This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2013 Travels June 29

SATURDAY 29 JUNE     BROKEN HILL

Up at 8.30 again. After seeing to dog with a walk around a large open area at the end of the park, followed by her breakfast, I drove to the Centro shops. Got papers, postcards and some food supplies.

This trip was going to be an exercise in fridge management, probably with frequent small re-stocks the norm. We would certainly see whether we could manage extended trips without the supplementary Chescold portable fridge that had travelled in the Landrover. Both of us now had bodies that could do without the lifting a heavy fridge in and out of the vehicle, every time we moved camp.

I had been making adjustments to the way I used the fridge, as we went. One of the two plastic containers I bought to go where there should be crisper drawers, now holds a night’s supply of beer and Zero cans for John – five or six all told. The other holds vegies – limited capacity here equals frequent shopping, especially as I like to eat salads most lunch times. John now had a small bottle of the tomato juice he liked to drink, instead of a two litre one. I had started to sometimes eat an orange for breakfast, instead of drinking juice. So far, so good……

The indulgence of a morning orange juice…..

John spent some morning time on his laptop. I read the papers I’d bought.

My step-daughter showed up after lunch, later than the mid morning we had expected. She brought her dog with her, who immediately tried to eat Couey, so had to be taken home again. Not going to be a friendship there.

Daughter really wanted us all to go out to Silverton, though we had been there lots of times before. We loaded her into the back seat of Terios, with difficulty – it really was not designed for a sizeable adult, and it seemed the seatbelt did not work – it wouldn’t stretch far enough. Couey liked having company in the back, though!

No problems parking in Silverton. As the name suggests, it was the site of a silver “rush” in the late 1800’s and quickly grew to a town large enough to have a rail connection and station. But the much richer finds in nearby Broken Hill caused people to leave, and it became an “almost” ghost town. A handful of people remained, some picturesque old buildings still stand, it became the base for a number of artists, and also some film making. So it continues to exist in all its quirky glory.

Part of Silverton’s commercial centre – Horizon Gallery and Beyond 39 Dips

First stop was at our favourite Horizon Gallery, though we were determined not to buy anything. We already had four works from there – and no more wall space at home. The artist Albert Woodroffe was there and we talked with him about his work, for a little while. God, it was tempting to buy! There was very little of his late wife’s works left there now; I do treasure the two of hers that we have.

Daughter spent ages browsing and talking in another shop, 39Dips, so called because there are that many of them between Broken Hill and Silverton. I found it a bit kitchy.

Abandoned again…..

Then we walked around the Silverton perimeter and Couey had an off lead run. She was not very good at being tied up outside shops while we all went in – that old separation anxiety.

Silverton

Had a beer each at the Silverton Hotel which, like the rest of the village, had changed little since our last visit.

Once used on the railway……

And so, back to Broken Hill. Daughter had invited us to tea, so we had to first go via the shops, so she could buy supplies to make us the roast dinner she planned. It was after 5pm by now, so it was clearly going to be a much later meal than we were used to. Deposited her at her place, then went back to Bus and relaxed for a while.

Back across town to daughter’s place at about 7.30pm. Left dog to sleep in Terios in the driveway, which she seemed to accept with no problems. On his own, we found the other dog quite a friendly, eager-to-please fellow, but he did need some consistent training. He was a strange mix of ancestry – beagle, red cattle dog and something else. Not long after we arrived, he peed on the carpet in the living room – then daughter realized that he’d been shut inside all day without relief.  Poor dog!

We ate about 8.30pm. Obviously, daughter had gone to some effort to produce the roast lamb and vegies, which were very nice. She then told us she doesn’t eat meat much as she no longer likes the taste…..hmmm, not sure how we were meant to take that.

We went back to Bus about 10.30, watched tennis on TV for a while before bed.


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2013 Travels June 28

FRIDAY 28 JUNE     GOL GOL TO BROKEN HILL     323kms

We seemed to be settling into a sleep till 8.30 routine! I remained surprised that Couey was so good and didn’t stir from her seat nest until I was up and dressed.

After breakfast, John took out the stopcock part and drove off to get a new one. It seemed he had, tacitly, agreed that there was a problem, after all!

I packed up as much as I could and took Couey for a couple of short walks around the grounds, while we waited……and waited…..

It was nearly midday when John got back. The park manager had stopped by to see if we were leaving. I offered to pay for an extra day because we were still here, but he said no to that.

John fitted the new part, but still nothing drained out of the tank. So I then wondered if the outlet was blocked by grease or the like? Would just have to worry about it later. It was high time we got going.

Refuelled just up the road at Buronga. $1.509 cpl. This time my calculation had us achieving 5.8kms per litre. Better fuel economy on flatter ground, than going over the Dividing Range.

