sure it must have
great relief that
the mighty 'Grand
Tourer' finally departed from Wayne and Tracey's driveway. We were
for just on 3 weeks and it must have looked like we were never going
to go. They should never have let us move into the house. Far too
comfortable and very hard to leave. Their generosity and
hospitality were unsurpassed.
first stop this
month and only a
hours up the road
was Tailem Bend. It was not actually on our way but we wanted to see
Danny, Tina and the boys once more before heading east. We first met
these guys in a free camp on our way out to Tom Price in WA many, many
months ago. We have been bumping into them ever since and last saw them
in Alice Springs. They have now been home just over a month and are
desperately trying to fit back into normal life. They are planning to
take off again mid 2007 as they too have the travel bug. Who knows, we
them out there again. We ended up staying with them a couple of nights
and had a ball. Their house is on the Murray River and have to say that
sitting on their front balcony having a beer looking out over the river
was most enjoyable. Their house is also a little unique in that they
live in the grounds of 'Tailem Bend Historical Village'. This
village was built and is owned and operated by Danny's father. There
are over 100 buildings and numerous streets. On our first night Danny
Tina took us over to the village and put on a very old movie in the
theatre. It was sensational and was great to actually get up into the
room to see the old arc projectors in operation. It was really
fascinating. The next day while our hosts were at work and the kids at
school we spent the day in their village. You know you are getting
older when you remember some of the older items from your
childhood. This is a great place and if you are in the area and have a
bent for our yesteryear make sure you visit.
and Tina were
great fun and we
our time with them. Hopefully we can return the favor when they come
across to QLD next year.
stop was Renmark.
This is a
special place for
me as it was here
that we had our family Christmas holidays each year when I was a
kid. They are great memories of camping, skiing and being surrounded by
friends. The down side is that it also the place that my dad was killed
back in 1974 during one of our Christmas holidays. We stayed in the
caravan park where the accident happened, and in fact camped very close
to the actual spot where it happened and funnily enough I felt quite
at ease with that. This is the first time I have been back to the park
since that fateful day and it was great to see it hadn't changed at
all. It was also nice to explain to the boys what happened to their
grandfather all those years ago. I did get myself into a bit of a
sticky situation while having a shower with little Harry, when he asked
me what 'Dead' meant. He put me 'on the spot' a bit and somehow while
fumbling around the subject I ended up trying to draw a parallel to a
dead kangaroo.Why I'm not sure, but my god, the more I said, the bigger
hole I dug for myself. People in the other cubicles must have been
rolling around on the shower floor in laughter.
We spent 3 nights in Renmark and did a trip to Berri, Barmera and out to Monash where they have a great adventure playground. It is pretty amazing, not to mention free, and the kids had a ball on the slides, swings, wooden structures and flying foxes. Of course the boys insisted that I also went on the flying fox. I thought I was going to dislocate my poor old shoulders, but boy, did we have some laughs.
while we were
admiring the view
of the river, a most amazing houseboat went past (houseboat is probably
a slight exaggeration). It turned out to be a guy called Frank who
spends about 4 months a year at 'Daley Waters Pub' doing nightly shows
with his performing eagles, that are actually chooks. He pulled into
the shore and performed one of his songs all about wet toilet paper and
smelly fingers. As you could imagine we were all in hysterics but
especially the boys who have, to our distress been singing the songs
ever since. What an absolute card and a great ambassador for Australia.
Renmark certainly hadn't changed much over the last 30 years and it was good to visit again.
found a great free
camp right on the
river only about 10 kms out of Mildura.What a set up. You can camp
anywhere you want along the river and the track goes for absolutely
miles. The local "Lions" club have taken over control of this area and
have put in toilets and a thousand bins that they regularly empty. We
pulled up and found a nice spot only metres from the river. There was a
lady and her young daughter fishing on the banks and the kids all
started playing together. She was very friendly and we all
chatted for ages. Her husband was out in their boat fishing and
when he came back and saw that his wife had company and was happy, he
grabbed me and we all went back out fishing. What incredibly nice
country people. We were out fishing for a couple of hours, had lots
of laughs and story telling but not many fish. Tell me where else other
than traveling can you pull up and be taken out fishing with total
strangers all within an hour
of arriving. I have said it many times before, traveling is a very
unique experience full of opportunities and experiences that you just
don't get staying at home.
have loved to
spend a bit
more time at
Merbein but we now
have a time line. We want to be in Eden in NSW by the middle of
the month to do some major caravan improvements as mentioned in
'October in Summary' last month. On the way we also want to go into
Melbourne to see a very good friend with whom Chris went to primary
school. So for the first time in 11 months we have to get our
Our next stop after spending the day exploring Mildura was Robinvale. What a gem. We pulled into the first caravan park we saw just over the big bridge into town. This well maintained grassy park is absolutely right on the Murray. The owner operators could not have been more friendly, happy and helpful. What a change from the endless cranky caravan park managers we have encountered over the months. And the best part was all this and a powered river front site for $18.00 a night for the family. And you guessed it! The park was full with very contented guests. Most other parks we have visited lately have been empty. Just goes to show that even out of season if you provide a good product at a good price you will remain busy. Has to make good economic sense.
again 'Camps 3'
had us off to a
camp again right on
the banks of the Murray. Another perfect spot. Only 8 kms out of town
was again endless kms of riverfront camping spots, complete with pit
toilets. What a view we had. Camped on the bend of the river with great
views both up and downstream. This is houseboat country and we had a
constant parade of both petrol and steam powered craft to look at.
