Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Day 10 Australia - Ayers Rock to Coober Pedy

Tuesday 3rd March, 2015 - Ayers Rock to Coober Pedy
Approx 734 km / 8 hours.

We decide to have the buffet breakfast at the hotel for a whooping $72 for two of us. This is really a buffet, unlike any we're encountered so far,you even pour your own coffee and no chef to cook your eggs!! Oh wait, you could have ordered your eggs if the server had told us as she seated us!!!

It is an average buffet, bacon is cold, mushrooms are in a soy sauce, and scrambled eggs are salty. This is so ridiculous at this price. 

We call to have our bags picked up but after waiting we walked them to the car ourselves. We are way at the back of this resort, at least it isn't that hot this early but the flies are out.

In the car and ready for a very long trek today as we have to go back over our tracks for about 200 km.
No radio reception. 

Drive south across the border into the state of Victoria, towards Coober Pedy, the heart of South Australia's opal-mining industry. Discovered in 1911, today there are hundreds of opal mines operating. Most people live underground.

A stop for gas at Mt. Ebenezer.

Our car sitting in the heat and the flies.

Yikes, the price!

Floral Emblem of South Australia

Sturt's Desert Pea, Swainsona formosa, was adopted as the floral emblem of South Australia on 23 November 1961, using the nameClianthus formosus.

This species, a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, is confined to Australia, where it occurs in all mainland States except Victoria. The original collection was made in 1699 by William Dampier on Rosemary Island in the Dampier Archipelago where he collected a specimen from:

"a creeping vine that runs along the ground ... and the blossom like a bean blossom, but much larger and of a deep red colour looking very beautiful".

Lots and lots of warnings about cows!!

This is truly a boring drive, my eyes close several times so kudos to John.

More gas.

Check out the yellow signs at bottom - road train.

Triple (three trailer) road trains operate in western New South Wales, western Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, with the last three states also allowing AB-Quads (B double with two additional trailers coupled behind).

More warnings, did see some road kill, a kangaroo and a cow.

Not sure if this is for us or the cows??

We started down the road to the Painted Desert but decided to get back on the highway as it is such a long drive.

As we approach Coober Pedy we decide to take the road to the Breakaways.

This is mining country now.

The Breakaways are a striking & unique example of arid scenery. From the flat - topped mesas to the stony gibber desert, remnants of millions of years provide a wealth of geological interests and breathtaking views. Looking out over the breakaways it is hard to believe that over 70 million years ago, a vast inland sea covered the area. The region is rich in Aboriginal and European history and is home to an array of native fauna and flora, which have successfully adapted to one of the world's harshest environments. Definitely one of Outback South Australia's best-kept secrets!
Location: approximately 33km north of Coober Pedy.

Trying to get a photo of the fence, known as the Dog Fence. More tomorrow.

The Dingo Fence or Dog Fence is a pest-exclusion fence that was built in Australia during the 1880s and finished in 1885, to keep dingoes out of the relatively fertile south-east part of the continent (where they had largely been exterminated) and protect the sheep flocks of southern Queensland. It is one of the longest structures in the world and is the world's longest fence. It stretches 5,614 kilometres (3,488 mi) from Jimbour on the Darling Downs near Dalby through thousands of kilometres of arid land ending west of Eyre peninsula on cliffs of the Nullarbor Plain above the Great Australian Bight near Nundroo.

As we approach Coober Pedy the landscape looks like another planet.

Arrive Coober Pedy
From the Aboriginal kupa piti, (white mans burrow), Coober Pedy dates back to the discovery of opals in 1915. The producer of about 70 per cent of the worlds opals, it is a community of some forty
nationalities and many characters. Underground mines, a bookshop, pottery shops, restaurants and
hotels can be visited independently or on tours including a dugout home and the spectacular ridge,
Breakaways Reserve, setting for movies such as Mad Max III Beyond Thunderdome. The Dog
Fence, running from Queensland to South Australia to restrain dingoes, and the Moon Plain of fossilized shells millions of years old, can be explored by four wheel drive.

Desert Cave Hotel Coober Pedy
Hutchison Street,
Coober Pedy SA 5723

The Desert Cave Hotel - Visitors can stay underground, or if they prefer, above ground rooms are also available. This hotel is perfect for leisure stays.

