This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2014 Non-Travels December 2014


The mysterious allergy/immune system disorder flared up again. I was getting so sick of myself.

M and friend had a stay on Stradbroke Island and M had experimented with sand driving, apparently scaring herself as well as him. She doesn’t scare easily, either…

A little window of opportunity appeared to present in early December. I was free of appointments for a couple of weeks. Driver could spare five days between his bowls and medical appointments. Yessss…

 The Plan was to head off on a Sunday morning, after the previous day’s bowls, and head to Castlemaine – a new area for us. We would use that as a base to explore some of the nearby old goldfields towns.  M – never one to miss a travel opportunity – said she’d go too. I booked sites at a Castlemaine caravan park, for four nights from Sunday December 7. Consistent with our policy of “saving” closer places for the time when our travel abilities were reduced, we’d never visited this town or area before. The abilities were certainly reduced now!

I went through Bus cupboards, throwing out past use-by food stocks and replacing same. Made up the beds, packed my clothes, dog food and treats. All that was left to do were the Driver’s jobs.

When we woke on Sunday morning, the rain was pouring steadily down. We didn’t fancy doing the final packing and preparation in the rain, so deferred departure until the next day. The rain cleared after lunch so we were able to work on the final things. John checked Bus coolant and oil, drained and refilled the water tanks. The Coaster seems to have such a cumbersome system for adding coolant – or were we doing it wrong, by taking off the driver’s side step cover?

I put enzyme down the sink, so it would slosh around the grey water tank  in travel, and loosen up any grease. We put the car hitch onto back of Bus.

Just about ready to go again…

I then had a really bad night, with nerve pain from the leg ulcers, exacerbated by doing a clean dressing on it Monday ¬†morning. John asked if I still wanted to go away, given the pain I was in. I didn’t. He phoned the caravan park and explained; they were very understanding.

Later in the day, after some extra pain killers kicked in, I was able to unpack Bus fridge and my clothes. The dog was totally confused! At least I didn’t have to cook tea, as I’d previously cooked chicken marylands to take away for our first night’s meal – and podded a couple of lots of broad beans, to reduce the space they would occupy in Bus fridge.

The trip nearly happened….

This episode led to me being put onto Lyrica for pain management.

Thus ended 2014. This was the first year since about 1980 that I hadn’t been away holidaying and travelling at all. Even as a single mother, working full time when my children were young, we always managed at least a week’s camping in the holidays.

Could only hope that 2015 was a better year.

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2014 Non-Travels October to November


Bendigo grandson came to stay in the September school holidays and John took him to the Royal Melbourne Show. A plan to take him out for a drive in Bus didn’t eventuate because John was really tired after the Show day.

Grandson doing “shed work” with John

Clearly, though, Bus needed a run to shake out the cobwebs. After the family had gone home again, we took the tarpaulin cover off Bus and I checked over the inside. Was surprised to find the house batteries were down to 1. Not good for batteries! I couldn’t work out why, because it had been plugged into 240v power, ever since we’d come home last year.

We took Bus out for a day trip, on a day that was cool, grey and slightly misty. Firstly, a detour down to Bayswater to refuel at an easily accessible servo – which our local one definitely wasn’t. $1.489cpl – much less than we paid on last year’s trips.

Back up the hill to Mt Evelyn, thence Woori Yallock and across to Healesville. The Yarra Valley was beautifully green after winter.

At Healesville, we parked a block from the main street and walked to get lunch at the place we’d eaten at, a few times before. This was shut, and a pile of mail on the floor inside suggested permanently so. So we had to lower the lunch expectations. John got some Charcoal Chicken. I managed a ham and cheese croissant from the nearby Bakers Delight, and we got coffee from a bakery cafe.

We’d left Couey at home today. My thinking was that, not knowing quite what was happening with Bus electricals, it would be better if dog was not with us if we broke down.

Back at Bus, parked next to us was a brand new Traveller caravan and 4WD. The owner was taking photos of his rig, which did look rather splendid in contrast with our utilitarian Bus. I could remember when we were that proud of our new Trakmaster and Landrover. Now seemed a long, long time ago.

John wanted to go look at Maroondah Dam – a water storage for Melbourne’s supply, a few kms out of Healesville. As soon as we parked, could hear the roar from the dam. It had been a wet winter. Although we thought the excess water must be coming out through a pipe, it was really boiling up and then coming down the rock faced section into the Yarra River. That was worth seeing.

Surplus water leaving Maroondah Dam, into the Yarra River

The gardens at the Dam are extensive and lovely, a destination for a picnic and wander in themselves. Back in 2008, when we’d had son and his children staying with us, we had occasionally packed the makings and had a BBQ lunch here.

