Thursday, 25 July 2013

Home - 25 July 2013

As we were packing up to come home this morning, an older lady who resides in the caravan park, walked past pushing a pram. Bruce thought she must have been looking after a grandchild. He had a look in the pram as she went past and there was a dog in there. The dog was even covered with blankets.

There were lots of road works so the trip was a bit slow. We called in to see Mike and Mandy and arrived in time for morning tea, having stopped in Lismore on the way through. We had a winning Scratchie and wanted to cash it before leaving New South Wales. We spent a few hours there before heading up to the Gold Coast where we caught up with Jan and Steve. They have recently moved there and we had a look through their new house, which is really good.

From there it was home where we unpacked the car and van.

We had really enjoyed our first long trip away in the van. Apart from the leak in the roof, everything went smoothly. We need to reorganise our cupboards under the sink and hot plates, and will get a spice rack to attach to the inside of the cupboard which will free up a little bit of room in our single grocery drawer. Having a small (13') van, we don't have a great deal of storage space. Before our next big trip next year, we will be ready for free camping. We will also get an outside door on the van to give us access to under Bruce's bed. With having the innerspring mattress it is too awkward to access it from inside. That will give us a bit more storage space.

My next addition to the blog will not be till September, when we have 10 days in Tasmania.

Total mileage for trip:  2,883 kms

Yamba - 24 July 2013

While Bruce went to the river to try his hand at fishing again, I walked into town. I walked along the river again but continued on rather than turning into the shops. The path took me round towards the breakwater and then the ocean. There were a few fruit and vegie stalls set up in the area and I bought a small loaf of pumpkin and parmesan sourdough bread to have for lunch and some beautiful looking tomatoes.

Near the markets was a board which explained the development of the breakwater and Yamba itself. In the 1850's Yamba was called Clarence River Heads and the only European residents were the Pilot, his family, and a four man crew. They all lived in tents on Pilot Hill, which is up near where the lighthouse stands. When plans for the construction of the breakwater in the river mouth began in the 1860's, this caused a population explosion and the town of Yamba was born.

I continued on to the end of the path and then doubled back and headed up the hill to the lighthouse. It was a beautiful sunny day and the view was great.

I walked down the hill into town and bought some cold meat to go with the sourdough and tomatoes and headed back to the river to walk home. I spotted these pelicans having a rest. Hope the roof of his boat doesn't collapse.

By the time I got back to the van, the wind had come up a bit but it was lovely and sunny so I spent a couple of hours sitting in the sun, doing a bit of patchwork.
Bruce arrived back and he was pleased as he had actually had some bites on his line and nearly caught two fish. A miss is as good as a mile, but he enjoyed himself and that's good. By this time the wind was really strong, so he took the awnings down before we sat down to lunch. The sourdough was delicious.
We went to Sassafras - the Italian restaurant in Yamba we had been to not long after it opened - for dinner. It is still the same owner and he has been open for 9 years. What a great meal. We ordered a Spicy Prawn Pizza and it was absolutely covered in prawns. They are freshly caught by the fishermen in Iluka, which is just across the river from Yamba. Would highly recommend Sassafras to anyone going there.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Ulmarra, Maclean, Brooms Head - 23 July 2013

After a cloudy day yesterday, we woke to a sunny day today. We also woke to a text message to say someone had used my credit card fraudulently, and that my card had been suspended till I rang them. Apparently someone had used it to spend over $1,000 on Wotif and then again at 3am this morning. It was suspended at 3.30am so they didn't waste any time. They will send me a new card.

We had planned a day of looking round the area today. Our first stop was the Tourist Information Centre at Maclean. They have a gallery at the Centre, with lovely items for sale by local craftspeople. There were some incredible dolls that were so lifelike. The lady who made them had used silicone instead of porcelain for their faces. I'm not really a doll person, but these were amazing.

We really like Maclean and have been there on a number of occasions. It was named in 1862 and quite a few of the early settlers were Scottish. They were mainly Highlanders driven from their land during the war there with the English when they were being cleared out from the Highlands. Several shiploads arrived on free or assisted passages. Many of them became landholders in Maclean and a number of descendants of these early Scottish settlers still live in the local area. Maclean has a big Highland Gathering each Easter.

In Maclean, there are telegraph poles through town decorated with Scottish tartans. We spoke to a lady at the Information Centre. She was telling us that she had been involved in getting it going and that it had taken 3 years. It started up just before the Olympic Torch Relay in 2000 with 10 telegraph poles. There are now more than 200 poles decorated with different tartans.

From Maclean we drove south to Ulmarra. Ulmarra is an 1860's River Port town and the entire village is classified by the National Trust town as well. We usually stop at Ulmarra at a park on the river for a break when driving through, if we are driving through on a long trip. There is an antique shop that we haven't looked through and a timber shop, so we checked them out today. The Wood Shop had some beautiful pieces of furniture and they also sold timber for those who wanted to make their own.

On our way from Ulmarra to Brooms Head (back near Maclean), we stopped at Fredo Pies. Fredo Pies are originally from Frederickton, near Kempsey, but have now expanded to other outlets along the mid north coast of New South Wales. We had tried them once before, and we didn't think we were all that impressed. Bruce decided to give them another go. They had Crocodile, Wild Boar, Kangaroo and Camel, but Bruce decided to try Chicken, Garlic, Honey and Chilli. I had a taste and the flavour was nice but there was a fair bit of sauce and not a lot of substance.

Driving along the road to Brooms Head we came across a sign advising to be on the lookout for emus, and sure enough we spotted a couple. We now have a Shoo Roo (also called Hopper Stoppers) on the front of the car. This makes a high pitched sound as we drive along and keeps the wildlife away from the car - hopefully.

