We had originally intended to spend a couple of months travelling across southern Australia after the FJ Cruiser Summit before arriving home in late November/early December. However our plans unexpectedly changed when we learned that we needed to be home by the end of the first week of October and as a result we decided to more or less head home straight after the Summit.
Fortunately it was not raining when we woke up on the day we left Bow Bridge although there were some very dark and threatening clouds on the horizon and, having packed up as much as possible the previous day, we managed to get fully packed up before the rain started – again! As we headed east after leaving Bow Bridge we realised just how much it had rained over the previous week or so when we saw ducks swimming in the water-filled drainage channels that ran along the side of the road!
With some long travel days ahead – we had three and a bit days in which to cover the 2,400 kilometre distance to Port Augusta – and a fairly nasty storm system pounding southern Australia we decided not to camp for at least the next two nights so that we could travel as far as possible each day. After travelling more than 700 kilometres the first day, and stopping in Ravensthorpe for lunch and Gibson for afternoon tea, we made it to Norseman. (We had an interesting experience at the Gibson Soak Hotel in Gibson – when we were each served our $5, 50% froth, lukewarm lattes we were also given a red foil wrapped heart-shaped chocolate. However, when I turned mine over to unwrap it I noticed it was already partially opened and that it had distinctly rodent-like teeth marks in it!! The young guy who’d served us apologised profusely – and gave me a KitKat bar from the fridge – before sorting through all the other chocolates that were kept in an open container on the bench and discarding only the partially eaten ones – totally gross!!)
We travelled more than 700 kilometres again the following day and made it as far as Border Village in South Australia. We opted for the cheapest onsite accommodation possible at the roadhouse – a small cabin with three single beds (any room with a bed larger than a double was way more expensive and we don’t do double beds!) – and it was an interesting experience. The room had an electric kettle but no power points the cord could reach, a TV that showed snow on every channel and three single beds with only one woollen blanket between them. We knew we were going to be in for a really cold night but fortunately we were able to push two of the single beds together and use our own down quilt from the camper. However, and despite the shortcomings of the room, we each had a delicious and very reasonably priced meal in roadhouse restaurant that night.
On the third day we travelled almost 600 kilometres and although we hadn’t been doing much sightseeing along the way we did call in to Head of the Bight where we were able to spend some time watching a whale and her calf playing in the water.
The storm system that had pounded southern Australia over the previous few days had caused many areas of South Australia to lose power for more than 24 hours and also resulted in the cancellation of several major weekend events. We had originally planned to stay in Ceduna on the third night – which was a Friday – but had learnt while we were having dinner at Border Village the previous night that all the caravan parks were fully booked out that weekend (which was also a long weekend) for the annual oyster festival.
However, as we drove into Ceduna on the Friday afternoon we noticed that the signs advertising the ‘2016 Oysterfest’ were now showing that it had been cancelled due to the extreme weather. Parts of Ceduna were still affected by storm damage and power/communications outages and, as a result, we had to pay cash for almost $150 of fuel due to EFTPOS not being available at the petrol station where we refuelled. (Their ATM was also affected by the same outage but fortunately, and because of a tip I’d read somewhere on the internet, we had stashed $200 in a hidey hole in the car for emergencies like this before we started our trip). Even though we may have been able to get accommodation in Ceduna due to the cancellation of the Oysterfest we continued on as planned to the lovely little town of Wirrulla where we setup the camper for what was to be the last time on our trip.
Our destination the following day was Port Augusta where we were going to stay with our friend Vince for a couple of days and along the way we stopped at Kimba to see the Big Galah and take a photo of the ‘Halfway Across Australia’ sign. We also stopped in Minnipa to find out if an interesting public toilet block I’d seen when I rode my motorcycle from Canberra to Busselton (and return) in 2003 was still there. And it is! The ‘Concrete Crappa’ – a public toilet block made from a concrete water tank – is still there!
We hadn’t visited Vince since he’d moved to Port Augusta and we were completely blown away by the lovely location where he lives. Vince actually lives just outside of Port Augusta in a place named Commissariat Point and most of the dwellings there were originally simple fishing shacks although many have since been extended, refurbished and/or rebuilt. Vince’s house is literally on the water’s edge of Blanche Bay and looks across to mountains that are part of the southern end of the Flinders Ranges. It was lovely to stay with him for a couple of days – he is a chef and cooked us wonderful meals including some he made using fresh seafood that had been caught from the waters in front of his house. Just before sunset on the second day a storm passed over and as it cleared we were treated to a beautiful double rainbow (unfortunately the photos I took and stitched together doesn’t really do it justice).
After leaving Vince’s place on Monday we headed into Adelaide to stay in a motel that, as luck would have it, was directly across the road from the Toyota dealer where we were getting the car serviced the following day. After collecting the car we paid a visit to the nearby Stone Stomper factory before continuing on to Nuriootpa to stay with Chris, one of Ron’s former work colleagues, and his partner Nadine and were treated to a great meal which Chris cooked for us.
When we left Nuriootpa on Wednesday morning we weren’t sure of our destination for that day although it was likely to be either Hay (just over 600 kilometres) or Narrandera (almost 800 kilometres). As it turned out we travelled almost 900 kilometres and made it all the way to Gumly Gumly – just east of Wagga Wagga – and along the way we saw a lot of farms and nature reserves that were still extensively flooded. Fortunately all the roads we needed to travel on were open although the Newell Highway was reduced to a single lane width in some places due to water across the road (we had to drive along the crown of the road to stay in the shallowest water).
For the final day of our 25 week trip we only had just over 230 kilometres to travel and along the way we stopped at the wonderful Long Track Cafe in Jugiong before continuing on and arriving home just before midday.
We’ve had a great trip and a wonderful time and it’s made us realise what a wonderful country we live in and how much there is to see and do here in Australia. Also, and despite everything we saw and did, we reckon we only experienced about 10% of what’s on offer and it’s not hard to understand how people can spend four or five (or more!) years travelling around Australia.
Our trip stats are as follows:
|Length of trip||174 days|
|Distance travelled||31,651 kilometres|
|Nights spent in camper||136|
|Fuel used||5,936 litres|
|Average fuel consumption||18.75 lph/5.33 kpl|
|Minimum fuel cost||$1.127/l (PULP95)|
|Maximum fuel cost||$2.050/l (ULP91)|
|Average fuel cost||$1.451/l (ULP91/PULP95/PULP98)|
|Number of flat tyres||0 (Thankfully the TPMS detected a slow leak caused by a nail and we were able to get it repaired)|
|Number of animal strikes||Not many (no mammals or reptiles were harmed during our trip although sadly a couple of birds weren't so lucky)|