Pam's Journal For April 2005

     
  Sunday 1st April 2005  
  We were up early and away from our camp site by 8.30 a.m. Being told there isn’t any water for a shower certainly moved things along to our next destination, Adelaide. We like it here at the Adelaide Shores Caravan Resort. The showers are good and we have mains power which means we can use the caravan air conditioner. It is civilised! I am the first to admit, a camper I am not! But Peter had assured me on Tuesday morning that the next three days would be fun . . . and I had believed him! Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Once we'd set up camp we had to go to Mitsubishi to book in poor old Billy.
 
  Saturday 2nd April 2005  
  We complained when it was cold and now we are complaining it is hot. But it is very hot for April in South Australia - 100º Fahrenheit in the old money but a much better night last night.

Today Peter insisted on taking me to a ‘Doll and Teddy Fair’ at Hahndorf. I had been looking forward to this outing, and wasn’t disappointed. If only it hadn’t been so hot! We had a walk around Hahndorf but as we had been there twice before, lovely though it is, the novelty had worn off. There is a little café called ‘1839’ that makes the best peppermint tea, real peppermint tea. We then headed home to the air-conditioner.
 
  Sunday 3rd April 2005  
  Port Adelaide was our destination for today. An engine display would you believe! We met friends Lyndon and Ann (and Alex) and whilst the men looked at smelly, noisy and very uninteresting engines, Ann and I sat in a quiet hotel drinking wine and chatting. Now you tell me who is the smarter here men or women? After the display the men joined us and we went into Semaphore for dinner. A very nice time was had by all.  
  Monday 4th April 2005  
  Went for a walk along the beach front to work off last night’s meal. In the afternoon we had a walk around Glenelg and did some shopping.  
  Tuesday 5th April 2005  
  Lay-day – should have gone for a walk – didn’t. Just read, knitted and managed to get my face burnt sitting outside the caravan.  
  Wednesday 6th April 2005  
  We went for a tourist drive today, mapped out by yours truly. We had a look at various towns mentioned in the ‘brochure’. Very pretty scenery nice little towns. We arrived in McClaren Vale about coffee time. Found a nice little coffee shop and then had a wander round the town. It is a very nice place and the people were very friendly. We stopped for a minute to watch some men playing lawn bowls. They invited us to sit down and watch them. They were so nice and took turns at explaining how to play the game. A lot more to it than we thought. After a little while we headed off to a park for lunch. We then completed the ‘tourist drive’ - more little towns.  
  Thursday 7th April 2005  
  Up early today, we had to take Billy in for his repairs and we had to be there for 7.45 a.m. Middle of the night for retired people.

After leaving Billy in the safe hands of ‘Scott’ we caught the bus into the city. We had a good wander around and then spent a lot more money than we should have, but what the heck you can’t take it with you! We went to collect Billy only to find that they needed him longer so Peter is taking him back tomorrow.
 
  Friday 8th April 2005  
  After waiting for 4 hours, Peter finally got Billy back only to discover that they had not done what he asked! One hour later he left after paying a hefty bill and not completely satisfied. We then went into Glenelg to update the web site and send emails.  
  Saturday 9th April 2005  
  Had a lovely evening with Don and Lois. We went to a Thai restaurant in Glenelg and then they came back to ‘our place’ for a drink and coffee. Very enjoyable time.  
  Sunday 10th April 2005  
  We arrived at the Jet Fighter Museum and met Ann and Lyndon plus Lyndon’s friend. We had a wander round and it was very evident that it was not the ‘normal’ airshow but a ‘fly in’. Then it started to rain which helped Ann and I to make the decision to find coffee. Whilst drinking our coffee the hangar suddenly became very crowded. Alas, it wasn’t our charisma drawing them in but a heavy downpour of rain. We dodged the rain drops to see what else was happening – not a lot, so Ann and I left the men to it.

