I keep talking about how great the national parks of Australia are, but I have never told the story of my getting stuck in the driest middle of nowhere, my very own Outback adventure.
It happened in Flinders Ranges National Park – which still is one of my very favorite parks in Oz – when I was waiting for a couple of friends to arrive. I had left Adelaide and drove north to the Outback town of Hawker, spent the night in my car on the roadside and continued on to the Flinders Ranges the next morning.
I had two days to explore the park and its surroundings before my friends would arrive. That’s exactly what I did too, after setting up camp at the wonderful Wilpena Pound campground. One of the first things that I noticed was how green everything was, something that I hadn’t expected of the Outback. The thing was, though, that it had been raining a lot in the previous weeks and plants were clearly taken advantage of that.
The first day I went on three short hikes in the area. The first one led toward Arkaroo Rock, which is an overhanging rock right next to an enormous rock wall that’s covered with millennia-old Aboriginal paintings. I then hiked the short, but fascinating Drought Busters Hike through some of the driest places in the Flinders Ranges. My third hike of the day took me to Hills Homestead and Wangara Lookout, which offers spectacular views of Wilpena Pound, the park’s huge natural amphitheater.
My Australian Outback Adventure
Towards the end of the day I began thinking about what I should do the following day and, after consulting my guidebook, I decided to go for a scenic drive and start my Australian Outback adventure; there’s a fantastic loop drive in Flinders Ranges National Park. I left in the evening and wanted to camp somewhere on the roadside again.
When I got to the turn-off, however, there was a sign saying ‘road closed’. I figured that was still there because it had been raining so much in the weeks before. It was dry now and I decided to give it a go anyway, a decision that would result in a true Australian Outback adventure. After about twenty kilometers, I set up camp again.
I woke up to a truly magnificent view of Bunyeroo Valley and got very excited about the rest of the day. It was sunny and warm and it promised to be spectacular. The road was fine and meandered its way over hills, through shallow valley and past phenomenal lookouts. After a while, I noticed that the road got bumpier and narrower. There were increasing amounts of branches, rocks and debris on the road, up to the point I was being shaken around in my car. I didn’t have a 4WD and seriously considered turning back.
A short distance later it had become impossible to continue any further as there was a stream crossing the road. There was no way I could get through and I reluctantly backed up to turn back. When I wanted to drive forward again, I felt nothing. My car was stuck in the riverbank. My car was stuck in the riverbank of a stream in the Australian Outback, dozens of kilometers from any other road, on a scorching hot day, and – even worse – on a closed road. There wouldn’t be any other vehicles passing by that could potentially pull me out.
I panicked for a minute, but forced myself to calm down. I always had plenty of water, food and fuel in my car, so I’d be fine for several days if I had to stay put. The main problem was that no one knew that I was there though. Walking back was another option, but that would possibly take ten hours in temperatures above 40°C. The logical thing to do first was trying to dig myself out.
I used all pots, pans and spoons I had in desperate attempts to remove the mud and sand. I tried leaving a couple of times but nothing happened. I then tried putting branches and rocks as far underneath my tires as I could and tried again. Nothing happened at first, but then, suddenly, I felt my car jump forward and out of the mud.
I have never been as relieved as I was then. I had been digging for hours and was covered in mud from head to toe. I didn’t care; I was out. I washed myself in the river, got in the car and got out of there. On the way back I enjoyed the landscapes, scenery and wildlife even more.
After making my way back to the campground, my friends were already there and they told me what an idiot I was. They were totally right. Things could have been much, much worse, but now I do have my own Australian Outback adventure to tell!
One tip though: During your Australian Outback adventure, if you happen to rent a car and start driving around, do NOT enter a road that’s closed.