Brooms Head got its name in 1870 when a broom thought to have come from the wreck of the ship "Eureka", was found washed up on the beach. Before that it was known as Cakora Point. We hadn't been to Brooms Head before today. It looks a sleepy little town and is surrounded by Yuraygir National Park. The Yuraygir Coastal Walk goes through Brooms Head, starting at Angourie, which is near Yamba.There is a Council caravan park along the water's edge and we will come back for a stay at another time. We went up on the headland and spotted a whale out to sea. That's our second for this trip. Brooms Head is certainly a lovely spot.

After afternoon tea back at the van, I went for a long walk, although not as long as yesterday. Where we are staying is a good place to walk, as it is level and easy on the knees. I haven't got as much walking done this trip as I would have liked. Lucky I don't have any scales with me!


Yamba - 22 July 2013

We woke to an overcast day. It is supposed to be fine through to Thursday so hopefully it will clear. We have an ensuite site this time, which means our van is parked right next to our own shower and toilet. Nice for a change. I did a big load of washing so hopefully that dries without too much trouble.

Bruce rang Coromal this morning and organised to drop the van in on Friday. Tony, the guy Bruce spoke to in their Service Department, said that there had been a few vans back with leaks. He said they will just reseal the whole roof. The first time we took it back, Tony was a bit sceptical as he said they never have that problem. Why did it have to start with us! Anyway, as long as it is fixed. Thank heavens it is still under warranty.

Bruce spoke to his brother Mike to see how he was going. Mike mentioned that his son Luke, and fiancée Josepa, are getting married on 8 September. That is our 40th wedding anniversary and we will be at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. We booked it about 6 months ago. What a bummer we won't be able to go. They are getting married in Perth and also having a small ceremony here.

We weren't sure how far from Yamba centre we were, so Bruce drove me in this morning and dropped me off so I could walk back to the caravan park. It is not far at all, only 2.8 kms. I wandered round town to see what had changed since our last visit a few years ago. There is a patchwork shop which is new. It is combined with a scrapbooking shop. I went in to have a look, but they are the modern, bright fabrics which are very nice but not what I prefer. Last time we were here, we went to an Italian restaurant which hadn't been opened very long. It was opened by a fellow who used to have a restaurant in Melbourne. He had moved to Yamba and opened up this restaurant, called Sassafras. It is still open so we hope to try it out while we are here to see if it is as good as it was last time. The cinema is still next door and you can see a movie for $8. Man of Steel is on and I am a Superman fan. If we get time to see it, we will but time is running out. We may have to wait till we get home.

I started walking back to the van along a walkway beside the river, which was lovely. I came across Bruce who had gone fishing after he dropped me off. This is his third time fishing while we have been away. When I saw him, he wasn't very happy. In all that fishing, he not only hadn't caught a fish, he hadn't even had a bite!

Later in the afternoon, we walked into town for Bruce to have a look at the place. We called into the Fishing Co-op to see what was available but they didn't have much at the moment. We thought we may have been able to have fish for dinner tonight. We walked through the Calypso Caravan Park right in town, but didn't like how the vans were so close to each other. After a walk through town and a stop for afternoon tea, we headed out of town.

Not far from us is another caravan park called The Blue Dolphin. We had a look through it, as it is right on the river and would be better for fishing than where we are, and not as big. It looks pretty good, with plenty of trees and a nice outlook over the river. We kept walking, as further up the road is a small Coles shopping centre. We thought we would have a look to see what was there. There was a sign to a tavern, so we just followed the signs. It was a fair way and was right on the river. We had dinner there and they had a courtesy bus, so we got a lift home. After all the walking during the day, I had done 21,000 steps. That is the most I have done while we have been away.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

South West Rocks and to Yamba - 20-21 July 2013

Just as we were going to bed last night, the rain started and was very heavy during the night. And just yesterday I was saying how we had had such lovely weather. I should have kept quiet.

Allyson and Ian left South West Rocks on Saturday, heading for Port Stephens. We had really enjoyed the time they were here and we will do it again. We have tentative plans to meet in Pambula on the south coast of New South Wales next year.

After they left we decided to drive to Hat Head, where there is a National Park. It was still raining but not as heavy as during the night. Hopefully it will clear. We had tried to get to Hat Head the day we went to Kempsey but the bridge over the river to get there was closed for road works. The vegetation in the area is quite stunted and scrubby, and it wasn't very appealing. If we had the choice of going to Hat Head or to Crescent Head, a bit further south, we would go to Crescent Head. Hat Head has quite a big caravan park, which we walked through. This took us to a lovely timber walk bridge which crossed the river to the Korogoro Peninsula. There were some nice views from there but we didn't see any whales. Apparently Hat Head is a good place to view the whales from.

We got back to the van in time for lunch. I went in to open the windows and found some water on the inside of Bruce's window. I checked his bedding and mattress and it was all wet. And we thought the leak was fixed! We spent a long time checking it all out and it doesn't appear to be as bad as the last one we had, but still bad enough. We had a mess in the van for the rest of the afternoon. We had the mattress up on its side drying it out, bedding over my bed as we tried to dry that. There was still the odd shower around so we weren't game to put it outside. It is so frustrating. We will have to call Coromal on Monday. We think we will come home a day early. That will enable us to empty the van Thursday afternoon and take it in to them on Friday. They can have it for the week and Bruce will pick it up the following Friday.

Sunday morning we left South West Rocks for Yamba. It looks like the rain has gone and we had a beautiful sunny day. We called in to check a couple of the free camping spots out on the way past. We haven't been able to do any free camping this trip as we are not set up for it yet. We need to get solar panels, another battery and a pure sine inverter for Bruce's sleep machine but we hope to have all that by the time we head off on our next big trip next year.

