Red Centre

The long gap in the travels of e-bus must be rectified.  This has been my recurring thought for months now but the effort and discipline required to sit and think chronologically has lost out to bike time, walk time, wine time etc.  Now we have no internet connectivity for about 10 days and I have run out of books on the kindle so fewer distractions means write time!  Anyway it’s easy, you just start.

The last 18 months were pretty much spent in WA so we have been able to have an Easter and 2 Christmases with family on the far  side, and possibly  the highlight was Adrian coming westward ho last December. Christmas then a short month to drive back across the Nullarbor with him and just enjoying  special time together and getting to learn new aspects of a very fine young man.   2016 was spent either in Melbourne, on trips to see Catherine in Galway, to a family wedding in Howick,  a family wedding in Auckland, a 60th birthday celebrated in the KNP and checking out the wild flowers in WA;   life has been pretty extraordinary. I hate having our children all over the world, they really need to get their act together and find a common continent but in the meantime visiting them at regular intervals is as good an excuse as any to travel.  Definitely overdue a Catherine time.  I will write myself a detailed memory of each of the incredible places we visited,  11 000 species of wildflowers,  Monkey Mia dolphins, whales in Exmouth, an osprey stack on the beach at Cape Range NP, the Ningaloo reef, so many highlights, the night sky in Karajini, so many places but not here.

But this trip.  After 3 months of battling tradies and the kitchen people a trip away was definitely in order. But where? Having mostly done the west the centre was calling. The Red Centre. Hah, as you will see there is no red centre only a green centre. But I get ahead of myself.

We left Melbourne on the 7th of July with all the thermals to hand basically following a different route but heading for Mildura and the mighty Murray river. Sea Lake and Lake Tyrell a place that seems to be totally reliant on bus loads of Chinese tourists to be viable was the intro to dusty campgrounds.  The tourists arrive because the salt lake usually has a very thin layer of water covering it and on a still night the stars  are beautifully reflected and truly the horizon and  endless skies meet and you cannot tell where each begin or ends.  It is a very spiritual place still for Aboriginals.  It must be breathtaking at new moon.

Stayed at the same campground, Buronga, in Mildura as before, actually it’s across the Murray river and in NSW not Vic.  Must be be geographically accurate!  All the pelicans where still there on the river which is reassuring.


Anne and Willy have convinced us of the benefits of electric bikes – go further and longer, still pedalling madly so we put them to the test riding out the Arid Botanic Gardens where we were impressed by the 1000 year old Mallee gum tree.  The WOW tree.


Another wow was both bikes got punctures fortunately close to home.  On to Morgan in SA where the Murray changes direction from a westerly to a southerly flowing river. (Lots of Pokemon there).  In Melrose we were packed like sardines into a teeny space sharing all the horrible SA kids on school holiday. Melrose is best known for its mountain bike tracks on the side of Mt Remarkable but we went on a great rail trail running along the periphery of the park.  Enroute we also discovered a fabulous campground at the Showgrounds, quite beautiful and no crazy kids on bikes!

Then onto Woomera, the start of the really dry countryside. A woomera is a aboriginal spear throwing device, which is very effective when you see it in action. It is aptly named as this town is the Australian missile testing centre. The caravan park is however a dump so we moved, unplanned up to Roxby Downs. Expecting a proper mining dust bowl we were pleasantly surprised with a well laid out and populated town with a Woolies, even, and good coffee. Olympic Dam might be just down the road but you would never know it’s there, except at night when the 24 hour shift night lights are as bright as a small town.  We paid a brief visit to Andamooka about 30 kms away with a view to staying there. Now that is the dust bowl mining town we were expecting.



Opals are the reason it exists but a tower made from beer bottles is the main tourist attraction. Incredibly Viv decided to phone and found the gap when we had a signal out of thousands of kilometres of no signal!  Sometimes we get lucky!

BHP sponsor a arid recovery centre about 20 km north of RD. It covers many square kms and their main aim, in short, is to encourage 4 critically endangered marsupials to become scared of wild cats. One cat kills, on average, 20 things a day. There are about 1 million wild cats in Australia, it’s no wonder far far too many small creatures are on the critically endangered list.  The mid size marsupials like bilbys, quolls, bettongs are generally extinct in the wild so these places are so immensely important and interesting and attract attention world wide for research etc.

