West MacDonnell Ranges

We left Alice Springs after being told the only water around the area, after so long without rain was the West MacDonnell Ranges, so we headed out that way. Animals and birds need water. The West Macs branch out like ribbons of red quartzite rock for over 150kms west of Alice Springs. Here there are the highest mountains found west of the dividing range. Most of these are protected in National Parks. Many of the best places are gaps in these ranges where rivers have cut a pathway through, creating some stunning gorges and water holes. We also found out pretty quickly about the fires from Jan this year. They burned huge areas along the road and into the national park. Worse still they were not lightening lit, which is often how fires start out here but deliberate by some fool looking for a thrill. M

west macdonnell look out
View point on the side of the road in Western MacDonnells. Burned bushes in the foreground.

First stop Ellery Creek Big Hole. The Hole was not as big as when we were here 9 yrs ago in Jan after some rain. Big difference too were how many people were here. Last time there was nobody around most places.  There are so few birds around but Steve managed to find a new bird here the golden backed honey eater but he was unable to get a photo even though we both saw it each once. It was one of those that was not into posing. M

ellery creek big hole
Ellery Creek Big Water Hole named because it is the biggest water hole in a chain in Ellery Creek but probably the only one in the creek at the moment.
big hole swim
Steve swam to the other side of the cold water and explored. Hard to believe water can get so cold out here.
ellery big sunset
Sunset and waiting for the wildlife to come down.
white faced heron
This white faced heron called Ellery Creek home. He just got on with the job of hunting while you watched him. 
Rufous whistler 2
Rufous Whistler 
Australasian Grebe 2
This fluffed up Australiasian Grebe were happy to just cruise around looking for a feed while you watched.

 

steve swim ellery creek
There were a number of people at the water hole but only Steve, 2 people in wet suits and a 7 yr old boy were game enough to brave the cold cold water. The 7 yr old did not stay under even!
elery creek big hole on the morning
Early in the morning before the crowds got up.
dolomite walk with spinifex
We did the Dolomite walk from the campsite. The spinifex looked healthy here.
dolomite walk
The mountain ranges around here remind of of the Flinders. Very old rock!
ellery big cycads
These Cycads grew high on the cliffs above the waterhole not minding that they havn’t been rained on for a long time.

big hole

caution sign
South Australia was much lees paranoid. We are back to the warning signs again.

ellery big dinosaur

Next we headed up to Ormiston Gorge and did the Ormiston Pound walk. There was nobody else on the trail and when we entered the Pound it was like coming into a lost world. It is a valley enclosed in mountains with Ormiston creek running through it. It was a stunning walk and one that doesn’t seem to be done by most people. It is here in 1997 that 2 endangered mammals were rediscovered here. The long tailed dunnart and the central rock rat. So it’s an important refuge. They are nocturnal so we won’t be seeing them, but it is nice to know they are still here. M

burned bush
There were some terrible bush fires here in Jan that burned large areas in the West MacDonnells lit by arsonists and this is the result. This is the beginning of the Ormiston Pound walk. Thankfully we only had to walk though this for about 45 minutes and then it was green again.

The beginning of this walk followed the Larapinta Trail a 231km multi day iconic walking trail taking  12-18days. We will be doing bits of this as we go along.

ghost gum ormiston
Ghost gums grow high on rocky cliff tops. This one survived the fires with burned areas around it. This one’s roots find their way 70 metres below to the creek bed for their moisture.
on the trail ormiston pound
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ormiston pound selfie
Ormiston Pound from the ridge top.
ormiston pound
Ormiston pound panorama with the creek winding through and the odd fly.
decending into ormiston pound
The trail led down a gully and into the pound.
Spinifex Pigeon
Spinifex pidgeon. A pidgeon with pride!
entry to ormiston gorge
Down in the pound.
a few flies
So glad I couldn’t see this. Steve had more!
pound walk sign
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western bowerbird
Western Bowerbird were around camp at Ormiston.
ripples
Water marks from the water hole slowly drying up day by day, until these black rocks in the creek bed are exposed.
ormiston pound view 2
We climbed down in to it and walked out through the gorge.
ormiston pound look out
Ormiston Pound felt like a lost world!
waterhole ormiston creek
There were a few waterholes left along the creek. Good for wildlife but a bit grundgy for a swim. This one “belonged” to a white faced heron.
White necked Heron
Not used to people this white faced heron kept an eye on us from high above his water hole on the cliff tops.
on the trail ormiston
Steve looks like here modeling the fly net hat! The flies were diabolical here!

