Tuesday, July 28
The wind blew hard all night, so we didn't sleep well at all. Today we drove from Devil's Marbles to Alice Springs, a long boring drive, just miles and miles of straight road through the bush.
We are now booked into the G'day Mate Tourist Park. True... that's the name! It's a nice Park, just through town on the Southern approach. We're all settled in and ready for a cold morning Wednesday... Minus 1°. I'll upload this now and post more tomorrow evening.
Wednesday, July 29
The Weather Bureau was wrong. The temp this morning wasn't Minus 1... it was Minus 3! We didn't get out of bed 'till about 8.30. Even then, we weren't in a hurry to start the day. (Minus 2 tomorrow)
We did a bit of 'touristing' today, visiting an old historic Aviation Museum (Flying Doctor) and a Road Transport Museum, which for Bev was as exciting as watching grass grow. When we finished, she actually quoted Scott Hanrahan... "Well that was a fun day!"
The highlight was a visit first up to Lasseters' Casino. We were both quite impressed. It was early and only a few "locals" there but they say the place kicks in around lunch time. We're here for 4 nights, so we'll definitely be back for a few more visits.
As part of our "Casino Crawl of Australia" we only have Canberra to go on the mainland, (which I didn't even know existed 'till recently), which we will probably visit on the way north through western NSW. That will leave Hobart and Launceston for a later date.
Well, starting to get cold now. It's 9.53, Bev's asleep and I'm hitting it too. Good night!
Thursday, July 30
Today started off like others... COLD! However, we got out and about, taking in the sights. There really isn't much here of interest to us. You can only look at so much Aboriginal art, sunburnt hills, dry creek and river beds, old trucks, planes and machinery. Heck, you can see most of that at the Rocky Heritage Village! Once is enough...we won't come back.
Probably the hi-lite of the day, was Bev having to pay 50c to have a pee at the Shopping Centre!
After a bit of grocery shopping at Woolies and a bite to eat in the van, we headed off to the Casino. It must get busy at the weekends, because there weren't enough people there today to generate any sort of income. We both played roulette... and lost! Maybe tomorrow?
Tomorrow is our last day and we head off towards Ayers Rock on Saturday morning.
Friday, July 31
Not much to report today. Did a bit of grocery shopping at Coles... had another look around... lost a few bucks at the Casino... pre-packed as much as we could, ready to hit the road in the morning.
The first leg is 199ks south from Alice Springs to the turnoff at Erldunda, then a further 264ks into Yulara where the Campground is located.
Google Maps tells me that the 463k trip to Ayers Rock is estimated (by car) at just over 6 hours. Pulling a van, that would probably translate to 7 hours, so we're going to take our time and stop overnight somewhere in the wilderness. There are several Free Camp options along the way.
We have booked a powered site at Ayers Rock Campground at Ayers Rock Resort for Sunday and Monday night. They sting you $48 a night, but it's a one-off thing, we'll never be back.
We won't have Internet service until we get there Sunday, so I'll post more then. Still can't get the camera to talk to the computer... can't figure it out!
Monday, August 3
Today we took the 50k drive out to The Olgas (aboriginal: Kata Tjuta [silent T]). Another impressive lump of rocks, totally different in appearance to Ayers Rock. Glad we saw them, but wouldn't visit twice.
We also took another visit to the Rock, sussing out the sunset viewing area, where we plan to watch the sunset tomorrow.
Tuesday, August 4
Very cold mornings every day, don't make for early rising! It's 8am before the sun is up properly, so by the time we have breakfast and a shower, most of the morning has gone! Even so, we still have time to do the things retired tourists do... browsing the shops, chatting with the neighbours, tinkering with things around camp, etc.
Our only solid plan for today, was to take in sunset over the Rock. We headed out to the viewing area around 4.30 and got a good parking spot. Sunset was at 6.20. The cold wind kept us in the car, shooting photos through the windscreen... photos no one will ever see (or ever want to see!) if I can't get this camera to communicate with the laptop. Regardless, the experience was worthwhile and we're glad we did it. The HUGE carpark viewing area was packed and I couldn't count the number of cars in the convoy heading back to the Resort.
