This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2006 Travels December 13

WEDNESDAY 13 DECEMBER   BENDIGO TO HOME   225kms

Another early morning visit from the grandson – it was a real game for him to come out and knock on the van door and call out to us. Another cuddle in bed. He was a wonderfully affectionate little kid.

I had been really dreading the task of hitching the van and Truck together, on the sloping driveway. John would be backing the truck downhill, in tiny increments – the idea was to get the poly plastic block on the van part of the hitch, exactly into the metal receiving arms on Truck. But not just that – to get the retaining bolt in place, the hole on the block had to line up precisely with the holes on the metal arms – and when they did, I would quickly shove the bolt in and down.  I had to direct John, not just in distance to back, but also about the precise central alignment – and at the same time, wind the height adjusting handle on the van to bring the block to the exact height where it could slide into the arms. When we were on flat ground, it was easier, because I could wiggle the van sideways a bit if needed. Here, with the van chocked at the back of the wheels, there was no wiggle room, literally, and John had to stop Truck at the precise moment – no rolling backwards!

We waited till the family had left, rather than put on a display for them! But it went better than I had dared hope. John did a pinpoint accurate job of inching Truck back down onto the Treg coupling, whilst I frantically adjusted the height of the van so the bits would fit. It was a great relief when I could push the locking pin down through its holes, and they actually aligned. Whew!

Refuelled on the way out of Bendigo – $1.21cpl.

It was the usual, standard run home, via Heathcote, Seymour and Yea.

We reached home before lunch time.

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It was great to see M again. She had our garden looking immaculate – much better than we do!

It was also great to see the old cat, battling on but thin and rather frail. Getting on for 17 years old now. He seemed happy to see us, too.

It was good to be home again. Now to unpack van, clean it thoroughly, and prepare for Xmas.

Virtually the first thing John did was to get on the phone to arrange for his African mahogany timber to be shipped south.

So, this year’s trip had turned out exceedingly different to what we had envisaged, back at the start of the year. We spent time in all mainland states and territories, except for the ACT. Sort of “around Australia”, but on a mostly inland circuit……..

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POSTSCRIPTS

On 14 December, the men at the South Point Fly Camp were able to move to occupy rooms at RV2, although there was still a considerable way to go to complete that camp.

On 15 December, we received an email from boss lady, asking us to go to RV2 in the new year – exact date to be determined. I replied that we would be available from about 3rd January.

On 20 December, a further email said that a new employee at HO would co-ordinate our travel arrangements, out of Melbourne, probably on January 4, if flights were available. She would liase with us. Head Office would be closed until January 2. They were hoping the project would be finished by the end of January.

So – more work! And a FIFO experience…..

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This was what it was all about – iron ore trains near RV2

In the last few weeks at RV1, I had been dreaming of green, cold, wet……..Be careful what you wish for………On Xmas Day, it snowed in our part of Melbourne! Real, genuine, cold and wet snow. Huey, you overdid it, a tad!

 

STATISTICS FOR 2006 TRIP:

*  Kms travelled:   18,468

*  Kms van towed:  12,991

*  Cost of diesel:  $3602.92

*  Average fuel consumption:  7.95kms per litre used

*  Dearest diesel:  $1.81cpl – Barkly Roadhouse NT

*  Cheapest diesel: $1.21cpl – Bendigo, Vic

*  Accommodation cost:  $2412.20

* Accommodation discounts gained:  $54.10

*  Dearest accommodation per night: Hidden Valley Caravan Park Darwin – $109 (cabin)

*  Dearest caravan site accommodation: Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park – $34.45

*  Cheapest accommodation per night: $16 – Hiway Inn Daly Waters

*  Number of different places stayed at: 30

*  Longest stay in one place:  Monsoon Cafe, Litchfield NT (employed)

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2006 Travels December 12

TUESDAY 12 DECEMBER     BENDIGO

An early start!

Grandson came knocking on the van door just after 7am. I think he was very pleased to find we were actually still in residence, so he had some cuddle time in bed with us.

Getting his car seat set up in Truck involved rearranging some of the contents, and was a fiddly procedure. Hadn’t thought of that when we offered to take him out for the day!

But the boy was really excited to be spending the day with us, so the hassle was worthwhile. Then we had to work out what we could do with him. How did one amuse a three year old for a full day?

