Leaving Australia ‘Again’: Before the After (e-book updated)
These are a few rambling notes and photos from our little trip from Adelaide, South Australia to Cairns, Queensland. The final cost of fuel (diesel, not including the $93 petrol I put in instead of diesel and had to have the car drained when we were in a small town a month into our journey) was $2339 ($1721 USD) for 12,000 kilometres of travel and camping totalled $1138 ($841 USD). We had hoped to do more free camping. At the end of the day we did 28 nights of free camping, 24 nights at caravan parks and 8 nights at cheap ($10-$15/night places like showgrounds or donations at council run) places. We had planned about ten-days in Tweed Head as a house exchange, but it was cancelled amidst covid close-downs when we got closer. Food, etc we tried for a budget of $350/week. We came close to that with almost all our meals made in the caravan.
The last and only other time I was in Queensland was 1992. My father, 87 years old at the time, flew over from upstate New York. I was concerned such a long trip would be difficult and with changing planes in Chicago and LA and no assistance I thought somewhere he would come unstuck, but he arrived in Sydney. He saw Sacha first and almost burst into tears, he was afraid we would not be there after such a long trip. My two boys aged 8 and ten at the time, and I collected him at Sydney airport in a large RV. I had never driven an RV before and right off we had to navigate rush hour traffic and some bridge that was quite a fright in such a large vehicle.
We got as far north as the Gold Coast and Brisbane then went to our home in Victor Harbor, South Australia through Broken Hill. It was a rather difficult trip for all of us, about four weeks all together. I of course did all the driving, cooking, sorting out everything. My father and the boys all got quite grumpy at times. A typical experience was one Sunday morning I got up and my father was not in the van. Eventually he showed up in suit and tie and wanted to know why we were not ready for church. Holy cow I had not been in a church in a long time, like decades. It all went well as my father announced to seemingly many that he was from Clifton Park, New York. Later in the day when stopped at a shopping centre one of my boys (not telling who) came out with a toy. I asked where he got the money and he said they were passing around a bowl of money at the church and he took out a twenty. Yes, that really happened. One thing to this day that I regret not knowing was that we were supposed to empty the toilet. All vans have some sort of toilet or portable potty setup. We used the toilet until….well, until it was so full it would no longer flush. We also ran out of water due to taking showers. I was never shown how to fill up the water tank, so we just stayed at caravan parks. Gosh I was dumber then than now.
Italic notes are Narda’s notes – the other stuff from Terrell
Planned departure was around lunch time. Actual departure was some hours later.
We drove off happily at the end of the day into the Burra showgrounds. Met by a slightly grumpy caretaker who relieved us of $15 for an unpowered spot, we never-the-less slept like never before. I clocked up 9 hours …pretty solid.
Plenty of space at the Burra Showgrounds.
30 May 2021 Sunday Left home at 2.30 pm. Our plan was to leave about 8 am….so much for plans. We stopped at Stu’s so Narda could say goodbye to the grandchildren. They were not there. Got as far as Burra,
155 kilometres – overnight Burra Showgrounds it was 5 Celsius (41 Fahrenheit) the next morning. The fee at the showgrounds was $15 for an unpowered site. Basic toilets there – could not find the shower. OK for an overnight stay. We got out of there early the next morning.
@ Penrose Caravan Park, a very good caravan park with a lot of spaces. We booked a powered site for three nights @$35/night, which is a bit high and we will do (hopefully) a lot of free sites as 90 days at this price will mean we can only afford a block of tofu to live on per week. Worried about eating tofu we ate the first night at the Silverton Hotel pub I had a very tasty veggie lasagne (rare for me due to the high carbs and I had high blood sugars for the next two days – but worth the change in diet). Narda was happy with the road-kill version of lasagne. A lot of films and commercials are filmed in the Silverton area such as Razorback, Wake in Fright, The Slim Dusty Movie, Mission Impossible II, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The first stop for any Mad Max tourist should of course be the Silverton Hotel. There is a wealth of history surrounding the hotel, and inside you will find pictures from Mad Max 2, and many of the other productions that have been done out there over the years. The road out past Silverton will also take you to the Mundi Mundi plain, where much of the opening of the film was shot. I tried out for the Mad Max films but there was no one to sign me up, to my temporary dismay.
We went to the Mundi Mundi Lookout to watch the sunset. Missed it by five minutes as we were on Broken Hill time and Silverton – a few kilometres away is on New South Wales time – half an hour difference.
We got a photo of the road there that most of the Mad Max filming was done on.
If it sounds like I am a Mad Max enthusiast. I am not really – I think I saw one of the films many years ago but since so much is made of it here I jumped on the bandwagon as any self-respecting American Leo would. Though it is now on our list of flicks to watch if we ever slow down long enough to watch a whole movie. Speaking of movies; we recently say ‘Nomadland’ the Oscar winning film about people living in caravans and moving about in the States. It is so us. There are wild donkeys around the place – at the pub they say often they will just wander in.
The whole town consists of a pub, church, couple of art galleries…
and a couple of museums – of course there is the Mad Max Museum which we did not pay the ten-dollars to enter proving our loyalty to the film series.
01 June Tuesday
To Daydream mines tour – we have a bit of a video of this – https://youtu.be/_JF_lNJhU9E. The drive is quite rough – don’t take your caravan with you -we didn’t. Narda opened the gates along the way to get us across the barren landscape,
watch the video.
Then there was construction, or as they say in Australia, road works. Starting at Burra, this was a serious slow down for us. Barrier Hwy was slated, apparently, for many millions of dollars to be spent. We drove much of the section driving between 40kmh and 60kmh. So what’s changed, says Leon and Michael. And to that I have no comment except to say that I have more points on my license than perhaps you do. And that’s all I have to say.
I was very relieved when it was over. I am talking about the mine tour at the Daydream Mine. The name comes from the first prospector, who found a piece of silver in the ore. He could not believe his luck and said ‘only in my dreams’. It turned out to be a very productive silver mine.
