Archive by Author
13 July 2021

The Bucket List

Mightn’t seem like a big ask but there were some holes in our travel coverage and this was to be the trip to fill them in.

The Birdsville Track, the Oodnadatta Track, the Tanami Road and the Gibb River Road were the holes in our journey map (at least to this point).

These are roads/tracks that you don’t do in a Winnebago, nor do you do them alone. The plan was to do them with Robyn (Judes sister) and Ben and Amanda (Robyns son and daughter) with their respective spouses, Megan and Kent and a hoard of little kids. Also included was to be Steven and Carmel Boynton, Robyns in-laws. The plan started out fine – we all met at Windorah on and around 16 June (south-west Qld) after we left home twice. What!

Yep twice – left Benalla on the 9th June, got to Jerilderie and remembered my lap-top was not with us. Also discovered that we had less battery power than when we started that morning. Whoops, something wrong here so back home first to auto elec who did all the wiring and found a problem with dc/dc charger, rectified? and thence to Noarana to get pooter, turn around and head for the night to Griffith. Get to free camp and find battery charging problem not fixed so find spot with 240 volt in Griffith Showgrounds and charge up o’night. Find another auto elec in Griffith next morning and $250.00 and 2 hours later we depart for northern climes with problem supposedly fixed. Seems we had two dc/dc chargers competing with each other so elec cut the throat of one – problem partially solved. Now however we find that the fridge is drawing power away from alternator as we drive along leaving insufficient to top up house batteries. We learn to work around the problem.

On to Cobar thence across the Qld border with all of our Covid border pass permits in place (including NSW and Qld and SA and WA) but no-one even wants to know. Overnight on the 12th in Cunnamulla and then on to Charleville for the 13th  and meet Robyn on the 14th after a Cosmos Centre visit. Didn’t see the stars cos it was daytime but did see an interesting doco on WWII (?) Some 1500 duplicated K’s into the journey towing we are averaging 22.3 litres per 100km using  E10 (I mention this now cos in the future this will seem good). Onwards now with Robyn and we stop at this homestead by a lake for the night……

and then on to Cooper Creek for the meet up with the others…..

.

We are met here by Di and Werner Hass, friends of Robyns who have traveled some 1500km out of their way on their journey home to rendezvous with us for a couple of days. Good fun was had by all (and a drink or two). Ben and Megan, Amanda and Kent and all the kids (8) and Carmel and Steve all turn up a day or so later then it was on to Birdsville…..

where we dined in no style at all and then next day queued for 1/2 hour to get bread for the journey. It wasn’t even Big Red Bash time but Birdsville was chokka.

Hit the Birdsville Track. (you’ll have to wait for the next episode but this is where the fun starts!!!)

26 March 2021

The NOVEL HOVEL.2

Well this is a new beginning!!!

Reported earlier though was our change from towing to being towed. Yes, no home towing car we are now car towing home and this is the report of our first serious trial run.

FOLLOW the MURRAY.

With nothing better to do over the last weeks of March we decided it was time to set out on our discovery of Victoria. Where better to start than along the northern border and coincidentally to conclude the journey at granddaughter Ediths 6th birthday in Adelaide.

So, the NOVEL HOVEL.2 was hitched up to the new Patrol on the 15th of March and around lunchtime we set off to find the start of the Murray River. First night was a free camp on the banks of the Mitta Mitta River……

and a very pleasant night was had by all.

Next day on to the start of the Murray high up in the mountains of the Kosciusko national park. We could only access what we could see from Tom Groggin campsite, probably 5 km from the actual start of the river where it actually bubbles from the ground cos I wasn’t able to walk the trail because of torn back muscles suffered some days before we left (and I as write this some two weeks on am just starting to recover). However the river  is not very great at this point….

but has been added to by about 8 different creeks by the time it reaches this spot. On our way up the windy mountain roads, which would have been a challenge in the Novel Hovel MKI, we stopped by Khancoban for lunch and to view the Murray 1 power station….

and night two saw us free camped…

on the banks of the Murray at Geehi Wall sharing with a mob of kangaroos.

