Wilpena Pound

21 Oct

It was late in the afternoon when we left Kanyaka homestead.

Our next destination for our overnight stay was to be Wilpena Pound.

 photo 1382103_10152956987813149_5758433769488754536_n_zpsd16c0d8a.jpgWilpena 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.

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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.

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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.

Thanks Sue


Aussie Emu

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.


Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,

41 responses to “Wilpena Pound

  1. Monica

    October 24, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Fantastic for sure! what a great story – you have been on a splendid journey to past and present. Love Sue’s poem, too.

    • The Emu

      October 25, 2014 at 1:25 am

      Thanks Monica, glad you enjoyed the story of our travels.
      Yes Sue’s poem complemented it beautifully.

  2. Sue Dreamwalker

    October 24, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Emu.. This has to be one of your all time great writes Ian.. I enjoyed and lapped up ever word.. You painted such detail into your story.. It was as if I was one of the cadets exitedly rushing down the bus steps to erect their tent..
    I could see the Tree even before your photo’s and you gave me goose-bumps as you described the Spirit of the Tree..
    Now have you looked at your pictures closely Ian.. for there is I feel an Orb on one in the branches near the top.
    Its on the Forth Tree photo down in your post under your last words of ‘Heart sank’ scroll down to the forth tree picture and can you not see the green/brown sphere at the top of the picture. If you can magnify it…
    And this re-acquaintance of your Spiritual Friend of old, yes even though time had commercialised its ancient wisdom.. I know that tree knew and you knew that tree.. Two spirits were once again joined as One..

    A beautiful wonderful account of your journey Ian… I truly enjoyed my visit today.. And you are most welcome to use the poem.. It did blend in perfectly with your story.. I am honoured you chose to share it..
    Bless you.. and Hugs Sue xox

    • The Emu

      October 26, 2014 at 5:32 am

      Thanks Sue, I am extremely pleased you enjoyed that story, I did go into a lot of detail as the memorys just flooded back.
      Those trees are extremly Spiritual Sue and I went back and checked the pictures, yes the orb is definitely there, only in that one tree, there was no moon that night as it was overcast and extremely foreboding, I looked for other causes but found nothing.
      Thanks for that poem Sue, I think you might see why I wanted it as part of the story, when I first read it, it seemed like you were capturing the exact emotions I was trying to portray in my story, and you certainly did.
      Many thanks Sue.
      Fond regards

      • Sue Dreamwalker

        October 26, 2014 at 12:04 pm

        Glad you both spotted that orb.. I think it connected with your thoughts Ian.. and you are welcome to share anything on Dreamwalkers at any time Ian, no need to ask.. 🙂 Have a great week both of you

        • The Emu

          October 27, 2014 at 4:57 am

          Thanks Sue, after you mentioned the orb I went and checked the car cam recording from later that night, the wind through the trees was very strong and was shaking the car while I was sitting in it, the tree was still lit up, and I played the camera up and down the tree through the leaves, there were many bright objects, one in particular very red.I was sure there were no overhead lights to distract, and next day I confirmed it.
          Maybe the reflections from the two large lights at the base dancing off the leaves in the winds.
          Was quite a sight.

  3. Mélanie

    October 24, 2014 at 5:01 am

    simply magnifique post, amigo Juan… I’m stunned and impressed by the platanus trees: it’s the most popular tree here in our region Midi-Pyrénées and those along the Canal du Midi are famous:
    * * *
    my very best and have a splendid weekend! hasta luego & cheers, Mélanie

    • The Emu

      October 26, 2014 at 5:05 am

      Thank you for your great comment Melanie, so pleased you liked the trees, I looked at your link and they do seem to be exactly the same, the white blotched trunks that grow to huge sizes. We call yjem Ghost Gums as they really shine like Ghosts when the moon is on them. They mainly grow along waterways like yours along the canal.
      Thank you for the visit.

  4. suzjones

    October 23, 2014 at 12:11 am

    Wonderful memories, story and photographs Ian. I don’t recall ever having such adventures on my cadet camps though.

    • The Emu

      October 23, 2014 at 7:51 am

      Hi Sue, do remember being on a couple of camps with female school cadets, bloody different problems and different camp layout all round, it was somewhere out the back of the Puckapunyal army base.

      • suzjones

        October 23, 2014 at 8:35 pm

        I was in Qld so never ventured your way. We had teachers who were ex military that were our main supervisors with occasional members of the army coming out to show films and run exercises whilst we camping out.

        • The Emu

          October 25, 2014 at 2:15 am

          At least Sue, you got to wear the uniform, and enjoy a taste of the military way of life and mentality.
          There are some great military camp sites in QLD so you must have had great experience.
          Obviously not enough in it to entice you into joining the army in later years.
          Wishing you a great hot weekend Sue

          • suzjones

            October 25, 2014 at 9:36 pm

            We camped on private property I believe but had army assistance. I was a teen so my experience was a mixture of emotions lol
            I did try to join the air force but was knocked back after the psych assessment. They told me I was too ‘gentle’. 🙂

          • The Emu

            October 26, 2014 at 5:12 am

            Too gentle, hehe, were you going to blow the planes out of the sky with your breath and steely eyes.
            Well at least you tried Sue, more than a lot of useless teenagers today.

