A Travellerspoint blog

May 2019

Coober Pedy to Yulara

...we leave South Australia behind but not the flies!

sunny 26 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Return to complete the Lap on SteveJD's travel map.

When we got to the opal fields with Aaron, it had been too dark to take useful photos so we remedied that on the way out and up the Stuart Highway.

The 'Lunar' landscape on the outskirts of Coober Pedy

The 'Lunar' landscape on the outskirts of Coober Pedy

Once into the Northern Territory, we stopped at Kulgera Roadhouse for a light lunch. This is one of several quirky Outback pubs decorated with bras, caps and...well, you name it and it is probably hanging up there somewhere.

d0ffcd10-7915-11e9-8d0a-737b581c2f12.jpgThe roadhouse and a Hills Hoist full of shoes - as you do!

The roadhouse and a Hills Hoist full of shoes - as you do!

d3618ad0-7915-11e9-9534-a15afac363ad.jpgA couple of views of the internal decor

A couple of views of the internal decor

We had to turn off the Stuart Highway and it was not long before we had a good view of 'Fuluru'. Mt Conner is actually a very large mesa in appearance with a different shape from Uluru but we were told that some visitors saw this, took photos and turned back! It is actually a horseshoe-shaped inselberg situated on private property. I would guess that, up close, it would be very impressive and interesting.

Mt Conner - an impressive sight

Mt Conner - an impressive sight

As we travelled on, we seemed to experience a little more undulation and even some woodland although we soon started to hit the edge of the Tanami Desert and a new tree (to us) became predominant - the Desert Oak. This belongs to the casuarina family (also known as she-oaks) which have lovely wispy foliage. Many looked very weak and spindly but, apparently, once their roots get down about 40ft and they start getting water, they grow into the lovely healthy trees that we saw so often.

Having checked in at "Rip-off City", also known as Yulara, we drove out to Uluru to watch the sunset on the rock - along with one or two other people. We didn't experience a startling range of colours but it is quite spectacular. Nonetheless, our first impression was - "OK it's a big rock...and...?".

First sight at sunset but under cloud

First sight at sunset but under cloud

The sparse clouds catch some colour

The sparse clouds catch some colour

86a86780-7d2b-11e9-a990-bd63fb94a18f.jpgThe rock gets some sunset colour, with crowds of viewers

The rock gets some sunset colour, with crowds of viewers

A close view as the sun set

A close view as the sun set

We stayed at the Outback Pioneer Hotel which was about the least expensive place in Yulara (other than camping!), but was the most expensive accommodation we have stayed in on our travels. And what did we get for our money? A 'budget' cabin which lived up to its description rather than its cost! Not impressive in such a highly rated 'township'.

The following day we saw the rock in different light, perhaps more subdued than the sunset sighting.

Morning light on Uluru-Ayers Rocks

Morning light on Uluru-Ayers Rocks

After this quick visit, we chose to head for Kata Tjuta-Olgas (actually Mt Olga is only one of the rounded formations known as bornhardts, named after the German geologist who first described the type of formation - one or more domed rocks). Although not that far from Uluru, Kata Tjuta is slightly different geologically. We opted to walk the Walpa Gorge Trail which was fascinating and well worth the effort, unfit as we are! We would like to have walked in the Valley of the Winds but we had to get back to get ready for our pickup to see the Field of Light installation.

View of KataTjuta-The Olgas from dune viewing point, with desert oaks in the foreground

View of KataTjuta-The Olgas from dune viewing point, with desert oaks in the foreground

Uluru in the distance, from dune viewing point

Uluru in the distance, from dune viewing point

987a5640-7d2f-11e9-a990-bd63fb94a18f.jpgThe start of the track and Steve picking his way over the rocky track

The start of the track and Steve picking his way over the rocky track

99ef4300-7d2f-11e9-8aab-9d6110ea79e2.jpgGhost gums were beautiful against the red rock; Judith waiting to slide down?

