Posts Tagged With: Historic Buildings

Oatlands – Ross (Tasmania)

10/01/19  Smoky conditions persisted around Richmond and Hobart and on down the Huon Valley from the large fire still burning upwind in the heritage wilderness area to the north-west. Hazard reduction burns being carried out further south contributed more smoke down there.

Accordingly, we saw little joy in continuing to head down that way; we’d simply be following the unpleasant smoke. So our route was revised and we’re now heading north to Launceston, to loop across the top to Stanley, down the west coast to Queenstown and back through the middle towards Hobart to head down to Bruny Island and Cockle Creek. That’s the plan for the three months left to us on Tassie before crossing back over to the North Island; for now anyway. Our plans always have a way of changing.

Following the 18-day layover at Richmond, we pointed the Landy north and within a short time were beyond the smoke column in clear air. 60kms up the Midlands Highway, our camp was in the village of Oatlands in a large paddock enclosed by a rustic stone wall. The paddock had operated back in the day as a sale yard with only a small remnant of the yards still evident. Now it held mobs of RVers instead of sheep. The Callington Mill was just over the stone wall. Dating back to 1837, it’s the only working Lincolnshire-style windmill in the Southern Hemisphere, and from our camp we could hear the rumble of the grinding stones in operation and we came across the various types of flour produced by the mill on the shelves at the local IGA.

A chap at the historical museum informed us there were 138 sandstone buildings in the town, 87 of which were located on the main street. This is apparently the largest collection of sandstone Georgian houses of any town in the country. Our stroll along the main street to check them out extended into the following day as there were just so many of them.

Across the road from our camp was Lake Dulverton Conservation Area with its large expanse of water attracting birdlife. Di spotted one she hadn’t seen before – a Flame Robin – a real show-off perched on a sign happy to pose for photos.

Our next frog hop landed us 35kms further north in Ross on the Macquarie River. A quiet village, bypassed by the Midlands Highway like Oatlands was, Ross has retained an English kind of quaintness as it hasn’t yet been too overrun by tourism. The place had its own share of beautifully preserved buildings and two award-winning bakeries. Sweet. While Richmond has the oldest stone bridge in Australia, Ross also has one, a sandstone bridge, the third oldest in Australia completed in 1836.

There are not a lot of koalas in Tasmania; none in fact. There’s heaps of Chinese tourists, though; everywhere, all wielding selfie sticks. Salamanca Market was a particularly high risk environment with an extreme stick-to-people ratio. We had to be vigilant not to get poked in the eye as we negotiated through the crowd. I just don’t get the stick craze thing. They’re everywhere, extended or retracted, attached to mobile phones that can no longer fit in a pocket or bag because of the stick thing. The need for a device designed with the single purpose in mind of enabling people to take photos of themselves eludes me. The poses are interesting to watch, though, and the process of taking 30 selfies before that one perfect spontaneous Instagram moment is finally achieved. It’s a shame the “narcissisticks” aren’t long enough to capture how ridiculous people look using them. These days the Generation Gap takes on a whole new meaning– old people use walking sticks, young people use selfie sticks.

“The Selfie Stick has to top the list for what best defines narcissism in society today.” ― Alex Morritt

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Tasmania | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Richmond (Tasmania)

7/01/19  With the Christmas holiday season on us, we’d opted to go to ground somewhere to wait it out till the campsites cleared of summer holidaymakers. Reasoning somewhere close to Hobart would give us access to sightseeing around there, we settled on a caravan park at Richmond, and booked in for almost three weeks. And for only the third time in five years, the complete canvas annex even went up to give us a “downstairs” living space. What a luxury; our home on wheels had doubled in size. We were compelled to buy a small table to furnish all that extra space.

Richmond is a quaint little village of many lovely stone buildings, and being only 30 minutes from Hobart, it’s a popular drawcard for day trippers. The close proximity was to our advantage in doing day trips the other way. The village is home to the Richmond Bridge, Australia’s oldest surviving large stone arch bridge, built by convicts in 1825. It’s still in daily use and coming into Richmond we crossed over it with the van. A couple of days were spent strolling around the local attractions and stores, including the old Richmond Gaol.

A little before Christmas, we caught up again with our French “backpacker daughter”, Clem, who was in Tassie doing some HelpX volunteer work at a horse riding property not too far away. We hadn’t seen her since July up in far north Queensland and it was great to meet up again. She also joined us for Christmas Day in the van for an antipasto Christmas lunch of cured meats, a variety of Tasmanian cheeses, nuts, fruits and marinated vegetables, accompanied by a local Shiraz and a Moscato for Clem. We dropped her in to Hobart the following day to meet up with her next HelpX host who operates a Gypsy Cob horse stud where she’ll be working. After seeing her off, Di and I took in the sights of the waterfront precinct and Constitution Dock, where busy preparations were underway in readiness for the arrival of the Sydney to Hobart Race yachts. We quite liked Hobart; lots of interesting old stone buildings and galleries and, aside from other things, parking meters that when you go to pay on a public holiday say, like “Nah. It’s cool. No charge for you today.”

Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum on the waterfront was a fascinating true replica of the historic hut constructed in Cape Denison, Antarctica, in 1911 by Dr Douglas Mawson’s Australian Antarctic Expedition. Constructed by heritage architects and builders, the replica hut was outfitted as closely as possible to the real one, even down to the soundtrack of blustery Antarctic winds playing in the background. Time was also spent in the Tasmanian Museum and quite a few art galleries in the vicinity, before we finished up over a pint of ale at Irish Murphy’s pub on Salamanca Place.

On the first Saturday, we headed in to Hobart to check out all the open-air stalls at the renowned Salamanca Market on the waterfront. It was bustling with around 300 stalls selling clothing, Tasmanian wood products, wines, knickknacks, all sorts of food and lots of other stuff. Well worth the visit.

A visit to the lookout on top of Mt Wellington was planned around forecasted clear weather, and for once the gods were kind. We had a beautiful clear day (ignoring the cyclonic winds up that high) with spectacular views down across Hobart and the Derwent Valley. Talk about a narrow, twisty drive up and back, though. It’d be truly hairy in rain or snow. I’ve yet to find a good road in Tassie (apart from a 4kms stretch of the Tasman Highway just east of the Tasman Bridge).

We were at Constitution Dock for the arrival of competitors in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and found a great spot right on the finish line buoys. The first yacht to cross the line in front of us was the Tasmanian yacht, Alive, which ended up taking out overall race honours on handicap, the first Tassie boat to do so in nearly 40 years. What a buzz. We watching a couple more cross the line, and then headed back to Salamanca Place to take in the Taste of Tasmania Festival featuring food and beverage products from a heap of local Tassie producers. Yummy.

Speaking of beverage products, Hobart is the home of Cascade, Australia’s oldest brewery and second oldest continually-operating company. While Di stayed in the restaurant, I took a very interesting guided tour through the brewery that finished back in the restaurant with a beer tasting session. I also put my hand up to compete in a beer pouring competition. My game strategy was to fill the glass right to the top within the required time – minimum head for maximum beer. But the official Cascade standard apparently required a dome-shaped head about a thumb-width deep. Needless to say, I didn’t win but no worries, I got to drink the upsized beer I poured.

We occupied most of a day at MONA, the Museum of Old and Modern Art. Interesting place. The art had more to say to Di than to me but the building was fascinating, like nothing we’ve been in before. Imagine an Egyptian tomb crossed with an air-raid shelter that has aspirations of being a nightclub. The labyrinthine layout was very disorientating and had us regularly consulting the floorplan map, that itself could have been hung on the wall as an example of discombobulating Escher art. Everything about MONA was eccentric and interesting.

With good weather forecast for the following day, we drove back to Triabunna to spend the day on Maria Island, which we’d missed out on doing earlier due to crappy weather. Once on the island, the only modes of transport were walking and cycling; we chose to walk; more a trudge, really, as it ended up a very hot day under the Tassie ozone hole. But, it was worth the effort to see the Painted Cliffs and the convict era settlement of Darlington, maintained in a good state of preservation.

Absolutely everyone we’d spoken to about Maria Island had assured us we’d be tripping over wombats; they’d be everywhere. But after three hours of trudging in the heat, not one was to be seen. “Well, we’ve not seen more wombats here on Maria than we haven’t seen anywhere else in Tassie” I said to Di. A Ranger we spoke to reckoned they’d all be trying to keep cool and pointed us down to where we might likely find some. He was right; we came across one taking a midday snooze in a shady spot on the creek, along with a Potoroo and a couple of Pademelons which was nice. Note to self – wombats are best tripped over on cool days.

A morning was spent exploring the laneways of Battery Point located up beside Hobart’s waterfront precinct. The 19th-century housing styles were certainly diverse, ranging from tightly-nested cottages once occupied by waterfront workers and fisherfolk to large stone mansions of well-to-do merchants. Recent gentrification of the area has skyrocketed real estate values while still retaining the quaintness of the historic maritime village. We finished up our morning stroll with lunch at the old Shipwright’s Arms Hotel in one of the backstreets.

