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Summer of 2005

16 December 2004
Finally we are ready and on our way. First up through Kuranda and then onto The Crater [Mt Hypipamee] for lunch in the cool of the rain forest. We had planned to overnight at Innot Hot Springs but on arrival we were informed that their sewerage pump had failed and were taking no new guests. Pointing out that we had our own conveniences did no good so we soldiered on to Mt Garnet for the night. A bit of luck as it turns out there was a large bank of thunder storms coming our way but amazingly there was a break in them and passed around Mt Garnet without so much as a drop of rain. This park is fairly new and we were the new caretakers first customers.Tuesday we continued on taking the road to the Lynd and then onto Charters Towers for a well deserved rest. The day was a blazing 40+ degrees C and on the narrow stretches of the road the bitumen had melted and when we finally arrived the first job was to clean the entire bottom half of the bus with kerosene to remove all the strings of tar. Not the most pleasant job but had to be done. Morning saw us up Tower Hill lookout surveying the historic town before refuelling and continuing on. Another day of blazing heat with only one little roadhouse stopover in the 380 kms at Belyando Crossing. We managed to corner a small bit of shade to park in for lunch and were reliably informed that the temperature was 43 degrees !!! no wonder I'm sweating. More molten bitumen and when we finally called it a day at Clermont of course it was out with the kero again and another wash off. Quiet night and still no sign of the storms (luckily), this was the town that had the one in a million hail storm last week so we were pretty confident that there would not be another. All the vans and cabins in the park were dented badly and the skylights in the amenities looked very much like blue tarps to me. Had a BBQ for tea and a relaxing night in the cool inside. Today more of the same only the road is wider and solid and the countryside is much greener showing there has been some drought relief at least. Lunch at Fairbairn Dam just outside of Emerald. Nice spot but little water in the dam must be at most half full. Rolleston was our next stop and we have checked into the local caravan park for more relief. Storms brewing but nothing so far.

19 December 2004
Well a night in Rolleston made all the difference. We were watching TV on the laptop and working fine then next morning when restarted no sound !! Seems that during the night the sound card or whatever in the laptop threw in the towel and now after years of recommending not to put all your eggs in one basket I have been caught by doing the same. So for now no TV but have arranged for Luke to bring the TV down to Brisbane with him next week so all is not lost. I will be getting Dell to fix under warranty but perhaps I was a bit hasty trusting it for everything. That day we continued on southwards the road getting progressively better and the weather strangely cooler. Did some shopping at Moura and craft shop, then on to Isla Gorge arriving just in time to catch the ranger having his afternoon break. Went for a walk to the lookout and then surveyed the campground for the night. Chose a nice spot with the bedroom window overlooking the view of the gorge and after levelling up using a heap of the many rocks available settled in for the night. Cool breeze arrived on queue and clear starry skies and no other campers made for a cool quiet night. Very dry countryside definite signs that there is still a drought. Late checkout and then onwards to Taroom the site of the 'Leichhardt Tree' marked by Ludwig Leichhardt on his exploration in 1844 from the Darling Downs to what is now Darwin. Town is planted with the ever present bottle trees that seem to abound in this area. Next Theodore for lunch at the riverside park. Apparently you can camp here for free and there were two doing just that with one caravan having its power lead across the road and into the toilets for free power also !! Too hot and too many insects for our liking so soldiered on to Miles for fuel and then Dalby for the night in the town caravan park. Even this was not uneventful as the power went off at 3 am leaving only the sound of the generators running in the RSL club nearby. Fortunately it was not for long and silence once again prevailed until morning. Cast off and headed via the scenic route for Mapleton having lunch in a park at Kilcoy before tackling the mountainous approaches to our destination arriving in time for afternoon smoko. Already craft has surfaced so I can see a crafting frenzy from now till Christmas...... and probably beyond.

