Travelling Australia
Wayne & Pam BENTLEY

Saturday 28th May 2005 to Tuesday 31st May 2005

Saturday 28th May 2005

We woke to the sound of light rain this morning and the red sand outside took on the consistency of glue. By the time one of us returned from a walk to the ablution block, she had grown another six inches until she took her shoes off.

Our first task was to make a few minor repairs and adjustments to the caravan and patrol, pack a few things neater and clean out our cupboards before we went shopping.

We drove into the city centre of Port Augusta where we found the Coles store and did our shopping to stock up on food and other necessary items to last us the next two weeks. There was also a visit to the local hardware store to pick up a few nuts and washers to replace those used on the caravan stabilizer legs.

The shopping was returned to the caravan and whilst 'One of Us' prepared it for packing away, the 'Other One' took the Patrol to the Shell Service Station and filled it and three 20 litre jerry cans up ready for the trip up to Coober Pedy and beyond. A LP Gas bottle was also exchanged for $29 of hard earned cash.

From there it was back to the caravan where the rest of the packing and preparations were finished before we discovered the Cryovac packed lamb that was going to be our dinner, although well within the expiry date, was way past any possibility of using it by the smell of it when it was opened. We bought this in Victoria so there was no going back for an exchange so back into Coles we went and this time came out with a chicken to be roasted for dinner instead.

As we are heading for Coober Pedy and Yulara over the next few days, we are not sure of GSM mobile telephone reception in these areas so if we are out of phone range we will have to wait and update the web site when we come back in range again.

Port Augusta and the Flinders Ranges

The reason Port Augusta is there

Sunday 29th May 2005

At last, off toward the warmer weather. At 7:50am we drove out of the caravan park in Port Augusta, then about 150 metres on we turned right into Stuart Highway and headed north until 3:00pm 540 kilometres later we made our next turn which was right, into Coober Pedy's main street.

The first 100 kilometres was along very level roads where the cruise control was turned on and away we went, sitting on about 90 kph. Then someone put a few rises in the way but the road was still good and the traveling easy. We talk about the driving because most of the way there wasn't a lot to look at out of the window of the Patrol.

Once we made about half way or a bit better, it appears someone put the map down the wrong way and we seemed to be driving up hill from there on. This may have been our imagination, however we reduced our speed down to about 80 kmh the rest of the way.

Our first stop was at a parking bay overlooking a lot of dry country and a salt lake in the distance. We had a cup of tea and biscuit before getting back on the road again. Our second stop was for lunch when we were about 145 kilometres out of Coober Pedy.

The last section of the drive was a coast up the hill and we turned into the 'Oasis Tourist Park' in Coober Pedy, however we tend to think they didn't understand the meaning of the word 'Oasis' because there is very little water in the park, in fact there are no taps to connect to at any of the sites and it costs 20 cents for every two minutes under a shower. This appears to be the same all around Coober Pedy and there is no sign of any garden or green grass anywhere.

Regardless of all this, we have booked in to the caravan park for two nights so we can have a good look around the town and surrounds tomorrow before moving on to Yulara.

First stop - morning tea

What we saw on the way to Coober Pedy

Monday 30 May 2005

After travelling most of yesterday to get here, today was spent having a look around Coober Pedy. Our first stop was the Visitors Centre which is in fact the Local Council premises, where a number of pamphlets and other information is available. After collecting some of this information we decided our next stop would be the Old Timers Mine, which is an old opal mine that was worked in the 1920s. An entry fee of $10 each gave as access to a self-guided walk around the mine as well as going through the underground home of a miner and his family before ending up in a display area where a number of opals set as earrings and brooches etc were also displayed.

The opal mine was extremely interesting, although it was easy to leave it with a backache, not just because there were many places where we had to bend over within the shafts, but possibly more so because of the thought of the hard work that had been put into digging out and removing all of the dirt with a pick and shovel to create so much space underground. A visit to one of the mines on display would certainly be recommended to anyone visiting Coober Pedy.

