The Big Van Trip – Crossing South Australia

The trip is still going well, I think last post I left off just after crossing the border, and we had stopped for the night on the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight… Well, in the morning I braved my fear of heights a bit and went and sat on the edge.

Closed the eyes for a sec and was amazed at the power of the sound everywhere, and had a bit of a realisation. Crashing waves and swirling wind, really loud. If us humans were to make that amount of sound we would need to crank a seriously large PA system. And have one every 500 meters along the Bight! Opening my eyes, I saw the movement of the water, the whole surface moving up and down relentlessly. To do that we would need to constantly feed 1000 children and give them boogie boards to push up and down on in their pools to make fake waves. Then looking down at the two little flies sat on my leg for warmth, I wondered what kind of energy we would need to expend to build a little machine as complex as them, set up a factory full of microscopes, lasers, machining tiny parts and piecing them all together.

So where does all this energy that is literally surrounding us, and has done, day in day out, forever, come from? Where the hell does it come from?

Vibing Out at the Bight

Vibing Out at the Bight

Well, didn’t figure it out yet, but its one of the things that roll around in my head every now and then. Will let you know if I get a solution! You got any ideas?

So after lazily getting ready to roll, we met some travellers heading back to WA. Their story was that they had given themselves 6 months off work/study to travel around Oz. it seems that this is a common way to do things, give yourself a time limit. They were heading back to their Jobs/ study courses. It got me thinking: how long do we have for this? What am I heading back to? No idea on both counts! Early days yet. Maybe a bit of music, maybe a bit of adventure, hopefully a bit of everything.

So finally, along this South Australian stretch, we hit a bit of proper Nullarbor. Now, I had been pretty unimpressed by the Nullarbor so far, which is not to say I didn’t like it, just that it seemed less extreme than its reputation! There certainly were quite a few trees along the way, and for those of you who hadn’t figured it out, the name Null Arbor means No Trees!

So I was pretty happy when we finally hit a bit with no trees in sight. Alas, it was short lived and we returned to constantly evolving scenery.

Finally, Null - Abor!

Finally, Null – Abor!

After the no trees stretch we found (much to my disgust) some beautiful tall Nullarbor trees to camp under. Was another great camp, and we had a lovely meal and listened to music for hours.

Peaceful amongst the Tall Trees of the Nullarbor

Peaceful amongst the Tall Trees of the Nullarbor

In the morning we got our bikes off the back, wiped off a few of the many layers of caked road dust (they were FILTHY) and went for a ride around the area. To be fair, the trees were just in a small patch, the rest of the area was pretty tree-less. In amongst all this, we found heaps of these burrows, linked by small tracks through the vegetation. There were heaps of these burrows, and we wondered what the hell could have made them.

Wombat City!

Wombat City!

The Definitive Clue...

The Definitive Clue…

Closer investigation of the poo around the burrows suggested they were made by wombats! Wombats have squarish poo you see, Id heard about this a few times, but had never seen any with my own eyes. Well, thats one more thing crossed off the list haha.

Bit further on down the road, I spotted this kind of graveyard of abandoned rusty cars, just off the highway, behind some dilapidated houses. Really, its just amazing how much weird stuff you see on a long drive, everything is changing so rapidly, natural sights give way to man made weirdness, new gives way to abandoned, its just great. Check these out. I wont bother with captions, when I saw them I thought, “those abandoned cars can tell a million stories”, so Ill let you wonder for yourself.

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We finally hit Ceduna, the end of the Nullarbor stretch! We quickly decided not to stay in Ceduna, as it was crawling with grey nomads (which will probably draw a comment from my Dad again haha). Instead, we had a look at the portable GIS map, and reckoned we had enough daylight to push on to the next town Streaky Bay, calling it ‘Streakies’ already like we were locals. With such a cool name, we imagined beautiful blue water surrounded by forest, with perhaps streaks of red and pink in the sunsets every evening.

No such luck. I guess it was OK, but the bay was more of a mudflat, the water muddy brown, and the land had been cleared everywhere, right down to the water’s edge, to plant wheat wheat wheat and more wheat! Haha, how are preconceptions huh?

