Tuesday, 30 December 2014

27 - 28 December 2014 - Travelling home

We left Esperance at about 07:30 for our one and a half day drive home to Perth. We took it easy and headed for one of our known free camp spots on the Albany Highway about 27 kms north of Kojonup. We stopped at the lovely new visitor centre in Kojonup and purchased a few small gifts before setting up camp for our last night of our holiday. It had been a hot day at 33 degrees for most of the afternoon before only cooling down after sunset. We had a G&T, chips and dip before having a tuna salad for dinner. We were tired so got an early night.

The morning came early and we were awake at about 04:45! We decided to get an early start and hit the road at 06:15 for our last 250 kms. We had breakfast along the way and arrived home at 10:45. We had safely driven 24 543 kms and towed the caravan 17 777 kms right around Australia visiting every state and territory along the way - what an adventure and most awesome experience it has been.

Our last camp spot before getting home
We made it safely home after 150 days on the road!
This is our actual route

22 - 26 December 2014 - Esperance

Our first full day in Esperance started off cloudy and cool so we quickly visited the info centre and had breakfast at the Dome before doing some shopping to replenish stocks after not being able to take fresh fruit and vegetables across the border from South Australia. After dropping off the shopping in the caravan we went to Twilight Cove for a stroll on the beach as the weather had cleared into a lovely day although it was still cool. We picked up a few more groceries before heading home to relax.

Deliveries of groceries had arrived during the night so we did our final shopping before all shops closed for Christmas - it was manic! We then bought some pies and went to Twilight Beach to relax for a couple of hours. Vlasta had to be back at the caravan for a work chat about returning to her job after her career break. All went well so we celebrated with champaigne cocktails, walked to the jetty and chatted to some lovely elderly fishermen then returned to the caravan to cook pork medallions for dinner.

Next day we headed to Cape Le Grand National Park with the McGrath family we met on the jetty. We visited Hellfire Beach, Thistle Cove and then Lucky Bay for lunch, photos and a swim. Next we headed along Rossiter Bay to play on the white sand dunes. The 3 kids had a ball with their boards sliding down the dunes while all 4 adults had a great time enjoying the antics of the kids. The day was drawing to a close so we headed home for a shower before having a fantastic meal at the Loose Goose to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas day arrived and we were a little weary so we decided to relax in the caravan park. We had been invited to join the McGrath family and others for Christmas lunch, so at 12:30 we all sat down to celebrate Christmas. There were 3 other couples who had joined us and we had a great time chatting and enjoying the afternoon. At about 16:30 we all went our own ways and we took a stroll to the end of the jetty to walk off the lunch. We worked on some photos because the McGrath family were leaving the next day and we wanted to give them some photos from the previous day. Adrian and Debbie came around for drinks and then the kids joined us and we gave them sparklers as a final Christmas treat. After they all left we finished the photos and dropped into bed.

Next morning we quickly put the photos onto a USB stick and gave it to Adrian who immediately put it in the TV to view. We said our good-byes and packed a lunch and headed for Lucky Bay for the day. On the way we had a quick stop at Hellfire Bay before setting up the sun shelter and relaxed. We had our lunch then explored along the beach. On returning we had a wonderful swim in the crystal clear water before heading home. This was sadly our last day in Esperance and second last day of our holiday.

Twilight Beach
Twilight Beach
Hellfire Bay
Thistle Cove
Whistling Rock
Lucky Bay
Transparent waves on Luck Bay
White sand dunes
Playing in the dunes
Eucalypt flowers
Christmas Tree - a type of Banksia
Our sun shelter on Lucky Bay
Lucky Bay

