Almost 3 weeks in and I am really unsure of time (due to state changes) and day. Life on the road has settled into a routine of sorts, with plenty of flexibility built in for sight seeing and hissy fits caused by flies, dust, wind, corrugations, flies, gibber (we hate the gibber) mozzies and stupid tent zippers that HATE the dust. These are minor annoyances and are not in any way affecting our tour of this wonderful country.
Since last blogging we have had a pretty good go at some of central Australia's remotest roads - a stretch of the Old Strzelecki Track, some real Burke & Wills country including Innamincka, Cullymurra w'hole (camped on the Cooper Creek) and the Dig Tree, Cordillo Downs Road (a wonderful bush camp by the Cadelga ruins), Birdsville track from Birdsville to Marree (good Sunday arvo session at the Birdsville Hotel of course), Oodnadatta Track from Marree to Hamilton Station, then accross the Perdika desert (worst road yet - mostly gibber, ugghhh!) to Dalhousie Springs, the French Line to the edge of the Simpson Desert (where we will go properly one day when we can persuade someone else to come along), then Binns Track to Alice Springs. We hit bitumen today for the first time since leaving Broken Hill. We've clocked 5000km since leaving Sydney.
I think I should embellish the flat tyre story a little as Andy seemed quite dismissive. It was the gibber that ate the tyre (not the 90km/hour). One second we're just flying along and the next we're struggling to get the troopy above 40kph. And poo did that hot rubber smell! Followed all the instructions loosening nuts etc and then the jacking began. There was surprisingly little panicking, just a sense of resignation and getting on with the job. Andy spent half an hour almost under the vehicle on a relatively soft surface jacking for his life - the troopy went up and then when he stopped she went down again. I found this quite humorous especially with all the cussing. The flies were not helping - he actually ate 2. It was the middle of the day and we were pretty much equidistant form the two closest centres for assistance. Andy was very hot and sweaty and a bit desperate when I suggested using the toyota jack. Voila! As a couple of camper trailers we'd seen at Coward Springs that morning pulled up to ask if we were OK I quickly hid the offensive trolley jack. After the jacking fiasco the whole thing was done in ~20 mins (not only faster but much much safer) and then we limped to Oodnadatta where we got a talking to about tyre pressures (it's all about equalizing the footprint) and spent an unscheduled night camped out the back of the famous Pink roadhouse. We even treated ourselves to dinner at the "Transcontinental Hotel" - a yummy lamb korma for me.
With the tyre changing under our belt we had a new lease of confidence ( we are still alive) and decided to take on the track up to Dalhousie Springs and Purni Bore on the western Simpson Desert. The desert has surprised us both I think, the space is a cliche but that's the sense of this place. There are plants and animals trying to make a living out here. Apart from the red dirt and the blue sky it's the flowers and the birds that add splashes of subtle colour to a bold palette. Dalhousie was lovely, a soak in the 2-3 million year old water with the desert breeze to dry you off is a very refreshing way to spend your time. The bird life around the spring is also astounding. I was afraid we woudn't get to Purni Bore due to being scared of more bad, bad road unless we went immediately. We were not sure if we could cop the 70km (please note this is at least a 90min drive) with 20km of sand dunes at the end and despite being road weary we pushed on.
Purni Bore is the site so far. An artificial lake created by the oil people between 2 red dunes in the middle of nowhere. Again the bird life is super - the rainbow bee-eater being the special one. We did a nature walk just before sunset and saw a dingo coming for a drink. The real show began after the sun went down which we watched from the top of our dune (no one eles at this site - we had the desert to ourselves) with a cold XXXX. Dark sky before the full moon rose and the camels started coming to the waterhole for their drinks. The next morning there were dingo & camel prints within 25m of the troopy. We lucked out with the full moon but it's truly an amazing place and if it hadn't been so hot we probably would've stayed another night - Dalhousie Springs was calling. The drive out was mostly OK but the last 20km of sand driving was the best. Andy drove out and I drove back - such fun! Driving on sand and sand dunes rules.
The dingoes at Dalhousie were braver - they were VERY interested in the mince I was cooking. At one point one came within about 15m which gave me a fright. Spent a very pleasant day dipping in the spring and reading - mostly in the tent to be away from flies and heat of the day.
From Dalhousie we took Binns Track which incorporates some of the Old Andado Track (just words I know people but you can look at them on a map). Some wheel ruts with a bit of bulldust is what the man said! Jeepers! I had the first leg and was a very happy girl indeed when my hour was up in a safe place to stop - and I hadn't got us bogged. I gladly handed the reins to Payniac who instantly sprouted upper lip sweat (he'd been teasing me for look of fierce concentration). Without a doubt the most challenging driving we've done. It took us 2 days, 9-10 hours driving to go 420km! I'd love to have taken some photos of this fabulous piece of road however it was just not cool to stop the car for fear of being stuck til the next car passed to drag you out, traffic is light, it coulda been days. Apart from the ruts and the bulldust (like quicksand for cars) the road was super and the scenery was lovely and it sure beats belting down a highway.
We overnighted on Binns Track at a pre-used campsite on Allambie (I think) station which was a great bush camp with large sandstone bluffs and hills that changed colour as the sun went down.
*Bush shower somewhere on Binns Track
Alice Springs today for a bit of a recharge, our batteries as well as the electrics before heading for the hills tomorrow. We're off to the East MacDonnell Ranges, the less visited of the East and West on a recomendation by some SA's we met at Birdsville during our beer drinking frenzy. Then back to Alice for supplies before taking on the West MacDonnell Ranges and the Mereenie Loop road to Uluru via Kings Canyon. Haven't really had a look about town today as we've been resting - sounds silly now that I write it.
Andy is proving to be quite handy and we now have spare screws & nuts'n'bolts to replace all the ones we've shook out over the last week or so. Have also managed to scramble half a doz eggs in their shells, apart from the number plate the only real casualty of corrugations that we're aware of. There is always the risk that the whole engine might just drop out - fingers crossed.
Hope everybody is happy and well. Welcome home Dave Nelson! We miss you Millie and Moppet-bug. And Mum & Dad if you're reading this hope you're having a great time.