Kulin in trouble?

By a strange coincidence Kulin was in the news last night. Barley is one of its main farm products and is being hit by the China administration’s impost of an 80% tariff. Thank you Morrison for sounding like you were echoing Trump last week!

China, when approached by an international body, has now agreed to participate in a review of the worldwide response to the pandemic. A little diplomacy and waiting for support from the international community would have avoided causing all of these problems for our exports to China.

We are too small a country to use bullying tactics and the whole point of the art of diplomacy is to get your point across in international relations without being overtly insulting. It never works to bully other countries, even if you are a very powerful country like the US. Other countries may have to bend to your will in the short term, but will get back at you as soon as possible. Countries like China, which the Western powers bullied for years with impunity, have long memories of previous injustices and exploitation and never want to be in that position again.

Here’s hoping that Morrison finds a way out of this without our country having to lose face as well. At the moment we are clearly in trouble, especially if they go after iron ore.

We arrived home yesterday before the storm

It was quite windy on the drive home and we had a few spots of rain, but the main body of the storm came in the afternoon. Our house is so sheltered that we have to read news reports to get a feel for how bad it is. The van’s parking bay has brick walls around it and it is safe from anything except flying debris.

We stopped for coffee and Anzac bickies on the way home. It is so nice being able to use small kitchen appliances in the van. We are still using our gas cooktop for most things, but it saves switching the gas on when we just want a hot drink on the road.

I ordered an ordinary electric one burner cooktop after finding our induction cooktop didn’t work off the inverter. The new cooker has a ceramic top with red light underneath. (my mother had that sort of cooktop in her house at Kingswood Street). It heats up quickly and takes quite a while to cool down, so is a good source of heating for the van. However, it does draw a lot of power and we would only want to have it on for about 20 minutes.

How did our new power system go? Really well. We still need to monitor our use of the inverter with kitchen appliances, but we can do all of our charging and use lights as much as we want without significant draw on the batteries. Our adventures in free camping will continue in much more comfort.

We found we didn’t need to use the heater. Even though we had temperatures down to about 3 degrees overnight the little van heats up enough from cooking and two person body warmth to keep us reasonably comfortable. We try to park where we get maximum morning sun for the solar system and that also helps with warming the van.

Day 2 – off to Kulin

We knew about Kulin because Heather Ewart has done a Backroads programme about the town. From Gorge Rock you take the road towards Kondinin, then turn left onto the Tin Horse Highway. They have a bush race meeting each year and the Tin Horse competition became quite a thing. We didn’t see the rest of it on the other side of Kulin, but felt we knew it a bit because that was the way Heather came to the town.

Tin horses playing cricket.

The town free campsite is located centrally, screened behind bushes and trees from the Main Street. There are toilets and free 3 minute showers, water and a dump point. And a charging point for electric cars. But, that’s not the coolest camping option. How about a caravan park where you choose what to pay, depending on how happy you are.

We stayed in the free camp by preference and bought some groceries at the local IGA after walking around the town this morning as our way of giving thanks. The woman on the checkout looked and sounded like the bride in the Backroads programme, but I was too shy to ask if it was she.

We arrived just a little before sunset last night, so didn’t get a chance to go for a walk. This morning we explored the Main Street and a couple of the town’s famous landmarks, the swimming pool slide and the big recreation centre. A local farmer died and left a million dollars to the town. They got together and decided on what they wanted. The children wanted a water slide and they purchased one second hand and volunteers trucked it from Queensland. Sport is important in the town and the big recreation centre with a clubhouse was what people wanted.

Kulin town has a good water supply as they have been able to capture storm water. This allows them to have the swimming pool and water slide as well as offer travellers free water.

She wouldn’t look at me, though allowed me to pet her. She seems to have a beautiful temperament.

We were adopted by this dog, who was quite friendly. As we walked along she would go ahead, then look back to make sure we were following. She is tagged, so we knew she wasn’t a stray. When we got back to where she picked us up her owner whistled and she ran joyfully to him.

The shower block for the free campsite.

After our walk we filled up with water and dumped our cassette before heading off to have lunch in Kondinin. We just wanted to see what the town was like.

