Animals In The Wild List (AITW)

Perth – Fremantle – Rottnest Island (Western Australia)

2/11/16  Coming in to Perth, we headed to the caravan park at Karrinyup Waters Resort and set up on a grassy site among the trees down the back, away from the crowded rows of caravans on concrete slabs. It was just like bush camping…but with power and bathroom facilities, oh and a pool and spa and laundry – well, similar to bush camping.

A couple of weeks earlier, I’d noticed a weld on the Landy’s rear wheel carrier that looked cracked and rusted. It was fitted by Opposite Lock back home in 2013 and had carried a spare wheel for well over 60,000kms, sometimes over very rough roads and tracks up to Cape York and all around Australia. When I mentioned to Aaron at OL that I was calling from WA, he suggested I contact the manufacturer who happened to be located in Perth, of all places! What’re the chances of that! We dropped in to the Outback Accessories factory and they said yep, no worries, we’ll replace that with a new one. It turned out not to be an actual weld break after all but they were still more than happy to replace it anyway as they had slightly changed the way they were making them since I’d bought mine. Great guys and excellent customer service. It’s terrific to deal with a company that will so readily stand behind their product without any hassles. The next day, the Landy was sporting a brand spanking new rear wheel carrier with a complementary wheel cover thrown in to the bargain. Thumbs up to Ross and Justin.

We caught up with Gary, an old friend and neighbour from back in the 80s in Townsville. Despite the 35 year interval, it was just like old times which is always the sign of a good friendship. We spent a great day being given a guided tour of the Sunset Coast beach strip and the old convict-era attractions of Fremantle, with lunch at Bather’s Beach House next to the old jetty. The following day, Di and I went back to Fremantle to see more, and caught up afterwards with “New Best Friend” (inside joke) and fellow traveller, Fleur, for coffee and a chat at her home. It was a shame we missed seeing Peter who was away for a few weeks chasing his El Dorado with a gold detector.

The Landy (aka Big Ears) is now wearing a set of Clearview extending mirrors for added towing vision, courtesy of Wayne, our “New Second-Best Friend” (same inside joke) and ex-Disco 3 owner who we met at Karijini NP.

Being back in a bustling city after so long in the bush was curious – more 2WDs than 4WDs; more people who’ve obviously had a bath that day; young people outnumbering the grey-haired baby boomers; fast freeways full of fast drivers who take a gap regardless of one being there or not – so noticeable after tootling around in the Serenity for so long. I drive like I’m in a 6.5-tonne rig – steady braking, steady acceleration, braking distance in front – not so easy to do when everyone else is in such a hurry. Get me back to the Serenity!

We went to Fremantle yet again to see the WA Maritime Museum, home to the winning 1983 America’s Cup yacht, Australia II. She’s under full sail and suspended up in the air in a large room in the museum, with her famous breakthrough winged keel on full display. Di enjoyed a coffee in the museum’s sunny outdoor café while I was escorted through the Oberon class submarine HMAS Ovens that is also housed permanently at the museum. My guide was an ex-submariner who served a large part of his 25 years in the Royal Australian Navy as one of the three Sonar Operators on a similar Oberon class vessel. I was the only person in his tour group so was able to see everything up front and close and ask him lots of questions. The guide was extremely knowledgeable about the sub, because every crew member regardless of their job, including the Cook, was required to know the subs full operations and how to work everything. The tour was very interesting and very cramped, even with just the two of us below deck. I couldn’t imagine the conditions on board with a regular crew of 63! With the shoulder-width corridors and doors that require you to go through sideways, it’d be like constant “Excuse me…after you…no, no, you first…”

We also visited the Freemantle Arts Centre, housed in an historic colonial gothic building in the heart of Freemantle, and built by convicts in the 1860s as the Convict Establishment Fremantle Lunatic Asylum and Invalid Depot. Not so much PC in those days. The buildings planned demolition in the late 1950s was halted following a public outcry and since that time it has been used for a variety of community purposes. Following a major restoration, it is now a lovely complex housing the Freemantle Arts Centre, with exhibition rooms and artist work spaces.

I made the mistake of filling the tanks with what laughingly passes in Perth for water. It was like I had a glass of swimming pool, leaving a metallic chemical taste like putting your tongue on a 9v battery. Perth drinking water is derived 47% from desalination, 46% from groundwater and 7% from dams. Then they must combine it and bomb the hell out of it with chlorine. Chlorinated water generally settles down after a day or so in the tanks and becomes tasteless, but not this latest lot – it’s been a week and still smells like spa water. We resorted to buying bottled water for the daily cuppas.

Gary took us in to Perth to the Bell Tower and Kings Park and Botanic Garden, followed by a drive to nearby wineries in the Swan Valley, where we had a leisurely lunch at the Ugly Duck Winery before more wine tastings at a few nearby wineries.

