Pre departure administration and meet ‘n greet function in Adelaide.
Your journey begins with a leisurely drive through the picturesque Clare Valley, home of the Australian Rieslings, to the oldest settlement in the Flinders Ranges, at the foot of Mt Remarkable National Park. 40 small wineries are set around a string of charming historic villages. Here in 1848 Jesuit priests fled from religious and political persecution in Silesia to produce sacramental wines at Sevenhills. The poet C J Dennis also spent his boyhood in the region. End your day roaming the village of Melrose named by explorer Edward John Eyre after Melrose in Scotland, or the foothills of Mt Remarkable, or time permitting, take a 2 hr stroll through Alligator Gorge and its narrows.
Accommodation tonight in a classic old pub, fully restored, the North Star Hotel.
Copper miners, pastoralists, brewers and millers opened up this region where you head for Wilpena Pound an iconic feature of the Flinders Ranges. The village of Quorn presents an evocative railway terrace streetscape of busier times, where classic movies have been filmed. Scenic bluffs and gorges remind us of the world of German/Australian artist, Hans Heysen, the long distance walking trail now named in his honour, meandering 1200 kms through the Flinders Ranges. Heysen described the ranges as “the bones of the earth laid bare”. Ruins of early settlements are scattered along the road. One, “Kanyaka” once ran 50,000 sheep and employed 70 families only to be devastated by drought and over stocking. A keen eye might spot the first of the Yellow- Footed Rock Wallabies in the late afternoon light.
Your home for two nights will be the Wilpena Pound Resort.
A full day of Flinders Ranges experiences awaits you with a relaxed opening walk into the pound and short climb to the Wangarra Lookout.
After lunch you’ll enjoy a scenic drive to the Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges with frequent stops for spectacular viewing of the ranges and hidden valleys. Time to visit Aroona Valley and the ruins of a hut where Hans Heysen spent his days bringing inspiring vistas to canvas. Brachina Gorge is a superb geological showcase 1000 million years in the making, with sediment deposits compressed, lifted and folded to form mountains once far higher than those now witnessed, an eroded ancestral range.
You leave Wilpena Pound at a relaxed hour to explore the northern reaches of the Flinders, visiting a couple of roadside lookouts for spectacular panoramic views and the Appealinna Homestead Ruins, once occupied by a salty old character who specialised in innovative cattle duffing practices with his cow “Old Stockings”. You’ll head along the eastern edge of the Trezona Range and view the “Great Wall of China” before enjoying morning tea with the generational owners of a station set up 130 years ago by an Irish immigrant, providing fodder for bullock teams hauling copper ore from the nearby Blinman mines. Prepare for a memorable 4WD property tour high into the ranges and then onto the historic mining village of Blinman. After lunch you’ll pass through the Parachilna Gorge to the iconic outback pub, the Prairie Hotel, listed as one of Australia’s finest outback experiences. The gorge cuts through towering bluffs and rocky crags rearing upwards and backwards. The hotel is widely acclaimed for its Flinders Feral Food meals and a mixed grill of kangaroo, camel, goat and emu, highly recommended. The longest train in the world at 2.85 kms and 161 wagons, passes by each evening carrying approx 4000 tonnes of coal to power the city of Adelaide.
Accommodation at the Prairie Hotel.
Edward John Eyre passed this way in the 1840’s climbing and naming Mt Deception. Pastoralists, miners, surveyors followed in the late 1850’s with John McDouall Stuart surveying many of the land holdings before his crossing of Australia. Beltana became the headquarters of Thomas Elder’s empire of vast leasehold lands, flocks of sheep and camels used by the Afghan Cameleers and explorer Ernest Giles. Australia’s current camel population roaming the deserts now exceeds 600,000. Harsher salt bush and blue bush country now emerges and you’ll view the slag heaps and gorges of the open cut coal fields of Leigh Creek. The bitumen ends at the village of Lyndhurst, the gibber plains begin and the Strzelecki Track heads north-east for the Corner Country and Innamincka. The great northern railway was laid down in 1882 with a siding at Lyndhurst. You’ll arrive at Marree (Pop 80) a former base for Afghan cameleers and their camel trains, epic droving feats, journeys up the Birdsville Track, and a railway complex complete with abandoned locomotives. Here is your stepping off point for an excursion to the edge of the great salt encrusted Lake Eyre. The grandest building in Marree, only a shadow of its former self, is the two storey Great Northern Hotel. Accommodation for 2 nights at the Great Northern Hotel.
The Lake Eyre basin extends into three states, and occupies 1/6th of the Australian continent, equal in size to the State of South Australia.
At 1.3 million sq kms it is one of the biggest drainage systems in the world, much of its waters, under flood, flowing down from Queensland. The usually dry lake is in fact an extensive salt sink, the lowest point in Australia at 15.2 m below sea level and having seen only three major fillings in 150 years. The lake can flood to a depth of 10 m at Madigans Gulf. You’ll reach the Gulf and a sight to behold, along a 4WD road passing through the feral Dingo barrier fence. The 1974 flooding of the lake was the largest for at least 500 yrs. Geologists believe 20,000 to 50,000 yrs ago the lake was permanently full, the drying a consequence of climate change over 15,000 yrs. It takes just two years to dry up after a full inundation. The salt crust in the centre is 5m thick solid enough to enable Donald Campbell to set his world land speed record in 1963/4 of 650 kms/hr.
The world of the Brine and Shield Shrimps and the Lake Eyre Dragon plus tens of thousands of breeding birds are just a few of the fascinating natural wonders surrounding the cyclic life of the lake.
