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We didn't 'Planet'! One camper van. Two blokes. Four weeks. What could go wrong?

Grounded

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 8 April 2007 | Views [1648] | Comments [2]

One of several sculptures to be find along the road.  This dog is huge - the body is a water tank, the head, a car!

One of several sculptures to be find along the road. This dog is huge - the body is a water tank, the head, a car!

Grounded.

At five bucks a tinnie, every mouthful of cool XXXX should be savoured in Williams Creek. At that price, it ought to be an early night. The problem with that notion is, Williams Creek Hotel has one of the coolest pubs we have run into yet.

It was a long hard haul from Marree that morning, over bumpy roads and scorching heat. The road cut close to the smaller Lake Eyre South, offering spectacular views over the plains. They were so good, we did question why we had gone to all the effort to reach the north lake, when we could have just come here. Despite the appalling road, the trip is quite an interesting one, with changing landscapes reminiscent of Arizona. One eccentric station owner has built larger-than-life sculptures along a distance of several kilometres, made from old cars, aircraft and scrap metal. Throughout the outback, I have noticed a definite penchant for using old tyres to decorate the entrance to properties, so why not a bit of scrap metal for a change?

Our aim is to organise a light-aircraft flight to the northern part of Lake Eyre, where the water is currently flowing. If it continues to fill over the next few weeks, then flights will become available out of Marree, but for now, we need to get even closer to the action. The Haligan Track could get us to the western shores of the salt lake, but it is strictly four-wheel-drive only, and we felt we had pushed our luck far enough in that department.

So that is how we ended up in Williams Creek, a tiny settlement with a hotel/pub, an airfield and more than its fair share of flies. Inside the pub a small assorted crowd was gathered. A couple of rugged-looking locals propped up the bar, wearing the standard work boots, shorties and singlet. Huddled in the corner, a small flock of young backpackers sat in silence, awaiting a replacement bus after a breakdown. Williams Creek is a scheduled stop for “adventure bus tours” that run from Adelaide to Alice Springs, and looking at this lot, I’m glad my bus travelling days are over. However, it is thanks to this regular passing custom that pubs like this can exist at all, though I do doubt the legitimacy of flogging beer off for $5/can.

Over a good few years there has been many a party in this place. Testament to this are countless bras and assorted lingerie pinned to the walls and roof, causing me to reflect with some regret, why it is that in all such pubs I have been in, I have never been present while this sort of decoration is taking place. Filling every available space between are innumerable business cards, driving licenses, hats, postcards, photos and even passports. The pub also doubles as the general store, post office, gas station and goodness knows what else. This seems as a good a place as any to enquire about flights, and we are directed to a house that doubles as an airport terminal, just a little down the road.

Unfortunately for us the owner and operator of the two light aircraft on the strip was away at this time. In his place was a young lad who seemed barely old enough to drive a car. With difficulty we explained that we are trying to organise a short flight out over the northern area of Lake Eyre, and we got down to business with some zealous bartering. His hands were tied, he said, the boss having left orders. His quote for the larger charter plane was nearly three times our budget. We moved onto the smaller (and theoretically cheaper) four seater aircraft, but he insisted this one was a bit rickety. That didn’t worry us so much; what did was that this chap, who would be our pilot, has big problems with basic arithmetic. The quote he stuck with was hardly any different for the smaller “rickety” aircraft. It was way over the going rate and we told him as much, asking him to knock on our van if he ever arrives at a reasonable price. It was a weird moment, as rather than him selling us his product, it felt like we were doing all the work in persuading him to sell it to us!

Back in the boozer, locals shook their heads in disbelief at this news. We got talking to Jennie, a woman who I would describe as a classic Aussie sheila. Driver and guide for the group of backpackers, long since tucked up in their beds, she was attractive and outgoing, but a little scary. Any woman who burps or drinks more than I do should be treated with caution. I had to admire her stamina; she drives hundreds of kilometres each day, bouncing the bus along dirt roads, takes care of her flock’s many needs, and still finds time for a few beers in the evening. I happily accepted her recommendation of a chap based in Coober Pedy who, she insisted, would get us in the air at the desired price. She said I should mention her name, and I figured the guy would be too scared to refuse.

Meanwhile, the young lad had come back to us with a new and improved price, having given it some thought and made calculations; exactly the same as the one he had given us earlier. The thing is, if we had saved the money spent on beer tonight – we could have bought our own plane.

Tags: ambassador van, planes trains & automobiles, trains & automobiles

Comments

1

Feel the pain dude! I took a bunch of tourists into the Flinders, near the area you wrote up. Flighs dont come cheap around there. What was so bad about CP? I have lots of fun there ;)

  Simon Oct 19, 2007 9:08 PM

2

Ah dunno bro... just found it a bit depressing! Like a giant scrap yard, with extra dust, physco-looking people with the thousand yard stare, extreme heat and cold and too much 'underground this, underground that'. Apart from that though, I loved the place ;)

  wanderyears Nov 24, 2007 10:31 AM

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