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Published: September 8th 2016
Friday 19th August 2016
Bit of a sad start to the day as we have to say our farewells to David and Helen. They were headed south to continue their adventures on their way home.
The rest of us eventually checked out of the Woomera park, it is now virtually empty of all the vans that came in the night before. Our first stop was at a lookout over Island Lagoon which is known as it was the location for the first non US based deep space station located nearby. The tracking station operated until 1972. The Eucolo Creek, Island Creek, Salt Creek and Woolshed Creek feed into the lagoon which covers 96,000 hectares when full. There were some walk trails leading form the lookout but due to it being so windy and cold, no-one was inclined to walk too far away from the parking area.
We drove on until we reached Lake Hart, less than 100kms from Woomera. Lake Hart is on the southern perimeter of the The Woomera Protected Area. They once mined salt here but this was abandoned soon after. The rocket range had several sites by the
lake where rockets were either launched or tracked.
We all walked out onto the lake but due to the recent rains were unable to walk out too far. There was a strong wind blowing and this made staying out quite uncomfortable.
Mark and Rags walked along several of the tracks going from the parking area to the lake and settled on a site in the lee of the dunes with a good track in. This was a great camping site, made even better by somebody leaving a good supply of firewood behind. We used our camp oven again, a date damper being the recipe of choice. It was better than the last one but the fire was too hot and the outside was “caramelised”. Another lesson learned.
There was a railway line between the lake and us and several ore trains came past as well as the Ghan. This came through late at night so we missed it! Saturday 20th August 2016
We got away before 0900 today and made the long journey through the Woomera Prohibited Area to Coober Pedy. This
town dates back to around 1946 when a local aborigine found an opal in one of the creeks.
Opal mining is what the town is renowned for, it going through boom times and lean times, depending on the current value of the opal. Unlike Andamooka, this town depended very much on tourism, and this is reflected in the number of somewhat gaudy opal shops and jewellers.
We found the whole town rather depressing, most of the shops were closed, and many of the tourist centres either closed or so run down that they should be. There were one or two exceptions to this such as the underground motel/hotel with its passages lined with artefacts and paintings of the area and a very classy restaurant and bar area.
We camped about 10kms south of the town on a gibber plain, which is a desert surface covered with closely packed, interlocking angular or rounded rock fragments of pebble and cobble size. Here we enjoyed an outside meal around a fire with the bright stars overhead. The evening culminated with a coffee whilst we watched a full moon rise slowly above us. Sunday 21st August 2016
The patter of rain on the roof of the van woke us before 0700, a contrast to the beautiful evening before. There was a strong wind and with the temperature was around 10 degrees so it was quite unpleasant outside.
We drove in to town after breakfast, Judy and Rags did some shopping for food and we then joined the other two who had found an opal seller set up in an underground building. This was formerly their abode, carved out of the rock. Each time they made another room they discovered more opals. Eventually they had over 20 rooms and had uncovered over $1m worth opal. Great way to build a house!
This area has now become a museum showing the development of the area, a shop for selling the opals, as well as a motel for those who want to spend a night underground. The temperature there was in the low 20s, very comfortable compared to the cold outside, and this continues even during the hot summers.
After a drive through the town, looking at some of the old
Just north of Coober Pedy
structures and seeing some of the half-buried homes, we filled our water tanks at a cost of 20 cents / 30 litres in an area set up for tourists.
From here we drove out to the Breakaways, a set of mesas, more than 100 million years in the making. Informative signs showed how the area was formed and how erosion is changing the landscape. As the wind had picked up and rain had started again, we didn’t remain there too long.
We drove the 200kms to Marla Roadhouse, looking for a campsite just before this so that we could have Telstra reception. The one we found was deemed unsuitable so we continued on, a couple more by-passed until we had lost phone reception anyway so we just looked for the best spot.
About 45kms further north we turned into an area, which was once a gravel pit. Here we set up a comfortable camp and another enjoyable meal was shared under the stars. Monday 22nd August 2016
We woke up to very thick mist around us; visibility was only about 100m. A
Mark and Helena hadn't had a Chiko Roll before so we decided to try them at Kulgera - fatty but tasty!
great contrast to the weather when we retired last night.
It had cleared a little when we left but we kept our lights on to help others see us. It wasn’t until we had driven for nearly an hour that it cleared, and then suddenly we were out in blue skies. Looking back we could see a huge black cloud so it seems as if there had been a cloud inversion where we were.
Soon after we crossed into the Northern Territory and stopped at a rest area where there were maps and points of interest on display. After chatting with some other nomads over a cup of coffee we continued on, reaching Kulgera which claims to be the first (or last ) pub in the Northern Territory.
Next stop was Erldunda, on the corner of the Stuart Highway and Lasseter Highway which is the turn-off to Yulara. Dozens of vans and tourist vehicles were here; it is obviously lunch time and this was the only place to stop for kilometres.
A stop at the Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse to look at some Aboriginal art and a stop to take in
Makes Judy think about her grandson, Conner.
the majestic Mt Connor, were the only stops before we reached Curtin Springs. This privately owned cattle homestead was set up as a tourist stop with cabins, powered and unpowered sites, as well as an overpriced café and shop. It seemed very popular with the free unpowered sites quite full. We still managed to find a place on either side of a huge tree.
Curtin Springs has been home to the same family, the Severin family, since 1956. In fact, the original owner, Peter, helped install the chain on the Ayers Rock climb. The station is now over one million acres and has 4000 head of cattle. If you do the maths you can see that there isn't much food for the cattle. They have diversified into providing budget accommodation, cafe/bar and meals, tours, walks and even making paper which can be bought in the shop. They call themselves a wayside inn and claim to be the first of of its kind in Central Australia and the only one to be still operated by the original owners.
A still night had us outside again for a few drinks followed by dinner,. Judy and Helena
went over to try out the showers as Judy was desperate to wash her hair but she came back a few moments later saying she couldn't get any warm water so she had a quick hair wash in the van. It's sometimes hard to gauge whether we need to conserve water or if we will get it at the next stop. Helena didn't return and have worrying for a while Mark went in search of her. It appeared that Helena, not being happy with the cold shower had gone to the shop (in her dressing gown) and asked them about it. The woman in the shop just said to let it run which Helena had done for a long time. Eventually, the hot water had come through and she reported that it was "the best shower"!
A fairly early night was had as we intend setting off earlier tomorrow,; the rumour is that campsites are in demand at Yulara.
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