The weather looked, this morning, as if it was beginning to clear. It was still pretty cloudy, but the rain had definitely lessened.
John received an email from son-in-law. He would be at Durras, painting the place, from 8-15 June. Daughter would be driving down for the weekend of 13-15th, to collect him, with the boys along with her. So, that would be a chance for John to see them, albeit rather briefly. Maybe we would not have to go to Canberra after all.
John’s plan became to stay here until next Monday, move to Merimbula on Tuesday for the bowls, then move to Durras on Saturday, until Monday, then start heading for home on the Tuesday. On that Monday, we could drive up to Bungendore to visit the wood gallery there. He said that he could play bowls here this Saturday, and we could both play in a mixed pairs game on Monday. The prospect did not thrill me!
Since it was not raining, we decided, after lunch, that we would drive back to Gillards Beach and go for a walk on the beach there.
We could see more of the countryside, on the drive, today, as it was clearer. Today, there were kangaroos grazing around the campground, not at all disturbed by us turning up. We hadn’t seen them yesterday – guess they were smart enough to be sheltering somewhere then!
This Mimosa Rocks National Park was named for a ship – The Mimosa – which was wrecked on the rocks along here in 1863. Just one of the hundreds of shipwrecks along the dangerous coastline of Australia.
We had a fairly long, very pleasant walk along the beach. I was able to take some photos, without worrying that my camera would be drowned! It was a really enjoyable couple of hours – much better.
There were interesting low cliffs jutting out at intervals, forming various bays along the coast, and places where the rocks poked up from the sand. With the still grey skies as a backdrop, it looked quite dramatic.
In the evening, son phoned, just to catch up and tell us all was well at home. I suspected he was probably enjoying having the house to himself for a while.
Rain set in through the night, as forecast. It continued to rain, steadily, throughout the day.
John decided – and I heartily agreed – to stay put here and see out the rain, that was forecast to continue, over the next few days. In my view, a very sensible decision! Despite our extensive past travels, we really had not done a great deal of travel in the wet – and the idea did not appeal.
I went to the office and extended our stay until next Saturday morning – and we were given a free 7th day for it! Bonus.
It seemed possible now, that in order for John to see his grandsons at all on this trip, we may have to go up to Canberra, and then home via the Hume Highway. Neither of these were particularly appealing travel legs.
Right now, this was not being the pleasant, coastal trip I’d envisaged! Very little about it had gone as John wished. But his daughter had warned him, before we left home, that the Durras house was being renovated, and that would be affecting their use of it.
We bunkered down in the van, through the rain.
As we were now staying longer, during a bit of a break in the rain, we went out and put up the awning roof. That gave some shelter to the doorway, as we came and went to the bathroom.
We realized leaks had developed, over both the kitchen window and the one at the head end of the bed – again. Not good at all, leaks being the bane of any caravanner’s existence, and something this van had been a bit prone to ever since the stuffed up solar panel installation, years ago. In this case, there were probably a couple of areas around the window seals that needed silicone applying.
We were not very comfortable, with damp clothes after forays to the amenities, putting up the awning, and with wet feet!
After lunch, John decided we would go for a drive to Mimosa Rocks National Park, to the north of the Mogareeka Inlet. Really? I had mentioned that I would like to visit the odd National Park, on this trip, but hadn’t meant it to be in this sort of weather, though.
So we drove north, across the bridge over the inlet, and up a winding hill road, then through country that was a mix of forest with pockets of farmland. And with tendrils of mist curling around the slopes.
After about 10kms of this, turned onto a dirt track that took us towards the coast – in teeming rain, with low visibility – to Gillards Beach campground.
This appeared to be a fairly large bush campground, that would be quite an attractive place to stay, in decent weather. It would be very popular in summer holidays, I thought. Now, it was totally deserted. In different weather, it could be a pleasant place to stay a few days with the van – when there was enough sun to have the solar panels charge the batteries.
Today, it was too wet to do anything there, except drive slowly around the campground tracks, and briefly get out of Truck to look out over the beach and the rather wild sea. It was also far too wet to risk drowning my camera in the deluge – these photos were taken on a subsequent visit.
We did not spend very long there, then retraced our route – taking it very carefully on the dirt surface, which was a bit slick in parts – and so back to camp.
In our absence, some clown had parked his big van partly on our site, so we had no room to park Truck by our van. In an almost empty campground, with freedom to choose his site, he had to snuggle up close to us! He came out and apologized, as if that somehow exonerated him. But it did not change his intrusion – it is hard to believe the crassness of some people. Or their inability to park a caravan correctly.
