Day Lake Eyre Coach Tour With Outback Spirit
10th July 2010
may have different opinions but this is the way I saw things. I
genuinely liked everyone on the trip and had many long and
interesting discussions with most people. Anything I say about
anyone or anything is purely in fun. Some information I got from
others on the trip. I may have enhanced some of the information I
gathered. Anything that is blatantly incorrect please let me
know. All photos referenced have been converted to a smaller size
for faster downloading.
John & Jan
Gordon & Glenda
Rick & Ann
Rod & Anne
Susan & Terry
Australians, 18 Women and 8 Men.
& Angie were the driver and tour guide respectively. See this
photo. They did a fantastic job. Thank you.
photo which was taken inside the Marree Hotel. Paul is not in
took 365 photographs and I took 45 Mins of video.
1,700km on the bus.
was a Miracle
we got back to Lyndhurst on schedule.
On the evening before
we left Marree, Peter, our driver, informed us that the weather
prediction was for rain and that he was concerned about road
conditions deteriorating. He said you may get a knock on the door
during the night and we will have to leave early. That night, it
started raining and intensified at times during the night. Many
of us heard the rain and stayed awake waiting for the knock on
the door but it never came. Found out later that 37mm fell. When
we got to breakfast at 6.45, Peter informs us that we have to
leave in 10 mins because the rain will have flooded the road to
Lyndhurst which is partly dirt and he is extremely concerned that
we may not get through. As we headed off there was lots of water
laying around Marree. The road and surrounding country was
flooded. The dirt road was very slippery and Peter told us later
that soon after he hit the dirt he knew he should have not
attempted it. The bus was sliding around a lot and the water was
deep in spots. But we made it. Took 2 hrs to travel 80km. See
photo of the bus at Lyndhurst.
photo of the bus step and this
photo of the wheel. And yes, the bus did get partly washed at
Beltana Station. But Peter did not do it. He got the Station
owner to wash the front. See this
photo. The bus did get fully washed at Wilpena Pound
down the road Emu Creek had flooded the road. See this
photo. Cars could not pass. The bus got through OK.
Spirit promote this tour as "The Lake Eyre Miracle".
Now we know where they got the title from. It is a miracle if you
get back on schedule.
Found out later that the Lyndhurst -
Marree road was closed for a while and then only 4WD access. The
Birdsville and Strzelechi tracks were both closed for a
Peter, our driver, also indicated that the next
Outback Spirit trip to Lake Eyre which left three days after us
may not get through to Marree. However, I telephoned Outback
Spirit and it appears they got through OK.
Barracks for Port Adelaide
suspect the proprietor of the Marree Hotel. The Chimney has been
painted in the team colours. See this
I would have selected the Stamford Plaza in
Adelaide if they had not stuffed up the menu. Those that ordered
chicken for their main had to wait about 30 mins. This is
unacceptable. Wilpena Resort had a very good dinner.
You meet interesting people on these trips and
hear some great tales, some funny, some sad. The best tale came
from Glenda who related the saga of breaking her leg on a
previous Outback Spirit trip. It happened on a Kimberley tour and
in Tunnel Creek. It was not funny then but even Glenda laughed at
times as she related the story. The ironic thing is that shortly
after finishing this trip they were flying to Broome to complete
the rest of the previous tour that she broke her leg on.
Slow in Marree
photo. The sign was still there nearly a week and a half
after the event.
On the roads into Marree there is this
sign advertising the Oasis Cafe (which I presume is the
General Store). Notice "Bankcard" at the bottom of the
sign which has been dead for years.
are always beautiful in the outback. We were lucky to view
sunrise on the plane flying to Cowarie Station. Ann got this
photo. Terry supplied this
photo. We viewed sunset on the way back from our trip to
Level Post Bay on the Madigan Gulf where we walked on Lake Eyre
North. See this
photo and this
photo of Ann on Lake Eyre North. On the way there and back we
passed through the dog
fence. Ann got this
photo of the sunset. Deirdre supplied this
Pass that Wasn't
Pichi Richi just before Quorn. Not
really a "pass" as I would have expected but more of a
meandering through the mountain. Only 400m max. height.
plane trips and tour of Marree. It was the highlight of the trip
that everyone participated in split into two groups. The day
before everyone was asked their weight and the two groups were
selected to balance the weight on the plane we were to fly on. A
seat plane flew for nearly 1.5 hours from Marree over Lake
Eyre South and North then followed the Warburton
Creek and landed at Cowarie Station. We were met by the
Station owner (Sharon) and the manager (Mark) of the adjacent
Australian Wildlife Conservancy property of Kalamurina. We then
travelled by a small bus to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy
property. Along the way Sharon and Mark gave us a talk about the
properties. I was hanging on their every word. It was
fascinating. At the property, the Mark walked us to the
Warburton Creek whilst explaining about the flora and fauna.
on the plane we flew to where the Cooper Creek crosses the
Birdsville Track and circled over the road crossing with vehicles
lined up waiting to cross
the creek. The Birdsville Track had been relocated to a place
where the Cooper Creek was at its narrowest. Then followed the
Creek to where it entered Lake Eyre North and then back to
Marree for lunch. The plane then took the second group on the
We then had a tour of the highlights of Marree.
