Day 136 – Oodnadatta Track (Day 1)

Some times the old saying, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” makes sense. Today was one of those days – if I were to recommend one outback drive, this would be it.

The wind last night was incredible. I know I’ve mentioned it on a few occasions in the past, but it seemed exceptionally strong. During the night it also changed direction – when we went to bed it was hot dry air from the west, this morning it was cool air from the south. Just when I think I know what is happening with the temperature, this happens to prove me wrong.

20130926_RCH_2934 20130926_RCH_2935 20130926_RCH_2936 20130926_RCH_2937 20130926_RCH_2939We’ve been lucky in the past and spent the night in some truly beautiful places. Last night was not one of those. But, it was a free camp in downtown Oodnadatta (beat paying $22 at The Pink Roadhouse). It was still quite early (and Risa was still waking up) so I went for a quick stroll around town. I’ve heard that the town suffered hard when the train stopped coming through town, but I’m not sure if that’s the only reason for the way this town looked. It was incredibly sad.

20130926_RCH_2941 20130926_RCH_2942 20130926_RCH_2943 20130926_RCH_2944The day got off to a slow start, though, not for lack of trying on our behalf. Turns out that even though we were up nice and early and ready to get started, the town wasn’t. We needed to refuel before we could leave, and The Pink Roadhouse didn’t open until 8AM. The roadhouse is quite interesting in itself – they seem to have been quite active in the promotion of Oodnadatta and the surrounding area for tourism. We picked up one of their awesome mud maps in Boulia, and it was one of the reasons that made me interested in visiting this area. They list it as being ‘Australia’s Driest Town’, which may or may not be true. It is very dry, and the idea of canoe hire was hilarious.

20130926_RCH_2946 20130926_RCH_2947 20130926_RCH_2951 20130926_RCH_2952 20130926_RCH_2953The Oodnadatta Track loosely follows the old Ghan railway line, which has now been replaced by the New Ghan railway line (still linking Adelaide and Darwin I believe). As such, there are a lot of ruins left of stations that are no longer relevant. The bridges are still mostly intact, but most of the rail and sleepers have been removed from the ground.

20130926_RCH_2957Again, it’s another day of flat and mostly barren landscape. I still don’t understand how the livestock survive – there must be some nutrition in spinifex/dust. The one major difference between this road and most of the other outback roads we’ve driven – this one is actually interesting to drive. The road is weaving and bending, climbing hills and dipping through valleys. It was a great pleasure to be driving today, not a chore. It probably helps that the road was in reasonable condition. My definition of reasonable condition is we can still talk to each over the ambient noise. I’d heard about the sharp/pointy rocks destroying tyres, but so far haven’t seen anyone repairing a wheel on the side of the road (touch wood we’ve been OK too).

20130926_RCH_296720130926_RCH_2962 20130926_RCH_2958 20130926_RCH_2959William Creek is about 200km from Oodnadatta, or about half the way to Maree, the end of the track. A friend that once visited said there were two buildings in town – a pub, and a tyre repair shop. He wasn’t far from the truth. The pub is like many other outback pubs – a little run down, various souvenirs of travellers covering every surface, tacky merchandise for sale. We’ve seen so many of them now – they are still cool/fun/interesting, but they’re nothing novel. A sign outside of the pub proclaims the population to be 2, which is probably not true any more (there were actually a few houses there now).

20130926_RCH_2964 20130926_RCH_2966 20130926_RCH_2970There was also Woomera debris that had landed nearby. Still scarily large/intact – lucky the area is so sparsely populated… The small park was full of noisy birds (galahs, or as someone we know likes to call them, pink cockies, and corellas).

20130926_RCH_2976 20130926_RCH_2979 20130926_RCH_2982Not far from William Creek was the turn-off for Lake Eyre, the largest lake in Australia, and one that rarely has water in it. I’ve always wanted to see a giant salt lake up close, so I was actually pretty excited to see it. It was a 60km one-way detour from the Oodnadatta Track, and like just about every unsealed road in a national park, the condition was rather poor (and this was after the $10 entry fee). It took us a little over an hour to reach one of the bays, and it wasn’t a pleasant hour of driving – shaking, rattling and constant and abrasive noise. The land leading up to the lake were some of the most desolate we’d seen, especially immediately prior, it was a deep dark red like we hadn’t seen before.

Now, this is where I talk again about managing expectations. Risa and I had these expectations that Lake Eyre was a giant salt lake – brilliant and white. This isn’t the case, it’s much more like a golden sandy colour (and dirtier in places). We also thought that could drive out to stand in the middle of the lake. This also wasn’t the case, it’s a location of significance to indigenous Australians, so if you wanted to see the middle of the lake, you’d better enjoy walking… Risa was almost furious that we’d been to that much effort for this view. I was disappointed, but I guess we have our own expectations to blame for it. Being positive, it was impressively large (incomprehensively so), and I’ve certainly never seen anything like it. The heat haze on the horizon was quite beautiful, too. But, lets just say, that torturous 60km return leg was devoid of any smiles…

