Painted Desert Experience

Submitted: Monday, May 22, 2006 at 13:52
ThreadID: 34127 Views:3597 Replies:7 FollowUps:6
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Hi all,

Well, we are back home after out too brief, but spectacular trip though the Painted Desert and along the Oodnadatta and Borefield Tracks and I’m going to bore ya all with our experience.

Murphy came along for the ride, but wasn’t too much of a mongrel.

I had the intention of recording an alternative treknote route through the Breakaways “detour” which adds about 50 kms to the trek through the Painted Desert, but the Laptop refused to accept communications from the GPS via the Targus USB/Serial adapter cable.
Tested this at home and all worked well, but at the start of the trek, as soon as I turned it on, applications were opening and closing “at will” and after a short time decided to enjoy the trip and not get uptight with the electronic gadgets. So although the Track was recovered from the GPS when I got home, I was unable to record specific co-ordinates of each waypoint feature and only have odometer recordings, which is not good enough for a treknote submission.

The Breakaway detour is well worth while, although like the Painted Desert, is best viewed at sunset when the unique colors are at their best. The drive from the Breakaway Lookout, down on to the “Moon Plain” is just fantastic and it was in this area, (marked by signposts) where a good portion of the Mad Max series of movies were filmed.

After reaching The Kempe Road intersection, we followed the original Treknote through to the Arckaringa Homestead where we planned to camp for two nights. On arrival, nobody was at home except for “Charlie” the female Labrador/Kelpie dog who welcomed us anyway. We set up our camp adjacent to the Cabins/Toilet buildings and made ourselves at home with a campfire in the large fire pit and wood from the large pile nearby. Sometime after dark we saw headlights approaching and soon after met the young couple (Richard & Gemma) who have just taken over the care-taker role at Arckaringa. We drove out to the Painted Desert lookout areas (lookout 1 and lookout 2 & walk) and experienced the unique display of nature as the sun set.

The following morning we took a walk down to the Station water hole were we saw some rather large “reptilian” foot prints in the dirt. Now they weren’t necessarily those of the Perentie, but were certainly from a member of the Monitor Lizard family, spanning about 5 to 6 inches from toe to heel. We said our goodbye to Richard, Gemma and Charlie and resumed our journey through to Oodnadatta where we had a brief stopover before continuing on to Algebuckina (pronounced Alge-bu-keena)Waterhole for our overnight camp. The next day we travelled a short 143km along the Oodnadatta Track to the “Little Oasis” of William Creek on Anna Creek Station. William Creek turned out to be a great base for this leg of our trip. We had planned to stay for two nights but ended up staying for three. The Owner/Manager of the Caravan Park was most surprised and said, “why?”. Well, after setting up camp and relaxing in the “feel good” and historic William Creek Pub, we set off in the morning on the 142 km return drive out to Halligan and Belt Bay in the Lake Eyre National Park and is the lowest (surface) point in Australia at 15 meters below sea level. The track was in surprisingly good nick and provided a pleasant drive out to the Lake.

On our return to William Creek, we dropped into Wrightsair, “The Spirit of the Outback” local Scenic Flight specialist to see what was on offer and this is where our whole trip took on a new perspective. Trevor Wright, the owner and chief pilot of this flight business offered us a great deal we just couldn’t refuse.
First of all we returned to the Painted Desert, this time by air, for a sunset flight and view of the area few people get to see. The Painted desert covers an area somewhat larger than that accessible by road and we saw and photographed scenery that can only be taken from a plane, or helicopter.


The following morning we returned to the William Creek International Airport and our Cessna 210 transport for a flight out along the edge of the Simpson Desert to Dalhousie Springs. Now this just happened to co-inside with Channel 7’s Sunrise telecast from Dalhousie Springs, of Grant Denyer’s “balloon expedition” across the Simpson as a fundraiser for Lung Cancer Research. We didn’t get to meet Grant, who had left just before we landed, but conversed with some of the support crew. After a dip in the Springs, we flew back across the landscape to Oodnadatta for lunch. This time in downtown Oodna, we picked up from the landing strip in the Pink Roadhouse Limosine and got to meet and talk to Adam, the long time owner.


