Author Archives: dimcfarlane369
16/08/17 A Fair Call
While the two of us motored along, I was quietly musing on the number of caravans travelling in the opposite direction. I was doing more waving than the Queen Mum and developing RSI in my wrist. I remarked to Di that about 1 in 4 vehicles coming the other way were travellers heading south – travellers being caravans, motorhomes, camper trailers and whiz bangs. To Di, 1 in 4 seemed a lot. Was I indeed correct?
On the road you look for anything to pass the time and we latched onto my latest theory like a magnet, resolving to put it to the test. Fact Check it – Fact or Fiction? Firstly, we deliberated and then agreed on the required statistical groups – Travellers vs Non-Travellers – and which vehicles fell into each category. It was then determined that a 10 minute survey would provide a reasonable and (for that time of day) representative statistical sample. Having laid the basis for our test, we then commenced a tally of oncoming traffic for the requisite time duration, with Di recording the count.
Calculation of the results proved that, indeed, my original estimate had been sound, with 24 Travellers recorded compared to 60 Non-Travellers, representing 28.57% of southbound traffic being Travellers. Close enough to 1 in 4 – well, 1 in 3.5 actually, but you can’t realistically have 3.5 vehicles….Hey, c’mon now, wake up! I hear you snoring. I know it’s not very riveting stuff, but it did help pass the time for a while. And besides, I like being proven CORRECT.
A good wife always forgives her husband when she’s wrong.
14/08/17 The drive up through the heavily wooded hills of the Warro Forest Reserve was a slow haul, along a snaking gravel road and across a narrow wooden bridge that I thought best to walk over first before clunking across the rattly wooden bridge deck with the rig. Shortly after descending the far side of Mt Warro, we came to the small village of Lowmead, and over the level rail crossing of the main north-south line to set up in the large shady backyard of the pub.
Over a drink in the pub a little later, Di asked the publican and two guys sitting at the bar how many people lived in Lowmead.
“Six” they all agreed after counting it up.
“No, six people.”
With the two guys at the bar, the publican, two others sitting across the room, and both of us, it was pretty much full house for Sunday lunch.
We unhitched the van and took an afternoon drive to nearby Agnes Waters and the Town of 1770. Di loved the long curving white beach at Agnes Waters, but 1770 didn’t appeal to us much at all – too hilly, too isolated and too many backpacker whiz bangs everywhere. Bustard Bay, dotted with many boats and yachts moored offshore, was certainly scenic and would be a great place to stay if you were a boatie. But we weren’t.
With the shadows lengthening in the late afternoon, we enjoyed a drink beside the van looking across the paddocks to Baffle Creek at the far tree line. An impressive Spotted Harrier on the hunt, skimming above the tops of the tall grass seed heads, proved faster than Di could locate her camera. She settled for just a distant hazy image of this new bird to her list. We had a very quiet and peaceful camp site, tucked away in the back corner behind the pub, despite the occasional horn toots of trains approaching the nearby level rail crossing. Thankfully, they didn’t blow their horn at night.
The next morning, we packed up and headed north through Miriam Vale and Calliope to a camp at Futter Creek. The days are becoming steadily warmer as we travel further north. The nights are still cold and we’re hitting the sack much earlier, our sleep patterns very much dictated by sunset and sunrise.
“Knock Knock! Who’s there? Tibet! Tibet who? Early Tibet and early to rise!”
13/08/17 Ambrosia and Camp Fires
The last two campsites have been terrific.
We stayed for three nights at Brierley Wines, 6km out of Childers. Camping was free as long as you bought some of their wine which I was quite happy to do as the tasting was rather nice. They grow the grapes and make their own organic wines on site, and my long-held notions of what I like in a Shiraz have been totally destroyed by this nectar. I have to honestly say that after their wine, all others in my mobile cellar tasted insipid as I forced myself through the remaining stocks. From the first glass it just blew me away. I’ve gone through the couple of bottles we picked up and we’re going for a drive to get some more today. Their mulled wine is going to have a delightful place on the Christmas table this year when we get home. Along with their Honey Mead, for something a little ancient and different. Wassail the wine!