Then back on the Stuart and up to Coober Pedy, aboriginal for white man down a hole. And there are many, holes that is. In order to prospect for opal the only way is to dig a 30m deep hole about 1m round. If you find no opal you move on. There are more than 5m holes in and around town. None are filled in. Then there are the horizontal holes in the hills which the locals call home.


Opal mining is now banned in town but you can do reno’s. If you are lucky your extra bedroom will pay for itself, plus maybe even a new underground bowling alleyon first rolling into the junkyard that is Coober Pedy we were planning how fast we could leave.  After 3 nights and a good look around we like it, but only to pass through.  If you do visit, go to John’s for a pizza, best ever.

Then further up the Stuart and hang a left about 200 km before Alice. Onto the Lasseter Highway that takes you to Uluru and it’s lesser known partner Kata Tjuta. Both are spectacular in different ways and deeply moving for all the coach loads of tourists.  Uluru is a true icon; identifiable from a distance and from any direction. Up close it is even more amazing – smooth and almost alive. It’s colour changes throughout the day but it when the sun is going down that it shows it’s red glowing trademark. Kata Tjuta or Many Heads is a series of domes, green treed valleys and vertical walled chasms all joined together and hiding some fantastic waterholes and currently creeks. There are some wonderful walks there that are tough but well worth the effort. We spent 4 nights in Yulara, the town nearest to Uluru. Nothing is cheap from beer to diesel.

Next Kings Canyon. Great expectations especially the Rim Walk.


We also had 4 nights here. Biggest bonus – a large flock of red tailed black cockatoos roosting in the trees around the resorts sewage plant, always prime birding areas and not too stinky.   There were also lots of dingoes day and night, many of them are now camp dependent and are mangy, sad creatures. We saw one that was limping badly, had been attacked presumably by other dingoes and was very thin. When we reported it the comment was ‘sorry can’t do anything they are protected’….

There is a short cut to Alice Springs on the Mereenie Loop which saves about 100 km but the road is terribl so  back to the Lasseter Highway then to the Stuart Highway and on to Alice, a good 350 km but all on bitumen.  The red dust out here is every we have been led to believe, fine and gets in EVERYWHERE.

Having  read A Town called Alice many years ago, had a romantic view of an outback village with one main street, hotel and a bar. No longer. Alice Springs is a vibrant, sort of modern place with so many traffic lights I lost count. The town is dominated by the dry Todd River and the famous gap where the river, road and Ghan rail line all pass through the MacDonnell range.


The greatest pleasure and surprise was the network of cycle tracks and trails. If you can, ride the trail to the Desert Park and spend the day there making sure you get in early and leave late as there are heaps of interesting talks and mini tours.  There are many Aboriginals just hanging out on pavements, parks and open spaces, but way friendlier than some of the smaller towns where the feeling is bugger off white fella!  Too late.

The West and East MacDonnell Ranges (the Macs to the locals) National Parks are a main reason visits arrive in their tens of thousands each year into Alice. The West Macs are the better known with all the gaps, gorges and water holes each different and worth visiting.


The East Macs are less known and are more difficult to get to with gravel roads and 4 wd tracks the norm. We stayed at the Ross River homestead which has a bitumen road all the way, why no one knows. Maybe it’s the NT transport ministers farm. It used to be part of a 1 million plus acre station but is know only a paltry 24k acres after the homestead was carved off. Because all the surrounding farmers shoot the dingoes they have found sanctuary there. Trephina Gorge Nature Reserve is a well run and with  toilets but no showers is one of the better places to stay, it is very small and friendly with great walks requiring less or more endurance- many times been happy with new Nordic walking sticks!  Life was harder without them.

We will leave the bus in Alice Springs for about 3 weeks while we fly to Melbourne then onto Auckland for Adrian’s 30th birthday. Where we go next is undecided; north and west are beginning to get too hot. East maybe or south, have to wait and see what the weather is doing.



Melbourne to WA border

Well, it is amazingly difficult to start up this blog again as it requires a level of dedication which appears to have deserted me.

As with so many previously simple habitual events, just getting the bus stocked again was slow and had to be rethought over and over. Of course there are and will be shops along the way but it’s good to have the basics in place. We started with a major throw out of all the junk and clothing that has collected over 8 years in various nooks and crannies, as well as in plain sight on the shelving – possibly I have been over zealous. Same jeans past week and still good for many more days, aaah, the ease of decision making in what to wear today.

