Sunday, 6 January 2013

Home James...

With another wine region in our sights as our next destination we left Lincoln National Park (and Xmas) behind us and headed into Port Lincoln town for a quick fill up on diesel and groceries.  Travelling up north to Port Augusta and then back down to Clare was a long drive that day (especially after having lunch at Port Augusta McDonalds).  As the crow flies we’d only travelled a few hundred km’s across the Spencer Gulf, but traversing it’s coast was a lot lot longer.
Anyway we arrived at the Clare Valley and slotted into a spot at the one and only caravan park in town.  Of course, being Xmas holidays the park was busy, but we managed to grab a decent spot right opposite a big lush lawn area where we had a few games of good old ‘tippity run’ cricket.  Plus with the jumping pillow and swimming pool (heated too!) nearby we were happy campers.
Heated too...
Plenty for the kids to do.
The next morning after getting a load of much needed washing done, we rounded the kids up and convinced them that more wine tasting was good for them and the parents.  After our stay at Margaret River the Clare Valley wineries had a lot to live up to and while it was nowhere near the size of Margaret River it had a charm of its own... and some very nice wines too.  So we ended up doing a couple of tastings and tried to find a cellar door that served food as well.  As we hadn’t booked a table at any we ended up at the Seven Hills hotel/pub for a nice meal instead.
Annie's Lane Winery
Ben the poacher. (You should see his Rhino collection.)
After that the kids were itching to get back for a swim in the pool so we headed back to the caravan park. Some more World Series tippity run and Clare Valley was turning out to be a top choice for us. 
But alas two nights was all we could afford time wise, so off we went again the next morning.  This time though the car trip wasn’t so long and we could afford to spend a bit of time in the town of ‘Keith’ for lunch (what a great name for a town... neighbouring town should be ‘Bruce’).  We had lunch there while the kids played on the playground and rode on the awesome ‘roller coaster’.
And we shall call this town "Keith"... (*snigger*)
We noticed that coming back into Victoria along the Western Hwy was quite uneventful.  I don’t know if we were expecting some kind of fan fair or ticker tape parade but the only thing we noticed was all the big signs about speed limits in Victoria.  The one thing we did note that is different in Victoria is that elsewhere you have Rest areas... here in Vic we have Powernap areas!  Which to mind is a bit of a gimmick... who wants a powernap when driving? I want a full blown Sleeping Beauty 100 year sleep.  Anyway I digress...
We pulled up at Dimboola and into the Little Desert NP.  We’d been past Dimboola a few times over the years (usually on the way to Wyperfeld NP) but never ventured into the Little Desert.
Yes well done for spotting that it was taken on the way out!

Ackle Bend
We chose to camp at Ackle Bend which is right beside the Wimmera river and it’s one of the two camp areas, the other being Horseshoe Bend.  So after setting up we went and collected some fire wood (but never got round to lighting it that night) and had a quick look down at the river.
The next morning after being woken by the inconsiderate camping neighbour with his generator (still yet to meet one that cares about the others around them... mongrels) we had a very short walk around the camping area and through the park.  We told the kids at the start that this would be the very last walk for our holiday and we were greeted with a resounding heartfelt “Thank God” from Ashley.  Yeah, I think they’re about done for the whole holiday walks thing.

So after the walk we settled in for doing absolutely nothing for our last full day of our 4 month holiday.  And what a nice relaxing day it was.  The kids played happily together while us parents made headway into the books we gave each other for Xmas.
Very lazy day indeed.
That night, for the first time in a looooooong while, we lit the fire and felt the warmth to take the chill off the cool night air.  Aaaah Victoria, how we’ve missed your weather...
Bring out the marshmallows!!!
Retiring to bed that night it was sad to think that this was our last night ‘on the road’.  The next morning, for the very last time Lee made the usual call: “It’s moving day let’s get packing” and the cycle of strategically packing everything up once again came around.  This time though we weren’t to a schedule to get somewhere by a certain time; if we got back home late (or never!) who cares, we could be assured they’d be a nice clean bed (and house) waiting for all of us (thanks to Lee’s mum, Glenis) where we didn’t need to book in.
So back on the road again, the map wasn’t needed this day.  After a dodgey coffee from a cafe in Dimboola, it was homeward bound.  Pretty soon the familiar sights of Melbourne welcomely started to appear... along with the traffic and the general impatience of everyone on the road.  Everyone needs to chill out and take a 4 month holiday.
Yes but how far to the Powernap area?
Downtown Metroplis
Finally pulling into our street, we noticed a couple of the neighbours places were up for sale (perhaps they’d heard we were coming home!?) plus a whole new house had been built.  A lot can happen in 4 months apparently.
So with the Patrol and camper trailer parked in the driveway, the sadness had gone and was replaced by the excitement of coming home on such a nice sunny day.  The kids were excited especially... they were looking forward to playing with their long lost toys as it would be like Xmas all over again.
Home Sweet Home
All we had to do now was find those damn house keys...

