Welcome to the adventures of my family’s great Australian road trip. Taking the family across the Nullarbor is a rite of passage for any self respecting Australian. Crossing this great nation of ours across the desert to experience its total vastness and awesomeness should be on every Aussie’s bucket list. The adventure is here…
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 1 – Nullarbor Nomads
We travel Terra Australis in the trusty Territory and 3 hours later we arrive in Merredin in time for sun rise where the drive improved immensely once we could actually see the landscape. I miss my cat already. In Coolgardie we fuelled up for the first time and encountered our very first ‘old timer’. The toothless wonder with a complete lack of any fashion sense was fuelling up her beat up old Mazda and struck up conversation with me by stating the bleeding obvious “it’s a bit chilly aye?” in an accent broader than a Queensland stockman. I smiled politely and quickly shielded the kids from her weather beaten, witchy appearance, and shepherded them back into the car. Her car didn’t look like it would make it much past Kalgoorlie and it was obvious that she didn’t get out much. The sooner we leave the goldfields the better.
Whilst the drive to Coolgardie along the Great Eastern Highway is quite featureless, I am rewarded with majestic gums with their branches splayed gracefully and casting long shadows in the low winter sun on the drive to Norseman. We heard on the news how there was a bad roll over causing the road to close from Coolgardie to Norseman. Lucky for us, by the time we get there the road was open again. The wreckage and suitcases flung on the side of the road is a timely reminder for our driver to keep his hands on the wheel and not wondering about behind his seat, grappling around for the lolly bag. Norseman itself is pleasantly surprising. Set in subtle woodlands, the township is pleasing to the eye and set up well for interstate travellers. We found a park to eat lunch early at 11am.
By noon we are back on the road. I offered to drive since I hadn’t had a turn yet but Husband was still happy to. After 9 hours of driving I offered again but Husband was hell bent on breaking his ‘driving 1000km without a break’ record. He thinks it’s funny to scare me half to death when I’ve just nodded off by driving on the rumble strip making me think he was careering off the road. It’s an obvious sign he is getting bored and, quite frankly so am I. I head for another packet of Mentos and complain viciously that the person who invented green Mentos needs to be shot. I have now also self diagnosed the symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome. After being held captive in the Territory for 10 hours of listening to nothing but Husbands’s hideous country music (another reason he didn’t want me to drive, because then he’d have to listen to my music) I found myself singing along to “Barefoot and Crazy”. I looked furtively to my right to see if my captor noticed. The minute I started to drive, I plugged in my ipod and on went some nostalgic 80s tunes with Stray Cats self titled song “Stray Cat” when the legend of my friend Mandy’s pussy lived on. Mandy moved interstate and drove across the Nullarbor with her husband and beloved pet cat. Upon a rest stop, the cat had gone insane with all the travel and took off into the never never and never ever came back. As we approach the WA / SA border I now remind the family that under the mountain of lollies and chips, there is actually oranges and kiwi fruit. Everyone knows how I hate food wastage, so I mandated the whole family partake in a fruit eating frenzy before it is confiscated at the border.
There was a method to Husband’s madness as I draw the short straw by scoring the last two hours of driving which turned out to be three hours in the dark. This is never usually an issue, but on this occasion, it seemed the entire kangaroo population of the outback were out on the lonely Interstate number 1. This is also never usually an issue as I’ve lived most of my life in rural Western Australia. I mean I do vaguely remember something in my research about never driving across the Nullarbor at night because of this very reason, but my brain had disregarded that piece of valuable information as the domain for ignorant city slickers and overseas tourists. No one else was on the road. Not even the truckies, for this very dangerous reason. 150km before Border Village where my bed beckoned me. I am cursing Husband for wanting to make Border Village in one day, good job he didn’t hear me, because in his slumber, he is completely oblivious to the roo rave on the road. At least I had my music. At the top of my lungs I sing my anthem song “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. At 1950 I saw lights in the distance and because I am now cross-eyed, I can’t tell if it is headlights, a roadhouse, a blindingly reflective road sign or a UFO. 143 Robert Timms coffee bags later at 2000 hours I safely delivered my family to a haven in the dark. We now resembled the dishevelled zombie decal family on the back of our Territory.
Since there are no cooking facilities in the room we indulge in a truckie sized meal at the roadhouse where I couldn’t help but noticed the disproportionate quantities of Penthouses and No Dozes on offer at the shop. Everything a self respecting trucker needs for the cab and the road respectively. I collapsed into bed.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 2 – Whale Wonder
We started the day with everyone totally confused as to what the correct time was. We changed some clocks and not others. No phone reception so we can’t rely on Telstra for the right time either. Anyway it was light outsiđe so that was a good enough excuse for me to get up and let my sleepy slobs slumber. I took in the ambiance of the truck stop with absolute awe. A line of semi trailers all parked up with some drivers sleeping in their cabs (or otherwise-see previous blog) and others quickly running in and emerging with steaming bacon and egg burgers. The diligent Department of Agriculture officials checking each vehicle and truck some 100m away. When it is our turn to go through we tell her we are just back tracking to Eucla to see the old Telegraph Station since we missed out yesterday due to getting in late. The woman then tells us not to worry about it and the garlic is saved for now. But I do wonder what if we lied and we were really fruit smugglers and kept going, I mean what come back has she got? My thoughts are short lived as I’m now shocked to learn that she has been in this job for 18 years. Even more shocked to discover her boss has been in the job for over 20 years. I mean you would really really need to love your job and your boss to live in a town that has 4 houses and 600km from the nearest small shop wouldn’t you?
The kids are pretty excited when we get to the Telegraph Station which is almost totally submerged in a sand dune. After they nearly demolish what is left of it they go running in the direction of some more huge sand dunes. I, on the other hand, make a bee line for the beach where there should be the remains of an old jetty.
After a 15 minute walk in totally inappropriate shoes for beach sand am rewarded with a stupendous sight complete with bonus sea birds all over it. After filling up another memory card I walk back to the car and hope I can find my way back as every dune and bush looks the same. I don’t know how these early explorers managed. I run into my explorer husband who has struck up a conversation with some Queenslanders. One of them says “did you see the awesome old boat further up the beach?”. Nooooooo! I am not going back to fill up my slip on shoes again. It is too cold to go without shoes and beside it is getting late. Back at Eucla, at the motel there is a small museum which was quite interesting, especially the picture of the Telegraph Station which was fully in tact some 60 years ago. There are only a few limestone foundations and part walls left.
After a 2 hour drive and one short side trip to see the Great Australian Bight, we arrive at The Head of the Bight Marine Park where watched heaps of Southern Right Whales with their babies. It was such an amazing experience and difficult to tear myself away as I was waiting for one of the whales to breach, but none did. The bay was literally filled with whales and their calves. One was special as the calf was albino. I think I used an 8 GB memory card just on whales! This is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching and we didn’t even have to get in a boat which pleased Brendan no end.
