Friday, September 25, 2009

I've Been Everywhere Man...

Recently I visited The Social Primate's blog, and learned that Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere" is a remake of an Australian song that was written by Geoff Mack in 1959. We have listened to the Johnny Cash version for several years. I would have loved to have known about the original on our road trip to Coober Pedy since it begins, "Well, I was humpin' my bluey on the dusty Oodnadatta road"--and it was the Oodnadatta track that we took to return to Adelaide.
I never imagined that our Down Under adventures would include a 600+ kilometer drive, on an unsealed road, across the isolated Australian Outback. I am not sure that we would have ever taken the Oodnadatta track except for two things:

1. My birthday wish to see Lake Eyre--an obsession that began with the stories of explorers who crossed the Australian desert carrying a wooden ship, in search of the great inland sea--launched us on this adventure.
2. The Pink Road House--a couple of mates in the bush who own this place gave us the information and courage that we needed to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

We didn't traverse the entire historical trail from Marla to Maree. Instead we began in Coober Pedy and connected with the Oodnadatta at William Creek. William Creek was very important on our trip, not because it is home to the most isolated Pub in the world, but because it is one of the only gateways to Lake Eyre National Park. As we walked around the town of 12, we had to decide if we would climb aboard the small airplane for an aerial view of the lake, or drive 60 kilometers on a 4wd road. As tempting as it was to look down over the vast salt lake, which was filling with water for the first time in many years, the wind and price proved too much. So down a bumpy road we headed.

As we stood at ABC bay and looked out across the vast salt plain in front of us, I could almost see the sea that the explorers were so desperate to find. Perhaps they stood in the very same spot and realized that their search had not been in vain--that they had just arrived several thousand years too late.
At our next stop Halligan Bay, we were once again reminded that we were standing on an ancient sea bottom when we were greeted by a lone seagull. As we slowly crunched our way across the surface, I realized it didn't take a vivid imagination to mistake the desert's undulating, deceiving dance for sparkling water. The wind ruined our plans for a lakeside picnic, so we ate a quick lunch in the cab of our monster SUV, before resuming our journey.

After an hour of very rugged terrain we rejoined the Oodnadatta track. We faced a long afternoon drive, one that was isolated in terms of company (human and animal), but full of history and natural beauty. The track itself was an old Aboriginal Trail that was also used to run cattle from north to south. At one point in history the renowned Ghan, the train that runs from Adelaide to Darwin, followed alongside the dirt road. In some spots you can still see the skeleton of the old tracks. Brown signs indicate roads to the original Homesteader plots, a reminder that this rugged land is still called home for some. One of these residents had built a sculpture garden alongside the road.
As we crossed the dessert, we passed painted cliffs, towering red sand hills, and several oases. The meandering riverbed was dry, but there were several springs. As the afternoon wore on we once again came into contact with Lake Eyre. We had reached the southernmost part of the lake and found ourselves 12m below sea level.

Just as the sun began to sink, into the horizon, we arrived in Marree. We were greeted at the Caravan by a friendly bloke who invited us to join the other travelers at the barbie for some evening tucker.

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