Saturday, January 10, 2009

The wash up

My final costings for the trip are detailed below: -

Total Km's - 21,705
Km's without van - 5,109
Total Litres - 3,596.55
Av cost/litre - $1.557 - unleaded - Total Cost = $5,600.78
Fuel consumption - 6.035km/litre or 16.57 litres/100km

Dearest Fuel - $2.17/litre at Barkly Homestead, NT
Cheapest Fuel - 0.929c/litre - Cunninghams Gap, QLD

141 days duration - 140 nights

Caravan Parks - 96 nights - av $19.93/night = $1913 (budget - 75 nights at $25/night = $1,875)
Food & beverage (me & 2 dogs) - $24.255/day = $3420 (budget $20/day)
Sundry items - $7.05/day = $994 (budget $20/day) - i.e. Clothes, generator fuel, DVD's, chemist, caravan repairs etc

Mobile Phone - 5 months - $566
Internet - 5 months - $400

Vehicle Service - $270
Reunion - $305 (budget $500)

Total Costs including phone & internet = $13,469

These figures do not include Home Expenses i.e. Internet, Phone, Foxtel, Rates & Electricity ($1152)

Would I do it again? YES

There was so much to see & really, I only scratched the surface.

Here is a weekly summary: -

4th August - first stop Chinchilla
Week 1 - Brisbane to Chinchilla, Morven (CA 608), near Longreach (CA 354), near Mount Isa (CA 306), near Three Ways (CA 7), Daly Waters & Katherine
Week 2 - Katherine, Kununurra, Halls Creek
Week 3 - Ellendale (CA 585), Derby, Broome, Barn Hill (CA 575)
Week 4 - Barn Hill, Sandfire, Port Headland, Roebourne
Week 5 - Roebourne, Robe River (CA 462), Barradale (Yanmarie River CA 454)
Week 6 - Giralia Station Homestead, Carnarvon
Week 7 - Carnarvon, Denham (Shark Bay)
Week 8 - Denham, Nerren Nerren (CA 414), Geraldton, Northampton
Week 9 - Northampton, Geraldton, Mullewa (CA 366), Pindar, Geraldton
Week 10 - Geraldton, Leeman
Week 11 - Three Springs, Arring Siding (CA 382), New Norcia, Moore River, Baldivis
Week 12 - Baldivis (Trackers Reunion)
Week 13 - Baldivis, Bruce Rock (Back to the Bush, Veteran's Reunion)
Week 14 - Bruce Rock,Kulin (Tin Horse Highway), Lake Grace, Needilup (CA 74), Albany
Week 15 - Alexandra Bridge (CA 290), Cape Leeuwin, Busselton, Margaret River, Bunbury, Lake Clifton, Mandurah, Perth
Week 16 - The trek home begins or really, the journey continues. Wave Rock (near Hyden), Yerdani Well (60km west of Coolgardie), Kalgoorlie, 10 Mile Rocks (CA 26), Moonera Tank (CA 12)
Week 17 - Nullabor Roadhouse, Ceduna, Streaky Bay, Coffin Bay
Week 18 - Port Gibbon (CA 559), Port Germein, Moonta Bay,Morgan (on the Murray)
Week 19 - Lake Cullulleraine (Vic), Dareton - Ramon Deed Veteran's Retreat (NSW)
Week 20 - Moama, Mirrool, Peak Hill,Coonamble, Walgett, Nindigully
Week 21 - Home on Monday, the 22nd December

CA = Camps Australia 4

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Walgett to Brisbane

Sunday, the 21st

I wasn't in a hurry to move so after lunch at the RSL I decided I better go otherwise I'd still be there on Monday. Up past Lightning Ridge again & onto the Queensland border town of Hebel. A pub, a Corner Store & a couple of houses & that's it. I decide to have a coldie in the pub & on the walls hang a couple of John Murray's prints. You could spend ages reading all the posters & writings on the walls of a country pub & this place is no different.

