Travelling – Indigo ranges and orange ridges

Flinders scenery 01

Exploring the Flinders Ranges (South Australia) has been a memorable experience. Naturally steering clear of crowds where ever we go, we’ve avoided the touristy places, opting instead to venture onto side roads.

‘Stunning’ might well be an overused description, but the scenery of the Flinders deserves every bit of ‘stunning’, ‘breath-taking’, ‘magnificent’ and more.

Flinders scenery 03

Indigo ranges, with scissor-sharp peaks piercing the sky, stretch off into the distance, parallel with the road. And turning to look in the other direction, naked ochre-orange ridges of rock make an equally impressive statement. Green mounds dotted with low growing native shrubs form a repetitive rolling pattern from the roadside to meet the high country.

Flinders scenery 02

And then the scene is dissected by dry rocky riverbeds, twisting around the base of hills, lined with massive River Red Gums. The trees spread out onto the floodplains, in brilliant contrast to the solid colour of the mountain backdrop.

Tired fences of leaning and splintering cypress posts, rusty wire and torn chicken mesh no longer keep stock contained, but they have a rustic character befitting of the ancient mountains. Historic rock and mortar buildings stand in ruin, a testament to pioneer farmers long gone. I marvel at the workmanship, still evident.

Flinders scenery 04

And then we boil the billy for a cuppa in the shade of a giant eucalypt, sit and watch the Red-capped Robins and Yellow-rumped Thornbills chattering amongst themselves and the rest of the local bird population that seems to have come to greet us.

The sunset to end our day of roaming through the Flinders was simply magic – a sky on fire. And then the blackness of a starlit heaven moved in to bid us goodnight.

Flinders scenery 05

Travelling – Dry riverbeds and magnificent trees

Flinders river red gums and dry riverbeds 1

Kangaroos watched me cautiously, swivelling their ears to catch every sound. Unseen birds betrayed their presence as spikes of grass twitched in the early morning stillness – gatherers of seed and insects going about their business apparently oblivious to the intrusion. But the wildlife rarely bother too much as I quietly observe their habits and habitat. I always feel privileged to have access to the natural environment of wild creatures.

Perhaps I’ve never taken enough notice of  photos and information on the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, but I didn’t expect to find spectacular trees. Beautiful River Red Gums, massive in girth and height, line all the dry watercourses. Not an odd tree here and there, but great numbers.

White is the primary colour of the trunks – gleaming white splashed with all shades of earthy colours you could imagine. Dense, drooping canopies of slender blue/green leaves are heavy with flower buds. Is it any wonder that artists flock to these trees. When they are ready to burst into bloom, surely the birds will flock to them too.

Although all the waterways are now dry, the evidence of swift and deep rushing water is everywhere. Flood debris lays in piles against any obstacle that hindered the waters flow. But most astounding are the huge logs that have gouged holes in mature eucalypts lining the creeks. More than holes, some trees have been broken open and completely hollowed out, but still they live on. Nature is remarkable in its violence, and its resilience. I can not help but be impressed by the stories being told by the grand old trees.

Flinders river red gums and dry riverbeds 3

I sit in the riverbed, write about my surroundings and of how I am emotionally moved by the sheer magnificence of nature. This is a gravel riverbed, others are rocky. Emus and kangaroos have left their footprints as their weight has cracked the mud crust, and there are tiny unidentifiable tracks accompanying them. Mother Nature’s animals live in harmony, as all life should be.

Flinders river red gums and dry riverbeds 2

Travelling – a Steam train and quandong treats

Pichi Richi Railway steam train south australia

Rain has recently turned the southern Flinders Ranges (South Australia) green – a lush green contrasting with warm earthy tones of sand and rock. A beautiful landscape of craggy hills, silver-grey eucalypts and tall tussocks of desert grasses slid by like a slow-motion move as the steam train chugged along at a snail’s pace.

Narrow-gauge rail carried the restored historic Pichi Richi train from Quorn to Woolshed Flat and back again. A single row of upholstered bench seats flanked each side of the carriage, meaning everyone got a window seat. The chilly autumn breeze on my face was fresh and filled with everything I love about nature’s breath, along with the odd speck of soot from the engine.

