Wednesday, 10 May 2017

It's 50 in the desert, part II


April 2 -17

How cool. As I write this entry, a milestone I hadn't anticipated has been struck.
My blog has now had > 100, 000 hits. Awesome effort and thanks to you all for reading.


Part II:
So, after 6 days of big travels, I've made Adelaide. With a few milestones yet to complete:

Milestone 2: celebrating my long lost mates 50th birthday
Milestone 3: returning across the Nullarbor by roads less travelled
Milestone 4: Getting enough geocaches found to get my tally to 200 or above



Saturday and I get taken around to my long lost mates (Rick's) place. To be honest, he was a bit shocked to see me. Age may have wearied them, but instantly recognisable after 25 years I still am. I made comment "you don't think I just crossed the desert for fun did you"? Thanks for inviting me Helen.

We chat for a few hours and I head back to his Mum's place, where I stayed for my duration in Adelaide. Set up the swag in the garage, I'm still chalking up nights under canvas. Later in the afternoon, Rick comes around to his mum's place and then finds he has had a surprise 50Th thrown for him. It was a great night. Another long lost soul of Ricks came from Sydney. Between him and myself,  Rick was well shocked.

Happy 50th Birthday mate!

Sunday was a quiet affair, until more people came over for a second celebration. The weather now had turned. Overcast, occasional showers and windy as hell. Nothing like in the desert. I was constantly watching the weather to see what I had in store on the way home.

And then came Monday. Happy Birthday to me! After Ricks mum made me an awesome bacon and egg breakfast, it was time to hit the road yet again. Rick had flown out to Whyalla earlier in the morning, I was to meet him there. 5 hours or so of my 50th on the road. A later start than I had planned, I bid farewell to Rick's mum at 0945 local. But the plan had a hiccup. I was pulled over for an hour 15 minutes after leaving. Another Pajero forum recognised me and told me to pull over. An hour in a carpark later and GLSGLS was happy to see these black fella feet get the hell out of his town.

With daylight, navigating my way out of the city was a breeze. Onto the Wakefield Rd and all was well. I had 2 not so good introductions to Adelaide when I came down this road. 1 - a caravan turned in front of me as I was bearing down on him at 110Km/h near Pt Germein. And 2, a bit later, rounding a corner I had a car on my side of the road overtaking a truck. Welcome to South Australia. Lucky for me, there were no issues on the return Journey, but a couple of vehicles towing in WA had me shake my head.


Falling behind time now, I stopped for fuel outside my Grandfather's home town of Pt Pirie and took a shot of the stack for a bit of nostalgia:





Time now being 1230 local, Whyalla was looking to be a later than planned arrival. But I got there in the end, about 1400. Rick had a friend with him (Sharmane) and we started having a couple of pre-birthday drinks. And Ricks brother - well over 30 years since I'd seen him - came around too. About 1800, 3 of us met Ricks 2 half brothers at the pub, where Rick made sure I was well fed and watered. Back to the hotel room and I finished my birthday watching "scream" on the box.


Day 9 finished, 400Km's travelled.



Tuesday arrived and it was time for the long haul home. Topping up my water jerry with the 3.5L of water I had consumed since Perth, I bid farewell to Rick and headed South for Pt lincoln at 1000. Milestone #2 now knocked off, it was time to concentrate on #4 - getting some caches found.

Spotting a sign post for Lucky Bay, I drove in for a look. And a surprise that was, for I had found where the ferry arrived from Walleroo.






Not having any caches downloaded from home, I was reliant on an internet connection now for some finds. And as luck would have it, there was one here, right next to the shacks the locals lived in:





And lucky stumps (GC6A8GN) now had my stamp added to the log book. Next port of call, I dropped in on Arno Bay. A bite for lunch and I went to find another cache. But I had a small issue. My app C:geo wouldn't log in. Whilst I could see there were caches near, I couldn't navigate to it. It had me stumped and after 15 Minutes of ginning around, without success, I moved on. Pt Lincoln still another 120 odd Km's away and I had to find a place to park up for the night. So I bypassed some places like Tumby Bay so I could find a nice spot for the night. Arriving Pt Lincoln about 1530, I went to the supermarket to replenish some items I would need on the Nullarbor. Then onto Wiki Camps, I found a spot that was worth investigating, so off I head.

