Sunday: Take off fully fuelled and head north.
Planned track is outbound past Parachilna to Leigh Creek
, then veer left and run 143nm straight to William Creek
Take a few moments to look at those Google Map links to get an idea of how isolated this trip is. Having passed Leigh Creek, there's basically no bitumen. Dirt roads, 4-wheel-drives and roadtrains. Maybe one person per 20 square kilometers, and the poor guy is probably lost.
40 minutes out from William Creek, the Southern end of the lake becomes visible:
Lake Eyre South
After the first glimpse we proceeded to leave it behind us: Forewarned about fuel prices in the Red Centre, I wanted to top off the tanks with as little as possible at William Creek, then use the resulting full tanks to tour the lake and get back to Rawnsley Park.
The damage: 45 litres of fuel. $127. So that's about $10.69 per gallon for you Americans who always bitch about five dollar gas.
William Creek was originally established as a supply base for the Ghan railway line which ran from Adelaide in the South to Alice Springs in the dead-centre of Australia. Building the line was a momentous feat, not just because of the engineering challenges of building a permanent railway through the thousands of miles of dunes of an eternally shifting sandy desert, but also for the sheer enormity of the challenge of keeping the work crews fed and watered in the outback's desolation.
... and now I can do the trip in 3 hours in an RV. Ain't technology grand.
In the present day, William Creek has a permanent population of 2 (count 'em!), and exists ostensibly to be a pub in the middle of nowhere that everyone simply has to visit at least once (more on that later). It's on the Oodnadatta Track, one of the main semi-navigable "roads" that joins the Flinders Ranges to the Simpson and Strezlecki Deserts.
With water in the lake, there's also a bustling tourist flight industry: Airborne daytrips from places like Innaminka, Coober Pedy, and Wilpena use the William Creek pub as a lunch stop. About 20 aircraft of various shapes and sizes landed and took off from this isolated little airstrip while we were there.
It's also downrange of the Woomera Defence Establishment, which is Australia's major missile testing range. Some relics of past launches are assembled in a park across the road from the pub:
After fuel and a comfort stop, we were off to see the lake itself.
It's huge. The Google Map really doesn't do it justice; it's more of a sea than a lake. If you're at 2500' on one side, you can't see land on the far horizon. The water is glassy smooth, and when the sun is shining at just the right angle you can't see a horizon at all, because the water simply merges with the sky.
The pink tinge is an algae. It's more pronounced in some places than others, the shot above is from the south west corner.
To be continued...