Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Adelaide to Melbourne via Echuca

We drove through a part of Victoria we hadn’t seen before which we enjoyed. We stopped at a place called Manangatang, where there was free overnight camping opposite the pub. They even had clean toilets and showers! We set up and tried out our diesel heater again, but it still sent out clouds of smoke! We went over to the pub and had an enjoyable meal. One lady came to sell us tickets for a meat tray and asked us if we were in the caravan that was sending out clouds of smoke. We didn’t realise we had left it on when we went over for tea, fortunately it got dark and no one really noticed it!
We arrived at Echuca and checked into the local caravan park there. They were offering a ‘stay 4 pay 3 deal’ so we took that up, and then asked if there was room to extend our stay. The girl at the desk implied that it may not be possible, but we checked in anyway and decided to argue the point in the next few days when that girl was not on the desk.
Katie and Matt and baby Otto were heading up this way and we were so looking forward to seeing them after 41/2 months of travel. Our caravan park was right by the river and we could hear the ‘toot toot’ of the riverboats as they went past. It was all quite enchanting.

We were so pleased to see little Otto again, but it took a while for him to get used to us!

We spent a week at Echuca, and did lots of walking from our caravan park to where Katie and Matt were staying. We couldn’t win on the caravan park deal. In the end, we had to move literally 10 metres across the road to another site for the last 2 days. If we hadn’t done that we would have had to pay for the ‘free’ night. We really didn’t get it!!
Katie and Otto came with us on one of the Riverboats – the EmmyLou. We thought that it was only a pretend steam engine, but no, it was a real one and very interesting at that! It was lovely sitting on the deck and looking at the riverbank passing by.


We offered to look after Otto one night so Katie and Matt could go out to tea. It was a bit of a disaster as Otto wasn’t too sure about us and worked himself up into a real tizz, so we couldn’t get him to go to sleep. Katie and Matt could hear him crying as they got out of the lift! He only needed his mummy to settle him instead of Grandma and Pa strangers!

After Echuca we drove back to Melbourne for the last part of our trip. We set up outside Nikki and Shannon’s house in Greensborough and drove the Western Ring Road many times to visit Katie and Otto during the day.
It was lovely to see Nikki and Shannon waiting expectantly for their new baby – only 2 more months to go! And lovely to see the grand dogs too!!

 On the Grand Final weekend we went to Daylesford for two nights at a cottage that we shared with Katie and Matt and Otto. It was the first time we slept away from our caravan in a very long time!

We had the most lovely snuggles with Otto in the morning. I can't describe how lovely it is to be a grandma!
We celebrated Katie's 32nd birthday just before we left to go home - probably the first actual birthday we've had with her since she left home all those years ago!

 On our last day we said goodbye to Katie and Otto before getting on the boat.

And so, after 21 weeks of holiday, we drove onto the newly refurbished Spirit of Tasmania for the last bit of the journey.
 We got off the boat and had breakfast with an old friend from Jane Franklin Hall days – Heather and her husband Phil. It was a lovely way to finish the holiday before heading south. What a beautiful day it was as we drove down the highway. It was cool but sunny and we loved reconnecting with our little island state. When we got to the Derwent River it was flat calm, and the mountain looked a treat!
We had driven over 20,000 kilometres and seen some amazing sites but there really is no place like home.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Perth to Adelaide

While in Perth it was our wedding anniversary, so we had a nice tea out, within walking distance of the park, which was very enjoyable.
We caught up with my old school friend Anne Holder and her husband Rod. We had got back in contact by Facebook so Anne had followed my journey down the west coast and suggested we catch up when I reached Perth.

Our old neighbours also now live in Perth, so we had dinner with them one night, and I attended a baby shower hosted by De for Jeannine and Will’s baby while Randall, Will and Jonathon went out for a boy’s Father’s Day. It was so nice to catch up with everyone again.


We also caught up with Randall’s cousin David and his wife Rose and their two gorgeous girls, Lola and Sophia. We spent an enjoyable afternoon with them at their place in Mullaloo.
Our last catch up was with Phil and Angela Delich. Phil had worked for us many years ago in our amusement machine business and Randall has always liked keeping in touch with him. We had lunch at a German restaurant which was different but nice.