29 December 2004
As predicted craft has been the thing here during every spare moment. As for me, I have had the laptop repaired after the failure on the road, twice even as the first motherboard supplied ended up giving me another problem and since Dell were doing it for nothing there were no complaints. Shopping trips to the coast and an oil change for the bus have kept me busy and the constant stream of relatives delayed any news posting until now. Luke arrived after having driven down from home in just 2 days with the TV so the bus has been returned to normal and the laptop will not have such a workload from now on. He has been kept busy doing a hardware upgrade on Granddads computer along with a fresh installation of windows and necessary software. As a present for my laptop I also gave it a clean out and a fresh install of XP and just the necessary software. Of course during this I was informed my Norton's was out of date so made an online purchase and download of the 2005 edition so should be safe for the next 12 months. Christmas was spent with Robyn's family with the temperature in the 30's and afternoon storms around made it uncomfortable during the day. Nights here have been cool though except for one so at least a restful sleep. We went with Luke down to Caboolture to visit with my brother Tony and sister Shirley and her partner Hugh on Monday and ended up going to the local RSL for lunch to get a break from the heat. After lunch we regrouped at Tony's for drinks and a visit from a number of Shirley's family members most who Luke has not seen for many years. With the blackness approaching from the south we sped off northwards back to Mapleton before the storm and mostly missed us here as it went out to sea. Luckily cooler weather followed in its wake making it quite cool overnight 15.8C. Today there has been a more family arriving and will be a BBQ tonight. We are planning to move on the weekend after Luke heads off home so we could be anywhere for the next posting.

5 January 2005
We stayed on at Mapleton until Jan 2nd, a day longer than planned, but it was an opportunity to get everything ship shape and a relax after the busy few days up to new years. Luke cast off just before 10am and we followed in his wake down the mountain eventually passing him at Nambour while he was filling up with petrol. Shopping was next on the agenda and we did that at Morayfield as the shops were open there on Sundays. We had lunch with my sister Shirley and Hugh before we continued on by the scenic route and finally ended up at a van park in Esk. Next day up the range to Toowoomba to pay our respects at the cemetery this time to both mum and dad are there as mum left us last May. Flowers were hard to come by, another holiday, but they were available at the supermarket. Further on we headed into Goomburra SF and settled in for a quiet night with no phones and only the ABC on TV. So restful we decided to stay on for another night. Began to wonder if this was a wise choice when in the afternoon a couple of carloads of youngsters arrived and set up camp, fortunately not close, but accompanied by the din of car stereo with the obligatory thumping bass. Luckily by 8:30pm they called a halt and after a quiet night we were again greeted with the din at 8:20am !! Packed up and left them too it stopping at Warwick for morning tea through the Granite Belt and the Big Apple with lunch at Wallangarra. Of course as soon as we crossed over the border to NSW we lost an hour due to daylight saving but luckily were able to do some shopping at Glen Innes before finding somewhere to stay. First choice caravan park turned out to be booked out so we went onto another and there was plenty of room and only $15 for the night so hear we are.

9 January 2005
Next day we set off via Armadale to Tamworth for lunch and some shopping, this time we have arrived with still a week until the country music festival so not too many about as yet. After lunch just a short drive thru the backroads to Chaffy Dam. About half a dozen camps here this time but we managed to snag the prime real estate with shade on a point overlooking the lake with cool winds and peace and quiet for the night. Next morning we decided that this was too good to leave and took our time having breakfast. Silly move wasn't it as right on cue a vanload of young kids arrived and circled our site before setting up nearby. Not too bad I thought even the portable sound system had not been turned on ....yet. Still we lingered and then another car with more offspring arrived and they were dropped off and the parents like the others left them too it. Now it wasn't looking good so we decided before it was too late we would head off. As soon as I kicked over the motor they were hauling tents coolers and bedding over to our prime site, seems we had been where they wanted to be and we're overjoyed at our departure. Never mind it only took 30 minutes or so and were once again in peace at Hanging Rock. Now if this sounds like you have read this before don't be surprised as we did the very same last year when chased away from the dam by some over amplified country music fans. The campground at Hanging Rock this time was more in demand but we managed to find a quiet corner for ourselves. Even here we are not safe, campers arrived in the dark at 10pm to set up tents and a caravan. Had a resident pyromaniac who came over and asked if we were going to burn this big chunk of log and when told no he quickly took it to his site and started to chop it !! Seems he couldn't sleep if he didn't get his fire fix for the night. Next morning the night arrival caravan, set up next to mister flames, produced a generator and power saw to cut more firewood from the log. Still shaking my head in disbelief. They had some excuse as the overnight temp plunged to 12C degrees, a fair drop as its the middle of summer. Yesterdays drive started with the steep hillside decent from Hanging Rock and then desperately looking for a service station as the fuel gauge was hovering on empty. At the first village there were 2 closed service stations and no sign of another so I had a look in the tank and deduced that there was about 2 cm's in the bottom, enough to get to the next town but it would be close. Of course this town had an operating hotel so I went over and enquired as to the closest place for fuel and was told just 1/2km over the hill !! What luck. After getting a fill and parting with another $90 computed that we had nearly 10 litres left so could have gone on. The rest of the day was up and down hill after hill so much so that when we stopped for lunch in the middle of no where it was decided to abandon the quest for Dubbo and head south to Mudgee. Good decision as the road got flatter this way and took a lot less time. As the washing was piling up and we were down to our last clothes booked in for 2 nights to get ontop of it. Even here couldn't win. Parked in a nice grassy spot, of our choice, and soon found that the tree overhanging us was loaded with hard seeds that dropped constantly on the roof. By 9:30pm I had had enough and moved to the site behind to get away from this virtual hail storm. Peace at last. Today many loads of washing and the Sunday paper to read so well rested for another day on the trail.

