Day 32 & Day 33 – Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 August.

The morning was very cold and D leapt out to boil the kettle. We were due at the van repair place at 0900 and D is a demon for timings, so an alarm had been set (even though a mental clock had us awake). The van was duly deposited and we were given directions to Hollywood Plaza for breakfast. It’s the place where ‘you can eat, drink and relax like a star’!!!!!! – complete with in-floor named star designs. T was a bit concerned that D’s Rolf Harris look might be stretching things too far and have the knife-throwers out (not the autograph junkies).

Van repairs done promptly with terrific service from Rick and crew at Camperagents on Port Wakefield Road (they truly deserve a promotion), we were then in Port Adelaide by late morning, so parked and took a stroll around the heritage precinct. It’s a part of Adelaide we had not been in and of course, as in many cities, has been gentrified, albeit with some evidence of inequality and disadvantage, and provides quiet strolling.

Now we are at Kingston, on the beach and the afternoon has been clear and sunny. A walk to Brighton Pier has sharpened the appetite and we’ll dine with Cathy and Naz this evening. IMG_1081 2

As indeed we did – a pleasant evening with a lovely family, catching up on doings & goings (some of which, as Christopher reminded D) had already been passed on at Lucy’s wedding (ouch!).

Day 33. Wednesday 30 August.

D was out at pre-dawn (again) to take the car to a service. This grew into an all-day affair as the passenger airbag had to be replaced (on recall). D figured that it was a bit important, as the knitter’s safety needed protection.

Dear friend Peter provided some Uber service in his black V8 Mustang (D didn’t decline the offer). Then there was a lovely beach walk to meet up with Peter and Marianne for a leisurely Brighton lunch.

An interesting stop was the sand reclamation, where sand washed by the tides to the north is captured and pumped back south again. Take that, Mother Nature!


D and Peter retraced their steps to the car servicing location and T chatted some more with Marianne before the return beach walk. We covered a lot of topics in a few hours with friends going back to 1982 I Shrivenham: as always, with Army friends, we were able to resume from the last meeting pretty much without missing a beat.

Brighton is indeed a very nice Adelaide spot and with (today) a big blue sunny sky, the beach was beautiful, with plenty of human and canine activity – seeing the joy in the faces of those free-running dogs brought a smile to our faces. The park is fairly quiet, amenities excellent, so it has been a very pleasant few catch-up days. On the road again tomorrow.



Day 31. Monday 28 August.

A drear looking day – no rain, but it looked threatening. The caravan park caretaker came by, and amongst other advice suggested a place near Adelaide where we might get the (very needed) van wheel alignment done. A quick phone call later and we’re booked in for tomorrow morning, which tells us we’re now heading towards Adelaide for an easy start next day.

Ardrossan is our first stop, via a lookout that gives a panoramic view over the coastline and backwards to the Arrium dolomite mine, which is hardly visible from the road.




Ardrossan is a pleasant, neat town, but seemingly without the attractions which might attract visitors to stay (T remarked that it didn’t have a frock shop for a certain type of visitor).





The little café where we had our morning coffee was delightful, and had made very clever use of wooden pallets to create a pleasant courtyard effect.





Port Clinton was next, for a wander through the samphire and mangroves in a conservation area, looking for the birds that wouldn’t sit still to let us focus the binos. But we did see New Holland Honeyeaters and the Spiny Cheeked Honeyeater. The tidalflats are marvelous in the very shallow gulf water, leaving boats marooned for long periods.


Decided to check out a free campground at Port Parham, which turned out to be quite adequate, although it became busier as the day wore on. We were intrigued by what appears to be a local invention used by the commercial fishermen to recover their boats over the very shallow sand flats. Basically, the towing vehicle is a chassis, using just ordinary car wheels, with the differential pointing upwards into a raised framework with a second differential connected to a small engine. The sand is apparently quite hard, so the unit doesn’t sink, and the raised framework means that it can operate almost submerged. They look slightly weird – and very Mad Maxish!

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T chatted to a local resident, busily engaged in trying to eradicate onion weed from the coastal verge. He would attend tonight’s ratepayers’ meeting to hear the latest on the proposed campground regulations. He is opposed to any moves to limit the campers to a 3-night stay. He said the campground is full every night in the warmer months with family groups who come for the crabs and ‘you need to stay for 14 nights to make that worthwhile’ and it should remain a free camp (there is only water and a single flushing (M&F sides) toilet) as campers spend their money in the local shops and at the social club and this generates significant income. There would be less income for Council if campers were charged the proposed $10 per night and could only stay for shorter periods.