Adam turned out to be a real character and regardless of other forumites views and experience with him, he is no doubt a knowledgeable bloke with a dry sense of humor, who has “seen it all”. Adam is also the town Mayor and we were given the key to the local Railway Museum, which has some fantastic history and photographs of times gone by, of the railway, life around Oodnadatta and the vast area of the Anna Creek cattle Station. As we flew back to William Creek we observed the absolute vastness of the country landscape and the size of some of the floodplains was absolutely mind blowing.
The last night at William Creek was spent around the campfire quaffing a good red or three with our good friends who were traveling with us. Captured a rather good “Desert Sunset” photo and went to bed listening to the morose howl of the dingo.


The next morning we departed William Creek and continued south east along the Oodnadatta Track detouring briefly along the way to the historic site of Strangways Ruins and the “Bubbler” in Wabma Kadarbu Conservation Park. This section of side track was absolute “crap”, being severely corrugated most of the way. I tried 40 km/h and 60 km/h to little avail, although the 41mm diameter shockies took it in their stride. We turned off the Oodnadatta Track at Bopeechee and headed south along the Borefield Track for our last taste of dirt tracking, before hitting the bitumen at Roxby Downs. The Bopeechee Borefields area is the source of the water supply to the Olympic Dam mine and obviously how the “Borefield Track” got its name.
The Borefield Track was also in surprisingly good condition, but it was here that Murphy made his presence felt. Before our trip I had made a comment on this forum whether I would put a couple of new tires on the rear of the Jack as the existing 694 Dueler’s were due for replacement after 65,000 kms. Well I decided against the pre-trip investment, but 10 kilometers short of the bitumen, the right hand rear let go with an audible pop. I pulled over immediately, but probably because a stone had entered via the sidewall, the tire had self destructed.


I wasn’t really concerned though. This little incident was soon corrected and just added to the experience of outback travel. In fact, it could have been much worse. Just imagine, if I had a new tire on and the same thing happened. Interestingly though, my mate has the same model Jackaroo also running Bridgestone 694 Duelers. Try as I might, I couldn’t convince him to “air down” and he ran 34 psi the whole trip. I dropped to 28 psi as soon as I hit the dirt, but guess who got the puncture? Mind you, he was traveling light, with a roof rack containing his tent, etc. I was towing the trusty Spirit Camper, which added another 1800 KG or so.

Overall, this trek through the painted desert and along the Oodnadatta track was a truly enjoyable trip, all too briefly completed, but never to be forgotten. The plane flights over the desert region of Anna Creek, Macumba and Allandale Stations proved to be a worthwhile highlight. I will return.

Some points of interest.

Fuel at Oodnadatta (as at 16th May) was $1.71 for unleaded and $1.78 for diesel.
Fuel at William Creek (same date) was $1.66 for unleaded and $1.74.5 for diesel.


The funniest sight on the trip.
Heading back to Adelaide, we were just outside of Crystal Brook when my mate traveling behind, called on the UHF saying:- “Check out the bloke approaching you”
As he passed us, I could see that he had a considerable hole through the front windscreen of his Falcon. Now that wasn’t funny of course, but it didn’t impede his speed either. What did bring a chuckle to our day was the site of the full face helmet he was wearing.
Hmm, maybe he found a place where crash helmets were more readily available than a front windscreen.

All dirt roads/tracks at present (except the track out to the Bubbler) are in surprisingly good condition and a real pleasure to travel on.

An ExplorOz card is now in residence at the William Creek Hotel. It is at the left end of the bar, just below eye level when seated and adjacent to the display of souvenir paraphernalia. It wears the Sand Man (SA) brand.


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Reply By: Darian (SA) - Monday, May 22, 2006 at 15:33

Monday, May 22, 2006 at 15:33
Thanks Sandy - a great read - re the injustice of tyre failures - in the short term there are anomalies (your mate and his lack of failures) but long term it would have to add up ......... re that Bloo*&^%$#y Borefield track - on our first serious outback trip some years back, we ventured off the sealed at O Dam and about 10km up the track- bang - long sidewall slice to a new DD - turns out that thev grader had just been up that way (O Dam staff use thattrack a lot) - a local O Dam supervisor came by and told us that the grader picks up bits of flat stone in the roadbase - knives waiting for we suckers - sometimes, some places, we don't want a grader !
AnswerID: 173983

Reply By: Member - Hughesy (SA) - Monday, May 22, 2006 at 15:46

Monday, May 22, 2006 at 15:46
How Ya going Sandman. I think we passed you guys with the flat at about 2pm on Sat arvo. We were heading to WC for a boys night out. We all thought that was a bit of bad luck getting a flat that close to the bitumen. Sounded like a great trip.
AnswerID: 173986

Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 01:01

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 01:01
Hi Hughesy,

Yep, the time sounds about spot on. Was it you who slowed right down and asked if everything was OK?

