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  1. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,036

    Default Oodnadatta Track - William Creek to Maree and more

    5th June
    Today started like no other ever has, and I sincerely hope no other ever will.



    Yes!! you see correct! Never ever have I paid $100 to fill my car. I have never even come close to it.

    My Outback was not going anywhere without a drink. I filled her, smiled and paid... then took the photo as a souvenir.



    Today's destination was going to be Marree - via the southern portion of the Oodnadatta Track,
    or Leigh Creek, or Hawker... depending on what there was to distract me along the way. Turned out there was quite a lot, and most of it was related to The Ghan.

    The first turn off I came to was the Lake Eyre track... the only land access to the northern Lake. I had seen this 60km track from the air, and heard about those who perished on it. I thought I'd check it out. Having gone but a few kms, I did not like the look of what lay ahead. On top of that there was rain beckoning on the horizon. And an Epirb is not exactly a licence to make stupid decisions. So, at a spot where obviously lots of others had, I turned back.

    Wabma Kadarbu Conservation Park is just 4kms off the road, and it was time for a break. Little was I to know upon what a gem I had landed. Here, right in the middle of the dessert, off a road - Track - less travelled, is a spring called 'The Bubbler'. There is this small pool, maybe three metres in diametre, where water just bubbles up. Not consistently in one spot, but all over the little pool.



    It then flows over it's rocky surrounds creating a tiny waterfall,



    before trickling off into the desert creating a small oasis of green in this barren land.



    When one explores all there is along the way, one starts to understand how the natives survived on this continent for tens of thousands of years. Survival is everywhere, and they knew where to find it.

    The train which runs from Adelaide to Darwin is known as The Ghan. Until recently, this train only went as far as Alice Springs. Today it is a luxury multi day trek, but that was not always the case. Here is a map of where it used to run, and its new route. And this is the only site I found with some of its history. In the days when it was a narrow gauge line, it passed through Quorn, Hawker, Marree and Oodnadatta - among other places. And I remember so well through the 50s and 60s and 70s, the news bulletins about The Ghan being held up because the Finke River was in flood or the railway bridge had been washed away. It was also common in those days to hear stories of passengers hopping off, pick some wild flowers, and hop back on again. It could be a slow journey.

    Some would call them the good old days. The new standard guage route is secure, and the train regularly runs to its schedule. But at a cost.

    The first ruin I came across was Margaret Siding.



    There is a fence around the building for safety. There are remnants of the railway line used as poles, and the easement upon which the rails lay is still visible.



    At Curdimurka Siding the railway building is being restored.



    The track is still there, as is the water tank from which the steam engine was filled. Even the railway crossing over the road has been preserved, complete with warning signs. It was hard to leave this place. Besides been the official stop for the steam trains, this building was also where the railway staff who manned it, lived. All this is now deserted.

    There are other places which are struggling to stay alive.

    Among these Marree is unique. Quorn, Hawker, Oodnadatta and William Creek all have other tourist attractions to market and keep them afloat. But Marree does not have the proximity of the Opal fields or Lake Eyre, nor the nearness of the Flinders and Gammon Ranges. To add to its woes, the Stuart Highway was located through Woomera, and bypasses Marree by some 150kms. The sealed road stops at Lyndhurst.



    Marree is a dying town, sacrificed on the altar of progress.

    The last site at which I spent some time is west of Marree where the Oodnadatta Track skirts Lake Eyre South.



    It was possible to walk to the lake at this point, but you'd get pretty dirty.



    Here, several hundred kms from the Southern Ocean, were seagulls fighting for the scraps from those who had stopped for lunch.

    Five miles north of Lyndhurst I finally hit the bitumen again... and can't say I was sorry to see it. That is not to say I did not love the experience of the Track, and can't wait to hit the Haul Road. I was almost 200kms from Hawker, and planned to arrive there before dark, but I could not resist stopping to take this photo along the way.



    It is a very long time since I have seen so many sulpher crested cockatoos in one place.

    Spent two nights at Hawker's Flinders Ranges Caravan Park, in one of their on-site vans. (Something which I have never seen in North America.)

    6th June
    Besides getting my tyres pumped back up to highway driving pressure, I spent the complete day at the Hawker library, using their wifi and their computers, trying to upload photos from my computer to the internet, and catching up on posts, email, etc. It was good to stay in one spot all day.

    Lifey

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,969

    Default

    Today started like no other ever has, and I sincerely hope no other ever will.
    'Goundhog day' for us Brits.

    Yes!! you see correct! Never ever have I paid $100 to fill my car. I have never even come close to it.
    Take 50 litres and the exchange rate from GBP to AUSD and that $110 is about the same as we pay here. Wecome to the UK ! Lol.

    Cool report and pictures, I like 'The Bubbler'

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,114

    Default Or get a bigger gas tank

    I've put more than $100 in fuel tanks here in the USA -- most folks rarely have more than a 25 gal tank so they've not experienced that particular joy yet... But I've done it several times.... It's still a thrill...(I guess).