  5. kcg1974

    October 22, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    What a beautiful story, Emu. One that resonated deep within your soul, inviting you to revisit memories of long ago. Yes, sad to see how things had changed, but still the same within your mind. How lucky for your to see the gift of your friend, the old, old tree! Imagine what stories ‘he or she’ could tell among her strong rich branches up in the great blue sky? So enjoyable your writing was for me. Thank you!

    • The Emu

      October 23, 2014 at 8:09 am

      I do really appreciate your comments Kim, I like to know my storys are a pleasure to read.
      That old tree will be standing for many more hundreds of years, its hard not to feel the love and history in the tree when standing under it.
      Its branches actually spread like an all encompassing set of arms, the leaves whisper into your Soul.

      • kcg1974

        October 23, 2014 at 3:03 pm

        Trees are so magical to me. When I was on my husband’s boyhood farm, I took about a dozen pictures of their old, old, maple trees. They too, have vast root systems with thick branches reaching far into the sky. Love them so much. Your story had such purity, such love and memory that I truly felt like I had been there. Beautiful writing, Emu!

        • The Emu

          October 25, 2014 at 1:40 am

          Thank you for that beautiful comment Kim.
          Trees do have a very spiritual charm about them.
          My trees all have an individual personality I like to think.
          They struggle for survival and seem to grow more in strength the older they get.
          Kind regards

  6. berlioz1935

    October 22, 2014 at 12:34 am

    Great story recounting your experience with the school cadets. I wonder how they think about it today? Would love to go there.

    • The Emu

      October 22, 2014 at 12:52 am

      Greetings my friend, yes I sometimes wonder. how many of those school cadets opted to join the army after that experience.
      A great place to visit and definitely requiring walking shoes.

  7. auntyuta

    October 21, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    A tree over a hundred thousand years old – – – truly amazing! After more than forty years you still remember it and regard it as your friend. You, Ian, as well as Sue’s poem give a haunting impression about the power of nature and how wind can effect us. I am glad the rescue mission with all these cadets after the flash floods was successful! Great that you could refresh your memories going back to the place after so many years. Is the place still being used as a meeting place by aboriginal people?
    I love all the tree pictures. Thanks for sharing, Ian. And thanks for telling us all about your memories.
    Sincerely, Uta

    • The Emu

      October 22, 2014 at 2:35 am

      Hi Uta, lovely to know you enjoyed that post with pics and Sue’s poem
      Her poem really illustrates and brings to life what I was trying to portray.
      The old tree has become a tourist attraction now, but I got to see it before its surroundings were changed.
      The Pound is no longer a meeting place now, it died out a couple of centuries ago, when the Aboriginal peoples started to mix with the white man. A lot of the employees at the resort are Aboriginal descendants, which is a good thing.

      • auntyuta

        October 22, 2014 at 5:50 am

        You say: ‘A lot of the employees at the resort are Aboriginal descendants, which is a good thing.’
        White man did bring a lot of changes, that’s for sure. At least the Aboriginal descendants still have some connection with this place. Oh yes, this is a good thing.
        Thank you very much for this reply, Ian.

        • The Emu

          October 22, 2014 at 7:26 am

          Yes Uta, it was good to see the descendants of the original Aborigines preserving their heritage and history, being employed in the Pound, when we were in Coober Pedy there are many full blooded Aborigines with no work, but still living much with their tribal customs, the thing I didn’t like to see, was the influence on their lifestyle by the white mans way.
          They have centrelink benefits, but no prospect of work or education, these are all alien to the outback full blooded Aborigine.

          • auntyuta

            October 22, 2014 at 8:08 am

            Right, Ian, when they can live with their tribal customs that is good, very good. I am reminded of de Heer’s film “Charlie’s Country”. David Gulpilil is one of the great indigenous actors that Australia has. But if it had not been for de Heer, maybe DG would never have been given another acting role in a movie. This great movie is proof that it is possible that these very different cultures, Aborigines one and white man’s one, can live side by side to the benefit of the whole country. Maybe we just need more people like de Heer who can cross the bridges.

            “David Gulpilil Ridjimiraril Dalaithngu is an Indigenous Australian traditional dancer and actor. His first starring role was in the film Walkabout in 1971. Wikipedia”
            “May 24, 2014 – Indigenous actor David Gulpilil has won a major award in Cannes for his role in Rolf de Heer’s feature Charlie’s Country.”