20130926_RCH_3020 20130926_RCH_3033 20130926_RCH_2987 20130926_RCH_2989 20130926_RCH_3032 20130926_RCH_2988Not too long after we returned to Oodnadatta Track did we see some beautiful red sand dunes. It’s something I’ve always wanted to see, but so far on our travels they have eluded us (at least the perfectly barren ones that I imagine, not the smaller ones partially covered with plants). We had been considering driving up as far as Birdsville to see some, but realised it was too far just to see a red sand dune. Today was our lucky day though, change would have it that we found one such perfect sand dune, and was it ever perfect! And beautiful. We spent nearly an hour walking around it taking photos (wedding photos, mostly). If only there were no flys… I wish I could wax lyrical about it, but I’m a photographer, not a linguist, so I’ll let the photos do the talking, like always. (Also, photos were taken at an angle to conceal that this was the only bare sand dune, and it was only the top half that was like this)

20130926_RCH_3169 20130926_RCH_3170 20130926_RCH_3172 20130926_RCH_3177 20130926_RCH_3206 20130926_RCH_3204We visited a few more ruins (and a few more wedding photos), a hot spring (Coward Springs – but were advised not to bathe as there were 20-something children in the small pool already…) and called it a night by some amazing ruins. We arrived during the last light of day.

20130926_RCH_3215 20130926_RCH_3232 20130926_RCH_3234 20130926_RCH_3229After that light had faded, it was time to play with star photos. Since we’d taken hundreds (seriously) of wedding photos already today, we got changed once again and took some more. This one is a bit of a failed attempt, but ended up with a really awesome/atmospheric/demonic result.

136日目  9月26日(木) 廃墟と砂漠

今日は、この町の中心的存在、Pink Road Houseという本当に全部ピンク色をしたガソリンスタンド/パブ で給油をして出発。

この町携帯の電波もないし、道路は全て砂利道だし、草木もほとんどない。家は、ほぼトタン。 オーストラリアにいながら発展途上国のような場所です。

しかしこの町は、このPink Houseの元祖オーナーが、この町を走っていたガン鉄道のルート変更に伴い、ルートから外れた他の町の様に廃墟にならない様になんとか観光客を呼び寄せようと必死にがんばった結果生き残った町らしいです。  このOonadattaトラックと呼ばれる道路の観光名所の看板やマップは彼らがひとつひとつ手作りしたもので、私たちもそのマップを参考に今日のドライブを進めました。

今日の道路沿いには、オリジナルのガン鉄道が走っていた町の廃墟がたくさんありました。  このガン鉄道とは、南のアデレードとど真ん中のアリススプリング、そして北のダーウィンを結ぶ鉄道ですが、100年ほど前にこのルートが若干変更になり、以前まで駅があり、村となって栄えていた場所が、人々の移動により廃墟となってしまったようです。

ほとんどの廃墟は、駅、古い線路、古い橋、風車や石炭のタンクなどでした。
建物は、石づくりなのでおそらくトタンで出来ていた屋根は、ほとんどが壊れなくなっていましたが、壁と暖炉は、しっかりと残っている場所が多かったです。   建物の中身は、石の暖炉以外は、一切残っていないので、気味悪さは、まったくないです。

そして道路は、赤い石が転がる砂利道と砂のでこぼこみち。 草木が全くない場所も非常に多く、本当に火星の景色。   それでも少量の草を食べ育っている牛が道路の付近にみえました。よくこんな量で大きくなれるものだねと2人で不思議がっていました。

今日というか、この旅の中でもかなり心待ちにしていた Lake Eyre  エアー湖に片道90分程のでこぼこ道の迂回をするもなんともまぁこんなに期待を裏切られた場所を訪れたのは初めてかも!!

ここは、オーストラリアで1番低い海抜にある場所で、塩湖なので見渡す限りの風景が潮で真っ白という写真と昔のバンドのビデオが撮影された場所で、写真でみた、目もくらむ程の真っ白な世界を期待していたのに、なんと実際は、だだっぴろい乾いた薄汚い泥が広がってるだけ。。。。
こんなに時間と体力をさいてきたのにこんな場所だなんて、、、残念にも程があるぞと当たりどころのない一人ブチ切れ。。。

しかし、ずっと不機嫌もやってられないので、私は帰り道はメインの道路にもどるまでうたた寝、、

その後は、真っ赤な砂の砂丘を発見!  砂丘と赤土ファンの私たちは、さっそく撮影の探検にでかけました。

ずっと見てみたかった足跡のついていない、赤い砂丘。 とても神秘的な雰囲気がありかなり印象的な場所でした。

その後もいくつかの廃墟めぐり。 途中暖かい地下水の天然のプールのような場所があると行ってみましたが、現在は子供が春休み中でここにはたくさんの家族ずれがいるので、行かない方がいいよとアドバイスをもらったので断念。  1時間に数台ほどしか他の車とすれ違わないので、これには驚きでした。

その後は、砂漠の不毛地帯に、オアシスのように小高い砂の頂上部分に突然湧き出ている不思議な温水(おそらく35°以下)も見てきました。 ふしぎだー。

この道路はかなり小さいながらも、アップダウンがあったり、カーブがあったりたくさんの廃墟、時々現れる動物、そして世界の終わりの様な視界一面なにもない不毛地帯、砂漠などなど、かなり見所盛りだくさんでかなりおすすめです。

でもこの何も無い世界の美しさって言葉では表現できないけど、不思議な美しさであふれています。

今晩は、列車が通っていた時代に、レールを修理する職人さん達が寝泊まりしていた建物の廃墟のすぐ横でキャンプです。

基本的にどこでもキャンプしてもOKなので、この周囲には、だーーーれもいません! 私たちから一番近くにいる人間は、ここから何十キロ離れているのかな?

もちろん周囲何百キロと町がないので、銀河がくっきりと見える程☆がとってもきれいです☆☆

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