This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2013 Travels July 7

SUNDAY 7 JULY     COPI HOLLOW TO WILCANNIA     155kms

We took our time packing up and hitching up, leaving the park at 10.30am.

John really wanted to go direct to Wilcannia, not back through Broken Hill.

People at the Menindee Visitor Centre had told us that the road up the west side was marginally better at the moment, than the east. I suggested that I drive Terios separately, rather than tow it on the unsealed road, but John vetoed that idea.

West bank route from Menindee to Wilcannia

The west bank road was rough in places, where it had been driven on when wet. As a passenger, it felt like the Coaster “caught” in some of the wheel ruts. I worried about the following Terios, with its much narrower wheel base. An ok path for the Coaster was not necessarily so for the car.

It took us a bit over two hours to do the unsealed 138kms to Wilcannia, but John did need to make about five comfort stops along the way!

The country we traversed was flat and scrubby and not very appealing. Not the scenic route!

Yet another roadside stop!

In the quiet, run-down looking Wilcannia, we refuelled at the Liberty servo. $1.73cpl. This time, we’d managed 6kms per litre. Later, found out that the other servo, down a back street, off the highway, was considerably cheaper.

Parked by Bourke Park, in the town, and gave Couey a ball chase for a while,

Wilcannia has some lovely old buildings, dating from its era as an important Darling River port town, but it was sad to see the deterioration and neglect of some of this heritage – and the prevalence of bars on windows of those businesses that were not closed and boarded up. A very sad town.

The prevailing views we’d heard from other travellers were that camping in what passed for the caravan park in town, by the river, was not always secure feeling. We had no intention of doing so. On a Cartoscope free map that I’d picked up in Menindee, I’d seen an advertisement for a caravan park 3kms east of town – Warrawong on the Darling – and had Googled it. Looked both new and fine. We drove out there, thinking we would check this out, stay if it looked alright, otherwise drive on east and find somewhere to stop along the way.

I had some moments of doubt about this place, as we turned off the highway onto the approach road, to be confronted by a paddock full of old cars and scrap metal. But that was the neighbour’s place; the caravan park was well away from that.

Liked what we saw and booked in for a night, at $35 for a powered site. We could choose our site – most were unoccupied – and we picked a large grassy site on the bank overlooking a billabong of the Darling River.  This was really picturesque and lovely, ringed by trees and bush and with a mix of dead and live trees in the water. Lots of bird life.

Camp by the billabong at Warrawong

The place had only been open since Easter, so was still being developed. The new amenities were very spacious and clean, still with some finishing off work to be done. Each large shower cubicle also had its own handbasin.

There was a row of roomy, powered sites along the billabong bank, and the makings of more back from the bank. Already, there was a camp kitchen established, and a campfire area for happy hours.

There was town water – that solved our water shortage issue!

Set up didn’t take long, then we relaxed with our lunch, outside, taking in the view.

The billabong

Took Couey for a walk. The temporary caretaker who’d checked us in told us there was a track that went to the Darling River and on in a circuit right around the billabong. Once we were away from the formal camp area, Couey could range off the lead. The heeler dog that belonged to the managers saw us walking off and joined us – Bidgee. The two dogs romped a bit together, on the walk. I wouldn’t say they were the greatest of friends, but they tolerated each other. Bidgee was in and out of the billabong, frolicking in the water, but couldn’t tempt Couey to join her.

Looking back to the camp area from the track to the river

We walked across and looked at the Darling River. Its level was noticeably lower than that of the billabong, so we thought there must be some means of closing the latter off.

Zoom image of the camp area, billabong and Darling River

It was a good length walk – maybe 3kms in all – and very enjoyable.

Terios seemed OK after the tow, although small gravel being thrown up had roughened the plastic coating of the front bumper. There were also some small stone chips in the paint of the hitch. We now realized there were no mud flaps on the back wheels of Bus, though the overhang was such that I wouldn’t have thought thrown-up stones would be an issue. We would have to have some sort of protection for Terios if we were going to be travelling unsealed roads, in the future.

Late in the afternoon, the managers got back from a week off. Bidgee stopped hanging round our camp.

By evening, there were several other lots of campers in place.

I texted my offspring, and M, of our whereabouts. Asked my daughter to bundle up and forward our mail – which I’d had readdressed to her place – to Charleville. John texted his daughter of our new whereabouts. He was still hoping for contact from her.

Tea was sausages and eggs.

The night was cold, but we were snug.


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2013 Travels June 25

TUESDAY 25 JUNE     HOME TO BENDIGO     202kms

Departure day. Was it actually going to happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lions Park Seymour

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

Easy parking at Lions Park Seymour

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

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

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

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

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

The rig parked up for the night in Bendigo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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2013 Travels 1 January to 19 June

2013 TO JUNE

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

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

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

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

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

Fetch it for me……

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

Once was possum…..

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

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

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

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

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

Another cot blanket

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

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

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

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

The cause of the lung problem?

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

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

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

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

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