We found a nice little spot for coffee in a shopping centre and had a wander around the shops. We then went back to Ann’s house for a little drinky or two. The men arrived home and seem to have had a good time. We all went to a hotel for dinner. Very nice day in all.
 
  Monday 11th April 2005  
  Cleaning and preparing to move on tomorrow. Went into Glenelg for the last time to do a spot of shopping.  
  Tuesday 12th April 2005  
  We left Adelaide with fond memories of our time there and friendships new and renewed. We aimed to be in Blanchetown for lunch, having ditched all our fruit and vegetables before we left Adelaide.

On arrival at Blanchetown we discovered 'Lock and Weir Number One' (on the Murray River) by chance, we were actually looking for the town centre. There doesn’t appear to be a town centre and even the Post Office was closed for lunch. We did find a hotel which served us a very nice salad and even served iced coffee. Replenished, we continued on to Berri.

It was late afternoon before we arrived so after setting up we just relaxed and enjoyed a glass of red. The caravan park seems nice, shady trees and lawns, more importantly the showers and toilets are clean and well maintained.
 
  Wednesday 13th April 2005  
  After visiting the information centre we had a look around Berri. We liked what we saw. The people are very friendly and the town is perched on the edge of the Murray River, very pretty. After some shopping, we spent the afternoon relaxing at the caravan. The weather is very warm and a little humid.  
  Thursday 14th April 2005  
  The rain poured last night but at least the roof of the caravan got a good clean. (The roof is the only place Peter cannot reach to clean and it irritates the life out of him).

I walked into town to the hairdressers and by the time I came out, the weather had cleared and it looked like being a reasonable day. After lunch we did the tourist drive to Loxton and Barmera and anything else in between. Nice area and we liked Loxton but the towns along the river Murray are very similar. I wanted to visit the ‘Big Orange’ but haven’t managed to track it down yet. You would think if it was that big it would be hard to miss.

We did, however, find the “Tree of Knowledge” in Loxton. This tree records the river levels at times of flooding. Very interesting, as one year the waters rose to an extraordinary level. I did notice the river flooded during the years that Nicholas Paul and I were born but not the year Peter was born. I am sure that must have some significance on this family but what I don't know.
 
  Friday 15th April 2005  
  We set off early for Mildura to visit, would you believe, a Dick Smith’s store? Whilst we were in Adelaide recently we bought two UHF walkie-talkie radios. One of them turned out to be faulty. Mildura was the nearest store to Berri so we did a round trip of 320 kms to change them. We did spend some time in Mildura and enjoyed our time there. We saw a steam paddle boat go through the lock and generally had a relaxing time.

We left late afternoon for Renmark; we were to meet a couple that we had previously met in Tumby Bay and Port Augusta. Before we joined them for the evening we did a little exploring of Renmark and we really liked what we saw. We found Gavin and Jo’s house quite easily and after a drink we walked to a nearby restaurant. We had a great time and have been invited to spend the day with them on Sunday, on a boat on the Murray!!! Those people that know me well will now be thinking how brave I am to agree to go on a boat! I have been assured they have life jackets but  . . . will they check the shipping forecast?
 
  Saturday 16th April 2005  
  We did a tourist drive that Gavin recommended. It was a very pleasant drive. We went through Overlanders Corner which really consists of an old pub and not much else, but there is an interesting walk you can do, so if we have time before we leave we may do this.

We arrived at Waikerie Gliding Club to find two ladies, no men and no flying. They have very good facilities but nothing happening. Peter discovered two people he knew had died, sad. After Ann had given us a conducted tour of the place we headed off to Banrock Station for lunch.

We had fond memories of drinking copious amounts of Banrock Station wine in North Wales. We were a little disappointed in the reception we received, everyone was too busy to be friendly or welcoming. Peter likened it to the Leeuwin Estate. We had a meat and cheese platter, with wine of course. The wine was fine but the platter was lacking, especially for the price. We had much better value last November when we visited a winery in Margaret River recommended by Andy and Helen. We did have a nice time though.
 
