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....