The last post – SA and home

South Australia

This will be the last post about this trip.

Well, we had made it to SA sustaining on minor damage.

From Border Village we made our way to the Ceduna Airport Caravan Park. This place appeared a bit run down but it turned out to be a real gem of a place. For a start the amenities were spotlessly clean. We had power and water for our inevitable battery and water top up. It was damn cold – the overnight temperatures had been getting progressively colder since we left Marble Bar in WA. We were now into the low single digits (degrees C) overnight so the heater was getting a good workout.

Seeing as the caravan park had a tavern attached we decided to try our luck getting a bottle or two of wine to have with dinner so wandered across. The caravan park manager was also the barman and when we asked for a bottle of Shiraz he wasn’t sure what he had – he mostly sold cans and stubbies  of beer. Anyway he found a bottle of Grey Label 2001 Wolf Blass Shiraz. He was genuinely concerned that it may have “gone off”. We assured him that it would be fine and he asked $10.00 for it. We happily paid him and had a bit of fun getting the very crumbly cork out – it had been stored upright in the fridge allowing the cork to dry out. Finally got the cork out and poured a glass and it was very, very good.

There was a local character in the bar so we decided to stay and drink the bottle and have a yarn. It seemed that, among other things, this bloke was the caravan park cleaner. He kept us entertained with tall tales and true for a couple of hours until we had to go and get dinner on and eat. What a great night.

We were rudely awakened early in the morning by a twin engine turbo-prop aircraft taking off over us. We were only a few hundred metres away from the end of the active runway at the Ceduna Airport hence the name of the caravan park.

Next stop Baroota Campground.

Baroota and onwards

Baroota was an honour box camp with no power or water – a bush camp, really. Here’s a few pics of the place and the sunset.

The last of SA

From the thoroughly pleasant Baroota we went to Plush’s Bend near Renmark on the Murray River. This wsas another nice spot with the only problem being that the toilets were a short drive away – too far to walk if you needed to “go”.

This was a really nice camp right on the bank of the river. While we were near Renmark we, of course, did enough shopping to get us home plus a few days afterwards. In the bottom left corner of the photo you can see a road with some trees next to it. The campsites were nestled in the trees. Once again it was damn cold overnight so the heater got a workout again.

That night we spent time completing the Victoria border crossing form which is something that we got quite good at. The next morning we would be crossing the border into our home state, Victoria.

Into Victoria and home

Well, we crossed the border into Victoria and headed to Sea Lake which was to be our last camping spot. We didn’t need to stop to have our forms checked or anything but we did need to have them completed and the confirmation on hand. Let me tell you, iPad’s are really handy for this sort of thing.

We have stayed at the Sealake Travellers Rest and Caravan Park a number of times in the past and we reckon it’s a great place. Cheap too. We walked into to town and got a few things at the supermarket and went back to our camp and cooked and ate dinner. We had a couple of bottles of wine that we got in Renmark so all we needed was to buy some fuel and head on home.

The run into Melbourne went as well as it can with the traffic steadily building as we go closer. It came as a bit of a shock to have to deal with traffic after a few months away and not needing to worry about such mundane things.

We got to within about 120 kilometres of home and a gearbox oil cooler hose split bringing us to a complete stop. We were on a section of the freeway whhere there was no emergency stopping lane so the wait for the RACV to send a flat top truck was somewhat harrowing with the traffic whizzing past at 100 kph or more.

The truck came and decided that they would need two trucks – one for the car and one for the camper. Thankfully the RACV were footing the bill via their Total Care roadside assist package.

Arriving home on the back of a truck was not how we had visualised the end of our trip.

The final word

Well our trip had come to an end. Along the way we saw a lot of sights that most people wouldn’t see. We had a whole load of new experiences both good and bad. We got to exercise our flexibility and went to some marvelous places. And above all else, we had an adventure. By the time it ended we were getting a bit over travelling and not seeing the family or our own home.

Would we do it again ? Of course but with some changes. We’d take a few more days off where and when we at and not be dictated to by breakdowns and pandemics.

On the whole we were fortunate in that we ere able to recover the breakdowns with a minimum of fuss and get the repairs done at a reasonable cost. We escaped the worst of COVID-19 and managed to travel where and hen we wanted apart from the lockdown at Woomera.

