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 schedules such as their specials; Phys ed, library, even music classes. All through Zoom as they were home. Sixteen students are a lot, I would think, to keep track of via computer, but Brendan did. It is an American private school with classes taught in English. We had visited Lahore in November 2019 (blog @ https://neuage.me/2019/11/29/lahore/) including a visit to Brendan’s school.
Brendan returned to Lahore a few days ago. They were doing a mixture of in-person teaching at the school and online teaching. After a week, the school went into lockdown and Brendan is back to teaching on Zoom, hopefully temporarily.
Two days before we left, my son, Sacha, came over from Melbourne. He had to do a two-week quarantine at a hotel as the border between his home state, Victoria and our COVID-19-free state has been closed since July so we got to see him for a couple of days before leaving. I wrote about that , ‘A cautionary tale’, https://neuage.me/2020/10/25/a-cautionary-tale/ at the time.
What a time before we left. I voted a month ago as I am a duel citizen, born in Michigan, growing up (sort of) in New York until 16 then all over the States (mainly New Orleans, NYC, Hawaii, California, Maryland, and Oregon until 33 years old when I moved to Australia). As New Jersey was our last home (Narda and I lived in Jersey City in 2010) I am voting through that state. Sacha, another one of those duel citizens you read about in comic books, born in Hawaii in 1981, six-months before we moved to Adelaide, voted in his first USA election, via Hawaii.
Narda, not exactly a duel citizen, we lived in New York from 2002 – 2010 (including a bit in New Jersey at the end) has a strong tie to what happens in the States. Her son, grandson and daughter-in-law live in Washington DC not far from the White House. We were so sure Biden would win by a landslide and it would be obvious by the end of election day on the third of November. We were aware of all that Bill Maher has been saying all year that Trump would be ahead by election night and would proclaim himself the victor. Tuesday in the USA is Wednesday in Adelaide. We had the TV on all day and as the day progressed so did Trump’s numbers. We were extremely upset and stressed along with 75,000 million Americans who voted for Biden. I became physically ill, sore throat, cough, runny nose – not COVID-19 because we had not been anywhere to catch it. The next day, our Thursday, things were looking even worse, with Trump declaring himself the winner. We got Sacha’s car back to him at six am as he was through his 14-day quarantine and we went out to brekky. At home we continued to pack and prepare for our road trip and three-week house exchange in Port Macquarie. We spent Friday with Sacha, the news of Biden getting Michigan (my birthplace) then leading in Nevada and Arizona was helping us heal. Then there was Georgia. Really! How could that be? A southern state voting for a Democrat. Holy Guacamole! Yes, it was true with more and more votes going toward Biden.
We felt good driving toward our first night’s destination, Broken Hill. We got there five o’clock, taking only eight hours for a typical five-and a half hour drive. We take turns every hour or so and the passenger keeps the driver UpToDate with what is happening in the States. We even took a break from the election, that Saturday, four days later, to listen to Michael Palin’s audiobook on his trip to North Korea. A good listen or read if you need something interesting to take your mind off whatever.
Broken Hill was our first time out of South Australia since March. There was no one at the border stopping people coming in. I believe it is only those coming into South Australia that are being stopped and checked that they have permission to enter. We are hoping when we return in December that the border is totally open. We plan to come home via Victoria if those borders are open. It is impossible to know what will be. The worse that could happen would be a new surge of viruses and we would have to quarantine in a hotel in Adelaide like Sacha did, @ $3000 for two-weeks, which we will not do. We will just camp as long as it takes to get home.
I passed through Broken Hill in 1992 when my 87-year old father came to visit from New York. My two children and I picked him up at Sydney Airport with a rented large RV and spent a few weeks driving up through Queensland and back to Adelaide via Broken Hill. [tales of such a life in, “Leaving Australia, ‘Again’: Book 2 ‘After’” https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M2CBL0X]. Narda and I had coffee and took a short walk with the agreement that we would return here in a few months and spend a week exploring Broken Hill
We found Broken Hill Racecourse Campground, which is listed in our free and/or cheap caravan places. It cost $20, cheaper than the usual $35 – $45 formal camping places.
Clean bathrooms and showers and quiet. We left the next morning @ 7.30 AM, stopping for coffee and a couple of hour later in the town of Wilcannia. This was the third largest inland port in the country during the great river boat era of the mid-19th century. At the 2016 census, Wilcannia had a population of 549. We had heard/read quite negative things about this town, though all we saw were closed shops with bars over the windows. We had a bit of lunch alongside the Wilcannia River. Narda, as she does, found some lads fishing and sat down and had a conversation with them about fishing, school, the river…’the river has gone down a lot over the years’.
