Ready, Steady,...

Trip Start Jul 07, 2011
Trip End Oct 10, 2011

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Where I stayed
Woomera Traveller's Village & Caravan Park
Read my review - 2/5 stars
What I did
Take to the road

Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Thursday, July 7, 2011


After endless preparation, the time finally arrived this morning to put rubber to road.  The saddest thing was looking at Rocket Cat, seeing him inspecting/sniffing the caravan and then sauntering off to find a comfortable bush to sleep under.  He doesn't realise that it's for the next 3 months.  Better be a good bush!

Thankfully last night's downpour had cleared to reveal a cloudless blue sky and a cold morning.  I'm not sure we wanted to leave in torrential rain; this is the first real time we've actually had the whole rig set to go away for anything more than a couple of days pit-stop, so getting the loading right has been a bit of a trial and error process.

The new "load levelers" are a definite boon though.  They turn the driving experience from a "car fight" into a wholly pleasant experience.  All the weight that made you feel like your pants were velcro'd to the chair has been transformed into spring loaded shoes.

First 'stop' (not that you want to stop there) was Port Wakefield: A chicane of chicken, pizza and fuel places - they're much better as you watch them go by and get onto the best thing to come out of there: The road.

It's currently very green driving north to Port Augusta.  The southern Flinders ranges on the east rise out of the plains providing a beautiful view as the relief of the hills are highlighted by the winter sun cutting through the clouds .  A few rain showers cut across from the coast and hit us quite hard, but they were the exception as we counted the numerous windmills (Matthew said 36) and the pink salt lakes dotting the wayside.

Road Trains and Broken Bags

The further north you go, the more road trains we encountered.  They are deceptive (big) beasties.  Up to 3 semi-trailers hooked onto a single prime mover, hurtling down the highway at 110km/h.  I'm not sure what's better (or worse); having one go past you in the opposite direction - creating a bow wave of wobbles; or being overtaken by one - and getting sucked into the side-draft before being spat out by the tail-wash.  We'll need to get used to this as we go further north and these become the rule, not the exception.

One thing that I hadn't truly got to grips with was the likely fuel consumption.  The Outlander normally runs on the smell of an oily rag.  Something like 8.5 l/100km is the normal consumption.  Towing the caravan nearly doubles that figure and we found that we needed to fill up at Pt Augusta - after getting the "you're going have to walk soon" blinking yellow light on the dash.

I'm sure that the (new) front bag awning had something to do with these figures.  It hangs here like a sail waiting to catch all the air from the back of the 4WD, and it tugs like crazy on the fastening straps (that were replaced at the 1st service - because the numpties had fitted the wrong size awnings).

Needless to say, on the way out of Port Augusta (having had a truly unmemorable lunch in the parking bay of the Shell servo next to an ocean inlet!) a check in the mirror told the story:  The front bag was lifting again and had pulled the fastener out of the side.

Lesson for the day: Have tools in the car so you don't need to go into the caravan!  Crawling around in 80cm of dark space looking for a screwdriver is not something that I wanted to do - especially on a regular basis.  The car now has basic tools in the boot!

Even with a bungee strap holding the bag down, it still wants to try liberating itself from the van, so methinks taking it off and adding it to the (increasingly large number of) items inside is the best option.

Loads of Weird

Thanks!  Thanks to the very considerate wide load that, with all the diplomacy of a small army, marched straight out in front of us 150km outside Port Augusta!

I didn't mind about the speed it subsequently went (slip streaming it at 90 saved us quite a bit of fuel), it was the way that I just about crapped myself when this thing - and it's entourage of accompanying light flashing pilot fish - didn't slow down (or stop) as they pulled onto the main highway from a side road about 50m in front of us!

This low-loader had what I can only describe as a "bleeding great big lump of metal" on the back of it.  The width of this thing was a sight to be seen - 1.5 lane widths across and just about as high.  And watching the expressions on the faces of drivers coming the other way was priceless - you recon I nearly crapped myself?  These drivers were just about swerving off the bitumen into the gravel and bushes to avoid being collected.

I think the driver was a gentleman though.  After about 100km, he just about stopped and insisted we pass.

And, in case you care, it looked like the "bleeding great big lump of metal" was some kind of machine part (yes part) for the mine at Roxby Downs...

Changing, Changing, Changing

There's a big sign at the north end of Port Augusta.  It says "Left: Perth, Right: Darwin".  Gee, you wanna make sure you get that one right!

We'll let you know what the scenery's like on the left leg in about 3 month's time, but the scenery on the right fork is interestingly monotonous.  Why do I say this?  It's only a couple of hours drive from PA to Woomera, but just when you think you're driving through more of the same, the scenery abruptly changes: Red dirt, salt bush and small trees, and then high plateaus of rolling nothing.  And then, all of a sudden, there's a photo opportunity (which we missed!) to look down onto the "Island Lagoon" - a perfectly flat brown expanse, ringed by hills framing a single great big lump of dirt!  Bugger - that would have made a great photo...

