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The older you get the more peace you want in your life and noisy parties and drunken behaviour are things to be avoided. And so we always aim to go somewhere quiet for our New Years camping trip although these days we travel in sedated luxury and can hardly call it camping.
Our Northern Neighbours, as we call them, Ian and Chris, had just acquired a Winnebago Motorhome powered by a Fiat Ducati diesel engine and a short camping trip was on the cards to test and explore the new dimensions they have created for themselves, and so we conspired to go camping together as soon as possible
We had an easy run down the valley to the Southern Flinders Ranges and Horrocks Pass which brought us out over the sweeping plain to Port Augusta and the coast. The pass is named after John Ainsworth Horrocks, a gentleman from England, who came to South Australia in 1839 at the age of 21 together with his 16 year old brother Eustace. He brought with him a family servant, a blacksmith, a shepherd, four merino rams, sheepdogs, tools, sufficient clothing for five years, and a church bell. He set about establishing pastoral holdings, farms and is reputed to have started the first vineyard in the Clare Valley. He was a restless fellow (like me) looking for more adventure and in 1846 he travelled through the pass now named after him and arrived at Depot Glen, a camp site of Edward John Eyre.
Horrocks had imported a camel to help with his exploration as the camel could carry great loads. The camel had a nasty nature and would spit and bite people and domestic animals alike. On the 1st of September, whilst reloading his rifle in close proximity to the camel, the latter moved forward and set off the cock. The resultant explosion took off the middle fingers of Horrocks’ right hand and a row of teeth. Horrocks was transported back to his home at Penwortham where he died of his injuries on 23rd September. He was 28 years of age.
At Port Augusta we refuelled and then went to the bird hide area and had some lunch. There was a foul smell about and we later learned that the ash dump from the old disused coal-fired power station, had dried out and was being blown about by the wind. Later reports showed angry residents of Port Augusta giving the Minister for Utilities a hard time on TV
There was quite a bit of traffic on the road as most were scrambling to get to their destinations before the New Year celebrations. We cruised long nicely and spoke over the radio occasionally. At Cowell we refuelled and Jude bought 3 dozen Cowell Oysters while Ian bought a dozen as only he was partial to them. We made our way in the late afternoon to Yeldulknie Weir, the turnoff being just 5km short of Cleve along the Birdseye Highway ( Our Garmin Lady kept on pronouncing it as Birdsee…..lol).
And we had the place to ourselves as we set up camp. A few locals came and went. The weir was constructed in 1912 to supply water to local farmers, Arno Bay township and Cowell Township but not Cleve. The camping area is an initiative of the Cleve Lions Club and it is well maintained with flush toilets and picnic tables. The restored wheelhouse is state heritage listed, and is open for public viewing of the blueprints.
We pigged out on Oysters that night and had a combined supper with both Jude and Chris contributing their cooking creations. Ian tried out his ‘quiet’ generator but our frowning faces at the noise intrusion soon had him putting it away again. We all slept like babies that night. I woke up when a vehicle drove in and out again at 1.45am. I figured it might have been the local Police doing their rounds.
The last day of the calendar year and we left Yeldulknie and made for Port Neill initially via Cleve and Arno Bay. We stopped at Cleve for munchies from the bakery and hardened tennis balls for Blaise (who has a habit of destroying them). Port Neill was as pretty as ever with its long jetty piercing out into the bay. Ian, Chris and Jude went for a walk whilst I kept Blaise company.
From Port Neill it was a 10km gravel road trip to Cowleys Beach free camp. There were three other camps there but well spaced so as to be out of each others way. The girls and Blaise went for a long walk on the beach whilst I read a book and Ian played with his Satellite TV. There is no phone coverage or ordinary TV signal out at Cowleys Beach. The beach area is on private farmland but the cocky allows visitors to camp there for free. He came over on his quad bike in the late afternoon for a chat and remembered us from two years ago
We were about to commence our New Years Eve Feast when a bitterly cold south easterly wind came across the bay and we were scrambling for warmer clothes and hoodies. Eventually Ian decided to pull the Winnebago in behind the caravan so as to block the gale from blowing our Baby Q’s out. We settled down to a great meal and including more oysters and finished off with some wine and a port. We were in bed by 9.30pm as the weather drove us indoors. So we listened to the radio and drifted off to sleep blissfully missing the bewitching hour.
As Ian and Chris had family commitments down on the Yorke Peninsula and some work to do along the way, they left us by 8.30am on New Years Day. We set off south looking at Lipsom Cove and Tumby Bay. I managed to get down to the sea with my walker at Lipsom Cove as the sand was quite hard. The day was overcast and I only dipped my toes in the water.
Tumby Bay has progressed in the past years and now has a marina and some smart houses. The town looks refreshed and clean although the older houses are still there. The hospital is right on the foreshore….my kind of place. Jude managed to find a Pop-up Shop that was open and came back to the car with an armful of goodies.
We hauled out the heavy Camps 8 book and started looking for places to camp on the way home. I spotted a Conservation Park by the name of Carrapee Hill a way northwest of Cleve and dogs were allowed to be there. And so we set off in that general directionvia Cummins, Lock and Darke Peak.
Upon arrival at Carrapee Hill we found the place very overgrown and the track I took got narrower and narrower until I found a place to turn around. Luckily the undergrowth was soft and just brushed the side of the car and van. Then we found the information board which stated No Pets and so we decided to give it a miss and head back to Yelduknie Weir. The dirt road took us to the Kimba/Cleve road which is sealed. IO was happily cruising along at about 90kmh when without a warning sign we were is a very tight S Bend. The weight of the van pushed the MUX across the white lines on to the wrong side of the road. I applied the caravan brakes as soon as I could get my hand there and the rig pulled up on the opposite road verge. We were just lucky that there was no oncoming traffic. Phew! A bit of an adrenaline rush there ! There was no traffic until we arrived in Cleve. Back at Yeldulknie we made camp again. A number of tourists and locals came and went. One lot came in a brand new Range Rover and hung about for a while and then left albeit slowly as they could no get the car turned around in the narrow road. We had the place t ourselves for the night.
Upon leaving in the morning I spotted some glasses lying next to the logs where the RR people had stopped. They were plastic wine glasses but with nothing wrong with them we claimed our booty. They have now replaced our old plastic ones.
Jude wanted to buy a new Jockey wheel for the trailer but most businesses were closed as it was a public holiday on the Monday. Supercheap in Whyalla was open and they had the right jockey wheel but only the front part. According to them the rear clamp and bolts and nuts come as an extra purchase. What a rip off. We slunk off in disgust.
By now we were starting to think of the next camp for the night as we wanted to be out for the four nights. There is nothing in our area of any value but then we remembered Appila Springs, a short way north of the village of Appila and about 45km from home and we did just that. The springs have quite a bit of water in the creek from the recent rains and we found our usual campsite free and stopped for the night
It is always good to take the back roads more than the highways as there is little traffic out there and the gravel roads through the wheat growing areas are generally in good repair
So that was it for our first outing for 2017.
Where to next?