Accommodation and Latte totals on Julie's broken phone… We hit $300 at about $5.45 per day average for accommodation and lattes are close behind but its rare to find a free camp close to quality coffee.. :(
The weather again was perfect for a swim so we headed out to Goode Beach, one of the beaches on Frenchman's Bay - it was good. Crystal clear water, white sand and a view across the bay. The water was not too cold, which is the reason the locals give for not swimming. We've only been here when the water has been well and truly warm enough to swim.
In the afternoon we met Emma and headed to Denmark. We boosted the latte total with coffee and cake at an organic café owned by a friend of Emma's. Julie rated the coffee better than the William Creek latte, so best yet. The food was also top notch. The fresh organic ingredients and the interesting recipes combined to produce some lovely food. Next it was out to William Bay to visit Green's Pool and Elephant Rocks (Julie's wallpaper on her phone for the last 3 years, since our first visit) The afternoon had turned a bit cold and windy (here west of Denmark, Albany had a scorcher)and uncharacteristically Emma beat Julie in.
Next day we were up early to get the car and camper into the various places to get repairs. The camper still had problems with the Redarc battery charger but finally it seemed that would be sorted properly. The car was getting the air conditioning repaired. We borrowed Emma's car and went for coffee and updated the blog. The car was quickly ready - just a loose connection and it seemed the camper had been fixed too as when we set it up we finally got a decent current from the solar panels. (post script - actually it now didn't charge on the car and another trip to Albany was required a week later)
There Be Whales!
Thursday morning we woke very early for a 4am departure to drive to Bremer Bay to once again try to see orcas (killer whales which are actually part of the dolphin family). This time we were armed with the sea sickness tablets recommended by Brooke. We arrived at the wharf at 7am to tales of how brilliant yesterday was (which is great because that day the boat was filled with politicians and other decision makers and the incredible sight of a 6 tonne male orca repeatedly breaching near the boat should surely ensure this amazing place is preserved for future generations) The show we got was not as spectacularly impressive but we were in no way disappointed with what we saw. To see wild orca buzzing the boat was a truly amazing sight and we were absolutely blown away by it. If you look at the video (I don't know how to put video on the blog, but I could on a normal website… maybe I can link to a file.. But anyway it's on facebook. Anything that can have Julie so awestruck she forgot to take pictures must be special.
Aside - Speaking of special I'm writing this in the middle of a huge thunderstorm in the bush at Warren National Park where we spent a couple of days with Trudy and the kids, swimming and kayaking and catching up over a drink or three after the kids were worn out for the day. After Trudy and the kids left we went to bring the kayaks up from the river but took the opportunity to have one last paddle before we went. The sun was hot and the river like dark glass as we glided downstream (I think it was downstream, it's pretty still actually so I'm not sure what way it runs) surrounded by towering karri trees and birdlife. We were packing up when the storm arrived so we decided to spend another night as there is a large camp kitchen to take shelter in. The sun is shining the rain is falling and thunder is crashing and the frogs are now chirping and the bush smells absolutely wonderful. Photos can never do this experience justice.
Back to the ocean and Glen didn't get sea sick at all, we were both able to eat and drink and thoroughly enjoy the experience in the 2m swell. The researchers were able to pick up the crumbs of an orca meal - a piece of giant squid about 40cm square. Many on board were very sick and Glen felt for them but was pleased not to be one of them. The orcas had been on tv the night before and people had turned up at the dock hoping to get on. The woman who takes the bookings had melted down on the phone to the captain after over 100 calls that night. They limit the amount of passengers as the purpose is research to preserve the habitat of these amazing animals. Passengers provide the funds to take out the boat so the researchers can get out there. If you get the chance get the good sea sick tablets and go out with Naturalise Charters and witness the spectacle yourself.
Back on land we headed to the Wallstead Museum and café for lattes before heading back to the camper at Albany.
Albany and The Porongurups…
The next day we just did a bit of maintenance on the car and camper and the following day we headed to the Porongurups, about 40 minutes from Albany. We tackled the 2 hour Castle Rock, Granite Skywalk in the morning. Glen was very proud of Julie scrambling up rock faces near the top to get to the walkway. Even on the walkway the wind rushes up the rock face and through the openings of the floor then right up your shorts - a real Marilyn Munroe wind! The views were spectacular and worth the climb and even though it's not peak wildflower season there was enough flowering to keep Julie's camera very busy.
