Aroona Valley, Flinders Ranges
Aroona Valley in the Flinders Ranges in northern South Australia is a tranquil, stunningly beautiful place to camp. Walls of towering rock faces to the west glow in the morning sun and are worthy of thousands of painitings and countless photographs. The great artist Sir Hans Heysen fell in love with this area many years ago. Photographers have produced whole books on this and other parts of the ranges.
As you drive through the valley to the ruins of the Aroona Homestead near the camping grounds, you marvel at the park-like nature of the slopes leading to the ranges to the east and to the west. Stately native pines (Callitris spp) clothe the slopes and flat areas. Old river red gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) line every creek bed and go meandering down the valley following their water source.
These days there is a basic camping ground at the site of the old homestead. The only facilities the last time we were there are pit toilets and plenty of space for bush camping. It is wise to carry all provisions, especially water. The first time we went camping there was for our honeymoon (nearly 40 years ago). We only saw one other car for the whole week. It’s a little busier these days, but still generally very peaceful. It is possible to wander off the track or along a ridge and find a spot just to yourself. It is a great place to totally unwind.
There are a number of tracks leading off from the camping ground. The Heysen Trail goes through this area and is worth following for the magnificent views of the ranges to the west. Maps of this walking track are available from various map shops. One can hike back south along the access road or follow the track running past the old ruins and north all the way to another beautiful spot, Parachilna Gorge.
The Small Things
One could be excused for only looking at the grandeur of the magnificent mountain ranges, the tall upright and regal native pines, the soaring Wedge-Tailed Eagles on high, the parading emus strutting through the bushes and the massive age-old river red gums. But learning to look for the small beauties of this place can bring many other delights. I delight to watch for the small bush birds, like the Red Capped Robin with his stop-light like forehead beaming out a signal for all to stop and admire. Yellow Rumped Thornbills zip in and out of the bushes or hop along in front of you, their bright golden tails lighting upo in the sunshine.
Walk slowly and carefully and you may come across a family of Western Grey Kangaroos grazing on the grass near a creek. Frogs and lizards are to be seen too, and delicate flowers adorn the slopes and line the creeks. After good rains the carpet of flowers can be almost overpowering, stretching out in front of you like a giant’s blanket throw recklessly here and there.