The Arkaba Walk is 4 day private guided walk on Arkaba, an eco retreat in the Flinders Ranges region, 20 minutes drive north of Hawker, South Australia. The property is located near the base of the Elder Range, which provides a stunning backdrop to the area.
I have known of the Flinders Ranges since I was a child. In fact in the early 90s I penned a letter to myself indicating that in 2004 I would be a Park Ranger in the Flinders Ranges. I also predicted in the same letter that I would be a photographer, with my images making it into books and magazines. Given my early interest in the region I was very keen to explore it and see what it was like. I certainly did not return disappointed, with the following experiences leaving me burning with inspiration, and a desire to return and explore the area further.
1. The Incredible Landscape
The Flinders Ranges is somewhat of a geological marvel. The was area formed by significant geomorphic uplifting about 540 million years ago, and it is said at one point the series of ranges was as tall as the Himalayas. The Arkaba property itself is located right in some of the most impressive scenery in the Flinders Ranges area, and a great deal of that scenery is on show for the duration of the Arkaba Walk. I was captivated by the way the mountain ridges caught the morning and evening light. Due to ranges being present in all directions there was always something to photograph at the magic hours around sunrise and sunset.
2. The Abundance of Wildlife
One thing I was not expecting was the rich variety of animal and bird life we saw during the walk. I have never been somewhere with the variety of kangaroos, where Red Kangaroos, Euros, and Western Grey Kangaroos were all quite common. Unfortunately we didn’t see any endangered Yellow Tailed Rock Wallabies, but I was told there is a small population on the property on the Elder Range. There were also many different bird sightings including Wedge Tailed Eagles, Robins, Pardalotes and many others. Emus were plentiful and at one point our group saw a mother Emu and her chicks cross the dry riverbed in front of us. Other encounters included a shingleback lizard, and golden orbweaver spiders which occasionally blocked the track with their webs. These webs looked particularly beautiful backlit by the sun.
3. The Amazing Food and Company
Spending several days with relative strangers is a great way to make new friends, and I had an awesome group for the duration of my walk. There were many laughs, exchanges of stories and some great camaraderie. With professional chefs on deck the food on offer was nothing short of mouth watering, in fact the word flawless comes to mind. One of the highlights was the Beef Cheek we had on the first night. The quality of food was incredibly high given we were essentially camping in the remote Australian outback. There was never a shortage of wine or beer, which certainly went down well after a tough day of walking and photographing.
4. The Night Sky
With no light pollution to speak of there are ample opportunities to see the night sky in all it’s glory during the walk, provided the right conditions occur of course. I was able to spend several sessions photographing the stars, before the full moon was more visible in the night sky in the later days of the walk. There were quite a few great options for photographic compositions, the ever present cypress pines make great subjects as did the campfires in the early evening.
5. The Plant Life
Walking through the arid Australian outback one would expect that the landscape to be rather barren, however my expectations were very different to reality. Arkaba is covered in the most beautiful array of native Australian plants, including ancient River Red Gums, Cypress Pines and Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea species). Our guide Darlene knew a lot about the various bush tucker options present in the park, pointing out Ruby Saltbush, Bush Tomato, and even the curious crystalline substance called Lerp, which indigenous Australians ate like lollies. It was great to be able to try some of the bush tucker as we walked along, and certainly provided another layer of interest to an already fascinating place.
6. The Guides and their Conservation Values
Perhaps the most inspiring part of my Arkaba Walk adventure was talking to the guides and Station managers about their conservation efforts. Arkaba originally operated as sheep property from 1851. After a change in management in 2010 the sheep were gradually removed and the land rapidly began to regenerate. Listening to the passion in the voice of the guides and managers as they spoke about the transformation gave me shivers down my spine. These people are concerned to their core about the environment, and their efforts are bringing the land back to life. It was hard to not be moved by their commitment.
7. The Journey
The Arkaba Walk is an amazing journey through sandy gum-lined riverbeds, under ancient river-red gums, over rugged red ranges, past stands of native cypress pines, and to many lookouts where stunning views can be had over the many valleys present in the area. It feels as if there is something new to see at every turn in the road, and it was always hard for me to resist taking a photo. In the four days I was on the property I managed to capture over 4800 images, which says a lot about the variety on show.
The Arkaba Walk was an experience I will never forget, and I am now planning my return to this area next year. This is one of those places that I think every Australian should visit in their lifetime if they have the chance.
You can find more information on the Arkaba Walk at the company website: http://www.arkabawalk.com
If you like this post that please feel free to leave a comment below or ask me any questions you may have about the walk!