We awoke early from the peaceful night at Prowse Gap and were packed up and on the road well before sun rise. We wanted to be at Aileron early to meet Vicki and Rick as we didn’t want to hold them up if they arrived early for our breakfast date.
We pulled into the roadhouse just as the sun was casting its magnificent blanket of orange colour over the eastern plains just prior to peeking above the horizon.
We had time to look over at the huge statues at the roadhouse before a distant rumble broke the silence of the early morning. It was Vicki and Rick’s truck announcing its arrival before we even saw it. It looked awesome as it made its way off the highway with its 3 refrigerated trailers in tow and rumbled up to us as Rick drove right next to the Aussie Wide.
It was so nice to see them and also nice to know that even here, so far away from home there was someone we knew.
We had breakfast in the dining room of the roadhouse with its walls adorned with beautiful outback paintings, some of which were painted by Albert Namijira, the great Aboriginal painter who grew up in this area.
We could easily have talked to Vicki and Rick for hours but they were on a schedule that would take then into Darwin by about 1:00am tomorrow morning.
We said our goodbyes and waved as we watched as Vicki took the huge, beautiful Kenworth slowly out of the roadhouse grounds and out to the highway, gathering speed all the time.
We took the equally beautiful Nissan and the Aussie Wide in the opposite direction to complete the last 170 kilometres of the trip into Alice.
As we approached the outskirts of Alice Springs there was a hint of the red centre scenery, (crumbling red rock hills framing stands of white trunked Ghost Gums and small rocky waterholes), that would be our home for 5 months.
After a quick ride around the town we drove to the Sandrifter Safaris headquarters in Sergeant St where we found Corinne and Gerry, our new bosses, working and preparing for the forthcoming seven safari camps that we’d be a significant part of.
We had a great catch-up chat for an hour or so before a tour of the yard and the mobile camp which would be ready for setting up at Trephina Gorge in one week.
We looked over the all-terrain mobile kitchen and food prep trailers, the showers, toilets and the bus that would take the paying gets from Alice Springs out to the camp.
What struck us most was the ingenuity of the set up. It’s all solar powered and fully self contained with large freezers, refrigeration, hot and cold water tanks and toilet facilities.
You don’t go out and buy this sort of stuff; it needs to be put together piece by piece over years of trial and error. Gerry has done this himself from a workshop which is packed full of every conceivable tool you could think of as well as timber, steel, nuts and bolts, car and truck spares and mechanical pieces of every kind.
All the vehicles, both the ones that are currently used and ones that are no longer used regularly, are housed here.
In addition Gerry’s yard is like a museum in itself. It’s full of fossils that he’s collected from all corners of the Australian Outback (and he can tell you the history of them all) along with collections of bottles, axes and picks, tanks and a myriad of other fascinating bits and pieces. Old mining sites and settlements have provided many artefacts from 40 years of living in the outback.
We saw some of Gerry and Corinne’s photos of the various campsites we’ll be staying at. They are wild, beautiful and often remote and some are never visited by white folk.
As we learnt more about the camps we realised that, from our part, very little about the forthcoming few months has to do with the actual cooking. The menu Corinne has designed over many years is simple but nutritional and interesting and it will be easy to prepare well. The main challenge is learning the system. Everything will be prepared from the camp kitchen that is highly organised to utilise the very limited space. The food must be prepped from solar power and gas which although is ample for the task cannot be wasted. The water is carried out there with us. This includes washing up, showering, drinking and cooking for 25 people. There’s no room for wastage or mistakes.
The first 2 camps will be a little more forgiving as we are close to the bitumen road and only 80 kilometres away from Alice. Also there’s water there, but once we get to Illara Gorge, an uninhabited area over 250 Kilometres from Alice on rough overland tracks, we won’t have this luxury. We’ll need to be fully experienced with the system by then.
We felt even more excited about the whole venture after talking and dinning with this fascinating couple into the night.