THURSDAY 17 MAY COPLEY TO MARREE 115kms
There was not far to go today, so we took it in a very leisurely way. Took our time packing up and didn’t pressure M to hurry getting her tent and all packed up.
Only a few kms north of Copley was the open cut Leigh Creek coal mine – the reason for the existence of the Leigh Creek township.
We had a bit of a browse about, at the lookout over the open cut mine. Some of the old machinery there was of interest, if only because of its sheer scale. The old digging machine dwarfed Truck and van. We took some photos to show the grandkids later, thinking they would be impressed by the size contrasts.
A tyre that was on display had set a world record for the time, racking up almost 300,000kms. And we think we’re doing well if we get a quarter of that on our Truck tyres!
The mine was a very massive hole in the ground. The coal mined here went by train to Port Augusta, to the power generation station there.
The village of Lyndhurst was the next point of note on our way north, really only because it is the southern end of the Strezelecki Track, to Innamincka. Signs indicated it was still closed.
So, on to Marree, a rather desolate little township. On the outskirts, signs showed the Birdsville Track was open only to lighter 4WD vehicles, so, clearly it too had been affected by the recent rains.
We booked into the Drovers Rest Caravan Park, which had the advantage of being a good distance away from the township centre i.e. the pub and associated noise. This park was set up by the former boss drover, Eric Oldfield, who spent much of his life droving cattle on the Birdsville Track. We had stayed here before.
Our powered site cost $20. We found slightly shaded sites to set up on; gravel surface of course. The amenities were still the very basic Atco donga ones, with their strange arrangement of showers of dubious privacy. There was a sort of arrangement of shower curtains, but it was best to try for a shower when no one else was in the building!
Only needed a basic camp set up here, so that did not take long. We had a quick lunch.
Walked into the centre of the township. Marree was quite sprawling – quite a lot of space between buildings and features.
We made for the old railway station, which dated from when the original Alice Springs – Ghan – railway, passed through this town. Like Beltana, it lost out when the railway was moved west. Marree was also a railhead for the movement of cattle from the north, which were walked down the Birdsville Track. Here, they were loaded onto trains and taken to the southern markets.
There was old railway memorabilia – you couldn’t really call it “on display”. It was just there. One could but hope that sometime soon, some effort would be made to mount a proper display. It could be really interesting.
Tom Kruse, the famous Birdsville Mailman, took mail and supplies up the Birdsville Track, from the 1930’s to the mid-60’s. Each of his mail runs took two weeks, covering really challenging terrain in often difficult conditions. He was a really important person to the isolated cattle stations along the track from here to Birdsville. One of the trucks he used was on display here.
It was a pleasant walk to the township, and back.
Road reports had the Painted Desert Road – out of Oodnadatta, which we hoped to take – still closed. Could but hope that, over the next few days, it dried out and was reopened.
The night was really chilly. There was still some lightning to the south east. It was definitely a night for the woolly bedsocks!
I played computer mahjong until 1am – addictive game – then slept very well.