On our hottest day since arriving in Tassie, we visited a couple of wineries and cheeseries (is that a word?) near Richmond. The sky over towards Hobart was an ominous apocalyptic kind of red from a smoke plume stretching for hundreds of kilometres across the state off a large fire in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Didn’t deter us from the tastings, though.

The remainder of our day was spent cloistered away in the van with the air-con cranked down to sub-Antarctic. For the past couple of weeks we’ve suffered the occasional day of very strong wind gusts. On the worst of them, the front annex wall bore the brunt of 65kph winds, billowing like the spinnaker on Wild Oats and bending the leading awning pole. I was able to engineer a replacement pole from bits and pieces from the local BCF, along with two bracing bars to stiffen up the awning frame. Our annex now laughs in the face of winds. I can fully appreciate what Douglas Mawson would have gone through, confronted with these very same issues down where he was – aside from the snow and temperatures and sled dogs, of course. Otherwise, exactly the same.

“We had discovered an accursed country. We had found the Home of the Blizzard.” – Douglas Mawson

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Tasmania | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Swansea – Triabunna – Dunalley (Tasmania)

19/12/18  On the move south to Swansea, we came across one of those big LED road signs warning of roadworks ahead on the Tasman (cough) Highway. “Beauty”, I thought. “Finally some maintenance is being done to the Goat Track since it was built by convicts to the requirements of horse-drawn vehicles.” Up the road a bit, though, it turned out the roadworks in question were happening in a paddock just over a farm fence. What the…! That hardly count as road works.

Stopping for a tasting at the Milton Vineyard, we came away with a bottle of their 2016 Reserve Shiraz that I’m looking forward to cracking with friends, Ian and Lesley, when we see them on our way back up through Victoria next year.

Just north of Swansea, we free-camped for a couple of days nearby the boat ramp on the Swan River, where it feeds into Moulting Lagoon.

The other day, we took a a drive and ended up in this little hamlet up in the hills that looked to have been lifted out of the Great Depression; ramshackle houses in various states on dilapidation and decomposition, in yards littered with a lifetime of debris, and a general decomposing mouldy look to everything. I was inspired to sing the theme song to the 1960’s television show “The Beverly Hillbillies” from start to finish – “Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed. A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed…” and Di was looking at me like “I don’t understand how you can remember every word of that song.” Beats me; what can I say. Sometimes I can’t remember why I walked into the kitchen.

But I can remember when service stations had driveway attendants who came out when you pulled up at the bowser. A bloke would appear at your car window, fill your tank for you, check the oil and water, and clean the windscreen. That’s where the “service” part of the name came from. With my first car, a 1955 Morris Minor panel van, I’d be like “Fill‘er up, thanks, and put in a shot of upper cylinder, too” – sounds like some kind of cocktail but it was a fuel additive that I had no idea at the time what it did except Dad said to always add it to each tank fill, so I made sure I did. While driveway service has long since disappeared on the mainland, they still provide it in some petrol stations in Tasmania. First time I came across it was a little awkward, like “No, I can do it myself, thanks.” But then I kind of warmed to it. It’s nice watching someone else getting diesel over their hands from a crappy fuel nozzle.

And you stayed in your car the whole time, paid through the window and change was trotted back out to you. These days, you run the gauntlet from the servo entrance past the grocery aisles to the register, to maximise their chances of getting deeper into your wallet. Notice how far it is to the register once you’re inside the servo? Always the furthest end.

On the subject of cars, since the plastic shopping bag ban came in, does anyone else have plastic bags full of plastic bags in their car or is it just me? And like me, do you totally forget them until you’ve begun unloading at the checkout and just cave and buy more? Yep, I reckon by the time it becomes habit to take the bags into the store, I’ll be dead and gone.

On a section of the Goat Track between Swansea and Triabunna, we came upon the odd-looking Spiky Bridge, built in the 1840s on the old coach route by convict labour under the equivalent of the Work for the Dole Program. The purpose behind the bizarre placement of stones along either side is not known, but I figure it was to dissuade the convicts from sitting down on the job.

We’d planned on spending a couple of days in Triabunna to afford time to see Maria Island, but Di’s knee had been playing up and probably wouldn’t have managed a day’s hiking around the island. We decided instead to do a guided boat cruise along the coastline with some time to look around on shore as well. But, our run of bad luck with Tassie’s weather persisted and the combination of big storm fronts up in Victoria and North Queensland pushed the elements down on our heads. Staff at the local information centre told us that all Maria Island cruises had been cancelled for the next few days due to swells of up to 3 metres. “Oh, bad luck.” Quietly relieved that I’d avoided a probable encounter with seasickness, I consoled Di while shouldering open the door of the information centre against the winds blustering outside. We chose to move on rather than waiting out the bad weather, and come back to see Maria Island after Christmas when conditions would hopefully be kinder.

