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Monday, 17 September 2018

Final Days for 2018 Trip

Monday, 17 September 2018

Enjoying the sunshine at Sorrento

Queenscliff-Sorrento ferry

With Norm, Margaret and Milton
After a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon/evening (we even went to bed early just to warm up – the poor heater really struggled!), Sunday was calm, clear but still rather cool.  We drove to Sorrento to meet Norm, Milton and Margaret who were on the ferry from Queenscliff.  Sorrento is in a very beautiful location on the shores of Port Phillip Bay and we had plenty of choices of restaurants/cafes in the main street.  We enjoyed a very nice lunch at Bistro Elba, as well as plenty of catching up on family and news.  After walking back down the hill to the pier, we farewelled the cousins as they boarded the ferry for the return trip to their home at Portarlington.

Today, we complete the circle for this year’s trip and board the Spirit of Tasmania late this afternoon.  It has been a good holiday (something we both needed), although there have been a few challenges medically.  We have also noticed this year that there are many more people travelling who seem to be lacking in the social graces required for living in close proximity to others.  Big4 Crystal Cascades has recently been sold, so more changes possible for next year, although we have made our usual booking.  It has been so good to meet up with old friends and acquaintances, as well as meeting many new people, both in Cairns and on the road.  However, we are now looking forward to seeing our children and grandchildren again, Jezza (our cat), sitting in a “proper” chair, having a television that always works and high speed NBN internet, not to mention a larger bed and longer shower!

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Yarra Valley and Melbourne

Saturday, 15 September 2018

View of Yarra Valley from Yering Station Winery

Interesting roadside sculpture - we hope that's what it is!
When we left Beechworth on Wednesday morning, we decided to take the scenic route through the Yarra Valley instead of the more “industrial” route along the Hume Highway.  We travelled through some beautiful country roads in the foothills of the Alps, almost as far as Mansfield before turning south to Merton and Yarra Glen.  The roads were quite twisty and hilly, the surface was good and there was a reasonable amount of traffic – the trucks were mainly gravel or delivery trucks.  By the time we near Yarra Glen, the mountain scrub had changed to farm land, with beautiful black cattle, and then to vineyards.  As it was noon and we were still over an hour away from our destination at Frankston, we decided to stop at a roadhouse for lunch.  Unfortunately, we didn’t come across any roadhouses, but the wineries, with cellar doors and restaurants, we rather abundant.  Not knowing the region, we decided to take the next one on the left (Yering Station - it did look very nice), which also advertised a café serving light lunches.  The café only opened at weekends, so we choose the winery’s restaurant instead.  There was no menu/prices on display and the helicopter (with diners aboard) which landed and parked beside our vehicle/caravan should have been a bit of a warning, the setting was absolutely gorgeous, the food items were very artistically arranged and my glass of bubbly (Himself was very good and didn’t get grumpy when it was pointed out that it was his turn to drive through the traffic) was very palatable.  Needless to say, the service was impeccable.  It is nice to have a treat at times!  Following lunch, it was very easy driving through Ringwood to the Eastlink which took us to Frankston.

We are staying at the Big4 Mornington Peninsula (which is at South Frankston); we have stayed here previously and although a lot of money has been spent on facilities in the park, it is obvious there was none left over to purchase a lawn mower.  If the grass was mowed, another star could be added to the rating!  

Thursday was a “warranty” day at Chadstone Shopping Centre, along with a bit of retail therapy.  His new electric shaver, purchased a couple of days before we left Cairns, decided to stop working a few days ago (this necessitated the use of Lady Gillette razors and body wash).  A visit to Myer for a refund and then to the Shaver Shop for a different brand.

It is also without any regret whatsoever that I must announce that Maggie TomTom is no longer a member of the family.  Maggie’s personality was very challenging, with her refusing to undertake any of the functions that she had promised to fulfil and being very difficult to handle.  Maggie was taken to JB HiFi for some professional development and retraining – the very nice sales lady thought it was us that would need the retraining!!! – but after about an hour, finally gave up and agreed that we did know what we were talking about.  Maggie refused to co-operate with the “professional” so was relegated to the shelf for the sales rep to collect and Charlie TomTom was welcomed to the family.  Charles is a different model, much easier to manipulate and actually does what he is supposed to!  How easy it is now to plan a route on the iPad/iPhone and then sync it with Charlie.