We took the tour, after a nice introduction which included……no….which was ……yummy jam and cream and scones.. Then we had to put on helmets and go down, very far down. The headroom was much more suited to much short er people than me, and I found it a bit difficult. It cemented my belief that I would never like to be a miner.
Terrell also had a struggle with his leg seizing up and causing him grief, as it seemed to collapse on him as he tried to come back up to ground level. Something we will need to check up on.
“I don’t really believe that folks should be forced to have the vaccine, that would be communist”, said the friendly fellow, camping alone in the Silverton Caravan Park, called Penrose Park. He had his own camp set up, his firewood neatly lined up, and his matching blue kitchen utensils arranged in a wire bookcase. I asked him if he was OCD. He said he worked at the Silverton Pub and had a day off a week, and loved to live here, in his tent and the lovely layout.
The Silverton Pub is a treasure. Lots of famous celebs have been there, making movies like A Town like Alice, Mad Max 2, As Time goes by, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Dirty deeds, Mission Impossible 2, and many others. The area is apparently also used for many commercials, every 2 months or so. Including but not limited to Land rover, Pepsi, West End Beer, Dove Soap, Hyundai, Pajero, Smiths Chips….and so on.
The flying-doctor doctor told us that they often landed on the road to pick up folks in an emergency. We met this charming doctor and her mother watching the sun set at Mundi Mundi. We arrived too late, forgetting, I think, to make the time adjustment form SA to NSW. But it was fun chatting with this interesting person.
Then there was the couple form Melbourne, who, like most of the folks around here, did a runner from Melbourne when it shut down again. They had really interesting travel stories for us, including the Trans Siberian Rail trip, and traveling from Kazakhstan to Tashkent in Uzbekistan by train. We exchanged cards and promised to stay in touch.
So here we are in the caravan park, now on the second evening, feeling relaxed. I feel very sad about Henk’s death and not being able to make the funeral. Hopefully tomorrow we can see the ‘livestream’.
We first went in and had coffee and scones with jam and cream at the one-stop-shop for the mine. Then we did the tour where we learned that
“A miner’s life consisted of twelve-hour days, six days a week. Miners worked by Candlelight which were held in holders known as spiders. Mining method was mostly by hammer and tapping holes, then firing them. Miners did not leave the workings for firings. Pickey boys (Lads of 14-15 years old) would hand pick the ore after a firing, and bag it. Most miners suffered failing eyesight and respiratory diseases.”the internet
We got the senior rate for the tour ($30 each two bucks off the regular admission whoopee) but after scones and coffee, the bill was like thirty eight something – but they were good.
The tour before going into the mines was fine. In the time of covid we even wore masks.
02 June Wednesday
Rain all day – we stayed another night at Penrose Caravan Park. We watched Netflix in the evening.
Our first free camp. The road consists mainly of caravaners. Quite incredible, I think 2 out of 3. The road trains continue on their way oblivious, causing my extended side mirror to flatten against the car each time they whoosh by.
Terrell lit up a nice fire in the rest stop near the highway. There were 5 or 6 other vans and RVs nearby. A magical sky, all the constellations and far away galaxies in full view.
Left Silverton 11 am – shopping in Broken Hill. Found the local dump point (for those who have no idea what a dump point is and its importance to folks like us – think of an indoor loo with no outlet – just a collection tub and what to do with it after a few days) This is our second time to Broken Hill and both times just passing through. Last year we came this way on the way to Port Macquarie. (I am sure you read our blog on this) We will make a special trip here someday as there is so much to see. Mines and all and a train to Sydney.
(OK more interesting stuff too)
Overnight free camping alongside highway 100 Ks west of Wilcannia – arrived 4.45 pm – made a campfire to stay warm – 3 degrees Celsius – 37 degrees in Yank speak.
04 June Friday
Left 8 am – Overnight free camping alongside highway – arrived 2 pm, feel exhausted for all the nothing we have been doing. Perhaps driving through desert landscapes for hours is tiring. First nap since started – stopping in Cobar for petrol – used smoothie maker in bathroom – campfire – 60 Ks from Bourke. To elaborate on those notes…When home I make my daily smoothie with our super blender thingy: almond milk (yes at home I make my own – soaking ¼ cup almonds 24-hours, taking skins off them as we watch Netflix – blending with 4-cups water – enough for 4-days of smoothie, (when travelling I buy it in cartons) kale, blueberries, homemade yogurt, home grown sprouts, coconut oil, flaxseed oil (oils supposed to be good for brain development – ha ha ha – still waiting for that effect after decades of these things) tahini, and powders (hemp protein powder, sugar-free coco, cinnamon, turmeric, Matcha, Green banana fibre, Acai, Pea protein, Spirulina, and a Super Greens) Really! It is a bit embarrassing, so I never tell anyone outside of Narda. She calls it green slime and refuses it – I think it does me good. I made up two large containers of my powder mix – enough for a month+. When we travel, I have a small food blender mixer thingy – so I leave out the kale – everything else goes in. As we do a lot of free camping I usually mix it up and carry my blender into the toilet when we get petrol. There is always somewhere to plug it in – usually where the dryer is plugged in. The daily few hours drive is quiet good – though a lot of sameness,
this is what the landscape looks like after a few hours
I have a fascination with the road trains; many with four-carriages. Signs on the highway say they are up to 53.5 metres – that is 175.5 feet. Stand the truck on its end and about a fifteen-story building.
Another freebie, this time with only a couple of others. Another fire, some wine and a nap.
Met some interesting folks at this caravan park which is the nicest one we have seen. They talked us into going all the way to the gulf, which is quite a lot further than we had planned.
This afternoon (Sunday) we rode our bikes (not the electric ones!) into the small town. Everything was closed though there were many caravans in town. We seem to be spending a lot on diesel, at $1.50 per litre. Heater is on now, the nights are pretty cold, but days are sunny and 18C.
