A Travellerspoint blog



sunny 26 °C

Returning to 'civilisation' has been a challenge for both of us. We do miss the comeraderie on the road and the ever-changing scenery, however, the 'tree-bites' have been cleverly removed from the rear part of the car and the van is awiting 'surgery' to fix the damage to the van awning in Ballarat.

Perhaps I can close this page in our journey with a few immortal words of Australia's favourite poet - Dorothea Mackellar -

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains,
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me.

We experienced all that and more and can now look forward to another chapter, somewhere on the far horizon!

Blessings to you all.

Posted by psstevo 15:59 Archived in Australia Comments (1)


Before our departure Mary & I had seen quite a lot of Australia over the years, but nothing quite prepared us for the vast distances that we had to travel just to get from one small village to the next.

The amazing range of flora and fauna was a constant source of wonder and delight as we observed God’s creation at close quarters for so long. Especially was this so with the daily ‘morning chorus’ of a wide range of birds in a wide range of situations from urban to rural to ‘lost in the bush’!

The photos of West Australia do not do this vast State justice – from the changing colours of the seascapes to the dab arid vegetation to towering Tingle trees.

The friendliness in almost all locations (apart from major cities where country civility has been largely lost!), but especially among our thousands of fellow nomads. What memories we will always carry of some real characters.

That Mary & I survived this great journey probably surprised us as much as our friends! But we did and I think we are the closer for the many experiences that we shared in sometimes trying circumstances! But we survived!

That we were able to share a great majority of this journey with Brian and Maureen added to the journey, especially Brian’s practical help at times of mechanical or electrical crisis and his ‘sense of humour’! Maureen was always the quiet encourager and we value these dear folk as special friends.

To be out of communication range for many days at a time was a bit of a challenge from a political news junky like myself, however, we were greatly blessed by this lack of ‘news’ during the run-up to the Federal election where no news is peace indeed!

This trip had its sadder moments as, firstly Mary, lost her dearly loved aunt in England, followed very soon after with news that my mum had also passed away. Vast distances are a cruel thing at time such as those were.

The question we keep asking ourselves is, “Are we going to do ‘it’ again?” The simple answer is no! We’ll likely do a different journey next time to somewhere that is warm and unknown to us, and/or with friends.

In conclusion, we both are thankful for God’s blessing as we travelled on all sorts of roads and in all sorts of conditions with only one or two minor incidents to remind us of human frailty.

Posted by psstevo 03:52 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

28 Our Last Leg!

sunny 20 °C

23rd October
Glen Innes to Ballina

A nice day for the long drive on our penultimate leg towards Brisbane. The trip to Tenterfield (made famous by Australian music star Peter Allen some years ago) was uneventful. Our arrival at Tenterfield found us looking to find any safe parking spot so that we could have a walk around and get some photos. The town was much as it had been from my previous sales visits many years ago.

While at Echuca we had watched the Charlie and Boots DVD starring Paul Hogan and the bloke who played Kenny in the Dunnies movie. This DVD was a road movie from Southern Victoria, along the Newell and New England highways and on through Queensland to Cape York. While a bit crude it had some very funny bits in it. Back to our story – there, on the main street, was the little shop advertising the “world’s thickest thickshakes’, just like the movie. In we went and ordered a thickshake each, but they had run out of the special icecream required to ‘thicken’ up the milkshake. What a disappointment. Instead we settled for a normal caramel milkshake (and a famous Wagyu beef and bacon pie to go with it!

Mary sat in the Paul Hogan seat and so we had to take a photo – which didn’t come out very well unfortunately. While enjoying our milkshake another traveller came in and ordered a thickshake, but was also told “thickshakes are off love” at which he too ordered himself a standard milkshake to drink. He then, loudly, complained to the staff that he had driven 10,000 kilometres to get this thickshake and he wasn’t happy! As he passed me I told him that we had driven 20,000 K’s to have a thickshake here – which he loudly passed on to the staff!

On our way back to the car we noted a store proudly signed ‘The Tenterfield Saddler’ (Peter Allen’s song), so we had to get a photo of that too.
Heading off towards Ballina via Casino and Lismore we had a very tiring and winding road enclosed by tall bush. While it was a pleasant enough journey I was hoping not to encounter any semi-trailers coming the other way towards us and we were very fortunate that there were only two, however, a number of other caravans and a few hoons made sure that I remained focused!