And I found my spot for the night at Sleaford Bay at 1615:





The ground being hard limestone, I didn't even bother with a peg. The copper log fence provided a suitable anchor point.





From desert dunes, I now make my way along some coastal scenery until I can find some roads less travelled across the Nullarbor. Unfortunately, while the sun came out - finally - it was blowing its ring off and I spent most of the night huddled beside the Paj, strategically positioned as a wind break.

But I had something to trial. Disposable frying pans (disposable aluminium foil trays). My only cooking source was either a fire or a butane cooker. For the butane cooker, I had a hot plate. Wipe it clean afterwards, use no water for cleaning frying pans. So  I decided Pad Thai in the disposable frying pan was the go:





It worked a treat. Cook the chicken on the hotplate. Once done, put on a plate. Then stir fry some greens with noodles in the disposable pan on the hotplate with the chicken, fish sauce, sweet chilli sauce and tamarind paste added. Apart from overdoing it on the tamarind paste, it was pretty bloody good. And you get to eat straight from the pan. Just a couple of cooking and eating utensils to wash. Wipe the hotplate clean and throw the disposable pan in the rubbish bag on the rear door - Nice! I'll have to try these with some other dishes.

Hiding from the wind, I rang a mate in Perth and filled him in on the events thus far. But I had to cut the call short - a bad moon was arising and I wanted some pictures:






With the wind still howling, It was pointless staying up, so I retired to bed early





Come the morning, the wind had dropped and a heavy dew had set in. this was to plague me all the way home. I hadn't used the awning for the 6 days to Adelaide as there was no dew. I was to use the awning everyday from here on in, unless I found some shelter. That had the effect of delaying my departure times, waiting for an awning to dry out.

The moon still visible on the Western horizon come morning:





Day 10 finished, 314Km's travelled.





It was 1000 before I hit the road. Ceduna was further than I thought, some 420km away. And I had planned to camp about 70Km's further out from there that night. So with my C:geo app playing up, and the distance to travel, I had no time for caching nor sight seeing.

Reluctantly passing by the Coffin Bay turn off, I continued Northwards. At 0130 I decided a lunch stop at Streaky Bay was in order. A pie from the bakery sitting by the shoreline. Its such a pretty little place here, even more so today with not a cloud in the sky or a breath of wind in the offering:





But push on I must. Hoping to make Cactus Beach for the night and maybe even catching up with Frank (from my Coober Pedy stop) who said he would still be there today. Making Ceduna at 1530, I took on a rather large quantity of fuel :110L of diesel after 940 odd Km's travelled. Fuel pricing from here will only get worse until I get to Norseman in WA. Floater off the Pajero forum informs me Nundroo is 30 cpl cheaper than Nullarbor Roadhouse (where I plan to veer from the highway), so I will top up there before the big crossing, but optimise the bill by taking on a full load at Ceduna.

20Km's from town, it was time to do some work on milestone #4 (gaining my 200 geocache tally). Now, I had some caches preloaded from home, across the Nullarbor, so the C:geo app not working wouldn't trouble me so much. Stopping in I picked off Kloedens Ruins (GC4G4TM) pretty quickly and was back heading West for Penong soon enough.

Not knowing what the dirt road in from Penong to Cactus was like, I was a little concerned with the time now being 1630 and 20 odd Km's to the camp for the night. But I should not have feared. Cactus Beach is a world renowned surf break and must have some traffic going down it. It wasn't bad at all. A few decent sized pot holes to avoid and a lot of family sedans coming out.

Now, I know nothing of the camping at the place and passed a major campsite on the right. Continuing on straight ahead, the road leads to Port LeHunte. And what a pretty little view that presented me with:





But with the time now being 1700, there was no time for taking in the scenery, I had to get camp sorted. I find the only designated camping in the area is at the camp ground I passed on the way in. The whole area is private property and in an effort to protect the environment, the land holder has constructed a large, 2 section camp ground. It even has flushing dunnies in a cubicle made from local limestone boulders.

