Five Months on the Road through SA and WA. April to Sept 2015

Sunday, Apr 26, 2015 at 17:25

Member-Heather MG NSW

Weeks 1 and 2.
Day 1
Monday April 13th.
The plan was to stay overnight in Jugiong, a lovely stop off the Hume Highway via a short loop detour, with its large flat space and many sites with water views of the Murrumbidgee River. It’s a comfortable 4 to 4 ½ hours drive from home, even with a couple of stops for toilet and fuel, and it is well known to us, via the Kings Highway from just north of Batemans Bay, and up the Clyde Mountain through Braidwood, Bungendore and then across the less busy roads to Sutton, Murrumbateman and finally joining the Hume near Yass.

We arrived there for lunch which I had already packed and placed in the fridge. It was easy to locate a flattish place and set up level without unhitching and we parked alongside the river. John put out the minimum; C-gear matting ground cover as our site had previously been a fireplace, the chairs and the awning, not for shade but in case of a heavy dew in the morning.
Deciding I could do without my nespresso coffee I brewed a stovetop pot of decaf after lunch and then took a short walk along the dirt track parallel with the river to the one lane bridge and walked across to explore and take a few photographs. Later in the afternoon both of us took a walk around again, across to the toilet block to place a donation in the box, and wandered past the assortment of vans, campers and motorhomes which were pulling in.

I sat outside and watched as large flocks of noisy corellas and galahs wheeled and screeched above the water, landing and taking off from the trees which line the banks. The afternoon was warm and sunny. I had emailed MT Ive Station in SA’s Gawler Ranges region, and had a call from there to answer a few questions and get some information on visiting there in a week or so. It’s a place I have long had on my list of ‘to see’.
After so many months of planning it is hard to believe that we are finally on our way. I’ve missed my usual long daily bushwalks due to minding grandkids and bad weather for more than a week and could do with some sweat making exercise! But I am so happy to be back ‘on the road’ and looking forward to living the next 5 months in this very comfortable van.
I also spoke to a daughter who, despite being almost 40, is of great concern to us. She’s in the process of finding a new job and is a chef currently living in Brisbane, so works long hours for abysmal pay, especially when compared with another daughter who is a university trained Nurse!
After dark we used the satellite dish to watch ABC news and a couple of shows.

As mentioned, Jugiong rest area has a donation box which we always contribute to, and there are good flushing toilets, a toilet dump point and water tap in the paddock, and garbage bins provided . It’s a little off the main road and the traffic noise is barely noticeable. There is a service station, and a shop or two close by too. There is good mobile phone signal.

Tuesday 14th April
Leaving Jugiong before 8am, we travelled to Wagga and then shortly afterwards took the roads south west through Urana and Jerilderie.

Both towns had some interesting iron street sculptures, depicting times past and I photographed a couple of them using my phone, when we pulled up for a look. The plan was to stay in Conargo, depending on what we found when we got there, and we arrived by lunch time. Before we decided where to park overnight, we had a look at both areas. The newer, caravan signposted one has a few sites set out and separated by logs and toilet facilites provided at the adjacent tennis courts, resembling rustic caravan park sites. There were two other vans parked and smallish rig set off to the back, so we continued to Bills Park and found a large dirt flat place, at the rear of the ‘park’ with our awning side facing the bush to the rear which we thought would be good for the night. The park had one wheelchair friendly toilet which could have done with a clean, a caravan toilet dump point, and a water tap in the grassed area alongside, as well as a garbage bin. It was vacant.
It was hot and sunny and we were glad to pull out the awning and have our lunch in the shade. Had a walk around the tiny town, past the Hotel which burnt last November and is now barricaded off by high wire fencing. The other buildings comprised a few small, old houses, a General Store/Fuel station/PO, and the sports facilities with oval, a Hall, undercover BBQ and camp kitchen and a display housing two tin men sculptures. They were behind glass but I had John pose with them both. He dropped into the store and bought a paper and ice cream, leaving a donation for the local charity for our campsite payment and surprising the lady behind the counter.