13 January 2005
Last thing for Mudgee was to get some groceries and fill up with fuel before heading into the hills again. We stopped in the historic little town of Sofala only really one street, narrow with the buildings and verandas right up to the street as it would have been in the horse and cart days. Apparently the real attraction was the gold but that's long since gone and now I guess they hope to get the tourist dollar. Most of the houses look like they have been here since the birth of the town, its amazing how long corrugated iron lasts when its rusty. After lunch in the park we explored some riverside camps but found most needed something smaller than a bus to get in although there were a couple of spots near a bridge that would have been ok, but decided to give it a miss for now and note down for another time. Not too far on we drove through Bathurst, home of the V8 supercars in November for the race around Mt Panorama, and then onto the village of Blayney where thanks to the local council went about the 'secret men's business' at a dump point in a back street. Very continent and thanks to those that have encouraged councils to make provision for efficient waste disposal. Then to the Carcoar Dam for the night with the backdrop of the windmills on the adjoining hills doing their bit to generate power from nature. We jagged a top place to camp and were well separated from the 2 or 3 other campers. Of course it was windy but kept the temperature down while we sat and watched the few skiing on the lake in the evening. This is another dam that looks like it hasn't had any rain for years. The boat ramp has been extended a number of times to follow the water level down must be a good 20-30 metres down from full up. The night was cool and comfortable so we opted not to move for another night. No noisy neighbours this time so our stay here was enjoyable. Next day on to Cowra for lunch and collect $20 I won from powerball, nice to think I have got some of their money back for a change. Afterwards we explored 2 bush camp sites via endless gravel roads. We had afternoon tea at one and while we were sitting enjoying the quiet there was a sudden bang from underneath somewhere and soon a smell of gas followed!! A quick search found that the high pressure hose from the gas bottle to the regulator had blown off releasing some gas from the bottle but luckily the safety system had stopped any major amount escaping. Repair was effected with a spare hose clamp and will also replace the crimp on one at the other end before it decides to do likewise. Very lucky there was no sparks nearby or we could have started our own bushfire. Moved on as these campsites were really only suitable for tent campers and both were as dry as a crisp so considering the recent bushfires in South Australia and Victoria we had no wish to be in one here and opted for the relative safety of a nice little caravan park in Grenfell and took our gas with us. Today we photographed Henry Lawson's birthplace in Grenfell and then onto Young for a morning drink. Just another short drive to Cootamundra with a stop at Don Bradman's birthplace. For those of you not familiar with Australian icons, 'The Don' as he was known, was Australia's most famous cricketer. Next Junee with a drive round town which is built around the junction of two railway lines and has a railway roundhouse for wagon maintenance apparently the largest in the southern hemisphere. There is also a chocolate and liquorice factory which I presume we will be visiting tomorrow along with the quilting shop that was closed today!! We're booked into the caravan park with adjoining lake with ducks and shade to keep us cool as the mercury is rising for another over 40 degree + day.

