Trip Report 2014 Australia: Darwin To Adelaide And Opals Along The Way

May 04 2014Off to Oz Again

A sure sign that I am in Australia...a tree full of delightful Galahs...also known as the rose breasted cockatoo.

A sure sign that I am in Australia...a tree full of delightful Galahs...also known as the rose breasted cockatoo.

My goal this year, in addition to buying rough Australian opals, was to experience the Australian tropics (or “top end” as it’s known in Oz) and see a bit of new scenery.  And part of the Australian scenery I’ve missed on previous trips, but will be sure to visit this year,  is Uluru (or Ayer’s Rock).  Maybe I’ve bit off more than I could chew, but I decided early on, to drive the entire north-south distance of this beautiful sunburned continent…Darwin to Adelaide…3500km all told.

5/4/14: Caught a small United Express Embraer 175 out of Billings to Denver.  Nice flight but no coffee service aboard…so I settled for a ginger ale.  On time…even arrived in Denver 10 Minutes early.  Left Denver in a spanking new 737-800.  Very nice plane…clean and modern…again the flight was on time.
Once in LAX I picked up my suitcase at concourse 7 and walked to concourse 4 as instructed on my ticket.  But Qantas was not at terminal 4.  So I hiked to Tom Bradley international terminal to make it to Qantas QF16 at gate 154.  The snafu was due to a newly completed international terminal which was quite classy and modern.  The new Bradley West project was a 1.5 billion dollar addition of shops, restaurants and passenger lounges…1.25 million square feet in all.  I will not complain about a little extra luxury and comfort :-) .
Flight departed 1 hour late from LAX due to heavy plane traffic, but we made up all but 5 minutes into Brisbane on our 747-400.  Smooth flight and I was able to get about 5-6 hours sleep as I had paid extra for an exit row seat with plenty of leg room for my lanky 6’2” frame.

May 06 2014Finally Made it to the Top End of Oz…

Small suite/cabin at the Palm City Hotel for my first night in Australia's tropical "top end".

Small suite/cabin at the Palm City Hotel for my first night in Australia's tropical "top end".

5/6/14 (Lost 5/5/14 when crossing international dateline):  Landed in Brisbane and went through customs without a hitch.  But it took 30 minutes to process as most customs stations were closed at this early hour (6:45AM).  Picked up bag after customs and checked it for my flight to Darwin.  I decided to travel lighter this year and brought only a mid-sized suitcase instead of my heavy jumbo.  Of course this meant leaving some of the essentials (that I never use) at home.  So it was much easier to travel with lighter luggage.

Took a shuttle bus from the international terminal to the domestic terminal and made it to my gate with time to spare for a nice strong “long black” coffee (large black coffee with no milk in Oz).  Flight left on time and we made it to Darwin as planned.  To save a few dollars I took the airport shuttle from the airport to the Palms City Resort Hotel…bad idea! I would advise against that as it took me an extra hour…1/2 hour waiting in a hot bus and another ½ hour, driving around town while they dropped other customers off at their hotels and motels.  Just across from the Hotel was the scenic waterfront esplanade which provided lovely landscaped tropical flowers and vegetation to help refresh my travelers bone weary body. I took a long walk here but found it very humid and a bit warm…but what did I expect from the tropics? Explored Mitchell Street around supper time and found a small Greek restaurant serving Gyros. Tried to stay awake as long as possible but ended up going to sleep around 8:30PM. Total travel time (including airports) was 38 hours.

There are a couple differences worth noting when flying in Oz: no charge for checked luggage, no bags allowed under seats, meals served on flights during meal times…shoes can remain on your feet when going through security.  I can live with this!

May 07 2014Apollo Campervan & On The Road…

Boat traffic at sunrise in Darwin Harbor.

Boat traffic at sunrise in Darwin Harbor.

