SILVER-HAIRED RANCHER Dean Rasheed plunges his Land Cruiser into the deep stream. Water slaps the windshield and licks the side-view mirrors. Rasheed, 60, lets out a howl and turns onto a steep track, where a family of western gray kangaroos grazes among his 7,500 sheep. Rasheed calls this work. He drives this road a few times a week to monitor his flock and give tours of Arkaba Station, his stunning 63,000-acre sheep ranch in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. I have arrived in the outback.
The Flinders are not big mountains (the highest is 3,832-foot St. Mary Peak). But they have their majestyrolling red-clay hills scattered with pale-green blue bush, sheer rock faces, and caves with Aboriginal art. Travelers who want to taste the real outbackwhere wildlife are the neighbors and the earth is bosscome here, to the Rasheeds' place. Dean and his wife, Lizzie, accommodate four guests in ranch-house bedrooms with Flinders views and fill you up with home-baked bread, mutton, kangaroo, and fine South Australia wines.
Then there's the outdoorsjaw-dropping gorges in nearby Flinders Ranges National Park and the rock formations of 32-square-mile Wilpena Pound. Or you can work: herding sheep, cleaning troughs, or, if you arrive in September, playing barber in the 19th-century shearing shed. When you're on Arkaba, amid endless acres, the outback invades your soul, and you understand its ultimate attraction: space.
US$318 per person per night, including meals and activities; 011-61-8-8648-0004, www.wilpenapound.com.au/accommodation/arkaba.htm.