Ghost gums were beautiful against the red rock; Judith waiting to slide down?

The end of the gorge

The end of the gorge

Steve - hot and covered in flies!

Steve - hot and covered in flies!

At the viewpoint for the Field of Light, we had very tasty and plentiful canapes and some good bubbles. As the light faded, the lights began to come on with Uluru as a backdrop. Once it was dark, we were allowed to wander down and among the lights - an odd but rather impressive sight.

The light area below us is the lights before coming on

The light area below us is the lights before coming on

Sunset behind us, through desert oaks

Sunset behind us, through desert oaks

A patchwork of colour appears as the solar-powered lights come on

A patchwork of colour appears as the solar-powered lights come on

A psychedelic display (tripods not allowed)!

A psychedelic display (tripods not allowed)!

A close view of some of the individual lights (no colour due to use of flash)

A close view of some of the individual lights (no colour due to use of flash)

The following day, we went to the rock again and walked a nice easy track, the Kuniya Walk, which took us in to the Mutijulu Waterhole. Unsurprisingly, the waterhole was dry at this time of year but the light was wonderful and the colours of the rock were magic. There were also many beautiful ghost gums at convenient places.

Huge chucks of rock fall off, by weathering, and form caverns used by rock wallabies

Huge chucks of rock fall off, by weathering, and form caverns used by rock wallabies

Spinifex grass makes its home in any cracks in the rock

Spinifex grass makes its home in any cracks in the rock

The rock flakes forming amazing shapes and colours - and a small tree gets in on the 'abstract art' act!

The rock flakes forming amazing shapes and colours - and a small tree gets in on the 'abstract art' act!

The ever-present ghost gums which are so photogenic

The ever-present ghost gums which are so photogenic

A small cave contained some Aboriginal art

A small cave contained some Aboriginal art

The waterhole was dry!

The waterhole was dry!

More amazing shapes caused by weathering - even a heart?

More amazing shapes caused by weathering - even a heart?

We decided then to walk along part of the Base Walk but due to our fitness levels (lack of!) and the fact that, by the time we started this part of the walk it was almost midday and rather warm, we turned back. We were happy with what we had done and enjoyed the sights and stories that accompanied our walk.

We were astonished to find that so much of the rock has broken off

We were astonished to find that so much of the rock has broken off

A different type of weathered cavern - JAWS?

A different type of weathered cavern - JAWS?

20190429_IMG_4288.jpgThe shapes, colours and vegetation kept us enthralled

The shapes, colours and vegetation kept us enthralled

Surely this 'pebble' must roll down hill?

Surely this 'pebble' must roll down hill?

Our last view of Uluru from the walk

Our last view of Uluru from the walk

After the walk, we drove around the other side of Uluru-Ayers Rock and saw the amazing weathering that has occurred on that side - not the side seen when watching sunsets on the rock.

The side of Uluru less often seen

The side of Uluru less often seen

d1c3bfc0-7d3b-11e9-bb43-c9f9d823b89a.jpgTwo views of climbers on the rock - despite many warnings and pleas from Aboriginals to not climb - there are some strange people

Two views of climbers on the rock - despite many warnings and pleas from Aboriginals to not climb - there are some strange people

Some more desert oaks, such graceful trees

Some more desert oaks, such graceful trees

It was then necessary for us to get back and prepare ourselves for the sunset flight and start packing to move on. The flight was excellent and gave a completely different view of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, the latter in particular were far more extensive than we had thought seeing them from ground level. As has often been the case thus far, the sunset was far from awesome and I suspect we may have to wait until we are going down the WA coast before we get any good sunsets - we live in hope though!

Our aircraft awaits

Our aircraft awaits

The sun starts to set on the rock

The sun starts to set on the rock

The rest of the land appears to be a series of sand dunes

The rest of the land appears to be a series of sand dunes

Walpa Gorge in Kata Tjuta

Walpa Gorge in Kata Tjuta

Judith daring the rock to move before we have finished

Judith daring the rock to move before we have finished

A different area of KataTjuta

A different area of KataTjuta

The Valley of the Winds end of Kata Tjuta

The Valley of the Winds end of Kata Tjuta

A closer view of part of Kata Tjuta

A closer view of part of Kata Tjuta

From the air we could see the real size and shape of Uluru, amazing!

