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3000 km to a big red rock

Seen as we couldn’t extend our Melbourne accommodation any later and we couldn’t check into Sydney any earlier we decided to fill the gap with a nice long road trip all the way to the middle of Oz! The mayhem of leaving Melbourne meant our planning only got as far as google mapping the route and buying a tent. But who needs a plan anyway, it’s only a 5000km round trip, so Saturday morning me, Rob, Rach and Steve packed up all our worldly belongings and hit the road!

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First days driving was a shock to the system especially for for poor Rach who went too hard the night before for old Mike’s birthday. An early start, an 8 hour drive and the taste of vodka is not a winning combination but the girl pulled through. Fortunately she didn’t have to drive and our first planned stop Adelaide was a pretty easy drive. The drive itself was pretty uneventful, main highways connect the two states, a few petrol stops and a stop for lunch but not much else to report. We made decent enough time and had chance to check out a bit of the city after a spot of tea. Seems like a pretty enough place, nothing on Melbs though! Stage 1 complete, 750km done.

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Day 2 we were up and on the road for 8, a few hours outside of Adelaide we joined the Stuart Highway which runs from the top of Oz to the bottom. It’s the only route to Uluru and it is longgggg and boring. The scenery is pretty much the same all the way along, lots of grass or rocks for as far as the eye can see, then every 100km or so a tiny town with a population smaller than some houses in London. We shared the driving and sleeping and played plenty of car games to get through. We stopped in Glendambo for lunch, they have a solid population of 30 people and the town consists of a petrol station and a pub, they made a good steak sandwich though. After 850km we found the mining town of Coober Pedy, our home for the night. Very odd place, apparently the home of opal mining, the landscape consists of weird martian mounds of dirt and oddly placed windows and doors in the side of hills… Turns out everyone in Coober Pedy lives underground, the heat is too much in summer!  Being a Sunday in a town in the middle of nowhere there isn’t really much to do on a Sunday night. When we say the middle of nowhere we’re not exaggerating either, our hotel owner makes a 8 hour drive every 3 months just to get a KFC, wow. Anyway the only pub in Coober Pedy closed before we got there, so me and Rod went for a little evening run round the town, we cooked up some delish chilli and jacket potatoes and then all hit the hay, another long day of driving done.

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We said goodbye to Coober Pedy at 7am (getting good at this waking up malarkey) then jumped back on the Stuart Highway, next stop Ayres Rock! Same road, same scenery, lots of hours to kill. The road is perfectly straight and just seems to go on forever. There wasn’t even any exciting wildlife to look at, I expected kangaroos everywhere but the best we got was a few dead ones on the side of the road. After another 9 hours of driving we could finally see a big red blob in the distance, we made it! 26 hours of driving but we made it, all the way to the centre of Oz! And there was real people and civilisation and everything. The tent is more like a castle, room to stand as well! And we had airbeds with an electric pump!! Camping isn’t so hard after all.

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We had 3 days camping at Uluru so plenty of time to see everything. The first evening was spent building the tent, cooking up a feast on the BBQ and then catching sunset at the rock, pretty cool. Next morning we were up at 4:30 to catch sunrise and then me and Rod took a run round the rock, 10km all the way round it means it’s a pretty big rock, apparently the biggest solo rock in the world. After that it got far too hot to do much,  Uluru is definitely a bit toastier than Melbourne, we had highs of 41, absolute killer when your tent doesn’t have air conditioning. There was a pool at the campsite which gave us something to do for a while and then we went in search for anywhere with air con. Spent time in the shops, found the astronomy hub and learnt about the stars and then headed back for more BBQ’d tea. Credit where credits due, Steve and Rob bossed the BBQ’ing and not once did we have burgers and hot dogs.

