Streaky Bay and Nullarbor Adventures (Week 3)

Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 21:57

Member-Heather MG NSW

Week 3. From Streaky Bay to West Oz.
On Monday morning (22nd April) we packed up from our overnight camp at Pildappa Rock near Minnipa. John and I managed a short walk up over the top in the early morning sunshine which was a lovely way to start the day.
As we travelled South West, the showers returned intermittently. We were in Streaky Bay before 11am and our booked sites were already vacant in the Foreshore Tourist Park, so we were soon parked and once again ready to enjoy a new place. Although John and I had passed through here 4 years ago, we only stopped long enough to have a walk along the jetty so it is a great opportunity to see a bit more of the place in the next three days.
My first job was to phone the number for Warranty on my Blue Jayco card to arrange for repairs to be done to rectify the water leak in the van. I was pleasantly surprised to get a prompt call back after I left my details and a message, and was given the name and number of a repair place in Esperance, but was offered quite a choice of places in Southern WA. I have booked us in for the end of next week but was told to phone when we reached Norseman as we may be able to be fitted in earlier. It eased my mind a little..hopefully there won’t be a huge problem locating and fixing it as we don’t have any alternative accommodation obviously. After lunch the weather cleared and we walked the couple of kms. into town along the foreshore and to the jetty, also visited the Foodworks Supermarket which we found to be very well stocked.

The men left to go squid fishing from the jetty late afternoon and returned well after dark very happy with their catch of 5.
I tried Skype-ing the small grand children and had a funny experience. They are so used to seeing us in person that they fought over who was to hold the iPad and there were tears and tantrums from the three year old who wanted to take me ’for a walk’ and to read me stories. She said she would come to my house and visit so I tried to explain that we were travelling in our van (which she has slept in). They have been, with their mothers help, mapping points on a large map of Australia which I bought from the EO shop and is on the five year old grandson’s bedroom wall.
Our second day (Tuesday 23rd April) dawned cloudy and grey however with only light winds predicted, John was keen to get the boat launched asap. While Barb and I paid the laundry a visit, the men disappeared with fishing gear and were not sighted again until close to 4pm. They returned with a good catch of both King George whiting and tommy ruff which they promptly filleted at one of the fish cleaning tables located along the beach front directly in front of the park.
During the morning with all my chores completed, I went for a walk around the foreshore towards the boat ramp for a few kms. and was caught in a heavy shower which swept up the coast. Luckily there was a small shelter for me to jog to and wait in until the worst was over but once that happened I decided not to continue, in case I was not so lucky the next time.

On my return I used the time to bake a batch of apple and date muffins and try out a recipe for oat pikelets and really enjoyed having the spacious kitchen in the van to cook in. The muffins, which I froze, will be handy for the next week or so until we are able to shop for fresh fruit in Southern WA, as we usually both eat 3 pieces of fruit during our mornings on the road. The pikelets were a hit and have already been eaten with honey, any leftovers of which has to be thrown out before the border.
The washing sat on the line all day and finally I removed it before dark. Will try again tomorrow when hopefully the weather will be improved.
I cooked the four of us Salt and pepper squid and fried rice for dinner and we ate outside under the awning. We also tried a few of the fillets of the delicately flavoured king George whiting. It was pretty good for a’ camping meal’. There was discussion of our Nullarbor crossing and possible places to visit and to camp.
Wednesday, (24th April) and our last day in Streaky Bay, was beautiful weather with sunny blue skies.
We spent a long morning driving to various local tourist attractions; the whistling rocks and blowholes

along a dirt loop road which returned to town, and to Murphys Haystacks around 40 kms to the south of here before finally visiting a historic marker. We walked down to one of the beaches and then did all the walks to viewing platforms to enjoy the surf and the coastline. It is a spectacular part of South Australia and we saw it at its best. By the time we arrived at Murphys Haystacks we had experienced showers and the sky was dark and threatening. We managed to do the walk around these huge rounded organic weathered rock formations without getting damp, and were lucky enough to be the only ones there. It would have been so different just 10 minutes later as the car park was full of vehicles when we returned.

