This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2012 Travels August 14


I’d actually slept better than I thought I would. John seemed to have little trouble sleeping in!

I was up first, and walked dog around the park a couple of times, then brought her back for her breakfast.

It rained on and off through the day, and was quite cold. In such circumstances, the extra space of the Bus was appreciated.

John walked to some shops, which were about 1.5kms away, to buy some TV aerial cabling. He’d brought some with us, but couldn’t find it! I said there was ample storage room in Bus…… He took the phone and called me to say he’d got there alright. I asked him to also buy a bottle of wine for tonight, not realising that meant he had to walk an extra km or so. He came back with five bottles – a special deal at the bottle shop, which had seemed great – until he had to carry them back!

I had a thought while he was gone. The various switches and controls on the electrical control panel were still mostly a mystery – trial and error there. But I wondered if the TV would work if I turned on the TV/stereo 12 volt switch? Suggested it to John, he did, and it worked. He was very happy. Seemed obvious, with hindsight.

So complex……..I never did find out what the Transformer was or did…..

We gave dog a couple more lots of park circuits during the day, in between showers. The big bull bar on front of Bus made  a great dog tethering point. She was quite happy to be out there, with her camp bed, as long as one of us was sitting outside under the awning. If we were inside, then that was the place to be! She discovered she could sit in my front seat and watch the world go by out the front and side windows. I made a note to find something like an old beach towel, back at home, to cover my seat for dog’s daytime use.

I was still have to change dressings on the sore area of leg, where petrol had splashed the previously ulcerated skin. It had, briefly, appeared healed over, but then became weepy again. When I took off the dressing today, it looked OK.

Daughter and the two grandsons came after she finished work, daughter’s partner a bit later, and her mother arrived about 7.15 – after we’d finished tea and adjourned to Bus.

The BBQ tea was good, but it was too chilly to linger outside, even in the very nice BBQ area of the park. I provided sausages and burgers, daughter brought chicken skewers and a packet of coleslaw. We had onion, pineapple, beetroot, rolls, eggs, bacon – a feast.

We sat inside Bus, had tea and coffee and wine, and talked. Another great benefit of Bus over van was room for visitors to be inside – our two beds could act as lounges that held two or three people each. Everyone admired the Bus. Daughter’s partner also said how much she liked the blanket I’d made for the baby.

They all left about 8.30 – school  and work tomorrow for them. After we did the dishes, watched some TV – an excellent picture. Bus not quite as convenient for TV watching for me, though. John had set the TV up on the bench between our beds, which meant that my back was to it when sitting at the dinette, so I had to swivel around and sit sideways on the seat, to watch. Some sort of back padding then required.

We went fairly early to bed. I tried sleeping with my head towards front of bus – much better, less squashed in. It was a cold night but we were quite cosy and warm. Dog decided to sleep on the floor between our beds, where I had put a small floor mat to protect our feet from cold lino in the mornings.

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2012 Travels August 13


We got away from home mid-morning – an improvement on our last departure. I did a fast, last minute shop at the local IGA – for a newspaper and something for tonight’s tea.

There was rather a gusty wind blowing, which kept “catching” the bus side-on. The Driver could not relax.

However, the dog was somewhat calmer – the drops, and the spray on a bandana around her neck did seem to have some effect. I set up her bedding on the floor towards the back of the bus, and an alternate lot on the floor behind the engine bay. Attached her lead to the harness and the lead to the restraining hook, so she could roam between the two.

I found Bus quite comfortable, as a passenger, though after dropping a knitting needle down by my feet, I wished the sash part of the seatbelt was a bit longer, so I could move about more. I had no problems getting into my seat – had quite a bit of prior experience with Coasters as school buses. Simply stepped up onto the lid of the engine compartment, turned 180 degrees, then stepped backwards down into the foot well in front of my seat. As the TV ads say: “simples”.