5/7/14: I woke at 5:30 AM…really not bad considering I traveled 10,000 miles the last 2 days.  The motel is just across the street from Darwin Harbor on the Timor Sea and the esplanade walking path.  Of note, the Darwin Harbor is home to a fairly large number of dugongs, a large marine mammal closely related to our manatees.

At sunrise I walked down to the esplanade and photographed boat traffic and birds.  Nice cool, clear morning with very low humidity.  A beautiful beginning to my first visit to the Oz tropics!  Showered, packed and went to the hotel lounge for a delightful breakfast of poached eggs, sausage, potatoes, grilled tomatoes and pastry.  Oh, and lots of coffee.  The NT Parliament house is also just across the street to the west…beautiful grounds and more birds to photograph.  Most everything is so green here…reminds one of Hawaii.  There are just two seasons in the monsoonal weather of Darwin…the wet and the dry…as it’s called locally.  I was told later at Apollo Campervan that this was the first official day of the dry season.  Anyway, I was very glad for the lower humidity.

NT Parliament House

Northern Territory Parliament House, completed in 1994, the location where the NT Legislative Assembly meets.

Now off to Apollo Campervan rental to pick up my new home while in Oz.  The people at Apollo were very helpful and professional…except I got the trainee who missed a lot of tips about the Euro Tourer campervan .  Just checking her instructions, I went into the repair shop and talked to the service technician and found the correct way on several driving and operating procedures.  But, I was very impressed with the large Apollo rental depot…very modern and friendly staff!

My campervan and I headed south along the Stuart Highway, on the first day of a 3500km drive.   I was originally planning to spend the first night at Adelaide River and visit Litchfield National Park, but the weather was exceptionally nice, the campervan drove nicely and I had a bad case of wanderlust, so I kept going until I reached Katherine.  In Katherine I stopped at Westpac Bank, where I have a bank account and had wire transferred my opal buying funds earlier.  I made a withdrawal at the bank for opal buying (maybe) in Mintabie…might be my last chance as banks may be closed when I get to Alice Springs  And I was able to get my old Telstra cell working again with a new SIM-card.  Nice to have an Aussie phone that works again!  Went to Woolworths to shop for groceries and supplies needed for life in the camper.   It was an exhausting day, but very productive.

WhiteCocky

A pair of nervous white Cockatoos spotted in a park in Adelaide River where I stopped for a quick lunch.

Found a nice spot at the Big 4 Caravan Park on the edge of town just off the Katherine River…where I was told there are crocodiles.  But I was too tired to have a look and the campervan needed organizing.  Problems were encountered with the propane stove, so instead of pursuing it further, I ate a cold supper of cereal and yogurt. Exhausted and in bed by 8:00PM…still suffering from a bit of jet lag.

May 08 2014Katherine to Tennant Creek…

Lunch break held at a park just outside of Adelaide River, in my new traveling home.

Lunch break held at a park just outside of Adelaide River, in my new traveling home.

 

5/8/14: Out of bed at 6:00am and fixed the stove…operator error…oops!  So I was able to brew a pot of good strong coffee in my little stainless steel 4 cup travel percolator.  Had a quick breakfast at McDonalds and made one more trip to Woolworths for a few extra supplies.  My goal today was to make it to Tennant Creek…about 600km.  Along the Stuart Highway I saw many road-kill kangaroos and wallabies.  And feeding on the road kills were a variety of hawks and eagles…huge wedge tail eagles…don’t know about the hawks. Only saw 1 live kangaroo today crossing the road safely, far away in the distance.

The outback in the northern territory is very pristine and unsettled compared to America.  It struck me that a trip like this in the USA would be like traveling back in time to the days of the Lewis and Clarke expedition across North America.  Here there is a nice modern road with bridges to cross rivers and streams, but much of the land surrounding the highway is as it had been for centuries, long before western explorers found this island continent…almost no agriculture and very little sheep or cattle ranching here…amazing.  Found a nice spot in the Tennant Creek Caravan Park and viewed the Southern Cross in the southern sky, and surprisingly, Orion was bright and completely visible, but it appeared to be upside down from the way we view it in the USA.  Supper consisted of Lamb and broccoli…might just be able to stay awake until 10:00 tonight.