The next hour or so is where the actual Nullarbor National Park is and it really did live up to it’s reputation as a treeless plain. It didn’t seem to take long before we got excited to finally encounter some farmland. It reminded us of the Prairies with wide sweeping plains and windmills twice the size of the ones in W.A. By the time we arrived in Ceduna at 6pm, we missed the shop to stock up on fresh provisions for our outback trip tomorrow. We are taking the short cut to Coober Pedy which I am hoping will cut about 4 hours off if we don’t take the bitumised way. I also missed a great photo opportunity with the fading remnant of a spectacular sunset over the large Ceduna Jetty which is right on our door step. In the morning the sun will be facing the wrong way. I don’t so much mind as we spent the extra time watching the whales.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 3 – Off the Beaten Track
We are on the road by 0900 hours after a quick stop at Foodland for a few supplies. After about an hour on the Eyre Highway we turn off to hit the gravel for some hard core 4WD time. Well not as hard core as Googs Track which is even more of a short cut (the sand dunes put me off going that way). By taking the 270km gravel route via Kingoonia we are going to save 400km off our time. Do you think alarm bells should have rung when I booked our accommodation in Coober Pedy over the phone, and the lady asks where we are travelling from and when? I answered “Ceduna”, there is an awkward silence and she responds with “I’ve never heard of that before”? There is a big sign saying carry an extra two spare tyres, a tow rope, adequate fuel, adequate water, two jacks, a shovel, maps and keep friends and relatives informed of your outback travel itinerary. Well we just had to run the gauntlet with one spare tyre, a tonne of lollies and a litre of cordial. Does posting to my blog when there is no internet access count as letting everyone know where you are? Needless to say I am nothing but a hard core worrier. Worried sick especially with the amount of beer bottles lying on the track but we made it without incident thank goodness.
We only see a few vehicles. To begin with the scenery is quite pleasant with gentle undulating hills and dry lake beds. We have lunch by a watering station on Kolkatha Station with a lake with a little water and sand dunes in the distance. I am also pretty excited to see a Sturt Desert Pea nearby. I didn’t think I’d see any this early in the season so I madly photographed it despite my very annoyed husband telling me I’ll see thousands of them. We only stopped for 20 minutes because we are definitely in the outback with the landscape looking like the Nullarbor again. We see emus, sheep, cows and a dead wombat. We have yet to see a live one.
Finally we get to Koongania which looks like a hole, but we make sure we stop so the kids can play on the railway. The Indian-Pacific Railway. After another 35km of gravel we hit the Stuart Highway where we travelled another 230 km to Coober Pedy arriving just before 6pm, making a 9 hour travel day. Even though we saved 400km off the trip, we only managed to save an hour off the travel time than if we had gone the 1000km via Port Augusta due to the rough condition of the road. After travelling through absolute nothingness for hours on end, I wondered what kind of town we were headed for. So I was surprised to find a thriving metropolis. We are staying at the Underground Motel which worried the claustrophobic aspect of me. However, our room is the first from the entry way and we can see directly outside from our room so that was good. It is a very nice motel with a lovely few of the Breakaways where apparently Mad Max 3 was filmed.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 4 – “When Dave and I…”
This morning affords us a bit of a sleep in without the routine of having to pack up and leave. We enjoy our new digs and the novelty of living underground for a few days. There are a heap of grey nomads with a difference staying here. They are all on their motor bikes zooming around the desert. If you ask me they should be tucked up at home watching ABC documentaries. Our first stop is the town lookout called The Big Winch, but it is closed and some how we end up in the neighbour’s place. In this quirky place nothing is very well sign posted and when it is, it’s just hand painted signs. Now this neighbour is a real ‘old timer’ Chinese character. With his deeply lined face, beanie and dusty unkempt appearance he beckons us to have a look at his opal mine. So we look down a shaft about 30m deep, then he wants to show us his opals and then, of course, he tries to flog us some. He manages to fleece $5 out of First Born.
He is from Hong Kong and sounded like he just got off the plane yesterday, but in fact has been here since 1979 and he tells me how lucky I am to have two boys as he has 5 girls! We go to the tourist bureau and book a tour for the morning. We then check out a few opal shops and Brendan bought me a lovely opal ring which I chose as it is our 14th anniversary tomorrow.
The lady in the tourist bureau told us where the public noodling place is, so we parked up and started noodling. There are some punters noodling in the loose semblance of a car park and I think this is an odd place to noodle. I’m sure I wouldn’t know an opal is if I tripped over one, but I see a lot of interesting rocks. Husband shows me a tiny opal, so now I have opal fever and spend the next hour noodling with no results, but I have fun anyway and so do the boys. Ironically, back at the motel I find an opal in the car park, so the other couple were onto it when I saw them noodle in the public noodle car park.
We then buy some supplies from the local IGA which is impressive and a hundred times better than Coles in Narrogin. But that’s not hard to achieve. By this stage it is time for lunch so we go back to the motel to knock up some sandwiches. Then Husband falls asleep so I spent my time talking to the lady who works here and she told me her life’s story. She was Phillipino and has been here for 27 years!
“When Dave and I….”. If I hear this statement one more time I am going to stab Husband. About a hundred times a day I hear about the fable of Husband and his mate, Dave, and their adventures of travelling around Australia in 1991. Constant reminiscing about how wonderful it was. This leads me to the fact that we had to relive the “Crocodile Harry” story whilst in Coober Pedy. Crocodile Harry happened to be in the pub “when Dave and I” were in there for a drink. Harry, who is a classic old timer, says to them, if you buy me a drink I’ll tell you some stories. So they did. Before too long Harry is plastered and regaling them with stories of his croc wrestling days in the North and is asking for a lift home. “When Dave and I” are looking at each other and wondering just how far up the road he lived, it could be 250km up the road. Luckily for them it is only about 5km out of town and it turns out he lives in an underground house he dug out with his very own hands. Anyway, we had to go and see it now. Sadly Harry is no where to be seen and I am at a loss for words to describe his place. It ias like a rabbit warren and decorated with a plethora of paraphenalia and a lot of junk. There is writing all over the walls and no one is in sight except for a pink and grey galah which keeps saying “chook, chook” everytime I walk past. It is actually open to the public and we could’ve walked off with anything as no one is there.
Once we are done there we drive about 30kms out of town, to see the Breakaways which are striking hills (striking because they are the only small hills within cooee of a lot of flat, barren landscape) that are deeply eroded and the colours look great at sunset. There are a few look outs and we have to race around a bit to catch all the photos I want before the sun sets at a rediculous 5.30pm. There is also the Moon Plain which I thought would be better than it was. This area was used as a backdrop for a Mad Max movie. Then we encounter the longest fence in the world, the Dog Fence. It is 5300km long and passes through 3 states. It is the only thing stopping the Dingoes from taking my teenagers and the sheep from pastoral areas south of the fence. Last Born decides it would be good to shoot a David Attenborough style video of the Idiot Proof Fence, where Idiot First Born is on the other side of the fence displaying aggressive behaviour by throwing rocks. We near the end of day 4 and it seems like we have been gone for weeks already. I am the last person who wanted to come here, but now I’m glad I did.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 5 – Wedding Anniversary Romance
We start the day with an organised tour which I feel is a waste of money as the tour guide tells us everything I had read in the tourist bureau yesterday and all the places we went to we could have gone to ourselves. One thing I did notice and is verified by our ex Opal Miner, tour guide, who looks about 85, had a German accent and walks with an unmistakable miner’s stoop, is that the population of about 2000 is represented by 45 different nationalities. So far I have not come across one Australian. In this respect, Coober Pedy is so full of juxtapositions on so many levels. Where do I start.