21 January 2005
After our night with the ducks and morning secret men's business we hit the road again this time heading for Albury and the craft shops. Yes this time there were two within 100 metres of each other so I got set for a long wait and listened to some CD's [yes I did say some] while the crafty one did her best. I could feel the Visa card smoking and after two and a half hours non stop the deed was done. Now to see if there is enough to do some grocery shopping before finding a place to stay for the night. Luckily there were shops not to far distant and we had lunch of roast chicken and acquired some more food for later. Booked into CP in the adjoining town, Wodonga, over the border in Victoria but turned out to be held captive by holidaying school kids and of course they were playing/fighting in the amenities blocks so star rating on this place plummeted rapidly. Hot again and next morning went in search of discount fuel [now around $1.14/litre] and a visit to Super-Cheap for some oil additive for the gearbox which has been playing up for the last few days. Both were found within the same block so after refuelling set off on the Hume Hwy towards Melbourne. We had planned another stop before getting there but as the washing was due and the road was flat and fast after lunch at a roadside park it was decided to make the driver earn his keep and push on to Melbourne for the night. Arrived at Ryan's about 4pm with still 5 hours of endless daylight left to get settled in and catch up on the gossip. Sunday Robyn went to a craft market while Ryan and I went to a computer market. There were heaps of bargains and if I hadn't been strong would have parted with heaps. As it was picked up a USB digital TV box for the laptop at a good price so have a new toy to waste my hours here with. Of course it has been the usual software nightmare and once I got it sorted realised that all these things hanging off my computers 2 USB ports needed help so had to get a powered USB hub as well. That has tamed the cable mess now enabling me to go online via Ryan's wireless access point at broadband speed while watching digital TV and logging our coordinates with the GPS, not to mention charging the wireless mouse !!! its all too much. Been taking it easy here for a change and just mundane things like washing and shopping to interrupt the rest. Wednesday evening Robyn and Ryan went to the Australian Open tennis thanks to free tickets from his work and didn't arrive home until after midnight while I stayed behind and as you can see washed the grime off the bus and got her looking like new again. Water restrictions here meant that I had to do the job with buckets and not use the hose to rinse off. I am not sure that saved any water as it took many bucketfuls to do a job that would have taken minutes with a hose but thems the rules. The weather here has gone from so cold at night we used the heating to 35++ during one day we needed the airconditioner. Its all true what they say about Melbourne weather. That's it so far, just the weekend and then we'll be heading off to Gippsland on Monday as far as I know.

31 January 2005
As anticipated we spent the weekend in Melbourne with Ryan and I copied many DVD's full of data from Ryan's huge collection and ended up getting another pair of speakers for the laptop to make the movie/TV watching more enjoyable. This time a pair of Bose speakers at great expense from an Apple shop. I had to cross myself as I entered in case I should be tempted to abandon the PC and buy a Mac, it must have worked as I only left with speakers but there were some impressive bits of Mac hardware there. Another computer market for the men and market for Robyn followed by the shared experience of the St Kilda markets on the beachfront. Some nice stuff but fairly pricey. Ryan took us on a tour of well known places including a lap around the formula one circuit and a visit to Ramsay Street. For those who don't know its the street where Australia's most famous soap TV show Neighbours is filmed. Monday we set off to Paynesville in east Gippsland, around 290kms along the mostly motorway with a stop on the way to plunder a craft shop in Trafalgar and then to are new home away from home with fellow motorhomer Laurie. Same name different spelling and no relation. For the rest of the week we relaxed enjoyed the peace and quiet and did a few jobs that need doing. Laurie cast off on Wednesday heading for the US leaving us in charge of the keys until we are relieved by another motorhomer next Saturday. Ryan came down and stayed for last weekend and took us out touring around the nearby hot spots. Unfortunately the weather was miserable but it was a pleasure to get driven around for a change. Some people managed to taste test meat pies from Lakes Entrance and Bruthen in the same day while others [me] had a chicken salad. Sunday it stopped raining but remained overcast but we went for breakfast at Paynesville and then a tour around Raymond Island. We were lucky enough to see more than enough wild Koalas to satisfy the cameras and some top sea views as well. Of course by the time Ryan was leaving after lunch back at the bus the sky had completely cleared. Today we drove into Bairnsdale and reprovisioned and picked up some hardware for some jobs that Laurie has left for me to do.

