Pete’s Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia List (PEPOMA)

Temple Gorge Campground – Hamelin Station (Western Australia)

4/10/16  After a week in Carnarvon, we were quite happy to head on as strong winds had come up all along the coast marking the start of the windy season, and the blowy conditions tended to dictate our activities that mostly involved trying to stay out of the wind and dust. Washing hung horizontal on the clothesline. I asked a local about when the winds were likely to drop and got an apologetic smile and “Not for a fair while, mate, once they’ve started in”. Great. We’d been warned about these WA coastal winds. It was also the school holidays, always a very busy time with holidaymakers coming in everywhere along the coastline. Our plan was to go inland for a while to avoid the coastal crowds and winds.

img_4921So, we went east on the Carnarvon-Mullewa Road through row after row of remnant red sand dunes, and stopped for a cuppa at a big permanent waterhole on the Gascoyne River called Rocky Pool. A local in Carnarvon had told us that there’s good water only a metre down in the dry Gascoyne, in massive underground reserves protected from evaporation by the sand, and I guess that explains how the waterhole lasts all year round in the dry river bed. Back on the road, we spotted another Thorny Devil playing chicken with vehicles but didn’t stop this time, continuing on to the small town of Gascoyne Junction for fuel and directions to Kennedy Range National Park, 60kms to the north.

img_4967On the unfenced stretch of gravel road, there were lots of big beefy Brahman cattle to watch out for. 30kms before the park was a section of the Cobble Road, a remnant of a 1930s Depression era work-for-the-dole program to improve the track back to Carnarvon. There we were, in the middle of the desert scrub, looking at a long-disused cobblestone road running straight as a die into the distance. Bizarre. And what a task it would have been to build it at a time when camel-drawn wagons were still the main means of transport in these remote areas.

Inside the Kennedy Range National Park, our campsite was very scenic, located only a short distance from the mouth of Temple Gorge and beneath massive red cliff faces which changed colour and glowed as the sun tracked across the sky.

Our plan to escape the blowy conditions on the coast had been successful, but the dry inland heat and still air soon had us pining to be back there in the cool waters. Nevertheless, it was a good camp spot. 50,000 buzzing bush flies agreed. These annoying little things would get in our ears and the corners of our eyes, and the usually reliable bug cream wasn’t coping against their persistence. Two days with the bloody flies were enough for us.

We took a minor gravel road south from Gasgoyne Junction through Towrana, Pimbee and Wahroonga Stations and eventually looped back to the coast road. It was a really enjoyable drive, with many stops to look at red sand dunes and the variety of wildflowers beside the track.

At the top of Di’s Most Wanted Bird List was the Chiming Wedgebill and, at every stop, we could hear its distinctive song just a little way off in the scrub. But, while it could be heard, it proved an elusive bird to see. Continuing slowly along the track, we came to the coast road north of Wooramel Roadhouse and headed south to camp at Hamelin Station near Shark Bay. This would be our base for a few days to explore the area.

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The following morning, Di woke to the teasing song of that Chiming Wedgebill. She’ll go nuts if she doesn’t see them soon! And see a few she did, just near the van as we readied to go off to see the stomatolites at a nearby beach in the Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve. She got some nice shots of the birds too. Tick that one off her bird list.

 

Stromatolites are forms of microbial life that goes back three billion years. Shark Bay has the world’s most diverse and abundant examples of living marine stromatolites, with the rock-like formations estimated to be 2,000 to 3,000 years old. The beach itself was also fascinating, comprised entirely of small white Hamelin Cockle shells that proliferate in the hypersaline waters of Shark Bay, twice as salty as the nearby ocean water. Back from the beach were the historic remains of a shell block quarry. The naturally compacted and cemented cockle shells form a rock called coquina that was sawn by hand into blocks and used in the construction of some of the oldest buildings in the Shark Bay area.

We took a day drive to Steep Point, the most westerly spot on mainland Australia, via a track that is listed as No: 8 on WA’s 10 best 4WD routes. It was certainly a test for vehicle and crew. Di visited a chiropractor in Denham immediately afterwards. That completes the last on my list of Extreme Points of Mainland Australia.

From high up on the boardwalk at Eagle Bluff on the Peron Peninsula, we looked down on numerous giant shovel-nosed rays, stingrays, and a loggerhead turtle in the shallow waters below, with a group of ten lemon sharks cruising nearby.

Nearby Shell Beach is 1km wide and many kilometres long, made up of trillions of the tiny white Hamelin Cockle shells up to 10m thick.

The geology and flora continue to amaze us, especially how quickly the countryside can change, beyond the crest of practically each hilltop or ridgeline. A stretch of flat mulga plain can soon become spinifex-covered red sand dunes, then rough broken limestone ridge country, or rolling coastal heathland and white sand dunes. There’s always something to be seen.

