4WD Adventures DVD


Hammond Organs








I was awake at 6am, and decided to get up and start getting the van ready. I was in no hurry, and finally hooked up and headed out through the gate at 10.20am. I was finally on my way.
The plan was to head up to Lake Grace, then across through Newdegate and Lake King and down to Ravensthorpe. I stopped and took a couple of photos of the Stirlings, before rolling into Borden. Just a cursory look, and then onwards. There was a rest area and lookout promised just up the road, just after the Gnowangerup turnoff. What eventuated, was just a standard narrow gravel strip … and nothing else.
The turn off to Pingrup and Lake Grace came, and after some deliberation, I changed my mind. I continued on towards Jerramungup, calling into Ongerup, stopping for lunch.
I had checked the van a couple of times up until now, and all had been well. But the road had changed, and altho sealed, definitely needed “grading”. I had overfilled the tank this morning, and had found a little stream working its way across the floor. I had pulled the pot drawer out to ensure that there wasn't a flood under it, and had obviously not replaced it properly. It now sat skew whiff hanging out of the bench. The new satellite dish controller, instead of being a sensible design, is now a plastic artwork, and was difficult to sit where you could get at it to operate the controls, and so it just sat on the shelf secured by the cables … well that was where it was up until now … it sat unsecured on the floor, wires hanging loose. I won't say I panicked and used a lot of bad language … just a little bit. I re-attached the wires, hit the buttons, and the dish went into action. Whew. However, had anything else come loose. Inverter activated, TV on, and Foxtel burst into life. All good.
And so I had lunch, worked some magic with velcro and a storage box, and we were back in business.
Onward, a quick pit stop in Jerry to check if my repairs were holding, and back on the road. It was now approaching 3pm, and it had been a long day. Another Rest Area was promised and this time, it materialised. It was larger than expected, tons of room … and on the side of a bloody hill. Why do they do that? Surely the people who design or create these facilities understand that travellers and even truck drivers, like to sleep on level ground. In fact RV vehicles require level ground for a fridge to operate properly for example. Of course they don't. I'm sure they look at a map and stick a pin in, and place the order with the Main Roads Dept. Regardless, I was first in, got the flattest bit, got a satellite signal (essential to receive the Indy 500 final practice in the morning), and hit the sack for a snooze.
The weather was gorgeous this morning, started getting cloudy this arvo, and rain is promised for tonight. What will tomorrow bring?


Sometime last night it rained. But I awoke to a clear sky and subsequently, the day although becoming cloudy was fine.
There was no signal, not even a hint of one. But somehow, my phone had a number of messages waiting for me when I woke up. My son asked me later in the day, what time I had sent a series of messages last night. I had sent them between 1.30 and 3pm yesterday. It seems Telstra picked them up at 3.08am this morning. There was phone signal at both Ongerup and Jerramungup, but no internet access. They can't get 4G right, but they press on with 5G. End of rant.
I watched my Indycar recording, and finally got away around 9.20am. I was 80 kms from Ravensthorpe, and just took my time reaching the mining town. I found a caravan parking spot and using the available signal, uploaded my blog and photos. I had run the sub tank dry, and so I dropped into the local Shell dealer to top up. I had passed the BP on the way into town in the west, the Shell is on the eastern extremity of the town. I grabbed the fuel app, and discovered that Shell was a couple of cents cheaper. I remembered back to the few times I have travelled through Miles in Queensland, where the servo on the Western edge of town was 15c dearer than the one in the middle of town. Meanwhile, I had no intention of purchasing anything but fuel, but the home made sausage rolls looked appetising, and yep, it was time for a food review. Nice.
As I was about to leave town, I received a phone call advising me that a family friend had passed away. Lorraine Clifton was Western Australia's leading Yamaha Electone Music Teacher in the 70's and 80's, and she had been a friend for over 40 years. She had hired her grand piano to the Billy Joel organisation for a Perth concert. She received it back scarred with the groove of a belt buckle, where Mr Joel had reportedly done a belly slide across the lid. She was not amused.
I was now passing through the area where the mines are located, and being stopped at road works. I was sitting at one stop, when I noticed a very colourful mural displayed on the walls of a conveyor belt crossing above the road. Interesting.
Just short of Munglinup, there is a 24hr rest area. It has toilets that are closed for repairs, is paved, and not really attractive to overnight stoppers. Tonight, I have it to myself. I found it at 1.15pm, and so I parked up, and settled to watch my Indycar replay on Fox.
Time for a snooze, and now, at 5.26pm, am awaiting the commencement of the Eagles game.
According to the BOM site, there are storms approaching. It didn't look like that half an hour ago, but as soon as I get complacent, you can guarantee it will piss down.


7.35am. The storm did eventually roll in. It got a tad windy, and there was just a touch of rain. One thing I did learn last night, is don't watch the footy. The Eagles got hit by a different kind of storm. LOL. It's looking gorgeous out there as I munch on my brekky, but Fox weather is forecasting a different picture. It is also forecasting rain in Far Western NSW, which is where I am heading. That is a few weeks away, but I really don't want to be thwarted by wet and flooded dirt roads. It will be what it will be.

10.06am. We strolled through Munglinup, and continued on towards Esperance. I found a rest area with excellent signal, and so stopped and uploaded yesterdays tome of BS. Finding signal along the road looks as though it's going to be a tad difficult. No different to 2019 I guess, especially after I head north from Broken Hill. Yes, I could upload today's so far, but nope, nothing to report here … you can wait. Onward.

4.53pm …. Is THIS my fault as well? Speaking to my sister in Albany, and it seems that Albany has been drenched. A quick look at the BOM site, and they have recorded 78.4mm of rain since 7.30pm last night up until 4.05pm today. When I left Albany to commence my last trip in August last year, I saw no rain travelling to Perth, but they had 93mm in Albany. Not only do I film places that burn down, it seems that I leave Albany just before it floods everytime ...

Meanwhile, back on the road, I had decided to bypass Esperance, and cut across the Gibson-Dalyup Road. Up until now, on the South Coast Hwy, I had encountered very little traffic. I turned on to the GD Road, and immediately caravans, cars, trucks and farm machinery. I guess not everyone wants to go to Esperance. The drive itself is only 20kms, but the country is gorgeous. There are avenues of trees, and grassy strips 150m wide behind the trees on the roadside, bounded by more trees behind them … it's like parkland. And at this time of the year, it's green – although looking at some paddocks which now have that green sheen, the ground has been thirsty for a long time.

I pulled in over the road from the Gibson Soak Pub … I don't drink, so I had no cause to call in, but I took a wander over the road to investigate just what was there. The carpark was empty when I pulled up and made myself some lunch, and was chokkas when I stepped out to have a look half an hour later. There was some machinery chattering away up the road, courtesy I found as I drove past of the Gibson Soak Water Company. And that was Gibson.

I cruised into Scadden, took a drive up past the Primary School and the Bushfire Brigade, and that was that. Grass Patch was a little more populated, and then it was Salmon Gums. It being a Sunday, it is a little difficult to gauge whether the place is a goer or not, but I would suggest that it is teetering and hanging on. There is the pub of course, and an Ag Company who handles the large gas bottles and emergency farm requirements of the local farming population.

By now, I was figuring it was time to look for somewhere to stop, and after checking out a few basic rest areas, came across the spacious Kumarl Siding rest Area, which where I am domiciled for the night.

Two big motor racing events happening overnight, and so the generator is busily pumping up the batteries (is that what you do to a flat battery?), so that I have enough power to record these events that for some unknown reason, the US insists on running in the middle of the night.

And a short while ago, it rained …. well, it dampened the ground. Who knows what is coming after Albany. (another 3mm in the last 50 minutes … I tell you, it's NOT my fault)


I'm too old for this stuff. I set the Fox Box to record the Indy 500. I jumped into bed at 7.40pm, figuring that I might watch the first hour of the race, which would get underway at 12.30am, the coverage starting at 11pm. So set the alarm, and would you believe, woke up just over an hour later. Well, I tried to be (sort of) sensible. Of course the race started, and finished at 3.45am, and I texted my son (we had been commenting during the race, and yes, I sat up for the entire race) that I was off to bed. I was in no hurry, and was quite happy to sleep until what ever time of the day I woke up ….. which was 7.30am. There was no getting back to sleep, and so up, breakfast, started the genny to recharge the batteries, general housework, another 15 min nap, and it's still only 9.45 am. Did I mention that I was also recording the NASCAR race which isn't scheduled to finish until 10.30. Oh well, let's bore the reader for half an hour and then we should be ready to go LOL.

I'm only 73km from Norseman, and although I have phone reception and limited data signal, there was no way I was going to get yesterdays photos uploaded. It took nearly an hour to get the two up that were successful. And so Norseman is where all that will happen (I hope).

There were a few trains went through last night. I don't mind being parked next to a railway line, even when the passing trains appear to rumble through the caravan. I'm old enough to remember the old steam trains, and even though it's not kosher to recall and sometimes wish for old times, I do miss the whistle, the puffing engine, and the aroma of the smoke as they trundled by. A diesel with a hooter, although having a magic of it's own, just doesn't quite exude the same romance by comparison.

There is a smattering of rain on the roof as I write this, and a quick check that shows me Albany had 104mm over the past 36 hours, so I'm not going to complain about what I have to deal with here. Norseman, here I come, ready or not.

Later … much later
Well, the rain caught up with me … well it stayed with me right into Norseman. Another check of the Fuel App showed me that the BP was 1 cent cheaper, and with over 100 litres to go into the tank, that's a dollar. But there is a trap, and I have been caught a couple of times. The app said $1.52, and so you pull into the pump outside the front door (of both roadhouses) and that pump is Premium Diesel … at some 3c dearer. To get the standard diesel, you go to the truck pumps. At least BP had the good grace to have a placard attached which advised you that this pump dispenses Premium.

I pulled up in the main street to upload the photos from yesterday, check my emails and social media, and left town. The rain had stopped at this point and the next few kms were dry-ish travelling. I was taking my time, was overtaken by a couple of caravans, and a house …. well I think it was actually a donga on the back of a truck, but houses and the like seem to travel pretty quickly in my experience, especially out here.

The rain came in again, so when I reached the 10 Mile Rocks Rest Area, I decided that it would do me for the night ... I haven't stayed in this one before. Watched the news, my Nascar replay, cooked up a heap of veges and a chicken breast kiev, and it being a tad chilly, turned in early for the night.

Tomorrow is officially winter.


In motor rally terminology, the act of moving the whole circus from one racing stage to another, is called a transport stage.That was what today was for me. Moving from my overnight camp spot to the next one down the road. Over the years, I have travelled the Eyre Highway many times, and have documented it on film covering much of what there is to see and explore … and there is a lot to see and explore. There is absolutely nothing boring about the Eyre Hwy. Don't believe me? Take a look at my You Tube Channel where my documentary is sitting just waiting for you to have a look. But I digress.

Today was a transport stage, the only roadhouse encountered was at Balladonia, where I didn't even leave the vehicle/van, but instead availed myself of the Telstra signal to upload my diatribe to the masses, send some emails, and make a few phone calls. The first time I encountered Balladonia was back in 1976, or was it '77? My wife Shirley and I were driving to Sydney to attend a Yamaha Music Convention, and then on down to Melbourne to visit her sister, who was an Air Hostess with the then TAA. I had been planning the trip, and happened to mention that we would probably be sitting around the 120 kph mark at times, a comfortable rate of knots for our new XC Falcon. “If you're going to be doing 120” Shirl said, “I'm staying home”. Fortunately, the speedo was on my side of the car, and Shirl had probably forgotten the conversation. We slept overnight at Norseman, and were leaving in the early hours of the next morning in the dark heading for Balladonia. Shirley is an excellent driver, but being used to doing long stints at night time, I said I would do the first run, negotiate the wild life, and we would change drivers at Balladonia. The driver change was made, and in the next two hours, we covered 264 kms … there was no further mention of driving speeds. I hasten to add, I never got near that.

I did it again, got diverted from today's story. The girls had given me a book a number of years ago, called “My Dad, His Stories, His Words”. I was told that I had to fill it in. It contains a thousand (well it seems like a thousand) questions ranging from where I lived as a kid, the neighbourhood I grew up in, family, pets, influences, achievements…. and tons more I haven't got to yet. Now in recent years, my son Brett sat down with his maternal grandparents and interviewed them about their lives, and I did the same with my Mum. They have all since passed, but we at least have a snapshot of their history and where we came from. I met a guy in Birdsville in 2010, who was a photographer, and he was documenting his life pictorially and turning the photos into books for his kids. He knew very little about his own father's life and he wanted them to know what he did when he was gone … if they were interested. Regrettably, my own Dad passed away 28 years ago, he was an only child, and there was no-one to tell us about his early life, and many of the stories we did hear when he was in full song, really couldn't be classified as reliable, and I never sat down to quiz him about his past.

And so, being as I spend most of my life on the road talking to the camera in the car, and having no real need to continue filming this iconic piece of road, and having an excellent microphone system for recording clear voice, I decided that today, I would start at the front of the book, and answer the questions not with a pen, but by voice. Wow, what an experience? The questions were like Ahn Do, they forced me to dig into the deepest recesses of the filing cabinet, and believe me, it's in a mess these days, and drag out memories that I hadn't visited in many years... it's over an hour and a half at this stage, and I'm only just about half way through. Do it gals and fellas, see if you can find this little book, or at least sit with a tape recorder and get the kids to ask the questions. They will love you for it.

And of course, there has to be a twist to the story … when I jumped in the car this morning, I set the camera on it's mount, I turned on the Wireless Mic system ….. and forgot to plug the cable into the camera. So instead of a crystal clear recording, it's all there, competing with car, engine, road and all the other noise.

Tonight, I am at Woorlba Rest Area, about halfway to Caiguna. I'm just chugging along, getting around 700km out of my tanks of juice, and being a general nuisance to the truckies and other caravan tuggers. It's very wet and very boggy along the road verges. Hopefully we've seen the last of the rain for a few days.

I have nothing to report.

It was a a quiet day on the road inside the car, but quite busy outside. Yesterday, there were just a few trucks, today was a different story. When I was working at Park Pianos/Music Park, stock from the Melbourne warehouses tended to arrive on Tuesday and Thursday/Friday, meaning trucks probably picked up their trailers Friday and Monday. Thus the plethora of big rigs mid week on the Eyre Hwy. That incidentally is my interpretation of the way it is. I'm sure a truckie will soon put the story straight.

There was one truck who overtook me on a long straight stretch of road – I was doing about 77kph (I am driving to a fuel number – motor racing terminology), so there was no reason why he didn't have enough grunt to overtake me, and sitting high in the cab, he could certainly see a lot further along the road than I could. There was a slight rise, and therefore hump on the straight, and he certainly got the attention of the oncoming car who appeared suddenly over the rise. Overtake having been made successfully, a foreign voice broke the airwaves talking obviously to vehicle accompanying him “I think am alive”. I couldn't understand the reply.

There was a bit of agro from time to time on the UHF, but my interaction with the truck drivers was pleasant enough. It makes entertaining listening.

There was a 4G tower (new I believe – I haven't seen it before) and not long afterwards a lay-by where I took advantage of the signal to upload yesterdays blog and photos.As I was about to leave, a Hired camper pulled in, and a guy who didn't speak much English hopped out and asked if I knew how far it was to the next fuel stop. I grabbed my tablet, pulled up the My Maps App, and quickly found out that we were 107kms from Balladonia, which was the direction he was travelling, and and 81 back to Caiguna. He asked if I had spare diesel (I think that was what he was asking … as I said he didn't speak English), but unfortunately, I couldn't help him. He needed to adopt a fuel number policy I felt as he left.

Caiguna arrived and I stopped and had lunch. Caiguna completes (or commences depending on the direction of travel) the 90 mile straight. And so now I had to endure a winding road – the corners are few and far between for all that LOL.

Cocklebiddy loomed, and I figured it was time to top the tanks to ensure that I would make the border. I have for years contended that fuel must stops are Norseman, Balladonia, Eucla, Border Village (usually a touch dearer than Eucla) and Nundroo. The fuel prices are high out here – there is no competition – and these places are the cheapest. Nullarbor Roadhouse has been the dearest fuel on the Nullarbor for years, and it is the closest to Adelaide. For the record, I paid $1.85 at Cocklebiddy.

Which brings me to my fuel number. I have been steadily overtaken by a plethora of caravanners. The road is fast and open out here. But the fact remains that whether on a budget or not, speed does consume fuel, especially in older design diesel and petrol engines. I have a 1999 diesel engine (the design of which had been around for decades before that), which is turbo assisted. The car weighs around 3 tonne, and I am towing the hotel which is a 23'6” monster which hits the scales at around 3.4 tonne. Factor in wind resistance, wind speed and direction, and we are chewing through a fair bit of juice. My desired fuel number with this lot, is around 5 Kpl (20 ltrs/100kms). If I can achieve that figure, I can travel further on a tank than if I was only getting 4 Kpl (25 ltrs/100kms). Theoretically, 145 litres (my tank size) would allow 580 kms at 4 kpl, whereas I should get around 725 kms at 5 kpl. You do the maths on how much you are saving at $1.85 ltr. My economy at Cocklebiddy was approaching 6 Kpl.

Not far from Cocklebiddy is the Eyre Bird Sanctuary turn off, and just past that is a 24hr rest area, which is where I am tonight. I have phone signal, but no data. Bugger.

I purchased a 4kg bag of spuds before I left Albany, not really knowing how many I was going to need/use. There are tons left, and so I set about peeling and cooking and preparing to freeze. I'm not too sure about what they will let me take through the border, but I seem to remember that peeled and cooked is OK. I guess I will find out.
Potatoes, washed or brushed and soil-free – ware, not for planting
  Call us

Vegetables, root – beetroot, turnip, parsnip, carrot, free of soil and tops removed

Sweet potato

So it seems that I have to chop the tops off the carrots. It looks like they want to be sure that you are not going to plant them.

Flies – they have all of Australia to move about in. So why do they all want to migrate into the caravan as soon as you open the door? I guess that God created flies to ensure that we had a healthy chemicals market. What other reason would there be?

I told you I had nothing to report.


It was a quiet day on the road compared to yesterday. A lot less truck traffic.
The Madura Pass was our first point of interest, where the road descends onto the lower plateau. In the very early years, well before the road was even a consideration, travellers used to have to pick their way down the scarp with horses and buggys, before making their way across the plain toward Eucla. I took advantage of the available signal to upload my daily tableau, took the obligatory photo of the view before me, and then descended to where the road runs alongside the Hampton Tableland. This section of road offers a different scenic viewpoint, with the apparent hill running along the northern side of the road. I say apparent hill, because it is in fact a fault line, and as flat as a table on top.

I had driven along a couple of pieces of highway that had been marked out as an airstrip, and was about encounter a couple more along this stretch of the road. These air strips are used to land the Royal Flying Doctor Service planes in the case of emergency. One high profile patient was the singer Jon English many years ago. It got me wondering (I do have plenty of time on my hands after all) … when we visited Maralinga, we were told that the Maralinga Airstrip had been re-inforced to cope with the landing of the Space Shuttle, should it have been necessary to land it in the Southern Hemisphere. So keeping that in mind, are the stretches of highway that are marked and utilised for landing aircraft also reinforced for the purpose, keeping in mind that the road is carrying heavy truck loads on a daily basis, and is subject to “grooving” where the tyres constantly use the same section of road?

I pulled into Mundrabilla Roadhouse. I wasn't about to fill up (it was $1.76 ltr for diesel), purely stretch my legs and have a look at their cake selection, and maybe grab an ice cream. I have been denying myself on both accounts, and I remember having purchased a delicious cake or something a couple of years ago, so it was time I thought. First thing I noticed was a hand written sign advertising accommodation in Norseman. Years ago, there was a Shell outlet in Norseman that cross promoted the Mundrabilla Roadhouse, and it got me wondering whether the tie up was still there. The Ice Cream fridge was turned off. It seems that their generator caught fire recently and not everything was back up and working. The drinks fridge was, and the bar next door was entertaining customers. I grabbed a jam dough nut, and walked back to the car via the bowsers to check the pricing. I was surprised to find notices that Unleaded fuel was unavailable, and the nearest fuel points were Eucla and Madura. Too bad if you missed a fill, or were relying on the usually cheaper prices at Mundrabilla. Diesel was available.

I had checked out a couple of rest areas, but wasn't impressed enough to stop, and then a metal dump appeared and is the perfect stop for this boy. No prizes for guessing where I am tonight.


I wonder if the guys at the Funny Farm have realised that I have managed to escape without their knowledge... AGAIN.

In my video covering the Eyre Hwy on You Tube, I seem to recall having been critical of the road into the Eucla complex. It was horrible, pot holes that had been there for as long as I could remember, and that despite it being sealed. Maybe Covid has had a positive effect on some of these places, and allowed maintenance to be performed. The road in is now in excellent condition.

I pulled into Eucla, had the place pretty much to myself, and filled the Cruiser tanks to chokka. There are two areas for fuel at Eucla, one is diesel, and the petrol pumps are by the office. Ignoring the sign that said pay for your fuel before moving the vehicle, because it is an awkward entry to the diesel pump, I shifted the car for someone waiting behind me. I grabbed the 10ltr can than I use for unleaded for the generator, filled it, and paid the amount owing. I was hoping that I might be able to get some Panadol, having run out and with a narky tooth that needed some relief, but a quick look in the store proved fruitless.

On to Border Village. There is a quarantine facility and checkpoint here for all vehicles entering Western Australia. The transporting of certain plants, fruits and vegetables and honey for example, across the border is not on, and if you haven't consumed it, they confiscate it. Travelling east, the checkpoint is at Ceduna, which puzzles me. There is a lot of country and tourist spots between the border and Ceduna. I recall the WA facility was once upon a time stationed just outside Norseman. That was back in the 70”s.

It was at the border that the good road ended. The South Australian side is in need of tidying up. The relative smoothness was gone, and the effect of heavy transport is clearly evident.

I parked the van, did my upload, made a couple of phone calls, and then prepared to leave. As I drove around the car park, a lady alerted me to the fact that I had left the step behind. That's not the first time THAT had happened. I went back, grabbed the step, and found that I had also NOT shut the door.

I stopped for lunch at the same spot I had a couple of years ago. It was really the first view you get of the Ocean travelling east, and looks back along the Eucla coast. It was too early to think about camping, but a bit further on, I found a rest area with a track leading down toward the ocean. Rather than risk it (I have been caught unable to turn the van in the past) and many of the tracks in the area having been decommissioned, I took a stroll down to the edge. There was room, and there was a drop straight into the ocean, but having seen images of expanding sink holes on the news, I figured that it would be just my luck, and abandoned the plan to set up camp at that spot.

And so I reached what looked like an ideal spot to pull in for the night, plenty of camping sites, well spaced in amongst the small trees, chose my patch of dirt, and dragged the genny out to charge the batteries. I opened the boot of the caravan to grab the 10 litre container of unleaded, WHICH WAS STILL SITTING OUTSIDE THE DOOR OF THE OFFICE AT EUCLA. Enuff said

Fortunately, I have a 20 litre container firmly attached to the caravan which came to the rescue.

What is that term of endearment my eldest son uses … Silly Old Bastard.


Last night, I had the rest area to myself. There are plenty along the Eyre Hwy to choose from. They seem to crop up on a regular basis. I was initially surprised, but when I think about it, there is not a lot of caravan traffic, certainly when you compare it to what you would expect to see in the Northern Territory and the North West. But then, I wonder what the numbers are up there at the moment as well. Tonight, I've got myself a spot in a rest area about halfway between Yalata and Nundroo, and at 5.10pm, I'm on my own. When I stepped outside the van this morning, it appeared that we had had a smattering of rain. Today, the skies were clear, and it was a gorgeous day for travelling.

I had given thought to whether it was worth trying to recover the jerry can. It had about $16 fuel in it, it was metal (and therefore not cheap to replace), but I was 90 kms down the road, and had run out of signal some time ago. Was it worth heading back along the road to where I could phone back and see whether it was still there, and if it was, was it worth the 200km round journey and the $60-70 fuel it would cost to do the pickup. I chose to take the loss and give myself a good talking to.

It's been a quiet day on the road, I've managed to get through it without a major stuff up … so far at least. But, it being so quiet, there was an occurrence that has puzzled me somewhat. There is a hundred kms in front of me, and the same behind me, and there are no other major roads in the area. Because it's so flat, the UHF signal carries uninterrupted for long distances. So when as clear as a bell, the discourse between a New Age Caravanner and a truck driver broke the silence, I immediately started looking for the truck and the van. Were they behind me or approaching me? I'm only travelling at 75-79 kph, so they were going to catch me fairly quickly if bringing up the rear, and of course they would be on me in no time if approaching. Never saw either of them ... Of course, they could have been travelling in the same direction and ahead of me, which would be the obvious answer.

I had been contemplating whether to go into Koonalda. I was last there in 2010, and my video covering that visit is on my You Tube channel. I doubted that much had changed since then and in my experience, you are often disappointed when you visit somewhere or attend a concert for the second time, because the element of surprise is no longer there. Also, now that I had 10 litres less generator power, that suggested that I give it a miss as well.

Nullarbor came and went. I checked the fuel price … $1.92 diesel... yep still the dearest. I stopped long enough to use the available mobile signal to upload my daily report and photos, and make a couple of phone calls. The turnoff to the Head Of The Bight had traffic flowing in and out. They used to have a tally on the gate advising how many whales were currently taking harbour – that no longer happens from what I can see. I feel that I would be getting first hand reports before going in if observing whales is your desire. There is an Indigenous Culture Centre that I believe is worth having a look at, but an entry fee is required, and I for one would like to know that the big mammals were home if I came calling. It is 11 kms from the main road to the Bight.
I was lucky to spend some time observing the whales with my Mum back in 2007. Fond memories.

Tonight at 6.30pm, I notice that an RV has parked up on the large bitumen area at the front of this rest area. A busy night ahead … football and F1 qualifying. I have been questioned on occasion by people as to why I don't leave the media and home comforts behind when I'm on “holiday”. The difference is, that they leave home to go on holiday, I take my home with me. It doesn't matter where I am in Australia, I am always “at home”.


I did a quick clean up of the van when I got up, even attacked the dishes. Because it's been over a week since I left Albany, I was running low on water, so rather than do the dishes after every meal, it was stack them in the sink whilst travelling, and do them once a day. I was due to pass through the Ceduna quarantine point today, and so figured that I would look at least a bit domesticated.

I got away from my camp spot at 10am. There had been some fairly consistent truck traffic passing by during the night, and I think a couple even pulled in for a rest. Didn't worry me, I was parked back a bit, but the RV sitting on the sealed piece of the rest area would have had a few passing close by his door.

I had about 190kms to get to Ceduna, where the plan was to hit the Airport Caravan Park, and get some jobs done and reset for the next part of the trip. There are three caravan parks in Ceduna as I recall. The one in town is right beside the water, and it is usually packed like a sardine can. The Airport is the least popular. It is a basic park, basic facilities (all that you need – amenities block, laundry) and costs just $25 per night. I have stayed here a number of times, and although it is a large area, there are only about half a dozen vans parked up. Brett and I hired a cabin back in 2015, and that was $70, just supply your own bedding. We were camping, so that was no problem.

We had left the flat featureless Nullarbor section behind, and was now travelling in wooded undulating country. There appeared to be more caravans today, and even a number of trucks. Thinking about it, the vehicle population was fairly even caravans, trucks, and a smaller percentage of solo cars, and has been for much of this section of the trip.

Nundroo loomed, and the fuel price was 144.9, compared to $1.92 back at Nullarbor, which was a mere 142km behind us. There is absolutely no excuse why it should be (and has been historically) the dearest fuel on the highway. (Fuel was 144.9 in Ceduna as well, a further 155 km along the track - even more reason to condemn Nullarbor for it's pricing).

I noticed (a little late) an old building ruins in the distance, so I pulled over, grabbed the camera, zoomed up and took a shot. The property is called Pintumba. As you get into the farming lands in SA, it's difficult not to notice that there appears to a general lack of trees – it's as though they have been completely cleared over the past couple of hundred years. Because of a lack of suitable building timber in the state, many of it's buildings were constructed of stone and rock. With the push towards improving our carbon figure (whatever that means), one wonders why the Government or concerned conservation groups, don't push to legislate that every hectare has to have a percentage of coverage. The authorities could even help the cause by supplying the trees for the farmers to plant. It will never happen of course.

Penong is known for the number of windmills that populate the paddocks to the south as you leave town. But over the years, they have dwindled in number as they either broke down or were replaced by solar powered units. The town, not to lose this heritage, decided to set up a windmill museum. I filmed it back in 2019. It even features a giant Comet windmill that was found near Kingaroy in Queensland, and was brought back for restoration.

I rolled into the Ceduna check point, and was relieved of the few potatoes that had survived my cooking spree. I was allowed to keep the carrots – I'd taken the tops off this morning – it appears they don't want anything that can be planted.

I pulled into the caravan park just as the Eagles game was starting. I was looking forward to trying out the SA App, but should have done my homework before I got here. I've downloaded all the apps for all the states that I need to, but wasn't prepared for the heap of paperwork that presented itself when I opened the app. I turned to the visitor list on the desk instead. It turns out that I made an incorrect selection when I had time to sit down and study the app in solitude. We'll have another go tomorrow.

I had hoped when I committed to replacing the steering box, that the $900 cost would be justified. In fact, add to that the $1000 spent replacing an alternator and Air Con Condenser. I have to report that after completing the first 1930 kms of the trip, that the Cruiser has been very comfortable and stable compared to before the work was completed. Now, I have a leak to chase up in the roof of the van. I just hope I can find someone who can have a look at it for me.


We are apparently expecting high winds and rain later today, and so I decided to put out my awning, set up my clothes line, and do my washing before it all happens. It's a beautiful sunny day as I write this at 1.15pm, but the wind has been steadily picking up, and the radar shows rain coming across the bight. So I'm glad I got that all out of the way. Awning safely rolled back up.

Meanwhile, I rang a couple of plumbers and left messages, and as I expected, nothing back at the moment. Probably (maybe) get a call tonight when reviewing their days messages. I rang a third one, but when he said leave a message, or if urgent, ring his satellite phone, I figured that I was not going to get far with that one. I jumped onto YouTube to see if I could find a way to prime the water pump in the van. I spent an hour or so chasing every possibility … don't think I had much success.

And so, I did what every girl does when she's frustrated, I went shopping LOL. Food shopping. Ceduna has a Foodland store – you may remember we had them in WA once upon a time. It was time to test what I had learned about using the SA App, and on first presentation, of course I had to put in name and phone number. And so I guess that it's easy from here on in. I don't shop IGA very often, and I am familiar with my Woolies pricing back in Albany, so when you see the pricing of familiar items in IGA or in this case Foodland stores, you immediately decide to just get what is absolutely necessary, although back-up stock is deemed as necessary of course. I quite often buy packet soups, and one of my favourites is Creamy Potato and Bacon with Croutons, but I haven't seen that on the shelves for yonks back home, and so assumed that it had been withdrawn from the catalogue. So imagine my delight in finding a shelf full of them here … necessary stock and backup for sure. Despite the above, I still got through the checkout for $80. That's well under budget. According to the docket, by buying the specials, I saved $11.99 on “our already low prices”.

The van is picking up rocking pace. Now need to get a gas refill, see if I can get a jerry can replacement cheapish, and apart from that leak worry, I am about ready to rock'n'roll.

4pm, just had a snooze, and wow, the storm certainly came through. One gust at 76 kph. They predicted it.

However before that, I went looking for gas and a jerry can, so called into the local Dogalogue Store and I feel had a win … gas $24.95 refill, JC $24.95 – not a metal one, but back in business for all that. I asked about whether they could put me on to anyone else who could possibly help re the leak, and the answer was just a plumber if you could get one. There is a caravan repair place at Port Lincoln, but I'm not planning on going that way. I want to have a look at the Gawler Ranges. And I have sussed out fuel at $1.34 at the local Auto Pro … 10c saving is a good reason to consider it.

So now, I'm just chilling listening to Joe Cocker. Loved him live (3 times) and have a pretty sizeable collection of his recordings.

7.55pm, and still the van is rocking and the showers keep coming. It's nice and cosy in here … I'm making good use of the A/C while I can.


9am. I ain't going anywhere. It's been a wild night, with more to come it seems. They are predicting up to 100 kph gusts, and even it it stays around the 70-80 kph already recorded, I don't think I want to try and keep a 3.2 tonne house on wheels on the road with those side winds. And so, book in for another night ... at least.

Things have settled here as the day has gone on. The Severe Weather warning has been lifted, and the Strong Wind Warning for the Far West Coast has also been lifted for tomorrow. So all being well, I shall be back on the road tomorrow.

Last night, as I was about to get into bed, the dreaded Plop plop plop in the shower recess was back. An investigation and easing the surround of the roof hatch resulted in me getting a heap of water pouring down my arm. I figured that the water was obviously getting in somewhere, and then pooling in the roof ... not good. So I grabbed something to lever it open with to ensure that any water that did get in, would then run straight through, thus hopefully minimising the problem. There is a repair facility at Port Augusta, where hopefully I can get the problem rectified. But that is still a few days away.

Between here and there, it is on the bucket list to have a look at the Gawler Range. The plan is to camp up at Minnipa for a couple of days and do a day trip. We'll see what happens.


It's a glorious day compered to the last couple, and it was business from the start. A shower, breakfast, dishes, get the van ready to roll, and then down to the servo to get my cheap fuel. It sits outside an Auto Pro store, but they only host the site. It is a 24 hour card operated site, and for once, is enticing the motorist with a genuine discount of 11c cheaper than the full on company fuel outlets. Too often, these 24hr sites are not much cheaper. Normally, I would fill the diesel tanks, grab the unleaded I wanted and pay at the register, but today, you pay up front for the diesel pump, and then again separately for the petrol pump. Safe to say, rather than dragging it in and out of wallet, I just shoved the card in my pocket as I dealt with topping up my containers. (you can see where this going, can't you?)
Back to the caravan park, hooked up, and it was time to go. REX flew in overhead as I dealt with the dump point (we are right next door to the airport, hence the caravan park name) and then we were on our way.

