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