Mavis and Rods quick run to Wagga Wagga May 2009

 

The objective of this trip was to be in Wagga Wagga New South Wales on the 15th May 2009 to see the March Out Parade of Grandson  Tim.  He has been in the Army Recruit Training Centre Kapooka for 80 days doing the hard slog of learning to be a soldier.

We are off again.

We spent Sunday morning the 10th of May having Mothers day brunch with Rod’s mum and son Ashley at Mum’s favorite café. Have to say that I didn’t know that I could eat soooooo much. Mavis and Ashley had eggs benedict Ashley with bacon Mavis with salmon, both huge meals. Mum just had a chicken mayonnaise and egg sandwich, which she loved. Muggins ordered a big breakfast without eggs, as I don’t like them. The meal that appeared as a big breakfast was ridiculous, consisting of masses of bacon two hash browns a whole tomato grilled a bowl of mushrooms and a bowl of baked beans, all topped of with two hugely thick slices of toast. Knew I wouldn’t get through it but put in a valiant effort and completed the task much to Mums amazement.

After our brunch break Mavis and I departed for Coolmunda dam as our first night stop over on the way South after saying farewell to Rod’s Mum and Ashley.

It was quite a long haul after the big brekkie but we made it by 4 pm and managed a couple of quiet wines as we watched the sun go down beside the lake.

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View of Coolmunda dam the water was quite low

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Our campsite at Coolmunda Dam

There was another Kedron van camped about 100 meters from us but as it was a bit late, we waited until morning to say g-day. It was a couple that we met at our Christmas Kedron gathering in Crows Nest Stewart and his wife were on their way to Darwin with some friends. We had a chat for about 30 minutes and then said farewell and pushed on to Goondiwindi where we did some grocery shopping picked up the last of the cheap Diesel and off again heading to Burren Junction via Moree, Narrabri and Wee Waa. We got to Burren Junction at about 3pm.

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What a huge surprise. There were 30 other vans and campers already there so it looked like a huge caravan park.

Last time that we were here we were on our own until a young guy turned up for a swim. He had an opal-mining lease at Lightning Ridge and was on his way back there. He didn’t camp just had a swim and took off for home leaving us on our own for the night. What a difference this time, unbelievable.

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We parked stripped off and lowered ourselves into the beautiful warm water of the bore baths for a warming soak.

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Completely refreshed we managed to consume a few feta stuffed olives and other nibbles with a small glass of wine before retiring for the night.

Next morning dictated that we again check out the bore bath just to make sure that it really was as good as we remembered and it was.

Then we were off to our next overnight at Forbes via dirt road to Pilliga then Coonamble, Gulargambone, Gilgandra, Dubbo, Parkes and finally Forbes.

Some members of the Kedron group had recommended a free camp at Forbes beside the Lachlan River. It was not hard to find and was fantastic. We pulled up right by the water and spent a fairly restful night. There were about 6 other campers there. The only down side was a barking guard dog in an Engineering yard about 100 meters from where we camped. Had we carried on further around the waterway we would have been ok. Oh well can’t have everything can we.

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Next morning it was off again heading for Wagga Wagga.

Have to say that the towns and scenery from Forbes to Wagga Wagga were absolutely fantastic. Grenfell, Young, Cootamundra and Junee were all gorgeous old towns with the most beautiful old buildings most dating from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. Likewise the farms were all the stuff of picture post cards, again with old stone houses and out buildings. The countryside was beautiful quite green and lush for the most parts

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We both vowed to return and see the lot at our leisure (maybe when the weather gets a bit warmer grin (or after Rod installs the Webasto diesel heater to the van perhaps).

Wagga Wagga is one huge town with a population of around 57,000 and is the largest inland city in New South Wales sitting 450 kms South West of Sydney.

We found our way to the Wagga Beach Caravan Park and picked a site near the water.

The Murrumbidge River was flowing beautifully past the van park and was a great sight.

