Thursday, 19 May 2016

Half-Lap Day 16: Coober Pedy -> SA/NT Border

Most mornings when I wake up it’s still dark, and it’s only the birdsong that I can hear that indicates it’s nearly dawn. In Coober Pedy however there was no early morning birdsong – I guess with hardly any trees there are very few birds. Throughout the morning we saw one small flock of galahs (about 4) and a couple of other lone birds, it wasn’t until we headed further north that we started to see more, and even then it was only 1 or 2 at a time, and usually raptors of some sort.

After a quick cup of tea and blog writing we started packing up just after 7am. Getting the annex down was easier than last time – it’s going to become easier and easier I guess as we figure out the best way to do things. As the kids woke up they had breakfast and headed over to the underground room. We were packed up by 10 – a record for a full pack up. We nearly got it down before the flies arrived – probably about 9.30 they started coming in large numbers and the car doors were all open so we left with a car full of flies – we gradually opened the windows and shooed them out throughout the day.

We stopped in town to grab a few more groceries (the IGA didn’t have any bread the day before) and to fill up our water containers – out here the caravan parks and camping areas ask you not to fill containers from their water supply, as there is only limited water around. In Coober Pedy there were water filling stations – 30L for 20c, which was about what we needed!

On our way out of town we got more of an idea of how far the opal minefields were spread around town, and saw signs to more and more fields as we drove. I had wanted to see The Breakaways and the Moon Plain but couldn’t find consistent information on whether the road would be suitable for 2WD cars, and so we thought that with the trailer on as well it was unlikely the road would be ok. We decided to check out the road when we got there – and as it turned it, the road was closed, so the decision was made for us. We did see the dingo fence as it crossed the highway a bit further north – a very sturdy fence that covers thousands of kilometres and was built to keep dingoes out of the pasture land of the southern states.

The landscape outside Coober Pedy
We arrived in Marla a few hours later and stopped at the roadhouse for lunch and to stretch our legs. The Oodnadatta Track finishes here, so we got to drive on a few metres of the end of it (this bit was sealed – looking up the road it isn’t long until the bitumen stops. Would love to drive it one day, but not in this car!) We made a cup of tea and sandwiches and chatted to a guy who had just cycled the Oodnadatta track, Caitlin was inspired and is thinking about the cycle trips she would like to do in the future.

Heading further north, and listening to more Harry Potter, the landscape kept changing. At times there was grass and the foliage was quite green. There was even water in some of the depressed areas of land. All the creeks were dry though. As we drove the creeks became wider, and the dirt became redder. Occasionally there were hills or escarpments, for the most part the land was flat. We followed the railway line for a while and saw a couple of long long trains. The Road Trains we saw seemed more imposing than those further south – these mainly had 3 full container trailers, so they were more solid than the early ones we saw, they tended to be tanks or flat beds.

We arrived at the border to the Northern Territory around 4.30. The kids have now been in every Australian state or territory. There’s a rest stop with free camping right on the border. On the northbound side of the highway it’s all bitumen, which doesn’t make for an easy camper trailer set up. I’d read about bush camping on the southbound side of the highway – we missed the turnoff at first but came back and found a 2 wheel track leading through the trees. It was a bit damp but solid enough to drive on. Beyond the trees there were cleared areas where we could set up camp. At first we were the only people here, another couple in a campervan arrived after a while and set up at the opposite end to us, and that was it. The other side was full. We set up on red dirt, thinking we were in the northern territory, then realised we were probably still on the South Australian side of the rest area – happy to spend one last night in SA. The kids had fun running and riding from one state/territory to another. This is probably the closest we’ll get to the actual centre of Australia too – it’s a bit over to the east and slightly north of us (about 130km).

Caitlin riding from the Northern Territory back into South Australia
We explored the area around us – lots of ants nests of different types, scrubby trees, a fenced pasture next to us. The toilet was over on the paved side, but it wasn’t far to walk over if we needed it. Tony and Caitlin rode their bikes over when they wanted to use it. The noise of the road trains hurtling past was much louder on the paved side – I’m glad we chose the more sheltered side.

Tony cooked fried rice with eggs and bacon and the kids and I played Cheat. Millie hadn’t played before and picked up the rules quickly. The sunset was spectacular again – I kept thinking it was as good as it could be, and then it would get better! After dinner the kids played a game where they had to create ads for products and the others had to judge the ad, they played for ages. Millie had a great ‘ad voice’ – I think she could sell anything!

We did a minimal set up in the tent again, LiAM in his bed and the girls on their camping mattresses, and read Brisingr until Millie fell asleep, then the others played on their iPads until they were tired enough to sleep.

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