Six Nights on the Nullarbor and Puzzling 12 volt Power issues

Sunday, May 10, 2015 at 09:01

Member-Heather MG NSW

Nundroo Yalata Camp. Thursday 30th April

The prospect of our third East West crossing didn’t diminish my excitement as we left Streaky Bay and turned towards Ceduna. With Judy and Barry accompanying us and it being their first time as Nullarbor travellers, I knew we had the prospect of us once again taking our time to drive and stay along the almost 1200 kms between Ceduna and Norseman.
There was a stop to fill up with diesel in Ceduna and then a short stop Penong. We kind of had plans to stay a night at a farm stay on the Fowler’s Bay road, and actually drove the 10 kms of dirt road to the front entrance. However once there we made a decision to turn around, then find a place to lunch and continue to a bush camp along the Eyre Highway to stay the night. I’m not sure why…maybe the sight of a small plane on the farm runway, or a number of vans clustered close together in a sloping patch behind some of the farm buildings did it, but it looked too busy for us after having spent 5 nights in a van park! Judy and Barry were happy to follow us and we were careful to consult with them before making the decision.
Back almost to the junction of the roads, we pulled in alongside a couple of tall silos in a level space and had our lunch, and fought with the very friendly flies which met us as we got out of the car and tried to get inside the vans.
After driving for a while, we pulled into a signed rest area between Nundroo Roadhouse and Yalata which had tracks leading off from the rear of the space well back from the road and hidden by small trees from the traffic noise. We choose to park with our awning side along a fence, in full sun and no tall trees to block the satellite dish signal. It was only mid afternoon so the men put out awnings, ground mats and furniture, then proceeded to search for firewood. I had washing to dry so it was hung out to partially shade us from the afternoon sun.

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Within minutes a generator produced the aroma of Nespresso coffee…How did I ever hate the sound of those noisy smelly machines?? The men decided that a coffee for Judy and I gave them permission to have a first beer, and we celebrated our first Nullarbor camp and fire with a view through a barbed wire fence, of parched plants and birdsong, their sounds drowned out by the engines of road trains passing in the distance.
I was surprised to hear my mobile ‘ping’ as it received facebook messages, and to be able to receive emails, as we expected not to have any phone signal. It seemed so fitting that news of my win in the ExplorOz photo comp was received here..at a bush camp on the Nullarbor! What a surprise and an honour! I’m so sorry that we can’t attend the gathering in July, but we have so many months of wonderful travel in store to compensate and will still be somewhere in WA then.
We watched ABC News and later, before bed, an hour long show and decided the Satellite dish was worth every cent as it enabled us to keep in touch with news, weather and our favourite programmes! By the time we went off to sleep it was getting cool and by morning the thermometer inside on the wall told us it was under 9 degrees. The traffic noise didn’t disturb us, and because of the cool temperature and dark, I had a great nights sleep.
Friday May 1st.
Koonalda Camp.
It was a great day. We pulled up at the usual places: the Nullarbor sign, the the short detour to the head of Bight and happily paid the $5 fee to walk along its wooden ramps and platforms and to the lookouts for spectacular views of the coast and ocean. Despite blue skies for much of the day, the wind was icy and became increasingly strong.

Of course we pulled in to the Nullarbor roadhouse and paid the price for the diesel ($1.79 litre), used the spotless and modern bathrooms and had a wander through the shop and restaurant, just for a look.
And a while later we pulled in to the first Bunda Cliff viewing area and walked the few metres to peer down to the ocean. Because there was some cloud cover, it was a great day to take photos with no strong shadows and I climbed up and stood on top of the small stone wall to get a different angle of view.

John and I had discovered a great place to stay a night, off the Highway a few hundred metres and hidden from the road, not mentioned in the popular free camping books, on our first trip cross some 6 or 7 years ago and we had plans to stay there again with Judy and Barry tonight, despite it being only late lunch time when we found it. I had marked it in my maps book and we were thrilled to find it once again, and to find it deserted with plenty of space for both vans.
Our problem was parking with shelter from the howling winds but we left that to the men and waited patiently for them to park and get the vans level. I don’t know why we bothered because within a couple of hours the wind direction had changed and our awning and door side was exposed to it! Eventually the cold, and light showers drove us indoors.
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We put up the satellite dish and it went bananas trying to locate a signal and finally John had to reboot it! He was anxious to ensure it was working as it was Friday night and there was a rugby league international game on (Aust V’s NZ). He was disappointed to discover that it was postponed due to terrible storms in Brisbane and would not be played until Sunday afternoon.
The generator was put on for coffee and we should have left it going because the clouds stayed around all afternoon and we noticed a drop in battery power on the graph of the Drifter control panel. I did suggest it, as it is easier to keep the batteries topped up than to let them drop and then try to keep boosting. And we knew that the satellite system would be using considerable power for hours that night for the footy.
I also spent some time uploading photos and the remainder of the afternoon was spent indoors doing some research and reading about places to visit and stay in WA.
By 5pm the wind had eased and the men decided it was safe to have a campfire. I prepared a damper, sweetened with chopped medjool dates, and we enjoyed It after dinner by firelight, and later by moonlight… a perfect ending to a lovely day.
Day 3 Saturday May 2nd.
Jillar rockhole (No 6 WA in Camps Australia wide).