“A midgee is an insect that makes you like flies better.” – Me

Categories: Pete's Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia List (PEPOMA), Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brinkworth – Port Augusta – Whyalla Area – Kimba (South Australia)

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.

Iron Knob - Iron Monarch Mine - Stopover On our Way To Kimba (SA)

Iron Knob – Iron Monarch Mine – Stopover On Our Way To Kimba (SA)

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

Categories: Pete's Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia List (PEPOMA), Travel News, Travel News - South Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

William Creek (South Australia)

17/10/15  Tick off “Lowest Point in Australia” on my travel list. We stood on the shore of Lake Eyre, at a place called Halligan Bay, the only point of access to the lake from the west, and looked out through a swirling cloud of flies at the lake bed, twelve metres below sea level. As it is most of the time, Lake Eyre was a dry expanse of flatness as far as the horizon, white from the salt crystals. The sun was belting down and radiating off the salt, and it felt like we were in a big oven.

We were the only targets there for a million flies that zeroed in on us as soon as we arrived. There’s a trick for getting back in the car without bringing in any flies – don’t get out in the first place. Nothing deterred these guys, not even the cream that had been so successful till then. Driving away, I lowered the window to shoo some flies out and more were flying along outside and got in! They were like the greyhounds of the fly world.

Our camp for the night was at William Creek, 164kms east of Coober Pedy. We had left the Kruiser there and driven the 70kms in to Lake Eyre. Back at William Creek, a few cold beers and Sav Blancs were downed with a really good dinner at the little pub, the focal point for the community of only a couple of houses and sheds, and a historical park featuring a couple of used rocket stages from the old Woomera Rocket Range. We met a French couple who arrived after a six hour wait on the Oodnadatta Track to change a tyre because their hire vehicle hadn’t come with a jack. Criminal.

William Creek is located inside Anna Creek Station, six million acres in size and the largest cattle station in the world. On the track to Lake Eyre, we came across a mob of cattle being moved, and stopped to watch the group of jillaroos on motorbikes muster them into yards. The cattle looked to be in excellent condition with young poddy calves under foot. One straggler seemed to be newly born.

“I‘d rather have a free bottle in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy.” – Fred Allen’s Motto

Categories: Pete's Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia List (PEPOMA), Travel News, Travel News - South Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Kulgera (Northern Territory)

13/10/15  From Yulara, we headed east, back along the Lasseter Highway to Erldunda on the Stuart Highway, where we refuelled and had lunch in the van, then headed an hour south through flat, sparse and rather uninteresting country to the quirky little Kulgera Roadhouse. This was our camp for the next two nights.

Although we’d been travelling in Central Australia for a little while, the area we were now in was quite literally the Centre of Australia. 150km east of Kulgera Roadhouse on the Finke Road was Lamberts Gravitational Centre of Australia, one of my Extreme Points of Mainland Australia. It was reached via a 13km narrow sandy track that wound into the scrub, via numerous side tracks that all ended up at the same place. This location (25°36’36” S 134°21′17″ E) corresponds to that point on a flat cut-out map of mainland Australia where the map can be balanced perfectly horizontal on a pin. It is the planimetric centre of gravity point, independent of elevations and the weight of such things as mountains, and the population of Sydney. The location was calculated from 24,500 tiny weights distributed along points at the high water mark of Australia’s coastline. If you find one of these weights, let me know. Don’t move it though as the balance point might move.

Being such an out-of-the-way and difficult spot to reach, we were surprised at the number of expensive metal plaques erected by 4WD clubs and touring groups in past years to commemorate their visit to the location. It was like some secret go-to place. To commemorate our visit, we made an entry in the very dog-eared Visitor’s Book. Di declared the pit toilet to be, in her expert opinion, the worst in Australia and totally unusable.

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After a quick tour of the small community of Finke just a little way up the road, we returned to Kulgera Roadhouse, and drove a further 16km south on the Stuart Highway to the Johnstone Geodetic Station. This trigonometric survey cairn, situated about one kilometre north of Mt Cavenagh Homestead, was built by officers of the Division of National Mapping in 1965, and was once the central reference point for all Australian surveys.

Di was pleased to come across some new birds on the drive, and added Mulga Parrot, Budgerigar, and Crested Bellbird to her list of Northern Territory birdlife, and got some good shots of a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles and a Gould’s Goanna/Sand Monitor that was happy to smile for the paparazzi.

