14 days into our stay at Mungerannie, by day number 11 we had officially passed the benchmark for the longest period of time we had stayed in one place since commencing the trip.

I would say that the recent flooding and heavy rains this season have had a huge impact on the tourism, particularly over what should be one of the busiest times of the year – Easter long weekend. We were anticipating working our butts off for three weeks straight but unfortunately for us, it has been a struggle to push our hours just pass the requirements of one person, which is hard because obviously that means we’re only getting paid as one person. But, at the end of the day, we are having a great time and it’s all a great experience. At this stage, it looks as though we will be leaving here in about a week and venturing west pretty much straight away. It does mean for us that we will probably have to work again sooner than what we would have hoped to but we do still have a substantial amount of cash in the kitty (thankfully) that will keep us going for a while. 

Tom went to meet the mail-man for our mail delivery... who turned out to double as the Easter Bunny as well...

As we weren't working much on Easter Sunday, we were able to enjoy the day and celebrate Easter. The only catch was, we didn't have any eggs so, we had to improvise. Tom and I did a little Snickers Hunt around the hotel & campsite. I failed miserably at preparing a hunt for Tom who found his prize before he even finished reading the first riddle :( Looks like I might need to be taught a few riddle writing lessons from Tom, who somehow managed to have me scratching my head for at least half an hour...

This clue was very delicately (and sneakily) tucked underneath the handle of the fire hydrant...
Tick, tock... my Snickers is melting...

Working at Mungerannie has so far been a lot of fun. Tom has had a great chance to put a few of his projects together that he’s been scheming up for a while. Phil's had issues with rats in the area and they seem to be working very hard at taking over the place.

While I find myself tip toeing around the place of an evening, the boys are in their element coming up with different conTRAPtions. Aside from your good old mouse / rat trap which is capturing a steady one per night, Tom and Phil have been coming up with their own little devices to get these little suckers.

 This is Tom's trap. It's a dual trap with the entrances at each end. The bait sits right inside the trap, furthest from the entry door and when they touch the lever near the trap, it releases the door on a spring and shuts the door behind them. Then, where you see those little blue bits at the front are the doors to let them out into a drum where they are given a not-so-gentle whack on the head with a plank of wood. This trap is catching at least one a night, if not more. He's tried two different baits - pork fat and chocolate... both baits have resulted in great success!

Phil's trap was quite different but (thankfully) still had the same result...

As you can see, I'm working very hard and Tom is busy taking photos... ;)

As you can see, Tom is working very hard and I am busy taking photos...

We are having a great time. It is a bit disappointing that there just aren't enough people here to warrant more hours but hey, that's just how the cookie crumbles I guess. We are still having a great time and we are being looked after very well and we are finding it very tough having to sit at the bar enjoying a few cold ones while we're not working. This is an experience we'll never forget but when the time does come for us to move on... I'm certainly not going to miss those bloody rats.


Could we possibly have found a more fitting location to celebrate our 100th campsite? One week down at Mungerannie with two (possibly three) more to go. And.... the big question is, What's it like?

Two words can sum up our first week at Mungerannie Hotel...

Bloody Fantastic!!!

We couldn't possibly have stumbled across a better place to work for three weeks. Our managers, Pam and Phil are really great and we get along with them really well. The pub itself is damn cool, with dusty old Akubras that once belonged to drovers, stationhands & workers in the area hang from the ceiling, with timber walls and floors giving it a true rustic feeling and all ice cold drinks are served in their respective can or bottle snug tight in a stubbie cooler.  Mungerannie Hotel is, without a doubt, a REAL remote outback Aussie pub. Thankfully too, even though we don't have mobile phone range up here, Pam & Phil have been nice enough to give us access to their internet connection. So, we're back on board for blogging each week of our Mungerannie adventure.

Meet Phil...

Just incase you don't believe me or have zero idea what I mean when I say 'remote'...

(A) is Birsdville, QLD. (B) is Marree, SA. The blue line is 520km long and that is the Birdsville Track.

Mungerannie is about 220kms north of Marree (B).

Surrrounding Mungerannie are 4 deserts - the Simpson Desert, the Tirari Desert, the Sturt Stony Desert and the Strzelecki Desert.

There is lucky to be 30 people living within a 100km radius from where we are.

Our closest medical centre is 3 hours down the track in Marree.

All mail delivered via Port Augusta by the Monday will (hopefully) reach us by the Thursday. 

