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Tales of the travels, trials and triumphs as we explore Australia in a converted bus

Motorhome Travels - February 2005


It always amazes me that we can be so excited when we are driving into a big city and yet after just a few weeks we can't wait to be out of it. Adelaide is a really nice city and the weather has been fantastic (incredibly variable - but mostly great) and yet we are happy to be heading west. As I write this we are parked up on a beach just north of Whyalla. It is again, a warm day (mid 30's) and an early morning swim is called for. The beach here is so shallow that we had to wade for about half a kilometre to get into waist deep water. The water is very clear and much warmer than we expected at this latitude, we took our snorkelling gear a saw a few large Blue Swimmer crabs - after consulting our fishing guide (for minimum size and bag limit info.) we are heading back into the water to catch ourselves some lunch.

Saddle-bronk rider at the Peterborough rodeo, SA - [Click for a Larger Image]
Saddle-bronk rider at
the Peterborough rodeo,

We spent the last two weekends at rodeo events taking photos, this is great fun and we really enjoy it, but it is quite full-on and we are both in need of some R & R and this beach is the perfect place.

We spent the week between the two rodeos at Port Augusta. This is an interesting small town and we were able to sort out a few bits on the motorhome. We have added some sound proofing to the engine bay and the floor around the engine. We are only partly finished, but already the difference is amazing - we don't have to shout at each other any more!

We also discovered the reason behind the difficulty in starting Hobohome; at least one of the crank batteries has died. We replaced the four 6 volt crank batteries with two large 12 volt batteries and now she starts like she always did - first time. I think the old batteries were nearly 7 years old - that is a good life for crank batteries.



South Australia - what a fantastic part of the country and with out a doubt one of Australia's best kept secrets. The beaches here are fantastic, white sand and water that is so clear that it looks like it would be at home in a travel brochure for some tropical island resort.

The blue sea in SA - near Port Lincon - [Click for a Larger Image]
The blue sea in SA - near Port

We are now at the bottom of the Eyre Peninsula near Port Lincoln. There are lots of (free) camping spots along the coast, some with facilities some without.

The sound proofing around the engine bay is almost complete and the difference is just amazing - we should have done this two years ago!

I have just had an email from Gail Bennett (previous owner of Hobohome). Gail is starting a new free e-zine targeted at those interested in the motorhoming lifestyle. Gail and her husband Mark have been involved with motorhomes in Australia for many many years and Gail is now prepared to share the knowledge and expertise that she has gained over the years. The first issue of the e-zine (email magazine) is due out soon. You can subscribe by visiting www.motorhominglifestyle.com  - Gail tells me that she is planning on publishing monthly or perhaps a little more frequently and the size of each issue will be small enough for even CDMA bound subscribers like us.

I was always a bit worried about the number of solar panels we have and their ability to provide enough power while we are in the south of the country. Well after now being here for a few months I can say that we always have heaps of power - we seem to be getting good charge rates even on heavily overcast days and because the average temperature is quite a bit lower than it was further north, the fridge is doing a lot less work.



A few days ago we arrived at Farm Beach - this is an interesting little seaside location not far from Coffin Bay . There were a number of small caravans parked on the beach just above the high tide mark. When talking to a couple of the occupants of one of the caravans we were told that this has been the tradition for a number of years. Tractors are deployed to drag the caravans along the beach, they are then anchored against the wind and occupied for the summer months. It was at Farm Beach that we decided to take a more direct approach to fishing than the traditional fishing rod and bait (that thus far has left us omega3 deprived). We took to the water armed with a mask, snorkel and a hand spear and were quickly able to collect some nice fish for dinner. Given the south coasts reputation as a breeding ground for the Great White Shark we exited the water quite smartly with our flapping, bleeding prize. 

