Monday morning, we had the big breakfast with eight family members and my two mentors; Maggie and Mabel. As is usually the case the eight family members sat around at the table talking and Maggie and Mabel and I went outside to play. When those adults came outside Maggie and Mabel complained that they were not paying them attention as they raced up and down our miniature racecourse then eventually one adult (not counting whatever I am) watched. Maggie yelled out ‘everyone look!’ so she managed to get a larger but not complete audience, though their father was inside, probably watching footy or whatever young Aussie males do.
When we got tired of the adult non-attention and outside we did the usual thing, computers. Maggie at age five likes the games but I am trying to steer her toward programming and Photoshop. Mabel is starting to use Photoshop, a few months ago, in Washington D.C., Liam, age eighteen months, give or take a month, had his first lesson in Photoshop… so bottom line, who wants to hang out with adults who no doubt are talking about politics when they can hang out with younger humans who want to play?We told everyone that we were leaving Tuesday but by Monday afternoon we started packing the caravan to drive to Melbourne. We had booked in a caravan park for Friday – Sunday in Melbourne giving us five days to get there. Five days for 1000 kilometres should be a couple hundred a day. That is about two or three hours driving. We don’t go very fast with Narda liking to stay around 90 Ks an hour and getting anxious with me comfortable at 100-110, so to maintain equilibrium in marriage I try to stay around 90. Not sure why but we took a long time packing and did not leave until after four pm. About an hour away we got to Truro Roadside stop. Roadside stops are fine and there are many listed in our free-camping book, “Camps 8”. The only problem is that on a main road, it is noisy from trucks all night, which was the case with the Truro Roadside stop.
Looking up Truro we find that it is known for a spate of killings; about eight in a few weeks a few years back and of course that is always what you want to read about when camping in a dark place alongside a highway outside of a small town. We watched the movie ‘Selma’ and I didn’t think about the serial killings again; until I awoke at two in the morning. We drove on the road that Martin Luther King and his mates walked to Selma which was the basis of the movie a few years ago, giving us the feeling that we were part of something that had happened some time ago that changed the southern mindset for a while.
As we approached the Victorian border we saw the ominous sign, “no fruit or vegetables in the Riverland or an on the spot fine of $350 applies”. We had a large bucket full in the van. Damn. So being thrifty and conscious retirees, we pulled over into the next parking bay, turned the gas on, and boiled the tomatoes (yummy tomato soup), the sweet potatoes, broccoli and something else green (yummy stampot….it’s a Dutch thing) and the apples (yummy appelmoes…another Dutch thing). So congratulating ourselves and feeling very smug, we drove past the sign and the bin where we should put our precious produce (an American thing), and happily ate for free for the next 3 days; leaving money in the budget for more Crispy Crème Donuts.
We were up bright and early (and not killed by anyone, which was pleasing to us) and continued our epic journey to Melbourne. Perhaps it is not epic mileage-wise as we recently did a round-the-world, four-month, trip, but epic in the sense that every moment is epic or could be… or possibly part of an epic-experience that we call our life.
Coburg, another dying town. Terrell and I have decided that what Australia needs is to spend lots of money on trains, and revive all these lovely country towns. Fill the country with a maze of trains. Some could be high speed, connecting small towns with cities and employment. Terrell decided that he will be the mayor of one of these towns, and I can be the post mistress. Hmm. And Coburg can open up a dedicated yabbie store instead of leaving it to the earthmoving store. There were 3 general stores in the past we discovered on our exploration using our bikes, each with their own speciality: pizza, petrol and other general goods. Two of them now boarded up.
And yet there was a beautiful riverside park in Coburg, welcoming ‘grey nomads’ to park there for ‘a small donation’. There were many caravans and RVs there. The park was great alongside the Murray River, with some amazing scenery, wildlife, old gum trees, tracks for cycling and grassy areas for camping.
A source of happiness for me is waving to the other drivers with caravans on the back. When they wave back, I smile. It’s complicated though. You have to be careful not to be offended if they don’t wave back. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes the driver is too young and too trendy. Or perhaps their rig is just so much superior to ours. Or perhaps they are concentrating on their driving, with a huge Mac truck tail-gating them. So there it is, small things in our life.
Our next night was at Kings Billabong camping area 8 km south-east of Mildura. Mallee Country outside of Mildura. For our friends, not familiar with Aussie stuff, a billabong is an oxbow lake, an isolated pond left behind after a river changes course. Billabongs are usually formed when the path of a creek or river changes, leaving the former branch with a dead end. Wikipedia. Mallee Country is an informally defined region of north-western Victoria with Mallee trees like in the picture below.
