Debbie & Geoff's

Australian Safari

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Travel Blog - April 2017

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The latest Blog info is at the top, for previous mounths go to the Blog Archive page.
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April 1st 2017

Here comes the end of March and we are staying now at Bendigo. Renown for gold mining and beautiful buildings. Our first full day was spent in town where we visited the tourist info centre and walked around to explore the beautiful architecture on display. History of the gold fields and a tram trip which we did not have time to do. Also supply shopping was on the list so even though boring it had to be done. We are staying at the Golden Nugget park which is a Top Tourist park, school holidays have just started down in Victoria and Queensland. Cyclone Debbie has been battering the coast from Queensland to northern NSW. Again we feel lucky to have missed the devastating weather.

This is our 22nd wedding anniversary. Who would have thought that day when we were married that we would be travelling Australia in a caravan? It was not on our agenda that night but you never know where your road will take you. If I was told I would be on a yacht sailing to exotic destinations I could believe that, but a caravan???
So on our anniversary it was to the Bendigo National Park and we did a walk to Old Toms Gold Mine. Not sure who old Tom was but there was certainly lots of quartz around on the ground and even though the gold mining era was short from1857 to the 1860’s it certainly made an impact on this mining community.
The scenery was not as inspiring as we have seen but some of the beauty was Red Ironbark trees that had amazingly gnarly bark. Also a cute spider that decided to hitchhike on Geoff’s shirt that had white markings on the belly and a yellow flecked bum.

Spider                     Old Toms Gold Mine water supply
Spider                                  Old Toms Gold Mine water supply

 

Sunday 2nd - Sunday 9th April 2017

The mighty Murray River is our next destination and we are staying in a wonderful town called Echuca . This town was a major river port in the 1800’s and the Port of Echuca has restored with the colonial Port feel. Our first day was a few walks along the port and the river. The river was quite low and inquiring at the tourist information centre learnt that it was October 2016 when the river was flowing up to the top of the banks as they had lots of rain. Galahs and Corellas screeched along the river bank and flew over our van in the evening and mornings, squawking and carrying on to make their presence felt. True Aussie bush feel and the gums along the river amazed us the way they clung to the bank with their roots partially exposed.

Echuca           Old Toms Gold Mine water supply
Echuca

I loved this town and the feel about it, though it certainly catered to the tourists. Our friends David and Margaret arrived to start their holiday with us and it will not be long till the MCCCC (Mariners Cove Camping & Caravan Club) will all be together. We organised a river trip and lunch on an old paddle steamer the EmmyLou. Funny the boat was built in 1980 so was certainly not as old as we had all thought, but it was fun and a great day.

Geoff and David front of EmmyLou           Lunch aboard Emmylou
Geoff and David front of EmmyLou                     Lunch aboard Emmylou

EmmyLous engine           Wharf at Echuca
EmmyLous engine                     Wharf at Echuca

Another fun stroll around town where we visited lots of shops with the boys complaining, one find was a shop called Cheap as Chips, this was like a reject shop on steroids and had anything that could open and shut, colour or cloth. It had it all and we managed to waste more than a few precious minutes in there.
Time to leave Echuca and the four of us headed to Lake Boga. On the way we stopped at Torrumbarry where one of the lochs (Lock 26) was located on the Murray. They were working at the time on the loch which was to our advantage as we watched them use the big crane to move sections of the loch that they were about to repair. I also got to see the fish ladder where fish could swim up between the loch and the upper part of the river. They end in a trap which is cleaned out daily and the carp is counted and destroyed, with only the native fish allowed to pass.

Torrumbarry Lock 26           The Fish Way
Torrumbarry Lock 26                     The Fish Way

The van park at Lake Boga was right on the river and had beautiful grassy sites. We had a walk to the Lake Boga Catalina Museum. This museum told us the story of how the Catalina flying boats were repaired in the area. The USA air force also based themselves there. They had a Catalina on show and it was very very big. It was a shame we only had one night here as we were on a time limit and there was a few other interesting things that will have to wait for next time we pass.

Lake Boga Caravan Park           Lake Boga Caravan Park
Lake Boga Caravan Park

Lake Boga Catalina Museum           Lake Boga Catalina Museum
Lake Boga Catalina Museum

Onward to Mildura and even though it was not the best park, we stayed two nights. Once we arrived and set up we took a drive to the Botanical Gardens, we could drive around and stop to look at different things that took our fancy like the rose garden and also the Sturts Dessert Pea which is something you don’t see every day.