Thanks for joining us on our trip, we've had lots of fun making memories.
xx The Jackson 5 xx

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas in the bush.

Travelling towards Port Lincoln we passed through Coffin Bay for a quick look; a nice little coastal town with great camp spots in the national park (so we’re told).  It’s a place we’d like to visit again some other day to explore more (like a lot of places we’ve shot through) as we chose to push onto Port Lincoln just 30kms away.
Port Lincoln is on the tip of the Eyre Peninsula, and it’s quite big and has a lot of the main stream shops.  The Lincoln National Park is 20kms further on from the town, so nice and convenient.  With lots of camping spots dotted along its beaches and bays, we ended up finding a great spot at Surfleet Cove in a sheltered bay area.  Setting up the camper, we had a beautiful view to the water.
The view...
While we set up camp the kids were finally able to get the Christmas decorations out and they were happy decorating our dwarf Xmas tree and camper with the few bits of tinsel we had.  We thought it looked pretty good in the end.
Santa's Elves
Home sweet home
We spent a lot of time at ‘our’ beach that we had on our front doorstep and found that the few other campers there must be allergic to the water as we had the beach to ourselves.
'Our' beach
Oh what a feeling... Port Lincoln.
Hours to make, one high tide to destroy.
Being close to town we made a couple of trips back into Port Lincoln.  One was for a civilisation fix of a Maccas breaky, (yum), and we also had lunch at the water front ‘Pier pub’ to escape a stinking hot day (bigger yum).

Port Lincoln - Home of Makybe Diva
We also took a look around the rest of the National Park and found a 4wd track (the Investigator Trail) that gave some nice pin stripes to the side of the Patrol.  We ditched that quick smart as the constant screeching (from the kids also) was a bit ‘nails down a blackboard’. We also ventured up to a beautiful bay called September beach.  Again the other water phobic campers from there allowed us to have the place to ourselves, so we swam in the calm waters (another sheltered bay) and explored around the rocks.  We liked that beach so much that we decided to go back the following day (Xmas day) for a picnic lunch. 
September Beach
Xmas at September
"Ben, I know you're not dead"
So the big day arrived and we were all happy that the big bloke in red had found us the night before.  Geez he and his helper were really quiet putting the kids toys in their Santa sacks (green eco shopping bags!) to not wake them ;-)  Anyway we had a very relaxing Xmas morning with the kids playing with their new toys... no hustle and bustle of rushing around.  
Prezzie time
For the car trip
Shark tooth necklace
Exchanging the loot
After our visit back to September beach in the afternoon, we returned to camp to cook up our Xmas pork belly in the Weber... Dee-lish-us. God bless Webers!
Xmas dinner, bush style... with crackers.
We ended up camping at Lincoln NP for 5 nights (God bless solar power), and when it was time to move on, it was another sad moment.  Sad to leave such a beautiful spot, and sad that our time travelling is drawing to an end.

BUT... before reaching home, we decided that the Clare Valley must be a good place to visit this time of year.