I still need to visit the border towns of Barringun, Hungerford & Texas to say that I have visited all NSW/Qld border towns & had a coldie in each place between Cameron Corner & the Coast.

On to Dirranbandi & then Nindigully for the night. A couple of beers at the Pub & then a restful night beside the Moonie River.

Monday, the 22nd

There were not any storms or rain forecast for today so I thought I would have a leisurely run to somewhere near Warwick & camp the night before making the last run to home.

At Goondiwindi I caught up with friends but as they were busy I decided to push on after a short chin-wag. Petrol (unleaded) was scarce here due to a recent problem at the Caltex refinery in Brisbane however I managed to get fuel & then I moved on. I looked at a camping area at the Coolmunda Dam, east of Goondiwindi, but it was too early to stop & there was a hive of activity from many holiday makers who were setting up camp for their own holidays. A top spot & no doubt I'll stay here at another time.

I pulled up at a camp spot on the outskirts of Warwick, had a brew & walked the desperates. It was about 3.30pm & as I was only a 180km from home I made a management decision to keep going. There was a similar problem in Warwick with the fuel but I got some at Cunningham's Gap.

By the time I visited my sister, niece & my Mum & made it home, it was after 8.00pm & our epic journey had come to an end.

Now for the clean up & possibility a return to home life, at least for a short time until I plan my next trip.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dareton to Walgett

Monday, the 15th

We got under way in perfect weather conditions & headed for the Murray Valley Highway. This took us through Euston (NSW) & then across the Murray into Vic & along the southern side of the Murray. Through Swan Hill, Kerang, Echuca & then Moama. I intended to catch up with our Pardre from '67/'68 but he has been sick & was not back in Moama. A shame, but I would have kicked myself if I had not called in & he was here.

The wineries were along the way here along with orchards (oranges, mandarins, apples, stone fruits), small vegie crops & olive oil factories.

From Kerang dairy farming took the place of the orchids. There has been up to 2" of rain through most of this area over the weekend & no doubt this has been follow up rain as the region is reasonably green. In many places irrigation channels are controlled by small weirs & the water is taken from the Murray. I was surprised at the size of Swan Hill & of course there were the mandatory paddle steamers & house boats anchored on the Murray. At Echuca & Moama there are numerous paddle steamers & house boats & it is obvious there is a good trade for these products. But don't forget there is no water in the Murray!

Outside Kerang there was a property that was growing "Australian Cricket Willow Plantation". Interesting!

In Moama there are 6 caravan parks & I'm not sure about Echuca. In each park there are a majority of sites with permanent demountable buildings & I'm told many people holiday here for months on end or come here regularly on weekends. The number of ski boats & dingies stored here is staggering, but I forgot there is no water in the Murray so you could not ski, fish or enjoy any water sports. Cynical? not me!

Outside Echuca there was a big swarm of Locust. I understand from news reports that there has been a plague of these pests in this region.

Most of the country from Mildura to here is flat with only a few undulating hills. It reminded me of the area between Hay & Balranald which I covered a few years ago.

Tuesday, the 16th

North of Moama the country was very flat but after leaving Narrandera there was more undulating countryside & I observed mountain ranges to the west, nort west & north east. North of Jerilderie there was the start of The Kidman Way that winds its way to Qld via Hillston & Bourke. Leaving Moama you enter the Riverina & the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.

I made it to Mirrool late in the afternoon & free camped near the local hotel. The population of Mirrool is less than 100 & includes some of the local families on nearby farms/stations. There was plenty of water in the road verge & from all reports most of this area received 2" of rain over the weekend.

Wednesday, the 17th

I have only covered about 250km today & made my way to Peak Hill. I would like a $1 for every Qld registered vehicle heading south both yesterday & today. A $1 for every semi would also certainly add to the coffers.

West Wyalong, Forbes & Parkes are small townships that are passed along the way & all have a country feel although there is an industrial base that relates to the farming products & machinery that are required throughout the region.

