After spending the day with Vicki and Rick and discussing the disadvantages of travelling to Darwin at this time of year they had suggested to leave the van at their place and travel just by car.
We went over all the possibilities; driving all the way to Darwin, a total distance of over 6000km return, or just driving as far as Ayres Rock and Coober Pedy. The trouble is it would be too hot to walk around Ayres Rock and so what would we gain? Both Chris and I had seen Alice Springs (although a long time ago) but it wasn’t high on our list at present.
Coober Pedy on the other hand, has been on my “Bucket List” for over 30 years, and for the last 10 years Chris has wanted to take me. We also wanted to stay underground so why not just take a run up there without the van?
Monday 6th was house keeping day. We put the Nissan in for a service. We wanted to have the fuel lines cleaned as well as the radiator flushed. With all the different fuel we use and the hill climbing, puffs of smoke were starting to come from the exhaust when we underwent a steep climb.
The Nissan had also developed a rattle due to the boot liner banging against the sides and this was sending Chris around the twist. For the last few days, every time we stopped, Chris would rearrange things in the back of the ute to try to stop the rattle without success. Nothing worked. You can guess what he was like …
He had found some felt matting beside a dumpster (It was beside and not in the dumpster) so he placed that between the tray and the sides. It seems to have worked thank goodness.
I have also been having problems with my laptop.
A green line had appeared on the screen and the power cable didnt work properly. It would be out of warranty in April so I took it to a dealer in Adelaide. This is also another reason why the blog got behind with no laptop for a week.
Tuesday 7th we were packed and drove our little home to Vicki and Rick’s front yard. I must admit it felt strange to leave “the girl” there. It was 847km to Coober Pedy, just over 9hrs driving.
We were off, pulling firstly into Port Germein to have a quick look at the Jetty.
It was one of the longest in the Southern Hemisphere. The jetty was opened in 1881 and extended by 122 metres to a length of 1680 metres in 1883, but after storm damage it’s now 1532 metres long. It was used for loading grain onto sailing ships to be transported from the farms in this area all over the world.
We took a left turn at Port Augusta then just drove north.
We passed the occasional service station in the middle of “no where” otherwise there were no other towns on the Stuart Hwy. There are signs to homesteads, some many miles in from the road, (even Coober Pedy is 1km off the road). There are rest areas along the way, usually with no toilets or water they’re little more than a picnic table and a rubbish bin in the middle of nowhere.
There are also emergency phones with distances of 80km or more between each one. This country is so vast and here we really seemed to feel it.
We weren’t concerned at any time as there were trucks and cars passing constantly.
We had our UHF, water and food and most of the time our phone worked with the Telstra antenna.
This highway was only completed in 1987 and was just a track before then. Now it is the major highway between Darwin and Port Augusta and is in great condition. Every truck that uses this road does so to the maximum carry limit. Most of them have 3 trailers. There is a train track that goes the same route but currently stops at Katherine. When we asked Vicki which was the most cost efficient way to move freight she said it was by truck. It seems the railway was built for 20 billion dollars but is so uneven it damages the cargo in the containers and the government pays the damage costs not the insurance companies.They also don’t check refrigerated containers to ensure they are working so the food can spoil that way as well.
The government sold the line to the Americans for 20 million dollars (If a normal business did that they would be bankrupt) but the government apparently still pay for damages. At the moment due to a bridge damage from flooding the line is cut between Katherine and Darwin, so trucks are still needed to transport freight from Katherine to Darwin. Vicki and Rick carry refrigerated containers for Woolworths because Woolies then are certain of at least three containers reaching them every week.
The road seems so flat, you can see vehicle coming for miles.
We put the cruise control on and watched as the kilometres just clicked over. We came to a lookout on a hill from where we could view the salt pans and the occasional lake that held water. Lake Gairdne,r one of the bigger inland dry salt pans of the state has on several occasions been the site of attempts to break the World Land Speed Record.
Eventually we saw the “Dumps” or mouns of dirt dug out of the shafts of thousands of opal mines. They cover the ground for miles around Coober Pedy.
Then we saw the sign for the turn off to Coober Pedy. This was it. This is what I had wanted to see for 30 years. I had read so much about this place I felt like I knew it, but would it live up to my expectations?
We found our accommodation easily enough “The Radeka Down Under”. The accommodation offered was from full ensuite rooms, Underground Budget Rooms or Underground Dorm Beds.
We weren’t after a flash abode, just somewhere to be able to sleep underground.
It is true about the temp underground as we found out walking down the stairs. The walls are a combined pink and cream rock, the sort that contains opal.
We took a walk around the town and then cooked dinner in the community kitchen. We then went underground to fulfil my life time wish of sleeping underground.