Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Route update

We're now up to about 11,500 kms. Following the extensive iron bark burnathon at Heathcote Graytown and our Mt Buller post dinner emissions we must now be in the order of several million tonnes of CO2 which we'll plant some trees for when we get back to Dangar.

Something I didn't see in South Australia by the way was any recycling depots. The whole thing is a fking rort. We were counting on the deposits on our beer cans as being a major source of funding for this trip and now whether VJ gets to swim with whale sharks again is up in the air. We have though learned how to get 12c / litre off our fuel. If you're not already doing it (and if you don't have a 90l tank maybe the maths isn't so compelling) the trick is done by shopping at woolies, fueling and showing the woolies receipt at a participating caltex, grab the original 4c off plus get another 4c by getting tobacco or otherwise spending $25 and then, and this is the clincher, you take the fuel receipt to IGA for yet another 4c off when we get beer or wine. By the way I promise I'll quit when Obama gets round to it, but it doesn't count if he gets assassinated.

To Mount Buggery and beyond ...

Can't believe it's been almost 2 weeks since I've had reception good enough to blog (as adding photos seems to need two or three bars or it just leads to a false hope and ultimate frustration and potentially some foul language).

In those two weeks we've crossed from the Spencer Gulf in SA to the far south east corner of Australia and are currently in Mallacoota on a tip of from Shaef. He was right, there is an awesome camp ground right on the water, however I only realised after handing over two nights rent that there is absolutely no protection from the gale force south easterly which means we'll be sleeping in the one man tent in the shade of the truck tonight.

After our two nights at Port Germein we headed over the Flinders and into the Clare valley, stopping at Skillogalee winery for a posh lunch on the terrace. We camped at another site called Redbank, then an Australian Geographic dud recommendation called Gluepot and then a more successful night in Murray River National Park. Unfortunately our first camera misfunction means we don't have any pictures from that part of the trip but it all looked a lot like the Darling River but with a bit more water in it.

We followed the Murray into Victoria and then turned north to avoid the first predicted bad weather and went to Mungo National Park. Mungo is full of aboriginal history, going back 40+ thousand years. All the history is under clay and the stuff which has been unearthed has been put back under clay to preserve it so there isn't really all that much to see, but there was an awesome visitor centre (with hot showers), the sun was shining and the kangaroos in the campsite were extremely friendly, especially a group of about half a dozen which followed us around and posed for pictures.

The predicted rain arrived a little ahead of time so we made a quick early morning escape to avoid being trapped on the dirt roads. Our next stop was Swan Hill with it's Giant Murray Cod - an obliging Japanese tourist took this photo for us, always nice to get one back for all the ones I've taken in Sydney. We ate and drank at the RSL but had to give the much anticipated bingo a miss.

More bad weather was predicted and it was also set to get colder (which we're not equipped for) so we set up camp for a few days in the largest iron bark forest in Victoria (Heathcote Graytown NP). This ensured a ready supply of hot burning wood and we also had a great little covered facility all to ourselves, with the exception of a guy who came past each afternoon on his horse.

The three day lay up gave us a chance to really relax and do some fairly easy forest walks, and also for VJ to try out an exploroz Damper recipe - all it needs is some flour and a can of VB and hey presto in around 30 minutes you have a delicious double helping of carbs. This was apparently the staple of early explorer types such as Burke & Wills and it was so yummy we ate the whole thing (about a foot across) and had no room for dinner.

The bureau were predicting that the weather would get worse so we decided to push on into the Victorian high country. There had been talk of some snow so we headed through the amazing Eildon NP and then all the way up to Mount Buller where it was already snowing a blizzard. Thongs off and shoes on was the order of the day and as many tee shirts as I could manage and still move my arms. Mount Buller is quiet this time of year and the only other residents were a dozen subbies working on a new resort, some of whom had never seen snow before.

[One of the views while we were going through Eildon NP - note to self, as many 4wd tracks as you can shake a stick at in Eildon and camping is free almost everywhere - go the Victorians and thanks for helping us get back in budget after the Mt Buller blow out!]

