A Travellerspoint blog

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Our Centre Trip

Four weeks exploring Australia's centre

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20170415_182144.jpgThey say you can never really know Australia until you have met her Centre. There is no doubting the beauty of her coastlines and rainforests, but after our Centre tour this year I must tell you that Australia's heart is just as beautiful and in some ways more enchanting and enriching than all of her sandy beaches.

We left Wollongong on the east coast and travelled to South Australia under our own steam, converging in Port Augusta and taking a day to stock up with fresh provisions, purchase the all important 'fly nets' to maintain our sanity and see to minor technical details (namely high-vis vehicle flags for the desert). We also used this time to reconfirm our first leg, being the Oodnadatta Track and Lake Eyre (Kati Thanda).

It was an exciting time and we couldn't wait to start. Our group at this stage consisted of me in my vehicle, Jason in his, Tyler and Alicia plus five boys towing their camper trailer and Katherine and Mark Yeo with their two boys, Jono and David also towing a Mod Con camper trailer. This mix would change half way through the trip when we would lose Mark and Katherine and gain Carlos and Lisa, veterans of our Cape York trip in 2015.

What was to follow would be four weeks of track and road travel through some of the most unique and mystifying terrain Australia has to offer. I couldn't wait!

Posted by Joanne David 23:34 Archived in Australia Tagged desert outback driving wheel four Comments (0)

Oodnadatta and the Old Ghan

April 12 2017

Leaving Port Augusta we headed north via Quorn, Hawker and Leigh Creek. From here we got on to the Old Ghan Railway track, stopped for lunch at Farina, ruins of a long lost community, then on to Marree. We fuelled up and cast our eyes down the road which became the Oodnadatta Track. Prophetically, as we did so, two emus casually wandered across the intersection, a sure sign that we were indeed about to enter the true outback!

I am willing to admit that at this point my mind often strayed to the thought of extra water and fuel. From Marree there is no getting away from the fact that there is not a lot out here. Although a well-graded and popular track, Oodnadatta parallels the Old Ghan railway line which of course is now extinct, but it is littered with the ruins of the many railway sidings that serviced the line. Travelling this route does have you wondering what life out here would have been like. Beautiful to look at from our privileged position of modern mobility, but harsh and unforgiving to those who battled to make a life out here.Oodnadatta Track

Oodnadatta Track

Oodnadatta Track

Oodnadatta Track

Oondnadatta Track

Oondnadatta Track

Farina ruins

Farina ruins

Farina ruins

Farina ruins

Farina ruins

Farina ruins

We had no firm plans of where we would camp the first night, we just knew we had multiple options and were willing to travel until we felt ready to stop. Then excitement ripple through our CBs when someone caught first sight of the salt pan of South Lake Eyre. Although we were only viewing a fraction of the smaller of the two lakes, it was still breath-taking in its immense span and sparkling beauty. I always feel so privileged when I witness a natural wonder and feel (thankfully) that no matter what we have done to this world there are some things that are simply bigger than us.

So after a thoughtful, then playful frolic on the salt crust we headed back to our vehicles and travelled a short distance to Coward Springs for our first night. This was one of the many deserted sidings, but it did spruik very well maintained toilets, an interesting Old Ghan museum and the tiniest of natural hot spring spas named the Bubbler. Unfortunately, the Bubbler also hosted some of the nastiest mosquitoes I have yet to encounter ... gotta love the outback!Coward Springs

Coward Springs

Coward Springs

Coward Springs

Coward Springs

Coward Springs

Posted by Joanne David 06:19 Comments (0)

William Creek

Our Second day on the road

April 13 2017

Our second day on Oodnadatta Track was a relatively easy one. Just a short drive north west with a quick look at Strangeways Springs ruins, found us at William Creek which was always going to be a stop over for us. Not only could we refuel and get a cold beer at the pub, we were only an hour's drive from the shores of the majestic Lake Eyre. Turned out not everyone was keen to get back in the car after setting up camp though. So it was just Tyler, Jason, Lochie and me that headed out that afternoon to Halligan Bay, one of the best spots to view this national wonder.

Lake Eyre is the lowest point in Australia at nearly 15 metres below sea level and rarely contains any water. More often than not it is a massive saltpan that only fills with water from the large river systems after heavy rainfalls in the north. Something we would miss as we were too early to catch the flow that would eventually arrive from Cyclone Debbie in Queensland the month before.Strangeways Springs

Strangeways Springs

Strangeways Springs

Strangeways Springs

Strangeways Springs

Strangeways Springs

Lake Eyre

Lake Eyre

Lake Eyre

Lake Eyre

Unfortunately pictures are a poor representation of what it was like to encounter something like Lake Eyre. After driving for an hour through what I would imagine the moon's surface to look like ... and it did feel as though we were on another planet ... we came upon our target. Of course the sheer size of Lake Eyre is hard enough to take in, but the sun's glare coming off the salt was incredible, much like experiencing snow blindness on a bright winter's day, and there was even the obligatory mirage of water in the distance. The crust of salt was so thick in places it could not be got through, although Jason did manage to collect a small bag of salt for cooking purposes.