On the edge of Forbes there was the Ben Hall Roadhouse plus in the town there is a statue of Ben Hall.

Thursday, the 18th

Today I head for Dubbo but not before I get a hair cut from the local barber in Peak Hill. For $5 I thought I could not go wrong & in fact is does not look to bad. There are showers about but it is reasonably easy on the road. Once again numerous semis going in both directions & as has been the case over the past 2 days many Qld registered vehicles heading south.

I shopped in Gilgandra & caught up on my grocery shopping & this will do me till I get home. I nearly stayed in Gilgandra but made the management decision to move on to Coonamble. This will make for an easy day on Friday. There are plenty of cattle & sheep in the paddocks & the country side is pretty green as well as water, from recent rain, in the roadside verges.

Friday, the 19th

The overnight at Coonamble was restful & I managed to catch up on my washing before moving on to Walgett after lunch. I'm staying with an old Army mate for the next couple of days. We have the opportunity to go through photos from SVN & whilst we remember most people in the photos there are a few who we do not recognise.

Saturday, the 20th

Today we have a drive around the town & then up to Lightning Ridge. A friend of my mate has an Opal Mine & we go to visit him & his family. We go underground into the mine & it is an interesting set up. Most people have a "claim" of about 50x50 yards & have a "home" on that same block. The "houses" in the mining area range from tin shanties to more substantial structures. The mining area was a real eye opener.

The town itself was interesting with a real diversified population & there were the signs of many European people settled here. The town swimming pool was something to see. It was more like Wet & Wild & beside it there was an indoor diving facility that was of Olympic standard.

We visited the premises of an artist, John Murray & looked at the works he had for sale. The colours were vibrant & the outback he depicted was very real. I didn't purchase anything however if he had a painting of a Dingo I might have been tempted.

I really enjoyed my visit to Lightning Ridge & the Opal Mine & will no doubt visit here again one day.

Tomorrow I start the down hill trek towards home. It is up hill but we won't tell anyone!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

On to Dareton (NSW)

Saturday, the 6th

I moved on in the morning & made my way to Morgan, a town on the Murray River about 120km west of Renmark. Of course I came "the back way" through Port Wakefield, Balaklava, Saddlewoth & Eudunda.

More grain & sheep but with the rolling hills came the vineyards & the olive trees. Not many, but a few were dotted along the way. There was rain/showers on the way & I probably ended up in Morgan more by chance than anything else. There are 400 Scouts here having a Jamboree but they move on tomorrow. I'll probably stay another day & have a look around the place.

In years gone by (1850's onwards) the river port here was the busiest inland port & was an integral part of SA's history. Gangs of up to 50 men worked continuous 24 hour shifts, while 6 trains a day were dispatched to Port Adelaide & long queues of paddle steamers & barges laden with wool, wheat & other goods to be unloaded were a common sight. (I plagiarised that last bit!) There is a vehicular ferry here & from what I see it runs 24hrs. Who said there was no water in the Murray? There's plenty here. We won't go down that path!

Sunday, the 7th

What an interesting place. The old buildings, the remnants of bygone rail & wharf activities plus the numerous House Boats on the river with a rental company just upstream with plenty for rent, make an interesting contrast. Other house boats are tied up outside houses that front the river. Many people were water skiing on the river & the place was full of visitors enjoying the laid back surroundings.

There are a number of locks on the river & they allow more water in some areas than in others. On the outskirts of Morgan there is a pumping station & they pump water to Whyalla. Apparently the water is pumped to a place near Burra & from there it is gravity fed to Whyalla. There are a couple of vehicular ferries that operate locally across the Murray & would you believe, FREE! On my way to Overland Corner I'll make use of the ferry.

Monday, the 8th

I found out that a 6RAR dog handler who I met in Perth lived in Morgan so I went to visit him before I moved on. Alas he was out looking for Yabbies however I had a cuppa & a chat with his wife. Outside the local RSL Hall I also met an ex 3RAR fellow who was in SVN at the same time as yours truly.

