Awesome camp in the desert

It had rained a little overnight at Port Augusta but not enough to be a nuisance. The boys swags were a little damp but they’d dry out quickly. They’d slept really well snuggled in their swags. Ben said the rain did wake him up but he fell back asleep in no time.

Maddie had put her toe through the front of her joggers so while Rich and the boys got the camp packed up Katie, Maddie and I set off to find a shoe store. We managed to find a SportsPower store and Maddie chose a gorgeous pair of hot pink sneakers. She’ll be easy to spot from now on!

After fueling up we set off towards Coober Pedy. I was quite excited when we made the turn at the sign saying Coober Pedy and Alice Springs. I love a road I’ve never been on before! I’ll be able to draw more lines on our map.

A Pipeline runs alongside the road from Port Augusta to Woomera to supply water to the little communities of Pimba, Woomera and the RAAF base.

There were ‘jump-ups’ off in the distance, flat topped hills that rise up out of the flat land surrounding them. It really is desert around there.

Before we arrived at Pimba we pulled into a lookout to check out the view of a huge salt lake called Island Lagoon. The lake is so huge it stretches away to the horizon. We were also a bit surprised by how much water was in the lake.

Stopped at Spuds Roadhouse at Pimba to top up our fuel $2.68L. The most expensive fuel yet. Pimba is a tiny dot on the map with only about 10 houses and a pub. The Roadhouse has a free camp area that looks like it might get really busy but you’d be jammed in like sardines in a tin.

Spuds Roadhouse, Pimba SA

We decided to drive the short 7km into the town of Woomera which is still an active RAAF base. 147 people call it home although the town can house up to 6,000. It has all the infrastructure to support the larger population with a large school, youth centre, a 6 lane bowling alley, tennis courts, swimming pool, general store, medical centre, dentist, tourist information centre and Heritage Centre.

Woomera was established in 1947 as a site for launching British experimental rockets. Between 1960 and 1972 NASA operated a deep space tracking station at nearby Island Lagoon. The testing range covers 127,000 square kilometres and is known as the Woomera Prohibited Area.

The big attraction for us though was the Rocket Park. This gravel park is spread over two blocks and contains displays of many of the different types of rockets that have been fired at Woomera.

I was fascinated by the remains of the rocket that took Australia’s very first satellite into orbit in 1967!

After a lunch break next to the Rocket Park we headed back out to the Stuart Highway and turned northwards again. It is 548km from Port Augusta to Coober Pedy and we didn’t plan to go all the way in one day but stop somewhere in the desert and camp there.

The Stuart Highway is a very good, wide, tar road. We were surprised that there wasn’t more traffic as it is the main road up through the centre of Australia. The road is crossed by wide cattle grids and after each one is a sign letting you know the name of the station you are now driving through and whether the road is unfenced. At first I thought this was a bit silly as you can see the fences when the road is fenced. However I changed my mind when I thought it is to let people know that there may be stock in the paddock the road is going through. If the road is unfenced then you need to be aware of that danger.

The highway is named after explorer John McDouall Stuart. Stuart was born in Scotland in 1815 and came to South Australia in 1839. He became one of the most successful explorers in Australia’s white history leading many expeditions to the centre of Australia and the Top End. Alice Springs was once a town called Stuart until it was changed in 1933. Stuart has been described as being a wiry, man with a big black bushy beard. He must have been a tough character when you see the land he crossed many times on horseback.

John McDouall Stuart

Just north of Pimba were more huge salt lakes and we’d been told that Lake Hart was a good camp spot. It looked like it might be too as we drove past but we hadn’t done enough km’s so kept going. Lake Hart is enormous and was full of water shimmering in the sunlight. Maybe that would be a good spot on the way back.

We eventually pulled up around 4pm at a spot marked on WikiCamps as being a large, flat area where you could get well away from the road. It was a perfect desert camp spot.

We quickly ‘circled our wagons’ to block off the wind and put our awnings out to dry after being rained on overnight at Port Augusta. Rich and the boys got a little fire going whilst I cooked our tuna mornay & rice dinner in the motorhome.

What a fantastic night we had sitting around our little camp fire singing old Scouting songs and some modern ones. Katie even gave the kids some dancing lessons. They were hilarious. I haven’t heard the Katie and kids laugh so much.

We turned off all our lights and were amazed at the stars. The sky seems bigger and the stars seem closer out in the desert.


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