One for the Road
a journey round the edges of Oz

Dec
05

Final Journey

Did our penultimate hook up this morning – effortless compared to our first attempts 6 months ago – cruised out of the campsite onto the freeway and headed for Perth. Only 40 minutes away and kinda weird to see its name on the big green road signs again. Suddenly we could see the tall buildings of the CBD against a bright blue sky, the Narrows Bridge and the river Swan …. and we felt like we were home. WoooOOooppPP wooooPPPp!!! We have done the big lap – every Aussie’s dream – and we are back to where we started. It is done.

Coming into Perth from South

So what next? Well we’re camping up at Karrinyup Waters for the next 8 days whilst we sort out all sorts of stuff. We have 2 lots of storage here, where our belongings from our house in Perth and Brunei have been languishing for the last 2 years and 6 months respectively, we’ve got to get these together then get them shipped over to the other side of the country. We have to get all kinds of little bits of nonsense fixed on the caravan …then scrub off all that red dirt ….and sell it. We have to see financial advisors and doctors and dentists …. catch up with lots of good mates (hey we’ve made a good start on that already but still heaps to go …. and every catch up is another bottle or two of wine …not doing our livers much good). We also have mates from Brunei arriving in their bucket loads over the next week or so …. our diaries are full to busting. Christmas should kick in around then I reckon – and if all goes to plan we will be packing up the Hilux and heading back across the Nullarbor to Brisbane – we plan to do it in five days -12 hours driving a day – in time to spend New Year with our daughter and for Big Rigg to start a new job in January. That is the plan.

Catch up with Suz from Brunei

Old Perth mates down at Trigg

Old mates from Norway at Hillarys Boat Harbour - welcome to Oz Steph n Steve!

So …indulge me for a moment or two as I’m feeling a tad reflective at this point … and I’m thinking back on the whole road trip and trying to work out what were the best bits, worst bits … and more importantly …. how I have changed… or how it has changed me. There is no doubt that a road trip of this magnitude, 27,000 km round the edge Oz, is a massive undertaking and in many ways a journey of self-discovery. We began this whole adventure with little more than a vague idea of what exactly the whole caravanning deal would be …well hey we had read that book ‘Grey Nomads’ and watched the Global Gypsies DVD …. but we did know that we wanted to see Australia and not just on the, ‘fly in look at the tourist spots ..stay in a 5 star hotel …and fly out’ sort of way. We’ve been doing that for the last 4 years and wanted to stretch ourselves a bit further. And can I just say now … we learned to stretch in many directions, often when we least expected it.

Big Rigg at City Beach

Lots of folk have asked what where the best places we travelled to ….. really difficult to answer …Australia is an awesome country and we stopped in so many incredible spots …but I think for me there were maybe a dozen memories that will stick forever:-

  • Crossing over the dunes at 80 mile beach in WA and seeing about 100 fishermen stretched out along a golden beach.
  • Flying over the red rock Bungle Bungles near Kunnunura WA.
  • Sunset cruise through the glorious Katherine Gorge NT
  • Walking through amazing ancient Aboriginal cave dwellings in Kakadu NT
  • Swimming in hot springs Mataranka NT
  • Sitting with cowboys in a bar in Camoweel NT
  • Big Rigg catching his first (and only) barramundi at Karumba on the gulf of Carpentaria
  • Sailing through the Whitsundays on a catamaran and walking on Whitehaven Beach’s squeaky white sand
  • Palm Trees jutting sideways from the sand on Mission Beach Qld
  • Being shown a cattle ranch by Slim in Biloela Qld
  • Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge NSW
  • Setting out over the Nullarbor and it’s huge expanse of flat nothingness
  • The absolute stunning beauty of the blue waters and white beaches of Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grande National Park near Esperance in WA

On the flipside there a number of things I found out about myself and things that matter to me:-

  • I like my own space ..and in a caravan that can be difficult.
  • Clean bathrooms are important.
  • I am not really good at being nice to eejits!
  • It’s not right to live so close to people that you can hear them cough/ sneeze or make any other unsavoury noises.
  • I bloody hate caravan folk small talk that usually begins with , ‘where have you come from’ or ‘where are you headed’, then goes on to bore you rigid with tales of where they have just been, with a blow by blow account of their last 5 years on the road….. seriously … I don’t want to know.
  • I have ALWAYS known this to be the case … you DO need girlfriends in order to survive life. Very difficult when you are travelling …but thank the lord for e mails, skype and mobile phones
  • And finally …. I am very lucky to have Big Rigg in my life …. It can’t have been easy for him having to put up with me 24/7 over these last 6 months …. but we have both survived …and I reckon are stronger for it.. (just don’t tell him!)

