Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200511 Australia-SA

TUESDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2005 – Both George and Nicole are out at work and it’s a glorious day so we head off to Maslin, Australia’s first official unclad beach.  We arrive quite early but it gets busier as the day goes on.  It’s a really stunning beach but this time has a raised area at the back with quite a bit of seaweed deposit.  Unfortunately the seaweed seems to be attracting the flies.  Whilst taking a walk we spot Cath & Lew.  Steve braves it and goes in the water but I settle for a paddle.  It’s Melbourne Cup race day today so it’s probably quieter at the beach than it usually would be and there’s very little traffic on the roads as we drive back.



WEDNESDAY 2 NOVEMBER – With a change in the weather and rain due later in the day we make an early start back to Maslin Beach.  Although not as sunny as yesterday it is still very warm and we have a lovely time.  Return late afternoon just before the rain starts.  George goes out to do his 6pm – 8am shift as a paramedic.  We are having problems with the central heating boiler and the shower at our Keighley house and the tenant is threatening to leave.  We were aware of the problem in August but thought the agents had followed our instructions and got it sorted.  Rather than risk the tenant leaving we take the matter into our own hands and contact a plumber to check things out.  It’s lucky that we are at George & Nicole’s with access to the Internet and telephone.



THURSDAY 3 NOVEMBER – Steve gets up early to watch football and is just about ready to go back to bed when George arrives home after his night shift.  We leave the lads in bed whilst Nicole and I head to Marion shopping centre.  I end up buying one or two items of clothing to update my tired wardrobe. 



FRIDAY 4 NOVEMBER – I join Nicole for her weekly grocery shop and when we get back Leah and Erin are there.  Shortly after Paula and James arrive and they all stay for lunch.  Erin is a really good quiet baby whilst James talks incessantly and loves you to be down on the floor playing with him.  Paula helps out by putting a colour on my hair.  With it blow-dried and straightened and wearing my new clothes I feel quite suburban.  After the girls have left we head out to Mick O’Shea’s for an evening meal.  It’s a large restaurant/pub very like the ones in England.  By chance we arrive at 6.25pm and find that they do half price meals between 5pm and 6.30pm.  Needless to say we don’t hang around getting our order in.  The food is excellent and Steve enjoys it even more with a few pints of Guinness.



SATURDAY 5 NOVEMBER – George goes out early to the rock club as they are holding a “Gem fest” this weekend.  It’s a superb day and we are down at Maslin Beach before 10am.  The beach has changed a lot since our first visit, the ledge has levelled out and most of the seaweed has gone, as have most of the flies.  It gets really busy as the day goes on and we do 3 lots of walks along the waterfront to keep cool.  A helicopter flies overhead a few times, a shark has been sighted less than 2km off shore it is keeping a look out for it.  It’s so hot that we have had enough and leave just before 3pm. 



SUNDAY 6 NOVEMBER – George & Nicole go out early to help at the rock club.  We take the chance to give Billy a bit of a clear out and a final clean before going over to join them there for lunch.  It’s $2 (90p) admission for adults but free for kids.  George is helping in the gold panning section where youngsters sieve through spiked mud to find slivers of gold.  Most of the stalls are selling minerals, of little interest to us, but the displays in the club are quite good. We return after lunch and George & Nicole arrive back later.



MOINDAY7 7 NOVEMBER –It has been lovely to catch up with George & Nicole again and to meet the new addition to the family, Erin, but it’s time for us to move on.  We have to go back into Adelaide to pick up the travel insurance documents, having found nothing to offer us better cover than the Flight Centre’s policy.  Stop by Cath & Lew’s for a coffee and Stu & Lin’s to see how the work is going.  Heading out through the Barossa valley and over the ranges we get intermittent heavy downpours but still manage to enjoy the specatacular 360-degree views as we drop down into the Riverlands.  By Lock 1 in Blanchetown we see hundreds of Pelicans floating on the weir.  The town map shows free camping on the other bank and we eventually find it by going over the bridge and turning off on the NE side of the river to then drive under the bridge to get to the spot opposite the weir on the SE banks.  We are pleasantly surprised to find there are no flies around having been plagued by them for weeks.



