Today we pick up our free “rental” van for repositioning from Travelers Autobarn that we had found on the Relocation vehicle web site. It will cost us about the same as 3 bikes would on gas for the same distance. We were told to come to the agency at 10 am, but we could not get it until1230 as there were putting on new tires. They loaned us a station wagon to do some running around and to get groceries.
We finally set out at 130 and headed back down the Stuart Highway to Mataranka Homestead. We managed to miss happy hour by 7 minutes, but at least they had some good live music again.
Today we have a big day as we hope to get past 3 Ways and hopefully to the Devils’ Marble’s in 668 km. We finally set out at 930 south again.
This is the back road from Barkley Homestead that we did not ride on the bikes.
Most of the day we were retracing our steps 547 km to the Three Ways Roadhouse and past millions of termite mounds (oddly dressed up in clothes every so often). From here we had another 121 km south to Devil’s Marbles Conservation area. We arrived here just after 430 and there flies were horrific. We got a “site” for $3.30 pp and donned our bug nets. The “marble” are pretty cool and the light at sunset was stunning. The best part of sunset is the flies disappear.
We also went back after dinner to get some milky way photos. It is so dark here even right after sunset you can see the Milky way. Usually we have to get up in the middle of the night, but it was clear as day at 830 pm. It is a bit chilly tonight and I think it was around 10 in the night.
Dan got up at 615 for sun rise.
We set out south again 412 km for Alice Springs. We were expecting some Outback back eddy out in the middle of nothingness.
The road is almost straight and the landscape flat, but surprisingly pretty green with small trees and brush. About 70 km north we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. You can not stop for long as the flies are terrible . We had to make and eat our lunch inside the van. To go out you have to wear your bug hat or the drive you mad.
We stopped in at Whycliffe Wells Road house for gas.”But Wycliffe Well is not just another roadhouse — it is the self-proclaimed UFO Capital of Australia. According its own brochure, “UFO sightings are so common, that if you stayed up all night looking, you would be considered unlucky not to see anything, rather than lucky to see something”.
Alice is quite a big modernish town and not quite what we expected. They did have a large Coles to stock up and a BWS. The police are stationed here at the liquor store to monitor purchases, but they seem only interested in those who people who are aboriginal!
For a treat we booked onto a powered site at the G’day mate park. They have huge grass sites and great showers. The flies are not too bad here even in the daytime. In the desert here is 35 in the day time, but often as low as 5 degrees at night. In fact last night they said it was 2 degrees.
Now for the big rock at the “red center”!
South from here it is 204 km to the turn of at Erldunda to see “The Rock” and it is getting redder in colour. There are also no more acres of termite mounds.
56 km after the turn off at Mount Ebenezer Roadhouse there is a free camp, free showers, and gas (199/l up from the usual 155). We have 212 km still to go! On the road there is views of mount Connor (the rock everyone mistakes for Ayers rock), low bush, and NO wildlife.
You can see the Ayers rock from a long distance and we arrived to the view point nearest, but outside the paid area. We decided that 75$ for 3 of us was just too much to get closer to a rock. We checked out the “town”, which is basically a gas station (202/l), some hotels, and a camp ground. It has 220 unpowered sites, and there was not one left when we arrived at 430 pm.
We had planned to use the free camp 10 km back down the road, but thought we would check here. We headed back to the view point for sunset and the relief from he flies!
The free camp is just off the road 10 km back down the road and we got here just as it was getting dark. In this van we can only go 500 m “off road” in a camp site and plus the road any farther was pretty steep and sandy so we set up camp in the last spot before the sandy hill.
From here we walked about 1 km on the road over the next 2 ridges. In the dark we could not see the rock, but we managed to catch it in the Austral photos. We had a good night as it was totally quiet. There was only 2 other vehicles here.
Dan was up for the sunrise!
We retraced our route to Mount Ebenezer for gas and a free shower! It is another 56 km to the turn off at Erldunda. From here it is 487 km and 5 hours to the next town of Coober Pedy and we will not reach there by dark.
We drove on an almost straight road thru pretty much nothing for 380 km and then pulled off into a free camp 100 km north of Coober Pedy. The ground is red red dirt and it gets EVERYWHERE. There is no one else here and we had tons of dead fall for a nice fire. We had arrived at 530 and had to hide in the van until well after sunset and the flies were HORRIFIC! If you stepped out you had 30 on your face and ears in seconds and they are aggressive. Luckily as soon as the temperature dropped a few degrees they completely disappeared. AHHH the relief. We had another almost cloudless night for star shots. It was getting chilly by 9 pm and so time for bed. The guys stayed up with the fire and a large bottle of scotch!
We had to pack up ASAP at 8 am as soon as the temperature started to rise and the flies were early risers. It was coffee and go.
It was an easy 100 km to Coober Pedy. We have slowed it down a bit as at 90-100 we get 150 km more range then at 100-110.
On the way to town you pass acres of opal mine fields. There are shafts dug down with huge piles of dirt beside them.
In town we asked some locals and were told the best place for breakfast was the Shell station and they were right. This is a weird town with opal fever. It has an amazingly well stocked IGA and with very reasonable prices (for OZ). Like the Big Mac index we have the Magnum index of prices here in OZ( 4-7$ each). There are a few odd underground stores and hotel in old mines and quite a few opal shops as well. I would describe it as weirdly weird.