Spend a bit of time removing red dust from many things 😊
red dust after a few days off road (not our van)
Birthday stay, dinner at the RSL, and a wonderful visit to the Qantas Museum where we honoured Henk. Irene told us they had been there twice and he loved it both times. I even made an announcement about him and his long career with Qantas to the tour group we were with, and that the world had lost him only a few weeks ago. Got a very sympathetic response. Then we all had cupcakes for the 25th anniversary of the museum.
Walked through town in the evening, but everything (except the pubs) was closed.
Two degrees Celsius this morning – left Cunnamulla camp site at 9 am – stopped at Wyandra for coffee – drove through Charleville – lunch – walked through old pub Camping 45 Ks north of Augathella 70Ks south of Tambo. Tambo is a town with lots of buildings. We stopped at the library and had a long tour and talk of the town from the local Librarian.
We toured inside several planes including one that apparently cost $35-million to tart up and was to be sold to a Saudi Prince until he was told that the seats were covered in pigskins. Oops! Michael Jackson ended up with it for awhile then it sat in a muddy field in England and the Qantas Museum folks put it together and flew to Longreach.
We got tours through several other planes including a 747 jumbo. See ‘Celebrities and top-secret missions: Stories from the Qantas Founders Museum.
The town of Longreach is good – train station with a train going across to Brisbane that we promised ourselves we would take, ‘one-day’.
– left 2.15 pm to Winton
Lured by the prospect of another free site, we braved the corrugated road for 2 Kms. It was beautiful, on the banks of “The Long Waterhole”, of course all the water side spots were already taken by fellow tight-arses, but we had a beautiful sunrise.
Next morning drove into Winton, we took off the bikes and rode around town. I bought 2 tea shirts at the local Vinnies, and Terrell had an extended conversation with 2 ladies about America and other matters. Well actually, he did the talking and they gave him their rapt attention! One was from Scotland, and knew all about Findhorn, (a hippy place in the 60’s, we visited years ago, and they were still selling books on “how to communicate with your cat”), so that was a wonderful starting point.
Overnight outside Winton staying at The Long Waterhole – there about 4 pm – made campfire – cold. The landscape around The Long Waterhole is dry and dusty. We could have easily stayed for a few days but being at the beginning of our journey we thought one day would suffice. Winton is a good looking town – we missed the chicken racing though…next time.
It was just a pub with no town. But boy the caravans were there. The whole area behind the pub, where we had planned to stay for a gold coin donation was chockers. So folks like us parked on the footpaths, amply wide enough. A good stay and some nice yarns with people in the pub over a beer. We were advised by a local stockwoman to take the inland road over the Atherton tablelands, rather than the coastal road, which we did.
The Prairie Hotel is a free/donation appreciated campsite located on the Flinders Highway (Savage Street) in the small town of Prairie about 43km east of Hughenden in the Flinders Region of Northwest Queensland. The hotel is an authentic Aussie hotel providing a free overnight campsite on its grounds and is a must-see for its collection of stockmen’s hats and other memorabilia from the local area. It is a bit of a bogan (Bogan is Australian and New Zealand slang for a person whose speech, clothing, attitude, and behaviour are considered unrefined or unsophisticated) sort of place. We had planned to eat dinner there. The publican said dinner was steak and veg. I said what was there for vegetarians? He said ‘veg’. We ate in our caravan.
Overnight outside Winton staying at The Long Waterhole – there about 4 pm – made campfire – cold. The landscape around The Long Waterhole is dry and dusty. We could have easily stayed for a few days but being at the beginning of our journey we thought one day would suffice. Winton is a good looking town – we missed the chicken racing though…next time. This is commonly known as the locals’ waterhole. It is approximately 2kms from Winton on the Jundah Road. Long Waterhole is man-made and was once used during the Outback Festival as the site for the World Crayfish Derby! The road to it is pretty rough – even going slow it felt as if the caravan would fall apart.
Charters Towers was founded in the 1870s when gold was discovered by chance at Towers Hill on Christmas Eve 1871 by 12-year-old Aboriginal boy.
A much needed two night stay with power. Washing, clothes and bodies…all clean! Friendly folk in the van next door with good stories about driving on the dirt. An embarrassing exit, as we could not lower our awning. So we fumbled and forced, our neighbour tried to help, Terrell went into the caravan and applied the hammer….hey presto, all fixed.
Two degrees in morning – rode bikes around town, don’t think I would want to spend the rest of my life here, not much of a town in our world though they do their best to promote it with a great visitor’s centre. I bought a fridge magnet to end to our totally covered fridge back home, Narda bought a red backpack.
A little town that boasts one the few sausage trees in the world. We went into the caravan park full of galahs, ducks and turkeys. Quite a racket. Luckily they all went to bed at night. Another nice little bike ride checking out the real estate.
An old disused railway station with carriages on the tracks and lots of memorabilia made the next caravan stay interesting. We stayed here 2 days.
At 930 metres (3,050 ft) above sea level, Ravenshoe is the highest town in Queensland, with Queensland’s highest pub. The railway station is where the caravan park is, easily walkable to town. We did a day drive the area going to the Tully Falls and Gorge. Quite spectacular and groovy at the same time.
We have a bit of a video of the falls and gorge at https://youtu.be/5NvNSorPrwQ
“I can remember my past lives”, the local art shop owner/framer/photographer assured us. He said he used to be a potato farmer in Ireland in a previous life. He was bon in 1953, though he remembers dying in 1954. I can’t quite figure that one out, but he said this sometimes happens and you can live in 2 lives at once. He actually seemed quite intelligent despite these stories. Got the hat in the local craft store, birthday pressie from Terrell.
We had difficulty getting out of this dude’s shop…he just went on and on. Having been ‘an astrologer’ for 40-years (it is how I got to Australia, I was speaking at a conference in Sydney in 1980…blahblahblah) and had spent a decade trapped in a cult, I had heard his spiel too many times to want to hear it again. (BTW I don’t believe in any of this anymore. I grew out of it as most people do). But I did think he had a very chilled dog – see above photo with Narda and animal. I shared a bit about this at https://neuage.me/2013/01/13/those-were-the-days/
The drive from Ravenshoe to Atherton was hairy. Very steep roads, with sharp bends. I was driving much slower than others it seemed, so I had quite a following. Nowhere to allow folks to pass. Sometimes the road had steep drops with no safety barrier. In a later conversation around a campfire, other drivers assured me that they were also freaked out by this particular road, while towing. So it wasn’t just me.
