We leave Port Augusta early in the morning, together with the fishermen. In this part of Australia, at this time of the year at least, it always blows a great wind. In the next two days we will grind many miles to reach Uluru. The intermediate stage is Coober Pedy, a city built in the desert in an area rich in opals, founded by fortune seekers and miners. To reach it we have to travel 542 km along a tongue of reddish asphalt that runs straight (but not perfectly straight) in the outback.
Along the outback roads, from time to time you can step into roadhouses: they are nothing more than service stations that, being mostly in the middle of nowhere, are super equipped with everything – from basic necessities to the barber. There are interesting characters, sometimes bizarre, sometimes crazy. Dusty and anonymous, or flowered and colored, roadhouses are real oases, where you can rest from the many hours of dribing, where to refresh with a drink or quench your thirst with a beer (be careful to drink if you have to drive, in Australia they are very rigid: the maximum permitted blood alcohol content is 0.05%).
The first roadhouse we meet is Spud’s, in the tiny Pimba with its 50 inhabitants. Further on, we stop at Lake Hart, a large salt lake on the bank of which the railway runs. Further north, we stop at Glendambo, where we refuel before leaving behind every sign of humanity for the remaining 255 km that separate us from arrival.
In Coober Pedy we arrive in the afternoon, after a picnic lunch in the outback. The city has that ghost town atmosphere that somehow brings to mind the villages of the Far West. Approaching the city, we start to see holes everywhere, with fun signs that invite us not to fall into it. The town looks rather sleepy, a few excavators are at work (it’s Saturday). There is a post-apocalyptic film atmosphere, and this is probably why so many post-apocalyptic films have been filmed here (Pitch Black – go looking for the spaceship left over from the movie set – Mad Max, but also Priscilla, the queen of the desert).
We stop at the Old Timers Mine, an old mine turned into a museum where you can see the underground houses where miners lived (on the surface, temperatures can reach 50 ° C in summer). We arm ourselves with a helmet and go into the labyrinth of tunnels. After that, we return to the village and visit the underground Church of Saints Peter and Paul, a small jewel in the desolate Coober Pedy. Finally, wandering around by putting us in various shops, mostly gloomy and dusty, perhaps returning from better times or maybe not; the most absurd is a shop to whose entrance hangs one of those colored plastic curtains, inside, in a gloomy and damp atmosphere, we find ourselves face to face with religious figurines and an intrusive little man who greets us calling us “Compari” (italian slang for “friends”). We end the tour with a quick shopping at the supermarket in anticipation of the camping dinner.
Even today, Coober Pedy is a city where people live underground, especially during the summer: many hotels or B&Bs and even a campground offer the possibility of spending the night underground. We, having our Berthie with us, spent the night in a “traditional” campsite, but it must really be a unique experience.
The next morning – it’s the ninth day of travel – we leave Coober Pedy before dawn because we expect 734 km of road to get to Uluru. We drive slowly in the dark of the morning, the road illuminated by the headlights and us with straight antennas to not invest unwary animals (one of the most unpleasant encounters of the trip are the innumerable carcasses of animals – including kangaroos and cows – that dot the shore of the Stuart Highway ). Little by little the sun peeps on the horizon, the sky becomes clearer and clearer. We stop to photograph the sunrise and have breakfast hit by the rays of the rising sun.
We go up again on the van and drive and drive, while the outback scrolls unchanged from the window. At the Kulgera Pub we take a short break to stretch our legs. Soon we leave again because more than 300 km still separate us from Uluru, our final destination. We drive north to Erldunda, where we turn west. Halfway through, we meet the border between South Australia and the Northern Territory. We walk the last kilometers trying to see the famous profile of Uluru in the distance. As has happened to other dozens of tourists, let us be fooled by Mt Conner, which at first glance we may have exchanged for Uluru if it were not a hundred kilometers ahead of schedule.
Finally we arrive at Yulara, the village next to Uluru where all the tourist services are located, including our campsite. Yulara is chaotic and full of tourists, a great trauma after the days spent in almost complete solitude along the roads of the outback. We get in line to register at the campsite, find our pitch and allow ourselves an aperitif to reward us: we reached Uluru before sunset.
Here is the video of the third episode – Enjoy!
Coober Pedy: Stuart Range Outback Resort, at the entrance of the city, it is a campsite with all the services and also a pizzeria…
Yulara (Uluru): Ayers Rock Campground is the only campsite in the area, a short distance from the Yulara service center, where you will also find a well-stocked supermarket. We advise you to book the campsite online because the campground is very popular.
Outback: Do as we do and enjoy the pleasure of a picnic in the outback. Alternatively, roadhouses along the way offer simple meals at reasonable prices.
Km traveled: about 1300