“Let any man lay the map of Australia before him, and regard the blank upon its surface, and then let me ask him if it would not be an honourable achievement to be the first to place foot at its centre. Men of undoubted perseverance and energy in vain had tried to work their way to that distant and shrouded spot.” – Charles Sturt, 1845

Categories: Bird Watching, Pete's Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia List (PEPOMA), Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Henbury Meteorite Craters (Northern Territory)

7/10/15  We enjoyed our nineteen day stay in Alice Springs. The campsite at the showgrounds was lovely, in the shade of a big pepperina tree, and it gave us a great base from which to explore the surrounding ranges. The town itself “is a bonza place”, in the words of Nevil Shute. I thoroughly enjoyed his novel “A Town Like Alice” while we were there – a recommended read. The morning we left Alice, we were woken at 5:00am by the sound of rain on the roof, the first since early June. Nothing came of it, though, beyond the first few heavy raindrops. As we left Alice for Yulara and Kings Canyon, we reached the 32,000km mark since starting our travels around Australia last year.

Just 60kms or so south of Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway, we passed within a hair’s breadth of one my “Extreme Points of Mainland Australia”. The “Median Point” is the midpoint (24°15’00” S 133°25’00” E) between the extremes of latitude and longitude that enclose Australia. This unmarked point is located in mountainous bushland a kilometre or so west of the highway, with no vehicle access and I had to settle for near enough being good enough. Tick that one off on my list.

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At the intersection with the unsealed Ernest Giles Road that went off to the west, we pulled over, dropped the tyre pressures down and went in 16kms to the Henbury Meteorite Craters, comprising over a dozen craters formed when a fragmented meteorite hit the Earth’s surface 4,000 years ago. It is apparently one of the world’s best preserved examples of a small crater field. We were later informed that the best way to confirm meteorite fragments is with a magnet. And, yes, it does work. Not that any were removed from within the Conservation Reserve, mind you.

Looking For Meteorites At Henbury Meteorite Craters (NT)

Looking For Meteorites At Henbury Meteorite Craters (NT)

The country had begun to look drier and redder, with spinifex-covered sand dunes becoming a regular feature and the ground underfoot like soft red beach sand. The Simpson Desert to the east was making known its presence.

The Red Centre (NT)

The Red Centre (NT)

Back on the highway south, we overnighted at Erldunda.

“The slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries.” – Rolf Potts, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

Categories: Pete's Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia List (PEPOMA), Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

PEPOMA List – Mount Kosciuszko (New South Wales)

18/01/2015  PEPOMA List –  -√ Highest Point – Mount Kosciuszko, NSW (2,228 metres)

By the time we arrived at Thredbo, it was 2:00pm. The trip up from Corryong had taken much longer than we’d expected because the windy road had limited our speed to no more than 40kph and we had stopped so many times to sightsee and take photos.

After finding what was possibly the only available parking spot in Thredbo, we had a very nice lunch nearby at the Black Bear Inn, one of the original Austrian-style lodges still remaining in the village. It turned out that we had arrived on the last day of the annual three-day Thredbo Blues Festival, which explained the number of people around and the lack of available car parking spaces. Due to the late hour, we realised there wouldn’t be enough time to do the walk to Mount Kosciuszko summit and get back to Colac Colac, so we got a room for the night at the Black Bear Inn. That afternoon, we had many drinks and listened to some great blues music.

It occurred to me that our initial planning for the caravan trip was slightly lacking, as we hadn’t included my 45rpm record of Russel Morris’ The Real Thing. This only dawned on me on one of my staggers back to the bar when I spotted Russell sitting nearby with a small group of people. Damn, where was that single when I needed it autographed! What a missed opportunity.

The next morning, we took the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift to the closest access point to Mount Kosciuszko. The ride is 1.8km long, rises 560 vertical metres and takes 15 minutes one way.
 Neither of us had been on a ski chairlift before and were a little apprehensive about how to get on and off it, but the attendants at both ends were very helpful and probably are used to newbies like us. Di was especially worried as she does not like heights and was dreading doing it on an open ski chair. The views as you were lifted upwards were spectacular, and Di found the trip up to be OK.

Just next to the chairlift terminal at the top, we had a hearty trekkers breakfast at the Eagles Nest, the highest restaurant and bar in Australia, then headed off on the walk to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko. The sweeping mountain views were absolutely breathtaking, and the mountain air so clean and fresh. The walk is medium grade with flat sections and up hills that will make most people puff. There are no trees this high up. The walk undulated through herb fields of snow grass and snow daisies, heaths, dwarf and prostrate plants up to about 25 cm in height, with bare, stony ground between the plants. Much of the terrain was alpine bogs and water trickling over rocks could be heard most of the time. At one point, we crossed a bridge over a small babbling alpine stream that was the start of the Snowy River. We found the scenery to be magnificent. 

