Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200312 Australia NSW Vic

MONDAY 1 DECEMBER 2003 – At Woololmombi we stroll to the waterfalls and gorge viewing points.  After stocking up on groceries in Armidale we head south.  Turn off at to Walcha and stop to do part of the sculpture walk.  The Aspley River normally flows through the centre of town but they have had so little rain for such a long time that they are now mowing the grass that has grown in the riverbed.  On the Thunderbolt highway we have a scenic journey towards Gloucester. Just north of the town is Bretti Reserve, a free camping spot by the river and similar to Appletreewick in Yorkshire. It’s lovely and peaceful and we enjoy a siesta until a group of 3 vans pull in.  The people walk about talking loudly whilst choosing a spot to camp.  There are loads of spots but they end up right behind us and then crank up a generator.



TUESDAY 2 DECEMBER – After running the generator late last night our neighbours start the day by running one of the car engines.  We move to another part of the camping area and enjoy lots of strolls down to the stream to find the swimming holes.  Late afternoon we have a heavy storm.



WEDNESDAY 3 DECEMBER – Mosey on to Gloucester passing another nice free camping spot at Barrington.  We could easily be in England as we pass through Stroud and Stratford.  Pause for lunch at a lakeside just north of Newcastle.  The city is famous for the coal and steel industry but this has now declined and we find a nice city with lost of attractive old buildings.  The museum has free entry and displays on many topics including the earthquake that hit the city.  Drive along the foreshore where there are numerous lovely beaches.  The area just south of the city is full of “no camping” signs and we are pushed onwards to the motorway and the first rest area just north of Gosford.  Another late afternoon storm reveals leaks in the van side window.



THURSDAY 4 DECEMBER – The traffic is bad approaching Sydney but signs clearly direct us to the Olympic Stadium with parking $3 (£1.30) hour.  We have returned to look at the Boral Olympic pathway. I bought a brick to commemorate our silver wedding and we find it in section A26, Steve+Glen Swatman 13.9.75.  The aquatic centre is open to the public and admission includes 4 hours free parking – $5.90 (£2.50) to swim and £2.90 (£1.30) to spectate.  It’s really nice inside with 2x 100 metre pools, plus lots of smaller pools for children, a lazy river, slides and spa tubs.  I swim in the main Olympic pool but no records are broken.  On the southern outskirts of Sydney we visit Jan & Jim at Woronora.  It’s turned into a lovely day and we sit out and enjoy the hot sun.  Cole’s are advertising a black & white TV like the one we had for £30 (£13) so we nip out and buy one. The weather breaks with another late afternoon thunderstorm.



FRIDAY 5 DECEMBER – My 47th birthday and unfortunately it’s a cold dull and rainy day.  Steve’s Dad has a cousin who lives in Port Hacking so we head over to meet Don & his wife Cathy.  They have been out here many years and Don is a retired gynaecologist and obstetrician.  They live in lovely big house right on the waterfront complete with a Porsche parked in the drive. They are nice people and fill us in on lots of family history during lunch.  We borrowed a motorhome from Mike & Toni back in 2000 and we manage to catch them at home in nearby Sutherland.  End up staying the night after bringing in fish & chips for tea.



SATURDAY 6 DECEMBER – The rain has stopped but it’s still a dull and cold day as we head out over the Blue Mountains.  In Lithgow we shop at the first Aldi we have seen in Australia, very similar to the ones in England but not quite as cheap.  Bev & Norm’s daughter Louise lives with her partner Jaya in Bathurst and she wants to meet us.  We stay for a couple of hours and she takes us out for a drive to show us the sights.  The area where they hold the motor racing is amazing.  The circuit is a normal road and it winds its way up a hill on the edge of town with houses along side.  Stop to take in the view from the top but it is bitterly cold and windy.  Just west of the city we camp for the night at Carcoar Dam, an attractive site by the lake and popular with locals.  It’s still very cold and windy, no wonder the largest wind farm in Australia is here.   



