Edeowie Creek heads NW out of Wilpena Pound into Moralana Plain. When enough rain falls in the Pound the trickles will gather and make their way to this creek. When more than enough rain falls the water will gather and with great urgency race across bedrock, tumble over falls, fill pools, spill over lips, fall further to swirl, flush out, and spill into the western plains. In this semi-arid country, even a trickle of rain is rare.
For us, in part, Edeowie creek was a way toward the Pound, a way inward, a way from the swirl of daily life toward a place of calm.
Entering the creek from Edeowie station and carrying enough water and food for three days, we walk up-creek in search of Kanalla Falls and a suitable camp. As I adjust to the weight of my laden pack I feel other baggage falling away. I begin to feel lighter. Packing for a walk like this is an exercise in determining what’s essential, though in my case with some concession to comfort be that additional layers for warmth, extra food for indulgence as well as energy and on this trip the added weight of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet.
There’s been no significant rain in this region for 15 months which was why we decided to carry the water we would need for the following days. Fortunately, we only need to carry the packs three kilometers before we reach the Falls where to our surprise there is more than enough water. It is mostly clear and looks good to drink. You don’t know till you get there.
We spend three nights at the foot of Kanalla Falls. During our sojourn, we find a way to scale the Falls albeit awkwardly and with some apprehension (heightened each time I look down) and make our way to the foot of Glenora Falls a couple of kilometers up-creek. We poke around for a way around the steep-sided falls but are unable to find one.
Most of the time at Kanalla we potter, sit, chat, cook, muse, loosen up, clear the frequencies and tune in to the layers of stories in this place. During this time small herds of goats venture cautiously to the waterhole. They are watchful of us and our stillness seems to reassure them that we are no threat. Showers fall in the afternoon, topping up the pools, coating the rocks with a glossy sheen. Hushing and refreshing everything.
Between short walks and camp chores, time stretches out idly and I find myself heading back again and again to Cloudstreet, to follow the lives of those that inhabit it. I’m drawn to the trials and tribulations within, the human stories, but equally to the way that place is a part of the story, its influence a character in its own right.
Kanalla for me is a place that draws others to it for sustenance and to pause a while. Around me, stories abound. They can be seen in the tracks of goats, in the changing hue of plant life, in the way a tree contorts to gain more light, in the way limb and rock lay strewn or wedged or in the watermarks stained onto rock. There are human stories to be found too, in the footprint of tents and the ash that we leave behind as we walk out towards the car.
My pack is lighter but I carry the weight of contemplation. I ponder two contrasting stories that explain the creation of this place. The Pound of Wilpena (Ikara) and the passage to and from it, Edeowie. These are old stories. The one rooted in scientific thinking, in the measured documentation that explains how over millions of years the landscape is formed by the movement of the earth’s plates and crusts rising and falling. The other story is rooted in myth, in the images passed down through oral tradition. It tells how two giant serpents (Akkura) form the Pound when they circle people gathering for ritual. Edeowie (Vira Warldu) was the way that Yarlu the Kingfisher traveled towards the ceremony from the north at the same time as the serpents.
Though these perspectives seem worlds apart they both at least conjure up powerful images full of drama. If there is a thread that joins them then it may be the idea that human consciousness has changed over time, that how we see the world now is not how people saw the world thousands, possibly even hundreds of years ago. Intellectual thinking, for all we can gain through its sharpness often leaves little room for imagination. The more time I spend here though the more I begin to wonder if these narratives are not as incompatible as they might seem. Perhaps the only difference is how you look at it. The difference can be reconciled when holding contrasting stories, not at odds, but as the same thing only viewed from a different place.
We drive around to the Wilpena resort, the ranges look like battered, rusty saw blades cutting the sky. At the resort we replenish our food and water and walk out through the Pound towards Malloga Falls and the eastern side of Edeowie Creek. Walking in the flat of the Pound is easy but the going toughens as we hasten to arrive at the Creek before night. We stop though to take in the quietly glowing colours of the scrub in the days fading light. A wind sways the scrub making it appear like gold laden water swishing around a pan. We arrive as night falls and make a quick camp. We head to our tents soon after to avoid the cold air trapped in the creek.
The next day is spent walking back towards the head of Glenora Falls. In this way we have, through our paces, sewn a thread from both the western and eastern ends of Edeowie Creek, only leaving a small section un-stitched, that being the narrow ledge that joins the upper and lower parts of Glenora. Being close to the edge as we were was challenge enough to my comfort zone. Both above and below Glenora were numerous goat carcasses, the smell of which was unpleasantly strong. The story of how so many dead goats came to be here is perplexing. Perhaps as result of a cull, of a flooding creek or that this is a phenomenon similar to an elephant’s graveyard.
The morning air is cool and doesn’t begin to warm until the winter sun reaches into the creek bed. In many places where the orientation of the creek and the steepness of the creek sides combine the air remains cold, not likely to receive any sun in the winter months. In these places, the air pinches unwelcomingly. In other places where sun does reach the creek bed, the creek comes to life with the activity of creatures. Crickets, despite their size, flick ridiculously high into the air, lizards in the leaf litter between rock and wood twitch with our presence, retreating momentarily from the business of catching food. In the trees birds sing and flirt playfully and above it all Wedge-tailed eagles circle the scene, sharp-eyed and hungry. The predominant story here is survival.
As our final night in Edeowie passes so does our time here. In the morning we shoulder packs once more and on a clear blue-sky day walk away from Edeowie, back into the Pound and back to the resort via the Tanderra Saddle. Views from the saddle are impressive both across to the western flank of Wilpena and especially breathtaking to the grayscale ranges that lay cool looking to the north.
The descent to the Outside track is steep and hard on my knees and at the bottom we rest a while in the welcome cool shade. Moving through this place be it on foot or in a vehicle is an experience in passing through colour. On the colour wheel green and red are on opposite sides however, they remain complementary. All around, these two clans of colours and their relatives talk to one another expressing difference yet not being at odds with one another. In this strong harmonious polarity, the minor colours find their own expression, they make their own offering. In a short time we are back at the resort and before I feel I have had time to say goodbye to this place we are on the road south.
Wilpena stirs me. Even as I write now I feel a sense of being drawn to it. I’m drawn to its wide external spaces because they invite space within myself. I’m drawn to its narrow gorges and creeks because in them I find the details of countless stories. From it I am reminded of the importance of having pauses in life, moments of stillness in the overrated business of busy. Because it draws me closer to the indigenous story and because it is an old place, ancient yet unmistakenly impermanent and represents both the vitality and fragility of life.
I finished Cloudstreet. Now there’s a story of survival. The countless yarns spun within its pages cry out the pain and joy, the tribulations of human life.