May 24, 2009

Heathcote - Mt Eliza

This installment comes with a reminder to self, 'do not listen to wife when it comes to where to stay'

We left Heathcote Caravan Park which we had all to ourselves after just one night because Vickie wanted to do washing and the one and only washing machine in the amenities block did not meet her fussy criteria, she says it's a woman thing and i wouldn't understand ... and i don't ... can someone explain to me what a washing machine does? it washes right?? so if we were to put clothes into a washing machine we could rightly expect the washing to get washed? And for the washing to be washed would mean the insides of the washing machine would also be washed ? each and every time it's used ... right?? Well apparently not according to Vickie, our washing which amounts to camp clothes need to go into a sterile enviroment to be washed ..... grrrrrrr

So ok Vik says, we will go down to Kilmore, there is a Van Park there and the washing can have two days to dry plus it's closer to Epping where we had the Van booked in to have the brakes & bearings checked along with a wheel alignment done. I stupidly suggested we phone ahead to make sure they had a spare site ...... but no says Vik, it will be like here ... no one around.

Haha, .... as soon as we saw the Kilmore Van park we knew it was a mistake to leave Heathcote, one site big enough for a small camper trailer was all that was offered. What now we thought? checking our Camps Australia Book we saw we had a couple of options neither came with a Launderette but having no choice we ventured on. The 1st rest area we couldn't find, damn not having my GPS with the in built map system, before we knew it we were in the out skirts of Epping. A call to the National Parks to see if there was anything open close by gave us the negative, we decided to drive up past Kinglake where the terrible fires claimed so many lives & homes and go to a free camp at Toolangi. The drive was a very quiet one as we both just gazed out at the unbelievable amount of damage and as far as we could see burnt forest & farmlets. We can only imagine the horror these poor people went through, I didn't stop to take any photo's, i felt that would be an intrusion and did not feel comfortable.

Old Weatherboard Home in Toolangi

We arrived at Toolangi and 1st went and checked at the Forest Discovery Centre that we were allowed to free camp, not a problem said the helpful young lady behind the counter so we turned around and drove the few hundred metres back to the Toolangi Recreation Reserve, the main gate to the oval was locked but we had plenty of room to turn around and back up into the dryest section we could next to a running creek. Got the fire lit and sat and listened to the sounds of the lyre birds calling, a truly beautiful 'bush' sound. Just as we were thinking of going for a walk another Van came in and asked if we would mind company for the night, "no worries" we said, you look after the fire we will go for a walk and let you get settled in.

Camp site amongst the trees, Toolangi

The road to Toolangi Recreation Oval

Toolangi Colours

A pleasent walk to the Discovery Centre where they had some nice displays & information and then we walked along the river track and headed back to camp. Few drinks and stories around the camp fire with our 'neighbours' before heading inside as the chill was settling in. Awoke early next morning as we had to be at NP Hauffe at 9am, the 1st mistake i made was not retracing our steps, the 2nd was having Vickie navigate us, a few stressful moments dealing with peak hour morning traffic along steep winding narrow roads with woeful visability due to a heavy low fog, but we eventually arrived a few minutes late but Richard our point of contact wasn't worried and he straight away got things organized and sent us away to the shops for a couple of hours whilst they did the work.

Everything was straight forward and the cost was very reasonable, we chatted to another couple with a Boroma who were having the suspension upgraded and then we were on our way. We are getting quite used to missing the roads we need to be on, in fact it's become a machosistic game of ours to just see how much pain & stress our brains can take, driving an F250 & towing a large off road van down High Street, Coburg and in to the heart of Melbourne City is FUN / not, with us trying to read road signs in advance we luckily came across one pointing to the Sth Eastern Suburbs, this took us across the West Gate Bridge and City Link and eventually East Link, both of which are toll roads and with us not having an E - Tag we took note of the phone number to pay for the tolls which amounted to $17 for the one way trip.