We met Emma for lunch at the bottom but due to the march flies the girls made it the quickest picnic lunch on record and we were soon off to our favourite of the region, Duke's Winery. Glen told Julie she could only buy 4 bottles. We were greeted by a smiling Duke, a very hale and hearty man in his 70s, his loyal golden lab and 30 odd guinea fowl who made a tremendous racket when the dog went near them.
Julie thanked Duke for the Riesling he sold us to have with lunch the last time we were here and we set about tasting his entire range as we chatted about all sorts of things from wine and the legendary James Halliday to Albany to yoga. With all but the sparkling shiraz on the must have list we eventually left with 10 bottles.
Since James Halliday had asked to visit Dukes and Castle Rock winery the last time he was here we decided to drop in on Castle Rock Winery on the way home - just to pick up a single bottle of Riesling.. And walked out with 4 bottles of various white wines. Self-control is not our strong point. That night we went to a BBQ at Ben and Bec's. It was great to see Dave and Imogen again.
Sunday morning (Happy Valentine's Day) was a relatively early start for boxing, we were late again but had a ball getting almost as much exercise from laughing. Scenic route back for a shower then out again. On the way down Frenchmans Bay Rd "Fresh Crabs" sign had us calling into a farm where we bought 3 blue swimmers for $15. We continued to Oranje Tractor Winery where we had a wine tasting and latte with plum crumble. They are organic, grow fruit as well (we bought some of their surplus) and are cyclist friendly, offering a free shower, water and fruit to cyclists. Some of their wines also have part profits going to build mountain bike tracks in WA.
After a couple of youtube video viewings we were ready to cook and pick the crabs. As the beautiful blue (dead) crabs were lowered into boiling water they instantly turned red. They tasted pretty good but they are a lot of work…
As it was our last night in Albany Helen honoured us by opening the bottle of Shiraz she was given for a retirement present. It was so good we decided to meet in 7 years to try the 2013 Dukes we bought against a 2013 Jacobs Creek.
On our final morning in Albany we looked at a townhouse which would have been the perfect investment for us but alas the bank had other ideas.
Not far from Albany we pulled into Parry's Beach Caravan Park, run by volunteers so people can experience traditional affordable camping on the South Coast. They specifically exclude larger vans and the monstrous motor homes. It's $15 pn and all 46 sites are unpowered. After dinner we went for a walk to the beach to look at the stars and found that the dishes under the taps were full of frogs! The next morning the guy camped next to us was working on making a violin. Syd, (although that isn't his given name, Syd was the name he was called in the Bernados Home he lived in as a child in England, he found out his real name when he got a birth certificate to join the Navy at 18. He served on a mine sweeper) was enjoying his current hobby of making violins. Naturally Glen couldn't resist going over to find out more. Syd was making 2 violins at the time, both for his grand kids. He roughs them out on the road then finishes them in his workshop at home. Everyone seemed to know Syd. He was a really nice, knowledgeable, generous man. Later in the morning Syd gave Julie a rig to fish with and instructions for its use so we decided to stay a second night so she could fish in the morning. Glen pottered around anchoring the plastic food drawers in the back of the Fun Truck and in the afternoon we went for a swim. As usual we were the only ones swimming. That night we had a campfire ($5 a load of wood from the caretaker, seems some places in WA you can have fires between November and April) and invited Syd over for dessert by the fire and we spent a very enjoyable evening listening to his stories. Syd had been at the camp for 3 weeks and would be there for another week. He lived without refrigeration by using long life milk, catching fish to eat that day and canned food.
We said goodnight and set the alarm for an early start for Julie to actually catch a fish on the rod we carry around with us. 6 o'clock came and Julie decided she was too tired and it was too windy to fish so we went back to sleep. When we finally rose at 7:30 Syd had been out and caught and cleaned 9 herring for us and good naturedly stirred Julie up for the rest of our stay. :) Julie felt bad but blamed too much red wine the night before… After a leisurely morning we packed up and went for a blustery walk along the beach, said our goodbyes and thanks to Syd and, without much of a clue where we were going exactly, headed in the rough direction of Walpole and Pemberton.
Walpole, briefly before returning to Albany
Moving on is the way to charge the batteries of the camper. Solar only gets us by in good light. It had been overcast and we were under trees so the camper fridge had gone into standby…again!
