Monday, June 10, 2013

Mario and Steph's EPIC AUSTRALIAN ROAD TRIP! Part I: To the Nullarbor

At last, the long-awaited photos from our EPIC AUSTRALIAN ROADTRIP!!!

One Jeep. Two adventurers. Three colossal Australian states. Over six weeks of pure bliss, sun, outback, beaches, diving, caves, tours, desert, cities, wildlife encounters and so much more. Settle in as we relive the unparalleled saga through pictures, words and moving image. This tale may need to be told in several parts, which may seem like a gyp after waiting so long to hear it. However, I will do my best to fit every last morsel of Aussie goodness into the confines of the post length that blogger will allow.

I hope I will be able to recall and recount all of the intricate details of our adventure, since it was already six months ago. How time flies!! But have no fear, if there are any particulars that I have forgotten, I won't let on - I'll just glide along telling whatever seems right or probable or even possible based on vague memory, experience or imagination.

Without further ado, welcome to
Mario and Steph's EPIC AUSTRALIAN ROADTRIP (Oct 13, 2012 - Dec 8, 2012):

Now, for those of you who don't remember, you last saw your fearless protagonists after a wildlife-filled trip along the Great Ocean Road. We stayed in a little town called Kyneton in the Macedon Ranges region of Victoria. From there, we set out on our journey with a cry of WESTWARD HO! And began driving toward South Australia (with that epic Pogues anthem blaring over the speakers). Pretty soon we started seeing some funny sights, like this navy ship, which somehow lost its way and found itself grounded in a tiny little town somewhere near the South Australian border.

So, naturally we stopped in that little town (or was it the next one we came across?) to stretch our legs and have a little game of soccer. Oh, no? Well then perhaps just a walk.

Home to a lovely little park and remarkably clean public toilets, the name of this little hamlet was lost on the wind - a cool autumn breeze that blows through my mind occasionally to dust out the cobwebs and steal away the secrets of Australian outback towns.

Packed up quite neatly, we must have been crazy when we thought we could actually sleep in our beloved Jeep! We were lucky to fit all of our essentials, food and emergency supplies in the back with the seats folded down, and still see out the back window! (Bonus: can you spot the perishable items that we took with us from the still-full refrigerator in Kyneton? Thanks for sending us off with some food we needed to eat quick, Mom and Dad!)

"O Captain! My Captain!"

Yutes, yutes and more yutes. And an aluminum farm windmill. Gotta love 'stralia!

Many states in Australia are home to more livestock than people. These sheep seem pretty happy grazing far and wide in relatively green pastures. As we headed west and found ourselves in fairly inhospitable desert regions, we felt bad for the sheep. But these sheep seem happy.

I took this picture because I couldn't believe my eyes as I was reading the name of the cross-street we had just passed - "Meatworks Rd." But it's also a good documentation of how we got from here to there along our journey.

Adelaide! We actually rolled in to the city at about 7:35pm, finding the urban campground with the highest rating and fairest price. When we arrived, the caretaker asked us if we were planning on sleeping in our vehicle or in a tent. "Oh, in a tent" we replied. He showed us to the only remaining open tent spot in their campground and asked, "Will this be big enough for your tent?" "Well," we said, "we don't know. I suppose it should be okay." "Oh, you haven't used it yet?" he asked. "Well, actually, we haven't bought it yet!" "Well, you better get one quick because we don't take any more campers after 8."

Well, we made it! Miraculously got our pop-up tent and set it up just in time. The next day was spent sight-seeing around Adelaide. We stopped at the National War Memorial for veterans of WWI, it was built in 1931.

An interesting house across the street from the memorial, with eyes perpetually watching....
We did a Lonely Planet - recommended walking tour around the city, which ended up being a very good idea.

Got a delicious big breakfast at a little restaurant on Rundle Street

Strange little effigies of monsters in the trees in one of the city's parks. Actually, if you look at Adelaide on a map, you will see that the city center is virtually surrounded by parks, circumventing the city and only split by major roads to make the city center accessible.

A stunning Eastern Rosella in Adelaide's Botanical Gardens

Checking out the Botanical Garden's exhibition on wheat

Future Farmers of Australia?

