Christmas 2022 to January 23, 23
Terrell notes not italics Narda notes italic NOTE: sometimes we may almost repeat one another probably because we are always together – Narda’s though, is probably the writing that makes sense, and I sometimes use ten words to Narda’s one to say the same thing – so that is that, for example,
Getting prepared for a trip is always quite the project, for us. The older we get the more is involved. Not in actual stuff but rather being slightly paranoid of what we may forget to do to take to succeed. This time was an extra complex little world. Not only are we off in our caravan for a month but a week after we return, we are off to Malaysia, Pakistan, UK, Netherlands, Thailand for three months+. We are in our caravan for part of the time as we are a bit homeless. Our house exchange folks from Victoria and the UK/Wales are in our house in January. December 27th to February 3rd. We are OK in that we have a house exchange in Hepburn Springs, and they are at our house. Then we are camping with my wonderful son, Sacha and his partner, Georgia at Paradise Valley, Victoria for four days. From January 8th until Narda’s son’s 40th birthday on the 21st we will be wandering about looking for great camping spots which will be shared as we progress on this journey. After that we have booked into a caravan park in Adelaide – still a bit homeless, then first of February back home to zip up our bags for our overseas trip.
Finally, the caravan packed, and we are on our way to our kids for a merry Christmas. It was lovely, relaxed, exchanging gifts and having some good laughs. Maggie and Mabel liked their painting sets and got straight to creating art. We decided to share art experiences over the next months while we’re away. Stu set it all up so that we could use Messenger together and named it Art Chat.
We drove to our first overnight stop in a great free site in Bordertown. Amazing place. Lots of shady spots, trees, a lake with birds and mozzies and a spot for me to practise reversing using the mirrors. A big new challenge. Terrell borrowed 4 witches-hats from the local council workers, and we were busy for an hour or so. Not sure if I made much progress but I do need a bigger mirror and that’s the excuse I’m sticking with. 🤔
For the past few weeks, we have been getting home in our usual deep-clean state that we leave it for house exchanges and doing two packs. Our bags are packed for overseas – along with visas and all other travel documents and flights are in order. I even got my fifth covid shot (third booster) last week. Narda was unable to get it as Australia is too strict with shooting up folks. I only got it due to health. Speaking of health, what a project to get me up and out the door. One of my medications, Trulicity, had become unavailable, with a world-wide shortage. My other medications (heart, liver, diabetic, etc medications) take up their own box as I am carrying four months’ worth. Trulicity needs to be kept below four degrees. I needed six months’ worth (two for caravan and extra weeks plus overseas). I had squirreled away enough to last until a week before leaving on our caravan trip by hustling many different chemists in the Adelaide area. With one week to go I had no more left, and the pharmacist said there would not be any until next March. My doctor gave me a script for six months and I started the rounds to hustle any that were available. I had read on the internet that limit amounts were still being brought into Australia and distributed to chemists. So lucky that the day I collected six-months of my other medications from my usual place they had just had a few boxes of Truicity dropped off and they gave me three months supply (three boxes with four injectable pens, one a week) but could not give anymore. We tried several other places but with no luck or whatever it is that makes things manifest in our life. Narda has been chasing up mosquito spray without Deet but with picaridin 20%, as there is dengue fever in several places we will be in February – May and we need the best stuff. Finally, she tracked down a doctor’s surgery in Blackwood – just a 35-minute drive away. After that visit we stopped at a chemist, and they just happened to have had three boxes of Trulicity dropped off with no more expected until sometime next year. The pharmacist gave me all three. Now I had my supply for six-months. Kind of amazing.
We have had a streak of a bit of good luck lately. Last month we decided to put a reversing camera on the back of our caravan. Of course, deciding to do some major caravan fix is not ideal the week before Christmas but timing never bothers us. We bought the camera ($800) and asked if they could install it – perhaps next February was their unhelpful response. However, they said maybe an auto electrician down the road may have an opening sooner. We stomped over to the auto electrician place with caravan and car in tow and they said, surprise, surprise, they had an opening the next day. Because this is Australia and charging whatever is no object here, they did it in six-hours at $100/hour. Narda does the caravan backing up – I have always thought I would learn never quite got to that moment but now I may be interested sometime in the future. Nevertheless, Narda did get a good practice at our first caravan stop on our trip which I will finally get to now that I have thrown away the privacy tab and told everything there is to say about me.
Christmas morning – hooked up the caravan, backup camera in motion, drove to have Christmas morning with Stu/Clare/Maggie/Mabel/Ned. Ned is always especially excited to see me, I throw the ball to him, he chases it, won’t bring it back, waits for me to come and get it to throw again for him to chase and not bring back. Such an exciting game. Gosh, no selfies? Guess we are moving away from that – oh wait! Narda and I have been taking them all along the trip so far (all two days).
We made it for more than an hour – maybe closer to two hours before pulling over on the Dukes Highway, the free campground at Culburra North, which is really a pull over for trucks and the likes of us, but a bit of a ways off the highway as not to be too annoying. We were exhausted, not from driving for two hours – we’re not that old, but 1. Getting up at 4.30 am unable to sleep and began final clean of house and packing caravan 2. Hot – like 38C which is 99F. We slept maybe an hour and awoke sweating. After three and a half minutes we decided it was too hot to stay in the caravan and drove off with the air condition in our car making us feel somewhat alive again.
We had wanted to see all the flooding that is in the news – heard that the Murray was going to crest on Christmas Day but though it looked as if it was higher than usual where we crossed at Murray Bridge was just looking a bit flooded. Not going to camp here.
Later on, in a few weeks, on our return to Adelaide we are doing a ‘silo-arts’ tour in northern Victoria. We passed this silo in the small town of Coonalypn (established 1909, currently 350 people).
We got to Bordertown, which is not really a border town, but not too far from the next state, Victoria, yet still not on the border, at five pm and went to Bordertown Recreation Lake. It is in between being free and not, as there is a donation box on the way out with others on wikicamps saying they left between $5 and $20. We left ten.
Onwards, after some brekkie in town. It was a sizzler today heading for 40 degrees. The car was nice and cool as we drove to Warracknabeal. We signed up for a powered site ($25, not too shabby) and turned the air con on full, together with our Woollies rotating fan. Not much effect. Still, we had an afternoon nap of sorts.
The local talk was that there was an emergency alert of a pending severe storm with lightning. Me, being the always over cautious one, moved the van from a lovely riverside shady spot to a place in the sun, not a tree nearby. I felt very responsible and virtuous. A couple of hours later, the clouds passed. A small pathetic thunder roll and it was all over. Oh well.
The weather had cooled a bit and we found (actually Terrell found) some lovely walks along the local river, which was pretty full, as these rivers are these days. Our mighty Murray has burst its banks in many places, starting with unprecedented rainfalls in the Eastern States, then with massive amounts of water, flooding many of the Murray-side towns all the way down to South Australia, which usually gets bugger all (water I mean)
Anyway, now I’m rambling. Edwin and Jeanine have their holiday home in serious threat to complete flooding. Right now, the water has flooded the first level already.
Below slideshow is not on autoplay so that you can read the stuff in the slides – good luck
A beautiful place – see our bird life clip. https://youtu.be/YaE67Xh3mVc
the birds were very loud – evening and morning.
My favourite signage so far, $187.50 for an expiation fee. Damn, I have a PhD and had to look up what an expiation fee actually was: “An expiation notice alleges that you committed an offence and sets out an expiation fee, which you can pay to expiate the offence rather than being prosecuted.” Okay, got it. Best not to swim in this lake just to avoid getting one of those expiation notices alleging stuff. Don’t wish to spend a night in the Old Bordertown Gaol (jail to Yanks).
By eight am it was already in the mid-30s (closing in on a hundred Fahrenheit so we packed and left @ 8.30.
From Bordertown we went to Dimboola, stopped in Donald for coffee, a beautiful town – some images below…
A long drive still. We stopped at Donald, beautiful old buildings. A young girl cleaning the toilet block explained to me the great rates she was earning because of a shortage of staff, as well as good penalty rates. She was very enthusiastic.
We pulled over a dusty rest stop, which included people’s toilet paper. We spread our tablecloth and had a nice lunch never-the-less. Our next stop was the lovely historic town of St Arnaud, with its beautiful old, preserved buildings along the main street.
Stopped along the highway for brekky…
I was the nominated navigator – a position I take rather seriously sometimes. However, at one particular fork in the road, I was occupied and preoccupied with fast changing narratives on Twitter, and I randomly said go left rather than go right, thrusting us on to a road that after a while became a dirt/gravel road. We bounced along it for about an hour with me not being the most popular person in the car. We have a bit of a clip of it here…https://youtu.be/aPB1hfLZFow
After redeeming myself, forgot how, though I wish I could remember as obviously I will need to later, I am sure, we stopped in St Arnund – this time just for the taking of pictures – see our slideshow below/or not.
What a beautiful village/town; We got to Warracknabeal (we both had a shot at trying to pronounce it, I think Narda came closest but how would we know?) Decided to cough up $25 to stay at the Warracknabeal Caravan Park as it was too bloody hot (past a hundred in the Fahrenheit world) to sleep in the caravan. We plugged in the AC, tried to take a nap but gave up and had a lovely evening with a pasta meal, sitting outside as the temperature dropped and read our books. I am finishing up ‘For whom the bell tolls’ by Hemingway because we are going to Spain for a month next year and I wanted to know more about their civil war. I had already read George Orwell’s (Eric Arthur Blair) account of when he fought in their civil war, Homage to Catalonia, different from Hemingway as Orwell’s is non-fiction and Hemingway’s is fiction (he was a journalist who visited during the war but as far as I know did not fight in it). It is all quite real with what is happening in the Ukraine now.