John put the generator out and I made a couple of coffees during the afternoon
We spent a very quiet night, not disturbed by the trucks using the road. Enjoyed a great open steak sandwich and cooked on the butane cylinder gas cooker outside. (Yes one of those withdrawn from sale due to safety concerns). It was lovely to sit outdoors again to eat. We watched a few hours of TV but I had to phone for tech help to get the receiver to work and discovered that we were in a marginal area for satellite with a 57% signal. Interesting to know as this might mean that we may not get TV everywhere we travel. Anyway for now it was sorted and we were happy watching ABC news.
I also used the laptop a bit, deciding that the solar panels and the 4WD alternator should do their job each day and replenish the batteries adequately. John had read all the books on the kindle so I bought a couple more. He was asleep before me as usual and my sitting up with one of the smaller lights on didn’t seem to worry him which is a relief as I don’t need anywhere near the same number of hours sleep. The large black flying ants and other insects were very annoying and found their way inside the van, attracted to lights. It didn’t help that I inadvertently forgot to use a screen on one open window hours before!
Conargo might only be a tiny spot on the map but it has a good mobile phone signal (Telstra).

Wednesday 15th April (Day 3)
Once again it was a quite early start. John had little to do outside as he had put the awning in in the middle of the night when it got windy. He had only put down the corner legs on the van the previous day when we pulled up and we hadn’t had to unhitch to get level so had little to do outside.
We drove towards Deniliquin and then turned onto the Cobb Highway for a short distance, then turned again onto the Moulemein Road to take us through to Tooleybuk where we crossed the Murray River and arrived in Victoria. Much of the land was flat, covered in stunted saltbush, or ploughed and bare earth waiting for rain or crops to grow. Closer to Tooleybuk there were large flat irrigated paddocks covered in bright green vegetation, and we passed a pistachio plantation.

We had planned on making Manangatang our overnight stop but it was mid-morning when we arrived so we continued to Ouyen where we bought diesel (with less than 50kms remaining in our tank) and then to Underbool. The Recreation Park in Underbool is set off the road a bit, to the right when traveling west. It was easy to find and we pulled up on the road near the fence around the oval and went in search of a place to park for the night. There were two small coaster type motor homes parked together but no one else and lots of space.
Being our usual (antisocial) selves we drove to the opposite side of the oval and parked with the awning facing the bush, with low stunted mallee trees and reddish sandy soil as our outlook… memories of our Nullarbor camps invaded my mind! The sportsground buildings were a short walk away and we used the hot showers and toilet facilities, placing the fee in the honesty box provided. ($16 unpowered and $18 powered). I’m still not sure where the powered sites are but there were a number of sporting areas..netball courts, a basketball court….so maybe they are there. With no signposting they weren’t easy to locate. We had no need to have power and I used the generator to have a couple of cups of coffee during the afternoon. I also used the water at the amenity block, washed our dirty clothes and we hung them out on a line strung between two trees and they dried in the few hours before dark. The afternoon was hot and there were plentiful stinging flies which kept us on our toes, but we were partially shaded by the trees and the awning and a breeze made it pleasant.

