Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Heading East to Canberra

October 22:
We were leaving Margaret River today and heading down along the south coast for the next four weeks, but all that changed with just one phone call that woke us at 6:00. The news that a very close and dear friend had passed away unexpectedly the night before at the tender age of fifty seven. The family live in Canberra and we camped with them earlier this year at Arakoon just like we do each year. With this sad news we both agreed that we could not enjoy the remainder of our holiday but would instead head for Canberra to be with the family for the funeral. We had planned to have lunch today with "Motherhen" in Bridgetown but of course we did not have the time to stop and socialise, so unfortunately that was cancelled. We headed east through Nannup, Bridgetown, Boyup Brook, Kojonup, Bromehill and Jerramungup before spending the night just west of Ravensthorpe in the bush.
Distance today 573 kms.

October 23:
Ten degrees in the van this morning before receiving another call confirming the funeral arrangements for Wednesday 30th October. We left soon after and stopped in Esperance for a coffee before heading north to Norseman to have lunch and refuel. We still had another 167 kms to travel today. Our camp for this evening is Harms Lake and when we arrived there were several other vans already parked for the evening.
Distance today 553 kms.

October 24:
Twelve degrees inside the van this morning with an overcast sky. We have another long day ahead of us and will be crossing into South Australia late this afternoon to camp at one of the scenic lookouts along the Great Australian Bight. We were driving by 7:00 and stopped at Balladonia 25 kms further on to refuel before continuing east. The information given to us at the Norseman Information Centre the day before was that we would have a tail wind as we continued east. How wrong they were, we had quite a severe head wind until we stopped driving at 6:00 that evening. We faced the van into the wind and sat inside looking at the Southern Ocean while we had our first Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum for the evening. Our site was 80 kms west of the West Australian border and there was another van camped nearby.
Distance today 645 kms.

October 25:
Another cool morning with just eleven degrees inside the van at 5:30. Thankfully the winds we had experienced yesterday where today much lighter. We purchased fuel at Nullarbor at $2.02 cpl before proceeding on. We emptied our toilet cassette at Ceduna purchased diesel at $1.69 cpl before proceeding further east. It was wheat harvest time and we had to contend with B doubles carting wheat to the silos until we stopped for the night at the Apex Park in Minnipa. The whole camp area was strewn with rubbish including large amounts of toilet paper so it was on with the rubber gloves and when I had finished I had filled a large green garbage bag. Ros then shouted me a very cold Little Creatures Pale Ale for my efforts.
Distance today 567 kms.

October 26:
Ten degrees inside the van at 6:30 this morning with a light breeze and clear skies. We left our camp at 7:30 continuing east along the Eyre Highway towards Port Augusta where we refueled before turning south. When we were level with Port Pirie we turned inland passing through Hughes Gap and stopping for lunch at Gladstone. We had planned to camp at Burra Gorge this evening but with so much more daylight available we decided to travel onto Morgan where we crossed the Murray River on the car ferry and camped at the Cadell Recreation Ground for $20.00 per site. The amenities were brand new and also included a dump point. Because the temperatures were so mild we sat outside the van for our happy hour and then cooked outside on our gas ring. Ros had lamb cutlets and I had porterhouse steak which we bought at Margaret River. This was served with mash potato with onion and peas and of course another bottle of red wine.
Distance today 587 kms.

October 27:
A lovely warm seventeen degrees at 5:30 this morning with light rain falling. Willy Weather predicts light rain clearing later with winds from the south west so looks like another day driving into the wind. The rain cleared as we left our campsite and we experienced wet roads for the next 30 kms until we reached Waikerie. We refuelled in Renmark and then Balranald before continuing east towards Hay on the Sturt Highway. We thought we may camp at one of the many sites along the Murrumbidgee River but we had already covered so many kms today and driven for 7.2 hours so we called it a day and camped at the showgrounds at Hay. $17.00 per site with power, showers and toilets and best of all we had the place to ourselves. Another warm evening so once the flies had departed we cooked our meal outside again with those wonderful meats from the Margaret River.
This fountain commemorates the existence of a Prisoner Of war camp in Hay from 1940 to 1946 which housed interns and prisoners of the Japanese and Italian forces. This was the headquarters for the POW group of three camps each of which housed 1000 men.

