Coober Pedy

The blacktop ends 70 miles north of Parachilna, and there's at least 280 miles of dirt road to cover before we join the Stuart Highway at Oooher PeHy Rut we're not sure we're going to get through As of yesterday, parts of the OodnadattaTrack, the road we need to take, have been closed because of the rains.They take their road closures seriously out here: Get caught and the police will fine ycu $ 1000 a tire, including spares. For our convoy—the Outbacks and guide Chris Chambers' Toyota Land Cruiser—we'd be looking at a ticket cf about $24,000. The idea is to stop tire 18-wheelers churning giant ruts in the mud and destroying the fragile roads.

At Maree, we're relieved to learn the Ocdnadatta Track is open, albeit only lo liigh-clearance vehicles.With 8.7 inches of grcund clearance—more than the previous-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee—we figure the Outbacks qualify. V7e top up with gas and get underway

It's here that the sheer scale—and the emptiness—of the Australian Outback starts to register on my American colleagues. We'll see only a handful of vehicles over the next few hours, and when we stop for photography, or video, the silence is eerily oppressive. At times, the road stretching across the gently undulating

ACROSS THE OUTBACK—ADELAIDE TO DARWIN

Batchelor " f Katherine \

Tennant Creek

Kings Canyon A,ice sPrin9s

U/uru

Coober Pedy

Parachilna ,

Adelaide Sydney

OUR 3464-MILE trip included a few detours, but basically followed the only sealed road through the center of Australia, the Stuart Highway, named after the explorer who made the first south-north crossing 148 years ago.

YOU MUST CONCENTRATE THE WHOLE TIME,

PICKING THE BESTSINE- )AttOU:Ni^£L>MPS AN0-Wi®CKS,,

WATCHIN&FOR'*WANDERING CATTLE

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