This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2015 Travels July 25 to August 20

SATURDAY JULY 25 TO THURSDAY AUGUST 20     LIGHTNING RIDGE

We ended up staying at Lightning Ridge for four weeks.

Our original booking was for two weeks – to cover the period around Opal Fest and give us time for any other activities we wanted to do in the area. Then, we had planned, to make our way across to the northern NSW coast, for a “beach fix”.

As our first two weeks were nearing an end, I realized that the state of my leg, still with two open ulcerated areas, would prevent any beach walking and paddling. Hadn’t really thought about how I would deal with sand in wounds before then. Dumb. So John decided we might as well stay put at the Ridge. The weather was beach-like anyway, and we were enjoying the town and this caravan park. And being lazy! The decision was made enough in advance for us to be able to remain on the same site.

Very comfortable on this site

A lot of our days here were uneventful and much the same, so not interesting enough to write up individually. Some special events and aspects will get their own entries, later…

In the meantime, this is how we passed most days…

Each morning, I would wake up about 8am and would take Couey for a walk right around the “settled” area of the park, which was quite extensive and took about 20 minutes, unless we stopped to socialize.

There was always much of interest along this route for Couey to sniff, so it could be a stop-start walk at times. I found plenty of bird life to watch while she worked out who had passed since she was last that way.

Grey crowned babbler

Because the park’s powered section, of 98 sites, was full every night, and because there were those non-booked arrivals in absolute need of a powered site, who would fit in anywhere they could be placed, it was interesting each morning to see these different arrangements. Someone who was having to wait days for repairs and parts was parked up in front of one of the big work sheds, where a long power lead was fed out to the rig. They had a less than inspiring view of the car wash bay and the dump point – but, hopefully, considered themselves fortunate to have a spot at all.

Metal art by the entrance

There were places on the perimeter road around the powered sections, where there were holding or pumping tanks for the sullage lines, buried to ground level. These had an electric power inlet to make them work. A couple of these had an extra power point and sometimes travellers occupied the adjacent, wide, roadway, like a site. As with the shed, these were provided to help out travellers in real need. However, I was not sure that the man who did the daily rounds emptying the rubbish bins appreciated when these people spread themselves right out across the roadway, blocking it and causing him to have to go bush to get around them. Not just him, either – we walkers were blocked too!

Lots of the park’s native plantings were in flower

Also of interest on my morning perambulations with the dog, was the unpowered section – an extensive area. Around the period of Opal Fest, it was totally full too. No real marked sites here, so it was a bit random and Rafferty’s Rules. Towards the end of our stay, there were fewer rigs there. The majority of those parked there were waiting for a powered site to become available.

Once the ground – that was very boggy when we arrived – dried out, there was usually two or three camps set up in the “bush” section, where people could really space themselves well apart.

Part of the large unpowered section of the park

Once our morning walk was done, it was dog breakfast time. I was having to keep morning and evening blood pressure readings for my doctor, who was still tweaking the combination and dosage of pills to keep that in order. Once that was taken, I could take said pills – and then had to wait at least half an hour before eating or drinking. Then, mostly, by that time I couldn’t be bothered with breakfast, so just had two mugs of plunger coffee, which I really savoured.

John would continue to sleep through all of this. Dog would usually have “asked” to go back in Bus, where she could guard him – and sneak up on my bed to do so. I had learned to cover my bed well, immediately after getting up, with a large old sheet.

Gotta be here to do the guarding properly….

To fill the mornings, I read, wrote up my diary, wrote postcards, embroidered or knitted, most days. Would sit outside under the awning if the weather was dry and warm enough.

Eventually, John would surface and breakfast – late.

I might need to head off to the fairly well stocked IGA for a hunting and gathering session before lunch. The small size of Bus fridge meant that this happened a bit more frequently than I liked. Our diet was heavy in salad and vegetable matter – “added bulk” did not only apply to the dietary label! John also drank quite a lot of milk and I could only accommodate 1 litre bottles of this, so regular replenishment needed. Of course, I am “difficult” or “fussy” – his terms vary – because I cannot stand full cream milk in my coffee. So my bottle of light milk also took up space on the fridge door, that could otherwise be filled by his cans of beer. I was never sure why I was the unreasonably choosy one, when he couldn’t stand light milk? We managed…

Afternoons might be more of the same, punctuated by a couple of dog exercise walks, or we might go off on a little sightseeing jaunt, or a browse of some opal shops.

Tour bus collection ….. by Dodgy Signs

Occasionally, the man went off and played bowls.

Couey always got an afternoon walk session where we went over to the bush area, past any campers there, and then she was let off the lead. We walked the length of the perimeter fence and some of the little tracks through the low scrub. She would range ahead, maybe thirty metres or so, then come back and check on me, then range out again. That’s the cattle dog instinct at work.