Again, the tidal flat is broad, giving the impression of the sea being far away on the distant horizon, but come high tide, there will be water on our doorstep.


Day 30. Sunday 27 August,

There was sun briefly this morning and again this evening, with cold and cloud in between. However, the Yorke Peninsula was glorious in its fields of green wheat, blue sea and honey stone buildings. The sense is of good times, towns have serious-money estates on the outskirts, advertising for retirement lifestyle, sunshine, cafes, etc. and advertisements for harvest hiring. Wallaroo and Moonta caught our walking legs. The Nautical Museum in Wallaroo was a little treasure; the town is very proud of its heritage, with loads of stories of the little ships that pre-dated road transport for peninsula farmers. The peninsula farms look pristine and genteel, with wheat rolling down to the sea but we have no way of knowing what’s behind the façade. Towns appear to be doing well, lots of upmarket holiday accommodation (in the right season) and no empty shop fronts, or grates covering windows, as we’ve seen in some country towns.

We spent a few hours in Moonta, where D had many family holidays in a caravan in the 50s & 60s: but couldn’t pin down where these had been, although the whole town was somehow familiar. The architecture takes you back to another era. The stonework is tactile, but I bet the original workers didn’t share our enthusiasm for their art!


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Mid–afternoon was time to start looking for tonight’s resting place.


Because private farmland rolls down to the water, it’s not possible to find a hiding place, as we used to do in Gloria (this is her on the Eyre Peninsular, in 2007), so we have stopped on a headland campground at Black Point (now an upmarket fishing cabin strip on the eastern side of the peninsula, but probably once a haven for fisher people happy to rough it).


We have the campground to ourselves, the water view is marvelous, the heater is on and dinner is not far off.


Day 29. Saturday 26 August.

The first cloudy morning in 3 weeks was a bit of a rude shock. The heater went on for an hour, reminding us of where we’re heading…it is after all, still winter! The 100 kms into Port Augusta saw the landscape change with short trees and then the Gawler Ranges came into view and the back of the Flinders.

We hadn’t had radio in almost 4 weeks, so listening to RN Saturday programs had our brains buzzing. There was a story about an Aussie paleontologist joining a team and finding a homo-species in Africa, a couple of food stories and then a tale about the kangaroo king (Andy Comenici?) in St George in the 80s who went missing, presumed murdered…

Port Augusta in sunshine actually presents nicely enough: a marina, some early SA architecture…but the main commercial precinct was sparse. We’d decided to have a very late breakfast there, but café choices were woeful…just a tiny drab one in the main street and a club which had stopped serving breakfast 45 mins before we arrived.

D thought a car wash might be in order, to remove the layers of red sand and of course we were past gravel roads. By early afternoon we were heading down the Yorke Peninsula, admiring the lush wheat fields and gentle vistas and took a brief pause at Port Broughton to do the mounting laundry. We’ve felt so cramped in commercial campgrounds that even the quiet village of Port B seemed too closed-in. We figured we’d find our own camping acreage further south.

So tonight we are in bushland beside Spencer Gulf, having driven down 11kms of grave road!!! and D has just shown me a story in today’s Oz about a young woman, resident in the community of Olary (SA) who’s gone missing…only 3 weeks ago…and her husband (initial suspect of course) shot himself while being questioned by police. Well! It’s exactly 3 weeks since we camped right outside the weird pub in Olary, on the Barrier highway. We posted about D seeking a beer and being abruptly dealt with by the publican. The newspaper story has a pic of this publican outside his pub. The young woman had worked there as a backpacker…The radio story from this morning and now this mystery…the day was looking pretty mundane at midday. We’ll double lock the doors tonight.

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Day 28. Friday 25 August.

Noisy neighbours rather than our Butcherbird awoke us this morning – too early.

D was blissfully unaware of instructions on the sheet handed out at check-in that we were not to fill water tanks – we could do that elsewhere at 20 cents per 30 litres. He loaded in 35 litres to top us up – and was then told by T of this restriction. Felt bad for a nano-second, rationalizing that the 40 cents the shower machine gobbled up last night when T pre-loaded more than made up for this transgression. So our $30 got us a handkerchief sized piece of dirt, no water (in theory, anyway) and 20 cents for a short shower. Hmmm – we won’t be going back to the Oasis Caravan Park!