14 February 2005
Time is moving fast and I have neglected this for too long. It could be that we are relaxing too much. Is that possible? The small jobs were done and of course the weather turned cold and rainy so we figured it was much better to be here than miserable some other place where we were paying. Just to console myself I ordered a new camera, Olympus C-770, 4MP with x10 optical zoom. The poor performance with the koala pictures on Raymond Island have to share some of the blame for my excesses but then again so do the offspring who both had better cameras [until now]. Amazingly it arrived by courier overnight from Adelaide and with a saving on the shop price of between $50 and $250 how could I resist. Spent Thursday experimenting and got some real challenging shots while the 'Roulettes' were doing practice overhead for the air show scheduled for Saturday. Friday saw the arrival of Ian back from Sydney and came armed with the 2 kits I had requested to update the power circuits for the digital metering that I had installed in the solar controls of the bus before we left home. Spent Saturday building them up and fitting. Saturday night we went to dinner with Ian and Ellen and spent much of the time discussing computers and boys toys for Ian and I and the girls discussing crafts. Sunday we were to meet up with them again for a further exchange of ideas but they had to dash to Melbourne as Ellen's brother had had a heart attack. Monday we decided that as the weather was now fine we should head off for a few days and make the best of it. Provisioned up and then headed for Cape Conron NP on the coast south of Orbost. Top spot and the weather for the first day couldn't have been better. Of course overnight it turned cold and drizzly rain began so day two saw us doing reading inside until it cleared in the afternoon for another walk on the beach. Robyn took a liking to the beach shells and collected heaps for some craft item she had seen done elsewhere so I guess we'll be carrying them around for months now. Next day instead of continuing to Mallacoota as planned we went north west to Buchan.That day was our 31st wedding anniversary so we had planned to have dinner at the hotel to celebrate but as with all good plans it didn't turn out as the cook had quit so there was no meals. We had to settle for take away from the roadhouse as there was no other choice. Not to be forgotten lightly when we arrived at the caves park Robyn managed to slip going thru from the cab to the rear of the bus and twisted her ankle!! Likes to be the centre of attention it seems. Beautiful camp ground and luckily as it was cold one of the few with electricity so we were able to keep warm and cosy inside. Next day as the only able bodied one I set off alone for the guided tour of one of the caves. Took heaps of pictures so others could have a virtual experience and not miss out. After that we packed up and headed off to a couple of the nominated tourist spots nearby. First was a non existent waterfall, seems there hasn't been enough rain for it to flow as yet. It was not a complete loss as the views over the mountains and valleys were priceless and we had lunch up on top of one of the high ridges with views all round. Next on to an historic bridge. We were going to cross over the bridge and continue to the junction of the Buchan and Snowy rivers but the bridge had seen better days and was closed for vehicles over 3 tons so that left us out. Again all was not lost as we has stopped on the way and photographed an Echidna [native spiny ant-eater] and when I was photographing the bridge there were the beautiful chiming calls of the Bell Miner, a bird not found in the north but common in these parts and with the new camera managed to record some of their sounds to enjoy again. Back to our second home [or is it third?] secret men's business and a refill with water were necessary before Ian came round to burn some of the midnight oil exchanging computer information etc. It was a late evening and both chastised for it. This weekend we relaxed with some new visitors Ann and Ian from Melbourne down this way to tend to their rural block of land just to the north of Bairnsdale while overnighting here. We went for a drive on Sunday to see the block and had lunch together whilst enjoying the peace and quiet of it. They of course had to return home Sunday afternoon as they had jobs to go to but I don't think it will be too long before they give in and move down this way and enjoy their 30 acres of paradise. Another top day today perhaps this time we'll get a week of it. Housekeeping chores and a relax in the sun outside while I type this, who could ask for more?

4 March 2005
Weather of course didn't fail us, no sooner had I said sunny day and they were here in multiples. We were awaiting the return of Ellen and Ian from a weekend camping with the local motorhome chapter to what was described as a quarry. We had declined as club meets are not our scene and the description didn't seem that attractive. Well of course it was just a name and apparently hadn't been a quarry there for many years and the others enjoyed it so much they stayed on until Wednesday! We of course made the best of it and had some relaxing at the wharf and the park in Paynesville for lunch on a couple of days and some shopping in Bairnsdale. Thursday we went to Ellen's home in Paynesville and had BBQ lunch followed up by Ellen passing some silk paint skills onto Robyn and Ian and I got his mobile internet sorted. Productive afternoon for some. Friday we headed back to Melbourne with a stop in Stratford on the Avon River for morning tea and then craft shop in Sale. We had lunch at a park by the information centre and then onwards to arrive during the afternoon traffic. Saturday we went to town for Ryan to get some camera filter with a tourist run thru a park with views over the city on our way back. Sunday another computer market and Southbank markets in the city for Robyn. Had lunch by the river and got some nice pictures. Tuesday we left town again and did a full circuit of the Mornington Peninsula. First night camped in a beach side park that must be pretty popular in holiday times as there were hundreds of sites all with power. There was no sign of the ranger and when I enquired with some other campers I was told that he will come round and collect the fees and to set up anywhere. So we did and had a quiet space all to ourselves and what's more the ranger never bothered to call even though we did not hurry off in the morning so it was all free including power. Next day to some beautiful ocean beach spots and stayed overnight at Point Leo. Again massive park but no power and we were one of less than six campers there but this time the ranger came. Quiet night away from the roads with only the sounds of the birds and the waves. Next day we continued down the ocean side and had lunch at beautiful Rye ocean