Day nine

December 9, 2009

Woke early again today to better but chillier weather. I can’t believe I spent four days in Adelaide and missed out on a test match that lasted five days and a good one at that. I must have some big Brownie points now me thinks. We packed up camp and in the process I managed to lose the car key. It was a long and fruitless search which included a rummage through a large wheelie bin of rubbish. It is a mystery of life where that key is now but we had to drive off using our spare one, which Joy luckily had in her handbag. The car parts were ready and the car was fixed in half an hour. We thought we might be able to get a new key cut at the Suzuki dealer but unfortunately it needs to be coded. Somewhere that key will turn up. When or where i don’t know but watch this space. The only key we have is now firmly under the watchful eye of Joy – lose that one and we will be in trouble. The plan was to reach Mount Gambier which is south of Adelaide by the end of the day. We left Adelaide at around 11am and set off on the M1 road which eventually ends up in Melbourne. Joy had been rattling on about a pioneer village she thought was called Tailor Town but none of the tourist information places in the city had heard of such a place. That’s probably because it is called Old Tailem Town near the town of Tailem Bend. It is and old pioneer town which has been rebuilt at this site. There are houses from the olden days and a church and butchers and so on. In fact, it is a complete village and is something that has to be seen. If anyone ventures to South Australia they have to visit Old Tailem Town. Words cannot describe how fascinating a place it is. We could have spent all day there. In fact, we were there for about two hours, so our plans changed a little and we decided to take the coast road and settle down in Beachport for the night. We stopped off to see the giant lobster in Kingston SE – that’s like the galah but this time a lobster – you get the picture.

the big lobster

 A quick couple of photos later we were on the road again. The countryside in this part of SA reminded us of the Gower in South Wales. South Australia certainly has a lot going for it. But one thing we have noticed it does get a little chilly at sundown. We set up tent just before that and were certainly glad to put on a layer or two. The campsite is a stone’s throw from the beach, in fact, I can hear the waves crashing on the foreshore as I write this blog, very soothing ha ha ha. We should reach the Great Ocean Road tomorrow after a brief visit to Lake George which is close by to Beachport. Apparently it’s a salt lake similar to the Dead Sea and you can float as easy as pie. We shall see in the morning. So until then cheerio.

Day 8

December 8, 2009

After a week of dry weather, day eight started extremely damp. Adelaide put on a thunderstorm gale-force winds and torrential rain – according to the news reports 5ml fell in the city alone. But thankfully our super little tent survived the battering ion one piece. We did too – just – but got a little wet saving all the stuff from the storm and loading it into the car. The only things to get wet were us, our gas stoves and, ironically, a towel we left out to dry. The birds were not as noisy as the previous two mornings but the rain hammering down on to the tent was enough to wake us, although we did have a little lie in. With a few hours to spare we headed into the city to sample the Central Markets. Another big tick for Adelaide. Fruit and veggie stalls, cheese shops, food courts. You name it they’ve got it here. There are even shops dedicated solely to yoghurt and the humble mushroom. We found a cafe and treated ourselves to breakfast. The sign said all day breakfast. Perhaps because it took us all day to get served!!! Apparently the cook missed our order and we had to start all over again. We waited a bit longer but I have to say it was worth the wait and we got an extra cup of tea (free) because of the delays. With full stomachs but aching feet we treated ourselves to a Chinese massage. We chose the AOK ION reflexology massage. This involves having a foot bath which apparently cleanses all the crap from your body and then reflexology – in other words a posh foot massage. Neither of the Chinese masseurs spoke English but I am sure I heard one of them say you take the big bloke with the bad feet and I’ll have the woman!!! About half an hour later after both feet and legs were battered by our Chinese torturers, we walked – or was that limped – out a bit light on our feet and certainly light in the pocket. Whether it worked we will have to wait and see. Got some news on the car about 1.30pm but not good news. The parts were supposed to arrive to fix the chargers but apparently the driver did turn up. We thought he was coming from Melbourne or somewhere like that. But know he was just bringing them from a northern suburb of Adelaide and just did not turn up. Hopefully the parts will be there on Wednesday (tomorrow) as we are heading off towards the Great Ocean Road.

