Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

199903 Australia-WA SA

Monday 1 March 1999   Labour day bank holiday in Australia.  Quite a lot of people in the Valley of the Giants.  The Tree top walk at $5 (£2) is very different.  You walk on steel gangways up in the tree tops for a 600m tour.  Afterwards there is a 600m Lost Empire boardwalk which runs through the forest undergrowth.  Parry Beach is marked in our free camping book as a top spot.  We arrive to find a sign saying campsite full see caretaker.  Sam tells us that a lot of people will be leaving today and if we take a short walk he will find us a good sunny spot for later.  Lots of people around either diving, fishing or just enjoying the lovely stretch of beach.  There are rocks to the West creating lots of little secluded bays and a huge clear stretch of beach to the East (guess which way we will be going).  Park up near the new toilet block which also has hot showers.  The $4 (£1.60) a night campsite fees are collected by the volunteers who run this operation.  The money is put back into the site and pays for new facilities – unbelievably good value.  Stroll along to the "Naturist" beach and enjoy some sunbathing and swimming.  Head back at 3.00pm to try and catch Claire on the phone.  Our car phone has been "out of service" for a long time and the caretaker says we can use his telephone with our phonecard.  Claire’s move now scheduled for end of April.  Mum due for heart by pass surgery in about 9 months and Sandra now booked to fly to Ayers Rock instead of Alice Springs.
Tuesday 2 March  Cloudy start but clear enough for a trip to the beach later.  Return mid afternoon to get ready to leave.  We spot a lot of activity along the beach further round the bay.  This is an area for the commercial fishing of Salmon at certain times of the year.  Huge nets are cast and the fishermen use men in the water and tractors on the beach to haul them in.  They are said to be poor quality fish used to make pet food or as bait for Whiting.  On the site we see a girl and a lady with one.  They have bought it for $4 (£1.60) and although it is really big they were offered any size for that price but didn’t think they could use or cook a bigger one in the fire.  Chat to them as they prepare it and they offer us half.  They are from Belgium and the daughter lives near Perth and her Mum is on holiday.  End up staying and having a combined BBQ of stuffed Salmon, baked potatoes and salad followed by toasted marshmallows.  The fish has lots of good white meat which looks like chicken.  There is enough left over for all of us to have another couple of meals at least – talk about 2 loaves and 5 fishes feeding the thousands.
Wednesday 3 March  We are now keeping our eyes open for nice motorhomes or caravans with Queensland or New South Wales number plates.  Kevin and Pat were a bit surprised when we approached them last night in their American style one.  They call round for a chat and although interested they have only just started their full time travelling but will keep our offer in mind and mention us to others.  Set off around 11.00am.  The price of diesel is starting to drop 76.5c (36p)  litre having been a lot dearer in the small towns.  There is a hardware store next to the petrol station and I end up buying 5 broom handles and some green 70% shade cloth to make a windbreak $20 (£8) in total.   I chat the assistant up so that he makes points on the sticks but I will have quite a big job on hand sewing the seams.  Denmark is a lovely little town with a wide River flowing through the centre surrounded by gardens.  The main street has lots of small shopping courtyards running off it and they seem to sell a bit of everything here.  Stock up on bits and pieces and sort some mail out before carrying on East along the coast.  Crusoe Beach on the Wilson Inlet makes a good stop for a couple of hours but is very windy.  I set too making the windbreak whilst Steve braves the beach.  Two hours later we have a lovely windbreak but then realise that it is almost totally transparent.  I explained to the man that I wanted it for privacy as much as wind but I guess he was hoping to catch me sunbathing nude behind it!     Cosy Corner a little further on looks like a good free site but we noticed it is closed until April and this ties in with all the trucks passing through to get to the Salmon Camp which is currently open.  Torbay inlet is OK and it’s only other inhabitant appears to be a local hippie lady who lives here with her son.
Thursday 4 March  We don’t really like it here so will move on the Albany and check out the tourist attractions along the peninsula.  The phone suddenly bleeps into service.  Heading out along the peninsula we start to get a buzzing noise which we first think is the phone until we see an orange water light on the dashboard indicating a water problem.  Pull over and end up putting about 5 pints into the coolant tank.  Carry on but the problem is still there.  Speak to Fred on the phone and he says top it up again and see how it goes.  Park up to view the Gap and Natural Bridge.  These are granite rock formations where the pounding seas have crashed a way through.  Back at the van we have a flat tyre at the front.  No pump but someone lends us one.  Limp back to Albany and chat to Fred on the phone.  $10 (£4) gets the puncture repaired and the mechanic confirms that the spare is acceptable here even though we were convinced it was too far gone to use.  The Mazda garage tell us the water system must have had an airlock in from when the new water pump was fitted and if we fill it right to the top the problem will be cured.  Stop for more shopping at a catalogue type warehouse nearby and end up spending lots of dosh buying a tyre pump, hair cutters, torch etc.  Change of plans and we park in Albany near the harbour.  The "Amity" is a replica of the first ship to arrive here with settlers.  In 1826 this was the first inhabited place in Western Australia and they have lots of "very" old buildings to prove it!   Time passes as we enjoy a gentle stroll.  Just as the shops are closing we find a store which has a sun lounger bed for sale at $40  (£16) and when I jokingly ask him about a windbreak he produces an old one which he lets us have for £5 (£2) – shame I jumped the gun yesterday.  Ten pin bowling is reasonable at $12.50 (£5) for 3 games including shoe hire.  It is computerised but you have to key in your own scores.  Steve gets 129/168/148 and I do rather well with 138/132/169.  Spend the night on the grass area beside the bowling lanes.
