Travelling Oz…Coldest overnight yet

We solved the 230v problem yesterday morning. It was in fact a tripped breaker causing us to lose power. In fact, if we had remained plugged in the batteries would have charged up as there are two breakers, one for house power and one for charging. I knew where the breaker box was, just didn’t know if we could easily find the switches. Our electricity box is under the end of the bed. Part of the mattress can be lifted out to access it, but there is also a cover, with no way of securing it up out of the way. It was a two person job to get access, with Stephen holding up the mattress and lid whilst I fiddled.

The system protected itself, as it should, and all is well. We are used to being careful with how many appliances are using power on the inverter, but we now know there is also a limit when we are plugged in to 230v power. Possibly because our caravan site powerpoint wasn’t very powerful.

We drove to Stawell, about 25 kms from Halls Gap for fuel and groceries. It has a lookout and we took a little extra time to go up there to look back at the Grampians. It has been a good practice run before tackling the real mountains.

We’ve spent the night at a village called Newbridge which offers camping at it’s sports oval, with access to toilets and showers for $15 per night. The review of free camps so close to Bendigo were worrying, with ‘permanents’ causing discomfort for travellers (noise, mess, drug and alcohol abuse). This paid camping seemed a better option even though when we arrived we could hear a generator in use. There were camping spots next to the river, but not level and there was also a warning about trees dropping limbs. We’ve chosen a spot with only quite small trees and uphill a bit just in case it rains, though none is forecast.

Last night for the first time I felt a little bit of cold seeping through the down doona. Fear not, we have a down sleeping bag in the boot, hence the term ‘doubling down’ perhaps. We can leave the heating on as well. It works on a thermostat and would only kick in if necessary. This might be the best option if it gets colder as lithium batteries are programmed shut down below 5 degrees and gas can refuse to change from liquid to gas if it is very cold. This happened to us once with the Winnie where the gas bottles were located in a more vulnerable spot. No hot cup of tea that morning!

Of course, it is also important to protect our water system. Our water tank is located under the bench seat inside the van, but I’m not sure if there are water lines going underneath to carry water over to the sink. Something we will doubtless find out about if they freeze. The grey water tank is  under the van and vulnerable.

We are booked into the Mount Beauty Caravan Park for four nights from Thursday. Unfortunately there were only non powered sites available, but we will ask if we can be on a wait list in case of any cancellations for a powered site. We haven’t booked a coach trip to the snowfields yet as we want to wait and see what the weather is like. I’m not sure what a ‘snow shower’ is, that is the forecast there for tomorrow.

In the end we didn’t pay for our campsite. We were expecting a volunteer to collect the money by 9.30 a.m., but it didn’t happen, the pub was closed and the General Store refused to take responsibility. We tried!

We are having a bit of time in Bendigo, it seems very lively, with a lot of beautiful old buildings. There are trams and a central fountain which with the style of the old buildings gives it the feel of a European city.

Travelling Oz…What a difference a day makes

Yesterday we spent the day mostly in the van. Stephen replaced one of our gas bottles, walking to the local Ampol station nearby. I did some food shopping. That was about it. Plus we talked with Matt in the evening.

We booked ourselves in for an extra day this morning as the promised fine, sunny day actually happened. I was out early taking photos of sunshine on the cliffs. Yesterday all I could photograph were the fairly tame kangaroos who do a good job of keeping the grass short around here.

sunshine on the cliffs

We drove to a couple of places today, firstly to Boroka Lookout. It was a fairly steep drive on a very windy road, unsuitable for caravans, but fairly easy in our van. It would have been possible to tow a caravan in terms of gradient, but they would definitely have clogged up the system with all the bends. It was very cold at the lookout and we escaped back into our warm van for a hot milo.

The second place we went to was Mackenzie Falls. We had a quick look around on arriving, then had lunch and a rest. We walked first to a lookout where we could see the falls clearly. It was possible to climb right down the falls, and many people did. I set my sights on a platform about half way down and Stephen decided to call it quits at that point too. I was so hot climbing back up that I took off my beanie and gloves and opened up my jacket. I’m glad we went part of the way.