So Australian and so multicultural all simultaneously. I don’t think there is a designated dump here as everyone just seems to have hoarded at least 70 years worth of junk in their front yards and I don’t think they seem to have the yellow sticker thing going on either (Western Australian mark for an unroadworthy vehicle). Of course this is a photographer’s delight with so many jalopies on the side of the road with any remaining car doors flapping in the voracious wind that is present today. Or is it the left over props from several movies ago, the stray dogs, the underground Serbian church and the grave in a local business’ car park?
After our tour finishes we go back to the motel for lunch and then head off to Tom’s Working Underground Mine which is fantastic.
We go underground and see the tools of the trade and learn all about how everything works in regard to mining claims and had all our curious questions answered. The kids also had a turn on the shaft winch.
One thing which surprises me is no large companies are allowed to peg claims, only partnerships. There are about two million mine shafts here so rule number one is do not step backwards when taking photos. After the fascinating tour we treat ourselves to a coffee in an underground cafe. Once again, alarm bells should have rang when nobody else is in there. The Italian/Croatian guy looks so happy to see us and quickly gets out his tray of rocks out so the kids can take their pick of ones loaded with opals of course. After he serves us our drinks he belts out some gutteral tribal tunes on an authentic didgeridoo better than any elder at a corroboree. I nearly fell off my chair. He does his best to flog us some authentic dot paintings and we don’t get much change from $50 for 2 coffees and 2 milk shakes, yes fleeced again (there is a pattern emerging here) and I promise never to complain about the price of a coffee in Western Australia again).
Once again we grace the local IGA with our presence, not for food this time, but where else can one buy a couple of picks so the the boys can go noodling again. While they did that I go exploring for photographic opportunities and get more pictures of jalopies and mullock heaps that look like moonscapes about 15kms out of town. The kids are pretty scared of a possible encounter with MicK Taylor of “Wolf Creek” fame here in the Outback so I decide to go an check on them in case they thought I’d been kidnapped by him or fallen down a mine shaft. When I get there the boys looked like they’d just crossed the Simpson Desert, covered in dust that had been galing across the gibber plain today. All a good indication they’ve had a fantastic afternoon.
John’s Pizza Bar was the kid’s choice for this evening’s meal while we went out to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. After we took the kids and pizza back to the motel, we briefed them on any emergency including any random visit by Mick Taylor while we had a romantic meal. It’s the first time we’ve ever been out for our anniversary without the kids. As tempting as the pizza place is with it’s award winning smell and star studded walls of pictures with TV personalities, we thought we’d eat at the local hotel which looks quite up market and we get to spread the dollars around as well. Just as we pull up at the hotel car park, on the opposite side of the road is the Greyhound bus depot where a group of rather loud locals disembarked from Alice Springs (probably after a court case from a gruesome murder where someone’s head got bashed in with a rock 12 times as we heard on the local ABC news later). As we get out of the car, there are also some wild life yelling and pulling each other’s hair outside the dimly lit hotel. Looking briefly through the pub window, the Steve Earle lyrics from Copperhead Road “only come to town ’bout twaarce a year” is playing in my head as I can only see rugged station patrons with their dusty cowboy hats. This isn’t the romantic meal I had in mind.
As we turn on our heel for a hasty retreat we are accosted by a local pulling out a couple of rocks from his pocket and trying to flog them to us in the dark as if they were crystal meth. “You wanna buy opal” the dirty man asked. Reminscent of being caught up in South East LA’s gang land we quickly jump in the trusty Territory, central lock the doors and make a quick get away to the safety of John’s Pizza Bar. This place is more in our comfort zone with plenty of tourists, expat coppers and the remainder of Coober Pedy’ s population by the looks. All in all it is a very romantic evening concluding with me typing my blog on my tablet when I should be staring lovingly into my husband’s eyes. One thing is for certain though, I am totally loving our outback adventure, am going to miss Coober Pedy and can certainly understand the attraction it holds for so many people who come for a few days and stay for decades.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 6 – “With Bitter Feelings of Disappointment I turned from the Cheerless and Dreary Scene Around Me”
We are on the road by 9am but held up by the peak hour traffic jam at the petrol station. Jammed by everyone making their way to all four corners of this great nation of ours. The road to the Oodnadata Track is really good and we get excited when we spot an eagle feeding off a dead dingo just as we reach the Track . Once on the track it is only about 5km before reaching William Creek that the road seems to deteriorate. It is a hive of activity with mostly all 4WDs and off road campers all loaded up. This place seems to be such an institution that we just had to stop for a quick drink at the pub. Four lemonades cost $16. My favourite is the stuffed water buffalo head lying around on the floor. As with most outback pubs, it is very crude and rudimentary in there. Most of the land we are travelling through belongs to Anna Creek Station which is the biggest cattle station in the world at nearly 6 million square km. Apparently, they have about 40 paddocks spread over the size of Wales or Israel. The turn off to Lake Eyre (North) National Park is not long after William Creek and we see a few cows.
We have nearly 70km to go to reach Lake Eyre and we have to take the same road back again. The conditions warrant slowing to 60 km again so it takes a fair bit of time and we don’t get there until 1pm. We plan to have a picnic there, but the howling wind hurls talcum powder-like dust into the car and a minus 40 wind chill factor puts a stop to that idea so we picnic in the car by climbing into the back over the seats to retrieve our food stocks. We brave the wind to take a few quick snaps of a very empty Lake Eyre without a bird in sight. In 1843 Edward John Eyre couldn’t have described my sentiments about this place any better. “With bitter feelings of disappointment I turned from the dreary and cheerless scene around me”. I find it difficult to get inspired with any decent shots and even though the winter sun is still low, the light is still too harsh. Still it is Australia’s largest lake and lowest point at 15m below sea level and it is now ticked off my bucket list.
It seems to take ages to get back out of there and I don’t think we are going to make Marree before it gets completely dark at 6pm. We stop at a few ruins along the old Ghan Railway and see a live dingo this time at Irrapatana. It moves too quick to get a picture of it. At Strangways ruins there are great relics of an old town. We spend more time than anticipated there as it’s so interesting and remote. We stop again at Beresford Dam where there is an old stone house, a water tank and a few campers settling in for the night. It is already 4.30pm and we still have 150 km on a gravel road at 60 km/hr. I want to stop at other points of interest but we are running out of time. It’s deceptive here as the sun rises so much later (at 7.30am) and sets so much earlier (5.30pm) than it does for us in the West. We pass Lake Eyre South and unfortunately I miss the sunset here by about 20 minutes as it looks much better here than it did on the 140 km trip out of our way to see the north lake. There are beautiful pink and purple hues over the lake and some great cloud formations.
