STATION STAY

Explore one of the best 4x4 tracks to be found in South Australia’s picturesque Flinders Ranges.

WORDS AND PHOTOS ROBERT NORMAN

ALPANA Station, a 200km² working sheep property just outside the Flinders Ranges National Park, is located on the main road north of the popular tourist destination of Wilpena Pound and a few kilometres south of the small outback town of Blinman. The station has been in the Henery family since 1878 and the fifth-generation owners of the station, David and Sally Henery, opened the property to the public in 1995 offering a range of accommodation options.

As well as shearers’ quarters with shared facilities offering basic but comfortable accommodation, the station has both powered and unpowered campsites. Each of the four powered sites has an adjacent private en suite bathroom, providing campers a level of comfort and convenience not often enjoyed in what is a relatively remote area.

Anyone seeking a secluded getaway for a few days could do worse than stay at the Henery’s Nungawurtina Hut. Built in the traditional style used by the original 1880s settlers, this native pine and pug hut, nestled in a secluded valley 7km from the homestead, is ideal for those wishing to get up close and personal with nature. The hut sleeps six people and features 12V solar lighting, an open fire, gas stove and toilet (but no shower or refrigerator). Access to the hut is via a rough and rutted station track requiring a high clearance 4x4, making it an ideal place to rest up for a few days – the Henery’s can provide transport to and from the hut for anyone without an appropriate vehicle.

Alpana also provides station tours and a guided tag-along drive

just GORGEOUS

THE rugged violet-hued Heysen Range paints the horizon heading north to Alpana Station through the Flinders Ranges NP via the spectacular Bunyeroo Gorge Scenic Drive detour.

FOR 4X4 ENTHUSIASTS, THE MT SAMUEL SELFDRIVE TRACK IS A KNOCKOUT

to Blinman Pools. This area of permanent waterholes and springs can otherwise only be accessed by way of a 12km return public walking track from Angorichina Village to the west of Blinman. At the time of our visit in September the Flinders hadn’t seen rain for six months and, with the water level in the pools quite low, we elected to visit them another time when the country will be lusher. The Flinders Ranges is a great place to visit at any time of the year, but after significant rain in August/September – when native shrubs and wildflowers are making the most of their brief growing season – it is nothing short of spectacular.

One of the station’s scenic highlights is Sunset Hill, located 4km from the homestead via a 4x4 track. This high point on a bare ridge offers commanding panoramic views over the station to the east and Lake Torrens to the west. As its name suggests, sunset is the time to be there – ideally with a bottle of your chosen poison.

The station is dog-friendly and visitors are welcome to bring along the family pooch, provided they’re properly controlled. As with all grazing properties, dogs must be kept on a leash for the safety of both stock and wildlife – and the potential for poisoning from 1080 baits laid for foxes and wild dogs. Alpana Station rarely uses poison baits but, when it does, it’s never near the accommodation or camping areas.

For 4x4 enthusiasts, the Mt Samuel self-drive track is a knockout. Its ‘challenging’ description is accurate, as Mt Samuel offers one of the most technically demanding public self-drives you’re likely to find in the Flinders. The five-hour one-way trek is slow due to sharp washouts punctuating the rutted and rocky

TRAVEL PLANNER

WHERE

Alpana Station is located in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges, 6km south of Blinman and 500km north of Adelaide.

WHEN TO TRAVEL

April to September offers the most pleasant conditions – daytime temperatures can reach mid 20s, but overnight it can fall to near zero. Summers are harsh and hot, with temperatures often above 40ºC. In spring, a few weeks after significant rainfall, you can expect to see the station at its best with wildflowers and a carpet of fresh green growth.

SUPPLIES

Campers need to be self-sufficient with regards to food. Nearby Blinman doesn’t have fuel but it does support a hotel and general store, the latter stocks a range of basic foodstuffs including frozen meat and bread. Fuel and some supplies are available at Angorichina, 15km east of Blinman.

ROAD CONDITIONS

Alpana homestead, 200 metres off the sealed Wilpena to Blinman Road, has easy, all-weather access. Station tracks require a 4x4 with good clearance (ideally high clearance). Reduced tyre pressure and good all terrain tyres are recommended for the Mt Samuel self-drive track.

CONTACTS

Alpana Station Phone: (08) 8648 4626 www.alpanastation.com

STAYING THERE

THE shearers’ quarters adjacent to the homestead and camping area has seven bedrooms, shared facilities include two bathrooms, a large dining area, a fully equipped kitchen, and an outdoor gas barbecue and fire ring. Cost is $150 per night for up to four adults, with additional adults $33 per night. There are discounts for groups of 10 or more.

The cost for powered campsites (with private en suite) is $40 for two people.

Bush camping is $15 per vehicle per night ($30 with bathroom access).

Nungawurtina Hut costs $60 per night for two people. It sleeps six and guests need to be self-sufficient for food, water and bedding. The hut has 12V lighting, but there’s no shower, refrigerator or power.

Pets are allowed.

There is no mobile reception at Alpana and, while Parachilna, Blinman and Angorichina have some Optus coverage, Telstra users will find little in the way of reception north of Wilpena.

ANYONE WITHOUT SERIOUS 4X4 EXPERIENCE MAY STRUGGLE WITH WHAT LIES AHEAD

track every few metres as it climbs slowly through dry, shaly hills studded with native cypress. The first challenge involves a short, steep climb up a series of small rock ledges in a narrow creek bed, which would most likely be a waterfall following heavy rain. Sally Henery suggested removing our tow hitch before starting the drive and, while this has never been an issue for the lifted Prado, it proved to be good advice as the Mt Samuel track regularly challenged both front and rear clearance.

A long climb to the highest point of the drive ends just below Mt Samuel itself, where the more athletic can walk to the summit in about 30 minutes. It’s worth taking a break at this point on the drive just to soak up the atmosphere and the stunning views towards Lake Torrens in the west.

From this high point below Mt Samuel, it’s then a fairly serious crawl downhill in first gear low range into the aptly named Mt Buggery Gorge. Anyone without serious 4x4 experience – or without someone guiding them through the tough spots – may struggle with what lies ahead.

Upon leaving Mt Buggery Gorge, the track crosses a wide, dry creek to enter a picturesque valley which it follows several kilometres south to meet the road to

Blinman. The scenery is excellent and the valley relatively green and lush, despite the extended dry spell – it would be spectacular when carpeted with native grasses and wildflowers after rain.

This latter part of the drive – despite being more open – still keeps drivers on their toes, given the dips and washaways that regularly punctuate the rough track.

With great scenery, pleasant and welcoming accommodation, and 4x4 challenges aplenty, Alpana Station will please anyone who ventures to the Flinders Ranges.

bugger me!

THE Mt Samuel track heads to Mt Buggery Gorge, meandering through a narrow gorge with little clearance from trees, boulders and gorge walls.

Numerous rock ledges need to be carefully descended, and thanks must be given to the drivers who have passed before and filled in some of the low spots with rocks.