At dusk a profusion of parrots, Sulfur Crested Cockatoos, Gallahs and Rosellas noisily made the huge trees in the caravan park and by the river their roosting spots for the night. Oh well we did need to get up early in the morning (but not that bl..dy early :-/ )

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View of the Murrumbidge behind our camp sit at Wagga Wagga beach caravan park

Next day saw us doing the tourist thing with our family after a recy run out to the Kapooka training center. Had to be sure that we would get there on time the next day for the Parade.

As we have a problem with alcohol we decided to check out the Charles Sturt University wine and cheese factory. This is where our Aussie wine and cheese makers are trained in their chosen craft. Have to say that the wines were of a very high standard, but Rod was not so impressed with the cheeses. The others liked some of the cheeses.

We did visit another winery that shall remain nameless for fear of slander allegations against us should they read this, which was great on the eye but not so good on the pallet. There was not one good wine that was presented to us for tasting.

That night we all made our way to the Wagga Wagga RSL club for a Chinese dinner. (Returned and Services League for the benefit of our foreign friends, this organization is in existence to provide for the well-being, care, compensation and commemoration of serving and ex-serving Defence Force Personnel and their dependants a truly worthy organization.)

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Friday the 15th May we were off early to watch Grandson Tim’s March out Parade at the Kapooka Army Recruit Training Centre just out of Wagga Wagga . We had lunch with Tim and the family at the base after the Parade. It was a very emotional time and a great day, we were all extremely proud.

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Grandson Tim and proud Dad Mick

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Equally Proud and emotional Mum Belinda

After lunch with the family at Kapooka Army training Center we said our farewells to them and headed for home via new and unseen places.

We dropped in to Ardlethen on the way to have a gander because one of our friends has some property there, lovely little town would love to go back stay and explore the area, no correction we will go back stay and explore the area grin.

First overnight stop was at Mirrool free camp opposite the Mirrool Hotel. A good spot with amenities and it is about 300 meters off the Newell Highway so not too noisy.

We had a couple of Rum and cokes at the pub before retiring to the van for the night, it was a little hard to leave the open fire in the pub because it was freeeeeezing outside but it had to be done so off we went to the van and climbed into our sleeping bags for a cozy nights sleep.

Next morning we were off to our next camp via West Wyalong, Condobolin,Trundle,Tullamore,Narromine,Eumungerie, Gilgandra,Coonabarabran and we stopped at a road side stop near Gunnedah where we pulled into the bush about 100 meters from the road for a good nights sleep. This day was a long drive and we decided not to do that many kilometers again in one day.

From Gunnedah we made our way along the Fossickers way to Manilla.This run along the Fossickers Way was great. All of the towns were very picturesque and well presented. This is another definite area to return to, maybe with gold pans for some fossicking and great camping. We had a small diversion into Split Rock Dam for a look. This dam is holding at less than 10% capacity a sad sight indeed. Then we traveled through Barraba, Bingara, Warialda, Yetman and on to Texas, which is just over the Queensland boarder. There was a good free campsite there by the river at Texas. We had the company of 8 other campers there for the night.

In the morning we decided to head for Stanthorpe, with a diversion to have a look at Glenlyon Dam. What a sad sight would guestimate that the dam was below 10% capacity. Still a few people camped there and boats on the water fishing.

Plan “B” was formulated on the way to Stanthorpe. The decision was made to spend a night at a great little winery at Maclagen. You have to appreciate that Stanthorpe is the wine capital of Queensland and we had decided to travel a further 100 plus kilometers to reach our destination. Terrible thing idle time you do some crazy things grin.

Non the less we headed for Rangemore Estate Winery at Mclagen after passing through Stanthorpe .

It was a long trip but worth every moment after we arrived.

Dave Allen is the proprietor. He grows the grapes on his 250 acre property overlooking the beautiful Bunya Mountains. The wine is made in Stanthorpe and marketed by Dave as Rangemore Estate Wines. He has a great little sideline with B&B accommodation in an old Queenslander house and is one of the only wineries that we have found that will accommodate caravans and camping at very reasonable prices.

This place is not 5 star but very homely and friendly with great wines and good food at non boutique prices.

His other sideline is the breeding of goat’s.These he has turned into the most superb Curry pies and meats.

We are not in the habit of plugging businesses but this one is worth it.