Our car attendant was a witty, bushy-haired senior high-school student. He warned us that he was not a train fanatic, and pleaded with passengers to keep the questions easy. My guess is that he volunteers on the train rides simply because he loves people and life. He was an absolute delight.

Back in town after our fun-filled, yet relaxing train ride, we browsed a second-hand book store heavy with the wonderful smell of old books. Of course I bought one. Then we sampled one of the local quaint cafes, treating ourselves to a slice of  homemade quandong cheesecake with a generous dollop of quandong syrup, and obligatory scoop of ice-cream. Delicious!

Quandong (sometimes known as native peach) is a locally produced native ‘bush food’, and locals showcase the product. We’ve been trying out local produce as we trip around the country, and surely that’s one of the pleasures of travel.

As I sit outdoors back at the caravan park to write, the familiar scent of wattle fills the air. Together we recall the favourite parts of our day and chuckle about the humour of the young lad who obviously loves life and community.

Pichi Richi steam train Quorn Flinders Ra

Travelling – Saltbush and Mallee

Saltbush and Mallee South Australia

Semi-circular silver-blue saltbushes dot the sandplains. It’s a pretty scene, or at least I think it is. Compact shrubs, unpruned but naturally neat. Not all species are equally attractive though, with rambling straggly grey and green saltbushes mingling with their sculptured cousins.

‘Saltbush’ is a generic term used for several families of low dry-country native shrubs that appear to thrive where not much else grows.

Some are covered in thorns. It’s not unusual to see a Bearded Dragon perched atop a spiky saltbush, soaking up the sunshine. Others sprout delicate, paper-like flowers that seem far too precious for such a harsh environment. And yet others supply berries every colour of the rainbow for the desert birds.

I like the saltbush landscape, with occasional stunted Eucalyptus and desert plants making a statement across the evenness of the pompom-strewn plains.

We’re travelling the Outback roads of southwestern New South Wales and South Australia. There’s not a great deal of traffic, but it isn’t easy pulling off the highway towing a caravan to wander amongst the vegetation. We go exploring after we’ve set up camp. That’s when I see a slim sandy-coloured skink wriggle to safety under a saltbush as my footfalls announce an intruder. And that’s when I get an up close look at the Singing Honey-eaters and an Orange Chat. Kangaroos lounge in the shade of the taller saltbushes, and I startled a hare that startled me.

And then we’re in mallee country. What the mallee gums lack in grandeur they make up for in character. Multiple skinny limbs fan out from an underground woody tuber, carrying tight bunches of glossy green gum leaves, providing umbrellas of shade for animals and birds. A grey carpet of leaf-litter occupies the drip-circle of each tree, naturally fertilising the tree after decomposition and rain.

Ribbons of bark flap in the breeze, exposing bronze and raw-green branches, with a natural brilliant sheen to them. It’s the details that I appreciate.

As I relax, writing, under the caravan awning, recalling the amazing scenery we’ve experienced, an excessively loud car-load of campers arrives to disturb the peace of this simple campsite. Why do these obnoxious people who have a need for noise and ruckus come to these out-of-the-way places? As friendly, considerate families try to enjoy their chosen surrounds, there seems always to be one  inconsiderate and ungrateful mob who thrive on attention to spoil it for everyone.

Like the mallee gums, I feel stripped of protection, exposed and vulnerable. Although I generally feel that I have my mental health well under control, when I fall in a heap, my ragged psych on display is not a pretty being. So I’ll take myself off for a walk along the bay where the gentle soothing sound of the lapping waves will ease the tension before it overcomes me. I know my triggers, and I’ve come to know how to care for myself.

I am an amateur wordsmith. I am unable to articulate well all of my experiences or truths. Arrogance pushes my buttons, therefore I know that I still have much inner work to do on what I perceive as ‘arrogance’. A person repeatedly displaying arrogance is not yet at a soul level of growth whereby he/she can recognise this undesirable feature in him/herself. They may even be unteachable. The arrogance that disturbs me is not ‘their’ problem – it is mine. I must learn how to process these disturbances to my inner peace and emotional stability in a manner that allows me to move on quickly.

That peaceful walk on the beach is calling me.

Saltbush outback australia