Sept 24 – On our way to Adelaide

Coming West is a pretty uneventful trip. We left as scheduled, car all packed for our 2 week trip up to Alice Springs. I made a fritatta to eat on the road and we stopped a few times for a cup of tea and a bite. As expected, we had to stop at the border to dispose of any fruit or veg we were carrying so not to bring fruit flies into a new state. Leon commented that we can stop on the way back and pick a whole new assortment of veggies from the same bin. Yuck!

On the drive in to Adelaide, I noticed lots of bare hills that reminded me of coulies in Calgary. I was expecting a huge ocean view on the way down a very steep and long hill into the city, but no. It’s now Sunday morning and I have yet to see the ocean. We drove into the city, hoping to find the information centre and then get some tips on where to stay for the night. The centre was closed, but we did have a nice (cold) walk on Rundle Mall. As expected, the stores were closed by 5:30pm. Oh well.

We drove towards the area where we will pick up the campervan this morning and found a motel. From there, we walked 1km to a Chinese Vietnamese restaurant. The food was terrific and fresh! We had so much that we’ve brought home enough for dinner on Sunday night.

This morning, we are off to find the waterfront, get a cup of coffee/tea and then pick up our camper for the big trip up the guts!

September 26 – Driving in the Outback

I am sitting in the camper, on the side of the road, where we are stopped to let an airplane take off. It is the Royal Flying Doctors Service emergency runway as well as the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs. And they said there was nothing to see on this road!

Yesterday, we found the perfect cafe on the oceanfront, had a great breakfast of BLT and latte and went to pick up our campervan. From there, we bought a load of groceries and we were off to the next adventure. We travelled along the highway till we stopped in Snowtown. No snow in sight – it was named for the secretary of the Governor, George Snow. After a delish lunch of Turkish break, Moroccan salad and Mediterranean salad, we got back on the road to our final destination of Port Augusta. On the way, we saw the Flinders Ranges at a distance, which once again reminded us of the foothills near Calgary or some of the hills near Kelowna. We stayed in Port Augusta for the night. Our evening was very quiet with left over Chinese food and lots of reading for our studies. 

Today, so far, we have travelled about 500km north past the town of Woomera, the former site of Australia’s missile launching program. On the roadside, we’ve seen plenty of dead cows, sheep, roos and possibly an emu. We’ve seen 2 live lizards and something very odd – melons growing on the side of the road! There are lots of lakes but they are all salt beds.

September 27- Coober Pedy

Once you get past the Flinders Ranges, you start to see the real desert. Coober Pedy (means white man with head in hole) is an Opal mining town where 80% of the population lives underground. As you approach the area, you see mounds of white dirt that are actually debris that is dug out of the opal mines. People started living in the dug out caves/mines years ago. It’s cooler, economical and makes sense in this hot, arid area. Today, it’s almost 40C. That’s 100F for you non metric people. It’s hot, dry, windy and there is a thunderstorm brewing. No rain, just lightning, thunder and lots of dust blowing up.

We saw quite a few things during the day – Faye’s underground home (she dug it out with 2 other women in the 60’s), Josephine’s gallery and kangaroo orphanage (where we saw the cutest joeys being fed with bottles and all), the Big Winch lookout (where we met the proverbial Chinese miner/salesman), the Old Timers’ Mine (long, interesting self-tour) and the Desert Cave hotel (where we had a drink in an underground bar).

We got back to the camper around dinner time, managed to cook a really good meal of Thai noodles with chicken, meet some nice young guys from Yarra Valley who want to be cowboys someday, and have a nice evening in spite of the wind and dust. We went to bed tired but I couldn’t get to sleep because there was an army of mozzies just waiting to attack me. After 30 min with the lights off, Leon was snoring softly and I was lying at attention, waiting for the mozzies to buzz my ear and strike. At one point, I had the lights on and started swatting them with my t-shirt. It was quite the image, believe me. I finally managed to get to sleep after a few hours. The temperature had gone down somewhat and I actually woke up at some point and needed the doona.

September 28 – On the road to Uluru

We left Coober Pedy behind after a good breakfast and a nice shower. A bit of grocery shopping (don`t forget the water) and we were off through the desert again. We never did manage to see the dog fence (5300 km of fencing to keep the dingos away from the sheep – longer than the Great Wall of China), but we needed to get away from this dry town to the next adventure. The day was rather uneventful, but I did drive the camper for a few kilometres. So I can tick driving in the Outback off my bucket list. It’s actually quite nice to drive, except for the wind gusts. On the way, we saw lots of lizards, a few good sized snakes and more melons. Our buddies the wannabe cowboys kept running into us, so we’d say hello. And I bought an Eagles Greatest Hits cd to fit in with the ambiance of the day.

As we left South Australia and travelled into Northern Territory (singing along to Don Henley and Glen Frey), the landscape started to get greener and greener. And then the wind came up and we were in a full blown sand storm. Apparently this happens rarely. We took a few pictures of Mt. Connor to show how that looks.

Tonight we are a few kilometres from Uluru (Ayers’ Rock) at a place called Curtin Springs. It’s a big roadhouse with a restaurant, cabins that are really metal portable buildings, aviaries with a couple of emus (Leon still hasn’t seen a live one other than these 2) and free camping (sort of). The internet connection is the fastest we’ve had in days, so it’s a good time to load up this blog post.

Because of the wind and the sand blowing, we decided to eat dinner at the restaurant, rather than bbq. We shared a table with another couple who happened to be from France. She didn’t speak English, he spoke about as much as Leon speaks French. We had a decent dinner with lots of fun conversation. Me speaking in French, trying to give Leon a few words here and there, them trying to carry on the conversation and trying to give Leon a few words in English here and there.

 One of the workers came up to ask if we needed anything and I asked where her accent was from. It turns out she came from Krk in Croatia. I’ve been there, I shouted!! Her husband and her have built an airplane and they travel all over Australia and work 6 months, then travel for 2 months. Then I had to leave the table for a moment, so the French lady started talking to the Croatian lady and they figured out that the French lady’s mother was from Croatia and they might have common heritage. It was such a global conversation where the whole world is a very small place indeed.

So, we are off to see that big rock tomorrow. Time for sleeping and I am hoping there will be no mozzies in the house tonight!

melons on side of the road
Tennyson beach, Adelaide
Tennyson beach
Tennyson beach
Flinders ranges
lipstick rocket at Woomera
one of the many salt lakes on the way
rfds taking off from the highway
road sign
sunset in Coober Pedy
having a beer in the underground bar at Coober Pedy
old timer's mine
Faye's house fully underground
underground kitchen in the mine
another Canadian exchange teacher at the mine