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Published: February 8th 2009
Spectacular Sunrise over Flinders drive in the all day sun, so the saying goes!
how could it not be worth getting up at 5am? Flinders Ranges, Wilpena Pound
The road trip so far................
as we said in the last blog, due to the warmish weather, topping 45.7 degrees, sightseeing around Adelaide was reduced to the campsite pool and shopping for trip necessities. Sleeping in the tent for those few degrees lower rather than sleeping in Pris, the slightly less than hot breeze that flowed every hour or so hitting your sweaty skin was like winning the lottery.
On a stock up shopping trip, we had to stop for shade in an air conditioned café for a cold drink and sandwich. We were served by a South London chap who sold up and moved to Adelaide seven years ago and bought a café and hasn't looked back since, he recognized Rob's London twang and gave us free chips!
We must have nice faces as a very nice young German couple who were getting ready to return home kindly offered up their leftovers; coffee, food, gas lamp and a cuddly toy all very useful stuff to add to our already useful stuff.
The Driving Heat
It's hard to explain how hot this heat is, even in
Even in this heat
the shade you are reduced to a melting mess, sweat pouring out of your sweat. It starts to get hot as soon as the sun pokes its head above surface and stays hot until the sun pokes its head up again, it's like a recurring nightmare. Everyday has been no lower than 43 degrees!
Driving in this heat is like you are in a slow roasting oven, the air con doesn't work properly because it's too hot, the wind rushing through the windows is like a super powdered, extra hot Nicky Clarke promoted hairdryer on max setting; when putting your clothes on in the morning it's as though they have all been freshly ironed which on top of a sweaty body is not the cooling effect one would hope for. No wonder it's only the Europeans traveling around in the Outback this time of year, the Ozzies know better!
With the ever increasing temperatures some serious consideration was given to changing our route to stay by the coast instead and head to the Outback at a later date but as the coast did not seem at all cool we decided to stick to plan A; how much hotter could
Followed the main road from Adelaide finding a great roadside cafe with the best coffee before diverting off towards Wilpena Pound through open plains and then into gorges with the Flinders mountains coming into sight in the distance providing a beautiful rugged backdrop. We had a two night stay at Wilpena which following the end of the holiday season was practically empty; their were more roo's than you could shake a roo finding stick at. Some were a little too keen to join us for dinner in the evenings, dinner being of the non-cooked variety due to a total fire ban. It becomes increasingly difficult to be inventive when you have all tinned or packet items, nothing fresh keeps especially when you don't have a fridge. Rob came up with the ingenious gourmet feast of bean fajitas which consisted of a tin of mixed beans (crushed) mixed with some tomato pasta sauce and topped with avocado dip (fresh from the site shop) and wrapped in tortillas - yum!! The caffeine deficiency was becoming more of an issue in the mornings - wot no coffee? In the heat maybe it was for the best. The young roo
A single plant life
growing even where it does not seem possible
seemed to like the idea of the wraps too, so much so that we had to leave the dining area (2 x camp chairs & two beers) after our efforts at shooing him away failed; when he then attempted to get into our tent that was the final straw! As in we bravely waited for him to get bored and b*gger off.
Wilpena Pound is a huge basin formed by the erosion of a mountain, we headed for a walk to the viewing area at 6.00am in an attempt to beat the heat, this meant that we were lucky enough to see loads more roo's and wallabies at their most active, the views were spectacular looking over the Pound, heading down we spotted Emus and then unexpectedly a troop of Wild Goats. On returning back to camp we heard, what we think were calls for HELP
, we shouted back and there were more pleas for HELP
, we rushed back as quick as the heat would allow us, we waved the tour bus heading the opposite direction and told the driver of the cries for help but was told “it was probably goats you could hear, we get this all
Eat my dust
Pris in the evening sun
the time” but said he would check it out, unhappy with his laid back response we continued back to reception and told yet another person of the cries for help and yet again told it was most likely goats, it's hard to know what to do, we hope we did the right thing but on the other hand we didn't want twenty helicopters flying out to rescue a goat!
On our final morning at the Pound we drove out to Stoke's lookout at 5am for 360 degree panoramic views of the area, we were rewarded with the most stunning sunrise that only enhanced the spectacular scenery that surrounded us.
We left the Flinders Ranges through a “Journey Through Time” a stunning gorge that weaved it's way through 650 million years of geology including the Trezona era, hark at us sounding all knowledgeable!
As our journey continued further we were traveling mostly on sealed roads, we stopped for a very convivial Cappuccino and the best homemade pies at a café in the Outback town of Copley, the last town on bitumen before hitting the unsealed section, this being anything from “bumpy, bumpy” ruts to sand or dips with
rocks, all this whilst leaving the essential dust trail whipping up behind Pris. Once we hit the unsealed section the number of other cars rapidly reduced which was just as well; when you passed a vehicle you disappeared into a dust cloud making driving conditions a little difficult. It was getting hot, damn hot in Pris and thoughts of our next destination and the cold drinks from the fridge were foremost in our minds. It is worth mentioning at his point that as a result of the heat we have developed an unhealthy obsession with all things that are water based, you crave fluids, even when they are piping hot from sitting in the car, you count down the km's to the next stopover and then power walk (running would look too desperate) to the fridge for the first cold drink you find, if you did not take the first one you would buy them all. Kirstin has found that no drink is complete without a Lemon Calypo (ice pop type thing) chaser which provides instant cooling; when you see the occasional waterhole there is an over whelming desire to jump into it no matter what beast could be lurking
Follow the red sand road!
