Monthly Archives: May 2017

Day 16 – Erldunda to Ayres Rock Resort, Yulara

We woke to – you guessed it – another beautiful morning.  A little chilly to start but by 9.00 am there was already a bit of a bite in the sun.

From Erldunda we headed west on the Lasseter Highway.

Road is Open

One of the first things we noticed were the multi-lingual road signs along the highway.  We had only seen a few such signs previously in our travels and we assume that there must be more international visitors flying into Alice Springs and renting cars to drive down to Uluru than coming up from the south where we have come from.

Multi-lingual signs on Lasseter Highway

Our first stop was going to be at Mount Ebeneza Roadhouse (65 Camps 9) as we thought that this might be an alternative destination on our way back to the Stuart Highway from Uluru.  As there were two tourist buses there when we passed and the parking area was smaller than we expected, we had as close a look as we could but didn’t stop.  There was a flat area out the back which appeared to be the caravan park, and according to Camps 9 there are facilities needed for an overnight stop.

Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse

We drove on to the Kernot Range Rest Area (66 Camps 9) where we parked in the shade and had a cup of coffee.  There is a sign that advises that 24 hour camping here is allowable.  Some German tourists were already there filling up water bottles from the water tank, which was labelled as suitable for drinking.  A young chap came over and asked what we thought about the drinkability of the water, and we suggested that it should be OK but that we would boil it first.  He was happy with that answer and said that they did have some other water and that they would boil what they had collected here.

Kernot Range Rest Area

From Kernot Range we then drove on to the Mt Connor Lookout (69 Camps 9).  This offers a spectacular view of Mt Connor, which we are sure is often mistaken for Uluru.  I climbed to the top of the fine red dust sand-dune across the road for some more spectacular views of the Lake Amadeus salt flats.  This was the first time that the flies became a real nuisance so it was out with the Bushman’s spray and subsequently a lot fewer flies.

Shorty at Mt Connor Lookout

Lake Amadeus Salt Flat – other side of the road to Mt Connor Lookout

Back in Bertha after photos, we continued to Curtain Springs Wayside Inn & Cattle Station (70 Camps 9) which is about 84 kilometres from Uluru.  They have limited powered caravan sites here but there is a very basic shower block and there is a toilet block.  Unpowered camping is free but there is a charge for power or showers.  We had a look at the café but $16 for a basic hamburger was a bit too pricey for us.  Diesel cost $1.85 per litre which we also passed on.  As we hadn’t been able to access any fresh water since Coober Pedy, we took the opportunity to top up the water tank from a jerry can that we had filled from the bowser at Coober Pedy.  We lunched in Bertha before continuing along the highway.

Curtain Springs Wayside Inn & Cattle Station

Pet Emu at Curtain Springs

Although there were plenty of road signs warning about wandering livestock, it wasn’t until we were getting closer to Uluru that we actually saw a few head of cattle along the roadside.  We also saw a couple of dead cattle by the road and wondered how you would move a carcass to the side of the road if you hit something.  Whatever – we’re glad that we have a bull-bar on Bertha.

Scenes along the highway

We drove past Sandy Way Rest Area (71 Camps 9) which is 28 kilometres east of Yulara and the last place to legally camp before arriving at Uluru.  Very basic with no facilities and no shade or protection but it does have mobile reception.  This place might be a good option to stop overnight and get into Yulara early next morning.

As we got closer to our destination we found “tantalising glimpses” of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas).

Tantalising Glimpses

Before arriving at the Ayres Rock Resort Campground, we had an important detour to make – to the Yulara dump point.  We don’t usually mention this subject but followers of our blog who may be following in our footsteps (wheel-tracks?) at some stage need to know that none of the roadhouses we have visited in the last several days have dump point facilities, so finding a dump point takes on a certain priority.  When we arrived there was a queue of SUVs waiting to use the facility, which doesn’t often happen.  This is a very different dump point and comprises a grate in the middle of a concrete driveway, covered by a removable metal plate.  It’s quite a different experience but there is a tap with a hose and a hand-basin to wash up afterwards – it all works!