After much faffing around we finally hugged our latest resident estate manager, aka daughter Catherine, and left on Friday 30th March. Will she keep the houseplants alive…

First night was in Horsham near the Grampians, a beautiful spot along the Wimmera river, we Pulled up at a caravan park to be greeted with notice that no power sites available, not an auspicious start. But the unpowered sites where excellent and the surrounding vans were generally unoccupied. We took a walk through the adjoining botanical gardens which appear to be undergoing a major redesign and planting. Cooked dinner brought from home in the camp kitchen oven and toasted the start of a good journey.

Day 2

Onward to Keith. Didn’t know it even existed before now but it has a LandRover on a pole – seriously it’s listed as an attraction, in a skate park. Better still was an amazing bakery on the Main Street where Robert picked up an average steak pie – an hour after breakfast… and I saw a beautiful fruit tea loaf. It was so yummy with some butter that we went back for another one to put into the stores. Going to away about 4 months and must think ahead!

As we drive through Australia I am constantly astounded by the endless endless wheat fields, and other grains. I know some farmers are now thinking forward and trying to mitigate that the profound loss of biodiversity that comes with mega agriculture and the associated degradation of Australia’s fragile land, and the plants and animals that evolved to survive over thousands of years. Feeding the world needs to be balanced by long term sustainability and corridors replanted with native vegetation might just mean the certainty of creating an arid desert in these regions is avoided. I have to consciously stop being depressed by the endless monotony of agriculture’s devastating impact.

On the upside however we passed through a Dark Sky Reserve in Palmer- something new to us and fabulous thing to protect and recognise. The night sky in remote areas is indescribable and so huge, and all ours for the looking.

Next night very forgettable squeeeeeezed onto a tiny site surrounded by others and noisy with a footy game happening on the oval, Note for future – avoid Williamstown in the Barossa, find an alternative! A good glass of red in the local pub was not enough to repeat visit.

Definitely we were looking forward to the night in Mt Remarkable in a national park, goodbye crowd. As ever it delivered and was as good remembered. The place really reminds us of the South African bush veld and those good memories. Had a short walk up one of the tracks to the top of a hill and thought have to remember basics of carrying water and these days a walking stick! Harking back to my Dad. It was new moon, first day of Ramadan and the Milky Way in all its glory . The nights have been cool and the days warm, good travelling weather. We have been zooming along as we are meeting Anne and Willy on Good Friday in WA and had Peter and Debra staying with us in Melbourne couple of days before we left – that was a surprisingly emotional reunion after way too long of being unable to see family and countless border changes, regulation alterations and general Covid restrictions. They came well supplied with a selection of malt whiskies that had to assessed carefully. Good to see you P and D, very good. And the bonus of saying hallo to Don and Helen.

In the morning we walked along the Wira walk and marvelled at the ancient river red gums in the park

Silo art at Coonalpyn
River Red gum. Canopy healthy despite trunk and path right through it

This is getting too long so Kimba and the red galah tomorrow



To Perth

Well. Bugger.  That’s all I can say about WordPress which bloody deleted my first painfully executed blog, how spiteful can you get?  So this time I am writing it as a draft and will publish when I fancy.  Still, bugger.

We left Melbourne in the searing heat leaving Dave in very capable charge of The Melbourne Estate on the 8th of March.



We headed straight for the coast and the cool sea breeze of Killarney (part of Ireland in Victoria) which is on a lovely beach with an off shore reef and then diverted to Port MacDonnell.  Not much to say here except it was our intention to feast on Southern Lobster at the port of catchment and landing, the signpost even said this is the best lobster on the south coast.  The only problem was it cost $85!a tail. We have therefore been unable to verify this claim.  Also in this area was a long  240 km walking trail called the Great Southwest Trail, I am gathering that all trails are Great.  We walked along a portion of it at Cape Bridgewater to see the only mainland sea lion colony in Australia. Once again the information boards lied as they promised up to 600 sea lions but only about 100 were lolling around and barking loudly on the sea ledges and waves below, this rock is the only place where it appears that NZ and Australins get along in harmony as both types share the ledges and caves in apparent comfort.


Cape Bridgewater seal colony

From here we took another diversion inland from Mt Gambier of Blue Lake fame towards Coonewarra and the terra rossa. Penola has a French bakery that is worth visiting, they had pies to die for and sourdough bread that is the real deal;  heavy, chewy and crusty.  We found a delightful camping place owned by Sue Bell, an up and coming wine maker (Bellwether). With a cellar door and us the only people in the camp ground it was a memorable stay.  It was at this very appropriate stage in our travels that I decided to give up the rubbish of no alcohol. I have been recently diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis, an auto immune disease and along with the magic medicine came an instruction of so little alcohol as to make it not worthwhile at all.  Some glasses of wine down the hatch and so far, so good and regular blood and liver tests will confirm that this is a good solution….and anyway Robert needs a drinking partner.

