Wednesday 3rd September 2008           

                                                                    Picked up the new van at Jayco Nowra.

 New Van1            Old van - Expanda                                                   The NEW Jayco Stirling 23.72-3                                               The Old Jayco Expanda 16.49-1 Outback

 New&Old Vans

                                                                 A snap of both the old and the new.

 

Monday 15th September 2008           

The move out of the rented house is now almost complete. The furniture is either in storage or at Natasha's Unit. The carpets, walls, cupboards etc. have been cleaned. All that remains is for a lot of junk that is no longer needed to be taken to the tip, and the lawn to be mowed and trimmed. Its amazing how much junk was tossed out. When you live full time in a caravan, you learn very quickly that only the bare necessities can be kept.

I am now parked at a beach front site in Shellharbour while I set up the van and finalise all the stuff that needs to be sorted before the "big trip". Scheduled to be here until at least 3rd October.

 Thursday 25th September 2008              

 Well, the school holidays start tomorrow here in NSW, so I have to move from my beachfront site to one a little further back. Thought I should put some snaps of the van site on the web, so I rose at sparrows' to take said snaps.

 1st Site at Shellharbour-2             Sunrise at Shellharbour-1                                         First site at Shellharbour                                                                                       Sunrise at Shellharbour 

  View from Shellharbour site

                                                                                        View from site at Shellharbour

 

 

 

 Sunday 12 October 2008            

Left Shellharbour Friday morning at 08h00 for Wellington (Caves) and finally arrived at about 16h30 after a torrid trip which almost made me take up smoking again! It all started about halfway up Mount Ousley, when the Pootrol decided to go into "safe" mode.  Safe mode is when the car's ECU computer automatically limits power until your foot is taken off the accelerator for about a second after which it restores power until it goes into safe mode again. (For non local readers, Mount Ousley is a somewhat steep mountain pass leading out of Wollongong) Going into "safe mode" usually only happens if the turbo is over boosting or some other obscure thing happens that the ECU doesn't like. Of course while pulling a 2.5ton caravan up a steep hill in peak traffic conditions is not the ideal time to have your available power limited. Fortunately it only happened twice, and all was good until I started climbing up into the Blue Mountains when BLAM!! It sounded like a tyre blowout, but with a dramatic loss of power at the same time. Luckily, I was able to continue to the next pull off place. I then found that a intercooler hose had been blown off the intercooler. This indicates massive over boosting which is strange as my boost gauge was not showing any over boosting.  Any way I reconnected the hose and adjusted the boost controller to limit the boost even lower. This did not help as the old Pootrol kept on going into “safe mode”. This continued until just outside Bathurst when the hose was again blown off, this time blowing the boost gauge and controller connection completely off.  I had no option but to disconnect the turbo and run without any turbo boost for the rest of the trip. Not too bad, but not good when towing 2.5 tons as there was a real chance of overheating if I pushed it too much.

Wellington CP-6                               Wellington CP-4

I finally arrived at the Wellington Caves Caravan Park around four thirty. When I said to the girl at reception that I would be here a week, she seemed quite surprised, and I told her that I was retired and in no particular hurry. Didn’t think it a good idea to let her know that I would be servicing the Pootrol while staying in the park. Nice well grassed park with large drive through sites. The park is virtually empty, with only a few (5 or 6) visitors staying one or two nights while visiting the caves. Another problem is that I can’t pick up Chanel 7 on the TV so no Bathurst 1000 race. Until I found out that I could watch it free – not added to my download allocation - on the Big Pond web page.

Started on the turbo problem yesterday, had a lazy day today (Sunday) while watching the race and will put it all together tomorrow and will find out if I am in for a large bill for a new turbo or just a small sensor which will cost at least $200 , knowing Nissan’s rip off prices.

Well that’s all for now, time to watch two old Bond movies which I haven’t seen before (Octopussy & A View to a Kill)

 

  Thursday 16 October 2008              

It’s been a fairly restful week here at the Wellington Caves CP. Beautiful weather for most of the week – except Tuesday when it was overcast and rainy most of the day. The Pootrol has been fixed (hopefully). It seems that the boost sensor was a tad dirty and was not doing its job properly. Took it on a test run to Dubbo and all seems ok. The real test will be when I hook up the van tomorrow and head off to Parkes. Dubbo’s a fairly big town/city with a lot of new development taking place. It has all the big chain stores e.g. Bunnings, Target, Coles, Woollies etc. Couple of big malls as well.

