It’s been a little while since my last post, and that is due to the Australian Outback being the most remote, off-grid place I have ever been. For kilometres and kilometres you can drive without one little tiny blip of signal popping up on your phone, which makes the idea of writing anything and uploading it up to the world wide web a nigh on impossibility!
Before departing Adelaide we really wanted to sample some of the areas fine wine selections. With so many wine regions scattered around this part of South Australia, such as Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale, it felt rude not to taste some produce. We took a wander into Adelaide city and to the Wine Discovery Centre where we sampled until our hearts were content – using the rather high-tech tap and pour system they have in place (I can’t explain it better than that) – and then paid the balance at the end of our drinking session (dangerous way to go about business!).
Moving north from Adelaide where my previous post ended, we delved into the first of our “Outback” experiences. Although not entirely in the outback, the remote feel of the final part of the drive out to the Flinders Ranges gave us our first proper sense of isolation – this word is probably the best description of most of the places we have visited over the past few weeks! Being the cheapos that we are, we did not want to pay for camping in the ranges, so decided to stay in the back garden of a pub in a tiny town called Cradock (I say town, but I think it was literally a pub and a few houses). Hands down this was the coldest night I have ever spent sleeping in a tent. So cold in fact, Laura who had been happily nestled in her own little tent for all the previous nights was forced into our tent to try and create some collective warmth, making hot water bottles at 1am to try and handle the temperature which we found out the next morning had reached as low as 3 degrees! Australia is warm they told us… bullshit!
The following day in the Flinders Ranges we did some rambling, found some Aboriginal artwork, climbed Mount Ohlssen Bagge for some sweeping views across the ranges and warmed up in the pleasant daytime sun. The Ranges are beautiful and although a bit of a detour from the main highway route up through the relatively desolate centre of Australia, it was well worth the detour for the epic sunsets, striking mountains and kamikaze kangaroos, who can think of nothing better than running head first into passing traffic. There is a car every half an hour or so on these roads, I think the kangaroos might be stupid, or suicidal.
Not wanting a repeat of the night before, we decided it was about time we stayed inside, so opted for a nice motel in Port Augusta before taking the long drive up to Coober Pedy.
After stocking up on supplies, filling up Hank the Tank (our water tank) with our water rations for the next few days, we set off from Port Augusta on our way up the ridiculously long Stuart Highway. At 2834 km / 1761 miles, Stuart Highway is a monster. Thankfully we weren’t travelling the full length from Port Augusta to Darwin, we would be making pit-stops along the way – with the first being the Opal Mining Capital of Australia: Coober Pedy.
The road was long and relatively uneventful, until our first stop at the shimmering Lake Hart. Finally away from the wet and miserable days in Victoria and most of South Australia, the weather was becoming what the Australia Tourism Board makes it out to be! The Lake was merely a lunch stop (a beautiful one at that) and a break from the monotony of cruise control before we arrived, late in the day, into Coober Pedy. If you can imagine what the outback should look like, and feel like, Coober Pedy is the outright embodiment of that thought. Quite simply… hick as fuck. People live underground like moles because the days are far too hot and the nights are far too cold. Out of the 3500 people who live their, 400 make decent livings by prospecting and mining for opals, the rest are alcoholics. Haha, only kidding, but the town is pretty rife with piss-heads. We stayed at a place called Riba’s and camped underground in a strange subterranean campground bunker type of thing. A bit out of the ordinary, but ultimately a very rewarding experience, in fact, one of the best camping sleeps I have ever had!
After a few days exploring the town visiting key hotspots such as The Big Winch, Crocodile Harry’s Underground Home, The Breakaways National Park, Josephine’s Kangaroo Orphanage, and many more interesting places, plus a few nights in our burrow, we began the next stage of our drive, onwards up Stuart Highway towards Uluru and the Red Centre.
If driving extremely long distances in Australia has taught me one thing, it’s that caravans are irritating, road trains (dear lord… road trains) are utterly terrifying, and outback drivers are tailgating assholes.