Chapter Fourteen.


Inside the cabin there was just a bed and a chair. There wasn’t even a side table and a copy of the bible, let alone a TV and a wash basin. After having spent a night there I moved to the motel just up the road. It must have been low season, as most of the motels had signs out the front attempting to encourage prospective customers with discounts. Most were in the range of $45 to $50 a night. With such good deals going on motel rooms it was time to get down and do some work. I took a room for two nights at the Pine Grove Motel at $48 a night. I switched on the air-conditioning and got out my PC and set up a little office for the next two days. Once I connected to the internet and opened my emails, I found that nobody had noticed that I wasn’t in the office. I replied to clients’ emails, always apologising that I was a day or two or sometimes three days late in getting back to them. I’d just tell that that I’d just come back from a three day get-a-way and had had a fantastic time. At least I was telling them the truth although it may be somewhat fudged. I wondered if at times I should tell them the truth, that I was on a trip around Australia in a classic car and did my work by stopping off at motels and connecting to the internet every few days. There was always that nagging thought in the back of my mind that if I told them the truth they may not take me seriously and not want to do business with me. Life, work and business are serious things to most people. As if one is not supposed to have too much fun while they are working or doing business. If you do, it is often thought that you are not serious about work and business. Maybe in time to come attitudes will change, but while cheques were still arriving from my clients I took no chance in trying to convince them otherwise.

            From Ceduna the main highway around Australia runs through to Port Augusta via Wudinna.  The alternative number one, the Flinders Highway, runs along the coast via Port Lincoln and Whyalla. My wish was to see more of the Eyre Penninsular, so I kept to the coast road.

            My first stop was the small town of Streaky Bay, an hour and half’s drive from Ceduna. As I drove into town a headland jutted out to sea on my right hand side. Two story homes were being built over Eyre Peninsular looking the ocean. Streaky Bay seemed a long way from the real estate boom that was happening in the big cities, but it had obviously reached here. Similar to just about all seaside towns in South Australia Streaky Bay was at one stage a port for shipping grain. But today the grain all goes by truck. But the wharf is used by the local fisherman. As usual, it was a fine sunny day, a Sunday and all the shops and businesses were closed, except the take-away food stores and the pub. Families were taking a walk out along the wharf while the kids swam and paddled about in the enclosed swimming area. The town had a sense of character and a feeling of years gone by. I purchased fruit and bread from the local grocery store and sat under a tree down by the wharf to enjoy the atmosphere of the place while I made a cup of tea and ate my lunch.

            I stopped by the local service station and filled up with petrol and chatted for a while with the book keeper who was doing her books at one of the tables in the restaurant.

I told her I liked her town very much. She was keen to tell me of her dislike for what the council were planning to do.

            “They want to pretty the town up for tourists. You won’t believe it but they want to plant Norfolk pine trees along the waterfront! This is mallee country, Norfolk pines look nice but they aren’t a natural part of the landscape. I think towns should be as they are, so that when tourists come in they can see the people and the place as it really is instead of covering the town with make-up. Anyway, tourists spend time in town not just because of its beauty but also because of the people who live there, its character, the atmosphere or whatever that secret ingredient is,” she said.

            “I can’t agree more with you. The natural feel of the town is its true blessing and the want to ruin it. Are you having a real estate boom here? I saw the new homes being built on the headland when I drove in,” I told her.

            “It’s mainly retired people in their sixties who are building them. Why on earth would anyone in their sixties want to build a two story home beats me. I’m nearly fifty and sometimes I think the world is going mad.”

            “You should come over to the east coast!” I told her.

            She was one of those people that I could’ve talked to all day if I’d had the chance. But she’d come in to work on the books, not talk to tourists, so I bid her farewell and went on my way.

            I made a stop at the small town of Port Kenny before stopping the night Old church on the Eyre Peninsular at the hotel at Elliston. The hotel had a dining room with the usual fish and steak dinners with salad and chips. The menu seemed a bit too filling, so I ventured out across the road to a small fish and chip shop. They had the usual fare of cooked and fresh fish, and the owner was working the shop when I walked in. He took my order for a piece of fish and no chips.

