Steve & Buddy's Big Adventure | Part 1 - On to the Oodnadatta Track

Steve & Buddy are on a 4 week road trip to Lake Argyle to film updates for the 2019 edition of Discovering Lake Argyle and making a YouTube video series about their trip (Coming in August).

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On to the Oodnadatta Track

The last couple of weeks have been the usual flurry of working through the last minute ‘to do’ list items that precede any road trip, especially one’s like this one to the top of the continent and back.

For the last couple of years I’ve been promising Charlie who owns the resort/caravan park at Lake Argyle that I’d get back up there and film some updates for my ‘Discovering Lake Argyle’ documentary that I shot during our Big Lap trip.

Since filming the first edition, a lot has changed in the East Kimberley with the expansion of the Ord River Scheme and the general growth in tourism and we are both keen to keep the film relevant and up to date.

The film sells on a DVD at Lake Argyle and a couple of other places in the region as well as directly from our website and it’s been very popular since it’s release around 7 years ago.

No matter how you do it, by car or by plane, getting to Lake Argyle from Melbourne is an expensive proposition so rather than burn $1500 plus on airfares, I opted to put that money and a bit more into the fuel tank instead and drive up there and back.

Jen and the girls however had other plans, a week in the sun in Honolulu, Hawaii and despite inviting me to join them I opted for the road trip instead.

So a couple of days before I was due to hit the road I dropped them at the airport and waved them off and got back to working on my to do list.

I’m taking Buddy the Dalmatian with me so this is really a ‘boys’ trip and rather than waste the opportunity by just driving there and back by the quickest and easiest means, we’re instead going to make an adventure out of it and look for a route more ‘off the beaten track’.

I’m also using the opportunity to ‘vlog’ (video blog) the trip . . . in other words, 'film it as I go' to make a series for our YouTube channel. With 8000+ km to cover and big chunks of it off road, there’s bound to be some interesting things happen along the way.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel if you haven’t already to watch the series starting soon after I get back in early August.

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Getting our Landcruiser ready for the trip is always a big job and this one is no exception. I spent a big day replacing the front brakes and wheel bearings and Terry at Mr Mods replaced the timing belt and fixed the fuel filter mounting bracket which had broken on a previous trip.

I also replaced the second battery (deep cycle) and built in a jumper cable between the two batteries so in the event the main starter battery goes flat, I can turn a switch which connects both batteries and it should kick over.

I’ll show you how I did this in the YouTube series.

So after a trip to the supermarket to stock up on food, a fill up with fuel, a trip to the vet for some anti-inflamtories for Buddy (he’s got a dodgy knee), we managed to get on the road late afternoon last Thursday heading for my Mum’s place in the Adelaide Hills.

With just me and Buddy to accomodate we can actually both sleep inside the Landcruiser - all I need to do is put one side of the back seat down flat and it aligns perfectly with the top of the drawers in the back. I can then roll out my swag and lie completely flat inside the car and Buddy has the other side of the back seat next to me.

It works really well and is a game changer in terms of moving quickly and minimising set ups and pack ups.

Being able to pull over at roadside stops and just sleep in the car adds another level of flexibility to the trip, not to mention saving money on camp sites.

And on cold winter nights like we’re experiencing at the moment it’s even better!

So on our first night we put it to the test, pulling over at the VIC/SA border at about 11:30pm and crawling in the back to sleep.

It's a wet and rainy night as well which just added to the ‘joy’ of being inside out of the weather and not having to deal with a wet swag/tent in the morning (am I getting soft?!).

The tailgate makes a great ‘kitchen bench’ and everything I need is in the drawers in front of me including a little butane stove and the billy so with a cup of tea made we hit the road and arrive at my Mums in the Adelaide Hills early afternoon.

I remember from a previous trip over that there are some scraps of sheet metal in a pile of scrap at the back of my Mum's place which will be going for recycling and I’ve been wondering if there is a suitable piece I can cut down to make a wind deflector for the front of the roof rack.

In preparation, I brought my drill and angle grinder and a can of matt black spray paint to cut a piece to size, paint it and attach it if I can find a suitable sheet.

So as soon as I get there I head out to the scrap pile and luck is on my side when I find a sheet that is literally exactly the right size - no need to cut , just clean it up and drill the holes to match the mounts for the current (much smaller) perspex deflector, give it a few coats of paint and the next morning I mount it on the rack and I have to say I’m pretty happy with the result.

If that doesn’t save me a few dollars on diesel I’ll be very surprised.