Friday 5 March  Fill up diesel which is as cheap here as anywhere since Perth.  Quick shop for groceries then back to the Mazda garage as Steve has spotted a water leak.  Mario tightens up all the hose clips and thinks that may have been the problem.  Drive around Middleton beach which is a huge bay with a white sandy beach and the tourist beach area of Albany.  Mount Clarence has a memorial drive lined with trees, each one dedicated to a soldier.  Great monument and views from the top.  Hit the E-mail in the Yak cafe and pick up 6 letters and send a few off.  The old 1870 Post Office is a superb building architecturally and holds a telephone museum inside.  Back on the peninsula the blow holes are good but the weather is not bad enough for water to be spurting out.  They are fissures in the rocks above caves and in rough weather the water pressure in the caves is forced up through the rocks like a geyser.  Today you sit over the cracks and get blasted with air instead.  Misery Beach is a wonderful little private cove with good parking on the cliff above.  A quick sunbathe and an overnight stay for us. 
Saturday 6 March   Marion Burton phones us from New Zealand and expresses an interest in doing a swap.  It sounds promising so we will write exchanging more information.  Into Albany to catch the Post but it’s closed on Saturday  – think we were working in the wrong country when we had ours.  Mount Romance the local Sandalwood and Emu oil factory started offering free guided tours this week and as the only visitors we have a personal escort.  Coles the big supermarket in Albany are reducing perishables as they are closed on Sunday.  We load the freezer compartment with bargain pieces of meat e.g. big thick rump steaks at 75p each.  The Yak bar have a curry club on Friday and Saturday night – all you can eat for $9.50 (£3.80) 6 different curries, rice, poppodoms, dips, tea and coffee.  Steve thinks he has died and gone to heaven as they provide English newspapers and you take your own booze in.  Drive just out of town to Mount Clarence for our overnight stop.
Sunday 7 March  The interesting Princess Royal Fortress at the top of Mount Adelaide has superb views and lots of big black lizards.   Back along the peninsula the Whaling Station $8 (£3.20) offers  guided tours and films about how they used to catch the whales here until the factory closed down 20 years ago.  Sunbathe at Misery Beach and then head out to Wychinicup National Park.  People recommend that we visit it assuring us that even though the road says no caravans and 4WD only we can make it in our camper.  A rocky river inlet with rock strewn hills either side and ideal for swimming tomorrow.  Another couple in a camper tell us the 4WD sign is only there because when it rains the track becomes slippery and boggy.
Monday 8 March   Wake up to rain for the first time.  Try to plug the computer into the inverter but it isn’t working – another little problem to challenge us.  There is nothing else to do here and we don’t want to be stuck for days so set back out along the long bumpy track.  Heading up the Chester Pass the Porongurup national park has lots of granite rock formations but it is still raining and we don’t fancy the 2 or 3 hour walks.  The Stirling mountain range runs across this area and we park at Bluff Knoll ready to make the climb to the top for the view.  It has stopped raining but whilst having lunch the clouds roll in again and the rain starts.  Pass on the climb and head north through agricultural country.  Sheep and wheat farming country which is quite obvious from the terrain.  Most of the towns are one street jobs with a wide area in the centre where they used to turn the camels trains around.  The sun comes out but there is a lot of wind around.  Pass a roadhouse with a sign "caution nudists crossing" – but we didn’t.  Lots of road trains 105m long on this route – huge trucks with 3 trailers and you are expected to make way for them.  Around 6.30pm it starts to get dark and we notice from the map that the bitumen surface runs out soon.  We pull off onto a dirt track and tuck ourselves in behind a tree.  Just finish tea when a truck goes past and then backs up to us.  The farmer just wants to check we are OK but comes in for a beer and a chat.  John is mid 30’s, has 8 kids ranging from 8 months to 15 years and is a wheat and sheep farmer.  Learn a lot about life here and we are non too impressed to learn that the farmers cut a circle of skin from the lambs bottom to prevent fur growing in the area which then stops flies getting trapped and causing disease.  His wife and kids now live in Bunbury (over 3 hours drive away) so that the kids can get a better education.  Here you see lots of bikes seemingly abandoned at the end of farm lanes and we learn that it is where the kids have caught the local bus to school.  Shows how little crime there is here.