I crossed the Murray on the ferry & visited Cadel & then Waikerie, another ferry ride & on to The Historic Overland Corner Hotel but sadly it is closed on Monday so I moved on. Outside Cadel there were plenty of grapes growing along with Oranges. This growth pattern was similar for the next 50 or so km's. Names like Wolf Blass, Oxford Landing & Angrove appeared outside vineyards. Other small crops were growing in some areas along with Almonds, Olives, Mandarins, Peaches etc. More grain crops were splattered on the way & particularly past Renmark as I headed east.

At Waikerie the "Murray River Queen" was moored along with a few more house boats. The MRQ is used for functions & local cruises along this section of the Murray. Waikerie is a pretty town & was a hive of activity with the delivery of the recently picked fruit. Names like Sunland & Nappys which we see on out fruit were prominent on storage sheds. Unleaded fuel here was $1.079/litre.

Being disappointed on missing the Overland Corner Hotel I pushed on to a caravan park beside Lake Cullulleraine. Obviously this is a quiet holiday spot as there is little local infrastructure, only a garage & a few houses. There are 2 parks here & both appear to have little patronage at the moment. We are about 60km west of Mildura so we're in Victoria & another time change has taken place.

It is obvious that I'm back on major highway systems as there are plenty of semis on the go.

Today would have been about the best day, weather wise, I've had since leaving home. Just glorious, but I would still prefer to be at Port Gibbon.

Tuesday, the 9th

It's overcast today with showers forecast but I only have a short distance to travel.

I passed through Mildura but I'll only be 20km away so I'll come back & have a good look later.

I arrived at the Damon Reed Veteran's Retreat in Dareton (NSW) & set up camp before a storm hit. Not too bad mainly wind with rain & a little bit of thunder. This is a restful spot with just a caretaker (a couple) & another couple from WA, just more people for TJ to bark at & someone else to question Cassie's parentage!

Damon Reed was originally from Mildura & was killed in SVN in May 1967 & this establishment is in his memory. The property is about on about 10 acres & has been operational for 3 years. This year they will have had just on 200 vets pass through here in their caravan/motor home etc.

Wednesday, the 10th

A domestic day. Clean the van, do the washing, recharge the batteries, pat the desperates etc. How will they survive back in Thomas Street in 14 days time? Is the street ready for their return? TJ has become about half feral (maybe 3/4) & Cassie, well, some might say she is a complete feral, but we don't necessarily agree.

Today is a fine clear day with a gentle breeze, just the day to laze about.

Thursday, the 11th

Here are my costs after 129 days on the road:

Rodeo 4x4 dual cab, 17'Golf '84 poptop - me & 2 desperates
Total Km 19,091 - last fill 18,820km - 3112.39 litres - $5080.26 - $1.632/litre av
Total km without van - 4773km

Food/beverages/dog food - $24.45/day - budget $20/day
Sundries - $7.40/day - budget $20/day

Caravan parks & donation "parks" - 91 nights @ $20.08/night (budget for the whole trip was 75 nights @ $25/night), so more nights than anticipated

Other costs:
Vehicle service - $270
Mobile Phone - $60/month av
Internet - $59/month

Friday, the 12th

It's raining. A lazy day to had by all, reading, watching a video & dogs are curled up on the couch. Broken Hill, 260km to the north, had nearly 2" overnight & there is water over the road between here & there & north of Broken Hill the roads are cut. They expect rain all day with heavy rain late this arvo or tonight. At least we got a walk in early while it was only light drops!

There has been a break in the weather this arvo so off to Wentworth we went. It's only 12 km up the road & I must admit I did not do enough homework on this region & I've forgotten what I was taught in Social Studies at school. As I drove into Wentworth I crossed the Darling River (plenty of water in it, I observed) & then the sign says "Built where the 2 rivers meet". 2 rivers? The Murray & the Darling, dummy! There is more water, more house boats, more river cruises, more water skiers & more water sports. I always had this belief (or was led to believe) that there was no water in the Darling (as us Qlders took it all before it got to NSW) when it met the Murray & that there was no water in the Murray as it made its way into SA. I don't have my camera so I'll be back to take photographs.

