Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Burra and continuing north

We stayed overnight in Burra in a historic miners cottage.  The cottages are set in long rows around a square and had a separate bedroom, lounge, kitchen and bathroom.  They were certainly unique but lacked in some of the more modern day necessities – there was one power point in the bedroom (accommodating the queen bed and a single bed), none in the lounge, and one in the kitchen powering the small fridge, the small hot plate, jug, and toaster.  This provided a challenge to run the one heater which the cord allowed only to be used in the bedroom, and power up i-phones, i-pads, i-pods etc.  A lesson in how life used to be especially when none of the boys knew how to turn on the lights using a pull cord!  Tim and Jake slept in the lounge in which we were able to light a small open fire but typical of an old style fire, most of the heat went up the chimney.  Fortunately it wasn’t too cold overnight and we all slept well.

This morning we explored the town a little – the houses and buildings were all built out of light coloured old stone bricks.  The younger boys enjoyed playing down by the river looking for the various native birds and taking lots of photos.  We visited the information centre and also the regional council rooms as we wanted to see the fossil display – the fossils of ancient creatures were found east of Burra and provided a history very different to today.

On the way out of town we stopped off at a lookout to see the copper mine that operated in the area until the late 1800s – the levels of the mine could be easily seen with the various tall buildings high on the hill above.
We continued on and our first stop was at the site of a wind farm – there are four wind farms in South Australia which provide 20% of the state’s electricity.  There was a blade of a windmill on display and we were all amazed at how big it was – it was 44 metres long.  The wind farm we saw provided electricity to some 40,000 homes.

We stopped off at Peterborough for lunch – cooked cheese and tomato toasted sandwiches using the small gas cooker at the rest area in the middle of town.  There were at least ten caravans parked up at the same time – reminders to us of our travels over the last couple of years.  Obviously most of these people were heading to the Flinders Ranges.
Peterborough is a town in the mid north of South Australia, in wheat country, just off the Barrier Highway. At the 2006 census, Peterborough had a population of 1,689

We continued on to Hawker at the south end of the Flinders Ranges and then taking the road to the west of the Ranges we travelled north initially to Parachilna.  Unfortunately time does not allow us to explore the Flinders Ranges.  We had initially planned to stop overnight at Parachilna but a vote was taken to continue another sixty kilometres to Leigh Creek to reduce the travel tomorrow.  We have driven through some pretty arid sheep farming land today and we have been surprised to see the number little lambs.  The ruins of many old cottages are also scattered along the highway telling stories of life in the area. 

The landscape is now much more scrubby with only the occasional flock of sheep – Tim has been on kangaroo patrol as he is very keen to see a mob of wild kangaroo but as yet has only seen a couple.  We continue to see quite a few emu and the odd hawk.  Other than that the only evidence of wildlife has been the road kill which the boys are quick to point out.

We are now staying at Leigh Creek which is 66 kilometres north of Parachilna.  South Australia generates about 40% of its electricity from coal mined at Leigh Creek – apparently almost daily the mine fills a 2.8 kilometre long train with nearly 10,000 tonnes of coal bound for Port Augusta.  With a bit of luck we just might see the train tomorrow.  Tonight we have stayed in a cabin but the weather is certainly getting warmer so we will tent from tomorrow.  We cooked our dinner of hamburgers followed by crumpets with honey outside on the BBQ’s while the boys played spotlight with the help of headlamps. 


Monday, May 27, 2013

Victoria to South Australia

Today we followed the Sturt Highway crossing the border into South Australia prior to visiting Renmark.  We have travelled this way before and we are always surprised that we need to dispose of all fruit and vegetables passing quarantine. 
Today the officer wasn’t prepared to accept our statement that we had no fruit or vegetables on board (we had also had to dispose as we entered Mildura due to control of fruit fly).  I had forgotten about the need to dispose and had made a special trip to Queen Victoria Market on Saturday to stock up on fruit and vegetables for our trip.  We  disposed of all the fruit we couldn’t eat before Mildura and after dinner preparation on Sunday night left the balance of the vegetables in the cabin fridge.  So annoying that I had forgotten.  After casually looking into the Patrol and getting Peter to open up the back doors the officer allowed us to proceed.  I do wonder about the disposal methods – all single items were put in a bin yet bagged and plastic wrapped items were sitting on the top.  Perhaps these go to charity but I doubt it!

