Leaving the Eyre Peninsula behind, we make the journey across to the eastern side of the Spencer Gulf, past part of the York Peninsula and then on to Adelaide. Over the years, I would occasionally come to Adelaide for work, however it was a first time for Celia and the boys and they were all keen to see a little of the city whilst we were there to get the D4 serviced.
As it turned out, Adelaide was a necessary stopover to have the D4 serviced which should see us through to the end of our trip in June or so. It was also necessary to have our D4’s transmission properly tested by Land Rover Engineers to make a call on what the problem may be and a matter we were looking forward to hopefully resolving quickly.
Note: Please scroll down to “Clare Valley” if issues with our D4 if not of interest to you – we have summarise it here purely as a matter of record.
We arrive into Adelaide on a Wednesday afternoon as we had pre-organised to call into Land Rover Adelaide whilst we were towing the T3 so the LR engineers could see the problem first-hand we’d been experiencing as it was much easier to demonstrate whilst under load. We pulled up out front of the new Land Rover facility at Mile End, and scout around for an 8M parking spot and by luck, managed to jag one out the front. Just as we finished parking, two LR people showed up outside Celia’s door with welcoming smiles. After exchanging pleasantries, a test drive took place, the issue quickly demonstrated with the engineer nodding in conformation of the issue which hopefully will make it a little easier to troubleshoot the following day when we were to drop the D4 off for a full service.
After a glorious sunset the evening before at the caravan park on the beach, at 8am the following morning we drop the D4 off and was asked to leave it all day and the nice people at LR drove me back to our caravan park just north of Glenelg. Later that day we receive word of not one, but two identified issues. Transmission (1) and rear diff (2). What was interesting was the technicians found some loose bolt(s) connecting the transmission and retightened these (what they were, we don’t know?) to the correct torsional setting. The rear diff however was suggested to us by LR to be replaced due to “excessive movement” (play) inside the unit had been found. To do so a replacement diff, one had to be flown in from the UK as there was none in the country for D4 as it is a problem rarely seen according to LR. Fantastic (being facetious). (We struck this new problem a little odd as usually the first signs of a differential in trouble is a noise. Our diff was not showing any of the typical signs of a problem before LR pointed this out). The rest of the service went to plan with all oils and filters replaced, new wiper blades and the D4’s software updated too, and they even gave it a tub…!
The following morning, we hitch the van up and drive the 160 odd kms north to Clare Valley and surprisingly, the transmission issue had noticeably improved, but was still subtly there. After further consultation with LR service advisors over the phone some days later, we mutually agree not to do anything with the transmission for now and simply keep a close eye on it. As for the rear diff, as mentioned, this was a bit of a curve-ball for us. After several phone calls to various LR folks, we also decide with the approval of LR to leave it as is and we’ll decide a little further down the road if we wished to have it replaced or wait until after the trip to have it replaced. LR said the diff will not likely fail – they simply become noisier over time and ours was not yet noisy. Benefit of the doubt – we decide to continue and get on with the trip which is our want. All this ‘kerfuffle’ around the D4 niggling issues has been an unfortunate distraction and has wasted a lot of our time by altering our route plans getting to a LR dealer. Suffice to say, the D4 is still running beautifully overall so hopefully these two issues don’t develop and we can continue through the next 3 months without to much cause of concern.
We decided to spend a few days in the Clare Valley area as we had read of the heavy rains that was falling in Central South Australia and up to part of Southwest Queensland. No use heading up to Flinders and then on to Marree only to sit out the reopening of the Birdsville track, so we detour to Clare, specifically Auburn some 20kms south of Clare.
We find a campground at a back of the town’s bowling green and genuine grass tennis courts adjacent to the cricket oval and it was reasonably well priced. We pull in unannounced and they have room for us, but no power sites available – this suits us fine. A lovely site and positioned tight up against some tall pines with a thick ground border of Agapanthus almost on our door step.
The following day we drive out the township of Burra and another 20kms further to a conservation park called “Redbanks”. We read with interest that Redbanks was a good campsite out in the bush so we thought we would make the 55km one-way journey from Auburn to see if we wished to spend a couple of nights there whilst we wait out the rain occurring further north. It was a strange overcast day, no rain and we find the turnoffs to Redbanks off the Burra-Morgan Hwy in good time. The gravel roads were in good shape with little dust and on the way in to Redbanks once off the sealed roads, we only see one other car and two Shingleback Lizards.
We find the campground and it was a nice position but not enticing enough to want to stay overnight for us. The main attraction here was to look for unique fossils that this place is well-known for. Approximately 65,000 years ago, RedBanks was home to Diprotodons, a huge marsupial that weighed between one to two tonnes, often likened to a giant wombat and traces of their existence can still be found at this location. We have a sandwich that Celia made back home and potter around the alluvial Redbanks to see what we could find – nothing of note was the result and as the temps slowly rose, we decide to pack the car and held back into Burra.
