Adventures from Mallacoota Vic. to Pildappa rock in SA.( Week 2)

Monday, Apr 15, 2013 at 07:01

Member-Heather MG NSW

There was rain in the night and this morning the skies were grey so I felt ok about packing up and leaving a few days early. We have had the best week of weather that we have ever experienced there but it couldn’t last forever.
Barb and Darrel were ready to go before us. We were still getting hitched up when they called past around 8.30 so we told them to go on ahead and they waited at the Princes Highway turn at Genoa. (We will have to come to an agreement to travel independently and meet at the planned camp spot in the afternoons so we don’t keep having to wait for one another. The others haven’t turned on their walkie talkie radio which they can keep in touch with, and rarely have their mobile within earshot which makes communicating difficult after we leave so it will have to be discussed in the next couple of days.)
Turning right we drove back into NSW for a short distance, before taking a left turn onto Imlay Road which I had researched and been told was a suitablealternative for our trip. We followed until it met the Monaro Highway. It was a bitumen road with a steady climb, undulating, the roadsides thickly forested and although not all that wide, was a good alternative to taking Brown Mountain or having to drive down to Cann River and then back up. There were frequent big, laden, log trucks but very little other traffic and it was quite a scenic drive.
We passed through Bombala, then Cooma where we had lunch and John visited Woolworths for beer and groceries, before we filled the tank with diesel. John and I had discussed maybe continuing to Tumut but by the time we pulled in to Adaminaby mid-afternoon both the drivers were tired and we decided we had travelled far enough. Darrel and I had a look at the powered sites in the little park and he decided that it would be ok for an overnighter. The friendly owner/manager? showed us a couple of roomy sites and we were soon parked not too far from one another. There are many tall poplars with autumnal leaves of bright yellow, other European deciduous trees and a thick carpet of fallen leaves and the change in seasons is a welcome sight. The night could be cooler than we have had so far.
Our first job was to fill the water tanks, and we discovered that the water pressure is variable, never a strong flow but sometimes there’s only a trickle! I plugged in anything which has a battery so that we can happily bush camp for the next few days. Having been partly shaded during the best part of the day, and having a couple of cloudy mornings for the past week in Mallacoota, our van batteries had not fully re charged and we need the boost that 240v power will give. Both laptops have been updated, I have enjoyed nespresso coffees, we used the microwave at dinner and the induction cooking plate, taking full advantage of having power. It’s also been cool enough for me to turn on the fan heater to warm the van before I had a shower.
After a coffee and a beer or two for John, and a long phone call home to his elderly Mum, we all had a stroll to the Shops and to take photos of the ‘Big Trout’, with John sampling both the local pies and icecream! By the time we returned around 5pm we decided to go indoors because it was suddenly quite cool and there was no lure of a campfire to be had here. Our evening passed very quickly watching TV, reading and wasting time online communicating through that handy site Facebook!
Tonight has probably been the first time John and I have really been able to enjoy being in and using the van on this trip. Every other night we have been with friends and out and whilst that has been great, it is also lovely to really be able to relax here inside.
Overnight it has been cool, around 13 degrees inside, and a very pleasant temperature for sleeping. There has been little in the way of traffic noise and no noise from the few other other park occupants. Today we head for a bush camp somewhere west of Wagga Wagga, hopefully along the Murrumbidgee River.

We drove through vastly different landscapes today, leaving in temperatures of 8 degrees and following the very scenic Snowy Mountains Highway, through Tumut, Talbingo and Adelong, and then following the signs for Wagga Wagga. When we left, there was fog covering the hill tops.
It was a good surface, although narrow, very windy and with lots of hills and fairly slow going. On the long downhill approach to Talbingo it was also very steep, requiring John to drop back to low gear in an effort to slow us down and avoid overusing the brakes. As we drove past one of the mountain streams near the Historic ruins at Kiandra, we waved to a very keen trout fisherman rugged up against the cold. Perhaps on another trip, in slightly different season, we could return to here or to Blowering Dam to camp and stay a while. The camp grounds around the edge of the lake did look inviting. I would also like to spend some time in the ruins of Kiandra and have a good look around. How those poor Chinese and other people who trekked here with the idea of making their fortunes from gold must have suffered in the Winter months. Just to get there must have been an enormous challenge.
We didn’t stop in Tumut and only made a brief toilet stop in Adelong, a pretty little town nestled in a valley with deciduous trees in the full autumn hues.
A road house in Wagga wagga provided a fuel stop and then only a few hundred metres further on we pulled over on the flat ground alongside the Highway and lunched. By now, Barb and Darrel had caught up. We continued to a tiny settlement named Galore between Wagga and Narrandera and turned to a Camping reserve on the Murrumbidgee River. Although there were a few other campers, there was also a big section of riverfront vacant and we spent the nightthere, alongside the brown muddy waters, enjoying the bird calls and the tranquillity. It was our first opportunity to have a campfire and a damper cooked in the camp oven, and we cooked most of our meal on the BBQ grill, sitting around as the night fell. During the night I woke and heard possums but otherwise it was beautifully quiet, despite other campers staying.
I chose this place so the men could try for a fish but they didn’t bother getting the gear out so I wonder now why I did it! They promise that our next camp at Yanga National Park near Balranald, it will be different!