The next day I had pretty severe vertigo. Not sure if there’s a connection. We found a physio in Atherton who was great. She was an expert in this area and diagnosed me with 2 conditions; vestibular neuritis (viral infection of the inner ear) and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. I have to do brain retraining exercises (watch an X on the wall and rapidly moving my head to make my left ear canal and brain connection make up for the damaged neural connection. A couple of weeks should do it.
Today, 3 days later it’s much better already. Weird stuff.
Deb, a volunteer at the Rocky Creek Memorial Park welcomed us to our free (donation only) park; really nice place.
We stayed at this park for a couple of days. A great area outside of Tolga. During World War II they had the biggest military base in Australia – with the largest military hospital in the Southern Hemisphere — a 3000 bed hospital which treated over 60,000 patients from 1943 to 1945. Next to the caravan site is this great mine.
Now we are waiting for our damper in the last night at Ringers Rest RV Park. A great place, we are close to the nightly fire where a ring of oldies sit around drinking beer and pontificating. I have some nights got myself caught with true blue Trumpers. Blimey. But this is Queensland.
We bought a CD from Dave. A nice country mix “I remember” by his friend, Dennis Russell of his in a tribute for his dad, with also on song about Ringers Rest.
We decided to stay 3 nights, slow down a bit.
Below is the song about Dave and his damper…
We did lots of walks to the nearby stream. I wanted to see the local crocodile that lived there. Narda was not too sure. We were told that freshwater crocs don’t kill humans they just bit. Great. Nevertheless, we never saw it.
We did see a lot of termite hills, some quite large. We will show this later, next month, when we share our video of them along the highway.
One morning at 4 am we heard quite large noises, considering how quiet the countryside we were in was this got us up – we bundled up and went out in the two-degree (centigrade) weather and watched to hot air balloons in the nearby fields. They spent until sunrise – six am or there about – to get them in the air. Apparently, there were 25 people in each. Dave later told us that we could go for half price – $200. Below is a bit of a clip of this. 27 seconds… https://youtu.be/4IjhPwHyY4c
Parked at the caravan park, on the banks of a river. Nice to shower and wash stuff. Then headed off to Pt Douglas and stayed overnight with Carolin and Michael in a very pleasant Airbnb.
That evening we went to the local Irish pub were I drank a Kilkenny, accompanied with pulled pork sliders. All good. Gelatis for dessert.
We were walking to 4 Mile Beach with Carolin and Michael, (on a Tuesday…our holyday), we received the news from Chris that baby was pending, then an hour later baby Josiah was born!!!!!! They had a weird story to tell, with a 3 car pile up smashing into the back of their car, and possibly bringing on the contractions!!!!
Drove back to Mossman, only 15 minutes away and rode our bikes up to the Mossman Gorge Visitors centre. Also found a nice little shop where we bought some pressies for the new boy and his big brother.
Brendan is exploring Skardu in Pakistan, the Masters finally completed. The photo I saw on Facebook was at 13,500 ft. Impressive!!
This place is sooo beautiful. Tall rugged mountains all around, covered in rainforest. If the summers were not so fierce I think we could easily live here.
The drive from Mossman to Cairns follows a coastal road and is spectacular. We took it easy (much to the concern of those behind us!)
Our first full day was getting Terrell’s second shot at a well set up health centre. Today he got his official vaccination certificate from the Australian government!!! Yay.
Below is the exact place for this recent headline, “Queensland Environment Wildlife officers have spotted a crocodile in Lake Placid in Cairns just hours after a man survived a horror attack while swimming.” Apparently the dude went swimming here everyday…crocs watch for patterns, when someone or something does the same thing at the same time they think, ‘yumm’. Narda was opposed to us swimming here – not sure why.
Last night we had a wonderful reunion with Paul, a dear friend I had not seen for 20 years or so. We met his wife, Liz and 2 kids, Hannah (aged 16) and Matthew (aged 14) in their beautiful wooden Cairns house. Carolin and Michael also came. They made nice veggie curry, and we bought some naan bread on the way. Also brought our first attempt at homemade raita, which was enjoyed all round. Lots of reminiscing and great food and fellowship.
click on individual photo below to see full size
The train ride to Karunda was amazing. It reminded us a bit of the Shimla rail trip with steep drops and lots of tunnels; also built in the 1800’s. [in case you missed that blog – with video and photos shoot on over to https://neuage.me/2018/04/05/shimla/] There is a real tourist strip through the town but once we got past that …did not buy anything…[wait! what? yes you did, you bought a few pieces of clothing – I remember. I was there.] we found some lovely trails through rain forest, as you do in this part of the world.
We checked out downtown Cairns, parked in a huge shopping centre and walked down the main drag. We found a neat little market style place where we ate crepes, made by a real Frenchman.
We returned in the evening a few days later when here was a festival of some kind. Nice atmosphere. Terrell had his first parmesan, veggie of course, I had chicken and we got the up graded chips using sweet potatoes. Really good.
We are not those people who take photos of their meals then post them…oh wait!!!
This was one for the history books. A perfectly pleasant free camp (donation) with showers and toilets and LOTS of caravans. A big brown river passing by about 3 metres lower. It rained for 3 days and 3 nights. Solid! This was a first time for me I think.
So trips to Babinda proper, on the other side of the Brice highway were made, umbrella in hand. Eventually most things were wet, though the van did not leak. I was nervous about getting bogged there. We were parked in a bit of a shallow dip. We turned the van around the second day o get out of the water. I asked the guy driving the garbage truck if I should be towing us out to drier parts. He said “nuh, you’re fine. Only twice a year it floods and then it comes above my head. You’ll be fine”. OK.