We had planned to hug the coast all the way to the Nullarbor so back we went to Robe, a fishing and holiday town on the edge of the Coorong NP. We had wanted to camp in the Park but it was closed for a week for ‘pest control’ activities. One of the locals reckoned it was probably the police searching for more bodies around the Salt Creek area (nasty incident involving backpackers camping on the dunes had taken place a few weeks earlier). So we moved on to Meningie on Lake Albert, part of the Murray River mouth complex. It’s a sorry story on how the Murray has been and is still being treated over the years.  Enough to say that the once freshwater lakes are now totally salt water and the ecology has changed dramatically. It was a public holiday in south Australia on Monday 14/3 so when we arrived on the Friday a the beginning of the long weekend, the lady at the reception in the only caravan park for miles around looked at me blankly, no booking, no site available this weekend.   Next minute the phone rang with a cancellation and we had place to recharge the batteries and do some washing.  Memo to self, Check public holiday dates and school holidays for all states.

Initially we had planned to arrive in Perth a couple of days before flying out to South Africa for the big event – Charlotte’s wedding on the 16th.  But this little episode convinced us to get to Perth before the Easter weekend, particularly as it looked as though James might be leaving for the US early in April.  Spending time with James and Steph over Easter seemed a fabulous plan!   So a slight acceleration in schedule and we headed for somewhere north of Adelaide on the coast. Unfortunately we chose Wallaroo.

A horrible place where they can’t tell the difference between beaches and parking lots.  The sand was compacted solid with upper reaches of the beach a highway and lower edge close to the sea a place where you park your 4 WD, open up the boot and obviously have the car radio on full blast.  Have fun in Wallaroo!!!!


Wallaroo sunset


Crap beach treatment


From Wallaroo we had wanted to take the ferry across the Spencer Gulf to Cowell on the Eyre Peninsula but it was unfortunately not running, so round the gulf by land was only way to go.  Lucky, as we found The Remarkables Nat Park.  5km off the main road and the perfect antidote to jumped up Walloroo and its boom boxes and MacMansions.  Our neighbours were very busy goannas and emus and we spotted a Tamar wallaby, a beneficiary of the 1080 baiting that is widespread in National Parks.  Sadly Dingoes are killed along with the foxes and occasional feral cat.


Mt Remarkable NP




Because WordPress is a gobbling, lose to the ether app, photos will now be added and the magic publish button pressed.  Holding thumbs all is saved.




Murray Darling Basin

full moon at Penrose Park

I would blame the Sussmans for this more random introspective post, having just read their last post from Mozambique, but in truth been mulling this for some time.
Firstly this trip has been made special by James finally engineering a way to be reunited with his only love Steph in Perth, only love I mean apart from Sparky, Polly etc.  He will be a doctor in 3.5 years – a doctor in horrible things that leach out of mine tailings in mainly water run off, I think!  So don’t start to store any medical questions for him.  Wishing James, always with an academic bent, much enjoyment.  It really is fun to be poor, really it is…

Second special, totally different,  would have to be the people we have met en route.  The nut camel driver who chucked up apparently everything in Alice Springs to drive 5 camels down to the Menindee Lakes – for what gain?  Yet more exotic or introduced animals spread around Australia.  5 camels is now 24 camels and he gets calls from the highway police to come and get his camels off the road, they have bells around their necks and graze in the ephemeral lakes – unbelievably bizarre.  I mistakenly asked him if they shouldn’t be shot as exotic invaders – he looked at me for a long time and then told us above history.


Camels making like cows

Then there were the administrators of a most useful camping and caravan site,  parking alongside them enabled us to become instant members as we both stood with our devices poised to send and receive requests.  We can even put a sticker on our windscreen if we want to, proper sticker bearing members of a large and diverse community.  We have asked the forum questions as diverse and general as to ideas as to how to insulate our mattress from cold rising up from ground level to specific camp site queries, and always the responses are quick and sometimes quirky, but useful.  Around the same BBQ we met, the termite expert, who would have known how many different types of termites there are and how interesting and vital a link they are in the food chain;   also  Joel and Kathy, Joel from Mauritius and Kathy from county Cork- his story was he used to be 6 fooot 2 and white – then he met Kathy! And it went downhill from there.  So many different meetings with people from every walk of life, all ages,  with one thing in common – will there be enough time to see it all!

