Part one of our trip, Perth to Ceduna, 1,922 kilometers.
3rd May, 2015.
Started off at 9am and negotiated our way through the traffic, quite a lot for a Sunday morning. Rather Breezy day as we head towards Meckering, with a lovely cover of clouds.
At the moment, we are driving alongside the pipeline which brings water to Kalgoorlie from Perth, and I cant help but think about the trauma that it's designer must have felt when he thought it didn't work. The poor man committed suicide when in fact the delay in the water delivery, was only a hiccup.
Kellerberrin for lunch.
Theo relaxing at lunchtime.
Another great name for a town....Doodlakine....don't blink or you'll miss it. Oops, missed it.
Passed through Merredin and onto our overnight bush camping stop. Bodalin Pioneer Park is listed in WikiCamps as being day use only, but Camps 8 lists it as an overnight stop. It seems like a nice spot, with extraordinarily friendly flies, fuel station right there and flushing toilets. Unfortunately, in getting far enough off the road, we have come very close to a railway line which runs at the back of the camping area. We'll probably get propelled out of bed in the middle of the night by a passing train whistle.
4th May, 2015.
Well, Bodalin turned out to be a very nice stopover. We had a couple of trains come through during the night, but we were able to go right back to sleep. That was until the storm came through. It blew, and pelted rain, and I had to brave the elements in my jarmies to bring our chairs inside, getting saturated in the process. Bill and Pam had to lower the top of their caravan to stop the banging and flapping. At least the toilets were proper flushing toilets and clean as well, so breakfast and on the road again about 9am.
Had an uneventful drive through to Coolgardie, with that cold wind following us. Stopped for lunch and a walk through town. some beautiful old buildings here
Passed through another little town. Widgiemooltha is a town totally devoid of anything interesting except it's name. So small in fact that we passed through it before I could take a photo.
Heading off now for Norseman, the gate to the Nullarbor. The road here is framed by gum trees and malleys, some being quite spectacular dressed in their bronze bark.
We spent a peaceful night in a little rest stop about 18 kms past Norseman. We even had 4 bars of Telstra coverage. Ohhhhh had a lovely internet fix.
5th May, 2015.
As we progress towards the Nullarbor, the vegetation is gradually changing. Less and less trees and more and more low scrub.
We stopped to view the old Telegraph Station on the road between Ballidonia and Cockelbiddy (that's right folks, another cool town name).
We are now on the 90 mile (146.6 kms) of straight road, which is Australia's longest straight stretch.
Lunch time is coming up........
So we will stop at the Caiguna Blowhole. You can smell the stale cave air as the cave breaths.
The country is getting very barren now, and there is a rather threatening sky overhead.
The roads have been beautiful, wide and flat with plenty of room for passing trucks.
Stopped for the night at Moondini Bluff Rest area, a lovely treed area with plenty of flat ground and room for big rigs. This is the first offroad travel stop past Madura, and there are a lot of fellow travellers here. Lovely and peaceful with birdsong all around us.
6th May, 2015
Strangely, I have always thought of the Nullarbor as a desert, but it is in fact a plain. Nonetheless it is quite dry and barren.
Eucla Motor Hotel, very close to the South Australian border.
Reached Eucla and stopped for morning tea. This is the start of the Great Australian Bight.
Complete with Moby Dick.
Signpost to everywhere.
Plaque dedicated to Edward Eyre, for whom the Highway across the Nullarbor is named.
And these are the beautiful cliffs at the bottom of Australia, The Great Australian Bight.
Signs with a bit of interesting information on flora and fauna.
Stopped for the night in another bush parking area approximately 20k before the Nullarbor Roadhouse. We had a bit of rain overnight but it didn't make the ground boggy. It was a lovely quiet stop with about 5 other vans there.
7th May, 2015.
Had a beautiful hot shower a the Nullarbor Roadhouse. Super clean and new fascilities, $1.00 for 6 minutes of the hottest water, and full 5 bar coverage with Telstra.
A beautiful old Dray at the entrance to the Nullarbor Roadhouse.
Passed the rabbit proof fence. Wiki has this to say about it's history:
The State Barrier Fence of Western Australia, formerly known as the Rabbit Proof Fence, the State Vermin Fence, and the Emu Fence, is a pest-exclusion fence constructed between 1901 and 1907 to keep rabbits and other agricultural pests, from the east, out of Western Australian pastoral areas.
There are three fences in Western Australia: the original No. 1 Fence crosses the state from north to south, No. 2 Fence is smaller and further west, and No. 3 Fence is smaller still and runs east–west. The fences took six years to build. When completed in 1907, the rabbit-proof fence (including all three fences) stretched 2,023 miles (3,256 km). The cost to build the fences at the time was about £167 per mile ($250/km).
When it was completed in 1907, the 1,139-mile (1,833 km) No. 1 Fence was the longest unbroken fence in the world.
for more information on this check the Wiki at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit-proof_fence
Drove through Penong, a little town full of windmills.
