This is the story of how our love affair with this incredible outback track began.
We’d just come off a week on a houseboat on the Murray River with our family, and came home via Roxby Downs (where we also have family living).
As a spur-of-the-moment decision, we decided to drive home to Alice Springs along the Oodnadatta Track.
Our sense of
Even better, it was surprisingly cool for mid-summer (only 35 degrees maximum) and being only a month after good rains, the country was looking fresh and green. There were birds every where and the creeks were full.
We left Roxby Downs where Gary’s brother, Tony, and his family live at about 8am. We did a spot of geocaching right near the Olympic Dam site.
Then we continued on along the Borefield Track past the Arid Zone Recovery Project -an amazing conservation project comprising a cat, fox and rabbit-proof fence some 60km in area.
In this area native marsupials such as Greater Bilbies and Stick Nest Rats (I tell you, we are jealous about this in Central Australia!) have been reintroduced.
The project is funded largely by the mine. You can read more about it here.
After an hour or so, the Borefield Track (which is a really good dirt road) joins the famous Oodnadatta Track
Turning west, we found ourselves stopping frequently because the Oodnadatta Track is just so interesting.
The track – which was so good we were able to travel at 120km/h along it- follows the route of the first Ghan Railway line, from Adelaide to Oodnadatta. The railway line was ex
tended to Alice Springs in 1929 (I’ve met people who remember the track being built – like old Brownie Doolan from Finke). It ran until 1980, when the railway line was re-aligned to its present route. In 2002, the railway line was extended all the way to Darwin. However, you can still drive from Maree
to Alice Springs following the old Ghan line closely.
Along the way, there’s many old bridges to stop and check out, like this one:
There’s also wonderful old railway sidings to explore, some of which remain intact and under the care of various preservation groups.
For me, one of the highlights of the trip was seeing Lake Eyre for the very first time. Like my first glimpse of Mt Everest, seeing Lake Eyre is something that will remain with me for the rest of my life. This picture truly does not do Lake Eyre justice:
After Lake Eyre, there’s a few mound springs, many of them lesser known than Dalhousie Springs which is not far from the Oodnadatta Track, in Witjira National Park.
To me, mound springs in arid Australia are some on the most interesting geological features in existance. I could spend all day (or indeed, several days) watching the birds and animals that come to visit them.
Mound springs are places where the Artesian (underground) waters meet the surface. They are important refuges for wildlife in these arid envrionments. A number of unique and rare plants are also found around them. This neat little pool below is an example of a mound spring. It’s called Coward Springs, which also boasts a fully serviced campground, with showers and toilets:
Please note: the timber decking and metal ladder do not occur naturally!
As much as we really wanted to chill out at Coward Springs, we were aiming to be back in Alice Springs that day, so we had to leave. Our next stop was William Creek for lunch and fuel. We spent an hour or so chatting to the lady in the pub:
I have to say that William Creek was great and I would love to go back and stay the night and chat some more. We had a few more stops along the way for geocaches and railway bridges, and around 3pm, arrived at Oodnadatta and the Pink Roadhouse for a chocolate Paddle Pop:
Oodnadatta is a small place -sadly, it reminded me of Pimba (if you haven’t been to Pimba, you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about).
I was expecting a little more… attractiveness.
But then, we were only there for a short while and I’m sure there was at least two other things to check out in Oodnadatta other than the Pink Roadhouse. Well … ok.
There was at least one – the historic railway station.
For a few moments as we left Oodnadatta, we contemplated going home through Mt Dare and Finke … but commonsense won out (bugger) and we headed back to Marla and the Stuart Highway … and home about 10pm that night.
For any city 4WD-gear freaks reading this blog, please note that my Prado is a totally standard 4 litre petrol model (except for the bullbar and roof rack). We carry some spares, 20l water, have a Waeco fridge, food and a compressor. Nothing fancy whatsoever.