The afternoon was over all too quickly, filled with phone calls to family members: a daughter who is still trying to get her life back into order after having a psychotic event triggered by a serious reaction to a prescribed drug for throat and ear infection back at the end of January, and John’s elderly Mother who can talk for hours and repeats her conversation numerous times!
I roasted up any remaining vegetables and some spicy chicken drumsticks for our evening meal and we ate outside as it grew dark. It was a beautiful still and balmy much warmer than we are used to in mid April.
We watched a few hours of TV and I discovered by accident the limitations of our battery power. We were using the satellite TV with 12v TV and receiver, and I tried to use and charge my laptop as well as a light and charge my phone and was suddenly plunged into darkness when the battery switched off. I guess it was the battery safety cut out or maybe there is some electrical problem lurking. My laptop uses considerable power when starting up so I will have to organise myself and not have to charge it when we are using the TV in future. When I unplugged the laptop, the battery turned itself back on and the VAST receiver re booted…quite a relief.
The gas fridge has worked seamlessly since we had the part replaced under warranty last week. I am happy with our new van table and can leave it in place or fold up, depending on how we are using the lounge/dining space. It’s much more flexible and practical to not have a fixed table.
John has decided to carry the generator in the outdoor storage bin towards the rear of the van, and it fits perfectly there, being so much easier to get out when we need it. He is now not so reluctant to get it for me when I want coffee! For me, that is a great improvement!

Thursday 16th April (Day 4).
The campsite at Underbool Recreation Park was pretty quiet being well off the road and away from the truck noise. It’s one of the reasons we chose to stay there. Early morning there was a coolish breeze, and I shut some of the windows and was out of bed by a bit after 4 am.
Today we drove west along the Mallee Highway in foggy conditions, and then through the border quarantine checkpoint just east of Pinnaroo. With no prohibited items on board it was over very quickly and we were soon on our way to the north and Loxton. The road was narrower and very rocky and we bounced along with the van in tow, having to slow down for a more comfortable ride. There were some large vehicles and b doubles but few cars and we passed through some remote desert like landscape, with dunes and clumps of spinifex, and mallee trees.
In Loxton we bought diesel, shopped in Woolworths and then visited the caravan toilet dump point. We were headed towards the Goyder Highway and Burra Creek Gorge within about an hour, and used the time while we had phone signal to check emails, voice mails and Facebook messages, make phone calls. Having gained a half an hour we decided we could get to Burra Creek Gorge where Judy and Barry were planning to stay for a couple of nights. Wet and windy weather was predicted for much of South Australia for the next couple of days, and it would be good to avoid driving in it.
We stopped for lunch on the roadside somewhere before Morgan, just pulling the van into a dirt track in a level place. As we headed north, the weather deteriorated and it rained, becoming heavier the further we drove. When we reached the Gorge, we were surprised to find only a few vans and campers dotted around. There has been considerable re vegetation work, with hundreds of small plants in protective sleeves placed in roped off areas which were previously places that campers could park. The large unstable and dangerous, but magnificent river gums have also been roped off, I guess for safety reasons so limbs don’t drop and kill unsuspecting campers.
However there are still many,many places to park and the reserve runs along kilometres of the creek, with banks of garbage bins provided and the occasional drop toilet. We had just pulled up and were going to investigate a place which would fit us and Judy and Barry’s 25 ft monster of a van, when they drove in. Within a few minutes the men decided where we were was ok, and with a few minor adjustments to ensure we could get satellite reception for the football on Friday night, we were soon level and parked.
John had inadvertently forgotten to connect the Anderson plug when we finished lunch and the fridge had been off all afternoon. Luckily it was a cool day and no real damage had been done! I will have to ensure its been done in future, as this isn’t the first time it’s happened!

We set about getting the place waterproof, with shade cloth walls erected around the awning, and the retrieved the outdoor table and other furniture from the ute. Judy and I requested the generators be connected and started so we could have coffee and a catch up and the men had a few beers while we sat in the awning shelter. It was really cold and wet and I had to add a couple of layers of clothing. The new ‘ outdoor camping slippers’, a pair of quite ugly but practical warm navy blue ‘nana’ shoes with thick soles were tried out and passed the test, when worn with a pair of socks. I require orthotics and slipped an old pair into the soles and these proved a layer of insulation. Even if they only last for the winter they will be well worth it.
It was almost dark when we decided to both retreat to the inside of our vans. Enjoyed a hot shower after dinner, and then watched a couple of shows on TV before bed.

