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.