This blog is dedicated to the memory of Mike M. and to Marion, treasured friends who provided us with a base on our UK and Europe travels and helped to make our journeys stress free. We are so grateful.
KARALEE ROCKS, W.A. : Sunday, 21st March : 390kms
364 days after our planned departure in 2020, we were on our way at last, leaving home at 10 a.m. with the temperature at 32 degrees and after an uneventful drive, with little traffic, reached Bakers Hill just after 11 a.m. After a brief stop there to check all was well within the caravan, we set off again, stopping at Meckering Rose Garden rest stop where we ate lunch.
Unfortunately, the old fridge Book Exchange there didn't have any books that interested either of us so we took off again, back onto the Great Eastern Highway towards Kellerberrin. There we were stopped by police (5 in all) and Mike was invited to blow into a breathalyser. Happily, he passed the test and we were free to proceed.
We'd been watching out for the Indian Pacific but almost missed it - shortly after leaving Kellerberrin, I happened to look to my left and there it was! It had sneaked up while I was looking the other way but I managed to take a photo and a video before it burned us off!
Next stop was at Merredin for a fuel top up, then Southern Cross at the public facilities, and just before reaching Yellowdine Roadhouse for a further top up, we saw what appeared to be a mini willy willy.
About half an hour later, we reached Karalee Rocks Rest Area, about 4 kms of bumpy dirt road off the highway and our first overnight stop. There were two caravans there when we arrived, later a motorhome came in and later still, two utilities. It's a large area and we were surprised that there weren't more travellers staying there.
The temperature had risen to 37 and didn't cool down at all until the sun had disappeared for the night, taking with it the nasty, bitey March flies : then we were able to sit outside until bedtime.
WOORLBA HOMESTEAD REST AREA : Monday, 22nd March : 545kms
After a quiet night and our morning cuppa, we went walking alongside the sluice which services the dam, to the nearby rock, climbing over the man made stone wall which surrounds the rock, enjoying the exercise and the rock pools where kangaroos and emus come to drink (though we didn't see any), then back through the bush to the caravan for breakfast before packing up and departing on the next leg. First stop was at Coolgardie for the fuel top up, then on the Coolgardie-Esperance Road where major road works were being undertaken with only one lane open and as we were first in the queue at the stop sign, we chatted to the signal man for about 10 minutes before continuing on.
Next stop Norseman for the fuel top up and pit stop, then twenty minutes along the Eyre Highway, we stopped in a parking area for a late lunch. About 20 minutes after a brief stop at Balladonia, we came to the first of four (or five) Royal Flying Doctor Services emergency airstrips and just 10 minutes later, the start of the 90 Mile Straight, at 146.6km, Australia's longest straight road.
Ten minutes after the sign, we reached our destination for tonight, chose a spot and parked the caravan. There was only one other caravan nearby, a small van arrived later and later still, a road train. The rest area is close to the highwaywith many parking spaces further in from the road, the traffic noise is minimal as not too many people travel at night. The area is currently popular with the March flies, but otherwise it is a very pleasant place to stop.
EUCLA CARAVAN PARK : Tuesday, 23rd March : 510kms
Before leaving Woorlba this morning, when taking our bag of rubbish to one of the clearly visible large yellow bins, I picked up a couple of pieces of someone else's rubbish and placed them in the bin also, wondering why people are so lazy and uncaring about their environment!
That's my whinge for the day.....we left at 8.30a.m., 19 degrees and averaging about 90k.p.h., arrived at Caiguna an hour and a half later. There had been a few little rain spots along the way but nothing serious, we stopped for about twenty minutes and in that time I enjoyed a very good hot coffee bought from the roadhouse shop.
By 10.45a.m. the sun made an appearance and the temperature had soared to 25 degrees, half an hour later we reached Cocklebiddy where we topped up the fuel and bought $2 tokens for 5 minute hot showers. At the roadhouse there are two magnificent Wedge-Tailed eagles in a cage, albeit a large one but not where they should be! Another whinge!
Cocklebiddy has a different time zone from the west of W.A. but we didn't change our timepieces as we will have to do so when we cross the S.A. border tomorrow morning, so at present, we are still on W.A. time.
Five minutes after leaving Cocklebiddy, we passed a cyclist, one of several we've seen so far - they must be crazy!