Stopped at Orange World, a citrus farm sales outlet on the road to Wentworth. Bought oranges and mandarins. As had become normal, to get out to buy the fruit, I had to deal with dog jumping at me and the door, frantic to get out too. It was so weird, how desperate she was to get out then, but once we were camped up, was happy to wander in and out with no drama.

There were fairly frequent “comfort” stops for John.

Stopped beside the Silver City Highway

The skies ahead of us were vast and quite dramatic, with big cloud banks. I wasn’t sure whether rain was forecast, or not. Somehow, the large windscreen area of Bus accentuated the sense of space outside. Perhaps the small Defender windscreen had limited our outlook more than we realized at the time.

I experimented with taking photos from the moving Bus. Stopping to take photos was not going to happen, with dog prone to making such a fuss. John had never been encouraging of photo stops for me, anyway. I was fairly pleased with my photo results through the large front window.

Through the Bus window…..

We had a proper stop at Popiltah Lake, for a late lunch, and to give dog a ball chasing session.

Rest area at Lake Popiltah
Lake Popiltah

Reached the Broken Hill Tourist Park just after 4pm. local (S.A.) time. So 4.30 to us. Again, I’d phoned yesterday to make a booking.

I was so pleased with the en-suite site we’d been allocated. It was huge. There was a wood chip base – acceptable in this arid region. We were on the end of a row, against a fence, so the site was quiet and private, and the bathroom roomy and clean. The dog had plenty of roaming room on a long rope.

Broken Hill site

Putting the awning up was easier, but I thought we were still not doing things in the right sequence.

The site cost $41.40 a night, after discount.

After we were set up, texted John’s daughter to say we had arrived and invited her to come share a fish and chip dinner with us. After a while, she phoned – just as John was about to set off to buy our tea. That was lucky!

Having visitors in Bus was so much easier than in the van, because the beds could be used as lounge seating, even though the dinette table only works for two.

The fish and chips , that John went out and bought, were not great. It was a long way from the sea!

Daughter didn’t stay long, but said she had arranged to take some days off from work while we were in town. That was positive, if easy, as she was now running her own business.

My arm  was not as sore today, but looked really dire – black to the elbow and bruise streak 4-5cms wide.


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2013 Travels June 27

THURSDAY 27 JUNE     GOL GOL

We slept until 8.30 again. I was first up, took Couey for a walk, then fed her. After that, she just wanted to stay inside, close to John, while I had my breakfast sitting outside.

John and I spent much of the morning using our laptops. The new Telstra modem gadget worked well and allowed us both to be online at once – a big improvement over the previous dongle. I looked up directions for setting up the awning!

A few days ago, John’s daughter had talked about us bringing her an exercise bike she was probably going to buy, from Mildura. John phoned her to see about that, but then thought she may have changed her mind. She told him she would investigate it, but then we didn’t hear any more from her through the day.

I walked down to the river bank and took some photos. The Murray River level was down a little from when we were here last year, but still at a healthy height.

Murray River at Gol Gol

After lunch, drove into Mildura. Compared to last year, it was so good to be able to get in the car and go somewhere. On the way in, drove into and had a look around the river side caravan park at Buronga. It looked much better than where we are. Whilst not en-suite, the sites were spacious and the outlook over the river much nicer – not blocked by cabins like at Gol Gol. Thought we’d go there next time.

Did a supermarket shop, mostly for fruit and vegies, having not previously stocked up because of the quarantine zone.

At Auto Barn, bought window shades for my side windows in Bus, to keep the direct sun off as we are going along. Yesterday, it had become quite hot through the big window.

At a pet supply shop, bought a couple of dog chew bones, but not the sort I’d hoped to get. I’d managed to leave Couey’s good one at home. It occupies her for ages, without getting noticeably smaller.

Back at camp, took dog for a walk along the nearby street. John came too, but he couldn’t go very far, so we turned back.

John had suggested spag bol for tea, but I’d bought some fresh fettucine instead. He loved that.

Couey came inside at teatime and just crashed. Somehow, she’d had a tiring day.

I didn’t think the sullage hose was draining the grey water tank. If that was the case, it must be getting pretty full! Only a dribble seemed to be coming out of the hose John had attached to the outlet. I went out in the dark after doing the tea dishes, to have a look at it. Thought that the stop cock tap wasn’t turning anything. It seemed to be both bent and loose. I wondered if it had been like that since we bought Bus, last year? John didn’t seem convinced there was a problem, but said he’d investigate tomorrow, as he was watching football on TV.

The bruise on my arm looked worse today – darker and almost up to the elbow.


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2013 Travels June 26

WEDNESDAY 26 JUNE     BENDIGO TO GOL GOL     438kms

We slept surprisingly late in the morning – it was 8.30 when I woke up. The beds, though narrow, were now quite comfortable, with their memory foam base.

