This one starts with a tip. Buy a cheap Esky and put plastic bottles of cordial (or any other plastic bottle)
in it. A split bottle can make one hell of a mess, cause great aggravation and strain a relationship particularly when it's hot. It is truly amazing how far a sticky mess can spread.
We go shopping and stock up and then head out for Mutawinji. The road is mainly good gravel except for one floodway which has a nasty hole full of bulldust at the bottom. I didn't think that a 7 tonne truck could fly (almost equalled the language flying from both the driver and passenger) but it did. Glad that there are new springs under it. If they weren't settled before, they are now. We stop, check that all is well inside but missed the aforesaid bottle that was slowly oozing its ant attractent every where.
We were going to go out on the Old Coach Road but it was terrible. We do the Thaaklatjka Mingkana walk. This is graded AS class 1 walk with wheelchair access. They are right and it is a pleasant 800 Metres return. Very sensible.
They have had sufficient rain to put a tinge of green around the place but we are told that the rock pools are empty.
We have lunch and head towards Menindie Lakes via Broken Hill. The Main Weir is accessed by a dirt road which is in good condition and we duly arrive at our Christmas Day venue.
A word of warning here. If it has been raining or looks like rain do not go in or get out whichever the case may be. The road is clay based and would become a quagmire in no time flat.
We camp at Burke and Wills campsite.
There is only one other caravanner here and he has been here 2 months. He is down on his luck a bit so we invite him to join us for Christmas Dinner tomorrow.
It is hot and the forecast for tomorrow is about the same.
Julie and I discuss where to head for next. It is decided to go to the New England area of NSW and then right down the coast calling in on some friends on the way home.
Christmas Day 2003. A hot day very conducive to doing the least amount possible. We achieve this admirably and watch 3 pelicans that are very entertaining with their antics.
Kenny comes over and we have a BBQ lunch and we spend the afternoon chatting. A nice quiet day in the bush, what could be better?
We head back into Broken Hill, get fuel and buy some more water.
In the last 5 months of travelling we have not had bad water until we got to Broken Hill. The water here is atrocious. We fill the tanks to use for showering and washing up. We have to buy water for the important task of cuppas.
We follow the Barrier Highway and for once have no wind.
Morning tea at Topar, on through Wilcannia. What a sad looking town. A lot of vacant buildings with smashed windows, the Heritage signs have graffiti on them as do walls and any other stationery object. This once important inland port is slowly being destroyed along with its history.
We stop for lunch at a rest area and move on through Cobar to Nyngan. We don't stop at Cobar as we were here 2 years ago and did the tourist thing then.
On to Nyngan and fuel. This town was completely flooded out in 1990 and there was debate as to whether the town would be rebuilt but the townspeople won and it still exists.
We stop at Hunter Park in Gilgandra for tea and keep on trucking towards Tamworth via Coonabaraban.
We stop about 70K from Gunnedah at Oxley Crossing rest area.
It is still warm with every known flying bug from moths to Christmas beetles to giant cicadas. This means that every time the door is opened we get inundated. We solve the problem by leaving an outside light on which attracts them there.
We arise early. All night we have had Kamikaze bugs assailing the side of the truck and the sound is similar to someone throwing stones at us. In the morning there are dead bodies everywhere. The truck is a shade of grey from all the moths resting on it. I will enjoy blowing them off when we get going. Small things amuse small minds I know.
We stop in Gunnedah and wander around and look at the shops.
It is nice to see trees, green hills, green grass and rivers with water (albeit a little) running.
We move onto Tamworth, the country music capital of Australia. They remind you of it everywhere. Signs on shops, in the streets and on vehicles. The fact that The Country Music Festival is on the 16th Jan may have something to do with it.
We go to the Tourist Office and most things to do around here centre on country music.
We drive around the town to check out the layout and then book into a caravan park.
Tamworth has one of the prettiest main streets I have ever seen. The place is alive with very few vacant shops and people everywhere even on a Saturday.
The owner of the caravan park tells us that half his sites are already full with people here for the Country Music Festival. At 1 o'clock in the afternoon our section is empty. Not so by 5 o'clock, and by 6 o'clock it is packed with every sort of tent, caravan, motorhome and camper trailer made.
It is school holidays and I think that half of Northern and middle NSW and Southern Qld. have descended on Tamworth and surrounding districts.
The weather is much cooler today. The park is empty by 9 o'clock, all going to other destinations.
We go and look at the Golden Guitar tourist centre. This surprisingly is interesting. They have a wax museum of country music stars. I have to admit that country music is not my forte and half the people I did not recognise. Still interesting and very well done. Cheap too.
We spoil ourselves and go to Tamworth Services Club for a delicious smorgasbord lunch.
We return to the caravan park and it is empty again. I drain the water tanks and refill them. The park starts filling again and I chat to the next door neighbours who have done about the same trip as we have but over 12 months. They are here for the Festival.
We leave Tamworth early and move on to Armidale.