Tomorrow is our last day here and there's still several things around the resort we haven't seen yet. It's been good to settle down for a few days to break the monotony of travel in the remote Outback.
Thursday we head back to the Stuart highway, chuck a right and head south. We'll probably spend the night Free Camping at a Rest Area at the NT/SA Border, 341ks away. From there it will be another 323ks to Coober Pedy where we might spend 2 nights. From there, 375ks to Woomera then through Port Augusta where our southern leg finishes. It's then a swing east to who knows where? I haven't decided yet.
Wednesday, August 5
A lazy day for our last day at Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort Campground). Took the Shuttle Bus trip around the Resort, seeing a few of the shops, hotels and restaurants we hadn't yet seen. Back to the van for lunch and catch up on the Blog. I'll start packing a few things away this arvo, ready for our departure in the morning. It's been an enjoyable stopover on our trip... a good break from the road.
As alluded to above, we are now at the Rest Area at the NT/SA Border, sharing it with 10 or 12 other travellers. There's no TV or mobile reception here, so I set up the satellite dish to keep up with the latest news and weather reports.
Talking to others here, we learned that there are border restrictions relating to fruit and vegetables. We weren't aware of any restrictions, so rather than dump them in the bin provided, Bev spent the afternoon cooking our veges, onions and tomatoes. Cooked and/or frozen food is ok.
Tomorrow it's off to Coober Pedy. I'm looking forward to visiting the underground 'city'. Not everything is underground of course, but there are houses, pubs, churches, restaurants, etc., underground.
We should have internet service there, so I'll upload this then.
Friday, August 7
Coober Pedy - No Internet
In 2013 we passed up on a cup of hot chips from the servo at Camooweal 'cause it was $6.50. This trip, we were going to get some chips from a roadhouse around here and they wanted $9.50!! Makes the $6.50 lot look cheap by comparison! (No, we didn't!)
The drive from the SA border to Coober Pedy was more of the same... mile after mile of straight roads through mostly flat country. Although, the terrain had far more vegetation and colour than we've experienced so far.
Then, about 35ks from Coober Pedy, the 'mounds' started to appear. Just a few here and there, then as we got closer, they numbered thousands. They looked like white tents scattered in the bush. I guess they're called Mulloch Heaps or Tailings. Whatever they call them, there are thousands of holes in the bush, where the search for Opals took place. There was even abandoned rusting machinery and trucks at some of the 'mines' but we never saw a single human at any of the mines. Maybe they were old abandoned mines... maybe they were underground.
We arrived in town about 1.30 and sought out the Big 4 Park. It's a big Park and it's pretty crowded. Out here, there's no water connection for your van. Water is heavily rationed. There is power and sewerage at each site, but no water. If you need to refill your van water tanks, there's a coin-op point near Reception to do so, at 20c for 40 litres.
As well as that, a hot shower costs 20c for 2 minutes. There is a coin box in each shower cubicle and as you drop your coin in, the water starts flowing. (You lose several seconds waiting for the hot water to come through) As soon as time's up, the water stops! I put in 40c and the water stopped just before my final rinse. In goes another 20c and had a good soak 'till it stopped. (It's cold here and a hot shower is heaven!) We didn't use our van shower, to conserve water for later.
On the Plus side, the Amenities Block is Ultra Modern and spotless.
We're here for 2 nights and tomorrow afternoon we are going to take a bus tour around the area. It's about a 4.5 hour tour and we'll see far more than we would doing our own thing.
I've booked us in to a Caravan Park in Woomera for Sunday night, but I doubt there'll be Internet service there. May have to wait 'till we get to Port Augusta to upload this mess! We'll see.
Saturday, August 8
The Bus Tour was good. It was $68 each and went for almost 5 hours. It covered everything: the mines, underground houses, the history, the Dingo Fence, underground church, hotel, shops, etc.
