Heading Bush – Day 4

OK, here is day four! You guys are lucky that I like writing the posts and I want a reminder of my trip, because right now I am so far behind that I am stressing out about how much more I have to write, and how I don’t have much time to do it before I am doing something else that I’ll have to write about. But it will all be worth it when it’s done.

When we woke up on day four, the flies at Coward Springs were awful. This was definitely fly-net country. Here is a good picture of our group wearing our fly nets. This is the whole group, we used the automatic timer on the cameras:

When we got back on the road, we made a few quick stops. The first was at a dry lake bed – I think it was called ‘William Lake’.

Here we are, walking along this dry lake bed:

Next, we quickly stopped to look at some old wooden sticks in the ground. These were actually once telegraph lines – which started in Port Agusta. This was how Australia kept in contact with itself in the days before mobile phones. The sticks are still standing because they were made of cypress, which the termites don’t eat. So don’t think about making a dijuridu out of of these sticks!

Here is one of the mighty sticks:

Next we went to William Creek, which is the smallest town in Australia on the largest cattle station in Australia. Currently, the town has a grand total of nine people living there.

Of course, even with just nine people, they still had to have a pub. The pub had all kinds of little artifacts and knick knacks left behind from the many visitors. Apparently they do get a lot of visitors and tourists coming through to see the very small town and pub.

And they also had a lone parking meter. Watch out, it’s a tow zone!

After that quick stop, we were back on our way! This fence below is actually a lot more interesting than it looks:

The fence is the ‘dingo fence’, which is the longest fence in the world. It’s about 9600 kilometers long and it stretches across Australia to try to keep the dingos away from the cattle. You might be surprised to learn that dingos are actually not native creatures of Australia. They were introduced from Asia and have adapted to the conditions quite nicely. Now they are quite a nuisance, stealing shoes and other interesting-smelling items from tourists.

Our next main stop was to Cooper Pedy, a mining town. Cooper Pedy means ‘white mans hole’ in the Aboriginal language. It was named as such because as soon as it was discovered that this area had opals, people started digging frantically for them – hence making a huge ‘white mans hole’. The entire town is actually built underground!  Because of the terrible heat in this area, the residents build their houses underground where the temperature is a cool 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. Nice, huh? Do you wish you lived underground now?

Here is a picture of one of the houses:

The first thing that we did at Cooper Pedy (after lunch) was to check out the opal museum. The museum also had some info about dinosaur bones that were found in the area. We only had about 15 minutes to watch before they herded us into a movie room. We watched a film about how opals were formed and how they were mined, and how wonderful they were, and basically how everyone should have some.

After the movie about the wonders of opals we had the opportunity to look around inside one of the underground houses. It definitely was a cool temperature inside, despite being ghastly hot outside, and they had no need for air conditioning!

Here is the living room. Notice there are no windows, but the place did have air shafts.

Here is the bedroom. While we were in here, the tour guide turned out the light and it was pitch black, and dead silent. The guide told us that at night the only sound that seemed to carry through the rock to other houses or rooms was the sound of snoring – so you snorers wouldn’t be very popular in Cooper Pedy!

It’s actually illegal to mine anymore in Cooper Pedy because it has already been so heavily mined, but if someone who owns a house in Cooper Pedy suspects that they might have opal, the way they could get around this law is to ‘renovate’ a room, i.e. add a bathroom, a bedroom, etc. If you do find opal, it is in your best interest to keep silent about it so no one else tries to steal it from you before you have it all mined. She said that there were actually times when people suddenly seemed to have an abundance of money. Nice new cars, fancy new clothes. When neighbors suspiciously asked them if they found any opal lately, the response was always “nope, no luck at all!”.

After looking at the house we had a look around an old underground mine. I actually did see some opal in the rocks. Unfortunately for the museum that owns the property, they aren’t allowed to dig it out – even though what is in there could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. They can’t ‘renovate’ that area either, because it is right under a major road. Any excess digging could cause the road to collapse into the cave!

After the museum, we were lucky enough to get ourselves some showers! I was content to wait until everyone else was finished before taking mine (there were only three showers and 15 or so girls that needed to take them) but unfortunately, when my time was up, I realized that I had left my shampoo, conditioner, and all my other essential shower stuff at the last place I was able to take a shower. Nooooooo! I asked everyone I saw if they had any shampoo or conditioner that I could borrow, but no one seemed to have any. I finally got some shampoo off of one of the guys, but no conditioner. Then, just as I’m about to step into the shower, Gus starts up the engine to the bus. Nooooo! He apparently wanted to leave right that moment. When I questioned him, he rudely told me that I had had plenty of time already for a shower, but if I did it in five minutes I could go. Of course, this made me pretty cranky for hours afterwards, but I took my five minute shower with no conditioner and got back on the bus, grumpy as anything. We made a quick stop at a supermarket for beer and shampoo and conditioner (for me) and then headed off into the desert.

As you can see by the sign below, we reached the point of no return in the desert! If you go this way unprepared, you can easily die if you run out of fuel or water.

We made one more stop before our camp site. I don’t remember what this place was called – I didn’t take the normal quality of notes I think because I was still angry.

I thought this was a nice picture of the area:

And I climbed partway up the tower for fun (and because I was still sulking).

Our camp area this night was one of the highlights of the trip. It was at an area called:

The painted desert. How fantastic is that picture? It looks like a watercolor painting to me.

Here is another picture of this beautiful desert:

When we got there, a few of us climbed the hill to the right – shown in the image below – to try to catch a view of the sun setting over the desert. It was not very easy to climb up, only three people could be on the top at one time, and coming down was terribly difficult. One of the girls was almost in tears as she tried to get down, but we did make it. And I made it without any scratches, an amazing achievement for me considering how prone I am to injuries! I hadn’t gotten any on this trip yet, but believe me, there are many to come!

Below is the hill (on the far right) that we climbed.

Here is a picture of the sun after it had set… the sky honestly looks like that in Australia. Isn’t that amazing?

So, we made camp and had a big dinner. It consisted of ground kangaroo (which was actually really good, much better than the kangaroo steak we had on my Great Ocean Road trip), baked beans, baked potatoes and grated carrots. As a treat we also had a dessert which consisted of bananas which were cut in half and stuffed with marshmallows and sprinkled with Milo then tossed on the fire until the marshmallows were nicely melted. Messy, but delicious! Oh, and if you don’t know, Milo is a very popular chocolate powder here in Australia. You can put it on anything or mix it with milk for chocolate milk. I think it’s kind of like powdered Quick, or maybe Ovaltine since Milo is supposed to be full of vitamins.

While we were sitting around the fire Gus pulled out his Dijuridu, which he had made himself. He said that that he found the hollow wood piece in a pile that was meant to be firewood, he smoothed out the inside and voila! Dijuridu!

Dijuridus, interestingly enough, were not allowed to be played by the female Aboriginals. It was believed that if they did, they would either have a miscarriage or would become pregnant illegitimately. But, it was only for Aboriginal women, so it was safe for any of us to play it. We all had a go with this one, but I couldn’t get it to make a sound. I was able to make the sound for Tash’s on the Great Ocean Road tour, but this one I couldn’t get to work. Maybe it was because it was made differently it wasn’t as easy to play.

After that, it was to bed! And this night there were no ants, no flies (or not many) and no mosquitoes!

On to day five!