The old Wentworth Goal is now a Historic Site & visitors are allowed. Actually I found Wentworth to be an interesting place.

There are more orchards, more grapes, some small wineries, more "cellar door sales", more dried fruits i.e. sultanas etc to be found locally & hence the name Sunraysia. I'll stay another day to have a closer look at the region.

Saturday, the 13th

Rain & wind prevail, so another lazy day but got my shopping up to date & at night we went to the local Community Club for dinner. I've made a management decision to move on to Moama on Monday as the weather appears to be much improved by then.

Sunday, the 14th

It's still overcast but the wind has abated slightly so I took a drive up through Wentworth & did a circle back to Dareton through Mildura. The circle took us from NSW to Vic & back to NSW. Took photos of the place where the Murray & Darling meet & then on to a weir & lock just downstream from this point. Our next bridge over the Murray was a single lane bridge governed by traffic lights. Actually a number of the bridges over the Murray are small to a degree & often with a part that can be raised to allow boats through.

More house boats, fruit, small crops, vineyards, wineries etc abound through this whole trip. Hardy's Wines, Lindeman Wines to name a couple of the more recognisable wine companies have wineries in this area.

Outside of the townships the "farms" are normally 5 acre blocks & have a 20 gigalitre (spelling?) water licence & big companies buy these blocks to get the water licence. But as we are told regularly, there is no water in the Murray!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Port Gibbon to the Yorke Peninsula

Wednesday, the 3rd

I tore myself away from Port Gibbon after lunch & moved on up through Whyalla, Port Augusta & down the coast to Port Germein for the night stop. I had thought of catching the ferry from Lucky Bay, just north of Cowell, to Wallaroo on the other side of Spencer Gulf but at nearly $350 I gave it a miss.

Half way between Cowell & Whyalla the country side changed from primary produce to mineral products. There were the mountain ranges & names like Iron Baron & Iron Knob spelt out the reason behind the new landscape. Whyalla was industrial & obvious signs of shipping export & past ship building feats were on display. Unleaded petrol here was $1.179/litre.

On to Port Augusta & past an army training facility. Coming in to town you pass the turn off for Coober Pedy & Alice Springs, do I turn left here? No, better not, but gee it was tempting. Petrol has dropped to $1.129 (5cents in 75km). Port Augusta is at the very top of Spencer Gulf & now to proceed down the west coast of this sea mass. South of here is the turn off to Broken Hill & Sydney & it sinks in a little more that this adventure is quickly coming to a close.

I look at the western side of the South Flinders Range & remember my trip up the other side in 2004. Places like Orroroo, Wilmington, Quorn & Hawker readily spring to mind.

Port Germein beckons & I make it there around 6.00pm, just in time to feed & walk the desperates & over to the pub for dinner with the park manager & another couple who were staying in the park. We traded tales of our travels & experiences & a very pleasant evening was had. Port Germein is renowned for the longest wooden jetty in Australia (1.5km long). Another old town with plenty of character. Good fishing, particularly Flathead & crabs are in abundance, so I'm told. Directly to the west of here is Whyalla but separated by "just a little bit" of water.

Thursday, the 4th

Today I head for Moonta Bay, about 160km to the south & nearly opposite Port Gibbon, a bit further to the south to be precise, but on the other side of Spencer Gulf.

Port Perie was an interesting place with obvious old style buildings in the town centre & fringes & the new housing on the outskirts of the town. Further down the coast at Port Broughton I was amazed at the size of the local caravan park. Also many caravans were stored there & possibly to be used by their owners when they were on holidays here? I must try to find out how many caravan sites they have here, just for my own curiosity. The park is right on the water, close to town & I'm told there is good fishing here.