            “Why don’t you try some of our battered oysters?”
            “That’s not something I’ve heard about or seen before in fish shops. It sounds sacrilegious to coat something that is so delicious taken straight from the sea and dip it in batter and fry it in cooking oil,” I told him.

            “Oysters are plentiful around here. Here, try one.” as he dropped an oyster covered in flour and water into the hot cooking oil.

            “How do you get them to hold together?” I asked him.

            “Ah, that’s a secret that I solved after much research.”  

He left it in the hot oil for a minute and pulled it out with the wire scoop and placed it on a piece of paper and passes it to me. I let it cool and took a bite.

            “Hmmmm, not bad, tastes good but I still prefer the uncooked variety. But you can cook a few up for me I’ll have them with the fish” I felt a little conned by his manner on how he’d sold me the extra oysters. But hey, who cares the guy deserved the sale. He was a good salesman.

            With a piece of fish and three battered oysters for dinner I walked down to the old jetty and found a picnic table under some Norfolk pines and ate my dinner as the sun went down. The sea gulls scurried around fighting over the little crumbs of oily batter.

            Next day I drove into Port Lincoln, a two hour’s drive, arriving there before midday. I set up my tent at the Kirton Point Caravan Park with a perfect view over Boston Camped in Port Lincoln S.A Bay looking out to Cape Donington lighthouse and Boston Island. I felt rather proud of myself, I’d found a camping spot with the best view since leaving Ballina. With my tent set up, I got out my camp cable and set up my kitchen and dining room. I stood back with the camera, tent, camp table and Hewie with a great background. It all made a nice picture.

            First discovered by Matthew Flinders in 1802, Port Lincoln originally started out as a resting place for sealers and whalers. As more grain growers settled in the Eyre Peninsular, the town gained importance as a grain shipping port. A jetty was built in 1875. But today the town is known for tuna fishing and multi millionaire tuna fishermen. The Japanese have been known to pay up to $40,000 a tonne for specially handled top quality tuna.

I drove into town picked up some food, had a haircut and went down to the jetty to inspect the tuna boats moored alongside the grain handling facilities. The large size of the steel vessels was in a direct contrast to the small wooden vessels that fished for prawns along the east coast of Australia. This was certainly big business!

While on the wharf, a gust of wind and rain washed the wharf and boats down. I wondered if the gust had hit the caravan park as I stood sheltering from the wind and rain in Camped in Port Lincoln S.A a workers shelter. I drove back to the park. I found my tent that I had tied between two trees with the tent pegs pulled out of the ground and the canvas blown around and around the rope that held it up. The mattress, chair, camp table and stove were all blown over into the next camp area. Everything was soaking wet, including my sleeping bag.

I went back to the office and booked into a cabin just a little way passed the camp site. Pure luxury compared to what I been used to and I now had my own kitchen and a room containing four bunk beds.

The cabin was comfort to which I quickly became accustomed. I spent the next few days in Port Lincoln before setting off, this time to the steel city of Whyalla. It was wet and chilly the on morning I left and almost thought about staying another day. But once I’d packed up and was back on the road again, I felt at home. I drove north along the Lincoln Highway, the rain clouds soon disappeared and I was left with a cool, bright sunny day. I’d covered about 80 kilometres when I started to feel tired. Rather than nod off at the wheel I turned off the highway into the small town of Tumby. There were a few shops, including a bakery where I bought an apple slice and drove down to the town jetty. I sat in Hewie and looked out over the waters of the Spencer Gulf. The sun was still rising from the east. It was quiet, I was warm and comfortable and so fell asleep.

I was asleep for an hour when I awoke with a fright. I thought I’d fallen asleep while at the wheel. A scary experience, but still better than waking up in Morrie heaven.