This for me will be the highlight of the trip, apart from, of course, our reunion with Lorraine, Graham and the kids when we get to Brissie. I have to say Adelaide has been great and I think Joy has found a new home. For future reference the new mailing address is Harris Scarfe Department Store, Rundle Mall, Adelaide!!!! Seriously though we liked Adelaide a lot. The city is easy to get around and although there is a lot of traffic it seems to move reasonably well. A lot of the scenery reminds us of the UK. In fact, we were driving through a leafy suburb today and it reminded me of some of the roads in Surrey. For supposedly the driest state in Australia, SA is surprisingly green and pretty. We are off towards Mt Gambier or Warrnambool tomorrow whatever happens with the car. So will be back somewhere near or in Victoria tomorrow. By the way if you are reading this please make some comments. I want to know how good I am!!! See ya later.

Day 7

December 7, 2009

I cannot believe that today is the 7th day of our road trip. Once again we were up with the larks or should I say lorikeets – noisy bastards. Just as Joy said they were not as bad as the day before, they stepped up a notch and it was time to get up and at em again. Our plan was to find a Suzuki dealer to hopefully fix the problem with the chargers. And with the help of my two favourite women – Joy and Kate – we found one in Adelaide. Inside two hours they diagnosed the sockets were the problem and the parts will arrive on Tuesday and the problem will be solved in the afternoon. While the car was in the garage Joy went for some more retail therapy while I sipped on a beautiful cup of coffee – not as good as Chris Saurin’s (ha bloody ha) and read the Advertiser (the Adelaide variety). With the car back on the road at 11 we headed up the M1 to Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills. It is, I believe, the oldest German town in SA, and it is like rolling back the clock. Hahndorf is olde world charm with a modern-day outlook and it is a great place. One of the highlights of the trip so far was sipping on an ice-cold Stein of beer outside the German Arms Hotel – luxury. 

a beer in Hahndorf

After walking into almost every shop on Main Street, we headed to a winery for a wine taste and settled on a beautiful chardonnay which we shall get into on our last night in Adelaide tomorrow. There are plenty of super little towns in the Hills and it was off to the Melba chocolate factory next just outside Woodside. Mmmmmmmm chocolate. Gumachera was next and the toy factory. They also have a giant rocking horse there as is the wont in Australia – they seem to have a penchant for building big things.

the big rocking horse

 Hopefully we will see a few more on our trip. The weather wasn’t too good today and a few spots of rain forced us inside to the National Motor Museum at Birdwood. Now, this is a place not to be missed. I kid you not it was like a car factory in England in the 1970s – hundreds of cars but no-one working on them. We could have stayed all day but unfortunately we left it late and only got an hour in this super museum. There wasn’t just cars but hundreds of bikes too and some vehicles came with a great story. We will just have to go back again – that’s all. We will aim to go to the central markets tomorrow before getting the car fixed. Then we set off for the Great Ocean Road. Well the mossies are biting again and Joy has just got back from doing the washing – and I was going to do that!!! Will be back tomorrow.

