PANDURRA TO COOBER PEDY | EPIC DRIVE AND A HALF | TRAVEL ROUND AUSTRALIA

I didn’t sleep well. The unpowered sites (as many have been on this trip) are right near the highway and trucks were coming and going all night into and out of Port Augusta. There was also some kind of radio signal beeping which drove me nuts on a consistent basis. I honestly thought my walkie talkies were malfunctioning and slowly draining of batteries through the night, that’s the exact sound. When I checked them the next morning, they were off however, and the noise was still going on, coming from the property’s big wool shed. Preconceived notions of country life being quiet, thus thrown out of the window. 

God it was cold. This was the coldest morning we’ve had so far. I had to put a thermal top and my down jacket on whilst packing up the car and Charlie ran around in beanie, gloves and uggies. It must have been 2-3 degrees. The tents were sopping wet so we bundled each fly up in a plastic bag separately to dry out later. I think this was our quickest pack up day, although we had had showers the night before and decided to get breakfast in Port Augusta, 40km down the road (just a mere drop in the ocean on the drive we had to do today). 

Coming into PA was very strange - our first taste really of civilisation and traffic in a while. It was the school run time and kids popped into the bakery to get goodies before school. People going about their lives as normal. I highly recommend French Hot Bread on Commercial St in Port Augusta by the way, absolute yumminess and I picked up a loaf of bread, still warm, for sandwiches later. A fuel stop, a check of the tyres, and off we went, a couple of km up the road to the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden, just off the Stuart Highway. We stood where Matthew Flinders did, looking out towards the Ranges he named to the East of us, and getting a sudden desire to change travel plans and go there too. Perhaps one day I can drive from PA to Coober Pedy via the Flinders and the Oodnadatta Track.  I was still nervous about driving on the Track, as it had been closed recently due to heavy rain and I didn’t want to get stuck out there being the only adult with limited 4WDing experience. Still, I can always fly into Adelaide and make the drive up to the Ranges (6 hours) another time, so we left the cliffs at the gulf and continued onto the Gardens. Charlie had his Science lesson: a worksheet they provided meant he had to find native animals hidden in the gardens. They were little statues/artworks and very cute, camouflaged well in amongst the plants. This was Toby’s idea to come here, and he was off, searching for parrots, ever the birder. Excuse the phone photos below...

The epic drive to Coober Pedy began, with a coffee and snack stop in Pimba (Kimba yesterday, Pimba today!) and a walk down to Lake Hart just on the north side of Pimba’s roadhouse. I wish we could have had time to see the rockets at Woomera but I already had a massive day ahead of me. One can’t do everything I suppose. 

The road stretched on and on, but it was an ever changing landscape of different vegetation, cloud formations and colours. We didn’t stop for lunch, we didn’t stop for photos. There were a couple of rest stops, but no further fuel station past Glencambo. I felt this need to get to Coober Pedy before I got too tired and yet, stopping does relieve the lethargy, so it’s a double edged sword. In hindsight, I wish I had stopped and taken more photos of the landscape and will make an effort to do that in future at rest stops. It is harder with the kids, who whinge when we stop (unless they are getting fed), but well, tough luck kiddos. Finally we approached Coober Pedy, with the funny little mounds of dirt, warning signs about mine shaft dangers, and signpost after signpost advertising tours and accommodation in the town. We hadn’t booked the motel, just on a whim decided that day to stay underground, and I made the decision on the spot to stay for two nights. There was no way I would be getting up again the following morning for another five hour drive to Erldunda. 

Following that gut instinct proved to be the right decision. The kids were thrilled, The Underground Motel is fantastic and modern, with a communal kitchen, free breakfast and tea and coffee, an ensuite and a real bed. Oh and seriously good free, fast wifi.  I was looking forward to a rest.

My friend Fi asked to see some pics of the motel, but I was shattered. I promised tomorrow, and then realised I couldn’t take photos of our room. We had relaxed into the area like an obese, old man flopping into a chair at the end of the day, the rolls muffin-topping their way over his waistband and the seat bulging beneath his weight. Meh. Photos could wait, relaxation comes first.

Shout out to John’s Pizza Restaurant on Hutchison St (main drag). Spinach and feta pizza hit the spot. As did the glass of wine.