Central Oz road trip

Crossing a continent in a week – Sian and I decided to do a week long road trip through the red centre of Australia. It was a last minute decision based on cheap airfares and the availability of a relocation vehicle – the rental company subsidised us moving their vehicle from Darwin to Adelaide. There wasn’t any paragliding on this trip and the mountains were few and far between, but with such a variety of awesome skies over strong Australian colours we entertained the thought of flying.

I think they dropped a bomb here? (Groote Eylandt) Gulf of Carpentaria

We flew to Darwin on 13 December, straight into the tropical humid heat of the northern wet season. It was amazingly green throughout even the interior of Queensland, after a strong La Nina last year and plenty of rain ever since. In Darwin our Nepalese taxi driver took us to our motel and we headed straight for the air-con. Woolworths was just next door, Sian tried to warn me but I couldn’t help but buy more food than we needed for the next week. On dusk we ate out and had a few cold beers on tap, our last chance for a few days.

The next morning we went through the rental vehicle formalities before throwing even more food, beer, and ice in the back esky. And we set off, in a hurry we sat on the 130km/hr speed limit up to Litchfield national park. Florence falls was a beautiful spot for a refreshing swim. Walking back to the van we heard a distant rumble of thunder. We raced off to the next stop, Katherine gorge. After a look at sandstone walls while a few distant lightning bolts flashed under big clouds.

Florence Falls, Litchfield NT

Katherine Gorge

Back at the van just in time to cook up our sausages on the gas cooker, we couldn’t find matches or a lighter anywhere! Nearby though was a free outdoor bbq, so we chased away a few wallabies (one oblivious one stayed) and had a feed. It was really hot but we got a few spots of rain just as we were leaving. Ten minutes later the lightning display was just too much to miss, so we pulled up and lay down in the middle of the road. It was dark, but the road was still hot. The storm was incredible, but as the downpour of rain arrived we got back in and kept driving.

We wanted to get to Mataranka, so we left the nice rain cooled air behind for a hot humid night in the van. I walked through thick mud for half an hour before finally giving up on finding the pristine clear pools for an evening wash – and settled for a splash in a puddle at the carpark instead. The next morning though, in the light of day, it was only a couple of hundred metres walk.

Bitter Springs, Mataranka

Another downpour helps keep the place green

Our lazy start meant we were a little pressed for time again, we had to get to Devil’s Marbles for sunset. This turned out to be well worth it.

Devils Marbles sunset

Dawn at Devil's Marbles

Sunrise was just as good, even Sian got up early!

After a quick lookout for aliens in Wycliffe, Sian did some driving and initiated her killing spree, she has a knack with the birds. As the morning started to heat up we saw some nice little cliff top hills, which I had to try my hand at flying. There was wind up high though, and the early thermals were very strong, so in the end I wasn’t game. We continued on to Alice, a short day, but tired nonetheless – and ready for a relaxing afternoon and night at the hotel Sian’s brother bought us as a Christmas present.

Rugged country north of Alice Springs

Next morning we must have been refreshed as a few hours south of Alice Springs Sian agreed to a quick walk up a nearby Mt Breaden, for a look at the surrounding country.

View SW (towards Uluru) from Mt Breaden

Passing through the red centre on our way to Coober Pedy

The wind strength was perfect, with a few nice thermal cycles too when the cirrus moved aside, but of course the wind was in the opposite direction to what we required. We drove onwards. We crossed the border and clocked up a lot of driving hours. An epic sky rose above red earth as we chased cloud shadows down the highway. We both took iconic photos of the trip with a red road stretching into the distance.  Finally we arrived at the Breakaway north of Coober Pedy for a brilliant view in evening lighting. A few distant flashes were seen in thunderclouds on the horizon as dusk settled and we again had a great view of the stars.

Lengthening shadows at the Breakaway in howling wind

A trail bike was heard in the morning, a Greek fellow introduced himself. He had been living in Coober Pedy and working at his parents restaurant, 7 days a week with only two holidays for the last 25 years! In the last year though he had mellowed out and semi-retired, making pizza a mere 6 days a week. He regularly visited this spot.

We did pass his restaurants and an underground Opal shop but we had a lot of miles to do and pushed on. It was quite educational, I spotted “some mining thing” which Sian informed me had been put there by the Star Wars precious stones company.

Later we saw salt pans, and gradually hills began to reappear as we got closer to the Flinders Ranges.

Reaching Port Augusta we were again pretty tired, but managed to find a brilliant spot to watch the best sunset of the trip, up in the southern Flinders ranges.

Hancock's lookout, southern Flinders Ranges

(Better on Sian's camera)

From here we were home and hosed, basically, and took our time getting into Adelaide, opting for a campground for a welcome hot shower. The next morning we didn’t have much to do besides pass the time walking on the beach and reading magazines so we wouldn’t arrive too early to Qantas club – as it turned out there were no problems there as we’d neglected daylight savings time!! Due to my pretty average return on the Qantas credit shell I’d been hoarding for 9 months, I had to somehow compress $160 worth of food and beverage into about 40 minutes! Sian, less experienced with stuffing herself, still managed to maintain her composure after four wines.

Our trusty van, another good camping dinner in the works...

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About sharemyjoys

Nick Neynens
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One Response to Central Oz road trip

  1. Pingback: New adventures | Put on your boots and go!

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