This should take about ten minutes I thought to myself. Turned
out it was quite interesting. We toured the streets, visited the
Arabunna Aboriginal centre (with a talk by Reg Dodd), viewed a
film called "Salt" in the community centre, viewed the
racetrack, walked around the cemetery, visited Hergott
Springs and the Lake
Eyre Yacht Club. The cemetery is unique as it is divided into
three sections - European, Aboriginal and Afghan. Some of the
Aboriginal graves were adorned in flowers and football
paraphernalia. See this
the Lakes were not Full
heard someone say after the plane trip over the lakes. Well, I
think most of us knew that they were not full but it did not
matter. Being able to view the ecosystem from the air was
fascinating. There were some stunning
visual effects caused by the partly full Lakes and the sun
streaming through the clouds onto the water. The aerial view of
the Warburton Groove was spectacular as was the flooded Cooper
Creek with its numerous lakes.
bin with no wheels outside the general store in Marree. Don't
know how they intend to wheel it away.
Interesting Thing I Learnt
grazing cattle around Marree is profitable and it is very easy to
obtain ECO rating for the beef which is sold in overseas markets.
This was told to us by Sharon, the owner of Cowarie Station. The
grasses that grow in the area are very nutritious and there is no
need to supplement their feed. ECO rating is easy to obtain
because the area is free of local and outside contamination. I
asked Tony (he is a farmer) what he thought about this and even
he was surprised.
Marree the first night in these
units at the rear of the Hotel. There were not enough
blankets on the bed. Irene told us that she got very little sleep
that night and ended up taking the doona off the single bed as an
flight that we did not have over Wilpena Pound. Fifteen of us
paid our money electronically the evening before. The next day it
is was deemed that the cloud cover was too low so the flights
were cancelled. Then we had to get our money back. What a drama.
The bank would only allow a certain amount to be refunded and our
flight fees were over that limit so the transfers were rejected.
It was eventually sorted.
the historic Prairie
Hotel at Parachilna on the way from Marree to Wilpena Pound.
The signs on the road indicate what is coming. Pictures of a
kangaroo, emu and camel on a sign reading "On your plate 3
km". The next sign says "Feral Grazing Ahead". It
was salads with a plate of feral antipasto - smoked roo, camel
mettwurst, emu pate, goat cheese, chargrilled vegetables and bush
tomato chutney served with warm Turkish bread. See this
photo. Dessert was a choice of ice cream. The whole lunch was
is the Spice of Life
Someone should tell that to the
Marree Hotel. The two lunches and two dinners we had there
offered identical items each time. In fact, the side dishes were
the same for all four meals. To be fair, Marree is in the middle
of nowhere and the meals were OK considering the circumstances.
Nevertheless, the prospect of eating more Hotel meals were a good
target for joking when there was the possibility that we may be
stuck in Marree for a few days after the heavy rain just before
we were to leave. They do need more toasters at breakfast time.
Motor Inn in Port Augusta on the first evening.
Marree for two evenings in these
units at the rear of the Marree Hotel.
Pound Resort for one evening. Took this photo mainly for the
lovely tree outside the resort.
evening in the Stamford Plaza Hotel on North Terrace in
Sit with You
Outback Spirit staff sit with you at meal
times and join in the discussions. We have taken a few overseas
bus trips and it is the policy that the driver/guide deliberately
do not sit with you.
Passed the MCG
Not the Melbourne Cricket Ground but the
Marree Cricket Ground. The sign displayed MCG. Should have got a
photo of it.
were not Many Birds
I heard someone say after the plane
trip over the lakes. I saw lots of birds along the Warburton
Creek but not as many along the Cooper Creek.
Ten minutes. The last morning in Marree when
we had to leave quickly because of the rain flooding the road.
town of Quorn
not far from Port Augusta. The name comes from the the Parish of
Quorndon in Leicestershire, England. We should be allowed to use
this word in scrabble. Lots of outback films have been made here.
photo. When we arrived early Sunday morning the place was
deserted. The pichi richi railway runs from Port Augusta to Quorn
and there is a lovely station at Quorn. It is the oldest
remaining section of the famous narrow-gauge old Ghan railway.
Regular heritage train journeys run on the line.
is a Long Way for a Pee
We passed an empty vehicle on
the way into Madigan Gulf to walk on Lake Eyre. As is the custom
Peter slowed down to see if there was a problem and there was.
There were no trees close to the road for the guy to pee on. He
was away in the distance.
Hawker, just near Wilpena Pound, is the Wilpena Panorama, a 360
degree painting of some of the most beautiful country in South
Australia as seen from St Mary's Peak, the highest point of
Wilpena Pound. The painting is high up on the wall of a circular
building. There is a staircase that you climb up and a landing at
the top representing St Mary's Peak that you view the painting
from. It was well worth the visit. See this
photo of a section of the Panorama.
