This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2009 Travels July 20 to 23


John had to be at the Land Rover man at 9am.

It was a cloudy day, with a strong breeze. I wondered if it would rain. Took a chance, anyway, and washed the bedding, then sent some emails.

John was back before too long. The man didn’t have the part Truck was found to need, but would have it in tomorrow.

Townsville was so well served, compared to many other places we’d been. The old saying that we got used to, during our time in the NT, came to mind  – the NT: not today, not tomorrow, not Tuesday, not Thursday, next train, next truck…..very true it was too.

After lunch, drove to the Aitkenvale shops, where I’d discovered there was a bowls shop. There was also a sewing supplies shop nearby, which provided me with good browsing, whilst John was making decisions in the bowls shop. Not that I had any ulterior motive for directing him to this one…..

I bought some threads for my Hardanger sewing. John ordered himself a set of bowls. Not a cheap exercise! He wanted them colour yellow, so they had to be freighted up and should arrive on Thursday or Friday. I decided that, when he was picking them up, I would go back to the sewing shop and indulge some more, having shown great restraint today.

John’s thinking was that yellow bowls would make it easy for him to see where his efforts were, from the other end of the green. I had two thoughts – neither of which I shared with him: that they would be an easy target, and, the way he’d been bowling lately, they could stand out as an embarrassment. Sometimes, I really did need to censor myself!

We had a quick look at merchandise in the Rivers clearance centre, but were not tempted.

John went to the bank and withdrew $500 cash to pay for Truck repairs. There was a big dent in the bank account, after today.

I extended our stay here, for Thursday night. Cost $31.50.

Cooked the continental sausages bought on Saturday, for tea, with mashed potato, bacon and eggs. Later, they gave me fearsome indigestion.

TUESDAY : John was off to the Land Rover man for 9am.

It was another cloudy but windy day. I did our clothes washing, and sewed some quilt blocks.

Our other Townsville site….don’t ask me why it was so hard to back in here!

John returned with Truck fixed – I hoped! A new vacuum pump had been fitted, with double gaskets this time. It had an oil change and some other oddments fixed too. All up – $520 for repairs.

John phoned the bad mechanic back in Melbourne. After some discussion, he was told that the warranty on the pump that had been installed just three months ago, would be honoured. I would believe that when we actually saw the money, I’m afraid.

After lunch, drove to the Strand again and did a fair walk. Then it was to the Castletown shops, so I could buy a small but good chef’s knife, to replace my good one that the handle had broken off, yesterday. That cost $50.

Grandson phoned to tell us that he’d read the fifty books for the Read-a-thon. Not bad for a six year old. So we would now have to send his $10 donation, plus the surprise Sodor train wash set.

We need to go back to the bush – haemorrhaging money in Townsville!

WEDNESDAY: We had a quiet start to a day that was not as cloudy, but was more humid, strangely enough.

Walked to the local shops and spent up big on postage. Sent postcards to various family and friends, a Hinchinbrook Island brochure to each of the sets of grandchildren, telling the story of our day there, and despatched the train wash and $10 to grandson. Australia Post was $25 richer.

It used real water……not sure if his mum knew that!

John phoned his cousin M, who was still in Cairns. It might be another couple of weeks before they began to head south again. I was now quite certain that we were not going to get that far north, this trip. It was going to be an accomplishment just to get away from Townsville!

Son phoned me about a new job he’d taken. Sounded very exciting: in a new field for him, traffic management, but doing the familiar role of business  development. Bit of a growth industry, that.

Friend M phoned – from Halls Creek. The trip up the Canning Stock Route had gone well, and she’d had a great time. Only had one flat tyre on the Troopy, and that was just as she was driving into Billiluna Community, not on the CSR proper. Yet again, the Dunlop Roadgripper tyres that we swear by, but others look down on, proved they can really handle the rough stuff well.

She reported that they’d had no rain over the three weeks. The fuel drums they’d ordered from the Capricorn Roadhouse were at the drop point, as arranged, and hadn’t been raided by other travellers. The couple she was tagging with had no vehicle issues, either. So she reckoned that she was now an experienced sand dune driver!

The diary I’d requested she keep for me was more a book than notes, apparently. She would mail it to home. The plans were now to go to the Bungles again – the other couple had not been there before, then on to Kununurra.

I was so happy that the adventure had gone well for her. But given the events of this year, I was so thankful we hadn’t tried it too.

