Coober Pedy

It’s been a bit of a tough run the last five days, and my body is feeling very worn out, but I’ve made it to Coober Pedy, a town of around 3,500 people best known for opal mining. It’s a dusty place, with no water or other natural resources, other than the opals. But it’s got two supermarkets, and I’m sleeping indoors for the first time in three weeks, since leaving Darwin. I felt I deserved it, after doing over 150km on three of the last five riding days.

I did consider the turnoff towards Uluru, but decided against it. I had looked at organised tours, but they were very expensive (says the man who’s used to $0.25 beers in China). But then when I stopped at the Erldunda roadhouse, and saw the major-league hotties who were on the tourbuses, with almost no guys, I did regret the decision…

Otherwise it’s been long dull days – particularly coming down from Cadney Homestead to Coober Pedy. Huge open spaces, little or no vegetation, no mountains in the distance, no signs of human habitation apart from the road…it can be mentally tough. Add in tough head/cross winds, and the cold temperatures, it gets physically tough too.

I stopped at Marla on Saturday night – only $5.00 for a patch of grass, a warm shower and a swimming pool. It had a big bar, so I thought I would look into what happens on a big Saturday night. Men were walking around in cowboy boots and hats – it seems there’s no rule against wearing your hat indoors – with big belt buckles, and rather suspiciously clean-looking jeans. They were also affecting that cowboy walk – I didn’t realise you got that from riding quadbikes as well as horses. So I thought maybe it could get interesting, especially since the sign said the bar was open until “late.” As it turned out, “late” meant last orders at 20:40, bar closed at 21:00. Sigh. Back to the tent.

Sight of the day: Around 25km north of Coober Pedy, I saw a car up ahead of me driving slowly along the side of the road. Every time a car passed, it pulled over and stopped. I couldn’t work out what was going on, until I got closer. The right front tyre was shredded, but still half-clinging on to the rim, going whap-whap-whap as it kept hitting the car body. Worried about being struck by flying pieces of rubber, I went over to the far side of the road to pass it. The driver didn’t seem overly concerned that he was destroying his rim – the big group of kids in the back seat seemed to be enjoying themselves too. It’s hard to say how far they had gone like that – the next place was 125km back up the road.

Tomorrow I start my last run down towards the coast – it should take me about four days to get to Port Augusta, all going well. Distances between the next few roadhouses/towns are 252km, 113km and 172km. Long ways with not much to see…and I cross the Woomera Prohibited Area. Right now, I have to go and visit the “Italo-Australian Miners Club” as part of my tour of Australian drinking clubs. I shall inform you of my findings in a later update.