Travel News

Mount Morgan (Queensland)

20/08/17 After a night at the Futter Creek camp, we headed west through lush cattle country that is undoubtedly the reason nearby Rockhampton promotes itself as the Beef Capital of Australia. The cattle we saw were glowing with condition – the fats were very fat and the bulls very bully. Our intended campsite at Biloela and another further north at Goovigen were both bypassed as we’d been making good time and chose to go on to Mount Morgan for a couple of days pursuing family history links.

I was last in Mount Morgan as a seven year old holidaying with my family, and for that short time my elder brother and I were enrolled at Calliungal North State School where our maternal grandfather, Connor Connell, was the principal and sole teacher from 1950 until his retirement in 1965. My memories of that time are very patchy – Grandad circulating around the single classroom as he taught each of the year level groups; sitting with the other students on bench form seats in a vaulted-roofed music room singing “A Scottish Soldier” with Grandma playing the piano and occasionally emphasizing with her hand the metre of the song; the musty smell of wooden school desks, chalk dust and wet writing slates; constructing meccano contraptions on the front veranda of the school residence that seemed the size of an aircraft carrier deck; collecting eggs each day from the wire and corrugated tin chook yard out the back – so I was looking forward to seeing if the buildings still existed and if they evoked any additional childhood memories of that time.

On the outskirts of town, after asking a local for directions to the old school, we very soon pulled up at an old school building now functioning as a private residence. We introduced ourselves to the very elderly owner who was more than happy to chat and recount stories about the building and school days. After an hour or so, I remarked that the school residence didn’t seem at all familiar, so my grandfather may have lived elsewhere away from the school. I said he’d been listed on a number of census returns for that time as living in Baree – to which she responded that Baree was the next community just out of town. “Well then, I guess he must have lived away from the Calliungal North State School to have that address on the census returns.” “This wasn’t Calliungal North State School,” she said, “This was the old Walterhall State School. Calliungal North is further out of town at Baree.”

We had a good laugh, realising that for the past hour we’d each been speaking about totally different schools and still making good sense of it all. Regardless, she was a lovely lady and the chat had been a very enjoyable reminiscence of those times. Now following her directions, Di and I headed off to hopefully locate the correct school. A wrong turn on the way and we pulled over once again to ask directions from a chap standing in his front yard.

“G’day. I’m looking for the old Calliungal North State School. Would you know where it might be?”

“I should. I did my primary schooling there.”

“My grandfather was principal there for fifteen years,” I said. When I mentioned my grandfather’s name, he said “Old Pop Connell! Yes, he taught me the whole time from Grades 1 to 6. Great teacher and great bloke!” After introductions, Keith asked us inside his home and we chatted for an hour or so, with him digging out old photos and ringing his sister a few doors up the road to see if she might have any others that included my grandparents. He also asked after a couple of my uncles who were at school with him in those days. Lovely guy. Keith promised to have a look for more photos and we met up with him again the following day. What’re the odds of a person you meet quite by chance knowing your grandfather and some of your uncles really well! Small world. But then again, Baree is a very small place. Keith had been born and raised in the small weatherboard cottage that he still lived in.

Once again, and now following Keith’s directions, we went off to find the school; this time with success. There it was perched on top of “that bloody hill” that the kids trudged up and down each school day. Tooting the car horn at the rather large guard dog sign on the front gate, Di and I introduced ourselves to the owners, explaining why we were there. They very graciously allowed us a tour of the building that had opened as a school in 1904, closed at the end of 1971, and was now a family home.

Keith had confirmed that my patchy recollections of the internal layout were pretty accurate. But the original internal timber walls had been removed some time ago and the arrangement of rooms considerably altered. The impressive old building has undergone a number of transformations in the almost half century since it ceased being a school, including conversion into flats and for a few years as home to a rather dubious and secretive religious cult till that faded away. The exterior, though, has remained very much as it had always been, aside from the addition of a few windows when a false ceiling was installed inside.