We are staying at Yamba Waters Caravan Park. It is a really big caravan park and there are lots of permanent residents living here in their prefab homes. There are also a lot of Victorians here, escaping the Victorian winter. Also, Yamba is an area that draws people who want to retire somewhere else, other than where they were. It is a lovely area, on the Clarence River, with fishing for those who are interested in that. The caravan park is right on a lagoon which has fishing as well. I went for a walk around the park, which took about 20 minutes. I spoke to an elderly guy near us. He showed me a rug crocheted by his daughter which was lovely and very much like one Bruce's Mum, Glor, crocheted for us. I also noticed a sign on another permanent's cottage advising that she runs a craft group and to drop in for a chat.

We had a cooler night last night, dropping down to under 10 deg. Our heater came out again, and the layers went on, but it was okay. We were pleased we weren't in Katoomba. We spoke to a lady as we were setting up and she said she had just spoken to her sister in Katoomba and that it was snowing then.

Friday, 19 July 2013

South West Rocks - Friday, 19 July 2013

Lynne and Rob stayed in a cabin which was not far from us. In the cabin next to them, apparently there was a couple who argued and fought all night. Allyson said she heard them shouting about 4.30 - 5.00 this morning. I woke with a start about then, thinking the shouting was in a dream I was having. Apparently they were also arguing at midnight last night. Lynne and Rob heard none of it. They slept like a log.

Bruce cooked porridge for breakfast for Lynne, Rob and himself this morning. I had my usual cereal which I enjoy. We had another good talk over breakfast, before they headed off south. While we were saying our goodbyes, Bruce turned Rob around and said to him: "Rob, this is what people do in caravan parks - read (Ian), read (caravan behind us), read (caravan further over)!" Rob thought he would fit in very well! We had photos taken before they left.

Ian and Bruce then headed out on another fishing expedition. They went up near the Trial Bay Gaol this time to see if they had better luck. Unfortunately, they didn't - although Ian caught a small sand crab which they had to throw back. You need a fishing licence in New South Wales to fish. Bruce bought one before they went out yesterday and bought a 12 month licence for $31. We will probably end up this way again in the next 12 months.

Allyson and I did some more stitching while the guys were away.

A lot of people checked into the caravan park this afternoon. We had a tent go up beside us and a big bus across from us. The bus was also towing a car. The number plate was MANBUS. The owner had just bought a new aerial yesterday and Ian tried to help him set it up to receive the different stations, but he had no luck. Unusual looking aerial.

A van also arrived today with 3 very young children. They had a little boy of between 2 and 3 and also a set of twins, who were still crawling. It was good to see. All was quiet tonight.

Ian cooked a barbecue tonight - Reef and Beef. A T-Bone and prawns. It was a lovely meal. We certainly haven't starved. In fact I don't think I want to jump on the scales. We cooked the meal in the camp kitchen and ate there on the long wooden tables. The wind had been blowing hard all afternoon, but it was quite protected there. We washed up there as well. We then retired to Allyson and Ian's van for our last game of Scopa. Unfortunately, Bruce and Allyson won their second game of the week.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

South West Rocks - Thursday, 18 July 2013

A good result in the State of Origin last night. 8th year in a row they have taken it out. Not that I am a football follower but it's good to see them win.

This morning I set up a blog for Allyson as she, like me, has always done a journal of their travels. Then when we did some sewing. Allyson is doing some embroidery and I did some cutting of 1" squares and drawing of 1/4" sewing lines so I can piece them. I bought some 5" charm packs in Kempsey yesterday and used the beige ones as I needed more of that colour.

While we were 'busy' at the van, Bruce and Ian had gone fishing for a few hours to the Macleay River but came back empty handed. They did enjoy themselves though and will try again tomorrow.

We went back to the Smoky Cape Café for afternoon tea before adjourning back to the Park and Allyson and Ian's van for happy hour. This caravan life is very hard to take. It is so laid back, you almost fall over! We have had an absolutely fabulous time and can't wait to do more of it.

As we were sitting at the van, I received a text from Lynne and Rob, friends of ours from Canberra. Lynne and Rob are the couple I had mentioned on an earlier blog post who have ordered a camper trailer which is being built in Brisbane and will be ready about October. They have been to Brisbane to see their daughter and were on their way home, earlier than planned due to the constant rain up that way. We have been very lucky with the weather, as the only real rain we have had were the first few days when we were in Armidale. Lynne and Rob had actually been in Armidale when we were there (when they were on their way up to Brisbane) but neither of us had known. Anyway, Lynne sent me a text to say they would be in SW Rocks about 6.30pm and did we want to go out for dinner.

Allyson and Ian were happy to have a quiet night, so the four of us went to the local Thai restaurant. We had a beautiful meal, freshly prepared. We had a great chat, catching up on all the latest news. The four of us get on really well and there is always plenty to talk about. They had actually booked a cabin at the same caravan park we are staying at. We will see them for breakfast.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Kempsey and Crescent Head - Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The last couple of days have been overcast but dry. Today was lovely and sunny so we decided to go for a drive to Kempsey, which is only about 40 kms south of South West Rocks.

