We stop at Port Wakefield for fuel and lunch. Its traditional. It’s remarkably cool as we step out of the car.
A cool change has blown in. But Pope’s Roadhouse is not what it used to be. It is scruffy and the old gals inside are humourless. The worst cup of tea and the worst toasted ham, tomato and cheese sandwich ever prove the point.
Past Snowtown which can’t shake off the bodies-in-barrels reputation in B’s world view. There is much pondering the whys of that awful crime. Past Crystal Brook. Past Port Pirie. A distant glimpse of the Gulf.
The Flinders Ranges are beginning to rise. Saltbush. I love its blue. The car thermometer has been tracking changing temperatures. Hot again. Cool. Warming up again.
Receptionist Rachel is efficient but not exactly fun. We are given Room 7 in the Joy Baluch section. It has a water view. Nice. We pop Chrissie, the chili plant, on the little patio. There are Aboriginal kids surging around on the wharf path. Going up and down. Noisy. Some with scooters. Every so often one of the lads darts over and conceals something in one of the plants beyond the spiked fence outside our room.
The Internet is slow but ok. We log in our various devices and unpack. We are very impressed by the breakfast menu. For $30 for two, they bring all the makings of a giant breakfast: eggs, bacon, tomatoes, toast, marmalade, yoghurt, milk, cereal, and even baked beans. We will have to do the preparation ourselves.
We go for a walk. The air is hot and heavy. The wharf path is wonderful, old sleepers and rusty rail lines interlaced like an art work. We come upon a little bay, with a beach muddy in the receding tide. Aboriginal kids are playing here. And we find a pink paved path which leads on and on and on along the narrow watercourse up here at the head of the Gulf.
Back at the hotel we read for a while and snack with a glass of wine and then head to the Standpipe Hotel for an Indian dinner. It is absolutely superb. Dorber saltbush lamb slow-cooked curry, chicken vindaloo, vegetable sabti, salad, raita…
Contented we return to our Oasis and sit on our little patio watching the Aboriginal promenade and the lovely blue water before turning on the telly and repairing to our computers.
I hear a noise in the night and get up to check if something fell. TV is softly still playing ABC News24. I pull the curtain back a bit and look outside. All is still. I return to bed,
After a while two Aboriginal girls appear and ask me how to find room 23, then they are staying in room 23 then ask me if they can swim. I know they are not guests but I am riven about letting them swim. I mean, I don’t mind. Is it my place to kick them out? I am uncomfortable about that and they are cheeky darling girls, albeit talking to each other in their own tongue so I can’t understand. Anyway, I decide to call them my guests and to share the water with them as their host. They say they are up from Adelaide and they live in both Port Augusta and Adelaide. They say they often come to the pool.
I have a wonderful shower and sit down for a superb Bruce-cooked breakfast, feeling invigorated and refreshed and at one with the world. The paper has been left at the door and I sit on the patio a while reading it and talking to my friend Peter on the phone, watching the locals out dog walking and a man with a dog on the pontoon in the water.
Then I start packing for departure.
It is gone.
My Calvin Klein backpack is not in the room. The car? Rising panic. Feeling sick in the stomach. Perhaps last night’s restaurant? Not likely for me, but there must be an explanation. They don’t answer the phone so we gun over there in the car. I go in with the manager and look around. Not there. It has been stolen. There is no other answer.
Return to Oasis and tell reception and ask to call the police. The girl says oh, that’s no good and gets the police on the phone.
The police are at our door in minutes. Brilliant. Tall, willowy and very beautiful female called Courtney and a charming fellow called Daniel. They examine the door and ask lots of questions. They say it is common. The local kids go up and down the rooms trying all the doors at night. They got ours open.
It had been tricky to lock. We had fiddled quite a bit getting it locked. It was loose and hard. There is a mark outside where a screwdriver could have been put.
They say I should have slept with the backpack beside me. Er, yes. But I thought we were locked in. Security fence. Gated by night. Door locked. Curtain drawn. The police said the backpack and wallet would be thrown away. The thieves were only interested in money. I had about $700 cash in the wallet; just heading off on a trip and all.
