Day 169: 15 November – A stormy farewell to the Eyre Peninsula

Author: Mrs A

From: Yeldulknie Weir near Cleve

To: Whyalla

Distance: 144 km

I’m almost ashamed to admit we slept in this morning, not getting up until 9.30am! We had such a peaceful and deep night’s sleep we awoke feeling quite refreshed. The day was refreshed too – a good 10 degrees colder than yesterday and reaching only 16 degrees by the time we left, wearing warm clothes that only a couple of days ago we thought we would never put on again!

We drove to Whyalla, towards the north of the Spencer Gulf and our final location on the Eyre Peninsular. We had booked a water front site, which has fabulous views out of the window but you wouldn’t want to be outside. The 55km/hr winds gusting straight off the water are slightly off putting – perfect for the wind and kite surfers we have spotted whizzing around out there, but pretty unpleasant for the average person.

According to the news, Whyalla has got off lightly on the weather front, as Port Pirie (we can practically see it on the opposite side of the gulf) has had car ports and trees down in addition to torrential rain. We’ve just had drizzle.

On our drive over to Whyalla we spotted our first Zone on the move – this is pretty exciting as there are not many of us about. We own the 44th ZoneRV caravan and on chatting to the owners of this one, we found they are number 55! We drove up the highway in parallel for a bit and chatted on the radio as we went. Hopefully we will be able to catch up with John and Shelley in Adelaide for some more travel talk over a glass of Barossa red!

As we pulled into the caravan park we spotted our fellow Burmese cat travellers, (Simba’s staff members) Kim and Ian, who had been here a day already. We briefly said hello to them before setting up. The cool windy and showery afternoon did not really entice us into exploring the area, so we jumped in to the car and did a little supermarket shopping, before hibernating back in the caravan with a few episodes on Netflix and beef burritos for dinner.

Back on the road tomorrow, heading to more wine in the Clare Valley – we’re hoping the weather will improve for us to cycle the Riesling Trail at the weekend…the forecast so far looks positive!

Day 167: 13 November – Yet more stunning turquoise waters

Author: Mrs A

Location: Coffin Bay National Park

Distance walked: 5km

After a couple of humid and overcast days, Monday morning dawned with blue skies. Following breakfast and some exploration time for Miss Tassie, Mr A and I drove into Coffin Bay National Park.

We had heard many great things about the park, its stunning scenery and plentiful wildlife, and we were looking forward to seeing it for ourselves. It didn’t take long for the wildlife to emerge – a group of emus crossing the road in front of us, a fair reminder why there is a 40km/hr speed limit.

Our first stop was the Templetonia Lookout, providing views across the sand dunes, over Thorny Passage Marine Park and over to Mount Dutton in the distance. Wispy clouds raced across the sky, reminding us that a change in the weather is approaching, with storms and showers due tomorrow. The flies were out in their hundreds as well – attempting to get into every orifice!

From there, we headed over to Point Avoid, with lookouts over Golden Island and the Whidbey Isles Conservation Park. Lovely views across stunning turquoise waters and pristine sandy beaches. Looking out at the water I was reminded of the powerful dangers that lurk beneath, and wondered where our nearest great white shark might be…the warning signs on the cliffs advised us of everything but!

Thankfully in this direction there was a gentle breeze which saw off the swarms of flies and made life outside of the car a little more pleasant.

One thing we found intriguing (and somewhat sad) was the lack of recognition of the indigenous residents of this area. From our travels in Western Australia we learned that every bay, cove and island has already been named, often for thousands of years, and yet all we see here are the names provided by explorers in relatively recent times. There is barely a mention of the aboriginal population, other than to say they found food here. I am certain they had much more fitting names for the likes of ‘Misery Bay’, ‘Sudden Jerk Island’, ‘Seasick Bay’, ‘Phantom Cove’ and ‘Dead Man Corner’ – all locations within the park.

Still, the scenery did take our breath away, despite the fact we have been very much spoiled over the past few months with incredible locations. We walked down onto Almonta Beach for a walk along the water’s edge, recognising this is probably the last deserted beach we will be on for a long while.

We returned to camp for the afternoon and spent it in the shade, reading. We are really not used to these temperatures – it’s very warm 31 degrees – this time last week we had our heating on, and now we have the air conditioning!

I guess we ought to enjoy it while we can – it’s meant to cool right down after a day of thunder storms and showers tomorrow, and no doubt we will be complaining of the cold again.

We enjoyed a final serving of freshly harvested and shucked oysters, before whipping up a chicken Pad Thai for dinner.

