If there is just one drive in the Flinders Ranges that you have time to drive, then the Bunyeroo Gorge Scenic Drive is one of the finest scenic routes; though it is mainly on dirt roads.
No matter how many times you drive this route, you will never get tired of the picturesque landscapes that unfold before your eyes, from sweeping plains covered in Native Pine to the rugged Gorges, the Bunyeroo Gorge Scenic Drive has it all.
While this drive can be taken from either direction, it is better followed in the direction described here, as the grand views of the Bunyeroo Valley and Wilpena Pound will be in front of you while descending down into the Bunyeroo Creek.
Travelling on the main Wilpena – Blinman Road, you will leave the bitumen about 5 kilometres north of the Wilpena access road and take the easy to find scenic drive road on your left hand side of the main road.
Initially the drive is through grassy plains, covered with Native Pines and surrounded by bare hills. Within a few kilometres, the purple peaks of the distant ABC Range are the dominant feature. There are three excellent parking bays with stunning views of the Ranges, before the steep descent down into Bunyeroo Gorge. Once down into Bunyeroo Creek, you actually drive up the creek bed, which has been carved out of the ABC Range over 590 million years.
Emerging from Bunyeroo Creek, the road enters the Wilcolo Creek Valley and there is now a dramatic change in scenery, with hills to climb, sheer gullies and pyramid peaks, with the Heysen Range on your left and the ABC Range on your right, with dense stands of native pines and giant River Red Gums, with many creek crossings. Then within 4 kilometres of Bunyeroo Creek, you are back into open and flat country, changing from open country to native pines, due to the types of soil and the nutrients they provide, or not as the case may be. After passing through one last creek, you are at the T junction, which is the Brachina Gorge Road, and from here the choice of direction is yours.
I chose to stop overnight midway through and, the following morning, I climbed one fo the peaks and managed to get some stunning views. I'm pleased to say the opening shot won first prize in a minor competition and the second one was featured as the cover shot on a magazine.
A good site to check out is http://www.exploroz.com/TrekNotes/Flinders/Bunyeroo_Gorge_Scenic_Drive.aspx
It had inspired Hans Heysen, famous Australian landscape painter who was the man who started the Heysen School. Today there’s a multi day trail named after him that runs from the tip of the gulf right up through the Flinders.
The walk I chose out of Aroona, where Heysen often stayed, was called Yuluna and it said, “..experience the landscape that inspired Heysen on his visits to the Flinders Ranges.”
Sounded alright to me and I set out enthusiastically on the 8km, 4 hour walk, as advertised. For well over an hour I wondered what all the fuss was about. The trail was easy, the bush pleasant, but there was certainly nothing inspiring and only occasional glimpses of the Range named after the artist.
Then the trail dropped in to a creek and things picked up. The further I walked the better it became until I was right in a wondrous place with cliffs on either side yet, amazingly, the gorge has no name, it is simply listed as an enclave in the ABC Range.
There were weird shaped trees as well, mostly red gums (though they're rarely actually red) with artistic shapes that were worth the trip on their own.
If you're reasonably fit you could do the walk in 2 1/2 hours as the times are fairly loose.
I had St. Mary’s Peak listed and Malloga Falls as back up. As I arrived at Wilpena Pound clouds covered all the peaks so I took the Falls option and left at 8.15 on the listed walk. You’re supposed to register at the office but the lady didn’t seem to care so I put my name down on the walkers’ list outside and headed off on the 9 hour hike.
It takes you into the pound and along the flat valley floor on a road until it reaches an intersection at the 8.2km mark. Since the clouds still covered the peak I diverted off that trail and headed for Malloga Falls, reaching them in about 3 hours.
Scrambling down to the bottom wasn’t that hard but when I reached the top of the falls further down I had to climb out again and go around to get further down.
The gorge is named Edeowie and it’s a stunner. I penetrated a further 500 metre down and stopped to have lunch.
It was surreal. Dragonflies skimmed silently by, fanned by the wind that hushed through the canyon. Above the rocks glowed while clouds danced over the peaks taking their shifting shadows with them. That day I was the only one who walked in here and apart from the few birds no sound other than my steps broke the silence.
Time came to leave and I walked the tough rocky trail back to the intersection, turning left to head up to St. Mary’s Peak. I had gone but a few metres when a couple came into view.
They said it had taken 6 hours to reach this point going the opposite way to me. That would put me back after dark if I chose that route so I decided to walk the trail with the couple. After 100 metres I said I’d go ahead and do some bird shooting. After 2 kms I looked back. They were nowhere to be seen.
I then recalled how the guy had been huffing and puffing despite being years younger than me. They said they normally rode their motorbikes when travelling and obviously he never walked anywhere seriously. I never saw them again.
By the time I returned I’d done about 23 kms which I thought was fair effort for the day.