Couey seemed to have decided that her night time bed would be the front passenger seat. I was pleased – and surprised – that she’d made no attempt to disturb us until we woke ourselves up.

It had been a cold night. There was frost on Bus and Terios when I got up, but inside Bus had been quite snug. It must be well insulated  although the large areas of glass windows would always be a source of cold or heat. That’s one drawback of this style of motorhome.

It was a frosty night.

Packing up went smoothly. The hitching up of Terios to Bus was easy. On the level ground there were no problems at all. We got away at 10.30. I was pleased with this caravan park and the fact they were very welcoming of dogs. We said we’d use it on future Bendigo visits. (Unfortunately, by the time we returned to town, their policy had changed to a “no dog” one.)

I had consulted my trusty paper maps and was able to direct us on a route that circled around the busy centre of town, to the Calder Highway. It was an easy way to go.

The first 100 – 150kms or so, today, seemed to take us ages. The collation of pills that John now had to take caused him to require several “comfort stops” in the mornings. We no sooner got going than he needed to stop again, it seemed. And each time we did so, the dog set up her barking act, until we were mobile again.

Had a morning tea break at a very pleasant park in the centre of Wedderburn where there was parking, toilets, tables and seats. Worth remembering that one.

We ate fruit for lunch, as we went along.

Refuelled at Wycheproof. $1.489cpl. I calculated we got 5.3kms per litre, so towing the Terios has obviously had some impact on  Bus fuel consumption.

At Sea Lake we swapped drivers and I drove to Ouyen, where we had a break in the excellent rest area there.

Reached Gol Gol at 4.30pm, having had to negotiate quite a bit of traffic through the centre of Mildura.

I’d phoned ahead this morning to book a site at the Rivergardens caravan park, asking if it was possible to be put on the same one as we’d had on our shakedown trip last year. It was not available, but the man said he’d put us on a similarly good site. He didn’t – basically because there wasn’t another like it. We were on the far side of the park, on the end of a row, so there were vehicles coming past regularly, and  Couey had to go on a really short rope. It was a small site and we had to park Terios on the road in front of the bus. The en-suite was small, with a funny little corner shower. It cost $34.20 a night, after discount.

At least there was no one on the site behind!

So neither of us was particularly impressed with the park, this time, and we said we’d suss out alternatives for the next visit.

Setting up was quick and easy, except we couldn’t remember how to put out the awning. There was some trial and error and it may not have been totally right.

I hoped we wouldn’t have too many long driving days like this one. I was really over those times.

John took Couey across the park for a ball chase along the road verge on the other side of the road.

Neither of us was very hungry after the day spent just sitting, so tea was light: soup, followed by a toastie for John and biscuits and cheese for me.

Watched TV coverage of the unexpected ALP leadership challenge and Rudd’s win. A significant event, clearly showing desperation at the prospect of an electoral wipe out. I thought the question now was to what extent Rudd would be able to lessen the scale of the loss. I didn’t think there was any way the ALP would win, Rudd or not. Unfortunately, some talented people had been lost in the turmoil of the internal factional upheavals. I wondered if the proposed election date would now be changed, and thus my plans to work in it be affected?

Yesterday, I’d developed a really sore arm, possibly from some heavy lifting when loading some of John’s stuff into Bus the day before. Maybe from gardening? Now a dark bruise had developed up along the central vein area, as if a blood vessel had burst. Strange, and it was still painful, though not quite as bad as yesterday.


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2013 Travels June 25

TUESDAY 25 JUNE     HOME TO BENDIGO     202kms

Departure day. Was it actually going to happen?

I loaded last minute things into Bus. John had to put his car onto a trickle charger, then lock up his shed. He then backed Bus out onto the road and drove the Terios out, to hitch it to Bus, for the first time since we did it under the dealer’s supervision – and that was seven months ago!

It took us a while. Being new, all the parts were quite stiff and tight. The sloping road didn’t help, either, as the car tended to move forward when we didn’t want it to. We had to move Bus forward a couple of times before the hitch “arms” would lock down as they should. By the time we achieved complete hook up, we were part way up the road! My keys were in Terios, with ignition turned to Accessories, the handbrake off, the car in neutral – all steps remembered, I hoped.

Couey, of course, chose to be uncooperative and reluctant to get on board Bus. When coaxed on with a biscuit, she commenced the loud barking and howling that was usual until we got moving. John had no tolerance for her noise, and was already on a short fuse. So it was a hurry to do a check that the external lights were all working, then get me onto Bus, and get mobile so dog would shut up.

Couey subsided into a sulky, but quiet, heap, and I began to relax, telling myself that it would all get easier with practice, just as it had done all those years ago, with hitching up the van. First time with that had not gone smoothly, either.