It was a hot day – by Victorian standards.

We went to the Art Gallery – more from our own curiosity, but we thought he might find some interest there. Whilst the Gallery seemed to have much that would interest us, it was not really the right place for a three year old, so we did not stay long.

Walked around the parklands behind the Gallery for a while. He could run about there and play hide and seek with us. Then we were persuaded to take him up the big tower that was the poppet head lookout. This gave us great views out across the city and was worth the effort to get up the stairs. I discovered that I still hate heights!

Then it was back into Truck and to the playground at Lake Weeroona, just north of the city centre. The boy tired himself out some more on the equipment. We were persuaded to walk to the cafe at one end of the lake and buy him an icy pole. By the time he had finished that, we needed to take him back home for lunch and an afternoon sleep. The rest was probably appreciated more by us than him – Grandad John had an excellent nap!

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He played with his toys after his sleep. We sat in the wonderful air conditioned cool and read until daughter got home from work.

Had tea with the family again. Much talk and tales of our adventures this year.

It was a really enjoyable – but tiring – day. Little kids are hard work!


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2006 Travels December 11

MONDAY 11 DECEMBER   MILDURA TO BENDIGO   415kms

We had an unhurried start to the day and a relaxed drive to Bendigo.

Refuelled at Ouyen – $1.29cpl – and had a morning tea break at the rest area there.

It was mid afternoon when we backed the rig into the driveway at daughter’s place, and unhitched Truck and van – after carefully putting big chocks behind the van wheels. Their driveway slopes down quite markedly. This was the first time we had been game enough to unhitch the van on this slope. Not because of concern for the van – we were confident that the chocks and handbrake would hold it – but because linking up the van and Truck, with the Treg hitch, on any slope, had proved problematic in the past. I told myself I would worry about that later!

We drove to shops at Kangaroo Flat, for some oddments – nibbles, papers and the like, and some wine.

Enjoyed the late afternoon and evening with the family and grandson – now nearly 4 years old. He seemed thrilled and excited to see us again. I had sent him postcards when I could, to remind him of our existence, but these had, of necessity, been infrequent since September. It was arranged that the boy could have the day off from child care tomorrow, and we would look after him.

In a week, we had driven some 4,300kms.

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2006 Travels December 10

SUNDAY 10 DECEMBER   PETERBOROUGH TO MILDURA   420kms

We slept in a bit later this morning.

Today was a much shorter day of driving. It was also much cooler, compared to what we’d been used to. We lost another 30 minutes of time when we crossed into Victoria today.

Refuelled at Morgan – $1.31cpl. It was wonderful to see the wide Murray River there – hadn’t seen a decent river for a while.

Now that we were – comparatively – close to home, John thought we could ease off the travel rate a bit, so we stopped for the night at Mildura. Took a powered site at the Desert City Caravan Park – $20.70, after discount. Had to unhitch the van. Having green grass around the van was a novelty!

Walked across to the big shopping centre across the road and spent some time wandering and browsing. Bought lunch – a bakery pull apart loaf. It was pleasant to have some of the day for just walking about and relaxing.

I had a long and lovely swim in the park’s pool. Bliss.

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2006 Travels December 9

SATURDAY 9 DECEMBER   NUNDROO TO PETERBOROUGH   790kms

My watch and the little van clock were set on SA time, but our body clocks were not. So it felt like an unreasonably early start, even though it wasn’t.

The day was a little cooler – just a little.

Went through the quarantine checkpoint west of Ceduna. I had calculated the fruit and veg stocks bought back in Newman, so we did not have anything to throw out.

Topped up fuel at Ceduna – $1.27cpl; Kimba – $1.30 cpl; and Port Augusta – $1.20 cpl.

This was the fourth time we had driven across the Nullarbor, so it all did feel a bit routine.

At Port Augusta, parked near the Woolworths store and bought some fresh supplies, and newspapers. We were appreciative of the large parking area beside the waterfront, where it was easy enough to park a vehicle and van.

