Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 8 - Farina to Cameron Corner via Strzelecki Track

Waking up at the Farina Station campground was an experience.  It was cold - about -4C overnight.  the priority was getting the campfire going again and getting warm, getting a hot drink and taking some pics.

Once we had all warmed up, had breakfast and packed up it was a quick transit to Lyndhurst to refuel and then take on the mighty Strzelecki Track.

To be honest I thought that Strzelecki Track would be a rough and tumble 4WD adventure/challenge.  In reality, it had been recently graded and it was more of a high speed dirt road than the track that I had imagined.

But it was open and with the vehicles full of fuel we we pretty excited to be on another of Australia's iconic 4WD tracks.

I guess it is worth a mention that the route of the track is attributed to a chap called Harry Readford.  Harry was a cattle thief.  Wroking on a remote part of a remote cattle station in Queensland Harry, without the station owners knowing, built a set of cattle yards and over a period of time assembled a mob of about 1000 head of cattle.  Realising that trying to sell the cattle in Queensland would be a bit of a problem (everyone would recognise the brand)  Harry decided to drove them to South Australia, but needed to cross through the Channel Country and then the Strzelecki Desert.

Which he did - he traded some of the cattle for rations and sold the rest at a station east of Marree.

A couple of years later the las caught up with Harry - arrested in Sydney and sent to Roma, Queensland for trial.  He was acquitted - the jury was impressed with him opening up the route.  Another great Aussie story of the outback.

Anyway we set off for what was to be an enjoyable and straight forward drive.  We passed the 'top' of the Flinders Ranges and Mount Hopeless.  This mountain was 'overnamed' by Eyre - it is 124m above sea level at its peak!  Burke tried to get to it when he, Wills and King were stranded at Innamincka.

These days most of this things are of historical interest.  The track isn't used for droving anymore - but it is used to transport goods and chattels to the oil and gas fiels in the region.

After a hand full of dry creek crossings we arrived at the turn off to Montecollina Bore where we decided to stop for lunch.  There are some picnic tables and shelters here and the Bore itself is an interesting find in what is now desert country.  What is cool is walking up onto the dunes and looking down at the location.

Afteer having lunch and watching the bird life we decided to head across to Cameron Corner rather than pushing on to Innamincka.  We would work out whether to go to Innamincka or Tibooburra once we had arrived at Cameron Corner.

We headed off and found the 'shortcut' track to Cameron Corner - thanks to the navigator.

I really enjoyed that part of the drive.  Firstly it is through desert country - up and over dunes.  The track itself is well formed so it is a nice easy drive.

On the track across one of the more unusual sights is the Yellow Bus Campsite (at least that is how it is marked on the map.)

There are a handful of stories about the bus - it seems to have been used as a shelter for stockmen at some point and a campground in the past.  I'm told the land owner chaged his/her mind about camping and now there are signs there saying no camping or fires...

A short while later we pulled in to Cameron Corner store.  We decided to camp and have a shower here and then head across to Tibooburra the next day.

I have written about Cameron Corner, the store and it's history elsewhere so I won't do that again.  I will say that it is a great place to camp with a bar, some food and hot showers.  The guys charge a bit extra per person having a shower, but the cash is donated to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Overall a great day on the road with some interesting locations and history.  Sitting in the red dirt camp ground was awsome.  The decision to head across into New South Wales, maybe not what I would have done if I was travelling on my own but it turned out to be a good call.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Day 7 - Oodnadatta to Farina

Overnight we all decided that we would take on the Strzelecki Track, having seen the sign at Lyndhurst indicating that the track was open.

Before we hit the new track we had to get ourselves back down the Oodnadatta Track to Lyndhurst.

So after a fairly quick pack up - including the freshly washed clothes and people, we fuelled up and started to make our way back down the Oodnadatta Track.  There were a few things that I wanted to see on the way back down.  Given the 'speed' we travelled up the track it's no surprise that there were things that we didn't stop to look at.  That said, even though we had a couple of stops on the way back down there is still plenty of things to see.

Our first planned stop was the Algebuckina Bridge.  It's a history lesson, a tale of woe for a chap named Fred and even a free campsite.

Built as a railway bridge crossing the Neals River and the floodplain, it was opened in 1892.  Apparently about 350 men were involved in the construction.  It's the longest bridge in South Australia, and these days there isn't a train in sight on the Old Ghan Line to use it.

