A Travellerspoint blog

Ballarat and Sovereign Hill

It was like time travel back to 1850

23 °C
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Ballarat (population 93 501)

Ballarat is arguably the most significant Victorian era gold rush boomtown in Australia. Just months after Victoria was granted separation from the state of New South Wales, the Victorian gold rush transformed Ballarat from a small sheep station to a major settlement. Gold was discovered on 18 August 1851. Within months, migrants from across the world had rushed to the district in search of gold. The population went from hundreds to 40 000 within a few years. But, unlike many other gold boom towns, the Ballarat fields experienced sustained high gold yields for many decades, with 9 of the ten biggest gold nuggets ever found, coming from this area. This prolonged prosperity can be evidenced to this day in the city's rich architecture.

We enjoyed the buildings you recognise in Lydiard street where several scenes from the Australian TV series, Dr Blake was/is filmed. We even watched the current Oscar favourite, Lalaland, in the old Regent Theatre.

The Eureka Rebellion began in Ballarat, and the only armed rebellion in Australian history, the Battle of Eureka Stockade, took place on 3 December 1854. Eureka is interpreted by some as the origin of democracy in Australia. Today it is still a major regional centre (even hosting the rowing and kayaking events from the 1956 Summer Olympics).

A significant heritage tourism industry has grown in Ballarat since the 1960s. Ballarat is most notable for the award-winning open-air museum known as Sovereign Hill, a recreated 1850-1860 gold mining settlement opened in 1970. Sovereign Hill is Ballarat's biggest tourism drawcard and is consistently rated among one of the best outdoor museums in the world and continues to expand. We think it was the best of the attractions we’ve visited so far (spending two full days walking the streets and exploring every building – second day is free). Sovereign Hill accounts for over half a million of Ballarat's visitors and $40 million in tourism revenue. The town is filled with staff (all in period costumes) re-enacting scenes, operating the bakery, foundry, candle-making and much more. We went underground into an old mine, attended the theatre (including presentations on gender etiquette!), sweet making, wheelwrighting, red coat shooting, a china town, and more.

After this we were off to Lake Bolac to a free camp next to a beautiful (full) lake. We opted for a quiet Australia Day, BBQing a nice rump steak and relaxing under the trees.

Sovereign Hill shop

Sovereign Hill shop

Sovereign Hill more main street

Sovereign Hill more main street

Sovereign Hill main street

Sovereign Hill main street

Sovereign Hill inside the theatre

Sovereign Hill inside the theatre

Sovereign Hill horses

Sovereign Hill horses

Red coats down main street before shooting demo

Red coats down main street before shooting demo

Panning for gold

Panning for gold

Mine with tour from 1860

Mine with tour from 1860

Main Street in Ballarat where some Dr Blake episodes were filmed

Main Street in Ballarat where some Dr Blake episodes were filmed

Inside working foundry

Inside working foundry

Early mining hut inside

Early mining hut inside

Coffin making and hearse

Coffin making and hearse

Brilliant candle making demo

Brilliant candle making demo

Biggest nugget ever found

Biggest nugget ever found

Ararat old hospital

Ararat old hospital

All the staff are in costume

All the staff are in costume

Posted by ChrisHenriette 23:16 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

Grampians National Park

Majestic mountains and amazing wildlife

24 °C
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Grampians National Park 16-21 Jan 2017

At the lower end of the Grampians we spent a night at Dunkeld (Population 350), allowing us time to research the park and plan all the walks we wanted to do. We knew the Grampians would be a good stay, but left the decision until late to see if the weather would be OK. Not wanting to go with temperatures above 30 degrees, we were happy to see a week of cool days ahead (including one day of rain), so we went. And what a good decision this was.

We stayed at Halls Gap Lakeside Caravan Park (at the base of Lake Bellfield) to give us a base to explore this wonderful national park. What a caravan park! What a National Park! (Halls Gap – population 460)

After 20 000 km we think this has been the best caravan park we’ve stayed in. Everything was perfect (from 6 trampolines and indoor BBQ’s we didn’t use to a heated pool and great cappuccino). The best part was the fauna and flora. We had at least 20 Sulpher Crested Cockatoos sitting outside our caravan window in the morning, waiting for us to feed them seed ($1 per packet at the office shop). I fed some from my bed, out the window, whilst still in my PJ’s. And there were pairs of Crimson Rosellas that would land on your arms and head if you feed them.

But enough about the caravan park. The Grampians are just magnificent. We drove to viewing points and other special places every day and climbed/hiked between 2-5km each day. The forests are lush and the waterfalls still flowing beautifully.

One day we saw an Echidna in broad daylight (nocturnal animal) right next to a small road we were driving through. It was a real highlight to have enough time to study him/her breaking soil looking for ants to eat. Echidnas are one of only two montremes in the world. These are mammals that lay eggs. (We already saw the only other monotreme species –Platypus - in QLD during our Carnarvon Gorge stay).

Special highlights were climbing to the Pinnacle, Lakeview Lookout (see the Tiger Snake we came across), Reed lookout to the Balconies, and MacKenzie Falls. A beautiful viewpoint named Boroka Lookout is accessible by road.

View from Boroka to Bellfield Lake

View from Boroka to Bellfield Lake

Under our awning

Under our awning

Typical drives in the Grampians

Typical drives in the Grampians

Tiger Snake maybe 1.3m

Tiger Snake maybe 1.3m

The Pinnacle - our caravan park just below the dam wall

The Pinnacle - our caravan park just below the dam wall

The Grampians National Park

The Grampians National Park

Sulpher Crested Cockatoo picnic

Sulpher Crested Cockatoo picnic

On the way to the Pinnacle

On the way to the Pinnacle

MacKenzie Falls

MacKenzie Falls

Halls Gap from up on high

Halls Gap from up on high

Going to Silverband Falls

Going to Silverband Falls

Echidna in broad daylight in the open

Echidna in broad daylight in the open

Crimson Rosella Male

Crimson Rosella Male

Crimson Rosella Female

Crimson Rosella Female

Broken Falls

Broken Falls

Boroka viewing platform

Boroka viewing platform

Posted by ChrisHenriette 23:48 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Lower Glenelg National Park

Seeing the wonderful Gang-gang Cockatoo

25 °C
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Lower Glenelg National Park. 12-14 Dec

The main reason we wanted to camp here was to possibly see the Gang-gang Cockatoo. And we were so happy to camp where they came to feed every day! Some days we saw upwards of a dozen at a time, feeding close to us. We saw some other special birds as well, but this was dream come true for us.