Thursday evening we enjoyed dinner with cousin Sue and her husband, Gary.  Friday was our proper retail therapy day, mainly spent at the DFO at Moorabbin – a good chance for some early Christmas and birthday shopping.  We did manage to find a couple of personal items as well and would have stayed in the Skechers shop longer if it hadn’t been for the excessively loud music.

Today has been a bit of a catch-up day, with laundry and supermarket shopping – we did find a nice little massage place in the shopping centre and now have happy feet.  This afternoon we enjoyed a visit to the Tyabb Packing House Antique Centre and spent quite some time browsing through this very large establishment.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

South to Beechworth

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Memorial at Holbrook

HMAS Oxley

At home under the gum trees (scary place to be!)

Inside Beechworth Town Hall, with original organ returned only three months ago

Beechworth's original Police Station

Beechworth Court House

Ned Kelly reward posters

Kelly's replica armour

Judge Polly presiding

Unhappy prisoner in the dock

Old Beechworth Gaol - now contains a coffee shop!

Young Californian redwood trees

Cool and shady park

Butt butt tree

Michael at the Butt butt tree

Section of a Chinese panel

Street inside the museum

19th Century Sexual discrimination

Stained glass window

Lake Samball Caravan Park

We continued south from Coonabarabran, following the Newell Highway through Moree, Narrabri, Dubbo and Parkes (as well as The Dish) before an overnight stop at Forbes.  There was a slight improvement in the highway but many, many more trucks!  We have now passed quite a few trucks loaded with hay, all heading north to very hungry stock.  At Peak Hill, we traversed a large gold mine which extended both sides of the highway.  The large, flat plains around Parkes had been planted with wheat, which seemed to be struggling mightily in the dry conditions.  The Big4 Caravan Park at Forbes was a nice small park, with lots of green grass – a welcome sight after so many nights in dirt and gravel.  The main tourist attractions at Forbes are a memorial to Ben Hall (notorious bushranger), graves of Ben Hall and the sister of Ned Kelly (notorious bushranger).

We had a slight change of direction – south east – on Monday, heading across to the Hume Highway.  After passing through Grenfell, the countryside changed dramatically, with green grass, canola, wheat and sheep farms.  We continued through Young (the cherry capital of NSW), with some beautiful views of the farmlands, before turning at Cootamundra (the birthplace of Donald Bradman) and joining the Hume Highway at Coolac.  We had a short stop at Snake Gulley for a photo opportunity with the Dog on the Tuckerbox before continuing to Holbrook for the night.  (I think we must be the only people in the caravan park without a dog!!!)  We did a quick tour of the tourist attractons and arrived at HMAS Oxley at the same time as a bus load of 60 primary school students!  Having visited here only three years ago, we decided to give the museum a miss this year.

The weather has continued to be clear and sunny, with daytime temperatures reaching about 18-20 degrees.  However, the same can’t be said of the night time temperatures – 2-3 degrees is a little hard to accept!

After a very cold night (and morning!), we continued south, crossed the Murray River at Albury and headed to Beechworth in the foothills of the Victorian Alps.  Although we had beautiful, clear, blue skies all day, it was a little on the cool side.  We booked into a nice caravan park on the shores of Lake Samball, even though they did have an unusual set up with the utilities – it was necessary to run our cords and hoses across another site to the water and power connections.

Today we acted like tourists, and after visiting the Information Centre and buying a heritage pass, we started working our way through the historic buildings.  Apart from a huge amount of gold being mined, Beechworth is probably better known as the place where Ned Kelly was sentenced to be hanged.  The original police station is now a museum to Ned Kelly and even contains two original “Wanted” posters.  Next door is the Court House where Kelly was tried and sentenced, as well as his mother on a previous occasion.  Lunch was at the Beechworth Bakery (where else would one eat?) before joining a walking tour of historic Beechworth.  Our guide, Michael, was very informative and interesting, leading us to parts of the town that we would never have seen.  Our outing was concluded at the Robert O’Hara Burke (of Burke and Wills fame) – Burke was in charge of the police at Beechworth for some time.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Stormy Travelling

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Gunsynd (Melbourne Cup Winner)

Looking from Queensland to New South Wales

Not colour coordinated today!