John had transferred his new toy, the Garmin GPS to the Bus. It was a lot harder for him to read, there, because the windscreen was so much further away from the driver than in the car. Said GPS was hugely annoying on the run to Seymour. Having been “informed” we were going to Bendigo, the GPS lady was determined to send us via the Calder Highway – any which way she could. Virtually from the time we left home, we were being instructed to do a U turn, or go round the block and head the other way. It was a bloody good thing we knew which way we were going, because she certainly didn’t. Even at Seymour, we were told to take the Hume Freeway south……At this point, what was to be a forever distrust of the Garmin was sown in me. John might like fiddling around and setting destinations in the infernal thing but, me, I’d be cross checking the mechanized instructions with my trusty paper maps!

We drove straight through to Seymour – no stops in Yarra Glen, this time! Bus pulled well and easily up the range, and the exhaust brake was really great to have, for the downhill stretch.

Stopped at the Lions park in Seymour. This expansive area has frontage to the Goulburn River and some picnic tables and seats. Parking Bus there was easy. Took dog for a walk – on the lead – and gave her a drink. We ate our packed sandwich lunch.

Seymour Lions Park – great place to break a trip

Then continued on through the familiar route to Bendigo, with no further stops.

We were no longer going to park in daughter’s driveway. Doing so, on their slope, had been alright with the van as it usually stayed hitched to Truck, or if unattached, had big chocks behind the wheels. Either way, we could manage to sleep on what was not too much of an inside slope. But Bus was a different proposition. To achieve anything like level would take a hell of a lot more chocking than we could envisage. The slope would see our heads, in bed, very downhill.

Went into the A Line Holiday Village, at Big Hill, on the southern outskirts. Our en-suite powered site cost $30 a night. It was a very pleasant site and park, with bushland around. We could walk the dog around the park, but there was nowhere around for her to run off lead.

The ensuites were in A shaped buildings – hence the park name.

The park was well situated for us. Unfortunately, the owner told us that they may discontinue their dog-friendly policy. That would be a pity. The usual story – he was sick of dog owners not doing the responsible thing and picking up their dog’s mess. What I did notice after a little time here, was that it was a couple of permanent dwellers, down the back of the park, who were the regular offenders.

John intended to get our setting up done, before we notified daughter – who knew we were coming here – that we’d arrived. He was expecting that there could be some “oops” moments in our first setting up of Bus on site, and wanted to avoid a distracting audience – or any audience. However, daughter arrived – on the off-chance – just after we’d parked Bus. John was not best pleased, but daughter and grandson being there did not impede the setting up.

Setting up for the first time – in Bendigo

Our greatest apprehension had been setting up the awning. We had not had a roll out one on the van, nor the space to practice on this one at home. So this was the first time. I had Googled the process and made notes, and we actually managed it without any dramas. So much easier than the van one!

They stayed for about an hour, and had a good and admiring look at Bus. We arranged a BBQ tea here for tomorrow night and I gave daughter a little shopping list. I also gave daughter the crocheted blanket that I’d made to order for the younger grandson, now nine months old.

“Patchwork” cot blanket

John could not get the TV to go. Bus had a good quality wind up aerial, but he wondered if wiring was broken.

Tea was chicken noodle soup, and some skinless frankfurts for John – I hadn’t been feeling hungry this morning, when I bought those. I had some dry biscuits and cheese after my soup.

After tea, in our screen-less state, we played Yahtzee. Better than TV, to my mind, anyway!

The first night’s sleep in our new beds was not great. For some reason, we had assumed that we should sleep with heads to the back of Bus – beside the little cupboard and bench top between the beds. It was a tight space  between that and the wall and I found it very constricting.  John got the panics during the night, and turned himself around, so his head was next to the sink, but with open space on one side.

The new memory foam mattress toppers I’d bought and adapted to the bus dimensions worked well, providing just that crucial extra width to the body of the bed.

We’d set up the dog’s night bed up by the engine bay, but she was a bit restless and prowly during the night.

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2012 Travels August 5 – 12


After quite a lot of consultation and cogitating, John decided to drain the fuel tank himself. For that, read, with me helping! He didn’t want to have to try to get Bus up on a tilt truck again, which from where it was, would probably require the engine to be run.

We managed to roll Bus a little way up onto the new wheel chocks and thus create enough space for John to just be able to squeeze under. He went and bought seven twenty litre plastic jerry cans.

