Due to the fact that we had fallen a little behind schedule, our fifth day on tour was a day to make up lost ground. Most of the morning was spend on the road catching up on some sleep while the bruck ate up the kilometres. We made a couple of quick stops to refuel and stretch our legs, one of which was at the small town of Marla, the official end of the Oodnadatta track where we then joined the Stuart Highway, a much better maintained road. With tarmac! For lunch we pulled over at a rest stop where there was a picnic table to prepare our usual lunch of sandwiches and salad. After eating we had another kick of the footie to burn off some of the calories before bundling back in the bruck. Shortly after lunch we crossed the border from South Australia into the Northern Territory which was quite cool. Even though we had been through some incredibly remote places the transition between the two states really felt like we were entering the back of beyond because the NT is by far the least populated state in Australia, constituting only 1% of Australia's population, despite being the
third largest of seven states.
Not long after crossing the border we turned off the nice tarmac of the Stuart Highway and onto a very bumpy dust road, heading for the very centre of Australia. After bouncing around in the back of the bruck for hours we stopped to remove a couple of flat tyres that someone had irresponsibly left in the middle of the road. Despite doing a good deed, when we got back in the bruck and started the engine up there was a loud bang and steam blew up from underneath the front. Ian quickly killed the engine and we all jumped out again to survey the damage. After fiddling around under the bruck for a while Ian eventually surmised that all we had lost was the air conditioning. The tube had burst from the heat and the fact that we had been using it almost constantly since the morning to combat the stifling air inside the bruck. Satisfied that we weren't stranded for the night we got back on the road, albeit much hotter and sweatier than before. A short while later we made another turning onto an even smaller and less maintained dirt road
that snaked through the rust coloured dust of the red centre.
Eventually, much to my spine's relief, we arrived at the very centre of Australia, known as the Lambert Centre after the cartographer Dr Bruce P Lambert who had played an enormous part in surveying and mapping Australia. In the centre of a clearing there is a small monument which is a miniture of the flagpole that sits atop the Commonwealth Parlimentary House in Canberra. We all had fun standing astride the exact centre of Australia posing for cheesy tourist pictures and to his credit, it was only after we finished snapping that Ian told us that recent calculations have deduced that the Lambert Centre is actually out by around a kilometre. We decided that in a country as vast as Australia a single kilometre was a fair margin of error! The surrounding area was deserted so after signing the visitor's book that was locked in a box near the monument we decided that very centre of Australia would make for an excellent campsite so started unloading our stuff from the bruck. It was only at this point that we noticed that, as well as a burst air conditioning
hose, the bruck had also suffered another injury. The right front tyre had become punctured on the rough dirt track to the centre and needed changing. Day five was clearly not a good day for the bruck. With the camp set up and the tyre replaced a couple of us set off into the bush to find some firewood. Just by a conveniently dead and fallen tree Cyril and I discovered a Coles supermarket trolley that was probably several hundreds of kilometres from it's home. Accepting the trolley at face value and trying not to think about how it had come to be abandoned in the bush a long long way from the nearest Coles we loaded it up with wood and wheeled it back to camp, much to the bemusement of our fellow campers to whom it must have looked as though we had simply dropped to the local store to pick up some dead tree.
After watching the sun set in a strange pink glow we settled down in our swags to sleep at the very centre of Australia.
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