4.5 Day Lake Eyre Coach Tour With Outback Spirit
Commenced 10th July 2010
Others 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
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
Tony & Janette
Gordon & Glenda
Rick & Ann
Sue & Chris
Rod & Anne
Susan & Terry
Paul & Frances
26 Australians, 18 Women and 8 Men.
Peter & Angie were the driver and tour guide respectively. See
They did a fantastic job. Thank you.
See this group photo which was taken
inside the Marree Hotel. Paul is not in the photo.
Ann took 365 photographs and I took
45 Mins of video.
1,700km on the bus.
It was a Miracle
That 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
this photo of
the bus at Lyndhurst.
This 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
The bus did get fully washed at Wilpena Pound
Further down the road Emu Creek had flooded the road. See
this photo. Cars
could not pass. The bus got through OK.
Outback 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.
Who Barracks for Port Adelaide
I suspect the proprietor of the Marree Hotel. The Chimney has been painted
in the team colours. See
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.
Bit Slow in Marree
photo. The sign was still there nearly a week and a half after the event.
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.
Sunrise and Sunset
These are always beautiful in the outback. We were lucky to view sunrise on
the plane flying to Cowarie Station. Ann got
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
photo of Ann on Lake Eyre North. On the way there and back we passed
dog fence. Ann got
of the sunset. Deirdre supplied
The 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.
The 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.
Back 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 Cooper Creek to where it entered Lake Eyre North and then back
to Marree for lunch. The plane then took the second group on the same trip.
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
Marree racetrack, walked around the
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
But the Lakes were not Full
I 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 to Nowhere
this bin with no wheels outside the general store in Marree. Don't know how
they intend to wheel it away.
Most Interesting Thing I Learnt
That 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
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 extra blanket.
The flight that we did not have over Wilpena Pound. Fifteen of us paid our money
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.
At 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
Dessert was a choice of ice cream. The whole lunch was delicious.
Variety 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
Where We Stayed
Standpipe Motor Inn in Port Augusta on the first evening.
In Marree for two evenings in
units at the rear of the Marree Hotel.
Pound Resort for one evening. Took this photo mainly for the lovely tree
outside the resort.
Last evening in the Stamford Plaza
Hotel on North Terrace in Adelaide.
They 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.
We Passed the MCG
Not the Melbourne Cricket Ground but the Marree Cricket Ground. The sign displayed MCG. Should have got a photo
There 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.
The 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. See
this 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.
It 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
At 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
of a section of the Panorama.
The Itinerary Changed
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.
Any 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
COOPER CREEK FERRY INFORMATION
The department has become aware of illegal
activity at the ferry crossing.
The use of a quad bike to load / unload
trailers is NOT ALLOWED
I believe the oldest person on the bus was Irene. She told me she was 83. An
inspiration was Irene. Walked everywhere taking heaps of photos.
Most Windblown Tree
Port Pirie Roadhouse. See
That was good.
The Water is Pure
Said Peter about the water he carried on the bus for us to drink. He sources
it from Wilpena Pound.
The Regatta is Finished
Someone 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.
Best Morning Tea
At 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
one of these
ear clips. Don't know what to do with it. It is not the latest fashion in ear
Marree's 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.
Leigh Creek is interesting. It supplies coal for a
huge power station at Port Augusta. The coal is delivered daily by the
train in the Southern Hemisphere where the electricity is generated and then fed
back to Leigh Creek to supply electricity for the town.
Roofing is in short Supply in
these sleepers used as a roof over a caravan out back of the Marree Hotel.
Least Appetising Lunch
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.
What is New with Outback Spirit
This is our 4th trip with them and we noticed some changes.
The 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 anywhere.
They 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 to keep.
The clock display on the bus shows
time/time engine running. Previously, this was time/date. This may be
You 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 parcel rack.
Port Pirie Roadhouse. See
Other Places We Visited
The small town of Two Wells for
afternoon tea on the first day. Not a particularly exciting place.
Ruins of the
homestead. We subsequently purchased a small booklet about the homestead which
was very interesting.
Old Homestead at Wilpena Pound. The pound shuttle bus took us to the start
of the track and we walked a few kilometres to the house.
We drove through Wilpena Pound,
stopping numerous times for scenic viewing and interesting places.
viewing area over the Leigh Creek
coal fields. There was also some disused machinery we looked through.
The 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
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 past.
To everyone on the trip. You all contributed to making it a memorable event.
Last of All
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