We have to drive for about an hour and a half in the dark, spot just one cow, and arrive at Marree at 6.45pm. The town looks so small and desolate and there are only a few cars parked out the front of the Marree Hotel, our chosen lodgings for the night, the only lodgings in town. Upon entering, I am astounded to discover about 4 different dining rooms and over 100 people eating meals! I was expecting just a few old drunks at the bar but I guess it’s a huge cross road junction in Australia. The Marree Hotel itself it just like any other run down country hotel, but it certainly has a lot of character and tourists. We order a meal and it takes ages to arrive because they are so busy. I’m so tired after a long driving day and there is no phone or internet access here so no uploading the blog tonight. I guess I can make start to upload some of my photos for the blog but I’m even too tired for that. I’m not sure if Wilpena Pound has access for tomorrow night.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 7 – Mosque in the Outback?
Well the Marree Hotel sure aint the Hilton but it sure is an outback experience. After I tackle the temperamental aged plumbing in the shower, we head down stairs for a continental breakfast and get a bit side tracked by watching the The Netherlands vs Argentina FIFA World Cup match where The Netherlands loose in a penalty shoot out. After we packed the car, we go on a self guided walking tour of Marree. The town used to be the main junction where cattle were mustered from stations as far away as Queensland and sent by rail to Adelaide to market. The Afghan cameleers also worked from here and we stumble upon the relics of Australia’s first Mosque made from mud brick and a thatched roof.
We fuel up and it’s still not as expensive as it was on the Nullarbour. We really want to stop at some interesting ruins at Farina but we’d knew we’d run short of time. We see loads of wild emus and had less than 100 km of gravel to travel on before we hit the turn off for the Flinders Ranges. What a lovely change in landscape as it is so green in the ranges and surprisingly hilly. A windy track takes us into to the main part of the park. Lots of people are camped in random spots and it really is quite beautiful.
We reach Wilpena Pound by 1 pm and have a picnic lunch there. We did the 6 km walk into the Pound and go to a lookout. To be honest I don’t think the walk is worth the view over the Pound. The view from the drive is much nicer and we get lovely views leaving the Pound over the southern Flinders Ranges at sunset. Inside the pound is also quite lush with massive graceful gums and streams. Surprisingly there are feral goats. Our accommodation is about 10 km away from the Pound on Rawnsley Park Station which is 30,000 acre sheep farm. We arrive at 5.30pm and it is self contained so we can cook dinner. During our stay in the outback I am expecting every place to tell us to only have 2 minute showers due to water shortages however, his area falls within the 22% of Australia which sits on an artesian basin so all the water is pumped from the bowels of the earth. It does absolutely nothing for my hair.
We unintentionally sleep in till 8am today and are on the road again at 9.30am. The day is overcast and drizzling so a nice picture of Rawnsley Peak at sunrise is out of the question. There is a lovely ruin at the station so I take some pictures of that.
As it turns there are ruins about every 500m the whole way to Claire. South Australia should be called the State of Ruins. The landscape is mostly picturesque with gentle undulating hills reminding me of the Telly Tubby habitat, especially with all the wind turbines we see along the way. We stop at the Peterborough Steam Heritage Railway Centre which is really interesting but sucked a valuable 3 hours of our travel time. It will still take about 4 hours to get to Hahndorf and I want to see the infamous Barossa Valley along the way. At 3.30pm we leave Peterborough and it world be dark by the time we would have got to the Barossa, so we end bypassing it. We pass some lovely historic towns along the way, with all of them looking a bit like Western Australia’s oldest inland town town, York. I just love how history is in your face everywhere here with classic Aussie architecture on shop fronts, old houses and homesteads.
The town of Burra makes a particular impression and warrants a wander around and I am desperate to stop and take pictures of all of this along the way but we simply had no time. We arrive at Hahndorf at 7.15pm. By this stage we are all starting to get a bit smelly but discover the laundry closes at 7pm, so it will have to wait and we’ll possible need to set off in commando style tomorrow.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 9 – Planes, Trams and Autobahns
A bit slow to get going this morning as we seem to be getting more and more tired. We dodn’t start our washing till 9am and of course we can’t stray too far while that is happening. We take the opportunity to wander down the street in Hahndorf. I feel like I am back in Europe during the winter. There are deciduous trees everywhere without a leaf in sight and of course with the weather to match. Autumn would look incredible here. It won’t reach over 8 degrees celcius today, there is German style buildings everywhere and the only thing that is missing is snow. We treat ourselves to some Apple Strudle with freshly roasted coffee which is quite possibly the best I have ever tasted. Hahndorf is very touristy and very busy (with the main street as frenetic as an autobahn) but definitely worth stopping at. It is just before 1pm before we finish all our washing and drying and catch the bus into Adelaide as there’d be no time tomorrow. It’s a nice treat to be away from the driving for a while as well.
It only takes an hour to get to Rundall Mall in the city centre. I am astounded at the proliferation of little towns in the hills and they all have gorgeous old stone hotels and old stone homes. The Aldgate Pump Hotel and the Bridgewater Inn look great and I want to pop in and grab a port. It’s so damn cold. In central Adelaide we got to a book store and duck into Kmart for a few things. We then walk to King William Street to catch the tram to Glenelg which takes about half an hour. The kids have never been on a tram so it was a great experience for them. I am blown away over how nice Glenelg is. I guess I was expecting something like Scarborough Beach. Luckily the rain has cleared a bit so we can walk around without getting wet. The kids are getting hungry so we head to Maccas for coffee and fries. Surprisingly the pigeons have made themselves at home inside McDonalds and the health inspector is no where to be seen. We leave at about 5.00pm and get back to Hahndorf by 6.30pm. It feels like we have been on holidays for months with the amount of things we have packed in and finally I am starting to feel quite fatigued.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 10 – McLaren Vale Lost on Pie Lovers
Time to leave the European winter wonderland of Hahndorf behind and check out nearby Beerenburg Family Farm where we stock up on relishes, jams and sauces for gifts. A fantastic panoramic vista over Adelaide awaits us at Mount Lofty but we get a bit lost because Mary Lou, our dumb Irish GPS, tells us to go the wrong way. Nevertheless we get to see more of the Adelaide Hills which we missed out on when drove to Hahndorf in the dark. I said, “Oh, look at that lovely old stone house!” a thousand times on the way. Absolutely everyone lives in one over here. Time to head off to Victor Harbour via McLaren Vale . We are more interested in bakeries rather than wine, so we stop at one and bought some pies and park up beside the road overlooking a nice vineyard to scoff them.
