Mawlers’ Big Adventure ’09:

Lea Ann & Stuart Go Down Under

Alice Springs to Adelaide sign at the end of Ernest Giles Road on the Stuart Highway

On the Road Again...

scottish lake, windmills
who knew we were going to
the serengeti

If you have even casually clicked through to this point, you may have noticed very little about plans. The very first page mentions that we engaged on this adventure with even less planning than usual, so that should give some notion of our state of mind.

Q: How does an Australian know you need advice?
A: You are within earshot.

(We kid! How can you not love people who are eager to help?)

By the time of the wedding, we are fairly certain that everyone in South Australia (and a few in Victoria and New South Wales) had asked us about our plans. Naturally, being Helpful AustraliansTM, they had followed up their questions with suggestions. Honestly, we took all of them into consideration. Some were considered for a longer period of time or more seriously than others. Controlled fusion lasts only microseconds in the lab, but it is still serious business.

Anyway... By this time in the trip, our "plans" consisted entirely of the notion that we would drive north at some point.

The most firm part of the plan was the route. We generally pictured following the Old Ghan Railway, but we were not sure how long we would follow it or where we would go after that. Interestingly, our route up to Uluru ended up being almost exactly as we imagined it.

Except for the timing.

We had no idea when we were leaving Adelaide.

Our friends kept asking, but we were no closer to knowing. Frankly, having wonderfully lazy days at the beach and some wineries with the Happy CoupleTM was not helping us make a decision to go north. We were having too much fun.

Belinda (one of our new friends) had invited us to a party at her house and we were seriously considering it...

But the lure of the road was too great, so one day we impetuously decided that we would strike out north.

The Food Problem: How can you make your travels even more difficult? Try traveling with one vegetarian and one celiac sufferer. That means no meat and no wheat.

Fortunately, Australia is a great place to be gluten intolerant. Most packaged foods come with information about gluten content and many restaurants make note of the gluten content of dishes.

In many ways, it was easier to be gluten free in Australia than in the U.S. So you celiac people, go forth and have a g'day, mate.

So we spent the better part of the day having lunch, buying gluten free food, water, etc. Kate's father had generously gone and acquired some route planners and maps for us, so we did not acquire anything more detailed, which became a problem at some point, but we were having enough fun that it did not matter too much.

Then we meandered north through downtown and eventually ended up on A1 north to Port Augusta. Naturally, because we started so late in the day, we did not make it to Port Augusta before nightfall. In fact, we arrived in town about 9pm. Good thing we were not running even later.

Apparently, South Australia really does roll up the sidewalks in the evening. The hotel we eventually found in Port Augusta locks the lobby door at 9:30pm and will not open them for anyone. We just squeaked by.

The most notable feature of Port Augusta is the gigantic coal-fired power plant that dominates the skyline. As we drove in from the south, you could see the lights for tens of kilometers. Once in town, you could also smell it. (Eww, but hey, Stuart used to live in the Puget Sound area, so he is used to Tacoma, which many of you know is famous for the Aroma of Tacoma.) Let's just say that the power plant, which powers most of South Australia adds local color. (That color is brown and can be seen in the sky on clear days.)

Lock Eel

  We saw all kinds of strange things in the immediate vicinity of Adelaide, but the first thing that caused us to pull over was the town of "Locheil". Or rather, it was the "Loch Eel" that grabbed our attention...  

There it is! Proof of the existence of the Loch Eel!
Did we mention already that people in sparsely populated areas (which includes Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Eastern Alberta, and the like) have too much time to think?

In case it is not obvious, the "Loch Eel" is a series of tyres.
This is one of those sail cars, which people use to race across salt flats. This one has seen better days, but it highlights that this is a salt flat. It is purposely flooded, then allowed to evaporate, so that the salt can be harvested and sold.

The sky over Loch Eel was stunning...
That's our trusty home for the next couple of weeks. It is so clean!
Like the Arctic Adventure with the excellent pictures of the rented Jeep Liberty (a great truck, btw), this one looks like an advert for this trip's rental (a Mitsubishi Outlander).

Hitchcock Moment

  Our second stop was primarily intended to capture pictures of birds. These crazily colored things are Galahs.  

  Their coloring was distinctive, making pictures fun to take.   Lea Ann's ability to track their motion is quite good.  

  The whole flock wheels to turn back south.   Tippi Hedren is around here somewhere, right?  

  Punk Rock Pigeons (crested pigeons, actually)  

Windmills, Old & New

We could not stay on the road for long because we were distracted by windmills, both old and new. The new ones line the ridge top in the distance.
We took several different shots, looking for just the right one. These all look pretty good.
This one brings more foreground into the picture.

  Of course, there are always interesting pictures to make of "mundane" things like lone trees in the fence row.
  Since the light was dropping off behind the hill, it was pretty much time to leave this spot, but not before taking a picture of a tiny flower of deadly nightshade. This thing is probably a centimeter across.

There is beauty in the large and the small.

Evening Light

  Carrying on the "small" notion, we stopped again in a spot with a lower ridge, so we had more light.

Lea Ann found another tiny flower. The red on the leaves is dirt that has collected in the recesses of the leaves.

The evening light on the grasslands was too enchanting to pass up.
The first two pictures here are looking into the east.
This picture actually looks south, so the quality of the light is a tiny bit different. Yup, we knew you cared.

  The juxtaposition of the wispy clouds and the shiny road train was compelling. Stuart took this one and then tried to wait for another truck, but none came.   The road goes ever on...  

  Lea Ann loves to shoot into the sunset.   With the sun hot in the frame, you get some really interesting effects.  

Sunset Along A1

We made it a few more kilometers before the sunset changed and we crested a small hill...

Note: we were parked when Stuart took this picture of the sunset from the driver's side of the truck.

As an amusing aside, you might notice the tiny speaker on the dash to which is attached an even tinier iPod Shuffle. This is how we handled music on the trip.
Even the high-tension powerlines are pretty in the sunset.
Just another gorgeous cloud formation.

Someone stop us before we shoot again.

On second thought, no, we prefer to shoot again.

And again.

Lea Ann captured the most intense part of the sunset with an awesome tree featured in the foreground.
The scene evokes the Serengeti to us.
Stuart had a different take on the sunset... This is the rear passenger side window, reflecting the setting sun.

Port Augusta Power Plant by Night

  As we approached Port Augusta, the coal-fired power plant dominated all scenes. So we went out and took pictures of it. In the U.S., this would have resulted our abduction by masked agents of the Department of Fatherland... uh, Homeland Security.  

The previous installment:
Vacation with the Newlyweds

The next installment:
The Internet Doesn't Reach Here

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All materials © 2009 Lea Ann Mawler & Stuart Mawler