Happy New Year! What a year it’s been for us. Many highs (too many to name), a few lows (missing family & friends, van troubles etc.) but overall what a fantastic time we have had.
From my last blog entry (before the expenses update) we were on the Eyre Peninsula still travelling with our two families. We slowly travelled up the coast line through Louth Bay, Tumby Bay & Arno Bay. Tumby Bay is where Wayne’s dad was born and after visiting their museum, we also discovered a lot of family scattered around this area and even got to see some photos of some Simes family members that Wayne has never met! We also drove through Cleve where Wayne met his great Aunt Coral and just missed out on meeting a cousin. We then drove up the Lincoln Highway towards Whyalla where we stayed for one night at the Whyalla Stuart Park. It was incredibly hot there, very dusty and a dry heat where we all had an uncomfortable nights sleep. We did enjoy the Christmas parade the town put on and Santa driving past in the fire truck!
We needed to get near the water as inland was just so hot, so we decided to settle in at Lowly Point and we are so glad we did. What a beautiful spot to camp and at only $5 a night we all had ball here. The kids enjoyed swimming, fishing, climbing all over the rocks. They also saw dolphins swimming and even a seal came up to check them out! The kids were outside all day enjoying the sunshine and clean water to swim in. On our last night here a storm came in and our tarps got a bit of a work out. We went to bed thinking that our tarps are quiet strong, but I woke up at midnight to poles falling down, so Wayne and I ran outside to a fierce wind howling through the campground. For a few moments there we were worried the tarp was going to take off and land in the water, but we managed to fold it into a smaller bundle and tuck under the truck. We got a bit wet and wind blown, but it was quite exhilarating!
We visited Iron Knob on the 3rd December. It is an old mining town which originally had iron ore mined here, we went here to go on the mining tour and were also shown around the town. It was a very remote, dry and quiet town basically in the middle of nowhere. Like a lot of mining towns, it was once prosperous but now the population has dropped dramatically.
Later that day we decided to drive to Melrose through the gorgeous Flinders Ranges and stay at the showgrounds on the other side of the range. What a great place, lots of room, a giant camp kitchen and clean facilities. The kids enjoyed playing on their bikes and most of the group walked up Mount Remarkable. Sadly we said goodbye to our travelling families here as we all had our own itinerary to follow and the Gulliver’s and Howells were getting home before us.
We arrived back in Port Augusta to visit Rob, Tanya and Jade again. We had a lovely few days with the Simes family and then headed down to Fisherman’s Bay (along the Yorke Peninsula) where we visited our friends Sam and Matt again (whom we met and visited back in March). They had moved into another house since our last visit, so we amazingly were able to park our van in their garage, only a few centimetres to spare!!!
After a few wonderful days with our friends, we headed to Wallaroo Jetty to try our last luck with squidding. It’s so much fun to catch squid as they are quite aggressive and love squirting their ink everywhere. After here we had a nice drive from Wallaroo to Kadina and then to Port Wakefield. We found a wonderful opshop in Kadina and then drove to Dublin where we bought some lovely fresh meat from the butchers.
We arrived in Two Wells on the 12th at our friends Yvette and Judy’s home. We ended up staying for 7 nights here and had an awesome time! They have a 7 year old son whom Rory loved playing with and also a farm full of animals. Jakayla really enjoyed riding Rosie the horse and playing with all 4 dogs. It was Wayne’s birthday on the Sunday, so we made sure the beers were cold and the food was plentiful! Yvette kindly minded the kids for us so we could go out for lunch and the movies whilst there, it’s been a while since we have had some time to ourselves!
All good things must come to an end, so we said our goodbyes and headed towards Clare. What a picturesque town Clare is, with all the lovely vineyards and it also has an amazing opshop that we enjoyed visiting. We also caught up with more family here, Wayne’s cousin who is also called Wayne Simes (how funny) and his wife Michelle. Rob, Tanya and Jade also visited so we had a great pre-Christmas lunch with everyone. Hopefully all these SA family and friends will come over to the east coast and visit us sometime this year!
We left Watervale (Clare) and headed east to Burra where we had lunch and also stopped to look at the giant wind turbine propeller. We also drove past the Burra homestead that is on the cover of Midnight Oil’s Diesel and Dust album. I’m so annoyed I didn’t stop and take a photo! We officially drove into NSW after stopping at the town of Cockburn for a toilet stop. If you’re ever going through Cockburn, don’t bother stopping!!!!! Eventually we arrived at our stop for the night, a rest stop about 50km before Broken Hill. It was very hot here, so much in fact that Wayne got the generator out just to cool the van down a bit so we had some chance of sleeping that night. But since we can’t run the genie all night, not much sleep was had so we got up early the next day and drove into Broken Hill. Our first thought was that it was a very old town and most of the houses were built in the 60s/70s. We camped for the night at the local racecourse.
We drove into Silverton, a town that is often referred to as a ghost town however, there remains a small permanent population and mainly tourist related businesses due to Mad Max 2 being filmed here. We didn’t see Mel but we did meet five local donkeys at the pub!
