This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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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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2012 Travels August 15

WEDNESDAY 15 AUGUST     BENDIGO TO SWAN HILL     235kms

Woke up this morning with the intention of driving to Mildura. From there, John would decide whether to try another visit to daughter in Broken Hill, or find another destination along the Murray.

Pack up seemed to take a while – longer than I’d expected – and mostly John’s outside stuff. However, it was all quite new still, and I thought we would get better with more practice.

There wasn’t much for me to do inside. The TV got put down onto John’s bed, wedged in with a pillow. Cupboard doors had to be checked to make sure they were fastened, ditto fridge door. I’d brought a washing basket with us. That travelled on a bed, with things like the electric jug, in it, as well as the dirty clothes. When camped, it fitted on the driver’s seat at the front. My old trusty electric frypan went onto a bed for travel.

Most importantly, the two overhead hatches had to be closed, and the wind up TV aerial wound down. Very important that! I’d bought a little sign that clipped onto the steering wheel, to remind us to check it was down – out of sight etc. We hadn’t had a wind up aerial before.

With the van, our outdoor table and chairs had travelled in the back of Truck, but there were no readily accessible storage compartments for things that big in Bus. But putting them upright and folded up, in the floor aisle between the two beds was the ideal solution.

John had decided that the shower cubicle was ideal to store the sullage and water hoses, and the electrical leads! Plus some other items he packed at the last minute. He’d included the night-time bucket we’d used in the van, reckoning it would be easier to empty that each day than empty the toilet cassette. My protests – along the lines of having a toilet now, why not use it? – fell on deaf ears. Many years ago, John had spent a year travelling Britain and Europe with his first family, that included then 7 year old and 4 year old daughters. They lived in a very small campervan for the year, complete with porta-potti. It seemed that John’s memories of on-board toilet upkeep had prejudiced him forever.

Destined to be a storage space….

We left the caravan park about 10am. An almost immediate first stop was at a caravan service centre John had seen yesterday. He bought a slide-on shade curtain type thing, that could go on the front of the awning; more upmarket than the shade cloth we’d used on the van!

Managed to find our way to the Mildura road, without going into the centre of Bendigo. Maybe the Garmin had some value, after all.

The Calder Highway was a road we’d travelled many times before. At this time of year, the country was pleasantly green.

Dog seemed to travel a little better – I used the tranquilizer spray again – but still was not a happy  traveller. Sulk mode.

We stopped at Charlton for a leg stretch and a short walk for dog. Noted a great caravan stopping place there – sites arranged around two central ensuite bathroom buildings. $25 a night paid at the hotel,  to park up there and have one’s own bathroom.

I would have liked to stop there – it was quite early and we could explore the little town. But John wanted to push on. As we tootled along the highway out of Charlton, he made the sudden decision that he’d like to go to Swan Hill next. Not for any particular reason. Oh well, this was a shake down trip with Bus and we could certainly make it up as we went along.

Stopped to eat lunch at a rather unappealing parking area at the hamlet of Dumosa, essentially a grain silo and loading facility on a rail line. Then turned off the highway onto the Swan Hill road – two lanes, but narrow and rough in parts. However, John was really enjoying driving Bus, so a patched road surface wasn’t going to worry him.

This was a road we hadn’t travelled before. The somewhat intriguing Tittybong was shown on my map, but proved to be a locality, not a village. Likewise Goshen, closer to Swan Hill, which was a place we knew of because our 2005 boss at Pungalina had grown up there. Nothing to see, folks.

Tittybong

Reached Swan Hill mid-afternoon. Went to the Riverside Caravan Park and were able to obtain a river side site – for $36 a night, after discount. This was a Big 4 chain park, but unusual in that it had a section for travellers with canines. We rejoined the chain, which caused the lady on check in to get all muddled up with her computer system.

The site was pretty expensive, for just a site, but it was really pleasant, looking out onto the Murray River, which was very full. In fact, so nice that John decided we would stay three nights.

Downstream outlook from our site at Swan Hill

As we were finalizing our set up, the paddle steamer Pyap came churning past on the river, and blew its steam whistle at us. Dog not happy about that. Then, a few minutes later, a couple of ducks appeared to check us out, and took exception to dog being in their environment, with one attempting to peck at her. That was it – dog was ready to go home. At least, she now saw the stationary Bus as home – a safe place from nasty experiences.

There was the large Riverside Park adjacent to the caravan park. Here, when there were no other people nearby, we were able to let Couey off her lead and let her cavort around, chasing her ball and just running about. There were sometimes ducks in the distance and she very carefully  avoided going anywhere near those. To date, her experience of waterbirds had been at Lilydale Lake, where they ran away from any dogs. She clearly couldn’t cope with ones that were braver than her!

