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Published: July 22nd 2013
Nr Coober Pedy
Friday 19 July
Coober Pedy - Arckaringa & The Painted Desert
So today we make our way out of Coober Pedy, an unusual little town with much hidden wealth, I didn't find my precious stone, but then it is like looking for a needle in a haystack, I would stand a better chance if I could dig a 20 foot deep hole though, even though Andy would have happily obliged, and no one would say anything as you are allowed to dig/noodle in the mullock to your hearts content.
I forgot to mention a couple of days ago, we were told by one of the locals that young people do not seem interested in mining for Opal, that gave me a little bit of thought, if the miners become less and less then Opal will stay in the ground and those that can be bothered to mine it might get richer because maybe it becomes more of a rarity?
We did have plans to leave Coober Pedy yesterday, but we had a few things we wanted to do and spend a little bit of time planning so delayed our departure by a day,
but in brief, our day was something like this:
We saw Steve on our way out this morning, we wanted to see the "other" Vista, it feels like being part of an exclusive club, well I suppose we are really. I was going to ask Steve to keep us posted on the conditions of the Anne Beadell when he finally makes it across to Laverton in Western Australia.
He explains that considering the damage to their Prado, they will now take the Nullarbor and not risk another battering on the Anne Beadell highway. I can tell he is disappointed, I see that in him, but he does say that he will still do it, but next time he will make sure that he is travelling with another vehicle.
Driving past Mandy's, the hairdresser, again, still closed and then we drove a little bit up the Stuart Highway to where the Anne Beadell highway starts, we were curious, but needless to say this part of the track goes to Mabel Creek Station and thus we think this part of the track will be in good condition.
In the Breakaways
The Anne Beadell highway is 1370 kilometres or there about and is a true four wheel drive adventure
However, this track proves interesting as we are driving through some of the mining area, there appear to be lots of different claims here and there are some interesting objects marking out individual claims, it seems everyone has a way of identifying their own. I would be fascinated to have a rummage in the mullocks here, but entering someone else's claim would be a huge no no and I am sure can get you into a whole lot of trouble! Stick to the mullocks put aside for tourist noodling!
I did wonder if anyone was around, but chances are if they were they would be in their holes anyway.
We grabbed a few things from the IGA, had a coffee, topped up with diesel, tempted as I was to go noodling again (see the fever grips you!) I restrained and we went back to camp.
Andy returned from the shower and encouraged me to have an early one, but when I got there it seemed that there was a
power cut and even though the water is solar heated, they would not work because the coin operation rely's on the electricity.
Even though the electricity came on again, the amenities block didn't, I knew a lady had gone to ask them on reception, I also decided to go and give them a nudge, I sensed they had no urgency, but being realistic, by 4pm this place will start to fill up and everybody will be wanting showers and the laundry.
It worked a few minutes later someone came and problem solved, I went and had my shower.
It is still windy here, it seems to die down and then it starts up with a vengeance again. It would be quite hot without the wind.
We had an easy dinner, with the wind against us we couldn't be bothered to do anything too complicated, it was nice to sit inside Gypsy so that we were sheltered from the wind.
Just before bedtime, I did a little bit of preparation for moving on in the morning.
Andy wanted to
quickly publish a blog before we left this morning, there really never is anything quick about publishing a blog with us, and I needed to add a paragraph or two here and there as it was not finished, it was our 700th Blog, so quite a mile stone for us.
We had almost finished packing up, when we had a visit from the Michelmore family, they were just leaving and swung by to say their goodbye's, that was really lovely because I thought they may have been long gone, they have a long journey to do today!
By 9.30 we were ready to leave, but they guy next to us had a battery problem so Andy helped him out with that and then on our way out we swung by the people who have the other Vista. I left a card because we could not see them, however as we moved on we saw them running across to us so we chatted for a short while, wishing each other safe travels. They have now decided to cross to Western Australia on the Great Central Road, which is another one that Andy wants to do
as it takes you past the Giles Weather Station.
Apparently if you go to Giles weather station, they release weather balloons every day and we are told if you ask nicely they do let travellers do the balloon releas, how cool would that be.