Then on to a parking bay a few kilometers before Ceduna. The parking bays all the way across the Nullarbor open out behind them into little tracks, so you can drive away from the road and road noise.
It has been lovely parking in the bush for the nights and I haven't felt unsafe yet, but last night we had an unexpected visit from 3 aboriginals asking for petrol, food or a blanket, none of which we could give. It was cold and it was very dark, save for the lights in the caravans produced by our generator. They knocked on Pam and Bills door to do the begging and Bill was very good with them. We had just crossed the Nullarbor, so the last of our food was gone, the last of our petrol was in the generator, and no way was I going to give them one of our good blankets. So they got Pam to ring for a taxi to take them back to the Yalata Community, and the last we saw of them was when they lit a fire next to the road and sat around it waiting for their taxi. They were harmless.
8th May, 2015.
This morning, we are driving through the quarantine checkpoint, and the inspectors have checked our fridges to see if we are food smugglers (chuckle). His comment was, I think you need to go to the supermarket. I said that that was our second port of call after booking into the caravan park for a week.
13th May, 2015.
As you can see, 5 days have passed since my last entry. We have been in the Ceduna Shelly Beach Caravan Park for that time, and will be leaving on 15th May. The weather has not been kind to us and the rain and cold has forced us indoors most of the time. Our little fan heater has been getting a workout. It even came to the showers with us last night, to take the chill off the air before we abluted. Still, it has been an enjoyable stay, fishless but enjoyable and restful. We are not sure what is ahead of us because the news from the Eyre Peninsular is of a mouse plague. If it is true, it wont be pleasant, so we will make a decision about whether we stay in search of the illusive King George Whiting or squid, or whether we continue on to Port Lincoln.
This was an interesting talking point. It is an aboriginal dug out canoe and is on display in the front of the Caravan Park Office.
Part two of our trip. Ceduna to Port Augusta via Port Lincoln.15th May, 2015
Our week in Ceduna has passed quickly, and it's time to move on. When we woke up this morning, there were a lot of Blue Tits in the caravan park (mine included). I woke at 5.30 for a toilet break, and it was frigid. Had a great deal of trouble getting warm again, and in fact I had to put on some bed socks before things got any better. I don't suppose it will improve over the next few days as we are traveling South, down the Eyre Peninsular, before rounding the corner and starting back Northwards.
The Bays in this part of the world are delightful, and we stopped in at Smoky Bay, a sleepy little oyster town, with some prime real estate.
As seems to be the case with most of the little coastal towns in South Australia, Smoky bay comes complete with its own jetty, quite a long one too.
Down the road a sort way is Streaky Bay, a larger town with an even more beautiful Bay than Smokey Bay.
Streaky Bay has a large shopping center and the sun even came out for a short time while we had our lunch here.
We drove on until we found a little off-road camping area to spend the night. It was very close to the road, but the road was quiet with little traffic, and we were joined by two other vans who squeezed in next to us. I guess it's the old safety in numbers thing.
16th May, 2015.
Another night sent to us directly from the Antarctic. The Blue Tits have admitted defeat and are waving the white flag. This morning I actually put on a pair of closed in shoes. Now this may not seem like a big event, but anyone who knows me, knows that I only wear sandals, EVER. But with the threat of frostbite looming, I figured that the imminent loss of a toe or two, would not be a good look for my sandal wearing prospects in the future.
On to Coffin Bay. I thought the guy who named Coffin Bay must have been having a really bad day, but it turns out that it was named by Matthew Flinders in honor of his friend Sir Isaac Coffin. This place seems to be a mecca for retirees as it's tiny little waterfront caravan park was full of caravans parked very close together, and the water was covered in little dinghies, in search of crabs and king george whiting.
The Pelicans pictured here were waiting for a feed from the young backpackers who were cleaning a feed of herring.
Venus Bay. I have to stop saying the word gorgeous, but there are not too many others that would accurately describe this place. We stopped for morning tea on the waterfront and watched a fishing boat glide through the pristine waters up to the jetty, and unload his catch.
There was also a beautiful playground for kids right on the waterfront and lots of emerald green grass covered in Kangaroo poo. I guess the kangers like Venus Bay as well.
With morning tea out of the way, we headed off again to Port Lincoln, our next stop over.
Parked in the spacious Port Lincoln Caravan Park, we were given seafront sites. I consider this place to be great value. Where else would you get huge level sites divided by hedges, directly on the water front for $29.00 per night. I believe they also do 7 nights for the price of 6 and it wouldn't take much to tempt me to stay longer than the 2 nights we have booked in for. Nonetheless, I guess we have to leave after Bill and Pam have picked up their mail, which has been forwarded onto the post office here, sigh.
We will try our luck with the S. Australian squid this evening, provided we can motivate ourselves to go out into the frosty night.
18th May, 2015.
