Sunday, 4th November, 2001
Full Day touring around Port Lincoln
Milky streaky clouds battled blue sky all day. We drove a tourist drive to a lookout but the grass is yellow and the sea is grey. Then it rained a bit and we went home, got the washing in and had lunch, read the paper. Glenyce washed sheets and dried off washing in a clothes dryer. Bill read and slept in a slightly sour mood, stuck in a characterless town with no redeeming features. It being Sunday, everything is shut!
Calm inlet at the Boston Bay marina, south of Port Lincoln.
Clutter of many types of boats at the Boston Bay marina.
Then we resumed the tourist drive, viewing hundreds of big tuna boats in a large marina south of the town; the farming of tuna in huge netted enclosures was pioneered here by enterprising men, who thusly netted a fortune. Returning to the main street, we looked at the huge grain-handling wharves and silos at the docks, obviously a hot fishing spot, then we strolled along the town jetty watching local aboriginal kids swimming and hanging out.
Closely packed tuna boats at Boston Bay harbour, south of Port Lincoln.
But there were few other signs of life. We had cake and cappuccino at the only open café, wandered back to the van in oppressive heat and humidity, packed up the annexe just before it rained over teatime. Bill had a brief altercation with a group of youths kicking a footy near the van: youths from outside the park! They don't care whether they kick their football into our caravan window, so Bill got stuck into them.
After more sleeping by Bill, Glenyce cooked us scrambled eggs and bacon on toast, which is the best thing that happened to us all day. Oh - Glenyce spent a bit of time sitting outside reading, and enjoyed the day more than Bill (I think). Off to early bed for the rhythm of raindrops, ready for Whyalla tomorrow - in the rain if we're unlucky! We hope for a pleasant drive in sunshine so we can count reptiles on the road to break the boredom.
Monday, November 5th, 2001
Yes, well, it did rain all the way to Whyalla, where we tried to do a steelworks tour, but were just too late. Anyway, it was nice to be on the road to new pastures, and we did see some increasingly undulating and wooded land along the way - with even a few yellow callistemons, and a range of flowering gumtrees. The towns along the route seemed to be out of the same mould as Elliston and Port Lincoln. Rather uninteresting, set in monotonous country bordering on the unusually unexciting waters of Spencer Gulf. We did buy a few groceries at the town of Cowell. I suppose we just didn't see the Eyre Peninsula region at its best, whenever that is!
Port Lincoln to Gladstone
Whyalla was old and decrepit-looking, and distinguished by having a real-size destroyer or corvette (or something) perched on dry land next to the visitor's centre. Port Augusta was as we remember it - not a bad little place at the tippy-top of Spencer's Gulf. Pushing on, we turned off the Highway One, and travelled inland through a picturesquely winding narrow road through Germein Gorge to Murray Town, which the road bypassed, then Wirrawa, Stone Hut to Laura, the latter being bigger than the map shows. Has a brewery, too!
When we got to Gladstone, we recognized it as the spot where we had had afternoon tea on our second day out from home! So we pulled into the van park, had tea, and an early night's sleep! This is a lovely little caravan park with excellent amenities, and yet in our guide book it is a no-star park! Go figure that out.
Tuesday, November 6th, 2001
Gladstone to Mannum
After having sprinkling rain overnight, we made our way through the tangle of little roads which connect down to Mannum, our destination, north-east of Adelaide. From Gladstone through Georgetown, Yacka, to Rochester, Clare (quite a nice place), Watervale, Rhynie, Tarlee, then to Kapunda, Greenock to Nuriootpa, where we bought lunch in the form of pies and bienenstick, which we enjoyed in the carpark of the town. It's always a challenge to find where to park a car and caravan rig in a strange town.
Typical of many of the beautiful little country roads through the Adelaide hills and the Barossa Valley.
Pushing through the delightful vineyard regions around Angaston, we found narrower little country roads with huge gum trees towering over the edges of the roads as we drove through Eden Valley and Mount Pleasant. We encountered increasingly large expanses of dazzling violet fields full of the noxious weed Salvation Jane (Paterson's Curse), and miles of smooth, balding, rolling hills falling away gradually towards the south (Adelaide) and the east, towards the Murray.
Introduced magenta Patterson's Curse colours the landscape in much of Australia. Toxic to stock, it is, however, beloved by apiarists as a good source of honey, hence the alternative name of Salvation Jane.
