Day 5 Drive to Muloorina
This is the follow up of Day 4 Flinders Ranges
This morning I need a few minutes to open my eyes, wake up and comprehend who I am and what is my purpose in life (this trip). I’m glad it’s morning and there is a whole day ahead of me, but for the first time the weather is not smiling. It’s raining, not much, but enough to bring some dread in my heart. Before starting from Sydney I’ve read about a couple of guys who tried (unsuccessfully) to get to Lake Eyre on bikes. They gave up some 20k before reaching the lake due to the mud. Heavy rain made the track impassable for them. And this story is from just a few weeks ago…
I drive to Parachilna trying to convince myself that the rain is not much; it will clear, while I drive west. The clouds are following me. I stop at a strange sign which invites me to “eatsometoday” three different unusual meats – kangaroo, camel and emu, but this early in the day I doubt anyone at Parachilna pub would be ready to prepare such exotic food for me.
I turn on the sealed road leading to Leigh Creek without checking Parachilna village, the weather continues to be miserable and I am not in a mood for exploration. For a moment I surrender to the internal gloomy predictions: I will get into some intolerably deep mud and will be stuck there forever. I drive ahead like a doomed man, but then I start thinking: well, if the road is impassable I’ll turn back – it’s not the end of the world after all (although it feels like it). This allows me to enjoy the smooth tarmac and to admire the massive clouds, pressing on the air above the endless fields. Although dimmed, the light is fantastic! I am elated and soon forget my fears.
Leigh Creek is a stop for diesel (expensive). At the petrol station few occupants of a large Toyota straggle with punctured tyre. The car is heavy with thick mud. Although very curious for their labors, I try not to look in their direction, as not to attract such misfortune to my tyres, knowing fully well that my behavior is ridiculous (I’ve never been superstitious). The general store at Leigh Creek is the best (confirming mikehzz’s recommendations) and I replenish my stock of fresh fruit and vegetables, which are a lot cheaper than at Hawker. Leigh Creek is nice with its small and cute police station next to the small and cute public school and the clean streets.
Driving on and the landscape becomes more and more distinctive outback. Soon I roll onto a longish unsealed stretch. No landmarks and nothing to hold your attention, but the straight road ahead. Fortunately the skies begin to clear, patches of sun shine on the gravel road and lift my spirits. I am again ready for adventure.
There is mysterious ruined building In the middle of nowhere with some tourist around it and I stop to investigate. It doesn’t look like an abandoned farmhouse. Well-presented information bay explains its previous function: this is one of the many stations, along the old narrow gouge railway called The Ghan. Around 1890 the building was used for sheltering a maintenance gang. Back then it was hard work to keep the service running, fighting termites, fires and flash flooding, which sometimes washed the track completely. They had similar stations every 15km or so – how unsustainable!
Marree is the last inhabited place before I plunge into the real outback. To me it looks like Parachilna, I don’t want to stop, but for diesel and to call home. There is a queue at the only public phone in the village. I am obviously reckless – a young aboriginal man who is patiently waiting on the queue, sees my jumpiness and directs me to the other public phone (much more expensive) located in the hotel. Despite his fierce appearance, the young man is very shy and polite.
Across the road a make-shift tourist office in a low flat-roof building attracts even longer queue, which snakes around a foldable sign, advertising “great discount – Lake Eyre flights for only $350 a person”. I pass this amazing offer and head for the pub to call home and to tell them that all is good with me.
Then I step on the legendary Oodnadatta track, albeit only for a few hundred meters to turn on the dirt road heading to Muloorina Station. I am surprised how good the road is. With the gravel mode engaged it doesn’t feel like a dirt road at all. It’s smooth and dry enough to be firm, but without dust. Along the way I open and close couple of gates – one of them is the dog fence gate. I wander how is it possible to keep such a long fence unbroken, without places where the dingoes could go through. It must be constant maintenance.
Soon I arrive at Muloorina. It’s mid-afternoon and the weather looks promising to hold for a few more hours…