Travelling Oz…Moving house

It’s been an incredibly stressful three days of trading in the Adria for a 4WD Suncamper Sherwood. The Adria is a 2018 model and this is a 2017 Toyota Hilux, but we gain about 25,000kms as it’s only done half the 51,000kms of the Adria. I reported that we missed out because someone else signed a contract, but that person pulled out after the weekend and we were next on the list of about five.

Aparently theft here is a problem, so we left these bins outside overnight. Unfortunately, they were still there in the morning.

The differences between a van and a motorhome are large and only our famility with the Winnie has made us at all confident of managing it. The overal build quality of cabinets, stove and sink are much better. On the other hand, the Adria had some lovely features, such as a variety of lighting for different occasions and so many nooks and crannies for storage.

We gain a rangehood and may be able to use our toaster without disabling the smoke alarm as we did in the Adria. That sounds risky, but the flow of air from the kitchen up to the skylight meant even light cooking would set it off.

The cabinets are quite deep, but with a larger sink and a very large stovetop we only gain a little bench space, unless using electrical appliances. Mind you, I’m looking forward to being able to have more than one pot on the stove.

Our first night in the Sherwood was in the dealer’s yard as it took ages to change over the batteries and related electrical components. The advert for this vehicle said it had a UHF radio, but it didn’t, so the dealer had a new one installed at their expense. We had to pay for the rest of the handover and for a new sirocco fan.

After driving out late from the dealer on Friday afternoon we went less than three kilometres to a caravan park and have spent most of the time trying to sort out our stuff. Oddly, this has far less storage than our van and at one point yesterday I was almost in tears at the enormity of the task of find places for everything. Stephen took charge and helped sort through things. A great deal of stuff went in the bin, even the poor wouldn’t have wanted it. We have a storage box on the rear, plus some room in a tunnel boot. He has performed a miracle of storage there and now wants to change everything that I put away inside. I’m happy with that.

Regardless of the sorting yesterday it’s still ‘hot mess’ inside at the moment, but we will gradually work things out, as we have in the past. However, it has really brought home to me that moving house is difficult, so much more if it is a real house and I’m glad that where we are living should suit us until we are really old. It would have been easier if we had been able to unpack one van at home, then bring the new one home and arrange the storage. Doing it whilst we are living in it has added so much to the stress.

We drove to a local shopping centre today as we had pretty much run out of fresh food. We had a list of items that we thought we might take back to the dealer tomorrow, but have been able to resolve them. I had our batteries and other electrical components moved into the Sherwood and find that I am getting some very odd readings at times. We are ‘dry camping’ to test everything out and find that if something doesn’t work it is user error. The Sherwood has it’s quirks, but then so did our Adria van, it was just that we were used to it’s quirks and now have to dig deep to work our way through things.

The bed is east/west, which means I sleep on the inside and have to ask Stephen to let me through if I want to get up in the night as we did with the Adria. The first night, which was spent in the dealer’s yard, I must have got up about 15 times. The ceiling is lower on my side but it appears higher than it is due to being glossy and reflective. We have the windows at each end and that is, of course, better than having two windows at the back because it allows air to flow across us.

Just the little I’ve driven it is so nice to be back in a car again. Driving here to the caravan park I didn’t notice much sway from the overhead cab, but when we went shopping it was very obvious. We realised that we had loaded up the bed with heavy things, as we did with the Adria, and those items must go on the floor for travel from now on. I remember this from driving the Winnie. We are hoping that the suspension will be a lot better. So many of the roads over here were damaged by the constant heavy rain and we were feeling every single bump in the Adria.

The backsplash of the stove makes a good projector screen.

Travelling Oz…Brisbane

After our visit to the laundromat in Beenleigh we went back to our overnight spot because it was a pleasant place to be whilst having our lunch. Stephen booked us a campsite at Brisbane Holiday Village and we once again braved the M1 to get there. It was easy enough to get an unpowered site and it’s really nice, next to a park, with surrounding palms and other foliage. The only downside is that we are not getting much solar.

Day 1, which was Monday, we spent time getting our bus passes (we had to walk to a shopping centre to find a newsagent, which took time). Then we took the first bus leaving. The destination was the city, but by a roundabout route through suburbs. It wasn’t very interesting and took twice as long as the straight through bus, as we found subsequently.