          • The Emu

            October 23, 2014 at 11:33 am

            I dont like what I have seen around this great country Uta.
            We see the halfcastes that are trapped between their Aboriginal culture and the great White mans centrelink culture.
            They are losing their heritage, thats why I liked seeing the ancestors of the original Wilpena pound being given work in displaying their ancestral lands.
            Then on the other hand I watched tribal Aboriginals wander the streets of Coober Pedy, no work and nothing to rely on except white man centrelink, these full blooded black Aborigines are no where near the stage of work, they are still living their tribal way of life.
            Then go to Oodnadatta, a small community with limited water and a small hospital, dust dirt and flies, this community is nothing more than a third world shanty town, I have travelled this land right through from Katherine to the Cape of Yorke to Bamaga, our country does not have much to be proud of, monies that are well intentioned, do not take into consideration of an old culture. This same scenario is being enacted in Papua New Guinea, white man thinking that money will bring ancient cultures into the modern age, it doesnt and wont work.

  8. Clowie

    October 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    It’s sad to go back to such a special place and find it changed.
    The trees are really beautiful, I’d love to stroll among them.

    • The Emu

      October 22, 2014 at 12:56 am

      A truely beautiful place to wander through, the rustle of the leaves in the wind,
      the songs of the birds and the enveloping spirituality, all combining to create
      a veritable corner of the garden of Eden.

  9. gpcox

    October 21, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Ian, this is a wonderful story – one that could never be made up. The Pound certainly is an unusual piece of Nature. Your lovely tree was destined to become a tourist attraction, marvels like that need to be secreted away. Sue’s poem says it – “Never underestimate Nature…”

    • The Emu

      October 22, 2014 at 1:42 am

      Thanks gpcox,you are right about the tree being destined as a tourist attraction, at least I got to see it in its original pristine environment.
      My brother and I have documented about seven Aboriginal rock constructions that appear to be over 25,000 years old.
      We haven’t disclosed them, or bought it to the attention of people who research Aboriginal history and relics, for the simple reason of exploitation, some things are best to remain hidden, and to rest with the memories of those who constructed them, many thousands of years ago.

      • gpcox

        October 22, 2014 at 9:12 am

        I think that is very noble of both you and your brother. You KNOW such relics would be destroyed in short order if tourists discovered them.

        • The Emu

          October 23, 2014 at 8:36 am

          Thanks gpcox, noble of us maybe but damn frustrating to have photographic secrets that we are not able to share.
          First we have to report all our finds to the Aboriginal heritage department of the State Museum, this all has to be verified with various departments, necesssitating field expeditions etc, the end result is Aboriginal ancient site, protected by white man for tourism purposes, the end result is that an ancient land and piece of history is opened up to the modern world, I am reluctant to advertise it on the net as there is only a couple of other finds recorded like ours, we have over seven. I will bend the rules and hopefully my brother will understand and forgive me for posting a couple of pictures of a located Cairn, over thousands of years old, its not appropriate to give locations etc, just to give you an idea of an ancient Aboriginal world.

          • gpcox

            October 23, 2014 at 10:20 am

            I’d love it, but don’t cause any family problems on my account.

  10. giselzitrone

    October 21, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Einen schönen Tag lieber Emu schöne Fotos und toller Text dazu sehr beeindruckend ich Grüße dich lieb und wünsche dir eine gute neue Woche Gruß Gislinde

    • The Emu

      October 22, 2014 at 2:39 am

      Danke liebe Gislinde, schön zu wissen, dass Sie meine Beiträge und Bilder genossen, ich liebe es, Kommentare und seine schöne empfangen, als ich bei Ihnen.
      Ich wünsche Ihnen viel Liebe Lieber Freund.

  11. wonkywizard

    October 21, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Excellent pictures and verse-prose narration, with visual-aural landscape. The poem by Sue is really spiritually inspiring, and read, and re-read, as if listening to Nature’s call.

    • The Emu

      October 22, 2014 at 1:08 am

      Thanks my friend, glad you enjoyed my writings on my recent outback journey.
      I do think I put it together in a visual imagery way, I wanted to create the scene as close as possible as to how I remembered it all.

  12. prenin

    October 21, 2014 at 5:55 am

    Thanks for this story Ian.

    It makes you realise just how dangerous Momma Nature can be, for all her beauty she is a harsh and unforgiving mistress…

    God Bless my friend!!! 🙂


    • The Emu

      October 22, 2014 at 1:10 am

      I think I have lived through quite a few moments in life where Mother Nature really showed her power.
      Floods, Fires, Cyclones and Hurricanes, now we are heading into our Bush fire season.
      Hope its not a replay of the 2009 disaster.

  13. cat

    October 21, 2014 at 5:53 am

    Visiting my favourite tree every time I am in Europe … 🙂 Love, cat.

    • The Emu

      October 22, 2014 at 1:13 am

      You do tend to remember a special tree, or a special place, that brings back enjoyable memories Cat.
      That old tree is fantastic, considering how old it is.


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