Monthly Archives: May 2022

Day 4 – Saturday, 28 May 2022 

We left the park at 9:05 am after waking up to the chorus of magpie warbling. Today is our longest trip for quite a few days for a total of 374 kms. As such we can’t dawdle too much today. 

Last night Russ broke a small vein on his nose which bled like a stuck pig. An unexpected development that wasn’t enjoyed by either of us. 

We stopped for a photo opportunity at Island Lagoon, although I don’t think the pics will do the view justice. It is supposed to be a chance to see the island rising from the salt lake.  

The lookout is on a gravel road adjacent to the Sturt Highway, although there are no toilets available. 

We can also see parts of the Island Lagoon Tracking Station which was designated Deep Space Station 41. In 1960 it was the first deep space station to be established outside of the United States. 

It served as Station Number 9 in NASA’s Mannes Space Flight Network during Project Mercury. It provided support for deep space missions until December 1972. 

Subsequent tracking stations built by NASA in Australia were: 

Carnarvon and Muchea in WA; Cooby Creek in Qld; and Honeysuckle Creek, Orroral Valley and Tidbinbilla in ACT. 

Our next photo stop was Lake Hart, which is a very large expanse of salt water and the railway line runs along one side of it and can be seen coming from 2-3 kms away. Lake Hart is 42 kms north of Pimba on the Stuart Highway. 

It is a smaller lake in the Lake Eyre Basin. This drainage basin covers just under 1/6 of all Australia and is one of the largest in the world covering around 1.2 million square kms and has parts in Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory and some of western NSW. 

Lake Hart looks deep after decent rainfall but is only about 20mm deep then. There is a high salt content which makes wonderful reflections during its wet periods. 

Its isolation in the outback means there are incredible star gazing opportunities, and during sunlight it sparkles brightly. 

We are still seeing wide areas of greenery sprinkled among the red soil. 

Today we had a first for this journey. A truckie coming behind us advised us on the UHF channel that he would be overtaking us. 

We turned off the highway at Glendambo to fuel up again. Diesel was $2.19 a litre and our bill came to $102.06 which broke the budget by $2. We are averaging 15 litres per 100 kms – a good result for us in these conditions. 

We are enjoying the scenery and travelling at 80 kph. 

The number of bodies of water we are passing (mostly salt) is amazing. 

We stopped at a layby for lunch which was about the halfway mark for today’s journey to Coober Pedy. 

We passed places called Brumby Creek (lots of churned up earth where the recent flood waters went through) and Peculiar Knob Mine – a predominantly haematite iron ore deposit with some residual magnetite. It is an open cut mine in the Woomera Prohibited Area. 

Along the way today we have passed several flowering yellow boronia bushes which were a sight for sore eyes and a different colour in the landscape. 

A section of the highway we travelled has been widened for shoulders and markings and is a designated emergency landing zone for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RDFS). The landing strip has turning circles for the planes at each end, and it is out in the middle of nowhere – approx. 145kms south of Coober Pedy. 

We have also seen a number of wild budgerigar flocks along the way. 

This one is for your amusement, Mum. We were discussing the beauty of cloud formations and how spectacular they look if the sun is shining around them. We came across a patch (head of the change) where the high cirrus was mixed with the fluffy cumulus and Russ began to estimate the height of the two bands. He went on to say that the measurements are in feet for the aeroplanes. 

I am not usually quick enough to think of a response, but this time I immediately replied that aeroplanes don’t have feet. Russ advised me that I needed to get out and walk. 

(If you guys reading this don’t find it particularly funny then perhaps you needed to be in the car at the time.) 

We were also passed along the way by a medium sized motorhome with the name of Gael Gotaway, and it tickled my sense of humour. 

We met up with Gael and her old dog, Tricksie, at the Hollaway Hill layby where we stopped to stretch our legs. I mentioned my amusement to which she replied she had done her job for the day. 

Gael comes from Bendigo and she and the dog both suffer badly from arthritis, so they go walk-about during the southern winter and her husband minds the fort as he still works. Her type of vehicle is called a GoToGetaway which I have never heard of before, and couldn’t find anything about it online. 