We just took time out to explore (including the Town of Nelson), walk the dense forests (parts of the 250km Great South West Walk), and along the river. The inkpot was an interesting spot, with a black little lake filled with Yabbies (one person took out about a dozen every ten minutes to sort and keep the bigger ones for the pot).

On our last day we had some serious rain. It was a lovely opportunity to take out the maps and brochures and plan the next couple of weeks.

People often ask us (when they hear that we’ve done 20 000 km) what our favourite spot was. The answer has always been … we can’t answer that. There are so many amazing places that it is like asking us “Which is your favourite child?” Finally we’ve got to the point where we do have an answer: The National Parks of Australia. We’ve seen wonderful beaches and towns; we’ve camped in wonderful caravan parks and had free camps where we stayed longer than planned; but the best, the best experiences are the ones in National Parks. And this was another one! The facilities, the camp sites and nature... just perfect.

Cape Bridgewater and Portland 14-16 Jan

We spent a bit of time in both towns exploring and seeing the sights. The blowholes and pertrified forest in Cape Bridgewater with strong and cold winds left us wet with sea spray (even though we were many metres above the ocean).

We missed the cable tram in Portland due to it being mid Sunday afternoon.

After this we stopped at Saw Pit free camp high above Portland. This turned out to be a beautiful forest, prompting us to stay an extra night. We just enjoyed the bird life and the walks through the forest.

Superb Fairy Wren

Superb Fairy Wren

Saw Pit free camp in Narrawong Forrest

Saw Pit free camp in Narrawong Forrest

One of our daily walks

One of our daily walks

Nelson Beach

Nelson Beach

Lower Glenelg

Lower Glenelg

Lower Glenelg River

Lower Glenelg River

Lower Glenelg NP

Lower Glenelg NP

Inkpot coloured by tree roots

Inkpot coloured by tree roots

Hello to a local Wallaby

Hello to a local Wallaby

Gang-gang Cockatoos

Gang-gang Cockatoos

Catching Yabbies

Catching Yabbies

Cape Bridgewater

Cape Bridgewater

Cape Bridgewater wind farm - spot our van

Cape Bridgewater wind farm - spot our van

Camping at Lowerl Glenelg Nat Park

Camping at Lowerl Glenelg Nat Park

Blowholes at Cape Bridgewater

Blowholes at Cape Bridgewater

Posted by ChrisHenriette 01:37 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Mt Gambier

Volcano lakes look unreal

25 °C
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8-10 Jan.
We kept driving (after passing through Robe) until we could find a town with both vacancies in the caravan park and power (for air conditioning – seeing as it was 38 degrees!) We found Millicent (population 5023), with a great pool! The pool has beach sand and is a semi-circle over 70m in diameter.

Lake McIntyre on the outskirts of the town is a man-made lake in a quarry and was one of the best places we’ve seen to observe bird life. As it is lower than the water table, it gets fed all year round, providing a safe and rich environment for dozens of species of birds.

Mount Gambier (Population 28 929) 10-12 Jan

We travelled south along the Limestone Coast towards Mount Gambier. Mount Gambier is the second most populous city in South Australia and is famous for its 'Blue Lake' which changes colour dramatically each year (my photo below was not Photoshopped!) The Blue Lake is just one of the lakes within the three craters of the inactive volcano also named Mount Gambier. This 70-metre deep lake (36 000 million litres) also accommodates a range of unusual aquatic flora and fauna, in particular fields of large stromatolites. According to the tourism info, from December to March the lake turns to a vibrant cobalt blue colour, returning to a colder steel grey colour for April to November. Apparently this is caused by the warming of the surface layers of the lake during the summer months to around 20 degrees Celsius. This in turn causes calcium carbonate to precipitate out of solution and enables micro-crystallites of calcium carbonate to form. The lake supplies the city with delicious clean water. The water that slowly works its way through the limestone (up to 300m thick) to the ocean (33km away) takes only 35 000 years to reach the Southern Ocean!

There is a less colourful Valley Lake as well, which has a lovely recreational area with lots of birds and wildlife. Here we had a BBQ and climbed to the lookout to take in the volcano craters and lakes.

We really enjoyed this wonderful town. We needed to collect our forwarded mail and get some minor warranty repairs to the Jayco done as well. We ticked 9/10 of the must do things in town (skipped the caves as we’ve seen many). The highlights were of course the lakes, but seeing an hour long (free) film about the volcano’s formation, The Lady Nelson Visitor and Discovery Centre, The Main Corner and Riddoch Art Gallery, the cave garden right in the CBD, and the awards winning library were all great experiences. The award winning library was such a surprise (best regional library in Australia). Anything from music listening stations, free WiFi, interactive computer games, craft sessions, baby bounce sessions, a fantasy world of caves and underwater adventures to free bikes hire.

I need to make special mention of the Umpherton Sinkhole close to where we camped. It is also known as the sunken garden featuring beautiful terraced gardens and hanging vines. At night resident possums venture out to feed in the floodlit gardens.

Quirky story: I had a great conversation with the manager of the show grounds camp site where we stayed. See the photo of the “recycled fridges” he’s converted into planter boxes (see photo) to grow herbs and veggies. When I asked him about his “gum boot dogs” (see photo) he told me that so many people complimented him on their beauty that he enrolled them in the local show. His dogs won the “best recycled product” category!

From Mount Gambier we travelled north-west along the Limestone Coast to camp in Lower Glenelg National Park (another 30 minute clock change as we now enter Victoria – 6000km after leaving Perth).

