Down the Ghan Heritage Trail to Charlotte Waters.

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2008 at 21:00

Mick O

Tuesday 29th July, 2008

A few km west of Charlotte Waters NT

025 51 8.49S 134 51 33.64E

We are in cattle country indeed and believe me it has been nearly entirely denuded of all grass and vegetation. The ground is a sea of loose dust just waiting to be blown asunder a testament to the harsh drought conditions being suffered hereabouts.


The early game plan involved an 8.30 a.m. pickup of Drew at the Alice Springs Resort. I left the park at 8.10 a.m. and headed for town for a bit of breaky (Macca’s) and a few chores (pick up a rachet strap at the auto parts store. Scott & Gaby were running a little behind time but picked up Drew and were at the camping store about 9:00 a.m. to get a new globe for their interior light. With Drew taking up residence in the passengers seat of the Guppy, I have Gaby as co-pilot in the Patrol.



Looking at the map, I decided that there was nothing to be served by going down the bitumen so opted for the Old South Road towards Titjikala and Chambers Pillar intending to continue south on the Old Ghan Track towards Finke. This route saved us nearly 200 km. The on ly downside to the plan was the shocking condition of the road. Within two kilometres of the bitumen ending, and still against the airfield perimeter fence, the corrugations commenced and saw us lowering the tyre pressures all round. The road sees a lot of traffic leading to the poor conditions and the Finke Desert Race of early June would only add to deterioration. The track of the Finke desert race parallels the road with white coloured car bonnets every 10 km to note the mileage from Alice. We stopped in at the Ewaninga rock engraving site. If these poorly chiselled offerings are significant, then the ones I found in the Calverts must be the equivalent of E=MC2!!



It was certainly a rough and dusty introduction to Australia's outback roads for Drew. Corrugations, deep sand and the occasional rock providing a sore backside for the big fellow sitting on the bench seat of the Troopy! Near the ruins of the Rodinga fettlers camp we turned off onto the Ghan Heritage Way, a stock trail that follows the route of the Old Ghan, and uses the old elevations of the Ghan rail line itself. The drivers had to watch carefully for all the old dog spikes littering the corrugated and pitted road. We very much enjoyed driving through the many cuts and traversing the built up excavations that formed the earth works of the old Ghan, souveniring a few spikes along the way. We spotted a group of very healthy looking Donkeys and took lunch in the shade of an impressive Desert Oak.


The Finke Race provides a yearly distraction for many no doubt and every now and then a “bar” would appear in the middle of nowhere, crudely fashioned out of posts but with a bench set at the appropriate height for a drinker to lean on, usually accompanied by an old fridge carcass lying on its back to use as a large esky. It certainly made us smile. Gaby wanted one just like it in her new cellar!



Once through Finke, the devastation caused to the surrounding country by grazing cattle became obvious. Not a blade of grass was visible anywhere and certain trees and shrubs eaten back to the height of an up-stretched bovines head. Many of the bushes and trees were eaten back so severely as to be damaged or killed off. The loose earth was churned to dust by myriad hoofs and only needed a stiff breeze to be transformed into an airborne dust storm. We’ve camped in such country where the jacks are king, the bottom of our boots attesting to their penetrative power. There is not a blade of grass to be seen. A great fire and a lovely dinner of rissoles, snags and vegies. A few reds and a block of chocolate. Not a bad day’s introduction to the outback for Drew.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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