One highlight was a visit to the cemetery where the driver showed us a grave that has a beer keg as a headstone, surrounded by beer bottles and glasses. The inscription reads "Have A Beer On Me!"
The story goes, the guy, who had no family, was diagnosed with a terminal condition and had very little time to live. So he took his credit card and bought a plot at the cemetery. He then paid the undertaker for his funeral, with instructions on how to set up his headstone. Then he invited the town to come to the pub and "Have a Beer On Me". He threw a giant party and maxed out his credit card. He died before the repayment came due.
Sunday, August 9
We awoke this morning to a very windy day. The good news is, it's a Northerly wind and of course, a Northerly wind blows South! As we headed south to our next destination (Woomera) we were being pushed, giving us excellent fuel economy.
The bad news is, it's so windy here in the Caravan Park, it's almost unbearable! Also, there is nothing here. Woomera may have been a giant buzz back in the 70's but its almost a ghost town now. There are hundreds and hundreds of vacant Homes and Units, all built by the Dept of Defence, and hardly a soul in sight. If it weren't for the Grey Nomads, it would be totally dead!
But it is home for the night and only $25 for a powered site with water and sullage. It beats fighting the dust in a Rest Area in the sticks.
Ok... the time is now 7pm and the wind has dropped! Yahoo! And it's only going to be 6° in the morning... positively hot compared to what we've been having lately.
Spoke too soon. It's 8.45pm and the wind is back!
Monday, August 10
The wind dropped somewhat this morning, but what there was, was bitterly cold. We filled up at Spud's Roadhouse at the turn-off to Woomera (which is 7ks off the Stuart Highway) and headed off to Peterborough 311ks away. The northerly wind still helped with fuel consumption and we only needed a top up at Port Augusta. From Port Augusta we turned east and took the road less travelled, toward Peterborough (historically named Petersburg).
We're now at Peterborough Caravan Park for the night, our last stop in South Australia. No Internet connection on my Vodafone Pocket WiFi.
We took a drive around this historic Railway Maintenance Town, which consists of one main street, full of old buildings.
It's cold here.
Tuesday, August 11
Arrived at Broken Hill and booked into the Broken Hill Top Tourist Park for 2 nights. We have Internet Service!! I'll upload the past several days now and continue the report later.
Wednesday, August 12
Back now: We took the 25k drive out to Silverton (population less than 50) this morning. Some folks we met at the NT/SA Border Free Camp said it was a must see. We don't agree, but it was interesting to see the old buildings and a couple of modified cars used in the Mad Max 2 movie.
According to their website, Silverton and surrounds has been used in lots of movies, including:
Returning to Broken Hill, the other must-see attraction was The Big Picture at Silver City Mint & Art Centre. It's the world’s largest acrylic painting on canvas by a single artist. Way too much to write about, so follow the link if you are interested in learning more. It was a must-see!
Off tomorrow towards Dubbo, a 2 day trip. Possibly going as far as Cobar
Thursday, August 13 - No Internet
We did the 400+ ks to Cobar and are now at the Cobar Caravan Park. Cobar is home to about 7000 souls and has a Shire area about the size of Tasmania. I know that because the caravan park brochure says so!
Our understanding is, that Cobar
is a Gold Mining town. There is a huge open cut 'hole'
in the ground, at the edge of town and at the bottom, a
tunnel goes underground. From the top, it looks as
though huge mining trucks could drive into the tunnel.
A lot of the road between Cobar and Dubbo was rough as guts! Especially the last section on the Mitchell Highway. It was like travelling on a gravel road... without the dust! Up 'till now, with a couple of exceptions, the roads have been pretty good. Sure hope they improve as we work our way north through the west.
We were going to stay at the Big4 Park here in Dubbo, but at the suggestion of a fellow member of the Caravan Forum, we booked into the Westview Tourist Park on the outskirts of town. It's quiet and ok, but the Big4 would have been nicer.
