Caravanning and RVing in Australia
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2009 Trip with Lionel
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Yesterday was a bit hectic as I'd been working on the Australian Caravan Club stand at the Melbourne Caravan Show for the past 6 days and I needed yesterday to start getting ready for my 2009 Trip.
I'd already had two new tyres put on Trixie - my faithful BF Falcon Wagon and she had been serviced and even got a new battery.
I've got an itinerary for the early part of the trip but after mid-June it's anyone's guess where I'll go or for how long. Why don't you join me here each day and see where the road leads.
Day 1 - May 12
Tonight I'll be somewhere in a rest area near Eden NSW and probably won't have Internet access but I'll write up today's travels and post them when I can.
I wrote the first par this morning before I left home and now 400+ km later I'm on my own about 300 metres off the highway in the Bemm River Scenic Reserve. I don't know if it's scenic or not as I came in here in the dark! It was 12.30 before I got on the road - there's always so much to do, so much to pack, so much to remember.
Today has been a mixed bag - twisty hilly country with magnificent views from Lang Lang to Drouin, then fairly flat boring freeway until after Bairnsdale when it became much more interesting on the way to Nowa Nowa via Bruthen. This by-passes Lakes Entrance and is quite a good alternative.
It was dark soon after Orbost but I kept going for a while as I wanted to leave an easy run to Narooma tomorrow. I was right about the net - I'm right on the edge of reception even with a stronger antenna for my Home Wireless Gateway. I need a little adapter and then I'll be able to hook up one of my really big antennas.
Murphy made his pretense felt shortly after Bairnsdale when the Prodigy brake controller started flashing SH meaning a short circuit in the brake wires. Nothing caught fire, nothing got hot, no fuses or circuit breaker flipped and later it went back to its usual 'c'. I'll have to investigate further if it happens again.
Day 2 - May 13
I went outside at 4am - it had been too cold to sleep and the sight that greeted me was quite surreal. A full moon was filtering through the huge trees giving everything a ghostly appearance.
Today has been a day of contrasts starting off with twists and turns as the hilly road wound its way through thick forest and then giving way after Eden to the lovely green dairying country of the Bega Valley with the densely forested slopes of the nearby ranges as a back-drop
I'm camped at Dalmeny just north of Narooma and the view of rolling breakers and blue sea is fantastic. It's a shame some people have to work.
Later Roy and Daphne, friends from way back, came and took me to dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant and let the owner/chef select the wine to go with the Osso Bucco. Delicious on both counts. We the gave a generous donation to the funds of the Services Club via the unhelpful pokies.
Day Three - May 14Today I managed an early start and was on the road by 7.30. As usual I was entranced by the lovely views of blue sea and green pastures on the approach to Kiama and the early part of the trip was great.
However when I got to Sydney things turned a little ordinary as I must have set the TomTom to NO tollways and it took me through the most horrendous roads full of trucks and red traffic lights on the way to Windsor of all places. I followed its instructions because I was in no real hurry and I didn't particularly want to travel via Newcastle and the Expressways.
After Windsor to my surprise it led me to the Putty Road on the way to Singleton in the Hunter district. This is a wonderful road if you are not in a hurry.
Fantastic views, steep grades and many many corners. I used to travel this route many years ago and it was good to use it again.
This was my afternoon tea stop
After Singleton Tom led me on to very minor roads with nowhere to pull off for the night. I eventually found a spot after dark on the top of a windswept hill - I've no idea where I am tonight except Tom tells me it's only about 80 km to Gloucester - that means I've done 600km today.
The best thing is that I've got Internet and mobile phone reception - I found out why the mobile didn't work yesterday. I took the battery out today at Nowra, fired it up again and everything now works.
Day 4 - May 15Boy did it blow! Murphy made himself busy by emptying my water tanks - I don't know how yet as all the plumbing seems to be in place. Fortunately I carry water in the car so it wasn't a major catastrophe.
When I went outside this morning I was amazed at the scenery - it was fabulous and continued that way as I made my way to Gloucester via Dungog.
As I approached the area where the ACC members were sited I saw a large circle of them sitting in the sun and they gave a great cheer as they saw me. A lovely welcome for what was to be a memorable weekend.
