26 August 2002
What a day! I was cold last night due to an ill-made bed. After beautiful clear days, the nights are freezing, just like Karajini. Tonight will be truly punishing, as there was hardly a wisp of cloud in the sky during the day. Anyway, Clare climbed into bed with Susan and I, as she often does first thing in the morning. This morning she did so to get warm, however. She was cold too, poor kiddo. Susie made pikelets for herself and the kids over an open fire, and I had my regulation sardines on toast.
The hot breakfast led to a late start, but we eventually set out on the road to the Aroona Valley. I drove very cautiously since we had no spare tyre. We had to make a couple of shallow creek crossings, but they were pretty easy. We finally arrived at an old slab hut built early last century, and used sometimes by the artist Hans Heysen during his jaunts into the Flinders Ranges.
From this point we set out along the Heysen Trail to a place called Red Hill Lookout. The round trip was four hours over undulating hills. We made our way over the saddle of the mountain range, down the other side, and then up a steep hill. The walk was hard-going for Clare, who fell behind and started to complain. She was doing well considering her recent cold. The walk to the lookout was mostly uphill.
We were richly rewarded for our efforts when we finally arrived at the summit of Red Hill. We turned around and looked back to where we had come from, and we got a panoramic view of the Heysen Ranges with Wilpena Pound in the far distance. In a slightly different direction we got a panoramic view of the ABC Range. We sat down to a picnic lunch on the lee side of a huge cairn that had been created by hikers before us. As we munched on our sandwiches, Susie proposed that of all the magnificent lunch spots we had enjoyed since we left Sydney, this was the queen of them all. Try as we could, none of us could name a spot that afforded a more fantastic view.
It was cold and blowy and we had a long way to walk back, so we only stayed for half an hour at the lookout. It was very hard to leave that view. On the way down the slope of Red Hill, I almost trod on a Blue Tongue Lizard. They don’t move quickly, so the kids were able to get a good look at it. Other wildlife sightings on the way back included an emu with six emu chicks, wallabies and kangaroos, and a tiny, beautiful bird with a red crest and orange breast that Ruby spotted.
We drove back to camp carefully and ate the steaks that had been marinating while we were out walking. These were eagerly devoured with potatoes cooked in the coals of the fire, and a light salad. While Susie and I cooked, Ruby and Clare played in “Rockville”, a small town made from the rocks in the middle of the riverbed. They are so imaginative in their play, and they play so beautifully together. I hope this trip will cement a life-long friendship between them.
After Ruby and Clare went to bed, Susie and I stayed up with a guitar around the fire. Being able to have campfires in the Flinders Rlinders ranges has been a real blessing; it makes the cold nights bearable.