4 Dec 2016
The Stuart highway runs north from Port Augusta – “with a view of the Southern Ocean” as one motel optimistically put it – to Darwin on the Timor Sea 2 700 kilometres away. A single highway spanning a continent from ocean to ocean.
We were headed to Coober Pedy, an underground town built out of old opal mines, and the best way to get there was to drive. And drive. And drive.
Not one of the world’s great scenic road trips, the Stuart Highway is best described as miles and miles of nothing at all. A lot of the time the road just goes on and on to and beyond the horizon. Bends in the road are few and far between.
Traffic is sparse, and a lot of that is made up of road trains – semi-trailer-trailer-trailer rigs as long as a football field. You really need those endless straights to overtake one of these things!
Load up with audio books before setting out. There are hours of tedious driving, but you need to stay awake and alert to dodge the wildlife on the road: kangaroos, emus, snakes, eagles feeding on roadkill, camels…
With 250 kilometres of nothing before we got to Coober Pedy, we pulled into Glendambo to fill up on fuel, coffee and a bite to eat. Not a big place: 30 human souls, and a lot of sheep. The two million flies the sign promised must have been taking a holiday. It’s pretty much a petrol station and a motel and a few sheds.
Espresso coffee! I wasn’t expecting this. We Canberrans bought a couple of lattes and scanned the lunch menu. I ordered a hot dog – I like hot dogs – and was pleasantly surprised when a feast was set before me. The actual frankfurter in the roll was lost beneath acres of bacon, fried onion, and cheese. I added mustard to the mix – can’t have a hot dog without mustard – and tucked in.
Oh boy, was it worth the drive!