How many octogenarians do you know who get behind the wheel and trawl our vast continent on their lonesome?
Perth grandmother Sue Glasfurd has always been an adventurer, and in her mid 80s, shows no signs of slowing down.
She regularly packs up her caravan, loads her little dog Peanut in the car, and heads off alone to see some Australia’s most remote but beautiful places.
Over the years she has covered hundreds of thousands of kilometres on her expeditions. She’s currently on an outback odyssey in the South Australian desert from where she sent her latest dispatch. Here it is in The Starfish.
By Susan Glasfurd
Here is an update on my travels. The drive from WA to South Australia was uneventful, easy and enjoyable.
Finally I arrived at Port Augusta – time to check the road maps. An alternative route, other than going Stuart Highway, was what I was looking for.
I had decided it could be an interesting drive to travel the Oodnadatta Track. Knowing that it was a dirt track I contacted Main Roads who said it should be OK to travel on, providing there is no rain in sight. Apparently if it rains it is impassable.
Next, I got talking to those “Fonts of all Knowledge,” the Truckies. They always seem to know what the roads are like, what water is drinkable, or any other thing I need to know.
“Let’s have a look at yer rig, luv.” So Luv takes him to look at my rig. He inspects the tyres and the wheel height of the caravan from the ground. Checks out the car.
“Ya got a good rig here, Luv. That car will cause no probs. Good tyres. They woulda cost ya a bit, I see ya got hard wall. She’ll be right Luv, go for it. If ya make it OK ya’re one tough lady!”
So go for it, I did.
For the one tough lady and to start with, the road was easy; well, graded and wide enough for two cars to pass easily.
Having spent my childhood on farming properties I had learnt to drive on gravel and sandy, muddy and wet, slippery, boggy tracks, so driving on roads like this was second nature to me. This is a breeze, I thought. I wonder what all the dire warnings are about?
Kilometre after kilometre, and then the excitement started.
Too late now, I thought. At times the road was horrendous, the corrugations so bad there were occasions that the steering wheel was almost shaken out of my hands.
The creek crossings were very muddy, boggy and with deep ruts from previously bogged cars.
Often the track was covered in stones, sharp flint stones, so undeterred I took it slowly. Slow but sure I told myself, however I did worry about my poor caravan following behind me.
Now for the desert country that I was travelling through. I find the desert not as boring as some would think. Yes, it is endless, flat featureless country without a rise or tree in sight and little vegetation, but there is something about it that gradually seeps into one’s soul.
The wide-open spaces, the varied plant life, the changing colours of the soil, the small sharp shining stones, almost pebbles, everywhere. There is the deep blue of the sky, the amazing bright stars at night, the slither of a moon – full moon was a month away. And the silence: it is so quiet.
My campsite on the first night was at Lake Eyre.
First things first, I set up camp, then took a walk to stretch my legs after all that driving – and to keep my dog, Peanut, happy.
Lake Eyre was shining like a beacon in the near distance. Nothing but water as far as the eye can see. I had no idea the lake was so enormous and this was only the southern end of it. No wonder those early explorers thought it an inland sea.
I had thoughts of having a swim in the salt water – but I had another thing coming. I walked and walked until my car and caravan were just small specs on the horizon.
What I had thought was water was the sun shining on thickly laid salt crystals covering the dried out lake. Apparently there is only water in this part of Lake Eyre once every few years and it is not until then that bird life abounds.
As for animals, there was little life to be seen other than the tiny Lake Eyre dragons. These little creatures were hard to find, being amazingly clever at camouflage, changing colour according to whether they sit on rocks, the salty ground or hiding in the saltbush.
They could run like the wind, then suddenly stop very still, blending into the surroundings. The only things moving were their eyes watching my hand as I tried to take a photo; their little beady eyes moving from side, watching and waiting.
The only other sign of life was a snake, black and shiny, quite thin and well over a metre long, enjoying the heat of the sun. It goes without saying that I grabbed Peanut and, moving slowly, I backed away so as to not disturb it. When out of range I moved swiftly away, back to the safety of our caravan.
During my time on the track, which winds for hundreds of kilometres through the desert, I saw not one other sign of life other than a number of white cockatoos near Screech Owl Creek.
Not a human in sight, during the whole trip. Until I arrived at Williams Town near the end of the journey, not another car or truck or road train. It felt as though I was the last person, and Peanut the last dog, on earth.
The only sign of human habitation was a derelict and partially falling down fettler’s cottage made from the stone abounding in the surrounding desert. This had been lived in long, long ago by those brave and tough men working on the very first railway line that was to cross the desert.
So therein lies my tale of three days travel on the Oodnadatta Track. I an now comfortably ensconced in a Caravan Park at Coober Pedy hoping to have the most amazing discovery of the biggest opal in the world.
Another story coming soon…