Today, I took a couple of photos of a conifer-type shrub that had eye-catching bright green tips on it.

As we drove to the Dam and back, saw that new dining options had opened, on that side of Healesville. There was an establishment that offered wine tastings and food, seeming somewhat upmarket. There was a Beechworth Bakery too – how long has that been there? Maybe not so surprising that the cafe had shut down, after all. Entry on my mental to-do list: return before too long and try out these options.

Followed the Maroondah Highway to Lilydale and thence home – just in time to do battle with the local school traffic and buses.

Bus went as if it had never had an extended period of inactivity.

It appeared that, as we went along driving, the house batteries were receiving some charge from the engine. That was a surprise – I did not know that was supposed to happen, for those. The two cranking batteries, used to start Bus and power its “car” things, were isolated from the house system, and were obviously not affected by whatever had flattened the latter.

I still had much to learn about this motor homing lark and started to seek advice wherever I could, about what might be the problem.

The slight niggle of worry aside, it had been so good to be going somewhere in Bus, again if only for a few hours. John enjoyed the driving.

 My email queries to the company that had done the Bus conversion, back in 2004, went unanswered as did their phone. I wondered if the guy had retired?

We consulted an auto electrician in Lilydale. The advice was that we needed two new house batteries and a new charger. The batteries were a pity because the ones in Bus were onoy three or four years old. They were Haze brand which I’d never heard of. I ordered Full River batteries. We’d had these in the van, which was all 12v so they got a solid workout and were still going strong, after eight years, when we sold the van.  Decided to go for another Projecta charger, same brand as was there. The electrician said there had been a faulty batch of Projecta chargers some years ago – maybe that was our issue?

When I thought back, wondered if the funny episode we’d had with the smoke alarm, coming back from the NSW coast, last November, was in fact the charger burning out?

The new one came with a remote monitor, which the man mounted next to the other monitors and switches and  wired up for us, so I would now be able to see what it was doing. Previously I would have had to take everything off my bed and open up the underneath, to check this. I was much happier…

The new charging monitor – easy to see

He also explained to me how the electrical systems worked – finally I thought I understood it all….

That lot cost almost $1300.

Bus came home again, after its stay in Lilydale. We did not put the tarp back over the roof, hoping to get in a sort break away, before too much longer.

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2014 Non Travels Part 2


A new desktop computer – the first of these I’d had since the children were at school in the 1980’s – led me to get serious about researching my family history. As I’d realized, when we were in Tasmania in 1999-2000, this was an area of considerable sensitivity amongst Tasmanian families, where much information was simply not talked of, let alone passed down the generations. So many ancestors had arrived in Van Diemans  Land involuntarily, courtesy of the British Government – and so many isolated farming families had intermarried…. It proved an engrossing study, one that would continue to occupy me, intermittently, for years to come.

My father’s family members – if not their individual history and experiences – had been documented in the family history book published in 2000, so I knew that family branch originated labouring on farms in Somerset and being enterprising enough to chance their futures in Van Diemans Land as assisted migrants. They bred prolifically, as was usual in those times. Perhaps a bit less usual was that almost all offspring survived to adulthood to, in their turn, produce large families. By the end of the 20th century, the descendents list filled several hundred pages in that book.

What was not realized at the time, or until modern genetic testing and research, was that the “family illness” was also passed down from my twice great grandmother, through most of her children, fortunately skipping the branch that I descend from. Dad had spoken vaguely of Huntingtons Chorea occurring when some first cousins married, but of course that was only a partial truth. Not a great claim to fame for poor old granny.

Much less was known about the family lines of my three other grandparents. My investigations on Ancestry  into this led to some interesting results. Most pleasing was being contacted by a previously unknown cousin – I have lots of those as it turns out – descended from dad’s mother. She was seriously into researching the history of her family in Tasmania, New Zealand and Ireland, and gave me much information. Even better, she lived on the other side of the Dandenong Ranges, so we were able to meet in person and forge an ongoing friendship.

My mother was the youngest of seven, hailing from an isolated area in the foothills of the Great Western Tiers. On a trip to Tasmania with her, in 1971, I had briefly met large numbers of her brothers’ families. I knew that her oldest brother had moved to New Zealand to find work, when mum was young, so about 1916, and the family had lost contact. Seems that migration to NZ was rather common in those times. Although mum was no longer alive to hear the news, I was able to track down his NZ life and family and make contact with a person who had known him. One mystery solved.