SUNDAY 7 DECEMBER – It’s too cold for us to want to stay so we press on to Cowra made famous for the prisoner of war breakout.  Begin by visiting the Cowra rail, rural & war museum $7.70 (£3.30).  Here we learn that there was a prisoner of war camp in the town where Japanese prisoners staged a big breakout.  In the centre of town is the Australan World Peace Bell.  You are welcome to ring it as your acknowledment of the movement towards world peace.  Next we visit the site of the old camp then the war cemeteries.  To finish off we enjoy a holograph presentation at the visitor centre.  The sky is now clear blue and the sunshine brings back the hot weather.  On the outskirts of Grenfell we camp at Company dam.



MONDAY 8 DECEMBER – Not far out of Grenfell we turn off to Weddin Mountains National Park where you can free camp.  On dirt roads we head to Seaton Campground complete with pit toilets, picnic tables and fireplaces.  We walk further along the track to Seatons Farm abandoned in 1960 but now preserved so people can see how harsh conditions were.  The Seatons were extremely poor and their home and sheds are made out of odd pieces of steel and corrugated iron.  They even beat the corrugations out to make the panels go further and everything around the farm is made from junk.  It’s a hot day so we spend the rest of it sitting in the shade and reading.  Steve lights the fire to cook our tea and we are joined by Terry & JB who are from Mildura and by coincidence know Garth & Jude our friends there.



TUESDAY 9 DECEMBER – Before it gets too hot we walk up to Ben Hall’s cave.  He was an outlaw and staged the biggest gold robbery in Australia.  Rumour has it that some of the loot is still buried in these mountains.  From the cave we have splendid views over the countryside but the cave itself is uninteresting.  Again we laze away the rest of the day.



WEDNESDAY 10 DECEMBER – Heading west we link up with the main Newell highway and get a shock at the amount of traffic on it.  In West Wyalong we turn off onto quieter roads and make our way to the attractive town of Narrandera.  West of town we turn off the main road at a sign for MIA Forest Drive, Grahams Grave entrance.  Track number 1 follows the Murrumbidgee River.  Billy goes bush bashing as we check out the sidetracks leading to the river.  It’s getting late so we settle on the first vacant spot. 



 THURSDAY 11 DECEMBER – We meander further and by exploring all the other tracks down to the river we eventually arrive at Broad Beach (one of the few that is sign posted).  We settle into a shady spot and find two sandy beaches, one above the bend with deep fast flowing water and one below with shallow calm water. 



FRIDAY 12 DECEMBER – Beaut lazy day with the place to our selves to swim and sun bathe au naturel.



SATURDAY 13 DECEMBER – After a cool breezy start the day gets very hot. A family arrive late afternoon to fish but don’t stay long.  A boat comes up the river checking the depth.  The water level, controlled by the weirs, now seems to be dropping fast.  A couple of kangaroos visit in the evening and keep coming back to check us out.  Steve stays up most of the night watching football on TV.



SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER – Steve gets up late and we laze around.  Drovers arrive on the far bank herding around 200 head of cattle down to the river to drink.  Don’t think we will be bathing in the river again today.  When we realise the drovers are setting up camp for the night we move off.  Further along the track we find Bikini Beach but swim in the nude. 



MONDAY 15 DECEMBER – Wake up later than we had planned.  The water level is rising fast and the beach has almost dissapeared.  Set off with the rubbish bags tied to the front of the van.  After bouncing along the dirt track we hear a crunch.  The bags have fallen off and we have driven over one, the one containing a glass jar.  The jar has smashed but fortunately the tyre seems OK.  We sweep up the mess and put the bags inside the van.  A few minutes later we hear the side door slide shut.  I’d forgotton to shut it and we’ve been driving with it opn.  As luck would have it nothing has fallen out but we laugh and what a pair we are today.  Exit the park at Brown Kiln entrance and head into Yanca.  Fill up the water containers but I over fill one and as we put it into the rack we think it has split as water gushes out below.  Third time lucky as it seems the water was forced out through the regular tap.  Head off along the main road towards Hay with paddy fields and orange groves at the side of us. 1km east of the Carrathool turning we follow a sign to the river.  Rudd Point camping area is a nice flat spot with plenty of trees for shade.  Unfortunately access into the river is poor, very muddy and slimy.  After we have settled in we hear an almighty crash.  A huge branch has just crashed down from the tree in front of us, had we been underneath it we would have had serious damage.  In Australia the gum trees often drop branches in the heat for no aparent reason.  Just incase our luck has run out we move Billy to a spot away from trees, better to stiffle in the sun than get squashed under a branch.  We are miles from anywhere here and the evening brings a magnificent display of stars.



