The Springs of Mataranka

We left the jam packed campsite at Newcastle Waters to make the relatively short drive to the Mataranka Homestead Caravan Park. The usual kerfuffle of finding your own powered site but at least we are ensconced. It’s hot again, 32º in the shade and there are quite a few unhappy kids about not enjoying sitting in hot sun while their tents slowly baste them.

Would you believe the same musical group, Repeat Offenders, is still performing here. I thought that they would have gone to that great concert stage in the sky by now but, alas, not to be. We thought we would lash out and buy Saturday night dinner at Jeannie’s Kitchen restaurant (at least we know who we can blame if things go wrong)

The empty stage waiting the return of Repeat Offenders

The number of travellers heading south seems to be a never-ending stream. It’s almost as if Darwin has been bombed again. A few travelling north but certainly a large crowd here at Mataranka. We will stay another night here before deciding our next move. It’s a bit to hot to go for a swim at the moment and my AF is playing up a bit so I may have to sit this one out.

No social distancing at Mataranka Thermal Springs

That Took The Wind Out of Our Sails

Other than the freight train driver deciding to wake all the campers at Bonney Wells by sounding the train horn repeatedly while passing by at some very early hour of the morning, it was a peaceful warm night. We watched the stars until bedtime before rising this morning to a beautiful, calm sunny morning. We decided after yesterdays long drive we would do a short trip to Newcastle Waters Freecamp, stopping at Tennant Creek for fuel and catchup phone calls, messages and the like. Unfortunately my emails didn’t update in time so we will have to wait until we reach Katherine (probably tomorrow morning).

Relaxing in the shade, 35º day.

Tennant Creek was quiet, not many local people about but heaps of tourists refilling their vehicles to head south. Last night it was Bethlehem at the Devil’s Marbles, today its like the Exodus. Heaps of vehicles and vans heading south with only a fraction of that number going north with us. Noticeably different to previous years.

Drinks at moonrise, Newcastle Waters Freecamp

I went to fit the new windscreen wiper blades that I purchased from Repco in Alice Springs only to discover he had given me the wrong size. Hopefully there is a Repco at Katherine that will let me exchange them (I’m definitely not going back to Alice Springs!)

The wind had largely died down today, only kicking backup just after lunch. It made for economical motoring, using 2.5 litres per 100 kms less today than yesterday. Now if only we can get a tailwind.

In and out of Alice

Bonney Wells Camp

We left camp fairly early and made our way to Alice Springs. We only stopped for coffee and some minor shopping before hightailing it out of there. Very busy, dirty and no longer the quaint country city it once was. The wind was extremely strong all day and, on a whim, we headed to Devil’s Marbles not really expecting to get in and we were right – less room than Bethlehem at Christmas. We went on another 20 kms to Bonny Wells Freecamp where we knocked up a marinated roast pork fillet and sat out in the balmy weather watching the stars. It hit 31.5º during the day but cooled a bit. At least we had no wind in the evening

Cross The Border Into Sunshine

The morning started out with a few spits of rain but it was still warm enough for me to wear shorts and to cook breakfast outside. We packed everything up and girded our loins to take on the Northern Territory Border. It was strange heading out, not many travellers on the road and those that were were all heading south. When we reached the NT/SA Border there was no one in sight so we guessed they would be nearer to mobile reception.

As we approached Kulgera, mobile reception kicked in with a flurry of text messages and missed calls. Then the NT Police roadblock came into view and we were stopped by a courteous young constable who gathered our details and our permit numbers before doing some minor checking and waving us through. Much more friendly the the SA Police at Yamba!

All set up at Desert Oaks

We pulled into Kulgera to send some texts, check emails, update the blog and try some phone calls out (but they just wouldn’t work) so decided that we would move on to Desert Oaks Freecamp (one of our favourites, on the traditional lands of the Arrernte people), stop for lunch and set up an early camp. This will leave us another 170kms to Alice Springs for a bit of a shop around prior to moving on again tomorrow. Glorious sunshine from almost the time we crossed the border until now. A light breeze blowing just to keep everything hunky dory. Warmth has arrived.

It’s Lonesome Away from the Kinfolk and All

Rose to a rather pleasant morning, a little wind but an ascending sun in a cloudy sky. As we cooked breakfast our travelling companions let us know that they had decided to head back south today (we knew this was going to happen just not sure when) so with a heavy heart we parted ways at the Stuart Highway turnoff – they headed back toward Coober Pedy while we turned north toward Marla. We have our Cross Border permit to head into the Northern Territory tomorrow so we decided on a short day, grab a shower and do some laundry. So we camped at the Marla Caravan Park (on the traditional lands of the Antakarinja people) which was an experience in its self. Power poles not working, find yourself a spot and cram yourself in. The showers were very clean with plenty of hot water so can’t complain to much.

Morning light over the Breakaways

Our mobile phone service using Belong has been pretty shabby this trip. We have used them on previous trips with no problems but now it appears we are effectively barred from parts of the Telstra Network which meant no service at Leigh Creek, Copley, Kingoonya, Glendambo and Marla. At this time with the need to keep up with what is happening in the COVID world and the ability to lodge permit applications and receive emails relating to them severely hampered we’re never sure when we will have service again. Hope the NT Police don’t expect us to have service. I’m thinking there will be a fair bit of correspondence between us, Belong, the Telecommunications Ombudsman and the ACCC. NOT HAPPY JAN!