We stopped at Moodini Bluff rest area for lunch, having bypassed Madura,
then came to another RFDS airstrip,
We've encountered more traffic today than in the previous two days, but no more than we've seen on previous trips. We tried to count the number of caravans travelling west from each state but it was difficult, there seemed to be a higher number of Qld vehicles than any other with a few from NSW and SA, less from Victoria though there were one or two.
SHELLY BEACH CARAVAN PARK, CEDUNA, S.A. : Wed. 24th March : 492kms
The Eucla Caravan Park gets a thumbs up, we would stay there again. We left at 7.20a.m. (W.A. time), 18 degrees after heavy rain from 4.00a.m., crossing the W.A./S.A. border (where we were not reuqired to stop) about ten minutes later and shortly after stopped at the Great Australian Bight Marine Park where the wind whipped right through us, it was bitterly cold but the views were stunning.
There are a few other lookouts along the way but as we've visited them before, we did not stop this timne. We drove along the fourth and longest RFDS airstrip and at Nullarbor Roadhouse we stopped for the usual fuel top up, a pit stop and another very good hot coffee.
We decided then that as we are now in South Australia, we should change all the clocks to S.A. time so added 2-1/2 hours to them all, we are now less confused!
When we stopped at a rest area for lunch, as soon as we opened the car doors we were attacked by dozens horrible, bitey March flies so instead of eating at the picnic table provided, we had to sit inside the caravan. Another stop for the usual in Penong, plus a Magnum ice cream each and the next stop was at the Quarantine station outside Ceduna. We had a small bag with a couple of onions, some cut up carrot and apples, the inspector breezed into the caravan, said we could keep the onions and carrots and took the apples, had a look in the fridge and gave us the okay. Easy peasy!
The final stop today - Shelly Beach Caravan Park which is about 3kms east of Ceduna where we have booked in for two nights. It is very windy at present, and cool but tomorrow's forecast is for sunny weather. It's quiet here, a little traffic noise from the road outside but I'm sure that'll subside later tonight and the new amenities are excellent. This is the second time we've stayed here and it's not likely to be the last.
SHELLY BEACH : Thursday, 25th March 0kms
It was still dark at 7.45a.m. but as we weren't going anywhere today we didn't mind. After the morning cuppa we walked up the little hill behind the caravan park to have a look at the bay. There were 8 or 9 little boats out on the water and we agreed that it would be rather pleasant to be out there too, especially if we were catching fish.
It's a day off today, we drove into town late this morning,
We've done little this afternoon, enjoying the time off travelling - it's a very long, tiring drive (though not boring in my opinion, I find things to amuse myself, such as taking photos of clouds, signs etc.) while my chauffeur does the driving and we both sing along to the Beatles, Rod Stewart, Elton John and a selection of our favourite Australian artists. Other than two goannas sauntering across the highway, which we managed to avoid turning into roadkill, we have not seen any wildlife, though I did see several cows strolling through the scrub a couple of days ago. The actual roadkill we've seen include 1 small kangaroo, 1 sheep, 1 wombat and a few unidentifiable remains, far less than we've seen on previous trips.
We expect to have another quiet night tonight and will resume the journey tomorrow feeling refreshed after a day of doing not very much.
KIMBA FREE CAMP : Friday, 26th March. 314Kms
We woke through the night to extrenely loud thunder, the loudest I've ever heard, and very heavy rain - it had eased by the time daylight appeared but the sun only briefly poked its head from behind the clouds on a few occasions during the morning.
Before we left, our next door neighbour brought us a plate of King George Whiting, caught yesterday and cleaned and filleted, which was rather kind of him and much appreciated. We left at 10.15am - 18 degrees and overcast and were quickly back on the Eyre Highway, driving through the town of Wirrulla just over an hour later, a small town with not a lot happening.
Today's music came from Billy Joel, a compilation of UK Artists from the 60s & 70s and Cold Chisel - we had a good old sing along - our kind of music!
The plan was to stop at Poochera to top up the fuel but the roadhouse was closed and looked as though it had been so for some time. We drove through the town as we hadn't been through before, most towns along the way are in off the highway and we normally bypass them - next stop was a brief one at the Minnipa Apex Park which boasts the Concrete Crappa,
On to Wudinna with a quick drive through, stopping along the road at Kyancutta where we discovered that the store is now closed and for sale and the fuel is self serve.
