Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Disastrous Weather

November 16:
I played golf this morning just like I do every other Saturday. The forecast was for showers and storms developing later in the day. We had been experiencing similar weather for many days prior to this with late afternoon showers which brought with it thunder and lightning.
Our weather normally comes from the south and once it reaches us it tends to hug the Great Dividing Range to the west with the worst of the weather effecting towns to the north like Ballina, Bryon Bay and Tweed Heads.

But on this Saturday afternoon the storms that battered Sawtell remained out over the ocean and we experienced the worst weather the area has received in many years. The storm lasted just over an hour with twenty minutes of hail, some the size of golf balls. We watched as the hail stones belted down on our gardens stripping leaves from trees, cracking windows, denting our awnings and causing considerable damage to our Bushtracker.

Every surface on the van has been damaged especially the top. It looks as though someone has taken to it with a ball hammer, however the four solar panels on the roof came through unscathed.
We are insured with CIL and have sent a series of photos to Bushtracker on the Sunshine Coast who will provide CIL with a quote for repairs. A CIL assessor has inspected our van and informed me that we will require a total re-skin.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Canberra to Sawtell

November 4:
A chilly five degrees inside the van this morning. Today we left Canberra after spending the past seven days camped at Exhibition Park. We had visited family and friends over the past week. Heading north along the Barton Highway we passed through Murrumbateman. Its located 40 kms north of Canberra and is surrounded by vineyards that produce cold climate wines. 
We joined the Hume Highway near Yass and headed west for 17 kms before turning north onto Lachlan Valley Way. Passing through Boorowa, a small country town of just over a thousand people before continuing on towards Cowra. Cowra is surrounded by farmland and is a wine producing region known for it's Chardonnay. During the second World War Cowra housed captured Japanese and Italian military personnel and in 1944 Japanese POW's staged a breakout from the camp. This breakout became known as the Cowra Breakout. Some prisoners were killed, some committed suicide and four Australian's were killed.
We stopped in Molong for lunch at the local bakery before proceeding onto Yeovil. We prefer to take the road less travelled rather than major roads but unfortunately the road from Molong would best be described as a goat track and was in a shocking condition. We set up camp in the showground which is listed in Camps 7 but there was no caretaker in residence so we just parked behind one of the tin sheds to shield ourselves from the strong winds that we had experienced throughout the day. There were toilets taps and power boxes but we chose not to use any of the facilities as we hadn't paid any money. And just like so many places we have camped we had the place to ourselves, except for several cows in the adjacent field.

November 5:
A very chilly zero degrees this morning with temperatures forecast to rise into the thirties and another day of thirty plus km/h winds expected. Our intention was to camp at the showgrounds at Gulgong tonight but we have now decided to spend three nights camped at Arakoon across the bay from South West Rocks so it was off to camp at Jerry's Plains in the Hunter Valley. The 40 kms of road from Yeovil into Wellington was in similar condition to the goat track we travelled on yesterday. Here we emptied our toilet cassette at the showgrounds and then refueled at $159.9 cpl before stopping in Gulgong for morning tea. We passed through Ulan with its open cut and underground coal mines, before we turned east onto the Golden Highway. The wind forecast was correct and for the majority of the day we were into a severe head wind. We came across a semi trailer 15 kms west of Denman carting a seven metre wide load and followed it until it pulled over at Denman Gap and let the now large queue of vehicles past.
November 6-8:
Nine degrees at 6:30 with some fog in the surrounding valleys and lovely blue skies. Thankfully the strong winds we had experienced for the past three days now appeared to be gone. We passed through Maitland 80 kms later and turned north at Hexham before refuelling at Raymond Terrace at 159.9 cpl. From here we had an easy run north to Arakoon and arrived just after 1:00. We have a lovely site looking across the bay to South West Rocks.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Heading East to Canberra

October 22:
We were leaving Margaret River today and heading down along the south coast for the next four weeks, but all that changed with just one phone call that woke us at 6:00. The news that a very close and dear friend had passed away unexpectedly the night before at the tender age of fifty seven. The family live in Canberra and we camped with them earlier this year at Arakoon just like we do each year. With this sad news we both agreed that we could not enjoy the remainder of our holiday but would instead head for Canberra to be with the family for the funeral. We had planned to have lunch today with "Motherhen" in Bridgetown but of course we did not have the time to stop and socialise, so unfortunately that was cancelled. We headed east through Nannup, Bridgetown, Boyup Brook, Kojonup, Bromehill and Jerramungup before spending the night just west of Ravensthorpe in the bush.
Distance today 573 kms.