Sad to say, but the frosty night won and we didn't venture forth squidding. Instead, we started packing the van again.
We pulled out of the park at 10am after Bill and Pam successfully retrieved their mail, and had an uneventful drive to Port Neil, where we caught up with friends we knew from Barn Hill. Nora and John have a lovely house in Port Neil and we had a cuppa and cake with them before going down to the waterfront to have lunch. This trip seems to involve neverending food. (note to self, must think before opening mouth).
Little bit of local history.
Waterfront at Port Neil.
Pulled into the Cowell Harbor View Caravan Park just in time. It bucketed down and the thunder and lightening came close to us.
Looking at these photos, you would never know that we just came through a wild and woolly night.
This is the view from our caravan, over the water in Cowell. We are booked in for two nights.
We have had the first unfortunate incident of our trip. Whilst driving down a wide gravel road, carefully avoiding puddles etc, an idiot in a 4 wheel drive with an offroad camper attached drove straight into a huge puddle of water at speed and passed us, spraying foul water all over the car. It was completely deliberate and unfortunately, as the drivers window was open, everything inside and out was dripping. My Ipad, our GPS, walkie talkies, roof lining and electric windows etc were dripping, as were we. Thank god the Ipad and GPS are o.k. It leaves a really bad taste in you mouth when you come across such an air stealing waste of skin. (You can tell I'm really mad huh.)
Cowell is a very plain town, with nothing much to attract visitors, unless they have a boat. We stayed in the harbor view caravan park, which had a nice outlook over the water, large sites and clean ablutions. Nonetheless, Cowell will not call to us to come back again.
20th May, 2015.
Drove out of Cowell with a dark sky overhead and rain looming. The scenery between Cowell and Whyalla is fairly dull. Getting up towards port Augusta, the vista opens up and the terrain calls for a paint brush and watercolour paper. A distant range in shades of mauve, with the orange soil a gorgeous contrast. The foreground is clad in low olive green shrubbery, with a smattering of stunted trees around. Just gorgeous.
The country is rough and rugged, but beautiful.
The scenery is changing to quite sparse and hard country the closer we get to Woomera.
The sun is right in front of us as we drive onwards towards Pimba, 6kms before Woomera.
We pulled into a council maintained camping ground at Pimba, and my mind is blown with what a council that wants to help travelers, can do. Most of them insist travelers stay in caravan parks, more interested in the tourist dollar than the people. They forget that even if the tourists are not paying for a caravan park fee, they will usually spend money in their pubs, stores and petrol stations. Pimba council has provided a beautiful camping ground, a huge flat area, fenced, with toilets and showers at a charge of $2 for the use of the showers. They provide an honor box on the bar of the nearby tavern for any gold coin donations offered by travelers. Most oblige. This is more like a caravan park than a rest stop. There are a LOT of fellow travelers stopped here, taking advantage of the site and facilities. Well done Pimba.
21st May, 2015.
I woke up this morning and peeped my head out of the blankets and the conversation went something like this:
me: "Is it cold?"
him: "it's cold."
me: "yes, but is it very very cold?"
him: "its "bleeping" cold, but I've got a nice hot cuppa waiting for you, so get up."
So I cautiously emerged from the blankets and this is what I found.
Not really an inducement to get out of bed, ahh well.
Today, we are going to trek out to Woomera, Roxby Downs and Andamooka, so out into the cold we go, with our morning tea and lunch packed. Woomera is an interesting place. Only recently opened to people, it was always a forbidden zone, due to rocket testing etc. The scenery in is very sparse desert/plains, rugged but beautiful in its own way.
A painting waiting to happen.
Greeting us as we drove into Woomera is this sign telling us a bit about what Woomera is all about, plus the rocket, poised as it were, ready for launch.
We drive to the Museum and inspect all the military paraphernalia on display.
The museum is nicely daubed in aboriginal artworks.
It tells the story of co-operation between America and Australia in the establishment of several bases for the testing of rocket, weapons and aircraft.
There is no mention here of the terrible nuclear tests the British carried out, 9 blasts in all, at nearby Maralinga, which is still dangerous in places.
Morning tea was a hurried affair, conducted inside our cars, due to the wind chill factor. Then it was time to motor 79kms down the road to Roxby Downs.
Most of the way the scenery consisted of sparse desert landscape, and we did not expect anything very much to be at the end of our journey. How wrong we were.
We drove out of the desert and into this lush green town of approximately 4,000 people. The people of Roxby Downs want for nothing, BHP Billiton take care of them very well.
Parking was hard to find, the town was so busy.
We absolutely loved the place, and found our way to the Information Center, where we were seated in a full sized movie theater with proper movie theater seating, to watch two videos about the HUGE mining operation that is Roxby Downs. Here, they take Uranium, Copper, Gold and Silver out of the gigantic ore body. Extracting the Copper and Uranium also extracts the gold and silver, which is then marketed world wide.