And On to Kingoonya

We had a relaxing breakfast, not leaving until after morning tea for our short drive out to Kingoonya (on the traditional lands of the Kokatha people). Unfortunately it looks like the road from Glendambo to Kingoonya hasn’t been graded since the last time we were here five years ago, so the 41 kilometre trip took us about an hour and a quarter. Talking to one of the owners of the pub we discovered there is a much better track coming in from the north which will take us back to the highway toward Coober Pedy

The Kingoonya Pub undergoing much needed maintenance

We had a beer with lunch at the Kingoonya Hotel and watched as two freight trains passed by on the Trans Australian Railway line. We went up to the caravan park located 100 metres passed the hotel on the Wirrulla Road. $20 for a powered site for the night with rope barriers up to stop the wandering horses from getting in amongst the paying guests. It’s pizza night tonight at the pub so looks like it will be pizzas back at camp tonight.

Our camp at the Kingoonya Caravan Park

Mixed Grill at Glendambo

Another windy night and then the rain moved in. Everything was a little damp this morning but we were still able to cook breakfast outside before breaking camp at 9.15 a.m. and travelling the approximately 200 kms to Glendambo Roadhouse in anticipation of the mixed grill at the Hotel (I had had one there about 5 years ago and it was massive so Bob was all ears)

When we arrived at the Glendambo “Resort”, the sign on the door said No Chef and No Meals, so we will have to make do with going to the roadhouse next door for dinner. We set up camp in the Caravan Park (on the traditional lands of the Kokatha people) and needed the “L” formation again as it is still blowing a quite chilly westerly wind. We’re hoping for the sun to break through this afternoon.

It’s seems strange that we had mobile service out at our camp on the side of the road and for most of the way here but Glendambo has no service at all. This makes it hard to do our COVID check ins and to keep up to date with what is happening as far as lockdowns and travel restrictions are concerned. At this stage it stills looks like we will be able to get into the Northern Territory and Western Australia without having to quarantine.

You Must Go South to Head North

We left Copley Caravan Park after purchasing some of their Quandong pies and headed into Leigh Creek to refuel and do a minor shop at the supermarket. Leigh Creek is gradually becoming a ghost town now that the open cut coal mine has closed, a victim of higher extraction costs and cheap renewable energy.

We continued down the highway and stopped for a cuppa at Parachilna in the hope that we would get mobile phone service. While we could access the internet and our messages, we couldn’t make any voice calls so we moved onto Hawker for lunch where we were able to get full service.

Our windy Maslin Camp

I need to replace my lefthand side wiper blade so we refuelled again at Port Augusta and tried to purchase the parts but as Port Augusta has had its first decent rains in three years there is a shortage of wiper blades in the town so we’re left wanting. The wind has come up again very strong from the west so we had to hunt down a campsite that at least had some semblance of shelter and we settled on Maslin Rest Stop which extends some way off the road and formed our “L” shaped setup to at least make the stop bearable. Quite mild, 17º and not much rain here.

Copley to Parachilna and Return

We had an unplanned trip into Leigh Creek before heading south to Parachilna. the lack of mobile phone service here and about is really restricting our flow of information. Leigh Creek was flooded with Victorians returning from The Big Bash at Birdsville. South Australia was requiring them to have COVID tests and isolate upon entering SA.

Copley Caravan Park

We arrived at Parachilna in time for our 1.30 p.m. sitting and we enjoyed Goat Curry. Jen had the Quandong and Quince Steam Pudding, while I had the Sticky Date Pudding. We had a couple of drinks before returning to Copley, fighting against a very strong Westerly wind. The news about the deteriorating COVID situation has lead us to reconsider our plans. At this stage we intend to head back south to Port Augusta before turning north and heading up the Stuart Highway, probably aiming for Glendambo. At this stage the WA border is closed but we can still get into NT (at least we think we can) We will have to review the situation when we get access to more telephone service (probably lunchtime at Port Augusta)

Sunset at Copley

The wind has really picked up tonight. The forecast was for severe weather further south so I expect we’re copping the edge of it in the form of very strong winds with intermittent showers. The only good thing about being in this park is the fact that there are no trees to blow down on us – I guess that’s a blessing : )

Further North to Copley

Whoa, that was some serious wind overnight topped off with a little rain but we survived the onslaught. We headed north from Cradock up to Hawker just 16 kms away where we had aa quick look around and a shop before heading up the main drag to turn onto the Barachina Gorge Road. We made our way through the gorge which has obviously seen some very heavy rainfall recently as there were numerous overturned trees and others with flood debris wrapped around their bases. It is a particularly beautiful stretch of scenery. After going through the gorge we travelled up to Blinman which was swamped with so many tourists that there was nowhere to park. We decided to give the cafe a miss and travel back through the Parachilna Gorge back onto the main road at Parachilna.

We had hoped to stay at the the Old Schoolground Camp at Parachilna but it was closed because of the COVID-19 restrictions so we booked into the hotel for lunch tomorrow (COVID restricted numbers again) then headed up to Copley (4 kms north of Leigh Creek) to stay in the Copley Quandong Caravan Park and Cafe. Pretty basic amenities (dirt sites, old washroom facilities but all very clean) but reasonably priced and with very few residents at the time. This park is situated on the traditional lands of the Kuyani people

We had a quiet night preparing for a lunch tomorrow.