Travelling Australia - Journal 2009
11 June 2009 - Cadney Park - Painted Desert - return (not towing)
A cold night followed by a bright and sunny morning. Today we planned to leave the van at Cadney Park and drive about 90 kilometres to the Painted Desert near Arckaringa

The road to the Painted Desert turns off the Stuart Highway a few kilometres south of Cadney Park (which portrays itself as 'Gateway to the Painted Desert' but with very little information available). The Hema Desert Roads map showed a road to Oodnadatta via Arckaringa from this intersection and that fitted with information available at Cadney.

Road quality varied from a very good gravel road to corrugated patches and some rougher sections where the road runs through very stony areas. The road had been graded fairly recently. There were a few puddles of water or mud remaining, apparently after rain in the past week or so, and one or two sections had been too wet to grade. Red flags beside the road marking these rough sections were more effective in attracting attention than any standard black and yellow road sign.

Initially the terrain was very flat and stony or scrubby with larger shrubs and trees in the dry watercourses. As we progressed towards Arckaringa we began to pass rock outcrops and low mesas. When we crossed areas of stones (mostly small boulders up to 30 cm across) lying so thickly on the ground that it was not possible to walk between them, the road was rough because of stones left in the surface; this type of surface was best negotiated by slowing down unlike corrugations which are best negotiated by keeping the speed up so the tyres skip across the tops of the corrugations. At one stage we caught up with a cow and calf walking along the road because that was the most comfortable way of getting around - she wasn't going to get out of our way if that meant walking on the stones although she was not happy with the Pathfinder about a metre behind her. Then a caravan came along the road from the other direction and that was too much for her; she left the road to walk over stones. We saw many cattle tracks on the road around here where they had used the road as a convenient way of moving around; much easier than walking on the large stones.
Dirt Road Dirt road from Cadney to Arckaringa.

Cattle Cattle are pastured on this marginal land well outside the dingo fence. This cow is walking on a field of stones and small boulders; she had been walking along the road until a vehicle in each direction prompted her to scramble off the road onto the rocks.

As we passed the turnoff to Arckaringa Homestead (camping and cabins available) we saw a rough sign giving distances to lookout and walking track. This was the first indication we had of what could be seen - more information needs to be available if the Painted Desert is to become better known.

We drove to the main lookout (Mount Batterbee lookout) and stopped in the biting cold wind. The view was spectacular with a range of coloured clays and rock to be seen and photographed. We returned to the turn-off to the walking track where we had lunch and took more photographs of the coloured hills.

Confusion of the names Painted Desert and Painted Hills readily arises. The term Painted Desert has been applied to the coloured hills near Arckaringa which we visited today, while the term Painted Hills, which seems appropriate at Arckaringa, has already been applied to similar coloured hills in the Woomera Prohibited Area and accessible only by aircraft.

Next we drove back to Cadney with several stops for photographs along the way well satisfied with what we had seen and the performance of the Pathfinder. As with anywhere in this region, access is entirely dependant on the weather. We crossed many dry creek-beds and large areas of soil roads which would turn to glue after rain.

In the evening we went to dinner in the roadhouse before returning to the caravan for the evening.
daily map