  Sunday 17th April 2005  
  When we arrived at Gavin and Jo’s, Gavin greeted us with “we have decided not to take the boat out today but go for a bush barbeque”. Was I disappointed? Well actually, no. I would have gone on the boat but I much prefer my tootsies to be on terra firma. We had a really lovely time and enjoyed it very much. Jo and Gavin were very good at explaining to us our surroundings. We had a drive around the Renmark area then we travelled over the border to Victoria for a barbeque by the river. It was a perfect setting. Gavin cooked a lovely meal and then we did some more sightseeing before stopping in another beauty spot for afternoon tea. An excellent day.  
  Monday 18th April 2005  
  We went for a walk today around Berri. We visited the library and checked our emails and apart from that did little else. We like Berri and Renmark very much - in fact this whole area. But we are saddened by the way humans have treated the environment, especially the Murray River. This whole area abounds with water birds of all kinds, but we have to ask ourselves if the Murray continues to be abused, how long will the bird life last?  
  Tuesday 19th April 2005  
  We went to the village of Lyrup. Lyrup is the only village in Australia that is owned by the community, but please do not expect to see anything there except a general store!!! I expected to see an old fashioned village. Ah, well! We then drove back to Berri via a different route which, just by chance, took us by the hotel. And, as we hadn’t sampled its wares yet, we felt duty bound to try it.  
  Wednesday 20th April 2005  
  We went back to Renmark today as we had found an internet place willing to let Peter plug in the laptop. I had a wander around Renmark shops whilst Peter did the necessary. As we were very close to Gavin and Jo’s business we called in to say hello and goodbye, which resulted in making arrangements to meet for a drink later at the Renmark Club.

Gavin had told us about some old photos of the Murray before the weirs were built and Peter was very interested in seeing them. Before we met up with them we had a drive out to another lock which Peter wanted to see.

We had a very enjoyable couple of hours with Gav and Jo then it was time to say goodbye. Again. It is hard to keep saying goodbye to all these lovely people we meet. When we returned to the caravan park, I went to collect the washing and found someone had helped themselves to most of my pegs, cheeky scoundrels!!!
 
  Thursday 21st April 2005  
  It is a ‘get ready day’ today as we are off in the morning at the crack of dawn - or thereabouts. So we did all the mundane tasks we all have to do, cleaning, washing, ironing and shopping.  
  Friday 22nd April 2005  
  We left Berri at 7.15am - a near miracle for us. We made good time and had a only one stop on the way. We arrived in Port Augusta with plenty of time to collect our tickets for the Pichi Richi rail trip the following day.

We set up camp and had lunch and that is when Peter discovered the transfer pump from the auxiliary fuel tank in the Pajero wasn’t working. So off we went into Port Augusta to see if we could get it fixed. No one was interested. It was the Friday afternoon before a long weekend, and with a cold beer beckoning, nobody wanted to know about our uninteresting problem. Nothing for it but for Peter to do the job himself. He put blocks under the rear wheels and got underneath. He soon found the problem after I gave him some guidance. I kid you not, I said “Could it be some dirt blocking it?” and I was right! Anyway after taking the pump apart, cleaning it out and putting it all back together, Peter fitted a filter to prevent the problem happening again.

When we arrived at the caravan park we bumped into a couple who also had a Heritage ’van similar to ours. When we set up camp we found ourselves next to them, so having a wine or two with them seemed the natural thing to do. We, again, had met two very nice people, Barbara and Doug. Chatting away, as you do, it turned out that they know someone we know from the gliding club. Small world. We also discovered that we were all going on the train trip the following morning, so we said we would see them there.
 