Making my way in, I head for the ground furthest South. It is chock a block full. So off to the other side and I find about 3 spots to choose from (Its the day before Good Friday and I wonder if its always like this or is it just early Easter arrivals?). None of the spots available are ideal, but I pick the flattest one and get to work getting my crap together. I note that Ole Frank is not hear, and I'm not surprised by that really. Time now 1715 with not a lot of sun left in the day. Whilst cooking dinner, the property owner comes around and I have to pay the only camp fee of the 16 day journey.





With the sun now gone, it was time to get the camera out again as the evil moon made its presence felt above the limestone rubble flushing dunny:






Day 11 finished, 521Km's travelled.






Another rather pleasant night and some dew once again, I hit the road at 0930. First up was to head down to Port LeHunte again for a decent look. There was a couple here by the jetty, and after a stroll out to the end I got chatting with them. They were making their way for Waroona in WA. The woman decided to show me her pets. Green Tree frogs. They were so cool I had to grab a pic:






Then I tried to find my way to Cactus beach itself. A rough limestone track with side tracks going everywhere, I eventually found my way. Here is the site of another Geocache I had to pick off (GC2QD94). The scenery was stunning, but the freakin March flies were in swarms.





I would have loved to stay longer, but the march flies biting me every 30 seconds dictated I push on for roads less travelled. Today I would leave the Nullarbor (highway) and probably have a couple of days of peace without people. Prior to Nullarbor Roadhouse, I picked off another 2 caches (GC287HP and GCG399) before making the roadhouse by 1430. Stopping off for an hour here for lunch, I met Floater and his girlfriend. But like always, time was marching on and I still had some ground to travel. Here I turned off the highway to complete milestone #3 - roads less travelled. - one more box left to tick.

100Km's of rough limestone track to get to tonight's camp - Koonalds Homestead - where I can have a well earned shower (with no privacy at Cactus, I had to forgo one there). I stopped for a picture where the Cook road meets this track. To the North, some 370Km's away is Volkes Hill Corner, on the Anne Beadell Highway, where I had passed a week ago:





A little further on and I came across a Dingo. Much fatter and in much better shape than the ones I spotted on the AB. No doubt, the food source for them is much better down here:






It was nearly 1700 by the time I reached Koonalda. The beauty of travelling West within a time zone is a later setting sun. Desperately wanting a shower, I was shocked to see people everywhere when I made the Homestead. That's going to make having a shower a bit hard....again.....





2 separate lots were in Vans parked up by the shearers quarters. But a group from Flinders University posed the greater issue. They had commandeered both the Homestead and the shearers quarters. I quickly said my hello's and got onto showering duties before taking a walk around all the old wrecks to be found here.
















The Uni group belonged to Fussi, a cave research club, found here: FUSSI  which was pretty cool really, seeing I have dabbled in some caving and rope work in the long lost past. I thought we might have some some common ground. I was keen to hear what research they were performing here and maybe asked too many questions? A single bloke, looking a bit rough after near 2 weeks on the road, I was probably conjuring up some Wolf Creek images to them. I mentioned back in 1992 I had abseiled the bight, all 80 metres of it to the waterline. They probably thought I was full of it, so I reproduce the one image I have of the feat. Find the purple tee shirt if you can. We wont mention being tied off to the rear axle of a commodore, nor no helmet etc. Such was the time:






I have read some of the FUSSI newsletters since, and if I was Adelaide based, I might even bet tempted to join and help you out. It looks like you do some fantastic work. Good one! Anyone with a love of caves and rope work is a friend of mine. I hope Heiko is felling better.

I asked if they had issue with me setting the swag under the homestead verandah, which thankfully they were ok with. Just as well, as you will see later. And whilst I was cooking dinner by the homestead, they invited me for a few drinks in the quarters once I was done.

