Oodnadatta Track Solo on XR400r

by Andrew Strickland
(Adelaide, Australia)

On the way to Roxby Downs where I left the car

On the way to Roxby Downs where I left the car

Outback SA, June 2009
My 1570 km gravel surf on a 1998 XR400 (gearing 15/42, 14.4 lt tank, saddle bags and a tunnel bag + 5 lt spare fuel on board) from Roxby Downs and back via William Creek, Oodnadatta, Painted Desert, Coober Pedy.

Here are a few tips that I picked up along the way that you may know (or not) plus fuel mileages that might be handy. Note distances are off my speedo.

30 May 09
Driving to Roxby Downs. Stop over at Pt. Augusta. Flinders Hotel in Commercial St. Good food and basic room with bathroom, fridge, kettle and TV for $55.

Wadlata Outback Centre in Pt Augusta is a must do. Allow an hour minimum. http://www.wadlata.sa.gov.au/
Left the car in Roxby, so it's just me and the XR and whatever I can carry.

1 June
Depart Roxby on the XR400, odometer reading 13419
Arrive Coward Springs, odo 13613 (194kms)
Conditions dry.
The Borefield Road from Olympic Dam to Oodnadatta track is good. First 60 km is gravelly, the rest is mainly clay. Would be messy in the wet and they close it at the sniff of rain.

Plenty of things to see on the way so get a Oodnadatta Track book. Stop off at Curdimurka Siding on the way. Good bit of history plus would be fine for camping. No facilities but the old railway building is open with fire places if you don't muck it up. Leave a donation.

Coward Springs camp ground is great. May have rain water but best to assume not. Plenty of bore water for washing, but you can't drink it. Toilets and shower on site but you have to stoke a fire for the water heater. Collect fire wood on the way as there is none there.

Self check in for about $10 pp. History on site of a bubbling artesian bore and renovated Ghan Railway cottage. Also camel safaris but you need to arrange that. http://www.cowardsprings.com.au/

TIP: Chain lube makes for a great aid as a camp fire starter!

2 June
Arrive William Creek, odo 13687 (268kms from Roxby)
Conditions dry and calm.
FUEL 13.6 litres sitting on 100kph most of the time.
William Creek Hotel has food and toilets, repairs and spares. Millions of flies. Take food or forget about cheap meals. Hamburger is $10. Everything is bloody dear. No fresh water. Campground has unpowered sites for $8/night PP. Dongers available but not when the grey nomads are flocking. Plenty of traffic as people stop over for the night.

Flights over Lake Eyre can be organised at nearby Wrightsair. Worth doing but only the hour flight. I did 2 hours and it was a bit of a drag.

Painted Hills nearby over Anna Creek Station is probably a better view than Lake Eyre but that's my opinion. (http://www.wrightsair.com.au/lake.htm)

TIP: Get a fly net, don't ask why, just do it. They are relentless and beating off with a stick won't work!

4 June
William Creek to Lake Eyre (Halligan Bay & ABC Bay) 142kms return, 7 litres of fuel (no luggage).
Rough road, lots of corrugations, some sand and mud and all of the above combined in places but can go around if it is too messy, unless it's wet. Don't try in poor weather. Needed to sit on 80kph where possible but conditions would change frequently. Plenty of sandhills and play around space off the side of the road for fun.

Toilets and shelter at Halligan Bay but no other facilities. Camping o/night allowed. All vehicles self check in for a desert parks pass. M/bikes $8

5 June
Depart William Creek, odo 13963
Arrive Oodnadatta, odo 14170 (207kms)
Conditions dry and MAJOR headwind.
FUEL 13.4 litres sitting on 90-110kph

TIP: Know where the fuel tap is or switch over long before the waterhole! :-)

First impression of Oodnadatta is "what a dump". Way too many drop in tourists at the Pink Roadhouse. Staff are friendly but just process you. It is the better choice for food though, nothing gourmet but fine and comfortable.

Go have a beer in the Transcontinental Pub. The local Aboriginal people there are pretty cool if you treat them with a bit of respect. A few hard cases but I liked them. I went up there a few times and got some good stories. There is an excellent local history museum across the road. Grab the key from the pub or the roadhouse. No charge but leave a donation.

Accommodation at the road house is at the rear campground. Dongers available. Not totally cheap at $50/night. No fresh water but plenty of bore water.

TIP: Don't by fuel at the Pink Roadhouse. Head 100 metres up the road to the pumps near the Transcontinental Hotel. Was 6c/l cheaper. Pay in the General Store.

