This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2007 Travels September 20

THURSDAY 20 SEPTEMBER   FRASER RANGE TO NULLARBOR ROADHOUSE   810kms

Just one very long day of driving today. All familiar from previous trips.

At least, this time was more pleasant – slightly – than the one last December, when we experienced temperatures pushing close to 50 degrees around Eucla.

A little variety was offered by the descent and ascent at the Madura Pass, with its interesting views.

Also by stops for fuel – at Cocklebiddy Roadhouse ($1.75cpl) and Mundrabilla ($1.48cpl). The latter had a reputation for usually being one of the cheaper places for fuel on the Nullarbor crossing.

My plan was that we would stop at the WA/SA border, at Eucla, where we had stayed before and found reasonably pleasant. For me, that would have been quite a long enough day. I was conscious that the impaired circulation in my left leg was not helped by long days of sitting in the rather cramped space of the passenger seat in Truck. A couple of hour-long turns at driving, while John napped, didn’t really help much.

However, when we reached the border, John wanted to press on, and would not be talked out of it.

So we pushed on for almost another three hours, to Nullarbor Roadhouse. Our powered site in the caravan facility there cost $20. It was simply a place to stop. where the Roadhouse offered showers and toilets – convenience offset by the ongoing noise from the large trucks pulling in and out of the place.

Where the Nullarbor Plain meets the Great Australian Bight

It was a relief to stop for the day. I had shooting pains in my legs, my feet were swollen, and my lower back was hurting. Just too much sitting and being inactive, I guessed.

In bed at night, I could still “feel” the motion of travel. It was not actually all that unpleasant.


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2007 Travels September 19

WEDNESDAY 19 SEPTEMBER     LEONORA TO FRASER RANGE   490kms

Before our morning departure, we gave M and R a bottle of wine, as thanks for having us stay there.

I tried, unsuccessfully to fix the non-functioning fax machine there – it was the one I had at RV2. I really had no idea what was wrong with it and not enough knowledge to even  make an intelligent guess.

On wards, south to Kalgoorlie. There were places. like Menzies and Lake Ballard, that I would have liked to be able to stop and explore, but not to be. There was a lot around that area to the north of Kalgoorlie that was unfinished business, for me.

Found places to park the rigs in Kalgoorlie, where we had to check for mail. It was a bit of a hike from where we parked, to the Post Office, but that at least offered a chance to have a little look about.

Topped up the fuel – $1.33cpl.

Parted company again from M, who was staying on in Kalgoorlie for a few days, to explore. She did not want to do such long days as we were now having to, or to hang around somewhere boring in SA, to watch football.

We continued on, over roads driven before, to Norseman – another fuel top up – $1.45cpl. Then turned to the east, onto the Eyre Highway, which crosses to Nullarbor Plain, to SA.

Decided to overnight at Fraser Range Station. This was a caravan park set up, not all that long ago, on a sheep property. It was now well enough established for trees to have grown, and to become quite an attractive place. Our powered site cost $20.

After the usual basic set up for an overnight stay, we went for a late afternoon walk, out along one of the walking trails that had been established, for a couple of kms. There were good views over the surrounding countryside, from the top of the low range. It was a pleasant way to finish off the day. This was a much nicer place to stay than one of the roadhouse caravan facilities along the way.


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2007 Travels September 18

TUESDAY 18 SEPTEMBER     NEWMAN TO LEONORA   750kms

We were away early, again, with another long day of driving ahead of us.

Stopped to refuel at Capricorn Roadhouse – $1.51cpl.

This was all previously driven country for us, but new to M, once south of Newman.

The country became flatter, south of the Pilbara range region. The scrub became saltbush dominated. Regular west flowing floodway crossings – all dry – were the most interesting feature, as the scrub was thicker along the waterways, and there were some trees.

We made a toilet and drinks stop at Kumarina Roadhouse.

About 90kms south of Kumarina, turned onto the unsealed Neds Creek road – the “short cut” south east, past Neds Creek and New Springs, to Wiluna.

Corner Neds Creek track and the Great Northern Highway

There were lots of wildflowers along this section, but for the most part it was flat and scrubby, with occasional crossings of dry waterways to liven things up.

