Are We There Yet?

Our road trip got off to a great start, and we’ve officially reached “The Outback” of Australia!
We started off on Monday 11/25 from our friends’ home in Tamworth, and drove to a small town called Trangie (370 km, a little over 4 hours). The drive took us mainly through farmland, a lot of which is not being planted because of the drought. Trangie is specifically known for cotton farming, but our campground host told us only a few irrigated fields would be planted this year as it wouldn’t grow without rain on the dryland lots.
We set up our tent for the first time since having it installed, and thankfully all the pieces were there, ha! Figuring everything out and watching the set up video, it took us around 45 minutes the first go around. Our first night camping was a little warm, so we left thinking “oh, what have we gotten ourselves into!” As the temps will probably be on the warm side for the a good portion of the trip…..

Our tent set up.

The second day of our grand road trip took us through more desert like terrain and mining country, from Trangie to Broken Hill (680 km, 7 hours). This was a fun day for us for many reasons, the main one being – we saw a sign that told us we’d officially entered the Australian Outback! I figured we were already in it long before we reached it, but at least now we know….Another reason – Australia is known for having a lot of “big” things – funny attractions in towns for a stop off to stretch your legs. On our drive to Broken Hill, we saw “The Big Bogan” and “The Big Beer Can”, in addition to checking out the Cobar gold and copper mine overlook. The land is so vast here and the stops are far apart, so they have a “Stop, Revive, Survive” campaign, with signs all across the country reminding you not to drive tired. It would be very easy to push yourself to drive a little too far and too long to get somewhere, so it’s nice to have the random attractions to look forward to along the way, to keep things interesting. A few wildlife sightings along the way – wild goats, a few emus, and many road kill ‘roos. Tent set up on our second night at the Broken Hill Tourist Park went much quicker than the first night, and the sleeping conditions improved as it got down in the 50’s (F) overnight! Not expecting that, but we’ll take it!

entering the outback

Our third day started off with a side trip up to Silverton, then back on the route to our next campground stop in Burra (400 km, 4 ½ hours). On the way to Silverton, we stopped off to check out the Living Desert sculpture garden. Set atop a 360 degree lookout of the area, the garden contains sandstone sculptures created by local and international artists. Silverton is a tiny town that’s been converted to a tourist destination, once known for mining, but more recently for movies filmed in the area, including Mad Max II. In addition to the Mad Max II memorabilia museum, the town is home to a handful of art galleries, a church, a bakery, and a country hotel/restaurant/bar.

Sculpture Garden and overlook

We crossed over to the state of South Australia (from New South Wales). Interesting here, we had to go through a quarantine check to make sure we weren’t taking any fruit, veggies, or other farm products. I knew coming in to Australia that they are very strict on what is allowed in, but had no idea that they even restrict transport of certain goods across state lines, to help preserve and protect their crops from invasive things like fruit flies and other pests/diseases. In addition to the main quarantine check, they have rolling quarantine checks, and they can stop you at any time. If you are caught with any of the blacklisted items and no receipt to show that you purchased within the state, you can face hefty fines.
About halfway through the drive to Burra, the landscape changed dramatically from flat scrub desert, to farmland again. This area had beautiful rolling hills of golden winter wheat, ready to be harvested. On the drive, we came across the Big Ant, the Big Dice, Manna Hill Hotel, and the Midnight Oil house. The Manna Hill Hotel reminded us of the Loma bar back in the day, with all the memorabilia and “museum” items hanging on the walls. This place was a welcome sight for a quick coffee as we were dragging a bit from the drive that day. The Midnight Oil house is said to be one of the most photographed houses in Australia, made famous by the Diesel and Dust album cover by Midnight Oil. It’s an old abandoned farmhouse just north of Burra. I’m guessing it’s kept up to a certain point because of the curiosity of it, as it’s in much better condition than the other many abandoned and crumbling farmhouses we saw along the way.
Once in Burra, we discovered we had landed ourselves in a beautiful little Australian Heritage city. We learned that the area was mainly settled by Germans in the 1800’s, and the main difference between this area of Australia and the eastern seaboard, is that this was a planned colony, and not a penal colony. No criminals here… Burra is also at the cusp of the Clare Valley wine region, which was another great surprise, and this helped shape our scenic drive down to Adelaide for the next day.

We had pre-booked an AirBnB in Adelaide for the night of the 28th (Thanksgiving) to be able to stay somewhere close to the airport – Amanda and Scott were flying in to meet us for the weekend to check out the Barossa wine region. Detouring this day through the Clare Valley region, we enjoyed yet another change of scenery of vineyards mixed in with the wheat fields, and sandstone building lined villages along the way.
Friday we picked up our friends and headed to Tanunda, a smaller Barossa Valley town. This was only 66 km, a nice short drive and a good break from the long distances. Friday through Sunday were spent tasting our way through the best that the Barossa has to offer, both in wines and food. We stayed at an AirBnB here as well, a much different (and more quiet) experience from camping.
We enjoyed some true foodie delights at several restaurants in the area – Hentley Farm, Musque, and FermentAsian. At each restaurant we opted for the multi-course chef’s menu, which is the chef’s choice to send out their best creations. Some of the highlights included soft boiled quail eggs on puffed quinoa crackers, kangaroo, passion fruit sorbet in an egg shell, massaman wagyu beef, and crispy pork belly. Pretty sure I was dancing in my chair the food was so amazing! I could spend every weekend like this, but, if we did, we’d probably be coming home much, much sooner….

After dropping our friends back at the airport on Monday, we started our long drive up to Coober Pedy – about an 8 ½ hour drive, oy! We decided to bite the bullet and make this drive in one day to cut down on number of consecutive driving days, but we were definitely ready to go for a walk when we arrived. The majority of the drive was very flat, and almost all desert.

The weather is holding up for us and staying on the cool side – thank goodness. Coober Pedy is known for being REALLY hot, and a good majority of the homes and businesses are built underground so the residents can stay cool.
Looking forward to exploring the town for a bit before continuing our drive up to Ayers Rock. From there, our route is somewhat up in the air, dependent upon the weather and road conditions. Stay tuned!