We shared the drive back as far as Brookton where we are spending our last night for this trip. Our plan is to drive home in the morning, hoping to be there before the worst of the promised ‘once in a decade’ storm. The weather has been warm and sunny during the day with quite cold nights and there is no sign that the weather is about to change.

Trip to the Wheatbelt

WordPress has done an odd thing and deleted most of my post from yesterday. I don’t have time to do anything much at the moment, but will rewrite the rest and post photos when I can. I used my laptop yesterday to write the post, then was working on my iPad this morning which had the original draft. It got confused. Anyway, Kulin, where we spent,last night, deserves it own post.

Yesterday we finished packing up (did our main preparations the day before) and set off for Gorge Rock, about 19 kms from Narrogin. Stephen had a doctor’s visit at 9.30 am, so we couldn’t leave early, which meant pretty solid driving in order to arrive in Narrogin in time for the St John of God Choir meeting on Zoom. They are meeting each week, but this was only my second time. There were a few issues with getting everyone on, then we spent time doing exercises in preparation for singing. Stephen went to the IGA to get us some extra drinking water, biscuits and Minties.

With the choir we are all muted whilst Bernard sings and plays guitar. When Stephen joined we had the nice experience of singing as a foursome, with Bernard and Eleanor on one iPad and us on another. We only had about 10 singers, partly I think as some had difficulty accessing the meeting.

Towards the end we waved goodbye and set off for our overnight spot at Gorge Rock. We enjoyed the views over farmland as the sun was setting on the drive. There were two other camper groups here and they waved to us as we arrived. We wandered around a bit before settling in for the night. I cooked a simple one pot meal with vegetables and meatballs. Stephen chopped up the veggies. Then we had fresh fruit and icecream. We shared a beer as well.

On the first night in the van it’s always a bit difficult to work out our systems, especially at the ‘pinch point’ where we have to make way for each other. We love our new smaller van so much that we don’t mind at all. Although it was two years old when we bought it and had driven across Australia it feels almost brand new.

This morning we walked out to the rock, then climbed up. We were very glad of our fly nets as there were lots of little flies. I enjoyed frustrating them as they walked around on the outside of the netting. They also walked around on my hands whilst I was taking photos, only slightly annoying as they were so small.

Gorge Rock used to be the local swimming pool until an Olympic sized swimming pool was built in town. It was a meeting place for the whole community. The rain water in the rock pool was sanitised during the summer and drained before the winter rains so that it could fill with fresh water. There was a hall and other facilities here. Now there are some picnic tables and fire pits. We would have liked to have markers on the rock itself as we could see a second rock summit with a cairn on top, but couldn’t work out how to get there.

Back at the van we’ve had morning coffees and Anzac biscuits and are relaxing at the moment. The plan is to spend the next night at Kulin, which is about 30 kms away. It has more facilities and we don’t have enough drinking water to stay another night here. We are also hoping for better Telstra reception so that we can watch online TV programs. We have a bit of a signal, but the internet is slow and rather patchy, dropping out completely at times. At Kulin we will still be at a bush camp but it is located in the township.

We have a very chatty neighbour, Stephen found it interesting for a while but was glad to escape for morning tea. A workman dropped in for ‘smoko’ in a big machine and she spent his entire visit talking to him as well. I don’t know if he had quite the break from work that he was hoping for.

Technology update in the van

Two new batteries and an inverter: 120Ah batteries and 2000w modified sine wave interter.

It took a week, but Ken Peachy Caravans have upgraded the battery system and installed an inverter in our van. We only had one 100Ah battery and had issues with it running down so much that the alarm flashed. Our van was two years old when we bought it and the owners were living in it full time. I’m not sure how they coped! A couple of times we’ve run the engine for about half an hour to replenish the battery. Our concern has been the fridge, which only runs on 12v power.

We don’t have a habitat heating system installed, but have thought of running the engine and using the van’s heating system if we are in really cold conditions. Even in the larger motorhome we would only run the diesel heater for about half an hour, so would expect that it would only take a relatively short time in our smaller van. I don’t expect the van’s heater to work as well as a diesel heater of course.