So that’s it ….. if I am not mistaken I think I hear the fat lady singing. It’s been lots of fun … thanks to all of you who have read my blog, sent me messages, and enjoyed the journey with me. Next year will be a whole new adventure in a whole ‘nother place. Keep in touch.

Mwah XXX Rach

Missin’ Ya’ll Already!!

Advertisements
Dec
02

We’re running pretty much on time thanks to Big Rigg’s schedule – so have a couple of days in hand before we have to be back in Perth and rejoin reality– great opportunity for a final chillout at a beach I thought. Mandurah came to mind, but when I phoned to book a site it turned out that the place was full of grey nomad caravanners attending some convention or other. Stuff that. So I found a place at Woodman Point which is a gorgeous little backwater about 10 km south of Fremantle. It took us a bit longer than we expected to get there though because of ….wait for it …traffic! Seriously we haven’t really encountered traffic since Melbourne …bit of a shock to the system.

Big Rigg and Bigger Bhen!

So …..Woodman Point ….we lived in Perth for 6 years and never even knew it was there …. fabby little place with beaches where folks go swimming and boating ….. a little fishing jetty…. bush walking trails …. very laid back. The campsite was full of young families who were just there for a few days over the weekend to relax after a week at work, chill and have fun. Huge holiday atmosphere. Our son Bhen took a run out on his bike from Perth on Saturday afternoon to welcome us back … and spend a couple of hours with his old Mum n Dad which was lovely …. as was the weather …blue skies sunshine and a top temp of 36 no less. We have not brought the rain with us here ….. although they could use it … bush fires have started just down the road in Rockingham.

A swim at the Jetty

On Sunday Chris and Steph (old mates from Brunei) came out to the caravan with their two young lads, and we went down to the beach and made sandcastles… well the boys did …. Steph and Big Rigg went off for a sea swim. An hour and a half later they still weren’t back and I had visions of them having been sucked offshore in a rip …or eaten by sharks … didn’t know whether we should call the coastguard or not …so Chris took off along the beach to see if he could spot them …or their bloated washed up bodies on the shore …and happily came back a half hour later with them in tow. I think Steph had forgotten how far Rich likes to swim. Anyways – back to the BBQ and bacon sandwiches all round. Sorted.

Monday we drove into Freo and cruised around the weirdo little craft shops before heading off to Little Creatures Brewery for a pint or two and one of their gorgeous pizzas. Totally chilled laid back to almost horizontal day. We had the opportunity to do a bit of reflecting over the past few months …high points …low points .. good bad and ugly.

A pale ale at the pub

Tomorrow we head back to Perth to where we started …… and this road trip will be over….. kinda weird feeling I have to admit.  Road trips are truly journeys of self-discovery …… so what have we discovered? That’ll be in my final blog.

Shadows of our former selves?

Nov
30

 

Seagulls

OK …so here’s the deal .. when we manoeuvred our caravan into the tiny wee site at Riverview 4 days ago we knew it might be a bit hard getting out .. but during the time of our stay the sites opposite (just a tiny grass verge a mere 12ft away) were filled by jolly campers with little dome tents thus making it impossible to drive onto the grass there…. well let’s be honest we could have …. but we would have crushed the sweet little French backpacker and the smiley American couple inside. Problem.  Bigger problem was that there was a steel pole at the front right of our site meaning we couldn’t pull out at an angle. Biggest problem …. Big Rigg who would not listen to my advice, and insisted he could somehow do a fifty five point turn (deftly using the forward and reverse gears) and get us out. After 30 minutes of painful inching to and fro we finally had to unhook the caravan … drive the truck round the park and reattach from the other side …then drive the caravan out the wrong way on the ‘one way system’.  Which was my original advice. I refrained from saying “I told you so” ….. but inside I was shouting it. On a positive note we provided all the backpackers in their VW Combi vans half an hour of free entertainment culminating in our missing hitting the 24 seater bus on the corner by a gnat’s hair.