Wirrulla was my first port of call. I first saw Wirrulla in 2003 when doing a bus tour I was invited on with a school. We had come down through Lake Gairdner, via Kingoonya, and what I recalled that tickled my fancy, was that there was a dunny called the Thunda Box (the name has now been removed, but the dunny remains), and there was a Jetty, that doubled as the first tee of the golf course. The sign telling the story and reason for the jetty remains, but the writing looks as though it has been whitened out. Essentially, in promoting the town many years ago, the locals reckoned that the only difference between Wirrulla and Streaky Bay was, that the latter had a jetty. And so, the locals built one. It doesn't appear to be the golf tee any longer.

I called into the deli, just to have a sneaky look, and spied in the pie warmer, a Cornish Pastie. Now I have a weakness for these things, but I had to ask where it came from. There is a place on the Yorke Peninsula, and I think it is Moonta, and it is called “Little Cornwall”, and they are known for their Cornish Pasties. But this came from the Wudinna Bakery. I tossed up about whether or not I should have it as an early lunch, and figured that it probably wasn't a good idea. Damn, it tasted soooo good LOL. I dragged my wallet out to pay for it, and …. no credit card. Bugger, I had another card to cover, and I wandered back to the car, opened the drivers door, and there it was sitting beside the door … it had worked its way out of my pocket. Another bullet dodged. I wandered the street, took photos, and once again, time to hit the road.

Poochera is where I joined the highway in 2019, when I took the wrong road from Streaky Bay. That day, the wind was blowing across the road and the resulting dust storms made driving hazardous. Today, no such problem. However, the road house that was busy the day I went through back then, is now boarded up. The town itself was in a sorry state back then, and is no better today.

Minnipa was my destination, and I rolled into town looking for the caravan park. There isn't one. I felt sure that there was one mentioned when checking this stuff online, but as there is no internet at all through this part of the trip, I was unable to go back and check. The idea was to park up for a couple of nights, and go and tour through the Gawler Range. There are a couple of freecamp areas in the town, but as I use a generator, I was reluctant to camp near other people. And so I took a run back along the road and found a spot that will suit me for the night. I had picked up a tourist brochure from the deli in Minnipa, and on reading it, you have to pay a fee to get into the Gawler Range National Park. I knew that was on the cards, and so I have my money ready … EXCEPT … you have to pay for it ONLINE … and there is no internet. I feel a rant coming on … Why do Government Depts insist that we have to do all this stuff online, when half the bloody country doesn't have the infrastructure to support it. Settle down there boy-o. And so, I will have a look at the local rocks around Minnipa tomorrow, and then move on to Wudinna, where I can get the net (apparently) and they have a caravan park, and I will do the Gawler Range thing from there. I will I tell you


You wouldn't bloody believe it. This morning I woke up to a phone full of messages. And in town I had internet. The locals told me it was dodgy out here. They weren't wrong.
I had decided that I would tackle the Gawler Range from Wudinna. And so that meant doing some exploring around Minnipa first. They have a little tourist drive that highlights two features. The first was Tcharkuldu Hill, which in reality is a rock, something like you find plenty of along the Holland Track or at Burra Rock in WA. There is an old stone hut that was built for the surveyors and workers who built the stone retaining walls around the base of the rock and the dam or tank that it fed. It was also home to a well loved Aboriginal couple called Tom and Milly at one point in time. There is a campground, table and shelter and a toilet.

Next was Pildappa Rock. When someone tells you that something is better than sliced bread, or easily as good, they need to back it up. So the tourism blurb on this rock immediately makes you say “oh yeah?”. “Pildappa is a spectacular sight - a rock with the highest and longest wave formations on the Eyre Peninsula, rivalling those of Western Australia's famous Wave Rock. “ Well, I guess it works, because we all naturally troop out to agree or disagree, but at least get you talking about it, which in itself drags more tourists to the town, which it needs. These towns are struggling. I'll let you decide from the photos.

It was now on to Wudinna – pronounced Wood-nah we are told. I eventually found the Tourist Information Centre which was placed ideally on the Eyre Hwy, NOT in town where this clown was looking for it, bought my pass to the Gawler Range National Park, and got some tips on where to leave the van for the day. Nothing much else to do, but have a gander at the Wudinna Tourist Trail. Polda Dam is another of those Burra Dam type structures, so that didn't interest me too much, but what I was here for was to take in the second largest Monolith in Australia – yep, second only to Uluru the blurb said. Sadly, Mount Augustus is a Monocline, so WA can't claim it, but it out monsters these two. But was the reference to Uluru in this case, stating a geological fact, or sucking you into going out and having a look at what is really just another hill (IMHO .. maybe not so humble)? It's a bloody big piece of rock, I'll grant you that, but to the unaware driving past, just another hill. Again, I'll let you judge from the pictures. The blurb did it's job, it sucked me in, I went and had a look, and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon's drive. But I was here to see the Gawler Ranges, that happens tomorrow.
Tonight I found a spot 4kms out of town to make as much noise with my genny as I wanted.


I was up early, made sandwiches, packed up, and headed into town to drop the van off. I wasn't sure how many kms I would cover today, so topped up the main fuel tank and headed for the hills. I hit the border of the Gawler Range National Park, and the good road which is maintained by Wudinna ended, and the rough corrugated road started, and then straight into a wet, slushy, muddy road that suggested that I should put the hubs in just in case. The Park have only just re-opened some of their roads a couple of days ago after heavy rains.

I passed Mount Allalone, (so named because it stands All Alone apparently), and the road improved. As you enter the business part of the park, the road runs around past the administrative and accommodation buildings for the staff, before you arrive at the Shearing Shed and Shearers Quarters. The shed last saw service in 2000. It was a 6 stand shed in it's day. I managed to wander through the kitchen, quarters and mess room doing a bit of filming, before hitting the road again. I had chosen to do the outer loop. This was a 4WD only designated road, and so I was expecting a roughish track... It wasn't, it was a good road for what was described.
The Kolay Hut and campground came and went, before I arrived at the Pondanna Outstation. I found my way into the house, hit a light switch and was surprised when a light came on. That was handy, lighting up the rooms for photography in my case. There must be a portable light source of some sort out there. It was an ideal place to sit quietly (outside) and eat my lunch. The Ranges are predominately flat grasslands surrounded by the hills, and to sit and enjoy the view and silence was lovely.
I had spoken to a couple who had told me that they had enjoyed driving over the top of the hill and were enamoured by the views. For the first time, the road was starting to climb, and become more of what I had been expecting track wise. And then I was on top of Conical Hill, and the view was as promised. The descent was a real rocky track, stopping only to photograph a couple of kangaroos, who after scampering across the road and up the hill stopped and continued to graze, whilst keeping an eye on what I was doing.
I had been urged to go and see the Organ Pipes. And so a 10km drive in over a really rough road was endured. A thought came to me … the road while just a dirt base wasn't bad, but they had decided to put a layer of road metal on top, and it was this that formed the corrugations – where there was no metal, far less corrugation. They really need to drag a couple of old tractor tubes over the road to smooth things out a bit. It apparently works.
The car park was reached, and a walking track stretched into the distance through the bush to these Organ Pipes.
Let's reflect for a minute on the quality of the park and its presentation. The roads were great, well above the expectation considering many were labelled 4wd only. The signage was excellent, and the presentation of the points of interest could not be faulted. However, when you reach a car park, and are then expected to walk to the desired site, it wouldn't be too much to ask, to include on the direction sign, the distance to be walked/climbed/stumbled to the attraction. Not once was there a walking distance included on any of the hiking/walking signs. Now, I am bloody unfit, and have only just started this walking thing on this trip, so am nowhere near match fit as yet, and I had been walking all over the place today, and I know my limitations. If I had known how far it was to get to the Organ Pipes, I would probably have decided not to attempt the walk. I stupidly left my hiking stick behind, and so was in danger of stumbling or falling (my fault), but it was the end of the day, and I was the last one in there, and the track in just didn't seem to end. Finally, I think I got the photo (I need to check it against someone elses), because I'm not sure whether I actually got there, and then I had to return to the car. Now, I made it, but it could have been someone else, and it could have ended in tears, all because there was no distance provided for the hiker to make a decision. You start and you keep going, and it seems to keep getting further away, and then you have to return. It's not good enough.

Another thought on National Parks, and I have been going on about this for years. Why should these attractions only be available for the able bodied, relatively fit members of the community, and denied to those who are not able bodied and confined to wheelchairs for example. In this particular Park, there was only one path to a lookout that would accommodate a wheelchair. I believe that ALL National Parks should have pathways suitable for wheelchair access.

My overall thoughts on Gawler Range National Park. The day wasn't long enough. I ran out of time. It is a beautiful park, beautifully presented, the roads are well maintained. I had a wonderful time. Just stick some distances on those walking tracks.

The kangaroos were out in force as I returned to Wudinna. Grey, with a red neck and white front … is that what they really look like?

I picked the van up from the RV park, fuelled up, and am tonight back where I was last night. Last night, no signal, nothing, again waking up to a phone full of messages. Tonight, I've made a number of phone calls and uploaded some stuff to FB. It is what it is I guess. So these reports will come through, eventually, maybe, if we are lucky … or unlucky LOL


Saturday was a travel day. I have been contemplating how do I work it so that I arrive in Port Augusta on Tuesday, hoping to get this leak in the roof fixed. I had tons of time to get there yesterday, but it being a long weekend over here, and being ahead of schedule, means that I am also getting a bit ahead of my bank account. And so it was get close-ish, and camp up for two or three nights, preferably with signal. I found a rest area right behind the Iron Knob mine, with full phone and internet, which has proved perfect.

Kimba was the only major centre to pass through, and for the first time ever, I stopped at the big Parrot, which doubles as the bakery, and I grabbed (yet another) cornish pastie (from the Tumby Bay Bakery) and I could not resist the carrot cake. It has nothing to do with diet, and everything to do with supporting local business... yeah, right LOL

Speaking of local business, these towns have been dying for years, and much of it I believe has to do with the main highway bypassing the town centres, and the pandemic certainly hasn't helped, but I was surprised when the roadhouse at Poochera, which was operating two years ago, and is on the highway, was closed and boarded up.

Last night I set up the desktop computer, and caught up with my social media stuff. Thank you to everyone for reading, commenting and supporting my efforts.

Sunday, today, I woke up to find that I had successfully recorded my Indycar race, so watched that, before settling down to do some serious editing putting my Gawler Range National Park video footage together. I run the camera in the car almost full time, but most of it is my audio/visual diary, which I break into when I feel I have something interesting to share.
Eagles – Richmond, what a heart stopper. But why oh why, when we have won four premierships singing the old version of the song, do we feel that we have to have a new version, which has none of the gusto of the old song, but sounds like an insipid apology for winning. Can you imagine any of the old traditional clubs allowing their songs to be mangled like this. Traditions have to start somewhere, and when you have been fortunate enough to establish a tradition, why in God's name would you walk away from it?

Originally, I was going to move closer to Port Augusta tomorrow and sneak into town on Tuesday morning. But I just might hang around until Tuesday morning and ring first and make an appointment with the caravan repair mob … then again, I might not …


MONDAY: I had started editing the Gawler Range video yesterday, so after having a look at the second Indycar race I completed the basic edit and colour correction, and decided to move closer to Port Augusta. I wanted to get to the Caravan Repair place as soon as I could on Tuesday, and so I packed up, did a quick tour around Iron Knob (again). Nothing has changed in a thousand years there. BHP Pegged the first mining lease there in 1897. The iron ore from here proved to be of such a high quality, that it led to the development of the Australian Steel Industry. 21% of the steel required for the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was quarried at Iron Knob and smelted at Port Kembla, New South Wales. The remaining 79% was imported from England.

I moved on. I passed a gateway with a red flag on it. This normally indicates a gun club is in residence and firing is taking place. But I passed another three such gates and flags after that, and I am no wiser. I did find that where work is being carried out on some railway infrastructure, a red flag needs to be installed until the work is complete. So, is there work being done on a Railway link between Iron Knob and Whyalla? But that link runs in different direction … Curiosity killed the cat, and I ain't that curious LOL.

I arrived at Lincoln Gap (where the Eyre Hwy meets the Lincoln Hwy) and settled into a rest area there for the night.

TUESDAY: I was awake at 6.45am, and after sussing out where the caravan repair facility was in relation to me (30kms away) last night, I had decided to leave for town at about 8.15am. I made a coffee, decided that instead, I would leave just after 7am, grab a bite to eat at Macca's for breakfast for a change, and finally rolled into the repair shop at 8.50am. Their opening time was 9 o'clock, but I was attended to immediately. It didn't take long to establish that rust was involved. Rob was the operator, and as he scraped at the rust, it became a hole, and then a bigger hole. We could patch it, but replacement was the obvious answer eventually. Why not now? He disappeared, and came back with a hatch earmarked for an insurance customer, who is still waiting, because I've got his firmly attached to the roof of the van. A look at the water pump, and 5 minutes later, the best pressure I've ever had from the pump system. This pump has been like this since it was put in at Katherine two years ago. It was supposed to have been looked at last year when the van was last checked for seal upkeep and other maintenance, but wasn't. Thanks Rob and Port Augusta Caravan and Trailer Repairs. Great service.

I did my food shopping, and rang my friends in Angaston, and arranged to do a 600km detour to catch up with them. People who have watched my 2007 Great Central Road video on You Tube will remember that we found a cross in the bush near the road. I followed up and found that Kevin's Mum had passed away with a heart attack at that spot a number of years ago. I sent him the footage I had taken, and a friendship ensued. Mum and I stayed with them in 2008, and I again visited subsequently a few years later. Kevin had an amazing collection of old fuel company signs, oil bottles and other memorabilia, which he subsequently had to sell when he sold up and moved into town. They have had the tragedy of losing both of their sons in unfortunate circumstances. These days, he is suffering from Alzheimers, and I feel that I need to catch up with them again.

Tonight, I am sitting in rest area south of Crystal Brook, there is train line right beside me, wires overhead, the wind has sprung up, it's trying to rain, and the wires are singing with the breeze running through them, and the van is rocking. I pulled up, initially unaware that the railway was right there, when a train ran past. It wasn't more than a few minutes later when another went past the other way … it's only one track. Obviously, there is a loop line not far away.

I feel that it has been a successful day. If it rains tonight, we'll soon find out.

Ooh, thunder. Could be a fun night.


WEDNESDAY: I'm losing track of time. It wasn't a fun night as it turns out. After that initial weather attack, the night went all calm and boring. I was heading for Angaston, and I wasn't in a hurry, but with only 197 kms to go, I took alternative routes to see what I could see. I wasn't expected until tomorrow, so I rang ahead and said that I would arrive somewhere between 2 and 3 today. There are many older and decaying old buildings littering South Australia, and I went into photographer mode to capture what I could. Often, you were on them before you saw them, and so exercise was thrust upon me as I trudged back up the road to take the shots.
I arrived at the Linke residence not long after 2 o'clock. Liz and I sat and spent a few hours recounting trips we had done and in what parts of the country. Many of her experiences were in the 60's to 90's, and the country and access has changed markedly in that time.
We plan to go to the nursing home tomorrow to catch up with Kevin. It had been a good day.

THURSDAY: The weather was quite ordinary. I spent a bit of time wandering the Angaston main street, before the nasty weather set in and made visiting Kevin a non event. Again, a day talking and watching some of our videos. I'm due to leave earlyish tomorrow, but visiting Kevin is a priority. Hopefully the weather will be kind to us.

FRIDAY: We had over an inch (25mm) of rain last night, but this morning was kinder to us. It was great to see Kevin again – it's been about 8 years – but I think he had a struggle remembering who I was. This is an insidious disease, people can look really well, but they look at you, or it may be through you, and even if you speak to them, all you get back is a blank look. Or alternatively, they may be standing at the door, eager to get out to rejoin their partner, but then unless chaperoned closely, are more than likely to wander off and find themselves in trouble.

I eventually left the Linke residence around 12.30, fueled up, and asked Google to take me to Broken Hill. She came up with three alternatives, and I had a good look before choosing a route I knew I hadn't done before. Straight away, we are on a dirt road … now that wasn't on the agenda, but it turns out that it was only a connecting road across country to Truro on the main highway, which I have to contend with until near Renmark. Trucks, trucks and more bloody trucks. What ever happened to railways? A rest area, and it was on top of a huge hill – I could see for miles, then it was the descent, totally open and a crosswind … brakes on all the way down.

A notice telling me that fruit and veges are definitely NOT to be carried into the Riverland. The collection bins are situated in a 24 hr rest area, and although signal is dodgy, it was the perfect place for me to set up camp for the weekend and save some money while the Supercars, F1 and Indycar will cover the entertainment aspect of things.
A walk back to the bedroom, and there is water all over the floor … and the bed is wet in places. Where on earth has that come from? I stripped the bed, dried the floor as best I could, turned on the air con to get the heat happening in an attempt to dry things out. The storm that came through Angaston had been a beauty, the roof hatches were closed, but had it found a way to infiltrate the van? Another pool had formed on the floor. Overnight, I kept mopping up this pool of water, trying to work out just where it is coming in. This is a worry.

I turned the mattress around (been going to do that for months), and remade the bed – the a/c treatment had worked. What will I find in the morning?

SATURDAY: Bugger, that pool of water is back. All I could do was keep mopping up surplus water until it subsided. Is this water that has accumulated in the roof from the previous Shower hatch leakage, is there another leak up there that has now developed, or did that storm do the damage? We had been through much worse than that in Albany before I left. It looks like there is seepage through the wall at floor level, is there a stream running down the inside of the wall? All I can do is keep a close watch on what happens from now on. There is certainly going to be more wet weather before I return home. Finally, midday, and the floor appears to be dry – no more pool developing. I'm here for another couple of nights, let's see what happens when we start moving again on Monday and stir things up again.
What? 6pm, and the water is back. I heated the hot water system? Is it that? The hot water system is under the bed, so I pulled a couple of boxes out (I've had the system spring a leak twice in the past, and so everything is kept in plastic boxes these days in an effort to keep everything dry) and I can see no leaks from the system. There has been no rain at all today. This has me stumped at this stage. And there is no signal where I am camped, so Mr Google is of no use to me.

And then, as if by magic, good strong internet at 9pm, (not strong enough to upload my Gawler Ranges NP video though – you'll have to wait for that).


SUNDAY: I think I've nailed it. I've tried all different combinations of taps and settings, all good. And then I turned on the gas heater switch, and within a couple of minutes, a pool of water. I dried that up, and then had a shower … no pool …. so it looks like I have sprung a leak in the HWS heater unit. The van is 12 years old, has done a lot of miles, but has also spent some time sitting idle, even though I have been living in it. I had the water pump looked at in Port Augusta, and I have never had so much pressure, so maybe that has tested the system somewhat.

But, another worry. When we replaced the engine, we also replaced the clutch, and that was only 27,000 kms ago. I have had a couple of occasions over the past couple of days, where it has started to slip, and that is a worry. I can deal with the smaller (albeit annoying) hassles, the bigger, potentially more expensive ones I can do without.

I checked out the map, and found that the route that I had planned into NSW was a dirt road. Plan B was to go through Mildura, which is in Victoria. And so, a search for a permit to enter was searched for, applied for, and granted. That was easy. Now, I had to do the NSW one. I already had the OK from SA, but Victoria was a different matter. It won't accept an application outside of a 24 hr intended entry, obviously because of the changing situation in Victoria), and not being too sure when the border cross will be made will be made, that means re-apply much closer to the time.

I have a camper near me. I explained to them that I had been here a couple of nights already, and was running a generator, and that as I was watching motor racing would be running it into the night. He was cool with that, and from my point of view, I had given him an opportunity to move further away. As it was, it ran dry about 8.45pm, and rather than start it up again, I set the inverter to run the 240v system so that I could record the racing (which started at 11.30pm over here) and decided on an early night.


MONDAY: 11.20am ...That proved to be a chilly night. I jumped out of bed (eventually), refuelled the genny and turned on the air con – it read 1°. Well, if I'm going to sit in a fridge and watch last nights Indycar race, I'm going to do it in some sort of comfort. I also needed to pump the batteries back up. Now I haven't watched the F1 race yet, but it needs to be good if it is going to match the racing and entertainment provided by the Indycar circus. Maybe I'll watch that tonight.

A check on Facebook, and it looks like Albany has been blown away … again. I can't leave the town for 5 minutes and you all get up to mischief. Now I'm no scientist, but these wild weather patterns make you wonder. You get a great season in some areas that have been in drought, and they say that this is the way it used to be back in the fifties and beyond. Now if the wet weather is due to “climate change”, does that mean that when it was like this all the time, was climate change at fault then. I did the Birdsville Track in 2010, and we were inundated, and it hadn't been like that for forever. It was supposedly a 1 in 100 year event, but Lake Eyre has been flooded on numerous occasions since then. Or has there been a pattern over the centuries of the weather running through cycles that are beyond our ability to detail, because it is so far outside our date line. I guess if I put in the time to read and study these things I would be far better informed. But then I would have nothing to wonder about, and thus write about. I told you I write rubbish, but you keep coming back for more it seems LOL. I obviously have too much time on my hands.

I did some paperwork stuff, had a bite to eat, and decided that it was time to hit the road again. I was not far from a place called Blanchetown, which is actually off the main road – another bloody bypass. I missed the turn off, but not far down the road there was a another, which took me into a lookout on the old road bridge. It was an ideal place to turn around and head back into the town. A quick look, and I was back on the road, heading for Waikerie. Again, the town is situated in off the main road, but I successfully negotiated that turn off. Another cruise around town including a full 360 around a roundabout until I found the correct exit – fortunately not much traffic. I found time to stop and take some photos of silo art and a bit later, some looks up and down the river.

I watched the F1 race, hmm, different race to the Indycar race, but intriguing in a different way. It was a strategy race – who knows what was happening down the back of the field, they don't show us much of that – whilst the Indycar race was an outright dogfight, with the cameras trying to follow the scraps taking place all around the track.

Then the news from home. Wow, Albany certainly took a hammering. It's not the first time this year, there have been high winds and lots of rain in the past three months. Is it these previous batterings, which left the trees and sodden ground unable to resist this storm.

Tonight, I have found a spot beside the road near Kingston on Murray, where I can sleep to the dulcet tones of triples and doubles belting past a mere 15m away. Nothing like it.


TUESDAY: Kingston on Murray is a quiet little village, nestled on the edge of the river, and surrounded by vineyards. You can hire a houseboat if you want to do something different. The town is serviced by a General store/post office with fuel pumps. I could see myself basing myself out of this place. It's delightful. However, I was thankful for the GPS/map on my dashboard, because there was absolutely no signage to tell you how to get out of the place … maybe a ploy to increase the population by capture by stealth. I also had the thought that this town is probably one that is happy that the main highway bypasses them.

A photo point appeared, another bridge over the Murray River from which to capture the surrounding waterscape and environs. There was an air sock on the bridge, but unlike the road on the Nullarbor, where you could land a plane on the RFDS emergency strips, this was to indicate cross winds as you crossed the bridge. There are a thousand trucks a minute using this road, and they are high and long, and it would be like towing a tall brick wall through a stiff cross breeze. That's what it feels like towing a van across these bridges and open plain spaces … remember I mentioned the long descent down an open road a couple of days ago.

Barmera sits on the shore of Lake Bonney. The esplanade along the lake is grassed, you can drive, walk or ride along the shore, there is a yacht club, The Barmera Club looks over the water, it's just delightful. And there are some classic architectural examples in the main street as well. An aged persons complex, Medical Centre (which was very busy judging by the number of cars looking for parking), schools, and further along the lake edge, some dwellings that remind you a bit of the holiday shacks in Mandurah (for those of you who can think back that far). What the value of those places must be when you think of their location.

Would I or would I not have a look at Monash? It looked like just a couple of streets beside the Highway, and that was basically what it was. A corner store, a small shop which looked like a hair salon, a church, a primary/pre school, The Monash Club, a small chocolate factory (Chocolates and More), a hall, and surrounded by vineyards, and that was basically it. As you probably guessed, I had a quick look.

I was approaching Renmark, and decided to stop and have a cuppa before I got there. I had been on the road for a couple of hours, and it was time. When I left my camp spot from last night, I noticed that the ground under the HWS was wet. I had been checking a few things out, but touching nothing - don't fool with what you don't understand or know – so I decided to release the pressure valve and see what happened. It emptied the contents. Interesting I thought. I drove on. Now, at the rest area, I walked back to the car, and noticed a stream of water running from under the HWS. Again, I hit the release valve, and figured that maybe I had a bit more of an answer to my leakage problem. I pulled into Renmark, and took advantage of a fuel station and relieved him of some of his unleaded supplies, for my generator stock was now depleted. I wasn't interested in running around Renmark I had done that in 2018 when bringing my sisters car back from Melbourne. I was heading for Mildura, and my eye caught the Renmark Caravan Centre sign as I flashed past. A turn around, and a request for them to have a look and see if they could diagnose the problem. The Pressure release valve is stuffed, and need replacing. As it turns out, they had replaced one last week, and the replacement stock hadn't arrived. It seems that there is a large Jayco dealer in Mildura, and so the plan is to see if I can get it replaced there. The guy then checked all of the HWS fittings in the van as we fiddled with taps and gas heater, with the result that there are no leaks. It seems that the water involved with the pressure release valve can't escape into the van … UNLESS … when we replace it, and re-pressure it, it blows back through a faulty seal, which can't be tested until it is replaced. So still not a definitive answer, but the puzzle is slowly being resolved … I hope.

As you approach and leave the Riverland district, you are required to dump any fruit and veg that you have on board. There is a fancy Dunlop Tyre thingo over the road, to signify that you have reached the quarantine point, and there is a check point as you enter South Australia. The border itself is still a few kilometres down the road, and altho I had the map in front of me, I must have gone to sleep, because I passed the sign saying Welcome To Victoria just as I saw it … it was big enough, but I was probably looking for trucks in my rear view mirror or something. I did manage to hit the button on the video camera in time to catch a couple of frames for a capture.

Immediately after crossing the border, the signage started, encouraging you to take a powernap if feeling drowsy, and these signs were relentless. All good, BUT, no rest areas provided to take advantage of a few zzz. Instead, you get the odd scrape alongside the road with absolutely no signage to tell you what they are, or indeed that they are coming up. It got to the point that when you saw the sign, you started looking for a piece of gravel, hardly wide enough to get off the road. The truckies probably know where they are due to the frequency of their journeys, but the tourist is kept guessing. Victoria, so far, your rest areas are a joke. I found one, pulled as far off the road as I could, and hit the sack. When I woke up, I realised that I had lost another ½ hour at the border. I was now 2 hrs ahead … easier to calculate when calling back home than 1 ½ hrs.

Tomorrow, I hit Mildura and hopefully can get the HWS sorted. I have a phone call scheduled from a specialist on Thursday, so need to hang around whilst I have signal. And then the plan is to head north to Broken Hill. The first thing I did when I climbed out of bed this afternoon, was tune into Fox Weather, and the news is not encouraging. I am hoping to get to Thargomindah after hitting Cameron Corner. The road between Tibooburra and Thargomindah passes through channel country and is predominately dirt. Rain is not what I need, and the outlook is, that is expected. These roads turn to a bottomless slush when soaked, and pulling a 3.2 tonne behemoth in those conditions is not part of the plan. If they get wet before you get there, they close them. It's when you are in the middle and it rains that you could be in trouble.

What lies ahead? Stay tuned.


WEDNESDAY: How things change. This morning I applied for entry into NSW, tonight my G2G pass back to WA has been cancelled and needs to be re-applied for when I'm ready to return.

I climbed out of bed, having had probably the best nights sleep I've had for a while, despite the trucks whizzing by just a few feet away. I had taken a couple of Panadol as I climbed into bed, and they had obviously done the job. Not bad for a product described recently as “little more than a placebo”. I had also resumed my normal bedtime of around midnight, which is still only 10pm in the West.

I skipped breakfast, and headed for Mildura. The sign said Food and Fuel, but the building approaching looked like nothing more than a roadside stall with a couple of pumps. There were three or four trucks parked outside, and truckies don't stop at these places for fuel. It was getting on for 10am, and so I set up my Victorian Covid Pass, entered the shop and departed with the best burger I have tasted in a long time. The bun, although locally made, as with nearly all bread products these days was crap. The coffee washed it all down beautifully. No need to eat for the rest of the day.

I rolled into Hall's Jayco Dealership in Mildura, and was informed that not only were they fully booked for the next fifteen years, they didn't have the part in stock. They did look around, and found one which was secondhand supposedly... it looked pretty new to me. It seems that a customer had decided that instead of a gas HWS, he wanted an instantaneous system. And so the valve was seconded and offered to me for $100, or they could order me a new one for $275. I now needed someone to fit it for me, and they gave me Tony's phone number (0417 047 957). Remembering the two plumbers I haven't heard from since I left messages on their phones in Ceduna, I left a message. With 30 minutes, he rang back, and an hour later, job done... cash only … I don't carry cash. So whilst he was doing the job, I ducked over the road to the convenient Aldi, bought a couple of required products, and cashed out the necessary $90.

Now I needed water, and I headed for a dump point that would hopefully have potable water available. I was told that I had reached my destination on the left, and so I turned into what was the Sunraysia Institute, and did a tour of the car parks and a complete circumnavigation of the grounds before emerging back onto the main road. In fact, the DP was hidden over the road.

Tanks filled, it was now time to fuel up and head for the hills, or Broken Hill in this case. It was then that I remembered that I needed to be in signal area, which meant close to town, to have my telephone appointment tomorrow. I headed out along the Silver City Highway when the sign indicated that the Mildura Holden Museum was just around the corner. I'm not a Holden nut, but a lover of cars, especially cars that you can line up along side each other and recognise the difference. Remember that? It was $12 to get in, and unlike many of the museums around the country where the cars are rotated from one to the other, this is a private museum, with just a few cars on loan. I believe the FJ convertible coupe is a fixture.

I went looking for somewhere to pull up for the night, and decided to get off of the highway, and double back toward town by touring around the vineyards, eventually finding a spot where I figure (hope) I wont get rumbled.

Time to do a weather check, and the prognosis is not good. Rain (and a fair bit of it) is expected through the Cameron Corner precinct and to the north toward Thargomindah. It's looking more and more that that town and I are never going to meet. The only saving grace at the moment, is that I have never travelled the Silver City Highway from Mildura to BH, let alone on to Tibooburra. And so that could well be the plan and see what transpires. If the roads are closed further north, then it's back to travel over old ground covered in 2019. There is a backup plan to meet up with my Friend Lesley and her grandson, and maybe travel in convoy with them for a while.

When I woke up this morning, the world was good-ish. Tonight I am covid stateless it seems. One cannot predict with any certainty what is in store for tomorrow. Isn't it exciting?


THURSDAY: I had checked out how much a 10 litre metal jerrycan would cost at Bunnings. Remember, I had left mine outside the office at Eucla full of fuel earlier in the month. I replaced it with a plastic version at Ceduna, and I am not getting on with it, and so the decision to go metal again was made. I also needed to be in a signal area to receive a phone call from my specialist at around 11.45 local time. And so, I made my way back into Mildura.

Naturally, although showing on their website, Bunnings didn't have 10 litre metal jerrycans in stock, however, they helpfully pointed me over the road to Anaconda. Wow, $54.95, was I a member, I was sure that I was, but I had lost my card, that's ok, we'll check our system, nope, do you want to join our list, yes please, $34.95 thank you …. that's the way these places work, just so they can send you heaps of catalogue material. I don't mind that, you can always unsubscribe, and no trees killed.

Back to the NSW side of the border. Oops, a police car checking on the border bridge. I was waved past, but thought the copper was walking behind me, so I stopped and waited, and waited … nope, wasn't interested in me it seems, so I crept off, and so far haven't been arrested. It took nearly 4 hours for my phone call to come through, and then, finally, I was on my way.

There were a couple of little towns to pass through, were they suburbs of Mildura, or their own little entities? It turns out that they are part of the Wentworth Shire. I drove through Dareton and entered Wentworth. I found a convenient parking spot outside the local IGA, so jumped in and topped up with bread, spuds, carrots and sweet potato (I'd had to dump anything I had passing through quarantine zones), and finally on my way.

I saw a pile of metal coming up on the side of the road, and decided that was a good spot to park up for the night. It was about 2.45pm, but had been a long day in it's own right. I hit the sack and slept for near on and hour and a half.

I had checked out the road situation north of Tibooburra, and around Thargomindah, and the news is not good. They are currently flooded, with a warning not to drive through flood waters. The obvious potential disaster, not to mention the danger of burying the vehicle in slushy mud. It appears that more rain is coming.


FRIDAY: I was totally confused. When we had crossed into Victoria, I had set the clock to EST, I was in NSW (still), and my times had been coordinating with my phone, and I had found somewhere to pull in on the edge of Pine Creek, about 50kms from Broken Hill. I thought 1.55pm, I might stop for the day, 175 clicks under the belt in about 4 hrs with a couple of stops along the way, checked the phone, and it said 1.25pm. What? So I checked the corrected car clock, and sure enough, it said 1.55. Then it dawned on me. Broken Hill might be in NSW, but it runs on SA time, AND they play proper oval shaped football here. So although I had lost time somewhere back there, I had regained it here …. or is it the other way around? Anyhow, you get the drift …. don't you?

I slept in until 8 this morning. I had again gone to bed about 11.30, taken a couple of Panadol, and with this road being hardly used after dark, I slept like a baby, yelling and screaming every half an hour … Hahaha … no, out like a light. I decided that I deserved a cooked breakfast for a change, and that done, it was time to roll out about 9.45. I was 215 kms away from Broken Hill, and not really fussed whether I got there today or not. And so I set the cruise on around the 70 mark, being mindful of not running at higher revs and maybe exacerbating the slip that I was occasionally experiencing in the clutch. Plus the slower I went, the less fuel I used, and the more I could look around and actually see stuff. The fact that the traffic was minimal helped, and I wasn't being monstered by Road Trains and B Doubles every few minutes.