Great park for the dog

There were plenty of fallen trees and branches in the bush area and we’d taught Couey to hurdle some of these. Such fun that she would seek out things to jump. She always looked longingly at the very big dam on the other side of the fence, that was the outflow from the Bore Baths, we thought. She would just love to go swimming in that – but the fence was very sturdy chain wire mesh, thankfully.

During the early part of our stay, the many large, muddy puddles along the way caused us angst – and her much enjoyment. As the days passed, the puddles shrank and became more muddy and less watery – and we discovered that the car wash bay was good for more than cars… The ensuing hose downs never deterred her from mud wallows, though.

Sometimes in the late afternoon, we would have a happy hour outside before tea – if the weather was particularly nice. If we had sociable neighbours, with them too. I bought a small cask of Sauv Blanc for such occasions, which I preferred to beer.

Some brilliant sunsets

Such were our days. Very relaxing, but with some regular gentle exercise.

Every three days I would have to change the dressings on my leg. Back in May/June, this used to take about an hour, as soaking was involved. Now that healing was – finally – well advanced, it was much quicker, taking about half an hour, by the time all the needed stuff was set up. The hard part was peeling off the really tight knee-high stocking – and getting it back on again without dislodging the new dressings. Always a chore I did not look forward to.


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2015 Travels July 24

FRIDAY JULY 24     BOURKE TO LIGHTNING RIDGE     334kms

Left the park at 9.20am.

There was some early morning rain, but after that it was mostly fine for us, but with a looming, threatening sky for much of the day.

Skies looking promising, just out of Bourke

We had not ever driven the Kamilaroi Highway between Bourke and Walgett before. Any new route is inherently interesting.

We had debated, before yesterday, whether to stay last night at Brewarrina and I had tried to find out what conditions might be like in the town caravan park. The reports of other travellers had varied so much as to be of little help. Then, whilst we were at Warrawong, I was talking to a local official whose patch covered Brewarrina and he advised us to stay in Bourke. The free camp area at the Four Mile, out of Brewarrina, would not have been a viable alternative with the rain, so we had opted for the known park in Bourke.

Maybe not so promising

There was much of interest along the highway. Saw some large cotton farms just out of Bourke. Passed one farm with a huge quantity and variety of machinery parked up and a very large walled up dam, presumably for irrigation.

I am ambivalent about cotton growing in Australia. On the one hand, can see the value of agricultural diversification. But how much of the cotton growing profits benefit local farmers and businesses, and how much adds to the offshore wealth of overseas based companies? The diversion of waters from the upper reaches of the Darling River system really alarms me. I don’t think our fragile Murray Darling River system and associated environments can withstand such enormous water diversions.

Mt Oxley stood out in the distance – a peak in otherwise pretty flat country.

Good grazing country

Another large farm entrance had a sign by the gate with an arrow directing to “goat yard”.

The highway parallels the Darling River floodplains, which means good soil and water for some irrigation. We could tell where the river was by the line of taller trees. We were actually close to where the Darling officially starts – where the Culgoa and Barwon Rivers join, near Brewarrina.

Distant line of trees marks a river

“Beemery” seemed as we passed to be a huge property. I later Googles it and found it described as 100,000 acres. That is one very long fenceline.

The Brewarrina township looked a lot nicer than I had expected. Pre-conceived notions shot down! There were viable shops and a fair variety of them, decent housing, and the town appeared clean. Not sure why, but I was rather expecting a sad place like Wilcannia. It was bigger than I’d thought, too. We side tracked slightly to drive past the caravan park, which looked fine to me. But it was empty.

Crossed the Barwon River on a modern bridge, with the old one next to it.

The Barwon River at Brewarrina

There began to be more surface water pooled near the road. Must have been really heavy rain here.

Flood plains near Walgett

On the approach into Walgett, on the floodplains where the Namoi and Barwon Rivers join, one crosses stream beds with names like Big Warrambool – which is a local dialect word for watercourse.

A Warrambool…

We had a brief stop at the large rest area at Walgett.

Rest area at Walgett

It looked very different from our last trip, now with lots of mud and puddles.

Not suitable for free camping right now!

From Walgett up to Lightning Ridge there was much surface water in the areas beside the road. By the time we turned for the last few kms into the town, it was raining again and there was water right up to the road edges.

Roadside water on the way to Lightning Ridge

Reached town at 1.30pm. Drove straight to the Opal Tourist Park, where we were booked in for two weeks.

At the queueing area for Reception, there were a few vans in front of us. We joined the queue and waited patiently until some of the front ones had been sorted out and moved on and we were closer. No point in clogging up the office area standing around waiting for too long. Just as we moved forward, with only a couple of vans in front of us now, a camper trailer rig zipped around us, pulled up right in front of the vans, and man jumped out and actually ran to get into the office ahead of me! Clearly, he had left his manners at home. It was busy inside with the vanners ahead of me, so I waited my turn, while Mr Pushy got told there were no powered sites left, unless he had a prior booking. I smiled secretly to myself. The second receptionist became free to serve me and while Mr Pushy dithered over whether to take an unpowered site, I took great pleasure in saying my name and loudly stating that I had a booking. Petty, perhaps, but it felt good. Meanwhile, the man from the front van, who had already been processed came back in, complaining about the camper trailer that was parked across the front of his rig blocking him from moving off.