Then home at about 4.30 p.m. We are on a powered site for our last evening here, and for a while enjoyed being plugged in. Then, the power stopped working. Stephen checked outside, and the caravan park power point was still working, but we could no longer get 230v power into the van. We suspect a blown fuse, perhaps brought on by boiling a kettle whilst using the heating on electricity. Anyway, we switched on the gas and all is well as our 12v system is working just fine. We really need the heating this evening as it’s very cold outside.

It’s been a lovely day and we are so glad to have decided to stay here an extra day to take advantage of it.

Travelling Oz…Halls Gap, The Grampians

We arrived just after 12.00 yesterday, but it took a while to settle into a camping spot and get the van sort of level. Although we did eventually choose a place we found overnight that we weren’t comfortable and we moved yet again this morning to another section of the park where we are not only mostly level, but near a camper’s kitchen and laundry.

Last night we explored around our neighbourhood and ended up buying a pizza for tea. There is a good general stall here, as well as other shops. The village is geared towards tourists and includes many cafes and eateries in a small area.

Today we went on a short walk, about 2.5 kms. There were many to choose from, but this was great because it was mostly on a level, following Stony Brook, which goes through the caravan park and town as well. We have had rain on and off since arriving here and were fortunate that it was mostly dry for our walk.

This afternoon I braved the rain to get some washing done and cook our tea in the camper’s kitchen. I used one of the many powerpoints in the kitchen to cook in our Instant Pot and it was enjoyable to have the space to cut vegetables and prepare the meal for cooking. The dryer took many $4.00 cycles to get the clothes dry, but I had to persist as we don’t have space inside the van for drying clothes.

In the end I put out our awning to provide some shelter for the sliding door. We would usually put the awning in at night in case there is a wind but the persistent rain means it would be hard to bring it in now, so fingers crossed we don’t have problems. The van is on enough of a slight slope for the rain to run off on one corner of the awning.

One of the rock formations on our walk this morning
This tree stump would make a good character in a cartoon
Three greys – not that Stephen is much like a kangaroo, of course
Stony Brook
interesting rocks on our walk
Stony Brook
Stephen always poses nicely for me when I ask.

Our views have so far been looking up at crags and mist from this valley. Stephen has been doing research (of course there is a Visitor’s Centre) on where we might go tomorrow to get some other views.

We are very comfortable in our van now that we have a heater. Often we can only use it for a short time as the small area heats up very quickly. We find that the 4.5 litre gas bottles only last about 10 days what with heating water and the space heating. We use battery power for some of the cooking, including making toast and boiling water for cups of tea which helps to make the gas last longer. We are still very dependent on fossil fuels, gas and diesel to keep the van’s systems running. With almost no solar power due to clouds and rain we are relying on the DC to DC charger when the engine is running to keep the batteries charged up.

Travelling Oz…Taylor’s Lake Camping Ground

We started yesterday by exploring Dimboola (only one main street) and having a coffee and lemon slice at one of the cafes. For such a small town it was surprising to see four cafes, but meant we could choose.

Then on to Horsham where Stephen was able to find out more about the Grampians. I bought some new slippers and a pair of plastic short leg wellingtons from K-Mart.

Then we headed out of town to this lovely campground. We think the lake may actually be a reservoir. We were Ok wandering around taking photos and enjoying the view of the mountains last night, but this morning it’s a bit challenging due to the wind. Cups of tea back at the van helped us to warm up.

We are booked into a caravan park in the Grampions for three nights. We couldn’t get the special price mentioned in Wikicamps due to it being the beginning of the school holidays, so opted for an unpowered site which was $10 cheaper per night than with power. Of course, having our own good power system, plus heating that runs on gas or electricity makes this possible to do in comfort.

