This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2015 Travels July 21

TUESDAY JULY 21     WILCANNIA

A sunny day initially, that clouded over later.

We did not go far on Couey’s morning walk, because I spotted kangaroos on both the possible tracks. They were quite big but she did not appear to see them. She is not interested in critters bigger than she is, or for that matter, quite a few that are smaller. But no point in tempting her – after all, once she was averse to water, too.

A beautiful outlook…

I did a load of washing that cost $4. Had to pay at the office – it was not a commercial one, but just a nice big, new, standard washing machine.

In the afternoon, we walked around the billabong, with Couey.

The track around the billabong

Looking down the billabong from the far end

It was a fair distance. She had some swims, and  of course had to roll in the dust whilst still

wet.

Gotta find a stick…

Pelicans on the Darling River

It’s a long time since this went anywhere

We saw some sheep in a nearby paddock but she resolutely ignored them.

Some red sand rises edge part of the billabong

The track took us past the area that we had been told, last time here, would be developed for private secluded camp sites and perhaps even cabins. No development there yet.

Destined to be a place for a cabin?

I went to have a shower, after our walk, but was told by another camper that the water had been cold, this morning. We both tested it and it still ran only cold. She went and told the managers. They checked it out. Apparently there were filters or something that should have been changed or cleaned last week. Something else the backpackers had not done properly. It was rectified and half an hour later I could go and have a lovely hot shower in the very spacious shower stall.

Went to happy hour again by the campfire. There were more campers in tonight, so it was a bigger group. It was one of the nights when dinner was available to buy – a beef curry. It seemed to be good value and people certainly enjoyed it, but we did not partake – we still had pork rashers to eat. I made them into sticky pork strips, with rice.

It was so pleasant here. We would really have liked to stay longer, but were booked to reach Lightning Ridge on Friday. Next time, we must allow enough flexibility to be able to stay a week or so.


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2015 Travels July 20

MONDAY JULY 20     BROKEN HILL TO WILCANNIA     215kms

Left the park about 10.20.

Went to the Plaza shops (yet again) where there was plenty of room for our rig in a far section of the car parks. Got John’s scripts filled, and a new battery for his blood sugar monitor.

Fuelled up at the Woolworths servo there – not really well set up for anything longer than a car, but we managed. $1.377cpl.

It was 11.40 when we left Broken Hill. A degree of directional confusion ensued – not sure whether that was due to us or GPS, but we ended up unnecessarily going right down the main street and through the busier centre of town.

Duty done – now the holiday can begin!

We soon started seeing lots of emus, and goats, along the road sides.

Noted that when (if) we are next in Broken Hill, we must do a day drive out along the Wilcannia road. There were some photogenic looking old buildings, eroded stream gullies, and country that would be interesting to wander about in with a camera. All only a few kms from town.

Blue sky and sunshine today. It was quite warm travelling with the sun coming in on me through the Bus window – nice.

Some low hills began to appear in a line coming up from the south – like a dune line – beginning to be visible about 50kms from Broken Hill. I think it was the Scropes Range. It ran parallel with the road for some way, then segued into the Spring Hills, which were very photogenic, with rocky outcrops and sparse, arid lands scrub. Out here, hills are a novelty.

Scropes Range

We stopped at the Spring Hills Rest Area – quite a pleasant one with toilets, a kid’s playground, a shelter area, and some trees.

Scropes Range Rest Area

A young man driving a standard car pulled in just after us: he was driving from Perth to Byron Bay for a music festival…wow!

Well set up rest area

There was a big dry creek gully next to the rest area, with big culverts under the highway – an indication of what can happen when it rains in these parts.

Flood contingency

We kept going through more hills and with cypress pines appearing. Passed the Dolo Hills Rest Area, which had great views over the flat plains to the east, which we then drove down onto. Dolo Creek was several metres wide, but shallow, with a bed of red sand.

Down onto the flat country

The GPS suddenly decided we should turn left – onto an unpaved station driveway. No idea why, but we didn’t do it. The gadget seemed to have these sudden brain fades. Nothing like this to make us start looking around frantically, wondering what she knows that we don’t.

Saw a huge feral cat crossing the road in front of us.

Drove straight through Wilcannia, which did not look any better kept than last time we were here.

Arrived at Warrawong on Darling at 2.15pm. The lady who greeted us was definitely not a backpacker. She was very pleasant and efficient and told us that she and her husband had been here for nine months as managers. But they only returned this morning from a week away, during which time the Sydney based owner of the place had arranged for a couple of backpackers to look after the place. So I was right! I gathered that their efforts had been less than satisfactory in tasks like cleaning! The grey nomads work ethic is better, just about every time…

The powered site cost us $37.50 a night, cash only – unusual these days. We were able to choose our own site, as only about four of the row along the bank were occupied. We chose Site 5, liking it both for its outlook and because there was only unpowered space on one side – which was not occupied during the time we were there.