We exited the pound walking back through the gorge to the main water hole and camping area. Most people don’t venture too far from the camping area so we had the place to ourselves mostly.

ormiston gorge
The beautiful polished stone walls of Ormiston Gorge.
polished rock ormiston gorge
Creek bed in Ormiston Gorge
ripplestone in ormiston creek
Ripple stone from an ancient sea bed on the creek bed.
ormiston gorge quarzite
The colours of the rock were not real looking.
ghost gum and red rock
Ghost gums growing out of the rocks.
nice stone ormiston gorge
Gorgeous stones in the creekbed.
ormiston pool
The swimming waterhole at Ormiston Gorge campground is surrounded by huge river red gums and was at the end of our walk and our reward after 4 hours of walking.
rare swimming shot
This water got a bit of sun during the day so it was warmer than the last pool. It was late in the day and the sun had dipped behind the hills but I still managed to get in. Steve is always amazed! I was really smiling because the flies couldn’t get me out there and I could take off the stupid net!

A Town called Alice

We were in Alice Springs for a few days to de dust and have a couple of days without flies. It seems they don’t like the “big” city of Alice Springs.  Alice has a population of 25,000 and we wonder what so many people do out here in the middle of the country. It looks like a lot of it is tourism. We were there for Anzac day so went up to Anzac Hill to get a view over the city. Manzac memorial alice

anzac hill view
Feeling liberated without a fly net!
anzac hill
All you need is a lot of water to have a green city out here. There has been no rain here for 12 months now.
anzac hill look out
The view from Anzac hill over looking Alice Springs city with Mount Mt Gillen or Alhekulyele an important sacred site in the distance.
The ghan train
The Ghan train that passed us that night at the railside free camp in Kingoonya was in town, so we went down to have a look.
ghan at alice springs
It is the longest passenger train the world. You could not see the end cars.
ghan with stobie pole
Steve admiring the “stobie like” poles again!?!

ghan sign

 

Ghan memorial statue
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We also went to the Olive Pink Botanical garden. Olive was another real territory legend. An anthropologist, a lover of art and flowers, a botanical artist, an advocate for Aboriginal rights. She was a woman very much ahead of her time. She also promoted the cultivation of native plants, which was very out of fashion at the time. The garden is in Alice Springs but feels far away with wallaby’s living in the rocky hills behind. It was founded in 1956. Olive lived in the garden in a tent until her death in 1975 aged 91. She was known for always being impeccably dressed in long skirt, long sleeves and trademark brimmed hat.

“she pinpointed the most controversial issues of her day and highlighted them in ways that other anthropologists did not….these issues continue to be important today. Miss Pink is buried near the Aboriginal section of the Alice Springs Cemetery. All headstones face east except hers which faces west, towards the important sacred site, Alhekulyele (Mt Gillen).  She was a rebel even in death. ( ref from the garden guide booklet). 

We also found 2 good city quality eateries for some good food/cocktails/coffee and went to see a movie since the next town is very far away.

seen pod in a sheoak olive pink

black footed rock wallaby
Black Footed Rock Wallaby at Olive Pink Botanic gardens
good use for an old iron
Great use for an old iron
emu at olive pink gardens
A bird in the Olive Pink Garden

We also had a look at the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame founded by Molly Clark. It is housed in the old jail. We were told Molly was unhappy about this as it wasn’t the right place to honour women. It was  offered to them for free though and they had to take this location. The jail visit was actually interesting as well and it showed a jail at the time when there wasnt much business and there was an attempt at some humanity inside. M

pioneer womens

There was a lot of interesting woman to read about in Molly’s museum but these 2 ladies stood out for me. They were nurses doing house visits last century on camels! They were midwives going wherever they were needed to help deliver babies and making the outback a safer place for women to live! Just look at the clothes! Can you imagine working in that garb!Imagine having to wash that blouse after delivering a baby hand washing with minimal water! M

nurses on camels doing house calls.JPG
Nurse/midwives on camel back

And how about being the only immunisation nurse in all of North West Western Australia having to fly yourself to your patients! We have it easy on the school team girls!

flying public health nurse

 

Mac Clark Reserve-Acacia Peuce Trees

Not far from Old Andado on the Binns track is the Mac Clark (Molly’s husband) Acacia Peuce reserve. Mac(and other farmers) was concerned for these rare trees which led to this reserve being formed. These trees are very rare, the hardest wood in the world, and only occur in three places only in Australia in small stands. You can also see them in Boulia and Birdsville in Qld. Aboriginal people used this “Birdsville Waddy” wood to make clubs (waddy). Early farmers used these to make fence posts and stockyards as it is durable and termite resistant. it is now an offence to cut this wood. Some of these trees are estimated to be 500yrs old. They are special enough in themselves but they are also crucial to the survival of a unique group of bugs, reptiles,mammals and birds.

