It was late in the afternoon when we left Kanyaka homestead.
Our next destination for our overnight stay was to be Wilpena Pound.
Wilpena Pound іs а natural amphitheatre оf mountains located 429km north оf Adelaide, South Australia, Australia іn the heart оf the Flinders Ranges National Park. The Pound іs the mоst northern point wіth access via а sealed road іn thіs part оf the Flinders Ranges. The closest town tо the north іs Blinman аnd tо the south, Hawker. Originally it was considered an ancient volcano crater, but geologists have confirmed it is a natural geophysical structure, it is a phenomenon of nature and has deep spiritual significance for the Indigenous people, who have walked the lands for over 40,000 years.
Attempts аt farming the Pound failed during the early 20th century. Following thіs the tourism potential wаs recognised іn 1945.
The name of the Pound, Wilpena, is reported to be Aboriginal, meaning “place of bent fingers”; this might either be a reference to the mountains resembling the shape of a gently cupped hand, or the freezing cold of the ranges in winter. The traditional owners, the Adnyamathanha, however, have no such word in their language. Their name for the Pound is Ikara which means “meeting place”.
The peaks are very rugged, and thick scrub and timber inside the pound can make navigation difficult; in 1959, a 12 year old boy became lost while walking inside the Pound, and despite search efforts, his skeletal remains were not located until 18 months later. A pass on the upper slopes of St Mary Peak is named after him; his brother John Bannon later became the Premier of South Australia.
The journey to the Pound was primarily for two reasons, the first being, that I wanted to show Ana a beautiful green part of the outback. that is not like the harsh lands of the Coober Pedy regions.
The second reason being that I wanted to renew acquaintance with an old spiritual friend whom I met over forty years ago, an ancient and sacred site revered by the Aboriginals, an old tree that has been standing for hundreds of thousands of years.
I have to go back over forty years to give the story of my first visit to Wilpena Pound.
I was about 22 or 23 years old and back from Vietnam, I was an instructor in the Army, and was seconded to a job teaching and looking after about 30 young school cadets for five days.
We were to camp in the Pound, the training was to take the form of bush craft, survival skills and first aid, the training was to cover a five day period.
I had driven in prior to the arrival, of a bus load of young exuberant potential Crocodile Dundee aspirants.
I selected a site for the next five days, a site in close proximity to a beautiful old Ghost Gum tree, it had to be over a hundred thousand years old and was spellbinding. The land around it was beautiful natural vegetation, I waited for the bus to arrive and contemplated the old tree, it was situated about 200 metres from a dry creek bed.
The tree really gave out a Spiritual aura, my mind wandered as I could imagine the site as a Sacred Aboriginal site or meeting place, the sky was overcast and took on an ominous look as the wind began to shake the leaves with a fervour, In my mind I could hear the sounds of didgeridoo and singing sticks.
The bus duly arrived and unloaded a swarm of arms and legs and laughter.
The 20×30 metre tent was erected in haste as the first drops of rain were starting to fall.
Satisfied that all had sleeping spaces and blankets, meals of individual ration packs were opened.
The night had settled in by now, and sleep was the next introduction to their survival training.
I lay awake listening to the rain, I was fully aware of the vagaries of the weather in the Pound,
and knew of the dangers of flash flooding.
I was beginning to sense that all might not be right, I went out into the night, rain was pelting down and the ground had turned to mud.
The old tree was illuminated by a full moon, it lit up the tree and leaves in a deep spiritual way as it swayed to the sounds of a million winds.
Some of the boys were beginning to complain of the water from the rains soaking their under blankets. As the army radio came to life I decided the exercise was no longer safe and had to abort.
I answered the radio call, it was my fellow instructor, further up the pound with his collection of young school cadets, he said that to be on alert as a flash flood is on its way through, I acknowledged and confirmed we needed to abort the exercise, he concurred and reported back to Adelaide HQ requesting evacuation.
I went down to the creek bed which by this time was turning into mud, then I heard the roar like a thousand trains in the distance, I moved back from the creek and watched a wave of water come rushing down the creek bed, it carried fallen trees and created a raging torrent, as the wind howled in a cyclonic fervour.
That was the beginning of the end to our five days survival training for the young cadets.
Next day the weather never let up, we were stranded and the radio reports stated they cant get in as the roads are all flooded, the day was spent trying to stay warm and trying to calm young boys minds.
The night came early and fear was starting to show, I noticed the onset of a few cases of Hypothermia and had to adjust the blanket rations.
Next day the radio report stated that the buses were through the swollen creek beds, and arrived mid afternoon.
A far different cry to the day of arrival, as 30 wet bedraggled kittens boarded the bus for home, I heard the faint mumblings about mums cooking and warm bedrooms, as the bus drew away on this bright beautiful warm Wilpena Pound day.
And now Ana and I were driving into the Pound, on a sealed road, I saw my tree, I couldn’t miss it, it stood exactly as I recalled those many years ago, but now, instead of a full moon illuminating her beauty, my tree was lit up by artificial lights that gave off an eerie aura, surrounding her once pristine grounds was a tourist resort, swimming pool, bars and restaurants, my heart sank.
We booked into a room that looked out over the tree, I am sure its the same site I camped under those many years ago.
After 7 hours driving, the next destination was bed.
Somewhere in my dozing state, Ana mentioned that she thought it was raining, I lay there for a while and listened to the sounds, I got up and opened the door, there was no rain but a howling wind, the leaves on the illuminated tree were swaying, there was no moon, my tree took on a eerie dark aura, the wind echoes in the Pound from the Bluffs and Gorges.
The sound of the winds through the branches and leaves, sounded like a melancholic chorus of ancient Souls, did my mind play tricks or did I hear the faint echoes of a didgeridoo and singing sticks ?.
We booked out next morning and headed into the completion of our outback sojourn.
We left for Adelaide, the Capital of South Australia, where we stayed the night before the home leg to Mildura.
I said farewell to my old friend the tree from many years ago, I like to think she gave me a little of her Spirituality as a gift before we left.
I looked back in the rear view mirror as we drove away, she still stood tall and majestic, her Spirituality was still there, but somehow I think her Regal Heart had been tainted.
I leave you with some pictures of the beautiful Spiritual trees of the Flinders Ranges.
And last but certainly not least, I leave you with a beautiful poem by my Dear friend Sue Dreamwalker.
Sue in her poem, The Winds Dance, has encapsulated in words, a moment in time for a young soldier many years ago.
The Winds Dance
From where does the wind gain her mighty strength?
How long is her trail, her width and her length?
From whence does a breeze grow into a gale?
As she shrieks and blusters bringing down hail
And how does her anger in tornadoes twirl
Calm to the silence in the eye of a storm
And when does her shout fall to whispers and calm
That caresses the skin in the light of the dawn
She flirts with the leaves to twist them and prance
Lifting them up to have their last dance
Her friend is the rain as he falls from the sky
Pelting the ground as he matches her sighs
She finds every nook and the cracks to creep in
Howling laments as she shrieks out her din
The trees bow their heads in respect to her might
Those who resist are snapped in their fight
She whips up the oceans creating great swells
And blows in the mountains, valleys and dells
She blows up the snow that drifts on the ground
She’s gentle and silent then violent and loud
Never underestimate Nature with all of her sides
She’s stronger than Man despite all of his strides
Respect ALL the elements, to not is to fall
Because Nature is Mother, Listen to her call
© Sue Dreamwalker 2014 All rights reserved.