That’s it from me now that we’re back home straight into a lockdown situation. I’ll leave you with a map of the whole trip and a few trip photos in a gallery on this site. The map says that our total trip distance was 11,286 kilometres but it was closer to 15,000 because of side trips, etc. Our fuel consumption was around 13.5 litres / 100 kilometres or 21 Miles / Gallon (imperial) or 17.5 MPG (US) which is pretty damn good towing a two tonne trailer around. people we spoke to were getting around 20 or 25 litres / 100 kilometres. The Land Rover is a thrifty beast.

Without further ado, here’s the map.


Here’s the map

The last word

Well, that’s The Big Trip done and dusted.

What now ? Well this trip took three years to get on the road due to COVID-19 and other aggravations. It also took a great deal of planning.

Seeing as this trip took so long to get underway I’m starting to plan the next trip. We’re looking at far north Queensland – FNQ for short.

Planning starts now.





And so to Western Australia Part 2

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.

Our trip through WA

And so to Western Australia Part 1

Across the WA border – eventually

So the day came and we set sail from Pussycat Flats at Pine Creek for the Western Australia border. We had our G2G forms completed and had received the official green tick e-mail which indicated that we were all good.

When we got to within about twenty kilometres of the border we stopped at a roadside stop which allowed for 24 hour stays. This became important later. There were quite a number of people already camped there.

We stopped, went to the toilet and had some lunch. Because we were unable to take fruit or vegetables into WA we had a lunch of fruit and some veg that we knew would be confiscated at the border. WA is fruit fly free and the NT isn’t so fruit and veg, with a few exceptions, isn’t allowed to cross the border.

After lunch we headed west to the border and joined the queue. When we got to the head of the queue, after about an hour and a half only to be told in no uncertain terms that despite what our WA Government pass said we weren’t allowed to cross into WA. We tried arguing the point but the police woman was as tractable as Mt. Everest and wouldn’t budge from her “turn around” position. We asked where we could stay and she had no answer apart from “you can turn around here”. We tried telling her that we were running short on fuel and were planning to refuel in Kununurra after we crossed. “Turn around” was the answer.

So back to the rest stop. By the time we got there all the available space was already taken so we parked just off a track beside the rest area. By this time the toilets had blocked up and the place had become unpleasant. Very unpleasant.

After talking to a few people we discovered that we needed to have been in the NT for fourteen clear days and not just fourteen days and that we should be OK the next day. One of the people that we spoke to had just discovered that they would need to wait another week even though the G2G app had told them they could enter WA. We were also told that the queue was up to five hours. We decided that the best course of action was to cook dinner and retire early and in no particular rush just pack up and head to the border in the morning.

Imagine our surprise when we got to the border the next day and there were only a few cars ahead of us and that they were being processed quickly. When it was our turn the policeman had a look at our G2G passes, entered the details into his iPad and waved us on to the fruit and veg quarantine station. We had a few potatoes, half a cucumber, an onion and half a lettuce that were confiscated and off we went.

We had decided that we were going to stay at the Kununurra showgrounds and when we got there we found that we had to, once again, queue up as they were only letting people in after 10.00am. Worse we were about fifth in the queue and there were only four spots left.

After a bit of a wait and a whole lot of confusion we were assigned a site and we got set up. At last, after a deal of messing about we were in WA.

Onwards from Kununurra

After a very nice overnight stay at the Kununarra Showgrounds it was westward to Fitzroy Crossing. The twon was a depressing place and given the recent trouble we decided to keep going to Old Halls Creek in preference to the caravan park at Fitzroy Crossing.

We were unable to get any wine at Fitzroy Crossing as it had been declared a “dry” area following the trouble at the caravan park. When we got to Halls Creek we found that the only drink that was available was light beer and we aren’t beer drinkers. Oh well, such is life in the outback.

Old Halls Creek is a bloody interesting place as it is really the birthplace of the idea of the Royal Flying Doctor Service following an incident with a local stockman by the name of Jimmy Darcy. Here’s a link to the story on the RFDS web site.  It’s worth mentioning that the surgery took over seven hours with Postmaster Tuckett being instructed by the Doctor via morse code. Darcy must have been made of stern stuff indeed.

Here’s the memorial to the Reverend John Flynn and the stockman Jimmy Darcy.

As I say. Old Halls Creek is a very interesting place. The headstones in the old cemetery make interesting reading too.

Off to Marble Bar

After Halls Creek we spent a night at Ellendale Free Camp  where twenty four hour stays were permitted. The place would have been really nice if people weren’t such pigs. The place had toilets that were full to overflowing and the place was very generously littered with streamers of toilet paper. We found a quiet corner and set up with our own portable toilet and privacy tent.