A walk through a couple of streets in Coober Pedy brought back memories of our visit ten years ago with Gloria, when she was having trouble stopping – the only way to turn the motor off was to put it in gear and stall it! The mechanic at that time was bamboozled, so we headed off with the issue unresolved.


Coober Pedy is a strange place; all pink, dotted with mounds of earth, lots of underground residences, air vent chimneys, and shop after shop claiming to have the best deal in opal. The area produces mostly white opal which is not hugely interesting but real estate is cheap: a 2 bedroom dugout costs around $75k and the demographic is very multicultural.

This morning we stopped in for coffee and remarked to one of the staff that we thought nothing much had changed in 10 years – he was affronted, saying he’d been here for six years and had seen lots of change. He added that he’d come for a holiday, had fallen in love with the lifestyle, and had no plans to leave. He and his partner in the café were almost a Laurel and Hardy duo. The other guy was a Scot from Leith, still with his broad accent. When D remarked that he thought it was an unusual Belgian accent (the café specialized in Belgian waffles) he was quickly warned not to say that in front of the Scot!

The road south – it is long and straight and boring, although there were stretches of trees and shrubs occasionally interrupting the flat salt bush landscape – but not many. Stopped for fuel at the Shell Roadhouse Glendambo pop. 30, (there’s also a BP – both pretty big enterprises), which turned out to be a delight. The three staff were friendly and engaging. T noticed a sign advertising home made sausage rolls and indicated this to D, but he couldn’t hear over the noise of the fuel pump. But when he was paying (and T was using the facilities) he noticed them in the warmer and bought the last one. He offered T a bite, which she reluctantly accepted, complaining to the staff that D had taken the last one. ‘I can heat one up for you, love’, he said, and did. And to top it off, they had the cleanest ’public’ toilets ever experienced in Australia. Well done Shell Glendambo!

The landscape changed: salt lakes appeared, then a slight row of hills, then there were sheep and finally the railway line but the red sand is still with us. Interestingly, still not much in the way of wild life or road kill. The knitting project is rather like triple baked goodies (knit some, pull it out, knit some more). At day’s end it was into forward motion. About 100 km north of Port Augusta, a bush site off the highway beckoned, so we turned off and set up for the night, complete with campfire and Porterhouse steak and coal- baked potatoes. Just the right amount of personal space!

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Day 27. Thursday 24 August.

Serenaded awake by our favourite, the Butcherbird. We think this bird may be following us from Canberra. IMG_1054

T had a chat this morning with Tim, the traveller we met and shared a (his) fire with last night. He had travelled through Tibouburra and Camerons Corner and was refueling at Kulgera (just north of the SA/NT border) yesterday when he got chatting to a ‘well put together Kiwi woman, with grey hair and a twinkle in her eye’. She informed him that she was on the way to join 400 Solo women travellers (a subset of the CMCA – Caravan and Motorhome Club of Australia, of which we are members – but not of that sect) at the Ross River Resort (this totally explained the group of solo women travellers who had twittered at Trephina Gorge a day ago). She also added that she had a bottle of Bourbon and that he might like to join her and ‘talk shit all night’ He declined, but was tickled to be propositioned. T said to him that she now understood why he kept a chainsaw in his tent: he had admitted the previous evening that this was his protection against feral dogs! Apparently feral cats as well.

T later wanted to know whether D would like to travel alone with the opportunity to meet interesting people and ‘talk shit’ all night over a bottle of Bourbon. He reckoned that all he was missing at the moment was the Bourbon.

So, a long, flat, fairly monotonous day ensued – well over 500 kms, which is well over our desired time on the road. A plus was the excellent knitting time on the smooth bitumen.



Stopped off at The Breakaways, about 20 km out of Coober Pedy, later realizing that they are actually the southern end of the Painted Desert. Our ignorance did not diminish our enjoyment of this beautiful landscape.

Overnight in Coober Pedy, crammed into a tiny space in the Oasis Caravan Park. It took several minutes of reversing, forwarding, reversing….to actually get the van in. There was applause from the watchers, and D’s masculinity acknowledged. Compare this to our last night’s stay – which was free! And after paying $30 to occupy this handkerchief sized piece of dirt we then had to pay 20 cents for a 3 minute shower – the first 30 seconds of which was cold, and the next 2.5 minutes went in less time than expected. Grrr!



