Jan 25, 2011

Tamworth - Maldon - Safety Bay

We had left the van at friends place in Maldon when i took Vickie to Tullamarine Airport and it was a tiring drive back after leaving her there. I am used to long distant driving but travelling as far as we did with the van in tow was something else. It took all my will to keep the eye's open on the 100klm drive back to Maldon.

It was raining the whole time and it didn't stop raining for the next 3 days. I managed to get the Ute in for a service at ARB Bendigo at short notice which i appreciated, they did an excellent job servicing the front wheel bearings, machining the brake rotors & replacing the brake pads, the usual oil & filters, adjusting and tightening suspension components, rotated and balanced all wheels, they even unblocked the aircon filter! that i didn't know was blocked. I thought the Ute drove well before but now it's even better.

Without a car for the day, my mate Mally drove me around Bendigo and Maldon district, it continued to pour down rain. Some of the roads were starting to flood over and i jokingly said the Qld floods have followed me down and i may get stuck here! Well that wasn't far off it, When i picked the Ute up late in the afternoon i connected the van and got it ready for an early departure the next morning.

Heading to Maryborough and West, i only got 20klms or so before i came across road closed signs, i tried zigging & zagging following my GPS to find another route that would get me further down and hopefully past the closed sections but all i did was waste an hour more. I ended up phoning Vic Main Roads and they directed me down on the Midland Highway to Daylesford, Crewswick and then onto the Western Highway and Ararat and Horsham. I was heading to our youngest Daughters place at Glenelg SA and i knew i wasn't going to get there in one day so i decided to head down to the Coorong for my 1st night on the road by myself. The amount of water on either side of the road was amazing, the rain was continuing to pour and i just kept driving on with the wipers on max.

Turning off at Horsham i went past the township of Natimuk, warning bells started in my head when i saw the SES and towns people sandbagging the shops in the main street. After a drive of around 600klms i finally arrived at 42 mile crossing on the Coorong, it was still raining and the track in was muddy limestone. This camp is lovely when the weather is kind but all i did was get into the van, turn on the diesel heater ... yes it was cold! and switch on the Satellite dish, pour myself a strong Bourbon and relaxed on the lounge watching TV listening to the rain hammer down and the van shake from the winds. The news reported that the Western Highway was closed and Victoria was expecting record flood levels - Deja Vu Queensland.

Next morning, i was up early and it had stopped raining i drove the 200 klms into Adelaide and Erin's arriving around 8.30am. It was lovely seeing my baby, though at nearly 30 she is growing up fast .. lol, she works for Qantas as cabin crew and was home for the weekend so the 1st thing we did was head into the City and have our delicious Chinese Chicken & Rice in China Town. Vickie also loves it so i sent her a photo of us tucking into our lunches.

Being anxious to get home and see how Pop was for myself i decide to only stay one night and headed off the next morning for the long drive West. That day i travelled 695klms before stopping [ too early] at Pildappa Rock, we have stayed here before and though it's a 15klm side road to get there it's a lovely spot to camp, the sun going down whilst standing on top of the rock is a lovely experience.

Time to get serious, up early at 4.30am i wanted to get as far as i could that day. I must be getting older as all i could manage was 1395klms before calling it quits 30klms west of Norseman. The next day it was an easy 800 klms before arriving at home around 2pm. After seeing the family the 2nd thing i did was give the Van a wash with the pressure cleaner whilst it was still parked on the lawn.

Vickie's sister Sue from Melbourne is over to help with their Dad, he is out of hospital now after a week of touch and go, still early days to see just how he recovers but we are hopeful that he will regain his mobility & strength. Vick's other sister Jo and hubby Dave came up from Bunbury and we had a busy bee in Pop's back yard which was long over due. Vick & I have moved in to his house to look after him for the next 10 weeks, Sue who has been her for three weeks flys home on Monday, we still plan on going to Ningaloo in April and all going well Pop will go stay with Sue in Melbourne.

Well that is about it, the next time i write hopefully it will be good news and it will involve Kayaking & Fishing along the Ningaloo Coast.

Jan 11, 2011

Heading West

Plans - Do Not Make Them.......... they have a habit of getting turned inside out. We camped at Chaffeys Dam for four nights and then our mates Kimbo & Ned arrived, we spent the next 3 days site seeing and paddling the Kayaks on the Dam. During this time we were aware that Vickie's Father was being treated for a skin rash but had no idea how things would change and affect the slow trip back to Western Australia.

Without getting into the nitty gritty and venting our anger & frustration at his family Doctor, Vickie's father has been admitted to hospital where things turned worse with internal bleeding, Pop is a very sick man and has undergone two surgical procedures to stop the bleeding and if the 2nd hasn't been successful then he will undergo open surgery which at his age has a high risk factor. Hearing all this we decided to say goodbye to our mates and start the long drive home, further phone calls during the drive made us change our mind, Pop wasn't good and Vickie's sister Sue from Melbourne was booking a flight to get over as quickly as she could,we made the decision to have her book an extra seat and we detoured down towards Melbourne and left our Van at friends property at Maldon, i then drove Vickie to the Airport where she flew back to Perth.