Best of all, I was able to track the arrival in the Australian colonies, of mum’s ancestors. The theme of assisted agricultural labourers, mostly from Somerset, continued. But a grandfather’s history was elusive, for ages, and I suspected all sorts of dire explanations. Persistence found an official mis-spelling of a name – also common with semi-literate officials – and so that branch turned up as assisted immigrants to the Port Phillip District in 1849 – just in time for the gold rushes! But twice great-grand-dad died in 1851 and it seems his remains are now beneath the car park of the Victoria Markets. This area was in those days, outside the young Melbourne settlement and the site of its first cemetery.

I found a great grandmother who died exactly 100 years before the birth of my daughter, on the same date – in childbirth! Tragically common in those times. Possibly a good thing I didn’t know about that, back in 1972…They say history repeats itself, and it damn near did!

I think it would be rare to be descended from the Tasmanian pioneers of the 1830’s and 40’s, without having a smattering of convict ancestry and so it proved, with a couple of thieves in there. Again, a mirror of their times – picking pockets, stealing a coat, stealing a piece of bacon…One ancestor was sent to Van Dieman’s Land for stealing his brother’s coat. I suspect that may have been a somewhat disfunctional family?

Another rogue  great grandfather also related to Australian history in an interesting way. Arriving in SA as an assisted migrant under the Wakefield scheme, he soon abandoned the wife who came with him, and their young child, and then resurfaced in gold-rush Melbourne. He married great grandma there Рpresumably bigamously Рand they moved to Tasmania. Eventually he disappeared from there, leaving behind wife and a clutch of offspring, only to appear yet again around the Victorian goldfields of the Wedderburn area where Рyou guessed it Рhe married yet again and had another family.

My original university degree was in history and Australian history had been a speciality, so for me it was fascinating to be able to place the key events in the lives of these ancestors against the backdrop of my knowledge of the nation’s history.

So, all of that was about the one highlight of an otherwise dreary year.

I was able to travel vicariously through friend M, who – along with gentleman friend – travelled to Qld for a house sitting stint. They travelled up through Bourke, in order to show the man, who was a novice at M’s kind of travel, some of the inland. Unfortunately, whilst there, he had a camp chair collapse under him, and eventually ended up in hospital in Toowoomba, diagnosed with a couple of broken ribs and pneumonia.


2014 Non-Travels Part 1


After our thoroughly enjoyable long trip last year, we had been looking forward to a repeat in 2014. But not to be.

The year turned out to be one of dealing with health issues that kept us anchored at home. Just for some variety, this year the bulk of the problems were mine, although John did have  “re-bore” surgery. Can I feel male readers flinching? I will not go into further detail here, except to say it solved the problem that plagued him during last year’s travels. There were also some more lung issues and his breathing capacity was measured at just 66%.

The sore on my leg, that started at Forrest Beach, last year, turned into a nasty leg ulcer that no amount of varied medical expertise seemed able to heal. One solution – by a plastic surgeon – created a second ulcer, worse than the first. Pain from the ulcers led to having to wear morphine patches. Repeated infections led to repeated anti-biotic courses. All this medication  in turn led to an immune system melt-down. Medication for that sent the blood pressure sky high. Eventually I finished up on a pain relief medication I’d not heard of before – a nasty called Lyrica. It dealt with the leg pain and enabled me to sleep but had some drastic side effects, like blurred vision. I really felt that I was on a downward spiral, suddenly.

With visits to assorted medical people happening two or three times a week, and instructions to keep leg elevated, travel was out of the question.

In January friends V and F came to stay for a really enjoyable week. They travelled by bus and train from Griffith – F did not want to drive anywhere near Melbourne and we failed to convince him that they could reach us with minimal exposure to metropolitan traffic. We collected them from, and delivered them back to Southern Cross Station. Fortunately for us – and F’s nerves – they arrived and left on Sundays, so none of us had to brave weekday traffic and hunting for parking places. We did do some driving about with them – mostly to different parts of the Yarra Valley. They enjoyed our pool, as the month was exceedingly hot. Swimming was something else I couldn’t do, due to the leg.

February saw bushfires in assorted parts of the state, but the Dandenongs were spared again.

One of the rare pieces of good news for the year was that son acquired a lovely new girlfriend – if that’s an appropriate term for someone turning 40 this year. She was an old school classmate, which made her a former student of mine, too! A further twist was that she and son had exactly the same birthday. It was delightful to see the both of them so happy with each other.

I occupied my forced sedentary time with quilting, completing my first quilt, started some years ago, made completely by hand. The action of doing the actual quilting caused a fluid build up in the wrist, which had to be treated by injection. I resolved that, although  really enjoying the hand sewing together of the various quilt pieces, the actual quilting of any future ones would be by machine – or someone else. The quilt went to grand daughter and I started thinking about and planning the next one.

The first quilt completed