This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2004 Travels October


Truck and van had one more outing in 2004.

We travelled from home to Narrawong, near Portland, in western Victoria, where we stayed for five nights. This was at the suggestion of son, who had booked a cabin at the very pleasant Narrawong Caravan Park, for a week. We could have opted to stay in a cabin also – it would have been much easier! But son felt that if we had the van on a site there, grand daughter would gain a greater understanding of what we did when we were away for months on end travelling. That worked well – she was quite fascinated by how we lived in it. Different to just seeing it parked at home and not in use.

Our stay was constrained by John’s bowls – it was Saturday Pennant season.

We took the Western Ring Road to skirt the central part of Melbourne, on our way to Geelong. From there, it was via Colac and Camperdown to Warrnambool, then along the coast, west to Portland. Being a Sunday, the trip through the urban areas was not too congested. However our return on the Friday, the same way in reverse, meant we were travelling with much more traffic, especially trucks and commercial vehicles. We’d left Narrawong early enough to be home before the afternoon peak hour in Melbourne, but even so, John did not enjoy the driving! His choice – we could have waited and returned on Sunday, but at the cost of bowls!

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Our powered site cost $12 a night.

We had, back in 1998, had a quick look at this park one day, when we cycled here from Portland. Then, we thought it looked a very attractive place to stay – better than where we were at the time – and our experiences this time showed this to be so.

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The park was spacious, bounded by the little Surrey River to one side, and with access to the sea of Portland Bay. There were plenty of trees about – some containing koalas!

The family’s cabin was the standard sort of transportable park cabin, but clean and roomy enough for the two adults and one two-and-a-half year old.

Activities with the family over the time included a visit to Portland, its town centre and to the port facility. Son was born in nearby Hamilton, and lived there until he was seven, so he’d visited Portland a number of times, but decades later had little memory of it.

One day we all took a packed lunch and drove to Bridgewater Bay, beyond Portland. This was a favourite area of mine when I lived at Hamilton. I used to rent a little cottage on the hillside above the broad, sweeping bay, and bring the children down for weekends and some school holidays. Son did have some memories of that place.

We all walked from the beach around to the old boat shed further around the bay. Grand daughter enjoyed poking about in the rock pools there. It was a long way for little legs and she had to be carried most of the way back.

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We spent quite a bit of time just hanging out in the caravan park. Its playground was a great attraction for grand daughter. She was very taken by the Finding Nemo characters painted on the big water tank at the amenities block, and she and I spent time there every day, with her identifying them for me.

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The weather was not quite warm enough for usual beach activities, but we did spend some time walking and paddling there.

Another day we all squeezed into Truck and drove via Nelson to Mt Gambier. With the child seat on the back seat, it was a bit tight in there for the other two back seat passengers! We looked at some of the key sights in Mt Gambier – the Blue Lake, Valley Lake, the Umpherston Sinkhole and gardens. Bought lunch there. Returned via Dartmoor and Heywood.

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Valley Lake at Mt Gambier

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The five days was up too quickly. It was a really enjoyable time away with that part of the family.

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2004 Travels September 20


It was the usual run down the Hume to Seymour, then the “back way” home via Yea.

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House sitter L had already left, this morning, en route back to NSW. The house seemed strangely empty, without her living in the three back rooms. She had been with us for three years. It was rather like losing a family member.

Adding to the sense of emptiness was the absence of the old grey cat. The surviving cat – himself getting very old at 15 – greeted us very happily.

Now it was the chore of unpacking – and getting rid of a lot of central desert dust from Truck. That vehicle by now, must have contained particles from all over the country, secreted in its nooks and crannies.

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What was left after unpacking Truck……

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Blowing out Truck!

It had been a good trip, overall, except for the long stages towards the end. Returning to just travelling, rather than travel and working, was a nice change.

We were away just a week short of six months.

