Grandson arrived at van to wake us up, about 7am. It was a cold morning, so we had a snuggle in the bed, with non-stop chat, until he had to go in for breakfast.
We left soon after the family departed for school and work. It would not be long before we had grandson to stay for the school holidays.
Took the usual way home: Heathcote, Seymour, Yea – where we had a brief stop.
Through the areas ravaged by the bushfires of earlier in the year, there was some green, fresh shooting and growth, but not as much recovery as I’d hoped to see. Recovery from these fires were going to take a longer time than previously, as they burned so fiercely.
Reached home about 11.30am.
Everything was as neat and tidy as we’d come to realize was usual with the house sitters. The gardens were weeded, lawns mowed, pool sparkling clean, house immaculate.
Well, Truck finally did make it home. Sighs of relief all round – suspect I may have heard a quiet one from the machine in question, too. Now John had to sort out restitution with the mechanic – and find a new one!
We did some unpacking, then sat down to a lovely lunch – casserole and cake – made by our house sitter. They had already relocated their car interstate, with help from relatives. After a leisurely lunch, they were collected by a little limo, to be transported to the airport to catch their overseas flight. Next house sit – Denver, Colorado, USA.
We had been away just over four months.
TRIP STATISTICS 2009
* away for 131 nights
* Accommodation cost $3054.40 out of pocket
* Accommodation discounts: $136.60
* Most expensive camp: Takarakka, Carnarvon Gorge: $38 per night
* Cheapest camp: Lorne Station, Lightning Ridge: $100 a week
* Longest stay: 4 weeks at Forrest Beach Qld.
No fuel/kms stats, because John accidentally deleted the record from his laptop!
Because we had a day to spare, today’s destination was Bendigo. Started this trip by going there and would finish it that way, too.
We got away early. It was a pleasant drive, again through flat farming country.
Stopped at the bakery at Elmore for an early lunch – pie and pasty for John, a sausage roll for me, which I would probably later regret when the usual indigestion set in. Daughter had asked me to buy her some jam tarts from there, for grandson’s lunch box, him being very fond of same.
As we came into Bendigo, drove straight to the White Hills football and netball club. We had been given instructions about where to find parking there for the rig. We joined daughter at the club house; watched the annual best and fairest counts, saw daughter’s partner and a couple of her family members receive trophies.
After that, took the rig on to daughter’s place and parked in our usual place in the driveway. We did not unhitch! But, even so, put some bricks behind the van wheels. I do not like that slope!
We went with daughter, to Castlemaine, to pick up grandson, who had spent the weekend with his father. John was feeling generous and said we would pay for a pizza tea. The shop we went to was rather upmarket. It cost $67 for three ordinary sized pizzas, plus a small one for grandson. And to think that I regularly churned out more generously topped pizzas, at home, by the half dozen, for visiting family and friends….
Grandson was so pleased to see us, and talked non-stop on the drive back to Bendigo. He was very good at non-stop.
An early night was in order – work and school for the family tomorrow.
The morning was a bit colder, and rather gloomy. I felt the transition from tropical heat to the southern late winter had been a bit too abrupt.
Today’s was a routine drove south, over familiar roads, across the flat, irrigated plains of the Murrumbidgee and Murray valleys, periodically broken up by irrigation channels.
By the time we crossed the Murray river at Tocumwal, into Victoria, it was raining steadily. It seemed fitting – a kind of welcome back to the reality of home.
Stopped at a roadside fruit outlet, not far into Victoria, and bought cheap pumpkins, strawberries and navel oranges. Some of the produce would go to daughter.
Having time on our side, for once, decided to overnight at Cobram. Took an en-suite site at the Oasis Caravan Park. $30. Hadn’t been here before. The ensuites were in an octagonal shaped central building, with the sites radiating out around that. Different. The layout gave more of a sense of privacy than the traditional rectangular one.
It was a pleasant park and seemed a nice town.
After set up, I went for a walk around the streets. John relaxed, watching TV and on the computer. Despite the rain threatening to start again, I managed a good long walk.
Away again at 7am, now feeling rather apprehensive about the remainder of this trip.
We had driven this road so many times before that all I could say was that it was as usual. Flat, mostly. Scrubland. Cypress pine stands in places. Cobar was still there.
We tootled around in Hillston, for a while, trying to find fuel. Should have topped up in Cobar. We had never fuelled up here before, so didn’t know where to go. One outfit was shut for lunch. The other was an automated one – not too sure about that, so just got enough, after some fiddling around and censored words from John, to see us to Griffith.
The weather seemed to be cooling down, as we came south, so it was a pleasant enough day for driving.
