the pit of despair
digging rock, making power
a big tonka toy
We awoke to incredibly heavy wind gusts buffeting the hotel on all sides. It is so hard to sleep in when the shutters are banging, windows rattling, and sand pelting the windows and walls. On the other hand, the wind did not detract from the fabulous breakfast in a dining room, where some excellent aboriginal art was displayed.
Stepping outside, we could see that the weather was taking a turn. We had heard people talking about rain, but they had been talking about rain for the last three years, according to several locals. On this day, though, the sky looked like something would happen.
Did we mention the wind?
The wind was so furious that the desert was being lifted up into the sky, creating an almost LA-like appearance.
One of the most amusing things about the series above (which has not been color-corrected or light-adjusted in any way) is the fact that the tree is out of focus. Considering that it was the only thing on the horizon, one might wonder why we could not gather enough wits to properly focus. The answer is simple: dust.
There was so much dust in the air that the camera could not "find" the tree and focused, instead, on some of the particles in the air between us and the tree. Crazy.
In fact, driving down the road, there were several moments when the road looked like it vanished into a cloud of dust ahead. Once again, we should point out that Lea Ann was on camera duty, while Stuart drove.
Look out! We are on the wrong side of the road! Nevermind, "Drive on the left in Australia". (As of this writing -- mid-June 2009 -- Stuart still occasionally turns on the windshield wipers, when trying to turn on the blinkers back in the States. Apparently, he took to Australian driving pretty well.)
Eventually, we happened across a huge pit... The source of the contents of last night's train and the fuel for the Port Augusta power plant.
Naturally, we had to stop and see what could be seen. The people running the mine apparently anticipated the curious among us, so there were all sorts of things to climb on and take pictures of.
The best thing was the giant crane.
And the best part of the crane... Yes, you can go inside! How excellent!
We actually climbed up into the operator's cabin, which you can see best in the middle picture of the series of three above. From there, we had an excellent view down the boom.
As an aside, this would be an unbearably hot "office" in summer.
Back down in the belly of the beast, as it were, we took all sorts of random pictures. The most amusing were the boards that once housed tools and accessories for the crane. Everything has its place...
Of course, Stuart was in heaven with all this big hulking machinery to photograph...
Do we have any idea what these cogs do? Well, they probably help move stuff... and do things... ya know, heavy things... and stuff...
Whatever. They make cool pictures.
However, not everything in the crane was mechanical. Some of the natives had found the hulking derelict to be a nice place to get out of the wind and sun. This guy makes the craziest laughing noises, which were suitably amplified in the tin box. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get a picture of a tiny bird in a dark metal container on a day with no bright sunlight... (Yeah, yeah, excuses, excuses.)
In addition to the giant crane, we had another opportunity to take pictures of a real-life TonkaTM, just like on our Great White North Trip.
This time, we were able to put the Tonka in better context with our puny little SUV.
The best part, though, was that, while Stuart was putting the dump truck in context, Lea Ann was putting Stuart in context, putting the SUV in context.
Incidentally, this is a good place to get the first daylight view of our 'Roo Damage.
Finally, it seems that we ran out of battery life in one of the cameras, having not properly charged our batteries the night before. Hence, there were no more subjects worth a photograph. Naturally, we had enough battery for a silly self-portrait. We are sitting in a world-record-setting tire for one of those giant dump trucks. It seems this one was used longer than any other tire in its class. Did you know that there were world records for that? We know plenty of people who might get world records for the length of time between oil changes, but that hardly seems worth celebration...
Anyway, back on the road toward Marree!
Once on the road, we knew we were seriously out in the Outback. At Copley, we passed the first of the turnouts for the famed Outback "Tracks". These are the dirt roads that lead off into what is truly the middle of nowhere. For the most part, these tracks are well marked and safe. You can see the sign here for the Strzelecki Track, which leads up through the Strzelecki Desert.
No, we have no idea how to pronounce "Strzelecki". The best part of the sign, however, is that the track is open to "Mt Hopeless". Sounds appealing.
A few kilometers down the road, we saw three wild Emus. Strangely, this would be the only wild Emus we would ever see on the trip. All the others were basically tame and wandering around the yards of roadside houses.
You know, the trip from Parachilna to Marree was supposed to be short. At least it is not very far. Well, at least we have passed Leigh Creek, so there will not be much more for us to take pictures of before Marree...