Head west from Oodna for about 70km and you will come to The Arckaringas, or Painted Desert (you will hear both names used, you also will hear this described as ‘the Breakaway Country’). It doesn’t feature in most tourist itineraries, but surely would if it were better known. Mt Battersby is the most prominent feature near the road.Here you have...more
If you’re making a visit now, the only access is by road or private aircraft. If you drive around for just a few minutes you’ll see the town. When I was there, apart from being a railway station, Oodna was the administrative centre for the northern part of SA. The population was about 60, nearly all government workers in various callings: police,...more
This was something of an institution. It was run for many years by a Czechoslovakian by the name of Pecanec and provided nearly every conceivable service. It was the agency for the Post Office, for two airlines, for the Commonwealth Bank, had its own trucking service, and sold everything you would find in a supermarket or grocery, plus fuel. It...more
The Pink Roadhouse (new since my time) supplies fuels, has a store, operates the post office, has caravan facilities and can assist with any mechanical work. It seems able to provide for most of the likely needs of travellers.The Pink Roadhouse also has its own very different (and entertaining) website: I’d recommend you have a look! Apart from...more
About 60km from Oodna, you come to a wide area of river beds known as The Neales at a place called Algebuckina. Yes, occasionally there is rain and The Neales actually flows, though at other times it can be totally dry! To cross it, the railway engineers back in the 1890s built a large steel bridge which, at 600 metres, is the longest bridge in...more
Does this come under ‘things to do’ or ‘off the beaten track’! Either way, it’s one of Australia’s more legendary drives, about 400km between Marree and Oodnadatta, and certainly takes you well ‘off the beaten track’. I’m sure it’s somewhat busier now than back when I was up there. Regardless, I would suggest visiting the police before you depart...more
In 1969, South Australia (in those days still run by good conservative souls) was the last bastion in Australia of 6pm closing, better known as “the six o’clock swill”. What that meant in Oodna was that all the blokes in town rushed to finish whatever they were doing so they could be at the pub before closing. On arrival, the bar was chockers! It then was a matter of gathering with your friends and swallowing as much beer as possible in the time available. At about ten past six, the police sergeant would give the nod to the barman who would shout ‘time’! All in all, it achieved nothing apart from encouraging bad drinking habits: when sensible drinking hours came, its cessation was no loss.
Back to the Transcontinental though. In those days you could get counter meals there, and I expect you still can. It is the only pub for hundreds of km in any direction, so it is an important watering hole and this is very dry country! I gather it now is run by the Aboriginal community and I’m sure it still is a great place for a beer. I’ll bet there still are a few dogs around the door too, just as there is in this photo.
When we lived in the far north of South Australia, there was relatively little tourist traffic and no developed ‘souvenir’ industry. There almost certainly is now!
This old Aboriginal man at Indulkana had made these boomerangs for selling to the occasional tourist, probably intending to sell them alongside the Stuart Highway (which was unsealed in those days).
In traditional Aboriginal society, boomerangs made in this shape were in fact a childs toy. The boomerangs used by the adults were killing sticks and not made to return, but to kill. The man's boomerangs were well made, but the patterns are not at all ‘traditional’: traditional patterns would have been wavy lines and circles. What is traditional is the style of ‘pecking’ out the design with a sharp implement as a series of marks in the timber – which, incidentally, is iron-hard Mulga wood. Yes, I bought them for the very moderate asking price.
When travelling in this area, at the least you should have enough water to provide several litres per person in the vehicle for several days. You also should have for the vehicle some spare coolant (NB it’s poisonous), oil, fuel and, I would suggest, some two-part epoxy putty in case you hole a fuel tank. Added to that, you should have spare heater...more
The ‘Oodnadatta Track’ and other main roads to and from Oodna are graded with reasonable frequency and can be negotiated by 2WD vehicles if there has been no rain, though 4WD would be a better choice. Do not attempt them in a 2WD vehicle after rain and think carefully about it even with 4WD. NEVER leave any roads unless you first tell someone...more
We arrived in Oodna in 1971 at the same time the National Census was being undertaken. My father-in-law, apart from his duties as Patrol Officer, also found himself the census collector for the northwest of South Australia. As an aside, this was the first time the Census had included Aboriginal people, following the overwhelming vote in the 1967...more
Anna Creek has the distinction of being the world’s largest cattle station, covering an area of 34,000 sq. kms. For comparison, you could fit Belgium (just over 30,000 sq km) into it and still have room for the largest ranch in the USA (about 3000 sq km). It is run by under 25 people! The station buildings are just a short distance from William...more
The Presbyterian Church set up Ernabella as a mission station in 1937, at a marvellous setting alongside the Musgrave Ranges. Showing uncommon foresight, in 1948 an Aboriginal art programme was established, originally to employ the women at spinning wool from sheep grazing properties. It is no longer a mission, but the arts programme now has been...more
I guess the William Creek Gymkhana would qualify as a ‘sporting event’. It’s an annual fundraiser for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and draws entrants and spectators from many hundreds of kilometers.
We drove down from Oodna with friends and camped nearby. Next morning, the day began with an auction of horses from Anna Creek Station (just for the day), with some quite big money changing hands for some. Then began a full day’s programme of events ranging from horse races to novelty events. We combined with our friends to ‘buy’ a horse and knew a stockman who offered to ride it for us – but before he could do so he had to break it in!
The whole weekend was one giant party, with plenty of beer and socialising. In the process, large amounts of money were raised for the Flying Doctors. The William Creek Gymkhana still continues to be held annually.
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...more
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...more