One member of their group was Clem. An indigenous advisor. I had good conversation with Clem trying to absorb what I could about the cultural significance of the area. He mentioned he was involved in a new business venture, offering a cultural camping experience in the region. I wished him all the success they deserve and attach a shameless plug to their website: Ancient Land Tours

The night ended with a nice sunset before I headed off to join the FUSSI group for a couple of drinks.











Day 12 finished, 349Km's travelled.








Picking the homestead veranda was a wise move. I woke before sun up and a magnificent fog had settled over the land. The dew was horrendous. The homestead awning sure saved me a wet pack up today. I just had to get up, grab the camera and snap some shots before it disappeared:














It was truly a remarkable sight. I went and found the geocache located here that I had found back in 2012, brought it back to the group and showed them what it was all about. It had been bugging me where it was located and I had to pull up my old tracklog to gather the co-ordinates and re find the bloody thing. I must be getting old. I mentioned to Clem I was venturing further off track a little later today, visiting another cave nearby. I mentioned a few other Nullarbor caves with caches I would visit on the way home. He was a little concerned at first, but I reiterated that the caches are at known caves, well patronised and were not in area's one was not supposed to be in. They are rules of geocaching, and he seemed a little relieved at that. You cant go place one where one is not allowed to be.

Why, I cant explain as I had very little gear to pack and no awning to dry. But I got a late start today, heading North for Koonalda cave at 1030. Upon arrival, the FUSSI group were well into preparations for descending into the abyss





But it was great to see I set a trend all those years ago with vehicle anchor points :)





A shot with the Paj needed to be taken for posterity. I had the old one here last time:





Its now 1100 and I have to go. So I bid my farewells to the group and head for the shearing shed. I note the old wool bale scale has disappeared since I was here last, which is a bit disappointing:









Its 1130 before I hit the track heading West again. About 45 uneventful Km's on the rough rock track and I make my diversion track. This is unknown country to me now and I plan about 100Km's of this track to poke my nose out on the highway at Eucla. As soon as I turn onto it I note the significant difference in track quality. No rock. It was softer soil based. Dusty as hell. It wouldn't be a place to venture into when there was a bit of moisture around. And the track was mainly just two wheel tracks with foot high grass separating the tracks. All I could think of was you wouldn't want to stop in this stuff due to the risk of a grass fire. However, quite a few clay-pan's appear and offer a safer place to stop:





I took another 10Km detour and visited Warbla Cave. The only thing of note I saw here was a shed skin from a snake. I know they must be around, and I took all precautions in my snake proof boots :), but I never had the luck to see any on my journey so far.

Unsure if I was to see any fanfare or sign-age at the border, a rock cairn with a couple of empty stubbies would have to do. No quarantine check point here. It felt like a drug runner route:





Nearing the end, in the Weebubbie Cave area, the easy to traverse ground changed to limestone rock hopping. Some slow bouncing stretches to navigate. But all was well and at 1415 I poked my nose out just shy of Eucla, without event, but a car absolutely covered in dust from head to toe. I reckon there was an inch of dust coating the back step.





Milestone #3 now completed, there will be no more roads less travelled from here. A quick stop in Eucla for another cache (GCTB9C) and I was on the road heading West, destination unknown. Now cruising along the Hampton Table land, I dropped in at a roadside stop for another cache (GC2Z9T0). A water tank with a large sheltered top would be an ideal spot to camp, but being 1600 (I had just gained 1.5 hours by crossing the border), I reckon I can make Madura tonight, another 60Km's West. As I swing past the shelter, low and behold, who is here?