The idea of staying in Port Augusta – yet again – was not appealing – given some not so pleasant memories of being stranded there for nearly a week in 1993 with a broken axle on our Hilux of the time. So we pushed on, through the winding Horrocks Pass route, to the rolling plains beyond. I always enjoyed the drive through the Horrocks Pass – bendy  though it was. Just found it interesting. In places, one could see that the road foundation edging, beside steep little roadside gutters, was of brick.

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In Horrocks Pass

At the top of the pass, the vista was of the rolling sheep and grain country of the mid north west of SA.

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Peterborough beckoned – like normal civilization again. We took a powered site at the very pleasant caravan park there. $20 for the night. We were able to stay hitched up.

Trees! Shade! TV!

I enjoyed reading the weekend papers. Could feel myself transitioning back to something like our real world.

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2006 Travels December 8

FRIDAY 8 DECEMBER   BALLADONIA TO NUNDROO ROADHOUSE   880kms

Early start.

Balladonia is at the western end of the 90 mile straight stretch of highway, so we had that at the start of today’s drive. There was still plenty of bushfire smoke and that was rather concerning.

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Unusual morning light due to bushfire smoke

Topped up the fuel at Cocklebiddy Roadhouse – $1.62cpl. Bought cold drinks.

Some welcome variety in the landscape came with the descent down the Madura Pass to the lower level plain closer to the coast. This meant we had low rises to our left now – something different to look at.

Repeated the fuel and cold drinks routine at Mundrabilla Roadhouse – $1.45cpl. Mundrabilla had the reputation of being amongst the cheapest places for fuelling along the Nullarbor.

It was a day of even greater heat –  40’s, almost 44, at Eucla! We endured…….

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A long day of driving was accentuated by losing time as we drove east – 90 minutes of it.

The bushfire smoke continued, to varying extents, until after we crossed into SA.

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One solitary bird….

I couldn’t persuade John to stop for the day when we reached Eucla, on the WA/SA border. In fact, I couldn’t persuade him to stop at all here. He wanted to really break the back of the Nullarbor section.

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He decided we would aim for Yalata Roadhouse – certainly for fuel and maybe to stay the night.

We did take a short break at the spectacular Bunda Cliffs – to admire the dramatic heights where the Australian mainland falls into the Great Australian Bight. It was a chance to take the mandatory photos – yet again – and walk around a bit to try to get the circulation going in my legs.

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Bunda Cliffs

At least, it did become marginally cooler as we moved east and as the day wore on.

I had another attempt to broker a stop for the night as we approached Nullarbor Roadhouse, but no deal.

It was late afternoon by the time we reached Yalata – and the bloody roadhouse was closed! All shut up, out of business, deserted. When did that happen? We were not happy and we were getting rather low on fuel. I wished we had stopped at the Nullarbor place, and said so!

There was no choice but to keep going. John decided to chance it and not go to the effort of unpacking the back of Truck to get at our spare diesel container. He thought we would make it to Nundroo and was right.

It was dusk, almost dark by the time we reached Nundroo Roadhouse. With great relief we refuelled – $1.24 cpl – then took a powered site – $20. This was not much more than a power pole on gravel, but we were really too tired to care.

Tea was a tin of soup and the few remaining vegetables. We were both beyond hungry. Fell into bed.

That essentially ended the Nullarbor crossing, but it had been a really unpleasant day.

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2006 Travels December 7

THURSDAY 7 DECEMBER   LEONORA TO BALLADONIA ROADHOUSE   610kms

We slept slightly later than yesterday, but it was still a pretty early departure, by our usual standards.

Again, the day got hot, quickly.

North of Kalgoorlie, John became sleepy and decided to have a short nap – fittingly – at a rest area.

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I had a very welcome walk around while he snoozed. My legs were beginning to feel somewhat uncomfortable from long days of just sitting in the heat and confines of Truck.

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Spacious rest area north of Kalgoorlie

We were compelled to have a longer break at Kalgoorlie. John had been concerned that the spare tyre on Truck was very worn. It had come off the back of the van, earlier on. The van sported an an almost new one. We hadn’t really had an option to replace the spare until now – he hadn’t thought to do it in the very busy period of our last few days at RV1. This was the chance to do so, before tackling the long stretches of the Nullarbor crossing.

Unhitched the van in a safe looking side street, took Truck to get a new tyre fitted, rotating the new tyre with an older one that now became the spare. That cost $299. Back to the van and hitched up again.