Back on the highway again, I spent the rest of the day heading north to Whyalla arriving there in the mid afternoon. I’d thought the main street of Whyalla would be a busy shopping and business centre, much like other Australia steel cities, such as Wollongong and Newcastle. But it wasn’t. The main street was quiet and on the extremities of the town, many stores and hotels had closed. There weren’t many people Whyalla steelworks S.A around. Everything was covered in the fine red dust, the residue of the iron ore mined at Iron Knob fifty kilometres northwest of Whyalla and railed into the steel works in Whyalla. I headed up to the lookout at the back of the town to overlook the steelworks. And an impressive site it was. The buildings are all red brown, in fact everything was red brown. This red brown human creation contrasted against the brilliant blue clear sky. Whyalla steelworks S.A I sat there for an hour or so appreciating and taking pictures of the view. I suppose some people would see the steel works as ugly. But to me, the whole scene was beautiful.

I headed around to the Kirton Point camping and caravan park and set up my tent overlooking the Spencer Gulf. As the sun set the wind that had progressively increased Whyalla steelworks S.A in strength during the day was now blowing at near gale force from the east. I tied the tent between Hewie and a tree. But the wind blew hard in off the Spencer Gulf during the night. I thought at times it would pick up the tent.

By sun up the next morning the gale had blown itself out to a light breeze. I set off and arrived in Port Augusta on the northern extremity of the Spencer Gulf after an 80 kilometre drive. The city of Port Augusta is the crossroads Bedford camper of Australia with roads heading north to Alice Springs and Darwin, west to the Nullarbor and the Eyre Peninsula and Perth and east to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and of course, south to Adelaide.

            Last time I was in Port Augusta was back in 1969. I’d hitch-hiked over from Sydney and had decided to continue my journey to Perth by train. At that time the transcontinental standard gauge railway had not long been opened. Back then, I was keen to ride on the new crack passenger train the Indian Pacific. I’d arrived in Port Augusta two days before the train was due to depart, so I set up “camp” in the passenger waiting room. On my way into town I stopped by the station to relive old times. Nothing had changed, it appeared as if they hadn’t even given it a coat of paint since the last time I was there 35 years ago. The small café was still in existence. I sat down at a small table, covered with a plastic tablecloth and ordered a railway pie and a cup of tea.

In the middle of town I found the Flinders Hotel and stopped by to ask about a room for the night. 

“Rooms without their own shower and toilet are $25 a night and rooms with shower and toilet are $45. The $45 a night rooms are in our new motel section” said the barman.

I went out to the motel rooms and found that they had been built on the back of the old hotel. Not only were the rooms new, so was all the linen and furniture. There was also a phone sitting on the side table next to the bed. It was a stinking hot day, so I thought I’d bring my PC in and do some work in air-conditioned comfort.

“I’ll take that room thanks mate,” I said. I then paid him the $45. I went back to the room and set up my PC and tried to connect to the internet. But it wouldn’t dial out and I kept getting the error – no dial tone. I probably just need to get them to connect me to an outside line, I thought to myself. I called reception, but didn’t get an answer. The barman was basically doing everything from running the bar, collecting glasses, and acting as a receptionist, answering the phone and selling accommodation. I walked back around to the bar and asked him if he could connect my phone to an outside line.

“Nah mate, can’t do that. The boss had the phone system disconnected so that people couldn’t call from their rooms. There’s a public phone over there if you want one” I looked down the hallway to a public phone hanging on the wall.

“Why’d he do that?” I asked.

“Too many people staying in the rooms ran up big phone bills and then pissed off without paying, so he just had it all disconnected”

“Easy as that?” I said.

“Yeah mate, easy as that”.

That was a lesson. If you really need a phone, check to see that it works before handing over your money. If it had of worked I’d had stayed an extra day and caught up on my work. I spent the afternoon doing a walking tour of the town, finishing the day with a steak dinner and a pint of beer on special for just $5 at one of the other pubs in the town. There were no lack of pubs in the town and when you add together the other clubs that also sold food and alcohol, it was obvious that the pubs were selling their food for as low as they could so that people would come in, eat and hopefully spend the rest of the evening there drinking.

