An exciting announcement!

Disclaimer: if you have no interest in how to eliminate odors in a cassette toilet you don’t need to read any further. You won’t miss out on anything important and can come back to join us on our next trip.

We’ve had our motorhome for nearly two years. During this time we have used the cassette toilet mainly for no. 1s and occasionally for no. 2s in an emergency. I’ve researched blogs and Youtube to find a solution to the odor, and recently started using the heavily perfumed commercial solutions in our RV toilet. Unfortunately, they add another level of odor, without necessarily eliminating the original one. Plus there is the worry about whether we are poisoning ourselves.

Just before we went away to Wandering/Dryandra I watched a Youtube video about using a cassette RV toilet where they said they used white vinegar to successfully elimiate odor. I thought it was worth trying. We already use a spray bottle of water and white vinegar to ‘flush’ the toilet when we are conserving water. I bought a large bottle of cheap white vinegar in Coles and covered the bottom of the tank with about an inch.

We were away from Monday to Wednesday and two days later, today, I have just emptied the tank. We had not experienced any odor when we were away and I wanted to test it further. There was a faint smell of vinegar when I emptied the tank, but nothing else. Normally I spend lots of time rinsing afterwards and using washing up detergent to get rid of any lingering smell. Today I did two plain water rinses of the tank. In the case where there is no water for rinsing I think it would work to just start again with white vinegar in the bottom of the tank.

Of course, we are having quite a cold spell at the moment and it might not work quite as well in the heat.

The featured image above is another photo from the Dryandra forest. I thought a photo of the toilet was probably even more off putting than the subject of this post.

Wandering Home

After a very peaceful night at the Gnarla Mia campgrounds at Dryandra we took the long way home. In fact, because I consulted Google Maps and not Stephen who had an actual map, we went a very long way round through Cuballing. We wanted to drive through Dryandra Woodlands before leaving and take the Brookton Highway home.

After ‘lights out’ last night our eyes adjusted to starlight, with looming dark shapes of trees. We slept well and woke up to the alarm at 7.00 a.m. We used the heater for about half an hour whilst we had showers/washes in the bathroom. By the end of the time, we noticed that the heater was actually blowing cooler air – time to switch off. I tested it later and it was then blowing warm air, perhaps it had to do with the thermostat deciding that we were overheating.

Today we have had lots of cloud, some sunshine, and some rain. We are pleased that our patch appears to be working to prevent water coming in. We enjoyed going through the lovely green farmland.

We stopped at Brookton for lunch or second breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and pancakes. We had a rest, then coffee and cakes. We definitely haven’t done enough walking to justify all of the food, though we ate small quantiies and have had soup for tea, thank goodness for a well stocked freezer with the results of my cooking spree over the weekend.

We stopped a few times for short breaks during the day.

At Brookton, there was a strong breeze and the flowers kept moving.
a rest area on the Brookton Highway
This rest stop wasn’t such a good idea, there were lots of puddles and we added some more mud to the lower parts of the Winnie.
The puddles through the windscreen. Te had to negotiate through them to get to a section where we could get up some speed before driving onto the highway.
We’ve seen quite a lot of wildflowers – the weather is still wintry and unusually cold and wet, but plants are anticipating spring already.

Stephen rang Marie just before 1.00 p.m. to see if they were nearby. They had gone home via Albany Highway and arrived in Roleystone around 12.00. I feel a bit envious that to get home they don’t have to travel for 30 kms down Albany Highway at the end of their journey. However, I was still feeling on a high from our short time away and did not find the drive through traffic too difficult.

Stephen helped with bringing in food, clothes and bedding and it was all over very quickly. We are taking the Winnie in for repairs early tomorrow morning, normally we would unpack most of our stuff, but not worry about getting everything out.


Wandering and Dryandra

We were able to get away by about 10.30 a.m. yesterday. It was slow progress until we left Armadale. The early part of Albany Highway rolls through forest and hills and at first we didn’t have much traffic to contend with. Later it was busier, but with lots of passing lanes we didn’t feel that we inconvenienced other traffic too much by travelling at 80 kms per hour. The road was surprisingly bumpy – we can’t remember it being that bad in the past.

We were feeling in very good spirits and the weather, though cloudy, remained fine. Wandering is very small, with the Tavern having to do douple duty as a shop. We went to the caravan park first, where Marie and Geoff were in the process of setting up. We drove back to the Shire Office to pay our fee ($25.00, plus a deposit for the key of a refundable $50). The caravan park is on the edge of the town with a large playing field, good toilets and showers, and a camper’s kitchen.

