Overland Part II: Across Two States
The Eyre Peninsula and Port Lincoln
I left Ceduna the following morning heading south along the Eyre Peninsula toward Port Lincoln where I would spend a couple of days with friends. The alternative, and shorter route is through Kimba (the middle of Australia from west to east) and I traveled this route on my way home.
South Australia is the driest of the Australian states and the Eyre Peninsula is a contrast of desert and ocean. There are numerous beach side towns along the way – Streaky Bay, Tumby Bay, Elliston and Port Lincoln at the southern tip before the road turns north to Whyalla and the western side of Port Augusta.
I stayed for two nights at Port Lincoln, a thriving country town whose principle livelihood is fishing and aquaculture. The Eyre Peninsula is famed for its sea food and I enjoyed fresh caught squid (from the caravan park jetty) as well as prawns and crab on my first night. It was good to relax and see some familiar faces although the time difference from Western Standard Time to South Australian Daylight-Saving Time had me a little confused and I slept till 10am both mornings.
It began raining on my final morning in Port Lincoln, and the rain stayed with me as I headed toward Whyalla, despite the weather reports on the car radio assuring me that the weather was fine with no chance of rain. I stopped at a country bakery for a steak and mushroom pie – my preferred option of the great Aussie favorite. I was heading for a campsite just short of Whyalla and turned off the main road toward it.
The day’s rain, after a prolonged dry spell had brought kangaroos out of the bush in multitudes. In a drive of a little more than 10 kilometers I saw between 50 and 100 kangaroos, often in groups and in no hurry to move, drinking water from the road surface. I slowed down to a crawl to give them plenty of time to move away as I made my way to Fitzgerald Bay campsite where I went for a good long walk along the interesting coast before settling down for the evening and night. I love sleeping in my teardrop – it’s so comfortable. And it’s always there, made up and ready for me to snuggle down at the end of a long day. Bliss!
I had my guitar with me but couldn’t find my guitar tuner, so I decided to buy a new one. Googling music shops when I was in mobile range told me that the best option was Port Pirie. A little out of my way but I decided to head there next. There was also a vet in the town so I could have my dogs treated for hydatid tape worm and get the appropriate documentation which I would need when boarding the ferry for Tasmania. (Dogs must be treated for hydatid tapeworm within 2 weeks of arriving in Tasmania and if you fail to do so, they will be treated on arrival which is a costly alternative).
Port Pirie and Murray Bridge
Whyalla and Port Pirie are industrial towns, and not very attractive in my view. They were largely populated by ’10-pound poms’ during the early days of industrialization when Australia realized there was a skill shortage which could be most readily filled by encouraging migration of appropriately skilled workers from the UK. Boilermakers and welders were encouraged to migrate to Australia with the offer of assisted passage and a ready-made job in heavy industry once they arrived. The Kwinana industrial area in Western Australia was another destination for these migrating workers many of whom originated from industrial cities in the UK and were keen to improve their lot.
I stopped briefly on the western side of Port Augusta and had a café meal before crossing the bridge that links the two sides of town and heading toward Port Pirie. Port Pirie is a quiet, tired feeling town with wide streets baking in the heat. I parked and found the vet clinic and the music shop. Business done, I fuelled my car and booked into a caravan park close to the water. Time for a swim – the beach was on the banks of a river mouth, but the water was salty due to its proximity to the coast, and lack of water flowing down river at the end of summer. The dogs were hot too and more than happy to swim around to cool themselves down.
The following day I skirted around Adelaide and headed up into the hills. I was totally dependent on the GPS in my car and with the heat and traffic, it was quite a stressful drive. My navigational skills are appalling, and it was unfamiliar territory so the evening before, I had looked up my map and camping book, chosen a destination and programmed it into my GPS navigator in the morning before setting off.
I was heading for Murray Bridge, where I stayed at a caravan park near the river. There is a cheap camp at Mannum but after the days driving, I was happy to pull up, relax, and walk down to the river for several cooling swims.