The park was very wet. Lots of red mud and puddles of water.The actual sites themselves were not too bad, because of the pebble stone surface covering.

We paid $40.50 a night, after discount, for our en suite site – the same one we were on for our last trip, which was what we’d wanted.

Set up for the long stay. Put the rubber awning matting down outside, on top of the pebbles. It would be a bit softer underfoot and also help to keep Bus cleaner inside.

I took the car and drove to the IGA supermarket in town. Needed a fair stock up.

In between showers, we took Couey for a walk across towards the undeveloped part of the park. It involved dodging mud and puddles. She, of course, really wanted to wallow in every puddle, so was kept on the lead. Occasionally she managed to make a lunge for one. She was so strong. The stock of old towels I brought with us came in really handy as dog wipes.

I made fish cakes for tea, with salad.

Football was on TV – John’s favourite team, Carlton, was playing. After a while of a very inept performance by them, John got really disgusted and wouldn’t watch more.

I had read, in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper that it is sometimes joked that Lightning Ridge has about 10 taxpayers, 15 rate payers, 30 on the State Electoral Roll, 50 on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll. The Primary School has 600 students, the Bowling Club 8000 members. The population was “probably” about 7000. I found that an interesting commentary on the nature of this place.


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2015 Travels July 23

THURSDAY JULY 23     COBAR TO BOURKE     177kms

The rain continued, off and on, through the night.

Before John got going, I was able to walk Couey around the park and across the grass area at the back, without getting my feet too wet.

Left the park just before 10am and immediately went to refuel at the servo on the opposite corner. It was a major truck stop and refuelling area – we had heard truck noises from here, throughout last night. Diesel cost $1.439 cpl.

It was a grey, misty, damp day.

There had been a big exodus from the park this morning. I think it is much more an overnight destination than a longer stay place.

We had first travelled the Kidman Way some fifteen years ago, not long after it was made into a sealed route. Then, there were not many trucks on it. Now there are heaps.

Trucks on the Kidman Way

At one point, we had occasional glimpses of patches of blue sky, but mostly it was just ominous looking grey clouds.

A cheerful note was seeing a small group of greeny coloured parrots having a bath in a big roadside puddle. Rain is great for wildlife in these usually dry parts.

Ephemeral bird bath

We passed a broken down rig. A 4WD was parked behind a van, with hazard lights going. There appeared to be a problem with the van – there was something strange under its front – maybe holding it up? No one was visible, or waving us down, so we kept going. They were parked on a rare area of hard shoulder at the road’s edge – lucky they were able to find a firm area as these would be rather rare today.

We had a brief stop at a large rest area and gave Couey a walk and a drink.

Rest area with hard surface

This was obviously a normally popular free camp area, with lots of tracks and parking spots off in the mulga. But there was no one here now – too muddy and wet. There were little piles of hay on the sealed surface of the rest area – must have been a stock transport stopped there recently.

Free camping areas in dry weather

Arrived at Bourke at 12,30. Drove out the highway to the north for a short way and topped up the fuel. $1.459 cpl. Then drove to the IGA supermarket, where John parked Bus in the street, and I went in to get milk and bread. The place was very busy, so I suspected it was pension day. There was a security person on duty. This is a supermarket where, in the alcohol section, all the stock is on shelves that are behind heavy wire mesh walls. You can see what they have but can’t touch. Customers have to ask for what they want at a small window in the wire.

Went to the Mitchell Caravan Park. Our en-suite site cost $35 for the night. The bathroom was a good one and very clean.

Bourke site

There seemed to be new, young owners/managers, from when we were last here a couple of years ago. They were very pleasant people who seemed much more dog empathetic than the previous ones. They said we could walk Couey, on her lead, along the back area of the park – a notable change from last time, where the only place we were welcome to walk was out of the establishment.

Very little set up was needed. In a break in the weather, we walked dog around the park. There was a very nice central grass and garden area, with a row of bottle trees across its end. One of these had a tap in it!

Don’t know if it works…

I was pleased I’d made an advance booking. This park was effectively full also, apart from a couple of sites that were partly under water.

Place for happy hour in better weather

We chatted travel for a while with a man from a Trakmaster van, fairly similar to the one we’d had, but newer.

Bottle trees

Tea was steak, potato fries and egg.

Watched MasterChef – now down to three finalists. Then had an early night.


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2015 Travels July 22

WEDNESDAY JULY 22     WILCANNIA TO COBAR     277kms

Rain set in through last night, but there were only a couple of light showers when we were packing up.

Couey didn’t get a morning walk because the tracks were muddy and I didn’t want her tracking that into Bus.

The rain made it easier, after all yesterday’s angst, to leave here today.