From the air we could see the real size and shape of Uluru, amazing!

Sunset over Kata Tjuta-The Olgas

Sunset over Kata Tjuta-The Olgas

At the beginning of this blog, I suggested that Uluru was a bit ho hum. Indeed, some people had suggested that it was the place to leave out if we needed to sacrifice anything in making our original plans for the Big Lap. Now that we have been here and seen what we could see in a couple of days, I must say it was worth it. However, like some other 'iconic' sights in Australia we have felt that once was enough while other places we have visited, perhaps a little more off the main tourist track, we would revisit at a shot, given the chance.

On our way back to the Stuart Highway we stopped to take photos of desert oaks which had rather captured our imagination as some trees do. Judith's father loved trees and we frequently see trees and say "Wouldn't Sam have enjoyed that tree or this group of trees or, as with the desert oaks their combination of apparent vulnerability and toughness".

A nice stand of desert oaks of varying age

A nice stand of desert oaks of varying age

At the junction of the Lasseter and Stuart Highways, we stopped to refuel at Erldunda - the most expensive fuel on the trip so far - not impressed! We continued to Alice Springs and checked in at the Big 4 McDonnell Ranges Holiday Park. This proved to be one of the best, if not the best, cabin accommodation that we have enjoyed in our travels, and good value too. More of this in our next blog.

Parked up and ready for a rest!

Parked up and ready for a rest!

This blog has had a longer than usual gestation. Our laptop died in Alice Springs but was resuscitated by a canny young man at Red Centre Technology who were extremely helpful. Also, internet connections have been either absent or extremely poor throughout the NT - except Darwin and Alice Springs. I hope we can now crack on.

Posted by SteveJD 03:04 Archived in Australia Tagged trees uluru coober_pedy yulara northern_territory kata-tjuta desert_oaks Comments (0)

William Creek to Coober Pedy

...with quite a few photos taken

sunny 28 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Return to complete the Lap on SteveJD's travel map.

The flight we had booked over the Painted Hills was not due until 4pm so we had time to swan around William Creek, using our fly nets for the first time. There is a small outdoor 'museum' just over the road from the pub which features, among other things, the odd rocket which has been fired from Woomera to the south and has overshot the mark, landing not far from the town!

20190423_IMG_3993.jpgRemains of two Skylark rockets

Remains of two Skylark rockets

In the afternoon, we wandered over to the airstrip/airport only to find that they had not got our booking down for that afternoon. Luckily, another pilot, the lovely Miranda, was on hand and took us up for the magnificent views. We had been due to land in the Painted Hills for a close up look but because of the delay we were unable to do this. Instead of landing we had a slightly extended flight, some of which was at a slightly lower level giving more extensive views. Apart from the booking confusion, we were very happy with WrightsAir who ran this flight and the one from Marree.

The Painted Hills are a recently (the 'Noughties' I think) discovered part of the Breakaways country on Anna Creek Station which is the largest working cattle station in the world at 24.000 square kilometres. The hills themselves cover an area about 20km by 18km. Previously, Anna Creek Station was owned by Stanley Kidman who has a fascinating history. He started out at age 13 as a drover with a one-eyed horse and ended up owning property stretching some 3,500km from the Gulf of Carpentaria to just outside Adelaide. We took enough photos to fill several blogs but will only inflict a selection on you!

Bridge over the old Ghan Railway

Bridge over the old Ghan Railway

Dry watercourse threading its way through the hills

Dry watercourse threading its way through the hills

The Pillars

The Pillars

Some lovely shapes and colours

Some lovely shapes and colours

The Pillars

The Pillars

Last view of the hills

Last view of the hills

Anna Creek's The Big Anchor - competing with Marree Man!