While we were offered the opportunity to eat chicken wings with the other guests we decided to brave the elements and try and find the local restaurant for a decent feed. It was en-route I discovered you can't operate an iphone with gloves on in a blizzard even if you're lost and need google maps. We eventually found the entrance to the Grand Mercure and settled in for some rich food and some non cardboard red wine. While we didn't over do it by Sydney standards our digestive systems put up a bit of a fight during the night and we both felt quite ill. The room wasn't as fresh anymore either. It was strange sleeping in a bed again after 8 weeks but at least it was a bad one with a foam mattress thinner than the one in the tent.

Troopie started first time the next morning despite the freezing cold. It was minus 3 with a 70kph wind which apparently made it the equivalent of minus 15.

[Ness looking to the sky for Jonny Wilkinson-esque inspiration before launching a snowball at my head, which missed by the way.]

We headed back down the mountain on the Sunday morning before the thaw set in and made our way over some great country to a top little camp spot by a river on the slopes of the enticingly named Mount Buggery. Finding Mount Buggery was an unexpected bonus - it was the end point of quest in a book Deano had given me (The Road to Mount Buggery) about a couple travelling round Australia when we first told him we were doing the trip. There I did it, three buggeries in one blog.

By the way, we've got lots of photos now of Ness screwing her face up when I pull in for some romance, but she reckons this time at least it was more to do with the fly on her chin.

Not deterred by the threat of more bad weather we turned off the Great Alpine Road to take in Falls Creek. It was a massive climb up the hill, a winding road with a sheer drop off to the left and a good chance you'd meet a construction truck from the half built hydro power station coming the other way on the wrong side of the road. I (and it seems my parents) thought I'd die out in the desert but let me tell you we came a lot closer to disaster on this road than at any time so far. The drive was also quite eery as all of the trees were dead. For miles and miles and miles the whole mountain side was filled with trees that had been killed in the massive fires here two years ago and they obviously take some time to re-establish themselves in the harsh conditions

There was quite a lot of snow on top of the mountain and while we did go for a walk (me in my thongs and shorts) we decided it was better to get down to lower ground to set up camp as there was plenty of weather still to come. The drive down the other side was also pretty exciting as the road was unsealed, had snow on bits of it and also had a lot of debris from the weekend storms. Some we went round, some we went over (a bit like speed humps) and some I had to get out and lift over the car. Top stuff.

Another corker of a campsite at Joker Flat where we had premo real estate on a bend in 'Big River' and even though we were still at 600+m it was relatively warm, but still low single digits, which meant an early night and sleeping with our beanies on.

I couldn't recommend the Vic high country enough and while we have done plenty of dirt roads this time we have had to put some of our more adventurous routes on ice until we come back in the new year. We had another left or right question just short of Omeo which offered the chance to go up to Jindabyne and then over to the coast but we decided it was time to go back to the coast whatever the weather may bring. Subconcious at work here I think as I really don't like the thought of heading back to Sydney, despite all the fun we'll have when we get there and the knowledge that come January we'll be leaving it behind again.

Last night we camped at Conran Coastal reserve and almost had the 100 place campsite by the beach to ourselves. One advantage of our travels so far is we've pretty much had everything to ourselves. Normally you have to book things month in advance or win your place in a ballot but we've had entire campsites to ourselves almost all the way around. Can't say I'm looking forward to the school holidays.

So, that brings me back to Mallacoota. It's still blowing a gale and we're also a way away from thge amenity block. Good practice for me I guess to get used to not being able to piss wherever I want to. You can get away with a lot of things on King Street but public urination in daylight is not one of them.

We'll be passing through Sydney on Sunday 7th December if anyone wants to catch up.

We're planning a sunday session (probably the shaky) but I have to go into work on the Monday for a pretty important preso to our new chief so go easy on me - I drink mid strength these days (I'm also already stressing about turning up for said preso in shorts and thongs and heavily bearded so if anyone can lend me some 32/34 waist semi smart trousers for a couple of days I'll shout you a few beers).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Some more photos

We are currently camped up in Heathcote-Graytown NP, Vic due to subby weather. We have a whole BBQ/picnic shelter acting as our "entertainment area" while we ride out this cold front before heading for the hills. Pretty good really as none of our stuff gets wet AND Payniac can have a fire - it's the largest iron bark forest in Vic so they are good, hot fires.
I thought I'd add a few more photos from various parts of the trip for your viewing pleasure.
*A fiery sunset in Murray River NP, SA near Berri.