Your journey this day is along the Oodnadatta Track, where the natural phenomenon of mounded springs bubbling up from desert landscape and Great Artesian Basin occurs. Discovered by the Aborigines, their songlines and trade routes followed. This led to explorer pathways, settlers and pioneers, rail and telegraph lines and the legendary 615 kms long Oodnadatta Track. There are rail siding ruins, remnant telegraph stations, hot thermal pools, heritage sites and the sense of space is profound. You’ll cross rolling gibber downs to the Dingo or Dog Fence, see weird sculptures breaking the horizon, visit the shores of Lake Eyre South and stop at the old rail siding of Curdimurka. Finally you arrive at the smallest town in SA, William Creek (Pop less than 10) a whistle stop along the Oodnadatta Track, where the gibber plains turn to crimson sand ridges separated by clay pans, outliers from the Simpson Desert. The pub accommodation for one night is quite basic but welcoming reflecting its isolation on a shimmering saltbush flat between two red dunes, surrounded on all fronts by the greater Anna Creek Station, the largest working cattle station in the world at 6 million acres After lunch you can take an optional 2 hr scenic flight over the great Lake Eyre.
Accommodation William Creek Hotel
Today your adventure continues along one of the loneliest roads crossing the desert, described as “occasionally maintained” having no reliable water and seeing a “bit of traffic now and then”. The local mailman completes this stretch of track twice a week, part of a one day, 600 kms round run serving just 6 stations and two villages. You are headed for the rather quirky town of Coober Pedy, located on the erosional scarp of the Stuart Ranges, beds of sand and siltstone 30 metres deep topped by stony, treeless desert. 150 million years ago the ocean covered this region, the sea then receded, climate change then lowering the water tables. Silica solution washed down depositing in cavities, faults and fractures, forming into valuable veins of opal, leading to a multi-million dollar industry. The cosmopolitan population of underground desert dwellers boasts 45 nationalities. For an authentic experience you will stay overnight in underground comfort where room temperatures are an even 23-25C day and night, all year. The landscape is strewn with mullock heaps and burrows. Dedicate part of your afternoon to the town features and opal displays and with the approach of sunset head for the Breakaways, a colourful panorama of multi-coloured hills resembling a painted desert, the creative settings for movies, Mad Max, Thunderstorm and Ground Zero.
Accommodation a genuine quality underground motel.
Today you’ll leave the desert tracks for the great Stuart Highway following the memories and exploration accounts of John McDouall Stuart, of the Ghan railways old and new, the overland telegraph line, the indigenous people’s oneness with the land contrasting with European pioneering endeavours in the face of enormous seasonal and climatic challenges.
There will be short side excursions onto the start of the famous Gunbarrel Highway and other desert roads and a lunch break at the typical and bustling Kulgera Roadhouse, before arriving at the Desert Oaks Motel Resort for the evening.
Accommodation Desert Oaks Motel.
Travelling west from Erldunda it is a relatively quick highway run to Curtin Springs Station to connect with a salty stockman and bush guide who will take you on guided tour of his desert cattle station. Ian Barker has lived in the Territory all his life much of this at Curtin Springs. He’ll show you how a million acre station is run in the desert, the wonders of the flat top Mt Conner which is older than both Uluru and Kata-Tjuta and seldom celebrated in tourism promotion. Gain an insight into local bush tucker and medicine and discover 3.5 billion year old fossils. Departing Curtin Springs you continue on tourist roads to the Ayers Rock Resort at Yulara. Settle in before you head for Uluru (Ayers Rock) for the traditional and spectacular viewing of the rock at sunset.
Accommodation at luxury Ayers Rock Resort 2 nights
Having taken in the sunrise over Uluru and an early breakfast, you can then embark on a flat circuit walk of the base of the rock, up close and personal with its grandeur and cultural significance and after lunch by the cultural centre head further west to the KataTjuta monoliths (The Olgas) to enjoy more walking through the Valley of the Winds, another spectacular sunset viewing and then back to the resort. You can also choose to modify the walking activity with other options.
Start the day at a leisurely pace viewing the resorts native gardens and informative displays before travelling the familiar tourist road to the next scenic icon of the centre, Kings Canyon . There will be a short stop at Kings Station along the way and plenty of time to settle in to your luxury units at the Kings Canyon Resort. Dinner options at the resort include the informality of a public BBQ and the resort’s a la carte dining room. An early night will prepare you for tomorrow’s memorable Rim Walk.
Accommodation Kings Canyon Resort 2 nights.
The primary objective of a visit to Kings Canyon must be to complete the Rim Walk covering 7 to 8 kms in a leisurely 4 to 5 hours, allowing time to explore the inner canyon and various cliff face observation points around the rim.
The start of the walk involves a fairly steep but short climb onto the Rim after which the going is relatively easy and most spectacular. Pass through interesting formations resembling the bush beehive style huts of Africa and then move on to a series of dramatic, precipitous lookouts onto blazing coloured walls across the Canyon.
Today you leave Kings Canyon on a remote back road through Aboriginal lands, to the Hermannsburg Mission site and then Gosse Bluff where 142 million years ago a comet 600m wide blasted into the earth at hundreds of kilometres a second, exploding with a force greater than a nuclear bomb, causing world climate change and leaving a crater 20 kms wide .
After lunch at the Glen Helen Resort you re-join the bitumen for a run into Alice Springs with possible short stops at select gorges, chasms, waterholes along the mighty West MacDonnell Ranges. You will surely carry vivid memories of the diverse, grand and colourful landscapes of southern and central Australia, to your journey’s end, on arrival in Alice Springs.