After lunch we did one of the tourist loops around Walpole and we came across a stunning looking bottlebrush and a kangaroo that we thought had put its head against some wet paint. The roo and it's two babies were in no way troubled by Julie walking up to take their photo and she got some great shots. The doe and the eldest joey both had white markings. We've never seen that before. We were high on a mountain overlooking Walpole on our way to camp when Glen checked on the batteries only to find they were not charging at all! Phone calls to the person who fixed it in Albany, Redarc in Adelaide well after closing time and having the camper open in a misty rain gave Glen a good idea what was wrong but in the interest of making sure it was right and not voiding any warranty from the last repairer saw us head back to Albany and the hospitality of Helen and Emma. We slept in a house for the second time since Christmas Day.
The following morning we got the camper sorted so we hit the road again, this time headed to Warren National Park to spend the weekend with Glen's niece Trudy and her children. We pulled into Drafty's Camp on the banks of the Warren River and set up in a site that would take us all. Trudy was driving down from Perth after picking the kids up from school. She didn't arrive until 11:30. We were in bed, it was pitch black. She did well just to get to camp with no map or GPS but then to find us in the dark was impressive. We got the tents set up and the kids out of the car and said goodnight.
Next morning the kids were up early and so were we. Unfortunately so were the March flies! They were terrible from dawn to dark. We must have easily killed a hundred or more between us each day. The kids were so excited and wanted to do everything straight away :) Eventually we got down to the river with the kayaks when Amelia spotted a tiger snake swimming across the river towards us. Hunter was keen to go in even with the snake still swimming along the bank. Julie arrived and Glen tried to play down the snake so Julie wouldn't get upset. She handled it better than expected and some 5 or 6 hours later after 10 or so people had been in Julie even went for a swim. The kids were shown how to paddle and they were off! The rest of the morning was spent in or on the water. Even Harmony went for a ride in the kayak with Glen and with Trudy. In the evening poor Hunter was covered in bites and super itchy so out came the sea sickness(/hay fever/allergy) tablets and Hunter got the recommended dose for his age. Let's just say he shouldn't have operated any heavy machinery after that and we saw him next morning. Sunday morning we paddled upstream as far as the river allows without portage (800m or so) and it was magic with tall trees and smooth dark water. We saw marron, fish and freshwater shrimp around the jetty but no snakes today. The rest of the morning was pretty much a repeat of Saturday with paddling and swimming. After lunch Trudy and the kids left to go home and I described earlier what happened with us. Next morning we left and did some of the forest explorer drive. They have radio transmitters set up in the bush and you listen to 100 on the FM band and you hear about the forest around you. A fantastic idea which should be adopted by all National Parks.
We headed to Margaret River via the little town of Nannup. We are staying at a farm stay next to the Watershed winery. I'm writing this at 11:30 pm and can hear the sound of the mechanical harvester working in the vineyard. Not loud enough to disturb anyone. Last night we looked for gliders in the trees behind our camper. Today we visited a few wineries, had chocolate and cheese tastings and drove via Caves Rd to Redgate Beach, a karri forest and Hamlin Bay to see stingrays and the sun drop into the water. We also had lunch in the bush at Canebrake Pool. Another great day. :)
The Trail of Destruction Continues
We passed through Norseman, in rain!!! and down towards Esperance.
At Norseman we had reception for the first time in a few days and Glen had messages asking him to contact a couple of people from school. He rang and was very distressed to find that the teacher they employed to replace him didn't show up and all attempts to contact him had been fruitless. His classes were being taught by a music casual until the position could be re-advertised. Later he saw an email advising that a different person would be doing the Head Teacher Administration role too!
We rolled into Salmon Gums and stopped at the Community Caravan Park. Great facilities and self-register for $10 per night (or $15 with power). We tried to have dinner at the pub but it was pizza night and orders had to be in by 5:30… bugger!
We went back to the camper, set up and then down came the rain and up came the wind! We retreated inside for the worst of it then grabbed the portable stove, a pot, frying pan and the food and headed to the shelter to cook out of the wind and rain. Life on the road is sometimes inconvenient but is always good. After dinner and a shower (our first for some time) we went to bed.
As If Julie!
