This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2007 Travels May 20

SUNDAY 20 MAY   COWARD SPRINGS TO WILLIAM CREEK   80kms

After breakfast, we walked around to view the developments since we were last here, eight years ago. The Engine Drivers’ Cottage was now fully restored and open as a museum, with some really interesting exhibits about the railway, and about this place.

The Engine Driver’s Cottage

The Station Master’s House was the other restored building, and where the owners lived, so it was off limits for viewing, except from a little distance. They certainly have been doing a wonderful preservation job here.

We went for a wander around a section of the old rail route, where there were still some sleeper remains left. A lot of these had been utilized in the building of the camp facilities at Coward Springs; probably more had been utilized as firewood.

Some remnant sleepers on the rail bed

On our first trip this way, John acquired some red gum sleeper from the old route, near here. It had now been made into a pepper grinder that was in regular use at home. I like, when using it, to think about its history…….and feel privileged to have it.

And so onward. The old rail alignment crossed and recrossed the track a few times on this section.

The old Ghan rail bed – and surface water

There was some surface water in places today.

Warriners Creek

Warriners Creek was flowing shallowly across the track. There was a depth measurement sign; it was hard to beleive that water could get to 2 metres deep in this country………However, there was plenty of water under the old bridge there. Clearly, there had been a heap of rain up this way, not too long ago.

Old railway bridge at Warriners Creek

Today’s stage was short, because we wanted to stay at William Creek, so some of us could take a sight seeing flight over Lake Eyre, where we knew water was entering the north-east lake from the Warburton Groove; the flight would also go over the Painted Hills, an area not accessible to travellers in any other way.

As we drove into William Creek, an unexpected sight was the Channel 7 (TV) Sunrise Bus. It had come to the hamlet to cover the start of the Great Australian Cattle Drive.  This was the first that we had become aware that this was happening – and thus there would be a lot of extra people around.

The first of these Cattle Drives – to commemorate the feats of the old time drovers – was held in 2002, the brainchild of boss drover Eric Oldfield, and used the Birdsville Track. Tourists could join the droving expedition for a few days at a time – for a fee. It was so successful that it was repeated in 2005. This third one had moved away from the Birdsville Track, and would drove the cattle from William Creek to Oodnadatta.

By sheer fluke, not knowing about the imminent event, with its associated crowds, we had managed to get in here just before the start – lucky. A few days later and we would have been mixing it with the drove up along the track!

William Creek, with a usual population I could count on my fingers, was SA’s smallest town, surrounded by Australia’s largest cattle station – Anna Creek. Today, this tiny place of one hotel was humming!

We booked into the very new Dingo’s Caravan Park – $20 for our powered site. We thought this place would be removed from the rowdiness of the camping area right by the pub. It looked to have a lot of promise, with a lovely new amenities block. There were no formally marked out sites, only power poles to mark places, so as we were the only occupants of the place, we pulled in each side of one such pole.

After a very quick basic set up, we walked over to the airstrip.

Wrights Air was the operation offering sightseeing flights from here. A wee bit of negotiating saw M and John offered what we thought was a good deal on flights – $150 for an hour, usual price $180. After they had booked, their flights were upgraded to two hours – for an extra $30 – in order to fill up planes.

All three planes based here went out for the afternoon flight. M and John were put onto different planes. They were very little planes……

Organising to go flying…….

They both got to see Lake Eyre and the Painted Hills (on Anna Creek Station and not open to the public), from the air, but John’s flight went even further – up to the Warburton Groove, in the NE corner of Lake Eyre. He was away for nearly three hours! So, it was a really good deal – and John was given a CD that covered the flight area, too.

William Creek from the air. Caravan Park central, hotel in trees just beyond it

John took along “my” still unfamiliar DSLR Pentax camera to take photos from the plane. Unfortunately, he somehow managed to get the focus all wrong. Results were very blurry.

Water filling into Lake Eyre
A cattle watering point, with cattle tracks

The Warburton Groove, bringing water to Lake Eyre
The Painted Hills and creek channel – reminiscent of aboriginal art depiction.