I also had all my credit cards, driver's license, health cards, seniors card, RAA card etc etc etc. Everything. My world in that wallet. The wallet I had dreamed of owning and which cost me far too much, not to mention the backpack of which I was so ridiculously proud. Oh, and all my keys. All the necessities. They could have had the bloody money…. I am in shock. I am devastated. I am furious. Bruce is cancelling my credit cards on the phone. Not easy on a Sunday. The police give me a report number and say they will be in touch.
I go back to Reception where there are now two receptionists who seem unsurprised and unmoved by my drama. Regrettable, it is regrettable. Things have been tough this month with a big mob of Aboriginals down from the north, they say. Turns out there have been three other burglaries. The girls are fatalistic. Almost ho hum. I note they have processed the credit card payment already. I note also that they make no offer on behalf of the hotel, no discount or free breakfast, not even an apology, come to think of it. We have loved this hotel. It is our third visit. We are appalled. Deeply distressed we make out way out of town abandoning our plans to pop in on the shops. We just want to be gone from here.
This is one of the great drives of the country. Glorious saltbush country. Lovely scrubland. Long undulating straight roads. Surprising geological formations from time to time. We skip past Whyalla, although we have enjoyed visiting it in the past. We are not in a mood to be repeat tourists. We do stop in Cowell, however. I thought I was too upset and tense to eat but it is now late lunchtime and we are hungry. We buy petrol at a service station which sports a sign warning that snakes are out and about. Bruce wonders if this also means in the men’s room. He finds it snake free.
We drive into dear little Cowell and find no cafes but people eating at the pub. The old Hotel Franklin. I order fish and salad and a cup of tea. Bruce has a chicken Caesar salad. The food is lovely. We are watched by a seagull which seems to be panting in the heat.
Back on the great long road.
It’s a three and a half hour drive. No passing lanes. It is a dangerous road. Fortunately, it is not too busy. And it is so beautiful.
I set the cruise control and we just go for it. No stops. Just pace it all the way, loving the changing vegetation and the lush native shrubs. Very dry. Towards Port Lincoln it becomes cleared land, wheat crops. This is not so beautiful. We can see the sea and sandhills on the horizon before Lincoln wends into view.
We unpack and sit a while on our fabulous balcony before taking a walk around the town, stopping at Woolies to get a couple of provisions and a bottle of Turkey Flat rose which we open and drink on the balcony. We’ve decided on room service.
There is a massive TV which pivots to be watched from living room or bed. We nest in the living room and watch British crime then pivot the telly and watch tennis in bed. I can’t sleep no matter what I do. My head is wound up in the traumas of Invasion Day. I am still stewing with emotions.
I’ve found restless sleep in the early hours but B is up with the TV turned to the living room for a big day of American football. He brings me coffee and I grope my way to wakefulness. This day was planned as a South Australian tourism sampler, a holiday day in gorgeous Lincoln. But I am sidelined with problems. Dammit.
I buy a cheap backpack. Then, when I find myself outside the DMV I queue for replacement driving licence paperwork and queue again to hand it in. A long wait twice but it is an efficient DMV and the two staff are gracious and attentive to everyone. I get a temp licence from them at a cost of $17.
I wander back to the hotel, loving the street art.
Bruce is still engrossed in the American football and snacking on nuts when I return to the hotel.I take my book and go down to Sarin’s where I have a rather offbeat Thai beef salad. Wait staff in Sarin’s is charming.
Lincoln is a terrific town on many levels.
But Port Lincoln and this lovely hotel are soothing us - and then, come misty sunset, there is a rainbow, a double one. Good omen.
The wonderful Lincoln has given us late checkout for an added fee. We breakfast in Sarins and then make more phone calls about credit cards which have not quite worked out. They seem to have cancelled Bruce’s debit card in all the confusion and we have no card for cash.
But we have to keep moving. I am an Australia Day Ambassador and we have an important date in Ceduna - Australia Day.