Earlier today I called US expats Dan and Patsy Tucker, old battle hardened opal miners in Mintabie, to check on rough opal availability.  Dan is in his 80’s and Patsy is close behind…but they are still courting their love of opals by digging (and blasting) for them in the hard Mintabie Bed Sandstone where Mintabie opals are deposited in lens shaped structures: sometimes called “plates” by opal miners.  This is much different than the opal deposits in Coober Pedy where rough opal is deposited in soft weathered Bulldog Shale.  We met during an opal carving class, many years ago, taught by Stuart Jackson at the TAFE in Coober Pedy…they have since become good and lasting friends.  Dan is a retired teacher from Alice Springs…they moved to Australia from the USA in the late 1960’s and decided to stay.

Patsy told me that Mintabie had heavy, heavy rains (5” on their rain gauge over 2 days ) in April which brought opal mining to a complete standstill.  There have been, maybe, 5 opal mining companies working and they are now out of business until they can pump and dig out.  So it looks like it’s no use making the 100km side trip to Mintabie this year.  I’m very, very disappointed!
DanAndPatsy2012
Dan and Patsy Tucker at their camp in Mintabie…taken during my 2012 trip to Australia.

May 09 2014Beautiful Gold Web Weaver Spider…

Golden Orb Weaver spider at caravan park in Tennant Creek.

Golden Orb Weaver spider at caravan park in Tennant Creek.

5/9/14: Saw a huge golden orb web spider in a 6ft diameter web at the caravan park…wow.  I was fascinated and I don’t usually care for spiders.  I’ve heard they can eat small birds!?  Breakfast of Kellogg’s Just Right cereal (wish they sold it in the USA).

My goal today is to make it to Alice Springs.  The scenery is beginning to change from Eucalyptus gums and shrub to drier climate Mulga trees (Acacia), spinifex and saltbush.  This is more like more like the Australian desert type vegetation found near Coober Pedy.  But there are still a lot of the huge 6ft red/brown towers made by termites.  These towers resemble snowmen with pointed hats…kind of.  I’ve seen several dressed up with t-shirts and hats…must be an Australian thing.  Checked into the Winter Sun caravan park on north end of Alice Springs.  It was a well cared for park with a convenient and clean amenities block. Surprisingly it was surrounded by a tall barbed wire/concertina wire fence.  Wonder what that is all about.  Went for a nice long walk that evening and was warned about walking along the dark river…wild dingo dogs.  So I stayed by the well lit street.

May 10 2014Tennant Creek to Uluru and Curtin Springs…

Uluru...majestic sandstone monolith in the center of Australia...considered sacred by the local Pitjantjatjara aboriginal peoples.

Uluru...majestic sandstone monolith in the center of Australia...considered sacred by the local Pitjantjatjara aboriginal peoples.

5/10/14: Got an early start that morning heading for Uluru or Ayer’s Rock. The road to Uluru (Lasseter Hwy) from the Stuart Highway was spooky. In places the road is very narrow with a sharp drop to the shoulder, making it scary when passing wide vehicles pass in the opposite direction. I didn’t realize it was 250km off the Stuart Highway…almost turned back. Very glad I didn’t…it was spectacular!  Uluru is a huge arkose sandstone monolith in the middle of the very scenic red desert.  The shape and striations are just incredible and very hard to put in words.  I can see why the local aborigines considered this unusual geological formation as sacred.
EmuCurtinSprings1
Tame emu in Curtin springs caravan park…I fed her bread, but was a bit intimidated by the big beak.

I was planning to spend the night at the nearby resort and hotel in Yulara, but due to a big biker rally in Alice Springs it was booked up.  So I headed back toward the Stuart Highway and decided to spend the night at Curtin Springs Roadhouse and Caravan Park.  Not cooking tonight…will be eating at the roadhouse.