Day 6

December 6, 2009

Our sleep was interrupted again this morning but unfortunately we could do nothing about it. This time sleepus interruptis was caused by hundreds of lorikeets in what could only be described as a dawn chorus to end all dawn choruses. When there are only one or two they are adorable, beautifully coloured little parrots. But when there are hundreds they are noisy, pesky and annoying buggers which screech their lungs out when dawn breaks. So having been awoken early, we set off for Glenelg which is to Adelaide what Fremantle is to Perth. Coffee strips, a beach and the beautiful people and all at 7.30am. Our intention was to park the car up and get the tram into the city. But trust us to pick the day when the tram line was getting essential repairs. Unbowed we got the substitute bus to Rundle Mall and Joy got to shop, shop, shop. There are many pros and cons about city life and one of the biggest pros is shops open on a Sunday. The biggest con is the traffic but Adelaide is superbly laid out and easy to get around especially with the help of our beloved Kate. I was thinking about doing the blog inside the tent tonight as last night after sampling the Great Australian Bight earlier in the week I got a taste of the Great Australian Bite!!! Or rather they got a taste of me. Mosquito bites flashed brightly on both feet as they were the only parts of the body exposed as the temperature drops quite a bit at nights here. Adelaide put on a ripper of a day but this morning we woke to a big dew. And, like I said, it gets cool in the nights. I still haven’t persuaded Joy to let me go to the cricket yet, despite her fantastic day at the shops. I live in hope as it looks like it could be a good finish. It was great not to have to drive 100s of km today. But the downside was my feet took a bashing after pounding the pavements up and down Rundle Mall and surrounds. New sandals were probably not the best idea today and I am suffering a little now. Whingeing Pom strikes again. Talking of whingeing Poms we went to the migration museum this afternoon. A fascinating insight into not only the 10 pound poms but the Stolen Generation, child migration and the White Australia policy. It certainly was not easy for the migrants from yesteryear. To ease our weary bones after day in the city, we came back and had a dip in the camp pool and it was beautiful. Hopefully this will not be the last time we will be in a pool this summer – you cannot beat it.

The mossies are out again tonight and I have just discovered that wearing socks does not protect you from these flying bloodsuckers. A lesson learned, which sadly cannot be said about leaving things under trees. Our towel-covered fridge was awash with bird poo this morning. Anyway as my feet cannot stand another battering, I am off to the land of Bedfordshire (that’s sleep to all you Aussies). There is nothing under the tree and all the other stuff is covered just in case of the big dew. I will love you and leave you and hopefully the birds will have a lie in tomorrow. Somehow I doubt it. I have uploaded some pictures today too, so take a look. They can be viewed on here if you go to media.

Day 5

December 5, 2009

Thankfully after the nightmare night in Ceduna we slept like babies in Port Augusta and nobody spat the dummy. We were intending to set off early for Adelaide but we slept so soundly it was 7am before we surfaced and we were not on the road until just after 9. Thankfully the price of petrol is back to  normal and after refueling and clearing a massive amount of bird poo off the front windscreen – who was the clever one who parked under a tree – we set off with the Flinders Ranges giving us a magnificent backdrop as we headed south. I had been told by my old mate Warwick the drive from Port Augusta to Adelaide was as boring as bat shit. But for the first few kms I did not believe him (not for the first time). But after an hour or so, his words were ringing true and even Joy preferred the giggling of Kerry O’Keeffe and Glenn Mitchell on the ABC cricket commentary of the second test between Aussies and West Indies to the mostly boring scenery. There were some parts before Port Wakefield which reminded us of English countryside, but generally it was as Warwick described it. Kate had been almost redundant for the past couple of days but she came back in style as we approached the city of churches. Adelaide is not a sprawling metropolis – far from it – however, without the lovely Kate, we would have been lost – quite literally. Just tap in an address she will find it – not like your average woman – that’s a joke obviously!!! To be frank, though if it had been up to me Joy and a map we would have been divorced before you could say Adelaide let alone get there. We found a beautiful campsite thanks to Kate and Joy.

