Halfway between Alice Springs and Port Augusta in the middle of the Great Victoria Desert lies the small miners town Coober Pedy, with everything you need underground. The name Coober Pedy means ‘man in a hole’ in Aboriginal and refers to the miners digging for the Opal since the 50-ies. It’s even called Opal Capital of the World because of the apparently endless source of this gorgeous gem.
The village life has slowly moved from above ground to underground. Because of the hot desert stream, in summer temperatures can get up to 50 degrees. So the hospital, school, homes, hotels and bars are build in old mines underground to keep everyone cool. Cool eh?!
We camp, so it’s above ground for us. There is a campsite underground but it’s closed this week. We are lucky with only 30 degrees today as an exception between the mid-forties, so we’ll probably survive. Our first choice campsite is also closed and the one closest to it is quite expensive but we go there anyway. It has a pool and some good reviews, but the terrain is the most uncharming we’ve ever seen. Our spot has a nice view of the corrugated walls and grey gravel. No grass, no trees. Ugly. The sanitary on the other hand looks like a hotel bathroom, luxurious and clean.
Next to our fantastic spot is some weird bloke with a tent. He immediately comes up to us and after introducing he says that our English isn’t very good. *HOW IS YOUR DUTCH?!* Not a good starter, my friend.
Then he has some weird story about Opal Mines and Aboriginal women. The guy has had a few beers too many and we’ve already judged we are not interested in a long conversation with him. So we continue our unpacking while he talks on... and on... and on... until he finally goes back to his tent.
After ten minutes the insulting drunk opal guy is back with ‘something he forgot to tell us’. We don’t pay him too much attention hoping he’ll get the message. Nope. He blames us that Macedonia isn’t allowed into the EU. Ok I’ve had it, be nice or go away! I verbally kick his ass back to his tent. Jeeeezzz... had his nose in the mines for too long. Luckily the rest of the evening we have peace and happiness in our concrete, corrugated hole.
Next morning daylight reveals the incredible beauty of grey again, this must be the most uninspiring place we've been so far. So we pack up and leave at 7.
After Coober Pedy we find a rest spot to have breakfast. A small area along Stuart Highway in the midst of the dry desert... Coffee with a desertview... oohlala.
We pass an area that looks like lakes on the map, but actually thy are salt flats and they look amazing. White as snow as far as the eye reaches.
After a thousand kilometers with nearly no connection we now have 4G with full bars all the time. Makes us feel a lot safer because we don’t pass that many other cars...
Today we stop at Woomera’s caravan park, but after seeing the sadness, the decay and the prices we decide to drive on to Ranges View Rest Area where we can camp for free.
We love the scenery along the way, eventhough it’s a lot of nothing. Every time we drive up a hill it looks like earth will end right there, yet on top a spectacular panoramic view appears!
The rest area is basic but very acceptable especially for a free night. There is shade, the toilets are clean and the panoramic view over the Ranges is absolutely stunning! After a nice meal and a cup of coffee we’re enjoying a beautiful sunset on this small campsite just of Stuart Highway. The traffic is noisy but the view makes up for everything and we enjoy a breathtaking sunset.
Apparently we’ve picked up a hitchhiker somewhere along the way. All night long we hear creaking and cracking inside our car and don’t get any sleep. Every few minutes we turn our light on and the sounds stop. When the sun’s finally up we take everything out of our car and see what this uninvited guest has been doing. Crisps and pasta are nibbled on and spreaded through the car. Shit it’s a mouse!
On our way to Port Augusta, we come across some huge wedge tailed eagles in the middle of the road enjoying the unfortunate kangaroo casualty. These enormous birds can grow up to a wingspan of 250 centimeters, so, unlike us, they are not really impressed by our car. As we come closer they just stay where they are give us the look... whoah this is some awesome bird.
Port Augusta looks nice, a bigger town with supermarkets, bars and restaurants. Shall we stay here for a night? Port Augusta tends to be hot due to the desert winds so after doing some groceries we decide not to stay here and head off to Quorn in the Lower Flinders Ranges.