Umpherston Sinkhole

Umpherston Sinkhole

The Town Hall and Main Corner in Mt Gambier

The Town Hall and Main Corner in Mt Gambier

Surreal Blue Lake in Mt Gambier

Surreal Blue Lake in Mt Gambier

Recycled dogs

Recycled dogs

Novel way to re-use old fridges

Novel way to re-use old fridges

Next to Blue Lake is Valley Lake, parks and BBQ's

Next to Blue Lake is Valley Lake, parks and BBQ's

Mt Gambier from side of crater

Mt Gambier from side of crater

Men's dunny at visitor centre in Millicent

Men's dunny at visitor centre in Millicent

Lake McIntyre bird sanctuary in Millicent

Lake McIntyre bird sanctuary in Millicent

Lake like swimming pool in Millicent

Lake like swimming pool in Millicent

Henriette walking on history at Discovery Centre

Henriette walking on history at Discovery Centre

Gardens in the CBD of Mt Gambier

Gardens in the CBD of Mt Gambier

From Millcent to Mt Gambier

From Millcent to Mt Gambier

Feeding possums in Umpherston Sinkhole

Feeding possums in Umpherston Sinkhole

Posted by ChrisHenriette 19:09 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Around the two lakes at the Murray River mouth

Driving into history on the $50 note

27 °C
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Around the Lakes:
We travelled back through Strathalbyn (check out my photo of the amazing second hand book shop) towards Wellington, where we met with our first of two free, 24 hour, ferry crossings. We loved how simple it was to just drive onto a ferry and cross the Murray River. Our second crossing was at Narrung, where there is Australia’s only inland light house.

Point Malcolm Lighthouse: Built in 1878. It cost 605 pounds to build the lighthouse and keeper’s residence. The lighthouse assisted all boating on the lakes including paddle steamers delivering Royal Mail between Adelaide and Melbourne. We camped opposite the lighthouse, in a bird paradise.

After our free camp, we explored the adjacent town, Raukken, to see two iconic Australian sites. The church was built in 1869 (see my photo and the picture on our $50 note) and is the town where the amazing Aboriginal inventor, David Unaipon, grew up (see the photo of the plaque explaining this amazing man). He is also on the $50 note!

Raukkan (Population 99 of whom 95 are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people)

Raukkan, which means "meeting place" in the Ngarrindjeri language, was for thousands of years an important meeting place for Ngarrindjeri "lakalinyeri" (clans) and the location of the Grand Tendi, the parliament of the Ngarrindjeri people. English explorer Charles Sturt first encountered the Ngarrindjeri at Raukkan, who fed the starving Sturt and his party.

We travelled all along the Coorong National Park. Look at the map below to see the very unusual land mass (130 km long peninsula). Almost 47 000 ha of shallow lagoons waterways, lakes and lagoons are home to more than 200 species of birds. This is also the world’s largest breeding colony of pelicans.

Kingston SE (Population 1425)
The main industries are fishing, winemaking, sheep and cattle farming and recreation, the district having a large influx of tourists during holiday periods throughout the year.

The northern entrance to the town is dominated by the Big Lobster, fondly named "Larry" by people in Kingston.

We found a lovely free camp provided by the council, right on the beach. This allowed us to explore and have a few swims off the jetty.

Many great pubs, hotels, and shops can be found, and Kingston also hosts one of the best fish and chip shops in Australia. "Macs Takeaway" has twice won awards for their outstanding fish and chips.

Robe (Population 1400)
Robe is a town and fishing port located in the Limestone Coast. Robe is one of the oldest towns in South Australia, founded by the colonial government as a seaport, administrative centre and village just ten years after the Province of South Australia was established. It became South Australia's second-busiest (after Port Adelaide) international port in the 1850s exporting horses, sheep skins, and wool. During the Victorian gold rushes around 1857, over 16,000 Chinese people landed at Robe to travel overland to the goldfields, as Victoria introduced a landing tax of £10 per person (more than the cost of their voyage) to reduce the number of Chinese immigrants. The immigrants then walked the 200 miles (320 km) to Ballarat and Bendigo. Robe's importance decreased with the advent of railways which did not come to the town.

We looked at staying over, but the caravan parks were full and bursting (during the school holiday).

Wildflowers at sunset at Lake Albert

Wildflowers at sunset at Lake Albert

The only inland lighthouse in Australia at Narrung

The only inland lighthouse in Australia at Narrung

Spot our two 24h river ferry crossings

Spot our two 24h river ferry crossings

Second ferry crossing at Narrung

Second ferry crossing at Narrung

Raukkan Church on the $50 note

Raukkan Church on the $50 note

Peak traffic in Strathalbyn

Peak traffic in Strathalbyn

Outdoor showers at our free camp in Kingston SE

Outdoor showers at our free camp in Kingston SE

In Meningie at south end of lake Albert

In Meningie at south end of lake Albert

Great bookshop in Strathalbyn

Great bookshop in Strathalbyn

Free ferry crossing across the Murray River at Wellington

Free ferry crossing across the Murray River at Wellington

Explaining free camping next to the beach

Explaining free camping next to the beach

Entry into Raukkan

Entry into Raukkan

David Unaipon on our $50 note

David Unaipon on our $50 note

David Unaipon and the church we visited

David Unaipon and the church we visited

Posted by ChrisHenriette 21:36 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Fleurieu Peninsua

So good we stayed longer than anywhere else

25 °C
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Victor Harbor (Population 15200)

We knew that finding a spot to base ourselves and camp between Christmas and New Year was always going to be a challenge. We couldn’t book earlier because it would take away our freedom to explore and extend our stays in the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills. After calling a number of parks (one manager just laughed and said she thought were looking for a spot a month ahead) we had a double stroke of luck. Not only did Adare Park in Victor Harbor have a great spot, but it is owned by the Uniting Church. So, upon hearing that I’m an ordained minister, I was offered a 30% discount. What a blessing! It was so nice to hear some singing (from the shower block) coming from the beautiful building on site where groups of young people reside for holiday camps.

We based ourselves there for 5 nights (and it soon turned to 8). This is 80km south of Adelaide and perfectly positioned to explore the Fleurieu Peninsula.

The name of the town: In 1837 the HMS Victor anchored off Granite Island and the captain named Port Victor. The name was changed to Victor Harbor in 1921 (normal spelling in Aus includes a ‘u’). This spelling error (found in a number of other geographical locations in South Australia) is said to be the result of spelling errors made by an early Surveyor General of South Australia.