A hurried lunch, also eaten in the car, then we were off to Andamooka, a little town which has arisen from the discovery of opal in 1930. What an absolute gem of a place (pun intended). I am so glad Pam decided to make the trek out here, because we probably wouldn't have gone otherwise, and we would have missed out on so much history.
These shabby little humpies actually were the original cottages of some of the more fortunate opal miners. Others lived in tents and in that climate, a furnace in summer and icy in winter, their hardship is hard to imagine.
The ceilings were lined in hessian bags dipped in plaster, and they had barely enough room to move around. Some of the entry ways were very low, requiring stooping to get in.
this is one of the original shafts, dug by hand, and equipped with a rope ladder down, and a hand operated winch to wind up the spoils of a days digging.
Ive heard of a bottle shop, but this is just ridiculous lol.
same bottle shop from the inside.
The whole town is pock marked with mounds of dirt, taken out of the earth in the quest for the illusive precious opal. It makes me wonder what we are walking on, and whether it will cave in under our weight.
This whole town has left us with a wetted appetite for what is in store for us at Coober Pedy, our next destination.
22nd May, 2015.
Took to the road at 9am this morning, another freezing one, on our way to Coober Pedy. Quite an uneventful drive through the restricted zone. The road to Coober Pedy goes straight through it and I believe that you're not allowed to leave the road. Pulled in to Coober Pedy, or at least 4 kilometers before Coober Pedy around 2pm. This is where we will base ourselves for our time here. It's called Riba's Underground Camping and Caravan Park. Obviously you cant take your caravan underground, but you can camp underground if you have a tent.
The caravan bays are quite big and flat, and are covered by large shadecloth covered steel structures. Nice and quiet out here at night, and about $5.00 or $6.00 per day cheaper than right in town.
It'll do us nicely.
The town is a total jumble, without any thought to design. People pegged a claim, dug a mine or a dugout house, and they built a street around it. It adds great character to the town.
There are houses and mines under this mess, and it is common to see piles of dirt on the surface, with a water tank and power going to a door into a hill. These people dug out a mine, and after it had finished producing, they made the mine into an underground house. Very sensible since the summer heat is withering, and the winter cold is unbearable.
A lot of the buildings have a surface entrance like the one pictured here to the right of the water tank. The house and mine then tunnel on into the hill and downnnnnn. Underground, the temperature is a steady 24 decrees Centigrade, no need to air condition or heat the premises. A large hole is bored into the ground for the grey water and in a lot of cases even for the sewerage. The center of Coober Pedy is the only place that has a treatment plant, and the only buildings that use it are the caravan parks, hotels etc. All the others rely on their bored hole. Apparently, they work well. Water is supplied by a desalination plant, as this is a desert and has no rainfall to speak of.
This picture shows a lot of dug outs set into hills.
This is a giant model of what the old miners used to use to lower a bucket down the mine shaft. The bucket was then filled up with potch and dirt, and then with two men on the surface mining one handle each, it was brought up and emptied.
Another picture of the Lunar Landscape that is Coober Pedy.
These photographs were taken inside the Umoona Museum, just prior to us doing the Mine Tour. It was soooo interesting. Our guide was 80 year old Rudi, who had been mining Atamooga and Coober Pedy since some time in the 1960's. He and his partners together sunk at least 50 mine shafts by hand, an incredible job considering there were no bore drillers etc., in those days.
As well as being very knowledgeable, he was extremely entertaining and humorous and had a lot of stories of his youth to tell. We loved the tour.
This beautiful statue waited for us at the end of our tour, when we came out of the mine through the gates in the picture.
We proceeded to the jewelery counter, where I bought my beautiful opal earings.
Our evening tour was interesting too, although completely different. We learned a lot about explosives, and our guide had a great deal of information to impart on the geology of the area, why opals display so many different colors, and the difference between the white, black, boulder and crystal opals. Also, he gave a talk and demonstration about divining and how it could be used before a claim is pegged. Very interesting, and I know divining works from personal experience, when I used wire rods to divine water on our 1 acre property many years ago.
24th May, 2015.
We started off our morning with a trip to the Serbian Orthodox Church. This was a nice drive around the back blocks of Coober Pedy to get there, and we probably would have had problems without our GPS. Still, when we arrived, it was interesting to see that they had planted some olive and fruit trees, obviously in the hope of making the place seem more like home. The plants were struggling in the desert climate, but who knows, it might all turn out ok in the long run. The church itself was dug into the hillside, just like most of the other buildings here. It looked very ordinary from the outside. A $5.00 donation per person was requested before you could enter. This should be called an entry fee, not a donation. But it was worth the entry fee as the work that had been done inside was beautiful.
The carving into the Sandstone Rock to make the figures, must have been delicate work.
and the scalloped roof and stained glass windows were beautiful.
