Travels with the Winnie: Day 9

Head of Bight Free Camping Area, South Australia

Soon after leaving our campsite at Eucla we arrived at Border Village. We fed the Winnie, did a little shopping and used dump point. Today we have been driving through a coastal heathland, with some small trees. We had the sea beside us, sometimes visible, sometimes not. The earth has gone from red to chalky white.

We are feeling a bit confused by the time changes and probably had lunch quite early compared with breakfast, but we wanted to make our destination at 4.00 p.m. South Australian time to give us time before sunset. It’s very easy to set up when we are free camping, we just turn on the gas, put on the kettle, light the fridge and push the slide out button.

We pulled in at the Nullabour Roadhouse where we stayed on our previous trip to phone Matthew.  We remembered that when we came here in 2015 a light aircraft pulled in for get fuel in front of us, meaning we had to back the caravan out.

Matthew wasn’t home, so we left a message to say that we weren’t sure if we would have a phone signal at our overnight stop, if not, we would phone him tomorrow. In fact, we have quite a good 3g signal here and he will contact us later to ‘Facetime’ if possible, or just have a voice conversation if not.

We made sure we had plenty of water this morning so that we could free camp tonight. We are now camped in a designated campsite on the Head of Bight road, ready to go to the Whale Watching Centre in the morning. If there are no whales we will continue on our way.

We are not sure where we will go tomorrow night as it depends on how long we spend here tomorrow. We are only about 260kms from Ceduna.

Head of Bight free camping area (1 of 1)
The camping area is like a big parking lot, fenced on 3 sides.
Head of Bight free camping area2 (1 of 1)
A selfie, sort of


Travels with the Winnie: Preparations

We have had a busy couple of weeks with the choir, plus my mother was offered a room at Regis Greenmount. It took from Thursday 11th May to Tuesday 16th to get her moved, with much work done by the women in our family. On Wednesday Marie and I had to finalise the finances for her move, as well as be there when some of her furniture was delivered. She is finding it difficult, but we hope she will settle in soon.

On Thursday I was feeling the effects of several days running on adrenelin, and going to choir in the evening seemed the last thing I wanted to do, but actually found it beneficial. Raelene was unwell, so Stephen helped out by running the rehearsal, using his ukelele to give us our notes. He only had a few hours notice and we were impressed at how well he had planned everything. When I spoke with Eversley, she had had a similarly adrenelin filled week helping one of her friends with health issues.

We have been doing heaps of preparation in between other things. The Winnie’s top rear panel was finally replaced at Ken Peachy, plus a couple of small items and they installed our new TV. At the moment nothing on or in the Winnie is held together with duct tape. That won’t last of course!

We had two new tyres put on the front, and new valves on the rest. We had two indpendent tyre places confirm that the rear tyres were good for a long time, just the front tyres needed replacing. We had our gas bottles filled yesterday and feel good to go as far as the Winnie is concerned.

I have a set packing list which can be modified depending on where we are going and for how long, and I’ve been following it today, getting quite a lot done. Our neighbours went away this morning and we brought the Winnie up near the house. This makes it easier to plug in, switch on the fridge, load up our things, and fill the water tank. We met with our other neighbour who will help out with getting rid of rubbish and other things.

Our plan in the morning is to proceed slowly and methodically with preparing the house and packing last minute things. This is because we will be away for several weeks. Both our neighbours will keep an eye on things for us. Stephen has given them sets of keys.

We also plan to visit Mum in Greenmount on our way tomorrow morning. We will need a bit of time to have a cup of tea with her, and take her out for a cigarette. I’m looking forward to seeing how she is going.

We don’t want to spend too long driving for our first day, and have an earlier camping spot in Meckering, and a later one in Merredin if we feel like going about another 100kms. Meckering is only 134.5 kms away, but offers free overnight camping with toilets, drinking water and other facilities. In Merredin there is a choice of a caravan park or free camping in a town park, with toilets. I’m using Geowiki to scout for camping as we go.

Our plan is to travel short distances of up to about 250 kms per day, free camping about half the time. There seem to be increasing numbers of towns offering free overnight parking for self contained vehicles. Caravan park owners are not necessarily pleased, but other businesses benefit from travellers staying in town. We will go to the Norseman Caravan Park to stock up, fill the tank and water jugs, dump tanks, etc. before crossing the Nullabour where there are limited options available. Roadhouses offer electrical hookup, showers and toilets, but no water.

As we plan this journey, we are reflecting on our 2015 trip across the Nullabour with Eversley. We know what to expect in some ways, but it will still be quite a different journey.

The photo for the day is from May Day. We are quite a small choir now, but we still have the passion.

