Australia

 

 

The following is an account of a couples 'trip' round Australia.  This is no ordinary trip.  It is a complete circumnavigation around one of the most diverse countries in the world.  Terry and Brenda have kindly given permission to relay this account of the trip in the Camping and Caravanning Club magazine 'Cornstalk' and the following is a preview.  All the photographs included have been put in as thumbnails - just click on them to get the full sized image.  I hope you enjoy this account as much as I did,  John.

Terry and Brenda Steen

The Ultimate Tour


Austripmap.jpg (127302 bytes)We departed Melbourne on 26th April transiting through the city onto the Princes Highway going east and anticlockwise round the continent. Weather for the first week was a bit changeable but warm, the campsites were good and we met a lot of fellow retirees (we are over 60) also doing the "Big One" a dream of most Australians. The common term for us all is "The Grey Nomads" anything up to 6000 to 8000 of us can be caravanning on this route at any time.

Most caravan types are "Pop Tops" that means the roof raises about 15 to 18 inches when on site, this allows a lower profile when towing, reducing fuel consumption and allowing one to maintain a higher speed.

Our 1976 Newlands caravan is a single axle full size van measuring 5.1metres (16'6") long by 2.4 metres (8'.0") wide weighs 1700Kg when loaded has a nose weight of 197Kg. The tow car a Jeep Cherokee 4.0L has a static nose limit of 165Kg but this is eased by the fitment of Hayman Reece Weight Distribution Hitch which comprises of torsion bars fitted between the towbar and the caravan 'A' frame the torsion bars are pulled up on short chains and are sized according to the weights involved, ours are 250Kg in fact the two chassis are locked together the chains allowing you to turn. Pitching and swaying are virtually removed although I must state there is full flexibility and whilst turns of more than 90 degrees are limited by the bars.

Our caravan brakes are electrically actuated via a controller /sensor fitted under the car dashboard it senses retardation and is triggered by the electrical current from the brake lights, the brakes can be controlled independently from the controller, great if you do experience sway or get into difficulties.

Solar1.jpg (104904 bytes)We have fitted a dual battery management system to the Jeep, the main battery (in the car) takes priority over the auxiliary battery (Deep Cycle type) fitted in the caravan, both batteries being charged whilst travelling. A regulated Solar cell of 50 watts is connected to the caravan when on a non powered(240V) site so that full 12 volt power can be utilised. The caravan is also standard 240V. So there you have the tech stuff.

We bought our caravan in Sept 1976 and toured for a while then put it on a permanent site for ten years. Three years ago, just after I retired we decided to either sell it or if it was still sound upgrade. It was fine so we upgraded, fitting a heavier axle with electric brakes, painted it inside and out, fitted a Microwave oven, full size (double) spring interior bed, steel belted light truck tyres 8 ply rating, rear bumper bar and spare wheel, dual LPG Gas Bottles up front and a Jerry can holder for spare fuel (distances are often greater than the Combinations range).

The old caravan never missed a beat, up the east coast we headed, stopping at some beautiful campsites right on the beach or by a lake. Just before Sydney we turned left and headed into the Blue Mountains, a place very reminiscent of the Grand Canyon but more blue (caused by the vapour coming off the Gum trees). Having cut out Sydney (we've been there plenty of times before) we again arrived on the coast road (Pacific Highway) and headed up to the Queensland state border where all fruit and green leafed vegetables had to be handed into a quarantine checkpoint, this by the way applied in both directions and at all the other state borders we crossed.

We got to see MGMs Movie World on the Gold coast and visited Surfers Paradise. The campsites here were a little dearer than the average of AUD$15 per night we paid throughout the trip but many had Ensuites containing your own showers, toilets washing area etc., some like Townsville were situated in the city but in a parkland along a river.

Parrot1 (3).jpg (53195 bytes)Travelling with a caravan rig on some of the roads was not the best, for instance try a single track bitumen with questionable hard edges? where we met a Roadtrain on this stretch between Mount ISA and Camooweal had us in the red mud with all the wheels on the left side, a good job we had a 4WD, by the time the great leviathan had passed us it had thrown gallons of red mud all over us, but you don't stop, screen washers are very important here. It took us over two hours to wash it all off on arrival at Barkly Station which is just east of Tennants Creek. Wild life was in abundance beautiful Parrots, Lorikeets, Zebra Finches, Pelicans and the occasional Wedge Tail Eagle in the middle of the road eating the remains one of the hundreds of dead Kangaroos knocked down by Roadtrains and unwary Caravanners etc. The idea being not to check out of the campsite before Sun Rise to avoid the risk, also the same at night, be safe on site before then.