Pretty little shopping street

Anyways ..not the best start to the day but it got better.  Drove just a couple of hours along the coast North and arrived in a nice spacy park in Bunbury….. where we had an en suite ….wooop WwwwoooP!   Blue skies and sunshine added to the joy so we headed off into town to have a wander.  I have a soft spot for Bunbury.  It used to be a real bogan backwater but it reinvented itself and has streets full of wonderful little coffee shops …antique stores ….fab little places selling all sorts of stuff you don’t get in the big cities.  So we had a mellow few hours meandering and bought lots of Christmas presents…. I know ….how organised am I.  Went to see the new Harry Potter film at night ….loved it … and finally understood things which confused me in the last one. We then went for tapas in an Indian restaurant … sounds weird but was nice…. in a weird way.

Big Rigg ....and about 100 flies

Played some golf at a course called Harvey about 35km up the road.  Possibly the worst game of my life because of the bloody flies ….thousands of them …buzzing around my ears and landing on my face …crawling up my nostrils on the backswing.  Seriously horrendous, must be the time of year, we played here 5 years ago and it was winter and glorious…lots of Kangaroos hopping about but they don’t land on your face.

Tiny antique shop in Australind

Took a drive into Australind …I always thought it was just a few houses in the trees alongside the main road …turns out to be a real place with shops and infrastructure …lots of very pretty houses and a beach too. Who knew.

Two flags and a pink bench

I did a bit of walking on Bunbury Beach, yet another beautiful stretch of Aussie coastline, and Big Rigg found yet another fabulous 50 metre pool to swim in. Bit of a feeling of Déjà vu. Talking of which …. have I ever mentioned that I have seen the same girl all the way round Australia? Spooky.  Everywhere we go she is there.  Mid twenties, blonde hair in pony tail swinging out behind her, wearing pastel pink or blue lycra gear … i- pod headphones in, long brown toned legs … fabulous figure …. she  runs along every beach I walk. Makes me feel a bit old and daggy to be honest. Maybe I should start running …… or maybe I should dye my hair blonde …. I’m not even considering the lycra.

Very festive caravan ...... interesting!

Nov
23

Leafy Vineyard

Really lovely drive through the leafy Southwest to Margaret River …or ‘Margs’ as it is more familiarly known….. really made me feel like I was coming home. Margs has a special place in the heart of all who live in WA – particularly in the Perth region since it is to all intents and purposes the holiday destination that is ‘just down the road’. Home to some of Australia’s finest wines ..it has always had a special place in my heart …. it also produces cheese, olive oils and chocolate which are not half bad either …. but seriously good wine.

Art on the main street protesting mines in the area

Managed to book in to a site called Riverview just 800metres from the main street (but bizarrely with no glimpses of the river whatsoever)…. only half a dozen caravan sites here .. mainly cabins and little slots for backpackers who are travelling in those tiny little campervans, and the feeling is very much ‘holiday’ here rather than ‘grey nomad’. We may well be the oldest folks here …. which is nice for a change ….. having spent most of the last 6 months surrounded by crumplies with bus passes.

Signs at the beach.....

...Big Rigg in the water ...wouldn't be me

First couple of days were sunny and warm so I walked, Big Rigg swam, we went to the beach, and of course sampled a few of the local offerings at dinner. Checked out a few wineries “Windows” and “Driftwood” then went on to buy some smoked fish, cheese and choccy for alfresco dinner outside the van. Sunday felt unbelievably chilled as we wandered up the main street after coffee and I was inspired to start my Christmas shopping at a place called Loyds of Margaret River in the High St. This place is a Tardus … looks small but is HUGE inside …it just keeps going back and further back and is choca full of brilliant, gorgeous, little lovely things. Big Rigg had to remove me with a shoehorn after I had become wedged amongst tinsel and Christmas paraphernalia at the very back of the store for more than an hour. On then to the Bootleg Brewery just out of town for the odd half pint shandy (Big Rigg’s reward for this morning’s shopathon).

Bootleg Brewery

Chocolate ...and Kangaroo Paw ...very Margaret River

Monday …. we woke to hear what has become a familiar sound on this trip round the edges of Oz. After months of drought in this region …the rains have come. Seriously I think we should be charging ourselves out to whatever state we happen to be in….. by the time we left Brisbane the dams were full and houses were being flooded. Not to worry though ..at least it means it’s a bit cooler and the plonker next door who has an aircon unit that sounds like a generator from hell has no need to switch it on, (sorry, did that sound slightly bitter… only when we politely mentioned to him that we may need earplugs and weren’t able to enjoy sitting outside our van because of the noise, he replied, ‘Yeh – we can’t hear it inside our van so it’s OK for us.’ DOH!!)

