Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hello from Ayers Rock Resort!

Well tonight sees us very happy to be in the camping ground at the Ayers Rock Resort. What an amazing place!

To backtrack a little, we had a great night's sleep at Erldunda. Although we'd been locked in from 9pm (for our own safety apparently) there was not a noise to disturb us. Showers in the morning were fine and we had a quick breaky before hooking up the van and hitting the road again.

After we'd been on the road about an hour, I got excited by this sight - was it Uluru?! Luckily, Leon had been informed by a local the day before that Mt Connor often fools tourists into peaking with enthusiasm too early! We stopped at Curtin Springs (where we paid $2.16 a litre for diesel!) for a photo opportunity of the aforementioned mountain and a stretch of the legs.

Before we knew it, it seemed we were arrived at the Ayers Rock Resort. If you follow the link I put up at the start of this post, you'll see what a huge place it is. After we checked in and got the van set up at the camping ground, we got back in the car to look at the rest of the place. There are heaps of different accommodation options, apartments, resorts, backpackers etc. Heaps of different eateries - we had our first lunch at Gecko's cafe. It also boasts a shopping centre with supermarket, gift shops, post office, hairdressers, car hire etc etc.

We found a little lookout post to check out the incredible sight of Uluru. We can't wait to get a bit more up close and personal, probably tomorrow. The kids are happy that we are setting up camp for a couple of days (5 nights, 6 days to be exact) and we won't be doing heaps of travelling over the next couple of days. Uluru itself is only about 20k from where we are.

Blogger is being very difficult for me tonight with photos so I shall return with more tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Finally in the Northern Territory!

Very excited today to hit the NT! It was a pretty long drive from Coober Pedy (approx 488k!) but the kids did amazingly well. We had a couple of stops for fuel mainly, at Marla (where we took this picture of one of the many road trains we've seen along the highway) and Kulgera.

Along the way we saw a pretty incredible sight. Two advance cars with lights flashing, advertising a wide load. Then this monstrosity - two trucks towing a huge piece of machinery, it was the biggest thing we've ever seen! (Excuse the picture quality, it was taken through our very dirty windscreen!) We actually had to pull over off the road to allow it to pass.

Once we crossed over into the Northern Territory, Leon was very excited to see the speed sign! Yikes. I can't count the caravans we have overtaken thus far, Leon scoffing at the thought of 'cruising along'.

Not sure if you're able to make out the price on this bowser, but yes, we paid $1.92 for diesel! Also, they obviously experience a lot of drive offs in this part of the country. Most petrol stations ask you to take credit card or ID into the shop before filling up!

We arrived at Desert Oaks Erldunda at about 3pm and were very impressed to see our first patch of grass! It's the first caravan park that we've stayed in so far with grassed sites. It's actually a really nice place - it helps that it was about 24 degrees and blue skies when we got there. We were hooked up to water for the first time in two nights - you forget what a privilege it is to have running water in the caravan!

After a lovely afternoon relaxing in the sun, we headed over to the Tavern for tea. Delicious meals, but the highlight for the kids was chasing mice around the restaurant! Yes, apparently they're in the midst of a mice plague and our kids were the lucky benefactors. There are mice all over the caravan park and we actually noticed quite a few of them running across the highway between Marla and Erldunda.

Tomorrow, we will hit Uluru! We anticipate about 4 hours of driving, so a fairly reasonable day. (How our thoughts have changed on what is reasonable and what is not!)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Days 3 and 4

Just a very quick one to let you all know we are still alive! As expected, yesterday was a pretty big day travelling. Clare to Glendambo was approximately 477 kms of driving, which on paper should take about 5 and a half hours. Of course, fuel, toilet and food stops all were needed, so we probably got to Glendambo at about 4pm.

On the way we stopped at a great little playground at Port Germein and had lunch in Port Augusta (which we expected to be way bigger than it actually was!) We also echoed hundred's of travellers sentiments when we said "Thank God for Spud's!" (Spud's Roadhouse, between Port Augusta and Glendambo. Only petrol for miles... and miles and miles.) Although this was a super long day in the car, it was quite exciting to see the landscape changing, becoming scrubbier and sparser and the colours of the land slowly reddening. It finally felt like we were somewhere different, on our way to our goal! 

Glendambo was an amazing stop. A population of 30, two petrol stations, a motel, pub and caravan park on the highway. That was it. No water to hook up to, just power. And no grassed sites of course, just dirt! But it had a lot of character and for Leon, the pub was the winner! It had an open fire, beautiful meals (the kids chips and nuggets looked like they were being presented on Masterchef. Although the same can't be said for the 'bowl of ice cream and topping' that was complementary with the meals - a frozen and defrosted once too many times Dixie cup with the lid removed and a blob of topping on top!) 

