3 to 9 October 2019
Port Augusta to Kimba, 158km
to Ceduna, 314km
to Streaky Bay, 113km
We hadn’t thought much about where we’d go after Uluru other than we intended to make our way to Adelaide to catch up with some friends we made when we were sailing in Montenegro. It turned out that Anna and Michael (affectionately known as the Sissies due to a predictive text error) were planning a short holiday with Anna’s sister and family on the Eyre Peninsula. It was only a short (in Australian terms) detour en route to the city so we agreed to meet them in Streaky Bay.
Driving from Port Augusta we took the Eyre Highway named after another of Australia’s European explorers. We’ve nearly got the full set now, the Sturt Highway from New South Wales to South Australia, the Stuart Highway all the way up to Coober Pedy and the Northern Territory and the Lasseter Highway to Uluru.
As we drove along yet another dead straight tree lined road, we tuned in to the local radio station. The news was all about a coming heatwave. “It must be us” said Stefan “Queensland gets the worst forest fires. New South Wales is in horrible drought and South Australia is getting the hottest Spring temperatures on record.” It certainly seemed that Australia’s extreme weather was following us around.
We stopped in Kimba which for such a small town (population 1057) has not one, not two but three photo opps. Kimba is geographically the point halfway between Sydney and Perth and also has a beautiful silo mural as part of the Silo Art Trail. Best of all though, it is home of the Big Galah which went straight to the top of our favourite Big Things chart. Apparently the galah has been deemed female after some joker snuck in and planted an egg at her feet!
There is no escaping that this is wheat country and it was such a lovely little town that we decided to stay the night in the local council’s free camp site. It was only later that we learnt that Kimba is currently a community divided by the proposal to build a nuclear waste dump in the district. A woman we met a couple of weeks later in the camp kitchen at Coffin Bay had already moved out with her parents due to leave shortly.
We continued along the Eyre Highway passed small towns, all identical to Kimba with the high street parallel to the highway and the railway and great grain silos towering above the single storey buildings. We stopped for a cup of tea at Poochera, home to not strictly a Big Thing but the dinosaur ant, a rare and primitive species of ant that lives locally and thankfully isn’t as big as the sculpture at the rest stop. Peter’s Humpy nearby was a shack built in the 1920s out of kerosene tins and lived in by reclusive stockman, Peter Sheridan.
To kill a couple of days before our reunion we stopped at Ceduna in a wonderful caravan park tucked under the dunes beside the Southern Ocean. As well as being pretty, the dunes provided excellent shelter against the very strong winds that were accompanying the unseasonally hot weather that had swept in.
Completely coincidentally (again!) we found ourselves in town in time for the annual Ceduna Oyster Festival. With the very strong winds threatening to bring down the marquees we stayed only long enough to test out their claim to the best oysters in Australia. Having no previous experience of oysters, I couldn’t possibly say but my first taste of the slimy seafood was certainly good. We also got to see our first of coastal South Australia’s jetties. The jetty (jiddy in Australian!) was historically important for transporting goods but now provides a more recreational fishing opportunity. We quickly learnt that the simple jetty was a key draw in every coastal spot we stopped in.
After watching a beautiful Southern Ocean sunset from the top of the dunes with our campsite neighbours we spent the next day sheltering from some extreme weather. With temperatures up at about 40 there was nowhere better to hide than the camp kitchen which offered important shade but even more important fly screens. We were joined by Ros and Al from Victoria, who were heading west with their camper trailer. We spent several very happy hours just chatting with them about life, the universe and bowel screening and parted with a promise to look them up when we get to the Mornington Peninsula.
Having a much shorter (113km) journey compared to Anna and Michael’s 700km drive from Adelaide (after work!), we arrived at the campsite in Streaky Bay ahead of them and got a prime foreshore spot just above the waterline. It was almost like being anchored in the bay itself.
Once they arrived we wasted no time in getting reacquainted and the next day headed off in convoy to explore, this time in cars not boats but never far from the sea.
After the short lived heatwave, the weather had taken a turn for the grey and windy but that just made the rugged Southern Ocean coast all the more dramatic. We went in search of the Whistling Rocks and the Blowholes. The Rocks did whistle for us but the waves were in the wrong direction for the blowholes and they (and we) stayed dry.
At Point Labatt we got as close as we were going to get to the sealions – looking down on them from the cliffs above. There was quite a sizeable if lazy colony lying around on the beach in various groups, young pups playing at the waters edge, and thousands of seabirds on the rocks.
In full wetsuits the three families and Michael went off for their wildlife encounter at Baird Bay. (When we caught up with them later and asked them how it was communing so closely with the sea creatures they all said in unison “it was freezing”!)
Whilst they were freezing in the water with the sealions, we cleared space in the back of Tick for a passenger and Anna hopped in for a drive to some of areas other attractions.
The granite inselbergs known as Murphy’s Haystacks sprout from the fields in fantastically high and weathered shapes.
Port Kenny and Venus Bay lay claim to the best prawns in Australia although the boats were silent on the jetty and the fishing purely recreational when we visited. The calm, shallow, crystal clear waters of the bay were in sharp contrast to the waves and rocks of the open sea.
With Anna and her sister Mika, and her dogs, we took a walk around Streaky Bay. The spring flowers and grasses were beautiful and Stefan got up close and personal enough to this shingle back to be shown its blue tongue!
Hanging out with Anna’s niece and nephew beside the sea was great fun. Watching cricket games on the sand, exploring at low tide for crabs and snails and converting these Aussie kids to “English” porridge (made just with water – shhh! don’t tell them!) when they came over for breakfast passed a very laid back few days.
But best of all was being reunited with the Sissies. We instantly clicked back into a familiar routine of sundowners, shared dinners and neighbourly fun. It was just that we didn’t have to swim or dinghy over to see them, just stick our heads out of our tents! We quickly made plans to spend some more time with them at home in Adelaide.
In between we had some more of both the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas to explore…