We took a day trip to Rottnest Island via Rottnest Fast Ferries from Hillarys Wharf. To get around on the island, the choices were 1) walk, 2) hire a bicycle, 3) catch the hop-on-hop-off bus, and 4) take a guided bus tour. Rottnest isn’t a particularly large island, but walking or bicycling around it was out for us. The hop-on-hop-off bus was also dismissed as a lot of time could be spent just waiting for the next one to come along. We decided on the bus tour which was very informative with the driver providing a running commentary, but the downside was that the tour went around the island in a clockwise direction and we found ourselves sitting on the wrong side to really see the magnificent coastline views. If you’re considering the bus tour, ask the driver which way you’ll be travelling to make sure you are on the best side. We also had a couple of dawdlers in the group who were regularly very tardy getting back to the bus, causing the latter part of the tour to be rushed to connect with the return ferry. Our recommendation – spend more than just one day on Rottnest to take it all in at a leisurely pace and use the hop-on-hop-off bus to get around and make sure to see the Quokkas and New Zealand Fur Seals (Eighteenth and Nineteenth Ticks for Di’s “Animals in the Wild” List).

Our departure from Perth was delayed by a day so we could meet up with Ros and Dean, fellow Kimberley Kruiser big-lappers who we’ve been corresponding with for some time via the blog and have been looking forward to meeting while we were in Perth. Over drinks and a fine Italian meal, we had a lovely evening sharing travel stories and anecdotes, followed by a nice stroll back to their place alongside the Swan River with a million dollar view of the city lights opposite. The fresh evening breeze was quite pleasant given the ambient level of friction (Ros’s First Law of Thermal Transmogrification – as yet unpublished).

The following quote is for my trusty second seat Navigator throughout our travels.
“When looking at your two paws, as soon as you have decided which of them is the Right one, then you can be sure the other one is the Left.” – Winnie the Pooh

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Carnarvon (Western Australia)

27/09/16  Leaving Cape Range National Park, we refuelled at Exmouth and camped for the night an hour down the road at the rustic Bullara Station with its novel open-roofed shower and toilets that they call Lava Trees. You can star gaze while contemplating life, the universe and everything. We set up next to the cattle yards. Bullara is very much a working cattle property, with stock close around the homestead. We woke the following morning to the sounds of a station – grinder being used in the nearby shed; motorbikes and vehicles coming and going – and opened the door to be greeted by a couple of horses grazing beside the van. The down-to-earthness and lack of graces is what we like about farm stays.

South from there heading to the coastal town of Carnarvon, we once again crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn where, true to form, the temperature underwent an immediate change, cooling from the low 30s of the morning to mid-20s in the afternoon. We’ve wondered about this before, so this time I asked Mr Google – the Tropic of Capricorn is the southernmost latitude on Earth where the sun’s rays can be directly overhead at local noon and marks the southern boundary of the tropics. This means that south of the Tropic the sun is at a lower angle, travelling through more atmosphere and providing less heat. Makes sense, but we’ve always found the change at the Tropic as noticeable as if someone had flipped a switch.

In Carnarvon the next day, our shorts were put away and we were again back into long pants and pullovers.

img_4639While camped for a few days at Carnarvon, we wanted to have a look up the coast at possible camp sites to use in a few weeks’ time, so took a drive north from Carnarvon to Quobba. On the way we checked out Bibbawarra Bore that used to be the longest sheep trough in the southern hemisphere. It’s no longer in operation but in its day, steaming hot artesian water flowed out of the ground and used to cool along the 175m long trough so the sheep could drink it. The trough is now dry but the artesian water is still hot and flowing.

On the way to Point Quobba, I caught a quick glimpse of something on the road as we went by and had an idea what it might be. Turning back to check, we saw our first ever iconic Thorny Devil (Seventeenth Tick for Di’s “Animals in the Wild” List). We’d been hoping to see one since last year when travelling through the Northern Territory and South Australia, and now we finally have in Western Australia! It was standing very still on the road pretending as hard as it could to be invisible, maybe waiting to chase traffic, I don’t know, but it was definitely not a safe place for it to be. So passive and unmoving, it allowed me to pick it up to move it off to the side. Di got such a buzz out of finally seeing one and had a hold of it also. Seeing one of these little fellas was a real highlight of our travels. And if that wasn’t enough, a little later in the day on a sandy track in nearby Quobba Station, we came across another one! Again standing frozen on the track. And again needing a helping hand off the track. Two in one day – wow! We now know that Thorny Devils are quite cute, not nearly as prickly as they look and have absolutely no road sense.

At Point Quobba, we drove up the goat track access to take in the views from the lighthouse, checked out the nearby camp sites set among very rustic and ramshackle fishing huts, and were fortunate to be at the blowholes at the right time of tide to see the water spouts at their best.

