well travelled paths – the Oodnadatta Track

This is Oodnadatta.  While we’re on the road to this very place, here’s something to keep you going.

Oodnadatta - Google Map

The name is derived from Arrernte utnadata, meaning mulga blossom”.

The Oodnadatta Track crosses the traditional lands
of three Aboriginal groups. In the south, between
Lake Torrens and Lake Eyre are the Kuyani people;
most of the west of Lake Eyre has been traditionally
occupied by the Arabana people; and to the north is
the land of Arrernte people. Now many people from
further west, Antikirinya people, live there too.
A string of springs runs right through this country.
Knowledge of these springs has been passed
down through generations of Aboriginal people
since ancient times. It was a path that was well
travelled whether for cultural ceremonies or trading
purposes. And the Aboriginal people passed their
knowledge on to explorers and settlers.
‘It isn’t the straightest route, but it’s the only one if
you want to survive’
The Track has many stories to tell. And water is at
the heart of all of them.
• This is the path of ancient Aboriginal trade
routes, where traders hopped from one spring
to another, carrying materials from the Flinders
Ranges deep into central Australia and back;’

From Brochure : The Oodnadatta Track – Spring of Springs

South Australian Arid Lands Natural
Resources Management Board

In 1927, two young women drove this Lancia across the continent. Image via State Library of Victoria.  This photograph is entitled On the Road to Oodnadatta.  Kathleen Howell and Jean Robertson were sponsored by the Shell company to make the trek. Note the dog.

On the road to Oodnadatta

This image (by Jean Beatson (nee Robertson) is of Oodnadatta Railway Station again via The State Library of Victoria.

Oodnadatta Railway Station 1927

The Burnie Advocate of 18 June 1927 reported the story here.

The map reference used by the newspaper is from the Journey by Lancia from Melbourne to Darwin collection (State Library of Victoria).

Route - Lancis Journey

This is my favourite photograph in this collection – On the Matting in the Depot sand hills.  


On the matting - Lady Overlanders

The Farmer and Settler – 5 August 1927 reported the safe arrival of the women in Darwin.

Misses Robertson and Howell, the Melbourne motorists who are the first Australian women to motor around Australia, and who set out on this undertaking on June 2, have reached Darwin, after a successful though arduous journey. Naturally, their experiences have been many and varied and as they are not attempting a speed record, they have had ample time to enjoy the unusual scenes through which they have passed. They followed a route from Adelaide to Oodnadatta via Kingoouya, instead of the more usual route, via Marree, but owing to unusually heavy   rains, they encountered some difficulties, and were bogged several times. However, with the true pioneer spirit — without which these girls would never have undertaken the journey — they extricated their ‘Lancia’ and drove on. For negotiating stretches of drift sand they had to resort to  laying down 40-yard lengths of coir matting to provide traction for the wheels. The ladies who are travelling on ‘Shell’ Spirit and Oil throughout, carried extra supplies of petrol from Oodnadatta, the southern railhead, in an attempt to reach the northern railhead at Katherine without replenishing supplies en route. They will return through Queensland and New South Wales.

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