7/06/16 We survived the anxious transit through Adelaide’s road system, from where the A13 highway entered from the south through to the A1 on the north side. In between, these wide highways become narrow roads, often twisty and choked with dodgem cars and big trucks. I swore this was my last visit to Adelaide pulling a van. Life’s too short for all that stress. We were now on our way north to loop around the top of Spencer Gulf at Port Augusta and down onto the Eyre Peninsula before heading into Western Australia.
Past Adelaide, we overnighted at the small town of Brinkworth, located a little north of Clare. The local Progress Association maintains a nice little rest area to attract travellers to the town, and the community obviously cares about welcoming visitors because just after we arrived a couple of locals pulled in to make sure we were all settled in OK. On a walk around town we met a lady who was hand-rearing a young magpie that didn’t have any tail feathers yet and looked more like a penguin than a magpie. It had grown up with them, so, instead of having a normal bird call, it alternated between sounding like their young son crying out for attention and their cat meowing.
From Brinkworth the next day, we went through Snowtown, notorious for the murders committed back in the 1990s, and on through Port Pirie to Port Augusta at the tip of Spencer Gulf. Compared with many roads we’d recently been on, the Princes Highway north of Adelaide was a good stretch. All the dips and bumps had been laid down elsewhere. For most of the way, we were Tail-end Charlie to a convoy of army vehicles travelling at 80-90kph, a good speed for fuel consumption so we stuck with them. There’s a large Defence Reserve on the western side of the Gulf just beyond Port Augusta, and they were probably headed there.
We camped at Pandurra Station – Nuttbush Retreat, 40kms west of Port Augusta at the start of the Eyre Highway that goes west to Perth. The property’s been owned by the Nutt family since 1895, and is still a working sheep and cattle grazing enterprise carrying 20,000 sheep and 150 cattle. These days it offers guest accommodation as well.
The next morning was spent at the Australian Arid Lands Botanical Gardens, back on the northern outskirts of Port Augusta, which maintains a collection of arid zone habitats in a very picturesque setting of 250 hectares. It was very interesting and well laid out, and we were glad we had a look.
Back at the homestead after lunch, six vans had set up around us while we’d been away. We’d gone from being the only ones there to being one of a bunch. Despite there being heaps of room available, one van had parked up so close to us we couldn’t have put our awning out if we’d wanted to…… OK, Di, I’ll control myself. I won’t go to the Dark Side. They’ll be moving on in the morning and all will be well again.
After seeing off our intimate neighbours the next morning, we took a drive to Whyalla, firstly 4WDing in to Wild Dog Hill in Whyalla Conservation Reserve and then to the lighthouse at Point Lowly, both just out of town to the north, before going in to Whyalla and its foreshore area to have a look around.
We stayed three nights at Pandurra Station. It was a good camp with a great happy hour in the bar area from 5:00 each afternoon. Kevin and Susan, fellow caravanners temporarily managing the accommodation side of the place, were very friendly and welcoming and good company over a beer or two. Our planned early departure was delayed when I found a broken wheel stud while prepping the van. I fitted a new one from the spares box, and we were off.
A little further west on the Eyre Highway, we free-camped at the recreation reserve at Kimba. This was another RV-friendly small town with the foresight to encourage travellers to pull in and stay for a while by providing an open space and clean amenities at a recreation reserve. More towns should wake up to the fact that not all travellers desire caravan park facilities, and that some (like us) will often bypass a town with a caravan park in lieu of one that provides alternatives such as a secure free camp or a showground camp area.
Kimba’s claim to fame is that it is located halfway across Australia, so I guess as we approach Western Australia, we are now officially into the “other half” of the continent. We unhitched and went for a drive on a very chilly day to Refuge Rocks. This is a large granite rock formation where, in 1840, a very parched Edward Eyre and his party found water and camped for a day or two during his exploration of an overland route from Adelaide to Perth. Back in Kimba, we fuelled up and restocked the groceries – a financial benefit to the town derived directly from their provision of free-camp facilities.
Before hitching up and leaving Kimba, we drove out to the lookout on White Knob, just out of town. We arrived in heavy fog which cleared enough to give us a good view of the surrounding countryside.
“Retirement is wonderful. It’s doing nothing without worrying about getting caught at it.” – Gene Perret