We saw two Trakmaster caravans in the caravan park – not together. They were both quite large ones, and one was silver clad – that’s a new development.

We soon discovered that the park was having a new swimming pool installed, not far from our site. It was very noisy work!

I cooked fish and fries for tonight’s tea.

We were now finding the Bus beds quite comfortable for sleeping.


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2012 Travels August 14

TUESDAY 14 AUGUST     BENDIGO

I’d actually slept better than I thought I would. John seemed to have little trouble sleeping in!

I was up first, and walked dog around the park a couple of times, then brought her back for her breakfast.

It rained on and off through the day, and was quite cold. In such circumstances, the extra space of the Bus was appreciated.

John walked to some shops, which were about 1.5kms away, to buy some TV aerial cabling. He’d brought some with us, but couldn’t find it! I said there was ample storage room in Bus…… He took the phone and called me to say he’d got there alright. I asked him to also buy a bottle of wine for tonight, not realising that meant he had to walk an extra km or so. He came back with five bottles – a special deal at the bottle shop, which had seemed great – until he had to carry them back!

I had a thought while he was gone. The various switches and controls on the electrical control panel were still mostly a mystery – trial and error there. But I wondered if the TV would work if I turned on the TV/stereo 12 volt switch? Suggested it to John, he did, and it worked. He was very happy. Seemed obvious, with hindsight.

So complex……..I never did find out what the Transformer was or did…..

We gave dog a couple more lots of park circuits during the day, in between showers. The big bull bar on front of Bus made  a great dog tethering point. She was quite happy to be out there, with her camp bed, as long as one of us was sitting outside under the awning. If we were inside, then that was the place to be! She discovered she could sit in my front seat and watch the world go by out the front and side windows. I made a note to find something like an old beach towel, back at home, to cover my seat for dog’s daytime use.

I was still have to change dressings on the sore area of leg, where petrol had splashed the previously ulcerated skin. It had, briefly, appeared healed over, but then became weepy again. When I took off the dressing today, it looked OK.

Daughter and the two grandsons came after she finished work, daughter’s partner a bit later, and her mother arrived about 7.15 – after we’d finished tea and adjourned to Bus.

The BBQ tea was good, but it was too chilly to linger outside, even in the very nice BBQ area of the park. I provided sausages and burgers, daughter brought chicken skewers and a packet of coleslaw. We had onion, pineapple, beetroot, rolls, eggs, bacon – a feast.

We sat inside Bus, had tea and coffee and wine, and talked. Another great benefit of Bus over van was room for visitors to be inside – our two beds could act as lounges that held two or three people each. Everyone admired the Bus. Daughter’s partner also said how much she liked the blanket I’d made for the baby.

They all left about 8.30 – school  and work tomorrow for them. After we did the dishes, watched some TV – an excellent picture. Bus not quite as convenient for TV watching for me, though. John had set the TV up on the bench between our beds, which meant that my back was to it when sitting at the dinette, so I had to swivel around and sit sideways on the seat, to watch. Some sort of back padding then required.

We went fairly early to bed. I tried sleeping with my head towards front of bus – much better, less squashed in. It was a cold night but we were quite cosy and warm. Dog decided to sleep on the floor between our beds, where I had put a small floor mat to protect our feet from cold lino in the mornings.


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2012 Travels August 13

MONDAY 13 AUGUST     HOME TO BENDIGO     238kms

We got away from home mid-morning – an improvement on our last departure. I did a fast, last minute shop at the local IGA – for a newspaper and something for tonight’s tea.

There was rather a gusty wind blowing, which kept “catching” the bus side-on. The Driver could not relax.

However, the dog was somewhat calmer – the drops, and the spray on a bandana around her neck did seem to have some effect. I set up her bedding on the floor towards the back of the bus, and an alternate lot on the floor behind the engine bay. Attached her lead to the harness and the lead to the restraining hook, so she could roam between the two.

I found Bus quite comfortable, as a passenger, though after dropping a knitting needle down by my feet, I wished the sash part of the seatbelt was a bit longer, so I could move about more. I had no problems getting into my seat – had quite a bit of prior experience with Coasters as school buses. Simply stepped up onto the lid of the engine compartment, turned 180 degrees, then stepped backwards down into the foot well in front of my seat. As the TV ads say: “simples”.

