Now that the big driving is over for now, that means the holiday has begun.
For us, that meant a day of doing not much of anything, starting with a sleep in until lunchtime then heading down after a cooked “brunch” to the thermal pool for some serious soaking.
A lot of our noisy weekend neighbours had packed up and it also the meant that the pool was not as busy as yesterday. We later found out that most were Bitter Springs. Lucky we are not doing them until Monday.
It was a great relaxation time with 4 ½ hours of soaking before finally getting back to the Taj in time to watch the sunset over some beverages.
We have another day here before we head to Darwin for the Supercars.
We woke up at Renner Springs this morning with some strong winds. This would normally mean not a good day for towing but they were tending to be tail winds so that was going to save some fuel.
It was only a 400km journey today from Renner Springs through to Mataranka Homestead. Only one stop for fuel at Elliott and sat between 100 to 110 kph with the tail wind.
Again, only light traffic on the road with some caravans and road trains making up the most of it.
On arrival at Mataranka Homestead we were expecting it to be empty but it was chockers. It turns out that it is a long weekend in the Northern Territory and most of Darwin seemed to have come down to Mataranka for the weekend.
So, we missed out on one of the shady spots closer to the Thermal Pool but settled for a spot on the old WW2 Runway. Even though it was in full sun, the awning and shade cloth kept the van cool. It is a powered site so the A/C was on as well.
After setting up the Taj, we walked down to the Thermal Pool. We have never seen it so packed. So much for social distancing. The signs said to keep a crocodile distance between yourself and the next person. There was no chance of that. It looked more like the Ganges today.
We kept our distance as best we could soaking for around 3 hours. The pool emptied out towards 530pm with all the kids being taken back to camp for the evening meal.
After some quiet time in the near empty pool it was back to the van for a lamb roast before heading down to the Homestead for the Nathan “Whippy” Griggs whip cracking show. This must be about the 15th time I have seen it and it hasn’t changed. It is still entertaining all the same.
Not a real rush to get going today with another relatively easy drive of 680kms. We were originally going to stop at Banka Banka Station but kept going to Renner Springs Tourist Inn to catchup with Robin and Louise who would be staying there tonight.
As we passed Banka Banka, it would normally be packed by this time but there were once again only around 6 vans.
Once again not a lot of traffic on the way with stops at Wycliffe Well and Tennant Creek for fuel.
We arrived at Renner Springs around 4pm and was greeted with 30C. Now we are talking.
Only 5 vans at Renner Springs. I wonder if they are all parked up at Mataranka. I guess we will find out tomorrow. Only 400kms to go.
It was still warm enough for shorts this morning and the thongs were on as well. You can get used to this.
A smaller drive today with only 690kms to Alice Springs. We left around 9am again after filling up at Bulls Garage (cheapest fuel in Coober Pedy).
Once again traffic was light with more traffic heading south than north. Hope these aren’t people that have been turned back at the Northern Territory Border.
Arriving at the Border, it was a little different to the usual with the tourist area all blocked up and lanes setup for checking by the NT Police and ADF personnel.
As we stopped the cop with a smile said, “Welcome to Victoria”. They are obviously getting bored out here but at least they have a sense of humour. Either that or I have been driving for 2 days in the wrong direction. LOL.
We had done the online border forms and printed them out so the process was all done in 2 minutes and we were on our way again and in the Northern Territory.
A couple of stops at Kulgera and Erldunda had us arriving in Alice Springs at 5pm.
The big thing noticed on the way in is the aircraft parking lot that has been set-up at Alice Springs Airport with mothballed planes from all around the world with the standouts being some A380’s from Singapore Airlines.
We were going to stay at the Big4 but they wanted a minimum of 2 nights so it was Alice Springs Tourist Park for us tonight.
After setting up, we hit the town meeting up with some Geocaching friends, Vanessa and Nic (who moved up here almost 2 years ago), for a meal at the Casino restaurant, the Juicy Rump.
A good meal with some good company and it was back to the Taj for an early night. This travelling gig can get tiring.
In a couple of days’ time we were supposed to be on our way to Alaska, British Columbia and Washington State, but COVID-19 put an end to that idea.
A good alternative was to head to Northern Territory and Queensland provided the borders remained open.
