Coast to Coast

August 18/19, 2017.  Day 0.  Perth to Rockhampton.  We leave home under torrential rain, it’s cold, wet, windy, miserable, and it’s 10PM.  We’re tired, and all three of us are sick.  This is not going to be a pleasant flight.

At least we got to sleep a bit, the plane is only half full, and we have a full row for us.  We take turns laying on two seats and catching some sleep.  Catching some cold as well, it’s freezing in this aircraft.

Finally, after a quick stopover in Brisbane, we land in Rockhampton.  It’s nice, warm, sunny, all our gear turned out quickly on the carousel and the taxi ride is less than 15 minute to Keith’s, where Troopy awaits.

After three hours of fiddling, the tent is mounted on the roof rack, the fridge slide is in place, all our equipment is loaded and we’re off.  We shoot out to our AirBnB for a rest, and enjoy a quiet night in the Queensland warmth.  We have over 4500km to go, it’s a bit like going from Paris to Bucharest, and back… 


August 20, 2017.  Day 1.  Rockhampton to Theodore.
Start: 218.736
End: 218.990

We left Rockhampton around 1PM, after shopping at Woolworth, Bunnings and BCF, fuel up (180L) and head South on the Bruce Highway.  The ride is comfortable, the V8 purrs along nicely, and the turbo brings a nice change to the predecessor’s flat six.  Brieuc loves the forward facing drive, he’s ecstatic.

We pass funny town names like Dilulu, and Banana.  Tonight we are camping at Isla Gorge.  It’s cold but we love it.  The view is spectacular, there is a cliff over the valley where the sun sets.  Epic.

To add to our wishlist: a bucket, and a tarp or some sort of blanket for Brieuc to sit on while on the ground, he loves to eat rocks and sand.
Distance today: 254km.


August 21, 2017.  Day 2. Isla Gorge to St George.
Start: 218.990 @ 10:15.
End: 219.385 @ 17:00.

It was a cold night but the tent keeps us nice and warm.  Brieuc slept like a log.  The sun rises early and warms the campsite quickly.  Breakfast and pack up.  It takes less than 20min to unpack everything, tent included.  But it takes around an hour to pack it all up.

We continue our course South-West on Leichhardt Highway to Roma.  Lunch at 12PM, we found a bucket, and a tarp.  Yay.  200km further and we’re in St George.  It’s a nice caravan park, we’re one of probably ten cars.  The owner shows a map of the property by the river (a couple of hectares) and offers to pick a spot, anywhere we want.

As soon as Brieuc is sitting on his little tarp, he starts wandering out of it.  He still likes to eat gravel, and pretty much anything he can find.  That includes a kangaroo poo.  

A nice cold beer after a long drive, while the sun sets.  This is living.  I cooked a mean curry too.
Distance today: 395km


August 22, 2017.  Day 3: St George to Bourke.
Start: 219.385 @ 10:00
End: 219.796 @ 16:15

Laundry done, we leave St George under the hot sun.  We head S-W on the Castlereagh Highway towards Hebel, then leave the tarmac for a gravel road, which will shave a good 150KM off our itinerary while allows for pretty much the same speed.

Enter NSW a bit further down the road, we pass a few aboriginal communities, some are nicer than others.  Goododga, then Talawanta, then finally Brewarina.  We’re a bit tired after the dirt road, we opt for a motel.  Bourke has a hotel/pub, that will do nicely.  The rooms are pretty basic but at least they are cheap.  Dinner was awful though, but after our longest day yet, who cares.

There were LOADS of roadkill, we’re pretty much following the stock routes so the ballet of trucks (road trains really) day and night is just constant, and the unfortunate animal that stands in their way…well too bad.  It was still a nice drive through the outback of NSW, we saw eagles, emus, a lot of cows, goats, pelicans, wild pigs, not all dead.
Distance today: 411km.

PS: today is our two years anniversary, we could not have picked a less romantic place though.


August 23, 2017.  Day 4. Bourke to Broken Hill.
Start: 219.796 @ 8:45
End: 220.312 @ 17:30

There is a saying “out the back of Bourke”, well it could not be more true.  The hotel was crap, the bakery was crap, their coffee tasted like dirty water, let’s get out of here ASAP..

A bit more dirt road (300km) then back to tarmac.  More emus, kangaroos, cow, goats.  Lots and lots of goats.  First refuel at Wilcannia, along with lunch.  It’s tarmac all the way to Broken Hill now.

First campsite was super dodgy, we opted for the second.  Along the main road, not very glamorous but at least there is a shower, and a laundry (not only do we camp with a 10months old boy, but we camp with washable nappies !)