May 11 2014Curtin Springs to Coober Pedy…

Welcome sign for the traveler when crossing into South Australia from the Northern Territory.  I'm only a few hours from Coober Pedy and can almost smell rough opal.

Welcome sign for the traveler when crossing into South Australia from the Northern Territory. I'm only a few hours from Coober Pedy and can almost smell rough opal.

5/11/14: After spending the night here, I think the caravan park in Curtin Springs just might be the worst caravan park in Australia.  There were, perhaps 20 campers in the park last evening…but the showers only had 2 stalls and only 1 shower worked.  I’d wouldn’t characterize it as just dirty…I think the grossly filthy would be a better description!  I was fortunate that I awoke early as I had the working shower to myself.  I tried to shave but found the mirror was so dirty that I could barely see my face…truly.  I had to finish shaving when I got back to the campervan.  But there was toilet paper in the commode stall.  There was a sign in the shower room asking people to pay $3.00 for a shower.  The office was closed when I got on the road or I would have paid…wouldn’t have liked to but I would have paid.

The silver lining here was a free ranging pet emu that hung out in the campground.  It would let you feed him/her from your hand…bit risky as they have a BIG beak.  This days travel was an uneventful trip along the Lasseter Highway back to the Stuart Highway and down to Coober Pedy.  The desert was incredibly green and there were ponds with water, which is very unusual for the South Australia outback.  The red dirt, red rock contrasting with green vegetation was stunning.  Arrived into Coober about 4:00PM and checked into my favorite motel…the Mud Hut Motel.  Washed 2 loads of clothes and went to Johns Pizza for a Gyro and chips…good to be back in Coober…in the hunt for rough Australian opal.  I managed to stay awake until 9:30 so I could call my lovely wife Darlene.  A real bed was wonderful!!

May 12 2014Finally Getting Serious About Buying Opal in Coober Pedy…

Opal Valley Opalfield, near John Dunston's claim, displaying an almost lush green desert landscape after heavy rains in mid April.

Opal Valley Opalfield, near John Dunston's claim, displaying an almost lush green desert landscape after heavy rains in mid April.

5/12/14: Had breakfast at the Mud Hut Motel consisting of rashers of bacon, fried eggs on toast and grilled tomatoes…it’s an Australian thing.  Beverage was fresh squeezed OJ and a large black coffee.

Then I was off to find rough opals…  Stopped in to visit long time mate Trevor Berry.  Trevor runs the Old Timers Mine tourist attraction and sells a parcel or 2 for miners.  Found a nice high grade parcel from 5 Mile field…large stones with BRIGHT colors and nice fire patterns.  Then walked over to another miners dugout to visit with Tim’s dad Colin…great guy who has a lot of stories to tell about the good old days mining in Coober Pedy…1960’s.  Tim won’t be back in town until Wednesday, but has some nice opal for sale.

Stopped in to visit John and Yoka Dunstan at their jewelry and art store John & Yoka’s Opal & Artto see if there was any opal available, John was out mining yet and asked his wife Yoka if he had a parcel…will return in the afternoon to see if John has found any opal…Yoka wasn’t sure about John’s opal.  Stopped back at John’s place and he had zero opal, but he invited me to stop by his big mine workings at Opal Valley, so I made plans to visit his mine around 11:00 for a tour and pics…good stuff.  We visited about the new shale oil discovery near Coober and recent heavy rains (4”+) that flooded mines with water and mud.  Most miners are still digging out and pumping out their mines, so opal production is LOW.    Looks like, as chance would have it, this was not a good time to visit Coober to buy opals…but the trip is not over and I’ve always been able to find opal.  Will put up tear off tab signs with my name and phone number on the cork boards at the 2 grocery stores in Coober Pedy and see what happens??   You just never know!  Had supper at the new Underground Restaurant and it was very nice.  I had the seafood trio meal: barramundi, shrimp and calamari with rice and a salad. I’d certainly recommend this restaurant!

