This week’s adventure has been to travel across the infamous Nullarbor Plain from Ceduna in South Australia across to Norseman in Western Australia – a distance of 1,180 kms or 773 miles. In true pootling style we took our time and did it over four days but it could have been done in two. Horror stories of gas stations running out of fuel and there being nothing much to see was not our experience. Fuel was plentiful (if expensive) and there was lots to see along the way as this blog will illustrate!
N is for No Trees or Nullus Arbor
Strictly speaking there are lots of trees going across the Nullarbor, but there is a treeless area as captured in the following changing vegetation sequence.
U is for Unknowns
Two things we weren’t prepared for. The first was the Quarantine Restrictions. We thought we had it sussed now in terms of fresh fruit, vegetables and honey and had used all of these up in advance. It came as quite a surprise to learn from a lovely couple we met in Ceduna that our supply of nuts and rice would have to vanish which was especially annoying as we’d only just replenished them! We couldn’t have donated our nuts to a nicer couple though (welcome to the Blog V & J) and ended up cooking all the rice!!! The Quarantine official who came into our van and checked inside the fridge, freezer and larder cupboards thankfully wasn’t that thorough as I suspect we might also have had to part with our frozen prawns!
The other unknown was how much of a time difference there was between SA and WA. At the other side of the Quarantine Station there was a police patrol. The policeman said “Good Morning” to which Mike corrected him with a “I think it is Good Afternoon”. “Not here mate” said the guy “It’s 10.45 in the morning” and then promptly asked Mike to blow into the breathalyser machine!!! We actually thought the time difference was a mere half an hour behind SA. It turned out to be 1 hour 15 minutes difference for the first few hours of driving and then changed again by another 45 minutes – making a total of two and a half hours difference – something we’re still adjusting to!
L is for Learner Driver and
L is for Longest Road
I always said I’d give driving the van a go when the roads were quieter and not too twisty. Well I got my opportunity driving Australia’s longest straight road – only trouble was every time I got into the driving seat it rained and so I had to operate the wipers as well!!! I did actually enjoy the experience although I’m not quite ready for towns or reverse parking!
A is for Ancient Things
Although we couldn’t get down the road to the Eucla Telegraph Station Ruins, we did see the original Nullarbor Roadhouse and visited the Balladonia Museum to learn some amusing facts. For example, when they brought the first camels ashore in 1894 they did not know for certain whether they could swim, so one was dropped overboard. It promptly rolled onto its side and swam to shore, leading the way for the remainder! The only camel we saw was the stuffed version in the museum although a local man told us there were still around 200 roaming around the place.
The other interesting fact was that a trail of space debris was scattered across this part of Australia in 1979 when a US satellite burned up on re-entry and crashed. American President, Jimmy Carter, rang the Balladonia Roadhouse to extend his apologies. A few days later the largest piece of debris was exhibited on stage at the closing ceremony of the Miss Universe contest in Perth – unfortunately the stage collapsed under the weight!!!
Also on show were a pre-Second World War Boiler, a wool press and a replica RedeX Round Australia Reliability Trial car. An eclectic mix if ever!
R is for Road Trains
Mistakenly we thought the roads would be fairly empty of traffic. The roads were not busy by UK standards but we were surprised by the number of road trains hurtling along. The only thing we overtook was cyclists!
B is for Bight
That is the Great Australian Bight. No whales to be seen unfortunately but the Bunda Cliffs are spectacular along this marine conservation area.
O is for Orange Sunsets
Even after a thunder and lightening storm the sky turned orange.
R is for Roadhouses and Rest Areas
This was our first Roadhouse experience. Roadhouses are a bit like our Service Stations in the UK – expensive fuel, meals, shop and motel. When we booked into the Caravan Park we were told about Happy Hour between 4 and 5 p.m. Not wanting to be unsociable we duly wandered over and the only other people in the bar were a couple of bikers and two guys playing pool. I felt my namesake – a right Sheila!!!
The next two nights we made use of Jura’s onboard self contained facilities and stayed in beautiful Rest Areas. These were large areas off the highway you could park up overnight. They came with concrete picnic tables, drop toilets and wonderful sunsets – all for free!
We have now been on the road for over 100 days. We haven’t achieved anything like as much as a certain Mr T did in his first 100 days of office but we’ve had a lot of fun and there’s been heaps of learning.
In my humble opinion, the West Coast of the Eyre Peninsula is much nicer than the East Coast.