The Taj was packed and we hit the road around 9am with a big drive of 861kms to Coober Pedy. There was a little bit of traffic through the city but once we made it to the Northern Connector is was plain sailing all the way.
A couple of quick stops for fuel and sitting on cruise control at 100 kph and we arrived at the Big4 Stuart Range Outback Resort 10 hours later.
It was still warmish, well about 18C but that was a win after a 2C start this morning. Time to take the jeans off and shorts on.
Travel restrictions are having their impact with only about 6 other vans in the Park which is normally packed. Even traffic on the Stuart Highway was light.
Don’t forget your 20c coins for the showers here.
With Garry having completed his 14 day quarantine at the Burra Showground, I met up with him at the mighty metropolis of Maggea in the Mallee.
This looks to have been an old railway siding with what might have been an oval, a tennis club, a hall and a few houses. You could see where the railway must have gone through but the rails and sleepers are long gone.
We camped at the oval, well we think it was once an oval.
There was no-one around so the generator could run all night and not disturb anyone. It was certainly needed to keep the heater going as it hit 0C overnight. I must fit the diesel heater at some time. After all, it has only been sitting in the box since August 2018.
Today we were targeting the “On your Bike” series of geocaches to the north of Maggea which consisted of 100 caches. It was a mixture of ground based and tree based caches.
I managed to make another milestone, this time up a tree of 23000 geocache finds.
We finished up early in the afternoon so I headed back to the block at Sedan and Garry headed up to the Riverland.
The Murray River
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With a big trip planned next week, my 4 day break between shifts was a good opportunity to do a shakedown on the Taj to make sure everything was working.
The first night was up to the block at Sedan and the first thing that seemed to not be working was the hot water service with the 240V switch not turning off. Although I have changed the anode every couple of years, there hasn’t been other maintenance.
Found the switch and an element online at a caravan parts place in ACT. Paid extra for some express post. Hope they arrive before we head away.
Didn’t seem to be any other issues with the van which is a good thing.
The track to the block ...
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Had a phone call from Bill Griggs earlier in the week to see if I was up for a challenge to find 52 unpublished caches in the Kuitpo Forest. Sounded like a fun challenge and it was decided that an early start Saturday morning was in order.
Well our challenge was somewhat thwarted with the 52 caches being published at 0400 Saturday morning so it now had become a “First to Find” (FTF) run to see how many we could get before the forest was besieged by FTF Hounds.
So with me and my $100 bike and Bill with his somewhat more expensive eBike arriving at 0730, we set off on our anti-clockwise journey.
Even though we were not going to do our original challenge, we had some other challenges to contend with.
One – it was bloody cold and even though there was no wind the temperature remained mostly in single figures.
Two – my chain on the $100 bike decided it was not up to the challenge and promptly broke at 3km, 4km and 5km. We repaired it two times (handy to have a doctor with the right tools), but in the end it became a 5km ride and 11km walk for me.
The outcome in the end was 52 FTF’s with coffee at the end at Tinjella Hut where my brother and sister were camped for the weekend (was unaware they were there when we started off).
It was a relatively easy drive today from Coober Pedy, across the border into Northern Territory, stopping at Kulgera before calling it quits at Erldunda. A drive of 487 kilometres.
There was a lot of traffic turning into the Lassetter Highway on their way to Yulara. The closure of the Ayers Rock climb has increased the amount of tourists headed out to the Rock. Even the Erldunda Roadhouse campground was packed.
This is due to all accommodation and camping at Yulara being totally booked and a prohibition at the moment for roadside camping.
Another drawcard at Erldunda is “Cluck Norris“, the infamous rooster who starts crowing each day at 3am. I was lucky enough to get a campsite at the opposite end of the park to his coop so it should be quiet for me.
The Campground has a sunset viewing platform and it provides a good chance to chat with fellow travellers from around Australia and the World.
Tomorrow it is a quick drive into Alice Springs.
It has taken a couple of days but I have made it from the Bend to Coober Pedy. There is not a lot to do in Coober Pedy when you are just travelling through but having a local pizza is one of the highlights here.
There are 2 places to get pizza. The first is John’s Pizza Bar and the other is Nostimo Pizza Coober Pedy. This time through I chose a Nostimo Pizza, mainly as it was located in the Big4 Caravan Park where I was camped for the night.
As usual it was a good feed before getting some rest for another big drive tomorrow.