We're Off at last ~ December 2004

Friday 3rd December 2004

Tomorrow is the day, the day we have awaited so long. Tomorrow we set off on our trip around Australia.

How long will you be away? people have asked. Well the answer is, As long as it takes.

The delays were inconvenient but we had some good moments. Whilst in the UK we managed to catch up with some relatives. We spent some very nice days with Peter's mother. This time saying goodbye to family was much more difficult, especially to Peter's mum. I guess as we get older we realise how fragile life is.

My niece, Julie, had been reading Down Under by Bill Bryson. At the very same time we were visiting the places described in the book while on our shake-down trip to Shark Bay and Julie was comparing the book to our website. She very kindly gave us a copy of this book which Peter has thoroughly enjoyed and I have yet to read.

We enjoyed our time with the UK relatives coming over here for a niece's wedding as well as spending time with the Australian branch of the family and friends. The wedding and the activities that followed were enjoyed by all.

Also the timing was right for Nicholas Paul to move into our house and look after things for us.

So . . . delayed we were, but so many positives came from the delays that you really have to wonder whether it 'was meant to be'

Saturday 4th December 2004

We left home at 9.00 a.m. It is about 19° C. but it feels much hotter. Peter is getting used to towing Bessie (our caravan) again. He decided to drive for as long as he was comfortable doing so. We stopped at Merredin for lunch then pressed on to Southern Cross for a cuppa. We decided we would travel through Coolgardie and stop overnight at a roadside picnic spot - our first attempt at 'roughing it'. The roads in Coolgardie are very wide to allow camel trains to turn around. We didn't see any camels but later we sure did see a train!

We arrived at the campsite with the light fading fast, set up camp and cooked dinner. It was still very warm so we decided to eat outside. I got quite a shock when I saw lights fast approaching us, we did not realise we had set up camp alongside a railway line!

Sleep was scarce that night, what with heat, the road-trains and the other sort of trains. We were up early next morning and back on the road.

Sunday 5th December 2004

We watched the sun rise from our beds, then it was up and away for us seasoned campers. We went into Norseman to fill up with fuel, water and a cup of coffee.

I checked out showering facilities at these roadhouses. We can shower in the caravan but did not want to cross the Nullarbor short of water. Anyway, it seems you can shower at roadhouses for about $3.00.

We weren't too impressed with the town of Norseman. We decided to have more stops today so it was on to Balladonia, two hours away. The people there were very friendly and helpful. The lady that served us works in London - she was just helping out.

Next stop was Caiguna for lunch. It amazes me that these roadhouses are in the middle of nowhere yet can provide you with a decent meal with fresh veggies at reasonable prices.

The scenery varied as we travelled across the Nullarbor; sometimes we would have trees and scrub, other times just scrub. The landscape changed yet again when we approached Madura, this was very hilly and also very pretty. Once again very friendly people. Refreshed and refuelled once again we pressed on.

This time we camped overnight at a spot just outside Eucla. The night sky was absolutely fantastic, so many stars. I looked at them though the binoculars and was surprised how much clearer the stars were. We quite like the idea of camping at these picnic spots. Usually there is a caravan or campervan already there. As long as we have water we managed very nicely without having to book in at caravan sites all the time. People we meet along the way also do this as it stretches the budget that bit further.

Monday 6th December 2004

I slept well but Peter didn't. We were up early again and on the road by 7.00am. We were going to go to the next roadhouse and have a shower but as we expected to be in Ceduna tonight, we decided to use the water in the caravan tanks and have showers 'in house'. We set off thinking how early we were then realised we had lost two and half hours when we crossed the border into South Australia. (They are two and half hours ahead).

We bumped into a nice couple admiring the Australian Bight as we were. The man gave us some advice - take your watch off and take your time. Good advice for us as were feeling very tired. Next beauty spot we stopped at we took time out just to sit and admire the view. I sat outside the caravan, coffee in hand looking at a million dollar view and knew at that moment why we decided to do this trip. Nothing like it!!!!

We decided then to take it easy and just travelled a little way down the road to the Nullarbor Roadhouse for the night. They have a 'caravan park' which is a clearing at the side of the roadhouse but we had power. No water mind, as you can appreciate water is a precious commodity in the middle of nowhere. You could have a shower here but it was a $1 coin-operated affair for 5 minutes only. The toilets and showers were clean and the people very nice and friendly. We enjoyed an excellent meal with a good drop of red. Not bad for the middle of nowhere. Watching the trucks come and go, it brings home to you how isolated we are in Western Australia and how everything has to cross the Nullarbor in these huge rigs.

