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Continuing Around the Eyre Peninsula


Three days earlier when we had, with much regret, left Streaky Bay, we'd spent a night at a camping spot on the coast called Walkers Rocks. It had not been a good idea. There was no a.c. power for the air conditioner and the temperature reached 38° C. One night of that was more than enough so we moved on to a caravan park in a lovely little place called Elliston which - you’ll be really pleased to hear - was NOT named by Matthew Flinders who was here in his vessel, HMS Investigator, from 10–13 February 1802. Missed one there, Matt boy.

Elliston, it seems, was named by Governor Sir William Jervois either after: So ... take your pick. It's a great little place, though, Elliston. Nice pub and lots of beautiful, empty beaches, cliffs and little islands. I would have taken some photos but just how many beach scenes can you put on one website? Oops, I wish I hadn't asked that.
Coffin Bay

After Elliston we continued on down the Peninsula to Coffin Bay. It’s a beaut place with lots of inlets and bays with trees right down to the water’s edge. Rather reminiscent of Sydney Harbour in a way. But without Sydney. We stayed for five nights, leaving on Christmas Eve.

Coffin Bay? Funny name for a bay, don’t you think? The ‘coffin’ bit has nothing to do with caskets for cool corpses; this bay was named by – yes, you guessed – Captain Matthew Flinders, RN, after a famous botanist, Sir Isaac Coffin. Nice one, Matt.

Peter, come here! Pam hissed it in a loud stage whisper on our first evening.
Wort? I asked grumpily, sliding off the bed. She’d paused in the caravan doorway on her way to the dunny.
Look she said, excitedly. I looked. There were kangaroos all over the place.

Since I was vertical I thought I might as well go to the toilet too. Red wine does that, doesn't it? I counted sixteen kangaroos grazing around the caravan. One or two looked up without much interest as I passed. The rest didn’t bother.

How cute, I expect you’re thinking. Perhaps. The grass a 'roo eats is processed and eventually comes back out - only it’s not grass any more. One kangaroo can produce a fair amount but sixteen can really make a mess - and those were just the ones I’d counted. It was only 9 o'clock, they had the whole night to work on it. Mrs Bucket had forgotten that she’d spent ten minutes with a dustpan and brush clearing a path to the caravan door when we’d arrived. By morning it will be as bad as ever.
Our First Caravan Problem

During our time at Coffin Bay we struggled to fix a leak in the caravan hot water system. Could do it ourselves, easy, if we could only get the correct size of pressure hose. Some idiot, while laying the floor covering during construction of the ’van, had cut into the pipe. I phoned Jayco (the manufacturer) in Melbourne who directed us to their local agent in Port Lincoln. The agent didn’t have the hose but suggested a few plumbing places we could try. These, in turn, said it wasn’t a plumbing item, try hydraulic suppliers. We needed pressure hose with an outside diameter of 12 mm.

Metric? the hydraulic supplier exclaimed, You’ll be lucky.

It seems that decimalisation has yet to reach South Australia. All we could get was the Imperial equivalent so, on the off chance, we bought a length of ½ inch hose plus some ½ inch fittings. After all, what’s half a millimetre between friends? Answer: Enough to change one leak into two. So that was $35 down the pan. That would have bought two bottles of half-decent red wine. Next we called Caravanland in Perth from whom we bought the ’van. They were sorry but they don’t stock hose.

I phoned Jayco in Melbourne again, definitely not happy by this time. They promised to post a length of the correct hose out to the post office at our next destination, Tumby Bay. Our first taste of problems 'on the road'.


While all this was going on we picked up a great idea for a wine cabinet from a couple camped near us. A couple who clearly had their priorities right.

Caravan ovens are seldom used so why waste the space?
They make a nice little wine cabinet.