We also had to have the car serviced, so we arranged to drop it off early. It was near the satellite shop where we purchased the satellite dish quite some years ago. We got talking to the owner and he brought out this ‘you beaut’ satellite finder called the ‘marriage saver’. Luckily Randall is always good at locking onto the satellite, so there are never any arguments. This didn’t stop Randall’s eyes lighting up, and we walked out with it of course!!

So after all the catch-ups and car stuff we decided that it was time to move on and head East across the Nullarbor.

We were going to go fairly leisurely, but, really, there are not a lot of attractions along the way, so it took 4 nights to get across in the end.
We did make sure we stopped at Northam to find the butcher that we had bought the most delicious sausages from 5 years ago. He had moved, but we tracked him down and got the sausages – not quite as good as we remembered though!
The first night we stopped at a gravel pit. Randall set up the satellite dish, so he could use his ‘marriage saver’ and he was most impressed with how quickly he got set up.
Our second night was at the back of a truck stop, with a couple of other people stopping there as well. 

The third night was at a lookout called the Madura Lookout. It had quite spectacular views over the plains.
We drove across the Nullarbor Plain, which means ‘no trees’.

All the fuel stops along the way have signs indicating that there is no water available unless you stay at their caravan park. However, they have signs along the highway indicating water, and when you drive in, it is just an enormous roof that collects water into a couple of huge water tanks. We filled up at one of these, along with several other people.
We had some time zone confusion in mid western Australia. There is an unofficial central west time zone, as well as WA time and SA time. At one stage we had three different times on our watches, phones and car!!
It was lovely to arrive at the WA/SA border and walk out to see the Great Australian Bight!

Driving along we sometimes watched Sky News on the phone - it never ceases to amaze me how good technology can be!

Our last night was at the Head of the Bight car park. There were quite a few other campers there.  A beautiful sunset and amazing night sky lifted the ambience of the gravel car park with its tall cyclone fence.

We got up the next morning and drove in to the Head of the Bight. You are pretty much guaranteed to see whales there during the whale migratory season. We paid our entry fee to the most uninterested lady at the desk. She had the personality of a coin in the slot turnstile!!
We saw three whales up close, all with babies in tow. The weather was absolutely beautiful with stunning blue skies, so we spent a couple of hours just watching the whales lounging around in from of us.

  All across the Nullarbor it was so warm we had to get out our shorts and t-shirts again.

From the Head of the Bight we drove to Ceduna. We stopped for a walk around of the waterfront, before heading off to our next overnight stop called Minnipa. It had a free campsite in the town, so we walked up to the local historic pub for a delicious meal and a few ales.
There are wheat fields as far as the eye can see in this area, and huge wheat silos at each town we passed through. We stopped at Kimba for a break, where we discovered we were only at the halfway mark across Australia. We thought we were much closer to the east!
Randall had been in touch with David and Ros Taylor, who also own a Cambridge Caravan like ours. They were also in SA and it was likely we would catch up with them at some time. We arranged a meeting place at the Mambray Parking Area, and from that we decided to stay at a lovely little historic country town called Crystal Brook. We had driven through it at the start of the holiday and thought it was really quaint. There were two free camp options, and we chose Bowman Park, just out of the town. It had a nice grassy area to camp on near historic ruins of an old farmhouse. There was also a function centre there.
We started setting up, then discovered there was to be a wedding happening, with music etc. not too far from us. We did talk about packing up and moving, but then decided not to.

We decided that we could put up with the noise. It wasn’t too bad in the end. David got out his fire pot and we sat around enjoying the warmth.

The wedding noise wasn’t too bad, except for the people who decided to drive around each caravan at about 2am tooting their horn!!
The weather the next day was beautiful, so we went for a long walk. When we returned the wedding was still going and David got talking to one of the boys in the wedding party. It was mentioned that Randall had his bagpipes and so it ended up with Randall playing Amazing Grace to the happy couple – they had walked down the aisle to this the night before – much to the enjoyment of all there.

From Crystal Brook we headed for Adelaide. David and Ros were following us as we drove in to Crystal Brook, and David pointed out that our right indicator on the caravan was not working. Just another thing to add to the long list of broken things on the holiday!!

We had another lovely catch up with my sister and her family. It was nice to see my nephew, Ed, who had recently returned from volunteering in Cambodia.