We parked and headed for the main street. The highway bypasses Kempsey now and that has made such a big difference. The big trucks that used to go over the bridge and through the centre of Kempsey usually caused holdups but that doesn't happen now. We went into an electrical store as we had been looking for a Birko water heater for the van. We have been using a kettle on the hot plate but that takes quite a while to heat the water. We didn't want a big kettle as they take up too much room. We weren't sure if they still made Birkos but inside this Bi-Rite electrical store they had one Birko left and weren't getting any more in. They were selling it for $20, down for $99. I certainly wouldn't have paid $99 for it but it was a bargain at $20. As we wandered round the store, we saw a Sunbeam Travel Iron. I didn't even think of them making a travel iron and maybe they don't any more. It may have been on the shelf for a while. It was $40. It is a steam iron and even has a shot of steam and a spray of water. I used it this afternoon to iron some of my patchwork and it works well

Ian was happy as he managed to pick up one of the Sunbeam Nutri Ovens that Bruce and I have. He got that at Big W for $99. Allyson and I found a patchwork shop and spent a lovely time there buying some fabrics.

Leaving Kempsey, we headed out to Crescent Head to have a look. I don't think I have ever been there. I didn't remember it anyway. There are about 1,100 people living there. Lovely caravan park right on the water. Would be nice to spend a few days there. We drove up to the Lookout. There was a great view in both directions. The water was a beautiful colour. While we were up there, we spent quite a while watching a hawk gliding on the currents.

From Crescent Head we took a minor road heading towards South West Rocks rather than going back to the Highway. It followed a river most of the way. It went through a little place called Gladstone which had a beautifully restored hotel, The Heritage Hotel. We tried to get a toastie or similar for lunch but they only had main meals. We ended up at a bakery instead. There was a lovely park across the road from the hotel right on the river. It looked a lovely spot.

Well, it is State of Origin tonight. Ian will be going for NSW and Bruce for Queensland so should be a noisy night. The caravan park has a big screen so we are hoping the game will be shown there. We are having pizza beforehand. Good footie food.

South West Rocks - Tuesday, 16 July

For breakfast on Sunday, Ian had cooked bacon and eggs. Yesterday, Bruce had done puftaloons (fried scones). This morning, we had cereal and porridge. We have certainly not gone hungry.

We went to Smoky Cape Lighthouse this morning to have a look. Built in 1891, it is the most elevated lighthouse in NSW. At the bottom before you climb up to the Lighthouse is Captain Cook Lookout. Captain Cook named the area Smoky Cape in 1770 when he saw the smoke from the fires of the Aborigines in the area as he sailed by. There is the lighthouse up the top, two cottages just below it which you can stay in (what a view you would have), and then the old stables below that - all painted white with a royal blue trim in places.

As we walked up the steep path to the Lighthouse, we spotted 2 whales out to sea. Great to see. Too quick and too far to get a picture unfortunately.

After leaving the Lighthouse, we went to Trial Bay Gaol to have a look through. It was built between 1877 and 1886 and served as a prison till 1903 when it was closed. The Gaol didn't fit in with prison reforms at the time. It was resurrected in 1915 to use as a camp for over 500 men of German descent. They were academics, professionals and craftsmen. In 1918 the men were relocated to Holsworthy and in 1922 the Gaol was closed permanently.

At the Gaol, the internees put on their own plays and produced their own newspaper. They also had their own bakery and the bakers had such a good reputation, the villagers brought out their flour to have it baked.

From the Gaol, we went to the Smoky Cape Café to have a late lunch before heading back to the caravan park.

Bruce and I cooked a Curried Mango Chicken dish for all of us for dinner (yum) before Allyson and Bruce took us on at another game of Scopa. Again, Ian and I were triumphant. Allyson was getting frustrated as I was beating her at every turn. I had even gone online to check the rules for the game to make sure we were playing the right way. In the online rules there is talk of the first to 15 being the winner of each hand. We don't know how that would happen very often as in all the hands we played we didn't once score that much for a round. I'll have to find someone who has played or you can play online and I could give that a go to see what happens.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

South West Rocks - 14-15 July

We have had a pretty relaxing few days. Sunday I did a couple of walks, one with Bruce and one with Allyson. In the afternoon, we went to see The Lone Ranger at the local cinema. We laughed so much. A great movie, very entertaining.

We played another game of Scope last night. Ian and I wiped the floor but Saturday night Allyson and Bruce did that to us. We bought an entry in Oz Lotto for tomorrow night to win our fortune!

Today, Monday, it has been cloudy most of the day. We had morning tea in town and did some shopping. I have made a cake for afternoon tea and Allyson and Ian are cooking fish in the oven for dinner tonight to see how that goes.

When we were out this morning we drove out to the Macleay River where there is another estate of housing. There is a beautiful house there on a grassy hill overlooking the river. Verandahs all around, colonial looking. Very nice. There were pelicans galore, hoping the fishermen along the river got careless with their catch. You can just see the house in this picture.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

South West Rocks - Saturday, 13 July

Another beautiful day. The Markets were on in Horseshoe Bay this morning. Horseshoe Bay is right in the town. We had a good wander round the different stalls but didn't buy anything. Allyson bought some jam and hand towels as well as a wooden train with a timber carriage attached for their grandsons to play with at their place. After that, we had morning tea at a café overlooking the Bay.

Near where we had morning tea, there is a craft shop which is open 7 days, and is full of different sorts of craft items for sale. There must be a large craft community here to produce such a quantity of items. Jewellery, woodwork, knitting, cross stitch, glass, painting, photography, etc. There was a great photo of a dog sitting in the driver's seat of a car with its elbow on the window frame. There was a caption underneath, saying 'Going My Way, Babe!'. It was so good. Allyson bought me a lovely framed cross stitch, which was very nice of her.

Next to the craft shop is an old cottage which is set up as a Maritime Museum. It was a very interesting Museum. There was information on the 44 ships torpedoed or sunk during World War II along the east coast of Australia. The attacks extended as far south as the coast of north east Victoria. The things you learn.