John had transferred his new toy, the Garmin GPS to the Bus. It was a lot harder for him to read, there, because the windscreen was so much further away from the driver than in the car. Said GPS was hugely annoying on the run to Seymour. Having been “informed” we were going to Bendigo, the GPS lady was determined to send us via the Calder Highway – any which way she could. Virtually from the time we left home, we were being instructed to do a U turn, or go round the block and head the other way. It was a bloody good thing we knew which way we were going, because she certainly didn’t. Even at Seymour, we were told to take the Hume Freeway south……At this point, what was to be a forever distrust of the Garmin was sown in me. John might like fiddling around and setting destinations in the infernal thing but, me, I’d be cross checking the mechanized instructions with my trusty paper maps!

We drove straight through to Seymour – no stops in Yarra Glen, this time! Bus pulled well and easily up the range, and the exhaust brake was really great to have, for the downhill stretch.

Stopped at the Lions park in Seymour. This expansive area has frontage to the Goulburn River and some picnic tables and seats. Parking Bus there was easy. Took dog for a walk – on the lead – and gave her a drink. We ate our packed sandwich lunch.

Seymour Lions Park – great place to break a trip

Then continued on through the familiar route to Bendigo, with no further stops.

We were no longer going to park in daughter’s driveway. Doing so, on their slope, had been alright with the van as it usually stayed hitched to Truck, or if unattached, had big chocks behind the wheels. Either way, we could manage to sleep on what was not too much of an inside slope. But Bus was a different proposition. To achieve anything like level would take a hell of a lot more chocking than we could envisage. The slope would see our heads, in bed, very downhill.

Went into the A Line Holiday Village, at Big Hill, on the southern outskirts. Our en-suite powered site cost $30 a night. It was a very pleasant site and park, with bushland around. We could walk the dog around the park, but there was nowhere around for her to run off lead.

The ensuites were in A shaped buildings – hence the park name.

The park was well situated for us. Unfortunately, the owner told us that they may discontinue their dog-friendly policy. That would be a pity. The usual story – he was sick of dog owners not doing the responsible thing and picking up their dog’s mess. What I did notice after a little time here, was that it was a couple of permanent dwellers, down the back of the park, who were the regular offenders.

John intended to get our setting up done, before we notified daughter – who knew we were coming here – that we’d arrived. He was expecting that there could be some “oops” moments in our first setting up of Bus on site, and wanted to avoid a distracting audience – or any audience. However, daughter arrived – on the off-chance – just after we’d parked Bus. John was not best pleased, but daughter and grandson being there did not impede the setting up.

Setting up for the first time – in Bendigo

Our greatest apprehension had been setting up the awning. We had not had a roll out one on the van, nor the space to practice on this one at home. So this was the first time. I had Googled the process and made notes, and we actually managed it without any dramas. So much easier than the van one!

They stayed for about an hour, and had a good and admiring look at Bus. We arranged a BBQ tea here for tomorrow night and I gave daughter a little shopping list. I also gave daughter the crocheted blanket that I’d made to order for the younger grandson, now nine months old.

“Patchwork” cot blanket

John could not get the TV to go. Bus had a good quality wind up aerial, but he wondered if wiring was broken.

Tea was chicken noodle soup, and some skinless frankfurts for John – I hadn’t been feeling hungry this morning, when I bought those. I had some dry biscuits and cheese after my soup.

After tea, in our screen-less state, we played Yahtzee. Better than TV, to my mind, anyway!

The first night’s sleep in our new beds was not great. For some reason, we had assumed that we should sleep with heads to the back of Bus – beside the little cupboard and bench top between the beds. It was a tight space  between that and the wall and I found it very constricting.  John got the panics during the night, and turned himself around, so his head was next to the sink, but with open space on one side.

The new memory foam mattress toppers I’d bought and adapted to the bus dimensions worked well, providing just that crucial extra width to the body of the bed.

We’d set up the dog’s night bed up by the engine bay, but she was a bit restless and prowly during the night.


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2009 Travels August 30

SUNDAY 30 AUGUST     COBRAM TO BENDIGO     195kms

Because we had a day to spare, today’s destination was Bendigo. Started this trip by going there and would finish it that way, too.

We got away early. It was a pleasant drive, again through flat farming country.

Stopped at the bakery at Elmore for an early lunch – pie and pasty for John, a sausage roll for me, which I would probably later regret when the usual indigestion set in. Daughter had asked me to buy her some jam tarts from there, for grandson’s lunch box, him being very fond of same.

As we came into Bendigo, drove straight to the White Hills football and netball club. We had been given instructions about where to find parking there for the rig. We joined daughter at the club house; watched the annual best and fairest counts, saw daughter’s partner and a couple of her family members receive trophies.

After that, took the rig on to daughter’s place and parked in our usual place in the driveway. We did not unhitch! But, even so, put some bricks behind the van wheels. I do not like that slope!