Renmark is the first town over the border.  We have stayed here previously and it is a lovely town on the banks of the Murray River.  We made our way to the centre of town on the river bank and while I shopped for lunch items Peter took the boys down to look at the river boats.  There was a house boat tied up owned by a guy named Frank – it was quite unique as you will see from the photos.  It even had chooks on board!  Frank invited the boys on board to have a look around and after our lunch he offered to take Peter and the boys for a ride up the river.  The boys each had a turn of steering and blowing the whistle having to remember how many hoots were made for each directional turn.  The boat trip made their day and certainly increased the time we spent in Renmark.

With a delayed start we continued our journey driving through vineyards and citrus orchards before the land became very scrubby and barren.  We were on kangaroo lookout for our NZ boys but although we saw a number of signs warning us of kangaroos we didn’t see any.  The only wildlife we saw was a few emus.

We are now staying overnight in the small town of Burra.  This town is an old mining down with many historic homes and buildings.  We are staying in the Paxton Square cottages which are original miners homes – they have power and bathrooms but very little else has been done to modernise them.  There is a caravan park adjacent to the town but unfortunately they don’t have any cabins and as it is to be around 6 degrees C overnight we opted against putting up the tents when there was another option.

We walked the old town and bought supplies of vegetables for the next few days – there is one small IGA store in town and a number of bakeries and specialty shops.  Not dissimilar to a number of small towns there are four pubs.  There is a small river opposite where we are staying and the boys enjoyed being able to play down at the river bank for a while – they are long days in the car and not very interesting at this stage for them.  The trip on the house boat and seeing the paddle steamer in Renmark were the highlights of their day.  Tomorrow we head further north skirting the Flinders Ranges and head to Parachilna.  From there north we will soon be on to the Oodnadatta Track and our real adventure into the outback commences.  We are hopeful the temperature increases as we will possibly need to tent from tomorrow as options for cabins decrease.  It has been about eighteen degrees today with blue skies and no wind so quite pleasant but the temperature definitely drops around 5 p.m. and gets quite chilly. 

The next journey begins

We have been house sitting in Kensington, a western suburb of Melbourne, for a young couple who have been holidaying in Fiji.  We have also looked after their two dogs, Lennox and Kostya.  On Sunday, 26th May we packed up and along with our nephew, Connor who is 13, and our two grandsons, Jake aged 9 and Tim aged 8, we headed out of town on our next adventure.

Peter had a challenge getting all the camping gear for five people, plus the boys gear and our gear (this is the beginning of a four month adventure before we return to Melbourne for us but the boys all return home to their respective parents in the middle of June) into and on to the Patrol. Mind you there was assistance from three boys in getting the job done!!   The level of gear on the roof rack seemed to be getting higher and higher and there is still the brazier on top!  As we pulled out of Kensington to commence our trip north to Mildura there was very little room inside either.

We stopped just south of Bendigo for lunch and a stretch – it was certainly cold so the picnic didn’t last too long.  We continued north stopping every hour or so for a stretch and eventually arrived in Mildura. 
This was over five hundred kilometres and hopefully will be the longest travel distance in one day although we will need to travel each day to reach our destination of Townsville via the Simpson Desert by the 8th June.  Fortunately we had pre-booked into a cabin at a caravan park so we didn’t have to erect the tents in the dark as it was after six p.m. before we arrived.  We only stayed overnight but before we left on Monday morning we had a chance to wander down to the banks of the Murray River and see the house boats moored.  Tim had collected a brochure of the native birds to the area so enjoyed looking for the various varieties. 

With the load back on and in the Patrol we commenced our trip to South Australia.    

Our passengers arrive 25th May 2013

We are heading from Melbourne to Townsville leaving Melbourne on the 25th May and need to be in Townsville by the 8th June – this is just fourteen days.  We have always wanted to travel one of the real outback routes but last year as we travelled we had the caravan and this wasn’t possible and we didn’t want to leave the caravan behind and then have to do the return trip.  After a few enquiries about whether it was possible to travel from Melbourne to Townsville, via the Simpson Desert in the time we have, we decided this was an option for us.  We have some 4000 kilometres to travel and will travel in the Patrol and have our Black Wolf tent for accommodation.

