The War on Salt

Leaving Quorn after the camel shenanigans, the tour began a long (~600km) stretch of driving North to our next major stop, a place called Coober Pedy.

There wasn’t much to do for the first part of the day but sit back in the bus and enjoy the scenery as it rolled by. Surprisingly, there was still some formations to be spotted amongst the land as it wasn’t entirely flat, barren terrain.

Eventually we made a stop to stretch our legs and find lunch in the tiny village of Woomera. Woomera exists as a Military town, supporting nearby rocket testing and munitions fields.

In the main townsite of Woomera they have a small rocket and artillery field museum, where we walked around while our burger lunch was being prepared. Being such an inhospitable and empty environment allows the military to test all sorts of things here, rockets being the primary choice.

Once our short wander around had finished and a tasty giant burger lunch had been consumed, we packed back onto the bus for more driving. Another stop appeared beside our bus without too much delay though, as a great white expanse shimmered in the distance.

South Australia, along with many other places in the Outback, are home to large salt pans. While they aren’t the largest in the world (Bolivia holds that distinction), the salt pans here are still suitably immense. And this was a small one that we stopped at to have some fun. First we had to walk there. And be careful on our way to the lake not to touch anything.

A large amount of the land in South Australia seems to be used for military testing. So you want to be careful what you pick up or step on. It’s not just the wildlife or the scorching sun and parched landscape that will kill you here, there might also be unexploded ordinance to avoid as well! You even had to be mindful of what you stepped over – we got to cross the lone railroad track in the area as well. This would be what the mighty Ghan passenger train takes on it’s journey from Adelaide to Alice Springs and on to Darwin.

Thankfully, crossing the single track is pretty easy as there aren’t a lot of trains in the area.

Once we got onto the salt pan itself, I got straight to work.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it tastes like salt! But it was also surprisingly moist salt when I broke off a piece from the ground. The ground itself is fully hardened salt. It is rock hard. You can jump up and down and not leave an impression or break through. Only by finding small pieces could you break some off and even that took effort. I thought it would be much easier! I guess I had always pictured salt as much more akin to sand – billions of individual crystals that can be picked up and tossed about. Not a rock hard textured surface.

After tasting my salt lick, I took in the view of the salt pan before me. Lots of bright white. When it fills with water (which happens from time to time), salt pans become like giant mirrors – incredibly flat and reflect, also making for fun pictures because the layer of water tends to be fairly shallow.

But for now we could still have lots of fun with forced-perspective pictures. This is Lauren, a frienemy I made from the UK, holding Woody (our tutu-ed tour guide) in the palm of her hand.

After lots of fun on the salt we made our way back towards our bus, but not before I snapped one last shot of the place. It’s a pretty unique and memorable spot.

On the track back we got to see a little reminder of the difficulties of driving offroad here. This van didn’t survive the trip, but hopefully it’s occupants got out okay.

Once we were back on the bus we settled in for more driving as we continued towards Coober Pedy. There were still a few hundreds of kilometers to traverse before we could call it a day.

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