Despite the adverse conditions – and the result of leaving our site unattended – it had done us good to get away from the van for a while and have something else to focus on.
I walked up to the top shops, to buy a paper from the newsagent. The walking path up the steep hill was definitely a workout!
We went and did some more bowls practice in the morning.
After an early lunch, drove into Bega – just because this was a place where I had never stopped to have a look around. It was a pleasant drive, much of it on the fertile plains of the Bega River – great dairying country around here.
Bega itself was a typical farming region service town. John managed to find a shop that sold the brake adjusting tool he wanted, so that was a win. I was able to do a small supermarket shop for food.
We visited the combined Cheese Factory and Information Centre. Having grown up on a farm, milking cows, separating cream and making our own butter, I was not interested in explanations about the dairy industry! However, I was very interested in sampling some of the range of cheeses – and buying some. We really were a pushover where cheese sales were concerned!
Then we had to go and buy some nice rustic bread, in order to have a peasant style bread and cheese tea tonight. Yum.
In the late afternoon, back at camp, John’s son in law phoned again, to inform him that the family would not be going down to Durras next weekend, either. I was not surprised.
John became very miserable, trying to work out what to do next, and where to go. I made a couple of suggestions, but he did not like my ideas. He decided that we would move on north, tomorrow – but not sure how far. The forecast is for lousy weather setting in up there, so I was not thrilled about the idea. We decided to sleep on it and see what tomorrow brought.
Day 1 of winter. It was a fine day, but rather cloudy and quite cool.
We both went and practiced bowls, in the morning. I was quite pleased with my session – on grass, and after several weeks without playing.
After lunch, we walked along the beach, to the Inlet mouth, then came back along the cycle path.
The beach sand was very soft, so walking on it was not easy. By the time we got back to the van, my suspect back was aching. I decided to take a daily Celebrex anti-inflammatory, until after the big bowls tournament was over, just in case. I carried a supply of anti-inflammatories when travelling, for “back attacks”, ever since 1993 when trying to carry on with a trip, without medication after the back began complaining, saw me ambulanced to Queenstown Hospital, in western Tasmania. I wouldn’t wish a ruptured disc on my worst enemy!
John was unsure of his plans, after here, and conscious that he had heard no more from daughter. We had only paid for two nights here, so could move on tomorrow. He was not very happy. It did feel to me like being in a bit of a limbo.
We took our time this morning, getting up and getting ready to move on. With such a short distance to go, there was no point in hurrying. We were not expecting there would be much pressure on site availability, at this time of year, but still did not want to arrive too early.
Took the non-highway route, through the centre of town, and up past Tura Beach. It was a good road and, once out of hilly Merimbula, easy driving.
At Tathra, there was the really steep, bendy, but short, drop down from the Tathra village centre, up on its headland, down to the beach level where the caravan parks are. Stopped at the top, put Truck into low range and low gear, and ground our way down.
Booked into the Tathra Beach Caravan park – the one with direct frontage to the beach. I was a bit surprised at the cost – $28 a night – almost as much as the Big 4 park across the road. I wasn’t sure if it was a Council owned park, or not.
We opted for a site not close to other campers, of which there were few. Set up for a couple of days’ stay.
Not far from us was a row of little individual bathroom units, each room containing toilet, hand basin and shower. These were not gender specific. I find such arrangements much preferable to the large communal blocks that are the norm, and wish more parks would adopt this idea.
In the afternoon, John went off to play bowls at the Tathra club, which was just across the road. Men only, so I had a lovely, free afternoon! I walked as far as the mouth of Mogareeka Inlet, along the sealed bike path that paralleled the road. It was a 4 km walk, altogether, and most enjoyable. Lots of titree and banksia scrub alongside the road, and on the large house blocks, ensured there was plenty of birdlife to look at.
I had driven Truck up to the shops, before lunch, and bought Saturday papers, so spent some time reading those.
I made a pineapple salad for tea, to accompany cooked sausages.
John came home with the news that he had organized for us to practice bowls, over at the club, tomorrow. If I must……
At night, we could hear the waves breaking on the beach – lovely sound to go to sleep by.
We were woken by the phone at 8am. It was John’s son in law. He said that work was being done on the Durras holiday house, and there was no toilet functioning as a result. Therefore, they no longer intended to come down, this weekend.