We roll the luggage cart down the hall and head
Past Coffin Bay turnoff, and north, north through a magnificent changing landscape. We’ve travelled it before and perhaps admire it even more on this new expedition. Salt lakes and coastline. Long straight undulating roads. We turn off at Cummin’s Memorial, left towards the dramatic cliffs and intense crashing sea. It is spectacular. There is even an “apostle” rock. B says it is every bit as good if not better than the Great Ocean Road seascape. And it is. This is stunning coastline. But it is also amazing
We drive on through lovely native vegetation and farmland and find the little whitewashed cottage which was the Lake Hamilton Easting House in the 1850s, beautifully restored by the Caledonian Society. It is open for the public to wander though and admire. Geraniums flourish at the front door.
Oh, there's Port Kenny, a settlement we hated on our last trip. We stopped there for lunch. It was a
We won't be joking about it any more. We rather like it.
Finally, we make it to Streaky Bay and roll in to the Motel and Villas where we loved staying before. Ingrid, the owner welcomes us and checks us in - to a motel room. No, No. I booked a villa. No, Booking.com has it as a motel.
We dash down to the shops and I buy wine and chocolate for Belinda and some provisions for us.
Thus content with sugar hit, we watch some tennis and go to bed - B to the twin room and me to the double which only has a queen. We like this arrangement. I can have telly on without worrying him. It’s a crummy telly but I love it and it seems to be playing old romance movies all night. I see one and then bits of several in another restless, weird and fretful night.
A text from our cat-sitter, Deb,
It is a lovely day, albeit B has been feeling a bit off with a roiling tummy.
We drive to the local foreshore for a walk in the
We sit for a while in the sun on our camp chairs contemplating the broad shallow waters, their
Then, as good travellers, we had off to look at some other beaches and then pop into the shop for wine etc.
Finally, I hit the fish shop across the road from
the motel where the fishmonger cheerfully shucks half a dozen fresh local oysters for me. Heaven. This is what it is all about on the East Coast of SA - the best oysters in the world. Cowell, Coffin Bay, Streaky... These, oh, so fresh oysters are sublime.I pity Bruce that he is not an oyster soul.
The pool comes free of visiting children and I grab a second swim. We have a long, lingering dinner of gorgeous gummy shark. Watch tennis…
Day of 6
We beg late checkout but Ingrid and Don have to go to Port Lincoln and are hustling through the cleaning to get away.
We head off to The Granites to see the still pool about which Don had told me. The drive is on dirt roads. The Rav4 is quite at home albeit this driver does not love the corrugations.
We meet a stumpy tail lizard crossing the road and stop to photograph it. Lots of vigorous hissing from said interrupted lizard exposing gawping gullet and long black tongue. A few klicks on we see another one crossing the road and then another one. This place is silly with stumpies crossing the road.
Then, suddenly a rail crossing, where there was no rail crossing. Turns out to be eccentric house out there in the wilds. What a view, though. It looked over the high cliff which is one of the coastal vantage points. Stunning deep drop to glorious blue yonder and rolling surf onto rocks and sandy bay.
On the road north, humming along the beautiful countryside, long scrub-lined roads straight but undulating, safe but treacherous, no passing lanes, then again not a lotof traffic.Caravans and boats. No road trains here today.
I reject the cruise control which Bruce so loves and recommends. I have never really liked it. I like to feel the car, to be in touch with it, to be touching it, to be one with it, to “drive” it. Hence, I can go into corners at sensible speeds and, when no one is looking on the wide open road, let the car fly. So I’m enjoying the drive. I’ve always loved to drive.
A turnoff to Perlubie. We have never been here. Into a sort of settlement and then off behind the houses to a dirt road and sandhills protecting a beach. There’s a trail onto the beach. We don’t take it. We park and walk. Then an untidy man with a huge caravan and a big touring ute there with its bonnet propped open calls to me. "Just a mouse, he calls. A little tiny mouse. A tiny mouse has destroyed my electrics. I can’t fix it. I can’t move.” He’s distraught. He’s broken down. I utter noises of sympathy. “This is an Aboriginal sacred site,” he announces.