The houses here as in many of the towns in Victoria are what we would purchase if we were to move to one of these nifty little places.
See our below slideshow of this beautiful town. The singer -+ other stuff, Nick Cave was born here. There is a sign proclaiming this on the way in. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Cave Narda did not know who he was, I knew he was a popular Australian dude though not quite sure why. The issue with being so old as we are. A few weeks later Sacha caught us up on him. Sorry, he does not feature in our slideshow below. Also, I don’t think we ever pronounced it correctly. But you can try – listen here.
We got to our wonderful/beautiful house exchange in Hepburn Springs late afternoon, just in time for a nap. We popped in after our rest to the Visitor’s Centre in Daylesford and had a long chat with a guide or whatever they are called, telling us about all the various springs to visit. We went to our new home and slept for an hour then bought train tickets London to Newcastle as they are on special if bought a few months in advance. Always planning for the next trip during a current trip.
Arriving at 2.30 pm in Hepburn Springs was a decent effort and of course then we needed a nap. The house we are in is beautiful with lots of lovely garden. We have met our hosts Winston and Joy. They came to our house a few days before Christmas and we had a BBQ (was meant to be a gourmet but the gourmet set that we’ve had for many years decided to call it a day) Nice couple, very enjoyable conversation. After dinner we drove them to the Rydges. They left their car at our place and went on a train trip the next morning.
I slept poorly, took a pill, and woke up with a sore back. Oh well. The next night the weather cooled right down, and I slept like a log in the caravan. Always works.
After a nice nap I spent the afternoon practising my drawing.
Doesn’t really look like my grandsons, but it’s a work in progress.
We managed to score some advance purchase senior ticket holders train tickets from London to Newcastle for around $40 each.
Mineral springs are a big thing around here. We met a guy on our walk at Sailors Falls, who recommended this particular spring as the nicest. I like it. The walk was a bit hairy. There were some barriers to it which someone had pulled aside, and we (me reluctantly following Terrell) tromped up the hill. A 15-minute walk turned into an hour’s walk, with a near fall (by me) caused by grasping onto rotten wood making up a bridge at the end. Anyway. It’s over. And it was scenic. Just unpleasant.
We went over to Sailors Falls. Wanting to go for a bit of a hike we followed the trail that said it was a twenty-minute hike back to the start which sounded reasonable to us. We saw a ‘do not enter’ sign and some tape but it was all laying on the ground, no longer over the path, as I pointed out, so we (me) figured it was safe. An hour later, during which time I once again was not the most popular person in our group of two, because I kept wanting to venture further up the steep overgrown path – and she who will not be named, did not. Nevertheless, we did get to the base of the falls only to see the steps to the little bridge to leave the area were not there. Narda managed to get a hold of the bridge and pulled herself up on to it, commenting that the post she tried to use to pull herself up on was rotten and pointing out that there was a gate, which was closed, with a sign on it proclaiming something about danger and do not continue. But that was then and now is now and obviously we survived.
I even have a YouTube footage of this here. https://youtu.be/doGZhcaEkK8
“Gold was discovered in Sailors Creek in 1851 and the area underwent rapid, drastic changes. This was a time of massive growth for Victoria's cities and towns. Agriculture and forestry boomed, and thousands of people crossed the world in search of wealth on Victoria's goldfields. The surrounding hills were denuded of timber to be used for housing, heating, mining, and food production. The park's hillsides are dotted with mining relics including mineshafts and rock-retaining walls; many hidden by forest regrowth. Most of the park's creek-side walking tracks follow historic water-race channels dug by miners to deliver purchased water to work their diggings.” Wikipedia somewhere.
Hepburn Springs Reserve
“The first mineral spring found in the area was by Captain John S. Hepburn. He named this spring, near the Hepburn Pavilion, which you can visit at Hepburn Springs Reserve. It is a short walk from Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa, where you can still bathe in the precious source. Following Hepburn‘s discovery, mining commenced in the Argyle Gully Spring Creek Area, and the Soda, Sulphur and Wyuna Springs were revealed, followed later by Liberty, Golden and Argyle Mineral Springs. But the miners didn’t care for the springs, the gold fever had taken hold, and they were willing to demolish everything within their path. We owe a debt of gratitude to Swiss Italian migrants Dr Severino and Dr Rosetti who recognised the significance of these springs and rallied the support of their fellow countrymen (in the 1850s one-tenth of the population spoke Italian). As it panned out, this unity established the above-mentioned Hepburn Springs Reserve in 1865, the first of its kind in Victoria. Since this time, it has become a meeting place to ‘take in the waters’ and experience the benefits of calcium, silica, magnesium and an abundance of other minerals.” A Wikipedia cut and pasted job.
The next day Sacha came to visit (about 2 hours from his place). On his way home he picked up Georgia from the airport. We had a nice day, chatting about lots of stuff and walking to another spring.
We tried the spring water which Sacha thought was reasonable – when he visited us in upstate New York, Saratoga Springs, he tried the water then quickly spit it out as it was too eggy for him. Narda’s three sons all did the same on various visits as well as her sister Helena.
We grooved on the local California type trees.
To clarify Narda’s note – Christine was a woman Narda met whilst looking at pillows in a thrift shop, go figure…life stories swapped…Christine was searching for a bargain at the local Op Shop in Daylesford. I took the pillow which she had planned to buy, she turned around and told me this, and I told her I’d sell it for double the price. Thus started a pleasant conversation with a remarkable woman who travels everywhere, lives in a stay-caravan in Daylesford, got trapped in Kathmandu for 7 months after Covid lockdown and volunteers in Cambodia with children orphaned by Aids. Such an interesting person.
Today we spent some time at the Mills Markets. Huge! I bought some presses for Sofie and the girls.
Amazing Mill Markets Geelong and Daylesford Welcome to The Amazing Mill Markets. The Amazing Mill Markets are located in two locations – Geelong and Daylesford. Because the Amazing Mill Markets lease space to hundreds of different stallholders, each location has a diverse range of wares and new stallholders are always welcome. There is invariably something for everyone who visits with vintage clothes, vintage furniture, memorabilia, art, glass, jewellery, books, antiques and collectables to name a few. Be sure to keep your eyes on our news and events along with the social media accounts to stay updated with new and interesting items that arrive all the time. https://www.millmarkets.com.au/
Supporting the local event, we went to the main street which was closed to traffic. A nice atmosphere, lots of stalls, live music and people milling around. I ordered a meal of friend grated potatoes as a sort of fat pancake, with some relish and salad and a fried egg on top. Yum. We shared one serve and had nice fruity smoothies with it.
The German couple told us they had lived in the area for a long time. It was an interesting conversation. He had been in China and other interesting parts of the world, including a stint (for work) in Uruguay, which he loved.
At 8 pm the parade started. A group from the community garden dressed as veggies, a pipe band playing all the traditional bagpipe songs, then there was the huge semitrailer that just made it around the corner. All very entertaining and local. Afterward we bought a packet of drumsticks at Coles and ate them at home, together with several episodes of Irreverant (Netflix), our current favourite show.
31st December – what a year it has been. We can all say that for each year can we not? In our little world we started off the year 2022 in Washington DC with covid. We had arrived on Christmas Evening – having missed our flight in Istanbul to have arrived Christmas Eve because of the fog in Lahore, Pakistan delaying our flight by several hours. But that was then, here we were at the beginning of 2022 with covid – probably gotten on the way there in Lahore or Istanbul or from Chris when we got to DC on Christmas night, and he probably got it on the way back from Lahore days earlier. Who knows? So that was the first two weeks of 2022 – I test positive for 15 days with no symptoms and every morning we would call United and put off our flight until the next day. Finally mid-January we were on the way to Holland for three months. Then we were home in Adelaide for a bit then September & October in New Zealand, see our previous blogs, November, and December mostly in Adelaide. Left as explained above on Christmas Day for this trip. Here we are in the regional Victoria town of Daylesford New Year’s Eve. What a groovy place to be. We watched their parade and watched some wood chopping contest and had some organic free range pancake thingy dinner. BTW, this is my kind of town. This is where the hippies that dropped out of society – then went back into society to make piles of money to be able to live in Daylesford – now dropping out again to be long haired organic yoga performing new age environmentally conscious folks protesting corporate invasions into their peaceful alternative society. Most of the parade floats had to do with something about being vegan, keeping power companies at bay, blocking companies from marketing their wonderful mineral water.
We did not stay for the fireworks as it was past our bedtime – nine pm – though we persevered and stayed in town until about nine thirty. Got up as usual early next morning, being New Year’s Day and all, and went off to the next town over to share New Years Day with the locals. They had the usual New Years Day activities: wood chopping, world champion mineral water drinking contest (how fast one can drink a glass mineral water, followed by how fast one could drink a litre of mineral water – gut wrenching riveting moments), some horsing around stuff – I think they were trying to jump over some poles, and the event I came to see but didn’t because some of us, in our group of two, were tired and wanted to go home from staying up so late New Years Eve (ten PM) was the women’s gum boot tossing contest. I managed to find a photo from last year’s event in the local newspaper – its in the video above
Jan 1, 2023 New Years Day
The fastest drinker of spring water was the feature of the country show we attended in a town starting with a C. I was a little reluctant, but it was lovely, a very shady location, wood-chopping to watch and a half decent full brass band. Their rendition of the song from The Mission was really great. Lots of folks having a nice day; we pulled out our deck chairs to join them
Jan 2, 2023
Castlemaine is quite the town. There was no one about really, but it’s full of beautiful homes along the main road. It also has a railway station which we decided to check out. We met some colourful locals there and after sharing our waffles with them they gave us the ‘low down’ on Myki cards and how you can use them to your ‘best advantage’. They also told us other stuff, but it was quite difficult to understand them: local dialect or a speech impediment…not sure. Or it’s just me.