Through renovation gaps, we caught glimpses of the glorious original vaulted ceilings of tongue and groove timber and the original double-height windows now lighting the unused void above the false ceiling. I could see why, with such raking ceilings and windows, I‘d remembered the classroom being like a cathedral; a high lofty space. Thankfully the current owners wish to retain as much of the authenticity of the building as possible as they continue to renovate it into their home.

Calliungal North SS – Old Principal’s Residence (Qld)

They took us next door to the old principal’s residence and introduced us to that owner, who was pleased to show us through and relate what she knew of the buildings past. We had a very pleasant chat with both owners about the history of their buildings and the area, and most especially with Keith, the past student, who shared several warm memories of my grandparents.

In all, we spent six days in Mount Morgan. The town’s past, present and future focusses very much on the gold mine that in its day was the richest in the world. It’s been closed now since 1990. The locals hint at the possibility of rejuvenation due to modern techniques for extracting gold from the old tailings, but they seem unconvinced much will happen soon. With very little other industry in town to support the community, the general downturn was evident. It’s a great shame that the once wealthy, vibrant and historic mining town now appears to be in its twilight years.

“Towns are like people. Old ones often have character, the new ones are interchangeable.” – Wallace Stegner

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Queensland | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Lowmead – Futter Creek (Queensland)

14/08/17  The drive up through the heavily wooded hills of the Warro Forest Reserve was a slow haul, along a snaking gravel road and across a narrow wooden bridge that I thought best to walk over first before clunking across the rattly wooden bridge deck with the rig. Shortly after descending the far side of Mt Warro, we came to the small village of Lowmead, and over the level rail crossing of the main north-south line to set up in the large shady backyard of the pub.

Over a drink in the pub a little later, Di asked the publican and two guys sitting at the bar how many people lived in Lowmead.

“Six” they all agreed after counting it up.

“Six houses?”

“No, six people.”

With the two guys at the bar, the publican, two others sitting across the room, and both of us, it was pretty much full house for Sunday lunch.

We unhitched the van and took an afternoon drive to nearby Agnes Waters and the Town of 1770. Di loved the long curving white beach at Agnes Waters, but 1770 didn’t appeal to us much at all – too hilly, too isolated and too many backpacker whiz bangs everywhere. Bustard Bay, dotted with many boats and yachts moored offshore, was certainly scenic and would be a great place to stay if you were a boatie. But we weren’t.

With the shadows lengthening in the late afternoon, we enjoyed a drink beside the van looking across the paddocks to Baffle Creek at the far tree line. An impressive Spotted Harrier on the hunt, skimming above the tops of the tall grass seed heads, proved faster than Di could locate her camera. She settled for just a distant hazy image of this new bird to her list. We had a very quiet and peaceful camp site, tucked away in the back corner behind the pub, despite the occasional horn toots of trains approaching the nearby level rail crossing. Thankfully, they didn’t blow their horn at night.

The next morning, we packed up and headed north through Miriam Vale and Calliope to a camp at Futter Creek. The days are becoming steadily warmer as we travel further north. The nights are still cold and we’re hitting the sack much earlier, our sleep patterns very much dictated by sunset and sunrise.

Futter Creek (Qld)

“Knock Knock! Who’s there? Tibet! Tibet who? Early Tibet and early to rise!”

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Childers – Bundaberg (Queensland)

13/08/17  Ambrosia and Camp Fires

The last two campsites have been terrific.

We stayed for three nights at Brierley Wines, 6km out of Childers. Camping was free as long as you bought some of their wine which I was quite happy to do as the tasting was rather nice. They grow the grapes and make their own organic wines on site, and my long-held notions of what I like in a Shiraz have been totally destroyed by this nectar. I have to honestly say that after their wine, all others in my mobile cellar tasted insipid as I forced myself through the remaining stocks. From the first glass it just blew me away. I’ve gone through the couple of bottles we picked up and we’re going for a drive to get some more today. Their mulled wine is going to have a delightful place on the Christmas table this year when we get home. Along with their Honey Mead, for something a little ancient and different. Wassail the wine!