Tuesday 7th December 2004

We arose a little later than usual after a good nights rest and headed off down the road yet again. We had one stop at Nundroo then travelled on to Penong where we refuelled and had lunch. It was only a short way into Ceduna from there.

We arrived in plenty of time to set up camp and check out the facilities of the caravan park. We bumped into a lady who had also stayed at the Nullarbor roadhouse the night before. Strange how we all see things differently. We enjoyed our stay there, it was different, very windy but had something about it. This lady did not like anything about it, but we discovered very quickly that she didn't really have a good word to say about anything!

Wednesday 8th December 2004

We decided to have a walk around the town today and check out the tourist centre. The town is not that big and it is full of Aborigines just hanging about. Apparently they have an alcohol problem here and wine in casks is only sold at certain times; bottles of wine have to be sold in sealed bags. I guess if that's the way they can handle it, we can all fit in. We did not really like Ceduna and are looking forward to moving on.

Thursday 9th December 2004

We went back into town today to update the website and check our emails. We had the same problem accessing our ISP as we had in Kalbarri and now have to seriously consider moving to Big Pond. In the afternoon we drove a short way to Thevenard. We saw the wheat silos - huge - and had a bit of a walk along the beach. We then went up to the lookout. The weather wasn't the best but it was nice there. Back to base for dinner.

Friday 10th December 2004

It rained a lot overnight and is still pouring down. We have decided to stay another night here. Getting ready and hooking up we would be absolutely soaked. We just read for a while then the rain eased enough for us to walk into town. Whilst on the way back from town the sun came out and it was really warm, so we decided to walk out to the weather station for a tour and to watch the release of the weather balloon. We had a quick lunch at the caravan and set off for this 'short walk' which was much longer than we anticipated. We arrived in plenty of time for the activities. It was very interesting but a lot of it went over my head. Now for the walk back. We should sleep well tonight.

Saturday 11th December 2004

We were up fairly early and got ready for the road. Weather still not the best but better than yesterday morning.

We stopped off at a small bay called Smokey Bay, had a walk and a coffee. I always find there is something extraordinary about parking up and making your own coffee in your own 'home'. Then back on the road.

We have now stopped at a little bay called Perlubie Beach for the night. We are practically on the beach but the peace has been broken by four trail bikes. One or two people are staying here, including an Aborigine woman who is a little mad; she keeps shouting and swearing at anything and everything - including the ocean. Takes all sorts. I don't know which concerned Peter the most, the mad Aborigine woman or the born-again Christian who might try to convert him!!!! We had a very pleasant time here but have decided to move on in the morning.

Sunday 12th December 2004

We headed off towards Streaky Bay where we arrived in plenty of time for lunch, made friends with our next door neighbours and enjoyed the feel of the place as well as the scenery. What a jewel, we are parked on the edge of the beach; what more could you ask for?

We were initiated into the art of catching crabs, cooking them and, more importantly, eating them, courtesy of our next door neighbours who were experts.

We sat outside enjoying the last warmth of the day, sipping our wine and taking in the ocean views. Life is hard but someone has to do it.

Monday 13th December 2004

Today we have woken up to some blue sky amongst the clouds. We did our washing, packed our lunch and headed off for a day out doing the touristy bit. It was a lovely drive, stopping at several different bays. We had lunch overlooking one bay - perfect. We carried on to look at sea lions at some remote headland that took us ages to get to on rough, unsealed roads, much to Peter's delight. All that know him will know how he hates to take his beloved four wheel drive off the bitumen! We finished this tour at some stones that look like haystacks and therefore are so named.

We had a really lovely day taking in the sites, then headed back to 'camp'.

Tuesday 14th December 2004

We took our time getting up this morning as we had a lazy day planned. We wandered across the road to the library where we checked our emails. All for free, wonderful. After lunch we went into the town to the Power House Museum. We took one look inside and Peter's heart started to race with excitement whereas mine sank. What was I going to do for two hours? Certainly not stand and look with delight at smelly engines.

I went to the shop for essentials - coffee and wine. That being safely stored in the car, I wandered back inside the museum. One of the nice gentleman asked if I was interested in the engines. Not really I said in a kindly manner, not wishing to offend as he was obviously hooked on the things. He suggested I went to the other museum which was within walking distance and 'more interesting to the ladies'. And since 'himself' was in another world, in animated conversation with another engine junky, it seemed like good advice.