Now Echuca would have to be one of the most charming towns we have visited yet. To see the wharf area with it's numerous paddle steamers really took you back to how life would have been in the early 1900's. The whole area has been beautifully restored with entire streets looking just like a century ago. Blacksmiths and carpenters working away producing some amazing pieces that are all for sale. This place oozes charm, serious charm.
As most would be aware, this part of the country like many, is in the midst of a serious drought and it is difficult to know what the immediate future is for the Murray River. Although it appears full and with good flow it is in trouble. Unless the catchment area receives substantial rain the river will be virtually dry in 24 weeks. That is in less than 6 months and the long range forecasts do not look promising. A river without water would bring this and all towns along this mighty river to a standstill. The river is not only the heart but also the soul to these towns and without it who knows the consequences. Should the worse actually happen it will in fact be the first time the river has dried up since the weir and lock system was introduced around 1917. That's what I call a drought. It would appear that lack of rain and inappropriate farming (ie cotton and rice crops that require ridiculous amounts of water to produce a handful of product) are the two major contributing factors to the impending disaster. Obviously one of those causes cannot be controlled, but the latter can, and steps are being put in place to ensure this does not happen again. Some very nervous times ahead for these town folk.
We only spent two nights here and could have easily spent a week. As seeing Victoria was never part of our plan for this trip, even seeing a tiny bit is a bonus. This is certainly a state that will require another visit and some extensive exploring.
from Echuca to
beautiful. Hills, green paddocks and cows as far as the eye could see
was a nice change. Our only reason for entering the second
biggest city in Australia was to see Robyn, Mark and the kids.
Chris went to primary school with Robyn and have been good friends
since. Unfortunately Mark was in Hong Kong for work so we missed him
this trip. Our first job was to go to their new home of about 12 months
to see if we could get the van into their driveway. All looked good so
into their cul-de-sac we drove only to realise we didn't have room to
turn around, so out we backed and then had to back all the way in
I am not sure what the neighbours in this upmarket inner city suburb
thought when they saw this van backing up and down their street! We did
fit in their driveway, just with a few delicate manoeuvres. All good
except Robyn couldn't get her car in the driveway or the garage and had
to park on the street. A small price to pay for our outstanding company
I hear you say. Ha Ha!
It was so good to see Robyn and the kids again. It has been at least 5 years, even pre Harry since we saw them last. Their new house is absolutely outstanding with a yard to rival any botanical garden that this country has to offer. Harry's eyes nearly popped out of his head as he looked around the house.
Now lets get straight to the weather. We arrived on the Thursday and it was hot, sunny and still with no visible pollution. Friday was even hotter and Saturday, the day we left , exactly the same. We must have had the best 3 days this year. Apparently the couple of days prior to our arrival were absolutely bitterly cold, wet and very, very miserable (Melbourne Cup Carnival). On a good day, Melbourne is a hard place to beat. The trick is getting one of those perfect days!!! On Friday Robyn escorted us into the city. We caught the tram at the end of their street and spent the day exploring. It is extremely trendy so I felt right at home, and expect a few of my fashion statements will soon take off down this way. Mark rang us a couple of times during the day from Hong Kong to make sure we were seeing all the important sights. Tha's pretty good service I must say. It was a very enjoyable day. The highlight for the boys was when Robyn bought them an icecream called a 'toadstool'. This thing was about the size of a tennis ball, and was icecream coated in chocolate that was about 10mm thick. So here we are at lunchtime in the middle of the city at some trendy eatery surrounded by suits and more suits and !!!!! the chocolate faced monsters. Harry had chocolate from his eyebrows down to his chin and around to each ear. I think Robyn was amused as we used 264 napkins and a packet of nappy wipes to try and clean him up. Alex didn't look much better.
The city has maintained its 'old world' charm and although busy, is a great place to visit . The Yarra River still looks as muddy as ever but the parklands and walkways along its banks are outstanding. Right in the middle of the city is a new area called 'Federation Square'. I am not sure who designed this thing or what chemical substance they were using at the time, but let me tell you it makes a statement. It rates very highly as the 'ugliest and most out of place structure' I think we have ever seen. With good reason it has caused quite a stir amongst Melbournians. It looks like something you would see in a 'Star Wars' movie or perhaps as part of a space station. (Harry was pretty taken with it - says a lot for his taste!)
We had a great time, the kids had fun playing together and Chris and Robyn spent hours catching up. In life some of us are lucky enough to have friendships that last a lifetime, people who you might not see all the time but remain close. It was obvious that this was one of those friendships.
stop will be
Merimbula and major
really excited about getting this job done and can't wait to get into
it. We are all equally excited to again see Bryan, Jane and the boys.
