In one of my previous posts (“Kelpies Vs Border Collies”) I had mentioned that I was a fan of the Australian TV series “McLeod’s Daughters”. MD’s first episode aired back in 2001 when I was about 12 years old. From memory it was on every Wednesday night and it was the only night that I was allowed to stay up past my bed time on a school night. Over the 8 years that it aired I never missed an episode and absolutely loved the strong female roles, watching those beautiful long legged black and tan dogs work sheep and cattle with ease and I loved the idea of being able to work outside, in the elements, riding horses, fixing fences and just working hard! McLeod’s Daughters is the reason that I ended up working in the agricultural industry, showing us women that we can do anything we put our minds to regardless of what others may think or say.
So when I heard that three of the actresses from the show were having a reunion in the town where the show was filmed, Freeling South Australia, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to meet three of the lovely ladies that were just some of the big female influences in my life (my mum and grandmother being the main two). I also thought it would be great opportunity to see the area the show was filmed and to try and get some good photos. I didn’t want to go on my own though (that whole comfort zone thing again) so decided to bring my 17 year old niece along with me who is also a fan of the show (possibly influenced by me).
I decided to make a week of the trip and set out a rough map (lets face it, road trips don’t always go to plan, something we learnt the hard way). Here is a day to day account of how our McLeod’s Daughters road trip went, with photos!
Saturday 30th September 2017
The first day started with the dogs and I leaving Glenmaggie and picking Maddi up on the way through Melbourne. My intentions were to camp at Wannon Falls for the night (on the western side of Hamilton), this meant that we would be travelling by the family, near Ballarat. This called for a lunch stop with the family at Clunes and watching the first quarter of the AFL grand final (I have to admit, I’m not much a footy fan so I wasn’t that interested in it). It was great catching up with the family though, as always, and it was a great way to split the trip up for the first day.
Wannon Falls is a three hour drive from Clunes and as it got to 3pm I thought it best to hit the road again, hoping to get to camp before it got too dark. I also decided to make the most of having an L plater on board and got Maddi to drive from Clunes thinking she would drive for an hour or so and I would take over when she had had enough. Maddi hadn’t driven in while and had never driven ‘Flash’ before but she was doing an awesome job, so awesome she drove the whole three hours to Wannon Falls! We arrived at camp right on 6pm, just as the sun was going down.
We set out our swags and camp chairs and table beside a fire ring. Maddi wanted a fire as it was pretty cold, but we weren’t exactly prepared for a fire. She seemed pretty determined though so I sent her off to find some wood while I heated up our dinner on dads trangia . When you don’t have newspaper or firelighters what’s the next best thing to use to light a fire? Metho works perfectly!
When it gets cold and dark early and you’ve eaten and washed up the dishes there isn’t much else to do but to go to bed. So with the dogs curled up in the dog box, on the ute, Maddi and I headed to bed reasonably early, excited for what the next day might bring us.
Sunday 1st October 2017
We were up nice and early (early nights tend to lead to early rises), so after breakfast and Pepsi’s attempt to round up the kangaroos that were on the oval nearby (just like she used to round up the wallabies on King Island) we walked the 1.5 ks from camp down to the Wannon River for some photography lessons for Maddi. We didn’t realise until the next week on our way back through that if we had walked a little further we would have seen the actual falls. Oh well, there’s always next time.
After almost an hour of teaching Maddi how to photograph moving water and teaching her how the shutter speed on the camera interacts with the aperture and the light, and throwing sticks into the water for the dogs (they don’t seem to worry about how cold it is it’s still good to go swimming) we thought we’d best get back on the road. First stop Casterton!
I realised that the ute had only a quarter of a tank of gas left in it, by the time we’d got to Casterton it was telling me that I had about 200 ks left before I ran out of gas. I thought “no problems, I’ll fill up here”. Nope. Thanks to a friendly and helpful local bloke I soon found that there was only one fuel station open in Casterton on Sunday, and they don’t have gas. My plan was to head to Penola, just on the other side of the Victorian/ South Australian boarder, which was approximately 160 ks from Casterton. Would we make it?Or should we stay? I decided to risk it. But not before a photo with the bronze kelpie statue in the Main Street and a bacon and egg muffin. While Maddi was getting her internet fix, thanks to free WiFi, about 30 motorbikes (mostly Harleys) came roaring down the road and pulled up in front of the pub. The noise was incredible!