On our drive back to Streaky Bay we stopped and visited ‘Eyre’s Waterhole’ and peered into a small well, a permanent water source which was enough to keep EJ Eyre and his party of explorers alive when they arrived in the area on their way to Albany in the 1800’s.
A visit to the Streaky Bay Hotel, with its interesting Number plates and signs, for a couple of thirst quenching drinks, was the last stop before returning to the vans for a late lunch. The sun was shining and the washing had finally dried so it was removed and packed away.
I had another attempt at Skype-ing the grandchildren and this time had better results although for much of our conversation I could only see part of heads and hands! Before I left, I gave them a book called ‘Are We there Yet’ and they pulled it out and we found ‘Murphys haystacks’ and the Nullarbor mentioned. I also managed to speak with Lou, their mum, for a while before they realised we were talking.
We did some cleaning up and not long before dark, John packed up all the outdoor things so we are ready to get away reasonably early in the morning. We have agreed to set off separately and then to meet at Penong before going any further as we do like to leave at different times.
Dinner was a quick, simple meal with any vegetables I had, plus fillets of whiting.

Thursday 25th April. (ANZAC Day) Streaky Bay to East Nundroo

The morning dawned cloudless and still. I was up around 5.30 and went outside to view the moon, a huge orange ball low in the sky. All but a handful of keen fishermen were still asleep in the park, however the road to the boat ramp was busy enough.
We drove out before 9am and not far north of Streaky Bay, on the Flinders Highway, hit a thick patch of fog. Near Ceduna we joined the Eyre Highway and filled up with diesel at the Shell service station which was doing a roaring trade, also filling a 20 litre can in case we have head winds across the Nullarbor. Foolishly we decided to drive through the centre of town where we saw early evidence of an ANZAC day march, with people beginning to congregate on street corners, and roads blocked off. There were also a few small groups of Aborigines sitting around in the park along the foreshore. Luckily Ceduna’s streets are wide as we had to do a U-turn at one intersection before retracing our steps to the Eyre Highway.
The road between Ceduna and Penong was mostly flanked with broad, flattish paddocks of straw coloured patchy grass, stunted trees, rocky fields and occasional tantalising glimpses of ocean and white sand dunes in the distance from the passenger side of the car. Remains of stone buildings abandoned more than a century past and a few more modern, still occupied ones appeared every so often, along with windmills, rusty machinery and dung coloured sheep.
We were surprised to see B & D already parked in Penong and waiting for us as we had left the van park before them; they were faster getting fuel in Ceduna apparently. We found the Point Sinclair Road, turned and were off on a lightly corrugated dirt road for 20 kms towards Cactus Beach for a look and a possible overnight camp. The road soon turned to smooth hard packed clay and took us between stretches of water, on one side a coloured blue and the other pinks and rusty reds due to high salt content. The background was high velvety white sand dunes, capped with brilliant blue skies. It was a photographer’s paradise! I set the camera on ‘sport’ and merrily clicked away, with the window down until corrugations at the next gravel stretch of road prevented me from holding the camera steady.

The last few kms. to the campground were rough and lightly undulating and having slowed down for me to take photos on the smooth sections, John could not increase our speed enough to ride more comfortably over the corrugations. We pulled in at the small parking area near the campground, set at the back of the dunes, while John tried to retie the boat on the roof as it had bounced it’s way loose. Then Darrel decided he wanted to stay and that we should find a campsite so leading the way, John and I barely managed to get through the narrow gate without leaving part of the side of our van on the post! We meandered our way through the windy tracks but every campsite which could have accommodated us was full of campers so we drove back out and agreed to meet back in Penong for lunch. We spent further 10 minutes while the boat was secured and I took the opportunity to walk to the viewing platform to the beach and take a few photos before we did the drive back. This time it was a different photographic opportunity and I took many more photos as we crossed the salt pan lake and passed the dunes.
Back in Penong the others told me the campground would have cost each couple $25 but surely they must have been mistaken. I thought I saw $2.50 pp on the sign but they said $12.50! We had our lunch in temperatures of mid 20’s then set off with the goal of reaching East Nundroo rest area around 70 kms west of Penong and once there would make a decision as to whether it was ok to stay for the night.
Close to our destination, John and I spotted many dirt tracks leading from the Highway which would have been fine places to pull up however with the others behind we though we had better stick to the plan and pulled in at East Nundroo instead. The place was empty so John let me out on the road to wave the others down and parked at the back of the rest area not far from the fence. There was no discussion as to whether we stay and I think both the men were just relieved to be stopped for the day, getting on with the job of levelling vans and doing the necessary. In John’s case that entailed unhitching and pulling his fishing gear out of the back of the Pajero in an attempt to find a very stinky item which is making sitting in our vehicle unpleasant! He was unsuccessful so I fear it will be worse tomorrow and until the vehicle is fully unpacked in Esperance in a few days time! The dual cab we used to own was a much more practical solution to carrying smelly and dangerous items.
The remainder of our afternoon was occupied with crosswords, sudokos and conversation. I put a lamb shank and mostly dried and canned vegetables to slow cook on the gas burner as we decided not to have a fire here, then visited a couple parked in a van not too far from us and talked with them for a while. We ate about dusk as the full moon rose and despite a huge amount of litter lying around, enjoyed being out and away from a caravan park environment.
Despite traffic on the road overnight, mostly road trains, our night was peaceful and we slept well. Every now and then I woke and lay awake, listening for the sounds of trucks as they moved closer then disappeared into the night. It was 15 degrees inside the van in the morning and a comfortable temperature to sleep.
Eucla. Friday 26th April
We had a really enjoyable day today soaking up the landscape of this unique part of Australia. I took many, many photographs of interesting signs, stunning coastline at head of Bight and then the Bunda cliffs at three of the viewing areas we drove into. The weather and timing were perfect with interesting cloud formations and blue sky, sun on the cliffs and clear, blue water.
We pulled up for fuel at Nundroo and then again at Nullarbor roadhouse as well as at the sign at the Eastern end of the Nullarbor Plain where we took photos of each other. By the time we arrived at the second of the viewing/rest areas for the Cliffs the temperature outside was 33 degrees and it felt very hot. We lunched there before continuing towards the border. My phone told me we were getting close when I received a number of emails and messages and then the time suddenly switched onto WA time and we were back to morning!