Mutawinje and the new dreamtime story we learnt are best described with photos.  This national park is so beautiful, the name means green and waterholes, and we were lucky enough to see it after good rains when it indeed lived up to its Aboriginal name.  It is a place steeped in ancient human history with palpebral deep cultural resonance. The reflections from the red red rock changed as one was watching as the light changed to late afternoon. I think I was primed for Aboriginal culture having just finished The Secret River, a fictional historical account of earliest European settlement of Australia as a penal colony, but no one could fail to be moved by the awesome, majestic and secret waterholes, the hand stencils – some of them merely the markers of children growing up, as we marked our children’s heights on door frames (and then moved!), aboriginal children made their handprints higher and higher as they got older and reached milestones in their lives and became more important in the clan.


Koonawarra’s footsteps. Mutawintji Gorge permanent rock pools


panamee rock art about 30,000 years old


hand prints in ochre


rocks at sunset


stone that was nicked from the site and later returned

Kinchega, an old sheep station that is now a park on the Darling River has a really good bush walk with interesting information signs posted along it that relate to the local trees as well as European and traditional owner occupations – spotted a few good campsites along the river for next time.  The biodiversity of native Australian flora is extraordinary, so many eucalyptus, so hard to distinguish, so many salt bushes, blue bushes and acacias, beautiful flowers that are ususally very small and require close inspection to really appreciate their detail and beauty.   Sadly so much damage to a very fragile landscape by European settlement, buts that’s a different topic.


Man interferes with nature – dead river gums

The bikes have been a perfect way to get around, I dont want to walk anywhere anymore – far to slow.  We averaged 16km a day on bikes and about 7km of walking.  Should be way thinner but unfortunately I am permanently thinking of food and eat my head off.  Telling myself it is only good food …. too much is too much.

So Mildura, Wentworth, Broken Hill, Silverton, Mungo and Mutawinje, the Mundi Mundi plains that bend to the infinite horizonand the places along the way –  to the fellow grey nomads acknowledged by the laconic finger lift, until our next trip…

 At the confluence

at the confluence of Murray and Darling


Mundi Mundi plains


sunset Darling River Wentworth


Perry sand hills



  All roads in the semi arid NSW lead back to Broken Hill.  So, from Menindee Lakes back we came.  After 4 nights of glorious sunsets and Pelicans gliding past in a most stately fashion we passed the mountain of dirt yet again enroute to Silverton, the place where we saw our first camel and where emus and Roos own the common ground.  Penrose  Park is a story in itself, a huge recreation area dating back to 1886 when a group of miners together with a contribution by the N SW govt built a rail line connecting the Silverton to Broken Hill, cost was $6000 and the line shipped over $10 000 000 worth of high grade ore.  Most profitable short rail line in the world (?).  Actually you know when you have reached Silverton from BH if you have been counting the dips- 39 and you there!  The unexpected advantage of this rail line was that the good folk of BH could now come and “recreate” in a beautiful park amongst the coolabah and boxwood trees.  2 cricket pitches, 4 or 6 tennis courts scattered around, a small scale steam engine (hello Pop da Lop) and countless proper children’s playgrounds, slides ever so high, chain maypole swings, swings and see saws, wobbling monkey poles and difficult jungle gyms- the way kids parks were before the days of law suits for unsafe landings…..Robert and I had the most awesome swing in 50 years….

So, where was I?  3 nights there next to an ancient “scar tree” then we shipped out through BH! Restocked the Bus.   Good to talk to Jess and Richard, I mean really lekker, and to Sarah and Handrew, birthdays must be noted by longest conversation Telstras allow, if you can’t be face to face.  This was also good because while I was yakking Robert took on all on board duties, emptying the poop cartridge, filling the water tanks by engineerious methods in the abscence of help.  See photo! I mean, I was busy.

A futile attempt to check road conditions beyond that the road was “open” saw us to Mutawintji. Road turned out to be pretty good and here we are at the first NSW Nat Parks to be returned to at least co management by the traditional owners.  We lucked out and joined as tag along to a tour of 2 going to a limited access heritage area – you have to go with an accredited tour guide who has undergone education in the local Aboriginal laws, values and dreamtime histories.  Best $40 pp we have yet spent- we gained a depth of knowledge and experience available no other way than by walking out with a man of the land.  Michaels ancestry was Irish mixed with Paakarinje – so he could spin a good yarn with facts. 



