots, galahs, emus, the wedge-tailed eagle and small numbers of water birds. Reptiles include goannas, snakes, dragon lizards, skinks and geckos. The streambank froglet is an endemic amphibian.
Several small areas in the Ranges have protected area status such as the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park near Wilpena PoundMount Remarkable National Park in the south near Melrose; Arkaroola Protection Area in the north; Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park west of Quorn; and the Mount Brown Conservation Park south of Quorn. Heysen Trail and Mawson Trail run for several hundred miles along the ranges and offer scenic long-distance routes for walkers, trekkers, cyclists and horse-riders.
Shiv got an A on his Algebra homework, by the way, and I made sure he knew the steps we took over here in the Outback to facilitate that A. Who knows where I’ll be for his next assignment.
If you’d like to discover your own rock, visit Australia Active that includes three days hiking the timeless terrain of the Flinders Ranges – largest mountain range in South Australia, some about 540 million years old.