With a week to go before checking into our Christmas/New Year camp spot in Richmond, Di and I headed to the small village of Dunalley to free camp beside the hotel. It was a good place to leave the van while we went off each day in the Landy to the scenic and historic sites on the Tasman Peninsula.

First stop was at Bangor Vineyard where a bottle of their 2016 Abel Tasman 375 Anniversary Pinot Noir made its way into the Kruiser’s cellar. From there, we headed across the narrow Eaglehawk Neck onto Tasman Peninsula to the coastal features of the Tessellated Pavement, Tasman Blowhole, Tasman Arch, Devils Kitchen and Remarkable Cave.

A day trip to the historic convict precinct of Port Arthur was a much-anticipated highlight, made even better by a whole day of unexpectedly fine weather. Walking around the 100-acre penal complex in very warm conditions tested our fitness levels but with occasional assistance from the golf carts that continually cruised the facility offering assistance to weary tourists we completed the day and covered most of what was to be seen.

To provide yet another reminder that this was Tasmania, on the day we went to see the convict ruins at the Coal Mines Historic Site it was lightly raining but, between showers, it was still an enjoyable walk around the site. We thought it amazing how much of what would have been quite extensive stone constructions were no longer there, gone to whoever carried all the stone and other materials away in the intervening years. Between a period of time when the buildings served their intended roles and when they were finally recognised for its historic significance and protected by government, they would have been used for a variety of purposes by a succession of owners, mostly left to deteriorate, with various materials recycled off to somewhere else. Bushfires also caused a lot of damage over the years. It’s a shame that so much can vanish in a relatively short a period of time. Di and I also discussed this while walking around the penal facilities of Port Arthur; how mind-blowing it would have been for the convicts to try to imagine that in two hundred years’ time, thousands of people would pay to walk around those same facilities, picnic on the green and buy t-shirts emblazoned with “Guilty”. Time changes everything. I wonder what people two hundred years from now will think when they look back on us and how we lived.

Talk about a small world. One afternoon, we arrived back at the van after a day drive to find a Kimberley Karavan, our Kruiser’s smaller brother, parked next to us along with its Land Rover Disco 4 tow vehicle. “Nice outfit,” I thought. After introducing ourselves and chatting a little to the new neighbours, I realised they were Jake, his wife Amelia and son, Oliver. I’d corresponded with Jake via many text messages to purchase some Kimberley gear from him before we headed off on this trip. Though, we’d never actually met, here they were travelling in Tassie and parked up next to us. Huh! They were a lovely family (7 year old Ollie is mad keen on Land Rover so he’s off to a good start in life) and it was great to get to know them over a couple of drinks across at the pub. And quite by chance, we also met up again with Mirjam from the Netherlands who we’d first met at our Pyengana camp. She pulled in to stay the night, recognised our van and knocked on the door. It was great to catch up with what we’d all been up to since then and to hear of her wilderness hiking experiences.

It’s a small world after all. It’s a small world after all. It’s a small world after all. It’s a small, small world. – Be honest now, you couldn’t help signing along to that, could you.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Tasmania | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Petal Point – Derby (Tas)

21/11/18  Earlier this year, we’d travelled up to north Queensland as far as Laura and Cooktown. The average price of diesel for that 8,500km trip was $1.527 a litre. After 4,000kms on our current trip through New South Wales and Victoria to Tasmania, the average go-juice price has been $1.670 – up $0.15 a litre or an average increase of 9.4% from earlier this year. Two years ago, we did 29,500kms through western New South Wales, western Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and back, and the average fuel cost for that trip was $1.326 a litre. So, in two years, there’s been a 26% increase in average fuel price. And in NT and WA, we were buying fuel in some out-of-the-way places for totally outrageous prices which would have inflated the average price; that are 26% less than now! I wonder why diesel has risen in price so much? What’s driving it? My revenue stream certainly hasn’t gone up by that rate so it’s having a detrimental impact. Fuel is a big line item for what we do. ANYONE who can do SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT and MEANINGFUL about fuel pricing will definitely get my vote. That said, I’m old enough and ugly enough to know that that’s just not going to happen in this world of globalised corporate level playing fields; too many hands in too many pockets. I reckon the way fuel prices are increasing and incomes stagnating, it’ll eventually be cheaper to just hire people to push us around.

