Blog 4: South Australia - Elliston to Balmera
Some might say stinking hot. Some might say unbearably hot. Some might say it's the Australian Summer.
Most of yesterday afternoon we kept driving and gained a day on our rough South Australia to Melbourne schedule because at 4 pm it was still 44 degrees outside (That's 111 Farenheit for our Imperial Units readers) as we drove through Morgan. Gary even needed a rest after a particularly long winding ascent in the Clare valley because 108 degrees is the maximum operating temperature for his cooling system and around 115ish is the magic number for blowing Td5 head gaskets. No thank you. This daylight savings thing still takes some getting used to. The heat of the day hits much later than our Sand Groper bodyclocks are used to. So now we are enjoying a coffee in the cool(ish) breeze on Lake Bonney in Balmera, blogging for all of you.
Here is the map:
When we finished writing our last post we meandered down to a park looking over the entrance to Waterloo Bay and settled in for a New Years Eve dusk picnic. A gorgeous sunset, more of that delicious Coopers and some hippie parents playing banjo and a drum while their kids ran around in their home-made knitwear playing with a unicycle, hula hoops and not a single electronic device in sight. Goodbye 2017.
While others may have nursed their hangovers, we hit the road. More than a couple of nights in a place still gives us the itch to move. Other longer term travellers keep telling us that will wear off and we will need to slow down, but it hasn’t happened yet. A clifftop drive to take in some rugged cliffs and sculpture installations north of Elliston and it was south to Coffin Bay to upload the last blog post and then check out the National Park. Our plan to spend some time on the sand four wheel driving out along the peninsula that forms the park was derailed when we saw how gorgeous the sand at the sheltered Almonta Beach was. Swimming was required, enjoyed and finished just before a large thunderstorm rolled in. The waves breaking in two directions around Golden Island were a sight to behold. Adam thinks a little bit about the system of partial differential equations that could be used to describe the wave motion as they intersect at right angles given specific boundary conditions and bathometric data, then eventually his maths brain switches off and the uncapturable beauty of this rugged coastline, so different to that of home is all that remains.
From Coffin Bay we found a free camp just off the highway, sheltered enough to keep the road noise down. A few mosquitos, but manageable with citronella coils and an early bed time. The morning light at the spot was quite beautiful. Port Lincoln next for coffee, a wander and figuring out what to do next.
Ruth describes Port Lincoln as a cross between Fremantle and Albany. Yes, fishing is the primary industry here, and not one we support, but the locals are friendly, there are some vegans around and the vibe of the place is most agreeable. A cheeky coffee at a place called Rascal and Rogue and we were off to explore the Lincoln National Park, a mirror to Coffin Bay at the base of the Eyre Peninsula.
A winding drive along a road that has been (mostly) sealed since HEMA mapped it took us to Fisherman’s Point, a campground looking back across the water to the town of Port Lincoln. Our earliest arrival to camp so far (just after lunch) meant we could get in a nice long hike in the afternoon from our campground to Cape Donington, complete with lighthouse, geocache, wildlife everywhere and stunning views of Boston Bay.
On our hike we saw myriad bird life on Donington Island, dolphins and seals swimming by, a family of Emus (A parent and four or five adolescent chicks) and another pair of Emus that let us hang out with them for about twenty minutes while they grazed for their dinner on the bushes at Engine Point. A magical experience and one of the best we have had on our adventure so far.
As the sun set over Port Lincoln and the lights of the town lit the horizon it was easy to feel very lucky to be having this adventure. Our most heartfelt thanks to everyone who has contributed to making this possible.
The next morning it was back to Port Lincoln to check out the vegan shop that was closed when we were in town the previous morning. Our budget suffered a little for Vegan Gelato and restocking our Nooch, but that’s okay. Next it was northwards along the coast to Tumby Bay for an afternoon tea with some distant family. We arrived in town a little early and managed a very refreshing swim in the windy but warm and shallow waters of the bay.
