Days 27 to 30 – My visit to Marree S.A.

Days 27 to 30 – My visit to Marree S.A. 846 1000 Alanna Schultz

Day 27:

Waking up in a cabin at the Marree Oasis Caravan Park is rather a nice way to start the day. That is until you take that first step outside, it hits you in the face, the dusty southerly wind. It doesn’t seem to have given up and with the added briskness in the air it makes for three layers of clothes until the sun is nearly midway in the sky.

From the caravan park I can see the start of the Oodnadatta Track to the west and to the north the end of the Birdsville Track. I can see vehicles coming and going on both the tracks by the large tunnels of dust following each of them. This current month of southerlies is taking all the dust and depositing it to the north side of the road. You certainly have to watch out for this dust when camping, nothing worse than camping on the wrong side of the road. The dust not only covers you when vehicles drive by but it has also settled on all the vegetation and, well just everything on that side of the road.

I made a booking yesterday afternoon when I arrived with Wrightsair (The Spirit of the Outback) for a scenic flight over Lake Eyre (Kati Thanda), The Marree Man.  I expected this flight would be good but it went way beyond that, seeing it all from the small plane was absolutely sensational and the knowledge of the two pilots was extraordinarily good.

Being only 65 kilometres from town we flew over The Marree Man first, it is known as a modern geoglyph and the creator is unknown. It appears to depict an indigenous Australian man hunting with a hunting stick.

It is huge, about 4.2 kilometres tall with a perimeter of about 28 kilometres. At the time of discovery, the outline was 30 centimetres deep and up to 35 meters wide.

It has been speculated that the figure was made by a bulldozer and could have taken weeks to complete, yet no one claims to have seen or heard a thing. Only one track led into and out of the site, but no footprints or tire marks were discernible, and a thorough police investigation conducted at the time came up with nothing. That’s from the records. The pilot said there were three possible scenarios, but the most plausible was, ‘the year it was discovered, in 1998, there was a massive pipeline being laid by the Uranium Mine and the men doing that job had the machinery to do this monstrous drawing in the ground. They also had, at the time all the specialized GPS equipment to be able to do the bulldozing of the man to perfect scale.” I do agree with him.

Then we swung to the right and headed for Lake Eyre. The pilot then explained, “Lake Eyre or as it’s also known as Kati Thanda is the largest lake in Australia, a shallow endorheic lake, covering approximately 9,500 square kilometres, on the rare occasions that it fills.  It happens to be the lowest point in Australia, at approximately 15 m below sea level. Lake Eyre is divided into two sections which are joined by the Goyder Channel. These are known as Lake Eyre North, which is 144 kilometres in length and 65 kilometres wide, and Lake Eyre South, which measures 65 by 24 kilometres. The salt crusts can be up to 50 cm at the thickest point.”

“When the lake is full, it has the same salinity level as the sea, but as the lake dries up and the water evaporates, salinity increases”.

The pilot pointed out to us where Sir Donald Campbell broke the land speed record on the salt-bed, at 648.73 km/h in 1964. He said the salt surface may look flat but to the contrary, it’s very rough and Donald’s team had to make it flat for the attempt.

Oh, I did have to ask the pilot what he meant by, “shallow endorheic lake” at the start of his talk.  For you, who like me didn’t know, here we go………. An endorheic basin is a limited drainage basin that normally retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as rivers or oceans, but converges instead into lakes or swamps, permanent or seasonal, that equilibrate through evaporation…….thanks Google – Hope that answers that question.

I was totally awestruck at the size of this Lake system. I read about it in school, saw it on maps but it’s not until you see it from the air that you fully digest the enormity of this astonishing piece of nature we have in Australia. The Outback might be harsh but we should all, at some point in our lives see what we have in this vast land. Okay, that’s enough prattling on by me.

Back on land and feeling hungry I headed over to the General Store – Service Station – Post Office – Café all in one. Well, there must have been at least 30 motorbikes some parked roadside and the others lined up to be fuelled up. You may think I am exaggerating about the numbers but even more arrived as I walked into the shop. I grabbed some tucker and a drink, out I went to find out what all these guys were up to.

I noticed that all the bikes had a small plastic shield on the front with details of the group with a number and the riders name (like they have at race meets). It was no race there was 110 riders in total, it was the BMW Safari Enduro– Mildura to Alice Springs (via the outback). This event is capped at 110 entrants. They leave Mildura and begin the journey north for a six-day ride, through Danggali Reserve, Arkaroola and up the Oodnadatta Track and finish up at Alice Springs. As some riders fuelled and had a feed, they left and more arrived. Mind boggling, the numbers, the bikes and all their gear.

It’s only lunch time, big day for me, think I need a rest.

Looking forward to the Caravan Park ‘Camp Kitchen Dinner’ at six.

Cheers Kenny Mac

Day 28:

Up at 5:30, I walked down to the very east end of town looking for a stunning sunrise photo. I noticed I wasn’t the only one who loved this time of the day for photography. I saw a guy with a tripod waiting for that first peak of the sun.  I finally got my photo, see here in this blog, I call it ‘flat just plain flat’. Still stuns me, the beauty of the outback.