As mentioned, off to Parkes tomorrow, a trip of about 150km or about 2 hours on the road. The intention is to stay the week end and leave for Broken Hill on Monday.

 

 Wellington Caves-1                               Wellington Caves-2  

 

 Wellington Caves-3                               Wellington Caves-4

The snaps are of the Wellington Caves. Not the most spectacular I've seen , but then I have been to the Cango Caves in South Africa a few times and it's hard to beat them. Still, the guided tour was interesting as they also explained how the caves were formed and what bones and fossils were found. 

 

 Sunday 19 October 2008               

Departed Wellington Caves CP for Parkes at about 10am. The Pootrol behaved well and was back to what it should have been. Made for a much more relaxing trip.  Arrived at Parkes around midday and pulled into the CP. There was a sign posted on the reception door which said caravanner should enter and select their preferred site and return to the office later to pay. This I proceeded to do, but was somewhat disappointed in the quality of the sites. There was very little grass and virtually no shade. All in all a very dry and dusty place. Chatting to a fellow caravanner I was told that they had tough water restrictions so no watering of the grass. I decided to not stay and move on to Forbes about 50k’s further down the road. Good lesson learned – park outside and check the conditions before paying.

   Big4 CP Forbes-4             Big4 CP Forbes-1

 

I chose the Big4 CP as the best value for money park and booked in for Friday, Saturday & Sunday with 10am departure on Monday. Smallish park with pool and well grassed, shaded sites.

 

 

 

                                                                                     

 

 The Dish-7The Dish-1aSpent the rest of Friday lazing around. Saturday morning was spent at “The Dish”. Quite interesting, but as it is a working facility we were restricted in where we could go. The visitor centre is well laid out and full of little snippets of information along with pictures, all free. I had breakfast at the cafe at the centre (toasted ham cheese & tomato sandwich with a flat white) which was most enjoyable at the reasonable cost of $7-00. Also watched the 3D presentations. These are shown in a small movie room where you wear special 3D glasses. Well worth the $6 fee.

 (Just for some clarity:  the spot/mark/object that can be seen in the middle left of both pictures is not a UFO, but is there from a bit of dirt on the camera lens)  The arrow points to the dish as seen from the road leading to the dish site.

 

I was hoping to hear from Bill, but thus far have not heard from him, so it looks like we will have to get together at a later time. I mislaid his mobile number so had to rely on an e-mail I sent. He is also not listed in the WhitePages. Not much going on in Forbes, with most shops closed on Sunday. Saw a SubWay and had foot long for lunch.  Spent Sunday arvo lazing around.

I must admit that this “grey nomad” lifestyle can be quite stressful, but I’m sure with a little effort and more experience I will survive. 

Leave for Broken Hill tomorrow. It’s about a 800k stretch, so I'll spend Monday night at a rest area about halfway along.

Monday 20 October 2008                 

 

 Left Forbes for Broken Hill at about 9:30.  The initial destination was a rest area about 450k’s down the track. After passing through Parkes, Narromine, Nyngan & Cobar I arrived at the chosen rest area at about 4:30.  The rest area (Meadow Glen) was a large relatively flat area with lots of gum and other types of trees giving lots of shade. The area was big, probably capable of handling twenty or more caravans without being too close to each other. I pulled in and had a look around, but decided that as there was still some 3 hours of daylight available, I would press on to another rest area closer to Broken Hill. The area was flat with long stretches of straight road and very little traffic in either direction. The road condition was also good.Sunset at Rest Area As I was travelling in a Westerly direction, I was looking directly into the setting sun, (see pic on left taken while having my bite to eat) and decided to pull off into a convenient rest area for a bite to eat and possibly stay the night. After having said bite to eat (toasted cheese and tomato done under the griller & Coke zero) I still felt quite fresh, so decided to press on closer to BH. As I had seen many goats on the side of the road all day and had passed dozens of “roos for the next 15k’s” signs I set the cruise control on 70kph and flicked the switch that connected my driving lights to the main beam lights. These flame throwers light the road up for about a km in front as well as to the side of the road. (1 pencil beam and one spread). This gave me a bit more confidence of being able to spot any silly roo or other animal intent on committing suicide. There was a fair amount of road kill, indicating that suicide was fairly common in the area. It turned out the be not as bad as I thought with me only having to break on only two or three occasions, none of them being the hard breaking kind. Again not too much traffic. Even at 70k’s I only had 6 or 7 people passing me including some road trains. The area was pitch dark, so they were visible from a long distance on either side. I eventually rolled into BH at around 11:30pm  Australian Central (Adelaide) time – put clocks 30 mins back. Pulled into a convenient rest area, had a cup of coffee and kipped until six in the morning.

 

                Sunset at Rest Area

 

Woke up, made another cup of coffee and moved into BH.  Checked out two of the CP’s and chose the Lakes View CP as the better of the two.  There were quite a few vans in the park,Sunrise at BHill CP-4 Sunrise at BHill CP-1but a lot of them left today (Tuesday) and some on Wednesday, the park is only about 25% full. As I moved further west, the evidence of the long drought became more evident, Wellington/Parkes was relatively green with a fair amount of surface water about showing that they had had some rain in the last few days. Cobar was dry with it getting dryer as we went along.

Of course BH is in the beginning of the outback, so the dryness is not unexpected. Two snaps of the sunrise in the park.

 

Tuesday was spent setting up and generally lazing about. The weather has been good with warm (not really hot yet) sunny days with a gentle breeze to make things pleasant. Wednesday was allocated to doing some touristy bits, which included the living desert sculptures and the BH mint which has the “Big Picture” exhibition. The  BH brochure  PDF has an explanation of all the touristy bits. Thursday was another lazy day with a visit to Silverton on Friday. Not much to see but some old ruins and some cottage industries producing souvenirs. Just past Silverton is a look out where the view is flat as far as the eye can see in all directions. You can actually see the curvature of the earth (see brochure).

Saturday & Sunday will be loafing days (maybe some touristy bits) with the departure for Mildura set for Monday morning.

 

I suggest that the brochure be downloaded and saved as the download is very slow. You can also download it from http://www.visitbrokenhill.com.au/ which downloads a lot quicker. 

The brochure mentioned above is no longer available.         Details and information regarding Broken Hill can be found here: http://www.brokenhillaustralia.com.au/ and here: www.agt-downunder.com/BH.pdf

 

Tuesday 4 November 2008                

The journey from BH to Mildura, about 300km, was relatively uneventful with red earth and scrubby little bushes along the road. The road was quite flat with no hills to worry about. In fact, I don’t think I had to change to a lower gear, once I had engaged the cruise control (85kph) in top – excepting towns or other speed restrictions. One strange thing worth mentioning: as mentioned the countryside was all red earth and scrub with a few trees dotted about. As I got to the top of a slight rise, the soil changed from red to whitish with the same scrub/trees. This change was not gradual, but one side if the rise was red and the other side whitish. I thought WTF goes on here??? All was explained when I glanced at my GPS and it showed that there was a large expanse of water either side of the road. Clearly this had been a lake of some kind in the distant past. As I said, relatively uneventful, with little traffic in either direction.

 

I pulled into the Buronga Caravan Park on the NSW side of the Murray and chose a site right on the bank. Scheduled to depart on Wednesday 5 Nov. After studying the map, I decided to head for Halls Gap in the Grampians National Park for my next port of call.

Haven’t done much, just relaxing watching the cricket (Aus/India) and the tennis (ATP masters) on Austar. The satellite dish setup is turning out to be a good investment, some of the normal FTA channels are not available – No channel 9 in BH and no channel 10 here in Mildura. I couldn’t pick up channel 7 in Wellington & Forbes. I think that it is an aerial issue as I noticed in Wellington/Forbes that they had two types of aerials. The weather has been fantastic, mostly sunny hot days. The tan is looking good!!

Mildura - PV Rothbury                  Mildura - Trentham Wine Estate

                             The PV Rothbury                                                                                              Trentham Wine Estate

Mildura - PS Melbourne                  Mildura - My Site

                               The PS Melbourne                                                                                    My Site at Buronga CP (Mildura)

Went on the Winery cruise on the Paddle Vessel Rothbury. Departed Mildura at 10:30 returning at 3:30. The trip included a barbie at the winery for lunch as well as wine tasting.

One red took my fancy, so I bought 9 bottles along with 3 bottles of Brut sparkling wine. (TT, had them shipped to your office, so don’t let the mummy drink them all until I return in December).

 There is a genuine steam paddle vessel which cruises downstream through the lock every day. I think I’ll amble over one day and do the cruise (never actually got to do this trip).

 

Depart for the Grampians tomorrow morning – didn’t get around to doing the cruise through the locks. Also booked the trip to Tassie. Depart Melbourne 20:00 Sat 15 Nov, arriving Devonport 07:00 the following morning. Have a month in Tassie then depart Devonport 20h00 Sun 14 Dec arriving Melbourne 07h00 Monday.