So this campsite is one of the designated rest areas alongside the highway, and even has a rustic long drop dunny close to the road along with garbage bins. We knew we wouldn’t be the only two vans there but did hope that anyone else who arrived would have a look before they drove in and select a different area down one of the numerous meandering dirt tracks which lead well back off the road through small trees. And for a while that seemed to be the case.until two large vans arrived and parked maybe 50 metres away with their awning side facing us! Yeah…50 metres is a lot more than we would have in parks but this is a huge sprawling area and it felt like our personal space had been invaded! Before dark a single van parked in a different area but still not too far off…
John and I had stayed here on our previous trip with his sister and brother in law and found it a good place, well off the road and knew it was only a short distance from Eucla.
Luckily we had all done a scout around earlier and discovered a couple of piles of cut firewood which we had collected and claimed! We had a roaring fire once again and ate our steaks cooked on Barry’s barbeque plate with reheated roasted vegetables in its warmth and light.
We also needed to run the generator here for a couple of hours…and should have done so for many more, as the batteries were dropping steadily each day, not helped by cloudy weather. I used the time to upload photos and edit, also tried to charge anything else which has batteries…my toothbrush, kindles, phones…..
And once again it was cloudy…it seems we can’t have a sunny day this trip when we rely on it to keep our solar working!
We did have minimal phone service too which was handy..enough to send messages and get emails but intermittent and weak signal.
This morning after leaving Koonalda camp, we had stopped at the three cliff viewing areas east of the WA border, and once again the light cloud cover made photographic conditions perfect..no strong shadows.
Then it was the mandatory short stop at the border so that we could undergo the quarantine inspection. I had successfully disposed of all of our fresh fruit and vegetables and honey so it was relatively quick and easy…answering a few questions, opening fridge and quite a few random cupboards and locker doors, the van boot and the rear of the ute, also the small esky we carry for lunches in the boat. We just did what was asked and the only thing I had which I was unsure about was the small pack of lightly dried parsley which I had bought in the supermarket a while ago, which I showed. It was ok…good to know for future trips.
We planned to get diesel in Eucla, park level the vans for a while in the rest area and have a walk around the drive down to the remains of the Telegraph station for a wander. Edward John Eyre discovered water at Eucla on his explorations of the area in March 1841, on his way to Western Australia. Eucla was declared a town in 1885. In 1877 the Telegraph station became the most important link in the OTL between Perth and Adelaide and in 1888 the new station was built, becoming the busiest in Australia. The jetty was built nearby and by the early 1900’s apparently over 100 people lived here. In 1927 the Telegraph station was closed and it’s the remains of the cottage which was the accommodation for the staff which remains partially buried by sand today.
The Hotel Motel was built in the 1960’s and according to a local man who I spoke to while he was loading bags of garbage into the back of an old ute there, the population today is 46, 6 of whom are ‘Coppers’ (Police). The town has a Service Station, bar and restaurant, caravan park and mechanical repairs, a museum. There is also a memorial to Eyre and his party of explorers near a lookout with views down to the coast.
We took a stroll around the place, showing Judy and Barry the van park and where we had stayed on our previous visit. It’s a good place to stay if you need hot showers, and a little oasis but the power outlet needs to be checked before you set up the van, as some don’t work.
Afterwards, we drove down to the ruins of the telegraph station and after quite a lengthy chat to an interesting lady, I wandered around and took some great photos..my best in three trips to there.
Sunday 3rd May and Monday 4th May
Caiguna’ Camp.
We were the first people to get moving this morning..still on SA time so were up in the dark! Have decided we will switch to WA time tomorrow when we hope we can contact VAST (open Mon to Fri 9am to 4.30 eastern Australian time).

