To Marree, the end of the paved road

From the town of Hawker the quality of riding and scenery ramped up as we made a circuitous route thru the Flinders Range.

We camped at Mt Little Station, where like NZ, stations are diversifying into tourism to supplement farm incomes. We were lucky to strike pizza night (Wednesday and Saturdays) and the owners very kindly picked us up from our camp and returned us after delicious pizza, beer and interesting chats with the owners and the few other visitors. Doing it tough – you bet!

The route took us around Wilpena Pound where the oldest rocks on the planet have been discovered. We thought we were getting long in the tooth but in some of the lower layers of the Flinders rock in the Wilpena Pound feature, rock has been aged at 650 million years old. The Pound is a stunning oval shaped feature of cliffs enclosing a basin that used to be 10,000m higher than the present 1200m. Probably best appreciated in it’s entirety from a birds eye view.

Wilpena Pound screenshotted from Google

We met up with Lewis, a young graduate psychologist biking to a new job in Alice Springs, and shared a camp in the Flinders NP part way along the fun Wilcola track.

The head wind still taunted us thru to the end of the track at Blinman, South Australia’s highest town. Blinman was put on the map by the most productive copper mine that ran for 40 years from the late 1800’s and employed Cornish miners. On a mine tour we heard about the horrendous life of a miner back then – working dawn to dusk, 6 days a week,  to the light of candle power for little financial gain and life expectancy of mid 30’s because of work related issues like silicosis. We learnt that the Cornish pasty is designed with the top crust flange so that they could grip in their dirty hands at lunchtime and throw away after eating the rest of it relatively hygenically. The Miners Crib bakery and cafe was an unexpected treat in this town with a present day permanent population of 26.

Our last hurrah in the Flinders was a lovely bush camp in the Parachilna Gorge before we emerged into the intimidating flat land on the edge of the Outback proper. We were eased gently into Outback travel by 180km of paved road and 2 more great bakeries. The last bakery before Alice Springs (1000kms away) is run by ‘gonad’ volunteers (grey nomads) and only open 8 weeks of the year in the historic town of Farina. The derelict stone buildings of this town whose last resident left in 1968 are being restored and the underground oven has been reinstated to bake the bread. Farina is Latin for wheat, which they hoped they could grow here, but was a disaster because of the lack of water.

We had a cloudy grey day beating into the northerly to get to Marree at the end of the bitumin. To our surprise it has a well stocked shop and also a small bakery – definately the last till Alice. With rain and strong winds forecast tomorrow we are planning on a full rest day here before heading on.