Clear space between us and camp kitchen

There were changes from when we were here two years ago – as one would expect in a newly developing place. The area back from the “waterfront” sites was now grassed and well set up as powered sites, some quite close to the amenities. There was now a row of accommodation rooms, with a wide veranda across the front, and a big gas BBQ provided for every two units. They cost $120 a night.

Our view…

We set up, then took Couey for a run down along the billabong track.

The billabong at Warrawong on Darling

There were now some well defined tracks to bush camp areas on the banks of the Darling – very nice.

Ancient river red gum in the bush camping area

There were some sections on the black soils of the tracks where vehicles had really churned up deep holes.

Bush camps by the Darling River

Couey had a wonderful time going in and out of the billabong after thrown sticks. Finally, a romp in water! Her attitude towards going into the water had completely swung around since last time here. Now, try keeping her out! I think we had created a monster. Now, she smelled like a swamp.

There’s a dog in there…

John had a sleep. I went to happy hour at the fire pit and communal gathering area by the camp kitchen. Saw something I’d not seen before, in all our years of bush wanderings. They had put a steel dropper post in the middle of the fire pit. When building the fire, they drop a hollow log over it. When the fire gets going, the smoke is funnelled up the hollow log and does not bother those sitting around the fire. Brilliant! Someone said it was an old aboriginal method….but they didn’t exactly have steel posts?

Fire pit chimney

It was a very enjoyable happy hour – or two. Most campers came. The managers served up some savouries – cheese, biscuits, sausage sliced.

John eventually appeared. Around 6.30 I left to go cook rice and pork rashers for tea. It was dark by now. Couey had waited patiently, tethered to the front of Bus, while we socialized.

Watched Master Chef again – the TV signal here was fine, as was the internet and mobile.

Another cold night.

07-20-2015 to ww.JPG


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2015 Travels July 19

SUNDAY JULY 19       BROKEN HILL

The usual start to the day.

Late morning, we went to the Plaza shopping centre. John wanted to fill some scripts at the chemist and needed to do this in person, because it was not long since they were filled at home. He wanted to ensure he had a good supply before we headed further north. Of course, the chemist was closed.

I bought food for tonight’s tea as daughter was coming again. I had originally thought to make a chicken Caesar salad, but decided against that. It was too cold to eat outside on the larger table, and there is not enough room on the inside dinette table to put a platter of salad for diners to help themselves. Also, I would have to buy a platter for the purpose. All too hard. I bought strips of pork belly rashers instead, to make sticky pork ribs, a favourite of ours. Also bought some mince, to make us hamburgers tomorrow night, and a good bottle of Sauv Blanc.

I directed John to the hardware store – he couldn’t remember from last time – then it was back to Bus.

As he did yesterday, John went off to do repairs at daughter’s, and I stayed with dog at the park.

We walked around it twice, looking and the variety of rigs, and watching newcomers roll in. The park was close to full. It has a real variety of sites, some with a surface of loose wood chips, some gravel, some cement. Obviously, grass is not a viable option in a place as dry as this. Daughter had told us that the town’s drinking water supply was so low that it would run out later this year. She didn’t know what would happen then. After our first cup of chlorinated tea, at her place on Friday, I had gotten out our water filter jug and set it up in Bus. It took away some of the chlorine taste from the water, but it still wasn’t great.

Spacious, private site

John, accidentally but fortunately, had found out from daughter that she no longer eats pork. He phoned me immediately. Luckily I had the mince, and it was determined that, yes, she would eat spag bol. So, change of meal plan. John and I would be eating pork rashers for a couple of days, as I had no room for them in the freezebox.

I phoned Warrawong on Darling, our next planned destination and booked us in for a couple of nights. It would be R & R after the tensions of family relations. I wanted to make sure we had a prime site with a direct view over the billabong there. The person who answered sounded young and British and told me in an offhand way there was no need to book as she was sure there would be a site somewhere. This was not quite what I was after. My heart sank at the thought that this place might now be using backpackers to run it – in our experiences, unless firmly directed by a manager, they were often not associated with high standards. We had often been told in our working travels that this was why many places preferred grey nomads as seasonal workers.

John came back about 3.30pm – earlier than I’d expected. He was exhausted, as sometimes happens to him after not much effort at all. He needed to sleep. Daughter was going to an art exhibition of the 2014 Archibald Prize paintings, that was on in town, and wanted him to go with her. But he was too tired. I don’t think she really understands how limited his capacities are, these days.