Right next to the Dutchmans Stern this small town doesn’t have much more to offer than an authentic trainstation and a really nice campsite. There is a scenic train route between Quorn and Port Augusta called the Pichi Richi railway. Unfortunately it’s quite pricy, $ 55.00 per person return, but it should be amazing. The surroundings here are magnificent.
The campsite we've found has a bush look and feel. Large trees provide shade and the amenities are clean. We'll stay here for a few days.
A big flock of cockatoos (Galahs and Corellas to be exact) sit in the trees above us and make an incredible noise. A few times a day the owners walk by clapping with sticks to scare them away. The campsite is run by a couple who’s been there for thirteen years. The owner says there used to be 35.000 of them birds here but now it’s ‘only’ a few hundred. They eat away all the fresh young leafs of the trees and break off all the small branches, leaving nothing but naked trees. This is such a pest. After thirteen years they’ve had enough of this everlasting fight and have put the campsite up for sale.
We’ve put everything in our car in crates and open our doors so hopefully the mouse or whatever it is can hop out...
While we are there we visit the Dutchmans Stern, a beautiful mountain area very close to Quorn. There are lots of kangaroos there and we even see two beautiful Emu’s. Wow this is so fantastic.
There are a lot of tiny mosquitoes there but not too many flies. At night I have so much mozzie bites, I constantly try and resist the urge to scratch everywhere. My skin feels pounding and hot... Why am I always the victim here!
There is more hot weather coming so we need to move to cooler places. In two days it will be 43 degrees here. On our weather app we find that in the northern Flinders Ranges it will be around 38 degrees. We expect it to be higher in the mountains and cooler there so we drive in that direction.
We make a stop at Willis Gorge along the scenic route from Quorn to Hawker.
It’s an partially unsealed road but it’s in very good condition now that there’s is no rain. The area is beautiful, even during this dry season. The government has plans to create a nuclear waste dump in this area. Really incomprehensible... in a beautiful area like this! Idiots. Everywhere along the way we see leaflets with anti nuclear dump slogans. We hope it gets blown off.
Driving to the Northern Flinders Ranges the scenery turns into a dead bold landscape for many kilometres, kind of disappointing but then, somewhere in the distance, we see something promising: Mountains!
As soon as we arrive in Wilpena in the Flinders Ranges the heat has only gotten worse. On our weather app we’ve been looking at the wrong town. It’s even hotter here then below. For tomorrow it says 44 degrees!
Quick counsel, ok we are moving on. Clare is about 300 kilometres east and promises much cooler weather. It’s a long drive ahead and we do want to see more of these Ranges so we drive around, make a cup of coffee on a nice spot and we are off to Clare.
We see a lot of Shingleback Lizards crossing the road. They look really weird like they’ve lost their tail. The route is amazing all the way, we see a lot of kangaroos, Emu’s, even one with a lot of chicks. Merino sheep and cows are everywhere you look.
Clare Valley where many Riesling and other great whites are born is lush and green. We take our time so check out some of the wineries and enjoy the scenery. When we arrive at the campsite around 6 the reception of the campsite is closed. We drive in and find a nice spot under a tree, we’ll go back to the reception in the morning.
We haven’t heard from our unwanted nibbling guest the last two nights but in the meantime a highly poisonous Redback Spider has hitched along in my chair. We panic and when Jos give it a sweep we’ve lost sight of it. Shit! We need to find it... Oh god...
After an hour long extensive search in the entire area we give up and prepare a meal before heading to bed.
The lady at the reception is not amused by us camping there without calling the after closing number. We are on a powered spot because the unpowered sites have no shade so she wants us to pay for a powered site. We tell her we are not using power and after some discussing we can stay in our powered spot for an unpowered price ánd we get a discount. Cheers!
The campsite has a nice refreshing pool and a good camp kitchen. We are under a big tree that provides us with shade the whole day so we have all we need for the next few days.
