On the Road, Day Three: Into the Outback

Another successful day is complete, but there’s potential trouble on the horizon.  We got an early start today, topping off NCT with liquid nitrogen at sunrise in Burra.  The morning’s drive through South Australia was again quite pretty, with lots of golden rolling hills of harvested wheat.  I caught some cell and Internet signal again on the road into Port Augusta.  On checking the weather, I learned that tonight has potential for heavy rains and flash flooding near Alice Springs.

An early morning LN2 fill in Burra

More great fields.

With that information in hand, Tony and I stopped in Port Augusta and got tarps to cover the load.  After an early lunch break, we turned north and almost immediately were headed into the outback.

Starting our journey into the outback.

Even after the wide-open spaces we’ve seen thus far, the afternoon’s drive was an eye-opener.  We often drove for 20 minutes without passing a single car, and even the most minimal settlements were as much as 250 km distant–near the limits of our gas tank!  We met a number of the extremely intimidating “road trains”–semis pulling as many as three full sized trailers at 100+ km/hr.  Much of the scenery has been fairly unappealing scrubby brush, but there were some remarkable salt flats.  (One other interesting feature throughout the drive has been the rather emphatic signs encouraging drivers to rest and avoid accidents.   “Stop/Revive/Survive” and “Drowsy Drivers Die” certainly get one’s attention.)

Salt flats along the Stuart Highway

Rain over Coober Pedy.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we were eyeing rain clouds on the horizon, but we reached our stopping point without incident.  We’re staying in Coober Pedy, a funky little opal mining town that is somehow on the tourist track.  (Still no Vodafone reception, though, leaving me to pay extortion rates here at our [otherwise nice] Mud Hut Motel.)  It’s windy but not uncomfortable here today, but apparently it is often so hot that many of the buildings (motels, churches, etc.) are built underground!

The Underground Catholic Church

The Big Winch, Coober Pedy

We’ll check the road conditions tomorrow after the rain passes and proceed accordingly.  Hopefully my next update will have dateline: Alice Springs!


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