Following Stuart and the old Ghan line

Community Highlights Oceania Following Stuart and the old Ghan line

Our 369km trip from Willow Springs was estimated to take quite a long while. However, the unsealed stretch of road between Lyndhurst and Marree was excellent and we made good time.

We returned to Blinman and stopped at the historic cemetery just outside the town. Here we found a memorial to William Kekwick. He had accompanied Stuart on his later expeditions as second in command. After spells in business and gold mining, he joined William Christie Gosse's expedition but became ill and failed to respond to treatment, dying at the age of 48 in Nuccaleena before being buried at Blinman.

Memorial to William Kekwick

Memorial to William Kekwick

Plaque on Kekwick's burial place

Plaque on Kekwick's burial place

I forgot to mention that the town had come into being after shepherd Robert Blinman found copper - Aussie Towns suggests the town could have been called Peg Leg as this was Blinman's nickname (he was one-legged). Also, Parachilna's name comes from the Nukunu Aboriginal word 'patajilnda', meaning place of Peppermint trees (Aussie Towns).

The Explorer's Way (the generic name for the road that we had been on from Adelaide), continued north to Leigh Creek where we stopped for lunch in a lovely park.

Understated sign to tell us we were on the Explorers' Way

Understated sign to tell us we were on the Explorers' Way

The town used to be a coal mining town but seems to be fighting hard to survive now that the mining is over. It is a smart town with great facilities so we hope that they do well.

Further up the road, just past Lyndhurst, we turned off to see some very colourful ochre pits. With the range of colours, it is easy to see why the Aborigines made use of this for body paint, wall paintings and, today, in their artworks. Like many places, this is marked as a place of special cultural significance to Aborigines. I don't really 'get' why in this modern age so many places like this have access barred to non-Aboriginals. I may get shot down in flames for being insensitive but Australia does seem to have overdone the 'affirmative action' which has happened in so many countries where some Europeans seem to have a guilt complex.

983d7240-6a81-11e9-bd85-57a7a5f8b1c6.jpg?auto=format20190420_IMG_3891.jpg?auto=formatViews of ochre cliffs and information about how it is used by Aborigines

Views of ochre cliffs and information about how it is used by Aborigines

Our friend and advisor, Terry, had advised us to stop at Farina, not far north of Lyndhurst. The town is no longer inhabited and was originally surveyed and proclaimed a town on 21 March 1878.  It was first known as ‘Government Gums’ because of the mature River Red Gums in the creek to the north of the town but later its name was changed to “Farina” (Latin for wheat or flour) by farmers who optimistically hoped to turn the vast flat lands here into fields of grain (SA Community History website). It was certainly a fascinating place. We have seen quite a few ruins on our travels but these are by far the most extensive so far.

The old hotel/hospital/boarding house

The old hotel/hospital/boarding house

Another abandoned building

Another abandoned building

Signposts to various abandoned areas of the old town

Signposts to various abandoned areas of the old town

We reached Marree to find that both our bookings at the hotel and the flight the following day had been recorded for different dates. Fortunately, the pilot was on hand and a cabin was found for us. The cabin was pretty basic but was comfortable enough for our needs. The hotel is almost entirely staffed by foreign workers, young folk on working visas - here there were English, French, Belgian and Italian people. This place is a real Outback pub with very friendly folk, visitors and locals alike.

Welcome to Marree

Welcome to Marree

The Marree Hotel

The Marree Hotel

The hotel from the old Ghan station with Tom Kruse's truck in front

The hotel from the old Ghan station with Tom Kruse's truck in front

As mentioned in the last blog, Marree was originally called Herrgott Springs after their (European) discoverer, who had travelled as an artist with Stuart in 1859. The town was gazetted in 1883 and renamed Marree which is believed to be a corruption of the Arabunna Aboriginal word 'mara' meaning 'place of possums' - a bit odd as the district is not known for possums (Aussie Towns)

The following morning, our pilot (WrightsAir) took us up and out over Marree Man, a 2.7km tall extending over 650 acres. The figures appears to be an Aborigine hunting with a boomerang. It was discovered in 1998 and is believed to have been created by American serviceman who were based in the area some years before. It became somewhat eroded and apparently the hotel owner arranged for GPS readings to be taken and for a grader to recreate the outline. It seems he did not seek permission from the State government who were a bit peeved but it seems to be a case of fait accompli.

Our aircraft

Our aircraft

A roadtrain seen from the air

A roadtrain seen from the air

The old Ghan line running over a bridge and parallelling the Oodnadatta Track

The old Ghan line running over a bridge and parallelling the Oodnadatta Track

Marree Man

Marree Man

We also had some good views, although difficult to photograph well, of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre showing where water had flowed in from the northern lake filling a large part of the southern lake. The water has flowed in from rain falling on the western side of the Great Dividing Range running through Queensland into northern New South Wales. At this stage, it was not apparent that the usual large flocks of birds had made their way in - would love to have seen that.