We have travelled many thousands of kilometres with the occasional visitor passengers.  This time Peter extended an invitation to his young 13 year old nephew, Connor from Frankston in Victoria and our two grandsons, Jake aged 9 and Timothy aged 8, who live in Ohinewai in New Zealand to accompany us.  Surprisingly the boys accepted the invitation and their parents supported it.

So on Saturday Jake and Tim had their first big adventure on their own – travelling unaccompanied from Auckland to Melbourne.  We made sure we were at the airport in plenty of time to meet them and were very relieved to see them walk through the arrivals area.  Well done boys – the staff member said that they were very well behaved and polite on the flight. 

We were staying in Kensington and later in the evening Sandra, Richard and Jordan brought Connor over.  Now all our passengers have arrived – and all their gear!  It is surprising how much room three extra passengers and their gear take.  We normally have the back seat area for the tent etc but not this time – it will be a challenge to get it all on and in the Patrol.  Two weeks, 4000 kilometres, long days in the car, home sickness and new adventures are all ahead of us. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Our plans for travelling north

After two very comfortable periods of house sitting in Melbourne (with a few days with family and friends as well) it is nearly time for us to leave the cold of Melbourne and travel north.

Our plans are to leave Melbourne on the 26 May and initially go to Mildura, then into South Australia and make our way to the Oodnadatta Track.  We will pass through Parachilna, Blinman, William Creek, Oodnadatta and then on to Mt Dare and Dalhousie to enjoy the warm springs.  From here we will really feel we are in the outback by travelling west to east across the Simpson Desert to Birdsville.

From Birdsville we will visit the outback towns of Bedourie and Boulia (shame the camel races are not on when we pass through) and then to Winton to again see the dinosaur museum.  Continuing north to Hughenden, passing through Charters Towers we will eventually arrive in Townsville in Far North Queensland. 

We normally travel with just the two of us but this time we have some passengers.  We have invited Connor who is our 13 year old nephew who lives in Frankston in Victoria.  One boy was not enough for us, after all he may get lonely, so our two grandsons, Jake and Timothy from Huntly in New Zealand will also travel with us.  Jake and Tim who are only nine and eight respectively, will have their first unaccompanied flight to Melbourne on Saturday and then together we will commence the 4000 kilometre journey north.

In about three weeks Connor will fly back to Melbourne from Townsville and Jake and Tim will fly to Auckland from Cairns.  We have many adventures ahead of us all before then.  There is a lot of dusty and sandy roads to travel, the cold then the warmth, 1000 sand dunes to cross as we travel the desert, tents to be erected and taken down, dishes to be done (!) and bound to be the favourite - the Aussie flies and hopefully we don't encounter up close too many other Australian wildlife.  As and when the internet is available we will update the blog to share the story.  Watch this space!

Monday, May 13, 2013

On the move again

On the road again.

After a few months off from travelling full time Gill and Peter are about to leave the comforts of their home again.  This year will be different from last year -  we have sold the caravan so will be doing a combination of tenting and house sitting.
Mt Maunganui             
Christmas has been spent in New Zealand.  We travelled back here late October early November.  Most of our time has been in Mount Maunganui where we own a house.  It’s been great to have some stability, but it’s starting to get cold now so time to get out of here!  Now for any of you who are thinking of visiting New Zealand make sure that you include Mount Maunganui/Tauranga in your plans - it’s a fantastic place with lots to do and lots to see.

So where have we been whilst in New Zealand:-                                                               

Plus a number of other areas.  We have enjoyed catching up with all the grandchildren  - having them come to stay, staying at their places and of course the obligatory baby-sitting!  We have also house and animal sat during our time in New Zealand.  You know you do get to the stage where you just wonder how you ever fitted work into the mix.

 Simpson Desert

 So just what do the next few months hold for us?  We fly out of NZ on the 1st of May to Melbourne where we will dust off the Patrol (which has been in storage at the airport since November) and get it ready to head towards the warmer weather again.  We will be in Melbourne until at least the 26th and then plan to travel north via the Simpson Desert then off to our first house sitting assignment in Townsville from the 8th June.  We will be absolutely ready for the warm weather by then.

Outa Here