After we had been to the Bowling Club for a Chinese meal, the rest of the evening was spent sitting around a lovely fire while Vince played his guitar and we all sang after one or two (or three!) glasses of wine and ale were consumed. It was a great evening capped off by a few glasses of port.
Day 5 - May 16
This was Saturday and the weather was perfect. I tried to get my printer to work but Murphy beat me. It wouldn't recognize a refilled cartridge and I spent many frustrating hours battling with it until I finally gave up.
Fortunately the Ramblers secretary Nevis (seen on the right) had her printer with her and was able to print out the Board papers for tomorrow night's Board meeting.
The name of their van is interesting - French scholars will know it means 'Snail House'!
In the afternoon everyone gathered for a meeting and President Max and me gave a run-down on current and future happenings in the ACC with quite a few questions from the floor.
After Happy Hour we sat down to a great communal meal. Many people had cooked casserole dishes like lamb shanks and Osso Bucco in camp ovens on the 'choofers' that were a feature of this muster.
Again we finished around the fire to tell yarns and sing songs.
Day 6 - May 17Another nice day but a little spoilt by Murphy. I went into town to but a new ink cartridge but he was too quick. The only one out of stock was the one I needed!
There were some lovely little Sunliner vans here at Gloucester for the weekend plus a contingent of Olympics and I took the opportunity of getting a pic of this beautiful tri-tone outfit.
Martyn, the owner, has three more at home in various stages of restoration plus a Millard and Viscount.
Neil - seen in the pic above, has a very fine spit-roaster and cooked meat for a communal meal today. Chooks were cooked in Camp ovens on Choofers and it was a great feed.
I had to consume mine in a bit of a hurry to finish in time for the 7pm Board Meeting. We hold these using MSN Messenger with our Directors scattered far and near. I was here at Gloucester, Lazo in Darwin, Tom was 700km away from home, John and Rob were in Melbourne but we link up via the Internet and away we go.
It was a busy meeting and we had to defer a couple of items because it was getting too late.
Day 7 - 18 MayToday was nothing really special apart from buying a new printer! I finally admitted that Murphy had won and it was a losing battle trying to fix the old won. I did have a little win because the new one takes the same cartridges so I'm one cartridge in front.
The weather was a bit ordinary so I didn't go out much except to happy hour which was great as usual and a good time among friends. Did a slow cooked pork roast for tea - yum.
After tea I had a good long Skype talk to Jackie in Kalgoorlie and Sue at Langwarren. Those girls are very precious to me!
Day 8 - May 19Once again a pretty ordinary day with rain on and off all day. I casseroled the pork with some vegies and it was quite nice.
Day 9 - May 20
Packed up in pouring rain so first part of the trip was spent with the heater of full trying to dry out.
Arrived around mid-day at Ian and Cheryl Sherlock's 100 acre bush property at Swan Bay and it's a great spot to stay.
They are ACC members and have a Bushtracker caravan. They also have plenty of rain although it was fine when I arrived here. Still no water from the pump so I think I must have a pipe off or something. Too wet to look today.
Day 10 - May 21Today was the meeting in Newcastle of the RV Lobby Group at CMCA Headquarterts and it was quite a pleasant run down there that took about 45 minutes and meant I was nice and early. It was quite a productive meeting and then it was back to Swan Bay for tea.
Further up the coast they are having dreadful weather so I'm in no hurry to leave here .
Day 11 - May 22Wet and wild again - but during one short fine spell we managed to fix the water situation. A pipe had come adrift under the van and the worm-drive clip was jammed up. Some of Ian's RP7 fixed the clip and I borrowed a tarp to lie one while getting under the van to put the pipe back in place. Then after refilling the tanks we were back in business.
Ian describes this weather as abysmal but I said I couldn't spell that so would say it was yuk!
Tonight we went to the RSL at Karuah for dinner and it was a nice outing. Paul and I ate there during our epic round Australia trip a few years ago and they have refurbished the club since then. The weather forecast tonight was for continuing winds, rain and floods further north so I'll stay put a little longer till it eases a bit.
I'll get a better picture of my hosts' residence tomorrow if the weather improves - the one I put in at Day 12 looked almost black before I did some work on it with Photoshop.
Day 12 - May 23\
There was some sun today so I could take a better pic!