But it was a good opportunity to check into a caravan park for the first time, and trade a few dollars for the chance to have a shower and wash our sheets and the few items of clothing that we had over worn for the past couple of weeks. We also met Dan and Andie, who quite frankly made an embarrassment of my professed minimal lifestyle. They had been travelling for months with a tent and tiny car. Pretty impressive.

We ended up having a bunch of beers with these guys, who told us about their travels through Africa and SE Asia, and good years spent in London. They were coming back to Adelaide to make a bit of a life, save for a house etc. Both of them seemed a bit nervous about the idea of tying down to one spot, but maybe it was time for them, and I wish them the best of luck! This was their camp in the morning, note the beers and frying pan out front haha!

Doing it Proper

Doing it Proper

So we got our coastal fix, before heading inland again. But to tell the truth, I didn’t even get in the water at Streakies, as it was not the sunsets that eared its name, but the greasy brown streaked water! Or maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, just not as good as I was used to back in WA. Ah well!

So we head inland, to the Flinders Ranges National Park, a long drive. By the time we could see the ranges looming up ahead, we were getting pretty damn knackered, but it was one of those great views that make you excited to get there. Not bad.

Lets get to that place!

Lets get to that place!

And quickly... Im knackered and cant see shit through this windscreen...

And quickly… Im knackered and cant see shit through this windscreen…

Hitting a camp site just after dark, we cooked up a feast and were assaulted by flying beetles. This was only the first of our Flinders Ranges trials and tribulations. Turns out we were almost alone in the park, it being the wrong time of year to visit!

In the morning, as we felt the day heating up rapidly, we checked out some Aboriginal rock engravings. It was actually quite embarrassing, as it took us yonks to find them, and we almost had to ask the guides for directions! This is a no go for a couple of archaeologists, let me tell you. In fact, I know quite a few who will go out of their way to reeducate the guides haha. We found the engravings in the end, including these which I reckon might be wombats tracks? Never seen ones like this before!

Engraved Wombat Tracks?

Engraved Wombat Tracks?

So on our way back to the van, small talk with the rangers revealed that it was already 45 degrees. With our superior intelligence we decided to go for a midday hike, down a winding rock gully. Well, it was hard core let me tell you. I felt like we were training to hike across Africa our something. I think the sides of the gully were focussing the midday sun on us, and it was brutally hot. I got a few photos of Erin looking totally knackered.

Ready to collapse

Ready to collapse

Needless to say, we didn’t pass another soul on the hike. There was practically no one in the park, as if you come at the right time, the rivers are full of beautiful fresh water and the temperatures a good 20 degrees lower! Haha, but it was nice to have the place to ourselves, and animals were everywhere, perhaps encouraged by the lower numbers of people disturbing their routines.

Collapsed!

Collapsed!

Halfway along the hike we had a blissful snooze under our hats, and I mean an actual sleep man. We were exhausted. We just made it back to the van, but were triumphant I tell ya!

Triumphant

Triumphant

So we drove on to find a better campsite with less beetles, and shook the shit out of the van with the corrugations on the gravel road. It seems that the camp management probably waits until the tourist season starts again before grading the roads. Let me tell ya, we almost rattled Nightshifts brains out. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) the stereo was the one thing that died! Luckily we had the ipod dock as backup 🙂 It felt like we were on some kind of Van Safari, cruising through this park, up and down hills, all on rough gravel roads and dirt tracks. There were animals everywhere! I put photos of some of them up at the end of this post. Good feeling, and Nightshift did pretty well, even crossing a small creek.

Oh yeah thats right

Oh yeah thats right

So we found us a bit of a better camp, next to a beautiful wide creek lined with tall gums. The only other people we saw drove past the camp and had a look around, then asked us with looks of grave disappointment if we knew of “a more special place, more beautiful”. Unfortunately there was no water in the creek, but for us hardened Aussies it made a good camp anyway. We filled up jugs of water from the rainwater tank at the camp and poured them over our heads for a shower, which was pretty damn refreshing after our hot day of exertion. Whilst there was no water in the river and conditions were perhaps not ideal in the national park, the lack of other people around (our friends having left in search of a more special place) at least meant that after showering, there was no real need to put our clothes back on.