The next day dawned warm and sunny so we headed to Peak Charles National Park. After driving in through some very flat country the peak was visible from 50km away. We arrived at the car park and campground to find we were the only people there. Julie hates the toilets because she is worried there might be a snake in one of them! As if! Glen bravely led the way into the toilet then sprang back with a start! There was a rather large carpet python next to the toilet. "You can pee outside today Julie"
It's a very impressive peak but due to the rain the night before we couldn't see more as the 4wd track is closed when wet. We could of course have climbed the peak but since the climb is actually rated too high for the bush walking scale to cover we admired the beauty in our shorts and thongs from the base.
The next night we free camped at Gibson Soak, next to the pub which has two 100 year old Morton Bay figs growing out the front. We went to the pub for dinner (and lattes) and saw TV for the first time since we were away. Australia's got some weird talent…
Esperance on the Incoming Tide
We spent the next day in Esperance, washing and restocking the larder. Also we purchased a longer tongue for the tow bar as our spare wheels were restricting our turning circle. We couldn't decide where we wanted to stay but it was still a couple of hours to high tide so we opted for the dunes of le Grand Beach. It started out OK but soon we were running out of beach with our tyres perilously close to the water. We weren't going to make it all the way up so we started looking for an alternative. On the third track Julie sprinted down to check we found a suitable campsite and got off the beach. We've driven that beach quite a few times and never had that issue with tides. We spent a lovely night behind the dunes and tried to catch up on the photos for the blog. Reception was very poor so after persisting most of the morning we headed into Esperance and more reliable connections. Lunch in the beautifully maintained foreshore park (solar powered bins - they compact the rubbish, and free warm showers outside, great playground and bike paths) saw all of the photos for the last update loaded…except videos, I still don't know how to do that in the blog :(
Still taking advantage of the warm weather our next stop was Twilight Beach, voted best beach in WA with good reason. Afer a cool off we got on the road toward Bremer Bay, with an overnighter at Mununjinup.
Double Disappointment at Bremer Bay
While every other beach has not disappointed this one did. Last time we visited it was an idyllic beach with crystal clear water. Now the water was dark brown with zero visibility! Apparently the recent rains upstream had opened the river for the first time in 5 years! We explored the other beaches in the area, which were clear as ever, and ended up talking to a guy at Little Boat Harbour. He had spent the day watching orca and massive sun fish and the tour left from Bremer Bay. Expensive but it sounded too good to pass up! It's not every day you get to see killer whales in the wild. We booked in, missed the chemist by 15 minutes so had to go with herbal over the counter sea sick medication and booked into the caravan park for the night in preparation for the early morning start.
The next day was warm and clear and we arrived at the wharf for a 7am start. We met the captain and the researcher who discovered the whales around a phenomena where hydrocarbons leak from an underground oil/gas deposit on the edge of the continental shelf. This forms a methane hydride reef and becomes a hub of life we can only access for a couple of months a year. In over 2 years they had only missed seeing orca 3 times. The 50' cat left the wharf and the rock started, they get a massive backwash from the granite shoreline and the chop is terrible. Glen was worried about Julie who had felt sea sick on the Spirit of Tasmania. We went to the fly bridge, poor Julie ended up crashing to the deck after she ascended the ladder. Pride and knee bruised. Julie just kept chatting away, Glen watched the horizon and became progressively unwell until about 40 minutes into the journey he bolted downstairs to the sick bag and spent the next 5 hours in various shades of green.
The orcas were proving elusive as the boat searched back and forth along the continental shelf in a 3m swell. Julie was an angel and despite not doing vomit well went downstairs and sat with Glen. Turns out we did not see a single sea creature, the crew were very apologetic but we get to go again for free. If we'd even seen a solitary dolphin we would have gotten the next trip half price instead. Many were going to try their luck tomorrow but we had other plans.
We were meeting up with Emma's brother and his family and some friends to camp the weekend at Cape Riche, about 120km from Albany. It's a beautiful spot with, as many places here in WA have, a whaling background. We met Tim, Tam, Hamish and Dom and then Ben, Bec, Aiden and Carys arrived. We were all able to set up around the central BBQ area and as dusk fell headed to the beach. The bugs were out in force so regardless of how pretty the beach was we headed back to bug spray up and cook dinner. We chatted well into the night. The next day was bacon and eggs for breakie and we headed to the beach, which as you see in the photos, is on a bay. First activity was out in the kayaks and we met Ben and Carys out there and with another spur of the moment decision decided to paddle to Cheyne Island. Hard going for Ben with little Carys perched on the front of his kayak. On the island we found penguin tracks! Glen decided it would be a good idea to paddle around the island before heading back but the occasional 2m swell sets sent him back to the leeward side of the island and back to the beach where we were camped. The rest of the day was filled with snorkelling and swimming and walking the rock pools with Julie practising Grandma with the four kids :) Tim went spear fishing and brought back a couple of decent size fish and some abalone. He proved to be a wonderful cook and gave us the good oil on Dampier as he works for Parks and Wildlife.
