Favorite thing: The main Aboriginal tribal group in Oodnadatta are the Pitjantjatjara people. When we were there, they still retained most of their tribal customs and traditions, though even then these were being displaced by contact with western ‘civilisation’.
This dignified old gentleman, who spoke no English, went by the name of Wintinna Mick. He was one of the tribal Elders. He did odd-jobs for my father in law and I had several long (hand waving) conversations with him. On our visit in 1971 he offered to take our year old son to the Aboriginal camp for the day – we happily allowed it, knowing our son would be perfectly safe and would be spoiled in the same way as the Aboriginal children. Our son came home filthy dirty and very happy.
- Road Trip
Favorite thing: Back when the trains ran, passenger trains went twice a week in each direction. One was an express “the Ghan” with sleeper carraiges direct to Alice Springs or Marree (at Marree it was necessary to change trains to go further south to Port Augusta). The other was a ‘mixed goods’, stopping for all manner of reasons. The day before I left, two ‘prisoners’ (railway fettlers) on their way to a short jail term at Port Augusta went on the mixed goods accompanied by police constable (they did not get sleepers and had been convicted for misuse of railway property – a long and quite funny story). I left next day on the Ghan and caught up with them in Maree after an overnight trip, where we all changed trains to Port Augusta. While the policeman and I chatted, the ‘prisoners’ had the run of the train! Life was pretty relaxed in that part of the world.
The Ghan was famed for its slowness and unreliability, due to problems of flooding when desert storms took water to Lake Eyre, or to extreme heat buckling tracks. There is a story of a pregnant woman pulling the emergency cord for the conductor, and saying to him:
‘I need assistance,my baby is arriving now’.
The conductor replied ‘Madam, you should not have boarded the train in your condition!
To which she said: ’But I wasn’t in this condition when I boarded the train!