If Wilpena Pound is indeed the jewel in the crown of South Australia’s Flinders Ranges — and it wouldn’t be hard to substantiate that assertion — then it follows almost automatically that Wilpena Pound Resort, and the associated Ikara Safari Camp, should be rated as the focal points of accommodation in the Flinders Ranges.
They’re located just outside the ‘Pound’ and form the only accommodation located within the Ikara Flinders National Park, something that is clearly a two-edged sword for the owners.
It obviously helps make the place particularly special, even on days that are so blustery that light planes are totally grounded and access is restricted to road only.
To accompany the resort’s general manager Sean Casey on a drive up the hill past Ikara Safari Camp, to where he starts just about every day — with glorious views of the Pound’s highest point, St Mary Peak — is as close to spiritual as a firm non-believer comes.
The National Park location is also a source of frustration, limiting, for instance, the resort’s provision of wireless broadband due to the enforced inability to remove a small number of critically located trees.
In balance, though, the pluses so clearly outweigh the negatives that the latter become almost inconsequential — merely trifling nuisances in a very grand big picture indeed.
My accommodation, in a Heysen room — named after Hans Heysen (1877-1968), whose watercolours of this part of the world were legendary — is certainly comfortable enough, and with enough mod cons to keep this scribbler happy.
The bushland setting, complete with magnificent Heysen-esque eucalypts, more than compensates for the couple of negatives — a shower over a bathtub and lack of in-room wi-fi.
But wi-fi is available just a short walk away, in the resort’s main building, which sports a tour booking office, and bar and bistro, where it’s easy enough to set up a laptop with worldwide access and enjoy a cleansing ale.
As the resort’s focal point, the bar and bistro does a great job at being just about everything to everyone, looking after the needs of locals, off-duty staff, National Parks people, as well as guests.
The menu is understandably limited — we are are in a National Park and well over 400 kilometres from Adelaide after all — but the food is good and comes in what I call ‘country serves’, that is, in biggish proportions.
The wine selection is excellent, and does South Australia — which has long considered itself the natural home of Australian wine — proud. And no problems here about ordering a bottle of red, having a couple of glasses with dinner, then taking the remainder back to enjoy in my room.
Okay, the wild weather did play some havoc with my itinerary, but hell, it was general enough to reduce Sydney Airport to a single runway and delay just about all flights to and from there by at least a couple of hours.
It meant firstly rescheduling, then cancelling my sunset tour, but I was certainly able to undertake a four-hour 4WD ‘Gorgeous Gorges’ tour, led by Jimmy Neville, an important member of the local Adnyamathantha people.
He took us through 800 million years of geological history, showed us the sheer beauty of Brachina and Bunyeroo Gorges, spotted — or should I say conjured — a yellow-footed rock wallaby, and, best of all and warts and all, told us the history of his people, and of his family.
It was another near-spiritual experience — in a very special corner of Australia.
Wilpena Pound Resort, incidentally, is one of South Australia’s notable employers of Indigenous people, taking just over 70 per cent of its staff from their ranks.
Also, the term ‘Pound’ refers to a natural amphitheatre into which animals could easily be herded.
- John Rozentals was a guest of Wilpena Pound Resort and the South Australian Tourism Commission.
IF YOU GO
Wilpena Pound Resort and Ikara Safari Camp: Flinders Ranges, South Australia; phone 1800 805 802; visit www.wilpenapound.com.au. South Australia: visit www.southaustralia.com.