The German guy on New Year’s Eve told us that I should go to Creswick to check out the Dutch influence. So, we drove there. The folk at the information centre knew something about it but not really much, though they were very friendly and helpful. So, we drove on to Clunes, which was supposed to be a historic town featured in many movies. I have to say, it was a little disappointing, there was no-one there and certainly not much evidence of movie making. That may have to be further researched.
Monday, which was the day after New Year’s Day we went to another town. Narda was talking to some German folks at the parade event two evenings before (New Year’s Eve) who told her about a town settled by Dutch following WW2 so of course, we had to go. The town of Creswick was once a thriving gold town with 35,000 people that had depopulated when the gold ran out or low – forgot what happened to it but the town was down to a few hundred when following WW2 lots of Dutch were coming to Australia to escape war torn Europe. By 1954 there were heaps of them all over Australia. They were getting passage on ships for ten bucks or so to immigrate to Australia. Narda’s family in 1958, with her and her sister in tow were part of that group so of course Narda wanted to see this town. We read lots about it. It sounded like a cool place. The Germans said the local supermarket had lots of Dutch food. So, we went there. Quite disappointed, not because everything was closed the day after New Years but there did not seem to be any indication of the Dutch who had settled there earlier. The local supermarket had some salty drops – that was about it. They have more Dutch food in our local Aldi back in Adelaide. The next town over from Creswick, Clunes, was more interesting, from a camera angle, as it is the oldest still standing collection of 19th century houses, in Victoria, or Australia or our local galaxy; forgot where, read it somewhere on the internet. The main street was as empty as could be, I suppose no one was ready to begin 2023 here, even though it was two days after the year began. They did something historic here, forgot what, found gold, ate tofu, something. Here are some snapshots we grabbed along the way:
Jan 3 & 4
On the road again. Easy pack up really, we were out the door by a bit past 9 am. First stop: Sailors Falls for a bit more spring water.
Then Terrell drove us onto the M1 (we prebooked our toll payment …$3.30 for a month!) right until we arrived at a huge service station on the other side of Melbourne, parked the van in between the monster trucks and had an afternoon nap.
Next stop Yarragon, a lovely town, for vanilla slice and lemon slice at the bakery. Hit the spot.
where we stopped, Yarragon, there was a group of old Holden enthusiasts from Tasmania parked in front. Of course, we have a photo of their cars.
We must have been this way before – like about twenty-years ago because I have photos of the Latrobe Chimneys. A coal burning non-environmentally friendly place. [Latrobe City Council will continue to standby the community after Energy Australia today announced it would close the Yallourn power station in 2028 – four years earlier than planned.] Probably good news for the environment but bad for the locals who will left out in the coal cold.
Our overnight was in Glengarry, quite a longish drive passing the huge coal burning chimneys in Latrobe Valley. We stayed behind the pub in the nice grassy spot disturbed only by more screeching cockatoos. Free camping.
It was only a short drive from there to Paradise Valley, but it was a difficult one, especially near the end with loose gravel on the road, a very steep incline, and a one-way lane. Very scary with the van. The place is beautiful, and we found a lovely spot the river just as another guy was leaving.
A typical Aussie pub – do not remember where I took this photo but here it is,
Sacha and Georgia turned up about 10 minutes later! It’s his 42nd birthday so we planned to take them out for dinner at the Hayfield Pub. It turned out to be a bit of a mistake….we waited longer than an hour for our meals, though they were very nice, and Georgia did not get hers at all (after waiting 2 hours). So, in the end, she took hers home as a takeaway. Oh well. Nice conversations and catching up.
Sacha and Georgia pitched their tent next to us –
Paradise Valley Camping – bit expensive $290 for four nights, for an unpowered site – probably our most ever for a caravan spot. Beautiful place – they can charge whatever they wish. The place was full. Had great showers but not even a camp kitchen as most places do. We paid $35 for a powered site in Melbourne a week later.
Sheep have a run of the place,
For Sacha’s birthday – 42, I think – gosh how did we get so old? It seems just a moment ago he was born in Hawaii and I was walking him on the beach. We came to Australia in June of 1981 – six months after being born. I drift, for his birthday we went out to dinner at a pub – the only place to eat in the only town nearby.
That was the Railway Pub – give it a miss. I don’t eat meat, there was no vegetarian options left so I tried their fish dish, it was awful. Just give me a piece of kale and I will float off into my finely tuned floaty consciousness.
So great having Sacha and Georgia camping with us. It is the first time we did this. It surely will be the way of the future. Other times we get to catch up with them perhaps once in a year when we stay at an Airbnb in Melbourne – go out to dinner – have not too much interaction. Camping for four days… we sit around a fire at night,
Go for walks every day, have meals together. Talk about how crazy life was with me being a single parent with Sacha and Leigh, travelling once in a RV around Australia with my father, age 87, over from New York, in 1992, our trips to New York (1985 when Sacha was two and a half and Leigh six-months old – yes I travelled via Hawaii (to see friends) and LA (visiting friends) to New York to stay with my parents, with no other adult to assist – try that sometime and tell me how easy being a single parent is) AND AGAIN in 1992 when they were at least old enough to help a bit – Sacha being eleven and Leigh nine. That time we stopped in Hawaii, LA, New York, Baltimore Maryland, Louisiana, (all those people we visited, except for Daniel in LA, have died over the years – including my parents, brother, friends, son…) then onto France then Germany then back home. A massive trip just like I do now with Narda – except then it was with two young children. It was fun though. I digress… so we had lots of conversations about those trips about my eight years of being a tofu manufacturer – Leigh being signed by the LA Dodgers as a pitcher and playing in the States for years. We don’t talk about his death – his decision to leave life a month after he turned twenty. What is there to say? We have good memories of being together – that is what we share now.
Georgia was collecting rocks/stones, all quite beautiful. She is going to polish them. Sacha had no comment. Children rode their rubber things down the river in the raids – just the right size for children. Sacha and Georgia left after three-nights, going back to their working life and Narda and I moved to a further point in the camp where there were less (like none) children for peace and quiet.
We drove to the top of the hill and to a neighbouring lake to get anything happening on our phone. A camping neighbour wondered why we would want to get internet – I said I was a Yank, following the horrible debacle of the republicans attempting to get someone to lead them. It took 15-shots at getting one awful person to lead. So glad I live in Australia.
If only we had a jet ski we could have raced across the lake…Lake Glenmaggie
Jan 5 & 6,
Starting to get into a group camping groove. We shared a meal last night, bought salads from the supermarket, I had my chicken, and we ate cookies and chocolate for dessert! Nothing at all wrong with that. After tea we sat around the campfire gasbagging. There is a decent set of toilets/showers, we are sleeping well, and go on the occasional walk. There is no Telstra or internet, which is a challenge. Yesterday I drove to the top of the hill to see if Bren and Sof had made it back. Turned out that that they had a long stay in Abu Dhabi on the way back from Egypt, but then got upgraded to business for the home stretch. Bren’s 3rd time!!!
Jan 7, 8, 9
Bit of a pack up this morning. Sacha and Georgia left, and we moved to a quieter spot near the entrance of Paradise Valley. I felt a bit crook/exhausted in the afternoon, so we took it easy.
Next morning felt much better and we headed off again. This time I was less freaked out by the steep terrain; we filled up with diesel, and then on to Sale. I had a toasted bacon and egg roll, and Terrell had a quiche in the Sale shopping centre, which was open for business on a Sunday morning (unlike Adelaide which stays closed until 11 am). Sale has changed its name to Port of Sale, with a new canal developed providing a marina, attractive gardens, and an arts complex for the town. Really nice.
Then on the road for another 80 kms or so to a lovely free beach site, amazingly provided for by the previous owner, who sold it with the condition that it remains free for campers, including access to campfires for time immortal! It’s gorgeous. Rough roads, 7 km of corrugations, but worth it. And the weather, despite the mid-summertime of year, is cool and sunny, around 20 C. Yesterday we met a camper travelling alone, who told us some of his stories. Draft dodged the Vietnam war, (no names given!!!) worked in Alaska, northern Afghanistan (back in the good times…. the seventies, when Kabul was a normal city, where folks lived happily regardless of their religion or gender). I love these random interesting encounters with folk. This is one of the things that makes travel so much fun.
I saw two places on the map that looked interesting. Firstly, Welshpool and Port Welshpool just across from Snake Island and Little Snake Island. Sounded intriguing. The first thing of note at Port Welshpool is their jetty. By golly what a sight.
The slideshow below is not autoplay so you can read the signs along the way
We watched a sea rescue – though it could have been just a practice run as they seemed to take a long time or perhaps, they were rescuing more than one person. We were too far away to see, and the zoom lens only goes to 300 mm.
We did not make it to either of the snake islands – maybe next time though we did get to Agnes Falls (see our video) https://youtu.be/B4fW7raQNRM
At 59 metres, Agnes Falls are the highest single span falls in Victoria.
