This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2008 Travels June 15


After breakfast in the van, John spent some time mixing with the two boys – to whom he was, effectively, a stranger. They talked about fishing, of which they had not done much, and surfing, about which John knows nothing! The younger lad was still getting used to conversing totally in English – in Brussels French had been his “first” language. The five-year old was effortlessly biligual. I wondered how many languages he would end up speaking by the time he was grown up, given step-daughter’s regular overseas posts.

The resident lawnmowers at Durras

Mid morning, the family left to drive back to Canberra, because the elder boy had a birthday party to go to. We did not know about that until yesterday, and John was put out about this, though he did not say anything to them.  No mention was made of any plans to return to the beach house in the next few weeks.

House at Durras

So – our visit, for which we had been waiting about for, for over two weeks, in the cold and damp, lasted less than 24 hours! Not really an experience that left us feeling like valued family……especially disappointing, even demeaning, for John. I felt so sorry for him.

We had not unhitched van and Truck, yesterday, so departing was easy. We drove back to Batemans Bay, which had looked interesting as we came though it yesterday.

Went into Easts Riverside Holiday Park – a Big 4 one. After discount, paid $68 for two nights on a powered site.

Set up, had lunch, then went for a short drive to suss out the town and its shops – most of which seemed to be shut today.

The park was quite pleasant. It had an outlook across the large Clyde River, to the town, and out towards the open ocean as well. The turn off to the park was just before the long bridge that spanned the Clyde River inlet here. The bridge looked like one produced from the old time Meccano set, and was quite pretty at night, with the various lights on it. In the bridge centre was a lifting section that allowed larger vessels to pass under because the bridge itself was quite low. I wondered how often the traffic on the highway got held up for a passing boat?

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2008 Travels June 14


We hadn’t managed any preliminary packing up, so had it all to do this morning.

John put Truck into low range for the very steep, but short pull up the hill to the Tathra village at the top. We stopped there so I could get the Saturday papers.

Then it was a fairly slow trip north, from Bega, as the highway was hilly and winding for much of the way. We passed through south coast towns that we would, hopefully, come back to visit on the way home, or on later trips – Narooma, Moruya, Batemans Bay.

It was early afternoon when we found the Durras house. After some discussion with family, the van was backed into the neighbour’s driveway – this had been previously checked out by the family as ok, because said neighbour was not going to be there. It got us off the road, and onto a relatively flat area. We were also able to use the outdoor toilet at that place.

The location was very interesting – north of Batemans Bay, and then through National Park between the highway and the coast. The little enclave of Durras had frontage to both the ocean and Durras Lake and was surrounded on the other sides by National Park. This made it a small, tightly held area that had no room for further expansion.

Outlook at Durras Beach

However, scenic as it was, John and I thought that, at the height of summer, it would feel quite a vulnerable place, to us, with only the one narrow and winding road out, though forest.

The family’s house was on a short street that ran downhill to the ocean, and only about five houses back from the beach. Across the road was a large caravan park. The place had no front fences, but a large mob of kangaroos roamed freely and kept all the local grass mown!

Unfortunately, the kangaroos harboured plenty of ticks, and the place was infested with the ticks. John’s daughter told us that she had to closely inspect the two boys every night and regularly removed ticks from them, that they just picked up in the normal course of their play.

After the van was backed in, we got to inspect the property. It would be able to be made quite functional as a beach house, we thought, with quite a bit of work and money spent. It had just been painted, in order to stablilize the asbestos sheeting that was its main construction material.

It was really all about location, being just under three hours’ drive from home in Canberra, with the beach offering fishing, swimming and surfing for the males of the family. The surfing was especially important, apparently, as son in law used to be a surfer dude, and had plans for his sons to follow the tradition.

Durras Beach

We went for a long walk on the beach with John’s daughter and the boys, after John had given the lads the fishing gear he had bought for them, in Melbourne. There was no opportunity through the day to try out the gear with them, though. It did not seem that they had ever done any fishing, so – hopefully – having the kid-suitable rods might motivate some attempts.

Durras Lake

We ate tea with the family – spag bol.

After witnessing the nightly tick inspection, I gave step-daughter the special tweezers from my first aid kit, that had a magnifying glass attached. I thought she had a great need of these, here!

Later, back in the van, I found that I had picked up a tick that was on my hair – just from brushing against a tree near the van! Unbelievable! Luckily, I felt it moving and was able to brush it off before it had a chance to lodge properly and dig in.

I definitely would not like to live here – or even stay for any length of time.

