I don’t expect to write much of a blog about this trip, because a large part of it will be spent in a car at 110 km/hr. There will be a few photos, however, so perhaps a few moments are worth recording.

This morning we are in Coober Pedy, which has a landscape bearing a greater resemblance to that of Mars than any other place on the earth’s surface. To get here, we’ve driven for two days, eleven hours per day (probably ten hours of driving in total each day), which does take it’s toll, but is considerably more comfortable than a trip to Europe. Given the accident statistics, however, it is definitely not as safe! But the roads, in daytime at least, are well-maintained and we have been limiting the drives to two-hour stints, which has worked well.

It has been the usual fascinating trip through rural Australia, and you really get a sense of the winners and the losers in our agriconomy (ooh, that was a clever neologism!). From the Highlands to Yass, there are the sheep and wheat of the old country, with old towns clinging to respectability as the Hume bypasses them while old villages wither. The bigger centres like Wagga look great, and in the irrigation areas everything looks prosperous (well, not Balranald!) and Mildura seems to have found even more money from somewhere. 

  
We had one of the best road-trip meals at Mildura: one of the local cinemas converted to a micro-brewery and cafe. Not so micro, either, with five seasonal brews and a page full of regulars. To accompany my amazing lamb ribs I had a wheat beer flavoured with coriander: most impressed. The middle of town has a great restaurant strip, with most of the joints busy. It makes a change from the usual mixed grill or Chinese at the local services club.

The Golf is a great road car, with the wagon giving us room for luggage and Aidan’s birthday present, a nice little gas barbecue. We split the driving into shifts, so there is room for some reading, the crossword and some puzzles on the iPad. Today (Saturday) took us cross country, off the Sturt and west across the dry-lands of South Australia, passing over the major north-south highways and north of the Clare. Abandoned railways and Cornish names suggested the tin mines of the 19th Century, and the towns remain in a stupor, struggling with the regular droughts and the few good years to wrest a living from the dry hills. None of the laser-levelled paddocks of the Hay Plains here.

Then north up the highway past Port Pirie to Port Augusta, with the smelters to the right and the Flinders Ranges to the left: perhaps another trip when Aidan is a bit closer to Adelaide. Oddly, the temperature in SA is cooler than in the Riverland, closer to 25º. Port Augusta turned into a refuel and seek-and-destroy shopping expedition, so that we could have barbecue meat on Sunday night. The number of aboriginal families around Woolworths surprised us – Aidan later explained that this was because of the welfare and alcohol crackdowns in Ceduna, off to the West – no a problem but a different look in what is normally a very conventional industry town.

Six hours in and we were off on the last four and a half hours to Coober Pedy, now a pretty familiar road and, after half an hour, pretty featureless. The salt lakes, particularly Lake Hart, come along midway through the trip, and I would like to stop on the way back to get some photos. It’s greener, so there’s been recent rain, and the roadkill shows that it’s a good season. On and on through the sunset to Coober Pedy, where the apartment at the tourist park is a triumph but the service at the restaurant is a disaster, inciting a defamatory review from Paula on TripAdvisor. We should have settled for the road house, which Aidan recommended when he heard our story.

  
Today, it’s two hours to Marla and a catch up with Aidan. It will be good to be out of the car, and tomorrow is four hours to Alice and some time out.