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Lake Eyre, South Australia, June 2011

We flew to Adelaide in early June to take a tour with Outback Spirit Tours to Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre), which again had water in it (not the usual situation). The route took us north past the Flinders Ranges on the way to the lake and through the ranges on the way back. Photo albums start here.

We stopped in several towns and spent the first night in Port Augusta.

The next day we again stopped in several places before arriving at Marree, where we would stay for two nights. At Lake Eyre (some kilometres past Marree), we had a chance to walk to the edge. The water’s edge had retreated quite a distance, so we had a good walk from the carpark. The ground is crunchy with dry salt, but a few small plants of several varieties seemed to be doing well. We’d expected a strong smell of rotting fish, but in this particular spot, that wasn’t the case.

The next day we flew over the lake and two of the river systems that feed into it (Warburton River and Cooper Creek) and landed at Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary, where we had an on-the-ground tour with one of the staff. We contribute to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, which recently bought the former cattle station, so we were particularly interested to visit.

The photos show several views of Lake Eyre and the river systems around it. You can see how flat and desolate most of the land is, and how much grows after rain in areas that are not too salty.

On our way to and from the lake, we stopped at several abandoned homesteads and towns, which had either served the railway before it was re-routed (and did not survive afterwards) or were established in good rain years to grow crops, but failed when the more usual dry years returned. Marree is one of the few towns that survived the re-routing of the railway.

On the way back to Adelaide, we visited Beltana Station, where we had morning tea and a tour and met Chocolate, the young alpaca. They had lots of great local jams and other condiments for sale, some of which we had on our scones with whipped cream to accompany our tea. Several tour members bought bottles of goodies.

We also stopped at the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna, where we had a gourmet lunch of Australian produce, including emu liver pate and kangaroo, crocodile, and camel sliced meat, goat cheese, and various local condiments. Accompanied by some good South Australian wine.

Then we drove down through the glorious Flinders Ranges (not marked on map, but it’s where the zag to the right is by the green blob; I don’t think I’ve drawn quite the right route, but it’s close enough) to Wilpena Pound Resort, where we stayed the night. The next morning some of us flew in small planes over the Pound, a most impressive sight. Others walked into the Pound aways. I stayed at the resort and relaxed.

Back in Adelaide, we stayed 2 nights, thus having some time to wander around. Alas, rain and low temperatures did not encourage us to go out very much, although we did get to the Haigh’s chocolate shop and did some other shopping; but we caught up with some friends for dinner in the evening.

The following day we took the train (called The Overland) to Melbourne, for the experience. Of course we chose to be in the top class of seats, so we were quite comfortable. The food (extra expense) wasn’t bad, either. Nothing spectacular, but quite acceptable.

The trip took nearly 12 hours, so we probably won’t do it again, but we’re glad to have done it once. This is the first of our planned trips on the long-haul railways of Australia.

In Melbourne, we had a few days for shopping (for me, mainly looking for cold-weather clothing to take on my cruise to Antarctica next year), then attended a convention (Continuum) over the 3-day weekend. Caught up with more old friends.

Map of trip

Map of tour South Australia Adelaide to Lake Eyre