Sunday, April 11, 2010

Now entering No-Mans-Land

We’re heading into the Red Center of Australia; the most remote place on earth excluding Antarctica. There is a lake that we will be driving past – Lake Eyre – that is bigger than the Netherlands. Can I repeat that? One single lake is bigger than Holland. And that lake is only the smallest dot on the map of Central Australia. There are simply no words to describe how desolate this landscape is.

I’ve programmed this blog entry to post a few weeks after I’ve written it, because I don’t anticipate being close to internet for several weeks. By the time you read this, we will already be deep into the desert. We’ve stacked our car with canned foods, dried noodles, jars of pasta sauce, raw beans. We’ve loaded 40 liters of water into the back of the car, and strapped 60 extra liters of fuel to the roof.

We’ve stocked up on 6 bottles of sunblock, 2 spare tires, a 4-wheel-drive tire patch kit, and an extra tire inner tube. We’ve double-checked every fluid level in the car, including the battery fluid (until last week, I didn’t even know there IS fluid in a car battery that occasionally needs refilling). In short: we’re prepared – or at least I hope we’re prepared – to enter a land where there is nothing available to us. No phone service, no food, not even a tree for shade. This is truly the Outback desert; more remote than the Sahara. This is as “out there” as it gets.

This will be our last big hurrah in Australia. After our desert adventure is finished, we’ll head back to Sydney into a life of tranquil domesticity: playing with my nieces, baking cookies, and selling off everything we’ve collected over the past year -- our solar panel, our camp stove, and most importantly, our 4-wheel-drive Nissan.

I write this from Port Augusta on April 2. From here, we’ll head north to Coober Pedy – a “big city” of 4,000 people -- to spend Easter weekend with some locals we met in Koolunga who own an opal mine in Coober. (It’s not as impressive as it sounds. There are so many opal mine shafts in Coober Pedy that owning one is as simple as sticking pegs in the ground and declaring it yours. The land is so abundant that it’s free – first come, first served.)

After Easter weekend, we’ll head further north, toward Uluru, the most sacred place in Australia to the Aborigional people. I’ll write about Uluru in more detail later. From there, we may or may not head to Alice Springs before beginning the real adventure: the Oodnadatta Track, a week-long journey on unpaved road that takes us past salt flats, hot springs and lone trees in unmanned lunar landscapes. This track will lead us to Lake Eyre – the lake that is larger than Holland – before eventually leading us back to civilization, back to our starting point, Port Augusta, where we plan on celebrating our return to society with a dinner at the hippest restaurant in town, “Barnacle Bill’s.” With a name like that, you know it must be swank.