The fuel tank was drained, in stops and starts, into a large, low plastic dish. John would push that out from under Bus and it was my job to transfer the fuel from that into the jerry cans. It took ages, but we eventually had four jerry cans filled with what came from Bus, so estimated there was still about 15 litres left in the tank. Being on a sideways slope, no more would drain out. The tank had still been maybe a third full when we had arrived at the servo, so what we’d drained, and what was left, was not pure petrol.

The next stage saw John drive his car to our servo and buy three jerry cans of diesel, which was then transferred, via a funnel, into bus fuel tank. So now it had a mix of mostly diesel back in the tank.

John calculated that it would now be safe to start and drive Bus into its parking slot.

Back in its parking bay. Fuel tank cap seen near rear wheel.

It had been a long and somewhat messy job. We’d spilt a bit of fuel in the process and had no choice but to hose it down the drains.

I’d worn gumboots to try to protect me from fuel splashes, but at one stage some was slopped onto my vulnerable lower leg/ankle area. By that night it was really sore.

As soon as Bus was parked in its proper place, we plugged the external power back in. I had noticed that the fridge had not been starting up and thought the batteries may have been low, there not being much sun. But I was not familiar with the workings of this 12/240 volt fridge, having only previously had a 12 volt one. Managed to find, download and print the manual for that model, from the internet – was quite proud of myself! Fridge worked well on 240volt. In the process of all this investigation, discovered that fridge was automatically switched between 240 and 12 volt, depending on which was available.

The fuel burn on lower leg turned into a small ulcer, which promptly became infected. Back on the medical merry-go-round! Fortunately, it was quickly treated from the beginning, and seemed to heal  up again within a few days.

Advice John garnered from various “experts” made him decide that the Bus fuel tank should be drained a second time, to further dilute whatever petrol remained in there. So off he went to Bunnings and bought yet another four jerry cans. Given the state of my leg, he enlisted M’s help for the second go-round. It was much easier with Bus in the parking bay. This time, he put in about 50 litres of diesel  via jerry cans, then drove Bus to the servo to finish refilling it. As he came back down our road, the engine sounded fine, so, hopefully, all would now be well.

The consensus from those who knew was that a little bit of petrol in the diesel would not be harmful.

A very surprising aspect of this whole affair was discovering that this sort of incident is really common! Similar tales of woe came from everywhere. In fact, we were amongst the few lucky ones who discovered the error before driving away. We heard so many stories of people who had blown up their diesel engines by doing just that. Expensive mistake – we got off lightly.

From then on, every time we stopped for fuel, I double checked that John was using the right fuel! It was probably fortunate that his new Passat was also a diesel – after all those years of putting diesel into Truck, I am not sure he would have adapted seamlessly to a petrol car!

Now – what on earth were we going to do with eight large jerry cans of mixed fuel? They sat for months in the shed, before someone from a sawmill took the second batch, believing that his machinery would run on that diesel-petrol combination. Eventually, someone John knew from bowls took the batch that was petrol-heavy, saying something about rabbit burrows and extermination. On both legal and environmental grounds, John did not seek further details!

During this week at home, our electrician friend installed an external 240 volt power point on Bus, such as the really useful one we’d had on the van.

I also visited our Vet and obtained some homeopathic spray and drops that we hoped would calm the dog while travelling in the Bus.

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2012 Travels August 4

SATURDAY 4 AUGUST      HOME TO……HOME      38 kms

Packing  Bus for travel had been a strangely enjoyable experience. Much of the “stuff” that had been permanently in the van was now transferred to its new home.

I bought two lengths of mattress type memory foam, some six inches wider than the bus mattresses. It was firm enough to act like a bed extension but still be comfortable to sleep on, and this was a big improvement to those narrow beds. It didn’t look the tidiest, though.

John had put together a slightly different set of tools for the new vehicle, too. Bought some wheel chocks – big yellow things – that we could use to level bus. This motorhoming caper required a whole different way of thinking – and gear to match.

A new acquisition was a Garmin sat nav system. This attached to the vehicle windscreen with a suction cap. John used it in the Passat but moved it to  Bus for travel.