Grain fields & sheep return to the landscape & the harvesting of grain is in full swing.

After checking in to the caravan park I made my way to the local Vietnam Veterans club & meet some of the locals. They have a Memorial to the Vietnam Tracker Dogs & it was dedicated on Anzac Day this year in Memory of their past President who had been a member of 9 RAR & although not a member of a Tracker Team marvelled at the skill of the dogs. A plaque to each of the dogs is mounted on rock from the local Moonta Mine & a centre piece is a Cross, a kennel & a short story on the Dogs. It is very simplistic but very thoughtful & a great remembrance of our "mates". One of the Veterans gives a talk to groups on the life of those Dogs & they have an involvement with the local school. A top effort from these people who had no direct involvement with the Tracker Dogs.

I've contacted the fellow who took on my job once I left Vietnam & will visit him tomorrow.

Moonta is part of the Copper Coast & it gets its name because of the Copper mines that were prevelant here in days gone by. There is still a Copper mine on the outskirts of Moonta.

This arvo the showers came & the WIND returned but there appeared to be a change for the better around dusk so we'll see what tomorrow brings. Unleaded here is $1.089.

Friday, the 5th

Well, well in the early hours of the morning it decided to BLOW. What's new! Everything shook, rattled & rolled.

Went to Port Wakefield & had a look at a satellite tv system, then some shopping in Kadina & onto Wallaroo to visit a fellow who was also in Trackers with us in SVN. Chatted about those who have left us & about what we have been up to for the past 40 years. I really enjoyed our conversation.

Unleaded fuel in Port Wakefield was $0.993/litre while diesel was 40cents/litre dearer. A bit unbalanced!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ceduna & the Eyre Peninsula

Wednesday, the 26th & Thursday, the 27th

I've had a drive around Ceduna & there is a real mix of the old & the new. Very interesting housing, very old houses & then next door a relatively new brick home. What a contrast. The town is actually in a bay (Murat Bay) & has at least some protection from the open sea elements. If you look at a map you can see that the western side of the Eyre Peninsula is dotted with many Bays.

Exports from here by ship through the local port include Barley, Wheat, Salt & Gypsum. Fish is brought ashore from trawlers operating locally & transported mainly to Adelaide & interstate by truck. There is a Race Track on the outskirts of town I see where the next meeting is in a couple of weeks time. There is a Meteorological Station here along with a radar that is connected to the national grid for weather forecasting. The main building at the caravan park was the original Hospital of Ceduna. There are many old stone buildings around this area & as I've travelled through South Aussie I have noticed numerous old stone buildings in the country side, some in a good state others decaying in the fields.

Old Lutheran & Anglican churches are scattered in many some towns throughout the region. Most of these are all stone buildings & have been kept in good condition.

On Thursday we have had showers & some thunder & of course some wind! I had planned to move on today but ......... but, tomorrow will do! Slack again!

Friday, the 28th

Even though there were clouds scattered about I moved on to the Eyre Peninsula & headed to Streaky Bay. On the way I called in to the sleepy town of Smokey Bay which is renowned for its Oyster Farms. The caravan park at Streaky Bay has plenty of Qld registered vehicles (about a third) & there are a few Vets here as well. Similarly in Ceduna I met up with a couple of Vets one of whom was in SVN at the same time as yours truly.

This town is also in a Bay & the park actually faces north. There are some sporting fields nearby so TJ & Cassie can run free during our walks. Some of those in the park have been catching some fish but those set up have been catching crabs off the jetty. One lady over balanced & ended up in the drink, losing her phone, glasses & other personal items. She is going back tomorrow on the low tide to search for her gear.

You wouldn't believe it but, but, but............. it's WINDY!

Saturday, the 29th

Not sure how the lady went with her gear but a few came back with plenty of Sand Crabs.

