Letho's Blog

From the Flinders Ranges to Coober Pedy

by on Dez.01, 2010, under The Outback

Monday, 29th November 2010

After leaving the Flinders Ranges we passed Beltana, described as a „ghost town well worth the detour“. Honestly, it’s a semi-ghost town since it is still partially inhabited. We were pretty incapable telling the difference between the abandoned and the occupied buildings, everything looked pretty decayed. Unable to identify any interesting landmarks, like the old school or the police station, we left disappointed. Not that lonely, the Outback, eh?

We stopped in Leigh Creek (look at the funny website – what does it tell you about remote, tiny places in the Australian desert?), once again topping up our supplies and fuel. You can never carry enough petrol and gas, especially regarding the dramatically rising prices the farther you go into the Outback.

Behind Leigh Creek we passed the Leigh Creek open cut coal mine. This is what it looks like:

Leigh Creek Open Cut Coal Mine

Leigh Creek Open Cut Coal Mine

And this is just a miniscule fragment of the whole area. The place gives a post-apocalyptic impression, with the inside of the earth turned out and accumulated in giant dumps on the surface. A result of decades of extensive coal mining, and Australia is a big player in the mining economy. The whole town of Leigh Creek was completely relocated years ago in order to extend the mining area. However, the natural coal resources are increasingly depleted, so mining will come to an end sooner or later and rehabilitation will hopefully be on the way.

Some pieces of mining equipment were on display:

Further along the way we passed Lyndhurst as well. Now the signs of civilization got even more and more sparse. Only the Outback, which was astonishingly green after lots of rain in the previous weeks, became more and more present in our mind as a very special place…

Next we sighted the first remains of the Farina Ruins:

More on the ruins later..

In the evening we arrived at the Farina Ruins campground, a very lonely place, but just an authentic experience what it’s like out here. We started a fire and were happy to cook some yummy sausages:

Hey, second day with a campfire in a row, with wood collected nearby! 🙂 It was far from easy to get it started, though. The wind there was so strong that matches and lighters were blown out immediately. Eventually we managed to get it going, and the wood burned down in no time with some well-earned sausages and a lovely, cold beer ..

Tuesday, 30th November 2010

An incredible noise awoke us in the morning. Hundreds of cockatoos and magpies made such a huge noise as if their last day on earth had just dawned on them… well, then, time to get up! As most of the time the weather in the Outback was wonderful, and the strong winds from the night before had vanished.

Our campsite at Farina Ruins

Our campsite at Farina Ruins

What do you do first thing in the morning? Well, I usually go to the bathroom. So, did that here as well – when I flushed the toilet I was terrified for a moment until I recognized what jumped back at me ..

Outback Flushing Whirl Frogs

Outback Flushing Whirl Frogs

Only a small bunch of frogs, previously well hidden, suddenly appeared when flushed out of their secret hideouts. Phew .. better expect the unexpected out here at any time. 😉

What’s the next thing you usually do in the morning? Well, some of you get a shower .. at least those of you with a healthy attitude towards personal hygiene. And believe me, that’s something hard to keep up with out there. 😉 A shower was available (hard to believe, eh?), a so-called „donkey shower“. See what that means in detail:

It worked perfectly, for Inka at least. And you know .. by now I already got used to cold showers anyway.

After breakfast the Farina Ruins waited for a closer examination. The first sign on the way really made me think: „What a luck that Inka had not seen this the dark night before!“ .. we had no unexpected visitors from that area, though. 😉

Not very trustful
Not very trustful

Once an important stop of the Old Ghan Railway with more than 300 local inhabitants, Farina suffered from two things: permanent lack of water for the settled farmers and the closure of the Old Ghan Railway line. The old railway line was once the most important route through the Outback from north to south but closed when a newer railway line with a different routing was built. Farina Station had a few hotels, a post office, a police station, a bakery, a church and of course houses to live in. Today it is a real Outback ghost town, and only the decayed walls, fireplaces and lots of debris are a reminiscence of long gone times.

You can even find cars that must date back at least 60-70 years ago .. who knows how long these remains have been lying under a hot sun in the red desert, rotting away over time?