Our next camp was a hop of only 21kms through Childers to Iron Ridge Park – my idea of what all caravan parks should be like. For the two weeks beforehand, we’d been camping on solar, and headed to Iron Ridge only for the power because the forecast was for a few days of solar-killing grey skies and rain. Despite the clouds eventually clearing, we kept extending our stay, to 9 days in all. The place was like a 5-star bush camp, owned by a couple who had done lots of travelling themselves and knew what they liked in a campsite. In a bushland setting with lots of trees, the sites were quite spread out from each other, with lots of space and a fire pit each. Free wood could be gathered from the bush in the wheelbarrows provided and we sat around a fire most nights. So it was like how we choose to camp, only with extras – like a concrete slab, toilets, showers, laundry, power and water. Not real hard to take at all. This was a good base for day trips into nearby Bundaberg and the beaches at Woodgate, Bargara, Innes Park and Elliott Heads.

Unfortunately, Di was a magnet for the midges and has been scratching like crazy for days. I read that midges are attracted to carbon dioxide, and my suggestion to try keeping her mouth closed and holding her breath wasn’t received in quite the same warm and caring manner that it was offered. Oh well, there go all my brownie points again…

AAAAAGH!! – Di (scratching)

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Queensland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scarborough – Widgee – Maryborough (Queensland)

28/07/17  Apartment living has many advantages. Parking space for a caravan isn’t one of them. So, to get it ready for the trip, we had a couple of days at the caravan park just up the road from home to clean the Kruiser and pack it up. Di’s LISTS came out, the gear went in and the dust came off. With every box ticked, we spent the second night in the van.

Given the long break at home, we had to recall some of those things we routinely did in the Kruiser that used to be second-nature. “Now, what was that inverter setting again?” Thank goodness I labelled everything when we first got the van or over time as we worked out how a particular something worked in it. There are labels everywhere, on the inside of cupboard doors and next to control switches, to assist with the vagaries of memory. Those little label makers are worth their weight in gold. But, pretty quickly we got into the swing of things (Read the labels!), headed out of the park and north to Marg McIntosh Reserve, a nice little free camp west of Gympie with a small creek on one side and horse paddocks over the back fence, two one-lane bridges from the small town of Widgee.

The Landy needed a little tweak so two days later we ended up in Gympie at Gold City Land Rovers for some TLC from Allan and the boys. The guys back home at MR Automotive were terrific for advice about what was happening, and shipped parts up overnight so they were there in Gympie first thing the following morning when we called in. When you’re travelling, it’s great to have reliable people you can call on when needed. By lunchtime, the re-tweaked Landy was heading on to Maryborough.

Both my parents’ families, the McFarlanes and Connells, have long roots in Maryborough going back to the mid-1800s. I’d been looking forward to spending a few days there doing some ancestry research and catching up with relatives. The local Family Heritage Society provided a wealth of information and we spent some time at the old cemetery where a few ancestors were buried, including my paternal great-grandparents, William and Martha McFarlane, who emigrated to Maryborough from Ireland in 1863. As this was their first landfall in Australia, they are considered to be among the group of Pioneers of Maryborough.

Maryborough is a lovely town with many original old homes and commercial buildings. The Maryborough I remember from my childhood is now relegated to being almost a satellite of Hervey Bay, the nearby community that has grown enormously since its sleepy beach village days. The quiet little beachside Hervey Bay where I spent most childhood Christmas holidays is long gone, overtaken by progress; developed and homogenised to now look like everywhere else. I guess that’s why Maryborough appeals to us. It’s been bypassed by the developers’ wrecking ball and retained its individuality and heritage.

