Archive | May, 2015
31 May 2015


The rain has stopped. The road is still impassable. Went into town last night in Suzy but had to use 4×4. Rescued a Maui. Couple in a renta motor home thingy attempted to get to the c’van park we’re in, decided the road impassable, did a uey into the weeds and buried it. RAA called up, no towey just a 4×4, broke snatch strap and gave up. We happen along all dressed up to go to town and being good Samaritans (?) we offer to help. Back up Suzy into the weeds other side of road, hook up winch and, bugger me, pull them out. Good little Suzy. 4 tonne jigger too, buried to the axles. Then back to camp to climb down off our boots, change clobber and on to town. Walk into the Italian Club, not a soul inside. Shit, wrong night. Nope just a wet Saturday night in downtown Coober Pedy. A small gathering as it turns out hovering round the chiminea on the outside porch. So we join in, have a meal, a few drinks and a great chat with the locals. One of their daughters is about to head off on exchange through AFS to France so we had a bit to talk about.

This was Friday (which is pretty bloody obvious cos the dates on the pics)

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It didn’t really improve on Saturday but the rain stopped late in the day and there became  a hope that we might get out before the Ark turned up. Well what a difference a day makes…..

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We’ve spent now 10 days in Coober Pedy which is more than some peoples lifetime in a place like this and we’ve seen the good and the bad. I’m struggling to differentiate but ……

We did of course spend 3 of those days touring to William Creek and Oodnadatta but apart from the long terrible roads they’re sort of just suburbs of CP anyway. But we love it – its another new adventure and what  would two old farts be doing otherwise.

We did collect rainwater and refilled our tanks. Its really good water – no fluoride, no chlorine, just cats and dogs.

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We also shared ground with Peter & Linda in their Winnie. This is their permanent house, travelling for the last 9 years odd jobbing wherever the mood strikes…

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Take ya back. Jude reminded me that I hadn’t uploaded photos of the Ochre Pits which we explored somewhere south of Lyndhurst a bit after the Flinders Ranges, Leigh Creek and Farina, however far back that was. Well I don’t need to be told 6 times so here they are….

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All this coloured mud/grit/stuff is apparently used by the non-reflective people to make them reflective or at least stand out in a crowd at night.

Must say though that it is an intriguing sight.

On an altogether different tack, for those interested in such things, we put a new engine management chip in the Winnie before we came away. Supposed to boost power and torque by about 15% and supposedly lead to improved fuel consumption if you don’t get sucked into using the power high and by golly it works. Not only does the truck feel nimble, almost Spritish we’re seeing fuel use down to 20.4l/100km. This is a 5% saving which in this trip could mean as much as $400.00 not spent on fuel.

So far we’ve done about 4000 km between the two vehicles. Suzy continues to average around 12l/100km. Pretty thirsty for such a little beast but she is versatile and bloody useful as two stranded travellers discovered last night. Both vehicles are filthy but with limited water they’ll just have to “suck it up”. Maybe when we get to Darwin there might be enough water for a splash.

Back on the road tomorrow, bound for Yulara and a meet with Robyn Mason, who will then travel on with us for the next cupla months.

28 May 2015


Its afternoon on the 28th of May and we are sitting out rain storms in Coober Pedy. The road out of the caravan park is impassable. So, continue writing dear boy!

Where we left orf last night when the tiredness bug caught up (I’m sure it catches up much earlier these days) we were still on the way to Oodnadatta. Well dear reader you may be disappointed to learn that we had no further mishaps –  we actually saw out this day with no more drama than BAD roads. Suzy has more squeaks and rattles than it did even after last years ‘trip to the tip’.

Well Oodnadatta is not a swell town, my kinda town cos I’m clearly the wrong colour. Ya gotta be pink…..

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There is however another side of town or maybe just up the road side of town and it goes like this….

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or perhaps like this

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but there is the museum. Housed in the original and now classified Ghan station house it comprises a collection of photos and story boards, all of which proved irresistible reading. The environs are not much today but the town sure has some history, dating back as far as I recall to about 1860. The rail came in around 1870 or 80 and as the terminus it provided for quite a lot of employment. I seem to recall a number of residents being in the order of 3000 but I’d guess thats down to perhaps 300 today, mostly indigenes……….

