A sign that greets you as enter the town of Parachilna in the Flinders Ranges, gives you the Adnyamathanha peoples original name for the location as Varratyalinha. The word means Dead Finish Splinter – dead finish is the plant species Acacia Tetragonophylla. Another theory is that the Nukunu people lived in this area and referred to it as ‘patajilnda’ meaning peppermint gum trees, but little is known of the traditional owners who were dispossessed of their country from 1849, and much of their language has been lost. Sadly this is all that is recorded for this particular area as any other connections to traditional or dreaming stories has been lost over time.
We are travelling through this area on the Outback Highway between Hawker and Blinman and decided to stop in to see Parachilna which today is widely known for the Prairie Hotel and their specialty – feral food. Unfortunately they weren’t open on the day we were passing through, not that I was too disappointed, it’s not on my ‘to do’ list to eat camel, emu, goat and kangaroo as antipasto or a mixed grill. The hotel is very unique though and it’s not all feral, with other Australian native ingredients on the menu as well as craft beer, Fargher Lager, named after the family who own and run the hotel, Ross and Jane Fargher, who also run the Nilpena cattle station.
There’s more to see than the hotel though with sculptures and Ghan train memorabilia on display. One sculptural piece is a sundial featuring metal cutouts of fossils which have been discovered in an old minefield in the nearby Flinders Ranges. The range of fossils found in the 1940s was so extensive and significant that they were named after the geologist who discovered them and the location they were found and are known as Ediacaran fossils. The fossils of soft bodied creatures found caused a new geological period to be declared (The Ediacaran Period) and the first to be named after a location in the southern hemisphere. Two thirds of the Nilpena pastoral lease is now owned by the South Australian Government for a conservation park for these globally significant fossils to be preserved. Tours to some of the significant areas can be arranged through the Prairie Hotel.
Opposite the Hotel is the old Ghan rail line and a few more sculptures to find including a terrific stockman on a horse and a clever view through a camera of the approaching train. The horse and stockman and a dog sculpture that can be found on the verandah of the hotel, were both made by South Australian artist, Ty Manning.
Parachilna is an interesting side stop while you’re travelling through the Flinders Ranges and if you’re game, you can also try some feral food!