Tuesday 9 March  Carrying on towards Hyden the steering wheel develops a wobble and the garage find another puncture.  Steve recently read a book on Australia and at one point the man passed comment  that a good week of travelling was getting only 20 punctures!    We get enough air put in to get us to Hyden where we have the puncture repaired and the wheels balanced.  Wave Rock is a strange rock formation that looks like a huge wave about to crash on the shore.  There are lots of different colours running through the rocks and it is amazing.  Check into the Wave Rock campsite $15 (£6) a night which saves us the $5 (£2) park entry fee.  Bung a load of washing in and set up our stall.  The weather is perfect for sitting out but the flies drive us crazy.   The aboriginal guided tour around the rock teaches about it and the nearby "Hippo’s Yawn"  where the aboriginal women used to go to have their babies.  No luck getting the inverter mended and so we plug in everything we can think off to charge it up whilst we have electric.  It’s nice to wash my hair and dry it with the hairdryer for a change although most of the time it is hidden under a hat anyway.    I finally get chance to get all my little jobs brought up to date which is a great feeling.  Electric BBQ’s are provided here and although much cleaner than the others they are slower and the flies are still a big problem.
Wednesday 10 March  Up early for a photo of the rock at sunrise.  A beautiful day with clear blue skies so we set off back towards the coast but the wheel wobble is still bad so we return to Hyden.  The man re checks them and says the lad who did it yesterday didn’t do a good job so he does them again.  Our journey South takes us through the town of Varley (Mum’s maiden name) which has an airstrip, telephone exchange, Post Office combined with gas station and store, school – and only about 10 houses!  It seems the towns themselves are only here to serve the surrounding farming community.  Keep trying to stop to sunbathe but the flies are terrible.  Make it to Hopetoun on the coast to take the Southern Ocean Road.  Not many views of the oceans as the very bumpy dirt track is high up and inland!  I scream for Steve to stop when I see a big hairy Spider climbing down the corner of the cab window on my side.  I believe the expression rhymes with clucking bell!  Steve attempts to get it out with the broom but it goes into hiding and so do I.  Arrive at Starvation Boat Harbour and clarify that we have a Huntsman spider on board which is harmless but likes to jump on you.  The locals tell us we should be more concerned about the poisonous black tiger snakes in the area – great.  Manage to forget about the spider whilst having tea etc but as I go to close the cab curtains at night I catch the top of my head on it whilst it is crawling across the ceiling.  Shift says I (or something like it). Fortunately Steve manages to catch it and properly remove it this time. 
Thursday 11 March  Typical – here we are by a nice beach and the weather is poor.  Our walk around the bay takes us to the famous No 1 fence the longest in the world.  In 1886 a man brought 24 rabbits in for sport but the bred out of control.  By 1887 with 10,000,000 killed there was still a problem.  In 1902 the 3,255km fence was built from North to South coast to contain them in the East.  It didn’t work properly but myxomatosis and poisons solved the problem temporarily.  The couple we chatted to yesterday (her name is Glenyse) offer us some of the fish that they caught as they have too much.  I batter them and we enjoy herring and something else for tea.  The winds have been building up all day and the thunder rumbling.  A storm develops with rain and thunder and lightening but thoughtfully not until after dark.
Friday 12 March  Another cloudy morning so press on a bit further.  We are overtaken by a truck along the dirt track which shortly after encounters a couple of kangaroos.  One gets across the road but the second one is hit.  The baby kangaroo has a broken leg and the driver needs to kill it.  Glad it didn’t happen to us as we were upset enough anyway.  Esperance is named after the French ship that ran a ground here.  We collect some mail from Fred – the new RAC card and a taped copy of a song he has on CD by John Williamson and which we found very appropriate-

Called "Old farts in caravan parks" and sung country style accompanied by a guitar:-
Oh happy travellers are we.  Around Australia in a caravan
The kids are gone we have no plan.  You navigate on your engine man.
Yes happy campers are we.
And king of the road are we.  Up a mountain road we wind.
With a mile of traffic stuck behind.  Two friendlier folk you wouldn’t find.
Oh cheery old chooks are we.
We hit the road and sold the home, like a pair of drovers round we roam
No more winter and no more phone.  We’re wild and fancy free.
And a pair of toilers are we.  We’ll pick fruit or prune a  tree.
Any old job doesn’t worry me, it’ll cover our fuel and the camping fee
Frugal old farts are we.
And a dear old chook are you, in your terry towelling dressing gown
The one you bought in the country town.  Yours is pink and mine is brown
Threadbare old farts are we.
Oh jeez we’ll have to pull up again soon darling.