Travelling Oz…Dimboola, Victoria

Now there’s an evocative name. My mother’s community put on the play years ago and Mum won the short straw of playing the bride and having to sing a solo. Geoff, her partner of 30 years or so had always refused to get involved in the social life of the community and she was sad that he wouldn’t come along to the play. So, we got together and turned up to support her. Four children, plus in-laws, made her feel very supported. We had a great time as the audience are part of the wedding party and we really enjoyed all of us being involved.

I don’t have any photos of this town yet as we arrived later in the day and just wanted to get to our campsite. However, the main street looks interesting and we will explore a bit tomorrow. Like Bordertown, our last stop in South Australia, it offers free camping on a grassy area on the edge of the town, within walking distance.

We saw a mobile quarantine unit on the road, but no other sign that we had passed from one state to another. The quarantine restrictions are one way, Victoria doesn’t care if you bring in fresh fruit and vegetables, but South Australia, like WA, does.

If the weather is good for the next couple of days we plan to explore the Grampions which are now close by, before heading towards the mountains of Victoria to see snow. We still have about 500 kms to go. After the Grampions we plan to go to Mt Beauty, which is in a valley overlooked by mountains.

We are both nervous about driving this van in the mountains, and one idea is to base ourselves at a caravan park and hire a car to go exploring around during the day.

We are enjoying travelling at a more leisured pace, but spending ages getting ready, shopping and looking around in Bordertown, and having stops along the way meant we arrived here late and a bit grumpy as we tried to get our van level, going backwards and forwards trying different spots before deciding on a position that is fairly level. Still, it didn’t take long to get the kettle going for a cup of tea, then all was well.

Travelling Oz…Who are ewe?

I realised later on Sunday why Stephen washed his hair. It was for a video audition for the next G&S show. We were able to record it in the campers kitchen as we had it to ourselves. We used the GoPro without a special microphone, due to the resonance in the room it seemed to work quite well. Feedback so far, Matt gave it 5 stars and Micki gave it a Meh! We haven’t heard back from the director of the show.

We finally went out for a walk in the early evening around sunset. The park is old and established, with lots of little sheds, toilets and sports facilities scattered around. At least in the area where we walked they have not cut down much of the beautiful forest. We saw lots of kangaroos, a couple of rabbits, and magpies galore.

Belair National Park
Belair National Park

There was a bit of a delay on Monday morning. I have a mole near my collarbone that has been worrying me as it has grown a bit. I managed to make an appointment with a mole clinic just down the hill in Bedford. We drove through hills village of Blackwood where we went for lunch on Saturday and followed a 60kmph four lane road down the hill, very easy. If only Google Maps had used this road to get us to our campsite on Friday evening, but no! it had to choose the worst possible way.

The mole turned out to be benign. The screening process was nice, a quietly spoken woman did the actual scan, then a GP came into the room, after I was dressed, to take a look at it and confirm her diagnosis. I was so relieved. It had been worrying me for a couple of weeks and I wasn’t sure what to do because I didn’t want to cut short our holiday. On the other hand, it’s silly to die of something that is treatable. We were just fortunate to have the mole clinic so close to where we were staying and not too much out of our way for continuing the journey.

Our route back into the Adelaide Hills was on a freeway which was a bit steep in parts, but very easy to drive with lots of room for passing. We went through a tunnel at one point, going in with sunshine and then coming out in cloud, quite different weather.

We drove off the freeway for lunch in Mt Barker. We hadn’t realised that it was quite a large town, and parking was difficult. We ended up with one hour of parking quite close to a nice bakery I had chosen. We took soup, rolls and a cherry danish to share back to the van. It was too cold to eat outside and the van is usually quite comfortable during the day even if it is cold outside. The soup and danish were delishous (polish sausage soup) and I was also able to get a soughdough loaf of bread as well. I hate it when bakeries don’t actually have nice bread, I don’t think they deserve the name even if they bake their own cakes and pies. But, that’s me.