I don't think we're in Sydney anymore Toto!!!
Kicking Up Dust
Our arrival at Maree signaled the end of the road as we know it, warning signs providing a reality check of the seriousness of venturing further, we felt prepared but a little anxious, Pris was refueled, we were full of cold water and Calypo's and ready to pass the sign into the unknown. A 54km unsealed track led us to our camping destination; avoiding tornado's along the way, at times crossing our path, confirmed we were in a desert, they were hypnotic to watch in reds and black, we felt like tornado chasers or at least Kirstin did who had a bizarre urge to drive through one, reason prevailed in the voice of Rob who was not ready for a Wizard of Oz experience. There was all of the three of us at our arrival at the campsite!
What a spot, a campground within Muloorina Homestead where a bore hole had provided a lake, an oasis in such an arid and desolate environment, the birds thought so too as they were there in huge numbers in all varieties and colours. The desire to join them in the watering hole was growing, once the tent
was up we were in but to our disappointment the water was not cold enough to cool us down properly, on account that it had receded and was about knee high, thigh high at best this meant trying to swim in the shallows with a muddy sludge that squelched through your toes. The sludge was cooler than the water, could we have stood the yuckiness of it we are sure that a mud bath would have been lovely. Showering the green slime off once we were out involved holding a 15 litre carton of spring water over each others heads for a rinse, not quite what we had planned for our emergency fluids! Lights out in the tent suddenly gave us a realisation for how remote we felt, no-one around, strange noises in the undergrowth, this made for a long night when you can't sleep because of the heat, well Rob did not seem to be having problems, Kirstin listened to deep sleep noises whilst counting down the hours until morning.
Our next stop was taking us out to an even more remote location, if that was possible? Lake Eyre North the driest and lowest point in Australia (15m
below sea level), the 4WD only track took us through sand and lots more bumps, every km feeling further into isolation, this road only led to Lake Eyre and we seemed to be the only people visiting today. When we arrived it was baking, we climbed a sand dune and there it was a lake larger than Holland completely dry, a shimmering white light of salt. It was stunningly beautiful in its starkness. The lake fills on average every eight years at which point it goes from desolate land to full of Pelicans and Black Swans that come from 1000's of km's, we were left wandering how on earth they know when it's full? One of life's mysteries we guessed. We crisped and crunched our way across the salt crust for about 30 minutes it was then time to beat a retreat to Pris to take cover from the scorching heat. Heading back down the track a little wave of relief that we were heading towards civilization again albeit of the remotest kind. Arrived back at Maree to the petrol station which also doubles up as the local post office, information centre, general/camping/hardware store, take away, café and local gossip
you can't see us but we are!
venue! Feeling heat exhausted dreaming about the cold fridge again, it took precisely two seconds to knock back a bottle of fizzy orange sugary drink, lunch was ordered but when it came we both looked at our plates not feeling in the least bit hungry, it's that darn heat again plus it tasted pretty bad, we forced our food down knowing we needed sustenance, cold water was the only thing on our minds.
The only time we get rain here, is if a rain cloud gets lost! - Unknown
Following the Old Ghan
We headed onto the classic Oodnadatta Track, hours passed and we did not pass another vehicle, other than the burnt out old wrecks that sometimes littered the landscape, the only signs of life being the odd bird or a fly swatting the windscreen. We were following the Old Ghan railway and passed several old sidings and stations, it is hard to imagine that people survived in such harsh conditions and farmed here all those years ago and that they do now. The journey was far from being dull, as well as the ever changing scenery, we passed bizarre sights such as a sculpture gallery with impressive installations made from old planes and other recycled waste from the Old Ghan railway. After
more gravel road we found our campsite, surprisingly we were the only people on it, or actually not so surprising as we had passed no signs of life since leaving Maree, saying that, there wasn't much sign of life in Maree! The Coward Spring campsite was an Old Ghan railway station, where a bore hole used for the trains had now been sunk and served as a spa (a square about 8ft x 5ft) which was our first port of call, the bubbling cool water was the fix we had been after! Being in the spa also provided respite from the &@?£%#! flies which swarmed around you in their droves into every orifice, it was like some form of torture, if anyone had told us we would be wearing our laundry bag on our head in a desperate attempt to keep the flies off our face we would have laughed, now we were just laughing at each other when taking it in turns to wear it.
The tent was pitched on the warm ground so it wasn't long before the airbed filled with hot air, the makings of yet another hot night, dinner was off on account of the
flies and a serious lack of appetite, it was a jam sandwich in the tent. Lights out and the prospect of another sleepless night. Some zzzzzz's were had only to be woken by a pack of wild Dingos outside the tent, this provided a moments respite from the heat as our blood chilled! This is probably one of the most haunting sounds you could ever wish to hear in a tent with the front door open, only the mozzie net protecting us, and we didn't have a baby to throw to them if they got too close! Their calls went on throughout the night, it felt like we were getting the full on Outback experience, knowing we were absolutely in the middle of nowhere with no-one around only added to the atmosphere.