One of our neighbouring Cattle Stations' driveway is 45kms long.

Even on the nicest of days, a dust storm could hit us within one minute and we wouldn't be able to see more than 2metres in front of us.

At night time, all you can hear are the dingoes howling, the trees swaying when the wind picks up and the occasional hum of our generator. And the entire sky just lights up with stars and when the moon's out it shines bright enough to guide you to your camp without a torch. 

First day of work... here we come...

So, while the actual place may pass the test. What about the work?

This week Tom and I have only worked the hours of one person. We've prep & clean the place ready for (hopefully) the onslaught of folk coming through next week during Easter & School Holidays. Our workload consists of pretty much anything that needs to be done around the place. That includes prepping & plating & cleaning in the kitchen, restocking & serving in the bar, cleaning the bar & dining room area, restocking food supplies, general maintenance, cleaning & turning over the accommodation rooms and cleaning the toilets & shower amenities.

I was fine with the concept of having to clean up someone else's mess in the toilets, providing I was supplied with appropriate protective gloves (although if it were up to me, it'd be more like - full body suit, mask, goggles and gloves) . Cleaning the toilets for the first time went along relatively smoothly to start off with. We cleaned the Ladies with no troubles. But Pam had warned us that the Mens is ALWAYS worse than the Ladies.

She was right.

And this theory has been proven time and again the more we clean. I was ok with it all until I first entered the Mens toilets and saw that god awful stainless steel trunk mounted to the wall with little (what looked like) funny shaped tea light candles along the bottom.

Urgh!! Urinals.

I cleaned and flushed my first ever urinal with a very unimpressed look on my face. (And I'm sure that if I had a mirror staring at me right now as I write about them, I'm quite sure I'm pulling the same Unimpressed-Urinal face once again). But, it has to be done. Get in, get out and get it all over and done with... until the next day that is.

Thanks to Pam's five star cooking efforts, we are being fed VERY well - 

Dinner # 1 - Barramundi, Chips & Salad
Dinner # 2 - Chicken Wings & Vegies
Dinner # 3 - Veal Schnitzel & Salad
Dinner # 4 - T-Bone steak & Salad

Dinner # 5 - Tuna Mornay
Dinner # 6 - Pork steaks with Bush plum sauce & Salad 

Tom just had to get a photo of me with my mouth VERY full.

Thanks to the artesian basin we're sitting on at Mungerannie, we have our very own thermal hot springs pool. I'm still having trouble getting used to the green algae on the base of the pool, but we have both been in for a dip. Something tells me Tom will be in there more than me...

There's a very unwelcome ants nest right in the middle of our campsite. Evil Tom got busy with the Ant Rid on their nests. Personally, I think he's begun a losing battle but it's keeping him very entertained :) 
One of Tom Kruse's old trucks.

Just waiting for the bus (a council bus has never driven down the Birdsville Track).

We're really looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead and the collection of people we are bound to meet during our time at Mungerannie. It's a great place to be and we're really enjoying ourselves. Although, we might be singing a different tune once we get smashed with all of the travellers next week... we'll just have to wait and see.

CAMPSITE # 99 - The Birsdville Track, SA

It was time to begin the Birdsville Track. One of the routes that we had on our original “Must Do” list was about to be ‘done’. To our delight, when we arrived at the beginning of the track, located in Marree, we were greeted by a rather pleasant surprise. All of this time, the northern end of the Birdsville track had been closed, that’s why we couldn’t loop around from Alice Springs and why we had been backtracking our path over the last two weeks. But finally, it was open. With two days up our sleeves until we had to be at Mungerannie, Tom and I entertained a rather daring thought. To spend that night part of the way up the track and then take the entire following day to drive all 350 additional kilometres to Birdsville, stay in Birdsville that night and then head back down the track to Mungerannie in the morning and be there for our start by 10am. And while you may think, 350kms would only take a few hours... think again, the Birdsville Track certainly is not your run of the mill gravel road.
It was going to be very tight, and we knew that but we were so desperate to do the track. We were definitely doing the entire Birdsville track, it was just a matter of when. So, our way of thinking was if we got it out of the way before we started working then we could make a beeline to the Nullarbor Plain to head west once we’d finished the work.
It was all well and good in theory until...

Tom did let the tyres down in Marree before we started the track,
I have evidence...

