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We didn't 'Planet'! One camper van. Two blokes. Four weeks. What could go wrong?

Flies and pedestrian Emus

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 25 March 2007 | Views [1706]

Tenacious D was my road-trip music of choice today. It is a good listen, but some of the language can be enough to make a miner blush. It certainly turned a few heads while taking on fuel in nowhereville, location unknown.

“The road is @*%#$ hard, the road is @#$%* tough”……

At this moment we certainly faced a tough decision. There was a choice between the safe and sensible surfaced route, and the much shorter and adventurous dirt road. Going against, still the threat of localised rain that could turn things decidedly nasty. In addition, the small but significant inconvenience of technically being forbidden from going off road. The thing with rules is it depends upon how they are to be interpreted. It is our understanding that unsealed roads are permitted, to reach a point such as a lookout or a camping ground. Therefore, we agreed, the three hundred kilometre track from Yunta to Wilpena was fair game as we had every intention of camping once there. We checked local advice; several road trains had travelled both directions today. We hung a right turn and hit the dirt.

Yunta itself was pretty much nowhere, but along this route we moved to the next stage, whatever that may be called. Once again the road proved to be in fine fettle and we were able to keep good pace. In the late afternoon twilight the wildlife begin to emerge from the shade. Roo, Emus and even wild Camels had been waiting all day for the opportunity to step out in front of a fast moving vehicle. Since we are guests out here, we figured it was time to give the road over to them and make camp. If this barren land was to be our hotel tonight, then the local flies were determined to be attentive hosts.

Getting out of the van, there is approximately one minute twenty six seconds available to enjoy the surroundings. Considering we have several thousand square kilometres of nothingness around us, I find it amazing that it only takes that long for the flies to find us. It starts with two or three scouts, who then somehow transmit an emergency message to 2,354,043 of their friends (ball park figure) to come join the party. And so, from that point, we are confined to the van while our loyal friends set up their own camp on the outside. Thankfully, once dark arrives they tend to settle down and cooking activities can commence.

Because Matt is an exceptionally long person, I get to sleep on the top bunk in the roof space. This suits me fine; I get the little sliding windows covered with fly-net and a cool breeze overnight. At sunrise, I awoke face to face with a mob of flies, dutifully waiting for us to get up. It turned out, the whole god dam van was covered and they were trying to make off with it, complete with us inside. We didn’t even fuss around with breakfast and opted to get moving without further ado.

Short back ‘an sides, please!

Later on, we ran into a sheep muster. We chatted with the Jillaroo and Jackaroo, and as they didn’t have far to go, we decided to follow them back to the shed to watch the shearing. With permission from the shearing gang boss and the farmer, we were free to look around and take pictures. Both Matt and I are no stranger to the shearing shed, but especially from my point of view, it is interesting to see it organised on this scale. The gang at work here cover large areas of South Australia and NSW, and have around ten thousand to get through, keeping them here over one week. Theirs is a tough lifestyle, a work hard/play hard philosophy that few people could keep up with. Being careful not to get in the way, it was a pleasure to watch them work (isn’t it always, watching someone else work?), like a well oiled machine; the animals passed from the yards to holding pens, to the shearing platform, where they parted from their woolly coats. I could almost feel their relief as they were set free into the count-out pen, while the fleece was gathered, graded and pressed into 250kg bales, then loaded directly onto a waiting truck. Having been on the road myself now for two years, it kind of made me miss the camaraderie of working with good mates.

We were doing ok for time, so we allowed ourselves to be diverted yet again at Wilpena Pound, an interesting geographical feature that begged to be climbed. The natural basin is hemmed in by ridges that rise to around 600 metres, encircling about 80 sq km of bush and clearings. Some lucky chap used to farm the whole interior to himself, complete with its own micro-climate and above average rainfall. These days, it is all a part of South Australia’s pride and joy – Flinders Ranges National Park. Here, we noted three important facts:

1) We had just driven 2000km from the great

Dividing Range to Flinders.

2) We are both not as fit as we used to be.

3) Despite all the climbing, the view is pleasant but without doubt a flyover by light aircraft is the only way to go. That’ll cost you $100 per person for a half hour.

During our two hour hike up the ridge, we met a tour guide hanging back from his flock as they descended the hill. Kiwi, as he is known, takes tours on a six day Adelaide to Alice run. At the end, he picks up a new bunch and turns around. He recommended a pub that just happened to be on our route, which we conveniently reached just before the sun started to dip in the west. Perfect.

Tags: ambassador van, on the road

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