A little further along the highway we came out of the hills and into the cleared agricultural land beyond. I had been enjoying the beautiful, tall trees with white trunks, so it was a bit of a comedown, but changing landscapes is very much part of a road journey. At Murray Bridge we crossed the Murray River, looking a bit muddy, but it was very cloudy so perhaps it is normally blue.

We have stayed the night in a rest area where we could get away from the main road. The welcoming committee were on the other side of the fence. There were even a couple of lambs, at this time of year when it is very cold overnight, doesn’t seem sensible of the mothers.

This is the name of the area. We can’t pronounce it.

Our parkup near Murray Bridge

sunset last night
This morning with dew

Travelling Oz..meeting up with friends

Parking at the Pier
Largs Pier Hotel
Waiting for the train
It’s coming
Latte art in Blackwood at the Brass Monkeys Cafe. Stephen and I shared a big breakfast, I don’t think anyone could have eaten it on their own. Or did they put extra food on it because our friend is a valued customer.

On Friday morning we left the Adelaide Caravan Park and headed out to the Largs Pier Hotel to meet with an old friend of Stephen and his wife. The old hotel is very lovely. We didn’t have a chance to explore or walk along the pier as we had a few things to do when we arrived. Still, I bought a coffee at the little beachside cafe.

We spent hours talking over lunch, because we won’t see them again for probably some years and we have a lot in common, we were a bit reluctant to part. A consequence was that we had to drive around Adelaide in peak hour traffic as it was getting dark, and then up a very steep and winding road to the Belair Caravan Park. We booked this one for three nights, an unpowered site.

Yesterday morning I did a big load of washing, then we hung it on the line for the day. We walked down and up hill to get to the nearest railway station, then caught the train for one stop in order to meet with our other friend at a cafe in Blackwood. Again, we spent the afternoon chatting, and she drove us home, with a bit of a tour of the local area. It is really beautiful here, although we are on the edge of a national park (Belair National Park) the area is quite suburban.

Building here must be a bit of a nightmare as there are multiple steep hills, but it appears to be a wonderful place to live, with lots of pubs and cafes, parks and streams running through the valleys. Our friend told us that it doesn’t get too hot in summer. She has lived here for most of her life and although she is planning the next stage, of moving from her three bedroomed over 55’s house to a smaller unit (husband is at the stage of needing a nursing home), she is hoping to stay in the same general area.

Both days of socialising were exhausting, but satisfying as well. We would not have lingered so long on both days without having that sense of shared values. In the case of Stephen’s male friend we had to allow them time to talk by themselves as they knew each other when they were very young and have lots of shared history.

Today is a bit more of a rest day, though Stephen went the to have a shower and wash his hair in the shower block and I am doing a meal in the Instant Pot, this time using it as a slow cooker as I don’t like using the pressure in our small van, just in case of an accident.

We had Friday and Saturday as mostly sunny and pleasant days, but today is grey and overcast, with some light rain. Still, we will try going for a walk later to enjoy the beautiful forest.

Largs Pier Cafe

Because our friend bought us home we knew for sure that we don’t have to go down the steep and winding road that we came up on. I think we were saved from some of the anxiety we would have felt because we couldn’t see over the barriers on the side of the road to the valleys below in the dark. But, we are not sure that the other road will be less steep, so driving in manual and choosing second gear will likely be necessary to get us down the hill.

Travelling Oz…exploring Adelaide

Ourside the foodhall where we had tea

We only had half a day in the city. After exploring the logistics I booked us into the Adelaide Caravan Park for a night in order to have a safe place to leave the van. It is also very convenient for catching a bus into the centre of the city. We love Adelaide, it is small, easy to navigate around, and different enough from Perth to make it interesting.

Our sizzling meal

After getting ourselves ready and driving to the caravan park it was around midday before we headed off for the bus. We went to the Visitor Centre to get our free transit cards, which was where it was discovered that Stephen had forgotten his seniors card. Apparently a pension card is not as good as a seniors card for the buses. Nevertheless, the kind ladies gave us each a pass and just warned him that if an inspector got on the bus he might be in trouble. The bus driver on our way into town had let us travel for free anyway.