Tree of Knowledge - used to mark flood levels

Colourful reservoir

Sandstone Bird Sculptures

Victoria Hotel

Quiet thoughts beside the dam

Birdlife with the setting sun

Departed Brisbane on Friday morning without any dramas and were soon on the motorway heading towards Toowoomba.  The rain had disappeared and the sun was once again shining as we travelled through the Lockyer Valley before the steep climb into Toowoomba.  After leaving Toowoomba, the road to Goondiwindi took a definite downturn in standard, becoming very bumpy as we drove across the enormous plains – along with many, many trucks! 

By the time we arrived at Goondiwindi, the westerly wind had strengthened, the temperature risen, the humidity dropped and storm clouds were building.  We stayed at the Goondiwindi Freedom Lifestyle Park, which was handy to the highway and had large drive-thru sites – all were a sandy dirt with some small and large trees scattered about.  The owner/manager was very friendly and chatty; the amenities were reasonable and clean with some very quirky signage – The Missus, The Old Fella, Sheilas, Blokes.  A large dam at the back of the park was home to a number of water birds (and probably snakes!).  With an eye on the building storm, we did a quick tour of the town’s touristy bits and visited Coles before settling down for the evening.

About 9.00pm, the first storm cell hit (and it was the most severe), with lightning, thunder, torrential rain, hail and extremely strong wind.  The caravan didn’t just rock, it actually lifted a number of times!  We were quick enough to get two hatches shut but not before the hatch over the kitchen area blew upright and water poured in through the blind cover.  After getting this closed, we noticed that the front window cover had blown open, so Himself, being very brave, stripped down to his boxers and made a dash outside to close the cover and lock it in place.  I discovered this morning that Rex (our artificial grass door mat) had taken refuge under the car!  Lots of water around and one car had half a dead tree up against its side.  We don’t appear to have suffered any damage, luckily.

Today we crossed into New South Wales, with Coonabarabran our destination for the night.  The wheat and cotton plains from yesterday continued through Moree and Narrabri, with a bit of canola adding a splash of colour.  Unfortunately, the bumpy road the lots of trucks also continued, although the road did improve south of Narrabri.  We have booked into the Getaway Tourist Park on the south side of town.  Unfortunately, the severe drought conditions don’t help the caravan parks look their best and we have a dirt site that once upon a time was grassy.  Just to keep the boys amused, the caravan park is having a new driveway formed and sealed, so we get to watch (and hear) all the roadworking machinery.  We were the first to arrive today and the park is nearly full already.

The answer to the bird question – babblers.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Rockhampton to Brisbane

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Any ideas what these are?  About the size of a blue faced honeyeater.

Bush sculptures around our site

All our site, too

Safe from snakes

At lunch

It didn’t take long for the sunny, clear skies to disappear after we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, with clouds quickly building up.  As well as the sun, we also left the sugar plantations behind at Sarina and were back to dry scrub for the drive to Childers.  Not only was there an increase in traffic, there was a decided increase in roadworks!  The many delays added nearly an hour to our travel time.  We checked into the Ironridge Caravan Park east of Childers for the overnight stay; a very small caravan park (12 sites) with enormous individual sites in a bush setting on a working farm.  With a fresh wind, overcast skies and a temperature much lower than we have become accustomed to, neither of us was really interested in sitting outside and enjoying the varied birdlife.

The journey to Brisbane also involved some roadworks (nowhere near the extent of the previous day, thankfully) and a further increase in traffic.  Of course, as we approached the Sunshine Coast (not sure how “they” came up with this name!!!) it started to rain, which quickly increased to a massive downpour with very little visibility.  These downpours continued nearly all the way to Brisbane.

Maggie Tomtom managed today’s trip through Brisbane with flying colours and we arrived at the Brisbane Holiday Village without any undue stress (apart from weather and traffic).  We have stayed here previously and although a little more expensive, we have a large site with plenty of concrete for parking the car and caravan, as well as a good slab.  The park is very well maintained, easy to access from the M1 and very close to Garden City Shopping Centre.  We visited this centre after lunch and thoroughly enjoyed a foot massage, followed up by a Movenpick icecream.  A pretty good afternoon, despite the rain!  With the temperature dropping, it didn’t take long for the heater to put in an appearance.