Speaking of wildlife these WA grey kangaroos are much bigger than ours "over East" and have very pretty faces with almost deer eyes. Due to people feeding them they still raid the kitchen and rubbish :( It was an earlier night as everyone was tired from a day in the sun. Next morning before lunch we drove over to and onto the next beach along the cape, played in the water and Julie and Aiden had a fish. Julie also taught Aiden to use his boogie board, which he thought was broken because it sank in 50mm of water. :) Solar panel issues continue and the camper battery continues to annoy Glen. After lunch it was time to pack up and it wasn't just the heat that made it hard to leave this beautiful place.
For the third time in three years we drove into Albany to see Emma (the stunning beaches and wineries of the region are purely a bonus) and set the camper up in the front yard of Helen's (Emma's mum) property. We supplied the salad, Helen the Tuna cakes and Emma the wine and we caught up and laughed until bed time.
The following day we had a few things to do, calls to make to see if we can get the air con back, solar panels working and the tow bar tongue didn't fit into our tow bar - Haymen Reece is a standard we thought and now we are 500km from the place that sold it to us. No choice but to round the corners with a file. Orca tour rescheduled for Thursday now.
More soon patient reader…
Up to 31/1/16 from Naracoorte, through Adelaide, Maree (Lake Eyre, William Creek) Port Augusta, Port Lincoln, Coffin Bay, Baird Bay, Fowlers Bay and on to the Nullarbor South Australia/Western Australia
A marathon update is required, we've been out of reception and so much has happened…
Accommodation: $216 Lattes: $205.10 (as at 3/2/16)
Skip this to miss the car trouble…….
The Toyota dealer at Naracoorte had the belts required, country dealers on a Monday seem a little relaxed about starting times - the Service Manager, who in Sydney, would usually be the first one in arrived about 40 minutes after the Spare Parts Manager and Workshop Foreman… so eventually the Fun Truck got into the workshop, had the belts changed, found that the knocking I can hear at times when the engine starts or stops is the exhaust pipe hitting the rock slider…yes I'll get around to hack sawing that part off real soon now… and the rear anti sway bar rubbers are flogged out (he didn't have any to replace them with, luckily Julie bought two sets and had spares in the car) AND mentioned that the tail shaft is on backwards, the slip yoke is towards the rear when it should be at the front. Nobody ever mentioned that before and we haven't had it off so it must have been done before we had it. While chatting to him he got some white grease and did the doors for me as well.
Since I was on a roll I decided to try my luck with the auto electrician too as the camper wasn't charging from the car or solar. Come back about 2pm he said. We arrived and he got to us about 3. We opened the camper under his awning but it was still stinking hot out and 10 degrees hotter in the camper under the bed where the Redarc BC-DC battery charger was installed so you can't see the status lights - what sort of auto electrician installs a unit so you can't see status lights? Both Chipping Norton Auto Electrics and the guy at Glenelg South apparently - very annoyed.
Jason at Naracoorte Battery Service tried to hunt down why the camper wouldn't charge for over 2 hours and came to the conclusion it was a faulty unit and sent us to the Redarc Factory in Lonsdale. He only charged us $50. After a night at the Frank Potts Reserve (well-kept free camp about an hour outside Adelaide) we arrived at Redarc (only open 10 till 4!) and Steve grabbed his multmeter to see what the problem was so we opened the camper in the street. It was another stinking hot day, poor Steve was sweating up a storm but quickly isolated the problem to a faulty automatic circuit breaker on the car but recommended a few changes to how the unit had been wired in and to upgrade the wiring on the car and gave us names and addresses of three auto electricians. Julie selected one close to Glenelg Beach (in our Top 101 Beaches book so we could tick that beach off while we waited) and they said to bring it round and they'd fix it. Dropped it off, thought I'd explained everything I wanted and headed to the beach. On the way we dropped in to a pub for an $11.50 counter lunch - very old school but nice and plenty of it. The beach was flat and shallow but near the jetty they had the best kids play area I've seen at a beach. Kids were jumping off the jetty - well some were, many were very hesitant and very few of the kids we have seen here are good swimmers.
