11th May to 14th May
After a fantastic weekend we left Oodnadatta on the Monday morning after restocking milk, bread, eggs and a few casks of fresh water. We were on the road by 10ish all set for a 250km drive on a minor dirt track that was meant to be worse than the Oodnadatta track. Our mates the Leeds had decided to continue on with us up to Alice while the Stricklands had to leave to head back to Cooper Pedy and Port Augusta to fix some car problems, so it was good to have some company on the drive.
We found the first 100kms north to Hamilton Station (a Williams Cattle Company station) pretty good with the average speed being 60-70km, it still took us well over an hour to get there though. A few hours later we decided to stop at Eringa Waterhole for lunch, the waterhole is the site of Sidney Kidman’s first cattle property and is actually full of water. We were surprised as most of the ‘waterholes’ up here are generally dry waterholes. After we fought with the flies for our lunch Nik and the kids decided to have a swim unfortunly it wasn’t as warm as they had anticipated though, but it was one way to wash off the dust.
It then took another hour and a half to reach Mt Dare Hotel as the track got quite rough and rocky and our speed average was down to about 30-40km. We drove into Mt Dare, which is actually only about 10km south of the Northern Territory border, organised our little piece of dust to camp on and proceeded to the toilet block for some nice hot showers and a load of washing. Mt Dare is an interesting place and has an equally interesting beginning when it ceased as a cattle station and was taken over in 1984 by the National Parks and Wildlife, becoming the Witjira National Park. As the homestead was no longer needed it was put up for lease with David and Melissa Cox coming in as managers in 2002. The pub was close to being derelict with lots of irreparable damage mainly to termites. David and Melissa have since purchased the old homestead and built a completely new pub in a machinery shed, it is a great place, has awesome meals and is very family friendly. It is surrounded by national parks and cattle stations and is situated on the western edge of the Simpson Desert. It is always busy as it has many people passing through either starting or finishing their crossing of the Simpson Desert. Mt Dare was such a lovely place we ended up staying for 3 nights!!!
The next day we unpacked the roof rack and repacked the necessary camping equipment we needed as we were heading to Dalhousie Springs for an overnight stay and swim. Thankfully we were in no hurry as when we got the 2 single swags down to air them out and pack bedding in, we unrolled them to find that we had a huge ant infestation in both swags and the bedding that had been in them was wet and mouldy. So up we hung them, took out the mattresses and we then went crazy with the broom, ant spray and Glen 20. They dried pretty quickly in the outback sun and we were able to repack and roll them back up without a hassle. SO with our checklist completed we managed to get on the road by late morning. The distance from Mt Dare to Dalhousie Springs was 70km, we were told the road was rocky and slow going but not too bad. We also spoke to a couple that had headed out there only to crack their radiator, managed to drive back, but in the process suffer a cracked head gasket, they were still waiting for the replacement to be sent down from Alice Springs. So on that happy off we went all ready for what the track wanted to throw at us. The first 10km was a little rocky with corrugations but the remaining 60km was very slow going. We were driving over and dodging some pretty big Gibber rocks that could have the potential to rip our tyres to shreds, thankfully our tyres were still low at 28psi. If it wasn’t the rocks it was then the corrugations, annoying ones that were all over the road and you couldn’t avoid nor speed up and drive over. Some stretches were simply deep sand which were great as they were smooth and gave you a break from the corrugations, but they were few and far between. After two and a half hours we finally arrived at Dalhousie Springs, paid for our permit and camping fees and threw down the swags for a quick set up. Then it was straight to the springs for a relaxing much needed afternoon swim. Oh my goodness, the springs were an absolute delight, a balmy 37 degrees with plenty of room for everyone to swim in. The Dalhousie Springs are fed by that wonderful Great Artesian Basin and are the most northern mound springs in South Australia. Overall the swimming hole is about the size of 4 swimming pools and has a set of steps leading into it so you don’t have to get your feet dirty as the bottom is quite muddy. There were even some noodles and an inflated tyre ring that we all took turns lounging around in. I managed to stay in the water for quite a while, but Nik had to hop out after half an hour as he got too hot, whilst the kids stayed in even if their faces were turning bright red from the heat. We had to remind them to keep drinking their water and perhaps keep their heads above the water as we didn’t want them getting dehydrated from the heat. In the end we managed to drag ourselves away only because our tummies were getting hungry for dinner. That night was an early night as the mosquitoes were out in force biting through our clothes and a nasty wind had crept up and turned the weather a little chilly.
The next morning we awoke early to a strong chilly wind blowing around us, so we decided the best thing to do was head to the water again!!! We swam and relaxed the early morning away and headed back to attempt to cook some bacon and eggs. This attempt failed dismally as the wind had other ideas, after a slow process we managed to eat our egg and bacon topped with an inch of desert sand. Unfortunly the wind was strong and only getting worse so after our gritty breakfast was consumed, our tempers were flared and patience was tested so we decided to pack up and head back to a hopefully still Mt Dare. The trip back was uneventful and surprisingly it felt quicker than the trip out, perhaps because we knew what to expect or the fact that we were all up so early we had a snooze on the way back (driver excluded of course)……….. We arrived back by lunchtime, spent the afternoon repacking the swags up on the roof rack and van and managed to fit in some relaxing.
After 3 days here it was time to head off, we had planned to follow the Ghan Heritage Trial all the way up to Alice Springs, but decided to first do a stocktake of supplies as we had spent extra time in Oodnadatta and Mt Dare. Unfortunly we discovered we were running low on both food and water so we decided we had no choice but to head to the highway and onto Alice Springs the quicker way. Regretfully we turned left at Finke and headed towards Kulgera on the Stuart Highway, but not before we took one last detour to visit the geographical centre of Australia, Lamberts Centre. The 14km track in was exciting and slow going as it was narrow and there was plenty of soft sand and ruts that needed to be navigated carefully as we had the vans on the back. After we took some photos, had some lunch and congratulated ourselves on ticking off another landmark point on our continent we set off towards the black top and eventually Alice Springs. It has been a fantastic couple of weeks spent heading up into the outback driving the alternative route towards the centre and it made us laugh as the phones went crazy as we reached civilisation and service!! But the carwash and vacuum await, as we prepare ourselves for the next destination on our OZLAP……………………………………