We buy Mallee roots for our fireplace as it is slow burning. If Mallee roots are really your thing, there is a contest every year for the world’s largest. See; ‘Guinness World Record officials have put a little town in north-west Victoria on the map — thanks to a very big root’ (of course to Australians ‘root’ has a different meaning so if you’re here from overseas be careful with some terms: Root (verb and noun): synonym for f*ck in nearly all its senses: “I feel rooted”; “this washing machine is rooted”; “(s)he’s a good root”. A very useful word in fairly polite company. http://www.koalanet.com.au/australian-slang.html). The town staved off a challenge from the nearby community of Tooleybuc to take out the top honour’. Who knew? http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-27/mallee-root-festival-sees-ouyen-take-out-big-record/8389516
We camped at Psyche Bend which is part of Kings Billabong Park campsite. The road becomes corrugated soon into the park which rattles our truck, caravan, and us to smithereens. Being new at driving off-road we have always gone slow over them and put up with our bones clinking against each other. However, asking folks lately, it seems we should be driving much faster, like 60 – 80 Ks instead of 15 – 20 Ks, and deflating our tyres which we have never done which of course means having to pump them back up which means buying a pump of some sort. We have a lot to learn before doing the loop (driving around Australia, taking six-months to do which will involve lots of off-road, outback driving). We’re planning to use the upcoming month of June to get in some real outback driving by going to Coober Pedy (opal capital of the world) and getting off road north of there. Watch for out blog of that trip sometime in June, probably toward the end of June. Needless to say, we did not drive very far but took the first camping spot we saw along the billabong. Below is the road leading to our campsite.
The place was ideal for tent camping and not our 20-foot thing we pull behind our truck but Narda, being the great backer-upper that she is, got us out of an almost impossible spot the next morning. We rode our bikes over to Psyche Bend as the sunset to see the waterbirds (pelicans, swans, herons and ducks) on the large billabong. There were several other caravan campers there making the spot we chose ideal. We could turn up our TV or radio and not test how far from the caravan we could go before still hearing us. We started watching the classic movie ‘Manchurian Candidate’ but being so quiet and dark and a bit chilly we got under covers and were asleep probably about 8 pm. Early, with the sunrise, the cockatoos, galahs, rosellas, parrots, and honeyeaters all let us know we were in their area and seemingly were having conferences with the usual loud mouths and disagreements one hears at a conference.
Photos below are where we camped at Kings Billabong Park on the right and the photos on the left where we camped along the Murray the next night in Nyah.
Taking our time getting to Melbourne, not that I was putting off seeing Sacha who we get to see about twice a year, but that we just want to travel slow, we managed to drive almost three hours before our next stop which was at Nyah Recreation Reserve Camping Area, alongside the harness racing track and alongside the river. Not only is it free camping, though there is a contribution box which we added to but one can stay for seven-days unless there are horses running amok on the track. We found great bike riding areas there too. The town of Nyah is quieter (deader) than our last exploration of Terowie, South Australia, see: https://neuage.me/2017/04/05/terowie/. There is only one shop to purchase milk etc. open anymore and all the other once-were-shops are boarded up. Our bikes, not the cool racing bikes others have, but bikes we bought our first month of our three-year stay in China working at Dalian American International School and sent to Adelaide, take us to many off-beat places.
After four-nights/days of free-camping we stayed at the Golden Nugget caravan park in Bendigo. We bought solar panels so we could get power for longer but we ran out of water which is something we need to work on before taking our next trip. I got a power inverter so we could keep our computers going; I’m good with roughing it as long as I have my Nikon and laptop and smartphone charged and at the ready. We could probably go without watching a video or one of our Netflix series but a computer and camera are a must on every trip. I could even do without a phone for a day or two seeing that we do not use it as a phone, Sacha is the only one who ever rings me, but we get 3G/4G all the time and it makes me feel secure knowing I could see if WW III has started or not. I suppose we would just hide among the gum trees and camp for the next few years. For the most part we avoid the news when we camp except to troll the headlines every few days.
Today in Melbourne, we are back in a trailer park (for those Aussies who don’t know what that is, watch an episode on Trailer Park Boys on Netflix). The community is amazing, everyone talks to everyone. And you don’t have to be cool or wealthy or intelligent or good looking. There’s the lady across the road from us who has 9 brothers. She came from Malta but will never go back “26 hours on the plane, are you kidding me, it’s too bloody far”. She has a grandchild I don’t think she has met yet. There’s the guy who is waiting for his son to pick him up. He doesn’t drive anymore because he had a stroke, He told his son it would be fine to drive “but just in the country” but his son is fine with picking him up.
Narda, the social one in our family of two travellers, manages to strike up conversations with folks quite easily. Me, I am happy talking to a tree or a magpie. Humans kind of confuse me. I tend to be the one making a meal, playing with some Adobe update, or taking photos of something I can use for my picture-textual-thingies that I have done since the mid-1960s. (see https://plus.google.com/collection/E_6JaB, https://youpic.com/photographer/Neuage, or possibly https://www.flickr.com/photos/neuage/ for some I have done recently). Narda, seems to collect the misfits in life (that is why she married me) and gathers interesting stories from them. I think she should start a series of ‘tales along the way’ or some such narrative title.
