Week 38 | Albany to Penong

Day 260: Manjimup to Albany

The last day of the month takes us into week 38 of our journey. This morning it’s 15 degrees at 9.15am when we leave Manjimup and head for Albany.

Travelling through the Karri forest the scent of the trees is wafting through the air vents. I spot many wildflowers along the verge but their is no opportunity to stop and photograph them. The highway is narrow and winding, hard to believe the speed limit is 110 kph.

Morning tea is at Walpole, the wind is chilling so we stay in the van. Travelling on to Denmark the countryside changes to farmlands and fresh produce. There’s toffee, chocolates, cheese and wineries. A popular area for BnB’s, farm stays and chalets. The median strips in the centre of town in Denmark are a colourful display of flowers.

We are staying two nights at the Albany Holiday Park which is a short drive out of town.  It’s a smaller park with large grassy sites and level concrete slabs to park your van on.  After setting up and having a light lunch we take a drive down to the port to see the Ruby Seadragon silo art.  Painted by Singaporean street artist Sheryo, the artwork stands 35m high and 50m wide.  The mural took 17 days to paint and 180 litres of paint.  It’s quite a playful piece of artwork don’t you think?

Wildlife:  deer, sheep, cattle, crows, horses, miniature horses, donkey, magpies, parrots.

Day 261: Albany

The alarm goes off at 6.00am. I drag myself out of bed. I’m calling at 7.30am for our monthly board meeting. First job is to check my emails. Late apologies are received. I’m immediately on the phone to the Chair. After a flurry of phone calls the Board meeting is cancelled and rescheduled for next Tuesday. We had planned to be on the Nullarbor next week. Our breakfast discussion is focused on alternative plans to be in Ceduna Monday so that I’ll have mobile & internet reception.

We were going to be having a night at Ravensthorpe and 3 nights at Esperance where we would celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. The plan now is to drive straight to Esperance arriving a day early & only stay for 2 nights. Lucky the caravan park can accommodate our request.

After a busy morning changing plans we decide to take a drive Around Albany. I’d heard about the chainsaw artist Darrel Radcliffe who sculpted old trees into magnificent pieces of art. His property is opened daily by donation for you to drive around & view the artworks. We particularly loved the animals, such detail and precision.

I received a text message from our friend Alison on the Sunny Coast to tell me about Elsie Grays. This would be our next stop. What a gorgeous fabric shop, so beautifully colour coordinated and the owner was effervescent and keen to hear why I had come to visit. My sewing friends Linda & Sharon would be in seventh heaven. We chatted for some time and I told her about my blog so she offered to take my photo amongst the fabric. This ones for you Alison, thanks for letting me know about it!

Albany is steeped with architectural history. The buildings are beautifully restored. Nearby the waterfront is the Sterling Terrace Reserve. An unsightly embankment transformed into a colourful display of flowering shrubs & trees completed in 1897 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. So wonderful to see it flourishing 122 years later.

A quick walk through town, lunch on the waterfront and back home for a couple of hours work before packing the laptop away ready for our journey tomorrow.

Day 262:  Albany to Esperance

We’re putting in a big day today of 467km so we’ve set the alarm for 6.00am (sigh) and are on the road by 7.45am. It’s 14 degrees and strangely enough we are both in shorts today. We must be coming acclimatised to the cooler weather. The scenery is very different today, dry in parts, wildflowers in abundance predominantly purple and yellow, canola fields and wheat, we even have a very brave rabbit jump across the highway in front of us – that’s a first!

Morning tea is at the Lions park at Jeeramungup where we experience flies for the first time in a long time. As the journey is long today I decide that it’s time I got back behind the wheel to give Andrew a break. I can’t remember the last time I drove the car! I’m driving 120km in to Ravensthorpe. Luckily we have to get fuel and head towards town and wouldn’t you know it another silo.

Fremantle-based artist Amok Island created the artwork, Six Stages of Banksia baxteri, a 25 metre high wildflower inspired mural painted across three silos in Ravensthorpe. The project took 31 days, 338 litres of paint and countless trips up and down the silos in a knuckle boom.  Another amazing artwork.

We arrive at Esperance around 3ish. We’re staying at the Pink Lake Caravan Park. With our Kui Park discount a powered site is $31.50. The park is quite old, however, the sites are large, grassy and have concrete slabs. Andrew reverses the caravan with ease and we get ourselves set up.

We both are feeling a bit weary after our long travel day. The laptop comes out and I immediately start working. We’re having left over spaghetti bolognaise tonight so it’s an easy reheat job.

By 8.30pm my eyes are tired so it’s an early night for us all.

Day 263: Esperance

The sun is rising around 5.30am now and we find that we are waking before Cinta. The body clock is getting ready for the trek across to the east.

I’m working to a tight deadline before we head across the Nullarbor and this morning I’m catching up with Tracey on the phone to discuss my progress on her new website. We always get off track when we catch up and the call lasts one hour 45 minutes. We had a lot to talk about! I’m happy that she’s happy with where her new site is at. I don’t want to make another website any time soon after this one is done!

