After two nights at the William Creek Hotel it was time to hit the dust and dirt of the Oodnadatta track for one more night in the South Australian outback before we headed back to the bright lights of Adelaide.
Following the Old Ghan Railway line the dusty dirt track meanders its way through a barren drought stricken landscape all the way from William creek to Lyndhurst (a good 200 kms) which is where you hit the bitumen again.
A little note about the type of vehicle required to travel on the Oodnadatta track.
Of course I’m no expert here, given this was my first trip, however with the weather as it was my AWD Subaru SUV had no problem whatsoever.
I was initially led to believe while making enquiries prior to leaving Adelaide at a certain Coober Pedy hotel (who happen to rent 4WD vehicles) that I would most definitely require one. Given the price of 4WD rentals (and the worry of excess / accidents etc) I was relieved to be given further advice to the contrary from the tourist office in Coober Pedy.
I was told that it had been two years since a drop of rain had fallen out here!
Just before arriving in the town of Marree where we planned to stop for a pub lunch we discovered the unexpected…the Mutonia Sculpure park.
Sculptures appear not as if out of nowhere but quite literally out of nowhere. The flat desert landscape is interrupted abruptly by fantastical pieces of art.
Robin ‘Mutoid’ Cook a former car mechanic is the artist behind this dessert creativity and says ”once there is no more waste I will be out of a job’.
A friendly wave from the Mutonia robot made out of an old engine welcomes passersby.
Shut Roxby Down…. Roxby Downs (situated between Maree and Woomera) is the location of the BHP owned Olympic Dam mine. It has the fourth largest copper deposit and the largest known single deposit of uranium in the world, although copper is the largest contributor to its total revenue.
Two American made Beechcraft Baron planes found in a Melbourne scrapyard make up the sculpture known as Plane Henge.
The disused bomb standing next to the planes has the message ‘Rust in Peace’ and ‘No more bombs’ . While I’m pretty certain this bomb will rust in peace… good luck with the rest of that message!
As you arrive into the town of Marree its hard not to miss the what must be one of the most unusual Yacht Clubs of the world. Not a drop of water in sight!
There are 2 access points available for sailing on the lake, one is 100 kms away, the other 70kms.
The Marree Hotel while very well known is not the only attraction in town. Maybe some of you have heard of the famous and intriguing Marree Man, the worlds largest geoglyph, so large its visible from space!
As we both had to be back in Adelaide the following night and wanted to get to the Flinders Ranges in time for their sunset we only stopped in Marree for a quick sandwich at the front bar (which is always a good place to be if you want a beer and a yarn with some of the locals).
with a quick stop on the front verandah to chat with these guys.
One of the murals at the pub reminds patrons of the huge contribution the Afghan cameleers made to the opening up of these central desert areas of Australia, including the country here in the north of South Australia.
If you are interested in learning more of this fascinating history here is a link to a fabulous Australian Geographic article on Australia’s Afghan Cameleers.
Some of the hotel’s more modern accommodation next to and outside of the historic and main hotel building.
After lunch it was back onto the Oodnadatta track to travel onwards to our final destination for the day, another iconic Aussie pub, The Prairie hotel in Parachilna.
Set in the magnificent and ancient Flinders Ranges this hotel is known not only for its outback location, sitting amongst ancient mountain ranges and gorges but its wonderful native pub menu and its fabulous accommodation.
Always get to the Prairie in time to order a cold beverage and watch the spectacular sunset from their outdoor terrace area at the front.
The striking Parachilna Stockman sculpture stands proudly on a long forgotten railway platform just in front of the hotel and speaks of the connection that man and horse have to this outback land. (The sculpture was made by a family of artists, The Manning family, Ty, Rod and Trent).
As well as the hotel accommodation the Prairie now have what they call their ‘overflow’ accommodation and comprise of these comfortable, clean and very affordable cabins (with share bathroom facilities).
Given the hotel did not have a spare hotel room when I called to make a reservation we took an overflow cabin and were more than happy.
Above, the view that greeted me in the early hours of the next morning. I got this early shot because we were up at sparrow’s fart (after a wonderful dinner the night before) with the intention of driving to beautiful Brachina gorge.
This did not happen! Therefore I have a photo of the mail being delivered instead! I’m not complaining, I rather like shooting outback mail deliveries (they don’t happen every day), however I really would have preferred to have been making my way to the gorge!
The reason it did not happen, I only had a quarter of a tank of petrol! Sitting outside waiting for the pub to open a truck driver informed me that the hotel petrol bowser I remembered from a past visit no longer pumped petrol and the one bowser up the road was closed every Wednesday morning! I’ll give you one guess as to which morning we were there!
Brachina gorge became a no go, without enough petrol to get to the gorge and through it and then onto the closest petrol stop we had no choice but to scrap the plans, miss breakfast at the Prairie and head directly to Hawker hoping we had enough juice in the tank to make it! We did.
When traveling by car in the Flinders Ranges I much prefer to be the passenger rather than the driver as the scenery screams to be taken in with all your senses. Above is the road from Parachilna to Hawker.
If you are ever hungry and in Hawker head straight to the Flinders Food Co, we had the most sumptuous and delicious breakfast and coffee there. Jane Fargher (owner of the Prairie hotel) told me that the owner of this fabulous cafe used to work in the Prairie kitchen so his credentials are excellent, as was his breakfast.
With our hunger satisfied and our petrol tank full we headed to Arkaroo Rock for a short hike to see the impressive Aboriginal rock art and take in the spectacular scenery of this area (as seen below).
The site of Arkaroo rock (Akura Adnya) is a cultural site of the Adnyamathanha (hill people) who used this rock as a shelter for thousands of years.
These magnificent ochre and charcoal paintings are approximately 5,000 years old and depict the dreaming serpent Akurra, who in the dreamtime created much of the Flinders Ranges including the magnificent natural amphitheatre that is Wilpena Pound (Ikara).
The site is now protected by a wire cage (however it is possible to get your camera lens through the wiring). Even if it wasn’t possible the formation of this rock itself is so breathtakingly beautiful I could have spent all afternoon just gazing and absorbing its every beautiful inch.
It was however time to drive the remaining 4 and a half hours back to the city and end what was a wonderful five days in the harsh yet magical outback of northern South Australia.
I’ll be back on the blog soon with some images from one of the most stunning mountain areas of Australia I have ever visited, the awe inspiring Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania.
Until then…. xx