They are easily disturbed by cattle trampling the ground around them so these have been fenced in to save them. They are a strange looking tree and stick out from very far away here on a plain of black gibbers.

mac clark reserve signmac clark reserve sign 2

mac clark info sign

pink bottomed clouds
Acacia Peuce trees in Mac’s Reserve

acacia peuce with sun

waddy tree pods
Spiky pine like leaves
pink and peuce
It is very dry out here but these Galahs have found something to eat way out here, but we can tell what it is.
white winged fairy wren male in moult
White winged fairy wren in the vegetation on the side of the Binns Track
masked woodswallow
Masked woodswallow in the Acacia Peuce
wheres da food mon
We thought he was thinking. “WHAT am I supposed to eat out here?”
black gibber
Heavy shiny black iron gibbers we all around the Acacia Trees
old andado track clouds
Big sky country. Gorgeous clouds over the gibber plains.
dead tanks and mill
Old rusted out tanks and windmill near a watering point.
gecko
This attractive gecko lived in the box that held the visitors book for the reserve.
zebra finch drinking spot
This drip at a hose in the middle of nowhere was a spot where finches waited for the water to fall and them flew up to drink it. Steve tried to get a bird in action but they were not cooperating. The only water for many kms and they found it!
old andado track
On the edge of the Simpson desert driving between the dunes.

 

old andado track
We love the big skies out here. These clouds must drive  the farmers crazy though with no rain coming from this show.
open the gate mate
There were a lot of gates to open on this route.
cow and water andado stn
It was always so amazing to see water sitting out here. It was always at a cattle watering point but it was always where you heard birds. Mostly finches, galahs and corellas but they were nice to hear.

 

arookara free camp
Arookara free camp
arookana camp
Arookara free camp from the top of the rock hill
emu tracks
We found no birds on our walk but we did find Emu tracks

Old Andado and Molly Clark

We left Dalhousie Springs and headed to Mt Dare which calls itself Australia’s most remote pub. It did rather feel like this. It is in the Simpson Desert National Park and has camping and basic accom and meals, as well as car repairs and recovery. We had seen one of their tow trucks when it had to come out to Dalhousie Springs to rescue someone who’s oil pump had died on the horrible corrogated road out to there. We nearly lost the boat on that same road and had to tie it back down. We filled our water tanks with their bore water after filtering it and set out on the Binns Track towards Old Andado. M

mt dare most remote pub

opossum water hole
We stopped to have a look at the Opossum water hole which would have been gorgeous with some water. It still had a nice feeling with the trees all leaning out towards the “water’. It was a special place for local aboriginal people too.

aboriginal rules

blood creek windmill
Blood Creek giant wind mill used to pump water from a bore around 600 metres deep. It was put there last century and the windmill was turning  but this no longer pumped. Blood Creek homestead is now a ruin with little left out here in the middle of nowhere.

We were told the road to Andado  was “good” by one of the locals but I wondered what it was like when it was bad?! It was the worst road we had been on so far on this trip with long, wide stretches of soft sand and ruts left behind by the big cattle trucks. Also a very long soft sand Finke river crossing that just kept going. We stopped and further lowered our tire pressure and the van got through with no problems. I did have my fingers crossed at times even though Steve is a great driver on the rough roads. We had to keep the van moving, so we wouldn’t get bogged but we also had low tree branches to avoid suddenly. We crossed the Northern Territory Border and the terrain changed with trees at the sides of the road. I had the image of digging the car/and or van out of the soft sand in my mind, in 30+deg temps and millions of flies. There were some horrible sections of bull dust too where we could not even see the van behind us! We saw nobody else on this road that day. We quite like this but not so good if you get bogged. Out here if you are pulled over on the road someone always stops to check on you, even if you are looking at a bird. This is one of the nice things about rural/remote Australia. M

binns track sign

 

rearview mirror dust on the binns track
Taken in the rear view mirror. We thought we had lost the van!
dirt van
There is no seeing out these windows anymore!
421 km to alice
We love the 150 litre petrol tank on the Prado. No more lugging extra fuel in jerry cans and signs like this don’t scare us. We liked the mirage off in the distance too.
dirty car
I wonder how much crystal car wash would charge for this job?

One of the most interesting camps on a property this entire trip, was this one at Old Andado Station. Nestled in between pink sand dunes at the edge of the Simpson Desert. Part of Andado Station is 18kms inside the Simpson desert. It was the final home of Molly Clark who was a real character and is a bit of a legend out here and for good reason. M

binns track to old andado
The road got better on this end of Andado station. Tracks to the left are where the cattle walk.