We never have the gas on when running the engine and I wanted to have a way of boiling water for our morning cups of tea without having to switch the gas on. My research suggests that I shouldn’t run the engine whilst using the inverter as it puts too much power back into the system and might fry the cables. However, I will contact Appolo Campervans to check on this. With an inverter we can quickly boil the kettle, switch off, then start the engine and heat the van whilst we have our tea. We also need hot water for washes, but it doesn’t take very long once we switch on the gas (after first switching off the engine). It sounds more complicated than it is, we are used to being careful about gas.

The new installation is two 120Ah batteries. One replaced the old battery in the electrical box, the other had to be mounted in the bottom of our pantry. The workman was also able to fit the inverter next to it, and we actually don’t lose any space as the pantry is actually a little wardrobe and is quite high. Our dishes and stuff have just moved up onto a new shelf.

I’ve been trying out our applicances to see what works. The 2000w induction cooktop doesn’t, a pity, but not vital. I was surprised to find an ordinary 2000w electric kettle works just fine. I can now use our electric coffee grinder, that’s a win as hand grinding coffee is quite hard work. The 800w Instant Pot works, with no difficulty getting up to full pressure. Next thing to check is how much power it uses to stay at pressure for half an hour to cook a meal.

I’m not sure about my coffee machine, it seemed to give an error message, but then was OK, needs more testing. It’s rated at 1300w. At least it didn’t trigger the alarm on the inverter as happened with the induction cooktop. I’ve got a little travel hairdryer that is about 1200w and works just fine.

We went for a modified sine wave inverter because we have six USB ports around the van to power all of our sensitive electronics. There is a 12V plug in charging point near the TV if we need to charge higher powered electronics. The laptop and all the cameras come with USB-C ports which can work either from the normal USB ports with an adapted cable, or from the higher powered port where we use a 75w USB-C adapter. The inverter is only needed for kitchen appliances which are less sensitive to power fluctuations. By the way, all of my knowledge comes from watching YouTube videos about power solutions for vans. It might be wrong, but this is the consensus. Modified sine wave inverters are cheaper than pure sine wave inverters.

We have one solar panel panel on the roof and absolutely no room for more. We think the panel is 150w as it registers up to about 140w in good sun. We think its probably enough, given that we also drive the van most days, which also charges the batteries. If we need more power we could consider a portable system, good for when it’s hot and we need to park in the shade, but still want to have good solar. However, our plan is to go with our present system for the time being and only look at getting more solar panels if it is really necessary. Thing is, solar panels work on light (even moonlight and street lamps) and are very good at providing some power even in cloudy weather or in partial shade. At the moment we have a lot of smoke haze, the solar is drawing 95w(17v  5.6 amps) and the batteries are at 100%.

At this stage we don’t have a way of directly measuring the power usage of applicances. I can only keep an eye on the battery levels. The device I want, with Bluetooth, is $320, plus the cost of installation. It’s possible we can get something much cheaper that will work just as well and Bluetooth is not really necessary, just fun as I can use an app on my phone.

I’m very happy with the new setup and have sent an email to Ken Peachy Caravans to let them know.

From tomorrow we will have access to more regions of Western Australia for camping. We are all set to go.

UPDATE:

One of our big concerns has been that we don’t have a heater in the van. Running the engine and using the cab heating was a possible workaround. However, I have just tested our little ceramic fan heater. It is rated at 1800w and should, in theory, work. And it actually does. It doesn’t appear to be a big draw on the batteries either. We are unlikely to have it on for more than about 20 minutes at a time as it’s more than enough to heat such a small area.

The odd thing is that whilst an appliance is running the battery level goes down to about 80%, but once the appliance is switched off the batteries go back to 100%. I thought it was because of solar power replenishing the batteries, but this time there was very little light outside. I’m very puzzled.

Finding interesting places for walks

A few updates were needed to this post as it was so badly written. My apologies to anyone who read it earlier and was trying to make sense of it.

We’ve had interesting times on our walks lately. The first that was memorable was when we decided to walk to my younger sister’s former house in East Victoria Park. It is a little further than our normal walks and was a goal to achieve. We were unsure of the actual house, so I contacted her to check the number. Turned out that her former neighbours, who bought the house from them when they moved had demolished it and built a new house. It’s rather nice. As I was taking some photos the neighbour came out to find out why and we identified ourselves. They showed us a photo of the original house.

The new house has a dragon out the front. I haven’t included a photo of the new house as it seems intrusive.