Distance today 535 kms.

October 28:
We had light rain falling on the van during the early hours of this morning. At 6:00 it was seventeen degrees. The show ground also houses the race track and Ros joked this morning as to whether we would see any horses doing track work. I commented that it's not Royal Randwick, but low and behold while we were having our coffee a 4wd was being driven around the track with a horse tethered to the side of the vehicle. Rain started to fall as we left the showground and continued for the next 177 kms until we reached Narrandera. From here it was an easy run through Wagga Wagga and onto the Hume Freeway. We stopped for lunch at Yass before setting up camp at Exhibition Park in Canberra. Fees for a powered site are $30.00 which includes all the usual amenities and a dump point. It's situated just off the Federal Highway near the northern suburb of Watson.
Distance today 503 kms.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Margaret River

October 18:
Eighteen degrees inside the van at 7:00 this morning. Another lovely day with clear blue skies. We left the caravan park at Karrinyup at 9:30 hoping to miss the mad rush of people going into Perth for work. We turned onto the Mitchell Freeway that took us in past the city and across the Swan River. The further south we went the cloud increased and after passing the Mandurah turnoff we experienced light rain which turned heavier around the turnoff to Bunbury. As we approached the bypass road at Busselton the rain cleared and the sky improved with patches of blue.
We passed through Cowaramup before driving through Margaret River and turning onto Rosa Brook Road which we followed for 7kms before turning onto a dirt road for the last 2 kms to our camp. We are camping at the Big Valley Campground. It's surrounded by lovely green hills and is on a working sheep farm.
Distance today 318 kms. 
Their website is www.bigvalleymargaretriver.com.au and bookings are essential. There is power, a dump point showers and toilets. After setting up camp we drove back into Margaret River and wandered around the town before having a coffee then it was onto Margaret River Gourmet Meats in the main street. My Godson, Robert recommended that I go there, one because he knows them and secondly because they have the best meat especially their Wagyu burgers. Along with the burgers we purchased a leg of lamb, porterhouse and scotch fillet steaks, lamb cutlets and pork chops.
We cooked some of the burgers over the fire on our Oz Pig that night and they were so delicious that we will be returning for more before we leave.

October 19:
We woke to fourteen degrees inside the van and with light rain falling. The rain had started in the early hours of the morning and the weather prediction is that it will continue for the remainder of the day.  We drove north today back through Cowaramup. The town lies at the centre of the Margaret River wine region. There are life sized fibreglass cows all along the main streets and in the parks and it's not just any 'udder' town.
From here it was onto the Grove Liqueur Factory. We had sampled some of their liqueurs whilst in Perth and we were here to purchase. We tasted many, but finally agreed on the Turkish Delight and Butterscotch.
It was then onto Busselton which lies on Geographe Bay and has a population of 25,000. We were here to view the famous jetty and the underwater observatory. The jetty extends 1.8 kms into the bay and is the longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. It's just unfortunate that we were not seeing it at its best because of the rain and overcast skies. We purchased a $28.00 ticket each to take the tram ride out to the end of the jetty which also included a guided tour.
Later we had a nice lunch at the Equinox Cafe that overlooks the bay. From here we passed through Dunsborough to view the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse which is in Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. Unfortunately we did not get to appreciate the beauty of the area because of the cloud cover and constant rain.
We continued south on Caves Road but in the end just gave up because of the rain and headed back to our campsite.
Distance today 185 kms.