By this time my hands were numb with cold it was three degrees (feels like zero). I headed back to the cabin for a cuppa and some cereal. Today is washing more clothes (found more), sort and repack my food, clean my camping gear (from that dust storm at Claytons) and repack ready for my next camping night. I didn’t do it in that order because by the time I dusted all my camping gear I had a set of clothes (ones on me) needing washing, big time. Resorting all my food was a good idea. I now know I have sufficient supplies, as they say, for the rest of the trip to Oodnadatta. I am starting to get a little tired of the same food pack every day. I don’t eat at the café or pubs all the time, that ends up quite expensive. The ‘Camp Kitchen’ dinner is good though, at $15 for two courses. The meals are simple but great.  There is no dinner at the caravan park tonight, Friday is the staff night off.

Cheers Kenny Mac

Day 29:

It was another cold and windy morning but not as windy as yesterday. A beautiful morning for a walk to the Marree Cemetery, just over 2 kilometres from the Caravan park. The first part of my walk is to head to the other end of the main street, a whole 250 metres, then take a right turn and head out towards the south. I walked past the local tip on my left, cattle yards on my right, then I opened the gate (and shut it of course) and continued up the paddock to the cemetery. I saw lots of kangaroos and they watched me closely, if I got to close, they would hop away and stop just that bit further from me.

There was another gate at the cemetery with a sign next to the gate. The sign read, ‘The graves within the cemetery are divided into three groups within the one fenced enclosure: European, Afghan and Aboriginal, which depicts the three cultural groups that pioneered Marree (around 1872). Although the cemetery is divided into three sections, there have been few racial problems in the history of Marree’.

The thing that struck me most was one particular grave stone of Hugh, died 4th Jan 1886 aged 55 years. So this guy was born in 1831, came to Marree and worked. And I think it’s tough, me camping in a tent roadside with all my luxuries. What these people endured living in the outback back then is amazing, they were absolute true pioneers.

On the way back to town for some breakie and a cuppa, I could see the kangaroos feeding with their eyes watching me carefully.  With my cereal eaten and my shower done, I went off to chat to the couple I met last night, they were interested in my fund raising for Bravehearts and the reason I choose that charity group, because as they said, there is so many to choose from nowadays.

My words to them were direct from the website and I feel Bravehearts is the leader among groups that sincerely help victims to become survivors. Hiding the trauma as I did for 40 years is not good for the soul.

Bravehearts is Australia’s only children’s charity holistically dedicated to the issue of child sexual assault. Making Australia the Safest Place in the World to Raise a Child.”

Educate, Empower and Protect our Kids.“

Dinner tonight is back to the Camp Kitchen. I know I mentioned it briefly in a previous blog, I’ll tell you a bit more detail about the ‘Camp Kitchen’ dinner. The dinner starts at 6 o’clock but there is a huge camp fire lit around 5:00pm and the caravaners, campers rock up around 5:30‘ish with drinks and their stories of how they got here to Marree and where they are off to in the coming days. What a great way for most of the Park’s guest to meet and chat together. Because it has been quite cool and windy lately the fire is a welcome centre of warmth. The main feature of the night arrives and sets her music system up near the outside wall of the Lounge (tin shed with two lounge suites, a table and chairs). Jennifer sings the 6 nights the Camp Kitchen dinner runs, and has done every week for the last three years. She’s brilliant with all the guests, funny and sings wonderfully.

Dinner arrives in the 4×4 from the Roadhouse across the road (run by the same people as the Caravan park) and all the guests line and serve themselves. Jennifer sings the entire evening; she will pause at a time when desert is ready with the announcement ‘Sweets is up’. A wonderful night had by all, and a big cheer for all the staff who make the night enjoyable.


Cheers Kenny Mac

Day 30:

Father’s day today, I read the beautiful notes my daughters sent me early this morning. Thanks girls loved reading them.

Prep day today and Bravehearts photo shoot.

I went over to The Oasis Roadhouse to get a picture (of me with my handwritten with words ‘Protect Kids’) in front of their hand painted tin lid for the Bravehearts PLEDGE TO PROTECT KIDS, white balloon day, 6th Sep.  I had to ask the owner if I could move the two pallets against the wall under the sign to take the picture.

“Go for it “, he said.

The pallets were from his delivery yesterday of fruit and veg, the forklift photo I posted yesterday. Picture taken, all good. While I was at the roadhouse I fuelled up my Ute, got some extra supplies for the next few days and nights, oh and a cup of real coffee.

One of the supplies was 10 litres of spring water because the water here at Marree is undrinkable, way too salty. Further north, up the Birdsville track you could drink the bore water, it was, what they call sweet water. But I reckon it still tasted like, s..t, hard to get used to. I had stopped drinking coffee when I was camping because the water spoilt the coffee flavour. All my spare water bottles are now filled with spring water and I have started drinking tea.

I’ll be out of service for several days and I will write to you all when I can.

Enjoy the photos

Cheers Kenny Mac