Our destination was to be Langwarren where we would stay with our friends Debbie & Graham for a couple of days, we also wanted to catch up with long time friends Rob & Marg at Carrum Downs as well as spend a few days down at Mt Eliza with Vickie's sister Sue & husband Greg.
A visit to Melbourne is never complete without calling in to see my #2 Mum, Pat Mossenton at Carrum, Pat is the mum of my life long mate John and i hold her & Frank dear to my heart.

We had the F250 serviced and it took longer than expected as they replaced the top & bottom ball joints plus a steering arm on the front end, thankfully we have the 6 year extended factory warranty but we were without transport for two days untill the dealer lent us a vehicle, we were then able to do some shopping and visit Paul & Barb Swift [fellow BT owners at Mt Eliza] for a cuppa and chat before we take the Queenscliff Ferry across Port Phillip Bay to save us the hassles of using Melbourne's freeway & toll roads. At Barwon Heads we are visiting 'fellow Bushtracker' owners Rob & Sonia.

May 19, 2009

Murray-Kulkyne Regional Park - Heathcote

We left Mildura which to me was just another large town with all the things large towns offer, to be fair we can recommend the Sandbar Hotel for a good counter meal in huge portions,

Murray-Kulkyne Regional Park #395 in the camps 3 Aust wide book was our 1st night after leaving Mildura, we stumbled upon this Park as we were initially on the Calder Highway when we exected to be further North travelling along the Murray, once we realised this we cut across to Coligman and came across the Kulkyne Park, the park is seperated from the adjoining Hattah Kulkyne National Park by a dirt road with the river on the Kulkyne Park side. The National Park has two gazetted camping area's with fee's to apply whereas the Park had very few restrictions and no fee's, plus being along side the river it was a no brainer as to which we enjoyed.

Amazing along all these roads and camping sites we came across very few other campers, one spot we did meet some other caravanners was at Passage Bend # 344, this was a 5klm windy track in coming out at a nice camp area right on a bend in the river, hence the name. Murray & Jenny with a Kedron XC were already setting up camp amongst the tree's and a Mother & daughter travelling in a car & box trailer with all their possessions had a well set up camp with tents on a cleared area on the river's banks, fortunately for us they were leaving so we were able to take over their spot and lay claim to the firewood they had left. Gordon & Wendy from Qld towing a 25' Jayco arrived soon after so that made up our happy hour crew for that night.

We stayed two nights at Passage Bend and it was a lovely spot with lots of Sulphur Crested Cockatoo's performing their tumbling acts for us each afternoon as they came home to roost in the tree's around us. Everyone had the same idea as us and left after two days but we were last to break camp and head out onto the Murray Valley Highway with our next nights camp just a hop skip & jump along at Nyah State Forest [#339] again we were by ourselves for the night . The full moon had been & gone and it was surprisingly very black outside with the stars shining brightly, helped only by the flickering flames of our camp fire, what a great LIFE !

A drive into Swan Hill ..... another large town, a quick look around and on we drove towards Kerang where we fueled up and drove to Cohuna, here was another pleasent surprise for us, we saw a mud map at the closed Information Bay showing plenty of free camping areas along the river, a quick check with the local camping store and we had infomation along with a map of the area, where we were heading was Gunbower Island, simple to get to we just crossed over the creek and followed the dirt tracks down to the river and took our choice of the many lovely camp sites, without the map though we would have still been looking. No shortage of firewood again and we had another wonderful evening by the fire this time playing Skip Bo and i copped another beating so that meant i was on morning coffee duty again.

We are now at Heathcote Caravan Park, it wasn't our intention but again we missed the road we were supposed to be on and it wasn't worth turning around, besides Heathcote has some memories for me, i recall coming here with my Mum and camping in a tent in the same park we are now in 43 years later, funny how life works sometimes.

