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Savannah Way 2013 Trip Diary - Part Eight - The Return Home

Sydney - Albany


DAY 159 18/11/13
Yesterday was Day 158, and it just rained all day. I abandoned all plans to go sight seeing, Ďcos Iíve seen rain before. And so it became a fruitful day as I spent the time editing. I have three DVDs to get done, and it seems to be taking forever. But when you have so much footage, and you get rid of the extraneous stuff, and then look at the finished product, and it somehow doesnít look or feel right, you have to bite the bullet, and prune some more. Itís the same with music. If you are playing a solo, it is what you leave out that is important, rather than what you put in. The important stuff picks itself - the rest is ďfillerĒ, and if you donít get the filler right, then it becomes boring........

Just like this report so far I guess LOL

Today was a totally different story. I had the car and caravan booked in to try and get this 12v and inverter stuff sorted out. I was at the workshop by 8am, and by 9 he was done. He had found a couple of blown monster fuses - replaced them, and all was good .......... UNTIL I got to Nowra this afternoon, and my entire 12v system is dead - gone - no light - no pump - nothing .......... i did have the 240 working when I plugged in, so off to Supercheap Auto to buy a 240v 8w worklamp, to plug in and at least have some light in the van. That and a head lamp did the job. And so tomorrow, more searching for someone to sort this mess out.

The trip down here was awesome. I got well away from the main roads, and followed the minor roads down to Bowral, Moss Vale and across the hills to Nowra. I passed through some stunning countryside getting to Picton, and the old Tojo had a real workout towing the hotel up a couple of very big and steep hills. First gear stuff it was in a few places. I managed to stay away from the rain until later in the afternoon, and copped it as I approached Nowra.

I arrived at the gates of the showground, and found that I needed to get a permit from the council. And so I rang them, got the OK, paid my $12.35 pn with my battered credit card, and then found I had no 12v.

And so, I did the important thing, set up the dish, had dinner, and settled down to watch the final and championship deciding NASCAR race.

What will tomorrow bring?

DAY 160 19/11/13
YESSS. I found an auto electrician who knew what he was talking about (well he convinced me he knew what he was talking about). He also started pulling covers off batteries and figured that all was good. See, the strangest thing happened this morning. I checked my Prostar solar gadget thingy, and it was still dead, and no 12 volt. So the auto electrician told me in Larry Emdur style to ďcome on downĒ. So I hooked up, plugged in the Anderson Plug, and for some reason had a look inside the Caravan Boot, and the BLOODY THING WAS WORKING ........... But there was no explanation as to why, and the inverter was still dead, so I packed up and headed down to see him. It didnít take him long to discover some loose wires and a dodgy connection and things began to make sense.

The wires to the inverter had somehow become loose or dislodged, there was a cable connected to one battery and floating around unconnected at the other end ...... Now only three people that I can recall have fiddled with this stuff in the past six months. The guy who installed the three new batteries in June, the guy who replaced the RCD in Kununurra, and the guy in North Richmond yesterday. Someone had forgotten to connect the first battery properly, and it had been having hit and miss connection, possibly for the past 6 months. Anyway, all hooked up, tested, and working again.

I rang George Royter from George Royters Australia, and arranged to meet him when he finished teaching. He has a very interesting market that he is targeting with his beautiful short videos. I had a look at his studio setup, which took me back to my studio before I sold up and downsized to caravan living and a caravan sized studio. We had lunch, and he was very helpful in his insight to marketing our products.

It appears to me that there are some people who see you as a rival and a risk to their business, but they couldnít be further from the truth. We all have different products, and although we may occasionally cover the same subject, we all see it through different eyes and with a different viewpoint. The object of the exercise is (in my case anyhow) to bring this wonderful country we live in to the attention of Australians and of course, to our overseas visitors.

George is a great guy, and I really enjoyed our all too brief time together.

And then, it being a beautiful day, albeit getting on a bit, I took a run down to Jervis Bay and had a brief look at the National Park down there.

Tomorrow, I hit the road again and head inland. George gave me an alternative route that should bypass a few of those big hills, and it is somewhere new for me, and the target is Goulburn. The weather is tipped to be fine again, at least early in the day.

Catch you next time I have signal.

DAY 161 20/11/13

It was a beautiful morning in Nowra, as I prepared to leave the city and commence my journey West. I have a couple more friends to catch up with in Wodonga and Angaston before I hit the Nullarbor.

George gave a route suggestion yesterday, that he said would avoid all the heavy hills, and so I figured why not. The journey took me out past the Albatross Aviation Centre, where I spied a couple of old DC3ís (or C41s I think the military version was called) sitting near the tarmac. That was a good start, and then the trip in towards Nerriga, where the beaut double lane highway ceased. A few kms down the road, and the turnoff to Taraga. Apart from a km of dirt in the middle, this road has been sealed, and is a popular route for caravanners in the know it appears, to dodge the mountain section that I encountered the other day, and of course the big hills further south. It also is a truck route. And then you descend into Tarago which is a very old village, and has a few character buildings, before turning to the north and heading to Goulburn.