Andrew has been out and done the shopping, lunch is next and then he takes me for a drive along the beachfront. The ocean is mesmerising and we stop at the Castletown Jetty ruins to feel the sand between our toes again. The wind is blowing a gale. Cinta is loving every moment of sniffing everything in sight and I’m madly tapping away taking pics on my iPhone.

On the way back to the park we detour to see the Pink Lake. Unfortunately it’s not pink anymore.  Conservation experts believe the fate of Pink Lake was sealed years ago when a highway and rail line cut off the natural flow of water into the salt lake system. Super saline conditions are needed to support the green algae that accumulates the beta-carotene pigment, the same pigment that colours carrots, which turned the lake pink.  It just looks white to me. Apparently there is another pink lake down this way but it’s only accessible by boat or plane.

Tonight we are lashing out and having takeaway Chinese. I suggest to Andrew that we order dinner and take it down to the Jetty ruins and watch the sunset. The wind is still blowing a gale so the plans are reversed and as there’s no sunset happening because of the heavy clouds, we pick up our takeaway and have it back in the van.

I work until 9.00pm when I just can’t look at a computer screen any longer. I’m done. Tomorrow will be the start of 4 days with very limited mobile reception and to say I’m looking forward to that is an understatement.

I do have one portion of work for the website that I don’t need an internet connection for so I have been saving that for the stretch across the Nullarbor. If I really have to…

Wildlife: deer, sheep, cattle, crows, donkey, rabbits, ducks, dead kangaroos.

Day 264:  Esperance to Caiguna

Andrew is up early and out walking Cinta while I lie in. By 6.20am  we’re having brekkie. A quick call to Mum to let her know we’ll be out of range for a few days and then we are both showered, packed up & leaving drizzly Esperance Behind by 8.00am. It’s 13 degrees and we are both in shorts again – impressed? You should be! Oh and Happy Anniversary to us. We have talked about experiencing this day on the road for many years and wouldn’t you know it, here it is. I did have ideas that we would be somewhere nice, by the beach sipping champagne at sunset. But alas, when you are working on the road all good plans turn to..:well you know what, I don’t need to tell you.

You’ll all be proud today as I drove again after our morning tea stop for about 2 hours. The scenery is ever changing today as we head east from Norseman. Is this the Nullarbor? There is no sign to say it is. The road isn’t even straight and narrow yet. I’m a bit disappointed actually.

There is scatters of wildflowers, woodlands where the trees look rusty coloured and waxy. Dead tree branches burst out the centre of small bushes. They look so weird almost apocalyptic. Lakes that look salty, limey and calcified. Dense bushes in every shade of green imaginable.

The clouds are grey, it’s almost like the sky is trying to cry but only a few drops of water are released.

The sign reads: 90 mile straight Australia’s longest straight road 146.6km. We can confirm it is straight. It looks and feels like you will never get to the end. We arrive at Caiguna Roadhouse 575km from Esperance.  Our biggest day of travel since starting this journey 264 days ago.

We’ve got a powered site on the dirt. $30. There is no water to hook up to, it’s a precious commodity out here. We can however have a hot shower.

We celebrate our anniversary inside the van with a couple of glasses of wine and nibblies as the wind is blowing a gale outside. We’re having left over Chinese from last night so I don’t even have to cook!

The clouds are rolling in at sunset. I was hoping for something spectacular to photograph but they are too thick and it looks like they could be bringing rain.

We’re woken by Cinta prancing around the limited space in the van and barking outrageously and then the van lights up with lightening and loud claps of thunder. There is not much rain. The electrical storm skirts around us for what seemed to be hours on and off all night. There’s not much sleep for any of us.

Wildlife: sheep, minor birds, dead kangaroo, crows, dingo.

Day 265 Caiguna to 81k Peg Test Area

Andrew is up at the crack of dawn. He’s kissed and made up with Cinta after the worst nights sleep ever. I however am not as forgiving. I can’t drag myself out of bed yet.  Why does the sun have to get up so early? I used to love it at Mission Beach. How that has changed.

We have a token each for a 5 minute shower.  Andrew is back from his shower, plenty of hot water he says. My turn. The ladies has 2 showers. One of the shower cubicles is covered with water so of course I take cubicle 2. Turn the tap on, run out and put my token in the box. No water. Turn the tap in every direction. No water. Wrap the towel around myself back out and hit the box a couple of times. No water. Sigh. Looks like a sponge bath in the sink for me. I could have gone back into the roadhouse and got another token for the other shower but by this time I just couldn’t be bothered. I phone the roadhouse from the van to let them know, I don’t want that happening to anyone else.

Andrew is ready to go. We are on the road by 7.50am and the sign says central Australia border turn clocks forward 45 mins. Oh morning tea is closer than we thought! We both chuckle.

There is so much rubbish along the highway it really is shameful.

The scenery is more what we are expecting today. Long stretches of very little plant life and then there is an oasis. Such stark contrasts. It makes you wonder how anything survives in this harsh climate. Carcasses are picked bare and only skeletons remain. There is far more road kill on this stretch of the Nullarbor.

