Barry & Linda McElhenny (Trip Leaders)
Ian & Ann Marr
Cleve Warring & Jenny Hajncl
Lucie, Ken & Gemma
Leigh Wagstaff & Christine Mayer
Linda McElhenny reports:
27th June 8.28am 8 degrees
Lovely dark cloudy morning – not good for travelling. Oh well, we are heading for warmer weather.
Barry decided to check the Tvan brakes after we had driven for about one hour. All good. On our way to Walpeup, our first stopover, we had a few stops for further checks on the brakes. Yet when we arrived at 3.00pm, the passenger side was red hot, even the rim. Barry waited until the tyre and hub had cooled down, then checked and readjusted the brakes.
We were camped in a little local park with a toilet block, shower and laundry facilities for $9.00 per night. We put our money in the locked box on the wall of the amenities block and noticed it appeared to be empty although there were three other campers there when we arrived and more came later. Just before dark, a lovely lady came over and said that she was the camp supervisor. We told her that we had put our money in the box and that if she looked, that would be all that was there. She said not to worry.
28th June 9.15am 8 degrees
We are off to Hallett today to meet up with Ian, Ann, Cleve and Jenny.
During the day we had a few stops to check the brakes. Barry decided to find a concrete pad to dismantle the brakes fully and start from scratch again. We spotted a large wheat silo on the other side of the railway line and, yes, it had a concrete pad. To make sure we didn’t leave any grease, etc on the concrete, we put a tarp down. After all, this is a place where grain is stored.
Luckily the sun was out by now, but the wind was still very chilly. We must have been there about 15 minutes, when a HiLux ute came zooming down the road and went over to a small building opposite where we were. As there were signs everywhere that “Trespassers would be prosecuted”, we thought we might be asked to leave. What do you do when you have your Tvan jacked up and the wheel off?
The ute finally drove off. I bet he was watching us from the corner of the building.
Barry cleaned down everything yet again and re-greased all that was necessary. He even put in a new bearing, even though the other one was new. With the wheel back on and everything cleaned up, we were on our way again.
By the time we reached Hallett, it was dark. We received a warm welcome from Ian, Ann, Cleve and Jenny, who were just building the camp fire. We set up camp, had dinner and the men then had another look at the brake. All were at a loss as to what was wrong. Peter had left after us, but managed to make up time and joined us at Hallett a good hour after us.
We sat around a lovely camp fire, which was to be the first of many. As we sat there and it started to get quite cold, we could feel the dew coming down on us. I picked up a top from the back of Barry’s chair when we went to bed and it was quite wet.
After much deliberation, we agreed to head into Port Augusta the next morning to see if we could find anyone who could fix the brake. It meant we would have to leave about 5.30am.
29th June 5.20 am -2 degrees
After a reasonable night’s sleep, we got up about 4.00am to a thick fog. A nice hot shower warmed us up.
It was difficult driving in the dark and the very thick fog and we were on the lookout for anything that moved. By the time the sun came up, it was still not warm, but much better driving conditions.
At Terowie, we stopped and checked the brakes. All was well. So it should be at –2 degrees. Barry wanted to drive down Horrocks Pass before there was too much traffic, as we didn’t have the brakes working. We managed to negotiate all the bends and steep descents quite well and Barry gave a sigh of relief when we reached the bottom without any mishaps. At around 8.10am, we arrived at Port Augusta, pretty good timing. However, wherever we went to get help, they either didn’t do brakes, or were booked out.
Only one man was sympathetic to our cause and he said he had his week filled up within the first hour of opening that morning. Why didn’t we try him first? Well, you only find out these things from the ones who can’t help you.
After feeling deflated that we couldn’t get anyone to even look at the brakes, we decided to just go on as we were and continue to check the brakes periodically and hope for the best. After all, we had brakes on one side after cutting the wires to the brake on the offending side,
We got some supplies and met up with the others on the road. Our stay that night was to be the Woomera Tourist Village, a fancy name for the only caravan park in town. When we arrived at the park, we found Ken, Lucie and Gemma already there. While talking to them, we noticed Leigh and Christine camped just down and over a bit. Once we were all set up, we had the introductions. There were six people from the Jackaroo Club and six friends. Our stay here was to be for two nights.
