In Coober Pedy I realize that my little detour on the tracks was really a trip within the trip. Although Coober Pedy is far from the idea we can have of a city, I do feel that I’m back on the “main” road.
Meet Laetitia. She is a french girl doing the same sort of trip, cycling from Adelaide to Darwin. She has a cheap second hand bike fixed with metal wire, and a lot of time on her hands. I crossed her first in Port Augusta when hitch hiking down to Adelaide, and since then she has been going her own way and we meet again here.
I spend some time taking a look around town. It is a special place! In this big opal mining area, the arid landscape is full of gravel mounds extracted from the ground by digging. People here live in “dugouts”, that is, houses dug within hills, using the natural sandstone ground as insulation from the heat. It’s a place of many nationalities, as lots of Greek, Croatian, Serbian, German, Italian, French, and many more, have come here to look for the precious blue gem. With barely a tree around, and strange mining machinery in various states of oxydation sitting everywhere, Coober Pedy offers an intriguing landscape and has been the location for many post-apocalyptic movies! Some scenes of Mad Max or Pitch Black have been shot in the area.
Anyway, after a couple days break (and a couple more pizzas), well rested, cleaned up, and stocked up at the supermarket, I could carry on, back on the Stuart highway going North. As a little gift, my first riding day was pretty easy wind-wise and I could ride 200km before sunset, then the ride followed pretty smoothly all the way up, across the Northern Teritory border and to Erldunda, the place where you turn off the Highway and head West, to the famous rock, Ayer’s Rock, or Uluru.
Compared to the desert tracks, this part of the trip was much more about doing kms in the day and I didn’t stop that often. I find the landscape and scenery equally beautiful, and you could spend a lifetime exploring every little place, every little turnoff there is along the road, but the Stuart highway is less inciting for frequent stops than the tracks.
In Erldunda, I hit the wall of no-tap-drinking-water at service stations. They won’t refill your bottles because the tap water is bore water, and supposedly a bit hard to filter for your kidneys! I believe it’s that they won’t GIVE you water when they can SELL it to you! So this one time I spent 9$ for a box of 10L of drinking water. 9$ is not really that much money but it’s not a very good feeling to pay for drinking water when you’re used to drink it from the tap. But it helps me realize that drinking water is a precious thing to have access to, and I try to think of what it’s like to live in a place where you don’t have it. I’m used to drinking water from any tap, but it’s really not everywhere like that. But anyway, I got pretty used to drinking that “NOT SUITABLE FOR DRINKING” water and had no problems so I don’t think I’ll have to spend 9$ for water again!
While I was filling up my bottles, I got invited to camp together with a group of Italian people travelling in a van, and got treated to some delicious penne all’pesto while talking about travels, cycling, and the stars of the night sky. What else?
The next morning, I would get started on the Lasseter Highway, the 250km road that leads from the Stuart Highway to Uluru, the halfway-through landmark of my trip, and the first reason I came to Australia for.