The last 40kms or so of this road, before Wiluna, is actually the first part of the legendary Canning Stock Route, which heads N-NW to eventually reach Halls Creek in the Kimberley. This was on our bucket list, to drive, sometime soon – a trip of at least 21 days, from Wiluna to Halls Creek, and not a track on which to take the caravan! Except for the section from Well 2 to Wiluna, which we were doing now.

When the Canning Stock Route was established as a droving route, wells were sunk at regular intervals, to provide watering points. Some of these have been, in recent times, restored, to provide water for 4WD travellers doing the Route. Well 1 is near Wiluna, Well 51 is by Lake Gregory, south of Billiluna Community, where the Canning Stock Route joins the Tanami Track.

We turned off, briefly, to have a quick look at Well 2 and stretch our legs.

Stopped at Wiluna to refuel. $1.60 cpl. Apart from that, it was not a place that tempted one to linger.

From Wiluna south, the road was a good, sealed, one again. The country was increasingly arid and scrubby.

Country south of Wiluna (Google)

We did not call in to Leinster, just off the road south. We had seen it before – just the typical purpose built mining service centre.

Continued on to Leonora. Refuelled – 1.44cpl.

There, we stopped at the accommodation lodge that was owned by the NT construction company we worked for, last year, in the Pilbara. We wanted to catch up with a couple of our co-workers from RV1, who were now managing the lodge. Also, having heard so much talk about it last year, and having despatched my office supplies and other gear there, towards the end of the project, I was curious to see the place.

R said we could park our rigs in the grounds, and even hook up to a power point. We did not need a second invitation!

The Lodge was quite an impressive set up. There were lots of donga rooms, which M had looking really good inside – comfortable and clean. These were linked by covered walkways to give a more unified appearance than the separate units of the rail villages. The gardens were coming on and the pool looked inviting.

With all the recently renewed mining and exploration activity in the surrounding area, there was a real need for this type of short term accommodation.

There were not many guests in, today, so R and M were able to give us just about their full attention. Their 4WD had been stolen, very recently, by “locals”. They had broken a locked gate into the yard to get at it. It was recovered, quite wrecked, but R intended to try to rebuild it. There were big problems in the town, apparently, from the “local” element and their friends and relations from Kalgoorlie.

In the grounds, there was one accommodation donga building that had been brought down from RV1. It was somewhat cyclone battered. My old office donga from RV2 was also there. It had been rolled over by the cyclone, which had still been strong enough, some 250kms inland, to do that! It was a real mess inside – jumbled up desks and filing cabinets; obviously nothing had been done to clear it out after it had been trucked down here.

We talked about the company’s current projects, and got news of other people we had worked with.

Eventually, we retired to our rigs – R and M had work to attend to and it was time for us to cook our dinners.

A 10litre cask of water had shifted around inside the van, and worn itself a hole in the liner, and leaked onto the floor where it had been sitting. Fortunately, most of the water had been soaked up by the floor rugs, but some things on the floor of some cupboards and under the bed  had gotten wet. I probably should have carried the cask in a bucket or the washing dish. Hindsight is wonderful!


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2007 Travels September 17

MONDAY 17 SEPTEMBER     EIGHTY MILE BEACH TO NEWMAN   690kms

We were away from Eighty Mile Beach reasonably early.

M had phoned while we were packing up. She’d had enough of the Tom Price visit and proposed to meet up with us tonight at Newman.

Last November, when we travelled back to the Rail Village from our R&R stay, there were fires along the highway before Paroo Roadhouse. Now, some of that burnt country appeared to have regenerated quite well.

Did a quick stock up on some food supplies at the South Hedland shopping centre, and refuelled there – $1.44cpl.

As we drove south on the Great Northern Highway, passed the dirt road that was the way into the Rail Village 1 camp, that had been “home” for three months last year. We could glimpse in the distance, the old Fly Camp site and a white dome that was the workshop of one of the rail building contractors, obviously replaced after the big cyclone of last March.

It was a bit tempting to drive in and have a look at the Rail Village 1 camp – to see how it had been cleared and rebuilt after that cyclone – but we didn’t. Thought it might not have been politic for anyone associated with the first version of the Camp to go visiting!

There were lots of wildflowers along the roadsides, mostly oranges and yellows – the colours of the Pilbara. And of course, the ubiquitous mulla mulla.