May 12, 2009

Thiele’s Sandbar - The Murray - Mildura

Continuing up the Murray we have found some lovely camp sites, Thiele’s Sandbar & Paringa were another couple of camping area's alongside the river that we enjoyed staying at. Prior to Paringa we stayed a night at Martins Bend near Berri, a camp site that allows up to 30 days stay. It was nice enough but quite a few others were camped there and we prefer to be out in the bush so we headed to Paringa where we found some more escapees from Martins Bend had the same idea, Gary & Sandra from Central Coast had found themselves a nice spot close to the waters edge so we parked away to give each other some space, the same couldn't be said for another couple of campers who couldn't have gotten any closer to them if they tried, it was unbelievable! The vehicles were almost bumper to bumper and the camper just a few feet from the camp fire. Gary & Sandra are obviously more easy going than myself and they didn't cause a fuss, as it turned out we all enjoyed a few drinks around the fire that night with the 'intruders' bringing out the guitars and sharing a few 'tunes' with us. Perhaps they just weren't aware of the camp etiquette of giving people their space.

The Murray River
With provisions and clean water running low we decided to break camp and head to Mildura where we are now camped in a Caravan park for two nights so we can restock before heading back out and independently camping again. One thing comes to mind after spending two nights in this Van park is the other Caravanners are a non communicative lot, a different breed of people than you find out in the 'bush', the morning can't come fast enough, we can't wait to get back out there again.

Camp at Paringa
Arty - Farty Photo

May 8, 2009

Flight to Melbourne then back to the Murray River

We treated ourselves along with our daughter Erin & boyfriend Scott a flight to Melbourne to visit Vickie's sister and family. They live down the Penninsula at Mt Eliza and it's a 1.5hour drive, nearly twice the time it took for the flight from Adelaide to Melbourne. We were only in town from Thursday till Sunday and the girls wanted to go to the Casino and the blokes wanted to go to the Footy at the 'G', we combined both along with a visit to see our neice Danielle and her newborn son Tyson & 2 year old Jasper plus a trip to visit Sue & family wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Hastings Markets, by the time we flew out on an early morning flight we were all exhausted by the time we got back to the Van. Thanks for putting us up and ferrying us around Guys!

The queue waiting to get on the train after the footy

Sue & Vickie, Retro Chics

This old 'funny' looking boat was for sale $2k.

Jasper, this kid is a natural with a ball

Young Tyson

When we returned home Vickie had an appointment with her specialist, so once the 1st treatment of many to come for Vickie's eye was out of the way we left Glenelg for the Murray Riverland, our friends Mal & Lynne were heading to Broome via the same route we were travelling so we organised to meet up at Ramco Point just out of Waikerie, it was great to catch up again and we got to see their new Trailcraft Caravan. They stayed two nights and then we parted company with them heading further West, we also went West but only for 20klms where we spent another night at Hogwash Bend, it was another beautiful camp beside the River but we felt a bit lonely after having great company for the last couple of nights. The phone signal & TV reception at Hogwash was lousy also, we had an early night and read before falling asleep.

Houseboat passing Ramco Point.

Mal, Lynne, Myself & Vickie

Dusk at Ramco Point

The next morning

Dusk at Hogwash Bend

Camp at Hogwash

Leaving Hogwash we drove to Waikerie and then stopped at ........... [fill in later] for a few hours to read the papers and just relax, yep you guessed it, by the river. Tonight we are camped again along side the river at a free camp just out of Loxton. A lovely spot with lots of tree's and birdlife, we saw an interesting event when i heard a splash and spotted a large Kangaroo swimming across the river, it took him around 10 minutes before he got to the other side and another 10 minutes of splashing around in the bullrushes before he scrambled up the bank, he must have been exhausted, i was too captivated watching to think about the camera.

Camp at Loxon beside the Murray River

Dusk at Loxton Campsite

The end of the day produced another beautiful sunset, and that was about the time the bugs came out so it was time we headed for the comfort of the Van. Dinner was Spag Bog and an evening planned of computer time and watching the Footy.