We arrived at Coober Pedy at 2:45 pm and are staying at Riba’s Underground Caravan Park. The turn off to the park is about 5 kms before Coober Pedy proper and is very interesting. 

Our site is under shadecloth cover as vans do not go underground. That is reserved for tents and sleeping bags where you have your own little cave. 

We are booked to do the Opal Mine Tour on the premises at 7pm on Monday evening. 

Our very chatty neighbours are Don and Cindy from Murchison who have stayed at this park on numerous occasions on their way to the NT. 

They are moving on tomorrow morning and Don told Russ they hoped to make it to Alice (the mind boggles) a total of 688 kms in one day. 

We are here for the next three nights. The tour of the mine costs $26 per person, but if you book the tour when you pay your site fees there is a discount on the site fees. Therefore, instead of paying $30 a night with power (no water other than our tanks) we have been charged $25.50 a night. 

Once we had set up Russ and I went for a tour of the amenities’ blocks. They are basic but functional, but there is no dryer in the laundry because it never rains in Coober Pedy, hahaha. 

The forecast for tomorrow is for rain from 5:30am until the later afternoon, with strong wind warnings.  

It is interesting to know that the Northern Territories got its title because it was originally governed by South Australia and therefore was considered to be the northern territory of South Australia. 

Once the Commonwealth Government took over its administration it simply reverted to the Northern Territory. 

Tomorrow Russ will check the hose connection in the shower as we have had a drop or two of water on the floor after showers. The hose has come adrift on a previous occasion. 

Day 5 – Sunday, 29 May 2022 

I woke up about 7am when the neighbours left, and I couldn’t go back to sleep so got up and started the day very quietly. 

The showers are about a three out of ten as the water comes from a bore 25 kms away so the pressure is almost non-existent, and the concrete floor is so old that it is breaking away and is rather tough on the feet. 

It is also raining and very chilly with a strong breeze and feels like 8 degrees. The rain is now expected to last until the middle of the afternoon, but far too late to do the washing and put it on the line. Tomorrow. 

We went into town after lunch and grabbed some groceries. It is a much larger IGA than we have found in other smaller towns. 

However, we had a quick talk with some of the locals who are very bemused at the weather conditions themselves. There was much hand waving about as though to say ‘Who knew?’ 

The empty bays on either side of us filled up around the time that the Collingwood game commenced. The people next door on our right have Collingwood sticks on their van – you meet them everywhere. 

Day 3 – Friday, 27 May 2022 

Today we travel slightly further than normal and do 310ks. Most of the days travel length is in the reasonable category but there are a couple that are longer from necessity due to distances between places. 

The apples we bought yesterday were so delicious that we returned to Foodlands before leaving the township and stocked up on a few more. Here we paid just under a dollar an apple and it will get progressively more expensive the further we travel into the outback area. 

The Peterborough Caravan Park is neatly set out and has a lot of birdlife. 

We left the park about 9:35am. It is a beautiful sunny day with fluffy clouds on the horizon. Russell has convinced me to bring the camera into the front seat. It is a very pleasant drive as there is no wind. 

We eventually made our way to Horrock’s Pass with its 45kph curves surrounded by high granite walls and huge gum trees, but the walls are too close for photos. 

The pass itself is a geographical location in the southern Flinders Rangers, about 6kms west of Wilmington. The pass road travels from Wilmington to the Augusta Highway in the west. 

It was discovered by John Ainsworth Horrocks in August 1846 during the ill-fated exploration of land north of Spencer Gulf (Port Augusta). 

The pass sits at an altitude of 462 metres above sea level. 

John Horrocks was one of the first settlers in the Clare Valley in 1839. He established the township of Penwortham. 

He is remembered more for his manner of death in 1846 when he was accidentally shot. At Lake Dutton his gun fired after the camel he was using for the exploration mission lurched, knocking him and causing the weapon to discharge. 

His injuries were substantial and included some teeth being knocked out by the bullet. He died in his home a month later from gangrene. 

So far on our journey the roads have been in excellent condition with an occasional hazard where heavy rain has eroded the edges of the highways. 

About midday we went through Port Augusta. We stopped on the outskirts at OTR to fuel up. Diesel was $2.09 a litre. 

