After leaving Coober Pedy we spent several hours in the car driving as far as we could make it until sundown. The thing about the outback is that other than a few small towns, its mostly made up of desert and a handful of gas stations. Anywhere else in the world gas stations are a normal part of road life, but because there are so few of them on the Stuart Highway, they are magically transformed from just a gas station to a must-see roadside stop. I mean really, you know you're bored when you get excited about stopping at a gas station so you can take pictures. I guess that's what makes it a road trip though. I had read all of the visitor guides twice and therefore had each gas station's name and slogan memorized. This turned out to be quite useful when Maggie and Matthew wondered when and where our next fuel stop would be.
The first stop outside Coober Pedy wasn't a gas station though, it was even worse than that. It was a fence. Before you roll your eyes and stop reading, you have to hear me out. This is a pretty famous fence by outback standards. It's called the Dingo Fence. It's twice the length of the Wall of China and stretches from Surfer's Paradise (where I began my Oz adventures) all the way to South Australia (where we currently stood.) The fence is a big deal but nobody seems to realize it because it isn't marked and commercialized like the attractions near the coasts. We had to look really hard to find it and that made the pictures all the more valuable.
A few miles down the road we found our next stop, the Cadney Homestead, "Gateway to the Spectacular Painted Desert." Here we took a bathroom break and ate a nutritious lunch of tuna sandwiches.
The next rest stop on the Stuart Highway is 81 kilometers away in a town called Marla. I thought the name of the town sounded pretty, if nothing else.
By the time we got to Marla it was nearing sundown so we needed to make camp for the day. We drove a few more kilometers to the nearest free campground and settled in. This campground was a step below our first night's place. There were no restrooms and no phone service. We were only a few hundred yards from a highway bridge and gathering wood for the fire was an all-night ordeal. Aside from these issues, we made a very nice camp. Maggie made us a delicious pasta dish for dinner and the three of us drank box wine from a mug while we sat around the fire swapping stories.
At breakfast I stared at the nearby highway. I guess, I forgot to hide my morning-person perkiness because I decided it was a good time to spit out fun facts about the Stuart Highway. I told Matthew and Maggie about the history of the highway. It was built around the first world war because the Australian government wanted a road that connected the north and south coasts for safety reasons, should an invasion occur. John Stuart was not the first to make the journey from north to south, but he was the first to do it alive so that gave him the perk of naming rights. The gruesome parallel is that the same day John Stuart made it back to Adelaide alive, his two-biggest competitors made it back as well, only it was just their bodies that made it.
Around 9:30 we pulled out of the campgrounds and continued our journey north. Within the hour we were stopping for our first photo-opp. We had made it to another state—Northern Territory!
Thankfully, the sign was two-sided so we could take pictures in two different states at one stop.
Just up the road from that stop was the famous Kulgera Bar. This place is famous because it is both the first and last pub in the Northern Territory. I thought this was pretty clever so I took quite a few pictures here.
The best part about Kulgera, is that it now has a little piece of Southwest Oklahoma on it. Around the big sign there are tons of stickers and such. Before leaving the states I gathered up a stack of stickers from both Trader Tom's and the Frederick Chamber. When I worked at Trader Tom's several years ago I was introduced to the tradition of spreading TTT stickers around the globe. Whenever one of the regulars or employees travel, we are required to take a TTT sticker with us so we can place it somewhere random. I've heard stories of these stickers being found all over the world and I think it's an awesome tradition to keep alive.
While I worked at the Chamber we made some awesome Frederick stickers. With a hometown as cool as mine, why not share the love of that too? So there you have it. I made a connection between Southwest Oklahoma and the great Outback of Australia.
When we got back in the car the monotony began to set in. The next stop was 75 kilometers away and even that stop didn't sound interesting. We had just finished our second rotation of each of our five CDs and so the inevitable happened. We did what everyone eventually must do while on a road trip. We played a cheesy road game.
By midday we made it to Erldunda where we stopped to fill up with fuel. There wasn't much worth seeing except for the insane amount of cars waiting for fuel. This was the last stop before the Red Center and it appeared as though everyone was heading that way. I don't know why but it seems like Australians are literally always on vacation.
We drove another hour before stopping to eat lunch at a random rest park. We had tuna sandwiches again and can I just take a moment to say that the flies in central Australia are THE WORST. They are pellet shaped and peskier than any of their more civilized relatives. They land on your face and just sit there until you either ignore them long enough or swap them away. Matthew tried his hardest to ignore them but eventually they got the best of him.
Because you turn off around the part of the journey you think your close to Uluru. But your not. Your still like three hours away and there is nothing at all in between here and there. I took this opportunity to take a nap and when I woke up I thought we were at Uluru but even that was a trick. It was a mountain that looks a lot like Uluru but has not significant touring purpose.