Day 18: Toodyay to Home Base

The featured photo shows us using the ‘power from above’ as it says in our song. Stephen still worries about using power from our batteries and I have to keep reminding him that when we use electrical appliances we are using renewable power from our solar. We can’t use an induction cooktop with our inverter, but this inexpensive little hotplate works well. It takes a while to cool down after switching off, which is a benefit on a cold morning. The benefit of using electric applicances is also that we lose less of our limited kitchen bench space than we do using the two burner gas hob.

We had a slightly challenging drive home along Toodyay Road to Roe Highway. It winds around a lot and we were having squally showers and going a bit slow for other traffic. We pulled off a couple of times to let vehicles pass as there was only one passing lane in 80 kms.

We were able to have lunch before doing most of the unpacking.

This morning (Wednesday 1st July) I’ve been catching up on tasks, such as getting an access code for Matt’s NDIS plan and making an appointment to see my mother tomorrow. The NDIS call was quite involved as I can only link my mygov account to it, not Matthew’s. Still, I can now see how money he was allocated, quite a lot really. His good life, despite the severe disabilities, costs a great deal of public money. I’m very grateful, especially as he is generally happy and positive in incredibly trying circumstances. It would not be possible without the money.

We’ve booked our van in for it’s first warranty service. It will cost nearly $1,000. George Day Caravans agreed to pay for it when we bought the van six months ago. Stephen is working on getting at least some refund from them. The salesman made a mistake about the hot water system, telling us it was a Combi 4E which includes space heating, whereas it is merely a hot water system. We would still have bought the van, but didn’t find out his mistake until we picked up the van about a month later.

I’ve done all of our clothes washing, plus our towells. Still need to wash the bed linen. We don’t have our next trip planned yet, but we are eager to keep making short trips away and it will soon be the wildflower season.

I’ve sent off a few queries to the person now looking after Matt’s group home, including asking if she can organise transport for Matt to come to lunch on Saturday. He is not yet allowed to travel by taxi and it means about two hours spent transporting him to and from his house for the staff. Waiting on an answer.

Day 17: Wongan Hills to Toodyay

It was a pretty wild night at times, but we were snug in the van. In the morning there were puddles all around and we were glad to be on bitumen. We had our usual leisurely start to the day and were ready to move at around 10.00 am. First to dump,our cassette, then to find the local pharmacy to have a script filled.

The van is still dirty as the rain only washes off the superficial stuff. But fortunately it looks OK from a short distance away.

Just out of Wongan Hills is Lake Ninan, which we have been to before, but were interested to see on a wet and windy day. We had a bit of sunshine.

It’s possible to camp for 72 hours here.

The drive to Toodyay of about 90kms was pretty hairy at times with squally winds and light rain, but we enjoyed the farmland scenery.

Of course, the reason we came to Toodyay was for the bakery. Under the new rules we couldn’t go upstairs, but sat in a corner on the ground level for our pies, hot drinks, and rhubarb and apple crumble.

They don’t use plates, just paper bags and takeaway cups even if you eat inside. This is normal, not a Corona virus thing.

There is so much to choose from. We bought some olive flavoured sourdough bread to take with us.

After a rest we discussed driving home, but I didn’t want to be driving tired through traffic and we decided to stay at the little park up where we stayed last time. No one has dropped in to offer us a pizza, sadly. That really happened last time!

So here we are, our last night on the road. We should be home tomorrow by about lunchtime.

A couple of hours ago two cars pulled in a sort of boxed us in. I was a bit alarmed until a bus came along and we realised it was parents picking up school children. It was just as well we had parked on the side of the parking area as it was a huge bus.

Day 16: Mt Gibson Rest Area to Wongan Hills

It was a windy drive with threatening clouds at times, but not much rain. We filled up with water and dumped the cassette at the Wongan Hills Tourist Info Centre, then hit the IGA. We haven’t been to the IGA here before and we’re delighted to find it very well stocked. We bought some stirfry for tea and pies and a salad for our lunch.

We’ve parked in the town RV parking area, facing the van into the wind. Although we hear the wind we aren’t getting a lot of buffeting, so must have it right. The Ridge Monkey came good as an oven to heat up our pies.

Photos to follow in an update.

Day 15: Mt Gibson Rest Area

We have a bit of Telstra 4g after all. It’s just a car park on the edge of the highway, but is very large. We’ve taken a spot near the bush. A family with a tent camper have parked near us in the bush, but they have an SUV which was able to handle the rough track. It’s also a possibility that it will rain tonight, so best to be on bitumen.

A notable thing that happened this afternoon when we were just about to drive out of a parking bay when we saw a large truck carrying monster tyres passing another long, heavily loaded truck. This was happening just as they passed us and if it had gone wrong they could have not only killed us, but the people in a car behind us. It seemed incredibly foolish. There was a third truck just behind as well.

As we drove this afternoon heavily laden trucks often passed us, including wide loads where we had to get off the road. They were all heading north as we headed south. We also saw lots of caravans heading north. People taking advantage of the lifting of regional border restrictions. We are still cut off from the rest of Australia, but with such a huge land area spanning north to south with different weather systems there are a lot of possibilities.