The rest areas were well marked, and each contained a toilet of some sort. The Bunnerungee Rest area was set up by a creek and road bridge. A bit of a worry if a sudden storm up creek happened and you didn't vacate in time. I've seen a trickle grow to a 200m wide fast flowing stream and be back to a trickle inside twelve hours at one place I was caught at up north … I hasten to add that I wasn't in the danger zone. But the road was closed for a couple of days. This rest area is 200kms from Broken Hill. 15 kms further on is the curiously named Seven Tree Rest Area, there is but one tree. 137 kms to go, and Lake Popiltah Rest Area is equipped with a later model loo, is close to the road, and encourages travellers to stop and use the shelters and tables provided. These rest areas are more in line with what you come to expect in Queensland. We won't mention that other state … to be fair, that was just one highway, but then again, so is this one, and far less populated.

I was now starting to get some signal … just a bit. A pilot vehicle went around me, I enquired as to what he had following him, 4.5 was the answer, and that means 4.5 metres wide. I decided to pull off and let it past – there was plenty of room, but I was in no hurry. Then the phone rang, and it was CML insurance checking on the latest repair work, was it ok, up to standard, they were paying the contractor, all good, and I figured if I had signal, get some phone calls out of the way while I had it. I then realised that I was stopped just over the road from a decent set of cattle yards. They hadn't been used in a while from the look of things, and some one must have stopped by and had a party judging by the three bras and the lone thong hanging from the rails. These yards are probably used when they muster and yard the cattle by the road side, much easier than muddy or dusty tracks for the trucks to get into.

I had thought that I would stop at Pine Creek, but after a cuppa, I thought that I'd push on a little closer, and found a rest area on top of a hill, surrounded (in the distance) by mine sites, and the phone looked like it would support some internet coverage tonight … it almost did … it was so slow, but I was now 21km out of town, and I cried enough, slept for an hour, and tested the hot water system for the first time since it was worked on a couple of days ago, had a shower, and so far, it seems that all of the water is outside of the caravan...hopefully THAT problem is solved.


SATURDAY: Brrr, that was a bit chilly, and it's going to continue I feel. And it was very misty. An omelette got me moving, and I was heading into Broken Hill. I had sat down once the internet kicked in late last night, to check out the caravan park situation in BH. It seemed that they were all booked out. I decided to head out to the racecourse and see if I could get in there … nope … been full for the last three to four months. OK, rethink needed. What was I in BH for? I had spent near on a week here in 2019, so it was really only to re-supply for the real reason we were here, and that was to hopefully go to Cameron Corner. The trip really starts now. I visited the dump point, filled with water, fuelled up, and did a quick shop at the local IGA. I was ready to go.

I mentioned about the fact that BH operates on SA time, although it is definitely in NSW. But it seems that if I am confused, how do they feel? I fuelled up, flashing my NSW Covid app, but IGA wanted the SA App.

I left BH, and drove out the Silver City Hwy heading north. A derelict building hove into view on the banks of Stephens Creek. “Stephens Creek Art Gallery and Owl Barn” the sign on the wall said. It had been a grand building in it's day I feel, the stone laid on 26th Jan, 1935. It seems that the art was produced by a guy called Mitch Powell, and I couldn't decipher whether the owl collection was crafted or real owls. The creek is wide, and when running, I would suspect that you could have rowed a boat through the building.

Compared to yesterdays travel through largely flat ground between 30 and 80m above sea level, today it was through undulating country with the road rolling past the hills at altitudes between 230 and 330m. It was gorgeous. But it was to get better. The turnoff to Mutawintji NP came and went. I had momentarily forgotten that I had taken that road in 2007, when driving my Mum and Aunty on a tour of their ancestral beginnings.

So now, I was on new ground. It was supposed to be fine today with a 10% chance of rain. I was waiting for the 90% chance of fine weather. The dips and creek crossings gave evidence that much water had passed this way, as we slowly climbed into a new range of hills. Suddenly, a lookout, the hills to the west, and plains to the east, and three information signs, upon which the writing was completely obliterated. Why do they not inspect these things and replace them … we the traveller, do stop and (attempt to) read them. We are interested. I was 70km out of Broken Hill, and I had signal. I took the opportunity to ring my mate, who hadn't answered my first call in BH. “Sorry, was doing caravan repairs. Do you know what they are?” Funny bugger.

The sun was out, the showers threatened, and the view was an absolute picture. I was not expecting this country. I spied a metal dump high on the hill along side me, and I figured that would be a good place to stop. There had been a number of potential stops so far, but when this ground gets wet, it could get nasty if you drive out onto it. My mind had flashed back to 2007, when we did that drive through Mutawintji to White Cliffs, and the sky was blue 360° around us, but directly above us was a big black cloud, and it dumped on us. It got very slippery, and so I hopped out to put the hubs in, and when I climbed back into the car, I was 2” taller with the clay on the soles of my boots.

This trip just keeps giving. I was not expecting this country when I left Broken Hill, and although I have a picture in my mind as to what I will see tomorrow, the chances are that it will be nothing like what I am expecting.


SUNDAY: It had to happen, and it finally did. I opened the door of the van to grab the steps, and they weren't there. I gave the Packsaddle Roadhouse a call, and yep, that's where they were. It seems there is a traveller or someone who can bring them on to me. Let's see what happens.

It was even colder last night, but for some reason, I didn't feel it. Was it because yesterday I was camped in a wide open space with no wind protection, and last night I had a hill behind me and there were small hills opposite.

I got away about 9.47am, it was a beautiful morning, and a perfect day for travelling. It was again a mixture of wide open spaces, and rolling hills, and lots of what can only be described as potential marsh land. When it's dry, the ground is as hard as rock, but when it gets wet, you just don't go near it. I was on flat open ground, and a range of hills came into view. The road wound through them and past the Fowlers Gap Research Station. I guess it was named because of where it was situated, which was a gap in the hills, that opened out onto an open plain. After driving from Ceduna through to Mildura, and then north to Broken Hill without seeing any evidence of dead animals on the road, the story had changed, and there was now plenty of roadkill providing the crows and hawks their daily nourishment. The properties were no longer fenced, so did that make the roads more accessible to invading stock and animals.

I passed a gate with a big circular dish with something written on it. I looked. “Watch The Road” it said. LOL

I rolled into Packsaddle Roadhouse. I am always curious how some of these places got their name. I never did find out why Hell's Gate in Queensland is so named … forgot I guess, but usually, the origins date back to the early explorers. The explanation I got here was, that Burke and Wills passed nearby, and left the pack saddle from one of their camels on the side of a hill. The station owner consequently named his plot of country Packsaddle, and that became the name of the area. Sounds feasible. I took photos, walked into the store, and was greeted by a pack of people who looked like Jesse James' gang, and was promptly told that I had to wear a mask. Apparently, since last night's shenanigans in Sydney, the police have been patrolling the road enforcing the rules. I busted out the pack of masks that I had purchased before I left home, and promptly left the steps outside the van … as I said, it had to happen eventually. There has to be a positive for wearing masks in the outback, well away from the hotspots (yes I know, infected travellers), and that is, they stop the flies doing a kamikaze down your throat. The barramundi Burger I had for lunch was first class. I'll make no mention of the excellent carrot cake.

There was some new roadwork under way, and it was the weekend, and to suddenly find a small tractor in the middle of the road in the middle of a corner sweeping the new surface coming toward me certainly got my attention. A bit further on, and there was a full road crew working on a new section of the highway. The dirt sections of this highway have been sealed over the past couple of years, and I guess they are using their Sunday to apply the finishing touches.

I was looking at the clock, it was just after 1pm, early, but the weather was beautiful, cool, slight breeze, but good enough to throw some undies and t-shirts in the washing machine and get them dry if I could find somewhere safe to stop.

The highlight for me of this section of road, was Peak Hill. There is a station there, but the terrain was again superb. It was about 2.15pm, and I saw piles of blue metal off to the left, and the track looked as though it was dry enough, and so that was it. 10 minutes later, I had discovered I had left my steps at Packsaddle, the genny was running, and after solving an electrical problem (I had the genny running, but hadn't plugged in the cable), had the washing machine doing it's thing. Ah, such efficiency ...

4.30pm, and I received a phone call saying that my steps were on the way. My washing was dry, and apart from the Eagles getting a lesson from the Dogs, all was good … sort of.

5.50pm. My steps were just dropped off by a young couple who work in Tibooburra. Thank you packsaddle Roadhouse for organising that.

All IS good...


MONDAY: Today achieved what I set out to do five and a half weeks ago, and I didn't expect to do that until tomorrow.
I left my campsite at 8.50, and first stop was the historic town of Milparinka. You pay your $5 to have access to the town, and you start in the old courthouse. There is a room dedicated to the Aboriginal forebears, and another dedicated to the women who braved and endured the hard early years of this old goldfield. There is a building featuring the mining heritage, and a pub which declared itself open for booze, food and all that stuff that pubs do … except it was closed.

Tibooburra was my target for the day. It is from here that the road to Cameron Corner winds it's way through the Sturt National Park to the corner post that signifies the point that South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland meet. One of the pubs was under renovation, the famous Corner Country Store was just that, a shop that sold food, had a dining room, sold fuel … and was nothing extraordinary. The pub over the road looked interesting, but not being a person who feels comfortable in pubs (despite having earned a good percentage of my music earnings in pubs), I somehow never got inside to have a look. Dumb, I know. I checked out the information centre, and was advised that the road to Cameron Corner was open, you could take your caravan, and despite running through the National Park, it being an RTA road, you didn't have to pay an entrance fee … but you obviously couldn't camp. Speaking to the guy at the store, he said that the majority of travellers through the town were trying to get to Queensland, and were running through to Thargomindah. They weren't all that interested in Cameron Corner.

It was approaching Midday, and I decided that I would make a run for the Corner. But first, I had to look at the boat. The boat? Those history students will remember that Sturt was looking for the Inland Sea, and so his expedition carried a boat with them for when they found their target. Of course, they failed, and the boat now resides in a little park in Tibooburra.

I also had to make an application for an entry into Queensland. And there was a chook wandering around the street – naturally when I didn't have the camera ready to shoot it – strangely absent when I did.

It was time to go. The road was immediately dirt, and the channels were immediately there to be negotiated. They are generally pretty sharp dips in the road, and need to be taken with caution. I misjudged the first one … there was a second dip inside the main one, and even though I was travelling relatively slowly, I'm sure the van actually left the road. Corrugations were happening, and I remembered a busted fridge back 2019, and so I reduced the tyre pressures on the van. I made a decision to leave the car at highway pressures (naughty, I know) but figured the harsher ride in the car would encourage me to drive with more sympathy for the ride in the van. Road conditions varied from rough to fair to bloody rough to just awful. I stopped for a cuppa, opened the van door, and surveyed the carnage. Fortunately, it was just extraneous loose stuff that was spread all over the floor. I picked up, boiled the kettle, and soldiered on. I was suddenly faced with a lake – dry fortunately, and a choice of a track leading left, or the track across the middle. There was a car parked out in the middle with someone wandering around, obviously not in trouble, and so I had a quick look through the binoculars, all looked good, and I drove straight. It was the smoothest part of the whole road.

I finally decided to stop and reduce the car tyre pressures, and that made things a little more comfortable. There was a corner giving me an option to go straight and that was 37kms, or the Dunes Scenic Route which was 22kms. I was tired, the glare was getting to me, and the concentration looking for a way through the corrugations was taking it's toll. I had been on the road for nearly 5 hours to cover 150 kms. So I took the shorter route … and the road was wonderful … by comparison. A gate which I had to open. This gate is to remain closed at all times. It is the 5000 km dog fence that stretches from down near Fowlers Bay in SA all the way up through into Queensland. Through that gate, and I'm suddenly in South Australia. 100 metres, and the road bears right, and the policeman stops me at the gate into Queensland. He checked my pass, waved me through, and I was at Cameron Corner .. a day earlier than expected, and with my van in tow – I had thought initially that I would leave it at Tibooburra, and come back for it. But the road to Thargomindah can also be accessed from CC via the extension of the Cameron Corner Road. A quick enquiry as to the condition of the road to the copper, (who is based at Charleville some 800kms away) received a smile, and a nod back to the road I had just arrived on. That bad, huh? At least, it will be dry, and I should be able to get through before the possibility of rain on Thursday.

I walked into the store, and was told I was free to camp anywhere, and I was free to use my generator. I chose a spot well away from everyone, opened the door … oh dear, not again. I downloaded the days videos, cleaned myself up a bit, and walked back to the store. I had decided to reward myself by dining in at Cameron Corner Store, chose Bangers and Mash with vegetables, and I was not disappointed. It was superb. Thick gravy just the way I like it. Wonderful. I had a chat with my policeman mate, who patrols an area about the size of Victoria on his own. He is the only traffic patrolman in a station of 24 officers at Charleville.

It's going to be a chilly night I feel, and I have had enough for one day. Tomorrow, I'll have a look at the corner post, and that completes the quartet … Surveyor General's Corner, Poeppel Corner, Haddon Corner, and Cameron Corner. Just the Victorian - South Australian one to complete the set. It was basically inaccessible when I drove past a week or so ago, but somehow doesn't hold the same appeal to me as the others. There is a story to all of them. Some other time.

And then, we start phase two of this trip, which because of weather, Covid and other factors, changes direction from day to day. As I mentioned once before, Isn't it exciting. Good night.


TUESDAY: It was going to be a long day, but nowhere as bad as I was preparing for. My aim was to reach the bitumen before dark if the road conditions would allow it.

The first thing was to reduce the caravan tyre pressures further. The next was to top the fuel tank, and then actually go and look at and photograph the reason I was out here … the pole with the map of the three states emblazoned on top of it.

The road ran north east, and it was in pretty good nick, compared to what I had to deal with yesterday. I ran for about an hour before stopping and checking the van, and was relieved that the changes I had put in place to restrain sensitive gear appeared to be working. The pace was hectic … 20-40 kph, and with a target of 220-250 kms in front of me based on yesterdays 169km on dirt, a long day was looming.

The countryside changed as we ran from open plains to channel type country, not that I had much opportunity to look, because one needed to concentrate on the dips and swerves, as well as try and navigate around occasional patches of heavier corrugations and detour around water hazards. But nothing like yesterday. At one point I was able to maintain a steady 43-48 kph pace, and when the road was really good, 50-55 was possible. (these are all speeds that I was comfortable running keeping in mind maintaining the hotel in one piece). And then I noted that I was sitting around the 65-70 mark, but that was only for a shortish period.

A turn off, and the Dig Tree to my left, some 160 odd kms away. Tempting, but rain is forecast, and I'm towing a hotel, and so I turned right. Bitumen, and about 10 minutes later I rolled into Noccundra. It's basically a pub, there is a huge freecamp area over the road along the river, and there was already a fairly sizable population set up on their chosen spots. I chose to roll on. I hit the Bundeena Road and turned toward Thargomindah. There was a lot of evidence of water along the road edge, but again, an old metal dump came to my rescue, and I decided that this is where I would spend the night, according to my calculations, just 101 km from my next target, Thargomindah. I have had two attempts in the past to get there, both times thwarted by roads being closed due to flooding. Maybe, it is time.

I pulled off the road at 4.21pm, I had left Cameron Corner at 9.48am. I had stopped for probably a total of just over an hour I would think, and had covered 290 kms. I remembered that I had to air the tyres up, had a fridge to clean, and assorted crap to pick up off the floor. I think I might sleep well again tonight.

You may remember that I dined in at the Cameron Corner Store last night. I don't recall needing to use the microwave while I was at CC, but I did tonight. I was shocked to find the newly installed oven sliding freely on it's shelf when I went to open the door. Now this thing is sitting in a space that is not terribly easy for a great lump like me to access, but I dragged in my steps, and climbed up to have a closer look. A couple of brackets had been attached to the oven when it was being installed, and they were still intact. But the screws to the shelf floor had totally ripped out. It doesn't look as though it will be a big job, even for for me, but it got me thinking, where did this happen? I remembered the first dip that caught me out as I left Tibooburra .. could it have been then. Or was it the drain I that caught me out today, despite my every caution and effort to avoid such things. You see them, you know they are there, and you try and slow down, but this one was a nasty one, and had that extra bit of kick. There was a thump as the front suspension took the full brunt, and I can remember thinking straight away, did I manage to pull it up enough before the van hit it. Fortunately, there is a lip across in front of the microwave that stopped it sliding off the shelf, and I'm sure it had to be that one action which caused the problem, because it didn't seem to budge after it had broken away. At least I'm on the sealed stuff now, at least until I decide whether to do the Outback Way on the way home... if they ever let me back in ...


WEDNESDAY: Time to head into Thargomindah. I had attempted to get there twice before – in 2010 and 2019, thwarted both times by roads being flooded, and both times from the Eulo end. This morning, I was coming in from the western end. Apart from 30mm on the 3rd June, there had only been 9mm about a week ago. The country still looked damp, and more rain was expected on Thursday, but to all intents and purposes, it was dry travelling. I had achieved what I set out to do, visit Cameron Corner, and get to Thargo before it rained again. I was rather chuffed with myself. Ok, there was the small matter of damage gathered along the way, but I was good, I had bought a drill … back in 2009, and I had charged up the battery, and so I was ready to take on the world. All I needed now were some screws that would do the job.

About 30km out of Thargomindah, it started to drizzle. Hey, it's only Wednesday, what's going on here? I arrived in town, did a lap or two, caught up on uploading my blog, but the net was too slow for the 80 odd photos I had, so just the evidence that I actually reached CC and a map of my travels so far would suffice for now. I found a food store that sold hardware, or was it a hardware store that sold food … they are nothing if not versatile out here. I found the screws and some washers, grabbed the tucker that was required to top up the pantry, topped up the fuel tank and grabbed some unleaded for Genny, and having crossed this town off my bucket list, I headed back out of town the way I had come in.

By now, the drizzle was a steady pour. I had arrived a whisker after 10am, it was now 11.30am, and wow, had things changed. What had been drying paddocks with patches of water, were now lakes encroaching onto the road. I was driving through floodways that were bone dry a couple of hours ago, and were now rivers running across the road. To make matters even more dodgy, this was a development road, gravel with a single bitumen strip down the middle, which means approaching and overtaking traffic as well as yourself, all need to head to the verge, which by now is becoming a soggy, slippery quagmire, and has the ability to grab the trailer (in my case) and throw you off the road. Needless to say, supersonic speeds were not being attempted. Remember, this was not supposed to happen until tomorrow, and then I don't think they were expecting the 17.4mm that fell in those few hours.

My plan was to reach high ground where it would comparatively dry …. excuse me for a minute as I laugh hysterically at my own sense of humour … and camp up up until the storm .. no, not a storm, it was rain, persistent steady rain … the rain had passed. I also was due to take a few days off and let the credit card catch up. 60 kms out of town a rest area loomed, and it was on high ground, and it was not as wet as the surroundings … like Swan River vs Sydney Harbour … nowhere near the same amount of water. I was in like flint. I would set up the desktop computer and spend the next couple of days editing the footage I had taken from Broken Hill to Cameron Corner to Thargomindah. First though, I hit the sack for an hour to get the strength to tackle my next task.

But I had a meal to prepare, and a microwave that was floating in space. It was time to practice my skills with THE DRILL. Now the problem here, is that the Microwave sits on a shelf up near the roof, and in a corner and on an angle, which meant that I needed to get out my step. Those of you who know me, know that I am not a dainty little lady, rather quite the opposite. And so I launched my 188 cm 160kg frame up onto the stool, and started to attack the job at hand. Really, all I had to do was drill a couple of holes into the shelf, through the holes already in the frame attached to the microwave, and then screw it all down. Why not use the holes already there? The original screws had ripped themselves out of the holes when the MW had launched into air when we hit one of those spoon drain things on the track the day before. Long story short, I learned to bend my wrist and arm into impossible angles never before attempted, and tonight I have a secure microwave oven … for now at least.

THURSDAY MORNING: The rain eventually ceased, and I settled down to revue and start editing my CC footage. I turned off the genny at 11.30pm. I was alone, and no-one else had been inconvenienced by the noise … I stepped out this morning and there was another caravan parked nearby … where hell had he come from and when … oops. But I was already here, and the genny would have been running when he arrived. Bet he didn't think he'd be lulled off to sleep by the gentle Yamaha hum ...


THURSDAY: I had decided that I would lay low for another day, half expecting some follow up rain, but it didn't happen, rather, it turned out that as the day progressed, the sun decided to come out to play. I had made the decision to continue editing the Cameron Corner footage, and was pleased with the progress made. I also started a side project, and I tackled the footage of the last 40kms into Thargomindah yesterday, and the same distance covered as it started to rain. That video is ready to upload … just have to get somewhere that will allow me to do it.

I slacked off and had an hours nap – I find I keep waking up early and the nap helps me through the day. And so, that was my day was spent. I have decided that I will move on tomorrow, and Eromanga is my target, and possibly, the rest area at the junction of the Cooper Development Road and the Diamantina Development Road, where I spent three nights back in 2019.

And what is real pleasing is how my handiwork is holding up. The microwave hasn't budged since I screwed it down … let's hope I have the same result when I actually move on from here …


FRIDAY: Wow, I didn't see that coming. After the hosing down we had on Wednesday, and a beautiful day yesterday, I woke to a car and caravan that looked as though they had had a bucket tipped over them … but it hadn't rained. I got moving in glorious sunshine, but then wondered what I was heading into as I saw this dark looking cloud low down on the horizon. It shortly became apparent, that this cloud was sitting down low in front of the approaching hills … well, I was approaching the hills, they were just sitting there with the cloud in front of them … just for the Grammar nazis … 13 kms from my start point, I entered into a dense-ish fog. This very rapidly became a very dense fog, and for the next 20kms my eyeballs were trying to see beyond the 60-100m area of visibility. It's amazing what you imagine you are seeing in front of you .. was that a tree, a truck, a dinosaur (this is dinosaur country – not including the ageing population travelling through it) and then, a set of headlights suddenly appear a few metres in front of you, probably just as startled by your appearance as you are by theirs. Then, it cleared up …. for a short while, and then back into it. It was of course, the huge amounts of water being evaporated by the warmish weather. Eventually, at the Innamincka turnoff, I was through it. They call this road the Adventure Way … you're telling me it is.

Last night, just as the football was in the last couple of minutes, I lost satellite signal. I had already had the VAST box quit because of a weak signal, and finally, the Fox Box caved in as well. I was puzzled. I had a look outside, the sky was clear, I could see stars … it must be severe weather further over to the NE I thought. This morning, as I was blindly stumbling through the pea souper, I had nothing to do with myself but think … I do that … if the satellite signal can be thwarted by bad weather, heavy cloud and heavy rain, is it possible that it was the fog and heavy dew that was affecting the signal. Fog is just a cloud on the ground, isn't it? Remember, I had woken up to find the car and van drenched with no rain … it made sense to me at least … is that a tree or a dinosaur I can see in front of me?

Eromanga was my proposed destination, and I rolled in about 1pm. I did an extensive tour of the town, and at 1.03pm visited the dump point. It was time for lunch. There was signal, and so I uploaded today's report and the Thargomindah rain episode video. I had a look in the Eromango Living History exhibition, and it was time to move on.

I disturbed my first eagle of the trip, who was dining out on the finest roadkill. He flew to the side of the road to watch what I was up to. I stopped down the road and waited for him/her to go back to their delicacy so I could get a few photos … nope, they will NEVER do that. I drove off. Later, I saw what looked like a fat lamb running around the edge of the road with no family in sight. 100m down the road was another eagle and I wondered as to the potential plight for the hapless animal.

In 2019, I stopped for three days at a rest area on the corner of the Cooper and Diamantina Development Roads, and I had it totally to myself, with just the odd van stopping for a break or to use the toilets. Tonight, the area was chocka, and so I headed for an area off to the side where I could run the genny with little disruption and annoyance to others.

With my main reason for doing this trip now done with, I am now being forced to sit down and think about what I am going to do from now. I might just sit for the next couple of days – it is a weekend, and I have plenty of stuff to catch up on, and plenty of video to work with, and the signal here is excellent. Yep I might just sit …

What a day ...


SATURDAY: That does it. Finally the straw that broke the camels back. I am not coming home via the Outback Way and Great Central Road.

I arrived here at my rest stop for the next couple of days, and started to set up the van. I have an office chair, which when I'm travelling, sits conveniently in a little pocket between the bedroom door, cupboard and fridge. The back of the seat edges out to create the fourth corner. As I eased the chair out of it's travelling station, I noticed that the fridge had moved slightly out of it's frame. I've had this happen before, back 2010 I believe it was, where the weight of the fridge was greater than the ability of the screws to hold it in place by pulling out of the wooden surrounds. Back then, my repairer reinforced the support, and all was good. It seems to me that although the fridge was replaced a couple of years ago after receiving another belting on the Top Road between Burketown and Borroloola, it may not have been fitted with the same idea of re-enforcement in mind. And so, I did a bit of manipulation (read pushing, shoving, thumping, groaning and swearing) and it seems to be sitting back in place … at the moment. My thoughts are to go to Charleville, and see if I can get someone who knows about these things to do a bit of re-enforcement. I am also due for my second jab in the next week, and so it makes sense to travel via a larger town where I might have an opportunity to complete that task. My doc also sent me with instructions to have some blood tests done at about this time. And so Charleville is the target. I was also starting to have second thoughts about the Outback Way. I mean, I had pummelled the caravan worse than a hotel full of wildly protesting quarantined Covid positive testees could do rampaging in their enforced confinement. Surely to continue with my plan could just bring undone and destroy my home, in which I plan to see out my days, and that would be stupidity … but I have been stupid before, and no doubt, will be again. And so, understandably, I was having second thoughts.

And then, the last straw …

I have a Breville sandwich maker. A few of weeks ago, I had dragged it out, and one of the hinges had come apart. I sat with it and the parts (fortunately I keep it where it is confined and the parts were all together – not floating around the van like the odd screw which you find rolling around the floor with absolutely no idea where it came from) and sussed out how it all fitted, and put it back together. I used a pair of pliers to tighten the little bolt, because one needed an Allen key to do the job properly, and mine were buried in the bowels of the tool box in the car … and I didn't retrieve them to do the job. (well, if I had, I probably wouldn't have this tale to tell .. now, would I?). All good, my sandwich maker worked a treat. Today, I decided to drag the implement out to make a toastie for lunch … and it was in a thousand pieces. Every bolt, every fitting, the whole lot was in total disarray. And so I sat surrounded by a thousand parts and started to re-assemble the machine, because I was going to starve to death if I didn't. Then I remembered that I needed the Allen key to tighten everything properly. I knew where they were, and so I retrieved them from the toolbox … and one was missing. Yep you guessed it, the one key that I wanted, needed, desired more than anything else in the world (apart from a toasted sandwich) at that moment, was missing. Out came the long nosed pliers, and after much fiddling and tweaking and huffing and puffing and the odd blasphemy, I had it back together, and I was ready for lunch. And THAT is what finally convinced me, that maybe attempting the Outback Way and the Great Central Road might NOT be such a great idea.

I had set up my office, and so I recommenced work on the video depicting my journey from Broken Hill to Cameron Corner. I had gone to bed early last night, and I usually wake up after about 5-6 hours, and then drift in and out of sleep from then on. I don't think I did the latter too well, because midway through the day, I was tired (probably from the exertion of rebuilding the sandwich maker) and had my now usual nap for an hour or so. Queensland is supposed to be hot and sweaty … or so they tell us, but I don't recall it being this cold at night on past trips. We would joke when the locals were starting to freeze at around 24°, but this is getting down to 5° and 6° with clear air, and that is getting a tad chilly.
The video, football and F1 kept me entertained in between times and at 10.30, I'm thinking I just might tuck myself into bed again. Bad idea I know, 'cos sure as eggs I'll be awake early in the morning again. But it's starting to feel like I'm sitting in a fridge, and I have these inconsiderate travellers who have camped within my vicinity who would go apeshit If I ran the genny past 8pm (7pm even … or just go apeshit because that's the way they are) to run the air con to try and keep warm. And yet, if they camp at a farm stay or remote hosted camping area, they would have to deal with a big generator running all night long – ala Cameron Corner … whingers LOL.


SUNDAY: Today was a designated “another day”. Another days are those days where I just sit, and basically do nothing, watch football, motor racing, and generally scratch my ear. So, the same as every other day I hear you say. But today, I was in the middle of a project.
When I camped up pre-fog, I started editing the footage collected since I left Broken Hill, and organised it into a rough copy of the video which would become known as the “Road To Cameron Corner”. I then shifted camp to a spot 40kms from Quilpie, where I decided to stay for three nights.
Initially, there was about 5 hours footage of a journey that took two and a half days. So, the first task was to get rid of much of that footage which could be deemed as surperfluous. Much pruning reduced it to about 1 hours 55 mins. Then it was time to colour correct it. Now it doesn't matter how good you think your video camera is, if the white balance for example is out just a whisker, it affects the colour of your video. So each shot looks a slightly different colour. Then it's a matter of adjusting things like light balance, contrast and exposure. If you are shooting in the morning, the light is best for getting a great picture, providing the source of light is beside or behind you. Middle of the day, the light source is above tends to be flat – there is no “shadow” to highlight the contrast, and if the light is in front of you, blasting through the windscreen (in my case) and directly into the lens, it's just horrible. And so the trick is to try and balance all of these little challenges. And I have to be honest, I have never been trained in this, and although I think I know a tiny bit about what I am doing, in truth, I really know bugger all.
So by late this afternoon, I had done all of the above. And then it was time to actually watch the whole thing, and prune more unnecessary stuff out. This isn't easy when it's your baby. You have to be ruthless. Tell the story without boring the audience, even if it means ditching some of your favourite work... and there's no guarantee that you haven't failed in at least a part of the exercise.
I had the football on in the background, and the wrong side was distracting me by the number of goals they were kicking, and not playing fair, and letting our boys have at least a couple of kicks at the big posts. I turned off the footy.
By 10.30pm, I had it finished, and then realised that the finale of the trip – the post with the three state marker had somehow been left out. I mean … duh. A few minutes later, corrections made, it was getting bloody cold, it was bed time.
Just another day ….

MONDAY: This morning I woke up a year older than yesterday … and it was bloody cold.
I went to bed last night at 10.45, and hoped for a good long night's sleep. I woke at 2.30am. Despite a blanket, a doona, a throw, and wearing a track suit, I was cold. I drifted in and out for the next couple of hours, and woke again around 4.30 freezing. I had gone to bed with the inverter switched on, so that I could record the F1 and Indycar races. The throw is one of those furry things that you can wrap around yourself or put on top of a bed, and has a heat control ala electric blanket. I had never used the heater controller. I figured that the recordings would be completed, and that as long as the c-pap machine kept working on the 12v system, I would take a punt and turn the throw heater control on. It had immediate effect, warming up the bed. Not knowing how much power draw this thing had, I turned it off again about 15mins later. About an hour and a half later, it was back on again. I think I'm going to be using this thing a bit for the rest of the trip. I take a blood thinning tablet, and that doesn't help the body's internal heating system.
I finally jumped out of bed, watched the Indycar replay, a quick breakfast, packed away the desktop computer system, and it was time to up stumps and move in toward Quilpie, just 40kms away. I have decided that with my second Covid jab due this week, and some blood tests requested by my doctor to be obtained, that I would head to the nearest largest town and see if I can get them done there before continuing the trip. That town in this area is Charleville, which is 210kms beyond Quilpie. I arrived in Quilpie, visited the local dump point, the information centre who told me where I could fill up with potable water, fueled up, and visited a hardware store. The required Allen Key was purchased, as was a new tyre gauge after my existing one fell apart when I was re-pressuring my tyres a few days ago. I needed gas, but they had run out and were waiting on new supplies. I inquired as to how much a bottle exchange was … “we don't do exchange, we fill the bottles” … that's fair, that's what the dogalogue store at Ceduna did... “how much” I asked … “the price of gas has just risen, it's now $6.50 kg” … whoa, a quick calclation puts a 9kg bottle refill at about $58.50. Now one expects to pay a premium when living a thousand miles from anywhere. My recent swaps/refills by comparison were $38.50 (swap Renmark) and $24.95 (refill Ceduna). Hmmm.
I hit the road, and arrived at a roadhouse (no fuel) called Cooladdi Roadhouse. I could recall calling in here 11 years ago, and nothing had changed. Laurel still sat behind the counter, and her daughter Roxanne who owns the place, was also a familiar face. They have been there for 14 years. This store sits in the middle of nowhere, and is probably one of the best presented roadhouses/eateries in rural Australia. It was about 2.30pm, I was hungry, it was my birthday, and so I thought I will treat myself to a burger... “what is the Cooladdi King” …” It's the lot” … “stuff it, I'll try one” .
About 15 minutes later, I was presented with a burger that stood about 3 feet tall, I took a deep breath, and I proceeded to demolish it. It was as good a burger I have ever committed to. And the excellent Mocha-cino helped wash it down.
I eventually dragged myself out of the chair in the dining room, dragged the hotel to the huge free camping area behind the roadhouse, set up, tightened the sandwich machine with the newly aquired Allen Key, climbed into bed, and had a snooze for about 40 minutes.
It was time to watch the F1 recording, news, and soon, bed. It's been a big day, and I'm 12 months older …


TUESDAY: First and foremost, thank you to every one for the birthday wishes, and the phone calls from those who were able to get through before we ran out of signal again last night. We had signal in the roadhouse, but here, a couple of hundred metres away, nothing. I am seriously thinking of treating myself and purchasing one of those Telstra Cel-fi Go signal booster thingies. They are hideously expensive, but when you are battling even in a place like Albany, to get a decent fast signal, and requiring such to get a reasonably quick upload of your videos which are sizeable when they leave the computer (before You Tube compresses the shit out of them), and you are living on the very edge of signal on the road, it seems like a sensible investment in my case.
I went to bed early, about 10pm, and slept until 6am. Must have been that burger. However, I don't think that I will make a habit of eating humungous burgers in the middle of the afternoon. It felt like a warmer night, but I wonder whether that was because the area I'm camping in is protected by trees, whereas the site at Quilpie was wide open and the wind had nothing to break it up.
I took a side road to a popular fishing and camping spot just out of Charleville, grabbed the other camera, and got a blank screen. Odd, so I rebooted it, and same result. Don't Panic I screamed in my best Corporal Jones impersonation (Dad's Army for those of you haven't a clue what I am talking about) as I delved into the menu and did a factory reset. This completely obliterates all of your settings, that have been modified over a period of years, and so when it finally fired up again … success … I wonder whether I had hit a setting the other night and opened the iris right up or something similar. Main thing, no damage. I did miss my shots though. I'll just have to go back to the photos I took back in 2010.
I cruised into Charleville, and slowly got my bearings. I started looking at Vaccination posibilities, and found that the clinic for over 60's happened yesterday morning, and under 60's is tomorrow afternoon. I rang the hospital, and the next astravenica clinic is the 16th. I now knew what to look for and how to find out when the clinics were in the area I was travelling through. It looks like it may be when I get back home in about October. I then got a reminder that I'm due in a clinic tomorrow … in Albany. I remember they booked it just in case I was still home. I have a feeling that I'm not going to make it.
Bloody caravanners have been buying up all the gas supplies, but I did find a service station who did swap'n'go, and I was happy to pay the $32. I topped up with fuel, and filled my jerrycans with unleaded … but a small worry, it is E10. Hopefully the genny won't know the difference and will keep running as smoothly as it has so far.
I found the IGA and did the necessary food top up, and headed for the nearest checkout. Maxwell was the checkout chick … wow, what a sad sack. He never cracked a smile, didn't even groan at my attempted humour, never said a word and just stood poh faced as I suggested (twice) that he smile, that it wasn't that bad. I have no idea what his problem was, but that kid needs a huge kick up the khyber pass.
I was fueled, gassed and fooded, it was time to go … but to where? I did my blog update, and checked out the map, and decided that I would head for Augathella. It's due to rain here toward the end of the week, and the figures being quoted are big numbers, and so having experienced the rain event in Thargomindah last week, I decided I was better off being somewhere else. Any one who remembers the movie “Smiley” from the fifties, would probably not be aware that the story is based on a local Augathella personality. More about that later.
I spied a bare piece of ground, and figured that it could be the ideal spot to get off the road to spend the night. I had a crack at securing the fridge, but even though it's only six screws needed, I don't feel confident enough to really tackle it more than trying to replacing the screws that have obviously fallen out of their fixings, and need to be replaced by slightly larger screws … which of course I don't have. I have the ones that fell out, and they don't hold. But I now know what needs to be done.