Next day we shot off to Broome’s Gateway Caravan Park which was a nice place. Again we had a chance to get the washing done and the camper cleaned up a bit. You’d be surprised at how much red dust you can collect on a daily basis. Loads of the stuff.

After Broome’s Gateway we went to the campground at Pardoo Roadhouse and tavern. As luck would have it we were able to get a couple of bottles of wine to have with dinner. The place was a bit of a shambles but we managed to find a spot and get set up OK.

The mess at the roadside stops and the shambles at caravan parks bears testament to the sheer number of people travelling. The numbers were unbelievable. We made a pact with ourselves that we would book, where possible, everywhere we were going to stay from here on. It turned out to be a good decision too as a lot of the places we stayed on the remainder of the trip were full by the time we got to our pre-booked spot.

Marble Bar

This is where we started to have things go wrong. Very, very wrong. We had decided to spend a couple of days at Marble Bar because it is such an iconic place. It is widely billed as the hottest place in Australia which isn’t quite true, that honour belongs to Wyndham in WA. Marble Bar does, however, hold the record for the number of consecutive days over 100 deg F (37.8 deg C) – one hundred and sixty days. When we were there it was in the high 30’s deg C and it was winter.

When we got there I had a common cold which developed into a severe chest infection. My wife called for an ambulance when I was unable to stand or walk or anything. She says that I was confused and making no sense and in an all around bad way but I can’t remember that at all.

Marble Bar has no doctor having a permanent population of 174 as at the 2016 census but it does have a Nursing Post staffed by remote area nurses. They quickly diagnosed a chest infection and I had a doctors consultation via Zoom to confirm it or not. The doctor was quite concerned about my mental state and was thinking of evacuating me to Port Hedland by RFDS flight. The nurse at Marble Bar argued against that telling the doctor that a large quantity of Panadol had brought my temperature down and that a load of antibiotics was indicated. The doctor prescribed them and after a couple of hours and another Zoom consultation the doctor was quite happy for me to go back to the caravan park with lots of antibiotics in hand. I was also given strict instructions to rest for a couple of days. My wife, Jenny, made good and sure that the instructions were followed to the absolute letter.

The next day when I went back to have the cannula removed the nurse revealed that my temperature when I first got there was 39.8 deg C.

We spent another couple of days there while I recovered enough to be able to travel.

We didn’t get to have a drink or two in the pub or to see any of the sites but we got to experience first hand the generosity of a small community. We really should go back there some day.

Without further ado, here’s a map of the trip between Pine Creek, NT and Marble Bar WA.

Pine Creek NT to Marble Bar WA

And on to Newman and Meekatharra

When we finally felt comfortable enough to leave Marble Bar we headed towards Newman. Newman is the site of the mine which is the biggest hole in the ground on the planet – the Mount Whaleback Mine. This mine is an iron ore mine which is the biggest single-pit open-pit mine there is. It’s huge. Bloody HUGE.

Because Western Australia is such a huge place I’ll put the rest on another post.

The Northern Territory at last

Getting in to the NT

From Marla e headed to the Erldunda Roadhouse and Caravan Park at Ghan in the NT but before we could get there we had to go through the border crossing. This was a few kilometres into the NT so that the checking station could have mobile phone coverage so our details could be checked against the online form we completed at Marla. The checkpoint was at Kulgera.

We had to wait while a couple of carloads were checked and then it was our turn. Oh joy, we thought but in the end it was only about a forty minute holdup while all, and I mean all of our details were checked. The police were very pleasant and made the process as easy as they could and we were on our way.

As an aside – just about everywhere you go in Australia currently has a QR code on the door and you must check in either by QR code or by leaving your contact details. Needless to say each state and territory has their own phone app. We use the QR code as the apps all have the ability to keep a history of where you were. Later in the trip this proved invaluable – we would have been sunk without our history. Anyway the police at the SA/NT border suggested that we install the NT app while we were waiting to be processed, which we did.

Off we went to Erldunda which is very dusty and seeing as it was very windy our collection of red dirt got a good boost.

A word about red dirt. There are vast expanses of the stuff. It is so fine, finer than talcum powder,  that it can even find its way into sealed Tuppaware containers. If it’s even a little bit breezy it swirls into every nook and cranny. And it stains. There is no trick to getting the stain out – you’re stuck with it.

This is Erldunda Caravan Park, plenty of red dirt.

And to add a bit of context to the place names here’s the map from Marla to Erldunda.