October 23:
Ten degrees in the van this morning before receiving another call confirming the funeral arrangements for Wednesday 30th October. We left soon after and stopped in Esperance for a coffee before heading north to Norseman to have lunch and refuel. We still had another 167 kms to travel today. Our camp for this evening is Harms Lake and when we arrived there were several other vans already parked for the evening.
Distance today 553 kms.

October 24:
Twelve degrees inside the van this morning with an overcast sky. We have another long day ahead of us and will be crossing into South Australia late this afternoon to camp at one of the scenic lookouts along the Great Australian Bight. We were driving by 7:00 and stopped at Balladonia 25 kms further on to refuel before continuing east. The information given to us at the Norseman Information Centre the day before was that we would have a tail wind as we continued east. How wrong they were, we had quite a severe head wind until we stopped driving at 6:00 that evening. We faced the van into the wind and sat inside looking at the Southern Ocean while we had our first Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum for the evening. Our site was 80 kms west of the West Australian border and there was another van camped nearby.
Distance today 645 kms.

October 25:
Another cool morning with just eleven degrees inside the van at 5:30. Thankfully the winds we had experienced yesterday where today much lighter. We purchased fuel at Nullarbor at $2.02 cpl before proceeding on. We emptied our toilet cassette at Ceduna purchased diesel at $1.69 cpl before proceeding further east. It was wheat harvest time and we had to contend with B doubles carting wheat to the silos until we stopped for the night at the Apex Park in Minnipa. The whole camp area was strewn with rubbish including large amounts of toilet paper so it was on with the rubber gloves and when I had finished I had filled a large green garbage bag. Ros then shouted me a very cold Little Creatures Pale Ale for my efforts.
Distance today 567 kms.

October 26:
Ten degrees inside the van at 6:30 this morning with a light breeze and clear skies. We left our camp at 7:30 continuing east along the Eyre Highway towards Port Augusta where we refueled before turning south. When we were level with Port Pirie we turned inland passing through Hughes Gap and stopping for lunch at Gladstone. We had planned to camp at Burra Gorge this evening but with so much more daylight available we decided to travel onto Morgan where we crossed the Murray River on the car ferry and camped at the Cadell Recreation Ground for $20.00 per site. The amenities were brand new and also included a dump point. Because the temperatures were so mild we sat outside the van for our happy hour and then cooked outside on our gas ring. Ros had lamb cutlets and I had porterhouse steak which we bought at Margaret River. This was served with mash potato with onion and peas and of course another bottle of red wine.
Distance today 587 kms.

October 27:
A lovely warm seventeen degrees at 5:30 this morning with light rain falling. Willy Weather predicts light rain clearing later with winds from the south west so looks like another day driving into the wind. The rain cleared as we left our campsite and we experienced wet roads for the next 30 kms until we reached Waikerie. We refuelled in Renmark and then Balranald before continuing east towards Hay on the Sturt Highway. We thought we may camp at one of the many sites along the Murrumbidgee River but we had already covered so many kms today and driven for 7.2 hours so we called it a day and camped at the showgrounds at Hay. $17.00 per site with power, showers and toilets and best of all we had the place to ourselves. Another warm evening so once the flies had departed we cooked our meal outside again with those wonderful meats from the Margaret River.
This fountain commemorates the existence of a Prisoner Of war camp in Hay from 1940 to 1946 which housed interns and prisoners of the Japanese and Italian forces. This was the headquarters for the POW group of three camps each of which housed 1000 men.

Distance today 535 kms.

