Arrival in Adelaide

We made it to Adelaide at about lunch time on Friday the 3rd of February.

As there are no free camping sites within the city area of Adelaide, as with most cities, we headed to the Highway 1 Caravan Park not far from  Gardens where Vicki and Rick live.

Nice Van park as far as they go but so squashed for room; our annexe was only 3 inches from the next door neighbours van when we pulled it out.

We don’t like staying in van parks much anymore and only do so when there’s no other choice. In most cases there IS a choice and we continue to stay in amazing places free of charge.

Sadly Vicki and Rick had a funeral of a friend to attend so we missed seeing them until Saturday when they kindly offered to take us on a tour of Adelaide and the surrounds. We met at their place at 10:00am and caught up on the last few years over coffee. We’d sort of put the plans for the next move on hold till we spoke to Vicki and Rick as we wanted their opinion as to whether we should take the trip up the centre to Darwin at this time of the year. We’d not intended to go up there till after March but thought we might be able to sneak up early.

Vicki and Rick make the 6060km round trip from Adelaide to Darwin every week. They leave at 9:00am each Sunday morning in their Kenworth towing 2 trailers and drive to Port Augusta to pick up a third. They’re not allowed a triple rig on the road before Port Augusta. They then continue to Darwin with their 110 tonne load supported by an awesome 60 wheels on the ground!

They drive “Two up” meaning one sleeps while the other drives which results in the truck making the trip in half the time as it would with only one driver. Many companies now only send their trucks on these long hauls with a Two Up team as the ridiculously stringent fatigue laws now governing the movement of Australian trucks makes it so restrictive on single drivers. The enormous cost in intial outlay and then keeping these machines on the road makes it prohibitive to have the wheels stopped for 7 or 8 hours each day.

The stories Rick and Vicki tell of their encounters on the road are fascinating – some hilarious, some tragic but all interesting. We could easily have talked to them for hours more about their stories.

If anyone knows anything about Australia’s road conditions and the seasons to travel them it’s these two.

Vicki and Rick and the Kenworth towing 3 trailers - 110 tonnes with 60 wheels on the ground and over 6000 km every week.

Vicki and Rick and the Kenworth towing 3 trailers – 110 tonnes with 60 wheels on the ground and over 6000 km every week.

"The Truck" with trailers

“The Truck” with trailers

There emphatic opinion on us going north now was – NO!

The wet season has not even started up there yet and when it does it’s folly in the extreme to attempt it.

Vicki told us the story of how she was passing a wash on the road once towing three trailers at over 100 tonnes. When she entered the crossing it was completely dry but suddenly a wall of water appeared from out of nowhere and actually pushed the trailers off the road. Remember this is 100 odd tonnes!

Vicki and one of her previous trucks

Vicki and one of her previous trucks

It didn’t take much convincing to make us decide to leave Darwin for now.

We had a wonderful few hours with Vicki and Rick as Rick tirelessly drove us through the beautiful city centre and out to the pretty beach suburbs of Henley, Glenelg and North Haven. It was great to not only experience Adelaide from a local’s point of a view but to catch up on so many years as well.

Adelaide is packed with magnificent old buildings like St Peters Cathedral

Adelaide is packed with magnificent old buildings like St Peters Cathedral

Henley Beach - Unfortunately our photo didn't look good so this is borrowed from Wikipedia.

Henley Beach – Unfortunately our photo didn’t look good so this is borrowed from Wikipedia.

After taking in the sites of this lovely city with its magnificent old buildings and churches and its trees and gardens we headed to the yard where Vicki and Rick needed to attend to some things on the truck before taking off in the morning.

We had the chance to look at the Kenworth up close and also to meet and talk to the owner of the company they drive for and the owners parents who come from the South Island of New Zealand.

"The Truck" up close

“The Truck” up close

The sleeping compartment behind the drivers seat. Top buck fold out to sleep 2. Note the TV set and also there's a fridge.

The sleeping compartment behind the drivers seat. Top buck fold out to sleep 2. Note the TV set and also there’s a fridge.

The Kenworth's "cockpit".

The Kenworth’s “cockpit”.

Not like towin' the Aussie Wide

Not like towin’ the Aussie Wide

We thought we might leave the Aussie Wide in Adelaide and make the trip up to Coober Pedy to fulfil Kerrie’s lifelong dream of visiting  there and we decided to take up Rick and Vicki’s kind offer to leave the Van at their place for the week.

We decided that the next day, Sunday, we’d go for a drive out to the Barossa Valley, (which Kerrie has written about here), but this evening, after a packed full day where we felt we’d been treated to a very special and valuable time with Vicki and Rick we were satisfied to make dinner and settle in for a cool but peaceful night at home in the Aussie Wide.

