Welcome to Life Images by Jill

Welcome to Life Images by Jill.........Stepping into the light and bringing together the images and stories of our world.
I am a photographer, writer and multi-media artist. Through my blog I am
seeking to preserve images and memories of the beautiful world in which we live and the people in it.



Monday 9 December 2013

South Australia trip - Part 6 - Outback Australia on the Oodnadatta Track

Welcome back for Part 6 of our trip through South Australia. If you missed the first five parts, please scroll down to the bottom of this post to go to the links.  Here is the link to the quick overview - On the road through South Australia.

Today we will continue north on the Stuart Highway to Marla where we turn south east on the Oodnadatta Track which will take us 638 kilometres along a dirt road to Marree. 

The Oodnadatta Track in South Australia can be described as hot, dry, dusty, bone shaking, and when we travelled recently, fly-ridden. However it is also one of Australia's great outback treks which has plenty to explore, fascinating and historical, and which is easily achievable over 3 or 4 days (4WD highly recommended). The track follows the Old Ghan railway line and along the way you can explore old railway bridges and stone ruins of the old railway sidings, learn it's history, and even see hot water bubbling up from the Artesian Basin and take a flight over spectacular Lake Eyre. You can bush camp, or stay at caravan parks at Coward Springs, Oodnadatta, and William Creek (make sure you have a drink in the pub and meet the locals - all 4 or 5 of them!). 

 But be prepared - this is remote outback travel - so please take all the necessary precautions including carrying drinking water, food, fuel and good quality tyres, 4WD highly recommended, and drive to the road conditions which can vary from good to badly corrugated, and watch out for potholes and washaways.

If you remember from Part 5 we travelled from the south up through Coober Pedy. Our final stop on the Stuart Highway was the Marla Roadhouse. A last chance to top up with fuel and supplies and make telephone calls (unfortunately no internet connection) before heading out along Oodnadatta Track. This little oasis, 160kms south of Northern Territory border, is a nice patch of green in the desert.

We had lunch under the shade of the trees at Marla before turning east onto the Oodnadatta Track. 

The history of the Oodnadatta Track goes back to the early1840s when central Australia was unexplored by Europeans and commonly thought to contain a massive inland sea.  But really its history goes back thousands of years before following a major Aboriginal trade route and steeped in Aboriginal history and dreamtime stories.  

We were finally here - on the Oodnadatta Track!  

Please click on "read more" to keeping reading and seeing more pics from the Oodnadatta Track. 

From my diary -

The dust devils are having fun today whipping up the sand and swirling it around in a dance.   We saw a huge dust cloud swoop down across the plains, cross the road in front of us, and settle onto Welbourne Hill station homestead a few hundred metres off the road. It swirled around the homestead for a few minutes before moving on. I can just imagine everyone in the homestead rushing around shutting doors and windows and cursing the dust covering everything. 

We saw some wildlife though not as much as we expected. No doubt you would see more travelling at dawn and dusk, rather than in the middle of the day, so you would need to take extra care travelling at these times. The Perentie lizard in the top left hand pic didn't want to sit still for a photo, the eagles took off from the "road kill", the eagle nest was a bundle of sticks in a low tree, the cattle just wanted to find a bit of shade, and did I tell you about the flies? 

There are many options for bush camping along the Oodnadatta Track, particularly at creek crossings were there can be some shade. We were originally thought we would camp at Kathleen Creek, but we reached here at 2.45 in the afternoon and it was 37 degrees C, very windy, and lots of flies. We couldn't see the point of sitting here all afternoon in these conditions, so we decided to push on to Oodnadatta. Can you see the dust cloud coming down the dry creek bed in this pic of Kathleen Creek?

We reached Oodnadatta around 4.15pm and as the wind was still blowing a gale we decided to book a site at the caravan park. It was a bit of a battle putting up the camper in the wind, and pounding in the pegs into the hard ground. We backed up to a six foot high corrugated iron fence which gave us a little protection from the wind. 