Next stop was Kimba, where there are painted silos which are ab fab.
Then a visit to the I.G.A., and on to the free camp next to the recreation ground. a large area with a new amenities block since we were here last. Once settled in we walked into town to the Gateway Hotel for a pre dinner drink or two - the hotel has similarities with English pubs in that they are not just places to drink but are a community meeting place where locals come to catch up with friends.
It has been pointed out to me that one of the Cocklebiddy eagles I mentioned a couple of days ago, is actually blind so could not survive in the wild and the other apparently has a problem which would prevent it too from surviving in the outside world, so I was hasty in my assumption that they were there for viewing purposed only.
Sydney and Boris - our two constant travel companions.
MAMBRAY CREEK CAMPGROUND, MT REMARKABLE NATIONAL PARK : Saturday, 27th March : 209kms
After breakfast and packing up this morning, we wandered over to the sports ground where an equestrian event was in progress. We were just in time for the start of the ladies' show-jumping event,
so watched all the contestants and then watched the jump off for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. The winner was the horse and rider on the right of the photo - the horse was a magnificent Clydesdale cross which was superbly ridden and practically flew over the jumps, very impressive.
The first stop after breaking camp was at the Kimba Shell Roadhouse for the fuel top up, then at the Halfway across Australia gift shop and Big Galah,
then on the road again for the drive to Mt Remarkable. Shortly after leaving Kimba, we stopped for roadworks, a little while later another stop, this time pulling right over to the left shoulder to allow a truck carrying an enormous load to pass by.
From then on the drive was quite unexciting until we neared the junction of the Eyre and Lincoln Highways when the scenery changed.
We took photos from the car, did not stop in Port Augusta which was very busy but stopped at a Puma service station on the outskirts of town for the top up, then taking photos of the Southern Flinders Ranges as we passed by,
Cinderella's lost her shoe again!
MAMBRAY CREEK : Sunday, 28th March.
It was quite cool last night, requiring doonas but quickly warmed up, with blue sky and sunshine for the rest of the day. We saw two kangaroos jumping their way through the park this morning - they stopped briefly to look at us but obviously didn't find us interesting so jumped away. As we ate breakfast, two flocks of kookaburras seemed to be having a competition - who could laugh the longest and loudest - they soon tired of that and flew away.
After breakfast cooked on the bbq, we drove to the day use area and did a couple of short walks from there
before making our way back to the camp where we have spent the rest of the day reading, doing crosswords and a couple of odd jobs, but generally relaxing. We had a quiet, peaceful night last night and expect to have another tonight.
PLUSHS BEND, RENMARK : Monday,29th March.
When we left Mambray Creek at 9.25am it was 18 degrees, there were 2 emus on the park road but they skedaddled into the bush when they saw us coming so the couple of photos we hastily snapped didn't turn out very well. From the Augusta Road we headed along the B79 towards Gladstone, then onto the B82 where we struck roadworks again, passed through the small towns of Georgetown and Spalding and arrived in Burra right on lunchtime.
We bought excellent pasties and coffee from the Baker's, supplies from the supermarket and fuel from the service station, returning to the baker's shop before leaving to buy vanilla slices and rolls and we were on the road again.
Our music listening and singalong pleasure today was provided by James Reyne, from his Live in Rio album.
The scenery along the way was, in patches, more nullarbor-ish than the Nullarbor.....few trees but loads of scrubby bush with the occasional farm to break the monotony.
We had a 15 minute break in Morgan and were surprised when we arrived at the Waikerie ferry landing
- surprised because although we have been that way before, neither of us could remember crossing the river by ferry, we must have taken the other road. The ferry ride is free and only takes a few minutes and after visiting the dump point and filling the water tank, we checked out the silo art in the town and climbed the tower for the cliff top view of the Murray River.
we were glad to see the back of this large truck
as it had been tailgating, trying to intimidate my driver who was sticking to the speed limit. Having seen the last of him, we passed the towns of Barmera and Monash and arrived at our camp at Plushs Bend at about 5pm, quickly settled in and enjoyed pre dinner drinks while sitting watching the birds on the other side of the river and the kangaroo which came down to the riverbank to drink (we needed the binoculars to see him properly, he was so well camouflaged).