Marla to Erldunda

Alice Springs

After Erldunda the next stop at Alice Springs. We stayed at a thoroughly pleasant place. Blatherskite Park – the Alice Springs showgrounds. We stayed a couple of days as we needed to do yet more washing as well as a big shop for food and supplies. We also needed a battery charge as well as a water tank top-up. The campers’ water tank holds 120 litres so it lasts us a while and we have 200 Ah of battery with only lighting and a 40 litre Engel compressor fridge to run so that will last about 3 days with no recharge.

Here’s a drone photo of our setup at the Showgrounds.


We’re in the middle under the tree.

Here’s a drone shot of the sunset.

To Ti Tree, Tennant Creek and Daly Waters

This part of the trip was just a few days of long drives along the Stuart Highway – long, wide and straight. The caravan parks that we stayed at were pretty ho-hum. Just a place to stop, eat and sleep. We were going to stay at Daly Waters for a couple of days but because of the local youth behavior neither of us felt at ease there. We stayed one night and headed off to Pine Creek the next day with a shopping stop in Katherine where they have a Woolworths Supermarket. Why Woolworths ? Simply because that’s our chain supermarket of choice and they’re in just about all major centres.

Pine Creek and Kakadu

The Racing Club in Pine Creek have opened up the racecourse and surrounds to campers and caravans as well as tents, motorhomes and whatever else. The place is called Pussycat Flats and is thoroughly delightful. We stayed a few days there before heading into the Kakadu National Park. Whilst Pine Creek doesn’t have a supermarket or anything it is a lovely town and we even able to get a few bottles of wine.

A word here about alcohol in remote areas. First thing is that it’s expensive. A bottle that we can get here in Moe, Victora for $8.00 commonly sells for $20.00 or more in remote areas. Also there are restrictions on how much you can buy on any one day – usually two bottles. Further, before you can buy any alcohol you need to produce some sort of photo identification which is used to check the prohibited persons database as well as other purchases n that day. A lot of small outback towns have a domestic violence problem which is largely fuelled by alcohol so this is an attempt to limit the damage that alcohol can cause.

Anyway, I digress so back to Pussycat Flats. The camping ground has a bar which is open to people staying there only and only for two hours a day – 5.00pm until 7.00pm. We spent our few days there getting things cleaned up and did the inevitable couple of loads of washing. We also spent a deal of time just talking to other travellers. It became a bit of a standing joke around the place that we had just forgotten to leave.

It’s probably worth noting that since e left Erldunda e hadn’t seen a cloud in the sky and the temperatures were in the mid twenty’s to mid thirty’s degrees Celsius range with the humidity increasing as we got further north. Our solar panels did a sterling job ensuring that by lunchtime every day we had fully charged batteries.

The time came to head off into Kakadu. Our first camp was at the Malabanjbanjdju camp site. When we got to the site the humidity was extremely high – around 90% with a temperature of 36 deg C according to the park ranger. Not pleasant. Still and all, the camp was a lovely place and we had a great stay and a good look around. We were told that if we wanted to see any crocodiles we’d need to go down to the billabong. The problem with that was that we’d have to make our way through about a hundred metres of long grass which in the words of the park ranger was “full of snakes” Taipans, Brown Snakes, etc. These snakes are among the most deadly four or five in the world. We didn’t go seeking out crocodiles.

When we researched Malabanjbanjdju we didn’t read about the insect life. The number, and variety, of biting insects was truly incredible so after a couple of nights we decided to decamp and move somewhere else before we were eaten.

So off we went to Muirella Campground. Here we had hot showers and flushing toilets, bonus. We had been making use of baby wipes to get a bit cleaned up at the end of each day at Malabanjbanjdju so a hot shower was welcome.

WHen the park ranger came around to collect our fees he mentioned that we should shower in daylight as the snakes like to come out at night to lay on the warm concrete near the showers. Point taken. While we were at Muirella e also had enough mobile phone internet coverage to be able to complete the 2021 Australian Census forms online.

e stayed at Muirella for a while and it was really nice. We even had an almost total lack of biting and stinging insects. We didn’t go down to the billabong due to having to wade through thigh deep long grass that would undoubtedly be full of snakes.

On our drive into, and out of  Kakadu we saw crocodiles along the rivers and billabongs. Big buggers, too. That was the end of our Kakadu experience.

If you’re thinking of going to Kakadu stay away from the resorts and tourist “attractions” for they are really expensive. Really expensive.

Back to Pine Creek at Pussycat Flats for a couple of days and the onto Western Australia where a surprise awaited us. Our last task at Pussycat Flats was to complete the G2G form to enable us to enter WA. What an ordeal that form was too. Still, we got it done and it gave us the “green tick” which indicated that we could enter WA without issue.