South Australia here we come.

We left Warrnambool and with the wind to our backs travelled along the Princes Hwy. We stopped at Dartmoor for morning tea and to look at the tree carving’s we had heard about. The trees had originally been planted to commemorate 60 World War 1 servicemen and nurses from the Dartmoor District.

"Sad News"

“Sad News”

 

From tree to carving.

From tree to carving.

Kept varnished and looking great.

Kept varnished and looking great.

Read more about it here as to why they were then carved.

We passed the boarder into South Australia at 12:30pm. We’ve now traversed 5 states.  Only 2 states and 1 territory to go.

We’ve been watching the news of flooding through QLD and NSW but down here there is a total fire ban as everything is so dry.

It was a nice change to travel through the Panola Forest with the Pine trees on either side and a group of emus slowly walking into the forest.

Panola Forest.

Panola Forest.

There was a lot of them but only captured a few.

There was a lot of them but only captured a few.

The pastures then changed to acres of Grape Vines as we travelled through the Coonawarra district of the Limestone coast. Names of wines even we have heard about, Yalumba, Penfolds, Wynns and Lindemans. The region is particularly known for producing world class red wines. Of course Chris was more interested in eating the grapes that were hanging heavily off all the vines. Though they looked good they were a little tart. (probably not ripe yet as no one was picking). We are differently not wine connoisseur’s.

Chris was after the grapes.

Chris was after the grapes.

We pulled into an off road free spot to spend the night. These spots just off the main highway’s are so quiet and peaceful and the stars in the night sky are simply breath taking.

The 12 Apostles:

Today was the second part of the Great Ocean Road. We didn’t think yesterday could be beaten, we were wrong.

We arrived at the 12 Apostles, the car park full of visitors, vans and buses. There is a walkway under the road and plenty of viewing platforms. You can not get the full impact of this vision from these photo’s. The sheer cliff faces are huge, people walking along the beach are so tiny and the majestic out crops are being eroded by each wave.

Another item marked off my "bucket list" The 12 Apostles.

Another item marked off my “bucket list” The 12 Apostles.

With easy walkways around you get the best views.

With easy walkways around you get the best views.

 

Can you see the tiny people on the beach? Double click so you can see better.

Can you see the tiny people on the beach? Double click so you can see better

The helicopters are in full swing with tourists lined up for the ride of a life time along this magnificent coast.

From there we moved along to The Razor Back. The parking is easy and the walks are well worth it. They say 1.2 million people drive along this road each year to witness this natural FREE beauty.

The Razorback.

The Razorback.

There is also a Shipwreck guide as many ships lost the battle against these cliffs. The Loch Ard was one of them when in 1878 it lost all but 2 of it’s 58 people on board. 18 year old Eva Carmicheal, one of a family of eight Irish immigrants, and ship’s apprentice Tom Pearce. They both ended up here in this gorge. After Tom rescued Eva he climbed out to search for help. When you look at this gorge with it’s steps down to the beach picture it back then when he would have had to climb sheer walls and then travel through
vegetation to find help.

Loch Ard beautiful now but death to others.

Loch Ard beautiful now but death to others.

 

To enter the gorge now is easy, with stairs conveniently situated.

To enter the gorge now is easy, with stairs conveniently situated.

Only 4 bodies were found, 2 of them came from Eva’s family. They were buried here in this cemetery just up from the gorge.

One of two grave's for the 4 bodies found.

One of two grave’s for the 4 bodies found.

The London Bridge would have looked different when Mum & Dad were here in 1981 because in 1990 the attaching piece broke away stranding 2 people on the outcrop.

London Bridge now.

London Bridge now.

 

London Bridge before 1990

London Bridge before 1990

 

Double click to read about how quickly these arches can fall.

Double click to read about how quickly these arches can fall.

When you look at how fragile this sand and stone is, it’s a wonder it isn’t eroding a lot faster.

It doesn't take to much to wear this away.

It doesn’t take to much to wear this away.

 

We had hoped to get further along but constantly stopping has a way of upsetting your plans. But this didn’t bother us as this place is too beautiful to miss any of it.

We stopped the night at Warrnambool showgrounds. It is in the camp 6 book but the council is shutting it down. The caretaker is suppose to stop people but like he said “They keep coming in”

With power and water I was busy washing while Chris tried to stop a rattle in the back of the ute. He thinks it’s one of the tools. Chris had been fighting the wind all day against the van and the locals had welcomed us to “Windy Warrnambool” so hoping tomorrow is easier as the wind will be on our back.

 

 

 

Melbourne Once Again

After a wonderful night talking and laughing till midnight with Andrew and Gail (Kerrie’s Cousin) we woke on Sunday Morning and made the van ready for the trip to Melbourne.