  Saturday 23rd April 2005  
  Peter and I were on the last minute - usual for us - so we were one of the last to board the train. We didn’t realise that Barbara had saved us seats as we thought they were in the front carriage and we were at the back. Never mind, we caught up with them at Quorn and had lunch with them in a hotel. The four of us were sitting there eating and chatting, when this ‘lady’ came up to Peter and said, “Remember me?”. Peter’s face was blank. She continued, “We were on the Kangaroo Island trip together”. You cannot trust this man anywhere. The funny part was she remembered him but didn’t recognise me at all. In fact, her husband thought Barbara was Peter’s wife. What did this man do with her on K.I.?!!!!

After lunch we had a look around Quorn and then caught the train back to Port Augusta, pulled by steam again. We were delayed as a special steam engine called the Coffee Pot had broken down on the track. This train was 100 years old and there was a big celebration with one of our ex-politicians, Tim Fisher, attending. I didn’t see him any where.

After a lovely day in the company of Barbara and Doug, we headed home to the caravan. As it was ‘that time’ again, we went next door for another sundowner. Very enjoyable.
 
  Sunday 24th April 2005  
  We had a lay-day, preparing for the next day when we are off to Woomera. In the evening we met up with Barbara and Doug for a last drink. It was nice to spend time with them but again we found ourselves saying goodbye to some really nice people. We will catch up with them again, either on the road or in their hometown in N.S.W.  
  Monday 25th April 2005  
  Anzac Day. We got away about 10:00 and headed north to Woomera. We made good time and it was a straight run. We set up camp and walked into town to explore. No one told us Woomera was closed for the Anzac holiday. We did, however, see the rockets and planes at an outdoor museum. Peter took plenty of photos and then we walked back to the caravan.

It felt very strange being surrounded by a different environment than we have been used to for the last few months - unsettling in a way. Reminded me very much of Hamelin Pool in W.A. The caravan park was on the edge of town and the town was in the middle of a flat expanse of nothing from horizon to horizon, not even a tree. I really feel like we have now left South Australia behind and are already in the Northern Territory, but we won’t cross the border for some days yet.

We sat outside the caravan with a ‘red’ and watched the sun go down. The sunset was glorious and then I realised how quiet it was, even with the road not far away. Yes, very much like Hamelin Pool but . . . without the generator. I decided I liked Woomera, very much.
 
  Tuesday 26th April 2005  
  Today we decided to explore Roxby Downs and Andamooka. Roxby Downs was a nice, clean, well ordered, company town. The Information Centre was staffed by very friendly and helpful people. We'd missed out on a tour of the Olympic Dam Mine and even the video wasn’t running. Ah well, can’t win them all. We did however find a lot of interesting things in the information centre itself. An art gallery - the art was okay but nothing special. The most interesting section of the centre was the project they have in Roxby Downs for restoring arid zone ecosystems (I have the leaflet in front of me). They are trying, successfully, I might add, to put right some of the destruction man has caused nature. They are finding ways of diminishing the numbers of feral cats, foxes and rabbits. They are now re introducing some species that were nearly wiped out. This also applies to the flora in this region.

After a very nice cup of coffee we ventured forth to this place called Andamooka where they mine opal. To believe it you would have to see it! A shanty town, piles of dirt stretching across the horizon, junk everywhere. The town also had an air of adventure about it, very friendly people and a too-friendly dog! The old cottages that the original miners lived in gave you some perception of how these early pioneers lived. Some of the houses in habitation now aren’t much better! We really liked the town and were so glad we went. I wanted to have a go at ‘noodling’ for opals, but we couldn’t find out for sure where we could and couldn’t go, so we gave up. Maybe we will find our fortune in Coober Pedy. Along the way people have given us various views regarding where to go and what to see. After receiving conflicting opinions regarding Woomera, Roxby Downs and Andamooka, we decided we wanted to see it all ourselves. We have not been disappointed with any of them. Different they are, but each has some attribute that you would not find in suburbia. They also have a lot more flies, cheeky ones too, they want to get everywhere.

