This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2007 Travels May 2


We had been able to remain hitched up last night – big tick to the caravan park – so there was not much to do to get on the road again.

But before we left, once it was past 8am, John consulted the local phone book and started phoning refrigeration places, to find one that could deal with our kind of fridge. Past experience suggested that it was either gas or thermostat. After some initial phone calls, we were able to drive straight to a place that would check it all out, parking in the laneway at the back of the business. The unit was found to need re-gassing, which was efficiently done. It did not take long – all remarkably hassle free. Maybe things were going our way now?

I wondered if all the extreme heat that the van had been in, last year, had caused a loss of refrigerant, somehow?

Crossed the mighty Murray, into NSW. Refuelled at Buronga – still $1.30cpl.

The very good Silver City Highway carried us north, with no dramas. Once away from the influence of the Darling River and the availability of irrigation water, the country quickly became flat, dry grasslands, with  patches of red sandy soil showing through. There were enough patches of scrub and stunted trees to keep it vaguely interesting.

We stopped at the rest area at Lake Popiltah, about the half way mark, to eat the sandwiches I’d made this morning. M usually only had a piece of fruit for lunch – she believes in simplified travel!

Lake Popiltah was dry, and from the look of the grass growing in its base, had been that way for some time. It is one of a series of shallow depressions, sometimes filled from high water in an anabranch of the Darling River, to the east. Since the flow of the Darling was heavily controlled by irrigation schemes and diversions, even in good years, the lake was more often dry than not.

The dry bed of Lake Popiltah

The large rest area would probably be fine for an overnight camp, with plentiful shade trees, including some of the cypress pines that I love, and a view out over the dry lake area. There was plenty of room to spread out. There were long drop toilets – rather “on the nose”. The rest stop was close to the road, though, and traffic noise might be obvious at night. However, it was great for a lunch break.

Lunch stop Lake Popiltah Rest Area

I can’t say that the southern approach to Broken Hill is all that attractive, skirting as it does the first of the large mining operations. I navigated us through to the Broken Hill City Caravan park, on the Adelaide road.

After discount, our site cost $22.50 a night. The sites were fairly small, the surface was wood chips – a good idea in this arid environment, where grass is not feasible. Wood chips do not get tracked into the van like small gravel does. Gets my tick of approval.

Since it was only mid  afternoon by the time we had set up, (Broken Hill operates on SA time, so we’d gained time) we decided to check out some galleries. Drove to the Boris Hlavica photography gallery where I had, on our last visit, bought a superb photo of Lake Eyre at dusk. I wanted to see what might be new there, and show the works to M. Although she had been through Broken Hill before, she had not been here. I managed to be quite disciplined, and bought only a card to send off for step daughter’s birthday.

We then tried to find a couple of advertised galleries that sold aboriginal art works. One was closed, and the other had moved. By this time, we couldn’t be bothered trying to track it down, so went back to camp, for the usual leisurely end to the day.

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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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1999 Travels March 29


The van was to go to Trakmaster today. We had no problems hitching it up to Truck, in the driveway – unlike the day, over a year ago, when we left from here! It will be there for two days. The brake linings need replacing, which was a bit of a surprise. They are bracing the fridge in place. The main item is that we are having a solar panel installed on the roof. The van was wired for this, when being built, so it should be a straightforward operation.

The fridge is back, there. Apparently, there was nothing wrong with it, after all. The switch in the van, where we can turn it on or off, had broken, so that is being replaced. I think the fridge man was rather dumb not to have checked out something that simple, before he took the thing away with him! Apparently, he has kept it closed – all this time – and it really stinks inside. How stupid is that? This is also the man who does the solar power – hope he is more competent with that……..

While John was gone, I cleaned the house oven – which took ages – then did some gardening.

John also took the annexe roof to the canvas place in Ringwood, to repair a small tear that happened one day, in wind.

Tea was steak, mushrooms and salad.

The house TV screen seems so large, after the van one!

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1999 Travels March 15


We got away from Tathra about 9am. At the bottom of the steep bit of road up from the beach level to the top, John put Truck in low range and second gear and we crawled up the hill – slow but easy.

It was then a straight forward run to Lakes Entrance, though a bit slow through the winding and more hilly section between Eden and Orbost. Negotiating our way through the centre of Merimbula with the van on was not the best, either – we might have been better off to go to Bega and take the highway that misses the town.

We had to stop several times for “bathroom” for John – it must be the effect of the increasing cold!

We stopped near Cann River to eat the packed lunch brought with us. This is a stretch of road that we have driven a number of times before, over the years, so it seems very routine, and does not hold a great deal of interest, just because of familiarity.

Reached Lakes Entrance about 2.30pm. Booked into the Big 4 Koonwarra Caravan Park for $14.40 for the night. This is just to the east of the centre of the town – within walking distance. It is an adequate park for an overnight stop, or a few days.

We had intended to go for a good cycle around the town, after our minimal set up. But discovered, to my horror, that the fridge was not working – and had not been for a while, as all the contents of the freezebox were well and truly defrosted. I was well and truly annoyed! John phoned C  at Trakmaster, who put us onto J – the Vitrifrigo dealer who had supplied the fridge when the van was built. He is also the solar power man. J directed John in doing some tests and decided he knew what was wrong. John arranged to meet him tomorrow, at 3pm, at the Trakmaster factory.

I threw out some meats, but kept a pack of fish to cook extra for John’s tea tonight – he will be having a big feed! Also kept some bacon, which I thought was safe. There was not too much food wasted – it could have been worse. I had run down our usual stocks in anticipation of being able to buy cheaper in Melbourne. There was rather a nasty smell in the fridge, though! I wiped it out with a cloth dipped in vanilla essence. Stacked up the Chescold fridge with the jars, margarine, cheese and vegetable matter from the van fridge, and we ran that through the night to keep things cold. Hopefully, the contents will remain cold enough through the drive tomorrow. We do not run the Chescold on 12Volt in the Truck – had a nasty experience doing this in the previous Hilux, when the fridge shifted and pinched the wire and we went very close to having the vehicle on fire!

About 6pm, we managed to go out for a cycle around the streets, for nearly an hour.

Our intention of having a rather leisurely trip back home, through Gippsland, is now not going to happen, due to having to get the fridge to Melbourne.

Our late tea was John’s fish dinner – large size. I had steak. I am still very wary of eating fish that may have bones. Melon completed the meal.

Today, the van clocked up 10,000 kms of being towed. What a way to celebrate the milestone!

03-15-1999 tathra to lakes.JPG