Jennifer and I have been on the road since the 16th of May, arriving on the north island on a cool, dark Melbourne morning as we drove along the ramp out of the Spirit and into its early traffic. Against a dark and dusky sky, we drove along the city streets towards Geelong Road, then diverted to the Western Ring Road on the way to Hilary’s place in Roxburgh Park. After breakfast, all four of us not counting the dog, did a walk at Woodlands. Isla fell asleep in her backpack, Gertie padded along and around, as Hilary and us walked along the bush tracks. Afterwards, we enjoyed immense fresh scones with dizzily piles of cream and jam at the Woodland homestead. While we were enjoying ourselves, the trailer was getting some minor repairs for a leak around a power outlet at Cub Camper in Campbellfield.
That evening we arrived at Horsham, raining, dark and so putting up the camper for the first time seemed a little too daunting. We stayed overnight at the International which was surprisingly quiet despite being right beside the Western Highway. In the morning we got off to an early start, arriving in Adelaide after dropping through the very scenic tree filled Belair Park, to stay at the Big 4 Marion Holiday Park. It had excellent facilities. I was a bit too tired and I think I may have left the car door ajar. We discovered later we had got off lightly with only my ancient iPod stolen. Our cameras were found by someone staying at the park, so we got those back so thank goodness.
We spent Saturday at the Convention centre at a conference / GP Update on women’s and children’s health. It was busy, packed with useful presentations and so well worth attending.
On Sunday we took it easy with a slow start. We had had dinner on Friday night on the sea front so we thought it was worth having lunch at Glenelg. When we arrived street side, the air was punctuated by the ear splitting sounds of pile drivers and earth moving equipment. We had a light lunch then scuttled back to the quiet of the camping ground.
On Monday we started the next leg of our journey back to Alice, arriving at Port Augusta mid afternoon with plenty of time to set up the trailer. We are both finding the trailer very comfortable, it’s cooking platform excellent and bedding lovely, cosy at night. It takes about ten to fifteen minutes to set it all up unless you need to add the awning which is zipped to the main tent.
From Port Augusta we drove to Coober Pedy. I felt myself quite tense in Adelaide, a mixture of big city noise and bustle plus having had such a close shave with a robbery. I felt myself relaxing as we headed north, the wonderful music of Bach and Handel in the car, the featureless plains and hills and above the beautiful, blue, crystalline skies of the outback.
Coober Pedy is fascinating and should be on anybody’s ” to go ” list. The caravan park is called the Stuart Range Resort. It’s major problem for us was the thought disordered layout of the camper and caravan parking. Eventually we located a spot and set up. We clicked open our chairs, tossed on the blankets for later and had showers. We spent two nights at Coober Pedy and here is what we did. The next morning we spent an hour setting up the tyre dog sensors on the tyre valves. This remote sensing gives the pressure and temperature of both trailer and Car tyres. It’s fascinating to watch the pressures over the drive. Changes in pressure can indicate leaks, the lower pressure means more tyre road contact and the friction sends up the temperature which causes blow outs.
In the afternoon, we joined other travellers on a bus trip around Coober Pedy. Now Coober Pedy is an Aboriginal phrase that means ” white fellas living in holes” which is what the miners and locals do to escape the heat of Summer ( 50plus degrees) and the cold ( minus five) of Winter. The underground houses are called Dugouts and have a uniform temperature of 23degrees all year round. Ventilation is provided by a narrow pipe that sits a few meters above the ground directly above the dugout. Two of these ventilation shafts are perfect. If you have too many the warm air can heat the dugout too much.
We learned about the rise of Opal mining in Australia, beginning in remote Queensland and ending In Coober Pedy, the richest opal site in the world. Our guide had been a miner for many years and knew many interesting stories about the history and characters that make up a frontier town like this. We visited the Breakaway Hills. This area has been used for films such as Mad Max Thunderdome and Pitch Black. It is now a reserve. The scenery is stunning, the ironstone caps if the hills staining the shale with red and gold down their flanks. There is no mining allowed here, its all natural. For most of Coober Pedy, conical piles of diggings fill the horizon. They are dangerous to walk around as no shafts are refilled. A 70 meter drop has killed or injured tourists and locals alike.
We visited the museum. Here was saw a movie on Opal. It described its ancient origins in human affairs, beginning in Roman times. Then opals were dug out of secret spits in the carpathians. These opals are muted compared to the vivacity and colours of Australian opals. The sheer brilliance and quality of our opals made European buyers hesitant to purchase them. The Australian Opal market really took off in the USA, and to his day, many fine opals find their eventual owners in America. I bought Jennifer some Opal ear rings and matching pendant, milky white with fiery reds and greens. The colours come from diffraction of light by minute amounts of water trapped in the hardened silica. Opal is ancient sand, descended from the ancient seas of Australia, 120 million years ago.
Our penultimate visit was to the Serbian Church. This is also a dugout as are most of the many churches here in Coober Pedy. It is a serene home of prayer and community, the parishioners are now to old to stand for the two hours of an orthodox service. On the walls are five sculptures by an early member of the church. They are religious. They are are of Christ, Saints and the man in saint of the Serbian church. He died soon after he completed them, still a young man and clearly a gifted sculptor.
In the evening, we had pizzas at the resort. These were the yummiest pizzas I have ever had. John who owns the resort, jokes that it took a Greek like him, to make Italian Pizzas. He would be in his mid seventies, and is still vibrant and hard at work, taking tour groups in the daytime and cooking pizzas in the evenings.
The next day we drove to Erldunda. This is only 200km from Alice but it would have made a 700km drive for the day which is just to far to be safe. It’s a very good park but suffers from the noise of the generator even though it’s 200meters from where all the trailers and caravans are parked. But the wonderful sunrise made up for that. A few people were disturbed but I slept well, with my silicon earplugs soothing my sleep.
We met Con and Sue Polizos from Phillip Island, they had a terrific rig with all amenities, microwave, oven, you name it. They are a lot of fun and joined us for a chat while I played my guitar, and we sat outside in the sunshine. At Adelaide we met Ted and Joe, who are travelling as well. They helped using with the cub as they have a very similar model to us.
Well right now, I’m writing this as we head to Alice Springs, north on the Stuart Highway. We are seeing our old landmarks like the Finke and turn-offs to places we have heard about or have visited before.