Daly Waters – Pine Creek – Malabanjbanjdju – Muirella and back to Pine Creek

From SA into the Northern Territory

From SA to NT

With our Campground Hostin stints over it was time to move on towards the NT.

We went from cold, wet and windy Stenhouse Bay to Port Pirie where there was a lack of wind and only very little rain. It was still cold though. At Port Pirie we had a powered site so there was time to recharge our aus and camper batteries, fill up the water tank and do some much needed shoopping at a decent supermarket. We also had a chance to fuel up at a reasonable price as well as replace one of gas bottles – it was empty. We also had a much needed chance to get all of the clothes and bedding washing done – we had been effectively bush camping for the previous two weeks.

Here’s a map of the trip from Stenhouse Bay to Port Pirie.

Stenhouse Bay to Port Pirie

Port Pirie to Woomera

From Port Pirie we went to one of our favourite places – Woomera.

The drive there was uneventful but our projected two nights at the Woomera Caravan Park turned into an eight day extravaganza. After our first night there we were getting set to leave the next day when COVID-19 struck. The poers that be in South Australia decided that a state wide lockdown was in order which meant that we were unable to travel. At all. Damn!

Let me tell you that there is very little to do in the Woomera Caaravan park. We were able to do some very expensive shopping in the small store and we were able to make a trip to Roxby Downs for me to replenish my medication supplies. But that was all.

As you can see, not a lot at Woomera Caravan Park.

Of course while we were there the weather turned nasty. Not a lot of rain, very little in fact, but there was loads of wind. Shane, the park manager, suggested that e move our camper to a more sheltered spot which we willingly did of course.

After what seemed to be a lot longer than a week the lockdown ended and we could get on our way.


Woomera to Coober Pedy

A thoroughly boring drive. Just hours of droning along the highway.

At this stage it’s worth mentioning that on a previous trip due to long periods sitting in the car my wife developed a blood clot in her lower leg. Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT. We learned a lesson from that and we now drink a lot more water and take regular “walkabout” breaks where we get out of the car and wander around for a bit before continuing on with our journey. Once bitten, twice shy and all that.

When we got to the Caravan Park at Coober Pedy we got the camper set up and noticed that one of its tyres had scrubbed a bit so a bit of wheel changing was the order of the day. The scrubbed tyre would come back to bit us a later time, of course.


And on to Marla

From Coober Pedy to Marla is another long and boring drive. We have done the drive from Woomera to Marla a few times in the past so the old saying of “nothing to see here” applies.

The only real curiousity is that at the Marla Caravan Park cars, campers, caravans, etc. are not permitted to park on the grass – you park on the gravel and have the table, chairs and stuff set up on the grass.

Boy was this place crowded. It was a good thing that we booked. This is where we started to notice the sheer number of people travelling with campers, caravans, motorhomes, four wheel drives with rooftop tents and just loaded up utes. It seemed like the whole country was on the move so from here on we were making sure that we booked every where we were staying.

Anyway here’s the inevitable map from Port Pirie to Marla.

Port Pirie to Marla via Woomera and Coober Pedy

And into the Northern Territory

While we were at Marla we had to complete the border forms, one each, so that we could cross the border into the NT. This was a pain as we had to detail everywhere we had stayed for the previous fourteen days. It took us a couple of hours to complete the forms such was the detail required.

Anyway the forms were done so we treated ourselves to a couple of drinks and a meal at the roadhouse that’s attached to the caravan park. There’s also a sort of supermarket there which was very expensive – a box of tissues that we can buy at our local Moe supermarket for about $2.00 was $11.50. We got a couple of litres of long life milk but that was it.

Anyway, the meal and drinks were good and we also got ourselves a couple of bottles of wine, went and had a shower and got the stuff stored properly in the camper – off to the NT the next day.


And COVID-19 Strikes Again

Stuck in Woomera

Well the dreaded COVID-19 has caught up with us again.

We’re now stuck in the South Australian outback town of Woomera. There is nothing here apart from the remains of the original rocket range. The only shops are a small mini supermarket, a caravan park with a bar which can’t open due to COVID-19 and a roadhouse about seven kilometres away. The town had a population of 146 at the last census but still has a medical centre and a police  station. Not much at all.

The South Australian Government imposed the lockdown on Tuesday at 6.00pm (it’s now Wednesday lunchtime) for seven days. The restrictions on us are onerous. We are unable to continue The Big Trip and are now uncertain what the Northern Territory Government will do about people crossing the state border from SA.

