The morning rise was an early one, actually before sunrise. We had to be on the bus by 6am as we had almost 1000km to cover. Cereal was munched, tea drunk and we said our farewells to Mary while trying to stop the pigs making off with our bags or getting onto the coach and eating the snack food.
Our trek today would involve few stops, only at stations and for the bush toilet. There are no towns between Boulia and Alice Springs, so we had to ensure everything was ship shape (or bus shape) and off we went, heading through the Simpson Desert, Australia’s 4th largest desert – it covers 2.4% of Oz’s entire landmass.
By now, some of the passengers were making an effort to sing G’day, G’day and I made an effort not to strangle them. It was hard to sleep as Laurie had the bus swinging from side to side all over the road, trying to get the smoothest and safest track through the gravel. After our morning potty break, we watched MI:3 with a pause as we stopped at the border to the Northern Territory at 9:10. Or 8:40 once we’d put our watches back.
Four kilometres further on, we pulled in at Tobermory Station for refreshments. This is one active station with 1.8 million acres and 30,000 head of cattle. And one gorgeous big horse.
Our next stop was for photos of a 5m high 150-year-old termite mound. I won’t go on about how impressive termites are – dig back through the archives to my day at Kakadu for all that!
One more bush toilet break and Laurie popped on The Bone Collector as he continued to weave and judder us around on the unpaved highway.
There was one more stop. This one unscheduled. At around 3pm, a harsh “buzz” could be heard from the dashboard and Laurie pulled over. He stood up, faced us all, said “shit” and walked out top open up the engine compartment at the rear of the bus.
It seemed that the alternator was shot. The aircon had failed a few minutes earlier, but still the battery power was dropping at an alarming rate, hence the warning buzzer. Fortunately, we had two things with us – a spare alternator and a Scotsman who knew about engines.
Half an hour later, having fitted the spare part and topped the battery up with water, we were on our way and the buzzer stopped. The aircon, though, was dead. Thankfully, today was cooler than the previous day and it was also late afternoon so the sun was dropping. Regardless, we all drank more water in those last few hours and we had in the previous day. Caps and leaflets were waved as fans and it was with a cheer that we greeted the “Welcome to Alice Springs” sign.
Laurie hopped out on the outskirts of town to be replaced by a local driver who took us to our various hostels (I’m in Melanka’s). After a shower and a change, we met up again at Annie’s for dinner. Kangaroo curry – mmmmm! More beer, more drinking games and then bed at 1:30am. I have a whole day in Alice to kill before getting on another bus for a 3-day camping trip around Uluru.
Just so I have it on here, the coach company who took me from Cairns to Alice Springs was Desert Venturer, part of Down Under Tours.