Customer Peter Kinlyside’s Outback Trip-Part 1

Words and images by Peter Kinlyside

Day 1 – Short Run to Maldon, VIC

Just a short trip to start with, ostensibly to show the in-laws the Camper Trailer (hereafter known as the CT). Set up in the paddock next to Ken and Carol’s, out front of Lee’s. Truck ran like a dog on LPG up the hills – 39 L/100 km’s. Filled up LPG at Castlemaine. Had Fish and Chips for dinner at Lee’s, and caught up with the Nicholson family. Cold night, but bed was warm. Complete Campsite – you guys make an awesome unit!

Day 2 – Maldon, VIC to Murray Bridge, SA

Long haul, and got to Murray Bridge around 4:45. Very tired, and put CT up including annex. Truck ran all day on LPG, and got some better mileage across the flats – 31 L/100 km’s. Another cold night, but this time had 240V, so hooked up the little heater in the tent – SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) reckons I’m a genius for bringing it. Next morning, surprised her again by bringing out the dust-buster to clean the grass off the carpet.

Day 3 – Another longish run to Kimba, SA

Heavy work for the truck through the Adelaide hills, 39 l/100 on LPG. Through Adelaide fairly easily, and up to Pt Augusta. Rained most of the way. Country a lot greener than we remember it from the 80’s, and Port Augusta has had a big freshen up since then. Late lunch in Pt A, and then on to Kimba. Got the CT set up just before it started raining again. Ran petrol from Pt A to Kimba, then fed two jerry into the tank. Truck sitting low at the back, so trying to take some weight off the hitch by using the petrol in the jerries – won’t really need them till we head north out of Kalgoorlie.

Day 4 – Short run to Ceduna, SA

Brekky at the servo eatery, nice. Pack up the CT in the rain – not happy, Jan. Drive to Ceduna on LPG, and made it to the outskirts before it run out. On cruise control most of the way, and managed 31 L/100 km’s. Had an electrical issue with the truck – plugged in an iPhone charger, and blew a fuse, which took out the radio, and the UHF. Only thing to do was listen to SWMBO trying to get her 10,000 words in….. Stopped at Ceduna early to fix the fuse. Fuse panel hidden in the left foot well, and gotta do a contortionist act to get up there to get to it. All fixed now – thanks BP for having a good selection of fuses, and comparatively cheap LPG prices.

Set up in foreshore caravan park (in the rain), and place is set up like a forward operating base in Afghanistan – close the gates at 8 pm, barbed wire, and special codes to get in. Maybe they don’t want the locals to use the toilets…? Purchased some camp toasters – the “special” one we had basically dried the bread after 10 mins, but no visible toasting effect.

Still raining – makes things green, but no sightseeing. Only option at this stage is to head where it ain’t raining! Had complaints about no pictures – every shot included windscreen wipers!

Day 5 – Ceduna, SA to Mundrabilla, WA (564 km’s)

camper trailer in the outback

Long day’s run, with a stop in the middle for Whale Watching at Head of the Bight. Saw a fair few Southern Right whales, but I think it was mating season, and they were all swimming circles around female – maybe they were pretending to be Humpy Bumpy whales?.

Stopped at the WA border for quarantine inspection – I’m pretty sure the lady just wanted a good gander at the CT (not really- she did a great job).

Rained on and off all day, but dry when we set up at Mundrabilla – round the back of the servo. Only ones there. Good feed at the roadhouse. No phone or Next G – nice.

No rain overnight, so packed up relatively dry.

coastline and cliffs

Day 6 – Mundrabilla WA to Norseman, WA (637 km’s)

Started early (damned time zone changes vs. body clock). Stopped at Madura for smoko and coffee, and the new owner was out cleaning up the bush to make room for more truck parking. Nice little fire going (burning scrub he’d cleaned up), so had a chat. Then onto the longest straight road in Australia 146.5 km’s…bloody boring.

At Balladonia roadhouse for lunch, and had a quick look at their Museum. Supposedly bits of Skylab that came down over WA… I didn’t tell them that we had a real piece of it at Nurrungar, and that all the pieces found in Aus (except for the piece we had) were shipped back to the US.  Then onto Norseman –curves and hills again, yea!. Met some nice people at the caravan park, with Jeep problems. Front tail shaft uni-joint. Might take 5 days to get a part here from over East… so offered to take him to Kalgoorlie tomorrow if he needs to pick up a hire car there. Will see what transpires in the morning. Ran LPG and ULP today, and was crippled by the prices in Norseman. $1.68/l for ULP not too bad, but $1.13 for LPG nearly required oxy-viva support. 637 km’s cost me $219… lucky I sold the Mazda before coming away.