Leaving this fascinating place full of pioneer spirit behind, we got on the (dirt) road again. Last stop and the official start of the Oodnadatta track was Marree, where we refueled and continued our road trip. The conditions were good, and we had informed ourselves before that the road from William Creek to Coober Pedy was opened again. We really can’t say we haven’t been seriously warned, though:

Roundabout 40 kilometers after Marree we faced the longest structure built in the history of mankind, once with a length of up to 9800 km, now still 5300 km’s long – the well-known Dog Fence:

Shortly afterwards we passed the Mutonia Sculpture Park, a bizarre place when you are expecting maybe desert, but instead find an Outback outdoor art gallery:

Next stop: Lake Eyre South Lookout. Here you can get a view of Australia’s biggest sea, a salt sea, of course. Did you expect a beach with palms and fine-grained sand in the Outback? The Lake Eyre basin covers a truly huge area. The horizon is filled with a glowing white shine:

Enjoy this short clip to get a better impression of its size:

Along the way we also passed Curdamurka Siding, a typical abandoned remote railway station on the Old Ghan Railway. Note the heraldic animals of Australia on the ground, a kangaroo and an emu.

Only a few kilometers from our next scheduled camping spot, Coward Springs, we took a quick detour into the Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park. There we discovered two mound springs: Blanche Cup and The Bubbler. Both are fed by natural mineral water and have been here for thousands of years. They already served as waterholes for the Aboriginals in ancient times. It is fascinating to see how a minor water source completely changes its near environment and transforms it into something comparable only to an oasis in the desert. Suddenly you find green grass, bushes and trees closely to the water sources…

Blanche Cup:

The Bubbler is even more interesting – it produces great bubbles from gas ascending to the surface here:

A video clip of The Bubbler area:

Bubbles! 🙂

We made camp at Coward Springs. Not a town, not a village – just a green area around a natural mineral water spring where one family lives. And another great campfire:

Campfire at Coward Springs

Campfire at Coward Springs

By the way: there is plenty of wood along the way. As you drive along the Old Ghan railway on the Oodnadatta track, thousands of the sleepers once used under the (now removed) iron railway tracks are still there. Don’t think anyone’s gonna miss them..

Wednesday, 1st December 2010

Not only tortured by flies and mosquitoes, but again by the ear-deafening screams of cockatoos and magpies we awoke the next morning.

Our campsite at Coward Springs

Our campsite at Coward Springs

Looking around, we searched for the natural mineral water spa formerly announced in our travel guide and found it nearby. We could not resist to take a refreshing bath in it, of course, as many other travellers have done before us. What a joy! 🙂

On our way to William Creek we passed the old Strangway Telegraph Repeater Station, once an important means of ensuring continental, even inter-continental communications. Nearby we found a few bones as well .. hoping we were not going to end like that out here as well .. 🙁

Shortly before William Creek we had to pass another test – a floodway about half a meter high:

We mastered this very carefully. Thank you, LandCruiser, for providing a high clearance!

Some more impressions on our way – we saw a lot of wrecked cars of varying age and in different conditions. Some of them decades old, some of them fairly new. You might wonder why people don’t salvage their cars after a break-down? It’s an economical question: if your car is worth 2000$, but getting a tow car costs you 2500$, then it’s simply not worth it anymore. And yes, towing a car in the Outback is incredibly expensive. 2$ per kilometer is not unusual, you pay for both ways including return, and the distances are big.

We arrived in William Creek and stopped at the famous William Creek Roadhouse. Travellers leave their business cards or other documents which are then stamped on the walls. We even found a few German „Personalausweise“ – still valid! 🙂

William Creek Roadhouse

William Creek Roadhouse

We had a cool drink and a snack. Unfortunately we learned that the 4WD-route to Lake Eyre was impassable at that moment, even for heavy vehicles. Returning to our car we noticed that we had lost a mudguard fender. It must have been what made a rattling sound on our way to the roadhouse. Convinced to find it we returned and drove back .. but never found it. What gets lost in the Outback, stays in the Outback.And the rest of the car was in pretty poor shape as well ..

And to make our situation even more difficult – the starting problems of the LandCruiser dramatically worsened when starting the car while searching for the mudguard. Imagine the situation: you are far away from any help, alone on a dirt road, you turn the ignition key – and chuckle shocked to the sound of a massive explosion! Right after that the car sounded about 5 times louder. And it looked like this:

Exploded muffler

Exploded muffler

Not very confidence-inspiring, hm? We returned to William Creek and decided to make our way through to Coober Pedy, another 180 track kilometers away. It was bloody hot, our car was wrecked and we were right in the deepest deserted wasteland. But finally .. we made it! 😉

Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy


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