For several reasons, I do not enjoy being shut up in a small motorized box that leaves the apparent security of terra firma. In other words, I do not usually “do” small plane flights. So, after I’d watched the planes disappear into the distance, I wandered around to the institution that was the William Creek Hotel. This was one of those establishments featuring memorabilia from previous visitors – all over the walls and ceiling. I bought myself a polo shirt – a somewhat cheaper “treat” than the others were having.

I received a big surprise when I walked back to the camp ground. Our formerly isolated van and Troopy were surrounded – by Trakmaster caravans! Ten of them had somehow managed to sneak into Dodge whilst I was otherwise occupied. It was like we had suddenly been cloned! It was the annual Trakmaster Trek – across the desert to Marble Bar in WA.

Ummm…….mine is in there somewhere!

The fliers arrived back, one at a time, both equally taken aback by the way our van had multiplied in their absence. Both were really exuberant after their flights, and there was much comparing of the experiences. I think M was rather envious of John’s extended flight.

We found out that, when you have eleven Trakmasters all in a row, and very little lighting in the camp ground, it ain’t easy to find “home” in the dark!


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2007 Travels May 18

FRIDAY 18 MAY     MARREE

We’d had some discussion yesterday, about what to do next.

M and I were interested in visiting Muloorina Station and thus accessing Lake Eyre North at Level Post Bay. We had picked up a mud map when we checked in to the caravan park, yesterday. The question was whether we went and camped out there, or just did a day trip. But we were not sure of the camp ground quality, out there, nor of the road condition. Another factor was that John tended to find outback SA with all its ruins, depressing, so he was anxious to get moving further north. Part of that might have been that the Oodnadatta Track was familiar to him. In the end, it did not seem worthwhile dragging the van all that way, if John was only prepared to stay a night there. So we decided on a day trip, only.

Galah watching proceedings…..

The unsealed road out to Muloorina was reasonable quality, but the country was incredibly dry. We could have brought the van out, no problems. There were, of course, the inevitable gates to open and close – it was a pastoral property, after all.  Being in the leading vehicle, I got to be chief gate opener – and usually closer, as well…..

We checked out the campground, which was not far from the homestead. It was actually very pleasant, and would have been a great spot to stay for a couple of nights. There was a wetland area around a bore channel and Frome Creek, and plentiful bird life. There were a couple of decent toilets, a concrete table and seats, bush and informal park areas. One could swim in the waterhole – but the water was not drinkable. Charge was $2 a night! The only drawback was lots of flies!

Frome Creek at Muloorina

We chatted to a lady who was camping there, and whom we’d seen at Arkaroola. She was travelling in a Land Cruiser and had a sort of sleeping pod on the vehicle roof. It looked a bit like a blue and white Esky up there! She came from northern NSW, and was just making up her travels as she went – the best way to do it!

Muloorina wetlands

From there, we continued out to Level Post Bay on a fearsomely corrugated track.

Level Post Bay

Lake Eyre, is notable for being the largest lake in Australia – not that it fills very often. It also contains the lowest point of the Australian mainland, being some 15 metres below sea level at one place. It takes a fairly massive, prolonged rain event in SW Queensland to send water down the Warburton and Cooper Creeks, to fill water into the lake. Its base is salt, left from evaporation of previous fillings, so the water that arrives at the lake quickly becomes saline.

There are actually two parts to Lake Eyre: the northern, much larger section, and the much smaller Lake Eyre South, joined by the Goyder Channel which permits the latter to fill if the flood event is big enough.

Level Post Bay on the Madigan Gulf, was part of Lake Eyre North. The track ended here, by a small information board.

We were able to walk out on Lake Eyre North, for a few hundred metres. It was muddy, under the thick salt crust.

Out on Lake Eyre – looking back to our vehicles
The salt surface of the lake

It was disappointing to see tracks out on the lake surface, where vehicles had been driven out from the parking area. There was always some moron who has to do what signs explicitly instruct them not to do!

Level Post Bay and Madigan Gulf

We ate lunch out there, sitting up on the bank, looking out over the lake bed.

Drove back a short way, to the Goyder Channel that links the two parts  of the lake. Walked around, took photos.

Goyder Channel

There was a built up wide causeway across the channel here, not open for public vehicle access, but we were able to walk across on it. Presumably, it was used by the station people to access that part of the property and to move stock.