Following on from our run in with the Road Train on the Barkly Highway and overnight at Barkly Homestead we arrived at Tennants Creek, a largely Aboriginal populated town under scored by the surprising find in the local supermarket freezer, Kangaroo Tails! We didn't bother, that's not to say we have not tried Kangaroo before, its quite good really. All the campsites we have stayed so far have Swimming Pools but surprisingly the ambient temperature at Tennants Creek was only 16 Deg C. (A few weeks later it was 32 Deg C) and the pool wasn't heated.

Marbles1.jpg (61410 bytes)Next day we made our way south along the Stuart Highway towards Alice Springs but decided to overnight at The Devils Marbles rest area (National Park) camping allowed AUD$5 per night, Toilets(Earth) but no water or power available, time to rely on the 12V battery and solar panel for lighting and the radio/cassette, no TV here, too remote. This place is amazing, great red round ball shaped rocks perched one on top of another weathered that way over millions of years, they look as if they might roll off any minute. The sunset was absolutely spectacular and made those rocks literally glow red. The temperature outside plunged to just above freezing, out came our portable Gas fire and soon we were cosy.

Alice1.jpg (35711 bytes)Another 400 Kms south we arrived at Alice Springs where we were to pick up mail from home at the G.P.O. We planned to stay a week, visiting the School of the Air (Princess Di visited a few years ago). The historic Telegraph Station, Simpsons Gap in the Macdonald ranges and the Ghan railway museum and a ride on the old Ghan train to name a few. Alice is the birthplace of the Road Train a truck with up to three trailers and weighing up to 60 tons, all vehicles give way to these fellows!

Continuing south on the Stuart Highway again and overnighting at Erldunda Roadhouse we turn west along the Lasseter Highway to Ayers Rock (Uluru) and we were most impressed by the good roads in the Northern Territory.


Sunset1.jpg (19647 bytes)Arriving at the Ayers Rock resort we were surprised at the development of this place, Hotels, Holiday units, Shopping centre, Petrol Station and Recreational facilities the camp site was similarly equipped and had "drive through" sites, no reversing back required. The resort is about 20 Kms from Ayers Rock itself and a AUD$15 five day pass is required to enter the Aboriginal controlled National Park (the site is a sacred to Aboriginal people). The pass includes access to the nearby Olgas (Kata Tjuta) National Park and to Kings Canyon which is about 200Kms further on. Ayers Rock is a magnificent sight particularly at sunset as the colour changes as the sun goes down and it can be viewed from the campsite which has some conveniently placed lookout hills close by and it is a photographers paradise.

Rock1.jpg (46321 bytes)The following day we drove to Ayers Rock the size is deceptive for as you get closer it dominates the scene made more so due to it being the only thing standing there on this flat scrub plain. We visited the Aboriginal Cultural Centre for the audio visual display etc. then checked out the "Rock" from close quarters deciding it was too risky to climb in our unfit condition, a walk around the base was more in keeping.

On to the Olgas National Park about 50Kms where we walked the Olgas Gorge track noting Dingo and Kangaroo tracks in the red sand. The Olgas and Ayers Rock are the remains of a gigantic ancient flood over a 100 million years ago where sedimentary deposits layered then upended as time went by and the earth buckled and twisted, both the Olgars and Ayers Rock are the tips of subterranean strata which like icebergs have more below than is seen above ground. There is so much more can be said about this place but space and time is short. Tomorrow we head back north through Alice Springs retracing our steps then on up through Elliot, Daly Waters to Katherine stopping enroute at Erldunda, Alice and another cheap night at the Devils Marbles and a free one at the rest area at Daly Waters where we sat outside the caravan star gazing, the atmosphere there was without any pollution, cloudless so stars were immense and in their millions, we were startled by two stars that moved at right angles to one another, finally realising we were looking at man made satellites, we counted 5 of them over an hour period.

After an early start with both of us keeping a wary eye open for those unpredictable Kangaroos, which bound in front of you. We continued our journey north up the Stuart Highway from our stop at the wild camp area at Daly Waters. We arrived at Katherine Riverview Caravan Park that was still recovering from the effects of the devastating floods of February. The campsite was very dusty (the flood brought in layers of mud) and trees still contained debris high up in their branches. We were surprised at how high the water had been, it would have easily covered our caravan. We appreciated the great effort the people of Katherine had put in to make their town a liveable place again.