Day 165: 11 November – Emus and Oysters

Author: Mrs A

From: Port Lincoln

To: Coffin Bay

Distance driven: 44km Cycled: 13km

We farewelled our camping-cat neighbours and Port Lincoln this morning, and after a brief bottle-shop (off-licence) run we headed for Coffin Bay. We were actually backtracking a short way, having bypassed the oyster Mecca in favour of sharks, but it was not to be missed.

We arrived around lunchtime, and after a bite to eat jumped on our bikes for an explore. Our first stop was the oyster sheds, an industrial area consisting purely of various oyster farm factories – where they clean and prepare the freshly farmed oysters to send predominantly to Sydney and Melbourne for sale at fish markets and in premium restaurants. We have often dined on these succulent molluscs back in Sydney and really enjoy their flavour.

Being Saturday, most of the sheds were all locked up, but as we reached the final one, a tall man popped out and told us he was open for business. We headed down to his Shellar Door (ha ha) and after our long oyster drought in Western Australia we decided to treat ourselves to two dozen. Given Mr A had cut his finger on a pair of scissors this morning (don’t even ask!), we opted not to learn how to shuck our own and had them opened for us instead.

After popping them in the fridge, we continued our exploration. Coffin Bay is a small settlement with around 600 permanent residents and lots of currently unoccupied holiday houses. It’s a very sleepy coastal village with a pub, a couple of small cafés/takeaways (which don’t serve food beyond 6pm!), a yacht club and pharmacy. It has been farming and selling oysters since the late 1800s, and probably has changed very little in that time.

Other than oysters, this area is famous for its national park which we plan to visit over the next couple of days. We rode around the Oyster Trail, a pathway which followed the coast, leading right up to the entrance to the park. It gave us lots of information about the native flora and fauna, as well as a taste of the history of the area.

After about an hour of riding we came across an unusual sight – a male emu with his four young charges walking along the street! Emus are interesting birds – the female lays an egg, but immediately abandons it, leaving the male to incubate and hatch it. The male does all the parenting from that point onwards, usually adopting other young emu chicks and keeping an eye on them, teaching them how to find food and stay safe.
It was great to see the chicks being so well looked after as we watched the male calling for the strays, ensuring he knew where they were at all times.

We returned to camp for cold drinks and showers – despite being overcast it is extremely humid today and in the late 20s temperature wise – quite steamy. Oysters accompanied by an Eden Valley Riesling came next. 

We attempted to get local fish and chips for dinner, but at 6.30pm were MUCH too late for that (by an hour!) so will be cooking instead. Welcome to country Australia!

Day 164: 10 November – A clean up day

Author: Mr A

Location: Port Lincoln Tourist Park

It’s not all shark diving and/or relaxing on this trip you know. Some days you just have to buckle down and clean up. Today it was time for the very dusty truck and the Zone to get a spruce up. Mrs A even managing to look glamorous with a mop in her hand posing on the roof. Why aren’t I up there you might ask? Well…we decided not to get the ladder fitted to the rear of the Zone (mistake), so the only way we have worked out to get up and clean the solar panels, is for the dinky Mrs A to sneak up through the skylight. 

We had new neighbours pull up in their motor home today, and out on a lead comes another Burmese, cool as you like!  They have been travelling with prince Simba since leaving Sydney in May, and it was great to swap stories over a few glasses about life on the road serving our respective furry masters. 

A final look around the neighbourhood on foot completed the afternoon. A very picturesque location.

For dinner I cooked up a bit of storm on the BBQ. None of that fancy foreign spiced up food on my barby 🙂 

Nothing wrong with meat and three veg you know! All this was washed down with a bottle of Mudhouse Pinot from Central Otago, awesome. Tomorrow we leave Port Lincoln and head for oyster heaven at Coffin Bay – mmmmmm. 

Day 163: 9 November – Great White Shark Cage Diving in the Neptune Islands

Author: Mrs A

Location: Port Lincoln & the North Neptune Islands

Distance: 60km as the crow flies – about 2.5 hours by boat

The day began early with a 5.45am alarm. Of course it had begun multiple times throughout the night, as is often the case when you’re excited and don’t want to miss waking up in time! Today Mr A and I went separate ways for the day as I was ticking off a bucket list item – cage diving with Great White Sharks.

A bus collected me from the campground at 6.15am and took me to the harbour where I met my fellow divers. We were provided with tea, juice and breakfast before boarding the Shark Warrier at 7am and heading off on our adventure.