Margaret sampling a Rose           Sturts Dessert Pea
Margaret sampling a Rose                             Sturts Dessert Pea

The next morning we headed off early to visit Lake Mungo . This park was where they discovered the Mungo Woman who was over 40,000 years old. They say when she died she was only 18 years old and was cremated, then her bones smashed then they were burnt again. Also the Mungo Man was unearthed but he was a few thousand years younger. He was in his 50’s and he was buried with his body being painted in ochre.

Margaret sampling a Rose           Sturts Dessert Pea
Old Shearing Shed Lake Mungo

As we drove the 70km around the park the scenery of Lake Mungo changed from amazing sand dunes which we all climbed and stunning rock formations called the Great Wall of China which looked more like a moon scape to me, and it was fascinating. To think that this lake system was the reason so many native Australians lived out here way back over 40,000 years ago. Oh and along with Mega Fauna, very large animals.

 Looking into Lake Mungo           Sandhills at Lake Mungo
Looking into Lake Mungo                             Sandhills at Lake Mungo

It was a long day and driving back on the dirt corrugated road was made longer with rain storms that appeared from time to time. Thanks David for driving and showing us around a place he and Margaret had previously visited.

 Sandhills at Lake Mungo           Sandhills at Lake Mungo
Sandhills at Lake Mungo

Now we are off to Berri for a night. We followed the Murray River to Wentworth where the Murray and Darling Rivers meet. What fascinated us was the two colours of the water where they met, one dark and one light to mingle together before heading down the Murray towards Adelaide. During the drive we had high winds that buffeted the caravans and dust storms moving dirt from one paddock to the other, oh then came rain which helped to settle the dust.

 Murray & Darling Rivers           Murray & Darling Rivers
Murray River at the back dark & Darling River front light

Again we passed the border to South Australia but this time through a Quarantine station when our van was searched. We had been expecting this and made sure any vegies left were cooked and that our last apple was eaten that morning. With the all clear we were on our way to set up our vans and hoped the rain would stay away whilst we got settled.
Once all done and the weather was cold and showery so we decided to go to the pub for lunch then do a bit of shopping to replenish the fruit and vegies before having the afternoon in our vans.

 

Monday 10th to Thursday 13th April 2017

From Berri it was time to hit the Barossa Valley with four nights at Tunanda where the rest of the Mariners Cove gang was to meet us. Much excitement as it has been quite a while since the MCCCC (Mariners Cove Caravan and Camping Club) had been together for a trip. Oh more girlie time for me and boy time for Geoff. If one thing I can say about travelling is I miss my girlfriends to have a laugh and coffee with. Us girls trawled the shops, not with intention of buying but just to look and have a laugh. Tanunda also had the coolest scare crows I had seen. It seems there was a competition on in the area who could come up with the cleverest scare crows, some of them were just amazing.
One evening after dinner we strolled down town to visit one of the old churches which we had been lit up. Strolling through the cemetery and around the flood lit church was another experience and a nice way to finish off the evening.
More friends arrived, Peter and Ally, that were part of the Mariners Cove neighbours but had since moved to Adelaide. The highlight of this section of the trip was going to the Sons of Eden vineyard where Julie’s (one of the MCCCC team) brother in law volunteered as a worker. Mark proudly showed us around the vineyard and we learnt so much in such a short time from his expertise of how wine was grown, blended and made. My head was spinning with questions from water supplies to the vines as it is quite a dry area, to the pressing which was done by an airbag squeezing in vats then storage in oak barrels (the best coming from France). From there we went to Artisans restaurant for a premium wine tasting. Nothing like testing your pallet with bottles of wine sold for $150 and trying to taste each note of flavour.

 Grapes on the vine           Mark showing how they remove the storks
Grapes on the vine                         Mark showing how they remove the storks

 Debbie looking which barrel to take home           Mark giving Julie a tast
Debbie looking which barrel to take home                         Mark giving Julie a tast

 Lunch at Artisans           Julie and Margaret checking the scarecrows
Lunch at Artisans                         Julie and Margaret checking the scarecrows

After the tasting we did the lunch where we chose to have the ”Feed Me Like A Barossan” Menu which gave us all a taste of everything. From Beef Carpaccio to Persian Almond Cake, each mouthful was a delight and farmed from the area. It was a wonderful eventful day and we cannot thank Mark and the team from Sons of Eden winery and Artisans for making it such a special event for us.