I am expecting Victor Harbour to be a sleepy fishing village. Far from it. It reminds me of Esperance with ginormous Norfolk Pines lining the beach. We get to our lodgings in time to see the steam train pull up and go on the turn table.
The boys are really excited. We go to Coles to buy food for dinner tonight, then walk on the jetty, past the horse drawn carriage, to Granite Island . It is so cold and we spot some penguins on some rocks on the way back. Tomorrow we are off to Kangaroo Island!
The weary family is up early this morning for the hour’s journey to the ferry terminal at Cape Jervis. The drive reminds me of New Zealand where there are rolling dales and plenty of dairy cows, sheep and roos on the road. If we were one minute earlier we could have made it on the 9am ferry but the car in front of us got the last spot. Never mind, time for a coffee at the shop and watch the disembarkation process until the 10am ferry. I am surprised to see sheep carriers coming off full of sheep. I knew they farmed on KI but I guess I never thought too much beyond how they get their stock to market. It must cost the farmers a fortune. I also didn’t think there would be enough room for big trucks either. Anyway, Desert Ship Territory is first in line so she is first on the Sealink Ferry. I am getting VERY excited about what is going to be a highlight of the trip for me. It is a totally overcast day, bitterly cold and windy. The seas look choppy but the trip isn’t too bad.
I bought Husband sea sick tablets as I didn’t want a repeat of our Kaikoura experience (refer to previous Palmists and Puke blog entry for our NZ trip). He chooses a seat in the ‘safest’ part of the boat while the kids and I sit up the front as it’s too cold to be outside. I check in with Husband and he seems to be travelling okay with no seasickness. No other passengers puked and my nervousness of being on boats (stemming from a near death experience whilst caught in a tropical storm on a dhow boat off the coast of Kenya) subsides after a while.
It takes about 45 minutes and by 11am we are at Cape Willoughby which is South Australia’s first light house. I love lighthouses but the $36 guided tour fee as well as howling, gale force winds totally put me off. We explore the Dudley Peninsular a little further including me annoying Husband by my wanting to stop to take pictures of the lovely gums arching over a lonely track. Why doesn’t he understand the picture I take is bound to be an award winner. How do I know this? Because every time Husband whines about having to stop so I can take a picture, I take a great award winning picture. It must be the fact that I work well under pressure.
We climb Prospect Hill where we have sweeping views of the island. Famous Australian explorer, Matthew Flinders, did the same thing in April 1802. We are pretty tired by this stage and just want to get to our lodgings which was another 100 km away on the other side of the Island. We stop at Vivonne Bay General Store because I forgot to buy a few things and we are also running low on bread. There is nothing much there so I thought there would be some groceries at the caravan park kiosk. I am getting very excited as I booked a whole 3 days here because there is the promise of seeing koalas in the wild right here in the park and seals just down the road in Flinders Chase National Park. Western Australia is sadly devoid of this great Australian icon as well as the wombat and this why I’m excited. There is lots of road kill, mostly tamar wallabies and sadly, I’m sure I saw a dead koala.
My heart sinks as we turn into the park which looks abandoned as absolutely no one is staying here and there is a big “For Sale” sign on the gate. Thankfully some one is at reception so I book in and quickly scan the kiosk during the process. On the spartan shelves there is two lonely packs of Sui Min noodles, no tampons or nappies to be seen and not even a tin of baked beans. There is glimmer of hope as I read a promising sign at the desk saying “Bread $5”, so I ask for some bread. “We’ve run out. Usually we have some frozen but we don’t have any of that left either”. “Well when are you planning on getting some” I plead. “Dunno, but you can get some from Vivonne Bay”, she replied. Vivonne Bay is 50 km away. “We’ve just come from there”, I reply dispondantly. Thank god I had the foresight to get supplies for the next two evening meals yesterday otherwise we’d be totally screwed. It would have been helpful that in the island’s glossy tourist brochures, you know the ones showing heaps of happy families frolicking in backlit gums pointing at cute cuddly koalas from their sunny porch, actually mentioned in the ‘useful information’ section that there is absolutely no shops within 50 km of the ferry terminal. We are 150 km from the terminal.
Husband barks at me, “How long did you say we are staying here?”
“Three days”, I respond proudly.
“Why didn’t you book somewhere a bit more central to everything?”
“There is nothing more central”, I yell back. We are all so very tired with burning the candle at both ends and tensions rise when things don’t quite go our way. I can’t be bothered with looking for damn koalas and crawl into bed at 4 pm because I am so cold and exhausted. I fell asleep for two hours and wake up in time to catch the weather forecast on TV. Torrential rain and gale force winds in store for tomorrow. Excellent weather for photographing seals! To be honest I think we need a day of doing nothing and plan our escape route back home to Western Australia. I think I will be begging to be dropped off at the Adelaide airport. The thought of four straight days of more driving is not filling me with the firstborn adventure I was relishing a week and a half a go!
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 12 – Koalas and Bread Save the Day
We manage a well over due sleep in and it isn’t long before I am back into my ‘David Attenborough’ mode and start searching for koalas that are meant to be hanging around in the trees here. The kids think they saw three yesterday (when I was too exhausted to look). Anyway, of course, they are no where to be seen when I go looking. I see plenty of Tamar Wallabies, roos and birds though. We head for Flinders Chase National Park and I am surprised by the big gift shop, cafe and interpretive centre in the middle of nowhere. We have the choice of paying for a one or two day pass but despite the weather being quite good, half a day has already passed and I want to spend most of the day there and had to take my chances with the possibility of bad weather tomorrow. Unknowingly, at the Visitor Centre car park, I walk straight under a koala where a bunch of tourists were hanging around as I was walking back out. So seeing the koala in the wild makes my day.
After that we retreat back to the cabin, have lunch and then hire sand boards from the Vivonne Bay General Store and toke the kids to ‘Little Sahara’. There are quite a few families there because the dunes are really awesome. After a couple of hours the kids look exhausted and start to complain how their boards aren’t working and everyone else’s is. The fact that the Vivonne Bay General Store has bread also makes my day. It starts to rain, so we stop at a few lookouts over the Southern Ocean and then head back to our cabin as it is starting to look quite miserable outside. Getting back early means I had plenty of time to finally upload 12 days worth of photos.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 13 – Adelaide Advertiser “WA Tourist Perishes at Admiral’s Arch”
Day 13 starts like any other day but its mere number should’ve been a foreboding ominous sign. I peek outside our cabin from behind the curtains which did a great job last night from preventing the heat from the reverse cycle from escaping. The windows are all fogged up and I clear a viewing area with my sleeve on the window to check on the weather. It is completely overcast and rain does not look far away. A quick check on the Bureau of Meteorology radar shows no rain at all which seems to back up the Flinders Chase National Park’s Visitor Centre’s yesterday’s forecast for today of a few showers. Flinders Chase is the pinnacle of KI attractions and I passed up going yesterday because we’d got there at lunch time and the kids wanted to go sand boarding instead. I can’t wait to get there and see Admirals Arch where all the New Zealand Fur Seals bask. Husband and the kids go on ahead but I decide to go to the seal lookout first. The seals are so far away that it is pointless to take pictures of them, so I head to Admirals Arch.
