THE ARKABA WALK EXPERIENCE - 4 Days / 3 Nights Experience - Australia
It’s not every day you have a private charter plane waiting for you at Adelaide Airport to commence an outback walking adventure, but that is exactly what you get when you embark on a 4-Day / 3-Night Arkaba Walk in Flinders Ranges (IKARA) with highlights of Wilpena Pound, Elder Range and neighbouring Arkaba Conservancy.
There’s a staggering amount of history between the layers of the Flinders Ranges, it’s approximately 800 million years old with a scale that is hard to comprehend. A place where sandstone bluffs stand beside ancient creek beds dotted with monumental River Red Gums. The Flinders Ranges is in a class of its own and is one of those secret spots in Australia that has escaped mainstream tourism.
This region’s compelling geology, rocky ridge lines, rolling hills, deep valleys, wide grasslands, native cypress pine forests, ancient river waterways and stunning Red Gums offer some of Australia’s most spectacular outback scenery. With a sense of true remoteness, this area’s iconic red rock and surrounding vibrant green vegetation, it truly provides an ever-changing palette.
On the Arkaba Walk Adventure there is a maximum of ten walkers. On our walk, it was just four walkers - my three walking buddies and myself. There is one guide with us throughout the walk and one support guide loyally waiting for us at camp every night. The Arkaba team showed such care - they spoilt us with their time, knowledge and culinary delights.
My three walking buddies are seasoned walkers/trekkers… I like to refer to us as the ‘fab four’. We have numerous walks under our belts including Mt Kilimanjaro (successfully to the Summit), the Queen Charlotte Track in New Zealand and Cradle Mountain in Tasmania to name a few.
Our conclusion; it is well worth experiencing the Arkaba Walk. This amazing country seen from the air as well as walking through it, was a remarkable experience. This is certainly big sky country and our Arkaba Walk adventure is truly an amazing way to discover this unique region of Australia.
DAY ONE – Adelaide to Black’s Gap Camp, Flinders Ranges
Fly Adelaide Airport to Hawker in the Flinders Ranges …
On arrival to Hawker Airstrip we were met by an Arkaba field guide and transferred by road to Wilpena Pound where we set off on foot on the first leg of the trail.
The distance today is approximately 13km, 5 – 6 hours walk. We stopped by Wilpena Lookout and then traversed the basin of Wilpena Pound crossing the flat interior and gradual 1.5km ascent to the rim of the Pound, climbing about 200m before a steep descent of about 1km before crossing onto Arkaba’s private conservancy and descending to Black’s Gap Signature Swag Camp.
The landscape alternates between scrub, open grasslands, towering red gums and masses of tea-tree and cypress pines. We crossed Bridle Gap before reaching Black’s Gap with a few steep grades. Our guide Tori walked at a leisurely pace and stopped frequently for us to soak in the gob-smacking landscape.
Upon arrival to camp we were welcomed with a cool face towel, refreshing cold fruit drinks and snacks – the perks of a ‘luxury guided’ walk!
We were given a tour of the camp (on a site previously occupied by a shepherd in the late 1850s) … we loved our sheltered ‘open air’ luxury swag accommodation with the most comfy and warm swag (hot water bottle surprise). The freestanding separate ‘out-house’ hot showers (shower bucket above you filled with warm water enough for a 5-minute wash) and elevated eco-toilets were a novelty… and most importantly, they were very clean!
Dinner was a three-course feast… absolutely delicious!
Sleeping under the stars … was pure magic.
Day 1 is approximately 13km, 5-6 hours
DAY TWO – Black’s Gap Camp to Elder Camp
After a peaceful night sleep… we indulged in a hearty and healthy breakfast.
Today was the most scenic and offered a more challenging hike through dry creek beds and broken country approaching the foothills of the Elder Range to Elder Camp. This rugged landscape certainly challenged us with large rocks poking their heads out from beneath the grasslands with some steep uphill and downhill spots to traverse. Thankfully our guide was in no rush and distracted us with commentary of the surrounding ecological marvels. Our guide Tori is a fountain of knowledge of both flora and fauna and provided a wonderful insight throughout the entire walk.
The first 2km followed the famous Heysen Trail through Black’s Gap itself where Red and Grey Kangaroos and Emus were sighted. A sharp 1km climb of about 100m in elevation to the summit of the Red Range where we were rewarded with panoramic views of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges before moving on to the foot of Elder Range passing through beautiful native Cypress trees. The views of the craggy red cliffs of the Elder Range are a simply stunning.