TUESDAY 8 NOVEMBER – It’s light by 5am, something we weren’t aware off as Nicole has black out blinds on the bedroom windows.  The next town along the Sturt highway is Waikerie where the “Orange Tree” visitor centre has good information on the local area.  In town there is a free ferry across the Murray leading to the back road to Overland Corner.  Nearby Herons Bend is a nice free camp on the river but the flies are bad.  Overland Corner is an historic pub but not open until 11am.  We head to Pelican Point on Lake Bonney, Australia’s only official nude beach with free camping.  Nigel & Marita, whom we met at Taylorwood, are the only residents.  The clouds soon blow over and we get lovely sunshine to enjoy the location.  Ned & Judy left this morning having been bogged in after the heavy rains.  We walk the track to where they had been camped and realise just how bad it has been.  There are very few flies but instead small 1” long insects that seem to cling to the van and the ceiling then leave nasty poo stains when they drop off and die.  It’s a balmy evening and the sunset is spectacular with the colours reflected on the lake.



WEDNESDAY 9 NOVEMBER – Although a bit windy it’s a pleasant enough day.  We’ve decided to put our clocks forward 1/2 hour to Victorian time so we don’t feel like we are getting up so early and we have an extra daylight in the evening, so now 11hours ahead of GMT.  We get good TV reception for 2 channels so watch it in the evening rather than putting the lights on to play cards and attracting more bugs.



THUDAY 10 NOVEMBER – We wake to a heavy downpour and when this subsides the wind gets up.  Steve spends a big part of the day trying to shield the fridge from the wind that keeps blowing the gas flame out.  In between heavy wind and showers we do get a few spells to sit out and go for short strolls.



FRIDAY 11 NOVEMBER – A beautiful start to the day so we sit out to enjoy breakfast and the lake view.  The day remains hot and sunny but with a few clouds. 



SATURDAY 12 NOVEMBER – Another nice and very hot day.  Steve chats to the chap in the caravan who arrived late last night.  He’s David from Mildura and he tells us that when the heat kicks in this early it is here for the summer. He also says that the bugs here are known as gnats but are actually male mosquitoes that fortunately don’t bite.  Another chap arrives late evening on his own and sets up a tent on the lakeside.



SUNDAY 13 NOVEMBER – Steve wakes up early to watch his football.  Meet the man in the tent who is Greg from the Riverlands.  He is at the end of his holiday having been over to Sydney.  He came back via the highest mountain in Australia, Kosciusko, and saw snow for the first time in his life!  We’ve invited David over for lunch and he has long chats with Steve about the retail trade, as he is manager of a big shopping complex in Mildura.  An old chap, Ray, arrives mid afternoon to tend to the flowers that he has planted in the area.  David & Greg leave late afternoon to get back for work tomorrow.  Nigel & Marita and ourselves feel very content that we do not have such deadlines to meet.  Once things cool down we walk north along the shore to the canoe club for a bit of exercise.  The sunset is absolutely fantastic and we take over 50 photos thinking each one to be the best and then it gets even better.



MONDAY 14 NOVEMBER – Not surprisingly Steve has had dreams about work; this is usually the case when he has been chatting to someone about it.  It’s a cloudy and cooler day and the flies and gnats are much more of a problem.  Nigel & Marita are camped right on the waters edge and one side of their caravan is completely black with bugs, we invite them up to us for lunch.  Mid afternoon Peter from the Riverlands arrives for a short visit and remembers us from when we were here 2 years ago.  By evening the gnats are driving us crazy and with a storm brewing we pack up Billy ready to leave tomorrow.



TUESDAY 15 NOVEMBER – By the time we wake up Nigel & Marita area ready for off, the gnats are also driving them out.  We call in to the Berri fruit factory but find they are not reducing stuff as much as they used to.  The attractive riverside town of Renmark is worth a stop with quite a lot of shops and free Internet at the library.  Continuing along the Sturt highway we soon cross into VICTORIA and arrive in Mildura mid afternoon.  The jacaranda trees are magnificent and the town is just as nice as we remember.  Drive out to Garth & Jude’s, where we house sat a couple of years ago.  Jude is delighted to see us and it’s hard to get a word in edgeways as we have so much to talk about.  Like us they are planning a trip to South Africa next year and we have lots of information to exchange.  Their son eldest Harry is at home having finished school and going to university in January (school years run from January to December in Australia).  Middle son Tom has finished school early having done his main exams.  Youngest son Alex phones up to be collected from school so I join Jude for the drive into town and to do a bit of shopping.  When we get back their daughter Ellie is home.  Once Garth gets back from work it’s a full house with dogs Ebb, Taco & Pepper completing the family.  Spend ages chatting after dinner.