Kathgorge1.jpg (34961 bytes)The Nitmiluk National Park some 30kms away contains the Katherine Gorge and is one of the big attractions of the Northern Territory and a cruise up the 13 levels is not to be missed, we decided on a 2 hour cruise through the first two.

The system has been carved out of the sandstone rock over millions of years, abundant with birds, fish and freshwater crocodiles which are not too dangerous to humans unlike the saltwater crocodile which is very dangerous, thankfully there were none of those here. The weather was very hot and humid and a visit later to the local Hot Springs just close to the Caravan Park was very enjoyable.

The following day, a hot one 35 deg C we visited the Katherine Show where local farmers bring their cattle and produce to display. It was also the final day of the Rodeo where competitors on horseback had to catch and rope a steer, others had to ride the Brumby or "Bucking Bronco" quite a dangerous and violent activity many literally "biting the dust". There were tents with side-shows and those selling the accoutrements of the cowboy lifestyle. A swim in the Caravan site pool was a most welcome end to our day.

After cleaning all the dust out of the van we headed north again this time the destination was Bachelor in the Lichfield National Park just 80 kms south of Darwin. Lichfield Park is a very large sandstone plateau area with Nature reserves, River Gorges, and Waterfalls rich in fauna including freshwater and saltwater crocodiles and exotic birdlife. An area similar to and not much smaller than the great Kakadu National Park that will be remembered by those who saw the film "Crocodile Dundee". Our campsite at Bachelor was delightfully set in the bush the colourful Lorikeets and Honeyeaters came every morning and evening to be fed by the camp managers right outside our pitch. Bachelor town was an old military base from WW 2 and still has many of the old Nissen huts converted for residential use.

A Butterfly farm nearby is worth a visit, it is run by a chap who originated from Yorkshire who set it up from scratch only one year ago. Many beautiful butterflies and extraordinary caterpillars can be seen in a natural setting. The visit was topped by a welcome Devonshire tea. We departed Bachelor 23rd July and headed south back towards Katherine to overnight before turning west and to our next destination Timber Creek on the mighty Victoria River.

Our drive to Timber Creek was via the Victoria Highway that wended its way west through mountainous areas and magnificent valleys edged with red rocky escarpments, colours varying from orange red to the lilac haze of the horizon. Circle F Caravan Park, Timber Creek is situated on the side of the Victoria River, despite its remoteness Timber Creek was well-serviced with good clean facilities, swimming pool, a little dusty but pleasant. The pioneer A.C.Gregory named Timber Creek in 1855 now essentially a cattle area, it once was a sheep farming area but the Spear Grass common in this area adhered to the sheep’s wool eventually working its sharp point into the sheep’s flesh. The Spear grass finally working its way through into its vital organs killing many thousands of sheep. The River Victoria is also noted for the Barramundi fishing a popular sporting activity with locals and tourists.

Croc2.jpg (30220 bytes)Also popular on site is the feeding of freshwater crocodiles each night at 5.00pm. The site warden or caravan park manager (usually owners in these locations) go down to the river with offal or other delicacies to feed them, but not the saltwater crocodile which is very dangerous, thankfully there were none of those just here, they being further up river. Circle F caravan park is also the general store, pub, motel and restaurant where in the evening we enjoyed a three course meal which included the fabulous Barramundi fish very tasty steamed or BBQ style roasted in foil.

A boat cruise up the Victoria River with Max’s River cruises was undertaken. This wide expanse of water is full of Barramundi and other species of fish, which explains the big crocodile population. We were to see them at very close quarters from the boat both "Freshies" and Salties" came to inspect us, of course the boat skipper had some food for them so I guess they were trained to respond.

Boabtree.jpg (80923 bytes)Along the riverbank are many Boab trees, which are only to be found in this area of Northern Territory and just a few hundred kilometres west into Western Australia. The Boab tree that can live for up to 2000 years is easily identified by its unusually wide trunk in which water is stored. The tree seems to be leafless most of the year then as late spring comes it flowers then puts on its leaves, it does bear fruit which can be eaten if you don’t mind the taste. Flocks of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos dived among the trees as we made our way downstream to a small island where we were given a cup of Billy Tea done on an open hearth. Our skipper Brian then entertained us with stories of the local pioneers and a demonstration of Bull whipping making his whip crack like a bullet.

