Despite the challenges of its remote location, the stark beauty of the northern Flinders Ranges continues to lure visitors.
We nearly missed the turnoff. I pulled the Patrol up in a billowing cloud of dust that had marked our progress up the Strzelecki Track – a bloody good dirt road these days – and turned onto the un-signposted track that led east towards the rugged outline of the northern Flinders Ranges.
The bulk of the Flinders stretched away to the south for 400km to the modestly verdant climes of Mt Remarkable, near Port Pirie. The northern terminus of these ranges, the low, rocky hill that is Mt Hopeless, sits on the edge of the Strzelecki Desert, less than 100km away, unseen, to the north-east.
For millennia this has been an unforgiving land. First, for the Aboriginal people who learnt to live in its harsh environment and later for the European pioneers who fought it while searching for precious minerals or trying to find feed for grazing stock. Today, locals still battle the elements. While they may graze stock more conservatively than in the past and excavate minerals more intelligently and economically, the country is just as rugged and the climate just as tough as our forefathers found it.
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