Stopping at the water pumps on the way out of the park, we fill up with 40 litres of water, for 20 cents, then onto top up with $20 of diesel and finally the IGA and hardware store to pick up a couple of bits that we forgot yesterday and now we are on our merry way and having to leave my Opal obsession behind.
Wanting to see the Breakaways on our way out we drove 18k's up the Stuart Highway to take the turnoff, no we didn't go via the noodle site on the way out either.
Arriving at the Breakaways, we are presented with another wow moment as the landscape stretches out ahead of us with it's hills in different formations varying in shapes sizes and colour carved out by Mother Nature and her elements over the years. Exceptional!
There is another formation called The Castle or in aboriginal terms it is called Papa or Two Dogs. Even though these two massive formations are joined they have a vast difference in colour, one white and the other is a fairly rusty colour, it shows how much they have differed in the stages of erosion, the white is far more advanced that the rusty coloured one.
Driving on, the track is nicely graded through here so you can drive amongst the breakaways and get the spectacular views, the landscape shines in the sunshine, amongst the wild yellow flowers we see large chunks of gypsum (I am pretty sure it's gypsum and not mica but I am not a geologist).
Just one small point, it is winter and seeing the vast plains with wild yellow flowers is stunning, when we travelled around Australia last time we didn't see many flowers due to the drought conditions, I found out later that we were driving across Moon Plains and the locals here said that these flowers only seem to appear every ten years, called Moon Plains for obvious reasons it usually looks like the surface of the
I also read in a local paper that this event follows 37mm of rain during June and a few weeks of warm July (26C), not only the flowers have appeared but the desert is unusually green at the moment.
We stop somewhere along the way for lunch and to gather some firewood for later. A vehicle slows up to see if we are ok, but I think he realises all is fine and moves on.
At Mount Barry, we turn off toward the Arckaringa Homestead, the track narrows and is really not in bad condition, early afternoon we arrive at the homestead and follow signs that direct us to camping, another sign tells us to call in at the homestead before setting up, so we oblige. It is not long before the door opens and we see a young woman heading towards us with a beautiful red heeler bounding ahead of her. Lauren introduces herself and shakes our hands. She explains all about the camping, the fees and we get talking about Arckaringa and we find out the dog is called Wei (pronounced Wee ii) it is an aboriginal word
for little boy.
It was quite surprising to see so many campers here, I was going to say that all the best spots looked taken, but really there is a huge area to camp in, we find somewhere and make sure that Gypsy has her back end to the North and we are sheltered from the wind that seems to be coming from the South West.
Once we set up and have a rest, we head out to the Arckaringa Hills and the Painted Desert as we want to catch the sun set. It is still very windy, not just a gentle wind either, it is a harsh cold wind, there is cloud cover which may or may not give a beautiful sunset.
We take the track toward Oodnadatta and drive 11 kilometres to the first stopping point. Breathtaking views, very similar to the Breakaways. The sun creates some amazing colours in the landscape which change as the sun starts to go down.
Looking across the plains we see that the rain clouds have come over, and a dark shadow moving across underneath indicates the rain fall, there
is a natural curve in the cloud and rain formation which may indicate that the wind is blowing into it.
As we move on a couple of kilometres we come to a stop because a rainbow has formed over one of the hills, at one point 2 rainbows are visible, this is quite spectacular. We drive a little further and find a high viewpoint, only to find that there are two other people standing up there.
As always we talk and Rodger and Melody introduce themselves, they are themselves on a big trip and have a VW Transporter, it looks great and is very well kitted out for the job, they are heading up to Arckaringa so we said we would catch up with them there.
The sun disappears behind the Painted Desert, we have plenty of photos so make our way back to the homestead slowly so that we can take in the view from a different angle, a few drops of rain land on our windscreen but it soon passes. None of this rainfall has touched the homestead. We are disappointed because in some weird way it would be
Cream Tea Guest
Wei wanted not to be in the picture, note the grease on his back
fun to be rained in somewhere!
When we get back we find that someone has lit the communal fire, Arckaringa provide the wood for the fire, we decide to head over and join the fun taking a couple of potatoes wrapped up in foil with us.
