We are going to Australia for a 4.5 month trip. We have bought a camper van, a 1985
Toyota Hi Ace. We will not be sleeping in a tent!
We left Portland, Oregon on Tuesday Aug. 30th and arrived in Adelaide, South Australia
on Thursday the 1st of Sept. We were met by our friend Jeffrey and taken to Lobethal,
a small village in the Adelaide Hills where he and Helen live. He and Helen work
as chefs at a very nice brew pub. I had chosen the van over the internet from a
Ebay-like site called Gumtree and Jeffrey had looked at it and approved of it. So
I sent him the money and it was waiting for us when we arrived. We did a practice
setup in the Parking lot of the pub. We had a time getting it licensed. The license
bureau was 40 minutes away in Adelaide and on Friday I went to it and tried to get
it in my name. The lady at the front desk said I needed my passport and my Australian
entry visa as well as having to sign up for an Australian ID card. I didn’t have
my visa with me so I took the pile of papers she gave me and left. By the time I
got back to Lobethal it was too late to go back again. On Monday I was there when
they opened and was about 12th in line at the door. When it opened we all entered
and the lady was being assisted by a young man. They were taking turns helping people
and I drew the man and he asked what I needed and I told him I needed to register
the van in my name. He gave me a numbered slip of paper and sent me into the main
room. About 5 minutes later I was called to a window and gave the lady the filled
out registration paper and paid AUD $571 and walked out with the title in my name.
No fuss, no visa, no Aussie ID card!!! One of the easiest times I have ever had
a licensing bureau.
So after shopping for some food and camping gear as well as good food (from Jeffrey)
and good beer (from Alastair at the Lobethal Bierhaus) we got on the road on Tuesday.
We are very pleased with the van. It cruises at 100-105 kph on flat ground but is
a bit gutless on the hills. But that is understandable as it only has a 2.2 liter
4-cylinder engine (less than ½ liter bigger than our GoldWing). It is the same engine
as was in the 1985 Toyota pickup I had. It is a dependable engine that I put 400,000
k. (250,000 miles) on before I sold it and bought a newer Toyota. The van has a
refrigerator, stove and sink with water pump. The sitting/eating area makes into
a quite comfortable bed and the top goes up to give standing room. It has an awning
on the side and a tent (annex in Aussie) for the back. There is a storage box across
the back bumper for the tent and power cords and other stuff. The steering wheel
is on the right, but the gas and brake (no clutch, it’s an automatic) are in the
same place under the wheel. The problem is the gear shift and the turn signals are
reversed meaning I sometimes signal when I want to shift!
Well anyway we got on the road and headed east to the Lake Mungo NP where the Walls
of China are. Along the way we dropped out of the hills into a fertile plain that
is the southern edge of the Outback.
We crossed the Murray River on a ferry and continued east for a couple more hours.
The weather is good and the driving is easy.
We camped that night, our first and had to figure a few things out, but we managed.
The Walls of China are actually a sand dune. It is the white stripe across the horizon
and, from a distance, does look like a wall. But it is actually a lunette sand dune
(curved like a crescent moon). It is 30+ kilometers long and formed on the edge
of ancient Lake Mungo. Natives lived here 40,000 years ago but it dried up about
15,000 years ago and left this sand dune along the old lake shore.
Today you drive across the lake bed and visit the dune and look at the erosion that
is changing it. The dune is only about 20 meters tall (60 ft.) and the erosion channels
are only about 2 meters (6 ft.) deep. It is like a very mini Bryce Canyon NP in
We are now on a dirt road in the Outback and there really are the famous Road Trains!
And yes, there are really kangaroos here, as well as Emu’s, Cockatoos, pelicans,
some lizards and other wildlife.
Next we headed north to Silverton. This is a ghost town that was a hub of silver
mining in the late 1800’s. Today it is a hotel (tavern), a jail/museum and half
a dozen art galleries. Last is the “Mad Max” museum. Mad Max 2 was filmed near
here, that is the one with the gasoline truck chase. We had camped across the dry
creek from town and walked to and through it. On the way back Kathy had to hunt
for rocks in the stream bed. This being silver/lead mining country there is lots
of quartz around. Long term viewers of our pages know that Kathy likes rock. I
hope she keeps that load down so the our return flight home can get off the ground!
We didn’t buy any art and skipped the Mad Max museum. It was ½ hour until it closed
and $7.50/person to get in. We decided that $15 for a half hour was too much.
That night it rained heavily and this was the campground road to town the next morning.
It is a good thing Kathy got her rocks yesterday. We forded it without problem
and several more flooded low spots on the road back to the main highway. It rains
so seldom that they don’t build bridges in many places, just armor the sides and
let the water flow over the road.
Next on our list is the town of Wilmington. It is about 4 hours west of Silverton,
but we have a head wind, a serious head wind. We plow through it for 5 hours of
tense driving. The roads are narrow for the speed compared to US highways. And
with the van rocking and pulling as the wind gusts hit us it was a nerve racking
But we get there safely and set up camp. As we are kicked back having a beer there
are these very noisy, very pretty birds all around us. There were dozens of them.
Wilmington is a farming town that is dying (dead?) but is the meeting place for the
Annual FarRiders Memorial Ride. Our friend Jeffrey has been a member for several
years. Helen doesn’t go along but may meet him somewhere. The FarRiders are a group
of motorcyclists who like to do Iron Butt Rides. Not just once like we did several
years ago, but repeatedly, time after time, until they have a wall full of certificates.
These are rides like 1000 miles (1600 k) in 24 hours, or the most famous, the Iron
Butt Ride of 11,000 miles in 11 days in the USA. Doing this was where Davo, the
founder of the FarRiders was killed when he hit a deer near the Canadian border 10
years ago. The club has put a plaque at the spot where he took the famous (to FarRiders)
picture that became their logo.
The plaque is near Wilmington and this is the 10th Memorial Ride.
After meeting up in the above photo we all went over the hills to the memorial site
where a ceremony was held in remembrance of the founder and all who ride.
After the ceremony we headed back into the hills for a lunch at a nearby town cafe
and then back to Wilmington hotel for talk, camaraderie and beer. They welcomed
us amidst themselves and we had a good time learning about their rides and they learned
about some of ours. We all like to ride and to do it long distances. Kathy and
I just take more time than they do to cover the same distances.
Today is now Sunday and we have been on the road for 5 days and covered 1.600 k.
(1,000 miles). We are doing some van work, laundry and, of course, updating our
trip pages. Follow along on the next page.