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.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Soleon: September 27th - Late Night, South of Alice Springs, Northern Territory

Today was a magnificent day for both racing and site-seeing, it was a goosebump worthy despite the heat. There was barely a cloud in the sky and without a single breakdown we managed to pass the Japanese team! Kudos goes to Ryan and Shawn as they appear to have worked out the electrical bugs that have been plaguing us like the Aussie flies! We are now trailing Kelly (the Southern Australian team leading our class) by 50 minutes. With half of race left, catching up is not an impossible task, more a motivating challenge.

We passed the much talked about Devil's Marbles early today. These enormous red boulders are believed by the aborigines to be the eggs of the Rainbow Serpent and the site is regarded as highly spiritual place to visit in dreams. To others, the marbles are a marvel of Mother Nature and a natural playground fit for all ages. As I climbed to the top of a "marble" pile and peered out across the Outback I understood the aboriginal perspective; I certainly do hope to visit them again in my dreams.

As we moved further south, the termite mounds (which may in fact be petrified ant hills as I learned from a souvenir fridge magnet) have begun to diminish in size. They now crop up like primitive headstones in some forgotten cemetery. Most striking along this current stretch, is the intensity of the red soil. At some points you could see for miles, perched atop the red soil like an endless terra cotta rooftop, the view only broken up by trees that looked as though they were hand picked from an Ansel Adams photograph collection.

Driving through Alice Springs was another breath-taking experience as the flat landscape opened up into valleys. The hills surrounding the area are quite unique, looking more like giant piles of red rocks. After making it through the Alice Springs checkpoint with minutes to spare, we pushed as far as we could, ending about 10km outside of Alice Springs. We quickly fired up our mobile kitchen and made personal pizzas in Chef Jonathan's Pizzeria. Jonathan has been a wonderful help in the "kitchen" on several occasions, proving he is as much a culinary artist as a photographic artist.

After dinner we took turns checking our email, using up the battery power on a couple of laptops. Every morning BJ sets up an internet cafe of sorts in the cab of our truck, although there's usually too much going on for all of us to cycle through it. The evening edition of his internet cafe gave a number of us a much needed chance to briefly connect with family and friends. Kyle, Travis and Ryan were fortunate to receive a lesson in astronomy and navigation as they sat out under a blanket of stars with our newest observer, Peter, a seasoned Outback and WSC adventurer.

It's great to watch the team in such high spirits and working together. Although there was a little concern that we were not bringing enough people on this race, our numbers seem to be just perfect as no one is too overworked or standing around idle. We certainly step on each others toes at times, but that's all part of being a family in the home away from home we have created out here in the Outback.

Aussie phrase of the day: "Ta" Translation: "Thanks" or an affirmative acknowledgment of something, often heard when you hand something to an Aussie. I thought this was an appropriate choice as I feel I was handed a great deal in the Outback today.

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