If you consider the fact that Australia is of a size with both Europe and America, it’s probably not that difficult to imagine that among its forests, mountains and deserts there will be a plethora of rare and unique landscapes. On a trip north towards Alice Springs we stopped off at one such location; an expansive salt flat just metres away from the Ghan railway track. If you didn’t know better you could easily mistake it for a giant lake, or even a sea front.
This picture gives you a pretty good idea of how it looks. To me at least, it looks like most of the horizon is beyond a body of water. This is the opposite side of the tracks to the salt flat I’m talking about though. More of a way for me to give you an impression of what the place itself is like. You should excuse the terrible state of the fencing, obviously someone has been neglecting it lately! Like seriously, that isn’t keeping anything out.
It’s a short drive (like 5 minutes, if that) offroading from the Stuart Highway to get to the railway tracks themselves. The best part about being in the middle of nowhere, where everything is so ridiculously flat that you can see for miles, is that you can see whether or not any trains are hurtling towards you. That means that you get a rare situation where you can quite safely walk across the tracks; not something you can really get away with when you’re in the city or more urban areas.
In the above picture, the Highway (obviously, I guess) is over the ridge to the right. The salt flat being on the left, and the tracks themselves curving around the edge of the salt flats. You can actually see for miles down the track, despite the shrubberies sprouting up left right and centre.
Standing up for a change, and suddenly you can see right the way around the edge of the “lake” or whatever you want to call it. Considering we’re in the middle of the outback the scenery is much greener than you’d expect.
The most fascinating thing about this place is the flats themselves. It’s not very often you come across water in the outback, especially such a huge puddle of it. The thing about the salt flats, although they don’t look like it, they’re actually only a couple of inches deep. As far as I’m aware (I didn’t test this, it’s a bloody long way out and the sun reflecting from the surface of the water can be blinding) you can walk all the way out into the flats and still only be a couple of inches deep. Sort of like a shallow sand bar, only inland, and way cooler.
Told you the sun reflecting is pretty blinding. The water is almost perfectly clear here too. The problem is that with the light hitting the surface it makes it more difficult to see. That is, unless you look at it from a decent enough angle to take a picture of the bottom. Granted, looking down through water gives you very little idea of how deep it is, but trust me on this one, kay?
For some reason, there are actually “waves” here. (Secret: it’s the wind) The thing is that because of the high salt content, instead of having your usual clear waves crashing in as you would on a lake, you end up with this funky frothy substance. It feels as gross as it looks. Luckily there isn’t much of it and you can just casually jump over it. Again, you’re not really going to get wet or make a huge splash in a couple of inches of water, are you.
While we’re on the subject though, I’ll throw in a tip for free. Don’t bother trying to catch any fish in this place, you’ll be seriously wasting your time.