Day 10 - Wednesday 10th April 2013 (0 kms travelled today)
We enjoyed a day of R & R at Speeds Point - nice to have the second night at the same spot. Ken and I ventured into Streaky Bay for a visit whilst Anne and Ralph stayed back at camp - Ralph catching up on some car chores and Anne enjoying her book and preparing a much anticipated lamb roast for dinner.
This area is a breeding ground for Hooded Plovers (Vicki you would be impressed we have two bird guides with us). These birds have the lowest rates of chick survival in the world. They nest in the dunes and people are encouraged not to walk over the dunes as the eggs are buried in shallow sand and could be easily missed.
As the tide rolls in, other little birds (of which we thought were these little plovers) fed along the shoreline, collecting sand worms. They were hilarious to watch running out as the waves ebbed collecting their food and then as the waves rolled in they were almost in a line as they run back to the beach. It was almost like "I don't want to get my feet wet!
After dinner we broke out the cards for a game of Canasta, with the boys winning by a small margin, I'm sure there will be a rematch coming up!
Day 11 - Thursday 11th April 2013 (Travelled 484 kms)
Happy Birthday Paddy - 22 years old today and Anne was reminiscing the day her handsome Pat came into the world.
We started out earlier today on route to Maralinga. After a quick stop off at Streaky Bay we visited the small hamlet of Smoky Bay, a very quiet little town on the water's edge. A cuppa and a stock up on oysters (for those who likes them) then heading back out onto Highway 1 towards Ceduna. A fuel stop in Ceduna before finding our way to Fowler's Bay, a 22 km detour off the main road and our lunch stop. Well this was the worst road! The corrugations were "doosies", the worst I have ever been on, nevertheless it was a slow journey in.
Fowlers Bay has plenty of history. During the 1840s the Whaling Industry flourished in this area where mainly French and American whaling ships plied the coast between Point Lincoln and Fowler's Bay collecting many thousands of barrels of oil and tons of whalebone. From the 10th June to 28th August 1840 the Whaling Vessel Amazon hunted 41 whales (33 Right Whales, including 13 calves and 8 Humpback Whales, including 3 calves) all were taken on 22 days of the 80 days the ship was anchored in Fowler's Bay. An astonishing read!
Leaving behind this fishing town we travelled 32 kms to Nundroo on a much better road out than the one coming in. Once back on the highway we drove through a number of smaller towns and about 60km on from Yalata we found a track which began our journey towards Maralinga. A 14 kilometre track through the Yalata Aboriginal Reserve, a track that was well formed and used occasionally. Some stages we had to navigate off the track to pass around low lying trees and bushes that covered the track so the cars and caravans weren't damaged. It was a slow old journey and was beginning to look like a 4 o'clock track. However, we perservered.
We followed the rabbit proof fence around 10kms, facing into the very quick setting sun. Ken had a flat tyre on the caravan at 6.15 pm and after changing this we further navigated our way to Disappointment Cave, which was in the dark by the time we reached this spot. We really had no idea what the landscape was like, but there were lots of stars lighting up the sky. At that stage we were still 80kms south of the railway line and having a quick dinner, we needed a wine and Irish coffee to complete the day!
During the night you could hear the sounds of the howling dingo!
Day 12 - Friday 12th April 2013 (Travelled 130 kms)
Early beautiful sunrise and as we came out of the caravan to the scenery of vast treeless plains with the whistling winds. A dingo was spotted in the distance and he was keeping a watchful eye on us as Ralph demonstrated the injured dingo call to attract it's attention.
Disappointment Cave (about 40 kms off the Eyre Highway) was a big cavernous hole in the middle of nowhere. It was extraordinary and a few swallows had made their home here.
Ken wakes to find a second flat on the caravan. The first flat - yesterday, and this second flat sustained damage to the tyre on the wall of the tyre which is difficult to repair. So early morning running repairs of changing and swapping tyres began. Ralph's spare tyre onto the van and wheel nuts sorted, we headed off at 9.00am towards Maralinga.
It's now 10.25am and we have travelled 18 kms and Ken now has his third flat tyre - with 2 spikes and so begins the lesson in plugging a tyre. At 11.00 am and we had done a total of 19.4 kms and the track stopped. The decision was made to turn around and head back to Nallabor, about 80 kms back. 11.20am another spike - it's hot and desolate out here! Ken is getting better at plugging tyres. After 38.8 kms we're back at Disappointment Cave it's 12.00pm with yet another tyre puncture. This is now 7 punctures on one tyre in 38 kms in 3 hours - A Guinness Book of Records entry in the making!
Now, you may ask about how these events have occurred. The track was quite narrow and for the cars it's not a problem. But for our off road caravan the wheel track is wider so as we travelled along the left tyre was picking up the salt bush spikes, hence the punctures. So it was decided to stick with keeping to the left instead of ruining another tyre.
At 1.00 pm, 3 more spikes in this one tyre and now that's a total of 10 plugs - the tyre was beginning to look like a spiny anteater. At 1.40 pm another puncture, 2.15 another 4 punctures - Anne's has lost count! We had lunch and from here on we stopped every 5 kms to check tyre pressure or to top up with air, before Nullabor Roadhouse was a welcome sight. Here we organised the mechanic to come in ($25 just for the call out), but were able to get spare tyres sorted for the next part of our journey. The tyre saga will continue when we hit the big smoke and Ken will need to purchase a new tyre for the caravan and a new tyre for Ralph…….
So we headed out of Nallabor 12 kms before turning left towards the coastline to find a camping spot in amongst a very lonely wooded area of trees. Funnily enough, we have been interested in the SA fire restrictions for much of our journey (especially when it came to decisions about camp fires), the signage being somewhat confusing and not always displaying the same dates, and here we come along this section and there is a fire burning amongst the salt bush with no controller! It isn't much of a threat, but out here we are guessing it could burn for weeks until someone eventually puts it out!
Day 13 - Saturday 13th April 2013 (Travelled 194.5kms)
A lazy start to the day - a cooked breakfast then other cooking to use up the fruit and vegetables we can't take over the SA and WA border. The ritual of running repairs was on and it's really lunch time by the time we get going. We have slowed to allow Charlie and Deb to catch up with us, and hope to see them either later today or tomorrow.
We headed out to take a look at the head of the Great Australian Bite, a most amazing sight, on the left a coastline of sand dunes and to the right a coastline of cliffs (Bunda Cliffs).
Travelling a further 95 kms westward and 12 kms north we set up camp at Koonalda Homestead off the Old Eyre Highway and was a stopover much like roadhouses are these days on our major highways. Koonalda Homestead was South Australia's most western pastoral property for 50 years. In 1989 it became part of Nullabor National Park. The boys were in seventh heaven with all the old car wrecks and spent time discovering and fossicking through all these wrecks.
Day 14 - Sunday 14th April 2013 (Travelled 0 kms )
A day of rest and Charlie and Deb catch up with us today. The boys returned to the car junk, and took a drive out to the local caves. A most amazing place and one to visit if you are ever in the area. We enjoyed a turkey roast dinner and a lovely peaceful night by a campfire.
Day 15 Monday 15th April 2013 (Travelled 423.2 kms)
Today we are heading off further west and we hit the WA and SA border. After going through quarantine, no fruit, vegetables, nuts, honey etc… we travelled much of the Nullabor looking at the same scenery. There were times where the highway met the cliffs and water of the Great Australian Bight and the coastline was certainly a feature. We spent much of the day driving with just 2 hour stops for fuel and stretch of the legs. Tonight we are camping off the highway not far out of Caiguna.