THURSDAY: A quiet morning, followed by early lunch. Then we hit the shops – what’s new?

At Aitkenvale, John collected his new bowls. They were the ordered bright yellow – and the symbol on each featured a smirking crocodile. Very satisfied looking it was, too. (Every set of bowls has to have a unique symbol). This one couldn’t have been better than if he’d specifically chosen it! Yellow crocs…..

At the sewing shop, I bought a metre of my special embroidery fabric and some patchwork quilt pieces, for future projects.

To the Fish Co-op to stock up on barra and threadfin salmon.

There was a nasty accident at the corner where the V8 track had been. A truck and a 4WD ute had collided. Flashing emergency lights and vehicles galore.

Grocery shop at Castletown and at the butcher.

Getting all the meats and fish into the little freezebox was a real exercise in fitting things in gaps. The real challenge would come when just one frozen portion had to be extracted again, from the mass. The fridge ran for ages after all the additions, making me think all sorts of worrying thoughts.

I phoned Forrest Beach and booked us into the caravan park there, for three nights. John wanted to play in a big bowls tournament that was on in Ingham over the time, and had listed himself as an emergency, in case someone dropped out. If he was not called up, he could go fishing.

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2009 Travels June 16


Today, I became an old-age pensioner! Well, an old-age part-pensioner. Did I feel old? No – but I remembered a time when people I knew who were pensioners, seemed old!

Off John and Truck went. I did some more washing. They were back by 11.30 – all fixed. The Landrover man had quickly identified that the brake booster unit – a big, round, thing just under the bonnet – had a couple of almost microscopic cracks in it – metal fatigue. He had one in stock, so it had been quick to replace. All up, cost $360. John was very pleased. He said the brakes felt excellent.

Now that the Truck issues were resolved, I phoned the caravan park at Rollingstone, to book us in there for a week, after our time here was up. We had not been there before, and it seemed like it would be a good base to explore the surrounding country. Also, not too much further on, in case there did turn out to be more issues with Truck. I’d kind of lost some faith, this trip.

After lunch, went for a drive, with the aim of visiting Townsville’s northern beaches. We diverted off to look at Bushland Beach, a site of new sub-divisions, where we were attracted to tour a display home that was open. Chatted with the salesman about building methods up here, land subdivision, and Townsville’s development and spread in general. The salesman estimated that, to build that sort of house, put in a shed for John and a pool – essential in this sort of climate in summer – we’d need about a 750 square metre block, and we’d be up for northwards of $500,000. Yikes! Keeping our Melbourne base. where we had all the above except the warmer weather, still looked the better option. We had a bigger garden at home, as well, to grow our summer vegies.

Whilst in the area, went to have a look at the beach. Thought it looked pretty ordinary, with mangrove stands at each end. To me, mangroves equal sandflies, which equal undesirable place to be. It made a pretty photo, though.

Bushland Beach at low tide – mangroves in the distance

Drove back to town, where we parked at Kissing Point – great name! Later research indicated it was named for a similarly called place in Sydney. Nothing romantic: the NSW version was the furthest point up the Parramatta River that boats could reach before their keels kissed the bottom. I preferred the romantic connotations my imagination had come up with.

From there, we walked along the Strand – Townsville’s wonderfully attractive parklands and path along the waterfront – as far as the Fishing Jetty. This was not much distance. John was very slow today, and needed rests along the way.

Magnetic island from the Strand

Whilst walking we gazed at the assorted beach front apartments, and played the game of saying which one we’d buy, if we won a lottery. A winter holiday apartment…… with seriously magic views over the Strand and out to Magnetic Island and the other islands. But then decided that, if we had that sort of money, we would just rent, short-term, and thus not be tied to any one place. Dream on!

The Strand – and apartments with a great view

The Council had done an excellent job of developing and landscaping the Strand area and making it a wonderful resource for people of all ages. At intervals, there were metal sculptures of sea creatures – convenient resting places for the slow one. The wild weather earlier in the year had done some damage along the beachfront that was still being repaired.

One is a dugong….

Even though Townsville did not have the image of a tourist town, there was really quite a lot here to see and do. I found it a very pleasant place.

Back to the van then, and the making of fried rice for tea.

