We woke up this morning and somehow it was December 1st and we have been living in a van for two weeks. It was a very stark reminder of how long we have been gone and how close we are to the end of our journey when we both realized yesterday that November was ending and December was around the corner. We have had some hints since arriving in Australia as to the season since the first store we went to in Perth did have Christmas decorations all over already. Regardless, it does come as a bit of a shock as to the distance we have travelled and the time we have spent away…
Back to catching you up on our road trip with Angus, the Worms themed van and Herbie the Van Mascot Super Hero. We have done quite a bit of driving in the last week as well as learning about Angus’s quirks. Alright Blokes and Sheilas, get out your Aussie maps and follow along on our driving adventure… (Hint Fremantle is on the west coast a tiny bit south of Perth and we went east, then south again).
We last left you on Thanksgiving in Fremantle, after that we drove out to Kalgoorlie which is an old gold mining town out in the arid plains of Western Australia. We arrived in the afternoon set up our camp and made some dinner before collapsing exhausted from a long day of driving in the sun.
After Kalgoorlie we made the drive out to Balladonia which was the first town on the crossing of the southern end of Western Australia. This crossing is covered in large part by the Nullarbor Plain (bonus points if you can decipher the meaning of Nullarbor). Balladonia was a another very small town mostly there to service the road-trains that are constantly hauling across the country. One note on road-trains, if you are unfamiliar with this Australian invention, it is two to four semi-trailers hitched together and pulled by a giant semi-truck. These often come by you pushing a wind gust that rattles the windows of the van and your bladder. Even more fun than these however are the “Oversized” loads that trucks carry. Given the sheer number of these I am thinking that they should just widen all the roads. We have even come across a few that took up the entire highway in both directions and your only recourse is to pull off onto the dirt next to the highway while some massive piece of mining equipment or a whole house go flying down the road. That night in Balladonia we were treated to a spectacular sound and lights show in the form of massive thunderstorms that threw some pretty amazing lightning across the plain. We were both pretty excited about the chance to sit in the safety and comfort of our van as the storms raged.
Balladonia to Eucla:
The next morning we woke up and got the van all set to go and proceeded to head out on the road just as the sky decided to open up and the thunder storms continued. Now watching storms from the comfort of your van is one thing, driving for six hours through a near constant downpour is another. The lightning was still cool to see since it was so close, however after about three hours we were both ready to switch back to the blistering heat and sun of the previous days. We even got to drive on the “Straightest Road In Australia” for 145.6 km (96 miles) all the while under a storm. Eventually the storm did let up and we able to drive in peace, though the horizon was a mix of dark clouds puncuated by flashes of light. We then were able to drive the rest of the way and arrive in Eucla. One note when we mention that we arrive in places, it’s not like we pull into a town. These “towns” are really just trucker rest stops along the highway so everything from Balladonia to Ceduna are really just rest stops that you pull into for the night.
Eucla to Ceduna:
This stretch was another long haul, and come morning we were greeted by rain again that fortunately burned off into sun. Eucla was also very windy which has been another theme of driving around Australia. We had breakfast at the truck stop cafe in the morning (we both got eggs benedict which was good and a nice treat for us). The drive was long, windy boring at times, but near the end it went along the bottom edge of a ridge and Ceduna was a nice town to come into. Ceduna is small, but it is important to stop here as you can get your Nullarbor crossing certificate from the Tourist office (Guess what we did). In the future, options for crossing the Nullarbor on this certificate include, roller skates, bike, walking etc… which we both think would be insane. Apparently walking is popular with the Asian population that come to visit. We celebrated making it across the Nullarbor that night with some wine in the van after walking the long pier.
Ceduna to Port Augusta:
We were on the road again. We’ve been driving bits each day but we are hoping to be rewarded from our driving dedication when we get to spend a few days on Phillip Island, Willsons Promontory and in Sydney. This drive was our first back into civilization since Fremantle which is a bit shocking, but we were able to get some things done in town, groceries, internet check etc. Internet is still sparse in Australia and for us the only reliable and somewhat decent connections that have been free have been at McDonalds. So we share a McCafe beverage and use their internet. Those golden arches have a new meaning in our life now :-). Port Augusta is definitely a working class town and there is also a good side and bad side of the tracks from our perspective. We stayed on the wrong side of the tracks, FYI.
