Friday, April 16, 2010

Beyond the Heysen: Stage 2, Arkaroola to Angepena

Water. It had transformed this hike. We slept beside creeks, we could hear the water trickling. It was the first signigicant season for rain in 10 years, the greenest the area had looked in 20 years.

Arkaroola to Angepena, 11/4/10 to 15/4/10

The water almost kept us out. We had been monitoring the rainfall, there had been good rain in November, December and February. But as we packed our things on Thursday night and drove up Friday morning more rain fell, 80mm in Arkaroola and 100mm in Leigh Creek. By the time we reached Hawker all the dirt roads north of Blinman had been closed, the bitumen road to Copley closed shortly after. Waiting between road status reports, we did a short hike up Illuka Hill in Wilpena Pound.

Saturday night at the Hawker pub we were despondant. The roads remained closed, the extent of road damage was becoming clear, the roads wouldn't be reopening anytime soon. We were locked out of the best walking season in 20 years in the Gammons. We had missed out by just half a day from being able to enter, closed roads wouldn't affect us when we were walking.

A plan was hatched. Calls were made, deals done. We chartered a plane from Rawnsley Park to Arkaroola. We would hike in reverse, south-west back to Angepena instead of north-east to Arkaroola from Angepena. From Angepena we would get a 4WD tour operator to pick us up and drive us back to our cars at Rawnsley Park. After five days of walking the roads were sure to be open to allow the 4WD tour operator to access us. The flight and transfers came to just under $400 each. It was a unique time to walk in the Gammons, so we seized the opportunity.

Our plane trip took us over flooded creeks, a good sign as we were relying on creeks as our water source. From the Arkaroola airstrip we were driven to Arkaroola Village by Doug Sprigg and his son, an informative commentary along the way. It transpired he would have flown down and picked us up for a lot less than what we had paid as he is a smaller operator than the Rawnsley Park one.

After a last meal at Arkaroola, a pasty and chips, we set off on our five day trek into the Gammons and south to Angepena Station. We had quite some miles to cover on this first day as we had not departed until after lunch, as it was we raced the sun into camp. It was spectacular walking through the sunset. Yeah, it felt like we walked through it, we did not merely see it. It surrounded us, I spent quite some time walking looking at the clouds above me. There were three levels of clouds, each reflecting a different sunset colour. The higher wispy clouds shone orange, higher clouds shone bright yellow, the lower ones in shade. All this interspersed with patches of bright sky blue sky.

For five days we marvelled at how green everything was, months of good rainfall ensured the green extended everywhere. I hadn't been in the Gammons before, but it is similar to the Flinders, indeed, the rainfall is usually lower, and right now this land stood in stark contrast to the normal Flinders scene. The bright red rocky ground was covered in green vegetation.

With the recent rains creeks flowed, at our first campsite, Mainwater Well, the creek flowed past us as we slept. Surreal to hear trickling water. Walking along creeks we had to negotiate mud and debris, and something rarely required in South Austalia, we had to walk along some wet creeks in ankle deep water!

On our second day we made camp by midday, again by Mainwater Creek. Leaving our gear and heavy packs we climbed Benbonyathe Hill. The climb wasn't complex, but the vegetation, especially near and along the ridgetop, was dense. Lower down it was easy enough to walk through. Reaching the summit and the stone cairn, we found a primitive steel frame for setting up a telescope. In the 1960s the British and Americans sought out possible sites to set up a telescope, both Benbonyathe Hill and Mount Mackinlay were tried. A rough road was constructed up each. On our hike along the ridge we saw no sign of the road, fragments of it were allegedly still visible some years ago, although the road came from the south before travelling along the ridge, we had hiked up from the north before going along the ridge. The site chosen for the observatory was Siding Springs in NSW.

In the logbook at the summit we found a note left in 1986 by a school undertaking the Jubilee Trek. This was a trek undertaken from Mount Babbage, north of Arkaroola, to Cape Jervis. Each school did a section, this was done prior to the completion of the Heysen Trail. Just last week, upon returning from Kangaroo Island I had first heard of this walk, reading a plaque at Cape Jervis near the ferry terminal.

For the second and third day we followed Mainwater Creek through Mainwater Pound. After navigating through the pound using our map reading and dead reckoning skills using the GPS only as a double check, we made our way up a side creek to Yackie Waterhole to collect some water. From here we climbed out of the pound, camping up at Arcoona Saddle. We selected the best spot we could in the saddle to camp, clearing rocks and branches.

The following day we hiked along the ridgetops, seeing many campsites more suitable than the one we had camped at. A short distance from Gammon Hill we dropped our packs to reach the summit. Gammon Hill was an easy walk, the gradient is easy and the vegetation wasnt dense. Here we found the logbook canister, but it was empty for all but one note. It seemed the last people here had removed the contents in order to transcribe them, promising to return them soon.

From Gammon Hill we chased some goats along the ridgetops, passing by Arcoona Saddle before rapidly descending back to the plains and our campsite at Arcoona. Refreshed with tank water from the car accessible campsite, we made our plans for our final day.

Our last day we walked through Owieandana Station, recently purchased by Operation Flinders, sighting our first person in five days. We stopped by Painter's Baseline, a cairn erected by a surveyor in 1857 and used to undertake the first surveys on the area.

Reaching Angepena Station we found that the road out to Copley remained closed, but 4WD vehicles were using the road. We arranged our pick-up for first thing the next morning, and made ourselves comfortable in the newly restored Shearer's Quarters of the station, enjoying another spectacular sunset and star filled sky.

More photos to come from Nick and Graham

Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit

Download our walking route drawn onto topographic maps.


