Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Flinders, Heysen, Mawson, Elder et al

I don't think Matthew Flinders visited the ranges named after him. He certainly wouldn't have caught sight of them from his ship as he circumnavigated Terra Australis - confirming it as a continent. He would have been too busy charting the coastline of this wonderful country. But many an explorer trudged through the area including the famed inland explorer John McDouall Stuart. A visit to the old Blinman Cemetary includes a headstone from one of the team who died en route to the Centre.

The land is harsh and it's always a wonder to me how they managed - scarcity of water, no knowledge of the country, harsh terrain not seen in England's green and pleasant land, unfriendly 'natives' (dreadful expression) and the unknown of what they may or may not find or reach on the morrow. And they always seemed so ill equipped.

It's not just me that considers the Flinders Ranges magnificent. They are one of Australia's hidden gems. After all it was famed artist Sir Hans Heysen who said it was "where he found the bones of nature laid bare". He was one of the first artitsts to capture the raw beauty of the ranges - and others followed. 
The Hills of Arkaba (www.thesentimentalbloke.com)
I can remember many years ago visiting the famed Hills of Arkaba (part of the Elder Range - named after the Elder of Elder Smith Goldsborough Mort fame) and watching with my parents a painter - whose name escapes me - waiting for the light to change so that he could paint - and photograph those hills and valleys. Back then I don't think I had any concept of the difference that light and shadow can make but it was a great lesson watching the patience of an artist.
Sir Hans Heysen 1930

Sir Hans Heysen Aroona Valley 1938
If you're a walker (I wish I was) you can walk the extraordinary Heysen Trail which begins at Cape Jervis (where the ferry will take you to Kangaroo Island if you want to make a small diversion!) and ends in the Flinders Ranges at Parachilna. Its a mere 1,200 kms long (and is often completed in stages over many years!) After all it winds through the beautiful McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills, the Barossa and Clare Valleys - and that's before you reach the Flinders!
The famed Heysen Trail
If you're not a walker you might be a biker! If so you can ride the Mawson Bike Trail which begins in Adelaide and ends in dear old Blinman. I'm not sure famed Adelaidian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson would have enjoyed this raw country as there are no crevasses or icebergs here - although it felt as cold as Antarctica while we were there! This trail is a mere 900 kms long although it can of course be ridden in stages! Perhaps even a combination of Heysen and Mawson!
What a goal! - the end of the Mawson Trail in Blinman
Photos of my recent trip don't do justice to one of my favourite areas in the world (and I haven't even covered the extraordinary Wilpena Pound - next time) The rain and low cloud just didn't help!  But I'll leave you with a few!
Oh what vistas to behold
Them thar hills are old old old
So add the Flinders to your to do list. After all if Sir Hans Heysen can do driving up there in an old model ford so can you! And it won't take as long as it would have taken him! (unless you ride or walk!)
Sir Hans Heysen's Model A Ford and Camper 1932 - heaven!

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