After a night filled with the rumble of road trains (for the Brits, imagine three HGV lorries tangled together) we set off for Port Augusta. For a makeshift window (see ‘Trouble on the Oodnadatta Track‘) we had wedged a blanket in the door frame, hoping that this would stop the wind from freezing and deafening the person in the passenger seat as we hurtled down the highway at 110 kph. With the exception of the repetitive slapping of fabric on the roof of the van we made it to Port Augusta fairly comfortably.
As the second biggest city in South Australia, we assumed that Port Augusta would be a beacon of civilisation. We were disappointed to discover that it was very quiet, just like the smaller mining towns we’d passed through. After the tourist exodus at the end of the summer the leftovers were exactly that – a bunch of half-eaten hotdogs. Waddling across the road with swollen feet, wearing Adidas sports wear with seemingly no grasp of the irony, they trudged towards the local Woolworths to stock up on saturated fats. You could see the nasty cycle at work in the supermarket – all of the junk food was heavily discounted with prominent placement at the front of the aisles. This worked for us though, we got two shopping bags full of tasty snacks for $10.00!
We decided to head over to Whyalla, in the hope that the area’s industrial credentials would make it easier to replace the window the next day. It was here we met our first One Nation supporter. A White Power wanker with a swastika cap, smoking and spitting in the fuel station.
Lonely Planet calls Whyalla ‘an apocalyptic morass of chugging chimneys, port works and industrial estates’ but we found it pleasant enough. The waterfront was quite pretty, with jet skiers training on the jade-coloured water.
When Monday arrived we started the ring-around, with Gaz finding a company in Christie Beach that would replace the window that day. After ordering the part and packing up the van in the pouring rain, plugging the window hole with the already sodden blanket, we input the directions to the GPS, only to realise Christie Beach was south of Adelaide, over four hours away, and completely out of our way. We decided to go anyway, in the hope that we might outdrive the storm. Adelaide had obviously read our first blog and taken offence at the snub. Why not make peace with a visit to the City of Churches?
The rain did not let up and we drove the 400 odd km to Adelaide in soggy silence, taking in turns to sit in the passenger seat and get our left sides drenched. After weaving our way through Adelaide’s delightful industrial suburbs we arrived at the auto glass business, only to be told in an accusatory tone:
“That’s not a Toyota HiAce, is it!”
“Err, yes it is.”
“Yeah, but thats the SBV model, and I have a regular HiAce window out back.”
“Well I definitely said it was an SBV on the phone.”
“Well I can fix it at 11 tomorrow?”
Needless to say, we were not impressed to find out we had driven all that way for nothing. We may have even let out a few curse words. Luckily Gaz found some random guy online who fits windows out of his backyard and miraculously, was happy to pop down the shop and pick up an SBV window while we made our way to his house. As we started up the van again, we noticed that the engine temperature gauge was broken. FFS! Is this van going to survive the roadtrip around Australia?!
Upon meeting the glass man, we observed that he was much better at fixing vehicle windows than he was at keeping saliva in his mouth, with ropes of drool dripping down from the corners. But he was still a hero in our eyes because he replaced the window, filled a big chip in the windscreen (another scar from the Oodnadatta Track) and fixed the temperature gauge, all while recommending a good place to eat around the corner. Things were coming up Milhouse!
The ‘rated restaurant’ was exactly what you might expect from a person who dribbles uncontrollably. It was your standard big Aussie pub, replete with TAB and bistro, but we swallowed our middle class snobbery as well as a schnitzel the size of a newborn child. Bellies full, we hoped that the travel gods would be kinder to us on the next leg of our journey.
That night we camped at Port Parnam ( near Port Pirie) and awoke next to a beach covered in bales of seaweed that looked identical to shredded office documents. A wise Grey Nomad was doing the rounds on the site and approached Shelley to ascertain who we were, what our plan was and what we were doing wrong (there had to be something). He passed on his sage advice, which we’ve summarised for the readers’ benefit: ‘don’t stop for anyone ever because you’ll be robbed, kidnapped and murdered and snakes will bite you and dingoes will eat your babies.’ Sounds like it’s more dangerous to be a backpacker than a refugee on Nauru.
We beat a track back around the Spencer Gulf toward Port Lincoln, with Gaz driving the most mammoth journey he had undertaken so far on his learner plates. As a recompense for all our toil and troubles in her state, South Australia gave us beautiful Lipson Cove as our home for the night. It looked like we had missed a turn and arrived in Ireland, with green valleys on one side and empty beach on the other. The evidence of previous residents, in the form of a fire pit surrounded by oyster shells – provided a good omen for the path ahead. We fell asleep peacefully to the sound of waves crashing, confident the travel gods were back on our side.