 

Friday 13th April to 19th April 2017

Good Friday and the gang is all ready to travel to the Flinders Rangers, Wilpena Pound We were booked into the National Park known as the Wilpena Pound Resort. When we arrived it was total chaos as there were people with vans, tents and trailers parked in every nook and cranny and others taking up way more space than they should have. Others minding spots for their friends would park a car in the middle of a large spot and then the ones that would just take up the spot and spread themselves and gear around so not to be disturbed. Our three vans were corralled into a tiny pocket surrounded by three dusty tracks, but we were all facing each other and had room for the fire pit so we were happy. Only one awning could be put out but it still worked for us and even though on the Saturday more spaces became available we decided we liked our little triangle pocket of bush and stayed where we were.

 Wilpena Pound camp           Wilpena Pound camp
Wilpena Pound camp

Peter and Ally also joined us for the week, as they didn’t have a van they stayed in the motel style rooms up in the resort and would join us daily for our adventures, fire pit evenings and meals. It was a jolly gang of eight for the week.

 Wilpena Pound camp           Wilpena Pound camp
Wilpena Pound camp

As I said previously this resort was in the national park, but where we were parked there was no power and the water was tap near us was shared by all the area so we would fill our tanks and when we ran out fill the tanks again. This system worked fine even though the water (we were told it was filtered spring water) was brown and muddy but our filter meant at least the drinking water was clean. Bathrooms were good so we were all quite happy with our camp. Oh and I can’t forget to mention the emus and kangaroos that would stroll past at night and mornings.
I know I have seen some incredible sights but The Flinders Rangers were breathtaking, mountains surrounding us changed colour continually, oranges, pinks and blues depending on the time of day. In the five days that we explored we did hikes around the pound, investigated gorges with incredible stone work, saw Aboriginal art, walked around farm buildings from the 1800’s and read the story of the pioneers from the area. We had Devonshire tea in the town of Blinman and had a look at the old copper mine, also visited another Prairie hotel, but I can’t say it is half as good as the Prairie hotel in Queensland that we stayed in last year. Larry and Julie also got me to climb Mt Olhssen and I can assure you I certainly was not happy about that. The views were spectacular by the time we made it to the top (450 meters up, round trip about 5.5km) but I would have been happier with my two feet on the flat surface looking at Geoff’s photos. Yes sometimes the princes in me comes out .

 Wilpena Pound camp           Julie and Margaret checking the scarecrows
Wilpena homestead out-buildings               Flinders Rangers looking into the Pound

 Lunch on the road, North Flinders           Prairie Hotel at Parachilna
Lunch on the road, North Flinders               Prairie Hotel at Parachilna

Then it started to rain. It was the first rain in the Flinders Range since February and it was our last day before we were to move further north to Arkaroola. Our last night we dined at the restaurant with our non-camping two for a final farewell before they left for Adelaide and we our next destination and the rain kept falling. Not torrential but enough to get things muddy. Our vans were hitched ready to roll at 6.30am the next morning. The trip that was planned was to be on dirt roads for 156km, or mud as it is still raining.

 Yellow-footed Wallabie           Girls taking selfie
Yellow-footed Rock Wallabie, North Flinders               Girls taking selfie, North Flinders

 

Thursday 20th to Monday 24th April 2017

Lying in bed and the alarm had gone off at 6am, it was still raining so we had a group meeting. The choice of going a few hundred kilometres in the mud was not a very good choice especially for Margaret and David who had the Avan which was not very high in clearance. Also as rain was forecast for the rest of the week our chances of doing any walking was quite slim and slippery. We made the decision to head south, so the Copper Coast (Yorke Peninsula)was the destination. Stopping at Peterborough for a well-earned stop and coffee. We sat around to work out our destination for the day and book a van park with powered sites to fit in all three vans.

Moonta Bay was the lucky park and it did not disappoint. Green grass instead of mud, and just as we arrived the rain that we had been travelling with cleared and made setting up so much more pleasant. A stroll down to the water edge made a pleasant evening walk and we watched the sun set over the water as we had west facing water views.

 Moonta sunset           Moonta sunset
Moonta sunset

We all sat around having dinner and even though we missed our fire pit for the evening we all agreed that we made the right choice. It was still raining up at Arkaroola.
Moonta Bay is a quaint town with a very long wharf and boomed when copper was found in the area. We decided to do a tourist train tour around an old mining area where we were lucky enough to have a wonderful train driver come guide to tell us all about how it was discovered by Paddy a Shepheard who noticed the green colour in a wombat hole. This was the richest copper mine in Australia and had a whole infrastructure from mining to smelting in the town. As the train travelled we were told the story of how it was processed and even the tailing heaps were reprocessed as they noticed the copper leaching from them when it rained. The miners were mainly Cornish and their flag flies proudly at the mine and also in the town.