It was a unique and interesting couple of weeks in Horsham and this clean and friendly town is another place we’ve found on our travels that we could easily live in.

We spent a full on nine days developing a management application for David, our friend with the huge grain farms. It manages every grain movement from his paddocks to his 60 silos and then to his customers which in turn links up to a cashbook for sales and invoicing.

It tracks the hourly grain price and tells him the value of every truckload out as well as the value of what he has stored. It analyses the quality of his grain, keeps track of every event that happens in each paddock such as harvesting, cropping or spraying and the cost of each and every event.
It keeps track of the makeup of soil on every paddock and all products such as fertilises or herbicides.
It also tracks paddocks and everything in them such as drainage channels and dams with GPS coordinates.
All his machinery maintenance and depreciation and every time each piece of machinery is used and by who and for how long is tracked.

It compares his paddock yields and costs so he can see which part of the property is most productive and why and it manages multiple properties.

It does a heck of a lot more as well.

We were very pleased with the end product though if he decides to use it we’d like to spend a season with him to get it fine tuned. Not sure at this stage if that will happen.

Gail and Andrew were wonderful company and we spent many hours with them on drives to Mt Arapiles and Halls Gap and on their lovely property or sitting by the river outside the caravan.

We’ll miss their company.

We headed off late morning down the Western Highway through the Goldmining town of Stawell to Ararat.

I couldn’t resist taking a tour through the infamous J Ward that was built as a prison in 1859 but from the mid 1880’s until 1991 was used as an asylum to house the criminally insane and consequently held the most depraved and violent criminals in Victoria.

The Bluestone exterior gives a hint of what lies within

The Bluestone exterior gives a hint of what lies within

This is a remarkable tour and is a must when in the area.

J Ward is a place that causes a great range of emotions. Revulsion at the sheer depravity of some of the long list of past inhabitants, sadness that so many people lived their life inside constant mental horror, amazement at the escapes, the conditions and the difficulty of managing and constraining the most violent and evil of human beings.

The journey through this awful but interesting place gives a glimpse into a world that is secreted away from “normal” society. It’s as if the reality of the existence of evil and depravity is removed as far as possible from us, hidden from a society that loves its accepted daily social routines; work, play, pretty houses, pleasant yards, shops, outings and lots of nice things to play with.

Sometimes we can’t see the other rhythms that make up a society just below the surface of our neat, tidy and ordered world. We don’t see nor want to see the results of man’s sin nature that is an inherent part of each of us played out in the extreme.

When we are protected from society’s extremes we find it much easier and more pleasant to live our ordered existences.

Walking through J Ward changes all that and makes one confront the existence of good and evil in an “In your face” kind of way. Its real, it happened. It’s still happening.

J Ward may be closed but depravity and evil did not stop with its closure. Other more modern institutions have simply taken over its role.

Can many of us imagine the horror of being straight jacketed, unable to move while undergoing extreme shock treatment without anaesthetics?

Shock treatment

Shock treatment

Can we conceive of a life lived in a tiny cell devoid of decoration and with a minimum of natural light from a barred window?

Straight Jacket with pants legs sewn together to prevent kicking. Leather mittens to the left

Straight Jacket with pants legs sewn together to prevent kicking. Leather mittens to the left

Could we understand the locked leather mittens enclosing our hands to prevent us from gouging our own or someone else’s eyes out?

What would it be like to walk out of our tiny cell each day to catch sight of the beam in the roof where the hanging of condemned prisoners once occurred?

Tiny cell with shutters that can be locked over the windows

Tiny cell with shutters that can be locked over the windows

"Normal" cell with suicide blanket to prevent ripping into strips to commit suicide

“Normal” cell with suicide blanket to prevent ripping into strips to commit suicide

Lower floor corridor of cells

Lower floor corridor of cells

Each cell has these lockable shutters

Each cell has these lockable shutters

The old and new dead body removal trolleys

The old and new dead body removal trolleys

The top floor cell block where executions took place when J Ward was a gaol

The top floor cell block where executions took place when J Ward was a gaol

How many of us have sat to dine at wooden tables and chairs bolted to the floor to prevent them from being upturned or thrown across the room or eaten with only a spoon to stop us having access to the lethal weapons of a dinner knife and fork?

The daily existence of living inside this hell hole of stone and bars amid the constant screams of violence and terror surely must have prevented the transformation from mental depravity to mental health.

Disturbing are the stories of inmates that once lived perfectly normal lives until an accident or other situation occurred that plunged them into this world of darkness.

How normal are we really?

Who among us can be so certain that our orderly lives will always remain pleasant and pretty?

