Travelling Australia - Journal 2009
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5 June 2009 - Woomera to Coober Pedy
The sound of rain on the caravan roof during the night was most unexpected in Woomera during June. Rain continued intermittently while we packed up, connected the van and made our way to refuel at Pimba on the Stuart Highway before continuing north towards Coober Pedy. During the morning the weather remained changeable with fairly frequent, heavy rain. Traffic was light all day; a few trucks and road trains, several sedans and a handful of caravans.

The road was reasonably good most of the way but with scattered sections of corrugated bitumen. Road elevation varied between 100 and 250 metres. Vegetation was either gibber plain very low partial ground cover or scrub with scattered graceful Western Myall trees. Gibber plain extended from at least the Ingomar Rest Area (90 kilometres before Coober Pedy) to Coober Pedy as we made our way along the Stuart Range.
Western Myall Western Myall, a graceful and distinctive tree of the arid inland can live for more than 200 years.
Gibber plain Gibber plain at Ingomar Rest Area 91 km south of Coober Pedy is visible from the Stuart Highway for many kilometres before Coober Pedy. Gibber plain has very little topsoil and can support few plants.
Although the Stuart Highway passes through a nominally pastoral region we saw neither cattle nor sheep. Neither did we see emus or live kangaroos; we did see a few roadkill kangaroo being eaten by crows and eagles. Eagles began feeding on roadkill some years ago after the calici virus reduced the number of rabbits available to them as food; but recent reports of rabbits developing immunity to the fatal version of calici had made me think eagles may have returned to the rabbit as a food source.

Eagle food choice is relevant to caravans because eagles are clumsy flying away from roadkill when a vehicle approaches; crows and kites generally leave a kill in good time and fly away from the road but eagles delay taking-off. When they do take-off, eagles gain height very slowly and, because they take-off into the wind, don't always fly away from the road. As a worst case, an eagle leaving roadkill may fly along the road towards the oncoming vehicle one or two metres above the road and barely gaining height. Clearing a three metre high caravan, or an even higher road train, is unlikely and another pile of eagle feathers will probably be added to the roadside. An even worse situation arises when an eagle becomes possessive and stays on the roadkill trying to stare down the approaching vehicle; if the roadkill is in the middle of the road the result is a dead eagle and a damaged vehicle.

The Stuart Highway has several well sited rest areas and lookouts over lakes. We are still not used to seeing inland lakes holding water; some lakes hold insufficient to completely cover the bed, while others have a good covering of the lake bed, completely covering the salt layer, but we cannot determine water depth.
Island Lagoon Island Lagoon appears full of water but the view from other lookouts shows the salt lake bed still visible.

Lake Hart Lake Hart looking full of water.

The scattered rain moved away about half-way through the journey (on the wide open plains with very low vegetation we could see rain many kilometres away). But a northerly wind came up (at 3:30 p.m. Coober Pedy airport recorded gusts to 35 kph); apart from moving the caravan around a little, the head wind increased our fuel consumption with a penalty of 12% today. Given the fuel we carried and the distance involved this was not serious but could have caused a problem under other circumstances.

During the day I occasionally checked mobile phone coverage (Telstra Next-G). Usually there was no signal. A mobile phone certainly could not be relied on along the Stuart Highway in South Australia.

Arriving at Coober Pedy we checked in to our chosen caravan park; when we drove in we found there was no water to the sites. Coober Pedy relies on filtered bore water which is expensive ($5 per 1,000 litres) and the caravan park minimises water use by tightly restricting water availability. But they also claim a four star standard and charge accordingly. Claiming four stars while not providing a basic service, such as water to sites, makes a nonsense of the star-rating system.

Fortunately we had 120 litres in the van water tanks when we left Woomera. We usually carry only 60 litres when using caravan park but travelling in these remote areas carrying more water seemed prudent. If we had known we would not have water to the site in Coober Pedy I would have filled up to 180 litres at Woomera.
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