The Snail Trail

Travelling with my home on my back and in no hurry to get anywhere

Haslam Jetty


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A Breath of Fresh Eyre

After crossing the Nullarbor, a trip of some 1600 odd kilometres, we arrived in Ceduna for the next leg of our journey to Penola, where the Solos Rally was being held in 10 days time. Did we take the short way? Of course not, we added another 1600 kilometres to our journey by going via the Eyre Peninsula!

It was Friday the 13th the day we arrived! Margaret may live to regret the comment she made about never having bad luck of Black Friday!

We stocked up our supplies and went off to the Information Centre to find out what we should do and see in the area. The lady there was really helpful – and a very good salesperson – because we both walked out with a $72 National Parks Pass for 2 months. The first park we were going to was just south of Ceduna on the Eyre Peninsula and was called Decres Bay in the Wittlebee Conservation Park. The road in soon became a gravel road which was very rough and rocky but ok until we got to a sandy patch on a bend where Margaret became firmly stuck in the sand. I tried to dig her out but the weight of her Winnebago just kept burying her deeper and by this stage she was a little stressed, you might say! Three 4×4 utes stopped and one had a winch on it which was finally successful in dragging her out backwards where she promptly reversed all the way to the main road and we headed back to Ceduna and a Caravan Park where a stiff drink was in order. So much for going off road on the Eyre Peninsula – that experience cruelled it for Margaret and she was very wary of any gravel roads after that!

We had been recommended to go to the Shelley Beach Caravan Park and that turned out to be a disaster, too. We were allocated a spot right at the end of the park where they were still developing the extensions, so it looked like we were camped in a gravel pit, and the amenities were at least 70 metres away. The owner was very apologetic, told us not only were we on sites that shouldn’t have been let out but also we had been overcharged. To compensate he gave us two stubby coolers each – Big Deal!! I won’t be recommending that park to anyone even though most of the reviews on WikiCamps were very favourable.

Shelley Beach Caravan Park

Shelley Beach Caravan Park

One night was enough here so now we really begin our tour of the Eyre Peninsula. Our first day took in the coastal sights of Smoky Bay, Haslam and Streaky Bay, where we veered off the coast to go to Murphy’s Haystacks on our way to Port Kenny and our eventual camp for the night at Coodlie Park Bush Camp.

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Coodlie Park was certainly a Bush Camp. It was very basic and judging by the state of the camp kitchen and toilet, not often used or maintained. However, it was a bit of fun seeing what had been developed there and it was a shame it wasn’t better looked after and promoted because it had a lot of potential. It also had a private beach that the owners would take you to (for a cost of $15), but we decided to see the sights for free so one night here and we were on the move again.

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There was a lot to see the next day as we travelled through Elliston, where there was an historic reference at the jetty about how in the olden days wheat was stacked ready for transporting by ship to the markets. The jetty itself is constucted on steel pylons screwed into the sea bed and is about 430 metres long.  From here we passed through Sheringa and stopped off to see an example of drystone walling where the stones are placed in such a way that they don’t need mortar. These particular walls are believed to have been constructed in the 1850’s by convict labour. Not far from here we came across a delightful old cottage called the Lake Hamilton Eating House which used to be a stopover for coach travellers.

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Now to Coffin Bay, home of the famous Coffin Bay oysters. Wouldn’t you know it, we were there on a Sunday and hardly a place open, so I missed out on those beautiful fresh oysters I was looking forward to. Coffin Bay itself was quite pretty, though, with colourful sails on little boats skimming across the bay.

We finally had the chance to use our National Parks Pass near Port Lincoln when we stayed in a camp called Surfleet Cove in the Lincoln National Park. It wasn’t as attractive as some of the National Parks I have stayed in as the camping areas were formed around the ring road that circled the camp rather than being tucked into the bush, but we were entertained by a couple of families of emus that wandered through the camp. The long drop toilets were clean and the beach was quite sheltered but too cold for a swim.

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After a night at Surfleet Cove we headed into Port Lincoln, famous for its Tuna fishing, although it bills itself as the Seafood Capital of Australia. Commercially, Port Lincoln produces Abalone, Mussels, Oysters, Prawns, Whiting and Snapper,Blue Fin Tuna and Southern Rock Lobster. Pity that most Australians would not be able to afford to buy it! I certainly couldn’t and I was really hanging out for some fresh fish, too. On the positive side Port Lincoln provides overnight camping at Billy Lights Point and Alex Stencross Maritime Museum, which is a great initiative to attract RV’s to their town.

Not far up the road is Tumby Bay, which is another RV friendly town. Margaret and I stopped here for lunch at the jetty and wished we had more time to get to know this pretty area. We thought we might have got our lines out and tried to catch some fish for dinner, but it was so windy we were blown off the foreshore and kept travelling to our next destination.

Tumby Bay jetty

Tumby Bay jetty

It wasn’t a comfortable day travelling as we had a strong cross wind and Margaret really had to work hard in her larger van to stay on the road. We pulled in to Arno Bay thinking we would stay the night but it didn’t really appeal so we kept going to Cowell, which had a great free RV stop just out of town. The wind didn’t let up all night and the dust swirled so we were glad to be on the road again the next day. We drove into the township on the way out and once again it was a town that appealed to us for a longer stay if we had more time on our hands- lovely old cottages, historic town buildings and a nice foreshore. What is Cowell famous for? The beautiful Cowell Jade!

Jade deposits near Cowell on Eyre Peninsula are among the largest known nephrite jade deposits in the world. They were discovered in 1965 when Harry Schiller, a local farmer prospecting in the area, collected a 3–4 kg boulder of dense, hard rock near an outcrop of white, dolomitic marble. The boulder was subsequently identified as nephrite by Adelaide University and South Australian Museum.

