Since our September 2022 return to base in the Yarra Valley of Victoria, a lot of maintenance and renovations of our home have kept us busy. We decided to update the inside of the family home of 33 years. Every room has a new coat of paint to last another 30 years. Before then, “the box” will have arrived and taken us to our “final resting place”.
The kitchen and bathrooms have been stripped back to empty space, and replaced with all new modern fittings and cabinetry. It’s like a new home. Relearning where things are and where to find them has been an education.
When we left for this trip at the end of April, furniture and clothes were left stacked in piles in their wrong rooms to allow Gary Sprinkler room to complete the wall paint. Let me tell you who Gary “Sprinkler” is. When we re-turfed the lawn in 2021, Gary’s wife offered her husband to install an automatic irrigation system to allow us to water the garden and lawns automatically if it had not rained. We had trouble remembering his name so called him Gary Sprinkler. His name comes up on our phone as “Gary Sprinkler calling”.
Our departure for 2023 came along the day after we originally planned and that was fine; it just meant that we would miss out on a couple of nights stay at Crescent Head near Kempsey NSW. After the winding road towards Benalla, the Hume is a comfort to travel along. At Jugiong is a donation camp just off the highway. We arrived in time to have soup with Chris and Marilyn who had been camped there for a few weeks – I think.
It was at Jugion that we realized that it was time to upgrade to lithium batteries. Our gel batteries were purchased last year and we thought they had failed us. We had to start the motor home motor to put some charge in the house batteries to bring the Slideout in before we could travel further. So an appointment was made with trusty James to have that done two weeks later on the Gold Coast.
Most years, we attend a Grey Nomads Convention at Stuart’s Point. This lasts ten nights and has about 450 attendees; many of them are friends from way back and from various work places over the years. Always a good time bringing back memories. Lyn had been asked to speak at one meeting about her favourite destinations around the world.
After Stuart’s Point, we headed through Coffs Harbour and to Grafton where our daughter lives. They have recently purchased a hybrid caravan and we were able to spend a weekend at a hidden camp called Secret Lake Retreat. All sites are unpowered so our batteries were really “tested”. We had to use the generator during part of the nights to keep the fridge doing it’s job with no food spoiled.
On up towards the Gold Coast where we stayed at Kirra Beach. For Mother’s Day dinner, we enjoyed a Thai meal near the beach. Meeting up with old friends is always good and a couple from Broadbeach managed to be allowed out on parole. Sorry Max and Jenelle. A little after they left for home, it rained, and rained, and rained. In 12 hours, we had 120mm. Packing up to travel further north while it’s raining is no joy at all.
First stop was to get the replacement lithium battery. It was found that the real problem was that the DC2DC charger had ‘retired’ without an approved request. The charger converts solar power into 12v to store appropriately in the battery. Now we are able to “free camp” without running out of power during the night.
From the Gold Coast, we made our way up towards and past Toowoomba and through Dalby to Chinchilla. The country camping ground was a good clean, no rush, camp ground, to do some washing and get to know a few fellow travelers.
On our way to Morven, we stopped at the Bakearoma at Roma. Their beesting is even better than the ones from Beechworth Bakery on a good day; they had drizzled toffee over the top – mmmmm. Marven accommodation was at a donation park at the sports ground; the lithium batteries doing well overnight; a sign of good things for the future.
If you want a bouncy ride, take the road north to Longreach. You’ll have the best milk shake if you had milk for breakfast. The scenery? Barren with hardly any above grass vegetation. The little towns along the way came up each 80km with Tambo the cutest. Barcaldine; fuel up and turn left to Longreach for another 100km.
Longreach caravan park is very large with extensive development of even more sites. It was quite noticeable that campers only stay here three nights to enable visits to both the Qantas Museum and the Stockman’s Hall of fame. We have rarely flown first class but we did here. The first class tickets gave us a tour of 3 early aircraft Qantas used as well as a tour through the 747-200 City of Bunbury. Our first class choice enabled us to a more detailed tour of the 747 with an opportunity to sit in the pilots seat as well as a walk out onto the wing; safety harnesses and closed footwear were a necessity.
If there’s one criticism of the stockman’s hall of fame, it would be, the show needs to become a show, that incorporates a story involving more people and intrigue; one stockman on few different horses is a bit lacking. All is good in the static museum with a “tour in your own time” headset with voice and ditties along the way.
We would return to what seemed a busy and progressive business center. Longreach is a “must stay for a few nights” kind of town.
The distances are vast out here. You pass many entrances to farms but strain to see the farm buildings in the distance; many unable to be seen. Can you imagine the request, “can you go out and get the mail”, and the kid takes a 2 hour trip to the mail box on the highway.
The rest stop turned out to be a great location to put the drone up for a scenic flight. Wow! The color was so much “Australian outback tonings”, I had trouble in my mind to switch to “breakfast is ready” mode. I’m happy that the drone gives such a different approach to landscape movies and photos.
Through Winton, the road is straight for kilometers with little towns popping up at around each 80 to 120 kilometers. We came to a country pub called The Blue Heeler at Kynuna and decided to enjoy a lemon squash while watching the road trains roar past. Behind the pub were 20 or so sites for travelers at $15 a night. We stayed the night and managed to get going by 8:30 for a bit more driving before having breakfast at a rest stop – I said rest stop, not restaurant!
Further up the highway, and the vastness of this typical outback vista, we came across another outback pub. We were too early for opening time but it brought back the vivid memories of that iconic Australian movie “Crocodile Dundee”; the old car from the movie sits outside waiting for photographers to enjoy with the pub in the background. Just a tiny town with a police station that had 7 satellite dishes on the roof – I kid you not.
Our destination for today was Mt Isa. After filling the fuel tank with more diesel at Cloncurry, and driving towards Mt Isa, we had hoped we could tour the now closed uranium mine made famous when the Australian Government was prepared to sell the uranium to overseas energy companies but refused to build clean energy power stations in its “own backyard”. What a saving that would be now in non-renewable materials being used rather than solar panels and wind turbines!
We had an offer to stay at a property in Mt Isa for the weekend but when we drove past, there wasn’t enough room to fit our vehicles, so we drove further west to Camooweal, just 12 km from the Northern Territory border, to a billabong that proved very popular with like-minded Grey Nomads.