Our intention is to get to the Tourist Office to book on to the FREE (we ARE becoming motorhomers:))Heritage Tour of the town. It is booked out but the young lady says to wait a minute while she checks whether or not the driver is willing to run an afternoon tour. He is, and we book on that. All done in a friendly, nonplussed manner with a smile. Should be more of it.
Whilst waiting for the tour we go back to Saumarez House and do the tour there (not free). The house was left to The National Trust in 1984 and it is preserved exactly as it was when they took it over. You get the feeling that the owners will be back at any moment. There is a mixture of 1906 to the present in decor and furnishings.
We have Devonshire tea in the Kiosk. Who says I ain't kulchad.
Upon returning to the Tourist office we await the guide with 13 other people.
A Coaster (aren't all minibuses) arrives with our guide called Werner. He arrived in Armidale 40+ years ago to do something quick and never left.
Werner gives us a brief history lesson and delivers the rest of the information on the tour in a light hearted and cynical manner with a wicked sense of humour. I like the man.
The tour is supposed to take 2 hours and runs into 3. He likes his job. We leave a donation in his tin.
Armidale is a very nice place and Julie and I both like it a lot.
We start out on one of the numbered tourist drives through the forests and waterfalls of the area.
We camp at Bakers Creek Falls. Only enough room for 2 or 3 small rigs and not very level but as we are the only ones there we`survive.
We continue the drive and some of the falls are pretty good even though there is little water.
The best time to see them would be early to mid-Spring. Be warned though that it can get cold here so bring the thermal underwear.
We keep crossing the path of some people from the town tour and have a cuppa with them and I think we have nearly convinced them that motorhoming is the way to go. Goodonya Mark and Barbara.
We decide that we may come back here at a later date.
Our trip brings us back to the highway at Guyra.
We move on into Glen Innes and have a look at the Celtic Stones in the park and Julie checks out the big bookshop. This place is amazing with more secondhand books than I have seen outside a library. They are stacked everywhere. Julie is in seventh heaven and the weight of the van increases dramatically.
I may have to jettison some stuff soon to keep it under legal weight.
We stop at a rest area about 6K from Glen Innes and chat to some other motorhomers that arrive later.
On to Tenterfield.
We visit Tenterfield Saddlery, naturally. We pick up some info sheets from the Tourist Office.
If Tamworth is Country Music then Tenterfield is Peter Allen with tapes playing all his songs everywhere you go. Anyone would think he was born here :).
We do the Granite self drive tour and have lunch at the lookout.
We finish the drive and head for the Motorhome Village at Casino arriving at about 5.00PM. Getting to be a bad habit, this stopping early.
There are quite a few there and I do the rounds and chat. It is decided that we will spend New Years Eve up at the M/H behind us.
I ring friends (Norm and Wendy) at Tallebudgera and ask if they want to meet us in Ballina for lunch tomorrow. They will and a time and place is set.
We spend a very pleasant and quiet night with some of the other motorhomers and go to bed at about 1.00AM.
Another year ends and the realisation that we have 10 days left before reality strikes and we have to go to wwwwwwwooorrr, oh, I can't even say it. Another 4 letter "W" word.
We leave to have our rendezvous with Norm and Wendy.
By the time we reach Ballina my arms are crying uncle and thoughts of power steering are entertaining themselves in my brain.
We arrive in Ballina with me looking like Popeye. No sign of Norm and Wendy. I ring them and Wendy confesses that in true Qld style they forgot that WE are on real time and they are still 1 Hour behind.
They arrive and we have a barby lunch/afternoon tea (if brunch is a late breakfast, perhaps a late lunch could be loon?) and spend the afternoon yakking and wandering the streets of Ballina.
One thing I like about Norm and Wendy is that they always come prepared. They have their bed in their van so decide to stay the night.
We camp just outside Ballina.
The four of us do some more streetwalking and as the shops are all open now Wendy and Julie do their thing while Norm and I check out the interesting things like camping and hardware stores.
The weight increases yet again and I contemplate putting Julie on a bus to legalise the weight.
We bid them goodbye and start heading south towards the inevitable, home.
The weather is very pleasant and we catch glimpses of the Pacific Ocean.
We stop at a rest area 12K north of Urunga.
We go into Port Macquarie and do some shopping and check out the town. Tourists everywhere.
We move on to Wauchope. I try very hard to divert Julies attention from all the market signs announcing a market in Wauchope but realise that I am beaten when even a slow strip (damned hard while driving, I might add) doesn't work.
Julie does her thing at the market and the bus is getting closer.
We go out to Timbertown and the place is packed. We were here 15 years ago and it was dead quiet. They have dropped the entrance fee to nothing and rely on donations from the public for some of the attractions. Others are relatively cheap on a user pays system.
We have a steam train ride and watch the bullock team working.
We shuffle on to a camp 3K north of Moorland.
We head for the Visitors Centre in Newcastle. This is in a shopfront and if it were busy, parking could be a real headache. It is Sunday and we park nearby.
There is a market nearby. You know the rest. I empty 2 watertanks and get rid of some excess garbage and Julie is safe. So far.
We go up to Fort Scratchley and tour the tunnels and the museum. Very interesting.