Friday 17th April.
It rained for much of the night, with some very heavy showers. During the night I put out a bucket and then a big plastic 20litre tub to collect rainwater off the awning, and we had an extra 40 litres by dawn. I used it throughout the day and we now have a 20 litre plastic jerry can full in reserve.
After breakfast, John and I donned the wet weather gear and set out for a short walk up the gorge and along the campsites. Unfortunately we couldn’t cross the creek due to water flow, however scrambled our way as far as we could along the side following the tracks of previous walkers. We were only gone for maybe half an hour but it felt good to be out in my boots and doing some exercise. We both ran the generators for a couple of hours to give the batteries a boost as they are beginning to drop. Barry and Judy have a very large car fridge freezer which they are trying to keep running, on top of all their other 12v stuff.
Around 10 am the four of us took a drive into Burra to have a look around. The other three visited the bakery while I tried to contact VAST to switch our service to SA programmes. Finally, after waiting on the line for ages, I hung up and emailed them instead, receiving a reply before we heft Burra, that it had been done. I also posted a birthday gift for a friend and bought and posted the two grandchildren a postcard of Burra. Frustratingly I forgot to buy an A4 notebook which I feel the need to use as a journal with in depth notes of our travels. While I can do it on the laptop, in times when we aren’t powered and the weather is overcast or wet, especially for days, I prefer to conserve the use and have the power there for other uses, primarily the TV. I can always write up the blog when we get to powered sites. I will have to remember when we are in Port Augusta on Monday.
During the afternoon Judy and I took a short walk up the hill in misty rain to a group of old abandoned buildings: a farm house residence, and assorted ourbuildings. The gate was wired shut but being farm girls (about 60 years ago) we climbed over the top and wandered around, taking photographs. They were fascinating, the residence once must have been very grand, with painted ‘frames’ around each window. Out the back, past the stone tank, there was a long thatched roof building, maybe a stable, now in a state of disrepair, with the roof collapsing, and behind the house an underground storage room or maybe cellar. I wished I had taken my Nikon camera instead of the phone but had to make do.
The remainder of the afternoon was passed with a get together like the previous day outide our van in the shelter of the shade cloth walled awning, the other having a drink and me a coffee, before retiring to our vans. I used the gas cooker outdoors to cook sausages to have with our vegetable mash and we ate outside. For some reason already this trip, John is happy to eat and sit outside more..something which makes me happy. He has already remarked that this is a great van.
After our showers and washing up, he was also happy to be able to watch a few hours of football. I went to sleep with earplugs in place after reading for a while, so it didn’t disturb me.

Saturday 18th April.
The salubrious Iron Knob was our destination today..a ghost town of old derelict buildings, vehicles and I suspect people, and a really interesting place. We had stayed overnight there two years ago on our way to the West and knew it had a large flat place to park for a few days, a toilet dump and flushing toilets and we could use us to wait until we had the BT 50 serviced in Port Augusta on Monday.
When we pulled in to a service station to fill up with diesel in SouthernPort Augusta, John noticed that the stone stomper had sustained some damage at the rear, underneath the front of the van. We parked off to the side and he found that one of the small bolts attaching it to the van had sheared off and consequently it had dropped and been dragging on the road surface…which had rubbed a longish tear where the mesh joins vinyl surrounds housing the bungee cords. He luckily carries spares of bolts and within 10 minutes had replaced it, but it required taping together in Iron Knob and we will have a look at it when we reach Streaky Bay and decide whether we will have to freight it back to Christian to repair while we cross the Nullarbor on the sealed road, as we will need it in WA later in the trip.
We were happy to see that Knobbies rest area was largely vacant when we pulled in and parked and half an hour later Judy and Barry were able to park alongside. Alas there was no water tap, apart from one on the tank, and near the toilet dump without a normal tap on top (unable to be used without a 4 way tap connector which we have and will use as we leave on Monday). John had no choice than to fill the 20 litre jerry can a few times and then decant it into the van’s tanks.