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2008 Travels January to May


Over our many years of travel, we have experienced plenty of times when things did not work out as planned, but in the overall array of these, 2008 was an absolute doozy. The whole damned year didn’t happen as we thought it would…..

Towards the end of last year’s trip, we were mentally mapping out a three month jaunt to some of the loveliest coastal parts of WA, with a few side explorations thrown in. The Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, specifically a stay at the laid back and scenic Middle Lagoon. Barn Hill and Eighty Mile Beach revisited. Some exploration of the area north of Kalgoorlie – or maybe even the deferred trip across the desert, from Newman to Alice Springs. Nice set of ideas, but……

Middle Lagoon – Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome

In late 2007, son with marital woes moved back home. With him came his 5 year old daughter and 18 month old son – not full time, else I wouldn’t still be sane enough to write this, but every second weekend, and a couple of nights in between.

As well, we still had M occupying one of the back bedrooms. Suddenly, our spacious home was not so spacious. Items like portacot, high chair, nappy container appeared…….and toys……lots of toys!

Son’s need for support, both when the children were here and in terms of general company at home, made an extended trip unwise, so we reluctantly cancelled our wonderful housesitters. They were easily able to find a replacement booking, and promised us five months or so next year. We had to be optimistic and think there would be a next year – in travel terms!

Almost as soon as we returned in 2007, and amid the demands of the new bowls season, John made a start on the projects that he’d been germinating whilst we travelled.

Pre-projects: old BBQ fireplace, steps behind it, and yucky pool beyond

The pizza oven was built and in conjunction with that, there was remodelling of part of the front garden, taking out the old sleeper wall that had formed one edge of the driveway, and also housed a massive European wasp nest. This was replaced with a wall of the same edging used in the renovation around the pool, with the creation also of a grassed ramp up onto the higher lawn level – allowing for easier movement of heavy tools to the back yard and John’s shed, and also for extra parking on that lawn. Suddenly, we had four resident vehicles…..

Ramp access for extra parking

The pool was, as we had expected, a major project. The thick, green water was deemed beyond remediation, by a pool company. A septic tank cleaner, with a large truck and a very long hose, emptied it. In the midst of Melbourne’s drought induced water restrictions, much negotiation ensued with the local water authority, to eventually be allowed to refill the pool. There were conservation trade offs required: we had to install a water tank, buy a solar blanket for pool, install water saving shower heads and toilet cisterns…..The latter items led to a full¬† renovation of the main bathroom, and then our ensuite. What was that about “life” and “easy”?

Destroying the old bathroom….

As part of all these changes, we decided that the filter and pump installation for the pool needed to be moved, from right outside the bedroom of the now rented granny flat, to the other end of the pool. The pool predated both our purchase of the house in 1991, and the building of the flat for my father, after we moved in. Dad had a degree of industrial deafness and did not mind the noise from the pool operation nearby. But after his death we had the flat tenanted. No issue, whilst the pool was non-operational, but now…..Thus ensued digging up of some of the slate that surrounded the pool, to relay the plumbing. So, to make it uniform, the whole lot was re-done, and the garden walls on two sides stone edged – with the products we’d seen in Bendigo at the end of the 2007 trip.

Surrounds not yet finished, but pool ready for swimming again – after a decade as a duck pond!

John enjoyed building the pizza oven. He found the slate laying really hard work that taxed him to his 67 year old limits. But that didn’t stop him from doing much of the bathroom renovations ¬†himself!

The pool apparatus was so old and long unused that it all needed replacing – nice new salt chlorinator, and an automated control system that would make it simpler for house sitters to maintain the pool.

All this because M bought John a book on pizza ovens, in Tennant Creek, last year!

New pizza oven, steps to back yard, and slate surrounds….

After all this work, it would have been a bloody sight cheaper to go travelling in 2008. In fact, we could have left the van behind and stayed in upmarket accommodation and still come out ahead, financially.

M jetted off to the USA for a while, then found some other friends to join for an Australian trip, for a few months.

Winter set in with a vengeance – we were not used to these. In fact, we’d only experienced one Melbourne winter in the last decade!

John’s daughter and family returned to Canberra from her recent three year posting to Brussels, complete with his second grandson, born in 2005, while she was on post. The family had acquired – as so many Canberrans  do –  a weekender holiday house on the NSW south coast, at Durras.

By May, we were feeling a real need for a break away and  a respite from “caring”. John wanted to see the Durras place, as well as the family. The south coast of NSW seemed – fractionally – more attractive than Canberra, with winter rapidly setting in. So, plans – albeit somewhat vague – were made, to meet up at the holiday house…..