The route through town was a lot easier than I was expecting and we were soon back on the A87 Stuart Highway and into real Outback Country.  

We can actually see the landscape change before our eyes. There are periods of red loam and greenery, through to shrubs dotted about the landscape, and then through Mallee scrub trees. 

As heavy rain has fallen fairly recently it is unexpectedly green and looks to be in top health. The contrast between the red soil and the greenery is impressive. 

We finally arrived at Woomera about 2:30pm. It is a very busy caravan park but well set out and done in such a way that everyone gets a good spot with ease of parking. 

Shane advised me when I checked in that Happy Hour started at 4pm and I can attest to the fact the prices for drinks are the cheapest in Australia, according to the gentleman next door who was very vocal on his phone call to a mate. 

Woomera is unofficially called Woomera Village and refers to the domestic area of the RAAF Base here. The Village has always been a Defence owned and operated facility. 

It is located on the traditional lands of the Kokatha people, but is Commonwealth owned land within the ‘Woomera Prohibited Area’. 

The village sits approximately 446 kms north of Adelaide and has a population of 146. The population varies between 150 and 200 during the year and depending on Defence needs, however, it can provide accommodation and services for 500 people per day. 

The Village, and its four museum elements, is open to the public all year round. 

Twenty-seven Pastoral stations lie within the Prohibited Area, and four mines. 

Construction of the Village began mid 1947 to cater for thousands moving there as part of the Anglo-Australian Project. The Project lasted for 34 years and saw Woomera become one of the most secret allied establishments in operation during the Cold War. 

In its heyday (1949 – 71) the village population reached 7,000. 

By the end of the 1960s the Project was rapidly winding down following the UK Government’s reduction in further experimental works. 

Between 1947 – 1982 Woomera Village operated as a ‘closed town’. 

Only Australian Government (mainly Department of Defence) personnel and contractors to the Commonwealth are able to live there on a permanent basis. 

As the other Projects in the area began to wind down the Australian Defence Force realised that the Woomera Test Range was the only land-based test range left in the Western world capable of testing the next generation of weapon systems within a fully instrumented, land-based, specialized range. 

It redefined the future role and strategic importance of the Woomera Range Complex within Australia’s long term defence requirements. The caravan park at Woomera is a privately operated public caravan park situated at the entrance to the Village.  

Visitors may also stay at the Defence operated Eldo Hotel. 

Day 2 – Thursday, 26 May 2022 

Upon awakening at 8:30am this morning there was much consternation in the caravan. I discovered that I neglected to pack my jeans, so I have one pair of track suit pants to my name. This will mean that there are a few more stops along the way, although I am not very confident of much success seeing as there are no big shops to check out on our route. 

As we left the park we agreed there was much more to see and we would need to return. We left at 9:45am and headed to Burra on the A32 Barrier Highway, keeping a close lookout for kangaroos. We saw several dead ones but were not bothered by live ones. 

When we arrived at Burra we parked the rig and walked along the main street to the shops to see what might be available. Imagine my horror when I discovered they only carried ‘Big Name Brands’ and the track pants start at $100 a pair, while the designer jeans begin at $160 a pair. 

Luckily the Op Shop opened just as we got to it, and I was able to source one pair of jeans in my size. The lady who runs the store was just about to put out her sign saying 20% off all items so my jeans cost me $4.25, and I grabbed some earrings as a souvenir of my terrible packing. 

I can now rotate my two pairs of pants until we get to Alice Springs and Kmart, and hopefully purchase some jeggings (fingers crossed). 

Burra is another place to explore at a later time. There are many old and magnificent buildings from early settlement days. They are in good condition and very well built. 

We pulled up at the side of the highway and spoke with Trev and Ann after we left Burra. It was not an extensive conversation as we were being buffeted by road trains and other caravans. 

There are lots of clouds around today and the lighting effect is magnificent. The cloud masses are awesome. I am almost tempted to forgo my self-imposed rule of no camera in the front while towing. 

We eventually arrived at Peterborough. It is off the highway, and we had to climb to get to the plateau. It is also another town just begging to be explored. We have had intermittent light showers along the journey, and it has now got very cold. 