Port Augusta to Adelaide:
On this drive it got HOT at least 38 C and only to get hotter in the days to come. Between the thunderstorms and rain it has been warm, but not this hot and we definitely were happy to jump in the pool at our caravan park. Adelaide is another big city but the people were nice. Our caravan park was also really nice (We’ve been trying to stay in a chain of Big 4 Holiday Parks throughout our trip. They also tend to give us discounts which is awesome!) and we were greeted with several flocks of parrots, ducks, and other birds chattering in the trees, bushes around us. Kailey played National Geographic photographer a bit and took photos of all the wildlife. Kailey also got stung by a bee at the pool as they were trying to get drinks too, but she is not allergic so all is well in the end.
Adelaide to Robe:
Sianora HEAT!! We intentionally got up early and it was already hot and hit the rode to get to Robe. Robe is a tiny town on the coast, but it seems like a nice retirement place and the people we talked to were friendly. We found free wifi at the library and took a long stroll on the beach that was across from our caravan park. We made ourselves fancy taco salads for dinner and then hid out in the van for the evening as another set of thunder storms passed us. There definitely seems to be a pattern in the weather, afternoon/evening thunderstorms after warm days.
Robe to Warrnambool:
Try saying Warrnambool fast five times in a row… We decided to go to Warrnambool because it is the largest town on the southern coast and is the beginning of the Great Ocean Road. We are planning to drive the Great Ocean Road tomorrow (Dec 1st). The town is nice and seems to be really outdoor activity friendly. Our caravan park is right next to a giant park filled with kids play areas (We need to bring jumping pillows to America, they are pretty cool and fun!), bridges, ponds, fields, courts, mini golf, a maze etc. It seems pretty awesome. Currently in this area of the state of Victoria no one has power to their land lines as the big phone company caught fire and there was no back up plan… whooops. It has made things interesting with making reservations, but luckily we see to be traveling before the high tourist season hits and have not had a single problem getting a place anywhere. A stress reliever for us is that we have all of our accommodations booked for the rest of our journey around the world. PHEW!!! In Warrnambool we spend the late afternoon at the Flying Horse Microbrewery where Sam sampled a few of their beers on tap and we relaxed with some bar food and in comfy chairs. We also hijacked MCDonalds wifi again to check up on things when the sky decided that it was time for the thunder and lightening storm of the day. We were glad to be inside, but we still needed to get to the caravan park, make dinner and get set up for sleep… again in the rain. I am grateful that the showers were hot and we made it to bed at a decent hour. In the morning on our way out of town we went through the local state park/wildlife reserve which is free to the public (Tower Hill). What is cool about this is that it is an old volcano crater turned wildlife reserve. We saw some Emus, other ducks and birds and our first KOALAH :-). We still have not seen any kangaroos, wombats, echidnas etc, but hopefully that will come in the days ahead. We have been obeying the rules and not driving at dusk, night, or dawn when most of these guys are out and on the move.
Throughout this past weeks trek we have definitely seen Australia’s farm and range lands…LOTS OF IT!!! We know where cows and sheep are raised, where the wheat, barley, hay and other crops grow and even where some of the pine plantations exist. We’ve seen lots of farming equipment and still wonder what some of it does. Perhaps at the upcoming Genther/Clarke wedding we will learn more about farm life in person :-).
Angus is a 2007 (believe that…) Mitsubishi Express Starwagon Satellite (oooohhh, ahhhhhh)….van thing that has been converted into a campervan. We are grateful for Angus as he’s gotten us many a places and spent quality time with us on the road (we’ve almost traveled 6000km). In our time together we have learned that his battery is not that reliant as issues have come up and we have had to have him jumped twice by nice Australian people (once a set of grandpas, the other a group of college aged surfers). These battery jumps may have been induced by us, we know that at least the second one was as the driver left the lights on :-). We have also had to reset the radio a few times after disconnecting the battery which requires a code to get it to turn it back on. Where does that code exist? Logically the glove box with the owners manual right? Nope we had to call the Wicked hotline and learn that it was written in sharpie on the inside of the passenger side sun visor. The other morning while driving to Warrnambool Angus’s windshield wipers went out. Luckily it was not raining at the time, but we feared that the rain would come by that evening and pulled into a gas station to figure out what was now going on. We had somehow blown a fuse. We bought a 5 back of new ones, replaced it and we were up and going again. Angus’s most quirky issue is that he does not like the heat especially if his fuel is 1/4 tank or less. Maybe it is car acid reflux, but we rolled into the Adelaide Wicked Depot fearing something horrible was going on with our van (it was shaking jerky anytime we tried to accelerate and change gears), but of course Angus behaved for the mechanic and we learned that sometimes in the heat, vans like ours get hot air locks in the fuel system. This may be Angus’s problem, so the solution is to turn him off, let him rest then try again… Hmmmm not quite the solution we were looking for. We have also decided that Angus is not going to get a lot of air in his fuel belly so we now always refuel at half a tank.
~Sam and K.