After Lismore we encountered some major roadworks preparing for the Alstonville Bypass and that was a bit nerve-wracking as I knew the road well from when we lived in Ballina a few years ago, but the rapid changes in speed signage, deviations and other ‘evil’ designs kept us alert. We made Ballina about 1600 and made a quick set-up before taking a stroll around this nice camp. The Lakeside Top Tourist Park had, only a year ago, been a Big 4 when we stayed there with Rob and Margaret. In the meantime it had been completely renovated and was among the best that we had stayed at on this trip.

An fairly early night ( isn’t daylight saving wonderful!) as we were both very tired – especially me as I had done all the driving while Mary enjoyed the scenery!

24th October
We had planned to have a couple of free days in Ballina as a rest before hitting home with all the cleaning up that we knew awaited us. A lovely warm morning at last, and so off to church where our friend Graham took the whole service, which was an excellent one. Lots of hugs and greetings from all our dear friends added to a most enjoyable morning.
Our friend Neville shared with me about his round-Australia journeys as they almost paralleled ours. There was a nice time of chat over a cuppa, however, as the folk prepared for their lunch and church meeting, I asked Graham to tender our apologies for not attending – we were no longer members after all! Mary & I headed off for our lunch at the RSL and managed a table overlooking the Richmond River and reminisced over past time there.
Put- put golf and a bit of tidying up before some TV and that ended our day.

25th October
A couple of days prior to our departure on this trip (8th May) we had received a totally surprising phone call from my Best Man, Roger, whom I believed was still happily living in England. I was totally shocked to learn that he and his wife were now the proud owners of a motel near Ballina and when could we catch up?

So, it was on a rainy Monday morning, then, that we headed up the Pacific Highway towards Byron Bay, to finally catch up after some 20 years I believe since our last meeting back in England. What a fabulous time we all had catching up on our life journeys over all those years. Roger and I had originally flatted together in Adelaide in 1963/64 when we both started work at David Jones store on the same day.
Roger and Penny very kindly took us out to lunch where the chatting continued until we finally had to part for our respective matters that we all had to attend to. A truly great climax to our trip, and we were sorry that our old mate Bruce (my flatmate in London 1964/65) couldn’t make it for our reunion.

Anyway, the heavy rain had moved on so we had a dry and safe trip back to camp in Ballina.

26th October
Ballina to Brisbane

The day that Mary and I both dreaded when we had to pack up for the final time and drive the couple of hours back home to Brisbane. We found it hard to believe that we had survived in all sorts of weather conditions foe almost six months in a small caravan about half the size of our home bedroom! But, that day had arrived, and although Mary suggested that we simply turn around and drive back the ‘long way’ round, we knew that (apart from our obligations to file our tax returns) we had to cover this final leg of what has been a marvellous journey.
We packed fairly slowly for a change, and eventually wended our way out, through the Bypass roadworks, and onto the Pacific Highway and so to home base at last.

Why were we not surprised that, instead of the large billboards at every other State border around Australia, we finally passed an envelope-sized plain sign that simple read ‘state border’! To highlight that we were back in Queensland I noted a large, rather strangely shaped red pillar, adjacent to the State Border sign. Was this a barometer recording Queensland’s greatly increased debt since we left? I wonder – but it does seem rather apt I think.

Turned back our watches as we entered the Gloomy State (why no Daylight Saving?) and hit the excuse for a Pacific Highway (was this run by Vicroads I wondered aloud to Mary)? Soon there was more road-works as another lane was being added to the present two in each direction. Eventually we cleared all the tight lanes (no fun with a van in tow and raging semis and hoons everywhere) to find a decent highway at last. To ease our stress we decided to stop at the world-famous Yatala Pie Shop on the Pacific Highway south of Brisbane. Yes, the pies were still good, so Mary ensured that we would have a few in the freezer when we got back home to enjoy at some other time.

We turned into our street, strangely deserted at lunchtime, and backed into our driveway after 20,367 kilometres on the road over 176 days – and started to unpack and cleanup. A task that we would encounter for several days to come. John arrived home from work a later that afternoon and was glad to see us after all his trials and tribulations during our long absence.

