Our departure from Port Augusta on Tuesday was slightly delayed as when we were hitching up the jeep we noticed a screw had gone in to the left front tyre. While the tyre didn’t appear to be losing air, the thought of having to do a repair in the middle of nowhere did not appeal. The local Tyrepower outlet in Port Augusta was most obliging and shifted us to the front of the queue. Within 30 minutes the tyre was fixed and we were on our way.
We decided to swap roles from Port Augusta to Coober Pedy – the navigator became the Captain and vice versa. The first few hours of our drive north on Tuesday was in the pouring rain. We tried hard not to complain as the area desperately needs rain but it made for very unpleasant driving conditions. The wet made pulling to the side of the road a risky manoeuvre as the edges can be very soft in the wet then getting back onto the blacktop presents challenge.
Our first stop for the day was the Pimba Roadhouse about 180km north of Port Augusta. We did give some thought about either overnighting there or at Woomera but the ground was water logged in both areas so we carried on a further 200km north to the Bon Bon Rest Area. By this time the weather had cleared and the rest area had some good dry surface spots. That was it for the day – we felt that 380km was enough.
Seven other vans pulled into the rest stop over the next few hours and one of the couples, Adela and Terry, hailed from Miranda on the Firth of Thames. They were travelling in the same direction as us but at a faster pace as they are heading back home in June of this year. We shared a few wines that evening and made a commitment to catch up again when we got back to New Zealand.
On Wednesday morning we the drove the final 180km in stunning weather into Coober Pedy. Dearne did a splendid two days at the wheel. After a quick around the town familiarisation, we made our way to our accommodation at Riba’s Underground Camping and Tourist Park. We had planned to stay three days there – two nights in the motorhome and one night in the Parks underground motel – another first for us. It was a bit primitive but it is what it is.
‘Crack of dawn’ on Thursday morning we made our way into town to meet the driver of our days entertainment – The Outback Mail Run. What a brilliant day. The run allows you to live the life of the outback mailman as he delivers and collects mail and supplies to the remote cattle and sheep stations in the area.
Over the 650km travelled we met some wonderful and resilient outback families. They don’t measure their farms by hectares here – it is all stated in square kilometres. Five thousand square kilometres ‘plus’, is the norm. We travelled part of the Oodnadatta Track, lunched at the outback settlement of Oodnadatta, saw parts of Australia’s 5614km’s of dingo fence, saw the remains of the now defunct Darwin to Adelaide Ghan railway and of course a broad range of wildlife (including wild dingo).
While it was a long day, 12 hours, under normal circumstances we would never have been able to access many of the areas we visited. The motorhome or the little jeep are just not designed to travel the types of roads we were on.
We were slow to arise this morning and spent a couple of hours catching up on domestics before heading into town to have a good look around. We visited another underground facility then went in search of a ‘little opal trinket’ for Dearne. She could find nothing that took her eye so we came away with a relatively stable bank account. I need not remind you that we still have the sapphires we mined at Sapphire in Queensland that we have yet to have polished and mounted. ‘Apparently’ we have to go to Thailand to have that done because they do a ‘really good job’ up there!!
We depart Coober Pedy tomorrow (Saturday) and continue our journey north to Alice Springs. The plan is to arrive there on the 7th May. We are not sure where we will overnight on the way or if we will have cell reception between Coober Pedy and Alice. If you cannot get hold of us, or do not here from us, you will know the reason why.
More shots of our Coober Pedy visit HERE .