There was an unexpected phone call. from A, a lady from our home bowls club. She and her husband spent some of each winter here, as did quite a few bowlers from our club. She’d picked up from someone from Sunday’s bowls, that we were here. She asked me to play bowls on Thursday, at the Jubilee Club. I assumed it was mixed, and agreed. Then, it became clear it was a women’s only afternoon. Blindsided! John was very amused. He said he’d find a game for himself somewhere else.

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2009 Travels April 22


A 6am knocking on the van door was grandson, come to wake us up – a task at which he excelled. Well, Grandad did need an early start!

Truck and driver departed at 7.30 and, via the newly opened Calder Freeway and Eastlink, arrived at the mechanic at Lilydale at 10am.

I remained in Bendigo and spent the morning working on my laptop computer. As I used a desktop set up at home, it took me some time to update the laptop with things like current Bookmarks. I had at least updated my share trading programs before leaving home – downloading the price data for several months took a long time! Murphy was still hovering around, though, because I lost a couple of programs I was trying to set up.

About 1.30, I was astounded to hear the unmistakeable Truck burble. I had been so sure that repairs would be major and take days, not to mention lots more dollars. After all that, when John had gotten there, after a cursory look, mechanic said there wasn’t much he could do. I was less than impressed, to put it mildly. Suspected that “not much he can do” translated into something like being too busy, or couldn’t be bothered to properly look for the problem with the work he’d already done. He suggested seeing a brake specialist in Bendigo – talk about passing the buck. John wasn’t keen on that idea – so many car people do not like playing with Landrovers!

So, the brakes issue was not really resolved. Didn’t know where we would go for future work on Truck, but it wouldn’t be back to that incompetent clown.

Our 1996 Defender was getting on in years…..

This morning, I’d arranged with daughter that I would collect grandson from school and walk home with him. Daughter assured me that it “wasn’t far” and that the Preppie would really enjoy this, instead of the usual after-school care.

John and I left at 2.30, walked briskly, and just got there at 3.15. John’s “good” hip (the unreplaced one) hurt badly, but he pressed on. Grandson was happily surprised to see grandad too. John got the grand tour of “my classroom” and met “my teacher”. The former primary school Principal was most impressed with the facilities.

The walk back seemed never-ending. Grandson took us on a short cut that involved a big hill. I was carrying his backpack: how on earth can a Prep kid have a pack that weighs a ton? By the time we got back from this expedition we were hot and tired and my feet hurt.

After some grandparent recovery time and refuel for junior, we were off again, in Truck this time, to go watch the weekly swimming lesson. Then, grandson’s day was really made because, for once, he could get changed in the boys’ room, with grandad to supervise, rather than in the girls’ with mum.

Over dinner, I challenged daughter’s sense of distance. Turned out she had never walked the school route, just driven it, and it “didn’t seem all that far”. (A couple of days later she texted me to say that she had measured it – 3kms each way. So we walked 6kms!)

Whilst he had been back in the vicinity John had called back in to home – to the surprise of the house sitters – and collected some forgotten items: the sheepskin bed underlay he needed for the deteriorating hip, and my sleeper earrings. There is always something forgotten…..

After all of today’s activities we needed a VERY early night.

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2007 Travels August 10


The river here was very tidal!

High tide in the Pentecost River at Home Valley

As the water receded and muddy banks were exposed, lots of crocodiles became evident, sunning themselves on the mud. They were of varied sizes, including some rather large ones.

Tide going out – two large sun baking salties

After seeing what lives in this river, here, there is no way I would ever be camping anywhere down near the river level. I knew that some travellers, intent on getting a free camp, pitched camp beside the Pentecost, just a bit upstream from here, near the Gibb River Road ford. I don’t reckon they would be doing so if they came here first, and saw what we can see, every day!

Another large croc across the river

The cattle that appeared and grazed by the river did not appear to be alert for crocs.

I wondered if any of these cows ever ended up as croc dinner?

It was a hot day.

John fired up his laptop and checked the Defender manual he had on a CD. Very useful that. He was almost certain he could do the repairs here.

M drove John back to the homestead so he could phone the Landrover people, to arrange for the parts we needed. They told him that component “never comes out”. Well, we had news for them. It was not a very helpful comment. They would courier the parts to son’s workplace at Tullamarine.

After all that was sorted, John tried some fishing – keeping a very careful eye out around him!

M and I did some washing. heated water on the campfire, washed the clothes in our plastic basin, then trudged up to the amenities block to use the sink there and the cold water tap to rinse same. We hung them on a line strung across between the uprights of the shelter.