I've been trying to get one of my larger antennas to work with my Home Wireless Gateway without a lot of success. Ian discovered that the cable from the antenna had no connecting wire in the bit that screws on so we went into Jaycar in Newcastle to get the right fittings. Of course the bit I needed wasn't there but the first assistant found a cable that would do the trick. Then along came a young man who said he loved a challenge and he produced another adapter that meant I could use either of two antennas.
It works! A much better signal strength and stable connection.
We then did a scenic diversion around a huge lake ( Grahamtown Dam) and Ian and Cheryl went shopping in Raymond Terrace. I put up the TV aerial this afternoon and set the PVR to record New Tricks and The Bill. I see it worked OK but I've been indoors all evening and it's too late to start watching now - in fact it's already Day 13!
Day 13 - May 24When I went to take my pills this morning I found I was a couple short and needed to get some scripts filled. The chemist at Karuah was closed so I needed to drive to Raymond Terrace to find one open. It was sunny today and a very pleasant trip. While there I bought a nice little piece of fillet steak to cook tonight. I gave Cheryl a pleasant surprise when I got back by telling her I'd cook tea in the van and bring it across. They have been so good to me that I felt I needed to do something to repay them a little. Roast beef, bacon, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and onions plus steamed sweet corn, baby carrots and green peas made a very good impression. In fact I was offered the position of permanent cook!
I had thought I might call in on an ACC Board member in New England tomorrow as the coast road is closed in parts but when I rang I found he was away at Bowen so that's out.
I'm watching the Monte Carlo Grand Prix at the moment and once again I've entered the next day.
Day 14 - May 25
What started out as a lovely day turned into an unimaginable nightmare. My plan was to return to Gloucester and the take 'Thunderbolts Way' to Walcha and eventually the New England Highway but Murphy had other plans that included closing the road with no diversions possible!
This left a choice of retracing my route all the way back to Newcastle and joining the New England there or taking the road to Scone - marked as a very minor road on the map and traversing the Barrington Tops National Park and several State Forests. I took the Scone road despite the warning
That was the understatement of the century - not only was it steep and twisty upwards but also down-hill as well with lots of mud and potholes for a lot of the way. The king-daddy of potholes was lurking disguised as a shallow one like the others. The sickening lurch and thump spelled bad news in the caravan and I didn't dare look until I finally stopped for the night at Tamworth when I found I was right and the bump had indeed done bad things but fortunately besides a few broken eggs in the fridge everything that was displaced was still in one piece with the exception of the door lock which had disintegrated and will need to be replaced. The door's held shut with a piece of string at the moment from inside or the latch from the outside.
Here's a few pics after the bad bit - I was too busy driving to bother with photography along the way. During one very long and twisty climb the overheating light came on and after a long slow descent there was a smell of hot brake linings and the brake pedal travel increased as the brake fluid overheated. All came good when I got back on lovely bitumen.
I'll look back on this day with a great sense of accomplishment and I'll be glad I did that horrendous drive but at the time I wasn't too sure I'd make it safely and wondered how you tell the difference between stupidity and courage.
How dull it would have been to wait a few days for the coastal route to re-open and take the easy way!
OK smart guys - I see now I could have retraced my route back via Dungog to Singleton and stayed on sealed roads but where would have been the adrenaline rush?
Day 15 - May 26Well this was a vastly different day altogether. I started by looking up caravan spares in Tamworth on the Internet and then fed the address into the TomTom. I would still be driving around looking for Tow World if I hadn't used the GPS.
They had a complete new lock and I gladly gave them the $69. One feller said the locks break if the door moves and the door opening stays still. I explained that yesterday everything moved and nothing stayed still! They laughed.
I pulled into a rest area on the edge of town and proceeded to fit the new lock. Not a really simple task because the striker plate was out of line and I had to do a bit of re-positioning. I charged my cordless drill before I left home and it was very handy to drill starter holes for self tapping screws.
New England is a lovely part of Australia and the sweeping vistas of endless green hills in every direction at times almost takes the breath away
The cold can take the breath away as well and Guyra is a perfect example as they claim it's the highest caravan park in Oz. I've seen pictures of it with snow drifts piled up outside the office but not today thank goodness. In fact it was quite warm and I took my jacket off while driving.