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY: Just thinking about it, there are just six screws holding the fridge in - it's a big fridge, and yes I know you are not expected to take it where I have taken it, but the roads I have been travelling on this morning are sealed, main roads, and they are as violent as anything I've driven on off road. This is not the fault of the caravan manufacturer, it is the lack of foresight by Dometic, who make these fridges. All of the manufacturers are stuck with the same product ranges.

WEDNESDAY: Bloody hell, what have I done, whose cat did I kick?

I stopped outside Blackall. I needed to make a decision. Do I travel via Isisford? It's due to dump on us tomorrow, and if it does, when is it going to happen? Fox Weather to the rescue. But NO, the ­satellite dish was dead. Wouldn't even turn on. I grabbed the multimeter and checked the voltage – nowt. I grabbed a spare cable, plugged it into the 12v outlet, measured it – nowt. I switched on the lamp above the stove – nothing. This was crazy. The lights work, my sleep machine works. It seems like one side of the van's 12v has gone to sleep on me. I got into Blackall, found a tech, who traced as much as he could, and discovered that the earth wire to that side had gone AWOL. But it was getting late, and this could take some time he told me, and we decided that I should make a run for Barcaldine and the guy there was a better proposition. All good we decided as I hit the road (after he replaced the caravan tyre with a chunk of metal the size of Skylab sticking out of it), It was a tyre service/auto guy thank goodness.

I found my camp spot, and was in dire need of a coffee or a double whisky or both … I grabbed the kettle to fill it up … no pump – 12v … Bugger. Fortunately I had a 20 ltr container of water in the car. I grabbed that, filled the kettle, hit the starter on the stove – no starter – 12v … the fridge is AC/gas/DC – 12v dead, gas won't light because of 12v starter - I was starting to lose my sense of humour. Thank God for the genny and 240v and the electric kettle. Meanwhile, I shoved the fridge back into place for the umpteenth time today – these roads look the goods until you select first gear and start to move. The road to Cameron Corner had nothing on the violence imparted by these roads based on Black soil up here in Qld. They are vicious.

Deep breath. The day started out well. First stop was Augathella.
There is a Smiley monument which was revealed in 2008 to mark the 50th anniversary of the movie “Smiley”. The stories were written about a boy who growing up in Augathella. Author Neville Raymond Son of the local teacher, wrote the stories about his childhood friend Didy “Smiley” Creevy. (Dcd 1972).

The town was rocking. I've never seen so many caravans in such a small town all at once. They were camped in the council parklands (pay by coin donation), cruising around town, parked in the streets – surely a convention or similar … “No, just travellers going or coming”. I wonder if the powers that be (read government) have any idea just how many people are out here. Granted it is school holidays, but most of these people are travelling without kids, and more likely to be grand parents. I like Augathella, it's a pretty little town. However, it does sit on the banks of the Warrego River, and the levee bank would be pushed to hold back the wrath of the storm if they got a big one.
Cattle trucks rule the roads up here. Today, mainly empty, presumably having just dropped their load, or on their way to pick up the next one.

Tambo, last visited in 2010. Again, a neat pretty little town. I didn't see the Tambo Dam last time, it looks great on the brochure. But like when I filmed the Great Southern Hwy in 2017 back home, it had been a bumper season, and the lakes were full, when they are usually salt pans. Sadly, the dam was pretty much dry.

I called into the information centre, and was greeted by Bruce Dawson (remember the name, questions will be asked at the end of the exercise). I asked how long he had lived here – 11 years – so how did you get this gig, you're not even classified as a local? - I knew someone – where were you before that – born in Tasmania, eventually moved to Victoria, then NSW, and finally a couple of places in Queensland, winding up here.
He pointed to the old bus parked outside, and said that was his escape when he could get away. He then imparted (remember his name) that he had camped on the corner of the Bruce Hwy and the Dawson Hwy. When he voted for the first time, he was in the Bruce Electorate, and when he voted the second time, yep, he was in the Dawson Electorate. The old boy made my day.
The caravans were lined up outside the caravan parks as though it was a new release from Apple as I cruised past them and out of town.

Next target was Blackall, the home of the legendary Black Stump. Then all of the above drama unfolded. However, before I left town, I did visit the “stump”, or the replica of the same. The original was burnt in a fire. The story is shown on one of the photos.
So, what started out as a glorious and enjoyable day, had a sour finish, and left me as not a happy camper. Tomorrow's just got to be better, doesn't it?


THURSDAY: I had done some thinking (yes, I know), and I had come to the conclusion that the fridge and the fuse failures were somehow connected. The fridge had broken loose from it's mountings, and with the rock'n'roll nature of the roads up here, I was now checking it every 40-50 kms, and shoving it back into place. Was it touching something back there that was shorting out that channel?

I needed to get to Barcaldine to the Tyre and Auto guy before it got too busy, and hope that he could help me. He was busy, but would try and fit me in this afternoon. Finally, he was able to get to it, found the problem, and did a heap of other diagnostics, and could find nothing. It was simply a fuse. The 10a fuse was replaced with a 15a fuse, everything worked, and all was good... for now.

Meanwhile, while I was waiting for his call, I did laps of the town, found a parking spot (eventually – there were around a thousand caravans all looking for parking as well), and took a wander up the main street. Barcaldine is where the Australian Labor Party was formed. “In 1891, it was one of the focal points of the 1891 Australian shearers' strike, with the Eureka Flag flying over the strike camp. The landmark Tree of Knowledge, under which the strikers met, stood outside the railway station. In 2006, persons unknown poisoned the tree with the herbicide Roundup, which led to its demise.” (Wikipedia). A replica of the tree was constructed and stands in the main street under cover of a large open roof. The town had a population of 1422 in the 2016 census.

The town boasts two bakeries, and of course you have to sample their wares … don't you … I visited just ONE of them. There are a number of pubs surviving, the Artesian Hotel being the only one that was never destroyed by fire.

One of the servos was advertising “no Diesel”, which was hardly surprising considering the number of vehicles visiting the town. I later noticed that the diesel pump was being serviced, so probably a mechanical problem. The other servo looked like an Apple store with a new release, with the line back down the street several vehicles long.

Finally, I was done and released, and I hit the road toward Longreach. I came to a rest area where the prime spot had already been snaffled, a road-train was also parked up, and having had previous experience over the years of how the truckies used these facilities to take their enforced breaks, I chose a spot that I felt looked potentially dodgy, should the promised rain happen, but I parked the car as close as I could to a straight drive back onto the sealed part without getting in the way of traffic using the stopover. I stepped into the van, shoved the fridge back into place, and there was no 12v power … I grabbed a couple of fuses, and both blew as I installed them. Bugger. Now, I was certain the fridge/fuse relationship was the problem.

Then, it rained. Now it was only a shower, but drops of rain down south, are bucketfulls up here, and half a dozen drops is an hours rain anywhere else … well that's the way the black soil reacts to it. There were about four rain events in all, including the promised thunder storm (I heard it rumble), but nothing substantial. Time to put the genny away, and I found myself slipping and sliding on a thick, sticky, gooey slop that was mud. It caked itself onto my shoes, and I found myself a couple of inches taller. What a mess.

During all of this, I looked out and witnessed something I hadn't seen before … a rainbow, but not just any old rainbow. This was a full 180° rainbow, it was light on the inside of the curve, and almost black on the outside. I couldn't fit the full image in my camera, and I'm not sure if the pic does the phenomenon justice.

I decided that first thing in the morning, I am getting out of here, and making tracks for Longreach and hopefully getting to a repairer who can solve all of my fridge/fuse hassles early in the day, before they fill their worksheets.

I feel that despite everything, I had made progress today. I felt more confident than I had for a few days that I was close to a solution.


FRIDAY: It rained last night, I was surrounded by sludge, and I needed to extricate myself from where I had parked last night. I put the hubs in, selected Low Second (I've seen plenty of evidence where people have struggled to get out of this sort of situation over the past week) and crawled out of the spot. Done, no problem as it turned out. I had been concentrating so hard on how I was going to approach the day, and planned meticulously how to do it by having only one exit from the caravan, negotiating a way to the drivers seat and getting out of here, that I was surprised when a passing truck driver advised me that I had left a window open in the back of the van. The blind was down, and I had forgotten that I had opened last night. I stopped, and must have looked like a right dickhead shuffling around in the puddles trying to get the crap off the bottom of my shoes. Next stop, I found that I had been so focused this morning, that I also hadn't packed the 240v cable away, and it was still sitting attached to the van. The majority of the cable was rolled and hooked over the towbar, and so wasn't dragging on the ground. Another bullet dodged.

I found the repairer as soon as I reached town, and again, his book was full. I accepted the 9am appointment for Monday morning, and figured that I would be happy spending the weekend watching Supercars, albeit on Foxtel Go on my computer. We got talking about Cel-Fi Go, he uses it, and had one in stock. $1100 poorer, I headed out along the Jundah Road to see if I could find somewhere close to town to park up … nope, but I did find a spot on the side of the road where I could instal my new gadget. It works, or it seems to at first look. Back into town and out to the Thompson River freecamp area. I found a spot well away from everyone else, where I could run the genny with no complaints. Just for the hell of it, I replaced my blown fuse … and it worked. I had 12v power. Up with the satellite dish, and Supercars was my focus for the rest of the day.

Then came the stink of a fire, and the smoke that goes with it. I have an aversion to such things, probably from my days as a kid, where my dad would find any excuse to light a fire. Yep, two vans had moved in near me, set up, lit up, but so far no complaints about the gentle hum …

I found that having the Cel-fi set up in the car was no good in the van, because the phone communicates via bluetooth, and that was just too far away. I quickly re-installed the unit in the van, and I have lightning fast internet. Although so far, the upload speed seems a lot slower than the Speed Test upload figures suggested.

All in all, a good day.

10/7/21, 11/7/21


Nothing to report. I just sat and watched the motor racing, set up the desktop and did some editing, Everything worked flawlessly over the weekend, and I am looking forward to seeing what happens with the fridge/12v situation.


MONDAY: I checked the temperature at about 4am, and it was 6°. I was looking to get up and get moving about 7am, because the caravan was booked in for 9am. At 7am, it felt a tad chilly, yep, 3° feels like 0°. But I was brave, climbed out of bed, transferred all of the stuff from the fridge to the car fridge, and couldn't feel my fingers for a few moments when I climbed back into the van. I put the genny away, made sure that I had packed the cable, closed the window, all that sort of stuff, and crawled out of my camp of the last three days at 8.25. I needed to drop some money in the honesty box, and found that a couple of things seemed to have changed. You are supposed to register at the Information Centre (oops), and it was $5 per night ($3 2019). I filled out the necessary, dropped my money in the tin, and went looking for the dump point. I know I'm blind, but I eventually found it, and passed up on taking on water at the moment, because it was 8.53am, and I had 7 minutes to get to my appointment.

The auto Elec guy spent a lot of time doing his damndest to blow the fuse … it wasn't co-operating. I figured that I had shoved the fridge back, the 12v was working, and that I would take a punt on bolting the fridge in and see what happens. I drove away from there at 11am, $88 poorer, and headed for the dump point to replenish the water supply. The main street of Longreach was teeming with people, cars, vans, everything. The dump point was worse. There were two water points, and it was taking forever to fill the vans. And so I decided that I would do my top up at Winton.

The weather today was shocking … clear blue skies, 25°, breeze from the east keeping everything pleasant. It was a gorgeous day for travelling, but the light is so bright, and the glare makes things a little bit uncomfortable – ha, what a whinger LOL. My belief is that the safest vehicles on the road are white (or light coloured) but the downside can be the reflection off the bonnet. If you don't believe me, try shielding the bonnet from your sight with your free hand and see the difference.

There are a number of rest areas between Longreach and Winton, and I was keen to stop at each one and find out whether this new Cel-fi gadget was worth the money I paid for it. Did it work? So far, the answer is a resounding yes. Firstly, I had full bars at every stop. Away from the unit that is not so. I made phone calls, and where I usually have to hold my mouth in a grimace, while standing on one leg and holding the phone on a weird angle, to try and keep a constant signal, today, none of that whilst maintaining a strong signal. As I write this, I am 47 kms from Winton, and 132 kms from Longreach, and I have fast internet. Usually, I am complaining about lack of signal (as regular readers will recall). This is just the first day, it will be interesting to see how it performs as I go on.

I am camped tonight a few hundred metres from a designated rest area. The authorities kindly set up a metal dump in close proximity, but far enough away that I can run the genny without annoying the other patrons. Hopefully there will be no fires killing the atmosphere in my spot.

TUESDAY: I was washing the dishes, when a train rumbled past. There was no warning, it was suddenly just there. What is so special about a train. Just the fact that they still exist in some parts of the country. Sadly, the railway system in Western Australia has been sold off, and rather than preserve and service the infrastructure, much of it has been shut down. I can't for the life of me see why rail and road transport can't co-exist. Yes it costs to maintain rail structure, but our roads aren't too flash either.
I arrived in Winton, and made a beeline for the Dump Point at the recreation ground to fill up with water. There are two dump points in Winton, the other one being closer to the more populous part of town, and I figured that most would be lining up at that one ... I was not wrong. There were just two in line at my DP, and they were travelling together. It helps sometimes to have prior knowledge.
I took a drive down the main street, and as with Barcaldine and Longreach, it was teeming, with nary a parking spot to be found. There were lines of traffic waiting at the fuel stations and caravan parks, and I decided to head for the Long Waterhole. It's a freecamp area about 3 or 4 kms out of town, and everybody tries to get their spot by the water, (providing there is water in it at the time), but I didn't bother. I found a spot well before the waterhole, where I figured that I would be left alone and could run my genny without worrying about annoying neighbours. I did my washing (I had water now, and can top up again before I leave town) had a snooze, and woke up .... to find myself surrounded by caravans. Damn, I just can't win. Well, bugger it, I got here first
Tomorrow, I've got to get some food, and I have a waterhole about 50 kms out of town that we found in 2010, and I wouldn't mind dropping the van and going for a leisurely drive to find it again. I checked back on 2010 footage, checked the map, and yep, I know where it is. Let's see how smart I really am.


WEDNESDAY: I had a big day planned. I grabbed fuel, gas, and some food supplies. There are more needed, but that particular store was light on what I wanted, and so figured that I would get the rest if I could later.

I then headed out the Boulia Road toward the waterhole I wanted to re-visit. I had figured out exactly where I thought it was on the map, but when I got there, someone had moved it. The track in was not the road marked on the map, but on the ground, tracks don't care about maps, and it took me right in to the spot. When we visited on 2010, there were some brolgas strolling around the bush. Today, nothing. There were also campers at the waterhole, again, nothing. Out of curiosity I followed a track that became very obvious very quickly, this was not somewhere you would go in your Toyota Corolla, (or any of a thousand different makes that look exactly the same but have a different name plate) … but I digress. This track was a gnarly 4x4 track and led to more spots along the waterhole, that the authorities never intended to be used for camping. In fact, if it rained, and the river rose, you would be well and truly part of it. I back tracked, and having satisfied my desire to revisit, started the trek back to Winton.

Aha, the Diamantina River Road, there's a sign over there further in the bush, I wonder where that goes. Gotta have a look. The road joined up with the Cork Mail Road some 104 kms away, but curiously led to a place called Collingwood, some 4kms down the road. It now ran through the river system – and if it was up and happening, there is no way you would get through. No water today, and by the look of the surrounding countryside, there hadn't been for a long time.

What's this? Collingwood Cemetery. Gotta check this out. A monument, with a plaque, telling of the history of the town that held so much promise in the late 1800's only to be abandoned with the rise of Winton. The few people who were buried there, were named on the plaque. The track led down to yet another waterhole which looked as though it had hosted many campers over the years.

It was time to head back into town, and a sign I had noticed on the way out directed me to a waypoint of the Outback Way (of which the Winton to Boulia road is a part of), which was a culvert and part of a long gone railway line that had been preserved.

Back to town, an effort to do the balance of my shopping, only find that the town had shut down for the rest of the day, because of a power blackout.

Back to base for a nap. That'll do me. All in all, a great day. This is really the first time (other than the Gawler Ranges where I have really stopped to smell the roses … and there weren't any.


THURSDAY: I decided to re-create a trip we did in 2010.

The Winton Shire Council promotes Opalton thus:
“Opalton is situated 123km from Winton. It is one of the largest opal fields in Queensland and is known for the quality of opal mined. It is believed that opal was first discovered by George Cragg, a stockman from Warrnambool Station, in 1888, and the first mine was worked in 1894. At one time, Opalton was a bustling township and there were more than 600 men working the opal field, around the turn of the 20th century. Since that time, the population has dwindled to approximately 25 today. In 1899, the largest piece of pipe opal ever recorded was discovered at Opalton – it was over 10 feet (3m) long and rumoured to be as thick as a man’s leg!
The majority of the journey is on an unsealed road. No food, drinks or fuel are available in Opalton.”

A couple of corrections, basic food and drinks are available at the van park. I was told that there are only three people who live in the area fulltime … more on that later.

In 2010, we towed our van through the Bladensburg National Park, travelled down to Opalton, onto Mayneside, and then back to the Winton-Jundah Road, where we stopped at Lark Quarry Stampede, before travelling on to Winton. I wasn't going to stop at Lark Quarry today … it was a long enough trip as it was.

I started in Bladensburg, calling into the Shearers Strike Memorial, Skull Hole, Engine Hole, and Bough Shed Hole.

The "Skull Hole" or Mistake Creek massacre at Bladensburg Station near Winton in the late 1800s is reported to have claimed the lives of around 200 Aboriginal people. According to reports, the massacre occurred after Winton Police Station's Sergeant Moran set out to find those responsible for murdering a European. After he was attacked, black troopers undertook mass killings of the Koa people of the area.

Monuments Australia report that at the Shearers Strike Memorial, the Cairn commemorates the site where striking shearers camped for four months during the 1891 strike and is dedicated to the memory of those shearers.  In early 1891, central Queensland shearers went on strike. From February through until May, central Queensland was on the brink of civil war. Striking shearers formed armed camps outside of towns. Thousands of armed soldiers protected non-union labour and arrested strike leaders. The unionists retaliated by raiding shearing sheds, harassing non-union labour and committing acts of sabotage. But the shearers were unable to hold out. By May the union camps were full of hungry penniless shearers. The strike had been broken. The squatters had won this time. But the squatters realised that the industry could not afford to win such costly battles. They knew they would have to work more closely with the Shearers' Union. The outcome is credited as being one of the factors for the formation of the Australian Labour Party and the rise to power of a pro-Labor Party faction in the Australian Socialist League. 

The Engine Hole and Bough Shed Hole are favourite camping areas next to the creek.

From there, onto the road south, but a quick call into Logan Falls. It was dry, but one can imagine what it would look like after a decent rainfall.

A pedestrian emu took me by surprise, before I finally reached Opalton.
I drove into what is a miners camp. It had been a store 11 years ago. I had a chat with one miner who had been there for twenty years, but prefers the fields at Andamooka. He told me that most of the local diggings were now about 90 kms away.
I moved on to the Opalton Bush Park. There are a number of solid canopies which campers are free to use as their camp site. Hot water showers are available, there is a low powered wi-fi available, and all this costs just $2.50 per night. The Opalton Progress Association built a store in a donga donated by a few miners. There is one problem, but only if it rains. It sits in the channels system, and a storm which dropped 12” in a few hours a few years ago, left the entire area about 700mm under water. Opal products are available at the store, but the deal is cash only – no EFTPOS system out here. However there is a way around it. A purchaser, after looking as though she would not be able to make her purchase, connected her mobile phone into the wifi system, and was able to make a bank transfer via the internet. Deal done.

Initially, I was going to return via the way I came in, but then decided that unencumbered by the van (left at Winton), I would continue on and refresh my memories. I can't believe I dragged the van over this road 11 years ago. I passed through a couple of new diggings, re-visited the grave at Mayneside of twelve year old Alice Ellen Dakey, who passed away in July 1920. I have been here twice in 11 years, and both times, the grave looked fresh as a daisy.

From here, the road took me back to the Winton- Jundah Road, past the Lark Quarry turn off, and to a cross road that I recalled had a spectacular Jump Up a few kms away. I had to have another look. Finally, just after 4pm, I arrived back at my Long Waterhole camp site. I had been on the road since 9am, and had covered 350 kms. It had been a long day.

Then a surprise, my companion on that 2010 trip knocked on my door. I wasn't expecting Lesley for another couple of days. It was wonderful to see her and grandson Daniel again. I had last seen them 2 years ago on my 2019 trip.

Meanwhile, I had left a couple of the windows open, to ease the heat in the van – it was a 30°+ day – and of course I will need to get a front end loader to remove the dust. It had been a good day.


FRIDAY: I needed to get the Cruiser serviced. It was now way overdue. I was concerned about running the new engine over 10,000 kms without an oil change. And of course, that means a new filter as well. I usually get it done every 5-7000 clicks, but trying to get service whilst travelling, especially in this Covid era where there are at least twice as many travellers on the road is nigh on impossible, unless you are prepared to sit for a couple of weeks, and then, maybe. And so, early I found where the other mechanic in town was. I knew the answer before I asked the question, and Wednesday next week was the earliest. I rang Lesley to find out when she was free of her commitments, and when was she hitting Longreach. She was free from next Wednesday, and would be in Longreach. And so, I rang Longreach Motors (who are in fact the Tyrepower dealer), and they could fit me in on Monday morning at 8am. Well, I had planned to sit and watch the motor racing from my spot in Winton over the weekend, but it would be too late to drive to Longreach when that finished on Sunday night, so I had a conversation with myself, and decided that I could watch it just as comfortably from Longreach, couldn't I? And so, long story short (too late, you've already read the long version), I decided to pack up, and head back down the road to my camp spot from last week at Thompson River.

I have a fan belt that has been squealing for longer and longer periods, and there is something making weird noises underneath the vehicle, and so this is the perfect opportunity to get the little gremlins sorted before I start the next phase of my journey to … well, who knows where. WA have decided that Qld is a Medium Risk area, and so “nope, you can't come home”, and with the new cases reported here over the past couple of days, that ain't gonna help matters any. But then, I'm not ready to head home just yet, so things might change over the next couple of months.
Interestingly, it appears that I could travel to the NT, and then after a couple of weeks apply for a pass home and possibly get it, depending on South Australia's status. I never was any good at chess.

I am a couple of weeks overdue for my second Covid shot. I have been chasing around the net trying to find a place that can do the deed. It's not that easy. Clinics are set up for one morning or afternoon, but not on a weekly basis, dealing in one or other of the vaccines, but not both, for over 60's or under 60's, but not both. I find this ridiculous. We have a government pushing for us to get vaccinated, but it seems that once you are outside the generally well populated areas, it's a matter of “we'll get to you when we can or when we choose.” So tonight, I rang the hotline, and asked where I can get the jab. Apparently there is currently nothing within about 200km. And “Longreach is an extremely rural town”. Yes it is. Supposedly, there should be a GP who has stock who can administer it, and so, I guess a ring around of GP's should happen on Monday. I doubt they'll be open tomorrow, although I will try.

I find it ludicrous that testing lines should be so long, and vaccination centres the same. To me the solution is simple … set up more (many more) testing and vaccination stations. As for the rural areas, get the vaccines out here so that the locals and the thousands (I am not exaggerating for once) of domestic travellers can have their shot. It's like advertising a sale when you know damned well you have no stock to sell.

Tomorrow is another day.

SATURDAY: I did what I intended to do, and that is just sit and watch my Supercars. But, in between the action, I finished editing the video of my day trip to Opalton. It started out as near on 3 hours of footage, but I got ruthless, and cut it back to about 33 minutes of highlights. It has been a big week in that I have driven to Winton, relived a couple of trips that we did back in 2010, and then returned to Longreach, so that I could get the car serviced first thing on Monday morning. And so, this is the video of my day trip on Thursday to Opalton.

18/7/21 and 19/7/21
DAYS 53 & 54

SUNDAY: Sunday was spent watching Supercars – what a surprise, and it was good to see the Eagles show a return to some sort of form.

MONDAY: I feel that I am now making some sort of progress. I was up early and into town to get the old girl serviced. Before I went, I did quick rummage through my files and dug out the blood test request forms that my doctor wanted me to have, without any idea whether I could organise something or not.
Once I had dropped the car off, I rang the Longreach Medical Centre to see if there was any chance at all of them helping me with the Covid shot that I needed. The lady told me to drop into the surgery and she would give me a number to ring. It was the same number I had rung on Friday as it turns out, and then she had a brainwave and gave me the number of the Barcaldine Pharmacy, who it appears was cleared to administer the doses. While I was there, I asked about the blood tests, and yes, right next door and 20 minutes later, it was done. One task completed. I then rang the Barcaldine Pharmacy, and YES, 11.30 Wednesday morning, I am booked in. It's just 107 clicks down the road and we were going there anyway.

It was just a matter now of picking up the car, and it seemed to be taking forever. It appears they had some jobs left over from the weekend, and so my 8.30 appointment became a 10.30 start (or thereabouts). Finally, after sampling the wares of the bakery for lunch, I got the car back, along with a list of things that needed to be done when I get back home. It seems the shocks are pretty shot, as are some of the bushes, (all expected sometime in the near future as it turns out), and a bolt missing from the recently replaced steering box, as well as some other bits and pieces. We'll be giving her an easier time I feel between now and when Sir Mark eventually let's us return home.

DAY 55

TUESDAY: Does anybody remember the tune 55 Days At Peking by Rob EG? I typed Day 55 and immediately thought of it … yeah, I know …
Just an easy day today. I decided that I would wait until the rush was (hopefully) over, and then wander into town, fuel up, top up with water, and start the long trek to Barcaldine … well, it's only 107 kms really, but get closer, anyway.

I got to Ilfracombe, and figured that I would support the pub and have lunch there. I've been here and looked at all the machinery and WW2 memorabilia along the road back in 2010, but had never driven off the main drag. And so I did just that. In 2003, Ilfracombe won the Tidy Towns Competition for it's division. I think that it is safe to say that it wouldn't be in the hunt these days. The caravan park was chokkas, as is every caravan park everywhere up here. I had spotted a freecamp area a few kms out of town a couple of weeks ago while travelling to Longreach the first time, and I thought I might just check it out. It is a sanctioned rest area of a few hectares. The sign as you enter says it all. “This area is prone to flooding, and the ground can get very boggy when wet”. Fortunately, not a cloud in sight.
I picked my spot, and hit the sack for an hour. I received a phone call at 4pm from the Barcaldine Chemist … he had had a couple of no shows, and if I was in town, he would give me my jab now … of course, I'm 70 odd kms away, and so tomorrow morning stands. I realise that there are always valid reasons why people can't make it, but equally, it appears that there are many who make the appointment, and then just change their mind or don't bother. Out here in the boondocks, you don't get the same opportunities as the folk in the larger towns. I would have thought you grab every opportunity offered with both hands.


TUESDAY: I have had my second jab, and so finally, I feel as though I am finally able to get on with my trip, starting from scratch. Also I can confirm, there is no 5G in the vaccine … my phone signal hasn't improved at all.

I left my spot at the Ilfracombe freecamp area at 8.30, and arrived in Barcaldine a little over an hour later. Two weeks ago, the place was rocking, there was no parking, people everywhere … today, far more civilised. I found a spot to park in the main drag, had a cuppa, even had a shave … before wandering down the street to the pharmacy where I was to finally receive my inoculation. The first jab 14 weeks ago, felt as though it was being delivered via a star picket, today, I didn't feel it. It is amazing how some operators just don't seem to be able to deliver a smooth jab, what ever it is. I have had needles delivered by my 1st jabber before, and that person definitely needs re-training … am I going to make the suggestion … don't be silly, I may well be on line for another injection somewhere down the track, and when they are armed with a 12' long needle, I'm not rocking the boat.

I was parked in the main street, but that didn't stop me from popping up the dish, and watching a NASCAR race whilst waiting for Lesley to arrive from Longreach. She booked into the Barcaldine Tourist Park, and I spent the afternoon nattering with her, getting a couple of plans in place for the next couple of days touring.

Barcaldine has a number of caravan parks, but it also has a freecamp area available – maximum stay 20hrs – on the eastern outskirt of town. I found a spot, and am currently preparing to spend a chilly night … I thought it got cold in Albany, but when it gets cold out here with clear skies, it gets bloody cold … then the sun pops it's head out and you have a beautiful warm day. Queensland, beautiful one day, perfect the next … or something like that.


THURSDAY: Today,we decided to go to Aramac and Lake Dunn.

Aramac is one of the oldest towns in the central west.  Originally known as Marathon, the town was later renamed after Robert Ramsay Mackenzie, the first explorer to the area who carved his name (R R Mac) on a tree.  The tree was found by the explorer William Landsborough and the name Aramac was born.

Towns all over Australia are finding unique ways to give their towns a point of difference, in an effort to attract the tourist dollar. With Aramac, it calls itself the Home of the White Bull.
“Henry Arthur "Harry" Readford (sometimes spelt "Redford" in Queensland) (December 1841 – 12 March 1901), was an Australian stockman, drover and cattle thief.
Although Readford himself never used, and had never been associated with the moniker, Rolf Boldrewood indicated that the 'Captain Starlight' character, in his 1882–83 novel Robbery Under Arms, was a composite of several infamous people of the era, including Readford and several bushrangers. Readford's 1870 cattle drive was a major story arc in the book.

In 1870, Readford was working as a stockman on Bowen Downs Station near Longreach in Queensland. Realising that remote parts of the property, which stretched some 228 km (142 mi) along the Thomson River, were seldom visited by station workers, he devised a plan to steal some of the station's cattle. With two associates, George Dewdney and William Rooke, he built stockyards in an outlying part of the property, and gradually assembled a mob of about 1,000 cattle, which he then took from the property, all without any of the station workers realizing what was going on.
Readford knew the cattle would be recognised from their brands as being stolen if he tried to sell them in Queensland, so he headed for South Australia through the Channel Country and the Strzelecki Desert. Only ten years earlier, explorers Burke and Wills had set out to cross the continent along the same track, and died in the attempt. As a droving exercise, it was a remarkable achievement, as anyone who has travelled the present-day Strzelecki Track will know. Three months and 1,287 km (800 mi) later he exchanged two cows and a white bull for rations at Artracoona Native Well near Wallelderdine Station. They then moved the remainder of the mob via Mt Hopeless, and sold them for £5,000 (2009:A$250,000) at Blanchewater Station, east of Marree.
Workers at Bowen Downs eventually discovered the yards, and the tracks heading south. A party of stockmen and Aboriginal trackers set out on the trail, many weeks behind Readford. They eventually reached Artracoona where they recognised the white bull.
Readford was apprehended in Sydney in 1872, and faced trial in Roma, Queensland. However, the jury members were so impressed by his achievements that they found him not guilty, whereupon the judge, Charles Blakeney, remarked, "Thank God, gentlemen, that verdict is yours and not mine!" In response to the verdict, in July 1873, the Government shut down the Roma District Criminal Court for two years but rescinded the order in January 1874.”

The significance of the White Bull was not lost on Aramac, who have adopted it as their major attraction. It stands proudly in the main street.

