Our first morning here and the alarm struggled to rouse us at 7.30. After 2 snooze cycles I crawled out of bed, this is still the time when I feel to be descending in to a deep sleep. Our hosts were up, dressed and ready to leave. They announced that they were going to Alice Springs to select some new cattle, a mere 4 hours away, so we would be left alone for the full day. Well not quite alone, Banjo, the Rhodesian ridge back and Rottveiller cross and Julio, a fox terrier, would keep us and Lamby company. We were instructed to go for a walk and do a bit of gardening but mainly relax!
We had woken to glorious sunshine which the incredibly clear and amazingly starry sky had predicted when I’d been up to the loo in the night. Despite the sun there was still a little chill in the air but we enjoyed a pronged breakfast on the terrace using the freshly laid eggs. Although we’d been advised to go for a walk early before the flies got worse we opted to get the work completed before the heat rose which transpired to be a good decision. We spoiled ourselves at lunchtime with the remains of the purchases from our tasting tour of Hanhdorf including the super bottle of Clare Valley Reisling. Lamby did feel that we should have shared it with him!
The urge to have a little siesta had to be resisted to try to complete the time zone transition so we decided to read our books in the fly-netted veranda on rather upright chairs. One of the tasks had been to prepare one of the raised beds for the broccoli and cauliflower plants but previous experience had shown Frankie that Lamby was rather partial to fresh green plants (as well as caramelised onion relish, goats cheese curd and camembert) so we thought we’d better find some more chicken wire in preparation for planting them later in the day. This quest enabled a good root around all the different stores and bins with minimal success.
Our final place of search was the old homestead, the house on the hill, where we could also investigate the shower we would be using. This is where we would have stayed if the double bed had been easily moveable from the room at the end of the current station house where we now reside. We would have been quite happy to stay in it, despite its relative dilapidation, as it was very spacious and well equipped, including a pool table, apart from a decent bed. Whilst we didn’t find any chicken wire we did manage to lose a dog! When meandering through the rooms to the bathroom we became aware of whining and scrabbling noises. Investigation revealed that Julio had got himself stuck under the floorboards, presumably chasing the big black cat which apparently lived there but on whom I’d not yet laid eyes. He did sound to be in some distress and Roger voiced the very real concern that he could have been bitten by a snake under there and be suffering quite badly. This suggestion became more likely as he grew quieter and our concern rose.
Nearly half an hour later of calling him he bounded round the side of the house back to us as if nothing had happened but was soaking wet. Even Banjo had been getting worried but wasn’t a great deal of help, hampered somewhat by his size. He is a lovely natured dog, a ‘leaner’, with big brown soulful eyes and is very patient with Cowgirl, the newly acquired dachshund puppy whom Frankie had taken with her for the day, fortunately. She does spend most of her time playing with Julio though as he has limitless energy. We joked about him being called after the Inglesias of the same name and showed our age when Frankie commented that that was surely Enrico so we had to inform her that he was his son.
This fruitless search and retrieval of one terrier who would, no doubt, have found his own way out, had delayed the start of our walk. We were unsure of exactly the time of nightfall but knew it was pretty quick when it came and very dark on doing so. I thought it best if we took a torch with us just in case but the glorious late afternoon sunshine blocked that idea out of my head as we got ready to leave and I didn’t remember again until we were too far away to be bothered to go back for it. Banjo and Julio raced ahead, stopping occasionally to allow us to catch up. We kept to the track so as not to risk getting lost and despite the impending dusk, saw very little wildlife. We did see evidence of camels in hoof prints and droppings. The latter being quite distinctive as they are very dry, to conserve their water supplies and are, allegedly, very good for fires immediately (just in case you ever find yourself in need of some fuel in the desert)
The colours glowed magnificently in the sinking sun, every shade of red and orange imaginable paling into warm cream tones in places. This rock is very soft and water erodes an array of channels, gullies and caves in every direction. Pale green bushes and trees line the shallow crevices where the water was slightly more plentiful at times although most of these creeks are dry at present but I suspect the water is still quite near to the surface as evidenced by one particularly soggy patch which we walked through on the path. My boots have acquired that orange hue now from all the dust and sand of which, Frankie tells me, I will become sick as it permeates everything. The novelty has not yet worn off and I was secretly delighted when the Greyhound bus had stopped at Coober Pedy and we had walked across the road to get and ice cream at 5am, just after the rain. On returning to the bus I noted that my boots were caked in a film of orange mud, we’d arrived in the outback!