The Never ending Nullarbor

(Warning: the following blog contains copious amounts of sarcasm using ‘Sarcastica’ font)
Crossing the Nullarbor is one of the quintessential travels of Australia.  It has to be... there are only two bitumen roads into/out of WA.  The other is 2000kms north near Kununurra!
Leading up to our crossing (makes it sound like some epic journey doesn’t it) there was a fair bit of pessimistic talk from those we’d spoken to who had done the crossing.  “Boring”, “It goes on and on”, “There’s nothing to see”.  Some people cross it in two days! and I think that’s where a lot of its reputation starts.  Driving anywhere for that long each day with the scenery flashing by will eat away at anyone’s sanity. we did it in three and a bit days!
Day 1:
We left our camp site at Lucky Bay (in Cape Le Grand National park) with our fellow travellers Anne & Ron and headed back into Esperance before heading north to Norseman and then heading east across the infamous ‘Nulla’. We had heard that taking the dirt track from Cape Le Grand north east to Balladonia was pretty rough and slow going and wouldn’t save us any time, so we opted for the longer but far more comfortable journey via Norseman.  (We’ve had our fair share of corrugations from the Tanami thanks very much).  So after lunch at a play ground in Norseman and a bit more afternoon driving, we had our first night at a road side rest area (Woorlba Homestead) where you just pull in and find a spot in amongst the bush to set up.  We thought we’d chosen well as it was a huge area and only a couple of other cars/caravans were there.  That was until nightfall and the never ending road trains kept going past all night...  They’re lit up like Christmas trees and can be heard through the still of night from a far distance.  Some pulled in for rest breaks, one even kind enough to leave his truck running for over an hour while he slept.  Mmmmm, not much sleep that night for the adults... kids were fine as they can sleep through an atomic bomb!  This was also our first (and last!) over night stay at a road side rest area for our whole trip.
Woorlba Homestead Rest Area. Is that a truck I hear?
Day 2:
Waking up bleary eyed from our restless night, we brushed our teeth with coffee! and packed up for more of the Nulla.  Not long after starting we finally reached the infamous 90 mile straight sign... and that was the best entertainment for the day!
Max Entertainment
Lunch at Madura... bit more entertainment, and then we finally reached Eucla and stayed at the only accommodation in the area at the caravan park (that’s stretching it a bit).
Eucla was a bit surprising, as it sits up on the bluff and gives some magnificent views of the surrounding ‘flatness’ and the beautiful view of the southern ocean from about 5kms away.  You can just see it on the horizon.  Anyway we managed to get a spot on the edge of the camp ground/cliff so we were happy campers that night.  Great way to end an action packed day.
Day 3:
Leaving the highlight town of WA (heavy sarcasm there), we reached the WASA border. This was a bit momentous for us after having spent over 3 months of our trip in WA.  SA was warned to keep up to the benchmark set by WA.  For the next 100 odd kms, the road actually runs very close (100m or so) to the coast line.  And the coast line (when approachable) is actually breath taking (no sarcasm).
The Great Australian Bight
Our third night was a great camp spot at Cactus beach, south of the little town of Penong.  (#793 in the Camps 6 book!)  Keen surfers may know this beach for its great left and right breaks (I googled that) so the camp ground was full of blond haired, tanned waifs. 
Cactus Beach
We had a nice big campsite that we shared with Anne and Ron.  We spent the later part of the afternoon swimming and collecting shells.  That night we enjoyed drinks and music with Kimberley Moon (our favourite song of the trip) and Neil Diamond on high rotation.

Song Sung Blue...
Here’s an interesting note:  Going from WA to SA, you don’t go through the fruit and veg quarantine until 480kms later at Ceduna (we were going through it the next day).  So that night at Cactus beach, we (and Anne & Ron) had copious amounts of vegies for tea (poor kids).  In fact, what we couldn’t cook and eat we gave away to the other campers.
Day 4:
We could have spent a while at this well appointed camp at Cactus beach, but feeling the urge to move on to get to our destination of Streaky Bay to set up for Xmas, we packed everything up again and moved on.
I don’t think there’s an official ending to the Nullarbor (which by the way is Latin for Null – no & Arbor – trees) but reaching Ceduna town seems like the common thinking.  We’d passed many little towns/roadhouses on the way and the scenery along the way is certainly not all boring and flat barren land... it does have some redeeming features.
So anyway we went through the quarantine check point at Ceduna and felt duped when the inspector didn’t even bother checking the containers in the trailer (just a glance in the fridge)... we could have kept some fruit and vegies!  So needing to re fill the pantry we stopped at Ceduna for food, fuel and water before heading off the Eyre hwy onto the Flinders hwy to Streaky Bay.
We initially had plans to bush camp at Perlubie beach (#722) having heard nothing but good things about it, but after finally finding it (after countless side tracks) we were very disappointed with it so drove into Streaky bay town (am I the only one who’s thinking of bacon?).  After being disappointed by another beach/bush camp at Sceale bay (#718) we opted to stay back at the one and only town caravan park for 2 nights.  (Xmas will have to be somewhere else!!) 
Anyway the caravan park was a big hit with the kids as they were in their element.  TV room, games room and pedal go-carts to hire. Plus we all went for a paddle/swim in the beautiful, shallow, wave less, sheltered warm waters of the bay.  That night (being a bit warm and warn out from rushing around trying to find a bush camp) we enjoyed dinner at the pub (with the great company of Anne and Ron of course).
Hells Angels are in town
Need a tow?
Two nights wasn’t enough for the kids, but we had to move on and find a spot to spend Christmas.  As Ron and Anne had to be back in Melbourne before Xmas, we once again said farewell (again!... but this time for good) and headed south to check out the National Park at Port Lincoln.
A sad farewell.
Fingers crossed to find a nice spot, where Santa knows where we are.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Heading east where everything’s up.