A call from the auto electrician wasn't good news, they thought the Redarc unit was faulty - I explained what the actual fault was again and told them to ring Steve at Redarc if they had problems. Alarm bells should have started to ring then but I still thought they knew what I wanted. I should have realised then he didn't listed to much of what I said to him. We arrived back to find the job done, but the original problem hadn't been fixed, I got him to show me what I'd just paid $600 for and he showed me he added a circuit but left the dodgey one in the wrong place to where I wanted an additional outlet for the camp light. When I pointed out he hadn't fixed the original problem he gave me a new automatic circuit breaker and we left BUT since the panel was back on I didn't see that he had put the unit in so I still can't see the status lights again. So annoyed and we have left the area so I have bugger all comeback. Am ringing him today but don't expect restitution.
Headed to Julie's cousin Jenni and her newborn Henry where we would stay the night in a proper bed in a house! It was still really hot but the car was much too hot and we had to travel with the air con off and windows open and even the heater on at one stage. I think it's the viscous hub on the fan. Wonderful to see Jenni and meet Henry who, while we were there, was the perfect baby. Apparently last week was not so good but Jenni is a natural at this mothering business and Henry is an alert, relaxed and contented baby. Only kid I've seen who is constantly in motion, even when sleeping he moves around! Unfortunately we had to move on in the morning.
Found one reason the car was hot was that the auto electrician had put the hand brake on the trailer as they uncoupled it then reattached it… grrr. Always check everything!!! We dragged it 60 odd km with the hand brake on a couple of clicks :(
Flight over Lake Eyre…
Headed into the outback, specifically Maree, and arrived there at 7pm and it was still stinking hot and more uncomfortable as we couldn't have the air con on as we drove because the car got too hot. Got to the pub and headed inside to the cool and ordered beer and a meal and paid for the flight over Lake Eyre that we had organised for the next day. We stayed in the free campground at the back of the pub but we didn't sleep as it was sooo hot and humid we had to lay on towels. There wasn't a breath of wind and we just laid there sweating. We hardly slept a wink. Wonder why the only tourists in the whole town was us and a guy with 3 kids who had an air conditioned room at the pub?
Next morning was overcast so it was much cooler than it could have been, but it was still uncomfortably hot and the flies crawled in your eyes, nose and ears. We headed to the airport and covered the car in mud from one little dip in the road about 2m wide. The plane arrived from Wilpena Pound about half an hour late because they had storms down there. We jumped in to the 4 seat Cessna and took off with the promise it would be cooler in the air. We didn't notice the heat as we marvelled at the country side and then North Lake Eyre, practically full of water. The deep pink water (deep in colour not depth) and the mirror surface as we flew at 500 feet. Even though there was a 20 knot wind there wasn't a ripple because the water is so dense with all the salt. Past Jack Boot Bay at 1500 feet then we flew at 500 feet over Anna Creek Station, the largest property in the world, toward William Creek.
We were super lucky as they needed to change planes at William Creek, the smallest town in Australia, (but one of the 5 residents owns Wrights Air who fly joy flights and passenger, mustering or photography charters in many places around the country) so we got a bonus stop over and our most remote latte ($4.50 each and very nice, made by our very knowledgeable pilot, Tay, at the William Creek Hotel. If she ever gives up the chief pilot job she can be a barista.) Even though it was overcast and relatively early it was still 40 degrees so we had cold drinks as well as the latte. Again we were the only tourists in town but their books are full for later in the year and they are searching for staff - Claire Smith you would love it and be perfect for the job! Back in the air in a 6 seater Cessna we saw Lake Eyre South from 3500 feet as we made our way back to Maree and the pool at the pub!
On the road south…
After a swim we left Maree and headed south, stopping at the old township of Farina and the Ochre Cliffs on our way to spend the night in the Flinders Ranges in Parachilna Gorge. We crossed a couple of swollen creeks from the storms and were amazed to see how much they had risen considering we had no rain at all. Parachilna Gorge is the start of the 1200km long Heysen (walking) Trail and has a lovely short walk from here we would have loved to have done but the Trail is closed for the whole bushfire season. We spent a lovely night here overlooking the creek, watching the kangaroos and listening to the feral goats on the steep hillside. We had a few spots of rain during the night but everything was dry and very hot come morning.