Posted by psstevo 02:33 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

27 New South Wales Country

sunny 18 °C

17th October
With no rain to keep us awake we managed a good night’s sleep at last. We drove across the bridge over the Murray River to Moama to attend the local Baptist church and were warmly welcomed by them there. The pastor, in his first church, gave a very good message and, the musicians did a really great job without being ‘over the top’! Mary did the Moama Markets and bought a couple of small items before we headed back across the border for lunch at the CP followed by a walk around town to get a few photos of their heritage buildings.

At 1500 we boarded the PS (paddle steamer) Emmy Lou for a cruise along the river. There was evidence of the recent heavy flooding with many River Gum trees precariously hanging onto life at the fringe of the river bank. A large number of houseboats were moored along this stretch of the river – a very popular if slightly expensive holiday option. An enjoyable hour or so on the peaceful river cruise before walking home for our evening meal. Afterwards we had a pleasant walk along the levee and back through some adjacent bushland enjoying the sounds of nature.

18th October
Echuca to Narrandera

We awoke to a lovely cool morning and very soon had everything organised to depart at 0800, with a brief stop across the river at Moama for petrol and bread. Oh, and Mary found some bargains at Woollies as well!

The road was good and we soon arrived at Deniliquin for a morning tea break. It was already getting warmer – a greatly appreciated situation considering how long we had travelled in cold and windy weather. The terrain was very flat so cruise control came in very handy so I could almost relax as we trundled through the pleasant rural countryside.

We arrived at Jerilderie and made a brief stop, and headed on a stroll along the very small main street. It was then that we realised that Jerilderie had made their claim to fame a bank robbery by the infamous outlaw, Ned Kelly in 1879. Everywhere there were signs telling how Ned and his gang had terrorised many in the town for several days, including several leading citizen. He ordered the destruction of the telegraph facility, and to ensure that word did not reach outside the town made several locals chop down some 500m of telegraph poles to ensure his safety. In a generous gesture to his misguided local supporters he shouted a few beers at the local pub before riding off to a generous round of applause from those whom he had not terrorised. An interesting highlight in a tidy small town in outback NSW.
We had lunch at a road stop along the highway. One thing that we did see was the amount of water lying in paddocks, alongside the road, and in the muddy streams nearby. There were several road signs advising of water across the highway however, the levels had subsided enough not to hinder our progress. The recent very heavy rains had caused some road damage but did not seem to have damaged the grain growing alongside the road.

Arriving at Narrandera about 1330 we quickly got ourselves set up before a walk into town. An interesting place with typical 18th and 19th century Western NSW architecture. The weather was quite warm with lots of friendly, fluffy, white clouds overhead. The CP at Lake Talbot, close to town was on a ridge overlooking a part of the Murrumbidgee River system. We had noticed, as we arrived at the bridge before entering the town, that the river was high and had lots of swirling muddy water. Apparently there was a flood level several meters higher expected the following day and it was likely that the other CP in town would likely be submerged. We had made a good choice of came this time. We booked ahead for Dubbo and enjoyed the mild evening with poor TV reception!

19th October
Narrandera to Dubbo

Another sunny day (we could easily get used to this ‘normal’ weather) and we headed up the Newell Highway on a good flat road again. Travelling via West Wyalong, Forbes and Parkes we saw evidence of the recent rains. We decided not to stop at the famous Parkes space telescope (featured in the movie ‘The Dish’ some years ago, for its role in the first moon landing) but lost the saved time at Forbes and Parkes with several road works delaying us for some time. We did enjoy lunch at a lovely park near Forbes however.

The vast grain fields of western NSW looked a picture with green young wheat or almost ripe winter wheat all along the highway.
We arrived at the Dubbo CP on a warm and sunny afternoon and, after setting up, made the mandatory visit to Big W so that Mary could print out more photos for her album! Back to camp and both very tired as we had covered a large distance in a fairly short time.
One tiring feature of this part of our trip was the huge number of B Double trucks using the highways, contributing to some of the bad road patches we had to try and avoid. However, even the bad patches here were far better than the general state of Victorian roads.