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Perhaps being a little self conscious of our white car we decided to doss down in a ‘donga’ for the night, rather than pitch the tent again. Altogether uneventful boring night of television, up almost at the crack of dawn(who?) and on to the Painted Desert.

The Painted Desert is off the road back to Coober Pedy from oody doody. It is just another bad dirt road covered in sharp pointy stones and corrugations. Ya gotta wanta go there. As we turned into the lookout area some 40 or so k’s in, “BLAM”, another tyre bites the dust. We’re well prepared for this with our fresh can of spray in tyre fixit goo. Lets get to that after we’ve taken in the sights. And what sights they are. This outlook is incredible and I have to say the photos following don’t do it justice……

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We tired of this (ha) after about a half hour of gawking and ooh aah-ing so back to flat Suzy. As it was only flat on the bottom, with the help of some handy passers-by we took the wheel off and set the gunkometer onto it. Gunk pissed out the hole and it was green gunk so this added to the overall painted effect. Didn’t fix the tyre though, so on with the spare – the one that was repaired on Sunday. Fortunately it still had air in it so eventually we got back on the track. Dilemma – do we take the shortest dirt road back to the Stuart Highway and face the longest drive back to CP on bitumen or the shortest direct route via dirt. Stupidly opted for the shortest dirt – what a shit road. Of course don’t know what the other road would have been like but with one tyre short lets minimise the risk was the thinking!!!!!.

It was however very picturesque……

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but clearly a less than happy trip for someone (and no there were no bodies – we guess the dingoes gottem)

Turned out to be a relatively uneventful trip back to the highway and then 155 km back to CP on blessed bitumen. Oh so smooth!

That was Tuesday. Wednesday was spent replacing a tyre and there went another $230.00 for a non matching one. But a look at some of the spots of interest around CP salved the angst of painful expenditure. The Umoona Opal Mine, museum and underground houses, the Serbian and Catholic underground churches and the big hotel did a lot to assuage the pain. It is truly amazing how the locals have adapted over the years. Apparently the white population all lives underground in climactic conditions which see 54′ at the top to -1′ at the bottom. The underground temperature sits at about 22′ all year round. It seems the indigenes believe underground is bad. This must be so cos they wander the streets at all hours of the day and night. Most of the significant dwellings and commercial premises are dug by machine but many of the older habitats are pick and shovel exercises. Coober Pedy is notable for the development of specialised equipment to carry out the mining task such as the little digger tractor and the giant vacuum cleaner. The tunnel mazes are mind boggling. Interesting now though is since 1972 no mining is allowed within the town boundaries, but nothing prevents you from digging another bedroom (or two) . No explosives though and we’re told you’re not even allowed to take explosives into the drive-in theatre cos you mightn’t like the film. When you see the underground mazes you are truly overawed at the tenacity of these miners…..

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Opals are for sale everywhere. Doublets and triplets are relatively cheap cos they are just paste jobs but the real stones can measure into the thousands. Many we looked at were still fairly small and un-prepossessing but had tags over 10K. Shudder – I don’t even like them, but Jude does have a liking for Yowah black opals. Hah, in her dreams.

Today has been a sit around day trying to catch water to refill our tanks and get yesterdays washing dry. Haven’t succeeded on either count. The road out of the caravan park is impassable in the Winnie and just passable in 4 wheel drive this morning in Suzy when I went into town. We’re bogged down for an extra few days until the rain clears and the road dries out. Our neighbours had booked to go out to William Creek and Oodnadatta today on the mail run but it was cancelled due to the wet and subsequent road closures. All the mines cease operations in this rare weather cos you can’t drive out to them without getting bogged down.

So, another night or three out of town and consequently little action on which to report.

27 May 2015

Opals don’t do it for me

Now Andamooka is not your ordinary town. Its reason for being is opals. It has nothing else but the local community committee is trying to give it something extra – like somewhere to park up for nearly free. A site has been levelled, a toilet and kids playground installed and showers are being completed to provide the traveller a reason to stay in Andamooka for minimal cost. It is a great initiative but will it be enough to get the grey nomads to spend in town. There’s nothing but opals and I’m not sure that the savings on accommodation are sufficient to warrant buying up big on the pretty stones. But, ya gotta commend the attempt. As you can see, the landscape is not the most inviting…….