The four boys were in agreement about Perch being much nicer to eat than Carp. They had sling shots which they told me were quite strong. I got a demonstration. The stone reached the other side of the Darling River. Two of the boys were in grade 4, one in grade 3. ’But he is in grade 5’. There is clearly a pecking order.
About the water level, was it getting lower? I was assured in an Eastern European accent by the boy in grade 5 that in 2016, the water level rose ‘very high’.
I told them I was a teacher. They looked at me with no expression and made no comment.
I had read several blogs written by my Grey Nomad fellow travellers, warning against stopping too long in this town. It was supposed to be dangerous and there was talk about caravans being vandalized.
All the windows we saw, petrol station, Catholic Care office, and the supermarket had completely barred windows.
The river is currently quite low.
Our next stop was along the Bogan River in Bogan Shire. Of course, I had to get my photo taken in front of the sign…
noun: bogan; plural noun: bogans
an uncouth or unsophisticated person regarded as being of low social status.
Definitions from Oxford Languages
There is a great Australian series for those not versed in Australian lore… Upper Middle Bogan (TV Series 2013–2016) – IMDb “Middle class woman, Bess Denyar, discovers she’s adopted. She’s shocked to find her birth parents head up a drag racing team in the outer suburbs.” I loved this series, and it is what has made me realize that all I want in life is to enhance/fulfill my life as a bogan in retirement.
Caravan park. We watched Jo Biden speak to the nation while eating chiko rolls at the local service station. The Indian person behind the counter obligingly turned up the volume for us.
This trip has been completely dominated by the US election. We have had trouble sleeping but are now making jubilant daily phone calls with Chris in celebration mode.
By late afternoon we arrived in Cobar, staying @ the Cobar Caravan Park, http://www.cobarcaravanpark.com.au/. We paid $20 for a site without electricity/water. It was better than the power sites as they are closer to one another. The shower/toilet blocks are available for all and as we do not need the electricity non-powered sites are best for us. We rode our bikes through the small town and that is about all we can say for this stop.
Tuesday, the 10th, a week since election, we are feeling better about the States. We avoid any news about Trump, so that we can view life as once again normal. We managed to go for almost two hours before stopping for coffee and ice cream in a town called ‘Nevertire’. To state the obvious, not being tired we continued to Dubbo.
Adelaide is the haemorrhoid of Australia. This was our greeting as we pulled into a central, somewhat feral caravan park called Poplars. The guy had travelled all over, Bolivia, Thailand and South African, but he was not having Adelaide. He charged us $30 pn with power. Turns out Bren was there too, on a grassy spot with a view of the bridge. Kmart, Coles etc across the road, lots of bike trails and parks and a decent Asian Wok takeway. Easy stop, despite the caretaker. So, we stayed and did the right thing by visiting the Dubbo Zoo. We rode our bikes and it was great.
The only memory I have of Dubbo is from my drive-thru with my 87-year old father and Sacha (11) and Leigh (9). We went to the Dubbo Zoo, which is a zoo one can stay in their vehicle and drive through. [Formerly an army camp during World War Two, the site was transformed into a 300-hectare oasis of woodland and irrigated grassland. Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo opened to the public on 28th February 1977 and was the first zoo in Australia to be constructed on the open range principle.] This time Narda and I rode our bikes to the zoo from the Poplars Caravan Park we spent two nights at. The zoo is merely fifteen minutes away and we spent most of the day riding through the zoo. We are not zoo people; I think the only one we have been to in the past twenty years was the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo in Kerala, India, which is a great zoo with huge outdoor areas for the animals. Dubbo Zoo has larger areas than the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo for animals to roam. We especially liked a performance by some bamboo apes – We have a short clip at https://youtu.be/ug_n_TG6WcA
Our other favourite display were the Galapagos tortoises – We have a short clip at https://youtu.be/RtVWFWGrG4M
As with any tourist event we were met at the entrance to the zoo by the local mayor-peacock,
The Poplars Caravan Park is a bit feral, a few long-term stayers, a bit of rubbish and car parts and ‘bogans’ around the place. At $30 per night it is cheap. The toilet blocks are a bit gross, the owner a loud opinionated character; “I loved America, the only problem is that it is full of Americans”. Narda has some quotes in her piece above. However, we did not mind, it is across the street from a shopping centre with Coles and Target and two blocks from the main street where we got take-away Chinese food our first night. There is a good bike trail along the Macquarie River taking us to the zoo and further if we were less lazy. The caravan park gets a one- and two-star rating on the Internet. We found it all quite convenient and quiet enough for a stay.
