Flinders Ranges & the Clare Valley Autumn Festival

Libby Cameron recently returned from our Flinders Ranges & the Clare Valley Autumn Festival Tour. Enjoy reading about her personal highlights of the tour:

It’s a thrill for me to take my travellers to the outback in South Australia to show them the contrast between the lush Clare Valley just starting to put on its rich autumn hues and the treeless, flat saltbush country of the north which has so much beauty and a colourful history. Then, to immerse them in the glorious Ikara-Flinders Ranges with its huge old river red gums and wonderful scenery.

We started the tour with a day in the Clare Valley- the SA Autumn Festival was a rustic pleasure and Walter and Kay Duncan’s Heritage Garden; a treat at any time of year. The hollyhocks were superb and the orchard was full of yummy quinces and pomegranates. Kay makes such delicious scones teamed with home made plum jam and cream.

On Day 3 we set off early on the long drive north to historic Marree where the Birdsville and Oodnadatta tracks meet. We settled into the journey in our comfortable bus through golden paddocks and rolling hills with stubble remaining after harvest of wheat, barley and other crops, passing through historic towns most quite minimally changed from their heyday. Laura is one such town- we loved the whimsical bronze statue of CJ Dennis, prolific author in the main street.

At the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna we enjoyed their famous ‘feral platter’ of delicacies made from emu, kangaroo, goat and camel, with a little saltbush thrown in. Then, looked over the pub’s unique collection of Flinders Ranges’ fossils from the ancient Ediacaran Period.

Maree was once a hub for railway and Ghan cameleers, now a starting point for flights over Lake Eyre which many of our travellers enjoyed. The range of colours seen from the air with water in the lake was extraordinary and after a cuppa at William Creek, they flew over the dazzling Painted Hills as they returned.

Leaving Maree, we drove to Wilpena in the Flinders Ranges, with a stop at the historic ruined town of Farina and had lunch at the old copper mining town of Blinman. What a huge contrast it was when we drove through Parachilna Gorge, with its craggy rock walls and fabulous river red gums.

The next day, Michelle, a local property owner, joined us to interpret the sights of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. We visited several lookouts, drove the awesome geological trail through Brachina Gorge, and spotted a number of yellow-footed rock wallabies along the way. Lunch was so special; we thoroughly enjoyed a picnic in the dry riverbed of Wockerwirra Creek, complete with tea brewed in a billy. What a satisfying day!

On our last day in the Flinders, we went on a ‘forest bathing’ walk along the creek into Wilpena Pound, where, at Hills Homestead ruins, we read about the family who attempted to farm in the pound, and some climbed to the two lookouts where you can see views over this awesome landmark.

Libby Cameron
(Tour Leader)

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