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( don’t forget – double click on any photo to see it in real life size [ well nearly]) Andamooka is just past Roxby Downs which in turn is just past Woomera – you really are in outback Oz and this is just SA. It’s a one way street – get to Andamooka and ya gotta do a U-ey. Back to Pimba and on to the Stuart Highway.

OK next –  more opals. Coober Pedy is the worlds largest opal provider. They tell us better than 80% of the worlds opals come from here but today we’ve learnt that there are only about 50 miners still working the fields. Its a cottage industry. But before I get onto Coober Pedy I must recount our recent adventure out of town to William Creek and Oodnadatta. Now way back in 2000 Keith Layton and I set about exploring the Oodnadatta Track only to manage a couple of punctures south of William Creek resulting in a curtailment of the journey through to Oodnadatta and a limp across to Coober Pedy for repairs. So it was with some trepidation that I started preparing the Suzy for the trip. As I was polishing the tyres on Saturday, what ho, a screw imbedded itself in the tread of one. It was only a little screw thought I, so with my trusty little Leatherman I pulled it out. Ah! no sounds of escaping air. I’ve avoided the bullet! All packed, off we go on Sunday morning. Get into town, pull up at the bank and lo and behold no air in the back tyre. Yet again thwarted by the dreaded tyre flatter bug. A look around found a tyre repair shop which for the tidy sum of $50.00 would come out on Sunday to suitably chasten the dick head would be trail blazer. For another $25.00 the tyre got fixed so 2 hours after the planned departure time we actually set off with a full complement of tyres and air.

Well the roads are as I remember – bad. However we made it into William Creek with no further mishaps, set up camp (yes – CAMP) for the night and then set off for Lake Eyre in the afternoon…..

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Back in 2000 this was wet. Today its mud or a massive salt plain. Soft underneath, treacherous to walk on and not recommended for driving over. Apparently some daredevil fly boy landed out there a few weeks ago and the plane is still there.

Back to Willy creek for the night and unlike the 2000 experience, no snake tails. Dinner in the dining room of the Hotel, made from the sleepers of the old Ghan railway line, interesting conversation with a couple of cross country motor bikers and ho hum ready for bed. Well we did a little better this time with a new tent and STRETCHERS  so we weren’t on the ground. It was almost civilised. Still no ensuite though….

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Next morning up bright and early. Now I can boast that I’ve never seen a sunrise before this but somehow the camping out thing has upset the system and bugger me, I got to see a sunrise. Now Jude tells me they are wonderful sights but so is the inside of my eyelids at this time of day normally but lo and behold heres a bloody sunrise……

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It was almost worth the effort, but I had to make the long walk to the offsuite anyway.

Well we were up. So you gotta make the most of it. Pack the kit and off we go. But its funny how things never quite go back the same way they came out. Can’t see out the back window now. Onwards to ill-fated Oodnadatta following the route of the old Ghan railway. What a fascinating piece of our history. Laid out in 1871/2 the Ghan (Northern Australian Railway) originally ran from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta and followed settlement of the tracts of land in between. It is still a monument to the efforts of our pioneers even though it is now derelict. (The new “Ghan” follows a track further to the west). Part of the old rail supports a tourist train from Pt Augusta to Quorn but thereafter it is virtually non-existent. The rail mound and lots of old sleepers and quite a few bridges still bear testament to the incredible work the old timers carried out and there are quite a few ruins along the way………

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About half way between Willy Ck and Oody doody is a sign posted turnoff to Peake Telegraph Station. Well, lets have a look. Its only 22 km. An hour each way wasn’t what the sign post said. This is not a road, nor could it really qualify as a goat track but Suzy made it. And it was worth it. A virtual township albeit in ruins but a further testament to the fortitude, courage and sheer doggedness of the pioneers…….

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We  were hanging on for dear life over this track but those photos we took photos don’t illustrate the worst track conditions, but as you can see from the above landscape its pretty rugged.

Ever closer to oody doody but now that’s for yet another day cos I’m tired and if I ever want to see another sunrise (unlikely) I’ll have to hit the sack now. Good night Dick!









21 May 2015

Back in civilization?

