The desert… Again?!

Last you heard from me I had been doing some very efficient fishing (while admittedly not actually catching any fish efficiently…) and visiting the SA museum and getting seduced by promises of honours projects in Fiji and the like. Oh dear! You might be happy to hear that I have indeed left Adelaide, and then managed to return (like I did in Perth and will in Melbourne) before leaving again. But Adelaide of course, being another city, isn’t really the exciting part of the journey (perhaps excluding my visits to the SA museum and Flinder’s Uni).

2016-02-05-23.37.11 ZS retouched 14p bellows
Callohesma matthewsi from the SA museum

I was given some advice by the good entomology people of the SA museum that Lake Eyre was currently holding water (a fairly uncommon occurrence I am told). As such, I decided a trip there might be warranted and was advised on a route to take (which I didn’t completely take in the end). Essentially it would entail quite a bit of unsealed road, and a little bit of dodgy-windy-rocky-roady-stuff… Which naturally was quite stunning! After quite a bit of dirt roads and [often surprising] bitumen roads, I made camp at Marree, next to the pub (for free!)

No, that is not one of the roads I took, but it is a cool path leading off to… Well your guess is as good as mine really.
A better part of the dodgy-windy-rocky-roady-stuff through the Flinder’s ranges National Park (there were a lot of [dry] creek crossings).
A brief escape onto sealed road along the outback highway

A few bits of salty dirt… yes I had to see what it looked like up close, who do you think I am?

Before leaving Marree the next day, I was given a bit of a warning in the shape of an advisory sign prior to the next c.a. 400km of unsealed road. Nothing says, “have fun” like a long list of ‘precautions’ under a bold ‘WARNING’ sign…

No really, I mean it! It should be a blast

The unsealed road WAS actually quite fun and beautiful, with the added bonus of seeing oncoming vehicles (for the few that I saw) well before they got to you due to a giant cloud of dust on the horizon! The only drawback was the occasional hidden bump and bottoming-out of Ron… Ooops! Getting to Lake Eyre (South.. the dry part) was really quite amazing. With miles of white stretching almost to the horizon and a two-inch thick salty crust to walk on (after a bit of walking through vaguely salty mud), it was truly a sight to behold [and occasionally taste].

Dirt roads out to Wazoo
An oncoming truck and associated dust plume
Footprints in the mud, leading out to the thicker salt (certainly not all made it)
Naturally, there is some rubbish… I bet you wish I’d can it with the trashy pictures right? …Sorry, that joke was rubbish
A misguided roo must have had a hard time traversing the mud!
I know that this beetle did
Heck so did I, but I know at least that I made it there and back (albeit saltier than before)
Salt to the horizon
…But only a little way under my feet. It really felt like I was walking on icy snow. If I could manage to forget the hot wind!

The question remained though as to whether or not I could see Lake Eyre filled with water! To be answered, I would need to travel to William Creek; the home of $2/L fuel, 6 people and a dog (you can’t make this up people).

More unsealed road and flat horizons
The William Creek fire truck (I wonder which of the 6 people operates it… or is it the dog?)

At least here my question could be answered! It was a no. Oh well, off to Coober Pedy then! A very interesting town home to some very friendly people and very pretty rocks. For $5/ night I was given a place to park and sleep in my van, have a shower and take some photos (to the curiosity of some Portuguese hitchhikers in and adjacent vehicle and a perpetually hungry [fat] dog). After this stay I went to visit one of the local underground churches, where I met the Pastor, Brian. Now I know that I have not met many pastors before (in fact Brian may be the first), but he was undoubtedly the friendliest pastor that I have ever met (or at least can remember meeting… crap). He shared with me the history of his church (half hand-dug by the people in Coober Pedy from various religions on volunteered time and half dug by machine). Followed by bringing me to a nearby larger church, entirely dug by machine (and in my eyes not as nice as Brian’s church).

Australian engineering – an opal-digging… thing!
Brian’s [hand dug] church
The neighboring Serbian Orthodox church
The inside, dug by machine with a few hand carvings (yeah, a bit bigger)

After Coober Pedy, there was nothing to it but to return to Adelaide and continue south before heading East again towards Victoria. The road south is quite long and so I stopped at Weeroona Island (near Port Pirie), which at times was overwhelming with mosquitoes, but otherwise quite beautiful (And home to a few bees). But after that, it was off to Adelaide in the morning to replace my blower fan for the aircon, which I managed with a tarago blower. Subsequently I thought that there might be some further underlying problems with the air actually getting to my face in any meaningful amount (that’s for later I guess).

Of course, before getting very far, I had a failed blinker globe that I needed to replace. Naturally the afformentioned blinker was in the least convenient place ever and I needed to spend the night in Gawler awaiting a mechanic that I was recommended at Supercheap Auto. I found a really nice (and somewhat secluded) park around the corner to camp in overnight. When I made it to the mechanic at ~8 AM, it only took 15 minutes and a bit of head scratching to have the globe replaced (by turning the wheels to one side and removing the mud guard in the wheel well!).

Towards Port Pirie and Weeroona Island
From Weeroona Island to the ‘mainland’ – a long causeway “subject to tidal flooding” joins the island to the mainland.

The road south of Adelaide (once I got on it) is also really quite stunning and considerably less flat and straight! It was even at points, “ALL COVERED IN BEES!” (- Eddie Izzard, thanks Jem).

Nice corners huh?
Check out the curves!
Some bees for the SA Museum! (I admit the road wasn’t really “ALL COVERED IN BEES”, but there were quite a few on the adjacent Melaleucas!

Today then I have made it as far as the Cooroong, a 130km long stretch of coastal lagoons, really quite nice. I believe that I have made it to the same campsite as the one that me and some of my friends stayed at last year on our road trip south! If it is the same, it has changed a bit with the seasons – no longer covered in mossy ground and a lot drier! BUT Very close to quite a few flowering Melaleucas… Excellent!

A free 24-hour ferry along our route!
My campsite! …Until I discovered the giant system of ant nests directly to the left of Ron… Maybe a bit further from this spot then.
Flowering Melaleucas and Ron’s footprints

Bee count: 139

Kilometers travelled: 18 300

4 thoughts on “The desert… Again?!

  1. Wow! Incredible scenery and great pictures. My family and I are heading to Birdsville in April, heading across to Maree and then up the Birdsville track with a detour to Lake Eyre. Your description of your experience and the pictures are very helpful and making me very impatient to get out there. I’m sure Ron is handling it well but we’ll have a 4wd.
    Pics of Callohesma Matthewsi are incredible! They almost don’t look real. Thanks for sharing and further fostering my keen interest in native bees!
    Still on track to hit Canberra before it gets too cold? Remember, it is Canberra.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A 4wd would have been nice, and you could go more places, the only thing Ron needs is a bit more clearance! 🙂
      I should reach Canberra in at a guess… 4-5 weeks so I hope that I’m not to late!! For Canberra or NSW at large!


  2. Mate sounds like Ron is doing well and you are having a great time. Let me know if you are still interested in a couple of nights at Pebbly Beach. Cheers Mick


    • Yeah Mick, I sure am! I’m likely still a bit over a month away, like 5-6 weeks? I’ll certainly let you know, but those are the likely times 🙂


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