One day we spent trekking across to the west coast of the Peninsula; stopping at beautiful little towns like Second Valley, Wirrina Cove, Normanville, Carrickalinga and Yankalilla (don’t you just want to say those last two names out loud?). We just stopped, picnicked, walk along board walks and beaches, and drunk it all in.

On another day we walked across the Causeway to Granite Island. We could have taken the horse drawn Tram, but it was just so much more picturesque to look at them coming and going, passing us, rather than being on board. The original tram service began in 1894! From the top of the island the views to all sides were diverse and truly pretty.

This town really understands tourism. We loved the camels and ponies that walk along the beach front, and the SteamRanger Heritage railway known as the Cockle Train. The train passes right through town on a return trip to Goolwa, so we saw and heard it every day. We waited until after the New Year’s Day weekend to avoid the bigger crowds. This was the highlight of our stay. The nostalgic clickety clack of the wheels on the rails, the whistle warning traffic at every crossing, the old fashioned service and the ocean right next to you – what a special experience!

On New Year’s Day we attended worship in Adare Uniting Church on the same site as our caravan park. It is a strong congregation that is really into singing, and they do it well! We had a lovely conversation with Susan, the minister in placement (her first, only 10 months in).

Port Elliot deserves a special mention as well. What a magic little town (not just because it has more second hand book shops than any town I know of) with amazing antique shops, and little streets that make you feel like an explorer venturing in for a bit of “time travel”.

Quirky experience: I can’t remember when last I saw a shop with a queue 50 people strong (no, I don’t get up to stand in the cold like the Apple-holics in Perth). So, when we saw more than 50 people lined up outside Port Elliot Bakery, we stopped (the second time we drove through). At the front of the queue, we discovered why: 11 staff members were serving as fast as they could. And the result? The best pies I can remember! One of them was a beef-Hawaiian, enough reason to stop there again on our journey when we leave towards Mt Gambier, I think.

Unique house in Port Elliot

Unique house in Port Elliot

Second Valley on the west coast

Second Valley on the west coast

On a front verge in Victor Harbor

On a front verge in Victor Harbor

Normanville on west coast

Normanville on west coast

Mouth of the mighty 2500km Murray River

Mouth of the mighty 2500km Murray River

Memorial Garden in Goolwa

Memorial Garden in Goolwa

Inside the Cockle Train

Inside the Cockle Train

In Victor harbor CBD

In Victor harbor CBD

Horseshoe Bay in Port Elliot

Horseshoe Bay in Port Elliot

Horse drawn tram across Causeway to Granite Island

Horse drawn tram across Causeway to Granite Island

Hindmarsh river mouth near our camping spot

Hindmarsh river mouth near our camping spot

From the top of Granite Island

From the top of Granite Island

Fleurieu Peninsula

Fleurieu Peninsula

Cockle Train passing at river mounth near our camp site

Cockle Train passing at river mounth near our camp site

Cockle Train different locomotive

Cockle Train different locomotive

Cape Barren Geese on Hindmarsh Island

Cape Barren Geese on Hindmarsh Island

Camel rides at Causeway with Granite Isle at the back

Camel rides at Causeway with Granite Isle at the back

Best pies we've ever had

Best pies we've ever had

Anglican Church in Port Elliot

Anglican Church in Port Elliot

Adare house on our camp site

Adare house on our camp site

Posted by ChrisHenriette 17:13 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Adelaide Hills

Mt Barker, Hahndorf and more

30 °C
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Mount Barker (Population 33 000)

We based ourselves in Mt Barker, which was such a lovely town (and so well located to allow us to explore) that we extended several times. We ended up staying 8 nights. A highlight at the edge of town is the Laratinga wetlands where we did some serious bird watching.

We spent a day in historical Hahndorf, which was settled in 1839 by Germans, and includes house galleries, studios, a small museum, and wonderful little restaurants. It took us whole day and we bought things as diverse as 2kg ($10) of strawberries (Beerenberg is a farm where you can pick your own), bacon jam (no typo), and a jam so good people use it for training their dogs. We sampled cheeses, ate Royal Copenhagen Ice Cream and explored leather shops, craft shops and great German bakeries.

On another day we went to Mt Lofty lookout with great views to Adelaide, walked the botanical gardens and the beautiful streets of Stirling. The Adelaide Hills do remind us somewhat of the Montville/Mapleton area. What a true treasure this whole area is.

On our last night there was severe storm warning, so we battened down and waited it out. A 120km/h gust was measured, and around 70mm of rain fell. We escaped unharmed but our poor neighbours in the park suffered some dents after two branches fell on their van. We didn't sleep much.

View of Adelaide from Mt Lofty 710m up

View of Adelaide from Mt Lofty 710m up

Typical restaurant in Hahndorf

Typical restaurant in Hahndorf

Tunnel art under train line in Mt Barker

Tunnel art under train line in Mt Barker

Street cafe in Stirling

Street cafe in Stirling

One of the oldest buildings in Hahndorf

One of the oldest buildings in Hahndorf

Many Oaklined trees in smaller towns

Many Oaklined trees in smaller towns

Hahndorf

Hahndorf

Exploring Hahndorf

Exploring Hahndorf

Cuckoo clocks in shop in Hahndorf

Cuckoo clocks in shop in Hahndorf

Chocolate factory  next to cheese factory in Woodside

Chocolate factory next to cheese factory in Woodside

Catholic Church in Mt Barker

Catholic Church in Mt Barker

Botanical garden near Mt Lofty

Botanical garden near Mt Lofty

Adelaide Hills area  we explored

Adelaide Hills area we explored

Posted by ChrisHenriette 16:21 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Adelaide

The City of Churches

30 °C
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Adelaide (Population 1.25 mil)

Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is known as the "City of Churches". There are churches everywhere in the city and some of them have been incorporated into the campus of the Adelaide University. Rundle Street is famous for shopping and has many buildings with interesting architecture and lots of restaurants, side alleys and pubs. We ate in wonderful food courts and enjoyed all the little side alleys.

We went a second time on Christmas Day to the historical, seaside suburb of Glenelg which is the site of South Australia's original mainland settlement in 1836. It was great to meet up with friends from Perth! We had a picnic on the beach (30 degrees as opposed to the 40 degrees of the city itself only a few km away). As it happens, it was the hottest city in the world for this particular Christmas Day.

