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.