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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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