South Australia PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Smith   
Thursday, 23 April 2009 13:04
Article Index
South Australia
Coober Pidy to Adelaide
All Pages

Day 80: Monday 10th December - Uluru to Coober Pidy

Another 4.30am start with a 600 kilometres to cover to civilization and Adelaide. First couple of hours spent backtracking to get back on to the Stuart Highway.

Pulled in to take photos of the state border between the Northern Territory and South Australia. I sang South Australia.

South Australia I was born
Heave Way, Haul Way
South Australia round Cape Hone
And we're bound for South Australia


Haul away you rolling King
Heave away, Haul away
Haul away you'll hear me sing
We're'bound for South Australia

But I was a little sad to be leaving the Northern Territory and the outback because although the weather's been untypical nothing can hide the variety and beauty of this enormous state which is the size of Britain but has a population of only 220,00. A little further on the bus slowed down as two Wedged Tailed Eagles, the largest bird in Oz were having dinner with a group of White Bellyed Seaguls, second largest, in the middle of the Stuart Highway just inside South Australia. Perhaps I'll like SA even more than NT.

The scenery began to change to a flat arid landscape and as we approached Coober Pidy the desert was punctuated with mounds of waist from the mines. As we entered the town one could be excused for thinking it was a scrap yard of disused machines, corrugated outbuildings and prefabricated shacks and not the opal capital of the world.

We pulled into to the Opal Museum car park and we were met by a guide who was to take us round the town and show us the main sights which consisted of a church, school with special turf playing fields and a water treatment plant. The best thing about the tour was the guide who was a Dame Edna character she spent most of her time rebuking the driver for not immediately responding to her demands to turn left/ right. Her enthusiasm for the town was amazing; she enthused about the school’s lawn, a water treatment plant and a friend who spends $200 a month to water her garden.

Once back at the museum we were ushered into a theatre to watch a video on the history of opal mining and the working of the stones. As the documentary was about to finish Das and Ben took the opportunity to slowly make their way towards the door and the pub up the road when suddenly the screen burst apart and Dame Edna appeared to ask them ‘where they were going’ and there was still the mine to see. After the mine which I thought was quite interesting we were led into the showroom/ salesroom for the real reason we were there: to buy. Most people bought something, some very expensive. By this time the youngster had escaped.

The bar at the top of the street was an architypical Australian bar, modern with canteen type tables and chairs and banks of monitors high up all round the walls, and pokey machines along tha back wall and ajoining room. The clientele either sat playing pokey, stairing mesmorised by the lotto on the monitors or buying beer at the bar. As I made for the table where Anne had sat herself down I noticed Dame Edna at the next table smiling at me. She obviously knew what I was thinking because she simply said ‘I drove here sweety’. I thought she might have used a secret underground passage from the mine.

Went to the underground bar. Das and Ben getting were very drunk but I thought they would be ok because as we went to the bar and bought drinks the barman anounced it wwas closing. After another rten minutes we left and made our way back to the underground type cells.


Day 81: Tuesday 11th December - Coober Pidy to Adelaide

Very early start 4.30am again although my day started earlier, as usual, with a toilet stop. As I made my way up the underground passage to the exit door John came towards me having already been and greeted me and pointed down to the ground under the sink area and said 'don't fall over him'. Curled up in a ball on the dusty, cold floor holding his camera like a child cuddling a teddy bear for solace was Ben. On my way back I contemplated waking him and moving him to one of the bunk beds above us in our room but he was soundly sleeping and it seemed a shame to disturb him. Also Rick would be waking everyone in 10 to 15 minutes and so it seemed a pointless exercise. What was more important was where was Das? Ben then told Ric, as he made his way on to the bus, how they had lost their way back to the accommodation after leaving the bar and eventually decided, in desperation, to sleep in a disused spaceship used for the film Black ?

After a couple of hours of cuddling together to keep warm in the near freezing temperature he set out to find the cave. When he went back to show Das the way he found that he had gone on walk-about. We spent the next twenty minutes trying to find Das and it started to get quite worrying when a very cold looking, shaking Das accompanied by Alex, who'd found him. It later emerged that Das had sought refuge in what he thought was the doorway to the hostel hoping some one would come out and let him in. The doorways was, in actual fact, the main entrance to the Opal Museum and that didn't open untill 10.00am.

Both Das and Ben were totally oblivious as the most beautiful sunrise of the whole trip developed as we headed down to Adelaide. In the space of a couple of hours the landscape changed firstly from shrub to a large salt lake stretching for as far as the eye could see and then flat harsh grazing land.

Very soon we pulled in to have breakfast at one of the wonderful roadhouses. These are literally oasis in the middle of the desert selling everything that anyone needs to survive; from Mrs Macs pies and Magnums to tee shirts and the more essential goods like beer and petrol. Set a couple of hundred miles apart they are able to charge what they want without too much complaint. You’re not about to set off a couple of hundred miles down the road to save a couple of dollars on a packet of tea bags and a bottle of milk. The other absolutely essential thing about these road side mecca’s is their social side providing information about everything that has happened over an enormous area to all those living around and those passing through on a regular basis.

My first and only impression of Adelaide was of a large city with very wide, well kept roads. the Lonely Planet says it has a reputation for being boring and I can see why but it had a sense of calm and cleanliness about it lacking in most modern day cities I have visited and so in a way I found it refreshing. The hostel was clean and I found myself sharing with Colin, John and Das and Ben. After a trip to a local bar I found myself sitting at the front entrance to the hostel smoking and talking to a young woman from China who’d been travelling for five years and was running out of excuses for not returning home to her father and a traditional life of marriage. We discussed Marxism, Maosism and the state of modern China and I eventually went to bed at 4.00am being no nearer to solving the young ladies dilemma. I hadn’t been in bed long when Ben and Das returned to share their nights experience with all of those sleeping on their landing.


Day 82: Wednesday 12th December -  Adelaide


Went to the toilet at about 6.30am and Ben and Das were looking at photos on Ben's laptop and giggling. Went back to sleep until after 9.00am. Found Anne downstairs with Noreen writing post/ Christmas cards. This is probably the most civilised city we've been to so far and we had no breakfast nor drinks. We had to get a bottle of orange from a drink machine.

There seems to be some confusion about our leaving time. It was supposed to be midmorning or about 10.30am and then the bus suddenly had to go to their workshop which took one and a half hours not thirty minute as we were told. We sat around using the internet but generally getting bored. When the coach arrived Lucinda and Andy had gone on walk-abouts.

I fell asleep again and missed the views of Barrossa Valley. Had a roadside lunch looking at the Murray Bridge and river an hour outside Adelaide. Picnic spoilt by the flies.
Another long day of driving made worse by a confused late start. The countryside very similar to the South of France with vineyards and fields of wheat. This area is suffering from a great water shortage, up to five years since the last significant rain fall. Many farmers going out of business. Have to say the fields are so well kept that it is hard to believe there is such hardship.

Bus suddenly pulled into a very clean, quaint spacious little town called Woomera. As the bus pulled up outside a Victorian building calling itself the Royal Hotel I assumed we were staying there. It turned out we were going to a fish and chip shop and our destination was still two hours way although the landlady of the Commercial Hotel next door estimated three hours in a coach. I had Barumundi and chips for the second time in two days washed down by two glasses of VB beer.

Sunset was glorious again but an hour later thanks to the time change. The rest of the journey was pretty boring driving through the dark and we arrived at 11.40pm and then had to erect the tents. Had a quick couple of glasses of wine and went to bed. The site, what little we could see of it, looked good. The toilet and showers were very modern and clean. Very soothing to go to sleep list.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 April 2009 14:02