A long drive today, heading for a camp in Poowong, which, after a longish drive though forest, we found no longer existed. A friendly person standing alongside the road waiting for his ex-wife, (we assumed as he had his daughter with him, he was going to deliver the daughter to her for the remainder of the holidays…but who knows.) gravely informed us that the camp was “no longer” The girls was excited about our dusty rig (I think) and asked if we were on our way around Australia. We assured her that we are indeed on our way there, but not quite.
So, upon their instruction we backtracked to a showgrounds site, who wanted $15. We parked on a flat high spot. The wind blew a treat, and during the night I saw that the awning had become quite the flopsy awning and was flapping against the van all night. We slept poorly. I changed the setting from open to close, and together we dropped the pop up, no more noise, and slept soundly (soundlessly:) until 8am.
That was that. We were in great need of a caravan park, and one more phone call (I had deceived many rejections) got us a spot at out old fav Sundowners Caravan Park, ….full of friendly residents and a few small sites. We had great showers, I washed and dried all the clothes for $8. While other parks were charging a gouging price of $60 plus, they charged us $35. We’ll be back.
Our drive into the city was a bit exciting. Despite our best efforts, we missed the turn off to down town and finished up joining the trucks over the bridge in a massive traffic jam. We were also very low on diesel. We finally got ourselves off the freeway and into a servo in Williamstown, where a very friendly local gave us instructions on how to cross back in to Melbourne CBD WITHOUT the bloody Westgate Bridge. A further bonus, Terrell spotted a car park, $14 unlimited at the Vic Markets.
Then there was our CBD adventure. I had obsessively decided I needed new walking sandals. Eccos were my dream. We found a store in central Melbourne, and I bought them. 20% off the very high list price. Nice ones. They tend to last for 5 years of continual walking…at least my last pair (Riekers from Denmark) did. And I found bathers that fit at the Myers store. Had a nice Indian meal at 4.30 pm. Combo of lunch and dinner, mango lassi to top it off.
Returning to the Vic Markets we discovered a huge festival in progress, live music, huge lines for food, that sort of thing. So, we joined the lively crowd, and on our way back to the car, bought some iced coffee at the Asian mini grocery. (no lines) Our server was from Jordan and was chatting to his mum (in Jordan) He handed the phone to me and I started chatting to her, until he told me she ‘no speaka English’. But we smiled at each other a lot.
All in all a good day. I met a woman in the laundry the next morning. She was from SA, and her and her husband had sold their house and decluttered their lives, living semi-permanently in this caravan park. She said they just loved it and were earning “heaven credits” (I do believe that was the term she used) for voluntary work as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Interesting conversation. She was lovely. I can imagine that decluttering your life, doing voluntary work and travelling will indeed be heaven.
The Queen Victoria Nigh Markets – opened on Wednesday evening throughout the summer. See our video https://youtu.be/AUfg28ZwJJM – it was fun.
I am always impressed by Melbourne. The skyline, the people…such a creative city. I can see why Sacha has lived here for the past twenty-years. Adelaide, not so much.
Jan 12, 2023
Today we have again found a wonderful free camp. This time on the shores of Lake Meredith, the biggest freshwater lake in Victoria, by all accounts. I slept a solid 8 hours. Amazing. The lake and the sunset last night were speccie, as you will see from Terrell’s fabulous photos. Long after the sun set, the colours kept deepening. The toilets here are modern and clean and you can camp here for up to 28 days for free!
Lots of reading today, nice to catch up. Right now, I’m reading Amitov Ghosh’s book “Field of Poppies”. Took a little while to get my head around the characters, of which there are many, but now I’m into this rollicking story about the opium trade and the British involvement in it in the mid-1800s. There was also much money made on slaves by the same company. Folks with difficult lives in Bengali, India were offered to be taken to a camp which would give them work, housing and food, and were thus tricked into being virtual slaves.
Lake Meredith images below
Up at 6 am and on the road at 7 am. We were going to go north but saw that it would be 39C or 102.2F so decided to go along the coast past Warrnambool. Got to Portland. We had stayed at the caravan park there about 15-years ago and liked the port town. This time we went to Sawpit Free Camping in the Mt. Clay National Forest. Amazing place. Lots of walking trails – we did the short loop to a whaler’s lookout that was used by Aboriginals for hundreds of years before we Europeans came – took over – slaughtered the locals then slaughtered the whales. We are so good.
Something I have never seen before in all our camping trips…a horse. I went over and had a good conversation with him but due to a language problem he understood me (“nice horse – good horse – do you come here often?”) but his hee heeing made no sense to me. I thought Narda, who was born in the year of the horse, could assist, but she only understands Dutch and English. The people had a foldout tent thingy attached to the horse trailer and they all seemed to live happily together. I didn’t take a photo of their set up as I am not one of those nosey people that takes photos of everything. I wish I could have a horse.
The walking trails were amazing – even did a video of them – of course, see it here https://youtu.be/2oGViFoHKus.
I had a play with Narda taking a photo – because it was getting hot, I thought I would put her into a snow scene – the sky is fake too – actually, most of the photo is. It is the new neural filter in Photoshop 2023 beta…just testing stuff. However, the other photos are true.
There had been a fire through here – one of the campers said about fifteen-years ago. Hopefully, not another while we are sleeping here deep in the forest.
For tea we enjoyed a delicious meal at the Royal Hotel in Portland. Terrell had a fettucine dish which he described as the “best ever” and I had…. surprise…a very decent chicken parmie. We discovered, on our subsequent walk around the town, a “facility centre”. A very decent block on a corner, with ample chairs, sink, hot showers, toilets, place to change a baby etc …all for free. This was offered to us as local free campers up on the hill at Sawpit Park, and to anyone in the town who needed it. I have never seen such a civilised gesture anywhere. Funded completely by the local council, cleaned regularly. A model for the rest of the world! Giving folks dignity.
The reason this place is called Sawpit is because long ago this was a log cutting place. They even had a wagon from those days and a set up to show how they cut the logs. Read the sign below to know as much as I do. One of the things we learnt from the sign, probably the only thing, is that there are free showers in Portland which we took advantage of. I think Narda will write about that. Very impressive little town.
We did a final magical walk through the forest then left. No, we were not on acid – gosh! This is not the 1960s – though I do remember a time when forest walks looked this then – go figure – now just a memory – a bit like this.
The next day, which is today, we were up at five am because the awning was banging from some unwanted wind behaviour. In the dark we took it down, didn’t get back to sleep. I have been grouchy all day because of it. Sorry about that. Anyway, we were off to downtown Portland by eight am. Took a free shower. Did some other daily duties. Discovered that the only thing opened on a Sunday morning in Portland are churches, liquor stores, and K-Mart. K-Mart was the ticket to our happiness. Nothing beats getting out of a bad mood from getting up at five am and taking down an awning than shopping. Especially with discounts. I got some groovy hot mat holders for a buck each. Nothing woke about me. Narda, as usual, found some more storage containers, because, of course, everything must live in a container. Me? I am from the school of ‘wherever something happens to be, or land is of course, where it should be’. You know those 1960s philosophies of ‘we are exactly where we are supposed to be’ and I would add, ‘so is everything around us.’
Down at the fishing dock we spoke with some fishermen who had just come in from a week at sea. I asked questions…got answers…see our two-minute video clip https://youtu.be/MMDKoAFkCvA about the true answer of whether the sea is depleted from fishing. Quite a beautiful harbour.
Believing our weather app, that it would be around 39C tomorrow we rushed off to the coast. I know I said that yesterday too but this time we were really off to the coast – The Limestone Coast. Our first port of call was the resort town of Robe. Population a bit over 2000 – plus thousands of tourists – mostly campers. We thought we were/are smarter than the average family camper, we saw them, huddled up at the expensive caravan park, barely enough room between them to open their door. Then there are the screaming holiday-possessed crazed-children running amuck. No thanks! And their dogs – barking and shitting everywhere. Teenagers groping other teenagers behind trees, parents having stress attacks. Not for us. We drove to Wrights Bay believing it would be free camping. Damn! It wasn’t. $15/person. Come on. That is just stupid. We paid. Grumbled a bit. Walked to the beautiful seaside and watched the sunset.
January 16-20, 2023
This was a long driving day, exacerbated by a wrong turn, and having to drive back into Beachport to get diesel, which required a couple of illegal u turns to get into the filling station. Oh well.
Wright Bay Caravan Park was listed as a free site. It no longer is. It’s on an isolated beach, lots of seaweed, decent toilets, no showers, no power. And it costed us $30.00. That was it. The only saving grace was the enthusiastic high school student, tearing around the park on her 3 wheeled motor bike, greeting newcomers and taking their money in a friendly way. Not an adult in sight!
So off we were the next morning. Ominous weather forecast predicted a sizzler, with temperatures reaching 40. So, we parked outside of the Robe library, ready for the aircon and the internet. It was a pleasant time. We also walked through the main street of Robe, very similar to Grey Town in New Zealand. And the weather was great. Don’t always believe the forecast.
The jetty park at Kingston SE was also listed as a free spot. And yet we were charged $20 at the parking metre which happily took our money. Again no power, just a public loo. The park was full of monster vans, and even some buses. I think we need to update our sources. A new Camps 12 would go far. Wiki Camp has been a pain to use. I guess expecting a free site on the coast in peak season is a little unrealistic.
The librarian in Kingston’s community library was also the librarian for the school. It was a nice walk there, we had a big coffee (huge) on the way, and I enjoyed chatting with the two ladies “manning” the library.
The best was yet to come. Lake Albert caravan park was lovely, right on the lake, with the best facilities we saw for the whole trip. We had heard the diabolical warnings of road closures in the area, but we drove straight to Tailem Bend, no delays, bought a sandwich and headed home. Home being Pete and Marion’s place; they kindly allowed us to park our van as our place is still occupied by exchangers.