TUESDAY 16 DECEMBER – It’s hot in Hay when we arrive early morning.  We can’t wait for the swimming pool (free) to open at noon.  After a good few hours at the pool we head to the Lions Park with a BBQ and kitchen area.  Next we move on to Sandy Point Beach and find it very busy.  Park by one of the numerous picnic benches and enjoy coolingdips in the water including one after dark.



WEDNESDAY 17 DECEMBER – Make the boring drive over the Hay Plains to Balranald.  It’s hotter than ever so we seek comfort in the air-conditioned library.  The lady remembers us from our visit in January and again we get free drinks and biscuits.  Swimming is still possible at The Bend although there is a lot of pollen on the surface.  Hear on the news that Balranald holds the record as the hottest place today at 40C.  Spend most of the evening sat out watching the TV by citronella candlelight.



THURSDAY 18 DECEMBER – Linger in bed whilst it’s comparatively cool.  Stop for a swim at Lake Benanee en route to Mildura VICTORIA.  A quick shop then out to Kings Billabong for lunch and a siesta.  Garth & Jude have a vineyard in the suburb of Irymple.  We’re housesitting over Christmas and New Year and arrive there early afternoon.  Their eldest son Harry is away on an exchange in Italy but Tom, Ellie and Alex are home.  We meet the dogs, Eb (black lab), Taco (golden retriever mix) and Pepa (some sort of terrier puppy) plus the ducks and chickens but decline a visit to the wormery.  We’re staying in the “Casita” in the garden with our own bedroom, en-suite and additional room.  After a cooling dip in the pool we settle down to catch up having not seen them since April in Vietnam.



FRIDAY 19 DECEMBER – I join Jude for a shopping trip into town.  First we have to call at Tom’s school to pick up his report.  In Australia a parent goes to school to collect and read the report and then has an option to see the teachers, Tom’s is good so it’s a short stop. Having coped rather well in Billy we have decided to keep him (even if he has been playing up a bit recently!)  We initially bought curtains etc from the op shops but it’s now looking a bit shabby, old fashioned and uncoordinated.  For Christmas I am giving Billy a make over.  At Spotlight store I buy materiel for curtains and a new set of bedding.  All we need now is to paint the brown cupboards white.  The kids break up from school today and back at home they are joined in the pool by other friends. A storm in the evening rapidly cools things down.



SATURDAY 20 DECEMBER – There’s been a bit of damage in the storm.  A huge branch has fallen from a tree and landed very near our bedroom window.  Just so long as branches continue to fall and miss us that’s fine.  Steve and Garth’s turn to go off shopping – to the hardware type stores.  In the evening Jude and I take Ellie and Alex for a ride around the city to see the Christmas lights.  The local paper publishes address of houses and street with particulary good displays.  They are American style with whole houses and gardens covered in lights and ornaments, brilliant.



SUNDAY 21 DECEMBER – Jude & Garth have visitors round so Steve sets about painting the cupboards inside Billy whist I do paperwork.  We get another storm late afternoon which cools things down.



MONDAY 22 DECEMBER – My turn to go to town with Jude.  Unlike England in Christmas week it is still easy to park and there are few queues in the shops.  Steve cracks on with painting inside Billy.  There were no real Christmas trees on sale so Jude & I cut a piece from the fallen branch and create our own Aussie tree.  I set the kids on making paper chains and by the time Garth gets home the house looks rather festive.  Kevin, Jane and children call round for the evening.