A very interesting and educational couple of hours were spent at the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum that displays the involvement of the local Carnarvon Tracking Station and the OTC Satellite Earth Station in NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. The displays brought back teenage memories of eyes glued to the woodgrain television set, struggling to ring the most from grainy black and white images telecast from the Moon. We squeezed into a replica Apollo Command Module nose cone and blasted off on a journey into Earth orbit. Fortunately, the flight was fully automated as I obviously lack the Right Stuff after repeatedly crashing the Shuttle Landing Simulator, while Di bombed out on the manual dexterity test required to be an astronaut – no surprise there. NASA can sleep safe in the knowledge we are not on our way over there.

“10, 9, ignition sequence start, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, zero. All engines running. Liftoff! We have a liftoff! Thirty-two minutes past the hour. Liftoff on Apollo 11!'” Jack King, Nasa Chief of Public Information, commentates on the launch of the Apollo 11 over a live television broadcast on July 16, 1969

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Cape Range National Park (Western Australia)

20/09/16  img_5959After two relaxing days at Miaree Pool, we travelled 240kms south to spend the night at Nanutarra Roadhouse, then 80kms the next morning before stopping for a quick cuppa where the highway crossed the Yannarie River. The area down beside the sandy riverbed looked very pleasant and, while it was only mid-morning, we opted to camp there for the night.

Daytime temperatures at this latitude were still up in the mid-30s. It was a dry heat though that made it comfortable, and most days had a gentle cooling breeze which stayed on through the night, when temperatures dropped to the low teens. These conditions were now more pleasant for bush camping than up in the far north, and with the endless blue skies, the solar panels had no trouble keeping the batteries fully powered up.

Our site at Osprey Campground in Cape Range National Park was on the beachfront with great views of the sand dunes, beach and ocean. We arrived at about the same time as the south-easterly winds which blew steadily all day, rocking the van and preventing the awnings being set out for shade. Osprey was fully occupied, everyone hunkering down in their vans or trying for a still spot on the beach away from the wind. Despite the water being very chilly, Di was keen to get in for a swim after we set up. And I have to say, once you numbed down to it, it was almost enjoyable.

The colours of the water inside Ningaloo Reef were a marvellous mix of blues, aquamarines and greens, made so by the brilliant white sand. The main reef was marked by a line of breakers a hundred metres or so offshore, providing a calm lagoon into the beach for swimming and snorkelling. The low weathered limestone cliffs forming the top of the beach were once part of an ancient coral reef, full of fossilised corals and shells. My search for a fossilised shark tooth came up empty, but we saw lots of amazing fossilised coral formations frozen in stone in minute detail.

Di and I snorkelled at nearby Oyster Stacks Beach where Ningaloo Reef was literally just metres offshore. If you went into the water at the northern end of the beach at high tide, after gingerly negotiating over the foreshore rock shelf, the current drifted you slowly south parallel to the shoreline and along the reef to the sandy beach at the southern end of the cove, where you could exit and start over again. The colours and types of fish were spectacular, as were the coral formations and occasional bombie. Di hadn’t done much snorkelling before, but soon got the hang of it and was diving and clearing her snorkel like an expert. She loved it, as did I and we both stayed in for a long time. My back got sunburnt, so the following day, we headed into Exmouth for supplies and picked up a couple of rashies so we could keep on snorkelling each day.

On the way back to camp, from the heights of the lookout at Vlamingh Lighthouse we watched humpback whales breaching a little way offshore. Just amazing. We spotted whales from the shore every day.

Over our five days there, the weather was terrific apart from a couple of days of incessant wind– a T10 breeze (gauged by how many metres your thongs blew away if left outside).

The day before our departure from Cape Range National Park, we went on a Whale Shark cruise to hopefully see the world’s biggest fish. It was late in the season and no guarantee of a sighting could be given, though there had been good encounters the previous week. The wind dropped off that morning, boding well for me and my challenge with mal de mer. Our boat had only just gotten out beyond the main reef, when word came from the spotter plane circling overhead of a nearby sighting. It was a 5m Whale Shark (Fifteenth Tick for Di’s “Animals in the Wild” List), and we were dropped into the water with snorkelling gear to watch it slowly glide past below us. What an awesome sight.

During the course of the day, we had multiple Humpback sightings and breachings, one just next to the boat. The spotter plane directed us to a couple of giant Manta Rays (Sixteenth Tick for Di’s “Animals in the Wild” List) nearby, and while we were in the water with them, a female Humpback and her calf swam right past our group, between us and the boat. Who gets to actually be in the water with Humpbacks! We do! I wonder what they made of all those strange little creatures floating on the surface as they went by.

