The drive through Parachilna Gorge is exactly as the Heysen paintings show, but the dull light doesn’t do it justice. We set out in misty rain but by midday the sun was where it should be. Coming out of the gorge and onto bitumen it was all blue sky.
Leigh Creek was the re-provision stop but T had not realized that the closure of Port Augusta’s power station also meant the closure of Leigh Creek’s brown coal. It is now a flash ghost town.
On from Leigh Creek, road straight and long. Passed through Lyndhurst, where last time we were here we scrabbled beer cartons from the pub to cover the window in the van broken by a passing mine truck.
We stopped off at a ruin of a railway fettler’s building at Farina – hard to imagine just how hard that life was, and for many it was their career.
The dirt road is giving us a foretaste of the track, but is surprisingly good. A bit unusual is that there are two sections in the 50 km or so that are sealed (17 & 8 km) and are smoother than the Hume Highway! The occasional emu strolls out as though it owns the road, requiring some driver consideration. Judging by the roadkill there are a few drivers and a few emus who haven’t reached that accommodation.
Into Maree, a much bigger community than we’d anticipated, not sure why. Jen settled us in at the Oasis Caravan Park, a bit awkwardly jutting into the roadway, but didn’t seem to bother and in no time at all we were joined by others similarly parked.
Off to the Marree pub, where the world got just a bit smaller, as the publican’s daughter, a former schoolteacher, had taught at Stromlo High School with our Jo! Bec has taken a break from teaching to discover another life. Needless to say, this was a photo opportunity.
We booked into a braised beef and mash dinner at the caravan park, which was accompanied by Jen entertaining us with her renditions of old favourites.
And the second weird coincidence – joining us for dinner, also staying at the park, were Andrew and Irene from WCUC. He’s just taken over as Council Chair – D was delighted to be able to say he’s just handed over that role.
Just like the pub, the caravan park and connected roadhouse employ lots of backpackers. Two were at the dinner and after dinner fire – one from the UK (actually an Australian citizen as well, due to her Tassie Mum) and one from Germany. They were both loving the experience (and they talk to their mums each day). The outback is not so ‘out’ anymore, except perhaps for Aussie youngters who are probably doing something similar in the UK & Europe.