TUESDAY 23 DECEMBER – A normal nice hot sunny day with a few clouds.  Steve finishes painting the cupboards in Billy and thinks it looks too white and clinical, have we now become a mobile clinic? 



WEDNESDAY 24 DECEMBER – It’s back to the nice sunny weather.  We potter around whilst the family make last minute preparations for their Chrismas trip to Melbourne.  They set off late morning and no sooner are they up the drive than we are stripped off for a skinny dip.  The dogs are very quiet, Eb digs herself a hole near the front gate and lies there all afternoon.  There is a bit of an orchard on the property with apriot and almond trees but this attracts the Galah birds.  Garth has made a device to frighten them away.  Two pieces of wood are hinged together with handles on the outside.  You open the wood them slam it closed to make a gun shot sound and this scares the birds away.  Evening tally reveals 1 duck and 3 chicken eggs.  Putting the ducks away is a bit of a challenge.  They keep over shooting the entrance to the coup and it takes both of us to corner them and head them home.  Nip down town for some last minute shopping and we are surprised that the grocery store is open until midnight.



THURSDAY 25 DECEMBER –  Get up around 8am and feed the chooks, ducks, dogs and mice before settling down to our own cooked breakfast by the pool.  Christmas television in Australia is dreadful so we watch a video or two in between sunbathing and swimming.  It’s far too hot for a traditional Christmas dinner so we compromise and cook a thick juicy steak on the poolside “barbie”.  Manage a few phone calls to England before the lines get too busy, missing being with family but wouldn’t swap the weather here.



FRIDAY 26 DECEMBER – Manage to get through to England for the last of our Christmas phone calls.  There’s a pleasant cool breeze today but the forcast is for it to get hot soon.  Fall into our usual routine with me fitting in a bit of sewing.



SATURDAY 27 DECEMBER – Even the dogs are into our routine and wake us up for their breakfast at 8am. 



SUNDAY 28 DECEMBER – Steve must be feeling energetic as he sets out to mow the lawn before breakfast, but never finishes it!



MONDAY 29 DECEMBER – Drive 30km to Wentworth then to the Perry Sandhills on the outskirts.  Out of nowhere these huge red sand dunes appear and amonst the sand is a 400 year old tree buried up to the top branches but still alive.  As a complete contrast the town of Wentworth is like an oasis and the merging point of 2 rivers.  Normally you can see the different colours as the brown Darling River joins with the blue Murray.  Not so at the moment.  The Darling dried up because of the drought but by stopping the water flow at the weir they have managed to back the Murray water up the Darling for 60km.  Get back to Mildura in time for the 1.30pm showing of Return of the King $8 (£3.50).  We both enjoy it and reckon it was better than the second one.



TUESDAY 30 DECEMBER – A cloudy but very hot day with records broken in Melbourne.  Steve finishes the lawn whilst I finish working in Billy.



WEDNESDAY 31 DECEMBER – End our year with a hot sunny day.  In the evening we head into Mildura to the Ornamental Lakes Park on the banks of the Murray River.  Family entertainment is organised by the council and it’s very busy with a fun fair, food stalls and an entertainment stage.  It’s a balmy evening and lots of people are cooling off in the river.  Canal boats are anchored up and lots of individual parties are being held on board.  We walk into town but find most pubs are charging an entry fee.  The Workers Club is an exception so we call in for a drink – Steve’s only alcohol of the night as it is banned in public.  Return to the park where they are screening “Daddy Day Care” movie.  Family groups have set up with tables and chairs and it’s just like a huge picnic.  “Bushfire” are the band to provide entertainment with Aussie ballads and Irish music prompting many of the youngsters to get up and dance.  Younger children are amused by The Great Aussie Bush show whose puppets including Edna the emu and Cuddles Koala.  It’s a great night but I think we are a bit miss placed being here without children.  A firework display heralds the New Year after which the band plays Auld Lang Syne.



Total of 9 countries visited this year: – Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.  


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