Iron Knob has good phone signal which is a great advantage when we are staying a few days in a place and need to check road conditions, book accommodation etc and generally keep communicating with family and friends.
The generators were set up at the rear of the vans, facing the road. We had to run ours for over 5 hours on Sunday morning to try to boost our batteries. After days of cloudy and rainy weather the level was too low to charge from the solar panels. We became almost used to the noise and much of it was carried away by the icy wind which blew relentlessly for our three days there. We weren’t the only people using generators as there were some huge rigs; long buses towing trailers and small cars, and fifth wheelers too, alongside tiny backpacker tents and all manner of vans.
During the couple of days we did a number of walks around the town, pausing often to look at and photograph the old corrugated iron homes, abandoned cars, boats and other vehicles, closed business premises, including the ‘Bowling Club’ and Hotel, service station and Motel, and churches one of which is also constructed of corrugated iron. Rumour has it that a resident opens the Bowling club on Saturday afternoons until 7pm. Drinks are ‘bring your own’ and it’s a strictly social occasion. We didn’t go so don’t know whether this is true.
A sign proudly proclaims that Iron Knob is the birthplace of Australia’s steel industry and I remember being taught about the importance of the place and BHP’s thriving mining operations here when I was in primary school back in the late ‘50’s. On the Sunday when I spoke with some of a big group of 4WD drivers who stopped for lunch, a man told me his father worked in the mine back in the 60’s when it was a prosperous town. Although the mine has re-opened the workers are now bussed in from Whyalla so it is not likely to once again thrive!
The ground here is parched, largely bare and red and any garden plants are cactus.

Week 2 Monday 20th April
Iron Knob.
On Monday morning at 7.30, John and I set out for Port Augusta where we spent the morning while the ute was serviced. It was very cold, around 7 degrees when we left the camp but warmed up and was clear and sunny, although the icy winds kept the temperature low, later. We walked across the bridge to the shops and then back to pick up the ute, then grocery shopped and filled with diesel and were back in Iron Knob for a late lunch.

Our sheltered and shade cloth walled awning space was used to have communal evening meals with Judy and Barry and another friend, Ros, and sometimes we had lunch there together also. I phoned Mt Ive to check road conditions and we have now booked sites in Streaky Bay from Anzac day (25th) for 5 or possibly 7 nights.
John spent a while deflating the van and BT 50 tyres to around 30 psi, checking wheel nuts and reloading the boat which had to be unloaded for the ute service.

Tuesday. 21st April.
This morning Judy and Barry and we two packed up the vans. Before leaving the free camp, we pulled alongside the dump point and emptied our toilets then filled the water tanks of our vans.
We bid Ros good bye (shes off to Roxby Downs and then part of the Oodnadatta track in a small camper van, an adventurous route for a single 70 something year old woman.)
I was so looking forward to the next few days…our first venture off the bitumen to Mt Ive Station, a sheep station with campground, 120 kms NW of Iron Knob, on the Kingyoona Road. The turn off was only a km or so to the west and after a short pause while I photographed the road sign and while John opened the dust vent on the canopy, we were on our way. Within a couple of kms we were overtaken by a fuel tanker and closer to Mt Ive, and much later in the morning had to slow down while two B double sheep trucks passed us. We used the CBs to talk, warning of approaching traffic or any rough patches , we were able to enjoy the passing country, the parched red earth dotted with saltbush and small trees. It’s hard to imagine rain ever falling and water flowing along the small depressions and creeks but I guess it must occasionally. There was little visible stock, or any animal life at all.
We pulled in to drop donations for the RFDS in a disused Phone box but didn’t stop again until we reached the Station. Having booked powered sites we were directed to them and able to choose where we parked so left that to the men to decide. The surface of the campground is red earth and there are small trees dotted around so they successfully managed to dodge those and we were soon getting set up side by side behind the long accommodation and amenities block. It was nice to have power again after 8 days without and we could have connected the water and filled our tanks from the single tap near the power pole had we needed to.
As we have found with the Stations we have stayed on, each one has individual characteristics. Mt Ive did not disappoint, with its cluster of buildings housing staff, machinery, and visitor accommodation. There are three picturesque stone cottages with displays of antique farm machinery and equipment around, also fuel pumps and tanks, and water tanks, animal yards, chook pen…so much to look at and photograph. After lunch Judy and I had a wander around and took photos. We were able to use the laundry to do some washing and for me, it was the first opportunity since leaving home. It dried in the afternoon sun, hung beneath our awning. The large machines cost $6 a load, understandable out here were every drop of water is so precious.
The temperature was beautifully mild and warm, and the winds which had troubled us closer to the coast was absent finally! We discussed our plans for the next couple of days with Judy and Barry, deciding only to do the easier tracks and drives using the folder of information provided by the Station and given to me on our arrival.