Bruce has walked on to the beach but the man regales me. And what a heart-breaking story he tells. Poor man. He has come down from Ceduna. He was beaten up there. Not by Aborigines. But there is a bad methamphetamine issue there. Beware. He was in the hospital. Now this. Ceduna. They don’t have the Flying Doctor there. Did you know? His wife. She got sick. Kidneys. He took her to Ceduna for treatment but they needed to fly her out to Adelaide and there was no Flying Doctor. Six hours it took to get a plane. They got her to hospital. Oh, good, I say. How is she? She died, says the untidy man. She’s dead. I am on my own. Here. Me and the dog. And now this.
I am sad I can’t help. Go to your husband, he says. I apologise and follow Bruce on to a very beautiful beach. There are lots of shade shelters along the sand, some of them occupied by campers with set-ups like whole houses. Permanent campgrounds the lucky locals can use for fishing and partying. Another world.
We reach Ceduna relatively early thanks to the early checkout. Grateful, though, since we are hungry.
Since I want to talk about the Ceduna Art Centre in my speech, we zeroe in on it for our
We are allocated room 51 which is one of the hotel’s prime executive rooms. It has a sumptuous balcony with table and four comfy wicker armchairs and a splendid view of the Ceduna foreshore. In one direction there's a line of Norfolk Island pines behind which is a little swimming beach. In the other is the jetty and the waters of the bay.
One could not miss the very, very inebriated Aboriginal woman swearing and lurching up and down on the foreshore lawns. She is teetering like an old-style comedian doing an exaggerated vaudevillian drunk act. I am sure she is about to fall on her face but somehow she lurches about just short of crashing down. It is rather suspenseful watching her although her profanities and invective are a bit on the shocking side. Various other Aboriginals come and go seemingly oblivious to her. Some sit about in animated groups. An old bearded man wearing what seemed to be winter clothes totters along in the direction of the bottle shop.
We leave Chrissie, the chili plant on the lovely balcony, unpack and relish the room. Free WiFi is bloody Nomadnet again. They have a stranglehold on country accommodation. They are an irritating service which requires repeated logins and which only give limited access until they charge. The logging in and waiting has been driving us mad. In some places, it is agonisingly slow. It is not consistent. And, for people who live online, being cut off is terribly frustrating. So we are not thrilled to find we are using it again.
Bruce reads his NY Times and I edit my Australia Day speech. Katrina Blum of the Ceduna Council had said 15 minutes was my time frame and they expected to keep the event snappy, so I am keen to ensure that I run to time.
It is very hot. Bruce does not want to go outside so I meander off alone on an exploratory, coming upon the chemist/gift shop which is open and happening. I roam about looking for gifts for the kids and find a charming and very annoying cheeping electronic bird toy for both girls plus some silly glasses for Ry and Sam to clown around in. Chat to the friendly local women. The husband’s credit card is a good intro and they are shocked at my Port Augusta story.
I stop for a bottle of rose en route back to the hotel only to have the bottle brusquely withdrawn when the only ID I can produce is a police report and a duplicate driving license. "No photo ID, no sale. That’s the liquor law,” snaps the young bottle-shop man. In my tender emotions following the theft, this struck hard.
And so to our room.
The wind has really whipped up outside. We can hear it roaring in the Norfolk Island pines along the shoreline. We watch tennis. I check my Australia Day speech and try to sleep.
It is a fantastic bed. Despite my nerves, I succumb to a very pleasant repose.
AUSTRALIA DAY 2018
Up at 6 making our own filter coffee and reading. Check the speech.
Oh, it is raining. The hot weather has turned. It is grey with a very cool wind. Bother!
I had brought my pretty Hawaiian handkerchief dress to wear for the Australia Day ceremony. I would die of cold in it. Luckily I have some smart fashion jeans and a cheerfully vivid new long floaty jacket I bought in Lincoln. I add my elegant green sandals which
It’s a good location. The sailing club’s broad porch set up with sound system and lectern looks down on a gentle slope of an impeccably cared-for green lawn. It makes a mild amphitheatre.
I am greeted by the MC and Katrina Blum from the council. The Mayor, Allan Suter, introduces himself. He is not feeling at all well, he says. He asks me to check the bio of me which he is using as my intro. It is dauntingly comprehensive.
Then, suddenly, he runs off into the crowd. Turns out there's an emergency. A boat has slipped its anchor and will hit the jetty if Sea Rescue is not informed. They mayor sorts it out and returns to the proceedings.