The Eyre Peninsula is a great deal longer and wider than Yorke Peninsula where we were last week. To break our four hour drive down to Port Lincoln we detoured off the main road to stop for lunch in Tumby Bay. It was not quite the thriving centre we expected but we could have had a Beer, Burger and Bet for only $17 (£9)! For us the best thing coming out of Tumby Bay (literally) was the silo mural which we would have missed if we had stayed on the main road. Silo art can be seen right across Australia and we have seen some really magnificent ones so far but haven’t been in a position to stop and photograph any up till now!
Eating out is still a rare treat for us as it is quite expensive and we actually enjoy home cooked food where we know what we’re eating. That said, we were aware that the Eyre Peninsula is celebrated for its delicious and abundant seafood and Mike does love his fish and chips! Sadly, despite a very long walk into town at Port Lincoln, the only restaurant we found was the Ming Inn Chinese. The irony is that the meal we had in the Chinese Restaurant was indeed mingin (Scottish slang for disgusting) and we skipped dessert!
Less than 50 kms from Port Lincoln on the other side of the Peninsula is the beautiful little town of Coffin Bay. Despite its spooky name, we thoroughly enjoyed Oyster Walk and a long day’s cycle through the National Park to the spectacular dunes at Almonta Beach. The area is renowned for its world famous oysters and I decided to give oysters a second chance having previously not enjoyed their snotty texture. This time it was a case of downing them in one and despite the faces I pulled they were OK.
We made a few other stops on the way up the West Coast and enjoyed our stay at Streaky Bay. With temperatures up in the mid 30s it was tempting to take all our clothes off and streak but the flies were a nightmare! One of the Facebook Groups I follow (Nomads of Australia – The Best Bits) provided some good advice on coping with the fly situation including using fly nets, making up an insect repellent solution using baby oil and Dettol or purchasing a product called Nature’s Botanical. I will be using all three in future!
Whilst at Streaky Bay we did a long cycle to Hally’s Beach, the Whistling Rock (more of a hum) and visited the replica of the 5 metre long Great White shark that was caught on a fishing line offshore in 1990.
No Park Runs for a few weeks as there aren’t any around in this neck of the woods. Instead we are getting Jura ‘ship-shape’ ready for the long drive next week across the Nullarbor.
Clare Valley is another of South Australia’s wine growing areas and is renowned for its Riesling. Mike had again researched which cellar doors to knock on and he did well. We visited the Mad Bastards Winery en route to our caravan park in Clare and unfortunately our height meant we couldn’t get up the long driveway. Not a problem walking though as it gave us a chance to see all the mad signage along the way warning us for example to Beware of the Wabbits and the Woos and Lollipops for Children over 60. We laughed a lot at one sign which said “Turn Around No Exit” until we realised it was genuine and letting people know that it was a one way system LOL!
We have counted up that we have now done wine tasting at 26 different wineries and bought wine at all of them!!! We have also fitted in four distilleries and four breweries. We have eaten some excellent food at some of the cellar doors and today managed to squeeze in puddings – Rhubarb crumble for him and Panna cotta for me. The wood fired pizza at Marion Bay was also pretty yummy and we joined other campers last night for a BBQ Meat Roll followed by poetry reading of the hilarious kind. Next week we’re off to Eyre Peninsula where I’m going to have to give oysters another go (gulp)!
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island after Tasmania and Melville Island. You could fit two Lewis and Harris’s into it (these are Scotland’s largest islands not children). With KI having only 4,700 residents, it means each resident has almost a square kilometre to themselves.
We did not have the best of weather for two of the days unfortunately but made the most of it adjusting our head gear accordingly!!!
The wild life was as spectacular as we had been led to believe. I decided not to bore you with more photos of kangaroos and koalas (of which we saw plenty) but ringing the changes this time with photos of seals, pelicans and my favourite little bird, the common blue wren. The 85 microchipped platypus managed to allude us at their waterhole though – wrong time of day apparently! Sadly too late to make a difference to this little starfish that was washed up at Emu Bay. [For those of you who do not know the Starfish Story, do please Google it for inspiration.]
The Remarkable Rocks were just that and Admirals Arch even on a bad day was Awesome. We cycled over 50 kilometres (there and back) to get to these iconic sights within the Flinders Chase National Park. So glad we have electric bikes as the terrain was very hilly. During some of the descents we reached speeds of over 50 kms an hour which was exhilarating and scary at the same time. With no bull bars to protect us against kangaroos I decided the best course of action was to scream “yeah ha” at the top of my lungs into the wind – and just go for it.
We did some bush walking and bush camping but the only bush tucker we tried was KI local honey. Coming over to the island we had to throw out our Woolworth’s own label honey but the Organic Stringy Bark Honey we bought as a replacement is pretty good! We would have bought a bigger jar but were told that we’d have to discard it when we cross into Western Australia next month so not much point really. Mike seems pleased with his purchases don’t you think? No wine tasting this week but the island is renowned for its award winning gin and since stocks were getting low I did some gin tasting instead at Kangaroo Island Spirits (KIS). Their Wild Gin is delish and as the label says “You’ll never forget your first KIS”!!!