So off I went - I needed the exercise anyway - and it was well worth the walk. Very interesting, some relics were not really relics, but on the whole most of the museum housed true museum pieces. A lot about the pioneering days; they even had a pioneer's cottage. I will keep the caravan, thank you very much! As in all these museums, they have a section on the first and second world wars, and again the dates of the first world war ending vary. Sometimes it is 1918 and other times it is 1919. If anyone knows the answer then please email me because we cannot find out why.

After the museum jaunt we headed off to the carwash to wash Billy - a coin operated rip-off job. Well at least a little of Billy got washed and the rest - well it was a bucket and sponge job when we got back to camp. There is such a shortage of water in South Australia that you are not allowed to use a hose pipe.

When I compare Streaky Bay with Ceduna I try and figure out why we prefer Streaky Bay. People have said, Well, there is nothing at Ceduna. But then there is not much more at Streaky Bay. It is the feel of the place - the atmosphere - people here are a lot more relaxed. When I went into the wine shop I had to find a bell to ring. It took me a good five minutes to find the bell. I said to the lady serving me, You're very trusting, I could have run in and made off with a bottle before you knew it. She assured me that they would have seen me on the security camera. But would there have been this scenario in Ceduna? Not on your life. Difference being, the natives are nowhere to be seen here. But in Ceduna, well . . .

Wednesday 15th December 2004

Another day in paradise. Up early this morning. Well, early for us retired people anyway. Reason being I had to be at the hospital for the ol' blood test. No problems - which is good as this is the first blood test since we left home. A little shopping and then back to camp. Check emails at the library and then read my book for a while. Ah well, what next? Yes, we will go for a walk. Very enjoyable apart from the flies which seem worse here than in WA. I barbecued steak for dinner and we sat outside looking at the ocean whilst eating it. What a life!

Nice couple arrived this afternoon, they are on holiday from Holland. They come over here for their holidays, hire a motor home and tour around. They have been doing this a while so know a lot more places than us.

Thursday 16th December 2004

We set off at a reasonable time for our next 'camp site'. It is very hot and the flies are worst than ever. We stopped for coffee at Port Kenny - very little there - then onwards to Walkers Rocks. There is no caravan park at Walkers Rocks but camping is allowed in the dunes near the beach. We arrived after travelling down an unsealed road very slowly as it was a little uneven to say the most.

When we arrived we heard this very loud singing and thought, Oh no, what do we have here?" But they had their sing-song and then we didn't hear them again. We found out later that they were four young men who's car had broken down at Elliston, were sorted out by the RAA, and then were camping at Walkers Rocks, a popular surfing beach. The surfing part we found out later in the afternoon when ute after ute arrived with young men and surf boards. It was very hot (38° C.) and as we did not have any power, we could not use the air conditioner. We decided that these off-road camp sites were okay but when it is hot we prefer the caravan sites.
* Ute: Short for 'utility'. A small truck or pick-up version of a passenger car. Very popular with young Aussie males.

Friday 17th December 2004

We were up and away early as it was going to be another hot day and we wanted to set up at our next stop as soon as possible. We arrived at Elliston Caravan Park about 9.00am, set up and then got the air conditioner going. This is more like it, Campers! Nice place here, the people are friendly. We ventured out into the heat in the afternoon but survived as the car aircon worked beautifully. We did the recommended tourist drive along the coast. It was very impressive with the rugged cliffs and deserted beaches.

We then found our way to the tourist bureau for more information but they had none. The building which housed the tourist bureau had been painted by local artists, it was excellent, apparently being the largest mural in the southern hemisphere. We started to wend our way back to the caravan site but decided to check out the pub (as you do). Nice enough.

After we had dinner (back at camp) we had a walk around the park and bumped into a couple who had been at Streaky Bay. They have been travelling for three and a half years but also house-sit as they travel around. They had even been house-sitting in Roleystone, within sight of our house, so knew the area well. We are meeting up tomorrow evening for drinks.

Saturday 18th December 2004

Another hot day after a hot night. Well the hot day didn't last long - only until lunch time - then we had a dramatic change in the weather. Cloudy, windy and cold, oh sooooooo cooooooooold. We went to the Telecentre to update the web page and check emails. Called in at the pub on the way back, just to check if it is still there. Off again tomorrow - Coffin Bay this time.