There was also information on how Trial Bay got its name. 13 convicts seized the brig Trial in September 1816 when it was in Port Jackson, Sydney, along with the passengers and crew. In December of that year, Aboriginies reported to authorities that a boat had smashed on to rocks on the mid north coast (present day Trial Bay). Apparently the 13 convicts had built a boat from the debris but had perished in the sea. The hostages had gone overland but were never heard from again.

After lunch, we all walked to Trial Bay Gaol along the road and back along the beach. We are going to have a look through the Gaol on Monday. Allyson and Ian haven't been through the Gaol before so are keen to have a look as well. Pretty cheap - $7.50 or $5 concession.

Allyson and Ian are pretty sceptical about how good our oven is so we said we would cook them a roast for dinner. Again we had our favourite meat, half leg of lamb, as well as roast vegetables and gravy. It turned out beautifully and they were so impressed they are going to buy one when they get home.

After we had cleaned up, we got out our card game, Scopa. We had bought it in Melbourne last year and had really enjoyed a game with Matthew and Katrina a few months ago. We thought Allyson and Ian would enjoy it as well. They had put us on to a card game called Rage which is great as well, but needs a minimum of 4 players. With Scopa you can play with 2. Anyway, they loved it and are keen to have another game. Bruce brought out the Drambuie, so there was plenty of laughter as well.

Friday, 12 July 2013

South West Rocks

We had a glorious day today. Warm and sunny. It was hard to believe it was winter.

I made some biscuits in the oven this morning - Cinnamon, Cranberry and Spice Biscuits. They were very nice biscuit. The recipe came in an email from Sanitarium last night. I just changed a couple of the ingredients to fit in with what I had. They were so nice that a kookaburra decided he wanted some. He flew in from behind Bruce, hit him on the shoulder as he went past and took half the biscuit out of his hand. The other half fell on the ground. The kookaburra then sat on the tree near us watching us the whole time for another opportunity which we didn't give him. Peter will laugh at that as the same thing happened to him when he was a little boy eating nachos on Mt Cootha!

After we had morning tea, we went for a walk along the beach almost to town before walking back on the walking trail to the caravan park. It was an hour's walk so it was good. As we walked along the beach we came across a corrugated iron shed (open in the front) with an old lounge out the front and a sign on the side which said Dine In or Take Away. When we got back to the caravan park I asked the receptionist what it was. Apparently when the mullet are round, the fishermen congregate at the shed for about 6-8 weeks while they fish. They have a wash in the surf! Sounds wonderful I don't think.

On our way back to the caravan park along the path, Allyson and Ian drove past. They had made good time. It was only 12.15 and we didn't expect them till about 2pm. They had got away early this morning. We finished the walk back and Bruce gave Ian a hand to set up when we got back. Their van is lovely, a Roma, which they had bought when we met up with them in Melbourne in January for the Australian Open. It's funny seeing theirs next to ours as ours is quite a bit smaller.

We spent the afternoon talking and talking! Allyson is a quilter like me, and also embroiders beautifully. We will no doubt get some quilting done over the next week. Ian and Bruce also did quite a bit of talking and shared a beer or two.

Allyson and I take a Lotto entry each week and whenever we win anything, we put it in a kitty for when we meet up and we go out for dinner. We usually meet up at least once a year. I forgot to take the money with me to Melbourne so I made sure I remembered this time. We have $235 in the kitty so we will probably get a couple of meals with that. We went to the Country Club tonight where they had a seafood smorgasbord on (it is on 7 nights a week). It was $22 a head, so pretty good value. We had a bottle of wine and an entry on keno as well. We had a good night.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

South West Rocks - Thursday, 11 July

Yesterday morning we left Tamworth. We had enjoyed our time there but it was time to thaw out! We took the Oxley Highway across to the coast. It is quite a windy road but a very scenic drive. The speed limit for quite a fair stretch of the road was 110 kph. How on earth you could do that along that road beats me.

We arrived in South West Rocks about 3.30 pm yesterday and set up before relaxing with a cuppa. We are staying at the Big 4 South West Rocks which recently won an award for Best Caravan Park in NSW. It has a lot of facilities for kids, and there are quite a few staying here at the moment, as it is the last few days of the NSW School Holidays. There are lots of trees around and plenty of kangaroos hopping through the caravans. You have to be careful where you put your feet. My gum boots are coming in handy for when I go to the Amenities Block.

We went into the town this morning to have a look around. There are quite a few boutiques in town and you wonder how they all keep going. There is a nice Thai restaurant according to the lady at reception here at the Park. We will have to give it a try. There are 3 different lots of shopping centres - a Bi Lo at one, an IGA at another and the main shopping centre, which is the older lot of shops and it had a Friendly Grocer, a small supermarket.

We think it is about 30 years since we were here last. The boys were only very young at the time.

After lunch we went for a walk out to Trial Bay Gaol. There is a path from the Caravan Park along the road for quite a bit of the way. Along the way I noticed an owl, a Tawny Frogmouth, sitting in a tree having a sleep.

When we got to the bottom of the hill heading up to the Gaol, we took a bridal path through the bush. It was called the Monument Hill Walk. It was just over 2 kms to the Gaol and was a lovely walk. The track went through a picnic ground at Little Bay which was full of kangaroos, Eastern Greys. As we arrived, two of the biggest kangaroos decided to have a punch up. One of them got the other one on to the ground before they split and went their separate ways.

We continued on the trail, and up the top of the hill is the Monument that the trail gets its name from. There are some graves of Germans interned at Trial Bay Gaol during the First World War. Two of them were brought from Ceylon to the Gaol and one of them from Malta.

We walked down the hill to the Gaol but will visit that on another day. We then walked back along the beach. It was great to be able to do a decent walk.