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Tuesday morning we headed off for Home. It was only a short trip back to Brisbane normally about 3 hours. Today it was stretched out some by the fact that it was raining all the way home. After seeing the dams and rivers in New South Wales in such poor condition it was a pleasure to see the rivers full and running in South East Queensland.

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Mavis and Rod’s April trip

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Our adventure started when we left Brisbane on April 2nd and traveled to Coolmunda Dam past Warrick. This was only an overnight stop on the way to meet the Kedron owners group at Nindigully Pub.

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Nindigully Pub (built in 1864) is said to hold one of the longest continual alcohol licenses in Queensland and offers the beautiful Moonie River to camp on at no charge. The publican also offered no charge use of his hot showers and toilet facilities. We were also encouraged to top off our water tanks from one of his rainwater tanks for those that were traveling on further.

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Our van beside the River at Nindigully

What a great place and great company for three days.

We all gathered on the Saturday night for a roast dinner provided by the pub at a nominal cost, yummy.

Monday saw us and a group of nine other vans leave Nindigully heading for the Rose hill Bird Aviaries 64km west of St George.

Rose hill Aviaries are run by Husband and wife team John and Elaine Beardmore. What a great display of Australian birds. They have over 600 birds from over 70 species in 80 aviaries.

For the grand price of $6.60 per head for a look at the birds and to listen to John telling a few yarns, we were privileged enough to camp for a couple of nights by a hot flowing bore on their property. The water was crystal clear and lovely and warm, good enough that we topped off our shower water tanks and did some washing.

John is 79 years old and is looking to shut the aviaries in September to try and retire. Luckily he did say that he would still allow camping at the bore after the aviary closes.

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Our plan was to only stay one night but the company and surrounds were so good that we stayed for a second day.

Our van and five others left the Aviary for a trip that will take them (not us) through to South Australia to Alice Springs through North Queensland to be in Townsville for the V8 Super car races in July. Mavis and I will only travel as far as we can with them for the month of April.

The next stop was our longest drive (about 322 kms) to Eulo past Cunnamulla. We all camped that night by the river.

A guest arrived to “Have a chat” as we were enjoying a cleansing ale or wine while preparing dinner. It was Ian Pike the owner of the Date Winery at Eulo. After a chat and a sample of one of his savory date products most of the girls decide to visit the winery the next day for one of their famous mud baths.

After a restful night we all set off for the winery to deposit the girls for their hour of luxury. The plan was for the boys to head for the equally famous Eulo Queen Hotel for a cursory inspection but this didn’t eventuate with some of us carrying out a little maintenance on the vans and one of the boys hopping in the mud bath with his wife.

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Ian instructing Gloria and Sylvia on the finer points of getting down and dirty.

Well the one-hour dragged out to one and a half with much raucous laughter and frivolity behind the brushwood screens of the baths. It turned out that included in the cost of the baths was a bottle of wine and some nibbles. Unfortunately some were plied with a second bottle of wine, which only served to increase the volume of the joyous occasion, and added to the instability of the recipients.

We stayed an unplanned second night at Eulo, no not due to the inebriated state of our wives after their baths but due to rain making our departure track muddy. This night was spent in the Pub grounds camped on lush green grass with hot showers. (What a luxury grin).

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The Eulo Pub

From Eulo we traveled to Currawinya National Park for a couple of nights.

Currawinya is the home of the project to save the endangered Bilby or Rabbit eared Bandicoot from extinction. A 25 square kilometer area of the park was fenced with the assistance of volunteers and donated funds, then Bilbys bred in captivity were released in 2001. The project has been a great success with the elimination of predators from this protected environment. The Bilbys have bred like Bilbys.

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Neville and Ivan arriving at Currawinya the car didn’t handle the rough roads too well.

The first night in Currawinya was by the muddy waters in the camp area and the next morning before dawn, (yes we were all up before dawn) drove out to Numalla Lake to watch the bird life come in to settle on the lake.

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The sunrise was great with some great photo opportunities.

After sunrise we went for a walk to a small part of the lake that was teaming with life. Black swans pelicans parrots on the banks, ducks, divers, even some wild pigs on the far bank oh and lotsa sticky little flies.