I used Goulburn as a lunch stop, before finally relenting and joining the Hume Hwy, to try and find somewhere ďquietĒ to spend the night. Gunning arrived, and I pulled off to have a look. I think I have mentioned in the past about my thoughts on major highways taking traffic past small towns, and therefore effectively helping to kill them off. The sign on the hwy said that Gunning had a population of 1000, the sign at the town said 520. Gunning have made a free caravan parking area available, obviously I would think, to tempt the passer by to stop and spend the night (or two or three) and leave some cash in the town. It is a lovely little town, again having been first settled around 1821.

Although there is currently not a lot of RV traffic on the roads, the spots at the Gunning rest area were taken, and it was still a little early in the day for me to stop anyway. And so I continued on, calling in at the Mundoonen Rest area, which is probably the best set up rest area I have seen so far on this trip. Trucks one side, cars the other, toilets, tables, shelters ........ but itís not flat. I had Yass marked on my GPS, and so after playing a game of tag with a police car who would scream past, and then stop someone, and scream past again, I arrived at my destination. The Yass Rest Area has no toilets, is again not flat unless you get there early enough to claim the top piece of road ....... and I was the only one there.

It is right beside the highway, and the trucks going past are again like my Blues Brothers analogy of a month or so ago, when they were in Elroyís bedsit with the trains zapping past constantly outside the window. But I was tired, and I had a touch of Sinus I feel, and so at 3.30, I hit the sack for an hour.

Now, there are rest stops on a regular basis down the Hume Hwy, and I guess most major roads where there are truck routes, but something I have noticed is the complete lack of rest areas on subsiduary roads in this state - at least the Eastern part of it. I found as soon as I entered NSW, rest areas were almost non existent, and you had to stop when you reached a town...... so what you say? Iím sorry, but I am used to having rest areas along a road where you can pull off if you have a problem, someone is suddenly not feeling well, or even if nature suddenly calls. There is nothing - no shoulders that are really wide enough or safe enough in my opinion, and certainly no where to stop and have a bite to eat - other than in the towns. Gravel pits and metal dumps all seem to be fenced off. A couple of times now, I have set out with the desire to travel for just a few hours or 100-150 kms, and found myself spending a lot longer on the road with no stops, because there is just no provision.
Itís 11.19pm, and things have quietened down. Iíve only had 11 trucks go past in 4 mins. Mind you, there have been a bundle more since I put the stopwatch down a minute or so ago. The volume of Truck traffic on the Hume Hwy is frightening. OK, thereís another 16 in the last two minutes. Thatís incredible.

Well, I have a nice strong phone signal tonight, but the internet ...... pffttt

DAY 162 21/11/13
Now THAT was an interesting day. I was determined that I was not going to drive down the Hume Hwy to Wodonga. Apart from the trucks, and the lack of decent scenery, it is a shit of a road. For some reason, they have paved much of it with concrete, and it doesn't work. I don't know whether it's because of the trucks, but the bitumen bits are much smoother ..... and still not good. Please give us an alternative road that we can travel down in serene comfort and at our own pace. But I digress.

I decided that I would go via Tumut. This meant travelling from Yass via Wee Jasper. The road is narrow in places, but it is bitumen .... until you get to 4kms beyond Wee Jasper, where the right hand turn tells you Tumut 61, Gravel Road, and then ROAD NOT SUITABLE FOR CARAVANS. Now my hotel is 30' long overall, and if I find myself on a cliff face that is impassable - remember we are traversing the Snowy Mountains - it ain't gonna be easy to turn around on a 3 metre wide road. And so I bailed, I turned around, and I headed back to Yass. It gave me an opportunity to have a look at the countryside that had only been visible in my rear vision mirror up until now. But with a drop of 400m, who had time to look coming OR going. What little I did see was beautiful.

When I got back to Yass, I went for a Subway, and passed Banjo Patterson Gardens, and I wondered why here, when the Banjo Patterson Museum is in Winton in Queensland. And then I thought "Of Course, the Man Fropm Snowy River" and other poems of the area. But it was more than that. He was born in the area, spent much of his life in the area, his Dad is buried in the area, and he had a station at WEE JASPER .... and I was there and didn't know about it........... There was a roadhouse at Wee Jasper, which doubled as the local Information Centre, but it had long closed.

I have to admit that travelling on my own, I have lost some of the passion for what I am doing, and so I have been lax in stopping and smelling the roses .... or swallowing the flies .... which was the situation bugging some workmen along the road.

And so, I now had no option but to continue down the Hume Hwy, if I wanted to get to Wodonga in the next day or two. I was travelling up a hill when I spied in the mirror a couple of trucks coming up behind me. One was in the process of overtaking the other, and it was obvious this was going to be interesting. Neither truck would want to back off because of momentum. However, there were two more trucks in the process of the same manouvre behind them, and the front truck on the inside lane decided that he would tuck in behind the outside lane truck, and in front of the following outside lane truck, who was trying to complete his pass on the second inside lane truck ..... does that make sense? Four bloody trucks all fighting for position, and there's this bloody caravanner plodding up the hill blocking a lane ....... I saw a gap on the side of the road and headed for it as I was swamped by these four Formula One Truck Drivers .........
And you wonder why I wanted to go to Tumut down a back road ..........