Secret Mens’ Business – in broad daylight

From the dump point it was only a few kilometres to the Ayres Rock Resort Campground reception.  Ann had booked ahead which was just as well as she had booked a site suitable for a vehicle longer than 7 metres, and there weren’t any others available when we arrived.  This was causing some problems for those ‘vanners who though that they would just rock up and take their chances.  We have a great site with power, fresh water, and sullage; close to amenities and with a BBQ within 5 metres of Bertha.  How good is that?  And because we booked 3 nights, we got a special offer and this place is now cheaper per night than we have paid for over a week.

Welcome to Ayres Rock Resort, Yulara

After setting up Bertha we did what all good travellers would do – we caught the free shuttle bus to the Outback Pioneer BBQ & Bar for a refreshing cold beer.  Ayres Rock Resort is a huge place with several distinct zones, with a free shuttle bus running all around the resort at approximately 20 minute intervals.  There are also walking tracks for the more adventurous.  We were getting a little hungry but the food service at the Outback Pioneer didn’t start for a while so we caught the shuttle bus to the Town Square and had a good look around there.  We enjoyed a cup of coffee at the Kaluta Academy Café, which is operated by indigenous hospitality trainees.  They did a good job.

Classic Car at Outback Pioneer shopping centre

View of Town Square at Ayres Rock Resort

It was still too early for the restaurants to open, so we caught the bus back to the Campground and had an equally delicious dinner in Bertha.

We haven’t been to Uluru for nearly 25 years and we are really looking forward to having a good look around both Uluru and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas).  As we’ll be here for a few days we may not post daily updates.  Stay tuned!

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Day 15 – Marla to Erldunda, NT

We woke to another glorious day – again!  Deep blue cloudless skies, green grass, large leafy gum trees – are we really in the outback?  Life can be tough but someone has to do it!

Scenes at Marla caravan park

We went on a quick drive around Marla before heading back to the Stuart Highway – there’s not a lot to see in Marla.  Once back on the highway, the landscape today was far from flat and boring!  Although most of the roadside was flat, there were mountains in the distance, rocky outcrops close to the road and the vegetation changed markedly from time to time.

Views along the way

There also seemed to be more traffic on this stretch of highway than we had experienced before – large trucks, caravans and motorhomes, quite a few motorcyclists either alone or in groups, and even a loner walking a wheel-barrow!  At one stage we crossed over the Ghan railway line.

One of the bikes and the lone walker – what was he thinking?

Some big trucks were going up the highway

Crossing the Ghan rail line

Another observation formed over the last several days is that there are many wrecked cars abandoned on the sides of the highway – there must be a story there.  Also, every town seems to have a wrecking yard full of wrecked cars, plus many properties also have lines of abandoned cars in their yards.  As a classic car enthusiast I am sad that so many cars are just left out in the elements to rust away and die.  Not a very dignified end at all.

Some of the abandoned cars along the highway

Our first stop for coffee was the Agnes Creek Rest Area (449 Camps 9).  Set off the highway down a short strip of dirt road, there is a large gravelled area and an associated large area of red dirt.  Both areas are quite flat and there is evidence of many camp-fires.  Agnes Creek itself is bone dry, but obviously carries a lot of water in the wet.  There is clearly enough water even when the creek is dry to enable gums and other larger trees to exist in this area.  This would be a great place for an overnight stop for self-contained vehicles – there are no amenities.

Views of Agnes Creek Rest Area – no water in the creek

As we pulled into the rest area we realised that we hadn’t charged the camera battery the night before – it has a 240V charger.  Not to be stopped from taking photos, we pulled out and connected the inverter and plugged in the camera battery charger.  The solar panels did a great job and even with the charger on, Bertha’s house battery was still receiving a decent charge!  This is precisely the sort of technology that free-campers and the like need on the road.

Next stop was not far along the highway at the Marryat Rest Area (450 Camps 9).  Both this rest area and the previous Agnes Creek area had great reviews in the Camps 9 book so we thought that we should check them both out.  Marryat is a bit smaller and a bit closer to the road, but would also be a great place to stop overnight – again- no facilities but it does have an emergency telephone.