We were the only people out there for the first half hour, so we were able to just cast our gaze over the spectacle and immerse ourselves in the surroundings. It wasn't long before some other intrepides arrived though, so we took our pics and headed back to camp.

As for William Creek, there is not alot there. Our camp ground was not bad but I've seen better and the one and only pub has taken a brave go at being an iconic stop but it's got a way to go before breaking through to the top 10.
We had a nice time anyway with a lively bartender from London who couldn't give us too much information as she had only arrived a few days previous. Many working tourists end up outback for a 6 month stint which gives them another 12 months on their visa. Clever way of getting workers into the isolated areas, and it means you meet some of the most interesting people!William Creek

William Creek

William Creek

William Creek

One noticeable point of William Creek is that it is contained within the boundaries of Anna Creek Station, the world's largest cattle station at approx the size of Israel. It is so large that it can be in flood in one area and in drought in another! Part of the original Kidman cattle empire it is now owned by Willams Cattle Company. We didn't see many cattle during our stay which leads me to believe they were obviously off in one of the other far flung corners, but we did see many stockyards and windmills, evidence of the station work still active out here.

Posted by Joanne David 18:04 Comments (0)

Last day on Oodnadatta

Our first challenge complete!

April 14, 2017

Today would see us at the end of the Oodnadatta track, but we had plenty to see first. Not far out of William Creek we came across the Algebuckina bridge. Part of the historical Old Ghan track it crosses over the Neales River and provides a much nicer camping area than William Creek (mind you it doesn't have the toilet and shower facilities).

Then it was on to Oodnadatta itself, a quaint little place with a roadhouse, pub, museum and a cluster of other community buildings which were a mostly closed due to it being Easter Friday. The (very pink) roadhouse was open though, so we stopped for lunch and a stretch of the legs. A local aboriginal began playing his guitar the minute we drove up, so my first act was a charitable one giving him $5 for his time and talent. It seems this was to be his lunch money though, because within minutes he had stopped playing and was in the roadhouse ordering!

Algebuckina Bridge

Algebuckina Bridge

Algebuckina Bridge

Algebuckina Bridge

Oodnadatta

Oodnadatta

Oodnadatta Hotel

Oodnadatta Hotel

From here we had a longer haul to the end of the track and our stop for the night, Marla. I had managed to catch a head cold that the boys had been passing around between them, so I was feeling a little under the weather when we left and completely under by the time we pulled into Marla. I was going to camp but Tyler's suggestion I get a room and go straight to bed turned out to be the best option. My plans to celebrate the completion of Oodnadatta track were put to bed with my very achy head and I slept until 7 the next morning, feeling much better for it.

Tomorrow we would connect with the Stuart Highway and head for Yulara and the famous Uluru!

Posted by Joanne David 19:17 Comments (0)

The Magic of Uluru

Two days of wonder

April 15, 2017

Our drive into Uluru was an easy one, with sealed highway all the way in, although we did get fooled by the impostor Mount Connor, which can be seen from the road as you get nearer to Uluru. I had one of the boys in the car with me and we became very excited, thinking we were seeing 'The Rock', but as it revealed itself fully we clearly saw our mistake. I can't help but wonder why no one has ever warned me of this practical joke nature has surely pulled on clueless tourists all these years!

Anyway, it did not take away from the sheer awe of seeing Uluru for the first time. This magnificent structure reaches up 863 metres and is thought to have started forming over 500 million years ago. How can you not be impressed!?

Sunset at Uluru

Sunset at Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Our first course of action was to get to Yulara (about 20 minutes from the Rock) and set up camp so that we could get back out for the sunset.
Something we didn't think to plan for was the crowds, what with it being Easter. We had booked though so our sites were waiting for us, such as they were. Space is obviously a commodity here and once our tents and trailers were set up there was not alot of it left. But we had two nights here so were prepared to make the most of it. Everyone was here for the same reason and we had no trouble with neighbours or other campers in general. It was actually school holidays also so there were plenty of kids around and lots for them to do with a great playground and swimming pool.

It was a quick set up and organising to get back out for sunset, which was quite early this time of year, 6:30ish, but we are glad we made the effort. It was amazing watching the sandstone turn a bright orange in the setting rays. You could physically feel wonderment ripple through the crowd and hear everyone take in a breath as it happened, and you really do feel something special in its presence. No wonder this place is special in the hearts and minds of Australia's indigenous. No culture in the world would be unmoved by such a sight.

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

So our first day was amazing and day two opened with another wonderful experience, especially for the boys. We managed to get an early morning camel ride for our group. I've rarely seen our collection of youngsters so excited. The early morning timetable turned out to be ideal, nice and cool and no flies. What a relief!

After that it was off to the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) about 30 minutes drive. By this time the heat (and our ever present friends, the flies) had arrived so we only did a short walk to the monolith as we still had the Uluru walk to do.

Visiting these naturally beautiful places was a real highlight for me and always when I come away from such visits I am humbled and amazed at nature. I really believe experiences such as these help keep our perspective in life and living ... for surely there is no better tonic for the soul than nature itself.

And we weren't finished yet ... not by a long shot!

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

Uluru

The Olgas

The Olgas

The Olgas

The Olgas

Uluru

Uluru

Posted by Joanne David 20:23 Comments (0)

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