From Farina, cos its a one way journey if you are not going to Birdsville or Oodnadatta we headed back to Pt Augusta for another night behind the sports club. Found a few like minded travellers ……DSC03800 (1024x684)







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A most convivial evening after a quite boring drive back from Lyndhurst. Called in to Copley bakery on the way past to get some bread but this bakery doesn’t do bread at all. We’d tried the other day for supplies in Hawker only to find none so passed through again and on to Quorn. Saw sign for bakery at local supermarket and settled for 3 day old packed bread. Not much choice for travellers out here. Could have bought coffee anywhere but not sure about vintages. A few days earlier whilst still in the Flinders Ranges we were tempted into a lamb spit roast dinner at the Woolshed Restaurant, 2 courses for JUST $39.00 per head. The stale bread from Quorn was better fare. Scenery score 100, food score 20. Back to truck cooked meals.

Up late, slow to get going we headed off north. Plan was to get somewhere! Spuds Roadhouse caught our attention a couple of 100 K’s up, free camp, and found half the people we spent last night with. DSC03822 (1024x681) DSC03823 (1024x683) DSC03824 (1024x683) DSC03825 (1024x683)











But one newcomer came in late, all the way from Italy on a 40 year old Vespa. Luca, now having been on the road throughout  Africa, Asia and into Darwin a few days ago anticipates circumnavigating the world over the remaining 12 months or so of his time off. A track engineer for Ducati Racing (Moto GP) but more recently a stint with Ferrari he was one of those unique people with whom you could spend hours in conversation. From here (Pimla) he’s on to Adelaide, Melbourne and then to an aunts in Wollongong, then NZ and onwards from there. Had to repair the clutch on the Vespa overnight, had the parts on board, seemed just second nature. Pitched a little tent tonight but normally gets invited into someone elses bed……

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We farewelled Luca in the morning and set off for Woomera, Roxby Downs and Andamooka.

Woomera features an awful lot of “forbidden access”, a wide, huge swathe of Australia heading northwest from here. That’s where they shoot rockets – all the way to the Indian Ocean (if they make it). Some rockets do go straight up with satellites, some don’t go up much at all. Lots of bomb rockets (missiles) got tested here in the past as well, mostly by the Brits. Apparently we developed some missiles which the Brits bought but we didn’t use them ourselves. I’m not sure what that says of our own self confidence or maybe we just didn’t have any one to shoot at. Loved it all though – great science history……

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Roxby Downs is anther mining town attached to Olympic Dam uranium, copper, gold and silver mine. Its a modern company town with all the best facilities for its 4500 residents. The only mine tour is on Wednesday and this being Thursday we missed it, so the Visitor information Centre invited us into their theatre and played us a company video of the mine operations. A very personal experience and most informative. Even got some shots…..

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Not a lot else in Roxby Downs other than some very friendly people so on we go to Andamooka. Now this place has some dirty history. Opal mines everywhere, slag piles everywhere else and shanties and even some houses squeezed in between. Dirt everywhere. Mind you, there are some mansions…….

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Its night, we’ve pulled into another free camp provided this time by the civic minded citizens of Andamooka so for now there’s nothing new to report. Good night Dick and I hope Luca has found a nice warm bed to share.

19 May 2015

Into Oblivion

According to the clock 9 days have passed since the last entry. Dunno! No TV, phone or interwebby thingy in the Flinders Ranges nor in the ancient city of Farina. Makes it hard to keep track of the days let alone ones own personal habits.

Anyway, back in civilization (or such as it can be considered in Port Augusta) we now have mod-cons and those intrepid followers of this drivel can rejoice along with us cos I can now operate this pooter again (well sort of cos I couldn’t do it very well beforehand anyhow).

The tech dead spots cover most of the Flinders Ranges (funny how the visitor information centre has life) and extend all the way north to the historic village of Farina. There were some spots of tech civilization along the way but I didn’t have the wherewithal to encompass it at the time, so here we are trying to catch up on 8 more days of fun filled frolicking, rollicking adventure (well it is to old folk – just getting up in the morning qualifies).

From a start in Port Augusta we headed for the Flinders Ranges. After some discussion with others with experience, we opted to camp up at Rawnsley Park Station which is on the fringe of the Flinders Ranges National Park. As it had all of the normal caravan park commodities at a reasonable price it seemed a logical place to stay. It was. Got in on a Thursday and set about exploring. Spent the next 3 days in and around the ranges, walking and driving the various trails. My limited vocabulary is insufficient to adequately describe the beauty, the exhilarating grandeur of this geological wonder. Even photos fail to adequately capture the magnitude and ruggedness of this landscape but here’s a few to try to excite the senses……

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Then we went into Wilpena Pound – this is a massive depression in the top of a range and in an earlier time was the site of a wheat and sheep station…….