Next morning I continued on down the eastern side of the Spencer Gulf to Port Germein which is about 20 kilometres north of Port Pirie. Port Germein now has a population of around 200 people. The town was Port Germein S.A once much larger as it was a major wheat shipping port up until the 1940s. The wheat was loaded aboard the sailing ships from the towns jetty which is said to be the longest in not only South Australia but the whole southern hemisphere. I stopped at the parking area in front of the jetty looking out over the Spencer Gulf. Some locals came over to have a look at Hewie and ask if I’d come all the way from the east coast in “her”. I told them that “she” was a “he” A Dutchman told me how he’d emigrated to Australia from Holland back in 1963. He’d lived in Sydney for a few years before moving to Brisbane, then down to Melbourne, Perth, a while in Darwin, then Adelaide, Port Pirie but had finally come to settle in Port Germein

“I’m like you, I’ve been everywhere” he said.

“What bought you to Port Germein?” I asked.

“I was in Adelaide and landed a job in Port Pirie. We, my wife and I  lived there while we were working. But when I retired we moved up here. Port Pirie is only 20 kilometers away. It looks a lot further looking at its skyline from here.”

We looked towards Port Pirie where the large chimney of the smelter stood and a faint outline of the city could be seen.

After they’d all told me their stories of how they all once owned a Morris Minor or they had a relative who did, they wished me the best of luck with my trip and moved on. Just behind me was a caravan park and campground, I checked in and set up my tent and then walked to the end of the jetty, returning to the only pub in town, the Continental Hotel for a meal in their classic old dining room.

Next morning I drove down to Port Pirie. The city’s reason for being is based on the huge quantity of ore which comes from Broken Hill and which is smelted into lead, silver and zinc. The other major industry in this industrial city is the storage and transport of wheat.  Most travellers would probably give this industrial town a wide berth. The chimney that you can see from miles away, is the first sign that you’re headed to what could be a busy industrial city. But the town has some interesting history and some classic old architecture on the city’s main street. I called in and spent a couple of hours at The Railway Station Museum. That was the first railway station in the city, a new one having been built at the opposite end of town in recent years. But this didn’t last long as a railway station. Since buses took over from trains it’s now another museum and houses the tourist information centre. The station has the last passenger train between Adelaide and Port Pirie still sitting at platform one. The city was having its annual Christmas parade and the station was being used for a covered market, local craft and industry display center. Members of the local Classic and Vintage Restorers Club were there with their cars which included a 1953 Morris Minor. I couldn’t find the owner, so I didn’t get to find out if it was powered by a side-valve engine or not.

After having done a tour of the town, it was time to move on again. Adelaide was just 230 kilometres away. I thought that I’d drive until I got to the outskirts of Adelaide then find somewhere to stay or camp for the night. After a two and an half hour’s drive I reached the outer suburbs. Hotels and campgrounds were few and far between. I stopped off at a couple of pubs and a motel but they were all full. I continued on and soon found myself in the middle of the city. I didn’t have a good map of the city but found a sign pointing to the seaside suburb of Glenelg. I headed in that direction. Glenelg is also a popular holiday destination, so there’d be plenty of places to stay. It was now well after dark so a motel or a room at a pub was on order. But every motel I came across had the “No Vacancy” sign lit up out front of their establishments. I stopped by a pub and asked about a room.

“We’re full mate, in fact I think you’ll find it hard to find a room anywhere in Adelaide this weekend,” said the barman.

“What’s the occasion, school holidays?”

“Nah, the cricket is on.”

I went back out to Hewie and did another spin around the suburb - just maybe there was a motel I had missed. I came across one with a large sign out front “Corporate Rates” I walked up to the main entrance and rang the door bell – no answer. Then I rang it again and again. A woman came along and stopped, got out of her car, came over and also pressed the button. Nobody came out. She said she’d made a booking there, rang a few more times, then got back into her car and drove off in disgust. I went back to Hewie made myself as comfortable as possible and went to sleep for the night.

                                          Chapter 15