October 20:
Eleven degrees inside the van this morning at 7:00 before the heater was turned on. It rained all night and when we woke there were patches of blue sky but these continued to appear and disappear just as quickly.
This morning we visited the Margaret River Nougat Factory, the Dairy Factory, Chocolate Factory and Millers ice cream farm shop. After lunch we visited the Colonial Brewery where we sampled seven of their beers and we both agreed that the Pale Ale was our favourite.

October 21:
Another eleven degrees this morning at 7:00 with cloudy skies. The heater soon had the temperature up to a reasonable seventeen degrees by 8:15. We drove into Margaret River to purchase more of those Wagyu burgers before heading south and passing through Karridale and then Augusta. We were on our way to view the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse that sits at the very SW corner of Western Australia. The sky was still cloudy and the wind quite cool but thankfully no rain. The lighthouse sits at the point where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet and protects shipping from the many reefs and small islands in the vicinity. After taking photos and doing the audio tour we stopped for lunch in the cafe in one of the old caretaker's cottages.
 It was then onto view the water wheel that over time has become encrusted in calcified lime. The wheel was built in 1895 to supply water for the builders of the lighthouse. The water came from a natural spring and is still running today.
 It was then onto Hamelin Bay to view the jetty. It was once used to export timber to England, South Africa and India and many of the streets in London are still paved with Karri from the surrounding forests around Boranup and Karridale. With the demand for Jarrah instead of Karri the jetty was abandoned and fell into disrepair.
Distance today 139 kms.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kalgoorlie to Perth

October 9:
The weather forecast for today predicted cloudy weather and showers but when we woke at 5:30 the sky was cloud free and the sun shining with the van interior temperature at eighteen degrees. We are heading further west today and after 40 kms we passed through Coolgardie before stopping at Southern Cross to refuel. The cloud increased the further west we drove, then the rain started and was quite heavy at times and it continued until we arrived in Merredin where we lunched at the local cafe with burgers and hot chocolate. We continued on towards Kellerberrin to camp at the showgrounds. We entered the Camps 7 number into our Garmin GPS but on arriving, there was no camping available. Backtracking we found a sign to a new caravan park. The park looks like it had just been completed with all new facilities , and best of all just $16.50 per site per night.
Distance today 388 kms.

October 10:
A very cool morning with just ten degrees inside the van and just cool enough to crank up the diesel heater. The forecast for today was for showers but we woke to another day with beautiful blue skies. We left at 8:30 heading towards Perth. Today we were having all our batteries replaced at Alco Batteries in Belmont. Bushtracker are now fitting the Discover D27A 100 AH batteries as standard in their new vans, so that's what we installed. After that we headed north up the freeway to Karrinyup Waters Resort caravan park in Gwelup where we are booked in until the 17th October.
Distance today 252 kms.

October 11:
Seventeen degrees at 6:30 this morning. Today was cleaning day with the van exterior having a spruce up after travelling over two thousand five hundred kms of dirt roads. Then all the sheets, doona covers, and clothes were washed and dried just before lunchtime when the day turned cloudy with some light shower's that remained till the next morning.