    Loving the photos and the write-up, they really bring that part of SW Australia to life for me.

    Mark

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,036

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist
    they really bring that part of SW Australia to life for me.

    Mark
    Thanks Mark, that is great to hear. At least I am succeeding at 'something'.

    Lifey
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 06-09-2011 at 03:32 PM. Reason: fixed broken quote

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,114

    Default More and more common, at least in the USA

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    Spent two nights at Hawker's Flinders Ranges Caravan Park, in one of their on-site vans. (Something which I have never seen in North America.)
    Really? Just about every RV park I've seen recently is using some kind of trailer for those guests not pulling their own. The prevailing trend is use vintage Airstream trailers for this purpose. It's kind of nice ---.

    Mark

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,036

    Default

    Well Mark, something must have got lost in translation. Certainly nowhere I went did they even know what I was talking about. Of course, this is a few years ago, as it is not what I was looking for on my last trip.

    Just another example of two peoples divided by a common language.

    Lifey

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,036

    Default Peterborough

    7th June
    Last time I was in Peterborough, I just passed through. This time I thought it would be nice to stop and see what there is to offer. It was just 150km down the road, so a leisurely drive straight down the R.M. Williams Highway.

    Stopped in Orroroo for a break, a cuppa and a visit to the visitor centre of this tiny town. What intrigued me most here was, the highway on which I was driving was designated B80 on my map, and on all the road signs. In the visitor centre, however, on their big wall maps, it was designated B83. And no one could explain it to me. Said they did not know; had never noticed (yet there is one of those large green signs right outside their door); had never been asked. And I never got an answer.

    It did highlight to me just how little notice the average motorist takes of detail along the road and on maps. Always having been the navigator in the family, little things like that have always been important to me.

    None-the-wiser, I continued on to Peterborough, the railway town, and a regular stop for the Indian Pacific. The railway museum looked interesting, but just too much walking for me.

    The best part about these little towns is you don't have to make too many decisions. One service station, one supermarket, one caravan park.... I mean, who needs two? The local caravan park had a lovely and cosy van available, and by late afternoon, I had settled.

    8th June
    Less than 300kms to Broken Hill, so need to rush. Spent a little more time driving through Peterborough before moving on. This trip ended up taking me through country similar to where I grew up. I found myself reciting the poetry I learned at school. The sun was shining, though the breeze was chilly.


    Olary!

    In Olary I stopped to make a cuppa and eat the snack I had made that morning. I was not the only one with that idea. A couple of residences and a small store, make up this settlement.

    Broken Hill - The Silver City - is full of old historic buildings, and I chose to stay in one of the best known, The Palace Hotel. This establishment was the location for some of the film, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

    When I walked in the front door, I was stunned to see the whole place decorated with wall murals. Every wall, every ceiling had a mural on it. The first thing most folk do when they walk in the front door, is get out their camera. And of course, so did I.


    The first thing one sees on entry.


    Looking straight up to the ceiling, three floors above.





    Ate in their restaurant that night, and turned in early. Side affect of that is, that I also wake up early.

    Lifey

    [These last few days have been somewhat of an anti climax. I seem to have used up all my sight-seeing energy in Coober Pedy, over Lake Eyre and along the Oodnadatta Track.]

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,036

    Default Homeward Bound

    9th June
    It was 3.30 when I awoke, and no way could I get back to sleep. By 6am I was ready to hit the road.

    It had been my intention to photograph some of the beautiful historic buildings in the morning, but now, it was srill dark. So these are the only ones I have, of the Palace exterior.


    Palace Hotel, Broken Hill.


    Close up of the decorative iron lace work, so popular at the time.

    Around 7am the dawn came with a shimmering strip of light on the horizon, to my left. I hoped it would be a sunrise worth some photos.

    More than an hour into my trip I came to Coombah Roadhouse, the only services along the Silver City Highway to Wentworth. A couple of hundred metres south of the roadhouse there was a clearing at the side of the road, just as the sun was peeking over the horizon.




    The morning mist had not yet disappeared. It made for perfect pictures.

    The Sunraysia, the north west corner of Victoria, is a fruitfly free region and to protect its rich citrus and grape industries, fruit and vegetables may not be carried into or through the region. And so it was that I came to the sign and bin where these items need to be dumped. It was then that I realised that I still had six oranges in the car... oranges I had bought in Coober Pedy for a small fortune. I was not to keen to throw these out.

    When I leave home, I pick up my 'camping box', in which are all the things I like to have with me... just in case. One of these is a juicer. And so, to save my precious oranges, I sat down and juiced them into a jug. Poured it all into an empty water bottle, and found I had 600ml of orange juice. There is no ban on carrying orange juice.

    By now it was after 9am and I continued through Wentworth - gave the Outback a drink - and continued on to Mildura, the other side of the river. I was now back in my home State.