We were too tired, and wind blown to try and cook dinner, so we wandered over to the famous Oodnadatta Pink Roadhouse for dinner. The Pink Roadhouse (yes it is painted pink!) is an icon of the Oodnadatta Track. The roadhouse has been run by Adam and Lynnie Plate since 1974, who worked tirelessly to provide great hospitality at the roadhouse and to promote the Oodnadatta Track. You can see their handwritten pink signage all along the track. Sadly Adam was tragically killed in August 2012 in a car rally. Lynnie handed the Pink Roadhouse over to its new owners, Neville and Adriana Jacob, on 8 September - only a few days before our arrival. Adam and Lynnie will be missed, but I am sure the Roadhouse will continue to be a mecca for travellers and locals along the Oodnadatta Track. There is a small supermarket in the roadhouse as well as the restaurant.

Oodnadatta was an important Ghan railhead between 1891 and 1929. Before then camels, bicycles and horse buggies were used (bicycles!). Today the town has a mostly Aboriginal population. You can learn more about the history of Oodnadatta, the Track, and the exploration of inland Australia in the old Railway Station Museum.

 European history of the Oodnadatta Track dates back to attempts by early explorers to cross the continent from south to north. Edward John Eyre returned defeated in 1840, saying that access to central Australia was obstructed by massive salt lakes. A basic route was pioneered by Major PE Warbutrton in 1858, and John McDouall Stuart and his party crossed the continent from south to north and return in 1862. In 1872 the Overland Telegraph line was constructed along this route and in 1891 the  original and now abandoned, Ghan railway line was constructed - the Telegraph line and railway line opened up important travel, communication and trading routes through central Australia.

A feature all along the Oodnadatta Track are the remains of the Ghan railway line, rail bridges and sidings. They are certainly worth stopping to look at. Our next day of travel the wind had eased and the temperature had dropped to 27C, so it was much more pleasant for driving and exploring, although the flies were still out in force - make sure you bring your fly net! (you can buy them at Oodnadatta).

We had an uneventful drive, stopping at the various siding ruins and also some of the bridges, which broke up the day’s drive. You see red sand hills, an emu or two, cattle, mainly dry creek crossings,and there are a few lookouts and pink signs to tell you where you are!

 One of the most significant railway bridges is Algebuckina Bridge built in 1890 and spanning over half a kilometre. You can walk a small way out onto the bridge. 

We arrived in William Creek (which is basically only a pub, caravan park, and Wrights Air scenic flights) around 3pm and booked into the caravan park and managed to get a site with a little shade.  Owned by Trevor Wright, who has lived and worked in the area for over 20 years, William Creek is a tiny outback town - population was 4 or 5 when we were there, but can go up to 12 depending on the time of year. Located at the halway point between Oodnadatta and Marree, William Creek sits on the world's largest cattle station - the 32,500 square kiometre Anna Creek Station, which is part of the vast Kidman empire. 

 We did washing and later in the afternoon looked around the small outdoor museum and crossed the road to the pub for a drink (as you do in William Creek) and chatted to some other travellers from Queensland who were travelling the same direction as us. The pub has lots of interesting memorabilia strung up all over the place inside , and my business card is now one of them stapled to the ceiling. 
 We tried to buy some internet time, but they had run out! So still no internet. You can buy dinner at the pub, but not breakfast.

 The next morning we went on a scenic flight with Trevor and Wrights Air over Lake Eyre.  The lake may have been dry, but the flight was still amazing and worth doing if you have the time and the dollars. 

Lake Eyre or Kati Thanda - its new name recognising its importance to Aboriginal people - is the fifth largest terminal lake in the world, covering 9,690 square kilometres of mainly dry salt. The Lake Eyre Basin is one of the world's largest internally draining systems covering about 1.2 million square kilometres, almost one-sixth of Australia. The inland rivers, the Diamantina, Warburton, Thomson, Barcoo, Cooper, Georgina, Eyre Creek, Peake, Neales, Macumba and Hamilton Rivers drain into Lake Eyre, yet this vast salt lake can lay dry for years. Lake Eyre has only filled three times in the last 150 years. The Lake is the lowest point in Australia, approximately 15 metres below sea level.

