On the June long weekend of 2017 John Callinan led a group of ten club members to the peak of Pompey Pillar on what proved to be a hugely enjoyable and challenging adventure.
After the late night/early morning arrival at Wilpena Pound Campground and subsequent lack of sleep it was a welcome relief to be setting off on our walk slightly later than the other groups. Lesley and I took advantage of this with a refreshing shower and a coffee (and a pie for me) at the visitors centre cafeteria. As we sat on the terrace we watched the earlier starters from the club trundle by with what I suspect was a hint of envy when they saw us. I simply raised my mug to them and smiled, or maybe it was a smirk.
After introductions and a briefing from John we began our walk which saw us heading straight through the Pound on the Heysen Trail for 10k until we reached Bridle Gap. As we began our descent down the outer rim, Alex nominated Lesley to be point man (sorry, person).
Well I couldn’t allow my limelight to be stolen from me so I immediately stumbled over a rock, agitating an old knee injury which turned out to be a bit of a worry. So during an unscheduled pit stop we strapped my knee up, I took a painkiller and commandeered Lesley’s walking pole before marching on through the pain threshold; Mum’s little soldier. Lesley resumed her duty in the lead while I, in reality, stumbled along crying inside at my poorly knee.
After 1km we left the Heysen Trail and headed north, just east of the Bunbinyunna Range. From here it was a relatively easy walk 6km until we reached Leslie Creek although along the way we stopped for a ‘civilised debate’ on the best route to take which involved handbags, maps and compasses. I stood in the background nodding every now and then. It was lucky I was there.
Thanks to my helpful nodding we made it to our campground in decent time close to the multiple armed Leslie Creek and while some stayed to set up camp, collect firewood etc, a group of us embarked on a crucial mission the likes of which had not been attempted since Frodo and his little pals headed off to Mordor. Our objective: to locate John’s Magical Well. At this point, Leslie Creek branches off into five different arms fed from the peaks. John knew there was a well on one of these as he had collected water from there on a previous occasion. I asked him how long ago that was to which he replied ‘Oh, about twenty years or so’. I’ve learnt a lot from John in the last few years about bushwalking and the Flinders Ranges so obviously I trusted his instincts, and he did seem rather confident. Well, sort of.
The well wasn’t easy to find but our dogged search party eventually found it on the first creek with sheer determination, instinct and ok, maybe a little luck. It was well hidden under a sheet of corrugated iron covered in years of foliage growth and fallen branches but there it was, as John had remembered. Interestingly, the well is shown on a map hand drawn by ABW members in 1959 from aerial photographs, existing maps and local observations. The well can clearly be seen on the most southernly of the creeks, directly south of Pompey Pillar.
We managed to clear some of the undergrowth and gain access then we removed the galvanised sheeting before peering inside. It hardly tantalised the taste buds but hey, a well is a well. As long as it’s got water, otherwise it’s just a hole.
This is where the billy cans and rope came into use. We lowered the billy cans into the well with rocks in them so they sank and collected our water. It was a genuine team effort and we were all thankful to have full bottles and water bladders to return to camp with after we had replaced the sheets and covered them over with branches. We didn’t see why anybody else should have an easy time finding it.
On the way back to camp we found a rare luxury…. A toilet! This was on the outskirts of Middle Camp, a 4wd campground owned by Merna Mora station. Ok, it could do with a lick of paint but then surely it wouldn’t look out of place in a 5 star hotel!
After a nice evening round the campfire followed by a good nights sleep we set off in the morning refreshed and looking forward to the day. From the camp we headed north east up Leslie Creek, counting the creeks as we went for reference Then a hop up to another creek which led us up the gully between Dorothy Peak and Pompey Pillar. We took a moment to plan the easiest route, although easiest doesn’t mean easy. The going started to get tough from here through thick scrub as the climb grew steeper and quite a bit of scrambling and climbing was required in parts. This walk had the lot. And that’s what made it such fun. I tell work colleagues about these weekends and I swear they think I’m mad.
We made it the top for lunch, ready for a rest. It had been quite a tough morning but very enjoyable and we felt a real sense of achievement as we sat down and soaked in the views. While at the top we found a log book in a tin box between the rocks. I should have made a note of what was written in the log book or taken photo’s of it but maybe I was too tired. But we all signed our names in it as proof of our success.
The views from the top were simply spectacular, making the morning’s efforts more than worthwhile. Reluctantly, we made our way down. A slightly different route on a more westerly gully made it slightly easier and we made very good time on our return to camp. The next day involved a straightforward but enjoyable walk south across open country to Rawnsley Park Station for our pick up by the ABW bus. Luckily for me, we had plenty of time on our arrival there for a nice, cold beer. Or maybe I had two.