Riverside meanders

 The common thread today was the floodplain of the Murray River, where the red gums towered majestically in unusual shapes, depending on the way the floodwaters had shaped them. Sunlight filtered and gleamed on the trunks.  
The township of Tocumwal had been bypassed by passenger trains but the Lions members served us a classic morning tea in the station staff room. Meanwhile, a modern diesel locomotive engine stood ready to cart containers across the river and down to Port Melbourne.   
Rainbow bee eaters fluttered high in the red gums, catching insects. Three paused briefly on a branch and I managed to zoom in on their vivid colours.

 

From a bird hide on Quinn Island, we observed a friar bird attending to its nest, suspended in the shape of a Viking ship and tastefully decorated with blue twine.

  
Further upstream, we came upon a narrow bridge with a three-tonne load limit. David assured me that the Prado weighs only two tonnes, so we were all right. We carefully eased the 4WD over the wobbly planks to the other side.

   
It was the first day of the fishing season and fishers in little tinnies were trying their luck for Murray cod.

 

Kookaburras kept an eye out for edible movement. A platypus wriggled its flat tail in the snags near the riverbank, but I wasn’t quick enough to capture them on record. All about was spring activity.

Seafront rest-day with bronze-wing in Esperance

  
We are in Esperance, on the southern coast of Western Australia. After over five weeks travelling around 8,000km we were ready for time out: cleaning vehicle, van, bedsheets and clothes, strolling along the seafront, uploading photos.

I cooked an omelette for a leisurely outdoor lunch while a bronze-wing kept us company, walking around the picnic table, cooing softly.

  
The Esperance seafront has been tastefully renewed with an eye-catching sculpture of a whale’s tail, warm, red-hued retaining rocks, indigenous planting, creative playground equipment, interpretive signage, seating and paths. The rubbish bins are solar powered! Why? Maybe to illuminate them by night.

   
  At any rate, on this sunny day, the whole town seemed to be playing with their kids, dog-walking, fishing from the jetty, rollerblading, cycling or riding motor scooters. 

  
Offshore islands and ships entering the port further enhance the view. Our caravan park overlooks it this pleasant place to hang out.

A stroll into town introduced us to the relaxed, club-like atmosphere of Dome cafe, with its free wifi.

  
Outside the museum is this intriguing sign:

  
Tomorrow the Prado 4WD will be serviced and we will restock for the return trek across the Nullarbor.

Samantha gets a new home at Cocklebiddy 

A problem with our tyre pump caused a delay in our departure from Cocklebiddy roadhouse two days ago. David joined the wires with the aid of duct tape. It did mean that we got to see Samantha, the rescued wedge-tailed eagle settled into her huge new enclosure. The staff had been working on building it through hail, rain and shine. She flew straight up the tree and settled happily, preening herself

  
We picked up a brochure which explained the dangers that eagles such as Samantha face because they feed on roadkill kangaroos. To flee from oncoming vehicles, they need to take off into the wind, which may take them straight into the vehicle. This is how Samantha lost an eye. These tragedies can be prevented by giving the birds plenty of warning, honking the horn loudly well before the eagle is reached, to allow time for escape. David has attached a sticker with this message to the back of the caravan.

  
We’ve already managed to prevent one eagle being hit using this technique.

Go West young (?) Nomad

The Bunda Cliffs are spectacular limestone cliffs that stretch along the far west coast of South Australia. They have two distinct strata coloured grey above and white below. Near the Eyre Highway are several lookouts which afford a great view of Bunda Cliffs. The coast forms part of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park, protecting the breeding ground of the Southern Right Whale and the habitat of Australian Sealions. The cliffs rise to a limestone plateau which is the treeless Nullarbor Plain. The effect of sea, sky, cliff and blue- green saltbush is soft and spectacular.  

  

   

  
Singing honeyeaters perch atop the bushes. Beyond the cliffs, we crossed the state border and are camped near the deserted ruins of old Eucla Telgraph Station and pier, now home to pied cormorants. The evening light cast long shadows – always a lovely hour for photographing.

   
     

Having a whale of a time on the Nullarbor except for a klepto crow

Leaving Fowlers Bay, we travelled to Nundroo, where we completed another hole of the Nullarbor Links Golf Course.

  

We lunched among attractive saltbush and eucalyptus, before driving across the treeless Nullarbor Plain to the Head of Bight (The Great Australian Bight, that is) to see Southern Right whales who come into the Bight annually to calf.

  
  
Well….Then we came to the roadhouse at Nullarbor where we planned to play another hole of golf and camp for the night. A kleptomaniac crow (Australian Raven to be correct) other ideas -it picked up THREE balls and flew away with them! See the gleam in its eye! We abandoned the game and came back to the caravan park, which is right next to a famous road sign on the Nullarbor.   
  

Sheep droving, deserted beaches, dunes and Tommy Roughs 

Driving west from Squeaky Beach, we passed a flock of sheep being driven along the dusty roadside.   We called in at a coastal development called Eba Point, where we were the only humans on a vast beach. We found a sandstone well, possibly made by the nineteenth century explored Eyre. The sandunes behind the beach obviously teemed with life as they were criss-crossed with animal tracks. A stone circle may have been old or maybe left by recent fisherfolk – we just don’t know. a fence post lying in the sand was covered with large barnacles, even though it was well above high tide. Why?

We continued to Smoky Bay, photographing cormorants, terns and pelicans on the fenced sea swimming pool (put in to protect swimmers from sharks). Locals fished from the jetty and had caught a good haul of Tommy Roughs (Australian herring). The shimmering light made it hard to see the screen of my little camera and I longed for a visual viewfinder. At the Ceduna supermarket, we stocked for our coming journey across the Nullabor Plain.

  
          

Horse-drawn tram, sea, birds and history: Victor Harbour and Goolwa

The coastline from Victor Harbour to Goolwa is steeped in history and affords sea vistas. We crossed the causeway to Granite Island, following the tram tracks of a horse-drawn tramway. 

   
         

Lunch was pies at the Heritage Bakery, Goolwa, where the chef had a range of home-made chutneys. I chose quince. Yum.