Monday, 20 February 2017

130,000km of adventures ...

We arrived in QLD on Friday morning. The next Monday I drove Elmer to his damage assessment. He was moved from there to a different repairer and for a while it looked like he would actually be repaired, which was great news.

Unfortunately the cost of repairing our wonderful truck was more than his listed value, so we said goodbye two weeks later.  The staff at the centre were quite understanding of our emotional attachment, with one fellow saying that he'd owned a car for 31 years before it was written off in an accident.

We bought Elmer in October 2010. His odometer then read 290,200 and when we fare-welled him he'd done 420,000. How good is that?! Nearly 130,000 km of adventures (and a few misadventures as well but they are equally important in our family history)!  We'll definitely miss the Fudd Truck but Nick is searching for a suitable successor and we hope to be exploring again - soon.  Fingers crossed!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Forest Hill finale ...

Our last few days before departure were very busy. Aside from all the usual final packing, we were involved in an accident on the freeway where another 4WD lost concentration and ran up the back of us at speed.

We were all very lucky. Elmer was damaged but cleared for travel.  We made arrangements for him to be assessed by the insurance company once we reached Brisbane.

There was lots to do on our last morning. Nissa was farewelled at the train station. We handed back various keys, said goodbye to our neighbours and finally headed out the gate around midday - needing to achieve 530 km before 10:00pm.

Of course we stopped along the way for fuel and sustenance.  We even managed to find our 600th geocache beside the Murray river just before crossing from Victoria into NSW!

We'd achieved our 400th and 500th geocaching milestones while in Victoria and wanted to tick off our 600th as part of our relocation journey from Victoria to Queensland.  (Given timing restrictions, the group shot was not one of our better efforts)!

It was a big day. When planning our itinerary we'd decided against using the van for accommodation en route but rather seek Bandit-friendly places to stay.

The first of those was at the Forest Hill Caravan Park, where we had stayed with our menagerie on the way down to Victoria from New South Wales in December 2012.  It seemed a tidy conclusion to our Victorian era, particularly as we checked-in close to 10:00pm, much the same as we'd done on our first visit.  Denis escorted us to the same cabin we'd used before but skipped the intro tour, cos he reckoned we knew where everything was!

I stayed up for a while after arrival and grinned hugely when I realised that I had no need for my winter dressing gown (which had been standard night-wear even in late January)!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

It's a wrap!

As it happened, our Sunday silo sojourn was really our last great Victorian adventure. We were very busy enjoying Christmas and our wonderful "family reunion", spending time with Nissa, counting-down Nick's last few weeks in the Melbourne office - and getting ready for our QLD relocation!

In mid January we packed up my tent kitchen (because by that stage the girls were sharing a basic cabin and I could cook in there - with running water).

You can see the tent's lighting in the pic at left.  Each room had LED strip lights with on/off switches.  It was really quite neat!

Three days before departure, the big tent was packed down and trussed securely for storage, together with our pseudo-Persian carpets. We well and truly gained our money's worth from those purchases - it was really a *very* interesting period of our family history!

We bought our caravan cheaply, with plans of using it for weekends away or a few weeks at a time. In contrast, it was our home-base from October 2015 until early February 2017 - around 18 months in total.  We were fortunate to do several house-sitting stints (which we greatly appreciated) but for the most part we were in the van.

I've just calculated 412 nights were spent in the van out of a total 492.  Three cheers for Nick who did the full 412, whereas the rest of us had short breaks over that period!

To give you an idea, the entire interior of the caravan is approx 2.75m by 4.5m (which included our beds). The four of us and Bandit shared that space. Yep, it was definitely cosy, so you can see why we appreciated the tent’s extra living area - and our day-trip adventures!

Did we expect to be in transit for so long? No way. Was it hard? Yeah, at times it was tricky but we did it - and we're impressed with our fortitude! Would we do it again? Not by choice in our current set-up and definitely not in Victoria!

The big tent was wrapped in a cheap tarp.  (It had originally been housed in a piece of air mattress but that was far too cumbersome). I'd bought a $5.00 curtaining remnant from the local op shop earlier in the month and used it to make two generous tent peg bags.  We also found a $2.00 laptop-style bag, which was great for housing tent pegs.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

750km Sunday Silo Sojourn!

We loved the Brim Silos earlier this year.  They were absolutely awesome!

My images from the trip have featured on our 2016 Christmas cards as well as in our 2017 calendar and photo diaries - because you can't have too much of a good thing!

Since we visited Brim in April, two more sites have been added to the Silo Art Trail - one at Patchewollock and another at Sheep Hills. (I've kept track of their progress via Facebook).

Nick works shift-work and we try to make the most of his rostered days off.

He and I were planning activities for his next break when he commented that we should do a day-trip to see the silos. (The round trip would be close to 750 kilometres).

Due to school term, we planned for Sunday departure - which meant leaving shortly after Nick returned from a full 12-hour night-shift.

Erin and I shared the day's driving between us.  We left at 7:42 am and didn't return till 10:52 pm, so it was a huge day!  Was it worth all the effort?! Yep, it was brilliant!

We stopped for breakfast at Beaufort.  From there we drove to Ararat, detouring into Green Hill Lake cos I could see water sparkling from the highway!  The lake had been very dry during our stay in 2014 and then completely dry in April - so it was wonderful to see it really full!