On the first morning we inspected the brown river and I kid you not, it had risen a solid metre and was flowing alarmingly fast.
But we were fine, as we had been told. On our last morning we ate a hot brekkie, the full works at a café in the charming town, for $8. A bloke sitting nearby told us that Babinda and Tully compete for the dubious honour of having the highest rainfall in Australia. The pub that winds gets the rubber boot trophy until next time.
We went to the Babinda Boulders and the Josephine Falls, a tiered cascade waterfall on the Josephine Creek located in Wooroonooran. We did both on a rainy day. After three days of rain the falls were amazing. Narda said they were ‘the best I have ever seen’ and we have been to Niagara Falls (on both the Canadian and USA side)… whatifs – they were spectacular no matter the comparison. They are dangerous. @ least 18 folks have died slipping on the rocks/falling into the creek. Our photos and video really don’t show the force of these falls – quite incredible. Look at our slideshow below or better yet watch the one-minute clips.
click on individual photo below to see full size
OK! I will tell what happened while here…I was hoping Narda would. Two things:
this is exactly where Billy stopped – choking on the wrong type of fuel
here is a 25 second clip of that hour
A very crowded caravan park in a stunning place. The beach is gorgeous ringed with palm tress. A picture! Blue seas, mountains on the horizon and in the sea (Dunk Island I think).
Yesterday an old friend of Terrell’s (from 35 years ago) drove down to see us, with her friend. We had a nice breakfast in one of the café’s in town, and shared great stories.
The old friend was actually quite young. When I was raising my boys in Victor Harbor back in the 1980s early 1990s their playmates were the Rosalskis family. They were a Baháʼí family that looked after my boys and me when we were going through a very difficult period. In the early 1990s I started a radio station (E-FM Encounter FM) with Rik Rosalski and Sandy Mathewson down south. The last time Sacha remembers seeing Hannah Rosalski was when she was about six and he was ten – early 1990s. We would later see Rik Rosalski in Alice Springs on our journey home.
Vincent Bushy Park
The park was named after Vincent ‘Bushy’ Parker to acknowledge his significance; to many Vincent ‘Bushy’ Parker is known as a war hero. There is a real cool story about the dude here – read about a cool dude.
Another beautiful free camp spot! Nights chatting with travellers from interstate, one from Malta, the wife from Wales. Pleasant conversation. Then we went off to the next beach spot, and picked up some firewood. Riding our bikes to the main street of this little town was nice. We bought 2 post cards and mailed them to the girls. Masks mandatory in the post office/general store! This is a flow over from the Covid restrictions in Townsville. We bought a delicious pineapple (which grows all round here, for brekkie….$3!
After leaving Rollingstone we noticed the brakes behaving badly, locking and causing the caravan to skid. It got significantly worse by the time we got to Townsville so we rang the Redarc friendly tech guy who recommended an auto electrician, and we managed to get an appointment for 8am the next morning. (PS. these are those brakes that were not working days earlier when Narda had to back us up along a country road. They seemed to work a bit when dried out but suddenly did not work at all)
We drove through the trendy Airlie Beach, Whitsundays – kept going
Friendly folk at the auto electrician, a young guy worked in it for an hour or so, trying to save the appliance, but it turned out that we needed a new one. They charged about $450 which was not bad, given the retail price for the part was around that amount.
We had not planned to go to Townsville as it had been in lock-down for a week up to the day before we got there. However, there was no other place nearby to fix our brakes.
Next day we headed to Home Hill. The GPS gave us the run-around, taking us off the Bruce Hwy for 1/32 , then bringing us back onto it! Blimey. But we made a scenic little side-trip through cane fields and small towns.
John Moerman rang and wondered if we were still in Cairns as he was there, on his way to Cooktown. Bummer we missed him.
It was funny because both Paul and John made cracks about Home Hill. John told us it was an incestuous town. Ha ha. Actually, we did notice that in the dogs barking in front yard they were all similar, very similar!!
The campground was nice, an older couple (probably volunteers) were manning it. We paid $20 np for power which was nice, caught up on stories and recharging
The most delicious barramundi for tea was purchased from the local fish and chip shop. Yum. Mine was crumbed. The best fish I’ve ever had.
Off to Ayr to check on some memories. We found and photographed Paul’s old house and drove through the pleasant town. One the way chatted with some ladies at the info centre, outdoors. Lots of opinions about how to pronounce Mackay….Mackay as in Kay the girl’s name…the locals mostly use that version, or Mackay, as we pronounce it….the “posh” southern state version. We decided to stick with that one.
Narda got her second covid-19 shot there (I had mine weeks earlier in Cairns). We also had to get a new windscreen for Billy – bloody road-train threw a rock at him and cracked his window. We spent a day at Port of Mackay which is a relatively a nice place with a long breakwater that is drive-able on. See our clip below.
It was a caravan park next to the visitors centre. We paid $15 for an unpowered site which gave us a choice of places over a large field. The first human contact was a guy who was cycling all over Australia and making a movie of it. He had his little tent, and his gear under a tree and promised more stories. We never followed this, a pity, it would have been interesting.
Bowen is situated on a beautiful stretch of coast. We drove up to some lookout points and took many photos. Other than that it seems a bit of a rough town, at least parts of it.
On the way to Ball Bay we went through Ayr to find Paul’s house where I also stayed some 25 years ago. I took a photo and sent it to him. The place did not remind me of being there lot’s of changes I guess. I had a great gas bag with 3 ladies who were “information” at the entrance of Ayr, where we discussed Covid, as you do these days, and the pronunciation of Mackay.
Then we stopped by Airlie Beach, a beautiful place with lots of touristy things, including a market, shopping, a marina, lots of stunning views. We stopped at Bunnings and bought fairy lights for the caravan and a rubber mat. Then onwards to Ball Bay. I missed the turnoff. Terrell insisted on still going there, so we took the long way, and we certainly did not regret it.
