Lower the tyre pressures … Check.
Secure everything that’s not nailed down … Check.
Top up the fuel … Check.
Plenty of water … Check.
Wear the sports bra … Jen, Check!
Okay then, let’s do it!
We were excited about and (hopefully) prepared for tackling the infamous rocky outback track, which is notorious for leaving shredded tyres, broken windscreens (front and rear), dented vans and other sundry damage in its wake. Previous experience travelling to Birdsville had taught us (the hard way!) about preparing the van for dealing with copious quantities of dust, rocks and corrugations. Prior to this trip, we spent many hours protecting the pipework and tanks etc under the van, as well as sealing every conceivable gap or dust ingress point we could find.
So, having now done the final checks, we’re off up the Oodnadatta Track!
Our first stop after leaving Marree was the Lake Eyre South viewing platform. This part of the usually dry salt lake is 12 metres below sea level. As luck would have it, the lake is currently about 70% filled with flood waters from far north Queensland earlier in 2019, which are continuing to flow south into Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre. Last time we were here it was totally dry, but we are looking forward to seeing water in the lake on this trip. They say this is the fullest that Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre (the world’s largest salt lake) has been in 45 years. That said, no water was visible at this part of the lake today.
The track has numerous old ruins to explore. We were going to free camp at the old Beresford Ruins railway siding but decided to push on to William Creek as we were making good time. Besides, we were booked on a flight over Lake Eyre the next morning, and didn’t want to risk missing it!
Just a little out of William Creek were the red Irrapatana sandhills and the immense dry Lake William.
Next stop, William Creek, where the entire outpost (ie the pub, caravan park and cabins, and flight company!) is owned by the one bloke. The golf course has to be seen to be believed, and the parking meter in the street is a special touch.
Next we were back in the saddle again on the Track, this time heading for Oodnadatta. The Road Trains look menacing, especially given the potential for them to kick up rocks into unsuspecting windscreens. Thankfully, this driver slowed right down as he passed us.
Our next stop was the marvellous Algebuckina bridge, which is the longest railway bridge in South Australia. It is no longer used, since the Ghan route was changed some time ago. This is also another wonderful free camp site along the Track.
Our final stop on the track was Oodnadatta itself, the home of the famed Pink Roadhouse. The town’s free museum houses a wonderful collection of photographs and memorabilia from bygone days, and details a rich history of its Indigenous and European inhabitants. We stayed overnight at the pub’s free camp, where we also spent an enjoyable evening swapping tales with other travellers.
We left the Track at Oodnadatta in order to head across to the highway at Coober Pedy, via the Painted Desert road. More about that next time!
And in the end, the main damage to the van was the poor old step! It’s obviously taken quite a few hits. It was re-screwed and held together en route with the ever-dependable duct tape, which was later shredded and more screws shaken out. Oh, and we still got dust in the van! All in all though, we got off lightly.