John had his sleep. I cooked.

Daughter arrived a bit after 6pm. She was not happy and did not want to talk about anything, so John and I conversed around her. I offered yoghurt for dessert but she did not want any of that – or any wine. Fine – all the more for us. We were planning to watch Master Chef so daughter left straight away. She did not want to stay and watch the program with us, as she dislikes one of the judges. Can’t say it was a pleasant visit.

The TV program was enjoyable – and so was the bottle of wine: a quality above our usual cheaper standards.

Another really cold night.


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2013 Travels July 9

TUESDAY 9 JULY     WILCANNIA

Upon waking, we decided to have another lazy day here, since it was such a pleasant place.

Went up to the office to pay for another night, then showed manager lady the forum location and Badger’s site.

I read for a while, then tried to download some more e-books to my reader. Couldn’t quite remember how I did that, the first time, at home. Did not manage it well, this time. I did get some transferred to the reader, but not all that I tried for.

It was too nice a day to spend for long in Bus, playing with technology.

Warrawong on Darling. Camp kitchen just visible behind car.

We walked Couey around the lagoon. She’d had such a great time here. She had some good wallows in the shallows, then actually ventured into deeper water, after thrown sticks. She almost – but not quite – got to swimming depth. This was followed by much rolling in the dust – and, much later, by a big brushing session, before she was allowed in Bus again.

I inspected the Terios front bumper closely. It was more stone pocked than I’d realized, on Sunday. I thought there were a couple of small marks on the windscreen too. It really would have been much better to drive the two vehicles separately.

I showered and washed my hair. The bathrooms here are so great – I doubted we’d be using any others as good for some time.

In the late afternoon, John lit the fire in the communal pit and we sat round it talking with other campers. One couple came from Clunes and were neighbours to an artist who was a good friend of my brother. The old small world thing again…..

Options for tonight’s tea were a bit limited by lack of fresh produce, but we enjoyed macaroni cheese with tuna. Yummy.

Daughter texted to say she’d forwarded mail today, to Charleville.

Watched the ABC’s Kitchen Cabinet again. Not as good as last week’s episode, because the two politicians featured were not really very inspiring or interesting ones.


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2013 Travels July 8

MONDAY 8 JULY     WILCANNIA

Woke up to blue skies – and frost on the car!

Decided to stay another day, because it was so peaceful and relaxing here.

I took the opportunity to do a load of washing in the brand new laundry.

John filled our water tank, trusting that the treatment of the Wilcannia town water was trustworthy! It took ages to fill. NOW he believed me that we were really low on water – previously he’d been sceptical, of both me and the gauge. We did not have such things in the van and he seemed slow to trust the levels that they showed for fresh and grey water tanks.

Drove back into Wilcannia and cruised around, looking at the beautiful old stone buildings. In the late 1800’s, Wilcannia was the third largest inland port in Australia. Unfortunately, too many of the buildings were damaged or decaying. Two of the best remaining ones were the Police Headquarters (which originally had another purpose), and the Courthouse. I guessed that both were well-used these days! There were people milling about in front of the latter, and more people out and about in town, in general, being a week day.

I went to the supermarket. Their loose potatoes were a brilliant shade of green. I wasn’t prepared to buy a packaged bag of same, where there was no way of seeing in to check the colour of the contents. So we were still spud-less. I felt quite angry that the shop manager obviously thought it was alright to try to sell produce like that – an insult to the locals.

I did buy a bottle of pasta sauce, having to hunt a bit to find a variety that wasn’t past its use-by date. Disgraceful.

Posted cards I’d written at Copi Hollow, to assorted family and friends.

After lunch back at camp, walked Couey – and Bidgee – round the lagoon circuit. Bidgee actually managed to tempt Couey into the shallows of the lagoon, and they had a great frisk and wallow. Bidgee startled a kangaroo and then chased it off into the scrub; we didn’t see her again, but she was back home by the time we finished our walk. Couey was quite mystified by the kangaroo and not inclined at all to join the chase – good!

This morning, we were the only campers left in the place, but in the afternoon four more lots came in.

I went online and put a review of this place on the Badgers site, where travellers review parks, and also made a comment on a travellers forum I frequented. Told the lady manager I’d done this. She hadn’t heard of either – I got the impression she was feeling her way a bit with technology – and wanted me to show her those two sites, which I will do tomorrow.

The manager lit the campfire and we joined a really enjoyable happy hour gathering.

Pasta with sauce from jar for tea.


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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.