Some times the old saying, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” makes sense. Today was one of those days – if I were to recommend one outback drive, this would be it.
The wind last night was incredible. I know I’ve mentioned it on a few occasions in the past, but it seemed exceptionally strong. During the night it also changed direction – when we went to bed it was hot dry air from the west, this morning it was cool air from the south. Just when I think I know what is happening with the temperature, this happens to prove me wrong.
We’ve been lucky in the past and spent the night in some truly beautiful places. Last night was not one of those. But, it was a free camp in downtown Oodnadatta (beat paying $22 at The Pink Roadhouse). It was still quite early (and Risa was still waking up) so I went for a quick stroll around town. I’ve heard that the town suffered hard when the train stopped coming through town, but I’m not sure if that’s the only reason for the way this town looked. It was incredibly sad.
The day got off to a slow start, though, not for lack of trying on our behalf. Turns out that even though we were up nice and early and ready to get started, the town wasn’t. We needed to refuel before we could leave, and The Pink Roadhouse didn’t open until 8AM. The roadhouse is quite interesting in itself – they seem to have been quite active in the promotion of Oodnadatta and the surrounding area for tourism. We picked up one of their awesome mud maps in Boulia, and it was one of the reasons that made me interested in visiting this area. They list it as being ‘Australia’s Driest Town’, which may or may not be true. It is very dry, and the idea of canoe hire was hilarious.
The Oodnadatta Track loosely follows the old Ghan railway line, which has now been replaced by the New Ghan railway line (still linking Adelaide and Darwin I believe). As such, there are a lot of ruins left of stations that are no longer relevant. The bridges are still mostly intact, but most of the rail and sleepers have been removed from the ground.
Again, it’s another day of flat and mostly barren landscape. I still don’t understand how the livestock survive – there must be some nutrition in spinifex/dust. The one major difference between this road and most of the other outback roads we’ve driven – this one is actually interesting to drive. The road is weaving and bending, climbing hills and dipping through valleys. It was a great pleasure to be driving today, not a chore. It probably helps that the road was in reasonable condition. My definition of reasonable condition is we can still talk to each over the ambient noise. I’d heard about the sharp/pointy rocks destroying tyres, but so far haven’t seen anyone repairing a wheel on the side of the road (touch wood we’ve been OK too).
William Creek is about 200km from Oodnadatta, or about half the way to Maree, the end of the track. A friend that once visited said there were two buildings in town – a pub, and a tyre repair shop. He wasn’t far from the truth. The pub is like many other outback pubs – a little run down, various souvenirs of travellers covering every surface, tacky merchandise for sale. We’ve seen so many of them now – they are still cool/fun/interesting, but they’re nothing novel. A sign outside of the pub proclaims the population to be 2, which is probably not true any more (there were actually a few houses there now).
There was also Woomera debris that had landed nearby. Still scarily large/intact – lucky the area is so sparsely populated… The small park was full of noisy birds (galahs, or as someone we know likes to call them, pink cockies, and corellas).
Not far from William Creek was the turn-off for Lake Eyre, the largest lake in Australia, and one that rarely has water in it. I’ve always wanted to see a giant salt lake up close, so I was actually pretty excited to see it. It was a 60km one-way detour from the Oodnadatta Track, and like just about every unsealed road in a national park, the condition was rather poor (and this was after the $10 entry fee). It took us a little over an hour to reach one of the bays, and it wasn’t a pleasant hour of driving – shaking, rattling and constant and abrasive noise. The land leading up to the lake were some of the most desolate we’d seen, especially immediately prior, it was a deep dark red like we hadn’t seen before.
Now, this is where I talk again about managing expectations. Risa and I had these expectations that Lake Eyre was a giant salt lake – brilliant and white. This isn’t the case, it’s much more like a golden sandy colour (and dirtier in places). We also thought that could drive out to stand in the middle of the lake. This also wasn’t the case, it’s a location of significance to indigenous Australians, so if you wanted to see the middle of the lake, you’d better enjoy walking… Risa was almost furious that we’d been to that much effort for this view. I was disappointed, but I guess we have our own expectations to blame for it. Being positive, it was impressively large (incomprehensively so), and I’ve certainly never seen anything like it. The heat haze on the horizon was quite beautiful, too. But, lets just say, that torturous 60km return leg was devoid of any smiles…
Not too long after we returned to Oodnadatta Track did we see some beautiful red sand dunes. It’s something I’ve always wanted to see, but so far on our travels they have eluded us (at least the perfectly barren ones that I imagine, not the smaller ones partially covered with plants). We had been considering driving up as far as Birdsville to see some, but realised it was too far just to see a red sand dune. Today was our lucky day though, change would have it that we found one such perfect sand dune, and was it ever perfect! And beautiful. We spent nearly an hour walking around it taking photos (wedding photos, mostly). If only there were no flys… I wish I could wax lyrical about it, but I’m a photographer, not a linguist, so I’ll let the photos do the talking, like always. (Also, photos were taken at an angle to conceal that this was the only bare sand dune, and it was only the top half that was like this)
We visited a few more ruins (and a few more wedding photos), a hot spring (Coward Springs – but were advised not to bathe as there were 20-something children in the small pool already…) and called it a night by some amazing ruins. We arrived during the last light of day.
After that light had faded, it was time to play with star photos. Since we’d taken hundreds (seriously) of wedding photos already today, we got changed once again and took some more. This one is a bit of a failed attempt, but ended up with a really awesome/atmospheric/demonic result.
１３６日目 ９月２６日（木） 廃墟と砂漠
今日は、この町の中心的存在、Pink Road Houseという本当に全部ピンク色をしたガソリンスタンド／パブ で給油をして出発。
しかしこの町は、このPink Houseの元祖オーナーが、この町を走っていたガン鉄道のルート変更に伴い、ルートから外れた他の町の様に廃墟にならない様になんとか観光客を呼び寄せようと必死にがんばった結果生き残った町らしいです。 このOonadattaトラックと呼ばれる道路の観光名所の看板やマップは彼らがひとつひとつ手作りしたもので、私たちもそのマップを参考に今日のドライブを進めました。
そして道路は、赤い石が転がる砂利道と砂のでこぼこみち。 草木が全くない場所も非常に多く、本当に火星の景色。 それでも少量の草を食べ育っている牛が道路の付近にみえました。よくこんな量で大きくなれるものだねと2人で不思議がっていました。
今日というか、この旅の中でもかなり心待ちにしていた Lake Eyre エアー湖に片道９０分程のでこぼこ道の迂回をするもなんともまぁこんなに期待を裏切られた場所を訪れたのは初めてかも！！
その後もいくつかの廃墟めぐり。 途中暖かい地下水の天然のプールのような場所があると行ってみましたが、現在は子供が春休み中でここにはたくさんの家族ずれがいるので、行かない方がいいよとアドバイスをもらったので断念。 1時間に数台ほどしか他の車とすれ違わないので、これには驚きでした。