Alright! Now we're talkin'! How come we didn't pick up a sweet ride like this back in Melbourne?! Actually, I think this beaut is one-of-a-kind.

"EIS: Olsen's Power - The FLY who SHAGGED us"

A desert Loch Ness monster

The open road
We spent the next night camping in Port Augusta (1 night). We stayed in a windy, wide open campground with few trees. It was near the ocean but had no ocean view on account of a high fence built up all around the campground, which seemed pretty silly to us. Still, camping was fun and the next morning we stocked up on supplies and got going fairly early, since there was apparently not much to do around town.

It's pretty hard to rile up some business for a little takeaway/deli joint somewhere on the way from Port Augusta to Sheringa Beach. The proprietor had to think of a pretty tantalizing name for the place - "Cummins". (Editors note: No, actually this is the name of the town. Which suggests the whole town has had problems attracting visitors from time to time.... I wonder why....)
We drove through several little towns along the Western side of Spencer Gulf. One was called Iron Knob, there was Whyalla (as in "whyall'a hustle and bustle?!") and a harbor-side town called Cowell, where there was a public toilet art exhibition, where there was actual art for sale on the walls.

Finally we made it to Sheringa beach, were we had planned to camp for the night after seeing it on a list of free camping sites along our route. We stopped in at the fantastically decorated General Store and requested permission to camp at the beach from the woman at the counter, who answered us with a dull stare and a mild grunt. Her husband was not much more sociable. Still, the store came in handy the next day as they proved to have at least one of every kind of necessity known to campers, all packed into a small space.

Aww, look at the cute, picturesque livestock! At the time the thought never crossed our mind regarding what other living creatures are attracted to livestock....

We rolled up to an absolutely beautiful secluded spot on the sand right near the beach, with the sound of waves lulling us to sleep. The toilet was pretty rugged, pictured on the left - just an old long-drop toilet with bees coming out of the faucet rather than water.

We had a delicious dinner, a game of Phase 10 and enjoyed the tranquility and natural beauty of the place. The weather was fine, and as the stars began to crawl across the sky we took a romantic moon-lit stroll along the beach.

SheringaTimeLapse from Steph Haas on Vimeo.

The next morning was lovely, except for the noise of our neighbors' 4 wheelers.

Another walk to the beach - checking out the bluffs, which I believe would be considered a part of the Great Australian Bight?
The heroic feat, and daring driving skills it took to get that mettwurst hanging in our rear window will live in infamy.

And then came the flies.
Around 12 noon they were on us in swarms. They were absolutely unbearable. They would fly into your eyes, in your clothing, cover your skin.... We had to get out of there! We jumped in the car, leaving everything behind at the campsite and started driving.

We figured we would explore while we were stuck in the car, safe from the flies (except the periodic straggler who seemed to have come in through the vents). So we drove along a path to this little pond/lake amongst the sand dunes.
Lake Lambert was a peculiar place. Luckly, we didn't get bogged. But it didn't seem like there was much to do there other than drive wrecklessly between the bushes and try out our truck on the beach-y conditions. Still, we were stuck inside, observing the place from the safety of our vehicle, where the flies couldn't get us.

Next, we decided to head over to the Sheringa Roadhouse again to see what they had to fight the flies. We met a nice couple from Adelaide, who were very talkative and on a fly-fishing adventure together. They told us the flies would be this bad all along the coast, which terrified us into buying literally every anti-fly/fly-protection cream, lotion, spray, net and swatter they had in the shop. Again, the owners stared blankly at us and muttered the price, which was probably expensive but seemed reasonable at the time as we were up against what we saw as a potential 6 weeks of fly-ridden hell.
(*It turned out not to be anywhere near that bad, thankfully, and we didn't go completely mad on the rest of the roadtrip).

Now, decked out in our fly cream and other gear, we drove over to the perilous cliffs to the west of the campsite.

The landscape was breathtaking. There were a couple of people who drove up all alone just to park and sit in their cars overlooking the bluff and the crashing waves because it truly was just that beautiful, where it would be worth driving out into the middle of nowhere to sit and enjoy it.

However, the minute you got out of the car, despite the remarkably powerful winds, the flies would be on you. We tried to lay on the beach, which would have been one of the prettiest beaches we'd ever been on, but the flies absolutely ruined it. You couldn't enjoy sitting still, you would have to just swat swat swat until you got fed up and ran back to the car.