Wednesday 22nd April.
After breakfast John and I set out on foot to walk to the summit of Mt Ive, approximately 3.7kms one way. I took the phone, along with the camera, as there is a phone signal from on top. It is actually one of the 4WD tracks, and starts from the campground, follows the road and then crosses the paddock, through a couple of gates before taking a gentle slope up the hill and around the ridge. As we walked higher it became rockier but was basically an easy walk for us. The vegetation changed from saltbush to spinifex and it was very much like our walks in the Pilbara. We disturbed hundreds of feral goats making their way down the hill to water but otherwise saw only a kangaroo. Before we reached the summit, with radio repeater tower and rocky cairn, my phone told me I had emails and messages. I took lots of photos of the views from the top, and of course each other posing with the summit cairn before we started back down. We walked back alongside the airstrip to reach the camp, and after a coffee and packing our lunches, the four of us, set out to do the drive to Lake Gairdner and other points of interest along the way, in our vehicle.
The access to Lake Gairdner is on private property owned by Mt Ive and through a locked gate on the old vermin dog fence, some 8kms off the Kingooyna road. On our way there we did the short detour to the Organ pipe, rock formations walking a short distance from the car park to view these geometrical shaped pillars on the side of the gully and higher up close to the top of theridge.

Lake Gairdner was an amazing sight. A vast expanse of flat sparkling, pure white stretching to the horizon, like an enormous skating rink, fringed with red earth and rocks. To make it even more impressive, there were streaky white cloud formations and it was simply stunning. I had no concept of how hard the surface would be but it felt very solid as we walked across its surface. Since our visit there I have thought about it quite often…how the explorers must have felt when they first glimpsed it, thinking they had found drinkable water, only to find instead salt when they arrived.

We had lunch sitting on the red earth in the campground, shaded by a tree and enjoying the solitude and isolation of this place before getting back into the car and driving to the Embankment, a soldi rock structure built in 1892 to store water in a gully a couple of kms off the main track. It is currently dry although there were a couple of small pools of very rancid water sitting below it in the rocks. Amazing to think that over a century ago someone had built this and tried to survive in this harsh country.
We drove the 30 something kms back to the campground and had a lovely afternoon. I walked around and took more photos, also visited the sweet little kid (baby goat) being bottle fed which very much appreciated a neck and back rub and is already quite tame.
We used the showers in the amenities for the second day as the water there is instantly hot (too hot), heated by a wood donkey and it was lovely not to have to be so frugal with water as when using the shower and our tank water in the van.
We had afternoon drinks (herbal tea for me) and then barbequed and ate our dinner together before retiring to the vans. It was cloudy tonight and a warmer one.

Thursday 23rd April
Today John and I again walked to the summit of Mt Ive, partly for the exercise, but also because we wanted to phone one of our daughters to ask whether she and the rest of the family were ok. We had seen news footage of severe storms back on the East Coast, with strong winds and very heavy rainfall. I had a lengthy conversation with her which was good, and then sent a couple of messages to another daughter and our daughter in law before walking back down to the van. Met Judy and Barry along the way who were also doing the walk, andwhen they returned to the camp, we four set out to drive to the wombat holes and the Organ Pipes at the Pillars.
The Organ pipes today were impressive and we were able to get up very close and take photos, and they were accessed by a short, easy walk from the car park. I also photographed John driving across a 4WD creek.