We left this morning, January 17 – Tuesday, for the big drive to Robe, a good fifteen-minutes away. Watching closely our weather app. To be 39C by 11 am – like for us Yanks that is 100 degrees. Wow. We planned to spend the day at the library in Robe on the internet. The idea of being in an air-con for the day sounded ideal. Plus, we have had little internet for the past couple of weeks. Just some on our phone that we would hotspot to our computer, but not enough to post our wonderful video clips as seen above. Also. Narda was concerned about the predicted 60-kilometre winds that were to arrive with an afternoon storm. By noon we were bored at the library, borrowed a bunch of old movie-CDs that we can leave at our local Adelaide branch of the library, bought one with our last dollar – we rarely have cash, and we gave the rest of it away at the Wright Bay overpriced caravan park – $30 this morning. Going outside we quickly realized it would never be very hot – checked the temperature – it was 22C, and there was no wind. Where do they get their weather reports on these stupid apps anyway? We felt we had seen Robe. I.e.. We drove down the main street. Narda pointed out she went here for her honeymoon to some other guy hundreds of years ago and we went on to Kingston SE where we heard there was free camping next to the jetty. Kingston SE is half an hour away from Robe and we found a place to park, so some stupid thing about paying before driving in, didn’t pay, drove in, slept for an hour, walked to the stupid sign that said pay before entering and paid $20 which is the minimum for two nights. We only want one night. It rained the rest of the day and was about 20 degrees. Narda just finished her book and said, ‘now I have to read book two’. So, we are into the caravan for dinner. See ya tomorrow. Cheers!
We booked into the Meningie Caravan Park. I spoke with the local wildlife. Quite the good place, better than a lot. Here on Lake Albert. We needed electricity as our deep cell battery seems to be losing puff. We looked up info on deep cell battery on good ole google and discovered we were supposed to look after it, like put distilled water in it – what? Batteries need water? Then there is a list of stuff to do. Deep cell batteries are expensive like five – six hundred dollars. We have had ours for more than six years and did no maintenance on it. Apparently, they only last 6 – 7 years anyway. We have been relying on our solar panels but a cloudy day in Kingston SE put us behind, bottom line we had no power, not even enough to put on our radio or LED lights.
We were on the Princes Highway all the way from Melbourne. The word on the street was/is that the road from Meningie to Tailem Bend is/was/could be/should be, closed. Flooding from the Murray – I am sure you saw it all on the news. Been lots of water around the place past month, flooding from New South Wales, Victoria, all going into the Murray and heading into the sea. We stopped in Tailem Bend to look at the Murray and say wow wow wow. Probably difficult to ascertain from this photo but the river is at its banks, some places over – it was much lower when we went past a month ago on the way to this grand adventure, down the road to Victoria.
After a bit of a picnic, we were on our way.
We have almost three weeks more before we are off to Kuala Lumpur for a week, Lahore, Islamabad – Pakistan for three weeks, UK (Liverpool, Wales, Some other place) for a couple of months – with The Netherlands in between for ten-days, and a groovy overnight ferry from Newcastle UK to Rotterdam – then back ten-days later, with a stop in Thailand for a holiday for a week then home via Hong Kong at the end of May. I am sure we will have a blog or two about those adventures.
In the meantime, we are in Adelaide for two weeks living in our caravan because we did a house-exchange with folks in the UK who are in our house now. So, we are a bit homeless. Not totally homeless – here we are camped out in Narda’s first husband’s granny flat for a week- their son, Stu – turns 40 and there is a massive party here tonight.
For now, Victoria is just a memory in our rear-view mirror. Thanks for coming along on this trip. Without you, I would not have an audience and would be talking to myself – oh wait!!!
and today Narda got her fifth-covid injection, two + 3 boosters – I got mine last month, so we are all up to date for travel. See ya all soon.
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
She was a carefree flower girl of 18
Selling flowers on Bourbon Street
I was a street artist…
Notes/photos of three weeks in Darwin. Individual articles were tossed up to https://neuage.substack.com/
Narda in italics Terrell whatever
It is more than an hour to the airport by bus from our house, which is free for us seniors, and we would rather pay the hotel than the taxi ride which is about $70. The hotel has specials and this time it was $122. We even walked over to Ikea for dinner which was less than half the cost of eating at the hotel.
Back to our messed routines. When there is a change in our routine, we get little sleep. We went to sleep about 9 pm – wide awake at 1 am – another hour or so sleep before the alarm at 4.30. Narda had just gotten back to sleep since being awake at one, I think I went to sleep about 2.30 which is the last time I saw the clock. By five am we were checking in. We had breakfast at the airport; a good Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce for me and an omelette for Narda. We were on the plane by a bit after six. Half an hour later they said we all had to get off the plane due to mechanical error and get onto another plane. As any zombie with little sleep would be, we staggered to the next plane. By 8.30 – a couple of hours later than we were supposed to leave we were on our way.
When we got to Darwin, taking a taxi ($35) to our hotel we were told our apartment was not ready, so we dragged ourselves to the nearest supermarket to get a few things.
We are on the 13th floor of the Ramada Suites – Zen Quarter. They have cute little Zen sayings all over the place and statues of Buddha. This one just happens to be on our floor viewed getting off the lift on the way to our flat.
By 3 pm we were taking our nap – I lasted half an hour. Writing this I feel pretty icky. I am going off to the gym soon and tomorrow we will go into the pool and try doing our Aqua Zumba without a leader. We do the Zumba three times a week in Adelaide at an hour each time. Not being disciplined I doubt we will last fifteen minutes. We tried this a couple of years ago in Florida and after ten minutes then a lap or three we would go home.
After our first or was it the second nap? We went to the roof which is only a couple of floors above us. Great views of the sea and port. Narda is concerned about the balcony and at night pushed the sofa in front of the door in fear that I may sleepwalk and fall off the balcony. Considering I have never sleepwalked in my life that I know of I feel even more safe now. There are few people in the hotel now as this is low season.
Eating on our balcony is one of our favourite things to do (so far after one day here). This is with a storm rolling in.
A few views from our floor – there is a balcony in each direction so we do not always have to go to the rooftop to get a view.
A view of road-trains loading up the morning’s catch on their way across Australia
Here we are day 3 in Darwin. Day one we spent bits of the afternoon after arriving getting caught up on sleep and viewing the city from the roof of our building. Darwin CBD is small we walk it all in fifteen minutes. There is a mall and a shopping centre with a Coles supermarket ten-minutes away and a Woolworths supermarket eleven-minutes away. Fifteen-minute walk is the Darwin Waterfront Precinct a cool area with lots of restaurants and shops and Stokes Hill Wharf where cruise ships would come in if it were not for Covid-19. I have lived in Hawaii (1969 – 1971 / 1980 – 1981) as well as a few visits. I took my parents to Pearl Harbor and thought I knew lots of stuff. But until yesterday I did not know that more aircraft attacked Darwin than attacked Pearl Harbor. More bombs fell on Darwin than on Pearl Harbor. More ships were sunk in Darwin. On 19 February 1942 Darwin was bombed. We watched folks setting up a huge tent for the memorial in ten-days 19th February. A lot going on here in the next couple of weeks.
This is not what I was really going to write about – got side-tracked.
what Narda likes especially about Darwin – after being here for 5 days
When we miss Darwin, we’ll buy a humidifier.
We had our second aqua class today. Deep water – meaning feet do not touch the bottom. Luckily, being old as we are – we get a floaty thing to wrap around our belly. It is our first time to do this for 45 minutes – it was a good work out. Our instructor is from the Bronx so that made two out of about eight people there from New York. 25% New Yorkers in Darwin – a very cosmopolitan city.
I get up at five every morning watching the impeachment trial – always knowing the result. I want to sleep in – I am on holiday – well, being 73 and retired, every day is a holiday. But I am somewhere else, Darwin, we can only travel in Australia. Now even our home state South Australia is locking out our neighbouring state of Victoria for a week due to covid – 14 new cases in the whole state and the rest of the country locks their doors. More than one-hundred thousand new cases in the USA so far today – a few days ago there were more than two-hundred thousand in a day – 4,500 dead whereas in Australia no new deaths – there have not been any deaths for a long time. Happily, this is the end of the so-called impeachment trial. They just voted 57 – 43 so he is guilty but not guilty enough. What can I do? Millions of people worldwide are upset. I have given up on America and I am an American. My big protest I dumped on to Twitter.
Oh look! I have one retweet and 2 likes.
Another beautiful morning in Darwin from our 13th floor.
We walked along the wharf to the fishing fleet’s early morning arrival.
Yesterday we went to the Parap Market – rather disappointing, expensive eating places and local crafts. Took a random bus out of there and spent the rest of the day at Casuarina Square which is the largest shopping mall in the Northern Territory.
Now, Saturday morning, sick of all the senate farcical impeachment nonsense we are watching ‘Groundhog Day’. No more news – goodbye America – your democracy is a failure.
Narda in italics Terrell whatever
We arrived at the bus stop outside of Woolies for bus number 4 which would take us to the National Museum and Art Gallery. A minute later, a bus arrived heading to Cullen Bay Ferry Terminal. We looked at each other, and without much further thought or discussion, jumped on board. Luckily there were a few friendly folk on the bus who filled in the information we needed. “This is a bus taking you to the ferry terminal, you can go across the harbour to Mandorah”. It cost $30 for 2 return tickets, a fancy ferry. It was only on the ferry we realised that there was not a town at the other end, just a jetty. It was, however, a nice ten-minute ride. A free shuttle bus was taking travellers to Cox’s Tavern, but we were told that it might be full of people who had purchased package deals. On arrival we were the first off. We briskly walked to the minibus and sheepishly asked if we might come if there are spare seats. The bus driver said, “just get in”. We did. It was free. All is well.
