Ayers Rock was
but then within
a couple of hours
also having to leave the Northern Territory, well that was too much. As
said earlier we really enjoyed our 2 months in the NT and will
absolutely be returning. We of course stopped at the border and took
the required 'Border' photos. This is the the 5th border we have
crossed so far this trip with another 3 to go. On our way to Coober
Pedy we had an overnighter at Marla Roadhouse. Yet another example of a
great roadhouse with excellent facilities at a very reasonable price.
stop Coober Pedy.
Now without a
rates as the
unusual place we have visited yet. In fact it wins hands down. The
intrigue starts about 20 kms out of town. All of a sudden out of the
otherwise flat and incredibly boring countryside appears on the
horizon a landscape that appears very moon like. Mounds, thousands of
mounds of dirt as far as the eye can see. Welcome to Coober Pedy. You
then enter the town. It is larger than we expected and on first glimpse
looks just like any other small country town. Nice main street, tonnes
pubs, supermarkets and touristy shops. Its not until you either drive
around or take a closer look that you start to see the main difference
between here and elsewhere. As most of you will be aware a lot of this
town is underground. Around 70% of people here live in dugouts. There
are basically two different types of dugouts. The first and most common
is built into the side of a hill, complete with front door. The second
type of dugout is one that is dug straight down into the ground. You
dig this type if you don't have a hill to build into. When you buy a
block of land you own down deep enough to dig a three storey house. The
rock structure here is so stable that it is possible to dig
without any support structures. The whole thing is self supporting and
some of the rooms are very large. The beauty of this is that the
temperature is a constant 25 C all year round and no windows to clean.
The other advantage is if you buy a new fridge and it doesn't fit in
the hole, you just dig the hole bigger. And of course if you need more
room, simply start digging. We heard a number of stories of people
finding very valuable opals when building or extending houses.One guy
found well over 3/4 million dollars worth. Now that really is a house
that pays for it's self. We also heard stories of extensions gone
wrong. Imagine digging away and finding yourself digging into
your neighbours lounge. Apparently it happens!
The other interesting thing that the more wealthy do is buy a number of adjoining properties and join them all together. One guy who did this has a house comprising of 40 rooms. Digging is also very cheap. Using a pick and shovel is free or getting a mechanical digger in will cost only about $4,000 for an average sized home. Can't complain about that for value. One home even has an underground pool. Now that is extravagant.
and shops. I think
it would be a fantastic way to live out here when summer temps
regularly reach 45-50 C and winter temps around freezing. You wouldn't
want to be claustrophobic though.
course you don't
come all the way
without doing a bit
of noodling. No, not kanoodling, noodling. This is a marvelous pastime
that Chris and the boys almost became obsessed with. It entails going
a public noodling area, which are just huge mounds of dirt in the
blazing heat and searching for opals using nothing but your bare hands
and a bucket of water. While it appears others do very well from this
pastime all we managed to do was get very, very dirty. As for the
opals, well not this time. It was lots of fun and you can almost see
how people get 'Opal Fever'. If you found one it would be very
difficult to stop.
The other thing that really stood out about this place was how friendly the people were. They would talk all day and didn't seem concerned at all whether you bought anything or not. Maybe they are already stinking rich!!!!
can, you should
effort to see this
place before it
changes too much. Some real characters live here, and boy would there
some stories to be told. It was another trip highlight.
in a free camp
on the way
and arrived in
Woomera well before lunch. We thought we might stay in Woomera the
night but as it turned out we had time after our sightseeing to move
the 70 kms down the road to Roxby Downs. Now Woomera is an interesting
place. It is obviously well known for its participation in the 'Space
race' and still today the rocket base is alive and well, be it not very
busy and also for having the (now closed) detention centre for
This whole town is owned by the military and you cannot purchase
real estate or simply decide to live here. Because there are so many
military homes and not much happening in the rocket department, BHP
Billiton who have a large mine at Roxby Downs lease some homes for the
miners. BHP runs free shuttle buses back and forth to Roxby for the
workers. This little town with a current population of just over 300
people has a school, a cinema and 2x 50 metre pools. What they don't
have is any shops. Other than the information centre that has a cafe
and 10 pin bowling alley there is one small corner store. On shopping
day it would be off to Roxby or starve.
the rocket and
This is extremely good, really well presented and large enough for you
to spend an hour or two. When you have finished inside its across the
road to the local park that has 15-20 real rockets on display. This
display is also excellent and it was good to actually see what you had
just been reading about in the museum. This is undoubtably Australia's
best public display of rockets.
stop - Roxby Downs. At one stage it looked like we were going
to have nowhere to sleep as the BHP mine, Olympic Dam was in the middle
maintenance shutdown and hundreds and hundreds of 'fly in, fly out'
contractors had to be housed. Luckily there were a few powered sites
left for tourists and we got one. I don't know if we should have felt
safe or nervous but because BHP has so many staff and contractors
staying and living here they employ 24 hour 7 day a week security
guards to patrol this privately owned caravan park. Work was
still going on at Olympic Dam, so we joined a tour to gain an insight
into the operations of the mine, which was very informative. At this
stage it is a huge underground mine (856 metres down, with 250km of
roads) producing copper, uranium and gold and silver as by-products.
