Broken Down, and getting back to Nature

The Smith family are having a challenging week this week, with some truck and rig issues that are slowing us down. But the upside to this is we have met another travelling family, who have a similar plan as us.

Our first issues started after leaving Port Pirie on the Yorke Peninsular. We (stupidly) thought we had plenty of fuel to reach Port Augusta, and then we encountered our first major headwind. You could practically see the fuel gauge sinking as we travelled along, wishing there was something between the two towns, and feeling a bit like amateurs. Needless to say, we spluttered into the first fuel station on the outskirts of Port Augusta, barely running on fumes. We also noticed one of the wheels on the caravan was leaking axel grease. Hot and frustrated, we pulled into a caravan park for two days in Port Augusta.

Parked across the road from us were Tammie and Chris. They have been travelling with their 4 year-old son for around two years now, and were old hats at troubleshooting the rig. Chris took a look at the wheels and 3 out of four of them were loose. So off to Tyrepower we went to get the bearings repacked. Apparently it was not a moment too soon. The guy we bought the van off had just repacked them himself, but the job was a bit haphazard. But Robbie (top bloke) was able to book us in straight away and did a professional job in just a couple of hours. Driving the Mine TruckWe used the opportunity to visit the Wadlata Outback Centre. Rhys loved the setup where he could pretend to drive a coal mining truck, complete with video and commentary. Coby was pretending to be a telephone operator at the telephone exchange. There were some great displays about animals, aboriginal culture, the history of the Flinders Ranges and facts about the Outback. Old Switchboard Fun

So without too much inconvenience, we were on our way again to discover the Eyre Peninsular.

After another night bush camping, we wanted to do something different for Rhys’ birthday, and decided on a farm stay at ‘McKechnie Springs Farm Stay’ (Camp 6 reference 680 in SA) near Port Lincoln. The campsite is situated on a hill with a picturesque dam, rolling hills and shallow valley surrounds. The owners don’t like more than two or three caravans at a time, to keep the atmosphere a little quiet. The sites were powered, and there was a great bathroom and camp kitchen for our use.

Just beating us there was another travelling family we had met briefly the evening before. Chris and Jayne were from Mount Gambier, and were travelling for a year with their 3 children Daniel, Emma and Louise. They had already been on the road for a couple of months, but we discovered we were heading in the same direction with a similar ‘plan’ (not that there really is much of a plan). Having the company of another family, and seeing the kids so happy to have other kids to run around with, made a good experience great. We had other people to rope in for a 3rd birthday party for Rhys, so he was all smiles for the immense attention on his special day.

Yabbies at Mckechnie farmstayAnother first was catching yabbies. The owners had some yabby nets lying around, and invited us to try our luck in the dam. TheKids inspect Yabby catch O’Callaghan’s showed us how to set the traps, check the yabbies for eggs and how to handle them so the small ones could be thrown back. All five kids thought catching yabbies was the most fun ever, and I was happy that my children were learning something new about life and were their food comes from.

The farm stay also had a stove with a chimney in a shed with a ping-pong table. At night the blokes lit a fire and we sat around chatting about life and travelling, while toasting marshmallows for the children (and ourselves), enjoying the peace, quiet and endless stars.

It was just as well we were staying somewhere so fantastic, because we now had another problem. On our way to the farm stay, the truck was over-revving without pushing the accelerator. Mike posted a explanation, and request for help on his the Nissan forum, and the general consensus was the clutch was stuffed. This was confirmed by a mechanic on the Friday of the long weekend. Parts had to be couriered down from Adelaide, and no one could work on it until after the weekend. All in all, we are here for a week.

So Mike and I are feeling a tad frustrated. This is the third issue we have had and we are barely into our trip. On top of the rig issues, we are still finding our feet and getting into the finer points of being a family on the road. Tempers have flared a few times, and the kids have had some difficulty adjusting to the new routine. It’s all highs and lows with the children. On the positive side, the children stopped asking for television only days into the trip. Their interest is growing and they are starting to use their imaginations for playtime more and more. I can see little changes in their personalities as they gain new experiences, or maybe it’s just that I am around the all the time now. On the negative side, they are now too busy to want to go down for afternoon sleeps, and the previously night-time dry Rhys started wetting the bed and having the occasional accident during the day. His temper has shortened and his volume increased. I live in hope it is just a phase. Added with all the other challenges, it is making tempers short.

