A Country Mile

I was beginning to believe that the old adage, "a country mile" can also be attributed to the time taken to travel that "mile" - call it "a country hour".

We set out from Sydney in a brand new Ford Explorer, destined for Birdsville - only we were running 24 "real" hours behind schedule - and weren't sure whether we'd make our accommodation in time. Preemptory phone calls to local "authorities" had resulted in a wildly differing array of suggestions about how long this folly would take us.

"Innaminka to Birdsville mate, fifteen hours minimum, the road's shot!" said one

"Six hours on a good day buddy, but there's been a lot of rain. She's pretty slow going - say eight hours," opined another.

Just some of the reassuring approximations we'd heard from publicans, roadhouses and police stations.

We were nearly at Innaminka before I got through to the ranger.

"What about the Walkers Crossing road?" I asked, ever hopeful, referring to the feint track due west out of the South Australian outpost.

"Yair. That should be okay. Just watch out for the signs, we've had a few get lost out there already."

It was already 4pm and the bloke at the store reckoned we were mad to even try. He was adamant we should stay overnight in one of his comfy vans.

Armed with modest maps, a GPS and a few hours of local knowledge we swept out into the expanses of the Strzelecki Desert, hoping to link up with the Birdsville Track about one hundred kays south of the namesake town.

Five and a half hours later, we were sipping cold beer at one of the most famous bars in the world, telling a small but enthralled throng we made it from Innaminka in well under six hours - and in the dark!

"What were ya drivin'?" they asked.

"Brand new Ford Explorer mate," we proudly announced. "No trouble at all."

"Oh yair", "Uh huh" they murmured, craggy Akubras nodding in unison. "Nuff said"

I didn't dare tell anybody we were planning on being in Alice the next night!

Word and Pictures: Rod Eime - Gallery of Images

Related Story: "New Explorer Wins - In The End"

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