L and I were prepared for what was coming. It was set to hit 39’c and so we were out of bed with the rising sun and the jurassic dawn chorus. The other campers (side people) had also emerged early and were pottering around in just their smalls. They’d been wearing ‘just their smalls’, since we’d turned up early yesterday evening. To account for this weird behaviour and to obscure their rather rotund and wrinkly figures, we’d chosen to park up at behind a monstrous tree, a safe distance away.

We’d so far mostly managed to avoid checking into campsites/caravan parks, preferring instead to free camp out in the wilderness in more picturesque locations, but given the temperature, for our second night in the Ikara-Flinders ranges we decided instead to check into The Wilpena campground and flop straight into the swimming pool to cool off. It reached 40degrees outside in the shade and we now had a little oven home on wheels. The fridge was doing well to maintain cold but unable to keep up with the demand for re-frozen freezer blocks which now adorned my clothing. Even a slither of sunlight on the Crampervan’s angular bod further warmed things up and so this prompted my continual repositioning of the van, following the shade around the trees for the remainder of the day. L of course thought it was completely ridiculous that we shuffle the van every couple of hours. By 4pm we’d digressed to a third campsite pitch and by 6pm, after happy hour at the pool bar, L had not so happily reversed the Crampervan into a tree during the repositioning routine…

The following morning the temperature had returned to a pleasantly overcast 23’c, perfect for setting off early on foot to hike in Wilpena Pound and glimpse some of the spectacular views we’d heard so much about. L’s chosen route, the saddle of St Mary’s peak (the tallest mountain in the ranges and South Australia) had an estimated walk time of 6 hours but using previous hikes as a measure, we anticipated to be done in around four hours…
Six hours later, looking somewhat dishevelled, completely knackered and aching all over, with the thought that perhaps my toenails had detached from my big toes, we hobbled back to the Crampervan and slumped into our hammock. Our feet were well and truly in need of elevating and possibly further TLC. Considering myself to not be at my peak fitness level, you may have noticed if you’ve read our previous blog posts that I’ve opted out from hiking up a handful of the biggest most difficult mountains during our time in Australia, leaving L to walk alone. So it goes without saying that this particular hike turned out to be the most physically demanding out of the lot and in addition, we got lost!

You wouldn’t think following small blue triangle markers to be difficult but somehow the both of us managed to miss a marker, continuing to walk along what looked like the path, but turned out to be an animal trail which fizzled out into bushes. We spent 30 minutes trying to find the correct path before bumping into a group of four hikers who’d made the same mistake. My thought is that if you’re going to get lost hiking in the bush, it’s slightly more comforting to be lost with a handful of other people who’ve made the same mistake. Undeterred the six of us retraced our steps to the last marker. Our new comrades were keen to pave the way and so marched on ahead. L and I followed our new Russian leaders (not with full confidence) for the next 40 minutes after which it became apparent their chosen track wasn’t the walking trail after all. That’s what you get for blindly following others! Getting lost part of the way up the mountain had contributed to an additional 1h30mins of walking but eventually we were back on track and enjoying those views and laughing about the whole situation with the Russians. 

Our visit to the small town of Quorn, not the birthplace of the meat substitute but instead home to the Pichi Pichi railway, was where L and I first tasted quandong (a small desert growing fruit). Our huge slice of quandong cheesecake, purchased by L from a bakery in the town, tasted quite good but sadly most of my half ended up on my lap. On from Quorn we stopped by Alligator Gorge where a million billion steps lead away from the car park down to the floor of the gorge. Both L and I were still aching from our hike a couple of days earlier and so the climb back up to the car park seemed to continue on forever. A bag of dark Maltesers sat waiting as a reward back in the van. Do we get dark Maltesers in the UK? They’re currently our new favourite.

L has always known how to grab my attention, performing an emergency stop in the middle of Wilmington’s high street opposite an old-fashioned toy museum, did just that! No children had ventured out onto road and no suicidal wildlife had prompted such a reaction, in fact the tiny place was a ghost town but parked outside of the toy museum stood a fleet of old Land Rovers. I opted to sit in the van and read whilst L chatted with owner about his jaw dropping 50 strong collection of Land Rovers. Not quite able to believe his luck at this chance discovery, L disappeared for well over an hour.

By the time we’d meandered through the rolling hills of South Australia, passing through the Clare Valley, Barossa Valley and skirted the mighty Murray River, L and I had gained a much needed architectural fix. Picture perfect brick and stone (anything other than tin walled) cottages sat surrounded by green grass and colourful gardens. Equally important, we found ourselves back amongst fields of vineyards with just enough time to pop into one or two…or three… wineries along the way. 

Our time in South Australia was drawing to a close. We’d made heaps of memories and were finishing up by spending our last few days exploring Mount Gambia’s interesting sink hole gardens and lakes, followed by taking the coastline road towards the Victoria state border.