MayDay Working Voices with Banner (1 of 1)
Working Voices Choir – May Day 2017


Life after Fairbridge – Mandurah Songfest

Out for a walk (1 of 1)We had three nights at home, then set off again for Mandurah for the Songfest. It is a workshop, followed by a short concert, run by a choir in Mandurah.

We left Fairbridge on Tuesday at about midday, after most campers had left. We were really just taking our time and savouring the experience of being there. No rain the whole time meant there was lots of dust.

Coming down to Mandurah, we were surprised to find a Services stop at Baldivas, which we don’t remember seeing before. It has service stations either side, and on ours a large hall with fast food stalls, and toilets, of course. We plan to fill up with petrol and check the tires on the way home. The one on the way down is set up for trucks as well as cars, and we are hoping that the one on the way back to Perth is pretty similar.

We have stayed at the Belevedere Caravan Park in Mandurah before. It is comfortable, without being fancy. We took a short walk down to the beach last night, but didn’t get out until it was dark, so could not see very much.

Breakfast in Mandurah (1 of 1)

This morning we tried not to rush to get ready. The workshop runs from 10.00 a.m. until 7.00 p.m., and includes morning and afternoon teas and lunch. Therefore, once we leave here, we are away for a long time. We have a frozen home cooked meal to come back to, but may have a meal out if we can find somewhere inexpensive. There is a Chinese restaurant next door to the caravan park, so that is an option.

As usual, it is sunny, with 26 degree maximum predicted. It was chilly overnight, so we have been glad of the heater. Although we were comfortable at Fairbridge without electricity it seems quite magical that all of our power points actually work!

Monday 1st May, 2017

It was a very long day at the Songfest. We learned six songs and two rounds, some of which are stuck in my head, going round and round. We had some five minute breaks, a longer break for morning and afternoon tea, and about an hour for lunch. During the lunchtime break we went down to the shore front for a walk. Morning teas, lunch and afternoon teas were provided by the Mandurah Choir, which was lovely and helped to keep us going, but we also wanted to get out for a while in the bigger break.

We had an hour between the rehearsal finishing and the final performance, so went to the Dome for a sit down and coffee. At that point we were feeling completely finished, no energy left, but the break was long enough for me at least to be able to do the concert without discomfit.

Our choir director was lovely, keeping us involved and singing our best. The choir had already learned the songs, which provided a good base for the rest of us to pick up on the music.

There was a raffle, and we actually won a prize. It was heavy to carry back to the caravan park (about a kilometre away), but we were determined and managed it. We had a frozen meal and toast, quite comforting, and tried out some chocolates from our prize box. There was wine, marmalade, truffle salt(?), olives and chocolates, we had to open it to have a look when we got home.

We should have had black clothes for the concert, but choir members lent us a bit of gear so we didn’t stand out too much. Something to remember next time.

We were granted a late checkout, and woke up quite late anyway, so it would have been difficult to get ready by 10.00 a.m. By 12.00 we were ready and on the way home stopped at the Northbound version of the Baldivas service stop to fill up with deisel and check the tyres. Stephen was having a bit of difficulty and asked for help from another truck owner. He was delightful and even crawled underneath to check the spare. He is a mechanic by trade, with his own business. He said he and his employees are absolutely flat tack and can’t take any more business, but he did leave his phone number, just in case. He said our vehicle is known for being very reliable, which is why Winnebago use it as the basis for their motorhomes, and that was reassuring. And I have deliberately blanked out the child’s face, he would have been recognisable otherwise.

Baldivas Northbound (1 of 1)

Easter at Jarrahdale

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Sunset from our campsite at Jarrahdale

Easter Friday was a quiet day. We went for a walk in the evening in our neighbourhood looking at a special type of gum tree with drooping branches and peeling bark. We found it was quite common in our immediate area. I wanted to go away for one night at Easter, the weekend is very busy at most places and driving on Friday and Monday is usually very fraught, so it seemed sensible to go a fairly short distance overnight so that we were driving on Saturday and Sunday.

We were pretty sure that the free camping site at Jarrahdale would have plenty of room for us, and it has, although there are a lot more campers than when we came during a cool spell in summer. Still, it is a big area, and we don’t mind the extra people. We are camped on the hard stand area, although we don’t have it to ourselves this time.

We arrived at about 12.00, checked out the camping possibilities, then drove out to Serpentine Dam. We had lunch in the Winnie, then coffee at the cafe, then walked out across the Dam. It was a lovely day, although the weather continues a recent pattern of starting out cool, then getting quite warm by late in the afternoon.

Serpentine Dam - detail (1 of 1)

There are some lovely tall trees in the dam area, the above photo is a detail of leaves and blossom.

Serpentine Dam - No Entry (1 of 1)

Standing on the Dam, it’s not possible to get near the edge because of the wide area out of bounds.

Serpentine Dam - water2 (1 of 1)

A partly cloudy day, with lots of sunshine.