I’d done some research on toilet cassette management and discovered that Napisan was widely used as a neutralizing agent, rather than the official, expensive, chemical. What a learning curve……

We had decided upon a relatively short shake down trip with Bus. Up to the Murray River, then follow it downstream. Perhaps, from Mildura, we would go up to Broken Hill to visit John’s daughter there.

A question had been – how to restrain dog for Bus travel? In Truck, her travel  harness had attached to a back seat seatbelt, which had given her some freedom of movement, but not enough to reach us in the front. Free range dog was not an option in Bus. Apart from her own safety in the event of a sudden stop, the Driver was not keen on the idea of suddenly finding dog trying to climb onto his lap! In the end, he attached a fastening clip to the wooden side wall, under the dinette table. Her harness would be attached to this with the same short strap we’d used in Truck. Some bedding would go under the table for her to curl up on, and sleep. That was the theory, at least

Packing Bus

It was already evident that a minor challenge would be fridge management. In our previous mode, the Chescold fridge that travelled in Truck, provided supplementary space for John’s beer, as well as limited food overflow. Now, we only had the bus fridge – a similar size to the one in the van. I told John that he would just have to manage with only a couple of cold cans in fridge at a time!

There had been no crisper drawer in the fridge – only shelves. To make accessing food easier, I bought some different sized plastic containers. Two larger ones became like crisper drawers, sitting on the base of the fridge. Several smaller ones holding cheeses, assorted jars, bacon and the like, meant I could pull out items that were at the back of shelves, without having to go down on my knees to see what I was doing.

So…..all ready, off we set, at about 1.30pm. That was later than planned, but a lot of last minute stuff had to be packed – John’s mostly.

Dog was not a happy traveller in the unfamiliar vehicle. She wouldn’t settle under the table and kept straining to reach us. There was a lot of barking – guaranteed to irritate John. I thought guys became more deaf as they aged, but he seemed to be increasingly sensitive to noise.

Apart from the dog problem, John was really comfortable driving the bus, though, and we sailed happily along the familiar roads to Yarra Glen.

On the edge of that township, John saw a low price fuel outlet and drove around the block to go in there to fuel up. While he was doing that, I tried to calm the dog, who seemed to think she would now be getting out of this horrible moving thing. I certainly wasn’t watching what John was doing. He went off to pay for the fuel, then came back quite agitated, saying he’d done the worst possible thing…….he’d filled the diesel bus with petrol!

Luckily, he realized this before attempting to drive away. The man at the servo counter had remarked something about $x for petrol. John had said no, it was diesel. There was a discussion….. What had happened was that this brand of fuel outlet used different colours on their hose fittings to those John was used to – their petrol one was black, which he was used to for diesel. Very confusing.

We had to use our newly purchased Roadside Assistance much sooner than planned!

I phoned son, who drove across and collected dog and me and took us home again –  because we’d figured dog would not be able to travel in a rescue truck. Later, John arrived with Bus on the back of a tilt tray truck. The Yarra Glen fuel outlet had not had a mechanic on duty, so they had been unable to help in any way. John had decided to bring Bus home and then work out what to do.

Another discovery was made – getting Bus off the tilt truck on our uphill sloping nature strip and road was guaranteed to scrape rear end of Bus. We could just hope that the water tank at the back was tucked securely up into its space!

For tea, we ate the cold chicken Maryland pieces that I’d cooked last night, for our first meal in the Bus. I certainly hadn’t been expecting to be sitting munching on them, gloomily, at home again.

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2012 Travels July

JULY 2012     WE BUY A BUS

In June, out of the blue, John said to me “Well, I might as well get some enjoyment out of this bus of yours, so let’s buy it now!”  This mystifying statement seemed to come out of nowhere, to me, so he had to explain.

Back last year when he was doing it tough in ICU after the heart operation, he’d asked me what I would do when he “croaked”. Right then, I was trying hard not to think about that possibility, so I just gave a flippant answer: “Oh, I’d sell the house, buy a bus and go travelling.” I didn’t think any more about it, but a seed had obviously been planted….

In July, we found our bus. Even better, we found it in Melbourne, without the need to go looking interstate with attendant complications of things like registration. Although, several treks from our outer eastern home across to where bus was, in Campbellfield, sometimes seemed akin to an interstate trip, in Melbourne traffic.