To finish off the cruise, we had a snorkel over Ningaloo Reef using electric sea scooters. The fish were amazing and we came across a large stingray resting on a sandy patch of sea floor. The cruise certainly delivered – Whale Shark, Humpback Whales, Manta Rays, Stingray. What a day! Absolute magic and definitely the highlight of our travels. Lots of ticks for Di’s Animals in the Wild List too.

“Most whale photos you see show whales in this beautiful blue water – it’s almost like space.” – Brian Skerry, underwater photojournalist, National Geographic magazine.

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cue – Karalundi – Gascoyne River – Newman (Western Australia)

27/07/16  There’s something about these Western Australians that makes them want to chop the top off every hill and ship it to China. What they don’t ship, they stack and make a new hill next door. Almost every hill out this way is terraced, squared off, and on its way to somewhere in a dump truck or train.

IMG_0184

Thankfully, the service of the Landy’s transmission seems to have fixed the shudder. I wasn’t looking forward to having the transmission worked on.

After four nights at Boogardie Station, we headed north and spent the night back at Cue. The water tanks were filled the next morning and we continued north. Having a break and a cuppa in Meekatharra, a young bloke wandered over and asked how the Kruiser was going. It turned out he was a gold prospector who also owned a Kruiser, and we had a yarn about our vans and his gold mining operation out of town. Small world. A prospector living in a Kruiser on his gold mining lease was not something we’d expected.

About 60kms north of Meeka, we pulled in to the Karalundi Aboriginal Education Community and were lucky to get a spot as we hadn’t pre-booked. We ended up on the last available campsite and I must admit, we reckoned it was the best of the lot anyway. Karalundi is a boarding school for Aboriginal boys and girls, and a green oasis surrounded by the mulga scrub. We set up and relaxed to the sounds of school children singing and playing – not your average campsite backdrop.

Karalundi Aboriginal Education Community (WA)

Karalundi Aboriginal Education Community (WA)

After a night at Karalundi, we continued north on the Great Northern Highway, or Bottle Way as it should be called for the continuous line of discarded plastic and glass drink containers along both sides of the roadway. In the middle of the WA Outback, countless beer bottles and plastic drink bottles lie only metres apart. Who does that with careless disregard for the land or their fellow persons? Stubbies consumed while driving, energy drinks downed to maintain the pace, drink containers of pee to avoid pulling over – all are thrown out the window to join those already dotting the roadside. This outback way is the litter trail of Western Australia.

We free-camped at Gascoyne River South Branch, set up a little way back into the scrub and shared our camp fire with Peter and Fleur from Perth. The outback night sky was glorious with the Milky Way and shooting stars. On the way from Gascoyne River to Newman the next morning, a mob of donkeys were just in off the edge of the road, checking us out as we went by. Another tick for Di’s Animals in the Wild List. The further north we go, Wedgetail Eagles and Whistling Kites are becoming more prevalent and we have to keep an eye out for the eagles on roadkill as they are very slow to fly off when on the ground.

IMG_0172

A short distance south of Newman, we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, 23.5 degrees south latitude, and, just as we’d noticed in western Queensland last year, the day immediately felt warmer. Off came the pullover and at camp in Newman the van windows were all opened up for the first time in ages. In winter and travelling north, that latitude seems to be the demarcation between “Jeez, it’s bloody cold” and “I think it’s getting warmer”.

“The days are getting warmer now. The nights are getting shorter now.” – America, Children, America album

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Port Lincoln and Surrounds (South Australia)

16/06/16  The wet weather was dead-set determined to stick with us. Di did a tally the other day and at that stage, of the 44 days so far this trip, only 10 have been without rain. It’s like we’ve been towing the rain clouds along with us.

And they descended on us yet again for a wet welcome to Port Lincoln at the southern tip of the Eyre Peninsula. Our intended bush camp at Mikkira Station, south of Port Lincoln, was reconsidered as the recent rain would have made it too sloppy getting in there and we’d be generating next to no solar power once we did. Instead, we set up at the Port Lincoln Caravan Park at North Shields, just five minutes out of town to the north. Probably better anyway, as we’d be unhitching for a few days and doing day trips around the area, and the Kruiser would be more secure there than the isolated property. The van sat only a few metres off the top of the beach cliff, with sweeping views across Boston Bay to Point Boston, Boston Island and Port Lincoln.

Port Lincoln is the largest city in the West Coast region of SA, and is a major centre for government services and commerce. It also has the most millionaires per capita in Australia. Who’d have guessed?!

We especially liked the foreshore area at Port Lincoln when we went for a look around town the following morning, particularly its sweeping panorama across Boston Bay. The local sailing club were out and struggling to make headway in a rather sluggish race. With such calm conditions, the large bay was as still as a millpond and very picturesque, and we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the foreshore park on our first day of fine weather in what felt like ages.