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Back at camp we had a peaceful day mostly relaxing. Mavis and I had to do a run into Hungerford to make a phone call to Rod’s Mum to check in and let her know where we were and still in the land of the living.

That same afternoon it started to cloud over. Contact was made with the National Parks Ranger on the UHF radio to ask about the weather, as we did not want to be on the black soil banks of the waterway if it rained. This soil turns to grease when it gets wet, which would have made our departure quite an adventure to say the least. The Ranger said that we would not be getting much rain, but an executive decision was made to move camp up to the old wool shed where the ground was at least red sandy soil.

The next morning we were on the move again heading for Hungerford Pub for a visit on the way to Comeroo Camel Station.

Mavis decided that she wanted to drive to Hungerford. Have to say that this was the first time that she has driven our rig off road and what a road it was. Lots of water and mud and very slippery conditions to contend with and a couple of water crossings, she handled it like a pro. The picture tells it all.

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What a Girl and thanks to Grace and Bob for the pic.

Hungerford is right on the border of Queensland and New South Wales and is really only the Pub with a few colorful locals and a Police station. The Pub is a sight to see with lots of photos and memorabilia around the walls.

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The dinning room Hungerford Pub

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The Flying Doctors Service is supported by travelers wrapping a thumbtack inside a note of their selected denomination with two twenty cent pieces for weight. This package is then thrown up to the ceiling where the pin sticks the note and the coins fall back to the floor. Once a year they are removed and donated to the RFDS.

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Not only a great day driving in the mud but stuck the note to the ceiling first throw

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Upon leaving the pub we had to open the gate in “The Dog Fence” at the border on our trek to Comeroo Camel Station. The fence was constructed many years ago with the intention of keeping Dingo’s (Native dogs) away from sheep flocks. This fence is the longest fence in the world. At 5400km it stretches from the Great Australian Bight in South Australia to Roma in Queensland.

We arrived at Comeroo Station where we set up camp near the water way.

Mavis raced off to set the crayfish traps in the water while Rod slaved away setting up camp.

The first afternoon we all drove about 12 kms to the bore spar on the property. On arrival we found lovely green grass (something that we hadn’t seen for some time) and a big fiberglass spar bath set in a steel frame beside a free flowing hot water bore. This was all out in the bush. There was a big pipe with a tap to fill the spar with lovely clear hot water for everyone to enjoy.

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After the spar we sat around a fire and enjoyed fivesies (Traditional drinks nibbles and good chat before dinner)

We spent two great days at the Station and nearly got sick of eating Cray’s (not really can’t get sick of chewing on them, what great tucker, fresh on hot damper).

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Beautiful fresh crayfish.

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Most of the group decided to travel on to Louth for the night on the way to Tilpa weir but Mavis myself Ivan and Gloria decided to stay the extra night at Comeroo. It was well worth it with Rod cooking a Camp oven roast chicken dinner that night after another Bore spar followed by having a yarn around the camp fire with a few wines.

Second day here Mavis and I did a run out into one of the paddocks where we spotted Emus Camels goats wild pigs and an abundance of bird life. Good old GPS got us home this farm is 100,000 acres huge.

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Camels at Comeroo Station.

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Emu’s at Comeroo

We left the Camel Station heading for Tilpa Weir via Bourke

In Bourke we overnighted at the North Bourke caravan park and we restocked supplies and cleaned the mud off the car that Mavis had put there. We were on grass again yummy.

Next day we were off to Tilpa weir with a stop over for a break at Louth.

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The Pub at Louth had an extremely helpful publican she was a wealth of information on the area.

Another great little pub, but the main attraction was the cemetery. In the late 1800’s the founder of Louth, Thomas A Mathews built a monument to his deceased Wife, which consisted of a granite Celtic cross on a turned granite pedestal 24 feet high. The amazing feature of this monument is that of the anniversary of her death the setting sun lights the monument with a golden glow, which lit up the front door of their home. The rest of the year it lights various points within the town. A gentleman has plotted this phenomenon on a daily basis and a record kept of the lit positions. Visitors can observe the 3 minute light show. It is a real testament to the accuracy of navigation in the early 1800’s as it is said that its alignment was aided by one of the river boat captains.