The weather looks ominous despite the forecast and when I pass the boys on their way back they tell me there are heaps of seals close up at the Arch. It is quite a walk down a zig zag boardwalk on a bluff jutting out into the Southern Ocean before a steep stairway leading into the actual arch where you can see the view. I start taking photos but the wind is getting so strong and all the sea spray is going straight onto my lense. It is so breathtakingly rugged and I have spotted a place to seek shelter if I had to. It is scary looking at the waves crashing through my long lense as they look so close and look like they are going to take me. The reality is they are very close now regardless as the wind is getting stronger but there is a barrier on the viewing platform so I figure it is safe enough. The gale force winds are getting just awful now and I thought I’d have a good chance of making it back some 300m to the car before the front hits. All of a sudden I am in my very own Bear Grylls “Get Out Alive” episode.
First the rain hit. I dealt with that although my rain jacket had lost its waterproofness a few washes go. The worst that could happen is that I would get wet. I have already taken measures to protect my camera equipment by putting on a rain cover for my backpack and by wrapping a robust plastic bag for my camera and zoom lense. What I didn’t anticipate is my impression of a wind sock during cyclone Tracey as I grip onto the boardwalk hand rail. I have to hang on for dear life to prevent being blown into the turbulent Southern Ocean below. The rain was now horizontal and each drop felt like being attacked by an machine nerf gun at close range. The rain completely penetrates me through my four layers of clothing in two seconds flat. Just when I think things couldn’t get much worse, it starts to hail. I didn’t know what to do, put up with the hail slicing my face open or take my chances to get further up the boardwalk, where the hand rail stops and there is a little brick wall in a curve shape about 75 cm high. It presents a small shelter from the direction of the hail. I wait until the wind abates a fraction I make a run for it with my 10 kg back pack.
I swear it is the weight which helped anchor me as I sought refuge behind the wall from the buffeting elements. After the hail stopped I release my white knuckle grip from the brick wall and manage to get up from my hunches without toppling back from the weight of my back. I crave the safety of the car and my family. It sounds silly but my only thoughts are ‘I can’t leave my children motherless and if the authorities are ever be able to recover my body, then I wonder if they’d be able to recover the pictures off my memory card’. With that thought, I make a mad dash up the rest of the boardwalk with no hand rail for security. The reality is I can only stagger my way back as if I was very drunk as the gale kept blowing me off course. If I feel as if I am going to do a Mary Poppins, then my plan of attack is to dive into the scrub and crawl under the boardwalk. Thank goodness that isn’t necessary. At the car I get the plastic lined picnic blanket out of the boot so I can sit on it in the passenger side otherwise we’d never get the seat dry for tomorrows escape out of this hell hole.
Upon reaching refuge in the trusty Territory my whole family look at me and laugh as if it is the absolute highlight of their trip. Don’t they realise what I’d just survived. .I wonder if they’d be laughing at my funeral? On our way back there are severe weather warning alerts for the Island on the radio. Before this unexpected turn of events, the plan is to have lunch at the Visitor’s Centre, however after a teeth chattering trip back to the Visitor’s Centre I now fear hypothermia just to top the day off. Since our accommodation is only 10 minutes away, we go back so I can have a shower to warm up and change into dry clothes. The moans coming out of the shower rival any porn movie. I have never ever had such a great shower. After draping all the clothes on the chairs and leaving the reverse cycle on full bore, we go back for some comfort food at the cafe in the Visitor’s Centre. I ate A LOT to maintain my body heat as I wonder why I bother even leaving the safety of my couch. The day doesn’t improve much as the rain and blustery weather still impedes any thoughts I have of trying to do any nature walks to look for platypus and more koalas.
My friend from the car park yesterday has moved on which surprises me as koalas have to be the laziest animal known to man, with my cat being the next laziest. Back at the cabin the weather is even too bad to look for koalas swaying in the trees here. In case the photographers out there are wondering… unlike the uncertainty and excitement of firstborn adventure I used to crave and which has now died, my camera made it without incident. The whole family has now got a bad case a cabin fever, nothing a four day drive back West won’t cure. Tip of the day…winter holidays suck.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 14 – Kingscote, KI
The day commences with yet more rain and I wait for a break in the showers to head back down to the koala walk they have here to see if I can spot my own koala in the wild. I am duly rewarded. They can be difficult to spot as they go really high up into the trees. I have a set of binoculars with me and this one is fast asleep and its fur is all wet. I don’t know how they get much shelter in this weather. I also see some Tamar Wallabies that let me get quite close as they are normally quite skittish and once again I am rewarded with a mother and its joey in her pouch. After check out time we drove to Kingscote where we are staying for our final night in KI. Our first job is to get some more food as we have nothing left after 3 days of being stranded in the wilderness. Our accommodation is right on the beach and is a quaint older style motel. It almost needs some pink flamingos out the front. Because the weather has been so aweful, all customers who booked rooms with the shared ablutions (which involves a walk outside) have been upgraded to a normal motel room.
I’m sure I would’ve paid the extra anyway as I’m so over this weather! We unpack our stuff and check out some souvenir shops. I really want a jacket with “Kangaroo Island” embroidered on it but there seems to be nothing but black, grey and brown colours which I hate and it is all quite over priced compared to the Visitor’s Centre yesterday. Unfortunately, no where else sells anything like this so I have to make do with a beanie instead. We visit a National Trust building which is a museum. Kingscote is the first settlement in South Australia. We go to see American River which is named after the American sealers who used to frequent this bay and other places on the WA south coast. There are loads of pelicans there which also excites the photographer in me. It rains the whole way back to Kingscote and when it starts to get dark we decid to have an early dinner at the local fish and chip shop which has got rave reviews. They aren’t wrong. Quite possibly the best I have ever tasted.
We treat ourselves to a tub of icecream from Foodland on our way back to the motel. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get here in our first week as we would’ve missed all this bad weather, but apart from the incident yesterday, I guess the island really showed us her rugged unspoilt beauty.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 15 – Krispy Kreme Doughnut Dilemma
I awake to a beautiful view of the Back Stairs Passage which is like a mill pond on an overcast but rainless sky. Typical for the day we leave after 3 full days torrential rain but the world has bigger problems today. The TV at the ferry terminal alerts us to the dreadful news of MH17 being shot down over the Ukraine and passengers are transfixed in disbelief that something like this could happen to so many of our countrymen in a country so far away. We are all affected by six degrees of separation as my Husband’s cousin and his wife used to baby sit the Maslan family, who tragically lost all of their three children and their grandfather in the violence.