 

rig and dune
Over the dune and into Old Andado

 

old andado dunes
Old Andado nestled in between the red sand dunes in the middle of nowhere 5 hours from Alice Springs on a dirt roads!

old andado sign

old andado homestead
Old Andado Homestead
old andado camp
A sand dune view campsite on

old andado camping sign

molly clark
Molly Clark on her front porch- a legend in the outback

Molly Clark was born in 1923 and wanted to be a wool classer but this was not a job for a woman at the time, so she took up nursing. In her first year she contracted TB and that ended this career path. She ended up working on Mungerannie Station as a Governess. It was here she met her husband Malcolm (Mac) Clark and they married and had 3 sons. They managed a number of stations together and by 1969 owned their own place- Andado Station. They lived in the old 1920’s homestead  but built a new one a few kms west. In 1972 Molly and her family began to restore the old homestead to it’s former glory and she started a tourism business showing people what life was like in earlier days in the outback as alternative income during drought years. M

molly mac and sons

In 1978 Molly lost Mac to a heart attack after crash landing his light aircraft. In 1979 she lost her oldest son when his semi trailer was hit by a freight train at night.  Andado station was one of the first cattle stations to undergo Brucellosis and Tuberculosis testing and because it bordered South Australia they had to de stock the property (slaughter all the cows) and as a result of this loss Molly had to sell the property in 1984 for less than it was worth.

Molly did manage to secure a crown lease on 45 square kilometres around the old homestead, renaming it Old Andado. She lived there until she was forced to move into Alice Springs due to frailty and failing eyesight. The homestead today is just how she left it, when she retired to a nursing home in Alice Springs. Well nearly. Molly lived to 89yrs.

Molly was disappointed when she visited the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach and saw how few woman were mentioned, so she did something about it. She started the Pioneer Woman’s Hall of Fame in Alice Springs. M

baking scones
Molly’s kitchen and wood burning stove sitting and waiting for guests. This house is a living museum.
utes and generator shed
The 2 utes waiting to be driven
along andado dunes
We went for a walk on the dunes near the homestead and over onto the claypan beyond
leaning tool shed
The old timber slab hut has seen better days

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Visiting this house was so interesting. Yes it was covered it red dust as the verandas were only enclosed with shade cloth and the charitable trust seems not to have been able to get a caretaker for some time. But you could really get an idea of how hard it would be to live out here and get an idea of the woman that Molly Clark must have been. The royal flying doctors radio was still on the desk  and her prized salt and pepper shakers inside the glass cabinets. There was her perfume bottle on the dressing table ready for a special occasion. Books on birds and Aboriginal culture on the coffee table. A tea pot covered in a tea cosy. It would have been lovely to sit down at the table and have a cup of tea with her. She even looked a bit like my Gran. Molly won numerous awards and her last home, Old Andado was finally listed on the Heritage Register in 1993. Molly died in 2012. M

buried near the red dunes

mollys grave
Molly Clark was buried not far from the homestead on a hill just below the sand dunes and just high enough to not get flooded out by the river.

 

molly clark at old andado
We just visited the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame which Molly founded in Alice Springs. The older lady at the counter knew Molly and said she was one feisty woman who said things like they were and didn’t give up. Good on you Molly. We need a few more like you in this world.

Dalhousie Springs and Simpson Desert

After a lonesome night at Foggarty’s Claypan we pushed north to Dalhousie Springs in Witjira National Park.  These are the largest complex of natural springs on the great artesian basin and it is estimated that 43% of the naturally flowing waters of the whole basin emerge here.   Today there are also many artificial bores mining the waters of the great artesian basin. As this happens faster than it recharges, flow rates are dropping and several natural springs have dried up however, however there are steps being taken to reduce the wastage and the flow from man made has reduced about 25% since it’s peak of 2000 megalitres per day (ref Wikipedia)

witjira sign

After many dusty kilometers, arriving at Dalhousie Springs is truly remarkable – with trees, reeds and general greenery emerging from the bright white desert sands.   To cap it off, it is possible to swim in one of the spring fed lakes in water that varies between 34 and 39 degrees C.   For the first 2 days we were there, the air temperature reached the low 30s and with the sun baking the surface of the already hot pool, it was probably near the top of its range.    So while it was very welcome to wash off the dust and get away from the flies, which don’t seem to like venturing out over water, it was not at all refreshing and one soon overheated and had to get out.    However for night time dips and on our third day there, which was significantly cooler, the pool was lovely.

dalhousie springs main pool
The main swimming pool at Dalhousie Springs
dalhousie spring
Heaven – a lake in the middle of the desert
dalhousie camp from the air
A view of Dalhousie Springs from the air. The main pool is in the middle with the camping area to the right.    There are about 60 springs in the area a few of which can be seen behind
dalhousie outflow
A view of some of the greenery stretching into the distance resulting from the outflow of some of the larger springs

On the road into Dalhousie Springs we stopped off at the old Dalhousie Station homestead ruins.   These were established near some of the southern most springs of the Dalhousie complex in the late 1800s and operated as a cattle and sheep station, but eventually abandoned – first by the European settlers, then later by the aboriginal workers who remained behind for several years and continued to run it as a cattle farm.  The date palms that were planted around the springs have become a bit of a problem, crowding out other species and altering the nature of the banks of the springs and propagating themselves to other springs in the area.   Eradication programs are underway, but a couple of male trees have been left at the homestead ruins for historical reasons.