Coffin Bay is a lovely, picturesque place, but unless you’re into boats or fishing, there’s really not a lot to do.
Bogged in the Middle of Nowhere

One day we visited the Coffin Bay National Park. In the park we drove round a bend and there was an emu, slap bang in the middle of the road. ’Course, by the time I’d found the camera it had disappeared into the bush. Another time we came face to face with three ’roos hopping straight down the road towards us. As if by command, all three about-faced and hopped off in the opposite direction.

It was a lot of fun when we took a turn marked:

Four Wheel Drives Only. Warning – Sand Conditions Liable To Change

Much of the track was rocky and bumpy, the rest was soft sand. And so, miles from anywhere and half way up a sand dune, we bogged. It wouldn't even reverse out down the slope. However, I hadn’t read a 4WD mag in the dentist’s waiting room for nothing - I knew what to do.

I’ll let the tyres down and all will be well, I told Pam.

Truth be told, she didn’t look as impressed as I’d expected her to look.


Nothing daunted, I half deflated all the tyres and made like a mole in the sand behind the wheels and out she came.

Bucket of Arabia

Meanwhile, my game little navigator was last seen striding off over the nearest dune in search of a camel.
Or, more likely, a coffee shop.

The coastline around the park was a haven for fisherpersons (note the PC terminology). Everywhere we go in South Australia, people are obsessed with fishing . . . but then, we are travelling around the coast. The thing is, they never seem to catch anything. The old timers tell of the days when you could drop a piece of bare string into the water and pull out a 50 lb. snapper every time. Hmmm . . . they must have been hungry snappers.

The coastline really is beautiful - sparkling breakers rolling up white, sandy beaches with towering cliffs behind. And, for the most part, deserted.


During our stay at Coffin Bay we visited Port Lincoln a couple of times. We found it a friendly, bustling little town with a great atmosphere. The busy waterfront had cafés and shops on one side of the road, green grass and children’s playgrounds on the other with the blue sky and ocean providing a backdrop. We had decided against camping there over Christmas. A mistake, perhaps.
Toilet Talk

Staying in all these caravan parks has, of necessity, resulted in much time (cumulatively speaking) sitting in communal toilets where you get to thinking. WCs are a wonderful invention, are they not? They're functional, simple, hygienic and relatively comfortable. But their acoustic qualities are ATROCIOUS! No wonder the old dunnies were always placed at the far end of the yard.

Here's a challenge; design a sound-absorbing pan. Or, at least, one that doesn't behave quite so like a megaphone.
Tumby Bay

On the morning of Christmas Eve we hitched good old Bessie to Billie and, beneath a blue and sunny sky, set off for pastures new. Tumby Bay - our destination - proved to be another friendly and picturesque coastal village. When we booked in at the caravan park we were given vouchers for free drinks at the Tumby Bay Hotel. Now, isn't that thoughtful? And on Christmas Eve too! So that's how we came to spend the evening at said hostelry which supplied a very nice meal for a reasonable price.

The restaurant was packed with Tumby Bay residents who - as happens in small, isolated communities - all knew each other. We felt as if we'd accidentally wandered into someone's wedding reception. We watched the interaction between groups, and between individual members of the same group. It was fun conjuring up our own scenarios with the aid of a bit of alcohol-enhanced imagination.

As we left the hotel, who should we bump into but one Bernie Bawden, an ex-work colleague of Pam's. Small world! Actually the coincidence stretched further than that. While in the U.K. recently we were asked by my cousin, Anne Stanhope, to look up a pen friend of hers should we ever be near Tumby Bay. Anne had lost touch with her some years ago. At that time I had never even heard of Tumby Bay. A few short weeks later we were to spend ten days there! Sadly, Anne's pen friend had succumbed to cancer but was fondly remembered in the town. Her husband still lives there but we decided not to contact him as the link between us was so tenuous.

But, Bernie Bawden we did meet. His family even has Bawden Road named after it. And we all know who started that tradition, don't we?