Beyond the Heysen: Stage 2 - Arkaroola to Angepena
Sunday Monday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
11/4/2010 12/4/2010 12/4/2010 13/4/2010 14/4/2010 15/4/2010
Arkaroola Village to Mainwater Well Mainwater Well to Mainwater Creek Mainwater Creek to Benbonyathe Hill & return Mainwater Creek to Arcoona Saddle Arcoona Saddle to Arcoona campsite Arcoona campsite to Angepena
Distance 20.5km 7.4km 9.4km 14.6km 16.3km 22.9km
Start Time 12:56pm 8:17am 12:22pm 8:19am 8:23am 8:25am
End Time 6:29pm 11:46am 5:12pm 4:29pm 5:15pm 3:17pm
Moving Duration 4h39m 2h18m 3h09m (5h11m) 6h04m 5h00m
Stationary Duration 58m 55m 1h18m (50m) 2h45m 1h51m
Moving Average 4.4km/h 3.2km/h 3.0km/h 3.1km/h 2.7km/h 4.6km/h
Overall Average 3.6km/h 2.3km/h 2.1km/h 1.8km/h 1.8km/h 3.3km/h
Oodometer 20.5km 27.9km 37.3km 51.9km 68.2km 91.1km

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Illuka Peak, Wilpena Pound

Waiting for updates to road reports, we decided to tackle on of the 1000 metre peaks on Wilpena Pound. Another peak for our KMclub.

Illuka Peak, Wilpena Pound

This hike started from the Arkaroo rock carpark on the outside of the pound, we walked first to the rock then off the track, up the pound wall through Moonarie Gap. The vegetation was dense, so our movement slow. We entered the gap, then passed over the saddle on the 950m+ hill to the south of Illuka Peak. But we were defeated, it had taken us more time than we though, and we were eager to return to Rawnsley Park in the early afternoon to check the road status report, eagerly expecting some of the roads north to Arkaroola to be reopened for our five day Angepena to Arkaroola trek.

Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Illuka Peak
Distance 7.8km
Start Time 9:33am
End Time 1:55pm
Moving Duration 2h29m
Stationary Duration 1h54m
Moving Average 3.2km/h
Overall Average 1.8km/h

Monday, April 5, 2010

Wild coast, rocky headlands, and some very thirsty times

Three hikes along the southern coast of Kangaroo Island. Two treks, a day hike. Wild coast, rocky headlands, and some very thirsty times.

Flinders Chase Coastal Trek, Hanson Bay hike and Cape Gantheaume Coastal Trek, Kangaroo Island

On the final of the three walks, the Cape Gantheaume Coastal Trek, I discovered some seven kilometres into the two day trek that I had brought along six litres of salt water for the ride. Mmm. Sure I had filled up with fresh water back at the water tanks at Vivonne Bay. Not so, clearly, as I spat out the water and contemplated my immediate future. I had even assessed the roof of the picnic shelter at Vivonne Bay to see if it looked clean, and hence the water would be good. Forgot to taste it though. It had been supplemented by water from the river outlet, very salty, much too salty to contemplate drinking.

I set the water free into the great southern ocean, and rather thirstily returned to the trailhead at Bales Bay. I sat at the bbq shelter at Bales Bay, plenty of fresh water here, but my feet would not allow me to return that seven kilometres, my day would have been some 30 kilometres long. I wouldn't be arriving at the end of the hike at the scheduled time, nothing to do but wait where I was. Safer, waiting somewhere known and easily accessible. I had phone reception the whole time, so tried calling and sent an sms to my friends. They had joined me for the first two hikes, but had piked on this one. Enough with the trail-less bush bashing.

The following day they had not shown, so I wandered up to the Seal Bay visitor centre a few kilometres up the road to discuss my quandry with the park rangers. They were stunned to hear the water I had collected from the well known spot wasn't fresh. I had seen a group of seven trek cyclists merrily refilling their water containers from the same tank. The rangers were very helpful, the duty ranger wasn't able to get out to where my friends were picking me up from to let them know, but one of the rangers asked a nearby friend if they could drop past! Excellent.

Will return to complete this walk at another time.

The Flinders Chase Coastal Trek was only open south of West Bay. We camped out here. Tim volunteered to drive the car south and ride a bike back. It was a two day hike to the Cape du Couedic lighthouse. No trail as such, following the coast. The first day was hard, we camped at Snake Lagoon, settling into our campsite after arranging for the local ranger - whom we had met on the hike - to evict the backpackers who were squatting in our booked campsite. Rocky headlands, coastal heath, the occasional beach or rock platform. Spectacular.

Also walked the Hanson Bay hike, from the free 40 Great South Australian Walks. It starts at the Kelly Hill Caves visitor centre, a return hike through scrub, past a large salt lake, beside a broad (for KI) river, and finally through sand dunes to the secluded Hanson Bay.

Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Flinders Chase Coastal Trek
Saturday Sunday
3/4/2010 4/4/2010
West Bay to Snake Lagoon Snake Lagoon to Cape de Couedic
Distance 20.9km 15.8km
Start Time 11:54am 7:57am
End Time 7:27pm 1:30pm
Moving Duration 5h35m 3h35m
Stationary Duration 1h57m 1h51m
Moving Average 3.7km/h 4.4km/h
Overall Average 2.8km/h 2.9km/h
Oodometer 20.9km 36.7km


Hanson Bay hike
Kelly Hill Caves to Hanson Bay
Distance 8.38km one way
Start Time am
End Time pm
Moving Duration 1h47m
Stationary Duration 21m
Moving Average 4.7km/h
Overall Average 3.9km/h