A return to civilisation and time to pick up another adventurer, Geoff's friend Richard. A night out on the town in Alice and a bed at the local backpackers, before we prepared for the arduous return trip to Melbourne. Perhaps arduous isn't the right word, as it implies a difficult and tiresome journey - when the truth is I loved it! The plan for our return trip was to take the Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail and then the Oodnadatta Track. This leg of the trip would be far more barren in its scenery, but no less amazing a journey. There were times when Geoff followed a trail, when i wondered if there was in fact a trail to even follow. But he seemed to know where he was going, even when I had my doubts.
This leg of the trip, the weather began to turn and towards the end making some of the camping not as pleasurable as it had been previously. Sleeping in a tent inundated with water is not the most enjoyable experience! The one saving grace was having a camp fire, which could always warm me and my spirits.
The track to the heritage trail took us through some cattle stations that were so vast, they felt like wastelands that have been long forgotten. It only reinforced how much distance existed between us and "civilisation". The landscape was unyielding and isolating, with fence lines creating boundaries and order to wayward cattle and traveller. Ruins were scattered along the way, a reminder of the harsh realities of remote outback living and a time long since passed, providing a glimpse not only into the history of the Ghan railway but also colonisation.
Some of the trail follows the route for the Finke Desert race. There was something wonderful about being on the trail - the dirt was a vibrant orange and the endless amount of space, gave me the sense of being an infinitesimal speck, putting many things back into perspective.
We stopped in the township of Finke. A quiet town in the middle of nowhere, where I did not see a single person! I'm not saying that it is strange, but it felt a little strange. A red dusty town - unique, arid and austere. From here, we crossed the border from NT to SA, making our way to Witjira National Park.
Witjira National Park located in South Australia, sits on the western edge of the Simpson Desert. So, I'm going to claim that as another place that I have (kinda/sorta) been to! Witjira boasts a number of natural artesian springs located in the park, in particular Dalhousie Springs. The springs are warm and inviting and after a swim I couldn't help but feel rejuvenated and refreshed. The park itself has facilities for camping, however the disappointing thing was that we could not have a fire there. I think that this comes back to the fact that the native scrub in the area is depleted and under threat due to over use. With no camp fire, this left me exposed to the local predator - the mosquito. No fire, darkness and a vitamin B deficiency made me mosquito bait for those flying carnivores! I had to bid my travelling companions an early good night - I was being eaten alive! After an early retreat to my tent, we headed off the next day towards the ruins.
The buildings at Dalhousie were built somewhere between 1872 and 1885. The shell only remains now, but they really don't make buildings like they used to, do they? After taking a step back into history and a harsher time, we made our way to Oodnadatta and the iconic Pink Roadhouse.
A toilet break, some cream to ease my itching mozzie bites, a cold drink and an ice cream in Oodnadatta were just what I needed! Whilst having a chill at the roadhouse, Geoffrey was kind enough to play us a tune and our Geoff even joined in with the yidaki.
A bit of a tune and a stretch of the legs and we were back on the road. This time, heading towards Algebuckina Bridge for lunch.
The bridge is located near the Neales River. There are several graves of those who built the bridge nearby, who died from working in extreme weather conditions. The bridge was closed in 1981 and now is a rest stop for tourists making the intrepid journey through Central Australia.
I took a stroll along the river bank and what was disappointing to see, was so much rubbish and waste that people had discarded in their travels. The one rule we have is to leave a place as you found it - to take your rubbish with you when you leave; to ensure no trace of you is left behind so that other people can enjoy it as much as you.
After trying to eat my sandwich, without eating a fly, we embarked on the next leg of our trip to get to camp. The weather forecast rain and storms, we looked at accomodation in William Creek but due to it being last minute the cost was too much for us. So we maintained our initial plan of, camping on a red sand dune.
We set up camp with tents surrounding the fire. The three of us stayed up to share in a few drinks, having a laugh and unwinding from a busy week. I left the two boys to their bourbon and retired to bed trying not to wake my tent buddy. 2AM and I am woken by strong winds; a light dapple of rain which promised to turn torrential; and, the boys wanting to wake the rest of the camp up as we made the last minute decision to leave. Leave now or be stuck should the Oodnadatta track be closed.
As I am writing this, I realise that there was more to the return leg of the trip then first realised. Because the next day, we made our way to the Southern part of Lake Eyre. I would have liked to walk on Lake Eyre but we had limited time and the distance to get to the actual lake was too far to make in a timely fashion.
All aboard next stop, Flinders Ranges! We made it just in time for a late afternoon stop before camp at Brachina Gorge; then a quick walk through Wilpena Pound before much deserved showers and food. The night brought with it terrible weather, so much so, I resorted to sleeping in the car with Richard in the front seat snoring like a beast! It was loud and uncomfortable and needless to say, I got very little sleep that night.
When you document it all, it is surprising how far you get in a day. The next day, we made our way through Peterborough, Renmark and our camp spot in the Grampians.
Another rainy night, but we had two roaring fires! I really do love a good camp fire - sitting around it, soaking up the warmth with good company, it's how I always remember camping. Even with bad weather, I braved it in the tent, whilst the three girls on our trip decided that the car was safer. Apart from a little water log and some strange noises in the middle of the night, I had a fitful sleep.
Our last camp morning was spent around the fire enjoying those last fleeting moments of wilderness that we knew were about to come to a halting end. With hot coffee, damper and the sun on my face on what felt like a cold winters day was invigorating. However, the harsh reality was, the trip was almost over - our outback adventure was over!