While we had seen wombat holes close to home, the country where they were was really different and interesting, compared to the other drives we had done around the station, with small low plateaus and depressions which almost looked man made, all dotted with salt bush and blue bush.
By the time we arrived back at the vans, after collecting some firewood, it was a very late lunch. The rest of the afternoon seemed to disappear, swallowed up by uploading photos to the laptop and cooking up an evening meal to eat in front of the fire. I prepared a damper , our first for this trip, and John cooked it to perfection, with brown crisp crust. It was delicious served with salty butter and as usual I ate double what I really needed!

We have had a wonderful, interesting few days at Mt Ive and I am so glad we made the effort to visit. It’s a friendly place and I had the opportunity to speak at quite some length with one of the owners who are not always as visible to visitors like us.

Friday April 24th.
I was awake early this morning, sitting at the laptop writing up journal so I could transfer the notes to the EO blog when we reached Streaky Bay and a few days with good internet signal. It’s a favourite part of my day, hearing the first bird Mt Ive, magpies and parrots, occasional human sounds as the firebox for the wood donkey is fed…
Last nights cloudy skies looked more serious as we packed up, a very dark purple in colour in the direction we were to travel. Just as we left he campground , light rain began to fall and we travelled through intermittent showers and misty rain for the first half of the trip, until we had turned towards Minnipa and the Gawler Ranges. The road surface was in excellent condition, one of the best unsealed roads we have travelled on, and remained firm except for one or two short patches which were starting to get a bit sticky. Landscape varied and changed, ranging from flat saltbush covered plains to rounded hills dotted with spinifex, mallee and sandy winding road in the Gawler Ranges, and was beautiful. We saw no traffic until close to Minnipa, and passed only a couple of buildings where the road was close to station homesteads. Occasionally we had to slow down for roos and emus to cross the road. I didn’t want it to end!
About 10 kms from the turn off to Pildappa Rock, signs of agriculture appeared. Flat paddocks covered in short blonde crop stubble, farm machinery and buildings.
We pulled up at Pildappa rock before 12 and found the main picnic and rest area vacant which was rather surprising. Before choosing a park for the night we drove a loop around the rock (not all that easy with longer vans as there are some tight squeezes between the road side poles in a couple of places also small shrubby trees spreading onto the track) and saw a small group of campers in vans huddled together in the most sheltered area. The wind was howling and icy and we wanted to park so door side of vans were sheltered so eventually we did a loop back to the main area and parked close to where John and I have stayed twice previously because it was less sloping. Barry and Judy managed to get close to level without too much troube but we weren’t so fortunate and it took a while, requiring us to unhitch. It was really unpleasant.. horizontal scuds of rain passing overhead!
We didn’t do all that much during the afternoon as the wind howled and it rained occasionally, so spent the time inside the vans. I managed a short walk up on top of the rock and almost blew sideways! Judy and Barry came and had drinks inside our van for an hour or so while I had the oven on, preparing pizza bases and it was very cozy.
Other vans arrived, one parking as close to Judy and Barry as they would in a van park, with barely an awnings width between, and they were not impressed!
After dinner, John enjoyed watching the Friday night footy, although the wind was so strong that even the satellite signal was affected. I slept really soundly as I decided to use the earplugs, mainly to block out the footy noise.

Pildappa Rock has a donation box, a long drop toilet and picnic area and is a very scenic and quiet place to spend a night, well off the Eyre Highway. We have used it twice before and always enjoy a walk over the surface.