Cape Mentelle

Anyways – off to Cape Mentelle winery for a tasting, yummy SSB’s here then on to the Watershed for lunch. We had a fabulous Asparagus and Pea Risotto that was to die for … and Big Rigg … who has never shown any tendencies to branch in this direction .. said that he was going to learn how to make it … AND make it his signature dish, (which would suggest that he may make others ..or that he doesn’t truly understand the meaning …I don’t know which for sure). I am slightly stunned … but appreciative …. and a little bit scared truth be told. I don’t know exactly when or how this started … but I have the feeling that Big Rigg may have evolved into a ‘new man’. Road trips are supposed to change people …… aren’t they?

A sign at the Organic Garden ...I agree with Alan... I think

Nov
21

Beachfront Albany

To be honest I wasn’t really that keen on going to Albany (bottom left hand side of Oz) – we came here perhaps 10 yrs ago just after we arrived from Scotland, and I don’t remember being very impressed – indeed I reckoned it was a bit of a bogan backwater with too many flies and not much else to redeem it from my list of ‘places I couldn’t care less if I never went to again’ – (at some other time I’ll give you all the other places on that list – but rest assured Seria and Dundee are right up there!). However – if you want to end up in Margaret River – and I do – and you’re coming from Esperance – you don’t really have too many other options – so here we are on the far edge of Albany at Emu Beach. Guess what? I like it.

Yep – there are flies – you can’t come to Western Australia at this time of year without being plagued by the little bastards but not as many as I remember – and there are lots of things that are really nice – not what I remembered at all. The ocean not 50 metres from our front door is a beautiful clear green and the wind is fresh and salty. The campsite is as cute as a button with a BBQ area that looks a bit like a Greek Taverna, and a laundry room that looks like something straight out of NASA  …. all stainless steel and flashing lights.

Taking time to smell the roses

The town itself is very cute in a kinda time warped way – looks like the 1950’s – a bit like “Back to the Future’- in the ‘past’ episode where Marty was hanging out in the drug store sipping malts. Had a chilled afternoon strolling around the shops not buying anything in particular, watching the local council workers putting giant baubles on several Christmas trees.

Don't you love a real Christmas tree?

Took a trip out to Frenchman’s Bay – we were heading towards the Whaling Centre which is a bit of a tourist magnet here  – but at the last minute Big Rigg told me that he didn’t want to go – indeed that he hated all things whale like and anything to do with them.  Interesting.  Never knew that before – but happily I’m fairly ambivalent towards whaling and indeed whale like things in general, so we just kept going on the road we were on, without stopping at the centre, and found ourselves at Misery Beach instead.

Misery Beach ..bit of a misnomer methinks

I don’t know why it was called this – because the reality is that it is a bloody beautiful beach.  Maybe whoever first found it wanted to keep it a bit of a secret – keep it for themselves – seriously gorgeous.  Went on from there to some local blow holes where the sea whooshes up through the rocks….. incredible noise …awesome. Signs on the rocks said you shouldn’t walk any further out because people had been washed off and killed.  Comforting.

On our last night we decided to eat at a place called the ‘Squid Shack’ at Emu Point that serves up the freshest seafood you have ever tasted …. straight off the boats .. you can take your own wine and look out to the yachts bobbing in the marina. Very chilled, we had snapper, salt and pepper squid and prawns ….very yummy, we shared our table with a guy who had worked on the rigs out of Aberdeen ..it’s a small world really.  Full to the gunnels we walked back to the van as the sun set, sending long shadows over the choppy green ocean.

Albany … a bit of a revelation really … think we’ll be back.

Nov
20

Esperance Marina

Seriously I have been looking forward to getting here for I don’t know how long … and the lovely Linda that I met last night waxed lyrical on the beauty of the place …they had meant to stay one week and couldn’t leave before two …. I got it …I get it … and she said that as I came over the hill into Esperance, my breath would be taken away.  I did have a huge intake of breath as I saw the grey sea blending into the greyer horizon as the rain scooted across sideways.  Kinda getting used to this …the girl on the front desk at the caravan park said they had been having high temps blue skies and sunshine …up until yesterday. Yep …that’d be right. Set up the van whilst the wind blew in from the steely grey ocean straight from the South Pole. Frickin freezing.  This was followed by a night of torrential rain accompanied by thunder and lightning. Not quite what I was expecting.