Our next camp was a hop of only 21kms through Childers to Iron Ridge Park – my idea of what all caravan parks should be like. For the two weeks beforehand, we’d been camping on solar, and headed to Iron Ridge only for the power because the forecast was for a few days of solar-killing grey skies and rain. Despite the clouds eventually clearing, we kept extending our stay, to 9 days in all. The place was like a 5-star bush camp, owned by a couple who had done lots of travelling themselves and knew what they liked in a campsite. In a bushland setting with lots of trees, the sites were quite spread out from each other, with lots of space and a fire pit each. Free wood could be gathered from the bush in the wheelbarrows provided and we sat around a fire most nights. So it was like how we choose to camp, only with extras – like a concrete slab, toilets, showers, laundry, power and water. Not real hard to take at all. This was a good base for day trips into nearby Bundaberg and the beaches at Woodgate, Bargara, Innes Park and Elliott Heads.
Unfortunately, Di was a magnet for the midges and has been scratching like crazy for days. I read that midges are attracted to carbon dioxide, and my suggestion to try keeping her mouth closed and holding her breath wasn’t received in quite the same warm and caring manner that it was offered. Oh well, there go all my brownie points again…
AAAAAGH!! – Di (scratching)
7/08/17 What the Flock!
There’s always one in every bunch. We were camped up in a large grassy area, a few acres in size with lots of flat open space. Everyone just found their own spot, with heaps of separation from those around. Very pleasant. And then this guy pulls in! Obviously a lover of caravan parks who can’t deal with open spaces or personal space. Parking close was the first sin; then what little space did separate us was taken up by his bloody BMW; and to take out the trifecta he set up his generator on our side of his van! What the!? Time for us to leave.
We came across a great article on campsite flocking behaviour at https://www.thegreynomads.com.au/lifestyle/in-the-spotlight/flockers/ that explains it so well.
It’s time someone developed a scrambler that establishes a silent zone of electronic garbage for a reasonable distance around your van, scrambling every electronic device except your own, and overlaying a voice message to all their audio devices “This is the much neglected voice of your social conscience speaking. You have parked way too close to your neighbour. Show them some consideration and move away”. Priceless! I’d buy one!
“Out of all my body parts, I feel like my eyes are in the best shape. I do at least a thousand eye rolls a day.”
28/07/17 Apartment living has many advantages. Parking space for a caravan isn’t one of them. So, to get it ready for the trip, we had a couple of days at the caravan park just up the road from home to clean the Kruiser and pack it up. Di’s LISTS came out, the gear went in and the dust came off. With every box ticked, we spent the second night in the van.
Given the long break at home, we had to recall some of those things we routinely did in the Kruiser that used to be second-nature. “Now, what was that inverter setting again?” Thank goodness I labelled everything when we first got the van or over time as we worked out how a particular something worked in it. There are labels everywhere, on the inside of cupboard doors and next to control switches, to assist with the vagaries of memory. Those little label makers are worth their weight in gold. But, pretty quickly we got into the swing of things (Read the labels!), headed out of the park and north to Marg McIntosh Reserve, a nice little free camp west of Gympie with a small creek on one side and horse paddocks over the back fence, two one-lane bridges from the small town of Widgee.
The Landy needed a little tweak so two days later we ended up in Gympie at Gold City Land Rovers for some TLC from Allan and the boys. The guys back home at MR Automotive were terrific for advice about what was happening, and shipped parts up overnight so they were there in Gympie first thing the following morning when we called in. When you’re travelling, it’s great to have reliable people you can call on when needed. By lunchtime, the re-tweaked Landy was heading on to Maryborough.
Both my parents’ families, the McFarlanes and Connells, have long roots in Maryborough going back to the mid-1800s. I’d been looking forward to spending a few days there doing some ancestry research and catching up with relatives. The local Family Heritage Society provided a wealth of information and we spent some time at the old cemetery where a few ancestors were buried, including my paternal great-grandparents, William and Martha McFarlane, who emigrated to Maryborough from Ireland in 1863. As this was their first landfall in Australia, they are considered to be among the group of Pioneers of Maryborough.
Maryborough is a lovely town with many original old homes and commercial buildings. The Maryborough I remember from my childhood is now relegated to being almost a satellite of Hervey Bay, the nearby community that has grown enormously since its sleepy beach village days. The quiet little beachside Hervey Bay where I spent most childhood Christmas holidays is long gone, overtaken by progress; developed and homogenised to now look like everywhere else. I guess that’s why Maryborough appeals to us. It’s been bypassed by the developers’ wrecking ball and retained its individuality and heritage.