Rising early and filling up at our Circle F petrol station we headed off towards Kunanurra and the West Australia border where we had another fruit and veggie quarantine check point to negotiate. Arriving at Kunanurra Hidden Valley Caravan Park we found it quite crowded but got a nice corner pitch on grass however the kerbs were enormous and I had to bump up them quite aggressively to get the van onsite. Kunanurra is at the gateway to the Hidden Valley National Park, in which we did some walking, is a popular tourist destination for the Lake Argyle and Ord River areas, also close by is the Argyle Diamond Mine which is open for inspection, albeit with very strict security. The Ord River irrigation scheme has opened up vast areas of previously barren land to huge fruit and vegetable growing farms hence the need to ensure no pests and diseases are allowed in.

Kunanurra is also the gateway to the rugged Kimberleys, which are beautiful and relatively untouched. It spans an area of approximately 420,000 square kilometres, which is bounded by the Great Sandy Desert in the South and continues up the vast coastline of Western Australia in the north. The Kimberley contains many wonders and has an awe-inspiring landscape of clear waters, Waterfalls Rainforests, Gorges and immense mountain ranges. As we made our way south along the Great Northern Highway to Halls Creek we passed through some of this wonderful countryside and promised each other to return one day for a longer more thorough travel experience.

Overnight at Halls Creek Caravan Park. This place is locally called the oasis of the Kimberleys and has a large Aboriginal population we were surprised at the signposts in the town " No Grog to be consumed in the streets or parks" our Caravan Park had a high steel fence all round. We were informed that cyclones were not unusual so the fences are there to limit the dust storms. I have my doubts?

The following day we travelled on to Fitzroy Crossing leaving the Kimberleys and onto a flat plain, part of the Great Sandy Desert and a bit boring. We arrived at Fitzroy Lodge Caravan Park, which was a very welcome site, well equipped and surprisingly green after the dryness of the day’s travel. As we had arrived early in the day we elected to do the Gekie Gorge Cruise and made our way to river and the National Park 21 kilometres away. Gekie Gorge National Park is a geological relic of an ancient coral reef and abounds with wildlife, Freshwater Crocs, Turtles, Monitor Lizards, Brolgos and White Headed Herons to name a few the cruise was spectacular and so different than the other two cruises we had done.

Cvanroad.jpg (36430 bytes)Our next destination was Broome on the West Coast noted for its mining and pearling industries, fishing and the fabled Cable Beach Resort. However we had been advised earlier that getting onto a site without booking was very difficult due to the popularity and shortage of sites. Up to this point on our trip we had not needed to book anywhere, so we decided to overnight stop at Roebuck Roadhouse about 34 kms from Broome. 240V power was not available so we used our 12V system again.

Cablebeach.jpg (37973 bytes)Being so close to Broome we just had a day trip into the town and a look at Cable Beach. We are past the sunbathing bit and don’t go too much for swimming in the sea, blue as it was, so we just sat in the shade of the beach café eating ice cream and taking in the sights, no not the nude beach.

The overnight at Roebuck Roadhouse was very noisy, as dusk fell the Road Trains pulled in to park until morning, some with refrigeration packs had the motors running all night so sleep was just a bit trying.

0645 am 2nd August and the sun was up so off we go, travelling south now but still on the Great Northern Highway the Indian Ocean on our right and scrub on our left, we headed for Sandfire Roadhouse where we had planned to stay.

Arriving at Sandfire we were surprised at the expensive fuel and site cost and the site didn’t impress us either. Someone had recommended Eightymile Beach a few kms further on, we headed there and found it was down an unmade dirt road 10 kms long, but we were committed and bumped our way down to the campsite. The Campsite really surprised us it was a well-equipped, large campsite, but all the 150 plus 240V powered sites were occupied, fortunately plenty of non powered were available so once again we did the 12V thing.

During our two day stay at Eightymile Beach Brenda became a "Beachcomber" I thought with all the seashells she had picked up we would need another trailer. There were some really beautiful shells and she would use them to make pictures and ornaments. Fishing is one of the other things attracting "Vanners" to this place we saw Atlantic Salmon caught with rod and line off the beach.

Back on the road again we skirted the coastline and followed the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. The countryside was rather flat and covered in scrub, a highlight was seeing a Thorny Devil a kind of lizard we were lucky to see it as they are well camouflaged.
Again Wedgetail Eagles were soaring in great circles above the scrub and sometimes we were startled to see them in the middle of the road eating the carcass of a dead animal and playing "Chicken" with us flying off only when we were a few metres from them.

