As I stared out through the windscreen across the seemingly endless stoney desert I was at a loss to understand why I couldn’t see the bore and its windmill that was supposed to be in sight. I checked the odometer, the compass, the Magellan and the 1:250,000 map. According to my calculations I should be right on the bore or be able to seed it at least.
This is where for outback travellers like myself, the HF radio and the VKS-737 network are essential travelling companions. Quickly running through a few HF channels I noticed that there wasn’t much traffic, probably because it was getting towards late afternoon and sometimes getting a channel on the right frequency can be problematic.
Anyway I decided to make a voice call, not a cell call to the Charters Towers Base Station. After going through the correct voice procedure protocols I gave the operator my location Latitude 28’16” latitude and 132’50” Longitude and asked how far I was from Coober Pedy. The operator had a bit of a laugh and told me I was way off course and should be heading roughly north east towards Latitude 29’01”, Longitude 134’45”.
Suddenly I knew where I’d gone wrong. For years I’ve resisted wearing my reading glasses and when I looked up Coober Pedy in the Gazetteer I’d recorded the coordinates for Coober Peedy in Western Australia and thats where I’d been heading, not for Coober Pedy in South Australia, my wanted destination.
I thanked the operator and felt like a proper fool as I terminated the voice call with the appropriate ‘Out’. At least now I didn’t have to be concerned about locating the bore and its windmill. It was many many miles away. Good I thought, one less thing to worry about.
Under the circumstances, I took the only action appropriate at the time. I boiled the billy and had a cup of nice sweet black tea and a couple of biscuits.
Then after resetting the Magellan with the corrector coordinates I set off slowly in the right direction, pleased that on this occasion I’d asked for directions before I went too much further. Not that I had really needed to. After all, my super accurate sense of direction, always spot on, would have soon switched in and given me a few helpful hints about an adjustment to my travelling direction. Fortunately I wasn’t on a tight schedule and time was on my side. At this point in the trip anyway.
After another hour or so cross country at a reasonably slow rate to conserve my tyres from the rocky ground I came across the remains of this old vehicle and long abandoned stock yards.
A long way ahead I could see a faint tree line and as the shadows were lengthening I decided to make for the tree line and set up camp for the night. On the way, my path was crossed by a reasonably sized Perentie, an Australian Monitor lizard, which lives in our arid regions. They can run quite fast but this bloke was just ambling along so I hopped out and grabbed this image:
These blokes are great climbers too although out here there aren’t many tall trees to climb.
After about another hour I made it to the tree line and found a nice flat spot in the lee of a small sand hill with just enough space off the rocks to set up a comfy camp.
The vertical object with the black base near the blue container on the mudguards is the aerial for the HF radio. It automatically tunes itself, a very handy attribute. The white aerial is for the citizens band radio. Very hand for vehicle to vehicle communications up to a mile or so. The HF radio on the other hand has a range of well over a thousand miles and many more in the right climatic conditions and the time of day.
Anyway, first off, I rigged up my stretcher and swag, pulled out my chair, lit the fire and contacted VKS-737. There were no messages for me and I gave my position according to my Magellan. I’d talked to the operator earlier and we had a bit of a joke about my earlier stuff up. I told him I was never truly lost but I don’t think he believed me.
After a couple of cold beers and a decent bit of tucker, I snuggled down in my swag and gave thought to what the morrow would bring. I was sure that I’d pass through Coober Pedy in the AM and make it through to the old abandoned Ghan Railway line before sunset. If all went according to plan. After all, I knew exactly where i was at the moment, where I was going tomorrow, knowing all along that as I was never, never truly lost, tomorrow would be a piece of cake.
Please stay tuned for Part three and learn how this outback adventure panned out.