OVER THE BORDER INTO THE "TERRITORY"
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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JOURNEY: Coober Pedy, Marla, SA/NT Border, Erldunda
WEATHER: 12 degrees 10.30am @ Coober Pedy
MILEAGE: @ CP 17594 kms
230 kms north of Coober Pedy, along the Stuart Highway, the desert was littered with discarded cars in various stages of rust and decay, busy noisy groups of white corellas, soaring eagles and gorgeous wild flowers bright amongst the silky Spinifex and strange desert oaks. The young desert oaks look like skinny tall soldiers standing in the red dirt before they bush out into branches as adults. We read somewhere that the trees do not branch out until the tap root reaches water! Nature rules!
We stopped at Marla, not much more than a rambling roadside conglomeration of accommodation, bars and restaurants to our eyes, but with a population of 200, there must be more to it. It's the last stop in South Australia-180 kms from the border and our camp spot for the night.
Marla is an English version of Malu, the aboriginal word for kangaroo according to the spiel on the wall of the bar. Huge road trains hurtled past, the bar and restaurant were doing a roaring trade and the motel units were all fronted with dusty 4 wheel drives driven by young tradesmen contractors over-nighting here. Mintabie just west of here is another opal mining town and apparently a Wild West town of inspiring natural beauty; it’s on a dirt road and you need a permit to go there so we won’t!
The Marla camp ground was dusty and packed with travellers on their way somewhere and we smiled at the "Don’t Park On The Lawn" sign but some optimist really was trying to grow lawn! We paid $14 for a “find your own spot” and it was another cold night under a black velvet sky sprinkled with stars. We enjoyed the aboriginal art on display in a room off the restaurant from the Iwantja Arts & Crafts Gallery; the vibrant colours and accompanying stories were inspiring and what about the car door with a map point “Kenmore” but not the Kenmore in QLD where we lived.
A group of 6 guys were camped nearby in tents and the following morning, we discovered that their “army” garb was not real and that they on a gold prospecting holiday hoping to find their fortune! The guy we spoke to had had enough after 4 weeks roughing it in remote arid country and with a total of 400gms of gold nugget bagged between them thought that would pay for the trip!
We left Marla at 8.30am and it was a warm 15 degrees.
We stopped at the border of South Australia and the Northern Territory, which is not a free/ independent state but has some Federal Government controls in place. Can’t say we have a good handle on this! Amazed to see the road sign 130kms ph in this territory and until recently there was no speed limit so I suppose this is a safety upgrade!
Lunch at Erldunda, filled the tank with diesel and caught up with a few fellow travellers we keep crossing paths with. Fascinated still with the huge road trains, some 53 metres long are obviously driven at 130 km ph very efficiently. We asked someone what would happen if a cow, camel etc wandered into their path- well the answer was not pretty and we did see some slaughtered cows roadside!
And from here we take the Lasseter Highway west into Australia's "Red Heart" and Uluru!