|When the notice about the SA Volvo Meet arrived I decided immediately that we were going come what may. Time to get the caravan out again and all fixed up for another trip. When the Geelong Rally was on we headed off a few months early and travelled to Geelong via Mt.Isa, Broome, Perth and Adelaide arriving just in time with 18,000kms on the clock of our 960 Volvo wagon. Obviously not the shortest route from Brisbane to Geelong! And to think I didn’t even get the longest distance travelled award!
I had a commitment to organise an outing for the local car club on 14th September 2003 so we were off next morning and had planned our route to take in as many places that we had not visited before with the result that we arrived at Cunnamulla where we were to meet up with Phil & Brenda Rasmussen and travel together for a few days.
Our first “new” town was Thargomindah, and that is getting decidedly west of the black stump in that it is only about 300kms to the Burke & Wills Dig Tree! Thargomindah’s claim to fame is that it was the third town in the world, after London & Paris, to have electric streetlights in the 1890s! Our track then took us south from Cunnamulla to Burke. Burke was once a thriving river port on the Darling River but the last Paddlewheel was there about 60 years ago. Today the town has a population of about 2500 and a local told us that 45 of those are Policemen! My last visit to Burke was in 1963 so there wasn’t a lot I remembered about it.
Cobar was our next stop which was a bit of nostalgia trip for me as I worked here in the Bank 40 years ago and I was kept busy pointing out to Margaret where & what we used to do for fun those days.
Hillston, Hay, Balranald, Euston to Mildura where we stayed a few nights and caught up with old Bank mates from 30 plus years ago.
Soon we were crossing the border into SA and we spend a couple of days in the beautiful Riverland district around Renmark, Berri, Loxton & Morgan.
I want to return here again and hire a Houseboat for a week or two, reckon it would be magic. As we approached Barmera there was a sign advertising the upcoming “Sheep Dog Trial” and I just had to photograph it, couldn’t stop laughing! After a tour of Historic Burra we were soon getting settled in at Clare and as there has already been quite a lot in the club magazine about the Rally I will not dwell on it except to say congratulations to the SA Club for putting on such a great show, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
After the Meet was over we decided to take the “short” way home and set our compass bearing North to go through the crossroads city of Port Augusta. In this part of the world it is hard to avoid Port Augusta and I have now been there about 8 times. I hadn’t been north of Port Augusta for about 25 years so renewed our acquaintance with the Stuart Highway. Last time I was here Woomera was a ‘closed town’ and visitors were discouraged. Now hardly anyone lives here, even the detention centre is closed, and apart from the Missile park there isn’t much to see.
We based ourselves there for a few days and went on to Roxby Downs that is a beautifully planned town in the middle of nowhere that services the Olympic Dam Mine. Copper, Gold, Silver & Uranium are mined here. Andamooka, the Opal field about 30 kms east of Roxby Downs is something to behold. Appeared to us what we would expect a 1850s gold field to look like without the tents. Has to be seen to be believed. Back in Woomera we were extremely fortunate to be there when a night launch of a couple of rockets was to take place. We, along with about 20 other vehicles, ventured over 50 kms into the prohibited area surrounding Woomera (with special permits) to witness the event that although not very spectacular, was a great experience.
We say farewell to Woomera and the next little spot on the map is Glendambo. Their sign took my fancy but I’m sure they underestimated the number of flies! We continue to Coober Pedy where nearly every one lives underground, in fact we were told that Coober Pedy means ‘white man in holes’. There is even a Motel underground. Had difficulty in recognising much from our last visit but walked the town and discouraged Margaret from buying any more Opals, her favourite gemstone. As I wasn’t too keen about taking the 960 on the Oodnadatta track we were very fortunate to secure two cancellations on the Mail Run truck that travels twice a week from Coober Pedy to Oodnadatta, William Creek and back to Coober Pedy again. We called at all the Cattle Stations along the way delivering mail and the last Station we visited was Anna Creek, the largest cattle station in the world at 24,000 square kilometres! The adventure lasted 13 hours and about 600kms
We noticed “hoon tracks” on the road just out of Coober Pedy, hoons, they seem to be everywhere!.
About 360 kms north of Coober Pedy we crossed into the Northern Territory and when we reached Erldunda we turned off the Stuart Highway and headed to Kings Canyon. Kings Canyon was one place out here that I had never visited and it was not a disappointment, I would have to say it is possibly the most spectacular place I have seen in this country! Because it is so isolated prices for everything were sky high. A very average looking villa room at the Kings Canyon Resort would set you back $450 for just one night! We walked the canyon rim trail of about 6 kms taking photos the whole time. I know I ended up with about 70 photos from the walk. We stayed 3 days and looked at just about everything that was available to look at before moving on to Alice Springs.
The most direct road to the Alice is a horror FWD stretch so we opted to back track the way we had come to join the highway again.
Found a caravan park in Alice Springs called of all things – “G’Day Mate Caravan Park”, terrible name but quite a nice park and we checked in for a week to allow us to see the sights in and around Alice. By now it was getting quite hot, close to 40 degrees each day but it being such a dry heat we managed OK. Checked out Trephina Gorge, Jessie Gap, Emily Gap, Simpson’s Gap, Glen Helen Gorge, Ormiston Gorge, Serpentine Gorge, Ellery Water Hole, Palm Valley, a extremely unique place whose palms grow nowhere else in the world, Hermannsburg Mission and the Alice Springs Old Telegraph Station. All this and walking the streets of the Alice soon used up the week and we moved on again.
We were very lucky to be on the Stuart Highway at the same time as the “Great Solar Challenge Car Race” from Darwin to Adelaide. It was very odd to see such strange looking vehicles coming towards you on the road. We were told that the winner of the race was timed in Darwin at 170kph!! Not bad just using the sun. It wasn’t long before we were checking out the rock formations called the ‘Devil’s Marbles’ that are very impressive to say the least and after an overnight stop at Tennant Creek we turned East onto the Barkly Highway heading back towards Queensland.
We have travelled this road several times before so we kept moving, bush camping near Camooweal before spending some time in Mt Isa. It is still very hot and we are now anxious to get back to the East Coast. The run down through Longreach, Emerald to another overnight at Duaringa, this free campsite is provided by the local council and even runs to hot showers. When we arrived at Mount Morgan, (one town in this area we had not visited before), instead of driving straight through as was intended, we were so impressed that we stayed two full days. Mount Morgan is an old Copper Mine that before it was closed down in 1981 it was the largest open cut mine in the Southern Hemisphere. Currently the mine is an ecological disaster area with toxic chemicals leaching out into the Dee River. The town is rather quaint with hardly a new house having being built in the last 20 years or so.
Being only 40 kms from Rockhampton, houses are still (for the moment) affordable, many being for sale under $40,000.
Called to visit Gary Kinsella at Rockhampton, a Volvo mechanic who owns an 1800 before continuing south to spend 3 nights at a secluded campsite near Agnes Waters. Almost our own private beach for only $8 a night.
Called on the Rasmussens in Bundaberg, (we last saw them in Clare,) and they invited us to spend a couple of nights with them in their Woodgate Beach House. Woodgate is a great little town and the beach is one of the best in the area, but here again prices for homes have gone through the roof.
Spent a couple of nights in Burrum Heads, and a couple more in Tin Can Bay before we arrived home on 6th November after another 10,600kms on the speedo and almost 8 weeks on the road.
Bring on the next rally.
Kevin & Margaret Greenaway