The Western Deserts Tour 2009 Begins - The Exodus from Melbourne

Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 00:00

Mick O

Thursday 28th May, 2009
Port Augusta SA


It was reluctantly that I pushed myself awake into a dark Melbourne Morning. There is never anything civilised about a 4.00 a.m. start. It was cool with a fine mist falling the minute I looked out the window. The hot shower soon got me going and the previous evenings final packing only required the bare minimum from me to be in the drivers seat and ready. I fired up the Trackranger program, logged the Track Trace, hit the Garmin and was off.

First port of call was to Gilbert Road to gather Fred. He was waiting out the front at 5.01 a.m. when I arrived. Fred is to be my co-pilot on the first few days of the trip ending in Alice Springs where he will catch The Ghan back to Adelaide and a later flight home. We were soon on our way north on the Calder Freeway grabbing a bit of breakfast at the Calder Raceway Maccas. The new freeway is complete now right through to Bendigo so it seemed like no time at all and we were at Ravenswood speering off through the hills towards Marong and the Calder again to Mildura. The sun finally peeked through near Charlton. At Ouyen I called into O’Connor Brothers for a few wheel nuts and then on again to Mildura, ticking the last minute reminders off the list as I called past Ray's Tent City (Butane canisters) and the $2 shop for a plastic wash-tub (the only thing it appears that I have forgotten….at this stage!).

Thundering west along the Murray Valley Highway we stopped for a break at lake Cullullaraine at the aptly named “Johansen Memorial Reserve”. Reports of his demise had been greatly exagerated thought Fred. At Renmark we took on a little over 100 litres of diesel and then wound our way through a series of 25 km an hour road works to eventually bail out along the western side of Lake Bonney and onto the high road to Morgan. A coffee stop at Morgan at the bakery and then onto the A?? To Burra. The highway cuts through the White Dam Conservaation Park. The MorganWhyalla pipeline also parrallels the road . A short few kilometres out of Morgan and we again encountered the strange South Australian penchant for nailing odd things to trees. A footwear laden eucalypt and next door, an underwear display to rival a K-Mart undies section. This obsession with apparel laden flora is truly perplexing to we mexicans. I mean I know their footy teams carry handbags but........!

Across the barren dry saltbush plains of the White Dam Park we cruised until the blue ribbon of the southern Flinders Ranges appeared on the western horizon. The rise into the foothills bought a total change in scenery as well as an improve in the fertility of the soil.The arid plains were replaced with green rolling hills. The Mount Brian Wind farm was also impressive with some 30 odd towers. Both the farms at Mt Brian and slightly north of Booborowie look like they are going through massive expansion with countless new towers being erected on the hill tops. We hauled to a stop in picturesuqe Burra for more items on the list, swapped a few yarns about our previous visits to SA and then headed on to Crystal Brook.

As it was after 4.00 p.m, Crystal Brook was to be our days destination. The main street was picturesque and inviting with its stone shop fronts and two hotels. We spent 5 minutes trying to locate a motel before calling into the BP servo to ask a local for directions. “Oh no, there’s only the two hotels here for accomodation” the helpful local lass replied to our accomodation query. So which of the two would she reccomend? “Hmmm”, she murmured pensively pinching her bottom lip as she thought about it. “The one in Port Augusta” she responded with a wry smile. “It’s only an hour and you’ve got plenty of light”. With sage advice from a local, we wasted no time in climbing into the rig and hitting the road out of Dodge!Port Augusta it was.

We crested the last of the hills and emerged down onto the flats of the Gulf near Whyalla and cruised the last 80 kilometgres into ort Augusta. A budget motel it was and they didn’t lie about it either. Didn’t seem to charge a budget price though. Fred was impressed that they hadn’t done much work on the place since the Bates vacated! Dinner was at Ian’s Hotel down near the causeway and a good feed it was too. It was a long day with over 1100 kilometres under the belt. The vehicle performed well and returned excellent mileage despite the load. An early night and a more leisurely drive to Coober Pedy tomorrow.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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