John was browsing web sites and found a converted Coaster advertised on the site of a Winnebago dealer in Melbourne. Nothing would do but immediately going to have a look at it – on a Sunday, over in Campbellfield. I was surprised that someone from the dealership, nroamlly closed on Sundays,  even agreed to that.

So off we went. What we saw looked really interesting. Very clean and in great condition. The dealer rang the previous owner and let us speak to him. It had been a bus, from new in 1996, for an agricultural college out of Geelong. He bought it from them in 2002 and had it professionally converted, intending to travel long term. But his retirement kept getting put off, and so it had not been much used. Then, last year, they took it to Townsville and discovered that his wife found the steps, and climbing into the passenger seat, too difficult – she wanted a Winnebago, with a passenger door. So it had been a trade in. It definitely looked out of place, sitting in the showroom amongst several massive Winnebago motor homes, with all their bells and whistles.

Bus as we first saw it

Professional conversion – tick. Low kms for a diesel, at 245.000 – tick. The much desired HD 6 cylinder engine – tick. No apparent areas of rust – tick. Solar set up and storage batteries – tick. Exhaust brakes – tick. Two way fridge – tick (I don’t like gas fridges in RV’s). Plenty of cupboards – tick. On the down side – the two single beds were on the narrow side. I wasn’t wrapped in the flowery pattern of the curtains and upholstery – but that could be changed. On balance, a great deal to like. We were both already licensed to drive vehicles over car weight, so that was not an issue, as it was for some people looking to buy converted Coasters.

This decor would not have been my first choice!

The salesman said he could do us a good deal. We arranged to return on Tuesday (bowls on Monday!) for a test drive and came home very impressed.

John duly took it for the test drive, really liked the power of the engine, but found a couple of things needing fixing – like a wheel alignment needed. Some bargaining ensued and we agreed to buy it at a price we thought was fair, with a reversing camera thrown in – to be fitted. Bus had to have roadworthy certification and service done, so it would be a couple of weeks before we could collect it. There would be a three year mechanical warranty on it too.

So we signed up and the paperwork was all done – and home we went. Kind of dazed – couldn’t quite believe what we’d done, hoped it was the right decision.

As a result of the roadworthy findings, Bus was fitted with new brake discs and two new front tyres.

On Wednesday 25 July, we drove across to Campbellfield to pick up our new toy, driving my Barina car. The Service Head took us all over the Bus, explaining how things worked – so much to try to assimilate. This had all sorts of luxuries that our van hadn’t – like a hot water service, and a bathroom containing shower and toilet. My head was spinning. Fortunately, there were quite a few instruction booklets that had been passed on by the previous owner.

John realized that the promised reversing camera had not been installed. So we went for a wander, and had lunch, while waiting for that to be done. Then, I left to drive my car home at a time to avoid the traffic build up from mid-afternoon.

John phoned at 3.55 to say he was about to leave the dealer – just in time to hit the traffic build up, in an unfamiliar vehicle! But he made good time and said the Bus was great to drive, though the steep hill up to Mt Evelyn had it down to second gear – not quite as powerful as he thought!  He phoned again from Mooroolbark, so I would be out the front to guide him into the parking bay when he arrived. Well, he swung the bus wide to enter our gates and then straight up into the place that had been the caravan parking bay. No worries! Just so easy. Bus fitted nicely, with OK door access. Very pleasing.

It fits…….though we would need to keep the neighbours’ trees pruned.

Our “bus” buying focus had been on converted Coasters because, in all the time we’d spent up north and in the outback, we’d seen how widespread their use for transport was, and how much punishment from rough roads they could absorb. Adels Grove had used Coasters for their Riversleigh tours – and that road could be woeful at times. Many aboriginal communities across the Top used them for travel from the outstations to the local towns – like across the Gibb River Road to Kununurra. I’d driven school bus Coasters on bush tracks in Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, as well as around Darwin. Getting mechanical work done, if needed, should be easy – much more so than on the Landrover!

Whilst all of the bus buying had been going on, John had been given the chance to buy his brother’s 2008 VW Passat, as brother was buying a new car. It was offered to John at the price the dealer was giving as a trade in. Too good to pass up. We would have to tart Truck up and sell it, eventually. In the meantime, the bank accounts looked quite sad!

