Sydney to Perth Xmas 08 (part 2 of 2)

Saturday, Jan 10, 2009 at 01:00

RodH, Perth

After a quick few days in Perth we headed off again, this time down to Cheynes Beach east of Albany on the South Coast. There were 11 of us from 3 families for a week’s camping at the Cheynes Beach caravan park. The park was absolutely full, as you would expect, and highly geared to fishing - from about 4:00am the tractors would start up to drop boats into the water.

Cheynes Beach is reasonably isolated but is a good central spot for all activities in the Albany, Prongerups and Stirling regions. The weather was cool most days, overcast with a few showers and a bit windy. That restricted our time at the beach and also allowed us to prove we are still not very good at fishing.

We spent some time driving the older kids to the local surf beaches along some interesting coastal tracks. Day trips from this area included Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges, the Valley of the Giants Tingle Trees near Walpole and the Gap at Albany. A week with friends in a situation like this creates lifetime memories and is a great way to celebrate New Year.

It was all over too quickly and we had to move on again. We headed east along the coast towards Esperance, visiting Raventhorpe and Hoptoun that were soon to be rocked by BHP’s mine closure.

After topping up with provisions in Esperance we kept moving east, looking in at some of the locations such as Yokinup Bay at the mouth of the Thomas River in the Cape Arid National Park. Before long we turned north and heading for Mt Ragged on Balladonia Road off Fisheries Road. This track was still wet from a month before and is not as well maintained as Parmango Road further west. Being a single car we were pleased to see wheel marks from recent travellers. It is an interesting track – overgrown, lots of detours around the bog holes, and rough as it gets closer to Mt Ragged. The mud from the bog holes we couldn’t avoid covered everything and stunk! I’m glad we didn’t get stuck and have to do a messy recovery.

Mt Ragged is a beautiful isolated spot. It would be a great place to spend a couple of days in spring or autumn. Camping facilities with a pit toilet are provided.

At Mt Ragged the road joins Goya Road which comes up from Israelite Bay, and heads north until it finally joins the main Parmango Road. On this final bit of road into Balladonia we must have been travelling a bit fast for the conditions. The road is very rough and corrugated in places and we lost the pre-cleaner (recovered but a bit bent) and the rear number plate.

At Balladonia we felt like a major part of the holiday was over and it was a long drive on the bitumen back to Ceduna. After Ceduna we looked forward to finally getting into the Gawler Ranges. There were a couple of days of hotter weather – we had been very lucky with below-average temperatures.

From Poochera we cut across to the main road to Yardia and enjoyed a relaxing investigation of the Gawler Ranges National Park.

It was almost deserted – one of the two cars we spotted was a Parks vehicle. I enjoy the countryside in the Gawler Ranges – saltbush flats, spinifex on the hills, and wonderful rugged red-rock scenery. The evidence of the previous station life is evident and unlike most national parks, was being maintained. Bores and Tanks have been upgraded and buildings are mostly in use.

All the spots in the park are worth visiting – the organ pipes, stone dam, Old Paney and Kolay Mirica falls were our favourites.

Bush camping was as at the Kolay Hut, which would be a great location for a group – the huts have been set up for camper use and the donkey hot water system could be fired up. Being a hot day, and on our own, we just took advantage of the shade trees at the creek. If the park was busier then a number of the designated bush camping spots would be suitable.

From the Gawler Ranges we headed South, keen to see a little more of the middle of the Eyre Peninsular and use that as an excuse to catch the ferry from Lucky Bay (near Cowell) to Wallaroo. The ferry ride was relaxing, being half empty, and the weather was calm.

From here it was a (reasonably) straight drive back to Sydney. Taking easy roads we went from Kadina (home of the worst coffee I have paid for in over a decade), Clare, Burra, Morgan and Renmark.

For a change we avoided the Victorian speed cameras on the Sturt Highway and instead went via the north side of the Murray. The Chowilla Game Reserve is worth a return visit, with lots of identified bush camping spots along Chowilla Creek. A pleasant surprise was the informative Todd Obelisk on the NSW SA border explaining why there is a dogleg in the SA border as it crosses the Murray. It was also interesting to learn a little more of the history around Lake Victoria and Rufus River.

Wentworth is worth a visit if only for the symbolic junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers. Another reason is that Wentworth appears to be the poor cousin of Mildura, so prices are cheaper and residents are VERY happy to see you.

After a comfortable night in Wentworth we headed to Mildura to have breakfast at Stephano’s, one of the TV Chef’s contributions to the region. The rest of the day was a steady drive along the Murray, looking for future spots to visit and satisfying my love of ferries.

We spent some time at Tocumwal to have a look around the famous WWII airfield. My father-in-law was a mechanic on B24 liberators which were based here although he spent most of his time in Darwin and the islands north of Australia.

We decided to avoid the Hume Highway and headed to Sydney via Oaklands (former important WWII depot), Wagga Wagga, Junee (wonderful railway buildings), Cootamundra, Young, Cowra, Bathurst and over the blue mountains to home.

We were exhausted, especially since I’d had a cold for the last week, but very pleased that we had turned a simple family visit into an interesting trip. We would love to take three months for a trip like this but we either do it quickly or not at all. Such are the time restrictions most of us live with.

The facts and figures: we travelled 10,400kms in 28 days, averaged 13.9l/100km, and paid an average of $1.36/l for diesel. We battled a headwind for the first two days out of Sydney and that returned the worst fuel economy of the trip.
Rod, Perth
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