I visited the Information Centre to pick up material about the Nullarbor, just so I had up to date information. All my detailed maps and books about it were, of course, snug at home. I had not anticipated needing my WA material  when we left, nine months ago, for NW Qld!

John bought a pie for lunch. I bought a bread roll and ate that plain.

Refuelled Truck on the way out of town. $1.28cpl.

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Bush – Kalgoorlie area

South to Norseman, where the fuel was topped up again – $1.32cpl. Then we pointed our noses eastwards. Home – that-a-way.

Coming south from Kalgoorlie, could see a lot of bushfire smoke to the east, and heard reports of fires on the radio, with some suggestions that roads could be closed if they got much worse. We hoped not. By doing the long days, and not spending time visiting places, we had ensured some wiggle room on the trip, but really did not want to be stranded in these parts by fires.

As we started across the Nullarbor route, could see smoke plumes in the distance and continued to do so for the rest of the day.

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Distant bushfire smoke

It was exceedingly hot and the travel uncomfortable and tiring. This was really not the recommended time to be driving this road. Last time we’d gone west to east this way was at a similar time of the year, in 2000 – and had also not been what we’d planned to be doing at that time. But it had not been as hot, that year.

By the time we reached Balladonia Roadhouse, we’d had enough for the day. Actually, I’d happily have stopped at Norseman! It was getting late enough in the day for it to be time to be off the road.

Refuelled Truck – $1.68cpl. Ouch!

Got a powered site – $21-90 – in the caravan park off to one side of the roadhouse. We were able to find a site with some shade from trees, which was a bonus. Not too bad, out here.

The welcome shower was coin operated – an inducement not to linger, for sure. But understandable in a place where water was such a scarce commodity. Only one coin could be inserted at a time. When that expired, after a couple of minutes, one had to get out to put in another coin, if more time was needed – and of course the coin machine was outside the cubicle. Easier to give up and dry off.

Another early night.

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2006 Travels December 6

WEDNESDAY 6 DECEMBER   NEWMAN TO LEONORA   730kms

Up early, while it was still relatively cool – and we were used to early starts. Quick basic breakfast. Hitching up again did not take too long, and away we went.

This trip was all about getting home, so we were not planning any sight seeing or side tracking. Just long days of driving.

It was soon really hot again, though. Going south was not making much difference. The Truck was not coping with both towing in temperatures well over 40, and having the air con on, so we had to manage with just the windows down and hoping the wind coming in was slightly cooling. Hope being the operative word.

Topped up the fuel at Kumarina Roadhouse. $1.62cpl. Bought cold drinks.

South of Kumarina, we stopped for a break at a Gascoyne River crossing. The river channel here – one of several at the headwaters of this large river system – had some water in it.

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Gascoyne River channel

We had decided to try taking the unsealed Neds Creek road, which went south east from the highway, through to Wiluna. Various tradies from Leonora and Kalgoorlie had told us this was a much better quality way than going via Meekatharra.

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Gravel section of Neds Creek road

We found this way pretty smooth, and could make reasonable speed on the red dirt road. There were few other vehicles on it. There were still wildflowers in bloom, in places –  pretty.

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We stopped part way along its length to stretch legs again and eat the sandwiches I’d made this morning.

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Road was a bit sandier here

Some 40kms north of Wiluna, the Neds Creek road was also the southern part of the legendary Canning Stock Route, so we could now say we had been on this – however briefly – as far as from Wiluna to Well 1. Not that we stopped to look for Well 1.

The Canning – originally pioneered to bring cattle from the Kimberley to southern markets – is the longest stock route in the world, depending on 51 wells sunk along its distance to water the travelling stock.  However, it was not used for any length of time and these days is a difficult 4WD track that takes about three weeks to traverse from Wiluna to Halls Creek. It was on our to-do list, but we had not yet managed to get that expedition off the ground. This was definitely not a trek that it was sensible to do alone and we hadn’t managed to find friends with a suitable rig that they were prepared to chance on it. We still hoped……

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At the small, mostly indigenous settlement of Wiluna, we were back on sealed roads. Topped up the fuel again here – $1.46 cpl.

By the time we reached Leonora, we’d had enough driving for the day. Refuelled truck – $1.45cpl.