This freed us from having to drive on up there today, we we’d planned to do, but left the question – now what? John decided we would stay on here and explore our options. He was already aware that there was a major bowls tournament happening here, over the next two weeks.
So, after breakfast, and after extending our booking here, it was a drive down to the bowls club, where he left our details, just in case playing vacancies arose over the tournament time. This event was one where entries had been filled well in advance, but sometimes the unexpected did create gaps to be filled.
I was impressed by the scale of the bowls club. Could see why it had the capacity to host such a big event.
I bought some fish – fresh dory – for tonight’s tea, it being Friday. For us, fish dinners and Fridays are always linked – from our working days, when the luxury of a take away fish and chip tea was the best way to celebrate the start of the weekend. Old habits……
We went back to the van, bearing fresh bread rolls, to make lunch. I had plans to do the boardwalk walk, in the afternoon. This followed the shore of the lake at the town and looked to potentially be a pleasant stroll, more sheltered than a beach walk would be.
But John felt sleepy after lunch, so had a nap for a couple of hours. I went for a lone walk to the headland and then down on the beach. It was a bit breezy, but invigorating. Very good to be by the sea again – I had missed the beach strolls of last year, more than I realized.
When John did eventually wake up, I persuaded him to just do the short walk up to the Point, with me, so he could at least see some of the scenery.
It seemed, here, to get very chilly, quite early in the afternoon, but it had been quite nice through the middle part of the day.
John decided that we should move on tomorrow. He wanted to go on to Tathra, a bit further north. It had always been a favourite place of his, and we had stayed there before, on school holidays.
I would not get to do the boardwalk, after all.
A text message had come in from the bowls club and John phoned them. They needed a couple to fill in for a Mixed 4’s event on 11-13th June, so he said we would be in that. He said to me that, contrary to his earlier idea, he was not interested, after all, in waiting around here to see if a place became available in the prestigious pairs events, happening first. He wanted to focus on being at Durras for next weekend, a long weekend here, to see his daughter and grandsons. Fair enough – I am the last person to want to hang around anywhere for lawn bowls! Given that, over the past three and a half years, he had seen daughter and grandsons only once, and that for about an hour back a couple of days after last Xmas, I could fully understand his need to make that his priority. The family had, at that time, spent a few days in Melbourne, staying with John’s former wife, and catching up with friends. We had been slotted in for a brief visit, one morning.
I did not say anything, but thought to myself that I would not be surprised if the daughter found some reason to cancel out on being at Durras next weekend, too. Her life was a busy one and maintaining contact with us was not a priority, it seemed to me. But maybe it being a long weekend would draw them to the beach. For John’s sake, I hoped so.
THURSDAY 29 MAY LAKES ENTRANCE TO MERIMBULA 320kms
We slept really well last night. The van bed remained so comfortable, even though it was now ten years old.
We made a leisurely departure in the morning. Drove back to the shopping centre, where we refuelled and I bought a few foodstuffs at Safeway, and a newspaper to read later.
We had a very pleasant, untroubled drive through the forest and hill country of eastern Victoria and southern NSW, to Merimbula. John seemed to enjoy the driving. There was not a great deal of traffic and we didn’t even encounter any of the timber logging trucks that can make the driver a bit tense when they come up behind on the lengthy stretches where passing is not possible. There is a kind of Murphy’s Law about these vehicles. When they are in front of you, they are going too slowly. When they are behind you, they are going too fast!
The skies were mostly blue, with some weak sunshine – it was not all that warm.
We stopped at the village of Cann River to eat our lunch – again, I had packed sandwiches and filled our travel thermos with hot water for tea and coffee, before our departure this morning, so we did not contribute to the local coffers, this time.
I’d chosen the Big 4 Merimbula Beach Holiday Park for our one night stay here. It was a bit tricky to navigate there, though, through the main part of the town. An uphill start at a set of traffic lights was a challenge – the Defender was a great towing vehicle but not powerful off a standing uphill start with the van on the back! As usual, John had to use low range gears to get going. Then it was up and down sharp little hills to find the caravan park. Merimbula is too hilly! I guess that does give some great views, though.
The park cost $28 a night. It was situated on the end of Short Point, and we had superb views over the sea and the beach to the north. There was a rock ledge below our site, that the sea was crashing on to, so we had the wonderful sound of the sea as a backdrop.
The park was an extensive one, with clean and modern amenities and a wonderful lagoon style swimming pool complex. It would be a great holiday park for little kids. Given the year we had been having, my mind turned easily to ways to occupy young children!