Sunday 19th December 2004

A lovely day, nice and sunny. We packed up fairly early and headed off towards Coffin Bay. It was only about two hours but we stopped after an hour and half for a toilet break and lunch. Coffin Bay is a really beautiful place, the caravan park is nice apart from 'roo poo' everywhere. When we arrived I cleaned up our area with a dustpan and brush as I didn't want it treading into the caravan. This amused Peter greatly. He wasn't so amused when I found water under the carpet coming from a leaking pipe. We saw a lovely scene later when I nipped out to the loo - heaps of kangaroos grazing around the caravan park.

Monday 20th December 2004

First we checked in at the medical centre as I am due another blood test on Wednesday. They couldn't be more helpful. So far I've found having the blood test whilst travelling no bother. To anyone with the same medical problem I would say, "Get on with your plans and get travelling."

It was then off to Port Lincoln for us, to tour the caravan repair place and the plumbing suppliers. We really loved Port Lincoln, so beautiful and clean and friendly. We picked up our mail from the post office, courtesy of Nicholas Paul. We sat overlooking the bay whilst we enjoyed a lovely lunch and opened all our mail.

After lunch we had a walk around, did some shopping and headed home so 'the man about the house' could repair the pipe. No luck, wrong sized pipe. We had a lovely walk alongside the bay and intend to go again tomorrow.

Tuesday 21st December 2004

Another lovely day. Haven't done much really, just washing, sorting out cupboards and reading. Walked over to the Post Office to use their computers.

Wednesday 22nd December 2004

Off we went to get my blood test done first thing this morning, and as it wasn't far and we were in need of some exercise, we decided to walk. All went well - or so we thought.

After lunch we decided to look at the National Park here. It is a lovely place to be, lots of secluded beaches and blue ocean with foamy white breakers. Peter decided we would take a drive on the wild side and we headed down a four wheel drive track. After a fair way we were faced with nothing but sand dunes. We are not going up there, are we? I asked, trying not to sound as if I was in a state of panic. My dear husband decided, why not!

Well, to cut a short story even shorter, we got bogged. Right at that moment the phone rang; Nicholas Paul to bring us up to date about something. Very short call! My instruction from the now 'experienced four wheel driver' was to go up those sand dunes and see what is on the other side. Like a good little wife I did. On the way I was thinking to myself, "He should have taken Mike Morley up on those four wheel drive lessons at Lancelin". Good thing at this point in time I didn't know Peter's only instruction in 4WD was from a magazine in the dentist's waiting room. Anyway a short time later I turned around to see himself following me. He had very quickly become 'unbogged'. For some reason I did not hear him until he was right behind me. It was very eerie walking amongst the dunes, not a soul in sight. At this moment in time I was thinking to myself it would be a good idea to turn back. But no the 'fearless driver of the sand dunes' was game for more. Luckily we did not have any more concerns, that was until he decided later to go on a beach, but this time he had it under control and we got off that beach in a flash. Back on the bitumen and, yes, I sighed a sigh of relief. The phone rang again - the nurse from this morning had botched my blood test. So tomorrow, guess where we are off to again? This time to Port Lincoln as the Community nurse is not in Coffin Bay tomorrow.

Thursday 23rd December 2004

Went into Port Lincoln as planned, no problems at the hospital. We had a wander round the town centre then had coffee. Peter then took Billy off to the car wash and to have the wheels balanced whilst I did some major browsing. It was nice just to wander on my own, look in all the gift and craft shops etc. We met for lunch then went off to do the shopping for the Christmas period as most places around here are closed for the four days.

Friday 24th December 2004 - Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve and we are on the move again, this time to Tumby Bay. We arrived about lunch time, set up camp, had lunch and then walked into the town. We called in the Post Office for our mail as we were expecting the new pressure hose from Jayco. We weren't disappointed.

When we first arrived at the caravan park we were given a voucher each for the pub. A free drink or $2 for the 'pokies'. No contest, I like to see something for my money, so we wandered into the pub for our free drinks. They were very friendly so we had another drink and booked a table for tonight. The meal was nice and very reasonable. On our way out, who should we bump into but an old colleague of mine, Bernie. We knew he lived here but didn't expect to bump into him the first night we were here. Everyone who lives here knows everyone else.

Saturday 25th December 2004 - Christmas Day

A strange day in a way. It didn't feel like Christmas Day . . . yet it did. The day started off well for me as my friend Pat phoned to wish us a Happy Christmas. Peter not so good - whatever he ate the night before did not agree with him so he had a very quiet Christmas Day. I went for a walk around the town which was very quiet, just the odd person wandering about. Just missed Nicholas Paul phoning so phoned him back. We had a very light lunch and then I cooked our turkey for the evening. Very nice too! Peter, by this time, was fine to eat and drink, so I guess he enjoyed it as well.