beach. Very popular with the local workers as many arrived and had lunch while enjoying the views. After lunch we went to the very end where many years ago Prime Minister Harold Holt drowned or as some believe was abducted by aliens or the CIA. Back onto the bay side at Portsea and then along until we were again at Rosebud for another night. No ranger again must be our lucky week and such good weather too. On the way back to Melbourne called into a place selling satellite TV gear but still not impressed by the size of the dish needed so will have to put that on the do some other time list. This time we were a bit earlier and missed a lot of the traffic but ended up missing a turn and so had lunch at a shopping centre while we worked out where we were. No one is taking the blame for the navigation error but remember 'I'm the Driver'. The weekend brought another computer market where this time I bought a 3 watt LED torch and a memory stick and while we were doing that Robyn was at a Quilt show in town. Ryan bought himself a new mobile and now is setting up his carputer to work with it so he can internet on his way to work !! I ordered a new LCD TV for the bus which has improved our limited space and of course is much more impressive than the old TV. This week there has been many trips to town and Wednesday Ryan and I went to the city to see the Formula 1 cars do a couple of laps around one of the city blocks and yesterday it was free entry day to the race track itself so the men spent the day there watching the practicing for the real races. Took hundreds of shots mostly halves of cars as you have to get the finger sync just right or you get only a bit of the cars or none at all. But it was good fun and for the next 3 days Ryan is going to the real racing while I'll be satisfied with the TV coverage.

14 March 2005
Last weekend as planned Ryan took himself to the Formula One while the unemployed sat in the warmth of the bus and watched the coverage on TV while the weather changed from the warm and sunny of the past few days to cold rainy and miserable. Monday we finally got mobile after the bus battery moaned under the load trying to start the engine so figured out that the first stop had better be Battery World. One was located on the Hume Hwy heading north so we elected to go that way and get it replaced before the alpine circuit we had planned. A few minutes and $160 later and we were re-powered and heading thru the Yarra ranges towards Lake Eildon. After a very enjoyable run thru the hills and valleys we arrived at the gates to find the rangers had decided not to open the gatehouse but advised to find a site and the ranger would collect the fees. so being the only ones there on over 100 sites we chose the best spot and settled in for the night. The water level in the dam was abysmally low as it has been all over and will take a lot of rain to fill again to the tide line. It was so low that there has been a new boat ramp built about 100 metres further down the slope at the new waters edge. Quiet night with a few wallabies visiting for company but nothing else. Next day stayed on and during the afternoon spotted two other couples arriving with campers but still no sign of the ranger. Wednesday headed north and made for the Strathbogie Range NP and camp at James Reserve. No one else except about 50 school kids on bicycles apparently on some sort of training on their bicycles that passed us by and continued on for some way further on to their own campground. [I'm guessing] Quiet again and as we were in a valley the sun did not get up until 9:30 so we had an excuse for sleeping in. Next day we were to meet Ryan on the road somewhere to continue on together over the alps. We went to Wangaratta and did some shopping and of course the obligatory craft shops. Did better myself and ended up buying 2 pair of shoes from Rivers in their sale so must be in front now. Eventually met with Ryan in Beechworth after we had lunch and did the town tour with him before heading off to Myrtleford and then Nug Nug reserve for a night. This time there were plenty of campers there and even a caretaker to collect the fees. Last time we were the only ones but it was heading into a long weekend so I guess that explained the popularity. Friday a short drive to Lake Buffalo to have a look and then back to Myrtleford for some shopping and water for our tanks. We went to Mt Buffalo and at the park entrance it indicated the campground was full so decided to park outside and travel up the mountain in Ryan's car and save one admission fee. First we had lunch and it was about 2PM by then and just as we were about to enter the ranger shut up the gatehouse and went home and of course that meant no fees !! Bonus for us, and after the long drive up the mountain road we visited the lookouts at the Chalet and then on to the very end of the road where Ryan walked up to the very top of the mountain where there was a huge rock with steps and a railing for photographs. We elected to relax in the park and enjoy the views and fresh mountain air and leave the climbing to him. On the way down went into 2 waterfalls and got some pictures before the light faded and then on to one of the caravan parks on the river for the night. They must have thought it was Christmas as the fees for the night were $36 !!! Next day on to Bright for a look at the bakery and then up over the alps to Mt Hotham and Dinner Plain. The weather was perfect for the drive with blue skies and still 21C on the mountain top. Finally stopping at Victoria Falls [non existent] for a late BBQ lunch after 2 rough road detours looking for the falls. We would have been happy to call it a day there and then but the younger generation was keen to continue on so we continued until we got to Bruthen and took the last spot in the council caravan park. Well it was the last spot but 6 or more 4X4 with campers some how managed to fit into the vacant space in the middle of the park. There were lots of kids and bikes but fortunately they were off to bed early and we had a quiet restful night before heading off to Metung on the lakes while Ryan went to Lakes Entrance to get some photographs in good weather. We had a pleasant rest by the lake and after lunch Ryan headed back to Melbourne and a return to work on Tuesday after the labour day holiday on Monday. We then continued on back to Paynesville for a couple of nights with Laurie after her return from the US. Evening meal with Laurie and friends Ann and Ian and of course the washing. Today did a bit of detective work to find out why the bus air-conditioning was not working correctly and found a connector that had become intermittent and replaced it with a screw connector and the unit then performed perfectly so had a win there. Will be checking with the local mechanic tomorrow to see if we can get a service before we head back to Melbourne for the craft show starting on Wednesday!!