We went with daughter, to Castlemaine, to pick up grandson, who had spent the weekend with his father. John was feeling generous and said we would pay for a pizza tea. The shop we went to was rather upmarket. It cost $67 for three ordinary sized pizzas, plus a small one for grandson. And to think that I regularly churned out more generously topped pizzas, at home, by the half dozen, for visiting family and friends….

Grandson was so pleased to see us, and talked non-stop on the drive back to Bendigo. He was very good at non-stop.

An early night was in order – work and school for the family tomorrow.


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2007 Travels September 28

FRIDAY 28 SEPTEMBER     BENDIGO

We had another early wake up visit from grandson, and a snuggle session in bed. Mornings here were cold, so even the young chap was content to keep warm under the doona.

The idea of building that wood fired pizza oven in our yard had been quietly simmering away in John’s mind, ever since Tennant Creek – or earlier. A more urgent domestic undertaking was the renovation of our swimming pool, that had been a well visited duck pond since 1998, when we naively entrusted its upkeep to son, while we went travelling. It had become very green! Grandchildren would certainly appreciate being able to actually swim in it.

Visiting duck had left us an egg!

So – John was thinking of combining swimming pool reclamation, with re-laying the slate pool surround, with building his oven. Why not undertake three projects at once?

To that end, we took grandson to visit a Bendigo place that had a massive display of different types of pavers and stone wall materials. We found some retaining wall blocks and capping stones for same, that would be ideal for renovated garden bed walls around the pool area.

Grandson was surprisingly interested in the stone displays. He probably had never seen anything like this before! Some proved to be just the right height for grandson sitting, whilst grandad browsed. A bit low and undignified for grandma though.

As a reward, and because this could be a possible future project too, we also visited the nearby cubby house factory. That was a big hit!

Met up with the boy’s mother, in the town centre, for lunch.

Then it was back to base, for afternoon naps for the two males.

Fish and chips all round, for tea.


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2007 Travels September 27

THURSDAY 27 SEPTEMBER     BENDIGO

Grandson was knocking on the van door at 7.30am. He’d been up, had his breakfast, and mum was about to leave for work, so it was over to us. The boy was happy to snuggle up in bed with us for a little while, but then we had to stir ourselves to face the day.

I had forgotten how much energy it takes to keep up with an active and enthusiastic four-year-old! We had to come up with some ideas to keep him busy and interested – and that we could cope with.

Grandson just loved travelling around in the “Grandad’s Truck”. I guess to someone his size it looked huge! For the two someones of our size, it was an intellectual challenge to fit the boy’s car seat into Truck. I could not believe how much of a hassle it was. When my kids were little, one did not need an advanced qualification in engineering to take them to the shops!

We visited a shopping centre and walked around for a while looking at shops. The boy and Grandad scored icecreams each. We tried a visit to the Art Gallery – thought we might introduce some different aesthetics into his life, since he was an enthusiastic generator of art works that graced our fridge, my study walls and his fridge at home. But it was not really his thing – fair enough.

The walk in Rosalind Park, and the climb up to the top of the big poppet head tower, was much more to his liking. We valiantly battled up the several flights of steps – that thing is high! I appreciated the views over the city, but all grandson was interested in, was going back down again! We probably could have amused him by repeated trips up and down the Tower, but we were not up to it, although I am sure he would have been.

The playground at Lake Weeroona was definitely to his liking – and ours, because all we had to do was watch him – one at a time, whilst the other sat it out……

Fortunately, the afternoon nap still happened for the four year old. Grandad needed one too!

Throughout the trip, I had regularly dispatched postcards to the boy. After his nap, out came the collection, all faithfully kept, and we had to tell him the story of each one, and read them to him afresh. Obviously it had been worth making the effort to send them.

I, for one, was very happy to welcome his mum home from work, and hand over duty to her!


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2007 Travels September 26

WEDNESDAY 26 SEPTEMBER     RENMARK TO BENDIGO   425kms

The early morning light on the Murray River was interesting.

After all the horrendous driving stages of the time just gone, done to fit in with the TV football schedule, we now found ourselves with a few days to spare before our house sitters’ time was due to end, and they would expect us home, on 30th.

John could think of nothing he wanted to do, to fill in the time, except he was adamant that it should not involve National Parks or walking! We had previously spent time in the Riverland and around Mildura. So we decided to go on to Bendigo and visit with daughter and family there. At least we would be able to give grandson a couple of days’ break from child care – and John would have some enthusiastic company – and a good TV picture – for watching the AFL Grand Final on Saturday!

So, it was on through to Mildura and down the Calder Highway, to Bendigo.

