20.05.2013 32 °C
The rain had gone and the skies cleared to a crystal blue during the morning. The nights were still chilly but the risk of being cut-off and stranded by flood waters was disappearing, much to my relief. The last 2 days were hard going and tough on the motor, the never ending dunes and the state of the track made it very slow going. I wasn’t out of 1st gear for the last 2 days and was worrying about fuel consumption as I’d burned through a lot during last 2 days. It would take me at least another 2 days to reach Mount Dare and I’d already taken more time than planned. I wasn’t worried about supplies, it was the time as I’d informed people I would take around 4 nights and didn’t want some sort of rescue operation to kick-off at great expense no doubt.
I’d still not seen much wildlife and certainly no camels but the experience of being out here in the middle of the desert was extraordinary and the utter remoteness is quite humbling. It would have been good to have someone else to experience this with, if nothing else someone to talk to would be nice, I feel if I spend much more time out here I shall start talking to the Spiniflex!
After another slow half day of driving in first gear - up and over another dune to be faced with yet another similar looking dune in front – the road suddenly got better, right after the Colson track met the French Line. Excellent I was in 2nd gear and even 3rd gear in places, I was flying along. I later found out from the Mount Dare manager that 150 vehicles had recently battered through the section I’d just travelled coming down from the Colson track and continuing along the section of French Line I’d just travelled. It was some sort of adventure race with big Paris-Dakar style sand vehicles tearing up the track, that’s why it had been so slow and I did wonder what could have caused such damage. Anyway I was passed that now and remaining fuel was looking good for the final 150km to Mount Dare.
Near dusk I came to Purni Bore – the accidental lake! The French drilled a bore here in the 60’s to explore the rock strata, they drilled down 1.8km into the Artesian Basin and then capped the well which eroded over time and hot water started gushing out creating a lake in the desert which wildlife started to rely on. They have since recapped the bore but still let a little hot water out to maintain the ecology of the place.
To me this was civilisation! You had toilets with some camping grounds and several vehicles camped up on their way into the Simpson. I chatted to them for a while giving information on the road ahead which they were about to embark on… it was also nice to talk to humans after such a period of solitude.
I took some photos and then headed off. I was keen to make it to Mount Dare tomorrow so I did another hours driving then pitched camp next to the road. The road had flattened out a lot now, still bumpy and rough but compared to the French Line it was like new sealed motorway to me.
During the morning I came to Dalhousie Springs, natural hot water springs coming from deep underground and heated to near boiling point. This is a popular camping spot for people coming and going from the French Line and you can bath in the hot pools. I stopped briefly then carried on as I wanted to make Mount Dare by nightfall.
I arrived at Mount Dare in the afternoon to much relief – I had made it! – with 20litres of fuel remaining. I had travelled 590km from Birdsville and used about 110 litres of Diesel, taking me 5 nights and 6 days... what a RELIEF!
Mount Dare was a hoot – a single hotel with garages and some camping grounds out the back. They had cold beer and good showers and of course fuel priced at $2.20 per litres of Diesel! Normal prices in Australia at the moment are around $1.40 per litres but this was still a remote place and it costs to get the fuel out here. The manager of the place Jeff who’s also a mechanic and runs search and recovery operations this side of the desert. The Birdsville recovery service looks after the east side. I was the only person in the bar that evening so over a few beers he told me some hair raising recovery stories and I shuddered at the cost he quoted for vehicle recoveries. He had over 30 years of desert driving experience and had seen all sorts come through here. When I mentioned I was probably slightly mad to do it without a Sat phone he said not mad but certainly adventurous! He told me he saw a Pom from Manchester come through here about 10 days ago heading into the desert. He had flown into Alice Springs, hired a Ute and headed off into the desert. He had a spade loose in the back of the pickup and not much water, he also didn’t know about letting tyres down in the sand and seemed inexperienced. Funny enough the first vehicle I met out of Birdsville was this Mack coming out of the desert, he seemed fine and we chatted for a while on the road so looks like he made it in the end! Unfortunately there are too many stories of Brits and others coming out here ill prepared and heading out into the desert and its Jeff who has go fetch them out!
Jeff had just spent $100K reinforcing a big levy that surrounds the place, apparently the original explorer who pitched a camp here and called it Mt Dare did so in the middle of a creek which floods violently during the wet season. There is a mark on the bar noting the water level after a cyclone in 2011 hit the top end, it was over a metre high! During flooding they actually get cut off and have to close the levy gates. It has a bore for water which is reasonable to drink, if not cloudy and all the power comes from a large 50Kw Diesel generator which hums along beside the pub… what a place to live!
I had steak and chips in the pub that night, nice but the steak only comes well done, even though they asked me how I liked it cooked! The next day I filled enough Diesel to get me to Coober Pedy still another 400km of rough tracks down the famous old Oodnadatta track which the old Ghan railway runs beside. Coober Pedy is the nearest place that has mobile and internet, I was keen to get there so I could inform family that I’d made it safely across. What an adventure that was, slightly pant filling at times but an experience I will never forget and when you make it to the other side the feeling of achievement and relief is awesome.
The next day I drove to Coober Pedy and relative civilisation, just over 400km on the Oodnadatta track stopping at Oodnadatta on the way. I made it in 7 hours.
Made it to Coober Pedy