We wanted to go from there to Fayes underground home, but being Sunday it was closed. Or we thought it was, our literature from the Information Bureau told us as much, but apparently they did extend their hours to include some of Sunday. Unfortunately, we missed out. Next we visited.....
We would have loved to have a drink with this guy, but unfortunately he was otherwise occupied.
His relatives obviously thought he would be thirsty in the afterlife, so they made his headstone out of a beer keg. I think I would have liked to have known him.
It was an eye opener to see just how many of these people died a premature death. There were very few people interred here, who could claim a ripe old age, even if they were able to. Most seemed to have been under 50, and this is an indication of just how hard life in the opal fields must be. The majority of the people who did the hard yards here were immigrants from many different countries.
The plaque under it explains what these were used for and how they worked, but it may not be possible to read the print. Basically, a Blower, is really a sucker. These trucks are fitted with a huge fan, and as we all know, when you put your hand in front of a fan, you can feel the wind created by the blowing, but if you put your hand behind the fan, the air coming into the fan creates a sucking action. It is how a vacuum cleaner works, and this truck is a giant vacuum cleaner. A large pipe is lowered into the mine and brought to the working face, where it vacuums or sucks the waste material out and into the hopper. The hopper is spring loaded and when it reaches a certain weight, it opens and drops the waste material onto the surface around the mine. This machine was invented in Coober Pedy, and there are many of them dotting the landscape here.
I took this photo through the car window as we were leaving Coober Pede, and I think it pretty much sums up what it's all about.
26th May, 2015
Spent an uneventful day traveling towards Alice . Crossed the border into the Northern Territory then spent the night in an off road stop, which was beautifully clean. We will be ready to hit Alice in the morning.
The sign is different on each side, depending on the direction in which you are traveling.
27th May, 2015.
The countryside is so different now, spotted with trees and hills.
I love this country, it is just so picturesque.
We are going to stay in the park behind the National Transport Museum, but cant put the vans in before 4pm. So we unhitch the vans in a huge vacant area behind the park, turn on the generator, and leave for town, which is about 5 kilometers down the road.
28th May, 2015.
Alice is a sprawling town with a lot of problems. Aboriginals line the streets and shout at each other from one end of the street to the other. Whilst it's politically incorrect to talk about these things, it doesn't make the town inviting to tourists.
Toured the Pioneer Women's museum and Old Gaol and it was quite interesting, but I probably wouldn't bother again.
This was the sunset last night from the caravan park.
While driving out of Alice and back to the Caravan Park, we were lucky enough to spot The Ghan, on it's way to Darwin from Adelaide. What a wonderful sight, with the train going at a slow speed so it's passengers could see Alice, and all the passengers waving and blowing kisses.
When we got back to the Park, Hubby along with Bill and Pam, went to look at the National Transport Museum while I stayed at base because I didn't think I would be interested. I think I chose incorrectly, when they all came back bubbling about how good it had been, and how they wished they had had more time to see it. It was absolutely packed with wonderful cars, trucks and bikes, from the early days until now. It has been gifted a brand new Kenworth truck every time a new model is released, and people come from all over Australia once a year, to rally together and watch the inductions of truckies into the truckies hall of fame. Apparently it would take a couple of days to really see the place properly, but we only had one day to give it. We were moving on in the morning.
29th May, 2015.
Not too far up the road, (about 140kms) is another place we have been really looking forward to seeing. A little Gem of a caravan park, called Gemtree, which is reached by turning off the Stuart Highway, onto the Plenty Highway.
The office and shop at Gemtree Caravan Park.
Gemtree is all natural red dirt and gravel, cleared of all but a few of the trees, and with water and power to the vans. We had two great sites, not too close to everyone else, and like all of them they were mostly level and large. The power is generated by the park, and is turned on at 6.30am and turned off at 10.30pm, which makes for beautiful quiet nights, with the chorus of dingoes every now and then. I would have loved to take a photo of the night sky here, but it was too light due to full moon, so the stars were not really bright.
30th May, 2015.
Gemtree live up to their name, and run tag-along fossicking tours for either garnet, or zircon. We did both, but probably should have had a days break between, as it is quite hard work with a lot of bending. We had a ball. Our first tour was for Garnets, and we did in fact find quite a few. Of course only about 8 of them were suitable for cutting to 3, 4 or 5 mm, but we did have one which could be cut to a 6 mm stone, and it is now in Adelaide being faceted and set into a ring for hubby.
We got back to the caravan park and headed off to the showers to wash the dust away, which made us feel a lot better. Thank heavens we didn't have to cook that night, as we were booked in for their lovely camp oven cooked roast dinner. It went down a treat, then we crashed for the night.
31st May, 2015.
Next morning bright and early, we were off down a very dusty, windy, dirt track in search of illusive Zircon, an absolutely gorgeous stone when cut. Zircon is not as plentiful as the Garnet is, but we were determined to persevere.