They have expansion plans for the future, which includes an open cut
mine, larger than Kalgoorlie. The town itself was purpose built when
mining operations began in 1985, with all the mod cons. We also
ventured to Andamooka from here - another classic opal mining town in
the middle of a surreal landscape, for you guessed it, another go at
noodling! I wouldn't mind if they actually found something.....!!
wall in the
caravan we have a
large map of
Australia that we
mark with a nikko pen our travels. We have now completed a large loop.
For those who have been reading this log since the beginning may
remember that Port Augusta (back in January) was pretty much the
beginning of our 'Touring'. Well we are now back where we started. 10
months, 30,000kms and memories to last a lifetime, the circuit is
Port Augusta is home to the 'Pichi Richi' railway which is owned and voluntarily run by the local historical society. The trains run on the original 'Ghan' rail line to Quorn, about 40kms away. They have both steam and diesel engines that do the trip. When we came through in January we wanted to do the steam trip but due to 'fire bans' during the summer months only the diesel engines run. We planned then to come back on our way through and do the steam trip which we did. The boys love trains and we did the 6 hour trip which was excellent. The weather was lovely and although the countryside was very dry it was still a pretty trip through the Pichi Richi pass. A couple of nights in the big Port Augusta, and finally a decent shopping centre to restock and we were out of here and off to the Flinders Ranges.
The Flinders are huge and would take a significant amount of time to really see it all and do it justice. We stayed at Wilpena Pound Resort which is at the southern end of the 'pound' for 4 nights and in that time did a couple of 7 km walks and a few car trips to nearby sights. What really stands out the most in South Australia is how incredibly dry it is. I am talking dust bowl dry, so unfortunately we did not see this area at its best.
lovely and the
Perfect camping weather. As we head further south the dropping
temperatures have been noticed. From here we will be heading
straight to Adelaide where we plan to spend at least 2 weeks. Most of
that time will be spent catching up with friends and family. My brother
and his kids live there and the boys are really excited about seeing
their cousins again. It will be good to see Wayne, Tracey and little
Bailey again and also hope to see Derryn and Carla if they get
down here from Darwin in time. I spent 12 years living and going to
school in Adelaide so it will be good to see it again after so long.
Clare Valley was
beautiful and for
the first time in nearly a year the countryside was green. In fact
considering how little rain even this area has had this year, it was
very green indeed.
some odd reason almost everyone we have met over the past 20 years
seem to all live here, as well as my brother Grant and our nieces,
and Kira, so it was a very busy time catching up with them
all. Firstly we saw Greg, Brit and the kids. We met Greg and Brit in
Bali about 12 years ago and have kept in touch ever since. It is funny
with some people, that although you haven't seen them for years, you
just slip back in like you see
them everyday. We saw them quite a few times during our stay which
included a few sightseeing outings and a lovely dinner at their
magnificent inner city home. They are currently in the process of
selling their business and then plan to buy a van and travel around Oz
for a year. I told them to go for at least two. I must say we are very
jealous. They are right at the beginning of their adventure and ours is
coming to an end. Oh well, who knows what will lay ahead for us in the
Then it was off to see Andrew and Lorraine (and Emily of course) Gladman who we first met in Cairns about 5 years ago. We have seen them a number of times since then and have had other trips away with them. They came on the 'Parfitt Tag Along' to Airlie Beach and Hook Island a few years back. We had a great night at their place and finally got to meet their other daughter, Melissa after all these years.
flying by faster
than that FA18
that we saw in
Katherine. We are now certainly out of the remote bush of Australia and
very much back into civilisation. While that is in one respect
comforting, it is in another sad, as we leave the rugged and isolated,
and head into the crowded, fast moving and stressful Eastern
States. We will
all seriously miss the north and all that it has to offer. For some
funny reason it felt like the trip was over as soon as we reached
Car and van still going great. A few minor repairs to the van were needed in Adelaide and we also scored a full length ARB roof rack for the car off Wayne, which took a little while to fit and to repack all the gear on. He no longer had a need for it so sold it to us cheap, as long as we promised to finally get the van out of his driveway!
Our plan now is to make our way across to Eden in the very south of NSW over the next 2 weeks to stay with another family we also firstly met in Perth. Bryan has kindly offered to help me build and install a new chassis and A-Frame for the van complete with new Roller Rocker suspension. The old girl (the van, not the other one) won't know herself and will ride just like a new one. I am very much looking forward to getting that job completed. It will be great to see Bryan, Jayne and the boys again, I'm sure it will be a hoot.
us now with
only 6 weeks until we are back at 'Cotton Tree' on the Sunshine Coast
for Christmas and then back to ______ (Sorry, I can't bring myself to
the word). On one hand the thought of heading home is a little
depressing, but on the other hand exciting, as we plan the next stage
of our lives.
tuned for the
next nail biting
chapter in the
lives of "The Grand Touring Trailer Trash Parfitt's"