This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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.

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2011 Travels July 27


The day was fine but even colder. When I took Couey out for her first walk in the morning, there was ice on the boardwalk! The wind continued to be freezing.

Site with a view

After breakfast, John took dog walking through the canal and lake scrub tracks. She managed to find some animal’s manure to roll in. Did a thorough job – both sides. I hoped she’d enjoyed the freedom roll, because she certainly didn’t enjoy the cold hosing down she got, back at camp! Then, John played ball retrieving games with her for a while, to speed up the drying out process. I walked her around the streets, on the lead, to do my part for the dog drying.

John found the coolant level in Truck was down, so went off down the street to get some more. Whilst there, he felt the urge to visit the bakery and came back with a pastie for his lunch, and a Boston bun.

It was a bit of a concern that Truck coolant level was down. We hadn’t exactly been driving in hot weather! Having spent about $15,000 in the past couple of years, having the vehicle thoroughly repaired, things should be working perfectly.

After lunch we went for a drive, back out along the Scenic Drive.

I took some photos.

From the end of the Scenic Drive, John decided to venture along a 4WD track off into the dunes. It was loose and sandy and I was not happy. Just not in a mood to put up with getting bogged, like he had managed to do on some previous forays into sand. So, he soon turned round and we went back to camp.

Tea was Mongolian lamb and rice.

Our week here was up, tomorrow, and we decided to move on. Thought we’d head NE from here, up through Lucindale to Naracoorte. I’d be able to show John where I taught for a year. We would pass the little shearer’s cottage, out on the Conmurra road, where I’d lived – in somewhat primitive conditions: generator power and tank water. When the generator ran out of petrol at about 9.30 at night, it was bedtime. A weekly chore was to try to dig a hole to bury the contents of the toilet bucket – and the cottage was on a low limestone ridge with little soil! The conditions that teachers put up with in those days…….

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2011 Travels July 26


Another mostly fine but bloody cold day – a really chilly wind blew all day.

We’d fallen into the habit of doing the same walk every morning now, with dog – path, canal, bush.

Beachport Lake

 Given the weather, we were not motivated to do much today. John spent most of the time on his laptop, playing games, I read and did some crochet of an afghan rug I was making for grand daughter.

Stirred myself to make some flatbreads to have for lunch, with a nice warm soup – from tin!

Typical of the older limestone buildings in town

Our most direct route to the amenity block involved going down the grassed slope from the upper terraced level our van was on. We were both noticing that John was having difficulty walking back up the slope again. Just the short uphill part – maybe ten steps – was leaving him breathless. Today, he actually had to stop for a breather half way up. Very concerning. He reckoned it was just due to the cold air affecting his breathing. Hmmm…..

I crumbed some fish for tea. From the freezebox, not caught by us – John had not been motivated to unpack the fishing gear, here.

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2011 Travels July 25


Today was mostly fine, but with predominantly grey skies, and it was cold.

The dog’s morning walk was along the path, over the canal and around some of the bush tracks in the canal and lake area. Once she was off the lead it was impossible to stop her from cavorting in the large puddles formed in wheel ruts on the tracks.

We drove to Robe, almost 50kms away. The road went inland, to skirt the eastern sides of several large lakes formed behind the coastal dunes. The retreating coastlines and resulting parallel dune systems have meant there is no normal drainage systems across such of the South East of SA. Instead, lots of man made drains were dug, over time, to drain the swamps and improve the country for grazing and farming. One of these was Drain L – no fancy names here – that we crossed a couple of times on the outskirts of Robe.

Drain L near Robe

Like Beachport, Robe is an historic settlement, dating from the 1840’s. Lots of old stone buildings to see, as we cruised around the streets. On a warmer day, it would have been pleasant to walk around, looking more closely at some of these.

We parked near the Obelisk and did venture out of Truck to wander around this area.

Robe coast

The Obelisk was a stone tower, built on Cape Dombey, to help ships navigate in Guichen Bay, where Robe is, in 1855. It was eventually painted with red stripes, to help it stand out from the land background.

Robe Obelisk being undercut by coastal erosion

Given the extent of coastal erosion we could see, it looked like the Obelisk would not last another hundred plus years, without being totally undermined.

A precarious situation..
More modern aid to navigation in Guichen Bay

Back in the town, we parked and went walking, with dog, and found a bakery, where John was able to indulge in a pie, and me in a very nice salad roll. Dog got nothing except a drink of water; only two meals a day for her and very strictly no “people food”. Except for when she manages to scavenge something like a dropped scrap of pie crust!

We made a point of driving past the main caravan parks and checking them out. Still hadn’t decided on our next move. Decided that. although Robe was a larger centre than Beachport, we were happy there, and saw no reason to make Robe our next destination. Unless the weather improved radically, the day trip was sufficient.