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Wandering Caravan Park

We had our lunch, then a rest, and Geoff then took us out for a drive. We went as far as Pumphrey’s Bridge, then down the York/Williams Road for a while, then on other gravel roads back to Wandering. We took small walks around the park and enjoyed the small stream running nearby.

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stream at Wandering Caravan Park

The evening was lovely. The campers’ kitchen has reverse cycle airconditioning for heating, plus dining table and chairs, a couple of lounges, a TV and kettle, toaster, microwave and stove. Everything is clean and well kept. We brought food and had a shared meal.

We couldn’t get the TV to work, and set up an ipad feeding into the TV instead. We watched the SA ABC news, (too early for WA news), then an episode of Backroads. We sang songs, with Stephen attempting to accompany us on his uke. He hadn’t brought music and gave up after a little while. We did some Youtube searches for music we enjoyed.

We went back to our little homes for the night. The park has some lighting and we needed our curtains to block it out, but appreciated the sense of safety it gave us.

This morning Stephen and I had our first cuppa at about 8.00 a.m. We were able to get away on schedule, somewhere between 10.00 and 12.00. We are finding that getting back into our normal routines of managing is taking time after such a long break and everything seems to take a bit more time.

We left before Marie and Geoff and arrived down at Dryandra at about the same time. We were able to travel at 50 kms along the gravel road (York/Williams Road) in the Winnie and felt that it was fairly comfortable even without the wonderful suspension of Geoff’s car.

I was confused about the location of the camping area, but a couple with local knowledge were able to help us, and gave us a map of Dryandra. We found a spot on loop 2 of the Gnarla Mia campground. It is fairly level and nearly as good as our spot at Wandering. Of course, it is a much simpler setup without hookups – just press the button for the slideout and put the gas on for the fridge. Marie and Geoff are staying at Wandering for their second night and brough lunch to have a picnic. We ate in the Winnie, very chummy on our supposedly four person dinette.

Dryandra campsite

Geoff then took us on a drive through the park, stopping at the Arboretum, a small dam, and the Dryandra Village. Stephen and I had been to the Arboretum previously, but had not actually walked through the area where all the trees were sign posted before. It wasn’t well kept, but clearly, at some stage, a huge amount of work had gone into planning and signage that is now falling into disrepair.

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Similarly, we noted the dam, but hadn’t walked around it. Geoff drove through the Dryandra Village and we found a road back onto the main road through the Woodlands.

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Dam with old pumphouse
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Plants at the edge of the dam. Tannin in water gives it this brown colour.

We all came back to the Winnie for afternoon tea. Marie and Geoff left at about 4.00 p.m. as they wanted to get back to Wandering in good light. They are having two nights there. Although we are enjoying being here we feel a bit bereft after having time together. It was lovely to have Geoff drive us around in his very comfortable car. Thank you Geoff.

We had leftover chicken and vegetables heated up on the stove, with toast, followed by an orange with yogurt and chocolate with our peppermint teas. We listened to some podcasts. We have a phone signal here, but only one or two bars, good enough for this blog, but we thought it might not run to watching online videos.

So far (9.30 p.m.) we haven’t needed to use our heating. We had a mostly sunny day, with a few cloudy periods and with the curtains open the interior was a comfortable temperature. Cooking using the gas stove kept the van warm after sunset. We will probably go to bed early as we missed having an afternoon rest.

There was a billboard at the dam with lots of information about Dr Vincent Serventy, a conservationist who was mainly responsible for the Dryandra Woodlands being saved from mining. He went to Perth Modern School and the University of WA and became famous in his lifetime for his passion for the natural environment. There is a Wikepedia entry about him:

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First outing with the Winnie

Last year when we were coming back from somewhere we drove through the Dryandra Woodlands. It home to the white barked Wandoo and Powderbark which once covered a large area of the wheatbelt and provides a habitat for lots of local animals, etc. We drove through the park and investigated the camping areas provided by the WA Parks and Wildlife Service with a view to going there to stay for a night or two at a future date.

We are having a lot of rain at the moment and often see this type of heavy cloud.

When were discussing future trips, including visiting Dryandra, with Marie and Geoff, they decided to come as well, staying at the Wandering Caravan Park as they need electricity for heating. Our plan is to camp with them at Wandering for the first night, then spend the second night at Dryandra. Originally we planned to stay for a few days, but something happened.

Whilst we were overseas Marie and Geoff kept an eye on the Winnie, checking for water leaks after heavy rainfalls. I also checked her on return, including the shelf over the bed, where there was a leak when we damaged the roof in the early days of having the van. I was driving and Stephen giving directions, but he forgot to check up high and we hit an overhang. We haven’t made that mistake since, but we had water leaking in over the bed and did some pretty drastic patching as we had to wait months for a new panel. It was covered under insurance, of course.