Realized, as we were almost ready to leave, that scones, jam and cream were being served at the camp kitchen, so we joined some of the remaining campers there, and partook. Very nice they were too.

Left Warrawong at 10.20am. Had to drive back into Wilcannia to get fuel, at the cheaper outlet down a side street. As John got out and went to do the fuelling, Couey did her usual jumping around and barking, inside Bus, thinking she might be going to be let out. The servo man asked what breed she was – and then said he was about to go to Qld and get himself a stumpy, because he thinks they are great dogs. We know!

Old buildings in Wilcannia dating from its glory days as a river port

Fuel was $1.435cpl.

Some Wilcannia buildings are in a sorry state

The rain showers continued as we drove east, through the McCullogh Range and mulga country. The rain made the colour contrasts greater – blackened the mulga trunks and turned the red dirt darker. I found it really pretty.

Red, green and black contrasts

Saw many little groups of goats.

About half way to Cobar, the rain became steady.

Bleak outlook

Stopped at Emadale Roadhouse, where the forecourt was mostly under water. The stop was for a short rest for John and he went in and bought some mints. We did not let dog out. She would have had a lovely time wallowing in all the water.

There seemed to be so many trucks on this highway today.

As we drove along again, spotted a kangaroo beside the road ahead. It began to cross, then turned and bounded off the other way, whilst we were still quite some distance away. We wondered if it was the effect of the Shu-Roo gadgets that John put on the front of Bus. We had these same things on the front of the Landrover too, and they did seem to warn animals of our approach.

Birds of prey circling

Drove past the usually popular Meadow Glen Rest Area – a free camping place – and there was no one there. The country around there appeared very green, but the many more secluded parking areas off in the bush would have been red mud.

There were sheets of water on the sheep paddocks and some very miserable looking sheep.

The unsealed road to the Mt Grenfell Historic Area had a road closed sign up.

There had, clearly, already been substantial rain around Cobar.

We went into the Cobar Caravan Park. I hadn’t thought it necessary to pre-book for this large park, but now thought we were lucky to get in. They put us onto a cemented bus bay area, between the camp kitchen and the amenity block. Actually, a good location! Because it was meant for tour buses, it was a drive through site, so easy for us to park on without having to unhitch the car. The powered site cost $32.50.

Cobar site

The park was, by late afternoon, full – at least on all the formal, hard surfaced sites – and there are a lot of those. They were not using the grassy unpowered area, due to the wetness of the ground. We had stayed here before, and never seen the place this full. I suspected that some people who would usually be bush camping had abandoned the muddy bush and come to firmer ground.

Because of the full state of Cobar, I decided to play it safe and phoned the caravan park in Bourke to book us in for tomorrow night.

In between showers, walked Couey around the park.

Tea was baked beans on toast – John’s choice.

The night was foggy and damp, with a really heavy dew. The cloud stopped it from being really cold.

Damp camps are not fun!


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2015 Travels July 21

TUESDAY JULY 21     WILCANNIA

A sunny day initially, that clouded over later.

We did not go far on Couey’s morning walk, because I spotted kangaroos on both the possible tracks. They were quite big but she did not appear to see them. She is not interested in critters bigger than she is, or for that matter, quite a few that are smaller. But no point in tempting her – after all, once she was averse to water, too.

A beautiful outlook…

I did a load of washing that cost $4. Had to pay at the office – it was not a commercial one, but just a nice big, new, standard washing machine.

In the afternoon, we walked around the billabong, with Couey.

The track around the billabong

Looking down the billabong from the far end

It was a fair distance. She had some swims, and  of course had to roll in the dust whilst still

wet.

Gotta find a stick…

Pelicans on the Darling River

It’s a long time since this went anywhere

We saw some sheep in a nearby paddock but she resolutely ignored them.

Some red sand rises edge part of the billabong

The track took us past the area that we had been told, last time here, would be developed for private secluded camp sites and perhaps even cabins. No development there yet.

Destined to be a place for a cabin?

I went to have a shower, after our walk, but was told by another camper that the water had been cold, this morning. We both tested it and it still ran only cold. She went and told the managers. They checked it out. Apparently there were filters or something that should have been changed or cleaned last week. Something else the backpackers had not done properly. It was rectified and half an hour later I could go and have a lovely hot shower in the very spacious shower stall.

Went to happy hour again by the campfire. There were more campers in tonight, so it was a bigger group. It was one of the nights when dinner was available to buy – a beef curry. It seemed to be good value and people certainly enjoyed it, but we did not partake – we still had pork rashers to eat. I made them into sticky pork strips, with rice.

It was so pleasant here. We would really have liked to stay longer, but were booked to reach Lightning Ridge on Friday. Next time, we must allow enough flexibility to be able to stay a week or so.


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2015 Travels July 20

MONDAY JULY 20     BROKEN HILL TO WILCANNIA     215kms

Left the park about 10.20.