As we trundled along, approaching Yarra Glen, and I was reflecting on the morning’s events, I realized that – with all the drama and pressure – I hadn’t actually gone back to the house to turn out the lights and lock up! The front door, through which I had dragged dog – would be wide open to the world. Oops.

John was definitely not up for turning around and going back, so I phoned M, who agreed to go round and close up. Later, got a text saying all was well, shut down, locked up. Thanks M – owe you!

John was really pleased with the way Terios tracked behind Bus. It was nothing like towing the van, or a trailer – possibly due to it being on all four wheels? He said he couldn’t feel that the car was there at all – but at least we could see it in the reverse camera screen! He was also pleased with the ease with which Bus pulled up the range beyond Yarra Glen. Much better than Truck had, towing the van.

Had the usual toilet stop at Yea, and gave Couey a run, then on to the Lions Park at Seymour to eat our packed lunches and give dog a ball chasing session to tire her out. That park was a great stopping place – good for dog and so easy to park our rig.

Lions Park Seymour

Couey still barked when back on Bus, before we moved off, but settled down really quickly then. That might just be something we have to put up with.

Easy parking at Lions Park Seymour

The GPS, yet again, could not cope with our chosen route to Bendigo, and carried on with ceaseless mis-directions, determined to steer us to the Calder Highway!

John got really sleepy as we neared Tooborac, so I got to have my first drive of the rig for this trip. Agreed with him that towing the car was a non-event – no drama at all.

I drove as far as Junortown, on the outskirts of Bendigo, when John took over again.

We were booked into the Ascot Holiday Park at White Hills. I had selected, from my paper map book, a back road route directly there, but John preferred to follow the Garmin’s directions – exactly the same as mine!

The caravan park staff were really helpful and gave us an en-suite site where we could drive through, unhitch the car, then back Bus to exactly where we wanted it. All without drama, though it took a little while to remember how to hook the folded hitch arms up at the back of Bus.

The rig parked up for the night in Bendigo

The ensuite site cost $45 for the night, after discount. The bathroom was really nice.

Then ensued the usual trip start reshuffle of things inside. We didn’t put out the awning. John set up the new Kogan TV he had recently bought and was very pleased with the picture quality. Obviously, the new Wineguard TV aerial he had fitted to Bus at home, was working.

We took Couey for a couple of short walks around the park, before dark. She was very well behaved, and sat out the front of Bus, tethered on her rope to the bull bar, quietly guarding us. She was a bit restless, inside Bus, after tea, trying, I thought, to work out the best place to bed down at nights.

After tea, of sausages, potato, tomato and eggs, all cooked outside in the electric frypan, we drove Terios to daughter’s place on the other side of town.

Delivered presents we’d bought for grandson. He was thrilled with his new – very first – hockey stick and associated gear. He had recently taken up this sport and been using borrowed equipment. A friend of M’s was a veteran hockey player and had selected the appropriate items for a ten year old.

John fixed the email function on his computer – an earlier present from us – while we were there, and showed him how to do some other things on the computer.

It was only a short visit as we were tired after a stressful day, and they had an early start tomorrow, flying to Brisbane to visit daughter’s father there.

Couey stayed out in the Terios during our visit and seemed fine with that, in the dark.

It was nearly 10pm when we got back to Bus. Driving in Bendigo at night was soooo much easier than in Melbourne.


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2013 Travels June 20 to 24

THURSDAY 20 TO MONDAY 24 JUNE

Thursday was our final packing day, as we planned to leave tomorrow morning. We would go via Bendigo, as usual, and then on to Broken Hill to visit John’s daughter. After that, we would “head north”, making it up as we went. It sounded a wonderful plan.

Yesterday, dog had an unhappy outing to the Animal Aid at Coldstream for a bath – they did a good job, and the money went to a worthy cause, even if we ended up with a dog that smelled like coconuts. Better that than a dog that smelled extremely “doggy”.

Most of the gear I was responsible for was already packed permanently in Bus, so I did not have a great deal to do. But John, as was usual, had not been organized earlier and had much to sort and pack – everything from his clothes to the tools he might need. He had a very busy, long and tiring day.

I re-homed surplus fridge contents with M, and turned it off. Earlier in the year, John had vetoed using house sitters ever again, even if we could have found any at such short notice. He no longer wanted “other people” in our house. At times, I thought his various medical travails of the past few years, had altered his mental processes.