Tomorrow, friends of ours will be joining us for 6 days. Allyson and Ian were supposed to arrive today, but were held up. We are certainly looking forward to spending some time with them.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

To Manilla, Tuesday 9 July

Bruce took Les to town today as he had an appointment with the optometrist. After that he was going to buy a car, which he had seen yesterday. He had seen 2, and was going to the bank hoping to get a loan of $5,000 so he could buy the dearer one, which was a ute. Unfortunately, the bank wouldn't lend him the money, no doubt due to his age, so he settled for the cheaper one. Les is moving on tomorrow now that he has wheels again.

We have our back seat up and some of our goods and chattels stored there so only 2 can ride in the car. So Bruce drove Les to town and came back for me. We headed out on the road to Manilla, which is about 45 kms north west of Tamworth. We had been there once before, but years ago.

It was quite a sad and depressing place. There were so many empty shops, close to 50%. We parked at one end of town and walked down one side and back the other. The first 5 shops we walked past were empty. However, there were 4 pubs and 2 clubs in town. How they all functioned I don't know! In the small park near where we had parked the car was a little rose garden. The roses were called Fiona's Wish, named after Fiona Coote, the first person to receive a heart transplant in Australia. I think she actually got 2 hearts. She must come from Manilla.

One thing we did see in Manilla, which was out of the ordinary, was a fellow riding a horse into town along the main street.

There is quite a big lake/dam about 20-30 kms from Manilla called Lake Keepit. We decided to drive out to it and have a look. We took the turnoff which we thought would take us there and ended at a cattle gate with a sign saying only authorised personnel could go any further. We couldn't see the Lake from there so headed back to the main road and drove on a bit further to the next turnoff. This took us to a caravan park which had lowered gates. For day visitors it was $10 per car. We didn't want to pay that just to have a look, so we pressed on a bit further to the dam wall, thinking we would probably be able to see it from there. No luck. We ended up at the bottom of the dam wall and couldn't see the Lake at all. We gave up.

We headed back towards Tamworth and stopped at a park on the edge of town to have our lunch, before doing some grocery shopping and then it was back to the caravan park. We started packing a few things away as tomorrow we are off to South West Rocks to thaw out. We have 10 days there and friends of ours, Allyson and Ian, are joining us there for about a week. Looking forward to it.

Bruce is in the process of preparing a chicken curry for dinner. If I keep going with this, he'll have it all done and I won't have to do anything!

Mileage so far:  1,540 kms

Monday, 8 July 2013


The last few nights have been very cold, below freezing, but the days have been absolutely beautiful. We have had a few relaxing days and now that the concerts have finished, we decided to go for a drive to Nundle, which is south of Tamworth (on the way to Muswellbrook and Scone).

Before we did anything in Nundle itself, we took a drive about 5km out of town where there was a patchwork shop, only to find it was closed today. It was on a property. I spoke to a lady in one of the shops in town later and she said she thought the owner may have been having a little bit of time off at the moment. It is school holidays here for this week. Never mind.

We arrived there just in time for morning tea, which we had at the Mt Misery Gold Mine Retreat Café. A bit disappointing but we sat on the verandah in the sunshine so it wasn't all bad. There is still a Woollen Mill operating in Nundle and we wanted to have a look at that. Some beautiful woollen clothing on sale, as well as balls of wool. While we were there they operated the machine which ran wool of the big cones into balls of wool. There was a photo inside the Mill of a caravan that a group of Nundle ladies had knitted a cover for, for the Sydney Easter Show earlier this year. There was a great area out the front of the Mill where you could have a picnic if you wanted to.

We left the car at the Mill and had a walk along the main street. There are only a few shops but there was a great store we enjoyed looking through. Odgers and McClelland Exchange Store opened in the early 1890's. It closed in 1979 and was then reopened in 1999 by the current owners, but with the same name. It sells a variety of things - different teas, housewares, candles, a few toys - but they are more the vintage housewares, like enamel bowls. Have a look -  It was an interesting shop to look through and we bought a couple of small trays that will be good to use with the convection oven. The lady we spoke to said she is doing reasonably well and that Nundle itself is doing okay, as they have a bit of variety in the town.

We had bought provisions for our lunch, but we needed to buy some cold meat. Unfortunately, the general store did not have any cold meat and there is no butcher in town. That was alright we thought, we have a tin of salmon in one of the crates in the back of the ute.

About 8kms out of Nundle, in the mountains behind it, is a place called Hanging Rock (not the Hanging Rock from the movie). We drove out to the Lookout there to have our lunch. We were surprised to see areas of frost still on the ground, and this was 2 in the afternoon. It was a beautiful spot. Got out the salmon to put on our lunch, only to realise we needed a can opener, which was back in the van. Luckily we had a jar of peanut butter but the salmon would have been lovely.

Had a couple of visitors while we were at the Lookout. A guy drove up with his wife and his two grandchildren, who were visiting them for the holidays from Narrabri. He said he had been retired for 5 years and had been trying to talk his wife into buying a van, but she didn't want that. He said he will keep trying to talk her into it.

We drove back to Tamworth along a dirt road for part of the way, which followed the Peel River, almost from its source. It was a beautiful drive and we saw a couple of free camps which looked pretty good. There was one at the Chaffey Dam which even had showers.

When we got back to the caravan park, we had a visit from Les, the old guy just down from us. He invited Bruce down for a beer (I don't think he is comfortable around women). I took the opportunity to get up to date with the blog. When Bruce returned he told me about Les. Les is 82, 83 this year. He has been living in his van for the last 3 years and wishes he had done it sooner as he loves it. He is 76 kgs and has lost 30 kgs but he didn't say over what period. He had a check up today and the doctor is very happy with him. He was pleased Bruce had a beer with him. He enjoyed the company.

