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  • Writer's pictureRobin Page

Absolute vastness and big skies....

We reluctantly left the magic of Uluru after a stay in perfect weather and took the Lasseter Highway East to the Stuart Highway and then turned South for Mala. At Mala we joined the Oodnadatta Track heading East which unsurprisingly took us to Oodnadatta and the now iconic Pink Roadhouse. The gravel road is in the best condition we have ever seen it and this was to be the case all the way South to Marree, a surprise in a way as the Track had been closed only weeks earlier because of rain. We were fortunate to be able to visit the Railway Museum located in the old station building and stationmaster’s residence. There we were reminded of the herculean efforts required of our pioneers to push the rail line through from Port Augusta. Seeing how almost deserted and semi derelict the town now is it was fascinating to ponder that at the height of WW2 up to 56 trains per day were arriving from the South with troops and supplies destined for onward movement to Darwin.

We then headed across the vast arid plain to Coober Pedy. Some think that it must be boring to spend hours in a 4WD crossing totally treeless, bare and stony country but there is something about the absolute vastness and the big skies that captivates Jenny and I and we were just so happy and felt so privileged to be there. A pleasant surprise was to find ourselves on a new bitumen road 60k from Coober Pedy and to see a huge gang pushing the road further North towards Oodnadatta. We were told that the road is being sealed at a rate of about 30km per year. We restocked at Coober Pedy and headed East to William Creek and then to Maree, back on gravel roads.

Marree is steeped in history and it is always a joy to see the small bush mosque which was so important in the lives of the Indian and Afghan cameleers. It continues to be a sacred place for Muslims and fortunately is still treated with respect by the many travellers who pass. It is another place where one can ponder the history of our nation and the efforts it took to open up outback Australia, and the huge contribution of the cameleers. One of the very few heritage building remaining is the hotel which is a credit to the licensee as it is well managed and maintained. The history of Marree and the area is tastefully displayed on the walls of the public rooms. One room is devoted to the life of Tom Kruse, the ‘Outback Mailman’, who played a major part in supporting the communities to the North of Maree all the way to Birdsville, with the transport of mail and supplies.

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