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The Breakaways. South Australia
Approaching the area there’s a moonscape unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere and one of the features is the gypsum salts, except you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’d been a serious vehicle accident here because they look like shattered glass shards strewn across a black plain full of foreboding. The indigenous name for the area is “Amoona” and I have no trouble understanding where they got the “moon” bit, though the whole name refers to a species of tree, so called, that can be found in the area.
In the distance you can see the range of hills that you have to pay $10 per vehicle ($8 concession) to view; a worn plateau that beckons you onward such is its contrast to the surrounding land. I imagined it would just be that. How wrong was I.
Even the first set have colour but it’s merely the overture to main symphony. The stark hues are staggering. From chalky whites to sulphur yellows to iron oxide reds the colours blaze in the midday sun. It’s a photographer’s wet dream. My hour became all morning and then I downloaded the panoramas at the main lookout and emailed them off. Just as well really because in the afternoon I went to another spot, plunged off the cliff into the valley floor and took twice as many.
Every 20 metres the vista was magically different, the shapes seen from another entrancing angle, the colours changing in intensity. I realised then why I had never heard of the place; because if you never left the road it is “worth a look” and that’s about it, but if you walk among it it’s something else again. Other than Italy in autumn I’ve never seen so much colour in such a small area……..
Hoping for something different I note a couple of rises in the distance and turn my back on the main section and the lone peregrine falcon atop an outcrop, sticking to worn paths wherever I go except when I head off for about two kilometres, there aren’t any. No footprints, nothing moving, just me and the terrain..
As a photographer, it helps greatly if you can “see” pictures before you actually get to the spot where you take them. Here, inspiration abounds yet, I can well imagine, to the casual eye there may well not be a lot to view.
I stopped a couple of times before walking over to Pupa (Two Dog Mountain), side by side buttes of white and yellow ochres that are one of the highlights here. The contrast is dazzling, you can’t take your eyes off it for some time, it’s arguably one of the more mesmerising sights in the Australian Outback. Walking around here is problematic because the surface is so fragile, you have to take much care where you plant your foot so as not to disturb anything, so no one actually goes over to the formation itself.
I returned to the motorhome and wound up to the main lookout. It’s here where the vast majority view and move on, but you can’t help but notice a couple of worn trails that descend, down to where the colours and scenery constantly change and there’s a new photo opportunity every 10 metres. It was all I could do to pack my gear and get going.
I headed towards Ungkata, a small peak to the left of a main outcrop, it’s a totem for the local Antakirinja people and represents the bearded dragon lizard.
One of the grooves leading from the lookout is my guide as I stumble over loose rocks and make my way down. There’s iron red, sulphur yellow, blinding white and flecks of green vegetation and I’m soon clicking back into the over 300 photos I’ll take today. It’s rubbernecking territory and my excitement mounts but I can’t help but thinking, as I glance back at a couple of new arrivals, whether or not they will get the same excitement. Sadly they leave 10 minutes later but I so want to share what I’m feeling.
Hoping for something different I note a couple of rises in the distance and turn my back on the main section and the lone peregrine falcon atop an outcrop, sticking to worn paths wherever I go except when I head off for about two kilometres, there aren’t any. No footprints, nothing moving, just me and the terrain.