Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 51: Life Without an ATM

January 4, 2011

Coffin Bay National Park stretches its long leg 50kms up the shores of the Eyre Peninsula, but most of it is only accessible by 4WD track. Again, I feel torn by my instinct to explore and the growing weariness that beckons us home. We drive on the limited bitumen roads within the park to look-outs that reveal long vistas of rugged coastline to the north and undulating yellow sand dunes to the south. We opt for this more conventional tourist path instead of the more adventurous tracks with their offshoots of hiking trails. We must be getting tired.

As we head back north up the Eyre Peninsula, I suggest we work out where to get our next lot of cash to get us home. With high petrol prices and the long drive down the peninsula, our reserves are dwindling. The Bendigo Bank teller in Alice Springs gave us a list of South Australian branches, but as I run my finger down them I can’t find any along our travel route. In fact, I can’t find any Bendigo Banks until we get to Albany, some 1800kms away. I count our money while Johan figures out how much we’ll need to get us to our next banking opportunity. We’re $20 over his estimation, but that only covers fuel. What about food, caravan parks, or the potential break-down? Life without an ATM machine can be very demanding. It certainly requires a whole new way of organizing ourselves.

Perhaps my sullen mood throws a shroud over the landscape but the long brown wheat fields appear bland and vaguely annoying as we drive north. I feel cheated, hoping for something more magnificent to justify our expenditure of a tank and a half of fuel to explore the Eyre Peninsula. Was it worth the 600km detour off the main highway that will lead us home? Mostly I’m miffed that we didn’t plan better, figure out our cash requirements before we flit off into the unknown. It’s no one’s fault; we just haven’t learned yet how to live a cash-based existence.

The featureless landscape improves somewhat when stone walls appear, winding low through paddocks. There must have been a lot of Scotsmen about in the mid-19th century when these walls first appeared because that’s what it reminds me of, the Scottish countryside. Small towns, only a few houses, a church and a cemetery ringed by shady trees, come and go. The tiny town of Colton offers a tempting sign: “Fresh wood-fired bread ahead”. We stop and discover a stall next to an old sandstone house with Open signs hung across the front and sides. A menu advertises the appetizing range of bread and an information panel describes how the bread is baked to old-world standards. Behind sliding glass windows are three rows of wooden shelves holding half a dozen loaves. Just inside the window is a small unchained coin box. We deposit $3.50 for one loaf and take a round crusty multi-grain.

Just down the road a small brown sign signals the Talia Caves: Geologically Spectacular. Who could pass that up? We take a left off the main highway and follow a 5km dirt road to the coast. A well-constructed wooden stairway zigzags down the limestone cliff to long flat rocks at the water’s edge. Back into the cliff a huge cave opens up, sitting roughly underneath where our car is parked. It is indeed spectacular, formed over millennia of battering waves carving away at the soft underlying limestone. Just as alluring are the deep round rock holes full of colorful sea flora and fauna. Some are nearly two meters deep and less than a meter wide. They remind me of kaleidoscopes I loved looking into as a kid.

The first camping option is the town of Venus Bay, but the caravan park resembles a swap meet full of tents, caravans and camper trailers crammed side by side with no trees. At least there are water views for some. A further 18kms along is Port Kenny, an unassuming fishing village on the edge of Venus Bay. The rundown caravan park greets as you enter town and it looks like we’re their first customers for the night. There’s something strangely appealing about this frumpy little place, so neglected by mainstream tourism. Again, it reminds me of a coastal village in the far north of the British isles, authentic and rustic and entirely unpretentious about its natural beauty.

A dirt track across the highway from our camp takes me to the shore of the bay. At low tide, it’s an easy walk across the flat hard sand with not a soul in sight and plenty of birds to keep me entertained. Across the bay is the southern edge of the Venus Bay Conservation Park and beyond that, the town of Venus Bay where holiday makers swarm the beaches with motor boats and bikes, fishing rods and a hundred people intent on making merry. This side of the bay, it’s just me and three super-sized pelicans combing the beach.

 Roadside break shop, Colton

Talia caves and rock pools

Port Kenny caravan park

Port Kenny on Venus Bay

Pelicans at low tide

1 comment:

  1. Wat een trip en wat kom je tegen.
    Ik volg jullie via google earth.