This was a lovely experience. A free council site, about 20 kms off the Bruce highway, right on the beach. It had toilets, and little mini camp kitchen with a power point and hot water. Plenty of shade. When we fist arrived we just managed to find a spot, right next door to a couple we became quite friendly with, Kevin and Magda (?)
On the Sunday many folks left: end of school holidays. After that we had the van brigade with their young people and sliding doors. Locally called Whizz Bangers. It’s the noise those sliding doors make…all night. We made some friends. A young guy named Nick and his girlfriend of 3 months, Ebony. Lovely people. We met Nick in a laundromat in Mackay and got talking about where we were staying. I told him that if he turned up I would give him a beer😉
What was interesting to me that Nick was a true traveller and had spent much of his life working as a chef, and saving enough to travel, then going 6 months to India and many other places until he ran out of money. So had some nice talks about that, all of us really missing international travel in this crazy pandemic. They left us a lovely letter, an Elvis calendar and a little piece of art made from a twig. We have them on Facebook.
In the time in Ball Bay I had my second Astra Zeneca jab. No side effects at all, so far. We found an appointment in a surgery in the shopping centre in Mackay. I was part of a group, 5 of us, who got vaccinated together. We shared jokes about…was she going to use the same needle, what do we say to non-vaxxers etc. Nice. I didn’t feel it at all.
We explored the area, took some walks on the beach where we got some fantastic sunrise photos. Then a longer walk to the end, mangroves, and a lovely walk back (in the shade….lots of beautiful groves of trees, many paperbarks and palm trees. Some great beach houses. I think this is quite affordable.
Then there was the door. We fiddled and farted around with it, trying to install the very expensive little plastic handle ($56!!!!) which we had purchased at Jayco, Townsville. In the end, Kevin our friendly neighbour with the generator, installed it for us. He insisted that he did not know what he was doing, but that he was persistent, and liked to work things out. All good!
We had a couple of nice happy hours with these folks, set up by another newly arrived Czech couple, who came in their very fancy RV, complete with pull-outs. We had lots of conversations about travel, especially cruises. It was fun, our little circle in the middle of the grounds.
This was one of if not my favorite spot. We were there for six days. One of the ‘standards’ was this generation whatever it is for people in their 30s who would spend most of the day walking around the park in his boxer shorts and nothing else talking on his phone. I think he was working from home (well in this case from the caravan park) and he was always talking business. He seemed like a friendly fellow – wish I had gotten a photo of him – with no self-consciousness. He had one of those vans that people call ‘ Whizz Bangers ‘ next to us.
See our little slideshow of this place below – if you think we are throwing up a lot of photos, it is about one-percent of them. The photo with the fence around it is a crocodile preventive thingy – due to the number of these delightful playful creatures to go for a swim do it inside the fenced area or you will be quickly eaten.
And here I sit, writing this, in the caravan parked on the street behind the visitors’ centre, together with a whole street of caravans of all shapes and sizes. This is a free spot, hot showers included. Terrell is fast asleep, now it’s 6.30am, I’m getting close to accidently waking him up 😊…no I won’t do that.
We did a big U turn when we heard that NSW was closed and we would have to quarantine if we returned home through NSW. So back to Home Hill and onwards to the NT border and then home along the Stuart Hwy.
Last night we did something we never do…go to the pub for a drink and see the band. They were a duet of ladies with their guitars and no electronic add ons other than the PA/mics. They were great. Lots of golden oldies with great voices and lovely harmonies. Very enjoyable, though we were only there for about ½ an hour.
It was a lovely shady spot with a thick green tree shading us. There are we few more folks, but not crowded. The couple near us have been on the road for 14 years. They still love it. We took the bikes off and road along a service road next to the railway track. Half an hour of exercise.
We have started to get into a groove, leaving fairly early in the morning, on our way by at least 8.30am. Now we pack sandwiches; I eat mine at about 11.00am., and we take the thermos for coffee. It’s all pretty efficient and we make good progress
Julia creek is beautiful if you get there early enough for a water’s edge spot, but we didn’t and parked in the large dusty field. Not too bad, but on the second night a caravan parked itself right next to us…despite there being plenty of room not to do that. I was pretty cranky about it; you could hear every word they said!.
Then…..a wind gust tore the caravan awing. We tried taping it, but the more we tried the more it ripped. In the end I phoned Jeff Hale (bless) who said to just rip it right off, take all the canvas off. It worked, we folded the frame back into place and the next morning we were happily on our way. I made a phone call to a guy in Mt Isa to see if he could repair it. It will be an insurance job, but he said he could do it, but the awning would have to come from Brisbane which would take two weeks. So we decided to leave it until we get home to Adelaide (which I’ve just hear is in a 7 day lock down…schools closed etc, because of some Covid cases with the Delta strain in Modbury Hospital.
We also mailed a book for Liam, about the Australian monster dinosaurs.
I found the local dunnart’s interesting – even took a short clip of one though I am unable to find my file – hopefully you can see it here where I posted it on facebook –
Here I sit in the most beautiful place, above the blue waters of the dam. Incredible. There are hundreds of caravans here, but it’s a huge area. Many folks on the actual shores of the dam. We are up a bit, with a view of water from 3 sides.
Our trip here was interesting. After shopping in Cloncurry (called Curry by the locals) where I scored an awesome meat pie, almost as good as a Villis, we drove to the camping are, studiously following the directions in Camps 8. “At the first Y you take a left”. We literally did that, onto a 2 wheel track, not realising that there are proper dirt roads all the way. We got monumentally stuck. Too many trees, and a sharp out-crop of rocks which Billy got stuck on, but Terrell took care of this with his trusty hammer. Eventually we figured out that we had to saw down a small tree, (sorry Jess) and managed to squeeze though. No damage to the car or van due to Terrell’s good directing. Oh well, we got there, and it was definitely worth it!!!
We took a short afternoon nap, with the breeze wafting through the van and a walk around the grounds. Terrell slipped and fell hard onto his knees. A nasty fall, he now sports a couple of decent bandages on each knee and a ton of Betadine!