  We saw rock art of ochre stencils, and panaramee dot work on rock faces and overhangs, So much meaning and so many stories present but also lost in them.  We walked through 4 gorges, 2 with over 12 000 works of art alone.  Our $40 didn’t get us their packed lunch, wehad to come home and eat our own mealies. An afternoon walk through another gorge, now a little wiser as to what to look for, an excellent dinner of lamb shwarmer wraps .  The 4th gorge we walked through the next day on our own to the permanent water holes, amazingly deep rock pools.  A good cycle ride to get there and then a 6km easy walk past the Roos emus and goats.  Big sighting was Dad emu taking care of 3 chicks.

 And here we are tonight.  All tucked in for a low of 5 degrees, positively balmy.  The night sky is of a thousand plus stars and now we know how the 7 sisters got up there and that they are looking out for us now.  Nighty night. 



Murray/Darling junction at Wentworth

Murray/Darling junction at Wentworth

Having found a lovely campsite just outside Mildura on the Murray River at Buronga we stayed put for 5 days.  Day one we spent figuring how to not fall off our bicycles as we negotiated gears, cycle apps, traffic circles, railway lines and heavy trucks over  the George Chaffey bridge into the town centre.  It is a very fine and efficient way of shopping when everything has to fit into one basket on the back of the bike.  Impulse purchases are severely limited.  We noted pubs and restaurants to return too, Stefano, a famous Melbourne chef decamped to Mildura and it would seem has pretty much taken over the town as has Rick Stein in Padstowe UK.

The inland botanical garden in Buronga was a nice ride away and so very interesting once the surprise of no formal beds or areas was over.  Anything you want to know about the Mallee Scrub is there, and there is lots to know.  On the way there we made a mental note to stop at Mandys honesty stall on the way back and pick up some fruit and avos- hah! Mandy was for sale- translate Mandy to mandarins, still learning to speak Australian.

Picnic in Mungo Park at lunettes lookout

Picnic in Mungo Park at lunettes lookout

image image

Absolute highlight has been our ride in Mungo Park.  Mungo is in the Willandra Lakes Region, a world heritage area and one of the worlds very special places.  The Mungo track is a 70 km loop and we rode the first 20 to the remarkable Walls of China lunettes, a huge crescent of dunes, basically across a lake bed, been dry the past 30 000 plus years, but still blue on the topographical maps! And the dry Willandra creek too.   It was here in 2003 that tracks were found of Mungo man and Mungo lady – laid down in the clay during the last ice age.  One of the texts described the 2 bookends of civilisation being Sterkfontein SA and Mungo Oz.  The tracks became visible due to current erosion but the dry lake holds a continuous record of Aboriginal life dating back more than 50 000 years.  An amazing place but couldn’t convince Rob the access road was good enough for Van to stay overnight in Park.

On to Broken Hill. Road from Wentworth to BH is straight and uneventful. The coffee at the roadhouse halfway up is good. The standard of coffee in the outback towns I am afraid is generally not good. Milky and watery. Choose wisely. BH is a typical mining town which is not surprising. Wide roads and an interesting treatment of stormwater, with swales through most intersections. CP was average and expensive. There is  good self guided walking tour of the town showing what the place looked like on its heyday. We went to the miners memorial on top of one of the mine dumps. It lists all deaths recorded on the mines since mining started. H&S was not an issue in those days.

Day visit to Silverton about 23 km north of BH. 39 dips in the road; obviously the same drainage designer as BH. Silverton is a one horse town, it’s like a movie set, it is a movie set. Hotel/pub is worth a visit. Owner feeds and waters the local donkeys and horses at the front door. Water situation is pretty dire with usual rains not arriving yet.

Then off to Menindee lakes which is the water supply for BH; water is pumped about 110 km from Darling River luckily it’s fairly flat. Some bright spark in the early part of last century saw the opportunity to use the lakes as possible storage. Some clever engineering.

Wine is running low so off to town to restock. More later.


River and Rocks

This blog seems to require an inordinate amount of effort – if I only knew that my memory would serve be better I would not be going to the effort of writing it all down.  I have considered a diary and just jotting notes into it but that seems to be insufficient, so, to continue….

image image image image image image image image imageimageRiver and rocks is a good summary of our last week in NZ South Island, the rocky glaciers, deep sounds and breathtaking fjords have been way better described than I will ever be able to put in words and as always a photo says more than words but so much less than your own eyes.  We found a short gap in the weather when the road to Milford Sound from Te Anua reopened between snowfalls and headed upward .