Day 26. Wednesday 23 August.

Departed Trephina Gorge well after the early walkers had disturbed our slumber. First stop was the Ghost Gum – another opportunity to marvel at nature’s gifts in Australia.


Next stop was Corroboree Rock, standing tall by itself in the landscape. The notice board said that this was a sacred place for the indigenous people, akin to a church, and there was, again, that sense of something spiritual.


So to Alice to restock. Coffee (excellent) at Page 27 café where the French hiking family were doing likewise. They reported on how marvellous their overnight hike/camp had been in splendid isolation. After the groceries had been sorted, D went off to replenish the cellar (had to wait until 2 PM) while T caught up on FB. Noticed that a friend, Tracey, had arrived in Alice on Monday so on the off chance, made contact via Messenger. Sure enough, she was still there, so we met up for coffee. D & Tracey’s husband Ian had been on staff together at CDSS (Australian Defence College). Ian had the distinction of being in Army transport, and of being from the First Transport Squadron, as was D, so he has cred in spades. It was great to catch up after many years.

5And passed a wonderful display of engineering, including a couple of custom lash ups – the oil filler and petrol cap in particular had D green with envy. T wondered if there was a flatpack kit vehicle in that eBay package in the tray.

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On the long and straight road south. Planned to keep going until just before dusk – or Erldunda. Slightly delayed by a helicopter mustering cattle across the Stuart. In the event, pulled into a rest area (a Stuart Hwy roadside stop!!!!!!!) about 20 km north of there, to join many other happy campers and Tim from Wagga had a campfire to share. It’s all a bit like the Sunday morning Macca radio program. Were delighted to see a young French couple in the sort of rig we were in in 1973 and they are having their ‘grand tour’ year.




Day 25. Tuesday 22 August.

A peaceful night, a slow start and a lovely environment were enough to convince us fairly quickly to have a rest day at Trephina Gorge.

Having made that unanimous decision, T then suggested that we do one of the walks, and have a late breakfast and coffee. The Gorge walk was about a 2 km loop, theoretically about an hour. We disproved that theory, but intentionally taking time to pause for a rest, whether we needed it or not, to have a chat with fellow walkers (or to let them through!) or to just take in the view. A consistent theme with most fellow walkers was bodies that had ‘cracked up’: tells you something or everything about the demographic.

We did say hello to a European mum and her two children, heavily backpacked, and singing happily. We received only polite hellos in return, perhaps because of D’s comment about the Von Trapp family. A bit later dad came along, and we had a long chat with him before he decided he’d better catch up with the family – they were doing the 9 km one way Ridge Top walk. Not sure which country they were from: ‘European’ was his term, but they were spending a very well thought out two months here. They started in Perth, travelled to Albany, flew to Darwin, then Alice Springs and will spend the last three months in the eastern states. Not a bad way to get an overview, rather than just seeing that eastern seaboard ‘boomerang’.

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A slow day followed: D watching birds, T knitting and/or watching birds. A later afternoon stroll to the next campground and then back along the riverbed which yielded some interesting stones, but not the abundant bird life we’d hoped for, although the Pied Butcherbird put in an appearance without serenading us.

That was slightly redeemed on return, when the White Plumed Honeyeaters arrived looking for the water T had placed out for them earlier – after she’d washed her feet and then socks – but had not thrown out. Perhaps they thought it was toe-mater soup? So the bowl was replenished with fresh water and, somewhat cautiously, they came to drink with us as we had our Pinot (T) and Sav Blanc (D).


A group of solo women, we think members of CMCA, has arrived, and their chattering is a perfect complement to the other bird life, albeit louder. There seems to be an issue with someone from a recent gathering: we eavesdrop without intending to and get more of this scandal, but details are few.

Today we saw: Port Lincoln Parrot (just one), Hooded Robin (M & F), White Plumed Honeyeaters galore, Grey Headed Honeyeaters, Torresian Crows, Yellow Fronted Miners, Magpie Larks, Willie Wagtails and the Pied Butcherbird.

Maps have been discussed and tomorrow we’ll start the southern drive along the Stuart to Adelaide. How many days? The road offers a number of formal rest areas and we know that we can basically pull off wherever the terrain offers some screening. Look out wedgies, here we come.




Day 24. Monday 21 August.