We were woken to the calls of kookaburras close by as dawn broke and were packed up before 9.
Our drive to Hay was uneventful and we pulled in for diesel, then lunched in the Parking area for long vehicles and I made lunch while John visited the shops. We were soon on the road again and had pulled into our camp for the night by early afternoon. This time it was a place recommended to me in a Member Message on ExplorOz and although it is listed in ‘Camps Australia Wide 7’ I am not naming it, as it is already busy enough. We were again very fortunate to obtain riverfront positions.
The men proceeded to have a carp competition and between them, caught close to 60 which they left on the banks for the feral foxes and cats to devour. It is illegal to return these pests to the water and we had some difficulties in explaining this to a young non English speaking camper who was unable to catch any but stood, watching in awe while the men pulled them in thick and fast using bread as their bait!
I walked back over the bridge and around the town taking photographs, as well as along the river for a short distance, returning with an armload of firewood. I surprised two feral cats so there must be many of them here. Then it was a while relaxing on the river bank with coffee and books, planning our next stay, reading my novel and chatting with Barb.
We enjoyed a fire again, although our evening meal of pasta and Bolognese sauce was cooked indoors. Afterwards the four of us sat around until our wood was burnt and the flames turned to coals. Back inside we attended to the washing up and then had beautiful hot showers. The full ensuite makes life very pleasant and John is absolutely happy we decided to buy this van!
We have booked into a van park in Mildura for tomorrow night because Darrel and Barb have their van booked in for minor repairs early Friday. It will be a chance to take on water, charge the batteries and pick up groceries in a big supermarket. Fruit and vegetables will be bought once we go through the Quarantine check point on the SA border the following day.

Mildura, Thursday 18th April…overnight in Calder Caravan Park.
An uneventful drive through the familiar flat country of Western NSW, through Balranald and then the other settlements closer to the Murray.
We were amused to see the other van pulled over in a rest area and imagined Darreleating his way through the mountain of fresh fruit he has insisted in buying at each town across the state. So far, in just a few days, we have passed two different restriction zones and each time he has been caught!
Both we and D & B have a drive through site. We have both been given a double site, possibly because we phoned ahead and booked or maybe the usual ones had been filled with smaller vans. Anyway we still had to fiddle around a bit to get level but it was an unexpected bonus to have space to put up the clothes line and get a load of washing dry. At breakfast time I had a mishap with a full up of coffee which I was preparing with the aeropress when I spilt it all over the van and Johns bare feet and legs. Luckily he was not burnt and the the van was wiped clean, as it landed mostly on two of the floor mats which are washable bathroom types, but it made a hell of a mess.
Not far from the park, on the left hand side of the road, we spied a service station on the left side of the road and John was keen to get fuel before we pulled up for the night so we parked in a very tight space and then had some difficulty in getting out without hitting parts of the Station structure or other vehicles! It was a bit stressful on an empty stomach, after driving all morning but we managed without mishap!
After lunching, getting laundry on the line, and catching up with B & D, the four of us set out for the very short walk to the big Plaza Shopping centre just up the road. John and I bought any groceries we needed probably until we hit WA but did not buy and fresh fruit or vegetables as we have a border Quarantine inspection tomorrow into SA and know the rules there, having been through a couple of times previously. No doubt Darrel will not be able to resist and will buy more!
After carrying our heavy bag back to the van, John returned to buy lures from Big W which he always finds a cheap source for fishing gear, and returned with a handful. A happy man!
Our afternoon passed quickly with me getting batteries re charged, packing away our foodstuffs in pantry and freezer, and phoning family, writing emails and then making a quantity of pizza dough. I find pizza is a perfect meal when fresh vegetables are in short supply and the recipe makes two bases, so I can freeze half the dough for another time. My van oven, which has only been used once or twice, did a great job and John declared that it was ‘one of your best’ pizzas!
We enjoyed watching TV for a change and of course I spent time playing online, reading forums, socialising on Facebook…and then it was off to bed to dream of new places and States to get to tomorrow.
Burra Creek Gorge. Friday April 19th
I was amused to see Darrel out and about, packing up his van around 7am a they weren’t due at Jayco until 8.30. But that is the way he is.. The morning was chilly (weather said 7 degrees) and I put the fan heater on for a while to warm us up.
John and I pulled out around 8.30 and headed out on the Highway towards the border check at Yamba. I was surprised at how quickly we were through, declaring 1 sweet potato and some honey both of which I knew were ok. The officer checked the fridge and asked a few questions then let us go. We were relieved not to have to unhitch the van to open the rear door of the Pajero..that would be a real pain.
We pulled in to the Shopping centre park in Renmark to buy fresh fruit and vegies and were on our way again within half an hour, headed out on the Morgan Burra road for Herons Bend on the Murray River where we have stayed some years ago. On our arrival however we found many dirt tracks leading off to places well away from the river and some crossings too steep and short for us to take the van, so we turned around and came out. Any places we could see were filled with tents and campers and we decided that even if we did find a place, D & B would never find us.
So it was back on the road to Pooginook Conservation Park, our second choice. We found the signposted track to the park and turned in, following the rough track along the fence line for some distance and finding no signs of a camping area. In a couple of sandy places, we slid a bit and almost had to put the car in 4WD, and decided that this could not be ‘the track’ to the campground. So we eventually found a place where we could turn around (with some difficulty) and returned to the road, driving on a few kms. further in the hope of finding a better track, and a sign for a camping area. Disappointed, we decided to return to the entrance of the Conservation Park and wait for the others to catch up. I phoned Darrel a third time to let him know our plans and we pulled up, levelled the van and put the fridge on gas. We lunched and then John had a walk back up the track to make sure there was no camping area but returned after 40 minutes, exclaiming that the track seemed to go on for many kms along the fence line with no signs of a place to camp.
When B & D arrived we decided to go to Burra Creek Gorge where we stayed overnight two years ago on our way to the Oodnadatta Track, and we arrived there mid afternoon, SA time. There are quite a few Coaster vans here in a little group, plus a few other campers, but we parked a distance from them all and enjoyed a few hours together before the sun sank and suddenly the temperature cooled rapidly.
I decided to climb the steep dirt hill beside the van and forgot I was only wearing joggers, almost reached the top and started to slip. There were a few moments of noisy panic before John came up and rescued me but I had visions of sliding down the slope on my stomach, all the while screaming and making one hell of a noise! There was much laughter from the others and no doubt some entertainment for the other campers and maybe we will see footage on U tube and I will be famous!
Our coldest night yet, we turned on the gas heater while showering, and then John persisted for hours to get the radio tuned to listen to a Rugby match. (Morning before 7am it was 6 degrees inside the van.)