*A silly moment . Trying to keep the flies off and shade my head all at once. Dalhousie Springs, SA

*Inspecting the ancient lake bed now on top of Kings Canyon. Now part of the Kings Canyon (NT) Rim walk, a super 6.5km to walk NOT to be done in the heat of the day.

*The wonderful, the magical, the brilliant sanity saver that is the mozzie dome tent (MDT). Making sandwiches is no longer a race against the flies and it's much easier to drink icy cold beer without a really daggy head net on. Pictured here at a bush camp on the river plains of Owen Springs NP, N.T. Note the use of river rocks for mainting fly free integrity - brilliant!

*Camping on the banks of the mighty River Murray near Berri, SA.

*The beautiful and unnatural Purni Bore in the Simpson Desert.

*Driving in the sand dunes somewhere on the Old Andado track between Mt.Dare, SA and Alice Springs. Magic.

*Full moon setting in the Simspon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Criss crossing borders

*A happy snap at Port Germein, S.A - longest wooden jetty in Australia.The water was about that deep for 1.5km. This meant of course that it was a 3km return trip for a swim/paddle at low tide - which happened to be most of the day while we were there.

I think it might just be sand fly capital of Australia too as I got savaged by them. Maybe Payniac's not so tasty? I spent a lot of time with liberal applications of calamine lotion(Andy said it looked like a giant bird had pooed all over me) and dosed myself up with polarimine. The itching was like fire (they wee in the bite - gross!!) and now I am sporting what looks like post chicken-pox scarring all limbs! Tried VERY hard not to scratch bites on my face or in my hair. Wasn't until after the fact that one of the locals imparted the secret of listerine! Yep, mouthwash all over your bod will keep the little blighters away as well as mozzies and most other nasties, and by the litre it's heaps cheaper than bushmens.

*Payniac on the jetty - howsabout that beard?
We had a few beers at the local pub and mentioned swimming off the jetty and we got a fairly typical Aussie shark-phobic response.And they've got big ones down here! One of the lads reckoned that his mates dad's brother-in-law was out fishing in his boat just the other day and saw one of the magnificent beasties that was bigger than his boat. Estimate 26 foot.
Allowing for 10% exaggeration at least that's still a 7m fish. That is a big fish and I refuse to believe that a fish the size a VW bug will swim in 30cm water just to bite me so I ignored them and went in anyway.
Port Germein had a funny effect on us - maybe it was all the bites. Walking back from the jetty you have a view of the town (population 270, I made a mistake when first published), all corrugated iron and ye olde Aussie pastoral buildings nestled in among the southern Flinders Ranges. We were both struck by a Tim Wintonesque quality to the place and after about 2 hours of arriving we had booked another night at the very friendly caravan park where we had primo real estate. Thanks Norm. Before all the sandflies I was a bit concerned that our trip had ended.

*'This is dynamite's Mum. One of the many friendly and tirelsessly curious macropods of Mungo NP,NSW.
After our quick sojourn to the sea to satisfy our cravings for the coast we headed across south eastern SA making for the Murray River and the SA-Vic-NSW border. We still had some fresh fruit'n'veg so we decided to stay another night in SA to eat it up before restocking on the next state. We stopped at Murray River NP near Berri (of the juice fame) and had a super bush camp on the river. Picked up some fresh cherries from a roadside market on the way through town and all the assurances that we could take fruit OUT of SA just couldn't bring it in. We were slowly making our way through said cherries as we neared the border and giant quarantine signage and bins etc. We started eating the cherries a bit faster.
Needless to say we couldn't eat them all and gave ourselves pretty sore tummies for the rest of the day. A kg cherries is a lot! The moral - don't believe highway fruit "pushers" when they say you take them anywhere, you can't.
So Dynamite, you ask? Must've been a good season in Mungo NP as lots of the roos had joeys. One in particular was very curious, we later found out they were mostly just thirsty, coming right up to us and our gear, tipping over my first coffee of the day - argghhhh! If we went over to the BBQ block some of them would follow us, hop hop hop, it was like having pet ones. When I got up and climbed down the ladder from bed one morning they just hopped straight over to see what was up. As they were acting like pets I named the favourite one Dynamite. I didn't feed them cos you're not supposed to but I'm as guilty as all the other people in that campground over those few days of giving them a drink. I justified this as some of our water has taken on a funny a bushfire.