Our quarantine check was quick and easy as we had eaten all of our fruit and vegetables in the previous couple of days, and the last of our honey for breakfast. John had to brush some dirt of the shovel but we didn’t have to open the back of the Pajero luckily as it would have entailed us unhitching the van! My fridge and freezer were opened, along with 6 or 7 assorted cupboards and overhead lockers and we were wished well on our travels in WA.
Once in Eucla we were soon pulled up in the Caravan park in powered sites. (There is no water to sites.) It is basically park anywhere and connect to power, and the only piece of paper we were handed was a slip with the code for amenities and laundry. At $20 we thought it good value, with very clean, well looked after amenities and showers which cost $1 for 5 minutes. I suggested we stay there we only spent an hour or so there on our last trip across, but mainly because was a chance the other three could watch Friday night footy on TV. They were out of luck!
We drove the 4 kms to the remains of the Telegraph station and wandered for a while before heading back to the town for fuel. It was 35 degrees and too hot to be walking around although I did take the time to visit Eyre’s memorial and wandered around taking photos of signs and from the lookouts. Then it was to the Hotel for a couple of drinks and to sit in the cool interior of the building for a while before returning to the vans.
I didn’t bother putting the air conditioning on in the van, instead opening the roof hatches, and by the time we got around to cooking dinner it had cooled down to a comfortable temperature. Our dinner was a Mexican inspired beef mince, vegetable and rice all in one dish, with grated cheese, spicy taco sauce and light sour cream on top, followed by coffee gelato. (Not one fresh vegetable or fruit in any of it!)
The park was very busy with a variety of rigs but the only noise in the night was from passing road trains and wind gusts. Many people left very early this morning and by the time we packed up, the place only had a few camps left.
Saturday 27th April. Jillah Rockhole Rest Area 9 kms west of Mundrabilla Roadhouse.
Because of the wind direction (strongish head winds and weather forecast telling us they will change within 24hrs) we made a decision to only travel a short distance today. In the less than 100kms our average fuel usage was the worst ever so far at close to 23litres per 100kms!
We really aren’t sure what time it was when we left Eucla because we had so many conflicting times on our watches, phones and laptops! Anyway, it has seemed like a very long day because we have set our clocks to Perth time!

