Perth - Kalgoorlie (594km/369m)
Our final morning with the Holans and we were up early to say goodbye to John before he went off to work, and were given pictures that each of the kids had done for us which were lovely! We then walked Alex and Christian to school and said our goodbyes to them too. After some last minute faffing, H (and Sophie) very kindly dropped us off at the car rental depot and after massive amounts of paperwork we were told to watch an instructional video about how the campervan worked and were amazed at all of the facilities it came with - shower, toilet, digital tv, gas hob, pull out barbecue and even air conditioning, the list goes on... Thinking there must have been a mistake we were even more amazed when we were handed the keys to a HUGE campervan who we named Marlene (with an Aussie accent!) It was so cool and all four of us spent ages looking around it! The time had come though to say our final goodbyes to H and Sophie and it all got a bit emotional.
We were on the road and it was now past 11:00 meaning we really had to motor to make it to our first stop; Kalgoorlie, almost 6 hours driving if we wanted to make it before dusk when the roos come out to play in the road, very dangerous!!
The traffic thinned out, the road got narrower, the buildings disappeared, the bush got thinner, and the “road-trains” grew longer!
not our picture but Googles
After going for about 3.5 hours, we needed to stop for petrol (we had agreed early on that we would treat half a tank as empty as we had no desire to get stuck in the middle of the outback with no fuel!) and had our sandwiches in a rest area by the side of the highway.
Another 3.5 hours later past some incredible, if not barren scenery, we had made it to our first campsite just before dark - phew! Kalgoorlie Goldfields Caravan Park was pretty decent, pretty basic, but decent, for only AUD$35 (£19.50)! We were too far out to walk into the town, but were both so tired after a dinner of pasta and pesto (surprise, surprise!), we settled in for an early night and were amazingly cosy, even though we had to have the AC on!
Kalgoorlie - Mundrabilla (827km/514m)
05:45 the next morning, I was up and surprisingly awake after a really good nights sleep, which was good as we had just over an eight hour drive a head of us.
After breakfast and showers, we did the morning ritual for maintaining the van. Checking the gas is off, emptying the waste water tank, filling up the clean water tank and unhooking the electric.
By now it 07:15 and we needed to head off but we had to get supplies first. Driving into the incredibly small town (we had yet to see the even smaller ones on our journey) we went to the petrol station to fill up on diesel again and then went to see the one attraction in Kalgoorlie, if you didn’t count the street of old brothels. Just a short drive and we were at the Super Pit. Now this sounds boring but it was amazing, due to it’s colossal size. The pit is over a hundred years old and still in use as a gold mine. It was so large it had it’s own road system winding it’s way deep down into the pit, making the trucks and diggers look tiny. As you can see in the photo of Nick next to the bucket and me on the tyre (ok so we all know I’m small, but a tyre over 4’10” is large) these trucks were by no means small.
Realising we should get moving if we wanted to see the next town 150km away we hit the road again. Over an hour later on some very quiet roads we arrived at Norseman. So named as Lawrence Sinclair was riding in the area in search of ore/gold when his horse threw a shoe, seeing to the horse they discovered it was due to a gold nugget. Sinclair decided to set up a mine and a town naming it after his horse.
Now there are also some famous Camel statues made of tin on a roundabout which of course we stopped to photograph, however their story is not so interesting.
Apparently in the days of the town being founded, camels were used as transport and so the roads were wide and were kept this way when the town started to grow, hence the camels? Told you it was crap. This town was tiny with only, a petrol station (where we filled up again), a IGA (supermarket) where we stocked up on water and supplies, a bottle shop, bait shop, butchers and pub.
Back in Marlene and we officially started our journey across the Nullarbor Plain - one of the worlds greatest road journeys!! Driving for another 190km, it was yet again time to fill up with diesel at Balladonia, pulling over for a picture stop on the way at a Zebra Crossing in the middle of no where. This was actually for one of the many R.D.F.S (Royal Flying Doctors Service) airstrips, as the highway is so long, straight and quiet it’s perfect for emergency landings.
Full of horrifically over priced fuel (60cents 35p a litre more than in the city!) we now started our drive along Australia’s longest, straight road measuring a whopping 145.6km (90 miles)! This was surprisingly ok to drive as you were constantly amazed at the distance you could see ahead of you due to the flat, barren terrain.
Three quarters in to the drive and we crossed time zone of the journey and we were still in WA, moving our clocks forwards 45 minutes - very confusing! We carried on until we arrived at our stop (and the only stop for some kilometres) for the night at Mundrabilla. This is not a town, but a Roadhouse with a motel, “caravan park”, shop, restaurant, Petrol station and small pub. This one was a bargain at only AUD$20 (£11) a night!! However it was really just a gravel carpark in the middle of the bush with electric hook up. There were only 3 other people there so was amazingly quiet and surprising had a fantastic sunset over the highway, and again we would be treated to some amazing stars above us.
Mundrabilla - Ceduna (494km/307m)
Again after another good nights sleep we were up very early as we had another time zone to cross in 75km when we entered into SA and didn’t know what the extra would be. (the internet would have been handy then). Under an hour later and we were entering SA and losing an hour thirty meaning it was now late morning.
After a quick photo stop with Rooey II at the boarder and seeing we were about half way through having travelled 1462km form Perth and having another 1253km until we reached Adelaide. We hit the road again.
We had now entered Great Australian Bight, the part of Australia were it looks like someone has taken a huge bite out of the country, hence it’s name. We of course stopped at all three lookout points to get amazing views and photo’s of the Bunda Cliffs, which really do look as if someone got a little peckish.