I had done this trip in 2010 on the way home from our Queensland - Cape York expedition, and so I bypassed most of the towns, but did pull through Tarcutta, where there is supposedly a freecamp. The town is apparently halfway down the Hume, and truckdrivers do pull in and use the amazing facilities provided for them. In fact, it seems that half of the town is truck parking bays. I pulled up at the service station, checked the Freecamps Book, and it said that the freecamp was 1km south of the town. So to make sure, I input the co-ordinates, and headed for it. !3 kms later I found the Kyeamba Rest Area.

Again phone, but internet .... forget it.

Now, I don't know if you know who or what you are dealing with here, when you read this stuff. It's now 9.41pm, and I have just washed the dishes. Nothing unusual in that, but I had obviously overlo oked putting the washing liquid away this morning, and I found it on the floor. And not all of it was in the bottle ......... you get my drift. Now just how do you clean up half a gallon of green syrupy washing liquid from a floor. I used a mop. I had of course wet the mop first as you do when you clean floors, and I didn't bother about putting cleaning stuff on it, because that would have created havoc. It created havoc anyway. The more I tried to clean, the more it soaped up and I would wash it out of the mop, and it would soap up some more. I defy ANYONE to tell me they have cleaner floors in their caravan than I do ..... well that section that wore the liquid, anyway.

DAY 163 22/11/13

Today was to be a transport day. I had arranged to meet my long time mate and old school friend Kerry Martin and his lovely wife Shirley at Albury, where he now resides (well Wodonga actually).

I was watching the GPS as we approached Woomargama, and noticed that all of a sudden, the Hume Hwy was running across what was marked as open country, and it occurred to me that the motorway was bypassing yet another small town. We had already bypassed a larger town in Holbrook, and now, here was another one. And then the same thing happened at Bowna. I was past the turnoff before I realisesd that again, a new freeway extension was bypassing the town.

Apparently, the Hume Hwy runs from Albury to Melbourne, and doesn't pass through one town. And to me, this is a major problem in the economy of the rural areas of our huge country. Anyone who has had the privilege of trying to retrace the legendary Route 66 in America, I believe,. has found a whole heap of dead towns. And the same thing is happening here. In my opinion, for what it is worth, trucks should be forced to bypass towns by a genuine bypass, and the main road should run throeugh the towns, thereby forcing/encouraging travellers to actually pass through the villages. In most cases, drivers will stop, have a walk around, and in all probability buy something. At the moment, cars start at the beginning, may stop at a rest stop which has a toilet, and end at their destination without being tempted to spend a dollar and keep local rural economies ticking over.

If I refer to a town I lived in a number of years ago in WA, Katanning, here is a perfect example. It is the largest sheep selling centre in WA, and the trucks used to travel down a town street before turning off to the saleyards. The town had a vibrancy. And then the powers that be, decided to extend the Great Southern past the town, and immediately, traffic drove past the town instead of finding themselves being herded into the shopping centre, and shop vacancies began to manifest themselves. It would have made sense to turn the trucks before the town and push them around the back of the town to the saleyards. Inconvenient maybe for the truckies, but the big picture is the towns survival. Katanning at least has a saleyard to keep it alive. Many towns have nothing.

I arrived at Albury, made the phone call to Kerry, and we met at a local rest area, and spent a couple of hours chewing the fat.

And then it was back on the road, heading towards Corowa. I had decided that I was going to follow the Murray on the NSW side of the border, aim for Deniliquin, and then get the passport out to get into Victoria. (I'm a West Aussie and Victoria is our punching bag - you ES'ers have your NSW vs Qld, Sydney vs Melbourne rivalries).

I stopped to have a look at Lake Mulwala, before travelling on to Barooga, where I found a lovely little spot beside the Murray River, where I plan to stay for the next couple of days watching the cricket and the V8s, before hitting the road again on Monday.

And again, phone, but no internet ÖÖ.. this will get posted when I have signal.

DAY 166 24/11/13 (DAYS 164-5 were spent bludging)

This has been a big day. I left Barooga this morning, intending to do about 100 kms to Deniliquin. And here I am, sitting about 60kms from Donald, and I have travelled over 300 kms.

But, letís start at the beginning. The weekend was spent as predicted, watching the cricket and the V8s from Phillip Island. Wow what a race meeting - and wow what a cricket match - except when I went back after the V8s, rain had stopped play, they were going back to the studio, and if play resumed, it would be on GEM, and they repeated that. And so I switched to GEM, and in the news, found out that play had INDEED resumed, and that the Aussies had won. WTF.

The problem here of course, is that the cricket comes from Queensland, and the 9 network is Eastern States Based. In the NT it is Imparja, and in the West, it is WIN. And so what starts as a broadcasting channel in one state gets switched to another channel in other states. Now my VAST box is still set up for WA, and so if they DID take the rest of the broadcast, it probably happened on the main channel ........ and I missed it .... simple as that.

People who follow the V8s will find that it is broadcast on different channels within the 7 network, depending on which station is running it - 7, Prime, GWN, etc.