A nice drive through some tropical forest, and there we were, a pub in the middle of nowhere, a band due to play in the avo, and pub grub waiting for us. We ordered fisherman’s baskets and sat with our young backpacker friend, called Max, with whom we had wonderful engaging conversation. The kid was 19 and heading out for a year long trip through Australia. Cool.
see our short video of this https://youtu.be/q96RNjktc54
A nice drive through some tropical forest, and there we were, a pub in the middle of nowhere, a band due to play in the avo, and pub grub waiting for us. We ordered fisherman’s baskets and sat with our young backpacker called Max, with whom we had wonderful engaging conversation. The kid was 19 and heading out for a year long trip through Australia. Cool.
This morning Max joined us in our second boat ride. It was a small, but fast vessel, with an amazing guy giving us the low down on the invasion of Darwin by the Japs in WW2. Fascinating. Incredible stories about Australian politicians ignoring warnings from the military and naval people, resulting in a gigantic surprise attack. Even as the bombers approached, folks pointed and said that it must be the Americans. There were many deaths, far bigger than Pearl Harbour, and also many heroic tales of sacrifice. One of the worst things was that fuel tankers and containers were bombed, spilling the fuel into the fast retreating 26-foot tide, out into the sea. It caught fire, burning many sailors and wharfies alive as they were thrown into it from the bombed ships. The ironic upside was that the thick black smoke obscured more vessels from the bombers, probably saving many lives as well.
or just chilling with a good ice coffee on the wharf
We sat under a fan in a giant marquee with I recon at least a thousand others.
The band of the 1st Brigade played, wreaths were laid, the last post was played, and notable people spoke. It was very moving. Then the air raid sounded sirens and a jet flew over, real loud, real close. The gunners shot rounds into the sea. Cosmetic smoke whirled around us.
Today is the 79th year anniversary of the bombing of Darwin.
and learned more about the bombing. There were special headsets where you could experience, virtual reality style, what it was to be there in the harbour as the bombs fell, the smoke, then falling from a fighter jet and nearly drowning. Quite the experience.
Our video of this wonderful day… https://youtu.be/j9kQd3e9jbQ
It was a small one but extraordinarily strong. No one expected it to disrupt their Christmas eve in 1974. The cyclone made a direct hit on Darwin, destroying 70% of the buildings and 80% of the homes, with gusts of wind up to 250 Km per hour. 30,000 people were evacuated, many of them never returned.
The museum has a special exhibition for the cyclone, lots of footage, even a small booth you could go into to experience the noise it made, in total darkness. Pretty amazing.
The museum was really good, one of the highlights of the museum was a maritime exhibition of many of the boats that carried people from Indonesia, Vietnam, Borneo and other islands, trying to get into Australia. Back then, in the 70s and 80s they were welcomed, though some were repatriated back to their countries. Now we treat them horribly and lock them up.
Barramundi was on the specials menu and Terrell wanted to return for the third time. I had Caveman Pizza…Yum. You can imagine it. Back to Stokes Wharf, we met with Joel and Phoebe. It was very enjoyable, lots of interesting conversation. These guys have done well here and love it. Cannot see them leaving. There is much to love, everywhere you look, you see water. Lots of rain, almost every afternoon. And friendly people. We have almost forgotten that it is also expensive.
Our new friend Max has found a temporary job in Kakadu, in a hotel called Crocodile Hotel, a nice start to his gap-year backpacking adventure. He said we should come down and see it all. Unfortunately, it is a 3 hour drive away, and with no car…though it was tempting.
We slept in late today because it was Sunday…oh wait! We do that every day. Nevertheless, when we did get our sorry asses out of the flat, we looked at our list of stuff to do in Darwin and in our first two weeks we have done most of what has been recommended – or we found what we like to do already done.
So, we took a random bus – the first bus that we saw to wherever it was going. We do this wherever we are in the world – a great way to see places never thought of or known about. Here in Darwin, being old farts has its benefits, there is no charge for public transportation with our senior’s card. The first bus to come along was the number 10. As we were enjoying the view of going through the Darwin burbs, we saw a market across the street from a stop and quickly alighted. The Rapid Bay Sunday Market was a local and wonderful market. It was like being in Asia except with Darwin prices (about 25% more than Adelaide and Adelaide is about 56% more than Asia). Lots of food stalls. We went to one that is advertised as ‘the one’, last Saturday (Parap Village Market, they even have a yuppie webpage https://parapvillage.com.au/) – very touristy – very western – like those organic markets one finds in the States etc. – where they just double the price and put the word ‘organic’ in front of everything. Like one would find in Eugene Oregon (think ‘Portlandia’) everyone looking so fresh, young, wholesome…organic. Perhaps I should not say such stuff, after all I was a tofu manufacturer in Adelaide for eight-years, flogging my bloody organic soyfoods… https://tofu.neuage.us/
That’s it – we had some lunch @ the Rapid Bay Sunday Market. I took a few photos – see our one-minute clip at
Oh, back to our list – most of which is done and crossed off in our first two weeks – five-more days to do the rest.
The number 8 bus goes from central Darwin along Stuart Highway to the Darwin Aviation Museum.
Not really real – but close…
Interesting stories about Darwin’s aviation history and wartime experience with 19 aircraft including a B52 bomber, 21 engines and a rare amateur footage of the first air-raid in Darwin on display. Aircraft include a B-25 Mitchell Bomber (one of the few surviving in the world), a replica Spitfire, Mirage, Avon Sabre, a Royal Australian Navy Wessex helicopter that assisted in the clean-up of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy, F-111C, the legendary B52 Bomber.
Loving aircraft this was toward the top of my list. However, knowing that the beauty of these aircraft has the only purpose of killing takes away some of the lustre. The most distressing display was the photos of more than 500 Australians killed in the VietNam War. Even more distressing is that these young people, mostly in their early 20s, were conscripted– they had no choice about dying. What did it accomplish?
I (Narda) still have memories of bring my trannie (transistor radio) to my high school at the age of 15 and crouching over it with a group of my friends listening to the roll call of birth dates. My then boyfriend, Peter, later my first husband, (now my good friend) was not called.
To quote from https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news
WHEN the wooden balls began dropping from the barrel 50 years ago this week, there were many people who were hoping that this was one lottery in which their number wouldn’t come up. The prize was a trip to Kapooka or Puckapunyal, for National Service training and possibly a tour of duty in Vietnam. Often known as the “birthday lottery” it was held in secret in the boardroom of the Department of Labour and National Service in Melbourne. The draw was done from a barrel that had been used for 50 years for Tattersall’s cup sweeps, filled with 181 numbered marbles representing the days of the year from January 1 to June 30. Alternate lotteries would have 184 balls for the dates of the rest of the year. If one of the balls drawn corresponded to the birth date of one of the thousands of Australian men, aged 20, who had registered for National Service, it meant they were eligible for call-up. From that first ballot, on March 10, 1965, around 2100 men would be called up. While many of those went willingly, the birthday lottery was not without controversy. It was also not the first time a bingo barrel had been used to call up men for national service.
That was how it was done in Australia. In the States it was a bit different for us.
Nevertheless, a visit to this museum is well worth it.
See our two minute clip at https://youtu.be/Bu-gazFBOF4
Baked Mac and Cheese – perhaps an American thing like peanut butter and jelly. I have had to give it up for way too long. I am on one of those low-carb diets – defeating diabetes, wishful – wild attempts @ that… to reboot the system – with some success if success can be counted as being close but never complete. I have brought blood sugars down though still too high to proclaim that besides machine-learning my body is best (it isn’t).
We do Aqua Zumba a few times a week. We have been doing this for years in Adelaide; me and 35 women – my fantasy from 50 years ago, finally come true. We even found a class here in Darwin with our groovy NYC instructor, Audrey. We do a Tuesday Aqua- Pilates class and a Thursday deep water (over our head for 45 minutes) class. That is what brings my sugars down. For example, yesterday before class my sugars were 9.8 – 45 minutes later 5.9 (anything below 6 is normal). I will do anything to be normal – apart from aspiring to being a bogan – it is my second my sought after title, ‘normal’. After mac & cheese my sugars are between 18 – 20 – oops. The same with my second favourite food, mashed potatoes – and rice, bread, maple syrup…
Not being able to spend 67% of my life in the pool I try to control my diet. However, last night we decided to go out for dinner. Mitchell Street, ten minutes from our hotel, is a hub for restaurants. We go there most mornings, to McDonalds of all places, but that is because we get senior’s coffee – the second cup is free, and they do make good latte. I had it in my mind that I wanted a meal of mac & cheese – for the first one of 2021. I don’t think I had any in 2020 – but that was a bit of an unusual year anyway wasn’t it? We looked at heaps of places and no one was offering such godly tastes. We needed to find one that catered to Yanks. It is in the news that ‘Thousands of US marines to touch down in Darwin before June 2021’ (arriving in batches of 200-500 marines) – probably to find a good mac and cheese. Knowing that heaps of the critters are already roaming the streets of Darwin was a good piece of information. There must be a place that panders to the American palate. And there was. Six Tanks, a micro-brewery bar was our nirvana.