WEDNESDAY 16 NOVEMBER – By the time we get up everyone has left but Jude soon arrive back after dropping the youngest two at school.  It’s her birthday today so she has lots of phone calls throughout the day.  We get the bedding into the washing machine, as it looks terrible with all the gnats’ poo on it.  Steve & I drive into town to pick up Tom who stayed out last night.  In the evening I cook the meal for Jude’s birthday – popadoms with salsa, a pork vindaloo followed by trifle.  It all goes down really well.  Jude has a book club meeting in the evening and Steve watches football with Garth.



THURSDAY 17 NOVEMBER – In the afternoon I join Jude on the Mildura Op-Shop trail and have to exert control to stop me buying things – Billy is already packed to the gills.  In the evening Garth cooks steaks on the BBQ and we eat outside by the pool.  Finish off the evening watching the DVD “Sideways”.



FRIDAY 18 NOVEMBER – We want to do a side trip to take in Broken Hill but came into Mildura first as to catch Garth who is going away to Chile for 3 weeks.  It’s a hot, cloudy and humid day as we set out.  As soon as we cross the Murray River we are in NEW SOUTH WALES.  Make a short stop at the Botanical Gardens where we find a Bush Chapel, available for weddings and other ceremonies.  It’s a clearing in the bush with tree poles for seats and a wooden altar, pulpit and font – excellent.  On the outskirts of Wentworth we see a sign offering fruit for sale “under the Pepper Tree”.  We buy 6 huge pink grapefruit for $1 (45p) and 3kg bag of oranges for $2 (90p).  Traversing the Silver Highway we see lots of frilled dragons, a type of lizard.  Approaching Broken Hill a sign tells you to put your clocks back ½ hour but as we are only making a brief visit we don’t bother.  The road leads us to Broken Hill south, which feels like a small country town.  In the main street we call into the traditional Bells milk bar and sample one of their famous spider drinks.  A road cuts through the “Line of Lode” mining seam and emerges in the city of Broken Hill, just like Mount Isa with the mine right on the edge of town.  At the tourist info office we watch an interesting video.  There are lots of lookout points around town and the Block 10 one looks out over one of the original silver mines.  25km beyond the city is the ghost town of Silverton, used in numerous movies including “Mad Max” and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”.  You can camp at Penrose Park but it’s very basic and $7 (£3.10) per person.  The road continues and we pass the lookout over the Mundi Mundi plains where Mel Gibson tipped the semi-trailer at the end of Mad Max 2.  Umberumberka reservoir has an unusual amount of water following a terrific storm they had here less than 2 weeks ago.  The gates are closed overnight so once we have done the scenic drive we park up outside the gates for the night.