I’m driving again after morning tea and up ahead is two bike riders. Dam, no photo, Andrew is not up to speed with getting pics on my iPhone in a hurry! Riding the Nullarbor, now that’s what I call a challenge.

Our lunch stop is at Eucla Roadhouse. We’ve parked away from the roadhouse as Caravans are lined up everywhere fuelling up. I’ve ducked over to the whale for a quick selfie.

Back on the road again and we approach the South Australia boarder and the sign says observe time zone change. We put our watches forward another 45 minutes. We’ve lost 11/2 hours today. Here goes the body clock again! Two time zones from WA to SA, crazy stuff.

Another “big thing” Matilda and her jar of vegemite stands proud beside the service station. Further along the road the verge has gone from red to almost white. We have our first glimpse of the Great Australian Bight. Wow, it looks amazing. Brilliant blue ocean and white cliffs. There are a lot of free camps along the highway so we’ve decided to do one tonight. I would have loved to have camped along the cliff face but realistically we would have been blown away. We’re tucked up in the bushes at 81k Peg Rest Area along with 3 other vans.

We’re having a roast in the Ziggy tonight. We’ll be in Ceduna or close to it tomorrow so that means no fruit or veggies allowed past the quarantine point. We’re roasting up some extra veggies and I’ve par boiled all our other veggies and put them into sealed bags. Onions and garlic are topped and tailed. Lemons and limes are cut and frozen. I’ll be having blueberries and strawberries on my Bircher muesli for brekkie and we’ll have salad for lunch.

The roast is devine. One last walk around the site, dishes are done and we settle down for an early night listening to the wind howling through the bush. It’s 7.30pm.

Wildlife: dead kangaroos, crows, dead cow, eagle, 2 emus, 4 wild horses. Lizard, goana, galah.

Day 266:  81k Peg Test Area to Penong

Andrew wakes at 7.00am. We can’t believe we have both slept for almost 12 hours. I turn my phone on. Force of habit really. I know there’s no reception. I ask him the time again. 7.00am he says. Looks like daylight savings has kicked in, my phone says 8.00am.

We’ve been really careful with conserving water over the Nullarbor so we are both going to have a quick shower this morning. I feel like a human being again, there is nothing better than feeling the hot beads of water falling over your body even if it is only until you are wet. Soap yourself up and wash it off. Ahh. It’s the simple pleasures that bring the most joy when you’re free camping. We’re packed up and on the road by 9.37am.  It’s a pleasant 16 degrees and yes we’re in shorts again.

We’ve passed our fourth RFDS airstrip this morning. The painted lines remind me of the Abbey Road zebra crossing.  Morning tea is at the Nullarbor Roadhouse.  We are having a take-away cappucino today.  The price is reasonable considering the fuel is $2.15 a litre.  Yes that’s right! We’re not fuelling up here.  I love their quirky sign about tonight’s special…

Further along the highway we pass another bike rider.  He’s travelling solo.  The wind is quite strong along the highway today and I can’t imagine how he can stay upright when the road trains pass him by.  I’m driving again after morning tea and the road trains passing me are like a vacuum sucking you closer to them.  I sit on 88km an hour, it’s a speed I feel comfortable with.

There is a section of the Nullarbor that claims to be treeless.  We saw small trees.  The scenery changes constantly again today from lush bushes, flowering wattle, spinifex grasses and the waxy rustic trees to barely nothing at all.

We’ve travelled 337km today and arrived at Penong.  I’m driving.  Andrew is checking us in.  He’s asked the guy at reception for the hardest site to reverse into.  The guy chuckles – they’re all drive throughs mate!  Ha Ha. Winner! I drive through our site and decide to go a bit further forward so that I can reverse back.  Just for practice.

Across the road is the largest Comet windmill (Bruce) in Australia.  Bruce has a span of in excess of 35 feet.  It was first owned by the Commonwealth Railways and then purchased by Coondambo Station in 1977. The fan was destroyed by high winds in 2003 and was rendered unprofitable for restoration.  The windmill was resurrected in 2016 and stands today as part of Australia’s windmill history.  The collection of windmills is a stunning sight.

Footy finals are on tonight, so Andrew is watching that on ATV, yes that’s right.  No digital TV out here in Penong.  did I mention there was only 3 channels.  Lucky the footy is on one of them.  After the game is over, Andrew is giving Cinta her last walk.  I’ve been finishing my blog all afternoon and it’s now 9.30pm. He opens the door and says, “you should come outside and have a look at the windmills, they are all lit up”.  Well who could pass that photo opportunity? Certainly not me.  Here’s the pics.

Another week is coming to a close.  We’re almost at the end of the Nullarbor.  Tomorrow will take us into Ceduna where we’ll spend a couple of nights so that I can catch up on work….again…  Over and out from the roving reporter.

Wildlife: crow, magpie, rabbit, eagle, dead kangaroos, dead rabbits.

Week 38 total expenses: $880.87 I’m pretty pleased with our expenditure this week as I expected it to be well over budget travelling across the Nullarbor.

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That’s a wrap for Week 38 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment

2 thoughts on “Week 38 | Albany to Penong

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