Day three took us along the banks of the Murray via Towong, Tintaldra, Walwa, The Glen, Bungil and Bellbridge all the way back to Wodonga…

where it feeds into Hume Weir. As we follow it down it obviously takes on the aspect that we are more familiar with – it’s width. This is attributable to the continuing inflow from other creeks and smaller rivers along the way. Overnighting at the Wodonga Showgrounds we topped up water and batteries and day four had us continuing on to Barooga where we spent a very pleasant night again on the banks of the Murray….

Next day, on to Barmah State Forest where on our first major journey in The Novel Hovel 1 we had some technical difficulties which put us back 3 days. No such bad luck this time as we passed through Picola on and into the forest… (some technical difficulties have arisen -more later)

 

 

 

19 July 2020

End of an era

Its been a while since posting last. There’s not been much to say.

I suppose the most poignant report though is the fact that the “Novel Hovel” is no more. Sold a few weeks ago we had a tearful, albiet, lonely farewell. No one to commiserate with as we isolate due to this Covid-19 pandemic in what is now the state of greatest misery (that’s Victoria in case its not obvious). Maybe our number plates should be modified to reflect this as we stop at home and don’t use our vehicles.

There is one bright side to all of this self isolation – Jude has me renovating the house with nothing better to do. No motor sport, no travelling/exploration, no socialising. The Novel Hovel is being replaced though, in the hope that one day we will be able to leave home and travel. We’ve bought a new caravan, a Salute Sabre, a newish brand but a model that we consider after looking at many others  meets our future needs. Had to have a new tow vehicle too so back to the future with a new Y62 Series 5 Nissan Patrol. Van is still being built but we expect it to be collectable late in July, that is if we are allowed to travel to Melbourne to do so.

We’re open to suggestion as to what the new home should be christened. We’ll still be telling tales from the Novel Hovel but with a different house base – perhaps Adventure before Dementia in…………?

There’s probably a few tales still to be told  about last years travel through White Cliffs opal mining town  in NSW and on down through the south of SA but for the moment I can’t remember much – it seems so long ago. I’ll need to review the photo logs to remember and perhaps during this period of continuing isolation I might just be moved to do so (then again I may not cos’ it just reminds me of what we can’t presently do – perhaps its all we can do – reminisce).

30 August 2019

But its on from White Cliffs

I don’t know where I was but I do know where I am. Lots of time and K’s on, its now other daughters birthday. Happy Birthday Suzie from some lost souls in Yorketown. I won’t stir you about “Middle Age” face to face but I can do it here for the whole world to see but what does this make these silly old farts. Oh!, silly old farts.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOVE

We moved on from White Cliffs to Broken Hill. We’ve all spent too much time here in the past but had not actually seen the “Mad Max II” ‘museum’ at Silverton. Robyn and I drove out for the purpose. Probably shouldn’t have bothered….

and this should save you the effort in future. In truth about the only thing of interest was the video of some of the stunt set-ups shown on a piss-ant crt TV over the doorway.

Took a few more photos around Silverton and Broken Hill cos they’re date stamped and prove we were here but you’ve seen them all before so I won’t bore you again.

From here the photo trail tells me we moved on to Peterborough. This was just in the way but we hadn’t previously seen the audio-visual show at the Steamtown railway museum so in we went this night. Now muggins forgot the camera so these shitty shots are telephoned in….

Now in fairness these shots do not do justice to the presentation – it is both good and interesting telling the story of rail through the history of Peterborough. Worth a look next time you are here, as is the Steamtown rail museum.

Also in Peterborough that we hadn’t seen before is the motor bike nuseum – quite a private collection…

Having achieved another “new” we moved on to another old friend  -Terowie. This is not new as Judi Dey might attest and we weren’t as lucky this time as the first. We had no guided tour. It is still an interesting little old town even though we had to guide ourselves ….