We got to Penola with 40 ks left of gas and thankfully we found a fuel station that was open and sold gas! Phew!! That was one less thing to worry about. I was feeling pretty relaxed, knowing that we didn’t really need to rush to our next camping site (not that I knew where that was going to be exactly). Most of the roads in SA have a speed limit of 110 ks/hour even though the state of the roads are about as good as our back roads here. We were about 30 ks out of Penola on one of these roads when we got a flat tyre. I was only doing 100 ks and was admiring the view when the ute ended up the gravel. Unfortunately the side of the road, where I brought the ute back onto the road was all broken up, and the next thing I knew I was fighting with the steering wheel trying to keep the ute on the road full stop! After managing to slow down and safely pull over on the side of the road I realised that I had a very flat front passenger tyre. It was the first time I had changed a tyre on “Flash” but thankfully it wasn’t the first time I’d ever changed a tyre. After referring to the manual to find out where the jack and everything was kept and how to use them we had the flat tyre off and the spare on within an hour. Strangely out of the 15 to 20 odd vehicles that drove past only 2 pulled up to see if we needed a hand. One was a lovely lady who must have been a local. She pulled up after we had just worked out how to get the spare out from under the ute. She offered to go and get a bloke to help us but I thanked her very much and said we were fine. After all, what’s a road trip without a flat tyre? And I can be pretty stubborn and independent with things like that, if I think I can do it myself, I will, even if it takes me a little longer. The second driver to pull over and ask if we needed help was an older couple towing a caravan. They had gone to the trouble of turning around and coming back after they had already gone past us. But we already had the spare tyre on by then and very politely said thanks but no thanks.
Our next stop, after a quick lunch at a very windy rest stop area, was at Kingston SE to meet Larry the Lobster. Because of the flat tyre and daylight savings had started the day was getting on and I thought it best that we try to find somewhere to camp. We headed up the Princes Hwy alongside the Coorong National Park. We weren’t able to stop and check out the sights as dogs aren’t allowed in the National Park but the views from the ute were pretty good. We stopped in Salt Creek to suss out the camping availability, it was around 4pm and Maddi wasn’t that keen on staying and I wasn’t either as I was trying to watch the pennies we were spending. We had a little look in the free camps book I borrowed from Mum and Dad and decided that the Narrung Jetty campsite looked pretty good. So back on the road we went, travelling another hour and a half to catch a ferry over the Albert Passage, which is only a few metres, to get us to camp just on the other side of the ferry port.
The campsite was surprisingly popular and we could see why. It was a beautiful and quiet little area, right next to Lake Alexandrinia. With plenty of water hens, pelicans, seagulls and little sparrows enjoying the serenity. It’s also a good place to get some photos of the sunset and sunrise, as we had discovered after setting up camp and eating tea. I had decided that the dishes could wait, another photography lesson was in order for Maddi and I was keen to get my camera out. The little sparrows made for some interesting photography at low light, always whizzing around us creating blurred spots on any photo we tried to take.
Monday 2nd October 2017
I managed to wake up just in time to get some photos of the last of the sunrise on Monday morning, trying to make sure that the dogs and I didn’t wake up any of the other campers. I saw an opportunity whilst standing at the end of the jetty to have a go panning a flying pelican. I had never tried this method before but know that it can be difficult at the best of times but trying to photograph a moving small object is hard!
After an early morning photography session and breakfast we packed up camp and headed back over the ferry, actually two ferries. We crossed the Murray River at Wellington on a slightly bigger ferry, heading to Victor Harbor. We found a beach for the dogs to have a run and play on and Maddi appreciated the horse drawn tram, which carries people over to Granite Island Recreation Park.