I tried to keep the patch fairly discrete, but putting some larger plastic sheeting on it would have given me more peace of mind.

After bringing the Winnie to our place, I was opening the curtains when I noticed a slight stain on the pillows. Further checking found a puddle on the shelf above the bed and the bedding was damp on that side. Even the mattress was slightly damp. I pulled everything out and put it in the wash. We stood the mattress on its side for a couple of days and it appears to be fine. The only bedding that was damaged was the doona which had mould.

The leak would have been difficult to find and even I didn’t find it until it arrived at our place. We think the repairs may be covered under the original claim.

On Saturday morning we had some fine weather, so we patched the corner with plastic and tape. I climb the ladder and Stephen hands things up to me. So far, we haven’t had any further leaks and this morning I made up the bed. I put plastic over the bedding, just in case.

I rang Ken Peachy Caravan Repairs and they were able to book us in for Thursday 9th August – an urgent matter such as a water leak gets priority, normally we have quite a long wait for repairs. It means we can only go away for two nights, but as Dryandra is only a couple of hours away it is still worthwhile to go. In fact, even if we still had a leak we were planning to go anyway and work around it. It might mean sleeping ‘upstairs’ in the luton bed, but still worth going.

The stove top burner are burning with some yellow, rather than just blue flame. I remember from our last trip that pots and pans are getting dirty bottoms when we cook. I did some online research which suggests that the jets and stove as a whole needs cleaning. I think even the oven and grill are burning yellow, it might be more than I can tackle so will ask Jason at Ken Peachy for advice.

The main danger is carbon monoxide poisoning – probably not too much danger for us as we are such fresh air fiends in the Winnie. We have a built in draft coming from behind the microwave which we chose to not have fixed, plus we always have at least one window open slightly. And, there is a vent on the front door, down quite low. We can open up even more whilst using the stove, just to make sure. The fridge might also need checking, but we don’t leave it on overnight when using gas because everything inside freezes up.

We were extremely busy in the first few weeks of coming home, but things have slowed down a little bit and I feel as though I’ve caught up, to some extent. I’m starting to feel the benefits of being retired and having energy for our many and varied projects and interests.


13 Days and Nights

Stephen and I were guessing how long we had been home. We thought nearly two weeks. We had a few days of not much happening, just settling in, unpacking and shopping for food. I went with Marie to see Mum on the Wednesday, after three nights at home. We had a Working Voices Choir committee meeting on the Thursday evening, then went to see Marie and Geoff to catch up on Friday afternoon. G, our exchangee came to pick up the keys for his Croydon apartment on Saturday morning and we went to the Stadium to check out where we would meet Matt on Sunday. There was a great sunset as we walked back to Albany Highway to get our bus home.


On Sunday afternoon we went to the football with Matt. We all went back to our place afterwards for tea. We travelled by wheelchair taxi after catching public transport to the Stadium.


On Monday Marie and I did a Tilda Workshop together. I have taken on a quite challenging project which should keep me going for a while. If it doesn’t become a UFO (unfinished object).

We went to the State Libary on Tuesday to see some short documentaries as part of NAIDOC week, then had lunch at the senior citizens centre at City Place. Stephen and I took Mum to the Parky Pub on Wednesday. It was a sunny day, but cold, and they had an open fire in the dining room. We sat close to it.

In the evening we went to a talk at our local libary with the CEO of Greenpeace. It was an interview type talk and very interesting, and scary, of course. His message is that although it is good to get on board with recylcing, without systemic change it won’t make a lot of difference to global warming. It is a matter of the government shifting the responsibility on to citizens – and we are not the main polluters. We asked what we could possibly do and he reminded us that social change has to come from ‘we the people’ – our choir has a song about that. Stephen mentioned the choir when he asked a question at the end. He had prepared some slips of paper as business cards and there were a few people interested, including one man.

Yesterday I met with Glenda, Jackie, Lesley, Scott and Matt at a cafe at Dog Swamp shopping centre to discuss his goal plan. He has a very interesting and fulfilling life. Thank goodness. Stephen shopped whilst I was out.

Today we went to another lunchtime film event at the State Library. The films were documentaries celebrating Aboriginal artists and musicians. We went to City Place for lunch and ran into Jeff Carroll.

At the moment I am ensconced in a cafe just around the corner from our place. It is new, and styles itself as a Dairy Cafe, with products such as icecream, milk, yogurt and cream from Sunnydale Dairies (Waroona). The coffee is OK, but better is that I have it almost to myself, apart from Lesley, the owner. There are two other cafes close by, but they are sometimes so busy that I don’t feel tempted to go in. I’m pretty sure this one will take off as well.