Anna Creek's The Big Anchor - competing with Marree Man!

As I understand it, 'breakaway' refers to uplands of varying heights and area which were once part of one enormous range and have 'broken away' from other outcrops which form named ranges in some areas.

The town, in case I have not mentioned it, was named in November 1859 by explorer John McDouall Stuart - now there's a surprise! - during his expeditions in the area. William was the second son of John Chambers, one of Stuart's co-sponsors for his many expeditions (Wikipedia)

The following day, our 171km journey across the William Creek Track was supposed to take just about all day, but once again we found it fairly easy going. It started off very similar to the Oodnadatta Track but became increasingly sandy and in some places thick patches of bulldust had been flagged and needed care and attention. Only one was a little dicey where deep ruts had been made by other vehicles but some common sense saw us through this with ease.

William Creek Hotel

William Creek Hotel

The start of the William Creek Track

The start of the William Creek Track

Typical landscape

Typical landscape

Towards the end we had small bushes - quite exciting!

Towards the end we had small bushes - quite exciting!

We found our accommodation, supposedly underground. It had been hacked into the hillside so the walls and ceiling were stone but we could see daylight through a bathroom window which was at ground level. The place was Radeka's Underground Hotel which we found was a backpacker hotel. Nonetheless, it was comfortable enough and had room for us to spread ourselves out. The town is probably the most unattractive town we have seen. It has few old buildings visible, as most are underground, but much of the town looks like a scrapyard! However, the underground places are both fascinating and, in some cases, quite beautiful.

The main street through town

The main street through town

A nice mural on the side of the IGA supermarket

A nice mural on the side of the IGA supermarket

Scrap iron 'sculptures' or a junk yard?

Scrap iron 'sculptures' or a junk yard?

Off the main street, some buildings were rather sad

Off the main street, some buildings were rather sad

View over the town from the Big Winch

View over the town from the Big Winch

The opal town was originally known as Stuart Range but in 1922, the local Progress and Mining Association renamed it Coober Pedy, apparently combining two local Aboriginal words 'coober' meaning boy or white man and 'pedy' meaning hole or rock hole, thus describing what the Aborigines would have considered a strange bunch of white men down holes! (Aussie Towns)

The first opals were found by 14yr old William Hutchinson who was looking for water for his father and others seeking gold. Sadly, the family did not profit from the find and only five years later, William drowned while crossing a creek, taking cattle to Queensland.

If we had more time, we would have gone out to Crocodile Harry's - apparently he was the original on whom Crocodile Dundee was based but after hunting crocodiles, he came to Coober Pedy in search of his fortune.

In spite of my sometimes negative comments about the town, it has a fascinating history and is worth a visit if it happens to be on your route.

The day after our arrival was ANZAC Day so we turned out for the parade which has to be the smallest parade we have ever seen. Still, they did turn out and ended up with a service at the underground (Catholic) church next to our hotel. This is a small church but very attractive.

The ANZAC Day parade

The ANZAC Day parade

The underground Catholic church beside our hotel - note the ventilation shafts

The underground Catholic church beside our hotel - note the ventilation shafts

Interior of underground Catholic church

Interior of underground Catholic church

A gilded statue in memory of the ANZACs

A gilded statue in memory of the ANZACs



Around midday, we were picked up by Aaron of Noble Tours and we had a really great time. Once he had picked up some other folk, he asked what we thought of Coober Pedy - there was a deathly hush! He laughed and said this was normal. I came across a book by an American journalist and he said that his diary entry was, at first, "distressed and weird" - he subsequently changed it to "defies the ordinary" and I think that pretty well sums up most people's impressions.

Aaron first took us to the Umoona Mine/Museum and gave us an interesting guided tour around that. He then took us to the next door property to show us the 'spaceship' used in the making of the film "Pitch Black" (never heard of it!). They had used some of the scrap metal lying around in town to good (?) use.