Saturday, August 15
Today we visited the Taronga Western Plains Zoo that Dubbo is 'famous' for. It's a huge complex and we drove around on the 6k road through the park. There are parking areas at each section, where you get out and visit the animals. It was $72 for the 2 of us, but worth it.
Tomorrow, we're off the the races at Narromine, a small country town 37ks away. It has a population around 4000. It's their Gold Cup Day.
Sunday, August 16
Had a good day at the Narromine Races today. Bev lost, I won... but only $38, so nothing to brag about.
Our last night tonight, off tomorrow heading 'northish' but have no idea where we'll stay the night. Going to Gilgandra, Coonabarabran, Gunnedah, Tamworth. Could be any of those... maybe none! Doesn't matter much when we have a self contained Motel Room on wheels rolling along behind the Tug.
Let's see where the road takes us.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, August 17, 18, 19
Well, the road took us to Tamworth, Country Music Capital of Australia. We booked into Paradise Caravan Park, the Big4 Park here. We took 3 nights, but after learning that the Tamworth Races are on, on Thursday, we extended another night.
We did all the tourist things yesterday and today (Wed) taking in the sights of Tamworth. Bit of a lazy day today though. Bev did the floor of the van, while I vacuumed the mats and cleaned the car, followed by a bit of shopping. It was -1° this morning, so we didn't surface 'till after 8! Tomorrow it's off the the Races... I'll let you know the outcome.
Thursday, August 20
The outcome was not as planned... we both lost! Apart from that, it was a good day. It's just a shame that we extended and paid for an extra night specifically to attends the races. Usually one of us wins!
The facilities at the Tamworth Racecourse are very nice.
From here we are changing our planned trip route. When we were at Devil's Marbles, the wind was so strong, it ripped the door from my hand as I opened it and slammed it against the side of the van, breaking one of the 3 hinges. To make matters worse, just a kilometre or so after we left in the morning, I spotted (in the rearview mirror) the bedroom window flapping in the strong breeze. The metal window stays had broken. Bev hadn't fully latched the window.
Maybe there is a 'demon' at Devil's Marbles, because another vanner told us about their mishap there. They lifted the bed to access storage underneath and all 3 hinges broke!
So, rather than continue north via the inland roads, we've decided to cut across to the coast and get things fixed at Hinterland Caravans, Burleigh Heads, where we bought the van. Besides, it gives us an excuse to visit the Gold Coast again.
So tomorrow morning it's off to Grafton, where we'll spend 2 nights. From there, a short trip to Ballina for another 2 nights, then Burleigh Heads. From there we'll decide whether to come home along the coast road, or head back inland again.
Friday, August 21
I thought I had it all worked out. Head north out of Tamworth to Armidale, chuck a right and take a leisurely drive to Grafton.
The road is one of the worst we've travelled on... even worse than the road between Cobar and Dubbo. Almost constant narrow mountain road in very poor condition. Rough as guts x2! I rarely got over 80kph. Over 5 hours to travel 308ks. The only upside was the good fuel consumption, because of the slow speed.
We arrived at the Glenwood Tourist Park and booked in for 2 nights. I told the couple at Reception about our rough trip from Tamworth and the first thing they said was, "Did you turn off at Armidale? You should have gone on to Glen Innes and turned off there. A little bit longer trip but the road is much wider and smoother!"
Anyway, the Glenwood Tourist Park is only $27 a night for seniors and we have a large drive through site. I particularly liked their "Grey Nomads Welcome" sign on their website and was definitely attracted by that.
We're booked in to Ballina Big4 Caravan Park Sunday and Monday nights and it's only a short 133k drive for us on Sunday.
Saturday, August 22
A chill-out day today, with a visit to the local Shopping Centre for a bit of Retail Therapy. Bev found a nice warm top at Noni B and I found a couple of nicknacks at the Dollar Store. Back to the Park and goofed off for the rest of the day.
Sunday, August 23
It was just a short trip this morning to Ballina and we're at the Big4 Ballina Headlands Holiday Park for 2 nights. It's a little out of town, just north on the Coast, but central to everything.
