The 7 week Adventure draws to a close…

Day 36. Saturday 2 September. 

The sound of raindrops on the roof of the van had D bolt upright and ready to bolt – there was no way we were going to be caught by rain again, particularly if we had to share the site with a smelly, dead sheep. So, instead of slipping back into a second sleep at 6 AM as we would normally do, it was pack up while having at least a cup of tea to start the day.

Breakfast at Nerrandera Bakery two hours later woke us up, and we decided to ‘do’ lunch at the Long Track Pantry in Jugiong, rather than the dinner at the King George we’d planned (with an overnight stop). A good decision: this is an eatery we can thoroughly recommend, as it has been consistently excellent for service, beverages and food, and the bonus is the Hilltops wine cellar next door!

Having travelled a tad under 7,000 km, the only real moment of danger came 25 km from home. A vehicle travelling the other way lost part of its load from the trailer it was towing – it seemed to be some sort of fairly large chimney flue – which landed in the middle of our lane and bounced towards us. Fortunately its trajectory was towards the side of the road, and D was able to swerve enough to avoid it, but not without an anxious moment as the van objected to the rather abrupt manoeuvre – but it soon calmed down, as did D & T after a stop to draw a quick breath and settle nerves.

Arrived home at around 3.30 to begin the process of unloading, washing, cleaning, refurbishing, storing………

 Days 37 to 41 – Sunday 3 September to Thursday 7 September.

A short, unplanned detour to Canberra to attend to a few matters, and to take the opportunity for a spring clean. Speaking of Spring, Canberra really turned it on – windy, cold and wet most of the time, usual Spring fare.

Lovely to catch up with family, and to be able to go to Maya’s and Theo’s Learning Journey activities, and to have a day with Theo and Charlie on Thursday.

 Day 42. Friday 8 September.

Down the Clyde in the early afternoon, after a meat pie and coffee at the Braidwood Bakery. Arrived at Shellharbour just before 6 PM – D noticed in the gloom that lights on the van weren’t working, although the electric brakes fortunately were. A little job for tomorrow.

Twenty of the 25 strong Alaska/Canada motorhome tour group have gathered for a twelve-month reunion. A group dinner at a Thai restaurant in the village just a short walk along the beachfront became noisier by the minute, and the staff a little bit frustrated as meals were wrongly claimed and partly consumed before the error was noticed. All handled in the end with good humour.

Day 43. Saturday 9 September. 

D booked a mobile auto electrician to drop in on Monday morning to fix the van lights problem. T mentioned this in a group chat and Pam immediately volunteered her husband Charlie to look at it and fix it – ‘he can do anything’. After a bit of problem solving with multimeter and cables, Charlie did indeed track down the problem to a blown fuse, which was caused by a screw having been put into the positive wire when the new plug was fitted in Adelaide. The problem was rectified and the auto electrician was cancelled – as the realization hit that we’d probably been travelling without van lights since Adelaide! The danger of assumptions: as the original problem with the plug had been fixed, we hadn’t been doing our regular checks of the lights and of course this happened. Murphy strikes again.

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A lovely walk along the beach brought us back to our van via the sea-fed swimming pool. Not tempted.

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Much like on the Alaska trip, little groups gather in their folding chairs, soon to be joined by a few more, soon to be most of the group. A daily Happy Hour was a feature of the 2016 trip, and sure enough the beer, wine and munchies appeared once again at about 5 PM (fudging that time slightly) as a prelude to a shared BBQ at Charlie’s van.

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Day 44. Sunday 10 September.

The group is thinning out gradually – two left on Saturday morning and four more today. We joined with most of the remaining members of the group for a vehicle tour of scenic spots – as passengers with Charlie and Pam (Pam, by the way, hadn’t been on the 2016 trip – Charlie was accompanied by their adult son Mark, who dropped in this morning to say hello).

We are great fans of the South coast, and haven’t really explored spots north of Milton and south of Wollongong. Spots visited today were Kaleala Park, Farm Beach ( surfer heaven) Kiama Blowhole, Saddleback Mountain and lunch at the Jamberoo Pub, as well as the scenery – lush farmland mostly – in between. A new appreciation gained of a lovely, peaceful area, and not even the rows of Harley Davidson motorcycles at the pub spoiled that! We were excited to view a couple of whales at the blowhole, as well as a few spectacular blows.

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Late afternoon saw the afternoon tea merge into drinks and then as the sun dropped and folks got cold, the retreat to vans.

Tomorrow ends this adventure, as we drop off the van for some TLC at Smeaton Grange, and head back to Canberra. Our next adventure is in NZ, starting on 6 November.

Day 34 – Thursday 31 August & Day 35 – Friday 1 September.

Day 34. Thursday 31 August.

We leave Adelaide behind. The weather, family and friends have been good to us.

Apart from a brief stop at BWS to restock, Nurioopta for a coffee and fresh provisions and a walk through Barmera’s main street, we just drove, ending up, perhaps appropriately at Psyche Pumps Lagoon a few kilometres out of Mildura, near to King Billy Lagoon where we had stayed previously. Barmera is a sad town with many empty shopfronts but we didn’t find out the cause of the demise. Presumably, it’s like so many small towns where agricultural labour is no longer needed. Apart from the odd vehicle passing on the dirt access road, we had the Mildura spot to ourselves. We had tentative plans to go to Stefano’s for a meal, but the logistics after a long day were too hard. A campfire dinner, with T exclaiming that the bbq sausages were the best meal she’d had on the trip. Finally subverted!

Day 35. Friday 1 September: Spring has arrived.

Did we write that we had the spot to ourselves? Only if you exclude the chorus of feathered friends who woke us in the early morning – a Butcherbird, Magpies, Magpie Larks, Noisy Miners, Swamp Hens, and Parrots. We were delighted to meet them and share their joy at another lovely day. And the first day of Spring!

Mildura provided a coffee and a visit to the Mildura Arts Centre – three exhibitions: Badger Bates, the Harris Brothers (both of those were indigenous art) and a Kylie Minogue travelling expo, primarily of her costumes and dress items, backed by a huge screen playing some of her notable concerts (none of which, sad to say, D nor T had ever heard of – is that un-Australian?) The security girl minding the Kylie exhibition sighed when T announced that she wasn’t interested in this gallery but was looking for the Badger Bates.

Another long day on the road and we’re back to the beginning – stopping at the same spot on the Murrimbidgee that we used on Day 2 – 30 July, the only difference being that the dead sheep that was a good 500 metres away on the side of the river is now less than 10 metres away below the bank, and unreachable to push out to float away. We therefore cop the occasional whiff of rotting carcass but fortunately it doesn’t linger. When we first arrived, T was giving D dark and questioning looks, but he quickly found the real perpetrator. Perhaps it’s fitting that we’re back to the beginning as T’s month of knitting has become a month of unknitting; not only did she discover late this afternoon that she’s been knitting on needles one size too small and that makes the gauge very different but also that the garment is much TOO BIG at the yoke/neckline! The wool is a beautiful fine merino; it won’t end up like that sheep that D has finally dealt with using the shovel.

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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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