It was an important day – Stephen drove the Winnie for the first time – the 9 kms back to our campsite from the dam. Well done Stephen!

Storm Clouds

On Saturday we went down to Floreat Beach and had lunch and dinner there. Stephen rang his sister and brother in law who joined us for afternoon tea and a walk. The idea was to excape the heat and it mostly worked, although in the evening the breeze dropped and it became intensely humid. The next day, Sunday, promised rain and perhaps thunderstorms, along with a few days of cooler temperatures. I took some photos close to sunset – the clouds look almost more intense in the photos than they did in reality. That evening was the first time we have had the air conditioning on at night – I found I couldn’t sleep despite our overhead fan, and switched it on at about 4.00 a.m. We have had rain for a couple of days now.

The Winnie at home

Our neighbours left for a two week holiday on Thursday. We already had the Winnie booked in to try to find out why our fridge emits an odour when we are using it on gas, so we picked it up on Tuesday evening, stored it on the vacant lot nearby during the day, then in a parking bay in our street for the night.


Ken Peachy Caravans said that our fridge did not have a flue, and as there were no gas leaks, this must be why the odour was coming back into the ‘house’. They put in a flue and I tested it, there is a certainly a great improvement. However, as I was looking for a smell I was able to detect it lightly. Mike also said he would get us a quote for repairing the damage to the rear panel. It may be quite expensive and we are still waiting. When we get the quote we can work out whether it is worthwhile to claim it on our insurance.

When cleaning the windscreen yesterday I was able to confirm that a mark on the outside is in fact a small crack. These days they can be repaired without having to replace the whole windscreen, so it has gone on my list of things to do.

Having the Winnie at home gave us the opportunity to take it out for a picnic meal yesterday evening. We decided on a visit to the North Mole at Fremantle. That worked well although I did not want to take it past the section of road that has two lanes. There was a strong wind which made walking along the Mole quite challenging. It felt like my cameras were bouncing all over the place, but I still managed to get some photos that I am happy with.


A different view of Cottesloe, taken on the 70-300mm lens and using the dehaze feature in Lightroom to get some clarity. There were no clouds, but there was quite a lot of haze. The setting sun changed shape from round to square because of the haze distortion.


Stephen suggested that we watch the news whilst eating. We didn’t want to put up the TV antenna in the wind, so tried using it with it flat on the roof. The ABC din’t work well enough to watch the news, but we watched some tennis, then got involved in a movie on a commercial channel. We had a lovely meal of cold chicken, rolls and salads, followed by watermelon. I had other ‘goodies’ but we were quite full, so just had a hot drink.

We stayed until 9.00 p.m. before heading home. We were able to watch the sunset from the van, and I got some photos of yatchs and sea lit by the evening light.

This morning we had a walk before breakfast. The Sunday morning Farmers’ Market was smaller than usual. Cherry, who was having breakfast there, said there was something else on which would have attracted buyers and sellers, and would account for there being less stalls and customers. We enjoyed talking with her for awhile, then headed home for scrambled eggs, toast and coffee.

bike rack at the Farmers’ Market
our street corner

Being in Western Australia

Today we went to an exhibition of Western Australian art from the early days of European settlement. Very interesting to see how accurately the landscape was featured in the drawings and paintings. We did a tour of the exhibition, which included some history and some art technique. We had lunch beforehand at the wonderful (NOT) cafeteria at the Central Station, it was worse than usual because there was a Christmas party in the main dining room and we were stuck in room at the end of the corridor. The staff were as cheerful as ever, finding food for latecomers when possible, even if it was just desert.

We went to the Concert Hall beforehand to book tickets for the New Years Eve concert. We are looking after Mum, so he rang her and asked her if she wanted to go, and then booked the tickets. I don’t think it will go well, she is normally in bed at 9.30 p.m. when the concert starts, but we will see, maybe doing something so unusual will take her into a different place. We will have to take the car in and park underneath so that we can use the lift.

This evening we went to the Hawkers Market for tea, meeting up with Cherry and her friends. She was pleased with the video of her poem/song on Youtube, which she only found out about this morning. It was nicely stabilised by Youtube after uploading, thank goodness. We enjoyed a discussion about a number of topics, including whether there should be jelly in trifle – I think yes.

In the last couple of days I’ve watched a couple of Youtube videos featuring John Pilger. He is pretty scathing about Hilary Clinton and Obama. Not that he would choose Trump, but American imperialism is pretty scary. China’s island and military base building in the South China sea is in response to the encirclement of China by US miliatary bases with nuclear weapons trained on China. Some of them are very close indeed to mainland China. He talks about the coming ‘war on China’, note not ‘with’ China, but ‘on’ China. By a country (USA) that knows it is either surpassed, or about to be surpassed, by China as the most powerful country on earth.