Rain clouds and sunshine over Guichen Bay

My map showed a dirt track from Robe along the coast to the hamlet of Nora Creina, which I had never been to, and a loop back to the sealed road. From the time, in 1968 when I lived in the South East, I had wondered who Nora was, but eventually discovered that the Nora Creina was a ship wrecked in the area. I found the name rather romantic and would have liked to see the place, but John was not feeling adventurous and just wanted to go back the known way.

We did, however, make a short detour to look at the Woakwine Cutting – essentially a very large ditch. Another drainage line, this cutting was carved, using a large tractor, for a km through a big sand dune range. Part of it is over 28 metres deep. A very big ditch!

I made a lemongrass pork stir fry for tea, with rice.

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2011 Travels July 24


Another damp day, but there were some  breaks between rainy periods. It was rather cold.

We managed to get in a reasonable dog walk along the bay path to the channel and back to the shops and around to the park – a big circuit. Even John was not prepared to take dog over into the scrub – and puddles – area.

After lunch, went driving again. This time, we skirted Rivoli Bay to the south, around to the hamlet of Southend, on the other side of the bay.

I’d not been there before. My tourist information mentioned a couple of caravan parks and I was curious to see if it was a possible next place to stay. In short, no.

Southend was very much a village of holiday houses and not many permanent dwellers. Beachport was like a metropolis by comparison – and infinitely more attractive. We stopped briefly at a couple of vantage points looking across the bay and township.

Rivoli Bay at Southend

There was a curved jetty, with a set of tracks on it for transporting gear and catches more easily from shore to boats. Again, a crayfishing place, in the season, with a small processing building near the jetty.

We concluded that Beachport was definitely the better end of Rivoli Bay at which to stay.

John had baked beans on toast for tea; I had some salad.

Southend from the other side of Rivoli Bay

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2011 Travels July 23


I did jinx us. It rained for most of the day and was a rather unpleasant one. The dog’s morning exercise was a fast walk to the shops and back. Spent the rest of the morning in the van, tucked away from the bad weather.

Prime place in front of the heater

After lunch, the rain was not as heavy or constant, so we went for a slow drive along the Scenic Drive again, stopping in a couple of places to walk for a better view, and to take photos.

Limestone Coast – makes for interesting coastal erosion

But there was little temptation to spend long out of the warmth of Truck.

I made us hamburgers for tea.

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2011 Travels July 22


Today was another lovely sunny day. Seemed we did the right thing, coming further west. Hopefully that observation doesn’t jinx us.

John had a late start. Dog and I got up much earlier and went walking along the bay path, this time back towards town and around the block.

Beachport jetty

After John got going, we walked up to the town and looked at the shops, on foot. Tried to give dog some practice at being tied up outside a shop while we both went in, but it was not a total success -some barking as the separation anxiety kicked in. But at least she didn’t try to break the lead and follow us.

After lunch, went walking the other way, along the bay path to a nearby canal, which is the outlet from Lake George to the sea.

Rivoli Bay looking across to the Southend area

Through the south east of SA, in times long past, much of the land was formed as coastlines receded, which they did in colder periods when much of the earth’s water became locked in ice caps and glaciers. Conversely, in warmer times, sea levels were higher than today. The Naracoorte area, which seems a fair way inland now, was once a shoreline. Between there and the coast around Beachport and Robe, there are a series of parallel former coastal dune lines, that trend from NW to SE. In places, lakes and swamps have formed between parts of these ancient dunes. Lake George, and the Beachport Lake are examples.

Line of shallow lakes formed between remnant dune range and current coastal dunes

Between the road into town and Lake George, on the “away” side of the canal, was an area of scrubland and bush, with some tracks going through it, possibly made by trail bike riders and the like. John let dog off the lead here – he likes her to free range and do dog things. She rarely goes out of our sight though. Unfortunately, also along part of the track we were walking on were some large puddles, which dog delighted in galloping through and then wallowing in, before she could be stopped. Someone had to spend a long time tied up outside the van, drying out, before she was allowed indoors again!

Canal from Lake George with our dog walk area off to the right

Opposite the caravan park was the Beachport Golf Course. I told John about how my friend, who had a flying licence, somehow had gained permission to land his light plane on one of the fairways, when he wished. One time when husband 1 and I were staying with him, they went up on a joy flight to see the area from above. The golf clubhouse was at the end of the fairway used, up on a rise, and I watched on as the plane – with the extra weight of said husband on board – cleared the clubhouse roof by only a couple of metres. Reckon those drinking inside ducked! After that, there was no way I was taking up the offer of a flight, and even pilot friend seemed a bit subdued.

Spent the rest of the day lazing about camp, in the welcome sunshine, and drying out dog.

Fish and chips for tea, from shop. Very nice.

Dusk and sunset over Rivoli Bay are rather lovely.