And yes, they had mac & cheese… (Narda had lasagna, probably because it had meat…yuck – though she claimed it was yummy)
And that is it. Nothing Zen about it. Perhaps it is because I once chased the Zen concept, whatever that was, lots of decades ago. I was thinking about that period so long ago when I saw that my favourite beat poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, passed away on Monday, February 22nd – he was 101 years old…
I remember going often to the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco in the 1960s – seeing him in NYC – following him for decades… reading my own poems all over the place back in 1960s. But that was then now isn’t and the only Zen in view is our hotel here in Darwin. Ramada Suites by Wyndham Zen Quarter Darwin – https://www.zenquarter.com/
And this is the meal I was so excited about
Then we stopped at Woolworths on the way home and got some magical chocolate and peanut butter ice creams to celebrate my high sugar/carb intake as we watched ‘Outlander’ on Netflix. I do not take my sugar readings during these times – I am having a holiday from myself. Loving it! However, here I am up since 3.30 am because I could not get back to sleep so perhaps I will not have mac and cheese for a while.
During our three-weeks here I took photos of the street art around Darwin and made a short clip of them.
Here we are back home. We took a chance going to Darwin. Often, lately, we would turn on the morning news and some area of Australia would be closed due to Covid. Flights, after landing, would be sent back. South Australia would close its border then Queensland or Victoria or Western Australia or New South Wales – it was a roulette table featuring a map of Australia – a dart board that once blindfolded the area we would want to be in would be the winner of our getting there.
We bought our roundtrip tickets to Darwin; a few days later a couple of states became closed for a week or so. The day before we were to leave, we booked into the airport hotel, Atura, as we do when we go overseas and leave early in the morning. We were up at 4.30 and thankfully our flight was still listed. We spent our three-weeks in Darwin, as highlighted below, and got back to Adelaide without a hitch. At Adelaide airport after going through a check to see where we had been, that we were not near any covid hotspots or overseas or feeling yucky and then we each got a little ticket that we could show on our way through the airport to safely get out. Really sophisticated tickets to say the least,
Our last morning we had breakfast at the Ramada where we were staying. The sunrise was so spectacular that even the kitchen folks came out to take photos.
These were taken minutes apart and are not photo-shopped. Obviously, I changed the settings on my camera but don’t recall what they were.
One of our evening past times was playing pool on the fifteenth floor. Narda beat me every time – not quite sure why. I think I used to be quite good.
As always, I bought a fridge magnet to add to our collection. Hopefully, we get lots more this year – probably none from overseas.
Of course, they become lost when the fridge is looked at from a distance – the two front doors and the left/right side leave little room for more. Narda’s rule is that we can not have a magnet from a place unless we stay at least one night there. No airport transit or day trip through a city – which as you can see limits me a lot, so I am just satisfied with this, now slowly, growing collection.
and that is all for now. Our next trip is a four to six month caravan trip through the Outback Queensland.
Thanks for sharing this moment with us.
‘Leaving Australia Book 2‘ (new NOW IN PAPERBACK & AS E-BOOK)
‘ Leaving Australia “Again’: Before the After” (See the first ten pages of each for free) Paperback Edition
Our current life with Covid as of 28 February 2021 Darwin, Australia
how we see the world today Thursday 25 February 2021
Thoughts in Isolation https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08TW5FNHN
Lucky us: we left South Australia four days before the border was closed due to Covid 19, We left Port Macquarie a few days after massive rain and floods that would have put us under water where we were camping and we left Sydney 14 days after it is now being shut due to Covid 19. Here we are waiting to see you. And going over a few of our notes of the last part of our trip to New South Wales
Italics are Narda’s notes – straight up – Terrell’s scribbles…
Jerry’s Landing and Beyond December 6, 2020
The girl going in the opposite direction wound down her window looking a little alarmed at my frantic waving. “How much further?” I asked her. No, it’s not like asking “are we there yet, mum”. I was driving on a very bad stretch of corrugated dirt road. I had been promised by Google and by some blogs that this shortcut from Jerry’s Landing to Bathurst was “all sealed”, “suitable for a caravan”, and yet here we are. What the heck. Luckily, she assured me it was “not much further”. Another couple of kms at 5 kms per hour and we start climbing steeply, still on dirt. Worse still we had to come down the mountain. I engaged low gear and 4-wheel drive and inched my way down, heart pounding. Terrell, completely unfazed, happily took photos.
We questioned whether we should be leaving the New South Wales coast where we have been the past three weeks: Port Macquarie, Forster…various beaches, rainforests. Hiking, swimming, biking…chilling and wishing we lived here more permanently. For some odd reason we started thinking maybe we should get back to Adelaide by mid-December for various appointments and of course to see Maggie and Mabel who recently not only turned 7 and nine years old recently but who obviously are almost teenagers – at least by the looks of the posts that their parents put up. Mabel at seven already a basketball star, Maggie a star in so many ways. So, we are headed inland. Instead of going the way we came through Dubbo and Broken Hill we are going a bit south via Bathurst then across through Mildura. We had wanted to go through Victoria to stop in Melbourne and see Sacha but then there is the virus…Victoria has just opened…what if South Australia makes people go into two weeks at an expensive hotel when we cross the border like Sacha did last month ($3,000 for a mandatory 2-week quarantine)? We are just scraping Victoria – as Mildura is approved if we do not stop between the New South Wales border and South Australia.
As we did on the way to the coast, we stopped overnight for free camping at Jerrys Plains. It is off the main highway, Past Pagan Street, where else would one want to camp?
Jerrys Plains is horse country. It reminds us of Kentucky except the fences are not painted white.
Off @ 7 am – not us, but us; off down the Golden Highway, until we turned off to take the scenic route to Bathurst.
OMG what a winding up the bloody mountain down the bloody mountain even a dirt road thrown in to the ‘scenic mix’ journey. The dirt road is corrugated [‘Washboarding or corrugation of roads comprises a series of ripples, which occur with the passage of wheels rolling over unpaved roads at speeds sufficient to cause bouncing of the wheel on the initially unrippled surface and take on the appearance of a laundry washboard.’]. In other words, it was an extremely bumpy road. Narda pulled over a passing vehicle to ask how much further before the road became a ‘real road’. We were going at the amazing speed of about ten kilometres an hour at the time with Narda toying with the idea of turning around and going back. How we were supposed to turn around with Billy (our truck) pulling a two-tonne caravan (Holiday) was not discussed…probably because there was nowhere to turn around, anyway, the driver, a young girl with lots of face piercing and tats and red hair (why do I notice all this in a four-minute interaction?) said it was only a short piece before we got to pavement, keeping us going forward for the next half hour. Narda was driving at this point and became more alarmed when the ‘washboard’ road became a steep descent.
Short 30 second video of this road… Take a left at Denman and be thrilled by the “National Park” signs.
Of course, we survived, I am writing this, arriving at the town of Bylong with its one store. I took over driving for the next hour and lucky for me the road was just a regular country road.
Road trip to Bathurst
After stopping in Kandos for petrol we arrived in Bathurst at 1.30; our GPS had innocently proclaimed we would arrive at 10.30 when we left Jerrys Plains. Chalk it up to the elderly out on a scenic drive.
Looking back, with some PTSD, and cup of coffee, I don’t regret that road. The scenery was amazing! We were on the leeward side of the Blue Mountains, valleys and national parks and beautiful Victorian villages with little development. We had 2 eggs and toast while sitting near a table with two paramedics, me busy.straining to eavesdrop. They said that their last job was a couple nights ago, “there were 3”. I filled in the blanks myself (3 bodies? 3 cars?) and was glad they were not
A crazy old broad (also from Adelaide) came racing to us in her golf cart, skidding around corners. She was fun and friendly and signed us into the Bathurst Showground for 2 nights.
We got more than we bargained for with a “severe” thunderstorm and large hailstones promised. What do you do? Well, we took down the awning, which we can now do in under a minute (we’ve been practising) and unplugged the computers. We even asked the man in charge of the carnival, which was also parked in the showgrounds, sadly in the rain. He said, “don’t worry about the hailstones, the sky has to be green for that to happen”. Seriously, he said that. The guys standing around looked up at the sky and sagely nodded their heads in agreement. They call themselves “carnies”. We bought $5 admission tickets out of sympathy, and free hotdogs and chips was part of the deal. It rained the whole time; we were their only customers.
We are camping out at the Bathurst Showgrounds. Lucky for us there is a fair going on so Narda bought a hot dog and the only vegetarian thing they had was chips, so we had our nourishment for the afternoon and settled in for a nap.
After a stormy night – not us – the weather; high winds, thunder/lightening, rain, we did a bit of exploring in Bathurst, including going up the mountain to the racetrack. For non-Australians, it is the most famous of the racetracks: “Mount Panorama Circuit is best known as the home of the Bathurst 1000 motor race held each October, and the Bathurst 12 Hour event held each February.” https://www.mount-panorama.com.au/ We drove around the track at the blistering speed of 60 Ks – taking about 12 minutes to go around. The track record is 2 minutes, with the top speed being 300 km/h (190 mph) on a straightaway.
Tomorrow we are going to Sydney for the day, leaving at 7 am. The 4-hour train ride is through the mountains. The train back is at three pm; we will spend a day in one of those world cities you read about in the comic books. Being seniors, we get to do the whole day for $2.50 each which includes the train, ferries in Sydney, buses, and trams. Of course, we will spend our year’s pension on food.