A long day of driving so we put our feet up and spent time around the hotel.

Desert Cave, the only international underground hotel, allows you to experience dug out style living. Underground accommodation, shops, cafe, bar and display areas all within beautiful soft, natural sandstone surrounds. 

Coober Pedy translated to the Australian Aboriginal language (kupa piti), as a “hole white man” or “boys waterhole” or “white people under the ground”.

Since 1915 Coober Pedy has exerted a fascination for those who seek the elusive opal, the world’s most colourful gemstone. Coober Pedy is known as the underground town, where many locals live in dugouts or underground homes. The earth gives natural temperature control for cool, quiet living in this semi desert area of Outback South Australia.

We are here for two nights in a cave room. our room below.

We head to the underground bar not realizing that we had lost another hour crossing into South Australia. It was only when we went back to the room and I looked at the clock that we wondered so I called the desk and confirmed it was an hour later than we thought. It also means that sunset was at 8:04.

We have dinner at Umberto's in the hotel. WOW the food was amazing, the best we've had since arriving in Australia 10 days ago. It was hot, delicious and looked stunning. I had the lamb shank with mashed and loads of vegetables. John had the sizzling plate of sirloin, again delicious and lots of vegetables.

Photos to come.

Day 9 Australia - Ayer's Rock

Monday 2nd March, 2015 - (Y18) Uluru Sunrise, Base or Climb Tour

We decide to skip the 5 AM sunrise tour and opt to sleep in.

An afternoon of relaxation by the pool or a nap was in order after that early rising.

We spend the day relaxing, lunching and then doing laundry. John also got us packed for an early start tomorrow.

Some photos around the resort.

Sounds of Silence Dinner
Transfer Type: Seat in Coach
Duration: 5 hour(s)
Pick up: 5:00pm Desert Gardens Hotel , Ayers Rock
Drop off: 10:00pm Desert Gardens Hotel , Ayers Rock

Considering that we confirmed our attendance when we checked in yesterday, it would have been nice if someone had told us that pick up would be at 6:10 so we weren't ready and in the lobby at 4:50.

Entered into the Australian Tourism Hall of Fame, Sounds of Silence offers the best of the Red
Centre distilled into four magical hours. An unforgettable evening, dining under the sparkling
outback sky.

First view of Uluru tonight.

Bus goes down a dirt road and lets us off here to walk to our cocktail spot for sunset.

Your journey begins on a lone sand dune. A meandering path takes you to an uninterrupted, three hundred and sixty degree view of this vast landscape.

In front of you are the fabled Uluru; behind you are the domes of Kata Tjuta and, possibly the most spectacular sunset you have ever seen.

You could also ride a camel to the dinner. Someone is wearing their fly net, not surprised can only imagine how many more flies these camels attract.

The didgeridoo (also known as a didjeridu) is a wind instrument developed by Indigenous Australians of northern Australia potentially within the last 1,500 years and still in widespread use today both in Australia and around the world.

This monk, I think from Burma, there were two, later asked me to take his photo.

There wasn't much of a sunset tonight so we are glad that we took the sunset tour last night.

We had met this single Japanese tourist yesterday when she took each others' photos. We were pleased to see her again and so was she. She found another Japanese couple and brought them over so she could get a photo with John and I. We have fun trying to converse, her name is Mysou (my spelling).

On our way to our table.

We asked her to sit with us for dinner and it happened they also seated the elderly Japanese couple as well. The rest of the table were four Brits and one soon to be single 62 year old Aussie man.

Here you enjoy sparkling wine and a selection of delectable canapes. As the sun sets in a blaze of reds and oranges, and well into the starlit night, you feast on a barbecue buffet of authentic Australian delicacies.

We started with pumpkin ravioli in beef stock, very good.

The wines flowed and we were escorted by table to the buffet. The lamb was the best.

Our table were a good bunch and we had some laughs. Mysou enjoyed herself and loved the port that was served.

As you wind down after a delicious dinner, you are offered a choice of tea, coffee or port. In winter, guests gather around a campfire to savour a special treat of hot mulled wine.

Attention then turns to some of the world's best stargazing, as our resident astronomer takes you on an unforgettable tour of the spectacular southern night sky.
She did her best but mother nature wasn't cooperating, or as the Aussie's say mother nature spit out the dummy.

A lovely way to spend an evening.