We pulled in to the roadhouse at Madura and bought diesel then drove to the top of the pass and parked in the lookout, on the right hand side of the road and took in the views. Last trip across, two years ago, it was raining and little did we know that the rain would follow us across much of the SW of the state for weeks. Today however it was clear, although still cloudy!
We had one other stop, at Caiguna roadhouse for more diesel and toilet before finding our campsite for tonight (and as it turned out the following one as well.) further along the road. We had discovered by accident on the previous trip a great place, hidden from the road by trees, which would fit our two vans and we were very happy to find it empty! The day was very warm, and there were swarms of very annoying friendly small flies which found their way under our glasses and inside our vans, despite our every effort to dissuade them! Despite the temperatures there was no sun and the clouds hung around!
The satellite system was up quickly, generators connected and John watched two games of football. I left the generator going for half the afternoon but it needed to run for hours more really. After the footy finished, the men collected firewood and we ate another meal by firelight as the huge moon rose in a now almost cloudless sky!

After our beautiful hot showers, we stayed up late and watched the final episode of ‘Fortitude’ then turned our clocks back an hour and a half to WA time which made it about 9pm!
Once again we had quite good phone and internet signal which was convenient as before we left there, Judy managed to phone and book us into the Pink Lake van park in Esperance for Wednesday and Thursday nights.
When we woke on Monday morning the wind was already strong and coing from the West. We made a decision to stay where we were rather than try to drive straight into it, a wise choise as it turned out, as it became stronger as the day progressed. We even put the slide out in and the satellite dishes down and the generator ran for much of the morning as our battery level continued to drop. John spent his day lying on the bed reading but while the generator was running I used the laptop and edited some 200 photos taken since Streaky Bay.
We had issues with our batteries again tonight and were suddenly left in the dark. Three times as it tried to reboot, there was a short beep as the power came back on then shut down again. Each time everything we were using came back on. The couple of lights, gas hot water…and it also rebooted the satellite dual channel receiver box, the TV booster (which we don’t use)….
We aren’t sure what is happening or why but there is a continual draw on the power of close to two amps even when we aren’t using anything, and it’s a mystery to us as to why! This is making life away from 240 volt power very difficult, yet we have been used to traveling this way for many years now, in the previous two vans! Maybe there is a loose wire or bad connection?? Will phone Jayco warranty in the morning while we have a phone signal, have a chat, and get phone number for a check in Esperance at the authorised repairer there.
We also have an issue with the Satellite tv..still on SA channels so time difference is annoying.. I did email and thought it was sorted but the dish has to be up and ours wasn’t because of the wind!
Will phone them tomorrow also. Comforting that Judy also has the same issue!
The wind was still way too strong to think of campfires tonight so we had dinner inside our vans, separately.
Tuesday 5th May. 10 Mile rocks 24 hour rest area,

Managed to phone Vast and got channels working then Jayco. Spent quite some time talking to Barbara whom I remembered from a couple of years ago. She is lovely…patient and happy to talk. Noted our 12v electric problem also the leak in the shower and gave me number of Esperance and also Albany repairers then switched me over to a tech man (Gary) who discussed with me the electrical issues. Suggested a loose connection or wire to smart charger maybe…was very helpful and concerned and asked that I let Barbara know the outcome of our visit to repairer.
I have booked the van in at Esperance tomorrow afternoon at 1pm so we can conveniently unhitch and leave it there for the afternoon, on our way into town. Feeling somewhat reassured that it will be resolved.
We called in at Balladonia roadhouse and felt dwarfed by the huge vehicles also there…triple fuel tanker, and huge long wide load which we later had to pass.
I had forgotten how hilly and beautiful the landscape became, especially around Fraser Range Station and beyond. We pulled in at 10 Mile rocks 24 hour rest area and found great large and level spaces well off to the back of the main area with a very scenic view of saltbush and salmon gums in red sand. It was beautiful and we were definitely staying overnight.
Judy and let the men decide how and where to park and then it was just a matter of once again setting up camp…ground mats and minimal furniture out, generators connected for coffee, and firewood collected! After lunch we went for a short walk down a 4WD track across a depression which must sometimes be filled with water, but now grew small stunted succulent type plants. When the sun was out (occasionally) the colours were just beautiful here and around the rest area, and then once again in the evening, a huge round moon rose in the sky as we were sitting around the camp fire. We savoured what was to be our last night on the Nullarbor, for tomorrow we would reach Esperance.
10 Mile rocks is a great overnight place to stay with a clean long drop toilet and table and bench seats, and garbage bins close to the road. I amglad that people seem to heed the 24 hour rules as when we pulled in around lunch time there was no one else there parked for the night, and no litter blowing around.
We have managed to have hot showers each night for 6 nights and still have water in the tanks, although one is flashing empty. John poured in an extra 20 litres but we still have 10 litres in reserve..just as a safety measure.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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