Monday, 14 November 2011

12/11/11 Day 4 - Ceduna-Redhill

This was another long hot day on virtually flat roads.  We set off early, about 5.30, again driving into the sun.  This section was very largely treeless, desert.  There was the occasional vehicle passing us, but mostly it was empty road for as far as we could see. 

We got to the Nullabor roadhouse to refill with fuel, and I noticed a sign on the petrol pump stating driver's licence would be taken prior to refuelling. For some reason I thought this referred to cctv taking the licence plate number from the vehicle, but when I went to the kiosk, the attendant said he needed Jim's driver's licence, before the pump would dispense fuel.  We supplied this, and the attendant said lots of customers were really angry about this requirement, and the belligerent ones said it was an illegal requirement etc.  I had quite a conversation with him about this.  In some states in both Australia and the USA, it is illegal to require a driver's licence prior to supplyng fuel, but in Southern Australia, it is legal.  Basically, until this requirement was imposed, they had a lot of people driving away without paying for their fuel. 

The Nullabor roadhouse is in an area with no other facilities for about 100miles each direction, so is an essential facility.  Unsurprisingly prices were very high.  Unleaded petrol was $2.09 a litre.  A pint of milk was $2 (we got 4 pints for $2 in Melbourne).  The attendant said some customers were abusive because prices were high, but if I had owned/worked in this roadhouse, I would have expected to be well rewarded to work in such an arid, isolated area.  I think this is a case of "you get what you pay for" and the consequences of the roadhouse closing would be the loss of a life-saving service.  I found the attendant to be articulate, and helpful, but the conversation showed he was very familiar with dealing with upset customers.

I did not note the price of the bottled water, but this was another area of contention.  The signs in the toilet clearly stated the water was not potable, and obviously many customers wanted water, but were not prepared to pay for it.  Given the precious requirement requirement for water in this area, and the difficulties in maintaining a constant supply (major maintenance for a pipeline across desert, or extensive road transportation of other supplies), I think you just have to be prepared to pay for it.

An interesting road sign was the one for the Royal Flying Doctor Service Emergency Airstrip.  The airstrip is the road.  There are large yellow signs advising road users that the airstrip is ahead, and the start is indicated by white stripes painted across the road - somewhat like a pedestrian crossing.  The RFDS was the creation of Revd John Flynn, who ministered to isolated communities in the outback.  He had been given the idea by an Australian pilot in 1917 on his way to WW1, who thought the new technology of aeroplanes would be ideal for covering large distances in the Outback in emergencies.  This pilot, Clifford Peel, was killed in the final months of the war.  Then Revd Flynn worked with Alfred Traeger, an Adelaide engineer and radio buff to develop a pedal powered wireless that could be used in the outback to call for help.  In 1928 a single airplane was put into service, leased from the fledgling Qantas.  In 1996 the RFDS undertook 14,000 evacuations, and conducted 4,500 remote health care clinics and averaged 82 flights a day around Australia.  Well done Revd Flynn!  His portrait is on the $20 note.
RFDS sign at the start of 90 mile straight (note the sun behind me)

RFDS sign at the other end of the road two days later (note sun on face)

Distance travelled - 620k

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