Port Lincoln, we decided, would be a nice place to live, if not for the cold weather and Great White Sharks that the locals seem very wary of. Not many people venture into the water down here which says something about the sharks. One local told us that a couple of weeks earlier a 14 foot shark had been seen by a fisherman just off a nearby beach. We thought back to the big one that we’d spotted last year from the clifftop at Cape Spencer Lighthouse on Yorke Peninsula, lazily cruising the shallow waters of a small beach cove below. We’re kind of glad it’s winter and too cold for swimming. With big crocs in the far north and big sharks in the far south, where we live in the middle was looking pretty good.

We took a drive to the nearby communities of Tumby Bay, Louth Bay and Point Boston, each offering different beachscapes and cliffscapes and their own picturesque views across to the nearby islands. Regardless how inviting the water looked, though, it was way too cold for a swim. Drinks at the Wheatsheaf Hotel before a big log fire rounded off the day very nicely.

Coffin Bay is a small community on the west coast of the peninsula, about 40 minutes drive from Port Lincoln. We spent an afternoon cruising around and checking the area out. It’s a sleepy little coastal town with a well-stocked general store that makes truly excellent chips, a pub and lots of protected shoreline. It’s easy to see that as well as being a tourist destination in its own right, from the new housing that’s springing up it’s also taking off as a satellite town to nearby Port Lincoln.

The weather the following morning was glorious, made more so when a dolphin cruised slowly past our camp in the flat blue waters of the bay while we were enjoying a morning cuppa. It just doesn’t get any better. That afternoon, we had a look around Lincoln National Park, a short drive south, and found it did get better – we came across a group of sea lions sunning on rocks just off the tip of Cape Donington. Another tick (Thirteenth) for Di’s “Animals in the Wild” List.

The next day was spent at Whalers Way, a privately-owned wilderness reserve 32kms south-west of Port Lincoln at the very foot of the Eyre Peninsula. We used a key obtained earlier from the Visitor Information Centre in town to get through the locked entrance gate and followed the 14kms of tracks along what has to be South Australia’s most spectacular and dramatic stretch of coastline. We spent six hours in the reserve, seeing numerous blowholes, deep coastal crevasses, rocky capes, and fur seals lazing on rocky outcrops, but most of all, the spectacular cliffs and pounding seas.

We’d have stayed longer but the gathering clouds looked threatening and the tracks would have turned very ordinary with the forecast rain. Whalers Way is not widely publicised. There’s none of the usual hype or touristy trappings to be found anywhere in the reserve, but it should be on everyone’s List of Must See Places simply because of the unadulterated natural beauty of the coastline. It certainly has a spot on our Favourite Places List.

The rain came that night, and a clap of thunder at 5:00am had me springing out of bed thinking the small awning was wrapping over the roof of the van. All was well, though, and we had early cuppas.

“The first bug to hit a clean windshield lands directly in front of your eyes.” – Drew’s Law of Highway Biology

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - South Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Yorke Peninsula (South Australia)

22/11/15  Our shortest hop so far was 22kms from the very small community of Alford to Wallaroo on the west coast of the Yorke Peninsula, where we set up at the North Beach Caravan Park for a “Stay 3 days, Pay for 2” deal.

Wallaroo - North Beach (SA)

Having had two days of drizzly rain at Alford, we decided to put out the main awning and the smaller offside awning at the new camp to give us some extra shelter. It was novel to have the main awning out as it hadn’t seen light of day since May, and with the forecast of sunshine for the next week, we were looking forward to making good use of it.

Di was happy to be back at the beach, with sand on her toes and her Beach Tank all topped up. Vehicles are permitted on Wallaroo North Beach and on dusk quite a few would be parked along the waterline with people in camp chairs watching the sun set in the ocean. Must be a local tradition. It was an odd sight. The beach was different to ours back home, with the low tide mark a long way out and the high tide mark only half way in to the top of the beach. It was this wide expanse of sand that was so popular for beach driving.

IMG_8092

Port Hughes (SA)

We had a very relaxing time at Wallaroo, took a day drive to nearby Moonta, Port Hughes and Kadina, and the three-day stay pushed out to six days in the end as wet weather had returned to most of South Australia, along with cold blustery winds. We stayed put rather than set up somewhere else where it would probably be just as wet.