I've had a good look around the town & out to a couple of Bays that are close by. There is still a bit of wind around but more to the point, today it is chilly. You can't win! Beside the Oyster Farms that dot the region there are grain silos situated in the town. Yep, more grain around here as well. There are about 8 oyster farmers here & it provides a good income to the town.

I'm not sure of the population but they have a Hospital here & the town is very tidy. The surrounding area is quite picturesque & from the high vantage points on the edge of the town it is really post card stuff particularly when you add the colour of the water.

Sunday, the 30th

I've moved on down the coast & am staying at Coffin Bay about 50km west of Port Lincoln. The road down traversed many grain fields with plenty of sheep & the odd sprinkling of cattle. The road followed the coast & there were many spectacular sights. Venus Bay was a pretty town & I could have easily stayed there for a few days.

Beside the road there were a number of Lakes inside the coastal sand dunes & I presume most or probably all of these were salt lakes.

Once again Oysters are produced here & along with fishing & tourism this seems to be the main income for the region. There are a few National Parks nearby & they appear to be popular attractions.

Monday, the 1st December

Across to Port Lincoln & once again more grain (wheat, barley & some canola), sheep & the odd sprinkling of cattle. There is a large port facility here with the export of grain & fish. There appears to be a reasonable industrial infrastructure here to support these industries.

The road north follows the coast & I visit Tumby Bay, Port Neil & Arno Bay before I make my way to Port Gibbon. Why "Port" Gibbon, I don't know as there is definitely no port facility here. I need to ask some questions. I've asked the questions & it appears that grain was exported from here (& Port Neil) by sailing ships (1908 - 1914) & the grain was gravitated down a chute from a cliff to a waiting landing craft & then transported out to the larger vessel (Ketch) anchored off shore. Very ingenious!

There are about a dozen homes spread about here & free camping is allowed & currently there are about 7 caravans/motor homes here. I wish I had found this place a few days earlier as I'm now starting to run out of time! There are loos provided & a shower shelter but you provide your own water & bucket. No power, so you need to be self sufficient in that area however there is a water supply point.

At Arno Bay there is a fish hatchery business & I'm told it is a thriving business.

After leaving Coffin Bay it became apparent that there is less rain here as the surrounds look fairly dry. A fellow tells me that the annual rainfall for Port Gibbon is 11 inches but on the other side of the mountain ridge line, to the west of here, they receive substantially more rain.

Tonight in the sky the moon (a quarter, facing upwards) has Jupiter & Venus (extremely bright)above it & it looks like a smiling face. Very interesting.

Tuesday, the 2nd

We've been for a bit of a drive & the desperates have spent an hour in the water & on the beach. There is a Sea Lion colony nearby & we'll go there this arvo. Even though the sun is out & there is a gentle breeze (note, breeze not wind) the air temperature is cool.

The Sea Lions were not to be found. I'm told they must have been out having a feed. I believed this, of course!

I did a trip up along the coast to Cowell by the dirt road (very corrigated in places) & checked out some of the local scenery. More grain, sheep, oysters, prawn trawlers & other fishing. Also a wind farm is nearby & can be recognised at night by the red flashing lights on top of the wind vanes. It has taken me a couple of days to actually sight the wind vanes as they are on the western side of the nearby range feature. I counted about 25 structures & because of their position they were only visible from right on the coast.

My neighbours went fishing this arvo & (eat your heart out) I've had a feed of fresh whiting fillets for dinner. Yummy..............

Nearby here there are some "bomb shelters" from Word War 2 & they were also set up to be used as communication listening posts for enemy naval signal traffic.

I only wish I found this place earlier!

The Nullabor

Friday, the 21st

I headed off only expecting to go a short distance but the places I had picked out were not suitable so I ended up 73km east of Norseman at the 10 Mile Rocks camping area. By night fall there were another 6 campers in the area, all spread out over the large area set aside. This was an uneventful afternoon drive.