The amount of mining associated development we passed through in the last couple of hundred kms before Newman, was amazing. So much had changed through there, in less than a year. A lot of the change was associated with the new Hope Downs Mine project. This mine was in the area we had explored in 2004, and I hoped that, somehow, some of the lovely rock pools and waterholes we had seen had been preserved.

We reached Newman in the late afternoon, after a long day of driving.

M was already there, of course, given that she did not have so far to come. She had gotten us a site in the Newman Caravan Park, for which we were grateful. With all the mining development now, around Newman, one could not take accommodation there for granted.

Our site cost $23.

Shower, quick tea, and early night.

The caravan park was so noisy, through the night, with shift workers coming and going.


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2007 Travels September 16

SUNDAY 16 SEPTEMBER     EIGHTY MILE BEACH

John had a last fish in the morning and added another meal’s worth to the freezer stock.

I had a last, long, leisurely walk along the beach. I would miss this place and the daily beach walks. Suspected this would be the last beach walk of this trip.

We took down the awning roof and hooked Truck up to the van.

Fish and fries for dinner.

Yet again, the stay here had been most enjoyable. Wonderful place.


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2007 Travels September 14

FRIDAY 14 SEPTEMBER     EIGHTY MILE BEACH

M left in the morning, first intended stop Tom Price, where she could stay with a friend who was there. Then, she planned to make her way home to our place, gradually, stopping to explore places that caught her interest, along the way.

There had been a heavy dew overnight, and her day tent was really wet in the morning, so she delayed packing up until it had dried out.

John went down and fished and caught four threadfin salmon. That would ensure my supply of fish dinners for the trip home.

I used the rest of the shark to make sweet and sour fish, for tea.

Now that we were only staying a few extra days, we were no longer on a weekly rate, so the cost went up to $28.50 a night.


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2007 Travels September 13

THURSDAY 13 SEPTEMBER     EIGHTY MILE BEACH

M and John fished, in the morning.

I went to the beach and made a video of them fishing, near high tide, on the beach crowded with other fisherfolk.

Baiting the hooks – and being careful not to stand on one….

John caught a small shark.

For lunch, I turned some of the shark into fish burgers – like the ones I had to make when working at the cafe at Litchfield, last year. But there we used Nile perch, pre-cooked and frozen. The shark from here was much nicer!

Got talking to a lady from a fifth wheeler rig, parked next to us. Turned out that she had a birthday lunch, back in July, at that cafe. From what she told us, it sounded like nothing had really changed there. I did wonder if the men had found any cooks who would stay for any length of time?


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2007 Travels September 12

WEDNESDAY 12 SEPTEMBER     EIGHTY MILE BEACH

There was a resident butcher bird, who sat and carolled superbly, for about 30 minutes at a time, right above our van. Pre-dawn – like about 5am! But it was a beautiful song and a lovely way to wake up – if one must…..

The cabin section of the caravan park

M and John fished and caught a meal’s worth. I was hoping to be able to put a couple of fish packs into the freezer, to use on the trip home.

I walked on the beach – there were not so many fishers on it this morning.

Some nights there was a really heavy dew that sounded like rain on the roof, from the trees dripping!  The drips were really sticky and salty, too.

Cleaning the catch at the very functional fish cleaning station – running water and all……


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2007 Travels September 11

TUESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER     EIGHTY MILE BEACH

M and John went fishing, in the morning.

I went down to walk along the beach, while they were thus occupied, but there were so many people fishing that it was an obstacle course, so I did not go far.

Not quite the same ambience as walking on a deserted beach….

So, I went back to join the fishers, but John had rigged up my rod so he could try some spinning with it, while his rod was in use for normal fishing with bait. So I gave up on that idea.

I walked around the quite extensive park for half an hour, looking at other rigs. Then did some washing – by hand, in the laundry – as there was not really enough to justify a full machine load.

Sat outside the van, under the whispering she-oaks, did some beading, then read.

After John came back from fishing, with some salmon for tonight’s tea, he sat in the van and played computer games for the rest of the day.

M and I went for a beach walk, in the afternoon, when the beach was mostly clear of fishers. She had decided she would leave here and go her own way when our week is up, on Friday. She was not attracted by the idea of sitting around for days in places like Ceduna or Port Augusta, because of football. We discussed the various options she had for things to do, when she does leave. She had lots of interesting possibilities – not being dictated to by either football or TV!

Pied oystercatcher