After setting up for a one night stay – unhitched – we drove back to the main part of town, hunting for a shop that might sell gear to adjust the van brakes. John had left his at home, and was not totally happy with the van brakes. What was new? He had no luck finding what he wanted, though.
Overall, it had been a pleasant day.
I couldn’t believe how tired I became, how early in the evening. The fresh, sea air was already impacting, and I was ready for bed by 8.30pm.
We spent much of the previous two days packing the van and Truck. With the crowded house, and all the earlier building and renovation works, the travel gear had been well moved around, and took some sorting out again. At least, this would only be a short trip, compared to our usual treks, so we did not need to take as much. But I packed more winter clothing than was our norm!
We were so looking forward to the break from home and a quiet change!
After breakfast, hitched up the van and parked the rig out on the road. John then lopped some overhanging branches from the neighbour’s trees – so the van parking area would be clear when we got home again.
We pulled away about 10.15am – pretty good, considering. It seemed a very long time since we’d last been out with the van!
Took the “back” route to Gippsland, through Wandin, Yellingbo, Cockatoo, to Pakenham – winding, but little traffic and easy enough. Also much prettier than the alternative of using the roads closer to Melbourne, through the outer suburbs.
We had a good run through the industrial Latrobe Valley, with its long time focus on coal mining and electricity generation. As always, the smokestacks of the power plants were in evidence from the highway.
Pulled off the road near Morwell and ate our pre-packed lunch. Then, continued on, through Sale with its several corners to be negotiated, Bairnsdale and on to Lakes Entrance.
It had been grey, misty and chilly when we left home, and the drive through the back of the Dandenongs to Pakenham showed mist lying in the bottoms of the valleys and shrouding the hilltops. But this had started to clear by the time we reached the Latrobe Valley, and it was quite pleasant for the rest of the day, with the sun appearing from behind light cloud, for much of the time.
The highway east paralleled the Great Dividing Range – a distant purple off to our left. It crossed some of the main rivers that flow down from those mountains – the Thompson as we approached Sale, the Avon at Stratford – no prizes for guessing that association! The bridge over the Mitchell River at Bairnsdale gave us a lovely view down the stream, with some small boats moored at points along the banks. Then there was the Tambo at the hamlet of Swan Reach.
The approach to Lakes Entrance is down quite a steep little hill. I have always loved the view that one gets of the town and the lake, as the road winds down to sea level.
We booked into the Big 4 Waters Edge Caravan Park for the night. It cost $25.20, after discount. The park was quite adequate for our needs, with modern and clean amenities. It was not a very large park and had several annual sites with permanent structures on them. At this time of year, it was not very busy and we were able to use two sites to stay hitched up.
Best of all, the park was within walking distance to the shops, and just across the road from the waters of the lake inlet.
After the minimal set up for a one night stay, we walked to the main part of town, as far as the floating restaurant and fish sales boat, moored across from the shops. There, we bought a half dozen oysters – for John’s entree tonight – and some flathead tails. We have always found the seafood prices here quite reasonable, and of course the daily catch sold was totally fresh.
Our fish dinner was lovely. I fried some potato rounds, and just dredged the flathead with flour and pan fried it.
Over our many years of travel, we have experienced plenty of times when things did not work out as planned, but in the overall array of these, 2008 was an absolute doozy. The whole damned year didn’t happen as we thought it would…..
Towards the end of last year’s trip, we were mentally mapping out a three month jaunt to some of the loveliest coastal parts of WA, with a few side explorations thrown in. The Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, specifically a stay at the laid back and scenic Middle Lagoon. Barn Hill and Eighty Mile Beach revisited. Some exploration of the area north of Kalgoorlie – or maybe even the deferred trip across the desert, from Newman to Alice Springs. Nice set of ideas, but……
In late 2007, son with marital woes moved back home. With him came his 5 year old daughter and 18 month old son – not full time, else I wouldn’t still be sane enough to write this, but every second weekend, and a couple of nights in between.
As well, we still had M occupying one of the back bedrooms. Suddenly, our spacious home was not so spacious. Items like portacot, high chair, nappy container appeared…….and toys……lots of toys!
Son’s need for support, both when the children were here and in terms of general company at home, made an extended trip unwise, so we reluctantly cancelled our wonderful housesitters. They were easily able to find a replacement booking, and promised us five months or so next year. We had to be optimistic and think there would be a next year – in travel terms!