Di and I put away the main awning at 2:00am one night because of wind gusts that had come up quite suddenly. A check of the weather showed a strong wind warning had been issued for most of the coastal areas. The awning was strong enough to handle wind but was acting like a sail and rocking the van with every gust. And I had visions of us taking off like Dorothy to the Land of Oz if the wind picked up anymore. I thought that bringing the awning down in the strong winds would be unmanageable, but it proved to be easy – you just need a good woman to hang off it when the ropes and poles are released so it doesn’t all fly away…

From Wallaroo, which is on the “knee” of the Yorke Peninsula, our next stopover was further south at Minlaton, at the “ankle”. That was our base for day trips in the Landy throughout the “foot” and along the east coast of the peninsula. Minlaton is home to the last remaining original Bristol M1C fighter monoplane from a total of 130 manufactured in England during WW1. It’s been fully restored and is housed in a display building in the main street. In 1919, the bright red Bristol, nicknamed the “Red Devil”, made the first mail flight over ocean in the Southern Hemisphere from Adelaide across the Gulf to Minlaton. I never cease to be amazed at the things we come across in the unlikeliest of places.

Minlaton - Showground (SA)

Minlaton – Showground (SA)

Minlaton had some interesting little shops and we enjoyed taking time to browse along the main street. It also had the first stone showground buildings that we’d come across in our travels.

For most of our time on the Yorke Peninsula, it had been constantly windy. At Minlaton, the overnight temperatures dropped to single digits with daytime maximums in the 20s. Add in the wind chill factor, and conditions were very cold and wintery. The diesel heater kept the van lovely and warm in the mornings and evenings, and we rugged up during day trips around nearby coastal towns. This place must be miserable in winter if it’s like this in November.

After four days at Minlaton, we moved on to Port Rickaby, 19kms away on the west coast – a new record for the shortest hop. We’d found the location on a day drive and loved the look of the tiny community clustered up against a sheltered cove of white sandy beach at one end, a rock shelf at the other, and an old wooden jetty running out in the middle. Turned out they do have proper beaches in SA, after all. The van was backed in right above the beach, providing terrific views up and down the shoreline. Di couldn’t stop saying “It’s just so beautiful”. And it was, particularly the sunsets across the waters of Spender Gulf. A real slice of heaven.

From Port Rickaby, we did more day trips all around the peninsula. There’s lots of coastline around the edge, with small communities named Port this or Point that (locals tend to drop these when referring to a place), and lots and lots of wheat and barley growing in the middle.

We found the southern parts of the peninsula more interesting and scenic, and particularly liked Black Point and Port Vincent, on the east coast.

Innes National Park (SA)

Innes National Park (SA)

Innes National Park, located in the “toe” at the southern end of the peninsula, took a day to check out. It is an unspoilt and very beautiful place with amazing scenery and stunning views from the coastline cliffs. The area has a very wild coastline and five nearby lighthouses can be seen at night from the headland at Pondalowie Bay.

Looking down from the clifftop at the lovely bay below the Cape Spencer Lighthouse, we spotted a shape cruising back and forth in the shallows – a big shark, another tick (Twelfth) for Di’s “Animals in the Wild” list. We couldn’t tell what type it was, but, at a guess, it would have been at least four metres long. And we’d just been commenting how inviting the water looked for a swim and wondering if we could get down there. We gave that idea a big miss.

IMG_9347

Yorke Peninsula – Ethel Beach (SA)

Yorke Peninsula can be very windy, especially on the coast. We were lucky at Rickaby (note the silent Port) to have a few fine days at first with a pleasant breeze and blue skies. The last few days, though, were mostly overcast and windy, gusting to 50kph on one day. The only consolation was that it blew away the bloody flies! We stayed at Port Rickaby for seven days.

Daylight saving here takes a little getting used to. South Australia and Northern Territory are on Australian Central Standard Time (ACST) and normally a half hour behind Queensland, but South Australia is also currently on summer daylight saving that pushes the time an hour ahead. This puts us half an hour ahead of Queensland. When daylight savings finishes in April, South Australia would again be half an hour behind instead of ahead. A little confusing? Only for us travellers, I guess, when we want to ring family back home. All I know is, it’s 8:00pm and the sun hasn’t gone down yet.

“It gets late early out there.” – Yogi Berra

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - South Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ambalindum Homestead (Northern Territory)

15/09/15  From Gemtree on the Plenty Highway, we took the Binns Track south for 39kms and then turned east for 56kms to Ambalindum Homestead. The track runs from Timber Creek in the north to Mt Dare, just over the South Australian border. “Track” was a very apt description as “road” was just not the appropriate term to describe most of what we travelled over.

The first 50kms or so were narrow and crazily corrugated with many small washouts, limiting us to no more than 20kph, oftentimes less. The final section of road was slightly better maintained and our pace increased to 60kph at times. With the van on, the 100kms took 4.5 hours including a couple of short stops to stretch our legs.

The Kruiser handled the rough going very well. Nothing broke or worked loose, and the inside was completely dust-free when we stopped to set up camp. I can’t say the same for the outside, though, which was very dusty. The Stone Stomper is doing a great job to protect the van from stone damage.

