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January 28, 2005

The Outback

When you grow up in Western Europe, where a vast expanse of emptiness means a field and everyone is squashed in huge population densities, the outback is a sight to behold. So much space, so much flat nothingness, where you can see 180 degrees of sky and earth and the roads run straight for miles on end. I have a pretty high boredom threshold and can be happy as a clam just sitting on a bus watching the scenery with some good music.

I changed bus in Erldunda with Devrah and Martijn, who were also heading down to Adelaide. We said goodbye to our group and boarded the new bus, where everyone was fast asleep. It turned out that most of them had been up late the night before and they were actually all good fun and we got on well, but initially the three of us thought we were in for a really dull time. It's weird how you get used to the tour thing - meeting different people, bonding as a group and then disbanding after a few days and probably never seeing each other again. You exchange email addresses and promise to meet up but it's not the same when everyone's back at home with jobs and lives. Your paths intersected for a few days in a certain place and particular time but then you move on in different directions.

We crossed the border from The Northern Territory to South Australia and passed the Dingo-Proof Fence. We saw the Breakaways, which were spectacular in an eerie Martian kind of way, and stayed the night in Coober Pedy, an opal-mining town of around 4500 where most of the inhabitants live underground. We slept in a cave that was full of mice - I was on the top bunk, Dev was not so lucky and one ran across her face. We had dinner in a Greek restaurant which was full of tacky decorations and strange food. The owner was rude and snappy but in an unintentionally comic way. We finished off the evening in an underground bar and the next morning went for a look around an opal museum. Everyone in Coober Pedy seems really proud of the way they live and tell you all about the low cost of building a house (basically you just move into the hole where you mined opals) which means you can spend a lot on interior decoration (though as they say, you can't buy good taste) and the great conditions (it's a constant cool temperature). I can see where they're coming from. But they're still living in caves. It seems like a place that can exert a hold on you - I got talking to a guy who went there for a year thirty-two years ago. He said that it's a real community and everyone's very friendly.

We left before anyone bought a plot and explosives (which you can purchase all over the place) and settled down there. We drove on to a lake, where I crossed The Ghan tracks and trotted out on the salt flats until I came across this sign, and Woomera, which was like a ghost town. Quorn, where we stayed the following night was a nice place that used to be a railway town until the route of the Ghan was changed. The YHA was a family house with extra rooms, and there was a birthday party that night. We went for dinner at The Austral pub and then got chatting to the party guests. Dev and I went to brush out teeth and got stuck in a long conversation in the bathroom with a bunch of people who'd wandered past.

On our last day, we hiked around Alligator Gorge in Mt. Remarkable National Park and carried on through the Southern Flinders Range. We went to a winery in the Clare Valley, then drove through the Barossa Valley. We all went out for dinner and drinks in Adelaide, then said goodbye.

Posted by Rowena on January 28, 2005 08:19 AM
Category: Australia
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