Went to the Plaza shops (yet again) where there was plenty of room for our rig in a far section of the car parks. Got John’s scripts filled, and a new battery for his blood sugar monitor.

Fuelled up at the Woolworths servo there – not really well set up for anything longer than a car, but we managed. $1.377cpl.

It was 11.40 when we left Broken Hill. A degree of directional confusion ensued – not sure whether that was due to us or GPS, but we ended up unnecessarily going right down the main street and through the busier centre of town.

Duty done – now the holiday can begin!

We soon started seeing lots of emus, and goats, along the road sides.

Noted that when (if) we are next in Broken Hill, we must do a day drive out along the Wilcannia road. There were some photogenic looking old buildings, eroded stream gullies, and country that would be interesting to wander about in with a camera. All only a few kms from town.

Blue sky and sunshine today. It was quite warm travelling with the sun coming in on me through the Bus window – nice.

Some low hills began to appear in a line coming up from the south – like a dune line – beginning to be visible about 50kms from Broken Hill. I think it was the Scropes Range. It ran parallel with the road for some way, then segued into the Spring Hills, which were very photogenic, with rocky outcrops and sparse, arid lands scrub. Out here, hills are a novelty.

Scropes Range

We stopped at the Spring Hills Rest Area – quite a pleasant one with toilets, a kid’s playground, a shelter area, and some trees.

Scropes Range Rest Area

A young man driving a standard car pulled in just after us: he was driving from Perth to Byron Bay for a music festival…wow!

Well set up rest area

There was a big dry creek gully next to the rest area, with big culverts under the highway – an indication of what can happen when it rains in these parts.

Flood contingency

We kept going through more hills and with cypress pines appearing. Passed the Dolo Hills Rest Area, which had great views over the flat plains to the east, which we then drove down onto. Dolo Creek was several metres wide, but shallow, with a bed of red sand.

Down onto the flat country

The GPS suddenly decided we should turn left – onto an unpaved station driveway. No idea why, but we didn’t do it. The gadget seemed to have these sudden brain fades. Nothing like this to make us start looking around frantically, wondering what she knows that we don’t.

Saw a huge feral cat crossing the road in front of us.

Drove straight through Wilcannia, which did not look any better kept than last time we were here.

Arrived at Warrawong on Darling at 2.15pm. The lady who greeted us was definitely not a backpacker. She was very pleasant and efficient and told us that she and her husband had been here for nine months as managers. But they only returned this morning from a week away, during which time the Sydney based owner of the place had arranged for a couple of backpackers to look after the place. So I was right! I gathered that their efforts had been less than satisfactory in tasks like cleaning! The grey nomads work ethic is better, just about every time…

The powered site cost us $37.50 a night, cash only – unusual these days. We were able to choose our own site, as only about four of the row along the bank were occupied. We chose Site 5, liking it both for its outlook and because there was only unpowered space on one side – which was not occupied during the time we were there.

Clear space between us and camp kitchen

There were changes from when we were here two years ago – as one would expect in a newly developing place. The area back from the “waterfront” sites was now grassed and well set up as powered sites, some quite close to the amenities. There was now a row of accommodation rooms, with a wide veranda across the front, and a big gas BBQ provided for every two units. They cost $120 a night.

Our view…

We set up, then took Couey for a run down along the billabong track.

The billabong at Warrawong on Darling

There were now some well defined tracks to bush camp areas on the banks of the Darling – very nice.

Ancient river red gum in the bush camping area

There were some sections on the black soils of the tracks where vehicles had really churned up deep holes.

Bush camps by the Darling River

Couey had a wonderful time going in and out of the billabong after thrown sticks. Finally, a romp in water! Her attitude towards going into the water had completely swung around since last time here. Now, try keeping her out! I think we had created a monster. Now, she smelled like a swamp.

There’s a dog in there…

John had a sleep. I went to happy hour at the fire pit and communal gathering area by the camp kitchen. Saw something I’d not seen before, in all our years of bush wanderings. They had put a steel dropper post in the middle of the fire pit. When building the fire, they drop a hollow log over it. When the fire gets going, the smoke is funnelled up the hollow log and does not bother those sitting around the fire. Brilliant! Someone said it was an old aboriginal method….but they didn’t exactly have steel posts?

Fire pit chimney

It was a very enjoyable happy hour – or two. Most campers came. The managers served up some savouries – cheese, biscuits, sausage sliced.

John eventually appeared. Around 6.30 I left to go cook rice and pork rashers for tea. It was dark by now. Couey had waited patiently, tethered to the front of Bus, while we socialized.

Watched Master Chef again – the TV signal here was fine, as was the internet and mobile.

Another cold night.

07-20-2015 to ww.JPG


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2015 Travels July 19

SUNDAY JULY 19       BROKEN HILL

The usual start to the day.

Late morning, we went to the Plaza shopping centre. John wanted to fill some scripts at the chemist and needed to do this in person, because it was not long since they were filled at home. He wanted to ensure he had a good supply before we headed further north. Of course, the chemist was closed.