Day 7 – Norseman, WA to Leonora, WA

quarry in australia

Rained overnight at Norseman, so packed up wet AGAIN – getting mighty sick of the weather, so decided to head north quicker than expected. Gary (bloke with the busted Jeep) didn’t need a lift to Kal, so took off about 10 am. Quick stop at Kalgoorlie for juice (LPG$1.12/L – ouch), and a look at the Super Pit mine – wow! Big Hole!. Make a wonderful tip when it’s finished.

Got the CT dirty going north, with all the mud on the road from the mine trucks. Rained during the morning, but just cloudy in the arvo. Set up at Leonora Caravan Park – lovely little spot. More guided tours of the CT for the long-termers. Hopefully that’s the last of the Melbourne winter weather we brought with us…

Day 8 – Leonora, WA to Meekatharra, WA

towing off road camper trailer

Good night’s sleep for a change, but up early with the trucks starting in the yard next door – haven’t these guys heard of noise pollution and EPA rules? Packed up easy, and off up the road towards Leinster, looking for some coffee/tea and muffins for morno’s – no such luck. Mining town, basically closed on Sundays. Oh well, we’ll try Wiluna for lunch.

Big mistake. Calling it a town is a misnomer – more like a war zone with a school. Everything abandoned or boarded up with steel bars. We evacuated AQAP, and had lunch on the road.

A good bit of red dirt between Wiluna and Meeka –  a few bog-holes, but most of them could be detoured around. Only 3 vehicles coming the other way in 180 km’s, and much more fun than boring tarred roads that are dead straight. Weather is finally turning for the better. Cloudy in the morning but patchy sunshine in the afternoon, and considerably warmer. Fuel economy on petrol strangely improving, from 30 L/100 km’s at the start of the trip, to 19-20/100. Lots of flat roads, and cruising at 90 km/hr, but I also think the donk just needed a good, long run to get the spider-webs out…

Meeka Caravan Park is “basic” in the extreme…. Red mud everywhere, half the sites aren’t usable, and the facilities are transportables….looking for some takeaway for dinner, but might have to go with the option of a few ½ SADCPGNI’s (Half Scotch, Diet Coke, Pot Glass, No Ice) first…

Day 9 – Meekatharra, WA to Newman, WA

giant quarry truck

Not a good night a Meeka Caravan Park – right next to BP Truck stop, and road trains stopping and filling up all night, with cattle on board. Never again – Camping on the side of the road would be better.

More straight roads – think I might need a screen saver for the Hema Navigator. Some HUGE oversize trucks on the road, carrying buckets for mine excavators, etc. 8.5 metres wide, Police escorts, pilots, get off the bloody road! Interesting coming up behind two, and listening in on the UHF while they talk through the passing process between pilot, oncoming trucks, vehicles coming up behind, etc. They use floodways (wider road surface) to pass. Wondering what would happen with two 8.5m loads coming in different directions?

Got to Newman around 1:30 pm, and did a basic setup on the Newman CP – much nicer than Meeka, then went into town to do some shopping for fruit, veg, meat, and the essentials (more red wine for SWMBO, and more SADC and coffin nails for me). Went to Visitor Centre to get some hard copy info on the Pilbara region, and toilets were busy, so found somewhere else to go – see picture.

Clouding over again, but definitely warmer. Going to attempt the Newman to Marble Bar road tomorrow – it’s Open with Caution. Tipping I’ll need a car wash at Port Hedland. On petrol all day, and 19 L/100 km’s (good). Low fuel light was on for the last 50 k’s into Newman (but I still had a full LPG tank and 2 jerries of ULP – 7P’s). Found a hardware store in Newman, and built a drying line inside the tent. Pumped the spare 25 litres of Melbourne water into the main tank, and filled the spare container with Newman water.

Day 10 – Newman, WA

Started raining at 3 am, therefore the road to Marble Bar will be closed. Decided to have a rest day in Newman. Washing and drying (those jeans really were able to stand up by themselves), fixing 12V reticulation in the truck, sorting out a new toolbox.

Day 11 – Newman to Port Hedland

At last, some scenery to look at. Still a fair few long flat roads, and still a lot of oversize loads and road trains, but some good views of mountain ranges along the way. Auski roadhouse was a good stop for loo, but no chocky bars, thus on to Port Hedland. Arrived about 3PM, and with excellent directions from Erin, straight to hotel – Ibis Styles. Bungalow room with beach view, very nice. Down to South Hedland to wash the truck and trailer, but not  a very good job – too expensive. Hit the Ibis bar, then dinner in the restaurant with Erin and Jase – excellent meal and great to catch up. Early to bed.

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