But I simply love the story of Fred...  Near the bridge there is a wrecked car, which apparently belonged to Fred.  The legend goes that during the floods of 1974 Fred decided to cross the bridge, so he used railway sleepers to fill the gaps.  He apparently inched his way forward, moving sleepers from the back of the car to the front of the car, then driving a bit further forward...  You get the idea.

All was going well until a train (or a works train) appeared and hit the car.  Fred survived but his car didn't.

Leaving here our next stop was William Creek for lunch and a check over the vehicles.  We decided to stop off at the mound springs near Coward Spings.  It is a relatively easy frive back down to there so we cracked on...

The mound springs are located within the Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs National Park.  They are, to a point, the reason that the Oodnadatta Track and the Old Ghan line exist.  The provided a permanant water supply for the steam trains running along the Old Ghan and water for the settlers.  They also served the traditional owners well, providing a watered trading route for them to use.

And the stop off there was pretty interesting.  While Blance Cup was not accessible, The Bubbler was and we walked up and watched the water bubble up into the bowl.  In the middle of a what looks to be deseert country this is pretty cool.

An awsosme part of the trip.

From here it was a fairly easy run back to Farina Station where we took advantage of their fantastic campsite.  Large grassy sites and plenty of room to spread out.  The campgrounds have hot showers - just light the donkey boiler.  There is a little hill nearby and the walk up to it is worthwhile as at the top there is a war memorial.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Day 6 - William Ck to Oodnadatta

It was an hectic start for the guys taking the scenic flight over Lake Eyre and less so for me.  I'm not a good flyer, so I decided to have a look over the 4WD, pack up the campsite and be ready for the departure when the guys got their feet back on the ground.

Whenn they got back we said our goodbyes to the folks we had met the night before, fuelled up and set our sights on Oodnadatta.

Ready to head off from the William Ck Hotel, William Creek.

We really enjoyed the night here.  Lots of character in the pub itself, watching the State of Origin Rugby Leauge game was great fun, and our fellow travellers there that night we all chilled, full of great stories about their travels.

We were still considering whether we should go from Oodnadatta to Coober Pedy or whether we should head back down the Oodnadatta Track to Lyndhurst and then up the Strezlecki Track as we left that morning.

The debate was put on hold when we spotted what looked like smoke in the distance and we were discussing what it could be.  Given the shape of the smoke we doubted a grass fire and we had heard nothing on the CB or at William Creek about a fire so we continued.  As we got closer we thought that it more looked like steam than smoke and I said if it was a car that had overheated we should offer them some of the water we had onboard, and see if we could help out.

When we got further up the Track we saw where the smoke was coming from.  A fire had destroyed a camper trailer and a 4WD.  Folks from the station were on site with a water tanker putting the last of the fire out. The camper trailer was completely destroyed and the 4WD wasn't looking to good.  We stopped and offered what we could.

After stopping for a short while we decided that there wasn't anything that we could do to help these guys so we left.  Fortunately they were travelling in convoy so things were, as far as was possible, under control.

Further along we stopped for lunch.

the great thing about outback travel is that you can stop in a fair number of stunning places and have a cuppa, lunch or just a look around.

An awsome lunch stop...

A bit more driving and a stop to gather firewood saw us arrive in Oodnadatta later that afternoon.  It didn't take us long to set up camp, get a fire going and settle in for the night.

The obligatory pic of the Pink Roadhouse.  The Roadhouse staff are a wealth of local knowledge and it is worth stopping in for a chat.  You can make phone calls from the Roadhouse payphone and it stocks a variety of stock up items.

And souveniers.

They have a campground out the back with toilets, showers, fire pits, a camp kitchen and a laundry.  It was a great 'mid-point' stop.

It doesn't take long to walk through the Oodnadatta township, but it is worthwhile with a museum and a few other bits and pieces.

Sitting around the campfire with fellow travellers that night we decided that we would head back to Lyndhurst and head up the Strezlecki Track.  We were planning for a day trip down to Farina Station Campground and then a relatively early departure for the new track.  With that we hit the sack thinking about the big 'turn around.'

Monday, March 11, 2013

Outback Trip - Day 5 - Muloorina Station to William Creek - Part 2

Having taken a few pics of Lake Eyre from the viewing point we were ready to hit the track again.

It doesn't take long from the viewing point to arrive at Coward Springs...

It was lunch time so it seemed a natural place for us to stop.

