Our goal was to depart Marla in Van 2 at 5 am and make the most of the cool running conditions in the morning. We left at 5.20 – not too late. It was still night, stars blazing in a moonless sky. Pranava Gigja eagerly grasped the torch and headed off into the darkness before I knew he had left. I started the van, zeroed the trip meter, and headed into the darkness. We could see Pranava's torch blazing in the blackness, a pinprick of light that grew larger as we approached. It brought to mind the legend of Prometheus; the Greek god who brought down light to humanity from the heavens.
Pranava declared that his run had been his best experience so far. Prabuddha Nicol ran next ...
... he took the extra precaution of wearing a head lamp to supplement the flame of the Peace Torch.
We are now on the Oodnadatta Track, a dirt road hundreds of kilometres long. We immediately noted the corrugations in the surface: the van shook and rattled and seemed in danger of falling apart. Driving became a constant task of adjusting speed and choosing the smoothest part of the road.
I ran last out of the five of us to run.
Whispy cirrus clouds appeared as the dawn slowly broke.
A silvery sheen spread across the dry desert grasses as I padded along the stony track.
A soft haze diffused the orb of the sun as it rose.
Pranava pointed out a feathery cloud that looked like an angel. I noted it was pointing the direction for the runners to go: southeast.
As we took it in turn to head out on our second run legs, the daylight had well and truly arrived.
On the rare occasions a vehicle passed by, it was heralded by a huge dust cloud. Fortunately the considerate drivers dropped to a sedate non-dust-raising speed when they came near a runner.
A few cows observed us along the track. Usually they turned tail and ran when we got too close. Quite a few were young calves, eyeing us curiously before sprinting off.
Pale kangaroos could be seen in the middle distance, hopping purposefully across the desert plain.
It was remarkable how much the landscape changed yet remained the same. From trees to no trees; ...
... hills to flat plains sprawling for miles; from empty horizons ...
... to ragged hills and mountain ranges; the variety in the scenery continued to surprise.
Dhiraja McBryde, an unassuming yet accomplished ultra runner, got the job done in his customary calm and quiet fashion.
Prabhakar Street favoured 3 kilometre running stints, but somehow we caught up with him too late twice in a row. The first time he had completed an extra kilometre before we arrived. The second time he was at 3.7 km; we offered him the opportunity to complete a second 4 km, but Prabhakar gratefully declined!
As the day wore on, the seats in our van assumed a ever-increasing degree of recline.
Pranava went out for his final run in his broad brimmed straw hat, blue bandana tied about his neck. He looked a little like an overgrown cub scout. Pity we don't get achievement badges for running the Oodnadatta Track! I remember being a cub, and looking with envy at the sleeve full of badges some boys sported.
At exactly seventy-seven kilometres, we found the marker left by the next team, indicating that our running was over for the day. Now all that remained was to drive 130 bumpy kilometres to the remote town of Oodnadatta, which billed itself as “Australia's Hottest and Driest Town”. Upon arriving, I felt no need to question that claim!
But first, we had to drive over the section of track being run by our girls team, who were having some adventures of their own ...
We hit the track! And we hit in in style … well kind of. We all again left at 5 am and started our slow journey along one of Australia’s iconic roads. The Oodnadatta Track, going where the Peace Run has never gone before … and might possilbly never go again. We took it nice and slow to get to our start location, as it was still pre dawn and animals (mostly kangaroos) like to jump out at cars around this time. We only encountered one, but we were going so slowly we could slow even more and just let it run in front of us for a while.
Our first runner (Niribili) started running around 7.45 am – yes that is 2 hours and 45 minutes after taking off and we had driven just 77 km. However the first few hours were not too hot and we were given the opportunity to just reflect within.
69 year old Niribili from New Zealand just keeps going no matter what and keeps the smile on her face. This brave lady just can say ‘this is quite hot’ and just laugh after that.
Some of today's challenges included:
1st Challenge – Driving challenge ... the road got bumpy and corrugated. So we had to decrease our speed down to 30 km/h.
2nd Challenge – Wild animals: we meet so many wild cows crossing the road, kangaroos hopping all over the place and even emus. So we had to be concentrated on the road in order to not hit anyone.