Wending our way along the Oodnadatta track, we arrived at William Creek, official population of 10, we refueled and stopped off at the William Creek Hotel bar for a Cappuccino which came after the Lemonade from the fridge which was finished before it was handed to us. The bar was a great Ozzie Outback location that would have been the best place to have planted yourself for
gallons of ice cold beer but alas the road was calling us and you can't drink and drive, you'll split it! Whilst there we were updated with the most recent population trends which have now reduced to six, this included the dog in the bar!
Following William Creek Road to Coober Pedy a 168km stretch we passed Anna Creek the largest cattle station in the world, the size of Belgium and the Dog Proof Fence the world's longest man-made structure at 9600km's, it keeps the Dingos out of the south of Oz. With the backdrop of deep red sand dunes this was a beautiful part of the road. It was at this point that we saw an unidentified object that was getting closer, it wasn't until it was within a few feet of us that it all came back to us, it was a vehicle and other people, our first for two days!
We are a mole and we live in a hole
Heading into Coober Pedy could not have been more of a contrast, it was surrounded by huge piles of earth, we had arrived at the Opal mining capital of the world the piles being the
excavated rubble. The landscape would have been familiar to any Mad Max aficionados as this is where it was filmed. We were camping but camping with a difference, setting our tent up in the pitch black with no flies and cool to the touch, we had found our oasis in the desert, this oasis was underground with a consistent temperature of 25 degrees - Bliss
. The underground warren resembled a Star Wars set and it wasn't long before Rob was running around waving his Lightsaber about! Half the population of Coober Pedy live in dugouts (underground houses), our underground camping gave us a taste of the benefit of life underground.
We had our own on sight mining tour with Rick the campsite owner and learnt the ins and outs of Opal mining, signs are everywhere warning of the dangers of taking one wrong foot on the mine fields, the 30 metre holes are dug out and left unfilled for any passer by to fall in, and they do. The Opal fields are a place where individuals from all over the world have come to find their fortune and some do.
After leaving Coober Pedy we were back on
Sun rises in Wilpena Pound
tarmac (Stuart Highway) for a long stint through to Rainbow Valley (70ish km's outside Alice Springs), being back on the black stuff felt very strange, even Pris was pretty disgruntled, she definitely prefers the shake, rattle and roll. We were passing other vehicles and the huge road trains, the longest vehicles in the world, and you know it when they pass you coming the other way. Seeing other peeps kind of felt like they were in our space, we were used to the three of us only. Although it had a feeling of reassurance to it.
We made good progress on the black stuff and were soon crossing the border into the Northern Territory, the scenery changed as soon as we crossed over, we went from flat open plains to rocky Wild West looking scenery. Our final roadhouse stop before arriving at our destination was with the intention of getting up to date weather and advice before heading down a 4WD track, this was the best thing we could have done. A serious warning was given, something that we had already come into contact with but this was going to get worse! The dreaded FLIES!
Sun Sets on Wilpena Pound
needed to be said the fly nets were on the counter and ready to go, Rob's in black and Kirstin's, in yes you've guessed it Pink.
Our turning off the Stuart Highway led us down a beautiful red sand road, lined with Gum trees and pine type looking trees. The Rainbow Valley came into view, a large rocky outcrop with layers of differing colours of reds, cream and white. We donned our new fashion accessories and got out the vehicle, at first thinking the flies aren't too bad but then without being too dramatic it was like Attack of the Killer Flies! Huge swarms all over you making the loudest buzzing noise you could imagine, the fly net could have been our single best investment, otherwise we would not have been able to get out of the vehicle. Through the mesh view and racket we were still able to appreciate the view of Rainbow Valley, as made up as it may sound a rainbow appeared above the rock, a rainbow at Rainbow Valley, who'd have thought.
Our time slots for eating were dictated by the flies, as soon as the sun sets they disappear and then don't reappear
until sunrise, this meant a late dinner of ready noodles and having to get up before sunrise to have breakfast, the water for coffee had just boiled as the first one arrived, then the second, third, jumped in Pris before the next 24 million came! Thankfully we got our coffee otherwise Rob would have not been a happy bunny and the fies would have got it with the spray! It was a relief to leave but we would not have missed it, Rainbow Valley that is and not the flies, although even that was one of life's experiences.
It was a short hop and skip to Alice Springs the next morning, where we are pleased to report that the weather feels cooler, it is still in the 40's but a nice breeze makes it feel cooler and at night it drops to the late 20's; lots off sleep here we come! Who would of thought that we had to come to the Red Centre to get cool!
Off to the camp pool now to cool down, happy reading, sorry it's been a long one!
Thanks to everyone for keeping in touch with us and apologies that we have
not replied, we will get around to it but you may have guessed that internet access has been a non starter and mobile signals non existent in the Outback.
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