They live in a small seaside holiday town called Merimbula about
20 kms north of Eden. While I am working my guts out Chris and the boys
will have fun exploring the area and going to the beach which is a 30
second walk from the house. While we are working on the van we will be
staying downstairs in the house. I estimate the van will take about 2
weeks to get up and running, although Bryan says we will be working 20
hours a day and should be gone in 3 days. I think he is joking, or is
to Merimbula in
one day and although
we covered a lot of kms it didn't seem like we spent all day in the
car. This is a very pretty area and even greener than our trip to
Melbourne. It was explained to
us that this area is currently experiencing what is referred to as a
'Green Drought'. What that means is that they have had enough rain to
make it look green and lush but in fact the area is 'Drought Declared'.
This is certainly an area that will require further exploring in the
We arrived in Merimbula late in the afternoon and set up the van in the Hammond's front yard. Bryan was in Melbourne for a 'Boys' horse racing and drinking weekend and wasn't due home until the next day. It was great to see Jane and the boys again and had a great night catching up. We first met these guys in Perth, and saw them again in Kalbarri ,Coral Bay and Exmouth. It was over a few beers one night than Bryan suggested we come home via Eden and we would fix up the underside of the van. That might end up being one of those alcohol induced suggestions that he will regret for a long time.
must come to an
end and it
was time to
pick up Bryan from the airport. I volunteered to go and
thought it would be best to try and embarrass him as much as possible.
It is a great thing being in a town where nobody knows you because you
can be as stupid as you want and 'who cares' (like I would care
So as you can see I turned up as the chauffeur and must say had a few looks. I think I successfully managed to make a dick of myself and also embarrassed Bryan although he denies that.
we had just
over 3 weeks with
them. Most of
my time was
spent working on the van or helping out with bits and pieces around
their business. They have a great business in Eden (ARV Caravans)
selling new and used caravans and have a huge workshop with a few (like
6 or 8) of
Bryan's half finished projects scattered around. He must have a great
reputation as people come from all over NSW, Vic and the ACT to buy
vans from him. So first thing Monday morning into the workshop went the
'Grand Tourer' and after a bit of fiddling around using the car hoist
and the forklift we managed to get the van about 3 feet off the ground.
Enough room to sit and work under it in comfort. I spent the first few
days cutting off the old axle hangers and drawbar, cleaning up the
chassis and removing plumbing, gas and wiring in readiness for the new
chassis/drawbar. The main purpose was to put new springs under the van.
This really should have been done before we left home a year ago but I
simply ran out of time. I also wanted to raise the van up a little so
we had a little more clearance on dirt roads and to make a longer and
stronger drawbar. So what we ended up with was a 75x50 RHS welded
to the bottom of the existing chassis and a 150x50 RHS drawbar and a
brand new ALKO Roller Rocker 3 tonne 7 leaf suspension. We also ran
55x35 beams across the van from each chassis rail to strengthen the
floor. What an incredible difference it has made. The van has been
raised 90mm which gives great clearance without making the van look top
heavy and silly. The drawbar is over 500mm longer than the old one
which means we can now open the rear doors of the car when the van is
still attached, not to mention the fact that it is infinitely stronger
We also put new drop down legs on and the plumbing and electrical looks so much neater now. In all, I could not be happier with the completed product.
I know I
this many times
before in this
when else other than traveling would you meet somebody who, after
knowing them for such a short time would open their home, their hearts
and then spend countless hours working on somebody else's van, while
running their own business and want nothing in return (except maybe for
us to finally leave!). You meet exceptional people on the road
all sharing the same dream.
my guts out'
Chris and the
catching up on journal work and exploring the local area. Bryan and
Jane have a great home only metres from the most stunning beach in a
very cute area called the 'Fishpen' in Merimbula. On one side of their
house they have the ocean and at the back the lake. As well as tourism
this area is well known for its oysters which can be seen in the lake.
You could not imagine a nicer place to live except for, winter. It does
get very cold down here, as we experienced during our stay, and that
was early December.
Before we finally left we helped them put sprinklers in the back lawn and the footpath and the lay 230 metres of turf. It was a fun couple of days with everyone including the little guys pitching in. The yard now looks great and has really transformed the place.
guys for not
only housing us
for all that
countless hours on the van but also for making us feel so welcome. You
are a truly remarkable family.
gone. I just
seem to keep
words, but boy is the time flying by. We are now moving a lot quicker
as our journey draws to an end. This month saw us leave Adelaide, visit
Melbourne and rebuild the underneath of the van. There have been no
health issues and no mechanical problems from either the car or the
van. It has been yet another month of smooth sailing. This would have
to be the first year ever that we have all experienced a cold free
winter. Amazing! Is it lack of exposure or lack of stress that has kept
us all 100% fit and healthy???? I am pretty sure I know, and I bet it
isn't the former.
December will see us visit Sydney for a few days to catch up with Tim, Katie and the kids, then hopefully drop into Inverell on our way to the Sunshine Coast for our 3 weeks over Christmas. It will be good to see family and friends again, and that we are all excited about.
To resist the influence of others, one must have knowledge of themselves, their strengths and weaknesses. Only then can you make decisions and choices, about you and for you.