Monday, June 13, 2011

Swimming strokes through the scrub

In the words of our leader Mark, we swam through the dense scrub of Wilpena Pound. Whatever your technique, breaststroke or freestyle, we pushed our way through the scrubby bushes from Rawnsley Bluff to Moonarie Gap, and out to Bridle Gap.

Rawnsley Park Station and Wilpena Pound

Mark from Canada remarked on how well marked the trail from Rawnsley Park Station up to Rawnsley Bluff was, a clear made trail with markers every 100 metres, noting the distance from each end of the trail. Well, was this typical of Australian trails, he asked. Mmm. Well, no. After lunching beside the old survey cairn at Rawnsley Bluff, we started those swimming strokes through the scrub, along the ridge to the north into Moonarie Gap. In the Gap we eventually decided to set down our packs and split up, four to go get water, two to continue to look for the illusive sandy campsites Mark, our leader, had seen on Google Earth, the same that I recalled seeing on a hike up to Iluka Peak a couple of years ago. It took Dave and I just three minutes to find the first of the sandy areas and select a suitable campsite. The following day, hiking up to the base of Iluka Peak, we came across the actual site we both knew of, broad and sandy in the upper reaches of the the Gap.

This was another Adelaide Bushwalkers hike, a trip up to the Flinders. There were three groups, in my group there were six of us - Mark our leader, Trevor, Dave, Mark - recently from Canada, Ben and myself. A great group, sharing leading the way through the scrub bashing, and had no trouble walking together.

Sunday morning we set out to the north, leaving our heavy packs behind, to try Point Bonney. I think we all knew we would did not have the necessary time to reach the summit and return, but hoped we would be able to at least achieve Iluka Peak. Defeated once before, back in 2009, due to a rather half-hearted effort - we were awaiting updated road reports to travel further north to hike - and slow progress. We took a different approach route this time, last time we went west from the Pound rim, following a terrace up to climb over the hill between Moonarie Gap and Iluka Peak. This time we climbed but not as much, following the contour around the rim face into the next saddle. Approaching the saddle a strong wind picked up behind us, warm air being sucked in from the valley floor up to the summits of Iluka Peak and Point Bonney, a fierce cold wind forming dense foggy clouds above us. Although slowly the clouds retreated upwards, revealing the summit of Iluka Peak, we soon realised we had insufficient time to even achieve Iluka Peak. Instead we climbed the hill upon which we had given up our Iluka Peak ascent last time. Unnamed, we decided to name the peak Mark's Nob after our leader. There's a few nobs around the Pound. Although the cloud was slowly receding, we could see new cloud being constantly formed just east of the peaks.

Grabbing our packs from Moonarie Gap, we followed the creek down to Wilpena South Creek. Plenty of water around at the moment, slowly the creek opened up with less dense scrub and the occasional native pine tree. Out on the Pound floor, we strode out to meet up with the Heysen Trail near Bridle Gap, before ascending Dick Nob. We raced the sun down from the Pound rim along the Heysen Trail to Black Gap - the sun won btw, we came a close second. From here Davo was waiting, rather patiently it would seem, with his van to take us back to our campsite. Black Gap is on Arkaba Station, the station was sold a couple of years ago. The new owners have set up a new venture, a luxury top-end resort with luxury safari hikes. There have been a number of changes with the new owner; camping is no longer permitted along Moralana Scenic Drive; the Heysen Trail's Red Range campsite has been moved out of sight of the luxury hikers; bushwalkers are not permitted to camp anywhere on the Arkaba Station property, outside of the Red Range campsite on the Heysen Trail. I can't say I agree with Arkaba's stance. It is a pastoral lease rather than freehold, so they are stakeholder in the property - no doubt though a very important stakeholder. I think it is a loss to the community that camping is no longer permitted on the property. That said though, they are making a good innovative go of turning the property into a profitable one. Its history as a pastoral property has long since shifted to providing tourist accommodation, the new owners have taken that to luxury stance. Make no mistake, accommodation here is luxury with a matching pricetag, on a par with Kangaroo Island's Southern Ocean Lodge. However, they are generous stakeholders in the Heysen Trail, as quite a distance of it traverses their property from north of Hawker to Wilpena Pound.

Next morning Davo dropped us back, and we set off to complete our circuit back to Rawnsley Park. Following the valley between Wilpena Pound and the much smaller Ulowdna Range we strode across the open plains, finishing our hike by mid-morning. A fantastic weekend.

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Wilpena Pound
Saturday Sunday Monday
11/06/2011 12/06/2011 13/06/2011
Rawnsley Station to Moonarie Gap Moonarie Gap to Black Gap Black Gap to Rawnsley Station
Distance 12.55km 18.94km 8.86km
Start Time 8.36am 8.08am 8.12am
End Time 4.11pm 5.39pm 10.44am
Moving Duration 4h10m 6h11m 1h57m
Stationary Duration 3h26m 3h24m 35m
Moving Average 3.0km/h 3.1km/h 4.5km/h
Overall Average 1.6km/h 2.0km/h 3.5km/h
Oodometer 12.5km 31.5km 40.3km