Sunrise on Mt. Carnavon
A day trip in the Flinders Ranges, S.A.
On the eastern slopes of the Flinders Ranges is a high ridge called the Love Mine Range. The Willow Springs station owns the land a a sheep run. Once you'll start driving this track, you'll understand why they prefer to grow 4 WD tracks instead of wool these days. But the sheep are still grazing in the ranges, so watch out.
This is a private road, so you have to pay an entrance fee of $ 30 plus $ 10 for an overnight stay per vehicle. Considering the enormous work to grade and repair the mountainous parts of the track, they don't ask too much. The track covers only 70 kms or so, but it will take you the whole day to drive it. Just that is well worth the money. Climbs are really steep and a vehicle without low range won't be suitable for this track.
Of course, you have to provide your own rations, so get plenty of fuel in Hawker and the rest in Quorn or Hawker. Don't forget the water. Be aware of your tyre condition, a flatty on the top of Mt. Carnavon wouldn't be my favourite. Your radiator should be full, too. This track really is steep.
The first 20 kms take you through many gates and gentle creek crossings, like most of the Flinders farming country. Don't expect much in the way of water in these creeks. Some historic buildings Like Moxam's hut can be visited here and there, the story is in the brochure. Imagine how they must have struggled in this area 100 years ago, and these ruins will impress you more. Mind you, you're using the farm tracks and if you look around, you wonder how the family can make a living here today.
Later, the track leads into open country till you head north into the Bunkers (above). The official brochure compares it to the Western McDonnell Range, well, that's a bit farfetched. The gentle slopes have their own beauty.
You 'll head north in this valley for 40 minutes on the farm track, but some small detours to lookouts and picnic spots might take longer.
By now you have already driven half the distance and you will still be wondering what will take so long and why it is a 4 WD trip, after all.
After the next gate, the track gets definitely rougher. When the two ranges to your left and to your right meet, the real fun begins. The scrub becomes denser, and you might spot wild donkeys and goats, brumbies, kangaroos and emus hiding between the trees.
A convenient emergency escape towards the Arkaroola road might come handy if you have any trouble with your vehicle. Here (map) at the northernmost point on the map you're also leaving the farmtracks. The climb on your left demands that the low ratio works fine. So engage it now.
There won't be any oncoming traffic except the farm vehicles, but there still might be another vehicle on the next hilltop. So don't try to race uphill.
Each hill is stunning, the scenery is different behind every bend. But there is more to come as you slowly climb the Love mine range.
The true nature of the skytrek is obvious after the one-hour climb in first low: the road itself looks like designed by a Celtic artist, winding and disappearing in knots and curves
You will keep going on top of the range, winding on and walking your vehicle up and down many slopes.
Kangaroos are abundant now and you will hardly see any station sheep. Grass trees and spinifex are the main vegetation among the pebbles. The wind seems to be too strong for larger trees.
Another 30 minutes take you to the Highest point in the Flinders Ranges you can access by car, the summit of Mt. Carnavon (923 m). The view to the distant ranges of the Gammons can be seen below
Hint: You're NOT supposed to stay overnight on Mt. Carnavon. It could be dangerous. These pictures were taken in agreement with Willow Springs Station, so ask them for permission and consider the weather forecast if you intend to do just that.
You will keep winding on for another hour on top of the mountains. This is still a slow drive, with many breathtaking views. When you have descended from the main range, there is another detour not to be missed. A gravel track leads Northwest into the Flinders Ranges National track, passing the old mines. That part of the Park has no other access. An amazing rock formation is the main attraction, the aptly named Skull or bald Rock. A short walk takes you to that formation.
After that detour you'll be back at Willow Creek station in another 30 minutes. Somehow, you'll enjoy the sight of all these gums again.