I bought food for tonight’s tea as daughter was coming again. I had originally thought to make a chicken Caesar salad, but decided against that. It was too cold to eat outside on the larger table, and there is not enough room on the inside dinette table to put a platter of salad for diners to help themselves. Also, I would have to buy a platter for the purpose. All too hard. I bought strips of pork belly rashers instead, to make sticky pork ribs, a favourite of ours. Also bought some mince, to make us hamburgers tomorrow night, and a good bottle of Sauv Blanc.

I directed John to the hardware store – he couldn’t remember from last time – then it was back to Bus.

As he did yesterday, John went off to do repairs at daughter’s, and I stayed with dog at the park.

We walked around it twice, looking and the variety of rigs, and watching newcomers roll in. The park was close to full. It has a real variety of sites, some with a surface of loose wood chips, some gravel, some cement. Obviously, grass is not a viable option in a place as dry as this. Daughter had told us that the town’s drinking water supply was so low that it would run out later this year. She didn’t know what would happen then. After our first cup of chlorinated tea, at her place on Friday, I had gotten out our water filter jug and set it up in Bus. It took away some of the chlorine taste from the water, but it still wasn’t great.

Spacious, private site

John, accidentally but fortunately, had found out from daughter that she no longer eats pork. He phoned me immediately. Luckily I had the mince, and it was determined that, yes, she would eat spag bol. So, change of meal plan. John and I would be eating pork rashers for a couple of days, as I had no room for them in the freezebox.

I phoned Warrawong on Darling, our next planned destination and booked us in for a couple of nights. It would be R & R after the tensions of family relations. I wanted to make sure we had a prime site with a direct view over the billabong there. The person who answered sounded young and British and told me in an offhand way there was no need to book as she was sure there would be a site somewhere. This was not quite what I was after. My heart sank at the thought that this place might now be using backpackers to run it – in our experiences, unless firmly directed by a manager, they were often not associated with high standards. We had often been told in our working travels that this was why many places preferred grey nomads as seasonal workers.

John came back about 3.30pm – earlier than I’d expected. He was exhausted, as sometimes happens to him after not much effort at all. He needed to sleep. Daughter was going to an art exhibition of the 2014 Archibald Prize paintings, that was on in town, and wanted him to go with her. But he was too tired. I don’t think she really understands how limited his capacities are, these days.

John had his sleep. I cooked.

Daughter arrived a bit after 6pm. She was not happy and did not want to talk about anything, so John and I conversed around her. I offered yoghurt for dessert but she did not want any of that – or any wine. Fine – all the more for us. We were planning to watch Master Chef so daughter left straight away. She did not want to stay and watch the program with us, as she dislikes one of the judges. Can’t say it was a pleasant visit.

The TV program was enjoyable – and so was the bottle of wine: a quality above our usual cheaper standards.

Another really cold night.


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2015 Travels July 18

SATURDAY JULY 18     BROKEN HILL

A grey-ish day today.

First thing, walked Couey to the far end of the park, where there was a rough area by the side fence, not used for camping. This was suitable for her morning “ablutions”. Cleaned that up, then we walked right around the park for exercise – then she got breakfast.

I left dog sleeping (hopefully) in Bus with John and drove to the Plaza shopping centre. At the newsagent, was pleasantly surprised to find they had the Saturday Age, as well as the Weekend Australian I’d expected. I did some food shopping, and bought John a roll for lunch.

John had surfaced when I got back. Dog complaining when I drove away may have had something to do with that. We read papers for a while, then he had his lunch and went off to do the odd jobs for daughter.

Couey and I stayed at Bus. I didn’t think she should be confined to the car for hours, at daughter’s.  I walked her around the park a couple of times, did some work on laptop, read some more of the papers, did some tea prep. Really enjoyed the pleasant afternoon by myself.

Broken Hill park

John arrived back about 4pm, having done most of the required jobs. He would have to go to a hardware store tomorrow, for glue to finish one repair task.

Daughter arrived on time at 6pm. I finished the dinner prep: potatoes cooked in foil in the electric frypan, scotch fillet steak with peppercorn sauce (from packet). Dessert was poached pears with custard. I’d bough a nice bottle of pinot gris to go with it all.

The woman ate then left, saying she was still not feeling well.

We watched football on TV, after doing the dishes and clearing up.


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2015 Travels July 17

FRIDAY JULY 17     MILDURA TO BROKEN HILL     332kms

It was another cool and cloudy day.

I was up at 8am and walked Couey along the river path again. On the way back, up a different track to the park, I noticed a sign pinned to a tree warning that rabbit bait had been laid in the area. I had never heard of the substance mentioned and there was no indication if it would be harmful to dogs. Couey had been free ranging along the path but I hadn’t seen her snaffling anything. Mind you, she could be very quick and furtive, because she knows I get cross with her for eating anything  apart from meals and treats provided by us. I think the dingo ancestry in cattle dogs makes opportunistic eating a hard trait to train out of them.

