The remainder of my time on the farm passed in a blur of excellent bread, mushroom hunting and the usual odd jobs. I expanded my repertoire of useful skills by puttying a window (though I was thankfully spared the task of sanding it) and sharpening a chainsaw (though I wasn’t let loose with it; a wise precaution), and finally completed the bathroom – for which countless generations of other WWOOFers will thank me as they can enjoy hot showers without blasts of cold air coming in through the wall or falling through holes in the floor. I headed back to Melbourne on the evening bus, and managed to get a backpacker card and exchange my book (The Count of Monte Cristo, which weighs a good kilogram) at the excellent Spencer Street Hotel Backpackers.
My next stop was Adelaide, and I took the enticingly-named Firefly bus – which turned out to have the most unwittingly entertaining driver who turned out at every opportunity such gems as: “De reading lights are above you. Turn dem on to read your book, or if you afraid of de boogie-man he don’t come when dey on.” We arrived just before dawn, giving me a whole day to wander around prior to heading north. Due to Adelaide’s public art funding policy, the city is chock-full of various installations and it’s sometimes hard to figure our what’s art, what’s functional and what’s functional art. It does mean that there’s a surprise around every street corner though, and always something to puzzle over. The museums, galleries and botanic gardens are uniformly excellent, as I’ve come to expect from Australian cities, though the labellers have again fallen foul of the polar bear and snow leopard re-classifications. There is an entire room decked out in Morris & co. furnishings, the science wing is an actual working research lab (complete with glass partitions so you can see the scientists doing their stuff) and the local pigeons are crested with purple flashes on the wings (giving them a punky appearance).
As it turned out, the cheapest way to get up to Alice Springs was with a private tour company rather than the public bus or train. All food and an overnight stop midway was included, so I jumped at the chance and roused myself before dawn again to catch the Groovy Grape Pigeon. The desert was deceptively green (due to rain a few months earlier), and the dry salt lake we stopped at for lunch had a few inches of water in it (formerly part of the Inland Sea). As we were eating, a huge column of smoke billowed up on the horizon and a dull rumbling reached us a minute or so later – the Australian army was doing a bit of weapons testing and we found ourselves relieved that atmospheric nuclear detonations aren’t done anymore. We rolled into the opal mining town of Coober Pedy in time for sunset, dropped our bags and prepared for a night in one of the (reputed) oddest towns in Australia. More to come when I return from an Outback foray (at least three days) and get the chance to upload some photographs.