FROM MARREE TO KULGERA…THE OODNADATTA TRACK AND DALHOUSIE HOT SPRINGS

Map of the Oodnadatta trak
Map of the Oodnadatta track

This is the best experience I’ve had in Australia so far, being in the outback with a 4wd for hours and hours
to get to the amazing Dalhousie hot spring, with 37° hot water, near the Simpson desert in the middle of Australia. 
The only plan we had was to do a road trip from Adelaide to Alice Springs, then further to Darwin. First stop after Adelaide, it was a quick break in Port Augusta to look at the sunset, then headed for Flinders Rangers. Where we camped for the night, fire and beers, that night was FREEZING and noisy, maybe due to the wind or some animals prowling around.

We were escaping from the cold weather of south Australia and Victoria, dreaming about the nice
hot temperature of the red center.
We spent a few hours hiking in Flinders Rangers, a walk along a dry river, where we saw goats moving around. Back to the fuel station we asked for some information, the Aussie man recommended us to continue the road trip to Marree on an unsealed road, an alternative to the boring Stuart Highway.

We asked for more information about the condition of the road in a hotel pub where an Aussie cowboy at the reception told us…”it’s up to you”. Cowboy brown hat, black shirt with some golden decoration, skinny, dark skin and funny smile.
The road was fine, a bit annoying because we were shaking all the time.

Around us was all dry, red and yellow colors with some green trees and cows. We arrived too late for dinner at the pub in Marree so we ate as usual chickpeas and tomatoes :). Classic backpackers meal.

Marree is a small town with approximately 150 people. There is a Hotel, a fuel station, a cattle station, a train station, and the area is the home of the Diyari Aboriginal people. We spend the night at the pub talking with an english bartender and an Australian guy originally from Melbourne, he told us about the Dalhousie hotsprings. Best place to see in the outback!

Wake up early in the morning heading for Williams Creek, from the Oodnadatta Track you pass right by Lake Eyre South, the largest lake in Australia. Sometimes the color of the lake it can be pink, due to an alga. At William Creek we turn left to Coober Pedy, but we still needed a few hours to get to the city and to feel the relaxed sensation of a sealed road after so many hours of the vibrations of an unsealed. Coober Pedy is a city on the Stuart Highway, the “opal capital of the world” famous also for its below-ground residences, called “dugouts”, which are built excavated into the hillsides to avoid the extremely hot daytime heat.

In some part it seems like you are walking on the moon.

There are many mines to visit, an underground hostel, few underground churches, cafè, restaurant and Opal museum,
the main color of the ground is light yellow/grey. And the sun is really strong. So put your hat on sunglasses and sunscreen.
There is a nice lookout close to the center of the city where you can see the sunset. We slept in our car Eva, behind the fuel station. We decided to have a low low budget trip but sleep in the underground hostel could be a cool experience once you are there.

There is also an underground camp site just a few minute outside the city. People here are very quiet and helpful
so just ask for any information.

Quik coffee in the morning then we go off again, just few km on the sealed road then back to the unsealed one, until Oodnadatta, for 197km…a bloody long way to get to Oodnadatta, but we made it.
And we were just half way from the hotsprings, with not the easiest road to get there.

Oodnadatta it will welcome you with the Pink Roadhouse, a pink building with a pub, a shop, a post office.
Prices aren’t cheap at all, but the burger/steak and chips are affordable.

We are surrounded by an area of 7,800 square kilometres with cattle stations in arid pastoral rangelands close to the Simpson Desert, less than 300 people are living in this little town, approximately 100 Aboriginal, this is definitely a good track to do if you want to have a real australian outback experience.We were a bit confused about how long it would take to get to the hotsprings, google maps said 7,30h, and at some point 15h,  other people said 3 hours, so we decided to not trust anyone and just go. We grab the map at the roadhouse and bye bye Oodnadatta.

We had to leave the Oodnadatta track for another smaller road, from turning to the hotsprings there are 164km.

It was pretty interesting to drive here, sometimes it looked as if we were going back on ourselves not getting anywhere,  and we had this sensation several times for hours, but at the same time the landscape was changing softly from red to green, to brown, from really dry to green with some cows around, a few times we had to cross the rivers or puddle, fortunately not too deep , but we always stopped to check the depth…we were just with one car in the middle of nowhere near the desert, last thing we wanted was to get stuck in a puddle. Maybe with some hidden crocodiles 🙂

But was definitely an amazing experience!

We drove for many km until we reached the Witjira National Park…here the landscape took a different shape, green hills were surrounding us, to enter in the National Park you need to purchase a pass, you can ask information about it at the Pink roadhouse in Oodnadatta.

The road here got better and we could go a bit faster, up and down up and down the hills.

We had a quick stop at the Dalhousie Homestead Ruins, from the former Dalhousie Station.

And then after a long long drive we finally arrived at the Dalhousie hot-springs.

There is a nice campground, with toilets and showers. It wasn’t crowded and were few spots left.

We parked and we literally ran into the hot-springs. wow 37° hot water, was probably around 5pm, we arrived before the sunset and we could enjoy all the changing of colors in the sky and the reflection in the water.

We stayed until darkness swimming in the superhot water.

A peculiarity of the hot-springs are the little Garrarufa fish, small scavengers that love eating dead skin,
so you can have also a beauty treatment while you are chilling in the water, if they bother you just move and they will go.

Just some advice, bring a lot of drinking water, staying for a long period in the hot-springs can dehydrate your body.
We felt all a bit dizzy when we got out of the little lake.

Just a hundred metres from the campground is the edge of the Simpson Desert.

The conditions of the road on the way back were worse, the ground was full of mud, and in several occasions we risk getting stuck, but our “Eva” brought us to destination without any problem. We past by Mt Dare, where there is a fuel station, the most expensive one I have ever seen in Australia, with 5 dollars black coffee and expensive food, is the outback. We past the border with the northern territory  after Mt Dare, then Finke, here the road stabilised, and after maybe a couple of hours from finke, we finally touched again the sealed road of the Stuart Highway.

It was strong, but absolutely worth it!

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