Weekend Wanderlust – The Great Ocean Road

Those of you who have known me for a while may remember that, back in 2010, I drove from Brisbane, through Western New South Wales and South Australia, to Adelaide. After meeting my wife in Adelaide, we then drove across the southern coast to Melbourne, via the Great Ocean Road.

I’ve been thinking about that trip recently, particularly this snake which I lay down on a boardwalk and got very close to in order to photograph. Mostly, I found myself wondering what kind of snake it was, and how much danger I placed myself in. Turns out it was a White-Lipped Snake. Slightly venomous, but mostly harmless.

While digging these photographs out of the archives, I thought I’d revisit a couple of landscapes from the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. You can click on the second one to download it as a desktop wallpaper.

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Limestone Coast

When picking up the hire car in Adelaide, the lady said not to go the coast road because “there’s nothing there”. I’m glad I ignored her.

This is Doorway Rock, off the coast of Robe.

Also in Robe, this is The Obelisk. Erected on Cape Dombey in 1852, it was used to assist in navigation and to store rocket lifesaving equipment. Rockets were fired carrying baskets, which would then carry back passengers from distressed ships, saving many lives along this hazardous coastline.

A little further along is the town of Millicent, which is home of the largest wind farm development in the southern hemisphere.

Barossa Valley

A cold, rainy day (and my aversion to wine)  meant not much vineyard visiting during today’s drive in the Barossa Valley.
We did visit Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop, which has all kinds of produce, from quince paste and olive oil to dukkah and ice-cream.

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Rather than a traditional ‘restaurant’ menu, Maggie Beer offers all day “picnic fare” such as this bread basket with olive oil and dukkah for dipping.

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Peacocks freely wander the grounds.

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It’s not all grapes in the Barossa. There’s plenty of wheat as well.

Tomorrow we start the drive to Melbourne, along the Great Ocean Road.

Day 7

A tale of woe before the photos.
My trip’s been cut short. My campervan had a malfunction today so I decided I should skip the trip to Lake Mungo. The van has a pop-top roof, which, when popped, is  the sleeping area. When collapsing the roof this morning, one of its brackets snapped and the roof wouldn’t come down properly. I managed to muscle it into place and secure it with the clips, but it wasn’t looking particularly sturdy. Along the rough dirt roads between Menindee and Pooncarie, one of the clips’ rivets snapped, and another clip became very loose, meaning the roof was only half-secured. As much as I wanted to visit Lake Mungo, I figured it wasn’t worth the risk of more corrugated dirt roads turning the Landcruiser into a convertible. So, I stayed on the blacktop to Mildura, did some basic repairs and decided to head towards Adelaide. I’m spending tonight in Waikerie, a little grape and citrus growing town on the Murray River. I’ll be in Adelaide tomorrow – two days earlier than planned, but in time to meet Kylie at the airport when she arrives. Silver lining and all that.

This evening, I spent some time wandering around the vineyard next to the motel. Here are some photos.

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Day 6

For the first time this trip, I’m spending a second night in the same place.
I spent most of the morning exploring Kinchega National Park, and when 2:00pm came and I realised I hadn’t eaten all day, I figured the 3-ish hour drive to Lake Mungo probably wouldn’t be a good idea. So, I’m back at Copi Hollow, and you get another daily update.

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I was intending to make this black & white, and may still someday, but the colour of that sand was just too good to ignore.

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More dead trees. This time in Menindee Lake.

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You don’t know how much I wanted to grab this snake by the tail and pull it back out of the bushes for a shot.

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Another tree. What more to say?

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And the first kangaroo of the trip. Well, I’ve seen plenty (mostly carcasses), but this is the first one I’ve been able to shoot.

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Speaking of carcasses. I stumbled across this kangaroo spine and pelvis. Creepy.

Tomorrow, I’m definitely off the grid. Probably back on Thursday.

Day 5

So, as it turns out, there is signal at Copi Hollow, a spot in the Menindee Lakes where I’m spending at least one night.
As mentioned, I took a couple of shots in Silverton this morning.

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The last of the vee-dub interceptors? For some reason, this car is now parked out the front of the Silverton Hotel, rather than the usual replica of the Mad Max V8 Interceptor. But what’s that in the background?

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Here it is, looking a little worse for wear. The replica of the Pursuit Special from the Mad Max movies.

Enough with the tourist snaps. Today was a bit of a lazy one. 140ish kilometres, and I barely got the camera out. Around 7:30 tonight though, I headed off to Lake Wetherell for some post-sunset shots.

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I’ve always liked these minimalist, long-exposure shots of reeds. About time I shot one myself.

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And finally, this is one of the shots I wanted to get on this trip. Pretty happy with how it turned out. I shot a panorama here as well, but it needs more work than I’m prepared to do in the back of this campervan. I might post it at a later date.

Day 4

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I’m sitting in McDonald’s at Broken Hill. Been here for over an hour processing photos from Day 4, so not many words today. Plenty of photos though.
Another day, another long, flat road. This is the White Cliffs to Wilcannia Rd at around 6:30 in the morning.