'Space ship' used in Vin Diesel movie "Pitch Black"

'Space ship' used in Vin Diesel movie "Pitch Black"

A flying saucer? - anyway something else used in the making of a film in Coober Pedy

A flying saucer? - anyway something else used in the making of a film in Coober Pedy

Not scrap metal but a replica of the bus used in the making of "Priscilla: Queen of the Desert" which was partly filmed in or around Coober Pedy

Not scrap metal but a replica of the bus used in the making of "Priscilla: Queen of the Desert" which was partly filmed in or around Coober Pedy

We were then scheduled to go to Faye's Underground House but this was closed for ANZAC Day so Aaron took us to a house that he owns and uses for a B & B so we were able to see what underground life was like.

And we all trooped off to gawk at Aaron's house

And we all trooped off to gawk at Aaron's house

Next stop was the underground Serbian church which sadly is little used now as most of the Serbs have moved away from the town. There are some people still mining for opals but only a fraction of the number who were here some 30 or so years ago. In the church, you could clearly see where circular and square drills had been used to form the rooms.

View of exterior of the church (note again the ventilation shafts)

View of exterior of the church (note again the ventilation shafts)

One of several statues inside the church, all by Norm Aston

One of several statues inside the church, all by Norm Aston

The main interior space in the church

The main interior space in the church

Our 4WD tour then led out of the town on a pretty corrugated road to the Moon Plain, a plain covered with quite large dark rocks which often give off a metallic clang when banged together. Aaron said these had been left by a glacier sliding its way through and the area had been used for filming several films, including at least one of the Mad Max movies.

20190425_IMG_4106.jpgTwo views over the Moon Plain

Two views over the Moon Plain

Close to all the time was a long stretch of the Dog Fence. This was started in the late 19th century and stretches 5.614km from west of the Eyre Peninsula on the Nullarbor Plain to Jimbour on the Darling Downs in Queensland. It zig zags through part of New South Wales and the intention was to keep dingoes away from sheep and, latterly, also provides protection for cattle. There were many emus along the fence but quite why they congregate there I don't know.

Part of the Dog Fence with some of the many emus we saw

Part of the Dog Fence with some of the many emus we saw

As the sun started to lower in the sky, we arrived at The Breakaways (see above for definition). These were once part of the Stuart Range and the whole area had been a vast inland sea with aeons of deposits forming coloured layers which show in the hills now, although most have subsequently been tilted and/or folded. Several of the hills are mesas with caps of harder material which had prevented these from being as worn away as others. We enjoyed some bubbly and nibbles between taking photos.

Aborigines call these 'papa', meaning two dogs, part of a story

Aborigines call these 'papa', meaning two dogs, part of a story

Bubbly and nibbles are served at the main lookout point

Bubbly and nibbles are served at the main lookout point

20190425_IMG_4118.jpgTwo views over the breakaways, one so like the Painted Hills

Two views over the breakaways, one so like the Painted Hills

On the way back into town, Aaron took us into the Opal Fields and showed us where he has a claim which had been tunnelled in, rather than the usual shaft-sinking method.

Machinery in the opal fields

Machinery in the opal fields

Aaron has a stake in one of these tunnelled claims

Aaron has a stake in one of these tunnelled claims

The working area near the tunnels, underfoot was like ankle deep chalk dust

The working area near the tunnels, underfoot was like ankle deep chalk dust

On our last day in this bizarre town, we walked around and visited The Old Timer's Mine Museum. In here, we could wind our way through tunnels that had been carved from various shafts, seeing a few seams of opal (potch, or non-valuable opal). There was also a fascinating museum and finally we could walk through the completely underground house which had been home to the miner and his wife and two daughters.

One the way through town, Steve could not resist a bookshop!

One the way through town, Steve could not resist a bookshop!