Brieuc now crawls everywhere, we have to be careful where he goes to, and what stuff he puts in his mouth.

This is going to be our coldest night yet, they forecast zero degrees (deserts are hot during the day but mighty cold at night).
Distance today: 516km.


August 24, 2017.  Day 5.  Broken Hill to Wilmington.
Start: 220.312 @ 10:45
End: 220.676 @ 16:45

Super cold and windy night, just under two degrees Celcius.  The sun is up early and we’re soon warm again.  Tonight I’m hoping to camp at Hankock’s Lookout, one of my favorite campspots of my 2012 trip.  From memory it’s not very big, but the view from the hill overlooking the desert is just stunning.  Hopefully we can make it, it’s very windy today, we may be too cold up there.

We pass the South Australian border around 11:30 after Cockburn and go 30minutes back in time.  We stop at Peterborough for some groceries, then Orroroo for some meds at the pharmacy, my throat is killing me, and pick up some firewood on the way.

Finally we get to Wilmington but the wind is too cold for camping atop the hill so, we opt for Stone Creek Campground, which turns out to be a little jewel of a place.  It’s super pretty, there is a creek, grass, flowers, birds. Just perfect.  The campfire warms us up and we spend the evening watching the stars.
Distance today: 364km.


August 25, 2017.  Day 6.  Wilmington to Port Lincoln.
Start: 220.676 @ 12:00 !
End: 221.049 @ 18:00

Super late breakfast.  We take full advantage of the camp kitchen which has a lovely wood stove.  We leave at noon, a bit lot later than usual.  We stop again at Port Augusta for more fuel, groceries and in search for milk for Brieuc, we could only take two packs and he’s ran out already.  Problem is, he does not cope well with the supermarket brands, he can only tolerate goat milk, which is a rare commodity, especially in remote towns.  No luck in Port Augusta, he’ll have to make do with cow milk.

Today the cruise control decided to work, it’s a nice feature, especially on the long straights on the Eyre Peninsula.  We reach Port Lincoln at 6PM and decide to treat ourselves with the nicest hotel in town.

As it a matter of fact, the place is super nice.  I chat with the manager’s daughter, who turns out to be ex-Australian champion pro-kite rider Jacqui Hockaday.  She recommends we try the seafood at the pub on the marina.

Well it was mediocre, but at least her hotel is superb.
Distance today: 373km.


August 26, 2017.  Day 7.  Port Lincoln to Streaky Bay.
Start: 221.061 @ 10:00
End: 221.418 @ 16:00

Jacqui tells us about her 15 years of travel and we talk about ours, with kids, and how much we love it.

We head north on the other side of the peninsula and stop a few times on the way to check out the cliffs, and the whales.  The view at Ellisto was superb.

There is a weird roadhouse on the way, near Sheringa.  The place is littered with quirky signs and objects, and the owner (I think) spent the entire time we were there, about 30 minutes, on the phone, with a f-ing this and a f-ing that at every word.  The chips weren’t too bad either.
We get to Streaky Bay by 4PM, refuel and head for the beach to setup camp.  It’s a tad windy but the place is awesome.
Distance today: 357km.


August 27, 2017.  Day 8.  Streaky Bay to the Head of Bight.
Start: 221.418 @ 9:00
End: 221.832 @ 17:30

The wind actually dropped around midnight, the night was quiet and the stars were bright.  The only sound was the waves to keep us company, perfect.
Head for Ceduna, quick shopping, then enter the long long road across the Nullarbor.

We pause at Nundroo, shower, laundry, lunch, and continue on.  The Head of Bight offers a great (free) camping but better yet, a superb National Park to observe the Southern Rigth Wales.  The bay has warm and quiet waters, so around a thousand wales come every winter to mate and give birth before their southerly migration over summer.  We learn the difference between these wales and those “we’re more used to” like the humpback or the grey wale.  They are indeed different, with no dorsal fin, and a V shape blow.  In less than 30 minutes we see close to 15 individuals.  Mostly mums and calves but the odd young bull too.  There were dolphins and eagles too.  This place is amazing.  We’ll come back in the morning.
Distance today: 414km


August 28, 2017.  Day 8.  Head of Bight to Cocklebiddy.
Start: 221.840 @ 11:00
End: 222.312 @ 17:00

Windy and cold night, there is dew this morning so everything is a bit damp.  We spend a good hour watching more wales, listening them sing too.  There’s over twenty of them today, and a couple of penguins too.

