The trials and tribulations of travelling into Vulkathunha, Australia

My trip to Vulkathunha was breathtaking; the 1,800 million-year-old suite of rocks is a mixture of both high and low grade metamorphic and igneous rock

marc_casolani
Marc Casolani
28 July 2017, 7:46am
Storms, flooding, lightning bolts overhead, wind…. You name it and I popped it. All I wanted to do was get to the magical place they called Mount Chambers, which is within the Vulkathunha national park area. But nothing can prepare you for extreme weather conditions and unexpected floods. Hence getting there took a bit longer than I could have anticipated. 

I was leaving the South Flinders Ranges to make my way up North to a place that many people, especially locals, advised that I should stop at before I settle into the Vulkathunha National Park headquarters area. So the day before I set off, I got out of the Ranges and spent a few hours at the Prairie Roadhouse near the Outback Highway. I used this stop to get basic supplies and send some emails. In the meantime I was notified that a storm was brewing and that I should think about heading out that day rather than a day later, just to be safe. 

Whilst heading back into the Ranges through the Parachilna dirt track I could see the storms on the horizon and it got me thinking but it didn’t worry me at this stage. Little did I know what was in store! So I camped out that night just before the first creek that cut through the Ranges and watched the area above me clear completely to show off a stunning star filled sky. 

In fact I woke up to a relatively mild morning. It was just very windy so I set off immediately to make the most of the good weather. 

Almost as fast as I set off the weather changed completely. The wind brought in the clouds, which, in turn brought the heavy rainfall. It was coming down so fast because of the wind visibility was impossible so I pulled over and decided to wait it out. It rained for hours but there were gaps in between were the rain wasn’t so heavy and every time that happened, I would chance it and move a few kilometers here and there. The most challenging moments were when I decided to cross the creeks, which by now were flooded. I would always ask any passing 4WD drivers if they did it, how they did it, and I would always walk across first to see how powerful the current was, even though it was freezing cold. One creek was so flooded that the water was passing right over my bonnet. This is when I started to worry. After checking the engine all seemed okay, so I soldiered on. 

For three days I had not been able to sleep in my roof tent because it was just too wet and windy. Finally an opportunity arose, I came across another 4WD and we agreed to convoy up for the next 100km. They informed me of a caravan park that was still open and would be a great place to seek shelter, so we tuned in our UCF’s and set off. All went smoothly and we made it to the deserted caravan park. It was just the two of us and two other vehicles trying to get out of the storm. We were charged peak rates as the owners knew there was little choice for us, but we paid it gladly to get some rest and dry off whatever gear we were carrying. The next day, as soon as the weather started to clear, I set off to Vulkathunha. 

The landscape through the green mountain ranges and the overlaying hills was truly worth the effort it had been to get here. All that rain did plenty of good! After driving 200km through the ranges I got to Mount Chambers with a huge sigh of relief. This was my first stop in the Vulkathunha area and the sun was shining and the wind was mild. I couldn’t ask for more, but yet I got more. During my time camping and exploring around Mount Chambers I stumbled upon a small group of people, some white Australians, some foreigners and white Australians as well as Aborigines. They were there to learn more about herbal remedies that can be found in the region. The Aborigine that guided them was an Adnyamathanha elder called Enice Marsh. She smiled at me with sparkling eyes and invited me to join them. I jumped at the opportunity. 

I learnt so much in a tiny amount of time. Enice told us about dreaming sites and how they came to be, the stories behind them and about how the west summit of Mount Chambers is known to the local communities as the Eagles’ nest. She shared her stories with us, as we ate fresh damper – an Australian soda bread – around the fire. We parted ways the next day but I was to meet them again four days later further north. This was the perfect introduction to a place that camped in for a week, where I did countless treks and 4WD tracks. I captured some great time lapses of the ranges and the stars that trailed above them, but nothing would beat the information I garnered in those few days. 

My trip to Vulkathunha was breathtaking. The 1,800 million-year-old suite of rocks is a mixture of both high and low grade metamorphic and igneous rock. This results in some steep inclines where some of the rock is solid and some is loose, making the terrain quite difficult to navigate. From the photography aspect, the colours and contrasts were powerful and vivid, making it the perfect subject. 

All in all I enjoyed tackling the difficulties and dangers from this part of the expedition through Vulkathunha. I clearly learnt a lot and it helped me progress in the right direction from there on. My next challenge from here would be to head into the Lake Eyre and Painted Desert region.

Getting there

Emirates offer regular flights between Malta and Adelaide, with a stopover in Dubai. Flights departing from Malta on 3 August and returning on 17 August were priced at €1,426, including tax, at the time of going to print. Total flying time is approx. 23 hours. Vulkathunha is approx. 660km north of Adelaide. The roads to the park are mostly accessible by 2WD vehicles, however many of the tracks within the park are 4WD accessible only.