Now what that all means is, that I sat on my bum all weekend glued to the TV, instead of taking in the beautiful surroundings of the Murray River, beside which I was camped. And so, when I packed up this morning, on a whim, I decided to take a drive around the park to see what lay beyond. And so I towed the hotel about 200m down the road, found a steep sharp narrow left hand bend into a creek, and a steep sharp right hand bend out of it, and I said whoa, Iím not going there with a 30í monster behind me. There was no where to turn around seemingly, however, there was an area directly in front of me with a track thingy around a tree where you could drive in, camp, and drive out, surrounded of course by the river. And so I drove in, took a wide berth, swung around, and very quickly realised I wasnít going to make it without wiping out either the van or the tree - and THAT obviously wasnít going to happen. So I jumped out, surveyed the situation, came up with a plan, which actually WORKED, and long story short, managed to extricate myself from trouble.

And so I travelled across the river to Cobram, had a look, and then instead of heading back across into NSW, decided to go to Finlay via Tocumwal on the Victorian side of the border. Approaching Tocumwal, I encountered a Breath Resting Unit stopping traffic going the other way. Listening to a couple of truck drivers, there had been a Hippie Festival in the town over the weekend, and the boys were out.

The town was quite cute, built on the banks of the Murray, and protected (hopefully) by a levee bank along the river. It was very quiet in town, and I got impression that it might be populated by a more mature aged personage.

Next stop was Finlay. There being nowhere to park in the shopping area, I decided to keep going, but just after turning onto the next road, I spied a large lake on my right, and a rest area. The lake is shallow, no swimming, but a nice water feature for the town, and a nice park area built around it.

Blighty arrived, and I pulled in to grab some morning tea. The building that was apparently the pub and general store was closed, and didnít look as though it was a going concern.

And so onto Deniliquin. It has a population of around 8000, has a really nice town centre, and a lot of lovely old buildings. Again, a couple of laps of the town, and a lack of parking suggested that I keep moving. I must have looked like a kid doing bog laps on Saturday night, not that anyone would have noticed a 15m long rig lapping the towns main street. As I was leaving town, I found that the town does have a MacDonalds, and so I suppose that indicates a ďcivilisedĒ status. Then a Harvey Norman, and finally a Coles ..... well away from the main town centre. Then I found an accessible fuel station and topped up.

Next destination was Barham. The land out here is as flat as the Barkly Tablelands in Queensland, and as dry at the moment, but the farmers do have the benefit of watering their land from the irrigation channels that abound.

It was on this stretch of road, that a truck coming towards me suddenly braked and headed for the side of the road in a cloud of smoke. The stench as I went past him indicated that he had probably blown a tyre. I didnít envy him having to change it - it was a warm day.

Barham is on the NSW side of the border, and there is a village on the other side called Koondrook. Again, Barham is a neat little town, and the towns oval had AFL goalposts. (that is an important cultural difference to most towns in NSW/Qld). Trees line the streets in the shopping area, which is very attractive and looks like a pleasurable area to part with your sheckels.

Then it was over the river into Victoria once again, and a quick look at Koondrook. This town features the remnants of a tram service that was obviously important to the area years ago. I would think that the main shopping area would be interstate. I love that these towns preserve some of their heritage, and donít knock it all down. I found a gorgeous little old house here, with a very modern house built behind it. It appeared as tho the old place had been restored, and although probably used as an office or something these days, maintained the ďcolonialĒ look of the yard.

Leaving town, i found myself overtaking a couple of large pieces of agricultural machinery. This happens fairly frequently on rural roads.

Karang was my next port of call. Again, numerous laps of the town failed to find a parking spot, and then I had luck down a side street. If there IS an available spot, it is always on the other side of the street. I have had a blown headlamp for a little while now, and I hadnít been able to find a replacement. I spied an Autopro shop, and having found my parking spot, managed to purchase the required item. My lights are permanently wired ďONĒ for vision safety (by other vehicles), and so I was getting plenty of reminders that I had a blown globe. I donít drive at night if I can help it, but the fact that the globe was blown gave me a lopsided look

I left Karang, and what was this ahead of me? My couple of large pieces of agricultural machinery had bypassed the town and were in front of me again. Immediate Deja Vu. This also happened to me a month or so ago

And then finally a town with a sensible name ......... Quambatook ......... where do they get them from? I mean, why donít they get decent names like Widgiemooltha and Innaloo?

Access to the town is somewhat unusual. Instead of hitting a T Junction and turning left, the road which is running East-West swings North-South and then does a giant u turn back North-south until it swings East-West again a few kms out of town.

And finally, a four way junction, and as I continued through, I spied a spot on the corner that looked that it just wanted a caravan parked on it tonight. With Daylight saving, the days are a bit longer over here. You start an hour earlier at 9am which is really only 8am, and so you start looking for somewhere to stop and it is still the heat of the day. I saw some great places to stop earlier, and if it was really 3pm, I might have, but when you know that it is actually 2pm in real time, it is just way too early. And then when it does become time to start looking for a spot, there rarely is one ...... altho I must confess, I have never really had a problem. Maybe it is just the brain kicking in that you just might ďnotĒ find one in daylight. Incidentally, I am not against daylight saving - for commercial reasons I voted for it in WA. But Eastern Staters never had a say. It was implemented in wartime I believe, and has been there ever since.