View from Rotary Lookout

Next day however the weather fined up a bit ….. and what a difference!!! We are talking the craziest blue ocean you have ever laid eyes on. Stunning. Over the next few days we did lots of walking on beaches …Twilight beach on the Great Ocean Drive that has rocks on it that look like a giant dinosaur….. 50 kilometres outside town you find Lucky Beach in the Cape Le Grande National Park, probably the most beautiful rugged natural beach I have ever set foot on….. but pretty much the whole coastline is picture book stuff….. you could wear out your camera here.  Words can’t even begin to explain ….. so look at the photos …and if you ever get the chance …go there. Seriously …. just go …but make sure it’s summer, because if the sky isn’t blue, then you don’t get the effect of the bluest blue, blue, blue ocean…. and that’s what its all about really.

Twilight Beach

Lucky Bay

Big Rigg ...Big Rock

Went for a drive to the ‘Pink Lake’ ..sounded good …but sadly when we got there we found that it really wasn’t pink … really very ordinary in an area that is full of extraordinary … bit of a bummer really, happily however on the way back we happened upon a place uninspiringly called ‘Section Glass Gallery’ …but it had a sign outside saying they did coffee and cake which sucked us in. Turns out to be a studio run by Cindy Poole, who makes gorgeous pieces of art from glass, and her sister who makes great cakes.  They told us that the lake hadn’t been pink for the last 10 years…  guess it brings tourists out in their direction though which can’t be bad. Anyways it turns out that Cindy produces the most beautiful pieces of art made from glass … and Big Rigg (who must have been in a generous mood that day) bought me a lovely necklace and earrings.  Gorgeous. So we then had to go out somewhere so I could wear them. The Loose Goose in town did the trick…… it all ended up costing BR perhaps more than he originally intended …but hey …them’s the breaks if you want to be a romantic.

Wearable Art

The town is very cute and has lots of historical stuff to look at ..and a really good baker that sells fab pies and pastries for very little money. The campsite itself was 50 metres from the beach which was good, but the site shop sold biscuits that were 3 months out of date, which was bad, when the sun shone it was lovely, but when the wind blew it was crazy freezing. We had a caravan neighbour from hell who  stood out front and told us every detail of her two year trip round the country …indeed she hadn’t actually managed to get the whole way round yet …I put it to you it’s because she talks too much and her husband is in a coma so can’t drive ..  or run …away from her.

Old School House

Big Rigg and I had a huge falling out here ….can’t really put my finger on what started it ..but bizarrely he thought it was my fault when obviously it was his …but anyways ..let me tell you that caravans are not the best places to be when you’re not speaking …there’s just no place to hide.

That's Big Rigg heading off round the end of the beach ... madness ..I took the car and met him on the other side

So … to sum up Esperance … lovely when it’s not blowing a hooley  …. oohh and I should mention the flies …lots of the little bastards swarming round your face unless you‘re on the beach with a gale blowing them off …and they bite…that’s a first for me. But the colours of the sea make up for it all.

Stunning.....

Nov
17

Nullarbor ..... lots of nothing.

6th  Nov. This part of ‘The Big Lap’ is fairly iconic – the crossing of the Nullarbor – it is the test of all Grey nomads – Global Gypsies – call us what you will…. after you’ve added this trip to the list in your map book you can sit round the campfire with the best of ‘em.  For those of you who aren’t Aussie, the Nullarbor is the huge treeless plain (in Latin null arbor) that connects Ceduna in South Australia to Norseman in Western Australia….. one long road 1,200km long. There is nothing on this route apart from kangaroos, camels, wombats, dingoes and the odd outback roadhouse.  It’s daunting to say the least but it’s the only way to go…and today we’re travelling 500km to get to Ceduna the last of civilisation and the start of the route.

Kimba - half way house

7th Nov. After we leave Port Augusta we pass by the Iron Knob at Wyalla – the first excavation for iron ore in Australia) through a wee place called Kimba that says its ‘half way across Australia’ – I guess it means in terms of East to West – but if you look at the map you can see Perth where we started out from on the West coast, and our route North and round to where we are now …. Jeez we’ve come a long way!

