We left the tiny township of Hawker, the gateway to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, as the afternoon sun was beginning to wane.
We were heading to our overnight destination at Wilpena Pound, a massive geological phenomenon that has become a major tourist attraction.
We settled down for the hundred kilometre journey and were starting to feel the strain of over 700 kilometres of driving.
There was to be one last stop before our destination, I have to digress a little here and explain.
I had travelled this road over forty years ago in an army convoy, driving the road at that time, I saw off in the distance a set of very old crumbling brick buildings, military procedure didn’t allow me time to break convoy and investigate.
This time leisure was in my favour, so we turned off the main road and followed a dusty dirt road down to a dry creek bed, the crumbling remains of what was a piece of Australian history, slowly turning to dust, and silently telling a story of earlier hard days of pioneering in this dry stony arid part of the magnificent Flinders Ranges.
We arrived at Kanyaka homestead, a story that spans more than 150 years.
The area was inhabited by Aborigines for thousands of years before European settlement. The name of the station is taken from the Aboriginal word thought to mean Place of stone.
Kanyaka Station was established as a cattle station in February 1852 by Hugh Proby. He was born on 9 April 1826 at Stamford in Lincolnshire, England, the third son of Admiral Granville Leveson Proby (the third Earl of Carysfort of Ireland) and Isabella Howard. He emigrated on the ship Wellington, which arrived on 30 May 1851 at Port Adelaide, South Australia.
The Flinders Ranges is very dry country, so it is both tragic and ironic that on 30 August 1852, Proby drowned when he was swept from his horse crossing the swollen Willochra Creek while trying to herd a mob of cattle during a thunderstorm. He was buried the following day. Six years later in 1858 his grave was marked with an engraved slab shipped from Britain by his brothers and sisters; it was said to weigh one and a half tons and posed a significant challenge to transport it to the grave site.
Under subsequent owners, the station grew in size until it was one of the largest in the district with 70 families living and working there. Because of the difficulties of transport, the station had to be very self-sufficient and Kanyaka station grew to include a large homestead, cottages for workers, workshops, huts and sheds, mostly built from local stone due to limited supplies of workable local timber. The station switched from cattle to sheep, but had cows, pigs, and vegetable gardens to supply food for the residents. There was also a cemetery. Hugh Proby was not buried in the Kanyaka cemetery, as it had not yet been established at the time of his death.
Severe droughts resulted in massive losses of sheep and eventually the station was abandoned. Due to its stone construction, many of the buildings survive today as ruins.
We lingered amongst the ruins as the sun was starting to loose her shine, the buildings took on an ancient proudness, as if trying to show its former glory, the rooms , the chimneys, the walls all held unspoken secrets.
We left the old homestead and headed for our destination for the night.
Driving away from the Kanyaka homestead left one feeling as though we had actually stepped back in time, a time when man actually took on the harshness of nature and built a rapport, a mutual rapport based on survival and respect.
I leave you with memories of the old Australian Homestead, Kanyaka.
Catch you around the traps