I’ve driven probably hundreds of thousands of kilometres on Outback roads over the years, and I’ve never heard of anything happening such as happened today.
We’d driven about 300kms from Uluru, heading south towards Coober Pedy. At around lunchtime we passed a roadhouse at Kulgera, about 20kms north of the Northern Territory / South Australian border.
It’s very remote here.
This shot below is a rest stop. The next rest stop is 109kms down the road.
Just past the roadhouse, on the highway, I saw what looked to be some construction workers on the road.
As I got closer I realised it was a police roadblock, stopping southbound traffic. I pulled up and a cop dressed in civvies – not in uniform, but wearing a police vest – signalled for me to stop.
He said the highway was closed for an hour, maybe more, because a very wide load was coming through. He told me to wait at the roadhouse until he advised that the highway was clear.
This sounded odd to me. There’d been wide load transports coming through regularly. Some were so wide you had to drive nearly completely off the side of the highway – but they were always preceded by escort vehicles warning you the wide load was coming.
Irrespective, there was no arguing with a police roadblock, so we drove back to the roadhouse where the manager had a police radio. He told me what was really happening.
Evidently the driver of a huge three-ganger road train – called a Tanami truck – had gone nuts and was deliberately crashing into oncoming traffic and forcing cars off the road.
Road trains are massive. Ninety-six wheels. Three times the size of a regular eighteen wheeler. And this one, according to the roadhouse manager, had a huge bullbar, which he was using to crash into cars.
Reminiscent of the film DUEL,I thought.
I’m sorry I don’t have any photos of this, because I didn’t get a chance to take a shot of the roadblock, and everything else for Jen and myself was a waiting game in the hotel bar.
After about an hour the copper at the roadblock drove up to the bar and told all those waiting inside – about 20 of us by that stage – that the highway was now clear. I asked the cop what had happened, and he confirmed what the manager had said – and confirmed that the truck driver was now under arrest.
If we had left maybe 20 mins earlier, we could have been one of the cars that the truck crashed into…
Anyway, that’s pretty weird, no?
The Stuart Highway, running north south through the Red Centre of this country, is I think the scariest highway in Australia. All sorts of crazy stuff happens on this remote road – serial killings, people going missing strangely, never to be heard of again, cars breaking down unexpectedly then the occupants raped and murdered…
This is not myth. This happens in Outback Australia.
Anyway, Jennifer and I made it safe and sound to Coober Pedy. I stopped a couple of times to take photos –
Outside of Coober Pedy I took a shot of an old opal field.
We stayed in the Underground Motel again, and I asked Mike who runs the place where was a good place to have a feed. He suggested the Italo-Australian Miners Club.
Hoping for a genuine Italian meal, I was disappointed to see that there was nothing Italian, nor indeed Australian, on the menu.
But then we were told there were specials, including an Indian curry. Jennifer settled for the Lasagna with salad, I went for the chicken and mushroom risotto.
Both were truly disgusting.
The risotto was cold half an inch below the surface, which was hot. Very apologetically, the staff grabbed it off me and then spent the next twenty minutes nuking a lasagna so that it was definitely hot inside.
I should add, when Jennifer ordered the lasagna the lady who took her order asked the kitchen if they had any lasagna left. Someone from the kitchen yelled back: Yep, we got two left over from last night.
I’d asked to change from risotto to lasagna because eating the risotto could have put me in hospital. There was a strong chance though that the lasagna could be equally as hazardous.
I shouldn’t be unkind to the Italo-Australian Miners Club – all those working there do so voluntarily, and they were very sweet.
As I drove back the sun was setting, and the last rays of light were doing wonderful things to the high wispy clouds.
This really is very beautiful country out here.
Beautiful photos Bill – those gorgeous skies!
Outback food is a bit of a gamble sometimes, isn’t it? Sometimes you win – sometimes you lose!
Safe travels home –
Cheers and hugs to you and Jen –
I’ve spent so much time on the Outback Jenny, from my days as a documentary maker initially, then later making movies. I’m still the only filmmaker whose made a feature film on thr Nullabor Plains for instance. For that shoot we were based out of Ceduna for several weeks, then Port Augusta. I love the bush, but yes bush food can be hit and miss!
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WOW, that opal field could be on the moon!! And the skies: what an amazing blue!!