No internet again tho, so this will have to be posted when Telstra graces us with itís presence again.

DAY 167 26/11/13

Was up and on the road by 9am, and drove into Donald about half an hour later. The retail sector of the town seemed to be in reasonable shape, but then the main road does run through the town centre. I called into the bakery to sample one of their pasties, and yes, it gets the thumbs up - probably one of the nicest pasties I've had this trip. The Donald Bakery gets the award.

Then I discovered that I had internet signal, so stopped long enough to upload yesterdays epic. Now as I write this, I admit to using the technology that I have at hand, and boy did I need it yesterday ..... and today is no different - yes, I have gone to review the video.

I found myself glancing at the GPS as I headed in the direction of Warrackmabeal, and it told me that I was on a bearing of 270 degrees - due west ..... and the road was straight ...... Len Beadell would have been proud of the engineer who surveyed this road.

You cross the main highway to access the town, which is really a junction for a number of highways. The trucks are diverted around the main town centre, which is relly quite beautifully set up. There are three main roundabouts, and each has a theme. The first one, a dog sitting on bags of wheat, the next a dog shepherding sheep, and the last one, a dingo standing on a dirt mound. The town backs onto a creek, and there are a couple of rest areas to rest the weary bones. What did run through my mind was, that kids who live in the more modern cities these days are surrounded by souless structures, and unless they get the opportunity to venture into the country, they don't get the sense of history that this country, however young, contains. Perth for example, has knocked over many of it's classical structures, and replaced them with the glasss boxes that pass - no, make that pose for architectural excellence these days. Thank goodness we have Fremantle ..... not as a footy team of course ...... . Warrackmabeal does not suffer this disease - it is a blend of older classic style and tasteful modern structures.

The road to Dimboola passes through grain growing country, and the weather has been kind enough to allow the farmers to attack their paddocks en masse, stripping the crops of their harvest. You reach the main Melbourne to Adelaide Highway, which you need to cross to reach Dimboola some 3 kms down the road. And the fact that the highway bypasses the town I believe is reflected in the number of shops that are empty. Dimboola is the gateway to the Little Desert National Park, which I have noted as a visit next time I am in the region. I sampled the bakery's vege pastie and I am sorry to say, the pastry wasn't to my taste buds liking, and overall, was disappointing. I spent some time chatting with the owner of the hardware store, the frontage view of which I had obliterated by parking car and van right outside his door. We discussed the differences between his 22' and my 23'6" van's constructions, and about road trips in general. If you want a well stocked hardware store in rural Victoria, his is for sale. He also told me that there is plenty of free camping along the river heading out to the NP.

Now I have been taking my time, but maintaining a 75-80 kph speed, which is a pain if you happen to be following, but I take every opportunity to help following vehicles get past me with a minimum of fuss. So I couldn't believe my eyes, when a small green car who was following me, decided that he had the power of a V8 supercar as he decided to overtake me, and take on the truck that was approaching from the opposite direction. If I hadn't braked, there is a fair chance you would have been hearing about it on the news tonight. There was less that 100m between the oncoming truck and me as the "greenie" managed to sneak back in between us.

Nhill was my next destination, Again, the highway runs through the town centre, and caravans are catered for with a parking area set aside for them. It is again a very neat town, and the shopping area is attractive. The information centre is set up on what resembles a large traffic island in the middle of the main street. It is all very inviting.

Kaniva again has the highway running through the middle of town, but the housing and businesses on either side of the road has a service road between them and the highway. A great innovation in my mind.

When you cross the border between NSW and Victoria, there are signs proclaiming that you have indeed entered new territory, and so I had the camera running as I approached the South Australian border, and I was so busy looking at the rest area that sits right on the border, that I missed the welcome sign. Watching the video now as I write, and yep, there it was ..... and all I saw were a heap of signs telling you to put you fruit in the quarantine bins provided ........ there weren't too many people complying. In fact, and please correct me if I am wrong, but the only inspection stations in Australia are at the NT-WA border travelling west on the Victoria Hwy, at Border Village on the WA-SA border as you travel west, and at Ceduna as you travel East.

Bordertown, and once again I decided to look for Bob Hawkes boyhood home. I couldn't find it in 2008. and the sign said it was down here, so I drove down here and Nope, didn't find it again. Either I am blind or I can't see anything. But I figured with five years difference between looks, I might find it, but ..........

And finally Keith arrived, and a quick look around town, the nearsest freecamp was 14kms away and in the wrong direction, and so I headed around to the showgrounds. There is an honesty box at the gate and a phone number. $10 per person, put your money in the box, showers and Toilet were open and hook up to power and water. Travellers are either few on the ground down this end of the world at the moment, or content to pay caravan park prices, because again, I was the only one camping at this facility. And in other areas of low cost camping, I have been one of just a few in recent times. Maybe Christmas is just too close.

And for the first time in ages, I had some internet, and was able to catch up on the world's goings on. I just didn't get around to writing and posting this edition of my ramblings ......

