Australia | South Australian Outback (Marree)
During our 12 months down under we managed to bag ourselves what would turn out to be probably the best experience out of the lot. After our farm job finished, we resorted back to Gumtree to find a new one. Jenny came across an Ad requesting two workers in a place called Marree to work so, desperate, we applied and soon after received a call. We got it! Great… now, where is Marree?!
It turned out to be in the South Australian Outback, about an 11 hour bus north of Adelaide. Marree has a population of about 60, making it one of the smallest towns in Australia so is super remote. For perspective, it was a 200km drive to the supermarket in Roxby and 200km back.
Marree marks the start of the two world famous tracks; The Oodnadatta track and The Birdsville Track. It is therefore very popular with tour groups who travel by coach to see Lake Eyre etc.
Our soon-to-be boss called Maz was almost too kind to us, and started by paying for our bus from Adelaide to Marree. After we were picked up by her husband, Phil (in the real stunt vehicle used in the making of “The Rover”, starring Robert Pattison and Guy Pearce) we began work the following day.
It was then that we found out that The Marree hotel features in The Inbetweeners 2 movie briefly and Phill (owner) actually featured in the official teaser for the movie as well. We also found out that Maz and Phil had been to our home-town in Scotland the previous year and showed us a photo of them in one of the restaurants – small world!
Maz and Phil truly went out of their way to make all of the staff feel at ease and that they were part of the family. Throughout our stay staff were allowed access to 2 cars on our days off; a mitsubishi challenger and the stunt vehicle from the movie “The Rover” who’s nickname was “Rover” for obvious reasons.
I could write about 10 pages on Marree, so I’m going to try and keep it concise in what we actually did during these 4 months below.
I worked in the kitchen with Joe while Jenny was a waitress and housekeeper. We both earned a very generous salary and got 1 day off a week to explore the area as well as a 4hr break between services each day.
The Locals of Marree
The locals really do make this wee town so likeable. Consisting of 1/3 aboriginal, 1/3 afghan and 1/3 whites, it is truly diverse. If you were to just stop for the night and carry on your journey the next day you really wouldn’t have any idea what it’s like. After 4 months we knew each local by name and they knew us. For such a small and close community they are so welcoming to anybody whether it be workers at the hotel or just to people who are passing through.
Some that spring to mind are Fab, Ian, Palo, Max and Bobbie. Absolute legends. A few of the locals, like Max (about 70 years old), have actually never left Marree. He’s never seen the sea and never seen snow but is still extremely content with his life.
On weekends and when big events are on TV, all of the local cattle stations come to the pub to party and it is such a good time interacting with real-life cowboys. Some things they say can be questionable, but it’s just harmless banter. Aussie humour is just a lot different to what most people are used to, especially in the outback.
Attractions in the area
Lake Eyre: the lowest natural point in Australia. A large salt lake that, on the rare occasion that it is filled with water, is the largest lake in Australia. Viewed from above it appears pink and there are many viewpoints around its edge
Coward springs: natural hot tub
Alberrie Creek Sculpture Park: weird and wacky inventions at the side of the Oodnadatta track mostly created with scrap metal
The Marree Man: a 4km in height, 28km in circumference geoglyph. It is the 2nd largest geoglyph in the world and is imbedded into the hillside which can be viewed by scenic flight. Nobody knows who originally made it.
Scenic flights: from Marree or William Creek to see Lake Eyre’s pink surface, the Marree Man from above and the Painted Desert
Farina Fuins: ruined town about 30 mins south of Marree featuring a bakery at some times of the year
Tom Kruse museum: museum of the legendary outback postman who delivered mail for an area of over 500km before there was even any roads. Located in The Marree Hotel.
Marree Yacht club: information and booking centre about the area and the possibility of sailing around the South Australian Outback
Hot Tub at Clayton station: an old water tank used to pump hot water into on demand
Every Friday the pub fills with people from all around for the famous darts night. Pretty much it’s just an excuse for everyone to get pissed but it’s always a great time. These are always the latest and most rowdy nights.
The lifestyle out there is different. Certain laws that are enforced across Australia and the whole world for that matter, don’t really seem to have a place in such a remote town. For example, some of the “local” stations drive for around 2 hours to come to darts night or any other event. So, how do you expect them to get home – taxi? Nah, they drive.
These people who can’t walk somehow have been granted the ability to drive home on empty outback roads in the early hours of the morning with the risk of cows, kangaroos and emus very high.. It’s just what they do. There was one local police officer who tried to enforce the obvious law but I don’t think she really succeeds.
Every weekend there will be someone dancing on the bar or sometimes you’ll go to the bar in the morning and there will be a t-shirt or other item of clothing on the cows head on the wall. All of this happens with Phil and Maz’s full attention and they’ll probably be the first ones to get their phones out and video it!
Finally, we were given 1 day off a week which was plenty. We would “nip to the shop” in Roxby Downs for snacks which was 200km away, explore Lake Eyre or just chill in our room watching movies.
One time Maz actually got us booked on a scenic flight over Lake Eyre and the Painted Desert, including a 1 night stay at the William Creek hotel, all paid for by her. Another act of pure kindness and generosity that I’ve never experienced in a boss before!
In summary, it was a job like no other. It was such an awesome experience that i’ll never forget. We returned a couple months later with Jenny’s parents, who came to visit us, before we left the country but we’ll still definitely be back! I would recommend working in a remote outback area to anyone, it’s the perfect way to experience “the real Australia”.