the tent site in Adelaide

This one even has grass tent sites – oh bliss – no more breaking your wrist trying to hammer in tent pegs. And after setting up camp in record time we headed for the city, obviously with Kate’s help and joy of joy we were in Rundle Mall in next to no time. I did suggest that I could go and watch the cricket while Joy went shopping, but the look I got was akin to facing a bouncer from Mitchell Johnson at full pelt. I did manage to buy some thongs (remember you Brits they are flip-flops) and sandals, while Joy also got some sandals, so all was not lost. We sipped on a beer before driving off to Cuddlee Creek up in the Adelaide Hills. That was a place which holds fond memories for me and my brother-in-law Mike. It was where he and his family used to live and was also where we got blind drunk a few years back. The drive up to Cuddlee Creek – what a great name that is – is not for the faint-hearted. Even I had my eyes closed on some of the hairpin bends and I was driving!!! We managed to reach Cuddlee Creek despite a couple of near misses with cars hurtling down the winding Gorge Road and came back down a slightly less daunting way before heading back for camp for some tea and a glass of wine. Tonight it was a chenin blanc from Margaret River – good old WA!!!  We are in Adelaide until Tuesday so hopefully Kate can keep us in check and we will see plenty of sights. Until tomorrow sleep tight. I know we will we are surrounded by families – oh no is that a baby I can hear crying!!! Sweet dreams.

the blog 'office' in Adelaide

Day four

December 4, 2009

I shall start day four earlier than expected and you will see why!!! After having a couple of beers and wines to celebrate finishing our Nullarbor trek, we settled down for what we expected to be a deep sleep dreaming of emptiness and roads and dangerous cliffs. But our slumber was rudely awoken at about 2am by these drunken idiots who were camping near us. It never ceases to amaze me how ignorant some people can be. And this night was no different. Two Swedish girls were being chatted up by a couple of German blokes – I think they were German anyway. Whatever nationality they were does not really matter. They were just rude, noisy and keeping me awake. Bravely or stupidly some might say I unzipped our perfectly cosy tent to confront these tools. I just said to them I had driven halfway across Australia and would like to get some sleep and would they keep the noise down. One of the blokes said they would keep it down while the other, who would not have been out-of-place in WWE wrestling ring, made some smart comment. I slinked off back to the tent thinking to myself how brave I had been and that would be that. But an hour later the dickhead who made the smart comment decided he would do the dishes. This was just too much for me. And pushing my chest out and raising myself up to my full height of 5ft 6in – maybe – I uttered the immortal words “are you taking the piss” to which the reply from the Goliath just across the camping ground was “what’s your f****ing problem”. With that I thought I would calm things down by rushing to the toilet but I was shocked to see my combatant in hot pursuit. “Shit, he’s going to kick my head in,” I thought. Thankfully another camper decided to have a pee at the same time and his presence sent my enemy packing. A few minutes later when I though the coast was clear I made it back to the tent. Joy had already written my obituary, I think. But thankfully that was the end of the excitement but not the end of the noise – as the bastard and his mate decided snoring loudly would round the night off.

the nullarbor (or part of it)

Day four continued

After the trials and tribulations of the night we thought it best if we just got out of the campsite ASAP. So we beat a hasty retreat as sleeping beauty smashed out some more snores opposite. We went down to the beach for breakfast and contemplated all that had gone on. All in all we had had a great first three days and day four was going to be just as good even if we had started off on a sour note. Our first port of call was the tourist information centre where we got a certificate to say we had crossed the Nullarbor and also bought the obligatory car sticker. To some just driving and sleeping and looking at miles and miles of emptiness would be boring, but both of us enjoyed every minute of the journey. One thing we didn’t enjoy, mind you, was the price of petrol. Crossing the Nullarbor we spent $288 on petrol in two days, with prices at the pumps ranging from $1.61 to $1.69.

on the beach at ceduna the morning after the night before

It was good to see the price had dropped to $1.28. We were back in civilisation and after a brief stop in beautiful Streaky Bay for breakfast, we set off for Port Augusta. Both of us were obviously tired, so we took it easy on the narrow roads.

the big galah in Kimba (and Joy)

We stopped off in Kimba to take a picture of the big Galah in the place that is geographically halfway across Australia. We lunched in Kimba too with our friendly neighbourhood bush flies and got back on the road mid-afternoon.

the sign at Iron Knob

After stopping to take a picture of the sign at Iron Knob – what is it with us men and names – we tootled into Port Augusta at about 5pm. Kate, who had been a little quite across the Nullarbor, guided us into the town centre where we stocked up on supplies and stumbled across the Port Augusta Christmas pageant. For a town of 13,000 people it was impressive pageant and what was even more impressive and got Joy’s vote, was the BIG W in town. Shame on you Albany!!! Anyway it’s time to go. Hopefully we will have a better night tonight. We will let you know on day five when Adelaide is our port of call. Cheers for now.