We are well back from the Highway, sheltered by trees, and the few other vehicles here are quite a distance away. Before we drove in we did a walk to check there weren’t any low branches but there’s a lot of space and choice for vehicles of any length and being flat it is easy to get set up.
After a coffee, we filled water bottles, put on hats and walking boots and John, Darrel and I set out to walk north to the low range behind the road and to climb to the top for views back to the vans. It was very warm but easy enough walking across hard packed dirt and between low shrubby bushes, then through a couple of lines of small trees and a dry creek then up the rocky gully to the flattish area on top. There were remnants of human occupation on the flat land; rusty water tanks, fence posts, an old car body and more. I took only a few photos but found it an interesting walk, despite the heat, glad I was wearing my hat with fly veil and that I had a full litre of water to drink. A walk always makes me feel I have a better ‘feel’ for the place; to smell and see it more clearly. We startled a couple of big re roos and disturbed a wedge tailed eagle having a drink in the only small rocky hole which contained any water anywhere, also saw and smelt evidence of camels.
We returned to Barb and our vans and it was still only about 11am according to my phone! It felt more like 3pm to me! There was a period where we sat under the shade of the awnings and talked before we lunched, cooling down after the exertion. I was surprised to find I have phone and internet signal so couldn’t resist turning on the laptop and editing the photos I took yesterday, then wasting time online!
The remainder of our day was taken up with sitting around and talking, and enjoying having a slower paced afternoon. Two extremely looking fit European women who are cycling from Melbourne to Perth and then around the coast to the north of there arrived and have set their camp up not far from us, so they have managed to do the same distance as us today! I was talking to them yesterday and we wondered how far they would get in the head winds. It is such an adventurous way to see the country. They came up to say hello and I offered them drinking water. We will no doubt pass them again tomorrow somewhere.
Tonight we had a dinner of hoisin lamb, vegetable and noodle stir fry followed by yogurt and boysenberries. So quick and easy to do when almost all of it was frozen and/or packaged!
The evening has cooled beautifully and the wind seems to have calmed so the road trains are making a lot of noise and the windows on the ‘road’ side of the van may have to be closed when we want to sleep, although we don’t usually find traffic noise is a problem at all.

Sunday 28th April.Caiguna bush camp.
We woke at daylight to the sound of drips and light showers and packed up in damp conditions. Because we had adjusted our clocks to WA time we were on the road around 7.20, a time when mostly I am the only person out of bed. It is probably an unusual sight to see such wet road and there was a beautiful ‘light’ on the land as the sun tried to shine through the heavy dark cloud. Every now and then I photographed the scene from my seat.
Somewhere between our camp and Madura Roadhouse we passed the women cyclists as they stopped to talk to a lone man cycling East and then the showers became heavier. We pulled in to buy diesel and there was a line of vans standing off to one side, not sure whether they were waiting for conditions to ease or having breakfast maybe.

I managed to take a few photos and then had to wipe the raindrops off the camera as we continued on to re-join the Highway. There was no point in stopping at the lookout as a heavy blanket of fog and rain hung low, obscuring the views and I was glad that on our previous trip through here, we had seen it in more favourable conditions.
We knew there would be little chance that Darrel would stop to ‘smell the roses’ despite his comments only a couple of days ago that he would be happy to take it slowly and see everything. At the dirt track which led off to Cocklebiddy cave we contacted he and Barb on the radio to let them know we were going to try to have a look at it and told them to wait at Caiguna blowhole for us.
A short distance off the highway, near the dirt track to the Cave, we found a level place to unhitch the van so we could drive the 10kms or so in without subjecting the van to the unknown conditions.. Having unhitched and put the lock on the draw bar, we put the fridge on gas, collected head torches and hats and started out, only to find a sign which read ‘Cocklebiddy cave closed due to unstable entrance’ some 50 metres from where we parked the van! Bugger!! So it was back to the van where we did the job in reverse and were soon back on the road! At Caiguna we again bought diesel.
When we pulled in to the Blowhole

some 5 kms further on the others were nowhere to be seen so, after having a quick look at the blowhole and reading the signs, I got out the phone out and was amazed to find full signal. Darrel informed me where they were, not too far away, off one of the tracks in a quiet place, so we were soon parked close by, levelled and setting up, once again in light intermittent showers. Then it was lunch time.
Having spare time, I decided to make us a batch of date scones and test out the vans oven. They were eagerly accepted by the others on a cool rainy afternoon but I have managed to save a few for tomorrow’s morning tea on the road.
The men collected firewood and set about getting a roaring fire going later during the afternoon while I wasted a bit of time on the laptop, again editing photos. Then it was a time to sit around the fire and phone a few family members to catch up on news from home.
We sat around until after dark and then retired to the vans warmth for me to make us a pizza for dinner. I would love to have had a salad with it but theres not much chance of having fresh vegetables for another couple of days.
The traffic noise is barely audible from here which is great and because of cloud cover it’s a darkish night.
So ends Week 3 of our trip.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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