The road south from here is incredibly straight. We did see a number of Emu, but only a few road kill kangaroos until very near to Port Augusta where we saw a number of big greys. The terrain is flat mostly, with the occasional rolling hillock. There are a number of dry lakes along the way as well.
There are absolutely no real services between Coober and Port Augusta. We really wanted a hot shower and so we were motivated to drive the 45 min after sunset to arrive at a caravan park at 615. We had a cold night here as it id fully cloudy and might even rain.
Today we may not go that far, but as it is inclement weather it is not fitting with our plan to head to the beach at Streaky Bay or onto Smokey Bay for 2 nights.
It is extremely windy especially in this high top van. We drove west on the 1 towards Wudinna and then took the cut off road to the coast to meet the B100 at Port Kenny. Here we did a small side trip to see the Murphy’s Haystacks .
We continued to Streaky Bay, which is not a bad little town with the caravan parks on the sea, but it is blustery and not very nice out. We continued 73 km father to Smokey Bay that is famous for their oyster producers. We stopped by one and bought 2 dozen.
We then needed to get to the store for chardonnay and a shucker! It is cold and there are a few drops of rain at times and we are glad to have the van. the local here shared their advice on oyster shucking as well as some of their fresh caught grilled squid!
We realized this morning that they have a clothes dryer here and so laundry day it is! We had it all done and were still on the road by 10.
We headed back north to join the A1 and then west again. In Ceduna we found the first real shopping for days and we stocked back up, but bare in mind we will hit the WA border quarantine tomorrow and can not have any fresh fruits or veg. Then it is on the LONG STRAIGHT Nullabor Highway. Between Ceduna and Ecula for 493 km there are basically only road houses with small shops, camping, and gas pumps. We planned to end our day about 30 km from the border at the Bunda Cliffs. Today we saw quite a few Emu, but no Kangaroos dead or alive.
The exit to the cliffs looks nondescript. You drive 500m thru the dunes and park between them out of the wind. From here it is 150 m to the cliff side that are sheer and very high. It was a bit windy and rainy and we did not have the fire we planned and had collected wood for.
Setting out today it is cold and cloudy again on the long road west.
We are back on the Eyre Highway for 30 km until we reach the “border” of Western Australia where we will enter our final OZ state. This is really just a quarantine station. You can not bring any fresh fruit and veg. They show you a plasticized card and ask you if you have any of the prohibited items like garlic or potatoes. Then they “search” your vehicle, but come on if you really wanted to smuggle grapes it would be pretty darn easy unless they were in your glove box, fridge, or van kitchen cupboards. They did not look in any of the placed you would actually hide anything.
At Ecula we met Jax who has been riding her postie bike around Australia for the last 3 1/2 years. She is friends with our pals Todd and Chantelle in Darwin as they are Posties too.
There are only road houses, fuel pumps, and a few stations with RV parks in the 710 km from Ecula to Norseman. The road today even flatter and straighter. We are trying to push as far as we can today in order to have a shorter day tomorrow to Esperance on the beach.
We managed to get to Fraser Range Station by 5pm and checked in just before sunset. There are a huge number of Emu and kangaroo munching on the fresh grass in the camp ground. They have a great camp kitchen here that is warm and cosy.
Today we make for civilization in Esperence in a short 326 km!
There is not much at Norseman where the roads meet, but we did get some lunch items at the IGA. There is still a whole lot of nothing all day on the way to the coast.
We chose a small RV park a block off the beach. They have free unlimited wifi and so we could all catch up. It is sunny and warm here for a long walk up the powdery white sand.
From here we have a bit of a long day and 483 km to Albany, but all of us have friends there that we want to see.
It is cloudy and quite cool today and we are all wearing jackets. The scenery today is much more farm land and we did see quite a few Emu with even one herd of 20 or more. We arrived to Albany at the Middleton beach RV park and though the beach was nice it was blowing a gale and 12 degrees at 230 pm. It did get a bit warmer later and enough so that we could walk the 4.5 km to town to meet our friends. Antoinette and Ronnie we had met in Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand. They had arranged for us to meet a few of the people from their motorcycle club. Wow these people have ridden in a lot of places!
For our last day of touring in the van we will head north west on the secondary roads towards the wine region near Margaret River.
This is a very scenic windy and perfect motorcycle route! There were maybe a dozen other vehicles all day.
We arrived to Pemberton after 2 for a lunch of pies at the “award winning” baker and then we booked it to Pierro Winery by 415 to taste their chardonnay said to be the best of the region. It is warm in the sun today, but we still need a sweater.
After the tasting we rushed back to Gracetown beach (famous for the 2 recent shark attacks) to enjoy our wine and the sunset. We had checked into the small RV park here with lots of kangaroos hanging around. We had to snuggle up in the van as it was so cold outside!
We have just 265 km to go on our trip to Freemantle, but we backtracked back to Margaret River for a fab smoked salmon benny.
We managed to finally hit the road after 1030. It is basically straight up the highway all day and we arrived to the Rv park about 330. We are celebrating the end of our road trip with some Margaret River Shiraz and some T bones.
We headed to the car wash to clean up our ride and then dropped our luggage at our rental for the next 3 days. We then took the train into Perth city to do some shopping and sight seeing.
It is an easy transfer to Fremantle via train as well. This is nice tourist town to hang out in and it is full of cafes, chic restaurants, and bars.