Few animals or plants tolerate the extreme salinity of Lake Eyre, which sometimes exceeds that of seawater. But, given enough freshwater, an explosion of life is triggered.
Even in moderate floods, Lake Eyre can support large concentrations of waterbirds. In the 1990 flood of Lake Eyre, there were more than half a million waterbirds. During large floods, breeding colonies of Australian pelicans, Silver gulls and Banded stilts nest on the islands in huge numbers. In 1990, a hundred thousand pelicans raised an estimated ninety thousand chicks. The Banded stilts travelled from the Coorong in South Australia to breed. It is amazing how these birds know that the Lake has flooded and it is time to fly there from hundreds of kilometes away.

We saw salt storms whipping up across lake, and the tracks of emus on the lake – for some reason they go out there, and then get lost. It makes you wonder. You can see a salt storm on the left of this image. Imagine the "sting" if you were caught in that!

After the flight we went back to the William Creek pub for a cappuccino before heading off south down the Oodnadatta Track again.  William Creek is a great place to stop on the Oodnadatta Track, and you meet some really interesting people in the pub!
There is a track out to a camping and day use area at Halligan Bay on the edge of Lake Eyre, but as the track hadn't been graded for 2 years, and is in very bad condition, we were advised against it - a good rule of outback travel is to take heed of advice!

Further along the Track we stopped at Strangways ruins historical site, which is spread over a big area and very interesting, but it was rather hot, and the flies were out in force, so we didn’t end up doing all we could have done there. It would be better to visit early morning as it is very hot walking and no shade. Make sure you carry water and wear a fly net and hat! Camping is not allowed as it is on station country.The stone wall you can see in the second left picture is the old horse yards at Strangeways.

 We had lunch at Beresford bore and siding ruin. The ruins were in better condition than some and at least there was some shade to lunch under - if you don't mind the flies! 

Our next camping spot was Coward Springs and after setting up camp we drove out about 5km to look at “The Bubbler” and Blance Cup mound springs. Water was bubbling at the Bubbler and flowing down the hill over a small waterfall. These are two of the area's most significant mound springs which are common in this area. They are formed by water escaping from the Great Artesian Basin over thousands of years. You can see the water bubbling up.  Quite amazing.

Coward Springs is a pay bush camp, with some shade, toilets, a hot shower (you might need to light the "chip" heater), a natural hot spring spa, and a small museum. We had a snake crawl through our camp, desert mice visited during the evening, and in the morning there was a dingo lurking nearby - make sure you don't leave anything laying around your camp. During the night the wind blew up and we had a bit of rain but thankfully our canvas was dry for packing up.

The next morning we left Coward Springs, and continued down the Oodnadatta Track to Marree. On the way we stopped at a few more old railway siding ruins, like the one below at Curdimurka, and also the lookout over Lake Eyre South. This is the closest you can get to Lake Eyre along the Track - it really is a magnificent sight. 
You can see some desert flowers, sand hills, and the remains of the telegraph line, the old Ghan railway line and Curdimurka, below. 


The end - or is it the beginning of the Oodnadatta Track - is at Marree. 
 Marree is geared for people wanting to take flights over Lake Eyre. We had morning tea in the park opposite the old Marree railway siding where you can see some old Ghan locos and the old mail truck used by renouned outback mailman Tom Kruse on his mailrun from Marree to Birdsville.

There is even a Lake Eyre Yacht Club! You can see it in the pic below.  They might be a while waiting for the next flood of the lake to go yachting!

From Marree we continued on south to the Flinders Ranges and the next part of our South Australian trip. I'll be back with our continuing story next time.

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you have enjoyed Part 6 of our tour. I look forward to hearing from you.

If you missed any of my previous posts about our South Australia trip you can catch up by clicking on the links below -

I am linking up to Mosaic Monday, Travel Photos Monday, Our World Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, Travel Photo Thursday, What's It Wednesday, and Oh the Places I've Been. Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!