We had our very first flat tyre. For blogging purposes, I would love to tell you this huge elaborate life-threatening story where we were clinging on for dear life but unfortunately it was more like...
  • Pulled up 100metres before our designated campsite at Coopers Crossing to check out the old barge that Tom Kruse (the Birdsville Track Mailman from 1936 - 1957) had sunk while trying to transport loads across a flooded Coopers Creek.
  • Went to get back in the car and noticed the rear left tyre was deflating at a rather consistent pace.
  • Drove the 100metres to camp at a very slow and steady pace.
  • Chose a campsite.
  • Tom changed tyre. Amy watched & took photos.

It was very hard work. I was sweating like a pig.
The tyre part was no biggie, particularly for me. In times like these, I think it’s safe to say that I am pretty bloody useless. It’s funny though because I think if Tom wasn’t there and I had to do it myself, I would figure out what to do and how to do it although, it would take me about six times longer. I am a self confessed useless mechanic’s aid. I’m more of a hindrance than a help. I’ve learnt that I should not talk nor should I ask questions as 99.9% of the time they are either a) completely irrelevant or b) totally useless. I should just stand clear of the area and assist when asked to do so. I am totally ok with this arrangement.

I think Tom was shocked at my ignorance when I asked him if rather than changing the tyre, can’t we just blow it up again?  Even I realised how stupid I was right after I said it. But I have an excuse,  I don’t like to get that dirty oily grease stuff all over my hands. Just like how Tom is with making the bed, it’s just not my department.

Site : Coopers Creek Crossing
Rating : 7 / 20
Facilities : The campsite itself was pretty minimal. We were very glad to be camped there when we were and not a few weeks ago because, judging by our surroundings and the water level indicators, the Troopie would have been swimming in at least waist deep water back then. There is a toilet but I didn't even dare to enter.

CAMPSITES # 97 & 98 - A farewell to civilisation

We had to give in. As much as we would have preferred to cut ourselves off from civilisation, we had to have just that one last fix. Even though Leigh Creek was one hour out of our way in the absolute wrong direction from Mungerannie, it was the only town in the area that offered phone & internet access.  So, from Maree we headed 120kms south to Leigh Creek. We would then travel back through Maree to make our way up along the Birdsville Track to Mungerannie.

The Maree pub... heart of the Oodnadatta, Birdville & Strezleiki tracks

We were originally umming and ahhing whether or not we should go but I gave us one more reason to head towards civilisation. I found three mysterious lumps on my left ear. Somehow, when you manage to find one ... it snowballs until you find two more and then you start thinking, how long have they been there? Have they been there all of this time and I just hadn't noticed? Or, had my recent excessive exposure to the sun over the last 6 months resulted in skin cancers on my ear? They were only tiny and if it was something that needed to be taken out, I'd much rather have preferred to have it seen to before they grew to a rather painful size. 

Thankfully, it was a false alarm & they were just clogged glands which are apparently quite common to find in the ear. But it has certainly made Tom and I a lot more conscience of the possible harm all of this exposure to the sun could be doing to our skin. I guess, gone are the days were we can head out for an hour or two without bothering to slip, slop & slap. And coming from me, the worlds most useless sunscreen applier, that's certainly a big call. 

The town of Leigh Creek is right in the heart of a major coal mining operation. The whole town has that 'custom built' feeling to it. And it is quite strange to find such a heavily built up community so far away from anywhere else.

Tom and I camped up at Leigh Creek for four nights. Because it was cheap and we had another few days after that to make our way to Mungerannie where we would have zero mobile or internet reception. We both figured it would be quite a nice break, away from everything and everyone just us, the roadhouse and all of the travellers passing through.

We have to let our 'healthy' guard down every now & then, particularly when we have a big stash of fresh dates from Coward Springs just crying out to be made into a Sticky Date Pudding...

Site : Leigh Creek Caravan Park
Rating : 6 / 20
Facilities : Clean toilets & free showers in a shipping container. No shade. Flat Pitch. 

We demoted ourselves. After having a chat to the barman in the pub at Copley (just 5kms for Leigh Creek) he told us that we could set up camp out the back... for dirt cheap too!!

Site : Copley Hotel Caravan Park
Rating : 7 / 20
Facilities : While it may infact double as the pub's carpark... this place is dirt cheap at $10 for a POWERED site! Clean bathrooms. And the best bit - tap beer is just a stumble away.


