25/04/19 Leaving Winchelsea, Di and I took a couple of backroads north to meet up with the Hamilton Highway and follow it west, past dry, sweeping paddocks scattered with sheep, to the town of Hamilton. It was a pleasant drive until a light smattering of raindrops on the windscreen soon developed into a heavy downpour that buffeted the car and van with strong side winds. Once again, the weather had come along with us, and we were discussing going into business as Rainmakers. We set up at Hamilton in a caravan park by the lake, and headed around to catch up with our old friends, Ian and Lesley.
We’d last called in on them in Hamilton in May 2016 on our way through to SA and WA, and it was great to again catch up at their place over drinks and dinner. Ian’s like me, he loves to cook with wine, and sometimes even adds it to the food. Needless to say, a few corks were pulled (doesn’t that sound better than ‘screw caps were unscrewed’; a little of the romance has been lost with the introduction of the wine bottle screw cap) and we settled in to nine enjoyable days of picnicking and being shown around the district, and evenings of good hospitality and conversation in the warmth of their fireplace.
Hamilton had a nice, comfortable feel about it, with its gardens and autumn-toned trees very reminiscent of Toowoomba where we used to live. And despite a reluctance to leave, inevitably our stay came to an end and we headed off to begin making our way back home to Queensland.
We spent a very cold night in a pleasant recreation reserve on the outskirts of the small town of Glenlyon, near Daylesford, in a large area bordered by old oaks and river gums. The next morning, we continued north through bone-dry sheep country, through Shepparton, and crossed over the Murray River into New South Wale at Tocumwal. From the bridge over the river, hundreds of vans and motorhomes could be seen parked up on the Victorian side for the Easter long weekend. The riverside camping area looked more like an RV sales yard, and I reckoned I could have stepped from one van roof to the next for the whole length of the campground; they were so close together. Not my idea of getting away from it all to commune with nature. We were hoping to soon stay again at our favourite camp spot on the Murrumbidgee River, but guessed that it would be just as popular over the school holidays as the Murray was, so best to be avoided.
80kms north of the Murray, at Jerilderie, we camped at a quiet spot beside Billabong Creek, and had the place almost to ourselves apart from a family camping in a 4WD and tent. It had been a big drive that day, 330kms, massive by Tasmanian standards, but a good drive on mostly long, flat roads, non-existent by Tasmanian standards. Our travelling mojo was back and we were once again enjoying the road. At Jerilderie, we were deep in Kelly Country. Ned and his gang held up the bank and post office in 1879, burning all the mortgage documents held by the bank and shouting the bar at the Travellers Rest Hotel to the cheers of all in the room, before making a getaway with their ill-gotten booty on stolen police mounts. Our camp spot was only a 5-minute stroll along the creek to town where these shenanigans occurred 140 years ago, and it was easy to picture it as we looked at the buildings that still stand in the small town’s main street.
The Landy clocked up 200,000kms, of which 90,200 have been done on our travels since June 2014. We’d started to think the return trip back to Queensland was going to be fairly quick. Only two days out from Hamilton, we’d done some big distances, each day longer than the previous. We both weren’t feeling like doing much touristy stuff, just finding nice camps and taking it easy. Our focus was pretty much on getting back home to see everyone and having a break from travelling. Anyway, we decided we were coming back to the Daylesford area again for a longer visit at some stage, so will catch up with everything around there when we do.
The small town of Canowindra was our next stop after an overnighter at The Rock, and we headed there through some very pleasant country that steadily became greener, paddock dams began to have water in them and paddocks carried healthy-looking sheep with tiny, white new-born lambs at their sides. We were fortunate to arrive at Canowindra during the Balloon Challenge held in the town each year. We woke in the morning to the roar of balloon burners and the visual spectacle of 30 or so hot air balloons taking flight from the paddocks nearby. Several floated slowly over our camp spot just above the tree tops, calling “Hello” down to us. What a great way to start the day. This time around, the free camp was much busier than last October when we came through on the way south to Tassie, but was still a good little overnighter located beside a flowing stream.
From Canowindra, we took the Molong Road to bypass Orange and connect with the Mitchell Highway that took us north to Wellington, where a turn east took us through the hills to Gulgong. We camped at the grassy showgrounds for three days in the shade of pepperina trees. The further north we travelled through New South Wales the warmer the days were becoming. Overnight temperatures were still pleasantly cool, but the days were regularly reaching the high 20s and sometimes into the 30s. So we took advantage of the available power at Gulgong to enjoy some relief from the midday heat, courtesy of the van’s air-con. It was also an opportunity to catch up with the laundry and take long hot showers. Let me tell you, a little glamping every now and then goes a long way.
There is nothing better than scrubbing the road off your skin and changing into a fresh, wrinkled set of clothes.