Below is the ever-growing Melbourne apartment buildings, these to have 96 stories. Apparently, they are throwing together another one soon (The project consists of a 317-metre-tall (1,040 ft) apartment building with 1,105 apartments over 100 floors) that will be bigger yet. Already, they have the tallest building (Eureka Tower – 297.3-metre, 975 feet), an apartment building, in the southern hemisphere.
We stayed at a caravan park in Melbourne (Springvale) for three days/nights; Sundowner Caravan Park http://sundownercp.com/ as that is the closest to Sacha’s home. Melbourne is lacking in caravan parks and there definitely is no free-camping anywhere near. Sundowner was not as good as some places ($33/night which is cheap for Melbourne) that we have paid for in that there was no Wi-Fi but the hot showers are nice compared to a cold wash-up in our caravan. Also, plugging into electricity is good as our 12V caravan will not run my 1000W smoothie maker but does charge the computer, lights, fridge (though the fridge runs colder when on gas) and TV and radio. When plugged in we can also put on the heater making camping a luxury on a cold night. I made four-days of smoothies when we started and again I made that much to get us home. Being on a low-carb diet my kale, hemp seed, almond milk (yes, I soak my almonds then take off their skins to make my own milk), protein powder (pea protein), fruit, sprouts, yogurt, (we make our own yogurt every day too) and whatever else is laying about is my main nutritional intake. I make my own low-carb cookies and bread too which is fine because we have a gas oven. Along with vinegar (the one with ‘the mother’) and olive leaf oil extract every day, and of course no meat, I seem to keep my body going though Narda thinks I’m a bit high maintenance.
Three days with Sacha as always is good. For those who know him (he is not on Facebook or I believe he is but he won’t tell me what name he is using in fear I will embarrass him which of course is what parents have children for) he is doing well; thinking of starting a family with his partner of the past fifteen-years, still doing music stuff with a room full of recording stuff, and working for Melbourne Council with troubled youth and he is very happy. What more could a parent want? Oh, and he has a new car that he bought a week earlier, very sporty and fast, so he took us up into the hills outside of Melbourne for a tour.
We left Melbourne and stayed at Lake Bolac in a rain storm. We found a place away from others (there were three others camping in the area) and settled in early. Even with the rain we were quite happy with where we were. It was the darkest and quietest place we had been in. With a break in the weather we went for a bike ride. During the stormy night we watched the movie, ‘Hereafter’ with Matt Damon playing the role of a psyche who could communicate with dead people, directed, co-produced, and scored by Clint Eastwood. I liked this movie as it is never far from my mind this sort of thing because of my son, Leigh – http://neuage.org/leigh.html
Lake Bolac, one of the stops on the way back was a surprise. In the middle of farming country, this substantial lake. The weather forecast was rather grim; strong wind warnings with the possibility of large hailstones. We discussed the possibility of finding shelter in a local hay shed. Well it turned out to be fine. The darkness was complete, with thick cloud cover, and though we did get some rain, the tarp we had added to the roof (we sprang a small leak) did the job nicely.
Wannon Falls Needing some waterfalls for a new series I am working on (video poetry) we stopped at Nigretta Falls then past Hamilton on B 160. See the clip below…
Along the way we stopped for sheep to wander off to a new paddock – see clip below…
On this trip we listened to ‘Lake Wobegon, A Prairie Home Companion’, with Garrison Keillor. Narda took me to one of his shows at The Town Hall, New York City, for my birthday years ago and she bought me a two-cd set of his shows for a birthday about five-years ago and finally with time to listen we had a great vision of all those Lutherans up at Lake Wobegon.
Robert said he heard his mate calling him from mid-north SA. So he and his wife packed up, and moved there. They bought a house for $90,000 opposite Robert’s mate’s garage. He told us about the murders in Terowie.
“Just like Snowtown”, he said, “Maybe worse. These victims were buried in a wall.” (any American reading this may like to Google “Snowtown murders, South Australia…chilling reading)
It was a warm Saturday night, around 8 o’clock when all the young ones are out partying, or having expensive dinners. Not in Terowie. There was one young one. We saw her sitting on the swing in the local, nicely kept, playground. This was in the afternoon, on the Saturday. We returned later and she was still there, swinging.
But the boys were out, with cans of West End, sitting on upturned buckets and some old car furniture, shooting the breeze with Robert’s mate. This was where and when we found them. We had just set up camp on the nearby railway siding. We were feeling quite pleased with ourselves, with our shady little spot, free, and our new bike rack.