In the months following the trip, there was no definitive outcome of the health issues that had affected John in Perth. In December, a molar tooth was extracted, which seemed to reduce the facial swelling somewhat, but not totally. He still occasionally had strange ear noises. His own doctor had no answers, but as John was feeling fine, was not inclined to pursue things any further. It remained a bit of a mystery.

By December, I was losing a third blackened toenail – legacy of our walk on Mt Augustus!


Statistics for 2004 trip:

* Kms travelled:    23,487kms

* Kms van towed:   16,761kms

* Cost of diesel:  $3556.77

* Average fuel consumption:  7.3 kms per litre used

* Dearest diesel:  $1.50 cpl – Tjukayirla and Warakurna Roadhouses

* Cheapest diesel:  94cpl – Mildura

* Accommodation cost:  $3053.80

* Accommodation discounts gained: $197.05

* Dearest accommodation per night:  $31 – Yulara Caravan Park

* Cheapest accommodation per night: $5 per person – various WA National Parks

* Number of different places stayed at:  42

* Longest stay in one place: Carnarvon – 15 nights

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2004 Travels September 19


Another long, routine driving day, down the Hume Highway.

We stopped for lunch at Holbrook.

John had done some adjusting of the brake current today and was happy with the way the van brakes were working. Finally!

Refuelled as we came into Benalla. $1.11cpl.

Overnighted at the Benalla Caravan Park – $18. We were able to stay hitched up.

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Still hitched up at Benalla

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2004 Travels September 18


We went back to John’s daughter’s this morning, to spend some more time with his grandson.

John was very conscious that he might only see the boy once or twice more, before the family heads off for a three year absence.

It was a pleasant morning in Canberra, and we spent time out in the garden. John played games with the little one.

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We left there about midday, as the family had other things planned.

We refuelled truck – $1.06cpl. Bought the Saturday papers.

Spent the afternoon relaxing at the van and reading the papers.

We had to be at friends’ place at Aranda, for 6pm. That involved driving back through Canberra.

We spent a very pleasant evening with our friends, who served up a most delicious meal. It was great to see them again, after the space of six years. We did not stay too late, as they were both doing a post-graduate naturopathy course, and had to study for coming exams.

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2004 Travels September 17


After breakfast, we drove down to Bungendore, to the woodwork gallery there.

We had much of the day to fill in, until John’s daughter had finished work.

As before, John gained some inspiration and ideas from the gallery displays – some brilliant and creative items. But, somehow, we were not as impressed with this gallery, as last time. We were really not sure why. All I could think of was that we had seen equally good – if not better – in the wood galleries we had visited earlier this year in southern WA.

Met daughter in the park near her place, at 4.30pm. She had just collected John’s grandson from day care. Her working hours this year were more regular than usual – because she will be heading off to posting in Brussells early next year, she was currently spending all her time learning French.

The grandson – now 18 months old – had grown some hair, but was a bit wary of “strangers”. We watched him play in the park for a while. Then, back at his place, John read to him and he loosened up a bit and interacted with John. Good to see.

We had tea there – miso soup – and spent a pleasant evening with them.

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2004 Travels September 16


Today was a relatively shorter day. Yesterday, even John had conceded that over 800kms in one day would be a bit much, so we’d had two shorter stages.

Refuelled at Wagga – $1.10cpl.

We reached the Hume Highway south of Gundagai – easier driving. Again, familiar.

I had, as usual, packed a lunch for us, but at Yass, John decided he wanted to stop for something that appealed to him more. KFC! I do not like to eat chicken not cooked by me, and would have happily eaten my sandwich, but John was insistent that I have some chicken too. To demonstrate that it would not hurt me! He’d bought cajun spicy chicken, and chips. The chicken was seriously awful! We actually agreed about that! It resulted in rotten indigestion for me, through much of the night. John did not feel great, either. Served him right, but the only positive I could find was that it would be a long time before I got pressured to eat fast food chicken again.