We would have happily stayed for another couple of nights at Sheringa if it weren't for the flies. Unfortunately, we couldn't tolerate that so we moved on to Streaky Bay, where the flies were still pretty bad, but didn't bother us quite as much. Perhaps it was because we took a shopkeeper's advice and finally took a shower (I believe her exact words were, "maybe it's because you two stink! When was the last time you took a shower?"), or maybe it was because the campground was more crowded and therefore the flies had a greater variety of people to land on. Either way, we stayed in Streaky Bay for 2 nights. We got our car checked up on, refilled the A/C (an excellent choice) and stocked up. We also met a fellow camper named Amish (pronounced "Aemish") and it was his BIRTHDAY!! He was camping alone so we took him out for a couple beers at the local pub/inn/restaurant.
The next stop was Fowler's Bay. This was one place we definitely would have liked to have stayed longer.
We stayed at a nice campground near beautiful, enormous sand dunes, where we could romp and play to our heart's content.

We were also close to the Pier at our campsite, where the locals said they would frequently see Great White Sharks. It sounded like if we had stayed an extra day or two we might have found someone to take us out fishing, which is probably the biggest pastime in Fowler's Bay. It was Halloween, so we went for a creepy late-night walk out to end of the pier, which had no guard rails. We were probably surrounded by hungry sharks lurking in the waters below, just waiting/hoping for us to get blown off the dock into their gaping jaws!

We met a couple at the campsite in Fowler's Bay who told us all the shark lore. They had a very sweet dog, who we found quite charming while we were awake, all sitting around the fire. However, we have reason to believe that same hound relieved herself on our tent during the night!! Bad dog!

Goodbye Fowler's Bay, hello Nullarbor!

Oh wait, hold on - scratch that. The White Blizzard is overheating again.

And they're off, like a herd of turtles!

At the world-famous Nullarbor Roadhouse! Where they make you prepay for your gas because so many people try to fill up and dash out into the hot outback, with no chance of getting caught.

Oh yeah, and did we mention the gas (oh, excuse me - "petrol") was almost twice as expensive as in Melbourne?

They seemed to have a thing for whale statues out in the Nullarbor, which seemed very strange and out of place in the middle of a harsh, barren desert. Yet, the A1 highway is not actually very far from the coast, and the Great Australian Bight is one of the best places to spot whales during their migration. So in actuality, it's not quite as tongue-in-cheek as it may appear at first glance.


Vast expanses of nothingness. This stretch of highway is also be used as a runway for the Royal Flying Doctors' aircraft.
We turned off the Eyre Highway onto another dirt road (considerably better kept than the one leading out of Fowler's Bay). This time, we're driving out to the Head of the Bight.

The dramatic Head of the Bight. I saw an Osprey fly over our heads when we approached. They nest in holes in the rocks and are apparently not very fond of seeing humans anywhere near where they roost.


On this day we also drove the 90 Mile Straight section of the Eyre Highway. Below is the timelapse of that part of the journey. Takig suggestions for best 17 second chunk of driving soundtrack music.

90MileStraightRoad TL from Steph Haas on Vimeo.

Eucla: Roadside campsite (along the Eyre Highway (A1). Was more of a pull-off for people hauling ass through the desert like we were. It is located past the Nullarbor and Great Australian Bight. Slept in the car (too lazy to set up tent for only a few hours of sleep. Thought it might be more comfortable). We saw 2 Emus who liked to drink out of a leak in a hose in the bush right in front of where we parked.

Lots of strange and interesting photo ops here - very 50s style. Just over the border in WA.

There were horses living at the ranch (house shown left), above a very high cliff.

Just one lonely, snaking road through the barren landscape, with the ocean in the background.

A little camper ambles along the lonely road

The next day: On the road again

We came upon a stark reminder of how far away and alone one is out here in the desert. This truck must have burned completely down to the scrap metal without being extinguished.


imager48 said...

Just looked at this post. Nice to see shots of your adventure!

Unknown said...

One of the things I love about a road trip? Taking photos! It seems that you have a photographer streak too! Anyway, Camp Augusta is a great place. Some friends and I camped there once and it was a pleasant experience. -Katelyn