SATURDAY 19 NOVEMBER – We are awake quite early and drive back into Silverton to do the touristy things.  Not such a good idea.  Everything is closed.  A combination of us being up early, our clocks being ½ ahead of here and this being a laid back place where opening times are often delayed.  The Silverton Hotel used in many movies and beer commercials looks really good especially with Mad Max’s car parked outside.  We peer into a few art galleries and just enjoy the feel of the place that now has 60 residents compared to 4,000 at its peak in 1884 before Broken Hill was established.  By the time we get to Broken Hill most things are open.  There are two big streets that feature many old majestic buildings so we plan a walk to take in both of these.  Park the van on Blende Street near the junction with Chloride Street.  Many streets here are named after chemicals and minerals for example bromide, sulphur, kaolin, and mercury cobalt and crystal streets.  One of the funniest must be Lane Lane.  I digress.  Opposite our parking spot is a superb wall of murals.  Just around the corner we visit the Silver City Mint & Art Centre.  Free admission but $4.95 (£2.20) to see the big picture.  This is the world’s largest acrylic painting on canvas and you walk out on a platform in the middle of the room and the picture surrounds you.  It shows all the views looking out in different directions from Broken Hill and is really impressive.  At the end of the street you are looking straight up the mining hill to a huge memorial.  We wander round popping into a number of galleries with excellent and unusual pictures often with a humorous edge.  Mario’s Palace Hotel is superb from the outside and amazing inside with almost every wall and ceiling covered in paintings.  There’s even a Botticelli style Birth of Venus on the ceiling of the bar that was featured in the Pricilla movie.  Most of the galleries are free to look around but Pro Hart costs $4 (£1.80).  He is one of Australia’s most famous artists and along with his own work his gallery contains his private art collection with pictures by famous artists including Dali, Picasso, Constable and Van Gogh. You approach through the garden with strange sculptures and his Rolls Royce cars, one of which is covered in outback paintings. Inside the building the walls are covered in art and cabinets hold other interesting trinkets.  We are not great art lovers but thoroughly enjoy it all.  Break for lunch at White Rocks historical site.  North of the city is the sculpture symposium where a number of foreign artists were commissioned to carve local rocks. Broken Hill Living Desert Reserve costs $5 (£2.20) per person.  We arrive at the picnic area car park and immediately set out on the Flora and Cultural walk, flora walk poor, cultural hard work up hills but very good.  It’s mid afternoon and hot work so we return to have a siesta.  A few cars arrive late afternoon as the sculptures are said to be best at sunrise and sunset.  Set out for another climb up a steep hill to the top where the rocks are set.  There are superb views all around us.  A leaflet describes all the artwork and it’s a good job it does because most are extremely vague with some looking like they have hardly been touched.  However the setting is superb and a few other people arrive for the sunset.  We learn that you can drive all the way up here if you get a key from the visitor centre for $6 (£2.70) and this is the price per carload not person.  Strange that this should be the cheaper option when the leaflet says they prefer you to walk up!  A coach arrives with a tour group of push bikers.  Tomorrow they are setting off to cycle to Swan Hill over the next 10 days so we will probably pass them on route.  We return to the car park and notice a strange smell around the van.  The gas pipe has blown off and almost all the gas has escaped.  By torchlight Steve does a repair, we have had problems before and already fixed 2 of the 3 connections but it looks like the 3rd is now suspect.  Bed down for a quiet night.



SUNDAY 20 NOVEMBER – There was nothing to indicate we could not camp overnight but our visitor pass was dated yesterday so as soon as we are awake we drive back to town.  Once again we are too early for most things and end up hanging around a bit.  Yesterday Steve found free hot showers in the toilet block opposite the Mint.  The ladies shower is locked so we both hop into the gents where the shower cubicle has two showers in the same locked room.  Drive up the hill to the miner’s memorial and enjoy the view but don’t pay the $2.50 (£1.10) to go closed to the monument.  I’m keen to get the gas problem looked at but Steve is convinced his repair has worked well enough to get us back to Mildura.  After spending over 2 hours in town we are ready to leave and head off on the road towards Menindee.  En route we pass the cyclists we saw yesterday.   At Menindee the Darling River has formed many lakes and we turn off up Weir Road to camp beside one.  It’s a lovely spot, similar to Pelican Point with sunken trees and the odd pelican.  Reckon we could happily camp here for a good week.  We lie down for an afternoon nap after our busy day yesterday.  No sooner have we nodded off than we hear a loud bang followed by a hiss – the gas pipe has blown off again.  Not as dangerous as it sounds as there is a safety feature built in which closes down all the appliances immediately.  Steve goes out and spends well over an hour doing a better repair, which seems to hold.   Just on dark we hear another bang and a hiss – begrudgingly Steve admits his repair hasn’t worked and there is nothing more he can do.  Our options now seem to be to drive and find a campsite where we can hook up to electricity to run the fridge overnight or stay put and hope the fridge doesn’t get too warm overnight.  We pack up to drive to a campsite then decide that the food we might waste in the fridge is not worth the cost of a campsite so stay put!



MONDAY 21 NOVEMBER – By getting up early we are in the town of Menindee by the time the petrol station opens.  The owner tells us there is nowhere in Menindee to help us with the gas problem and he suggests we go back over 100km to Broken Hill.  This really doesn’t suit us so we opt to continue our circuit back to Mildura today in one hit rather than at leisure.  Whilst we are driving the fridge operates on 12v to maintain its temperature so at least the problem should not get any worse.  Our journey takes us on dirt road towards Pooncarie.  We pass the cyclists who must choke every time a vehicle goes past and churns up lots of dust.  Pooncarie is a small village on the banks of the Darling with $5 camping beside the river, but no electricity.  Make use of the free cold showers before heading off.  Once we turn off the “main” road towards Mungo National Park the road surface deteriorates and we bounce and rattle over corrugations and between ruts.  The main feature of the national park is a long sand dune ridge, known as the Great Wall of China, with strange rock formations.  We park nearby and walk along a boardwalk then down onto the dunes.  It’s really very attractive with many different colours in the sands and rocks.  We return to the dirt road heading back to Mildura.  The surface gets even worse and the driving becomes difficult when we get stuck behind a huge lorry engulfing us in clouds of dust no matter how far we drop back.  After over 300km of bone shaking van rattling dirt road Steve is delighted to be back on bitumen and arrive in Mildura.  Jude is delighted to see us back as she has just dropped Garth at the airport and was expecting to feel lonely. 



TUESDAY 22 NOVEMBER – We set out on a mission to get the gas problem sorted once and for all.  At Bunnings the best they can do is the correct pipe but with the current small size connections at both ends, we need an old and larger connection to one end.  Two other places should have the part we need but when they look on the shelves they don’t.  In town Sunraysia Gas suggest we replace the elbow from the regulator to one with the new connection size.  Steve dismantles the system and puts the new elbow on, connects the pipe from Bunnings and lights the gas to check it, or would if it would light.  Now we have a different problem and one made even more frustrating by the fact that we are working at the side of the road in the heat of the day with no shade.  We move onto a nearby car park, take everything apart and finally establish that the new elbow has a blockage.  Once we have got that sorted it all goes back quite easily and works perfectly.  In the evening we go round to David’s (the chap we met at Pelican Point) house where he is cooking us a roast dinner.  He used to be a chef in the army so it’s not surprising that we end up with a lovely roast beef meal followed by bread and butter pudding and custard.  Spend the evening chatting and getting to know each other better finding we have lots in common.  He has done a lot of backpacking and puts us on to a web site called where you can find free accommodation worldwide.



WEDNESDAY 23 NOVEMBER – Steve gets up early to watch football on TV and I get on the Internet to research the site David told us about.  The idea is that you register yourself as being able to offer accommodation to travellers and in return get to use the site to find places to stay yourself but not on a direct exchange basis.  Once you have registered you can alter your profile to explain that you are presently away travelling and can’t offer accommodation at this point in time.  We feel a little bit guilty doing this but know that if at any stage in the future we can host someone we most certainly will.  We contact a number of people in Malaysia to see if they can accommodate us when we visit next year.  Jude’s friend Sue calls round and joins us all for lunch by the swimming pool.  Another friends of Jude’s called Grey calls round in the evening to give us directions to a quiet riverside camping spot about 30km out of town.



THURSDAY 24 NOVEMBER – We are ready to head off for a few days away now that the gas problem is solved.  Call into the Base Hospital in town to get my blood tests taken, they now tell me I need another test in a further 3 months.  Grey’s directions were to head out through Red Cliffs where we stop to look at “Big Lizzie” a huge piece of machinery used for clearing land. Beyond there we turn off towards Penfolds winery along Kulkyne Road.  We detour to the winery but there is no free tasting so our visit is brief!  Back on Kulkyne Road we turn off down a track sign posted Danes Road.  This leads us past fields of asparagus and into a forest.  The track is poor in parts following recent rain and use by 4wd but Billy hops around the holes and gets us through.  We eventually reach a National Parks signboard and turn left down to the riverfront.  Grey has told us to turn right here and this takes us to a beautiful sand bank.  We are on the banks of the Murray River and have found out that when you get a long inside bend you almost always get a sand bank, a sort of beach area with easy access to the water.  Not only did Grey tell us how to get here but recommended a big shady tree to the left to camp under rather than by the picnic tables to the right hand side.  We have the place to ourselves and Swatman Sun Club is soon up and running.  The water is pleasantly cooling and fast flowing so swimming upstream means you go nowhere.  Late evening a couple arrive with two dogs and park themselves almost immediately in front of us to fish.  The girl immediately gets back in the truck and drives off.  The two dogs are pups that come over and jump all over our chairs and sun lounger after first dipping in the water to make sure their paws are nice and muddy.  Their owner eventually calls them back and when his girlfriend returns they relocate to the other end of the beach.  Once they leave peace and quiet returns only to be shattered by a rumbling and splash as a big chunk of the far bank collapses into the river.



FRIDAY 25 NOVEMBER – By 8am it is pleasantly warm and we enjoy breakfast al fresco whilst taking in our lovely surroundings.  Late afternoon our friend Lew phones and we tell him what a superb quiet spot we are at.  No sooner have we put the phone down than 3 cars arrive complete with chainsaw to chop up wood.  A couple of houseboats chug by and a few scrambling bikes roar past  – that’s the last time I shall brag about what a quiet spot we have found!   The bikes eventually leave, 2 of the 3 cars go and the houseboats have gone up the river leaving just the 1 car with the geeky lads who have set up camp.  We set up the outside light, as it is such a warm evening.  Suddenly we are inundated with bugs.  Steve gets up and runs away as they are all stuck in the hairs of his legs, I run off and get them in my eyes and can’t see.  We flounder around like whirling dervishes and eventually reach the plug to turn the light off.  The inside of the van is little better but we shut ourselves in and use copious amounts of fly spray to choke ourselves. 



SATURDAY 26 NOVEMBER – We are woken by one of the lads on a motorbike, the area is superb for scrambling with lots of narrow tracks and gullies but at 7am, come on.  It’s a busy day at the beach with boats passing by, a family arrival with boat, fishing tackle, kids, dogs and a radio.  Walking downstream we can see where there are many sinkholes and parts of the bank ready to give way.  The river has a huge bend and almost comes around on itself at this point.  Early evening everyone bar the boys camping party have left and luckily they are not the type to be up late playing loud music.   



SUNDAY 27 NOVEMBER – For our morning walk we head upstream to an area where they are pumping water out of the river.  Just inland from the pump house there is a long canal with water spewing up into it from a feeding well.  Further up the river is another sand bank and we reckon that if our spot is still noisy in the week we may move up here.  Walking back down a track away from the river we come back to the place with the National Park sign board and realise that turning right here would take us to the other sand bank. Lots of bikes whiz through the forest and a number of small boats come through together so we suspect they have just opened the lock higher up.  Mid afternoon a family with 4 kids arrive, complete with a big speedboat and water toys.  The boat must have a huge engine as it roars up and down the river.  They connect some rubber rings to the back and set off with 3 of the kids in town.  A short way upstream the engine dies and the best they can do is chug back towards shore where Steve helps drag them in.  Soon after they pack up and leave.  A few more people arrive for picnics but they leave followed by the camping boys.  We are home alone again and strip off to enjoy the last bit of heat from the sun.  A car creeps up on us and we just about manage to cover ourselves up before a voice calls out “mind if I do some fishing here?”  Not quick enough to come up with a retort such as “no but do you mind us being nude here?” we simply say agree and retreat to the van to dress.  Once again this fisherman doesn’t catch anything and soon leaves.  Are we alone at last?



MONDAY 28 NOVEMBER – A blissfully quiet night aside from the natural noises of kookaburra, cuckoo and cockatoos, but these we love to hear.   



TUESDAY 29 NOVEMBER – Traffic count for the day, 1 biker and 1 boat so another blissful day for us.  It’s getting hotter again and the warm nights are back



WEDNESDAY 30 NOVEMBER- Late morning we tear ourselves away to return to civilisation.  Jude & Tom are going away to Tasmania for a wedding at the weekend and we have offered to mind the house and keep and eye on the kids.  Once we have had lunch and received full instructions we head into town to meet up again with Dave.  Once again he excels himself in cooking us a pasta meal backed up with good conversation and copious amounts of wine to the extent that we end up crashing out on his sofa.



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