The hot Wednesday is less hot then we feared. Although the wind feels like a hairdryer it’s still very doable. We survive by varying the pool and the shade, reading and eating. Before we know it the day has come to it’s end with a magnificent sunset promising a cold next day.
And cold it is, only 17 degrees today... we can finally do something active again. We walk 4 kilometers to town following the Riesling trail which should lead us through some of the vineyards. Neither the trail and the town aren't very special so we just do some groceries and walk the 4 kilometers back. Good for burning calories :-)
The Barossa Valley is famous for it’s red wines, especially the Shiraz grape, one of our favorites.
We find a nice campsite in Kapunda the beginning of the Barossa Valley. The park has a big pond with beautiful birds and ducks and there’s enough shade. Like any other campsite in Australia there is more grey gravel than on an asphalt road. But we find a nice spot facing the trees and the pond which is very okay. We can hardly see the big metal fence around the nice looking pond...
There is a tattooed guy in the kitchen with his dog. He looks/smells like he hasn’t showered in six weeks and his dog could have been a lean mean fighting machine once. A pitbull type with one totally white eye and some wounds on his back. Yuck. The guy is watching TV and has obviously got a hearing problem.
The camp kitchen isn’t too clean anyway so we try not to be bothered with it. We prepare a meal on our own stove in our own kitchen. Believe it or not but we eat very healthy most days of the week. Cooking on our two flame stove is a piece of cake. I’ll write you down some easy recipes soon!
After a fantastic sunset a very cold night follows. Cramped and sore we wake up to another hot day and decide to drive on to the next campsite today.
The beautiful Barossa Valley has so many vineyards along the route you can’t possibly choose at which winery you’d want to do a free wine tasting. Yes, free wine. But of course you’ll need to buy a bottle or be a very good lier ;-)
We do a wine tasting and get to taste different kinds, most of them aren't very tasty but we smile and taste like we are experienced. The bottle price range between $ 20 and $ 40 and we tell the lady we will surely remember their tasty Cabernet Sauvignon.
Thinking we’ve seen Australia’s worst campsites we check into Gawler Gateway caravan park. We get their last unpowered spot for only $ 28.00. It’s about 5 by 5 metres with a huge caravan on one side and a old corrugated (yes) shed on the other side. Trying to make the most of it we unpack our table and chairs and make some coffee.
Australia has a lot (and I mean A LOT) of weirdos. Some guy, looking quite pale, comes up to us. He’s got his finger in the air, standing right in front of us. After a few minutes he says... don’t get drunk in the sun.
Ahh no, I say, not a good idea. He obviously has just recently discovered this interesting fact and has some trouble with his new state of mind. He looks around as if he’s from another planet and decides to go back to his caravan. Rrrrrighttt...
In the back of the caravan park there should be some kangaroos around sunset, so we stroll to the back and wait. A campground looking out at the hills of Barossa. There is no shade but it’s got a newly built kitchen area and some recently planted baby trees. Hmm could be promising after all. Eventhough the sunset is breathtaking again, there are no kangaroos. Cute little sparrows fly around, birds singing their final song for today, but no kangaroos.
We are looking forward to Adelaide, finally being back in a big city! We book an AirBNB for three nights just outside the city centre. A large bedroom with kitchenette and shared facilities. Within the centre Adelaide has a complimentary metro and bus line. The metro stop to the centre and to the beach is just five minutes away from our AirBNB so we decide to head to the beach the next day, when 38 degrees are waiting for us.
There are different beaches in Adelaide of which Glenelg is the most famous one. It’s not just a beach, it’s got a promenade with restaurants and bars, a huge children’s playground and lots of shade. Sounds awesome. But the parking is expensive and the food is pricey, so we just take a look and drive on to West Beach a bit more north. West beach has free parking, almost no other people on it and a clean white beach at your disposal. We spend the afternoon making sandfish, talking seagull and seeking shells.
Adelaide has an Ikea so we drop by to buy a cheap duvet for the cold nights that are coming. There's also an Aldi supermarket there, where we buy some Dutch licorice... yay!