It's a very pleasant way to spend an evening and was capped off by a full moon.
There are 15 allocated sites here, along the river's edge and 15 un-allocated, a rather good boat ramp and a flushing toilet. We went for a walk this morning to check it all out, happy with our chosen site.
After cooking breakfast on the bbq and eating while watching the birds, pelicans, cormorants and others whose names we don't know, we drove into Renmark and became tourists for the day, checking out the historic paddle steamer P.S. Industry,
Frank the Chookman's boat built mainly from bits and pieces he's scrounged for and which he cruises up and down the river,
the Renmark Patisserie Bakery where we had an excellent light lunch and crossed the Paringa Bridge to see more silo art,
the Paringa Black Stump,
Weir and Lock No. 5,
then back across the river via the Paringa Bridge
to the Rotary Lookout Tower for a scenic view of the Renmark district orchards.
scenes from Renmark.
A travelling day today. We left Plushs Bend at 10am with a visit to the dump point at the swimming pool car park in the town before leaving Renmark and we were on the road again, crossing the Paringa Bridge once more and heading east towards Mildura. At 10.40am (SA time) we crossed the SA/Victoria border
and advanced our clocks another 30 minutes.
The road, the A-20 Sturt Highway is a busy road but not a good one. It is quite bumpy, to lanes only with no overtaking lanes so the huge trucks that rumble along can become stuck behind slower traffic which much frustrate the truck drivers. We stopped at the Cullulleraine Roadhouse and bought a Magnum icecream each, the highlight of the journey, and arrived at the caravan park at about 1.30pm.
We had a quiet afternoon, did some washing, had a late lunch and enjoyed our grassy site, sitting in the shade until late afternoon when we drove the 7kms into Mildura, washed the car at the Karcher Car Wash and had an excellent pizza and beer at one of the many restaurants in the town.
Mildura is HUGE! Much bigger than we remembered it but it is quite a long time since we were last here and the volume of traffic is unbelievable. Tomorrow is our tourist day and day off from travel.
SUNSET SIESTA, MILDURA : Thursday, 1st April.
We had a lazy morning today before heading into town to do our tourist thing.
Though large, Mildura is a very attractive and friendly town. We were drawn to the river, in particular to Lock 11 where we watched a houseboat enter the lock.
My good friend Robyn and I became expert lock operators on a canal boat trip in England with Laurie and Mike some years ago, and have been through and watched many, many lock openings but we are still fascinated by them, as are several others judging by the number of people who turned up today in time to watch proceedings.
We stopped at Shippy's Cafe by the river for cold drinks, wandered through the Art Gallery behind the cafe, bought fuel at $1.08 litre (cheapest we've found anywhere in recent history) crossed the Charles Gaffey Bridge into NSW
for the drive to the Botanical Gardens, where unfortunately the thousands of roses are nearing the end of their bloom and made our way back into town where we had lunch at a cafe, strolled around for a while, visited a supermarket for a couple of supplies and returned to the caravan park. An easy, enjoyable day. We hadn't planned to come this way, we were going to travel via Broken Hill but changed our minds with the changing of border restrictions and are glad we did.
HAY : Friday, 2nd April.
We left Mildura at 9am - 16 degrees - bypassing the centre of town via the truck route and once more crossed the Vic/NSW border . As neither of us was hungry this morning, we decided to skip breakfast and eat later, stopping at Lake Benanee Rest Area at 11-ish to cook scrambled eggs, make toast and tea and ate brunch at a picnic table overlooking the lake.
By the time we left the temperature had soared to a warm 26 degrees.
About an hour later we reached Balranald, crossing the Murrumbidgee River,
buying fuel and ice creams at the Shell Service Station before driving along the slightly boring road to Hay.
For our listening pleasure today, we chose The Best of Bread, Skyhooks Living in the 70s and the Eagles and on arriving in Hay at 3pm, we found our spot at the Services Club where they allow free canping,
walked into the town to the Riverina Hotel where we had refreshments, then walked back to the Club, enjoyed pre dinner drinks followed by a Chinese meal at the Club restaurant. An enormous meal which we couldn't eat so we brought the leftovers home. There are only 6 other campers here, the traffic noise has eased so we're expecting a quiet night.
