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We hope you will enjoy as we share our journey around this great land!

Monday, September 26, 2011

18th – 22nd Sept. Eyre Peninsula

After coming off the Nullarbor we started to travel down the western coast of the Eyre Peninsula.  Our intention was not to spend a great deal of time here but to catch a glimpse to ascertain whether this would be worth a more detailed visit sometime in the future.

 Our first stop was at Smokey Bay where e thought it would be a great place to spend a night however the park was full due to a country & western weekend gathering.  On we moved to Haslam where we found a great little free camp right next to the beach and the jetty.  Haslam was no more than a small fishing village with about six houses.  These mostly housed oyster farmers whose beds were located a few hundred metres off shore. 
Sleepy fishing village of Haslem

 The camp area had been set aside by the township.  There were toilets nearby and a water tank across the road for drinking water.  In return they had an honesty box with a five dollar charge.  We love these places.  The camp population almost outnumbered the locals.

 Next day we moved on further south visiting a number of small beaches along the way.  We had thought that Coffin Bay would be a great destination but as the day went on we learned that a cold weather front with strong westerly winds was about to hit the peninsula.  So we chose to set sail for Port Lincoln which we thought would be a bit more sheltered.  It turned out to be more sheltered but it was still a strong blow even there.
Avery neat Streaky Bay township
Streaky Bay itself
Every beach has a jetty.
The heads at Venus Bay
What sails out the heads at Venus Bay
Typical grazing farms on west coast.
And surrounding countryside

 Port Lincoln was quite a large town as compared to the country towns we have visited in this holiday.  It is a port for grain amongst other things but also houses a big fishing industry with fish farming and oyster beds.  The town had a real fresh appearance to it and seemed quite prosperous.  The weather being wet we did not get to see much of it except through wet car windows.  We did however take an opportunity to drive back to Coffin Bay to see what we had missed when we had rushed by.  It again is a fishing village but with a much more holiday atmosphere.  This whole area is quite pretty and the surrounding agricultural area was very green and beautiful.
Coffin Bay
Coffin Bay harbour.
Dad, can I have a fishing boat please?
Port Lincoln

 When we left Port Lincoln and travelled north up the east coast we found a very flat country, mostly grazing land.  The road runs close to the coast but just far enough away to restrict sea views. 

 First stop was Tumby Bay.  This is a really great little spot with a real retirement appearance.  There is a great beach front park and lots of facilities.  Consequently there were lots of caravans camped out enjoying a holiday there.  For us it was a short morning tea stop.
Tumby Bay
Tumby Bay from north end

 Next was Arno Bay, very much smaller but the local council is obviously setting out to achieve the same environment.  Arno has a small population of only a few hundred.  It is surrounded by low water flats and they have built some boardwalks to enjoy these.
Waiting for full tide, a high one at that
Arno Bay - a family place

 Then onto Cowell and again we found a prospering fish and oyster farming industry.  Here again there were a lot of caravans set up for the long term and a very busy shopping / business area.  We really enjoyed lunch here and the oyster boats passed us being towed up the main street behind tractors.  It is fascinating to see as the tractors back down the ramp, the boats are loaded on crew and all and they immediately drive off to deliver their catch.
Cowell - a busy little town.

 Finally for that day we drove on to Whyalla.  What a contrast as we entered this very industrial city based on steel manufacture, ship building, and mineral processing.  Not really being a tourist town we chose to spend the night just north of here at Point Lowly.

 Point Lowly was also not what we expected.  Situated at the top of Spencer Gulf its lighthouse warns of the rocky coast ahead.  Santos have a bulk oil & gas loading facility with a long pier jutting well out into the bay.  Ships up to 110,000 tonnes load crude oil here and approx 50 ships per year visit here.   The view at night over the oil plant and it’s lights, the lighthouse, and the distant street lights of Whyalla was a very special sight.
Point Lowly Lighthouse
The lighthouse keepers cottages - now holiday accom for Uniting Church.
The Kerr accomodation
The view by night from our back window

 The area of Spencer Gulf above Point Lowly is known as the Cuttlefish capital of the world.  I needed to be enlightened that cuttlefish are actually a squid / octopus.  Because of the shape of the top of Spencer Gulf and the fact that no streams enter the waters of this area do not replenish themselves with fresh sea water over the short term.  This results in high salinity levels which hinder the life of most fish but aids the breeding activities of the cuttlefish. 