Upon arrival to Elder Camp we are once again greeted with the delights of this luxury camping experience!
Early night tonight as we will be woken up very early to watch the sunrise on the Elder Range… a promised light show.
Day 2 is approximately 14-15km, 6- 7 hours
DAY THREE – Elder Camp to Arkaba Heritage Homestead
Up bright and early for the sunrise… the colours are absolutely gob-smacking … every few minutes the colours changed … it was well worth waking up early to this glorious day…
Today the pace is unhurried with plenty of time to stop for photographs, bird watching, botanizing and conversation. We traversed multiple habitats today and as we moved south east, the first few kilometres we were in hilly country at the foot of the Elder Range.
Walking through Mallee and Native Pine forests offered us lots of amazing outback sights albeit very dry. Hundreds of Magnificent River Red Gums lined the dry Arkaba Creek. We enjoyed this day even though it was hot and dry.
Our final destination of Arkaba Homestead was a very welcoming sight… this amazing homestead is located in country that is truly quintessentially Australian Outback …
We thoroughly enjoyed our home on our final night of the walk … started off with pre-arranged massages or a swim in the pool, pre-dinner Gin and Tonics, a beautifully chef prepared 3-course dinner, excellent South Australian wines and to top it all off… we all had a very peaceful sleep in a super comfortable bed and we loved having our own private bathrooms!
Day 3 is approximately 14 – 15km, 5 – 7 hours
DAY FOUR – Arkaba Homestead to Adelaide
I woke early to enjoy a walk around the Homestead to soak in the morning light and the views …. it is so tranquil here…
After a hearty and leisurely breakfast we bid farewell to Charlie and the ‘A’ Team at Arkaba and headed off on our scenic road transfer to Adelaide via the Clare Valley wine region.
We drove through historic outback towns and the vast countryside. In the Clare Valley, we had a delicious long lunch at a family owned winery giving us the time to reflect on the Arkaba Walk. After this enjoyable respite, we proceeded through the valley to the Adelaide Hills and Adelaide Airport
DO I NEED TO CARRY A PACK?
Wild Bush Luxury supply an Osprey Manta AG 36 Day Pack with 2.5L hydration reservoir for you to walk with and field guides carry additional water should you need more. Trekking poles are provided too. They’re lightweight, easily adjustable and are ideal for taking weight off your knees as you descend off the lip of Wilpena Pound, the jewel in the crown of the Flinders Ranges. With your main luggage it’s good news.
You have the luxury of a support vehicle taking your gear ahead to signature walking camps leaving you carrying essentials for the day - your wide brimmed sun hat, a light waterproof layer and your camera. Toiletries, towels and showers with epic views are provided (yep, you watch the sun sink behind the walls of Wilpena Pound from the shower!).
You’ll be in the wilderness with no wi-fi or charge points until you reach the Arkaba Homestead in the afternoon of Day 3. So if you’re relying on your mobile phone to take pictures of you adventuring in the outback we recommend a solar power bank to see you through to civilisation.
A PLETHORA OF WILDLIFE
For Wild Bush Luxury, owner and operator of the Arkaba Walk the sun rises and sets on seeing wildlife in the wild. It’s one of their loves along with their down to earth yet attentive service; an appreciation of the finer details a team field guides who are passionate about Australia’s environment, wildlife and culture.
They’ll be on the lookout for Red Kangaroos, Emus, different reptile species like Shingleback Lizards and Bearded Dragons and a variety of birdlife – galahs, parrots, raptors including Wedge-tailed and Little Eagles, Red-rumped and Elegant Parrots, Mulga Parrots, Rufous Whistlers, wrens, babblers and honeyeaters to name but a few! To see a Western Quoll (an endangered marsupial carnivore), which has returned to Arkaba after an absence of almost 120 years has been a thrilling sighting this year! Echidnas, Dunnarts, Short-tailed grass wrens and spiny-tailed skinks are just a few other examples of species in recovery as a result of Arkaba’s ongoing conservation efforts.
This is wildlife in its natural environment to be admired and appreciated from a short distance. There's no feeding the wildlife here.
WHERE DOES THE ‘LUXURY’ IN WILD BUSH LUXURY COME IN?
While everyone loves to have a comfortable bed and great food, it is the time spent with people on the ground that leaves a lasting impact. Of course, a really good glass of wine at the end of the day always helps!
The true value and luxury of a Wild Bush Luxury experience on the Arkaba Walk is the vastness of space, the feeling of exclusivity and the ability to reconnect with nature.
By Teresa Zamora - Senior Travel Manager for The exclusive Travel Group - Australia