One of the Guard's Towers

One of the Guard’s Towers

From the guard's tower

From the guard’s tower

Part of the excercise yard

Part of the excercise yard

Old Bill Locked in here for 63 years and died here in 1989 - Killed a fellow in Melbourne for not putting out a cigarette

Old Bill Locked in here for 63 years and died here in 1989 – Killed a fellow in Melbourne for not putting out a cigarette

J Ward also has it’s success stories and none is more moving than this heart wrenching story of Tom Varney.

Tom Varney, writer of the book "From Gutter To Glory" - A rare J Ward success story.

Tom Varney, writer of the book “From Gutter To Glory” – A rare J Ward success story

I was reflective and locked in my thoughts as we left Ararat and pointed the Nissan toward Melbourne again.

We caught site of Melbourne again about 5:00pm and headed out to a roadhouse in Campbellfield where the Aussie Wide factory is. Tomorrow we’ll get the van to the factory by 8:00am to attend to the few warranty jobs that we’ll get attended to.

We spent a comfortable but cold night at the roadhouse with the comings and goings of the trucks hardly bothering us. Melbourne turned on its famous weather change as we transformed from the 40 degree heat at Horsham and Ararat to 9 degrees and rain in Melbourne.

400km drive from Hay to Rainbow

Waking up at Sandy Point in Hay we were able to have a look around at our surroundings in the light after arriving in the dark.

It was a beautiful spot right beside the Murrimbidgee River and we could have easily have stayed here a few days had we not been so keen to get to Rainbow.

Camped by the Murrimbidgee River at Sandy Point

Camped by the Murrimbidgee River at Sandy Point

 

Sandy Point Hay

Sandy Point Hay

 

Beautiful Gums line the Murrimbidgee River

Beautiful Gums line the Murrimbidgee River

 

Leaving Hay on the Sturt Highway we travelled past another 100km or so of the vast, flat plains, every kilometre of which captivated us with the sheer magnificence of the wide uninterrupted expanse of land from horizon to horizon.

The vast expanse of the One Tree Plains outside Hay

The vast expanse of the One Tree Plains outside Hay

As we passed mile after mile of open a space deep respect arose for the land owners, who are completely unknown to me, who had taken this empty land and created irrigation channels and turned the seemingly infertile plain into thousands of acres of maize, cotton maize and other grains.

Turning off the Sturt and onto the Mallee Highway we drove on through the towns of Balranald, Manangatang, Sea Lake and Hopetoun.

We crossed the Murray River at Tooleybuc which is home to an historic bridge over the Murray River.

Constructed in 1907, the bridge is designed with a middle section that could be lifted to let paddle steamers through.

The Tooleybuc Bridge over the Murray River

The Tooleybuc Bridge over the Murray River

A cottage still remains that housed the Bridge Keeper and his family until 1994.

The Tooleybuc Bridge Keeper's Cottage

The Tooleybuc Bridge Keeper’s Cottage

In 1974, the paddle steamer “Pevensey” collided with the bridge after passing through the open bridge heading upstream. The steamer attempted to move to the south bank after clearing the bridge, but was caught in the strong current and swept sideways into the east side of the bridge.

The bridge sustained no noticeable damage, but the “Pevensey” suffered some damage to her upper works.

After being pulled off by a team of locals who were gathered to see her come through the bridge, the “Pevensey” refueled and made minor repairs, before heading upstream to Echuca.

The Paddle Steamer Pevensy on the Murray

The Paddle Steamer Pevensy on the Murray

Our destination was Rainbow and in the last 100 kilometres or so before making the town we drove past endless acres of wheat farms. Almost no other farming was visible just hundreds of thousands of acres of wheat.

Thousands upon thousands of acres of wheat farms - most recently harvested

Thousands upon thousands of acres of wheat farms – most recently harvested

Almost no signs of life appeared in that whole distance except for one farmer working a tractor. No houses and only the occasional barn or hayshed. We could only surmise that the farm houses were well back from the road.

One of the few signs of life in 100 km

One of the few signs of life in 100 km

The road was narrow and was made up of just enough sealing to accommodate the Aussie Wide with each wheel only inches from the dirt sides.

We didn’t need to worry about passing traffic, there was no one else on that 100km of back road.

The first sign pointing to Rainbow that we encountered was at Hopetoun

The first sign pointing to Rainbow that we encountered was at Hopetoun

Arriving in Rainbow was a rather emotional roller coaster for Kerrie. This was her Dad’s home both before he left for the war and when he returned with his new bride, Kerrie’s mum.

It was one year to the day since her dad passed away.

After a quick drive around the town we headed on out to stay at Lake Albacutya, 15 km north of Rainbow.


View Larger Map

The lake was a huge expanse of dry land. It last filled in 1974 and held water for nine years.

