Sunday, August 20, 2017

Purposeful Meandering across Oz - Week 6

Distance traveled = 2245km

Week 6 started with us pushing further south, our overnight stay at Banka Banka had been a lot of fun for the kids with them feeding and patting a lot of unusual animals. Once on the road we only had a relatively short distance till we were in Tennant Creek, here we were able to grab a few supplies and refuel before heading further south to Devil’s Marbles. Our early arrival allowed us the luxury of a relaxing afternoon around the campsite. The kids enjoyed spending most of their time exploring the huge rocks while the adults waited for the setting sun before going out to explore the amazing colours of the rocks. With the amazing colours fading into the darkness we had a lovely night toasting marsh mellows by the fire.

Sunday saw many of our group having different plans for the coming days, some were heading to Uluru while others were going to Chambers Pillar while we’d planned to have a couple of days in Alice with friends. Saying our goodbyes, fate would soon have us reunited on the side of the road 100km down the road. The sidewall of a tyre had de-laminated on one of team’s vehicles, thankfully the highway emergency hadn’t been too serious and we were able to change the tyre and have them back on the road pretty quickly…. Continuing south, it was another 5 hours of driving at NT speed limits before we arrived in Alice Springs. We checked in at the park where we’d previously stayed before heading out to grab a few things which included a visit to the ice-creamery. The remainder of our day was spent chilling around the campsite.

Monday started at a leisurely pace around the van park as we caught up on domestic chores before an impromptu text message had me jumping with joy. 30min later I was sitting in the co-pilots seat of a plane as we headed to the remote aboriginal community of ‘Ernabella’ in SA where we needed to do a patient transfer. The 50min each way flight provided spectacular views over the countless mountain ranges that litter the area around Alice. However, all too quickly we’d returned to Alice Springs but the smile and buzz I was feeling lasted all day…… Back with the family we headed out for some more sightseeing to finish our day. To conclude our time in Alice we enjoyed catching up with friends over a lovely chinese feast.

Tuesday was one of our biggest days on the road. We made the mistake of not getting away as early as we’d hoped, this was compounded by an ongoing headed wind that buffeted us for the whole day. By late morning we’d passed the turn-off to Uluru but there was still many miles ahead for us. The countryside offered little to keep the kids amused but they took the opportunity to catch up on school work while Leonie and I shared the driving. We had lunch literally on the SA/NT border, the kids took great delight in jumping from one state to the other, but with the temp nudging 34deg we needed to be back in the car and enjoying the air-conditioning. The towns slowly come and went, throughout the day we’d managed to tick up 10000km and 5 states in a little over 5 weeks of traveling. As the time, neared 6pm we finally arrived in Coober Pedy but typically of our lifestyle we didn’t stop to relax, the van park doubled as an underground Opal mine and the daily tour was about to start. Downing a quick dinner, we were able to join the very informative tour which explained the history of Opal mining in Coober Pedy….. Surprisingly, upon returning above ground a severe wind storm had moved in causing us to have uneasy night as the area was buffeted by severe winds.

Wednesday dawn with no sign of the previous nights’ howling winds. All of our group were back together again and we set about sharing a day together around Coober Pedy. We checked out a number of the speciality opal shops and a number of the local tourist attractions, we even tried our hand at noodling in an attempt to strike it rich…. Needless to say we’re not giving up our daytime jobs. We did another underground tour highlighting the dug-outs which many of the locals live in. By late afternoon and with the sun setting we headed out to a place called the “Breakaways” which is renowned for its majestic orange, red and white soils that form mesa’s high above the ground. Returning to town we all enjoyed a meal at the local pizzeria before spoiling our kids with a nights’ accommodation in an underground motel. The novelty of such an experience was not lost on them as they got to have their own room and bed for the first time in 6 weeks.

Thursday saw us leaving Coober Pedy for another stint of dirt tracks, our first track being the Oodnadatta track but not before we checked out the ‘painted desert’ located in the Arckaringa Hills. Getting there proved difficult for us as we lost comms with our group at a critical point resulting us taking an alternate route to the others and thus giving the impression, we were lost. After some anxious moments and lengthy delays, we eventually were all back together. Pressing on towards Oodnadatta we were again flagged by tyre issues, one of group had another tyre de-laminate (their 2nd in a week). After another tyre change we finally reached the pink town of Oodnadatta. With a new tyre sorted we pressed on towards William Creek. The old Ghan railway hugs the Oodnadatta track and on many occasions, we stopped to look at various historical rail bridges and ruins…. With nightfall upon us we finally arrived at William Creek where we found a bush camp for the night. Our long day in the saddle and plummeting temperatures saw us all in bed fairly early.

Friday started with a bitter chill in the air, after packing up we had a gander round the one-horse town of William Creek where amazingly the aircraft outnumber the vehicles…. Back on the road our next stop was the thermal pool at ‘Coward Springs’. Many of us choosing to jump in the thermal waters even though the outside temperatures weren’t conducive to swimming. Further down the track we got our first glimpse of ‘Lake Eyre’. We’d soon stopped at a vantage point overlooking the vast salt lake…… It was at this point of the trip we bid farewell to two vehicles in our group as they need to return home for work. For the rest of us we continued along the Oodnadatta track to Marree where we marked the end of another dirt track experience…. Refuelled and with fresh supplies we pushed on to the historical town of Farina where we completed our 6th week of holiday travels around another campfire and clear skies.

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