Wednesday, 12 August 2015


Heading to Coober by the tar means mixing it with the trucks, and more worryingly with the caravanners. The Sturt highway is the one, the only sealed road heading north and it gets a lot of traffic.  Road trains, ridiculously oversized motorhomes, wacky racers on a charity bash, they all use the Sturt.  Taking the main drag to Coober was hard work -  Thankfully the desert knows how to reward our effort - with wildflower blooms, beautiful sunsets and starscapes that defy description.

Day 39 - Fri 7 Aug - Woomera 
Our first day involved heading south to go north.  Pimba, the Olympic Dam Highway and the Sturt meet was 70km south of Roxby, As a small consolation for what felt like backtracking, we clocked up a milestone - 2,000km in the six weeks since our journey started.

20000 km and the bike is holding up nicely.
Along the way we pass and are passed by many three trailer road trains carrying tankers of Sulfuric Acid, a reagent for the uranium mine.  This steady stream of heavy trucks make the road seam busy, but I'm comparing it against the Oonadatta Track and Mawson Trail. The Sturt is something else again.   After all, if this highway was busy - there'd be no opportunity for this critter to get a bit of sun.

This solar powered beastie just wants to be left alone.

The desert is in full bloom, with great fields of Sturt's desert pea, and flowers of every colour.
Sturts desert pea in abundance
Maree would take the time to find out what flower this is.  I'm think it's pretty.
Around lunchitme we arrive at Woomera, a former defense facility from the days when the British Empire had aspirations for outer space.  It's now open to the public and there's a collection of 1950s era missile tech to view.  Just north of the town there's a new and fully functioning RAAF base complete with a control tower, aircraft hangers and enough security to deter the curious. We grab some water, some snack food from the general store enduring the awful town radio whilst we ate.

Most of the next five days riding involved crossing military area occasionally used as a missile range.
Pimba is a road house with a camping area - a colorbond fence around a patch of dust filled with caravans.   We ride off, partly so some of the day involves riding in the correct direction and partly because a paying for a dustbowl and being put to the question by caravan tourists doesn't appeal.  We camp further down the road, amongst  a plain of flat rocks overlooking Island Lagoon.

Day 40 - Sat 8 Aug - Sturt Highway
Our first day on the Sturt Highway was a steady stream of oversize four wheel drive vehicles pulling even more oversized caravans.  The stream of caravans headed in both directions, but most were heading north.  Mixed in this caravan of caravanners, were the laden semi trailers that supply the mines and towns of the Northern Territory and a wacky collection of older cars covered in sponsor stickers.  We'd encountered a charity bash and we did our best to keep our cool.

Our one consolation for all the traffic were the regular freight trains that passed us as we rode. The trains so long they took several minutes to pass and included double stacked shipping containers.  The more freight they get on these trains the happier I'll be.

So it was a difficult day riding, made harder by headwinds,  Our camp (a few kilometres short of Glendambo roadhouse) and the day's last light were our consolation.


Another awesome sunset.  This never gets old.
Day 41 - Sun 9 Aug - Glendanbo Roadhouse
I left Woomera carrying eight litres of water, Maree had slightly less. Riding into headwinds was thirsty work and I had eaten into that supply.  We needed water.  Unfortunately the tap water at Glendanbo roadhouse was salty bore water.  We had to buy bottled water (at $5 per 1.5L bottle).  Fifty dollars later we were loaded up and ready to roll.

We encountered road trains a plenty
More pretty flowers.
I reckon emus are the closest living thing to dinosaurs
At camp we were concerned that our water supply might need stretch for three days (or more if the winds were particularly strong) so we ate dry snacks for dinner rather than the usual boiled rice or couscous. I've been listening to an account of the mutiny on HMS Bounty and Bligh's open boat navigation back to Timor as a podcast so the thought of short water rations seemed apt. 

The difficulties of the ride were creating tensions between Maree and I. I had been riding off ahead (again) and generally treating the ride as if we were two solo riders keeping pace with one another rather than riding as a pair.  In the late afternoon I got a justified bollocking.  Its tough to ride into a strong headwind, worry about water and food and be considerate of others too. In my mind this ride is supposed to bring us closer through shared experience, so being a crappy riding partner is counter productive.    

Day 42 - Mon 10 Aug
The winds let up.  Also we encounter roadside camping areas with fresh water tanks  We stick together.  I ride behind Maree, trying to keep a reflective roadside maker between me and her at all times.  If I get too close I obscure her rear vision - a real danger on this busy road. We complete 110km in a day, reducing our concerns about possibly not reaching Coober Pedy on next day. Our spirits lift considerably.
Last light over the gibber plain.

Day 43 - Tue 11 Aug - Coober Pedy
It was just as well Monday was a good riding day because the winds strengthened overnight and the last 70km into Coober Pedy were brutal.  For eight hours we rode with every fibre of our being and struggled to reach 8km/h. Nature herself was fighting us in our efforts to reach our destination.  As we approached town the wind picked up dust and flung it at us, The wind turbine just out of town spun in mockery of our struggle.  We arrived in town wrecked.  I down two pints of the local beer (West End) before even thinking what to next.  We had arrived and that was enough.  Where to stay, what to buy for the next stage all those things can wait.

Road train and caravans. I miss the remote roads
Mining country ahead
Entering Bartertown

Look away Tony - It's miners using wind power.

We spluge and decide we need two rest days in a fancy hotel - and we book a couple of nights in a place with underground cabins. Walking around the place has an odd Dungeons and Dragons feel, but its a good place to rest up before we tackle the eight to ten days to Uluru.
Underground caverns

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoy reading your posts. They transport me to another place. Thanks. Take care out there! Greg