The finished wind deflector ready to save me some $$$ on diesel

I was planning to hit the road north the day after I arrived at my Mum’s but by the time I’ve been into Mount Barker for some more food supplies - mainly fresh stuff which you can’t take over the border from Victoria to South Australia, it’s mid arvo and I decide to hang around for another night instead and go the next morning.

On the way out of Woodside the next morning I fill up with fuel, check the tyre pressures and we hit the road north up through the Clare Valley towards the Flinders Ranges.

I don’t have any exact destination in mind but plan to get as far as possible before dark then find somewhere to stop for the night.

It turns out that the Craddock Hotel, about 30km before Hawker, has free camping in the area behind the pub so we pull in there just after sunset and find a good spot.

Dinner is an easy one - pastrami and cheese rolls which were leftovers from yesterdays lunch that Mum and I shared. After a cup of tea, Buddy and I are both ready for bed. Doesn’t sound like much is going on in the pub beside us and by about 8:00pm the two cars out the front leave and soon after it gets very dark and quiet.

After his second night sleeping in the car I’m getting very optimistic about Buddy as a road trip companion.

As soon as he’s finished dinner he’s ready for bed and practically pleads with me to let him go!

He sleeps through the night with only an occasional turn over here and there.

Although I can already see though that the car is going to need some industrial vacuuming when get back thanks to his endless malting!

Pulling out of Craddock we stop into Hawker so I can give Buddy a walk and we can both make the most of the public facilities (the park in his case) before continuing on north and up the western side of Wilpena Pound and the Ikara Flinders Range National Park. Obviously having a dog on board means National Parks are off limits.

Trying to explain to Buddy why he can't run around on the grass in Hawker - not quite sure myself!!

After a week of pretty awful winter weather in both Melbourne and Adelaide, it’s nice to finally see some blue sky and we’re looking forward to plenty more over the coming weeks.

Cruising past Parachilna, we stop in to Leigh Creek for a final fuel fill up which brings us back up to 260 litres on board, enough to get us all the way to Alice Springs, then we continue on and stop at Marree for the night.

I always enjoy staying in Marree and find it hard to drive past when we’re up this way.

The caravan park is simple, basic and cheap but they have actual green grass to camp on and there it’s always a good night around the communal campfire.

Marree is really the start of the outback so it feels like we’ve ‘arrived’ when we get here.

I cook up a quick dinner or rice, steak, onions and BBQ sauce on the tailgate - more of a concoction really but it tastes pretty good.
It’s another early night for both of us and after importing the video I’ve shot today, charging the camera batteries and reading up on the history of the Oodnadatta Track in readiness for tomorrow’s travels, I crawl into the swag and watch a couple of episodes of the ’12 Monkeys’ series that I downloaded on my iPad with Netflix before we left.

It’s a beautiful morning, cold but clear and we’re on the road by about 9:00am heading west along the Oodnadatta Track and keen to explore as much as possible along the way.

Not far from Marree the dog fence crosses the Oodnadatta Track. There are no signs announcing it but it has a cattle grid across the track and the fence is much more substantial than the usual wire fence used to keep sheep and cattle on one side or the other,

The dog fence runs from Ceduna on the South Australian coast line all the way up through SA, NSW and into Queensland for a total length of over 5000km. It’s one of the longest man made barriers in the world.

It’s purpose is to keep dingoes and wild dogs on the northern side and out of the sheep country where they prey on sheep and lambs.

Having Buddy with me seems like too good an opportunity to miss so I lead him over to the cattle grid to see if it indeed does deter dogs from passing.

He strides confidentially up to the grid but stops short once it come to actually walking across and it’s only with some coaxing and encouragement that I can get him to take a few steps.

So the conclusion is that it most likely works at keeping the dingoes out.

Buddy very reluctant to cross the cattle grid on the dog fence

Continuing on we stop and check out the ‘Mutonia' open air art gallery built by Robin Cooke over the past 20 years. It’s a eclectic collection of mostly steel items welded together to form various pieces. From human sized robots right up to two actual light planes standing on their tails side by side and an original Ghan Railway water tank made into a dog using a car wreck for the head.

One of the many unusual sculptures at the Mutonia Art installation - Oodnadatta Track

Big Lap DVD Xmas Special

Around 80km from Marree the track runs along the southern edge of Lake Eyre South and we stop at the viewing area for a look.

Big rains in Queensland have sent floodwaters down into the northern edge of the lake but the haven’t made their way this far south yet and time will tell if they will or not.

It’ll take a light plane flight to see them at the moment which is not in our budget or itinerary.