Dundathu – Site of Dundathu Sawmill (Qld)

We caught up with my uncle who we hadn’t seen for quite some time, and afterwards went exploring to find the site of the Dundathu sawmill, just outside of Maryborough beside the Mary River. This was where great-grandfather William was employed as a sawyer after arriving in Australia. To the casual eye, nothing now remains at the site, having long ago reverted back to bushland, but with the aid of GPS coordinates, we were able to navigate to where the sawmill had existed and locate some signs of it in the bushscape.

Maryborough – Home of Maternal Grandparents (Qld)

We also visited the house of my maternal great-grandfather, and were delighted to meet the current owners who turned out to be my second-cousins. The house has remained in the family since 1916, and I have a wonderful photo of my mother as a young child sitting up with her parents and grandfather in a horse-drawn buggy outside this house, circa 1928.

Maryborough is a place we’ll definitely be coming back to. There is so much family history yet to be done.

When there is a very long road upon which there is a one-lane bridge placed at random, and there are only two cars on that road, it follows that: (1) the two cars are going in opposite directions; and (2) they will always meet at the bridge. – Murphy’s Law of the Open Road

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Queensland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Woohoo!

19/07/17  We’ve been home for a little over six months since getting back from Western Australia to have Christmas with the family. 207 days…our longest break from travelling; the days have been restless with anticipation to be gone again. The wanderlust bug has bitten us bad, and it’s an itch that can’t be satisfied no matter how hard it’s scratched. Not that it hasn’t been great catching up with family and friends and having time to attend to all those medical, dental, optical, mechanical, domestic Maintenance Things that need to be done at least once a year. But behind all that catching up and running around, we’ve been poised at the starting blocks, awaiting the starter’s pistol.

Di has enjoyed being home for the longer stretch this time. She was ready to come back at the end of last year’s travels. Christmas was approaching and thoughts of family were tugging hard on her maternal strings. Not so much me; I just do what I’m told. Now, after the long break, she’s ready for the next trip, busily making LISTS (they do warrant all capitals!) of everything that must be done. Serious LISTS, too; they got printed off and bound into booklets. One of the bedrooms looks like a compulsive hoarder has moved in, with stacks of shopping bags containing gear to be moved back into the Kruiser. I do a lot of calm deep breathing during these obsessive LIST Phases and lots of avoidance tactics.

But, hey, we are at long last heading off….Woohoo!

It’ll be Queensland this time. Over the past three years, our travels really haven’t done justice to our home State, mostly going through parts of it on the way to more distant places. This will be the Queensland Trip – up the coast to the far north (depending on the weather) and into the centre to parts we haven’t been before. We’re looking forward to beaches, aboriginal rock art, dinosaur fossils and lots of dust (me anyway). Spinifex too hopefully; love the spinifex country. And in amongst all that, the intention is to also substantially supplement our piggy bank through some rewarding gold and gemstone fossicking – possibly sapphires, the State gem. There’s also koalas (the State faunal symbol), Cooktown orchids (our floral symbol), brolgas (our bird symbol), the Barrier Reef anemonefish (our aquatic symbol), and cane toads (our State of Origin symbol). Heaps to see, and along the way, we shall endeavour to be Audax at Fidelis (Bold but Faithful), our State motto. A bit too much information, I know. Sorry. I got a little carried away on Google. But anyway, Queenslander!!! (the State winning war cry).

Our previous wanderings have generally had no specific destinations, being more like adaptable rambles that took us where we ended up. This time, I’ve been playing with the Trip Planner feature of the WikiCamps app to plot out a route for the entire trip, listing all potential camp sites along the way. Some we may not get to, especially if it gets too hot up north. But the route does look great on paper – although it must be said, in the light of past experience all that planning will probably be just so much smoke. We’ll no doubt end up doing something completely different as has been the case in the past. And if that happens, it won’t matter; the journey is the destination. It’s not about the arriving; but the getting there.

Besides, the trip planning filled in my time while home, kept me occupied and poised on the starting block, and mostly out of trouble.

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s lethal.” – Paulo Coelho

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Queensland

Bushman’s Rest, Lake Cullulleraine – Weethalle Showground – Narrabri – Scarborough (South Australia – Queensland)

23/12/16  Saying goodbye to our camping buddies Charles and Joy at World’s End Reserve, we followed the Goyder Highway east through rolling hills, golden fields of wheat and endless sheep pastures. The Murray River soon appeared on our right, and from the top of the Golden Limestone Cliffs, we looked out on the swollen river. Flood waters had breached the banks and spread out through the river red gums on the broad floodplain to the far cliffs. It was wonderful to see the mighty Murray so full and replenished by recent rains. There was a downside to the flooding, though. The many scenic bush camps dotted along the river were under all that floodwater.

Consequently we motored on, following the meandering river east and crossing it just beyond Renmark via the Paringa Bridge. This heritage listed bridge has a single railway line in the centre (now disused), with a narrow road lane on each side of it. A lift span allows river traffic to pass underneath. The road lane felt very tight for the Kruiser and we were glad it wasn’t any wider.

A little way down the road, we crossed into Victoria, intending to stay at a bush camp on the border. The Landy, though, was showing an outside temperature of 38C and rising, and we opted instead for a powered site. We spent the night beside Lake Cullulleraine at the Bushman’s Rest Caravan Park with the aircon keeping us cool and comfortable. The next morning was overcast with a forecast of rain. It was our wedding anniversary and we stayed on a second day beside the lake to celebrate.

img_3089Between the small towns of Goolgowi and Rankins Springs on the Mid Western Highway, we were happy to sit a long way back from a caravan that was travelling along at our pace. Suddenly, the van tilted and pulled over to the roadside, having lost a wheel. We stopped and gave them a hand to find the wandering wheel, got their details and went ahead to Rankins Springs to arrange a tow vehicle to get them into nearby Griffith where the broken wheel studs could be replaced. We were the first on hand to help them, and two other caravans pulled up to offer help as well. Aussies are a great bunch, quick to pitch in and do what they can when someone’s in trouble, especially for travellers on the side of the road.

That night, we camped in the showgrounds of the small town of Weethalle, among a group of rustic buildings facing a white-fenced trotting track sitting idle between infrequent race meetings. A local contact person was very helpful in opening up the facilities and making sure we were comfortable for the night.

From Lake Cullulleraine in upper Victoria, we had three big motoring days that took us home by Christmas Day, firstly 547kms to Weethalle in New South Wales, then 578kms to Narrabri where we stayed the night with Deb and Stu, and the final leg of 611kms to home. North of Narrabri, broad sheets of water lying in the paddocks and across the road at one point was evidence of recent rains. We’d crossed three State borders in four days to spend the festive day with family.

Since commencing in 2014, we’ve travelled 65,740kms with the van. Here are some facts about our overlanding to WA this year:

2016-overview

“Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve travelled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.” – The Landy 

The Landy

The Landy and Kruiser

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Multiple States, Travel News - New South Wales, Travel News - Northern Territory, Travel News - Queensland, Travel News - Victoria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kooma View Farmhouse – Nuttbush Retreat – Jamestown – World’s End Reserve (South Australia)

18/12/16  After Ceduna, we met up again with Charles and Joy at Kooma View Farmhouse, 60kms or so west of the town of Kimba, the halfway point across Australia from east to west. That brought home to us that we were halfway back on our return leg to Queensland. Kooma View is a disused farmhouse that the property owners make available to travellers to camp at no charge, although donations are welcomed to help with the upkeep of the basic facilities (the dump point and flushing outdoor toilet). The house was open and visitors were welcome to look through, which was interesting but clothes hanging in cupboards and crockery set out on the kitchen table were a little eerie. Some furnishings and contents were very familiar, dating back to our childhood. It felt like someone should be living there – like those movies where everyone vanishes suddenly leaving everything undisturbed. We spent the night camped in the grounds near to the house. No ghosts or green alien abductors bothered us.

