Wednesday 26 August
It was then on to William Creek, permanent population somewhere between 3 and 16. This township is really just a pub and a surprisingly busy airport.
No photo would do this pub justice. It is only small but is the most colourful outback pub I have been in. The photo shows the entry door to the left with some of the memorabilia that cover all the walls and ceiling.
The town is within the boundaries of the Anna Creek Station the largest cattle station on the planet, in excess of 30,000 square kilometres. At the moment due to the drought it is de stocked. There is a small memorial park across from the pub in which are all sorts of interesting things including some space junk. In the background you can see the motor casing that propelled the last satellite put into space from Woomera. This satellite is not due for re entry until 2071!.
There is also a memorial to a Swiss tourist who perished in the area about 8 years ago. Their hire vehicle became bogged on a sandy track and she disobeyed the number one rule of outback survival to stay with the vehicle. She went for help and perished, her companion stayed with the vehicle and was rescued. The most tragic part of the story is that all the police needed to do to recover the vehicle was to deflate the tires! If only the tourists had been better informed. However this tragedy has lead to it being easier to hire EPIRB’s and sat phones when heading into this area.
William Creek is doing big business at the moment as the gateway to viewing Lake Eyre. There is a track to what is called ABC Bay on the shores of Lake Eyre that leaves from here. For several reasons we opted not to drive to Lake Eyre.
This 68 km track is extremely corrugated because of the amount of traffic over it. South Australia Roads have issued an official warning about the road condition. We considered it was not worth subjecting the vehicles to the stress of this track. The second reason is that you can not see any water in the lake from ABC Bay. The expected big input of water from heavy rain in Queensland earlier in the year did not materialise. Water is now only in the very northern part at the Warburton Grove. Bob and Heather opted to see the lake from the air, going on a one hour flight. These charter flights are bringing a large number of visitors to the town.
When they got back from their trip we headed of down the track again. Called in the ruins of Strangeways which had once been a cattle station and a relay station for the overland telegraph. There are a number of mound springs in this area. These provide constant and reliable water and have done so for thousands of years although some are drying up now due to a decrease in pressure in the Great Arterial Basin.
Amazingly at Strangeways there is one of the original pine telegraph poles still standing. About 125 years old! A fascinating place and I will try to learn more about it when I return home and can do some research.
We then made for camp at Coward Springs. Only about 2 hours driving for the day. Coward Springs is a privately run and managed oasis on the southern part of the Oodnadatta Track. The big attraction is that it has a natural artesian spa. The lessees of the place have done a terrific job in turning this into a “must stop” place. It was just as well that we arrived early as by mid afternoon most of the spots had been taken. The toilets and showers are all built out of old railway sleepers. The donkey boilers for the showers are fired by old railway sleepers, we cook using old railway sleepers. There must be hundreds of thousands of them lying in the desert.
As well as the original desert she oaks and date palms (planted by the cameleers) the owners have planted more native tress and shrubs for shade and it really is an oasis. We certainly didn’t mind paying the $10 per head camping fee.
Well it’s taken me most of the afternoon to write 5 blogs that bring the trip up to date as of Thursday 27 August at Coward Springs. I will publish them when we next have Internet access which should be by weeks end.
It is now beer o’clock!
Friday 28 August
Woke up this morning to rain! Only light but the first rain we have had this trip and we are still in the Simpson Desert. The rain was finished by 8:AM but it has been a bit overcast all day. As well the wind is up, it is blowing about 20 knots and as you can imagine the air is full of sand. We will stay at Coward springs for two nights for a bit of a break as since Alice we have moved every day.
Spoke to the Coward Springs owners, they have been here for 20 years. They close the camp for 5 months over summer and go back home to Kangaroo Island. As well as running this camp they are restoring some of the old buildings as this place was a repeater station for the overland telegraph. They have fully restored the managers residence which they live in, as well they have restored another building and turned it into a museum.
They had 23 vehicles in the campground last night. This has been the busiest year ever for them. People are coming out to view the supposed water in Lake Eyre because of the reported flood. However the flood never really happened and the only way to see water is to take a flight from William Creek. Since William Creek the vehicle traffic has increased tenfold. This is great for the local economy however for me the best part of the trip finished at Oodnadatta when we started to encounter more traffic. We are seeing a lot of people here and at William Creek who have never been “outback” before. Dressed as though they are going to a suburban outing, cleaning the car when they arrive, wiping down the camper before they put it up. About 60% of the vehicles would be towing camper trailers, 30% towing nothing and 10% caravans. We spoke to one couple who had owned a top of the range camper trailer for 5 years and their trip to William Creek was the most adventurous they had made. They are heading for Alice Springs so we started to tell them about some of the great water hole campsites on the way. No, they are going west to pick up the Stuart H’way so that they have bitumen for the rest of the trip and they only stay at caravan parks anyway!
I am now a bit more comfortable with the camper trailer. We have a well developed routine for putting it up. Firstly we ensure that the car and trailer are facing NW. This way the rear of the camper, which is the galley is shaded from the hot afternoon sun. We have worked out how best to use the campers many doors and windows to ensure that ventilation is adequate whilst still maintain privacy if others are camped nearby. The camper has its good and bad points. Ventilation and coolness is a very strong point and from what we have seen and discussed with other camper trailer owners ours is one of the best for this feature. Its worst point is it does take a fair amount time and effort to set up and pack away, specially pack away. We have got into the habit of packing up before breakfast so that it is done before the heat of the day. It is very interesting and informative talking to others about their trailers and learning the issues they have with their own camper.
From here we head of tomorrow for Roxby Downs where we will be able to stock up on essential supplies such as beer and other incidentals such as food. It is then on to Woomera.