Today is Day 3 and we have mastered the transport system to and from the caravan park. Stephen has a couple of museums to visit on this, our last day in Brisbane. I thought it was time to catch up with the blog.

On Monday we wanted to have lunch when we arrived and spent time trying to find a cafe with open air tables. One was close by, but this city is full of construction sites and it was hidden behind a boarded off area. We went over to the art gallery afterwards, then home just after sunset. It felt like we actually achieved very little, but orienting in a strange city does require a day of confusion.

Yesterday, we built on that. Our aim was to catch a ferry. The Brisbane River is very winding and they have an excellent ferry service, even for the longer trip that we took. They run every 15 minutes and in some places is a good way to commute to the other side of the river. Unfortunately, we kept finding that ferry stops had closed. We had coffee and a snack at a university, had a look at the park and a gallery, then walked over a footbridge and although the first ferry stop was closed we eventually found one where we were able to catch a ferry and do the long trip to the last stop before the sea. We got off, found there was nowhere we could get lunch, hopped back on, and took advice on a suitable ferry stop, and eventually had lunch at a kebab place at about 2.30 p.m.

Brisbane Botanic Gardens
Brisbane Botanic Gardens

We followed that up with an icecream, then caught the ferry back to the Southbank ferry stop where we started. Getting to the bus station was fairly easy from there. Distanced walked was over eight kilometres for the day, a little more than the first day.

On our walk back to the bus station from the ferry
Left over from the expo last century. Stephen’s parents came over here for the expo.
See the traditional architecture struggling against the highrise

Below are some photos and video taken on our ferry ride yesterday afternoon.

With Perth and Adelaide you can feel that the inner city needs more people, but it isn’t a problem here in Brisbane. It is busy, with lots of construction and older buildings that sort of struggle to be seen in the modern, highrise city. There are a lot of new buildings going up, which doesn’t contribute anything positive to the beauty of the city. Really, only the parks are beautiful. The river is dominated by freeways and the motorway in this inner city area.

The bus transport system is interesting. Buses going our way have their own two way road and tunnels, not just buslanes on main roads as we have in Perth. This makes for a good experience for commuting, but adds to the ‘function over form’ feel of the city. Along with the excellent ferry system actually getting around by public transport seems to work well. Not getting around walking, of course, as you may struggle to get to the point you are wanting. The museum Stephen went to this morning has moved and Google maps and his city map were both wrong about the location. Fortunately it was fairly close by.

The building behind houses the Museum of Brisbane on the 3rd floor
Sunset over our caravan park pool. It doesn’t see to be used, but perhaps a bit chilly.

Travelling Oz…Brisbane

We have to stay in a caravan park in order to explore Brisbane. It’s about a 40 minute commute from here to the centre of town. We have an unpowered site in the back lot, but this is the pool area and some of the on-site cottages look luxurious.I haven’t seen anyone using the pool, even though it’s pretty warm here during the day. The nights are cool, good for getting a good night’s sleep.

Travelling Oz…Last few days, phew!

Photos and a video from the Skypoint Viewing platform

As the weather was bad, not just rain, but windy and wild on the coast, we took an extra day at New Italy. It was a good rest up except that there were limited placed to walk and it was so wet that we didn’t get much chance to get out. We had soup at the cafe at lunchtime and enjoyed having space to spread out our map for planning.

Surf at Gold Coast, there were still major waves from the gale and no swimming was allowed.

We hoped that by leaving on Friday we could escape the bad weather, but in fact we encountered heavy rain whilst travelling on the M1, fortunately it wasn’t as mad as it is closer to Gold Coast and Brisbane. Stephen wanted to drop in on Byron Bay, it was of course the worst possible time as although we had heard Splendour in the Grass mentioned on the news we hadn’t connect it with this weekend and the town we wanted to visit.

It was very busy indeed, but we managed to secure hot drinks in the town and visited the lighthouse before moving on. We explored a nearby campsite, thinking the campers would be confined to Byron Bay, but found it was very busy (and wet and muddy), so took a drive up the coast and finally took a caravan park site in a resort – at Hastings Point. We had to choose a place and why not this one. $71.40 per night, the most expensive we have ever paid, but our site was just right for our van, with some concrete and artificial lawn. It was also pretty sheltered as the gale roared on overnight.

