Whales Trip 2006

September 2006 and we’re making our annual sojourn to the Head of the Bight to catch a whale or two. Each year since 2001 a small group from the Rotary Club of Port Pirie has made the trip to the Head of the Bight to see the whales. Nothing extraordinary about that, but the annual trek has been undertaken so that the exchange students hosted by our club are able to experience a little of the outback and enjoy the wonders of some of what SA has to offer.

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2006 was a little different in that we extended the invitation to people outside our club and to the other students hosted in District 9055. There are only seven and six of them took up the invitation. In addition, Claus Weber RC Gawler Light, Leanne Smith from Pt Lincoln and Julie Ward and Rosie Florence from RC Kangaroo Island joined Bill and Sue Burns, Gerry Chivell and Bernice and Bob Ward all from RC Pt Pirie for the experience.

Exchange students Jenny Reichard Germany/Kangaroo Island; Kaisa Eisanen Finland/Pt Lincoln; Marine Sigot France/Gawler Light; Sarah McAlpine USA/Pt Pirie; Akseli Virtanen Finland/Pt Augusta and Jonas Berli Switzerland/Pt Pirie all made the trip.

First day out saw lunch taken at Corunna Station just west of Iron Knob where the shearing was underway. Any number of comments and questions followed watching these guys take to their task. Marine was surprised to find a young French girl working as a roustabout in the shed. Camp that night was set up just west of Mt Ive Homestead in the Gawler Ranges and with plenty of light those young and fit enough managed to climb the hills after collecting the firewood. One of the things we insist on that all students have to experience is sleeping in the swag. On this occasion we had pity on the girls because of the threatening weather and let them sleep in the tent.

Day two saw a visit to the Organ Pipes in the Gawler Ranges National Park then a visit to Pildappa Rock, about 15 kms north of Minnipa. Again an opportunity to work up an appetite as we all managed to climb over the rock that resembles very closely Wave Rock in WA. Next stop was Ceduna where Leanne managed to scrape up a couple of sand boards and some wax for later use. Camp was at Fowlers Bay (does the wind ever stop blowing here?). I still don’t believe the kids went swimming; except for Marine who had more sense.

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Day three was off to the whales. The Great Australian Bight Marine Park take in the Head of the Bight which is a natural place for the magnificent Southern Right Whales to mate and have their young and raise them during the winter. This is a big nursery. At the time there were 90 in the Bay and we spotted around 30 of them. After three or so hours here and lots of photos it was back to the Yalata Roadhouse for a photo shoot at the road sign depicting the camel, kangaroo and wombat. While we think nothing of it this sign always fascinates our visitors and a stop in mandatory. Back to Fowlers Bay to collect some firewood and enjoy a great meal of lamb, beef and damper followed by seasoned apples (worth the trip for this alone). We also managed to take a couple across the sand hills and found a small seal colony a few kms down the track.

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Day four saw the girls from KI and Claus leave because of other commitments back home. Some tried a little squidding, but it was still too windy so it was up into the sand hills to see if the sand boards worked. Two boards and six kids – so much energy and guess who they managed to convince he should climb to the top and give it a go, with both the boys on top of me – ah well, it’s all in the fun of the trip. That afternoon we tackled the sand hills again. The secret to getting over them is tyre pressure, or lack of it. If that fails use the snatch strap. We finished the day with another visit to the seals (even took a couple of Finnish tourists along for the ride), a game of footy on the beach and a great night around the campfire.

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Day five and we headed to Venus Bay, stopping off at Ceduna and Streaky Bay. A quick visit to Point Labatt where there were over a hundred seals. Murphy’s Haystacks are always worth a visit but was surprised that there were no climbers this year. Probably just as well. Set up at Venus Bay Caravan Park just in time to hear the last 5 minutes of the Crows win against Melbourne. Felt sorry for the lady there barracking for the Dockers but she took the chiacking in good fun. A walk down the jetty and along the beach and it was time to head for the pub at Port Kenny. Still manage a good meal and when we pulled the map out we had plenty of advice on where we should head for. Worked better than a deck of cards

Day six we only travelled about 10 kms and called into a place called Coodlie Park to check it out for next year. Stayed the day, visited Talia Caves, fossicked for shells, walked on the beach and just relaxed. At about 10 that night our host called in and took all the girls spot lighting for whatever they could find. Got a great view of a wombat, lots of roos and rabbits and a promise of something different next year.

Day seven saw a leisurely drive home. Leanne and Kaisa headed off to Pt Lincoln. We lunched at Cowell and checked out the Jade selection. Time now for a rest – until next year, a new group of students and a trip that already promises to be good. I just hope the wind drops and we can really try to catch something at Fowlers Bay. Those that tagged along have all said they’ll come again so we must have done something right.

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Is the trip worth repeating each year – you bet