Dawdling up the Oodnadatta Track

Off again for another adventure north which we began by driving all day to get to Lake Tyrell. It did not live up to all the online hype so the next day we set off for one of our good old favourites – Pink Lakes. We detoured via Patchewollock to  see one of the painted silos, part of a planned six, four have already been completed. http://www.art-almanac.com.au/silo-art-trail/

At Lake Crosbie we had our usual lakeside view as we set off on the circuit walk via Lake Kenyon and remnants of the salt works that used to extract salt here. The shallow salty lakes provided perfect reflected sunrises and sunsets.

Another favourite was the site of our next camp. We have stayed at Burra many times as it’s on the direct route to the north – we’ve used the caravan park, Burra Gorge and one wet night even in the Paxton Square cottages to the delight of the family. However Red Rock conservation park was our destination this time as we love the walk and surroundings. It was greener and wetter than last time we were there but we still had a visit from an emu. The walk shows the devastation wrought by drought, rabbits and erosion but it is strangely beautiful.

Alligator Gorge was worth another stopover and then we sidled up the Flinders Ranges, ducking into Parachilna Gorge to camp after Ray turned down the very basic camping at the Prairie Hotel and the allure of the Feral Feast. http://www.prairiehotel.com.au/

We were then finally onto the Oodnadatta Track after a not so quick visit to see Talc Alf, a local character at Lyndhurst, who has his own views on the origins of letters and words and is very happy to share them. He also carves out of the rock that is used to make talcum powder. Farina was a ghost town built for the old Ghan railway and is slowly crumbling to extinction. The surprisingly pretty campground by the creek tempted us to abandon the battle against the headwind and stay the night. (Ray was watching the fuel consumption on the gauge of our brand new vehicle and didn’t like it.)

The good thing about the Oodnadatta Track is there is always something to stop and look at as opposed to the boring Stuart Highway. We had more ruins, a wacky sculpture park, Lake Eyre South and mound Springs all to keep us interested on the short leg to Coward Springs. The springs have been set up with information and boardwalks to show off two of the bigger ones but there are many more dotted about. Coward Springs has their own so there was no need to light a fire under the hot water tank for a shower.

It was a short day on to William Creek where I booked in for an early morning flight over Lake Eyre. I had the flight to myself with two pilots, one in training to learn the route and highlights to point out. We flew across the sand dunes which were practically non existent from the air and then out over the salty lake. There was only a very small amount of water in the lake but the patterns in the salt were amazing. The countryside looks so different from above and the lines of creeks were especially photogenic.

Before Oodnadatta the railway line crosses a number of creeks with impressive bridges. The biggest and best is Algebuckina bridge and it is the preferred stopping point for travelers with its appealing waterhole and grand bridge.

This year the Oodnadatta Track is in the best condition it’s been in for years according to the locals and it’s more of a highway. Despite this we served our initiation with a broken back window. We finally had to leave the smooth gravel and venture onto real 4wd tracks to visit Dalhousie Springs. It wasn’t too bad as we took a side road that passed a number of cattle stations but then we turned onto the track that led to the National Park and they notoriously never have any money for roads. So 70 km of rough driving with stops at Pedirka and Dalhousie ruins made us very grateful for the warm waterhole at the springs. It is about 37 degrees Celsius so it’s like swimming in a giant bathtub.

It was especially enjoyable in the cool next morning as the mist rose from the pond. Unfortunately we had to leave on the supposedly better road but the heavier traffic created horrendous corrugation which had us bouncing along and Ray vowing he wouldn’t have come if he’d known. Back to the bitumen at Kulgera and rocks that would be noticed anywhere else but not in the Red Centre.

 

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Light to Light

When I heard the bushwalking club was walking the Light to Light track in Ben Boyd NP as day walks I knew we had to join them. Walking with a day pack is so much more enjoyable than a full pack if there is a choice. We set off for the long drive to the coast taking a new route for us through the small town of Dalgety located on the Snowy River. The autumn colours of the poplars over the dammed river had us breaking our journey. Another stop to enjoy the lookout over Disaster Bay and we pulled in to camp at Bittangabee Bay in time to set up and look around before dark.

The night brought a thunderstorm but luckily it was all out at sea. We dropped off cars ready for the end of the walk before heading to Boyd’s Tower at the beginning. The red cliffs contrasted with the blue waters as we meandered along the cliff path, stopping often to enjoy the views. We crossed a rocky bay before climbing up to a grassy headland that was once a farm. It enabled great views in both directions and down to the sandy beach below, an excellent campsite but water needed to be carried from Saltwater Creek. A stretch along the rocky shelf above the cliffs added to the everchanging environment that the track passed through. We needed the help of locals to find the arch made by the collapse of a sea cave before completing our day’s walk at Saltwater Creek.

A cool, clear night meant clear skies for the sun to light up the cliffs after rising.

We began the second day at the southern end of the walk and visited Green Cape lighthouse. It was too early for a tour so we set off across the heathland. It had been burnt in past years and was a mass of flowers which slowed the walk down as we admired and took photographs. We took a side trip to Pulpit Rock before heading through more heathland on the way to Bittagabee Bay where we could stop for a morning cuppa. The track continued around the bay before emerging onto the cliffs again. A spell through the forest had us admiring fungi and Hegarty Bay would have been a delightful overnight stop. All too soon we were back at Saltwater Creek and heading home the next day before the rain.