I saw a sign today that said 'Notify Sheep Introductions' My imagination kicked in and I could see two sheep in a paddock: "Baa, I'm Molly." Baa - pleased to meet you. I'm Beatrice." Quick - notify somebody.
I'm camped on the road-side on the road from Tenterfield to Casino and there's no phone or Internet reception so you won't see these words until tomorrow.
It's quite quiet with only an occasional car or truck - I expect it will be much quieter than last night in a caravan park in Tamworth. The drive-through sites were near the highway and trucks thundered past all night. Not a lot of sleep!
Day 16 - May 27
I was wrong - there was truck traffic all night although not as much as the night before. I guess they were coming this way as the Pacific Highway is still closed.
It seems that Murphy and Tom are in collusion! Tom - my TomTom GPS - started heading for Casino on the road I'd traveled just last year but then bade me to turn left on to a narrow and pot-holed road heading northeast. At least it was bitumen but quite a challenge at the bridge diversions. Sorry no pics again but one in particular was quite hairy with a steep gravel decent to the creaky wooden one-lane bridge and an equally steep exit up the other side. A bit like the Kedron videos of Cape York!
All came good from Mt Lindsay onwards and I arrived at my destination just after lunchtime. I'm now settled here for a few weeks at the home of friends and although they are away they arranged for me to have the keys of the kingdom. It's a lovely property and I look forward to a bit of R&R here on top of a hill with glimpses of the coast in the far distance.
Shopping was the main afternoon task plus making some chicken and sweet corn soup for tomorrow.
Day 17 - May 28
I awoke to glorious sunshine today and it was WARM! I am in Queensland now after all.
Today's the day for washing as I'm very low on socks and jocks and have been doing a bit of recycling along the way.
I was talking to one of our ACC members this morning on Skype and he said he was in the best caravan park in Queensland. I hastened to correct him - this one is fantastic and what's more it's free!
Day 18 - May 29Not a lot to write about today. Went to Beenleigh and had a haircut and beard trim so I don't look too unkempt at the Caravan Show next week. The little adjustable spanner I kept in the car's door pocket went missing some weeks ago so I bought another while out.
The $2 Reject Shop bag I used to carry the annexe floor had become very fragile and shredded so I replaced it - they are not $2 anymore!
The day started sunny and warm so I did the rest of the washing including a track suit but then after lunch the weather turned very ordinary with torrential rain and thunder. Thank goodness there is a dryer in the laundry so the weather didn't have Murphy's desired effect.
Day 19 - May 30I thought this was Winter but it must be Spring! I was bitten by a cleaning bug this morning and got rid of a lot of red dust that has been around since the Oodnadatta Track last year. Back windows and insect screens got a hosing and also the inside around the windows and benches. The door and its screen got similar treatment and the carpet got a good brushing while the loose one had a good shake. Oh yes - I nearly forgot that the gas stove top had a good clean as well.
It's V8 racing in Tassie this weekend so I relaxed and watched qualifying and the first race this afternoon. Garth Tander won putting Holden in front for the first time this season but at least one Ford driver made it on to the podium. Tomorrow I hope to see a different result.
I was invited to a 21st birthday party tonight and it was a good evening and I met up with people I hadn't seen for ages plus some I'd never seen before. The birthday girl is the grand-daughter of the friends who own this property.
Day 20 - May 31I found out last night that my friends are putting this lovely property on the market when they return home and will then move to a unit near where they used to live on the Southside of Brisbane. Good for them with less upkeep but where will I stay then? It means I'll probably have to PAY!!!!!!
Today I went for a bit of a drive to Redland Bay where the Island Ferries are. I thought about a return trip to North Stradbroke Island but the water looked murky and choppy and there was a cold wind blowing so I settled on a lovely feed of a dozen huge Tiger Prawns at the Redlands Bay Hotel and washed them down with a pot of XXXX Gold. Very tasty.
In the afternoon I was delighted to see Jamie Wincup win in Tassie and retain his lead in the V8 Championship. It's a shame Craig Lownes isn't up there with him. What makes you think I'm a one-eyed Ford fan?
I've been charged a mysterious $79.60 on my Telstra account but when I tried to ring to query it, I was told to ring weekdays in office hours. So much for 24/7 support!
End of the month so a NEW Page tomorrow for June. See you there.