We drove to an amazing mine site called Mary Kathleen. It was owned by Rio Tinto who were mining uranium. They built a complete town nearby, with houses, cafes shopping centre and a school for the miners. It was closed in 1985 and all the houses were relocated to Cloncurry, where they are still in use today. Nothing remains of the town, part some foundations and road curbs.
The mine itself was a 6km serious 4WD ride away. A huge place, all in tiers, with a startling blue lake at the bottom. No one can swim there as it is still contaminated. Certainly worth a look, it was just 6 Kms from our camping site.
Our neighbours showed us their yabbie catch. The males have soft red claws, and they can be eaten though we were told they are not as tasty as lobster! They had planned to make a curry using 20 of these yabbies.
We reluctantly left Corella Dam, to get some connection. Nothing for several days. I had a very unpleasant experience on the drive, as a large truck overtook a road train on a curve and came over the double lines, at least a foot onto my side. I was doing 80Kms at the time, and managed to swerve off the road and into the shoulder. All good, but it sure left my heart pounding.
Mt Isa is dominated by the mine. Large chimneys loom over the town. It is quite large, Coles and Woollies (which we discovered was the better of the two) and we managed to get some help at the Telstra shop. Terrell could not get his hot spot working on the phone. It took two of them ½ hour to find it, but it turned out to be that the ‘data saver’ was on. They now also sell Oppo phones so that perhaps gives us a bit of tech help when we need it.
The situation in Adelaide is pretty bad Covid wise. Hot spots include Wyn Vale Dam, TTP, Modbury Hospital. The girls, Clare and Stu are all in quarantine at home for 2 weeks. Stu has lost 10 shifts of work. Really tough.
The caravan park at Mt Isa is pretty average with the usual squashed up site, for $45! But we did get stuff done, washed hair, washed clothes, checked internet stuff.
A couple of hours drive and we are at this town 12 Km from the NT border. We followed the Camps 8 directions, past the bridge, turn north, 2 Kms of dirt road and here we are. An amazing site, with our own little billabong, birdlife, 2 fire places and absolutely no road noise. Magic. It’s so quiet and private….
The petrol station was chockers, caravans lined up down the highway. They were charging 1.79 per litre.
Camooweal Billabong is a huge free camp on Lake Francis – even though hundreds go park we were isolated from the herd and had our own little billabong. We rode our bikes to town – bought an ice cream a couple of fridge magnets and that was one of our days. See our groovy photos below:
We got through the NT border, friendly cop, chatty, complaining that this border did not have QR codes like they apparently do In WA. Listening to Imran Kahn’s CD. Very interesting perspective on the USA after 9/11 and how they waged a “war on terror” costing many thousands of lives in the Muslim community world wide.
This place is great. Barkly Homestead. It has a caravan park, a little pool, lots of space, and tonight we went to the restaurant for dinner. I had meat lovers pizza and Terrell had seared salmon. All good. We watched the Aussies win the swimming in the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Bren just texted that he’s back in Lahore after a really interesting trip north into the Himalayas. Looking forward to hearing more.
Josiah is 1 month old. That went very quickly. Sad that we can’t go over there to see the little guy. SA is in lockdown. It’s all a mess. Our Prime Minister Scott Morrison seems to think that borders closings are going to save us from the Delta mutation, instead of putting all effort into getting everyone vaccinated. Grrr.
We left Barkly Homestead early and got over the border and to Tennant Creek stopping at the Three Way Roadhouse. Three Ways is a roadhouse located at the junction of the Stuart and Barkly Highways, 25 kilometers north of Tennant Creek. Diesel fuel was $2.04 per litre – the highest on this trip. For comparison it is about $1.35 in Adelaide. We filled up not knowing if there would be more available between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs 508 KM away. One full tank gets us abut 450 Ks and having run out back Charters Towers toward the beginning of our trip we were a bit insecure. ‘Spoiler alert’… we didn’t run of fuel getting to Alice.
Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve is a protected area in the Northern Territory of Australia located in the locality of Warumungu about 105 km south of Tennant Creek, and 393 km north of Alice Springs. the Devils Marble are important to the local Warumungu, Kaytetye, Alyawarra, and Warlpiri people who live in the traditional country that surrounds them
An amazing place, but we weren’t the only ones who thought so. The camp site already had 35 caravans, pretty much lined up as in a caravan park. It is a national park, with some nice waking trails where you can see the rock formations from all sides. It’s pretty amazing and has a place in the indigenous people’s dreamtime stories. In the evening we were invited to a campfire to listen to a ranger tell us about his role as a manger of several similar sites, and lots of interesting information about the wildlife, kangaroos, snakes, and Australian’s largest lizard, the Perentie 2 ½ metres long, which keeps the snakes at bay. Much of their work is to cull feral animals (cats mainly, but also donkeys) which threaten the native population.
Another bonus was a guy who, toward sunset went up the path a bit, with the back drop of the rocks, and played his trumpet. Wonderful. Jazz standards like Autumn Leaves, Don’t get around much anymore, Summer Time, all with beautiful improvisations. I asked him about his James Morrisonesque playing and he said he actually had one of his trumpets which he bought from him. He showed me the inscription. Very cool.
A very pleasant little stay with some interesting characters. There was an ex-truckie in his own little set-up with car and tent, who watched me reverse the caravan ( I was little concerned) and told me later that I drove better than 90% of his trucker mates. Not true I’m sure, but I’ll take it!
Then we met a couple of women, both with their own fancy RV’s, who had met further up the road and decided, after asking each other relevant questions like “How fast do you drive?”, to travel together. So they follow each other at a decent speed of 100 KPH, and enjoy each other’s company’. They both gave me the guided tour of their vans and I told them to watch “Nomadland”.
Barrow Creek: “Barrow Creek is a very small town, with a current population of 11, in the southern Northern Territory of Australia. It is located on the Stuart Highway, about 280 km north of Alice Springs, about halfway from there to Tennant Creek. The main feature of the town is the roadhouse/hotel” We stopped here and ‘refreshed’.
