Six and a half metres under ground, we wake at 5am to Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up". A student stumbles out of bed and fumbles in his bag, and Rick Astley stops again.
At a slightly more civilised hour we get up. We charge.
I solder the telemetry receiver antenna back together, which involves near endless walks between the follow car to find gear, the lead car to find other gear, and the TV room where I've plugged my soldering iron into power.
We set off. It's a complicated shuffle this morning: we put a towing rope on the solar car and tow it the couple of hundred metres uphill to the (now closed) control point which was our nominal stopping point. Then John jumps out of the follow car's driver seat, we detach the tow rope, Leonie leaps in, a couple of students leap in to passenger vehicles, we set up to roll out, and then we get word over the radio that the support bus back at camp has a flat battery.
But it's too late: we're already rolling out of Coober Pedy and onto the highway.
We solar on. The car misbehaves and loses power: we're not sure if it's because the motor has overheated or because the motor controller has become confused. It doesn't help that telemetry is very hit-and-miss today: it seems my repair of the antenna is imperfect. We continue.
The school bus catches up: with the help of a large number of students pushing, they've managed to roll-start it. We pause for lunch and charge, and continue. The school bus goes on ahead.
A little further on, we run out of time: we must put the solar car in the trailer and go forward in order to reach Adelaide in time tomorrow. We've solared 143 km for the day, bringing us to a total of 950 km for the event.
We meet the bus (and the parents of two of the students) at the Port Augusta control point. We don't bother to serve our full 30 minutes: since the Challenge rules forbid us from doing any more solaring, there's no point. We continue to Port Pirie, and check into a caravan park. The caravan park is free for school groups, which is nice, but it features the port Pirie Jumping Prickle, which is not so nice. These prickles somehow leap off the ground onto your sock, and then burrow in until they can stab you.
In the morning we get up early to trailer in. Several other teams are trailering on the same part of the highway, all attempting to hit the same deadline as us.
We arrive at Torrens parade ground, and get in line: there's a queue of solar cars waiting to do the 2 km run up the the official finish line at Victoria Square. After an hour or so it's our turn. We put the solar car on King William Road, and then the bus that will carry us to the finish line arrives. We're required to leave our own support vehicles behind. The bus supplied by the Challenge travels in front of the solar car, and has no rear window, so we can't see what's happening.
At the line, the bus pulls in so we can get out, while the solar car waits just short of the line. Then we walk across the line with it.
Challenge officials check that our battery seals are still in place, and we walk the car to its spot in a marquee tent, in the shade. We wander around for a bit looking at other cars, including the wreck of Umicore.
Lunch is a find-it-yourself affair, and then we go to the closing ceremony. The Istanbul team are very very happy to have won the "best newcomer" award.
Usually the closing ceremony features a bit where all the team managers go up on stage and receive a participation award. This time that time is filled by a large number of Eco-Challenge awards: best small diesel, best large diesel, best small petrol, best large petrol, etc, etc; and there's simply an announcement at the end that team managers can come and pick their awards up from a corner of the room.
There's a chin-wag and shirt-trade: I get an official observer shirt.
There's an after-party at The Woolshed, but our under-age students are not invited. So we go for Subway. It's Halloween, and there are a variety of undead, monsters, angels and demons wandering past.
Then to bed.
Three of our drivers are old enough to drink, and they come in from the after-party at about 1am. Then the Germans in the next room stagger in at 3am. Then at 5am it's Rick Astley again.
Most of the team goes down to clean support vehicles and sort equipment for shipping back. The bus begins its trip back to Perth, with the solar car trailer behind; driven by the same teacher who drove it up to Darwin.
Students play pool at the pool table on the balcony of the backpackers'. Pool is much better for money when the players are no good at it: they can play much longer for their $2. The table's habit of occasionally neglecting to return the cue ball when it is pocketed merely adds to the fun.
Dinner is at the Chinese restaurant we usually go to when we visit Adelaide.
Tomorrow we'll fly back to Perth.
-- Doug Burbidge http://dougburbidge.com/