Fauna or Roadkill?

The desolate landscape has signs all along the roadside warning you about the free range grazing and the omnipresent kangaroos.  At the first landscape change, the number of animal sightings increased: 4 dead roos decorating the roadside, a couple of dead foxes and then a dead COW!  What kind of dent did that leave?  And that wasn't the only one, we counted another 3 - bloody great big cows, legs in the air having been bounced off the highway - probably by 50m worth of triple coupled road train.

The out of the blue - Emu!  Running along the side of the road - four of the things trying hard not to join the roos, foxes and cows (still can't get over 4 cows pushing up the daisies)...

We think that all the roadsigns need to be the other way up.

Woomera Traveler's Village

Defence has a huge testing range at Woomera.  It's steeped in history as the place where the Commonwealth's great powers (OK, us and the Poms) let rip with all the latest and greatest fire crackers and military hardware to see just what it can do/blow up/hit.  (We'll see the official history tomorrow, so I may have understated/exaggerated the truth - but this'll do for now).

The caravan park (a.k.a Traveller's Village) is on the edge of Woomera - a place that at 1st sight resembles one of those 1950's soviet cosmonaut training camps: Triple story cream brick buildings arranged in regimented rows and now no longer used.

We argued about which one of us was going to check in.  In the end we both drew the short straw (because we had no straws) and got our site allocation from the Office.  I'm sure that Caitlyn has more in-date and real supplies in her toy shopping cart than the Office: One tin of Heinz spaghetti in tomato sauce; one packet of chewy, some razor blades and endless copies of some "Grey Nomad monthly" newspaper.  Perhaps this is the traveller's museum and they are the exhibits?

The toilets are to behold: the best thing is that they flush.  Metaphorically, its down hill from there.  It would be nice if the stalls had locks.  Opening the door nearly makes the window fall out.  The flexing squeaking floor causes all the doors to move - which nearly makes the window fall out...

In my review I describe it as "Great - if you like gravel" - and that about sums it up.  2 stars is generous.

It's a one night stand though - 20 minutes from handbrake on to coffee on.  A new record (not that we have to try hard to beat any previous failures in this department).

Off to look round the museum and rocket park tomorrow - and then on to Coober Pedy, which Megan describes as "different, unique, special, weird".  I thought we were already there...

For the record

Today's Menu:
  • Breakfast: Toast/leftovers
  • Lunch: Chicken salad
  • Dinner: Home made pumpkin soup + crusty bread & cheesecake
From the mouths of babes:
  • Matthew's explanation of why the cows are on the side (not in the middle) of the road: Because the driver would have stopped to pull the cow off to the side rather than leave it there.
From the Gross file:
  • Seagulls in Port Augusta like anything - including predigested food:  Megan was sick there!  Last night's curry?  (No chucky diseases for us please Saskia...)
Slideshow Report as Spam

My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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Dan C on

I can't believe that you don't like Port Wakefield!!! :-)) Excellent place! Jokes aside, just as you come into town from Adelaide, there is an EXCELLENT Bakery or at least there was when I was there last, admittedly in 2009.

I'm surprised that you didn't go to Pimba! Only place I know where you can buy a tank of Fuel, a schooner of beer, a counter meal and a case of beer to go all in the one transaction!

AND it is only five minutes drive from Woomera!

Cheers, have a great trip!

chris-and-megan on

Ah Pimba – that experience today as we fill up for the trip to Coober Pedy. Fill up with fuel, schnitzel/chips – and the obligatory case of beer of course.

What about a schooner for breakfast while at the bowser?

Lesley on

Wow, I love your commentary. I have to have a copy of this book when you've finished your travels - and you should publish it - would make a million $$$, I reckon! Sounds fantastic (boring scenery and all) and boy do I wish I was there! Take care Love Lesley

Saskia on

Seagulls have follwed us around the country and we have always offered a warm, hearty meal prepared by one of the kids or Sid!

Maree on

Those cows were only faking. They're well trained by SA Tourism and get up and move after you've gone past. Wait 'til you see the big wedge tailed eagles perched on top of their roadkill (non faking cows). They'll stare you down - "I'm not moving off the road, YOU move". Until they realise you're a teensy bit bigger than they are, then it's "OK, you have the dead cow."
Looking forward to hearing about your pizza at the only, sorry, best pizza place in town when you reach Cooper Pedy. Watch out for the feral stobie poles. Dave swears one jumped out and hit the car...

Shaz on

The adventure has truly started look forward to readin more of your adventures . Have fun :)

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