 Overnight a strong northerly wind started up and buffeted our van.  It was still blowing in the morning but we decided to move on anyhow.  This meant a drive into these fierce winds as far as Port Augusta.  Not much fun but we did it anyway.

 Our visit to Eyre Peninsula had been brief but interesting.  It gave us a good picture for planning our next visit to South Australia but it also showed us that any planned visit needed to consider the seasonal influences that so often buffet this beautiful coastline.

 Well we are heading home.  It will still take us a couple of weeks but our adventure is all but over.  This is the last entry in our Blog.  We certainly hope you have enjoyed the story of our travels and the pictures that represent it.  As for us we are just so looking forward to getting home to see family and friends.

 Our love to all of you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

14th – 17th Sept. Crossing the Nullarbor:

When we turned the car eastward we thought this was the beginning of the long trip home.  Now we are heading across the Nullarbor.  In Alice’s words, “We are taking this road because we must to get home”.  The distance from Norseman in WA to Ceduna in SA is over 1400 klms through mostly barren flats.  Again we travel along roads where there is no civilisation except the handful of roadhouses dotted broadly about 100 klms apart.
An unexpected visitor before we left Esperence.

 The vista is similar to what we have seen in many other parts of WA & NT – broad flats covered in saltbush and other shrubs.  In patches there is grass and there is some grain crops growing along road verges as if seed has fallen from passing trucks.  The difference we have seen in recent days has been some sprawling gum trees and Salmon Gums.  These appear to grow best in high salt country.
A diffent type of gum tree for salt areas

Typical Nullarbor country with a little more than usual grass.

There is absolutely no water here.  Over the full distance of the Nullarbor we did not cross one creek.  Signs tell us we have to carry all of our own water for the total distance.  There is not even any place where one can purchase bulk water.  There are two sites where rain water is collected from tin roof shelters and made available.  The taps are manufactured to allow only small quantities through unless one is prepared to wait hours as a manner of managing a limited resource.

Night 1 we stopped at a road side rest area called Woorlba Homestead.  We had the company of about 8 or 9 other vans / tents etc. 
Night 2 we made it to Eucla on the WA side of the border with SA.  Here we were able to book into a reasonably priced caravan park where we could access showers and toilets, no water for the van though.  The park was packed.

At Eucla we climbed up from the low plains to the top of the plateau which continues almost to Ceduna.  It is about 150 metres high and flat as a billiard table.  The view from the top was quite extensive.
Day 3 was the best of all.  Within a short distance of Eucla we crossed through the border and almost immediately came back in contact with the coastline of the Great Australian Bight.  There were a few parking spots where we were able to view the coast from the top of the plateau.
The steep cliffs of Nullarbor Plain
Whale & calf at this same stop.
Up close & personal.  A tale we can tell.

Now take heed & don't give us any backchat.  There is two of us!!

At about the third of these we saw our first whale with her calf frolicking quite close to the cliff edge.

Another couple of hundred klms and we turned off to the “Head of the Bight”.  This is a tourist venue established to view the whales from July through to the end of September.  Here we really did get a fantastic view of 5 whales as well as their calves only about 50 metres from shore.  The vantage point was approx 50 metres high so we were able to easily see them playing in the beautiful blue water. 
Catwalks at Head Of Bight - Highest point in Australian Bight.
HOB - very special place
And the reason we went there was ......Southern White Whales
Big Mumma & Little Bubba
And their surroundings are great too!

