Friday, May 9, 2014

The Blue Mountains

Friday, 9th May 2014, Day 105

You'll notice I'm falling back into my bad habit of letting a month go by without posting. I need to explain that many of the places I stop have no Internet access and when I do go through a town that has coverage, I really don't have the time to stop and write up a post. In addition, I don't seem to get many people leaving comments, If that is because they don't find the blog interesting, well fair enough, but it would be nice if those who are interested were to just drop a couple of words in the comments to let me know that they're reading the blog. It can be rather hard to remain enthusiastic about keeping the blog if one feels that it is a waste of time. There, I've got that out of my system and now I feel so much better.

Just a small PS, I'm not as slack as I thought. I did do an update on 21/04/14, but forgot to publish it and it has been sitting here as a draft, so I'm only half stupid.

The story continues . . .

Tuesday, 15th April 2014, Day 81

I left Berri and headed east running vaguely parallel to the Murray River. Through Mildura and across the northern boundary of what is known as the "Sunset Country". Very little to see in this part of the country, very flat, wheatfields with the very occasional patch of mallee scrub. I was heading for a camping area at Lake Benanee which was a day's run of 255kms. A lovely spot. The lake is an overflow from the Murray and fills up when the river floods and gradually dries up when the river is low. At the moment the river has plenty of water, unlike the last few years when the river levels have been very low. I mentioned in a previous post, that I use a website called to check out my campsites, well talk about a coincidence, who should pull in the second day I was there, but a caravan and tug proudly emblazoned with the caravancaravan logo. I wandered over and sure enough, it was the webmaster of the site doing his own roaming.

click on pictures for full-size image.

The site is a normal roadside rest area, with the normal basic amenities of toilets, rubbish bins and picnic tables, but in addition has a cold shower using lake water and an untreated water point. Fine for showering, but I make sure not to put it in the water tank or I'd have long green stuff in there in a flash. The site has the advantage of an extended camping area, so that one can spread out a bit otherwise on the tight little lay-by type areas, everybody is in each other's pockets. Also the opportunity exists for doing a bit of walking and seeing some scenery, rather than the place simply being a spot to eat and sleep. I set off to walk around the lake but I couldn't get too far as there are fences both sides with prominent "No Trespassing" signs, but the sections I could get to were very nice.


Monday, 21st April 2014, Day 87
I spent 6 days at Lake Benanee, then moved on to Yanga Lake, only 76 kms further on. This spot is situated a lot further off the road, so not much traffic noise and lots more opportunity for rambling. In addition, there is an old homestead on the shore of the lake, which was bought by the government to form a national park. Most interesting to wander around, so many of the old homesteads have been left to fall to pieces, but this one is being well maintained.


 Wednesday, 23rd April 2014, Day 89

I continued on east, only a very short run of 14kms to a new campsite called The Willows. This is a brand new area so I wanted to check it out, besides, there were no toilets at Yanga Lake. At this stage The Willows is a free camp, but the national park signs indicate that they will be implementing a permit system in the near future, so probably $5.60/person, like most of the other parks. There are two areas, a camping area and a picnic area near the old Wilga shearing shed, with no camping allowed, and very flash free barbecues and excellent shaded tables and benches.

 Saturday, 26th April 2014, Day 92

I left the Willows on the Saturday heading further east across the Hay Plains. Anybody who complains about driving across the Nullarbor being boring, should try the Hay Plains. Mile after mile of dead flat nothing.
A long run today, 419 kms, I want to push on a bit now, because it is starting to get very chilly at nights and I want to get out of the plains before it gets too cold. My Penguin is wonderful in fine or hot weather, but the open-plan and lack of insulation make it quite uncomfortable when it's cold. I passed through Hay and fueled up and got some fresh bread and milk, and continued on through West Wyalong to a tiny town called Burcher (pop. 185) where there is a cheap campground right in the middle of the town. It is pretty basic, but for $5 a night, who's complaining. There is shade, power, hot showers and some things to see when you wander around town.


One thing that was really interesting was the Bush Chapel, about 500 metres out of town along the main road. Whether the chapel is actually used for worship, or whether it's just a community project, I am not sure, but there is a real sense of peace in there and a wonderful place to just sit and enjoy the bush.


 Tuesday, 29th April 2014, Day 95

Another Long leg today, 479 kms through Condobolin, Parkes, Orange, Bathurst, Lithgow and Katoomba to Richmond on the western outskirts of Sydney. A number of people have told me what a wonderful place it is to stop at "Wanderest" in Richmond. Well, to tell the truth, I thought it was terrible. You pay $5 for an annual membership to the Richmond Club and $10 per night for power and for that you get this . . . You can park your van in what is a disused part of their car park. The sites have got a slope on them like the side of a hill, you have to walk 500 metres to the toilet/shower (and there are only two), you are packed in like sardines, and it is directly under the flight path of the Richmond RAAF base. Apart from that, it's great!!! I think I prefer the bush camps. Two nights was more than enough for me.