There are still two major Motor Rail journeys available to the tourist in Queensland, those being the Savannahlander and the Gulflander. Aunt Emma, a unique rail motor engine, which used to operate on the line from Barcaldine to Aramac, now rests st the Aramac Tramways Museum. There is a lot of memorobilia at the museum, however, these places need a lot of care and attention, and in a town of just 300 people, trying to find enough people with the degree of interest would be difficult. The grounds are beautifully presented, but the inside exhibits haven't seen a duster (or should that be a shovel) in years. It is still worth having a look at.

Another 67 kms to the north of Amarac is Lake Dunn. The drive features a number of sculptures along the road.
“The Lake Dunn Sculpture Trail is a 200 kilometre circuit that loops between Aramac, Lake Dunn and Jericho. Along its route you’ll find 40 sculptural installations showcasing Outback elements and life, from emu families to jackaroos.
These incredible artworks are the creations of local artist, Milynda Rogers who lives on a cattle property along the route. And it all began because she created a piece and didn’t have a place to put it. So, she simply popped it out by the road. Additional sculptures grew organically over time, and Rogers would place them at intervals along the route where she lives.
Created from rusting odds and ends found locally at the dump or around Barcaldine, these artworks are both beautiful and evocative.”
We chose to just do the drive to Lake Dunn. There is another 140kms with sculptures which can be done as a loop back to Aramac, or continue on to Jericho. The day wasn't long enough for us to do the full loop.
“Lake Dunn, more commonly known as “The Lake” is
a freshwater lake 68kms northeast of Aramac. Lake
Dunn’s Aboriginal name is pajingo bola, meaning
“Big Fella Waterhole” and is 3.21kms long and
1.6kms wide. It was named after James Dunn, who
was a head stockman at Mt Cornish Station, and
discovered it when he tracked a mob of cattle there.
Lake Dunn is a birdwatchers paradise and is home
to over 80 different species of birds. It is also an
excellent fishing spot for Golden Perch (yellowbelly)
and Black Bream.
Lake Dunn is perfect for swimming, water-skiing,
windsurfing and sailing and is an ideal camping and
picnic spot. Other facilities include waterfront holiday huts, tennis courts, an airstrip, camping ground with power, toilets and hot and cold showers.”

To get there, you climb up a Jump Up which is the start of the Aramac Range.

All in all, a great days drive, some interesting sculptures, and a beautiful really tidy town in the outback.


FRIDAY: Lesley is a keen photographer. When we first toured Queensland together in 2010, she stated definitively that she was NOT interested in photographing birds. That went out the window pretty quickly, and I have videos of her prancing through the bush trying to keep up with and capture images of a group of brolgas. That morning as I recall, we did 23kms in about 90 mins as we chased down the desired photographs. Why do I tell you that, because this morning we decided to go and check out Lara Wetlands Camping Area, because you are almost always guaranteed of getting bird photos in such an environment. Yesterday we had gone to “The Lake”, and despite having over 80 species of birds, it was either the wrong time of the day or season, because they were conspicuous by their absence.

Lara is 30 kms south of Barcaldine and 13kms in off the road. The campers had obviously heard of the place, because they were indeed packed around the lagoon. The birds it seems had also heard that Lesley was coming, and were present for the photo session. Lesley came back beaming, announcing that she had got one that had never seen before. It seems that that is the prize for a successful days outing. Not that you shot 100 birds, but that you got one that was completely new to you.

The whole area is well set up, there is no power available, drinkable artesian water is on tap, and there is a dump point provided, as well as toilets, camp kitchen and a small souvenir shop.

We were led a bum steer by our GPS which sent us in a wrong direction to start with (looked right compared with the map I had checked last night), but we accepted that the drive was worth it, and we saw a group of four Australian Bustards on the road, who unfortunately scarpered before we could capture them.

Back in town, I had done my food shopping first up, and so I headed back to my overnight site from a couple of nights ago, and was having a nap when there was a knock on the door, and it was the Ranger advising me that I was in a no camping area, and that I should relocate to the other side of the road if I was staying. I pleaded that I was only resting and that was accepted. I gave it another 15 mins and headed back out the road to my camp from last night.

Until we got to Aramac yesterday, I had UHF contact with Lesley. Then it stopped. My radio was working, I could hear, but it appears that no-one could hear me. I tested it out on my walkie talkies, and there was definitely nothing being emitted by the microphone. I called into the local guy who had worked on my blown fuse hassles a couple of weeks ago, and he had a microphone that worked. Job done and cheaper than I had been quoted in the
past. UHF radio contact is essential I believe, when dealing with road trains on the single lane bitumen roads up here, and also it helps to communicate with them on the main highways. They appreciate that you are trying to help them to do their job with a minimum hassle from us “bloody caravanners”.

Tomorrow, we move on.


SATURDAY: I fueled up and headed out of town. First town was Jericho. I have been through here a couple of times before, but have never really had a close look at the town. Today was my chance.
Jericho is situated on the banks of the Jordan River, south of Lake Galilee.  It was originally settled when the railway line reached the banks of the Jordan River in 1885. It is a very neat and tidy little town.
Jericho has a drive in theatre, park, swimming pool, town hall and showground. The Jericho Drive-In opened on 26th July 1969 with Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music”. It has a capacity for 34 cars and seats for 32 walk-in patrons. The Jericho Drive-In still operates once a month on a Saturday.
Barcaldine Regional Council operates a library inside the Tourist Information Centre, which is also the local post office.. There is also a branch of the Queensland Country Women's Association. Jericho State School is a government primary (Prep-6) school for boys and girls. In 2017, the school had an enrolment of 9 students with 1 teacher and 4 non-teaching staff (2 full-time equivalent).
A structure reminiscent of Englands Stonehenge, the Crystal Trumpeters was created by local historians to tell the story of the Battle of Jericho (the original) is located by the railway line.

The pub has 8 rooms, and room for van parking, and is currently up for sale. There are no shops operating in the town, the cafe and store having closed down. There are a few people operating machinery servicing and repair businesses, but generally, it is difficult to understand what the current purpose of the town is.

The population of the town has dwindled from 369 in 2011 to 115 in 2016. In December 2010, half of the town's houses were inundated by floods.

Next was Alpha. Alpha is a small service centre in western Queensland serving the surrounding rural area which is known as one of the richest cattle raising areas in the state. Today it is a quiet town which is a stopover point for people exploring the vastness of the state. It has a population of 335 (2016), has a tourism information centre, golf course, art gallery, showground, parks, swimming pool, tennis courts, museum, hardware store, newsagents, bank, pub, grocery store, bakery, butcher, post office, BP, Caltex, craft shop, hairdresser, pharmacy, hospital, police station and fire station. Barcaldine Regional Council operates a library at the Alpha town hall, and a Uniting Church
Again, the town is clean and tidy.

Departing Alpha, I was now heading into my favourite part of this road, the Drummond Range. I chose not to stop at the Lookout this time, having done it twice before. I finally found a camp just 20kms short of Anakie.

Tonight, I'm cheering on the Eagles against the Saints.


SUNDAY: I didn't rush to get away this morning. I drove out of my camp site just after 9.30, and headed to the Sapphire gem field. I half expected something like the opal fields, real messy, but no, very neat, but of course this was the town site, not the actual gem field... or was it? Where the opal fields are thousands of gopher holes and small mulloch heaps, it appears that they excavate with machinery, and then sift it using also larger machinery … well, that's what it looked like to me. The town was buzzing, there were van parks aplenty, as well as a free camp area (48 hrs limit) on the side of a hill. It appeared that most residences were fossikers and all were offering their spoils for sale. Just a few kms along the road, is Rubyvale. This looked more like a town than Sapphire. Again, a pleasant and tidy village.

I had chosen to bypass Emerald, and headed directly for Capella. It has a population of 1010, and is a service town catering to the large coal-mining interests in the area as well as pastoralists and farmers.

I had been eyeing a range of hills beyond the town, called the Peak Range. It's an old volcanic range. I am looking forward to taking a run over the range tomorrow.

But before we get there, I called into a town called Tiery, which it became obvious that this was a mining town. I spent some time driving around checking the place out, before leaving and by now looking for somewhere to camp. I became aware of a railway line running alongside me, and even more surprised to find that it was electrified. The area I am in now is definitely mining, and I guess the railway belongs to one (or some) of the mining companies. However, don't hold me to that, I'm probably wrong.

I reached the turnoff to Dysart, which is the road I need to travel in the morning, and the corner provided the first area that could be used as a camping area since I left Capella. It was time to stop, and I did.


MONDAY: Today was a big day, much bigger than I anticipated, and everything I thought I'd do, I did something else ….

I was on the road at 9am, and heading for Dysart. The map showed fuel and a rest stop. Dysart is a town, another of those mining towns like Teiri yesterday. So I did the usual run up and down the streets to get the feel and vibe of the place, before departing and heading north again.
There were roads leading left and right into coal mines, not a lot of traffic on the road, and the promised (or was it imagined) hills and mountains just didn't happen. And then suddenly, in the middle of the road, was this huge coal mine. The access road turned left, and the public road turned right. Looking at the GPS, I was out in a paddock, but the road was real, and eventually, the two met up again.

When I reached the Peak Downs Hwy, there was a fuel icon on the map just to the East of the junction. I checked it out, and there is a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trucks and cars … it was morning tea time. It was time for a break. Now, it was time to go west young man, well, south west, past another coal mine, and through a bundle of road works toward my destination of Clermont. The hills that I foresaw that I would be driving through were now in front of me, and nothing like I had imagined. But they were unique, and I had to stop and record them to share with you.

Clermont was on my list because it was there, I was curious, and I needed to get a few items for the larder, if they were available. It would surely be another mining town. I hadn't done my homework. Established in 1862, the town of Clermont was the first inland settlement in the tropics and is one of the most historic towns in Northern Australia. It was devastated by flood in 1916. Striking suddenly after a rain depression, the flood washed away Clermont's central business district and claimed at least sixty-five lives. It is still known as Australia's second worst flood in terms of loss of life.

The first place of interest as you enter the town is Hoods Lagoon. “The footpath and board walk around the Lagoon offer visitors the chance to have an insightful look into the human history of Clermont. There are such things as Sister Mary McKillop grotto, Billy Sing Memorial, Aboriginal Monument and the War Memorial as well as various other memorials depicting the life and history of the town. The wildlife on and around the Lagoon and in the adjacent Centenary Park provide a peaceful atmosphere for picnics or barbeques.”

I did my drive around, did my shopping, and figured out that I may as well do the drive out to Theresa Creek Dam. It's 22 km out of town, and as it was about 2.15, I figured I had plenty of time to duck out and have a look. I did wonder whether it would be set up for camping … duh. It's water, there are a million caravans on the road, of course it would be set up for camping. The fee is $15 per night, pick your own site, no power, but Dam facilities do include toilets, hot showers, barbeques, picnic tables and swimming areas, and a dump point. Generators may be used between 7am and 8.30pm. If you want to go fishing, you will need a Stocked Impoundment Permit (SIP). You will not need a SIP if you are only fishing for Red-claw.

I did the walk again, (twice today, that's terrible) and took a heap of photos just to prove that I had been there. It was time to go, and I headed north along the Gregory Development Road toward Charters Towers. This is one section of road I haven't covered in the past. At 3.30, I spied an old metal dump, and grabbed it. Time for a well earned kip, and a look at the odometer … I had covered 315 kms today … that's nearly double what I normally do, and I had done about three times as much. Yep, I can sleep well tonight … I hope.


TUESDAY: Today was a nothing special day. Basically a drive from where I camped north along the Gregory Hwy toward Charters Towers. It was still a bit of a hike, but I decided to chuck it in when this (and only so far) area cropped up that I thought would suit my purpose. I figured that I would be lucky if I didn't have to share it, but true to form, I have a neighbour, who naturally camped not more than about 50m away from me. There is tons more room here. He probably wont be happy when I fire up the generator.

We are 55 kms from Charters Towers, and then I am back in familiar territory. So, I have been pouring over the map, and have decided that when I get to Julia Creek, I just might take the Wills Development Road to the Burke and Wills Roadhouse (haven't done that one before, and then back down the Burke Development Road (I have done before) to Cloncurry. And that might just about wrap the Queensland portion of the trip... then to see if I can escape …


WEDNESDAY: Today I woke to the memories of three years ago. Mum had taken a turn for the worse, and had endured three days in hospital, before insisting that she be allowed to come home. That was two days ago. Saturday, and my band were booked to play at the Centennial Anniversary Ball of Albany Senior High School. My first ever gig had been in the school trio many years before, and so this gig meant a lot to me. We set up on Saturday morning, and I returned home to a house full of people. I had the doctor around yesterday, and he pronounced that she had suffered a mini stroke. I had let all of the family know that her time was near, and they came from everywhere to see her and say goodbye. I don't know how much she took in, she was hallucinating from the effects of the last three or four weeks. The crowd dispersed, and the guy from Community Care (who was on his second visit for the day) said that he would drop in and check on her about 3-3.30pm. At 2.15pm, the old girl slipped away, at home, as she had always wanted. I had family friends who had offered to keep an eye on Mum whilst I was fulfilling my gig commitments, who offered to stay and ensure that she didn't get up to any mischief whilst I was away. It was a harrowing day. You really don't appreciate them as much as you do when they are no longer there. She had been under my care for the previous five years, and even now, I wonder whether I did enough.

2019 on this day, I had been at Riverview Tourist Village in Katherine, preparing to leave for the Western Australian Border, having done a five month trip to that stage to clear some of the cobwebs from my head, and trying to make some sense of what had happened over the previous five years.

This year, I had a clear objective in mind, and that was to visit Cameron Corner. That has been achieved, and what a trip it has been overall. Today, I am once again heading West, except who knows when they'll open the gates and let me back in. Interesting times.

It was time to leave my camp spot. I was 55kms from Charters Towers, and it was a beautiful day for driving. I spent a couple of days checking out CT in 2010, and been through a couple of times since, and so this was a point on the map that had to be traversed to get to where I was going.

First stop was the Dump Point. Now I needed water. The council employee who was emptying the bins told me that I could get water from behind the toilets at Centenary Park. I found the spot, and then found that my hose wouldn't reach … BUT, I had a canvas hose that rolls up into it's own plastic hose reel. It was perfect for the job when I bought it, but it proved to be a PITA to roll up after use. The plastic reel was a handy idea, IF it worked freely and properly, which of course it didn't. BUT, it was long enough to do the job at hand. And so I grabbed it out, unrolled it – it hadn't been used since 2013 and mud remains made the task less than easy – hooked up and filled up. Then, I had to roll it up again. The hose is by now full of water, (remember it's canvas) and so that needed to be displaced before rolling up the hose. I don't always do things the way that they are supposed to be done, but I started rolling the hose back into the reel, and eventually … well lets say it doesn't look very tidy … but it did the job.

And now, fueling was the final necessity, and luck would have it, I stumbled into the Puma station – 4 cents discount with the old RAC card. Perfect. Now to skedaddle.

The first “town” is Homestead. You don't blink. I have been running alongside railway lines for a good percentage of this trip since I got into Queensland, and I think I have seen one train. Homestead came to the rescue, with a long train being pulled/pushed along by three engines …
There was a rest area that I was heading for, hoping that it wouldn't be packed out by the time I got there. It was right along side the railway line, and at the rate the train was going, I figured I might have a chance at capturing it. The rest area was pretty much fully populated, and it was just after midday. But I grabbed the camera, and walked over to the railway track, just as the train came rumbling around the corner and down the track. GOT IT. As I walked back toward my rig, the guy who was set up where I had hoped to set up if the place was empty, commented “you must have known that was coming”. I confessed that I had, and after a quick chat, I departed.

I rolled into Pentland. This was a much larger town. There was a Pub. I noticed that there was a housing area over the rail track, and having been through here a couple of times before and having never investigated, I decided to do a sticky. Well, there was a police Station, an oval with a horse racing track and showground, and a neatly laid out townsite.Wikipedia
“The Cape River goldfields opened in July 1867 on the advice of geologist Richard Daintree. By 1870 there were over 20,000 men working the goldfield but by 1873, the population of Capeville had reduced to about 30.
There was a telegraph office from 1880 to 1884.
Bett's Creek Post Office opened on 7 October 1884. It was renamed Pentland in 1885.
Pentland Meatworks (or Cape River Meatworks) was opened in 1943 to meet the additional needs of Australian and American forces arriving in north Queensland during World War II.
The meatworks saw the township of Pentland thrive. In the early 70s there were two grocery stores and the Pentland State School had around 70 enrolled students, the town pool was opened and the town's only hotel, the Pentland Hotel Motel was renovated and thriving.
The meatworks was passed through several hands after end of WWII in 1945 meant the army no longer had a need for the facility. The meatworks eventually closed in September 1989”

I stopped beside the old railway goods shed, had lunch, and then started looking for somewhere to stop for a couple of nights at least. I have well and truly blown my fuel budget for this week, and so to lay low is the next best option. A gravel/metal dump sitting back off the road caught my eye, and I turned around and had a look. Perfect. I wonder if any one will find me in here and want to join me.

UPDATE: About an hour after I had set up in my gravel/metal dump, not one, not two, but three road trains rolled in and set up beside me.


THURSDAY: “Perfect. I wonder if any one will find me in here and want to join me.”
About an hour after I had set up in my gravel/metal dump, not one, not two, but three road trains rolled in and set up beside me. Well, there goes the neighbourhood.
I was sitting in the van doing my blog, photo and video processing, when a truck with three trailers drove around the compound, and ran fairly close to my window … cheeky I thought, this is a big area, and there is plenty of room, but of course, he had these three trailers to manoeuvre as well. Then, he was followed by a second truck, also with three trailers, who naturally had a tighter turn to slide into place alongside his mate, and then blimey, a third truck, equally as long, and now requiring a tighter line, slipped into place alongside truck number two. Engines switched off, and I never heard another peep until they finally slipped out sometime early the next morning.

That was my first night here. My intention was to stay at least two nights, to give the wallet a rest. Every kilometre driven requires fuel to be replaced, and I was replacing fuel as a rate that was outside the budget range. I budget on $300 per week for fuel, and so far, I have been able to stay within that figure. In fact, even including the unleaded required to run Genny, the average spend has been around $289 per week up until the end of week eight. However, this last week, I did 1437 kms costing me $374 in fuel, which encouraged me to get off the road for a few days and let things settle.

FRIDAY: I went out to hit the genny to recharge my batteries, and heard the hum of motor not so far away. I had company. I am parked in a recessed area, and my neighbour had set up in another recessed area about 80m, away, and naturally, I hadn't seen them. I was in two minds as to whether I would continue on today or stay another night. I am just over 100kms from Hughenden. I've been there twice before, and last time made an effort to get there before FJ Holdens Cafe shut … I didn't make it. I consulted with my friend Mr Google, and discovered that they open Mon – Sat 8am-2pm. I would take a punt, stay another night, and head into town tomorrow morning.

I had found some more old band material from about 200 years ago last night, and so I went about preparing it for upload to my Band You Tube Channel. For some reason, I have a reasonable signal coming in, and the booster is doing it's job admirably, and all five videos were uploaded fairly quickly.

Meanwhile, I decided to read back through the blogs to see where I had been and what I had been up to. I was surprised, did I do that, was it only that long ago, heck, I thought I'd been on the road longer than that. It all becomes a bit of a blur. So today, I figured if I got bored, I could probably dig some interesting footage out of the trip so far. I think however, that I have covered the most interesting things to this point.

I decided that it was time to do some domestic chores, so I gathered up my undies, shirts and stuff, and threw them into the washing machine. I reckon it was all dry within half an hour of chucking it on the line. The weather here really is terrible. The sky built up to at least half a dozen clouds yesterday, and when i looked out the window this morning, there was definitely some colour in the sky … then I realised that was the dust and dirt on the window and flyscreen. As I write, there is a lone fluffy cloud outside my window. It's terrible.


SATURDAY: Time to move on. I was away just before 8am. I was determined to check out the FJ Holden cafe in Hughenden. I had missed it on two previous occasions, and my research had shown that it would close today at 2pm. I was giving myself plenty of time to get there.

I stopped at the lookout just up the road from where I had camped, the view was the same as the last time I checked it 11 years ago. Funny that.

Torrens Creek came, and I did the drive around. The pub is the focal point, well, in reality, it's the only point. But it wasn't always like that.
“ The Torrens Creek, after which this Outback town is named, rises in the Great Dividing range and runs southward to the Thomson River system to eventually run into Lake Eyre. William Landsborough discovered it in 1862 while searching for Burke and Wills. He named the creek after Sir Robert Torrens, Premier of South Australia.
The Great North Railway reached Torrens Creek in 1885 and from then on it became the supply centre for a large district. Mailmen rode out to the north and south to various stations delivering mail along routes which are still used today. The district's most famous mailman, Jack Blunt, who served from 1931 to 1954 is honoured with a cairn and plaque erected by Torrens Creek residents.
Torrens Creek had its place in history associated with the Coral Sea battle. In 1942 this little town was nearly blown apart when a huge allied ammunition dump exploded. Torrens Creek was in a vital position for a supply dump when the threat of Japanese invasion was apparent. Australian and American troops were in charge and carried out regular controlled burns to create firebreaks. One summer day in 1942 a fire that was not properly extinguished caused a terrific explosion, which hurled men from their trucks. There were 12 major explosions in succession, sufficient to leave craters 20 feet deep.”

Prairie is the next village. In the 1870s it was a main horse change centre for Cobb & Co. coaches. These days, the Prairie Hotel has a horse on the roof, there is a 35' Comet windmill, a collection of historic machinery, and a caravan park.

On to Hughenden. The main street is closed to traffic whilst maintenance is done to the centre street parking roof covers. I imagine the local shops would not be happy – I believe it's been happening for a few weeks now. But the reason I was in the vicinity was open, and doing reasonably good business. The shop is owned by FJ and JA Holden, and is decked out in a Holden tribute theme, with plenty of Holden memorabilia on hand. The business is on the market, as it was two years ago.
The Flinders River runs through the centre of town, but is dry at the moment. “The region around Hughenden is a major centre for the grazing of sheep and cattle. The main feed is annual grasses known as Flinders grass, which grow rapidly on the (by Australian standards) fertile grey or brown cracking clay soils after rain between November and March. However, because the rainfall is extremely erratic — at Hughenden itself it has ranged from 126 millimetres (5”) in 1926 to 1,051 millimetres (41”) in 1950 — droughts and floods are normal and stock numbers fluctuate greatly.”
British occupation began in October 1861 with the expedition group led by Frederick Walker camping near the site of the future township of Hughenden. Pastoralists soon followed and in 1863 Ernest Henry and his cousin Robert Gray established the Hughenden sheep station. Hughenden was named after Hughenden Manor in Buckinghamshire,
The upper Flinders River area has been occupied by the Yirandhali people from around 11,000 years ago.”

Richmond was the next target. Richmond is a small outback town which functions as a service centre to the surrounding pastoral community.
Once part of Australia’s vast Inland Sea, Richmond is best known for its marine fossil discoveries.  Kronosaurus Korner displays fossil finds from the cretaceous-era inland sea, which existed from about 97.5 to 120 million years ago. Lake Fred Tritton is located on the eastern entry to town, is fully stocked with barramundi and 17 other species of fish. And is also used for canoeing, water skiing, sailing and swimming. 

It was time to find somewhere to stop for the night, turn on the a/c to get some respite from the 34° heat, and watch the Eagles …. now THAT was a bad decision.


SUNDAY: I had some weird stuff happen last night. The whole 12v system in the van shut down. I had the generator going, and the 240v stuff (TV, Computer) kept working when the lights went out. My first thought was the old 12v problem had returned, except this was the whole system. I checked the van boot where all of the electronics are, and had a couple of lights flashing. I grabbed the manual, and following instructions (I do follow instructions sometimes) I pushed the magic self analysis button, and followed it through it's process. The only thing that really stood out was the temperature … 47°C … Had the system shut down because of heat? The boot lid is usually closed, because you keep your jockey wheel, and other necessary garbage in there, but it also houses the batteries, inverter, and electronics, and it of course would generate heat. I opened the lid to allow air to circulate, and by the time I got back inside, the 12v system had returned, and I had no more hassles. This trip is certainly keeping me on my toes, and has so far been a real education.

9am this morning, I was back on the road, holding onto the van as we were thrown all over the place. At one stage, the strip road had appeared to have subsided about 3or 4 inches and as we dropped into that, the van lurched across the road. And I was not travelling at lightning speed. The road appeared to behave like that mainly at river and creek crossings, of which there are many. The balance of the way, the road teetered between bad and worse. I'm being unfair, there were a few spots where the road wasn't too bad, but the best bits were still sub standard. There was a lot of work happening along the railway line, and I suspected (and later confirmed) that they were replacing the old wooden sleepers with concrete. This is 2021, I would have thought this would have been done years ago as they keep having to rebuild the line after flood damage occurs.I found it ironic that the railway was being repaired while the road appeared to be forgotten about. Mind you, they do use the railway for shifting what I think is coal … no signal here for me tonight to check with my Mr Google friend.

I arrived at the Eastern end of Julia Creek, and immediately checked out the RV park. This is a huge area that is allocated around a billabong, especially for travellers to take advantage of. Most had gone by the time I arrived, but the camp host confirmed that it had been well populated over the past couple of days. I was able to top up with water, and as I departed I wondered how the towns caravan parks felt about the RV Park. It has been there for many years, and most towns that I have travelled through have Caravan Parks who object strongly to any sort of free camping as it supposedly dilutes their business. The fact is of course, that although there are a number of travellers who prefer to free camp, the majority will still prefer to stop in a secure area with power and water on tap.

If a town provides these facilities, it's my opinion it is encumbent on the traveller to return the favour by spending money in the town. One wonders whether Julia Creek gets the return that it should. The two supermarkets were open today, and the pubs appeared to be doing some business, but the cafe that I stopped at was not only closed, it was for sale, and not operating. However, the Puma roadhouse at the adge of town not only supplied your fuel with the RAC discount, but had a kitchen operating with a coffee machine, and provided a dining area as well.

Just a few kms out of town, the Wills Development Road peeled of to the North West, and for the next hour or so, I saw one other vehicle, and the road was a dream after this morning's lot, and it was a single lane road for most of the time.

Whoa, brakes, brolgas … There were two or three bunches of these graceful birds strolling around the scrub. They don't seem to panic, instead, just turn away and walk away from you, and despite any effort you make to keep up, they just seem to disappear into distance.

A strange mast appeared, something I hadn't seen before. In all I saw three of these alongside the road, and my thoughts are that they are a localised weather recording unit. In reality, they probably have absolutely nothing to do with that. Maybe someone can give me an answer once having looked at the photos.

The Cloncurry River is a major river crossing, currently completely dry, but obviously is a force when in full flow. But what took my eye, was the structures back from the banks of the river. Closer inspection revealed the Sedan Dip, what ever that was. It was a racetrack, and a rodeo ground. Again, I have no way at this point of checking what, why, how often, what attendance … all those questions. But having attended the Nullarbour Muster back in 2015, one can imagine that the punters come from all points and a crowd of 1000 plus is not out of the question.

Finally, about 73 kms shy of the B&W roadhouse, I found a spot on the side of the road, and I pulled in, set up the genny, turned on the A/C, did some of my report, and then had a kip for a while in relative cool. The van had been 39° when I stopped, and I was able to snooze in 29° comfort. And when I woke up, I had a neighbour not 30 or metres away. WHY?


MONDAY: I was on the road early – 7.48am. Last night was hot and I was awake early, and so I decided to get moving while it was cooler. The drive to Burke and Wills Roadhouse took us through varying countryside, and I wondered what the queue would be like when I got there. The caravan park was well populated, but I had the driveway to myself. I grabbed a coffee, and then used the signal to upload yesterdays blog. By the time I got moving again, the caravan park had emptied out a bit, and there were a few people fueling up.

The road to Cloncurry was probably the best of the major roads as far as smoothness, and apart from a caravan in trouble on the side of the road, was pretty easy. The highlight probably was the range of hills we had to travel over.

I drove into Quamby, and was disappointed to find that the old pub which still looke good despite being abandoned when I called through in 2010, and still was presentable in 2013, is now in complete dissaray. It's so sad.

Cloncurry, time to top up the larder once more, fuel up, a quick drive around town to see what has changed since last time – nothing much.

I can't visit this town without dropping into the Chinaman Creek Dam. 2010, it had plenty of water and was great, 2013 was down on water, today, it was perfect. I got talking to a couple of locals, who told me that in 2006 they could walk across to the hill. It's either floods or drought out here.

It was getting on, and I needed to find somewhere to camp for the night. Mount Isa was only 116 kms away, and I figured that I would aim for the abandoned Mary Kathleen township. I'd had a look in here a couple of times, but had never gone in to the mine site. That is on the list for tomorrow, but first, to find a spot well away from the already encumbent campers.

But before I got there, I found myself travelling through some of the most spectacular country I've been in this trip. The video grabs don't really reflect the grandeur of the drive.

It's been a big day, 339 kms, and I was ready to take a break. But I found I have a rogue microwave oven which has broken free once again. So I tried some makeshift repairs, and will need to keep a close watch until I get back home, and get some mods done to that and a few other areas.

TUESDAY: It was warm when I went to bed last night. The phone told me that it was 26.4°, and felt like 24.2°, but that was Cloncurry, and I was halfway along the road. It also told me there was zero chance of rain. It was 11.45pm, and as I climbed into bed, there were about a dozen or so big plops on the roof. And that was that. Meanwhile, I had learned from the previous night, and had all the windows open. There was a breeze outside, and when I woke up, it was around 16°, and it was chilly. I had covered myself with a sheet (don't want to scare the monsters with my body in the middle of the night) and I was soon groping for the blanket.

This morning, the plan was to go and have a look at the Mary Kathleen minesite. Now I had never been in there before, and with the benefit of hindsight, I would have unhooked and just taken the car in. But I'm not that smart. The road in was sealed, where it wasn't rutted with deep potholes, and at one section, actually turned to dirt for about 50m as you wound your way through a creek bed between some trees, trying not to disturb the cattle who were trying to enjoy breakfast … in the middle of the track. It was then a matter of negotiating the mine site tracks, and as they would up the hill, I decided that this could wind up in tears, mangaed a three point turn (with a 23' caravan in tow) and returned to whence I had come. For all that, it is magnificent country, and if ever come this way again, I will definitely do the exploring without the hotel on board.

If I thought yesterdays scenery was spectacular, it paled with today's offering. I had driven west to east along this road in 2013 and was awestruck, and it was no less gobsmacking travelling in the opposite direction. If only one could do the drive in a leisurely fashion and take it all in. But even at my annoying pace of around 80 clicks, with a 22 year old 580k vehicle towing a 23' monstrosity, it was hang on for dear life stuff … well not really, but you certainly couldn't afford to take your mind off the job with seemingly endless road trains and bloody caravanners. The mountains just kept rolling on until about 30km out of Mount Isa. Only then could you start to breath again. The camera on the dash board is set to widescreen, and really doesn't capture what the eye sees. The eye has a rather narrow view (for photography buffs about 50mm) whereas the wide angle tends to squash the vertical view whilst giving you an overall picture width wise. Does that make sense. I am looking forward to what I can grab from the footage.

I rolled into Mount Isa, did a lap, fueled up, had a bite to eat, uploaded my blog and pics, and departed. When we filmed the Savannah Way in 2013, we had a really close look at Cloncurry and Mount Isa, as well as when I was here in 2010, and so not seeing anything much different, I wasn't in any mood to hang around. And so I hit the road heading for Camooweal, and I am currently about 30km shy of there. I figured that rather than fight the maddening crowd for a camp spot by the billabong where I could try to not annoy anyone with my girlfriend genny, I'd camp on this old metal dump that has been sitting here just waiting for me to come along … and here I am.

I applied for and got my border pass into NT a couple of days ago, so tomorrow, another state (or Territory), and see what develops over the next three or four weeks to try and get back into WA.


WEDNESDAY: I stuck my head out the door and noticed what looked like a car wreck over in the bush. I thought that I would take a photo of the piece of real estate that I was parked on, and then go and investigate. I looked at the ground, and noticed what looked to my trained eagle eye (LOL) a groove that could only be made by a kangaroo balancing itself with it's tail as it bounded through the bush, a big chooks footprint, and a camel toe … all within a few feet of each other. Interesting I thought, took a photo, and started toward the wreck. Just then, a tall guy dressed in black stood up and was standing on top of said wreckage … maybe collecting parts for his private collection or something. I changed my mind and headed back to the van. It was time to hit the road.

It was a very windy night last night, and the temperature was not uncomfortable in either direction. However, rugs were required, and unlike the previous night, windows were closed. This morning, it was still blowing, and indeed at 2.37 pm CST … yep, I am in the NT, the van is still rocking. Hopefully it's been helping to push me along and give a little relief from the fuel burden.

I rolled into Camooweal, just as hordes were starting to leave the town and head eastwards. Apart frpm the Puma station at the end of town, and the dump point, nothing seemed to be happening in the main street. It was a tad after 9am, but I would have thought with the current tourist situation and the lagoon being populated by a thousand vans every night that the town would be rocking … it didn't appear so. I stopped to try and upload my diatribe from yesterday, and although the signal seemed strong enough, the data flow and speed test said forget it.

I decided to check out the lagoon – most had already gone, but I was surprised by the amount of water in the channel. It had been relatively dry on my previous two visits, and the bird population looked pretty healthy. And a bonus as I left and found a small gaggle (I don't think that's the correct terminology, but who cares LOL) of brolgas wandering around. Now here comes the bone of contention … were they Brolgas, or Sarus Cranes. The brolga has a red band around it's head and dark legs, where the Sarus Crane has a red hood to about a third of the way down it's neck and red legs The Sarus Crane is larger, and found only in Northern Australia whereas brolgas are more common throughout Northern, Central Eastern and Southern Australia. SO what did I shoot? I have no idea.