Fancy fences for horses in beautiful country. A shady spot, free, with clean toilets; this was Jerry’s Landing. We considered the pub but agreed on another caravan meal to eat through our fresh stuff, accompanied by Terrell’s gourmet egg dish which we have named “Bloody Eggs”: two sunny -side-up eggs slathered in tomato chutney. YUM.
We are out by 8 am and to our next destination, a free camp area in the village of Jerry’s plains. One of our better stays. Quiet, except for the road trains on the nearby highway. A very well cared for toilet block is nearby and we have a good sleep and are rested for our early morning trek to the New South Wales coast.
Google claims it is only a tad bit over three hours to Port Macquarie, so we are up early I eat brekky (Narda is doing one of those 16-hour fasts, eating only between noon and 6 or 7 pm) and we are on our way. We have all day as we are to meet our house-exchange hosts at five pm. After a couple of hours we see the New South Wales Coast, and as it is only mid-day and we have hours before we need to be in Port Macquarie and we are elderly folks who have already driven for a couple of hours, we pull over, have lunch, take an hour nap. We did not put the top of the caravan up as we did not want to look settled in.
Try it sometime, getting a big chunky caravan onto a vacant block, which has many trees and slopes steeply in two directions. Add to that a friendly neighbour, who offers to keep an eye on it, but does not want it to have a view of her living room, nor be anywhere close to her overhanging bushes which are due for a clipping on Wednesday. Half an hour later I had crushed the top of the awning against a tree. OK, enough; we have the caravan on the highest plastic risers and can sleep in it. If we decided to go to the portapotty sometime during the night, we would stagger into the left wall of the van.
Despite all this, we slept well. We enjoyed a nice evening tea with our hosts featuring local whiting (they assured us that the SA King George whiting was better), but it was nice evening meal. We were introduced to the Blue Burmese cat aristocracy. She, an elite member, has complete control over the occupants of the house. She sleeps in the queen bed in the master bedroom, uses the ensuite toilet (not kidding!!!). The only thing she does not do, is flush the toilet.
Our hosts come from SA originally, she was a Uniting Church pastor in Dernancourt, and knew the Hope Valley folks. Small world. Lovely people.
EmCee, the cat, does not sleep with us. We have decided to use the other bedroom and she’s not allowed in. Despite that, she will happily sleep on our laps while we watch Netflix, and we are actually taking quite a shine to her. This morning at 6.30 am she was waiting at our door. Bless.
There are a couple of guys working on solar panel on the house opposite in very HIGH winds. I have my caravan first aid kit ready to go. We’ve had warm weather, a nice walk yesterday morning to Miner’s Beach, just a few minutes down the road. Speccie!! Today we are getting the storms that seem to be crossing our country. Here just very windy with some spots of rain but not cold.
We got 2 cups of coffee, one small and one regular. The small one was free a Maccas for us tight arsed seniors. The area is called New Setttlement. Lots of homes on water front, which has been extended by artificial canals. But nice. We prefer the older bits, with a mixture of old houses, ex beach shacks and places on stilts. The new area is all square Lochiel Park style housing, mostly white.
“Ten years ago, my wife left me for my best friend. I still miss him”. That’s our host on the cruise. He and his wife busily doling out generous serves of pizza which was delivered to the boat on the of the landings. Then icecream with choose-your-own maltesers and lollies. No dophins really, just the occasional arched dive you had to be quick to see. But all in all very pleasant on a Sunday morning.
So now I am watching with alarm as these tradies and trying to hoist the panels onto the to roof across the road. The wind has not abated.
After two days here we did the most touristy thing to do, a dolphin cruise. https://cruiseportmacquarie.com.au/ We saw a few dolphins, the two-hour cruise was really good including all the pizza we wanted, I always get a lot as few chose the vegetarian selection.
,morning we took an hour walk down the cliff and to Miners Beach. What a beautiful area we are in, every day we will walk a different route either through the rainforest or along the beach. Our clip of Miners Beach – https://youtu.be/9lHozBc4vzM
There is so much to do and see. Today or tomorrow we will go to the Koala hospital, https://www.koalahospital.org.au/. We are looking at some 4-wheel drive into heavy rain-forest areas north of here too.