After an early lunch at Victor Harbor I set the GPS for Tanunda Caravan Park, where we would be spending the next 5 nights, with the intention of going through the Adelaide Hills for more photographic opportunities. My GPS had other ideas though, which I didn’t realise until it was too late. The GPS decided to take us between Port Adelaide and Adelaide, where there were roadworks and traffic lights galore! I’m sure it added at least an hour onto the trip. I should know by now not to trust the GPS, the amount of times it has got me lost, sent me down no through roads or even had me going round in circles on the Eastlink! But on the plus side, neither Maddi or I had been to Adelaide, we had decided that we can say that we have now. Close enough anyway.
The GPS did take us through Gawler, a nice little town with old buildings made from sandstone, and I’m sure small parts of MD was filmed here. Another half an hour and we arrived at the Tanunda Caravan Park, set up camp on our powered site (when you have cameras, drones, laptops and phones to charge you need power) and settled our selves in. It is a great caravan park (and I’m not getting payed to say this), it’s green, it’s set reasonably well away from the main road so there isn’t too much traffic noise, there is a perfect little stretch of lawn beside a creek for the dogs to chase balls and swim and they know how to keep the kids entertained!
Tuesday 3rd October 2017
The start of day 4 in Tanunda was cold! But we were pretty excited for what the day was going to bring. I charged my camera battery, we had breakfast and exercised the dogs. The first job for the day was to go into town to sort out my tyre. Because the tyre was torn on the side wall I had to buy a new one and because I have to have good looking tyres, it wasn’t all that cheap. But I wasn’t going to let that ruin my day!
We headed for Freeling, with Maddi navigating us our way through the beautiful Seppeltsfield area where there are plenty of wineries, onto the freeway for a few minutes then onto another back county road of fields of green grass and into Freeling. Our first stop being the Gungellan Hotel. It was here that I realised that I had left my camera battery back at the caravan park, charging. I had the camera but no battery. I had to make do with my phone for the day. Photos were taken at the pub, the Drovers Run windmill and bathtub and the Gungellan Truck stop.
We then headed back into Tanunda to pick up my new tyre and fit it onto the ute. By the time we’d done that I reckon we’re pros at changing tyres! But then I had found out that the winch for the spare tyre was ruined. We spent a while trying to get the spare back under the ute but the winch wasn’t going to budge. Instead we had to find a spot for it in the back of the ute.
The rest of the afternoon was spent editing photos from the previous few days and entertaining the dogs.
That night after having dinner we discovered that the caravan park had an outdoor cinema playing Red Dog! We all went and watched the last 15 minutes or so before heading to bed.
Wednesday 4th October 2017
I was much more prepared today, determined to get some photos with the camera and the drone.
First stop was Drovers Run! We found the Kingsford Homestead front gate and found they weren’t too keen on unexpected visitors, which is understandable. It was a little windy but I managed to get the drone up over Kingsford Rd, looking over the Drovers Run paddocks. I’m still attempting to construct a full panorama from the shots I took.
We then headed back to Freeling to get some photos of all the MD locations with the camera. Its great seeing these locations for yourself, after years of watching them on the TV screen, and even better getting photographic evidence. And this time we decided that we had to have a drink at the Gungellan Pub. Lemonade counts right?
On the way back to the caravan park we took a slight detour through the big wine area of Seppeltsfield to check out the Seppeltsfield Mausoleum and all the palm trees on the side of the roads.
The afternoon was spent back at the caravan park editing the photos from the day and, of course, entertaining the dogs (and Maddi, teenagers really do get bored easily).
Thursday 5th October 2017
Despite the beautiful weather we had had the last couple of days (shorts weather!) Thursday was wet and cold. With the weather and the lack of money Maddi and I had decided to spend the day at camp. Spending the morning cleaning cameras and lenses, watching a movie snuggled up in the tent (dogs and all!) and drinking hot cups of tea.
The weather started to clear up after lunch and with the sun out it started to warm up a little more. The dogs were starting to get restless and Maddi was keen to learn how to take photos of moving dogs so we decided to take the dogs for a ball chasing session.