Before we ramp at the loading dock we do a quick tour of Penneshaw which looks like a quaint Cornish village stuck in the 70s. There is meant to be penguins right here near the ferry terminal and I had investigated going on a tour yesterday evening but there was a big note at the penguin centre at Kingscote Wharf stating all tours had been cancelled since last year due to low numbers. Those low numbers are due to the NZ Fur Seal eating them all. I am now glad that the weather impeded my efforts to photograph them whilst on KI because I have now officially boycotted them. Why they just don’t just stick to eating fish I have no idea. Every driver is still waving to us every time we pass a vehicle on the road here in KI, a true testament to how friendly our South Aussie neighbours are.
On the ferry we are busy planning our escape route, the quickest way back home. We are debating whether to spend a night in Burra which we were really sad about missing out on on the way here, but it is 7 hours from Ceduna, so maybe we will head straight to Port Augusta. Once off the ferry we pass back through the stunning Fleurieu Peninsular where the dairies and rolling steep hills remind us so much of New Zealand.
We make the decision to go to the Barossa Valley via Adelaide rather than around the other side of the Adelaide Hills. I thought the hills will take ages because of the windy hilly roads but I couldn’t have been more wrong. For a start, the major Southern Expressway is closed. Not just part of it, but the whole express way which means we have to take the back roads through congested Adelaide. We are nearly wiped out twice by other drivers and none of it is our fault. Both failed to give way and one managed to stop in time after we gave the vehicle a wide berth and had somewhere to move, the other just pulled out in front of us when we were going straight and we managed to brake in time. Move over Western Australian motorists, South Australians are now the worst in Australia!
For the last three days we hear heard nothing on the local radio other than the opening of the first Krispy Kreme Doughnut store in South Australia. It just so happens that on our unplanned detour we are passing within 500m of there. Perhaps it was divine providence which provokes much debate in the car over whether we should stop and sacrifice the Barossa Valley due to severe time constraints to get a doughnut. It’s a huge dilemma because as with koalas and wombats, Western Australia is still sadly devoid of any Krispy Kreme stores. It is an easy decision in the end as we hear there are still massive queues. The news headline on the radio reports how someone was held up at knife point for their box of Krispy Kremes! Talk about crazy for the Krispy Kremes. There is also an abundance road works on the way to the Barossa Valley, meaning we don’t get there until 1530 pm. The Barossa Valley truly is scenic and beautiful and it’s a shame we don’t have more time here. We take a detour through the Seppeltfields Drive which is particularly scenic. I am gobsmacked to see the Seppelt Family Mausoleum which looks like a Roman mansion perched high on a hill and accessed by a mayan style staircase lined with palms. It was built in 1927.
We only have time for five minutes in Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop before we end up coming to a halt at the Discovery Holiday Caravan Park just before Clare which looks packed despite the cold that is setting in. Luckily, they have space for us and funnily enough it’s been the cheapest accommodation yet at $99 and is in a lovely location, similar to our other lodgings.
Because we only managed the get this far it means we have a 7 hour driving day with no stops tomorrow to get to Ceduna. I have my heart set on seeing a Georgian mansion, Martindale Hall, not far from here but am gutted to discover it closed at 4pm and won’t be open until midday tomorrow. Curse you Adelaide for holding us up! I guess I’ll just have to look at it on the internet, not quite the same though. I hope the grounds are still open tomorrow.
On the eve of returning home, I am already feeling nostalgic about our wonderful holiday. SA has been full of unexpected scenery, history, wild life and friendliness. I have totally loved it and can not wait to come back one day… with an airline.
It’s a pretty cold morning in Clare as it about one degree. I really want to see the historic town of Mintaro just out of Clare and see if I can catch a glimpse of Martindale Hall since we will miss opening time. All we was is some outbuildings through the bush. After a brief stop back in Clare I couldn’t help photographing all of the old buildings. Clare is also a wine growing area but the minute you leave the valley it quickly reverts to rolling agricultural plains and we are surprised to see how advanced the already flowering canola crops are. We are approaching the Southern Flinders Ranges area again and the landscape gets quite hilly. If you have a farm here, you will invariably live in an old stone house. There is such an abundance of them and we rarely see a modern farm house. Little towns long the way are common place and all of them are historic and street scapes with shops lined with quintessential bull nosed verandahs. Most of the time the only give away that we are in the twenty first century is the vehicles angle parked down the wide main streets.
Once we exit the ranges via Horrocks Pass we are almost in Port Augusta where the landscape changs instantly and remarkably back to station country with low scrub and salt bush. We stop to have lunch at a bakery in Port Augusta. I’m glad we made the effort to actually go into Port August rather than just bypass it. If you were just driving past, it looks like a depressed industrial iron smelting town. However, in town there are many magnificent historical buildings. After another 4.5 hours of driving and a brief stop at Kimba, whose claim to fame is the east/west half way point of Australia and home of The Big Pink and Grey Galah, we arrive at Ceduna at 1730.
I manage to download about half my photos and put my favourites on Facebook. The rest will have to wait. We are in bed early for a big 12 hour driving day tomorrow to Norseman.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 17 – Kamakazi Kangaroo
My spouse’s homing instinct is stronger than a prized pigeon. He thinks by sitting in the car 15 minutes before any one else is ready is going to get us to our destination so much quicker. At 0600 we are on the road. I am sad about missing a photo opportunity of the Penola windmills which is a conglomeration of different sized windmills in a small area as it is still pitch black and even if it wasn’t dark, it is totally overcast making for a very ‘flat’ picture anyway. As the sun rises I glance quickly over my shoulder to see the pretty purple clouds and during this split second Brendan said he saw a wombat. Unbelievably this is the only wildlife I haven’t ticked off my list and I miss it in a split second.
About 25 km before Nundroo (the first roadhouse after Ceduna) we hit a kamakazi kangaroo which bounds out of no where are not calmly sitting on the side of the road like they are supposed to. It comes off second best with the trusty Territory which sustains a bent number plate and cracked plastic work on the front grill.
Thank goodness it wasn’t worse or the air bags didn’t go off. Thank goodness it didn’t happen on my shift so now Husband is annoyed about it but I guess it’s all part of the “Territory”. Of course we’re all hyper alert now and are spooked by every shadow and bush. The wildlife sign for the next 92 km doesn’t give me any comfort or instill any excitement as it did on the way over. Only 1200 km to go to Norseman and 3 hours until we hit the actual Nullabor Plain where the roos can’t hide.
To pass the time away I’m reading a brilliant book called ‘The Cattle King’ which is about Sidney Kidman who created an empire of over 100 stations spreading over NT, SA, WA, QLD & VIC where he ran, cattle, sheep, camels and horses. He achieved so much over his life time and gives a real insight into how rugged the interior of this nation is and of bushman culture.
It never rains on the Nullarbor Plain, except when I want to take pictures of it! We somehow miss the best lookout on the way over as there are many, and now we are at a great lookout anyway over the Bunda Cliffs.