I was kept busy, arranging vehicle insurances, Roadside Assists, freeway tags and the like.

The end of July saw us with four vehicles parked around the place – Bus, Truck, Passat, Barina…..

So began a different style of travel, one we hoped would be as enjoyable as the previous experiences had been, albeit in more “civilized” parts and at a more sedate pace.

The next decision – where would we go for our first trip with Bus?


2012 Travels January to June


The year started in line with what seemed to have been the main theme of recent times: I had to have surgery. This time, to release a trapped nerve in the ankle, that was causing foot to go numb.

When I told the physio who was overseeing the ongoing shoulder rehabilitation, about the coming foot operation, his response was not reassuring…..enough sympathy  and comments like “Poor you!” to make me suspect he knew things I didn’t. Like, the shoulder reco was a breeze, compared to tarsal tunnel surgery!

Some people can never really master the use of crutches, and I am one of those. It all did not go smoothly, with the wound becoming infected, a common occurrence according to the surgeon, after the event. But with time, most feeling was restored to the foot.

The last day of March was a milestone event – for the first time this year, I was able to walk around the supermarket! By mid-April was again walking dog around the lake at Lilydale, although the surgery wound on ankle was not pronounced fully healed until the end of that month.

Fig season again – and dog’s annual weight gain……

Any prospect of renewed van travel  seemed even more distant. Clearly, the remote regions we used to frequent, and the extended trips, would no longer be sensible or possible. So the offroad van would go.

Crutches and rehab aside, I managed to remove all the permanent travel gear, and stores, from the van, and give it a thorough cleaning. I reckon there were generations of red dust in the more out-of-the-way cracks and crevices. Yep, I recognize that colour from Central Australia, and that patch from the Pilbara……

Van came up looking pretty good for its age, and was duly advertised.

All cleaned up……

There was clearly interest in used Trakmasters and we fielded initial shows of interest. But one wanted single beds, another a bathroom, yet another a major reduction in our asking price.

A lady came from the ACT to inspect van and seemed on the verge of purchase. Then, she found a suitable one closer to home, that saved the hassle of coming back with a tow vehicle.

Friend M headed off in April to house sit for friends in Toowoomba. Then we heard from her. En route, the Troopy’s engine had seized. Near Coonabarabran. That part of the country has not been kind to M! That was a “new” reconditioned engine, too – put in after her accident  up that way, last year. Now it will need yet another reconditioned engine. That work would be done up there.

While M was in the Toowoomba/Brisbane area, she planned to go and have a look at a factory that converted Coaster buses and other small bus-like vehicles to motorhomes. She was curious, as was I.

Daughter and family celebrated 40th birthdays with a holiday in Thailand. We were invited to go, but – health issues aside – travel to international resorts really did not appeal to us. I’d visited assorted S.E. Asian places to attend work conferences and the like, and had no ambition to return to any of those.

After a series of “accidents” and messes, we worked out that we had a dog who can’t eat bones without getting a badly upset stomach. Who would have thought?

Dog loved bones, but they didn’t love her!

 Daughter and partner visited with their six month old son. It was dog’s first contact with the baby – she was curious about the interesting smells and different noises coming from that direction.

In May, we sold the caravan, for the price we wanted – to a man who lived a couple of blocks away! All that money spent on advertising far and wide…… Whilst he was finalizing the arrangements, the ACT lady got back to us – her van purchase had fallen through and was ours still available? Too late.

I shed a tear as I watched our little van depart the driveway for the last time.

Setting off for adventures without us.

I worked out that we had slept in it for about nine and a half of the past fourteen years, since commencing travel in early 1998. We had towed it some 120,000kms, a good third of that on rough dirt roads. We’d certainly had our money’s worth from the van – and sold it for almost what we’d paid for it, new. Trakmasters certainly held their value well.

Then, there was that big vacant space off the drive, where once the van had lived…….


2011 Travels August to December


Although we hadn’t known it at the time, the wintertime jaunt through the south was to be our last trip with the van.