The Sheep Hills silos had only just been completed the week before we visited. Such amazing detail. Just beautiful! There is a story here and you can Google Adnate to see more of his work.

We stopped quickly at the Brim Silos for a few more photos (and admiration) before driving to the Brim Weir Pool for a BBQ lunch.

Erin did some great sausage sizzling and we were quite impressed that the town had provided paper towels as well as scrapers to aid clean-up!

Patchewollock was close to 90 km away from Brim.  I drove while Nick and Erin dozed.  Vaughan looked up from his book when I queried the type of the bird on the yellow signs but didn't recognise the picture.

Further along we saw more signs that identified the bird silhouette as a mallee fowl - warning us to be careful as the birds made their mound nests in the area and were oblivious to traffic!  I was a bit sorry we didn't see any - though we did like the huge corrugated iron sculptures near the silos.  (As Nick walked behind one a fast pigeon flew out from the tail end, which was funny)!

The silo at Patchewollock was the second to be completed but furthest away from us, so we viewed it as a finale (of the three sites but not our day).  You can read about the work here, which gives the story of the farmer and the artist.

We made our way home from Patchewollock, following the same route we had come - with a few detours.  I checked my map at Hopetoun where there were signs indicating "Lake" without any distance noted.  As it happened, Lake Lascelles was only a short distance down the turn-off and we spent some very pleasant time by the water.  Vaughan paddled, we watched ski boats doing laps and basically enjoyed our late afternoon tea while sitting quietly.

The sun was low by the time we reached Ararat.  We managed to order takeaway just before our chosen shop shut for the night - and then ate our hamburgers, fish and chips on top of the One Tree Hill lookout as the sun set - which was an experience on my wish list.  Serendipity!

The Wimmera region was experiencing a bumper harvest and we saw lots of farming activity during the day.  Huge hay bales were being stacked in massive groups, non-painted silos were being filled and there were grain bins and other machinery on the roads.  So much to see!

We were tired but very happy campers by the time we finally arrived home - 15 hours and 10 minutes after we'd set off!  Nick had been up since 3:30 pm the previous day, so slept magnificently.  The rest of us were pleased of our beds also. What a magic day!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Shy Platypi

We have driven through Skipton on a few occasions lately and I'd seen signs at one of the parks featuring a platypus.  Even so, we didn't stop to look and therefore only realised the town was home to platypus several days later (when I did some internet research)!

Of course, our next mission was to head over to Skipton one evening in the hope of spotting platypus. We chose a lovely night and the observation deck was a pretty place for viewing the little creek. As we stood, we saw a family of ducks, some movement among the reeds and bubbles in the water.  We like to think the ripples and moving reeds were possibly caused by a platypus - and who's to say we were wrong?!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Chance Outing!

Some of our day adventures are planned - and others are not. Since being based at Ballan (and nearby) there have been quite a few days when we've headed out in search of sunshine, not really caring when we ended up!

Friends recently celebrated an important birthday with the aid of a left/right rock and a time limit for driving.  I was telling Nick and Erin about the rock when walking Bandit.  It didn't seem they liked the rock idea, so I continued packing up once back at the van.

We had already planned to go out, though hadn't really chosen a direction or destination.  Once in the car and ready to depart, I was asked where the left/right rock was!  I quickly scrawled on a box and throughout the day there were calls to consult or ignore the box!

Where did we end up?  Some very interesting places!

Given our later start, we stopped for lunch at Mount Greenock (an extinct volcano) Geological Reserve, site of the former Union Hill mine and somewhere that Major Mitchell had visited in 1836.

From there we visited the Avoca Chinese Gardens, created as a result of the town receiving a $350,000 grant. The garden "represents the important contribution the Chinese people made in the early settlement of Avoca and in particular on the gold fields".  It was a lovely area, built on what had been the sale yards!

We explored some of the tracks within the Percydale Historic Area, a goldfield with evidence of old (and newer) mines. There were many pretty wildflowers as well as lots of quartz.

Daly's Cottage was beautiful in the afternoon sunshine - with it's front fence covered in pink roses.  We couldn't see much through the bushes but the cottage is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database and is significant due to being relatively intact.

The dwelling was constructed of axe-hewn red gum slabs and still has remnants of the original bark roof.

We returned to Avoca for a very late afternoon tea by the river - not far from the Chinese Gardens.  One of Elmer's tyres was looking flat, so Nick and Vaughan deposited some picnic gear and drove off to find a service station.

Erin had recent instruction in lighting the dual fuel stove, so our hot beverages were prepared while Nick was away.

We sat for quite some time, enjoying the peace - before heading home.

Handy overhaul ...

A friend recently asked whether we had any qualms using public BBQs - and if we had ever considered using a BBQ liner.

It's true that not everyone cleans up after themselves but we generally carry some cleaning supplies with us, to clean the hotplate before use - and again when we are finished.

I showed some of our centre console supplies in a much earlier post.  I'm not sure what happened to Granny's small hand-towel but I revamped a replacement recently - because (paper) hand-towels aren't always provided in public toilets.  Neither is soap, for that matter.

One of my RedBubble shirts came in the re-usable ziplock bag, so it's currently doing duty to hold soap, a tiny bottle of hand sanitiser and my new hand-towel.  Elmer has a grab rail over his glove box, which is a good spot for my hat - and to hang the towel to dry during longer outings.