Thursday, December 5, 2002, Richard and Annette Knox

Couldn’t write a word yesterday The whole day was one long jolting on the 4x4 or the Ghan. Still on the Ghan so it’s still a problem. Annette met a U.S. visitor in Port Augusta station as we waited for the Ghan (which has suddenly developed a sideways lateral frequency of about 10 Hz) who smugly announced his satisfaction with attending his fifth eclipse. Annette replied without gloating, "Yes our sixth was one of the best yet". But isn’t it interesting that there are two types of people: those who have seen the eclipse of the sun between second and third contacts (usually known as eclipse junkies) and those who have not (known as "unfortunates" – my suggestion: others on a postcard please). Listening to our German guests at our campfire evening in Leigh Creek (q.v.) describing the "99 eclipse as seen from Munich", I got the feeling that their experience was much the same as ours. Annette and I did the Outer Mongolia ’97 – an "almost seen" – eclipse. But a miss is really as good as a mile between second and third contact. This time at the top of our bald mountain Ideyaka we not only saw the Full Monty, but experienced the double horned sunset 10 minutes or so afterwards. We breathed a sigh of relief to have escaped our potential reputation as Jonah’s seeing one, missing one and so on up to December 3. Judging by the reaction of our friends, they were happy about it too!

Very seldom does one hear about the sound of an eclipse. On each of the video records I have of the previous "hits" the sound was the same, and emotional outburst that would in other circumstances be reserved for more private occasions.

I drew the short straw – writing about the day after! Apart from being on the move all day (still going on) there was a sense of "let it rain, let it rain!". The wind continued fiercely in the Outback and we trekked over the desert ahead of the bus while Tim and Cam sorted out disgusting duties to do with the Thetford Porta Potty. "You don’t want to watch" Tim announced and "this is the only chance for exercise today"! We duly strung out across the plain, making remarkable finds in the unexpected new fossicking opportunities or photo opportunity for those of us who walked - shots of the 4x4 and its trailer in motion. Some of the party found evidence of aboriginal activity. Others found chipping at some fascinating rocks.

When we had all been safely gathered in we bumped on to the boundary fence and the same locked gate. The burglars’ action was even speedier this time. (The case is due to come up early next year).

After a quick piddle stop in Lyndhurst (population 30, most days) but now almost back to normal as far as downtown was concerned (except for the Chinese takeaway van and the vast portable loo with the picture of the Senorita delicately sniffing a rose painted near the stern). Even our friend Marilyn, Annette’s best friend from school days (who have turned up the day before and found us just before we left after our first Lyndhurst comfort stop) had left.

Our next stop was Quorn where they did not hunt foxes, and sold "Quornish pasties" (I’m glad they didn’t dare suggest they were like Cornish Pasties!). Some of us found a wonderful bric-a-brac shop where they sold astronomical accessories, small telescopes, huge binoculars (A$2669) and the late Victorian parlour dress, cushions, tutus, and a dark room with luminous moon maps, planispheres etc.

And so to Port Augusta and the Ghan. Annette and I have now covered the two big journeys, Indian Pacific; Perth to Adelaide and Sydney, and Port Augusta to Alice (The Ghan) and we can report that the latter is by far the smoother! Oh for a stationary seat!

This trip has been a great credit to its organisers. Quite an adventure. Thanks Dave and Stuart. Keep up the good work. We have made a whole bunch of new friends. Look us up when you come to Penzance, Cornwall (eclipse in 2095 or so!).