We caught up with my uncle who we hadn’t seen for quite some time, and afterwards went exploring to find the site of the Dundathu sawmill, just outside of Maryborough beside the Mary River. This was where great-grandfather William was employed as a sawyer after arriving in Australia. To the casual eye, nothing now remains at the site, having long ago reverted back to bushland, but with the aid of GPS coordinates, we were able to navigate to where the sawmill had existed and locate some signs of it in the bushscape.
We also visited the house of my maternal great-grandfather, and were delighted to meet the current owners who turned out to be my second-cousins. The house has remained in the family since 1916, and I have a wonderful photo of my mother as a young child sitting up with her parents and grandfather in a horse-drawn buggy outside this house, circa 1928.
Maryborough is a place we’ll definitely be coming back to. There is so much family history yet to be done.
When there is a very long road upon which there is a one-lane bridge placed at random, and there are only two cars on that road, it follows that: (1) the two cars are going in opposite directions; and (2) they will always meet at the bridge. – Murphy’s Law of the Open Road
19/07/17 We’ve been home for a little over six months since getting back from Western Australia to have Christmas with the family. 207 days…our longest break from travelling; the days have been restless with anticipation to be gone again. The wanderlust bug has bitten us bad, and it’s an itch that can’t be satisfied no matter how hard it’s scratched. Not that it hasn’t been great catching up with family and friends and having time to attend to all those medical, dental, optical, mechanical, domestic Maintenance Things that need to be done at least once a year. But behind all that catching up and running around, we’ve been poised at the starting blocks, awaiting the starter’s pistol.
Di has enjoyed being home for the longer stretch this time. She was ready to come back at the end of last year’s travels. Christmas was approaching and thoughts of family were tugging hard on her maternal strings. Not so much me; I just do what I’m told. Now, after the long break, she’s ready for the next trip, busily making LISTS (they do warrant all capitals!) of everything that must be done. Serious LISTS, too; they got printed off and bound into booklets. One of the bedrooms looks like a compulsive hoarder has moved in, with stacks of shopping bags containing gear to be moved back into the Kruiser. I do a lot of calm deep breathing during these obsessive LIST Phases and lots of avoidance tactics.
But, hey, we are at long last heading off….Woohoo!
It’ll be Queensland this time. Over the past three years, our travels really haven’t done justice to our home State, mostly going through parts of it on the way to more distant places. This will be the Queensland Trip – up the coast to the far north (depending on the weather) and into the centre to parts we haven’t been before. We’re looking forward to beaches, aboriginal rock art, dinosaur fossils and lots of dust (me anyway). Spinifex too hopefully; love the spinifex country. And in amongst all that, the intention is to also substantially supplement our piggy bank through some rewarding gold and gemstone fossicking – possibly sapphires, the State gem. There’s also koalas (the State faunal symbol), Cooktown orchids (our floral symbol), brolgas (our bird symbol), the Barrier Reef anemonefish (our aquatic symbol), and cane toads (our State of Origin symbol). Heaps to see, and along the way, we shall endeavour to be Audax at Fidelis (Bold but Faithful), our State motto. A bit too much information, I know. Sorry. I got a little carried away on Google. But anyway, Queenslander!!! (the State winning war cry).
Our previous wanderings have generally had no specific destinations, being more like adaptable rambles that took us where we ended up. This time, I’ve been playing with the Trip Planner feature of the WikiCamps app to plot out a route for the entire trip, listing all potential camp sites along the way. Some we may not get to, especially if it gets too hot up north. But the route does look great on paper – although it must be said, in the light of past experience all that planning will probably be just so much smoke. We’ll no doubt end up doing something completely different as has been the case in the past. And if that happens, it won’t matter; the journey is the destination. It’s not about the arriving; but the getting there.
Besides, the trip planning filled in my time while home, kept me occupied and poised on the starting block, and mostly out of trouble.
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s lethal.” – Paulo Coelho
Bushman’s Rest, Lake Cullulleraine – Weethalle Showground – Narrabri – Scarborough (South Australia – Queensland)
23/12/16 Saying goodbye to our camping buddies Charles and Joy at World’s End Reserve, we followed the Goyder Highway east through rolling hills, golden fields of wheat and endless sheep pastures. The Murray River soon appeared on our right, and from the top of the Golden Limestone Cliffs, we looked out on the swollen river. Flood waters had breached the banks and spread out through the river red gums on the broad floodplain to the far cliffs. It was wonderful to see the mighty Murray so full and replenished by recent rains. There was a downside to the flooding, though. The many scenic bush camps dotted along the river were under all that floodwater.
