Sunday, September 19, 2010

To Melbourne and Home

We had an enjoyable stay in Adelaide, then decided to take two days to get to Melbourne, stopping somewhere in between for the night. We ended up staying at just out of Ararat, only 200ks from Melbourne. There was a campsite with a tick in our camps book, so we headed there to see if we would like it. It was a bit like Risdon Brook Dam, and was very pleasant, away from the highway. We lit the fire, and relaxed and enjoyed a delicious tea (cooked by moi) - our last roadside camp of the trip.

The drive to Melbourne was good as we were driving in during the morning, so avoiding peak hour. We chose to stay at a caravan park called Ashley Gardens, about 10 ks out of Melbourne, near Footscray. We took an ensuite site with our own toilet and shower We even set up the annexe - the first time we had used the annexe in the whole holiday, but it was worth it with the weather being a bit cool, and we could have a heater going and it was as warm as toast! We could even cater for visitors.
Our main purpose here was to see the girls, and it was lovely catching up with them. We had lunch, watched them play basketball, did the Titanic exhibition, and had a family dinner. It was a lovely way to end the holiday.
There is one thing that could have been a disaster......I NEARLY BURNT DOWN THE CARAVAN!!!!! We were on power, being in the caravan park, so we don't usually use the gas stove, but one night I did some cheese toasties under the grill and totally forgot to lift the lid of the cooker. I had some plastic things sitting on the lid, and the base of those melted, the rubber mat that was sitting on top of the cooker also melted, and the lid looks a bit worse for wear.

Luckily I realised just in time and stopped any more damage. I'm so glad this didn't happen at the beginning of the holiday, not at the end, and that there was no serious damage.
We were a bit sad to pack up the caravan for the last time and head for the Spirit of Tasmania terminal.

It was a busy sailing with 780 people on board. I guess it was because it was the start of mainland school holidays, and the end of Tasmanian holidays. I was surprised to find that my dear friend Neinie, was on the boat as well, so we enjoyed chatting while keeping half an eye on the footy - Saints against Bulldogs. Saints won, which I was happy about. We really noticed when we got past the Heads, as it was a bit rough, but I had taken my ginger tablets and felt ok.
Sadly, no flash cabin for us on our return journey, just the regular one.
We arrived home at about 11am after a stop at Campbell Town for coffee and breakfast.
What a fabulous holiday we have had!! So many amazing memories, thousands of pictures to look at......and driven over 22,000 kilometres. We both feel more complete as Australians, having seen some of the best of the country. What's more...we can't wait to do it all again in other parts of the country!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Across the Nullabor

After enjoying ourselves in and around Perth and having got the car serviced, it was time to head across the Nullabor to Adelaide and then Melbourne.
We left Fremantle fairly early and headed off with no set plans of our travel that day - we would stop when we found a nice camp spot to stay at.
We have noticed a lot of roadside memorials as we have been driving along, and a lot of them on long straight stretches of road. We came across an accident (fortunately it had been cleared of victims), and had to wait for about 15 minutes before we could move on. One car was an absolute mess, the other one not so bad. We later found out from someone at our next campsite that one car had tried to overtake, and crashed head on into an oncoming car. One person died. It was quite distressing to see how squashed and damaged one car was. It made us think how lucky we were to have driven so far without anything nasty happening to us.
Our first roadside camp was good, a bit back from the road, not far from Coolgardie. We lit a fire and enjoyed sitting by it, as it was quite cool.
Randall was quite taken by a caravan at the campsite we stayed at - it was called an Aquavan, and could be towed like a caravan or launched in water to be a houseboat. We had quite a long talk to the owners as we left the next morning - they were very friendly and Randall enjoyed talking to them about their caravan/boat.
We went through to Kalgoorlie, and were amazed at the size of it - 30,000 people live there. It appears to be a very prosperous town, with all the shops along the roadside, not so much shopping centres like in a lot of towns. We had a wander around, enjoyed a pie from the Bakery, and, as we were wandering around, Randall recognised the name of a pharmacist - it was someone he knew from university days, so we went into the pharmacy to find out. He wasn't there as it turned out, but we found out that he was Tasmanian, so Randall left his name and phone number.
After Kalgoorlie it was time to head across the Nullabor! I was a bit excited about this, and had no expectations of the trip. There is lots of long straight roads, and we drove along the longest bit of straight road in Australia - 141kms! It is certainly easy to pass something - plenty of vision!
We do come across some very wide loads too - have to give them a very wide berth!!