The Map

 Kimba was also home to the Giant Galah …. I know …. what is it with all these giant things …Big Bananas and the like …’fit nonsense’ as they’d say in Aberdeen.

What can I say .....

  Then we went through an area professing to be ‘Granite Country’ just at the start of the Aussie Bight …. people love labels it would appear … anyways Big Rigg filled up on diesel (as you MUST do at every opportunity cos you don’t know when you’ll get it next) –  I went into the shop to pay and the wee woman behind the counter says, “How much was that then dear …we don’t have a computer.” Trusting.

Finally arrive in Ceduna which is a little fishing village and very pretty. Filled up our basket at the local grocers for our 4 day trek … took a quick walk along the jetty where we were almost blown off our feet by a freezing gale off the South Pole, then on to the local pub for a swift half. It was a very swanky local it has to be said – right on the seafront, all leather bar stools and stainless steel.  The two barmen were aged about 18 I reckon and both had hairdos that looked like they came out of Lucky Bags.  You know that kinda ‘Oor Wullie’ rascal bedhead look – except they had probably taken hours in front of the mirror with gel and their Mum’s hairdryer to make it happen.

Our site was a bit tight for space, kinda tacked on the end of a row between a tree and a BBQ, which made it quite difficult when we were trying to get out the next morning – not helped I have to say by the fact we had to manoeuvre round a deaf Alsatian with a bucket on his head that was the property of the bloke on the next site.  Don’t ask …I didn’t.

Nullarbor Roadhouse Campsite

Within minutes of seeing the sign ‘Nullarbor Plain’ the whole landscape dissolved … there was nothing to see but flatness to the horizon and a long straight road ahead as far as the eye could see. I was surprised however at how much traffic was on the road – much more than there had been on the roads up the West Coast 5 months ago.  Loads of caravans going both ways and Road Trains coming out the Ying Yang. Big Rigg loved it. Snapped on his cruise control settled back and sang to all his naff CDs for the next 5 hours without having to think of anything but steering straight. At one point he said, ‘Look – there’s a baby something….” I looked and it was a bloomin dingo!! ‘Baby killer’ I’m thinking ….. eeeeek it looked scary….. brought to mind all that Lindy Chamberlain stuff from years ago …no way would I camp here in a tent.

Warning signs ...happily drive into any camels!

We had decided to stay at the Nullarbor Roadhouse our first night.  We got there around 2pm and were the only people there …that’s a first .. the sites were absolutely flat and not a tree in site …also a first…. weird. We parked up then shot off back down the road about 20km to “The Head of the Bight” where you are able to see whales and their calves up close but sadly we had just missed the last that headed off at the end of October. 

Great Australian Bight

Awesome scenery though. Rugged cliffs think they are called Bunda that stretch for 800kms along the Bight…..and bright blue ocean. I hadn’t realised until now that the Nullarbor was so close to the sea. Back to the van for dinner – I’m using up all my vegetables because we’ll be passing through the quarantine check into WA tomorrow.

This is where the whales normally hang out

8th Nov . Another day just like yesterday with roads flat as a pancake and umbrella blue sky with no scenery, but bizarrely there were occasional bushes at the roadside covered in random objects like shoes ….. ten kilometres later ..gloves, this was followed by caps, soft toys, kitchen implements, Christmas tinsel and finally brassieres! Don’t know if it’s ‘Art’ and one person has done them all …or if someone started it off and everyone else has followed by adding more!

Nullarbor Roadhouse at Drive Time, Ooh the traffic!!

Finally got to the border of Western Australia (woop woop I was excited to be home!) but the quarantine man confiscated the last of my limes for my G & T’s which was a bit sad …I’d forgotten them in bottom of fridge.  They are thorough. We instantly gained back time …45 minutes on crossing the border then another hour and a half further down the road …2and a half in total. Because of that Big Rigg decided that we should travel further than we initially planned as it was still early in the day. He had a quick snooze in the van at a roadhouse in Madura for an hour whilst I sat outside beside one of the Nullarbor Golf course Tee Offs and chatted to folks who came by, whilst being bitten by flies…. I had forgotten about these ruddy bush flies that eat you alive.

Grouse new mates!