Here’s a link to Woomera  on WIkipedia.

The lockdown travel restrictions only allow five reasons to be moving about and of course none of the apply to us :-

  • To shop for essentials – medicines, food, fuel, etc.
  • To provide or receive care.
  • To have a COVID-19 test or vaccinations.
  • If you are an essential worker – Ambulance, Fire Brigade, medical worker, etc.
  • To exercise for no more than two hours within 6.5 kilometres of home.

As you can see we don’t fit any of those categories so we are somewhat stuck until the lockdown is over.

Oh well that’s it from us for the time being. We hope that the post will be from the Northern Territory when The Big Trip is back on the road.


The Big Trip hits the road

To Kiata and Belair

We decided that we’d start by heading to Kiata  for a couple of nights. We’ve been there before and really like the place. Besides it was a good shake down. Because I’m really clever I managed to forget to pack the length of duct that we use to pipe the hot air from our cheap All In One Chinese Diesel Heater. Like I said – I’m really, really clever. More on this later.

After a couple of days at Kiata we made our way to Belair in SA.  This entailed crossing the border which without COVID-19 would be no big deal. Before we left Moe we completed the border permits and were approved. When we got to the border we had to go through the whole palava again with the SA Police. After about an hour we were off to Tailem Bend to get our COVID-19 test done – another hour down the gurgler. Eventually we got to Belair and set up camp for a couple of nights. The next day Gill from Parks SA dropped by and gave us our uniforms and a knapsack of “stuff” that we’d need for our two Campground Hosting assigments. Firstly at the Trig Camp Ground in the Deep Creek conservation reserve.

And then to Stenhouse Bay Campground in Dhilba Guuranda – Innes National Park.


And so on to Trig Campground

When we woke up at Belair on the day we were leaving it was belting rain. Both Jenny and I hate packing up in the wet with a vengeance. And it was wet. It took longer than usual to get packed because of the wet weather but we were on our way soon enough.

When we got to Trig and started to put the camper up we saw just how much water we had packed. The cushions inside the camper were soaked in one corner and another corner was merely drenched. Oh well, such is life. We got ourselves set up as per the photo above and settled in for the next week.

The next day Coral, one of the National Park Rangers came to see us and lead us through the induction. Our duties seemed pretty simple. We were to clean the long drop toilets every couple of days which wasn’t hard. A wipe down, replenish the toilet paper, sweep them out and pick up any rubbish laying around.  We were to check each of the twenty five camp sites after a group had left to make sure that campfires were out and to collect any rubbish. We were also to interact with people and make sure that they had payed the required fees and were obeying National Park Rules, etc. Our biggest duty though, was to be on hand for inquiries and to hand out pamphlets and maps and other material.

Our week flew by and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time. It was a bit of a chore to have to drive about forty kilometres to do a bit of shopping and it was a decent drive to get a shower but those inconveniences paled into insignificance.

While were at Trig the weather wasn’t the best but it was OK. We had one windy night which brought the annex down of course. Minor inconvenience though. Our time at Trig was really, really cold so on our first shopping trip we got ourselves a butane heater which did the job OK-ish. Butane cans are an expensive option though at $7.50 for a three pack which would only last a couple of nights. A solution to the missing duct problem became urgent.

Come the morning to leave and guess what ? Yep. It was belting down with rain. Here we go again !

Onwards to Stenhouse Bay Campground

After Trig Campground at Deep Creek Conservation Park we were off to Stenhouse Bay Campground at Dhilba Guuranda – Innes National Park on the York Peninsular of South Australia.

Of course when we came to put the camper there was the, by now, the usual load of water from the wet pack up. Dammit. The upside is that the site that we’ve been allocated is a ripper as illustrated by the photo above. There is one drawback though. The ground is Limestone so we are unable to hammer tent pigs in which means we can’t put our tarp annex up. That leads to having to cook, etc. without shelter apart from the inside of the camper. Such is life in the fast lane. Over the next few days it could get interesting as the weather forecast isn’t good. Rain – 3-5mm total falls with a probability of 90%. Like I said, life in the fast lane and all that. Still and all, we’re camping so we’re happy.

We went through the induction which was pretty much the same as the one at Trig Campground so that was just a “tick the box” exercise. Our duties are the same as Trig Campground so not at all arduous.

On our second night here we were treated to a fantastic sunset. Bonus !!