28 march 2005
Much has happened since the last posting, as promised we contacted the local mechanic who had done such a good job on the brakes last year and even though the boss was away his offsider couldn't have been more helpful and delivered us to town for some shopping while he did the service and collected us after completion. All the oils and filters were changed and appears like the gearbox is co-operating now with just new oil so seems like its essential to do a regular oil change on the gearbox and diff as well as the engine. Haven't paid for it yet as he explained that he doesn't do billing and will wait for the boss to return and he will phone us with the damage. Country hospitality is alive and well here, can you imaging that sort of service in the big smoke. Our last time at Paynesville for this year and a big thanks to Laurie for her hospitality. Back to Melbourne with a stop on the way at 'Affordable homes' to have a look at their kit homes for future reference, vital shopping and then back to Ryan's for the weekend. Craft show on the Friday while I did all the essential jobs, secret men's business etc and on Saturday gave the bus a wash , this time with the hose as the water restrictions have been relaxed. Sunday craft show again while the men went to town with a visit to computer retailer where I bought my wireless mouse only a couple of months ago for a replacement as it had expired after little use. No trouble with that and lunch in town and a look around Greek festival that was in full swing in one of the city streets. Monday received digital set top box purchased over the internet so set it up with the LCD TV and now superb reception where available. Tuesday set off westwards with lunch on the way at a huge truck stop and then on to CP on the shores of Lake Burrumbeet just outside of Ballarat. I say on the shores but the water was so low the shore was hundreds of metres away. next day onto Ararat to look at a kit home manufacturing factory and walk through the three display homes there. Again these are for reference but unusual design not unlike a wartime aircraft hanger on a more compact scale and easy to assemble. Very light and airy and would suit a rural block with views. The costs were surprisingly economical and will be hard to beat when we decide its time to move on. A couple of essential items at the shops and then onto Halls gap in the Grampians to look at what we missed the first time we came this way. As it was the Wednesday before the Easter long weekend we decided to try for one of the caravan parks to save competing for the few available NP spaces and if possible to make it a week to minimise the cost. Main criteria was mobile coverage for the internet and TV to take our minds off the other campers. Ended up at Grampians Gardens CP just east of the town and booked in. Thursday was quiet until lunch time and then the onslaught began. No letup the next day, Good Friday and by the afternoon there were literally no vacancies and we were surrounded by hundreds of Victorians escaping from Melbourne with literally hundreds more children and the same number of bicycles!! Luckily the nights have been cold so we closed up and had the heater on so were shielded from the throngs for peaceful sleep. Ryan came up on Saturday and stayed overnight in his tent and Sunday while Robyn grazed the craft market in the village with the thousands of others the men did a tourist circuit around the mountain and went to the lookouts and falls taking many pictures. Some paths were so crowded we had to wait for oncoming walkers to continue!! We arrived back after 3 hours and picked up Robyn and then returned for a BBQ lunch at the park. Ryan decided to head home being uncomfortable surrounded by so many kids and left us to face it alone. This morning as if by magic almost all the inmates have fled and peace returns to the park. We have 2 more nights here and then plan to take a few days to return to Melbourne.