Terowie on to Burra. Burra is an old favourite having been here four times before. It continues to be of interest and, whilst here primarily for Robyns benefit, it continues to surprise and interest us.

But, it is late in the evening prior to our beautiful daughters birthday and I need to get to bed to call her early in the morning (just to piss her off) to wish her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

 

26 August 2019

On from Newcastle

The plan was to meet Robyn  at Cobar – the plan worked and no-one was more surprised than me. We actually met up within a couple of hours, even though we were delayed on the road with a blown rear tyre. I should have taken a photo of the tyre with its guts hanging out but I didn’t quite have the heart, particularly after changing it on the side of the road (on a slope). Boy, did it go BANG and I won’t disclose what Jude nearly did.

Bit of a task to get a new tyre in Cobar. Firstly had to find a tyre trader. Having done that then had to get a tyre. Came in next day (Saturday) from Dubbo but the tyre guy did the right thing and  fitted it straight away. Turned out he was the president of the local football club and advised that there was a concert on at the club on the Saturday night which was right next door to the caravan park. The park people put on a campfire and we sat out and listened to Shannon Noel (WOOOW!). At least it was a good drink.

Cobar is a copper and tin and gold mining town of some historical note. Still mining but now underground within the old open cut, returning to the original mining format but much deeper…..

 

My photo essay is not complete until a dunny is recorded- this one is in a baby nursing carriage in the mining museum and it has a beautifully restored station thats not in the mining museum.

A couple of nights in Cobar and then on to the first planned destination for this trip – White Cliffs. Now, this is the last of the opal mining towns that we had planned to see in our travels – no reason other than it was there to be visited. Can’t say it was a revelation-its just another grotty little mining town like all the other little opal mining towns but it and they all have a certain kind of character. This one has the first solar power plant in Aus….

but of neccessity, when so confronted, one has to take the dunny shot(s) first…

but this is different cos its sort of “hydro-electric” power – these dishes are mirrors which focus sunlight to a central cone which in turn has a water core thus boiling same and creating steam to turn a turbine to create the electricity. Wondrous and some 30 odd years old, but now out of service in favour of “the grid” which was connected to town about 20 years ago. It was just an experiment because White Cliffs is supposed to have more sunlight than anywhere else but at least it has been retained and maintained for tourists to gawk at.

We all went on a bus tour of White Cliffs. I thought $50.00 per head was a bit much believing we would cover it all in about 3 minutes, but 3 hours later we were returned to the caravan park much wiser and more familiar with the towns colourful history….

Like Coober Pedy people do live underground…

and, whilst this is a hotel, we were taken into a show piece residence but not permitted photos, so you can see it yourself at www.whitecliffsnsw.com  “whats inWhite Cliffs”, “Underground Living” – this place is quite a work of art.

In an opal town one is expected to mine for opals. We were directed to some slag heaps where, so we were told, there was a very good chance of finding opal that had been dumped out with the slag. It was bullshit of course.I guess the locals figure that eventually us fossickers will fill the holes again for them – I mean after all of half an hour I’d managed to dig a hole next to the old one by emptying the diggings down the old hole. I don’t know how anyone has the patience to do this day in/day out …..

There are a few other opal towns but they have no infrastructure warranting a visit so we have actually visited all the opal mining towns accessible to us.

 

 

7 August 2019

Happy Birthday Daughter

Next stop Carey Bay (Oh! alright, Newcastle) to bring best birthday greetings to our youngest, Calinda. Happy Birthday Kiddo ( I won’t embarass you here)

Good to see things happening with the house but it does seem a slow process and we can feel Lindy’s frustration. It seems no-one wants to do much work in Newcastle.

We continue with Winnebago problems, this time another apparent inverter failure, the one that was installed after a lightening strike only 2 1/2 years ago. No 24o volt which means no ‘free’ camping as we can’t run my CPAP or the TV’s or computers etc. We can plug into mains but the system tells us we have problems and keeps ringing alarm bells – bloody annoying. It means we are relegated to caravan parks for the duration.