Yesterday was the first better day weatherwise, but still very high traffic. We went to look at a 4WD Sherwood motorhome at a dealership on the way up the coast. We were second on the list and missed out as the first people took a contract. It was a rare find, and this dealer actually had two of them, one person flew in from Perth to buy one., that’s how desireable this type of van is. It’s on a Toyota Hilux, and even the cab was lovely. Not that we really need 4WD, but it would be good to have a more capable vehicle for exploring places off bitumen. We would have had to have had our electrical system swapped out, but they had someone on staff who could do it.

Having given up on that, Stephen wanted to go to Gold Coast to find out why it is a favoured holiday destination. Again, hopelessly busy and the M1 became even more of a monster as we got closer. Strangely, it was easy to find parking near to the beach and the Skypoint viewing platform. We wandered along and found a busy, crowded area of food outlets. Fortunately there was a Sushi bar that had very few customers and there was lots of seating in the mall. We kept our masks on except when eating even though we were outside. We can’t understand why it is such a favoured holiday spot. Of course, the beaches were closed because of the very high swell, but we could still look at them. It’s just the amount of high rise and crowds that makes it unappealing.

Stephen went up the Skypoint and I had a bit of a rest. Then we drove about 45kms north to a free camping spot at Beenleigh. We are just south of Brisbane at this stage. Stephen wants to visit the museum and art gallery and get a feel for the city. That’s a bit tricky as there is only one caravan park that is fairly close and is on a bus service. It will depend on whether we can get a spot. Our present camping spot is within about a kilometre of a train station, so this could be used as a base. Or, we could drive in and hope to find parking as we did at Gold Coast.

Our plan is to drive far enough north in Queensland to hit the overland route to the Northern Territory through Mt Isa, then decide whether to go up and round, or down and across the Nullabour again. We don’t like the heat of going north, but on the other hand the wildflowers would be starting as we come down the coast in WA, so that could make it worth it. Plus, it’s new to us, whereas going south is familiar enough, though we would still enjoy it.

Today we will hit up a laundromat to do some washing. We discussed how long it has been since we last did some washing and were convinced it was about 10 days ago. Then I looked up our bank account as I paid on card, and it was only five days ago. Still, we seem to have enough dirty laundry on hand to justify going to the laundromat, plus we are both getting low on undies.

There should be fine weather for the next few days and it is much warmer, about 10 overnight and 22 during the day.

Travelling Oz…Up the M1 to New Italy

We chose this spot because it is a free Rest Area on the road to Byron Bay and Gold Coast. The weather for the next two days is wet and windy, very bad for being on the coast and so we are having a rest day by staying here two nights. There is a cafe, museum and glass blowing gallery/workshop. It was set up by Italian migrants and is fully run by volunteers. They leave the toilets open overnight and there is also a dishwashing area with some hand basins. No showers.

On arrival here yesterday afternoon we were hungry and went to the cafe for lunch. There is a nice outdoor seating area and as the temperature is somewhat warmer here, about 17 degrees maximum, it was comfortable to be outdoors.

I took some iphone photos of a bird that is probably a kingfisher, but we couldn’t find it in the bird book.

Some of the volunteers live onsite in the two story building. In addition, there would have been about 14 vans (caravans, campervans and motorhomes) last night. It’s the first time on our trip that caravans have been heavily outnumbered. There is still a lot of traffic noise from the M1, plus someone ran a generator just behind us, but we are fairly insulated from noise (and wet and wind) once we have our windows on the least open settings. We call it ‘breathing’, but it won’t mean much unless you have the same type of windows that partially lock with a slight opening). Even in heavy rain it doesn’t let the water in.

Some other vans are hanging on here, at least for a few hours, or maybe doing another overnight like us. There is no time limit on staying here. It’s basically just a large carpark and all of the sites have slopes. We’ve used our levellers to correct it and are very comfortable.

There is forrest surrounding us, but the land appears to be private and we may have to walk down a road if we get a chance to go out for a walk.

Travelling Oz…On the the Gwydir Highway, NSW

Swanbrook Rest Area

We stayed at Gurley Recreation Centre (10amp, toilets and showers for $10 donation and internet) on Sunday evening. It was peaceful, windy when we arrived, but it settled down in the late afternoon. I didn’t take any photos, but it was just in a rural location, very flat and warmer than we’ve experienced in a while.