Refuelled at Red Cliffs – $1.38cpl and again on the outskirts of Bendigo – $1.25cpl.

We parked the rig in daughter’s driveway. With some trepidation, due to its slope. The wheel chocks were reinforced with stacks of bricks, before van was detached from Truck!

No more caravan park fees for this trip!

Grandson was thrilled to see us, when he and his mum arrived home. She had not told him we were coming, so it was a great surprise for him.

Bendigo was cold, after the places we had been! I had to burrow under the bed and drag out the little fan heater from storage, to warm the van up in the evening.


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2007 Travels April 30

MONDAY 30 APRIL   HOME TO BENDIGO   225kms    

After the usual flurry of last minute organizing and packing, we managed to leave home about 12.20pm. I might add that the usual last-minute flurry was not mine!

Our house sitters considerately kept out of our way while the last bursts of packing were done. We had done the “handover” yesterday, after their arrival. I had every confidence in this couple, T and A, who had been full time housesitters for several years, and who were solidly booked up a couple of years in advance.

It was really convenient to have sufficient rooms in the house for them to have their own area, whilst here. However, we did have to evict M for last night, as they would be occupying “her” bedroom, with its double bed. She slept in her Troopy, parked up on the lawn area in front of the house – getting into practice again, she said.

I’d thought, over the last couple of days, as I was packing the van, that the fridge was not working properly, that it was running too much. Perhaps the thermostat needed replacing again? John found and phoned someone who could supply a thermostat; it would be mailed to us c/o Broken Hill Post Office.

Part of the setting out ritual, every day that we were towing the van, was to check that all the exterior lights were working. This could really only be done after Truck and van were connected up and manoeuvred out onto the flat ground of the road in front. This time, they weren’t! Naturally. We did not have too many trips where there was not some setting-out drama.

John’s investigation showed that there was no globe where there should have been one, in the tail light of the Truck. And this after last week’s service by a proper Land Rover dealer! It really filled us with confidence that the vehicle had been properly prepared for the remote areas to come – NOT! In theory, having Truck serviced by accredited Land Rover dealers should provide us with confidence that tradesmen who know what they are doing, work on our vehicle. Over the years, we had received some great service from various interstate service centres, but the ones in Melbourne had proved distinctly lacking, unfortunately. And we had tried most of them, at some stage.

John was able to put in a globe, from the stock of spare fuses and globes he carried, so we were not too delayed. Even that did not work at first, but he applied RP40, liberally to the area, and that fixed it.

Through all this mini drama, M waited patiently with her Troopy, parked a bit further up the street.  

We stopped for lunch at Yarra Glen, parking up a side road from the main street, and walking to an excellent bakery.

After that, it was the usual run to Bendigo. Up and over the Range and down to Yea, then the picturesque but winding stretch to Seymour – where we inevitably finished up with a tailback of several vehicles behind us, but with nowhere to pull over and let them past. Minor road to Tooborac and then good highway for the last stretch, through Heathcote to Bendigo.

The roadside gum trees were looking really stressed, much more sparsely foliaged than normal. The effects of the last few drought years were really showing up.

I navigated us across town, to daughter’s. Over the years of visiting here, I’d come to know a route that avoided the centre of the city, with its heavier traffic, trams and traffic lights. But it was a route one needed to know, rather than a signposted one, so I just hoped that M was able to keep us in sight. Back in the gold rush years of the later 1800’s, Bendigo had developed in a somewhat ad hoc manner, dictated by the locations of reefs and mines, which now meant roads at strange angles and an illogical layout.

We set up in daughter’s driveway. Backed Truck and van down the slope, as close to the back yard fence and gates as we could get – and heavily chocked behind the van wheels! M was then able – just – to fit the Troopy in front of us. Staying hitched up meant that we had to put up with sleeping in a van that was distinctly higher in front than at the back – and we had a crossways bed! At least M had her head pointing uphill.

This driveway is a lot steeper than it apppears in the photo!

We enjoyed a pleasant evening with the family – dinner and lots of chat. I collected early Mothers Day gifts. Grandson was, of course, pleased to see us again, even though it was less than two weeks since we’d hosted a family get together for daughter’s 35th birthday. We talked with him about the trip we were doing, explained why we wouldn’t be seeing him for five months, and promised him lots of postcards from interesting places. He had – with some discreet help – kept a collection of every postcard we had sent him, to date. He went through it, very proudly, with us.

It was a chilly night – got down to about 7 degrees. Well, this was what I’d longed for, a few months ago!

In my occasional wakeful periods through the night, decided the fridge was definitely running too much, given the chill of the environment. What a pest.