Motorcycle Explorer Issue 17 - Page 30

Travel Story: leigh wilkins - australia

We met a couple of older Irish tourists here, they were telling us how rough the road was further on, mind you, they were in a Toyota Corolla, rental of course. I wanted to be there when they explained the condition of the vehicle to Europecar.

The track did get rough, mostly due to the corrugations and the occasional rocky patch. It wasn’t anything the GS couldn’t handle. We continued south and the road became much better, we’d obviously caught the grader again allowing us to reach the old Peake Telegraph station and homestead in good time. These ruins were also the original base camp for the early explorer, Ernest Giles. What remains of the station gives clear indication to the tough life faced here in the 1800’s. The whole complex, including a small copper mining community closed down in the early 1900’s.

The day was still quite young, the temperature had already climbed into the mid-30’s (Celsius). It was hard to comprehend that we were already heading well into the winter months. We continued, discovering more ruins; Edward Creek and Warrina the two standouts. Both were former railway sidings and were usually located quite close to natural bores from the Artesian Basin. The land around here was also quite different and becoming quite wooded in places. The trees barely hanging on to life, clumped around the numerous ‘creeks’ that occasionally flow from the Davenport Range.

Approaching William Creek, we did catch the grader, or at least where it had last been working. This was Easter Monday, there was no way we would see workers today. Working out here was a tough life, the small teams usually spend months slowly moving across the desert. Very little contact with the outside world. Lonely and isolated. I wondered if I would like to experience it just once. I quickly answered myself in the affirmative.

The track was undergoing major works and was down to one very narrow strip of dirt. Not normally a problem yet this time it was on the side of a steep hill, no problem for a bike but anything larger would be in trouble. Beyond this area, the track had been well groomed and was almost like the Autobahn – sit down and cruise at 100kph, a great chance to rest the legs, until we hit the areas where the track still had moisture on its surface.

Cresting the last hill, we caught sight of the metropolis that is William Creek and the strip of bitumen that runs down the middle of it – pure heaven. William Creek is really nothing more than a

pub in the middle of the world’s largest station (farm). Although it is recognised as a town, albeit with a permanent population of around 4 (along with a few transient workers), it really does sit in the middle of Anna Creek station on the edge of Lake Eyre, one of the world’s largest dry lakes.

It goes without saying that no sooner had we stopped that I was in the pub ordering a pint, it was downed in next to no time, it is thirsty work riding in the desert … ok … had to order another one. A quick chat to the ‘locals’ and then it was time to set-up camp across the road in the camping area. This was surprisingly good, powered or unpowered sites, dongas (cabins) and great toilets and showers.

Once setup we were back across the ‘main road’ to the pub. Meals here were great, so much so that the backend of the pub, built mostly out of old Ghan Railway sleepers was quite full. Where the hell did all these people come from? It was a good night with a few more beers and a few games of darts and then off to bed.