On our first full day at Dalhousie Springs we went for a walk to another set of springs about 3km away called kingfisher springs.   These did not have good swimming access and if it were not for some feral cows which had trampled down an access route to the biggest pool it may not have even been possible to see it because of the dense surrounding vegetation.   However, apart from this benefit, it’s sad to see cows in National Parks as they damage the ground and vegetation and foul up waterholes.    We seem to be seeing cows in National Parks all over the country, it’s surprising that one does not hear about this issue more.

 

Views from around Kingfisher Springs.   There are also some date palms infesting these springs.   Although some of the larger ones have been removed, there are already many smaller ones growing back.

Some interesting vegetation and dingo footprints on the walk.   The night before we had heard dingos howling, and even on the walk we heard a few in the distance.  The following night we caught a brief glimpse of one walking past our campsite, but by the time we got the torch out, it had disappeared.

Dalhousie Springs lies on the western edge of the Simpson Desert. As it isn’t feasible to take a caravan across the the Simpson Desert we decided to take a day trip into the western edge of the desert to Purni Bore.   This was a bore drilled in the 1960’s in a search for oil, but instead it struck artesian water.   Although the oil company capped the bore before leaving, after a few years, it corroded and water started flowing out freely at 18 litres per second creating a permanent lake between two dunes and an oasis for birds, animals and travellers.  However in recent years, the bore has been recapped and now only a trickle has been left which still attracts some wildlife.

Purni Bore is east of Dalhousie Springs, so to avoid driving into the sun, then spending time there in the heat of the day with no wildlife active then driving back into the setting sun, we decided to set off 2 hours before sunrise to get there shortly after sunrise.    After the initial shock, it was lovely driving first by moonlight, then watching the sun rise as we approached the dunes.   Then after a couple of hours at the bore, we headed back with the sun overhead and returned to Dalhousie for a dust-off in the pool in the early afternoon.

dawn on french line
The first signs of dawn – about an hour after setting off.   Venus heralding the sun.
dune dawn
Crossing one of the last dunes before Purni Bore.   The flag on the car is to signal to possible oncoming cars when cresting the top of the dune.   We never saw another car until much later in the day, but in busy times, head-on collisions can be a problem, so sporting a flag is now mandatory in the Simpson Desert.   We had the option of paying nearly $200 for a flag pole sold in roadhouses for this purpose, but opted to buy a high visibility vest for $8, cut it to the regulation size and cable tie it to a tent pole instead.   Maybe it would not last a full 4 day desert crossing, but it survived our 150km round trip and was a little bit cheaper.
sunrise on the french line
Sunrise on the Simpson Desert Dunes

Flowers on the dunes at first light before they have woken up on the left and on the right: a few hours later after they have had their morning coffee.

simpson desert french line
The French’s line across the Simson Desert – about 400km of crossing dunes and claypans in an almost straight line perpendicular to the dunes – we only had to cross the first 15 or so dunes.
happy spinifex (2)
Although we were officially in one of Australia’s driest deserts, the vegetation looked a lot more vigorous than in other slightly less arid areas.   Either they are better adapted to it, or they caught some recent rains from the edge of cyclone Trevor, which dumped a fair bit on areas a few hundred km. to the north.
red dingo
As we arrived at Purni Bore, a nice tan dingo trotted off.
camel spine
Remnants of a camel skeleton at Purni Bore.

Purni Bore info signs (click on the images to read)

 

purni bore and steve
The bore itself, now capped and controlled allowing only a small lake and soak for wildlife that has become dependent on it to drink.   Gone are the days of the vast lake with waterbirds etc. Spot the fly trying to take the limelight?
purni dune
Exploring the area around Purni Bore – The former lake bed and dead reeds on its fringe can still be seen.
my shoe treads
Maddy’s shoes have soles that are designed to camouflage one’s tracks to look like dingo tracks!
desert tomato
The flowers of the desert tomato
Common Bronzewing 3
Although there were plenty of birds at Purni Bore, unfortunately I saw no new species.  However I got this nice photo of a common bronzewing showing off its wings.
zebra finch tree
There were thousands of zebra finches, but I am not exaggerating when I say that there were probably a thousand flies for every zebra finch.
galahs purni bore
Also plenty of galahs and the other usual suspects like singing honey-eaters, crows etc.
Eyrean grasswren
Although we saw no new birds at Purni Bore itself, we did spot this Eyrean Grasswren on the drive back.
maddy and dingo
While waiting for birds to come and drink Maddy was treated to a close encounter with a dingo

dingo drinking

white dingo
Dingo’s look thin and scrawny, but apparently they are naturally this way.
purni bore simpson desert
This is the remaining small lake at Purni Bore – the size of a small swimming pool.  Unfortunately trampled and fouled by cattle and feral donkeys, like so many other water holes in outback national parks.   But I guess this one is not natural so I shouldn’t complain.
sand hills and spinifex
The vegetation on the dunes is surprisingly diverse and vibrant

