Ken Kite's holiday :
Trip To The Red Centre
Story and pictures by Ken Kite,
Edited by Ern Broughton

Day 1
Well, I left home at 9:00 am to meet Ern Broughton at Gepps Cross.  I had butterflies as big as elephants on leaving home but so far so good.  I haven’t towed the van before today.  If it comes to that, I haven’t even tested Hilda.  Much like when we went to the Mildura Rally in 1992; Hilda hadn’t been on the road for 9 years, and on the Wednesday night before the rally I drove her to the service station, filled her with fuel and left the next morning at about 8 o’clock for Mildura, about 400 km away.
Well now we, Hilda, the caravan and me, are in Port Augusta, a bit over 300 km north of Adelaide, and we have had a good trip so far.  Hilda sang like a bird and got around 20 miles per gallon.  We covered the distance to here in four and a half hours.

Day 2
Spent the day with rellies in Port Augusta.  Tuned Hilda and spent about five hours checking out the workings of the caravan, my first real inspection of it since I bought it a month or so ago.  Heading along the Stuart Highway further north tomorrow; I have about 1,000 km to go before I throw a left turn at the little settlement of Erldunda and head west 260 km to Ayers Rock, reputedly the largest single stone monolith in the world.

Day 3
Made it to the outback opal mining town of Coober Pedy, where most of the houses are built underground, mainly to escape the scorching summer heat.  Even the International Desert Inn five star hotel is built underground, but I am stretched out, resting up in the little van.  We had our longest day so far, covering 530km.

Picture below: at Coober Pedy

Day 4
Had a nice quiet drive of 410 km today with a side to tail wind.  Hilda again flew along like a bird.  The country is changing; it has been quite green most of the way but the rock formations are changing, much like what I expect it will be when we go from South Australia into the Northern Territory.  The wind last night in Coober Pedy was so strong I thought that I would be there for a week waiting for it to calm down.  But it had blown itself out by daylight and we had a great day.
Had to help out a guy in trouble in a modern car today.  The car had two fuel tanks and the transfer pump wouldn’t work to change the fuel from the spare tank to the main one.  Needless to say he ran out of fuel in the main tank.  We worked for two hours to try to get him mobile but ended up having to take him to get unleaded fuel for the empty tank.  I had to help him for EB’s sake; he was travelling to Adelaide, with his old motor bike in the trailer, to ride it in the Bay to Birdwood veteran and vintage run.

Day 5

Picture below: at the South Australia/Northern Territory border.
Click on the picture for information about the lovely Sturt's Desert Pea shown in the foreground.
We arrived at the Rock at about 1 o’clock.  We had our first mishap today; pulling away from a wayside sightseeing stop when we blew a tyre on the van.  Really stuffed it up.  Put the spare on and got here OK, but the problem is to get another tyre.  They don’t have one the size I need here, so I hope to get one brought in from Alice Springs, 450 km away, on Monday morning.
It is very hot here today and there’s not a bit of shade anywhere near my parking bay.

Day 6
Day of rest today.  Not going anywhere until I get the spare tyre for the van.  Bought a canvas tarpaulin to rig some shade over the ute and the van.  It’s bloody hot now; was 33°C early.  A bit rough after Adelaide’s spring temperature of 17-20°C.  The caravan park and tourist village is about 19 km from The Rock, but it is clearly visible from here.  The Rock rises 350 metres from the surrounding plain and at its base has a circumference of about 11km.  Known as Uluru to the aborigines, The Rock was ‘discovered’ by Australian explorer Edward John Eyre in the 1850s, but was known to, and sacred to, the local tribes some 43,000 years before that.

Day 7
36°C today.  I really have just started to wind down.  Last night I had supper with my caravan park neighbours Ken and Fran.  They come from New South Wales, still, can’t hold that against them.  Woke up with a funny feeling about leaving here as if something is going to go wrong.

