After a refreshing night at the Leigh Creek Outback Resort, we headed up the road to Lyndhurst to grab some breakfast and refuel. Paul had already confirmed that the diesel was back online at the roadhouse, and Tam was enjoying the morning air outside when we arrived. She remembered us from our stop after finishing the Strzelecki Track, and was glad to see us back as we headed towards the Oodnadatta Track. Tam adds a thoughtful little touch to all the food she prepares, each bag displaying her handwritten wishes for a great day!
Just past Lyndhurst, we stopped at the Farina Ruin – a sandstone cottage that once housed teams of workers for the Great Northern Railway. The kids marvelled at the fireplaces in each room, and also by all the historical items found at the site, which had been placed on the window sills around the structure. Huge hand-wrought rail pegs, fragments of glass and porcelain, these hadn’t been taken as souvenirs, but instead left for others to enjoy. A massive willy-willy/dust devil nearby was breathtaking. Difficult to photograph, we were able to see the swirling vortex and dust, twisting hundreds of metres into the sky.
Enroute to Marree, the plains gave us plenty to see – hundreds of emus and a flash of bright green budgerigars zipping in front of us.
The southern end of the Oodnadatta Track begins at Marree, and we stopped to have a look at the old railway station before Paul dropped the tyre pressures on the Legend. Knowing that the track is all gravel and stones, it is recommended to reduce the pressure from 36 to about 25psi. This gives a softer ride, and also reduces the chance of damaging the tyres or throwing stones. Our new suspension kit has already been a blessing!
There was much excitement as we saw the sign for the road conditions, and saw that the Oodnadatta Track was OPEN. A chuckle at the sight of the Lake Eyre Yacht Club, complete with catamaran, had us in good spirits.
Our first day on the track was simply brilliant. The Alberrie Creek Sculpture Park had us all wondering how on earth the structures were constructed. Lake Eyre South, 12m below sea level, was a great place to stop and read about the Lake Eyre basin, it’s flora and fauna, and of course, fly the DJI Mavic Pro. The lake is so massive, that it was not possible to fly over it and back with just one battery, plus the salt and heat haze made keeping an eye on the drone very difficult. It’s amazing to think that there is so much life there. On the rare occasions the lake fills, it’s not only the tourists that swarm to it (and the yacht club comes back to life), birds fly hundreds of kilometres, briny shrimp fills the waters, hibernating frogs are revived, and it’s as if the “Pause” button on Life has been switched to “Play” for while ever the water remains.
The Curdimurka Rail Siding is now essentially a ruin, and no longer maintained. A sign asking visitors to respect the history of the property, is all that remains. It is still possible to use the fireplaces in times of need, and one room even had a lawn chair in front of the fireplace, as if it had been used recently. The siding was once a stop on the Old Ghan railway, and also the location for an Outback Ball, which attracted hundreds of attendees.
Before reaching our campsite for the night, we took a detour to see the Mound Springs known as The Bubbler, and Blanche Cup. Completely invisible from the track, these springs are part of the Wabma-Kadabu Conservation Park, and were used by the indigenous people as a source of fresh water. Boardwalks have been constructed to keep visitors off the fragile landscape. Nestled in the mounds of rocks and sand, are deep pools of water bubbling direct from the Great Artesian Basin, whose water is more than two million years old. Lush green grass and water weed surrounds each pool, and lines the path the water takes as it trickles down the mounds forming small natural waterfalls. The Bubbler in particular was completely mesmerising to observe, the sand and mud appearing almost alive as it moved with the force of the bubbling water from underneath. We honestly kept expecting to see something appear from underneath it! It is said that the water once used to form huge columns of water, much the same as a geyser, and it’s not hard to imagine this when you watch the pool.
Coward Springs is a must stop on the Oodnadatta Track. The owners were happy for us to stay there without charge, and as it turned out, we were the only ones there! We found a shady camp site, and set up without rushing. The amenities at this camp site are brilliant. Drop toilets, but non-stinky! Pressed metal features at all the sinks, a “donkey” hot water shower system, and of course, The Spa. We couldn’t visit the Museum on site (Coward Springs was also part of the Ghan Railway), as it’s open in the autumn/winter months only. Paul and Kirstine pored over the maps, the kids played charades (a new game to keep them occupied), and we had tea and waited for the sun to go down.
It was then that we ventured over to The Spa. Climbing into the small pool, with jets of pressurised artesian water is absolutely a highlight of the trip so far. It made it a bit hard to stand in the one place, and there were many laughs as each of us tumbled and stumbled on our feet. At one point, the only sound was the water moving, as we stood and stared up at the blanket of stars above us.
So much of the day surprised us. In an area that intimidates many would-be travellers, we found pockets of life and abundance. It’s no wonder that these locations kept the pioneers of the day, as well as the indigenous people, alive on their travels. Hope springs eternal in the Australian Outback.