We always make sure we have plenty of breaks when we drive long distances and take turns with the driving. Here's Randall enjoying a lunch break on the road:
We were also interested to see that the road is often a runway for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. We saw this quite often on the Nullabor:
We were excited when the road finally went near the Great Australian Bight and we could see water. As luck would have it we drove into a rest area and walked to the cliffs, only to see a couple of whales really close to shore. We were really excited to see them in their natural habitat.
We made an overnight camp near the cliffs, but not too close, and Randall lit a lovely fire, but it was so windy the chill factor sent us inside!!
The next day we headed towards Ceduna, and we called in at The Head of the Bight. The man at the service station guaranteed that we would see whales there - and we did. Three whales were moving along close to shore, and one other whale had his tail in the air for ages, just hanging about. It was great to see these mammals so close - something I will always remember. We found out later that the platform we were standing on was designed by my brother in law, James!

We then drove out and through Ceduna, had one more overnight stop, then arrived in Adelaide for some R and R after 6 nights on the trot without power. We caught up with my sister and family for a nice dinner, did heaps of washing and just generally relaxed and hung around for a rest. The last leg of our journey was coming up.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Heading to Perth

We packed up from Monkey Mia and felt a bit sad that it was the last stop in the warm weather. We decided to get to Perth asap as our car was due for its 10,000k service. We drove in and checked out Geraldton, but bypassed other touristy places on the way. That will have to wait until another time. We had one roadside stop which we shared with a number of other caravans, and one of the guys offered to take our photo as we enjoyed our wine in the sun:

We arrived in Perth mid morning, and headed straight to the home of a friend of ours, Phil, who used to work for us at our old business - Southern Amusements. It was lovely to catch up with him and Angela and Jacob, and hear all about his new business in LED lighting. Angela cooked up a lovely dinner for us which we all enjoyed.

We had stayed at a caravan park near Phil's house, in the wine region and we saw heaps of wineries while we were in the area.
Our car and caravan were absolutely filthy - something very abhorent to Randall, so before we headed to Fremantle to another park closer to town, Randall did a car and caravan wash.

We enjoyed our stay in Perth, except it poured with rain and all my washing took several days to dry!! We found a nice fish and chip place nearby and Randall enjoyed their chips very much!

We also managed to catch up with Randall's cousin, David, while we were in Perth, which was really nice.
The car got its service done, and we were ready to head across the Nullabor to Adelaide. Randall and I were quite excited about the trip, with no idea what to expect.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Heading to Ningaloo and Monkey Mia

We were sad to leave Broome, as we knew we wouldn't be able to be carefree about time spent at any place we stopped. We headed towards Ningaloo Reef, stopping at Port Headland on the way for lunch and a computer stop to pay the caravan registration.

While I was waiting for Randall to finish I noticed the name on one of the big ships in port - Tampa. Wasn't that the one involved with some boat people controversy?

As we drove out of the port, we noticed a huge pile of white stuff, which we found out was salt - Rio Tinto Salt! There are so many mines up here!

We stopped at an overnight road stop, along with a few other caravanners, and enjoyed the warmth of a fire after our tea. We had set up our satellite dish and saw some breaking news in the Phillipines about a man who had hijacked a bus, and was holding everyone on board hostage.

The next day was quite cool and it started to rain as we were driving along. It was the first real rain we had had on our trip.We called in at Karratha to have a look then kept going to find our next stop. Our roadside stop was on bitumen, but at least we were dry in our little van. We did try and sit outside for a bit but it was too unpleasant.

You can see by the photos that we always have company at these roadside stops, and people are always friendly.
We headed to Exmouth to have a look at Ningaloo Reef. Exmouth was quite a nice seaside town, so we parked the van to have a look around. It was funny to see an emu wandering around the car park!

We had heard about some campspots near the world famous reef, so called in at the information centre to find out about them. We were disappointed to find out that they were all full, but we decided to go and check them out anyway! Each campspot has a volunteer host - taking up a space for a regular camper I might say, so we were not happy! We found out that you had to queue up at the entrance gates at about 2am and wait for people to leave and you might still not be guaranteed of a space, so we gave up on that idea. We did find out the best place to swim and snorkel, so we hired some flippers and snorkels and, with limited time, had a go swimming over the reef. It is really close to the water's edge and it was lovely, but I was hopeless with my mask - it kept filling up with water and I couldn't breathe properly, so I didn't really get a good look at the reef. We returned the snorkelling gear, and had another swim at a beach nearby - our last swim as it turns out, as the weather is now too cool.