Stopped for the night at a roadhouse in a place called Balladonia after travelling 721kms.  Very hot and dusty with lots of flies but it did have a good pub and a museum.  Back in the 70’s huge chunks of Skylab fell from the sky near here and they have them on display – huge 4 metre chunks of metal with “United States” and “pull to open” written on them. Must keep a look out when we’re on the road tomorrow. Met up with a lovely couple from Melbourne who have been travelling up the West Coast and are on the way back.  Paul looked like Santa on his summer holidays and was a true blue Aussie who used the word “grouse” meaning – great – as often as he could. Linda was just one of those beautifully generous spirited woman that you are lucky to meet a couple of times in a lifetime …. heaps of fun … so we sank a few glasses of wine at the bar and laughed a lot.  In bed by 9 though ….long day.

9th Nov. Up early and off by 7.30 on the last part of the journey towards Norseman and we seem to be passing loads of huge hawks feasting on road kill in so many places. We’re seeing the carcasses of quite big kangaroos but luckily haven’t had any hop in front of us. Presumably these have been hit by big road trains on an early start.  Quite suddenly the flat plains of the Nullarbor end and we can see the Fraser Range.  Easy bit of towing now to Norseman then south to Esperance.  That was quite an experience though… kinda fun. Do we get a badge or a T-shirt?

Nov
15

Fields of wheat and big blue skies

To be honest I’m kind of glad to be leaving the cities behind now and heading back into country Australia …. Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra Melbourne, Adelaide all in the space of a couple of months – I’m all citied out I reckon.  As we leave Adelaide there are all sorts of mud flats on the edge of the city quickly followed by artworks made of iron;….. Ned Kelly, cockroaches and rats…. fun! No more hills now …. the landscape has flattened out and there are blue skies and golden fields of wheat as far as the eye can see.

Purple lake

On the road I thought I was seeing things as we passed Lake Bumbunga ….. it was purple …. At first I thought it was the tints in the window glass …. but it wasn’t … hallucinogenic water …brilliant.  I looked it up later and apparently it’s down to algae that grows in salt lakes. Bit boring reason but awesome to see.  Onwards then through the Flinders Ranges with wind farms on the horizon and into the Foreshore caravan park at Port Augusta.

Big Rigg ...and way in the background Bigger Train

This was a great outback site on the edge of the Spencer Gulf …HUGE sites that they would put 4 vans on in other places.  The sun was shining the sky was blue …warmth at long last … so we went for a walk on the beach. Well ….. it wasn’t really a beach we found once we started to walk on it …more like a mud really … kinda sucked the thongs off yer feet so we had to walk barefoot …. Icky muddy dirty …but still bizarrely nice…. on the verge of enjoyable. In some countries they would probably call that a ‘treatment’ and charge good money for the joy of it.  On the far side of the water we saw trains parked that must have been about 500 carriages long (actually those huge storage containers you put your sea freight in)  am guessing they are carrying things to and from the dock…..crazylength though.  

Muddy Beach

Had a pint or two at the local football club then came back to the van , cooked dinner, and for the first time since Bundaberg I think …we were able to sit outside after the sun set. Ahhh the joy of a balmy outback evening. Spoke to  lots of our neighbours …this is really a one night stop that everyone has to make on their way either to or from the Nullarbor … so people had lots of stories to tell.  Was nice to chat with the travellin’ folks again!

Nov
14

Big Rigg looking for a good time ... but feeling the cold shoulder of Adelaide

Karen (our spirited Garmin GPS system) took us out of Naracourte via a red dirt track that appears on no map for the first 8 kilometres – seriously don’t know where she drags her information from -we would have turned round and gone back but there was no space to turn, and for a short panicky first 5 minutes, we thought we might never get off this track – however eventually we turned onto the Riddoch Highway and headed for Adelaide.  It’s the capital city of SA and renowned perhaps a bit harshly as a fairly boring ‘city of churches’. Either side of the road on the way were huge fields of freshly shorn sheep – hundreds of them.  Looked a bit like daisies on your front lawn in some kind of bizarre surreal fashion.

Awwwww!

We picked a great site called Levi just 5km from the city centre and on the edge of the river Torrens. Clean as a new pin it was really one of the nicest sites we have stayed at.  Had a wonderful old Morton Bay Fig in the grounds and sweet little ducks and their ducklings wandering through the sites.