 Copper Mine tour train           Copper Mine tour train
Copper Mine tour train

 Copper leaching from the tailings backfill           Boilerhouse with tailings heap behind
Copper leaching from the tailings backfill           Boilerhouse with tailings heap behind

After a quick stop across the road at the Lolly Shop which originally was the smallest post office building in South Australia, we took a drive down to Wallaroo which also had a mining heritage. Large chimneys and furnace ruins were still preserved and again more heritage buildings like the Town Chamber Hall a youngster at 1918, but what a beautiful building. We visited a bakery and had a pies and Cornish pasties for lunch sitting on the dock side watching the pigeons circling the grain silos and belts that delivered the grain to the ships.

 Old Moota Post Office           Moota Mine Train Station
Old Moota Post Office           Moota Mine Train Station

Now as none of our friends realised the story of the Cornish pasties I will explain their heritage. On our train trip our guide asked if anyone knew why the pastie is shaped and made with the extra crust on top. Of course I knew as was told to me by not only my penfriend Jean, but our Cornish mermaid Debs. The extra crust is used as a handle. The miners when having lunch in the old days were not privy to coming up top to wash their hands so they would use the extra crust to hold onto the pastie then that piece would be disposed. The tour guide said they would ground it into the dirt where the rats would eat it and as the floor of the mine had poison, the rats would die. History lesson for the day is now done!
Our two nights passed quickly in Moonta Bay before we headed further down the Yorke Peninsula to Edithburgh. Here we strolled three km down a track and then onto the beach where the water is shallow . Our return was by the track to count the rocks that dotted the path with mosaic pictures on them. Margaret counted 76 and only two we saw were the same. The theme was of course water, with sea horses, dolphins, turtles, scuba divers and a lot more designs.
This camp was our base to visit Innes National Park, which is in the base of the Yorke Peninsula. Now I would like to tell you that this peninsula has a mouse plague at the moment. Lots of rain, lots of grain for the farmers and the mice were having a field day, and a caravan and town day. Though they were very cute when we spotted them over our nightly drinks outside, we were very careful to keep doors closed and left none of our cheese and bickies out to tempt them. One lady at the van park who was a permanent has traps around her place and she caught 27 that evening and drowned them. That was a quiet night as she usually gets in the 40’s.
So off to Innes National Park where again mining industry was a focus. Gypsum was mined down here from 1889 to 1930 when the great depression closed the company. In 1970 the town was purchased by the State Government and added to the Innes National Park. We strolled around the mining site and up to the look outs where the West Cape lighthouse stood. Then a drive to the heritage village where they have done a lot of restoration and opened cottages that you can stay in. Also marvelled at a sapphire blue salt lake at the start of the village. I wonder about the first pioneers that would have seen this beautiful clear water with hope for drinking, only to find it was way too salty and would eventually be a salt pan for gathering salt.

 Surfing Southern Ocean     Emu at heritage village     West Cape Lighthouse
Surfing Southern Ocean                   Emu at heritage village                  West Cape Lighthouse

 Geoff found another Eagle     MCCCC Innes National Park     Innes National Park old Village
Geoff found another Eagle                   MCCCC Innes National Park                   Innes National Park old Village

From there we went to Point Turton where we were to have a late lunch of fish and chips at the tavern. You can imagine our disappointment when the bar lady told us we were too late for a meal, even though Julie had looked it up on the internet and they were to serve food all day. So they lost our business and the only other shop was the bakery which also did fish and chips. They got our business and we dined down by the water enjoying our meal which was really good. No one left any as we were all very hungry and they were very good fish and chips.
Our last evening with Larry and Julie, David and Margaret our MCCCC friends. I always get teary when I have to say goodbye to these people. As I had previously done a poem for our trips I had to add a few more verses to end this stage of our travels.

The time had come, a destination was set
This little Group after nine months have again met
In South Australia and Barossa to boot
With a vineyard called Sons of Eden to loot
Then a luxurious tasting and lunch for nine
We all thought this meeting up was something devine
Then the Flinders Rangers travelled we vans three
To Wilpena Pound was the destination we did agree
We were all amazed at this most beautiful spot
As the three vans were shoe horned into our plot
Mountains and gorges and historical sites
Emus so friendly we did not get a fright
And how lucky were we with our little spot
As the fire pits raged bright and hot
But then came the rain just before we moved on
We were not in a hurry but decided to be gone
So instead of the mountains a sea change was needed
And down south these three vans drove weather forecast was heeded
For our last few days on the coast we did travel
Yorke Peninsula we drove from dust to the gravel
And from mountains to plains the scenery changed
Plus sunset over water for us was a bit strange
Copper mining enveloped our brains for a day
A choo choo ride was informative and not just kids play
A walk along the coast and a count of mosaic
Then drive to a National Park we did make
And after a walk the last supper we had
Fish and chips on the bay which wasn’t half bad
But our time has run shot as our group needs to depart
But these vans three will always be in my heart