Everything starts very smoothly. The National Anthem is roundly sung by one and all. The flag is raised on its tall pole beside the clubhouse.
The mayor wastes no time.
They’re a wonderful audience, interested and responsive. I talk about Ceduna and its community, about the arts
Two local girls sing my favourite Aussie anthem, We are One. Very beautifully. It rings out across
And then the Mayor wraps it up and invites everyone inside the sailing club for free Australia Day breakfast.
I am very late getting in there. Photos have to be taken with the Australia Day Award recipients to mark the occasion. There's an air of general excitement. Afterwards quite a few people
We enthuse about Ceduna. They love their community and their stunning coastal; location - rightly so. They are pleased that I come as such a passionate oyster aficionado. They're proud of those oysters. Oh, yes. Oysters are worth a pilgrimage. I shall definitely come back some time.
I tell the pastor how much I loved his thoughts. It was a very special speech/prayer. He is very self-effacing. He wants to tell me all about the famous Kinooba football team. Playing for that unique enduring Aboriginal team had been a highlight of his life, he says. He was the only white man, he declares proudly.
Lyn Beattie a pastoralist’s wife, a retired nurse and aged care worker and general fine community volunteer and good spirit makes it her cause to fill me in on much of the district’s local character and issues. She’s old Ceduna blood from a family which long has owned and farmed extensive properties in the district.
I meet an old Bush Bash pal, a clutch of gorgeous oldies who gun around Ceduna in fancy gophers, have good chats with Luca Cetta, the young journo from the West Coast Sentinel who has kindly agreed to share photos with us...
The chatting among the community continues in a relaxed vein for a long time, the day outside cool, cloudy and windy but showing signs of warming up.
After this event, Bruce and I follow the directions of the locals to locate Ceduna’s Big Oyster. It is just on the edge of town where the road heads off towards the Nullarbor - and opposite, oh deary me, a huge OTR service station, those monsters which are killing independent petrol and service station businesses throughout the state.
It’s not a very big Big Oyster but we play with and around it and enjoy the salty marshes stretching away beside the road.
Oh, but it is getting hot.
We contemplate choices of driving here or there to see more coast but we have driven a lot. We opt for the cool of our lovely hotel room with our books and computers.
Of course, I’m hungry by lunchtime. We trot downstairs so I can wolf down another half a dozen fresh oysters.
It is too hot to sit on the balcony now. It is too hot to touch anything on the balcony. The world outside is barely moving. We stretch out on the beaut big bed, watch tennis and read. For dinner I order more heavenly Ceduna oysters... cooked as well, just to ensure that I have tried all the options. They are gorgeous.
Oh, my. I’m not sure I have ever had fish which was fresher, sweeter, moister or more perfectly cooked and seasoned. I sigh and swoon and wish the dish would go on for ever.
This tops off my coastal seafood odyssey very nicely indeed.
It’s back on the road.
Firstly, we tidy up our travelling pantry and make a good scratch breakfast of fruit and yoghurt and then pack the car. It is still in the 40s, hot, hot, hot.
We see few other vehicles until suddenly we find ourselves stuck behind an oversized vehicle convoy. Between two outrider safety cars is a massive mining machine on a massive transporter. It takes up most of the road most of the time. The few oncoming cars are forced into the dirt as it does its best to liberate space for them. There is no question of overtaking. We adopt the convoy pace glad that we are in no rush. The miles go by and we enjoy the landscape. No places to stop. Eventually, the lead outrider safety vehicle messages the rear safety vehicle which signals us that it sees a big enough stretch of visible clear road ahead and it is now safe to pass. The huge swaying transporter makes as much space as it can. It’s not a lot, actually. It is quite scary getting past it.
We reach Wudinna hoping to return to the lovely cafe in which we dined on our last visit but woe, it is closed for the Australia Day long weekend. We drive around the wide open roads and everything is shut. Nothing is moving moving. It’s 44 deg.
The roadhouse is the only place for lunch. But, as it turns out, it’s a lovely place for lunch. Clean and fresh and all home-made and home comforts. We have burgers and tea. After a while, the oversize transporter chugs along. The convoy pulls in to another big roomy garage.