And a tidy little unit are we.  Everything has a place to be
A jar of coffee and a tin of tea.  A life for two but not for three.
Oh sexy old tarts are we.
And we always camp just near the loo cos I have to go at midnight too
Dribble dribble dribble dribble’s all I do
Ah over the hill are we!!!!!
Obviously aimed and the hundreds of Australians who retire and then keep going round Australia in caravans but also quite applicable to us – in places!
Once we have stopped laughing over the tape we visit the Municipal Museum with a huge collection of all sorts of old things but the main attraction for us are the pieces of Skylab which fell to earth in this area.  The Great Ocean Drive is excellent with views of some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia – shame about the cloudy weather and intermittent showers but it is still warm.  A couple of wind farms are on the circuit and the Pink Lake is at the end.  Park for the night by the nature reserve in the hope of going to the Lake in the morning and then doubling back to the beaches.
Saturday 13 March    Another cloudy morning.  Very frustrating as we have allowed ourselves over 1 week to cover this area being the last accessible coast we will see for a few weeks.  We are now actually a few days ahead of our rough schedule having been behind ever since leaving Perth.  The Pink Lake here is unique, it’s colour coming from a type of algae in the bottom but today the algae is not good and there is no sun to reflect the colours anyway so it is only very slightly pink.  Park in town by the sea shore to wander around and watch the local lads diving off the pier.  Phone Nicole in Adelaide (Dave Spooner’s sister) and arrange to see them after the 8th April as they are going away for Easter.  Drive out to Windabout Lake for the night as we have read that there are canoe trips going from here tomorrow.  Take an early evening skinny dip in the lake and wash in the grassy area nearby.  The kitchen bowl with my toiletries in starts to blow out onto the lake and I call Steve to do his Baywatch thing to rescue them – well you don’t expect me to try and be Pamela Anderson do you?  More storms in the night.
Sunday 14 March  A cracking storm wakes us early but it brightens up by 9.00am.  The canoe trip is full so we will make the most of the better weather and drive out to Cape Le Grand.  As we drive along the local radio tells us that one of the wind farm turbines was struck by lightening this morning and it took over 2 hours to put the fire out.  Approaching the Cape we spot lightening in the distance.  Pull up at the bottom of Frenchman’s Hill for our hike up just as the clouds come in and the rain starts.  Carry on to Lucky bay which is just beautiful even in this weather.  It has stopped raining and there are friendly kangaroos on the beach. Good camping facilities so we hop under the hot showers just before the heavens open up again.  Change our plans yet again and start to head North towards Norseman to pick up our mail tomorrow.  Call at the Esperance meteorological station for the free tour which proves very interesting.  Slightly brighter weather as we head North.  Stop in Salmon Gums (named after the local gum trees with pink wood) and phone Claire and then both Mums to say Happy Mother’s Day.  Mother’s Day here is in May so no cards were available. We have to wake everyone up as it is now only 2.00pm (8.00am UK) but we are going to be in the middle of nowhere for the rest of the day.  As we leave the town another storm starts with multiple lightening and heavy rain.  Park at Bromus Dam and are happy to hear that the forecast for tomorrow is for a good day with 29 degrees high – bet the flies will be out in force.  
Monday 15 March  A dry day but not brilliant.  I wake Steve up early as I am anxious to get the mail – he thinks it is really sad that I still get excited and I think it is sad that he doesn’t!  In Norseman we collect mail from Claire, both Mums, Netty and the New Zealand couple.  We read and re read them many times digesting all the news.  The New Zealand swap has potential but they are on the South Island and we wanted to visit friends in Auckland for the millennium – will work on the problem though.  Lunch stop at Red lookout in Kambalda an ex gold mining town which has now found nickel.  The huge salt lake here is used for sand yachting.  Kalgoorlie is the famous Gold town of Australia and it joins up with nearby Boulder.  Plan to stay for a week so we look for a nice campsite with a swimming pool.  The town is very spread out and public transport almost non existent.  End up at Boulder Accommodation Village as you get a bigger pitch and we are going to have to use the car to go everywhere anyway.  Phone Len and Roberta who may do the caravan swap with us next year.  They are on a different site in Kalgoorlie but tell us their friends Barry and May are parked opposite us so we introduce ourselves to them and stop chatting over a beer.  They buy carpet ends and make them into rugs which they print slogans on and with Len and Roberta they travel around the country visiting markets and fairs along the way.  Another thunderstorm starts in the evening.