Left the park at 10.15. The manager had said, yesterday, to let him know when we were going, and he’d lift the “in” gate up for us to use, as the angle was much better for a rig our length. Such a helpful man. I didn’t really need to call in at the office to tell him – I had Couey on the lead and once she heard Bus start up, I think half of Mildura knew it was on the move – without her!

This was definitely our park of choice in Mildura, now.

The GPS tried to direct us to avoid going into town, by going west via Merbein. This was quite logical from where we were. But John wanted to stock up on citrus at the Orange World farm complex, so we drove back into Mildura, across the Murray and out through Buronga.

Stopped at Orange World, a few kms out of Buronga. As the plan was – I thought – to buy a bag of mandarins, I was OK with John going in alone and I would stay in Bus to alleviate dog dramas. He returned with a whole box of mandarins that he thought were a bargain for $15. But he’d also bought three jars of marmalade – orange, ruby grapefruit, and lime and ginger – that were $6 each, two jars of orange blossom honey (with an attached citrus peeler) that were $10 each, a $6 bag of lemons. He was given a free bag of oranges. Some of the produce would be gifted to his daughter in Broken Hill, but that was still a hell of a lot of citrus. Buying the lemons hurt – our tree at home was laden, but of course we couldn’t bring fruit into the quarantine area around Mildura.

Orange trees

I don’t bring jams away with us as John is a Type 2 diabetic. It appeared that I had been outflanked this time and marmalade was going to replace vegemite on his breakfast toast.

Passed the nearby Stanley Winery. It is absolutely huge – and expanding.

Part way to Wentworth, turned right at a T intersection. At this point, the Silver City Highway begins and this was where the GPS had wanted to bring us via the other side of the river.

Crossed the Darling River at Wentworth. The river was full. This rather surprised me, in view of the extended drought in the upper catchment regions.

We were soon into saltbush and sheep country.

Scrub country beyond the irrigated areas

Stopped at the Seven Trees Rest Area to switch to me driving. I hadn’t driven Bus for almost two years. It felt a bit strange at first. Of course, I received much ongoing instruction from the passenger! He preferred me to drive much more in the centre of the road, when there was no oncoming traffic, than I was comfortable with. He was just not used to seeing the fog line disappearing under the little side window in the footwell of the passenger’s side.

He soon fell asleep for a short time. Was much better when he was asleep….

I pulled into the Popiltah Rest Area, as we usually did on this route, for lunch and to give dog a run.

There were signs up warning to beware of the bees, and even a sign in the toilet to check under the seat for same!I won’t elaborate on the mental images that conjured up. As it was cold and windy, I think all the bees were tucked away cosily elsewhere – we didn’t see a one.

Because of the weather, we ate in Bus.

Saw the first of a number of triple trailer trucks going past, heading south, carrying dirt or ore of some kind. Found out later that there was a mineral salts extraction operation nearby.

Triple trailer road train

After we started off again, for several kms the picture on the GPS showed us driving through water. Supposedly, the road is in Coombah Lake. Along here, there was a series of lakes along the lower ground, Popiltah being one, filled occasionally when there are floods.

Came to a sign saying unfenced road – and the roadside fences disappeared for a while. At the same time, regular little heaps of white bones kept appearing beside the road.

We saw lots of goats beside the road, in small herds. Saw a set of small stockyards and thought they might be holding yards for goats. Increasingly, pastoralists in these parts are seeing goats – both feral and farmed – as an extra source of income. Saw some black faced sheep grazing near the road. A ewe was feeding twin lambs – one on either side of her, with their little tails waggling furiously.

Goats beside the road

Saw signs directing off to a gold exploration operation. I did not know that there was gold in the area to the south of Broken Hill.

Changed drivers again, as John was tiring. I was supposed to stop just south of Broken Hill, to change back and allow him to drive us through town. However, by then, there was a big truck following me very closely and I didn’t get a chance to pull off the road. I was quite happy driving us through town and out to the caravan park, anyway.

We went, as usual, to the Broken Hill Tourist Park ,arriving about 2.30pm. I had booked our stay here before we left home, asking for en-suite site 9, if it was possible. And that’s where they put us – great! It is a nice big site, with a fence on one side, so is a good area for Couey to be tethered. The park was very busy, as I had expected. Our site cost $42.50 a night, after discount.

After set up, John phoned his daughter. He was surprised to find she had finished work early and spent the afternoon at home. He thought this was because of our arrival and felt guilty for not making more of an effort to arrive earlier. Much apologizing. Next day, she let slip that it was because she had not been feeling well!

We had been looking forward all day to buying fish and chips for tea and maybe sharing same with daughter. But she told John she was on a diet and no longer eating take away foods. Hmmm….

Drove to her place, with Couey in the back of Terios. Upon arrival we were greeted with a statement that we couldn’t have the dog in the house or yard because it would upset her cats. She had given away the dog she had last time we were here, in 2013. So Couey spent a few hours in the car, apart from when I went out and took her for a walk around a couple of blocks. The blocks in that part of Broken Hill are huge and we walked a long way.