The huge expanse of dry land that is Lake Albacutya

The huge expanse of dry land that is Lake Albacutya

Kerrie remembered swimming in the lake when it was last full, the water lapping the now dry shoreline.

There was some hope of the lake filling again after the Brisbane floods but it was not to be.

The source is the Wimmera River which fills the huge Lake Hindmarsh to the north and the water is then conveyed via Outlet Creek to Lake Albacutya.

When full, it is a popular boating, fishing, yabbying and swimming spot and an absolute boom for the town from the extra tourists.

Last time it was full it supported 18 commercial fishermen who from all reports did very well out of it.

When dry, camping, 4WD exploration, walking and nature studies are the main attraction.

Albacutya is said to mean ‘where the quandongs grow’. This is a reference to a tree found here which bears a sweet fruit eaten by Aborigines and early European settlers alike. The wood was used for cabinet-making.

We were the only humans at the beautiful spot and there was a feeling of isolation that was in no way uncomfortable. As we watched the sun go down over this beautiful place Kerrie got out her copy of the 1988 Bicentenary of Rainbow inside of which was a hand drawn map made her mother highlighting the sites of the town where they used to live, work and play.

The boat ramp around which Kerrie swam 37 years ago when the lake was last full

The boat ramp around which Kerrie swam 37 years ago when the lake was last full

I left her to her thoughts as she journeyed through a range of emotions on reading that little piece of paper and the book that had now vastly increased in significance us being here at the place.

I felt I could almost see her thoughts as she walked alone down the long boat ramp out onto the dry lake bed.

She could have been remembering the many holidays to Rainbow and seeing the family bathing in the lake.

Just being here now in this place that was such a big part of the parents she utterly adored was enough to provoke many emotions as she cast her mind over those trips to the area.

I made us a meal of a tomato and bacon hot pot spooned over a damper I cooked in the camp oven and as we finished eating Kerrie phoned Nola to tell her where we were.

She felt that only Nola could understand the significance of where we were.

With the setting of the sun the night sky exploded into a display of stars that only these isolated places can produce. Away from any lights and in a sky that was crystal clear the spectacular display was awe inspiring.

We climbed into bed as the temperature dropped rising later to see the night sky ablaze again with stars centred by a ¾ moon that picked out the features of the surrounding bush and turned them silver.

Later I had the pleasure of sitting outside in the crisp pre dawn air amid absolute silence that was so deep even a slight movement of the leaves on the trees sounded loud.

I sat mesmarised in the silence as the sky to the east reddened, beckoning the coming sunrise.

Sunrise over Lake Albacutya

Sunrise over Lake Albacutya

As the sun rose over the dry lake in a spectacular display of colour I thanked God for Kerrie and for the privilege of accompanying her here to this place.

A 620 km “Spur of the Moment” Decision

After writing yesterday’s blog post, and saying that we’d be here for another two days, we got to talking over a lovely breakfast overlooking the river and we decided there was no real point in stopping for two or three days at these places when we could make for a destination that we were aiming for and then stay there.

We decided to make for Hay knowing that it was over 600km away from Mendooran.

It was 10:30am when we made that decision and by 11:00am we were once again on the road and heading south along the Mendooran Road through the Goonoo Forest.

Although this is classed as a “minor road” it was remarkably good and there was almost no other traffic.

We passed huge collections of beehives set amongst the Cootamundra Wattle, the largest amount of beehives we’ve ever seen.

Boy this is a spectacular country!

Along each kilometre of road is something new, from the ramshackle old farmhouses, long abandoned, to the pristine pastures of superbly managed farms. Dense forests and wide open spaces give way to spectacular valleys at the bottom of bush covered ranges.

Tiny settlements that don’t even warrant a name on the map occasional cause the mind to ponder on what may have once been.

Arriving at Brocklehurst we again hit the Newell Highway. Passing through the busy town of Dubbo we happened on a caravan park with an exceptionally high fence with barbed wire around it. We couldn’t help wondering why.

Long straight roads took us past a mass of hang gliders circling and riding on the air currents. There must have been a couple of hundred of them.

After stopping at Tomingley for a late lunch we headed on past Peak Hill and the tiny community of Alectown with its tiny cottages, and then to Parkes which was packed to overflowing with the annual Elvis Festival which attracted Elvis lookalikes from all over the country. We didn’t stop to enjoy the street performances and partake of the merriment as many kilometres still lay ahead of us.

Into Forbes for fuel and an ice cream and a quick drive around the main centre which was exploding with colour from thousands of red and pink roses planted in a magnificent array throughout the towns streets.