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We took a ride to Katu Tju the next day, only about an hour away but a pretty cool set of mountains to walk round. Rach and Steve walked for a bit with us but conveniently needed a wee when we set off to the next view point (we found them asleep in the car an hour later). Me and Rod took a hike round the canyon, probably more impressive than Ayres Rock, the views were amazing and there was hardly anyone else around, apart from the million flies that buzz round you constantly. Honestly the insects in Oz are something else, even in the cities the flies just follow you round. We took to wearing fashionable fly nets when walking round Uluru and nobody even bats an eyelid.

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The afternoon we had a little camel ride round a paddock. Very strange animals, with some impressive sets of teeth. Apparently there are more wild camels in Oz than Egypt all because some blokes brought them over to work in the 1800’s and then refused to kill them at the end and let them go wild. Since then they’ve been busy and now there’s 800,000 wild camels roaming round. The government is not the biggest fans of camels so they’re classed as vermin and have to be put down if they’re found on someones farm. Poor fellas.

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We spent the evening visiting the field of light, such a beautiful installation of thousands of lights at the base of Ayers Rock. All sorted out by some Brit called Bruce, looked pretty impressive though and it gave Rob an excuse to practice his night photography, he’s still a work in progress.

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That concluded our Uluru visit, one hell of a drive to get there but definitely worth seeing. We packed the tent back up, loaded the car and then hit the road ready for a long drive to Sydney! Another 9 hour slog took us back to Coober Pedy  But we had a bit longer to see the sights this time. We made time to go to an underground bar with the only underground poker machine in the world… Then we ate pizza in the tent and settled down. We decided to stick around in Coober Pedy for a bit longer the next morning to see what all the crack was about, we visited an underground museum and got to chat to Rudy the miner. He reckons that every bloke who has dug his house out here has found at least a couple of hundred grands worth of opals. Not a bad find. After our chat with Rudy we visited the kangaroo orphanage! Kangaroos are also classed as pests and aren’t allowed to be kept as pets or re released back into the wild so if a kangaroo ever gets injured it ends up at Josephine’s kangaroo orphanage were they try and release them to wildlife sanctuaries in South Australia. Anyway we got to see  a baby kangaroo and it was the cutest thing ever, worth hanging around for.

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Back on the road after that. Next stop Port Augustus. Easy 6 hour drive back down to the coast. Finally there’s shops and people and roads with traffic lights again. We didn’t see much here, caught the sunset on the beach and ate some food but slept well in a proper bed for the first time in 4 days. Next day another 6 hour stint to get us to Mildura, back in our favourite state Victoria! We had a poolside apartment so treated ourselves to steak on the barbie and a few drinks to celebrate being back in civilisation. Had a cheeky game of Monopoly too, mad Friday night! Started the next day with a quick run down to the river and then we checked out the local market. More like a giant car boot sale but Rob got a bacon butty anyway.

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By this point everyone was pretty much over driving but there were only 2 days to go before we’d make it to Sydney! Our next stop was Wagga Wagga,  we’d booked what we thought was a whole house just outside the town but on our way down we realised it was just 2 rooms shared with the couple that lived there. Fair to say we were a bit skeptical when we pulled up down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere with a message saying ‘if we’re not in just throw a ball for the dogs and let yourself in’. Anyway we couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. Pip and Lachy were the homeowners, only a few years older than us, both studying to be vets at uni and with the hugest house ever. Enough room for their 2 adorable dogs and 3 horses! Pays to live out in the country. They took us for a ride in the Ute down to the river so the boys could have a swim and showed us round the area. We nipped out for tea in Wagga and then came back and shared some beers with them. Two of the nicest people we’ve met, they let us help ourselves to breakfast and show ourselves out whilst they headed to work, great decision to stay.

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Last day of driving before Sydney! And only a 5 hour drive! Few stops on the way to see the dog on the tucker box and a giant ram and then we could see the signs for Sydney!! Bit of a hectic drive through the city but we made it. 5,600km of driving and over 60 hours in the car but what a road trip, looking forward to a few chilled weeks in Sydney before we hit the road again and head on the East Coast road trip!

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