*VJ with life size model of extinct Zygomaturus, giant wombat animal from 30,000 years ago.

Mungo NP had a great info centre as a very important region for archealogical reasons. The Walls of China also an incredible land form, basically the shore line of an extinct lake. Most of the interesting stuff at Mungo is extinct and very significant in the history of Aboriginal people. One non-extinct first for me was the Blue Bonnet, a pretty parrot quite common in the arid parts of Australia but I'd never seen one.

We stayed 2 nights at Mungo NP before making our way to Balranald desperate to beat the rain and for fuel. The fuel light came on about 10km shy of town. It's always a relief to pull up at the bowser when that light's on. How did this oversight happen? I guess we'd become a little complacent after being out in the bush where we really had to plan our fuel fills compared to the relatively built up areas with towns (petrol stations at least) every 50-100km (rather than the 400km+ we had got used to). And so we just drove on out of Mildura without filling up. The rain is lovely and smells incredible on that red dirt but packing up in the rain is not much fun at 6am and there's always the chance that the way you're going has had more rain and you just might get bogged. Being on the road early in the morning also means you're going to run into "traffic". Kangaroos everywhere, statistically it's got to happen and I just don't know how I'll cope when one of us hits one.

Luckily we left the rain behind as we headed southeast and made it Swan Hill y'day arvo with a few hours to spare (managed to get a load of washing dry). Had a meal at Swan Hill RSL and a few beers before retiring. The rain came down in earnest over night and I'm thinking our plans to do some 4WDing in Vic High Country might be thwarted. Snow forecast for the weekend, brrrr!

*A fiery sunset at Mungo NP

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Journey / route so far

A little hard to see but here is a google earth (clicking on it will bring up a bigger picture) of where we've stayed each night other than where I've forgotten to take the GPS point.

We've now covered around 9,000kms at around 7km/l. Luckily the world going to hell in a handcart is having a pleasing impact on the price of diesel and even the mortgage payments are coming down. Long live capitalism.

After so long without any ocean we were pretty stoked to pull up at Port Germein on the Spencer Gulf in SA. Port Germein apparently has the longest wooden jetty in Australia at around 1.5kms. The reason it's so long is that is how far the tide goes out. It's now 38 degrees but being low tide I can only just make out the sea on the horizon, reminiscent of popular UK holiday destination Weston-Super-Mud, an would surely expire before I got out there. Despite our appetite for the ocean being unsatisfactorily satisfied (although it was a top sun set last night) we're going back in land tomorrow to check out some Victorian high country action and then over to Eden for a slow pre Christmas crawl up the Sapphire Coast.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Logistics and the kit

VJ well summarised the daily course of events so I thought I would add some more about the daily logistical challenges which we have to negotiate with what we have on hand. Improvisation or making do in the old vernacular is the key.

When we bought the troopie it was basically a blank canvas and we had to try and assess from the comfort of 4 Prospect Street what we'd need for safe and enjoyable passage across this big big land.

The advantage of the troopie over other vehicles we looked at was basically it's ubiquitousnous in remote locations (so almost anyone out here would know how to fix it when things go wrong, as I don't) and also its length. We'd initially contemplated sleeping in the back quite regularly as it is long enough for me to lie down straight without too much discomfort. To do so however requires taking almost everything out other than things in the drawers so we've only done that for a couple of nights in Yulara to faciliate early starts to see the sun come up and late returns to camp. The back holds a massive amount of stuff thanks in the main to the Black Widow full length sliding drawers, and harder to access side compartments where we've conveniently hidden most of the emergency gear. The left hand drawer contains our larders and 6 kraft mayonnaise containers with coffee, washing suds, flour etc. The right drawer contains the pots and pans and also toiletries and legs for the barbie, winch etc.