Further along, we stop in for a look at Curdimurka Railway Siding which is the most ‘in tact’ still remaining on the Old Ghan Railway line. There's the building itself with about 7 or 8 rooms, a water tower and several lengths of the original track still in place.

Walking through the building from room to room with camera in hand I feel like I’m in a scene from a horror movie and half expect Mick Taylor to appear around the corner at any second. Thankfully though, he doesn’t!!

Further along and a detour off the track is the Mound Springs but being a National Park I can’t take Buddy in there so we keep going.

I’m finding the Oodnadatta Track to be rougher condition than on previous trips with plenty of corrugation and bull dust stretches. Not the worst track I’ve driven by any means but probably the worst that I’ve ever seen this one.

There’s quite a steady stream of cars going both directions including numerous that are really beyond their comfort zone.

I pass an Audi that has a flat tyre and notice the tyres are the high performance low profile variety that really don’t belong off the black top. They are towing a van as well and I’d be willing to be he hasn’t let any air out of the tyres to soften the ride and soak up some of the rough stuff - not that there’s much air in them to let out.

About 20 minutes further on, I’m cruising at around 85 to 90 kmph and the Audi appears in my rear view mirror. The next straight stretch and he flies past in a spray of rocks and dust. I hope has a few more spare tyres on board but I’m sure he doesn’t!

I pull into Beresford Siding for a quick look. There’s a dam about half full of water that has some birdlife around it and further back from the track is the remains of an old water tank and the water softening tower used to convert the highly mineralised bore water from the artesian basin into something more suitable for the steam engines.

A little further down the track and I run into a family who recognise my car from The Big Lap and we have a good catchup on the side of the track before realising we are all heading for William Creek for the night.

We arrange to catch up for a beer after we’ve all setup camp and it turns out to be a great night around the campfire.

Gilly and Penny and their two young daughters are also from Melbourne and did the Simpson Desert crossing earlier this year. They’re currently on a quick jaunt around Outback SA for the school holidays.

Next morning I head over to the William Creek Hotel to grab a coffee then we hit the road again determined to get to Mt Dare for the night, 450km north of William Creek.

My plan at this stage is to stay the night at Mt Dare then head up through Finke and along the Old Ghan Railway line into Alice Springs. It’s the same route they run the Finke Desert Race along as is notorious for being a very rough tracks - it certainly has been the two times I’ve driven it in the past.

Stopping in at the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta, Buddy and I share a bag of hot chips before we push on.

Along the way we cross a clay pan and we stop in the middle to stretch our legs and end up hanging there for half an hour or so. Not a single car comes past and the silence is total. Not a bird or a breeze or anything else. Amazing!

How's the serenity?!

The road steadily deteriorates the further north we go and by them time we are in the last 50km to Mt Dare it is very rough.

I’ve barely seen another vehicle for the past few hours but follow a convoy of 4WD’s and camper trailers crawling the last 10km into Mt Dare and arrive just in time to find a camp spot before dark.

It’s been a long day and we are both exhausted so dinner turns out to be a Bunnings special - sausages on bread - which both Buddy and I are very happy with.

With Dingos on the prowl during the night I make sure not to leave my boots or our rubbish bag outside the car where they can get to it and we are both sound asleep by about 9:00pm.

A dingo watching us silently from the sidelines at Mt Dare

It’s another cold night in the desert and crisp morning but the sky is blue and I’m looking forward to a another big driving day.

After yesterdays pounding on the corrugation I noticed a new squeak on the last stretch into Mt Dare last night so this morning I go looking for the source.

It turns out to be the side step rail which has picked up some dust in one of the joins and I hit it with some Inox spray (like WD40).

However after I roll out the MeshMat and crawl under the car for a general look I notice fresh oil dripping from the front right swivel hub . . .

Something’s broken . . . Bugger!

Next update coming soon

Cheers
Steve & Buddy

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That oil is meant to be on the inside!!

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2 thoughts on “Steve & Buddy's Big Adventure | Part 1 - On to the Oodnadatta Track

  1. Gail D'Alton says:

    Hi Steve & Buddy, Have enjoyed reading about your first week out. My husband and I traveled your route form Victoria 2 years ago without the dog so I am interested in how Buddy is enjoying it and where you go from Mt Dare. We turned east and went across the Simpson to Birdsville but would love to take our dog next time along the Oodnadatta track to Alice Springs. Interestingly you are finding it so rough this time.Looking forward to the next part. Safe travels and have fun. Gail.

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