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As rural South Australians retreat from heat, 'mad' tourists continue down the Oodnadatta Track

Thursday January 2, 2014 - 16:56 EDT
ABC licensed image
Phil and Maz Turner who run SA's Marree Hotel say tourists are "mad" for travelling through the heat. - ABC licensed

As near record-high temperatures drive locals in one South Australian town indoors, tourists are risking life and limb by continuing their tours of the outback - despite some friendly advice.

Parts of inland Australia are roasting today, as temperatures are forecast to reach almost 50 degrees Celsius.

South Australia's north, the Northern Territory and western Queensland are all affected by a mass of hot air, with temperatures predicted to reach 48C in Birdsville in far western Queensland.

Even hotter conditions are expected in parts of South Australia today.

Phil Turner and his wife Maz (Marilyn) moved to Marree, in the state's north, from Canberra two years ago.

They run the town's pub, the Marree Hotel, and were preparing for a forecast top of 49C.

"We're watching that very closely today. I think our record stands at about 49.7C, so we've got a good chance of knocking off the record today," Mr Turner said.



"Yesterday was hot, we got to about 47 yesterday and it was still 44 degrees at half-past-nine last night. So that's a good start to getting hot today."

Mr Turner said while locals had ventured only as far as the cool confines of his establishment, two groups of foreign tourists were not letting the heat - or the warnings - deter them from continuing along the Oodnadatta Track, through some of the country's most remote country. 

"It was a beautiful 23C inside the hotel yesterday and being New Year's Day we had a lot of locals in, and we just sat round and yarned and had a quiet ale and kept ourselves out of the heat," he said.

"We have a French group leaving here today, they're driving down through the Flinders Ranges, and we have another group driving from Coober Pedy via William Creek to us today... they're mad."

"The funny part about it is you question them about it and they say, 'Well, we expected Australia to be hot'.

"And then we say, but you don't understand... grease turns to oil, your vehicle cannot cope with driving in these conditions. And you don't go driving in 49 degree heat!"

'Silly season' for motorists in outback SA

Mr Turner said locals describe this time of year as the "silly season" - when road accidents are most likely to occur.

"It's our accident season. It's when people get stranded. They break wheel nuts, blow tyres," he said.



"We had a chap in here two days ago, he'd blown four tyres on his vehicle driving around in these temperatures.

"You can imagine if it's 49C in the shade, we're talking 77, 78, 80 degrees out in the sun.

"I mean, you're running rubber on it (the road) - tyres just can't cope with that sort of condition."

Meanwhile, Mr Turner said his pub was busy preparing for the arrival of yet another group of Europeans - this time, the cast and crew of a British film in search of an authentic desert backdrop.

"That's going to be an interesting challenge because there's 65 Londoners coming out here," he said.

"They've been filming on the Gold Coast just before Christmas, and part of the plot requires them to be in the desert, so they're coming to the hotel in two day's time."

Laughing at the irony of a group whose home town is currently experiencing near-freezing temperatures, he added: "You wait til they see flocks of budgies fall out of the sky - they'll get the shock of their lives."

Heat a risk to crops and livestock

Heatwave conditions have also tested the resilience of many Queenslanders today, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting temperatures in the mid- to high-40s across many western parts.

Forecaster Dean Narramore says the extreme conditions will not impact Queensland's south-east until tomorrow and Saturday.



"The hottest part today is probably going to be around the channel country and the Maranoa and Warrego, and even parts of the north-west and central-west, where a number of locations should be 44C to 48C mark," he said.

"So very, very hot out there in that part of the world."

Farm lobby group Agforce says the heatwave could not come at a worse time.

CEO Charles Burke says livestock and grain industries need rain, not more scorching temperatures.

"It has a significant and potentially critical impact on livestock and people," he said.

"It's debilitating with the prolonged heat and particularly when there's diminished water supply and feed sources, so it just exacerbates what was already a difficult situation."


- ABC

© ABC 2014

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