October 12:
We were leaving the van for the next five days while we stayed with our very good friends who live in Menora which is a lovely suburb not far from the city. We were taken sightseeing today and we started at Hillary's Boat Harbour before heading south along the West Coast Highway and passing Trigg Beach, Scarborough Beach, Floreat Beach, City Beach, Sawanbourne and Cottesloe Beaches and finally stopping in Fremantle to have a seafood lunch at Fisherman's Wharf at the Kallis Brothers Restaurant and after we stopped in at the Little Creatures Brewery to sample some of their beer and purchase some merchandise.
We then followed the Swan River through Mossman Park, Peppermint Grove, Claremont, Nedlands, Matilda Bay then back into the city and up to Kings Park with lovely views of the city.
October 13:
Today was a rest day. After lunch we visited my Godson and his fiancee who are renovating their home.
Distance today 25 kms.
October 14:
Today we were being taken west, into the Perth Hills. We stopped at Kalamanda for morning tea. The town is several hundred metres above sea level and the soils in the area are ideal for growing stone fruits, apples, and vines for wine production. Mundaring Weir is the name of the dam that is the major water supply for Perth and it also provides water to Kaloorglie and Coolgardie. The water to these towns in the goldfields is pumped via a pipeline that was constructed and officially opened in 1903. 
 We visited Paul's Valley, Carmel, then passed through Karragauen and had a lovely lunch at one of the many rose farms that are in the area. Last stop for the day was the Araluen Botanic Park in Roleystone. It's located in the Darling Range 35 kms SE of Perth.
October 15:
Toured the city which included London Court, the Hay Street and Murray Street Malls and before leaving we had a beer at the Print Hall Bar that is located on the ground floor of the new BHP Building.
October 16:
Our wonderful tour director, Alan was taking us to the Swan Valley today. First on our list was the Margaret Valley Chocolate Factory, where we purchased some of their lovely merchandise before heading to Cape Lavender for a Devonshire morning tea. We then visited Talijancich who are renowned for their Verdelho, Shiraz and Aged Liqueurs, of which we brought several bottles of.  Next was the House Of Honey where Ros bought wildflower honey and some honey shampoo and conditioner.
Lunch was at Taylor's Art and Coffee House before we visited Mondo Nougat and Chocolate, where we purchased more items. We visited Houghtorns Winery where Ros and I tasted there Classic White which they sell for $15.00 a bottle but can be bought at Dan Murphy's for $8.55 per bottle. We limited our winery visits as we are off to Margaret River next week. We topped off a lovely five days visiting our friends by dining out at the Nepalese and Himalayan Restaurant in Mt Lawley for dinner.
October 17:
After saying goodbye to our friends this morning we returned to our van. We grocery shopped at the local shopping centre at Gwelup and prepared the van for our trip south tomorrow.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tjukayirla to Kalgoorlie

October 1:
A beautiful morning and at 5:30 it was fourteen degrees inside the van. Lovely blue skies with a light breeze coming in from the east. After breakfast I went in search of two more caches, one several kms from the roadhouse and one just hundreds of metres away, and was successful in finding both. Filled up with diesel at $2.35 cpl before heading west. Throughout the day, the road surface changed between minor corrugations to being very sandy and then very hard packed like bitumen with stones protruding through the surface. We stopped at a location called White Cross which in fact has a large white cross erected on a small breakaway. It was placed here by Aboriginal Christians in 1991. Also found another cache at this location.
The scenery changed often from savannah type grasses to areas containing gum trees and at times we were surrounded by lovely red sand dunes. We were surprised to see grass trees more commonly known as black boys.
 We passed by another Aboriginal Community called Csomo Newberry before stopping for the evening at the Giles Jindlee Breakaway. It's half a km east of the access road to Jindalee Operational Radar Network Facility run by the Department of Defence. The landscape at this breakaway is quite stunning and includes cliffs and jagged rocks near the lookout. Our campsite was perched up high on the breakaway with commanding views to the plains below, and we both agreed this to be the most spectacular campsite along the Great Central Road. We sat outside having our drinks while our fire died down, and as the sun set we could see the flickering lights of the Csomo Newberry community off in the distance. We ventured inside just after 6:30 as the sun had now long gone and so was our wonderful view.
Today's statistics from the navigator include three 4wd's heading west, twelve heading east including a pop top van. She also counted, which by the way is the daily record to date of eighty six wrecked cars and one caravan.
Distance today 257 Kms.