We enjoyed the drive immensely, apart from the worst sections of bone-jarring corrugations that jack-hammered us and the rig around. Driving through mountain ranges all morning, the scenery was spectacular.

Coming around a bend, we came across two dingoes on the track just ahead. They trotted off slowly enough to allow for some quick photos; another tick (Eleventh) for Di’s “Animals in the Wild” list. We stopped for smoko in a large hard-packed clearing beside a sandy creek bed, and noticed lots of flint blades of various sizes scattered around on the red dirt, sign of Aboriginal activity at some past time.

Ambalindum Station is a working cattle station and the homestead was an oasis of green lawns, shady trees and lovely gardens. It was nice to walk on green grass again after so long. Darren and Chantelle were lovely hosts who made us feel very welcome. As with many of the stations, power came from a generator that hummed away in the background between 6:00am in the morning and 10:00pm at night.

Two related families live at the homestead in a small cluster of buildings comprising the ruins of the stone shearing shed, the original stone and timber cottage, the next generation timber homestead, and the current separate houses for the two families, plus a random assortment of farm buildings and sheds. Each of the earlier houses are currently being renovated for guest accommodation. A separate ‘school’ has also been established in the original bunkhouse for the families’ seven children in Years 1 to 11, taught by Naomi (Chantelle’s sister) who is a qualified teacher.



We enjoyed our brief stay at Ambalindum Station; nice relaxing downtime.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.” – Anon

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , ,

Kakadu, Pussy Cat Flats and Pine Creek (Northern Territory)

3/09/15  Day four in Kakadu was a rest day, soaking it up at the lagoon pool, reading and snoozing in the air-conditioning; doing a whole heap of not much at all, to make up for the previous two days’ bushwalking.

The following morning, we moved on from Kakadu to Pussy Cat Flats, on the outskirts of the small town of Pine Creek where the Kakadu Highway meets the Stuart Highway. Pussy Cat Flats is the site of a turf club that hasn’t had a horse race in 5 years since the facilities were deemed non-compliant with Territory racing OH&S regulations. Something to do with non-collapsible track rails if jockeys fall on them. Thought the idea was they shouldn’t fall off. Now the little country race track is used for caravans and camping instead. It still has a most excellent bar and restaurant, though.

I’d previously mentioned the heat up here. This item was on the web: “2015 will be the hottest year in the planet’s recorded history, a landmark that comes with the requisite fire and flood. July was the hottest month ever measured on earth.” (The Guardian, 1 September 2015). I knew it! We’re definitely heading south.

Today, we backtracked a little way into Kakadu to Gunlom Falls, about an hour inside the southern entrance to the park. For devotees of the “Crocodile Dundee” movie, the scene where Mick Dundee spears a fish and cooks bush tucker that he reckons “You can live on it but it tastes like s**t” was filmed there. We climbed the precipitous walking track (although “track” is an imaginative stretch for the Pyrenees mountain goat path we climbed) from the big swimming pool at the base of the falls to the top, climbing over boulders in some parts to reach the peak of the escarpment, and then descending a little way to the series of rock pools at the very top of the falls. We considered the climb well worth the effort as we floated in the cool waters with fantastic “infinity pool” views out over southern Kakadu. We weren’t looking forward to the climb back down to the carpark at the base of the falls, though. Di managed very well on both the ascent and descent, thanks to my Sherpa guidance and the hiking pole that I’d thoughtfully given her last Christmas. It proved to be very helpful, and she didn’t think she would have managed the climb without it. I am such a good husband.


It was an eventful day for Di’s Animals in the Wild list. On the drive to the falls, we spotted a big male Water Buffalo in the bush just off the Kakadu Highway, and she leapt to the moment with her camera. Tick off “Water Buffalo”(Ninth Tick). A little further on near Gunlom, a small mob of Brumbies were grazing just a little way from the road, beautiful looking wild horses in excellent condition. Tick off “Brumby” (Tenth Tick) on her list as well.

That afternoon, we looked around Pine Creek, at the Railway Museum, the Miners Park, and the Enterprise Mine pit that is now filled with water.

“Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.” – Susan Sontag

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Kakadu (Northern Territory)

29/08/15  Kaka-Definitely-Do

It was great to be travelling again after the long stay at Berry Springs; but first, a quick detour to Darwin to have the repaired washing machine put back in and we were then on our wIMG_5609ay to Kakadu.
The small town of Jabiru is located within the north-eastern section of Kakadu National Park. We arrived on a scorching day, with temperatures in the high 30’s and humidity at saturation-point.

After setting up at the Aurora Kakadu Lodge and Caravan Park, it was off to the lagoon pool for a long cool swim and drink from the poolside bar. Free camping will definitely be off the agenda for the short term as the air-conditioner is a necessity in this heat. The locals back at Berry Springs reckoned the heat of the past week or so flagged an early “build-up”, a period before the wet season that brings high humidity and clouds but no rain. Our planned schedule for the North has been cut short by the seven week layover at Berry Springs, and the days are becoming uncomfortably hot and humid.

