Friday, 10 October 2008

Marla to Maree via the Oodnadatta Track

We left Marla on a crisp outback morning, blue skies and about 22 degrees and started the trip down the Oodnadatta Track.  The "Old Ghan Railway" follows this ancient Aboriginal trade route, and later cattle droving stock route, and so it abounds with history and outback life to the present day.  It's an interesting dirt track about 650kms in length with plenty of ruins, history and desert scenery to stop and look at on the way and plenty of top spots to camp at as well.  The "Ghan" is named after the Afghan cameleers that ran the line with camel trains before trains took over.  They were not just Afghans, but Indians, Pakistanis, Iraqis, etc. etc.  They planted date palms all over Outback Australia wherever they went, they opened up the interior of the country whilst assisting the European explorers (including Burke and Wills who were in this country as well as Stuart) and their camels still roam the arid country now.

Pink Roadhouse - this is an Oodnadatta icon.  It's a pink roadhouse, an interesting historical stop, a museum, a shop, a service station with loads of advice on travelling the track (they even make and maintain all the info signs down the 600kms track!) and somewhere to people watch.  We both had a Banana smoothie in the roadhouse, lots of interesting local history to read including about Tom Kruse (Birdsville Mailman star of 1960's film "Back of Beyond" who I am reading about, thanks Paul - I will get the book back to you, I promise!) and other local history.


There is a fun little 4wd track outside of town called the "6x4 loop" it's meant to emulate the conditions of the Simpson desert with red sand dunes and claypans.  Of course the Landy did it no problem!! (had to take a second run up at the biggest dune though!).

Road conditions of the Oodna are better than what we remember, but it's still a track with lots of gravel and rough patches.  We photographed where we broke down in the Subaru and where we think we hit the rock that caused the breakdown for sentimental reasons.  It was a relief to pass these places with nothing going wrong too.

The Oodna was a really special experience for us both for many reasons, but especially the tranquil camping (not a single car passed us after 6pm and we only saw 3 other cars all day anyway) both nights at 1) Old Woman Creek and 2) Pole Creek on Anna Creek Station property.  Anna Creek Stn is owned by S Kidman & Co (historical & famous Australian cattle station owning family) and is the largest cattle station in the world, at about the size of Wales!  It takes a week to ride across it on horseback if that means anything to anyone these days....We saw awesome outback skies both nights with clear views of the moon and the Milky Way and I saw a massive and very clear shooting star.  Also at Old Woman Creek we were outside the Dingo Fence, and in true 'outside the dingo fence' fashion, after we had gone to bed I was reading and I heard a muffled/muted bark right outside the tent, which scared the living sh*t out of me!  I hastily got out and grabbed the nearest branch by the fire, shone my torch around, and my heart took a jump when I caught the eyes of a feral dog/dingo about 10 metres away in the creek bed staring at me!  It looked like a hyena in the dim light, and only moved away when I shouted at it.  Em only woke up as I accidentally bashed her as I ran out of of the tent! 


We decided against doing the Birdsville and Strzelecki Tracks due to time, fuel, climate and car conditions, plus a general feeling of too much dirt road.

The flies were getting a bit worse along the Oodna, but worse was to come.  At least the days were up in the late twenties and the nights cooling off at about 10-15 degrees, beautiful temperatures once the flies have left us alone!  By now me and Em have both eaten one each I think, so we are level.

Other points of note on the Oodna:  William Creek - Australia's smallest town at under 10 for a population!

Coward Springs - privately owned hot springs in the middle of the desert, pretty nice and a welcome dip into their "spa".

Mound Springs - Bubbler and Blanche Cup; natural springs like Coward Springs, but in all their natural glory and no $1 entry fee.

Marree - Home of Tom Kruse's Leyland Badger truck (now rusting away in front of the hotel).

Meteor - I saw one of the largest shooting stars I have ever seen in the night sky when camping at Old Woman Creek.  I will never forget it.  It was huge and clear, with a long tail, albeit very quick.  It's only the glow of the atmosphere that we are seeing by the way, not the actual meteor!

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