October 2:
Another cool morning with fourteen degrees inside the van at 6:00. Today we have just 50 kms left of our journey across the GCR when we will again be on the bitumen at Laverton. 21 kms east of Laverton we stopped and deposited our fruit scraps in the quarantine bin.
We thoroughly enjoyed this trip with its ever changing landscapes. These included breakaways, amazing mountain ranges, caves, cliffs and wonderful desert oak forests. We were totally surprised at the lack of wildlife and did not see a single kangaroo. A total of  254 wrecked cars were counted and we are sure we missed many more because over the years the GCR has been realigned in so many places.
We stopped for coffee and cake at the Explorers Hall of Fame in Laverton then refuelled at $1.81 cpl before continuing onto Malcolm Dam about 100 kms further west where we would spend the next two nights.
After setting up camp we drove the 13 kms into Lenora to shop and purchase some alcohol before going and viewing the remaining houses at Gwalia.

The 'Sons of Gwalia' reef was discovered in 1896 by prospectors Carlson, White and Glendinning. London based firm of Bewick, Moreing and Coy was seeking investments in the WA Goldfields, and sent a young Americian mining engineer, Herbert Hoover (later to become the 31st President of the United States of America), to Gwalia to report on the prospects of investing here. The rest is now history with Hoover appointed as the mine manager. It's reputed that he was the only twenty three year old in the world to be earning more than $30,000 per year at this time.  
The almost deserted township once housed over one thousand people, in the late 1890's, many of whom were migrants from Europe. They departed when the Sons Of Gwalia mine closed in 1963. This mine is only one of two outside Kalgoorlie Boulder's 'Golden Mile' to produce over two million ounces of gold. There is currently about twenty people living in the township.
Most miners who came here were single men and guesthouses such as Patroni's Guest House were built to accommodate them. 
The then Western Australian Government operated a chain of state owned hotels and this hotel was the first and the last to operate. Because there were few places to spend money the State Hotel earned a steady income for the Government. It was sold to a syndicate of local residents in 1960 which ran the hotel until it closed in 1964It's a magnificent building but unfortunately the timber work on the front of the building needs some maintenance.

We would return tomorrow, and view the remainder of the museum on the hill including Hoover House.
Distance today 169 Kms.

October 3:
We were woken this morning before 5:30 with the wind flapping the awning. We always tie it down with two guy ropes on either end because we have seen the damage to a van that hasn't done this. At about 6:00 the wind intensity had increased enough for us to both go outside and put the awning away. We are still having battery problems where the batteries are unable to hold their charge overnight with the fridge turned on. We contacted an auto electrician in Lenora who will do a load test on the batteries tomorrow. We refueled in town this morning at $163.9 cpl before purchasing some phone cards and heading 4 kms south to Gwalia.
The entrance fee of $10 per person entitles you to entry into the main buildings which include the assay office, mine office, machinery shed and more importantly to Hoover House which is also now a Bed & Breakfast. After we had finished our tour we had coffee and cake on the wide veranda overlooking the lawns around the house. Hoover House was designed by Herbert Hoover before he left Gwalia and was built between 1898-1899. Hoover left Gwalia before the house was completed to work in China. However he returned and stayed in the house on numerous occasions after returning from China in 1902.
Distance today 38 Kms.
October 4:
At 5:15 it was twenty one degrees inside the van this morning. Looks like another hot day. The auto electrician confirmed that two of our batteries did not pass the load test and would need to be replaced. They were unable to supply me with the batteries I required so we will have them replaced in Perth. Our option until then is to power off the fridge once the sun goes down and restart it in the morning once we have enough solar input. We turned south today and our camp tonight is just 60 kms away. We are camping at Niagara Dam. There are three areas to camp at the dam. Two of these have a view of the dam but, are perched on a small hill and quite open to the elements especially the wind.
So we opted to camp below the dam wall amongst the trees with some protection from the constantly strong winds. I found another cache here located within a small cave to the east of the dam wall. We cooked our meal over an open fire this evening after the winds had died down. Temperatures were very hot today with the van interior registering 37.8 degrees at 6:30 pm.
Distance today 95 Kms.