Consequently we motored on, following the meandering river east and crossing it just beyond Renmark via the Paringa Bridge. This heritage listed bridge has a single railway line in the centre (now disused), with a narrow road lane on each side of it. A lift span allows river traffic to pass underneath. The road lane felt very tight for the Kruiser and we were glad it wasn’t any wider.
A little way down the road, we crossed into Victoria, intending to stay at a bush camp on the border. The Landy, though, was showing an outside temperature of 38C and rising, and we opted instead for a powered site. We spent the night beside Lake Cullulleraine at the Bushman’s Rest Caravan Park with the aircon keeping us cool and comfortable. The next morning was overcast with a forecast of rain. It was our wedding anniversary and we stayed on a second day beside the lake to celebrate.
Between the small towns of Goolgowi and Rankins Springs on the Mid Western Highway, we were happy to sit a long way back from a caravan that was travelling along at our pace. Suddenly, the van tilted and pulled over to the roadside, having lost a wheel. We stopped and gave them a hand to find the wandering wheel, got their details and went ahead to Rankins Springs to arrange a tow vehicle to get them into nearby Griffith where the broken wheel studs could be replaced. We were the first on hand to help them, and two other caravans pulled up to offer help as well. Aussies are a great bunch, quick to pitch in and do what they can when someone’s in trouble, especially for travellers on the side of the road.
That night, we camped in the showgrounds of the small town of Weethalle, among a group of rustic buildings facing a white-fenced trotting track sitting idle between infrequent race meetings. A local contact person was very helpful in opening up the facilities and making sure we were comfortable for the night.
From Lake Cullulleraine in upper Victoria, we had three big motoring days that took us home by Christmas Day, firstly 547kms to Weethalle in New South Wales, then 578kms to Narrabri where we stayed the night with Deb and Stu, and the final leg of 611kms to home. North of Narrabri, broad sheets of water lying in the paddocks and across the road at one point was evidence of recent rains. We’d crossed three State borders in four days to spend the festive day with family.
Since commencing in 2014, we’ve travelled 65,740kms with the van. Here are some facts about our overlanding to WA this year:
“Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve travelled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.” – The Landy
18/12/16 After Ceduna, we met up again with Charles and Joy at Kooma View Farmhouse, 60kms or so west of the town of Kimba, the halfway point across Australia from east to west. That brought home to us that we were halfway back on our return leg to Queensland. Kooma View is a disused farmhouse that the property owners make available to travellers to camp at no charge, although donations are welcomed to help with the upkeep of the basic facilities (the dump point and flushing outdoor toilet). The house was open and visitors were welcome to look through, which was interesting but clothes hanging in cupboards and crockery set out on the kitchen table were a little eerie. Some furnishings and contents were very familiar, dating back to our childhood. It felt like someone should be living there – like those movies where everyone vanishes suddenly leaving everything undisturbed. We spent the night camped in the grounds near to the house. No ghosts or green alien abductors bothered us.
The following morning, we headed on east through Kimba and Iron Knob to spend two nights at Nuttbush Retreat on Pandurra Station, near Port Augusta. We’d previously stayed there when travelling across to WA in June. I replaced a broken brake pad sensor in the Landy, finally extinguishing a dashboard warning light that had been in my face for more than a week.
Our next leg took us around the top of Spencer Gulf through Port Augusta and over the high South Flinders Ranges to quaint, historic Jamestown, with its lovely stone residential and commercial buildings. Charles and Joy pulled in shortly after us, having taken a separate route, and we joined them for lunch and a leisurely walk around the town from our semi-bush campsite at Robinson Park Reserve on the northern edge of town.
In the morning, we took the Hallett Road to one of our favourite towns, Burra, which we’d spent a couple of days exploring last year. We were just passing through this time, and had lunch and refuelled before heading 30kms south to our bush camp at World’s End Reserve on Burra Creek. In spite of the creek being dry, it was still a very pleasant camp with just our two vans in amongst old river gums near the creek. This was our last night with our travel buddies, who were heading on to the vineyards of Clare while we continued east towards home. We generally don’t travel with others, preferring the flexibility of doing our own thing, but have done so now with a few couples who we’ve enjoyed camping with. We’d thoroughly enjoyed Charles’ and Joy’s company and had great fun together, sharing seven camp sites since first meeting them at Esperance in WA, and we’re looking forward to getting together again and doing more free camping when they’re travelling around Queensland next year.
“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad