Posts Tagged With: Picturesque scenery

Albany (Western Australia)

29/11/16  The morning we left Peaceful Bay, we walked across to the park office to fix them up for the extra day we’d stayed, and while waiting at the unattended counter, came across a young woman sitting to one side weeping. Offering our assistance, we learned she was a French Canadian backpacker, who had come to Australia for 12 weeks to solo walk the 1000km long Bibbulmun Track from the hills outside Perth to Albany on the south coast. She had two weeks to go and, in the final stages of the trek, was suffering painful ligament damage in one ankle. We sat and chatted with her to see if there was anything we could do to help. It was plain to see she was absolutely exhausted, physically and emotionally. We took the park lady aside and offered to cover any accommodation costs while the girl rested up and recuperated, but they were going to provide it at no charge as they regularly looked after travel-weary Bibbulmun walkers. By the time a lot of walkers have reached Peaceful Bay, they have hit “the wall” and apparently the next section to Denmark was the toughest of the entire walk. Some recuperate and carry on, some drop out and some skip that section and go on to finish the final leg to Albany. We hope she makes it through to complete her trek before heading back to Perth and then home to Canada.

Coming into Albany, we hit the 25,000km mark on this year’s trip. Albany is the first European settlement in Western Australia and sits on the sheltered Princess Royal Harbour, the best natural harbour in Australia outside Sydney. First stop on arrival was at the local Beaurepaires for a tyre to replace the cactus one I took off in Bunbury. Second stop was at the Land Rover dealer to have a look at a worrying squeal which had started up in one front wheel. I’d put it down to either a stone caught up against the brake disc, a worn brake pad, or a failing wheel bearing – or any one of a number of other complex mechanical things. Pulling off the wheel earlier, I couldn’t see anything lodged up in there and the pads were fine, so the prospect of a replacement wheel bearing (involving the entire hub assembly at no small price) was filling me with financial trepidation. Land Rover confirmed the bearing to be OK, and blew out a bit of road rubbish from the back of the hub so hopefully the problem is no more (touch wood!). We’ll need all four wheels working when going back across the Nullarbor, this time off the beaten track via the disused Old Eyre Highway section.

March flies have been a menace at the last couple of camps, especially so in Albany. Their saving grace, if they have one, is they are big and slow and, if missed, the buggers come back and you get another go! “Slap ‘em ‘n stand on ‘em” is the only sure-fire way to deal with them. If you don’t stand on them, they just get up and shake it off! Someone told us the other day if you slap them, they give off a scent that attracts more to you. I don’t know about that though. It seems there are plenty around regardless of what you do. I just like slapping them anyway. The Marchies have been so big that, at Peaceful Bay, as I slapped each one, I fed it to a magpie that was hanging around. Recycling at its best.

We visited the Princess Royal Fortress complex, overlooking Princess Royal Harbour from the top of Mount Adelaide. Built in the late 1800s, it has two gun batteries dug into the hillside to protect the harbour on the important shipping route to Europe. The nearby National Anzac Centre is dedicated to honouring the Anzacs of the First World War who embarked from Australia in 1914 in two convoys from Albany’s King George Sound.

Torndirrup National Park is very close to Albany, around the seaward side of Princess Royal Harbour. We spent a day sightseeing the very scenic beaches and cliffs, particularly The Gap where you can stand on a platform extending out over a chasm buffeted by massive waves from the Great Southern Ocean. At the nearby Blowholes, crevices in the high granite cliffs reach down to the sea below and expel air with each wave swell, sounding like breeching whales. We weren’t there at the right time to see them blowing water, though. There are some terrific beaches around Albany, some very calm and others great for surfing. The wind was still very cold though and kept us out of the water.

“It’s not fair! They promised me they fixed it! It’s not my fault!” – Han Solo, Star Wars Episode IV (Famous last words resounding in the still of the Nullarbor Plain night. Touch wood!!)

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

Maranup Ford (Western Australia)

10/11/16

From Darkan, we headed south on back roads through rolling sheep and cattle country to the small town of Boyup Brook where we stocked up the pantry (gotta love those IGA stores), then went on a little further to Bridgetown and up into the very pretty Whinston Hills to a farm stay at Maranup Ford on the Blackwood River.

This very scenic cattle and sheep property, established in 1898, was our base while we did the tourist loop of nearby towns. The grounds surrounding the 99 year old homestead and adjacent grassed camping area were laid out with beautiful gardens in full bloom, with an Australian garden of WA natives at the entrance, a cottage garden with roses and self-sown plants and a more formal garden close to the homestead. Parkland extended down to the river. Maranup Ford has been a regular Open Garden in the annual Spring Festival of Country Gardens and while the festival came to a close the day we arrived, we were still able to enjoy the garden and birdlife at our leisure.

The loop drive through the nearby quaint heritage towns of Greenbushes, Balingup, Nannup and Bridgetown wound through some of the prettiest country we’ve seen in quite a while, often travelling alongside the scenic Blackwood River. In Nannup, we discovered that the main street and several of the commercial buildings had been used as film sets in the making of the Australian surf movie “Drift”. That night, watching the film back at the van, it was interesting to see how the streetscape had been cleverly transformed to give the appearance of a 1970s town.

Maranup Ford Farm Stay (WA)

Maranup Ford Farm Stay (WA)

After three nights, we decided with much reluctance to head off to Bunbury on the coast. Schoolies was looming and we should get beyond the popular party destinations before then. But peaceful Maranup Ford, with its parklike gardens and birdlife, including a couple of new birds that Di added to her list, was one of those spots that we just did not want to leave. It was like camping in the middle of the Botanical Gardens. We just loved it.

A plateau is a high form of flattery.

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

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pardoo Station – Miaree Pool (Western Australia)

13/09/16  Our stay at Barn Hill extended one more day because Di reckoned that Birthday Boys shouldn’t have to drive on their special day. I agreed (easy decision) and we celebrated with a lunch at the Ramada Eco Resort just up the road at Cape Villaret. Truth be told, we’d have stayed at Barn Hill much, much longer except we’d already committed to a camp site in Cape Range National Park, and the booking couldn’t be cancelled or rescheduled without forfeiting monies already paid. Consequently, we very reluctantly departed after our eight-day stay and headed to Pardoo Station, 370kms south on the Great Northern Highway (which fortunately and despite its name also goes south).

After two days at Pardoo Station, the pantry, cellar and fuel tank were restocked a little further on at Port Hedland and we continued south-west, via the North West Coastal Highway (Who named these roads?) to lunch at the renowned hotel and drinking spot at Whim Creek. This pub truly ranks as one of those interesting “in the middle of nowhere” places. Nice menu and cold beer, though.

We were both pleasantly surprised by the town of Karratha, driving through it on our way to see the Red Dog statue at the nearby port of Dampier. The small town populated by beer-bellied blokes in blue singlets as depicted in the movie was instead a large, modern and prosperous community. Not a toothless grin in sight.

 

South of Karratha, we camped alongside the Miaree Pool on the Maitland River. We’d set up beside a seating area shaded by an impressive laser-cut steel roof, as it was the only reasonably flat piece of ground for the van. I commented to Di about what appeared to be light fittings on the structure but dismissed the idea as the location was so isolated. Why would they bother with lighting? Shortly after dusk, the structure lit up like the Storey Bridge on New Year’s Eve, with LED strip lighting around the perimeter of the roof and underneath, powered by a solar panel and battery on top. Our site looked like Party Central in the Bush. We had our own private solarium. Apart from the nightly lightshow, it was a nice camp spot and we stayed on a second day.

The picturesque waterhole, fringed with shady trees, was set in low rolling spinifex hills. The occasional brilliant blood-red and black flashes of Sturt’s Desert Pea flowers contrasted with the green of the spinifex and the desert red soil. Lots of birdlife was attracted to the waterhole, aggravating the itch in Di’s shutter finger and we regularly took walks along the waterhole looking for new “prey”. She scored a new bird – Star Finch – as well as an unusual albino Australian Reed Warbler that sang next to the van for most of the night. I thought birds were supposed to sleep at night like I was trying to do.

“A quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business.” ― A.A. Milne, If I May

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

Karijini National Park (Western Australia)

2/07/16  We’d heard that getting a campsite at Dales Campground in the popular Karijini National Park was not going to be easy. You can’t book in advance, but have to get to the campground at 0800, line up and wait for a site to become available. With that in mind, we left camp at Mt Robinson early and arrived at Dales around 8:30 to be last in a queue of seven or so vans. An hour later, we were finally checking in, by then at the head of a much longer queue. Some of those behind us wouldn’t be making it in that day and would spend the night at the nearby overflow campground, to try again the next morning.

The couple who were doing the registration thought that our Kruiser was big and would require a big site. “We have a site 16 metres by 16 metres. Would that be big enough?” “Hmm, yes, I think so.” At our MCG-size camp site, we positioned the van sideways across it pointing North-South for optimal solar generation. There are not many national park sites you can go into sideways, intentionally anyway. The guy behind us in the queue had waited two days to get in, and ended up in a tiny site for his larger van. The Fates can be fickle for some. He just lacked my dazzling charm.

Karijini National Park - Dales Campground (WA)

Karijini National Park – Dales Campground (WA)

After lunch, we headed to nearby Dales Gorge and the Fortescue Falls, reached by descending a steel stairway down the gorge wall to the falls and its swimming hole. Stepped rocks beside the falls were reminiscent of seating in a Roman amphitheatre. A short walk upstream was another waterfall at Fern Pool, where we had a very invigorating swim in the cool water and up under the waterfall itself. In hindsight, I was glad that Di had dragged me off the camp chair I was snoozing in to go for a swim.

We also checked out the Karijini Visitor Centre, built to a very interesting design incorporating rusted architectural steel cladding that merged well with the colours of the surrounding iron red ranges. The building sat low and morphed into its natural surroundings.

Karijini National Park - Visitor Centre (WA)

Karijini National Park – Visitor Centre (WA)

IMG_0592Marcus and Annett, a young German couple who were camped near us, came over on our second day and asked for help changing a tyre with a slow air leak. It was their first flat in six months of travelling around Australia in their 4WD with roof tent. Fortunately this all happened in camp because their jack turned out to be too short to lift the vehicle and the wheel brace was buried somewhere under all the gear in their vehicle. I loaned Marcus some tools and a jack and advised him through changing the wheel (including putting the wheel nuts back on the correct way around), then helped him to plug the nail hole in the leaking tyre using his tyre repair kit. He hadn’t done anything like that before so was very appreciative of my sage wisdom, and should be an old hand at it next time. When he’d finished the job, he looked the part, covered from head to toe in red dust and beaming at what he’d accomplished. I jokingly told him I wasn’t going to let him leave camp until he could show me his wheel brace (which he did) and tested that it fitted the wheel nuts (which he also did) and encouraged him to get some wood blocks to make his jack usable. They were a very nice couple, we had a good chat with them about their travels and hope to catch up with them again when they tour Queensland, if we’re back by then.

Karijini is a magic place. We love the spinifex country. Di and I spent a day driving to the various gorges via a 4WD road beyond the Visitor Centre, firstly to Kalamina Gorge, then on to Joffre Falls, the amazing Knox Gorge and finally Weano Gorge. What struck us was the depth of the gorges – Knox Gorge is 100 metres down to the water – and the strata in the sheer rock walls.

We headed to Karijini Eco Resort for lunch and were enjoying a couple of their tasty beef burgers on the deck when a dingo appeared out of the nearby spinifex attracted by the aromas from the restaurant’s outdoor BBQ. It did a casual circuit of the building before being urged on its way by staff. While the resort is regularly visited by dingos seeking morsels, feeding them is discouraged. Later during lunch, Di spotted a pair of Spinifex Pigeons that she’d been hoping to see while we were in the park.

The weather was very accommodating during our stay – hot the day we had our swim; cool the days we visited the gorges; clear blue skies every day; and a nice breeze most days. We extended our three day stay by an extra day to soak up a bit more. Peter and Fleur, fellow travellers we’d met recently at Gascoyne River, were also camped near us at Karijini, along with their travelling companions, Wayne and Barb, and another couple from Queensland. Most evenings, we joined them for drinks and often came across them at various spots around the park during the days. We’re looking forward to catching up again with Peter and Fleur when we travel down their way in the SW Corner later on in the year.

Saw an interesting thing the other day. A couple of caravans came in together, and the driver of the lead one got out to look where they’d set up. It was obvious from the way he was directing the second van around that he was the Trail Boss of that little wagon train. Meanwhile, behind him, his now-driverless rig had started to roll away with his wife in the passenger seat. My first thought was “It’s rolling this way. This could be a disaster!” but after quickly calculating the vectors, I reconsidered. “It’s not going to hit us. This could be interesting!” The guy’s head spun around to his wife’s scream, he bolted to the open door of the moving car, and somehow managed to hop, skip and jump in to apply the brake. How quickly someone can go from being in control of everything to being entirely out of it. Note to Trail Boss: before exiting vehicle, engage Park and Parking Brake. We couldn’t quite hear but were pretty sure that his wife was animatedly reminding him of that very thing.

“They’re funny things, accidents. You never have them till you’re having them.” ― A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

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

Cowell (South Australia)

9/06/16  Kimba-CowellOur next leg took us from Kimba, on the Eyre Highway, south to Cleve and then across to Cowell on the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula. This will be the start of a loop that will take us around the Peninsula for a couple of weeks and back to the Eyre Highway, to then head west towards WA.

In contrast to the open flat saltbush country of the past few days, this stretch took us through sections of dense mallee scrub that hadn’t been cleared for farming and, between Cleve and Cowell, quite hilly terrain.

Edward John Eyre travelled through this country with his small party of men and a wagon of supplies in 1840. It would have been a nightmare for them to negotiate a way through this seemingly impenetrable mallee scrub. A recommended read is “Eyre: the Forgotten Explorer” by Ivan Rudolf which gives an excellent insight into the explorer and his endeavours. He also produced another good book called “Sturt’s Desert Drama” on the journeys of explorer Charles Sturt. Both are good reads, derived from each explorer’s personal journals.

Just outside of Cowell, we came across the monument to the author May Gibbs that commemorates where she first lived after arriving from England as a child. Spending her early childhood in this countryside would have contributed to the development of the gumnut characters in her many books that include “Gumnut Babies” (1916) and “Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie” (1918).

We had no idea that jade was mined in Australia until we visited the Cowell Jade store. Jade deposits discovered near Cowell in 1965 are among the largest and oldest in the world and are of very high quality. Cowell jade is mainly dark green, but there are also deposits of black and white jade. Di’s Pandora bracelet will now sport a piece of green Aussie bling once we get back home.

The next morning was very blowy. A severe weather warning had been issued for the Eyre Peninsula advising of damaging winds all day. Rather than trying to move on in those conditions, we stayed on in Cowell and took a rocky day trip in the Landy south to Port Gibbon, then to Arno Bay where we had lunch at the pub, and on to Port Neill before heading back home to Cowell.

The Lincoln Highway closely follows the coastline and we took a few side tracks to the shoreline, turning right to explore where the track took us, then returning and taking the left branch to see what else we could see. Along this stretch of coast, there are some terrific isolated free camp spots along the clifftops, but too blowy for us at present.

The cold rainy blustery conditions continued through the night and into the next morning, so we spent yet another day bunkered down and being lazy in the warm Kruiser. Di caught up with her photos and I read and watched movies.

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
”So it is.”
”And freezing.”
”Is it?”
”Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” 
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

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

Robe – Narrung – Strathalbyn (South Australia)

26/05/16  From Millicent, we headed north on the Princes Highway to the town of Robe on Guichen Bay. We were told it’s a popular tourist spot for South Australians and Victorians, with a population of 1,500 that grows in the summer holiday season to 15,000. We were there at the bottom of the tourist season and the town was very quiet. What draws the tourists is the combination of many historic stone buildings around the town centre, scenic cliff shoreline and bushland surrounding the town. Many parts of Robe are straight out of the 1800s. We were fortunate to have a cloudless sky while looking around the town, but the breeze continued to come off the Southern Ocean direct from the polar ice shelf and our coats and beanies stayed well and truly on. Robe is a base for a large fishing and lobster fleet; the budget couldn’t stretch to a lobster meal unfortunately.

Next morning, we were woken to the sound of rain on the roof and the rocking of the van in the wind. The water tanks were topped up and we travelled north through the Coorong National Park to a free camp at Narrung on Lake Alexandrina. The campground is located next to the landing for the vehicle ferry that operates across the narrow waters of Albert Passage joining Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert. It’s one of eleven vehicle ferry services operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week at Murray River crossings, provided free of charge by the South Australian government. Different from the “You want it, you pay for it” attitude of the government back home in Queensland.

Already in camp when we arrived was Dave Jacka and his support team. Dave is a quadriplegic adventurer and motivational speaker who is currently 88 days into a solo kayak paddle of the Murray River. We didn’t get to meet him, unfortunately, as he was resting up but we did meet Paul and Peter, two members of the support team accompanying him. We missed them in the morning as they were up before dawn and off to finish the circumnavigation of Lake Alexandrina. Check out his story on the link above.

We had an early night which translated into an early morning. The van is dark inside with the window blinds drawn down, and I usually tell that it’s after sunrise by the light coming through the ceiling hatch at the end of the van. Light was coming in so we got up. It was only 3:45am and the light was from a floodlight on the nearby pole. Needless to say, we had an early start that day to the next camp at Strathalbyn.

IMG_4616

Looping north around Lake Alexandrina and across the Murray River, we stopped in at Bleasdale Vineyards at Langhorne Creek, looked through their original National Trust listed buildings dating back to 1880 and I did a tasting of their lovely reds.

A little further on, we set up in the town of Strathalbyn, had lunch at The Victoria pub and spent the rest of the day browsing through the many antique shops for which the town is renowned and dodging intermittent showers and flocks of corellas in the Soldiers Memorial Gardens.

In a blog entry when we were on the Yorke Peninsula last year, I wrote “This place must be miserable in winter if it’s like this in November.” Prophetically, I was right! The day at Narrung hit the Miserable Mark on my personal weather gauge. Have a look at the rain radar image below. In the whole continent of Australia, the worst weather is where?! Right where we Queenslanders are. The locals are lapping it up, sploshing around in shorts and moaning that it needs to rain a bit more to make it worthwhile. I’m starting to grow mould because of the damp.

Guess Where We Are?

Guess Where We Are?

“You know it’s cold outside when you go outside and it’s cold.” – Me

Categories: 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.

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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.

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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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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: , , , , , , , , , ,

Alice Springs Surrounds – Day Trips (Northern Territory) – 3

6/10/15  Our next day trip from Alice took us into the West MacDonnell Ranges via the sealed Namatjira Drive to the Big Hole, a large permanent waterhole on Ellery Creek. The temperature was well into the 30s and the very cold water was popular with people from the nearby campground. Shame we hadn’t taken our gear for a swim.

Ellery Creek Big Hole (NT)

Ellery Creek Big Hole (NT)

Not too far further along the road, Serpentine Gorge had a small waterhole shaded by high rock cliffs. Bees, attracted to the water, outnumbered the ever-present bush flies that forced us to eat lunch inside the car with the aircon running. Useful tip: When refilling a water bottle from a tap, first run the water long enough to ensure ALL the bees up inside the tap are gone. Di found the squishy remains of a bee in her water bottle a couple of days later and almost gagged.

Next stop was at the Ochre Pits, colourful outcrops of natural ochre in the cliff banks of a sandy creek from which red, yellow and white ochres have been sourced for thousands of years by the local Arrernte peoples. These ochres were used for cultural, medical and trade purposes.

Ormiston Gorge, our final stop for the day, was very impressive and came close to topping Simpsons Gorge for Di’s gong for “Most Gorgeous Gorge So Far”, but missed by just a narrow margin. Campers and day visitors were swimming in the large waterhole in the gorge and, hoping to see Black Footed Rock Wallabies, we followed Ormiston Creek a little way upstream until the rocks became too difficult to clamber over. It was certainly a lovely spot, nestled below the backdrop of the massive Heavitree Range.

The next day trip was to the historic mission at Hermannsburg, 90 minutes south-west of Alice. This was the first Aboriginal mission in the Northern Territory, established by the Lutheran Church in 1877, and the earliest surviving buildings date back to that time. We enjoyed an Apple Strudle and glass of Grandma’s Lemonade, which turned out to be made on Bickford’s Lemon Juice cordial as they’d run out of their own lemons. It was still refreshing and we’re now carrying a bottle with us in the van.

On the way back to Alice, we detoured to Wallace Rockhole, 17kms on a gravel road into the James Ranges. It turned out to be a small community, minus the rockhole. We did, however, find the Wallace Rockhole Pottery and spoke for a while with the organiser who gave us a very interesting tour of the operation.

Our final day trip was a biggie as we ventured into the western parts of the Simpson Desert country. We went south on the Stuart Highway and into Rainbow Valley. The drive in was a bit rough and very dusty, with long stretches of soft red desert sand. We saw our first stand of Desert Oaks on the way in as well, but they soon gave way to low shrub as we neared the end of the drive. The colours of the sandstone bluffs and cliffs were amazing. The outback has lots of beautiful landmarks, and this one is a real gem.

From there, we went back to the Stuart Highway and took the Hugh River Stock Route to the Old South Road and then on to Maryvale and Chamber’s Pillar. On the Stock Route, which was a very sandy and dusty stretch, we came upon a Commodore with a family from the nearby Mpwelarre Aboriginal Community, bogged to the rear axle in sand in the middle of the track. After a couple of attempts at extrication with our Maxtrax, the winch on the Land Rover pulled it free and they were on their way again.

The road to Maryvale was pretty good, but beyond it to Chambers Pillar, it was horrific with corrugations you’d lose a vehicle in. The track alternated between sections of gravel and deep loose sand which weren’t a problem, but I threw in the towel over the corrugations, 20kms short of the Pillar. It just wasn’t worth damaging Di or the vehicle, so we turned back and took the Old South Road straight back to Alice.

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We spied a lone camel on the way and pulled in to Ewaninga Rock Carvings just before sunset when the light was at the right angle to best see the ancient weathered petroglyphs on the rocks. They were amazing, as was the surrounding spinifex which was in seed and as tall as wheat. The colours at sunset were spectacular.

Despite arriving home from the nine hour trip very tired and dusty, we’d had a really enjoyable day and seen lots of beautiful scenery.

”Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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