Marryat Rest Area

We then stopped at the South Australia/Northern Territory border – there is a rest area here with drop toilets but it’s probably better for a day stop only as it is a combined truck stop and rest area.  One thing that we have noticed on our travels through South Australia is that they are very good at providing separate rest areas and truck stops, so that cars and RVs don’t get in the way of trucks, and vice versa.

SA / NT Border

Once in NT things seem different.  The roads aren’t as good, although it looks as though the sides of the road have been mown quite recently.  It also suddenly seems to be hotter.  The landscape and vegetation also seem to be “different”

Lunch was at Kulgera Roadhouse, about 20 kilometres from the border, after filling up with diesel ($1.76 per litre).  We just had something light in Bertha rather than partake of roadhouse food.

Kulgera Pub & Roadhouse & More

During the next stage of our journey we noted that we hadn’t seen much wildlife at all.  A handful of cattle on one property, and occasional eagle, flocks of tiny wrens or similar, and that was about it.  It seems that at this time of year all the signs warning about animals wandering on the road are unnecessary – maybe things change in different seasons.

Our final stop for the day was at Erldunda Roadhouse, which calls itself “The Centre of the Centre of Australia”.  It is located on the junction of the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs and Darwin, and the Lasseter Highway to Uluru.  This is big complex with fuel, shop, motel units, swimming pool, caravan-park, tavern, and more.  It also uses bore water which is not fit for drinking but certainly keeps the place looking nice and green.  Unlike last night the parking sites are on the grass.

Views of Erldunda

Sunset at Erldunda

We are now within striking distance of Uluru and Kings Canyon.  We’ll see where we end up tomorrow!

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Day 14 – Coober Pedy to Marla

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.

Scenes leaving Coober Pedy

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.

Lunch stop at Pootnoura Rest Stop

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.

Scenes after lunch heading to Cadney Homestead

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.

Cadney Homestead Roadhouse and Caravan Park

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!

Scenes between Cadney Homestead and Marla

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 Traveller’s Rest complex

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.

Ann created a delicious stir fry on the 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.

Map puts our travels to date into some perspective

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Day 13 – Coober Pedy

Yet another warm and sunny morning, with a little wind.  We mapped out a plan and packed up Bertha for a driving tour of some of the places we hadn’t been able to visit on foot.  First task was to top up Bertha’s water tank in the caravan park.

Replenishing Bertha’s water supply – $1 for 40 litres

Starting point was “Boot Hill” – the cemetery.  It had a special feel about it with chairs next to some of the graves, lots of flowers and overall was well maintained.  Some of the headstones were very ornate whereas others were very simple and sometimes had only minimal information.

Boot Hill Cemetery with Crocodile Harry’s grave.

Boot Hill Cemetery

Nearby was the wind turbine which is apparently going to be closed down and a new solar and wind generation plant commissioned soon.  All surrounded by an interesting landscape.

Scenery near Boot Hill

From there we went to the Serbian Orthodox Church, which was truly amazing!

Serbian Orthodox Church – St Elijah’s

Coober Pedy has a massive number of underground mine tours, visits to underground houses, and so on.  We decided to visit The Old Timers Mine, which has a truly interesting story.  The mine was originally started in 1916, but for some reason it was filled in and not rediscovered until 1968 when an underground home extension broke through revealing precious opal.  The mine was dug out and a new walk in entrance added, but essentially the mine is as it was so long ago.  We took a self-guided tour, hard hats and all.  The search for wealth was sure a great motivator for men prepared to work in terrible conditions.  We were able to scramble around through the tunnels, and also through the family home.  Truly fascinating!  But we both commented that we couldn’t live underground like so many do.

Start of the Old Timers’ Mine Tour

Scenes inside the Old Timers’ Mine

Looks good in a hard hat!

Scenes from a display area

Opals on display

Some of the underground house rooms

By now it was lunchtime so we drove Bertha out to Seventeen Mile Road, near the speedway and shooting club where we found a nice big flat area to stop.  After lunch in Bertha we made a start at heading out to Crocodile Harry’s but the conditions were just a little too rugged for non-4WD Bertha – we needed the old BT50!

