Today we were to leave the smooth sanctuary of the bitumen and take our chances on the fearsome Oodnadatta track, a road with a well deserved reputation for shredding tyres. Why would we do this you may well ask? Two things to achieve, firstly saving a much longer drive to the Flinders Ranges via Port Augusta (been there – done that) and secondly to catch a glimpse of Lake Eyre, a place I have been eager to visit for a long time.
The real outback.
The boys enjoying a pro fishing show on TV 500 km from the nearest fish at William Creek Hotel. A can of Coke was a bargain at $4.50.
Remnants of NASA’s involvement at Woomera. Space junk at William Creek.
Curdimurka Ruins, next to the old Ghan railway line.
The road condition was actually exceptional, mimicking the smoothness of asphalt in many places. After leaving the desolation of the Moon Plain, we stopped to ask a lone cyclist if he needed water. He was a young bloke riding from Adelaide to Alice as part of a self-healing process for his depression. He was riding about 140 km a day, completely unsupported in this hostile slice of the outback. There really are some incredible quiet achievers in this wonderful country. He didn’t want anything from anyone, he was just getting on and doing it.
Blanches Cup, a rare natural spring in the desert. Used and abused by explorers and stockmen alike.
After being entertained by the various adaptations to the numerous ‘Dip’ road signs; ‘Lucky Dip, Onion Dip, Double Dip, Skinny Dip’, we approached our intended free camp at the Lake Eyre South lookout with its friendly ‘Camping Prohibited’ sign. This was just after a sign coolly stating ‘Drowsy Drivers Die’. Sometimes I love irony… This location has the best views of Lake Eyre South, with uninterrupted views to the horizon of the salt lake. Amazingly, the old Ghan railway line, whose route we had been following along with sections of the original 1872 telegraph route, passed between the lookout and the lake. I guess the surveyors didn’t think the lake would ever flood. Rarely doesn’t mean never.
The old Ghan railway line; this runs within 100 m of Lake Eyre.
After tucking the kids into bed, I grabbed the camera and tripod to walk out onto the lake at night. The moon was almost full and conditions were perfect, that is until I hit the actual lake and discovered the salt was in fact just a very thin crust with mud the colour and consistency of soft lindt chocolate underneath. Every step meant a perilous depression through the salt crust. Linger too long and you sink into the ooze.
Lake Eyre at night.
Next morning Kris and I watched sun rise over the lake, quite lovely. The boys then mounted bikes in an attempt to ride on the lake. To their credit they pushed their bikes over two kilometres out across the salt whilst we searched for some ‘foot print free’ areas. Keep to the extra white stuff was our motto, but even then it proved impossible for the boys to go any distance without sinking into the mud. They returned to the van with an impressive collection of mud caked on the wheels. Another cleaning job…
One slip and you’re covered in salted Lindt milk chocolate!