An old blower opposite the Old Timer's Museum

An old blower opposite the Old Timer's Museum

The Old Timer's Museum

The Old Timer's Museum

It would be easy to get lost in the labyrinth of tunnels

It would be easy to get lost in the labyrinth of tunnels

Coober Pedy must have been pretty wild in the past!

Coober Pedy must have been pretty wild in the past!

Statue of a miner - by the ubiquitous Norm Aston

Statue of a miner - by the ubiquitous Norm Aston

One of the underground bedrooms

One of the underground bedrooms

Some 'potch' or low-grade opal still in the mine

Some 'potch' or low-grade opal still in the mine

After leaving this fascinating museum, we trudged up the hill to see the Big Winch. Not surprisingly, this is a big winch and there is also an old 'blower' on display as well as panoramic views over the town. The attendant indoor display was closed and the path from the hill was blocked off, so we had a long detour - thanks Coober Pedy!

The Big Winch

The Big Winch

Another old blower

Another old blower

Another view over the metropolis of Coober Pedy

Another view over the metropolis of Coober Pedy

We now start the long trek to Yulara and will leave South Australia behind but this will have to wait for the next blog. If we continue to have decent internet access, something we have lacked often over the last few weeks, I hope the next blog will be quicker - depends on what other distractions lay in store!

Posted by SteveJD 04:15 Archived in Australia Tagged scenery south_australia breakaways tom_kruse_john_macdouall_stuart william_creek painted_hills anna_creek_station stanley_kidman wrightsair Comments (0)

Following Stuart and the old Ghan line

...on to Marree and William Creek

sunny 29 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Return to complete the Lap on SteveJD's travel map.

Our 369km trip from Willow Springs was estimated to take quite a long while. However, the unsealed stretch of road between Lyndhurst and Marree was excellent and we made good time.

We returned to Blinman and stopped at the historic cemetery just outside the town. Here we found a memorial to William Kekwick. He had accompanied Stuart on his later expeditions as second in command. After spells in business and gold mining, he joined William Christie Gosse's expedition but became ill and failed to respond to treatment, dying at the age of 48 in Nuccaleena before being buried at Blinman.

Memorial to William Kekwick

Memorial to William Kekwick

Plaque on Kekwick's burial place

Plaque on Kekwick's burial place

I forgot to mention that the town had come into being after shepherd Robert Blinman found copper - Aussie Towns suggests the town could have been called Peg Leg as this was Blinman's nickname (he was one-legged). Also, Parachilna's name comes from the Nukunu Aboriginal word 'patajilnda', meaning place of Peppermint trees (Aussie Towns).

The Explorer's Way (the generic name for the road that we had been on from Adelaide), continued north to Leigh Creek where we stopped for lunch in a lovely park.

Understated sign to tell us we were on the Explorers' Way

Understated sign to tell us we were on the Explorers' Way

The town used to be a coal mining town but seems to be fighting hard to survive now that the mining is over. It is a smart town with great facilities so we hope that they do well.

Further up the road, just past Lyndhurst, we turned off to see some very colourful ochre pits. With the range of colours, it is easy to see why the Aborigines made use of this for body paint, wall paintings and, today, in their artworks. Like many places, this is marked as a place of special cultural significance to Aborigines. I don't really 'get' why in this modern age so many places like this have access barred to non-Aboriginals. I may get shot down in flames for being insensitive but Australia does seem to have overdone the 'affirmative action' which has happened in so many countries where some Europeans seem to have a guilt complex.

983d7240-6a81-11e9-bd85-57a7a5f8b1c6.jpg20190420_IMG_3891.jpgViews of ochre cliffs and information about how it is used by Aborigines

Views of ochre cliffs and information about how it is used by Aborigines

Our friend and advisor, Terry, had advised us to stop at Farina, not far north of Lyndhurst. The town is no longer inhabited and was originally surveyed and proclaimed a town on 21 March 1878.  It was first known as ‘Government Gums’ because of the mature River Red Gums in the creek to the north of the town but later its name was changed to “Farina” (Latin for wheat or flour) by farmers who optimistically hoped to turn the vast flat lands here into fields of grain (SA Community History website). It was certainly a fascinating place. We have seen quite a few ruins on our travels but these are by far the most extensive so far.