Late in the day, John was completing his final tasks. A lapse in concentration saw him draining, then filling the Bus water tank – but, unfortunately with the garden hose in the diesel tank! He realized his error when yellow coloured liquid gushed out of the opening. He then switched the hose to the correct inlet, and filled up the water. Apparently, an argument ensued with himself, about whether he would ‘fess up to all this, or just try to leave tomorrow and hope for the best. He didn’t think there could be too much water in the diesel as the tank had been almost full before water was added. Fortunately, common sense did prevail and he came to tell me he’d “done a terrible thing”.

I couldn’t believe that yet another trip start had been affected by tank filling problems!

However, I could see how the mistake came about. So many previous years of trip preparation had involved draining and filling our van water tanks. It was just an automatic part of getting ready to go. The van water tank inlets had faced onto the “open” side of the parking bay, and of course, it had no fuel tank to fill! Unfortunately, the Bus fuel inlet faced this same way, whereas the water tank inlet was on the driver’s side of Bus, facing the neighbour’s fence. Tired and distracted John was functioning on past memory, rather than current focus.

On Friday, Bus was onto a tilt truck, yet again, and off to the Toyota service centre. Since we’ve had it, Bus had done more trips on tow trucks than independently on the road! We’ve gotta get better at

this motor homing gig.

Again!

We noticed, as it was loaded and taken away, that there was water running from somewhere under the back. John asked the service centre to investigate where that was coming from, too.

Saturday morning we were able to go and collect Bus. They had drained about thirty litres of fuel from the tank, before they got clean fuel. So there was more water in there than John had thought. But the water that had run from the back was a problem with the hot water service and Toyota could not do anything about that.

Back at home, John investigated and I did some Googling. We worked out that, when John had connected up the mains water, and turned the hose on hard, the really good local water pressure had blown out a little turn-off gadget in the hot water service. Hence water just kept flowing through the hot water service  and out the overflow.

Of course, Truma dealerships were Monday to Friday operations, so we would have to wait until Monday to tackle the issue.

Our motor homing life was obviously not meant to be easy!

I filled in the unexpected waiting time with quite a lot of gardening.

On Monday John was able to drive to Clayton and pick up the needed water service part. But it was for a newer model, and he had some issues trying to fit it. Eventually, at my suggestion, he went to the nearby Sunliner dealership – a place experienced in motorhome issues. They were very helpful – much more so than the Truma agency had been – and the hot water service was then fixed. We resolved to always be very cautious about mains water pressure and Bus!

Perhaps I could write a manual on how not to tackle motor home travel?


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2013 Travels 1 January to 19 June

2013 TO JUNE

The start of January saw John’s first visit to physio, for exercises for the reconstructed shoulder. He was told not to drive until early March, and that there would be no bowls until mid-April, at least. Shock and horror all round.

I was not sure my sanity would survive being the chauffeur for another two months.

John just couldn’t manage to obey the physio’s edicts, and was back driving again by the end of January – though he did try to limit it, a bit. He couldn’t help but try bowling again, too, weeks earlier than he was supposed to.

It was a very hot summer and the pool got a lot of use, by us and offspring and grandchildren.

Dog invented a new game. It was hard to leave her outside the pool enclosure when anyone was swimming – we wondered if the crazy barking and carry on was because she thought she should be rescuing whoever? But once let in, she soon began to drop a ball into the pool for the nearest person to throw out into the yard for her to fetch. Repeat….and repeat and……..Great fun for her, not so much for whoever was the target of her attention, because she would bark incessantly till her will was done. A couple of times, in her running around the pool edge, she cut a corner too much and fell in. Dog had no problem swimming to get herself out again, though.

Fetch it for me……

One morning, I found Couey outside the back door, with the tail of a possum hanging from her mouth and that unmistakeable “have I done something wrong?” look. There was no way she could have dispatched a live and fighting possum without us hearing it, or her bearing some wounds, so had to conclude that she found it already dead and decided on an extra meal. Always an opportunist where food was concerned.

Once was possum…..

Early in the year, we had to take Bus for a service – to be done every six months in order to keep the warranty valid, even though it had only done a few hundred kms since the last one. We found a dealership that could handle Bus, in a nearby suburb.

I sent away for a set of solar shades for Bus. These screens  suction-capped to the inside of the front windscreen, and the two side front windows. We did not need them for privacy as a curtain had come with Bus that was on a wire and hung behind the front seats, when parked up. But I had noticed, on our shake down trip last year, that the large glass areas conducted cold on chilly nights. I hoped the solar screens would insulate us better. When they arrived, I was impressed with the quality and thickness.

We had a CB radio installed in Terios – partly for if we were day tripping with M tagging along. Could also see that, possibly, on a tricky road or really steep hill, we might drive Bus and Terios separately, and CB’s would be useful then.

John’s ongoing role with the Selection Committee of the bowls club kept him tied to home until the end of the season, but he really wanted to squeeze in a trip with Bus between then and Easter, which was at the end of March – two or three weeks. We had provisionally settled on a trip along the Great Ocean Road.