The road into the Northen Territory was closed at the border, and a police checkpoint station was established. People travelling into the infested state of Queensland were allowed travel through unchecked, while those of us heading the way were processed at the border. It was a painless process, and I was step closer to home. I had spent some time last night studying the maps, to try and work out an itinerary of some sort for the next few weeks. My preference is to come home via the Eyre Hwy, but South Australia's situation is the bug bear there. I really don't want to do the Victoria Hwy again, but if the crowds have diminished somewhat, it has to be a consideration. I have abandoned my original idea of coming down the Great Central Road. I don't wish to add to my current potential repair bill. Meanwhile, I will re-visit some of the areas I last did in 2005 on my initial trek in the “old girl”. I was green and clueless then, these days, I'm just clueless.

The road to the border had been fairly uncharacteristic of the Qld roads I had travelled on in recent times, in that they were quite good. Northern Territory soon brought you back to earth. Not quite as bad, and at times quite smooth, but at times they certainly needed to bring out the grader or the heavy roller. The next thing I noticed was that where Qld had stopping bays at regular intervals along it's highways, and you could share the majority of truck stops, the only concession for travellers along the Barkly Hwy were the rest areas every 50 to 70 kms, and the truck bays were very definitely marked “no caravan parking”. The road has a speed limit in the main of 130kph, but I feel that one would need to be very brave or very stupid to attempt to do that on a number of sections of the road.

The phone chirped, a look at the map, and there was a community nearby. The signal wasn't strong enough to get a phone call away in the car, but I pulled up on the side of the road (dodgy, because of the lack of run off) and found that with the aid of the booster, I had a strong enough signal to upload yesterdays blog and photos. I was pleased, because I had spent a couple of hours yesterday grabbing and processing images from the video from both cameras and the phone, and I was keen to share them. Yesterday presented such an exhilarating morning.

Finally, just 39 kms shy of Barkly Roadhouse, the Wonara Rest Area popped up, and I decided to grab a spot and sit back for the rest of the day. I had covered 265 kms, not big miles, but towing the hotel in cross winds and bright sunshine and who's in a bloody hurry anyway, was enough for me to say “That'll do for the day”. And I was now in the NT, and one step closer to getting back into WA. Now to go grabbing more pics and stuff for you lot to look at … and to remind me of what I've seen today.


THURSDAY: Basically just a transport day today. The first objective was to reach Barkly Homestead. I had thought to swap or fill a gas bottle, and top up with fuel. But the fuel price of 192.4, I didn't even bother to ask about the gas price. I topped up the sub tank, and made sure that I was well covered for the distance remaining to the Stuart Hway.

Meanwhile, when I pulled into the homestead, there was predictably a line of cars on all pumps, and so I figured that I would pull up to one side, and get my blog uploaded. That took forever, and so when I was finished, I basically had the pumps to myself. So, all in all, not an overly painful process. I am budgeting to spend just $300 a week on fuel, and today was the end of the week. I had done some big fuel runs over the past seven days, and although the average is still under budget for the past ten weeks, I had spent well over that this week. I can't afford to let it get away from me.

I left Barkly with the Stuart Hwy just 186 km away, and 55 kms to the next rest area.

As usual, there are signs along the road suggesting that if you are tired, that you pull over and have a rest … good advice, except on this stretch of road at least, there are no stopping bays provided, and the rest areas are well spaced apart. There appeared to be an over abundance of stopping bays in Qld.

The Frewena Rest Area hove into view, and I decided to check out the area. It's very open and covers many acres, and there is tons of room for vans to be parked well off the road and well away from each other … and so I picked a spot as far from the main area as I could, parked so that the generator would be easily seen by anyone checking the area out, and set up for the afternoon … it was early, about midday or shortly after, and I was the only one out there. Old story, had a snooze, and woke to find the ring of vans closing. Fortunately, not a lot of vans in tonight.

I had set up the desk top computer, and started editing the first days of the trip, reminding myself of where I had been, what I had done, all that sort of stuff. The country currently has a massive High sitting over the bight, and that is dictating the winds at the moment, and right now, there is a stiff breeze coming from the south east, and the van is getting up a gentle rock. All very soothing.


FRIDAY: I had decided that I would stay another day. I needed to get the fuel budget back in line, and that means occasionally stopping for 2 or 3 days, in a spot well out of the way of retail establishments, where you can't spend money. The downside is that you usually have no signal in these areas, but you can't have it all.

I found a map of Telstra's coverage in the NT, and it is pretty sparse. Optus fares no better. And so the idea is to camp or stop near communities or mines, and hope that you can get some bleed from their local towers. We were able to upload the blog using a community's tower on Wednesday.

The camp ground emptied out pretty early today, it was cool, the wind was keeping us rocking, and I got to work on the editing suite. About 3 pm, I looked outside, and there is a caravan set up just outside my door, about 20m away. I mean he's got the rest of Australia to park in … and it seems most of the others like it up here as well. It was getting crowded. I noticed the guy step outside of his van.

Pointing at the genny in full view, “Excuse me mate, just thought I'd let you know that I am working and will be running the generator until about 9pm tonight”

“Oh, how loud is it?”

“Dunno mate, I've never stood over there to listen to it. All I know is that I have been here a couple of days, picked this spot so that I wouldn't annoy anyone, you know, well away from the crowd”.

It seems he got the message. 15 min later he was cruising away looking for another spot.

The thing I need to decide now, is do I move on tomorrow, or stay another day. I guess I'll sleep on it.


SATURDAY: Oh, I love Caro Emerald and her band. I dragged out the HDD with my music and video files on and found the concert she did at Montreaux in 2015, and settled back to watch it. The beauty of You Tube is that you can download your favourite shows if you wish, and I had done just that. That sent me off to bed in a happy frame of mind last night.

The question of whether to move on was still on my mind, and at 7.30 am, I was still undecided. Finally, I decided to stay at least another night. I did my sums, and found that i have been averaging 138 kms per day, and if I maintain that rate of travel with a day or two off as well each week, I should stay well within my budget.

And so I hit the editing desk again. It keeps me out of mischief and keeps my brain occupied. I've been keeping an eye on the Covid situation, and it's all about Victoria, NSW and Queensland. Nothing seems to be reported from South Australia, which is my preferred re-entry into WA, but nothing is changing so far with regard to the border restrictions either. If I find that I need to re-enter via the Victoria Hwy, it will at least give me the opportunity to complete the trip that was planned in 2019, when it all came undone near Auski. That would also allow me to do the Great Northern Hwy in the midst of wildflower season as well.

And so my “current” itinerary version is to drift down to Alice Springs, take a look at the Macdonnell Ranges, and then depending on news and travel reports from friends travelling, I may well move back up the highway (thus seeing everything that was in the rear vision mirror on the downward trek) and back home via the North West. But then, life has it's own ideas and we are all bound by that.


SUNDAY: Last night, the Indycars returned from the mid season break, and so first thing this morning I turned on the TV to watch the qualifying replay. I had spent three nights here, and it was time to push on, at least to the next rest area which is just 60 kms down the road. I need to stock up on food and water, and tomorrow should ensure that the supermarket is open in Tennant Creek … it might be open today, but I have enough in reserve to play it easy. I am in no hurry as I wait for the border thing to sort itself out.

The downside is, that I like contact, and there is precious little of that in the NT. But hey, I am lucky to be here, but I do feel for the tens of thousands of people who live, work and travel in the outback areas, who pay the same subscription fee to the Telcos as their city cousins, and don't receive the same benefits and service.

I moved out at 9.47 am, with the aim of moving on to the next camping area at least. By comparison with where I had just been, the next one was well covered with bush, and the campsites were indeed secluded, but for me, you can hide the van but the sound carries. It was also early, and I decided to keep travelling. It wasn't far to Threeways, and it was a gorgeous day for travelling. I had passed three communication towers in 119kms, and I was sharing my thoughts with the camera as to why these towers can't carry phone signals as well as the less important stuff they normally deal with, when the phone suddenly went crazy. The old analogue signal seemed to have coverage for a far greater distance, but decidedly dodgy the further you got from the tower. Digital seems to have an exact distance, and the quality is pretty reasonable to the edge, but it then just cuts out … no gradual dropout, whoof, it's gone. I had obviously hit the wall, and bang, it was there. I was 30 kms from Threeways, and I suddenly had a signal. I tested it and made a couple of phone calls to tell them to call off the search, I had been out of contact for three days, but I was safe … oh, I didn't think I'd heard from you …

I had to check the booster, to see how it was going … nothing, not a thing. If the phone was getting signal, why wasn't the booster? I'm still trying to understand how this all works.

I grabbed some lunch, and spent the next hour or so uploading my blog and photos. It appears that most of the signal up here is 3G. As a result, the service is incredibly slow. The 3G network is being systematically switched off, so it will be interesting to see what happens out here. Will it be upgraded to 4G, or the newer 5G technology? I can't see the latter happening.
“Telstra switched off 3G connectivity on its 2100MHz spectrum on March 25, 2019, but will continue to operate 3G services on its 850MHz spectrum until June 2024. 
Telstra published a list of devices it has sold that were affected by the 2100MHz 3G shutdown.  If you have a 2100MHz-only 3G device, it will no longer be able to connect to the Telstra network. If you can still get 3G on the Telstra network, your device hasn't been affected by Telstra's decision to switch off 3G on 2100MHz. 
If you're a Telstra customer with a 3G-only device and it's still working, you'll want to think about upgrading it within the next few years. At least 99% of phones available on the market right now have 4G connectivity. 
Customers on Telstra-powered MVNOs such as Boost Mobile, Belong, and Woolworths Mobile will also be affected be this change. “

It was time to move on, and I recalled that in 2005 I had visited the Pebbles, and was never sure whether I had found them or not. The turn off to them is right opposite the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station, and so I figured that would be my first port of call. The sign said if the car park is full, please follow safe Covid practices and come back later. The car park was empty, it's Sunday, is the place closed? I did the walk – yep as usual, the car park was a couple of miles from the target … well, a couple of hundred metres … and revisited the place I had last seen in 2005. As it turns out, my memory wasn't too bad, except I thought it was staffed back then, but having the benefit of having videoed the place back then, nothing much has changed. What is listed as a cellar and kitchen, my old video tells me it was the meat room and the smoke house, which makes some sort of sense, although there is a separate butchers room.

I met a couple of ladies from NSW and asked them if they had been to The Pebbles, and was it worth it. They had, and they weren't impressed. There was little or no signage, there was a walk way around the rocks, and I decided that I would give it a miss. Time was moving on, I needed to do some food shopping, and I needed to find somewhere to stop for the night.

The IGA was interesting – basically a big shed, you enter one end, and exit at the other. I also needed to visit the dump point, and I did an involuntary tour of the back streets to get there. It was located in what I suspect was the showground/rodeo ground. I had passed a number of covered trucks towing caravans earlier in the day, and eventually surmised that they were showmen moving onto the next event. The area where the DP was located also hosted a number of these vehicles. I believe there is a rodeo in Mount Isa next weekend.

Tennant Creek appears to be well set up with sporting and business/goverment facilities, but almost has the appearance of a very under privileged precinct. Today is Sunday, the last time I was here (2005) was a public holiday, so it was difficult to ascertain as what businesses were happening and which were no longer, but the shuttered windows, doors, and tall fences around almost everything tells a sad tale. I doubt the local hardware store has sold a tin of paint in years.

It was now getting late, and time to find somewhere to stay. Finally, 31 kms south of Tennant Creek, a metal dump hove into view, and appears the perfect place to spend the night.


MONDAY: I had a quiet night parked beside the Stuart Hwy, with practically no traffic. I had an Indycar race at 7am, and so guess what I did. What a race. If it had been scripted and made into a film, it would probably have been panned by the critics as ridiculous. Sometimes (especially in sport) truth can be stranger than fiction.

It was 10.44 when I finally pulled away from my camp spot. By the time I had done 50 kms, I had been contacted on the UHF no fewer than 5 times to let me know that my roof hatch was open. It has been open since I left Albany on May 28th, some 10,000 kms ago, and I have been contacted on the UHF just 5 times to let me know. Yep, all this morning. Why do I leave it open? In the hotter weather especially, I believe it circulates the air from outside, rather than than just heating it up in a closed cabin. Does it work? It can get pretty warm inside one of these cannisters, so thinking the science through, I figure it can't hurt.

There have been military manouvres happening through out the country recently, and today, I passed a number of convoys of miltary vehicles heading to … well, probably places too secret to mention. Let's just say, we've certainly got a decent sized fleet of them.

We pass through a range of hills called the Young Husband Range. Nothing spectacular about that, except that there is a small parcel of boondies called the Devils Marbles (Karlu Karlu) that nestle within them. These ancient rocks are huge, and appear to have been put there out of the way, like you see on a pristine farm, where all the old machinery is dumped in one spot in a paddock, and allowed to rust. Except that these aren't vehicles, they aren't rusting, although some of them do look like they have been cleanly cut in half with a knife or a huge log splitter. They sit on top of each other in odd angles, and you wonder why they haven't rolled off. And all of this is contained in an area of something like a kilometre. Outside of that perimeter, not a big boondie to be seen. Phenominal. It blew me away in 2005, and is equally as awe inspiring 16 years later.

I drove on. Wauchope was just down the road, and I hadn't filled the tanks since Barkly, and then I only topped up the sub tank. I was starting to get a little nervous about whether I had misread a distance and assumed that fuel was closer than it actually was. I pulled into Wauchope, and wondered where the pump was. On this trip, I have seen increasingly what appears to be above ground tanks with hoses attached, and this was what was presented here. A note said please pay for the fuel at the bar before attempting to fill your tank, and at $1.79, that seemed reasonable enough for out here, but then I remembered that Wycliffe Well was again just a few kms down the road, and I recalled that it was a proper fuel station. That was where I would top up. I had a quick squizzy at the hotel and the surroundings. The pool out the back looked very inviting, and despite looking a bit odd out the front, the Wauchope Pub presented rather well when you got inside.

In 2005, I had been travelling north, and came across a small car which had died. We attempted to get it going, but with no luck. A lady was taking her grandson to Darwin (from Adelaide) to play in a rugby tournament. Wycliffe Well was about thirty kms up the road, and so she left the boy with the car and I gave her a lift to the servo to see if she could get some assistance. I have no idea how she got on.

And so 18 kms down the road, and I pulled into the UFO capital of Australia. Apparently there have been more UFO sitings in this area than anywhere else in the country, and naturally, the locals play up on this and the UFO centre has been set up in the roadhouse. Bonus, the fuel was only $1.69.

As mentioned in earlier editions, I am attempting to keep my daily mileages down to get my budget back on track. My daily average has been 138 kms for the entirety of the trip so far, but I had been blowing that figure out of the water the past couple of weeks. As it was, yesterday I did 199 kms, and so with my late start, and my walk around the Devils Marbles and my fuel stop, it was getting on for 2pm, and the kms were starting to rack up again (or so I thought).

I found a metal dump right beside the turn off to Alekarenge. They have been putting little signs with a picture of a mobile phone and a distance to what turns out to be a truck stop, and you live with the possibility that you have signal. They lie. If it does have signal and bars pop up on your phone, the booster doesn't recognise them. I didn't test it, but you might get a phone call through. This turn off promised such a scenario. I chose to move on. There was another rest area ahead of me, and I was musing over whether I wanted the company or the solitude, when lo and behold, another metal dump. This one was mine, and I grabbed it. It was 2.20pm and I had covered only 136.4 kms.

And then I slept for an hour and a half.


TUESDAY: My favourite show on TV back in the Fifties and , was a show called 77 Sunset Strip. It starred Effrem Zimbalist Jnr, Roger Smith (I think), Ed “Kookie” Byrnes, and Jacqueline Beer. Kookie was always combing his hair, which of course rubbed off on to this cool dude who tried to emulate his hero. Why do I mention this? This is Day 77 unless you hadn't noticed and these useless pieces of information rattle around in my brain … or whatever it is.

I solved it. I know what the little mobile phone signs mean, that suggest that there is signal when there isn't. I had noticed what look like satellite dishes, and thought they must be emergency phones. Then I stopped at the Stuart Marker Rest Area for lunch, where one of these contraptions was available. I checked it out. The dish is a receiver/booster, and there is a red pole with a little phone holder on top. You place your phone on the holder, and wait for the signal to register, and then you have signal … as long as you don't move the phone (apparently), and you use the speaker, so that everyone else can hear your conversation. The concept is brilliant. Everyone knows that these things are there, but have no idea what they do. It does pay to be curious.

I rolled into Barrow Creek, and inspected the Old Barrow Creek Telegraph Station. It is kept in better nick than the Tennant Creek Station in my opinion. The station is open to walk through, and there is no graffiti and rubbish on the walls. I remember I was impressed with it back in 2005.

The pub still retains it's charm, and I'm sure the $5, $10 and $20 notes attached to the wall are the same ones that were there way back on my last visit. It seems that the drovers would come in with their pay, and would “pay forward” by writing their name on the note and pinning it to the wall. That way if they ran out of money during the week, they could still grab their note and buy a drink. As I walked around looking, I amused to find that a heater was running. It was a beautiful day, and the temperature would have been in the mid twenties.

In 2005, I had been caught in an unexpected thunderstorm near Arltunga, and the rain soon flooded everything. It was late, and to escape, I teamed up with another couple, and we headed cross country in the dark to reach the Plenty Hwy. It was about 9pm, when we reached that. They turned right, and I turned left and headed for the highway. I asked a passing truckie how far to food (I was starving) and fuel, and he told me Ti Tree was an hour or so up the highway. I pulled into the truck rest area outside the store at about 11.15pm, the place was shut, there was no-one around, I made myself as comfortable as I could on the seat of the Cruiser and slept. When I woke up in the morning, I was surrounded by trucks. I didn't hear a thing.

I wasn't planning on reaching Ti Tree today, but reach it I did. There were big colourful signs along the road about the Ti Tree Food Barn. I drove into the roadhouse thinking that might be it. It was disappointing, it stocked some stuff, but not much. I decided to do a lap of the community, and discovered that the Food Barn was in fact on the other side of the hwy and some 300m or so back. There didn't appear to be much activity when I arrived, but inside, wow, this I was not expecting. Despite it's position, it appears that it gets a lot of trade from travellers, many of whom take advantage of the free camping out the back. Recommended.

I had taken photos at the Stuart Memorial, of a plaque for Ian Dahlenburg, who had been the owner of Ti Tree Farm. They cleared heavy mulga scrub by hand, planted vines, sunk bores, and established the Central Australian Grape Industry. His ashes had been scattered on Central Mt Stuart so that he could watch over Ti Tree Farm. The farm is on the roadside 10 kms south of Ti Tree.

I had friends who had indicated that they were heading for Connors Well for the night, and it seemed like an ideal place to catch up. I was advised that it was about 25 mins down the road from Ti Tree, and so I travelled the extra distance, and arrived I suspect long before they did. The area is spread out, and as is my want, I found a spot as far away from everyone as I could, and then because nothing had been confirmed, and there being no phone signal, I spent the next couple of hours annoying the shit out everyone in the hope that I could raise them on the UHF.

A knock on the door – it's Census night, and the guys were doing the rounds with forms for those of us who had not completed our stuff, either on paper or almost impossible to get (out here) internet. The last one I filled out in the bush was at Manning Gorge on the Gibb River Road in 2011. I asked them if they saw the vehicle my friends were in, to get them to give me a call on Ch 40. It turns out that they don't seem to have arrived, or with the lack of communications have either stopped short or gone on. I guess we will find out tomorrow.

Aha. I am Prowse Gap it seems, and Connors Well looks like it is another 52 kms down the road. You can't win them all … I'd just like one win …


WEDNESDAY: I had made an effort yesterday to get to the Connor Well Rest Area to meet up with FB friends Mel and Sharleen, and had fallen short … I had been given an estimate of 25 minutes to get there when I asked (Yes, men DO ask directions and other weird stuff), when it was really another hour and a half longer than that in reality, and the rest area I had pulled into was Prowse Gap (which was just as well, because the Census guys were doing the rounds with forms for us to fill in if needed – it turns out they didn't get to Connor Well). And so, with there being no signal, and therefore no means of contacting my friends, I was out of bed and on the road well before I'd woken up.

Not too far down the road, and on a loop road off the main road (yes I know, you ain't supposed to keep using the same word in a sentence, but remember, I hadn't woken up yet), was a little community called Aileron. It advertised the Big Man Walk – I still have no idea what that is, but there was a huge man on top of the hill, a :”Hollywood” type sign telling you where you were, and this gorgeous big carving of an Aboriginal woman and her child holding a crocodile. This was different. I pulled into the roadhouse – he'd been up since 4am (everyday he told me) and the store looked familiar. I asked if it was owned by the same people as the Ti Tree Food Barn – it seemed he had owned that before opening this one. Definitely the two best shops I have seen in my NT travels.

I pulled into a rest area with a huge well, and drove into what I thought was the camping area to see if this was where Mel and Sharleen were camped – there was a camper there, but once I was in, I thought uh oh, I could be in trouble here … there wasn't a lot of room to turn the van around. But I did it … It was in fact, a well dug by Ned Ryans Camel Party in 1889. Ryan, being a Stone Mason had built the elaborate well and it's surroundings.

I continued on, and reached … yep … Connor Well, and there was the Bus I had been looking for up until now. I had never met Mel and Sharleen in person, and so it was wonderful that we finally made the connection with them and Miss Darcey, their Dachsund pooch. We chatted for about an hour, and it was time to move on.

The UHF burst into life … You've left your steps behind … Yep, done it again. That's three times this trip.

The drive down into Alice Springs is gorgeous. The flat ground was gone and the hills were now in abundance. I passed a marker for the highest piece of ground. The cairn indicates the highest point on the Highway – it's surrounded by hills – and I looked behind me – definitely higher back there – and in front of me – definitely climbing there … and being the believing soul that I am, selected the Altimeter function on my GPS … did I tell you that this was the highest point on the highway. Looks can be so deceptive. In SA, there is a hill called Magnetic Hill. You drive down this slight slope, stop, take your foot off the brake, and roll back UP the hill. Except that it is an illusion … it is amazing.

Wow, the Alice has grown enormously since I was here in 2005. It didn't take me long to get lost. I have never used Wikicamps, but figured that I just might use it to see if it would tell me where to get drinking water. Paid the 8 bucks, downloaded it, and immediately got the bum steer 3 times. I guess it might come in handy somewhere.

I rang the caravan parks – nope. I went to the showgrounds, apparently thay can only allow so many campers while there is a possibility that the regular CP's have vacancies. I decided to move onto the National Transport Museum and Hall Of Fame, and take my chances with finding somewhere to stop for the night.

The NTMAHOF is slightly expanded since my last visit, and so I concentrated on those areas mainly. As I had paid my entry fee, I had noticed that they mentioned camping. I secured a powered site for tonight – that meant washing done, tanks filled with water, and a much needed shower – and I can grab an unpowered site for the next couple of nights if I wish. That means I can leave the van, do what needs to be done in town, and get out and do some touring without the hotel in tow.

All in all, a most satisfactory day.


THURSDAY: I was up early, filled the water tank, and shifted the van from my powered pozzy to an unpowered site. I booked in for three extra nights at this stage, and leave maybe Sunday. It was then off to Bunnings to swap a gas bottle, and a tour around the city. The place was buzzing, the traffic in the city centre was fairly heavy, and I have to say ir didn't look that busy from the top of Anzac Hill a few minutes earlier.

Back to the van to drop off the gas bottle, some lunch, and then a drive to have a look at some of the surrounding area. The hills around this place are huge, and it seems onconceivable that a trickle of water over a couple of million years could wear down and create these little gaps in the range, that allowed the early white pioneers to access what was to become Alice Springs.

I found myself back on Larapinta Drive, and at the access point to Simpson's Gap. This was planned for tomorrow, but I was able to do the inspection of this gorgeous piece of Geographical magic this afternoon.

I have to say that by the time I got home at 3.15pm, that I was starting to feel the fact that I have basically been on the go non-stop for 3 months, and maybe it was time to have a day off and do nothing – no travel, no time on the computer, just totally chill. I had a nap for about an hour, and I feel better tonight. On reflection, walking down to Simpson's Gap in the softish sand probably wasn't the best choice, but I reckon the photos from that angle were worth it. And of course, there will not be a day off at this stage. Not while I'm paying for accomodation LOL. Also, I have tweaked my back a touch, and that is a little debilitating.

Tomorrow, the plan is to drive out to Gosse Bluff, checking out the Macdonnell Range as I go. It's about a 450 km round trip. I saw Gosse Bluff in 2005, so if the day starts getting long, that will be jettisoned. It's the rest of the drive that is new ground for me.

And so again, I don't generally plan ahead, I take it as it comes, and it's amazing how often to find something you didn't expect. Sure you miss some, but you find something that you wouldn't have seen either. That was how today wound out. An early night and a good night's sleep hopefully, and an early start in the morning.


FRIDAY: Somewhere, I have stuffed up. I left on a Thursday, which means that after eleven weeks, Wednesday should be DAY 77, and I have it as DAY 78, which means today should be DAY 79 …. And so, a quick check back, and yep I missed a day a couple of weeks ago. So yes, it IS Day 79 today. Confused? I know I am. Somebody please explain it to me.

I didn't sleep as well as I would have liked last night, and it was only 3° when I got up at 7am. But I had a potentially big day ahead of me, and so I got moving, fueled up, and hit the Larapinta Drive and then the Namatjira Drive to do the tour of the West Macdonnell Ranges. My goodness, what an amazing piece of real estate. I'm going to let the photos tell the story. I did some walking, I piked out of some walking (back and hip soreness, not fit, and 2 km return walks in the heat of the day had me baulking on the side of discretion.) and trying to fit it all into one day with 370kms on the clock by the time I got back about 4.20 pm.

Tomorrow, I had thoughts of doing Chambers Pillar, but there are a few things I'm a bit doubtful about with the car, and with 88kms return sand driving included, I'm thinking it might be smart to give this one a miss.


SATURDAY: It was a bit chilly again last night, 3°, and I have to admit that I didn't feel like jumping out of bed. I had decided that I would give Chambers Pillar a miss this trip (and possibly forever), and I would instead get ready to leave tomorrow, and then maybe do some exploring around town.

And so a trip to the Larapinta IGA, and although a touch pricey, even allowing for where it is on the planet, I managed to get everything I wanted without have parking hassles and dealing with crowds had I gone into Coles or Woolies in town. I did need to get in amongst it though when I went looking for a chemist, which just happened to be in a shopping mall right in the heart of it. I was lucky with parking, and stepped in to grab the few things I needed.

What I did notice is, that I seemed to be the only one registering my presence in the store. They seem to be a bit blasé out here in the middle of nowhere. And today, it is starting to come back and bite them in NSW where Dubbo and now Broken Hill have been caught out.

I fueled up with diesel and unleaded, and after lunch proceeded to do bog laps around the area.

Now I have touched in the past on my interest in trains. It appears as a little kid, living in Maylands, I would go missing, and the first place they would look was down by the Goods Shed (no longer a feature of our suburban rail), where I would head down on my trike to watch the trains shunting. I also had somewhat of a fascination with planes as well. Back then, there was an aerodrome at Maylands down on the peinisula, and I would ride my bike (I was now much older) down the track *now the Golf Club) and watch the biplanes and the like landing and taking off. The old hangers were there and this area became the Police academy in later years.

Why am I telling you this? Because today, I decided to go and check out the Alice Springs Airport, something I tend to do in a lot of towns I go through. However, AS is a much larger airport than most, and one would expect to see a few, maybe a lot of smaller and more corporate type aircraft just laying around, waiting for their next flight. I was staggered by what was sitting out in what was obviously NOT the runway. I had read that aircraft grounded by the pandemic had been stored somewhere in the Australian outback, but had forgotten that it was at Alice Springs. There are over 100 passenger jets from all airlines just sitting on the tarmac in storage.

“The world's newest "airliner boneyard" is located at Alice Springs Airport and was completed in 2013; it began operations in June of 2014. The storage facility is operated by Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) Ltd. which chose Alice Springs because its dry, arid climate is ideal for aircraft storage and preservation. It caters to Asia-Pacific carriers as well as other airlines from around the world. It is capable of handling all aircraft types, including the Airbus A380, Boeing 747 and Boeing 777.”

I see that Sir Mark has recalibrated where South Australia sits on his list of potential covid dangers, but still has it above the Low Risk status of the NT. So that has influenced my decision to return back from whence I came, and head for Katherine. It is 1500kms to Kununurra from here, and so I would think about a week and a half might see me cross the border. And as soon as I get halfway there, he will change SA again to a more favourable status … nothing surer. As a result of my cruising around this afternoon, my full diesel tank is now lighter by the distance of some 70kms. I might need to top it up again tomorrow on the way out.

I hope you noticed that I didn't mention that I watched Indycar qualifying as soon as I got up … oops, just did


SUNDAY: Nothing to tell today. I hooked up and got ready to leave last night, so that all I had to do this morning was tidy up, hit the dump point, top up once again with fuel, and I hit the road at 9am. I had initially planned to again do this section in small chunks, but it being such a perfect day, I decided that since this was returning over old ground, that I would put as many miles under the belt and get as close to Tennant Creek as I could.

On the 9th, I had found a good metal dump to stay in, and at 2.30, I pulled into the same camp spot, having put 350 kms away. I settled in to watch last night's Indycar race, and as that finished, it was time to tune in to the Freo-Eagles match.

I should have kept driving ….

Seriously, after the WCE let Freo get away with the first quarter, it became a really good match … well, it was all along really. I know I have banged on about this before, but by losing, at least we didn't have to listen to the abomination which is the current rendition of the Eagles Theme song … no, read WARCRY. We have won 4 premierships under the old version, why would you change it? Can you imagine any of the traditional teams allowing them to stuff around with their songs. It's called TRADITION, and we have established ours. Why would you change it?

Sorry guys, I have a niggling back and it's like a toothache, and it's making me cranky LOL


MONDAY: LOCKDOWN … It had to happen. Things were going just too smoothly, and I really haven't had a non self-inflicted hiccup all trip. I was on a long drive today, and as I rolled into Tennant Creek the phone came alive and I learned that the NT has locked down Darwin and Katherine. I really couldn't care about Darwin (selfishly), but Katherine is the junction that you have to go through to head west. It is still a couple of days away, but I dare not head into town under the current situation until Friday at least, and I was hoping to be closer to Timber Creek by then.

But that is not the worry. At the moment, NT is classified Very Low Risk, and will this case, an anomoly at the moment, explode, and will Sir Mark re-classify the NT, thus creating the situation I was trying to avoid by not going through SA. We actually discussed this last night and somehow foresaw that something was bound to happen that would trip me up.

I have applied for my G2G pass, and at this stage it has been approved, but this is an automatic process. It will be interesting to see how it is viewed when it is reviewed by a hooman bean. I have allowed myself the time to avoid the Katherine lockdown by not travelling to and through the town until all is cleared again. I have bunkered down just outside Tennant Creek at the moment, and may well stay here for a couple of days, which means I should be reaching Katherine on Friday or Saturday. I do have some new ground to cover for me over the next day or so.

I have been travelling along side the railway line for the last week, and apart from listening to the train passing by at 9pm when I was at the National Transport Hall Of Fame camp ground, it suddenly occurred to me that I have heard very little rail traffic. When we did the trip along the Trans Australian Railway line on the Nullarbor, it was nothing to see 5 or 6 freight trains during the day time, let alone those at night trundling along the line. Is it because Perth is a major capital city and can support the number of trains and trucks carrying supplies across the country, whereas Darwin, Alice Springs and the smaller communitities in between don't require the same amount of traffic? There has also been very low numbers of road transport as well.

I will leave this here. I have just received some devastating news regarding the unexpected passing of a dear friend. I am totally gutted. Catch you tomorrow.


TUESDAY: The sun came up, and the day pays no mind to what went before. Life goes on. It seems cruel, but that's the way it is.

Well, that was easy. All I have to do is call into the main desk at the Tennant Creek hospital, and I can have my Covid test as instructed by the WA Police. While I was trying to deal with the news I received yesterday, I received a text message from the WA police, and that was followed up with email this morning. And they differ slightly in detail. The text tells me
If you have not been at a relevant location you must
1. Immediately travel to self-quarantine at suitable premises and undertake a test within 48 hours of arrival and self-isolate until you receive a negative result.
2. If you have NOT been in a relevant location, at a relevant time, upon receipt of your negative COVID-19 test, you may end quarantine.
Whereas the email tells me that I must do this within 48 hours of crossing the border.
I have decided to stay where I am for another night at least, and then tomorrow, travel back into town (6 kms) and have the test then as a safeguard. I exchanged one gas bottle back in Alice the other day, and would you believe, the other one ran out the day after I left. And so I have found where I can get a refill in town, and that will kill two birds with one Devil's Marble.

I have never had a desire to visit Bali. However, back in 1999, my daughter and her partner took their family and friends to Bali to celebrate a personal event. Being the video nerd that I am, I took a video camera and spent every minute of the trip recording what we did and saw. Then I lost the tapes. Yesterday, I decided to re-capture the tapes of my first road trip to the NT in 2005, and when I went thru the collection of tapes, I couldn't find what I was looking for. But I DID find the lost Bali tapes. Because I live in my caravan, there is a limited amount of stuff that I can take with me, and amongst the essential equipment is an old VCR. I was able to hookup and capture the contents of the Bali tapes. First surprise, the date on the tape was 15.8.1999 … exactly 22 years to the day. Ande so, the day was spent capturing, and then editing the contents. I hope to have something to upload shortly. This is not about a family trip, it is an observation of the lifestyle and daily routine of the people in a pre terrorist Bali. I think it is an interesting expose. There is nothing professional about it – that came later as learned more about my craft. But it does work … IMHO.

Although I have no desire to return to the island, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to do the trip and see how that population live. A number of years later, (2010) I had the opportunity to visit Hawaii for my middle daughters wedding, and again I took a lot of video, including the wedding footage. On my return to Australia, I downloaded and edited the footage. This camera held it's footage in a memory space within the camera, no tape or SD backup. When I went back to look at the rest of the footage of the island, I couldn't find it. It appears that I must have downloaded the wedding footage, and then believing that I had it all, and needing to clear the memory for future projects, I deleted the footage, thus LOSING my entire Hawaii memories. At least we got the wedding ceremony.