On top of the drawers sits the engel which provides a constant stream of cold xxxx gold and fresh meat. It runs off an auxiliary battery which is connected to some black box under the hood which apparently stops it decharging the main cranking battery and charges it while driving once the cranking battery is topped up.

I'm still a bit suspicious about the efficacy of the black box as we've already replaced both batteries. Luckily the non start happened in Alice Springs and I was able to call the NRMA. Push starting the troopie on soft ground is basically a pretty tough call especially seeing we need to park on flat ground so we don't roll out of the tent during the night. Anyhow, the jury is out and it's still a relief when she fires up, especially when we've been somewhere for a couple of nights without any driving.

As VJ said, water for all purposes is a very scarce resource indeed out here. Drinking water that hasn't been chemically treated with a horrible smell and after taste is pretty hard to find. When we do though we've got a 75l bladder that sits behind the back seat and has a handy hose with a tap. The laws of siphoning take it from there. To be honest I was a bit sceptical about spending almost $300 on what is essentially a giant plastic bag but it has been invaluable and seems to have survived the Birdsville 'drinking water' that has forever tainted the other big containers we have which are now relegated to washing water only. There is also a lot of other stuff that can sit on top of the bladder behind the seats and cargo barrier, including the laptop which sits in a backpack on the drivers seat to ride out most of the vibrations. The keyboard of my white mac is looking decidedly pink from the red dust but other than that it all seems to be working.

On the outside of the truck we obviously have the tent and ladder, and the wheel carrier and jerry can holder.

The tent ladder doubles as an end of the washing line and the overhang of the tent serves as a useful place to keep things out of the sun / rain. Note ever so useful milk crate in the foreground. (We're going through Murrumbidgee on the way home for Christmas and I'm hoping we don't get stopped as they're four down to us.)

VJ likes to take care of most of the cooking and has a bigger set up than we had in 4 Prospect Street. The Coleman burner will likely be replaced at Christmas by one like Andi and Doug's that we saw in Yulara. Burner on the right, bbq grill on the left. Perfect. However it has served us really well so far and we're still only half way through our gas bottle six weeks in.

The bin attachs outside on the spare wheel when we're in camp which is good as it gets pretty smelly during the heat of the day. It was a 'freebie' from ARB and also doubles as a good firewood storage bag on the roof.

The only bit of kit we've bought since we left is the MDT, or Mossie Dome Tent. A $99 steal from Alice Springs and a life saver whenever there are flies or mossies around, which is most of the time. Inside the MDT are our camping chairs and coleman fold out table (which has benches and two stoods which fold up inside of it, 25000 reward points from Westpac).

Music/talking books/podcasts etc are delivered to the original toyota cassette deck from my iphone. The days of the three tape road trip are long gone my friends thank god, although given we've been on corrugated dirt most of the time you can't really hear it anyway.

Other than that we're basically on our own. VJ continues to purge things we're not using so I got the bocce out the other day and I'll need to find a way of playing cricket on my own to justify the wahu staying on board.

We've now slept in a tent for 40 nights and we've had 2 in the back of the truck, and to be honest I really am not missing the comfort of home.

As someone said to us the other day, you can stick 5 star when out here we've got 5 billion of them.

Missing friends and associates of course and I did though feel sad to have missed out on yesterday's Newtown festival (as it's been one day a year when without fail i've utterly disgraced myself and no one else has noticed cause they've all been trashed as well) but I think we'll be able to hand on a bit longer.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Flinders Festival of the Dice...and other fun stuff

Last time I posted, only a few days ago, I was having some fluster and technology issues. So sorry for my haphazard blog folks. Things seem calmer and the reception much better here in Wilpena in the Flinders Ranges NP in S.A. As you all know we've been touring ( a new favourite word) for about a week spending some time in the northern Flinders a.k.a Gammon Ranges and Arkaroola and we are know in the stunning Flinders Ranges NP.

Geologically as well as visually awesome, we have driven through gorges with exposed rock 600 million years old. I got especially excited about some fossilised worm burrows that you obviously need to be a specialist to find (we did not see them). Spent a night bush camping last night, but now in the privately owned Wilpena Resort which is the starting point for a lot of the walks/hikes available. It's a lot cooler here especially at night - back to long duds in the evenings.