When John wasn’t working on bowls related matters, he was out in his shed, making a wooden table for my study. I spent much time in the garden, but also worked on a commission for another crocheted cot blanket. The one I’d made last year for new grandson was such a hit that the family had asked me to do another one, for a friend’s baby. As well, I was attempting hand quilting for the first time – both difficult to master and extremely hard on my wrist and fingertips (the pincushion effect….)

Another cot blanket

Mid March, another bout of the breathlessness that our GP couldn’t explain, saw John patronizing¬† the ambulance service again. Back into¬† Epworth Eastern for another couple of weeks. Two litres of fluid was drained from around his lungs, but after lots of tests the lung specialist could only come up with there being some sort of infection or inflammation, for an unknown reason. Once out of hospital, there would be fortnightly check ups by said specialist.

I commuted back and forth each day to visit the invalid. The dog fretted.

That put paid to the pre-Easter trip with Bus.

Actually, I could have a pretty good guess at the cause of the lung problem – but John forbade me saying anything to his doctors. He had been doing a lot of dust-causing woodwork and not wearing the masks and filters he should have been. Some timbers are really toxic, blackwood amongst them.

The cause of the lung problem?

Back home again, John’s next project was to install a new, technologically up to date, Wineguard TV aerial on Bus.

I bought an e-book reader – a Sony. What a boon for travellers! No more storing bags of reading matter under the bed, and haunting book exchanges. I could load up the e-reader with three weeks’ worth of books from my local library and replenish same as needed – as long as I had an internet connection. Magic!

In June, with only a couple of hundred kms of day trips clocked up since the last one, Bus was back off for another service. So was John – and the lung man cleared him for three months before the next review would be needed – September.

A federal election was expected in mid-September and I had signed up to work taking Declaration Votes again – but that was three months away.

Suddenly, we had a window for travel again, so there was a mad flurry of preparation.


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2012 Travels September to December 2012

THE REST OF 2012

In September, friend M departed for two months in Italy, France, England, returning via New York. Her travelling companion was a long time friend whose wife – a great friend of M’s – had last year suddenly died.

Each to her own – I was not at all envious of M’s overseas travel, but took great interest in her emailed bulletins.

John spent a lot of September detailing Truck preparatory to selling it. My contribution was to wash – by hand – the sheepskin seat covers. God, those things are heavy when wet. If I’d thought there were dust remnants of our far-flung travels in the crevices of the van, there were even more in those seat covers. It took a heap of soaking, and about ten changes of the water in the trough to clean them. I could measure the depth of sludge left behind, at the start, with a ruler!

That damned ulcer on my leg kept on being hard to heal, and at times was extremely painful too. Twice weekly trips to our doctor’s practice nurse became times to dread, because of the pain caused by her dressing changes. Eventually, after a few different anti-biotic courses, there was improvement and healing. I even tried applying very expensive manuka honey to the wound – and, boy, did that sting. Much pain for no gain though.

I had researched, online, to try to get an idea of the value of our 1996, well-travelled Defender. John had thought he’d get maybe $7000 for it. He was amazed when I told him to double that! It did have a lot of extras fitted to it, and apparently there was a bit of a cult following for them. Our model was particularly valued because people didn’t want the later version with more complex electronic systems, that could and did go wrong. That really was a pleasant surprise. Also, it seemed that Landrover would soon stop selling Defenders in Australia because their design and structure did not allow them to meet the new safety standards.

Our sixteen year old Defender all spruced up ready to sell

We had nibbles on Truck as soon as I advertised it, in early October, and within a short time our (mostly) trusty old vehicle was on its way to a farm in Tasmania! As with the van, I was sad to see it go. It had taken us to so many wonderful and out-of-the-way places, over the years.

Since coming home from our first Bus trip, I had been researching and considering options that would give us greater mobility when parked up with bus.

In the past, John and I had been rather scathing when we saw motorhomes towing cars behind them – on trailers or their own wheels. We’d made comments along the lines that such travellers might just as well have become caravanners! How wrong was I?

My first thought had been that my little old Holden Barina might be suitable to take away with us. But John did not like my car – it was too low for him and he battled, these days, to get out of it. We had to have a higher car, he said.

We had rejected outright the idea of towing a trailer with a car on – that would have been too much like caravan towing. I did not like the idea of driving on and off a trailer, and could also see parking the trailer in some caravan parks as problematic.

That left what, in motor homing parlance , was called flat towing. And, boy, was that a complex topic to get my head around. To begin, basically the vehicle would have to have manual transmission, for some complicated issue to do with transmission workings in automatics. I took the word of the experts, but John took some convincing, loving automatics as he did.