The night had been hot and a howling wind had blown till dawn. T got up early to stretch and catch the morning light in the gorge.


Really, she was looking for petroglyphs but ended up with just footprints of ‘moonboot and crutch’ (Judy, not Trish). A plus were the ‘tide markings’ within the gorge.

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The usual slow pack-up and a chat with neighbours who are from Townsville, then with lowered tyres, we were on the track again. The aim was to check out the 1880s’ mining site at Arltunga (another 50 kms of corrugation). A few sand drifts and a water crossing later we were on a dreadfully corrungated road heading northwards.


Arltunga had been a bit of late 19th century colonial madness, trying to get gold in an environment with no water. The SA Govt, at that stage controlling this area, was desparate to have some development in Central Australia that matched the gold rushes in WA and Victoria. Such schemes doomed to failure might well be a parallel with the present? However, the preserved ruins and accompanying video are a testament to the endurance and grit of early pioneers. Arltunga is recognized as the first European settlement in Central Australia and a venture that opened the region to pastoral and other pursuits. The small cemetery further reflected the incongruity: 5 unmarked bush graves and one much grander.


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There was no escaping more rough driving…so decision taken to keep it as short as possible: yes, backtrack the 50kms and make camp in Trephina Gorge.

An evening walk in the Gorge to enjoy the sunset – a pattern is emerging! Again, the light on the red cliffs, the stark and beautiful ghost gums, and the pool of water reflecting the gorge all added to the magic – again.



Day 23. Sunday 20 August.

Wallace Rockhole was even quieter than we’d remembered. The campground had only one other outfit: a pair of sisters in a small Wicked rented car with a canvas platform on top. It reminded us of our car camper atop our Mazda 808, 45 years ago. The girls departed fairly early and we took our time.

Being Sunday, Wallace store was not open, cultural tour to rock art not on…in fact there was no one about and nowhere to offload a shower facility fee. The occasional sound of a woman yelling at kids, a pair of boys chasing with sticks in the backyard (just like Kambah) and the lazy song of the butcherbird were the Sunday morning entertainment before the 17 kms back to Larapinta Drive and a pause to re-inflate tyres. At the intersection of the Wallace road and Larapinta Drive, a serious 4WD/off road van combo stopped and the driver asked about road conditions and sights at Wallace. We duly reported, and then her travelling companion (with pet de jour) joined the conversation. We’ve seen travellers with dogs, yesterday our caravan neighbours had a cat, today one of the travellers sported a budgerigar on her left shoulder and it seemed marginally interested in the discussions. Might well have been the brightest one involved. This meeting later led us to reflect on the number of two women travelling combos we’d come across: two just today.

With 150 kms of pristine bitumen back to Alice, T got on with re-knitting (she had unfortunately pulled out a biggish section, believing she had made an error, only to find that there had been none! and she needs bitumen as the knitting surface). The bitumen is intriguing; pristine, no roadkill, in fact the only wildlife we’ve seen since getting into NT has been birds and the occasional wandering stock or horse…no kangaroos, emus, lizards, snakes etc. Overseas tourists must wonder what OZ is about.

Back in Alice, we found a side alley café for catching up on wifi and caffeine and T spotted the folk who’d rescued us yesterday and had a chat. ‘ I guess it’s revision time for your off-road adventures’, they said. Yep.

The late afternoon saw us on the Ross Hwy, heading into East MacDonnells. Scenery marvellous again, but quieter, as the road became a single track for quite a while. There was a sense on this side of the ranges of driving along and in the range, rather than paralleling it and turning into gorges etc.


Tonight we are at N’Dhala Gorge, having ventured down a track with just a few shallow sand patches (gulp) and a water crossing, the latter being the most concerning because we couldn’t see the bottom. D thought that T had said last night that we weren’t going to do this any more, but must have misheard. The tyre pressure will definitely be down and the blood pressure up for the return leg.

Arrived at a tiny camping spot to be greeted by Judy wearing a moon boot on her broken ankle…(she does weights daily in her huge 7 tonne van/truck ‘campervan’). Just before dusk we walked to the gorge and pondered the petroglyphs along the way. A warm evening tonight – during a mid-campground get together another fellow traveller remarked how the evenings seem to be alternating each day between warm and cold. All agreed on the scarcity of wildlife in this part of the NT.

A quick walk up the Gorge as the sun set to enjoy the view, scenery and petroglyphs.


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