It was nice to receive text messages of good cheer and the phone calls to and from friends and relatives. It was a very relaxed Christmas Day, more relaxed than other years.

Sunday 26th December 2004 - Boxing Day

A beautiful sunny day - much brighter than yesterday - and warmer I would say. After breakfast we went for a walk into the town and, as the coffee shop was open, we stopped for one. Whilst drinking our coffee we had the local map out to plan what we were going to do in the next couple of days. We agreed that, whilst this idea of not planning anything, just doing what we please when we please, is fine in theory, you can end up doing nothing.

We were engrossed in our map when a lady approached, introduced herself as a local, and proceeded to tell us all about Tumby Bay and the surrounding areas. A very nice gesture which made us like T.B. even more.

Monday 27th December 2004

Walked to the Mangrove boardwalk. It was very interesting, we had not realised the importance of the Mangroves. Afterwards it was only a short walk to the lookout. The lookout was a white tower on the top of a small hill. No way Hosé, I don't do towers! Peter climbed to the top and took photos. I just surveyed from a lower position.

Early evening we decided to walk to the local pub and check out one of the locals we were seeking out. We did not see him but enjoyed the wine, then as the Fish and Chip shop was next door, how could you walk past? 'What diet?' Before returning home we had another drink at the other pub just to prove we weren't biased or anything. We had a long chat with a local who gave us a few ideas for sight-seeing and more background on the local chap we were seeking out.

Tuesday 28th December 2004

We did a round tour of local beauty spots today. We started off at Port Neill where we visited a very interesting museum. The museum is privately owned by a very nice couple, Vic and Jill Fauser. There were items of interest for both male and female. Peter, of course, was taken with the old steam engine and other mechanical things. I was most impressed with Vic's grandmother who rode a bicycle down the main street when women were expected to ride horses side saddle. The locals were so appalled they threw stones at her. Did she give up? No she joined a cycling club. Another victory for women.

Before moving on we sat and had lunch on the sea front and froze to death. Yes, it is summer but it was damn cold. We then had a look at Cowell but we weren't too impressed with the town. Cowell is famous for its jade mining. The jade which they make into jewellery is 1,700 million years old. As we have a grand daughter named Jade, how could we resist buying her something. Anyway, after Cowell we headed back and called in at Arno Bay. We enjoy seeing these places but they are beginning to look very similar so we feel we have seen enough of the Eyre Peninsula and on Monday are heading off to Port Augusta.

Wednesday 29th December 2004

Walked into the town to use the internet at the library. Library closed until after the new year. Not to worry, we will go into Port Lincoln tomorrow and visit the library there. Nothing for it now but to visit the . . . no, not the pub this time of day. It is too early even for us! No, we went to the coffee shop, which we rather like, nice coffee and friendly people with a view to die for.

Thursday 30th December 2004

On one of our visits to the pub a local told us about this museum that would interest us. As it was on the way to Port Lincoln and we were going there, we decided to give this museum the once over. Very disappointing - they had so much 'stuff' but did not make the most of it. Tractors that could have been restored were just left to rust. The stationary engine shed that boasts that it has working engines was silent. No one around to ask questions and so on. For me, what they had on display from the so-called pioneering days wasn't very interesting at all. The Fausers' museum at Port Neill was far better displayed and a lot more interesting.

Anyway, off to Port Lincoln. Guess what? The library there was closed too. Never say die, off we went to the information centre and had to wait 40 minutes until the computer was free. We then went for lunch - very nice too. We had a walk around the place and did some shopping then headed home.

When we arrived home we found the caravan park bursting at the seams. There were people, tents and caravans everywhere. A lot of young people had arrived for the New Year's Eve celebrations as there was a couple of bands playing at the pubs. They all seem well behaved and very pleasant to talk to. We had a very nice evening socialising with our neighbours who are from Adelaide.

Friday 31st December 2004 - New Year's Eve

Lazy start to the day today. Had a lie-in then took coffee back to bed and read for a while. Too hard this life. After lunch we walked into town to do a few errands and boy, was it hot! Hot and humid. We were very glad to get back to the caravan and the air conditioner. In the evening we sat outside with our neighbours. Considering it had been so hot during the day, it became very cold very quickly. We talked and drank and ate and drank and drank and drank . . . and suddenly it was five past midnight! We all felt a little deflated that we had missed the magic moment. So we all wished each other Happy New Year and birthday wishes to Peter (who discovered his legs had stopped working), said goodnight and went to bed.

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