Then, I discovered the issue of weights and ratios. Sounds complicated? It is. Essentially there are rules to ensure the motor home is not towing a vehicle that is too heavy for proper control, with the gross weights of both vehicles being key. Eventually I got my head around the rules and the maths of it all – not my strongest ability – and discovered that we would be looking for a car no heavier than 1500kg. When I thought about the towing combinations we had seen on the road, it seemed that a lot of motor homers were well outside the legal limits.

The field was limited. Very limited! I’d been secretly thinking that I might get a lovely brand new diesel Grand Vitara out of all this. Not to be – they weighed about 2 tonnes.

Eventually I decided that a Daihatsu Terios was the way to go. Light enough. High enough off the ground for John. Reviews had extolled a surprising capacity for handling challenging roads and terrain, having some sort of differential switch that almost approximated 4 wheel drive. The only catch was that importation of the Terios cars ceased in 2006. So, we would be looking for a used one.

I was then to find that they were a very popular car for flat towing, and thus in considerable demand for a superseded brand.

There were a few advertised for sale. But too many of these had done upwards of 200,000kms. John was also browsing the car sales sites, and liked the description of one he found: 2004 model, only done 45,000kms. Sounded too good to be true. But then, my 1986 Barina had only done 60,000kms in the 25 years that my father and then I had owned it.

There was a catch: the Terios was in Adelaide. Undeterred, John flew there, was very impressed by what he saw; next day had the car checked by an independent mechanic, and bought it.

He then set out to drive it home. By the time all the checking and paper work had been completed, it was into the afternoon before he set off. Via phone, he told me he’d overnight at Keith and hope to get home the next day. But there was no accommodation to be had in Keith. By the time he reached Bordertown and found a motel room, the night time driving qualities of the Terios had been well tested.

The Terios and John reached home the next afternoon. John raved about how lovely it was to drive and insisted that we go straight back out again so I could have a drive of it. He was right – it felt great, but having a narrow wheelbase and being quite tall, it did take some getting used to cornering.

Even better, from John’s viewpoint, it had air conditioning.

We had to get a Victorian roadworthy certificate done – no problems – and then take it to be registered in Victoria. So the little white Terios gained a nice new set of number plates.

It had, apparently, come from Port Augusta, where it had been a town run around for an elderly lady. That location could possibly also help explain its one obvious flaw – someone had keyed along the driver’s side. I’d read somewhere of that being a problem in car parks there.

My Barina was detailed by John – it was not as hard as Truck had been. I did not need to wash its lambswool seat covers because they were put in the Terios. When we turned up at the mechanic’s for the third roadworthy inspection in two months, I think he suspected we were running a used car business on the sly. The car was old, but looked pretty good, and had that low kms reading. It sold and I was happy with the price.

My elderly car ready for sale

The next complexity in all this was what A-frame hitch would we use to tow the Terios behind Bus? There were two main  brands available. I was attracted to the one that was Australian made, initially, but the experience of some users suggested they could be more difficult to use. So, eventually, we bought a Ready Brute. This had the advantage of folding up at the back of the towing vehicle, when parked up – thus being out of the way of being tripped over. Anecdotally, it was easier to hitch up on uneven ground, or if vehicles were not quite exactly aligned – a big plus. There was an accredited fitter fairly locally – another definite plus. He was able to order the hitch for us from the importer, plus whatever bits and pieces would be needed to make it all operational.

The existing tow bar on Bus proved to be too light and was fitted to Terios by the hitch fitter. So the cost of a new tow bar for Bus was added to the already considerable cost of the hitch. There was a base plate specific to the Terios to be fitted, that the hitch fittings would then go on. A brake system cable was part of the kit – operated by inertia somehow, when the towing vehicle slowed down, not directly by the driver. A little red light was fitted on Bus dashboard – this would light up when the Terios brakes were applied while it was being towed – a bit of a fail safe against them locking on.

Something else we hadn’t known when we embarked on all this was that some electrical works were needed to make the 24volt Coaster compatible with the Terios.

At different times, both Bus and Terios went to the hitch fitter for all this work. When all was done, we went in Terios to pick up Bus – and get a hands on demo of how to hitch the two together. It didn’t look too hard. I hoped that wasn’t a famous last thought……

The hitch and associated works ended up costing us nearly as much as the Terios itself.

Terios hitched up to Bus.

Another issue loomed – we would have to find a place that could carry out servicing and any works on the Coaster. I had assumed that a Toyota dealer would do this – but found out that not all service  centres have heavy duty hoists, needed for a vehicle of this size. Our local one did not. But Bus had been serviced just before we bought it, so that problem could wait a while.

By December we were back to having two cars in the carport and one Bus in the parking bay – i.e. normal. The travelling rig was all ready to go again. We did an occasional local drive, to places like Warburton or Healesville, for the sake of giving the bus a run.