Our second rather special walk was when we drove over to the Heathcote and took a walk along the river.

There were quite a few people around and the cafe was open for takeaway.

On Tuesday we met with Stephen’s sister and her husband at Empire Village. She had asked for the return of a jigsaw and Stephen had two for her, one of hers and a new one. This was fortunate as it was the day before her birthday and it served as a gift. We bought morning tea at the Bakery cafe.

Afterwards we decided to drive down to the beach and eventually ended up at Cottesloe. Stephen bought toasted sandwiches for our lunch as it was a couple of hours since we had shared a doughnut with icing with our coffees. I took a phone call from RPH Breast Clinic about Mum’s virtual appointment. She will continue to be cared for by the visiting GP at Regis.

We stayed at Cottesloe until after sunset, enjoying the unusual lighting as it is very smoky in Perth at the moment due to controlled burns in the forests to the north and east. On our way back from our walk out to the groin we met a woman in a ball gown. She was waiting for her official photographer and graciously allowed me to take a photo of her.

I have an edited version this photo, but this is the version on my iPad without cropping.

There were people fishing on the groin and what looked like hundreds of surfers on the south side. There were some people swimming on the north side, and just a few surfers. As it got closer to sunset the sun became very red and cast beautiful reflections on the sea.

This photo almost looks like a painting due to the smoky light.

Google found an older photo of Stephen to join with the new.

On Thursday I had my first visit with Mum for a while. I had a flu vaccination on Monday in preparation as this was a condition of entry. We can book appointments and stay for one hour. I dropped her tax papers off to her accountant on the way, and found there was still one investment missing. I finalised that this morning, thanks to the helpful staff at Bendigo. Her tax return has gone in and the accountant has been paid. Mum should get her refund soon.

The visit went quite well although she got quite sleepy. Surprisingly, I wasn’t sleepy although I often have a nap at that time in the afternoon. She perked up when her tea and bickies arrived. I enjoyed the visit overall and it helps me to feel less guilty, even though it was the lockdown that stopped us visiting her. We have had a couple of video calls with her in the meantime.

Today we have driven to the Claremont/Dalkeith foreshore, bringing lunch to have in the van. Our plan is to walk along the river. There will be photos in the next blog.

We stopped at Ranger Outdoors to fill a gas tank this morning. This toy dog in an overlarge camping chair caught my eye.

Urban Beach Camping

We’ve had a warm weekend and Saturday night was just right for watching the sunset at Pinaroo Point.

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After watching the sunset, then walking along the path we came back to the van and heated up leftovers (sausage stew in tomato sauce, yum) for tea. We were relaxing and noticed more and more noise.

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The path down to the beach at Pinaroo Point.
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The tides are coming much further up the beach than we are used to, leaving it messy with seaweed.
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There was a controlled burnoff in the distance towards the north.
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A zoomed in shot of the cloud.
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Kids were playing at the edge of the water and there were lots of boats, but no one actually swimming.
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Speed boat and canoe
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Fisher folk tend to look very serious.
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It was one of those intensely gold sunsets, with spray catching the light.
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Wearing a sunhat and backpack this paddle boarder looked like he was hiking the saves.
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After the sun had set the beach, clouds and water looked beautiful with pastel colouring.
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We walked north from the car park after sunset.
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Silhouette of children – almost as if they had posed for this shot and the one at the top of this post.

There were about five campervans lined up with several young men having a party. It may have been less than 10 people but they were talking and kicking a soccer ball about and it sounded quite fun, for them. Not so much for us as we were worried that the police might come and ask them to leave. We might have been asked to leave as well. They had also lit a campfire – thus making the car park into an obvious camp ground. Normally vans that park at PP overnight are very discreet.

At about 8.30 we decided we’d had enough, we packed up a bit, and moved down the coast a little way to Whitfords Nodes car park. We have spent a night there once before. It was mostly quiet, but it is rather brightly lit. We needed the windows open, but had to contend with the lights shining in. It was cold at around 12.00, but warmer towards dawn. We cuddled under the doona for a while, then were much too hot, so just used our beautiful quilt. It is ideal in more humid weather as it’s made of natural, breathing materials.