Trying to break up the days a bit, we planned a slow one for today. Only about 2 and a half hours driving, from Glendambo to Coober Pedy. This was the first part of the trip without mobile phone reception, which concerned me slightly. The highlight of this drive for the kids was finally seeing some road kill! Yes, apparently my kids are sick deviants who want to see dead animals. Cooper was actually in tears the day before because Leon had seen a dead roo at the side of the road and not pointed it out! So today, we hadn't been driving long when Leon spotted a kangaroo who had met an untimely end and pulled over. The kids hopped out very excitedly, leaving me in the car shaking my head in shame. I don't think they were too impressed with what they saw - Imogen definitely doesn't want to see one again and Cooper says he doesn't really mind either way but probably not! Maybe there is some hope for them after all! 

We are staying the night at the Stuart Range Caravan Park. It's got an almost stadium like set up, with the playground, undercover bbqs and toilets in the centre and then the camp sites laid out in rings around them. Because we got here nice and early today, we got a prime position in the front row! After we'd set up the van we headed into town. Very dusty, dry and dirty (to use some alliteration for the day). But very interesting, seeing all the buildings set into the underground. After some lunch (John's Pizza Bar - he's on Facebook!) we visited 'The Old Timers Mine' which was an old opal mine rediscovered in the 60's and set up as a museum now. It was very interesting, Cooper in particular loved it. 

Tomorrow we hope to cross another border and stay at Erldunda, NT. This should be our last stop before hitting Uluru! The kids are very excited about being so close. I'm pretty excited about being able to set up and spend more than one night somewhere! The caravan has been so fantastic so far but I feel like we haven't been using it much, will be great to really test it out over a 5 night stay!

Extra Notes from Leon: The showers at Coober Pedy require 20 cent coins for every 3 minutes. And you can't put in 60 cents at once and get 9 minutes! You have to put money in when in runs out again! Also, now would be a good time to stock up on any alcohol, should you be heading towards Uluru (see uluru post as to how expensive beer is!).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Coonalpyn to Clare

A lovely easy day today! Thank goodness cos tomorrow is going to be a big one (more about that later!) After the usual early rising that comes with having two small children accompany you on your travels, we hit the road fairly early.
Excitement over the speed sign

For some strange reason I was put of charge of navigation. (Those who know me well will be gasping in horror, I have zero sense of direction and still can get lost in the town I've lived in my entire 28 years. There's a play centre that we've been to a couple of times just up the road in Ocean Grove - each and every time I get lost and have to ring friends swearing with frustration to help me!)

Anyway, there I was in charge. Google Maps on the iPhone in one hand, in-built car navigation in the other. I took us on a lovely scenic, countryside tour (in Leon's words "bloody goat tracks). I'm sure he enjoyed navigating the caravan around the narrow corners and hilly climbs!

But we reached beautiful Clare at a decent hour. After setting up the van we drove about 15 minutes down the road to a historic town called Mintaro, home to a living hedge maze. The kids had lots of fun racing around, finding clues to help us through and checking out the gnome village and giant chess set. There were heaps of old fashioned cottage style houses and the oldest Jesuit church in Australia to have a peek at as well.

Immie thinks the gnomes are a bit cheeky!

We made it to the centre!

"I'm the Grumpy Old Troll, who lives under the bridge!"

Tomorrow we set our sights on Glendambo. As mentioned it will be a huge day. Google Maps suggest 5 hours, 19 minutes. But with a heavy caravan and two kids food and toilet needs it will probably be a fair bit longer! So if you don't hear from us tomorrow night, hopefully it just means we are tucked up in bed fast asleep!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 1 - Done and Dusted

Well we have survived our first day on the road! The intrepid family left Geelong around 9am (slightly later than planned - as usual, things always take much longer to finalise than you think!) With a few toilet and petrol stops along the way we excitedly crossed the South Australian border round 3pm.

The original plan was to stay at Bordertown but, buoyed by our good speed and the kids behaviour, we decided to press on to Keith. First mistake! The one caravan park was a bit scrubby looking and had no playground (gasp!) Next stop on the map was Tintinara. Second, even worse mistake. After spending a tense fifteen minutes trying to actually find the damn thing, we discovered it was a Norman Bates-ish motel with two dirt sites they presented as their caravan park.

So finally, around 5pm we rolled into Coonalpyn. At least there was a playground, plenty of large, grassed sites and a steal at $22 a night. Moral of the story is 'Stop while you're ahead!'

Tomorrow we plan to be up bright and early and Clare is on the agenda. Highlights so far for each member of the family have been the 110km speed limit (Leon of course - yes even with a large caravan on the back!), Cooper saw two purple trucks (yes, he's easily pleased) and Immie was allowed to be the keeper and distributor of a bag of mixed lollies. As for me I'm just glad none of the family has kicked me out of the moving vehicle due to my extremely pesky chest infection/cough from the depths of hell.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

T minus...

Well here we are, only 2 sleeps away from heading off on our first big trip in our new caravan! There's been a lot of planning, a lot of research and a lot of packing involved to get to this point. (The first two mainly by Leon, the last one mainly by me!)
I thought a blog would be a good idea so that any of our friends and family who were interested could keep up with our travels. Will try and jump on most nights and update with some photos and hopefully some interesting stories!
We plan to head off bright and early Friday morning and make it over the South Australian border. So, back to the last minute packing and frantic list making. Til next time!