Damper and Black Tea – Andamooka Waterhole, Outback South Australia
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Damper and Black Tea – Andamooka Waterhole, Outback South Australia

In 1858, John Mcdouall Stuart, the great Australian inland explorer, accompanied by George Forster and an unnamed Aboriginal guide, camped at Andamooka Waterhole which in these days is on Andamooka Station in outback South Australia.

Andamooka Waterhole.

Andamooka Waterhole, my camping spot and the campsite of John McDouall Stuart and his men in 1858.

Andamooka Waterhole was my introduction to John McDouall Stuart, my adventure hero, you could say, so this camping spot of Stuart is special to me. Mr Stuart also regarded Andamooka Waterhole favorably, counting on it’s water as a fall back point in case of necessity.

It turns out that the Andamooka Waterhole is semi permenent, not permanent as Stuart had concluded.

Black tea, Andamooka Waterhole.

The billy boiled on the campfire and the tea brewed.

On my first visit to Andamooka Waterhole, I camped for just one night, photographing as the sun went down, setting up camp and getting a feed in the dark. Then mid morning, after photographing again, I headed back the way I’d come.

I was so disapointed to find Andamooka Waterhole dry, except for a bit of mud and some old cattle bones in the deepest part.

On my next trip, Andamooka Waterhole was full, or full enough, anyway. It was a quick visit for only half an hour or so, but I did have time to scoop up a few handfulls of water and found it to be good to drink.

This time I’m in no hurry and hope to stay a few days and if the sky clears up a bit I’d like to photograph around Andamooka Waterhole, the adjacent sand dune where I’m camped and Willaroo Lagoon, a couple of kilometres away.

So on arrival I got some water from Andamooka Waterhole, set up camp, got a fire going and made a cup of black tea, just as John McDouall Stuart and his men did all those years ago.

Black tea, Andamooka Waterhole.

Sipping my cup of black tea, made from Andamooka Waterhole water. A great accomplishment!

Then I had a shower, or the next best thing, in water from Andamooka Waterhole and washed my filthy clothes. That was the end of my 5 litres of Andamooka Waterhole water so I walked the 300 metres for another bottle to make a damper, just as Mr. Forster would have, and it turned out to be a pretty good damper at that!

Damper, Andamooka Waterhole.

Damper baked in the camp oven (dutch oven) at Andamooka Waterhole.

Here’s the recipe:


1 stainless steel panican of SR flour
2/3 panican water from Andamooka Waterhole
4 heapin’ big teaspoons of sugar
generous pinch of salt


Tip flour, salt, sugar into billy and mix with teaspoon
Add water and mix to a dough
On the breadboard, mix thoroughly and form into a ball
Place in the oiled camp oven and put the lid on
Level out the coals of the campfire a bit so there’s not too muck heat under the camp oven
Place the camp oven on the bed of coals and put a few coals on top, leaving to cook for twenty minutes
Remove the camp oven from the campfire and then remove the golden brown damper, cooked to perfection
Slice, butter and spread with plumb jam while still hot
Lick and wipe the butter and jam off your chin as you eat the best damper since John McDouall Stuart and his men camped at Andamooka Waterhole in 1858.

It may seem rather trivial to my reader but today I fulfilled one of my long time ambitions: to make a cuppa and damper as John McDouall Stuart and his men did, all those years ago at Andamooka Waterhole in 1858.

From the journal of John McDouall Stuart:

Monday, 21st June, Water Creek. Started at 9.30 a.m. on a course of 25 degrees. At a mile passed a small table-topped hill to the west of our line; at three miles and a half crossed the creek; at four miles passed another table-topped hill connected with the low range to the east, and passed the first ironstone hill; at seven miles changed to 55 degrees; at eight miles halted at a large permanent water hole (Andamoka). I can with safety say that this is permanent; it is a splendid water hole, nearly as large as the one at the mouth of the gorge in the John. The low range to the east of our course, and running nearly parallel with it, is composed of conglomerate, quartz, and a little ironstone. Part of to-day’s journey was over low undulating sandy and very well grassed country. There seems to have been a little rain here lately; the grass is springing beautifully. At eleven miles we came upon a salt lagoon (Wealaroo) two miles long by one broad. From the north end of it, on a bearing of 55 degrees, one mile and a half will strike Andamoka. I think we have now left the western sand hills behind us; and now that we have permanent water to fall back on, I shall strike into the north-west to-morrow. The distance travelled to-day was fifteen miles. The country around this water consists of bold stony rises and sand, with salt bush and grass; no timber except mulga and a few myall bushes in the creek. On an examination of the creek, we have found salt water above and below this hole. In one place above there are cakes of salt one inch and a half thick, a convincing proof that this is supplied by springs.

Tuesday, 22nd June, Andamoka. Started on a bearing of 342 degrees. At seven miles and a half, crossed a low stony range running east-north-east and west-south-west, which turned out to be table land, with sand hills crossing our line, bearing to a high range east of us 93 degrees 30 minutes. About eight miles in the same direction there is the appearance of a long salt lake. At nine miles and a half, on a sand hill, I obtained the following bearings: Mount North-west, 60 degrees 30 minutes; Mount Deception, 95 degrees. At eleven miles and a half passed a large reedy swamp on our left, dry. At seventeen miles sand hills ceased. At eighteen miles and a half the sand hills again commenced, and we changed our course to north for three miles. Camped for the night at a creek of permanent water, very good. The last four miles of to-day’s journey have been over very stony rises with salt bush and a little grass.

Andamooka Waterhole

Approaching sunset at Andamooka Waterhole, campsite of John McDouall Stuart in 1858 and Laurie McArthur in 2011.

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Posted in Outback on May 29th, 2011 by Laurie   

3 Responses

  1. Ashesh Bharadwaj
    May 29th, 2011 | 5:59 pm

    Congratulations Laurie for fulfilling your dream :)

  2. Caricature King
    May 29th, 2011 | 8:37 pm

    no remnants of Sturat’s camp? That would be amazing to find eh! May be an old tin, or piece of leather…

  3. Caricature King
    May 30th, 2011 | 7:36 pm

    PS – I was going to mention you are an ugly bugger!

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