The track from William Creek to Oodnadatta is pretty good. A few drains/floodways with mud etc. Check them First. Neales River had about 400 mm in it. My fuel consumption was pretty poor but the wind was strong and I pushed along staying over 90kph. The bike was pinging a bit probably due to the tall gearing into the headwind on 91 octane. The XR has an HRC kit with an 11:1 piston and likes PULP.

TIP: No mobile phone coverage so take a SatPhone, EBIRP or a 5 watt UHF radio. There are repeaters all the way up the track!

Oodnadatta and William Creek have phonecard only operated public phones. Oodnadatta Roadhouse has "coalfired" internet access for $2 for 15 mins but it took that long to load up and send one email. Bit like cooeeing across the hills really.

6 June
Arckaringa Hills lookout (Painted Desert area) 163kms return.
Headwind one way.
FUEL 8.7 litres. Sat on 100 kph+. No pinging today but no baggage either. Well worth the look out there. Fabulous scenery. Get off the bike and go for a walk.

Road eventually goes to Cadney Roadhouse so could make that day trip. Cadney RH is on the Stuart Hwy to Alice. Has motel accommodation or free camping. Great meals/bar.

TIP: Windy conditions - it's a bit hard to feel the wind direction when you stop in all the bike gear. Best to work this out before you have a piss! :-)

7 June
Depart Oodnadatta, odo 14350
Arrive Coober Pedy, odo 14545 (195kms)
Conditions dry and windy.
FUEL 12 litres sitting on 90-100kph

TIP: Leave the MX helmet at home. Take a full face. The wind is fierce and catches the visa like a windsock. Is a killer on my neck now!

Kemp Road to Coober Pedy is a no brainer. Watch for Lollipop Lane and the Moon Plain otherwise it's transport.

TIP: Get a 10 litre water cask! Throw away the box and drain as much as often as you can into your hydrapack. The remaining bladder will fall really easily into luggage or under a few Okkystraps.

Best value accommodation at Coober Pedy is probably Radeka's. $65 basic room or dorms for $25. Facilities there are good. Community kitchen, TV room, bar, internet, telephones and mobile coverage. Plenty to see in the town. http://www.radekadownunder.com.au/
I had a nice meal at the Desert Cave. Very civilised!

8 June
Depart Coober Pedy, odo 14555
Arrive William Creek, odo 14724 (169kms)
Conditions beauuudiful.
FUEL 8 litres sitting on 100-120kph
Coober Pedy to William Creek road was like a super highway. It's sandy but lots of drains/floodways so should be ok in the not too wet. Bike now fuelled up on PULP and loves it... :-)

Heading for home now. Getting homesick. Fuelled up at William Creek and set of 75kms to Coward Springs. Stayed overnight. In the morning headed for the Borefield Road with a little detour via the Mounds Springs and Bubbler natural artesian springs near Coward Springs.

Turning right onto the Borefield road I hit stronger than ever head winds. Was worried about the fuel as the stretch from William Creek to Roxby is about the range of the Clarke 14 litre tank on a good day.

Coward Springs is 189 km from Roxby. I poured in the 5 litres I was carrying as back up and sat on 80kph with my head down. Not a lot of room on the XR with luggage so this was pretty uncomfortable. I was on a mission though. Been away from my lovely lady for way too long and had her warm cuddles well in mind for a few days now. So the head was down and bum up and throttle on...

Arrived at Olympic Dam (just out of Roxby Downs) with 4 litres to spare. NO worries. 9.8 litres used from Coward Springs (189kms). Odometer showing 14989.

Total run 1570kms.

Lots of tourists looking at the Lake and the Finke races were on, too, so plenty of fellow bikers. Only tragedy I had was a lost barkbuster. Oh, and watching 3 KTM's jockeys attempting roadside repairs. Two 990's with leaking base gaskets (common apparently) and another with a snapped sub frame... nasty. GO RED!!!!! :-)

More pics here.


Comments for Oodnadatta Track Solo on XR400r

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Oodnadatta Track Solo
by: Birgit

Hi Andrew,

An epic journey and an epic submission! I loved especially the many tips :-).

I think many fellow bikers will appreciate all the info as well. Thanks for writing it all up.
Sounds like things down there are still much the same since I last visited a few years back.

As you can see, I made your photo link live.
I was wondering, would you mind adding some of your pics directly to the page? If that's fine with you, just let me know which, and I can add them for you.

by: Andrew

Yep...add the pics you like...go for it!

Oodnadatta Track Pictures
by: Birgit

Done :-)
Thanks again!

Did this and more drought 2007 and again 2010
by: Drew and Gillian Pirie

Love this area. Maybe some would add these sections in as well.

