Simpson Desert and Batten Hill Trip, 2007- Part 2 William Creek to Batten Hill

Tuesday, Apr 24, 2007 at 18:01

Member - John and Val

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The road between William Creek and Oodnadatta was rough and corrugated in places. The country was very dry and brown and we wondered what the occasional cattle that we saw were eating. We pulled in to Algebuckina siding and then the bridge for morning tea and photos. The disused bridge is 500 metres long, making it the longest bridge in SA. It is rather an imposing structure out there in the desert, crossing a wide watercourse, now almost dry except for some shallow pools.

It was sad though, to see the old Ghan railway buildings falling into ruin and embellished with layers of graffiti, most of it tedious and mindless.

We topped up fuel and water at Oodnadatta, then stopped for lunch a bit west of the township, only to find that yet another tyre had developed a leak. We were now out of spares. We can repair them if necessary, but being split rims and potentially dangerous, we prefer to get them repaired by someone with all the right gear and experience.

We found an excellent campsite at Oleana Creek where we were able to get well back from the road among the abundant coolibahs that provided good shade and plenty of firewood. The day had been warm so an al fresco shower was very welcome, even though we limited ourselves to 2 litres of water each. We had a good fire that night and for the first night on this trip it was warm enough to sit beside the fire and really enjoy the experience.

The road west from Oodnadatta was in rather better condition and there was less traffic, although the country was rather featureless apart from some abrupt lines of hills. Before long we were in Marla, airing up and out of 4WD for the haul up the bitumen. By mid afternoon we were at the turn-off to Rainbow Valley where we hoped to spend a day or two. The road in was very loose and sandy, with patches of severe corrugations. The camping area was packed and not particularly inviting anyway, so we had a quick walk, long enough to take a few photos, then made our exit. Fortunately we still had plenty of time to find a good camp for the night.

A few kms further north we found a 4WD track heading west from the highway, part of a tourist drive that goes through to Larrapinta Drive. It too was quite rough and corrugated but after a few kilometres we came to a good camping spot at Redbank Waterhole. There were no facilities there, but we had the place to ourselves among big trees on a high bank overlooking the waterhole, where at dusk red-tailed black cockatoos came in to drink, a beautiful sight.

Next day we would arrive in Alice Springs so we had a spruce up before leaving in the morning. One of the first things we did on arriving in Alice was to drop both tyres in to be repaired. When we picked them up we got a bonus in the form of a lesson on the best way to lift a tyre onto the back of the vehicle – and were astonished at how much easier it was to lift them that way.

We were booked into the MacDonnell Range caravan park, and although we had arrived a day early we were able to go straight onto our site. Then it was time to hit the laundry. As is usually the case in such a dry climate the washing was all dry in no time at all.

Now it was time to begin the next phase of this trip, and meet up with our expedition hosts and those members of the crew who had already arrived. Everyone seemed friendly and excited by what the next couple of weeks might bring. Although we were a bit surprised by the amount of frantic and apparently last minute activity.

We spent the next day at the caravan park helping with the preparations for the trip out to Batten Hill. Quantities of last minute provisions like bread and fruit were arriving and all had to be wrapped and packed for transport. It was then that we learned that all vehicles were expected to help transport all this extra stuff. The only place where we could possibly carry anything was on top of our bed in the back of Troopy. As we don’t use a cargo barrier we weren’t too happy with that.

We met a few of the other volunteers who were camped near us, and as expected they were from all walks of life from a variety of backgrounds. Some had done this type of trip before, others were complete novices.

Finally departure day arrived. All the expedition vehicles lined up out the front of the caravan park and attached vehicle signage proclaiming us to be members of this particular expedition. Getting a photographic record of the whole expedition was important – there was a photographer along for the trip, so arrangements were put in place to get photos from vantage points as the large convoy set out and made its way through town. Eventually we were on our way, travelling slowly through town. We had a brief photo stop at the Tropic of Capricorn marker. As we pulled back onto the road in close convoy formation, a heavily laden wedgie chose that moment to forego his roadside feeding station. He had a lot of trouble getting airborne and for a few moments we thought that he would come through the windscreen. Fortunately he got just enough lift from our bow wave to rise at the last possible moment and just clip the top of the vehicle as he passed over us.

Soon we turned off the Stuart highway and onto the single lane bitumen of the Plenty Highway. Jol Flemming, an Alice Springs identity with a wealth of experience about the desert and off-road driving, gave a running UHF commentary about local features and history, but with such a long convoy it was unfortunately unintelligible by the time it reached us. He has worked with Lindsay Bookie to develop Batten Hill and the Hay River Track as a tourist adventure. It was to Batten Hill that we were now heading at Lindsay’s invitation, as he was keen to have a scientific study of his land done to inform the tourism development work that he was undertaking.

At the end of the bitumen the convoy stopped to air down after which we continued on, this time with plenty of dust. The road was in reasonable condition for the Plenty, but at one point we had to stop to tighten up the bolts holding on the highlift jack, as they were working loose on the inevitable corrugations.

Everyone piled into Jervois to refuel and have a last taste of ice-cream for a couple of weeks, then we were finally heading into Batten Hill. There was one final halt to the convoy though as a Thorny Devil was spotted on the track, so we all piled out for a closer look. Despite their fierce appearance these small lizards are harmless and slow moving.

At last we arrived at Batten Hill, filling up all the available camping sites. Since we were there the previous year Lindsay had cleared out beyond what was then the overflow camping area, and constructed a couple of temporary toilets. Soon all of this area was occupied with a variety of tents and vehicles.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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