The following morning, we headed on east through Kimba and Iron Knob to spend two nights at Nuttbush Retreat on Pandurra Station, near Port Augusta. We’d previously stayed there when travelling across to WA in June. I replaced a broken brake pad sensor in the Landy, finally extinguishing a dashboard warning light that had been in my face for more than a week.

Our next leg took us around the top of Spencer Gulf through Port Augusta and over the high South Flinders Ranges to quaint, historic Jamestown, with its lovely stone residential and commercial buildings. Charles and Joy pulled in shortly after us, having taken a separate route, and we joined them for lunch and a leisurely walk around the town from our semi-bush campsite at Robinson Park Reserve on the northern edge of town.

In the morning, we took the Hallett Road to one of our favourite towns, Burra, which we’d spent a couple of days exploring last year. We were just passing through this time, and had lunch and refuelled before heading 30kms south to our bush camp at World’s End Reserve on Burra Creek. In spite of the creek being dry, it was still a very pleasant camp with just our two vans in amongst old river gums near the creek. This was our last night with our travel buddies, who were heading on to the vineyards of Clare while we continued east towards home. We generally don’t travel with others, preferring the flexibility of doing our own thing, but have done so now with a few couples who we’ve enjoyed camping with. We’d thoroughly enjoyed Charles’ and Joy’s company and had great fun together, sharing seven camp sites since first meeting them at Esperance in WA, and we’re looking forward to getting together again and doing more free camping when they’re travelling around Queensland next year.

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - South Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Yalata East – Shelly Beach, Ceduna (South Australia)

13/12/16  img_2675aFrom our Nullarbor free camp, the Eyre Highway closely followed the Bunda Cliffs of the Great Australian Bight, and the blue of the Southern Ocean was a constant sight off to our right. 240kms east in the Yalata Aboriginal Reserve, we pulled in for lunch at a little rest area just beyond the turnoff to the community and, again, stayed on and spent the night. At the back of the rest area, a number of tracks led off to individual camp spots among the trees, and being the only ones there, we had the pick of them. We parked the van in a shady spot beneath a couple of overhanging trees.

img_9983 Di checked out all the bird life, and that night I spotlighted for a wombat. I’m now convinced that wombats are extinct throughout Australia. We’ve travelled the length and breadth of this great country during the past couple of years, ever watchful for a wombat in the wild. Sure, there have been the occasional ones lying belly-up on the roadside, but I now believe these were the last of their species. There are no more. If I could “parrot” the memorable words of John Cleese: “’E’s passed on! This (wombat) is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace!…’Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! This is an ex-(wombat)!!”

Di and I have had trouble adjusting to the change in time zones since crossing the WA/SA border. SA is 2 hours 30 minutes later than WA. At 9:00 o’clock at night, it’s still light outside! It’s been a couple of days now and our body clocks are still way out of whack – we’re having lunch in the mid-afternoon, Happy Hour when it should be dinner, and going to bed way too late. It’ll take time to adjust, I guess, but we’ll soon be entering another new time zone in NSW and it’ll be all out the window again. Many are the trials of overlanding. It’s such a stressful life.

After a quiet night at our Yatala East bush camp, we headed on to Ceduna, with Di spending most of the time buried in a map planning our route home. It wasn’t so much about where we wanted to go, but where we haven’t been before and avoiding roads already travelled. We have a general idea which, as always, will develop and change as we go.

At Ceduna, the Landy and Kruiser had a surprise visit to a truck wash day spa, and came away looking very swanky again. I was chuffed to collect my certificate for completing the Nullarbor Links Golf Course, notwithstanding my substantial scorecard from using just a 5-iron. The certificate will have pride of place back home in the Castle. With the last two stopovers at 52km Peg and Yatala East, we’d lost track of our travelling companions, Charles and Joy, but came across them again at the Shelly Beach Caravan Park in Ceduna, along with Scott and Kez who we’d met and had dinner with at New Norcia a couple of months ago. And in a further coincidence, on our last day a motorhome pulled in next to us with Kev, Adele and Matt who we’d met at Dongara. It really is a small world.