Our wildlife spotting began early, as we were invited up on deck to see a pair of ospreys nesting on a barge in the harbour. This barge cannot be used now until the chicks have flown:

From here, it was a 2.5 hour journey out to the Neptune Islands – a group of islands at the entrance to the Spencer Gulf…

We were soon joined by dolphins which abandoned their fishing to ride the bow wave of our boat. A couple of hours later, we arrived at the islands, and selected a spot beside one where we could see plenty of fur seals (shark food) and also see some Great Whites on the radar, settled on the sea bed. The cage was lowered into the water, and we got changed in to our 7mm wetsuits, hoods, boots and gloves in anticipation of the 16 degrees centigrade water.

The company I had chosen to dive with was Adventure Bay Charters. Unlike their competition, they do not entice the sharks with blood and fish berley (chopped up fish), rather they use vibrations from music and the slapping of ropes and rattles to mimic the sound of a distressed animal, piquing the shark’s curiosity. This has the result of keeping the interaction more natural, and doesn’t send the sharks into a frenzy – associating humans with food. 

We jumped in to the water…16 degrees is rather fresh (much like the English Channel I am guessing!), and given you are moving very little in the cage, you can only last in there for about 20 minutes before you begin to feel numb. On my first dive, I saw lots of silver trevally fish, but unfortunately no sharks. We could still see the sharks on the radar, but clearly they had already filled up on a seal pup and were not feeling peckish.

                 Our skipper continued working hard to try and entice them over, but to no avail. We settled down for a delicious lunch and the boat was moved over to another island to try again.

The afternoon warmed up and it got quite steamy in the wetsuit. I decided to go in for another dive in anticipation of success. Just as I was climbing into the cage, the cry went out – ‘shark!’. Usually this means get out of the water, but I sped up and climbed on in. And there he was. A three metre male, many nicks and scars, gracefully cruising around the cage, wondering how he could reach the tasty looking morsels inside. He was soon joined by a female. Incredible. Swimming along with their mouth open teeth always ready to chomp, they do look strangely serene and peaceful. You half forget they have the power to tear off a limb and end a life in seconds.

I lost track of how long I was under water this time, but was ready for a hot shower by the time I climbed back out on to the boat. What a fantastic view of some incredible creatures. Apparently they have very poor eyesight and their only way of testing their food is with their teeth. They don’t actually eat humans once they have attacked. We are much too bony. They far prefer the fat and blubber of a seal.

Research has shown that the majority of taste-tests on humans have occurred when the light is weak – when it is overcast, at dawn and dusk. Few happen when the sun is bright and the water clear. So don’t go in the water at the high risk times, I say!

Once dry, everything was packed up and we set off on our way back to Port Lincoln, with a few diversions on the way. First of all, to Memory Bay in the Lincoln National Park where we called in on a New Zealand fur seal colony, their fur blending in nicely with the granite rock:

From there we continued around the coast, spotting a white breasted sea eagle nest and another osprey nest, both with chicks in.

We were joined by more bottlenosed dolphins as we headed back to the harbour – finishing off an amazing day out. 

It’s very hard to take photos of dolphins – a bit like photographing lightning or fireworks! 

The bus dropped me off at around 8pm – the end of a long but incredible day – Definitely worth doing if you are out this way.

Mr A had kindly prepared dinner for me too after his day of exploring the Port Lincoln area on bike. It doesn’t get much better than this! Awesome!

Day 161: 7 November – Locks Well Beach and its natural treasures

Author: Mrs A

From: Streaky Bay

To: Locks Well, just south of Elliston, Eyre Peninsular

Distance driven: 145 km. Distance walked: 3km. Flights climbed: 30 floors

We farewelled Streaky Bay and continued our exploration of the west coast of the Eyre Peninsular. The drive south took us through fields of corn and abandoned cotton farming villages, the scenery stark yet beautiful. Our destination for today was Locks Well, basically a beach and a free camp above it. We pulled in, wowed at the stunning view across the wild southern ocean, a pathway down the cliffs literally starting at our front door.

After lunch we decided we ought to get out and see the beach, a 1.5km walk down the cliff below us. We followed the path down which eventually led to a lookout and a staircase of 250 steps down to the sand below. I felt very grateful I could breathe as we hiked down.

The beach was only short (a half a kilometer at most), but the scenery breathtakingly beautiful. Strolling along the warm sand, sheltered from the wind (of course it was still breezy here!), we spotted a flock of crested terns resting on the waters edge, and a pair of Australian Kestrels swooping in and out of their nest, a hole in the cliff walls, where we could see three Kestrel chicks looking out at us with curious eyes. A fantastic afternoon was whiled away watching the beautiful birds as they worked hard to feed their family, disappearing over the coastal scrubland and returning with mice, crickets, lizards and snakes to feed their hungry brood.