It is easy to fall in love with Adelaide, so we went for a third time on the 27th. This time we took the bus (at $10pp a bargain). And we caught up on shopping. CD’s, books and more.

On Christmas Day we attended the Christmas Day service in Seeds uniting Church in Aberfoyle. This was a truly great experience which even included a photo booth and an excellent group of musicians.

Typical old building in Adelaide

Typical old building in Adelaide

Town Hall next to the beach in Glenelg

Town Hall next to the beach in Glenelg

The art galley of South Australia was great

The art galley of South Australia was great

Teddy shop in Mall

Teddy shop in Mall

Street art in Rundle Mall

Street art in Rundle Mall

Street art in Rundle Mall (2)

Street art in Rundle Mall (2)

Rundle Mall

Rundle Mall

One of several universities in the CBD

One of several universities in the CBD

More board games in this shop than I've ever seen

More board games in this shop than I've ever seen

Meeting great Perth friends in Glenelg on Christmas Day

Meeting great Perth friends in Glenelg on Christmas Day

Glenelg where we had our Christmas Day beach picnic

Glenelg where we had our Christmas Day beach picnic

Christmas Day service Seeds Uniting Church in Aberfoyle

Christmas Day service Seeds Uniting Church in Aberfoyle

Challenging anti war art in gallery one of 38000 works

Challenging anti war art in gallery one of 38000 works

Brilliant lollie shop  in CBD

Brilliant lollie shop in CBD

Posted by ChrisHenriette 23:37 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

The Barossa Valley

Everything you've heard and even better

26 °C
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Barossa valley
Nuriootpa (Population 5700)
We based ourselves at one of the most beautifully kept caravan parks we’ve even camped in. The whole Barossa experience so surprised us that we kept extending (we ending up staying five nights). What a delightful surprise this area is. It is like being in the Franschhoek or Stellenbosch area in South Africa, but with a strong German influence in the architecture (as opposed to the French influence). The Barossa was settled by scattered British families in 1840, and followed from 1842 onward by large German groups who fled religious persecution in their homeland (hence all the Lutheran churches). They engaged in agricultural pursuits that soon developed into fruit and grape growing, for which the Barossa has since become renowned.

On the last Sunday before Christmas we went to the Uniting Church in Nuriootpa where Rev Christine Manning led the worship. It was 14 degrees just before 9.00am when we got out of our car! We loved the beautiful stone buildings and welcoming people.

Angaston (Population 1909)
A trip through this lovely little town included the beautiful main street with a tasting of 4 different cheeses (cow and goat) at the Barossa Valley Cheese Company (we bought the triple cream which was the best cheese I’ve had in a decade – so good we went back for more two days later). The gardens around the stream were very special.

Tanunda (Population 4700)
We spent a 3 whole days exploring this area. Picking which wineries to visit was difficult. There are 71 wineries open at fixed times and another 51 open by appointment only.

We stuck to the most famous ones because I was curious to see places I’ve “supported” before! So tasting at the famous Penfolds, Seppeltsfield (421 acres, 12 heritage listed buildings, 2000 Canary Palm Trees and 25 000 barrels of fortified wine) and Jacob’s Creek (new venue built in 2002 with great historical exhibits) were highlights. Possibly the most impressive place was Chateau Tanunda with walk in vats for tasting (lined with wax) and spectacular buildings and gardens. The Chateau releases a 100 year old, single vintage wine every year. You can even “taste your birth year Tawny” as part of a tour.

Notable trivia: At Jacob’s Creek I tested the “Breathometer” blowing 0.019 after tasting 6 of their great wines. Although Henriette was driving, I felt that it was a great “duty of care” initiative.

This area is also where famous chef Maggie Beer resides. We attended a cooking demonstration in her kitchen (made famous by her TV show) and tasted almost everything in the shop!

I also loved the Bean Addiction Coffee Roasters where you can taste four coffees, have a brownie and a little bowl of coffee beans covered in good chocolate for $12. A little taste of heave, I thought.

Another unexpected highlight was Chateau Dorrien where we could read the history of the German settlement, look at vat after vat with murals depicting key historic moments and even tasted Honey Mead.

A really different but fascinating experience was when we ventured into The Hub in the main street. This is a ministry by the local Lutheran Church where different venues are available for rent/use, a free religious library is available, and it is staffed by volunteers that do things like prepare PowerPoints for 6 different congregations. What a useful ministry this is.

On Sunday evening we attended a wonderful carol service at Gnadenfrei Lutheran Church. A packed little stone church (100 seats plus balcony and a 20 piece brass band) enjoyed all the old favourites. It was good to experience the many second, third and fourth generation Germans who now call Australia home.

Lyndoch (Population 1900)
We went to look at wonderful viewpoints, tasted more wines, and drove down winding roads through vineyard after vineyard. I must say, tasting a Tawny (Port) that costs $100 per bottle (at Chateau Yalumba) was better so good I was almost wishing I was rich;-)

I didn’t expect much from the lavender farm we visited, but it was not only beautiful, but there were Splendid Fairy Wrens everywhere. One juvenile got so confused it landed on the back of a terrified lady and I ended up with it in my hand. This has been a great week for bird watching with us seeing three parrot species we’ve never seen before (in the wild), namely Adelaide Rosellas (saw 10 pairs in a one hour walk), Red Rump Parrots, and Musk Lorikeets.

We’ve had a great time, but now the park are getting booked up so we’re off to Mt Barker where we’ve booked for 6 nights to make sure we’ve got a place to “call home” over Christmas.

