tired from the heat of the last two days and the dramas with the trailers and
Coober Pedy. We break camp after a
quick breakfast, eager to press on and get this last 200 kilometres covered
before it gets too hot; on Sunday the prediction was that this day would be the hottest of the lot. During the previous two nights, the blustery north wind had dropped after dark, but this night it stayed all night. A quick award ceremony was held as we had missed the day before; Hector and Hooch got the Premiership Cup for their mercy dash back to Coober Pedy and the chuck wagon trailer got the Outback Spectacular Hat award for its efforts to disrupt us, culminating in the broken spring.
First order of business was a quick blast up the airport at Emu. Built adjacent a large clay pan, the runs up and down were fun. Next stop was the site of the village at Emu Junction. Nothing remains except for the foundations of the huts and the mainly temporary buildings for this site. After this brief look at the history of the site we hit the track, which again, as is our want, meant ignoring a ‘stop – no entry’ sign (we did have a permit
The track was a change from the Anne Beadell in that old mate corrugation was gone, however his pal sand
turned up for the day. Sand doesn’t slow the cars like the corrugations do but it makes it difficult for the
bikes, with much more physical effort required to manoeuvre and stay upright. The cars also required a lot of concentration to drive due to the narrowness and twisty nature of the track. However, the guys all said later that the issue was the heat. The heat was building really fast, and aided by very strong winds was drying us to a crisp. We bashed away at the dunes and sand, and got to Observatory Hill for a look around. On from there to a claypan with unique geography for lunch.
This was at about 12 O’clock. Earlier in the day in jest it was suggested that the maximum temperature today would be 48 degrees. Out on the claypan the external temperature gauge on the Pajero said…48 degrees.
Rohan took a bit of a blast around the pan on the KTM and later related that it was like having a hair blow dryer turned on flat out in your face.
We still had a fair way to go to get to Maralinga. The welfare of the riders became paramount with regular stops for water and hydrate. The track conditions improved after our stop at Lean Beadell’s tree, where the great man had cut a blaze and nailed up a marker. At this point we were half way; according to Len we had covered 60 miles from Emu, and we had 60 miles to go. The word was – drink lots and push on. As the track had improved we reached a higher average speed, and so we were reaching our destination quicker.
As we got closer to Maralinga there was more infrastructure, and then we found the paths were laid with gold; which for us meant that the roads within the restricted area were sealed! To top this off the wind swung around to the southwest, and cooled…down to about 35 degrees. That didn’t matter, it was cooler than the upper 40’s that we had experienced. Hooch got on the wireless and made contact with our host at Maralinga, Robin Mathews. Robin has turned out to be a ripper bloke and a welcoming host. He also took great delight in letting
us know that the temperature that day at Maralinga had reached 46.7 degrees. We pulled into the village at around 4.30 and were welcomed with air conditioned dongas, showers, kitchens and a ‘glad to see you blokes’ smile. Better still, Robin helped us with our forward planning; he knew a quicker way back to the chuck wagon, which we still had to retrieve from the Anne Beadell Highway. Instead of going back up to Emu and along the Beadell, there was a little used but good condition road that would take us east to the dog fence, then north along the fence and back west along the highway maybe 30 kilometres to the chuck wagon. This was bigger gold than the sealed asphalt roads!
We unpacked, cleaned up and discussed a few days that have probably seen us get through the toughest
conditions faced by any off road, off the beaten track traveller in Australia. First an uncompromisingly tough track with the worst corrugations in the country for two days, including a double stint for Hector and Hooch, and a significant mechanical issue with a key support unit, all in high 30 degree temperature. Then a physically
difficult track in mid to high 40 degree heat and wind. As a team we worked well together, supporting each other and pitching in to complete difficult jobs. Decisions were made with group consultation; decisions that could have meant extreme difficulty for us if we got them wrong. In much of what we do as Trek The Trak we look back at explorers of older days and the difficulty that they had in these areas. While not in any way comparing ourselves to them with the technology and knowledge that we have, we dip our lids even further to them for what they did with what they had. We as a civilisation now could not achieve the same. But in a significant way we have seen this hardship, and we have beaten it, and we are proud of what we have done. And we are only half way through the trek!
Further on into the evening as we reflected we grew to look forward to the day ahead. We had seen enough already to know that we were in for a very special day with a tour of the area around Maralinga.
As we ate Linda’s curried sausages we contemplated this and readied ourselves for a good night’s sleep and a day to remember – again – the very next day. As we ate this home-cooked meal thought of all our family and friends who support us in doing this and make up for us being away; a tiny sliver of phone coverage exists here at the fountain near the old swimming pool; we made good use of that to keep in touch and say thank-you.