We had coffee in midtown Bathurst with a friend of Narda’s she had not seen for twenty years. While talking about how we had thought of going to Sydney but changed our mind as we did not want to drag the caravan over the mountains to get there. She suggested we take the train. Not only that but that we use the New South Wales Opal card to get there. The Opal card gives seniors a day’s travel on any transportation in New South Wales for the crazy price of $2.50 for the day. That includes ferry, train, bus, and tram. We went back to our home at the showgrounds clutching our borrowed opal cards and waited as any children would do for sunrise to rush off to the train station.
@ 7.34 am we were settled in with our facemasks on. BTW, this is the first time since arriving in Australia from The Netherlands eight months earlier in March that we have had masks on or seen anyone else with one on.
The signs at the station and on the train suggest wearing a mask on public transportation but not as a rule. On the train we saw only one person not wearing a mask. I posted a photo of us on the train on FB and my sister in New York immediately wrote back for us to change seats as the person in front of us did not have mask on. Such is the life in the States. We did not change seats and wore masks for the day when inside.
In Sydney, more people wore masks in the shopping centres but not on the streets. Sydney is coming off a hard lockdown with no new cases for the past few weeks.
The reason I wanted to come here was to “see Leigh”. Leigh died in 2003 falling from the Novotel Hotel in front of the Olympic Stadium – I try to get here every year though sometimes we do not. What I always find surprising is that the tape is still on the pole where I posted a memorial of him in 2003 along with his baseball card from the Dodgers. The memorials have long been gone but the tape is still there. https://neuage.org/leigh.html
I find sitting across the hotel one of my comfort places in the world.
As we only had a few hours from when we arrived in Sydney to taking the train back at 3 pm we did not do more than go out to Olympic Park.
Catching the train at Central is almost like travelling again.
The ride home was as beautiful as the train ride there – well duh! Of course, it was on the same track.
Riding through the Blue Mountains [The Blue Mountains are an extensive Triassic sandstone plateau rising to 1,100 metres (3,609 ft) near Mount Victoria
We saw the effect the 2019-2020 bush fires had on the area, almost a year later green is beginning to re-emerge:
From an online page about the fires, “Here in the Blue Mountains the extent of the fires has greatly exceeded any previous recorded fire seasons. Over 80% of the Blue Mountains National Park has been impacted with 63% partly or fully burnt. In the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area of over one million hectares (eight reserves including the Blue Mountains National Park), over 68% has been fully or partly burnt and over 122 million mammals, birds and reptiles have been impacted.” https://www.bluemountains.org.au/bushfires.shtml
Then we drove back to Adelaide, taking four days, staying at free camping places along the way:
Lucky for us the river was not flooding the park when we were there – that would be a week later
And here we are back home. After five days home we realized we needed to go away again and booked flights and an Airbnb in Darwin for the month of February. As Australia has closed its borders to the world we will explore more of this great country. Our next road trip will be three or four or five months to Queensland after April or perhaps May.
“Can I help you find something?”. The cleaning lady at Maccas was full of ideas. So was Terrell. So yesterday we went everywhere man! Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse at Seal Rocks,
a long drive three on the road with a Wallis Lake on one side and the 7 Mile Beach on the other. The iced coffee we bought at Bluey’s Beach General Store was not Farmers Union, but it hit the spot. We took a decent walk through some rainforest; 200m (that’s metres not miles I hate to admit!!) and got lost on the way back.
We discussed a way of tagging our car, but don’t really know how to. Other than installing a load beeper….we are open to suggestions.
I’m writing today on a ‘down day’. The weather is cool, some rain maybe. The washing is in the $4 slot machine. This park is specie, called Lanis Holiday Park, with lots of nature where tenters can find the own isolated spot, mostly with water front onto lakes. It’s a little version of Thailand, compete with mozzies!. Could live here. Hm.
Riding over a very long bridge in winds gusting at 50Km is a bit scary, though it was a designated bike path with fences, preventing us from tipping into the traffic.
This is a flat town, great for bike riding without the bike paths. But riding on the footpaths these days seems quite acceptable. The views are amazing, another lake, fed by a giant river, running into a pounding surf beach. Northern New South Wales abounds with very respectable rivers. I’m quite impressed. Pity it’s so bloody far from Adelaide….nearly 2,000Km.
My favourite place on today’s hours of hiking was this blowhole – see it in the video above…
Day via ferry to Crescent Head
On the road early this morning; well, by 9.30 am. In retirement speak that is early. Locals have been saying we should visit the nearby hamlet of Laurieton, 42 km south of Port Macquarie. As you would know from your upbringing the Birpai (also known as Birrbay) people have lived in this area for more than 40,000 years.
We rode our bikes around town, over a couple of bridges which are in the amazing video below; the one with friendly kangaroos, a slow-moving goanna, a pod of hungry pelicans, and to the top of North Brother Mountain – with its fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean and our day at Diamond Head. Not the one in Hawaii – of course.
Further useful information is that Captain James Cook named “the Brothers” on 12 May 1770 for their resemblance to mountains in his native Yorkshire. He was unwittingly mirroring the name given to them by the Birpai. The Camden Haven area was explored on foot by John Oxley in 1818 and was first settled by Europeans in the early 1820s. A convict settlement was established at nearby Port Macquarie in 1821 and the first settlers were limeburners burning oyster shells for buildings there. Some of these lived at the foot of North Brother.
We did come across some large oyster farms on our bike trip. Too expensive for me, and Narda does not like them. They were $20 a dozen at the factory – before they hit the shops. I looked up whether these were overpriced and discovered that the most expensive oysters in the world come from Coffin Bay, a mere two hours up the road, and retail for $100 EACH. Why? Well, they are ENORMOUS: 18cm long and weighing up to 1kg.
We stopped at the local Coles Supermarket and bought lunch fixings of smoked salmon, rolls, Castello Blue cheese, and Farmer Union Iced Coffee (the best iced coffee in Australia, of course, from South Australia and took the dirt road to Diamond Head Camping grounds in the Crowdy Bay National Park. [Diamond Head gained its name from the quartz rich rocks, plentiful in the area, which contain an abundance of small, perfectly formed, clear quartz crystals whose appearance resembles diamonds.] Having lived in Waikiki for more than a year, a few blocks from Diamond Head Crater, I was intrigued by the sign pointing to Diamond Head when we were driving out of town. It is a beautiful place overlooking the Pacific with a lot of folks camping. If we had not already settled in on back in Port Macquarie we may have come here. Of course, Diamond Head in Hawaii is a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu and known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi. The Hawaiian name is most likely derived from lae plus ʻahi because the shape of the ridge line resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin.
We took the Hastings River Ferry from the Ferry terminal in Port Macquarie, New South Wales across the North Shore then rode the 9 K’s to the Settlement Point Ferry through the countryside. then back home to our caravan park.
November 24 2020
Yesterday, strong winds near a lighthouse warning of sharp rocks. A very blue sky, and an even bluer ocean. Walks with trails warning of snakes, glorious overhanging rainforest. Us on a balcony high above Port (the name the locals have for their lovely little city), There is a view and a constant breeze all around us. Our final night on the hill was a spectacular light show of lightning, with jagged spikes and light flashes showing the whole coast for a split second. We relaxed, the thunder came much later.
Today, cycling to Maccas for our morning 2-for-one decent senior coffee. Under the cicadas in the trees, the noise is sometimes deafening. Our caravan park is on the shore of the Hastings River. Last night we sat near the wharf in total silence.
Even the water, a wide expanse, had no ripples, Only those caused by the lone pelican which patrols the wharf. He seems quite old.
Today is Maggie’s 9th birthday. She got some money. I asked her what she might spent it on. She replied, in her 15-year-old voice, “clothes oma, duh”.
An offer of home exchanging with Pt Macquarie came through Homelink from Geoff and Rosalind. So here we are tyres pumped to 45 and 38 at the front, car serviced and way too many clothes packed. We managed Adelaide to Broken Hill in one shot, despite our misgivings. Following the same route as Brendan did in July. Stayed at the racecourse on the outer edge of town, not a great spot though it had lots of caravans ($20 no power), but next morning took a nice walk down main street with a coffee stop and a magnet purchase at the newsagent, which had opened 6.30am on a Sunday morning. Impressive!
We are up and ready early; thought we would be on the road at seven, maybe even six am. We slept in the caravan the night before and had the car attached, ready to race across Australia @ our usual elderly, dragging our home behind us pace. These plans seldom mature, we did well though, 8:15 out the door and headed across the country. Fifteen minutes later we were at the grandchildren’s house as we will miss Maggie’s ninth birthday later in November, we dropped off her birthday present. We give cash these days as children have too many toys that disappear into landfill for the next generation of architectural nightmares to be built upon. Maggie was happy as she is saving for roller skates.
Finally, on the road by nine, still a good start for us. We managed to go for almost an hour before pulling over for our first coffee stop. Port Macquarie seemed like a long way away. ‘18 hr 4 min (1,747.9 km) via Sturt Hwy/A20’ according to Google Maps, meaning it will take us five days if we hurry.
What a time we live in. This is our first long road trip since arriving back from The Netherlands more than seven months ago when we went into quarantine for a couple of weeks and stayed home for the following months except for two short camping trips.
We had Brendan with us for these seven months. Teaching in Lahore, Pakistan he was given 48-hour notice to leave due to Covid-19, did his quarantine in Adelaide then spent every weekday with us teaching his fifth-grade class via Zoom @ our house. The door was closed but we would listen in sometimes. They sounded like quite lively classes, quite different from the years Narda and I were teaching. One of my favourite interactions was when Narda took him a cup of coffee and a child in Lahore watching said, ‘you still live with your mother?’ We stayed away the rest of the time. We would have dinner every day at five pm as that was lunch time in Lahore and the children would be away for half an hour. They still had their regular