The next day is going to be a cooler one, great for exploring the city. Nice historic buildings and fantastic botanical gardens make this our favorite Australian city until now. We do a picnic in the park and after a few hours of walking through the town we finish our day with a local Pale Ale at the Coopers brewery. 'Only' $ 6.00 for a schooner during happy hour. The tram takes us home for free, we only have to pay the last three stops which we forget ;-)
South of Adelaide you can find the Fleurieu Peninsula, here the road leads further to Kangaroo Island. The ferry to the island costs about $ 400.00 return with our car. Because we expect everything to be dry there as well, we decide to skip it and stop in Rapid Bay where we find a nice small cheap campsite. It’s an open campground directly on the beach with little shelter for the wind, there are normal toilets and no shower, totally fine for one night.
Close by there is Deep Creek Conservation Park, just as everything else, the conservation park is dry and yellow but there are some trees as well so we do a short hike. We see some kangaroos very close, so cool. They see us and are clearly alert but they stay where they are. What a fantastic moment.
We can imagine the Fleurieu Peninsula to be very beautiful in other seasons, when it's green and lush. But for now, we've seen enough.
Along the eastcoast we drive up towards Victor Harbour. Most towns along the coast are very touristy and nice for just a drive through. Eventhough the coast is magnificent, the town doesn't have much more to offer than some souvenir shops and restaurants. Because most Australian history only goes back about 150 years there aren't many old buildings, the streets are bold and too wide for that real ambiance. Maybe we are spoiled with our cute and cozy European streets, old structures and citygreen. Here most buildings have been covered in new or have been rebuild tastelessly. If you make an effort you can find some beautiful old buildings here and there. We move on...
We’ve seen enough of the touristic towns and dryness, we drive on towards Hindmarsh Island where we hope to see a bit more of the lushness we were looking for.
Hindmarsh Island is a flat but green area with a lot of birdlife. We camp in the only affordable campsite in the area, Hindmarsh Island Caravan Park, and find a great spot under a large tree. We like the place so much we stay there for three days.
Hindmarsh Island is popular for water sports, but hiking suits us better. So after a few nice walks along a swampy coastline we've had enough of fresh air for the next year.
After our stay we want to move on towards the east. Google says we can drive across the island and it looks like there is a road of some sort all the way to Meningie. But there isn't... so we drive all the way back to Goolwa and drive through the beautiful vineyards towards Wellington, where we have to cross the river by ferry.
The ferry is complimentary and takes only 5 minutes. Its a nice break in our journey and the view over the river is fantastic.
Just before Meningie we pass this awesome Pink Lake. As you can see, we were very impressed by its colour. The salty lake has dried out and turned into a huge white (definitely NOT pink) surface. The clay bottom underneath is relentless, so don't expect to return to your car with clean feet. There is a certain bacteria that gives the salt its pink colour, but I think it is on the holiday at this moment.
Arriving in Meningie we drive to a caravan park and ask for rates at the reception. The tariff for unpowered is $ 42 and the unpowered spots have no shade and are about 500 meters from the toilets. Crazy! This is definitely not the way we want to spend our Dollars... so we decide to move on.
Along the coast we drive through the beautiful Coorong National Park. Beautiful sandy, dunes, heather and view to the sea. There are a few free campgrounds owned by the government but they are quite crowdy, so we decide to drive on for a bit. The Coorong is an amazing area to do some hiking, which we would have loved if it would be so freaking hot all the time. The heat in this period is really annoying, but the more we get to the east, the better the temperatures. The heat makes us hurry a bit more, so again we drive on... next stop: Kingston.
The temperatures are getting better every ten kilometers. This nice looking small town doesn't have a lot to offer but it's touristy anyway. For some people it's a must to see every town along the coast. There are some shops in the wide streets and a big lobster restaurant. Kingston is known for it's fresh lobsters. Yummie!