Nude camping is a pretty liberating feeling!

Nude Camping, thats living!

Nude Camping, thats living!

But the pressures of the inland finally got to us, and later that night we had our first fight. About nothing as usual, but extreme heat combined with insects and difficult sleeping conditions will put anyone under pressure. As usual, nothing is perfect, but this trip has been pretty damn good. With a bit of luck, we might learn how to be more tolerant after awhile. For me, I think the lack of alone time and personal space might build up into a bit of a problem. Will have to deal with it as we go!

Next day we drove up to Beltana, which is an old historic pastoral and mining town. It used to be a bit of the hub for the surrounding region. I tell ya, inland South Australia is tough. Visiting the cemetery there, I was shocked at how people must have lived their whole lives in this desolate place, trying to eek out an existence, and if I had to sum up the vibe of the place with one word, it would be struggle. Amongst the gravestones in the old cemetery were a few stories, Mary Lennon, was “A colonist of 58 years” and had come to Aus in a sailing ship at Glenelg in 1835, to live the rest of her life struggling in Beltana. She would have been a tough old bird I reckon. Another gravestone told the story of almost an entire family perishing in a fire, a young woman and her four children, “burned to death”, the husband left to get on with life. We really must enjoy every day that we can.

Mary's Tough Life in Beltana

Mary’s Tough Life in Beltana

History can bring you down eh? But it can also be interesting. See, Beltana used to have a sizeable population of Afghan camel drivers, as camel trains used to be the main means of transport through the sandy parts of australia, long lines of camels snaking across the desert taking supplies, mail, and passengers to the outback settlements. Beltana being a hub, alot of these people (in reality mostly Pakistanis) lived here in between trips, but very firmly separated from the white settlement on the other side of the railway tracks. But I found a real interesting gravestone that hinted at a final mixing of these two communities:

Crossing the Tracks

Crossing the Tracks

If you look at the tombstone above, you can see that it is for a man called Frank, a classic Aussie name. His sister ‘May’, and her kids are called Nancy, Fran, Margaret, Marjorie, Joyce, and Ossie (all pretty Anglo Aussie names). But May’s husband and the kids father’s name is Akbar Khan, definitely non-Anglo! Maybe Akbar was descended from those cameleers, and married into the white community, once segregated by the railroad tracks. Nothing strange about that in our days of course, but great how one gravestone can tell a story of cultural blending, acceptance, and the triumph of love over prejudice. Its a very cool thing.

Beltana? Tough, tough, tough.

Beltana? Tough, tough, tough.

Leaving the stark reality of Beltana behind, we pushed south towards Adelaide and made camp 200ks short of it. We had a bit of a reorganise of the van in light of our fight, and tried to make a bit more space for ourselves. This felt very positive, tackling a problem with some positive action, how grown up eh!

To sum up, we really pushed the van and ourselves this last few days, and came through on the other side. I think my place is near the coast. This is one of our reasons for doing this trip: to see and experience heaps of different places in Australia and see what we like. I know for one that Im happy to have left Subiaco behind. So now its back to the city for a shower and a hair wash (for Erin), then down to the beach for some sun and surf and free feeling (for Staf).

We might even go out and drink a heap of beers and catch a band. Peace!

Dingo by the road near the Bight

Dingo by the road near the Bight

Bobtail Lizard defending his patch in the Car Graveyard

Bobtail Lizard defending his patch in the Car Graveyard

Emus corsing the Road in the Flinders

Emus corsing the Road in the Flinders

Leaping Kanga!, Flinders

Leaping Kanga!, Flinders

Rock Wallaby, Flinders

Rock Wallaby, Flinders

New Emus, Flinders :-)

New Emus, Flinders 🙂

Map for Blog 3

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2 thoughts on “The Big Van Trip – Crossing South Australia

  1. Sounds awesome Staff! It’s hard after working up north to realise that 40* heat is not actually do-able! Practise makes perfect! Your trip sounds so awesome and makes me miss the vanning times. Good luck with the living together! It gets easier to recognise when each of you needs more alone time but once your having the fights and laughing/talking them over soon after, you know you can do anything together! Keep truckin’ on and keep us updated!

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