Heading into Kakadu, we decided that next up will be a fast trip south. The places we’ll miss out on this time, we’ll catch up on next time around.

Day two in Kakadu saw us setting off early to the Aboriginal rock art at Ubirr, a 40km drive north-east from Jabiru near the East Alligator River and bordering on the Arnhem Land region. The area is extremely rich in Aboriginal rock art that dates back tens of thousands of years. Close to the main gallery is a painting of a Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger), extinct on the Australian mainland for 2,000 to 3,000 years. The painting would have been done by someone who had actually seen one so it has to be at least that old – just amazing. We did the circular walk to some wonderful rock art sites, and climbed up to the Nadab Lookout with views of the Nadab floodplain and Arnhem Land. This is the grassplains area in the “Crocodile Dundee” movie.


Nearby on the East Alligator River, Cahill’s Crossing provides access from Kakadu on one side to Arnhem Land on the other. The low concrete causeway across the river is a bottleneck for barramundi and mullet, and on the high tide when water just covers the causeway, fish make the shallow crossing upstream or downstream. Every day at high tide, crocs gather to feed on the fish. As well as a couple of Salties lying in wait on the causeway itself, a dozen or more were floating patiently in the water nearby. Di can well and truly tick off “Saltwater Crocodile” (Eighth Tick) on her Animals in the Wild List.

The next day, we made an early start to the rock art sites at Nourlangie, 30kms south, and then on to nearby Anbangbang Billabong to view the birdlife. A visit to the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, followed by lunch at the Gagudju Lodge Cooinda and a visit to Yellow Water Billabong for more bird watching finished off a wonderful day for us.

Before going there, we’d asked quite a few fellow travellers whether Kakadu would be worth a visit, as we’d heard the various “Kaka-Do” and “Kaka-Don’t” reviews. But despite the negative opinions, it was a place we just had to see as we knew we’d regret not taking the opportunity. Once we were in Kakadu, we just loved it. “Kaka-Definitely-Do”.

The park is so large that sufficient time is needed to see and appreciate it. A day or two would only provide a superficial and very rushed experience. For example, the 1.5km walk at Nourlangie took us all morning, taking our time to appreciate the scenery and rock art galleries. I noticed many people coming up to the rock art, taking a quick photo and moving on, and wondered how they could do that after travelling so far to see it and then giving no more than a cursory look. Would they really be appreciating that, up to 20,000 years ago, a person had stood in that spot and painted that image on the rock face using ochres and pigments ground by hand in the small depressions still visible in nearby rocks, surrounded by the day-to-day life of their family or tribe? And that for the 20,000 years since then, countless other people have looked at that image and related stories about it and a way of life? To see those ancient images that have survived for millennia on rock faces protected from the elements by overhanging ledges was an amazing experience.

Nourlangie – Rock Art Site – Kakadu (NT)

“Travel is the only context in which some people ever look around. If we spent half the energy looking at our own neighbourhoods, we’d probably learn twice as much.”
― Lucy R. Lippard, “On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art, and Place”

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

AITW List – Sixth and Seventh Ticks – Snake and Freshwater Crocodile

3/08/2015  Within 50 metres of our campsite at the Lakes Resort Caravan Park, are a couple of glorious lakes, the largest of which is Lake Deane. The lakes are fed by Berry Creek and provide a crystal clear habitat for fish and birdlife. Most days, we went bird watching along the tracks that extended around the lakes and through the adjacent bushland.

As we were strolling along, trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to scare the birds, I just about trod on a Slaty-grey Snake half hidden in the grass at my feet. Not sure which of us got the biggest shock, but it reared up and looked decidedly unfriendly. I took note of the shorts and thongs I was wearing and realised they didn’t qualify as appropriate personal protection equipment and back-pedalled very quickly.

Slaty-grey Snake - Berry Springs (NT)

Slaty-grey Snake – Berry Springs (NT)

Further along the track, we came across two crocs in the water, one only very small and the other about 1.5m.

Freshwater Crocodile - Berry Springs (NT)

Freshwater Crocodile – Berry Springs (NT)

On the day we visited the Mary River area we also saw crocs on the Adelaide and Mary Rivers. At Corroboree Billabong we were less than three metres from a small freshwater crocodile.

Corroboree Billabong (NT)

Corroboree Billabong (NT)

Freshwater Crocodile - Corroboree Billabong (NT)

Freshwater Crocodile – Corroboree Billabong (NT)

Di got to place a tick against Snake and Crocodile on her “Animals in the Wild List”.

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW) | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: