Sydney to Great Ocean Road

Journey                 # 2

Time:                      March 2010

Day 1 - 8th March 2010. Left Engadine about 9am and travelled south along the Princes Hwy to Ulladulla, where we stopped in and had lunch. Left there around 12.30pm and headed off to our first stop, at the Big 4 caravan park at Narooma. Just before getting to Batemans Bay, I noticed that the cruiser was stuck in 3rd gear and wasn't changing up or down. It was a bit of a worry, as nothing like this had occurred before, and some of the hills may have needed 2nd gear. Driving along at 4500rpm also didn't impress me much. Pulled up in Batemans Bay and called the NRMA. He arrived about 10 mins later but had no idea as to what was wrong. Mentioned something about solenoids, but no way of knowing unless we took the 'cruiser to Toyota or a transmission specialist. He did however disconnect the battery and reset the computer. The car pulled off o.k. and we followed him to the transmission workshop. It changed gear o.k. so we thanked him and continued on to Narooma. Booked in to The Big Four East's Holiday Park and pulled in to site #22. Reversed in and although tight, was achieved easily. Distance for the day, was 323klm. After the first night, I decided that our site was not the ideal one. During the night, flying foxes eating the blossoms etc in the mellaleuca, dropped seeds onto the roof of the van, all night. Sounded like hail. Site #20 is much better and much larger. Next time.

Looking at the Narooma road bridge, crossing the beautiful Wagonga Inlet.

Day 2 - Next morning, we went for a walk along the boardwalk, out to the breakwall/bar entrance. Saw some big stingrays gliding along and congregating near the boatramp. A fisherman had just filleted his catch of Kingfish, so I tossed the frames into the water and watched the rays settle onto them. as they swam off, the frames were gone. To my surprise a seal came in and took over, tossing the fish frames into the air and catching them. He shook them like a dog with a stuffed toy, snapping pieces off and then leisurely swallowing the bits.
Had morning tea at a coffee shop across the road from the caravan park, and were entertained by a live jazz band, complete with a tap dancing, banjo playing female band member. Very talented quartet.
We will be leaving in the morning for a stopover in the vicinity of Bairnsdale.

These stingrays came in looking for fish scraps.

Day 3 - Left Narooma around 9.30am and headed off south. Stopped at a rest area for a cuppa and a vanilla slice. On leaving, I saw a truck coming down the hill, and misjudged just how fast he was going. I had to boot the V8 and managed to keep ahead of him. He did get on the 2 way and called me an idiot. I apologised, but he tried to catch up and intimidate me further. He couldn't keep up though and we lost him near Eden.
We had lunch at the Governers Bend rest area near near Cann River, but it was very ordinary, so we ate and left. Stopped in Bairnsdale to have a look at the murals in the St Marys catholic church. A magnificent building in the heart of the town. I drove through the shopping centre and got a few funny looks, towing a 20ft van down the busy street. I found a spot to park, which happened to be right at the rear of the church. Took up 3 spots. We went in (not sure if we were allowed to enter, but the door was open. The priest was in there, right up the front, teaching the altar boys how to serve communion or something similar. I took a few pics and Beryl did too. Her flash was on, and the people up the front turned around to look at us as if we were doing something wrong. We snuck back out the door and I noticed a sign which asked that flash cameras not be used, as they deteriorate the artwork. Oops!!
Filled the tanks at the Caltex, after scrounging around the trolley bays at KMart to try and find a 4c off docket for the Shell servo. Got my 4c off at Caltex. The tanks took 188lts for $228.80. Phew. I have been driving in 4th gear since the incident at Batemans Bay, so expected the consumption to be up a bit. Also, the roads were very hilly and a lot of distance had to be covered in 3rd gear. Averaged 25lts per 100klm.
We drove on through Sale and stopped at a nice rest area beside the LaTrobe river. It has a red tick in the Camps book, but that can only be for location. Not much else going for it, apart from the nice green grass. Quite a few vans and motor homes here for the night. Off tomorrow for the drive to Geelong and then Lorne.

St Marys catholic church, showing a small portion of the muralled ceiling

Day 4 - During the night, I had to get up and put the doona on. It was cold... 10C apparently. Beryl had some peanut butter toast before we headed off. The truckies all blasted their horns as they drove past at first light. Guess they figured why should anyone else sleep when they had to be up. The drive towards Melbourne was very good, but the traffic started getting heavier the closer we got. Wanted to stop at the tourist information at Traralgon, but it was right in the middle of town on a bend, so we turned into a side street, which went along the railway station and was quite narrow. I would suggest that it had never seen a caravan in it before today. I was worried about how I would get it turned around, but luckily the lane went to Bob Jane tyres, and they had a driveway exit back onto the highway. Continued on to Yarrawong and went to the i centre to get some advice on the tollways of Melbourne. Nobody in there, and it was a help yourself to brochures deal. Stayed on M1 all the way to Geelong and it was well signposted. Up to 8 lanes of traffic all merging and going off in different directions. Getting buffeted by big trucks going past either side of me, was a bit 'exciting'.
Got to Geelong, and Beryl wanted to see the Wool museum. We drove through the middle of town, with the van on, and tried to find somewhere to park. Yeah, right!!
We left town taking a wrong turn, but found our way back to the highway out of town. Very bumpy road out to Lorne, but we will go back tomorrow without the van. We booked in to the Foreshore caravan park and it leaves a bit to be desired, but that's all we could find. There was supposed to be another one in Queens Park, but we couldn't find it. Drove up one road with the 2.5tonne van and the 'cruiser didn't want to know. It banged into first gear and chugged up the hill. I should have gone up in low range. Had a walk out on the Lorne pier and watched the locals trying to get a fish. Lots of squid ink on the wharf, so they must be there. It was cold and windy.
We drove up to Teddys lookout, but again, no signs. I just kept going up steeper and steeper roads. Don't know how long the locals cars last. Saw a sign on the side of the road, for the lookout. Parked the car and walked down a bush track for about 1klm and spotted a car park through the trees. Found the lookout, and realised it was on the same road I had parked on, only 500m further on. We walked back along the road. Checked out the fish and chip shops, cafes and the pub for a meal. $30 each for a pub meal or $12 for a piece of fish and small chips. Went to the supermarket and bought marinated chicken wings and rice for dinner. The local servo doesn't even have a petrol price displayed. I will fill up in Geelong tomorrow.

Teddys Lookout, Lorne Vic.

Day 5 - Had a leisurely morning and slept in. Beryl wasn't feeling too well, with a migraine type headache. We decided if the Panadol didn't work, we would go in to Geelong the following day, but she improved a lot so we left Lorne around 10am. Saw petrol at $1.20pl and decided to fill up on the way back to Lorne. Mistake - it was $1.35 on the way back.
We looked for the wool museum but missed it somehow. Drove around the block a couple of times and eventually found it where we had driven past a couple of times. Got a spot right outside, in metered parking. I thought it would be boring, but was surprised. Two hours went very quickly. We then went for a walk along the Geelong waterfront. It is really well set up and maintained. There are timber bollards, carved into the likeness of people, such as lifesavers, firemen, ladies, sailors etc all from a bygone era. There are 100 of these to find, if you are keen. Mark and Wendy would fall into that category. Had lunch at a beachfront cafe. Can't get used to these Vic prices!! Had an egg and bacon roll, after seeing a piece of fish and chips was $35. Wow.
On the way home, saw a quaint little Lutheran Church at Freshwater Creek. Stopped and had a walk around their old cemetery. Lots of German pioneers buried there. We got to the coast and looked in at Winkiepop (Bells Beach) and a few other surfing spots in that section. From there we had a look at the Split Point Lighthouse at Fairhaven and various other scenic lookouts. Took a photo of some unusual architecture, with houses perched on the side of escarpments. Money is no object for some. Got back to the caravan park, to find it had filled up considerably. A bunch of teenagers had set up tents not far away so we may not get a quiet night. Loads of slabs are being carried past the van and the crash of empty bottles into the bin is noticeable. I used to be young once, but it is too far back to remember details. Tomorrow is another day.

Split Point lighthouse, Fairhaven GOR.

Day 6 - Today we drove down to Apollo Bay to check out the van parks and a few waterfalls. Lots of traffic on the road, and loads of pushbike riders. Generally sensible riders but there were some arrogant ones who figured they were in a lane, so motorists could go around them.
Nice seascapes and lookouts. We stopped at Mt Defiance lookout and then at a historic grave site and the site of the W.B. Godfrey wreck of 1891, then the Cape Patton lookout and into Apollo Bay. They had a market day on, so the town main St was packed. I have never seen so many people with dogs. We looked at Marengo van park, which allowed pets, and every van owner we saw in there had a dog or two. Owners were cuddling their dogs and walking their dogs and one bloke even looked like he wanted to get intimate with his dog. We decided to book in to the Pisces van park. It is quite new and only $2 a night dearer. Can't take my dog in there though - no dogs allowed. The owner did have his big, fat Lab at the door though. On the way back, we stopped at the Carlsbrook Falls, which was a walk of about 20mins. Further down the road, we stopped at the Cumberland Falls which took about 30 mins. A bend in the track showed a small trail to the road, so Beryl took that, whilst I had to hike back to the car and pick her up on the side of the road. Back to Lorne for a late lunch and then off to Erskine Falls. This perhaps the prettiest one to date. Beryl loved the 230 steps back up to the car park. Her knee was paining her and her chest cold was making breathing hard. Poor girl. Back to the van by 5pm, a bbq dinner and then off in the morning.

Erskine Falls out from Lorne.

Day 7 - This morning, I dropped the hitch by one level and hooked up the van. Couldn't get the weight distribution bars into their slots, so had to move it back where it was. The van looks just slightly high on the towbar, but it may be the air shocks are pumped up a bit too high. Tows very nicely regardless. Left Lorne around 9am and headed west to Apollo Bay. Struck a group of bicycle riders riding from Melbourne to Adelaide, but they didn't cause me any concern. Traffic was also light, so all went well.
We arrived at Pisces caravan park about 10.45am and backed into the allocated site with no problem. I am getting better at maneuvering the van. Beryl is still not too well and has low energy. We had an early lunch and headed off to do two of our scheduled trips.
We stopped at Maites Rest rainforest walk. Just glorious country, driving through the rainforest, with its gigantic Myrtle and Mountain Ash. We walked along the loop track and saw giant fern trees and dense rainforest flora. It was nice and cool and echoee (is that a word?). We then drove down to Ottway Light(house). A really amazing building which was built by 70 stone masons and builders, in a period of 10 months. The blocks were all hand cut and set together to make a circular lighthouse. No mortar was used and all the blocks fit together very precisely. Just like everything else in Vic, you couldn't get to see the lighthouse for free. Cost us $33. The 'tree walk' is also going to cost $40, so we will give it a miss. All these incidentals add up, so we have to choose what we will do and see. Drove back from Cape Otway to the Great Ocean Road and saw quite few koalas sitting in the trees. Also went down to have a look at the Airdes River camping ground, to see if we might stay there for a freecamp night. I think not.
It is very nice here in Apollo Bay, so we may stay three days and I may even have a swim in the surf tomorrow. I told Beryl we will find an isolated section and no cameras allowed.

Cape Ottway light house.

Day 8 - Today, we had a drive around the Otway Loop (my name for it) and stopped to look at a couple of waterfalls. We drove up the road from the Great Ocean Road, towards Colac. Turned left at Turtons Track and commenced the trip down to Beauchamp Falls and Hopetoun Falls. The start of Turtons Track, for around 8klm, passed through thick rainforest and had some of the largest, straightest Mountain Ash we had seen. It was magnificent and can't be adequately described. Also, a video camera mounted on the car, would have been a bonus. The track to Beauchamp was marked as moderate to difficult, so we passed on that one and headed off to Hopetoun Falls.
In the parking area, we saw a 3 cyclinder Charade which was packed to the hilt. A fellow crawled out of it and we had a chat. Seems he is itinerant and travels wherever the road takes him. I couldn't see where he could sit to drive. There was junk everywhere. He certainly wouldn't have been able to see out of the mirror. He was certainly different, but seemed harmless. He was excited when I told him Sarah had a 3 cylinder Charade, and he wanted to know all about it. His had over 300 thousand klms on the clock and still going strong. On the way down the steep track, through dense fern trees and rainforest jungle, I heard a rustle in the leaf litter. Expecting to see a lizard, I got a start to see a 2m Tiger snake with its neck in an 'S' shape, ready to strike. Tigers are an aggressive snake, so I told Beryl to freeze, as she was only 1m from the snakes head. It stayed poised for about 30secs and then turned and slithered off into the scrub. Continued on to the falls and were rewarded with a spectacular waterfall. The 200 odd steps on the way back were harder than going down. Told a couple of ladies at the top to watch out for the snake, and headed off to the Beech Forest. Another spectacular spot, with huge California redwoods, which were planted in 1836. Wendy would appreciate those, and could almost believe she was back in the U.S.A.
We continued on from there to the Otway Fly, which is a treetop walk. It was going to cost $22 each, which was fine, but the carpark was full and we decided to do the Triplet Falls instead. That was a great walk through the rainforest and giant mountain ash. It was 2klm, but there were plenty of birds. I watched a male Satin Bowerbird, performing in his bower and tossing blue feathers and plastic around, in an attempt to entice two females into his gallery. The mimic calls were really cool. The falls were very nice, but you couldn't get too close. Lots of German tourists around here. We had lunch at a store/museum near Lavers Hill. We had driven there to buy some fresh blueberries, off the farm, but it seems the season is finished. Continued the loop and joined up with the Great Ocean Road again.
On the way back, we stopped and had a look at a roadside lookout, at Castle Cove. If I had a big surfboard, I could have visualised myself riding the fantastic surf at this spot. Crystal clear water and 2m waves with long rides and no-one taking advantage of them.
Back at the van park around 4pm. After dinner, I went across the road to the beach and spoke to a fellow who was fishing. He was on holidays from Limerick in Ireland and was fun to talk to. He was over here for 'tree munts' and was enjoying the stay. He thought he could drive to Sydney from Apollo Bay in around 6 hours (until he got here and realised the size of the country). Tomorrow is another day. Plan is to do some washing and have a walk along the beach, check out a lookout behind the caravan park and get some groceries.

Castle Cove beach. Had to walk down a steep track, but the pristine beach and perfect waves looked fantastic.

Hopetoun Falls are really pretty and worth the couple of hundred steps.

Day 9 & 10 - Did the laundry, had a look around town and out on the harbour jetty. Relax day for us both. Walked along the beach and did some fishing. Also went up to Mariners lookout which is on the hill behind the caravan park. A great view. We drove away from Apollo Bay around 9.30am, after saying goodbye to Bruce and Jo, and headed off to Port Campbell. The van park is o.k. but lacks a few niceties. The washing up water from the vans just runs into the scrub and towards the creek. Shops close at 6.30pm here. We ordered a coffe and two pieces of cake for afternoon tea. The guy serving gave me my muffin and then said he would bring the coffees to the table. When the coffees came, I asked about Beryl's cake and he said, "I've only got two hands". The customer is not always right, it seems.
We went SW to Peterborough and checked out the sights. The Bay of Martyrs was quite spectacular. We then turned back and checked out the Loch Ard Gorge and the 12 Apostles. I have not seen so many people at any one spot, as there were at the apostles. Had to laugh at a couple of old ladies walking along and playing 'count the aussies'. I caught them out and asked what the tally was. They had a good laugh. Also, I have not seen so many German tourists as on this tour. Have spoken to lots and they love Aus. One girl told me she wants to come and live here. She said if we came to Germany, we could see everything in 2 weeks and then be bored to tears if we stay longer. All of them spoke very good english and one of them spoke better than most Aussies. Good fun. The oldies in the "van" next to us are a hoot as well. She gets out at night and talks to the stars. Reckons they talk to her as well. Might lock the door tonight.

Spectacular seascapes around the 12 Apostles.

There are no longer 12 Apostles, as the sea and wind prove to be unstoppable. Erosion has claimed a lot of the coastline.

Day 11 - We left at the usual time around 9.30am, and headed west towards Port Fairy. The light was quite good for taking a few snaps, as it was overcast. Pulled in at the Bay of Islands again and walked out to the viewing platform. Got the usual gaggle of school kids heading out as we were heading back in. They are tunnel visioned when walking on a path, and they were spread 5 and 6 across. I stopped on the side of the track as they passed, and one of them almost ran into me. The teacher rolled her eyes and just gave me a grin as if to say, "kids!!"
As we got back to the carpark, I noticed that I had left my tv antenna up. Hope it didn't get damaged at 100kph. Just checked, and the television is working A.O.K.
We are staying at the Big 4 park in Port Fairy, and it is a very nice place. Thick green grass and quiet. I backed in to the spot and set the van up, but then decided that our door looked straight in to the door of the van behind us. Hooked it all back up and moved it 2m across. Perfect. It started to drizzle, so we put out the awning. Nice. Had lunch at the outdoor table and chairs.
After lunch we drove back 30klm to Warnambool and visited CHEESEWORLD. Took a pic of a cow for Mark and Wendy to add to their collection. The museum was interesting but scary, when we realised that we both remember and have used lots of the things shown in the museum. We had a milkshake there and I bought a bottle of Mead. We also got adventurous and bought a piece of vintage cheddar. They didn't have any cheezewiz or cheese in an aerosol can, so I couldn't bring any back for Michelle and Cae.
After that, we went into the shopping centre for a bit of a browse. Bought a serving spoon and egg lifter as well as two sink plugs for the front boot of the van. Beryl also wanted some Olive Leaf extract tablets for her continuing cold. We got directions, and walked past (well, not past) a neat shop which sold all sorts of hardware and bits and pieces. It was really neat, and we could have spent more time in there, except it was closing time. I bought some brass hose fittings, leather gloves and some interlocking flooring to put out the front of the van door. Should keep the floor a bit cleaner. We had dinner at the Warnambool bowling club as they had a $10 special on. Bangers and mash for us. One old codger had a two for one docket, so he cashed it in on a couple of $10 meals. Tight!!!.
Got back to the van around 8pm. Tomorrow we will go for a walk out on the island and check out the lighthouse and beach. Also have a look at an eco project on Tower Hill and generally just have a look around the place

The tiny Port Fairy lighthouse on Gilbert Island.

Day 12 & 13 - Today we went for a drive into town and had a look around. Spoke to a fellow who owns the kite shop, and who I competed against in the glider comps at Jerilderie. He sure can talk.
Went out to Tower Hill, which is an extinct volcano crater. They are revegetating it with native plants, which in turn are attracting native animals. We saw emus and koalas as well as other birds. Beryl spotted all the koalas and a male, female and little baby were in a eucalypt only a couple of metres high. Got some close up shots.
After that, we came back to Port Fairy and walked out onto Gilbert Island and had a look at the lighthouse. Not nearly as impressive or well built as the Otway Light, but nice, just the same.
Bought some vanilla slices for afternoon tea, but they got the thumbs down. The lady in the van park office has told us where to buy the best ones in the area. Tomorrow is another day, and I figure I walked enough to burn off the calories from the one I ate today.
Off for a day visit to Portland tomorrow, as we decided to spend an extra night here and drive north to Halls Gap. A more direct route than if we towed the van to Portland. We had a leisurely start this morning and drove into town to the farmers market. Bought some corn, dutch cream potatoes, carrots and lemon butter for me.
After that we drove a couple of klms out of town and had coffee and morning tea at a beachfront cafe, Time and Tide, which was really nice but not too well signposted. Expensive, but nice. Beryl had a brownie, which came out on a plate with raspberry puree, cream and a rich chocolate sauce. I had a pecan, apple and cinnamon muffin. We shared half each and it was rich food. Even too much for my sweet tooth, but we ate it all. Beryl wouldn't let me lick the plate.
From there, we drove to Portland and had a look at the shops. Beryl went to the craft shop and I went to the disposal store. It was a big store, and Beryl found me before I had checked out only half of it. The owners were good value and chatted away for ages. She was into quilting, so had a common interest with Beryl and he was a shooter, so we chatted along as well. They also sold Engel and Waeco fridges, so it was a surprise to learn what his experiences were. He had always been an Engel man, but after testing them both, he is now converted to Waeco. Interesting.
We then drove out to Cape Nelson lighthouse. The seas were quite big and wild, so it was easy to sea how ships came to grief in the early days. From there we drove to Bridgewater blowholes and back via Bridgewater Lakes. Saw a neat, old Uniting church (most likely it was Anglican before that) and some old homesteads. We also called in to a strawberry farm, where we bought a big punnet and I tasted their strawberry liqueur. Yummm. Back to Port Fairy around 6pm and off in the morning to Halls Gap.

The lighthouse keepers cottage at Cape Nelson.

This old church is now a rental property.

Day 14 & 15 - Got away early today, at 9.15am, after a free breakfast of pancakes, put on by the caravan park. Two old gals tried to convince me to stay and have a bit of a dip in the pool, but I declined. There's a pic of them on the blog. Drove away from Port Fairy as a huge black cloud rolled in from the ocean but all we got was a buffeting by the wind as we climber up into the Grampians. Saw a fox sauntering across the paddock, with no concern about humans. They are so thick, all over Australia. It was a leisurely drive with very little traffic and we booked in to the Big 4 park at Halls Gap. It is a big, clean park with friendly owners.
Unhitched the van and drove in to the tourist info to see if they had any advice or brochures. Never got to speak with anyone, as they were busy with other tourists. We decided on a drive to Boroka lookout, which had around 270 degrees of viewing. We could see our caravan again from the high lookout. From there, we continued on to Reid lookout and walked a couple of klm to 'The Balconies' lookout. Then on to McKenzie falls, where we were tested by 1.4klm of tracks and a steep descent with lots and lots of stairs. Tested out our knees. Once again met German, Dutch and Swiss tourists.
Back to Halls Gap to buy some milk and a double waffle cone ice cream - rum and raisin with english toffee as a second scoop. Curried eggs for dinner followed by strawberries and blue berries. We are both tired, so early to bed tonight. Arrived in Ballarat around 12.30pm and booked into the Goldfields Caravan Park for a one night stay. We were recommended this park by a few people, but it is a bit ordinary compared to most of the ones we have stayed at. Met a couple who rolled in after us, with a 22ft van and F250 diesel. He set it up, and it looks to have everything luxurious fitted. Put out his satellite dish and poured a nice red for himself and a chardy for the missus. They have been travelling around Aus since June last year and are planning on being back to their home town of Perth by May/June this year.
We were going to have a look at Sovereign Hill, but went out to Creswick instead and had a look at the woolen mills. I am still no wiser as to how they stick a bale of sheeps wool at one end of the machinery and it comes out the other end as a thin, continuous length of yarn which is rolled onto spools, ready to weave into clothing, blankets etc. We wanted to buy a new blanket, as the ones at home are just about worn out. We bought a QS, Alpaca wool blanket for $180, which I thought was expensive, but which sell in DJ's for $430. Tried it out last night, as it got down below 10C last night. Very snug and warm. We also went to the Botanical gardens for a look. Had a nice short stroll around one section, as they are expansive. Had a barbie last night, and I asked Beryl if the lights were dim. She thought so, and the television was also fading in and out. I checked the power switch on the wall and saw it was still running on battery. Beryl's job to switch them over as we set up. Oops!! The fridge etc had been running on battery all day, so it was all but discharged. It has been charging all night, but is still not fully charged.
Today, we may have a run into town to have a look at some clothing, before taking off for Bendigo and Shepparton.

Looking over Halls Gap from Boroka Lookout.

Looking out over the Grampians from 'The Balconies' lookout.

Day 16 - Left Ballarat about 10.30am and drove back through the city to get to the highway towards Bendigo. Uneventful trip. We missed a turnoff to the Midland highway in some little town, as it was covered by a nice bushy tree. Had to do a U turn on a narrow road, with the van, so that was annoying. We hit Bendigo, and found it to be a very busy, large city with all the traffic going right through the middle of it. Beryl wanted to go to the Woolen mills, so she had her head in the directory telling me which street to go down. I was in the right hand lane, with semis and other heavy vehicles in the left. Stopped at a set of lights and Beryl thought the turnoff was several streets away, on the right. I accelerated strongly, to keep the cars behind me, happy, and then saw a sign to the mills at the next street. Hit the brakes and the indicator at the same time, and made the turn rather too fast. Not to worry. Drove down all the little back streets until we hit the road with the mill. Yes, it was a dead end, with nowhere to park a van. Luckily there was a dirt section at the end of the road, where I was able to turn around in one go. I sat in the car, partially across the driveway of the mill and a house while Beryl had a quick look. She didn't buy anything.
From there, we drove back to the highway, and of course it was a narrow exit with left hand turn only. We were going right. I got back out onto the highway while two sets of lights had the cars stopped, and chucked a U turn before they went green. We then went a few klms up the road to the Bendigo pottery factory. They had parking for vans and buses, so that was handy. Quite impressive and an eye opener as to how the many items are made. Lots of pottery wheels and clay etc, where a large amount is hand made. The kilns are massive. They had a lot of bargains and many "seconds". The seconds may have had a very small bit of glaze spot on the time. Hardly noticeable. Beryl bought a sugar bowl and I was tempted to buy a port 'jug' for $4.00. I wanted to buy a glazed boot for Port, but didn't know where I would put it back home. Left there about an hour later.
Had lunch in a rest area, where a van was parked at the end of the turnout. There was no-one with it, as the owners had obviously unhitched and gone sightseeing. There was an outboard motor on the drawbar and a double set of solar panels standing on the ground beside the van, charging it. There was another van in there with an old bloke from Tamworth. He was also parked at the other side of the turnout, so I said he may have to move if I couldn't get the van around to head back out. He said he wasn't much good at backing if he had to move forward, so I was happy to get around in one go. He reckoned he was going to stay the night in the spot he had parked. Next to the highway and noisy. Oh well. From there, we went to Shepparton. Passed a cart on the highway, being drawn by a tired looking draught horse. We also stopped at roadworks for 15 minutes, as they were resealing the road. Great!! Tar and gravel on the guards. We pulled into a van park and started to book in. I noticed quite a few hoony looking cars drive in and workmen coming home from their jobs. I asked the manager if they had lots of permanents. She said not as many as they used to. I then asked if the park was the "Big4". She said no, and I told her we were meeting people at the Big4 and we had pulled into her park by mistake. We pulled out and found the park we wanted, a few klms up the road. They had been hit by a 3 minute storm a couple of weeks ago, and lost 60 mature trees and had other damage. The park was almost empty, but tidy and clean. The lady upgraded us to an ensuite site at no extra charge. Beaudy. It was nice and quiet last night, so we had a good sleep in. Actually we haven't been woken up by noisy campers at all on this trip. Today, Beryl is doing some laundry and then we will go and have a look around the area. Time has almost run out, and we will be back in Sydney in a few days.

Our ensuite site at the Shepparton Big 4. A wind storm had torn down most of the trees in the area the previous week.

Strawberries and cream.... yum.

Day 17 - We had a drive out to some factory outlets and bought some canned fruit from SPC/Ardmona and a few other goodies. They had a large diversity of goods, from fruit, chocolate, juices, mars bars, cleaning goods, too much to remember. From there, we drove out to Tatura to have a look at an old German internment camp and museum. Back when the WW2 was on, if you lived in Aus and you had a foreign passport or a foreign name, it was off to an enforced holiday camp for 5 or so years. Quite incredible what people were like and did back in those days. It was quite interesting to look at and if we were forced to live in a corrugated iron hut about 2m x 3m with all your worldly goods, wouldn't we kick up a stink. The old girl who was giving us a run down on the history of the camps and the wealth of knowledge etc of the internees, was funny to listen to. She would be off on tangents in mid sentence and forgot what she was talking about, saying, "it will come to me later". Too bad for us, as we wouldn't be there later when she remembered. She also told us she knew we were tourists, as we said the town names in full. If you were a local, you would have referred to them as Tat and Shepp.
We also had to drive into town and buy a couple of award winning vanilla slices each. One for today and one for tomorrow. The verdict is, YES, they were the best I have ever had.
We drove back to Shepp and went to the Campbells soup outlet, but all they sold was soup. Didn't buy any. Then to a couple of other places to buy soap and other junk, then back to town to take some photos of cows - one of which is in the photos section of the blog.
When we got back to the van, we found that ants really liked the van - especially the honey jar - and had set up a supply line. A spray of Raid soon showed them they weren't welcome.

A Mercow.

Day 18 - Got up late and left the park around 10.15am. and drove towards Tocumwal and then across the top of Vic to Albury way. It was a really hazy, smoky day today. Was going to stop in Rutherglen to buy some wine, but realised I had no idea on what to look for, so kept on going to Wodonga and found the old Migrant Hostel at Bonegilla (Bonny Gilla). There is only block 19 of the hostel left, as the army has taken over the parts where the main entry and other blocks were located. Also the land has been broken up for housing.
In the 50's and 60's the migrants coming to Aus, were offloaded at Melbourne harbour and packed off on trains straight to Bonegilla. They were picked up in the late hours of night and early morning, while the locals slept, and packed into trucks and buses to be processed the next day. Again, it was appalling to see the conditions new arrivals had to endure in their new homeland. Coming from a European winter to an Australian summer and shoved into tiny corrugated iron rooms, must have been oppressive. The lady telling us some of the history, said they weren't exactly prison camps, but they were guarded and the people were kept segregated to a large extent, to their own ethnic groups. I was impressed by the breakfast, menu back in those days. Lambs fry with gravy ... Yuk.
The camp held some interest for me, as this is where we first ended up when we came to Aus in 1956. We the drove on to Wagga, along the Olympic Hwy. The plan was to stop at a free camp on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River at Oura, but we got well and truly lost. A phone call to Ali, soon had us on the almost right track. She turn us down a narrow, corrugated road which we followed for a couple of klms, only to come to a gate and cattle grid, too narrow for the van. It also led to a farm house. I had to turn the van around in a 10 point turn and across some deep ditches. Back on track and we found a nice spot beside the river. Lots of birds and fish splashing. There are a pair of Frogmouth owls sitting on a branch above the van and it is quiet and glorious here. Shame about the mossies though. Off to an early night, as we have only limited battery power tonight. We may have a late start tomorrow and head off to Queanbeyan to visit rug rat #2.

The Bonegilla migrant hostel, where we lived when we arrived in Australia.

Day 19 We arrived at Queanbeyan around 3pm and I have never seen so much traffic here. Took ages to get through town. Big semis and cars bumper to bumper, cars looking for parking spots. No chance to change lanes with the van on, as the drivers just would not allow it. I was getting frustrated very quickly. Turned up the street where we had stayed in a caravan park previously, only to be confronted with a 'Full - no sites' sign. Went down to the park on the river. Same deal. What the !!!! Phoned Chris, and he tried to get a booking at any park in the Canberra area. No go. I drove down to Ali's work and Beryl went in to tell her. In the meantime, I phoned a couple of parks in the far outlying areas. All full. I finally managed to get an unpowered camping spot at the Carotel Park in Watson. Chris and Alison guided us there, and of course it was peak hour traffic. At one intersection, I needed to turn right after our lanes merged, and put my indicator on way back. Cars accelerated nose to tail, to prevent having a van in front of them. I ended up blocking two lanes of traffic, as the cars stopped at the lights, and had the nose of the cruiser part way into the turning lane, when a lady swerved around so I couldn't get in. I glared at her out the window, but she just stared straight ahead. When the lights changed, I had to force my way across. I was getting hot under the collar, and not from the temp of the day. Arrived at the Carotel, and it was like a day at the markets. They gave me my spot and I drove out to the big cow paddock. I reversed the van into it, and it was so steep, that to get the van level, I had to find concrete blocks to put under the hydraulic lift and jockey wheel. The back of the van was just about on the ground and the front was up around a metre. I thought, if we walk around inside, it is going to rock and maybe tip off the lift. The stabilising legs at the front, weren't long enough to reach the ground. I saw that the spot in front was a lot more level, so hitched up again to move there. Beryl and Alison went to the office to let them know I had moved. It was actually quite a chore to get the towball receiver the clamp onto the hitch, due to the sharp angle, but it grabbed at last. That wasn't the end of it though, as I found that I had switched the fridge setting to AC instead of DC, when we left Shepparton, 2 days prior. The fridge/freezer had finally defrosted. Arrrghhh. I switched it to DC, knowing full well that it would drain the onboard battery in a matter of hours, trying to get the fridge back to normal. I need to check why the gas option is not lighting - after we get home. Went back to Alisons, and Chris had to race off to Wagga for an 'on campus' module with his course. Went to the Bowling Club for dinner and then home for a shower. Got back to the van at 11pm and had zero power even for lights. Got ready for bed by torchlight, and had a great nights sleep. In the morning, I noticed that two vans had left in the powered section, so went to the office and scored one of them for us. The lady switched us to that site and didn't charge any extra. I think it was an oversight, but who knows. The guy next to us was in a tri axle, large van and he was in the site the opposite way to which he should have been. That meant our rear opening door would have opened straight on to his front opening door, only a metre away. I also went in the opposite way, figuring that the site beside me would do the same. We then left and went off the spend the day with Alison.

Tidbinbilla nature reserve, out of Canberra.

Sunset over Queanbeyan and the end of out trip.

Day 20 - First thing, we went to the farmers market and bought some groceries then off the Queanbeyan to pick up Ali. We decided to go out to Tidbinbilla for the rest of the day. It is a lovely spot. There was a rally on up in the area, and lots of hot cars were tearing up the forest trails. You could see the dust for miles, as the cars ran the course.
Lots of birdlife and kangaroos in the Park. We saw a male black swan flapping and honking across 'his' lagoon, keeping ducks away from mrs swan, who was sitting on a nest with 7 eggs. Quite amusing. We had some lunch at a nice location on the walking track, and I saw a nice red bellied black snake sunning itself on the path. It took off when I got too close. On one walk, we were looking for the six koalas which had been introduced to the area by wildlife rangers. We found one, lying face down in the bushes, close to the track. It was breathing, but in a bad way. Some foreign tourists asked if it was sleeping, assuming that they came down out of the trees and slept on the ground. Ali was almost in tears, to see the koala in such a bad way. We drove back to the entrance and got a ranger. Took him back to the spot, and met some wildlife staff. They picked up the female and put her in a sack, to take back to the vet. The koala looked very thin and I doubt it would have survived.
Back to Ali's for dinner and a shower. The girls (Beryl) prepared a baked chicken dinner, so I went off for an hour to visit some friends, Paul and Pam.
Back to the van around 9.30pm, to find the tri axle gone and all the other vans parked the correct way, except of course, mine. Oh well. Off this morning to go home. It was a great 3 weeks away.

Eastern Water dragon. They are common around Canberra's parks.

Had an uneventful trip back home. Traffic around the end of the Hume Hwy was moderate to heavy, but I had psyched myself up for that. Cruised along at 90-95kph and didn't hold up anyone. Even passed a couple of cars where the drivers were doing 75kph in the 110kph zones.
We did a tally of costs etc for the trip and came up with.
Total mileage 4,467klm.
Total fuel used 923lt.
Av used - 20.6lt per 100klm.
I was happy with that, towing a 2,5 tonne van with a V8 Landcruiser. Have to plan the next one.  



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