This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2003 Travels April 17


John had bowls yesterday, so today it was my turn to decide the agenda.

We set out to drive the Bridle Track, which extends from north of Bathurst, to the old gold mining township of Hill End, some 55kms from Bathurst. This was a well known 4WD track.

Initially the road passed through farmland, until it reached the Macquarie River. The track then hugged this and its tributary Turon River, all the way to Hill End. But we did not get that far.

Once we reached the Macquarie River, the country became more rugged and there were increasing signs of the mining past of the region. It was, of course, in the Bathurst area that gold was officially discovered in 1851; the Hill End gold rush dated from that year.

The track became unsealed and quite narrow, clinging to the hillsides, with no guard rails. I was not sure this had been a great idea of mine, as the drops were on my side!

At the commencement of the Track, proper, where there were a number of warning signs about what was ahead, we encountered a 4WD, towing an offroad Bushtracker caravan – this despite all the warning signs that the road was not suitable for caravans. I was just glad we’d met him at this point, and not further along where the track was less wide, and someone would probably have had to back up. No prizes for guessing who that would have been.

We had a look around at the Turon River, where there was a ford and the first set of campgrounds – very pleasant area. Continued on to the next set of campgrounds, where John found we had no brakes! These came back after some pumping, but made a nasty grinding noise when he tried to use them.

This was far from an ideal track to be driving with no brakes! It was obvious that the smart move was to go back the way we’d come. We were closer to Hill End than Bathurst, but thought the remaining part of the Bridle Track could get really nasty, whereas the way back was not too bad. Also, we would obviously need a Land Rover mechanic, which there would not be in Hill End.

Once we got back into mobile phone range – a considerable distance back – rang Land Rover Assist, and they arranged for us to take Truck to the Bathurst dealer. Luckily there was one in Bathurst.

The grinding noise was quite bad by the time we got back to town. We were relieved to have managed to get all the way back under our own auspices.

We went for a walk while they assessed Truck.

Came across the local Art Gallery and found it was featuring Merrick Fry’s orchard series. Not really “my” sort of work. I had hoped to view their Lloyd Rees collection, whilst in town, but they only had five of his monotypes on display – disappointing. Lloyd Rees was an Australian artist whose works I’d long liked, and who my brother had known.

Back at the Service Centre, the news on Truck was not good. It seemed that the service centre in Melbourne had not correctly put back the pins that held the right rear brake together, and it had fallen apart and done damage. The repairs were going to cost about $1200! They could not be done until next Tuesday or Wednesday, as parts had to be ordered in, and Easter was looming. We had no choice but to tell them to go ahead.

This was unbelievable incompetence on the part of our Land Rover service centre. On top of the clutch issue we’d had fixed in Canberra. John was steaming. There would be some very heated phone calls to Melbourne!

Land Rover Assist arranged for an Avis hire car for us. A man from the dealership drove us out to the airport to collect it. The car was a V6 Commodore. All computerized – the operating manual was huge! John did not find it an easy car to learn to drive. There was a considerable excess payable by us, on the insurance, should we damage it, so I didn’t think we would be using it much.

We went to the Bathurst Library, where I was able to borrow heaps of novels to read, after telling them our sad saga. Lovely of them and I was happy about that.

We booked five more nights at the caravan park. Had been booked only until tomorrow morning, and had planned to spend Easter heading slowly north west. Were lucky they even had a space available and could juggle things around so we could stay on our site. The five nights over Easter went up to $22.50 a night, after discount.

We were feeling extremely annoyed. This break down was due to sheer carelessness on the part of an official dealer, and was most unfair to us as customers. The vehicle had been taken to them with instructions for a thorough check over and service, because we were going remote – and they then forgot to put back a vital part! It was just lucky that this malfunction did not happen at speed, with the van on the back – or in a busy metropolitan area.

The Land Rover man had told us that there might not be any more Defenders imported after this year, as there are issues about them meeting Australian design rules standards. Something to do with needing to have air bags. We would need to keep an eye on that – and if we were going to buy a new one, as we’d discussed doing – do so while we still could.

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2003 Travels April 16


After breakfast, set out to have a quick look around Bathurst.

This involved, firstly, finding the bowls club, so John could check out games. He booked himself in for one this afternoon, so that limited sightseeing to the rest of the morning.

