South Australia – Western Australia Road Trip – Day 1

Adelaide to Ceduna, South Australia

With 3 weeks off work scheduled over the Christmas and New Year period Maree & I decided to take a 3 week trip from Adelaide, South Australia over the Nullarbor Plain to Albany on the south coast of Western Australia.

Prior to the trip, we debated long and hard, over many glasses of red wine and long into the night the pros and cons of purchasing an off-road 4 wheel drive vehicle to make the most of the beach and off-road driving experiences out that way.

The photo below shows our purchase, a 2004 Nissan Patrol Y61 loaded with our Giant mountain bikes on the Rhino and Thule roof rack and our wee, cute little Oztrail 6 camper-trailer. What you cannot see is the jumble of “stuff” across the backseat and cargo area of the Patrol. We are learning as we go along!

You can follow each day in the blogs associated with this site and perhaps be inspired to get out into the backblocks where ever you may live.

Saturday 19th December 2015

20:57 East West Motel, Ceduna, SA

So the day I have been waiting for finally arrived. I knew it would, they always do. I have come to understand that more and more as I have aged. It eases my mind these days to know this obvious fact. I think I have been fighting this knowledge for many years – there will always be a time when I can actually do what it is that I am missing.

Anyway, I digress.

The purchase of the 2004 Nissan Patrol Y-61 was completed on Thursday after a lot of running around by Maree. Maree tested a couple to get the feel for them. We viewed a couple and in the end actually went back to the 1st one we thought looked good. We paid AU$16K for it and I think we have a good deal. Although this afternoon we have electrical problems that may manifest into a serious issue, as electrical problems tend to do. We are both very excited to have this new member of our family. I am already thinking of hi-fi sales to buy new gear for the “truck”.

So after making it through the week at work I finally finished at 17:30 on Friday. Adelaide has been very hot of late and so I took the bus on Friday and on the way home pondered the fact that this moment of finishing work on Friday 18th December 2015 had finally come. Of course, I knew it would (see above).

I presented Primetime Jazz on Radio Adelaide on Friday evening dropping some of my favourite releases of 2015 and thoroughly enjoyed it and after much consideration have decided (like much of the jazz media) that Kamasi Washington’s The Epic was and is my top release of the year. Stunning project and music. I took a taxi home, we pottered about packing for the trip for a while then hit the hay around 22:30.

Up at 05:30 on Saturday morning and after 3 hours of more pottering around, dropping things, cursing and swearing, picking the truck and camper trailer we were on the road by 08:30. The temps were probably around 32 degrees at that time of the morning and climbed steadily all day. We experienced a maximum of 47.2F in Port Augusta at midday today. Apparently the hottest day on record for that town. Seriously it was uncomfortably hot when we had the battery charging function checked at Super Cheap Auto in Port Augusta. The wind was blowing strong from the north creating almost unbearable conditions.

Nissan Patrol loaded and ready for the off!

And so the drive?

Adelaide to Port Augusta is flat and primarily wheat or barley agricultural land. I would not recommend this for cycle touring but would take the roads inland from Gawler to Melrose and through the gorge for this section. From Port Augusta the road undulates and is neither predominantly up nor down however again it is mainly agricultural and pretty boring. As the day progressed it became extremely hot. We heard on the radio of fires towards Ceduna but did not encounter any on the trip across the Eyre Highway westward. We did however, encounter a couple of lightning flashes that were uncomfortably close to the truck and for a few kilometres I was slightly scared.


I said to Maree as we headed west

“If we see a cycle tourist we have to stop and chat and ask if they have enough water”

Well, wouldn’t you know just 40km west of the somewhat abandoned settlement of Iron Knob we saw a shimmering image on the horizon that turned into a cycle tourist. We slowed right down and pulled over to the left and as he came alongside we asked if he was OK for water. Initially, he said he was but when we told him that Iron Knob was a deserted ghost town he asked if we had some water to spare. I jumped out of the truck and gladly gave him a 1.5 litre sealed bottle. He seemed appreciative. So his name is Angus and he is on a cycle tour that ends in NZ. Not a full around the world tour but very cool none the less. It was approx 45 degrees F and he was cycling into a headwind. We guessed his destination for the night was to be Iron Knob and he still had a 40km hot, headwind ride to go.

We said our farewells. I found his blog on WordPress and posted a comment. Perhaps we will meet up in Adelaide?



So we continued to head west looking for a place to buy lunch. It didn’t happen. As usual on road trips here in SA we fell foul to the fact that not many places are open on a Saturday afternoon and if they are they will sell only white bread sandwiches or pies. We wanted neither.  We ran through some pretty severe rain showers that had us marvelling at the windscreen wipers and the handling of the Patrol in the wet. At one road T-junction we turned right and as I accelerated out of the junction the rear end fishtailed and I suddenly remembered that the truck was rear wheel drive!

The Eyre Highway across the top of thepeninsular is pretty much devoid of landscape except wheat and barley fields. Beautiful in their own right but 450kms of them become somewhat monotonous after a while. We fed ourselves on nut bars and bananas. We stopped at some small settlement and on checking the truck realised that the sidelights, the dashboard panel light and the rear lights were not working. This also affected the camper trailer lights. After a bit of investigation I ascertained that the 10amp fuse for the rear light was constantly blowing. Not much to do but get to Ceduna ASAP and investigate.


We drove into Ceduna at 19:30 that evening just as the light was fading. The southerly change had come through reducing temps to a pleasent mid 20’s and the air smelt fresh with the rain storms that had rolled through. On arriving at the motel I checked the connections to the camper-trailer as best I could but the fuse blows as soon as the lights are switched on. Could be a massive problem. We have decided to continue to Albany, not drive at night and hopefully have it looked at there. Not much else we can do.

So after 850km our first night ends in a motel. For dinner we have shared a 750ml bottle of Coopers Stout and eaten a “boil-in-the-bag” each. Not exactly how I thought the first day would end, but it could have been worse.

Read Day 2 here as we venture into the mighty Nullarbor Plain.

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