Leaving Margaret River we now find ourselves travelling in an easterly direction rather than south.  Unfortunately that makes us feel like we’re heading home, but we still have a long way to go to get there, many more sights to see and lots of towns to visit ending with the word ‘up’.  Those that have visited or live in WA know what we mean...
Passing through Peerabeelup, Milyneannup NP and Beedelup NP (getting the ‘up’ picture yet?) our next tourist stop was at the Bicentennial Tree in amongst the tall timber Karri forests near Pemberton.  It’s one of a few trees in the area you can climb.  Originally used for fire spotting, they are OH&S nightmares.  Anyway we all had ideas of climbing this huge tree but after arriving and seeing just how dangerous it could be if you slipped through the rungs we had to tell the kids it wasn’t safe for them.  There were a few tears but better to be safe than sorry.  Kaz however did a quick scurry up to the first viewing platform with white knuckles gripping on tightly.
Bicentenial Tree
After checking out a few campsites in Warren NP (Pemberton) and deciding they didn’t make the grade, we moved on through Northcliffe down to Windy Harbour back down on the coast.  This was just for one night (it lives up to its name) and we moved on to Walpole the following day.
After the obligatory visitor info centre stop, we decided to pop in to the Big Hair shop on the main street to say hello to Ivan whom we’d previously met up at King Edward River in the Kimberley.  Back then he was travelling with his mates delivering much needed beer to The Kimberley Coastal Camp and we’d had a drink with them all after all it was 10 am! (photo featured in one of our previous blogs).  He gave us a business card which we’d hung onto, but didn’t really need it as his shop was one of only a hand full in this small town.

Ivan's Big Hair Shop (He's big as well)
Anyway he came out and greeted us and offered us the backyard of his shop to camp in which turned out to be great.  Like a full service caravan park but with only one site we had our own laundry, toilet and washing machine, fresh vegies from the garden to choose from, a fire pit, fresh eggs, lush grass to camp on and a garage complete with tv, couch and dart board. 
Camp site with all the best amenities (one site only!)
We visited circular pool and did the Valley of the Giants TreeTop Walk through the tingle trees.  Reaching 40m high the walking platform gave an unnerving sway while you walked along.
Circular Pool
Valley of the Giants Treetop walk
Apparently in days gone by, people used to park their cars inside the tingle trees for shade while they picnicked and had a look around. Unfortunately this damaged the shallow roots and caused a few to fall over.  So nowadays they treat them like the dolphins at Monkey Mia!

Car parking... Tingle tree style.
The next day we checked out some fishing spots and beaches but ended up at the good old faithful town jetty.  The kids enjoyed their first experience of catching fish (little black bream and trumpeters), and although they caught lots of them they were all a bit small to keep.
Walpole fishing
We spent our last night at Walpole round the fire pit with Ivan enjoying some drinks and in the morning before leaving Kaz took advantage of Ivan’s skills and got some much needed foils and a haircut.
Driving through Denmark we stopped at Albany for lunch before deciding that our next stop was to be at Fitzgerald National Park just north of Bremer Bay.  It was at Point Ann/St Mary’s Inlet and it was a beautiful camp spot in amongst the bush right by a pristine beach and inlet.  How it’s not in the Camps 6 book is beyond us, perhaps that why it’s so nice not having all the tourists go through it?  Anyway during the months of June to October it’s where the female whales come in to give birth.
Point Ann/Marys Inlet Camp site
Burning off the car trip stored energy.
Marys Inlet
Ashley the giant walking on water.
We stayed just the one night (but would have liked to stayed a few more days) as we were heading to Cape Le Grand National Park near Esperance to meet up with Ron and Ann again.  Again, the beaches along this part of the coast are pristine, with the fine white sand and blue clear waters. 
We spent a day at Hellfire Bay catching the waves in.  The kids had a ball in the water, as did the adults, and lazing around on the rocks.  Lee and Ron tried some fishing but no luck unfortunately.

Having a hell of a time at Hellfire bay
Rock fishing at Hellfire bay... no luck.
Hellfire Bay
The rock lobster
We did the walk/climb up to Frenchman’s peak which was quite a steep climb, but worth the view from the top!  There was plenty of vegetation up at the top and even a goanna had made himself at home up there. At the top of the peak there is a cave that is open both ends which was quite unusual.
Frenchmans Peak at Cape Le Grand
The peak of Frenchmans peak
We met up with Mark & Megan and their boys Zac & Josh at this campsite as well that we’d been running into along the way, so we all enjoyed our own happy hour each night with lots of food, drinks and laughs!  Although the campsite was more like a parking bay the kids still enjoyed riding their bikes around and Ben made his own awesome tree house, which he proudly showed anybody and everybody.
'Ben Grylls' survival hammock... away from the snakes
After staying four nights, it was time to move again and head up to Norseman before turning right and heading off across the rd.