Only three couples could go on this tour at the same time, because the area the Zircons are found in has been set up with three 44 gallon drums with the name Gemtree on them. This is the area reserved for Gemtree, and there were other people a little bit away from us, who camp out in the bush and fossick every day. A very hard life, with the dust and dirt and no easy supply of water or power.
The fossicking goes like this. First, you dig a few shovels of the gravel into a bucket. Then you tip some of it from the bucket into a dry sieve. This is shaken and shaken until all the dust and dirt has fallen through the holes and you are left with rocks and gravel. This is then tipped into a wet sieve and immersed in a large bucket of water, shaken around, then lifted out. When it is clean enough, it is then immersed into another large bucket of water, which is kept as clean as possible. This is the final wash before you tip the lot out onto a white board, which is laid across a 44 gallon drum, in an effort to save your back.
You then have to look through the stones, with the sun in front of you. If there is any Zircon on the board, it will hopefully sparkle in the sunlight.
Theo manning the Sieve.
Most of the stones found are only little chips, and very fractured, but occasionally, you come across a piece which can be cut into a 3 or 4 mm stone. Towards the end of the tour, (they wanted us back at the park by 2pm for classing of stones), we were getting quite tired, when Theo held up a stone and said rather urgently, "come look at this, I think I have found a beauty". Sure enough, there it was glittering in the sunlight, about the size of a small marble, and light purple in colour. There was great excitement amongst the other people on the tour, and even the people that were fossicking privately got wind of it.
Back at camp, they classed the stones and we had several 3, 4 and 5 mm stones, and the large one was graded as an 8 x 4. They said it was the best stone found in the last 12 months, and even better because it was toward the purple end of the spectrum.
This stone has been sent to Adelaide to their jeweler for cutting. It will probably be cut into an oval shape, but the cutter will have a good look at it and decide which way he can get the best out of it. I will eventually have it made into a nice pendant.
That night it was Bill's birthday, and Pam made pizza, which we ate together under a tree. We weren't out there for too long though, as an icy wind sprang up and chased us inside.
1st June, 2015
We pulled out of Gemtree feeling a little sad. I would have loved to stay on here for a week or two, but there is a lot to see and do.
Travelling along, stopping for morning tea and lunch, nothing out of the ordinary happened and the countryside is much the same. We pulled into an offroad stop for the night, and was quite surprised to find that by 7pm that night, the place was absolutely jammed full of people doing the same thing as us. There are soooo many people traveling around this country, and I think they were all in our rest stop lol.
2nd June, 2015.
We passed the Center of Australia today, and are headed to Devil's Marbles.
The Devils marbles are granite boulders that were exposed on the surface due to the earths pressures. They were originally just large square boulders, but due to weathering, have been rounded over many thousands of years.
Some of them balance precariously on top of others, and seem as if they will roll off at any time.
Others have split clean in two.
Whatever form they take, they are quite spectacular and an awesome sight.
We pulled off the road for the night, into a large gravel pit, which went back quite a way. Apart from our two vans, the only other occupant for the night was a car which came in quite a bit later in the day. What a peaceful night. No other campers, no traffic noise, just the birds and the quiet sounds of the bush at night.
3rd June, 2015
Today, We passed through Tennant Creek, and onward to Daly Waters. We stopped at the Daly Waters Highway Inn and Caravan Park, which for such a grand sounding name, is really just a big roadhouse and accommodation quarters. These Aussies know how to please other Aussies, and included in their $25.00 price for a powered sight, were two free beers or wines.
We parked the vans, and unhooked the cars, and off to the historic Daly Waters Pub down the road, to have a look at what we had heard was a sight.
The petrol bowser's across the road from the pub, where Bill and Pam several years ago were told to help themselves, as they were fixing a fridge, and keeping the beer cold was much more important than serving them petrol. Some comedian had a Macdonald's drive through sign pointing down the road 286 kilometers.
People often leave the Pub with a little less then they arrived with. There are walls of Bras, Undies, Thongs, Number Plates, foreign currency etc.
and when you have to "go", it's fairly easy to find the way.
After a couple of historic beers at the historic pub, we wended our way back to the Highway Inn, where we had the best meal of Battered Fish, Chips and Salad I have had in many a long time. It covered the plate and stacked up HIGH. They saw fit to serve what I call an "unattractive salad". An "unattractive" salad consists of blocks of cheese and beetroot surrounded by chopped iceburg lettuce, capsicum, cucumber etc all dressed with a tasty dressing and with a half a boiled egg bunged in for good measure. I call it an "unattractive" salad because it doesnt look as pretty as the myriad of red and green leaves of the "attractive" salad, but it tastes a million times better. This meal was accompanied by our "free" beers, lucky we didn't have to drive anywhere.
4th June, 2015
Took off the next morning towards Mataranka and the famous hot springs. After an incident free drive, we arrived and pulled in to the Mataranka Territory Manor Motel and Caravan Park, which was a sister park to the one we had just left at Daly Waters. It is a sprawling park under large trees and although a little run down, it is clean. Set the vans up, then wandered down to the Hot Springs.