Tom is there with his Mum and Dad and seems to be in charge of the fire, it is going well and we stick our potatoes in, I disappear back to camp to get everything else ready but when I get back I find that our potatoes have multiplied and there are quite a few jostling for position in the hot coals.
The only problem with this is that I cannot identify which potato's were ours, not that it should be too much of a problem because I am comfortable with getting a potato, the problem is that we put ours in earlier and thus we were timing for one hour and they were both similar in size.
Anyway, a while later I get the pork chops sizzling away, I had a visitation from one smart doggy called Wei, he could smell
Pronounced WEEE I Meaning little Boy in aboriginal
the chops and was obviously hoping for a treat, Andy brings the potatoes over and we tuck into our hearty dinner.
The washing up can wait until the morning, so we head back to the camp fire, by now there are about 9 people ensconced in it's warmth including Roger and Melody who we met earlier at the Painted Desert. It feels nice to chat to everyone about where they are from, where they are going and what we have all experienced so far, all in all it was a pleasant evening, but it was a cold one so nobody stayed up too late, it was time to get warm and comfy for the night.
Andy sets up the tripod and boils the billy for us and a few other people so we can have "hotties" tonight.
It was still windy, it was still a cold wind and I have to say I am getting a bit bored of this wind now, it is lovely and sunny with cloud in the distance, we decide to stay another day, we wont escape the wind if we move on
anyway and it is really lovely here.
After breakfast we head over to the homestead and find Lauren, we pay another $20 to stay and have another chat. Lauren also does cream teas for $10 per person. We think to ourselves why not indulge for a change, she suggested byo wine too (she is not allowed to sell any) and as it is Saturday thinks it would be a great idea to enjoy a glass. Someone else who turned up to pay for another night agreed and they booked in too.
Off we went about our day, did some chores, like last nights washing up, sorted through photos, read a book, you know the drill.
After lunch we thought we should drive out to the Painted Desert, it was a good idea to see it in a different light and there is a walk around that we wanted to do. When we get there a group of 4wd's are there, we chat to them, they tell us that the walk was fairly quick but worth doing.
I thought the walk would be longer, but off we set and followed the arrows. The scenery is amazing but unfortunately the cloud cover is hanging around a bit too much and with the wind it still feels really cold, but the walk is great we start heading upwards and find ourselves standing on the top of one of these magnificent hills, it feels like being on top of the world, we can follow the tracks to different viewpoints and eventually we find the track down into the gorge.
Now the sun is out we are sheltered from the wind, it feels really hot, I would not like to be here in the height of the summer, that would be crazy! Although I had thoughts that I would not like to be standing there in the rain, I expect that every rainfall takes a little bit more of the hill with it and there are some massive rocks supported by some very loose looking stones.
We see more desert flowers, this time they are lilac in colour and are dotted around the ground below the hills.
Back at the Homestead we grab a cup of tea and some r&r before 4.30 when afternoon tea is due, although Lauren had suggested dressing up, that was the furthest thing from my mind, it was cold and all I really wanted to do was wrap up warm, so I wore my Akubra for the occasion. Another guest wore a bow tie, his wife explained that they don't normally travel with a bow tie, but they are doing the Sound of Silence dinner when they get to Uluru and were going to dress up for it.
Tea was laid out on two tables with lacy tablecloths around the back of the homestead, there were about 15 of us in total, the scones were home made and were still warm from the oven, the jams were apricot and quandong and there was a big platter of cream.
I was the only one who brought a glass of wine with me, thankfully Lauren brought one with her when she finally got to sit down and enjoy the rest of the afternoon with us. We sat and watched the sun go down and alter the colours of the Painted Desert in the distance.
Everyone soon disappeared back to camp and we headed up to the communal fire pit to get the fire going, we were having a light tea tonight after our cream tea this afternoon, we were joined by a couple of other campers and again had a good evening enjoying the warmth of the fire, again the wind had died down for the evening and it is not quite as cold as last night.
The topic of conversation gets around to the weather which seems to have caught everyone out at this time. The days should be hot and the nights cold, but this unseasonal weather has seen cold temperatures in the daytime that nobody seems to be enjoying. Putting the weather aside, this is still an enjoyable thing to do and we are still seeing some great places in this huge country.
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