Later that night I discovered that I wasn’t able to unlock the ute with the remote and remembered that the morning before it struggled to start at all. Which meant there was good chance I had very flat ute battery. I did not sleep well at all between stressing about the lack of money and the possibility that we may not end up getting to the MD reunion the next morning.
Friday 6th October 2017
I was up nice and early, keen to see if I was able to at least unlock the ute to be able to put the bonnet up. The remote definitely wasn’t working, and it was beginning to look like the key in the door wasn’t going to work either until I went to pull the door open with all my strength in pure frustration and, what do you know? It opened.
The next step was to call the RAA, making sure they turned up with a new battery (just in case) and came with enough time to fix the ute and have us in Freeling by 11am. Thankfully they have good service! A bloke arrived within 20 minutes and found that I did indeed need a new battery. I had just enough money in my account to pay for the new battery but had to ask mum to put more into the account to make sure we were able to get home!
Once that was sorted we were on our way to Freeling, the day getting so much better!
From 11am to almost 4pm we were able to meet, listen to and chat with Simmone Jade MacKinnon (Stevie), Michala Banas (Kate) and Racheal Carpani (Jodi). It was so great listening to their stories and watching them banter with one and another. And fantastic that they took the time to chat, hug and get photographs with each individual person! Maddi and I had our Akubra hats signed by all three of them and got our photos taken. The dogs spent the day in the back of the ute with time spent out of the ute every hour. Simmone’s son took a liking to the dogs and spent some time throwing sticks for them.
I got a photo of my signed Akubra on the bathtub with the windmill in the background.
After my sleepless night and the adrenaline from the days events I was pretty tired so we headed back to camp for tea and an early night.
Saturday 7th October 2017
Our original plan was to head home via Sheep Hills to check the silo art. But because of lack of money and food we decided to instead head to Hamilton to stay with family friends. This meant we’d have warm beds and warm food for the night. Thank goodness for good family friends! Practically family actually.
So that morning we got up early (again) had breakfast and packed the ute. We headed off for Hamilton on another cold and grey day. We travelled through parts of the Adelaide Hills, through Mt Pleasant which is where I believe Killarney was filmed (not that we found it), through Murray Bridge, stopping at Coonalpyn to get some photos of their silo art and stopped at Keith for lunch. We discovered while we were there that the Keith Agricultural show was on, I was very tempted to call in and enter Noisy in the dog high jump competition. But we were under the pump to get to Hamilton at a reasonable time so I thought I’d better not.
Maddi drove from Keith for an hour or so until she got sick of all the tailgaters (South Australians are terrible drivers!). As we were driving between Penola and Casterton (for the second time in a week) Maddi and I were talking about how cool the pine plantations looked. Maddi thought they looked kind of spooky but wanted to walk through a pine plantation, as she’s never done it before. So I found a plantation that didn’t have any fences and stopped and let the dogs out. Maddi noticed some emus about half a k away. It turns out Maddi doesn’t like emus so they added a little more excitement to her experience. We then had to stop in Casterton for Maddi to get her free WiFi fix and within an hour we were in Hamilton!
Sunday 8th October 2017
Another early start for our last day on the road, with a couple of stops to readjust the load on the ute (mainly the spare tyre).
I had to have Maddi in the city to meet her mum between 12 & 1pm. Have I mentioned I hate driving in the city? Actually I”m not a huge fan of city full stop. And it turns out neither are the dogs. We were all a little stressed by the time we found a car park and unloaded Maddi’s stuff. We said our fair wells and the dogs and I were out of there!
I stopped just on the other side of Melbourne at about 2pm to give the girls a drink (since they wouldn’t drink anything while we were in the city and it was hot) and have some lunch.
Our last stop was home! Just before 4pm we arrived back in Glenmaggie, which called for a swim and ball chasing session!
If you’re still reading this, I’m sorry it’s so long but THANK YOU for reading all the way through our weeks road trip to McLeod’s country. What are road trips without their dramas right? As Miranda Lambert’s song “Highway Vagabond” goes, “But if we ain’t broke down we ain’t doing something right”.
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