Traditional Chinese booth

As we were hungry and I wanted to see the Adelaide Markets we went there for lunch of a slice of pizza and soup. Stephen went off to visit the art gallery and I wandered around, had a coffee and bought a nice pair of shoes, as you do. The shoes were light to carry, but not so the can of spray for protecting them from damp and mud. I like having shoes that have velcro rather than laces, but these ones have laces, to set the tightness you require, then zippers for normal use. Perfect!

Sitting just inside the markets where there was lots off fresh air

The woman serving had been to Perth in her younger days in a VW campervan and they had stayed overnight in Kings Park. I don’t think you could do it these days, though I told her about our cheap camping spot at St Kilda and the fact that we can get away with staying overnight on some Perth beaches.

We planned to visit Chinatown for our evening meal as it obviously would like nicer with lights than during the day. A bit of exploring and we found a kind of food hall, with staff wearing masks and only one or two other customers where we felt safe in eat indoors. It was getting a bit cold outside and would have been an endurance test to sit having a meal.

This was the food place we chose as it had fairly traditional choices. The nice thing about Chinese restuarants these days is that they are more like the ones in China. The big difference is the amound of meat in dishes, which is still unusual in China.

We liked the decor, which was traditional Chinese, including the toilets with decorative basins and floors. Stephen had his camera when he went in and got a photo.

The food was good and it was sad for the staff to have so few customers. Although there is a campus of Flinders University in the city there was still a sense that there weren’t enough people around in the evening to fill all of the restaurants and bars. Or perhaps it was also due to our meal being a bit expensive for students. We shared one dish, which was plenty.

Catching the bus after dark worried me, but actually the city felt safe and it was still relatively early, about 7.00 p.m. when wer headed home.

I rushed through a load of washing, our towels and flannels, which needed their own separate wash, whilst we had a hot drink and a banana (and a chocolate). We were very tired for some reason, perhaps lots of walking, and went early to bed.

I’ve booked us into the Belair Caravan Park for three nights as we are meeting a friend who lives near there tomorrow. Stephen’s other friend, who we are meeting today for lunch, has suggested a venue at the beach, in the opposite direction, but I checked the distances and it is about 35 kms from the restaurant to the caravan park, not too bad. And it should be a nice day after the fog lifts😀.

Travelling Oz…we’ve arrived in Adelaide

We’ve based ourselves at a beachside car park we found on WikiCamps in an outer suburb of Adelaide called St Kilda. There were mixed reviews of this site, with some people experiencing harassment from local yahoos overnight, and others not having any problems. Our first night was mostly peaceful, apart from having helicopters flying around. There is a heliport nearby. Oddly, we haven’t had any helicopters this evening, but the difference might be that last night there was a strong wind and they may have had to change their flight plans.

We made fairly quick time from Crystal Brook yesterday, stopping for a hot milo at Locheil, which was dark pink in places, very attractive. We had a strong wind behind us, which was very good for our mileage but getting out to take photos at the lake was a challenge.

Lochiel pretty in pink

When we arrived we went to the little cafe here to get our $8 ticket for the overnight stay and had takeaway. we could have bought all required fishing gear if we had been inclined😀

We like it hear as there are interesting places to walk all within a short distance and we have amenities such as toilets during the day and access to water and a dump point.

Today we went shopping in the morning mainly to get fresh fruit and veggies. It was about a 15 minute drive, with an overpass over the main highway. Today has been quite wet, but fairly short showers with gaps so that we could get things done.

We plan to stay here tomorrow night as well, then move to Belair Caravan Park which is in a national park to the south east of here on Friday night for three days. We will visit one of Stephen’s old friends close by here in Woodville on Friday, then another mutual friend who lives in Belair on Saturday. We want to explore the national park a bit as well.