We pass the South Australia / Western Australia border around 2PM, and say goodbye to the few remaining fruits and veg we had – quarantine is no joke.  It’s 3PM on one side of the border, then 2:15 on the other side.  It’s one of those odd timezone with 45 minutes difference, but only for a few hundred kilometres then it’s another 45 minutes back again.  Weird, only a handful of towns in that zone too.

Camping in the Nullarbor often means alongside the highway, with trucks passing non stop, wind, and no facilities.  Luckily there is a roadhouse every 200k with a nice-enough motel.  This one, in Cocklebiddy is actually one of the nicest of the lot.  The service is excellent, the food is great, the rooms are clean and the water is hot – that is not always a given.  There’s even a licensed bar !
Distance today: 472km.


August 29, 2017. Day 9.  Cocklebiddy to Coolgardie.
Start: 222.312 @ 8:45
End: 222.889 @ 16:30

This is the least fun part of the Nullarbor.  The longest straight line in Australia, 140 something KM of straight line.  Then another straight, and another.  And another.  Until finally Norseman.  Some form of civilisation.  We reach town by 1PM, get some pretty nice lunch at the only restaurant in town, a very nice Thai tom yum, which even though is spicy, Brieuc seems to enjoy as much as I do.  Back in Port Lincoln, he had a lemon wedge and despite the odd sour face, he kept on munching through, this time the chili flakes did not deter him until a fourth or fifth spoonful.

Claire takes over for the last 150km to Coolgardie, which we reach by 4:30PM, get a decent dinner (honestly the food is pretty nice there) and crash at 8PM.
Distance today: 575km.


August 30, 2017. Day 10.  Coolgardie to home.
Start: 222.889 @ 9:00
End: 223.411 @ 16:00

Last day.  We had the opportunity to do one more day had we taken the Norseman-Hayden dirst road, but the weather forecast was for hail, rain and thunderstorm.  My advise is, don’t listen to the weather forecast.  We should have taken the first road, rather than the boring 6h alongside the water pipe that runs from Mundaring to Kalgoorlie.

It did not rain, in fact it was pretty sunny.  Oh well, at least we get to be home early.
Northam by 3PM, we treat ourselves with an icecream and reach home by 4:30.
Distance today: 523km. 


4680km, ten days, four states.  We could have done more, had we not listen to the forecast.  I wanted to go north of  Broken Hill and go to Birdsville, Oodnadatta and Coober Peddy, which would have been a nice touch.  When I first bought Troopy I, I knew bugger all bout four wheel drive, but I bought a shovel, a compressor, and a water jerrycan, then drove from Melbourne to Alice Springs across the start of the infamous Simpson, along the Oodnadatta track.  It would have been nice to do the same road with Troopy II but they had forecasted some rain, and road closure, which again never came.

Another track I would have loved to do was the Anne Beadell Highway, which runs from Coober Peddy to Laverton, 1400km of dirst and sand, one of the longest track in the country.  Again, not enough preparation.  Oh well, another time.

In conclusion then.  Troopy II is awesome.  I loved the VDJ78 engine, it’s powerful an quiet at the same time.  I also love the extra comfort of the soft seats, electric windows, cruise control (when it works), and the back seat for Brieuc.  Perhaps I miss the simplicity of Troopy I which was a no compromise vehicle, tough, rugged, yet simple.  No electronic, just plain and simple.  Troopy II seems more delicate, I’m sure it’s just the looks, but I am yet to take it “properly” off-road to test it.  And I wonder if I will be able to service it myself, with all the onboard gadgets, is it as straight forward to change the oil filter as before ?

We have some ideas to modify it, first the entire electric system needs re-wiring.  Not only the horn and cruise control don’t work most of the time, but the camera (yes there is a reversing camera) and the fridge plug have a mind of their own.  We also need more lighting, on the back and on the side, for when we’re camping at night.  Enough with the headlamps, I want proper LED on the back and actually see what I am cooking.

Then there will be a water tank fitted underneath the body, for the jerrycans are really not practical.  I saw some nice 60L products that fit just next to the rear differential, low center of gravity, perfect.  Also, I’d like to permanently mount the gas can, so we can leave it on the rear bumber, and not having always to plug-unplug the cooker.  Same for the lights in the tent, enough with the McGyver cables, I would like to pop the tent open, flick a switch, and voila.

Oh and there is so much I want to change in the cabin, but that will take some thinking first (arm rest, cup holder, inverter, map holder, ceiling central console, etc etc).  We’re going to have fun !

Anyways, we’re super happy with the car, it will pass its registration check on Tuesday, hopefully everything is in order, and we can finally go camping every WE, or every time we feel like it.

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