Long, straight drives and losing it in the Scrub

The truck is now up and running again and we were keen to get going. After Port Lincoln, we only had one more stop on the Eyre Peninsular before preparing for the Nullarbor Crossing.

We bush camped at Haslam camping ground (Camp 6 reference 724 for SA, only $5 in the honesty box), after checking out one or two other spots that were too full to get a park. It was situated near a pleasant rocky beach with a long jetty that is mostly used for fishing. Oysters were also the order of the day, with fellow campers telling us tales of only $6.50 for a dozen huge, fresh local oysters. They were already sold out for the day, but perhaps tomorrow morning.

Would you believe it, we ran into the O’Callaghan’s again. They had been there for a few days, where their children were running around with another travelling family, who were also headed in the same direction. It’s practically becoming a convoy, with us all leaving for Ceduna the following day.

We never did get our oysters. The oyster boat was just being launched as we finished packing up to go.

On to Ceduna, and we got the last caravan spot in the park in town. Ceduna is recognised as the Eastern gateway to the Nullarbor, so I was expecting loads of sun, and heat. Instead it rained practically the entire time we were there. Didn’t matter too much, as all we wanted to do was shop and prepare for a couple of days bush camping. The other families were staying at another campsite at Shelly Beach, on the outskirts of town. They had an enclosed playroom which we all took advantage of in the wet afternoons.

While in Ceduna, we visited the local Playgroup. You can read all about our Ceduna visit by clicking here.

Mike and I thought it would be fun to play the Nullarbor Links, the world’s longest golf course. It’s an 18-hole, par 72 course over an impressive 1383 km. This idea was an attempt to break up the journey a bit, and have some fun in the process. I have to mention here that Mike and I are not golfers. Between us, we have had around 6 rounds in our life. Prior to starting the trip, we purchased a driver, 8-iron and putter from the local op shop, as well as a packet of golf balls and tees. The guy at the local tourist information office warned us to ‘keep our eyes on where the balls land’ as there is a lot of scrub and bushes on some of the holes.

The first two holes were on the Ceduna course (holes 1 and 18). We rushed out to play them during what looked like a break in the weather. The first hole was fine, but the heavens opened as we started the second, and by the end of it, all four of us looked like drowned rats. We were also lighter two balls, and praying the weather improves along the way.

Bunda CliffsNullabor roadsignWelcome to WA signThe Nullarbor is a journey of 1194 km from Ceduna to Norseman, and a further 189 km to Kalgoorlie-Boulder, where the final two holes of the Nullarbor Links are on the local course. There is a hole at every roadhouse along the journey, until Fraser Range (which is a sheep station and brilliant farm stay). There are two holes at Norseman golf course, one at Kambalda and the final two (or first two if you are travelling in the opposite direction) at the Kalgoorlie Golf club, the only holes with a dress code.

In total we spent four days crossing the Nullarbor to Norseman, stopping only for golf, food and bush camping. Our cards were stamped at every hole, and it was challenging not losing balls at every turn. I seemed to manage to hit my ball in every tree and spiky scrub, and my card was looking more like an impressive ten-pin bowling score. I was warned about the thieving birds at the 5th hole, but still managed to get my ball stolen by that bl**dy crow and had to take the penalty. But still, it is an experience, and we may never get the chance to do it again.

On our second day, we crossed into Western Australia. The border crossing inspection for fruit and vegies gave me flashbacks to border crossings in Africa. This is our first time in WA, and I have now officially been in every state in Australia.

Coby rides a sheepLunchtime on the third day we pulled into Fraser Range (only 100 km from Norseman), where the other families were already set up for the evening. After golf, (which was my best effort to date with only 6 strokes for a par 3), we also decided to have a break from driving, and set up camp. The surroundings were spectacular, the facilities just superb, and we were ready for a charge up and water fill. There was a bit of a party atmosphere after 3 hard days driving through long straight roads in unpredictable weather. It had rained on and off the entire journey. Longest straight road in Oz

Before we head off for the end of this journey, we all hiked around the ridge surrounding Fraser Range. The girls did it first and then the boys. We spotted lizards basking in the sun and kangaroos jumping around the station. Both parties climbed Mount Pleasant for the view of the station. It was then time to pack up for the final stretch to Norseman, and to finish our last 5 holes of golf.

Crossing the Nullarbor Plain was a great experience. I think it was greener than most people get to see it, and the coastline around the ‘Head of Bight’ was truly breathtaking and certainly worth the journey. But Kalgoorlie awaits, and the world’s longest round must finish. Next time you hear from us, I promise to publish our final scores.

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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.

Peninsular’s and Playgroups

Having left the picturesque Robe behind us we headed north hoping for some warmer weather. We decided to base ourselves at Strathalbyn to explore the Fleurieu Peninsular region south of Adelaide.

Touring the entire region in one day was a challenge, so despite the long drive and poor weather we made a few stops to get a feel for the area.

One of the highlights for us was ‘The Whale Centre’ at Victor Harbour. This was one of the first museums the children had ever been to, so what made it for us was the fact that it was an interactive exhibition. One of the most striking features was the massive, and very colourful mural that took up an entire wall for two levels in the main room. We had fun identifying the various fish and other marine life represented in this piece. Kids looking at shells

There were so many senses to use and displays to explore. You could see the pictures and artifacts, touch the shells, sea rocks and corals, hear the recordings of whales and dolphins, and even smell the oils still lingering in the old whale bones. Considering most children have very short attention spans, this exhibition held their interest long enough for us to learn and enjoy it ourselves.