Last, but by no means least, the beaches here were to die for. If we had gone onto unsealed roads we would have been able to visit many more of the beautiful bays but Browns Beach and Emu Bay were magnificent. Schools are back after the mid term holiday so it meant we had the place to ourselves. Shame though as the “grandies” (as they call grand children out here) would have loved it!
Once upon a time an English man and a Scottish woman travelled to a far off land called Australia to see what this Great Land had to offer. They had heard stories of the Great Sandy Desert, the Great Dividing Range, the Great Barrier Reef and even the Great Ocean Road but nobody had shared the secret of the Grape Wine-Ding Valley!
Why not they wondered, it seemed such a magical place?
It had a Chapel at the top of a Hill and a communion table like nothing they had ever seen before.
Everyone talked the same language about Cellar Doors that had funny names and even funnier staff like Tristan. He loved his job as he got to play his favourite music like Led Zeppelin and drink wine all day with his customers.
The English man and the Scottish woman were given honorary membership of the Black Sheep Club although the woman was sure she’d been a member of this club before when growing up! They were pleased there were no horses heads in evidence at Coriole’s Vineyard where the 2007 Sangiovese scored top marks. Liverpool won hands down at Goodieson Brewery but unfortunately the tourists lost the Battle at Bosworth.
Psst ….. pass it on
Once you’ve tired of The Grape Wine-Ding Valley, you can leg it down to Glenelg where you can almost imagine you are back in Manly.
Turn left, instead of right, and you’ll be hopping over to KI which coincidentally happens to be the title of the next Chapter! Till then, keep smiling and we’ll keep pootling.
This week has been all about the wine, chocolate, flowers and romantic sunsets – what more could a woman want? Adelaide and the surrounding area appears to have so much to offer visitors I just hope we can fit it all into the three weeks we have earmarked!
The 1st October was a public holiday and with schools off for a couple of weeks, we have needed to make reservations at some Caravan Parks and stay longer in some places than we might otherwise. The Barossa Valley was a case in point especially as we still have to visit McLaren Vale and Clare Valley wine regions and our wine cellar is already bursting at the seams! Our palates have become quite discerning as we have sampled our way through various Shiraz, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Granache and Sauvignon Blanc Wines, Prosecco and Tawny Port. Who would have thought we’d be saying “No, I’m not so keen on that” when we’ve been tasting wine costing £75 a bottle!!!
Mike researched which cellar doors we would visit and all of them required us to use our bikes. Our first purchases from Penfolds almost came a cropper when I managed to fall off mine (ouch)!!! Swooping magpies also had it in for me but I managed to stay in the saddle. The general advice regarding magpie attacks is to stay calm and, if cycling, get off and walk. I’m afraid I broke all the rules – I screamed like a banshee, waved my arms around frantically and pedalled like the wind!
Our favourite winery was probably Two Hands which served some really delicious wines with quirky names. We loved one called Sexy Beast, but Gnarly Dude and Holy Grail were also yummy! Whistlers probably had the best named walks whilst Artisan’s Winery and Jacob’s Creek were really quite swanky affairs. The actual Jacob’s Creek is practically dry!
A new wine is being developed for seniors by vintners who primarily produce Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio using a hybrid grape that acts as an anti-diuretic. It is expected to reduce the number of trips older people make to the bathroom during the night. The new wine will be marketed as Pinot More.
We did take time to stop and smell the roses which are planted at the ends of many of the vines. Nowadays the roses are purely cosmetic but they did act as an early warning signal of mildew. There is also a story around here that the roses helped blind horses know when to turn round when they were ploughing the fields!
Given all the hype about it being the largest, we were a little disappointed that Lyndoch’s Lavender Farm was a mere hillock. It did however have lots of different variety of lavender and a rather nice gift shop. Lavender liqueur was not sampled.
Also smelling quite yummy was the chocolate we got to watch being enrobed. An enrobed chocolate is typically when the centre of the chocolate is made first and then coated in a thin layer of chocolate. Today at the Haigh’s factory lime creams were getting the treatment. Established in 1915, Haigh’s is Australia’s oldest chocolate manufacturer and the recipe used today is the same they have used since the year before my birth – yup that old! Lots of samples given out and fantastic that this was all free!!!