CAMPSITE # 96 - Coward Springs Cup

After we journeyed along a rather bumpy Oodnadatta track from the Pink Roadhouse and just beyond William Creek, we were pretty ready to start working and stop spending. Then we realised how pathetic we were being – were we really looking forward to WORKING?! Perhaps we were indirectly looking forward to working because we knew that it would mean we would be EARNING for the first time in 6 months!!
Of course, we had to stop in to the William Creek Pub...

This 'R3' was fired from Woomera in 1971 & was the last to be launched before the project was terminated. The satellite launched is expected to remain in orbit until 2071. These are the parts of the first main fuel tank and it wasn't recovered until 1990 near Anna Creek Station, SA.

Once we both snapped ourselves out of that stupid way of thinking, we realised that we shouldn’t just find ourselves wishing the next week away but rather to enjoy the journey along the way.
After counting down the last few km’s until we reached it, we finally turned into Coward Springs. We really were hoping for a cheap night, I mean we were in the middle of bloody nowhere, how much could it really cost? $20 for a night for two people is actually quite ok considering we had hot showers and toilets except we were feeling rather deflated about the price because we were desperate to keep costs down.

After allowing exhaustion and laziness to take over, we decided to give in and pay up for the night. That very moment was a true turning point for us. This was without a doubt one of the best decisions we have made during the course of the entire trip. If you are driving the Oodnadatta Track, DO NOT PASS COWARD SPRINGS. Do yourself a favour and stay at one of the most sustainable, resourceful campsites in the whole of Australia.
We realised how much the last two weeks had been all go, go, go. Racing up to Ayers Rock and back really took it out of us. We realised that by staying at the super remote Cowards Springs for the next three nights guaranteed us of spending no more than $20 a day. $20 compared to our daily average over the last two weeks of $95 would definitely give the back pocket a bit of a rest.

So, why do we recommend this desert campsite with so much conviction? Think of those thriller movies where the bad guy drops the good guy off in the middle of the desert. After he’s there for a few days, so thirsty that he’s right on the verge of death, until up ahead on the horizon he sees a desert oasis with beautiful people sipping ice cold cocktails out of oversized fancy chilled glasses while frolicking in and out of the overflowing fountain of mineral spring water surrounded by giant, shady palm trees. Fortunately for us however, Coward Springs was no mirage. (Although the beautiful people with cocktails may have been a bit of a stretch).

I must admit that I’m quite pathetic when it comes to swimming in something that I can’t see the bottom of (or even 20cms below). Once Tom had jumped in as my crash test dummy and confirmed there were no water snakes or dead bodies, I was good to go. Having the ‘spa’ available for a refreshing dip whenever we felt our body temperature reaching anywhere near remotely beyond warm, considering our location, was more than magnificent.

And just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any better... During the late 1800’s, Afghans were employed in Australia to carry out building (now referred to as) “The Old Ghan Railway”. We can thank the Afghans for the wild camels that are still found amongst our Australian deserts as once their duties were completed, the cost of shipping the camels home was money not very well spent.
Another aspect Coward Springs can certainly thank the Afghans for introducing to Australia is the Date Palms. It took a little while for us to twig but there are actually a very friendly number of fully grown date palms scattered around the campsite. Ever picked a date straight off its palm and placed it straight into your mouth? Well these little fresh & juicy gems almost taste better than chocolate and make those dates you buy in packets taste like leather.
We made a new friend while at Coward Springs, Denise and her little puppy, Sparks. Denise and Sparks are on a journey to find their new home, wherever it may be. And if they just so happen to take a year to do so, well what a shame they may just have to continue to explore this beautiful country of ours in the meantime.

One thing staying in the desert proves is that you have way too much time on your hands. With our two bicycles, Tom, Denise and I all entered ourselves as contestants in the Coward Springs Cup, a pre-famous bike racing event created by us. And of course, we needed Sparks as race official and judge to oversee the event ensuring that no illegal supplements/enhancements we taken and that each contestant followed the race course without any shortcuts (yes, I was heavily reprimanded and had to cop the wrath of Sparks when I was getting my butt royally kicked by Tom and decided to take a little unethical super-shortcut).

We knew it within the first ten minutes of our arrival. Coward Springs has now been awarded first prize in “Our favourite paid campsite to date”. Step aside Pebbly Beach NSW, this desert oasis has taken over.