At the Griffith Caravan Park, we splashed out on an en-suite site, for $30. After the travails of the past few days, felt like a bit of indulgence. But the site was not particularly pleasant – on gravel, bare and utilitarian. The managers were not very amiable. We decided that next time through here, we should try somewhere else. Was there somewhere else?
We were not seeing our Griffith friends, who were away, but unhitched Truck and drove to buy fish and chips for tea. That cost $30, because we selected pieces of barra that were weighed before cooking. But it was a very nice meal.
Griffith was not an easy place to find one’s way around!
THURSDAY 27 AUGUST CHARLEVILLE TO NORTH BOURKE 450kms
We were away by 7am.
This was a route we’d driven several times before, through the semi-arid grazing and mulga country.
Refuelled at the usual place at the corner at Cunnamulla.
In an event typical of this benighted trip, we had another flat tyre, on the driver’s side rear – again – about 50kms south of Cunnamulla. That was the spare wheel we’d put on two days ago. We’d been carrying it as a spare, since it was repaired at Lightning Ridge. THAT repair didn’t last long!
Now we’d used both spares. It was not a nice feeling, to be going several hundred kms with no spare, through country where settlements were few and far between.
It was a relief to reach Kidmans Camp at North Bourke, mid afternoon, after stopping briefly beside the road to eat lunch, earlier.
Our site at Kidmans cost $26.
We unhitched, and John drove on into Bourke, to a tyre place. They found that the guy in Lightning Ridge had essentially wrecked the tyre, by carving off some of the edge beading! Why on earth would he have done that? John came back with a brand new tyre on the – solid – spare wheel. We mounted that on back of Truck, and put the split one on the van mounting. He’d fuelled up in town too.
Kidmans Camp was as lovely as always. They now had two swimming pools. I couldn’t get motivated to try either, but we went walking down the tracks to the Darling River. The river level was medium – had seen it much lower in other years.
We watched the tourist river boat return to dock from its afternoon cruise.
After breakfast, drove into Charleville. John bought oil to top up the diff. He had phoned the bad mechanic from home, for advice – though that might be of dubious value. The supposed expert reckoned that Defender wheels don’t break. Well….we were carrying evidence to the contrary on the spare wheel holder……
John decided not to try getting the tyre fixed here, because the split wheel would only cause the same problem again. We had the caravan spare that could be used, if needed – which was why we’d originally had the van built with Defender wheels. Surely we couldn’t be that unlucky? There was certainly no point in trying to get a new wheel for Truck here.
Just lazed around at camp for the rest of the day. I took back everything I’d previously said about John in “go home” mode – this time was a pleasant exception.
Hooked Truck back up to van. We also seemed to have an oil drip from the steering box area. Poor old Truck was now over thirteen years old, and had done over quarter of a million kms. Getting old…..
Had happy hour with the interesting neighbours.
As often happens in these parts, the sunset was brilliant.
We were up early and away just after 7am, wanting to finish driving, if we could, before the worst heat of the afternoon.
Drove back south, leaving the Tropics, through Sapphire, to meet the Capricorn Highway at Anakie, where we turned west. Before long, we were passing through ranges where the road was quite hilly. It was rather dramatic. I’d forgotten all about this, although we must have driven this route at least once before.
Refuelled at Alpha, then took the Tambo road to the south. This would save us some 170kms compared to the alternative of going via Barcaldine.
The sealed road soon turned to gravel. Some sections were quite stony, and some parts were corrugated. There were occasional sealed sections again, especially on the floodways.
As was our usual practice, as soon as we left the sealed road, we stopped and removed the weight distribution bars. We’d been told to do that, right back when we started caravanning, by the people at Hayman Reece.
We came upon one floodway very suddenly, with a big dip in the middle of a raised area, and bottomed out a bit. Then John heard a tyre going down rapidly. It was the driver’s side rear one on Truck. John spent some time fiddling around with the ordinary jack, trying to get it to fit under the lowered side. He wasn’t happy that this would hold, so we ended up using the awkward, slow, wind up one that belonged to Truck, as well.
When the wheel had been taken off, I was inspecting the tyre to try to find the cause of the flat – and found a nine inch split in the steel wheel rim, in the centre of the wheel. I thought it must have spread when we bottomed in the floodway, and then pinched the tube inside, because I couldn’t find any tyre damage. Later on, a close inspection revealed what looked like an old split, about four inches long and a bit rusted inside, and new splits on each end of that – presumably from the floodway. We had no idea when we made the older split. My guess would be possibly on the really rough and rocky crossing of the flooded river on the way into the Bungles in 2007.
When changing the wheel, John also found an oil seal leak in the rear left side. Again!
