What an amazing adventure! 14 hours, 600 kilometres and a mailman with a passion for the country and a great sense of history,
The Mail Run travels over diverse country, including gibber plains, red sand hills, and 120 million year old in-land sea beds.
We left Coober Pedy at 8.30am and arrived back at 10.30pm. Our route was a huge triangle that took us out to William Creek, up to Oodnadatta and then back to Coober Pedy. But where we went on the way was amazing!
Our first mail delivery was to Anna Creek Station and to get there we had to pass through the Dingo Fence. This fence was originally built in the 1880’s to keep the dingoes out of the sheep country and it travels from Queensland, through New South Wales and into South Australia with a length of over 5600 kilometres – the longest fence in the world – and reputedly the longest man made structure – even longer than the Great Wall of China.
It is constantly being maintained by fencers who each have to keep about 300kms of fence under good repair. It doesn’t contain all the dingoes but it is a great deterrent and has saved many sheep from being savagely slaughtered by a pack of these wild dogs who can kill for the thrill! Anna Creek Station is the world’s largest working cattle station, covering an area roughly 23,500 square kilometres or 6 million acres. This makes it over seven times the size of the King Ranch in Texas, which is the USA’s biggest ranch. It is roughly the size of the country of Belgium, in Europe. It has an outstation called The Peake which we also delivered mail too. These cattle stations are part of the Kidman empire, founded by Sidney Kidman in 1899 and still held within the family. If you have a cool $350 million or so you could become the proud owner of this family business as it is currently for sale!
While googling info about Anna Creek Station I came across this fantastic photographic blog about the station, the cattle and the surrounding countryside, which includes areas known as The Breakaways and The Painted Desert. At the risk of making my photos look really pathetic, do yourself a favour and click here to see some great photos and read some good info! From Anna Creek Station we headed to William Creek with a stopover at the iconic William Creek Hotel for lunch. I found this video about William Creek that I thought you might find interesting and also some great stuff about Wrights Air that operates scenic flights over Lake Eyre and nearby country like The Painted Desert and The Breakaways. We met the owner of Wrights Air, Trevor Wright, at lunch and he gave our Mail Man, Peter Rowe, a hard time for still working long, hard days at the age of 85! With his energy and enthusiasm he could have been 20 years younger!
After some good food and a cold beer we started our travels down the Oodnadatta Track. This track follows the old Aboriginal trading route and pretty well the old Ghan Railway line and historic Overland Telegraph Line. It’s 620kms (320 miles) of unsealed, rough, dusty, corrugated road and is often impassable after wet weather. We passed by the Davenport Range to our next mail delivery at Nilpinna Station.
Relics of the old railway sidings are still visible from the road, and one called Edwards Siding is on the Nilpinna Station property. Peake Station was our next stop on the Mail Run. Peake Station is part of the Kidman pastoral holdings and is an outstation to Anna Creek but there is also an historic Peake Telegraph Station which was an important repeater station for the Overland Telegraph. You can find out more about it here and also see some great photos of the ruins. The following photos were taken by Margaret Cook, who I am travelling with.
South of Oodnadatta our driver, Peter, took us off the road to view the Algebuckina Bridge. This bridge was a massive engineering and construction feat when it was built for completion in 1892. The following information is from Wikipedia:
The Algebuckina Bridge is a Victorian era railway bridge south-east of Oodnadatta, on the Central Australian Railway in South Australia, and opened in January 1892. It is the longest bridge in South Australia. Of lattice steel construction, it comprises 19 span each 100 feet (30 m) long. It was strengthened in 1926 to allow it to carry heaver trains. It was built by a team of around 350 men, working in extreme desert heat. The grave of one of them, David Saunders, lies nearby. He died in January 1890 from “heart disease accelerated by heat apoplexy.” The bridge crosses the floodplain of the Neales River, which is prone to seasonal flooding, and replaced a surface-level railway which was frequently washed away. After a severe flood in 1974, which almost reached the bridge decks, the line was closed in 1981 and a new route built 100 miles further west.
Now, you’re probably wondering why I would have a photo of a wrecked car! Well, there’s a story attached to this fellow and he certainly didn’t have a good day this day! He was trying to drive across the railway bridge when it was in flood and forgot that the train was due to come through – like it only came through a couple of times a week and he got it soooo wrong! He couldn’t reverse, so he threw his dog into the river, jumped out of his car and the train just ploughed straight through it. He survived, but unfortunately his dog didn’t! I love these bush yarns, and our driver, Peter, was full of them. I also found reference to it on this blog site. One more mail drop at Allandale Station before we arrived in Oodnadatta in time for dinner.
It was just on dusk when we got there, had a break for about an hour, then did the last mail drop at Mount Barry Station before arriving back in Coober Pedy at 10.30 at night. The following photos (a mixture of both Margaret’s and mine) will give you an idea of the country we travelled through on this fabulous adventure – the Mail Run from Coober Pedy
Unfortunately we travelled through some of the most spectacular country, the Moon Plains and The Breakaways, in the dark but we did have a stop about 50kms out of Coober Pedy to look at the star filled night sky. The stars were so thick they looked like clouds – there’s nothing like a starry night in the desert!