Typical of the houses in this area

Typical of the houses in this area

Translated this means Wine will make you speak the truth

Translated this means Wine will make you speak the truth

The visitor centre in Tanundra

The visitor centre in Tanundra

Tasting wine insde a bee wax lined walled vat at Chateau Tanundra

Tasting wine insde a bee wax lined walled vat at Chateau Tanundra

Tasting 4 coffees and more

Tasting 4 coffees and more

Silver anniversary built caravan from 1931 that did a 6500km trip

Silver anniversary built caravan from 1931 that did a 6500km trip

Seppeltsfield Wines

Seppeltsfield Wines

Seppeltsfield wine tasting

Seppeltsfield wine tasting

Remembering the working horse and the WWI fallen

Remembering the working horse and the WWI fallen

Quails in pomegranate sauce

Quails in pomegranate sauce

Our haul for the day

Our haul for the day

Male choir and organ performance at Tanunda art gallery

Male choir and organ performance at Tanunda art gallery

Main roads in the Barossa Valley

Main roads in the Barossa Valley

Jacob's Creek Breathometer

Jacob's Creek Breathometer

Cooking demo in Maggie Beer's kitchen

Cooking demo in Maggie Beer's kitchen

Chateau Tanunda

Chateau Tanunda

Chateau Tanunda  vats

Chateau Tanunda vats

Bush chapel behind our caravan park

Bush chapel behind our caravan park

Angaston Uniting Church

Angaston Uniting Church

Angaston town hall and library

Angaston town hall and library

Anganston farmers market

Anganston farmers market

Posted by ChrisHenriette 03:18 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Down the Yorke Peninsula

Lovely coastal towns and wheat right down to the beach

38 °C
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Port Augusta (Population 13 500) 12 Dec.
We stopped in Port Augusta for half a day to have a pub lunch at the local hotel and see the town.

The town is much prettier that Whyalla and clearly doing well. There is a feeling that things are moving forward in the whole town.

Touching story: on top of the Uniting Church in town there is a viewing platform from which women watched to see their husbands coming in on ships. It is named the widow’s staircase.

This is also the town where two of the major trains that cross Australia pass through, even though we didn’t see them.

Moonta Bay (Population 1970) 12-13 Dec

We discovered this little town by accident, not planning to go this far, but because it was 38 degrees with a tail wind we just kept going (enjoying the car’s air con).

What a beautiful little town this turned out to be (3 towns really with Moonta and Port Hughes). It is like a mixture of Pilgrim’s Rest in South Africa and Fremantle in WA. We visited the old copper mine site (1860s) and enjoyed a wonderful caravan park that is terraced, giving us lovely views across the ocean.

I was disappointed that we missed seeing a very special Methodist Church inside (saw the post cards) because the open times were only from 1.30-4.00pm. The church actually seats 1250 parishioners.

Edithburgh (Population 466) 13-15 Dec

We arrived in Edithburgh in with strong 45km/h tail winds blowing us into town. The temperature reached 38 degrees by 10.30am (and only 23 degrees the next day!) So we waited in the air conditioned caravan for thing to improve until we could do what we came for: To see if we can see Leafy Sea Dragons or Sea Horses. This was a key reason we drove down the Yorke Peninsula. We tried twice to find them (snorkelling an hour each time) without success. They are just too well camouflaged. The second snorkel happened at Bluff Beach (on a tour exploring Parsons Beach as well).

Widow's platform for spotting sailor husbands

Widow's platform for spotting sailor husbands

Record wheat year evident everywhere

Record wheat year evident everywhere

Port Augusta

Port Augusta

Moonta Quilt in Visitor Centre

Moonta Quilt in Visitor Centre

Moonta Bay Jetty

Moonta Bay Jetty

Moonta Bay Caravan Park

Moonta Bay Caravan Park

Crazy person snorkeling in the cold searching Leafy Sea Dragons

Crazy person snorkeling in the cold searching Leafy Sea Dragons

Copper mine in Moonta

Copper mine in Moonta

Copper mine from top of tailings

Copper mine from top of tailings

Posted by ChrisHenriette 02:16 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Whyalla

Iron ore town doing it tough

24 °C
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Whyalla (Population 22600)

We were surprised to discover that Whyalla was the biggest city in the region (somehow we thought that Port Augusta would be - simply because it was more familiar to us). It has accessible beaches, a warm climate and (apparently) great fishing. It is also home to Giant Cuttlefish (chameleons of the sea) that grow to 60cm and weighing up to 5kg. BTW they also have two hearts, blue blood, and squirt ink. Amazing creatures.

It is, however, a city in decline. The population has gone down from 33 000 in 1978 (when the building ships ceased) to today’s number of 22 600. It becomes all the more apparent when driving through town. We weren’t able to spot a house that looks like it was built or renovated in the last decade. Tough times are everywhere here.

The Whyalla Maritime Museum is home to the former HMAS Whyalla – the first ship built in Whyalla shipyards, in 1941 (and one of only two comparable mine sweepers left). The guided trip through the ship was a highlight. It takes about an hour but is fascinating. We enjoyed seeing how people lived at sea during war time. The eliminated hundreds of mines and survived a full attack in PNG.

I also wanted to see the Natural History Gallery that houses the 1814 edition of Matthew Flinders’ journals and charts. There is also “Singing to the Sharks” exhibition of Aboriginal people’s rituals connected to the sea.

A highlight for me was one of the largest HO gauge model railways in Australia, with over 400m of track. Unfortunately it has a glass wall all around it, making photography difficult.

On Sunday we attended worship in the local Uniting Church. What a welcoming community this was. They’ve been without a minister for over three years, and are eagerly awaiting the new minister due in January. When you experience 7 people individually welcoming you, and three of them consequently trying really hard to convince you that you’d be welcome to stay for lunch even though you didn’t know it was a bring-and-share, you know why they are still such a strong community despite hard times. Truly a welcoming bunch.

Whyalla beachfront

Whyalla beachfront

This is where between 85 and 145 sailors ate and slept

This is where between 85 and 145 sailors ate and slept

The viewpoint above the Onsesteel smelter

The viewpoint above the Onsesteel smelter

The 40mm canon on deck

The 40mm canon on deck

Seeing Whyalla from above

Seeing Whyalla from above

Officer's cabin

Officer's cabin

Model trains with 400m of tracks

Model trains with 400m of tracks

How mine sweeping works

How mine sweeping works

HMAS Whyalla

HMAS Whyalla

Posted by ChrisHenriette 18:23 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Port Lincoln and the National Park

Just enjoy the serenity

24 °C
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Port Lincoln National Park (City population 14 000)

After doing a lot of travel the previous week, we needed a break and decided to stop in Port Lincoln and Lincoln National Park for two days. For most of the time we were the only people there, allowing for lovely walks along the coast line in this 26 000 ha park.