Go from Roxby to Andamoolka Opal Fields, a wild developing town. Enquire at Police Station for Farina Track/Torrens Track/Drews Track directions. We did leave Maps and Photos there some years ago. Go up past old aerodrome and rough 4 Wd track sign says Farina on a piece of tin. Track goes around Lake Torrens to old ghost town ruins of Farina (then down via Leigh Creek etc). Go via many red sand dunes, then Salt Lakes, Lake Torrens rough 4WD climb to top of Mesa with great views, then Stuart Opal Fields worth a walk around. No one there.

Come back to main track, signs only old pieces of tin and often hard to find and track very rough, washed out, or sandy. Go past edge of Lake, then into Shell Fossil fields half a km up the Lake edge to right and up on top of limestone ridge, back to main track past rock outcrops like Devils Marbles (we named them Koala Rocks cause some look like Koalas) along old Dingo Fence, gibber plains, cross springs and Salt Lake (only if dry) then to Mulgaria Station, and then better road past Witchelina Station to Farina ruins on main road. (Good camp ground there on creek). Only one family lives there but its an old Ghan Ghost town with many stone and mud ruins, old Ghan tracks and bridge, well worth a look.

This Drews Torrens Track is a great 4WD track, can be done in a long day but better to bush camp half way.

Coward Springs Spa well worth a dip. Great wetland all around it worth a walk to see birdlife and springs. Steel BBQs and private bushy campsites.

Did William Creek to Lake Eyre 3 days after 17mm rain. First in and just made it. 60km took 3 hours!! Track is narrow and low so fills with water. Had to drive around in sand-hills, and Gibber Plains areas often half km off track to get through. Small creeks get wide and have sandy bottoms so get very boggy. Take bog mats. Lake Eyre had huge numbers of small silver fish and grasshoppers around water edge like surf tide effect. That's where future fossils come from.

Lake; went in and out with wind direction. Lake Eyre best views on Oodnadatta Track is not at the Lake Eyre Lookout signs south of Coward Springs, but about several km south of the lookout on the main road you can drive in about 1 to 2km east flat going and come onto the edge of the escarpments looking down over the lake.

Painted Desert at Arckaringa Hills is a must and many people don't know about the Breakaways, an area about 20km north of Coober Pedy on tar highway, (sign to right east). A narrow gravelly and sandy track which goes right through Painted Desert like scenery and you drive up onto mesas and colored hills close up, with track winding along valley floor between them. It's great near sunset or sunrise. Then follow the old dingo fence out in the middle of a desert plain flats for miles, out to William Creek to Coober Pedy road then about 10km back into Coober Pedy.

by: Andrew

Just been through a few places in the 4WD with the Wife and my kid. Cowasrd Springs is still the same. Oodna General Store, now close (went broke) so I only noticed fuel availability at Pink Roadhouse.

I came down from Alice via Finke, Mt Dare, Dalhousie, Hamilton and Oodna.

Took a second exit to Dalhousie, 30k from Mt Dare (by advice) apparently better than first choice 10k out of Mt Dare. Jeez is a rough rocky road though. Managed OK in a Delica with a camper trailer.

Hamilton to Oodna is good right now. Borefield Rd is real good! Oodna track is the same.

by: Pierre


I just returned from a trip in the same area with my Varadero. Though I didn't find the part between William Creek and Oodnadatta that easy, but I guess it depends of the bike too!

You can check my pictures and website at: http://web.me.com/pgruwez/Oodnadatta_track_and_The_Red_Center/Welcome.html

I welcome your comments too!


Go Pierre
by: Anonymous


That's a big trip..It's good eh! Well done on that kinda bike.. Yeah I guess the Anna Ck road would be nasty on something heavy..It's quite sandy.... Great photos...I'm itching now to head back.. Bought an XTz1200 since...

Not So Bad
by: Russell Smith

Mate thank you for your informative notes and pics, I used them as a basis for my trip up the Oodnadatta, Borefield and Birdsville tracks. Your conclusions hold up even fast forwarding to 2012.

I found the tracks easy to traverse even on my 2002 model Triumph Tiger (250 kegs with fuel). The bike gets a bit squirrely out of the wheel tracks but keeps the weight back, keep it nailed and you’re fine.

Additional notes: The track into the Coopers ferry has moderately deep sand sections. Challenging on my bike, would be a doddle on a one lunger like an XR.

The Marree servo closes the bowsers at 1800 to service their dinner clientelle. I would have been stranded for the night without a helpful local.

Get out there and enjoy!

by: Andydownunder

Thanks Russell. Is good to put a bit back into the web... Love the Triumphs. Awesome bike! Bought me a 1200 Tenre last year. A bit big but good. Happy trails!

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