We decided not to stay in a caravan park there, but head out towards our next stop - Monkey Mia. We drove up to look at the lighthouse on the way out:

The sky was a beautiful blue, and we hoped that we could come back another time.
We had another roadside stop before we got to Monkey Mia, and it was lovely watching the full moon come up.

We arrived at a camping spot just outside of Denholm, the nearest place to Monkey Mia. We had to make a phone call and get a permit to camp, and I was surprised when the lady said there were spaces at all the campspots, so I took the one closest to Monkey Mia, called Eagle Bluff. It turned out to be a magic place, with a beautiful view, perched above the beach.

We got up the next morning and headed to Monkey Mia. I was really looking forward to this, and I had read about the dolphins at Monkey Mia, and really wanted to go there and see them. We had to pay an extra fee to get onto the beach, but we managed to get a seniors discount, which pleased us no end!!!
We were lucky that some dolphins had just come in, and a lot of people were standing along the water's edge, so we wandered down and joined them. It is all very controlled, and you are not allowed to touch the dolphins or get too far into the water, but it was still lovely to see them. A mother and child dolphin were there and stayed around for at least 1/2 hour while we were there.

I was so happy to see these dolphins, they really were lovely to watch. After they swam away Randall and I enjoyed a coffee at the resort there, called in at Denholm on the way back to our camp and had a nice pie at the bakery for lunch.
We got back to camp and did some catch up washing before relaxing watching the action out in front of us.

In the early evening we saw some dolphins in the distance, and then I saw a skate swimming along in front of us, and also a couple of sharks slinking in. The water was amazinly clear and we really felt we were at a very special place. Our permit was only for one night, but we stayed 2 nights anyway, and no one came looking for us to tell us off!!! It was quite isolated, only one tent in the distance, so lovely and private. We really loved this place.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


We left Windjana Gorge and headed up the rough road to meet the Gibb River Road and head towards Broome. Some of the Gibb was sealed but only a middle bit, like East of Alice Springs so if someone was coming towards you, you had to move off the bitumen, and the guide posts were very close to the edge!
We called into Derby, a fishing town, and filled up with diesel, then kept going to Broome. We were told everything was expensive in Broome, even the caravan parks, but we headed to Cable Beach Caravan Park, reccommended to us, and got the last powered site of the day - $43 a night, which is the most we have paid. The park has 500 spots and they are mostly filled every night, so it's a good money earner for someone!
Broome is not what we expected. It is divided in two - Cable Beach area, and town centre area. The town centre has all the touristy shops, and pearl shops of course, and restaurants. The Cable Beach area has not many shops, a cafe of two, a pearl shop and some resorts. None of the resorts can see the beach - there are sand dunes in front of them. We decided to stay a while here, as a last ditch relax before we head home.
We decided to go and look at a camping place north of Broome as we had heard it was very nice. It was called Willie Creek, so we turned off onto yet another rough road for about 27kms. You can see what I'm talking about with the corrugations - we have experienced a lot of this!, and the road is really wide!

We actually went too far and had to turn back into Willie Creek. The campsites were just ok, but surprise surprise, there is a pearl farm here, so had a lovely look around and Randall bought me a beautiful pearl ring.

We drove along Cable Beach - a lot of people drive their cars along the beach and do their nudie sunbathing! We saw a man throwing a boomerang which did come back to him!

That evening we came back and drove along the beach to watch the sunset. It really was beautiful. We saw the camels too, but neither of us were inclined to have a ride on one.

We had a lovely relaxing time in Broome, just hanging about the campsite, going for a swim at the beach and at the park pool. Here is Randall playing poker by the pool:

We went and looked at the lighthouse, but couldn't see any dinosaur footprints - the tide was too high :(
We did see some fake ones in cement, so I took a photo of them anyway!!

Election night was very important, and of course, we had the dish up so we could watch all the action as it unfolded. We sat outside watching the telly and munching on a few treats - a Smith tradition:

After watching the washup of the election the next day, and enjoying another swim in the ocean, we packed up and headed south on Monday 22nd with plans to see Ningaloo Reef and Monkey Mia before getting to Perth.