We took the opportunity to stop at the ruins of Kanyaka Station. They certainly built things to last. They had to leave the property 150 years ago due to extended drought but several buildings, made from local limestone and River Gum, have large parts still standing. The shearing shed is huge and was built with walls 18" thick! At it's height it had 70 families living there and they ran 60,000 sheep. The water hole, Death Rocks, is still used to water stock today. The Old Ghan ran close by.
After visiting one ghost town we went to a place which will soon be a ghost town, Leigh Creek. Since the mine shut in November and it's future is uncertain the town built by the company (wonderful facilities, aesthetic design) is largely deserted. The sign in the Foodland for the children to return the iPads to the Library before school starts I fear will get little response due to many of the homes of this once busy community now being empty. Sad for those that had their lives there but the coal mine was ugly and we need to utilise more renewable energy.
We intended to drive straight through "Port A Gutter" it's not a particularly pleasant place in our opinion… It smells, but the Fun Truck had other ideas - and as per usual Friday afternoon. Julie was driving when the weather shield came loose and we stopped to fix it. It was stinking hot and the car came close to boiling. As we were letting it cool a mechanic asked if we were ok and within minutes we had organised to have the viscous hub (cooling fan) topped up with oil the next day. This was via a phone call to Whyalla, who couldn't do it and warned us not to come because of the huge storm headed our was that brought down trees there, but transferred us to a place in Port Augusta who said he'd fix it Saturday morning at 11. Brilliant, we could fix the overheating problems that we'd had since Adelaide.
We stayed the night at a station near Iron Knob where the property has been in the family since 1895, we relaxed in the pool as the storm went around and missed us entirely. We got to town at 11 only to be told "Nah I can't do it till Wednesday 'cause we're out of stock" Grrr.
Within 5 minutes Julie had sourced the part and booked us in on Monday morning with a radiator guy from Port Lincoln. She gets stuff done :)
Two days to kill….
We looked up a suitable free camp and lobbed at Cowley's Beach, beautiful spot, perfect weather, we explored Lipson Cove, hundreds of birds, and Tumby Bay, sleepy little town, but spent some time on the beach relaxing. Found out as we came into Port Lincoln, just an hour down the road that we had missed the biggest weekend in the entire region, Tunarama!
Anyway Ben was great, fixed the car, was proactive with an electrical issue and found that the battery cradle was rubbing a hole in the auxiliary battery and fixed that, recommended places to see and sent us on our way. Port Lincoln was still crowded but the Tunarama activities on the Monday before the close on Australia Day (Tuesday) didn't really interest us so we headed to…
Coffin Bay National Park
We got set up on the last available campsite and unhooked the car ready to explore some of the park (which is mostly only accessible by 4wd) the next day. After breakfast we headed out to Black Springs. The track rocked us from side to side so violently at times the chainsaw on the roof banged in time. Luckily the destination was worth it. (see pics)
We headed back to camp to pick up the camper and head out when we met a family from Albany also on a lap of the country. Turns out the wife/mum is a client of Emma's. I was only remarking the evening before about how probably somebody in the campground knew somebody we know and there they are…
We grabbed lunch and headed to Gunnya Beach - 4wd it said… OK we can do that with the camper in tow. Started out ok then needed 4wd and low tyre pressures A guy we saw on the track said we'd be right except on the beach itself and there was a place we could park and turn around… sweet, but Julie isn't convinced. We ended up going across about 2km of dunes, made it easily but some heart in mouth moments and a badly shaken trailer - one bump saw the stuff in a draw get jumped out. Noted after this that the air con in the car is no longer working too :(
We left Coffin Bay NP but not before a German tourist used our air compressor to reinflate his tyres. Seems he relies on the kindness of strangers.
We were headed to Baird Bay via Greenly Beach. The beach road was rough but not 4wd. Some lovely beaches along this coast line. We stopped to make dinner at Elliston. Check out the wonderful murals on their public buildings and conveniences. They also provided free BBQs and power points at the park which was super clean despite there being an Australia Day breakfast there that morning. A credit to the town.
We arrived at Baird Bay at 10:20 and set up and went straight to bed but we were very excited for the next day.
