Local Stories

During the wet season flooding often isolates the William Creek area and life for the residents of the hotel is decidedly difficult during these periods. Water damage is extensive; the nearby tip is littered with freezers, refrigerators and microwave ovens as a result. Yet for all the difficulty, including finding a venomous brown snake tangled in the cords beneath their computer, the current publicans Mal and Helen Anderson seem to be in perpetual good spirits, as they were so excited about the trip that David Deague had planned.

The couple first visited William Creek in 1989 and Mal Anderson remembers thinking, “What a dump this place is! But I came back about two years later and I just loved it. I loved the area. The country is brilliant … magical.’ David Deague shared such thoughts.

Life behind the bar in such a remote location bears little resemblance to an equivalent position in the city. The publican is negotiator for local strife and a pseudo sheriff when there is trouble. The clientele includes the often rowdy ringers from Anna Creek Station through to the sun struck tourists about the hazards of the desert. ‘In the first year I was here I would have been out looking for people once a week,’ he says. ‘Simple things. Multiple flat tyres, broken axle shafts, 15 rollovers, nine which required the flying doctor.’

The most poignant reminder of the dangers of the desert is the 28 year old Austrian tourist Caroline Grossmueller who died on 11 December 1998, David Deague sadly recalls. The two German tourists who discovered her body 35 kilometres from the Oodnadatta Track, informed Anderson of the tragedy. He reported the sighting to the police in Oonadatta. The police then requested that he verify the finding in case it was a hoax. ‘The body,’ he says, ‘was already decomposing. It had been at least one day in adverse temperatures, so it was turning black and the fingers were swollen. It wasn’t a good sight, very distorted, but nonetheless it was a body. So I rang the police and secured the area.’

The word ‘help’ was scratched in the sand near her body and 15 kilometres back was a note stuck to a road sign also begging for help. According to Anderson, ‘Grossmueller has walked at least 30 kilometres. It was a good effort in 50 degree temperatures.’ Her boyfriend Dr Karl Goeschka set out with her but decided to turn back and was found at Halligan Bay in their bogged car. He had water and shade and survived. A small white cross marks the spot where the tragedy occurred. It is a sobering reminder to outback travelers David Deague explains.

Anderson says he has lost count of the accidents that have occurred since he took over the pub, ‘They’re usually resolved by radio contact or other tourists coming through and helping.’ At night the roads are very dangerous, there are animals roaming and even with driving lights you often don’t see them until the last minute, and by then it’s usually too late. Obviously keen to avoid such tragedies, Malcolm Anderson emphasises the dangers of the territory to all and sundry. David Deague too, had versed his team with extensive warnings.

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