Getting off the beaten track in the SA outback can often mean a camping or caravan trip but if you really want to get a feel for the lives of the people who live and work out here then a station stay is a fantastic holiday option.
Merna Mora is a 250 square mile working pastoral property, midway between Hawker and Parachilna in the Flinders Ranges.
Five generations of the Fels family have called Merna Mora home, but they’ve been sharing it with visitors since 1969, making them pioneers in tourism as well.
And you really do get right to the heart of their home here – stepping onto the board, it feels like the shearers will be back from smoko any second now – it’s a timeless station scene.
Guests can stay in one of the 9 self-contained units, which all have their own kitchens and bathrooms…or if you’re travelling with a big group, such as a car club, there are rooms with shared amenities and plenty of scope for a few yarns around a campfire at night.
Now Merna Mora is one of 2 dozen properties in the Flinders and Gawler Ranges that invites visitors – so hop onto the Station Stays SA website, and pick a destination.
So what do you do once you’re here? – well, I’m keen to see more of the landscape… so I’m enlisting the skills of another local, Ian Carpenter, who runs Flinders Experience 4WD tours.
Ian runs half and full-day tours for 2 to 4 people or even tag-along tours for experienced 4-wheel drivers, and has negotiated access to private property for something pretty special.
Ian: I can do it at my leisure…I’m not restricted to be in or out at a certain time. I am able to stop anywhere on the place without having trouble with other vehicles in the way and we have this peace and quiet all the time.
We head out on the Bunbinyunna Track, and though the winter weather makes the journey a little more challenging, there’s no spoiling the majesty of the ranges.
No matter how many times he gazes at the Elder ranges, rain or shine, Ian never fails to be moved by the spectacle.
Ian: Its 800 million years old. It’s the oldest mountain range in the world and yes you do and in places here you feel it…that quietness, some special thing that you feel.
Now, running water is not something you normally equate with the Flinders – it’s a rare treat to see the landscape transform right before our eyes. But the changes come remarkably fast – and that’s where Ian’s local knowledge comes in handy yet again. A dry creek bed on the way in can become dangerously impassable on the way out, but Ian steers us well out of harm’s way.
Driving not your thing? Then why not explore the Flinders by train… camel train.
Karen and Paul Ellis run the award-winning outfit Camel Treks Australia, offering safaris from a few hours to five days.
Briony: This is Trevor. She’s a girl and my ride for the day.
Up to 8 people can join a trek, with the option to sleep out under the stars, and enjoy campfire meals – and you don’t have to spend the whole time in the saddle.
Karen: The combination of being able to ride the camels and walk means that if people want to jump on the camel they can and this year we will use a wagon as well so camels will pull the wagon and people can jump on.
These beasts are ideally suited to the arid terrain, and have a connection to the Australia stretching all the way back to Burke and Wills in 1860.
Karen: I can’t really tell you why I love it. I just love it and I love the fact that we can take people out bush because so many people I the city are …it’s a fast pace and it can be often stressful juggling work and family so it’s nice that they can come out here and have a slow -down.
So take time out for your own journey of discovery in the Flinders Ranges – any way you travel, it’s going to be an adventure.