Newman – Take 1
The trip from Marble Bar to Newman was via Nullagine which had a fair bit of gravel and stony road. Of course we had a tyre sliced open by a sharp stone so we spent a therapeutic hour or so changing that with the very much appreciated assistance of a fellow traveler who had a high lift jack which made life a lot easier.
The Newman caravan park is a sort of interesting place. There are no permanent on-site staff and it can only be booked online. The booking system was a bit of a mess too which made it quite a task to get a site booked. There are three types of site – power and water on grass, power and water on gravel and unpowered. We wanted an unpowered site so it wasn’t too hard to book. Anyway we got booked and received the confirmation e-mail with the gate and amenities codes. They have electronic locks so every booking gets codes that are unique and only last the duration of the booking. Good in theory.
We got ourselves set up complete with the solar panels to get the camper and car batteries fully charged before we ate and went to bed for an early start.
By this time it had become very obvious that the two hour time difference between WA and Victoria was playing havoc with our sleep patterns. We found ourselves getting out of bed at 6.30 or 7.00am rather than our usual 8.00 or 8.30am starts.
We got ourselves packed up and off we went in the direction of Meekatharra.
Meekatharra – well no. Newman take 2
The first 170 or so kilometres to Meekatharra went well. The scenery was stunning with wild flowers of all colours blooming against the green hills and the red granite outcrops.
We were thoroughly enjoying the drive until…
As you can see the wheel studs had either pulled out or sheared off leaving the wheel to bounce down the road while the brake drum destroyed itself on the road surface.
Thanks to RACV Total Care we got the camper back to Newman while we followed the truck. The RACV organised accommodation for us while we waited for the camper to be repaired. They also organised to get the camper to a repairer. It was a horrid inconvenience as all our food and belongings were in the camper. When the truck came to our rescue we managed to get our 40 litre Engel fridge and a box of food out of the camper and into the car so we at least had some stuff for the four days that it took to get the camper fixed.
While the camper was at the repairers I decided that I would climb under the car and fix a very minor exhaust rattle. While I was moving myself around I grabbed the front drive shaft for support and it moved. Not good. The exhaust system was quickly forgotten while I had a good push and shove of the drive shaft. The diagnosis was easy – it was well past its use by date and needed replacing urgently before it broke. When these shafts break they tend to take the gearbox out and come up through the floor taking out the drivers left foot and floor on the way. I wasn’t too keen on that happening.
We got the camper back after four days so our time at the paid accommodation came to an end and it was back to the caravan park where we booked a couple of nights on a grassy powered site figuring that we’d get the drive shaft quickly. Of course that little plan quickly dissolved into a pile of excrement as well.
Newman doesn’t have anywhere I could get a new shaft and the nearest was at Geraldton, about 1,000 kilometres away. A new shaft was ordered and then began a five day saga with Australia Post who promised delivery withing three business days with full parcel tracking. They lost the parcel. Now, the Newman post office is open 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday. The parcel actually arrived at 10.15am on the Thursday but we didn’t get notification until about 5.10pm on Friday so we had to spend the weekend at the caravan park. We had to change sites, of course, because ours was booked by someone else starting on the day we were supposed to leave. We ended up needing to change sites again, this time to an unpowered site, because our site had been booked by someone else starting on the day we were supposed to leave.
Costs were mounting up – $,1500 for the camper, $200 for the caravan par, $1,500 for the drive shaft, etc. but eventually we managed to get away from Newman.
When I got the new drive shaft I fitted it and the next day we were off to Meekatharra, again.
At last Meekatharra
Hooray. We finally got to Meekatharra. We had planned on camping at the local Lions Club Park but it was small, no facilities, in the middle of town. It’d do in a pinch but the local shire office suggested that we went around to a place called Peace Gorge. Seeing as it was only a few kilometres out of town we decided to go there after doing the inevitable shopping. What a brilliant place Peace Gorge is and we were so glad that we went into the Shire Office.
We would really have liked to stay for a couple of days but we had lost about three weeks of our available time – a week of lockdown at Woomera, nearly a week waiting for the camper and another week or so waiting for the drive shaft. We had to move on.
To Gwalia and beyond
From Meekatharra we headed off to Leonora. We decided on a free camp at the Gwalia Mine Museum. It was basically a car park on a hill overlooking the mine. This is another interesting place. Not because of the mine, which is after all just another open cut, but its history is notable as its first General Manager was a fellow by the name of Herbert Hoover who was a mining engineer and only twenty three years old. Herbert Hoover went on to become the 31st president of the United States of America.
The inevitable sunset from the Gwalia Museum free camp.
Next stop was Widgiemooltha after a visit to the Kalgoorlie Super Pit which is the second biggest hole in the ground in the world after the mine at Newman. We also took a drive along the main shopping street of Kalgoorlie. The number of bars and hotels was astounding. In a stretch of about 500 metres we counted about a dozen. One of the cross streets had three pubs on the corner !
Widgiemooltha is a small roadhouse with a camping area out the back. We got ourselves a powered site so we could top up the batteries and water. Of course we also made use of the washing machine and dryer. We also decided to eat in the dining room which was a great decision. The food was delicious and so was the wine that we got there.
The next day saw us heading to the Caiguna Blowhole. Before we got there we went along the longest straight stretch of road in Australia – 146.6 kilometres or 91.1 miles. It runs between Balladonia and Caiguna. And yes, it is thoroughly boring. Its only redeeming feature is that its the longest straight stretch in Australia.
And on to SA via some interesting places
Our next stop was Caiguna Blowhole. This is another free camp. It should be noted that free camps generally require you to entirely self contained which means capturing all grey water and having a toilet with a holding tank. We behaved ourselves in that respect, of course. While we were at Caiguna we filled out net another border form so we could get into SA. As expected that was no trouble as we had been travelling through WA which has no COVID-19 cases at all and so is a “Green Zone” and we were entering another “Green Zone” – SA.
The area of the Nullabor Plain and surrounds sits atop a vast network of caves in limestone. The Ciaguna Blowhole is an interesting spot. With changes in atmospheric pressure it seems as though the ground breathes. As the atmospheric pressure drops when a low pressure system crosses the area the blowhole “breathes” out and there is a considerable draft coming from the hole. As the atmospheric pressure rises the hole “breathes” in. There’s a short video on this page that shows the blowhole in action.
From the blowhole we drove the Border Village at Eucla on the SA border. This where we had to pay a lot for fuel. So far by being very careful in schedduling our fuel stops we had avoided the expensive fuel. At some places diesel was over $2.00 / litre while at home it is around $1.40 / litre or less. At Eucla, where we had choice but to fill up, it was $1.88 / litre. We sucked it up and paid the price.
At Border Village we drove straight through – no checking of border forms, no fruit and veg quarantine and no reason to stop.
So that was WA. Suffice to say we had a few “experiences”. It reinforced, to us anyway, the advantages of not having a “plan B” but having the mindset of “flexibility is key”. This leg of the trip was a classice example of what to do when plan A goes to the dogs.
So we were in South Australia. What can happen now ? We’ll see.