Then I sat in the shade from a tree, admiring the views and the sunbaking salties, and doing some sewing.

Today was our wedding anniversary. We decided to live dangerously and drink the last of our beer – two cans each! M had bought a block of chocolate up at the homestead, while John was phoning, and presented it to us, so we had something to celebrate with! Chocolate was a real luxury in the context of our rather basic catering of the past few weeks.

Sunset on the Range was glorious!

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2007 Travels May 3


Today we drove out to Silverton, 25kms to the NW. We had been here before, but it was new territory for M. Much of this trip was going to be about introducing  her to new places.

Silverton began, as the name suggests, with a silver mining rush in the late 1800’s. However, it was soon eclipsed by the richer finds in Broken Hill. Most of the population left – often moving their houses to Broken Hill, too. But Silverton refused to totally become a ghost town, and in recent times has been rejuvenated by becoming a base for some notable artists, and the setting for films.

Looking to central Silverton! Hotel to left.

Today, there’s a handful of permanent residents, one hotel, and it is one of the go-to destinations of the region. It has also been used as a film location – the hotel is associated forever with Mad Max! We came here first – separately – in the late 1960’s. It remains a quirky, favourite place.

Apart from some old buildings – in various stages of repair – there is superb arid country scenery around the area.

When here last, in 2005, I took a heap of photos of the old Broken Hill-Silverton railway alignment and siding “station”. The place is a photographer’s dream.

We visited the usual – for us – galleries: Peter Browne’s and the Horizon Gallery, which was my absolute favourite of all the ones on offer in Broken Hill and Silverton.

Sculpture on the wall of the Coin Carvery

John was attracted to the coin-carver’s unusual gallery. Essentially, the “background” sections of older coins were cut out, leaving the rim (frame) and the featured centrepiece. This was then gold or silver dipped. The man needed a special permit to destroy currency!

John bought his daughter a birthday present – a coin that had been cut out and gold plated. It was really nice.

Silverton was a very “arty”, quirky place. Maybe the aridity and vast vistas of this area somehow feed the creativity of the people who live here?

Up on the hill, at the Browne Gallery, we ran the gauntlet of some strange critters.

Bought some cute postcards to send to the grandchildren, and a tin VW with an emu painted on it, for the coming first birthday of grandson. It could maybe be a collectors piece for him, rather than a toy?

I was very tempted to buy a wire “sculpture” of a chook, and a wire and metal cat sculpture – but resisted. It took a great effort, I might add!

John bought a set of large, old, door keys, that he thought he could mount on some turned wood and turn into an unusual decoration for an outside wall.

The Browne Gallery was in a rather lovely old house, up on a rise, overlooking the township. It was worth the trek up there just for the outlook alone.

We then proceeded to spend too long at the Horizon Gallery. Here, I could not be strong, and bought a framed Bronwyn Stanley Woodroffe print. It was of the Pinnacles peaks, near Broken Hill, with an eagle soaring in the foreground. It would be shipped to us in October, when we were home to receive it. That would make two of her works we now had, and two of her husband’s. Magic works, they all are.

The gallery still had several other works that I could easily buy! I purchased eight picture cards, with the idea that these could be framed – singly or as sets – for us, or for gifts. Or else, I could just use them to write notes to people.

While browsing and making decisions, we got talking travel with Bronwyn and the subject of house sitters came up. I ended up telling her we would consider house sitting for her, up here, for short spells, in the future. We could enjoy some time spent in this region.

Drove out to the north of Silverton for about 10kms, and ate lunch at the Umberumberka Reservoir, built in the early 1900’s to supply water to Broken Hill. It had water in it – an unusual sight in this dry country.

Stopped at the Lookout over the Mundi Mundi Plain where the vast plains stretched in all directions. Perhaps for someone new to outback travel, this outlook would be impressive, but we had seen a lot of vast country in our travels.

Back in Silverton, we went walking along the dry Umberumberka Creek bed, which was lined with majestic old river red gums.

Debris piled up behind trees shows that the creek does sometimes flood

There were lots of hollows in these ancient trees, to be homes to birds and critters.

In a part of the creek that had been the most recent to dry up, there was a large patch of red mud curls – very artistic looking. From a distance, they resembled leaf litter.

Back in Broken Hill, we went to the Post Office and sent off the birthday presents bought today, and postcards to the grandchildren. Checked at the mail centre there – the package with the fridge thermostat had not arrived yet. Since the fridge now appeared to be working perfectly after its regassing, I did a redirection notice to have it sent on to home.

