12 March, Tuesday.
After stocking up on fresh veggies and food we waved good bye to Port Augusta at 9.30 in the morning.
We travelled North, all along the western edge of the Flinders Mountain Range and the old Ghan Railway Line.
Our first stop was for a tea break in the tiny town of Quorn, home of the Pichi Richi Historic railway.
For lunch we stopped at the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna. This hotel has a very interesting selection of paintings and photographs.
After briefly stopping at an ochre quarry we passed through the town of Marree where a film crew was shooting a post-apocalypse film. The barren landscape is well suited for such a film. Apart from saltbush, there isn’t much else growing betrween the rocks and stones. After looking at the Tom Cruise exhibition at the hotel, we left for the Muloorina Station. A short distance out of Marree on the Birdsville Track is the monument and plaque commemorating John McDouall Stuart, who made the first successful crossing of Australia along this route.
Shortly before sunset we arrived at the family run Muloorina Station, which is 1,000,000 acres (or 400,000 Hectares) in size. An excellent dinner was prepared for us by the owners. The rooms were quite something different, it was like sleeping in a pre-fab cold storage room. They were excellent, a great idea. Very clean, en- suite bathroom, well isolated against the heat, air conditioned and free from flies. They don’t have to heat any water in this area, it all comes from natural artesian hot water springs. The whole area is part of the great artesian basin.
Muloorina is also where on 17 July 1964, Donald Campbell and his team stayed when he set the land speed record on the dry salt pan of Lake Eyre in his famous Bluebird car.
13 March, Wednesday.
Today we are following the Oodnadatta track along the southern edge of Lake Eyre towards William Creek station.
Along the way, in the middle of nothing, near Alberrie Creek, we pass the incredible Mutonia Sculpture Park with it’s remarkable Plane Henge, moon buggy, weird windmills and ET space figures, created by mechanic turned artist, Robin “Mutoid” Cooke, who returns every year to create a new sculpture.
We also stopped at a spot where Lake Eyre is 15m below sea level.
It is the lowest point in Australia and when flooded becomes the 18th largest lake in the world. Along the road are mound springs in places where boiling hot artesian water bubbles through mounds in the ground. Some of them even have names, such as “Blubber” and “Blanche Cup“.
Along the road hugging the old disused Ghan railway, between Adelaide and Darwin, are many photogenic ruins of old buildings.
William Creek is where we spend our night.
The town is surrounded by the Anna Creek Station (In AUS they call a cattle farm a station, ….weird people) which is the largest working cattle farm in the world. It is 2,500,000 Hectares in size. William Creek is one of the smallest towns in Australia. They are the only town with more aeroplanes than people. It also has the most remote pub in the world. The Woomera former testing ground for atomic weapons is also nearby. In their Memorial Park is the first stage of the Black Arrow Rocket, from Britain’s only successful independent space launch in 1971, which was recovered from the surrounding Anna Creek Station. Quite a few backpackers working in the outback hotels. Here we had a Canadian girl running the pub in a very efficient way.
Rising very early the next morning we went on a scenic flight, first over the painted desert and then we flew over the huge Lake Eyre. Our pilot, Talia Sheppard, the chief pilot of Wrightsair was an excellent pilot as well as aerial tour guide. (Probably because she was born in South Africa). The scenery from the air is stunning.
After the flight we’re back on the Oodnadtta Track, on our way to Mt Dare.