Couple of days in Newcastle and then on to Cobar to meet up with sister Robyn and I guess this is when the tour begins. The plan is from Cobar to move on to White Cliffs which is the last of the opal mining towns for us to see then work our way down through Broken Hill and into SA and the wine regions thence on to the peninsulars.

Can’t seem to upload pictures at present and the map isn’t working but all of this is on report to the webmaster for rectification so hopefully will be fixed soon

 

24 July 2019

One Small Step…..

Four days commemorating what is probably one of the biggest achievements in human history – man’s walk on the Moon.

In Canberra, guests of Robert and Judi Dey we have spent these four days (18 – 21 July) remembering, celebrating and recording the Australian involvement in the Moon landing as well as the event and all leading up to it. Robert worked at Honesuckle Creek tracking station, although from a period just after the landing but was directly involved in the tracking of all subsequent flights. It has been a great priveledge to be a participant in this memorable event.

We have seen movies not yet released, plaques unveiled, listened to first hand experiences of some involved, met Australias own and only astronaut Dr Andy Thomas plus others from NASA talking about the future of space flight and met many others directly involved with the original moon landing. It has been an altogether delightful, entertaining and enlightening experience.

 

 

1 September 2018

Romin’ about stilll

Monday. Coloseum tour day. Met Valentino our tour guide after a bit of confusion and spent the next 2 1/2 hours or so romin in the glomin.

This is an incredible place, given that it is 2000 years old, was abandoned in the 5th century, stripped of its decorations and its marble in the centuries following, was partially restored as a church in the 18th century (to which few Christians came because of its infamous history). The fact that it is so obviously still here is testament to the building capabilties of the ancient Romans despite the fact that much of the iron that was used to staple the building blocks together has been removed. See the holes in the walls…

Our tour guide Valentino was a character. Whilst speaking English she had a strong Italian accent which made her a little hard to understand at times but her strong desire to marry Russell Crowe was always easily understood. Even kept flashing his photo as the gladiator. We have been told via the tour bus commentaries that the Coloseum was opened in 40 AD with 100 days of games scheduled  to accommodate the unruly masses and distract them from their dissatisfaction with the ruling classes (free entry too whatsmore) and that in this period 5000 animals and 2000 gladiators met their end. Our tour guide disputed this saying that gladiators and animals were too expensive to lose and any loss of life was purely accidental. Who really knows the truth….

Valentino is in the red slacks with Monique and 7 foot son Dave to the left and rear with moi on the far left and Jude hoggin’ the limelight. Good job Valentino, you certainly know your stuff.

The floor of the  stadium was timber, covered in sand. Underneath were catacombs with elevators and trapdoors in the floor to facilitate the sudden emergence of actors or animals or other unwilling participants. Even at one stage the floor was flooded to accommodate boats to re-enact sea battles….

It remains an awsome edifice….

Then it was on to the Palatine Hills. This spot is said to have been the place where Romulus initiated Rome. In years following many Kings then Emporers chose this hill on which to build their palaces, many ruins ofwhich still exist….

some of which overlook Circus Maximus where the chariot racing took place. A bit like having an apartment on Queens Parade at the time of the Australian F1GP.

Footsore, overloaded with information and sweating like gladiators we called it a day and headed back to the hotel. Caught the peak hour rush – more footsore and sweating more like a team of gladiators we made it back for dinner.

So glad we did the guided bit – missed the 2 1/2 hour queue. Discovered though that having to remove my watch for the security scan at the coloseum and placing it in our carry-all, it didn’t make it back to the hotel with us. No-one got a good deal – it was a cheapy that had been playing up and had a cracked crystal.

