Another beautiful morning, bright and clear, but a bit cooler so I was in a long sleeve top until about lunch-time.
After packing Bertha we took a minor detour to the medical clinic. They were very understanding and I was seen very quickly and the problem sorted. From the medical clinic we headed back down Hutchison Road to the Stuart Highway and turned North.
The landscape leaving Coober Pedy actually changed the further we got from town. The mullock heaps got smaller and less frequent, although there were occasional “hot spots” with a bit more activity. We did go past a much larger dig which appeared to be more like a commercial quarry than an opal dig, but we couldn’t find any details to advise exactly what the mining activity was about. Several kilometres out of Coober Pedy the scenery transformed into arid, flat land with low scrub.
First stop was a late coffee break at a truck stop about 45 kilometres up the highway. It was a nice big space and relatively clean, but had no facilities at all other than rubbish bins.
Lunch wasn’t long after at the Pootnoura Rest Area (442), about 79 kilometres from Coober Pedy. This stop has an emergency ‘phone, bins and some tourist information, but no toilets. Again, quite clean and would be a contender for an overnight stop if required.
Not long after lunch we came across a caravan pulled off the road so we stopped to offer assistance. It was a couple, John and Betty, and their Ford Territory had a very flat rear driver-side tyre. John was finding it difficult to unpack the Territory, and change the wheel, while still hooked up to the caravan. In the past he had simply called the NRMA, but NSW was a long way away and there was no phone reception, so he was a bit stuck. Betty had a stroke a few years ago and couldn’t be of much assistance. However, with an extra pair of hands and a little bit of extra brain power, we managed to remove the spare tyre from under the vehicle, jack up the car and the front of the caravan, and replace the flat tyre with the spare tyre. At this point we noticed that the tyres were different sizes – the wheels on the car were 18” mag wheels whereas the spare was a steel 17” wheel. We had to assume that the different tyre profiles would offset the difference in wheel size. I then helped John check and pump up both back wheels with my tyre compressor. We left him to reload the Territory and continue his trip. We suggested that the next biggish stop was at Marla and that someone there might be able to supply a new tyre, or something.
Actually we stayed slightly behind them as they headed up the highway, just in case they had any further problems.
We soon came to Cadney Roadhouse and pulled in for a quick stretch and walk around. There is a caravan park here with a swimming pool and other facilities. It is also on the Ghan railway line and has assorted train carriages parked behind the buildings. While we were there a huge truck loaded with cattle pulled in. After a quick walk we decided to continue on our way to Marla.
For another 80 kilometres or so of we drove through a basically boring flat arid landscape. Sometimes the road had curves instead of being perfectly straight, and sometimes there was an occasional bigger shrub, but basically it was boring!
Eventually we pulled into Marla Travellers Rest. This is quite a big complex with a service station, bar, restaurant, supermarket, motel units, swimming pool and a caravan park. They are on bore water so the grounds are lush and green, but we were told in no uncertain terms not to drink the water. Having gum trees all around us is a big change from recent days. They also have public telephones and a Post Office. There are a reasonable number of powered sites, but the rule is that no vehicles can go on the grass. Ann found us a nice, well located flat site and we set up Bertha for the night.
Marla is actually a lot more than just this complex and is a small town with a population of about 70. It is a service town for the immediate area and presumably provides services to the Ghan railway which runs through town.
I caught up with John at the caravan park and he said that the spare wheel had run well and that he had no difficulties on the way here to Marla. He said that he had been told that there was a tyre person in town who might be able to help but that he wasn’t expected back in town until late tomorrow. John seems to be keen to keep moving so he will be heading off tomorrow morning and will hopefully find a replacement tyre further up the highway.
Dinner was a stir fry cooked outside on our BBQ.
Today has been a bit of a different day, with an unexpected start (doctor) and an adventure in the early afternoon (John & Betty). We’ll sleep well tonight!
Tomorrow we’ll be in the Northern Territory. The map below provides a bit of a summary of our trip from Port Augusta to here at Marla.