During the war, these hot springs were reserved for the officers and enlisted men were not allowed to bathe here. After the war finished, an enlisted man bought the property and opened it up for the public to enjoy. The water is at a constant 32 degrees and gushes out of the ground at an incredible rate.
The bush on the side of the road is so full of termite mounds, it's a wonder there are any trees left standing.
That night, the staff at the caravan park decided to have a party in the staff quarters, but the sound of people screaming, yelling and generally behaving badly, is not conducive to peaceful sleep. Also unfortunate was the fact that the staff quarters were very close to where we were camped. Result was we decided to leave instead of staying on and relaxing for another night or two. Before going, Pam and I went up to see the manager at the office, to inform her of our "displeasure". Apparently, we had been preceded my other people doing the same, and the manager apologized and gave us our money back. Sometimes, it pays to complain.
5th June, 2015.
Onwards to Katherine. We found a gem of a caravan park about 7 kilometers out of Katherine. It is called Manbullo Station, and part of it has been made into a park for travellers. A large paddock covered in lovely green grass and shaded by a multitude of beautiful trees, this place is a haven for the dusty, weary tourer, and as a bonus, is a lot cheaper than the HUGELY overpriced parks in town. We booked in for 4 days, as it was a long weekend and the roads were very busy.
The ablution block is surrounded by lush garden beds, and it was here that I had my first encounter with a Cane Toad. It was rather large and sat in the middle of the path in the light of my torch, but I can't say it looked at all evil as I had been lead to believe. It hopped off into the bushes eventually.
6th June, 2015
Today is the day for our tour of the Katherine Gorge. Everyone had recommended this 2 hour cruise and although it was expensive, it was worth it.
The rock formations are absolutely beautiful.
and of course, the place would not be the same without the resident bat population.
Altogether a beautiful day.
7th June, 2015.
Having a day to "veg out" and do absolutely nothing, we couldn't resist a walk down to the back of the caravan park where the river flows smoothly past.
Well, perhaps not quite so smoothly where there are rapids.
No lurking crocs, haven't managed to see one yet.
8th June, 2015.
Up and on the move again, with today's destination being Mt. Bundy Station at Adelaide River.
About 80 kms up the road, we diverted to Edith Falls, which is a part of the NitMiluk National Park. I think it is probably clear to everyone by now, that I am very attracted by water. Edith Falls runs all year, and although it only seems to be a small amount of water cascading over the rocks, it is actually rather large. I just cant comprehend where all that water comes from, at such a dry time of the year.
A little further downstream at Edith Falls.
Morning Tea and we were off again.
Stopped for lunch at Pine Creek, in a beautiful little water park.
Arrived at Mt. Bundy Station in fine time, and have set up the vans on two very large sites under the shade of some enormous trees. I am very thankful for the shade, as it is getting a little warm now.
We have pulled out all the bits and pieces that have traveled with us in the car, and have set up our shower tents, not for showering, but for storage. The satellite dishes came out yesterday and we have TV for the first time since we left home. Can't say that I have missed it and with Theo's slightly impaired hearing, I am finding myself having to turn it down all the time.
Mt. Bundy Station is to be our base and we are booked in for 12 days, with the option to extend. The station is a beautiful location, set amongst Huge trees and right on the Adelaide River. There are two "tiers" to the park, with the lower one closer to the river (and the crocs). We are on the Higher tier. There are plenty of animals, horses, Shetland pony's, cows, peacocks, guinea fowl, and water buffalo. Some of the aforementioned water buffalo, are not quite part of the plan, and apparently broke into the paddock to be with the ladies. The owner was off trying to chase them off on a trail bike (a very dangerous business as more people get killed by Buffalo than Crocs in these parts).
In the evening, Wallaby's come in from the other paddocks and jump at speed across to the billabong to drink. Water birds abound and last night I was serenaded by the eerie sound of curlews in chorus. This place has a heartbeat of bird sounds, cicadas, and animal sounds, it is truly beautiful.
11th June, 2015
Popped into Adelaide River, about 3 kms down the road, to see the Adelaide River War Cemetery.
It is a credit to the people who are tasked with its upkeep.
It is often forgotten that Darwin suffered many air raids during World War 2, and the servicemen who were killed have a beautiful spot to rest in.
This beautiful old tree at the entrance to the cemetery, would be perfect in a Harry Potter Film.
1st July, 2015
We have had a very laid back time at Mt. Bundy Station in Adelaide River, and unfortunately I have let my blog slide a bit, so now it is catch up time.
During our time at Bundy, we used the station as a base and did day trips to Lichfield, Darwin and Douglas Hot Springs.
Our first excursion was to Lichfield National Park. What a beautiful place it is. The many waterfalls and places to swim more than made up for all the walking in the heat. I will let the pictures do the talking here.