The caravan park in Kingston is quite expensive, $ 36.00 for an unpowered site. We discover a free campground near the jetty. There are clean toilets and there's water. It’s actually an RV Park and the sign shows every type of vehicle and a picture of a car with a big red cross through it. Even a 4x4 with a rooftop tent is ok. Grrr... we feel discriminated, we are not much different from a campervan. We will stay! The fee is $ 10.00 per 48 hours payable in the machine that is broken. Now what? We feel rebellious today and stay anyway, for free maybe?
The campground is almost on the beach and has a long jetty into the sea. We go there to watch an amazing sunset and even see two dolphins! There is a strong wind and the temperatures are dropping quickly so right after that impressive sunset we hide in our car just in time for the rain. Eventhough we should be dancing in the rain after all this drought, having wet clothes in a car is never a good idea. So with a pack of playing cards and a glass of local wine we enjoy our free night in Kingston town.
Along the coast from Kingston downwards there are a few great beaches. It's almost Christmas so we are looking for that fantastic campground to spend our holidays on. A very special spot. We just don’t know where yet. We check out a campground in the middle of Little Dip Conservation Park. Old Man Lake campground looks incredibly idyllic with small site between the trees and a lake right next to it. The site is very basic, just two toilets and a lot of ambiance. It needs to be booked on the government website for $ 15.00 per night. Luckily we didn’t do that yet because there is a big group of Hindi people there with loud ditto music. Great, we’ve entered Bollywood. They have parked their cars in the middle of the road, we see a lot of screaming kids and besides that we see that the only site that was left to book is taken by two people that do not look like they are going any time soon. Of course we could ask them to leave and and ask the group to turn down the volume... but after some thorough consideration we decide not to. Too bad tho...
We drive on through the dry Little Dip Conservation Park towards Beachport, a small town with two overpriced caravan parks. We are not planning to pay $ 38.00 for an unpowered open grass spot without any trees. Nope, we are going to check out Beachport Conservation Park. Along the way we see a lot of pelicans in the lake, good sign... very good sign. We are entering the park and it looks fantastic. There is a small campground just 7 kilometers from the town with only 7 spots. It is lakeside, has lots of trees and most important: only $ 15.00! We pick a great spot where we have enough shelter from the wind and sun and book it directly online. Confirmed, Merry Christmas!
While we enjoy the most incredible Christmas pumpkin dinner we discover a strange looking bug with a long nose and a armoured back. It appears to be an Elephant Weevil (yes I know, interesting information isn’t it LOL)
We feel so happy to have found this amazing campground and have an amazing time during the holidays, is cool but sunny and we are in an incredibly atmospheric spot! There are no flies and no mozzies, what more do we need!
The long drop toilet looks clean but the smell is horrible and the room is full of big buzzing flies, ah now I know why there weren't any flies, thery're all here! When I open the lid some come out and stay around waiting to lick my naked bum. Hmmppfff... no way, might as well go behind a bush. Ahh don't you just love that real camping sensation?
After three amazing and relaxing days campground is fully booked so we have to leave. Could have stayed here for another week, but we are off to Mount Gambier.
This relatively big town is the last we visit before crossing the border to the state Victoria. Here we get some new groceries and fill up at the petrol station. The town has a few attractions, one of them is the famous Blue Lake. Right, a blue lake... uhuh. No really, if I say blue... this very impressive crater lake with the bluest of blue water you have ever seen lies in the middle of town. Only from November until March the minerals turn the water into a liquid smurfs pool, the rest of the year the water is grey and boring. Around the lake there are a few different viewpoints, we are so impressed we visit them all. A lot more this town doesn't offer so we wont pay for the ridiculously priced caravan parks, we move on to Port MacDonnell right before we cross the border to Victoria!
There are many horrorstories about crossing Australian state borders with fresh fruit and veggies but up 'til now, none of them were true. The border between Wye and Nelson is abandoned and we only see a small sign, welcome to Victoria...
Leaving South Australia behind is very double, the extreme heat and drought but on the other hand we've found some amazing spots, the birds are fantastic and the diversity of this state is unique. Maybe in another season this could have easily become our most favorite state in Australia. Up until now that is... so much more to so! Victoria here we come!