After that, we were relieved to reach sealed road again, at the corner with the Dawson Development Road, with no further mishaps. The last part of this road, through to Tambo, was really scenic – the western tail off of the Carnarvon Ranges. But we were both a bit too tense to really enjoy it. Along the way, a topic of conversation had been about whether we should buy a new Defender, after this trip!
Had our packed lunch at the lovely rest area at Tambo. Then continued, through a hot afternoon, to Charleville, where we got fuel. Then back tracked a bit, to drive out to the Evening Star Caravan Park, to the NW of the town.
This caravan park, on a cattle property, was fairly new. It was 9kms from Charleville, on the Adavale road. Our powered site cost $24.
We thought this was going to be a really nice caravan park ,when the new tree plantings grew a bit higher. All the sites were drive through style, with a good separation between them. The bathrooms were unisex style. They had a very pleasant communal compfire area.
We got talking to the people on the next site, travelling in a converted bus. Very interesting. She was a writer. Both had done a lot of living on boats, and travelling around. They lived in Tasmania, near Stanley, and knew our friends S and M, who had the Post Office there. We swapped details, and invited them to stay at our place, if they wished, when they next passed through Melbourne.
Decided we would have two nights here. It was very pleasant to be in the bush. It was the sort of place we’d stay at for a week or more. if we were not on a deadline.
I made tandoori chicken for tea.
The night was very pleasantly warm – not always the case, inland.
It was another hot day. Qld was having a heat wave, abnormal for August. Bushfire season had started really early – it was still, technically, winter.
After the usual morning happenings, went with our neighbours, out to a fossicking place on the Goanna Flats Road, which bordered one side of the caravan park, then continued out to the west. We bought three buckets of gravel, for $40, and proceeded to wash and sort those, showing the neighbours what we were doing. Found a few chippy bits of sapphire, nothing special.
Left the neighbours there – now they knew the procedure – and drove on a bit further out the road, to look at the scenery. We hadn’t been out this road, this far before. In the distance was a little volcanic hill, like a little sibling to Mt Keilembete, further to the west. Then drove back into town, and explored around some of the roads, looking at the claims and the many, varied, and quirky structures on same.
Stopped to take photos of a street sign that had always intrigued us, from our first visit. It seemed to typify the gem fields attitude.
Stopped at Willy’s Wash – with a name like that, who could resist? Washed another couple of buckets of gravel. Nothing to get excited about in those.
It was very hot by now, so it was back to the van for a late lunch and an afternoon in the cool.
The gold man turned up about 4pm and I bought two nice little nuggets.
The caravan park had really emptied out today. I guess travellers had been waiting for yesterday’s markets.
Late in the afternoon, we took down the awning.
Had a text from friend M informing us that her ex-husband now lived on our favourite Tellem Buggerem Close. So we must have driven past his place. We were not inclined to look him up again – last time we called on the much married ex, got the impression that his latest wife was not thrilled to be meeting good friends of wife number three!
I was up much earlier than John and sat outside with my coffee. I set the laptop up out there and messed about with the Share Market Game.
Yesterday, we’d gotten chatting with the neighbours in the caravan on one side. They hadn’t been here before, had only arrived that day, so John offered to show them around a bit. Just after John got up, the lady appeared, and asked when we would be ready? Oops! So we hurried.
With them tagging behind, we drove to the Sunday Markets at Sapphire, a few kms away. That took us across the Tropic of Capricorn, just north of Sapphire.
There was a respectable number of stalls at the Markets, even though the major Gemfest event had been a couple of weeks ago, and one might have expected the gemfields to empty out after that.
We browsed the stalls, pretty thoroughly. I always find it impossible to avoid making purchases at such places, even though any more gemstone jewellery is amongst the last things I need. Like, when do I ever have occasion to wear jewellery at all, these days? It was just a twist of life that I had accumulated such things after my professional working life – with its attendant need to dress up – finished. I thought I would probably soon start distributing it to the younger females of the family, who would have more use for it.
We bought a blue sapphire, suitable for a ring. Bargained for, and bought, a very nice Mintabie opal. I had been looking, for a while now, for two matching small gold nuggets, for earrings to go with a pendant gold nugget, bought in Marble Bar in 2004. A stall holder had some nuggets on display, said he might be able to help with what I was after, and would bring potential earring nuggets to the van tomorrow.
Found out that the place at Sapphire that sold buckets of wash, that I wanted to investigate, was closed today. On past visits, we’d always bought some fossicking buckets at Rubyvale and I’d wanted to try something different.
We left the other couple to do their own thing, now they were more oriented and had some ideas about the area. Had a little driving explore around Sapphire, then went back to the van for lunch.