*Some snaps of our walk. A 6.4km walk, baby stuff really, but it was fairly well straight up and straight down with views into the pound and across the ranges. We lucked out with the weather (again) as it was perfectly clear and we could see forever.
We've been very lucky with the weather. Checked the road status reports y'day and it would appear we've left a wake of wet wet wet behind us. Almost all of the desert tracks we took in the first few weeks are closed due to rain and the Simpson is closed until March 09!

* A campground neighbour. This little joey was taking a load off in te shade with his/her mum. Seemed to have a very scritchy nose, or maybe just a little roo game?

*Good morning, good morning. This is early morning at camp. I wondered how our days would go and thought perhaps some of you might be interested in some of the day to day stuff. If not, switch off.

The birds or sun generally wake me in the morning. This morning it was crows, although often it's squawky gahlahs, corellas or the magical song of the magpie. There's usually a small discussion about who's turn it is to get up and make the joe (Nescafe Blend43). I hop up and boil the billy, making enough for the thermos too. Andy likes his joe "drive-through", he gets it through the tent window most mornings. I have bit of quiet time in the morning, read or do some little chores. This is also one of the best times for my new hobby - birdwatching (nerd burger I hear you say!).I also pack our lunch for the day - little variation on the ham, cheese and tomato theme (depending on availability). Yum!

The next part of the day is dependent on so many variables, e.g heat, flies, destination, walks etc. We generally pack up camp and get moving sometime between 9-11. .This doesn't take as long as it used to and we don't seem to have the same volume of stuff that we used to at the beginning - I suppose we're getting accustomed to it.Before driving away we do the troopy checklist - oil, coolant, tyres blablablabla. So far so good if you don't count 1 flat tyre and 1 flat battery.
Now we tour. We take our time and stop in at the various points of interest (POI) marked on the maps, stop for morning tea and lunch if viable, as well driver revivers. We try to arrive at our chosen destination for the day early-mid afternoon giving us time for setting up and enjoying the surrounds. This is not always the case as it sometimes takes a lot longer to go from A-B than it would appear on the map.
Depending on location there are some chores to be done; washing (us and clothes), cleaning out esky, fridge rotation (beer of course) and the all important water fills and stocktake. Drinking water has probably been one of my biggest concerns so far as it just isn't available. I really took for granted being able to turn on the tap and fill the jug, or just drink it. Most of the water we've come across is hard and no good to drink (or even wash in - had shower at Farina Ruins that was the temperature and flavour of blood....mmmmmm), you might even have to buy it from the town resoirvoir like the locals at Coober Pedy. We have a 75L bladder that sits behind the seats and is a wicked piece of equipment but with the heat it doesn't take long for a bit of plastic taint, or other flavours, to develop. Enter Cottees Coolah cordigal.
Now the best part of the day descends upon us. We play games, bocce and yahtzee, chat about the day that's been, check out the maps for the day to come, blog, read, walk and watch the sun go down, have dinner or go to the pub if we're in town. We have our dinner....and then it's usually my bed time. I retire to the cubby with my head torch and book and think about how lucky we are.

Hope you all had good one at Newtown Festival? Did you have that corn on the cob for me?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Heading back down south

After four days of relative luxury (and associated cost) in Yulara it was time to head back. We farewelled Peter and Tracey again over a couple of beers and some technology swaps. Their legacy to us was around 12gb of talking books, ranging from a 48 lecture series on the history of ancient rome (we're looking forward to the bit about the christians and lions), the history of america through to more fun stuff like a roald dahl collection. (I'm starting to feel more and more like Mr Twit at every meal, wiping the food from my beard with the back of my hand and then my hand on my trousers!). Ours to them was the entire Melvyn Bragg 'In our time' podcast collection which for the uninitiated is absolutely top notch.

I'd done my research and wanted to stop at the Hensbury Meteorite site but when we got there it was too hot and had no shade or protection whatsoever so we headed back to the Stuart. Big decision point was whether we went left or right and sat there for a while in silence unsure what to do. Pretty cool to have those sorts of decisions to make. Left and North would have taken us back to Alice and then over to the mid Queensland coast for a hot return back to New South Wales. Right and South would take us back into South Australia and to the Flinders before a fairly straightforward diagonal back up to Northern New South Wales though Scone to catch up with Ken, Jean & Mik (and some wonderful home cooking no doubt) and see the Millie dog. We decided to head south having been damn hot for about 5 weeks.