It would actually be quite something, to visit here when Lake Eyre was full enough for there to be water in Madigan Gulf and flowing through the Goyder Channel. I filed that in the mental wish list – but in the section that I recognized as fairly unlikely to happen!

Goyder Channel – dried salt, not water….

And so, back to Marree – with a couple of us thinking wistfully of the serenity of the Muloorina campground!

Muloorina country: 1. Muloorina campground 2. Goyder Channel

All up, we travelled 200kms. John refuelled back at Marree – $1.45cpl.

There had still been some cloud about today, but we had stopped on the way back in, to tune in to the 3pm road report on our HF radio. It had the Painted Desert road access open again, but with caution at Arkaringa Creek. Good! Maybe it would be nice and dry by the time we got up there.

Today’s jaunt had certainly been worthwhile and enjoyable – and new for all of us.


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1999 Travels May 25

TUESDAY 25 MAY     MARREE

Today was not as windy, thus it felt warmer.

I posted the letter to K, wondering how long the mail will take to get there from Marree.

We had earlier decided that, whilst passing through here, we would take a day and drive out to Muloorina Station and on to Lake Eyre. One can access Lake Eyre  at Level Post Bay, on the Madigan Gulf section of the Lake.

It was a very interesting drive, in both directions, and well worth doing, on a good gravel formed track. The gate-opening passenger got a bit of a work out! The country was unremittingly flat, for the most part, with shrub and sparse tree lines marking out dry watercourses. This is certainly arid country.

05-25-1999 01 muloorina gate.jpg

Muloorina Station

Muloorina Station homestead is found by a very pretty waterhole on the Frome River – the same one that we had encountered at Angepena. It winds its way around the range country of the area, as a series of mostly dry channels,  and northwards past here enters Lake Eyre.

05-25-1999 02 muloorina camp waterhole

Wetland at Muloorina, formed by bore outflow. Lots of birds in trees.

The Muloorina waterhole and wetland results from a bore outflow. The force of the water exiting this bore hole powers the 240v power plant at the station! It has created an oasis of greenery in the dry country – a place obviously appreciated by the birdlife we saw.

From Muloorina, drove on a track that took us to the shores of Lake Eyre South, then alongside the Goyder Channel that links this with the main Lake Eyre, and finally to Level Post Bay, the end of the track. This section of track was rougher, and slower going, and sandy in parts – but not enough that we had to let down the tyres.

05-25-1999 05 track near Level Post Bay.jpg

The track near Level Post Bay

Lake Eyre was dry, of course, and we walked out on it, on the salt crust. It was so impressive, just to be there, in this salty immensity. We were below sea level by some 15 metres, here.

05-25-1999 03 j on l eyre south

John walking on Lake Eyre at Level Post Bay

05-25-1999 04 seen from Lake Eyre bed

Taken from out on the Lake, looking back to Truck and the Information Bay

After our walkabout on the Lake, drove back to the Goyder Channel section and ate our packed lunch there.

05-25-1999 07 Goyder Channel looking sth.jpg

The Goyder Channel that joins Lake Eyre South with the main Lake

We dawdled back to Marree, stopping sometimes to look at birds, and to take photos. Up close, as we wandered around a bit away from Truck, there were interesting aspects to the scenery – low hills, dunes, depressions and the like.

05-25-1999 08 high tech windmill.jpg

Interesting to see new technology arriving in the Outback

It was a great day out and an excellent drive. We covered 210kms.

05-25-1999 mulorina.JPG

The country we traversed on our day out at Muloorina and Lake Eyre

Back at the van, John settled in for an afternoon nap.

I read the Adelaide Advertiser paper, which I’d picked up from the shop earlier. Had an early shower and washed my hair – the local water is alright for that. I got talking to the only other campers here – a retired NZ couple doing a 4 month trip with a 4WD and camper trailer, going the same way as us.

John reported in to the 4WD Radio Network at the 5.30pm sched slot.

Watched the news on TV, and needed the heater on, even that early.

Tea was more of the kumara soup; bacon, egg, tomato and crumpets, followed by strawberries, which were awful.