One thing is fur sure though, I do not want to be that person who’s on foot pushing a wheelbarrow (yes you read right and yes, ‘some mother’s do have ‘em’) during a thunder storm. What would one do? Lie down and play dead? The treeless and everything elseless Plain is also not the time to play ‘I Spy’. Instead, after finishing my book, I decide to write a little parody of our experiences of the drive today and it is designed to be sung along to the tune The Seeker’s “Morningtown Ride”. My song is called “Boringtown Ride” and it goes like this…
“Road train indicator’s goin’ makes it safe to pass. Underneath their ipods are both my sleepy boys.
Driving, eating, whining, all along the way. All bound for Norseman, 1000 miles away.
Driver hits a roo, driver quickly brakes, driver inspects the damage and signals all is safe.
Driving, eating, whining, all along the way. All bound for Norseman, 1000 miles away.
Maybe there is a rest bay where all the caravans camp at night. All the grey nomads are warm and snug inside.
Driving, eating, whining, all along the way. All bound for Norseman, 1000 miles away.
Somewhere there is a tree, somewhere there is a bend. Somewhere there is the border many miles away.
Driving, eating, whining, all along the way. All bound for Norseman, 1000 miles away.”
It’s simply amazing how the imagination gets carried away with nothing else to occupy it and so I actually thought about filming myself singing it and posting it on Facebook where it would definitely go viral. At Balladonia we fill up and due the storm the EFTPOS machine is temporarily down. Some customers are really angry, but what do they expect in the outback! We don’t have to wait for long and we arrive in Norseman without further incident at 1800 SA time (1630 WA time). It’s also raining in Norseman and we are a bit concerned about the state of the 300km gravel Hyden road after this rain, but we’ll make some enquiries in the morning and see what happens.
This is possibly my last blog as I know what tends to happen once one get home. Life takes over and my mind is fuddled with too much daily drudgery.
Desert Ship Territory Log Day 18 – Home at Last
Contrary to what I said on Day 17, I have decided to add the final day of our road trip to South Australia, but it is written in retrospect upon the insistence of a friend whom I relayed a funny story to about what we saw on the last day. Here goes. Being a short travel day of about 6 hours (if we took the short cut through Hyden) we afford ourselves a bit of a sleep in and are on the road at 0830 hours. Too bad if the short cut doesn’t work out, we’ll just get home a lot later. We are concerned about the state of the road as Norseman had received about 5mm of rain over night. We make our way to the Police Station but no one is there. We then go to the tourist bureau but that isn’t open yet either, so we get a loaf of bread for lunch from the local IGA instead. Rows of empty shelving and unused fridges is obviously a statement of the town’s former glory. $5 for a loaf of bread is all I can afford here so I walk out with nothing else.
We decide to fill the car up at the local BP service station and ask for road conditions in there. The woman points us in the direction of a print out of a condition report of local roads pinned up on the wall. It says all roads are open but the problem with that is it’s dated last Friday. It’s now Sunday. We decide to run the gauntlet with the 300 km dirt road to Hyden anyway. That’s not before my attention is caught by two unkempt hitch hikers. With long straggly hair, baggy pants with the crotch reaching their knees and threadbare layers of faded shirts they are homeless by desire. Oh no! Eye contact had been made and there was no avoiding him. While Brendan was inside paying for the fuel he bounced up from his rather leisurely sitting position and asked, “are you crossing the Nullarbor?”
“No, we’ve just come from there. Do you need a lift?”
“Yeah. There’s a truckie inside that says if we’re still here tomorrow he pick us up on his way back,” he states with a smile as wide as the Great Australian Bight along with a healthy dose of youthful naïve enthusiasm.
Looking at his long hair I couldn’t help but be a little facetious, and I have to admit, even a little flirtatious as I am looking at my younger self of 20 years ago when I was a young traveller. “Looks like you need to buy yourself a skirt then.” He pats down the length of his hair and looks a little embarrassed….oh who am I kidding! He didn’t need to invest anymore time in me as he continues to make small talk that travellers stopped on crossroads inevitably make. Where’ve you come from, where’re you going? Husband comes out of the shop and it’s time to move on.
As we depart the servo there is something else I notice. A tiny Daewoo Matiz pulls up to get petrol. I was totally perplexed to see a 15 litre elongated tin can tied directly to the roof with four pieces of rope kept secure by the four closed doors.
It is impossible to see inside the car from the back as it is packed full of crap. Astonishingly three young burley men exit the car, with the bloke sitting in the back having to extract his knees from behind his ears no doubt.
This is definitely the smallest car I have seen yet on the Eyre Highway. I think no more of it as we start driving out of town a little to get to the Hyden turn off. The road is in remarkably good condition as it becomes obvious that a lot of mining companies use this road. What would be the last day of our trip with another “When Dave and I… (refer Day 4 – Blog Entry) went on this road over 20 years ago it was just a skinny 4WD track and the trees were hitting the sides of the Hilux.” It was a little slushy in places from the rain. The route has been dubbed “The Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail ” and I have a brochure pointing out that the trail explores one of the world’s greatest untouched temperate woodlands, with 16 designated stopping places. We stop at a few places to stretch our legs and at one place there was even a long drop toilet which was a surprise. Our car has never been so filthy from all the mud splashing up from the tyres and it was impossible to see out the back window.
Just five km from Hyden is Wave Rock where we stop to show the kids. After roaming around the site for a while we start to get hungry and make our way back to the car so we can drive into town and eat our lunch. Back at the car park there is a bunch of people talking in front of our car. As we approached three blokes departed the car bay from next to our car incredulously in the same egg beater car we saw at Norseman BP. Living proof that the Norseman Hyden Road is also totally appropriate for 2WDs and idiots. An older couple parked on the other side of our Territory started chatting to us and said those blokes left Wollongong on Saturday morning and were heading to Perth. My jaw dropped in disbelief. Sensible people would do this trip in a minimum of four days and this is their second day and they are nearly in Perth! We had a chuckle as they told us the car only takes 30 litres of fuel and the car does 100 km/ litre. Suddenly all makes sense when it is revealed the tin can is for extra fuel over the Nullarbor between service stations.
I’m surprised they even had time to take in the sights at Wave Rock. The woman also said one of the blokes had a boot and a thong on because he couldn’t find matching shoes amongst all the rubbish in the back. What another great laugh as I see youthful enthusiasm once again in full force on the same day. As I silently smiled to myself I just knew that one day my own boys will be just like that, just as I was, and why? Because I am now teaching them this is a world with no bounds or limits where it’s mostly about the journey and not the destination (as I’m sure in years to come the Daewoo boys will talk about getting to Perth/ Wollongong rather than the actual place itself. My kids will say “I wonder if I can do that”, but rather “I wonder how I can do that.”
At 1600 we make it home safely and my last born, who hates Tuesday Newsdays, and without any motherly nagging, couldn’t start writing quick enough about his little adventures all ready for his first day back at school.
So to those who have been following, thank you for reading as I have, despite some down times, enjoyed every minute of it (except at Admiral’s Arch).