For the day in Marree, the original
itenerary was to split up into two groups. In the morning one
group would fly to Cowarie Station via the Lakes, Warburton and
Cooper Creeks. The other group would drive there via the
Birdsville Track, both groups meeting for lunch. Groups would
then swap over and return to Marree either by road or plane.
However, about two weeks before our trip commenced, the Cooper
Creek crossed the Birdsville Track and a punt was put into
service to ferry vehicles across the Cooper. Unfortunately, the
punt has load limit less than the bus weight so the bus was
unable to travel the Birdsville Track.
Chance to Make Money
When the Cooper Creek crossed the
Birdsville Track (the first time in 20 years) the SA road
authority put into service a punt to ferry vehicles across the
water. We heard in Marree that an enterprising person had
utilised a quad bike to help people with their trailers on and
off the punt and was charging them $50. The road authority
eventually heard about this and subsequently on their website
appeared a special notice forbidding the use of bikes. See the
extract from their web site below
CREEK FERRY INFORMATION
department has become aware of illegal activity at the ferry
The use of a quad bike
to load / unload trailers is NOT ALLOWED
believe the oldest person on the bus was Irene. She told me she
was 83. An inspiration was Irene. Walked everywhere taking heaps
Pirie Roadhouse. See this
That was good.
Water is Pure
Said Peter about the water he carried on
the bus for us to drink. He sources it from Wilpena Pound.
Regatta is Finished
forgot to tell this
yacht Ann captured on Lake Killamperpunna where the Lake Eyre
Yacht Club held a regatta from 5th to 9th July. Outback Spirit
sponsored this event.
Beltana Station near Leigh Creek. A delicious Devonshire
tea. The Station owner took us on an interesting tour of the
Station. Of particular interest was her pet alpaca
cria (baby about 5 months old) called Chocolate that followed
her everywhere. The antics of her dog Rufus and male pig Romeo
also amused us. Just before we left we were all presented with
of these ear clips. Don't know what to do with it. It is not
the latest fashion in ear rings.
electricity is generated by diesel generator. Other places were a
bit more advanced. Wilpena Pound has an advanced solar system,
Parachilna also has solar with diesel backup. Cowarie Station has
solar but is looking at supplementing this with wind.
Creek is interesting. It supplies coal for a huge power station
at Port Augusta. The coal is delivered daily by the longest
train in the Southern Hemisphere where the electricity is
generated and then fed back to Leigh Creek to supply electricity
for the town.
is in short Supply in Marree
sleepers used as a roof over a caravan out back of the Marree
A pie/sausage roll at Orroroo on the
last day. We had to pre-order what we wanted the day before and
it was waiting for us in the local cafe. Orroroo is a dynamic
town. Real Estate is very cheap here. A shop sign invites you to
move here and compares the prices in various localities. Orroroo
Real Estate is about a third the price of Port Augusta.
is New with Outback Spirit
This is our 4th trip with
them and we noticed some changes.
seat rotation system has changed. Previously, to rotate you
would sit in the seat directly behind the seat you sat in the
day before. Now, each pair of seats is randomly numbered and to
rotate you sit in the next numbered seat. Because this was a
short trip we never bothered with seat rotation and just sat
now have paper cups for drinks emblazoned with the Outback
Spirit logo. Previously, you were issued with a plastic cup at
the start of the trip which you used and gave back at the end. A
problem with this is that the paper cups are thrown away and not
recycled. A better idea would be to produce a "Outback
Spirit" plastic cup that is issued in their kit and you get
clock display on the bus shows time/time engine running.
Previously, this was time/date. This may be configurable.
now get issued with a kit of things. A backpack, hat, drink
bottle, sunscreen and binoculars, the first three with Outback
Spirit emblazoned on them. Most people chose to use the backpack
which made it difficult to determine which was yours in the
Pirie Roadhouse. See this
Places We Visited
small town of Two Wells for afternoon tea on the first day. Not
a particularly exciting place.
of the Kanyaka
homestead. We subsequently purchased a small booklet about the
homestead which was very interesting.
Homestead at Wilpena Pound. The pound shuttle bus took us to
the start of the track and we walked a few kilometres to the
drove through Wilpena Pound, stopping numerous times for scenic
viewing and interesting places.
area over the Leigh Creek coal fields. There was also some
disused machinery we looked through.
historic mining town of Burra on the last day. It was wet, cold
and windy there so we did not stay long. Just long enough to
visit the historic photo display in the town
hall and an art show in an adjacent building.
It was better than I expected. 3.5 out of 5
Stars. I was impressed with Outback Spirit because they sponsored
the Regatta and give donations to the Australian Wildlife
Conservancy for the guided tours. The manager of the property
(Mark) told me that this years donations will nearly pay his
wages for the year. They also organised and paid for our shuttle
bus transfers to Adelaide airport which has not been done in the
To everyone on the trip. You all contributed to
making it a memorable event.
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