Saturday, 26 March 2011

Back Out in the Outback

The return crossing from KI was rough but thankfully short leaving us a bit queasy for our journey north to Adelaide - our decision to spend the last night on KI in a decent motel was vindicated as it poured heavily for 24hours and flooded parts of Kingscote and might have left us stranded in a bush camp site.

A commercial site near Adelaide Airport allowed Sarah to pack for her journey and left us only a quick hop the following morning - we said our goodbyes for the next 6 weeks and she has now safely returned to Pembrokeshire after a long but uneventful journey that ran to schedule.

I stocked up and drove north to Mt. Remarkable to enjoy a good ridge walk with views towards the heart of Australia dominated by the vast waters of Lake Torrens - full now after the rains a few months ago.

Heading north I explored the main Flinders NP staying at some very isolated bush camps with magnificent stars during the cool nights and day time temperatures in the mid to high twenties.

The aboriginal art works at Mt. Chambers Gorge were like the gorge itself well worth the long haul to get there.

Miles of empty gravel roads took me eventually to the Vulkathuna Ranges where I stayed at an indigenous run camping area at Iga Warta and joined the family to watch AFL on the telly outside on the verandah.

How homesteads make any living out of the harsh arid landscape is beyond me - some were so far off the beaten track that life at any point in history must be very demanding.

The road north took me to Farina once intended to be a major agricultural town and located on the route of the Old Ghan Railway but the relocation of this and a series of droughts led to the abandonment of the entire settlement.

Leigh Creek with its vast opencast coal mining operation is now the major local industry and operates on a remarkable scale - some of the older smaller plant was on display for exploration.

Meanwhile in the background nature continues to operate with emus, water dragons, colourful birds and occasional flocks of sheep scratching an existence from the land which looks barren but is apparently in better condition than for years - certainly the Google images show a very different picture.

Now its off to the Eyre Peninsula to enjoy the coast before the Nullarbor and Perth which I hope to reach in a month or so.

Piccies here and locations here.

This post's slide show returns once more to NZ.

Saturday, 19 March 2011


Kangaroo Island has provided empty beaches, wonderful sunsets, a large full moon and deserted camping areas - just what we like.

The short hop on the ferry led us to follow the north coast before taking a very badly corrugated road out to the lighthouse at Cape Bourda. Flinders Chase NP gave us the chance to observe fur seals in close proximity in and around spectacular Admiral's Arch as well as visit the Remarkables - photogenic granite rocks with a churning sea behind.

At the various lighthouses we visited there were descriptions of some of the many shipwrecks that occurred on this stretch of coast - the first landfall in many weeks for ships from the UK bringing supplies or settlers.

A couple of bush walks took us to deserted wave lashed beaches and we camped the night at West Bay with the place to ourselves, a memorable sunset and nocturnal visits from a bush tailed possum and a small wallaby.

Here at D'Estree Bay we are camped yards from the sea with a couple of pelicans standing offshore in the shallows and mainland Oz visible in the far distance. There have been very few people around as it is a fairly pricey destination for a weekend visit - we were lucky in that they had a special offer on for caravans and rather surprisingly decided that our modest set up would qualify.

We return to the mainland on Monday with Sarah getting started on her long journey home on Tuesday.

Recent photos here and our whereabouts here

The accompanying slide show is a return to New Zealand's Fiordland which we were visiting just over a year ago.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Victoria's Outback

After the floods of January much of the central Grampians' access roads and track network had been washed away and thus the area was closed. However Mt. Sturgeon to the south and Mt. Staplyton in the north both provided good walks - the latter particularly so with an airy scramble to a lofty viewpoint proving to be a highlight. Quiet Parks camping near thought provoking aboriginal drawings was much appreciated after which we headed through the vast Victorian wheat fields with sleepy hamlets dominated by enormous silos.

Occasional clouds of locusts coated the windscreen in a smeary mess but were prevented from clogging the radiator by a smart new skirt as we drove to the Wyperfeld and Murray Sunset Parks which jointly are half the size of Wales and are bisected by just the one major road.
We had got in to Little Desert Park but access to the campground was very silty and with the isolation we did not want to risk getting stuck but Wyperfeld was fine and we spent our first three night stay of the trip there. Good cycling along sandy tracks through the mallee gave us access to a number of walks in the dry desert scrub with occasional vantage points providing views across the endless landscape. The bird life was noisy and varied ranging from large but wary emus to inquisitive superb fairy wrens, raucous galahs and sulphur crested cockatoos.
The mercury hit the 30 degree mark by day and did not fall much overnight but at least we were able to use our solar shower again to great effect and despite the long holiday weekend very few people arrived to share the solitude.
Murray Sunset contains old salt workings at the Pink Lakes where we stayed a night in isolation and enjoyed a ride round the Pioneer Track past the old salt stockpiles which were once carried by Afghani and Pakistani camel teams to a rail head 3 days away. The lakes were indeed a surprising pink hue due to a small organism that can tolerate water 800 times saltier than the sea and is comprised largely of beta-carotene.
A shift west took us in to South Australia where the fruit and veg. police inspected our stores before we headed south to the Fleurieu Peninsula from where we will cross to Kangaroo Island for a few days before dropping Sarah at Adelaide airport in ten days time.
Pics here, locations here

This post's slideshow is a compilation of photos taken during our travels of the trusty van which has now completed 220,000 miles, half in our ownership over the last 6 years. Considering the many months we have spent living in it the degree of wear and tear is minimal with a few cushions and curtains looking tired but otherwise serviceable - perhaps whilst Sarah is home I will get round to a spring clean!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

West, north, south, west again, east and now north again...

We enjoyed the Great Ocean Road with its spectacular coastal scenery but found it busier than we prefer so retreated in to the empty Otway Ranges for peaceful camping, a sighting of a platypus and some good mountain biking at Forest on my 51st birthday. Cape Otway provided a good walk out to the lighthouse and a surprisingly close encounter with koalas out in the eucalyptus forests.

Sarah has managed to rearrange her travel plans to get home a week early on the 23rd of March so she can join in a girls weekend - full marks to Singapore Airlines for free amendments and Qantas for a full refund. Less marks to the car hire company who wanted almost double for an extra week so lost the booking completely.

Thus we have a fortnight to reach Adelaide so continued along the coast via under sung Port Fairy with its gun battery and stumpy lighthouse and on in to South Australia. Here we enjoyed the delightful and empty limestone coast, climbed a few extinct volcanoes and marvelled at the distances we have covered and have to cover - the 1200km indicated from Sydney in a straight line to Cape Northumberland has in reality been 12000 miles ( not a typo ) but of course we did cover all of Tasmania, my route to Perth will be almost as indirect if the outback floods have receded and the roads are passable.

Mt Gambier's blue lake was remarkable after which we returned to Vic. collecting the stash of fruit and veg. we had hidden back over the border as there are strict controls against fruit fly in the region.

Dartmoor was a sleepy village with some clever wood carvings and after enjoying the walk to the top of long extinct Mt Napier where the flat reality of outback Australia unfolded we are now in Penshurst on a campsite near the park - excellent facilities, only one other guest and handy for the village - good value at £6 a night.

The Grampians beckon for this week and the Little Desert, Big Desert, Wyperfeld and Murray- Sunset parks will be our target again subject to access prior to the run across to Adelaide.

The slide show returns to the start of our NZ trip in September 2009.
Otherwise the recent pics are here and our whereabouts here.

We have also added a search facility so if you want to find a place we have been to etc. you can now do so easily.