Old Andado

Where: Old Andado Homestead, Northern Territory (Western end of the Simpson Desert)
Permits: None
Costs: $9 per person for camping plus an extra $2 to use the showers/toilets.
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult (planning is important when you come here. This is a remote country accessed via a corrugated and bull dust riddled gravel road which passes through Aboriginal Land. You need water, food and fuel and a well maintained vehicle).
Days required to do it justice: 1 or 2 days (you can even stay as a caretaker for a season).

If you’ve never heard the name Molly Clark before you’re missing out on an important part of Australian outback history and an inspiring tale of the female pioneering spirit. Molly lived on Old Andado Station nestled between two red sand dunes on the Western side of the Simpson desert from the mid 1950’s until before her recent death. She lived in an old white, corrugated iron house and lived a life touched by tragedy with the sudden deaths of her husband and her son. Despite these losses she continued living and working Old Andado, eventually turning it into a tourist venture following the forced culling of all her cattle in a Brucellosis & Tuberculosis scare.

Old Andado Homestead

Old Andado Homestead

Old Andado is a remote 330km drive from Alice Springs on the way to nowhere apart from the desert. Its dry country, so dry its hard to imagine running cattle here is even possible. The homestead itself is no ordinary tourist venture. Molly basically opened her house to tourists, initially by offering cups of tea to passing travellers as well as toilets and a place to camp. The home is now National Heritage listed and left as it was while she lived there. There are postcards stuck to the wall from her children and grandchildren, bills sitting on the desk and old tins of flour, sugar and salt sitting in wooden cupboards. There is almost a feeling of being watched as you wander through Molly’s timecapsule and as you open doors you half expect to see her there waiting for you. In the lounge area there is what I can only describe as an ‘old lady’ odour which reminds me of visiting my own grandmother’s house.

Old Andado nestled in the sand dunes

Old Andado nestled in the sand dunes

The stories from her days at Old Andado are intriguing. Apparently after moving here she asked her husband if he could at least create her a road so she could get to Alice Springs more easily. His reply? ‘There’s the machinery, make the road yourself’. And she did.  A station worker we met while staying there relayed the story of stopping by to check on Molly a few years ago. He couldn’t find her anywhere in the house and began to worry that she had taken ill or something was wrong. He then spotted a body lying under one of the wooden huts outside and was convinced she was dead. In fact she was fast asleep, lying on a thin piece of canvas in the dusty backyard as the intense desert heat made it too hot for her to be inside her non-air conditioned corrugated iron house.

And then there’s the story of our own friends who drove out here many years ago and were berated by Molly for not calling first as she needed a few things brought out from Alice Springs. There were no cups of tea offered until she’d calmed down the next morning.

Sand dunes at Old Andado

Sand dunes at Old Andado

We had Old Andado and the peace and quiet of the deep red sand dunes to ourselves as the caretakers had gone for the season. We left our $20 camping fee on the kitchen table in an old tea tin. The doors to the house are unlocked, there’s tea cups on the table waiting for visitors and there’s even instructions on how to operate the generator and operate the water pump if you need to. Its almost a home away from home for the weary traveller.

 

 

 

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