As our 10amp to 15amp adapter doesn’t have a cord we found it impossible to use with a downward facing power point. So, we used our extension cord, then the adapter, then the normal 15amp cord. We didn’t leave it out overnight as it wasn’t safe, and just as well, as when we were talking with Matt it started to rain slightly and we had at least one heavy shower. It was fine again in the morning and I plugged in again. Someone had to get out of the van to either switch on the gas or plug in, and it wasn’t too much bother. With using the heating we are finding that our little gas bottles only last about a week to 10 days, so anytime we can use electricity, either our own or from the hook up we feel it is worth it as it extends the time.

A 10amp to 15amp adapter doesn’t alter the power, it just means the plug, which has a large earth pin, is adapted to fit a normal household plug.

We filled up with water in Inverell, including drinking water, after confirming with a local that it was safe to drink. We also filled up with fuel.

Last night we stayed at Swanbrook Rest Area, with no internet, but it was pretty, with a beautiful little stream and lots of birdlife. I cooked a mince curry in the Instant Pot with potato, sweet potato and onion, adding coconet milk, green beans and rice after the pressure released.

Swanbrook Rest Area

It was a very frosty morning this morning, with ice on the windows at the rear and ice on puddles.

Frost on the rear window of our van. This is our view from bed.
Icy puddle

Our gas bottle ran out when we stayed overnight at the golf club. We were able to get a refill today in Inverall, then visited a Coles for shopping. Afterwards we had a coffee, takeaway. They refused to use our keep cups, saying it was a new Government rule. I checked the website, but NSW seems more focussed on removing restrictions than adding them. However, there are recommendations coming from the Federal government and we didn’t feel upset, we were wearing our masks and had takeaway coffee rather than sit in the nice, warm cafe.

Today is the day we drove down off the plateau we’ve been on for the past few days. It was very steep in parts, but we took advantage of one of the lookouts to stop for photos and lunch.

Stephen at Rasberry Lookout
Rasberry Lookout

Tonight we are staying at Lollback Rest Area, with internet, thank goodness. There have been views of a beautiful river coming down and our rest area is beside it, though we don’t have access, or even great views of it, from our parking spot. The toilet has a walkway with a little porch at the end and I used this as a viewing spot for the river and surrounding hills.

Actually, we made a short stop at another viewpoint on the way down
our parkup here at Lollback

Travelling Oz…Service day and more good parkups

Eumungeri Rec Centre

Our service day went well in Dubbo. We drove to the zoo carpark to empty our cassette and fill up with water. There were advisories all over town that all water for drinking must be boiled, so we filled up the tank, but not our drinking water containers.

The next stop was the laundromat, conveniently located in the same block as the supermarket. Stephen did the shopping and I did the washing. It took time, but with large machines that accepted card payment (from my phone), I was in washing heaven. Mind you, it was expensive.

We then drove to a small village which offers $10 overnight stays at their recreation centre. It includes power and water, though we chose to just hook up to power and fill up our tank in the morning. That meant we got a spot on the blue metal. Bays are laid out clearly, with lots of room for caravans to stay hooked up. There were also flushing toilets available. There is a permanent caretaker who registers you and assigns your parking spot, in general, we got to choose our actual parking bay and we able to get level.

It was a beautiful and peaceful night and sunrise tempted me out of the van as soon as our alarm went off to take some photos. The alarm is set for 6.45 a.m. and in winter that’s ideal as it’s enough before sunrise to get the pre dawn shots.

Yesterday our first destination was a rest stop with a waterfall. We had been driving towards a range of hills with strangely rugged tops and the waterfall (Hickey Falls) was located amongst them.

on the way to Hickey Falls
Hickey Falls

We arrived in time for a fairly early lunch, then on to our next park up, a golf club at Coonabarabran. They have a big field at the rear where RVs are welcome to stay for free. A very nice addition is that there is a good Chinese (Lotus) restaurant located at the club house, so we enjoyed a lovely meal. We bought drinks and the meal was takeaway, and of course, wore our masks when indoors. Nobody else did and we felt a bit odd, but I think not wearing a mask defies all logic and I can’t understand why people aren’t taking precautions.

Hickey Falls
A rather striking sunset at our campsite last night

Travelling Oz…two days of travel

After waiting for the fog to lift it was at first a pleasant drive along the highway towards Canberra. However, as we travelled the traffic got very heavy and when we bypassed Canberra I began to feel like I was in a game of Tetris with cars passing, changing lanes, etc. we had a brief stop at Eagle Hawk for lunch, then on to Goulburn.