Part of the salty area of the south lake

Part of the salty area of the south lake

An island formed by the inflow of water

An island formed by the inflow of water

View of the water in the south lake

View of the water in the south lake

Aerial view of the metropolis of Marree

Aerial view of the metropolis of Marree

On our way back from the 'airport', we stopped in town to look at what remains of the old Ghan railway station. There were a couple of old engines as well as the old station building. When we were travelling last year, we had a look around the Wadlata Outback Centre in Port Augusta and enjoyed a film showing the work of Tom Kruse who was the mailman between Marree and Birdsville. We were pleased to see one of his old, and very battered, trucks on one of the station platforms. Inside the hotel, one of the dining rooms doubled as the Tom Kruse Museum (another doubled as the John McDouall Stuart Museum). An interesting stop.

10b52d70-6be6-11e9-af85-15c2ae6ea395.jpg?auto=formatTwo views of old Ghan locomotive

Two views of old Ghan locomotive

Marree railway station, no longer in use

Marree railway station, no longer in use

In the afternoon, we drove about 40km up the Birdsville Track just so that we could say we had driven on it (our intention on the last trip was to drive from Marree to Birdsville and then onto north Queensland. There were several interesting mesas although it was generally pretty flat and relatively featureless, although we did see some wallabies on the return trip.

The start of the Birdsville Track - even now part of the track was closed

The start of the Birdsville Track - even now part of the track was closed

A rather saturated view of one of the mesas we saw along the track

A rather saturated view of one of the mesas we saw along the track

A typical view of the gibber strewn track leading north

A typical view of the gibber strewn track leading north

A panoramic view of the countryside along the track

A panoramic view of the countryside along the track

Sunset bids farewell to Marree

Sunset bids farewell to Marree

After our short stay in Marree, we tackled the Oodnadatta Track (216km to William Creek). We had been given dire warnings of the condition of the road and the distance estimator tool we used suggested that it would take about 8 or more hours. In fact the road was in good condition and certainly no worse than many bush roads we have driven on when living in Zimbabwe. Not far out of town we spotted a Wedgetail Eagle not far off the road, protecting a wallaby carcass from a group of Ravens. Some way on, we stopped to see the quirky 'Plane Henge' which was actually a collection of strange scrap metal sculptures - why here?!

We start up the Oodnadatta Track

We start up the Oodnadatta Track

A big rig throwing up a lot of dust

A big rig throwing up a lot of dust

Male Red Kangaroo

Male Red Kangaroo

'Plane Henge'

'Plane Henge'

20190422_IMG_3968.jpg?auto=formatA couple of views of an old Ghan railway bridge over a long-dry riverbed

A couple of views of an old Ghan railway bridge over a long-dry riverbed

Little Corellas just off the the track

Little Corellas just off the the track

The name Oodnadatta is probably an adaptation of a local Arrernte Aboriginal word "utnadata" meaning "blossom of the mulga". (Aussie Towns), not that we saw a lot of mulga!

There was a lookout point which gave a distant view of the southern end of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre.

Very flat country leading to still salty Lake Eyre

Very flat country leading to still salty Lake Eyre

Panoramic view over south Lake Eyre

Panoramic view over south Lake Eyre

About half way to William Creek we found signs to the Mound Springs Conservation Park - in here were The Bubbler and Blanche Cup which are quite high mounds with springs forming a pool at the top. The deposit of salts over the years has lifted the mounds to their present height. The story with Blanche Cup is that Kakakutanha, the Kuyani ancestor, followed the trail of the rainbow serpent to Bidalinha (The Bubbler) and killed it there. He cut the head off and threw it away and today it is an upland called Hamilton Hill. He then cooked the snake in an oven, Dirga, which is now Blanche Cup. The bubbling water represents the convulsions of the dying serpent. If you feel sorry for the serpent, Kakakutanha's wife was angry that she had missed the best part of the serpent and cursed her husband who went on to meet a gruesome death. Nice bedtime story!

rivulet flowing away from The Bubbler

rivulet flowing away from The Bubbler

Panorama from The Bubbler

Panorama from The Bubbler

The Bubbler

The Bubbler

Blanche Cup

Blanche Cup

The countryside along the track had mainly been gibber plain (sandy desert covered with smallish stones) but near William Creek we drove by a number of large red sand dunes and the road was a bit smoother. Near the town (the smallest town in Australia), there was a large flat area which looked as if it may, very occasionally, be a lake.

Jet Set really enjoyed the track

Jet Set really enjoyed the track

Some of the gibber plain

Some of the gibber plain

Large red sand dunes for a change of scenery

Large red sand dunes for a change of scenery

Dry lake bed

Dry lake bed

We arrived in William Creek in plenty of time to have taken our flight so we could have managed with only one night - this would have been preferable as William Creek must be the fly country capital. They had been bad enough in Marree but in Willliam Creek they were so bad that we wore our fly nets for the first time. The cabin accommodation here was again pretty basic but was reasonable enough and the food in the hotel was good.

Our cabin (a container?) and Beast Mk II

Our cabin (a container?) and Beast Mk II

William Creek Fire Service

William Creek Fire Service

William Creek was named in November 1859 by explorer John McDouall Stuart during his expeditions in the area. William was the second son of John Chambers, one of Stuart's co-sponsors for his many expeditions (Wikipedia)

This featured blog entry was written by SteveJD from the blog Travels with "Jet Set".
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By SteveJD

Posted Wed, May 01, 2019 | Australia | Comments