Almost as soon as we returned in 2007, and amid the demands of the new bowls season, John made a start on the projects that he’d been germinating whilst we travelled.
The pizza oven was built and in conjunction with that, there was remodelling of part of the front garden, taking out the old sleeper wall that had formed one edge of the driveway, and also housed a massive European wasp nest. This was replaced with a wall of the same edging used in the renovation around the pool, with the creation also of a grassed ramp up onto the higher lawn level – allowing for easier movement of heavy tools to the back yard and John’s shed, and also for extra parking on that lawn. Suddenly, we had four resident vehicles…..
The pool was, as we had expected, a major project. The thick, green water was deemed beyond remediation, by a pool company. A septic tank cleaner, with a large truck and a very long hose, emptied it. In the midst of Melbourne’s drought induced water restrictions, much negotiation ensued with the local water authority, to eventually be allowed to refill the pool. There were conservation trade offs required: we had to install a water tank, buy a solar blanket for pool, install water saving shower heads and toilet cisterns…..The latter items led to a full renovation of the main bathroom, and then our ensuite. What was that about “life” and “easy”?
As part of all these changes, we decided that the filter and pump installation for the pool needed to be moved, from right outside the bedroom of the now rented granny flat, to the other end of the pool. The pool predated both our purchase of the house in 1991, and the building of the flat for my father, after we moved in. Dad had a degree of industrial deafness and did not mind the noise from the pool operation nearby. But after his death we had the flat tenanted. No issue, whilst the pool was non-operational, but now…..Thus ensued digging up of some of the slate that surrounded the pool, to relay the plumbing. So, to make it uniform, the whole lot was re-done, and the garden walls on two sides stone edged – with the products we’d seen in Bendigo at the end of the 2007 trip.
John enjoyed building the pizza oven. He found the slate laying really hard work that taxed him to his 67 year old limits. But that didn’t stop him from doing much of the bathroom renovations himself!
The pool apparatus was so old and long unused that it all needed replacing – nice new salt chlorinator, and an automated control system that would make it simpler for house sitters to maintain the pool.
All this because M bought John a book on pizza ovens, in Tennant Creek, last year!
After all this work, it would have been a bloody sight cheaper to go travelling in 2008. In fact, we could have left the van behind and stayed in upmarket accommodation and still come out ahead, financially.
M jetted off to the USA for a while, then found some other friends to join for an Australian trip, for a few months.
Winter set in with a vengeance – we were not used to these. In fact, we’d only experienced one Melbourne winter in the last decade!
John’s daughter and family returned to Canberra from her recent three year posting to Brussels, complete with his second grandson, born in 2005, while she was on post. The family had acquired – as so many Canberrans do – a weekender holiday house on the NSW south coast, at Durras.
By May, we were feeling a real need for a break away and a respite from “caring”. John wanted to see the Durras place, as well as the family. The south coast of NSW seemed – fractionally – more attractive than Canberra, with winter rapidly setting in. So, plans – albeit somewhat vague – were made, to meet up at the holiday house…..
I was dreading trying to link up Truck and van on the backwards sloping driveway. John would have to be really accurate in his backing – meaning me in directing same! The van had to stay chocked so there was no capacity for moving it in any direction to “fine tune” the match up. If John backed a little too far van would be pushed back on chocks. Much potential for things to go wrong – and with an audience!
In the event it all went beautifully. John did a perfect backing display, especially considering that for the last little bit he was trying to move Truck back a cm at a time! Much relief!
The way home was the usual – Heathcote, Seymour, Yea, Lilydale.
We got the van backed into its parking bay – uphill this time – and unhitched.
Our sitters had prepared a hot lunch to welcome us home, which we enjoyed with them. What a lovely thoughtful gesture. They were such pleasant people and very organized, thoughtful and efficient house minders. The place was immaculate. No wonder they were in such demand, and booked up so far ahead. We were lucky to have managed to book them again, for next year – but three months was all they could manage for us, between other bookings.
After lunch, they departed and we were left to make a start on the unpacking and van cleaning.
The house always seemed so huge, after months in the van.
Statistics for 2007 trip:
* Kms travelled: 17,702kms
* Cost of diesel: $3851.89
* Dearest diesel: $2.29cpl Kalumburu
* Cheapest diesel: $1.25cpl Bendigo
* Accommodation cost: $3199.15
* Accommodation discounts gained: $46.25
* Dearest accommodation per night: 36.50 – Broome
* Cheapest paid accommodation per night: $6.60 – NT National Parks