Saturday, January 25, 2014

On the Road Trip - Australia - Streaky Bay - South Australia

An early morning departure saw us back on the road and headed for the Eyre Peninsula, to the beautiful Streaky Bay where we would celebrate Christmas day. Our sense of adventure is always heightened, as we set off on the next leg of the road trip, often we have heard stories, read blog posts and been offered tips along the way, by those who have already gone before us, on the best there is ‘to see and do’ in each place. As we left the rich, green vineyards of the Fleurieu Peninsula, we could not have anticipated the vast and desolate expanses of our nation. 

Bypassing Adelaide for now, we joined the Eyre Highway traveling upward alongside Spencer Gulf, towards Port Augusta. Port Augusta is a sea port and railway junction city on the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula, at the head of Spencer Gulf. It is the seventh most populous city in South Australia and although its industrial appearance does not endear you to stop for a seaside stroll, it is a popular tourist base for those wanting to explore the nearby Flinders Rangers. A friend had told us that there was really ‘not much’ worth seeing on the Eyre Highway between Port Augusta and where we were heading 391 kilometres away to Streaky Bay. At the risk of offending anyone residing on this stretch of highway, I concur she was in fact quite correct. The road just continued on and on for many kilometres of ‘the same’ landscape, large expanses of wheat fields, low shrubbery and dusty, barren plains, with the occasional small town and fuel station in between. 

We stopped at the town of Kimba for a late lunch, at the only dining option on offer. This little town boasts being both an opal, jade and gemstones destination, as well as ‘the halfway across Australia’ point. We of course took a photo, high fived and smiled at one another, in what seemed like quite a worthy achievement for us, having driven half way across Australia.

We were blissfully unaware that in reality we had crossed the easier half, as we headed east to west. After stretching our legs and happily filling our bellies, we departed Kimba and drove on, stopping next at Kyancutta to refuel. The sign painted on the Kyancutta fuel stop, opened our eyes a little wider to the distance we had already traveled, and even more so to the distances still to travel. 

This sign was a moment of both innocent surprise and nervous laughter for us ‘nation crossing rookies’, at discovering we had nearly the same distance, we had already traveled, to drive all over again, to cross over into the promised land of Western Australia. For those of you who are deep thinkers and navigational strategists, this would of course have made sense, being we were just recently informed at Kimba that we were halfway across. However, it was us seeing the sign at Kyancutta, that made it really sink in we still had a long, long way to drive! For now we chose to celebrate the part of the sign that said 156 kilometres to Streaky Bay where we were heading and we set off again, cheery in the knowledge we were only a couple of hours away from our next campsite.
Streaky Bay is the major service centre for the surrounding rural district. Grain crops such as wheat and barley are supported by beef, sheep, pigs and poultry farming. As we continued along the Eyre Highway, each approaching town was pre-empted by a looming, tall, white grain silo on the horizon. Towns of Pygery, Yaninee, Karcultaby, followed one another, until finally we exited the Eyre Highway at Poochera and headed out to the coastal town of Streaky Bay.
Our campsite was a little more barren than we expected, especially by comparison with the grassy patches we had experienced on our trip so far. We were thankful for the couple of trees nearby, that would provide welcome shade in the very warm 38 deg C days that followed. Up went the tent without incident, including simple Christmas decorations. We were definitely growing in confidence at our set up routine. 

Before we knew it we were sitting by the bay, as the sun sank low, eating pasta and watching the tide creep out and the birds do their final business of the day. 

The next day was Christmas eve and we were happy and content to be settled at this campsite for the next four days. After a slow start the following morning and a hearty cooked breakfast, we headed to the local boat ramp and put our little boat in for a day on the water in the bay.
poached eggs with spinach, tomato & mushroom on sour dough toast

Without any local knowledge, we headed out into the middle of the bay and put in some lines for a fish. However, after moving the boat to a couple of different spots, we were only really successful in catching weed. The wind came up, the fishing didn’t improve and after a rocky, picnic lunch on board, we surrendered and returned to shore. 
chicken & salad rolls

Our lack of fish caught on the water, the heat of the day, the prevailing wind and a fellow camper walking by our campsite later in the day with a large catch of crabs, sent Mr G into a discouraged state.
Whilst he cleaned down the boat and reflected on the day’s frustrations, Jake and I went for a short drive, in search of a spot to cool off with a swim. We discovered Back beach, only five minutes drive away down a dusty, dirt road lined with wheat fields. 

