Mount Sarah Station – Oodnadatta –  near Algebuckinna

Distance: Approx.  130kms

After an amazing unscheduled rest day at Mount Sarah Station we slowly packed up our carts and farm fresh treats. We were seriously dragging our feet…not wanting to leave what seemed to be paradise after the rigours of 8 weeks on the road.

We hadn’t planned to take a day off but after seeing Morgan have the time of her life playing with Lucy, George and Jack (and the chickens, ponies, ducks, dogs, etc) we couldn’t bear to drag her away the previous day. With heavy bellies and heavy hearts, we finally trundled down the road to Oodnadatta.

 This left us with a hefty 80kms to knock over in 3 days. And we HAD to complete in by then…Why? Because for the first time in my life my parents were going to visit me on an expedition! O-ma and O-pa were coming to town with home made cookies and fresh fruit and wouldn’t take any excuses for us being late.

All the other expeditions that I’ve done have not allowed for people to visit. Our rules had been strict – completely unsupported . Plus the middle of the ocean or Antarctica are definitely not places you can just visit. So my parents jumped at the chance to be involved in the expedition first hand albeit for only a few days.

Fueled by Super mum Kirsty’s yummy food we knocked over our biggest day yet. 31kms.

Its been interesting the people that you meet (in their cars), out here on the dirt Outback roads.  Many are grey nomads (retirees), footloose and fancy free gen Y’s on a break from the city or on a gap year or families with many annoyed teenagers who cannot access the latest internet sensation, instagram or youtube as they are – gasp – out of wifi and cell reception.

It started like many other encounters ….bloke pulling up with his HUGE caravan and disinterested son also in tow. ‘What on earth are you doing?  Why on earth are you doing it??? You have a one year old??! AND this was a NEW one, “so are you on the government??!”  Both Lauren and I looked at each other as the question sunk in.  Where we on the dole?? Where we homeless vagabonds?? Where we dirty hippies. NO!  (Well dirty hippies or at least dirty hipsters maybe).

We had never taken a handout from anyone.  Lauren was a seasoned corporate exec with a masters degree – I less so but had done a few things in my life as well.  Seriously, it never ceases to astound me.  Some people just get adventure and others just don’t.  A trip like this takes YEARS of financial sacrifice, organization, guts and hard work – not sitting around on your butt or government dole blugging.  Unbelievable.

All we could do was laugh, shake our heads, continue on on OUR journey regardless if anyone else understood our reasons why and Cam William’s homemade sausages (seriously the best snags I have ever eaten) helped us put this quickly behind us.

The next two days went by without incident until we saw a big white mine equipped 4WD bearing down on us 14kms from Oodnadatta. Before the vehicle could come to a complete stop, the passenger door burst opened and out jumped 5ft and 2 inches of pure Asian dynamo. My mum.

With tears streaming down her face, Mum came running towards me.

I ran towards her.

She continued running…straight past me and picked up Morgan.

“Morgan, Morgan I’ve missed you so much!!”

Fair enough…I guess I should have expected that. After having put them through the ringer a few times on the last expeditions it was clear where I stood on the pecking order. Morgan was number one and I a distant third. And to tell the truth I would’t want it any other way.

We spent the next two days, eating, laughing and catching up with my parents in Oodnadatta – the hottest and driest town in Australia. Their visit felt like a breath of fresh air and we found ourselves happy as clams. (Our only concern was that mum and dad might steal off with Morgan in the middle of the night to take her back to Sydney.)
The days went past too quick and before long with many a tear from Morgan. O-ma and O-pa left us on our own again. The isolation dropped down on us like a tonne of bricks. That brief convalescence had brought a piece of home to the outback and when they left, that piece left with them. The weight of our task settled on us again like a familiar burden and we struggled to comprehend how much of the trip we still had left. 800km to go. And it was heating up.

On the after noon of their departure we made friends with a cyclist, Eli, who’d ridden up the Oodnadatta track, our intended route. Whilst treating him to a dinner of dhal we were astounded to hear about the mileage that he could cover. 130km in day?! Our next leg to William Creek was a hefty 205kms and we’d budgeted 9days for it and Eli had ridden this in 2 days!

Maybe we should have biked?

The next day we left Oodnadatta and with our departure it seemed that Summer had decided to arrive early. 38degrees C (100 deg F). A steady tailwind blew but unfortunately the wind was heated like a blast from an open oven door. Bread left out in the open would crisp to toast in a matter of a few minutes.

What was this place?

The next day it got worse. We experienced the hottest day to date 41 deg C (106F). With that our tempers blew up and our water consumption skyrocketed. We bickered and fought. We drank a full 22L water jerry in 24hrs and Morgan was unable to sleep in the tent let alone nap in her cart.

By midday we’d swig from our water bottles and the water was almost too hot to drink. Lauren came up with the novel idea of putting peppermint tea bags in our drink bottles to at least make ourselves feel like we had made the choice to drink a warm drink.

By midnight the temperatures still felt like they sat in the thirties (approx. 89 deg F) and we struggled to rest.. Worst of all was seeing Morgan starting to panic that she couldn’t cool down. Only the hourly application of cold towels to here neck kept the panic at bay. We prayed for a break in the weather and the winds to cool down.

Doubt flooded into our minds. Had we left this trip too late? Had my illness prior to departure caused us to have missed our weather window? Was summer here now?

Can we complete this trip?
At the moment, we have too many questions and no answers.

Tomorrow we try for Algebuckinna bridge and perhaps we’ll find some answers there or at the very least some water to jump into.