Balcanoona Gammon Ranges Vulkathunha National Park C+ Camp, July 20-27

In ideal weather, 23 people participated in the Balcanoona Camp held in the comfortable Shearers Quarters at Balcanoona, the headquarters of the Gammon Ranges Vulkathunha National Park, including an overflow of 8 staying at Arkaroola Village Resort.

Walks embraced many aspects of the Park, enabling walkers to explore and sample a wide range of interests: ancient palaeontological, geological, indigenous, exploring,  mining and pastoral history, the stark beauty of the arid zone relishing good rains following drought, animals and birds, spectacular red cliffs, gorges, creek beds, ridges with vast 360 degree views, rocks, ripple rocks, cliffs, bluffs of incomprehensible age, wonderful wildflowers, all beyond phone and internet range enabling solitude and communion with the vast landscape, it’s antiquity and spirituality.

Tillite rocks, the rarely present and  brilliantly flowering templetonia, and Grindles Hut of century old murder fame were some of the experiences of the Weetootla Gorge walk, whilst  on the Nooldoonooldoona Walk we indulged in peaceful contemplation at a beautiful and peaceful waterhole, it’s water returned after the drought, but considerably less than in years gone by, juxtaposed against the nearby Bolla Bollana  comparatively intact copper smelter ruins, a smelter that thrived in processing the regions’ seductively rich copper for but a few years, as did so many nineteenth century mining activities, to surrender to the difficulties of isolation, distance from markets and harshness of the climate.

On the Bararranna walk we started at an old mine site, found some native bananas, climbed down the side of small dry waterfalls, enjoyed waterholes and prolific arrays of brilliantly flowering sturt desert peas, incorporating a shorter naturalists’ wander for those keen to observe the birds, yellow footed rock wallabies, photograph the wildflowers such as the sturt desert peas, and visited the ochre wall, egg carton stromatolites and  a petroglyph site, thought to have been etched by visitors to the area, perhaps as part of ochre trading, some 15,000 years ago.

Lay day was enjoyed in many different ways- tours, such as the Arkaroola Ridge Top tour, birdwatching, bushwalks either in small groups such as to Bunyip Chasm, on one’s own, or for one lucky walker, accompanied by the Shearers Quarters’ hand reared kangaroo, Lucy, alternately following or leading the way. Others did Uncle Gil’s walk of the campgrounds, shearing shed and yards, and original station manager’s house.

The Italowie Gorge walk took us along a creek bed, over a hill to another creek bed with a spring that had been used to trap goats in efforts to reduce their numbers, now better achieved by targeted annual shooting, and searched for a spectacular narrow gorge. Our last walk, the Acacia Ridge walk, gave us stunning distance views of the surrounding ranges, Lake Frome, and terminated with the camp dinner at Arkaroola, fortuitously also celebrating a member’s birthday.

In all, a most enjoyable, varied and well-run camp with a great group of people, to which all contributed, be it as walk surveyors, walk leaders, back markers, drivers, evening fire makers, helping with the many chores, camp co-ordinating, and many further ways.