History - it's here in spades.  in terms of the Old Ghan Line the place was once called Coward Springs Siding, and the line reached here in 1888, and it was once the westernmost point on the line.  Apparently there was more than the buildings that are there now.  That said the Engine Drivers Cabin has been restored using traditional methods and it serves as a museum.  Definitely worth a look.  The Stationmasters House has also been restored and is the residence of the owners of the site.

About a year or so before the line reached Coward Springs a bore was sunk to support the trains travelling on the line.  The flow wasn't controlled and eventually the pipework rusted out, creating a wetland of abot 70 hectares and a pool that was used by the locals.  In 1993 the bore was rehabilitated and the flow controlled.  The wetland remains, the pool is gone but there is an outback spa!

So after a quick dip and some lunch we had a wander through the site.

The wetlands behind the spa and pretty interesting.

It is $2 per person for a day use visit and $10 per person per night to camp here.  The facilities are fantastic.  Definitely worth a stop if you have time.

And it's worth having a read about Thomas Coward - who the springs are named for as well.  The short version is that he migrated to Australia from England and settled in Adelaide, joined the goldrush and escorted gold between Bendigo and Adelaide, became a policeman, and with Peter Wauberton he discovered the springs, he accompanied MacDonnell on his exploration of Central Australia, was fired from SA police for gross ill treaement of a horse.  He was sent to Queensland as a detectivve to hunt Frank Gardiner.  The reason I mention this is that Frank was caught in my hometown (Yass) trying to sell stolen horses.

If you haven't heard of Gardiner his story is worth a read - his story is probably one of the most unusual in terms of Australian bushrangers!

From Coward Springs it is another hundred or so kilometers to William Creek.  Arriving mid afternoon we decided to camp for the night, and a couple of folks from the party booked flights over Lake Eyre.

A quick set up was called for, in the shade of the trees in the William Creek Hotel campground.  This place is a true outback experience.

Depending on where you do the research, there are either 3 or 6 permanant residents of William Creek.  In tourist season there are a whole lot more, particulalry when there is a bit of water in Lake Eyre.  Pilots come to town and run flights over the Lake, Anna Creek Station and the Painted Desert.

Across the road from the pub is a small park with relics from the nearby Woomera Prohibited Area, once a nuclear and rocket test facility.

With the sun setting we popped in to the pub for a meal - which was fantastic, watched some football on the pub's TV, sat around the campfire chatting with other campers, and decided life was pretty good.

A William Creek Hotel sunset...

Our campfire - probably one of the best campfire pics I have taken!

Next time - William Creek to Oodnadatta

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Outback Trip - Day 5 - Muloorina Station - William Creek - Part 1

An early start at Muloorina Station was the order of Day 5, so we could get packed up and head back to the Oodnadatta Track and then toward William Creek.

Having stayed at (or at least near) the place Donald Campbell and his crew camped when we set the land speed record in 1964 I was thinking - another part of history, if a bit quirky, on the trip.

The idea was to take in some of the sights on the way up - it's about 50km or so from the campsite then a little over 200km on the Oddnadatta Track.

Whats the track like?  At the time nice - graded, flat, straight, relatively high speed dirt.  Natuarally made a bit more comfortable as we hadn't aired the tyre up having aired down a little the afternoon  before.

And there are bits and pieces of interest along the way.  Early on there are relices from the Old Ghan Line that are easily accessible from the track and are definitely worth a look.

There are station buildings which give a bit of an insight into what life must have been like for the pioneers who lived in the area.

Inside of the ruins there is often graffiti that gives an insight into who has travelled through the area, armed with either a texta or a pen.  Some interesting reading on the walls, and I'll admit I found it a bit confronting - someone has graffitied a historic building.  Driving away I realised that they are adding to the history of the building not detracting from it!

And interestingly those who have visited and added their comments to the walls have seen fit to leave other bits and pieces behind - the collection of objects on the concrete is evidence that travellers have actually not stolen everything in sight for their collections...

Leaving this ruin we then travelled a little further down the track and pulled up at Mutonia Sculpture Park.  Not sure that the words 'famous planehenge' make sense but it is a cool sight as you drive along.  The scupltures in the park are the work of mechanic turned artist Robin Cooke.  apparently he creates a new work for the park every year or so.  Worth a stop and look, there is an honesty box at the gate....

There are way more sculptures here than just the planeheng, like the giant dingo and the Ghan Hover Bus...  Fantastic - thanks Robin.

And not much further along was the moment we had been waiting for...

The Lake Eyre viewing point.