Today we had a luncheon appointment with Shan’s parents, about a fifteen minute drive from the caravan park.  In desperate need of fuel, Himself discovered online a Woolworths service station near our destination.  Giving ourselves plenty of time, we keyed in the address for the service station and departed at 10.00am (due at 11.00 am for lunch).  Maggie Tomtom made it around the first two corners without any trouble and then fell in a heap, directing us into a “no through road.”  Suddenly losing confidence in her directions and not really knowing where we were, someone (we wont mention his name) decided to use GoogleMaps on my phone, keyed in the address and set off again.  Unfortunately, the GoogleMaps lady was on her morning tea break and didn’t have a replacement to read the directions, so after seeing many back streets, we arrived at our destination, only to find an empty paddock instead of a service station.  Sure he could see the sign just down the road, we continued on for some time before the question was asked as to whether 661 was keyed in or 166 mistakenly?  Mmmmm…  Up a side street, correct address keyed in, turned around and after travelling for some time passed a sign welcoming us to Brisbane!  After 45 minutes, we arrived at the service station and were only five minutes late arriving at Wei’s house.

We had a pleasant lunch with a very hospitable couple and after a tour of their house and offering some renovation advice, departed with an armful of leftovers.  The heavy rain continued …

Time to swap the wardrobe over again, with all the white trousers, shorts and skirts, along with t-shirts being exchanged for long pants, long sleeves, cardigans and jumpers.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Travelling South

Monday, 3 September 2018

Not cold - right!

Blacks Beach

Blacks Beach Caravan Park

Pacific Sunrise

Take 2

All good things must come to an end and Saturday morning was the end of our visit to Cairns in 2018.  Despite saying many farewells, we were actually on the road by 8.30am!  The weather was glorious as we headed south towards Townsville.

It is with deep regret that we must announce the passing of Doris Tomtom.  Doris has served us (and family members) faithfully since 2013, guiding us through  England, Scotland, Wales (and speaking Welsh without any problems!!!), California, Canada and Australia.  She had her ups and downs at times, copping a bit of abuse at times, but she was always patient and willing to recalculate routes without complaint.  Unfortunately, Doris decided she didn’t want to leave the Cairns’ climate and refused to stay on for longer than ten seconds.  Hopefully, “Daughter of Doris” will join our family when we reach Rockhampton.

The journey from Cairns to Townsville was uneventful, the few roadworks only slowed us down slightly when we were forced to reduced speed and there was no wind.  We had a couple of quick stops at Innisfail and Cardwell for driver changes before stopping for lunch at Ingham.  We overnighted at the Townsville Tourist and Lifestyle Village, which was very conveniently located just off the Bruce Highway.  We were quite impressed with this newish park; very large with many sites currently being developed along with a lifestyle village.  We had a slabbed site at the front of the park, next to the pool – and with a very noisy, yapping dog next door to us.  A phone call to management at 8.30pm did put a stop to the noise.  The temperature at Townsville was hovering around the 30/31 degrees and Himself decided to forage around in his cupboards and find his bathers!

Having travelled further south, the sun rises a little earlier, which meant we were both awake earlier than normal.  This meant we were able to be on the road by 8.00am, luckily, as we had a 400km drive from Townsville to Mackay on Sunday.  The road was good with little traffic for most of the way, but we did find that as the temperature rose, so did the head winds!  We had breaks at Ayr and Bowen, as well as a lunch stop next to a roadhouse somewhere.  The thermometer reached 36 degrees as we arrived at Mackay – very hot and very dry today.  We once again stayed at the Big4 Blacks Beach Caravan Park, right on the beach.  With a drive-thru site allocated to us, it didn’t take long to set up and find some shade for a rest before a beach walk later in the afternoon.  It is so nice to be camped beside the beach.  Late this afternoon, a large van with a sign saying it was the “Reptile Education Service” arrived at the park; it’s not hard to work out what is in the van!!!

Today we were on the road even earlier than usual – staying hitched up certainly makes a difference! – and found the road south to Rockhampton to be a bit on the ordinary side.  It was quite bumpy for most of the way and a fair amount of roadside vegetation has been burnt.  After leaving the sugar cane plantations behind at Sarina, it was mostly dry scrub all the way, with one slightly dead snake to relieve the monotony.  We only had two stops – Carmilla and Marlborough – before arriving in Rockhampton shortly after noon.

Following a quick set-up, it was off to the local shopping centre to find a replacement Tomtom; we soon found Maggie just waiting for us to bring her home.  Then there was the trauma of setting her up (and connecting her to my phone), figuring out how to use her and the different settings.  A Cherry Ripe was soon needed!

Tomorrow is our last day in the tropics.