May 13 2014Finding Nice Rough Australian Opal…

Steep road leading down To John and Paul's' mine at the 65 foot level at Opal Valley.

Steep road leading down To John and Paul's' mine at the 65 foot level at Opal Valley.

5/13/14: Up at 7:00am…read a bit in my book by Jason Matthews: Red Sparrow…started slow, but is picking up and now it’s hard to put down.  It’s a modern day spy novel written by an ex-CIA operations directorate.  I promise not to bore you with my breakfast today :-) .  Caught up on yesterday’s trip report and tidied up the campervan…ok…that’s boring too.

Caught up with Dale who had a noodlers parcel for me from 12 Mile Filed.  For those who have no idea what a noodlers parcel is, this should help: noodling is going through old mine discard piles called mullock to find opal the original miners missed…modern noodlers use a front end loader to lift the mullock onto a conveyer belt and run it through a dark room with black lights that cause the opal to fluoresce a pale blue and this fluorescing opal can then be collected by the worker.  This parcel is nice mid-grade opal that’s affordable and still cuts very nice cabs…classic Coober Pedy white based opal…some pin fire and some broadflash fire patterns.  Had another opal miner call that saw my advertisement in the grocery store.  He just had a nice opal find this week and will be cleaning up the parcel (tumbling it without abrasives for a short time…maybe 2-3 hours to remove excess matrix) and will call me when its cleaned and graded.

At 11:00am I drove 40km south of Coober to see John Dunstan and Paul Reynolds claim at Opal Valley Diggings.  According to “Opal: South Australia’s Gemstone” Opal Valley was discovered in 1971.  And recently they have discovered more opal as the field spreads further into the desert.  John and Paul’s mine is an open cut mine, down to the 65ft level, worked into the face of the cut with an excavator.  They’ve dug a huge tunnel into this face, perhaps 100-200ft deep following a fault (or slip) where the opal mostly forms.  The theory is that water follows the faults down from the surface (or maybe up from a thermal spring) with dissolved silica, depositing precious opal in seams along the way.  Took lots of photos of their workings and will post them here.

Fault1

Photograph of a fault or slip (top left to bottom right) along where John and Paul had found a $35,000 opal parcel April 2014.

Stopped along the highway at a mining road and fixed a spaghetti lunch in the camper…nice opal mining scenery in the background.  Can’t get over how green the desert is this year with all the rain that Coober Pedy has had…seems like there are green plants where no vegetation existed before…amazing!

Checked into the Mud Hut Motel again for 1 night…I’m getting spoiled!  Supper consisted of take away gyro and chips (from the nearby Caltex Roadhouse) and watched Mission to Mars.  Just couldn’t stay awake so I checked e-mails one last time and was asleep by 8:30pm.

May 14 2014The Hunt for gem Opal Continues…

Spotted at the Opal Inn Caravan Park, a unique camping unit made in South Africa.  I suppose that camping off the ground might be a good idea in Africa.

Spotted at the Opal Inn Caravan Park, a unique camping unit made in South Africa. I suppose that camping off the ground might be a good idea in Africa.

sacamper

Here is the South African camper unit all packed up and ready to travel.

5/14/14: Ambled over to the Mud Hut Motel lobby for a nice brekkie of eggs and bacon rashers. Caught up on order notifications via e-mails back in my room.  There seems to be a problem with Opal Inn Caravan Park internet service as I can’t access my e-mail there…in the lobby computer or via WiFi…so I am stuck staying at the motel :-) .  There are some very nice orders coming in from our website…one large order to Switzerland today.  So I am trying to buy opals in Coober and monitor and respond to orders at home from our website via PayPal…wearing 2 hats.  I will have a lot work to do the first week after returning to Montana, filling and shipping lots of opal orders.

