Last week, we took a 6 day tour through the Australian Outback to the Red Centre. We camped out in swags under the stars, explored ranges & deserts, visited spiritual and beautiful places, and slept underground. It was a journey from Adelaide near the sea all the way to the centre of Central Australia, where we celebrated surviving 6 days of 40+ degrees celsius highs with good food, new close friends, and lots of beer. Here is a recap of our time in the wilds of Aussie.
Day 1 – Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges
We got picked up at our hostel bright and early and hit the road. Funnily, the bus was nicknamed Kat. We headed north, crossing through countryside that reminded us of the high deserts of home, which was totally unexpected. We stopped off to do a 2 km hike in the Flinders Ranges and saw our first kangaroo in the wild before dining on sandwiches as the kookaburras looked on from above.
From there, we headed on to camp at Wilmington Stony Creek Bush Camp, where we were given a crash course in how to set up camp as well as our swags. After a fantastic dinner of Indonesian food, we sat around visiting with each other and getting to know everyone in our group. We watched the sun go down before setting up our swags (outback bedrolls with a vinyl ground liner, mattress, and canvas top). We fell asleep under the stars, watching satellites and galaxies go by.
Day 2 – Flinders Ranges to Coober Pedy
We got up bright and early on day 2 to a beautiful sunrise and packed up camp. Today was a long drive as we were sleeping in Coober Pedy. We saw two kangaroos on the way out of Wilmington and then hit the highway for a long day of driving. We stopped off at Lake Hart, a salt flat to have a bit of fun with perspectives and the scenery. By this time it was well into the high 30’s and the salt flats were hot and reflective, so we didn’t stay for long and were soon headed down the road again. In order to make the time pass quicker, we broke up into teams on the bus and played games. Our team was the Squashed Grapes and it was made up of us and two fabulous ladies, Marjolein & Janina. Today the scenery really started to change as we got further and further from the sea and closer to the centre of Australia. An excerpt from my journal entry for today, written as we were driving north:
It’s funny to travel to the other side of the world and feel so at home. Take away the gum trees and today’s landscape could be in NM. We could be driving up Tramway towards our house right now and the view out the window wouldn’t be all that different.
Finally, we pulled into Coober Pedy. Coober Pedy is the Opal capital of the world, over 80% of of the fine opals found in the world today are dug up here. It is also a very hot, unforgiving climate. So most everyone lives underground in dugout homes.You can actually add a room onto your house for about $5,000 plus the cost of finishing it. Tonight, we get to sleep underground in an underground hostel.
There is no way to predict where to dig for opals. It’s totally speculative. So no major company will finance it because you could find nothing or you could hit the jackpot. So, primarily individuals mine for opal. They dig a hole and then sift through the materials, and there is no incentive to fill in holes. So you see piles of dirt and holes EVERYWHERE in and around Coober Pedy.
We got to tour an Opal mine as part of our time in Coober Pedy, and see what an underground house looked like.
But the highlight of our time in Coober Pedy was our visit to the Kangaroo Orphanage run by Jo and Terry. They run one of the premier galleries for Aboriginal art, and Tommy Crow (probably the most famous Aboriginal artist) will only deal with them. But on the side, these fantastic people rescue joeys who have lost their mothers, or kangaroos who have been abused. They house them, feed them, get them medical attention, and love them out of the goodness of their hearts. They are not funded except via private donations and consider themselves to be mum and dad to these kangaroos. We were lucky enough to spend a bit of time with them and the kangaroos in their sanctuary, including a very young joey named, Eve, who recently came to the orphanage.
Such a special way to spend the evening, surrounded by sweet kangaroos. We donated money to pay for formula for the joeys and food for the older kangaroos. They pay for everything out of their own pocket, or via donations from people like us. We urge you to consider donating to their amazing work in the Outback of Australia.
Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage also has a paypal page should you want to make a donation.
After that, it was home and early to bed for us as we are getting up early tomorrow morning to watch the sunrise over the Breakers.
Day 3 – Coober Pedy to King’s Canyon
We woke up before dawn this morning. It was still dark as we rolled out of Coober Pedy and headed off into the great void towards The Breakers. We arrived in the twilight and sat on top of the mesa watching the light over the breakers change and grow until finally the sun popped up and bathed the area in pinkish yellow light.
Beautiful morning! I love desert sunrises and sunsets. This one really reminded me of spending time in the deserts of the American Southwest with my grandfather. Made me miss him a bit as he would have loved this trip and the landscapes and the light this morning. Just a breathtaking way to start the day as we enjoyed our breakfast and watched the sun dance across the landscape.
The temperatures continued to climb as we got further and further into the desert. And Kat, the hardworking bus, started to overheat a bit. Luckily, we were not far from Angas Downs, a station close to King’s Canyon, and also home to Luke, the boyfriend of our awesome tour guide. So we rolled into there for an hour to let the engine cool down a bit from her hard drive in 45+ degrees celsius temperatures.
We got to hang out and stay cool in the shade, and check out a real working station, including the Dongas, where all the station workers live. Dongas are storage containers that have been tricked out into small rooms. Very cool.
Before we knew it, the bus had cooled down a bit and we were back on the road, headed to King’s Canyon and our campground. Once there we all dived into the pool and spent the rest of the afternoon there before calling it a night and sleeping under the stars once again. We were visited in the night by a few wild camels who came to check out our camp.
Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week, where we begin to visit the sacred places of the Red Centre and finally experience Uluru.