After passing through West Wyalong we were onto the Mid Western Highway and travelling through grain country. Vast grain fields, mostly recently harvested, produced the endless acres of gold sprouting from red soil that is the hallmark colour of the country. The country was noticeably flattening out now with fewer hills and straight roads with few bends. Tiny settlements, some abandoned others with inhabitants, would appear in the windscreen seemingly out of nowhere and disappear in the rear view mirror just as quickly. What do these people do? What did the original builders of these little settlements do? What made them come here and what made them leave.

It’s so tempting to search out a live soul and ask but there are so many of these little settlements time just doesn’t permit it. We’re sure that every building, every collapsed farm shed, every windmill that has long stopped pumping water has a story worthy of the telling.

The little town of Weethalle was our stop for a coffee and crackers. We were transfixed by the old shops and building, long closed and boarded up. Our eyes saw the empty street and the deserted buildings but our minds saw the town through the eyes of yesteryear when the little station, now trying to survive selling crafts and coffee, was bustling with people catching the train which probably would have hauled the grain from the area.

The long closed hardware, supermarket and newsagency store, built in 1929, was the result of someone’s vision of the town, then large enough to warrant the sizeable investment.

Weethalles deserted street

Weethalles deserted street

The very few locals were super friendly and we could not help but be fascinated by this place.

The town of Erigolia passed. It is without a single house. Only a grain silo marks its existence.

Highway from Erigolia

Highway from Erigolia

The town of Rankins Springs was larger, fascinating in its isolation with its empty caravan park and patronless motel. The pub was open and quite active and the massive grain silos, the central point of the town, gave hint to the reason for its existence.

Here we needed to get rid of our fruit as were entering the Riverina Fruit Fly exclusion zone and there are on the spot fines for carrying fruit.

We stopped and fired up the generator and juiced a bag of oranges and some tomatoes.

Parked at the same spot was most unusual sight. An old motor home towing a curious trailer made us enquire as to the inhabitants. We met Frank the Chook Man who was on his way to Tamworth to busk and do some performances. Frank plays the guitar and sings and performs with a huge rooster.
The rooster, (and a few hens to “keep him happy”), were housed in the trailer behind the motor home. Somebody is apparently making a film about this unusual character, who also has the strangest houseboat moored at Paringa near Rankin.

Frank The Chookman

Frank The Chookman

Only two tiny towns lay on the next 164 km of now perfectly straight road, which didn’t bend for nearly 80 kilometres.

If the settlement of Goolgowi was a little further west it could fairly be described as being ‘beyond the black stump’ (an expression used to describe incredible isolation) because nearby is Merriwagga which claims to be the home of the Black Stump.

Another 32 km west along this vast Mid Western Highway is Gunbar, said to be an Aboriginal word meaning place of plentiful meat. Once a thriving township based on income derived from Cobb& Co. passengers and local station owners Gunbar is a ghost town today with only a corrugated iron hall, separate corrugated iron men’s and ladies dunnies and an old once grand church to show evidence of human occupation.

The vastness of the plains was absolutely awe inspiring.

These are the flattest plains on earth and stretch to the horizon without a hill or a house and only the occasional tree to interrupt the view to the horizon. It is so flat that the curvature of the earth is plainly visible in the distance.

Home, home on the range?

Home, home on the range?

We simply had to stop as the sun closed in toward the horizon creating a scene of vibrant colours blending into an almost exact replica of the Aboriginal flag. The silence was overwhelming and the sense of isolation strangely invigorating.

An unbending highway through vast flat open plains

An unbending highway through vast flat open plains

 

We can only look on in awe

We can only look on in awe

Can anything match the colour of theses sunsets?

Can anything match the colour of theses sunsets?

Wow!!!!

Wow!!!!

Going, going...

Going, going…

Gone!

Gone!

We finally arrived in Hay at about 9:30pm and after a burger from the local takeaway, headed to the Sandy Point Reserve a free camping spot right on the Murrumbidgee River. We simply parked, hopped into the van, showered and jumped into bed with the now cold night contributing to a sound and peaceful sleep.

Premer to Mendooran

Mendoorans Supermarket

Mendoorans Supermarket

Mendooran is a very small town in the Castlereagh District of New South Wales. It’s a bit off the beaten track being about 50 km east of Gilgandra, but it has a good free camping area just a short walk from the town beside the Castlereagh River.


View Larger Map
Although it was quite hot on our arrival the evening was crisp and cool.

Mendooran is the oldest town in the Castlereagh and is a very pleasant little spot.

Mendooran's old shops

It never ceases to fascinate me how we just enter into the lives of the people of these little towns, momentary visitors peeping into a community which has long existed in an orderly, time tried fashion, but that we never knew existed.

 

There are four other caravans here although no other full timers, and about 4 tents. There’s also a young couple living out of their car.

We’ll probably stay here Saturday and maybe even Sunday before heading towards Hay which will be a two day trip.