Rocky outcrops became frequent, and the pleasing aspect of grey old rocks breaking gently through ancient old eroded hills powdered with a dusting of violet flowers stretched infinitely away from us in the checkerboard of clouds and blue sky up above while the fierce side winds buffeted our mobile little home vigorously as if in punishment for invading its territory.
Mannum presented itself to us and we settled in quickly to the Mannum van park on the Murray banks in the view of inquisitive water-birds. Bill flipped to town for a paper, read it, fell asleep for 2 hours, as he seemed badly knocked about by travel, very tender in the back, and terse, being dismayed at the level of discomfort which has been happening, laced with being disappointed by this. In town we saw dressed-up ladies with extravagant millinery emerging from the hotels, as it was the day of the Melbourne Cup, and for many such dressing-up is de rigeur.
Anyway, a nice cup of soup, chicken, bread and jam, and coffee, after a nap, helped a lot.
Glenyce was very tolerant, thoughtful, but on the point of snapping, but we managed the day OK eventually.
Wednesday, November 7th, 2001
Mannum, SA, to Hall's Gap, Victoria
Our caravan uses the free punt across the Murray River at Mannum to save time and see new scenery.
We started the day by taking the car and van across the punt on the Murray, which was a novelty, saved mileage, and it was free! We came in eventually at Tailem Bend and wended our way south-east along the Dukes Highway through little towns, including Yumali, where they were repairing the road surface after a double semitrailer fatal crash and prolonged fire which occurred the night before last.
The country gradually became much more green and agreeable, with the greenness being more lush and light, rather than bluish-silvery-green as in WA, and certainly fresher-looking than all the parched yellowish-brown wheatbelt lands of WA and SA. Lunching off-road at Tintinara, we saw virtually no wildflowers, and we last saw these north of Port Lincoln. Through Keith, Bordertown into Victoria we travelled, then Kaniva, Nhill and Pimpinio, where we were assailed by shockingly dirty road-works which slowed us down a lot.
Horsham loomed, so we had a late afternoon tea, and struck out south-east for the welcome and familiar profile of the Grampians, which looked more attractive and welcoming as we drove.
Lo and behold, we saw another Pink lake at Dimboola, just as we had seen at Port Gregory in WA and at Esperance. There are a lot of pink lakes in Australia!
Finally we pulled into our favourite Hall's Gap Caravan Park, where they recognized us from our participation in the jazz festivals here each February, and gave us a $2 cut per night. We're staying 2 nights, had cup-a-soup, toast, and bread and jam, did photos, and enjoyed a good sleepy-byes in this lovely valley of Hall's Gap. You can feel the colder air, and everything is green and beautiful.
Oh! When we arrived at Hall's Gap Caravan Park and registered, we drove past about 2 dozen kangaroos grazing on one patch, and a dozen others, too. This was a nice reminder of our stays here during jazz festivals each February, where Bill plays the piano with jazz bands.
Thursday, November 8th, 2001
It was nice to wake up in our newly-verdant surroundings, to the tune of the more familiar birds such as the white cockatoos.
Full Day at Hall's Gap
We both slept in, but Bill did so more, and showered, then, while Glenyce got a paper. What a relief it was to get our paws onto The Age again after 3 months. It is a good, rounded, substantial newspaper, so different to the West Australian and the Adelaide Advertiser, or even the slightly better Australian.
Glenyce at the Grand Canyon in the Grampians, Victoria.
Glenyce did a load of washing, we had a chicken salad lunch, and went for a drive up above our valley here to Wonderland Turntable, and we did a reasonable walk up the Grand Canyon, where we saw people abseiling from the peaks. We both felt the effect of the hard walk, but enjoyed the bush-walking and climbing the impressively-intriguing rocks, the tea-coloured fresh mountain streams and the remnants of the spring flush of flowers, many of which we photographed.
Going further up to Sundial Turntable, we did another short walk in the cool, peaceful bush. The sun was sinking lower and the light going off a bit, but we took 16 photos in all. A few dark skink-like lizards of medium size with thin, tapering tails, were reasonably unconcerned about us.
For tea, we went to Hall's Gap Hotel and had excellent food and wine, just as we've done for jazz festivals. Then we read for while, did photos, relaxed, and will pop over to Ballarat for our last night out, ready for a grand entry into Melbourne on Saturday, where our daughter Leanne says she'll cook us a roast dinner. Whacko!!