Home at Last

On Saturday morning we had a sort of private taxi to the airport. It was very quick and we had help with our suitcases, which we much appreciated. We checked in and went through security. The security section was quite pleasant, with lots of pods open and no waiting. They did not require as much sorting out of stuff as in China, and had the special screening machines for people, which meant they didn’t actually touch us.

After that, we went to one of the cafes for breakfast. I had a bowl of porridge and shared it with Stephen as it was quite big. Our flight was at 9.30 a.m. and we assumed (rightly) that we would not be fed immediately on getting onboard. The photo at the top was taken at the cafe.

It was a relatively pleasant 12.5 hour flight. We were served two meals, a brunch and an evening meal. In between, which was quite a long time, they served little savoury rolls and other snacks and drinks on demand. The staff were lovely and always behaved as if it was their pleasure to look after us. It was a day flight for us, and we didn’t try to sleep, just rested. Although we were sick of being cooped up by the end we agreed that we were well looked after and it was as enjoyable as it possibly could have been.

At Singapore we were transferring in the same Terminal. It was still quite a long way to our next gate, and we even caught a little train, but somehow not as frenetic as some of our transfers have been. The 5 hour flight to Perth wasn’t quite as nice as the previous one, we mainly had male flight attendants and they simply didn’t appear to be enjoying themselves looking after us. The food wasn’t quite as good either. I guess it depends on the contractor doing the meals, as much as the actual airline.

Stephen hadn’t eaten on the flight, so after coming through the automatic passport check and customs we went to a cafe for coffee and snacks. I was still feeling OK, with very little sleep, but Stephen was feeling pretty sleep deprived.

Much as it is a security feature to have someone in the house when we are away, it is still disconcerting to find things in different places, etc. I felt well enough to go and do a little bit of shopping for food for dinner and breakfast. We went shopping again yesterday (Monday) for extra groceries.

This morning I spent time finishing unpacking and sorting out my study. I did some washing yesterday and it was still pretty damp this morning. I’m feeling that there may be less dust from the building site next door and have put the washing outside to dry. We thought that the building might have progressed more than it has, but they appear to have done all of the foundations.

On Sunday night we had difficulty sleeping. We got up at 1.30 a.m. and had hot milk and toast, then went back to bed. We slept in, despite the workers having commenced at about 7.00 a.m. Last night we went to bed later, at about 11.00 p.m. and pretty much slept until 7.00 a.m. when we were woken by the noise from the building site. As a consequence we feel somewhat better today.


Kiss me Kate and dinner in China Town, London

The Coliseum theatre where we had an enjoyable time seeing this old musical.

Outside the theatre.

On our way, we went to nearby Chinatown for a meal. The food was Hong Kong style and very good.

Today we took the very slow bus to a hotel near Heathrow Airport. Our flight is at 9:30 am tomorrow and we have a car booked to take us to Terminal 2 in the morning. It is the same cost as the Airport Shuttle, but faster.

We had a day of packing and finishing cleaning at the apartment, before catching the bus. It took us about 3.5 hours to get here, with wait times and Stephen going to the library to return some books.

This hotel is more of a hostel, we have a tiny room with tiny ensuite and a kettle in a nearby outdoor area if we want to make our own cups of tea. I have a cup and some teabags and plastic cutlery. There were other possibilities for an evening meal, such as pizza delivery or a nice pub on the corner, but I brought some leftover food and we had picnic tea outside, before walking down to a local shop to get money, water and ice creams.

Our last few days in England

On Tuesday afternoon we went to the Science Museum in London. The highlight was going to the iMax theatre to see the 3D movie about the Hubble Telescope. Stephen looked at other exhibits afterwards whilst I enjoyed reading about the Hubble. Being close to Earth it was possible for teams to do repairs and upgrades and it is still operating after being launched in 2009. A replacement is planned which will be much further out and not able to be reached by astronaughts.

We caught a bus through to Hyde Park and spent a pleasant time in the warm late afternoon on the Serpentine. Our goal was to see an exhibit, very large and very silly, floating on the water. We were able to enjoy the warm weather just sitting. The lack of airconditioning means travelling by public trans;port can be quite uncomfortable. Our train journey home was comfortable as it was cooler.

When the weather warmed up here, we were finding the house very warm and stuffy, and it was difficult to sleep even though we had the sliding door in the bedroom open. We could only open the windows very slightly. However, Stephen emailed G and found out how to open the windows properly. It means going through a very stiff part, then the windows open. For the last couple of days the house has been much cooler, especially since we are waking up to mist insteading bright sunlight. The mist clears by late morning, allowing the sun to really warm things up. During the ‘heat wave’ our house was already very hot by 7.00 a.m. when the sun had been on the glass for about two hours.