30th June Woomera
Ken, Lucie and Gemma decided not to stay in Woomera, but to go and meet their friends from home. They had already been here for two nights. Leigh and Christine decided to go to Coober Pedy and have a look around. The remaining group went into the township. We walked in as Peter had his rooftop tent up and the rest of us still had our vans hitched up. Our first destination was the rocket park. Here we saw a big display of assorted rockets, aircraft, bombs and other military equipment. The Museum was also of interest. It was full of interesting equipment and history, with plenty of photographs, records, etc.
On then to the Information Centre where we looked at the interactive display of life at Woomera. It was very informative and well done. We enjoyed quite a nice lunch at the only hotel in town, before some of us went into the supermarket to see if we could get any party items to take with us out on the track.
A significant birthday was approaching for Cleve and Gemma was planning a surprise party for Lucie for her birthday on 11th July. This created lots of excitement as we sourced goodies. We had noticed each night, Jupiter was getting closer to the Moon. I asked Gemma if she had noticed and she explained that Jupiter would get closest to the Moon on 30th June and would then start to move away. I asked her how she knew this and learned they were told about it at school. Obviously someone listened.
Woomera today is still a test range for Defence to trial and test defence systems, including bombs, missiles, rockets, aircraft, UAVs and electronic warfare systems that may be needed to defend Australia. The ADF is always testing new and current aircraft and other defence systems to ensure they are always working as they are supposed to. The test range covers 127,000 square kms, an area roughly the size of England. It uses many items of special equipment, such as high speed cameras and optical trackers. Other countries also use the range from time to time for testing. Each year 50 – 60 trials are conducted at Woomera.
1st July 9.15am 6 degrees
It was 1° inside the Tvan at 7.00am this morning.
After passing Camp Rapier Military Base, with its extremely high chain wire fence, we headed off to see Len and Anne Beadell’s grave/monument. Someone had visited previously and placed a bunch of native flowers on the grave. Len’s remains were moved here from the site of the original survey peg to mark the centre line of the Woomera range. Anne’s ashes were interned here in April 2011.
We were fortunate enough to meet Len and Anne’s family at Hawker on Dave Dobson’s Googs Track trip. A wonderful night was spent talking around a fire with the family. As we walked around the cemetery, we were amazed at the ages on the headstones. There were a large number of stillbirths and very young children. Even the adults didn’t seem to live to an old age. Down at the bottom of the cemetery were some new graves.
We came across the Lake Hart Rest area. The reflections of the hills and trees in the water were beautiful. A number of caravans were camped here even though there were no toilet facilities. Some of us needed fuel, so we continued on to Glendambo to fuel up and grab some snacks, etc. Lunch was on the side of the road at a very busy truck stop.
The Sturt Highway is a very good road to travel on, with sections of dead looking small trees, small saltbush, native grasses and small bushes lining the road. The sky had patches of small clouds as the temperature hit 18° at 1.00pm.
We drove into Coober Pedy for more fuel and supplies (including things we had forgotten) and met up with Ken, Lucie, Gemma, Leigh and Christine. We also caught up with Sharon and Chris, friends of Ken and Lucie. We had travelled with them to the Kimberleys in 2013.
When we arrived at the Stuart Ranges Caravan Park, we noticed the line to book in was almost back to the highway. As we had already booked in over the phone, I decided to walk down to the reception area. Since we were last here, it had become a Big4 park (Aspen). Finally, we set up camp and relaxed.
Soon we heard excited voices. Cleve and Jenny had come across their friends, Norm and Pat, who were doing some of the trip we were doing. They were very well set up for the trip. After dinner, we all gathered for a pre-trip information session. We were all excited about what/where our trip was going to take us. The camp ground was undergoing refurbishment (which has been going on since we were here in 2013). There was still a lot more to be done. The smell from the sewerage (or whatever) lingered in the air. It was a bit of a turn off for an otherwise nice park. You would think they would have invested money into this problem first.
There we must leave Linda’s report for this month. Next month the trip starts in earnest