I picked up some material from the Information Centre.

Then we drove to the Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit. This well known track is on public roads, so we were able to drive around it, a couple of times. Truck is no speed machine, but, hey, it could dream for a little while!

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Our Truck on the Mt Panorama racing circuit

There were some  vantage points along the way that gave good outlooks over Bathurst and the surrounding country.

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Country around Bathurst

After early lunch at the van, John went off to bowls. He won, which really pleased him, as his opponent was one of the club’s  champions.

I walked around the park a couple of times, for some exercise.

There were lots of people with motor bikes in the park. Seemed like some sort of big get together, of mostly older riders. Some of them were members of the Vintage Club. They were obviously enjoying the contact and camaraderie and going out on assorted rides, each day.

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2003 Travels April 15


Got up at a reasonable time. Packing up did not take long, as we had not set up a full camp here.

Retraced our route as far as Yass, then took the road through Boorowa and Cowra. Stopped for a coffee break at Cowra and near there to buy some produce from a roadside farm stall – zucchini, squash and some very nice looking spinach.

It was a pleasant drive on a fine day that was not too cool, with some cloud in the sky.

Refuelled at the little township of Mandurama – $1.02cpl. John had been on the lookout for a servo in Cowra, but didn’t see one that was easy to pull into with the van on.

Just beyond Carcoar, took the side road to the Carcoar Dam, which turned out to be a pleasant spot to stop for lunch. From our vantage point could see a wind farm – towers on a nearby hill, about sixteen of them. It was pleasing to see clean energy generation happening.

As we travelled this way, were noting several interesting places for future visits. At this stage, with the current rig, we planned to concentrate on exploring the remote and northern parts of the country. When we can no longer cope with those areas, or need to do shorter trips, will explore closer to home, in areas such as we passed through today. So, we were “saving” those up!

That said, our present intention was a spend a few days at Bathurst, looking around that area, and at some of the Blue Mountains.

Booked into Easts Holiday Park, on the eastern edge of town – $19.80 a night, after Big 4 discount. It was a very nice park – large and clean. But there were some funny sites, with a tree in the middle of the site – this layout caused much confusion for new arrivals while we were there. We initially put the van on the wrong half of the site, and had to re-position it, with considerable difficulty, around a tree.

After setting up, with awning up and gear out, went for a short walk, mainly for the exercise. This took us up into a nearby housing estate. Then we went to Harvey Norman, which was across the road from the park, and browsed about in there for a while.

The later afternoon and evening turned really quite cold.

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2003 Travels April 14


Needed the alarm clock this morning, for an early start. Truck had to be at Land Rover at Woden by 9am. This meant negotiating the centre of Canberra in its rush hour. We managed!

Once Truck was delivered, we walked over to the Woden Shopping Centre.

Spent a couple of hours in Dick Smith, looking at the latest TV’s, cameras and computer gear. It was interesting to see how far the digital camera technology had come, in just a few years.

I bought a Kasey Chambers CD – Barricades and Brickwalls. Also bought a cheap pair of track pants – to wear on travel days. John bought some good shoe insoles, a couple of long sleeved light shirts, and two pairs of chino trousers, suitable for working in, where we were going.

Had lunch of bread rolls, then got a call to say Truck was ready. Cost $450.

We were back at the van by 2pm.

John napped. I put up the hems on his new trousers – sewing by hand, of course. Then made sure my share records were up to date.

It was now school holidays. This was evident in the clientele in the shops, and in the more busy caravan park.

This place really was quite grotty. The amenities were not cleaned yesterday – I wondered if there was a presumption that no one uses the showers or toilets on a Sunday? They were done this morning, but were quite dirty again by 3pm. However, they did get a bit of a clean up later.

John was able to connect up his computer, in the Park Office, and do a download. There was an email from one of the couples we’d worked with, last year. They had been working at the Barkly Roadhouse in NT, but were planning to move on to the Top End and then the Kimberley.

I was getting a lot of shooting pain and discomfort in my operated-on leg. Don’t think it liked the caravan seat and all the rather immobile travel in Truck. The ulcerated area did not seem to be doing a final heal, either, and was giving some pain again. Rather worrying, since it was almost two months since the operation.

Decided that I would be very pleased to leave this caravan park tomorrow.

