It’s about a month until I head down to Australia. And about this time I start to get the pre-trip jitters. There’s always a lot to do before the trip and I find it wise to start packing and creating a to-do list well in advance in case extra supplies or items are needed. I have an old to-do list from previous trips, but some of the items that I’ve hauled to Oz I’ve never used. The unused items just take up luggage room and some of that 50lb weight limit. Every year I take a close look at the list and edit. I honestly like to travel light…I take 1 medium sized suitcase and 1 light weight back pack carry on. On the first few trips Darlene and I took to Oz we both had large cruiser suitcases plus carry-ons and could barely make the then 70lb weight limit. Now my suitcase usually weighs around 40lb-45lb. Bringing only 5 days change of clothes means less a lot less weight, but also means washing clothes a couple times on the trip which I don’t mind. It really gives me some downtime from my busy schedule and a chance to catch up on some reading.
It’s about 35 hours of travel time from departing Billings MT until the time I arrive in Adelaide to pick up my rental car. So I carry a set of lightweight pants, shirt and some under things in an easily accessible outside pocket of my suitcase and will change clothes and clean up a bit in the men’s room at the Adelaide airport. I’ve read there are now free showers available near the International customs exit (gate 18 level 2-under the escalator) so I may try that. And a change of clothes after wearing and sleeping in them for so long will feel great…and maybe a shower and a large cup of Aussie coffee (a long black) will improve my alertness and demeanor (maybe 2 cups, eh). I get perhaps 4-6 hours of actual sleep during the never ending 15-16 hour flights. Then, after picking up my rental vehicle at the airport, I stop at Mile End shopping center near the airport, for supplies needed for packing and shipping the rough opals home. My destination, Coober Pedy, is a very small town with limited shopping available so I’ve found it helpful to stop and shop before heading north.
Then on the road from Mile End to Port Pirie, where I will be spending my first night in Oz, usually takes about 3-4 hours depending on traffic. And Adelaide traffic can be very unnerving…especially with driving on the left. Adelaide, with it’s heavy traffic and narrow streets can be tricky to find your was around…even if it’s just to head north on A1 or the Port Wakefield Road. Thankfully, a few years ago I bought a TomTom GPS with Australian maps and it does much to calm my driving nerves and keeps me from getting lost. And as many times as I’ve driven in Australia one of my biggest hurdles is the wipers and blinkers which are on the opposite sides of the steering wheel as they are in the US. So when I make a turn, instead of signalling for a turn, most times I turn on the windshield wipers…embarrassing. Once you get out of Adelaide city proper into the outlaying country side it’s a lovely drive on a mostly 4 lane road (until Port Wakefield) through bucolic agricultural countryside mixed with small stands of white barked gum trees and occasional glimpses of Spencer Gulf off to the west…truly a lovely drive to Port Pirie and my first nights rest in Australia.
As I have on many trips, I’ve reserved a room at the John Pirie Motor Inn in Port Pirie where I stayed with Darlene in 2001 and have great memories of the place. Thought about trying to make it to Port Augusta on my first day, but that’s another hour plus and I don’t want to tempt fate with my less than keen driving abilities after countless hours of plane travel. So Port Pirie it will be. And I do like Port Pirie!!
Interestingly, the drive from Port Pirie to Coober Pedy is a study in varying climates. PP has a cool wet climate from it’s location along Spencer Gulf and the Southern Ocean. Then, as I start my drive north and leave the Gulf behind at Port Augusta, I’ll head a into bit drier scattered gum tree bush country and finally dry mulga (acacia), spinefex and saltbush dessert areas. I love the aromatic eucalyptus gums closer to the Gulf, but the red sand outback has a beauty all it’s own with the almost tortured looking mulga trees and, if you’re lucky, bright red Sturt’s desert peas flowers…looking like something that had been transplanted from Mars…which flower after the arid outback desert has had a thorough soaking.
As traffic thins along the Stuart Highway the farther north you go, you can appreciate that Australia is the worlds driest continent. In 2014 I started my trip to Coober Pedy from Darwin in the Northern Territory’s hot tropics along the Timor Sea, through Alice Springs in the center of this sunburned country, down to the coolness of Adelaide along the frigid Southern Ocean. Australia is nothing if not a land of contrasts. But I do love my too short visits to Oz for Coober Pedy rough opals!
And for my last night in Oz on this trip I’ve reserved a room at the Stamford Grand on Jetty Road in the south Adelaide suburb of Glenelg. It’s an upscale hotel with the superb Promenade Restaurant, lovely rooms which overlook the ocean, the jetty at Mosely Square and big Norfolk Island Pines along the esplanade at Holdfast Bay. It’s a bit on the expensive side but it’s only for one night…kind of my reward for being away from home for so long. And as always I will take a long walk along the esplanade…lovely place to stroll away the evening. Although the Jetty Road area is know for it’s shopping I truly enjoy the variety of restaurants…Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, Peruvian (?), Australian and Mexican. I’ve stayed in the Jetty Road area at the tail end of many of my rough opal buying trips to Australia and now feel very comfortable here and immensely enjoy the ocean and great restaurants. There’s even a tram that goes from Glenleg to Adelaide City Centre that may be fun to take. Maybe this will be the year!?
Received an email from one of the miners I plan to see this year. He’s been mining in Turkey Ridge Opalfield and Old Zorba Opalfield.
Here’s his email:
We have just started mining in two spots at the Old Zorba, Turkey Ridge area.
One spot we are mining under ground the other we are mining open cut.
We have been doing a lot of drilling in the last couple of years, and not much luck.
But now things are looking ok we have two mining spots on the go at once.
I sent some pictures, we started about 3 weeks ago, we should have some opal when you get here.
I am still working out at the mines 1 week on 1 week off, so I will be out when you are in Coober.
So we will have to catch up.