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.)
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.