Who named Tumby Bay? I just knew you'd want to know. Well, here's a surprise for you. It was Captain Matthew Flinders, RN, when he was mucking about in His Majesty's Sloop, Investigator, in 1802. Young Flinders was only 28 at the time. Nowadays a lot of blokes that age still live with their mums. But not our hero! He was off round the world, naming stuff.

Matthew Flinders

Matthew Flinders (1774-1814), by unknown artist, c1800
State Library of New South Wales.

Matt named the bay after Tumby in his native Lincolnshire. (In Olde English, Tumby meant 'fenced village'. See how educational this site is becoming?) Not content with naming Tumby, old Matt also endowed over thirty other features on this coast with Lincolnshire names. Doubtless that explains Port Lincoln and Boston, too. Well, you may think, if he discovered it first that was his prerogative. But ... he didn't discover it first! A Dutchman named Peter Nuyts popped in for a cuppa in 1627, long before Matt. Possibly Pete wasn't so preoccupied with naming everything in sight.

New Holland Honey Eater

Christmas Day At Tumby Bay

It even rhymes. A Christmas Day like none we had experienced before. All the usual Christmas atmosphere and activities were absent. No tinsel, no tree, no coloured lights, no relatives to visit. In fact, little to differentiate it from any other day in paradise.

Pam sat about in the warm sunshine outside the caravan while I lay inside wishing she hadn't forced me to eat and drink so much the previous evening.

It was all very relaxed with other campers drifting past and exchanging pleasantries while children ran about on the grass and played with their new toys. A phone call from the U.K. informed us it was snowing over there. What a contrast! About the most exciting thing we did all day was ...

... watch New Holland Honeyeaters in an adjacent tree feed from red, bell-like flowers and poop all over our car.

Boxing Day was much the same. The highlight of the day was getting under the caravan to replace the damaged hot water hose. That took care of half an hour . . . but we have to pace ourselves, you see.

Next day we did quite a lot of walking in a rather futile attempt to negate the results of the usual Christmas excesses. While wandering, we found a lookout tower which gave a good view of Tumby Bay township with its white beaches, its jetty and the rolling hills behind.

Tumby Bay

The jetty is now only a quarter of its original length. It was built to transport wheat out to ships in deeper water. The bags of wheat were stacked on wagons which transported them out along the jetty to where a small crane loaded them on to a ship. Nowadays on the peninsular wheat is stored locally in giant silos then transported by road to Port Lincoln where there are modern facilities for loading it into large ships. These large, white silos were a feature of every town we visited. Actually, they are a feature of every town we didn't visit too.

While based at Tumby Bay we took a drive further up the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula to see what lay ahead of us. Put simply, the answer was 'more of the same'. Each little town had its silos, pub, post office, caravan park, jetty, a few shops, and a beautiful beach. They were just laid out differently in each place. On the strength of that we decided we'd go directly to Port Augusta at the head of the Spencer Gulf on leaving Tumby.

As we left Tumby we were travelling behind a brightly painted VW Campervan. On the rear was written:

I'm not a gynaecologist but I don't mind having a look.

The 300 kilometre drive to Port Augusta was not a pleasant one. The temperature had reached 37º by 10 o'clock and the scorching cross wind was strong enough to make controlling the car and caravan difficult. Strangely, not a leaf had been stirring when we left Tumby Bay. As we drove across flat plains that stretched to the horizon, the wind whipped the top soil off the dry paddocks and sand-blasted us, often making visibility quite poor. The temperature reached 39º by midday and the wind swung more northerly, often directly against us, making Billy work so hard to pull the 'van that we seldom got into top gear. The fuel gauge dropped alarmingly.

Passing through the town of Whyalla we were puzzled by a road sign which read, SHIP ENTERING. Many times we have seen TRUCKS ENTERING signs near an industrial area. But a ship??? A little further on we were amazed to see a giant warship, H.M.A.S. Whyalla, painted battleship grey and towering over the road as if waiting to join the traffic.

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Footnote: This re-working of Page 2 was completed on 24 January 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level3.