We reached Canberra mid-afternoon.

Went into the Riverside Caravan Park at Queanbeyan, after navigating through the centre of Canberra. $20 a night.

After setting up, we walked up to the shopping centre for some oddments. It was good to get some walking into the legs again.

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2004 Travels September 15


A fairly long day, today, but not as bad as it might have been.

The main drawback to today was that the country we passed through was mostly quite unremarkable. We crossed the flat, rather dry, wheat growing inland plains. Occasional rivers, and then some irrigated country later in the day, broke the monotony a bit.

Refuelled at Balranald – $1.10cpl.

Stopped by the roadside beyond Hay to eat lunch.

At Narrandera, went into the Lake Talbot Caravan Park. Top Tourist. $18 a night, after discount. We had a drive through site – convenient, but it put us close to neighbouring vans.

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Our van looked so grubby beside those that only drive on sealed roads!

I was not all that impressed with this park. Some of their sites did overlook the Murrumbidgee River, which was pleasant, but some were very uneven. It would clearly get crowded at holiday times, being a waterside location in the dry inland plains.

John just wanted to nap and play computer after his day. I went for a walk around the park and lingered in sections where I could see the  river.

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2004 Travels September 14


We refuelled on the way out of town, at the servos by the long causeway that the trucks use. $1.11 cpl. Then got fuel again at Parina, later in the day – $1.07 cpl.

It was yet another long, uncomfortable driving day. All covering routes we had done before and which were quite familiar.

Turned a little south of Port Augusta, and headed up through Horrocks Pass to Wilmington, then Orroroo, Peterborough, Burra, Morgan, Renmark, Mildura.

We stopped at Morgan to eat lunch. This little town beside the Murray River had a very good park area by the punt crossing of the river. We had to turn right to go into town to this park, but it was worth the little back track we had to do to get back on the way to Renmark. We had previously stayed at the caravan park that was across the road from the park.

In Mildura, went into the Desert City Caravan Park – Top Tourist. $18.90 for the night, after discount.

We unhitched Truck and went and bought pizzas for tea.

John decided that he still wants to go to Canberra to see his daughter and grandson. More long days in Truck! I was contemplating a slow few days travelling beside the Murray, as far as Echuca or Corowa, then home. Damn!

In occasional phone calls, he had mentioned that we might end the trip by visiting them. Now he phoned and confirmed our intentions.

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2004 Travels September 13


John worked on the van brakes, with encouragement from our van neighbour, who hailed from WA.

Whilst the rig was laid up, I decided to wash our bedding and towels. It was a good drying day for these.

The brake problem apparently lay in the fact that John hammered the magnet into place on its arm, at Yulara, thus ensuring it could not move as it was supposed to do. I was not sure what he was thinking when he did that! Anyway, he seemed to have now fixed the problem.

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Hooked up to test the brakes – Port Augusta

I appreciated having the day when I could walk around the caravan park, as well as just stretch out and relax. I love Truck and it had been an excellent vehicle for our purposes, but passenger comfort was not its greatest attribute.

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2004 Travels September 12


Refuelled at Coober Pedy before leaving – $1.25cpl, and again at Glendambo Roadhouse – $1.33cpl.

It was another uncomfortably long day in Truck, with my legs becoming painful again.

John realized that the van brakes were not working, despite his best efforts at fitting them in Yulara. Fortunately, the highway was pretty level and there were no big towns to go through. But it added a degree of tension to the driving.

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Attractive display information boards by the highway

We had lunch at the roadside stop at the picturesque Lake Hart, one of many salt lakes, large and small, that occur in a great swathe across this area. This would be an attractive place to bush camp, overnight – or longer.

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Lake Hart

Went into the Port Augusta Big 4 Caravan Park – a place we’d stayed on several previous occasions. $21.60 a night, after discount.

John decided we would stay an extra night here, so he could work on the brakes tomorrow.

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