Glad now that when I (more or less) circumnavigated Australia, I went by plane!! The driver playing ‘chicken’ with real cars is a new one; had not heard of that sort of behaviour before, even in that very strange and sometimes scary part of this wonderful country 🙂
Hi Britta, yes I’ve been looking out to see if it appeared in he news, but I haven’t seen anything. The cops tend to downplay this kind of thing though with the media – I know that from my past experience as an ABC journalist. And yes, the skies are amazing, particularly after about 4pm when the sun begins to drop. And isn’t that opal field surreal?
I don’t understand irrational violence. I guess that is by definition. I also don’t understand terrible food. But I sure do love your posts. I find myself looking forward to them each day. Your pictures bring me to places I only dream about.
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Thank you Mark for your kind words, and wonderful that you continue to check in on this crazy blog – thank you for that too!
Blog writing is different to any other kind of writing. Particularly if there are photos accompanying. It’s taken me a while, from a technical and craft perspective, to figure that out, and structure my writing so that it all flows effortlessly with the pics.
So that it looks easy.
There are times when I post a blog and I feel Nah, that wasn’t a good post. And then there are times when I feel I’ve nailed it. Like the post about the walk around Uluru.
But that post took me about an hour and a half to do. The writing, the workflow with the photos, the proof reading and layout etc. For me, It’s very time consuming to do properly. And that’s the only way I like to do them.
But if the end result is the kind of reaction you get, that the post kind of puts you there, then for me it’s all worthwhile, so a third thank you!
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Your stories are always so interesting. I’ve never heard of the term “road train”or “Tanami truck”. They must be huge and very long. How do they turn corners? Your PGS and angels were at work keeping you safe once again. Where will you be to watch Australia smash India in the World Cup? Have a good trip home!
Dear Lynda, I’ve not been ‘checking in’ for a few days, so missed your questions here and since no one else has answered your query, I’ll try! A road train is LONG truck, with several trailers, so instead of hauling goods on a goods train, it goes on a ‘road train’. Makes sense? ‘Tanami’ is the name of one of the many deserts in the Australian outback, so I presume, it’s just another name for the long-haul trucks criss-crossing that amazing landscape. If you get time in that very busy life you lead, you should google ‘Tanami’ and I’ve no doubt you would see lots of stunning ‘scapes’ with the same colours of red/ochre earth and blue skies, that Bill has been endowing us with!!
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Thanks Britta – I missed that one from Lynda in a,ingest all my travels lately. Your explanation was spot on, being such a true blue Aussie!!
I think she’s more Aussie now than Danish. And the pictures she suggested to look at are of hugely long trucks!!!
They are enormous Lynda, and very intimidating on a narrow dirt road when they’re barrelling towards you at 130km/he!
Is going crazy at the helm of massive innocent-life-threatening machinery a “thing” this week ?
😦 😦 😦
The Calamari on that menu is Italian — defrosted Lasagne or Risotto are not LOL
(not that I’d have ordered those calamari either … )
Only thing a bit safe-looking on that menu is the Fish & Chips ; though I’d assume the worst of the chips and not expect much of the fish either.
The trucker/lorry-driver/routier restaurants in France have really gone down the drain in past decades too …
Spent a decade or so down here as the only Pilgrim in town, but we seem to be proliferating !!
Just learned that our favourite Monte-Carlo socialite nun (she’s very nice and a good, well-grounded Catholic religious — not dissing her, just a bit of an in-joke) walked SJPP to Burgos last year, and will do the other half of the Francès this August hehehe
hmmm, if I have to delay the departure for my own 2015 job to August, entirely possible, there’s a very good chance we’ll bump into each other on the Way !!
(hmmmm, didn’t ask her about her kit LMAO)
Hey Julian, once again your attention to detail floors me! Yes calamari strictly speaking is Italian, although any resemblance to the calamari you’d get at the Coober Pedy Italo Austrslian Miners Club would be coincidental at best.
Fish out in the desert is a bit dodgey too – safest is steak in the Outback, but that wasn’t on the menu. Strangely, it see,s our national dish – a dish you can find in almost any RSL or pub or restaurant in the bush is Salt and Pepper Squid. Don’t ask me why, I’ve just noticed it on menus everywhere.
Yes I hope our paths do cross. I feel we are destined to meet.
comment in the spam filter again, LOL
This video has so many different kinds of good :
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Cripes!! That’s amazing. Love the landscape, although it looks fairly bleak at times. Thanks heaps for sharing 🙂
Julian, in all my traveling I forgot about this and haven’t got to it yet. Will do so today.
Sorry about that mate,