From Low Head, we travelled east on the Bridport Road through the coastal towns of Bridport (which we liked the look of) and Tomahawk (which we didn’t) to camp at Petal Point, located up in the top right-hand pointy bit of Tasmania at Cape Portland. We had the isolated coastal camp entirely to ourselves. From our elevated camp, we looked out on the blue waters of Foster Inlet, with Lemons Beach at our 2 o’clock, Semaphore Hill in the distance at 12 o’clock, and Baynes and MacLean Islands just a little off shore at 10 o’clock. That night, we saw our first wombat in the wild, very near the van; a big beefy bulldozer of a thing. There’d been wombat sign everywhere so were hoping for a sighting, and Di was very excited to have finally seen one that wasn’t lying dead on a road.

When we came in to Petal Point, the 50kms of gravel road hadn’t presented any problem, apart from being pretty narrow in parts and coating the vehicles in a fine white powdery dust, but throughout that night we had strong gusty winds and rain, and the following morning’s weather report warned of further heavy rain, winds and possible flooding. With the likelihood of it not easing for a few days, we were concerned about the state of the road going out and made contingency plans in case we needed to move. By lunchtime, the clouds had cleared, but mindful of the changeability of the Tassie weather, we decided to err on the side of caution and get the heck out of there while we could. So we headed south to the small village of Derby and camped beside the Ringarooma River (sounds like some country dance step at the local hall, doesn’t it).

Derby is a quaint little town sitting in a steep valley. Many old homes and buildings still exist, some refurbished as B&Bs and hostels for tourists. Derby owed its existence in the old days to tin mining. That’s all finished and the town now relies heavily on a vigorous trade catering to droves of lucre-clad mountain bikers who come to cycle rapidly along mountain bush trails. It looked all too energetic…perhaps an electric bike would have done the job for us…I should have asked about that at the mountain bike shops in the main street. Not sure how I’d look in all the clobber, though. As we sat by the van sipping our afternoon drinks, two ambulances and a police car sped past and turned up a bush track, to return a while later and load an unfortunate biker who’d face-planted a tree into the Westpac Care helicopter for a chat in Hobart with a maxillofacial surgeon. Ouch.

“My doctor told me I shouldn’t work out until I’m in better shape.” – Steven Wright

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Tasmania | Tags: , , , , , ,

Latrobe (Tasmania)

11/11/18  We pulled up stumps at Forth and moved 20kms east to Latrobe, just a little south-east of Devonport. Latrobe is a lovely little town with a lot of heritage residential and commercial buildings in the main street housing eclectic antique, art and general shops, including Reliquaire, a truly unique trove of treasures.

We took a walk along Bells Parade beside the beautiful Mersey River, platypus and duck spotting.

From our camp site just behind the main street, we took day drives out to Hawley Beach, Port Sorrell, Squeaking Point and Narawntapu National Park in the east, and south to Lake Barrington, Railton and Sheffield.

Our own “Tastes of Tassie” experience started with a visit to the Cherry Shed at Latrobe to indulge in their awesome cherry pie, then to the nearby House of Anvers chocolate factory for some truffle delights. Next came a drive to Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm and Van Diemen’s Land Creamery, both at Elizabeth Town, and to the Elizabeth Town Bakery for a fresh-baked sourdough loaf, then on to Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm for a selection of cheeses and local wine, finishing at 41 South Tasmania Salmon-Ginseng Farm for a smoked salmon and some other goodies from the convivial German-born owner Ziggy. With a bottle of local Holm Oak Cabinet Merlot, we had all the ingredients for a Tassie dinner platter that evening in the van. Before heading back, we detoured south of Deloraine, and took a 20-minute walk in to Liffey Falls, through an amazing forest of the thickest and tallest tree ferns we’d ever seen. The scenery was verging on primordial.

Latrobe – Grange Antiques Display (Tas)

Now, I have this theory, well, two theories really, about Tasmanian possums. After arriving here and driving around a bit, we quickly noted the exceedingly high number of flat possum remains dotting the Tassie roads. Theory number one is that Tassie possums love chasing cars at night but have very poor eye sight. This of course results in them never becoming very good at it as they tend to die before that can happen. Theory number two is that they enjoy sitting on roads at night to warm their bottoms while pretending to be asleep; again a risky habit. Whatever the reason, there is no short supply of flat possums in Tassie. There may perhaps be a business opportunity here for an enterprising soul. Picture this – hairy bookmarks; or perhaps possum placemats; or furry frizbies. Untapped opportunity, for sure. I’m certain the “Roadkill” section of the newspaper is very popular with the possums.

Possum: noun. a small flat furry marsupial found on Tasmanian roads.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Tasmania | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Moama – Laanecoorie (Victoria)

29/10/18  Camping on the bank of the Murray, imagining bygone paddleboats steaming past, inspired us to follow the river further west to the town of Echuca. During the 19th century, this was a bustling river port where paddleboat transport linked with the rail junction to Melbourne. These days, Echuca is still a thriving town but the world’s largest fleet of operating paddle steamers no longer carries wool bales and wheat up and down the Murray but tourists like us.