DAY 168 27/11/13
Keith disappeared in my rear vision mirror, as I headed further west. the forcast had been for hot weather, it was overcast, not too bad temperature wise, but looked thundery. It tried to rain a couple of times, as I headed towards Tailem Bend, and a reunion with the Murray River. I stopped a couple of times and found the temperature was now rising, and when I pulled in opposite the bakery at Tailem Bend, it became apparent that we were in for a doozy.

I finally found a bakery that makes Cornish Pasties, and what did I have ....... a ham cheese and salad roll .... I had made up my mind before I went in, and for once didn't change it.

Back on the road, and roadworks. Chatting with the workmen, they suggested that I should detour through Mannum to reach my destination of Angaston, that I would miss the big hills.
And so I turned off for Murray Bridge ..... hang on, the road used to go through Murray Bridge - not any more, it's a detour off the highway now......... don't get me started. I turned at the lights as directed, and headed for Mannum. This is a pretty town, again on the Murray River, and I followed the river around until I came to a turnoff to Swan Reach .... it was a dirt road. That wasn't in the plan, but I took it anyway, and came to a cross road, which took you to Walker Flat. It seems that I should have taken the Bowhill Road to Walker Flat initially, but If i had, I probably would have missed the Walker Flat experience, and two ferry rides. The second one was crossing back across the river at Swan Reach.

By now, it was really sweltering outside, and the northerly wind was howling, and for the first time this trip, the Tojo started to cut the a/c to keep the engine temp down. I passed through Sedan, and then started the climb up Sedan Reach. This is a long fairly steep winding climb, but nothing too much under normal circumstances. But today, it was a test of overcoming not only the 3 1/2 tonne of the van, but the wind and the extreme temperature, and the gauge started climbing rapidly towards the red. I don't know whether the fan was cutting in our not, but the old girl sucked air when we got to the top, and recovered fairly quickly on the descent. I would have loved to have found somewhere to stop and look back at the view, but there are no pulloffs on that hill. The road up the hill does have fences made of rocks, an amazing feat I felt at the time.

And then, I pulled up right outside my mates place, and the next few hours were spent catching up on the past three years since I had last ben here.

It had been another big, and in this case, a testing day.

DAY 169 28/11/13
Wow, what a difference. Today, we are in jumpers and long pants, as the temperature has plummeted. Just a relaxing day off with Kevin and Liz, as we reminisced over journeys past and present. Kevin is a collector of Old petroleum company memorabillia, and has an original caterpiller 2 ton bulldozer in his shed. He also has a collection of old mobile phones, that he is convinced he can get working again ...... a hoarding tragic ..... and I know exactly how he feels about chucking stuff away. I have the same affliction.

Tomorrow, the journey resumes, as I head towards the border of SA-WA.

And guess what, here at Angaston, in the Barossa Valley - NO BLOODY WIRELESS INTERNET.

You didn't see THAT coming, did you?


DAY 170 29/11/13

Good news folks, you won't have to put up with this drivel for much longer - The Perth run is on.

I left Angaston about 7.30 this morning. I had woken up early, and tried to get back to sleep, but the fairy with the sleep-dust wasn't playing ball. I had actually grabbed a couple of hours fairly deep sleep yesterday afternoon, and that probably had something to do with it.

I have been in this area a couple of times before, but I never fail to be amazed at just how beautiful the Barossa Valley is. We all know about Hahndorf and those places, but further out in places like Nuriootpa, and Kapunda, and all the little villages that were built back in the 1800s with their stone architecture. And I didn't realise until this morning as I was leaving, that I was camped just over the road from the Yalumba Winery. We visited that and had a look around in 1995 when we were in Adelaide for their final F1 Grand Prix.

I refuelled at Clare - now there is a town I want to spend some time in - and kept moving toward Port Augusta. You pass through open farmland where they grow grain crops, and you can't help noticing the lack of trees. Now the buildings were built from rock, because they didn't have timber ....... and I assume SUITABLE timber. I imagine that the land was wooded back in the early days, and that it got cleared by the farmers. What annoys me, is that farmers these days who have heavily wooded properties, are not allowed to even partly clear their farms, therefore robbing them of productivity. Sure there should be a limit on how much you can clear, but not a blanket ban. My thoughts are, that there should be some balance here, and farmers in South Australia and Victoria, who have so much open land, should be forced to plant trees on their properties - a mix of "x" sqm of trees per hectare, thus balancing up the overall picture. Simplistic I know, but a step in the right direction IMHO

I detoured into Port Pirie - yep, the highway runs past about 6km away - because being a major centre, I wanted to make use of the internet signal to upload my last three days blogs. Now I have two pages - my personal page, and my 4wd Oz DVD page, and so that meant doing 6 uploads plus 3 shares. It only took 20 mins ......... I also wanted to pay my caravan license fee, and so logged onto Traffic in WA, hit the pay online button, and it just would not load the page. Got frustrated, picked up the phone, hit the internet, and had it done in about 5 mins .... meanwhile, my internet modem still couldn't load the pages. (I hate using the phone for internet and texting because the keys are so small and it's a pain in the ...)

