Following the Old Ghan Railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs takes travellers deep into the Red Centre.

Story By Nathan Dyer

A grey sky hangs low over Oodnadatta’s Pink Roadhouse and the front doors swing incessantly as travellers come and go. A ‘Position Vacant’ sign painted permanently on the pink facade hints at the town’s transient nature: “Tradesmen almost always wanted. Apply within. Accomm supplied.”
Inside, a haggle of travellers make plans over hamburgers and meat pies. While most headed north will veer west to Marla, 200 kilometres away, and take the sealed Stuart Highway to Alice Springs, the more adventurous will continue in the shadow of the Old Ghan Railway, a rugged journey across 530km of unsealed track snaking north-west to the Alice via the remote Aboriginal community of Apatula (Finke).
For those taking the road less travelled, the Pink Roadhouse – made famous by its iconic paint job, the brainchild of former owners Adam Plate, who tragically died in a car accident in 2012, and wife Lynnie – is the last fuel stop for 300km. An official-looking sign outside warns of the dangers ahead: allow for six litres of water per person per day and take 3-4 days’ reserve; medical assistance can be days away; and plan for double normal fuel consumption.
Leaning on his blue Suzuki DR650 parked out front, Tim Parsons looks like a man without a care in the world. En route from the Flinders Ranges to Alice, via the Old Ghan, the Sydney pilot is a long way from home, and loving it. “I’ve got no timetable, so I just do as I want,” says Tim, hooking his helmet over the handlebars. “You forget just how big the country is out here.” Tim says getting off the beaten track is when the real journey begins. “The isolation adds to the adventure,” he says.

This Story is from Issue #103

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2015