Tuesday, June 8, 2010


The trusty Cessna something-or-other taken a few days later on the strip at Arkaroola. Clicking should enlarge pics.

The shy was overcast with low cloud in Wilpena. The geology creates its own weather and head pilot M, with a weather report and local knowledge, knew the cover was a local morning cloud hug and was confident to up-up-and-away and 'punch through' into the clear and head north west to Coober Pedy. So were his four travellers.

Recent rain had shaded the reds and browns with splotches of green and delineated creek beds and low lands. The patterns were of endlessly changing shapes and colours and nothing reproduced here (dulled by whatever they make Cessna windows from and whatever it does to happy snaps) comes remotely close to the brilliance of what we could see.

We were about to cross over Lake Torrens, a 250 Km long salt lake to the east of Woomera (the aboriginal name for spear thrower was chosen for white man's place of weapons testing and rocket launching) and Roxby Downs / Olympic Dam (big mining, pending bigger taxes). And the rains had been enough to give a rare show - the great salt lake had water, local water. This was way south of the flood waters from Queensland flooding into Lake Eyre.

Shallow water just covered the land, and the varying depths as it washed over the sandhills and flats changed the red green mosaics of the nearby desert into abstract impressions of blues of all shades and, with the tilt of a wing and the glint of the sun, a dazzling flash of reflections of water and salt.

And then - look, look, down there. From above, the brown earth looks bleached by a film of water, a there was huge flock of ... are they pelicans? As if their presence wasn't exclamation enough, even the shape was telling.

Edging west, as the patterns receded, the water's edge, smeared from the prevailing winds, smudged the earth.

Back over the desert, over the pock marked opal mining town of Andamooka, where people live under the radar in a place of streets without names, in miner's huts and dugouts,

on over the Painted Hills, leached and stained with iron and studded with mulga, we headed up to Coober Pedy.

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