Now that is in a largish town with a fair sized population ...... and so here I sit at Iron Knob, 66 kms from Port Augusta - it doesn't look like a mining town, but a few mining vehicles have gone past and people do live here, but the business area is deserted ......AND I HAVE LIGHTNING FAST INTERNET ......... and you wonder why I run around screaming like a chook with it's head cut off, and they send men in white coats to placate me ............

It's alright everyone, as I said at the beginning, you don't have to put up with this garbage much longer ..... the Perth run is on.

DAY 171 30/11/13

You do get out of the habit you know.

The run from Albany to Perth is 400kms, and we do that with a van on fairly regularly. So you would think that having been on the road since June, that that sort of distance would be a piece of P.... But apart from when we first started, and we were trying to outrun the rain, we havenít got anywhere near that sort of run in a day. Probably 250 kms at the most, but more often, 130-150 kms. The last few days, Iíve been putting up to 280 kms behind me, and I figured that would be the case today.

I left my spot at Iron Knob a few minutes before 8am, and the weather was nice, although a breeze had been blowing all night. Kimba was only 88 kms away, and that came and went quite easily. It being Saturday, the truck traffic was fairly low, and there were a few vans and private cars on the road. The van got twitchy a few times, and I wondered whether everything was OK back there, because it has been a dream to tow. Apart from the fact that the grass was laying almost flat, there wasnít much indication of the outside conditions, as I tootled along with thumb up bum and mind in neutral. And then came a comfort stop, and the stool that I had placed by the caravan door took off with a tailwind at about 30 kph. It was quite obvious by now, that the twitchiness was due to an extremely stiff cross breeze coming across the RHF corner of the car, and thumb definitely needed to be extracted to keep this thing on the tarmac.

I had been playing in my mind that I would probably stop at a caravan park tonight, do some washing, top up with water, and generally get ready for the Nullarbor dash tomorrow. As I passed the airport at Ceduna, the first caravan park that came into view was the Airport caravan Park, and I found myself pulling up at the office without even thinking about it. The owner took $25 off me (Iím travelling on my own, I didnít ask how much two people would cost), gave me a drive thru site, I set up, turned on the washing machine, hit the sack and died.

I have done 700 kms in a day just drifting along at 80 kph in the past. I had covered 400 kms today at under 80 kph, in a stiff breeze, and I was buggered.

You do get out of the habit you know ................

DAY 172 01/12/13

I must be getting used to it, acclimatised as we say in Australia, or acclimated as they say in the States. They have a weird way of pronouncing things, but then, maybe they think the same about us. But I digress. After yesterdays 400 km effort, today I put 440 kms behind me - all at under 80 kph, and one section of 50 kms at under 40 kph.

When I put my preview of our Nullarbor DVD up on the net, I had driven along a section of the Old Eyre Hwy, with caravan in tow, and had also called in on the Koonalda Homestead. That prompted one of my subscibers to ask me about Ivy Tanks, and I confessed that not only had I not been there, I hadn't even heard of the place. It cropped up in conversation just the other day again, and so we dragged out the maps, found it on a GDT Desert map from Hema, and I decided it was time to have a look at this place.

I decided to cut across a track leading to the Old Eyre Hwy (OEH), but it either wasn't there, or it was the one that went up a steep bank by the road, and I wasn't going to try and drag the hotel thru that. And so I continued on, and found another track, for which I took a big breath, and went for it. Last time I did this, trees appeared where they shouldn't have and made things awkward. This time, they were more friendly, and 5 kms later, I joined the OEH. It was now 15 kms back to the Ivy Tank site, and at the aforementioned under 40kph rate of knots, I arrived at the remains of what was another oasis for travellers back in the "olden days" ....... or a terminus for what remained of their cars. There wasn't the number that was found at Koonalda, but a couple of legends were in amongst them. Photos will follow.

The remains of the tanks were also rotting in the dust, and so after taking video and photos, I turned around, and headed back towards Nullarbor.

Now I am yet to reach the border, and usually, Border Village and Eucla are on a par with each other fuel wise, and Mundrabilla is the cheapest of the lot. I did my sums, and topped up in Nundroo at $1.649, and yep, Nullarbor $2.039. Incidentally, shop around a bit in Ceduna - Mogas $1.629, BP Roadhouse $1.619, and the other servos weren't displaying their prices. Now Nundroo had a sign telling me that I would love their prices at Mundrabilla and Shell Norseman. Mundrabilla used to be Liberty, but a sign along the way was promoting Mogas. Be interesting to see what the pricing is. I have heard that it is not all that "cheap" any more. And yes, the Shell service station in the centre of Norseman - ignore the decor, it has always been much cheaper than the BP Roadhouse on the corner.

There's not much traffic on the Eyre Hwy currently. The caravan park I stayed in last night was near empty and most of those who were there looked like long term residents.

Tonight in a roadside rest area, and at 7.19pm SA Summer Time and so far, I have it to myself. - It's not far from the border, and they differentiate their time by 3/4 hr, so WA "Central" time is 5.40pm, and the sun is still shining brightly - but my tummy is grumbling - it likes the SA time.

