Backtracks of the Remote Northern Flinders

Our route lay across the remote northern Flinders as we had wound our way eastward through desolate range and hill country. The country was dry, which is the norm here on the edge of Australia’s inland desert expanse and any vegetation, away from the more substantial creeks that occasionally crossed our path, was low and stunted. The rare presence of any life-giving water nearby was given away by good mobs of ‘roos and flocks of birds, while the lack of water in other areas was shown by the complete absence of animals.

For a while the track stayed close to a near completely dry Frome River, before crossing that same stream bed near a series of low rocky bluffs, the streams bank lined with magnificent red gums. The river (by name only) is borne on the south-western edge of the more rugged Gammon Ranges just a short distance south and was named by Edward John Eyre on his 1840 expedition when he tried to penetrate deep into the heart of Australia. Repulsed by the harsh country and what he thought was a continuous barrier of salt lakes that encircled the ranges he retreated south, but not before naming such low peaks, a little north of our tracks, as Mt Distance and Mt Hopeless.

The tracks we were travelling on are rarely used today, even by the property owner who normally scouts his vast acreage by plane while most of the cattle they run are out on the flat plains further west. This craggy hill country, for the most part, has been left to wandering wildlife and the vagaries of nature. Still, the track we were driving on though was not your ordinary station two track. The route’s importance in the old days was confirmed by the dry stone walling we found along the way, where the road had been built up to ease the passage of heavy ore wagons and the like. Near one old stone well we found, close to the track, a conspicuous natural rockface that on closer investigation showed a number of engraved names and signatures, some dating back as far as 1875 and carved in the most delicate flowing script. It was a great find and when we told the owners of our discovery they wanted to know the whereabouts of the rockface as they hadn’t seen it. We knew we were on what was once a major thoroughfare!

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