Then we discovered one major puncture in one of our bikes. Bugger. We remembered passing this servo on the way in, so we walked along the main street till we found it. And there they were. Action in Main Street. Having nothing to lose we asked the mechanic (Robert’s mate) if he might have time to fix the hole.
He said, “No worries”.
Nice bloke. He was the only one working, among the boys and their West End cans. We returned later and joined the friendly banter. That’s when we learned of Robert’s life story, his mortgage, the murder and many other things. In the end the mechanic refused to charge us. Blimey. We felt a little humbled.
That is Terowie. A little town at the end of its life. In its hey-day there were 2000 folks living there; a town of lovely stone buildings, a bustling railway town, where broad gauge trains have to unload their passengers, their animals and their goods, and reload them onto narrow gauge trains, heading north. Now the town is sad. A few buildings; the blacksmith, the old post office, and the old general store have been converted into museums, but there’s no-one there.
And yet, it keeps on. A big “RV friendly town” sign welcomes you as you drive in. The toilets in the main street are kept clean by an unknown person, for the convenience of Grey Nomads, who camp at the railway siding for free. The mechanic, who is also the owner of the large Victorian hotel, used to offer counter meals. He recently decided to stop, because “the pub in the next town is also struggling, and there are not enough customers for us both”.
Why is this? There is a giant wind farm only 20 minutes south, with millions of dollars invested in hundreds of giant wind mills. Why is this not bringing some wealth into the area? Robert, who knows such things, told us that the money goes to NSW, and we don’t get any benefit as a state, certainly none as a town.
So there it is. We spent three days there; but it made quite an impression. The town has treasures, like absolute silence; what an unusual gift, and clear black skies where you see the colours of planets. It is enough. And if you’re wondering about the bodies in those walls, ask Robert. We have no idea.
Our Video – with kangaroos and real outback footage and heaps more – for first time internet users click on the white arrow in the image below – everyone else do the same.
Our first stop, real stop, not counting Elizabeth twenty-minutes from home was in Saddleworth, in the Gilbert Valley, approximately 100 kilometres north of Adelaide.
Wanting to be accurate I looked up Krispy Kreme store-locator. I am sure it is Elizabeth but I wanted to be sure. Perhaps their IT department needs to work on their location finder. It said the nearest one was in Missouri and Google provided a map to there which was most helpful.
Saddleworth is definitely a town that looked worth exploring. There is a caravan park there but we did not see a free site so we kept going.
We were having a bit of a bother with our Pajero which had an engine light warning. We had it looked at and some minor repair but ‘Billy’, our Pajero (our caravan is “Holiday”) was feeling a bit under the weather and the further we went the worst he felt. By the time the trip was over we could barely make it up a small hill even in first gear. Currently Billy is booked in for surgery next week and Holiday is at the caravan shop getting a review of her situation with some add-ons such as solar panel so we can go further afield and do more free camping. We did limp into Terowie, a town we had passed through several years earlier. I even bought a fridge magnet there. This time the town was very quiet and though the entrance sign boasted 150 residents, most of those have since gone and places are for sale at bargain prices. We looked at the post office that was for sale for $105,000 with land, four bedrooms, all modernized with beautiful floors – I want to be the mayor of Terowie and being a Leo is really all the qualifications I need to succeed and Narda could be the post master.
We were alone at the free-camping along the rail-line the first night and the second night there were four others. The area was so large that everyone was very spread out and we did not have any contact which is fine with me but Narda likes to meet people and get stories such as above. I just want to be in a quiet place to write a novel or another version of my memoirs. (you can read my original version of ‘Leaving Australia’ @ http://neuage.org/e-books/
We chose this town in part due to the flatness of it. After six-weeks recently in Holland and riding every day – even in the snow (this was January – February 2017) we were up for riding more. Our house in Adelaide is in a bit of a hilly area so we rode heaps – though there was not far to go; one end of town to the other – well there is five-minutes of our life gone. We did ride around the ‘suburbs’ which took another fifteen-minutes. This is a photographer’s dream place. I did not get anywhere near the amount of photos a ‘real’ photographer would have gotten. There are four or five old churches on one street, not Main Street, a couple old pubs and lots of buildings.
This was an important train stop between Adelaide and the North. One of their main claims to fame here is that General Douglas MacArthur paid a visit here with his family after WW II. For Australians MacArthur was some military dude for the USA, a five-star general – which is a lot, who was quite important during the time he was important.
We decided to go to a place called ‘World’s End Reserve halfway back to Adelaide. Due to a combination of not getting internet where we were and our GPS, which hates us (I have spoken of this in a previous blog) we got hopelessly lost on a gravel road and never did find the place.
We got to Eudunda, found some free camping spot: changed gas bottles, started cooking, smelt gas, panicked, drove home, got home two-hours later, and realised how good life is, once again.