Leaving Sydney on a cold winter day, with rain threatening we were looking forward to getting to Central Australia for sunshine and warmth, but there was a long way to go first. We had intended to head west towards Broken Hill via Menindee but discovered the day before we left that all the dirt roads we had intended to take were closed due to flooding – big news you might think but not a whisper of it in Sydney. So we took a more southerly route via Forbes, Griffith and eventually Port Augusta where we started to feel a bit more warmth, and the skies started to clear. Nights still cold though – about 2C.
Leaving Port Augusta for Coober Pedy, still a few flurries of rain but the landscape was changing to the dry open red soils we love. From 50 km outside Coober Pedy we saw the mullock heaps left by the opal miners.
The mining is done by individuals, no large scale operations here. There are plenty of stories of people who have come to the town, struck it lucky and left very rich, only to return penniless some years later, and never find that vein of opal again. But they keep trying. It is home to a lot of Aboriginal people too – hearing them speaking their own beautiful, flowing language reinforces the sense you are well away from the cities.
The Breakaways is an area just north of Coober Pedy, eroded hills with ironstone caps and dramatic colour variations. The scenery is similar to what we saw at our next camp in the Painted Desert. Although it looks dry and barren, there was an amazing array of brightly coloured flowers on small sturdy bushes, daisies, eremophila, camel bush and many others I couldn’t name.
We set up behind the homestead, there was a simple corrugated iron shed with hot showers and toilets and a big fire pit with benches all around for the campers to use. Camping in places like this is a highlight – peaceful, open, the stars are so clear and people always friendly. Sitting around the campfire at night exchanging stories of travel and life in general is a joy.
After two nights at Arckaringa we drove out, more stunning scenery. Then up the Stuart Highway, two days later we are here in Alice Springs, in the heart of Australia and we are WARM!