We drove 1300klms with the Van in tow and it took us around 16 hours arriving at Maldon at 3am, quickly unhooked the Van whilst Vick had a shower and packed her bag and then another 2 hour drive to the airport. The Ute performed beautifully as i wasn't exactly dawdling along, the night driving made easier with the HID Driving lights that literally turned night into day.

Still unsure just how Pop is but he is stable in ICU and just what it will mean for our travel plans, I will drive the rig back to WA and we will just take each day as it comes.

Jan 4, 2011

Deception Bay - Tamworth NSW

Happy New Year All, we spent it 33,000' high in the sky winging our way back to Brisbane. The flight was initially delayed 30 minutes, and take off and getting altitude was a very bumpy ride, lots of gasps and Ohhh sounds coming from the passengers. Vickie and i choose to select aisle seats this flight to give us some extra leg room we also choose to get seats down the back which was a mistake as we were surrounded by young children & babies all over tired and crying, luckily i had my iPod and was able to block out the joyful sounds of crying kids with some Chris Rea & Colin Hay.

Arrived at Brisbane Airport and had to disembark on the tarmac, what greeted us was rain, it was a fair walk to baggage collection and that was another 30 - 40 minute wait until the bags started arriving on the conveyor belt, then we were outside and picked up by our mate Muzza who drove us back to Deception Bay and our Caravan. We were tired from having no sleep on the plane and just laid down on the bed and had a few hours sleep. The rain kept coming down all afternoon and night.

Sunday Morning we hooked up the van and said farewell to Brisbane and hopefully the rain. Our intention is to head down to Tamworth and experience some of the Country & Western Music Festival that starts on the 14th January. Our 1st night we stopped at Beardy Creek Heritage Park [CAW #148] a nice camp off the highway with plenty of grass and shady trees, we had only been there an hour when the heavens opened up and the rain started bucketing down along with a shower of hail, luckily it was only small hail as it would have been our luck to have the newly repaired Van damaged again by a hail storm.

We have plenty of time to spare and as we were passing by Armidale we phoned up some Bushtracker Owners that i had been emailing for a while, Rick & Julie are also Bushtracker owners and own a Motel in town, a quick call found them home and ready for a cuppa. It is nice finally putting faces to the names of people we have known through the Bushtracker Owners Group, we found we had a lot in common and hope to catch up again when they hit the road. 2nd night we stopped at Bendemeer camped beside the Show Ground [CAW #165], a nice spot near the river and an easy walk into the town. 1/2 a dozen other campers were set up but plenty of space for everyone, not much in the town other than a craft shop & a well stocked delicatessen. We were threatened with a thunder storm but apart from some grumbles & bangs and the odd lightening strike it was a fizzer.

Being so close to Tamworth we decided to go and check out CAW #160 Uralla Fossicking Area, having the GPS waypoint on the Garmin i let the GPS direct us there, all appeared fine as we left the bitumen and took the 1.6klm of dirt road described in the Camps 5 Book, but getting to the bottom of the narrow track it was a dead end apart from a very narrow gate that we would never fit through, looking across the river we could see a few campers set up and realised we had been lead a dummy. It's not the 1st time the GPS has put us into positions that are tricky to get out of, luckily the Toyota has a better turn circle than the F250 we had previously as that would have been a nightmare getting back out.

So out we get and decided to not even bother finding the correct road, instead we headed out to CAW #168 on the Cockburn River, the scenery was nice with a narrow windy bitumen road leading to the bush camp but we were disappointed in the area and it's long walk from the water, we are perhaps getting fussy. Instead of staying we headed to Chaffeys Dam where we greeted with a large expanse of water and green grass and plenty of shady tree's. Maybe 12- 15 other campers in the area but it is a very large area and Vickie found us a lovely spot on the edge of the dam. Yesterday it was quite hot and in the afternoon the wind got very gusty which cooled things down.

Later in the evening we had a phone call from our daughter back home informing us that Vickie's 85 year old Father wasn't well with a nasty body rash and was going into Hospital to be treated. That bought all kinds of guilt feelings that we should be there but after making a few calls to other family members we were reassured that Vickie's sister would drive up and stay with Pop and find out what was happening.

Today we woke to dark sky and cooler conditions, we took the Kayaks out for a paddle around the Dam, stunning scenery especially when on the water looking at the large hills surrounding the Dam. Another BT had stopped with the owners having a tea break, a quick chat with them and then the rain started coming down. Three hours have passed and still the rain comes down, i have filled up all the water tanks by catching the rain in a bucket system that gravity feeds down into the tanks.

Not much else to do other than catch up on the blog, read some books whilst Vick watches Tennis on TV, tomorrow our mates turn up and we decide our plan of action as to what we do next.