    Another historic bridge over the Murray (there are very few modern bridges over this river) took my interest. This bridge, between two major urban centres, is a one way bridge. The traffic light at each end controls the movement of traffic. It is barely wide enough for the big trucks to cross.


    Single lane bridge over the Murray at Mildura.

    Most times it is hard to find a spot from where one can photograph a bridge, so I was glad to see a clearing where I could pull over and get a picture.

    Drove straight through Mildura. I wanted to be beyond Mildura traffic in the morning. The people at the Colonial Motel in Red Cliffs were really nice, and the place was cosy. It gave me an opportunity to relax, catch up with a few things online, and sort things out in my car. By now everything was everywhere.

    10th June
    Thought I might do the scenic drive through Hattah Kulkyne National Park and see Hattah Lakes. But when I got that far, the road was closed. So the drive home was going to be straight down the Calder, all the way to Melbourne.

    North of Wycheproof, there is a little place. A few silos by the rail siding, store, etc., but if you were to blink (so to say), you could miss it. There is no reason to stop here... well, there used to be no reason to stop here, until Nullawil came into the twenty-first century, and made themselves indispensable. At both ends of the town are roadside billboards declaring Nullawil an internet zone! I did not stop, but it left me wondering how many do, and what benefit it has brought to the community. Guess those who stop invariably buy a drink or something.

    Now I had planned to be home by Friday evening 10th June, primarily because this was the eve of a holiday long weekend. I wanted to avoid the extra cost of accommodation not to mention the traffic. At times like that many local communities along the major highways set up a
    STOP
    Revive
    Survive
    Caravan in a nearby rest area, offering free coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, as well as biscuits. They find this preferable to having to cut the dead and injured out of wrecks.


    This one was at Wedderburn and run by the local Lions Club. Of course I stopped to get my cuppa and have a chat before continuing on my way. The ladies from the Lions Club were manning the caravan and the men were doing surveys of the drivers... when did you leave? where did you start? what time? where are you heading? etc. (I do recall, in 2004 coming across a similar service north of Seattle on I-5.)

    Got home in time to make another visit to my mechanic to check a couple of things, get the car washed and fill her up again.

    It was good to be home.

    [I haven't forgotten about The Flight. Now that I have finished posting the roadtrip, I will get the photos organised to illustrate that magnificent experience.]

    Lifey

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,036

    Default A summary

    In my preparation for this trip, I had been persuaded to equip myself with an Epirb, and had also upped my road side care from standard to total. Small insurance policies I hoped I would not need.

    Most meals were home cooked, and all non-perishables (rice, noodles, cereal, coffee, tea, sugar, honey, etc.) were brought from home.

    So here is how things came out in the washup:

    Time: 10 days;
    Distance: 4087 kms - about 20% on unsealed roads and 244 kms on dual carriageway;
    Fuel: $650.00; 412.02 ltr ulp - ave $1.578 ltr;
    Accommodation: $449.00;
    Everything else: $865.18; (includes insurances mentioned above as well as gift, etc.);

    Good to see it all came in under budget. Much cheaper than all the commercial tours. And look at how many places I went, how much I did and saw.
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 06-11-2011 at 11:48 PM.

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,036

    Default The Flight (1)

    It was 11am on 4th June, a bright sunny day, when Sarah steered the four-seater Cessna 182 down the runway, up, up and away, ENE towards Lake Eyre.

    The tiny settlement of William Creek consists a couple of residences, caravan park, pub and flight office, and not much more.


    William Creek from the air.

    It is situated on the private property of Anna Creek Station, probably the largest cattle property in the world. We were about to see it from 1500 feet up in the air.


    Anna Creek Station near William Creek

    Looking out across the countryside, the first thing I noticed was the dunes. I recalled learning in school, that much of the centre of Australia is covered with dunes which run roughly north south. They were spectacular.




    Central Australian Sand Dunes

    Sarah pointed out to us the only track which leads to Lake Eyre North. It was clearly visible. This is a track, not a maintained or graded. She told of the people who have come to grief on that track, and of those who perished there.


    The Track, you'll need to look closely...

    ... it is more than 60kms long and covers challenging country.

    There were also mustering yards to be seen, as well as large dams filled from the Great Artesian Basin.


    One of the many dams and a mustering pen (middle right). Note also the track.

    [It is said that because of water being so available to wildlife, there are now something like 200 kangaroos for every one when Captain Cook first landed on the continent.]

    The other thing which struck me is how much the land looked like an aboriginal dot-painting. I wondered if that is the origine of native art.


    And finally we got to the Lake. Sarah now dropped the plane to 700' to make it clearer for us to see. The shore looked like a moonscape, with the salt and the colours in the water.




    In other areas there were cliffs and escarpments at the edge of the Lake.


    Cliffs along the shore of Lake Eyre.

    The Lake is not completely full yet, and may of course, not fill completely, though there is still a lot of water coming down the Cooper.

    As the water evaporates it leaves behind sediment on the salt floor of the Lake.




    Eventually the wind will blow the sediment away, and the salt will be sparkling white again.

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