Got a powered site at the Leonora Caravan Park – $20. We were able to stay hitched up.

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Leonora Caravan Park

I was a little curious about  Leonora Lodge – the accommodation facility being developed by the company we’d been working for, but this was not the time to be going to see it – we were weary. We had visited Leonora before, a couple of years ago, and seen its main sights then – principally, the Sons of Gwalia mine and historic display.

It was another night much like the last, except the place was much quieter. Shower, tea, early night.

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2006 Travels December 5

TUESDAY 5 DECEMBER   RV1 TO NEWMAN   345kms

This felt like a momentous day – we were leaving to start to make our way to our very distant home. Our last breakfast in the mess. I packed us up a lunch crib each, for the road.

We had to finish the pack up of Truck, our rooms and the van before we could leave. John filled Truck from the diesel supply.

I had to spend a little final time in the office, bringing up to date the last entries for currently ongoing contingencies, and forwarding the spreadsheets to HO – just in case no one got round to doing them later, when work was finalized.

So, it was late morning before we got away.

We had to manoeuvre the rig really carefully, to move it away from  the building, without collecting one of the verandah uprights. John directed – I inched it in the way he indicated. And I mean inched! I couldn’t remember how we’d gotten it in there, in the first place – effectively with the side of the van in between two veranda posts……

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Bit of back and forth had been needed here……

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 We had a brief stop at the highway corner, to put on the weight distribution bars – not something we’d wanted to have on for the now rather corrugated access track and the even rougher section through the Turner River channels.

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And we are away……

I felt both sad to be leaving this area, but happy to be heading home.

It was very hot.

The drive was really enjoyable, despite the temperature. South of the Marble Bar Hillside turnoff, the country gradually became more varied, often with low ranges in the distance. There had been enough rain to turn sections of it quite lush.

The upper reaches of the Fortescue River, in the area where the highway crosses it, is not really a defined river channel, but an area of more vegetation. Just upstream from there, it seagues into the area known as the Fortescue Marshes. Over in that direction would be the Cloudbreak iron ore mine – the reason for the railway project.

South of the Auski Roadhouse we were into the at times stunning range and hill country, all the way to Newman.

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South of Auski Roadhouse

We decided that Newman was as far as we would go today. We were both tired after the very busy last few days, and the recent weeks of work without a day off.

Got ourselves a powered site at the Newman Caravan Park. $25.

Set up, then drove to the central shopping area, where I did a Woolworths shop, for fresh foods and the like to get us closer to home. No more having all our meals provided!

Refuelled. $1.43cpl.

Now we needed to get back into travel mode – and looking after ourselves mode…..It was such a novelty for John to have TV again that he wasn’t even too bothered by the distinct lack of any appealing offering, apart from the news. Yes, the world was still out there.

It was pleasant to have a shower where turning on the cold tap actually produced cool water.

The campground was rather noisy into the evening, with people – mainly workers – coming and going, and imbibing in refreshments after their day’s work. But we were tired, went to bed early and slept soundly.

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2006 Travels December 4

MONDAY 4 DECEMBER     RV1

Low 40’s, with cloud.

In the morning, John took the Acco to Hedland. He took the water man to the morning plane, then went on to do his last tip load! In the afternoon, he was back in there on a purchasing run. It would have been interesting to keep a tally of how many kms he had driven, back and forth to Hedland, whilst here!

I finalized the office pack up. The computer and phones and printer would remain, because some of the men would remain here working for a short while yet. They would then have to organize the move of those things to RV2, or Leonora.

I phoned the Shire Health Inspector to come and do the final inspections of the wet mess and pool. He would come Thursday. Until he passed it, the pool could not be used – another source of complaint by camp occupants.

Darwin promised me a lockable first aid cabinet for the paramedics room – to be sent on the next truck. The guy there had delayed getting what I asked for until HO had approved it!

And that – effectively – ended my work here!

At RV2, Spotless had arrived and begun to unpack their stuff there. That would really put them under pressure down there – the Spotless management people were so pushy! I wondered how happy S would be about having to share her office with them, as I’d had to. But BB also arrived at RV2 today, so he might put Spotless back in their place…….I hoped!

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The distant Fly Camp had been re-invented as a storage area for railway making machinery and service centre for same.