Yep, you guessed it, it's Frank. Well instead of spending a week at Cactus, he moved on the next day. Then he went to Esperance as planned. He had planned to spend 6 months in the South West, but had a change of mind. He was on his way back to Cairns, where he had come from when I first met him in Coober Pedy. Like wtf dude. Sure he was a loveable chap, what with himself and his 6 month old kitten. But he had some "issues" too. He was telling me the yanks had thrown a huge bomb down a cave in Syria since I had left (I hadn't seen the news since I left home 2 weeks ago - and that was bloody fantastic). Some yanks had gone into the cave and got decimated by an animal of huge proportion, an unknown species to mankind. They sent another lot of troops down and they nearly suffered the same fate. The second lot confirmed this beast and managed to shoot this monster dead. It took some work to kill it dead as bullets didn't make it flinch. The yanks, not wanting news of this beast to make the public realm, and also afraid there might be others down there, unloaded the largest non nuclear weapon down the hole, killing all evidence of this beasts existence. Such is Frank, god love him :)

So I showed Frank all there was to know about geocaching, and then got the hell out of there, like a monster in a cave about to have the bejesus blown out of him.

Arriving on top of the Madura Pass at 1650, I picked off another cache (GCJQGW), I decided to head out to Madura Cave, pick off another Cache (GC6Z2WT) and spend the night there. Dodging quite a few roo's had me slow down a little. But upon arrival at the cave, I found the ground unsuitable for spending the night, so I drove back up the pass, forgoing a few caches further to the South. It was starting to get late now and I finally made camp around 1830, where the sun had already set.






An excellent spot, very high above the Hampton Tablelands with views for miles. Doing some timing of when I saw truck headlights appear to the time they pass, I calculate at least 12Km of visual distance of road to the East.


Day 13 finished, 339Km's travelled.






Waking up in the morning to a most spectacular view, I had a slow start and had a play with the camera. I'm less than a days drive from home now, still with 3 days to kill and no plans on where to be. So I could afford to indulge in such luxuries (unlike the crossing of the Anne Beadell)




And I played with some special effects on the camera. HDR oil painting mode:









Apart from dropping in on another cave today, there wasn't a lot planned. On the road at 0930, 45Km's from camp I picked up another cache at a roadside stop (GC4R9Z8). Arriving at Cocklebiddy, I added another one to the tally (GC4687K) and proceeded up the track about 10Km's that leads to the entrance of Cocklebiddy Cave





This cave is world renowned. It has the longest passage of underwater caverns of all the caves on the Nullarbor. A cave divers meca. Where once the public could access the cave, its now locked up and entry is tightly controlled.

On the highway again heading towards Caiguna, I noted a vehicle approaching from behind, making good ground on me. When he passed, All I could do was shake my head, if not for the fuel bill, the safety of it all. It was Easter and double demerits were in play, although I saw no mobile patrols at all:





Caiguna is the start of Australia's longest straight stretch of road. If it wasn't for the 4 caches I picked off along here (GC2NNJ6, GC287H1, CGJDVP and GC4JDTH) it would have made a long day.
 




The fourth cache was at another roadside stop and I decided to make it an early home for the night at 1615 and grab another nice shower. There were quite a few caravanners here, I just picked a spot to get away from them a little. But I should have moved on. The place was nothing short of a filthy mess. The bins were exploding, rubbish was strewn everywhere and the orst part was most of the rubbish was dunny paper. And this was a site that had 2 newish drop dunnies - how does that work then??. It really put a downer on the place. If it wasn't for the handy picnic table, I would have set up way out the back, away from all the crap. Mind you, I had stopped in a few roadside stops since Ceduna in the quest for more caches, and most of them had quite a lot of rubbish about the place. In complete contrast to the Anne Beadell which had nothing. How I long for the desert again..... But the sunset was a killer. Pity I couldn't find a nice piece of skyline to photograph it from:







Day 14 finished, 308Km's travelled.





The beauty of roadside stops - A truck pulls in at 0300 and idles away a mere 10 meters from my swag for the next half an hour before he departs again. That killed my sleep pattern. So I was up early, coffee soon on the boil. During my second cup, a guy comes over for a chat. Its been a bit weird this trip, anyone except Frank and this bloke have been very stand-offish and not that friendly in all honesty. It must be that Wolfe Creek syndrome - either that or I just smell a bit.....