Mission accomplished - we had seen water in Lake Eyre!

Some stats - its a salt lake which most of thime is dry - fills once every 10 years or so and to capacity a couple of times a century!

Lowest point on mainland Australia.

144km long and 77km wide.

Few Aussies get to see it with water in it - we consider ourselves lucky to have taken the trip when we did.  It is amazing having driven and camped in dry and arid conditions for the past couple days we were seeing an enormous amount of water...

Since there was so much to see and write about on this short stretch I have decided to spilt the post into two.  Next time - the rest of the trip to William Creek....

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Outback Trip 2 - Day 4 - Leigh Creek to Muloorina Station

Getting off to a reasonable start on Day 4 we decided to head up towards Lake Eyre, heading through Lyndhurst, Marree and then head out the the edge of Lake Eyre which is accessable from Muloorina Station.

After brekky and a chat with the folks we had met the night before we started the trek - arriving a Lyndhurst a short while later.  It's only about 40km or so.  I missed the turn off to the Ochre Cliffs - so a trip back to the area will definitely on the cards.

First stop - Talc Alf's place.  Alf is always on for a chat and his carvings are amazing.  His stories get you thinking and it made for a pleasant mid morning break.

Next stop fuel.  There are two places that you can fuel up - 1 on the Oodnaddata Track and another on the Strezlecki Track.  With our vehicle full of fuel and our travelling partner's vehivle and jerry cans full we kept head along.

I guess it is worth pointing out that the township is at the intersection of the Oodnadatta Track and the Strezliecki Track.  The road sign indicated that the Track was opened through to Innamincka - we were tempted...

About 1/2 way between Marree and Lyndhurst you will come across the famous Farina ruins.  Once a bustling township, established on the Old Ghan rail line it was hoped to grow grain in the surrounding area - it wasn't to be.  The original town 'The Gums' or 'Government Gums' was a railhead until the line was extended to Marree.  It is an amazing place to walk through, look at the buildings and the plans for the township.


The underground bakery is a bit of a treat...

Doing some research in preparing this article the Farina railway station holds the record for loading the largest meteorite in South Australia.  A 1.2 tonne iron metorite was dragged out of the desert near Farina and transported to Adelaide...

After a look through the ruins and noting that there is a campsite nearby we continued along the track to the township of Maree.

There isn't much to see along the road from the ruins to Marree, but arriving in Marree you know you are in the Aussie Outback.  We were at the junction of the Oodnadatta Track and the Birdville Track!  How outback iconic is that? 

Marree has a couple of cool things to see - the Lake Eyre Yacht Club and the Marree Pub are cool, but the real attractions for me are the old Ghan locos, Tom Kruze's truck and a camel sundial made from sleepers from the Old Gahn!

The town was originally named Herggott Springs for John McDoual Stuart's travelling companion.
It was changed to Marree in 1918 due to anti-German sentiment.  Eyre had passed through the area 20 or so years earlier.  Marree was home to Australia's first mosque, built by Afghan cameleers and there were two parts to the town - Afghan and Aboriginal in one part and Europeans in the other part!

Kruze's truck - or one like it.  Kruze did the mail run to Birdsville in this truck between 1936 and 1957.  Esmond Gerald Kruze MBE passed away in 2011 aged 96.

One of two Gahn Locos at Marree.  Work on the Ghan began in 1878, and it took until 1929 before the line went through to Alice Springs.  It's pretty cool that you can hop on and have a look at a piece of history, from a very famous train journey.  And interesting to see a loco that would have been travelling up and down the line that we had been travelling alongside, and would continue to travel alongside for the next few days.

Who built it - don't know...
Why it was built - don't know...
The time was correct - and I reckon thats awesome.

So after lunch and a look around Marree (and there is more to see than what I have described here) we set out for Muloorina Station, to the campsite of Frome Creek which the owners of the station kindly allow visitors to use.

It's about 50km or so through pastoral properties - leave gates as you find them!

Before we settled in to the campsite we decided to drive out to Lake Eyre and have a look.  It is a 4WD track and worth the effort - lower tyre pressures slightly to make light work of the sand.


Its a salt plain area and a land speed record was set here...

Easy to see why...   And for the record the tyre track didnt belong to us!

Heading back to a fantastic campsite and setting up on what was pne of my favourite nights of the trip...


The outback mulga from the top of the nearby dunes...

After dinner we settled down for the night and the next morning we set off for William Creek.