new groth after rain

hot and cold showers in the Simpson desert
If you do camp at Purni Bore, one of the luxuries is a hot shower courtesy of the bore.   The water from Purni Bore comes from an aquifer that is 1200m deep and comes out at 85 deg C
tea and fly net
The best way to enjoy a cup of tea –  Although age is catching up on me,  I haven’t lost a tooth, it’s just a fly on the outside of the net.
red sand track simpson desert
Heading back to Dalhousie Springs
Simpson desert sign
It was dark when we passed this sign on the way in so took this shot on the way back.   By comparison this is a surprisingly unemotional sign with none of the usual big red and yellow Achtung words with forebodings of misery, death and damnation that usually appear at the start of far less serious tracks or routes.

 

 

 

 

Oodnadatta Track

We left Coober Pedy and drove through the Dog Fence. This is supposed to be the longest fence in the world. It stretches for 5600 kilometers from the Great Australian Bight in South Australia to the Darling Downs in S.E. Qld. It originally started as a vermin proof fence in the early 1900’s to stop rabbits getting into farmland. It didn’t work for this purpose but was found to work for Dingos or wild dogs. South of the dog fence is sheep country and north is cattle country. Dingos will attack sheep but not cows. We were now in Cattle country and going further into the desert and hoped to see a Dingo.dog fence signdog fence

dog fence 2
The dog fence was never “rabbit proof”
dog fence
It goes for miles with grids and gates to get through

emu fence

The dog fence may be good for farmers but not so for wildlife. These emus and many others we saw all along this fence are trying to find a way to get through.

Prohibited area sign
The sign didn’t say you can’t stop and look for birds.
rufous field wren
Rufous Field Wren- a new bird
bleak road
The road was a bit corrogated 
grey water dust
The wet gray hose got a bit furry 

old car

 

We then turned onto the Oodnadatta Track famous for following the path of the old Ghan railway. It is also where the Great Artesian Basin, one of the world’s largest aquifers bursts to the surface in many places into springs attracting wildlife and birds. We would not be seeing the springs section of this track this time as we are headed to Dalhousie Springs on the edge of the Simpson desert to “take the waters” of the Great Artesian Basin. A new destination for us.

oodnadatta track signanna creek sign

pink tanks
Not sure who’s idea the pink tanks were on Anna creek station but they sure stood out.

Aboriginal people showed explorers this route as it was an ancient trade route for them and the only safe way through this desert country with no permanent water. Little did they know this land would be turned into cattle farms and their springs turned into cattle watering points!

flipped caravan
You usually see flipped cars on the side of the road out here. This looks like a caravan but it was actually a trailer full of motorbikes where fuel bottles exploded. The vehicle pulling it managed to escape but with only a little damage.
oodnadatta track cattle
The road goes through the middle of the paddock. The cows just stand there and wait until just before you hit them to get off! Even honking your horn does nothing! You practically have to nudge them off with your bull bar. Sweet stupid looking faces on them!
william creek hotel
Lunch at the William Creek Hotel. It doesn’t look like much but it is an oasis out here. It is now owned by Trevor (who owns the whole town) who runs the local airline, Wrights Air. This airline takes people on flights over lake Eyre. Trevor is the only one who lives here and everyone else just comes in to help in the season. Town is a pub, caravan park, petrol pumps and airport. Population under 20 at the moment and mostly pilots as there is water in lake Eyre from the floods up north! First time in 9 yrs.
william creek hotel bar
William Creek Hotel
william creek sign
We are only 2090 kms from home!
william creek hotal bull
Every outback pub needs a water buffalo! This one wouldn’t survive here.
aboriginal art william creek hotel
Trevor has brought the standards up on this outback watering hole. Nice Aboriginal art on the walls. They were not for sale but I would love to have taken this one home.
artestian water tap
Artesian water is full of minerals
anna creek
An old sign in William Creek. Only one of the old Kidman empire’s holdings was Anna Creek Station. It is the largest cattle station in the world (2.36 million hectares) which you drive through on the track. Gina Rinehart (with Chinese partners) tried to buy this when the Kidman’s were selling it in 2016. You can see the Iron on the surface in the black gibbers everywhere. Anna Creek ended up being sold to the Williams Cattle Company, who own a number of stations near by for somewhere in the $16-20million price tag!
sidney kidman empire
Kidman was one of Australian’s most successful pastoralist’s. He bought always with strategy in mind and the knowledge that water will always be a problem out here. He made sure to buy a property that was above the Great Artesian Basin for reliable water, even if you had to dig deep to get it. Also important was the ability for clear movement of stock.
gorgeous gibber oodnadatta
Gibber “pavement” . I loved the colours of these. Just a little grout and you have a nice floor!
gibber plains oodnadatta track
A quick break on the dusty road on gibber plains
duff creek siding 2
Duff Creek old Ghan railway siding. Not much left
a once lovely sign sand blasted
We drove thorough this station. This once nice sign has been sand blasted over the years. There are very few individual farms these days. Most are owned by companies with many holdings. This company bought Anna Creek station for $16-20 million.
gyroopter
gyrocopter used for cattle mustering Nilpinna station
loading cattle onto a road train oodnadatta track
Loading mustered cattle onto road trains on Nilpinna station