3rd Challenge – Broken back door [not pictured]: the back door of our van locked and we couldn’t open it from outside, so we had to crawl over all our luggage to open it from the inside … many times.
4th Challenge – is Heat: feels like you’re running in the desert – hot and dry: no shade, no civilization.
There is not much traffic out this way and we could always see them coming for quite a while by the cloud of dust approaching.
We were really out of our comfort zone now, not knowing what to expect or where we were going. It got hotter and hotter, hitting 40 degrees before we finished running for the day.
By this time we had shortened the running stints to 3 km at a time and had ice in our hats and wrapped in our bandanas that were now around our necks to keep us cool. The team at the van would be waiting with more ice and a cool drink to aid in bringing our bright red faces down a few degrees.
Nurari shone in these conditons and was an inspiration to us all, always willing and eager to get a few more km done ...
... enjoying the vast open space and barren beauty of the true Australian Outback.
In these conditions it is a wonderful sight to see the markers left by the team ahead, indicating the finishing point of our running for the day!
Yes, we are back at the dawn, ready to follow the journey of our third team ...
A pre dawn start was in store for us all,
the car ran well it did not stall.
On to the Oodnadatta track we did roll, ...
... avoiding the wildlife out for a stroll!!
The morning was cool tending towards warm, and Bayakhuu took the Peace Torch as is the norm.
The sun climbed higher into the sky, and forward progress we made on the fly.
Felix lacing up.
Felix facing up.
Felix racing ... along.
Vilasin looking this way.
Vilasin running that way.
Further along the track we met Elle Shaw and Jiri Cech who stopped for a run! These two intrepid souls had been in the Snowy Mountains only one week earlier and are now well and truly desert bound, heading for Uluru.
Despite the apparent solitude, we are not alone out here ...
Sometimes the heat can make you feel you're going round the bend.
The rest of our run was all a bit of a blur.
Our team ran the last leg to Oodnadatta, meeting people who were in the mood for a natter!!
Oodnadatta consists of several dwellings and other buildings clustered around a few hundred metres of sealed road.
We pulled up at the Pink Roadhouse, an oasis in the desert, and possibly the most unique and wonderful roadhouse in Australia. It serves many functions: petrol station, cafe, supermarket and post office, to name a few. Very pink and very quaint, it sported nice decorative touches such as pink canoes outside, and an ancient pink telephone box within. The tablecloths were pink, and I celebrated the day's end with a pink lemonade.
We came across this film crew from Germany, Peter Kammermeier and Eva Puhm, who were eager to capture our story.
Yes we felt fresh as daisies.
Fortunately they could interview Felix in German ...
... and Rathin in English ...
... though the Mongolian cameo was mostly smile-language.
Arriving into Oodnadatta around 2.30 pm, our girls team were the last to arrive. The rest of the team were in the roadhouse enjoying the cool air. We were told of free internet at the school and told to just go over so over we went. Sitting down with the students, they were so curious to know what we were doing and where we were going. When they heard we were going to Canberra they were so excited – they are off there in 3 days, though unfortunately we will not see them there … it's going to take us 4 more weeks to get there.
The school pool here (Oodnadatta Aboriginal School) opens from 4 - 5 pm and everyone flocks to cool off in this 40+ heat. The girls team were no exception and dove in.
The laughter was contagious here and the joy of cool water washed away all those km in the heat.
Back to normality we hopped out and wandered back to camp, our clothes practically dry by the time we arrived.
Thank you to Haley (purple top) Sam (blonde hair) and Lisa (brown hair) for allowing us the use of their road house all afternoon to type up our reports and get the team ready for the next day. As well as some very welcome information – the track from here on out has been graded and will be even eaiser to run and drive on!
Thanks also to our great Team Captain Prabuddha, who is cooking us all up a bonza feast for tonight :-)
Torch carried by Bayarkhuu Batbayar(Mongolia),
Dhiraja Mc Bryde(New Zealand),
Niribili File(New Zealand),
Nurari Merry(Great Britain),
Prabhakar Street (Canada),
Pranava Runar Gigja(Iceland),
Stacey Marsh(New Zealand),
The torch has travelled
from Marla, SA to Oodnadatta, SA.