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I spent most of the day wandering around Broken Hill, including a couple of hours at the Living Desert sanctuary. A perfect place for some wide open panoramas. This, and the next, are 8-shot pano’s, four across and two high.

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I’m not sure how I left this next one out of the original post. Probably my favourite of the day.

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I spent the night in Silverton, about 25km out of Broken Hill and the site of many movie and TV ad sets, most famously Mad Max. I didn’t shoot the Mad Max car until this morning, so you’ll have to wait until the Day 5 post to see that, but the following couple of shots are some ruins of the old colonial homes around the town.

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Today I’m heading down to Menindee Lakes, and then to Lake Mungo. It’s unlikely there’ll be any signal down there, so I don’t expect I’ll be able to blog the next three or four days. See you on Thursday.

Day 3

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Not much to say today. Can sum up with a few words – red dust, water, pelicans and really expensive fuel – $1.89/litre for diesel.
I was going to say these things are everywhere, but thinking about it, I haven’t actually seen that many yet.

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These things definitely aren’t everywhere, but there’s been quite a bit of rain recently. Quite a few roads were out, and I had to make a couple of (shallow) water crossings, even some pelicans have made the trip out to hang out in the waterholes.

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I’ve been surprised how green the landscape is. Certainly not what I was expecting. Plenty of flowers along the side of the road as well.

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Lots more lizards again today. Not sure what this one is, but it was quite happy to pose on this clump of dirt by the roadside.

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Another bearded dragon, a little more willing to pose than yesterday’s.

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Today’s destination was White Cliffs. A small opal mining town. Many of the ‘houses’ here are actually dug into the side of two hills on either side of town. I often talk of either New York City, or the North Shore of Oahu as being my favourite places in the world. In just one short afternoon, White Cliffs has put itself in the running to be the least favourite. If I had arrived earlier in the afternoon, I probably would have done a lap of the ‘Heritage Trail’ and kept going. This was White Cliffs Fuel Supply. Now closed.

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The opal fields are on the northern side of the town. Each one of these mounds surrounds an open, unfenced, pit around 10m deep into the earth. Apparently around 50,000 of these pits have been dug in the main field. Not surprisingly, they advise you to keep your kids well under control, and encourage you not to go up here at night.

Tomorrow – Broken Hill, possibly spending the night in Silverton.

Day 2

Unlike yesterday, today was all about the side-trip. On top of the point-to-point 445km, I took two side trips, each between 100 and 130km. All of today’s shots are from those trips off the main path.
First up was Lightning Ridge. Right up until the turn-off just outside of Walgett, I had no intention of going to Lightning Ridge. It’s a “world epicentre” of opal mining, and I really have no interest in opals. Anyway, I wandered onto Dorothy A. Fuller’s mine, littered with rusted-out, long-neglected machinery. Here’s an old International.

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From there, it was on to today’s destination, Bourke. A fairly uneventful trip, apart from the bearded dragon that exploded under the wheels of my Maui 4WD campervan. I arrived mid-afternoon, so decided a little exploration was in order. I headed north-west out of town, on the road to Hungerford. Wide open plains abound out here.

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Also, wildlife galore. Firstly, nuggety black shapes kept lumbering off the road as I approached. They were shingleback lizards – a stumpy-tailed, slow moving species of blue-tongued skink. It seems they like to bask in open areas like roadsides. I managed to get to this guy before he reached the long grass.

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A little futher along, I saw a brown snake (although possibly not a Brown Snake), but unfortunately (although possibly fortunately) couldn’t stop the van in time to photograph it before it slithered off into the bushes. The next encounter was this bearded dragon. When I stopped the van he raised his head and started to flare out his beard, but one I jumped out it appears he decided on the “if I lie low, maybe he won’t notice me” line of defence.

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And finally, an emu. I’d seen quite a few during the day, but for a flightless bird, emus are very flighty. It was hard to get them to stay close enough to get a shot other than a small brown smudge amongst some other brown smudges. Thankfully, this one stuck around, with the added advantage of the great afternoon light.

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Tomorrow – White Cliffs via Wanaaring, a 391km route which takes in both the Nocoleche Nature Reserve and the Paroo-Darling National Park.

Day 1

Day 1 didn’t get off to the best of starts.
Got up this morning and, as usual, took the dog for a walk and had breakfast. Packed up the campervan, kissed Kylie goodbye and jumped in the van to head off. Nothing. Well, nothing except a flat battery. I called the Maui service centre and they sent someone out to take a look straight away. Apparently both batteries were flat and needed to be replaced.

So, a couple of hours and two new batteries later, I was finally on the road. If this was the Tour de France, today would have been referred to as a transition stage – nothing particularly interesting, but just  a necessity to get from one place to the next.

Since I was already behind time, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to stop or explore today, but I did take one turn off the highway to Lake Moogerah, where I stopped for lunch.

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And then, speeding along the highway halfway between Goondiwindi and today’s destination Moree, I spied a classic landscape shot out of the corner of my eye. So, I stopped as soon as I could, did a u-turn and backtracked to the edge of this wheat field.

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More tomorrow, assuming I find inspiration along the road from Moree to Bourke.