Storms, flooding, lightning bolts overhead, wind…. You name it and I popped it. All I wanted to do was get to the magical place they called Mount Chambers, which is within the Vulkathunha national park area. But nothing can prepare you for extreme weather conditions and unexpected floods. Hence, getting there took a bit longer than I could have anticipated.
I was leaving the South Flinders Ranges to make my way up North to a place that many people, especially locals, advised that I should stop at before I settle into the Vulkathunha National Park headquarters area. So the day before I set off, I got out of the Ranges and spent a few hours at the Prairie Roadhouse near the Outback Highway. I used this stop to get basic supplies and send some emails. In the meantime I was notified that a storm was brewing and that I should think about heading out that day rather than a day later, just to be safe.
Whilst heading back into the Ranges through the Parachilna dirt track, I could see the storms on the horizon but it didn’t worry me at this stage. So I camped out that night just before the first creek that cut through the Ranges and watched the area above me clear completely to show off a stunning star-filled sky. The next morning, I set off immediately to make the most of the good weather.
Almost as fast as I set off, the weather changed completely. The wind brought in the clouds, and heavy rainfall. The low visibility made it impossible to go on, so I pulled over to wait it out. It rained for hours but when it wasn’t so heavy, I would chance it and move a few kilometres here and there. The most challenging moments were when I decided to cross the creeks, which by now were flooded. I would always ask any passing 4WD drivers if it was possible, and I would always walk across first to see how powerful the current was, even though it was freezing cold. One creek was so flooded that the water was passing right over my bonnet, which was worrying. The engine seemed okay, so I soldiered on.
For three days I had not been able to sleep in my roof tent because it was just too wet and windy. Finally, I came across another 4WD and we agreed to convoy up for the next 100km. They informed me of a caravan park that was still open, so we tuned in our UCF’s and set off. We made it to the caravan park, it was just the two of us and two other vehicles trying to get out of the storm. We were charged peak rates, but we paid it gladly to rest and dry off whatever our gear. The next day, as soon as the weather started to clear, I set off to Vulkathunha.
The landscape through the green mountain ranges and the overlaying hills was truly worth the effort it had been to get here. All that rain did plenty of good! After driving 200km through the ranges I got to Mount Chambers with a huge sigh of relief. This was my first stop in the Vulkathunha area and the sun was shining and the wind was mild. During my time camping and exploring around Mount Chambers I stumbled upon a small group of people, some white Australians, some foreigners and white Australians as well as Aborigines. They were there to learn more about herbal remedies that can be found in the region. The Aborigine that guided them was an Adnyamathanha elder called Enice Marsh. She smiled at me with sparkling eyes and invited me to join them.
I learnt so much in a tiny amount of time. Enice told us about dreaming sites and how they came to be, the stories behind them and about how the west summit of Mount Chambers is known to the local communities as the Eagles’ nest. She shared her stories with us, as we ate fresh damper – an Australian soda bread – around the fire. We parted ways the next day but I was to meet them again four days later further north. This was the perfect introduction to a place that camped in for a week, where I did countless treks and 4WD tracks. I captured some great time lapses of the ranges and the stars that trailed above them, but nothing would beat the information I garnered in those few days.
My trip to Vulkathunha was breathtaking. The 1,800 million year old suite of rocks is a mixture of both high and low grade metamorphic and igneous rock. Resulting in some steep inclines where some of the rock is solid and some is loose, making the terrain quite difficult to navigate. From the photography aspect, the colours and contrasts were powerful and vivid, making it the perfect subject.
All in all I enjoyed tackling the difficulties and dangers from this part of the expedition through Vulkathunha. I clearly learnt a lot and it helped me progress in the right direction. My next challenge from here would be to head into the Lake Eyre and Painted Desert region.
Until next time, let the world be your playground.
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Marc Casolani