Goulburn is quite an old town, for Australia, and one of the consequences is underpasses that are too low for our van. We encountered two of them as we negotiated around, first going to a dump point, then trying to find a water tap. In the end we gave up and went and booked ourselves into a caravan park. Although we had to level up a bit on arrival it was a relief.

We had planned to buy our evening meal. Unfortunately most of the choices close by were fast food outlets. We walked there after dark, got separated, and I eventually found the area and chose a double chicken hamburger. Not much of an evening meal, but we followed up with fruit and yogurt. T

he caravan park had ensuite style individual bathrooms and I had my evening and morning showers there, despite how cold it was outside. Usually Stephen goes for a shower to wash his hair, but he was avoiding the cold.

After a good night’s sleep all felt rosy again and we headed off with the aim of getting to Orange or Bathurst. Unfortunately this mean crossing the great dividing range again. I feel a bit like Bill Bryson who said that he felt he was fated to spend time with all of the stupid people on the planet as a travel writer. I feel it is my fate to have to keep crossing this range😀

It was lovely at first as the road was very good and there wasn’t much traffic. We stopped at a viewing point for a huge wind farm.

We chose the little town of Tuena, an old gold mining town for our lunch break. We stopped at a larger town on the way where I went to the IGA and bought a lovely fresh loaf of bread, amongst other things, and that with soup was lovely.

During the rest time afterwards I realised that I was too tired to tackle the rest of the drive. We don’t know how far we will have to go to get out of the mountains. Our picnic spot is actually a camping area. There were some powered sites, but only in areas that were boggy, so we decided to stay on the fairly solid grassed area we chose for lunch.

Later, Stephen walked to the general store to pay our $5.00 fee and I cooked a meal in the Instant Pot. We’ve been cautious of doing this even with our good battery system, but it only draws 800 watts maximum when heating up , and very little once it is up to pressure. I used many of our beautiful Indian spices, but kept the chilli level low, which is kinder for our stomachs. We had more of our fresh loaf with the meal.

And the batteries only went a little below 80% and had recovered to over 80% this morning. I’m not sure how as this was before the solar charger was activated.

It’s foggy again this morning, what you’d expect at a fairly high elevation when being camped in a depression below the town. There is no internet here, but we both had downloaded books to read and aside from the slight frustration we feel at not having internet it doesn’t do us any harm.

Our park up for tonight is in Stuart Town, a village about 60 kms north of Orange. Flushing toilets and peace and quiet. plus 4g.

Frosty and sunny this morning in Stuart Town. As soon as the sun came up I opened the windscreen blinds and the sun has warmed the inside of the van, allowing us to turn the heating off sooner.

We’ve decided to continue north on the main highway. The B roads are much damaged by the rain, with many potholes. We hope the main highway will be in better condition. But today is a ‘service’ day when we get water, dump tanks, do shopping and go to a laundromat. We may not travel very far today.

Travelling Oz…Numeralla Rest Stop

Numeralla evening
Numeralla view to mountains

Numeralla our parkup

From Bega we were advised to cross the Great Dividing Range on our way to Canberra. That meant climbing another mountain, Brown Mountain, which is 1200 metres high. Of course, we are old hands at steep and windy roads by now and made it up in 3rd gear for most of the way. On the other side there is more of a gentle slope and after passing Cooma we chose a rest stop just off the Monaro Highway.

It is lovely and we have not noticed much of the passing traffic. We are still at over 700 metres, which helps to explain the cold, it was -8 degrees overnight. We left the heater on, our excuse was that it would keep our water, batteries and gas bottles happy and working, but it also meant us humans had a better night as well. I’m very pleased that our water system didn’t freeze. The grey water tank is underneath the van and is the most vulnerable part, but the pipes leading to it from the kitchen and bathroom are working.

The afternoon temperature here when we arrived was fairly mild. We walked around exploring the area a bit, disappointed that access to the little river is blocked off by fencing, but there is a huge area for overnight stays. There was a caravan here when we arrived. I wonder what their overnight survival strategy was. We are staying put for the moment as we want the road to be free of ice and it would be nice if the fog lifted some more as visibility is still limited.

Perhaps we won’t stay in Canberra after all, but make some progress northwards today. We are looking forward now to having warmer weather where we can really enjoy being outside the van.

This was at 7.23 am when it was still about minus 8. I wasn’t prepared to get out of the van to take a photo, but merely opened a window. I don’t know if the photo quite conveys the frostiness.