We have now left the stunning Eyre Peninsular coast and are making our way across the Nullarbor Plains. Trees, mobile phone signal and water are all in short supply in this barren and almost deserted part of Australia (the word Nullarbor comes from the Latin word for "no trees"). That is the impression one gets from the surface, however, below the arid plain is a different story. While there are no trees or phone signal, underground there is plenty of water. This area is riddled with limestone caves - in fact the Nullarbor is home to one of the largest cave systems in the world. A few years ago a new world record for cave diving was set here when a team of intrepid cave divers followed one of the caves (underwater) for an incredible 6km! We are not quite that adventurous, but today we did venture into one of the dry caves. We were warned that the rocky area at the entrance to the caves are often home to some nasty snakes. As we made our way to the first of the caves we spotted a large brown snake slithering into dry grass next to the entrance. Better judgement took over and we moved on to another cave and explored it instead.

Tonight we are camping at Nullarbor roadhouse. Just a cleared bit of dirt on an otherwise featureless landscape. We have just a few hours of driving before we cross the border into Western Australia, where we are advised that they will confiscate all of our fruit, vegetables and a bunch of other stuff - we will just have to eat it all before we get there (I hope there is not too many prunes left!).



Apart from the obvious attraction, there are a few hidden advantages in enjoying a pot of cold ale at the local watering hole. While at the Nullarbor pub we got talking to "John the local" - he offered to take us to a little known cave system not far from were we were parked. We arranged to meet bright and early the following morning.

By 8:30am the next morning we were following John down an almost non-existent track. Our suspicions about John being the local axe murderer proved unfounded and after about 40 minutes we arrived at the tiny hole in the almost treeless plain. After making us promise to phone him after we were out of the cave, John left us to it. Armed with cameras and a number of torches we climbed down the tiny entrance to the cave. We explored 4 levels of the cave finding lots of interesting formations and quite a few remains of long dead animals. After emerging from the abyss we discussed what it would be like diving in a cave system like that - we both concluded that we lacked the nerve for a penetration dive to that extreme.

About 30 km after getting back on the main highway we suffered a puncture in the front right tyre - we must have driven over something on that rough track. This time it did not destroy the tyre, so it should be just a simple puncture repair. 

The following day we crossed the border into Western Australia with the minimum of fuss. The quarantine inspector was friendly and polite. She relieved us of our honey and the heads and tails of our spring onions then wished us a safe trip.

The time zones are a bit strange on the W.A. side of the border - the locals seem to run an unofficial local time zone that is between S.A. and Perth time. Telstra don't seem to recognise it (as our phone is now on Perth time) and the computers have no setting for it.  We think it only lasts for a few hundred kilometres so we will only be in this strange 'limbo like' state for a little while.

Cocklebiddy Cave was the next stop on our way west. This is the entrance to the cave system that divers explored for more than 6km. It is a long and difficult descent to the mouth of the cave where a steel ladder provides access to the base of the cliff at the entrance.

Getting the gear ready for the dive in the cave, SA - [Click for a Larger Image]
Getting the gear ready for the dive
in the cave, SA

From here it is a difficult 300m climb down rocks to get to the underground lake. It took us three trips to get the tanks, weight belts and the rest of the dive gear down to the edge of the lake (193m below the surface). As we were carrying the last lot of gear down, a tour group arrived and clambered down to the lake for a swim. It is almost totally devoid of natural light at the waters edge and I think they found it quite eerie climbing into the dark clear water.

Hauling the gear out of the cave, SA - [Click for a Larger Image]
Hauling the gear out of the cave, SA

We allowed the silt from the swimmers to settle before entering the water. The water clarity was amazing and it tasted quite salty. The thick silt that layered the bottom was like clay and very easily stirred up. We spent quite some time exploring the main chamber and the entrance to the immense system that lies beyond. Nothing lives in the water and so it  was a little like exploring another planet devoid of both life and light. All too soon it was time to leave the water and face the daunting task of getting the now wet SCUBA gear back to the surface and then back to the motorhome. This required even more effort and determination than it took to get it down there but a couple of hours later we were sitting in the motorhome lamenting our now aching backs ... but it was all worth it!

We are now heading for Esperance to meet up with Thelma and Norm (Tracey's Mum and Step-Dad) who have just returned from their one year round-the-world-trip - they will be with us for a couple of weeks while we explore the southern coast of W.A.

Footnote (28-02-2005) - if you are interested in reading more about diving Cocklebiddy Cave, a fascinating account can be found here. These guys are crazy and went a bit further into it than we did - still, at least we can say we dived it.



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