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We woke up to a warm and sunny morning. We had some partial shade from the peppermints at first, nevertheless our solar system was working, charging up the battery. After a very leisurely morning of starter cups of tea, morning washes/showers and breakfast, we went for a walk down to the beach.

At about 10.30 we headed off to meet with Eversley at Empire Village, City Beach. There is a shopping centre with many cafes facing a beautiful shaded park. We bought a takeaway breakfast (the first time we have had takeaway food in coronavirus times) and set up with our own table and chairs near our cars. Eversley had a golden Honda for so many years that we don’t recognise her new white Toyota Yaris and we quite by chance parked right next to her car. We sat talking for quite a while before going our separate ways.

Once home I had a rest, then afternoon tea, then tackled unpacking the van. We unloaded the whole of the storage area and several cupboards to make way for the workman. It was quite tiring in the humid conditions. We have ended up with a very untidy house and a very tidy van.

This morning we got up and dropped the van off at Ken Peachy Caravans. I drove there in the van and Stephen picked me up. Jason came out to see me and we did the handover outside. I had to wait a bit for Stephen to arrive and they invited me in, but actually it was fine waiting in the open air. The electrician is off today so we are not sure exactly when the work will happen.

Concierge Service

On Thursday I found out that when we collect an online order for Click and Collect we don’t have to go to the counter inside the shopping centre, but can pick it up from the loading bay. You reverse the car to the door and they actually load the shopping into it! There is nothing on the website that spells this out, it must have been my homemade mask and the gloves that made the shop assistant mention it. Obviously paranoid.

This is incredibly handy in these times. I find the online orders for click and collect are better than delivery because it’s free, we only have to spend $50 minimum, and the shopping is available for pickup the next day. We mostly get what we have ordered and they provide intelligent substitutes. I’m probably the last person to find out about the pickup, which makes me feel pretty silly. Still, it’s so good to know that I’ve overcome it!

With the easing of restrictions here in WA they have lifted the ban on camping in national parks. There are two places in our Perth/Peel region – up at Yanchep or down to Dwellingup. We have been wanting a night away and have been waiting for Stephen to finish a singing project. It was finished on Friday afternoon. After thinking it through, we decided that Dwellingup is too far for a one nighter and Yanchep looked pretty busy with only four sites left. So, Pinaroo Point it is. Not a national park, but close to home and free.

We arrived here at about 12.30 p.m. and it is warmer than I was expecting. We have been cold in the house the last few days. I didn’t bring my bathers, but it at least saves me having to wonder whether getting everything wet is worth it. We’ve had lunch and afternoon tea so far, staying mostly in the van. There is a light breeze, which is helping us to be comfortable.

Our van is booked in on Monday to have the 12volt power system upgraded with two new batteries and an inverter. If all goes well. I checked on the roof to see if we could fit another solar panel up there, but all the roof real estate is taken up with stuff.

Thus we support a local business. Mind you, caravan repair places probably don’t lack customers as we all prepare hopefully for our winter travels. We go north in winter as it’s the only time when temperatures are bearable outdoors. But I like the south in winter as well – it is very scenic in the colder weather with rain and mist and everything very green.

Stephen’s project was to record himself singing his part for a choir peice which will be put together by the WASO chorus master. It has taken him two weeks of practice and quite a few recordings to come up with something he is fairly happy with. In the meantime I went a little crazy and had to resort to going out to the van to get away from the endless repetition. However, I did help him with setting up the tripod and holder for his iphone for recording.

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He was listening to a piano recording and I had to switch on the iphone and switch on the recording for him as he concentrated on the singing. He said he never got to the stage of being absolutely happy with one of the ‘takes’ but he ran out of time and had to upload it reguardless. Thank goodness!

We needed a new cylinder for our Sodastream and took a walk over to the shopping centre to buy the replacement. We swap the old for the new. This is only our second replacement cylinder so far and it really has helped to have an almost endless supply of sparkling water over the summer months.

Just another couple of cloudscapes from our evening walk.

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The apartment block behind our house. They’ve added the orange sculpture since the lockdown, and despite many people moving into the building I still think it looks forlorn with the pub closed. I’m looking forward to it reopening even if it does mean a lot of noise at the end of the night when they take out the rubbish and throw it (from a great distance it seems) into the bins.