Not the kind of Spring Break we were hoping for

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Oceania » Australia » South Australia
December 27th 2009
Published: December 30th 2009
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Day 245 - Flinders Ranges to Port Wakefield

Our last day in the Flinders Ranges dawned bright and beautiful, but it didn’t dawn quietly. The kookaburra’s were joined in their early morning cackle fest by the four young boys in the camp next door! The hoards were starting to arrive and our blissfully quiet and tranquil time here was drawing to a close. With the birds, the kids and the adults endlessly throwing glass bottles into the bins across the road it was definitely time to get up!

It’s been good though, a fantastic place to spend Christmas and we’re not even aching too much after our exhilarating walk to St Mary peak yesterday. There was a momentary idea to do another shorter hike this morning but it soon passed and instead we tucked into a healthy boiled egg for breakfast!

Whilst we packed the caravan up our attention was diverted towards activity in another pitch, the kangaroos were visiting and they weren’t very welcome. The chap was trying to push them away by bellowing his folding chair at them, it took a while but they got the message eventually and vacated the camper trailer - the kangaroos I mean, not the humans!

Not much before 10am we handed our power key back into reception and fuelled up the Terrano for the next leg of our journey. At this stage I still wasn’t sure which route we would follow for today or even where we would lay our heads tonight, there were a number of choices.

We’re heading back to Box Hill North, Melbourne to spend New Year with our family and we’re not sure if we should take the road via Broken Hill, the road via the Grampians or the Great Ocean Road. Decisions, decisions. We have the luxury of knowing that the routes we don’t take today can be used to cover new ground when we return to South Australia next week.

With Camps 5 firmly installed on my lap and Tom Tom ready and waiting I play around with ideas before sighing heavily and going back to gazing at the scenery out of the window as Dar ‘just drives’!

Our phone starts beeping wildly from the dashboard of the car and I’m delighted to see birthday messages and Christmas Wishes from the Coulsells and from the Elliotts. Sorry we were somewhere with no phone reception my lovelies, we’ll be in touch soon though and thanks so much for ringing / texting - awesome.

The turning to Orroroo comes up on us all too quickly, this route would have been a good ‘outback’ road to take us to Broken Hill but again it seemed a shame to go all the way out there and then just do a rushed visit. We continue on through the small but very attractive towns of Hawker and Quorn, they’re both really intriguing places but its Sunday and absolutely everywhere is deserted!

Onward we travel until we’re back on the main highway at Port Augusta and back with Darryl’s new friend ‘the pipe’. I should explain. Whilst we were in Lincoln National Park we spied a rather large, very very lengthy pipe running alongside the tracks. We had no idea where the pipe went, it’s probably about 2ft in diameter and we had no idea what it was being used for. On the journey from Louth Bay to Port Augusta we spotted the pipe again and Darryl remarked each time it disappeared out of sight and got real excited when it came back into view again. Well today it was like his long lost love! “The pipe, the pipe is back” he chirped. And there it was, the pipe had resurfaced and ran for miles and miles along the highway before disappearing into the hills somewhere around Port Pirie. What with the pipe and the Lonely Planet guide we were keeping ourselves somehow entertained.

We’d been on the road for nearly four hours when Dar decided it was time to stop for a coffee, a rest area sign had prompted the decision but it was on the wrong side of the highway so we carried on figuring that the next one couldn’t be far away. There are signs constantly warning you not to drive tired and then there are the signs indicating that the black markers are the site of a fatal accident and the red markers are that of a serious crash. That got us talking about the standard of driving over here (again) and remarking how bad it can be.

With that a white car over takes us, pulls in front and then starts braking. Another car over takes it and initially we thought that’s why the person was hitting the brakes but then a hand comes out of the drivers window pointing to the side of the road. We start to slow down and pull over onto the verge. The lady got out of the car and ran over to us saying that smoke was pouring out from under one of our caravan wheels. She was frightened that it was going to explode and said she was so glad that we’d pulled over. Sounding familiar? We didn’t really need to check after hearing her description, we knew it could only be one thing - the other leaf spring had gone on the caravan. We thanked the lady for taking the trouble to get our attention and getting us to pull over.

So there we were on the side of National Highway 1 with full phone reception and full internet connection. Not bad planning I thought, especially given my original thoughts of taking us the back ways and out through Broken Hill.

We phoned the RACV with the details of our exact location courtesy of Tom Tom, the ‘Where am I’ option on the GPS is worth its weight in gold. I wouldn’t have had a clue where we were without it, map or no map!

To their credit the ladies at the other end of the phone were very helpful but it is frustrating being sent sort of round in circles for a while and struggling to be understood. We phone the number on the membership card which goes through to the Victoria state office but because we’re in South Australia once they’ve taken the details they have to pass the call on to another team. The last time we were in this situation we were lucky enough to be next to a garage with a copy of the Yellow Pages so we could contact a caravan repair yard and arrange everything ourselves right down to where we would sleep the night albeit paid for by our membership rights. Today however there is no garage and no yellow pages and I’m struggling to get the ladies at the other end of the phone to appreciate my large concern which is that we don’t want to be recovered to a town where there is no caravan repair yard and therefore no way of getting things sorted. With out membership we get one tow so any subsequent tows will be at our own expensive, which is why it’s important that we get it right first time!

