BACKROAD BLISS

Itís worth adding a couple of days to the itinerary by taking the scenic route to the Flinders Ranges.

WORDS DEAN MELLOR PHOTOS OFFROAD IMAGES

SOUTH Australiaís Flinders Ranges is a truly spectacular destination, offering a stunning landscape, ancient and modern history, plenty of topnotch facilities and an incredible array of wildlife.

Itís also the gateway to Australiaís Red Centre, so itís little wonder this area attracts many four-wheel drive adventurers.

Of course, when youíre sitting down at home planning your trip to the Flinders Ranges and beyond, it would be excusable if you simply wanted to find the most direct route to get there as quick as you can. But donít forget the journey is often as enjoyable as the destination.

Whether youíre travelling to the Flinders from Melbourne or Adelaide in the south or Broken Hill in the east, thereís always the temptation to stick to the main roads to get there as quickly as possible and to make use of whatever time you have available to you. So while most people travelling from the east along the Barrier Hwy from Broken Hill head all the way to Peterborough before making north for Hawker, thereís a much more scenic option for those willing to put a little extra dirt under their tyres.

This option is also available to those heading up from the south.

YUNTA TO WAUKARINGA

THE route starts at Yunta on the Barrier Hwy, which is an ideal place to fuel up and grab any last-minute supplies. Directly opposite the BP service station is the start of the gravel road (Tea Tree Rd) that heads north to Waukaringa Ruins. Itís not an all-weather road, but itís clearly signposted at the start and will be marked either open or closed in sections; from Yunta to Arkaroola, from Arkaroola to Copley, and from Arkaroola to Innamincka. As this route peels off just beyond Waukaringa Ruins, youíll only need to concern yourself with the southern section of the road being open (if in doubt, call 1300 361 033).

The undulating 35km road to Waukaringa was in pretty good nick the last time we drove it, but it sees quite a few trucks and can develop a few washouts and corrugations if itís been a while between grading sessions. Itís advisable to air down your tyres at the startpoint, as youíll be on unsealed roads/tracks from here to Hawker anyway.

Waukaringa Ruins consists of the crumbling old hotel, remnants of the old post office and some footings from other buildings that made up the goldmining settlement, which was

scenic route

Add an element of adventure and take the backroads to the Flinders Ranges.

AIR DOWN TYRES AT THE START POINT, AS THE ROADS AND TRACKS ARE UNSEALED

settled in 1873 and abandoned in the 1960s. However, it wasnít until 1982 that Waukaringa was formally declared to have ceased to exist.

Back in its heyday, the Waukaringa Hotel mustíve been a thriving place with plenty of rooms and big cellars within the massive building. In 1890, Waukaringa was claimed to have had a population of 750 people, and wandering around the ruins itís easy to imagine the locals enjoying an ale at the pub after a long day in the mines.

A plaque donated by Kevin Kakoschke (author of Women of Gold and Off the Barrier Highway) lists all of the hotelís licensees over the years, as well as some interesting Waukaringa Hotel facts.

Another of Kevinís plaques is located at the site of the old Waukaringa Post Office, and it lists all of the townís postmasters from 1875 to 1964.

For those who want to spend the night here, camping is permitted in the immediate vicinity of the ruins, but it should be noted that the surrounding area is private property. There are no facilities here, so youíll need to be selfsufficient and bring your own firewood.

TRAVEL PLANNER

ROUTE

Yunta, SA, is located on the Barrier Hwy, 195km southwest of Broken Hill and 88km northeast of Peterborough. Waukaringa Ruins are 35km north of Yunta, while the rest of this route only totals around 120km before youíll find yourself in the pub at Cradock. Cradock to Hawker is only around 30km.

WHEN

You can visit the Flinders Ranges all year íround, but the best time is between April and October when the weather is coolest.

FUEL AND SUPPLIES

The Caltex (08 8650 5013) at Yunta is open until 10.30pm and the BP (08 8650 5196) is open 24 hours.

Thereís also a BP at Hawker (08 8648 4086). The Hawker Caravan Park can be booked by calling (08) 8648 4006.

MAPS AND GUIDES

You donít need too much detail to successfully navigate this route, so a good touring atlas or Hemaís South Australia map will suffice. Alternatively, use a Hema Navigator or Hema Explorer on a mobile device.

CONTACTS

Road conditions: 1300 361 033 Cradock Hotel: (08) 8648 4107

dirty duel

Keep an eye out for bulldust patches, as some of this route is used by trucks that chop up the road.

WAUKARINGA TO HAWKER

ABOUT 12km north of Waukaringa Ruins is a turn-off to the left that heads northwest towards Baratta Ruin. This sandy track is quite narrow in places and winds its way through picturesque station country. It passes through working pastoral properties, so you must

stick to it, unless prior permission has been granted by the relevant landowner.

You should also keep a close eye out for wandering stock and native fauna.

From Baratta Ruin, continue northwest towards Holowiliena and then turn left and head southwest to Cradock. The beautiful, old sandstone pub at Cradock dates back to 1881 and offers cold drinks, hot food and accommodation. Itís a great place to spend the night for those with time on their side.

From Cradock, there are two options to the north: either head up the blacktop where it intersects the main road to Hawker; or head up the dirt, which will bring you to Hawker from the east. Both options are about the same distance, but the latter is the more entertaining of the two. Hawker offers fuel, a caravan park and a choice of motels.

From Hawker, the magnificent Flinders Ranges is at your doorstep: Arkaba, Wilpena Pound, the Great Wall of China, Brachina Gorge, Parachilna Gorge, Willow Springs, Arkaroola Ö but remember the journey is often as enjoyable as the destination.