The old hotel/hospital/boarding house

The old hotel/hospital/boarding house

Another abandoned building

Another abandoned building

Signposts to various abandoned areas of the old town

Signposts to various abandoned areas of the old town

We reached Marree to find that both our bookings at the hotel and the flight the following day had been recorded for different dates. Fortunately, the pilot was on hand and a cabin was found for us. The cabin was pretty basic but was comfortable enough for our needs. The hotel is almost entirely staffed by foreign workers, young folk on working visas - here there were English, French, Belgian and Italian people. This place is a real Outback pub with very friendly folk, visitors and locals alike.

Welcome to Marree

Welcome to Marree

The Marree Hotel

The Marree Hotel

The hotel from the old Ghan station with Tom Kruse's truck in front

The hotel from the old Ghan station with Tom Kruse's truck in front

As mentioned in the last blog, Marree was originally called Herrgott Springs after their (European) discoverer, who had travelled as an artist with Stuart in 1859. The town was gazetted in 1883 and renamed Marree which is believed to be a corruption of the Arabunna Aboriginal word 'mara' meaning 'place of possums' - a bit odd as the district is not known for possums (Aussie Towns)

The following morning, our pilot (WrightsAir) took us up and out over Marree Man, a 2.7km tall extending over 650 acres. The figures appears to be an Aborigine hunting with a boomerang. It was discovered in 1998 and is believed to have been created by American serviceman who were based in the area some years before. It became somewhat eroded and apparently the hotel owner arranged for GPS readings to be taken and for a grader to recreate the outline. It seems he did not seek permission from the State government who were a bit peeved but it seems to be a case of fait accompli.

Our aircraft

Our aircraft

A roadtrain seen from the air

A roadtrain seen from the air

The old Ghan line running over a bridge and parallelling the Oodnadatta Track

The old Ghan line running over a bridge and parallelling the Oodnadatta Track

Marree Man

Marree Man

We also had some good views, although difficult to photograph well, of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre showing where water had flowed in from the northern lake filling a large part of the southern lake. The water has flowed in from rain falling on the western side of the Great Dividing Range running through Queensland into northern New South Wales. At this stage, it was not apparent that the usual large flocks of birds had made their way in - would love to have seen that.

Part of the salty area of the south lake

Part of the salty area of the south lake

An island formed by the inflow of water

An island formed by the inflow of water

View of the water in the south lake

View of the water in the south lake

Aerial view of the metropolis of Marree

Aerial view of the metropolis of Marree

On our way back from the 'airport', we stopped in town to look at what remains of the old Ghan railway station. There were a couple of old engines as well as the old station building. When we were travelling last year, we had a look around the Wadlata Outback Centre in Port Augusta and enjoyed a film showing the work of Tom Kruse who was the mailman between Marree and Birdsville. We were pleased to see one of his old, and very battered, trucks on one of the station platforms. Inside the hotel, one of the dining rooms doubled as the Tom Kruse Museum (another doubled as the John McDouall Stuart Museum). An interesting stop.

10b52d70-6be6-11e9-af85-15c2ae6ea395.jpgTwo views of old Ghan locomotive

Two views of old Ghan locomotive

Marree railway station, no longer in use

Marree railway station, no longer in use

In the afternoon, we drove about 40km up the Birdsville Track just so that we could say we had driven on it (our intention on the last trip was to drive from Marree to Birdsville and then onto north Queensland. There were several interesting mesas although it was generally pretty flat and relatively featureless, although we did see some wallabies on the return trip.