Bad Luck? maybe, but the rear tires had reached the end of their useful life anyway, so I wasn't really concerned. The spare on the Camper was another backup I could have used, if necessary.


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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 23:03

Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 23:03
Hughesy. We didn't see you at th Mound Springs car park did we on Saturday afternoon? We got a flat too from when Heather was driving in there. White 'Cruiser with three guys in it.
FollowupID: 430846

Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 23:24

Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 23:24
Heather reckons it was Sunday arvo sorry..... Moses wouldn't have been half visible with the EO wheel cover anyway and I think I was doing the wheel at the time you were around. Would have enjoyed a beer time.
FollowupID: 430861

Follow Up By: Member - Hughesy (SA) - Friday, May 26, 2006 at 06:42

Friday, May 26, 2006 at 06:42
G'Day John,

Yep that was us. You had the Gu Patrol ute with the great looking canopy setup. I should have stopped but myself and my 2 mates were both suffering from a bit of tomuchbundyitis and were on a mission to get home.

By the sounds of it anyone who is an Exploroz member will get a flat while on the Oodna ;) We woke up Sunday morning with a flat front tyre out the front of the WC Hotel as well. I only had those old Dunlop roadgrippers that are about 70% worn so I was half expecting atleast one flat.

Hope you had a good trip. If your or Sandman are ever up this was again drop us a message and we'll see if we can catch up. Take it easy.
FollowupID: 430889

Reply By: Footloose - Monday, May 22, 2006 at 15:49

Monday, May 22, 2006 at 15:49
Thanks for that report, brought smiles of memory to my face until I got to the fuel prices :(( Second your opinion of Adam Plate. The plane guy at William Creek is a mate of a mate and the pub there was the only pub I've ever been instructed to "bring those kids in here, they won't survive in the car". My daughter who was 10 at the time and an advanced reader certainly had an interesting time reading there !!
AnswerID: 173987

Reply By: Robbg - Monday, May 22, 2006 at 18:45

Monday, May 22, 2006 at 18:45
Great read Sandman. Just a question about the 694's. I think your comment about the rears nearing replacement was in a thread I started about people's experiences with 694's (and Cooper ATR's). You said you'd done 60,000kms and would probably get them again. With one of the rear's letting you down, would you still go with the 694's, and in the standard size (245/70R16)? I've got to get tyres this week for our Cape York trip (leaving end of next week), and I'm still a bit worried the 694's may not be up to it. Thanks. Rob.
AnswerID: 174031

Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 01:12

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 01:12

Interesting that you have raised that point.

I visited the local Bridgestone dealer this morning for a couple of new tires and had mentioned on the phone, my thoughts on fitting Desert Duelers (693's) as I have them on the Camper and they have a different tread pattern with the shoulder more "square", which I thought would be perhaps better for off road work.

When I got there, they had brought in a pair of 693 Duelers, but not the Desert Dueler, although they have a similar tread pattern and shoulder.

Maybe the dealer gave me a bit of a story by saying that the 693's should give a better life than the 694's, but I decided to give them a try as I liked the look of them anyway.
According to the bloke there, the 693's are made in Australia and the 694's in Japan.

Geez, the price has gone up though. The last time I bought the 694's they were $218 each. This time, both the 694's and the 693's were $240 each.
When I bought the Desert Duelers, just over 12 months ago, they were $168.

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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Sunday, May 28, 2006 at 17:49

Sunday, May 28, 2006 at 17:49

A correction requied Rob,

The Desert Duelers are 604's
The Duelers are available in both 693 and 694 compounds.
The 693's appear to have a more "agressive" tread pattern more suitable for dirt, so this is what I have now put on the front. The 694's have been transferred to the rear as thet still have 10,000 + k's left in them.

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Reply By: Willem - Monday, May 22, 2006 at 19:33

Monday, May 22, 2006 at 19:33
Good read Sandman. The outback is always an enjoyable place to be.
AnswerID: 174043

Reply By: Member - Prickle (SA) - Monday, May 22, 2006 at 21:48

Monday, May 22, 2006 at 21:48
Thanks for the informative report.


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Reply By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 23:28

Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 23:28
Good report Sandman. We camped Monday night at Arckaringa so must have been just behind you. Loved the Painted Desert and will probably have some pics up soon with it too.
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