The Saddle Saga: Road kill on the remote Australian plains

February 8, 2023
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The Saddle Saga: Road kill on the remote Australian plains

According to British standards, Australia should be sunny and warm. On the first day from Perth, we encountered heavy rain, high winds and hail, which was surprising.

We travelled east along the gold pipeline, which carried water from Perth to the Kulgadi Gold Mine. From there, we turn south to Norseman, the last town, 700 kilometres, and the starting point of the Ayr Highway, named after Edward John Ayr, who crossed the plains in 1840. The kind of place that makes you have nightmares. “Then you can expect something.

When the mercury rises to 37 degrees Celsius through the Narrabe River, we certainly dream of cool temperatures. At these temperatures, water is the most important thing, but it is not easy to obtain. For some rest stations within 200 kilometres, we must ensure that we have adequate supplies.

Many times, the staff in the lounge will not let us get fresh water from the tap and will try to charge $7 (Australian dollars) for a 1.5-litre bottle of mineral water. Each of us drinks about 6 litres a day; it is impossible to spend 28 dollars a day. Instead, we had to fill our bottles with saltwater from the toilet sink.

The more you go towards the red centre, the lighter the landform of the homestead and the eucalyptus forest. Von Neumann contrasted the ochre ground with the bright blue sky and bony white tree trunks.

The best prospects are left until night, and the stars shine so vividly on our campfire. We were educated about the Southern Cross, and the galaxy’s spiral arms were shown to us by the Christian clergy of Koomara Retreat, who let us stay overnight and cooked us delicious barbecue.

During the retreat, we saw a wild emu. Unfortunately, it is one of the few living emus we have seen. The highway is a cemetery for native animals. The speed is too slow to avoid the turbulent streets transporting goods between east and west. Hundreds of kangaroos and wallabies were scattered on the shoulders. Sometimes, the smell of rotten flesh can be overwhelming.

We are also afraid of being the fodder for road trains, large trucks with two or more trailers, huge mining machines, or even yachts occupying two road lanes. The danger is that we will be attracted by their wakes and sucked away by their wheels.

Has always been aware of the danger of traffic. When we heard the rumble of a truck behind us, we were trying to close the road.

Another danger we are warned of is poisonous snakes, which make this desolate land their home. We saw a dead otter and several brown snakes crossing the road a few meters away from us. The brown snake is the deadliest in Australia, killing more people than anyone else. We gave them a lot of space.

The town of Ceduna marks the end of our Ayr highway. From there, we crossed the Eyre Peninsula and the York Peninsula. This route took us through undulating green landscapes and reminded me of England. Other memories of the family come from taking the ferry between the two peninsulas when we met our parents. My father met me in Perth, but my mother has not seen me for 13 months. This is a very emotional reunion.

One day later, we arrived in Adelaide. My parents followed us at a cautious distance, pretending they were not. We managed to wag our tails along the winding road from Adelaide Hills to Stirling. This is a breathtaking drive through a steep valley covered with eucalyptus trees, home to one or two koalas.

After driving 2,000 miles in 24 days, we felt very peaceful, stayed at a friend’s house, and then drove down the hill to Murray Bridge and the Mueller family, a friend of my parents. Her house overlooks the muddy Murray River. It brings water from Queensland and is the lifeblood of the agricultural community here.

The Mueller family organized a sausage fundraiser for children of war, raising $600. They also showed us the Barossa Valley and the place where their Lutheran German ancestors settled when they first arrived in South Australia in the 1830s.

We also visited Kangaroo Island. With green hills and pastures, clear blue waters, golden beaches, extraordinary rocks and an amazing number of wildlife, including seals, copper-headed snakes, spiny echidnas and penguins, this is one of the highlights of our Australian adventure.

Back to Murray Bridge, rejuvenated from the rest and Neville Mueller’s delicious steak sandwiches, we felt the temptation of the road and the finish line only 2000 kilometres away from Sydney.