However, swimming was a little more challenging than we expected, as the water’s edge was covered with a sharp, rocky surface, preventing us from taking the plunge. Instead we searched for a sandy spot between the rockery and lay down flat in our best effort to get wet!

That evening after a feed of local Coorong mullet and salads, Mr G who is not to be held down for long, headed out at dark into the shallows of the bay, with his crab nets and light in an attempt to redeem his day. 
Pan fried Coorong mullet with potato salad 

Jake and I elected to stay in the tent to rest after our big day on the water, however this was short lived. Mr G running into the tent half an hour later, to show us his first crab catch, soon roused us from the comfort of our airbeds, to join him in the excitement. It was indeed a fascinating experience to watch a crab swim sideways through the shallows and Mr G’s joy of capturing them was certainly infectious. We had a delightful time together and returned to shore about 10.30pm, with a net full of blue swimmer crabs, eight in total and a much happier husband. He was now content to sleep soundly with the knowledge his ‘hunter, gatherer’ status was restored and a seriously good feed of crabs awaited him at daylight.

It was an unusual Christmas day, waking up in a tent and having only one of our three kids present, to receive hugs and presents! After exchanging gifts and a simple breakfast, we headed to the camp kitchen to cook up our crabs. Noticing the severe sunburn of the bald headed camper we met in the camp kitchen, I wished him a happy Christmas and asked him how he had got so sunburnt. After telling us of his day out in the sun the day before at Sceale Bay, a helpful conversation followed of where was the best place to fish in the area with a small boat. He kindly directed us to try our hand at a certain spot he had found in Sceale Bay for King George whiting. It was at this point that I reminded Mr G, just how fortunate he was to have me along on this road trip, to open up such conversations, which inevitably led to new and helpful fishing information for him. 

It was far to hot to contemplate eating a long Christmas lunch at the campsite, so we elected to pack a simple picnic and go for a drive to Sceale Bay, where we swam and picnicked in near seclusion on Surfers beach. 

We then took a drive along the nearby Westall Way Coastal Scenic Loop, which stretched for thirty one kilometres and was jam packed with scenic lookouts and gorgeous swimming spots along the way.
If you do ever get to drive this scenic loop, make sure you stop and get out of the car at each of the sign posted spots, as what you'll discover as the following images will attempt to share, is so worthy of the moments spent.

Tractor beach

Smooth Pool
Yanerbie beach

Returning to our tent late afternoon, we were able to enjoy our Seafood Christmas feast, now in the shade of the trees.
Spencer Gulf prawns, fresh caught Blue Swimmer crabs, calamari rings and salads with some delicious McLaren Vale Apple Cider

It was the perfect end to what had been a very different and yet unforgettable Christmas day for us.
Boxing Day we were up and ready to go, boat attached behind us, we headed back down the dirt road to the beautiful Sceale Bay, in search of the promised King George Whiting.                                                                                                                                                                   
It is hard to say what was more wonderful, the beauty of the surrounds as we cast our lines into the aqua blue waters or the magnificence of our bountiful catch that day. We bagged a large squid, a flathead, six King George Whiting and a couple of unidentified species, most of which we threw back.

It was a busy time at the filleting table for me that afternoon and I was joined by the local pelicans who were more than pleased and eager to wait for the scraps.
The next morning we arose to an extremely hot day, I had planned to visit the site of Murphy’s Haystacks, a nearby rock formation in a hay field about thirty minutes drive south of Streaky Bay. The boys were thrilled (NOT!) to accompany me to view what they described as a ‘bunch of rocks’ located inland, in the heat of the day. I thought they were worth seeing, however the cool of the evening, possibly sunset, would have made for a more enjoyable viewing.
Murphys Haystacks

That afternoon we had the uneviable task of packing up camp in 38 deg C heat, in order to leave Streaky Bay and continue our journey toward Western Australia. It was unknown to us at the time, that it we was the beginning of the toughest twenty four hours of our journey so far. We gradually packed up, pausing every fifteen minutes to wash our faces and feet with cool water at the nearby tap and gulp down a cup of water to stay hydrated. We were ever so relieved to finally hook up the boat, shut the car boot and retreat to the comfort of the air conditioned car. We drove out of Streaky Bay, heading further west, toward what lay ahead for us, our first crossing of the Great Australian Bight, the Nullarbor Plain and the lengthy drive along the Eyre Highway crossing the border into Western Australia.

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