The breathlessness that had affected John at Beachport did not go away at home. Doctor ordered a range of tests be done. Initially these were inconclusive, but then a stress heart test was to be done at Maroondah Hospital, towards the end of August. Being independent, he drove himself, but by the time he parked Truck and walked to the clinic, was in such a state that he was immediately taken to Emergency.

I arranged for him to be transferred from there to our preferred Epworth Eastern, where he was admitted. After some time and further investigations a triple bypass procedure took place. Given John’s recent history with surgery and blood clots, this was a rather worrying time, but all went well. Altogether, with the stay in Epworth and the following rehab, he was away for over five weeks. I think dog had decided he was never coming back. In amongst the various surgeries and issues of the last part of the year,  Couey turned one.

On her first birthday

My surgery for shoulder reconstruction which had been scheduled for the end of August, had to be postponed. It was some time before John was allowed to drive himself anywhere again, and so the shoulder was not fixed until December. Then, an arm in a sling was a distinct handicap in the preparation of Xmas tea. Fortunately, most of the family multitudes were elsewhere this Xmas, but I managed to prepare a cold feast for the expected seven – only to have that reduced, at the last minute, to three (M and ourselves)  due to extreme thunderstorms and flooded roads. We dined for days on leftovers.

Also in December, John saw the specialist who had done his most recent hip replacement two years earlier. Pain, discomfort and stiffness had continued in that leg. Our doctor felt that the replacement was not functioning properly, but specialist wouldn’t hear of that being an issue. He wasn’t much help and could only come up with suggesting that the leg artery might be blocked like the heart one had been. We came away with our previous impressions confirmed – that he might have to replace hips for the sake of his bottom line, but he was really only interested in the more acclaimed role of fixing up sports stars, especially footballers. John decided he would just have to put up with it.

In the aftermath of John’s surgery, we decided that, for him, our style of caravanning was no longer feasible. There was too much “heavy” work involved, and he was – for the first time ever – finding Truck uncomfortable to drive in traffic. The cold and wet winter trip had been uncomfortable, confined as we often were, to just the van.

We agreed to wait until next year to clean up and sell the van – just in case we had second thoughts when John was stronger. It would be a hard final decision to make – the van had been such an integral part of our lives for the past fourteen years.

From the tropical north…..
……to the cooler island in the south……
… the coasts…..
…….to the outback ranges………..and all points in between


2011 Travels July 30


With little packing up to do, we were able to give Couey a good walk and ball romp out on the grass.

Before leaving town, we drove to the Woolworths servo that John had sussed out when we were there yesterday. No issues going through with the van on the back.

Travelled the Hamilton Highway eastwards, past the scenic southern end of the Grampians and through the rejuvenated Dunkeld. The route was a very familiar one to us both, as John  taught at Mooralla for a year, way, way back. I knew the order of the towns and hamlets off by heart. Some of them had not changed much.

The route through central Ballarat before we reached the Western Highway was really tedious, not helped by late Saturday morning traffic. Some sort of a through route that bypassed the main part of the town was long overdue.

Stopped at a service centre near Ballan to eat our packed lunch.

I still don’t like crossing the reservoir at Pykes Creek! The road upgrades really have not made it any better, for me, Heights over water – bit of a phobia.

Apart from that, the Western Highway/Freeway was now so good. I recollect the “old days” when it took at least an hour from the outskirts of Ballarat, to Footscray.

We took the Western Ring Road, avoiding the crawl through Carlton that is the annoying “gap” between the freeways to the west and east. Good idea, in theory, but I came unstuck in practice, once the Ring Road ended at Greensborough, That was another place in Melbourne where one transitioned from a faster road – on the weekend, at least – to slower suburban roads. I got a bit confused with the navigating and we ended up on roller coaster back roads around Kangaroo Ground, eventually finding our way through to Warrandyte. The driver was not happy!

Reached home mid-afternoon. We put in a big unpacking effort and got most of it done, quite quickly.

Treated ourselves to a take away tea from the local Chinese. John enjoyed his lemon chicken, but my sweet and sour pork was overcooked and dry – disappointing.

Thus, another little expedition in the van ended. Only two weeks away – brief, by our standards. It definitely showed that mid-winter is not the greatest time for travels in southern Victoria.