Day three

December 4, 2009

Forgot to mention about driving into Cocklebiddy last night. It was amazing. The sight of wedgetail eagles on the edge of the road. They are apparently the third largest eagle in the world. They are massive and an awesome sight. The wingspan of these magnificent birds just have to be seen to be believed. There is nothing quite the same as witnessing the power of nature and this was no more apparent than seeing these superb creatures in full flight and just some six or seven metres from our car.

We set off from Cocklebiddy – where, according to the sign outside the motel, there are more budgies than humans who permanently reside there. Over the past few days both Joy and I had noticed the lack of animals either alive or dead on the Nullarbor. We had spotted an emu mother and baby and kangaroos had tried to jump out in front of a caravan we were about to overtake. But considering there are vast areas of nothing but bush to graze on or shelter under, there was a distinct lack of beasts. That all changed today. We set off about 7am on the road to Eucla and the South Australian border and as we headed east we could have had breakfast a numerous number of times by feeding on the fresh roadkill. Thankfully our Shoo Roos which we bought for $21 seem to be doing the trick or we have just been lucky as no live animals were spotted. The shoos are two small devices which the wind blows through and emits a whistling sound which is supposed to keep animals away. Whether it is working we will never know but touch wood we have not hit anything yet. We reached Eucla mid-afternoon and went and did the touristy thing at the old Eucla telegraph station. These are ruins which over the years the sand has covered over. Most of the old building was covered in sand – just another example of nature at work. After crossing the border and taking yet another picture of a sign warning us of more animals ahead, we headed for the Great Australian Bight.

joy by one of the many warning signs

We had both seen pictures of the bight cliffs in books etc but nothing can prepare you for it first hand. It was windy as hell and you can get right to the edge of the most amazing cliffs I have ever seen.

joy on the bight

It was awe-inspiring and scary at the same time, especially when Joy tripped over her thong (that’s flip-flop to all you British readers) and headed towards the cliff edge. Thankfully she was ok but it scared the holy crap out of me, although as most people who know me would know, I am a bit of a drama queen. These cliffs are magnificent but erosion is doing its bit to get rid of them. There are even some places which are now shut off as it is too dangerous. Just another example of the power of nature. There seems to be a bloody theme starting here!!! With the bight behind us we headed for Ceduna and the end of the Nullarbor. This is where the true Nullarbor Plain starts and there were some parts which were without trees as Nullarbor means but both Joy and  were amazed how diverse the landscape was. It was not as barren as we had expected and certainly not as bleak. But it did hit home just how remote the place is when you see some stretches of road doubling up as emergency landing strips for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. We finally reached Ceduna about 7pm SA time and still had time to set up camp in daylight. Oh the beauty of daylight saving!!! We toasted our success and settled down to what we thought would be a deep sleep dreaming of the great journey we just been on. Day four should be a beauty.

Day two

December 3, 2009

Day two began at a leisurely pace with what is probably the shortest journey on our long trek. We set off on the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway on the road for Norseman – the start of the Nullarbor adventure. Got there at 11.30am having set out at 9.30am. Stopped for what should have been a short coffee break but ended up being a two-hour farce. The coffee machine we were given with our new Waeco fridge – which fits nicely in the back of the 4wd I have to say – took too much power – it seems – from the cigarette lighter where it is plugged in. So panicky old me, thinking that we would not be able to charge anything, headed for the local garage. Now I am not saying the blokes in the local auto repair shop were useless – far from it – I could not have laid on my back for 2 hours with flies buzzing around every orifice trying to check fuses. But suffice to say they could not find a problem.