The politics hotted up when we were there. Randall set up the satellite dish so he could follow the Liberal leadership challenge, and watched the debrief all the next day, while I had a coffee catch up with Penelope.
We stayed a few days. Our caravan park had a walking track behind it that led all the way into the city about 5 kilometres away. It was a very pleasant walk and we had a bit of a look around the city before walking back to the park again! Needless to say we slept well that night!

We packed up and started the last bit of our journey - heading towards Echuca to catch up with Katie Matthew and our little grandson Otto.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Ningaloo region

We left Karijini, stopping at the Mt Bruce lookout to get some mobile service and look at the view! We saw an iron ore train heading west – they are soooo long. Randall read somewhere they can be as long as 4kms!
We had to get fuel and groceries so we visited Tom Price. It is quite a nice little mining town, and had some lovely sculptures in the shopping centre.

Randall had heard that another town on the way to the coast, Paraburdoo, had a good little caravan park and it was where we headed next. The park was next to some miner’s quarters and the amenities were excellent. They even provided washing machines and washing powder in the price per night. We quickly did a few big loads of washing and got them on the line so they would be dry by the end of the day.

We went for a walk to the township and looked around, saw the outdoor movie theatre which looked interesting,  
and then went to the pub.It looked closed as there were no cars outside, but it was open and we wandered in to enjoy a beer. A couple from the caravan park were there and we got talking. It turned out that the bloke grew up near me in Tranmere Road and that Dad was his doctor! Talk about coincidence!

We left Paraburdoo to go to Ningaloo. Our hope was to camp up in the Cape Range National Park, but luck was not going our way. When we got to Exmouth Information Centre there were signs up saying that the campsites were full up. This happened last time and if you want to camp there you have to queue up in the early hours of the morning. There is no free camping allowed near the town - they will fine you if you do that. Our next plan was to go to either Ningaloo Station or another station called Warroora.  We decided on Warroora Station. On the way we drove into Coral Bay to have a look – we didn’t realise it was an actual resort area, just thought it was the name of a bay there.
The road into Warroora was atrocious for the first 15kms, and then improved for the next 15 kilometres thank goodness! Our campsite was a bit windblown, but we didn’t have a choice as the other campsites were all taken. We got ourselves set up and spent 3 nights there, relaxing and going for walks and checking out the other campsites at the station.


The weather was in the low to mid twenties so we didn’t really feel like swimming, but the water looked beautiful and clear. All in all we had a lovely time there just winding down, reading and walking.

As we drove out we felt a bit sad that we were leaving the warm weather behind.

Just north of Geraldton we had our first drops of rain for 3 months! Heading down the coast the wildflowers were beautiful – lots of purple ones that were very pretty.

We pulled into a camp site for the night that was a look out with amazing views. It was called the Gladstone Scenic Lookout. There were three or four other caravans there and the people were all grouped together having a chat. It was all about the ‘No Camping” signs up everywhere. Apparently the signs weren’t there a few months previously, however we decided to stay anyway.

The view was amazing and I enjoyed watching the sunset there.

As Randall was chatting to a mate on the phone, he noticed that our spare caravan wheel was leaning at a 45-degree angle. The weld had come unstuck!! We had to take the wheel off, and put it on the roof of the car, then secure the bar that the wheel was on. By the time that was done it was dark, so we felt we had an excuse if some one came knocking on the door.

We got up very early the next morning and left before 6 0’clock – we didn’t want a fine!!
We scooted down the coast stopping at Carnarvon for water and a quick walk around. We noticed that the Great Loritz Circus was in town! How amazing that we have seen them all around Australia!!
We did a couple of overnight stops to get to Perth, one at a place called Dongara rest area,
Then a place called Arrowsmith rest area about 300ks north of Perth. We made some phone calls to friends and family in Perth and arranged catch ups. We discovered that a friend of Randalls from early casino days, Chris, lived 100ks north of Perth, so we called in to see him on the way. It was quite overcast and the heavens opened up and washed some of the dirt from out car and caravan - our first bucketing since Tennant Creek all those months ago!
We decided to stay at one more overnight stop as it was getting too late to head to Perth, so we found one near where we were and bunkered down for the night. It was quite cold and our diesel heater kept playing up. It would start up and try to ignite, and lots of smoke would come out from under the van! Just another thing that has broken on this trip!!
We headed into Perth the next morning and got settled in to a very friendly caravan park.