algebuckina bridge sign

It is mostly dry out here but when it rains it dumps and takes out everything in it’s path which is why the old Ghan rail needed to be moved. It was never a good idea to build it here. The rail line was always out with sand covering the tracks or water destroying the bridges. A very silly decision made last century. The aboriginals must have watched this being built and scratched their heads knowing the outcome! The local station owners must have known it wouldn’t work either.

 

Riverbed mud algebrakina
Dried mud in the creek bed
Steve opens the gate onto the PAR
Steve  opening a farm gate for us to find our free waterhole camp site on this property
roo tougue
Thirsty roos drinking from a cattle trough
joey t drikig trough
The joey wants some too!
30 km to W
Steve decided it was 30 km to the toilet but it was actually to William Creek
lgebuki wterhole
The first water hole we had seen with water in it for many weeks.
algebuckina bridge 1892
Old last century bridge still going strong. A very big bridge waiting for a very big rain which comes less and less out here.
flies like black
The flies just kept getting worse! Steve took this photo of my back but I think he had even more on him!
lgebuki wterhole 2
Algebuckina waterhole camp. This waterhole has never dried up totally in living memory. Amazing for out here.  Must be spring fed we were thinking. A nice place to camp and we were amazed how nice it was to camp next to water again.
algebuckina swimming spot
The dry creek bed at Algebuckina and the old railway bridge where we swam the last time we were here in  Jan 2010
road conditions sign
It’s is impossible to drive on wet roads out here as everything turns to a thick mud. These signs are good but not always accurate. Rain can be very regional so good to know what is happening hundreds of kms from you.
adam plate sign
There are hand written and informative signs all along the Oodnadatta track written by Adam Plate from the pink road house. Many of these are now hard to read. He also made a very informative “mud map” brochure that we used 10yrs ago and this time too. Unfortunately Adam died a few years ago in a road accident. His son also died in a road accident. We are often hearing about people that have died on the road out here. Very common. The roads are bad and everyone drives very fast.
oodnadatta sign
Don’t know if it is the hottest. Winton in Western Australia also claims this. It was only 38 this day.
filling up at the pink roadhouse
Filling up at the pink roadhouse
adam plate memorial
A memorial to Adam Plate in front of the Pink Road house done in the same fashion as his famous signs all along the route. He fixed a tyre for us on the last trip.

Birds were very hard to see out here and when we did they were always the same ones. Steve tried very hard to find something new. The Orange Chat was the only new bird on this track.

orange chat
Orange Chat. Not such a good photo but the only new bird on this track so pretty exciting seeing it!
angle pole memorial with adam plate sign
A memorial to the overland telegraph builders. These angle poles were what the original telegraph poles looked like.
pedirka ruins
Perdirka Ruins old Ghan siding in the middle of nowhere.
black kites
Black kites
woodswallow
Wood swallows were everywhere.
kites with white plumed honeyeater
More Kites
Richards Pipit 3
Richard’s Pipit were the most commonly seen bird along with wrens
mt sarah station sign
Another Williams cattle co station. We free camped on this one on Fogarty’s clay pan just off the road on the way through.

 

foggertys claypan camp
Fogarty’s clay pan camp on Mt Sarah Station camp. A beautiful spot with nobody for miles and a full moon lighting up the clay pan below us at night.
oodnadatta movie theatre
Oodnadatta movie theatre
oodnadatta council chambers
The colourful council chambers. Oodnadatta is predominantly an aboriginal town and an old Ghan railway town. The old railway building is now a museum.

 

Lake Eyre from the air

We were pretty disappointed we were not able to do the Birdsville track on this trip. The floods in northern outback QLD near Winton have flowed down and cut off/closed the road. Now we hear that cyclone Trevor has dumped more water and there is a second lot of water coming down.  Never a dull moment in this country.   But the good thing to come out of all this, is that Lake Eyre is filling up. Lake Eyre is Australia’s biggest lake but it is dry most of the time.  It will contain some water 2 or 3 times in a decade, but only fills 4 times a century.      When were there in Jan 2010, it was reasonably full, but the only way to really appreciate the lake is from the air as even getting to the water’s edge can mean walking some kilometers over the lake bed’s thin salty crust which sometimes breaks leaving you covered half way to the knee in black muddy ooze.     At the time we looked all over the “town” of William Creek for the pilot Trevor to take us up to see the lake in flood as you could not see it from the shore.   However he was nowhere to be found.     So since we were relatively close (in Coober Pedy) we thought we would have another go at getting a scenic flight over the lake.