We shopped for food supplies, to last for some time. We had a bit of a dilemma. In theory, we should not take fresh produce into SA. But we were planning to turn off the highway at Yunta, and head north to Arkaroola. There were no shops along that way. We would be taking the purchased fruit and veg a long way distant from the crucial agricultural areas of SA.

Refuelled Truck – $1.30cpl.

John discovered that the other side back indicator on Truck had no globe in it, either! I was not sure how I had missed its non-functioning, in our checks – my reputation was tarnished, somewhat. He was incensed enough to phone the dealer’s service centre to complain. They were very apologetic and gave him the usual spiel about apprentices ! Hey – isn’t the work of these supposed to be supervised?

Yet again, we wondered what else had been missed, or done sub-standard.

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2007 Travels April 30


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.

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2006 Travels August 2 – 7


Well, my grand solution for the cafe did not work out so well. H had resigned!

I came on duty on Monday morning, to find all hell had broken loose. Yesterday, Boss 1 was in one of his worse moods, and had prowled around the kitchen, being negative and difficult. Showing his true colours, for the first time, to H.

This morning, H started at 7.30. Boss was checking everything out. He found a little – almost microscopic – piece of slimy capsicum, in prepared salad, and promptly threw the whole large container of same in the bin. With words. That was the last straw for H, who had not had a comfortable day yesterday. She said she would serve out a week’s notice, but would not work with boss 1, only with me or boss 2, or on her own.

I had lasted months – she did not even manage a few days! The nice man she thought she knew was not the reality.

I think the three of us probably did not do anyone a service, by putting up with the crap dished out by the boss. Just led him to think everyone would be as immune to him as we were. Not everyone could just find him pathetic and rather amusing, and not take him personally, the way we did. Several times, John had challenged some of his more outrageous instructions, and stood up to him, saying if boss didn’t like it, he could sack him – and of course, that did not happen.

Boss now had to try to smooth things over, because he really wanted D to do the building work. It looked like D would stay long enough to do that, and H would just veg out at their camper, once her week’s notice was up.

I just hoped this would not affect Boss 2’s holiday plans. But not to the extent that I was prepared to reverse our decision to leave!

About 8.30am on Wednesday morning, in the aftermath of all that, H was in the kitchen with me, in tears over the issues with boss. He had been in such a bad mood that he’d stormed out of the kitchen and promptly had a confrontation with B. So she was in the office corner of the cafe, sobbing her heart out. I was slicing up a particularly strong batch of onions, so had tears streaming down my face. A customer came into the cafe. Despite my tears, I was the only non-upset person around, so I went out to serve him. He could hear two sobbing ladies, and there was I with eyes streaming. He looked very alarmed. I said  “It’s OK, it’s only onions!”. Not sure what he really thought, but he ordered his coffee and went and sat outside, away from the drama. I made the coffee, wiped my eyes and took it out to him.

So things were a bit strained. I did not even try to talk H around – because boss 1 really was horrible to work for – and she was less tolerant of idiots than I was. Anyway, the problem was not of my making!

Thursday was M’s last day. She finished with no fanfare. Friday, she packed up camp and headed off to Darwin, to stay with her friend there. She took our mail to post there.

Eventually, things got lighter, because on Friday, Boss 1 and B headed off to Darwin as usual, for the weekend. That left John and Boss 2 to run the bus group lunch area, and H and me in the kitchen. I was grateful that H was working out her notice. Being solo in the kitchen through the busy weekend lunch period was not something I would have enjoyed!

D, whose original trade was as a mechanic, and who knew Landrovers really well, reckoned our ongoing clutch problem was with the master cylinder. He gave John the name of a good place in Brisbane to source Landrover parts.

When there was time, we had to do all the necessary paperwork arrangements with boss 2, for pay finalization, group certificate issue, and the like.

On Monday, the afternoon was fairly quiet. With H still on deck, boss 2 said we could finish at 3pm and do some packing up of our camp. Much appreciated.

I was quite looking forward to a change of scene, and going back to being tourists. Our three months here had been  – well, interesting would be one way of putting it. And I had loved our camp by the creek.

Resize of 06-14-2006 86 Wangi track June 2

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2006 Travels May 25


We had a regrettably early pack up and departure from Hidden Valley, in order to get Truck to Landrover at 8am.