We don't have a TV in the van, but we have managed to watch the couple of shows we like on iView on the laptop. Last night we started watching Homeland which we have on our hard drive. We enjoyed it. We will watch some more of that tonight.

Tamworth Concerts

We have certainly been having a relaxing time in Tamworth over the weekend. Saturday lunchtime we went out to the Longyard Hotel, which is next to The Golden Guitar, to the Bob Corbett and the Roo Grass Band concert (don't you love the name). He actually won the Starmaker Competition last year when we were in Tamworth. We didn't know much about him but it was a free concert so we had a meal at the pub and enjoyed the music for a couple of hours. We enjoyed his music and bought a couple of his CD's. He had a fiddle player in the band, as well as a banjo player. The banjo player also played the bagpipes in one of the songs and it was a great song.

Saturday night we had bought tickets to a concert at Wests Diggers Leagues Club. There were 4 previous winners of the Starmaker competition performing on stage - Liam Brew, Travis Collins, Luke Austen and Luke Dickens. Particularly like Luke Austen and Luke Dickens and they didn't disappoint and the whole show was great. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Yesterday, Sunday, we didn't do much at all. Bruce bought a fishing rod so he can fish when we get to South West Rocks and we went up to the Mt Oxley Lookout to have a look out over Tamworth. It was a lovely spot up there with a lovely area for picnics. There was also a plaque to Smoky Dawson and his wife Dot and their contribution to Australian country music.

We decided to experiment with the Nutri Oven again last night and cook a leg of lamb. We just bought a half leg and it turned out beautifully. It was lovely and tender and moist. We did the vegies in it as well.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Tamworth, Saturday 6 July

I made a cake in my Sunbeam Nuvi Convection Oven yesterday morning. One of Margie's (my sister) recipes - Lemon and Yoghurt Cake - and I used one of Mike's lemons Bruce picked from his tree when we were there a week ago. It was a yummy cake and good to know the oven worked well. I should have taken a picture of it. I'll do that for the next thing I make, which will probably be muffins.

We went into town to do some grocery shopping after lunch and it was strange to see the main street with cars. When we have come for the Country Music Festival in the January, the main street is blocked off and it is for pedestrians. There are some shops closed down and some new ones opened since the last time we were here in 2012.

Luke O'Shea was on at the Services Club last night, a free concert, so we had dinner there to make sure we got a seat. We don't go to clubs very often so it was interesting to see all the different ways they have to take your money from you! But fun ways. Meat raffles, some other raffle that we didn't have tickets in (and didn't understand) and then a raffle to win Keno entries. One of the ladies at our table won that one. It was quite a good lead up to the concert.

Luke O'Shea won a Golden Guitar for his song, The Drover's Wife. I bought his CD in January 2012 when we were here and really like his songs, which he writes himself. It was the first time we had seen him live and it was a great show. He sang for 3 hours with only one break of 30 minutes. We didn't get back to the van till about midnight.

There is a guy in a van just down from us, travelling by himself. His van is his home and he wrote his car off coming into town about a week ago. He asked Bruce yesterday if he would cut his hair - give him a number 2 blade all over - so Bruce is down there now giving him a clip.

We are off to a lunchtime concert at The Longyard, a well know pub in Tamworth. Bob Corbett is playing and he won the Starmaker competition in 2012. This has been won by Lee Kernigan and Keith Urban in years gone by. Don't know his music so we'll see how it goes.

Just went to see how Bruce was going, cutting Les' hair and he has finished. He hasn't done a bad job so he can add that to his repertoire.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

To Tamworth

It was only +1 degrees in the van this morning. It took me a while before I could get out of bed.

We hit the road about 9.30 and headed to the Art Gallery. We had 15 minutes before it opened so we decided to have morning tea while we waited. It's great. We just opened the door of the van and had morning tea in the van. There is a restaurant at the Gallery but the owner has shut it for a month and taken a holiday. I don't think the Gallery people were all that impressed.

There is a fantastic photographic exhibition on at the Gallery at the moment. The photographs are just stunning. The photographer, Richard Green, has been travelling the country in a helicopter for the last 20 years to remote places, places inaccessible even to 4WD's. His exhibition is currently travelling to regional art galleries so if you have the opportunity to see it, you won't be disappointed. His website is

We headed to Tamworth but took a detour via Walcha to check out a couple of free camps and arrived at the Austin Caravan Park in Armidale about 2.30. The caravan park is on the Peel River and it is a lovely setting. It is very well maintained with lovely grassy areas. Our site backs on to the river but there is a high escarpment between us and the river. Quite a few people checked in after us, but there is still a lot of spaces available.

There is a small Country Music Festival on in town. We have booked tickets to a concert on Saturday night but most of the other shows on over the next 4 days are free. Luke O'Shea is on tomorrow night and we are going to see him and then a couple on Saturday during the day. Quite a few of the entertainers are the real old time country singers that don't really appeal to us. We will then have a couple of days to travel around the area.

The day turned out to be pretty good and a bit warmer than Armidale. We even sat outside and ate dinner.

Mileage today:  165 km
Total mileage: 1,101 kms

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


What a beautiful day it was today. Apparently today is what it is normally like in winter, beautiful sunny skies, after a cool night. It was cool overnight and we woke to a temperature of 3 degrees inside the van this morning (-1 outside). But we turn the heater on when we wake up and within a few minutes you can feel it taking effect.