On the road early today at 0715 due to my early waking hour, I can put in a bit more effort for home. I pick off the cache at the Western end of the longest straight (GC2Z9RE):





I had been watching my fuel ever so slowly evaporate since I came out at Eucla. Constantly making mental calculations on where my next fuel stop would need to be. I was hoping for Norseman and by the time I got to Balladonia, I reckoned I had enough to make it. Making Balladonia, I really considered taking the old Telegraph Road to Norseman, but I could smell home from here and opted to stay on the black top. The vegetation had changed from salt bush to salmon gum, I was now in the Greater Western Woodlands - almost home.

Dropping into Newman Rock for another cache (GC6J6CH), the granite outcrop very reminiscent of all those found in the Wheatbelt and Goldfields regions:





And my last cache along the Nullarbor at Buldania Rocks (GC4478) before finally hitting Norseman and taking on 135L of diesel after travelling 1183Km since my last top up at Nundroo. I hadn't had a roadhouse burger all trip, so I broke that tradition here and spent some time logging all my finds to date. But would it be enough to give me the 200???

Well it wasn't. I had a few earth caches to file - they require emailing some specific questions about the place to the cache owner. I would leave them until I got home. But I was 3 caches short - bummer. I will have to pick those up on the way home.

It was 1220 when I departed Norseman, my figuring was to camp somewhere overnight at a roadside stop and make for home in the morning. Karalee Rocks sounded good to me, I will just have to see how we go for time.

The trip to Coolgardie was interesting. It showed me it was not just South Aussies that were shit at driving. being well overtaken by the Juggernaut on the Nullarbor, I had another tool to contend with. This one, overtook me 3 times in the 170Km's between Norseman and Coolgardie. So much for double demerits and the distance you gained from the speed you drove at.:





I made another 60Km's West of Coolgardie before pulling over early for the night at another roadside stop at 1515. It was pretty early, but I had mobile coverage and I needed to download some more caches to check off milestone #4. I also had a very pretty site in among the salmon gums and had access to some timber for a nice fire for the last night.

It was then I discovered 2 problems - flies - little bastards were friendly indeed. I hadn't really seen any (apart the March Flies at Cactus) the whole trip:






And problem #2: hotspotting my tablet to my laptop I find I cant download coordinated direct to my gps via windows 10. In among the flies and some beer, I had to give up and manually enter the coordinates. A tedious process indeed.

Apart from the fact some knob left 2 empty cans in a fire ring, when there were at least 6 bins in close proximity, the place was spotless. It was welcome relief - once I put the cans in the bin for said knob.





With a nice fire going, it was time for baked bean, Jarlsberg cheese and onion jaffles - yep I had onion this time :)





Once night fell, there was some thunder in the distance and a few lightning strikes a fair distance away. But once the jaffles were done, it started to lightly rain and said thunder and lightning approached. I was huddled under my awning and taking some GoPro footage when it struck:





Lucky for me, it lasted about 15 minutes and I was able to retire by the fire for the rest of the night, watching the lightning in the distance.


Day 15 finished, 470Km's travelled.





And so we get to the last day. On the road at 0800, I picked off my 3 caches to close out milestone #4 - getting my tally to 200 finds. (GC28ECF, GC2E2CH and lucky last GC46EJN). The last being at Karalee where I had thought about camping, some 80Km's West of where I camped last night. I must get myself to camp there one day.

A final refuel in Southern Cross, I had some lunch in Mundaring and made it in the door at 1600. Looking very dirty and a little battle scared, all I could do was to think I need to do the Anne Beadell again. Not over 4 days next time though.






Day 16 finished, 528Km's travelled.






Trip Stats:

4 milestones completed
16 Days on the road
6700km travelled
813L of fuel used
for an average of  12.14 L/100Km
cost of fuel $1221
camp fees $15
Permit fees $35
4 cans of butane
7L of water (+5L of shower water)
1/2 a block of beer, 2 x 4L casks of goon, 1 bottle of home brew bourbon and one bottle of tokay
and another 14 nights under canvas, even if 3 of them were in someone's garage :)























The next journey should be a week in the goldfields, looking for some yellow: Coming soon.