The best bit towards the end was digging for fossils. Each child was given a bucket, spade and brush, and a picture of whale and sea related fossils to ‘excavate’ in the sandpit. This was cleverly situated next to a very interesting shark exhibition and documentary. Although we thought the looping soundtrack of Orbital and The Prodigy didn’t really fit with the seventies shark documentaries.

So this first museum experience now has me looking for the word ‘interactive’ and every museum brochure I have come across for Adelaide.

Speaking of which, our next stop was the capital of the Festival State. Mike and I have only visited Adelaide once before, very briefly and without the children. This time round we stayed at the beautiful Adelaide Shores Big 4 caravan park. It’s situated right next to the beach, and is probably the best caravan park I have ever been to.

We took a bus into Adelaide city centre from the bus stop just outside the caravan park, which took around 40 minutes. The beauty of being in a big city is there is loads to do. We wandered around the Rundle Street Mall for a while, where the children enjoyed the pig statues.Rundle Mall PigI window-shopped. We then took are short walk to the Museum of South Australia, where we enjoyed the animal displays. They had a great interactive Australian Marine section, which held the children’s interest for ages. We also liked the opalised fossils section, which was something uniquely South Australian, and very different to anything we had seen before.

Adelaide also saw our first Playgroup visit to the Dunbar Terrace Kindergarten Playgroup. You can read all about our visit here.

Coby and Rhys on Moonta trainAfter a few days in the state capital, we were off to discover the Yorke Peninsula. For anyone who has young children, they very often get excited by trains, mostly care of Thomas the Tank engine, and Chuggington. Rhys is a huge fan, but has actually has not been on a train since he was a baby. So our arrival in Moonta was well timed as the Moonta Mine train was about to leave on a one hour ride around the old copper mine. This was certainly one of the first trip highlights for Rhys, as the train chugged through tunnels and across the historic precipitation site.

Just a bit of interesting trivia for you; the Moonta mine was registered in 1868, and the yield of copper was around 25% for the first few years. These days, mining companies get excited about any ore that contains more than 1% copper.

Gap Beach

We bush-camped in a place called ‘The Gap’, a free bush/beach camp around 15 km outside of Moonta. Believe it or not, this was our firstKids playing in the sea Australian sunset over water, ever. We packed up the truck and found a nice little spot on an already virtually deserted beach and set up for the evening.

Mike managed to catch an Australian salmon (which was thrown back) while the kids played. With the dinner table set up, we watched the sunset with a BBQ dinner. I took way too many photo’s, trying out different settings on my camera. It was the first of many, I hope.

First Beach Sunset

Unfortunately, we hit our first snag on the road. We had travelled along a lot of unsealed roads throughout the York Peninsula, and somewhere we picked up a old, blunt nail in one of the tyres. Fortunately, we discovered it early, and Mike got the job of changing it for the spare. We got it patched up in Moonta before we headed off up the coast.

So off to Port Augusta, where we will start heading ever westward, starting off with the Eyre Peninsula.

And so it begins…

So after 12 months planning, dreaming, worrying and organizing, we are FINALLY on the road.  It is all so very surreal, with waves of different emotions including euphoria, excitement and terror, wondering if we have truly gone mad.  For better or worse, there is no backing out now.

Five days before we left, we spent the day cleaning, vacuuming and packing.  The last of the things we thought we would need went into the caravan, and we moved out of our house.  Our first port of call was The Anchorage, which is the Port Fairy Big 4.  To read more about this fantastic Holiday Park, click here.

 On moving day, I had 4 days left at work before we are truly on the road.  Staying at the holiday park gave us a bit of a buffer.  We still had access to our stuff, and could dump what we thought we didn’t need.  Despite our ‘ruthlessness’, the van still is heavy, and we are looking at things saying ‘do we really need that’.  Time will tell.

So our first afternoon was spent checking out our first real caravan park.  We really enjoyed our 5 nights at the Anchorage, and the facilities were great.  The one downside, nobody ordered the weather.  Our first night would have to be the coldest night of this summer yet.   

So came my final day at work.  I was kept busy right up until the last minute.  My last hour was spent giving a final presentation to get my ‘Greenbelt’, which was the completion of a rather large project from last year.  But I’m glad I finished work on a high note.  I had a lovely lunch with my colleagues, and drinks at the local after work. 

Our First Border CrossingSaturday morning we were off to Robe, which meant we crossed our first state border on day one.  We wanted to take it reasonably easy, so we meandered through Mount Gambier, where we stopped at the sinkhole for lunch, Beachport for afternoon snack and them found a great little bush camp around 3 km outside of Robe. BushCamp @ 'The Gums' Little Dip CA 

Unfortunately our first night was cold and rainy, so we were half expecting to take off the next day if the weather didn’t improve.  I rose early to walk through the dunes to a beautiful deserted beach and enjoyed the sunrise in peace, wishing it was a few degrees warmer so I could face a swim.

 

 

West Beach CoastlineWe spent the day exploring the wonderful coastal town.  Robe may not be famous for Robes, but it has a lot to offer in scenery and quaintness.  We did the Western cliff walk, with its rugged coastline, and pristine, crystal clear blue water. 

Robe was founded in 1802 by a French explorer, and settled the same year.  It was established as a port in 1847, and named after the original Governor.   Being such a historic town, it has a few lovely old cottages, and interesting architecture.  These days, it is a centre for the rock lobster industry, and a working fishing port.  With this in mind, we gave the kids a first go at fishing.Coby Fishing Robe Jetty

 

 

Truck on LongbeachOne of the highlights of the day was taking a drive on Long Beach.  There is a 12 km stretch that is perfectly legal to drive on, and easily enjoyed in a 4WD.

 

 

We will spend the next few days travelling northwards to Adelaide, where we will visit our first Playgroup, and explore the city and surrounds.

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