Saturday, the 22nd

There was some early morning drizzle & there was limited visibility for the first hour but it soon lifted & the day was relatively fine however the wind started coming from the east & this was a far different senario than the weather forecast from the previous day. I had intended to visit the Eyre Telegraph Station & Eyre Bird Observatory, south of Cocklebiddy Roadhouse but I did not like the look of the dirt road & the overcast conditions so I gave it a miss.

The stretch between Balladonia & Caiguna has a stretch of 90 miles of complete straight road & it is the longest straight stretch of road in Australia. The heading of this road is about 2 degrees short of due East.

I headed for Moonera Tank camping area (I did not find a tank) & arrived in plenty of time to set up the sat TV to watch the footy (Aussie v NZ) from Brisbane. Pity about the result but in my humble opinion the best team on the night won.

Sunday, the 23rd Bold

Well!, Well! You guessed it, wind & light showers that eventually turned to rain. I stayed put. I was to find out a couple of days later that 43km to the west of me at Cocklebiddy Roadhouse they had 2 inches of rain on the Saturday night. A lazy day was had by all concerned. A sleep, watch the cricket, lunch, a sleep, watch TV, coffee etc & the desperates weren't much better. How will they survive when they get home?

Monday, the 24th

There was a heavy dew & fog in the morning so I was a bit slow in getting away, but at least it was fine.

About 43km further I came through the Madura Pass. We dropped from a plateau on to the coastal plains. This was something I had not anticipated & was quite surprised by. At Madura Pass there is another Roadhouse & I could not get over the number of "motel" type units that were at this property. I'm told there were about 140 units here & I'm yet to find out why so many. We stayed on the coastal plain for another 180+kms until we reached Eucla where we once again climbed on to the plateau. Eucla is on the WA side of the border & Border Village on the SA side. Both are small towns & that is being polite about the size.

I had picked out a couple of sites to camp but the first was not suitable (too early & too open i.e. no shade) & the second was full. There were 4 vans there & anymore would have made it a bit cramped. Both of these spots were on the coast line although both were at the top of 60 to 90 metre high cliffs. Very beautiful outlooks but signs were everywhere that the edges were unstable. Definitely not the place for the "desperates"!

I moved on to the Nullabor Roadhouse & treated myself to a good hot shower & dinner in the diner. The crumbed Whiting & salad was a top meal. Earlier in the day I had met up with an ex Army fellow & he was also at Nullabor & we had a chin wag over our travels through WA & the NT.

The Nullabor Plain is a flat area devoid of trees but it is dotted with small bushes no more that 2 feet high. The sunrise reminded me of the sunset at Derby except that in Derby you looked over the sand flats out to sea.

The ground foliage from Norseman is very green, to my surprise, but I suppose I did not really know what to expect.

As in other outback regions there were a few areas set aside on the main road for the Royal Flying Doctor Service emergency landing strips. These were marked by roadside signs & normal runway markings on the road.

Tuesday, the 25th

I moved on & visited the "Head of the Bight". Very impressive cliff faces & the scenery along this coastline is very rugged. By now the wind had turned to the south west/westerly but was reasonably light. This area would no doubt do well in the winter months as the whales pass by in close proximity to the coast.

On my way back to the highway I spotted the first Dingo on my trip. He crossed the road not far in front of me & by the time I got the camera out he was among the low scrub.

About 15km west of Nundroo the landscape changed & there was grain being grown & there was an abundance of sheep. I did not expect this so far west but once again I was ignorant to this fact of our countryside. A little to the east of here at Penong there is the grain & sheep but also Gypsum is mined here & trained to Ceduna where it is exported by ship from the local port.

On the outskirts of Penong someone has set up a number of windmills (all shapes & sizes) as part of a local attraction. Right through this area there are a number of windmills supplementing the local water supply. Along the road here there was a grader doing the edges of the road & he was towing his own vehicle (a ute) behind the grader, obviously to get back to his base at night.

I moved on to Ceduna & will stay here for a couple of days & catch up on my domestics & have a look around the town.