In the morning I used the free BBQ facilities in the park by the river to cook up bacon and eggs for breakfast and had another swim. Then on again, I was edging closer to the border between South Australia and Victoria and feeling happy with my progress.
Across the Border
I bought some locally grown lamb chops at the shops in Keith and headed on to the Mundalla showgrounds for my overnight stop. Mundalla is a tiny town in prime sheep country – the lamb was delicious. The showgrounds are used for agricultural shows, sport (mostly Aussie rules footy) and community gatherings. In some rural areas the local community has set aside areas for free or cheap camping such as this. They have realized that it encourages travelers to stay in the area and that, if they do so, they will spend money in the area which is good for the local economy.
As I pulled up under the trees, I noticed the grounds were being watered. I discovered the following morning that this was in preparation for an upcoming event and that the man shifting the sprinklers was none other than the town mayor. This was after one of my dogs decided to follow him as he moved the sprinklers (country style, tow them with a ute) and ended up jumping in his car.
It was nice to be out in the country again, far from the madding crowds, and the even more maddening traffic. I crossed the border into Victoria without ado heading for the one-street town of Harrow, stopping first to buy a loaf of bread at the country bakery in Edenhope. I love these rural towns with their wonderful sense of community and the people who live in them are friendly and helpful and laid back. Australia at its best. The Glenelg River runs through Harrow at the base of the camping area. Time for another swim. You will probably have realized by now that if I see a muddy puddle, I am tempted to jump in. I think I may be slightly amphibious.
I set up my awning at Harrow but did a lazy set up just to keep the minimal rain off. In the morning, the wind had picked up and lifted the awning into the air, twisting it around as it landed on the roof of my van. I managed, with some difficulty, to pack it away, but the aluminium was twisted and torn – exit awning. This is a common occurrence with awnings, they are only suitable for providing shade in mild conditions, and it is advisable to tie them down with guy ropes which I hadn’t done.
Despite my GPS navigation I got a bit lost on the days travel. I’m quite accustomed to getting lost and have decided that the best thing to do is to try not to panic. But it was with a sense of relief that I arrived in Warnambool late in the day and settled into the caravan park for an overnight stay. I had been hoping for a free camp, but life on the road requires flexibility and driving fatigued and in darkness is never a good option.
Warnabool, Colac and Melbourne
Warnambool is at the end of The Great Ocean Road, a road trip which I am yet to make. It’s a large centre with an extensive range of shops - a good place to purchase a more durable replacement for my ruined awning. I called in at a camping shop to buy a sturdy tent, and an auto shop for roof racks before heading to Colac where I planned to stay for a few days before the final leg of my journey to Melbourne.
I self-cater for most of my travels, purchasing snacks or meals only on rare occasions. Most are ordinary, but the burger, with the works I bought at Colac was memorable. Initially I planned to buy something ‘to go’ at the bakery, but after I had wandered through the streets, exploring, the bakery had closed. It was Saturday and they closed at 12 noon sharp. The next best option was the café next door. Run by someone of Greek heritage it was called the Apollo Café, so I ventured inside to be greeted by the owner, very much of Greek appearance and styling himself as a post-modern, somewhat Australian version of the Adonis. Quite a character. He assured me that it was my lucky day that I had missed the bakery open hours and after some persuasion I ordered a burger with the lot. It was a tasty feast with homemade beef burger Pattie, bacon, egg, cheese, and an assortment of salads all placed between the two lightly toasted halves of a burger, and a wooden skewer plunged through the centre to hold the towering mass together. Great value – both the meal and the café owner. I really enjoy meeting interesting people on my travels.
Then on to Lake Colac where I set up my new tent for the first time (easy) and wrestled with the assembly and installation of my new roof racks (not so easy). There was a bitterly cold wind blowing across the lake so I occupied myself with reading and practising guitar for the most part before setting out on the final leg of my cross-country journey to Werribee South, a short drive from Melbourne, where I would stay until embarking on the ferry for Tasmania.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Nan Hewitt