This week we have come across three sculptures that are worthy of sharing. The first depicts the Murray Cod (Pondi) which holds great significance for the Aboriginal communities. Folklore has it that Pondi was the creative force for the Murray River as he was chased through the South Australian countryside. Another bit of folklore was to be found at Hahndorf where this chap appears to have fallen off his Harley Davidson. Meanwhile at Brighton Beach the sign suggests we should just hang loose and enjoy the sunset.
It is really lovely to receive feedback from followers of this blog that you have enjoyed reading our tales as it keeps us feeling connected. Keep those messages coming. Joining in Park Runs when we can has also been good as we have been warmly welcomed everywhere. Today it was a Park Run at Brighton Beach and even without the threat of snakes and all the alcohol in our system, Mike and I still managed to achieve new lifetime personal bests. I am now under 27 minutes by one second!!!
So whilst it seems this week I’ve had it all, we are missing family and friends. It was great to see a familiar face last weekend when I met up with an old work colleague from West Sussex who now lives in Adelaide Hills. Can’t say I miss work at all, especially listening to some of her stories but she does seem to have an excellent quality of life over here.
And so, leaving the best till last, excitement levels hit a new high on learning this week that Ben, Jen and our two gorgeous grandchildren will definitely be joining us in Western Australia for Christmas and New Year after all. Best get visiting those wineries in McLaren Vale next week then!
This week has been all about the rocks. Not the type that one wears on one’s finger (will need to wait for Queensland’s Gemfields for that) nor the type one pours one’s whisky over but the diverse formations that make this such an interesting place to visit.
No apologies for the plethora of photographs taken of Mount Arapiles. It is probably the closest we’ll get to something remotely resembling Uluru as we won’t make it down to Alice this time around. The contrasting colours at Mount Arapiles were quite stunning and we thoroughly enjoyed our 33 km bike ride to get up close and personal to this world renowned rock climbing area. With over 2,000 climbing routes, some of them amongst the hardest in the world, we were quite happy watching all the activity from ground zero.
Once we checked out the natty knitting in Natimuk (some people have way too much spare time), we drove on to Balmoral where we planned to spend our one night a week “Rough Camping”. Spending the night in our fully self contained motor home complete with hot shower, flushing toilet, fridge and cooker is perhaps not quite the same as “Rough Camping” in the Scottish Highlands, but we see it as an opportunity to get closer to the local community and save a little on Caravan Park costs. Any savings we do make goes back into the local community where we shop (if they are open) and partake of food and beverages.
Balmoral had no stately castle, no shops open on Saturday afternoon and the hairdresser is only open on Wednesday and Thursdays by appointment but it did have a bar selling Northern Brewing lager. Here we got chatting to an interesting character at the bar, Neil, who introduced himself as the drummer for the Rock Band, Unruly Mob!!! The band had been hired to play that night in celebration of the landlady’s birthday. Open invitation was extended to all and sundry and so we joined about twenty other locals to rock the night away. The lead vocalist was a bit dodgy (he was a Kiwi), harmonies didn’t always work (!!!) but they did a respectable version of Eric Clapton’s Cocaine.
Our third encounter of the rock kind was in Mount Gambier where we cycled round the Blue Lake. This is a large volcanic crater lake which turns a vibrant blue each year around November/December. Unfortunately she was still wearing her winter greys when we saw her but still quite an attraction along with the Umpherston Sinkhole where an impressive sunken garden was created in 1886. None of these should be confused with the alternative Blue Sink Holes that can be found dotted right across Australia (lol). For the uninitiated, Dump-Ezy sites are where you empty your toilet waste.
Some places have a great deal going for them, others not so much. Apologies now if I offend anyone from Millicent, but apart from its well signed Dump-Ezy point, it didn’t quite hold the charm we expected. Instead of it being called Milli-cent maybe it should be Milli-absent, Milli-gone or even Milli-wasn’t!
Three rock sensations down – three more to still write about. The 40 foot iconic Obelisk on the Limestone Coast at Robe was good to see before it tumbles into the sea and we were blown away by the beauty of Alexandra Cave at Naracoorte, a World Heritage Site. The caves were uncovered in 1908 and at every turn there were spectacular stalagmites, stalactites, helictites and columns. It is also one of the world’s most important fossil sites preserving the bones of megafauna that became extinct around 40,000 years ago!
Whilst many of these old boys have many thousands of miles on their clock, Jura has now done nearly 5,000 although we’ll have to push on a bit after Christmas if we’re going to complete the lap by June. We are now into our third Australian State having crossed into South Australia and come across our first Quarantine Bins. Never being one to throw food away lightly, we sat by the bin getting our vitamin C fix by gorging ourselves on the remaining mandarins, apples and cherry tomatoes but passed on the onion, garlic and, most regrettably, our limes and lemon!