(pictures to be inserted here)
Our next trip was out to a little publicized world war 2 camp, or at least the ruins of it. It was built by the Americans and was not finished until the war had nearly ended. Adelaide River became a large base for different wartime occupations, including a hospital for the many that were injured during the bombing of Darwin. The camp that we visited is kept low key, due to the large amounts of asbestos laying around on the ground, and of course the health hazard it poses.
Then it was a trip into Darwin Town, where we made a special visit to the NT Museum and Art Gallery. My Mother had suggested we should go there and I am glad she did, it was just the best. This museum houses an exhibit on Cyclone Tracey, which decimated Darwin on Christmas Eve in the year 1974. The bureau of meteorology has this to say about the incident:
By world standards, Tracy was a small but intense tropical cyclone at landfall, the radius of gale force winds being only about 50 km. The anemometer at Darwin Airport recorded a gust of 217 km/h before the instrument was destroyed. Tracy was first detected as a depression in the Arafura Sea on 20 December 1974. Tropical Cyclone Tracy is arguably the most significant tropical cyclone in Australia's history accounting for 65 lives, the destruction of most of Darwin and profoundly affecting the Australian perspective to the tropical cyclone threat.
More information can be found here: http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/history/tracy.shtml
The photographs of the aftermath are sobering and the personal accounts of the tragedy are mindblowing.
The museum also has a wonderful display of native wildlife, insects, sea reatures and birds and is really worth a visit. It is also the home of Sweetheart, the 15' plus crocodile which was terrorizing fishing boats in a Darwin Creek. Sweetheart died during the capture and was stuffed and is on exhibit in the museum.I wouldn't have liked to come across it when it was alive, although now, there are much bigger crocs in the wild.
After a few more relaxing days at the station Bob and Wilma, old Barn Hill friends, turned up. We were able to celebrate Wilma's 80th Birthday with her, along with all the other Bundy residents and staff.
Time for another trip into Darwin, this time in the afternoon to be in time for the Mindel Beach Sunset Markets. What an eye opener that was, I didn't think there were that many people in the whole of Darwin. We chose a meal from one of the many food vendors, and sat on Mindel Beach to eat it. Then back we went into the markets to buy a couple of hats as we both needed new ones. There was a lot of live entertainment, including two people from Peru, who played an assortment of music on an assortment of flutes. They ranged from single flutes to large wooden pan flutes of all shapes and sizes and it was fascinating to see them change instruments during the performance and continue playing. Armed with one of their CDs, it was time to start the long walk back to the car....ohh hang on. Gee that's a nice handbag over there...lol. New handbag, CD, new hats in hand, we finally made it to the car and started the 1 1/2 hour drive home to Bundy.
Our next excursion was to Douglas Hot Springs, where we all sat in the shallow creek soaking up the warm water. The temperature varied greatly in just a small distance, in places being too hot to dip a toe in where it bubbled out of the ground, then getting cooler a few meters away.
(photos to come)
On 30th June, we left Bundy Station and headed back towards Katherine. Pam wanted to swim in Edith Falls, so we arranged to meet on the road just past Katherine. We had intended to stay a night at Manbulla Homestead, but instead found an offroad free camp, and spent a lovely peaceful night there.
On 1st July, we met up with Bill and Pam and continued to an offroad stop approximately 75kms before the quarantine station on the W.A. Border. We pulled in early and the place was almost full already, so we were lucky to find two spots under a shady tree. It was here that we had the most unpleasant experience of our trip. We started our generator which is a Honda 1kva with an inverter and is lovely and quiet. Pretty soon our neighbor came waddling over and said "I am getting pretty sick of the noise of that generator, you need to turn it off". I looked at him and said "you are just kidding....right?" "Nooo" says he "I dont want to listen to that noisy bloody thing".
Bill chimed in with, "well we don't really want to listen to your power saw cutting wood and we don't want the smoke from your fire either". He started getting quite irate and threatening, and I turned to him and said (for only the second time in my entire life that I have said this to a stranger I might mention) "You need to f**k off."
Well the sh*t hit the fan then, and he looked at me and spluttered and said "oh very classy, Hope you're not traveling my way, which way are you traveling?" I said "we're following you, and every time we see you, we're going to run our generator." I was just soooo angry that he seemed to think he could tell us what we were and weren't allowed to do in a free bush camp.
I know Bill and Pam were very upset by the incident, and I know he came back over later in the evening and had another go at them, but at the end of the day, he was no different to us. He was saving money by camping in the bush and if he didn't want to listen to a generator, he should have paid his $40 or $50 and gone into a caravan park. We always turn it off by 8.30 - 9pm anyway, and quiet honestly, not many people go to bed before that time, not that it's noisy enough to keep anyone awake.
2nd July, 2015.
We are truly happy to be here today. We crossed the border into Western Australia and have booked into the Hidden Valley Caravan Park for a couple of nights.
(to be continued)