FLINDERS 2014

We just spent a few weeks traipsing around in the Flinders Ranges. Feels like a spiritual home. As in the most familiar landscape of vistas, forms, plants and creatures in my experience, the most nourishing to my heart and my soul and my me. I've spent quite a lot of time there and similar arid range country in various ways. My mother's people settled and built Wooltana Station on the eastern side of the northern part of the ranges, facing out to Lake Frome. After a generation they moved and started all over in the Gawler Ranges to the west, north of Eyre Peninsula, and built Nonning Station where my mother grew up, and in my youth we spent school holidays each year, roaming the old red rocky rounded hills and the saltbush and Myall flats between them, and doing horse and sheep and station stuff. Then in my twenties I spent several years taking small groups of people adventuring in the Flinders for a week or two at a time with a team of a dozen or so camels, walking, swagging and campfire cooking, wandering up and down the Frome River, down the Neales River to the western side of Lake Eyre, down the Cooper Creek from Innaminka, across the Nullabor and here and there. That was for Rex Ellis who ran a tourist safari outfit called Transcontinental Safaris. Then while we were running our building business and had young boys we escaped once or twice a year if we could to the Flinders for a break from the telephone and the hurly burly. That was with tents and then a camper trailer and we'd set up camp for a week and wander about, conducting a sporadic holy war against the feral goat population. Haven't been for some years, probably since we started sailing.

Last time I went was soon after knocking off from building, to help Rex walk his camels down from Angepena to his camp at Blinman, to see how much difference thirty years makes, and for old times' sake. Well thirty years makes a big lot of difference. Back in the day, I'd head into the hills after making camp in the afternoon, chasing goats or rabbits and climbing mountains just for the glorious vista exuberance of being able to. After thirty years, even after training for the trip by walk-ing up the Willunga Range every day for a couple of weeks, I wasn't heading for no hills chasing nothing. I was taking my boots off and weeping. Very sore and sorry for the loss of spright in my poor old bones. Rex's style of pushing the pace as much as he could made it more onerous than it might have been, though. Back in the day I used to take it pretty easy so the customers had time to fossick and watch birds and poke lizards. Also the country looked terrible after quite a long drought. Bare and red and rocks all baked, springs drying up, big red gums in the creek beds dying, familiar but terrible hard. Taxing to march through. This time we're in luxury mode in a caravan with electric lights, solar panels, gas cooker, fridge, hot water and dinky bathroom. Much like the boat, only easier to move; you just hook it up and drag it, and the weather doesn't matter as much. The country looks great now. Never seen it so green and after a run of good years there are emus multitudinous and their numbers are always a good indication of the quality of seasons. It's still hard country but with a general soft fuzz of grasses and flowers and the trees and bushes look lush and healthy. Bird life generally is plentiful. Apostle birds squabbling around the camp, numerous crimson chats - tiny red fronted robiny things, Port Lincoln ring neck parrots. Tina played a re-cording of a Rufous Whistler and the real dude turned straight up, furiously belting out his repertoire to see off the intruder. The birdo police may be reassured that she desisted from playing before Mr. RW freaked out too much about an intruder he couldn't see. He continued to give our camp a regular performance just in case.

We mostly camped in bush camp settings that various station people have set up to glean a few tourist dollars. The advantage of these settings over free range and random camp selection is that with our puppy dog it's nice to know how much and what kind of poison baiting is done in the area so we know how much she needs to be muzzled and kept on leash to keep her alive. And the sta-tion folks are generally helpful with that and with pointing out the prettiest walks and so forth. One place made quite a production in their information sheet about how spiritually significant their property ( read they themselves ) was/were. The existence of a confluence of Very Major Ley Lines and Rare and Powerful Etheric Energy Pyramids had been confirmed by no less an authority than the President of the Adelaide Dowsing Club. Very impressive. A fine weekend of wining, dining and advanced personal evolution had probably been constructed to confirm those existences, we speculated. While we were there, Tina noticed a creature up the hill waving its legs in the air. Now that's not right. Turned out to be a ram tangled in an old fence, upside down, kicking at the sky because he was all run out of other options. I got him out of the fence and dragged him up to a bit of flat ground so he wouldn't roll himself back into the fence and suggested that he should have watched where he was going a bit better but his strife was not diminished but only altered in that he now kicked parallel to the sky instead of at it because his options were down in fact to kicking whichever way his legs did point. He was blown on the side he'd been stuck on and in need of more assistance than I had in my capacity so I rode down to the homestead on my bicycle and informed the people of the strife that the ram was in, Ley line confluence notwithstanding.

Evening came and so did crows to keep company with the ram and monitor the declining vigour of his kicks. No person came at least till the middle of the next morning when we went walking. The other way. When we returned the ram had run out of all his options, even kicking. Call me a philis-tine materialist but I would find the tish tosh about Ley lines and energy pyramids a bit easier to stomach if somebody gave a rat's care about a ram running out of options with no one but crows to look after him. Time in wilderness areas has been very beneficial in my life, to the extent that I'm inclined to as-sume that it would be so for anybody, but that might depend on the familiarity with it that I take for granted. I don't think the particular type of wilderness matters much, as long as a body knows or learns the rules about how to be safe and, if necessary, comfortable there. The benefits include time to think about what sort of relationship a body wants with technology, commerce and human society. Having thought and possibly developed intentions or ambitions regarding those issues, further time in the wilderness probably doesn't help much in achieving them, except in giving a body a chance to clear its mind and recharge its soul through contemplating with awe the grandeur of nature's works.

And so after a couple of weeks we started back toward home. One of the things we're really enjoy-ing about caravanning is the ease of moving compared to the tiresome, if you want to move often, business of packing up and shifting a camper trailer based camp. It only takes a few minutes to get the van on the road and that makes it pleasant to travel shorter distances and investigate all sorts of places we haven't seen before, staying one, two or three nights depending on the picturesque rating of the walks available and the opportunities for sharing stories, lies and jokes with other travellers.