Oct 5:
At 6:30 this morning van temperature was fourteen degrees. Another perfect looking day with the forecast temperature not as hot as yesterday. We are heading north today for 11 kms to view Kookynie. It's described as a living ghost town, but to us it looked pretty dead. In the early 1900's the population was 3,500, but now there is just a handful of people living here. In its heyday there were eleven hotels, a brewery and many businesses to support this size population. There were interpretive panels spread around the mostly empty streets describing what buildings were at each site. The Grand Hotel which is well over one hundred years old and looks quite run down, still operates and supplies accommodation, meals, fuel and camping facilities which is just a dirt car park to the side.
These steps led to the now demolished railway platform.
One of the remaining walls to the National Bank.
Ruins of one of the many hotel ruins.
I found one of two caches located in the ruins of the town. Temperatures were about ten degrees less than yesterday which made for a nice change.
Distance today 28 Kms.

Oct 6:
Another cool morning with fourteen degrees this morning. I know I'm sounding a little repetitive but for the past twenty eight days the morning skies have been brilliant blue with no cloud, and that is since leaving Quorn in South Australia.
With just 18 kms until we reached the Goldfields Highway we turned south towards Menzies another 42 kms further on. Menzies is just like the other goldfields towns that sprung up quickly in the late 1800's and early 1900's. At one stage there were thousands of people in these towns and in Menzies case over ten thousand people, but by 1910 the population had dwindled to just one thousand. This drop in population was caused by gold production falling and by the onset of World War 1. We stopped only briefly here for a few photos and I was unsuccessful in finding several caches.
We aired down our tyres before continuing on towards Lake Ballard another 50 odd kms NW of Menzies. The road was in quite good condition with only mild corrugations so we sat comfortably on 70 kms/h. Antony Gormley created fifty one life sized sculptures of residents of Menzies then cast them in alloy. The sculptures cover an area of seven square kilometres and are embedded into the salt encrusted lake bed.
Our plan was to spend two nights here but with the strong westerlies blowing and the dust billowing every where, we decided that once we take photos this evening and tomorrow morning we are out of here. I found two caches located near the lake and we drove 3 kms to Snake Hill Lookout where I found the third listed for this area which was located about 500 metres from the lookout, and hoping I would not find why it was called Snake Hill.
Distance today 120 Kms. 
Oct 7:
Fifteen degrees inside the van at 5:30 this morning and cloudless skies. I climbed the hill that sits on the lake this morning to take some shots while Ros prepared the coffee for when I returned.
We drank two coffees each outside until the flies drove us inside at 6:30. We left our campsite and continued west for several kms before turning south on the Riverina to Snake Hill Road. We were heading to Coolgardie on part of what is called the Golden Quest Discovery Trail. This part of the trail is a distance of 190 kms which is all dirt. The first 100 kms were quite good with the road surface better than the Menzies to Lake Ballard road, however the road then deteriorated to corrugations and rough stony sections until about 20 kms north of Coolgardie.
On the way we detoured into Rowles Lagoon Nature Reserve only to find the lagoon to be bone dry and of course there was no bird life to be seen.
The only consolation was in finding a cache within the area. I also found caches at two former gold mining towns of Davyhurst and Kunanalling,
before we arrived in Coolgardie where I reinflated our tyres for the run east towards Kalgoorlie.
We had planned to camp at another free camp this side of Kalgoorlie but with school holidays still on there were trail bikes kicking up dust everywhere so we continued onto Kalgoorlie and camped in the free twenty four hour rest area almost in the centre of town.
 After setting up we headed into town for a coffee in the main street before returning to have our evening drinks without flies, before I cooked steaks and stir fry vegetables outside the van on our gas ring with another bottle of shiraz.
Distance today 271 Kms.

Oct 8:
Another one of those beautiful mornings with fourteen degrees inside the van at 6:00. Today was a busy day for both of us. We washed our clothes at the local laundromat, shopped at Woolworth's, filled the car with fuel at $1.58 cpl, I had my hair cut, Ros had some TLC at the local beauty parlour and then a great lunch at the York Hotel followed by some sightseeing including the Super pit.
Distance today 38 Kms.