Baird Bay 27-1-16
We swam with dolphins and sea lions! About 15 minutes into the tour we came across a pod of dolphins and stopped. Julie, who is almost phobic about sharks, was first in the water to swim with dolphins. They came so close, it was very exciting. After 3 stops swimming with the dolphins we went to the sea lions. A couple came in for a swim and again came very close. One sea lion kept coming round to play. We really feel privileged to have had this experience. Still two videos I'm tryng to put here...
From Baird Bay we headed to Fowlers Bay and stopped at the caravan park.
Fowlers Bay 28-1-16
We learnt that the town is off the grid and everybody has their own soak (a trench cut into the sand in the huge dunes that look ready to swallow the town) to get water from and wind, solar or generators to make their electricity.
Julie, after chatting to the guys in the park who were there for 3 weeks of fishing, ended up on the jetty after midnight jigging for squid. No calamari for breakfast but she came close.
The next morning - who am I kidding it was 11 by the time we headed out- based on directions from the kiosk where I got Toby Estate coffee that actual morning, we headed out on a 4wd track which was much tamer than we were led to believe. We were headed to a sea lion colony on the point. It did not disappoint even after the swim the day before. The water around there is magic. Again see photos, even a pup suckling.
Turns out on this day in 1802 Mathew Flinders sailed in on "The Investigator" and named the bay and a few headlands.
Reluctantly we said goodbye to this haven of fish (driving back along the beach we saw easily 100 big whiting less than 3m from shore) and headed to the Nullarbor.
We camped at a beautiful spot 35km East of the Nullarbor Roadhouse, surrounded by mallee gums and far enough from the highway for it to be quiet.
Sometime through the night we woke with a start because of a loud crash. I looked outside into the still, moonlit bush and concluded that a bird had mistaken out shiny silver roof for water in the moonlight. In the morning we found that a tree about 250mm diameter had fallen and taken the branch from another tree with it. When it happened there was no wind at all but there had been a breeze that afternoon. Luckily it didn't land on us.
We hit the road bound for WA and at Border Town we headed down a track toward the cliffs to find the cairn that marks the border. See selfie photo with Julie in WA and Glen in SA.
More travel along the Eyre Highway - for those that haven't done it I can tell you it isn't entirely featureless and is well worth the effort.
We camped the night half way along a 4wd track to Baxter Cliffs and found that at some loo stop along the way, probably Border Town, somebody had stolen a pin and two clips from the boat loader. Bastards! Probably just done to annoy us as they'd have little use for it I imagine. Improvised with a couple of bolts but not happy Jan. That detracted from a lovely campsite miles from anywhere or anyone. Still, dark night but nowhere near as many stars as expected or experienced in Tasmania.
Still probably a couple of days before I can upload this…
Happy Birthday Luke!!!
We continued along the 4wd track following the directions from the mud map we got at Caiguna Roadhouse, toward Baxter Cliffs - at 50km the longest stretch of cliffs in the world. Track not as rough as we thought it may have been but still slow going. Interesting to see the Baxter Memorial erected in 1930 proclaims he was "killed by natives at this spot". I think that the wording of the memorial to this, no doubt remarkable and accomplished man, but a man of his times, would read a little differently if it was erected today.
Writing this at our lunch stop under the awning on the road to Toolina Cove still about 3 hours away and then probably another 2 hours to the highway. I expect we'll camp in the bush before we get to the highway.
Ended up camping at Toolina Cove - 3 hours ended up being about 5. Julie is such a trooper. She hasn't had a shower for days, today was very dusty and I showered her with leaves, twigs, spiders and bugs through the window as we travelled 110km in 4wd today. It took all day except for a lunch stop and looking at Baxter Cliffs and memorial. The last 2km the track closed in further and the car and camper are covered in bush pinstripes. One of the clearance lamps on the front guard even got knocked out and has left swing marks on the duco. It's a 4wd, it's not supposed to be perfect but it got hammered in the last little bit. The journey as a whole was interesting and fun though. Julie is still smiling and cooked dinner after we checked out the spectacular beach (50m below us) and dusted off and set up.
Next day we headed to Toolina Rockhole on the way out. We did 70km before lunch so it was much easier going. We passed an incredible variety of bushland on the way out including sweeping grass plains, taller woodland and mallee. After 190km and 2 solid days of driving we got to 400m from the highway and there was a tree down across the road. We noticed a lot of trees down along the highway - we think because it was so dry. Anyway we picked our way around the tree and made it back to the highway just 90km down the road from where we left it, but we feel that we actually saw and appreciated the landscape by not flashing past at 100km/h.