A coffee stop at Pardoo Roadhouse broke the monotony a bit.
As we travelled south the countryside started to change, there were more trees and we saw more rest areas. We pulled off onto one at De Grey River a nice sheltered spot on the banks of the river and free one so a peaceful nights stop was made, a few other "Vanners" also had made that decision and before too long the place was full.

We were due our 48,000 kms service on the Jeep so made Port Hedland the next stop we had booked into Cook Point Caravan Park to ensure a few days to get the service done. Port Hedland is a shipping terminal for the great ore container ships berthing here so is not the most exciting of places, however the campsite was excellent and just close by the beach.

7th August and the Jeep now serviced we continued on to our next stop at Roebourne. The journey was becoming more scenic with the Hammersley Ranges clearly visible in the distance, passing grassy plains of spinifex and seeing the occasional Dingo and Kangaroo we made our way into the old historic town of Roebourne and the gateway to the Pilbara region. Roebourne is the oldest active town on this North West Coast and was named after Sir John Septimus Roe in 1864 who was the first Surveyor General of Australia.

Cossack.jpg (46878 bytes)As we were not far from the coast we travelled to Point Samson a popular beach retreat for locals and visitors where we had been told you could get delicious locally caught fresh fish and chips at Moby’s restaurant.  Whilst here a short sidetrack led us to another old historic town called Cossack. First settled in 1863 and situated in a river estuary, it was a natural Harbour. Established as a major shipping port for the North West Region it has over the years been abandoned, the lovely old buildings although some in ruins, still remain and are being restored gradually, a unique look at the colonial past.

On the way back to Roebourne Brenda my wife was intrigued to see a Shell museum as we entered town and insisted we stop for a look, hoping to get some ideas and for information on the shells she had collected. Sandy’s Shell House contained one of the most comprehensive displays of seashells and marine artifacts in the Pilbara.

Our journey through the Pilbara region began with us traversing through green undulating hills and Savannah grasslands with the backdrop of lilac blue hazed hills with snake like threads of white Snowgums weaving their way through the grass, edging meandering creeks and river beds. So far on this trip we have seen mostly cattle farming but here in this more verdant pasture we are seeing sheep.
Occasionally we are seeing rocky outcrops looking just like the spiky backs of huge Dinosaurs. Dotted here and there are strangely shaped termite mounds, one in particularly made us laugh as someone had written "Buddha" on it in big white letters.

Leaving Nanutarra Roadhouse after filling up with fuel after a short distance we came upon a road sign that read "Drive with caution Royal Flying Doctor Emergency Landing Strip" the strip was in fact the highway we were travelling on.

Throughout our journey today we have seen a spectacular and beautiful display of wildflowers along both sides of the highway as far as the eye can see. Ground hugging yellow ones, some blue and long stemmed, drifts of lilac and pink flowers and pink succulents. Bushes of cerise and pale pink and Wattles with bright golden yellow. But most of all the vast expanse of white flowers looking like fallen snow and like blood in the snow an occasional patch of Sturt Desert Pea looking as if they are watching you with their red petals and black eyes. Among all this are darting beautiful coloured butterflies.
Not wanting to use the air-conditioning in the car we had the windows open and the sweet perfumes of the flowers drifted in.
Passing through the Tropic of Capricorn we noted a rest area at Lyndon River and spent the night there listening to the sound of the water tinkling over the rocks lulling us to sleep.

On to Carnarvon passing heathlands and again nature’s wildflower display ever changing its kaleidoscope of colour. Now we see wild Lupins banked at the road edges, Swifts darting and marshland wildlife, Herons and occasional Cormorants. Through all this we listen to our favourite programme on ABC radio "Macka on a Sunday morning" for those who don’t know it’s a Dinkum Aussie outback phone in radio programme and very entertaining. Arriving at Carnarvon Plantation Caravan Park we met a few "Vanners" who we had met weeks earlier and spent time sharing each other’s experiences and swapping campsite information.

Carnarvon is situated in the Gascoyne district and is the centre for the agriculture and fishing industries and also houses the OTC Satellite tracking dish which is no longer used but is a local landmark being quite large.

On to Denham and Monkey Mia, which is situated at the top end of a spit of land, again we drove past heathland with riots of coloured wildflowers what a privilege to see it. Monkey Mia resort is right on the beach and is famous for the Dolphins that swim in each day to be hand fed by visitors, under the guidance of the rangers. This place is very well organised with great facilities although the pitches are on crushed seashells and sand that aren’t too bad for caravans but I imagine difficult to knock pegs into.