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2011 Travels July 29


First thing in the morning, I went to the park office and booked a second night. There was some sort of rather weird discount system applicable, because I paid only $30.60 for this night, after a $7.40 discount.

Chatted for a while with the park owner. He told me about a new caravan park chain that was about to start up – a really dog-friendly one. That sounded both interesting and overdue. It  annoyed me no end, that the other major park chain to which we once belonged, and used a lot, had a no dog policy. The reality was that there were increasing numbers of travellers with dogs and, to me, it made sound business sense to recognize this and cater for it.

He also mentioned that the Halls Gap to Dunkeld road had been closed for much of this year, due to landslips, and this had impacted badly on tourism to Hamilton, it being a convenient stop between Halls Gap and the coast.

Couey had a morning walk along the creek trail.

The Grange Burn by the caravan park

After John got going, we walked to the Woolworths complex. When I first moved to Hamilton, the commercial focus was in Gray Street, a block to the north, where the two old department stores and what passed for supermarket, were almost opposite each other. Then Coles set up not far from them. The Woolworths development happened after I left, but clearly, the main street was no longer central to commerce in the town.

John found a games shop there, too, so I waited with dog while he browsed in there.

After lunch back at the van, we went walking along the creek track, but the other way this time, under the highway overpass and towards Lake Hamilton.

From the creek path, I could just see the spires of St Mary’s Catholic Church up on its hill, and a glimpse of the top of the towered house that had been my home for a while.

The spire of the church across from my old home; Lake Hamilton

I realized that, in a few months, it will be thirty years since I left Hamilton, after living there for thirteen years. No wonder the town had seemed altered!

More dog ball games on the grass near the park, then back to the van for the rest of the day.

Sausages and vegies and eggs for tea.

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2011 Travels July 28


The morning was cold, again, but the day cleared to sunny, though it still was not warm.

Had a little accident when packing up camp in the morning. John took the guy ropes off the poles that support the awning roof. The wind suddenly blew a huge gust, picked up the canvas roof and blew it right upwards. We were able to grab it and make a two person job of finishing packing it away, but a fastening bracket had been pulled loose from the van.

As we set off out of Beachport, we decided to just head for home, rather than meandering around any more. Had enough of the cold and damp. I thought, also, that John was worried about his breathing issues, though he wasn’t saying so. My shoulder continued to be quite painful. Caravan life didn’t seem to agree with it, again. As well, we were finding that a rather large, often damp dog and a rather small caravan were not the greatest match – well behaved though the dog was.

Travelled east through Penola, to Casterton and to Hamilton, through attractive country. There was lots of surface water lying about.

Typical country around Casterton

We stopped in Penola to eat the lunch I’d packed this morning, and give Couey a walk around. Had we been meandering, would have though strongly about a couple of nights here, to investigate both the interesting history aspects, and the terra rossi red wine country around Coonawarra.

East of Penola, the remnant coastal country was left behind and we were onto the volcanic plains of the Western District again. The big red gums that are a feature of these parts began to appear, as did more pine plantations.

After Casterton, the country was so familiar, from the years lived at Hamilton.

Booked into the Lake Hamilton Caravan Park, where we had stayed before, for one night. En-suite site cost $37.80, after a $4.20 discount. It was adequate.

There was not much setting up for a one night stay, as we were able to remain hitched up.

Hamilton site

I left John making a repair to the awning fastening with silicon and other bits from his travelling tool supplies, and took dog walking. There was a very pleasant walk/bike path alongside the Grange Burn creek that was next to the caravan park, so we followed that for some way to the south, then backtracked. I kept Couey firmly on her leash, with the creek nearby.

After a rest back at the caravan park, John decided the grassed area between the park and the walk path would be good for some off lead ball throwing for dog, so we both went and did that. She was too focussed on the ball to show any interest in the water. To date, it seemed that it was only large puddles that interested her, the muddier the better.

I made my old faithful tuna, olives, capers, tomato pasta meal with tinned apricots to follow.

Discussion after dinner centred around returning back through Melbourne on a Friday. Driver definitely not keen, so we decided to wait until Saturday for that. It seemed easiest to stay another night here, if we could, rather than hitch up and go elsewhere for just that time.