I am now officially unemployed, after sending in my resignation letter to my old manager at Westpac. Being a project manager, who has made a career of mitigating risks, this was not as easy decision, considering the possible financial precipice the world is heading towards. But after almost a year away I feel like I’d be a bit of a dinosaur, knowing that I wouldn’t adapt to the new norm of remote working!
In the hope of the NT borders opening in June sometime, after the Ikara-Flinders Ranges, we continued to head north into the South Australian outback. The earth is getting redder and dustier and the trees are becoming stumpy and scarce.
Although if you go looking there are water holes and springs that provide little oases in the desert, though Lake Eyre isn’t one of them at the moment.
I had heard about Arkaroola, the wilderness sanctuary near the Gammon Ranges, so we stayed there for a couple of nights. We went on the highly acclaimed Ridge Top tour and now understand why it is so expensive. A good portion of the cost goes on new tyres, as they only get 1000-2000km out of a set, and they usually send two cars out together in case one gets into trouble. There are mountains that have been pushed up through the earth that are 1.6 billion years old, putting the Flinders Ranges to shame.
We met up again with the Swiss Italian family that we originally met on Googs Track, at Grindells Hut in the Gammon Ranges, and went on a hike with Phil and the two kids, to give Chanty a day off. I was amazed at how the kids managed the 10km walk so well, with little Anya only complaining in the last couple of kilometres. We found a wonderful spring and had lunch there. There were a lot of dead kangaroos who must not have made it before the rain came in February. Despite the rain, there was very little vegetation apart from where the spring was.
Again we parted ways with the family, who are now travelling home to Switzerland. We hope to catch up with them again one day. We headed up the Oodnadatta Track, staying in various pub-run caravan parks along the way. We saw the famous Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta, had lunch and topped up the fuel, but there isn’t much else there.
We reach Dalhousie Springs after 164km of dust and corrugations. But it is worth it. The water temperature is around 42 degrees, and you float around on foam pool noodles and don’t want to get out! The birds come down to the lowest branches and have a drink, and there are little fish that occasionally have a nibble at you.
We went for a walk to the nearby Kingfisher Spring and realised it was named for its lovely blue colour. It is amazing seeing these natural water springs in the middle of such harsh desert. The wildlife love it, and so do the flies. We had to get the fly annex out and were grateful for having it.
Although at Dalhousie Springs we were less than 20km from the NT border, with no news of it opening, we decided to hoon down the Stuart Highway back to Adelaide and Sampson Flat, where a mini-rally of SA Explorer owners was being held (doesn’t everyone travel 1100km to see friends!). These gatherings are always good fun, and provide lots of education on how to travel and look after these vehicles. Six Explorers turned up in all, and with a roaring campfire that was kept going all weekend by the wonderful hosts, we were very glad we came.
We’ve had a few bits broken on Katya after doing all the off-roading – the step wouldn’t retract, the battery housing dropped, the door latch cracked, two bike covers ripped to shreds, the bike rack bent and the rear window blind wouldn’t roll down. Not to mention the DUST everywhere, which you can put up with to a point, but not in the cutlery drawer! But what’s the point of having a 4wd motorhome if you don’t go off-road. That’s where the crowds don’t go and where the beautiful hidden parts of Australia can be found.
We are now travelling up the Murray River staying at various campsites along the way. The NT has announced the border will open on the 17th July, a lot later than we had hoped. With QLD possibly opening a week earlier, we have to weigh up which way we’ll head north again…