Day 995 Thursday 4th July
The strong winds continued to blow. Mostly coming from our left, pushing us toward the central dividing line. If it remained a constant blow it was manageable but the outcrops of trees gave shelter and so we had a wind no wind situation. We rode at a steady fifty to seventy kph which made us feel safer but the following traffic decidedly grumpy I felt. The roadtrain drivers coming toward us moved to their left to give us room and waved. But the ones behind us overtook as soon as they could and pulled back in too soon for our liking. After a day of slow riding, and at just under three hundred clicks we gave up and found a motel. We thought our tent would appreciate not being blown about, and we find it unpleasant camping in the rain as well.
The nice motel manager said it was ok to park the bikes under the rear veranda to keep them dry, while we warmed by a log fire.
Day 996 Friday 5th July
The weather still not suitable for safe riding we stayed put, carrying out a little bike maintenance and sky watching.
Day 997 Saturday 6th July
With clearing skies we rode out at eight am onto a wet highway but the blue sky looked promising. Eighty clicks further on though the clouds rolled as we stopped for fuel at Tialem Bend. With waterproofs on, Murray Bridge was our stop for morning tea. The river bridge here was the first to cross the Murray river and flood plain, running parallel to it was the rail-road. Both built in the eighteen hundreds, together they made an impressive sight.
Once again our guide book told a different description from what we found in the town. We had a pleasant walk around the individual shops and the farmers market and then made our way onto Adelaide, in the rain.
Unlike rain we had experienced before, which came, poured and then stopped, this was like U.K. Rain which stayed and stayed, with grey skies and fog (!) as we descended from Mount Barker into the city.
After a short ride through a few city blocks we thought a motel would be our best option, offering secure parking and a bus to the CBD. With our gear hung to dry and the excellent heater carrying out a fine job we went for a walk to see the sights. We found it as delightful as Melbourne, with many different nationalities offering their varied cuisine.
On our return a taxi cab driver told us the fair was twice what we expected to pay. So we tried another with the same result, as it was only seven thirty we thought they were trying to rip us off a little. The third however said “no its only ten minutes if that, so no problem”. Making home with our bank balance safe we had an early night.
Day 998 Sunday 7th July
Walking out early into a beautiful day we saw the bus leaving our stop, so hot footing to the next we tried to flag him down, not expecting success after our Melbourne experience. But no, he pulled over, explained the system and sold us our best option, a day pass, result.
Today we had a small list of sights to see and curry houses to visit. It was great to be able to sight see the cathedrals and architecture, wearing light clothing and feeling the warm sun after our rainy days.
Arriving back at a warm room we packed some of our gear for departure in the morning.
Day 999 Monday 8th July
We headed north to Port Augusta en-route to Coober Pedy, an Opal mining town in the outback. It was the same distance as our southern detour to Alice Spring, but everything we had read and unusually everyone we had spoke to had said it was a “must do” place.
Due to our miss-adventure with the weather, wanting to travel there and back as fast as was safe we had the hair brained idea of hiring a vehicle. With two of us driving it would be a breeze…..
Arriving at a rental company in Port Augusta the guy was a bit taken a back by what arrived on his forecourt. All was going well ’till we told him where we were going and how to work the deal best with out paying a heap for extra km’s that we would do in a few days. Advising us most strongly that we were ‘A’ mad for thinking we could travel that most dangerous road into the early evening, ‘B’ mad as the insurance excess would cost us three thousand dollars if we hit or got hit by a road train. (The least of our worries if ninety tonne of truck hit us we thought). And ‘C’ mad as if we hit a Roo or cow we would have to pay for the vehicle as the insurance would not, (sixteen thousand dollars). He was correct we were mad, so we headed north to a free camp sixty clicks toward Coober Pedy under our own steam. The camp was excellent, offering shelter from the weather and splendid views to the Flinders Ranges
Day 1000 Tuesday 9th July
On our road north, to the left of us some of the land looked like it had been a tar road once, now over grown with spinifex grass, but it was just the hard baked land giving way to nature again.
A familiar road sign gave us warning again that the road had been graded either side of the highway as a landing strip for the air doctor. The last time we had seen this was on our road east from Karratha, being too good to miss we stopped for a photo shoot.
Arriving at our camp, with tent pitched we were invited out for a Pizza by our new neighbours. The seafood meal was a delight, ranking as on of the best we had ever had at a restaurant.