We get a variety of calls from the ladies at RAA (South Australia) and RACV (Victoria) and each of them are doing their best to be helpful and I’m doing my best not to stress that we’re going to get landed with a huge towing bill we can’t afford to pay - that’s basically the crux of my concern, cost. We paid alot of money for our RACV cover so it's important that we don't incur any of costs!

There’s talk of us being recovered to Clare so I investigate on the internet whether there’s a caravan repair yard there and I can’t find anything within that area. We get a phone call saying that accommodation has been booked for us tonight in the Comfort Inn at Clare and I again voice my concerns (very nicely) that it perhaps isn’t the right place for us to be recovered to. I can sense the frustration from the other end of the phone and was frankly told that we were lucky that we had been found accommodation anywhere at this time of year and that most of the mechanics in Victoria were on holidays now until 14th January. Fair enough but we’re in SOUTH AUSTRALIA and I don’t want to be dumped in a town in the middle of nowhere facing a big towing bill … I’m repeating myself and I know it so I stop.

Another phone call from the lady representing the RAA (South Australia), they’re sending a wrecker from Port Wakefield and the contact that she’s spoken to has assured her there is a caravan repairs shop that will be open on Tuesday. Phew, a quick phone call back to the RACV to cancel the accommodation in Clare and try to book something in Port Wakefield at the caravan park is also a success. Now all we have to do is wait for the wrecker. What a treat we had in store.

The chap came to collect us on behalf of Parrish Motors and he’s a star, literally! A very nice, genuine, down to earth fellow called Lee soon had us helping him load the caravan on the back of the truck and me working the controls on the loading tray! At first I wasn’t sure about getting involved but after a couple of minutes it was like a team pulling together to get the job done and soon we were on our way to Port Wakefield.

I sat in the truck with Lee (whose real name is Cyril - same as my Grampy Kettle) and listened to his life story which is completely fascinating. In short he came to Australia at the age of 17 from Norfolk, UK as a ten pound tourist. It took 6 weeks to get here by boat and he wanted to be a cowboy. He worked for RM Williams for years, is in the Stockmans Hall of Fame and has had his life story written quite recently. And today he is recovering our caravan for us, ain’t life great! It’s like having a tour guide as we drive towards Port Wakefield although I wasn’t sure I needed to know that 2000 pigs are slaughtered in ‘that’ shed each day and chickens are bred for meat in all of ‘those’ sheds over there.

The 40 minute journey flies by and we’re soon parked up outside Parrish Motors. The owner, Ken, comes to greet us and the dry Aussie sense of humour comes flooding out with a couple of quick witted comments about us being Pommes but we’re used to that now and it goes straight over our heads! There’s a quick discussion about what to do with our caravan as there’s no room to store it here and the consensus of opinion is that it would be safer at Lee’s place so we get back in the truck and the car and whip 5 minutes up the road. Lee lives in 40 acres with horses he buys for the meat market and colts that he’s breaking in. It’s a great place and I even get to feed the 2 year old colt.

It takes us a bit of jiggery pokery to get the caravan off the truck but as a team we manage it eventually and we start to unload everything into the car. We need to clear the fridge and most things from the cupboards so that we have what we need for the next few days. We wave goodbye to Lee and say we’ll pop back again later for a chat if he’s around.

Off we speed to the caravan park in this busy transit town. We’ve got a cabin here for a couple of nights with a small kitchen, en-suite, air conditioning and two double beds. Gosh, what luxury! Considering that we’ve lived in the 16ft caravan for 8 months I’m stunned at how quickly I manage to spread items all through the cabin! Old habits die hard apparently.

We had our bubble and squeak dinner, which was of course? Gorgeous! We even managed to catch up with Jane & Tony when they called tonight, amazingly we were somewhere with reception - stunning!

Port Wakefield never figured in our plans but we’ll use tomorrow as fully as possible and maybe even explore the Yorke Peninsula which is now right on our doorstep.

Dar and Sar


31st December 2009

pesky 7yr olds
Squara/Nige As predicted pesky 7yr old claimed victory during the Xmas Wii challenge. He's looking forward to your return so he can at least have new victims (I mean opponents), warning though I'm not sure who sulks more if victory is uncertain... Simon or Charlie Brown!! The olds are off to see Dad K today & your mum, thinking of you all. Happy New Year to you both, looking forward to reading about how you're going to celebrate Aussie style. lots of love Claire & Simon xx
31st December 2009

Darn, or something a bit worse
So sorry to hear about the caravan. Like you said, if it was going to happen you were in an OK place. Not that it needed happening. Hope by now that the repairs have been done and all is well. Have a Happy New Year and good and safe travels in 2010.
1st January 2010

Happy New Year
Hi, Just a quick hello and best wishes for New Year take care. Tony

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