Glass Gorge, Flinders Ranges: An Unexpected Adventure

Glass Gorge, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

We ended up on the Glass Gorge Scenic Route in the Flinders Ranges by accident.

“I think it’s this way…”

We looked at each other and shrugged, and drove out of Blinman.

Of course, it seemed like we were going the right way at the time…

It was a sleepy Sunday morning.

We’d just spent a fun night at the Blinman pub, where we’d been lucky enough to see the 2014 Outback Postie Ride visit the town for a beer.

Blinman Hotel, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

This morning, we were hitting the road, on our way to Marree.

We were headed for three intense days of photography workshopping with the incredible Julie Fletcher.

(And it was an excuse to drive home to on the Oodnadatta Track!)

Taking the right fork at the end of the tiny village of Blinman, where the sign said ‘Leigh Creek” we were soon on a winding, narrow dirt road.

“I’m not sure it’s this way,” Gary said. “The road we drove in yesterday on was bitumen.”

Which was true…

The gob-smackingly beautiful drive from Hawker through the Flinders Ranges is now sealed all the way to Blinman.

Flinder-Wilpena-road

It’s an area we both know well:  Gary as a university student undertaking field trips and fauna surveys in the Flinders as part of his degree; I, visiting the Flinders a number of times as a keen bushwalker.

Neither of us had been through the Flinders Ranges for about 15 years, so we were surprised to find the road sealed.

But NOT this road.

We had no idea where we really were –just that we were driving through Glass Gorge and we’d eventually arrive in Leigh Creek.

As we drove, the road grew narrower and wound through some stunning scenery.

Glass Gorge, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

There’d been some good rain over the past few weeks, and the countryside looked like a manicured park.

A carpet of rich, green grass contrasted with the silvery-grey needles of the native pines. Everywhere we looked, there were fat Grey Kangaroos and father emus with healthy broods of chicks.

Kangaroo, Glass Gorge, Flinders Ranges

Emu chicks have a distinctive and very beautiful striped feather pattern that’s markedly different from that of adult emus. Another unusual fact about emus is that the father emu looks after chicks rather than the mother.

Emu-dad-chicks-lo

Looking closely at the chicks’ stripes, I was reminded of the body decorations I’ve seen on Aboriginal men during ceremonies here in Central Australia. I can’t help but think that’s where the inspiration for some designs came from.

Winding through the gorge, we came across carpets of wildflowers against a backdrop of blue-shaded mountains. We passed the old Nuccaleena Mine, the only place you’re officially allowed to camp along the drive. This is a free bush camping area with NO facilities.Nuccaleena-Copper-Mine1919

The mine ruins are accessible along a rough track on Moolooloo Station (PAR3). This is an 18km rough, 4WD only track. We didn’t have time to visit this time, but it’s on the list for next time!

After passing through Glass Gorge, we emerged in the Oratunga Creek Valley.

Gary-Photo-GlassGorge

We couldn’t help but stop and take photos. It’s stunning country!

But we also had one very sad and very sudden stop.

We hit a kangaroo.

He came bounding across the road at the last minute.

Gary locked up the brakes and tried to miss him, but there was no safe way to avoid him.

There was a soft THUD! as he hit the Prado’s bull bar, and went tumbling head-over-tail onto the side of the road.

We pulled up at once and went back.

There, in a shallow ditch was the poor little guy, alive but badly injured.

He tried to stand up and bound away, but his legs were splayed at dangerous angles and he was bleeding from a graze to the head.

It was clear that we’d broken his pelvis and probably injured him internally as well.

There was no way we could leave this poor guy to die in slow agony – so Gary did what rangers often have to do to badly injured animals: he put the little guy quickly out of his misery.

Sombre, we continued on. There was a small crack in the rubber of the bull bar, but no real damage done to the car.

We tried to not think of the poor little kangaroo man who’d just met his end – and distracted ourselves by taking photos and wondering where this road would take us.

Oratunga Valley, Glass Gorge

Not long after this the road joined the main Blinman-Parachilna-Leigh Creek Road, right at the Parachilna Creek where there’s fabulous campsites.

We were soon in Leigh Creek and on our way to Marree for the 3 day workshop – which is another story.

So, although we’d taken a wrong turn –and hit a kangaroo- we’d travelled on a quiet, beautiful road where we’d not seen another car for the hour or so we’d been travelling along it.

The benefits of not being in hurry, taking your time to explore and the incredible number of kangaroos, emus and the stunning scenery made our Glass Gorge Scenic Drive worthwhile.

This isn’t our video about the trip, but it shows the kind of road surfaces and a lot of the scenery, so we thought we’d share it here.

Facts About the Glass Gorge Scenic Route

Start-Finish: Blinman to the Parachilna/Glass Gorge Road intersection

Length: 69km

Approx. travel time: 1.5 hours

Suitable for camper trailers:  Yes, preferably offroad trailers -there’s a few rough spots.

Suitable for caravans: Offroad vans only with extreme care. Personally, I would NOT take a van through here – the road is narrow and winding

Campsites: Nucalleena Mine Ruins, Parachilna Creek – both sites are FREE bush camping with no facilities

Fuel, food: Blinman, Parachilna & Leigh Creek

 

 

3 Comments

  • Kat says:

    Hi
    Loved your chat about Glass Gorge, getting lost is the best!

    Just wanted to point out that your picture of a ‘Grey Kangaroo’ is a Euro/common Wallaroo.

    All the best for a great trip.

  • Red Nomad OZ says:

    Hi there! We’ve just returned from a few days at Angorichina where we did the Glass Gorge drive too – although in our case it was intentional 😀 Nuccaleena is well worth a visit, but there’s no way I’d take a camper on that part of the road – there’d been some rain before our visit so the 14 km (one way) track to Nuccaleena from the loop was VERY rugged!! Or maybe I’m just a big girl!!! There’s also a sign on the PAR now (July 2015) stating that camping is only permitted with permission from the station. It’s magnificent scenery, isn’t it?!

  • Ern says:

    Thanks for this post. I’d wondered about that route.

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