It was a great end to our one thousandth day since leaving the U.K
Day 1001 Wednesday 10th July
Being a little apprehensive that the eleven hundred km detour might not be all we hoped for was ill-founded. The town was built on the Opal mining, the early settlers soon discovered why work all day underground in the cool and come out at night to swelter in up to fifty five degrees of heat in a tent to sleep? So they made living quarters in the old parts of their workings. As they dug further in, so creating more living space, eventually creating three and four bedroom homes with kitchens and sitting rooms. The whole town mostly still lives underground today. The couple who owned our camp ground, who could live in an air conditioned cabin chose the subterranean life style, and were surprised at our surprise!
We walked and looked with awe at the hotels, shops, churches and homes, all with air vents and water heaters poking through or sitting on top of the barren rock, the only evidence of life beneath the surface.
Many movies have been shot at this remote place, like Mad Max, The Princess of Persia, Star Wars and a heap I have not heard of. A ‘space craft’ still sits outside one of the museums where it came to rest in one of the Star War movies!
Much old mine working machinery sits around the town as reminders to what still goes on today.
As this is the Opal capital of Australia we thought an ideal place to buy a little souvenir of our visit. Visiting a few jewellers the vibe came to us that we might be being taken for fools again as the items we were taken with were instantly discounted by at least fifty per cent. The last shop visited the owner and maker of fine shiny things, simply said “if I can help, please ask”, no hard sell. So we looked and coughed a little at the prices. So we asked! Theo proved to be a really nice guy, and his quiet manner and appearance reminded us both of Abri in Swellindam. We felt we had found the real deal and answering our questions gave us a great insight into the history of their creation, cutting, polishing and setting of the gems. He freely admitted some of his lack of knowledge concerning the geology, convincing us he really was not out to push ‘junk’ onto us. When he asked what we were looking for a bowl of oddments was produced. He admitted that these pieces he as yet had not found a use for. A small cylindrical opal five mil in diameter fifteen mil long shone with green and amber flecks. He explained it was a piece of the ‘opelized’ remains of a Belemnite spine tube. As the water they sat in evaporated it lost its brilliance and shine, he said when polished it would shine all day! Agreeing a rough price he would polish it and cap it in silver, ready for a chain to be chosen. Feeling really pleased with his expertise we headed home, arranging to collect it in the morning, but he said only if we were pleased with it.
Day 1002 Thursday 11th July
Reading about “The Painted Desert” we thought we should try to ride there for a visit, it was created when this part of Australia was beneath a shallow sea a few million years ago. The oxides in the rocks being a plethora of colours, including black. Talking with the lady who owed and ran the camp advised that it may not be easy to ride through the land, and it was one hundred and fifty of more km away, but “The Breakaways” which was very similar but smaller was only ten clicks distant, and we could use her four wheel drive car, if we put fuel in it. So on our last day we drove out to the Dog Proof Fence, another must see and onto to the ‘painted Breakaways’ It was a spectacular moon like scenery, but with more atmosphere!
On our return to town we called in on Theo to look at his craftsmanship, what he had made from the piece was just what we hoped for, an individual pendent which we had chosen and he capped it in silver, with a chain chosen, not much money parted hands and we were happy, I only hope he was… He asked why were in bike clothes and we explained. (I know we were driving the car in riding pants and boots but we had packed the bikes and it was not that warm today, besides we will probably not be remembered if we should ever revisit). Shaking our hands he wished us luck with our travels and we pushed upon him one of our blog cards and said to read some of it if he ever had trouble sleeping….
It is not in the nature of this blog to advertise, but if you are ever in Cobber Pedy, which one day you should be, call in at SEVEN STONES jewellers, on the left as you get into town proper. Set back off the road in a small parade of stores you will find a genuine craftsman who WILL make what you heart desires. Tell him Diane and Andrew sent you…..
Leaving at our latest ever hour we rode the two and a half hours to a roadhouse where we filled the tanks on our way north.
We passed again a creek crossing where four cows had been killed by we guessed a road-train. Some pictures were took, not to be macabre but to show why you don’t drive or ride in the dark hours. The animals were being dragged to the road side by a drover as we went north, now they lay half way down the slope for the chocolate brown and black fan tail eagles to eat, with the crows dancing warily between for a morsel of fresh flesh. It was strange to us why three had been killed one side of the bridge while one lay fifty meters away on the other side.
At Glendamobo road house we camped for a reasonable fee as our best known camp was too far to achieve. Finding a nice flat area the sky looked wet again, noticing a shed the other side of the camp we headed over and pitched the tent under cover, the bikes came under to. Hoping this was OK was confirmed by a fellow camper, it was where folks slept in swags when the rains came. All was good with our world, especially during the night when the heavens opened, it felt great to be under cover and our bikes dry.