19 - 21 December 2014 - Streaky Bay to Esperance

We were up early to set out on our trip across the the Nullabor, but before leaving Steaky Bay we took a look at the replica of the world record Great White shark caught with rod and reel in 1990 which was 1500 kgs in weight. We left Streaky Bay and headed north to the Eyre Highway stopping at Ceduna for coffee and to purchase some fresh oysters. We continued west towards the West Australian border where there are strict quarantine measures for fresh fruit and vegetables. We stopped at the Head of the Bight (the location of the most northerly point of the Southern Ocean) to look where the Southern Wright whales come to calve in winter. We then continued west along the Bunda Cliffs that extend west from the Head of the Bight for 800 kms with one stretch being un-broken for over 200 kms! We found a dirt road heading north about 100 from the WA border and followed it for a few hundred metres until we found a great spot to camp for the night. We had a bottle of champaigne, the fresh oysters from Ceduna, dinner, a walk and then bed.

We were up before sunrise to take photos of the sunrise then had a cup of coffee in bed while listening to all the birds around us taking turns to greet the new day. As we were only 100 kms from the border with WA so we decided to set all our clocks to WA time and discovered we had got up at 4 am! Anyway we packed up and hit the road planning to have breakfast somewehere along the way. We visited a lookout before having breakfast at Border Village and before getting checked by a quarantine officer at the border and continuing on our way. We stopped at a number of lookouts on the Bunda cliffs on an otherwise flat and treeless plain. The treeless section of the Nullarbor only stretches for about 80 kms with the rest quite variable but no large trees until we got to Caiguna. The winds were off the desert so the temperature climbed steadily until it hit 40 degrees. We could see some clouds in the distance and thought it would cool down once we got closer. We decided to stop for the night at Balladonia after a very long day (remember the extra 2 1/2 hours time difference!) and at least get a good shower and night's sleep before we continue to Esperance. The clouds had turned into black menacing storm clouds so we setup quickly and ran for a shower. Keith managed to shower quickly and on the way back to the caravan the wind came up suddenly with a fury and blew a huge dust cloud over him and the caravan. Well the shower ended in a dust shower too but at least he was in the caravan to close all openings before the dust covered everything. Vlasta arrived in a break in the storm so we sat down for a G&T with chips and a dip then dinner and bed.

The morning was still cloudy but no wind or rain. We had an egg and bacon muffin after visiting the little museum attached to the roadhouse. Balladonia was right on the path of the Skylab spacecraft as it re-entered the atmosphere and broke up over a swathe of Western Australia. There were parts of the spacecraft in the museum which was interesting to see. We set off for Esperance and stopped at Norseman to call the caravan park in Esperance to see if we could arrive one day early. We managed to organise the extra day so we were pleased to continue on. We had made good progress across the Nullarbor so could get an extra time in one of our favourite holiday destinations. We arrived and setup camp and then took a stroll along the newly completed waterfront and then out along the old jetty with its fishermen. A young man caught a large eagle ray and he had to drag it to the beach to get the hook out so it could be released. It was drizzling by this time so we headed back to the caravan for a drink and pizza for dinner.

Vlasta at the Head of the Bight
The Bunda Cliffs
Sunrise on the Nullarbor
A strange insect
The Bunda cliffs move inland at one point
Balladonia just before the storm hit

Monday, 22 December 2014

14 - 18 December 2014 - Travel and Steaky Bay

We left Adelaide after having a brief shower and cooler temperatures. We headed north towards Port Augusta just over 300 kms away. We had lunch in the caravan on the way and stopped at Wayalla at the tourist information centre to get some info on the Eyre Peninsula. We decided to skip Port Lincoln at the southern tip of the Eyre Peninsula and head to Cowell for the night before heading west to Streaky Bay for 4 nights and then across the Nullabor to Esperance. We settled into a caravan park overlooking the harbour at Cowell and had champaigne cocktails and dinner of roast chicken (from the IGA), potato salad and salad for dinner.

We left Cowell for the 300 km drive across the Eyre Peninsula to Streaky Bay. The drive was through mixed country of bush and farm lands. The area is dry and reminded us a lot of parts of Western Australia. We settled into the caravan park with the caravan facing the sea just 30 metres from our door. We had sundowners (although the sun only sets after 8:15 pm) before heading to the local hotel for their monday night steak special. After dinner we strolled along the jetty and chatted to some people fishing.