WEST WYALONG : Saturday, 3rd April.
By the time we did the fuel top up and left Hay this morning it was 10.30am. Back on the B-64, the first section of the drive was once again slightly boring but at about 20kms before reaching the small town of Goolgowi, the terrain began to change, we were now in farming country. We stopped at noon at a lovely park in Goolgowi where we made and out lunch, ate inside as there were a few March flies hanging around.
At Rankins Springs we stopped at a rather run down service station and bought lemonade icy poles from a rather sad young man, who didn't seem to want to be there not that I could blame him, we were quite possibly the only customers he'd had all day.
Driving through very attractive countryside, we came to Weethalle and were delighted when we saw this stunning silo art
so had to stop for a closer look and the obligatory photos, were fascinated by the dinky RSL Hall and next door War Memorial
and a little further along the road, stopped at the Whistle Stop, a former railway station and now part of a museum.
Reaching West Wyalong about an hour later,
we settled in to the caravan park, sat and relaxed for a while and then walked to the local IGA and to the Tattersall's Hotel for drinks before returning to camp to eat.
COWRA, Sunday, 4th April.
Daylight saving ended through the night, at a little after 6am when morning was breaking, the sky was ablaze - spectacular!
There was very, very loud music (for want of a better word) coming from the pub last night, thump, thump, thump which we thought might keep us awake but it didn't - I think we both went out like a light when our heads hit pillows and didn't hear a thing till morning.
After leaving West Wyalong, we travelled for a while along the Newell Highway and could see evidence in many places along the way of recent flooding rains,
the road was extremely bumpy, necessitating a slowing of speed, but the scenery was lovely.
We stopped for an hour in Grenfell, birthplace of Henry Lawson
and strolled along the main street admiring the lovely old buildings there
and coffee and banana bread at one of the two cafes which were open. Being Easter Sunday, the town was quiet but well worth a longer visit.
Continuing on through spectacular hilly farming lands
we arrived in Cowra,
our stopover tonight and after checking in to the caravan park, went on the tourist trail, visiting the POW Camp
from where Japanese prisoners escaped in August, 1944,
then the beautifully maintained Japanese Gardens,
the Australia World Peace Bell
and the POW Hologram Theatre at the Information Centre. There are other attractions in Cowra but sadly, we didn't have enough time to see them this time.
BLACKHEATH GLEN TOURIST PARK : Monday, 5th April.
It was nearly 10am when we set off from Cowra this morning - first stop the Carcoar Dam & Blayney wind farm.
There is a free camp at the dam which we considered as a stopover but chose Cowra as there were things there we wanted to see/do.
We stopped briefly in Blayney for fuel and reached Bathurst at 11.35am but did not stop, expecting it to be extremely busy it was a straight run through - at 27 degrees it was a far cry from the zero temperature we had on our last stay there when we had to melt the ice on the windscreen and wait for the fog to lift before we could take to the road. From there it was an easy run through absolutely gorgeous country,
through Lithgow and then we came to a standstill.
Because of roadworks and holiday traffic, it took 3 hours and 40 minutes to travel the 18kms to our destination, eventually arriving at 4.30pm and when talking to a neighbour, were told that several others in the caravan park took 4 to 6 hours to drive here from Sydney on Good Friday! normally one hour! Still, we're here now and will be staying for 4 days, and are looking forward to the arrival tomorrow of our Sydney family who will be joining us for a couple of days....Yay!
GOSFORD, Central Coast NSW : Thursday, 15th April.
The main reason for the absence of the blog for more than a week is because we have been enjoying family time, in the Blue Mountains, in Sydney and now in the Newcastle area.
Our Sydney family joined us in Blackheath and after so long we had lots of catching up to do, we went walking, played games, went sightseeing and generally just enjoyed being together.
It rained on Tuesday 6th, torrential rain accompanied by loud thunder and for the next three days, until we left, the grass outside our caravan was so squelchy, we couldn't walk across or put our table and chairs on it for fear of sinking into oblivion!
On Friday, 9th April we had an easy drive down the mountain to Sydney, storing the caravan in a suburban caravan park
Having stored the caravan, we then took up residence in our family's 'granny flat' for the duration of our stay in Sydney and while there, had a day of fun at the Royal Easter Show,