Tuesday 16 March  A terrific crack of thunder wakes us just after midnight.  Continuous sheet lightening with fork lightening as well.  Phone Dave Spooner as we are awake at 3.00am.  It’s his 40th Birthday (yesterday in England) but there is no one at home.  By morning it has stopped raining so we visit Hannans Tourist Mine $15 (£6) named after Paddy Hannan who found the first gold here in 1893.  Down into the mine before watching a gold pouring demonstration and then panning for gold at which point the heavens open up. Hannan Street is the extremely wide main street in town with magnificent buildings on both sides reflecting the wealth of the town in days gone by.  Log into the E-mail and get lots of messages including one from Mum and one from New Zealand.  The couple there are keen to do a deal and are now offering us the facility to return the van to Auckland – which is good but still leaves the starting point to be figured out.  Pick up a new inverter which at $122 (£49) is a lot cheaper than the £179 we had to pay for ours in England.  Ten pin bowling is fun at £9.75 (£3.90) each for 2 games, french fries and a soft drink.  I get 145 and 101, Steve 101 and 180.  The rain has finally stopped and it is a bit brighter – might get to use the pool tomorrow.  Out to the Super Pit for the evening blasting.  The largest open cut mine in the world it encompasses the original mines of the Golden Mile, the richest square mile of gold bearing earth ever discovered.  An outstanding view from the lookout where holes in the side walls indicate the remains of the old tunnels and shafts.  Just after 5.00pm the area is cleared of people and the siren sounds before the explosion.  BOOM.  Barry and May join us for a card session in the evening and we learn another new game called Frustration.    
Wednesday 17 March  More flaming rain in the night but dry in the morning.  It definitely seems like the summer season is over and Autumn kicking in early although everyone says it should still be hot.  At the show ground we meet Len and Roberta.  Although in their early 60’s they look and act at least 10 years younger.  Initially the swap looks unlikely as they need their truck for the summer shows next year.  However they suggest the use of their caravan from June – December next year if we buy an old car to tow it plus whilst they use our van from April-September 2001 we can have their caravan, truck and house.  Time for a rethink as this is very tempting.  The weekly showing at the Boulder Town Hall of the unique Goatcher theatre curtain depicting the Bay of Naples is today.  In Kalgoorlie we try to get information on flights and the Olympic Games so that we can plan a bit more of our tour.  It’s nice and sunny so we stroll around Hammond Park where there is a miniature replica Bavarian Castle made out of gemstones.  A lovely park with lots of birds and animals around and bread provided for you to feed them.  It’s St Patricks Day today so we hit Paddy’s Ale House in town where there is a live band.  All you can eat buffet $12 (£4.80) goes well with the Guinness.  As it starts to get dark we head back to the Irish bar in Boulder as I am driving and not over confident here in the dark when the Kangaroos are around.  The Albion Shamrock is showing the Riverdance Video which is quite appropriate.  Chat about Len and Roberta’s offer and figure we could take both their exchanges,  fly back to England from December 2000 until March 2001 and then probably back pack through Asia when we hand the caravan back in September 2001.  For the first part we could visit SE Australia and for the second trip the NE section as they live at Ballina which is about 3 hours south of Brisbane. 
Thursday 18 March  No rain so I quickly get the washing done and pegged out.  The Loopline Railway $9 (£3.60) takes you on the Rattler train for an hours journey along the old mining route and out to the old villages and pits of the Golden Mile.  In Kalgoorlie the Museum of the Goldfields is entered by suggested donation of  $2 (80p)and is brilliant.  We watch both the 1 hour videos, take the glass lift to the viewing platform, visit the gold room, exhibitions and  reconstructed houses.  Out of town for the Bush 2 Up original and only legal bush ring.  Off the road in the middle of nowhere is a circular tin shack without a roof and a concrete circle as the arena.  A spinner tosses 2 coins and the bets go on whether they are both heads or tails, one of each being void.  Lots of aboriginals are here and they seem to think nothing of placing $50 (£20) bets.  We notice a woman trying to place $10 (£4) bets but without much response so we put our $10 back in the wallet.  We have noticed that most Aboriginals and many white people in Australia walk barefoot.  The soles of their feet must be like leather as the surfaces are very rough.  Just make it back to the site to get the washing in before the heavens open up.  No thunder or lightening but continuous heavy rain.
Friday 19 March  Non stop rain leaves us sitting in the middle of a pond, will have to go native barefoot.  Someone from the campsite comes round and asks us to move off the grass onto a hard pitch.  We are catching part of the cyclone and there is no telling when the rain will stop.  Check out the Royal Flying Doctor Service followed by Hay Street with the brothels (actually we don’t check them out but just drive past).  Call in to the Kalgoorlie Fair/Show for which we have paid $10 (£4) for a two day ticket.  Len & Roberta and Barry & May have their stalls set out but the continuous rain has made business slow.  Wander round the fair area and look at the stalls as the shows in the arena have all been cancelled.  No sign of the rain even slowing down so we head back to base to watch TV.
