South Australia’s Flinders Ranges has long been a popular drawcard for people of all descriptions. Large pebbled and stoned creeks, significant geological formations, stunning gorges, ancient river redgums, abundances of flora and fauna, hike and bike trails and of course one of the natural wonders of the world, Wilpena Pound.
Before motorised transport the best way to get around in the outback was by came so here I am on a 10-day trek through the timeless Flinders Ranges with Flinders and Beyond Camel Treks accompanied by a dozen camels, many of whom we are assured we will get to know more intimately as the trek passes. We leave SA's highest town of Blinman led by our cameleer Ryan, and quickly fall into a routine of following dry creekbeds upstream to a saddle, passing over the ridge.
The guided trek was occasionally overlaid with education, all of us became wiser by being able to recognise bird sounds, understand edible and inedible flora; and by having a greater appreciation of the harshness of the terrain and these lands.
Day five saw the break from the rolling hills as we followed the ever-widening Nilpena Creek past the last of the gorges and hills down through a river red gum laden dry creek bed.
The Heysen Range of the Flinders Ranges was now at our back and would remain visible for many days to come. In the meantime the names of all the camels, their pecking order, the order of the camel train and all of their idiosyncrasies were etched in the memory banks, with the morning challenge set for each of us novices to tame the camels and bring them into the train in readiness for loading.
Looking towards the horizon where the salty mirage of Lake Torrens beckons, yet another bush was selected as the go to point. This one finally echoed success as we reached the edges of Lake Torrens, one of a series of massive and dry salt lakes in central South Australia and Australia’s second largest when (rarely) filled with water.
Over the course of 10 days we have really got to know this amazing part of the outback - and also got to know some very idiosyncratic camels. We know what we need to whisper into Polly, Mona and Naree’s ear each day, the precious prima donnas of the caravan, to coerce them back into camp for loading. The male camels continued to echo a tune of hard-done-by as they carried the heavier loads. Meanwhile the younger camels remain confused as they looked for inspiration from their parents, or indications from the Trekkers as to which were the most appropriate behaviours to follow.
Words and photos_Stephen Warren
For the full story get a copy of the GRW Dec-Jan issue out now! And for more info on Flinders and Beyond Camel Treks click here.