Back in Burra, we take a look around the former mining monuments and interesting paraphernalia of yesteryear displayed around town and to also check out the local caravan park which is part of the Burra show ground – camping there is $5 per night. On the way, we noticed a large stone wall along side the road with a rather imposing white goat standing atop of it watching all who goes by like he owns the town. I quickly point the unusual sight out to Celia and the boys and pull over. That’s worthy of a shot I blurt out and we grab our cameras and head on over to where the Goat is looking down staring at us. As we approach approx. 10M away, out of nowhere, a large Emu sticks its head up next to the goat and he too looks at us – like some type of dynamic duo Guard Goat & Emu security team. Well we thought, thats something you don’t see everyday. We take a few frames of them, they were happy to oblige and we all have a wry chuckle at their antics and their interest in our presence. Cleary these two where a little bored before we turned up.
We checked out her campground and it two, dismissed it as another potential stay. It was a very dry and dusty site – maybe cheap, but at least we now have the unusual luxury of lovely grass where we are currently staying.
On the way back to Auburn, we chose a route which zig zags through the back of several pastoral properties and a short cut into the township, Mintaro. It is a small town with a dozen or so buildings and a interesting looking pub on a triangular corner block called the “Magpie & Stump”. It was also the SA long weekend and we expected scores of people to be around, but there where none – this town and many others like it were very quiet for some reason – strange for a long-weekend? We take a shot of the attractive looking pub move on and head for home but not before a quick pass-through Horrocks Winery which was literally 500M from our van-site. We taste and purchased a few wines namely a very surprising Semillon that captured our imagination and unlike the Hunter Valley Semillon’s we know and like.
The next two days we check out more of the Clare Valley and spend a large portion of time with the boys assisting with their schooling to ensure their work is up to date and uploaded for marking. By and large, the boys schooling is going well with both of them earning marks usually in the 90s – sometimes high 90s. We’re very proud of them as in a lot of places we’ve listed, there are so many distractions for them and they still manage to crank out good work when they can stay focussed – sometimes that is the hard part.
The following day, we packed up what we could the night before and were all ready to leave early when I discovered an unusual problem with our Redarc TowPro unit. All of a sudden, it wasn’t functioning and was imitating 3 pink flashes followed by an orange. I reset the unit a couple of times to no avail. Googled some Q&A and couldn’t find anything suitable that might help. We then called TowPro support and a techie confirmed that the unit had developed a glitch and required to be disconnected from the battery by an auto-sparky. So we head into Clare and find the guy TowPro suggested and he fixed it in 10 mins. Fortuitously, the sparky had the same unit and had the same problem so he knew exactly what to do and showed me what to do under the bonnet if it happens again. We leave the sparky and since we were in the lovely township of Clare, we decided to grab some further supplies, go to the butcher and I even had managed a haircut – exciting.
Shortly after, we were on our way again with brakes now working and aimed the GPS to Mt Remarkable via a few wheat-belt towns for a change of scenery.
Mt Remarkable, specifically the Mambray Creek campground, is approx. 50kms southeast of Port Augusta in the southern Flinders Ranges. To stay here you have to pre-book online to camp and choose a spot in advance – we did so from the Clare Valley and decided on site 17. Site 17 was amongst the enormous red river gums (not directly over the site) that form a principle part of the dry Mambray Creek that runs through this beautiful campground. There was plenty of shade, no water in the creek (except for some stagnant pools), large numbers of Grey Kangaroos, with the odd Emu paying you a visit and looking for handouts. We didn’t see many other people here for 3 nights we stayed until on the morning we were leaving with a few bush walkers turning up in their caravans and camp trailers. On the day before leaving, we all did an 8km return walk up one of adjoining valleys to Sugargum lookout.
A beautiful walk, not too difficult, mostly flat, until the last 500M up a steep fire trail to the lookout and false summit. It was a hot and humid day in the low thirties and by the time we reached the lookout was close to midday. On the walk we saw many Kangaroos, Monitors, plenty of different bird species, a couple of Emu’s, two small scorpions and a densely populated field of magenta and purple coloured wild orchids. I took a few shot of these orchids however like a lot of my images these days, all of them we slightly out of focus when cropped as I still use manual focusing camera equipment and my eye (focusing eye) is letting me down in some cases. What I think is in focus, turns out to be not.
On one of the nights we did our customary “bug hunt” around the various trails and pathways. The boys spot and caught many Barking Geckos (10-15cms in length), we saw many Kangaroos, Wallabies, several Wolf Spiders and one Spider in particular which we could not identify as e’d never seen one before, but it was the largest spider I have ever seen with the circumference of his eight legs as large as a bread & butter plate if not slightly larger. We did not take our camera this occasion so we did not get a shot of it unfortunately.
This campground was also without any form of internet &/or Mobile Coverage. We had notice the day of leaving Clare of the wet that had started in central SA but we were none the wiser as to how much had fallen – that is until we made it into Port Augusta early the following day. It was here we learn that our journey from this point was to take a big shift in direction. The Birdsville track rain had closed it after 3″ of rain – but for how long with the visitors centre suggesting a couple of weeks at least and perhaps longer for those towing over 3T which is us. So we bite the bullet and decide to head up the Stuart Highway to Roxby Downs and Andamooka and see if we can access the Oodnadatta track to Marree, then onto Birdsville (via the Birdsville track) from there. If not, we’ll accept defeat on this route and head back up to Alice Springs, Tennant Creek then on to the 3-ways – the long way.
So on we go to Roxby Downs…
Geoff & Celia