Next day we rose late and more refreshed from a good nights sleep. We had breakfast and then decided to take a drive along the coast. Most of the road was dirt but smooth and we visited many lookouts with the wind blowing hard. At one spot we saw waves coming at right angles to eachother which was quite strange. We took a shortcut through the bush which was fun to do a little off-road driving again. We had booked to go and swim with the dolphins and sea lions the next day so we needed to get all our gear ready before our adventure. The wind was still howling although predicted to be better the next day.

The new day dawned and was perfect, no wind and clear skies. We had a quick breakfast and set off for the 50 km drive to Baird Bay for our swims. Baird Bay is tiny and the road to the tour opperator is the beach! We parked the car on the beach outside the office and checked in. We got our wetsuits on (this is the cold southern ocean) and headed out to look for the dolphins which were out in the rollers waiting for us. We dropped into the water and the boat went to entice the dolphins towards us, which they duly did. We interacted with these gorgeous animals for about an hour which was an amasing experience. Eventually we had to leave much to the disappointment of the dolphins who swam around the boat willing us to come back! We needed to visit the sea lions so it was with regret we left the friendly dolphins. We headed of to the island where the sea lions breed and we soon saw a number of them on the beach. There was a large male, some females and some cubs. We dropped off one guide to entice some of the sea lions into the water and a few soon could not resist the toys on offer. There was a ring on a rope and some other items on rope weighed down with a piece of lead sitting on the sea floor. We all then got into the sea and were greeted by these incredibly agile creatures playing around. They investigated most of us by gently nibbling our arms and then nuzzling our masks with their whiskers tickling our cheeks! What an experience! We stayed with these playfull animals for about an hour while they played with the toys as well as with pebbles the guides threw for them. They would catch the pebbles on the noses as they sank down and the swim around all the time balancing the pebble on their nose. Sadly we had to leave and head back. We had a good chat with the owner and her son who swims with the whales at the head of the bight. We were told some sad stories before we headed home for home to recuperate and develop our photos.

Next day was windy again which was good for drying washing so we did our much needed washing and left it out to dry while doing our last shopping before our crossing of the nullabor which will take three days of driving at about 500 kms a day. We then did a 30 km loop drive along another section of coast before heading home to prepare our picnic dinner on a lovely beach called Hallys Beach which we saw on the loop drive. We arrived at the beach at about 7 pm and had Tasmanian smoked salmon with Tasmanian Southern Sky Blue Brie cheese on bread for dinner while the sun sank lower in the sky. We walked along the beach and came across a pair of Hooded Plovers and some Red-necked Stints. We watched the sun drop behind some clouds just before dipping below the horizon. We made our way home for a shower and bed after a very enjoyable day.

The Eyre Peninsula coastline
Streaky Bay
Streaky Bay Hotel
Our Prado on the coast
A Shingleback Lizard
Threatening display
Snorkelling with the dolphins
Enjoying our company
They would sneak up behind you!
They did not want us to go
A playful Australian Sealion
Playing with a stone
Another toy to play with
Having fun
Keith (right) with a sealion

13 December 2014 - Adelaide

We did not know quite what to do in Adelaide as we felt a little intimidated by a large city after the small villages of Tasmania. We decided to go to the zoo as this is the only place in Australia you can get to see Giant Pandas. The weather was forecast to be 34 so a hot day was on the cards. We drove to the zoo and was in time to have a talk on the Pandas. There are two Pandas, Wang Wang and Funi, with Funi being active because of a phantom pregnancy and she was eating everything in sight! We took many photos and videos. We strolled around the zoo in increasing temperatures which topped 38. We also finally saw the Gouldian Finch which we have been wanting to see for so many years. We had a snack lunch and drove home via the city to see what the 'city of churches' was all about. On the way we stopped at Port Adelaide before retiring t the caravan for a nap with the aircon going to help keep us cool.