Meanwhile, I have decided to spend a third night here in my Tennant Creek camp spot, finish my editing, and will move on on Wednesday

DAY EIGHTY FOUR (yesterday was 83 and I didn't move)

THURSDAY: I haven't got a clue what day it is. Fortunately my son Brett does, and he reminded me at around 11.40 this morning.

I had decided to stay an extra night at my Tennant Creek camp spot. A first look at the town as you enter, and you probably would not contemplate free camping this close to town (6 kms), but although I had some company near me, I have no idea whether they were travellers or displaced locals or what, but I had no bother with anyone. And so I packed up and headed back into town to fuel up, top up again with water from behind the IGA, top up the freezer from the IGA, and visit the dump point – it was out of operation. I had read that I could get a free shower just out of town at Lake Mary Ann, and so I decided to take advantage of that. It was cold, but it was wet, and it didn't diminish my water supply. And then it was time to hit the road.

Yesterday, which I have it on good authority was Wednesday, I spent the day finishing up my Bali video and managed to upload it in good time last night. So I feel my time wasn't wasted.

I left Tennant Creek at 11.15 this morning, and made a decision to get as many miles under my belt as I could, finding a metal dump just 13 kms short of Elliot. I have signal, and so am more than happy to find out tomorrow what that village is all about … or is it just another roadhouse?

I pulled into Renner Springs, another roadhouse, but wearing the tag Renner Springs Desert Hotel. Ho Hum I thought, grabbed the phone and started taking pictures. All I can say is WOW. Don't let the cover be a judge of the book.

It appears that although the lockdown in Darwin has been lifted, it's been extended for another day in Katherine, because key close contacts in the area still hadn't been located. That doesn't surprise me – the crackdown on safe app useage has been very lax, and the people seem to disregard using it as they come and go. And the very real prospect is that the person they are looking for is a traveller who has left town and is on the road somewhere. As for me, I figured that I would pass through Katherine on Saturday or Sunday. It is only 432 kms away from me, and so hopefully, the lockdown will have been lifted. I will stopping at my favourite Puma station for fuel, and that will be it. Then out the Victoria Hwy …

That's the plan … Hahahaha


FRIDAY: I feel that I am getting rid of the small fog that has been dampening my enthusiasm over the past few days. I had good night in my metal dump, and I was on the road before 9am … not much before, but before 8.59 am.

Our first objective was Elliott, which was a WW2 staging station. These days, it is an aboriginal community of some 250 people. There are two petrol stations, the one on the southern boundary is the oldest, and is also the general store. The owner has been there for 11 years, and reckons another three will see him out. Once again, the exterior of the building hides the true state of what's inside. The second station at the northern entrance is a modern Puma station, which carries some grocery lines which are available only to locals.

Newcastle Waters rest area precedes a turnoff to the historical town. There's not much there now, but there is a small school operating.

At the George Redmond Crossing, the unusual sign changing the 130 speed limit to just 60, because of rough road. Had this been applied in areas of western Queensland, most of the roads would have been at 60 or lower. The limit then changed back to 130, and the road was no better. The road at this point is really an elevated causeway over a river plain. Meanwhile, a 4WD lay battered and wrecked at the bottom of the road, either through speed or maybe just falling asleep at the wheel.

The Sir Charles Todd memorial rest area loomed. Todd had been responsible for joining the northern and southern sections of the overland telegraph line, and the memorial recognises the work done and achieved by the team that worked on the project.

Dunmarra was my next target, where friends Mel and Sharleen had been camping for a few days, waiting out the lockdown situation. Sharleen dragged out her DJI Mini which rekindled my interest into the possibilities of aerial photography. My last venture into dronedom wound up disastrously, with the beast going feral and crashing and destroying itself. They are currently fighting with the G2G application process, which appears to be going in a different direction to what mine did. But then, they intend staying on for a few more days and staying in a vulnerable area. We had a great confab for an hour or so, before it was time to move on.

I hadn't intended to go as far as Daly Waters, but somehow, I found myself turning into the drive in to town. I was greeted with a million caravans lined up to enter the caravan park. I was only interested in getting to the Dump Point and getting out again. But I couldn't help noticing that they have a heap of new toys lining the street, and that Puma signage now grace the towns fuel pumps. I did a quick check of the airfield on the way out. Things have certainly changed since we had our first look in 2013, and I wasn't aware that free camping was permitted. There were five vans taking advantage as I left.

I approached Larimah, with the hope that I would get into Birdum. However, there was no indication as to where it was on the highway, and as a result, I missed it and wound up in Larimah via a back road. Why Birdum? Until early in WW2, Birdum was the last station on the railway line from the south. It was known worldwide as the last station and is shown on many worldwide atlases as such. However, early in the WW2 conflict, the rail line was extended to Larimah for shifting personnel and supplies to Gorrie Airfield.

As a side note, I discovered that Bill Dempsey, who was a champion footballer for West Perth and Darwin Football Club, was born in Birdum, before being taken from his mother after the death of his father.
“William (Bill) Dempsey MBE is a former Australian rules footballer who played for the Darwin (Buffaloes) Football Club in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) and the West Perth Football Club (Cardinals) in the Western Australian National Football League (WANFL). Born in Birdum (NT), and descended from the Jingili, Warramunga and Ngalakan peoples, Bill Dempsey is an inductee of both the AFL Northern Territory and the West Australian Football Halls of Fame.”

I was now looking for somewhere to stop for the night, I found that I was now just a few kms from Gorrie Airfield. That did it. I have visited and documented the airfield a couple of times in the past, but have never stopped here. My dad served here in WW2, although there is no sign of where the stores that were his home were situated. He passed away 28 years ago next Wednesday, so a bit of nostalgia slipped into my thinking.

A new surprise – a gate and grid, and a sign on the gate informing that the area has now been baited with 1080. I managed to get over the grid and close the gate behind me without slipping into the treacherous gaps of the railway iron – a major coup for this clumsy clot.

A quick look at the speedo, and I had put another 287 kms behind me. I am now just 177 kms from Katherine, and so I should be through there and on my way westwards by midday if all goes to plan. But things don't always go to plan.


SATURDAY: “Rollover near the Jump Up. Caravan on it's side, it's off the road but there are vehicles hanging around” That was the message relayed from a truckie to his mate over the UHF radio.

It's not the sort of message you want to hear, or result that you want to see. But I believe it does happen on a regular basis. Not all caravanners are us old codgers, and with the influx of families hitting the road because of overseas travel restrictions, it means that there are more drivers taking risks or travelling at excessive speeds, and if the van does decide to take control, an inexperienced (towing) driver or older drivers with slowing reflexes can find themselves in deep trouble. I am an 80 kph driver, and that can be considered too slow, but it is economical, and the rig is much easier to control. It is legal to tow a van at 100 kph, which I personally believe is too fast. I watch them wobble as they overtake and hope that I'm not going to be part of a big pile up. I consider 90 kph is more than fast enough. Technology has allowed towing systems that take control of sway, weight distribution and a spate of other potential hassles. But nothing is infallible, and as drivers rely on the technology rather than their own (self imagined) abilities, disaster is only a fraction of a second away.

Incidentally, I have no idea as to the cause of this accident. The views expressed are my personal thoughts in general.

My day started with me leaving the Gorrie Airfield via an impromptu tour of the grounds … yep, missed an (easy) turn on the way out, and then had to find a way to turn the rig around. However, it did have an upside, as I reached the cattle grid behind another car, and had the pleasure of having the gate duties performed by a beautiful young lady from the other vehicle.

I had decided that today was going to be a transport day. I would top up the sub tank at Mataranka, do a complete fill at Katherine, and then hit the Victoria Hwy. I wound up doing it back to front. Full fill at Mataranka, and a top up at Katherine. I spent a bit too much time trying to upload the blog, uploaded the wrong photos, delete those, and then try to upload the pics en-masse – mistake. Better 4 at a time.

A truck driver cut in on our conversation re crossing the border, that the line this morning was at least 2 kms long. One can't worry about that, one can only control what one can control.

It was getting warm, no make that hot. I figured that I had to do the miles anyway, so better to put them away today and stay cool in the car, than stop early and then try and cool the van down on the side of the road. As a result, when I pulled into a roadside camp per favour of my first trust in Wikicamps, I had put away 431 kms, and that was after lengthy stops at both Mataranka and Katherine. I had achieved what I set out to do, and all at the leisurely rate of 80 kph.

Tonight, I am 225 kms from the border, But I don't cross until Monday. So a more leisurely day tomorrow.


SUNDAY: Mr McGowan and cronies, what you are doing to try and prevent the Covid spread is on the right track. The way you are implementing requires a rethink.

I arrived just 630 mtres from the border at 12pm NT time … all timings quoted will be NT. At 4.40 pm, I was finally through the border and heading for Kununurra to try and beat the 5pm (WA time) closing time of the Covid Clinic to get my compulsory test done, before then driving to Wyndham Caravan Park (the only place accepting isolation bookings), some 55 kms off the beaten track, arriving at 7.50 pm (NT time). During that 4+ hours in line, older travellers, along with mum's with young children, were subjected to sitting in their cars or milling around in 35° heat with no shade or facilities.

To many of us, the isolation order was a new one. People who were booked into caravan parks had to show proof that the caravan park had accepted them knowing that they were to stay in isolation … and most didn't. They had booked into caravan parks believing that they would be accepted as “suitable premises”.

I had read and re-read the rules that had been sent to me, and had missed the “quarantine” order update, and so I certainly was unaware of the up to 3 day (negative test result required) isolation order,
“WA Health has issued new public health advice for recently returned travellers from the Northern Territory (NT).
Effective immediately, all passengers arriving into Western Australia from Northern Territory are required to:
• travel to a suitable premises and get tested immediately (within 48 hours);
• isolate at the suitable premises until they have received a negative result and;
• wear a mask when transiting to suitable self-quarantine premises and when presenting for COVID-19 testing.

A police officer eventually came down the line to explain exactly what was required. And so it was a time of stress ringing every caravan park fron Kununurra, Parry Lagoon, Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing, all of which said that they were either not permitted by the police facility wise, or just didn't take them on. I finally was given a tip to cantact Wyndham who is set up to take us. The result is a heap of caravans in a dusty paddock, unpowered “no generators” at $20 per night. We have to stay in the van, and not be in contact with our near neighbour.

Now whilst our big wigs are making the rules, they all look good in theory, but in practice, they need an overhaul.

Firstly, the Covid testing station should be at the border. It takes two minutes to conduct the test. My time with the police was just 5 minutes, and the van inspection a couple of minutes as well. It would have all been over and done with. But when I rolled into the hospital, it was surrounded by vans and RV's and camper trailers, with a group of people now standing around waiting to be tested … and many of them still had the 106 km journey to Wyndham, where they HAD to be tonight. Those guys in the little cubicles in Perth should be out here finding out whether or not their system works … remember, many of these travellers are people just wanting to come home … you asked them to come home, and then treat them like this when they do. It's not good enough.

Be specific with the rules and define “what is a suitable premise – that a caravan park is NOT necessarily acceptable and that you MUST stress that you have to “Isolate” when booking.
A guy towing a camper trailer was rejected on the grounds that he had nowhere to stay, and also commented that you “had to have a flushing toilet”. So what are the rules when applied to Caravans, RV's and Camper Trailers. I had rung a motel and been told they are not “isolation compliant”.
Kununurra is the only accepted entry point in the North of WA. Give us a list of compliant premises that can be contacted in the area.

Now, let's deal with the isolation thing.

You have people isolating all over the place and supposedly police running around checking that they are doing the right thing. Surely you can find an area big enough to set up an “Isolation Station” where all vans, caravans and camper trailers can be marshalled and set up until their covid tests are received, and have it policed by a small group, instead of creating havoc in the town. If people knew that this was where they were going to stay, then it would save a lot of stress. It should also be free to stay. People should not be forced to face all this extra expense as a punishment for travelling our “free”country.

It's not rocket science. Many of these travellers are elderley and doing their part to keep the country up and running. Many are not computer or device literate, and mobile service is in a word 'Abysmal” in the NT (as well as many other outback and rural areas). Travellers do NOT have the convenience or easy access to the internet and other devices that the city dweller takes for granted. Please, do the legwork for them and make it easier to cross the border. 4-5 hours in unrelenting heat is NOT what you should be subjecting them to.

Now what did I do today, I changed my mind, I decided I may as well cross the border today, I changed my G2G pass to read today's date, I drove to the border, crossed through, and drove through the night to Wyndham. 380 odd kms in 12 hrs. Seems easy enough.

Things are moving at a cracking pace. 37.5° up here, so you can imagine I was thrilled when Sharyn (caravan park proprietor) shifted a bundle of us to powered sites. It seems that a stack of negative covid results came back, that lot shifted out, and the next lot will get the unpowered sites to start with ... I guess that's how it works. Down side is that it is under and near trees, and the satellite dish has no hope of finding a signal. But hey, who's complaining. There is nothing worth watching on the box anyway. If I can get a strong enough internet signal tonight, you can stream just about everything anyway.
It's been a busy day. I shifted the car, I had a nap, booked a site at Karijini for a months time, had lunch, had another nap ... I tell you, this isolation life keeps you flat out ... sleeping ... thank goodness for air con.
Damn ... I only just sent an email to the Premier, Health Minister and the West Australian, and I've now received a text message that tells me that I have been released from my obligations to test, self quarantine and isolate. Currently, future arrivals from NT will also not be required to present, as long as they have not been in Qld, NSW, Vic, SA or NZ in the preceeding 14 days. It seems that I am free to move on.
How things change.


TUESDAY: I was up early and ready to go. I hadn't been in Wyndham since 2013, and so figured that I should at least have a look around again. It's a sad look. The beautiful little Tin Shed Cafe that we ate at is now just a tin shed. The Crocodile Farm has the name out the front, but that's all. The businesses down by the big crocodile are all shut, and so it goes.

I made the decision to check out the Five Rivers Lookout. I was past the sign and committed before my brain computed that the sign I just passed indicated no caravans. It's a big, steep hill, with three tight hairpins. I have to say that I was a tad worried. 2nd gear and it started to bog down. Once the tuerbo drops under 1700 rpm, you need another gear … and fast. My first gear has been dropping out when not under load. I hit first, the car launched, and I hung on to the gear lever like my life depended on it. I was up and down through the 2 gears and the old girl rewarded my “confidence”. As I finally reached the top of the 3.7 km hill, I let out a huge sigh of relief, and swore that I wouldn't do THAT again.

The view from up there is amazing. There are five rivers that enter the ocean and you can see them all. I'll let the pics tell the story. Now I had to drive back down the hill … there's a drop off the side, and it's a long drop, and with 3.2 tonne pushing, I was in 2nd gear with a foot firmly, but gently working the brake all the way down. I unclenched my nether regions as I reached the end of the descent.

I wasn't going to check the Parry Lagoon this time, but then I figured that I may never be up this way again, so what the heck. The first turn off is not posted, although I could see it on the GPS. It was after passing that that I decided that I would in fact have a look, and I would go in along the road from the Parry Creek Road. This is the official road in from the information board. I am not exagerating, the road to Cameron Corner was in better nick than this one. But once committed, there is nowhere to turn the rig around.

The lagoon didn't disappoint. It never does – this was my fourth visit. I decided to exit using the other road, and it was beautiful by comparison.

Now, all I had to do was sit back and enjoy the amazing countryside that just keeps rolling out around you as you travel south towards and past the Bungles turn off. This is definitely God's own country up here.


WEDNESDAY: Just a basic transport day today. I was up early, and in no real hurry, as I attended to some housekeeping getting stuff in order, before leaving my camp spot and taking a leisurely drive in to Halls Creek. The place was buzzing, and the vans and RV's all lined up for their turn at the Shell servo. I've been here a few times before, and I made my way around to the truck pumps at the back and yep, a vacancy. A run down the street to the Super IGA, and top up of the larder saw me ready to hit the road again.

I am due to hit Karijini on the 12th September, and so once again I am in no hurry. So figured that finding a spot to stay for 2-3 days was the go, and preferably something with signal, so that I could find something to stream if there was nothing (as usual) on TV. Remember, I am not on holidays, I live in this rig, and I enjoy the comforts of home just like you guys when I'm on the road.

The countryside to Halls Creek is hilly, mountainous, and undulating, south is back to flat open type country. I found a spot just 77 kms out of Halls Creek and set up for the night. There is signal here, but it's dodgy, and so I just might move on and see if I can find something better.

Surprisingly, I didn't do anything stupid today. Wonders will never cease.


THURSDAY: This morning, the Snare family said goodbye to Pirrko, and they weren 't far from my thoughts for much of the day.

I decided that I would stay put, and put together at least a couple of videos for the entertainment, astonishment and amusement of my YouTube subscribers. Towing a bloody big caravan up a 3.7km mountain drive to an altitude of 300m from sea level is a stupid thing to do, and yes I did it, and yes, the camera was running while I did it. And so, it's only fair that I should put my hand up, admit my transgression, and share it with the world. As I mentioned previously, the signal is pretty sketchy here, but I have succeeded (as I write this at 9.05pm) to upload 63% of the video.

To balance that, I also extracted the Marlgu Billabong footage from our Savannah Way set, and prepared that for upload also. I didn't do any filming there on Tuesday, but I really couldn't add to the collection of images that I had filmed in 2011 and 2013.
Tomorrow, I have the choice of moving on or staying for another day/night and do some more editing.

When I find a spot to camp for the night, it's usually quite evident what the spot is – an old (recent or current) roadworks metal dump, a gravel pit, a layby, a designated campspot, a smooth flat spot a few metres from the road … there's a number of things that you look for when choosing the spot. Some people like to get 2-300 metres off the road hidden in the bush, I just want to get somewhere where it's flat, a safe distance from the road, and possibly not attractive enough invite a neighbor … I have the generator running at 9.15 pm to ensure that I have enough power to finish uploading the video – if I lose power, the computer dies, and my upload is stuffed. If I have neighbors, I don't have the luxury of being selfish. I was curious when I pulled in here yesterday, there is a gateway, a large flat area that looks almost like a carpark, but there are piles of road metal. This morning I took a walk and actually took notice of where I am. There is a set of cattle yards nearby, the gate opens to that area, and it suddenly became obvious the “car park” is a marshalling and turning area for trucks moving cattle. There are no animals in the yards at the moment, so I figure that I'm pretty safe and won't be in the way of any activity over the next couple of days.


FRIDAY: I decided to hang around for another day, and do a bit more editing. Meanwhile a promising quickish upload of the Marlgu Billabong slowed, and slowed, and slowed, and then when finally uploaded stalled on processing. It appears I may have to start again.

I had the camera running on Tuesday as I left Wyndham, and decided that I would selectively edit some of the gorgeous countryside to be seen between the Parry Creek area and the turn off to the Bungles. Photos and grabs are one thing, but video has that extra dimension. Unfortunately, wide screen video doesn't accurately reflect the size and magnitude that the scenery deserves. Keep an eye open for that one.

OK, I promised it. This is the video of the Caravan Hillclimb. Enjoy, laugh, deride, shake your head, all of that. I did it. Mind you you, I thought my son was crazy doing some of the stuff he did at Karijini last year … it's true, you catch it from your kids …


SATURDAY: I decided to move along, and left my spot just after 9.33. I cruised down to Mary Pool, which was pretty vacant when I got there, probably not more than a dozen or so vans parked under the trees. I walked down to the old crossing, to find the Mary River pretty much dry with just a few pools hosting the birdlife. I heard a motor and turned around as a guy in a side by side (Polaris 4 wheeled buggy thingy) cruised past me, down onto the river bed, and disappeared up stream.

Gnumban Cliff Rest Area cruised into view, and I decided that I would check out the view one more time and grab some lunch. I got talking to a lady who told me that she was from Atherton, she was heading towards Cervantes, and had promised her husband that she would be home before Christmas. Seems that he is 77, doesn't travel, doesn't have a lot of outside interests, but loves his work as an accountant, and is happy for his wife to do her own thing. So much so that he bought the motorhome for her and their daughter to travel in.

I had signal, and figured that I just might stay here for the night. The main advantage in driving on is that it is a damn sight cooler in the car than in the caravan. I am trying not to use fuel running the generator for air con purposes. Temps are in the mid 30's up here at the moment. I know it's been chilly down south, but the heat is also starting to get a bit wearing.


SUNDAY: I watched the F1 qualifying last night until Lando Norris's big prang. It was going to take a while to clear the track, plus it was raining. I could have been there all night, but I did the smart thing and went to bed. The temps are hot during the day, and sometimes, they cool down pretty well at night time. Last night it stayed warm until early morning. 6am, I was awake, and by 7am, I was settled in front of the tele to watch the NASCAR Daytona race. The race finished at 11am, and by 11.46, I was on the road.

As you leave the Gnumban Cliffs Rest Area, there is a series of jump ups that you drive down through that make for some impressive viewing before you drive through the pass onto the flat plain. It is equally as impressive viewing travelling in the opposite direction.

Fitzroy Crossing came, I topped up the tank, and then moved on toward the Ellendale Rest Area. It was stinking hot at FC, and by Ellendale, it was starting to cool off (a bit). I passed a cyclist who was pushing into the wind in 35+ temps. There have been a number in the last few days, and one wonders how they shape up after a day in hot conditions.

My memories of Ellendale Rest Area are that it is situated on the side of a hill. A couple of the sites are flat(tish), and those had been grabbed. It beggars belief that the authorities place these camping areas on sloping ground. It's almost as though they look at a map, do a pin the tail on the donkey, stick in a pin, and yep, that's where we'll put it. I was sure that I had found a perfect spot a couple of years ago, only a few kms from Ellendale, flat, metal dump, and with Telstra reception … yep, there it was, and in no time I was set up, and at 3.20pm, I was set up, genny pumping, a/c on (yes I know I said I was trying not to use fuel trying to stay cool) it was 35° (feels like 33.5°), and watching the end of the footy.

More motorsport tonight with F1. It's a tough life …

I wound up putting 196 kms behind me today – cooler in the car than out. There seems to be less vans on the road, at least out here. It will be interesting to see what the volume is once I head south from Roebuck Plains. That will be the day after tomorrow ...maybe.

MONDAY: It was late yesterday afternoon, and I was settled in to my metal dump, and there was a knock on the door. I didn't recognise the person standing outside, and my immediate thought was this guy is going to move me on.

“It is”, he said, “You're Laurie Kibblewhite, I'm Rod Griffiths”.
My lifelong friend in Perth, Wendy, and I often chatted on the phone, and I had fair knowledge that her brother and his wife Frankie were on their way back from Darwin, where they had been visiting their daughter's family. They had got caught up in the shutdown bother, and had a double whammy, because they had left their van in Katherine and had stayed at their daughter's house. Wendy and I had wondered how they would get on when they got back to the border. As it turned out, they got there just after the isolation orders had been rescinded, and had got through unscathed by Sir Mark's restrictions.

They had just put in a big day, covering some 700kms, hoping to reach Broome today, and by chance, had stayed in this metal dump on their way east, and tonight, arrived back in the same camp spot. Frankie had gone for a wander, glass of wine in hand, saw the blue plates, and knowing that I was in the area, told Rod that she thought it was me. I hadn't seen Rod since I was about 18-19.
And so we sat and chatted, got Wendy on the phone, and laughed at how chance had re-united us after all these years.

I gave up waiting for the grand prix to start at 10pm, made sure that the recorder would run into the night and hit the sack. 6Am, a quick review of all that had been recorded and I figured that I would get an early start. I only intended to drive about 150km today, and then settle down in the afternoon under a tree somewhere.

I said my goodbyes to the Griffiths, expecting them to pass me somewhere along the track, and started the cruiser. The clutch felt light, that was odd. Along the way, the clutch pedal was getting closer and closer to the floor and was becoming decidedly floppy. I was in gear, was moving, and I decided I wasn't stopping. I reached the turnoff to Derby, and turned towards Broome and there were roadworks, and a stop signal. Damn. I pulled over, let everyone through, and when the light turned green, depressed the clutch that inch or so that was left, and shoved the lever forward … YES, it clunked into gear. I was 14km to Willare, would I make it? No more dramas as I rolled into the car park. A phone call to my mate Glenn (who had organised the new engine into the old girl a couple of years prior), who told me what I needed to do. I required brake fluid and top the master cylinder at the very least.

I checked the shelves in the roadhouse. Truck wash, tick, copious amounts of lawnmower fuel and boat engine oils, tick, some other crap. NO Engine oils or fluids at all. The tourist with an emergency situation had no hope.

It was back on the road, man handling the gear lever into place, and heading for Roebuck Plains Roadhouse. I got going, and I wasn't stopping … except for when one of the window catches let go, the window started flopping and I had to make some emergency repairs. Again, it let me select gears, and I took off.

I had no intention of staying in Broome. I did have an old muso mate and close friend Karen in town, and I had decided to check her out if she was available. I now two incentives to stop, and the main one was the clutch, and a required gas exchange from Bunnings. I walked into the roadhouse, asked if it was possible to get a spot for two nights, and to my surprise, the answer was yes. I guess everybody wants to stay in town, some 30kms away. I grabbed a bottle of brake fluid, and started therapy on the clutch. It wasn't happy. I did some washing, and at 5 o'clock or thereabouts, I hopped in the car to do a quick recce of Broome before turning up for a dinner date with Karen and her girlfriend at 7.30. It did not want to go into gear. More fluid, pumping, and clunk and I was away. I was having second thoughts about the wisdom of this at this stage.

9pm and I'm sitting in the car in the car park next to the Cable Beach Club. I had reversed into my spot after managing to negotiate my way to the area with just one gear, 4th, and the gear lever would not slot in. I had topped the fluid, and was furiously pumping the pedal, nothing. I rang the RAC. A tow truck would get to me (maybe) and tow me to their depot either tonight or tomorrow morning. I kept pumping and trying the lever …. and it slotted in … I took off, did a couple of laps of the car park, found that I had some movement back, I cancelled the RAC and took off. I had 30 kms to go... and I got lost. Bloody Broome, narrow streets, no signage – well if there was, it was dark, I'm blind, and there's next to no street lighting. I wasn't game to stop, but somehow got google maps to guide me out of town and back to the safety of my hotel.

Now, I have to hope I can get it happening in the morning, and find someone to repair it … and I'm not feeling very hopeful.

It was a lovely dinner and great catch-up.


TUESDAY: Well, it's all come to a crushing halt. A ring around this morning, and the earliest I can get some one to check out the clutch is Friday. So accepting that I have no option, I checked at the desk of the caravan park, and have extended to Saturday at this stage. One can only hope that the parts (if) needed are available in town. And so, being as I am 30 km out of town, I would say that Broome is safe from a rampage from this guy.

I thought I might try and go into town again this morning, but after a bit of mucking around with a jammed gearbox, admitted defeat. I shoved it into gear, then started the engine and managed to get moving, but then it wouldn't change gear. So stop the engine put it in reverse and re-started the engine, and backed out. Wouldn't change gear again, so stopped the engine, and it couldn't shift the lever. I was stuck in the middle of the (caravan park) road. I finally got things happening again, and got parked beside the van again. It is going to be interesting on Friday. If I can get it into 4th and start the engine, I will be able to fudge my way into town … that's how I did it last night.

And so, I set up the computer system, and we'll have a look at doing some more editing over the next couple of days.


WEDNESDAY: Nope, nothing to report. I did a couple of edits, one featuring Halls Creek and the Duncan Road, and another featuring the Zebra Rock Gallery just over the border in the Northern Territory. I managed to upload them both, but the net has gone silly tonight, and even a phone call took 11 attempts and drop outs before we gave it away in disgust.

I've been locked away with the air con, but even so, it feels oppressive, and I don't handle oppressive or humid weather. So I took myself off to bed for just under an hour, and got bored … I don't usually get bored, I can always find something to do. In an act of utter desperation, I dragged out the mop and washed the floor.

I had this feeling that I had paid for 6 nights, and was only intending on staying five, subject to the result of the cars visit to the clutch doctor on Friday. So I took my receipts over to the counter and checked how long I was booked in for … leaving Sunday … that is six nights, all is good. I then found out very quickly how to wean oneself off of chocolate – I was bored, I needed something, you know the way it is. I grabbed a Magnum and a block of the old Cadburys, and fronted the counter. $15.90 she said – I questioned her, I knew the Magnum was priced at $5.95 (don't even ask how I knew that), and I was informed that the choccy was $9.95. I very quickly lost my boredom, returned the gold ingot to the fridge, and walked away muttering to myself as I took my ice cream back to indulge in my cave.

9.40pm, and suddenly, the internet has come back to life. It's the weather, it has to be the weather. It's driving us all crazy.

This is the Halls Creek and Duncan Hwy video. Enjoy.


THURSDAY: I'm buggered if I know. The car was picked up at 2.45pm. At 5.20pm I phoned the repairer to check that the car had been delivered. “No” they replied. I rang the carrier, and a return phone call told me that the car had been delivered to JL Mechanical. “But it was supposed to be delivered to GN Mechanical at Lucas St”, which is around the corner from JL. The carrier has promised to pick it up and deliver it first thing in the morning. I'll believe it when I see it.

I had done a test start this morning, and it didn't work. And so, I rang the RAC, my membership covered the tow, and so it was a no brainer. Get the car there nice and EARLY. It got there early alright, just the wrong place. The next challenge is, if the car does get repaired tomorrow, is to get into town to pick it up.

Today, I dug out my 2005 video of my first ever solo 4wd trip to the Northern Territory as a very raw, totally green 4wd driver. I had decided to drive from Halls Creek to Kununurra via the Duncan Road – intended to be a 2 day tour, but the report of potential rain on the ABC news spooked me. I had been caught in a flash flood a couple of weeks earlier, and I was in an area that had creeks and streams crossing the road as feeder streams to Lake Argyle. I decided to make a run for Kununurra and spent an interesting drive dodging kamikaze walleroos for the next couple of hours as I headed for the Victoria Hwy. And so I edited the video that I had, reminding me what Halls Creek looked like in 2005 compared with the video I released last night of 2013. I must go back and check out last weeks video.

Tomorrow is another day. I just hope they get the car delivered quickly, so that I'm not penalised by having it started later than it could well have been. Can't stress, that is un-necessary energy.


FRIDAY: I'm disappointed. I have been entering fictitious dates for the past few days, and nobody noticed, or thought I was a nutter and “let's not upset him”, or nobody reads stuff in depth anymore. I'm shattered. LOL

10.10am. The car drama has been resolved. I rang the towing mob first thing this morning, who promised me that they would definitely re-move the car to the correct premises as soon as everyone opened up, and then rang the repairer to confirm that we had indeed both been messed around with, and that the car would be there soon. A subsequent check, and the car has indeed now been delivered to the correct address. Now hoping for a speedy repair, or diagnosis as to what the problem is.

5.30PM. I received a phone call at 2.36pm telling me that the car was ready. The Clutch master was stuffed, and it was suggested that I replace the slave as well. I wasn't sure whether this was an up-sell, but if I have doubts about the safety or performance aspect of the car, it's a no-brainer as far as I am concerned. They were both replaced. I am still a long way from home.

Now, i had to get into town. Both of my offers were long gone – I had refused on the grounds that we had no idea at that time whether the car would be repaired (not having any diagnosis at that stage). And now I needed to try and get a lift. I made a decision to do what every mother tells their daughter never to do … I trotted … ok I walked … across the road, and held out a thumb. A car came screeching to a halt, the young lady in the passenger seat asked where I was heading, I told her Broome, hop in she said, and I strapped myself in to the back seat and hung on as the driver sat around the 130-140 mark for the next 14 or 15 minutes. It was a young indigenous couple who lived at a nearby community. The lady held a young baby in her lap (as they do), conversation was impossible over the screaming diff or what ever was making that high pitched sound, until we reached town and travelled at a rate where the whine of the diff had all but disappeared. Google maps led us around a thousand corners until we reached the repairer. I dug a note out of my wallet and thanked them for stopping for me, and walked in to reclaim my Old Girl.

I had taken the opportunity to throw my empty gas cylinder into the cruiser before it was taken into town, and so now was a good opportunity to find Bunnings and do the exchange. Woolworths was the next stop, and I then returned to the sanity and sanctity of Roebuck Plains Roadhouse Caravan Park.

I had an edit of the Undara Lava Tubes still open on my computer from when I left after taking the phone call. Something to complete tonight after the footy, F1 practice and any other vitally important crap on TV.

I don't have a great love for this town, although we did spend some time filming it in some detail back in 2013. But tomorrow, I will drive back in and spend much of the day doing the tourist thing, and see if I can't convince myself that I've got wrong. Mum and Dad used to spend 6 months of year up here, back in the day before it got transformed from the charming little holiday spot to the rampaging tourist mecca of today by Lord McAlpine in the early eighties. It seems to happen to all the "best little secrets", Coral Bay is another. I realise that progress is inevitable, and I'm an old bastard, but unless you were there, you really have no idea.

I have the old girl back. I feel complete.


SATURDAY: This morning was housekeeping. No not cleaning and washing walls and clothes and stuff … organising some money from Centrelink, cooking up meat for storage, that sort of house keeping.

As I mentioned before, I'm not over fussed on Broome. I've been here three times before, I've filmed it in 2013, and that was totally different to what I have on drive by shootings in 2005 … and I'm talking about Chinatown here … an ironic name, because the early pearl divers were Japanese in the main. But because of how WW2 rolled out, I believe it was renamed. The Japanese Cemetery is huge compared to the Chinese Cemetery.
So, if I saw a difference in 2013, I almost didn't recognise the place today. I have just this last week, been asked to supply footage from a Broome video I made a number of years ago, which I have done. It doesn't represent what I saw today. There has been an enormous amount of landscaping, and statues of early influential people have been moved, and the Chinatown precinct looks completely different. If I was unsure before of my feelings with what had transformed before, now I am completely confused.

What I have noticed is that the streets are still all very narrow, and I don't believe that they have given consideration to the potential population increase, both local, and definitely tourist. Maybe once (and if) the country opens up again, the domestic tourist numbers will drop off as people start travelling overseas again to catch their Delta variant (or whatever the next one will be called).