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The Celtic cross at Louth.

From Louth we traveled on heading for Tilpa weir on the Western bank of the Darling River to meet the rest of the group. We experienced the worst dust driving that we have ever seen for about 10kms. It was so deep and soft that the van could not be seen in the mirrors or the back window, it was like driving in talcum powder.

Tilpa used to be a major river port servicing local agriculture. Very difficult to imagine cargo vessels plying their trade on this river, it would not be possible with water levels so low now. Tilpa has the only Boer War memorial that includes a commemorative to Harry (The Breaker) Morant and the Tilpa Cemetery is the only one in Australia with no one in it.

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Sunset over the Darling River at Tilpa.

After two days at Tilpa, we decided due to the lack of time remaining for our trip to leave early and travel alone driving directly to Menindee to camp by the lakes.

This journey took us through Wilcania and we mean through Wilcania.What an unfriendly an inhospitable looking town. There were some lovely old stone buildings that were beautifully constructed obviously in the late 1800’s but all with the exception of the police and courthouse were boarded up and in various states of disrepair. We have since heard from friends that stayed there that our conception was incorrect,the loved the place.

On to Menindee.

This town was the first town established on the Darling River. The area consists of the Kinchega National Park and 12 man made overflow lakes that were to provide a permanent water supply for recreation and irrigation of the fruit crops such as table grapes that are grown in the area. Bare in mind that this area is desert.

The sad fact is that all of the lakes are dry and have not seen adequate rain for 11 years according to locals, with the exception of Wetherell whose water is maintained by the “Main Weir” on the Darling River. This Lake was full after rains up stream 6 weeks prior and a small amount was being released from the weir into the River.

Copi Hollow also has water in a small lake. This is a caravan park 25 shacks and about 60 lockup sheds and is used by the Broken Hill ski club, looks to be a good camp site even though it is a caravan park.

We found a great spot and set up camp at the historic Burke and Wills camp sight on the river below the Lake. Unfortunately there was a family camp near us that was a bit noisy with fireworks being thrown into the campfire, soooo the decision was made to move to higher ground next to the Lake and the weir. A great move it was. We had a lovely view of the water, which was only about 5 meters from our awning of the van.

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The view from our van, that’s Ivan’s boat with himself, Nev and Peter aboard to check cray traps shortly after dawn.

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The boy’s with the mornings catch.

Next morning the kayak was launched and we peddled around the lake for about one and a half hours. It was beautiful, so quiet and so much bird life to see.

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Later in the day the rest of our group arrived as we were driving in to Menindee township for a sticky beak and they decided to camp at the Burke and Wills site. We were in a great spot so we stayed where we were by the water.

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Our van parked in paradise.

Four great nights were spent at Menindee relaxing cooking and enjoying the environment. The bird life on the lake was astounding. Even this late in the year with the nights starting to chill off, there were still Cormorants and Parrots nested with young in the dead trees on the lake.

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On our second day here, another Kedron caravan set up near us. Tony and Jenny from Ballina were on their first trip with their van and having a ball. They had sold their camp trailer to buy the van and absolutely love it.

Wednesday the 22nd saw us pack up and say fair well to our traveling companions and move on to Broken Hill in New South Wales, a short run of about 110kms.

Our friends were traveling on to eventually go to South Australia up to Alice Springs and across the top of Queensland to arrive in Townsville where we will meet them and enjoy the V8 Supercar racing there in July.

The Lake View Caravan Park was to be our backyard for three nights while we had a look at Broken Hill. Don’t know why its called Lake View as there isn’t a lake to be seen anywhere but the amenities were good and we were on grass and it was only $20 per night.

Broken Hill is a grand old town with many preserved old stone buildings and a good shopping center.

Day 1 saw us do the heritage drive, which takes you all over the town pointing out places of interest.

Day 2 was to see us have a look at some of the many art galleries in the area and do the heritage walk but it blew a gale and rained all night so the walk was not going to happen.

One of the galleries that we visited belonged to Jack Absolom an Aussie icon and bushman. As we were looking at his paintings and the incredible collection of opals, the man himself came out to greet us and point out his favorite opals in the collection. That was a great buzz.