HUGE Morton Bay Fig

We went up into the hills surrounding Adelaide to visit our mates Mike Susie Dave and little Charlotte.  Last caught up with these guys in Perth at New Year’s so it was lovely to see their new house and hear how life was treating them.  After dark Dave took us off to a lookout where we could see the whole city twinkling below. Very pretty …but bloody cold! Next day Dave took us Gorge walking in a National Park – more hills to climb – I hate hills – but the views over the waterfalls made it worthwhile – as did the lunch afterwards in a lovely little deli on a café strip.

Long way up ..or long way down ..depending on how you look at it.

Tuesday 2nd was Melbourne Cup day so we found the local TAB and put a couple of bets on then headed for a hostelry called the Walkers Arms that was having a bit of a do on. The sun shone and we had a great afternoon sitting outside with the odd beverage watching the races on a Giant screen TV.  We had our money on a horse called ‘Linton’ (for obvious reasons) which romped home second last.  Happily we won $20 on the pub sweep though.  We were sharing the table with a fairly odd couple – his name was Mike and he did all the talking – her name was Brandy, she looked a litttle like a horse herself,  and she was allegedly his mate’s American girlfriend. He said he wanted to show the Californian girl the whole vibe of Melbourne Cup in a pub – but they sat there for the best part of 3 hours with just one glass of water each.  I tells ya …. that’s not really the vibe.  Cup day is all about over indulgence, girls in pretty dresses and bets that don’t pay off. Great afternoon though.

Winners are grinners!

Got the car serviced so had to walk about in town for a couple of hours.  Have to say it was Baltic cold and the wind was blowing right through us. There are a lot of churches- bit of a Chinatown but there doesn’t seem to be much else happening in the city centre though – all a bit bland and bleak.

Chilly day and churches

On our final day Big Rigg came down with some dreaded lurgi that had him chucking all night.  He thought it was food poisoning but I ate exactly the same as him yesterday – anyways – he spent the day in bed and I washed the caravan under a very wintry sun feeling a bit chilly and dreaming of a bit of sun on a beach is Esperance. I think that perhaps there was a huge chunk of Adelaide that we didn’t see – the part that is fun and funky and happening – at least I hope there is – otherwise it’s just a cold city surrounded by hills and full of churches. Surely not?

Nov
13

Murals outside the Cop Shop

Yeh – so those warnings about the weather were right on the money.  Woke to find it was blowing a hooley, freezing cold, with rain flying at us horizontally.  The German guy next door was quick to point out that he had told us so. Such is life. The sad thing was however that the whole joy of driving along the Great Ocean Road was lost on us.  We could barely see the road infront such was the dreichness and bleakness of  the dark sky and rain.  We passed a little pull off at the side of the road that said you could do a bit of whale watching ….seriously we couldn’t even see the ocean far less any humpbacks (is that a type of whale – I don’t know cos we never saw any). 

Further down the coast were literally hundreds of giant wind turbines, like giant looming spectres hanging on to the edge of Oz – but here’s the weird  – almost spooky thing – not one of them was turning even though the wind was strong enough to blow all of the three little pigs’ houses down.  No idea what that was all about.

Stopped for lunch at wee hotel called the Pines at the side of the road in Tarpeena (middle of nowhere) – opened the door and the place was mobbed – hard to find a seat – it’s obviously where country folk hang out on cold wet Saturdays.  Strange mob – couple of guys looked exactly like ZZ top with long fluffy beards almost to their waist – one in a pork pie hat – the other with a black leather Stetson – interesting.

Passed through a tiny wee place called Penola where they had banners all over the place celebrating Australia’s newest saint – Mary McKillop – who came from there. Some entrepreneur looks like he’s already producing Saint Mary wine! Miraculous. Finally arrived in Naracourte – another one of these wee places known for not a lot – although it does have caves …. somewhere…. on the edge of town .. but we were told they would be closed. We parked up and headed for the bright lights of town . It was closed. Saturday afternoon in country Australia …. It has always been thus. 

Big Rigg fits in with the locals outside the Naacourte Courthouse

In an effort to entertain ourselves we  had a look round an art exhibition in a giant tent in the middle of town (we were just trying to stay warm and out of the rain)  ….the art was shockingly ordinaryverging on shite but the 2 guys from Rotary running it were very nice, so we chatted a bit about the area with them …that took up another ten minutes.  We know when we are beaten so decided to make the best of it, bought a case of champagne from the bottle shop and retreated to the relative warmth of the van. Not the most exciting place we have come across on our travels. Glad we won’t be staying beyond tonight.