Had some post sent on to the Caravan Park (Buronga NSW) in a next day delivery satchel. Took a week (7 days) to arrive at the CP whereas it would have taken 2 days only if delivered to Mildura – literally just across the river. Go figure, Auspost.

 

Tuesday 11 November 2008              

After an uneventful trip from Mildura, I pulled into the Lakeside Caravan Park in Halls Gap – the central point for exploring The Grampians National Park. There is plenty of evidence that there is a drought on the go here in Oz. Everything is dry and dusty. Signs up everywhere stating that Vic has stage 3a water restrictions.

Picked a nice shady site and proceeded to set up camp. The park is at the bottom of a valley so no TV reception. Luckily I could just see the Austar satellite just above the top of the mountain, so at least I could watch the Tennis and the real Footy (union - for those who don’t know) and Discovery and all the other goodies on Austar.

Grampians - Halls Gap CP-5

                          My Site at Halls Gap

 

Most of the attractions involve a hike of some sort to get to the viewpoint or waterfall, so I scheduled at least 3 days to do them all. I managed to do four (Mackenzie Falls, Boroka Lookout, Reeds Lookout and Grand Canyon) without too much effort although climbing the stairs from the base of Mackenzie Falls involved many rest stops. It was on the way to The Pinnacle (a 4km round trip walk along some fairly steep & rocky terrain) when about 500m into the trail I slipped and twisted my ankle. It didn’t seem too bad so I continued for about another half k when I decided that it might be a good idea to turn back as the ankle wasn’t getting any better and I was only a quarter of the way into the hike. A bit disappointing as I reckon that the Pinnacle was probably the best of the lot.

 the pinnacle

                 The Pinnacle (which I didn't get to see or visit)

 

We had a day of some fairly heavy rain, and the other campers must have thought that I was mad, as there was AGT with a bucket of carwash solution and a broom, in his costume, giving his caravan a good scrub with the broom. Anyway, I now have a clean, bright and shiny caravan.

Time to start packing and heading for Melbourne and the Spirit of Tasmania.

 

Thursday 20 November 2008                    

Departed Halls Gap, the gateway to the Grampians, on a sunny morning for Melbourne about 240km southeast. Not much traffic on the road until just before Ballarat, the start of a dual highway all the way through to Melbourne. Booked into the Ashley Gardens Big4 Caravan Park for the three nights until the Spirit of Tasmania trip. Didn’t do much in Melbourne as I couldn’t be bothered with the traffic. After a month or so in the country with little or no traffic, Melbourne with its trams and busses was simply too much of a hassle, so I simply read a good book or 2.

I did make a trial run to the ferry terminal, just to make sure that the GPS didn’t take me on a route that was not suitable for towing a large caravan as well as checking that there were no new/different roads not on the GPS. It all turned out good. I decided to wait until the ferry left and was amazed at the number of big trucks and other vehicles that disappeared into the belly of the ship. It all looked quite straight forward with just a lot of waiting in queues until you are allowed to drive on.

After chucking out all the fresh veg & fruit (quarantine rules for Tassie) I left for the terminal and arrived in good time and was checked through without too much of a wait. One slight problem was that I misjudged a turn and clipped the back of the van on a gate post. I was not even aware of it until the chap coming on behind me pointed it out. It looked quite bad initially and I thought “here comes an insurance claim”. Anyway I just did a MacGyver on it with some duct tape, checked that the lights still worked (they did) and eventually drove onto the Spirit of Tasmania I.

 The wind was almost blowing up a gale, so going on the outside decks was not a pleasant experience. Also the seas were a tad rough so there was a lot of spray blowing around. Good thing I no longer partake of the noxious weed, so there was no need to venture outside. Also left the camera in the car, so no snaps of the ship. Will take some on the return trip.

I had booked an ocean recliner which is just like an aircraft seat as it was the cheapest seat, so I just explored the ship, had a couple of beers, visited the tourist kiosk on board, had a pretty good meal in the ala carte restaurant and watched the Batman movie with Heath Ledger as the Joker (I think it was called Dark Knight) actually not a bad flick. The time was about 1am, so I thought it was time go see if I could get some shut-eye on the ocean recliner. The problem was that the air con didn’t  seem to be working so the whole area smelled like the locker room after the local rugby team had spent 80 minutes on the field. Not the most pleasant smell I’d ever come across. I decided to try other seats that were dotted in the various bars on board. None were really suited to sleeping, so I just watched whatever was on TV until it was brekky time and we were docking in Devonport. 

 

Continues in “Trip 2008/9 Pt 2”               

 

Trip 2008/9 Pt 1