Monday, March 28, 2011

Discover the Heart of the Flinders

Air Adventure Australia has a four day air safari to one of the most amazing parts of Australia:  The Flinders Ranges.  They are one of the oldest land formations on earth and at one point, would have been higher than Mt. Everest is today - that is until time, and the elements, whittled them down to their present size.

My first trip to this region was not by air, but by coach and driver.  Among the surprises delights in store for me was a couple of nights at Arkaroola Station, owned by Renaissance man Doug Sprigg.  Pilot, astronomer, geologist, and raconteur, Doug has the largest privately owned telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.  That, along with no light pollution, means Arkaroola is a perfect place for sky-watching. 

In August, 2003, Mars was the closest it had been to Earth in 50,000 years.  What better place to see it then from Doug's telescope? Except, it was too cloudy to see anything.  So we sat around long after dinner was over, listening to Doug tell story after story (including a massive engineering project he was consulting on to create electricity from superheated underground water.).  Finally, exhausted (late) I said good night and walked out of the dining hall.  And immediately ran back in screaming "There aren't any clouds!" 

We loaded up into Doug's Ute, drove to the telescope, he fixed on Mars and we all got a view.  It was quite amazing, mystical, powerful.  Time - at least our human time - is so insignificant when put into the lense of our expanding universe.

The next morning, we went out on the Ridgetop Tour, a hair-raising drive along narrow dirt tracks with hair-pin turns in this great expanse of red pocked by silvery-green scrub grasses.  Vast doesn't begin to describe it.   I mention this because Air Adventure has several itineraries to remote parts of Australia - places that would take months to see by land.  Places that are barely accessible, hardly seen by humans, places of such rare beauty that we can barely find words.  The Flinders Ranges are only one option they, and other air operators, offer.

The opening photo is of The Prairie Hotel in Parachilna.  The town has an official population of 7 people, which actually went up by one when I was there (someone gave birth.)  I love this hotel.  Really, it's amazingly bizarre, beautifully put together, and a great restaurant.  They feature Flinders Feral Food - yes, feral - Bush food or Australian native cuisine or as they call it in the Flinders Ranges, Flinders Feral Food - kangaroo, emu, yabbie, quandongs, native limes and bush tomatoes are just some of their fresh ingredients.  Just because you're beyond the back of beyond, it doesn't mean you don't get to eat well.

There are so many places in Australia I'd love to send you - please contact me for your own experience.

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