Ninety-one separate jade outcrops were identified by Department of Mines geologists in 1974, and well over one hundred are now known. All are located within an area of ~10 km2, referred to as the Cowell Jade Province. The bulk of resources occur on the 23 leases held by Gemstone Corporation of Australia Ltd.

Whyalla was our next port of call, a brief stop at the information centre and to view the HMAS Whyalla at the Whyalla Maritime Museum. The Whyalla was the first ship built at the Whyalla shipyards in 1941.

Whyalla Maritime Museum

Whyalla Maritime Museum

Driving in to Whyalla we saw these spectacular mine tailings that looked like a many coloured patchwork quilt.

We arrived at Port Augusta, at the eastern end of the Eyre Peninsula, only four short days after starting our trip at Ceduna. It would be easy to spend weeks rather than days in this beautiful part of our country. Oh well, another place to go on the bucket list to revisit.

Next time I’d like to take a deeper breath of Eyre.

Nullarbor Roadhouse


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Crossing the “Big Paddock” – Norseman to Ceduna

After a false start because Brutus misbehaved badly, I finally left to head east over a week late and considerably poorer! Can you believe it cost $1000 to be towed 200kms? Thank goodness for my insurance with Ken Tame as $600 of that was recovered and he also arranged the tow for me. I was holed up in a caravan park in Norseman for a few days while the mechanic sorted out the problem, then wimped out and went back to Salmon Gums (in the opposite direction to where I was heading!) to lick my wounds and change my mind-set! One of my Solo friends, Val, popped into see me on her way west with her new dog, Max, who promptly became the subject of a poem due to his behaviour!  And then Margaret, another Solo did a 100km detour to meet up with me so we could travel across the Nullarbor together.  Oh, on the way to Norseman we stopped to have a look at Bromus Dam as it is a free camp which might be of interest to some of you. (no facilities)

So, what is the “big paddock”? It’s a name given to the journey from Norseman in WA to Ceduna in SA, across the Nullarbor. (Null = No; Arbor = Trees)The interesting thing is that although this whole trip from Norseman in the West to Ceduna in the East is called “crossing the Nullarbor”, in fact the true Nullarbor Plain is only a portion of this trip and starts just to the west of  the roadside stop of Nullarbor.

IMG_3150Nullarbor

Here’s the map that shows you the extent of this trip…..and I might mention that the Nullarbor is often called the Nullarboring!

Salmon Gums to Ceduna

Salmon Gums to Ceduna

We made really good time, staying our first night east of Balladonia at the 90mile peg. I was excited to even make it to Balladonia because a week earlier I had been towed in there when Brutus died about 60kms east. For those of you who have never been across the Nullarbor the places that sound like towns are really only a roadhouse, and they are dotted about every 200kms.

Our second night was at Madura Pass, in the parking area at the lookout. What a spectacular view! (My photos are much better than the ones on the link to Wikipedia, too!)

Madura Pass

Fellow Solo, Margaret

Madura Pass

We’re not even really on the Nullarbor yet, but it certainly looks like it!

Madura Pass

Madura Pass

Madura Pass

Sunrise at Madura Pass at 5.06am

Our last stop in Western Australia was at Eucla. As we wanted to do some touristy things there we booked into the caravan park. A shower was really welcome after a few hot day’s travel and because we got in fairly early we had the pick of the spots.

Eucla Caravan Park

Eucla Caravan Park

The ‘must see’ at Eucla is the old telegraph station. As the dunes shift, sometimes it is hardly visible but it was quite exposed the day we were there.

On the way to the telegraph station there is also the Traveller’s Cross and a memorial stone to John Eyre, who crossed the Nullarbor from Fowler’s Bay in South Australia to Albany in Western Australia. The following information is from Wikipedia:

With this money, Eyre set out to explore the interior of South Australia, with two separate expeditions north to the Flinders Ranges and west to beyond Ceduna.

Eyre, together with his Aboriginal companion Wylie, was the first European to traverse the coastline of the Great Australian Bight and the Nullarbor Plain by land in 1840-1841, on an almost 2000 mile trip to Albany, Western Australia. He had originally led the expedition with John Baxter and three aborigines. On 29 April 1841 two of the aborigines killed Baxter and left with most of the supplies, and Eyre and Wylie were only able to survive because they chanced to encounter, at a bay near Esperance, Western Australia, a French whaling ship Mississippi, under the command of an Englishman, Captain Thomas Rossiter, for whom Eyre named the location Rossiter Bay.

In addition to exploring inland South Australia and New South Wales, Eyre was instrumental in maintaining peace between white settlers and Aborigines along the Murray River.

The next day we crossed the border into South Australia and stopped at the Nullarbor Roadhouse for a break and to re-fuel. I had heard a few bad reports about this stop but there are new owners and they are really trying to fix the place up. The showers and toilets were brand new and showers operated on $1 coin in the slot. Their petrol certainly wasn’t the most expensive we paid and the staff were friendly. A good stop with a good atmosphere. This is the sign as you are leaving.

Nullarbor Roadhouse

At the Nullarbor Roadhouse

We’ve almost made it! Our last stop before Ceduna was at the 222km peg and we managed to find a camp back off the road amongst some trees which we shared with 2 caravanning couples.  It was really foggy when we woke up the following morning.

foggy morning

Foggy morning at the 222km peg camp

We were stopped at Ceduna as you are  not allowed to take certain fruits and vegetables across the state borders but Margaret and I had cooked everything up a couple of nights ago so we had nothing to declare. Our journey of 1686kms was at an end. We left Salmon Gums on Monday March 9 and arrived in Ceduna on Friday the 13th – and you can bet there’s a story there – but more about that in my next blog as we start exploring the Eyre Peninsula.