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Arkaroola

Ancient Arkaroola’s inspiring history

By Mark Eggleton

It’s the aerial view of the Arkaroola Resort and Wilderness Sanctuary that takes your breath away as you approach. Director Doug Sprigg passionately delivers a treatise on the ancient land below that dates back over 1.5 billion years. Giant quartzite formations rise out of the surrounding desert looking like jagged ruminant teeth that have been chewing on an earthly cud for millennia.

On the flight up in Doug’s single engine Cessna, we’d passed over Lake Frome – one of the whitest salt lakes on Earth. NASA reportedly use it as a fixed location to get their colour coding right for their satellites. It stretches for over 100 kilometres of pure coconut white.

Arkaroola itself is a relatively short four-wheel drive journey from the landing strip which Doug has graded in the desert land with a corrugated iron hanger lying to its side. From the air the resort seems to sit primarily in a narrow gorge surrounded by ancient hills but once on the ground you realise it’s a slow incline up to a small plateau where most of the resort sits. A collection of buildings resting slightly incongruously in a harsh wilderness.

The main building doubles or triples as a general store, reception and restaurant for the resort and is a cool oasis for what can be found outside.

Doug’s sister and fellow director of the resort Marg speaks eloquently about the resort and surrounds. Visitors will find relatively simple accommodation ranging from motel-type units to camping sites but the star here is the environment.

Funds from the tourism activities support Arkaroola as a wilderness sanctuary and Sprigg will happily share stories of the region’s surprising fragility considering it’s harsh exterior.

The Sprigg family’s relationship with Arkaroola stretches back to before the Second World War and the Spriggs’ parents drive to ensure the region’s protection.

The region was once covered by ocean and there are marvellous fossils nearby of long-extinct sea creatures. The property also sits on a large deposit of uranium and the hot springs heated by radioactive decay deep within the ancient earth bubble to the surface at around 68 degrees Celsius. Downstream a species of frog have evolved with an extra digit due to their exposure to the water.

For Marg, it’s an amazing place and she just hopes that everyone who visits gets to feel the depth of the country – it’s age and the stories that lie within it. There’s the geological story obviously but also the local Aboriginals tales of the Dreaming which give visitors an understanding of the depth and age of the relationship they have with the landscape.

“It’s just a remarkable place and it makes you realise how insignificant we really are. Staring up at the night sky is just magical and to think how plants and animals adapt to survive in these conditions is truly inspiring.”

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