Our stay at Ceduna was extended to sit out two days of horrifically hot weather, the kind that sucks the breath from your lungs. We met the global warming challenge by sitting in the cold waters of the bay or in the Kruiser’s air-conditioning. Whoever invented aircon should have a very large statue erected in their honour.

“So, Di, you have until Port Augusta to decide about going home via Birdsville.” Pete, not holding out much hope at all of that happening.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - South Australia | Tags: , , , , ,

Mundrabilla Roadhouse – Nullarbor Bush Camp (Western Australia)

8/12/16  Di and I left the bush camp at Woorlba East heading for our next overnight stop at Mundrabilla Roadhouse, about 90kms short of the South Australian border. We’d arranged to meet up again with Charles and Joy there.

There was just a barely noticeable lightness to the rig on the drive which I put down to a breeze that was blowing the grass around outside, but we didn’t realise just how windy it had become until pulling in at Cocklebiddy Roadhouse for fuel. A strong westerly tail wind had come up during the morning, giving us a push along. It was that kind of wind you had to lean into to walk against, and opening the car door was a feat of strength and determination.

img_2480While fuelling, we could see just ahead an immense column of smoke from a bushfire ignited by lightning strikes the day before. It looked to be a monster, fed by the strong wind conditions. And, strangely, sitting on top of the high column of heat and smoke was an immense cumulus cloud that boiled in on itself, looking very angry. Whether it was the cause of the bushfire or the effect of it was hard to tell. We finished fuelling and headed on, learning later at Mundrabilla that shortly after we’d gone through, the fire had changed direction causing the closure of the Eyre Highway for the rest of the day and night.

img_9821 It was certainly a day for avoiding Nature’s wrath. Firstly the bushfire and then, at Mundrabilla Roadhouse, we waited out a widespread warning of severe thunderstorm and damaging hail. The rig was still hitched up and the plan was to head under the servo awning if the hail hit. But, fortunately, the storm didn’t eventuate in our area – just the strong winds that rocked and shook the van all afternoon. Charles and Joy went further on to Eucla while we stayed the night at the Mundrabilla Roadhouse.

On the way into WA in July, I’d played all the holes on the Nullarbor Links Golf Course, the world’s longest course, apart from two and had also missed getting my card stamped at a third hole. Now that we were going back again, I dusted off the versatile 5-iron, played the remaining holes at Eucla and Border Village at my usual level of golfing excellence, and had the missing stamp inserted at Mundrabilla. My scorecard was full and I’ll be collecting my certificate at Ceduna.

Unfortunately, the rain that prevented us from doing the Old Eyre Highway between Nullarbor Roadhouse and Border Village in June, again put paid to doing the stretch on the way back. Bummer! It’ll have to keep until next time.

We stopped for lunch at the 52km marker on the Nullarbor and decided to stay the night, tucked away beside a gravel heap a couple of hundred metres from the highway and near the ocean cliff. SA National Parks are serious about keeping vehicles away from the cliff edge. They not only install bollards to block vehicle access, but scarify rocks up on the tracks as well.

Crossing the WA/SA border took us into different time zones, and clocks were reset to SA time.

Don’t forget to turn your clock back. I’m going to turn mine back to when I was twenty.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Multiple States, Travel News - South Australia, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Deralinya Homestead – Woorlba East Bush Camp (Western Australia)

6/12/16  Duke of Orleans Bay is located east of Esperance, halfway to Cape Arid National Park where the road ends. From there, to connect with the Eyre Highway to cross the Nullarbor, we’d have to backtrack 85kms west to Esperance and then head 200kms north to Norseman, the start of the Eyre Highway east. It’s a long way around, and mostly in the wrong direction. So, after discussing road conditions with a couple of blokes at The Duke, we decided to take a short cut.