So there sits our red car all alone in the heat outside the strip of motel rooms while, inside room 7, we start up the little air conditioner and it chugs and wheezes valiantly to cool the room. I find the pool inside a sprawling sunroom. It is like
It is surreal being in cold water in a deserted motel in a deserted outback town on a fiercely hot day. I can hear road trains rumbling by in the distance outside.
The temperature has softened in the fading light.
We take the dirt road out of town and drive to Polda Rock. It is one of three magnificent monoliths around Wudinna. Mt. Wudinna is the biggest monolith after Ayers Rock.
Turtle Rock is probably the most mystical and beautiful sacred rock in Australia but the idiot powers-that-be have allowed the
But Polda Rock makes up for a lot. It is a grand granite mountain of a rock, softly contoured so one may easily climb it. It is patterned with wonderful lichens and has rock pools here and there, even in
The dusky light makes it dreamily beautiful as we climb up the rock and look at the landscape stretching around. The colours of the rock itself are like an artwork.
We sit on the rock and feel beneath us the memory of the heat of the day.
Ancient beauty. We are in awe.
But the light is dimming now and, for safety’s sake, we climb down and return to the car. En route back to the motel we notice a sign for Granite Sculpture Park. We pull in and behold a massive towering sculpture in honor of agriculture and the area. It has taken years to carve, sponsored by the community. It shows wonderful sheep carved around the base and an abstract figure of life and labour on the land. It is breathtaking.
We spend some time exploring its details and marvelling at the workmanship.
The shadows grow long around the statue and the outback sky blazes bright in sunset
A bath of beauty in the hot night air.
As darkness falls, we return to our deserted motel’s little brown room where the air conditioner has kept working promising us a decent night’s sleep.
Suzie serves us a fine breakfast in the motel dining room. We are the only diners but we learn that a couple of other overnighters have turned up in the night and the motel is not entirely empty any more.
Take your time leaving, says sweet Suzie. No maid coming in today. Just make sure the aircon is off.
Once again, we are loving the environment. Once again the road is not too busy.
We purr across the landscape. Gradually the mallee country gives way to bluebush. The colours of green and blue are utterly gorgeous. The temperatures outside is steadily about 45 deg C. It is oddly scary. Everything is so hot. The air, the roads, the cars... What if something went wrong? One would not last long out there.
We stop at the rugged little working town of Kimba for lunch.
Then we find the old Galah, just as big as ever and just a bit tattier. It is up for sale along with its little cafe and souvenir shop. We briefly fantasise about giving up city life and coming to Kimba to run the Big Galah.
Back on the open road. Here the roads are mallee-lined and undulating on and on and on. Dangerous for lack of forward visibility but beautiful for their contours. A police car wails up and past us. Oh dear. Must be an accident rather than a fire out there. Eventually we come upon it just before the crest of one of the hills. One car a complete mess at the roadside. Traffic backed up on either side. Lots of emergency vehicles, police and CFS, with signs. We wait patiently. We are in no rush. It must be so hot for the workers out there.
Back on road again and the temp outside is up to 46.
I just want to get to Port Augusta and off these hot roads. As we pass Iron Knob, the temp rises to 47.
The landscape is marvellous as the Flinders Ranges start to appear. Lots of bluebush. But it is a relief to get to Port Augusta. After our horror experience at the Majestic Oasis I have cancelled out booking there and reserved in the Standpipe motel on the edge of town. It is run by Indians. We are received by a charming Indian matron and directed to a fairly far-flung room which is of the executive level.
There’s a soft sofa squeezed in alongside the bed. Hmm. Hard to sit on. But there are slippers and a bathrobe.
To get a swim, I have to go back to the reception for a key and key code. The pool is behind a high
The water is gorgeous and so is the view of the golf course and gum trees. The birds are shrieking. And a wind is kicking up. Indeed, it is really kicking up. By the time B comes to visit me in the pool, it is getting wild. My towel blows into the water.
A big dusty outback change is blowing in.
We retreat to the room until dinner time when we walk across to the marvellous Indian restaurant for a spicy feast on the last night of our road trip.
Back to Adelaide in the morning.