Tuesday. Guided tour of Vatican City. Meet tour guide Massimo at 9.45am, jump the queue (which wasn’t all that long at this time) and join the other 32,000 daily visitors to this place. I think they were all in there before we arrived. It was packed. Fortunately after a lot of standing around we were issued with an audio pack so our guide could communicate with us. 4 1/2 hours later we were spat out the other end. Our guide spoke English but also with a very strong Italian accent and the audio equipment left a lot of words hanging so the commentary was a bit hard to follow, but I think we got the gist of it. Vatican City is over the top, demonstrably rich. 10 million visitors a year at at least 17 Euro each must help. The place houses some incredible artifacts and we didn’t actually get into the Vatican Museums – we went through one or two but didn’t stop. What we’re allowed to photograph is just some of the collected works and building features…

The Sistine Chapel is a no photo area – its also a no talkie area but the guards use loud speakers to tell you to “be quiet”. Its another model of hypocrisy, and we didn’t think much of the scupltors paintings either. Macabre, grotesque, hypocritical. But you have to see it to form your own opinion – we can’t show you pictures.

On to St Peters Basilica purportedly the largest in Italy if not the world. Yes, it is massive, it is grotesque and its over the top. It is ridiculous yet a magnificent engineering/architectural/artistic tour de force…

to give some perspective the letters over the top of the chancel are 6 feet high.

Then we got spat out into the the piazza where we at least got togawk at one  of the Swiss Guards…

then look back at Vatican City from a poor believers perspective….

What can one say!!

Next two days are catching some of Romes landmarks like the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain  the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (purportedly the second biggest after St Peters) and  The Catacombs of San Sebastiano…

the latter a burial ground for initially pagans but then Christians and said to house the graves of 100,000 people of the 1st and 2nd centuries

Here endeth the sermon. We’re going home tomorrow and Jude says I can’t write this in Benalla – well I probably can’t write proper any where any way but youse a got what I gives ya.

31 August 2018

Roma (cont.)

Or maybe just starting.

By the time we dropped the car at the airport, worked out the trains and got back to the hotel, Saturday, our first day in Rome, was pretty much over. Besides, we needed a rest so the balance of the day was spent planning the uncommitted parts of the rest of the week.

Sunday, hop a train about a 10 minute walk from the hotel, into the city train terminus (Termini) in about 35 minutes for just $2.40 each each way, then on a BigBus for a 10  stop tour of the cities highlights (48 hours for $62.40 each hop on hop off). We stayed on to sus out what was what with a plan then to eventully hop off at each of those things which attracted us. We had Colosseum/Palatino Hill and Vatican City tour tickets (jump the queue) booked for Monday and Tuesday respectively so it became a matter of priotorising the rest. Well there are a lot of things you see on the bus tour but it actually only stops at a few of them but stops near enough that you can walk to several from the one stop. Put another way, there might be only 10 stops but there are a lot more things to see. We eventually walked and walked and walked.

Rome is an odd city. It is a mixture of old and very old. Old is renaissance,very old is Roman, as far back as 750BC. The very old is mostly ruins such as the colisseum dating back to 40BC. Some ruins are purported to be older but most we saw all seemed to be around 100 – 200BC. Rome is said to have been founded on the Palitino Hill by Romulus in around 750 BC – thats Romulus of Romulus and Remus, brothers said to have been raised by a ‘she wolf’ when abandoned to die by their uncle who wanted no usurpers to the crown (more common belief these days is that the ‘she-wolf’ was in fact a prostitute – I prefer that version) But the brothers fought and Remus died around the time of their attempts to establish Rome as a new city. You gotta love this family fellowship because the next few hundred years are full of acts of patricide, infanticide, matricide and sibling killings all for the sake of a few hills and ultimately the largest Empire the world has known. The tour guides/bus commentaries tell us that the Roman Empire lasted several 100 years until its demise in 476AD (not sure how they can be so specific although they didn’t attempt to give us the month and day) but we’re told its demise was attributable to its size, corruption or even Christianity. Nobody actually writ this so where cometh the Bible?.