We got about 100kms down the road before we saw the first real rain of the trip. Luckily VJ the learner driver was at the wheel as we drove straight into a thunder/rain/wind/dust storm with almost zero visibility. More boxes for me to tick off in her RTA learners book. She coped pretty well but I've decided not to post the picture of absolute terror on her face as a road train hurtled out of the dust towards us.

At the first opportunity we pulled off the road and stopped at Kulgera, first and last pub in the Territory for some beers and yarns with the locals and transients. The storm continued unabated throughout the night and once again we were convinced we'd wake up in the other Oz.

We made an early start and carried on South - not even a chance of reaching the 130 limit the territorians enjoy in our truck - and soon crossed back into South Australia. We stopped at Marla for some diesel and to replace the fruit and vegies we'd bought for a kings ransom at Yulara the day before but had to be dumped at the quarantine station on the border. Doh.

The rain had been really bad here too so unfortunately the painted desert road was closed so we carried on to Coober Pedy. We made it out to the Breakaways which were incredible, the dog fence (longest in the world at 5,500kms, which is almost the length of the US-Canadian border if you exclude Alaska and use a fairly long measuring stick if any mandelbrot readers are reading this) and also some wonderful signs that told us not to walk backwards.

Coober Pedy was an interesting place - basically a load of holes in the ground where (mainly) eastern europeans have been eking out a living digging (by hand in the main) opals. The nature of the sandstone means the mines are all stable so most people live in holes and even the hotels and some pubs are underground. We stopped for some cleansing ales to watch the wallabies go down to the all blacks and I got to talk commodities with a local miner.

The dirt road from Coober to William Creek was surprisingly still open so we took the chance and enjoyed a fairly smooth ride over. The rain seems to soften the corrugations. [Corrugation factoid: the corrugations in the road are I've learned the same as waves on the top of the sea. That is their frequency and amplitude depends on the material of the road, and they actually move over time. ]

The lady at the William Creek hotel was surprised to see us arrive as the Oodnadatta track north had been closed so there no other punters around. She asked us if we minded running some beers down to a guy in Marree but when she called him he couldn't wait an extra day and we wanted to stop at Coward Springs for a night on the way down.

We got to Coward Springs just as the heavens opened again. We were half unpacked (or still half packed depending on your perspective) but rather than get everything safe away from the rain we instead ran and jumped in the natural spa bath to enjoy the thunderstorm. For a place that gets like 125mm of rain a year we were there for 25% of its annual drop in the space of an hour. The benefits of the rooftop tent were clear when an older french couple came to set their tent on the now flooded clay based campsite ground. The storm cleared and we were blessed with a wonderful sunset (that's the Coward Springs dunnies in the foreground).

After a great night at Farina ruins we continued south to the Flinders stopping for the obligatory photo op of our big truck against one of the coal mine trucks at Leigh Creek. I quite liked the graffiti inside one of the other machines they had on show.

After a short stop to refuel on food and diesel we headed into the North Flinders ranges. We stayed for three nights in Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges NP and spent our time walking, 4WDing along some awesome tracks and trying to shelter from some serious storm action. Arkaroola was also a top visit.

As we'd both not had a shower since Coober Pedy we were starting to get a bit whiffy so we also had to pull in for a bush bucket shower. My first one and very successful and worthwhile it was too (nudge nudge).

Last night we stopped at Parachilna to experience the famous Prairie Hotel and the epic Parachilna sunset. The land is so flat to the west of here and about 30kms away is Lake Torrens (salt lake) so the sunset is even better than one over the ocean. Even the moon set sets the sky on fire. Doug and Andi from Sunbury had mentioned this place and it did not disappoint. An outback legend of a place! Now we're off to the South Flinders for what looks as though will be another cool and probably wet day. Maybe we should have turned left after all...

* some of the 4WD action at Arkaroola

* Paralana Hot Springs; naturally heated to almost boiling point and apparently slightly radioactive