From here we stopped at the next Roadhouse Nullarbor Hotel/Motel along a mere 182km from the last one, to find some more overly priced fuel. Deciding we could probably make it to the next Roadhouse in 150km we stopped for lunch instead, saying hello to few travellers and truck drivers who had also stopped. There was a great sense of community with everyone, the Road Train drivers who did this everyday for 12 hour stretches and the crazy travellers like us doing it for fun. Not many people have done this and everyone has to stop at the same places so you start to see and nod at the same folk, it was really nice.
Luckily we made it to Nundroo Roadhouse and seeing much cheaper Diesel, our gamble worked, we filled up the tank which was just on a quarter and spent a whopping AUD$100. Back in Marlene and passing ever changing landscapes we made it to Quarantine Check Point. There are two of these on the way one for people heading west out of SA and one for people heading east out of WA, these are to stop pest and insets crossing states and ruining each others farming. Knowing this was coming up we had tried to use up all our fruit and veg the night before but were still left with a tomato, mushrooms and lettuce. Not being sure what was and wasn’t allowed we declared it all at the check point. Now they are very serious about this, you arrive at a barrier, your number plate is noted down and then they take any fruit and veg that’s not allowed from you. We got to keep the mushrooms, but had to handover the rest and even the banana skins in our bin! Everything declared they opened the barrier and we drove the short 20 minutes into Ceduna town.
Being in SA, Ceduna was a slightly bigger town with a shopping centre, restaurants, pubs and beautiful foreshore. Heading to Ceduna Foreshore Caravan Park (a Top Tourist Site), which was labelled on our map we checked in-- Marlene, somehow getting a discount paying only AUD$27 (£14) and got a site on the sea front. The views from Marlene were lovely and after doing a much need pant wash we went for a walk along the pier and into the town, which was sadly full of homeless Aboriginals. Deciding it was still a bit chilly but not wanting to miss the views we made a cuppa and sat on the grass bank eating biscuits watching the sunset.
Ceduna - Port Lincoln (402km/250m)
Up early again the next morning we ate breakfast and did the van rituals of filling up, emptying and switching off, to be ready for the off.
Again the scenery was ever changing with more farm land and massive salt water lakes which had dried up or just had a small amount of water left.
We had decided in the first few days to break the back of the journey and get the long days of driving out of the way, so when we came closer to the coast we could take our time and enjoy stopping at small port towns. Our first one of these was Streaky Bay, so named as Flinders (who named everything and discovered everything, even naming a bay after his brother “Flinders Bay” haha) thought the water looked streaky with the white of the waves and blue of the sea. (think he invented the catchphrase game, ‘say what you see’) This was again a tiny town, hardly a street, on a beautiful bay. The sun was shining and so we decided to stop for a coffee taking in the lovely view and soaking up the rays.
Reluctantly leaving Streaky Bay behind we traveled further down the coast making a quick detour into a farmers field to see the famous Hay Stacks. These were large red rock formations Inselbergs. It was so strange to see these huge red boulders raising out of the ground in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields.
After lots of photos, we went back on to Highway Alt 1 to Elliston nested between Anxious Bay (Flinders apparently felt nervous once sailing here hence the name) and Coffin Bay (again with the imaginative name due to many ships meeting their deaths here). Here we stopped for a spot of lunch and a walk along the beach before heading to our final stop for the day, Port Lincoln.
Stopping at another Top Tourist site after a huge debate wether to stop as this larger town or drive up the coast to Tumby Bay, we paid another bargain price of AUD$30 (£16). Again we managed to secure a spot on the sea front and I soon decided we had made the right decision, largely due to the rabbits which were walking around happily eating grass right outside our window.
Walking just 3km of the coastal trail into town we explored the slightly bigger town of Port Lincoln. Unfortunately the beach was dominated by a huge factory, you even have to walk through it on the walk. The town was very quiet with nothing of interest for us so we headed back to rabbit watch with a cuppa and views of the sea, perfect!
Port Lincoln - Port Pirie (441km/274m)
Up not so early the next day we headed for Port Augusta 339km up the coast. Passing yet more dried up lakes and a train with 96 wagons (the very long video is attached if you fancy watching or checking my counting), we soon arrived and decided that we would drive another 92km down the other side of the coast to Port Pirie hoping it would be a nicer smaller town.
We were right this was a smaller town, so following signs to the riverside and caravan park we booked into a small site for our last night with Marlene for only AUD$33 (£18). This site was located on the side of a river flowing into the sea and it had a man made lake you could swim in. Still being early we walked the short distance to town, deciding there was nothing to see we headed back to the lake for a paddle and cool down before soaking up the evening sun on the river bank.
Port Pirie - Adelaide (227km/141m)
Packed up, filled up and everything clean it was time to drive the last 200km to Adelaide and say goodbye to Marlene.
Passing more farm land making us feel like we were in Derbyshire rather then Australia and passing more huge dried up lakes, one with Nessy, who was evidently on holiday from Lock Ness.
We stopped for a quick toilet break at Port Wakefield, discovering that the women toilet also doubled as an art gallery we decided to visit the gallery/TI next door and picked up a few maps of Adelaide, as we had no idea where the rental place was.
Arriving at Adelaide, we had decided to drop off our bags at our hostel before driving to the airport to drop off Marlene, making it easier for the journey back into town. However this meant navigating a huge city and one way streets with a 7 metre long van. With only a tourist map in hand we managed to find the Hostel even finding a two free parking spaces outside. Bag dropped we headed back out of town.
Six days, 3033km, two states, three time zones, a whopping AUD$690 (£374) of Diesel and it was now time to say goodbye to our now beloved van.