We then went back into Broken Hill and had a nice drive around, Wayne finally got to see the train mural that has been his computer background photo for years! We also found an old abandoned house that was nice and creepy to view!
We left Broken Hill on the 23rd and decided to head to Menindee as we heard the Burke & Wills free camp was really good. The roads in there weren’t the best and when we arrived at the campground we found it abandoned and very dry and dusty. We realised we didn’t want to spend xmas day here all by ourselves so we headed off towards Cobar on the back roads where it took us several hours on a corrugated dirt road to get back to the main road! What a long, boring, bumpy drive that was. We did however see a lot of wild life including sheep, goats, emu, kangaroos and wild horses. When there is wildlife there is also lots of road kill, especially the goats! We arrive quite late to the rest area and had banana, honey and yoghurt sandwiches for dinner!
We arrived in Cobar on the 24th and had a nice look around, but since it’s so close to Xmas, not much was open. We did however find the IGA and then the place where we would camp for a couple of days. It was alongside a gorgeous reservoir that had lots of turtles and bird life. Even though no one else was there, we still had a nice Xmas day with a yummy pork cooking on the rotisserie and baked vegies. The kids enjoyed playing with all the presents and since we had lots of petrol for the genie, we were able to sit inside with the TV on and have the air conditioner on. It was a very humid day and we even got some rain in the afternoon (just in time for when we were cooking lunch). Wayne and I were a bit lost that day, it felt a bit weird not being with family or friends but we made the most of it.
We left on the 26th and headed towards Nyngan where we had lunch. Once again, nothing was open so we decided to keep moving and stopped the night in Collie where we camped at the Collie Oval along with all the mozzies!
I loved the drive through the country towns like Gilgandra, Gunnedah and Coonabarabran. Such wonderful country towns with lots of greenery around (so different to Cobar). We also drive through the Warrumbungles, a beautiful mountain range with lots of gorgeous scenery. We backtracked a bit to go to Binnaway campgrounds for a couple of days where you pay for the power you use ($2 for 3 hours of power) and $2 for a 5 min hot shower. If only more campgrounds had something like this! We had a nice walk around town and even went to the local swimming pool where it started to rain and when the kid’s lips started to turn blue we thought it was time to head back to our $2 shower lol.
On the 29th we drove to the Wollomombi gorge and campground for the night and had a great stay here. All my NSW friends, if you’re looking for somewhere to stay that’s cheap ($5A $3C) with a clean drop toilet and big gravel sites, this is the place to stay. It’s within walking distance to the waterfalls and gorge, we got up fairly early on the Tuesday and went for a morning walk to see the beautiful water fall. We also stopped just up the road at Ebor Falls and took some great shots of the beautiful waterfall there. After that we drove towards the coast through Dorrigo and Bellingen, where they are definitely not short of water, it was so luscious and green. It was then a bit of a shock to go through Nambucca Heads with all the traffic and road works (NSW is sooo busy!!!).
On the 30th, we decided to go to our friend’s (Linda & Leith) house a day earlier than planned. Nothing wrong with this, of course, but to get into their property you need to tackle 2 kms of dirt road and 17degree pitch hills. Our van is not 4WD, it is strong and tough but if it doesn’t have any traction, we are up that creek with no paddles! So we approached their driveway with fear and trepidation. We got about 1km in before we reached the big dipper (my name for the big hill) and with all fingers and toes crossed we started to ascend. We amazingly got nearly half way up before we lost traction and Wayne had to slowly but carefully reverse back down to the bottom. Wayne reduced more pressure out of the truck tyres to assist traction but we only got a little further than the last time. I might add here that since we were due the next day, Leith was going to assist us (if needed) with his tractor, but he was now at work so we either had to work it out ourselves or sleep at the bottom of the hill lol.
I had jumped on the scooter in the meantime to go to the house and see if anyone was home (no Telstra reception) and was able to greet Linda and the kids and let her know of our dilemma. Our third attempt was after we took the scooter out of the van, moved all the heavy items up to the front of the van (or out completely) and more pressure was taken out of the tyres and Wayne went the next gear with more speed. Linda was now joining us on the hill to watch and Wayne worked hard to get the rig up the hill…. But unfortunately he was about 40m short of the top. He did however keep the rig there with rocks behind the wheels while he hooked it up to winch off a tree up the top. The team work of Wayne on the winch, Linda relaying instructions and me driving the truck we inched it up in 5ft increments. What a great feeling to get to the top of the hill!!!! The rest of the drive was okay and we have now set up camp next to their house for 9 sleeps! We had lots of fun on New Years Eve with this crazy family!
Tomorrow we head off to visit friends in Telegraph Point for two sleeps, then sleep somewhere near Stroud for the night and then arrive home on Monday 12th.
From the time we first slept in our van (end of November when the tenants moved in, even though we were still in our home area) until the last night (Sunday 11th January this year), we would have slept in our van for 418 sleeps!!!