We camped in Moama, the adjacent border town on the northern side of the river, just over the bridge in NSW, and spent a few days exploring Echuca’s historic wharf precinct and the nearby city of Bendigo. The paddle steamer P.S. Emmylou took us upstream from the Echuca wharf for a pleasant morning tea cruise, complete with fresh-baked scones and jam, washed down with barista coffee. The P.S. Emmylou featured as the P.S. Providence in the 1984 television mini-series “All the Rivers Run”.

While the van stayed in Moama, we drove an hour south through Rochester to Bendigo, where we started off our exploration with a tour along the main street on a vintage tram. A derailment of another tram further up the line resulted in a delay, and we continued our look around the city centre on foot, visiting a few art galleries, and strolling through the Dai Gum San Chinese gardens and temple. Bendigo has a lot of lovely old homes and community buildings that celebrate its affluent gold mining past.

On our last day at Moama, we met up with Michael and Elizabeth, friends from back home at Scarborough, who were coming through on the homeward leg of their motorhome adventure around Australia. It was great to catch up with them and the four of us enjoyed a meal just up the road at the RSL Club. In the foyer of the club was a diorama and display featuring what is claimed to be the original bell that hung around the neck of Private John Simpson’s donkey at Gallipol. It’s quite amazing how some things end up where you find them.

The next morning, we farewelled Michael and Elizabeth on their way north and headed off ourselves in the opposite direction. It was a late start as I think we were all rather reluctant to say our goodbyes. South of Echuca, we turned west off the highway to avoid major roadworks being carried out in Bendigo, and followed backroads through the small townships of Raywood, Bridgewater, Newbridge and Eddington to free-camp in the village of Laanecoorie, below the road bridge over the Loddon River. Interestingly, this reinforced concrete bridge was designed and built in 1911 by John (later Sir John) Monash when he was a Civil Engineer, before becoming more notable through his military achievements in WWI.

Laanecoorie was one of many small communities found throughout rural Australia that cause you to wonder how they manage to still exist. From what we could see of the township as we took a walk, it comprised only a few streets, about a dozen houses and a couple of commercial buildings that had long ago ceased to operate. The door of the general store appeared not to have been opened this century, and two very faded signs on its façade for “Peter’s Ice Cream: The Health Food of a Nation” and “Paul’s Extra Cream Ice Cream” brought back childhood memories of cardboard tubs of ice cream eaten with wooden spoons. Post boxes located on the footpath out front suggested the store once provided postal services. Also out front, the bus stop timetable advised potential travellers of the once-a-week service operating only on Fridays. No signs of life were evident on our walk and it was impossible to determine if all of the houses were still occupied as many showed signs of long neglect. Recent vehicle tracks were often the only giveaway. I’m sure that if not for the reasonable proximity of a nearby regional centre, small towns like these would have gone the way of many before them.

This blog item was written from a chair located under a shady pepperina tree, with a view across the Loddon River to a small mob of sheep grazing on the opposite bank – quite a lovely scene – perhaps one reason why people continue to live in small communities such as this.

The weather has continued to be glorious, with mild days, clear skies and very cool nights.

“You’re not in Tasmania yet? You do realise you have to leave the mainland to get to Tasmania.” – Son, Andrew, checking in on our progress.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Victoria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wallabadah – Canowindra (New South Wales)

15/10/18  From Armidale, we continued south on the New England Highway through Tamworth to spend the night at a pleasant free-camp oddly called First Fleet Memorial Gardens outside the town of Wallabadah. Could someone explain why NSW town names sound so strange?

The next morning, we headed west from Wallabadah, through nearby Quirindi and then south along the Black Stump Way to Coolah. Our laundry pile had taken on the dimensions of the Great Pyramid, and we headed to the Coolah Caravan Park to deal with it in a washer. While there, I took the opportunity to do some minor repairs to the Kruiser to rectify a job I’d only recently paid an RV shop to do…annoying…they’re supposed to be the experts. Man, did that town have a fly problem! Step outside and hordes of annoying little bush flies would be in your eyes, mouth, up your nose. A couple of twitches cut from a tree kept them off while we took a walk into the main street. On the subject of flies, the term for Aussie slang and pronunciation is strine, and the story goes that the habit of shortening words and phrases developed from speaking through clenched teeth to avoid swallowing flies. I can believe it.

