The home fires were burning brightly when we started the run to Adelaide to suit John’s arrangements. Unfortunately the sky was not as bright and rain was still obviously to be expected.
We turned right from the Lasseter Highway onto the Stuart Highway south of Alice Springs and as we neared Marla John suggested we detour via Oodnadatta and through to Leigh Creek where he hoped to collect some Tektite.
He explained that Tektite, a pure glass, could be coloured black, brown or green. It was a terrestrial debris he explained, ejected during extraterrestrial meteorite impacts.
I was intrigued and John added that the area around Leigh Creek had the largest Tektite fields in Australia. I wasn’t sure if John’s suggestion was designed to placate me but if it was, he certainly succeeded. I was now hooked on Tektite.
The moment we turned off at Marla the driving fun began and the 211 klms to Oodnadatta was a great mud run.
When we finally reached Oodnadatta, the sign at the town’s entry told it all and what we could expect next.
We stopped for coffee and snacks in town and having a yarn with curious locals revealed the fun we were going to have on the next section through to Maree.
The going was quite slow and we decided to make an early camp if we could find a dry spot.
Luckily enough we came upon a nice spot complete with a tree and some great examples of Sturt’s Desert Pea which thrives in arid conditions.
Sturt’s Desert Pea is a beautiful desert plant with its vibrant colour and interesting foliage.
Next morning we made another early start. I can’t speak for my passenger John, but as the driver it was a heap of fun. If I recall correctly, the next day the road from Oodnadatta to Maree was closed to all traffic and this sign was an indication of why that took place.
The track we were on runs parallel with the old Ghan Railway line which in those days terminated at Alice Springs. The Ghan was named after the Afghan camel drivers who back in the 1890’s and early 1900’s were the major source of goods transport between Port Augusta in South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Trains running along the line where often held up by sand drifts and floods and could be sometimes be delayed for days as the train crew shovelled the stand off the lines or waited for flood waters to recede.
As we travelled further south we made quite a few little creek crossings and all seemed Ok until we reached the Algiebuckiner River which was in flood. There was Nissan Patrol 4 x 4 stopped on our side of the river and a what looked like a Toyota Landcruiser stopped on the other side.
I knew that knee high water that wasn’t flowing too swiftly was fordable in my little Landy, provided that the crossing’s bed wasn’t too soft.
I waded across to the other side and the water only reached my knees. Fortunately the river bed seemed more gravelly than mud or sand and the river flow was almost at a standstill. After checking from side to side of the path I’d checked I decided that a crossing would be manageable and waded back to John and the Landy.
The photo opportunity was too good to miss so I armed John with my camera and he waded across to a view point I had indicated to him and adopted his temporary role as trip photographer.
All of this mucking about had a positive side to it as the Landy’s engine, gear box and differentials had cooled down somewhat, therefore reducing the risk of their breathers sucking water in the event of a disaster during the crossing.
All that was left for me to do was to fit my small tarpaulin radiator cover and drive across to the other side, sticking to the path I’d chosen.
I decided on low range third gear to maintain a reasonable speed to produce a great bow wave and felt confident that all would be well. On many trips with the Land Rover Club, river crossings were encountered and I’d had quite a bit of experience in water crossings. I remembered to maintain a steady accelerator pressure and keep my left foot away from the clutch pedal.
Engine switched on, third gear engaged and off we went, riding well behind a great bow wave.
We reached the other side without a problem, not a drop of water entered the cabin and the little engine didn’t miss a beat. Modern 4 x 4 owners please note, not a snorkel tube in sight.
When the slides were finally processed, John’s photographic skills were evident as the following images show.
THE WADING COMMENCES.
In this last image, you can see the old railway bridge over the river and the length of the bridge is a clear indication of how wide the river can become when in full flood.
Finally we reached Maree, fuelled up again and shortly afterwards arrived in Leigh Creek where we camped overnight, ready for an early start searching for Tektites.
Our search was fruitful too with John collecting many, many samples and I limited myself to about half a dozen or so.
I’ve searched high and low for my Tektite samples but they have simply disappeared during the ensuing years and my multiple address changes.
We continued on and stopped overnight just outside Quorn ready for the run into Adelaide the next day.
John and I said our farewells in Adelaide, South Australia and I started off towards home in Cronulla, New South Wales.
Strangely my thoughts on the way home were more about my return to work and what had happened there during my long absence.
I was soon to find out.
Thanks for reading, it’s been a lot of fun putting this series together and the process has brought back many,many great memories.
Hoo roo till next time.