When we arrived, we realized we'd stayed here before, except it was a Top Tourist Park then. It's a lovely Park with tons of palm trees and green grass everywhere! A big contrast to some of the Parks we've visited lately. We set up camp and off to the Shopping Centre for some groceries to keep the body going.
Ballina is right on the coast and the scenery is nice. Queensland's better, but...
Today we took a drive to the countryside surrounding Ballina, visiting little Villages along the way, complete with lovely rolling hills and green valleys with running creeks. It reminded me of a picture postcard.
Surprisingly, we came across a tiny service station in a little Village called Alstonville with the cheapest diesel we've seen so far. The beast was half full, so filled up at $1.35 litre.
Back at the Park, the thunder was rolling and a storm was heading our way. I logged on and checked the weather radar and a large cell was heading our way. It rained quite a bit, but thankfully not too severe.
Tuesday, August 25
This morning we woke to lovely blue skies and headed off on the short 103k trip to Burleigh Heads. We're now at one of our favourite spots... Burleigh Beach Tourist Park. We've booked in for 3 nights. It's not the nicest Park in the world, but the location is fantastic, especially seeing we have to hook up again in the morning and take the van to the Repair Shop at Burleigh Heads. Unfortunately the Park doesn't have any drive-through sites, where we could have left the van hooked up for an easy get-a-way in the morning.
Of course, once we settled in this morning, we headed off to the Casino for lunch and a flutter.
Wednesday, August 26
Took the van over to Hinterland Caravans this morning and left it with them, with a list of repairs that needed doing. We then headed off and visited the RSL and Boys Town Prize Homes, as we always do when at the Gold Coast. (It's about time we won one of these homes, as we've been on their automatic order system for years and years.) From there, we went to Pacific Fair Shopping Centre for lunch and a look around. During the look around, we got the call that the van was ready, so we headed back to Burleigh Heads.
From the list of things to do, I wouldn't have been surprised to get a bill for $250-$300. We were very pleasantly surprised to get a bill for $145!! I estimated $150 for one of the items on the list. Also, as I did last time we had the van down to them, I bludged a 9kg gas refill from them for nix!
Back to the Park and set up again, I went to the office and extended our stay another night. We now leave Saturday morning, unless we start winning at the Casino...?
Tomorrow, Thursday, it's a lay day to get the washing done, plus a few odd jobs around camp.
Thursday, August 27
The weather took a turn for the worse today and its been showering and drizzling on and off all day. However, Bev still got the washing done and hung it up on the lines under the awning.
As above, plus we went to the Casino for dinner. Every month they put on a different dish at a reduced price for Rewards Members at Spinners Restaurant. This month it was a Steak and Bug dish. We've had some really nice dishes there, but this one barely made the grade.
After dinner it was into the Casino for a flutter. This trip, Bev's winning but sadly, Lady Luck has deserted me.
Friday, August 28
The weather cleared this morning and we were greeted with a lovely sunny day. We took advantage of that and went for a walk around Burleigh Heads "township". The majority of shops here are either clothing shops or eating joints and both were very well patronized. Especially today, as it's 'People's Day' for the Gold Coast Show.
We're actually enjoying the rest so much, that we extended our stay here another 4 nights. We now leave Burleigh Heads Wednesday, September 2nd.
I'm at three minds as to which way to go from here. My original thoughts were to head back west and work our way north through Warwick, Dalby, Goondiwindi, Moonie, Condamine, Miles, Wandoan, Taroom, Theodore, Banana, Wowan, Dululu, Westwood, Rocky.
St George, Cunnamulla,
Charleville, Augathella, Tambo, Blackall, Barcaldine,
Wednesday, September 2
Well, the time has come to leave the Gold Coast and head North. After much consideration, we decided the shortest trip home was via the coast. We're leaving South Western Queensland for another trip. (Any excuse. )
Even though the coast is the shortest way home, we're in no hurry. Our first stop was Chatsworth Park Rest Area, a free camp, just north of Gympie. It's a nice little spot and we've used it a number of times in the past. Sadly, the council workers arrived early next morning with their whipper snippers and mowers, determined to beautify the place before we were all awake!