Site :  Coward Springs Camping Ground
Rating : 17 / 20
Facilities : Boil your own hot water for the loveliest mineral hot water shower. They are drop dunnies but they are the cleanest, least smelliest drop dunnies I have ever seen. Just 300metres off the Oodnadatta Track between William Creek & Maree. Natural springs spa with a continual temperature of 22 degrees. Loads of shady sites. Beautiful sunrise & sunset views.

Satay Chicken & Vegies with couscous and roast pumpkin

The shower blocks only resident...


CAMPSITE # 95 - The never ending cycle

Not surprisingly, the 2.5 hours of 'back pedalling' went
a) a lot quicker then expected and

b) by without really noticing very much that we'd been there, done that along the same road. This would be thanks to the fact that a lot of the terrain out there is generally a replica of the exact same thing you'd been seeing for the last 500kms already travelled.

We pulled in at a highway Rest Area to compete with the flies and prepare a little something for lunch. Not long after our arrival, we were joined by some madman on a bicycle, Andy. While you may think that calling some random on a bike a madman is quite insulting, I get the feeling that he might even agree with me. Andy is from Liverpool, England. He actually began his trip in Stone, UK just 20 miles from Tom's home. He was initially heading through Europe on route to Nepal except once he reached his final destination, he decided to spice things up a little and upgrade his finishing point to be, New Zealand... you know, no biggie. ;)

I couldn't help but overload Andy with all of the cold things we had on hand in the fridge. After bombarding him with cold drinking water, apples and Cadbury chocolate, anyone would have thought I thought he had never eaten before. 
We sat chatting with our new friend for about 20 minutes enjoying a rather impromptu chat. We have since agreed to hopefully meet up again for a beer in the UK this Christmas but something tells me it could very easily turn into a few more than just one beer.

You can have a read of Andy's adventures by visiting his blog-

As the Oodnadatta track had just been reopened within the last few days, we were very conscience of taking all appropriate safety precautions, especially considering there was no mobile reception all 616km to Maree. The track itself starts in Marla (which is just off the Stuart Highway which runs North/South from Coober Pedy to Alice Springs) and travels South-West and finishes in Maree (which is where the Birdsville Track begins).

In preparation,we listed some of the "Must Do's & Bring's" when driving a track like this. No doubt the one thing you forget to bring or didn't think you'd need is the thing you'll need in times of despair...
1.     Deflate tyres to the appropriate pressure. Carry tyre gauge & pump.
2.     Carry adequate fuel, water and food.
3.     At least one spare tyre and jack.
4.     First Aid Kit
5.     UHF - and know the local emergency channel
6.     Shovel, Axe & toolkit
7.     Spare belts, hoses, radiator watering coolant, oil & spare filters & spare fuses
8.     Torch with spare batteries
9.     A Map and/or GPS
10. Notify someone of your whereabouts and intentions
No doubt we've left a few things off the necessities list but thankfully for us, we only needed to consult point #2 all of the way to Oodnadatta. Aside from a couple of knee high creek crossings, the 200kms from Marla to Oodnadatta was surprisingly tame. Unless of course, you are a roadtrain and you find yourself stuck in one of the crossings and have to wait for a tractor to come and push you out. 

We were glad to finally arrive at the iconic Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta which was to be our camp for the night. The owners had certainly done a great job at putting the word out about this place, I guess having something bright pink in the middle of nowhere would make almost anything stand out. If there's one thing about the Pink Roadhouse it's certainly not boring. To find a place in the town labelled 'Australia's Hottest & Driest' where everything is painted an outstanding pale pink colour certainly gets your attention. Yep, from the wheelie bins to the petrol bowsers all the way to the very (not-so) useful pink canoe available for hire, you instantly know it's going to be an experience like no other. 

Walking into the place is like morphing into the 50's with the black and white diamond tiling and the giant glittering juke box, I was expecting to find someone standing behind the counter dressed as Olivia Newton-John. Thankfully however, there were no pink ladies jackets and leather pants. Just a hell of a lot of paraphernalia with the Pink Roadhouse pictured all over it. I couldn't help myself, I gave into pink-temptation and got sucked into to all of the touristy crap. Now, tucked away in a safe and clean hiding place until the end of the trip, I have a full length black apron with a caricature of  "The Pink Roadhouse, Oodnadatta" tastelessly stamped across the front. And I love it! I just loved the thought of cooking all of those future meals and donning my 'Oonie' Apron, reminding myself of where we'd been and the journey we went on to get to that incredible place.