We thought we would head first for Bathurst, mostly to check it out for future visits.

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2003 Travels April 13


Slept in, somewhat. Decided to have a fairly quiet day and a break from driving around.

It looked like there would be rain, but only a few showers eventuated.

John played computer games for much of the morning. I read the weekend papers.

After lunch, decided to head out, after all. But not far – just to Gold Creek, which we had never visited on previous trips here. The main feature at this tourist complex  was a miniature village, which did not really interest us. Our purpose was to browse the shops there. We had a look through several, and some galleries. All were, of course, tourist oriented and mostly rather predictable.

The Aarwun Gallery was somewhat different – crammed with a great variety of art, and very interesting.

We looked at some brilliant glass art, and the gallery owner got talking to us about this, which was work by a Tina Cooper. Some was done with an aboriginal artist as a reconciliation exercise in 2000. The results were most unique but, at around $2000 a piece, definitely beyond our reach! However, we decided to buy a small piece of hers, one of only two similar items, and almost $400. It went on lay-by until we would be home again in October, by putting down a deposit of $150 on it. I really would have liked its “mate” too, but felt that was too extravagant!

The piece we bought was like a round vase, on a short stem base. It glowed orange/gold under light and had little blobs of yellow and green scattered around the opening at the top. These were representative of wattle – though I saw them more as scrambled eggs! It was whimsical, very “Australian” and would look great displayed at home.

The gallery owner told John to bring him samples of wood boxes he was going to make, and If they were good enough, he would show them. That was encouraging.

This was a most rewarding outing – for me, the highlight of the Canberra visit, to date.

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2003 Travels April 12


Since we were, unexpectedly, still in Canberra, John arranged to visit his daughter and grandson again this morning. This time, we did get there at 10am, and spent an agreeable couple of hours there.

Went on to the shops at Dixon, and then Manuka. Bought the weekend papers. Had a rather indulgent lunch at Manuka – John had pie and pasty and I had a spinach and fetta pastry. I should have known better and suffered indigestion for much of the afternoon!

At the food markets at Fyshwyck, bought fish – barra, flathead tails and sand whiting, for three meals, two of which I would freeze for later.

Went to the National Gallery, where I wanted to have a good browse in their Australian art section. That occupied another couple of hours,  which was quite enough. I had tired legs and feet, and John’s feet were really tired.

Back to the van, where I cooked one lot of fish, with fries, for tea.

The nights were distinctly chilly here.

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2003 Travels April 11


After breakfast, decided we would drive out to Bungendore, a township some 40kms east of Canberra, to visit the well regarded woodwork gallery there. Somehow, we hadn’t managed to see this at all, on previous visits, despite recommendations from John’s wood working friends. It had won many tourism awards over the years.

We took the Federal Highway, towards Goulburn, then turned south just beyond Sutton and had a pretty drive down to Bungendore. This was a quaint little village, very geared to tourism. It reminded me of some places in Tasmania.

The gallery kept us engrossed for more than three hours. It contained high quality work which John found very inspirational. Items ranged from smaller – and more affordable – things that might, in particular attract overseas tourists, like wooden rulers, small boxes, to very large furniture pieces. There were the things one would expect in a gallery featuring woodwork – bowls, platters, lamp bases – and creations more from left field.  So much of the furniture was exquisite and intricate. Very humbling in some ways. The gallery was large, with multiple rooms, so there was scope to display items to their full advantage.

After that we moved on, briefly, to a nearby specialist leather works shop, which was a contrast to the wood gallery. It was crammed full, with a mix of quality and kitch, but with the wonderful, pervading smell of leather.

Then it was back to Woden shopping complex, for a late lunch, which was far too costly for what we got: $17 for two toasted filled rolls and two coffees.

Whilst there, I had a watch place check out my malfunctioning watch. He found the battery was alright, but said it probably needed a good clean. I didn’t think that had been done since it was new, some fifteen years before. I did not have enough time in Canberra for that to be done, so bought a new, cheap watch, for $30 – really needed to have one for where I was going. Hoped the new one would last the season!

I also bought a book on share trading. Just a little light reading!

Time then to head back to the van, after a really pleasant day.

Given the “modern” layout of Canberra suburbs, John did not want to try to go out and find a fish and chip shop, so we had a light soup tea.