On the day after the sun set we went into Warooka in an attempt to get more butane cans. We couldn’t afford the cans on sale in Marion Bay at $7.95 EACH ! In Warooka there’s a hardware store and a ducted heating and aircon specialist who happened to have a few old stock cans which he gave use. He also rummaged around and found some old ag. drainage pipe. With a roll of Duct Tape (100mph tape, etc) I managed to fashion a duct. Tonight we will have diesel heat. HOORAY !


It looks a bit Heath Robinson but a test run showed that it works. Hooray.

The heater has worked like a trojan for the last few days. Just what we wanted.

The weather for the last few days has been abysmal. Cold with the wind chill factor making it feel like between zero and three degrees Celsius. The wind, rain and hail has given the cafmper a good workoput. No leaks, torn canvas or bent poles. Gotta be happy with that.

Anyway that’s the end of our Campground Hosting.

Then end of our Campground Hosting

Here we are on the last day of our campground hosting. Over the last few days the weather has been worse than unpleasant. It’s been windy, rainy and damn cold at Stenhouse Bay. The weather at Deep Creek (Trig Campground) was only cold and wet. Tomorrow we start the trek to Darwin where we hope for much more pleasant weather.

Would we do it again ? In a heartbeat but not in the middle of winter though.

And finally

Without the ladies and gents at Parks South Australia this wouldn’t have been possible. They eased us into it gently and ensured that we had a lot of time  to enjoy the parks as well as perform our duties. Everything, and more, that we needed was supplied and ensured that we had a great time.

Special shout outs to Coral, Simon, Aaron, Chloe, Mark and especially Carly. These rangers and staff made our Campground Hosting placements really enjoyable. After two short placements I reckon the Parks SA Volunteer programme is a cracker.

So along came COVID-19 again

Here we go with Plan B

Well here we are in the midst of yet another COVID-19 induced lockdown. The South Australian border is closed to people from Victoria such as us which looks like it’ll stop us from doing the campground hosting in South Australia.

Currently it looks like our trip plan has gone to the dogs so, if that’s the case, we’ll to Darwin via New South Wales and Queensland. We have a couple of options here – to go via Cloncurry in Central QLD or via Townsvill and Cairns on the coast.

When we get to Darwin we’ll have a bit of a poke around Kakadu for a several days. While we’re in Darwin we’ll make our minds up as to which way we want to come home. Do we just head south back to Adelaide or do we head off to Broome as per the original plan ?

Moe to Darwin via Cloncurry in QLD

Moe to Darwin via Townsville and Cairns

That’s the current state of play

So far we have a slight preference for the Cloncurry option but this all hinges on where we can go due to COVID-19. With any sort of luck our original plan will be OK but we’re not holding our breath.

At the moment we’re pretty disheartened by the whole lockdown thing. This is our fourth lockdown and we are sick and tired of it and it seems like every time we get a plan together we are thwarted by things outside of our control.

As Jenny said the other night, “I’m sick of sitting around getting old”. We have a serviceable vehicle and camper just sitting there waiting for us to use them so we have decided that as soon as other states will let us in from Victoria we will be going in one direction or another.

More later.



It’s finally going to happen

At last

After three years of being thwarted, most recently by COVID-19, we have finally locked in some dates. We will be leaving home on 28th June 2021 and expect to be away for somewhere between three and six months.

The first few weeks of the trip will be spent getting to Deep Creek Conservation Park in South Australia where we will be Campground Hosts for the first week of the SA school holidays. From there we will be off to  Dhilba Guuranda-Innes National Park for more Campground Hosting for the second week of the SA school holidays and from there we will head up to Darwin, across the top possibly via the Gibb River road and down to Perth and Albany and back home across the Nullabor and via Adelaide.

Recently we have instituted a new rule We will travel no more that 400 km / day which means a few stops along the way so we’ll have time to see the good stuff.

We will take our full complement of cameras so there should be lots of photos published. We’ll also put stuff up on facebook as well ( m99markf ) .

So without further ado here are some maps. I’ve broken the trip up into sections to make life a bit easier for me while I’m putting this together.


Moe to Darwin

Darwin and surrounds

Seeing as neither of us have been to Darwin or Kakadu we’ll be spending a bit of time around here. Possibly a couple days in Darwin and then we’ll head off into Kakadu for a few days. After Kakadu we’ll head off back to Darwin for a day so we can do some shopping and get fuel for the next bit of the trip which will take us to Broome. We don’t know which route we’ll be taking yet – Gibb River Road or the bitumen.

Anyway here’s maps for both.