Saturday 20 March  Still raining so we linger in bed.  Head to the race course with the faint hope that the planned meeting will be on – not a chance.  They don’t have drains here as they fill up with sludge and so the roads are like gold rivers.  We got a voucher for 3 free games of bowling when you pay for one so for a bargain £4.75 (£1.90) we have 2 games each.  We talk to the owner who said he started with Squash Clubs and then went on to Bowling Lanes.  He owns the one in Albany where we bowled and also a couple of others around WA.  The lanes are not fully computerised as that type break down too often and it is difficult to get spare parts.  No point in returning to the show as we are sure the evening fireworks display will be off.
Sunday 21 March  It’s not raining so heavily and actually stops for short spells.  They haven’t had rain here for 2 years but they sure are making up for it now.  Guess we are lucky not to be in the centre of the cyclone zone.  So much for choosing a site with a swimming pool – the whole town is like a big swimming pool.  Actually we haven’t been bored and have had chance to relax and read etc which we don’t always do when on tour.  The rain stops at 10.00am (after 40 hours) and we walk into Boulder where they are holding  street market.  One of the most popular items here is 1 metre dressed Shy Dolls with polystyrene faceless heads.  You put them in a corner facing the wall!   Len & Roberta and Barry & May are doing better business.  Roberta tells us that they are still interested in the exchange but feel that it is too far ahead to make a commitment now but we should contact them again nearer the time.  Too bad as we were getting pretty excited at the plan.  Meet up with them again in the afternoon for a chat before we all leave tomorrow.  We hear that the rain storm was from the first cyclone but that another one called Vance is now heading towards the NW coast and could continue towards us.
Monday 22 March    Into town for a stock up on groceries and one or two other jobs.  Radio news issues a cyclone and flooding warning for Kalgoorlie but says the children can go to school today but no refuse bins are to be put out until Saturday and shows etc are cancelled.  50 km West is Coolgardie ghost town which in it’s hey day was the third biggest town (after Fremantle and Perth) with a population of 15,000.  Great museum but spooky place with a main street wide enough for 8 cars but no more than 8 cars in the whole town!  The radio is full of cyclone news as it is grade 5 (the highest) and already hit the coast at Exmouth causing severe damage.  Fill up with diesel in Norseman and check on the cyclone status at the tourist office.  It is heading this way at 30km an hour so shouldn’t reach us until tomorrow afternoon.  The road works area which was a problem in the storms last week is now good following 2 dry days.  It’s now after 3.00pm and we figure we can get a few km behind us tonight and through the roadworks early in the morning before the storm gets here.  We begin one of the Worlds greatest road journeys on a road stretching nearly 2000km to Adelaide with most stretches over 100km of nothing in between roadhouses.  Spot our first dead Emu at 4.30pm – much bigger close up that we realised.  It gets dark quite early now and rest areas are infrequent so we stop just after 5.00pm at a lovely spot with gas BBQ and picnic table.  Move further into the forest after tea as it should be quieter.  We hear strange noises under the van which sound like an animal scratching around.  Tooting the horn, flashing lights and noises only stops it for a short time but we do manage to sleep through it.
Tuesday 23 March   Rain wakes us just after midnight and by 3.30am it is really heavy.  Steve drives the van back nearer the main road as we are afraid of getting bogged in.  Set off just after 7.00am and soon reach the first road works.  The road is just gold mud and with the rain it is getting boggy and looking like a river in parts.  Steve jumps when something touches his leg and then spots a small dark creature run back behind his feet.  Stop the van but whatever it was has gone into hiding.  Not sure if they have mice here or it could have been a pygmy possum which is similar.   The second stretch of roadworks is longer and even more muddy.  The traffic on the other side is having an even bigger problem and we are covered in mud which fortunately the heavy rain is helping to wash off.  Balladonia is the first roadhouse 191km from Norseman which is followed by the famous Nullarbor 90 miles straight.   Probably the longest straight stretch of road in the world it takes up most of the 147km to Caiguna where we put our clocks forward by 45 minutes.  Interesting signs at the side of the road warning of Emus, Camels, Wombats, Kangroos and also that the road may be used as an airstrip by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.  The rain is heavy and constant and when we pull in after another 83km at Cocklebiddy the man at the garage tells us that the cyclone has moved faster than expected and that the road behind us is now closed and we must have been one of  the last ones to get through.  Fuel is expensive here at around $1 (40p) a litre but in this wilderness they have no problem getting that price.  We put just enough in to get us to Mundrabilla where it should be less than 80c.  The scenery slowly changes from forest to less tress to very few trees to almost no trees – hence the name Nullarbor Plain which is Latin for no trees.  115km further to Madura where the Hampton Tablelands skirt the road on our left and the Roe Plains on the right.  Now about half way between Perth and Adelaide and we are realising just how vast this area is.  Can you imagine travelling from the Midlands up to Keighley seeing absolutely nothing at all and passing only one or two cars enroute?   At Mundrabilla we fill up the diesel but the credit card machine is not working and it takes 45 minutes to process the transaction.  All roads from Norseman are now closed including the one we came down from Coolgardie yesterday.  The rain has just about stopped but the delay means it is getting dark and we won’t make Eucla our planned destination.  The next proper rest area is 35km further on and we drive very carefully with the special Roo spot light on.  Stop at a shallow parking area when we spot another camper van.  It is very near the road and in the open but we know no traffic is following us and not much coming the other way.  The Dutch couple are returning a camper from Adelaide to Perth and have 4 days to make the 3000km journey and pay $1 a day to do so.  We have covered 634km today which is a record in this van.  Settle down for a nice quiet night without the rain bouncing on the roof.