Being the ‘glass half full’ person I usually am, there are worse places in the world to be broken down and stuck. I’m also am thankful we are having all these trials now, and not in the middle of nowhere on the Nullabor, where we are due to spend most of next week crossing. Fingers crossed we make it to Perth without needing anything besides a jet-wash. Mike is due to give the rig another service there, and I am looking forward to crossing the Perth off my list for Aussie capitals visited.

Although we were stuck, we didn’t stop enjoying Port Lincoln. We managed to secure at the last minute the last remaining rental car in town, and spent a very big day exploring PortCoffin Bay View Lincoln National Park, and Coffin Bay. Coffin Bay has to be one of our favourite places so far on this trip. It is simply beautiful, and not overdeveloped like so many other coastal areas we have been to.

Coby, Rhys and I also got the opportunity to visit Port Lincoln Playgroup, which you can read all about here.

Farmer KidsOn our final day, we were invited by the owner Arne to come and look at the sheep. Lambing season is about 4 weeks away, and the farmers were getting prepared by giving them vaccine shots, vitamins and a clean. The kids got to see the sheep up close, the dogs round them up and the shearers at work. They were fascinated.

That final afternoon, we got the truck back in full working order. The caravan has had its first spring clean, the washing is done, and we are off tomorrow. The long drive across the Nullabor awaits.


8 Responses

  1. oh you poor darlings but at least you know how to make a positive out of a negative. Sounds like your are having heaps of fun even though you broke down. Don’t be too hard on Rhys regarding potty training, the bigger the deal you make of it the less likely he’ll be to get potty trained. He’s just out of his routine and because there are no arvo sleeps he probably sleeps so sound that he wee’s in his sleep. Eventually we all learn. Just had Kat&Dunc and Ronald&Debbie over. We had a lovely time and now back to normal till Duggie comes in 3 weeks. bill still struggling with deadlines and missing bits that haven’t been ordered and just general BS. Not sleeping very well either which doesn’t help. Have been cooking for ANZA’s Paddy’s morning tea tomorrow, Guinness pies, I’ll also be in charge of champagne and making black velvets. Should be fun. You keep on having a good time, look forward to your stories. Lots of love B&C XXX PS you didn’t pick up Rhys’s b’day card. PPS I don’t have FB – 6 days now!

  2. Good luck with the Nullabor…I think you have ironed out all the teething troubles now 🙂 Again, dont be too disheartened with Rhys – it is exactly as Caff describes. The experiences they are having are exactly what you wanted them to get out of this…and tempers are just a side effect of unusual proximity 🙂 That too shall pass, and you will all come out fo this closer and more resilient. Meanwhile, it makes great reading, and we all dead jealous!

  3. Good luck with the Nullabor crossing! I agree that it’s good to come across these little trials while there’s still civilisation around! When you get to Perth, here’s an attraction that you might like to check out It sounds very hands on for the kids, and they have a program that they take on the road for Playgroups.

  4. Sounds like your having a fantastic time. It’s so exciting for you all. We loved the whale museum at Victor Harbour as well but that was before kids as well. What a great idea visiting playgroups along the way. Love reading all about your travels.
    Love to you all.
    the Barclay Family

  5. Lovin’ the updates – great to share your experiences with you. Hope your luck with the mechanicals improves. Kevin, Terri & Co.

  6. So glad I discovered your site. I like the way you cover the good and bad of being on the road. We head off on our own road trip in 6 weeks and although we are super excited we do realise it isn’t all going to be beer & skittles! May see you on the road.

  7. Sorry Smiffy, forgot to mention we have just started up a blog of our own:
    Feel free to drop by and if its ok I might add you to my blogroll. Cheers

    • Hi Helen, saw your blog. How exciting. That was us only a few short months ago
      We are planning to be in Perth around Easter time. We might be able to meet up before you start your big adventure. Which direction are you headed?
      Keep in touch, and let us know how you are getting on with your prep.

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