We want to keep up the momentum of work now that we’ve started in earnest again and this place is nice and quiet and very conducive to thinking and creating.

Sunday or Monday will then see us cut across to Mildura and then down to Horsham and Rainbow before heading in to Melbourne.

We hope to get a grey water tank and another dedicated drinking water tank fitted to the Aussie Wide in Melbourne.

Many good free camping spots insist on vans being self contained these days, meaning they don’t dump waste water on the ground and we don’t want to miss out on some of these great spots.

If we had a dedicated drinking water tank fitted, about 35 litres or so, we could fill the other two 95 litre tanks with non drinking water if we need to. This will give us showers and dish washing etc without worrying about contaminating the drinking water. We can even pump water directly from a stream or lake if need be.

If we were ever really isolated from good water we can use our lifesaver 4000 to filter enough water from the 95litre tanks to drink.

The brilliant Lifesaver 4000 water bottle

The brilliant Lifesaver 4000 water bottle

We want the guys at Aussie wide to do this work so we don’t interfere with the van’s warranty.

The broad plan from Melbourne is to head to Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road and hopefully catch up with Vicki.

Then it’s up to Cooba Peedy to wipe off another item on Kerrie’s bucket list, and then up to Darwin. From Darwin it’s across the top end and down the West side. That is of course only the BROAD plan – anything can happen.

We had a call from Wayne last night and it was great to hear from him and how he’s going with getting his new business off the ground.

Leaving Premer

After three wonderful days at the tiny village of Premer we are moving on.

There wasn’t much to write about because we used the peaceful quietness to finally get back into doing some work, something we’ve found a bit hard to get back into since Christmas.

View from the Van at Premer

View from the Van at Premer

We’ve stopped at so many great places and meet a lot of lovely people and it’s been difficult to drag the mind back onto that which enables us to live this wonderful lifestyle.

View from the annexe at Premer - Peaceful and quiet

View from the annexe at Premer – Peaceful and quiet

A few people have come and gone in the three days we’ve been here and one couple, Colin and Anne, we met in Miles. They’ve been on the road permanently for 5 years in their large Kedron.

The last were a group of three couples travelling in three caravans with a number of dogs. They were from South Australia, travelling to Tamworth for the Festival and we spent a couple of hours with them after dinner last night.

We’ve learnt of a number of other great free camping spots from Ross who is 82 and living permanently on the road in a small caravan on his own. He’s the temporary caretaker of the park here.

The wide expanse of surrounding farmland sweeping for miles in the distance and the silence is the way we’ll remember this place. It’s been warm to hot through the days and cold at night, not so good for Kerrie but perfect for me.

I think the lifestyle we’re living is improving our health as we’re both losing weight slowly, without trying, and we feel great.

Arrival at Premer

Getting on the road fairly early we left the tiny town of Wallabadah and headed for Quirindi.

Neither of us had ever heard of Quirindi so we were surprised when we found this wonderful town just a short drive from Wallabadah.

Like many small country towns Quirindi is a blend of present and the past. There’s a large supermarket, coffee shops and all the conveniences of today’s commercial world but there’s also a snapshot of the towns past in its well preserved old buildings and its proliferation of older cottages and houses. The town is bustling and busy and has the look and feel of a prosperous and extremely well looked after town. Colour is splashed throughout the town centre in the abundant manicured flower beds and the beautiful trees that line the streets.

We parked up and wandered around the town deciding that we’d liked to have stayed here a while had we known it was so pretty and appealing.

Heading out of the town we came upon a steep hill that led to the “Who’d a Thought It” Lookout.

How spectacular is this place!

The changing colours of the fields below.

The changing colours of the fields below.

 

Over looking Quirindi

Over looking Quirindi

 

"Who'd a thought it". Great name for the lookout.

“Who’d a thought it”. Great name for the lookout.

You can see 360 degree views of the vast fertile Liverpool plains sweeping to the magnificent Warrumbungle Ranges far in the distance. What a sight!

Back on the road again, this time on the Kamilaroi Highway, we passed the most beautiful rural landscapes with almost every property fastidiously maintained and tidy.

We turned off the highway onto the small Quirindi – Coonabarabran back road and travelled the 80 kilometres to Premer.

As is usual for these back roads we found a treasure trove of scenery.

A Peregrine Eagle sweeping across our path made us think that it wasn’t used to seeing that many cars. We passed picture perfect farm houses with surrounding verandas, hay barns and still working windmills.

Huge cornfields lined the roads and as we stopped to listen the wind rustled the tops of a million corn plants in a magical symphony of sound.

Corn fields lined the road.

Corn fields lined the road.