There is an abundance of birds (especially Wrens and Port Lincoln Parrots) and beautiful views across the bay. This includes looking back to Port Lincoln and Boston Island (5km off the coast) which is a fully operational sheep station (named so by Captain Flinders in 1802). We were also able to see the floating mussel farms in the distance.

Port Lincoln is known at a top fishing destination, so leaving the park we were went to the Fresh Fish Place to dine out and stock up on fresh seafood. Undeniably the best seafood we’ve had in years.

Interesting fact: The Eyre Peninsula has the largest commercial fishing fleet in the Southern hemisphere producing over 60% of the State’s seafood harvest. It also produces more than 30% of the State’s agricultural and meat harvest. No wonder then that we saw so many golden wheat lands.

And then we were off towards Whyalla on the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula. We spend most of the day in Port Lincoln, shopping and exploring. The highlight was the community second hand bookshop, where I spend an hour and managed to buy only four books! Seeing as I’m busy reading no 98 for the year, this should keep me going into the New Year.

We arrived at our overnight stop at Port Gibbon camping area (right next to the beach once again) with enough time to walk along the beach and meet neighbours in the most amazing 5th wheeler van we’ve ever seen. See the photo! He’s a mural artist and sign writer. They travel complete with a Harley Davidson and full complement of paints and brushes to paint on request.

We’re still amazed that we can camp in places like this with public toilets, a lovely shelter on the beach, 12 permanent houses and a $5 honesty box.

The $5 honesty box in Port Gibbon

The $5 honesty box in Port Gibbon

Seagul meeting in Nat Park

Seagul meeting in Nat Park

Remains of defence sites

Remains of defence sites

Port Lincoln

Port Lincoln

Port Lincoln Tourist Information

Port Lincoln Tourist Information

Port Gibbon next to our camp

Port Gibbon next to our camp

Park walk, sandy island is sheep satation and mussel farm on horizon

Park walk, sandy island is sheep satation and mussel farm on horizon

Nice succulents on our walks

Nice succulents on our walks

Meeting some really interesting people

Meeting some really interesting people

Makybe Diva won $14.5 million in prizes

Makybe Diva won $14.5 million in prizes

Coffin Bay, Mikkira Station and Port Lincoln  plus Nat Park

Coffin Bay, Mikkira Station and Port Lincoln plus Nat Park

Posted by ChrisHenriette 14:18 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Mikkira koala sanctuary

6 Koalas in the tree next to our caravan

22 °C
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Mikkira Station outside Port Lincoln 6-7 Dec

This has been the biggest surprise since we’ve left Perth more than 3000km ago. Just outside Port Lincoln and next to the National Park there is 10km of dirt road that leads to a special koala sanctuary on Mikkira Station.

You camp anywhere you like in a Manna Gum forest. We camped near the hot shower and toilets. The gum trees that make up this forest are an anomaly in this area, thus creating a sanctuary for koalas (they eat only a small selection of the 700 different gum trees on offer in Aus). They were everywhere and not scared of us at all. We had 6 in the tree right next to our caravan. On one walk we counted 20. This was heaven to us. Kangaroos, Emus, Port Lincoln Parrots… I took so many special photos of koalas that it became quite difficult to decide which one to post on the blog. We saw a spectacular fight between two males for dominance (if you’ve not heard a koala roar, Google it!) and we saw a female with joey fend off the advances of a male. Going to bed listening to the sound of koalas roaring, was something we will never forget. This place is a must when coming to the Eyre Peninsula.

We just loved this place. Two French backpackers in a campervan were the only other people there. A billion stars and the sounds of the bush. Pure magic.

We got so close we touched one

We got so close we touched one

Walkers Rock and Elliston Area

Walkers Rock and Elliston Area

Tree bearing Galahs like fruit

Tree bearing Galahs like fruit

My mum is a ball of fur

My mum is a ball of fur

Murphy's Haystacks near Streaky Bay

Murphy's Haystacks near Streaky Bay

Mikkira Station just outside national park

Mikkira Station just outside national park

Mating rituals

Mating rituals

Huge Mural on Elliston Community Hall

Huge Mural on Elliston Community Hall

Emu with five young

Emu with five young

Differnt colouring

Differnt colouring

Coffin Bay Oyster farms

Coffin Bay Oyster farms

Climbing a Manna Gum

Climbing a Manna Gum

Checking for better leaves

Checking for better leaves

Posted by ChrisHenriette 01:02 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Streaky Bay

Camping right on the beach

24 °C
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Streaky Bay (pop 2200) 3-5 Dec

We made it to Streaky Bay in South Australia and decided to camp in a beach side caravan park. Right on the beach, and with so much to explore in the area, we stayed two nights.

This allowed us to drive the dirt road loops taking us to beautiful spots like Hallys Beach, Tractor Beach, High Cliff, and the Granites. At the Whistling Rocks and Blowholes we got stuck for more than an hour. It was so amazing to hear the roar of the ocean pushing spray and sound through the holes that we had to drag ourselves away.

We loved the vibrant markets where I bought home-made kiwi fruit jam and caramel nut lollies.

It was rough at times as the wind bullied us, but I guess that is not unusual in this area.

Whsitling and blowing throught caves

Whsitling and blowing throught caves

Whistling rocks and Blowholes

Whistling rocks and Blowholes

Views of the coastline around Streaky Bay

Views of the coastline around Streaky Bay

Streaky Bay and the surrounding loops we explored

Streaky Bay and the surrounding loops we explored

Replica of biggest White Pointer ever caught at 1520kg

Replica of biggest White Pointer ever caught at 1520kg

Museum in Streaky Bay

Museum in Streaky Bay

Markets in Streaky Bay

Markets in Streaky Bay

Fresh water for pets outside restaurant

Fresh water for pets outside restaurant

Driving the loops

Driving the loops

Camping right on the beach in Streaky Bay

Camping right on the beach in Streaky Bay

Posted by ChrisHenriette 03:07 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Crossing the Nullarbor

24 °C
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Norseman (Pop 1000)
Next the gateway to the Nullarbor, Norseman.

The legend goes that an early prospector, Laurie Sinclair, stopped over to visit his brother in the 1890s. His horse, Hardy Norseman, pawed the ground during the night, uncovering a large gold nugget. This led to his discovery of a rich reef, and 5million ounces later a town looks back in gratitude. On my photos you can see the gold tailings, a statue of the famous horse, and the metal camels (paying tribute to the role camels played in this area).