Yesterday Stephen wasn’t feeling very well with renewed cough and cold. I did some shopping and we went out later in the day to enjoy a cup of tea at the M&S cafe. We both bought some underwear, not cheap, but good quality.

Today (Thursday) is our designated cleaning day. We have done the big jobs, with some more to do tomorrow. We are spending our last night in a hotel near the airport, but checkin is not until 3.00 p.m. and we plan to do our packing in the morning and travel via the very slow bus to Heathrow. From there it is a short journey on another bus to the hotel. I thought I might do packing today, but can’t get motivated.

We are both feeling a bit anxious about leaving as we have been in one place long enough to feel quite settled and it is unsettling us to feel we have to move on. Also, I don’t think anyone these days looks forward to long flights, especially when travelling economy. At least arriving home means we can relax at the end.

Tonight we have an outing to the theatre to see ‘Kiss me Kate’ at the Colloseum in London. We plan to have dinner somewhere first. We felt we needed a reward after cleaning the house. Plus, it is a lovely way to spend our second last evening here.


Down House

Yesterday we took trams and buses to visit Down House, which was the family home of Charles and Emma Darwin for most of their married life. They had 10 children altogether, with Emma having her last baby when she was 48 years old. There is a biography of her life which I will look into as she seems to have been a remarkable woman.

Charles Darwin was very fortunate in that he always knew he would inherit wealth and he ackowledged himself that perhaps he didn’t really apply himself at university because he knew he didn’t really need to. Another reason was that he had his own areas of interest and may not have really cared for much of what he was being taught.

After living on The Beagle for five years, travelling to remote places, doing long field trips and studying plant and animal life, he arrived home, married, moved house once, and pretty much stayed put for the rest of his life. He developed stomach problems, probably due to contact with a particularly nasty beetle, which sometimes made it difficult for him to work. And work he did. He walked in the grounds of his house three times a day – doing a particular circut five times in a row before lunch.

He would work in his study in the morning, writing and doing research, then walk, then have lunch, have some time with Emma (she often read to him, but they were in the bedroom away from the children, so may have engaged in other activities, leading to more children). Then I think he went back to work. He was a fond father and pretty relaxed for the times, when fathers tended to be distant and stern. He actually sounds like a rather nice person.

They bought the old house, adding to it over the years as they had more children. The house is now open to the public and run by English Heritage, a sort of rival to the National Trust. However, in this case I think they did a very good job of setting the house up for the public. They had some rooms set up with displays about Darwin’s life and research and some set up as much as possible as they were when the family lived there.

The gardens are still very well looked after, with Darwin’s walk (the Sand Walk), greenhouses, vegetable garden with the same vegetables that were grown in his day. Of course, they had servants to look after them and the butler appeared to be a very good friend to Darwin. They had two cooks over the lifetime of living there, and the second one wasn’t much good, but they don’t appear to have considered getting someone new to replace her.

When doing modifications to the house, Darwin said that he wanted the servants to be comfortably housed as well as the family. He was always an opponent of slavery.

Of course, having wealth meant that he didn’t have to worry about earning a living and could focus on his own areas of interest, which were many and varied. But, he could have been lazy and self indulgent, like many wealthy people.

We set out at about 11.30 and arrived home about 7.00. We had warm weather. It continues to be fairly comfortable in the shade, it’s not really hot, but being in the sun isn’t pleasant for us and we avoid it as much as possible. Our bedroom was hot when we got home and I opened the sliding door as wide as possible and put the little fan on. By the time we went to bed it was reasonably comfortable.

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The Sand Walk. We explored the garden after 4.30 when it was a bit cooler. I didn’t do the whole circut as I wasn’t sure how long it was and if I would be back before they closed the house. Long enough to try to imagine being Darwin doing the walk, of course.
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They had the obligatory digital headset and device for exploring the ground floor and gardens. Here is Stephen imagining he is Darwin, sitting in the garden.
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We see lots of these little fellows whereever we go.
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Darwin’s greenhouse. There is a little laboratory attached and photos of schoolgirls doing experiments there (the house was a school for some years)
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Today we plan to continue our scientific journey with a visit to the Science Museum in London. We are counting down the days until we leave. Thursday we will clean the house and probably have a local outing. On Friday we change all the linen and do a lot of washing before catching the very slow bus to Heathrow. We have a hotel booked nearby where we will stay the night. The Heathrow Shuttle will then take us to Terminal 2 to catch our 9.30 a.m. flight on Saturday.