Wonderful. Beautiful. Awe inspiring. The air so clean and cold. The comical Keas waddling around popping up out of nowhere when cars had to stop for one way traffic or at scenic viewpoints.  This is a place we should return to with more time, our perennial complaint, too little time!  Our neighbours one night shared with us they bought their fancy fifth wheeler 2 years ago and have still not left the SI.  Now that’s the way to do things properly.  We were supposed to meet up with Anne and Willy for dinner in Queenstown on the Saturday before we both flew out, but that didn’t work out so made do with local caravan park neighbours, they scored all the yummy stuff we had acquired enroute thinking it would land up in Anne’s happy home.  Damn border controls and customs.

Our conclusion – we will finish our motor home traveling in NZ, whenever that may be. Also, in the short term we needed to get bicycles into our transport options –  driving alongside and over inviting bike tracks and rail trails in almost every small town made us think about even more things to enjoy en route. So much to see…

And now to part two of R and R.  2 weeks after we got back from NZ, in our own motor home, a new part of the Murray River and north to Broken  Hill.  It was just a relief and pleasure to leave Melbourne behind, we seemed to have a fortnight of doctor and dental catch ups, boring maintenance at best.  Robert had a wonderful time getting must have gadgetry and accessories for car and Motorhome, sadly ran out of time to get CB radio and ANTENNAE- we havee a sad lack of bristly things sticking up off our bumpers .  No kudos.  Major pleasure was having James and Steph in town for a few nights.  James wrapped a surprise retirement present beautifully in the blanket at the bottom of our bed for us, a portable GPS to take in the car and on the bikes from all our beloved kiddies.  So now we cannot get lost anywhere.  Hooray and huge and grateful thanks for an amazingly useful gadget we didn’t know was out there.  Even tells you where nearest coffee shop is…

First night free camping on Campaspe River was almost a year to the day of our first venture in the Sunliner, glorious site with sparse neighbours dotted along riverside.  Usual freezing overnight temps but somehow colder than previously,  I began to think of an electric blanket. We passed through Echuca, meeting place of the Murray and Campaspe rivers, with a restored or left unchanged early settlers Main Street dating back 1880 ish, so pretty.  And I had pumpkin soup to die for, just by the way. Robert had a steak pie rated 7/10. Echuca Bakery should you be passing through.

We had been told Swan Hill was a dump but found it to have a wonderful riverside camp ground and heaps to walk and bike around.  Cold overnights still had me thinking electric blanket for sure .  3 shops later in Mildura we found an almost last in town queen size double control blanket and I haven’t got out of bed since.  Supposed to be warm up here!  While hunting down the warming blanket we stumbled across the local orchid prize bloom competition, some beautiful blooms but more beautiful – so many first prize winners! Reminded me of the kids awards system, first, second first , third first, second , first second, second second……all winners but who was the biggest winner?

i am still assimilating and processing Broken Hill so shall publish this blog in meantime.  Robert is the photographic contributor… Can I get his attention?

bugger- can’t get “media” into correct spot in text.  Si mal!


South Island Interlude


It has been a long time since anything was posted on E-Bus Stop, which is strange as the past 5 months have been momentous and pivotal in our plans to travel where we can in the campervan.  With both of us now officially retired some serious routes need attention, however, while we gather ourselves, an opportunity to take a short interlude in New Zealand’s South Island arose so here we are for a week. 

We flew into Queenstown from Auckland where we spent quality family time,  big thanks to Debra who braved torrential rain and evil traffic to collect us from the airport and Anne and Willy who got up at an unforgivable hour on Sunday to return us there.  Still say Auckland Airport is the best in the world.                                                                             The main event was to see Mum. First day visiting was hard, the next day we went earlier in the day and had a happy visit with “old Mum” – significant nod and raised eyebrows at man slurping tea, a shake of the head when someone referred to someone else as a”silly old bugger” and finally a great effort to see us to the gate with a cheery “be good children”!!! I dread the time when she truly forgets our names, but hope there will always be flashes of her quirky sense of humour.