The Gibb River Road option

The Halls Creek / Fitzroy Crossing option

From Derby to Perth

While we are in the North West of WA it’d be a shame to miss such an iconic place as Marble Bar so the route from Derby home will go via Eighty Mile Beach and Marble Bar and on to Perth. From Perth we’ll either go via Albany and Esperence to home or go from Perth to home. The route via Albany will take in places like Newman and Meekatharra. Which route we take depends on a number of factors so we’ll make up our mind as we arrive in Perth.

Derby to Perth

From Perth to Moe via Albany or directly from Perth

Once we get to Perth we can either get back to Moe directly or via Albany and Esperence. We’ll make up our minds when we get to Perth.

Perth to Albany to Moe map

Perth to Moe map

And finally (for this post)

While putting the inevitable spreadsheet together we came up with four options for the trip after Darwin. Home via Halls Creek and Fitzroy crossing down to Albany. Home via Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing and directly home via Perth therefore leaving Albany out. The other two options are via the Gibb River Road which is dependent on the condition of the Gibb River Road.

So that’s our trip planned and to prove it here is the spreadsheet. There are three formats. .ods for Libre Office / Open Office, .xls for Microsoft Excel and a PDF version. Of course it goes without saying, if can see a use for the spreadsheet please feel free to download, modify and use it for your own purposes.




Planning fuel


Where and when to get fuel on a long trip is a bit of a vexed subject.

My view on fuel is much the same as water. Never let a chance go by, within reason, of course and keep records. There are many, many apps available for Windows, iOS and Android that can help with that. We use Fuel Map Australia for iOS.

We carry two 20 litre Jerry Cans of diesel as well as what’s in the tank which reputedly holds 95 litres. Given our worst case fuel consumption of 17 litres / 100km that means that we have a range of around 800 or so kilometres plus or minus a hefty margin for error.  I generally work on a maximum of 550km’s between refills which means that we very, very, rarely use the fuel in the cans. Of course, for example, if I come to a fuel stop and the cost is $2.00 / litre after 550km’s and I know for sure that 100km’s down the road I can get fuel for $1.20 / litre I’ll pour the jerry can’s in and carry on and top off everything for the cheaper price.

In the trip planning process I create a spreadsheet which has our overnight stops, distance between stops, expected fuel use, description of stop (caravan park, bush camp, etc.), whether or not we need to do shopping, where we’re going to eat, etc. This spreadsheet comes along with us on one our tablets and is updated almost daily. We record what we actually did alongside what we had thought we’d do – in our experience plans rarely go to plan.

The dreaded spreadsheet

Very often there is no better way to do something than to put it all in a spreadsheet. For us, fuel planning comes into the spreadsheet category. Please keep in mind that I’m no fan of spreadsheets but for this task it’s about the best tool for the job.

Because I detest all things spreadsheet I assume that you are also not in a happy, loving relationship with the things either. I make a workbook with each sheet covering a week so if, for example, you discover after a week or so of the trip that your fuel consumption is not averaging what you originally thought, simply change the number in one place and the whole spreadsheet will be recalculated. I’ve put 52 sheets together with a front page that has all the aggregate numbers on it – total distance, total predicted fuel use, tot predicted fuel cost, etc. You’ll get the idea if you have a squint at it.

Anyway, here’s hat I’ve done so far for the Big Trip. I’ve done it with Open Office so that you won’t run into any vendor specific “isms”. It’s free and as good as any other offering.

As you’ll see our trip is a little bit planned but you can just delete the bits that you don’t want such as the places in the “Destination” column and the “Distance” and “Driving Hours” columns. A lot of the cells are calculated so try and leave them alone. The distances and driving hours are from Google Maps and as such should be taken with a grain of salt although the do provide a “ball park” idea of how far and how long each section is.

And without further ado here is the spreadsheet in Excel xls  format and in Open Office ods format.

If you find it useful or you think that it can be improved please let me know.


That’s it for fuel planning

As for fuel planning, that’s it apart from a couple of final thoughts.

Fuel, like water, is something that a lack of will stop the trip so we need to make sure that we have more than enough to get us to the next top-up point.

We had an issue on the Old Strzelecki Track when a water tank seam fractured and we watched about 100 litres of precious water ended up in the dirt. Whilst this was a concern it wasn’t a real worry as we had about 30 litres of water in containers packed away for just such an incident. Similarly, we always carry about 60 litres of extra fuel in Jerry cans just in case. I’d rather get home with a few full Jerry cans than need it and not have it.