Day 4 – Saturday, 28 May 2022 

We left the park at 9:05 am after waking up to the chorus of magpie warbling. Today is our longest trip for quite a few days for a total of 374 kms. As such we can’t dawdle too much today. 

Last night Russ broke a small vein on his nose which bled like a stuck pig. An unexpected development that wasn’t enjoyed by either of us. 

We stopped for a photo opportunity at Island Lagoon, although I don’t think the pics will do the view justice. It is supposed to be a chance to see the island rising from the salt lake.  

The lookout is on a gravel road adjacent to the Sturt Highway, although there are no toilets available. 

We can also see parts of the Island Lagoon Tracking Station which was designated Deep Space Station 41. In 1960 it was the first deep space station to be established outside of the United States. 

It served as Station Number 9 in NASA’s Mannes Space Flight Network during Project Mercury. It provided support for deep space missions until December 1972. 

Subsequent tracking stations built by NASA in Australia were: 

Carnarvon and Muchea in WA; Cooby Creek in Qld; and Honeysuckle Creek, Orroral Valley and Tidbinbilla in ACT. 

Our next photo stop was Lake Hart, which is a very large expanse of salt water and the railway line runs along one side of it and can be seen coming from 2-3 kms away. Lake Hart is 42 kms north of Pimba on the Stuart Highway. 

It is a smaller lake in the Lake Eyre Basin. This drainage basin covers just under 1/6 of all Australia and is one of the largest in the world covering around 1.2 million square kms and has parts in Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and some of western NSW. 

Lake Hart looks deep after decent rainfall but is only about 20mm deep then. There is a high salt content which makes wonderful reflections during its wet periods. 

Its isolation in the outback means there are incredible star gazing opportunities, and during sunlight it sparkles brightly. 

We are still seeing wide areas of greenery sprinkled among the red soil. 

Today we had a first for this journey. A truckie coming behind us advised us on the UHF channel that he would be overtaking us. 

We turned off the highway at Glendambo to fuel up again. Diesel was $2.19 a litre and our bill came to $102.06 which broke the budget by $2. We are averaging 15 litres per 100 kms – a good result for us in these conditions. 

We are enjoying the scenery and travelling at 80 kph. 

The number of bodies of water we are passing (mostly salt) is amazing. 

We stopped at a layby for lunch which was about the halfway mark for today’s journey to Coober Pedy. 

We passed places called Brumby Creek (lots of churned up earth where the recent flood waters went through) and Peculiar Knob Mine – a predominantly haematite iron ore deposit with some residual magnetite. It is an open cut mine in the Woomera Prohibited Area. 

Along the way today we have passed several flowering yellow boronia bushes which were a sight for sore eyes and a different colour in the landscape. 

A section of the highway we travelled has been widened for shoulders and markings and is a designated emergency landing zone for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RDFS). The landing strip has turning circles for the planes at each end, and it is out in the middle of nowhere – approx. 145kms south of Coober Pedy. 

We have also seen a number of wild budgerigar flocks along the way. 

This one is for your amusement, Mum. We were discussing the beauty of cloud formations and how spectacular they look if the sun is shining around them. We came across a patch (head of the change) where the high cirrus was mixed with the fluffy cumulus and Russ began to estimate the height of the two bands. He went on to say that the measurements are in feet for the aeroplanes. 

I am not usually quick enough to think of a response, but this time I immediately replied that aeroplanes don’t have feet. Russ advised me that I needed to get out and walk. 

(If you guys reading this don’t find it particularly funny then perhaps you needed to be in the car at the time.) 

We were also passed along the way by a medium sized motorhome with the name of Gael Gotaway, and it tickled my sense of humour. 

We met up with Gael and her old dog, Tricksie, at the Hollaway Hill layby where we stopped to stretch our legs. I mentioned my amusement to which she replied she had done her job for the day. 

Gael comes from Bendigo and she and the dog both suffer badly from arthritis, so they go walk-about during the southern winter and her husband minds the fort as he still works. Her type of vehicle is called a GoToGetaway which I have never heard of before, and couldn’t find anything about it online. 

We arrived at Coober Pedy at 2:45 pm and are staying at Riba’s Underground Caravan Park. The turn off to the park is about 5 kms before Coober Pedy proper and is very interesting. 

Our site is under shadecloth cover as vans do not go underground. That is reserved for tents and sleeping bags where you have your own little cave. 

We are booked to do the Opal Mine Tour on the premises at 7pm on Monday evening. 

Our very chatty neighbours are Don and Cindy from Murchison who have stayed at this park on numerous occasions on their way to the NT. 

They are moving on tomorrow morning and Don told Russ they hoped to make it to Alice (the mind boggles) a total of 688 kms in one day. 

We are here for the next three nights. The tour of the mine costs $26 per person, but if you book the tour when you pay your site fees there is a discount on the site fees. Therefore, instead of paying $30 a night with power (no water other than our tanks) we have been charged $25.50 a night. 

Once we had set up Russ and I went for a tour of the amenities’ blocks. They are basic but functional, but there is no dryer in the laundry because it never rains in Coober Pedy, hahaha. 

The forecast for tomorrow is for rain from 5:30am until the later afternoon, with strong wind warnings.  

It is interesting to know that the Northern Territories got its title because it was originally governed by South Australia and therefore was considered to be the northern territory of South Australia. 

Once the Commonwealth Government took over its administration it simply reverted to the Northern Territory. 

Tomorrow Russ will check the hose connection in the shower as we have had a drop or two of water on the floor after showers. The hose has come adrift on a previous occasion. 

Day 5 – Sunday, 29 May 2022 

I woke up about 7am when the neighbours left, and I couldn’t go back to sleep so got up and started the day very quietly. 

The showers are about a three out of ten as the water comes from a bore 25 kms away so the pressure is almost non-existent, and the concrete floor is so old that it is breaking away and is rather tough on the feet. 

It is also raining and very chilly with a strong breeze and feels like 8 degrees. The rain is now expected to last until the middle of the afternoon, but far too late to do the washing and put it on the line. Tomorrow. 

We went into town after lunch and grabbed some groceries. It is a much larger IGA than we have found in other smaller towns. 

However, we had a quick talk with some of the locals who are very bemused at the weather conditions themselves. There was much hand waving about as though to say ‘Who knew?’ 

The empty bays on either side of us filled up around the time that the Collingwood game commenced. The people next door on our right have Collingwood sticks on their van – you meet them everywhere. 

One thought on “Day 4 – Saturday, 28 May 2022 

  1. Ann Cox

    Hi Russ and Carla
    I remember the lack of toilets and the appalling state of (non) cleanliness of these facilities where they did exist!!!!!
    Also remember the islands popping up out of salt lakes. I was driving on the way to Coober Pedy and almost took us over the scenic route because the vista was so amazing. We didn’t stop for a photo and I have always regretted not having a photo.

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