OK, here is day 4! You people are lucky that I like writing the blogs and I want a reminder of my trip, because right now I am so behind that I am stressing out about how much I have to write, and how I don't have much time to do it before I am doing something ELSE to write about...
First of all, when we woke up, the flies at Coward Springs were AWFUL. This was definitely fly-net country. Check out the group hanging out in our fly nets :) This is the whole group... we used the automatic timer on the cameras...
When we were back on the road, we made a few quick stops... the first was at a dry lake bed (pretty sure it was called 'William Lake').
Here we are, walking along this dry lake bed...
Next, we quickly stopped to look at some old wooden sticks in the ground... these were actually once telegraph lines (which started in Port Agusta), how Australia kept in contact with itself in the days before mobile phones... The sticks are still standing tall (or short at least) because they were made of cypress (Which the termites don't eat... no dijuridus out out of these sticks!).
Here is one of the mighty sticks:
OK, so we next went to William Creek, which is the smallest town in Australia on the largest cattle station in Australia. Currently, the town has a grand total of 9 people living there!
Of course, even with 9 people, they still had to have a pub. The pub was pretty neat, with all kinds of little artifacts left there from the many visitors. Apparently they do get a lot of visitors coming through to see the very small town and pub...
And... they had a lone parking meter. Watch out, it's a tow zone!
After that quick stop, we were back on our way! This fence below is actually more interesting than it looks...
That fence is the 'dingo fence', which is the longest fence in the world. It's about 9600 kilometers long and it stretches across Australia to try to keep the dingos away from the cattle... And you might be surprised to know that dingos are actually not native creatures of Australia... they were introduced from Asia and have adapted to the conditions quite nicely. Now, they are quite a nuisance, stealing shoes and other items from tourists that have a nice smell to them...
Our next main stop was to Cooper Pedy (which means 'white mans hole' in Aboriginal language - because as soon as it was discovered that this town had opals, people started digging frantically... hence making a huge 'white mans hole'... ) an underground mining town. Yes, you heard me right, UNDERGROUND! Because of the terrible heat in this area, the residents build their houses underground where the temperature is a cool 70-75 degrees Farenheit all year round... Nice, huh? Wish you lived underground now? One of the houses:
So, the first thing that we did at Cooper Pedy (after lunch) was check out the opal museum. The museum also had some info about dinosaurs found in the area, which we were able to look at for about 15 minutes before they herded us into a movie room. We watched a film about how opals were formed and how they were mined, and how wonderful they were, and basically how everyone should have some.
Then, after the movie of the wonders of opals, we had the opportunity to look at the inside of an underground house. That was actually pretty neat, it was a cool temperature inside (despite being ghastly hot outside) and there was NO air conditioning! Here is the living room (the place must have been pretty dusty because all my pictures had those white specs in the living room). Notice, no windows... but the place of course had to have air shafts.
Here is the bedroom... while we were in here, the tour guide turned out the light and it was pitch black. And dead silent... actually, the guide told us that at night, the only sound that seemed to carry through the rock to other houses or rooms was the sound of snoring... so you snorers wouldn't be very popular in Cooper Pedy!
Now, it is actually illegal to mine anymore in Cooper Pedy (because it is already so heavily mined) but if someone who owns a house in Cooper Pedy suspects that they might have opal, the way they could get around this law is to 'renevate' a room, i.e. add a bathroom, a bedroom, etc... And if you have found opal, it is in your best bet to keep silent about it... so no one else tries to steal it from you before you have it all mined. She said that there were actually times when people suddenly seemed to have an abundance of money... and nice cars... fancy clothes... but when they were suspiciously asked if they found any opal lately, the response was always "no, no luck at all!".
After looking at the house, we had a look at an old underground mine, and I actually saw some opal in the rocks. Unfortunately for the museum (who owns the area) they aren't allowed to dig it out, even though what is in there could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars... they can't 'renovate' that area either, because it is actually right under a major road, so any excess of digging could cause the road to collapse into the road!
After the museum, we were lucky enough to get ourselves some showers! I was content to wait until everyone else was finished before taking mine (only 3 showers and 15 or so girls that needed to take them) but unfortunately, when my time was up, I realized that I had left my shampoo, conditioner, and all my other essential shower stuff at the last place I was able to take a shower. Nooooooo! I asked anyone I saw if they had any shampoo or conditioner that I could borrow, but no one seemed to have any. I finally got some shampoo off of one of the guys, but no conditioner. Then, just as I'm about to step into the shower, Gus starts up the engine to the bus. Nooooo! He apparently wanted to leave now... When I questioned him, he told me that I had plenty of time already for a shower, but if I did it in 5 minutes I could go. Of course, this made me pretty cranky for a while afterwards, but I took my 5 minute shower with no conditioner and got back on the bus... grumpy as anything. We made a quick stop at a supermarket for beer and shampoo and conditioner (for me) and then headed off into the desert.
As you can see by the sign, this was the point of no return in the desert! If you go this way unprepared, you can easily perish by running out of fuel or water...
We made one more stop before our camp site... Unfortunately I don't remember what this place was called (I didn't take the normal quality of notes I think because I was still angry).
But I thought it was a nice picture:
And I climbed partway up the tower for fun!
So, our camp this night was one of the highlights of the trip. It was at an area called:
The painted desert. How fantastic is that picture? It honestly looks like a watercolor painting or something... But this is what the place looked like.
Here is another picture of this beautiful desert:
When we got there, a few of us climbed the hill to the right (in the image below) to try to catch a view of the sun coming down over the desert... it was not too easy to climb up, only 3 people could be on the top at one time, and coming down was TERRIBLY hard. One of the girls was almost in tears as she tried to get down, but we did make it. And I made it without any scratches, an amazing achievement for me considering how prone I am to injuries! I hadn't gotten any on this trip yet, but believe me, there are many to come!
Below is the hill (on the far right) that we climbed.
Here is a picture of the sun after it had set... the sky honestly looks like that in Australia. Isn't that amazing?
So, we made camp, and had a big dinner... ground kangaroo (which was actually really good, much better than the kangaroo steak we had on my Great Ocean Road trip) and baked beans and baked potatoes and grated carrots... and as a treat, a desert which consisted of bananas, cut in half, sprinkled with Milo and marshmallows stuffed into it... then tossed on the fire until the marshmallows were nicely melted. Messy, but yum! Oh, if you don't know, Milo is a very popular powdered chocolate here in Australia... you can put it on anything, or mix it with milk for chocolate milk... I guess it's kind of like Quick, or maybe Ovaltine since Milo is supposed to have lots of vitamins.
While we were sitting around the fire, Gus pulled out his Dijuridu, which he actually made himself. He said that he found the hollow wood in a pile that was meant to be firewood, and he just smoothed out the inside and voila! Dijuridu! Dijuridus, interestingly enough, were not allowed to be played by the female Aboriginals, as it was believed that if they did, they would either have a miscarriage, or would become pregnant illegitimately. But, it was only for Aboriginal women, so it was safe for US to play it. We all had a go with this one, but I actually couldn't play it... I was able to make the sound for Tash's on the Great Ocean Road tour, but this one I couldn't get to work. Maybe it was because it was made differently... it wasn't as easy to play.
After that, it was to bed! And there were no ants, no flies (or not many) and no mosquitos! See, this is why this was a highlight...
On to day 5!