20th October
The sizable town famous for its open zoo as well as its historical importance as a major support town for the west of NSW. Needless to say we headed off to visit the zoo nice and early, along with many other sightseers too! At the zoo one has the choice of transport around the 5 – 6 Kms of zoo roads. Drive your own car, walk, cycle, or pay a ransom to hire a golf buggy. We opted for the walk as we needed the exercise and in spite of the warm day. All the animals were housed in large open exhibit areas, and if zoos are to be relevant in today’s world then this seems to be the best option, especially as a number of animals are endangered and this zoo (allied to the famous Taronga Zoo in Sydney) has a major role in breeding rare species of animal here.

After a long and hot day we drove back into town for another vital visit to the Big W photo facility!
A very enjoyable evening in the warmth so we could eat outside at last. The CP was a rather noisy place, we belatedly found out, being next to the main truck route through town, a rail line and the nearby airport. It was however, a pleasant and well-maintained spot and handy to a major shopping facility.

21st October
Dubbo to Tamworth
Again we made an early start on our journey to Tamworth on a good road, although with a few bad patches. The heavy trucks using the highway on this stretch probably contributed more than their share to the damage. A brief stop at Gilgandra (didn’t see much to encourage a longer stop) and then on to Coonabarabran for morning tea. The nearby Warrumbungles were missed this time and maybe later will be visited to enjoy.

Lunch adjacent to a large park in Gunnedah, being used by a local high school for their sports day. A couple of good young athletes but most just jogged around as poseurs! Thought of friend Neville who was from this area.
Arrived at Tamworth(home of the famous Country Music Festival every mid-PM at a quiet site near the river. A Top Tourist CP but had very limited facilities for any busy period. Watched TV to close a nice and sunny day that threatened a thunderstorm, but which did not eventuate.

22nd October
Tamworth to Glen Innes
A cool start to the day as we departed our camp. We were not long on the road before an idiot motorcyclist, tried a chicken with an approaching motorist. A very near miss for everyone.

We soon hit the first Moonbi hill and climbed slowly to the lookout back towards Tamworth. Very pleasant. Arriving in Uralla we enjoyed a walk around this interesting country town with many shops having shop models attired in clothing appropriate advertising material for their shop. Also famous for the Captain Thunderbolt statue recalling another highwayman of the 18th century.
At Armidale we managed to get some petrol at a reasonable price and had a look around. It had changed since I last visited on one of my sales trips when working for JAL some years ago. Still a nice university town, even if somewhat cold.

We had lunch at Guyra (another interesting bush town) and continued on a good road to Glen Innes arriving about 1330. A rather tight CP site up a slope which I didn’t really need after so many kilometres, however. I managed that obstacle and we soon got setup.
Mary & I walked around town and did some shopping as some serious thunderclouds approached, however, they did not bother us as they seemed to split into two streams and drifted around both sides of the town. Many 18th and Federation period buildings added to the picturesque town with its Celtic history. I cooked dinner on the outside gas cooker as the storm threatened, but a few rain spots and that was it.

Posted by psstevo 16:19 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

26 Ballarat Goldfield and Murray River

all seasons in one day 11 °C


14th October
Melbourne to Ballarat

After a brief celebration of someone’s birthday (not mine), we made an early start towards Ballarat, our next stopover. The highway was very busy with many large B-Double trucks as well as many trades vehicles. The not unexpected poor roads (except a part of the M1) slowed us down somewhat. How can it be described as a highway when it is so unsafe? Victorians, please write to your State MP to get the situation improved!

About morning tea time we decided to exit the ‘motorway’ at Bacchus Marsh, in part to have a break but also the see somewhere different, we hoped. What we found was a range of fresh vegetable and fruit shops (that would leave the so-called ‘fresh fruit people in shame) that was very reasonably priced, very well presented and really FRESH. They certainly tasted like real vegies and fruit later on when we ate them. Anyway, we were surprised at the number of cafe/coffee shops, and it being that time of day we entered the Ferguson Plarre bakery and coffee shop. Wow, really delicious French Vanilla Slices at a great price, beautiful coffee and very friendly service. If you are in the area at some time, go and try them out, we’ll be back if we return to Victoria at some time.