at the garage at Norseman

We decided to head off knowing we would have to fix the problem in Port Augusta when we reach a big town again. No worries, we thought, we would charge everything at camp when we stop tonight. Where that stop was going to be we were unsure at this stage. I foolishly imagined every on the map across the Nullarbor was a small town. How wrong could I be!!! In fact, for those yet to make the trip, let me warn you that places such as Balladonia – where pieces of Skylab fell to Earth in 1979 – Caiguna and Cocklebiddy are just that – places.

the piece of skylab which fell to Earth near Balladonia

No towns just roadhouses. We eventually made it to Cocklebiddy about 6pm. It was a day of great driving as we reached the 90 mile straight road, which is Australia’s longest straight road, earlier than I expected. I had gone down the same road 21 years previously but Joy was about to experience it for the first time. It was as amazing as I remembered it, although this time we did it in daylight and not on the Greyhound bus. A straight road means you can put your foot down and how and we made up for lost time. Cocklebiddy was a strange place and the woman at the roadhouse said we could pitch our tent for $25. How she expected us to hammer spikes in into concrete-like ground I don’t know. Maybe it was a ploy to get us to pay the extra $90 – yes that’s right – to stay in their crummy motel!! However we had a great feed and a good sleep ready for day three.

this sign was outside the roadhouse in Cocklebiddy

Day one

December 1, 2009

the dillons ready for departure on day one

Tuesday December 1, 2009:  Today’s the day – the start of the big adventure. Joy – that’s my lovely wife for the uninitiated – finally left our home in Boronia Ave Albany at around 10.30am. The night before we had said to friends we were aiming to set out at 6am!! All best laid plans and all that!!! The final clean of the house and packing of the car took longer than expected well certainly longer than I expected anyway. We drove off expecting to be in Esperance at about 3.50pm – that was according to our new friend Kate – the sat nav to all you readers. But Kate did not take in to account the little detour to Woolworths to drop off some unwanted clothes into the charity bin and our first repack of the car for the day. Twenty minutes later and we set off again with Kate’s ETA now renavigated at 4.20pm. The drive on the South Coast Highway between Albany is pretty boring at the best of times so it is tough not to get drowsy – not the best-case scenario when you are driving a powerful v6 4wd packed to the rafters with your life ‘s possessions. So after another short roadside stop with some friendly neighbourhood flies, we were on our way again. Kate was obviously getting pissed off with all these unscheduled stops and I am sure I detected some disdain in her voice when she gave a later estimated time of arrival in Esperance. Passing through Ravensthorpe both Joy and I noticed how roads had been wider in anticipation of the higher number of vehicles expected in the town because of the new mine. It was quite sad to see what the mine’s closure had done for the area. The next part of the journey was a bit of a blur as Joy took the wheel and I chucked out a few Zs. But I am pretty sure the scenery did not change much – just miles and miles of nothing with the odd grain silo dotted here and there just to break the monotony. Arrived in beautiful and sunny Esperance at 4.20pm as Kate suggested – clever girl. Bought some food supplies and booked in at Pink Lake Caravan Park. It was our first real go at putting our new tent up, although we’d had a quick practice a couple of days previous. The tents these days are a far cry from when I used to go camping back in Devon in South West England back in the 1970s. All I remember about those barmy (correct) days were the arguements between me and my sisters about what went where as far as tent poles and guy ropes went. These days you just slip the elasticated poles into place, tie down the guy ropes and bob’s your uncle, although Joy did proceed to trip over the same guy rope about 10 times in between repacking the car for a third time. Spaghetti bolognese was the chosen meal for day one and now it’s time for a shower and time for bed. Who knows what driving delights day two of the big adventure will bring. Be back tomorrow for the next big instalment.

the packed car after a repack - more would follow

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November 20, 2009

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