I couldnâ€™t believe my luck when my uncle told me that a few of his employees invited me to join them on a 4 day off road tour of the outback! I had given up on the idea of touring anywhere near dusty dirt roads because I couldnâ€™t rely on my car, so I was more than happy to tag along and enjoy the ride through Australian bush. We covered almost 2000km starting from Adelaide, past Port Augusta and up to William Creek, then back down through Marree and Wilpena in the heart of the Flinders Ranges. I have to admit; I couldnâ€™t have asked for a better introduction to the Outback, this trip was absolutely awesome! We drove on sandy red roads with endless horizons of baked, infertile land; camped under 360 degrees of moon lit skies so clear that you could see every single star; bathed in the warm mineral waters of Coward Springs; crossed the historical tracks of the Old Ghan Railway and walked amongst the ruins of several towns that died with the last train; watched some of the best sunsets Iâ€™ve ever seen; and appreciated in silence breathtaking views from the peaks of the Flinders ranges.
Day 1 - Woomera, Roxy Downs and Andamooka.
The first day started early, as early as 4.30am! I got a lift with my uncle and met the rest of the group at his work place, ready to set off at 5.15am. I jumped in Alanâ€™s bran new Toyota Prado and I though to my self, this is going to be one comfy ride.
Along with us came Marian in his Toyota Hilux and Damian, with his partner Audrey and daughter Natalie in his Land Cruiser. We drove a whooping 480 km to Woomera, which should normally take 6 hours but I think we did it in 5ish. Alan is a design engineer from the UK, he immigrated to Australia 2 years ago and has been working at my uncleâ€™s almost from the day he arrived. As we are both design engineers, we got on pretty well and chatted the whole way, so the long drive went in a flash. Woomera was a very interesting stop, this used to be an Aerospace Site for testing weapons and launching rockets, and there were plenty on display to view freely. Marian made me laugh, he is very Australian in his ways and kept shouting things like â€˜far out!â€™ or â€˜itâ€™s unreal!â€™ whilst capturing every corner of each exhibit, he must have taken a million shots! The town it self wasnâ€™t very interesting, it was pretty quiet and isolated, I guess not many people lived there because there wasnâ€™t much to do besides polishing the military equipment.
Rocket at Woomera
Back on the road, we covered a further 80km and reached Roxby Downs, where we planned to camp for our first night. I couldnâ€™t believe how hot it was, we were only 560km north of Adelaide but the temperature was creping above 35 degrees. There was much more life in Roxby Downs than in Woomera, the town was built to accommodate the miners working on the Olympic Dam project. Damien also worked here as an electrician, so he knew a lot about the place and kept bringing up funny stories of him and his colleagues. He said he once drove straight through the security barriers of the Olympic Dam Complex with a cherry picker because he couldnâ€™t find the brakes! We had a quick snack and in the afternoon we drove to Andamooka, an historical town build around mining of opal.
It was interesting to notice how along with their 4x4 van quite a few residents had a digger or a bulldozer park up, and a sodding great hole in the ground where once there must have been a beautiful garden! I wonder how many of them made a fortune and moved onâ€¦ and how many are still digging. Everywhere,there were huge piles of dirt visible as far as the eye could see. We took some photos of three minerâ€™s cottages, restored and kept to their original conditions, and then we drove back to Roxby Downs for the night. Damien and his two girls hired a cabin whilst us three camped on the grass; I had my cheap two man tent which was left by smelly hippies up in Nimbin, and I swiftly included in my collection of â€˜car-value-addingâ€™ items; Marian, being a proper aussie slept in his proper Australia swag, which looks a bit like a body bag; and Alan showed off his new hi-tech self-assembling tent, this gadget comes in a light carrier bag with a zip and as soon as you open it, it explodes in your face with one in three chances to poke an eye out if youâ€˜re not careful.
Itâ€™s quite tricky to fold back into the bag and apparently Alan had to find out on Youtube how to do it!