We entered the Ikara-Flinders Ranges through the Pitchie Ritchie gorge, where remnants of the Old Ghan railway are maintained by volunteers. A tourist service operates between Quorn and Port Augusta. The old railway between Port Augusta and Marree ceased to operate in 1981 and followed a route I had originally travelled in 1970.
But we soon left civilisation at Hawker and entered the Vulkathunya – Gammon Ranges National Park, home to the Adnyamanthanha (hills or rock people). The dreaming story of Ikara or meeting place was told to us by our pilot Mitch, but of course belongs to the Adnyamanthanha.
Yurla, the kingfisher was travelling to Ikara for a ceremony and lit a fire to let the people know from the smoke, that he was coming. The fire formed the coal deposits at Leigh Creek. At the same time, two serpents were travelling to the camp. When the people saw what they thought were two bright stars in the sky, they started their initiation ceremony but the stars were really the eyes of the serpents who came down and ate all but four people, then lay down to rest. The serpents form the ridges of the Wilpena Pound, and their heads St Mary’s peak and Beatrice Hill. The pound is a huge amphitheatre formed by a ring of older, harder quartzite with softer, younger. mudstone and siltstones forming the basin, otherwise known as a syncline basin.
Our flight took us above this extraordinary geological formation to the west where we could see the Brachina Gorge exiting the Pound. Mitch described the whole formation as a giant cupped hand. Later we walked through the centre of the Pound to Wangana Lookout past the old Hills homestead. Climbing to the top of the 150m lookout, past the Adnyamnathanha sculpture was a great achievement for Fred who had endured major surgery only 4 months ago.
Ikara-Wilpena Pound Resort is nestled into the basin and is surrounded by majestic river red gums. We came upon Port Lincoln parrots cavorting on our early morning walk to breakfast.
We left Wilpena and travelled through the Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges. The geologic formations here are between 500 and 600 million years old and this Ediacaran period supported the earliest forms of marine life, providing evidence that the centre of Australia was once covered by a large inland sea.
Janine pointed out marine fossils along the way and we eventually stopped in the town of Parachilna, population 6.
It was here the largest ammonite was found by a prospector and several sculptures celebrate Parachilna’s importance. This sundial provides a range of the different fossils found on the area.
The Farquahar family own the pub, which supports its own brewery and we were treated to a fabulous smorgasbord lunch, featuring emu pate, goat cheese, camel salami and bush tomato relish with a complimentary glass of wine.