Thursday, 1st May 2014, Day 97

I headed out of Sydney and hung a left at Windsor up the Putty road. This is hilly and windy, but it avoids all the traffic around Sydney. It starts at Windsor and follows the ridges north to Singleton. I stopped for morning tea at the Grey Gum Cafe which seems to be a favourite hangout for motor-cyclists (not Bikies) who enjoy a run along the road. Lovely little spot, free camping and $5 for the showers. I have earmarked it for a stop when I am back this way again. It is officially a maximum of 48 hours stop, but the lass in the cafe said a lot of people stay longer.

Just up the road a few kms from the Grey Gum is the Saint Shenouda's Coptic Orthodox Monastery. I had noticed the gateway when I came past on a previous trip, but this time I stopped and went in and had a look around. I you were going to shut yourself away from the world, this would be a great place to do it.

A little farther up the road, and I came to what used to be the Halfway Roadhouse, halfway between Windsor and Singleton. I remember stopping here for fuel in Jan 2009 and they had run out! It was a near thing and I got to the next fuel stop on fumes. Anyway, the place has been burned out in the interim and taken over by a new-age sculptor who has called it the "Wo-Man Roadhouse" for the large sculpture which is a man from the front and a woman from the back. It is now a free camp, but there are no facilities apart from toilets and a camp kitchen. Interesting sculptures, though and an odd place to find an ocean-going yacht.


I had planned to camp along the Putty road at a spot where the Old Bulga road, now disused, comes out, but it looked a bit steep and the turns looked quite tight so I passed on it as a campsite and kept heading north.

I was now in the Hunter Valley and places to stop are rare, those that are available are very small, very close to the road, and don't have any toilets. I continued on, fueled up in Muswellbrook and headed for a place in the Camps book called Wallabadah. What a bloody rip off. Very pleasant spot, but no major facilities and they ask for a "donation" of $10. I would expect at least a ratty shower or free barbecues for that sort of donation. I only stayed overnight and headed off again in the morning.

Friday, 2nd May 2014, Day 98

I headed north through Quirindi, did a bit of shopping in Gunnedah, through Narrabri and fuelled up in Moree and headed for the Queensland border. I stopped at a rest area called North Star, about 40 kms south of Goodiwindi, where I could get back off the main road a bit,  but it didn't make all that much difference. This would have to be amongst the busiest roads I have come across. Literally 100's of road trains a day. At night at least one every five minutes or so and all through the night.

I didn't notice it when I set up, but about 2 metres away from my camp someone had spilled a large pile of wheat on the ground, I presume from a grain truck which had parked. After 4 days or so (I stayed here for 6 days), I started hearing scratching and gnawing in the van at night. Yep, MICE. It seems there were several tiny burrows near the wheat pile and they were trotting inside at night to see what they could find. I dug out the mousetraps on the night before I left and got three of them. I seem to have got them before they settled in and started nesting, thankfully.

You know you're getting close to Queensland when you start seeing Prickly Pear the size of trees!

The weather has not been all that flash, most days have been pretty cloudy for the last week or so, although at least it hasn't rained very much. The weather seems to being quite perverse: cloudy during the day, so I am not getting much power from the solar panels, and clearing up to a beautiful starry sky at night. Very pretty, but my God is it cold!!!!! It has been getting down to 5degC at night, I'm lucky I have the extra doona to throw on the bed and there is NO chance of me getting out of bed early in the mornings. I seem to have left my run north a little late (again). You'd think I would learn, wouldn't you.


Wednesday, 7th May 2014, Day 103

Well, almost up to date. Over 100 days and I have only done 5,800 kms. When I think back to when I started, in Dec 2008, I did over 10,800 kms in the first 100 days, and over 21,000 in the 10 months of the first round. I am much more relaxed these days and try to spend at least 2 or 3 days at each spot where possible.

I headed north through Boaggabilla to Goondiwindi and did some shopping, then east to Yelarbon. I stayed here for two nights in October 2010 and the locals have continued to do the place up a treat. It has the cleanest bathrooms and toilets I've ever seen and they have built a little shed with a domestic washing machine attached to an electricity meter which gives you power for two dollars. It is really now a caravan park in all but name and for $15.night for a powered site and $10 for un-powered it is a steal. I was only going to stay for two nights and then head to Kalbar for 4 nights, but I'm so impressed with this little place that I'm going to swap that around. So another two nights here, two in Kalbar and then just a quick 90 odd kms to Pine Rivers north ob Brisbane, where I'm going to spend two weeks and do some major shopping (the wine cellar is starting to look a little bare) and spend a bit of time with my baby brother and his family.


They say it takes all kinds to go camping and over the years I've come across most, but not usually together. These two vehicles pulled in today, and had the kindness to park right next to each other so as to illustrate the large and small ways to travel.

See you soon.