We eventually tore ourselves away and climbed back up to the mobile apartment for hot showers and to cook dinner – tonight a Beef Rendang curry accompanied by a Plantagenet Pinot Noir – one of our purchases from Mount Barker in WA. Delicious. The evening was topped off by a fine view of the sunset and an incredible clear starlit night unspoilt by any man-made light.

Chatting to friends on the phone this evening we felt a whole world away from Sydney. Today everyone is celebrating the Melbourne Cup, as we too would have done for the past 18+ years.  No sweepstake here, no bets on random horses, no bubbles and fancy clothes…we have no idea which horses ran let alone which ones achieved a place or won! I wonder where we will be this time next year?

Day 159: 5 November – …Or as the locals call it ‘Blowvember’!

Author: Mrs A

Location: Streaky Bay

Distance walked: 4km

Distance cycled: 7km

We finished our final veal, cranberry and chestnut sausages from the Margaret River region, served with eggs in a herb focaccia. Not too bad for Sunday morning breakfast, cooked up by chef Mr A on the Baby Q – delicious!

After breakfast we jumped in the car for a tour of the nearby Cape Bauer – an uninhabited headland jutting out in to the Southern Ocean. We’d heard it was an important breeding ground for the Southern Osprey, White Breasted Sea Eagle and Pereguine Falcon, so were keen to try and spot those.

The wind was strong and chilly off the ocean, but we were rewarded with fabulous views of the rugged coastline. Apparently this area is frequented by endangered sea lions as well, but we couldn’t spot any from the lookouts.

We did see an osprey however, as it managed to maintain a hover over the sand dunes before diving down to catch its breakfast. How it managed to stay so stationary in the strong wind, I will never know, but they are incredibly skilled. 

The photo below shows a sea stack – right on top of this (seen through binoculars) was a White Breasted Sea Eagle nesting – the female sitting on her nest, the male nowhere to be seen.  We failed to see any Pereguine Falcons but two out of three isn’t too bad.

We returned to Streaky Bay via a car wash (shining again now!) and woke Tassie up for an explore.

As the afternoon passed we decided we ought to do a little more exploring ourselves, so jumped on our bikes. By now the wind had reached strong levels at Streaky Bay as well, so it was a little challenging at times to cycle in a straight line. We checked out the jetty as we had heard there were often dolphins fishing around there in the afternoon. Not today though – hold on to your hats!

Our Sunday concluded with the cooking of one of Mr A’s old favourites – Shepherd’s Pie, accompanied by the best part of a delicious Brash Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Day 158: 4 November – A taste of Streaky Bay

Author: Mr A

From: Penong

To: Streaky Bay

Distance driven: 184 km

Distance cycled: 12 km

We left Penong and headed down the Eyre Highway, a road we were dying to see the back of, and were soon pulling up at the quarantine checkpoint for our fruit and veg to be inspected. We only lost a few items to the big veggie bin and were soon on our way to our next destination – the Eyre Peninsula and its regional centre Streaky Bay. 

We had booked ahead for a waterfront site, paying a few extra dollars for the privilege. After some tight manoeuvres we were settled in with a bay side view. Unfortunately we were sharing that view with thousands of flies, our first taste (literally) this trip of the little buggers which want to crawl into every facial orifice. Ah bless Australia. 

A quick trip into town (a row of 5 outlets) bagged us the last half dozen Streaky Bay oysters remaining in the fish shop. Six is better than none! We have had an oyster drought since leaving Sydney, refusing to pay the crazy WA prices ($36 a dozen seemed to be the norm!). 

Back at camp we set off for a bike ride along the foreshore, a lovely ride, apart from the flies which sadly took the shine off. We headed back into a strong headwind and I thought ‘Option A – flies – Option B wind (but no flies) – I’ll take the wind’. At least they weren’t the biting March flies from a couple of days ago!

 Back at camp, Tassie was strongly encouraged to leave the caravan and take some air. Not sure she will become a beach bunny – she didn’t waste much time leading Mrs A back up the beach and up the steps into the mobile apartment! At least she knows where home is.

It was time to break the self imposed ‘Nullabor Drought’ and have our first glass of wine for a week, a lovely Clare Valley Riesling to show off the oysters. Superb.

After dinner we took a stroll along the beach and watched a full moon rise up over the water. The ‘staircase to heaven’ phenomena, as they call it in over-hyped Broome. This was way better as we were the only ones on the beach.