We had booked on the Heritage Tour of Armidale when we were at the Information Centre yesterday. It is a 2.5 hr tour by mini bus and is free. What a fantastic tour it was. Jenny, who was the tour guide, had an extensive knowledge of the history of the area and made it come alive. She was great. She talked about how squatters moved into the area as a result of all the land being taken up in the counties round Sydney up as far as the Hunter, which were the limits of civilisation as laid down by the NSW Government in the early to mid 1800's. The squatters who took up land up here were mainly ones who had already taken up runs in the Hunter Valley and who now wanted more land. They sent some of their men (including ex-convicts) north to find land. When they arrived in this area, they found the climate was more like they were used to in England.

We drove around the streets and Jenny talked about the beautiful homes and buildings from the 1800's that abound. She also talked about how the Armidale Teachers College came into being through the efforts of their local Federal member, who was interested in establishing a regional Teachers College. The wealthy local residents have helped in this, and other projects, with their large donations along the way.

There is an Art Gallery which has an extensive collection of Australian art. This was set up to hold the Hinton collection, a wealthy bachelor from Sydney who spent his money on collecting art. He kept about 10 paintings that were his favourites, and gave the rest away, most of them to the Armidale Teacher's College. When he died, he left the rest to the College as well. Another guy called Coventry also left a lot of paintings he had collected to the Gallery as well.

Next to the Art Gallery is the Aboriginal Gallery and they had a Bush Tucker Trail in the gardens. We only had 10 minutes and had our choice as to which Gallery we went to. We decided to have a look at the Bush Tucker Trail as 10 minutes wasn't enough time to look at the inside of either Gallery. The Trail had signs at each shrub describing the plant and what it was uses were. It was quite interesting. We will go back to the Art Gallery tomorrow morning on our way to Tamworth.

After the Galleries, we went to the Railway Museum, where we were given a talk by a very enthusiastic volunteer. It was excellent. He even talked about how the tickets came into being. A fellow called Edmonstone in the UK who got sick of writing receipts for people paying for tickets. He built himself a ticket machine, cut out pieces of cardboard and preprinted the destinations on them. On the day of travel, he put them into the machine and printed the date on them. This all happened before the First Fleet. He made a lot of money out of this enterprise, but he was a Quaker and most of the money was ploughed back into the Quakers. We also had morning tea at the Museum.

It was on to the University of New England after this, where we visited Booloominbah. Booloominbah was built in the 1880's as a private residence for prominent grazier Frederick White and his 7 children. He and his wife had already lost 5 children in infancy and they wanted to move to the healthier air of the Tablelands. It was bought from the family estate when Mrs White died by her son in law. In the mid 1930's there was a push to establish a regional university in Armidale and he donated it as a spur to gain Government support for this.

What a magnificent building it is. It was used as the administration offices but now houses a couple of restaurants and the Vice-Chancellor's office upstairs.

In the grounds, about 5 years ago, they planted a Wollemi Pine and it is growing very well so it looks like it will survive. Water is plentiful in the area and they haven't had water restrictions since the 1970's.

After having lunch in town, we headed back to the van and sat outside and enjoyed the sunshine, me sewing and Bruce reading. I did spy a patchwork shop a couple of shops down from Prue and Olive's, where we had lunch. I had to buy a couple of pieces of fabric!

Mileage: 13 kms.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Armidale, Tuesday

We decided to have a day around Armidale today. We woke to a dry day and a little bit of sunshine. It was good to be able to put the towels out to air and I did a load of washing before heading into town.

I wanted to check out the tile floors in the Cathedrals in town so we parked and walked to them. I took a few photos. One of these days I will do a quilt of one of the tile floors I have seen.

We then walked to the Information Centre and booked on a Heritage Tour of Armidale which we will do tomorrow morning. It goes for 2.5 hrs and is free. Good value.

When we went to the Caravan Show in Brisbane in June, I picked up a few brochures of the New England region. One of the brochures I picked up had vouchers for the area and so far I have redeemed 3 of them. In Tenterfield I picked up a dozen Jumbo eggs for free, in Uralla I picked up a box of 25 teabags for free and this morning in Armidale, I picked up a small jar of jam for free. Not bad.

After picking up a few groceries at Coles, we headed back to the van for lunch and a lazy afternoon. I even managed to do a bit of sewing. Thank you Susan. The little iron you bought for me at Sewco works a treat. It is the only iron I bought on the trip and I certainly won't try to iron any clothese with it!

Mileage: 19kms

Waterfall Way

Yesterday, Monday, we woke to rain and it rained until about 3pm. However we decided to head out on a drive in the expectation that we would have a few breaks in the weather. We headed out on the Waterfall Way which would have eventually taken us through to Dorrigo if we had kept going. We were only going as far as Ebor.

We stopped at the Wollomombi Falls which, at 260m high, are the second highest waterfalls in Australia. The highest is Wallaman Falls in Nth Queensland, at 300m. You could certainly hear the Falls as we walked towards the Lookout. It sounded like a train coming. Much more of a spectacle than the Dangar Falls from the other day.

Thank heavens for my Goretex coat. It kept me dry and warm as we viewed the Falls in the rain. With all the rain though it created a mist round the Falls and the gorges and looked beautiful.

We did drive into Wollomombi as there was a sign to a café. When we got there, it was to find that it only operated as a café on the weekends and during the week it was the Post Office. We stopped at a waterlogged park with a shelter as we had come prepared with our own - a thermos and home made cake. Across the road we saw these sheep sheltering under a trampoline which looked quite funny.

Further along the Waterfall Way, are the Ebor Falls. No wonder it is called Waterfall Way. Even though they are not as tall as the Wollomombi Falls, they look more picturesque as there are the Upper and Lower Falls.

We took the road to Guyra and did a walk up and down the main street to at least get a bit of exercise today. With all the rain, we haven't been able to do much walking at all. From there it was back to Armidale.

Mileage: 210km