Information on this blog is raw and sometimes unverified reporting straight from the road by teams. The event will issue a media release for any events requiring an official notification.

Note that links in blog entries are not maintained, so while a link may be verified to work on the day of publishing, this is not guaranteed beyond that day.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Soleon: September 29th - Late Night, 100km North of Port Augusta, South Australia

The excitement is building as we not only put another half an hour cushion between ourselves and Kelly, for a total of about an hour, we gained half an hour on the team in front of us, Umicore, from Belgium. With nothing more than a few insignificant smatterings of cloud, we had an ideal day of sunshine to plough ahead.

The morning started off with a little birthday breakfast for BJ, French toast and bacon. Although he is 21 in Australia, we had a little discussion as to whether he wanted to celebrate on Aussie or Canadian time, we settled for both. To follow up, BJ found a few extra treats in his lunch cooler and we fired up Jonathan?s Pizzaria once again for dinner, a BJ, and team, favorite. I had hoped to grant his first wish of rack of lamb, but our cooking facilities make that dish a gamble. We ended the night sitting around a roaring campfire, under a starry sky, eating birthday cake.

The morning drive was once again flat, red, and open, a Martian Saskatchewan. At some points the trees disappeared outright, exposing the vastness of the terrain around us. Once again, the strong wind gusts cut through the stillness of the Outback, jostling all our vehicles around.

As we approached Coober Pedy, we came upon the first signs of the extensive Opal mining that goes on in the area. Mounds of rock and dirt popped up on the horizon, small at first like desert moguls, later growing to every imaginable size, some as large as buildings. Some were as white as snow, beautifully contrasting the crimson sun baked ground. Coober Pedy boasts their unique, underground hotel rooms, which we can only imagine as we did not have the opportunity to stay in one.

We reached our checkpoint at Glendambo by mid-afternoon and after our mandatory wait, we raced on. Using our WSC route book, we aimed for a rest stop as a safe place to set up camp for the night; we hit it at five o'clock on the nose. We're now in a region dominated by huge lakebeds, all with various amounts of water, some with none at all. BJ and Jonathan paused at one, Lake Hart, and were told by some of the locals that we were lucky to have seen it full of water since it apparently only fills up every fifty years or so. We'll take it as a good omen and a reflection of how full our own hearts are after this awesome experience.

Spirits are so high right now it's hard to describe. Garett and Colby took the car further down the race route to scout out the Belgian team. We were ecstatic to learn that we are only 16 and a half (yes, we're counting down to the meter) kilometers behind them. With only about 400km to go to the finish line we are all hungry to overtake one more team and make the top ten.

Going into our third day traveling through Southern Australia you can see how the Southern Australian portion of the Stuart highway has taken on a distinct, reddish hue, it's like they rolled out the red carpet to signal our arrival. I can assure everyone that if we continue to perform as we have been, even though we will be arriving without having showered, finishing this race will leave us all feeling like a million bucks, worthy of a red carpet welcome!

Aussie phrase of the day "The race was heaps fun?" Translation: "The race was a lot of fun?".

Laurie Heilman Bell MASc. Communications Manager/Nutritional Advisor University of Calgary Team Soleon