Dolphin1.jpg (41220 bytes)A restful time was spent here we met quite a few visitors some from UK, Europe and USA. Seeing the Dolphins swim in was quite a moving experience to see these wild but gentle creatures and the trust they have in us and seeing the delight on the children’s faces as they were able to hand feed them.

A 400-km drive took us from Monkey Mia to Kalbarri stopping briefly at the Overlander Roadhouse for fuel we continued on being startled once by a very large red Kangaroo bounding across our path. Approaching Kalbarri our next stop, we saw fields of wheat and other crops interspersed with tracts of wildflowers. We dropped down from the hilly terrain into Kalbarri, which nestles on the edge of the ocean and the Murchison River the scene was stunning as the sun glinted off the water lighting up the whole area. Our campsite was the Tudor Caravan Park and was quite good but a little dusty under foot.

The coast along Kalbarri National Park is awe inspiring, the wind and surf pounding the craggy cliffs and little inlets, we watched fishermen riding the boiling sea in small dinghies and seeing the occasional Dolphin surfing towards the beach, a sight neither of us has ever seen before. Whales could be seen blowing in the distance as we walked along the cliffs on our evening stroll.

Kalbarricoast.jpg (48082 bytes)Packing a lunch we drove 36 kms to Kalbarri National Park to see the Murchison River Gorges surrounded by Blue Grey Smoke bushes and Grass trees and if you were observant as you walked, there were lovely delicate wild orchids to see. Following the paths we made our way to the numerous lookouts and to a spectacular rock formation called Natures Window a lookout that superbly frames the upstream view of the Murchison Gorge and river.

As we made our way south again we stopped for couple of days in Geraldton at the Sun City Caravan Park, quite nice, situated right on the beach and sheltered by high sand dunes. We visited the old Geraldton Jail museum, which also houses a craft exhibition buying a few trinkets.

The trip today was quite horrendous after passing through pleasant farming country with a few small hamlets here and there, we were besieged by a very heavy rain storm which practically obliterated everything as we drove, forcing us to stop for a while. Leaving the rain behind us we headed away from the main highway towards Julien and to our next stop at Cervantes a small coastal Cray fishing village right in the Nambung National Park and famous for the Pinnacles rock formations.

Pinnacles1.jpg (30343 bytes)The Pinnacles Desert in the Nambung National Park is an area of sand of various colours and thousands of limestone pinnacles that range in size up to 5 metres in height and 2 metres thick at the base. Dutch sailors first spotted the pinnacles from the sea before European settlement and thought they were the remains of an ancient city. These formations are actually a group of limestone pillars standing in a sandy desert, they were formed thousands of years ago when ancient plant roots formed a weak cementation of calcite within the dunes and have been exposed by the wind and shifting sands.

Thursday 20th August we left today for Perth the capital city of Western Australia and our last mail pick up, we will stay for 6 days.

The weather on our visit to Perth was quite cool with showers, a welcome relief after the high temperatures experienced up in the northern areas of the state.

Brenperth.jpg (30715 bytes)Perth with a population of just over 1.2 million is one of the smaller of the major cities of Australia, but even so is the capital city of the largest state, Western Australia. The city centre is built on the banks of the Swan River and ringed by a series of gardens, parks and reserves including the magnificent 404 hectare Kings Park. The green slopes of Mount Eliza in Kings Park contrast dramatically with Perth’s modern skyline and the serene blue hills of the Darling Range can be seen in the distance.

The Perth Holiday Park at Caversham is 20 kms east of the city and right in the wine growing area of the Swan Valley and an opportunity not to be missed to visit the wineries and taste some of the excellent wines produced here.

Perth’s history began in March 1827 when James Stirling in command of HMS "Success", spent two weeks exploring the Swan River area, and reported on the desirability of establishing a permanent settlement there.

On 2nd May 1829, Captain Fremantle arriving in HMS "Challenger" took formal possession of the West Coast of Australia by hoisting the union Jack on the south side of the Swan River. The colony of Western Australia being formally set up on 18th June 1829, the site chosen was at the mouth of the Swan River and named Fremantle after the Captain of HMS "Challenger" and becoming the port. Several places were considered for the site of the capital but finally a location was found 19 kms upstream from the port near a wide expanse of water near Mount Eliza.

A visit also to the old town of Fremantle was made, noted for the grand old buildings kept in beautiful and original condition and the port takes you back into the early beginnings of this fine town. A visit to Fremantle’s grand old indoor market should also not be missed with a range of products from fruit and vegetables to art and craftwork.