Saturday 20th April
Iron Knob…’Knobbies Campground’ a community run facility with flushing toilets, a dump point, rustic camp kitchen and plenty of space, a couple of kms off the Eyre Highway. We each put $5 in the donation box…
Iron Knob we found to be a very sad place with virtually all services closed, and full of rusting ancient vehicles and buildings. Why anyone would still live there I cannot imagine as it is a depressing place and rates as one of the worst we have seen or stayed in.
We went for a short walk around the town and found that even the Hotel had closed. Returned to the vans and sat around and talked to one of the other campers, a man from Tasmania who hardly drew breath for at least an hour! He was friendly enough and after he left us, we heard his voice for hours as he chatted to the others staying there. Obviously a man who likes the company of others!
Our night was uneventful apart from rain and strong winds which blew all night. There were a couple of other campers who left well before we finally decided to pack up around 10 am when the showers looked like they had eased a little.
Sunday 21st April. Pildappa Rock near Minnipa.
This morning I discovered a substantial leak around the base of the toilet, at floor level, which soaked two towels and has concerned us very much. As it is Sunday there is little we can do, and it has dried up as the weather cleared so we think it is a wall or roof leak and not connected to the toilet itself which is better than it could be if the toilet was out of use I guess. I will contact Jayco Warranty on Monday using the phone number provided on my card and we will organise to have it looked at and repaired in WA as soon as we get close to an authorised repairer as we do not like the thought of water entering the framework, and don’t know what weather in is store for us.
We packed up and decided to continue towards Ceduna as we have booked two sites in the Foreshore Van Park at Streaky Bay for the next two nights and are now thinking we might stay three if we can extend. As we drove west, the showers continued intermittently and there were even patches of sunshine. This afternoon it has all but cleared and we hope tomorrow will be fine and sunny again.
We bought fuel in Kimba and then arrived in Minnipa for lunch which we ate parked in the Apex park on the edge of town. The clouds seemed to be thinning and we decided to drive the 15 kms on mostly dirt road out to Pildappa rock, as John and I had stayed here 4 years ago on our way back from WA, and thought it was a nice place to camp.
On arrival, we found only one other van and a camper trailer here so had plenty of choice as to where we parked. John has had to dig a couple of deep holes to drop the wheels in on one side so we could get level but we decided we wanted to have the ‘leaky’ side of the van protected from winds should it rain again tonight, so our door side is exposed to the weather. Barb and Darrel are parked the opposite way so our doors are facing one another for a change.
As soon as we were set up, we put on waterproof jacket and hiking shoes and did the easy walk up to the top and along the rock, then down the other side and around the base. I took some photos of the others as they walked around and explored the pools of water and curved surface which is not unike a smaller version of Wave Rock in WA..

Later in the day, Darrel, John and I did the base walk twice, with John and I returning over the top for a bit of extra exercise. I have managed to almost get the towels dry and tonight the sky is clear again and the wind has dropped. It is eerily quiet out there…wonderful ! There’s more than half a moon so by the time we get on the Nullarbor, we should have a full moon to light our nights.
We have put some coins in the donation box and appreciate being able to stay in such a picturesque setting. Hopefully tomorrow we will see it in sunshine.
So ends the second week of our trip..
By the end of week 3 we should be in a new State.

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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