Wednesday 24 March   Wrong – around midnight the wind starts to rock the van and steadily gets worse.  There is no shelter here at all and the wind is swirling so it is impossible to position the van facing directly into it.  There is nothing we can do but hope that it doesn’t get strong enough to blow us over.  Almost impossible to sleep through the noise and shaking.  We are nearly 1000km from the cyclone path and can only think how lucky we are to have got so far away.  Doze a little in the early hours and wake feeling pretty groggy but set off at 9.00am.  Eucla is the first half interesting place en route and our first sighting of the ocean again.  In the 1870’s a telegraph station was built here and a town around it.  The abandoned area is now covered by dunes and it is weird to walk around the top of the building.  Reach the Western Australia/SOUTH AUSTRALIA border at 11.15am and put our watches forward another 45 minutes.  The road behind us has now been opened but the surface is bad and they are only letting a few vehicles thorough at a time.  Lots of lookouts give us splendid views of the Australian bite which is the longest unbroken cliff face in the world at over 200kms.   Just after we pull over for the night we start to see the first vehicles coming through since the road opened.  Caked up with orange mud they must driven continuously and quickly ever since as it has taken us over 2 days to get here.  We are disturbed a lot in the night by something pattering and scratching around in the van which in the totally quiet night sounds very loud.
Thursday 25 March   An effort again to get going but as the weather is not great and the flies are out in force there is no point in lingering.  We had allowed ourselves a week to cross the Nullarbor Plain planning to pull up for a few hours here and there and enjoy sitting out in the sun – pah.  Everyone told us how uncomfortably hot and dry this area was, boring, staff at roadhouses grumpy, road trains a nuisance and head winds a problem – well not for us in fact just the opposite.   We are now travelling in the Aboriginal lands and on the original Nullarbor treeless plain which is completely flat and treeless and very strange because as you look around you for 360 degrees all you see is the sky meeting the land.  Tune into the local radio station from Ceduna the Eastern town of the Plain and hear that they had severe dust storms here yesterday.  Fill up the fuel at Penong which is the beginning of civilisation and find out that we need to put our clocks on another hour as they are using daylight saving time here until this Sunday.  That’s 2 1/2 hours we have lost it 2 days and quite confusing.  Although still barren the numerous signposts indicating old school buildings give you an inkling of what this region used to be like.  Outside Ceduna we are stopped at the quarantine point and the inspector comes into the van to check that we don’t have any fruit or vegetables which may contain the fruit fly.  Stock up on brochures at the Tourist Office where they tell us you can free camp in this state anywhere outside the towns providing there is not a no camping sign.  We are getting weary and Haslam is recommended about 85km round the Eyre peninsula from here.  Just 3km from Haslam I smell burning and seconds after we hear a strange noise that sounds like a helicopter.  Steve feels the van swerve and we realise the helicopter sound is a flat tyre.  Not just flat but red hot and totally misshapen – just what we need, not.  It’s 5.30pm and we are thankful of the time differences which mean we now have a couple more hours daylight.  6.15pm and we are rolling again and even more weary.  Haslam is on the coast with a poor rocky beach but a nice jetty for fishing and the locals have provided a toilet block and electric points.  They ask you to sign a visitors book and suggest at $2 (80p) donation.  The great white shark swims in these waters and scenes from Jaws were filmed here so I guess we won’t be swimming here.  Check out all the cupboards for signs of the creature but the only thing I find are what looks like a couple of mice droppings behind a work top. 
Friday 26 March  Manage about 1 hours sleep before the creature starts to disturb us.  We turn on the light and realise it is trapped in the ceiling between the roof and the false plastic sheeting inside and running around our bed area.  Steve tries to hit it but it escapes and we have no idea what we can do about it.  I find another couple of droppings in the bed so we are pretty sure we have a mouse residing with us.  I stay awake listening for the creature and Steve doesn’t sleep because I keep telling him where it is!  Get up to a glorious sunny morning.  Fellow campers assure us that is almost certainly a black field mouse we have on board but if we poison it and it dies trapped in the framework we are going to get an awful smell.  They happily tell us about the scorpions, spiders, one inch ants and brown snakes here and even suggest that we could put a brown snake in the van to catch the mouse!  Will try to buy mouse trap in Streaky Bay when we go to get the tyre fixed but in the meantime clear the cupboards of droppings and tightly seal food packets.   The flies are a pest near the van but when we take our chairs out along the pier we get away from them but into the cool breeze.  I have made fly nets to put over our hats so we return to the van and looking like bee keepers we sit reading.   Very trendy I don’t think – look out Ascot!    Nice view of the sun setting over the ocean at around 7.30pm. 