Much nicer than I was expecting. A few years ago it was the most dangerous city in the world per capita, mainly because of the stabbings!
We met up with a friend of Terrell’s from way way back….30 years or so, Rik Rosalski. It was interesting to listen to his stories about his youth work with the Indigenous young people. Lots of issues but he is a gentle type and works well with them in a non-judgemental way.
The second day Rik invited us back for lunch, where we met his son Nik and his wife and little son. They were a lovely couple and we enjoyed shooting the breeze with this family.
We decided to stay another night and get some stuff done. The internet (Telstra) is pretty sparce on this trip. I worked with Shambhu in his project to earn some commission on carpet sales from the Moghul Company to my friends. I put up a blurb on Facebook with a bunch of pictures describing this situation (which for both Shambhu and the Carpet seller is pretty dire now with Covid) Surprisingly, I got 5 expressions of interest almost straight away (Jenn, Jo, Liz, Deanna, Marnie). So we’ll see. I hope it all works out.
Alice Springs is set amongst rocky hills, which reflect the sun and it make quite a colourful sight. It has a central area, usual shops, and a huge police station and Federal Court buildings! We bought a nice music box at a jeweller for Mabel’s birthday in the shopping mall.
Rik also showed us a nice lookout point dedicated to soldiers in different wars Australia has fought in. It was a beautiful spot. We also had a bike ride near the caravan park. The town is pretty good for that, with lots of bike paths, which Rik enjoyed with his newly purchased E-Bike….a real chunky one!
We got to the South Australia border – worried for days that we would be refused entry. We saw the sign – got rid of our fruit and veggies – we filled in the online permit covid thingy and hoped for the best. No one was there to greet us – I had wanted a full brass band, dancing girls in mini-skirts (oh shit the me-2 freaks are going to come after me – shut me down on twitter…and the other 73.5 social-less sites I inhabit.
A simple overnight rest area next to the Stuart highway. The highlight was sitting in our deck chairs in the dark looking at the magnificent sky. There was no moonlight, just a couple of sinister clouds sometimes coming across. Gorgeous.
We met a woman travelling with her sister in an impressive rig. Both husbands had died and they were off to Katherine, to turn left into WA and take a trip around and back to Adelaide, expecting to take up to 6 months.
One of them came from Mt Compass, had lived there forever and so Terrell and her shared stories of their memories in the 80’s. It’s a small world.
Found a decent spot in the middle of the red desert! It’s very quiet, not too hot, and lots of room for everyone. So far only 4 other campers, a long way from each other.
Terrell made a very respectable fire in the evening, which was still glowing the next morning so we also had a morning coffee fire. Nice!
Drove into Coober Pedy to get some supplies at their great IGA. They have so much good stuff, Terrell remembered this from last time. All sorts of gourmet things, and of course good health food stuff.
Then a fairly long drive to the next spot. It was blowing pretty hard, around 45 kph, which did not stop all night long. We had a bit of a restless night because of this I think. No fires tonight there was way too much wind.
We stopped at a petrol station hoping to have brekkie there, but the sign on the door said, no entry if you have been interstate in the past 2 weeks.
So onward to Lake Hart, a huge salt lake we have camped at before, back in 2017. We are a bit low on supplies, so we’ll be using some tins, and bits and bobs. Nothing too flash, but it’s a beautiful spot. Definitely back in the winter zone, coats and beanies. And I have a little stash of Peter’s drumstick, double choc. My new favs.
“Once one of Australia’s most prized salt deposits, Lake Hart was at the centre of a thriving industry in the 1930s. Today, it draws visitors for its isolation and natural beauty and can be spotted from the comfort of Great Southern Rail’s Ghan as it snakes its way along 2,979km of rail between Darwin and Adelaide.”
A nice site in Pt Augusta. We did not expect this. The caravan park was right on a water passage with long goods trains on the other side, really long! We set up camp, checked out the facilities (clean, new and pleasant , with a radio playing there all the time. Also a very well equipped huge camp kitchen, where we happily watched the news with the whole place to ourselves, the first time in quite a while.
That evening we met Gaynor for dinner at the local pub. I had a great beef lasagne, with salad and chips, more than enough, and Terrell had a nice fish meal. Nice to catch up, she is the safety officer of the large clean energy facilities, with windmills and acres of solar panels. She loves the job.
We took a bike ride to Maccas, underestimating the distance, but crossing the long bridge which was beautiful and made it worth the ride.
The next day we drove home. We were quite ready to be home again, despite the crappy weather. The kitchen when we walked in felt HUGE! 😊 And that first night I was looking for the portapotty. 😊
All in all a wonderful trip, which we will no doubt do again in a different direction.
Well we have run out of puff writing this – bottom line – long story short – we got home before my birthday. Turned 74 August 10th thanks for all the gifts, well wishes, love, poems, money…
We had bought our tickets to New Zealand for October – had two house exchanges. Of course, we take chances – though we really thought we had this one. Now NZ is closed to us all until end of the year. Maybe next April. Then maybe next July or so to the States. We were supposed to have gone this last year: had bought a ticket on the Queen Mary II, house exchange in Chicago for a month – had our round trip ticket on Amtrak DC to Chicago. Luckily we got all our money back, even the insurance except for a boat trip Great Britain to Hamburg to get the Queen Mary – got a credit for that one so hopefully next year. Looking forward to catching up with you soon. Put the kettle on – it won’t be long. 27/08/2021
SIGNS OF THE TIMES WE HAD
As we got back to celebrate my birthday – who won’t? we went to see the Van Gogh Alive show
And that’s a wrap – off to live a ‘normal’ everyday life – work in the garden – ride our bikes – play with the grandchildren and make videos with them and wait until next year to travel unless we do sooner. Of course, I write everyday on my page over at https://neuage.org/2021/ and at our #OurCurrentLifeWithCovid page