Mosaic Monday
Travel Photo Mondays
Our World Tuesday
Wednesday Around the World  
What's It Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
 Oh The Places I've Been


  1. Gosh Jill, you are making this trip sound and look ever more interesting, even if you did reach the 'hottest, driest town'! Your collages paint a pictorial story that is hard to tear away from, and even the long straight stretches of road have their own character. You are really bringing the Outback to life for me, and the thought of a scenic flight over a natural wonder like Lake Eyre had me almost packing my rucksack! Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventure. I'm loving every minute :)

  2. Jill,

    You have documented, both in words and images, a most fascinating journey into Australia's Outback that many of us have never been acquainted with, but merely have only heard of or seen typical images of. Your post today has been a fun and informative lesson for me, of the rich terrain and cultural influences of your country's beauty and history. I love the contrast of the sandy textures against the smooth blue skies; they remind me of Crete, where I live.

    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Jill, your travel photos are just amazing. The landscapes and the wildlife are wonderful. The eagle is really cool. Thanks for sharing your Outback adventure. Great photos and mosaics. Have a happy week!

  4. Just fascinating stuff to glean from, to see historical scenes, to walk and drive along with you, on this wild terrain, as you share your pathway with us...what an adventure you all took, how woderful for all! ...Love the birds, that was so close to get to that gorgeous Eagle...whoosh! This is really great Jill and thank you so much for taking us along with you. I so love hearing about other places and seeing the images, makes it so up close to us~ Hugs~

  5. Wow the countryside is harsh and really intense, amazing to see that pioneers really made it work back then.

  6. Wow! What a landscape! Great photos!

  7. This sure look a great place to tour. Wonderful shots.

  8. It is an amazing post, with a lot of photos substantiating it. A very harsh place but at least the humidity is low or else at 37C it would be very difficult, just like some of our places here. I can't imagine why with the vastness of Australia, there are still people who really love to make it home. I am sure tourists really love it, so thanks for those who sacrificed to live there. And thank you very much for the wonderful tour!

  9. Wonderful inland Australian colours Jill .... although I was brought up in rural South Australia ... i've never travelled the Oodnadatta track. Maybe that should go on my bucket-list .

  10. Salt storms and dust storms - I can imagine how hard it was for people. Lovely colours in that rich earth.

  11. Wow - so different to Finland; winters with snow and summers are VERY green!! :) Cool shots!

  12. Hi Jill, you take the most interesting road trips. This is a kind of trip I would normally see in the movie. The rawness and expansiveness of Oodnadatta is so amazing. Your flight over Lake Eyre looks breathtaking. The photo of the salt storm is very dramatic. What a beautiful and unique surrounding you have and thank you for bringing them to us through your stunning photos.

  13. Absolutely fascinating! And your photos, as I've said before are stunning! Glad you are back to Travel Photo Thursday. See you again tomorrow! Loved your mention of flies. That was the one thing that surprised us about Australia - we were hounded by flies every time we went outside, is that normal?

  14. I'm thinking that this trip though beautiful was pretty darned tough. I'm surprised to hear that the flies still stick around even with the big winds. What a tragedy to hear about the restaurant owner's death. They must have been very dedicated to live so remotely.
    Sounds like a true adventure - and am amazed at the photos.

    Now what is the next big adventure?

    1. actually not too tough in an air-conditioned 4-wheel-drive! There would be tougher treks in Australia. I doubt I could live so remotely. Our next trip - probably back to Karijini - I didn't have a digital camera last time we visited!

  15. Wow, it sounds like you had quite an adventure. I loved reading about your trip and the details made me feel like I was there with you. The flies were horrid and reminded me of a beach I visited with my children when they were younger. It was a lovely beach in Virginia but it wasn't very crowded and we wondered why. It didn't take us long to learn that it was due to the multitude of black flies that occupied the area. The only way to escape their bite was to jump into the water or flee the beach. What a memory.

  16. We're yet to 'do' the Oodnadatta Track - it'll have to wait for a rig upgrade. Or maybe that's 'downgrade'!!! I've heard so much about it but haven't seen photos of many of the features you describe, so I'll feel right at home now when we get there!! We HAVE been to both Marla and Marree - so it's just the middle bit left!!!!

    1. yes Red, it is one of those iconic Australia treks, so I hope you get to do it one day.

  17. thank you so much my wonderful blogging friends and readers for stopping by, for your wonderful comments, and your support. I love hearing from you all. And look forward to bringing you the next part of our journey.


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