Lunch Stop

Catacomb Church

Which Galaxy did this come from?

The last major stop for the day was Coober Pedy’s oldest cemetery, which just seemed sad and eerie compared to Boot Hill.  Oz Minerals have funded the identification of all of the graves and there were markers had been made for those graves that didn’t already have them.  Some seemed really sad, for example Jim Hobbs died 2 October 1925 “At Rest” – I wonder if his family knows he’s there? Sad.

Cooper Pedy’s Oldest Cemetery

After all that activity we returned to the Opal Inn caravan park to absorb the day over a cup of coffee.

We really had a great day and as the Outback Bar & Grill had a wood-fired pizza night we decided to celebrate with pizza and beer.

We have really enjoyed our time in Coober Pedy!  The weather has been perfect, the people friendly and overall the place is very interesting.

Rather than a sunset to finish off with, here’s a Sturt’s Pea instead!

Sturt’s Pea

We’re looking forward to the next stage of our adventure and will be heading further north tomorrow.

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Days 11 & 12 – Coober Pedy


Once again we woke to a beautiful day and decided that we had been driving enough and that we were due for a “rest day”.

We caught up on ‘phone calls to family plus various odd jobs that always seem to add up.

For lunch, and a few extra meals as well, I prepared an “Outback Cook-up” and tastily charred the rest of the meat we had purchased at Burra.  Ann made salads and after a delicious lunch we spent the better part of the afternoon sitting out under the awning to read and chat with other travellers in this friendly park.

Outback Cook-Up

I’ve included a photo from the showers, as our grand-daughters didn’t believe us when we told them that we had to pay for our showers.  I might add that this is an environmentally friendly park that strives to conserve resources.  Other than paying for water for showers (not a huge financial burden), they have a coin operated water bowser, and all bathrooms, laundry, etc have timer switches so that lights aren’t left on unnecessarily.

Coin in the slot showers – water is scarce.

It was great to have a lazy non-driving day today.


Yet another glorious day ! Clear blue skies and temperature about 22 degrees.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Re-energised after our lazy Sunday, we donned our walking shoes and got going early.

We walked from one end of town to the other, and saw many interesting sites along the way.  Coober Pedy is clearly an opal town.  Nearly every second shop sells opals, and most of them will buy them as well.  Most have great displays of raw opal and/or cut and polished opals in many different jewellery settings.

There are many accommodation options, from budget and backpacker places to some very up-market establishments.  Many places offer underground rooms, and almost inevitably also have displays of opal.  There’s no escaping opals in this town.

Some underground accommodation

The Desert Cave – upmarket accommodation

Morning coffee was at an underground café which sold opals and didgeridoos.  The proprietor showed us some of his opals and explained the different types and what makes some opals more valuable than others.  He had some exquisite pieces, at ridiculous prices.

Underground Cafe

We visited an underground bookshop and got talking with the proprietor.  She had some interesting items for sale but our main topic of conversation was the constant temperature she experienced working underground.  She told us that regardless of the outside temperature it was between 23 and 25 degrees in the shop. Oh what a problem!

Underground Bookshop

A quick visit to the St Peter and Paul Catholic underground church resulted in another photo opportunity.

St Peter & Paul underground Catholic church

At various points in time we passed the Opal Beetle, the Cooper Pedy Drive-In, various old bits of old mining equipment, the Big Miner and the Big Winch, and many more interesting sights.

The Opal Beetle

Coober Pedy Drive-In

The Big Miner

The Big Winch

Sites around town

Sites around town

Coober Pedy Mining Equipment

Somewhere along the way we decided to visit the Cooper Pedy Outback Bar & Grill for lunch.  They had the expected steak options but this bright and cheery restaurant has a distinctively Greek feel so we ordered lamb and kangaroo gyros (guess who had what) washed down by a refreshing light beer.  Delicious, and definitely the way to go.

Coober Pedy Outback Bar & Grill

By the end of the day we had both achieved over 12,000 steps on our counters and settled in for a light dinner in Bertha and some TV.

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