Well, we found the CP and got set up in the cold afternoon and had lunch.
We then drove some 50km west in the Victorian Goldfields region to a small village named Beaufort in search of details of Mary’s distant family connection who had apparently moved there about 1854 after finishing his ‘government service’ in Tasmania a few year’s prior. He was listed as being a ‘publican’ (probably meaning a pub licensee as well as the Biblical description) and the holder of a miner’s licence. The very nice librarian at the local library was most helpful with maps and information about the exact location we wanted to find (Beaufort, previously known as Yam Holes because the indigenous folk enjoyed eating the yams from that place), however, everything was now overgrown and it was a bit difficult to really trace anything useful. Mary managed to acquire a few lumps of quartz as a memento of the visit. Reading some of the very limited literature at the library we noted that violence was rife on the goldfields and it was quite common for someone to disappear into a disused mineshaft if they had upset the claim holder. Perhaps this best explains why so far we have not been able to find any legal reference to his death anywhere. Never-the-less it was an interesting day, especially reading some of the fascinating notes that the library hold.

We drove back to Ballarat and walked around the Eureka Stockade monument (right next door to our camp site) and took some photos of this historic place. (For those not familiar with Australian history this site commemorates some 28 miners and 5 soldiers who died in a battle (or insurrection if we accept the British version of events) because the miners wanted justice in their gold claim licences and the right to vote as free men – somewhat similar to the Boston Tea Party in the US). See various internet sites for the tragic details.
We popped over to nearby Sovereign Hill Historical Goldfield to book for the following day site visit.

15th October
Ballarat (Sovereign Hill Historical Village)

After a very stormy night (yes, again!) and continuing heavy rain we decided to go to Sovereign Hill to get a refund of our prepaid tickets, however, the lady informed us that the rain and possible forecast thunder only enhanced the experience and they never gave refunds!
We managed to see many of the reproduced gold mining experiences in the rain, and yes, it did seem to add to the impact of what an 1850’s goldfield existence may be like –even if we got wet today!

The underground goldmine tour was excellent as was the gold refining and pouring exhibition. One young lass was allowed to hold the cooled gold ingot in her hand (just!) that was valued at $135,000.
The whole place is set on a hillside so the pouring rain, the Cobb and Co horses leaving their mark on the track(!) and the generally dismal outlook actually gave us a good insight into the hardships of life then. To then visit the adjacent Gold Museum was to visit another world, one in which the drama and history of gold down through the ages to the present was very well done indeed, and of course, one could always part with a good many dollars to buy the latest knick-knacks on sale.

Late afternoon we returned to the van to find that a small branch had come down in the strong winds during the day, fallen onto the leading edge of the awning and caused some damage. Not serious but annoying and something that will have to await our return to Brisbane in the near future before repairs can be made.

We had booked for the evening dinner and the ‘Blood on the Southern Cross’ show, so off we went to ‘enjoy’ a brilliant re-enactment of the Eureka Stockade uprising after a delicious dinner in a replica ‘olde’ hotel. The show included an excellent scene-setting to the events that were then portrayed out in the cold (but presently not raining) amphitheatres around the site. The final drama was played out on a nearby location and really topped off a brilliant portrayal of a seminal series of events in Australia’s formation. The tonnes of gold that were mined here was phenomenal and at today’s prices the money could have bought and sold whole countries.

A real value for money complete package that completely overshadows the Horseback show on the Gold Coast in terms of reality, price and drama. We would do it again, but in warmer weather next time.

16th October
Ballarat to Echuca

Another very cold morning but with no rain! Snow forecast in the area and sure enough, after passing through pleasant farmland we came upon snow drifts near Daylesford, a few Klm north of Ballarat. Farms with canola, sheep (some already shorn in spite of the rotten weather), cattle and forests made for an interesting trip. Our arrival at Echuca CP, right on the levee protecting the town from Murray River floods. Very quite and very handy to walk the levee path into the historic river port to view the sights. We drove through the town and crossed the border bridge to Moama, NSW, to check out the markets (so important when you are on holiday not to miss one opportunity!) and then returned to Echuca for a further look around this fascinating little town. We tried to get the TV to work, but nothing useful at all.
What does the ABC do in supposedly providing a service to smaller communities right around Australia!?

Posted by psstevo 03:44 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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