Following a slow start in the morning, we went on through Dunedoo (love that name) to Wellington for lunch, then Molong for a refuel and unintentionally took the long way round to Canowndra. We much prefer to travel the backroads – less traffic, slower pace and more time to see the countryside going by. Most times these backroads are chosen by design…but sometimes by mistake, like the wrong turn I took leaving Molong that added almost an hour to the journey. On narrow roads in hilly country, it’s impossible to safely turn around, so we resigned ourselves to heading on and seeing what we would see. There was no hurry; the countryside was certainly worth the detour.

Along the way, quite a few examples of early settler homesteads could be seen in the paddocks, some still loved and lived in, some abandoned to slowly decay, and some collapsed under the weight of their high-pitched roofs.

At Canowindra, we pulled in to a small free-camp area only a short way out of town – just us beside the narrow Belubula River. This flowing stream feeds into the Lachlan River and then the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers before finally emptying into Lake Alexandrina and the Southern Ocean south of Adelaide in South Australia. We stayed two nights at this nice spot, and walked into town to have a look around – just about all the businesses were closed though which we thought was strange for a weekday afternoon. Must have been siesta time. The main street had a bygone feel with the many old original brick buildings and commercial facades.

As we headed off through town the next morning, Di insisted we pull over at Coco Harvest, a beautiful old shopfront in the main street offering boutique chocolates. I made the mistake of leaving her alone with the two owners while I went off in search of some fuses. Awaiting payment on the shop counter when I returned was a suitcase of goodies. I thought I’d recognised the withered remains of Di’s self-control lying on the footpath outside.

Canowindra – Coco Harvest Chocolates (NSW)

 

 

 

“Chocolate is to women what duct tape is to men. It fixes everything.”

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - New South Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Scarborough (Queensland) – Armidale (New South Wales)

11/10/18  Following a spell at home, it takes time to get back into the swing of towing a van. When you give the Landy a spurt, it usually reacts like a determined sperm but with the addition of a 3 tonne cottage attached to the rear, what immediately becomes apparent is the corresponding lack of oomph. Both acceleration and braking require a little more deliberation, and climbing hills has all the get-up-and-go of Jabba the Hut. Still, the old girl does her best. Even the champion racehorse Winx would be handicapped pulling a horsefloat carrying Black Caviar.

Nonetheless, we’re very happy to be back on the road, and grinning like kids at McDonalds. Nothing comes close to this…nothing.

Things get dialled back on the road,. In a rig weighing around 6.0 tonnes, you cannot, nor should not, go swiftly. The driver behind you will always want to go five kilometres per hour faster no matter what speed you are doing, so I find it’s best to ignore what’s behind, pop on some tunes, settle back, keep it down to a respectable and safe speed and let the train through when it’s safe to do so.

The Vibe is Back…

Cunninghams Gap (Qld)

From Scarborough, we headed up and over Cunningham’s Gap on the Great Dividing Range to our overnight camp at the old Maryvale Hotel. Great food – give it a go. The freshly-baked Godmother pie and mash is a food group all its own. Next overnight camp was south at the border town of Wallangarra where I lived up to the age of starting primary school. Each time we go back, the town seems smaller, with unfortunately fewer services.

Up to now in our travels around the country, the shortest hop between camp spots had been 22kms from the very small community of Alford to the even smaller Wallaroo on the west coast of the Yorke Peninsula. That’s now been smashed by our hop from Wallangarra on the QLD border to Tenterfield in NSW, a distance of 20kms. In just that short distance, though, the scenery and vegetation changed markedly, becoming a hillier and much greener. Tenterfield is a very pleasant little town, with many examples of early architecture to be seen. Still no monument in my honour outside the maternity wing of the local hospital, though. I thought it would be up by now.

A couple of hours south on the New England Highway at Armidale, we called in on Warren, a fellow Kimberley owner we’d met up at West Leichhardt Station near Mt Isa back in 2015. We got on well then and seeing him again the gap was just like yesterday. We camped the night at his property just out of town, and had a great time catching up and rekindling our friendship. Sometimes lasting friendships come from a brief crossing of paths. Travel is a unifying bond that turns strangers into lifelong friends.

Armidale – Hail Storm (NSW)

Each day since setting off from home, we’ve played tag with thunderstorms and hail. The process starts with a warning text alert, followed by an anxious check of the weather radar, and a tense watchful eye on the advancing storm clouds. So far, and mostly due to luck, we’ve managed to dodge the worst of the storms.

“Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening me” – Galileo

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Multiple States, Travel News - New South Wales, Travel News - Queensland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Kooma View Farmhouse – Nuttbush Retreat – Jamestown – World’s End Reserve (South Australia)

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

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - South Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Deralinya Homestead – Woorlba East Bush Camp (Western Australia)

6/12/16  Duke of Orleans Bay is located east of Esperance, halfway to Cape Arid National Park where the road ends. From there, to connect with the Eyre Highway to cross the Nullarbor, we’d have to backtrack 85kms west to Esperance and then head 200kms north to Norseman, the start of the Eyre Highway east. It’s a long way around, and mostly in the wrong direction. So, after discussing road conditions with a couple of blokes at The Duke, we decided to take a short cut.

The 200km-long Parmango Road heads north-east to connect with the Eyre Highway at the Balladonia Roadhouse, saving about 170kms. It’s not your usual run-of-the-mill backroad though. After the first 40kms of bitumen, the road changed to a wide, well-maintained gravel surface. But, the further north we went, the road narrowed and got rougher. The tyres were aired-down by 10psi, and we loped along pretty steadily at 60-70kph. We weren’t in any hurry and were enjoying the track as it was scenic and interesting.

As far as being a short cut, though, it took us two days to do the 200kms. We’d planned it that way. We camped overnight halfway along the track at the old Deralinya Homestead. Built in the 1890s as a sheep station and abandoned in 1926, the small stone homestead and couple of outbuildings fell into disrepair. These days, they are in good condition, restored by the absentee owner, stonemason Roger, who happened to be camped there doing some work when we arrived.

Roger and his mate have been doing the restoration work since 1990, guided by a painting of the homestead done in 1906. He showed us around the old buildings, pointing out the restored stone and timber work which was very much in keeping with the look and texture of the original structure. It was fascinating to get a glimpse of how different life must have been for the early settlers. Roger was chuffed with the eccentricities of the original construction of the buildings that weren’t even close to being square. Lime cement (not concrete) had been used throughout the walls and floor, made on the property using lime kilns that were still evident. A working brick oven was located in the front yard, built by the original settler who apparently loved bread so much that he constructed ovens throughout the property wherever he was likely to camp for a period of time.

In the scrub a short walk from the homestead, an extensive area of flat granite forms a natural catchment for rainwater. Taking a walk, we came across a few gnamma holes, deep natural holes in the rock that collect and store rainwater for a good period of time following rain. One hole was still covered by three rock slab “lids” to prevent evaporation of the contents, and another contained what I reckoned had to be several hundred litres of water. How useful would these holes have been to the first peoples and the early settlers in this dry country! In the books that I’ve read recently about early explorers in WA and SA – “Eyre: The Forgotten Explorer”, Ivan Rudolph; “Sturt’s Desert Drama”, Ivan Rudolph – gnamma holes and native wells regularly sustained the explorers when they were on their last legs.

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The usually unoccupied homestead was fascinating in its own right, and with the owner there, we were very fortunate to be able to learn a bit of the history of the property and its earlier inhabitants, along with his efforts to maintain the historic integrity of the homestead to which he intends to retire in a few years. It’s wonderful that he kindly allows travellers to visit and camp at the old homestead on their way through.

In as much as the 109km drive in to Deralinya Homestead from the south was pretty good, the 83km drive out the next morning to the Eyre Highway was just the opposite. North from the homestead, the track became a slow, rough slog. If it wasn’t corrugated, it was stoney, and if it wasn’t stoney, it was corrugated. And often as not, it was both. A quick but spectacular thunderstorm that passed overhead as we arrived at Deralinya the day before had dropped some rain on our next stretch of track. For the first 30kms, we sloshed through section after section of water lying across the track. It was no problem for the Landy and Kruiser to negotiate, though. Then we came to sections where it wasn’t water but mud across the track. This was followed by dry sections of bull dust. The van and Landy were firstly wet down, then covered with a layer of mud and then a layer of fine bull dust that turned the rig and tyres white, along with us if we happened to touch it. At best, we managed 40kph and at worst, 20kph. With occasional stops to cool down the shocks and heat up a cuppa, it took us most of the morning to get up to the bitumen.

img_2444aOur little shortcut had been a big adventure that we really enjoyed. Even so, it was a relief to at last reach the Eyre Highway and Balladonia Roadhouse. Pulling in to refuel and air up, we spotted Charles and Joy, who we’d first met at Esperance and then again at Duke of Orleans Bay. They were heading east in their van and we camped together that night in a shady spot off one of the many tracks into the scrub behind Woorlba East Rest Area, at the start of the 90 Mile Stretch. We were the only ones there and, although a little windy and dusty, the campsite was a pleasant one. We finished the day wrapped around a nice drink or two.

“Not many cars on the road, hey!” Pete, speaking loudly over the corrugations ahead of a cloud of bull dust.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Western Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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