So much more could be said about this area but we have to press on to our next stop at Margaret River and our campsite at Taunton Farm.
Taunton Farm Caravan Park winner of the 1997 W.A.Tourism award is in fact also a working farm and it was nice to see all the animals, a great adventure for young children to help bottle feed the newborn lambs and perhaps chase the geese from around the caravan.

A visit to the local Fonti’s cheese factory had us tasting vintage cheddar cheese and lemon custard yoghurt of course we bought cheeses to bring back home. Complimenting the cheese was a visit to the locally well-known Redgate winery where we purchased some very nice port.

A day tour took us through Dunsborough a popular holiday resort in a sheltered bay and on to Cape Naturalist and Cape Leeuwin both with a lighthouse and where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet. Finally finishing our day at Jewel Cave where we journeyed on foot deep underground experiencing the wonder of crystalline rock formations including the world’s longest straw stalactites, the organ pipe cavern and the beautiful Jewel casket.

Today is the 29th August and we awoke to torrential rain and occasional thunder and lightning it eased a little and we managed to pack up and get on our way to Pemberton travelling through great Karri, Jarrah and Marri tree forests.

Treetop1.jpg (73934 bytes)The site at Pemberton was very wet and no concrete hard standings so with all the rain it made it very wet and muddy, keeping the inside of the van clean was difficult. Although the weather was showery it did not stop us from going into the Karri forest to see the Gloucester tree. A 250 foot tall Karri tree named after the Duke of Gloucester who visited it in 1946 helping drive the first rail of a 153 rung ladder system now used by those daring enough to climb 60 metres to the viewing platform at the top.

Many birds were observed including some colourful Western Rosellas that followed us hoping to be fed. Further into the forest are the Cascades, a series of waterfalls flowing over rocky ledges, which were boiling and raging with the recent rains.

On now to Walpole a small settlement on the south coast, and our campsite at Coalmine Beach Caravan Park located on an inlet and the Frankland River. Surrounded by woodland and with the weather now much better we enjoyed the quiet tranquil setting with the waterway and the magnificent Karri and Tingle tree forests.

One of the main tourist attractions here is the Tree Top Walk, constructed in the Tingle Forest canopy, it is a 420 metre long aluminium bridge in a "U" shape that takes you up 40 metres above the forest floor high into the canopy giving a birds eye view of the Valley of the Giants.

Driving through stunning scenery we arrived at Albany, Middleton Beach Caravan Park now another clean park right on the beachfront within easy reach of the white sands and sea. A constant reminder of our location was the booming and crashing of the surf on the shore.
The coastline in this area is quite spectacular with untouched beaches, rocky inlets and many islands. Albany’s claim to fame was its whaling industry having the last operational whaling station until its closure in 1978, the station is still there but now a museum called Albany Whaleworld. In its hey day the whaling station slaughtered 850 whales per season. An interesting tour around the museum but a macabre picture to see and hear what went on in those days, we thank God it isn’t practiced anymore in Australia.

What a pleasant contrast when further along the wild and spectacular coast we observed at a quiet cove, up to 5 whales frolicking in the sea quite close in.

It is Day 131 of our trip and the 3rd September we are travelling now through pastoral scenery with occasional farmlets, following this magnificent coastline to arrive at Esperance a resort and seaport town that has a population of 8500.

The first recorded visit here was by Dutch explorer Pieter Nuijts in 1627 but settlement was not until 1863. A visit here must include the great Ocean drive over 30 kms of road skirting the rocky coast. Care whilst driving here is needed as the spectacular scenery is very distracting, better to stop often to take in the brilliance of the blue sea with frothy white surf the picturesque bays, inlets and islands. Finally the road ends at the Pink Lake so called due to the colour of the algae in the water at certain times of the year.

We also visited the Mermaid leather tannery, this one was rather special though as the skins were not from animals but from fish, yes that’s right fish. Quite remarkable leatherwear products made from Shark, Groper and others, some skins are very tough others really delicate, the skins are descaled prior to tanning then colour dyed.

Today is our longest journey 538 kms from Esperance to Ciaguna following the great Australian Bight, stopping at Norseman for fuel we were advised to check our water quantity as there was no water until we get to Eucla and the South Australian Border.

We found a quiet rest stop at Ciaguna on which we decided to overnight, but Brenda was a bit concerned as we were the only caravan at the rest area, however her worries about safety were short-lived as within two hours there were eight other caravans there.

