On this day back in 1985 I was on a bus, travelling through South Australia to the Northern Territory.
(This was the beginning of several weeks travelling around Australia, so my posts looking back to 1985 will be more frequent in the coming weeks.)
I had travelled on an overnight greyhound bus from Canberra to Melbourne, then another bus to Adelaide. The countryside in Victoria was flat, mostly farmland. We stopped a few times on the journey, but mainly in one street towns. The clocks changed by half and hour between Victoria and South Australia.
The country side changed to pine forests in South Australia, Forestry Commission land with various saw mills.
Murray Bridge was an interesting place. The bridge was a hundred years old and much longer than seemed necessary to span the Murray River. But it was built to accommodate the flood waters that occur at certain times of the year.
Trees were mainly Australian natives, eucalyptus trees, evergreen and bottle brush. Back in Canberra the trees were European and in blossom, emphasizing that it was spring time.
We climbed the Adelaide Hills on the approach to the city. I arrived at dusk with the lights of the city laid out below us. Adelaide is a nice city. A main square, Victoria Square, and four other smaller squares are within the square mile city centre district. It was the first city in the world to have a “green belt”.
The River Torrens runs through the city alongside the northern terrace. I explored the art galleries, museums, arts centre, shops and caught the tram to the nearest beach at Glenelg. It was an overcast day but people were fishing on the pier and the esplanade was backed with Norfolk pines.
I spent a day on a tour of the Barossa Valley wineries, rolling hills, old style buildings with a German influence, vineyards and pretty towns. We sampled some good wines and lunch was included. The return drive to the city took us through the Torrens gorge, a narrow windy road alongside the river beneath the steep cliffs.
The bus broke down on the next leg of my journey so it was dawn as we arrived in Coober Pedy. I’m glad I got to see it in daylight. What a place. A real hole in the ground.
It’s the greatest opal producer in the world, a town literally in the middle of nowhere, the surrounding area just pale white earth. A one horse town, with an “out in the sticks” atmosphere, a population of just a few hundred.
The opals are just dug out of the ground, so there are holes and mines shafts surrounded by piles of earth dug out. An incredible sight. Some of the people who mine the opals here have dug their homes out of the ground too, cooler in the hot daytime temperatures. It was such a weird place. I was glad to move on after our breakfast stop.
As we drove north on the Stuart Highway, the tarmac run out. We had eight hours of dirt road. Because of the state of the road, the bus company only used old buses on that route. So we had a clapped out bus, hence the earlier breakdown, no air-conditioning, no cushions. The bus rattled and shook for the whole journey. A real bone shaker.
There had been rain in recent days which had left huge puddles, so the driver negotiated these by driving off the road and going bush. Our view for all those hours was mostly nothing. The occasional cattle, and fences miles and miles apart. This was a region of large cattle stations.
The land was flat but did change from sparse grass and low bushes to an area of trees and bigger bushes. The soil changed colour from the pale of Coober Pedy to the deep red soil and sand as we approached the Northern Territory.
We stopped at a couple of places to drop of freight. Mount Willoughby seemed to be just a small store with a petrol pump, in the middle of nowhere. Then Marla was a bit bigger with a pub and a cafe.
Indulkana was a different experience. A small place with several streets of houses, a school and a community centre. There was very little grass, the streets and gardens were red dust and mud. The majority of people that we saw were Aborigines, barefoot, sitting outside where the bus stopped. There was a diagrammatic sign indicating no photos.