Sunset tonight was beautiful but not as good as last night. Also tonight we were joined in our peaceful setting by two bus loads of teenagers staying in the backpackers section of the park, and next door to us were two couples from Queensland. We had thought, “Oh no, the teenagers will spoil the tranquillity of the evening”. How wrong can you be? They were as quiet as mice. The Queenslanders, though! I am surprised people in Adelaide or Perth didn’t hear them. Or could it be I am turning into a grumpy old woman to go with the grumpy old man!!!
 
  Wednesday 27th April 2005  
  Another beautiful morning and the Queenslanders are packing up. Bliss upon bliss. (I have nothing against Queenslanders in general. I thought I would point that out quickly. In fact, there is one we are particularly fond of by the name of Scott).

We went to the information centre and rocket museum, which had been closed on Anzac Day. The information centre was quite good but then Peter changed his mind about the museum as he had read and seen enough rockets. To me rockets are like engines, you’ve seen one you have seen them all. What I do find interesting though is the way Woomera has been used for the testing of rockets and other missiles. A proud moment for Australia is that we were the fourth country in the world to launch its own satellite from its own soil.

We very often find the local people really interesting to talk to and also find out lots of information from them you would never find in a tourist brochure. We found one such man in Woomera, the Post Office man. The only trouble was, once he started it was very difficult to get away.

Apart from getting ourselves ready for an early start in the morning we didn’t do much else. Well actually we did watch the sunset again, beautiful, and the night sky was again out of this world.
 
  Thursday 28th April 2005  
  We were packed and on the road by 8.30 a.m. - for us that was really good but we were one of the last to leave the site. We arrived in Coober Pedy in plenty of time to set up camp and then go and explore a little. Coober Pedy is Andamooka on a bigger scale. It is hot and dusty but we think we like it.

After a quick look around and a spot of shopping we found ourselves in an underground pub. So different and so expensive we will not be going back there again. We did however meet a young man from London who was flying around Australia. He had a pilot's licence but needed more hours so he could become a commercial pilot. He flew from the UK into Brisbane then hired a Cessna and was hopping about the continent. He saw very little of Australia but he said it had given him a taste and he would be back, and next time would be driving around.

It is a unique concept, this living underground. We had been led to believe that the whole of Coober Pedy was underground but that is not so. It looks like a shanty town on the surface. A few of ‘Dot’s Natives’ about but if we ignore them they ignore us. We did, however, have to be locked in at night. The caravan park owners never explained whether it was to keep us in or the natives out.
 
  Friday 29th April 2005  
  8.20 a.m. finds us at the main gate, waiting with a group of other early risers to participate in a tour of Coober Pedy. We had a tour guide's run down of the town of Coober Pedy, then we were taken to an underground church, a golf course without any grass, an underground pottery place and a museum. We saw a video of Opal Mining, a dugout replica of a miner’s home and a dugout home of today. It was all very interesting but I was glad to be in daylight again.  
  Saturday 30th April 2005  
  Peter took Billy in to the garage for an oil change after which we took a drive to Faye’s House. This is an underground home that is currently occupied but is open to the public. Very interesting it was too. Faye and two female friends dug out the home over a period of ten years with a pickaxe and shovel. It was an amazing home, even having an indoor swimming pool. Faye was certainly one of the pioneering women of Coober Pedy and the Opal fields, even though she arrived as late as 1961. I bought a book of hers which I really enjoyed but would love to read her biography if ever one is written. One item in the book made me chuckle; the miners used disused mine shafts as outside toilets, they just built a shack over the top! Ingenious, eh?

After lunch we went to the caravan park office to do our emails and banking but the computer wasn’t working. We were pointed in the direction of the back-packers hostel just down the road. She didn’t say just how far down the road! We eventually arrived at the hostel tired and hot but found a whole row of computers waiting for us. Guess what, the back-packers is underground so we were in an underground internet café! We have been in an underground pottery, church, bar, museum, home and now an internet café – how different is that?