The start of the Birdsville Track - even now part of the track was closed

The start of the Birdsville Track - even now part of the track was closed

A rather saturated view of one of the mesas we saw along the track

A rather saturated view of one of the mesas we saw along the track

A typical view of the gibber strewn track leading north

A typical view of the gibber strewn track leading north

A panoramic view of the countryside along the track

A panoramic view of the countryside along the track

Sunset bids farewell to Marree

Sunset bids farewell to Marree

After our short stay in Marree, we tackled the Oodnadatta Track (216km to William Creek). We had been given dire warnings of the condition of the road and the distance estimator tool we used suggested that it would take about 8 or more hours. In fact the road was in good condition and certainly no worse than many bush roads we have driven on when living in Zimbabwe. Not far out of town we spotted a Wedgetail Eagle not far off the road, protecting a wallaby carcass from a group of Ravens. Some way on, we stopped to see the quirky 'Plane Henge' which was actually a collection of strange scrap metal sculptures - why here?!

We start up the Oodnadatta Track

We start up the Oodnadatta Track

A big rig throwing up a lot of dust

A big rig throwing up a lot of dust

Male Red Kangaroo

Male Red Kangaroo

'Plane Henge'

'Plane Henge'

20190422_IMG_3968.jpgA couple of views of an old Ghan railway bridge over a long-dry riverbed

A couple of views of an old Ghan railway bridge over a long-dry riverbed

Little Corellas just off the the track

Little Corellas just off the the track

The name Oodnadatta is probably an adaptation of a local Arrernte Aboriginal word "utnadata" meaning "blossom of the mulga". (Aussie Towns), not that we saw a lot of mulga!

There was a lookout point which gave a distant view of the southern end of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre.

Very flat country leading to still salty Lake Eyre

Very flat country leading to still salty Lake Eyre

Panoramic view over south Lake Eyre

Panoramic view over south Lake Eyre

About half way to William Creek we found signs to the Mound Springs Conservation Park - in here were The Bubbler and Blanche Cup which are quite high mounds with springs forming a pool at the top. The deposit of salts over the years has lifted the mounds to their present height. The story with Blanche Cup is that Kakakutanha, the Kuyani ancestor, followed the trail of the rainbow serpent to Bidalinha (The Bubbler) and killed it there. He cut the head off and threw it away and today it is an upland called Hamilton Hill. He then cooked the snake in an oven, Dirga, which is now Blanche Cup. The bubbling water represents the convulsions of the dying serpent. If you feel sorry for the serpent, Kakakutanha's wife was angry that she had missed the best part of the serpent and cursed her husband who went on to meet a gruesome death. Nice bedtime story!

rivulet flowing away from The Bubbler

rivulet flowing away from The Bubbler

Panorama from The Bubbler

Panorama from The Bubbler

The Bubbler

The Bubbler

Blanche Cup

Blanche Cup

The countryside along the track had mainly been gibber plain (sandy desert covered with smallish stones) but near William Creek we drove by a number of large red sand dunes and the road was a bit smoother. Near the town (the smallest town in Australia), there was a large flat area which looked as if it may, very occasionally, be a lake.

Jet Set really enjoyed the track

Jet Set really enjoyed the track

Some of the gibber plain

Some of the gibber plain

Large red sand dunes for a change of scenery

Large red sand dunes for a change of scenery

Dry lake bed

Dry lake bed

We arrived in William Creek in plenty of time to have taken our flight so we could have managed with only one night - this would have been preferable as William Creek must be the fly country capital. They had been bad enough in Marree but in Willliam Creek they were so bad that we wore our fly nets for the first time. The cabin accommodation here was again pretty basic but was reasonable enough and the food in the hotel was good.

Our cabin (a container?) and Beast Mk II

Our cabin (a container?) and Beast Mk II

William Creek Fire Service

William Creek Fire Service

William Creek was named in November 1859 by explorer John McDouall Stuart during his expeditions in the area. William was the second son of John Chambers, one of Stuart's co-sponsors for his many expeditions (Wikipedia)

Posted by SteveJD 04:00 Archived in Australia Tagged south_australia marree blinman tom_kruse_john_macdouall_stuart william_kekwick lake_eyre Comments (1)

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