We thought we would share some details of our caravan and car setup for navigation and general driving. There is a 180 degree photo attached to this blog entry showing the inside of our caravan taken from the doorway. The caravan is 14 foot long with (from left to right) the double bed at the front with storage space underneath, kitchen along the right side, shower and toilet at the right rear, microwave & cupboards at the rear, and finally the table and benches on the left. We have a gas hot water system and reverse-cycle air-conditioner under the bed. The caravan is an off-road model with independant suspension, 160 litres of water and two 9 kilo bottles of gas. We are very well setup with 12 volt battery power and solar panels for a few days of camping without external power or water.

The car has had airbags fitted to the rear suspension to help take the weight of the caravan. We have a UHF radio to communicate with truckies and pilot vehicles on the road. We also have a tyre pressure monitoring system to monitor all tyres for pressure and temperature which will warn of flat tyres. We have a trip-computer connected to the car's computer to provide a huge amount of info about the running of the car. Built into the dash is the radio with DVD, CD and SD card support for all sorts of media. The radio also has an old satnav as well as OziExplorer and Hema maps for moving map display. Finally we have a 7.7 inch Android tablet with Wikicamps for finding caravan parks and camp sites, electronic road maps, a more updated satnav for navigation through towns and cities, and finally all our music which is played via bluetooth to the in-dash radio. The photo of the inside of the car has all these items labelled.  If you are wondering what the box is that is located in the footwell on the right under the steering wheel - it is the electronic brake controller for the caravan.

180 degree view of the inside of our caravan
Our navigation and other items for safe travel
Funi the Giant Panda in the Adelaide Zoo
Funi looking for more food
Funi enjoying her bamboo
Vlasta and Funi
A Bilby in the nocturnal house
A tree kangaroo
Rare Gouldian Finches
A rare Palm Cockatoo

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

10 - 12 December 2014 - Ferry and travelling to Adelaide

We packed up and headed back to Devonport where we started our tour of Tasmania. It was a short drive of about 100 kms and when we arrived is was quite warm. We visited the visitor centre and had a cup of coffee and a toasted sandwitch before visiting the Simon Martin Whips workshop as Vlasta has been looking for a leather belt for ages. They did not have what she was looking for but they offered to make one right away. We chose exactly what she wanted and watched as it was made from scratch in about 15 minutes by Simon Martin himself. What a delighful guy and shop with all sorts of great leather goodies. Next we tried to find a place to park and spend the last hour or so by the sea before boarding the ferry but was unable to find such a place so we ended up joining the queue for the ferry early. After boarding we had a glass of wine and then treated ourselves to a scrumptious meal in the restaurant before heading to bed.

The crossing of the Bass Strait was very smooth but we did not sleep well and we were up at 5 am to watch the sunrise as we approached Melbourne. The weather was bleak and typical of Melbourne. After disembarking at 7 am we headed directly out of the city which was quite painless and as we headed further west the weather slowly cleared. We had breakfast at a roadhouse and continued on our way. Just before the South Australian border we came across a pink lake and we took the customary photos before crossing into South Australia. We have now been in every state and territory in the country! We were getting tired after a short night and over 500 kms of driving so we just had to stop for the night in a town called Keith! We had supper and dropped into bed.

Next morning we set out for Adelaide. We were both feeling rather weary but fortunately the drive was not too long with Vlasta taking the first driving stint. The entry into Adelaide from the east is down a very long and steep pass, through a tunnel and into the city. This road was not expected and fortunately we had changed drivers and Keith was driving when we hit this road and the city. We checked into our caravan park which was near Port Adelaide on the coast in a suburb called Semaphore. We had lunch, a nap, and then did some grocery shopping before taking a stroll along the beach before drinks and dinner.

Our ferry
An award winning whip in the workshop
Dinner on the ferry
Arriving in Melbourne
The Keith caravan park
Yay, a town named after me!