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This depression at one time ran some 20,000 sheep (late 1800’s) but drought brought the farming venture to a depressing end. Now it is a fascinating and picturesque geological depression.

We moved on to Leigh Creek, a coal mining town north of the Flinders Ranges. Not allowed to access the coal mine itself so went on to Lyndhurst to park up and then in Suzy to Farina. Farina is an historic township originally on the Ghan rail line of 1878 and was perceived as a place to cultivate grain crops transportable easily via the Ghan, however the climate beat them all and eventually the Ghan and the town failed. Finally deserted in 1986 the town has fallen into disrepair, but is a monument to the tenacity of our pioneers…..

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underground bakery has been restored and actually works, but not while we were there. Volunteers are progressively restoring parts of the town and are adding information panels all round. There is an operating homestead surrounding the site and the owners are further facilitating the restoration or at least the preservation of the site.

Farina is just short of Maree which sits at the junction of the Oodnadatta Track and the Birdsville Track below Lake Ayre South. We plan to access the Oodnadatta Track from Coober Pedy into William Creek sometime over the next week or so.

Our stay at Lyndhurst was shared with a French couple Mirieille and Marc who are exploring Australia after sailing around the world over the last 4 years and selling their boat in NZ a few weeks ago. They’ll head home in a few weeks and he will build another boat……

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Theres more but I’m tired so I’ll get this to air before I go to sleep.

Goodnight Dick!































10 May 2015

up, up and away

We are finally underway on adventure # 3. The truck has not been repaired because as usual Avida (Winnebago) let the team down. Parts were ordered (and paid for) by the repairers a week or so before we took it to them. Two weeks after dropping it off the parts still hadn’t arrived. Couldn’t wait any longer. Had the repairer make safe and away we go. The repairs will now have to wait until we return.

Night before departure (Wednesday) and Ben and Megan with 3 gorgeous little  rug rats finally appear to camp out in the driveway. Then Thursday morning Anne and Alex arrive just as we are packing the last bits into the truck. Ben et al depart and Robbos book in to caravan park where we will be in Melbourne for next few days. They’re down for granddaughters wedding  on Sunday May 3 whilst we are down at this time for niece Madelaines wedding on Saturday 2nd May. Alex and I get to go to club meeting on Friday.

The “maddyanguswedding” on Saturday was terrific. Ceremony in Melbourne Town Hall an historical treat. Reception at south wharf a delight. And Maddy and Angus were sublime. Altogether a great event and I’m still loving the lolly bar. Sorry no photos – dumbass left the cameras back at base camp and forgot the phone takes photos as well.

Sunday found me struggling to put names to faces at a 50 year luncheon at the old school. Actually 52 years after leaving the school I was presented with my 50 year leavers badge. A wonderful re-union with an awful lot of people with whom I went to school and a great luncheon into the bargain. Then off to the Van O’s for a farewell dinner with Bib and Gerry and Bob and Glenys (thanks guys).

Monday had us in a shitty old Rodeo ute (sorry Pete) whilst the Suzi and the Winnie were serviced. Up to Healesville to get an update on the Fergusson cottage, lunch with the Fergs and then back to pay the bills on service and two front tyres on the truck. There went over 2K !!!!!! – no lunches for a lot of days or a lot of free camps to pick that back up again. Catch up with Mags and sister Helen for din dins.

We’d planned to head to Swan Hill on Tuesday to see bro. Graeme for what was expected to be a last time but unfortunately his illness got the better of him on Friday 1st May so we delayed to arrive in time for a funeral on Thursday. A very fitting and honourable end to a lovable larrikins life. Dianne and Craig and the grandchildren did a wonderful job and bro. Ian highlighted some  tales of Graemes’ early life. Headed off after the funeral for Adelaide to meet our newest entry into family life……..








no not Gramma, the little one – Edith Natalie Monk-Payne. Born to Justin and Jane on 3 April 2015, grandchild number 5 to Anne and Quentin and Barry and Judy. Wow, never thought it would happen.

Now in Adelaide for a few days visiting.