Meanwhile, we are settling in to a routine of getting up early, walking along the beach or through the local rain forest, blogging, taking an afternoon nap and watching shows on Netflix and Stan; currently watching Scorpion (Stan) which is getting routine by season three or four – whatever it is we are up to – they all blend into the same do-overs, Republic of Doyle, on Netflix, a Canadian comedy-drama television series set in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – two places we are looking for a house-exchange in as they look really good. Like Scorpion, it is getting quite routine by season four, but we like the characters. And the wacky Black Books, a British sitcom that must be watched to believe – up there with Schitt’s Creek though sillier. And less ‘nice’.(N). And ‘Brave New World’.
Tuesday, the 17th, we did the Sea Acres rain-forest walk, almost walking distance from our home, though we drove there. Well worth the visit.
There is an elevated path through it. We have a minute video at https://youtu.be/NNvjTWOedSo
We liked seeing and learning about the Strangler Fig, a Steven King type of vegetation.
After six or seven months of no virus in South Australia and the borders closed to Victoria, news today has it that Adelaide has its first Covid-19 cluster – 17. Not much compared to the rest of the world or even the rest of Australia but enough to shut down the state. Within a day of the news Western Australia and the Northern Territory have closed their borders to South Australia. We are in the next state over and so far, there is no lock down with New South Wales. Thought they are saying if you were in South Australia since the ninth of November to quarantine here, lucky for us we left SA on the seventh of November. At this time, we are still planning to go back home December 3rd, so we will see what happens.
STOP…OK things change. Yesterday, 18th, November – Wednesday, the folks who we are exchanging homes with rang. ‘Adelaide has just gone into a six day hard shutdown…as of midnight no travel…’ there was more but at 3 pm, when our hosts first heard the news they had until midnight to get out of South Australia or face staying at our house for six-days. Nothing bad about that, we have a nice home with a yard, a shed with my 183 ties [https://neuage.org/iso/], greenscreen studio and so much more as well as a sometimes-visiting koala in our front gumtree as well as very at home magpies visiting daily. However, they were concerned it could turn into two weeks then longer. Being in their 80s they did not wish to hang about in a covid hotspot, so they made a runner for the New South Wales border town of Broken Hill. They managed to get there by 9 pm which is really a good run to do in six hours. It took us much longer but then we stop for coffee every ten minutes or so. Bottom line, they want their house back. We checked out caravan places, we love it here and are not ready to go back to locked down South Australia, we could not travel there anyway now. We found what we liked best along the Hastings River.
Today, the next day, from the day before; which some call tomorrow if they were saying this yesterday, morning, our hosts rang and said they were going to take their time coming across New South Wales and were visiting family on the way. Perhaps next Monday, today is Thursday, they would arrive. We are happy with this arrangement as we like their large home overlooking Port Macquarie – and it is easier making a mess in their kitchen than in our caravan.
Talk at ya later…
“You can stay downstairs if you like. We would like to leave as Adelaide is going into full lock down, starting midnight. We’re planning to drive out of the state before midnight”. “That’s fine, said we, “there is always the caravan and we can find a park in this town easily.” Our minister host and her husband are on their way back.
So off we went to check it all out. The first park, the town park is expensive, right on the beach and people are walking through it all the time. We actually discovered this park on yesterday’s beach walk. Up a hill, down a hill, along a beautiful beach and so on. Then there is the Park next to Aldi’s. A bit too Aldi, even for us! Then we found a beautiful park in the Hastings River, full of residents, and only a few caravan sites, quiet and relatively cheap….. and a bonus: still close to Aldi. Bike riding country, nice and flat, unlike where we are currently living on the top of Summit Rd….the name speaks for itself.
“We have arrived in Broken Hill and have decided to meander around and take our time to get home”. OK so now we can stay until Monday or Tuesday. It’s all good; nice to have the freedom to be flexible.
Before the Rainforest board walk, I bought my groovy new drink bottle for $18 eeek.
Strangler figs abound. They grow from the top down, wrap their tentacles around the host tree, which dies in time, leaving a (often enormous) hollow strangler fig, which provides food for the inhabitants of the forest.
Finally, I have ordered new glasse., though I could change my mind before the eye test on Monday! 😊
I am off to grab my umbrella from the car to go hang gliding – hope to see ya all soon.
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.