We were able to use a loan car for the day, so that at least gave us some options.

We spent the day in the city. John never likes to drive a borrowed vehicle too much – fair enough.

We parked the car in an all day spot and wandered about, browsing the shops. Bought lunch at a cafe.

John decided we should go to the cinema in the afternoon. Saw “The daVinci Code”. It was alright.

The verdict on Truck, when we got back to the service centre at the appointed 4pm, was that new bushes were needed for the clutch, and a new radiator core was needed too. We would have to take it back in a couple of weeks – when they had the parts in – and the work could be done in a day. So we booked it in for what would be our day off that week.

Refuelled at the Oz Fuel outlet at Winnellie – $1.46cpl. Had done 493kms.

Got back to the Monsoon just on dark, going via Batchelor.

Resize of 06-14-2006 04 Road over our creek Monsoon

Almost home – where our creek crossed the main road, turnoff just beyond

It was not really a very relaxing break.

It was a pity that the Truck problem had dictated how the time was used. It would have been much better to have been able to go to Kakadu for a couple of nights, so John could see it with lots of water about. He had only seen that area once – in a very hot, dry and dusty August – and had not been impressed. Whereas I had visited it in the months of March and June, and knew how lovely it could be.

M reported that work had gone alright for her. In our absence, she had been asked to work today, which should have been her day off, but had been given the weekend off instead. She planned to go to Darwin and visit a friend there.

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2006 Travels May 23


The three days off would be a welcome break from the cafe, and a chance to get Truck worked on.

M would not get her day off until Thursdays, so she would usually have to do her recreating on her own.

We left after an early breakfast, to drive to Darwin. Decided to go via the “back” way – the partly unsealed road that circled to the NW from here, crossed the Finniss River and came out by Berry Springs. This had only recently opened for traffic again.

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Finniss River crossing (Zoom)

It was a pretty drive, on a fairly good gravel road surface. Much more attractive than the usual route, and considerably shorter. I could see why it was closed during the Wet – the little low level crossing of the Finniss River would go well under.

But that was the nicest part of the day. The rest of it, in Darwin, was most unsatisfactory!

To begin, as we came into phone range, received an extremely nasty message from J’s daughter, which upset him, which had clearly been the intention.

Then, we wrecked a front tyre on Truck – probably from a piece of metal cast up in road works we’d gone through. That meant a road side stop to change the wheel – never an enjoyable task. So then we had to buy another tyre. John decided to go to Truck City – a big service centre area on the approach to Darwin. From the tyre place there we bought a second-hand tyre, that seemed good, and had it fitted to what would now be the spare wheel.

Once in phone range, I tried to book our accommodation for the two nights we would be in town. My first option – Lee Point – did not have en-suite cabins. Free Spirit Resort, another place I knew the quality of, from having camped there in 1993, only had a unit available for one night. I was then able to book a night at Hidden Valley Caravan Park, about which I knew little. So we must move after tonight – not ideal. The town was far more booked up than I had expected, at this time.

We went to the mechanic friend that one of the bosses had recommended. He was very pre-occupied with some personal problems and very vague about dealing with us. We decided to take it to the Landrover Service Centre instead, and drove there. They couldn’t look at it until Thursday – which could cause problems if any repair couldn’t be done that day.

I was definitely gaining the impression that getting things done in Darwin was not all that easy.

John wanted to get lunch at the food court at Casuarina, so we drove over there. The clutch was sticking quite regularly now which made driving harder for John. We had to park Truck on the roof top parking area, where there were not low height restrictions, like in the underground parking areas.

John had an Asian style lunch. I had sandwiches. Went to a supermarket there and bought some food to make tonight’s tea – bread, cold meats, cheeses, some salad.

On the way out, after lunch, John got confused and misread the signs/arrows, and drove into a lower part of the car park. The roof rack scraped along some low hanging pipes and made an absolutely horrible noise. We did not stop to see if there was any damage – to car park or roof rack! John just wanted to get out of there!

Then he tried to drive down a one-way street – the wrong way. I shouted “No”, then got yelled at for giving him a fright. The man was definitely rattled.

Booked into the Free Spirit Resort at Berrimah. After a $9 discount, we paid $81 for the night.

The cabin was pleasant enough, and clean.

John spent the rest of the afternoon messing about on his lap top. I had a lovely long swim in the very nice pool at the Resort. After the day we’d had, it was most enjoyable relaxation.

