Saturday, 1 September 2012

Acacia Sunrise

I got up at five o’clock. It was dark and cold, but it was May in the Flinders Ranges, so I expected that. I put on a couple of jumpers and a big jacket, grabbed my back pack and head torch and strode up the track along Acacia Ridge. My breath came in clouds in the beam of torchlight before me, and as the narrow rocky path rose steeply the clouds grew thicker. I stopped to take off my jacket, and then a jumper. I paused and switched off the torch to look at the sky above me. The silent blanket of bright stars shining up there made me shake my head in wonder. This place, this world...

It took around half an hour to reach the summit. It was still dark but there was the beginning of a faint orange glow on the eastern horizon. Closer by was a small cluster of pulsing lights at the Beverley uranium mine. The uranium that geologists had been hoping to find in the hills of Arkaroola has mostly been washed down to the plains, and now there are two mines there digging it out. Their lights were the only sign of humanity I could see in the hazy grey before me. I pulled my Trangia out of my backpack and boiled up a cup of tea, then sat back to watch the show.

I was determined to take in all that Arkaroola could offer, seeing as I’d made the long trek out for a second visit. I’d earlier spent a few days at Arkaroola, then decided to go and hike at Wilpena Pound but I’d been lured back to the more remote, the wild and free feeling of Arkaroola. There were things still to be done there. Including watching the sun rise from the top of Acacia Ridge.

Gradually the thin line of orange on the horizon grew brighter, and grew thicker. The blackness around me turned grey–green and ever so slowly the hills began to reveal themselves. The rumples of the landscape, the curves and the creases, the steep slopes and the smooth valleys slowly appeared.

The stars were dimmed one by one and when the bright point of the sun broke over the horizon, the rocks around me began glowing with a deep red. The Spinifex was yellow and the sky was blue, the precise shades changing with every moment. The rays of sun immediately warmed me, the gentle heat on my face brought out a smile.

Below me I heard a tumble of rocks, and looking down I saw two yellow footed rock wallabies hopping down the slope. These are pretty animals with a thick tail that’s clearly striped dark brown and orange. They have white stripes on their sides up to the shoulders, separating the lighter fur on the chest from the darker back, and their four legs are all the same orange as the stripes on the tail. They’re rare after years of being hunted for their skins.

 As the sun rose the colours of my surroundings became brighter. I felt like I had been one of the privileged to have seen this day born, I had seen it go from icy black invisibility to this bright sunny day that promised to be warm. I had nothing that needed doing, except maybe another hike so I was reluctant to leave my vantage point at the summit. But I knew before much longer I’d be joined by others making a daytrip up, and I didn’t feel like being there for that. So I shouldered my pack and wandered on down to see what else the day would bring.

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