Ruth’s grandmothers cousin Peggy, who is 93 years young lives in Tumby Bay. We shared an afternoon tea with Peggy’s daughter Sally and her husband Alan (and some very delicious fruit) before visiting Peggy herself just down the road at her room at her care facility. It was wonderful to connect with our distant relatives and learn a bit about the local and extended family history.
That evening we put a few more kilometres under the tyres and camped at the idyllic (and inexpensive) Lispon Cove. Windy, but well appointed with tidy sites and amenities, and for only $10, one of the best budget spots we have stayed at so far. That night the moon was full and bright, reflecting off the roaring ocean waves. The wash of warm wind and stars and moonlight and white noise made an eerie and beautiful eastern midnight sky. A different kind of natural beauty to that we had seen so far.
We have to be on the ferry to Tasmania on Monday the Fifteenth of January. That means some more kilometres to get under the wheels. From Lipson Cove it was north and east, completing our drive around the perimeter of the Eyre Peninsula. Lunch in Whyalla felt strangely out of place. A Pilbara town on the wrong coast. Red dirt, iron ore, white utes with hi-vis tape, LV### placards and more red dirt. It kind of felt like home. But not. More history than we had time to explore, but fantastic views across the Spencer Gulf, northward we turned again.
Rejoining the Eyre Highway we rolled through Port Augusta (forecast to be 46 degrees the next day) and headed for Horrocks Pass in the southernmost reaches of the Flinders Ranges. A right turn inspired by some new friends we met at Lipson Cove (Thanks Colin and Terri) took us past some friendly horses, sheep on the road and up to Hancocks Lookout, a geocache and spectacular views of the Spencer Gulf, all the way back to Whyalla. We could have camped there for free (and might later in the year, what a view!) but were running low on water, so needed to make it to our targeted town for the night – Melrose.
Melrose hosts a bit of a Land Rover Enthusiast muster every Easter and is a bit of a mecca for mountain bikers, hikers and winter campers. In the heat of summer, we had the place almost to ourselves. A stinking hot Friday (over 40 degrees) meant the afternoon was spent camped out in the Mt Remarkable Hotel drinking cold beer and watching the cricket. A non driving day after seeing a lot of different places in a row was just what we needed.
Saying goodbye to Melrose (for now) we turned south for the Clare Valley. Home of Riesling, Riesling (two types) and the odd cyclist. A little bit of winery hopping the scorching summer heat took us to Stone Bridge, Kilikanoon and Paulett. We enjoyed tasting them all (and bought a bottle at each) and each had it's own unique personality. Too hot to camp we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon driving in air conditioned comfort. Through Burra and Morgan, all the way to Overland Corner.
A couple of cold beers in the very nice beer garden of the historic Overland Corner Hotel, adjacent to a Bucks Party, then we drove down to the Murray River (just behind the pub, 700 metres or so) to camp in the cool shade of eucalypts by the water. What a magic spot (also free).
Today we have driven a short hop over to Balmera for coffee, lunch and a glass of wine on a picnic rug in the shade of a very large Sheoak on the grassy banks of Lake Bonney while we type this blog for you. This afternoon we will drive some more to escape the heat, but you will just have to wait until next week to hear all about that.
All our love,
Ruth and Adam
Days on the Road = 26
Distance Travelled = 4386 km
Mean Distance per Day = 169 km
Mean Fuel Economy = 14.20 L / 100 km
Best Fuel Economy = 12.17 L / 100 km (Port Lincoln to Port Augusta)
Nights Free Camping = 4
Nights in Roof Tent = 25
Coffees Purchased = 10
Instagram Posts = 130
Instagram Followers = 121
Geocaches Logged = 13
Gary Breakdowns = 0
Drone Flights = 2
Videos Made = 0
French Land Rover Drivers Scared = 1
State or Territory Borders Crossed = 1
Number of really really hot days = 2