It is my intention to go through the Sydney Tunnel late at night to avoid traffic.
I do not mind driving in heavy traffic when I know where I am going. I had been warned that the signs are hard to see to get into the tunnel to the south coast. You must be in the right lane or you are history and find yourself on the bridge and have to go the long way round. Sydney drivers in the main are very courteous (although they drive like bats out of hell) and will allow you in if you indicate. It must be said here that we have not seen too many cars going over the speed limit. Whether this is because of double points loss and massive fines I do not know.
With this in mind we go to the Leagues club and splurge on tea and waste some time (and money)playing the pokies.
We leave at 10PM and run south. There is hardly any traffic but it is raining. We locate the signs to the tunnel and get through with a minimum of fuss. The exhaust burbles very nicely in the confines of the tunnel. Can't help myself sometimes. It's a male thing. :) Too easy.
We battle rain and pea soup fog through the ranges and stop at 2AM just before Kiama.
We call in on friends in Bomaderry to have a cuppa and at their insistance and the fact that Geoff and Margaret have locked the truck in the back yard, we stay the night. A very pleasant day just lazing around and chatting followed. Great BBQ tea and I consider leaving the truck and getting 2 bus tickets.
I have found the solution to Julie increasing the weight of the truck. The answer is so simple it has been staring me in the face the whole trip. Don't stop driving. No stoppee, Julie can't get out. Simple eh?
We pass through towns that are chokkas with tourists parked and walking everywhere.
The weather is cool and overcast making beachgoing cool so they head into town. The weather also prevents viewing the good scenery along the coast
It is late afternoon when we call into some more friends in Merimbula. A pleasant chat and a cuppa with Charlie and Margaret and we are on our way again.
We arrive at Scrubby Ck. rest area and chat to a couple from Frankston.
We leave fairly early and move on. It is raining steadily but clears into a nice day at the Victorian border.
We stop at Bruthen for a loaf of bread but Julie can't resist the cakes. She explains that we are visiting more people and she is sure that they will like them.
We arrive at Keith and Lauries and the aforementioned cakes are produced. They do like them.
They have a french couple staying as well and the yard looks like a mini rally site with K&L's 2 motorhomes, a Swagman and of course our lowly beast.
We have lunch and then I potter about typing this up.
We dine on exquisite cuisine and then chat. We are about to sell the truck and walk home to lose the kilos gained.
It rains and we know we are in Victoria and getting closer to home.
WE HAVE SEEN OR DONE:
Capital cities, rural cities, big towns, little towns, ghost towns, clean towns, dirty towns and towns that have lost all hope.
Wheat belts, seat belts, belt to hold my pants up and a couple of belts from Julie.
Kangaroos, emus, echidnas, koalas, crocodiles, foxes, rabbits, possums, dolphins, whales, sharks(sea and land based types), dugongs and thousands of fishes.
Flat areas that are puncuated only by the Telstra Microwave towers that are like exclamation marks sticking out of the land.
Savannah country, hilly country, sheep country, cattle country, wet country, dry country, desert country and god-awful country.
Tropical rainforests, sub-tropical rainforests, temperate rainforests, mangroves, scrubby woodlands, open woodlands, burnt woodlands.
Wet lands, arid lands, salt plains and salinity.
Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean, Bass Strait and most of the Gulfs, Bays, inlets and Cays around Australia.
Spinifex, saltbush, Mulga, Gidgee, wattle trees, gum trees, palm trees, big trees, little trees and no trees.
Rivers of lava, rivers of sand, salt rivers, tidal rivers, freshwater rivers, blue, green and black rivers, cold rivers, hot rivers, evil smelling rivers, sweet smelling rivers, crystal clear rivers, highly polluted rivers, wide rivers, narrow rivers and man made canals.
Massive escarpments, rocky mountains, big mountains, pimples, man made mountains, rolling hills.
Gorges, chasms, gaps, craters and huge man made holes.
Ridden in or on a truck, cars, buses, boats, trains and a camel. WALKED!!!!!
Met interesting people from all nations and some not so interesting or nice.
Travelled on bitumen roads, gravel roads, corrugated roads, narrow roads, wide roads, freeways, tollways, motorways and sometimes no roads.
Stayed in rest areas, cemeteries, tailing dumps, slag heaps and caravan parks.
Been subjected to tropical storms, rain, drizzle, extreme heat, cold and wind.
Not an adventure, it has been an experience and a bloody long drive. Some places we would like to go back to, others never. Maybe next time.
Great land this place called Australia.
The next 3 days are going to be taken up visiting friends on the last leg of getting home. Nothing exciting.
I hope that this has been entertaining, interesting and of some help and inspiration to those that have limited time to journey this great land.
To the friends that have extended their hospitality to us. Thank you for making it even more enjoyable.
All comments, criticism or questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with Robbo in the subject line.
There will be one more post after this of all trivial matters like costs etc. It may take a week though .
The Team at Motorhomes Australia would
like to take this opportunity to thank "Robbo & Julie" for
keeping us up to date with their travels, and for allowing us to
publish their adventures for all to read.
© Motorhomes Australia.