It was also worth going up the steep little road to the lookout. Panoramic views of the town that includes Lake Cowan that stretches 6km from Norseman 90km to Widgiemooltha. Previously used for (salty) water to the mines, today they mine gypsum (for ceilings).
We stopped over to get stocks up and fill up with water. Next is the Nullarbor (Nullus Arbor) meaning ‘no trees.” One of the first things you see after leaving town, is a road sign that reads “Adelaide 1985km” – yip, intimidating)

The Nullarbor Plain that we will reach in 2-3 days is the world’s biggest single piece of limestone measuring 200, 000 square kilometres (it is also 300m thick and used to be ocean floor). It is also famous for the longest golf course in the world. Each participating town or roadhouse features a tee, a green and a fairway consisting of rugged outback terrain (you can hire equipment at every tee, but neither of us play golf).
We camped at 10 mile rocks (free camp with toilets) in Dundas Nature Reserve, 70km past Norseman. Good shade and ready for the big stint ahead. Third catch up with a Brisbane couple… becoming friends (ended up seeing each other 5 times on the trip).

Balladonia (190km in from Norseman)
Loosely translated “big red rock” made world headlines in 1979 when space debris from Skylab landed 40km east of Woorlba sheep station. There is a cute little museum worth visiting (filled with information about the Skylab incident and more). Bought a really good cappuccino here!
So far we saw trees everywhere. We’ve actually passed through the biggest Eucalypt hardwood forest in the world. Beautiful.

Caiguna (368km from Norseman)
This roadhouse is famous for the longest straight stretch of highway in Australia (146.6km). It was the first time I’ve tried using cruise control on the Prado whilst towing. Worked so well! It was time (just past Caiguna) to wind our clocks 45 mins on.

Cocklebiddy motel (pop 8 people, 25 budgies, 2 quails, and 1 dog) 332km in from Norseman
Cocklebiddy is famous for its cave systems, which are some of the largest in the world. Saw the ugliest caravan park I’ve even seen. It has power… so maybe if you really needed air con? See the photo.

After doing 485km, we found a great free camp called Moodini Bluff. Nice shaded sites and very clean toilets. It has been the longest drive we’ve had in a day so far on this trip. The scenery got a bit monotonous. Just felt OK to keep going until we found a nice spot. We were very fortunate with maximum temperatures around 24-27 but getting started at 7am to beat the head winds.

Mundrabilla (Population: roadhouse)
Australia’s biggest meteorite was discovered nearby, weighing over 10 tonnes.

Eucla (Pop 86)
Opening in 1877, up to 11000 Morse code messages were sent through here annually. A century ago the population was 100, when this was a busy telegraph station. There are beautiful ruins today.

It is the world’s largest limestone karst landscape covering an area of 270,000 square km. This is almost the size of Victoria.
We stopped at every turn off to great views of the Bight and the ocean (the first really good one at 800km past Norseman). The whale season had passed, so we knew not to expect any. The best stop was at rest stop number three, where the views across the Bight just blew us away. It was windy, and chilly, but we just stood in awe of the magnitude of cliffs that stretch for 100s of kilometres and reach up to 30 storeys.
After another long day (300km) we pulled over into a 24 hour free camp (named 143 Peg free camp site) that had nice trees to shelter us from the strong sea breeze. How nice to camp under the stars with no one around. Just absolute silence.

Penong (Aboriginal word meaning “waterhole) Population 200
Penong is known as the town 100 windmills, and where we decided to stop in a caravan park again. We did more than 1000km of travelling using free camps, and now we needed to stop where there were washing machines. Again we camped unpowered, our solar doing its job brilliantly. As it turned out, we were overly cautious about the Nullarbor, carrying a lot more water than we needed. We also used a fair bit more diesel because we had head winds all the way, pushing our diesel consumption to 13 litres per 100km as opposed to our normal 11.5 for towing (to be fair, I also pushed our speed up to 100km/h instead of the normal 90km/h because it became a bit monotonous). In the end we had a bit of a scare as we almost ran out of diesel when Penong’s fuel station was closed for renovations… so much for planning to fill up there!

In Penong we saw the windmill museum including the biggest one in in Australia (35 feet across) able to pump 1 mil litres per day.

Ceduna (Pop 2289)
Ceduna is the major commercial centre of the far west of Eyre Peninsula (derived from the Aboriginal word meaning “resting place”). Not as big as it sounds, but nice on the beach. We camped in a caravan park right on the beach. It was time to catch up on washing and recharge phone batteries etc.

I had a great conversation with the local pastor and leadership of Ceduna Uniting Church just as they were about to start “Messy Church”. Pastor Gary also leads worship in Penong and Smokey Bay. Great, hospitable people.

The Nullarbor was an amazing, demanding adventure. It was tough towing into winds up to 30km/h. The first and last 200km were filled with beautiful dense forests, with low, but dens shrubs in between. Not something I would want to do regularly, but still special.

Windmill museum in Penong

Windmill museum in Penong

Watch out for the natives

Watch out for the natives

Views across the Bight are spectacular

Views across the Bight are spectacular

Typical free camp in the Nullarbor

Typical free camp in the Nullarbor

Travelling with 2 dogs and 2 horses 2 people in one home since Feb

Travelling with 2 dogs and 2 horses 2 people in one home since Feb

Tracking Skylab path

Tracking Skylab path

Sheer drop of 90m at the Bight

Sheer drop of 90m at the Bight

Salt encrusted rams head

Salt encrusted rams head

Only camel we saw apart from a dead one

Only camel we saw apart from a dead one

Nullarbor part two

Nullarbor part two

Nullarbor part one

Nullarbor part one

Longest straight road in Australia

Longest straight road in Australia

Harsh area spot our caravan

Harsh area spot our caravan

Hard core Nullarbor where the trees end

Hard core Nullarbor where the trees end

First cyclist with helmet to cross the Nullarbor in 1962

First cyclist with helmet to cross the Nullarbor in 1962

Ceduna after 1200km

Ceduna after 1200km

At the border post  to South Australia

At the border post to South Australia

Posted by ChrisHenriette 01:35 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

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