Flinders to Maree
After our wet and wild days in the Southern Flinders we were pleased to find some blue sky peeking through in Leigh Creek. The park was busy with other travellers also waiting to see what the weather would do; all of us coming from different places and on wildly different trajectories. While we unpacked, we met a special kind of traveller who was travelling through several countries raising money for teen cancer. After arriving from the UK he travelled from Perth to Melbourne, around Tasmania and back to the Flinders along back routes that most Australians will never experience. To find out he was planning his trip using a Hema Motorcycle Atlas reiterated to us the meaning of what Hema is all about. That night, with damaging winds still howling, we had high hopes of waking up to clear skies and open roads - instead steady rain fell all night and into the morning.
Just as we were resigning ourselves to another ‘day in’, around 9:30am the skies cleared. Checking track reports, we found that the road to Arkaroola was open to all vehicles with caution. Given the damage that a caravan can cause to a wet track, we made the decision to leave the van and head off for a day trip in the Ranger.
Flinders Ranges Navigation & Maps
The drive to Arkaroola is stunning, and the geology is markedly different to what we saw further south. The road was in surprisingly good condition, however seeing the mud layers grow on the Ranger each time we stopped, we were pleased with our decision to leave the van behind. Reaching Arkaroola early in the afternoon we found several guests starting to enjoy the unique walks and drives the property has to offer. Four-wheel drive vehicles were arriving at a steady rate, ready to resume their somewhat delayed plans with vigour. Arkaroola, while an iconic destination in its own right, is also a gateway to the Strzelecki Track, making it a meeting place for all types of travellers. Again we found ourselves chatting to likeminded people, and even holding an impromptu app training session. We lost track of time, and ended up with only an hour to spare – a little disappointing, but we were grateful to have made it there at all. We made a mental note that Arkaroola and the nearby Iga Warta Cultural Tourism Centre will stay on our list for a longer visit in the future.
Although many tracks were still closed, conditions were being upgraded every few hours. The next leg of our journey plan took us to Maree then along the Oodnadatta Track. As we could now access Marree, we decided to take a chance and try to make it their before the weather turned. After chatting to fellow campers as we packed up, we headed north. Farina Ruins, which was on our bucket list for the trip, tempted us to slow down and take a look, but turning onto the track we found the ground still very soft. We opted to stop close to the main road and walk down to the first building only. It seems like we are destined to come back this way with so much still to see!
The small town of Marree is the junction of the Birdsville and Oodnadatta Tracks. There were a few fellow travellers in town waiting and watching track conditions. With flights over Lake Eyre on offer and some interesting efforts at presenting history in Marree itself, it’s not hard to while away some time here. All types of travellers in rigs from a 4WD with swags or rooftop tent, to camper trailers and caravans converge on the Marree Hotel for information and to share yarns. The town boasts two caravan parks as well as a free camp adjacent to the hotel, making it easy to find somewhere comfortable by any standards.
We headed out of Marree next day as conditions had improved through to Roxby Downs and William Creek. The first section of the Oodnadatta track had improved more than we expected and was an easy two-wheel drive. Stopping at the Mutonia Sculpture Park we met a group travelling together in 4WD, headed in the same direction as ourselves. There was no traffic coming out of William Creek, but as we turned towards Roxby Downs the track became soft and sticky. 4WD was definitely required on this section but it was really not difficult to make it through to Roxby Downs - first stop a car wash!
It looks as though our plans might change from here as we await better track conditions. Our next report will take in Andamooka. We will see where else it takes us!