No damage to the inverter from leaving it on whilst driving.

Day 15: gravel pit to Mt Gibson Rest Area

We are not currently at Mt Gibson, but having lunch at Payne’s Find which has 4g. As I don’t think we will be able to post from Mt Gibson I’m just posting this little update, with a link to a YouTube video that will fill you in on what happened this morning.

We are also about to find out what would happen if we had the engine running whilst the inverter was on. When we arrived here I realised I hadn’t switched it off after blow drying my hair. I haven’t tried using it to power anything yet, so can’t tell you if it’s a problem.

This morning we used battery/solar power to boil the kettle twice, make two pots of coffee and heat up milk on the portable electric hot plate, and used the hairdryer. We were getting lots of solar power and by the time we set out on our journey the batteries were up to 100%. Pretty fantastic. We’ve used up one of our gas bottles and have now switched to the other one. It will definitely last until we get home, but using renewable power as well seems a good idea.

The video is very short. The photo is one of Stephen practicing to be a Gormley statue on Lake Ballard. He wouldn’t do it naked as it was cold.

Day 14: Sandstone to gravel pit 15 kms south of Mt Magnet via London Bridge

How’s that for a title!

Sandstone has a heritage trail which takes in a limestone bridge, which is called London Bridge. We drove down a gravel road to get there, being now somewhat philosophical about how dusty we are getting. The outside of the van doesn’t look too bad, but there is fine grit all around inside. It will take quite a bit of work to clean up when we get home. Of course, the outside will need cleaning as well.

London Bridge is well worth a visit.

We stopped in Mt Magnet for groceries, quite a good IGA and we stocked up on cider and other essentials😀

As we didn’t need a caravan park WikiCamps came to our rescue. It isn’t the most delightful place, mainly due to all the rubbish. But we have tucked behind a large pile of gravel and we are on a blue metal surface.

Although we liked the Sandstone Caravan Park we were placed near a number of bright lights. Although it was a still night and we really needed the windows open we had to keep the blinds drawn to make it dark enough to sleep. The secret is to think of these things and perhaps choose our own place to spend the night. It’s a very large caravan park and there were very few vans, so we would have had a choice.

Otherwise it is a great place to stay and the proximity to an interesting old pub is a bonus.

Day 13: Leinster to Sandstone

We set off a bit late as we were enjoying the mild sunny weather at our camping spot. The drive took us through an ever changing landscape due to changes in vegetation. We found it interesting anyway. Sandstone is quite pretty, with some interesting old buildings and a bush camp style caravan park. First thing after arriving we walked down to the local pub and had the fish and chip special.

Then Stephen went to the museum and I did some washing. Somehow since Menzies we had accumulated quite a lot. It’s still on the line and we expect it will be dry by the time we leave here in the morning. It is a warmish night, with the low at about 11C and we don’t expect a dew.

We walked out close to sunset to look at the buildings and a display about the town.

I’ll try for one image tonight, we have a good 3G signal, but the upload speed seems to be very slow.

UPDATE: a couple of photos added now that we are on 4g.

We had clouds at sunset for about the first time on this trip.

Day 12: Leonora to Leinster

But before setting out we went to the Gwalia Ghost Town and Museum to learn about the history of the mine. Concerned folk have taken it upon themselves to restore many of the miners’ cottages, plus other infrastructure, such as the old hotel and the manager’s residence. We spent a couple of hours on the exhibits and reading material they supplied, all fascinating to this miner’s grand daughter. My mother was born when the family were in Wiluna, about 150 kms north of here.

We didn’t enjoy our overnight at the Leonora caravan park, not their fault, but it was very full of people, both workers and travellers and after our peaceful time at Menzies Caravan Park, then Lake Ballard, we felt overwhelmed. Still, it was useful to get a small amount of washing done, plus fill up on water.

I also cooked a very nice evening meal in the Instant Pot.

We have chosen to park at a WikiCamps recommended camping spot about 3 kms out of Leinster. It is mainly a truck stop, but there is parking in the bush adjacent. There is a caravan nearby, reassuring as we don’t quite want to be entirely on our own.

Part of the exhibition featured local personalities, including people who once lived in the town and people involved in the restoration.

There were restored houses and buildings on the museum site, including the wonderful manager’s residence, with beautiful rooms and a garden, oddly overlooking the open cut mine.

On the wide verandah you could have morning tea with coffee and cake, so we did.

We had a late lunch of cheese and Vegemite sandwiches toasted in the Ridge Monkey.

There were some birds taking an interest in us as we ate, including this hopeful little fella.

And this is where we are spending tonight.

2 days without internet at Lake Ballard

I read a lot and checked our solar and battery obsessively😀. We wondered what was happening with the news and were glad to hear today that Trump was disappointed with his Tulsa rally. Stephen had some podcasts downloaded and we listened to them. I wrote up my blog in Word and copied it over to WordPress this afternoon. We coped quite well, I think. It was good to know we didn’t need it as much as we thought.