When we got back to the car, parked in the driveway, I was about to put Couey back in the car, when one of said cats came thought the side fence. It puffed itself up, hissed really loudly at Couey, and advanced on her. Couey jumped into the car in a big hurry. Who was going to upset who, I wondered?

We were going to return to Bus, buying fish and chips on the way for our tea, but daughter decided she would cook up some pasta. She warmed up a tin of tomatoes to go with it. I think the pasta was rather stale; the parmesan she put out was months past its use-by date. A token gesture, in all. She kept feeling her neck glands, so we left as soon as possible. Arranged she would come to Bus tomorrow, and I would cook steak. It pays to be specific, in advance.

Daughter mentioned several maintenance type things that needed doing round her house and it was arranged that John would go round there tomorrow at 1pm to tackle the work.

We were back at Bus at 7pm, local time. Watched football on TV.

It was a very cold night.


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2015 Travels July 16

THURSDAY JULY 16     CHARLTON TO MILDURA     315kms

We slept late – till 9am! It was so quiet.

Last night had not been as cold as I’d feared. A slight breeze got up and prevented ice from forming on the vehicles. But it was still bloody cold…

Before we left, I thanked Phil and praised the town’s work.

Fuelled at the local Caltex servo – $1.389cpl – then left town, heading for Mildura.

Around midday, we stopped at Lake Tyrrell Lookout, a bit north of Sea Lake. This was accessed down a short side road from the highway, and there was adequate room to turn the rig at the road’s end. There was a picnic area near the end of the road, but no facilities.

Plenty of turning room

The lake is Victoria’s largest salt lake, most often dry. Salt is harvested here. The lake looked as though there may have been some shallow water on the surface, but as is often the case with salt lakes, it was hard to tell from the distance.

Lake Tyrrell

Couey had fun running up and down the wooden ramps to the lookout platform, and around the base of the structure – doggy maze.

On the way again, we were passing through the wheat growing Mallee country of NW Victoria. There were vast paddocks and wheat at various stages of growth, from just a green tinge, to maybe a foot high.

Wheat paddocks

The ubiquitous silos that mark small towns in our rural areas, or even just denote railway sidings, were so typical of the region. Because of the flatness of the area, they can be seen from far away, and mark the next point of possible interest along the flat, straight roads.

Grain silos in the distance

On some roadside areas there were stands of mallee gums, decked out in creamy flowers.

We passed a surprising number of vans and rigs heading south on the Calder. At this time of year, I’d have thought the preferred destinations were north. Late returnees from school holidays?

Stopped at the rest area at Ouyen to eat the sandwiches I’d made this morning.

There seemed to now be some campground type power posts there – maybe it is now a free or cheap camp area? More and more little towns are recognizing the value of attracting travellers – even on an overnight stay, money is spent in the town. A vanner pulled in after us and asked if it was a free camp area – we didn’t know. I did notice a motorhome parked across the other side of the adjacent oval though. There was a small caravan park next door to the rest area, so maybe it is not very politic to have a free camp area next door?

After Ouyen, travelled through some of the Hattah Kulkyne National Park – mallee scrub country. Some years ago, when staying at Mildura, we would drive down into this park on day trips. One memorable picnic lunch was by a small, drying lake ringed with dead fish, where we had to battle with white winged choughs for our sandwiches.

Fuelled up at the Uniting servo on the approach to Mildura – good access here for our rig. $1.347cpl.

I had pre-booked us into an en-suite site at the Golden River Caravan Park. Was almost 3pm when we arrived. The wonderful, helpful man who checked us in said that we could angle the rig across two en-suite sites so we could stay hitched up – and he wouldn’t book out the second site. Cost us $36 after discount. The bathroom was clean and quite adequate.

Did a minimal set up, then took Couey for a walk. One reason for choosing this park was its location right beside the Murray River. The river levee was at the rear of the park, so there was only a short track from the park edge to the riverside walking track.

Murray River

Dog could free range as we walked along the track. It was obvious that, as usual, what she really wanted was to try getting into the river, but we managed to keep calling her back.

Riverside walking path

The walk was really pleasant. We did not go too far, then retraced our steps.

Late afternoon by the Murray

The river seemed to be at a fairly high level. Of course, in this irrigation area, levels are artificially maintained by weirs.

After all that exercise, sat out in the sun and had a beer. Sun! Any warmth from it was more illusion than reality, but it felt good. Palm trees growing around the pool area helped the warmth impression along.

Golden River park

We would definitely return to this park. Loved that it was by the river and away from the traffic noise of the parks in the town.

For tea, John had a chicken maryland and some coleslaw – all left over from last night. I had a cup of soup from a packet, and a salad.

Watched Master Chef on TV. I had been finding the current series of interest again, after “going off” the program for a while.

It was another cold night, but at least we’d had a fine day.