Gantheaume Point hasn't been given a birthday from what I saw, (mind you, I didn't get out of the car to have a look), but the bitumen road still stops at the race course, and the tourist is left to shake, rattle and roll down the dirt road to the car park, with warnings to watch out for horses. This area is a gorgeous piece of coastline, and one would think that the council would have done something to tizz it up a bit without destroying the natural charm of the place.

Cable Beach is Cable Beach. There have been a lot of car parks added, but tonight, I could not find a parking area within cooee of Zanders or the Cable Beach Club or the Sunset Bar and Grill … which are all basically on top of each other. Add to that was a celebration of some sort happening on the beach which I believe had something to do with the Shinju Matsuri Festival of the Pearl, which happens at this time of the year.

I managed to park the car down near Port Hedland and caught up with Karen again, where we had just over an hour to grab a bite to eat, have a drink and chin wag before she had to head off to a corporate “bonding session” with her workmates … just what you need after an exhausting week of normal times, and a weekend of extra duties ahead of you.

It was then back in the Cruiser, which had an extensive clutch workout today, and the 30km drive back to Roebuck Downs Roadhouse Caravan Park. Tomorrow, I leave, and although I've been pretty much locked down because of the car problem, I've been busy. But for me, a day in Broome was enough. I can't say I'll be sorry to leave tomorrow.

I've got 900 kms ahead of me to reach Dales Gorge Campground next Sunday. That's plenty of time, but I must admit I was a tad worried until I knew for sure that the car would be, and was, ready to travel.

Onward ...


SUNDAY: Moving day. I was up early, cleaned up, hooked up, watered up, and on my way by 8.18am.

A hundred days hey! I know they measure the first hundred days of our political leaders opening term in office, but how many of us sit down and ponder over what we did and what we achieved over the previous hundred days. I know if you asked me, I generally wouldn't have a clue. I'd have a general idea, but when you are on the road, one day tends to blend into the next week and that blurs into the next month … it's a fact, you lose a sense of time. It's only by going back through my blog, that I find that the main inspiration for this journey was to visit Cameron Corner, and I achieved that on Day Thirty Two. That was a definite goal. What has happened since really hasn't been part of a plan. I had a loose plan to return via the Outback Way, but the damages inflicted on the caravan started to have me doubting the wisdom of that. And then Covid really kicked in, and the only way home became via Kununurra or Border Village, as all of the other entrance points were closed. And so that dictated the general route that I would be forced to take.

I have found in the past, that journeys planned rarely go according to the script, and the resultant chaos generally winds up in an adventure you wouldn't write for yourself, but you sure as hell wouldn't re-write the resultant plot either. I think back to our “disastrous” Birdsville Track trip in 2010. What transpired became a favourite adventure to reflect on. The video is on You Tube.

I sat down last night and dragged out the old Broome tapes, and started grabbing images of the transformation of the town over the years. And when I pulled into Stanley Rest Area this afternoon, I downloaded yesterdays video, and added the most recent images to the collection. It's amazing what the mind “thinks” it remembers, and whilst the work is ongoing, the renovations to the Chinatown precinct have definitely made a difference and the place looks fantastic. I indicated that Broome isn't my favourite place on earth, but I have to emphasize, I don't hate the place. I was musing to the camera in the car, that I couldn't put my finger on it, but something just didn't click with me. In some ways, it equates with Bali as a destination, for those who just want to chill and escape from the world and sit back in the sun and suck on their margaritas or whatever those people do. But as I discovered when I did go to Bali, get away from the frilly bits, and there is much to discover.

It's like Kooljamin (Cape Leveque) which is just up the road. There is the “tourist” bit, but how many of those tourists actually explore all of the delights that are to be found off road, and comprise the “real” Dampier Peninsula. And that is just one bit of the potential for expanding on the Broome experience. I filmed that in 2011 as well. There is so much to ensure that Broome should be toward the top of my “wanna be there” list, but for some reason, it just isn't.

I was talking to one of my girls today, she managed to get through as I was travelling through one of the signal areas, and she asked me how long before I got back into Western Australia. I told her that I'd been back for a couple of weeks. I told her all of that information was in the blog. “Oh, I don't read that, it's too long, but I do look at the pictures”. Thanks darlin'. So I started to wonder, how many of you actually do read the bullshit that I write, and how many just look at the pics, and how many think “oh no, not him again ” and scroll to the next story. How many tick “like” (we all do that now, don't we?) and don't read. It's not going to stop me writing, this blog is my diary, but sometimes it's nice to know that others are suffering with you … LOL

It's almost dinner time, and news time. And then a Grand Prix to keep me entertained during the evening.

Happy Fathers Day.


MONDAY: Just another transport day today. I stayed at Stanley Rest Area last night, and cruised down the highway for 193 kms, and found a spot a couple of kms from a Telstra Tower on the side of the road for tonight.

My entertainment was provided by a group of 5 caravans who all overtook me within a couple of minutes of each other. I wondered whether they were travelling together as they stayed in line for a few minutes. We were on a straight piece of road and it didn't take long for the jostling to begin. Number one took off, closely followed by number two – why don't they wait until an overtake has been completed successfully before committing themselves. Then the guy at the back decided it was his turn … I could see a vehicle approaching from right to left, and the GPS confirmed that there was a bend in the road … uh oh I thought … then he saw it and pulled back into line. I picked up the mic and commented “this is fun sitting back here watching you caravans overtaking each other – it's like a scene from Top Gear and more entertaining than an F1 race” … “Eric, do you want to change to ch 17?” came a voice over the UHF. They were obviously travelling together.
There was a fair wind blowing, and depending whether the road was travelling west or south, there was a good cross breeze or tail wind.
“Geez, 100 kms in this bloody wind” Eric commented on the 2 way. I resisted the temptation to suggest if he slowed it back a touch, he wouldn't find it so hard to control his rig.

I have 155 kms to run tomorrow, where I hope to catch up with my son for a cuppa as he heads north to Broome. Then he comes back and we reconnect at Dales Gorge Camp Ground in Karijini on Sunday … at least, that's the plan. And we all know about plans, don't we?


TUESDAY: What did I say last night about plans?
“at least, that's the plan. And we all know about plans, don't we?”
I was preparing breakfast when the phone rang, and Sharleen (who was a few kms behind me as we overlap each other day to day asked “Have you heard the news?” Of course, I hadn't. It seems that the road is closed from the DeGrey Rest Area south and along the Marble Bar Road, because of a bushfire. It also happened that part of the Great Northern Hwy below Port Hedland was closed for similar reasons. Well, this was set to put a cat among the pigeons, as we were travelling south, and my son Brett was travelling towards us via Marble Bar.

And so, rather than rely on the ABC, I jumped onto the main roads and Port Hedland road condition sites, to find that the DeGrey closure had been lifted, but proceed with caution. The other one was still closed.

I had planned to get to the Split Rocks Camp ground and sit until Brett passed through tomorrow. I could sit where I was, or head south (it's actually west) and deal with whatever.
Pardoo was asking $1.89 for their diesel, and so I lashed out and put 20 ltrs in the tank as insurance, and headed for DeGrey. The campground is on the eastern side of the river, and there is no phone signal. I had a bite to eat, and crossed the river, and the phone burst into life. I ask you … The booster found nothing.

You could see smoke in the distance, and a new bit was starting to the west. As we rolled down toward the Marble Bar junction, there was ample evidence that the fire had been here, in fact there was a portion still burning by the road. I pulled into Split Rock and found myself surrounded by scorched ground. I parked up, pointed the car at the road (some 6-700m away) in the middle of a metal dump area, and figured there was nothing left to burn here, so I should be safe. Another couple of vans pulled in a little further away. We have these couple of hills here behind us … it's beyond them that there is still flame happening. I believe there are about 4 firetrucks attending to that.

It has been very hot and windy the past few days, and there is a total fire ban in operation. It's no wonder this fire got started.


WEDNESDAY: For goodness sake, it's happened again. I am camping in area with tons of room, and they parked about 45m away. Bloody hell people, it' not a a flippin' caravan park. Surely you have enough sense to understand that some people like and want their space. I left it about half an hour before I turned on the generator, but it might run a fair bit later tonight. Dinner will be a frozen meal, and that really makes the genny puff up it's chest and roar …

I had a visitor last night. I told you that my son Brett was travelling toward me, and that we intended to stop for a coffee as we crossed paths. Things change, and the fires along the Marble Bar Road kept him travelling on until he reached the Split Rock Camp site. Usually, I stay with him in Perth, and he wont let me near his kitchen, preferring instead to feed me. Last night, I was able to get my own back, and I had a cooked dinner ready for him when he arrived about 6.45. He set up his camp, and then we were able to sit down and catch up on the past 4 months.

This morning, a cuppa, and he continued on his way to Broome. I decided to have a lay day, so spent the day watching a NASCAR race on You Tube, sleeping for a couple of hours, and other stuff you normally do on a Sunday … LOL

Tomorrow, I plan to have a bo-peep around Port Hedland again, do some shopping, and then start moving toward Karijini.


THURSDAY: Something didn't add up. The running day count appeared to be day 104 today when I figured that I have been on the road 15 weeks, and that equates to 105 days. I took a look back, and it was July 2nd when I got the day count wrong. Is it really important, probably not, but I do like to try and be accurate in my telling of the tale … although, yes, sometimes a little stretching of the truth, but then, that's what good journalism is all about … isn't it. It's all about grabbing your audience and to hell with the truth …

I still have no idea whether my neighbours were two girls, or one of each, but I only ever saw the one person. They left about 10 minutes before me. It was 50 kms into Port Hedland, and I figured that I would have a quick look at the port town. Woolworths, and it's early, and so I found somewhere to park shutting off a shopping centre driveway … well if they wont cater for us guys, you sometimes have to make up your own rules. You do have to use a bit of nous though. I recall a cop writing a ticket for a guy who parked injudiciously in the main street of Longreach with car and camper.

Shopping done, and I took a Cook's tour of the town. Apparently a caravanner (or someone) got in the way of a truck driver who vented on the UHF, and another half a dozen joined in the conversation. It was quite entertaining, however, there is no point transcribing the convo, (yes, it recorded to my video) because by the time you've taken out all the F's and C's and every other descriptive letter of the alphabet, it wouldn't make any sense anyway.

There is a lot of roadwork happening within the city, and so I followed the coast around to find out where and how the locals live. The problem as I see it, is that my first impressions of everywhere being covered by red dust back in 2005, hasn't changed. And nor would it change, as there are a number of separate railway lines feeding into the port from the iron ore mines of the Pilbara, those trains each towing around 2 kms of rail trucks full of the red ore. Add to that the hundreds of road trains pulling in ore from the smaller mines as well. It doesn't allow for an attractive town.

It was time to head for South Hedland. I needed fuel and a gas cylinder exchange. Bunnings was in my mind, but I found my favoured Puma fuel station just over the rail bridge, and their gas bottle swap price was only a couple of dollars dearer. Deal done.

I moved out of town, heading down the Great Northern Highway. I had noticed that Port Hedland had closed the road between the North West Coastal Hwy and Indee earlier in the week. The road was now open with caution. It was soon apparent that both sides of the road were blackened, and it was understandable why the road had been closed.

Tonight I am 278 kms from Dales Gorge Camp ground, where I am due to arrive on Sunday. So plenty of time drift into Karijini. Tonight, I can entertain myself counting the number of ore trucks passing my camp spot.


FRIDAY: I have slept beside busy highways in every state of mainland Australia on this trip, and on every night as the sun goes down, the traffic ceases. You might get the odd truck or car drive past and that's it. That's not the case on the Great Northern Hwy between Newman and Port Hedland. This 451 km stretch of road is a direct feeder route for all of the smaller mines that sit along it's route, and the ore has to be delivered to the port. The big mines all have their own railways, the smaller operators have to do it by road. And these mines never stop, they operate 24 hrs a day … and so do the trucks. They travel west loaded with their cargo, and return empty … like bees to the Queen Bee, only doing the carriage in reverse. Camping by the highway is reminiscent of the scene in the Blues Brothers where the trains pass the window incessantly.

I had absolutely no internet last night, right up until the moment I decided to try to upload my blog and photos, when it suddenly kicked in and I had lightning fast speeds. This spot doesn't have phone reception according to my Wikicamps app, although it is available apparently at the next camp site up the road, just a few kms away. I have been in campsites where the app has indicated that signal is available, and I couldn't get a peep. One starts to wonder how reliable some of the info is … mind you, it is all user driven. The digital signal is a strange animal. At 7.30 this morning, I had strong signal, 10 minutes later … gone. The old analog signal faded and you had a chance, the digital signal seems to have a wall … 1 metre past it's reach, and poof.

My passage was impeded by a train. Most of the train had gone by when I reached the crossing, but I started counting anyway. 63 I got to, wagons that is as the last one rolled by. These things are generally around 2 kms long. Just around the corner and heading up the hill, was “The Cutting”, the spot that the Cruiser, when it was asked to climb through here last time, just chucked a wobbly, and quietly died. No such dramas this time. From a standing start at the rail crossing, it proudly hauled the van (3.2 Tonne) and me ( …) up the hill, accelerating as it went.

The countryside just changes from flat grassland to flat lightly covered surrounded by hills to the rich blue and red hills that are the Chichester and Hamersley Ranges. And the roads are amazingly good considering the hundreds of trucks weighing around 175 tonnes that pass in both directions on a daily basis.

I arrived in Auski in a far happier way than I did in 2019. Then I was towed in by a Mitsubishi ute, this time proudly under her own steam. But now I had a problem. I'm 2 days early, so after much thought, I figured what the heck, and booked in for two nights. That will let me take the car off and do a run to Wittenoom and other wildly dangerous places tomorrow … have a look at the area I last explored in 2005.


SATURDAY: I had booked into Auski Resort and Caravan Park for two nights. I am booked into Karijini for three nights on the 12th, and so with a day to waste, I decided to hell with the expense, become a tourist for a day, and today it was.

I cut the van loose, and headed for Wittenoom. I'd last visited in 2005, and since then, the population had reportedly shrunk to one. If that is the case, he/she lives in a number of places, as the Private Property – No Entry signs were in abundant evidence. I took a run up the gorge, taking note that the signage warned that asbestos was present and “don't stop”. I kept the windows wound up, and switched the air con to recirculate (essential when driving through dusty as well as asbestos plagued areas), and then mused that this beautiful gorge is somewhat cut off from the general public because of mining, and in this case an insidious product. It is safe in it's raw form when uninterrupted, but unfortunately, tailings remain in the general area.

It was time to move on. I remembered that the Hamersley Gorge has a road through it, albeit a very narrow road. It is a one lane passage. And it is necessary to call ahead on ch40 to warn of your presence in the gorge. You really don't want to meet a truck heading in the opposite direction. There are very few opportunities to pass. I could not believe the number of vehicles lined up at the Gorge Pool area. I seem to recall I was on my own way back, and I actually climbed my way down to pool. There was no way I was attempting that today, regardless of the steps and other aids to help you get there and back safely.

I passed Mount Bruce, Western Australia's second highest mountain (by just 15m to Mount Meharry which is 62 km away), as I now travelled along the southern perimeter of Karijini NP. Back onto the Great Northern Hwy, and The Albert Tognolini Lookout – overlooking Munjina East Gorge – which the road descends through to the plain which separates the Hamersley and Chichester Ranges.

Finally back at the caravan park, and 265 kms added to the odometer. A great day.

WEDNESDAY: Where was I? In fact where am I?
I met up with my son Brett and friend Monika, and we have been out of range and out of communication with the outside world for the past few days (except for Danny Rics great win and Scotty's commendable 9th place), having been domiciled (is that the word) in Karijini National Park. It's been a few years since I've been there – 16 to be exact – and things have changed. When I was last there, the gorges were there, there was access as I recall, but there was none of the comforts and rubbish that's put there for the tourist these days. That 's the problem with pristine places, instead of leaving them alone, they decide to organise and manage the influx, and generally destroy the natural charm and ambience. However, if it HAD been left alone, the general influx would destroy the place anyway. Unfortunately, the world's best kept secrets are rapidly becoming anything but …
What can't be changed, (unless it is mined indiscriminately) are the gorges and mountains that are thousands of millions of years old, and one imagines in many cases, never been walked upon or climbed by any human being ever.

I'm not going to describe too much of what we did, I'll let the pics do that, but we did take an afternoon out and took a spin down to Tom Price. It is in the shadow of a huge hill called Mt Nameless. It's becoming more common now for local places to be joint named with their indigenous names, and why not? The white man came to these shores, and instead of asking the local population what these places were called, pompously named them after their white kin folk. Why would you call a mountain Mount Nameless, when for tens of thousands of years, the local indigenous population have called it Jarndunmunha.

But I digress. When I was last here in 2005, I was a total newbie to 4wd ownership, but I bravely decided to drive up this gargantuan hill. I confess to suffering from a touch of vertigo, and apart from the drive up scaring the crap out of me, when I got there, I walked around the car hanging on with this affliction giving me merry hell … and there's no reason for it. Mind you, you need low range 4wd, and there's a bloody big drop on one side of you if you happen to be on the outside when needing to pass someone coming down whilst you are ascending … or vice versa. So there I was hanging on, when a couple of hikers walked up onto the summit from somewhere … Then I had to drive back down. Going down is not as bad as going up. If you stop going up and have to reverse … But going down you can see where you are going and you can presumably control the impending disaster and steer to your doom …

It's safe to say we didn't go up there this time, we ran out of time … that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Back at Karijini, we called in and had a look at the Eco Resort and the only eating establishment in park. From there you can drive directly back to our campground at Dales Gorge, or take the bitumen right around, a considerably longer distance. We had been told that the gravel road was bad, but decided to see how it went – we could always back track. About halfway along, it turned mongrel. The corrugations were I'm sure re-positioned gorges. Defeated, we dropped the tyre pressures to about 18lb and had a relatively comfortable ride back to camp.
My question is, why, when you have thousands of tourists all pre-booked coming through the parks, do they not not maintain their roads. The grader was sitting there. Does no-one know how to start it and operate it? It's like they will not clean up the vegetation debris, because the park “should be kept in it's natural state”, and then it gets ravaged by an uncontrollable bushfire. Don't get me started … oops sorry, too late.

If you do have an opportunity to visit the North West of Western Australia, do it. The countryside up here is just absolutely magnificent. There are ooh' and aahs everywhere you go. And if you want to see a magnificent slab of rock without having to do the off road journey to Australia's largest monocline (Mount Augustus) or largest monolith (Uluru), Mount Bruce (WA's second highest peak) is right there beside the road near the western entrance to the park.


THURSDAY: We left Karajini yesterday and headed toward Newman. Brett and Monika were on a mission to get back to Perth by tonight, so they skedaddled whilst I did the usual tortoise and hare type running. The countryside along this stretch of road is spectacular. The pics taken from video grabs and posted elsewhere give an idea of what to expect, but unfortunately, the wide angle aspect ratio destroys the true vision of what to expect.

I drove into Newman looking for a parking spot. The streets are narrow and are not designed for towing a 30’ behemoth through the town. I hadn’t expected to see Brett and Monica again - they had arrived in town a good hour before, so it was a surprise that they saw me cruise past the Dome Cafe as they waited on an early lunch, and phoned me to let me know where they were. A quick cuppa and lunch, they headed south and I visited Woolworths.

It was time to fuel up … or is that FOOL up? As I left the servo, I managed to scrape the awning along one of those bollards that they have placed at either end of driveway to prevent silly old bastards like me from knocking the pumps over. A quick dodgy repair job and that should do the job until I hit … no, DON’T use that word … reach Perth.

I stopped at Kumarina Roadhouse, and found a camp spot just down the road. The hard drive that holds all of this trips data was giving me some trouble. So I found out how to repair it, and set it happening. I didn’t realise that it would take all night to do the job. This morning, my freshly rejuvenated batteries (after 3 days of non charging) were now in worse condition than before, so I put the genny to work whilst I used the time to grab pics from the car video footage. At 10.22 I hit the road.

I reached the Gascoyne River Middle Branch, where there is a 24 hr rest area. I didn’t have ideas of staying, but figured that I would check it anyway. There were many tracks leading by the river, and I decided to check one out. It wasn’t a good idea. I had to descend slightly down to what looked like a lovely camp spot. It became obvious as I got closer, that the spot was great for a campervan, or a solo 4wd. There was no escape out the other side – and I was like a fat rabbit stuck head first down a rabbit hole. I hit reverse, and started the retreat, then the wheels started spinning. I put in the hubs, selected 4wd, and with the extra grip, had another crack. Because of the angle of entry, I had to reverse and steer the van back onto the track I had initially come in on. Everything stopped – an obstruction had decided that I wasn’t going anywhere. It was a small shrubby tree that was the problem, and so I had to spend a few minutes manoeuvring back and forth until I managed to move clear. Then it was into first gear, and escape. I had got out of jail, fortunately without damage to the hotel.

I stopped at a corner to a mine. This was the Plutonic Gold Mine, and some 950 kms from my home base back in 1993-4. My duo had been booked to play a gig at the mine site. We drove up on Saturday, did the 4 hr gig, and prepared to leave again on Sunday morning. I had a Falcon Panel Van, and we were loaded with PA, Amps, Guitars, Keyboards, and other associated junk that muso’s use to ply their trade. The trip up had been uneventful, but a curious shake surfaced as we set off back to Perth. I checked out the wheels, tyres looked good, wheel bearings felt good, and the load was secure We adjusted the travelling speed until we found a smooth running tempo - 120 -130 kph. I booked the car into my local tyre dealer the next day for wheel alignment, balancing, and to replace a front tyre that they found a large bubble on the inside of the rim. We definitely missed a bullet that day.

I was planning to get close to Meekatharra tonight, but 98 kms from the town, I decided to stop and have a rest - hadn’t slept all that well last night. It is right outside a mine site, and I have strong signal. That’ll do.


FRIDAY: They say that if you persevere long enough, you will eventually succeed in what you are attempting to do.
The following, is a GPS co-ordinate. -25.88818, 118.96015
At that precise co-ordinate, there is a perfectly good set of caravan steps. No further comment.

I left my camp spot at 8.34, and headed toward Meekatharra. I had studied my maps last night, and was curious about a supposed point of interest listed as the Bilyuin Hotel (ruin). I drove in and eventually found what I think was all that remained, which was a large water tank and a dam. The area is now used as a freecamp called Bilyuin Pool.

Back to the main road, Meekatharra reached, and my usual drive around the back streets. Most of the shops are closed, and much of the housing can be called at best “historic”, meaning it’s been there ever since it was built and is generally pretty basic. I couldn’t believe the number of churches, and most in the one street almost next to each other. They certainly outnumbered the pubs, which might not have been the case back in the town’s heyday. I found the potable water supply, topped up the tanks and refuelled. The fuel number is suffering, as I was driving into a stiff headwind. I’ve been lucky for most of the trip with a tail wind having pushed me around half of the country in Queensland and the Northern Territory. My last good look at Meeka was in 2009 when we filmed the Kennedy Ranges and Mount Augustus.

Cue was the next town. I love the architecture of the town – much of it is stone built. And of course there is the two story house made of corrugated iron in the back street. I saw another one just like it in Barcaldine.

As I write this, I have found a spot deep behind a parking area about 10kms from Mount Magnet. 323 kms done. Perth is getting closer and I am in two minds whether I actually want to be there. But the mail today tells me that I am booked in for a procedure in October. Guess that answers that.


SATURDAY: Today was just another quiet transport day, travelling from my overnight stop near Mount Magnet to a new camp just south of Paynes Find.

Did I say quiet? Trucks. I've seen a few trucks over the past week as we travelled through the mining areas, but I reckon I saw more trucks today than I have in the last week. It's Saturday for heavens sake.

And Caravans travelling north. There were so many travelling in groups of four, that it couldn't be coincidence. Were they members of a caravan group, friends heading to the show weekend at Mount Magnet (surely they would be there by now), or ... just coincidence?

I am so used to travelling through almost deserted towns out here, driving through Mount Magnet resembled driving in the city. There was a market set up, and the town was teeming with people and vehicles. I chose to film as I drove through and not stop.

Roadworks took up a fair chunk of the highway toward Paynes Find, and I was following four road trains with more behind me, and I looked forward to the relative serenity of that village.

How wrong can you be? The place was teeming with trucks, caravans, and the pub section of the roadhouse was in full swing. And there was another of those 8.5 metre road transport detail approaching from the south.

I scarpered, and found an Idyllic little spot just south of the town, and watched as the 8.5 metre wide trucks trundled past. I decided that this was an ideal spot to spend the night. I've got a couple of motor races that will record in the morning, so I may well still be here on Monday morning.


MONDAY: It’s almost all over. I’ve been on the road for four months … that’s nothing, there are those out there who have been travelling for one, two, four years or more, but most of them have been travelling with their partner. They’ve had some one to share their journey with, to get some feedback on whether what they are doing is smart or just plain stupid. To marvel and be gobsmacked at what they are looking at in real life. To sit down with each other at night and have a glass of woobla while discussing and reminiscing over what went before in the past few hours. And have someone to do the double check as to whether they have left ….

I like to tell that I enjoy travelling on my own, and I have my camera to talk to, but the fact is, you do wish you had someone to share all of those experiences with. My solution is to share my trip with my readers, and to share the visions that I see in photo form, but photos do not convey the reality of the view – and I’m talking snapshots … not carefully crafted photos with good quality equipment - that is putting down the serious photographer, and their creations are something else.

My readers are special to me, but I am never sure whether I have just half a dozen readers who actually interact with me, or many more who read the first couple of lines and hit the like button … I often wonder how many have actually read and followed my bullshit and have never given a feedback like, but do read religiously … Actually, that question was answered to a degree a number of posts ago.

But I digress. The trip will finish tomorrow – Tuesday, September 21. How do I feel about that? I am in two minds. One gets used to climbing out of bed, having breakfast, preparing to move on, driving for a few hours each day, pulling up when YOU want to, sitting down, writing and preparing the blog – it takes 2-3 hours by the time I have downloaded footage, done the video grabs, prepared the photos, and having it all ready to upload … IF you have signal to do that with… preparing dinner, watching any programs you may have recorded overnight … it is a selfish existence doing all that, but if someone comes back with a comment, or a quip, or joins in the fun of whatever dumb thing I’ve done that day, then THAT makes it all worthwhile. I guess the question is, why do I even bother? I don’t have a great memory, and this is my diary, along with the photos, and the video collection that is the record of my life over the past 15 years.

The other side is that I’m not young any more, I’m not fit, and it will be nice to know that I can just sit down at my computer any time I like and do my thing, without first having to drag it off the bed, set it up, and then pull it all apart again when I’ve finished with it. I can sit and be a bum and watch TV all day if I wish … which I won’t be I hasten to add. I love driving, I should have been born with wheels, not legs. But it is becoming tiring, and I can do without dealing with trucks and “bloody caravanners” looming up in my rear vision mirror. And I am looking forward to being able to spend some time with my muso mates playing some music again. The urge has been growing again of late. I have my piano on board with me, but it hasn’t been out of it’s case since I left.

I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks where my head is at. Speaking of my head, I am looking forward to getting a haircut. I never look in the mirror, and I forget to shave, and so I currently look like Catweazel. That is about to change. And clean clothes. Because I choose to freecamp – I am not able to afford to spend a fortune on caravan parks AND fuel, - water is always a rare commodity – especially when you run out like I did last night …

I woke up this morning and it was a no-brainer that I would watch the Indycar race before doing anything else. I had a mission to get to Dalwallinu, to find some water to replenish my tank, and to start making arrangements for my return to the big city. I needed to book the van in for service and repairs, and I also needed to arrange for storage whilst I was in Perth. I have medical appointments to attend in October, and the earliest I could get the van in is November 2nd.

I got away at 9.55am. My eyesight is better than it was a couple of years ago thanks to some cataract surgery, but it’s still not brilliant. I thought I saw something crossing the road a fair way in front of me. I did see something … It was a family of emus, the old man ushering the chicks across the road.

I rumbled into Wubin. I lived in Morawa back in 1968-1971, and used to drive from Morawa to Albany on a regular basis. Wubin is the junction where the Mullewa – Wubin Road and Great Northern Hwy intersect. It was just a town that I drove through, I had no reason to stop and check it out. Just twelve months ago, I had done a run up this way to check out the wildflowers, which was really just an excuse to revisit my old stomping ground, and check out in detail the other towns that I used to drive through … sadly, those that still existed. But I still hadn’t had a look at Wubin. I put that right today.

I learned a lesson back in 2010 with regard to service stations. Many towns have a service station at either end of town, and the traveller will invariably call in to the first one – they are tired, they want to fill up, grab some refreshment, walk around, loosen up … BUT, if they had taken the time to drive through town first, they may well have found that the two service stations on the perimeter, were in fact much dearer than the one in the middle of town. In Miles in Qld in 2010, the difference was $0.15 a litre. This morning in Wubin, it was $0.10 a litre between the Mobil and the BP, the only two servos, and positioned at either end of town.

I reached Dalwallinu, actually asked at the information centre if I could get water, and was told where I could fill up. I found the tap, hooked up the hose, and turned around, and went arse over turkey as my foot found the only solid rock sticking about 2” out of the ground, and a minor earthquake shook the town as this “heavenly” body crashed to earth. I had enough presence of mind (I’m getting good at this caper) to twist and tumble into a roll to try and minimise any damage, but not before scraping my leg on the ground. Apart from the fact that it looked like I had attacked the leg with a cheese grater, all was relatively well. Yes, I’ve cleaned it and dressed it and kissed it goodnight, but it still bloody hurts.

There were fewer trucks on the road today than Saturday, but many more of those oversized vehicles carrying mining equipment to the plethora of minesites that populate our northern hinterland.

Tonight I am sitting just 10kms from New Norcia, and tomorrow I reach Perth and the final destination for this trip. It’s been quite a journey. But it’s not quite over yet. I have to try and safely navigate the final 148kms with out doing further damage to the car, caravan, or more importantly, without doing further injury to myself ...

Is it possible?


The run home …

TUESDAY: The bastards have stolen New Norcia. 10 kms the sign said, and 20 kms later, a sign was pointing the other way saying 11 kms. I had a less detailed map loaded on my GPS, and it showed that I had passed through the town. But I was on a new piece of road, as in recently constructed, and they had built a bloody bypass around the town. I can’t remember if I have addressed this during this trip, but I HATE bypasses. If they are catering for the trucks (and that’s about all that seems to use this road these days), then make them turn off and go around. The tourist, unless they know where they are going and what they are looking forward to, will generally blindly follow the truck and the fastest route, and completely miss the village that is just sitting there waiting for you to call in. Now I have no idea how I missed the turnoff, but I was being hassled by a couple of trucks, and from memory, the last time I came through here in 2012, the road ran straight through the town.

Why do I hate bypasses? Because they kill small towns and communities, and the towns have no defence when these monsters are being created. I have had the privilege of circumnavigating this country 4 or 5 times in the last 15 years, and being the type of nosey bastard that I am, when I see a small town on/off a major highway, I like to sneak a peek. I spent so much time pulling off of the Hume Hwy to look at towns that were now really no more than a place on the map with empty buildings, and a lot of stories to tell … with no-one to tell them. You can drive from Sydney to Melbourne and never actually drive through a town, unless you make the effort to do so.
In Western Australia, Katanning for example, to get the sheep and cattle trucks out of the town, they extended the Great Southern Highway to bypass the town, and the town suffered. It took a few years, but sanity prevailed and a large roundabout was built on the highway to advise travellers that there was a town worth visiting just off the highway. A lot of these towns are now offering free camping facilities in the hope that the tourist will rest up, have a look around, and spend a dollar or two in the town.

The sign said Bindoon Army Camp 11 kms. My mind flipped back to 1968. I was on a CMF camp, and it was 11am and we were sitting around a table in the kitchen tent area, when the table started moving, then the earth started shaking, and we wondered what the hell was going on. The next morning, at 11 am, I was on sentry duty on the perimeter of an exercise area, and a kangaroo came bounding straight down the track and near took me out, as the aftershock from the previous days events repeated themselves. The quake was centred close to Meckering, and that wasn’t far from where we were.
From Wikipedia: “The Western Australian town of Meckering was struck by an earthquake on 14 October 1968. The earthquake occurred at 10:58:52 local time, with a moment magnitude of 6.5 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). Total damage amounted to $2.2 million with 20–28 injured. “
I remember that we went out to have a look at the damage a couple of days after the camp finished, and we were greeted by deep gorges where the fault had occurred, shifted one side up about 3-4’ (about 1 metre), and the road just split in two. Unfortunately, The photos appear to be long gone.

And finally, the Gnangara Road off ramp. Now I did the same thing twelve months ago. As I came off Tonkin Hwy, there was a sign pointing Midland Left and Wanneroo Right. But the road split, and the RH lane went back up onto the hwy .. that wasn’t where I wanted to go, and so I followed the left road, to a No Right Turn intersection, forcing me to head toward Midland. A U-turn about 400m down the road put that right, but I won’t make that mistake again … at least not until next time.

Finally, I reached my destination, emptied most of the contents of the van into my son’s place, cleaned the floors, and dropped the hotel to it’s resting place for the next 5-6 weeks, until it can be serviced. And then, I basically died. You know when you are on the go, and you are in a routine, and the adrenaline just keeps you going, then you stop, and everything just goes away … except the aches and pains … they come on strong.

So it’s now time to just chill, get some energy back, and use the next few weeks to catch up with a few friends who somehow get neglected on the Perth Trips – because time is limited and rushed, and then you are on the road home, without the physical contact. It’s time to rectify that.

TOTAL FUEL 3264.08 Ltrs
Av Cost Per Litre: $1.543
Av Consumption: 5.46 kpl (18.31 km/100 l)
Unleaded used in generator: 349.04 ltrs @ 1.543 … $535.48
Total spent on accommodation: $490 (inc $270 for 6 nights at Roebuck Plains whilst car being fixed)
Gas: $274.20


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Updated 12-7-2021

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