This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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1999 Travels May 24


We took a gamble that the insurance paperwork we have been waiting for, will be at Leigh Creek today. So packed up and left the caravan park at 9.30.

The insurance documents were at the Post Office, so we filled them in on the spot, and sent them straight back Express Post. Whew!

Topped up the fresh food stocks at the supermarket, then headed north again. Stopped at Copley to top up the fuel – at 81cpl, we had been cross that we paid more in Leigh Creek, yesterday.

The hills became fewer, quite soon, apart from one low range in the western distance. There was a growing sense of vastness and openness. The vegetation became more sparse. North of the hamlet of Lyndhurst the sealed road gave way to gravel, and roadside fences ceased.

We could see the line of the old Ghan railway track, quite often, to the west of the road. The way was fairly featureless, apart from regular floodways – just very shallow depressions, if that, in the road.

Reached Marree about midday. Booked into the Marree Town Caravan Park which, despite its name is on the southern edge of town, about a km from the township proper. Cost $14 a night for a powered site. It seems a pleasant enough little park. No grass, of course, but some nice shade trees. Amenities in an Atco type building – adequate. The park is certainly not crowded!

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The outlook from the back of the Marree Caravan Park – Drover’s Rest

There is a rainwater tank for guests to obtain drinking water from. We had read a warning in a guide book that the Marree bore water has a strong laxative effect! John had made sure the van water tanks were filled at Copley.

The park owner is Eric Oldfield – renowned former boss drover on the Birdsville Track, and former owner of stations along the Track. We had quite a chat with him.

They have a pet brolga, found some seven years ago as a chick tangled in the wire of the Dog Fence. Called Big Bird, it dances with trees, cars, petrol pumps. Knows when it is being photographed too!

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John getting to know Big Bird

After basic set up and lunch, we walked the km or so into town and wandered about. It seems a sad little place. Much of it is becoming decrepit. There appears to clearly be two sides of “the tracks”. The other caravan park is opposite the aboriginal centre. There were no travellers in there. We saw several aborigines sitting drinking, in the central park area.

There are two stores. The Oasis appears to be the fast food outlet serving the indigenous population. The Oldfields have the Post Office and Store, over beside the main road – it seems to be the “upmarket” one.

There were some old former Ghan diesel engines on the old tracks – the basis for an historical display that needs a lot of work doing on it. There was also a wooden camel “statue” commemorating the role of the Afghans and their camels in the opening up of the interior.

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The forlorn engine that once hauled the Ghan train north

Marree was originally called Hergott Springs, but the German name was dropped in World War 1, for the current name.  In the days of the old Ghan railway and the Overland Telegraph, and regular cattle drives down the Birdsville Track, Marree was a real hub of activity. There were two mosques.

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The Afghan cameleers gave the Ghan train its name. Memorial to the Afghans at Marree.

I bought a postcard that depicted the “Marree Man”. This has been the subject of much mystery and debate. It was first “discovered” about a year ago, to the north west of Marree, a few kms north of the Oodnadatta Track.

It is a geoglyph – a man-made drawing carved into the earth. In this case, the carving appears to have been done by a bulldozer, presumably GPS guided. It is the world’s largest geoglyph. He “stands” about 4km tall and is 28kms in circumference.

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Marree Man – as depicted on a postcard I purchased

Obviously, this was not something that was created really quickly and some of the debate centres around whether any locals knew it was happening? Theories abound: made by the American Military (it is not far from the Woomera Prohibited Area); done by locals to be a tourist gimmick; done by aboriginals for an unknown reason – the figure appears to be an aboriginal man with a throwing stick; done by people from space!

Marree Man had been one of our topics of conversation with Eric Oldfield, but he had professed ignorance of its origins.

It can only properly be seen from the air – one needs to be at least 1100 metres up to get the full picture. It was discovered by a local pilot, flying between Marree and Coober Pedy.

Apart from the mystery of its origins, there is speculation over how long he will last – whether the seasons, weathering by the elements,  and vegetation growth will eventually obliterate him.

Our town walk was a pleasant enough one. There was a chill edge to the wind, though.

Marree is where two of the adventure drives of the outback diverge – the Birdsville Track heads north and the Oodnadatta Track ( the Old Ghan Track ) trends north west. That is the way we are going, to Central Australia.

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We will be taking the Oodnadatta Track, this time

Back at the van, I got out the fan heater again, from storage under the bed.

Tea was kumara soup; curried steak and onions with rice;  banana and yoghurt.

I knew that our home water rates were due about now, so we phoned K on the Radphone and asked him to open the notice that was there. He gave us the total; I arranged to mail him a cheque and he would go pay them. That is all settled now, and I can relax for a while about overdue bills.

John gets some TV here.

It was a freezing night!

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