Of course, it seemed that, these days, we could not get through the year without things medical and surgical popping up again. Late in November, John had a shoulder reconstruction, not because of an abrupt injury such as had caused mine, but just age-related wear and tear. That necessitated two nights in hospital – a city hospital of course. It couldn’t be the slightly more convenient Epworth Eastern. So I battled the commuter and city traffic for three days. Driving in Melbourne had become such a pain!

Couey fretted for the two nights that John was gone. Guess dogs do not have a “coming back” concept. Of course, she was rapturous when he reappeared.

Dad’s back…..

A few days after this surgery, John woke up and found it hard to breathe. There was pain in his “bad” leg, so his immediate thought was of blood clots – yet again. Because his breathing was so laboured, I called an ambulance and he was taken to Box Hill Hospital. I joined him there and we waited in Emergency – and waited – and waited. Eventually all that showed up was an old hardened area of blood clot behind the knee. At 8pm we left to go home. Not a great day! Episodes of troubled breathing continued and an overnight stay in another city hospital ensued – more commuting for me! No definite diagnosis could be reached, except that maybe the symptoms were due to anxiety about getting blood clots again.

I became the sole household driver again, while John’s shoulder healed. This was hard on us both, particularly because he was never a good passenger. I didn’t take kindly to the constant flow of instructions – turn indicator on, change gear, don’t brake so hard, don’t turn the corner so sharply…..and so on. It would be early January before he started physio.

And so ended 2012…..

Xmas present 2012


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2012 Travels August 24

FRIDAY 24 AUGUST    BEECHWORTH TO HOME     309 kms

We both had a sleep in and, surprisingly, dog allowed it. It was still raining steadily.

After dog’s morning ablutions and breakfast for us all, in view of the poor weather forecast, we decided to call it quits and go home. John’s Beechworth idea had not been a great success, though the park would be pleasant in good weather and we filed it away for a return visit.

As usual Couey, who by now was happily going in and out of the parked  Bus, saw our packing up happening. When it was time, she refused to get on. Some peanut butter on a dog biscuit changed her mind. Despite this, we thought she was starting to adapt reasonably well – just as we were finishing the trip!

It was just after midday when we left the park. As we had paid for today at the time of arrival, this was not an issue.

Back to Wangaratta, then down the Hume to Seymour. Stopped twice – once in a roadside rest area to eat lunch, which I’d packed before we left,  but we stayed in our seats to do so. Then a stop at Euroa to fuel up. $1.489 cpl.

From Seymour, followed the usual route to Yea and home via Yarra Glen. The weather stayed grey, cold, gloomy, showery all the way. There was cloud on the hilltops south of Yea.

At home, did what unpacking was necessary – the fridge contents and our technical gear, basically, plus dog’s food and treats.

Bought fish and chips for tea.

The trip hadn’t quite gone as planned, but it was enough to show the potential of travel in Bus. For John, it was so much better to drive than it had been Truck towing the van. Much easier. Both of us had found it much more comfortable than the van, to live in.

However, the trip had also shown up one major problem. It was not convenient to pack up for moving when we needed to shop, or to go sightseeing every day, or even to find a park or oval for dog to have a run. We would have to investigate options for giving us easier mobility.

TRIP SUMMARY

11 nights.

Accommodation cost: $366.20. (5 nights ensuite sites)

Average per night: just over $33 per night

Chain discounts received: $31.80

Most expensive accommodation: Riverside Caravan Park, Swan Hill (non en suite)

Kms travelled: 945kms

Fuel cost: $203.92.


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2012 Travels August 23

THURSDAY 23 AUGUST     BEECHWORTH

It rained overnight, and then on and off throughout the day.

The ground outside Bus got very muddy – there was no cement slab and it was just rather worn down grass and dirt.

Managed to get the dog some walks by the lake, in between the morning rainy spells.

Late morning, we went for a long walk to the town centre. I wanted to browse in some of the shops, but John was not in a mood to wait while I did so. I was able to buy a large half foccacia and some cold meats for lunch.

The town was where the well known Beechworth Bakery began, back in 1984 – which was incidentally the only other time I had visited Beechworth. We had to go there, of course. Bought a vanilla slice and a bee sting cake, to be our dessert for tonight.

Couey coped alright with having lots of people around her, and with the main street traffic. If nothing else, this trip had been valuable for getting her used to new places and experiences.

Late lunch back at Bus – the bread, cold meats, and cheese. Yum.

The rest of the day was mostly in Bus. It was cold and distinctly miserable looking outside, with the rain. John gamed on the computer; I read the newspaper I’d bought at the shops, embroidered and completed the piece I had been working on.

Finished!