Thursday, September 3
With all the racket going on, we had a quick breakfast and hit the road. We hadn't been to the Bundaberg/Bargara area for quite some time, so we decided that would be our next stop. It was only a short 200k drive to Bargara, via Maryborough and Childers and we arrived early at Bargara Beach Caravan Park. We got a nice spot and booked in for 3 nights.
We spent the next 2 days taking in the sights of the area, with a special emphasis on Bundaberg, as we hadn't been here for quite a few years.
A 'must visit' was the Bert Hinkler Museum, officially known as Hinkler Hall of Aviation. Admission to the complex was $12 each (for oldies) and worth the money.
Without boring you with the details, suffice to say he was best known for his pioneering solo flight from England to Australia in 1928 and the world’s first solo flight across the South Atlantic in 1931.
Not being Rum drinkers, we skipped the tour of the Bundaberg Rum Distillery and their $18 Admission Fee. Had it been the Johnny Walker Scotch Whiskey Distillery, that would have been another matter! Instead, we headed back to the coast and settled for lunch on the veranda at the Bargara Beach Hotel. I recall staying there on a Golfing Bus Trip to Bargara back in the 1990's and early 2000's. Fond memories!
Sunday, September 6
This morning we pulled up stumps and headed off on the short 135k trip to Agnes Water.
The Agnes Water Caravan Park is a very popular spot, right on the beach. We wanted 3 nights there, but as we hadn't booked, they could only give us 2 nights on the one site. Two is better than none, so we had a very relaxing, short stay at this lovely part of Queensland.
If you're not a fisherman, then there's not a whole lot to do here, which suited us fine!
We took in the sights, visiting the nearby village of Seventeen Seventy, built on the site of the second landing by James Cook and the crew of Endeavour in May 1770. Story goes, it was originally known as Round Hill (after the creek it sits on) and the name was changed in 1970 to commemorate the bicentennial of Cook's visit. The community of Seventeen Seventy hold the re-enactment of this historic landing in May each year as part of the 1770 Festival.
Back at Agnes, the Shopping Village is an easy walk from the Caravan Park and has everything you could need. If you're looking for a feed, the meals at the Agnes Water Tavern are delicious and we can recommend them. It's a bit too far to walk, so take the car.
Tuesday, September 8
We have lived in the Central Queensland area all our lives, but we had never been to Tannum Sands, even though it's only 134k from home. So we made that our last stop on this Rockhampton to Rockhampton trip.
It was a short 106k trip from Agnes Water to Tannum Sands, so we took our time and arrived just before lunch and booked 2 nights at the Tannum Sands Discovery Holiday Park, which is also a Top Tourist Park.
Every Tuesday night, the 2 owners, Andy Forsyth and Geoff Batchelor, entertain the guests with a sausage sizzle and a sing along.
By their own admission, they are "... a couple of bloody old poofs, so get over it!"
Geoff is the entertainer who plays guitar and sings and Andy supports where necessary.
Cost of admission is a donation to Angel Flight and they have raised tens of thousands over the years.
Thursday, September 10
We said goodbye to Tannum this morning and headed north on our last leg to Rockhampton.
It has been a very enjoyable 7 week trip. We travelled over 8900 ks and saw a lot of Australia we hadn't seen in the past.
The tow vehicle, a Mazda BT50,
didn't miss a beat and averaged 16.83 litres per 100ks
which is acceptable. Except for a broken door hinge and
window stay in the strong winds at Devils' Marbles, the
Billabong Caravan performed admirably. We are very happy
with the van.
Our next trip is a week in Agnes Water in late November, followed by a week over Christmas at Lake Tinaroo, North Queensland. Next year, 2016 will see us on another trip to Perth, this time via New South Wales and South Australia. We'll probably take 2 months for that one.
Copyright © 2015-2016 David Price - All Rights Reserved