Phoned son and wife. It was great to talk to them. She seemed much more relaxed about this bub than about the previous one – understandable. The first one is always the hardest.

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2005 Travels February – March


Over the summer, Truck had a huge service and repair of clutch, gearbox etc – over $6000 worth! This was done at a Landrover dealer we had changed to last year, after issues in 2003 with the previous one.

Van had the under chassis painted and a service – over $1000 worth, at Trakmaster.

These costs would have been needed had we just been going travelling, anyway, rather than going off to work. A degree of age was catching up with our rig. Truck had now travelled 220,000kms – some of them pretty tough ones.

We had a new solar management system installed by a specialist in alternative power systems. He turned out to be a former staff member of the Outdoor Education company my school had used, and I knew him from then. He found that the van batteries were defunct – probably due to mismanagement back from 2002 by the incompetent  who installed the system back then. Our new power man recommended Full River AGM batteries, which we were able to source at mates rates through an electrician friend.

The new solar management system gave us much more information about what was happening with the solar system and batteries. It was easiest to install it next to the old one, so we had new and defunct side by side.

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Defunct and new solar management systems

We noted, with some amazement after reading a recent article in a caravan magazine, that it appeared the incompetent solar power man was back in business, under a new company name! More trusting innocents to be sucked in!

John arranged for A to see the alternative power person, to discuss possible options for powering Pungalina, such as a system operated by the force of running water in the creeks.

A few weeks after the Truck works were completed, its electricals died. New batteries were needed. The old ones were bone dry. Checking these had been overlooked by Landrover dealers in successive servicings, it seemed.  It was no consolation to be told the latest mistake was that of a second year apprentice…”But we’ve sacked him now”. Clearly, oversight was lacking. We decided to put AGM batteries in Truck, too.

We were disconcerted to find, when gearing up for the trip, that the CB and HF radios no longer worked. Clearly, something the Landrover service centre had done, had disabled them. So it was back across the suburbs to the dealer, to get that rectified. Apparently, “someone” had overlooked reconnecting that part of the electricals. That was kind of the last straw for us – seriously considering just finding a non affiliated competent general mechanic!

We had arranged new housesitters through an online site. This Tasmanian couple had a daughter with young family living locally, and they wanted an extended sit, to be near her while she had a new baby.

Friend M, who had spent some time travelling with us in the Pilbara, last year, had finally decided to retire from teaching and embark on travel. We spent time helping her firm up her plans, culminating in the sale of her home and her purchase of an ex-Telstra Toyota Troopy, and gear for travel and camping with that.

We spent some time preparing for this year’s adventure.

John made the folding tables, bought lights and other potentially useful stuff. He packed some of his own gear that might be needed. He bought packets of vegetable seeds for the garden he was to get going properly.

I sewed some chef’s style aprons, figuring that there were unlikely to be any already there, and thinking I should look the part. Used plain coloured heavy cotton – in safari camp colours of black and light brown. John asked for a couple to be made for him, in case he was doing something like open fire barbequing. I made him two, from a heavy striped cotton. They looked different!

I did a lot of recipe research and roughed out potential menus for camp groups, allowing for possible supply issues. It was a good thing that I had some experience of remote life! I bought things like food handling gloves, enough pannacotta moulds to cater for twelve people – and packed quite a bit of my own cooking gear to take, beyond that which usually travelled in the van.

Close to departure time, my laptop computer (which had been a hand-me-down from John) stopped working properly. I took it to our computer man for possible repairs. If it could be fixed, he would send it up to us. That was quite a blow because it potentially limited my ability to do things like word process letters to family and friends, store photos from the digital camera that I had decided to rely totally on, this year.

John did some preparatory work to set up as observers for Birds Australia. We had decided that Pungalina offered potentially rewarding bird surveying, being so remote and little populated. It would be an extra interest for us.

I phoned our Griffith friends and arranged to visit them on our way north.

At the last minute, A dropped in some signs he’d had made for each of the camp tents – they were to have local plant names, like Bauhinia. They were wood and very nicely done. John would have to put them in place. A also bought some sets of binoculars, for the use of guests, and a heap of Pungalina pamphlets he’d had printed. We were to put these into caravan parks and information centres, as convenient, as we travelled north.

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John fuelled up Truck, and filled the jerry can – $1.10cpl.

There was not much room left in or on Truck – or in the van!