The underground home was also fascinating and appeared to be extremely comfortable, particularly as the temperature remains around 24° day or night, summer or winter, regardless of what the temperature was outside. Perhaps even more intriguing was the fact that this was a home in the 1920s and that it was far better than we lived in on how farm in the 1970s.

The exit from the home delivered us to the display area where 'One of Us' spotted some opal earrings, causing the young woman in the shop to have to wipe the droole off the display case. As the other one wanted to see more of Coober Pedy, he eventually found it necessary to purchase a set of solid white opal earrings to get her out of this shop. They were quite affordable as long as we don't fill up the patrol with diesel the next five times it is empty.

After 'One of Us' was led out of the shop by the opals (just like a carrot with a donkey), we located the Shell service station where we filled up the patrol with diesel at 119.9 cents per litre which was a very pleasant surprise considering where we are.

We then drove up to one of the high points in the centre of Coober Pedy where what they call 'The Big Winch' sits on the hill. We took some photos in this area before driving back through the main street of the town where we called into the Desert Cave Hotel which they claim to be the only underground International Hotel in Australia. There is a large display area in a tunnel and rooms underground within the hotel which gives a history of the area and has some interesting photos and images to view. There is an underground bar, however we did not feel we want to buy the Hotel so did not stop there for drinks.

We then visited an underground cafe that did not have a lot of tables and chairs as most of the room was taken displaying didgeridoos. Although one of us was famished at the time (as usual) it did not appeal to the senses so we moved on looking for the Catholic Church which we were told was well worth a visit. I guess this was a day of miracles, 'One of Us' not eating in a cafe and the 'Other One' going to church. This church was the first underground church in Coober Pedy and was definitely worth a visit.

By this time there was no holding 'One of Us' back from food any longer so we returned to the caravan at about 2 p.m. where we managed to devour a light lunch.

Although there are numerous other places we could visit in Coober Pedy, so many of them appear to be similar to ones we have already visited and as we intend to leave early in the morning we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon back at the caravan relaxing, reading a book and preparing the web site early.

Tomorrow morning it is our intention to leave quite early so we can make it to Yulara which is the resort near Uluru (Ayers Rock). We think it is around 700 kilometres or more.

I can't find an opal down here
you'll have to buy me one in the shop!!

Who said it was a big winch???

This church has a solid roof
T he underground Catholic church

Tuesday 31st May 2005

We had a long drive today so we were up around 5:30am and getting ready to leave in the dark. 'One of Us' wasn't too happy when the coin operated shower took her coin but didn't give up any water, that was bad enough but when the second shower did the same thing. the 'Other One' really was treading on egg shells for the rest of the day.

We managed to pull out of the caravan park in Coober Pedy by about 6:30 am when it was still quite dark and the first half hour of our drive was with the spot lights lighting up the road well ahead. Fortunately there were no kangaroos in our path so all went well and there was only one close call with a kangaroo who, well after the sun had risen, decided the front of the Patrol would be a bit hard to argue with so he detoured at the last minute. The first part of the journey was through country that was riddled with opal mines.

The next 490 kilometres rolled past with monotonous ease, including stops at Marla and the border entry into the Northern Territory before we turned west at Eridunda and only had 244 kilometres to go before we reached Yalara (Uluru). On the way we stopped for lunch in a truck stop 200 kilometres from Yalara (Uluru). By this time the country had changed a little and we were traveling through low hills of fine red sand covered with small trees and bushy scrub.

About 50 kilometres from Uluru we could see it looming quite large in the distance and a few kilometres later The Olgas (Kata Tjuta) poked there peaks up over the hills.

We arrived at the 'camping ground' at about 4:40 pm and booked in for the next three nights. We set up the caravan in a good level bay with water (which we didn't have in Coober Pedy) and both TV and GSM telephone reception. After setting everything else up we put the satellite dish up so we have all we need to make the next two days here quite comfortable.

The rest of the day was spent in the caravan park with plans to see the 'Rock' tomorrow and The Olgas (Kata Tjuta) the day after.

Northern Territory - Here we are

Mt Conner - on the Lasseter Highway