After that, went walking up the main street, looking at the shops and houses. We went in and browsed at the main, best, gallery – it still had wonderful sapphires and jewellery. Their orange sapphires were superb – and priced accordingly. If I ever won a lottery……mightn’t wear them much, but could look at them!
There had been some new houses and shops built, since last time we were here. There was some interesting – and very appropriate – use of corrugated iron and timber.
The afternoon was hot – mid 30’s. Bought icy poles at the General Store and ate them as we meandered.
Spent the rest of the afternoon in the van, with the air-con on, reading.
The hippy pair next door had left early in the morning. We later saw them set up at the markets, with beaded stuff and some fairly mediocre second hand stuff on offer.
SATURDAY 22 AUGUST CHARTERS TOWERS TO RUBYVALE 500kms
We were up before 7am, but didn’t rush to get away. because I wanted to get the Weekend Australian from the office, and it wouldn’t be in till at least 7.30. We were away at 7.45.
Charters Towers was quiet at that time of the morning, so it was easy to wind our way through the centre of town.
It was good that the road south was now a decent width, all the way. But quite a bit of the older surface was very “lumpy”. It made for much rocking of the rig, especially where they had widened the old road by simply adding a strip on the side. There was now a groove along that. I didn’t remember it as quite that bad when we’d gone north, but it certainly was not great, going south.
Stopped at Belyando Roadhouse for smoko. There was a large, wide load stopped there, going north. What a good place to meet it!
The day grew hot – up into the 30’s.
Stopped again at Clermont to get fuel, and have lunch. We ate this walking around the surrounds of the servo, mostly looking across a big dam, where there were a couple of hundred plumed whistling ducks, plus shags, egrets, herons and the like. I love the sounds the whistling ducks make. They are a pretty duck, too.
The drive from Charters Towers to Clermont had been pretty dull, country wise. Dry, but still a bit of water in most creeks.
While we were parked at Clermont, another wide load went passed, travelling north. Again, we’d been fortunate in our timing. Increased mining activity further north had meant encounters like this were much more common than when we first started travelling. I guess transport technology had changed too, and now trucks were bigger and could take such loads.
From Clermont to Capella, there was more interest, because we could see the Peaks in the distance.
As we drove south from Clermont, made the decision to go to Rubyvale for a couple of nights. It was a place we’d enjoyed on previous visits, and we had a couple of “spare” days. We hadn’t been there since 2000, so it would be interesting to see if much had changed.
From Capella, took the “back” way to Rubyvale. This was quite a good, sealed road, with a few twists and turns and low culverts over creeks. It mightn’t be quite so good after prolonged rains! It was interesting, being new to us, and much shorter than going via Emerald.
The Rubyvale Caravan Park was packed! As we came round the corner and saw it, I had a sinking feeling that we wouldn’t get in. Didn’t have a Plan B. We got the second last site, so there was not much choice. But it was alright – we were backed against a rock wall, so no neighbours behind us. Just on both sides – and very close. We did have a slab, not that this was vital in such dry weather.
The cost was $20 per night. As we were going through the booking in formalities, John told the man we’d stay three nights – news to me! But I was sure we would find things to do.
We were told that the previous owner, who we’d gotten to know a bit, previously, had sold the park and attached post office, six years before, and retired out to his “Castle” (Folly!), which still did not have any general public road access. Although the land where the Castle stood was a perpetual lease, someone had stuffed up when that was originally issued, and no right of way access had been part of it. Although E had been able to use an easement for his own access, the general public couldn’t and the owners of the surrounding station land refused to allow access across their land. So his plans for motel/backpacker units, out there, that he’d told us about in 2000, still had not come to fruition. Pity, because the place was unusual and interesting.
The new park owner had certainly improved things. The park was cleaner, neater, more landscaped. The pool still worked, but was a bit too small to tempt me in, when so many others had used it. He said they had been packed out like this since Easter – that was a definite change from our previous visits. It had become a very good little business then. They had sold off the Post Office part of it, to concentrate on the caravan park.
As before, there were lots of rainbow lorikeets and apostle birds around the park.
We set up, then spent time inside, with the air-con on.
Texted our location to daughter, who replied that it was raining in Bendigo.
A hippie type Coaster bus came in on the last site, next to us. An older woman and a teenage girl, who proceeded to set up a tent, right under our side windows. The older woman smoked, too, so we had to keep the windows on that side closed, which meant we were not inclined to turn off the air-con, which we might otherwise have done, out of consideration for them. I wondered if we would ever get to the point of having no-smoking caravan parks?
Tea was teriyaki marinated steak, mushrooms, beans. The meat was really delicious.
Watched a bit of TV, but were in bed by 10pm, after two tiring days.