Sunday, 6 September 2009

North to dryer places

Australia Map Ayers Rock

Mount Gambier to Adelaide is not one of the most interesting roads and therefore I will not describe it further, other than to say that as we left Mount Gambier, there was one of the most perfect rainbows (following more rain!).

Double Rainbow

We also went through the Lobster Capital of the South East (Kingston) which makes its presence known with Larry the Lobster

The Big Lobster

as against Dadswell Bridge in Southern Australia which makes its presence known with a giant Koala

Giant Koala

You have already seen the Giant Galah from Kimba, the Giant Crocodile from Normanton, the not very Giant Whale from Nullarbor and the Giant Kangaroo from Eucla. I am sparing you the Giant Banana, the Giant Barramundi, the Giant Crab and ….. but will finish with the concrete Lizard of Coober Pedy

Concrete Lizard

and the Rhinoceros on top of a pole by the side of the Stuart Highway heading towards Alice Springs.

Rhino on a Pole

Passing north through Adelaide, we met with my cousin Andrew, he had changed a bit during the past 55 years since we last met and did not really look like the person in the photo on the wall at home.

Paul and Andrew

On the way north from Adelaide to Port Augusta, we chose to go a back route way along the old highway between the two towns. This proved to be far more beautiful that the official main road and went through some towns where the architecture was unchanged from pioneer days. You expect to

Old 2

Wall Poster High Street Outback Oz

see herds of cattle being driven down the high street, it is certainly wide enough. There were also some fantastic views as we went through the Flinders range of mountains.

Leaving Port Augusta (which calls itself the “Crossroads of Australia), one comes to one of the most famous road signs in Australia. We have done the Eyre Highway from Perth so obviously it has to be the Stuart Highway towards Darwin.

Crossroads West or North

The satnav immediately told us that our next destination (Coober Pedy) was 538 kms away and that we should proceed straight ahead and expect to turn right in 537.9 kms time.

The landscape has defeated many an explorer and rapidly changes from interesting hills to salt lakes to nothing in every direction typically that in the

Absolutely nothing

photograph above.

Coober Pedy (overnight stop) is famous for its Opal Mines and also its unfinished look. A quick adjustment to the schedule enabled us to fit in a half day tour the next morning before continuing north. It is one of the most unusual towns we have ever been to, very much “wild west” if such a term

View over town

were appropriate to Australia, It will never win any prizes for beauty but seems to evidence a pioneer spirit where cash is the only accepted currency and success or failure is reached through personal endeavour (assisted by luck).

Mining is about the only activity here and hence all around the town are spoil heaps from the mines

Lunar Landscape

with warning signs about the dangers of falling down mine shafts which for some unconvincing reasons, are left unfilled in.

Warning sign

Having dug the shaft, miners then climb down into the mine

Hole into mine      

dig tunnels in every direction

Mine Tunnel

sieve the spoil

Mining Equipment

looking for the illusive Opal stones


which end up in jewellery or tourist souvenirs.

Opal Keyfob

Because of the extreme temperatures here (up to 45C in summer), about half of the 3000 population of the town live underground in “dugouts” (the name for a house which is totally or partially underground). Below is a house which was lived in until the mid 1960s

Old underground house

More modern houses are constructed the same way and have everything that a surface house would have except windows.

Modern House 1

Dugout Kitchen

Modern House 2

These houses are sold in the regular way through Estate Agents

House for sale

Other buildings are also underground, such as the Church

Underground Church


Dugout Shop

The town has its own Golf Course and Race Track. The only grass in town is at the Infant School and the Soccer Pitch so on the golf course they create black grass by mixing oil with sand to make it bind together.

Green Equipment

green maintenance equipment more suited to roads than the golf course

Golf Black Green

the ninth hole

Golfer on the fairway

a golfer walking along a fairway

Coober Pedy was also where we put away our raincoats and winter clothes and went back to summer wear, the temperature starting to head for the 30s C.

Dog Fence-1

On the way north, we pass through the longest fence in the world – 5600 kms of fence built to keep Dingoes in the north of Australia away from the sheep in the south.

And so after two further days of driving, we get to Uluru after 84 days on the

 Day 84 Uluru

road and start our final week in the van before driving to Alice Springs to catch our flight home.

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