Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Day 6 — Tue 20/8/2019


I have arrived halfway down the Oodnadatta Track at William Creek, population 12.  A pub, airfield and caravan park.  As I rolled to a stop outside the pub at 1.15pm. I was greeted by a tap on the car window and a chap greeting me “ Hey mate, you’ve got a flat tyre.”  Sure enough the rear driver side was as flat as a pancake.  It must have happened very close to William Creek because I didn’t feel or hear anything, and the tyre was not shredded from driving a distance on it flat.  So I put on my best “helpless me” look and ventured into the bar to enquire if they had a mechanic on site.  No such luck, but a couple of Wrightsair pilots sitting around with nothing to do offered to change and patch the tyre for me.  By 4 pm, in between their scenic flights over Lake Eyre, they had mended the puncture and fitted it back on car and reduced pressure in all tyres to 26 psi — which I should have done back at Cadney before venturing on to the gravel.  $70 was a cheap repair job as far as I was concerned.

It was a chilly 3C at Oodnadatta when I ventured out to grab some early breakfast.  Later it warmed up to 18C.  The Oodnadatta track itself is in much better condition than I had expected.  At 75 kph the car runs pretty smoothly.  The road varies in condition from smooth to deeply corrugated and sections with sharp loose stones covering the entire track.  You can expect that conditions to change every 3 or 4 km .. nothing boring about paying attention to where you are guiding the wheels.

Not a lot to see on the way.  The road pretty much follows the route of the old Ghan train line, the embankments of which can often be spotted to the side.  A few ruins remain at what used to be stops or sidings:  water tanks from steam days, cranes for loading freight and the odd stone station or workers’ hut.  50 km south one comes across the Algebuckina Bridge, built in 1892 across the (now dry) Neale River.  It is the longest single bridge in SA.  Looks quite imposing with its 19 thirty metre spans.  It has dual track across it:  the old narrow gauge from steam days and the newer standard gauge from diesel days.  A rusted FJ Holden lies beside the bridge .. it was hit by a train when the driver was trying to cross the flooded river by driving along the rails!

The only other substantial ruins I stopped at were the Mount Dutton rail stop.  Halfway to Williams Creek there is a roadside cairn the marks the starting point of the Elders Scientific Expedition.  In 1891 Sir Thomas Elder with 14 men and 44 camels set out from here on a 12 month exploration across into Western Australia the covered 6800 km.  Why they started from this isolated spot I know not, except that they were able to bring all their gear from Adelaide to here by train.

210 km covered today with no living creature to be seen apart from the passing caravan or motorcycle.  It impresses upon one just how enormous our outback is and at the same time how uninhabited most of our country is.

Goat curry is on their menu at the pub for the 7 pm sitting of dinner !  And today’s photographic offering is. here

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