when the day begins and ends at a watering hole

Tuesday 9 July (posted Marla 10 July)

It was such a quiet night on the salt lake with only the lightest of winds making sounds in the night. The resident rabbit population added nothing to the soundscape.

Morning on Lake Eyre

The road out took the full 2 hours over the corrugations and surprisingly different landscape. A few merciless kilometres towards the end of this track (and William Creek) is a memorial to a young Austrian tourist who tragically perished one December day in 1998 after leaving her stranded car at Halligan Bay and attempting the walk back.

Halligan Bay Road 1

We took a break at a mound spring around which ducks, swallows and a lone black-winged stilt were playing. Further on are more ruins, this time at Warrinna, at a site commemorating the beginning of the Elder exploration expedition.

Halligan Bay Road 2

We have a few audio books to hand on this trip. Today we finished listening to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Different transcontinental treks, granted, yet an entertaining remembrance of the novel read in my youth.

Much of today’s route coincides with the Old Ghan railway line. Many remnants of it still exist, including the bridge at The Neales.

The Old Ghan - The Neales

Today was the first overcast day on the trip. Despite the stark almost washed out feel of the light for most of the day, the afternoon provided some amazing hues in the last hour before Oodnadatta.

At 2.30 pm, the light is almost dusky, with scattered clouds providing a light blanket in the sky. Crimson brown layers of sediment protrude from the gray green hills that met gibber-red flats and mounds. Around the corner, red sand dunes with mulga, then another change to black grit hills. The variety is astounding. Beach yellow sand bursts atop mounds of varying colours. Shrubs way off the road’s edge show off their true colours while their cousins closer to the traffic wear dust camouflage that will remain until the next decent rain.

Oodnadatta hills - colours

Black grit - Oodnadatta approach

The van park in Oodnadatta is red-sand based. We beat the crowd today. While Himself nabbed the only working washing machine, I got a meal started. The Pink Roadhouse provided a few provisions at prices which make you wonder how the local population manages their budgets.

Pink Roadhouse - Oodnadatta

These are the budget rooms in the van park.

Caravan park - rooms

After dinner, we headed down the road to the local.

Oodnadatta Transcontinental Hotel

Across the road from the Transcontinental Hotel, the microphone in the community hall was projecting the word of Jesus and competing with Khe Sanh blasting from the pub’s jukebox. In the hotel, the young men were competing for points on the pool table. Occasionally there would be a surreptitious rescue of one of the beers in the take-away carton located out the front. Why not? At six dollars a can at the bar, it’s a 50% or more saving.

With the Roadhouse and General Store closed by 7.00 pm, the only source of lollies and ice blocks is the bar in the hotel. Three young girls completed their transaction to their satisfaction after choosing from a range of chocolate bars.

That was it for the big night out in Oodnadatta. Nothing for it but back to the warmth of the van and a good book.

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