Saturday 27 March  Steve wakes at 12.30am when the mouse runs down his side of the bed.  It is now 4.00am and I am not going to get any more sleep tonight.  Instead of staying here until Monday I think we will have to go into town in the morning for a mouse trap and maybe stay in a Motel overnight whilst the mouse trap does it’s business.  It’s a shame as this would be a good spot to stay for a few days but not when I can’t sleep at night.   The mouse is getting braver and actually runs behind the seat cushion where I am sitting.  At 6.00am there is a sudden commotion in the bedroom.  Steve has heard the mouse in the bin cupboard and opened the door letting him onto the floor.  It is now trapped in a small area and Steve manages to kill it with a book – my hero.  At last we settle down to sleep for a few hours.  By the time we wake up 2 of the caravans have already left and the motorhome next to us is packing up – did we really make so much noise last night?  I apologise to our neighbour who hadn’t heard us but has 4 mice of his own which we hope he takes with him.  A cloudy windy day which is fine as I set about giving the van a good clean up to remove all mouse droppings.  How can something so small make such a mess?  He’s been nibbling away at lots of things, our foam ear plugs, my Tampax,  the bristles on a paintbrush etc.  The clocks go back an hour here tonight but we are going to try leaving ours alone as it means we get up that bit earlier in the morning (as in 8.00am instead of 9.00am) and also get an extra hour of daylight.  Settle down for a nice peaceful night – not.  Once again the winds start to blow and get stronger as the night progresses but we are so tired that we do manage to get quite a lot of sleep.
Sunday 28 March    Plenty of sun and clear blue skies but also plenty of wind.  As the British clocks go forwards for Summer Time the South Australian ones go back at the end of daylight saving time which heralds the onset of winter.  A 4WD pulls up around lunch time and we chat to Peter and Rosemary who come from Alice Springs.  They tell us what a wonderful place it is and if we can spare the time to go there a couple of weeks before Sandra arrives they will take us out and about to the lesser known places.  They move on and shortly after two Queensland caravans arrive and we hit it off with Lee & Mita and Pat & Dale.  George & Irene pull up next and they are ex Yorkshire people from Doncaster who have lived South of Perth for 35 years.  We all get together for a drinking, story and joke telling session which leads into the evening and a BBQ. 
Monday 29 March  Amazingly the wind has dropped and it is a beautiful morning so we will stay an extra day.  The old guy comes out of his caravan (turns out he is also Yorkshire and came from Hull in 1955) and tells us he had mice running round last night and is off into town to get traps and bait.  We all give him our orders!  Isn’t it amazing that out of 5 vans parked in the middle of nowhere 3 have occupants from Yorkshire who are all doing the round Australia trip.  George goes out onto the pier fishing and suddenly starts shouting and waving to us.  A seal has come up onto the beach.  It is the Australian Sea-Lion which is a fur sea and only found in Australia.  It’s really cute and enjoys posing for photographs.  George catches a squid and having prepared it he brings it over for us to share.  He has cooked it in a fabulous sauce and although a little tough it tastes pretty good.
Tuesday 30 March  Finally set off towards Streaky Bay which is named after the different coloured streaks in the bay caused by the oils in the sea weed.   The new tyre is a bit of a shock at $211 (£85) but we manage to stock up on basic foods and drink and do the laundry.  The Westall Way scenic drive is recommended and as usual we forgot to ask about the road surface but reckon other people did as the only vehicle we see is a Ranger’s car.  We jog and bounce over the corrugations with Steve re stating "no more off road tracks for us".   The early morning cloud cover has broken up and this helps us to enjoy the High Cliff, Smooth Pool and other sights.  Pull up just after Smooth Pool in a secluded spot on a track behind the beach.  Within half an hour of us stripping off to sunbathe the place begins to feel like Clapham Junction with lots of cars coming and going, guess sods law prevails even out here!       
Wednesday 31 March    Slept in late after yet another windy night – and that was just  Steve.  Point Labatt which is the only place on the mainland where Australian seal pups can be seen and we count over 40 of them mainly lying around sun bathing.  Next tourist stop "Murphy’s Haystacks" an outcrop of huge pink granite boulders purported to be over 1500 million years old.  Pretty impressive but judging from the comments in the visitors book the "Olgas" at Ayers Rock are going to be even better.  Free camping at Walkers Rocks a nice quiet spot by the beach with a shower and toilet.  Thwarted once again by wind and wasps.   

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