NB As I post this, Border Village $2.02, and Eucla $1.94 (All Diesel prices Iím sorry)

DAY 173 2/12/13
Just a transport day today. Apart from yesterdays look at Ivy Tank, I had no agenda for the Nullarbor this trip, other than to traverse it as safely and as economically as I could. I had had a real good look at the Eyre Hwy in 2010 when I filmed the trip, both coming and going. The preview is on YouTube and can be found via the website for those of you who might be interested in some of what we saw.

I did detour to one of the lookouts on the Bunda Cliffs, and a new addition is the lookout "cage", which has been erected to discourage travellers from going close to the cliff edges. The cliffs overhang, and you only need one to break away whilst you are standing on it and ......

I managed to get across the border unhasseled, having no fresh fruit or veges on board, and refuelling was done at Eucla and Mundrabilla, the only two roadhouses selling at under $2 per litre. ($1.94). However, the EFTPOS was down at Mundrabilla, and so it was cash only, and there was an ATM, which I think was ANZ, and it wanted $2.50 if you were another bank's customer ....... and so make sure you have cash for emergencies, or at least enough in your cheque or savings account if this sort of situation emerges.

I managed to put 380kms away today. I'm hoping to get to somewhere near Norseman tomorrow, depending on weather and time. Mind you, you are travelling with the sun, and so the sunshine does last longer going East to West.

We shall see.

DAY 174 03/12/13

The sun was streaming into the caravan when I woke up this morning. The sun was up and over the horizon - "wow" I thought, "I must have slept in - must be about 7 o'clock". I looked at the phone - WHAT??? ....... 4.42 am. Couldn't be, but it was. I had gone to bed at 9.30 WA time last night, and remember - I was over near Caiguna. And so breakfast, and on the road by 6am.

Now this was always going to be a big day ....... when you are chasing the sun, you have more daylight hours than when you are driving into it. And so despite stopping every 40-60 minutes, and doing bog laps around the rig, and travelling at a steady 75-78 kph, taking time out for morning tea at Balladonia, quick lunch at Norseman, and hanging around in Coolgardie for half an hour, waiting to talk to my Grandson for his sixth birthday, I finally called it a day near the Number 8 Pumping Station on the Great Eastern Hwy at 4.30pm, having covered 627.9 kms. I'd been building up to it over the psat few days I reckon. A quick phone call to my favourite caravan park in Perth (Karrinyup Waters) to book a site for a few nights, and I was done for the day.

And while we are at it, my eldest son also celebrated his birthday today, by taking the day off, playing golf (self flagellation that game is) and headed to the Casino for lunch. Dunno who mowed his lawns for him today

Bog laps around the caravan you ask ...... OK, so you really couldn't care less, but my rig is 15 metres long, and that is about 36 metres for one lap - 3 of those and you've covered 100m. After my DVT hassles a year or so again, bog laps within every hour are a must.

As I mentioned before, the roads are fairly quiet on this side of the continent and crossing it. There is no price fixing I am sure across the Nullarbor. Apart from Mundrabilla and Eucla, I am sure that $2.029 is a co-incidence. And the Shell at Norseman is no more. Caltex were advertising $1.649, but the pump showed $1.669. An enquiry at the counter told me that this was Caltex's new Premium Diesel. The ordinary Diesel was over the end there ........ I actually used some of the new diesel somewhere else - didn't make much difference, that I have noticed, anyway.

The Nullarbor - If you are doing it for the first time - or whenever, do your fuel homework BEFORE attempting it. Ring ahead and get the current pricing. Know what your vehicles fuel consumption is, and what you can get from a tank BEFORE the red light comes on. Fill up at the cheapest place, and if you do have to top up before the next cheapest place, calculate how much you will use to get there, and that plus a couple of litres is what you should put into your tank to get the cheapest run across the continent. I knew that Nullarbor is always expensive, and I knew that Eucla and Mundrabilla would be the cheapest, and so I filled it at Nundroo ($1.649), Eucla ($1.94), topped up at Mundrabilla ($1.94), gave it 30 litres at Balladonia $2.029) and then filled it again at Norseman ($1.649). Everywhere else was $2.029. The same exercise can be done going west to east. I'm probably teaching you to suck eggs, but there it is.

509 kms to Perth. The trip is almost done.

DAY 175 4/12/13

The trip is officially over. I have arrived back in Perth - if anyone reading this sees or is speaking to my Mum, I am currently somewhere near Broken Hill ...... I intend walking in on her on Sunday night.

Again, I was awake at 4.40am - must be jet lag or something....... and so I was again on the road just after 6am. The 509 km trip into Perth was uneventful, and I was settled in at Karrinyup Waters Resort by 2pm.

And then it was just a matter of plugging in the modem, and uploading my last couple ofreports ....... and the bloody thing either won't connect, and if it does, the computer can't access it, either as a Mac OR a PC. Is this a problem with the modem, or is it a Telstra breakdown at the moment? Checked it on the PC in the car - nothing. Gotta be a problem with the 4G WiFi Thingy. Visit telstra tomorrow ........

Aha ..... worked out how to use my phone as a modem ...... after all this time ..... That would be right .....




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Updated 14.12.2013

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