The 200km-long Parmango Road heads north-east to connect with the Eyre Highway at the Balladonia Roadhouse, saving about 170kms. It’s not your usual run-of-the-mill backroad though. After the first 40kms of bitumen, the road changed to a wide, well-maintained gravel surface. But, the further north we went, the road narrowed and got rougher. The tyres were aired-down by 10psi, and we loped along pretty steadily at 60-70kph. We weren’t in any hurry and were enjoying the track as it was scenic and interesting.

As far as being a short cut, though, it took us two days to do the 200kms. We’d planned it that way. We camped overnight halfway along the track at the old Deralinya Homestead. Built in the 1890s as a sheep station and abandoned in 1926, the small stone homestead and couple of outbuildings fell into disrepair. These days, they are in good condition, restored by the absentee owner, stonemason Roger, who happened to be camped there doing some work when we arrived.

Roger and his mate have been doing the restoration work since 1990, guided by a painting of the homestead done in 1906. He showed us around the old buildings, pointing out the restored stone and timber work which was very much in keeping with the look and texture of the original structure. It was fascinating to get a glimpse of how different life must have been for the early settlers. Roger was chuffed with the eccentricities of the original construction of the buildings that weren’t even close to being square. Lime cement (not concrete) had been used throughout the walls and floor, made on the property using lime kilns that were still evident. A working brick oven was located in the front yard, built by the original settler who apparently loved bread so much that he constructed ovens throughout the property wherever he was likely to camp for a period of time.

In the scrub a short walk from the homestead, an extensive area of flat granite forms a natural catchment for rainwater. Taking a walk, we came across a few gnamma holes, deep natural holes in the rock that collect and store rainwater for a good period of time following rain. One hole was still covered by three rock slab “lids” to prevent evaporation of the contents, and another contained what I reckoned had to be several hundred litres of water. How useful would these holes have been to the first peoples and the early settlers in this dry country! In the books that I’ve read recently about early explorers in WA and SA – “Eyre: The Forgotten Explorer”, Ivan Rudolph; “Sturt’s Desert Drama”, Ivan Rudolph – gnamma holes and native wells regularly sustained the explorers when they were on their last legs.

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The usually unoccupied homestead was fascinating in its own right, and with the owner there, we were very fortunate to be able to learn a bit of the history of the property and its earlier inhabitants, along with his efforts to maintain the historic integrity of the homestead to which he intends to retire in a few years. It’s wonderful that he kindly allows travellers to visit and camp at the old homestead on their way through.

In as much as the 109km drive in to Deralinya Homestead from the south was pretty good, the 83km drive out the next morning to the Eyre Highway was just the opposite. North from the homestead, the track became a slow, rough slog. If it wasn’t corrugated, it was stoney, and if it wasn’t stoney, it was corrugated. And often as not, it was both. A quick but spectacular thunderstorm that passed overhead as we arrived at Deralinya the day before had dropped some rain on our next stretch of track. For the first 30kms, we sloshed through section after section of water lying across the track. It was no problem for the Landy and Kruiser to negotiate, though. Then we came to sections where it wasn’t water but mud across the track. This was followed by dry sections of bull dust. The van and Landy were firstly wet down, then covered with a layer of mud and then a layer of fine bull dust that turned the rig and tyres white, along with us if we happened to touch it. At best, we managed 40kph and at worst, 20kph. With occasional stops to cool down the shocks and heat up a cuppa, it took us most of the morning to get up to the bitumen.

img_2444aOur little shortcut had been a big adventure that we really enjoyed. Even so, it was a relief to at last reach the Eyre Highway and Balladonia Roadhouse. Pulling in to refuel and air up, we spotted Charles and Joy, who we’d first met at Esperance and then again at Duke of Orleans Bay. They were heading east in their van and we camped together that night in a shady spot off one of the many tracks into the scrub behind Woorlba East Rest Area, at the start of the 90 Mile Stretch. We were the only ones there and, although a little windy and dusty, the campsite was a pleasant one. We finished the day wrapped around a nice drink or two.

“Not many cars on the road, hey!” Pete, speaking loudly over the corrugations ahead of a cloud of bull dust.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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