This was one of the highlights of my trip and up there with the best of the best tours. It was not cheap at $340 but it was a personalised tour with only 3 other passengers in a 4WD with Peter “Rowey” the driver (mailman). Having worked for Australia Post doing parcel deliveries I was keen to do this trip as soon as I saw it advertised and was very lucky to get on it. Due to rain he often can’t do his twice weekly run during the wet season and the previous 3 trips had been cancelled due to roads flooded and closed. There was a Canadian couple now living on the Gold Coast and a guy that has been travelling Australia for a number of years in the tour with me.
I was picked up from the caravan park just after 8.30am. Rowey, who is in his late 70’s has been doing the run from Coober Pedy to William Creek and Oodnadatta plus 5 Stations along the way for the past 20 years. He is looking at retirement later this year when his contract comes up for renewal. He knows the roads, the people and all the stories to make it such a memorable experience. Before being picked up Rowey had probably spent a couple of hours sorting his Mail bags and freight for the trip. Our first stop was Anna Creek Station which is the largest cattle station in the world at 24,000 square kilometres (nearly 6 million acres). It is now owned by the Williams Family who also own a number of other stations in the area. The town of William Creek lies within its boundary. After stopping at Anna Station we had a lunch stop at the pub in William Creek before visiting 3 more stations on the way to Oodnadatta where we had a tea break. The Oodnadatta Track was actually still closed so when we got to William Creek Rowey had to phone the powers that be to get permission to go through to Oodnadatta. It was surreal to be on the Oodnadatta Track. I never thought I would get to experience that. The road wasn’t too bad. Boggy in a few places but we got through without any dramas. It was after 7pm when we left Oodnadatta and we did the last deliver to a station at 8.30pm. For the first time (so Rowey said) he misjudged fuel usage so we “borrowed” 5 litres of diesel at the last station to ensure we got home ok. As it was it was after 9.30pm before I got back to the caravan park. An amazing 13 hours. Rowey’s local knowledge was unending and the commentary and banter was pretty constant throughout the day. We rotated seats (apart from the driver) throughout the trip so everyone got to sit in the front.
The “town” of William Creek is all owned by Peter Wright who operates Wrightair and do tours over Lake Eyre. I should have done a flight while I was there but was unaware beforehand that there was as much water in the top of lake eyre as there currently is.
At one of the stations a young couple are managing it with 4 kids and while Rowey unloaded his Mail and parcels for the station, the lady of the house gave us a guided tour of “the schoolhouse” where her 4 children were taught by a Governess and through the School of the Air. Just talking with the kids who were all very young but so mature was a great experience. Living an isolated life they miss out on so much yet they don’t really and they probably have a far better life than most city kids.
Oodnadatta was an interesting place. Iconic, laid back and in the middle of nowhere the locals we got to speak to were friendly and engaging. I would have liked to have looked through the museum but we ran out of time.
A definite highlight and a memory to long treasure. If you get to Coober Pedy try and get on this tour. It is now booked out until end of July so I feel very lucky to have been able to do it.