October 28:
We had light rain falling on the van during the early hours of this morning. At 6:00 it was seventeen degrees. The show ground also houses the race track and Ros joked this morning as to whether we would see any horses doing track work. I commented that it's not Royal Randwick, but low and behold while we were having our coffee a 4wd was being driven around the track with a horse tethered to the side of the vehicle. Rain started to fall as we left the showground and continued for the next 177 kms until we reached Narrandera. From here it was an easy run through Wagga Wagga and onto the Hume Freeway. We stopped for lunch at Yass before setting up camp at Exhibition Park in Canberra. Fees for a powered site are $30.00 which includes all the usual amenities and a dump point. It's situated just off the Federal Highway near the northern suburb of Watson.
Distance today 503 kms.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Margaret River

October 18:
Eighteen degrees inside the van at 7:00 this morning. Another lovely day with clear blue skies. We left the caravan park at Karrinyup at 9:30 hoping to miss the mad rush of people going into Perth for work. We turned onto the Mitchell Freeway that took us in past the city and across the Swan River. The further south we went the cloud increased and after passing the Mandurah turnoff we experienced light rain which turned heavier around the turnoff to Bunbury. As we approached the bypass road at Busselton the rain cleared and the sky improved with patches of blue.
We passed through Cowaramup before driving through Margaret River and turning onto Rosa Brook Road which we followed for 7kms before turning onto a dirt road for the last 2 kms to our camp. We are camping at the Big Valley Campground. It's surrounded by lovely green hills and is on a working sheep farm.
Distance today 318 kms. 
Their website is and bookings are essential. There is power, a dump point showers and toilets. After setting up camp we drove back into Margaret River and wandered around the town before having a coffee then it was onto Margaret River Gourmet Meats in the main street. My Godson, Robert recommended that I go there, one because he knows them and secondly because they have the best meat especially their Wagyu burgers. Along with the burgers we purchased a leg of lamb, porterhouse and scotch fillet steaks, lamb cutlets and pork chops.
We cooked some of the burgers over the fire on our Oz Pig that night and they were so delicious that we will be returning for more before we leave.

October 19:
We woke to fourteen degrees inside the van and with light rain falling. The rain had started in the early hours of the morning and the weather prediction is that it will continue for the remainder of the day.  We drove north today back through Cowaramup. The town lies at the centre of the Margaret River wine region. There are life sized fibreglass cows all along the main streets and in the parks and it's not just any 'udder' town.
From here it was onto the Grove Liqueur Factory. We had sampled some of their liqueurs whilst in Perth and we were here to purchase. We tasted many, but finally agreed on the Turkish Delight and Butterscotch.
It was then onto Busselton which lies on Geographe Bay and has a population of 25,000. We were here to view the famous jetty and the underwater observatory. The jetty extends 1.8 kms into the bay and is the longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. It's just unfortunate that we were not seeing it at its best because of the rain and overcast skies. We purchased a $28.00 ticket each to take the tram ride out to the end of the jetty which also included a guided tour.
Later we had a nice lunch at the Equinox Cafe that overlooks the bay. From here we passed through Dunsborough to view the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse which is in Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. Unfortunately we did not get to appreciate the beauty of the area because of the cloud cover and constant rain.
We continued south on Caves Road but in the end just gave up because of the rain and headed back to our campsite.
Distance today 185 kms.

October 20:
Eleven degrees inside the van this morning at 7:00 before the heater was turned on. It rained all night and when we woke there were patches of blue sky but these continued to appear and disappear just as quickly.
This morning we visited the Margaret River Nougat Factory, the Dairy Factory, Chocolate Factory and Millers ice cream farm shop. After lunch we visited the Colonial Brewery where we sampled seven of their beers and we both agreed that the Pale Ale was our favourite.

October 21:
Another eleven degrees this morning at 7:00 with cloudy skies. The heater soon had the temperature up to a reasonable seventeen degrees by 8:15. We drove into Margaret River to purchase more of those Wagyu burgers before heading south and passing through Karridale and then Augusta. We were on our way to view the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse that sits at the very SW corner of Western Australia. The sky was still cloudy and the wind quite cool but thankfully no rain. The lighthouse sits at the point where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet and protects shipping from the many reefs and small islands in the vicinity. After taking photos and doing the audio tour we stopped for lunch in the cafe in one of the old caretaker's cottages.
 It was then onto view the water wheel that over time has become encrusted in calcified lime. The wheel was built in 1895 to supply water for the builders of the lighthouse. The water came from a natural spring and is still running today.
 It was then onto Hamelin Bay to view the jetty. It was once used to export timber to England, South Africa and India and many of the streets in London are still paved with Karri from the surrounding forests around Boranup and Karridale. With the demand for Jarrah instead of Karri the jetty was abandoned and fell into disrepair.
Distance today 139 kms.