Things have certainly changed since 2010.    The permanent population of William Creek has dropped from 4 to 1 and that one person happens to be the elusive pilot who now pretty much owns the town of William Creek (i.e. the pub and fuel station, the campground and the scenic flight business).     However while the permanent population is 1, the town is certainly not quiet, as there are a whole host of pub staff, managers, admin staff and pilots, but all of them are itinerant workers.   Trevor’s scenic flight business has grown and now operates well over 10 aircraft out of 3 airfields offering scenic flights over the Flinder’s Ranges and outback South Australia.    Unlike last time when getting a flight meant trying to track down the pilot, now a scenic flight can be booked and paid online.

Another change since 2010 is that the lake has been renamed to Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre to acknowledge the Aboriginal name.   I’m not sure what it means, but in Zulu Kati Thanda means something like “love the middle” and since the lake is in the middle of Australia, it kind of works.

We selected a 2 hour flight which enabled us to see the full extent of lake Eyre.    Starting from William Creek, we headed about 50km east over Anna Creek Station (the world’s largest property at over 2 million hectares) to the south western part of the lake.   From there we headed north for about 80km following the main inlet channel (the Warburton Groove), then about 20 km east up the Warburton River towards Birdsville, before turning back south to the bottom of Lake Eyre north and back to William Creek.   The Google maps images below show the features on the right hand side and our approximate track on the map on the left.

bordig
Boarding the Cessna Grand Caravan – we were hoping to be in a smaller plane with windows that open (to let the flies out if nothing else), but it seems Lake Eyre flights have become quite popular and bigger planes are now necessary.

Looking out over William Creek shortly after take off.  Close up on RHS

The SK on the left photo stands for Sidney Kidman, who owned a large cattle company that once held land covering over 1% of Australia.

lke edge rom hllors poit mpig re
Approaching Lake Eyre.   The water can be seen in the distance with about 3km of salt crust between the land edge and the water at the moment.  The road to the Halligan bay camp ground can be seen running from the left

Halligan bay camping area LHS and tracks from some idiot on a motorcycle that rode out onto the salt and got stuck.

strt o wter
Approaching the start of the water in Belt Bay
rtesi sprig i lke
An artesian spring in the middle of the lake.  Normally it would be isolated in the salt bed but at the moment it is flooded.

Scenes over the lake

lies i ple
Yes the plane was full of flies

Pelicans have already started to appear even though the water reached the lake only about 4 weeks ago

wig over upper wrburto groove
Approaching the northern part of the lake with the Warburton River snaking off in the distance
wrburto delt
The Warburton Delta, where the river enters the lake carrying water from the January floods in northern Queensland.    The lake Eyre catchment covers about 1/6th of Australia and none of the water reaches the sea.  If it even reaches lake Eyre it simply collects then evaporates

The flooded Warburton River with trees lining the normally dry river bank

kllmi ilet strt
Looking back south from the northern point of our flight.   At this point the Warburton river splits and a small portion of the flow goes to the left entering the lake about half way down the eastern side at the Kalaweerina Inlet

 The green on the left is where grass and reeds have started to grow after just a couple of weeks of water.

  We were not the only flight – spot the plane on the left (close up on the right)

kllwe meets the wrburto groove
The water from the Kalaweerina inlet portion of the lake meets the main inflow coming down the Warburton Groove behind.    At this point we were flying at about 3500 feet to get a better overview of the lake.   Earlier we were at 500 feet to see birds and some of the smaller features close up
groove lookig orht
Looking back up the Warburton Groove that carries most of the water into the lake.   As the water flows in and slows down, the salt crystalises on the dirt particles and sinks to the bottom leaving the water clear.   This can be seen above where the central flow down the Warburton Groove is still murky, but the edges have become clear as well as the water coming from the Kalaweerina Inlet on the right.
hut peisul with mdig gul
The top of the Hunt Peninsula which separates the two lobes at the south of Lake Eyre – the first to fill is the western Belt Bay which is in the foreground and is the lowest point in Australia at about 15m below sea level.   Once this reaches a certain depth it spills over into the eastern Madigan Gulf in the background
mithel isld
Mitchell Island – one of several that will soon provide a safe nesting haven for birds.
wter t bottom o belt by
The head of the water at the bottom of Belt Bay
view rom south o lke
Looking north over Belt Bay with the upper edge of the lake 120km to the north
iro ore o sure
Iron deposits on the edge of the lake.  I wonder if this is why Gina Reinhart once expressed interest in buying Anna Creek Station.
ldig i ross wid
Landing at William Creek.  The town on the left is dwarfed by its airfield
job irig his egie
Jacob the pilot cooling his trusty turboprop – the City of William Creek