Saturday 25th April.
Unfortunately the wind was still with us and despite seeing occasional patches of clear blue sky, the showers also passed over while we were still at the rock, and the men inflated the tyres, in preparation for our return to the bitumen. Despite the adverse weather, we all managed a walk around on top where the small depressions were filled with water, and the showers enhanced the colours of the rock.
We set out for Streaky Bay around 10 am as we only had approximately 100 kms to travel. Once we turned off the Eyre Highway, we drove into very strong head winds, the showers returned and we recalled our last visit two years go when we arrived at the coast in identical weather!

Once at the Foreshore Tourist park ($31 powered site) we were soon allocated our sites and set about getting the vans unhitched. The shadecloth walls were all erected to provide a haven from the wind and rain but we are lucky in that the awning side of the vans are facing away from the wind direction, and relatively sheltered.

It’s a bit of a shock to be in our first van park for this trip, with neighbours only a couple of metres away. However we are only here for 5 nights and it’s so the men can fish and get some king George whiting, and squid! And I am happy to have phone and internet signal for the few days too.

The boat was unloaded, Mangrove Jack trailer set up, and all made ready for tomorrow, should the weather improve! John and Barry took a drive to investigate launching places and Judy drove to the supermarket and the town for her to have a look around. Although it’s Anzac day, the supermarket opened at 1pm. Other places are all closed until Monday or maybe Tuesday if the 27th is a public holiday. Not sure here in SA.

I had forgotten how bad the water pressure is in this park, with barely enough coming through the taps of the van, although I used the washing machine with no problems. John tried using the TV antenna to get footy but gave up and used the satellite dish which had to be reset to find a signal. The only channel he could receive on TV was ABC, normally the only one we watch apart from the football.

I used the slow cooker for the first time, and cooked us a lovely beef, vegetable curry. There is enough left to freeze for a meal to have while we are crossing the Nullarbor.

Week Three.

Monday 27th April to Thursday morning 30th April
Streaky Bay Foreshore tourist park.

While the fishing has been somewhat disappointing during the past few days, the men managed to take the boat out for most of three days and caught enough fish ( a couple of king george whiting, tommy ruff and salmon trout, plus one squid) for our dinner each night. A couple of evenings, after dinner, they also drove to the jetty and unsuccessfully tried for squid. Yesterday, John spent a few hours washing then re loading the boat and re packing the tub of the ute and during the afternoon, fished from the jetty which produced a much better catch.

We have shared our evening meals and sat beneath the shade cloth protected awnings but needed extra layers as the weather is cool here and winters chill is evident already. The sun has shone only intermittently and the heater has been put to use for a couple of hours each morning.

Judy and I have walked to the shops and two mornings I walked the opposite direction along a cycle pathway which hugs the shoreline and road towards the boat ramp for some much needed exercise.
I've managed to catch up with most of the family and hear their news, and do some research for the next stage of the trip.

A couple of days ago, we took the Stone Stomper off the van and made a decision to return it to Glenelg for repairs so we are without it now until we reach Esperance next week, and will feel vulnerable whenever we venture off the bitumen, even though we only plan to do a few kms. The tape John had put on it at Iron Knob had mostly come unstuck due to the dusty road to Mt Ive. I'v made arrangements to collect it from the PO in Esperance as we aren't sure where we will stay when we get to that part of the country yet.

Gas bottle has been refilled, and water tanks topped up plus we have an extra 30 litres on board, as last time we did the crossing, we ran out of water on the last night. I spent a couple of hours yesterday preparing and cooking vegetables...roasting, par boiling etc so that we will have a good range once we cross through the Border quarantine check point. Also have packs of frozen vegetables for some variety.

The plan is to stay in a couple of new places this time we cross the Nullarbor, at Farm and Station stays (one either end) as well as use three different roadside rest areas. It's the first time for Judy and Barry so they will want to stop at various points of interest, as well as do the Head of Bight and other short trips off the Eyre Highway and we don't plan to rush our drive.

I am so looking forward to getting out of this park and being mobile again!

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