Friday, November 9th, 2001
Accompanied by a blue sky studded with fleecy white and dove-grey clouds, we enjoyed the drive from Hall's Gap to Ballarat on our very last full touring day.
Hall's Gap to Ballarat
After not finding the Quaalup Bell in WA we suddenly found them in a winery garden in the Grampians. Now we have them growing in our garden at home!
Because we enjoyed some wine last night, named "Gap" grenache/shiraz, we called in at the winery in question, just around the corner (in "country miles") from Hall's Gap. To our surprise, the winery's garden contained glowing beds of blue Leschenaultia, and to top it off, several bushes of the long-sought Quaalup Bells (Pimelea physodes), which we had failed to locate growing naturally in the Fitzgerald National Park, between Bremer Bay and Hopetoun, WA, mainly owing to the weather.
So we feverishly photographed the treasured "bells", which are larger than we imagined, so we've added them to our collection.
After the subtle colours of the Australian wildflowers, the blooms of this pretty Schizanthus in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens Conservatory seem very gaudy!
We asked its origin and were given the address of a nursery near Pomonal, nearby. Pursuing this place up a narrow, unmade road, we found it to be "closed", so that was that. Off we went, joining the Western Highway, and had lunch parked at the familiar town park in Beaufort.
Reaching Ballarat we settled in and dropped in 3 films for processing, and wandered for some time around the main Sturt Street, before visiting the Ballarat Botanic Gardens, where we finished a fourth film photographing beautiful flowers cultivated in a conservatory, so we dropped that in to be picked up tomorrow. The most striking flowers were Schizanthus.
We started to make our tea, but our bottled gas ran out, and we had boiled eggs on toast, which was great. After inserting the latest 72 photos into the album we went to bed happily.
Saturday, November 10th, 2001
This is the last day of our trip. We picked up our last film, the one we finished at the Ballarat Gardens yesterday, and then set out towards Daylesford as a little diversion on our way home, passing en route through the attractive little town of Creswick. Daylesford is a beautiful little town just north of Ballarat, and we noted the reasonable food prices in restaurants and cafés, as well as the charming setting amongst the green rolling hills studded with attractive segments of forest. Here we bought the paper and the ubiquitous rolls for lunch, and enjoyed a morning cup of coffee in a restaurant with a nice recorded jazz background.
Ballarat home to Melbourne via Daylesford
Pushing on from Daylesford, we wound our way warily through Trentham, Newbury, Barry's Reef to Blackwood, where we found a spot to lunch beside the road, adjacent to the Lerderderg State Park. As we ate in the van, the rain pelted down strongly, but as we left, the sun came out, producing a heavy misty cloud over the bitumen, giving a surreal touch to it all.
Soon we joined the main highway at Myrniong, and became part of the headlong rush to Melbourne, where we negotiated the familiar old West Gate Bridge, the Domain Tunnel and the Monash Freeway towrds our home, yet again in rain. As we backed into our drive we were overcome by a strange mixture of relief and disappointment that this particular trip was finished.
We excitedly, affectionately greeted Leanne, who's done such a fabulous job of house management for us. As we started taking our goods and chattels from car/caravan to house, our son Steven arrived, spending time here before going on to a party. Presently he is without a car, as it was damaged in a slippery slide on the road on October 17th, so is dependent on public transport or help from friends. They had decided not to tell us about it in case we became worried about it - bless their hearts!
Leanne had indeed, as promised, laid on a delicious roast dinner, which was very welcome, and we soon found ourselves at home. Come to think of it, that's a really redundant statement, isn't it! We had discovered, like many travellers, that you can be at home in many places, but our family home has that extra something!
As for myself, I shall try to live with far less clutter around me, and pay attention to the maintenance and cleaning which is needed, on windows, garage, and so on.
The trip was the best thing I've ever done (second to marriage and fatherhood), and we have invaluable memories of a unique time and place. The beauty and peculiar attractiveness of Western Australia is greatly tempered by the great distances, but doing it once is an achievement of which I am proud.
I am very pleased that I could give such pleasure to my beloved wife, Glenyce, who must be the best possible companion for such a trip, with her optimistic outlook, cheerful and enthusiastic participation in all that we shared, for her reliable encouragement when my spirits flagged, for her patient forbearance when I exceeded the bounds of niceness, and above all for her continual sense of humour and fun.
It's good to be home, but it'll be good to do it again to another place at another time.
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL!
William G. Leithhead 2006