Day 8
Picked up my tyre and tube, $106, put it on the van and headed east to Erldunda and the Stuart Highway again.  On the way I stopped at Curtin Springs roadhouse, and wouldn’t you know it, Hilda refused to start.  Just the starter motor about to fall off.  Tightened her up and away we went.  Had to stop about 15 km short of Erldunda and put some fuel in Hilda.  Every bloody fly in the Northern territory attacked me, then followed me here!  I have never seen so many!  You would think they would find some shade as it is 38°C.  HOT!  I arrived here in Erldunda at about 1:30 pm and am staying the night, resting up for a nice 200 km ride north into Alice Springs tomorrow morning.

Day 9
Last night I had supper at the local pub, a mixed grill NT style.  I left as much as I ate as the serving was so big.  During the night it rained a bit.  When I got up the sky back towards The Rock was full of black clouds.

Day 10
I am now in Alice.  I arrived here about 10 am yesterday.  Went to the Aircraft Museum and the War Museum.  Drove around the Alice and had a good look.  Still much the same as when I was last here.  It was a lovely overcast day; just nice.  This morning is still overcast but a bit windy.  I like this place and today will look up George, an old school friend who I haven’t seen for a few years, and also go to the Truck Museum.  I ran into a friend of a friend yesterday and couldn’t get away from him; he was one of the founders of the Truck Museum.  He drove many of the trucks in the museum and had the photos to prove it.
I must have put on some weight; I sat at my table in the van and went right through the seat!  Bit hard getting out of it, too!  I looked up George and we are going out to supper tonight.  I also went to the Truck Museum, and The Ghan (the old train from South Australia) Museum.  The Truck Museum was free (donation) and the Ghan Museum cost $5.50.  The Truck Museum was excellent, The Ghan, well I was out of it in 20 minutes!  Dave Watson, they did have a couple of Commer trucks too.

Picture below: at Anzac Hill, Alice Springs

Day 11
I have had enough of missing my king size bed and plenty of room to move about in at home!  I left Alice for home at about 8 am this morning, had a tail wind and an overcast sky.

Picture below: at the outskirts of Alice Springs, heading south.
Kulgera is 20 km north of the S.A. border.
I made 520 km to Cadney Park Homestead Roadhouse.  There were big rains all along the track today and they say more of the same tonight.  But last night in Alice I met up with an old friend and had a great meal at The Sportsmans Club.  Talked a lot and caught up with all the gossip.

Day 12
Left Cadney Park at 7:30 and high tailed it the 550 km to the old rocket range town of Woomera.  Hilda is still singing along nicely.  Passed a mobile home (hire van) lying on its side, but the way some of them drive it’s no wonder.  All the emergency services were there so I didn’t stay around.  There has been a lot of rain all the way from the Northern Territory/South Australian border.  Things are really starting to green up.

Day 13
Port Augusta again.  Almost home, and bloody cold!  Everything in the little outfit is still doing its job.  Really nice drive in from Woomera.  I spent the first 12 years of my life there and in the nearby little town of Pimba.  At the age of 17 I worked on the ‘Tea and Sugar’ train on the Transcontinental Railway, delivering supplies to all the camps and little settlements between Port Augusta and Tarcoola.  (Another story.)  All the camps now have gone and it was so hard even trying to find where they once were.  I also went Native Peach (Quondong) picking around Hesso, 50 km north of Port Augusta, too.  Lousy year for them this year and only got enough for one feed for one person.  Needless to say, Fay will enjoy them when I get home.  Had to visit rellies and whatever while I was here, as well.

Day 14
I was awoken about 5 am today; the bloke in the van next door was in a hurry to get out of town.  Hell he was noisy!  Here it is not even 7 o’clock and I have showered, done my housework, had breakfast and done half a page in this little book!

I am now back in Adelaide after travelling 3,520 km and going through 84 gallons of petrol, 1 litre of oil and no radiator water.  To think that the little car pulled a van all that way with not a bit of trouble, and seeing that I have only had it on the road on about three days in the last two years, the Hillman Utility did itself proud.
It really was some trip, and to know what it was like, well, you will never know if you never go.

Ken Kite.

FORWARD to the sale of Hilda to Neil Yeomans

BACK to the introductory e-mail & pictures

BACK to the original Ute story

BACK to Gallery page

HOME page