Anyway there are great stories to be told and I’m guessing lots of heated debate over the facts of the matter. Nevertheless Rome is a fascinating and beguiling piece of human history. On a more positive note, it is the cleanest of the cities we’ve been to in Italy although the outer suburbs, where we’re staying, are not. There are still beggars everywhere and floggers of everything from battery chargers to hats to cold water to wooden platters at every attraction. Then there are the bloody tourists – they’re in front of everything with their f…ing selfie sticks, thousands of them. You cannot get a decent unencumbered photo for love nor money, but I tried from the height of various buses…

Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore (back side – see later entry)

guess what

no, wrong, it is a theatre built a bit later than the colisseum (Teartro Marcello)

the current seat of Government (I think) built in the 1800’s on top of old churches

the Castel Sant Angelo where popes hide out

just an interesting 1800’s building in the Piazza Della Repubblica

the ancient city walls from around 150AD

the courts and central law and order centre built around 1850 and referred to as an ugly child

the front of the current government buildings and below, several ancient ruins

the last two being a view of the Palatino Hill and the historic mansions thereon overlooking the Circus Maximus where chariot racing took place back in the Roman days.

Monday, repeat the trip, meet tour guide to do Colisseum and Palatino Hill. So pleased we got a guide – the queue was 2 1/2 hours long. 4 1/2 hours later with no waiting in queue and a lot of walking we’ve got a fabulous potted history of all that surrounds us..

Its taking ages to upload photos through the interwebby thingy and I’m tired so explanations of all the above will have to wait until the next instalment.

 

30 August 2018

Roma

The trip back up to Roma was pretty uneventful. I missed the first turn Narelle directed me to and by default she found a better way which as it turned out was a wider road, had fewer twists and turns and relatively little traffic. Then on approach to Napoli we hit the Autostrada and stayed on it for lots of k’s at 130kph – it was almost a thrill. Our overnight stop on the way to Rome was at Monte San Giovani Campano which I’m sure means a lot to everyone but it was just a convenient dot on the map that had a hotel we could afford. What a place it turned out to be….

and we were the only guests in the place. Dinner and breakfast were a bit (BIT?) limited but it served its purpose and boy did it have a fabulous outlook…

albiet a little misty.

We were in Rome at our hotel by 10.30 Saturday, dropped the baggage and took the car to Romes Leonardi Da Vinci airport to hand it back in. I was never so happy to be car-less. As most of you will know I’ve/we’ve driven Volvos for most of our lives, we’re on our fifth at home but I could not get comfortable or secure in this V40 diesel. It was a major disappointment. The only thing going for it was its economy – average about 6l/100km over nearly 3300 km. I also have to admit at this time that of the 3 different cars we’ve had over this trip the VW Golf was the best to drive. Mind you it was the best of a bad lot. The Nissan Versa we had in the states had electric steering with about 3 inches of play at dead centre so it just upped and wandered at every bump in the road and the Golf didn’t have cruise control and the accelerator pedal angle was all wrong for my foot so I’d get out at the end of  each trip with a crook ankle. The ergonomics of the Volvo were just all wrong…

And we are tired. 3 months on the road has taken its toll. Living out of a suitcase was never going to be easy but we thought we could still do it. Driving on 3 continents (well including one little island), particularly the two on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road has personally been more stressful than I previously recall, although that may be influenced by 4 weeks on the road in Italy.

I think our next trips OS will be of shorter duration and a bit more locale specific. Whilst it was absolutely fantastic to catch up with Gary and Linda Michael in Phoenix and Justin, Jane and Edith in London, we probably should have left it at that. Throwing in the east coast of the US then Scotland and most of Italy has really proven to be a bit much.

We’re in Rome for a week and both of us can’t stop counting down the days until we get on that big jet-plane home. This is greatly influencing our daily activities here. Mind you, so is the heat – it is still in the 30’s and uncomfortable with it. We’re about 15 km east of  Rome city with a rail line relatively close, so access is good. The rail network/service is terrific but the airconditioning and all the sweaty bodies are a bit of a distraction. We’ll survive till next Saturday. We’ve got some tours booked so we will get to see most of the usual tourist hot spots of Rome.