Just before lunch I received a call from The Underground Restaurant where I passed out a business card.  A miner was offering a small 5 grade parcel at a decent price, so I felt fortunate to buy the lot.  Talked to Tim Seekamp this evening and he will pick me up at 9:00am tomorrow morning to take me out to his mine where I can get a few pics of his working.  And hopefully….Tim will have some nice gemmy opal for sale!

Looked at a nice large parcel of opal later in the day, from a miner I’d talked to earlier. This one was at a location in Coober where baby (joeys) kangaroos are left when their mothers are hit by cars and the young ‘roos survive in their mothers pouches. So I not only bought a nice parcel of opal, but got to hold 2 young kangaroos.
Steve & 'Roos2
Precious baby kangaroo who was kind enough to hold still while he had his picture taken with me.

Went for a long walk around town and came back to my campervan, finished my book and watched a couple movies.  Decided to save some money and eat in, so it was supper at the campervan while watching an old Charlie Sheen sci-fi movie: The Arrival.

May 15 2014Out To Turkey Ridge Opalfield With Tim…

Collin Seekamp hard at work sinking a 9" diameter 60ft deep hole prospecting for an opal deposit...hoping to drill up a trace of precious opal.

Collin Seekamp hard at work sinking a 9" diameter 60ft deep hole prospecting for an opal deposit...hoping to drill up a trace of precious opal.

5/15/14: Brekkie in the campervan…cold Just Right cereal and banana.  The windshield was full of recently hatched (from all the rain in Coober) and recently splattered insects, so I got the Windex out and thoroughly cleaned off the bugs and the dirt on the inside of the windshield for good measure.  Tim picked me up at the caravan park and drove me out to Seekamp’s opal claim at Turkey Ridge. Colin was hard at work with the 9” investigator drill (see photo) drilling down small prospecting holes trying to drill up a little opal with color.  If he begins to find color they drill a few more holes in the area to better locate the opal deposit.  When they have a fairly good idea of the opal deposit location, they drill a large 1 meter diameter hole with a Calweld drill…which they usually hire someone to do for them…down to perhaps the 60ft level.  Then someone is lowered down into the shaft to look at the formations of the bulldog shale and check for desired opal levels where the opal may be deposited and, just maybe, actually see colorful opal right in the shaft itself.
NoodlingMachine
Noodling machine equipment..front loader, dark room and grizzly/conveyor assembly.

There was another miner nearby, running a noodling machine, who I thought might just have some opal for sale.  So I walked over to his claim and in a very friendly manner he responded that his brother does most of the selling of opal, but he didn’t think they had any at the moment…gave him a card with my phone number on the odd chance that he might dig up a parcel while I was here.

Tim took me back to his dugout and showed me a multi-grade parcel that he had for sale…good opal at a fair price…which I bought.  Then got a call from another miner, who had another multi-grade parcel, of classic white based broad-flash opal, for sale…it was much like the large parcel I bought earlier.  But he was willing to let one 44 ounce grade go at a decent price, which I bought.  These were nice medium/medium large stones of easy to cut opal.

That evening I celebrated with a huge calamari supper at Tom and Mary’s Greek Taverna, which started with ½ dozen oysters on the half shell and finished with a very tasty Greek desert with ice cream…celebrating my successful day of opal buying!!

May 16 2014Packing Up Opals…

Good friend Trevor Berry in his place of business...The Old Timer's Mine.  This is a must see location for the feel and flavor of mining in the "good old days"...quite an experience.

Good friend Trevor Berry in his place of business...The Old Timer's Mine. This is a must see location for the feel and flavor of mining in the "good old days"...quite an experience.

5/16/14: Sitting in my room at the Mud Hut Motel, drinking a cup of coffee and catching up on my trip report, trying to remember the day’s activities.  Oh, yes…today was opal packing and shipping day…4 big boxes of opal to be shipped home….I am so relieved when the money’s spent and the opals are on their way home.  Worked straight through lunch and finally got them shipped out at the Australian Post Office at 3:30pm.  So I had a Greek salad at Joes Pizza for lunch to tide me over until later when I could have supper.  Tim Seekamp called and said he had a parcel of very high grade opal they had put away for a rainy day fund…investment opal…asked if I would like to come and have a look…I really liked the sound of that.  That was all I had left to buy on my to-do list…high grade gem opal…and I still had enough funds remaining for a decent parcel of kickin’ opal.  The opal was just what I was looking for but the price was a bit high…so we spent some time working out an agreeable price for both parties…Tim had a few phone calls to make to see if his mining partners had no objections and I had to make a quick run to the bank to pick up the extra cash.  We completed the deal and I had one more box to ship out on Monday…a small box, but very valuable.  This was the highest price per ounce I’d ever paid for opal…I hope my customers like it as much as I do!

Ran into a couple of guys my age (mid 60’s), member of the Ulysses Motorcycle Club, who were returning from a big convention in Alice Springs…I had seen a lot of motorcycles along the Stuart Highway as I traveled south.  One of my new acquaintances was driving a BMW and the other a Honda Gold Wing. Joined them for supper at the pub in the Opal Inn Hotel…both were Vietnam veterans, like myself, so we had much to talk about.

Have 3 days left until I was to begin traveling south to Adelaide.  So I will spend the weekend here in Coober Pedy and begin my travels south again Monday morning.

May 17 2014Packing Last Box Of Opals Destined For Home…

Opal Valley photographed from the Stuart Highway to show how green the outback desert had become after recent heavy rains.

Opal Valley photographed from the Stuart Highway to show how green the outback desert had become after recent heavy rains.

5/17/14: Had breakfast in my motel room and packed the packed the final opal box up this morning. I am at loose ends this weekend so I plan to get out to the opalfields and take a few pics of different types of opal mines. Drove around the opalfields to take some pics, but it was an overcast cloudy day, so I settled for just a drive around the opalfields with a stop to do a bit of rock collecting, in hopes of finding some float precious opal and make a major opal strike…it has been done…but not by me. John Dunstan found Opal Ridge by just walking around the huge Coober Pedy Precious Stones Field, or perhaps driving around slowly and looking out the window…any way, as the story goes, he found 2 kilos of rough opal on the surface, from a vertical seam that topped out…and started a pegging party (opal rush) and a new opalfield.

But I wasn’t that lucky today and the flies were thick and relentless. The flies don’t bite, but they get in your eyes and mouth and it’s easy to inhale them…not a pleasant experience.

In dire need of exercise, so I went for an hour’s walk around Coober. To bed early!

May 18 2014Getting Ready For The Drive To Adelaide…

On my travels in the Northern Territory I stopped to see The Devils Marbles, near Wycliffe Well NT, known as Karlu Karlu by the aborigines.

On my travels in the Northern Territory I stopped to see The Devils Marbles, near Wycliffe Well NT, known as Karlu Karlu by the aborigines.

5/18/15: Breakfast in my room again and walked down to the Underground Anglican Catacomb Church for the 9:30 service.  Very nice non-denominational service with completely different hymns than we have in the USA.  I’ve attended church here several times, but have yet to take communion…it hasn’t been celebrated at any service I’ve been to.  But that may be because communion is only celebrated once a month and I have just not been to the proper service.  After the church service I had lunch at Joes Pizza and then took a drive around the opalfields again…have to keep that campervan battery charged or the refrigerator will get warm.

Filled the campervan with diesel and cleaned it up a bit.  Washed clothes again, ready for my slow trip down to Adelaide…I have an extra day to waste.  Supper at the pub…fisherman’s platter…plenty of food.

May 19 2014Coober to Port Pirie…

Looking across the estuary, at low tide, toward the mangroves and Port Pirie Beach Caravan Park.

Looking across the estuary, at low tide, toward the mangroves and Port Pirie Beach Caravan Park.

5/19/14: Brekkie in my room and on the road for Port Pirie.  On the road again!  I’ve traveled this section of the Stuart Highway many times and very little has changed…except the green desert just south of Coober Pedy.  Stopped in Glendambo for fuel and to check on phone messages as there is mobile phone service here.  Made it to PP by 3:30pm and since I’m heading out of Coober a day early I have 2 days to spend here.  I’m staying at my favorite caravan park in Australia…Port Pirie Beach Caravan Park. Great amenities block and gorgeous roses to admire. Made a spaghetti supper in the camper and went for a long walk along the esplanade.

5/20/14: Have some extra cash left over from my opal buying so I deposited it into my Westpac account here and shipped my last box of rough Australian opals off to the USA.  Legs get kind of crampy from extended driving so I did quite a lot of walking today to get in much needed exercise before heading down to Port Wakefield tomorrow.  During my long walks I took some nice photos of sea birds along the scenic esplanade here.  I am more than ready to be back in the USA!

May 21 2014Port Pirie to Port Wakefield…

Shore birds along Port Pirie estuary.

Shore birds along Port Pirie estuary.

5/21/14:  Arrived in Port Wakefield around noon, but it was too early to check into my room.  So I drove up to Balaklava and back to PW and wiled away some time walking about town.  Lunch was a pleasant experience at the bakery in town…sub sandwich and a cheese cake for desert along with a tasty cup of coffee…a long black.  Checked into my room and took another long walk down past the golf course on the road to Balaklava.  I noticed they have sand greens here…using a black ground bitumen for the green instead of actual sand…must be a bit more firm.

Back to my room and read more of Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy.  I’d read this book years ago, but it’s a good solid book with many references to US Naval terminology that I knew so well during my 4 year stint as a sailor…3 years aboard the USS Saratoga CVA-60…which plays a big part in this book…so I was enjoying the book very much the second time through.  Supper was take out (“take away” in Oz) back to my room and enjoyed the calamari, chips (french fries) and salad while reading Clancy.

May 22 2014Port Wakefield to Glenelg…and Home!

It was a beautiful day to walk the lovely Glenelg esplanade north toward Adelaide.

It was a beautiful day to walk the lovely Glenelg esplanade north toward Adelaide.

5/22/14: This is the most stressful part of the entire trip…returning the camper to Apollo in Adelaide.  Driving a rented, large, wide vehicle through heavy Adelaide traffic can be intimidating!  I had downloaded Australian maps on my TomTom 1605TM GPS unit and they worked great…quite a treat to be notified in advance which lane I should be in and a countdown of meters before the actual turns I needed to make. This section of the trip turned out to be smooth and almost effortless, despite my heightened nerves.  And it helped that it was about 10:00am and not during rush hour.

The people at Apollo were great (I would recommend renting a campervan with Apollo) and I caught a taxi to the Stamford Hotel on Jetty Road in Glenelg…not far from the airport.  It’s a beautiful room on the 11th floor of the hotel with a wonderful view of the beach and the ocean…quite a relaxing treat!  I love the Jetty road area of Glenelg! I’m an adventurous eater willing to try new gastronomical delights and there are many restaurants and eateries here that cater to my somewhat exotic tastes in food.

I have a 5:30 wakeup call tomorrow and will catch a taxi to the airport where a flight leaves at 8:00am for Sydney.  In Sydney I catch a 1:05pm Qantas A380 Airbus flight to LAX and from LAX I catch a 12:45pm flight to Denver, 20 minutes before I left Sydney Australia (time zone time machine).  I leave Denver at 5:44pm and arrive in Billings at 7:14 (in a pitiful state…I’m sure).  For the next few days I will be saying prayers that all of my boxes of rough Australian opals will make it back safely to the USA.

It’s been quite a trip…I wish I had more time to stop and small the roses, but unfortunately, this was more business trip than pleasure…so I was indeed fortunate to see and experience what I have this year. I made it home safely and all the boxes of rough opal arrived with their precious cargo intact. You have my thanks for bravely reading along!!

Stamford
Stunning view from my room on the 11th floor of the Stamford Grand Beach Hotel in Glenelg.