"Destination Unknown" Day 4 - The Oodnadatta Track, The Ghan, Lake Eyre and a haunted rail siding!

Monday, Jul 04, 2011 at 00:00


Monday 4th July, 2011 – Oodnadatta Track

We were aiming for an early getaway and as it panned out, we were squared away and on the road by 8:00 a.m. Our intended route would take us through the Flinders and up the Oodnadatta, hopefully as far as William Creek. In my earlier trip of April, this year, I located a great campsite about 16 km north of William Creek at the old Anna Creek rail siding. This was where I hoped that we’d get to by the end of the days travel. We had a bit to take in along the way though so the early start was a good thing.

It was still a little overcast when we departed Wilpena and headed for the Bunyeroo Valley Road. This is probably the most scenic drive in the Flinders taking in the Zig Zag Road, Heyson Range and the Bunyeroo Valley all the way to Brachina Gorge. The diverse landscapes are amazing from the initial foothills at the southern end of the route, through the higher hills of the ranges and then down into the Bunyeroo Valley. The Valley also sports the two premier campgrounds in the area Acraman and Cambrian (my opinion only of course). We took in all the lookouts along the way and then drove through the magnificent Brachina Gorge with its rudely uplifted ridges and ancient, fossil studded rocks. There was plenty of water in the wide creek bed which gave an opportunity to splash some of the previous days dirt from the floor pan of the vehicles as we passed.

Once we reached Parachilna on the main road, it was north to Leigh Creek where we fuelled up and grabbed some lat minute supplies. I was surprised to find an old friend sitting at the table in the local café. Richard is an educator at one of the major Melbourne Uni’s and he had been out on a field assignment with a group of students who were now resupplying at Leigh Creek also. A small world. For us it was a quick trip to the supermarket for a few odd and ends and then back out to Lyndhurst and the dirt of the Oodnadatta Track.

“OPEN” the road sign boldly declared at Lyndhurst. The tracks left on the damp earth had caused as flat shine to the road so with the sun shining on them resembled more four ribbons of light than a track. Easy enough to follow though as we cruised north. There were a few Wedgies spotted along the way and in no time we were at Marree and the intersection with the Birdsville Track. We took in the monuments and then headed into Marree parking with quite a number of other 4 wheel drives at the railway reserve opposite the pub. Seems many years since I spent more than a few days at the Marree hotel waiting for the roads to open. Far too many years unfortunately!.

Marree was the main rail head for the Ghan from 1884 to 1889 until the line was extended to William Creek and Oodnadatta. Even after that it remained an important rail town for pastoralists along the Birdsville Track. The boys enjoyed a look around the old Ghan engines and the station and learning a bit of the history of the region and interesting facts as to why the Ghan was named thus. A bite to eat and we were on the way again. The amount of traffic was incredible and I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised it being school holidays and all. The ubiquitous safari bus caused us a few issues though as we headed out of town but with the track in such good condition, and judicious use of the UHF’s, we all got passed in good time.

At Alberrie, the strange sculptures of “Plane Henge” prompted a stop. I s’pose a degree of eccentricity would help you survive out here. From Alberrie it was only a few kilometres on to the Lake Eyre South viewing areas. The gulls were present in force which surprised the lads. They hadn’t realised that thousands of seabirds of various types used Lake Eyre as a breeding rookeries, the gulls included. There were a huge number of vehicles present at Curdimurka there so we didn’t hang around heading off across the Margaret Creek and on towards William Creek.

At Beresford we stopped to look at the siding and some of the few remaining intact buildings. The boys explored the old desalinater and tank before hitting the track again. At William creek we enquired as to flights and booked in for a flight tomorrow afternoon. As it was getting fairly late, we high tailed it out the track towards Oodnadatta with me relying on memory to find the access track into the Anna Creek siding. The track had been graded in the months since my last visit. It branches almost immediately with the right hand fork taking you to a nearby dam. The left track winds in for a couple fo kilometres to a cleared staging area where mustering camps have been set up in the past. There is an old steel rail bridge and you can see the twin buildings of the old Ghan siding and the large water tank about 300 metres distant. The two buildings are on the southern side of the track and remain in excellent condition despite their roofs and timber joinery missing. The western most building has had all the debris cleared from it leaving nice clear floors. The fireplaces are all operable although the chimneys draw best when there is no wind blowing.

The boys set their swags and tents in the rooms of the building providing shelter from the wind. I parked the tuck truck between the two buildings and ran a lead in for lighting. Pete backed the Law Rover up to the back door and we used that area as a little kitchen. The fire was set in the fireplace and we were away. It was a great spot for the adventurous lads to explore. More than a few kg’s of spuds were launched into the surrounding countryside. Not having to be up early the next day, a very enjoyable evening was had by all. Despite having no roof, the fire generated ample warmth held and reflected by the walls of the old building despite the cold evening. A fortified wine and a black and gold fruitcake sealed the evening.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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