As we travel these byways there’s always the anticipation of wondering what’s over the next hill. In one instance a hill crest provided us with a view of a huge section of the Liverpool plains that appeared as if a perfect pure yellow blanket had been cast over it. It was a farm of Sunflowers that would be ready to harvest by early April creating a spectacular colour combination of sunflowers, blue sky and green rolling hills.

Fields bright yellow with Sunflowers.

Fields bright yellow with Sunflowers.

Old farmhouses gave the appearance of an area that time had forgotten.

Old houses stil standing.

Old houses stil standing.

 

Goats now live here.

Goats now live here.

 

What stories could they tell.

What stories could they tell.

Eventually we pulled in to the tiny town of Premer.


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There are only a few houses here, a pub a small Post Office, a school and a sports field

There are also some large grain silos on the railway track, a centre for the shipping of the harvested grain from the farms in the area.

There’s also a wonderful camping area that has power and water available. There are also toilets and hot showers. It’s not free as its run by the local Lions Club and they ask for a donation to ensure its upkeep but it’s a great spot.

It looks out over large farms surrounded by hills in the distance and is superbly quiet and peaceful.

Here we met Geoff and Sandra who make the most amazing camp ovens which they sell from their caravan.

We’ll stay here for a couple of days and get some work done.

Departure from Dumaresq Dam

After packing up the annexe last night it only took us a short time to square everything away for the once more.

The hardest part was saying goodbye to our group of friends at the little Dumaresq Dam community, Roscoe, Norm, Ted and Kim, John and Helen, Alan and Linda, Jim and Bonnie.

Can you believe it – Alan and Linda actually asked us to go to the Guyra Potato Festival and sing with them and their group of Balladeers.

If anyone had ever told me we’d receive a request like that while we were travelling I’d have laughed them out of the room. I was so touched by this. We have tentatively arranged to keep in contact and we hope to meet up with Alan and Linda either near Mildura in Feb/March or Western Australia later in the year.

As we pulled out of this lovely place the water seemed to sparkle just that bit more and the green of the surrounding hills that had afforded us so much peace and tranquillity were bathed in bright sunshine. It felt like we’d left a little part of ourselves in this place and I’m sure we will visit there again someday to let the lake and the rolling hills do a work in our souls.

Even the now familiar road to Armidale lined with its rich rolling pastures and creeks and valleys made us feel like this beautiful little piece of the world would stay a part of us always.

We stopped at the familiar dump station in Armidale to empty the toilet but this time there was no need to fill the water containers – we wouldn’t be back for a long time.

Stopping at the roadhouse just outside Armidale gave us a bit of a scare as the Nissan was overheating. A phone call to the Nissan Dealer in Armidale had us turning around and heading back to check things out. We thought we need to return to Dumaresq Dam after all if the car needed attention.

After checking things out the Nissan Mechanics said there was nothing to worry about and ensured we were safe to continue so once again we were off down the road heading for Wallabadah where we would stay the night.

We’d already travelled this way a few days before when we went to Tamworth but it was still a beautiful drive passing stunning green pastures, rolling hills and spectacular valleys.

We passed Thunderbolts Rock which is where the Bushranger Captain Thunderbolt waited to ambush the mail. He was spotted by troopers and in the ensuing gunfight, Thunderbolt was shot in the back of the left knee, an injury that left a critical identifying mark that helped to identify his body after his death.

Thunderbolts Rock

Thunderbolts Rock

Frederick Wordsworth Ward (1835–25 May 1870) was renowned for escaping from Cockatoo Island, and also for his reputation as the “gentleman bushranger” and his lengthy survival, being the longest roaming bushranger in Australian history. He crowned himself with the nickname “Captain Thunderbolt” during the Rutherford toll-bar robbery on 21 December 1863.

Frederick Wordsworth Ward (AKA Captain Thunderbolt)

Frederick Wordsworth Ward (AKA Captain Thunderbolt)

We once again passed through the pretty little town of Uralla and on to Tamworth. After stopping to get the gas bottle filled at BCF and making lunch we headed on to Wallabadah where we had visited the First Fleet Memorial Gardens a few days before.

The free camping area is behind the gardens and it’s a really nice place for a short stay, with good clean toilets and fresh clean water on tap. We parked overlooking the creek and were surprised to see two other travelers from Dumaresq turn up. One was a young family with three children who will be on the road for the next twelve months.

We met some nice people, Terrie and Hana, living in a motor home and they were very interested in the Aussie Wide especially after Kerrie gave them the guided tour.

It was a little strange as I settled into the chair and started playing the Ukulele and I missed the leading from Alan and Jim who made it so easy to play and sing.

A very cool night made for a wonderful deep sleep as we spent our first night away from the mood changes of beautiful Dumaresq Dam.