The following day and a trip of 379 kms to Eucla which is just 120kms from the South Australian border. During the journey a number of vehicles competing in the Round Australia car rally passed us going in the opposite direction, Eucla Caravan Park was a welcome relief after the quite arduous journey undertaken mostly into a 20-km/hr headwind. The Caravan Park was dusty but good facilities even though a 5-minute hot shower was $2 coin operated.

Bight.jpg (41846 bytes)September 9th and today our big duel with the tortuously arrow straight Eyre Highway and the famed Nullabor plain a treeless wilderness, imagine our surprise and amazement to see a lone woman pushing a shopping trolley containing all her worldly possessions along this road miles from anywhere. The Great Australian Bight is quite an impressive sight, the treeless plain suddenly comes to an abrupt end dropping over a hundred metres to the sea below. We arrived safely at Ceduna at 3.45pm South Australian time the tiring days journey completed earning a two-day stay here.

Ceduna is situated on the shores of Murat Bay and is the furthest western town of South Australia.The name Ceduna is a derivative of the Aboriginal word "Chedoona" meaning "resting place" an apt name for us at this time. The nearby fish and Chip shop looked inviting and was advertising the local delicacy King George Whiting famous for its delicious tender flesh, it was very nice.

We were awakened in the morning at 6.00am with quite a start as a siren wailed on the fire station just across the street. The siren however got us on our way earlier than usual to drive down the Eyre Peninsula to Port Lincoln and our Campsite at Kirton Point which looked out onto one of the worlds largest protected natural harbours in Porter bay.

From our van window we could see a line of Pelicans standing on the nearby jetty looking like waiters in a restaurant in their black and white livery.

Matthew Flinders discovered Port Lincoln in 1802 naming it after his native Lincolnshire in England it was initially considered for the state capital but was rejected in favour of Adelaide due to a lack of fresh water.

A scenic drive took us on to Port Augusta that is known as the crossroads of Australia it has a well-developed port for the export of wool, minerals and wheat.

Driving down towards Adelaide and skirting the Flinders Ranges and the Spencer Gulf we passed through the industrial town of Port Pirie. Just before entering the outskirts of Adelaide we were confronted by a timber house being transported on a very large transporter it took up the whole road. The escorting police signalled us to move left and onto the grass shoulder of the roadside, but this is not unusual in Australia you have to be on guard for anything on the roads here.

At last we found our campsite at Westbeach, a large holiday resort and Caravan Park with all the facilities you would expect. A short walk through the sand dunes brings you out onto a beautiful beach.
Adelaide is a gracious, well planned city set on a coastal plain between the rolling hills of the Mount Lofty Ranges and the blue waters of Gulf St. Vincent and is the only major World City completely surrounded by parklands.

Our stop here will be for three days one of which will be to visit an old friend and another we will visit historic Hahndorf a pioneer village set in the Adelaide hills and first settled by Silesian and Prussian refugees in 1839. The town’s main street is lined with magnificent old elms and chestnut trees. Most of the buildings have been restored and the town has a leisurely, old-world feel about it.

Crayfish.jpg (43862 bytes)The climb up the Adelaide Hills out of the city is a long and tedious steep winding road turning on itself in places and not helped by the road improvements currently being undertaken. Finally arriving at the top of the climb at Eagle on the hill we followed the rolling hills through Murray Bridge and towards Mount Gambier stopping briefly at Elliston to photograph the giant Crayfish model.

Lieutenant James Grant named Mount Gambier in 1800 after sighting an extinct volcano, the city was built on its slopes and is surrounded by large softwood plantations and rich farming, horticulture and dairy country. Our campsite at Blue Lake City Caravan Park is almost at the tip of the extinct volcano crater and the drives through sites are set on terraces down the sloping park. Mount Gambier has four crater lakes and the Blue Lake is the deepest at 197 metres and provides the cities water, and changes colour from dull grey to brilliant blue each November due to chemical changes in the water.

We departed Mount Gambier for our home state Victoria on 19th September but planned to stop overnight at Halls Gap in the Grampian Mountains before continuing home.

Our complete circumnavigation of the Australian continent was finally realised as we made our way off the Western Highway and turning right onto the overpass which we crossed going the opposite way nearly 5 months ago.

We had finally made it home to Melton after completing a 23,300-km journey with no major problems with either car or caravan.

3Sisters.jpg (49194 bytes) 
Terry & Brenda Steen

 

Send mail to john@johnbeales.co.uk with questions or comments about this web site.
Last modified: May 18, 2014