That night we again stopped in a roadside parking area.
And God chose to end our day with His spectacular light show.
It only happens like this on the plains.
And a dove watched over us that night.

What can you read in this?

Day 4 saw us travelling out of the Nullarbor.  As we drew closer to Ceduna the country again turned back into grain growing with occasional silo and storage facilities.  Towns changed from Roadhouse size to small country villages.  Through the fruit fly inspection stations and we were into Ceduna.

Ceduna in centre of the grain belt.
It is a harbour city.
Vanners can choose their view each lunchtime.

 Ceduna is a town of about 2000 people at the cross roads of Eyre Peninsula and the Nullabor.  It is a coastal town and a port for the grain growing area surrounding as well as fishing.  In Ceduna we planned to restock our provisions, especially fruit & vegetables which we had eliminated for the border crossing.  We were really surprised at the price of food here.  Our purchases therefore were minimal and we chose to move on down the peninsula for the night. 

We had crossed the Nullarbor, a very interesting experience and another chance for us to see how people live in this vast and often desolate country we call Australia.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

11th – 13th Sept. Esperance

The journey from Bunbury to Esperance is over 700 klms and traverses varying terrain types.  In the first stage to Bridgetown we saw sheep grazing, lobster farms, stone fruit orchards, cattle fattening and vineyards.  Bridgetown itself is a folksy type village with an accent in crafts and filled with historic buildings.

Then the route continued to change:
Bridgetown - Manjimup - Mt Barker: We passed through mostly grazing country mixed with timber plantations ending up in environmental reserves and marshlands. 

 Frankland – Gnowangerup – Jerramungup:  Commencing with some vineyards the country quickly changed to grazing, then wheat & canola crops.
Canola fields n full colour
 Ravensthorpe – Esperance:  The canola & wheat crops continued but then some mining appeared from sand to nickel.  The farming also took a twist in that the farmers here had to deal with a massive salt issue in the soils.  Land in this area has been inundated with salt over centuries to the extent that in some places there is 250 kg of salt below every square metre of top soil.  To deal with this, special trees have been introduced and planted around borders and road sides.  In some places trenches have been dug along the borders of fields to release salt affected groundwater.   The colour of the sandy soil compared to the yellow colour of the canola flower and the green wheat draws amazing comparisons.

We had heard so much about Esperance and we had made it a priority in our trip planner.  The promotional signs on the road entering town talked about having the best beaches in Australia.  Living on the Sunshine Coast we must confess that we were sceptical but we were in for a surprise.  Some of the photos will show why.
View of Esperance from the lookout.

The wharf / port area is out from the beachfront.
The view from the back verandah.  This moving around is fun.

Staircase to the moon - Esperance style
The weather during our drive and on arrival in Esperance had been marvellous.  We had spent a night on the road side enroute and arrived in town just before lunch.  That allowed us time to enjoy a quick orientation of the area. 
We stop at a road side camp and there is a garden outside the window.
A very unique Grass Tree
A unique tea tree.

Starting in the city and heading west is a tourist circuit named "The Great Ocean Drive". It is a real eye opener.
One of the coves along the Great Ocean Drive close to the city.
Then around the next bend.
A secluded beach around every corner.
Lots of islands here too.
The water really is this blue.
 Next day we headed off to Cape Le Grand National Park 60 klms to the east of the city.  This was a very special place.  A place where one could lose themselves for quite some time.  There are several small cove type beaches, cross country walks, beautiful views over a bay of islands and amazing blue water.  There were also some dolphins and a whale or two.

Mt Le Grand
Hows this for a cave.
Hellfire Bay, true to the picture.
Lucky Bay - what a view.  There is a great campground in the corner.
How secluded does one wish for?
Whistling Rock - the wind whistles through the crack in the rock.
Whartons Beach
How fast can an emu run?
Day three and the rain moved in bringing some cooler temperatures with it.  The change cut the viewing short but we had certainly enjoyed a great taste of the best beaches in Australia.