After we set up the van (people took our allocated spot and we had to go to another one) we took off to Foodlands in town and grabbed some groceries. The caravan park sits atop the plateau and has some memorable views. 

Peterborough is located in the mid north of SA and is a wheat growing locality with a population of about 1,419 people. 

It was originally names Peterburg after landowner, Peter Doecke, sold land to create the town. It was renamed Peterborough in 1917 due to anti-German sentiments during World War 1. It has a number of heritage-listed sites in the town. 

Peterborough sits on the intersection of the East-West railway linking Port Pirie and broken Hill, and the North-South railway linking Adelaide to Alice Springs. 

In 1937 a more direct South-North route bypassed Peterborough by connecting Port Pirie with Port Augusta. 

The old railway line is still in operation today and was formerly a stop for the weekly Indian Pacific journey. 

Day 1 – Wednesday, 25 May 2022 

On the road again!! And very happy to finally be staring out on our long-awaited journey through South Australia, Northern Territory and Western Australia, especially through parts we have not ventured to before. 

We drove away from home at 10:34 am (only four minutes later than our anticipated start). We pulled over in Flora Avenue and did our second safety check. This time we had all our bases covered and were good to continue. 

We eyed the OTR at Renmark (getting into the habit of filling up whenever we pass a station, as once we get to the outback it will have to be second nature), but the OTR is not made for caravans.  

We had to circle the block to get back on the highway, and further down the road we found a BP Truckie stop where you use the self-serve fuel dispenser, so we pulled in there and topped up our supply. 

We met a very friendly and chatty truckie who pulled in after us and was happy to natter away while filling up. He was very envious of our itinerary. 

There were big road works at the turn off west of Barmera, and they are expected to continue until January of next year. We did not experience any delays today thankfully. 

It rained shortly after we turned onto the Goyder Highway and entered totally new territory for us, and finally stopped raining just before we reached Morgan. 

The Goyder Highway is a south-east link through the mid-north region of South Australia (SA) connecting the Spencer Gulf to the Riverland. It is part of the most direct road route from Port Augusta to much of Victoria and New South Wales. 

It is named after George Goyder who was a government surveyor, and in 1865 he first identified and mapped Goyder’s Line, which indicates the northern limit of climatic sustainability for intensive agriculture in SA. 

He was also responsible for the siting, planning and initial development of Darwin in the Northern Territory. 

There are lots of interesting places that we passed which will need further exploration at another time and in greater detail the next time we come back to SA. 

We even learnt about a new religious group – the Christadelphians (two Greek words joined meaning Brothers in Christ). We passed one of their halls on our journey today, and the name piqued our interest. 

Christadelphians base their faith on the Bible and nothing else. They regard the Bible as inspired by God and completely free of error, and the only source of knowledge about God and his plans. 

They believe that the Bible should be read as a whole, and understood through the plain meaning of its words, 

They reject the belief in the Trinity and the immortality of the soul believing these to be corruptions of the original Christian teachings. 

The religion is based on the teachings of John Thomas who spent his entire life delving into the Bible for meaning, and developed in North America and the United Kingdom, especially Scotland, but now throughout the world. 

We arrived at Morgan about 1:30pm local time (now that we are in SA) and we haven’t forgotten how to do a quick set up. 

Morgan is a very pretty place. The township sits on the right bank of the Murray River, just downstream of where it changes flow direction from west to roughly southwards. There is a regular ferry service to take you across the river, just opposite the site of the Caravan Park. 

Morgan is 161 kilometres from Adelaide and about 315 kms upstream from the mouth of the Murray River. It has a population of about 426 people. 

The Charles Sturt expedition passed the site in a rowboat in 1830, and the first Europeans to visit the area overland, by horseback, arrived in the area in March 1838. They noted that there was a large Indigenous population present – and these are the lands of the Ngaiawang people. 

The Northwest Bend Station was established in the 1840s and is still there today. 

The town was proclaimed in 1878 and named after Sir William Morgan who was the Chief Secretary and would later become the Premier of SA. Around this time a rail line was opened to Adelaide. 

Morgan became one of the busiest ports along the Murray River, and at its busiest was second only to Port Adelaide. The township serviced 6 trains a day. Once better roads were developed the township dwindled, and the railway closed in 1969.