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Prudently, we turned back after reaching the Kosciuszko Lookout. The additional 12km round trip to reach the summit would have been too much for Di and could have turned an enjoyable walk into a trudge. We were close enough to satisfy ourselves and I was happy to touch the summit with my finger.

The ride up the mountain on the chairlift in no way prepared us for the return trip down. We’d no sooner settled into the seat and adjusted the safety rail in front of ourselves, than we were hurtled out over the edge of the terminal platform and were suddenly suspended at an enormous height that dropped down to the town far below. Di absolutely freaked! I have never before heard such expletives as those that passed from her delicate lips without pause for the next 5 minutes. And all this with her eyes clamped tightly shut and a death grip on the safety rail in front. I must be honest, though, and admit that my immediate reaction to being pulled out over such a magnificent height was to gasp, but Di’s swearing quickly drew my full attention and laughing soon had me breathing normally again. By about halfway down, Di had recovered enough to release her white-knuckled grip of the safety rail and begin to enjoy the ride and the magnificent view. I can’t see her ever getting back on a chairlift, though.

Back in Thredbo, we chanced upon the only wombats so far encountered on our travels. The Wombats Throne was carved from mountain gum as a seat for tired walkers to catch their breath.

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Photo 3-09-2014 7 03 00 pm

Categories: Pete's Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia List (PEPOMA), Travel News, Travel News - New South Wales | Tags: , , , , , , ,

PEPOMA List – Highest Accessible Sealed Road in Australia (Victoria)

04/01/2015  At Mount Hotham, we pulled over to the side of the road for a photo opportunity, and quite literally stumbled across a marker declaring that spot to be not only the highest point on the Great Alpine Road at 1825 metres above sea level, but also the highest section of year-round accessible sealed road in Australia.

During the 1920s, the road was upgraded with the rise of the motor car. The road trip must have been a hair-raising experience back then!

What a great find for my PEPOMA (Pete’s Extreme Points of Mainland Australia) List!

Categories: Pete's Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia List (PEPOMA), Travel News, Travel News - Victoria | Tags:

PEPOMA List – Wilsons Promontory National Park (Victoria)

17/12/2014  PEPOMA List – Pete’s Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia

Pete has compiled his own wish list for our travels around Australia. These are geographic points of interest and include:

√ Northernmost Point – Cape York, QLD (10°41’21” S 142°31’50” E)

√ Easternmost Point – Cape Byron, NSW (28°38’15” S 153°38’14” E)

√ Southernmost Point – South Point, VIC (39°08’20” S 146°22’26” E)

  • Westernmost Point – Steep Point, WA (26°09’05” S 113°09’18” E)
  • Planimetric Centre of Gravity – NT (25°36’36” S 134°21′17″ E)
  • Median Point – NT (24°15’00” S 133°25’00” E)
  • Furthest Point from the Coastline – NT (23°02’00” S 132°10’00” E)
  • Lowest Point – Lake Eyre, SA (−15 metres)
  • Highest Point – Mount Kosciuszko, NSW (2,228 metres)

The first two points had already been achieved by Pete on his Cape York trip with Simon and Andrew in 2013 and when he and I visited Byron at the beginning of 2014.

The third point was achieved today, when we visited Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria’s  largest coastal wilderness area. Well, let’s just say as close as we could get without having an overnight hike there. It’s a 40.8km walk from the car park at Mt Oberon to South Point, which generally takes two days with camping midway.

For us, it was just as good to see it in the distance from the Mt Oberon Lookout, so we decided this was the way to go. Mmm, my map reading skills definitely need some work as I read it as only a 585m walk from Telegraph Saddle car park. Thinking this was doable, we set off up a steep pathway towards the top. After a while, I realised that it was 585m above sea level and other hikers on the track informed us it was a 3.5km moderate/hard hike uphill to the lookout. After having gone 1.5km, we didn’t feel like turning back even though our leg muscles were seizing up. We were so proud of ourselves though when we reached the summit. The view from the top was spectacular and well worth the effort. We were smiling all the way back – could it have been because it was all downhill?

We visited lots of the sandy beaches, sheltered coves and temperate rainforest areas of the ‘Prom’ and kept remarking on how beautiful it all was. We checked out Squeaky Beach, so named because when you walk on the rounded quartz sand it ‘squeaks’. On our walks, we saw crimson rosellas, blue fairy wrens, yellow-tailed black cockatoos and a lone sooty oystercatcher. A swamp wallaby was there to welcome us back after our climb up Mt Oberon. We would love to visit this beautiful area again and stay for longer. A new favourite place for us!

Categories: Bird Watching, Pete's Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia List (PEPOMA), Travel News, Travel News - Victoria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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