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We picked up our Britz campervan, stocked up basics at New World and had first night in Arrowtown.                   All the superlative adjectives all strung together do not begin to describe the spectacular scenery which unfolds at every head turn in Queenstown and South Island. When I figure out how to get photos from the camera to the iPad, I will have the satisfaction of publishing the finest ones – this will be in spite of unappreciative comments on the quality of my photography from various people, and suggestions of a photography course…

We spent a freezing night in Arrowtown, but were unfazed by chilli ness.  After an exceptional dinner, Trust the Chef, at Amisfield Winery we opted for a hook-up and ran the cabin heater all night. Lovely Britz lady had  also given us 2 duvets so we we put one on the mattress and one for over, also, intrepid camping skills from 34 years ago – we lined the base of the cushions mattress with thick sheets of newspaper so the cold draughts could not creep up through the cracks. Hah such skills…..As we have spent time previously in the environs of Queenstown we decided not to hang around as the rest of the island called.

So we made our way over The Lindis pass towards Mt Cook/Akorangi. I slipped and fell on my bum on the icy mud trying to take a photo of the amazing tussock grasses in the Otago High country,damn boots have totally lost their tread. Happiness though is a campervan so I could immediately change into dry clay and ice free clothes and nurse my dignity.  The Kea Track at Mt Cook was better and amazing.  The whole area is a World Heritage site and once again defies mere words to describe, we had a good view of Mt Cook before the clouds rolled in and cold rain turned us back.  Not so intrepid here.  Stayed raining but much warmer at overnight stay on banks of Lake Pukaki, an incredible blue colour even with overcast grey skies;  need to look into this as I thought the water colour was mainly a reflection of the sky.  I am thinking of the grey lochs in Scotland?

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Now on our way through Timaru to Moeraki Boulders and seals.  Maybe a penguin.




End of the First Epic Trip

How really to sum the month-long trip up in my mind? What comes first to mind that says it all in a nutshell?
Maybe I have learnt a great deal about Australia as a relative newcomer to this vast island. One can fly from city to city and experience the hubbub and vibe of each different place with their different priorities and widely different paces of life and not know more than to prefer this city over that one, decide you could live there but not here – too hot too cold, too wet, too isolated, too materialistic, too …whatever. Is Australia really just one huge wheat field?  I think that taking a year or two to drive slowly around is going to be a peak life experience, filled with the pleasure and novelty of seeing places for the first time, with excitement, with boredom and irritation, but mostly because it is fun and we can.  Yes we can.

Going west we had company, a wonderful companion who was everything a van could want, enthusiastic, keen to take diversions, rush when necessary, slow things down, take the wilder option, look things up, add more podcasts and mostly add  many a huge laugh to the day.  We travelled with a James we haven’t seen in a long time, happy and optimistic, exuding joy exuberance and confidence, our best gift was to travel with a son become a man.  Catherine, Adrian and James, how proud we are of you.  AND, now we can safely spend their inheritance!  (Lucky James cannot edit this blog – told you James to come back with us…..)   Anyway enough of the introspection already!  And he never saved my sequined leopard cap, so there is a photo of a fatso in a cricket cap exiting a dunny inspection!

Tonight we are back in The Grampians.  It is ever so chilly at 15 degrees, a once in 100 year event to have these temps in Jan, but hey, I way prefer this to 40!  The weather changed during the last night in the Nullabor, we went to sleep with the wind nice and cool howling off the Southern Ocean and woke to a wind change from the North and sweating.  Stayed sweaty I think forever,but maybe 24 hours. Then a totally unseasonal downpour.

Anyway, the Clare Valley was enchanting.  Sandstone and slate buildings, food and wine to die for, an easy 20 km stretch of wonderful vineyards.   We started with breakfast at Wild Saffron to line our stomachs for upcoming day of wine tasting but couldn’t then squash in a lunch at Skillogalee.  This is a must stop lunch  venue requiring better planning than us and I shall regret limited stomach space until we get back there.  We tried wines from both the iconic Clare Names and the lesser known vineyards, filled our portable cellar and more – thank you Dad for teaching us a sock drawer can take more than rolled and sorted socks.  Then reeled through the Barossa Valley and their Reds before camping the night on the banks of the Murray River at Tailem Bend.  This was an idyllic spot with Pelicans sailing majestically past, coots and Pukeko (Jacanas) pecking outside the door, all marred by yobbos galore lining the banks.  Somehow this was Yobbo City, half hoped the riverbanks would break and swallow them all up.  We of course would make a quick getaway in the souped up Van!
Tonight we own the North Grampians, but the devastation of last years’ fires is all too evident, we need to learn about cooling fires vs hot fires – controlled burning in mosaic patterns that always allows a wildlife refuge.

Tomorrow, Melbourne and a pile of washing.  Monday, I am quite sure a diet.    Life goes on.