Monday 24th to Sunday 30th April 2017

As we said goodbye to our friends we also farewelled Yorke Peninsula, mouse plague and all. One thing I will say we did notice was how flat the area was, mile and miles of wheat fields could be seen, some with sheep, all had been harvested and all very flat. Also it seemed the area did not want to have anything to do with copper mining as there were signs put up on hay bales – No Copper Mining, Leave our Food Bowl Alone. I hope the right person makes the right decisions where it is concerned.
It was a toss-up as we had 3 nights till we were to meet up with more friends on where to go. I decided that instead of spending one night still on the Yorke, we could travel to the Samphire Coast. Samphire is a coastal succulent able to survive in salty conditions. So we arrived at Port Wakefield at lunchtime. The park is set on the edge of the river with a weir that formed the local swimming hole. Even Dawn Fraser had swum here in the early years. That afternoon after lunch we had more rain, so it was nice to be able to chill out in the van and read books and relax.

 Port Wakefield Caravan Park           MCCCC Innes National Park
Port Wakefield Caravan Park

The next day we went for a drive to Thomson Beach a bit further south from where we were staying, this was a bird sanctuary and we enjoyed a stroll through the scrub, then onto the beach where Geoff spotted with the aid of binoculars large amounts of waders. We did start to walk out towards them but he decided the tide was coming in and it was getting rather soggy in the sand to keep going. High tide was still 3 hours away which would push the birds towards us, so we left them alone and returned the way we had come. Though not huge tides, they went out for ages, but Geoff said it is because everything was so flat that they travelled so far.
Our last day and I decided to do a spot of cleaning as we still had some ants that had made their way into the van from our previous stop. Every cupboard was opened, cleaned and resorted and I even got the washing done ready to start our next adventure. Funny how such a small house can still take a full day of housework.
We headed to Normanville another peninsula this one was the Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide.From flat plains to rolling hills, talk about a contrast. Where Yorke was mainly wheat and grain this was cows and sheep and very hilly. We were staying with our friends Rina and Des and it was a wonderful catch up.

 View from Rina and Des
View from Rina and Des

We arrived on the Thursday as the following day we had to go to Adelaide to have the car serviced and do a bit of running around. With our loan car we headed to the shops. Now the lovely people at Wayne Phillis Ford gave us a ranger to drive so it was just like being in our truck. We stopped at Woolworths and as South Australia has a no plastic bag policy it was not a problem as I always carry mine in the back of our car. How funny when after twice tell Geoff I was going to open the back to get out the bags and he kept questioning me, that he handed me the keys. The penny finally dropped and we had a good laugh over my dumb dumb moment.
Not to be outdone, Geoff tried to program TomTom to take us back to the dealership by looking up the history. Um well we didn’t use my TomTom we had his Hema navigator, so naturally there was no history of the dealership address.
The next day Des and Rina took us exploring the area. Des drove us around the peninsula so we could see all angles. The weather was a bit inclement but managed to keep dry for us to be able to get out of the car and go for little walks. From beaches to waterfalls and we even checked out the ferry to Kangaroo Island which we plan to do on our return in about November and have convinced our friends to have few days off and join us.
Sunday morning Rina and I had a lovely walk down to the beach then along it. The boys drove down and Geoff was trying to get photos of the Hooded Plover which is an endangered bird. Then it was off to lunch. The Fleurieu Peninsula was having a festival for the month and to finish they had a food and wine artistry meal. The chef plated to food to match different paintings and the wine was supplied by Allusion vineyard and was very very nice. From Platers of baguettes to Beef Carpaccio, followed by the main of Salmon and dessert was A New York Mess trifle. We got to meet Rina and Des’s neighbours who also came back to their house and check out our van. Lots of laughter and interesting conversation made for a very fun evening.

 Hooded Plover           Rina and Des
Hooded Plover                             Rina and Des our fantastic friends

 New friends at Normanville     Art as Food Menu     Food as Art
New friends at Normanville                        Art as Food Menu                                   Food as Art

There was so much of South Australia we still did not get to see, but again I love their special houses with stone work that is truly unique. I will go back again to the Flinders Rangers and would love to see it after this rain that they have had (yes it is still raining there so we did the right thing when we left early). But for now we are heading west to a different area again in South Australia before we hug the western coast to travel to Broome.

 

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