Day 1003 Friday 12th July
Not feeling like rushing off as daylight came, partly due to wanting to shower, partly due to my tank bag charger not working and most of all the dark blue rain cloud that was to the west and north of us. As we were going south it should be OK but we both washed, and repaired the electrical fault just to give the sky time to make our minds up.
By ten thirty we made a bee line for Port Augusta once more. I felt if we made it there in the dry then the car hire idea was truly a cop-out, we did, saving us some of our dwindling funds.
Our destination lay at a free camp in a small town of Iron Knob, I kid you not,(and no, I don’t think any films were shot here to give it that name). It was a fairly good example to my ignorant mind what happens to a town when the mining stops, most folks leave, and leave behind a dying township of people who are too old or settled to move on, and could they afford to leave their homes behind????
A perfect camp was made under a deserted camp kitchen roof, with tables and chairs, more than enough room for two small bikes and our tent. We would have liked to have got a little further but as we had caught up with our rain that had gone west, this was too good to pass by. As I sit writing the last seven days diary, by oil lamp, the rain was constant, good move.
Day 1004 Saturday 13th July
After a poor night of non sleep we opened our eyes to a black sky and steady downpour of rain. Lying looking out onto a wet land gave us no incentive to rise. Waking at ten am I thought I should get to the post office for a loaf of bread, cheese and chocolate to widen our healthy diet. ‘Post Office closed till Monday’ read the note. Bugger pasta soup again for tea.
A local couple living in a converted bus told of a sports club that may have some food and chocolate for sale, they only opened at two thirty pm so a wait was due.
A little bike maintenance was due before I took a walk to meet Bob the barman.
He explained that carrying out alcohol from the club was not allowed by non members, so we had a couple of tinnies together before I headed back to our camp with a parting gift from this kind man, Diane was delighted with the chocolate that I had bought and Bobs gift.
He told me of one of his sons trip to America to hire a bike and ride route sixty six, one of our bucket list trips to achieve. He said as I left the club that he would call by in the morning before we left to bid us fair-well.
Day 1005 Sunday 14th July
The daybreak bought us a foggy start but promised sunshine and no rain so we packed our gear and made hot oats. Bob arrived in time for the second brew of tea and chatted with us till we were ready to roll. He left before we rode out, giving me the impression that folks would rather leave before us as they don’t like saying goodbye, as Colm said, rather say “see you again mate”, good bye is to final.
We rode to Ceduna where we found a lovely camp ground owned and run by Caroline and Kirk who were a delightful couple from Zimbabwe, we talked much of our travels through southern Africa and places they had visited and lived. Wanting to stay but with no real reason, only to be idle, we reluctantly moved on.
Day 1006 Monday 15th July
Waking late we wanted to stay in this small slice of heaven but needing to make km’s, our camp was packed and after a pleasant talk to our friendly hosts we headed out. Taking the signed road to Perth soon found us on a gravel road, turning back into town soon found us on the tar route one, westward bound, onto the famous Nullabour Plain.
Fair play till we hit the Nullabour roadhouse it was tree-less but we populated with small scrub bushes that might one day be trees.
Stopping of at the Head of the Australian Bight for a spot of whale watching we were blown over by the azure blue ocean and crystal clear sky. The Right Whales were in full display, mothers and calves blew the water through their blow-holes, and the calves tried to roll over their mothers in play giving us a full on view of this ancient ritual that had probably been going on for centuries.
Many small succulent plants grew in rock sheltered places, these small plants had brilliant vivid colours of yellow and violet, with fat bright green leaves, all no bigger that a whiskey shot glass. It was with care that we walked amongst them without damaging them. It was a shame too that scattered about was much garbage, fast food wrappers and soft drink containers. So much modern crap amongst natures beautiful wonders.
Stopping at the Nullabour roadhouse for the night we enjoyed a beery night, our first and probably last roadhouse experience. The bar was sparsely decorated with off shift staff, truckies on the long haul from Perth to Adelaide or Sydney. Weary travellers trying to make the seventeen hundred clicks vanish in three days and not the five it should maybe take, and a two bikers from the other end of the planet trying to take in the atmosphere of ten buck stubbies and oily food scents. While the die hards played good pool and the juke box hammered out hard rock from the seventies we were bought beer and laughed with the crew that blew through here every week or so. The few smokers were joined on the wind blown stoap by others in need of fresh air, to watch the three and four trailer road trails whoosh by with amber and red marker lights like shooting stars in a night sky.
When the on duty staff managed to push their fellow workers and blow-ins out of the door into a cold night we all stumbled off to our beds mumbling fond farewells and undying love for all in the area.