The 25th saw us pack up say farewell to Broken Hill and travel the 20 odd km’s to Silverton.

This is another magic little town with a very colorful history.

The Silverton Hotel has been the site seen in many Australian movies including Mad Max, A Town like Alice and Razor Back.

There is a working replica of Mad Max’s Falcon built for the publican parked at the front of the pub.

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Here is “mad Rod” with the replica.

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After our short visit to Silverton it was time to start heading back to Brisbane via Hat Head near Kempsey NSW. We want to be home by the 30th of April so we have 5 days to get there. This will allow for a fairly leisurely trip

First night stop was at a free camp by the Barrier Highway 56km East of Wilcannia on the way to Cobar. Not much to talk about but it was relatively quiet and we had the company of a truck driver for the night.

Next morning after breakfast we started off early to put some kilometers between our last stop and the next.

The countryside was completely transforming from desert to gradually becoming lush and green.

It was sort of sad to leave the uniquely beautiful desert scenery, something that we both fell in love with. At the same time, it was also exciting to be back amongst green paddocks and luxuriant trees with fat cattle and sheep grazing in large numbers.

Our next camp was beside the beautiful Castlereagh River at Mendooran in New South Wales. Not a lot of water in the river but there were some good deep clear water holes evident.

There were already 3 other vans there when we stopped to select our site for the night and a motor home arrived later in the afternoon. One couple looked as though they were there for the long haul with a crackling fire and lots of equipment set up outside their van. On the back of their van they had a sign stating “RETIRED TRUCKIE NO LOG BOOK NO ETA” Glen and Jen (eta being estimated time of arrival grin). Obviously enjoying a well earned retirement.

The temperature this night must have dropped below zero we froze, not being prepared for the sudden change and too cold to get out of bed to retrieve our warm gear. As soon as we got up in the morning the cold weather stuff came out from under the bed, boy are we prepared now grin.

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The Sulphur Crested Cockatoo’s came in to roost for the night in the tree just behind our van. Rod waited until just before dark and went out and clapped his hands. They must have thought it was a gun going off because they all flew off to the other side of the river. We were so disappointed because we were looking forward to being woken before dawn with their raucous calling. Never mind, we both managed a little sleep in the next morning.

Next morning Rod cooked breakie, pretty unusual for us as we mostly have a healthy breakfast. This morning we lashed out with bacon eggs and mushrooms with toast and coffee Yum it was good.

Our next stop after a couple of coffee breaks on the road was for food and fuel in Tamworth. Not a bad run with the fuel. Our last fill was in Broken Hill and we arrived in Tamworth still with about 40 liters in the long-range tank.

The next stop for the night was at Walcha. We stopped in the caravan park here for a long hot shower and to top up with water.

Welllllll I truly think that Mavis suggested the stop in the caravan park so she could use the electric heater, I could be wrong of course.

On arrival the lady in the office hinted that the temperature would be below zero tonight and getting worse as the week progressed. Good on Mavis I knew it was the right thing to do staying in the van park nearly suggested it myself grin :-/

Tuesday the 28th we departed for Hat Head from Walcha after a blissful night in the heated van. The scenery on the way down from Walcha was superb with flowing rivers and creeks and some of the most beautiful trees and lush farm lands that we had seen. There was a nice stopover at Wauchope for an early lunch with a great coffee followed by an even nicer back road trip to Kempsey and on to Hat Head.

When we arrive at Hat Head we parked the van in the front yard where Mavis’s sister and brother in-law are staying while their new house is being completed and went for a walk along the beach It was nice to be warm again.

Next morning we struck out for Brisbane. Our adventure was nearing the end. The decision was made to have a last overnight at our favorite place Iluka, so we made our way to the caravan park fronting the Clarence River and settled in for the night. A quick trip to the fishing Co Op netted us a kilo of green prawns for our dinner, stir-fried and consumed from a bed of salad with a glass of white wine. (Does life really get any better than this grin)?

Last day saw us leaving Iluka bound for Brisbane. It was a long day but good to get home. We dropped in to visit Rod’s Mum on the way, then home for the big clean up.

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