6 April 2005
Well you wouldn't believe it, after Monday when most of the campers left the park the ONLY campers that stayed on were the four tents next to us with their kids and bikes!!! And what's more they even stayed on until Wednesday morning and left only an hour before we did. Fortunately with the rest of the park empty they had to take themselves out during the day to amuse their kids. After a stop in Ararat at the kit home place to get some pictures and a cruise of the main street for craft shops and groceries. We made one last stop there at an outlying truck stop and secret men's business then continued on to Mt Buangor NP for lunch. As it was a late lunch and there weren't too many campers we decided to stay on for the night. of course no sooner had we decided this a small bus arrived with a full compliment of occupants to camp. Fortunately they chose an area far enough from us and after some detective work I found they were from Ballarat University on a team camp and not there to party. It was peaceful and cool overnight and in the morning we had wallabies grazing around us. Another late start and we headed towards Daylesford and stopped for lunch at a very nice park then onto Daylesford with a visit to the lake and the mineral springs which incidentally tasted disgusting and then on to Mt Franklin SF park for the night. The camp is about half way to the top and was almost camper free and a refuge from the winds that has sprung up during the day. While some of us crafted I went on the walk to the top of the mountain thru the pine forest. I think the name mountain was a bit of an exaggeration and a big hill would have been more appropriate but the view thru the trees over the countryside was worth the effort. Friday we continued towards Castlemaine and just before that we came across a small wool and craft shop in a little village so stopped there for a look. Money changed hands and then we were off again. In Castlemaine I made use of the internet in the bus while Robyn did a cruise of the shops and after we continued to Bendigo. On the outskirts of town there was another craft shop that required attention. Had lunch and interneted while that was handled. Next onto the objective of the day and another shop was plundered while I passed the time listening to CD's. It was getting late so we headed southwards and after traversing many confusing country roads we came across a camp beside the river at Warburton bridge reserve. Another pleasant stop with the trees alive with birdcalls in the morning. Saturday it was back to the Calder Freeway with a stop for lunch at Gisborne in the park. Our next stop was the Organ Pipes NP. As it was getting really hot the official walker declined the walk and settled for some pictures from the lookout before we headed back into Melbourne and Ryan's. Sunday while Robyn did the shops in Chappel Street the men again did the nearest computer market and I picked up a wireless access point for home at a good price. Monday the usual many loads of washing and the inevitable secret men's business and a refill with water. Also the portable hard drive video player that I had ordered was here so It was put to use for entertainment. Tuesday more washing seems that I am still doing Ryan's washing after all this time and some experimenting with a new version of Linux, which had taken most of the night to download, on my laptop. Today, well what can I say, we were going to go for a drive to the Yarra Ranges and stay a couple of days but as some of us didn't awaken until 11 am decided that the internet and crafting was thing to do so here we are.

14 April 2005
A few days more in Melbourne's unpredictable weather and then Friday Night Ryan and I went to see the WWE Smackdown Wrestling at the Rod Laver Arena. It was a great night out and well worth the effort and the cost. Seems Melbourne has enough people to fill any number of arenas at once as there was AFL football on in the adjacent MCG and still all the seats at the wrestling were taken. Saturday Ryan and I went all over looking for a shop with video projectors at the right price while Robyn did some shopping and had a haircut. Sunday we did some work on Ryan's car and filled with water and the other mundane things before setting off towards home Monday morning. First day up the Hume Highway and then the Goulburn Valley Highway until we reached the Murray River and the very edge of Victoria. We found a quiet place to set up camp just a few kilometres outside of Tocumwal and virtually alone except for the passing rafts the next day. The weather was excellent and elected to stay on for two nights and enjoy. Wednesday we crossed over into NSW and topped up the provisions before heading northwards on the Newell Highway. Foolishly I had decided to head off the Newell and go to a national park that we had stayed at before but after a long day we reached the turnoff after 5pm and with 25 kms of gravel road to go or 5kms to Grenfell. We did the sensible thing and went the 5km and had a night there. Seems it was not my day and we had driven about 75kms further than necessary to stay in a CP but then who's counting. Today more driving but took it more leisurely after all its not a race and got a full stock of groceries at Parkes before heading on a little further to have our lunch at 'The Dish' in Parkes. Very restful and we were lucky enough to have them do a full horizontal to vertical and back to horizontal manoeuvre of the dish for good measure. Further on we were on the lookout for a turning to a little known national park near the town of Peak Hill but this was also not to be as there was no sign at all. Continued onwards to end up in Dubbo for the night. Nice CP and allows us to go a little bit less tomorrow so all is not lost.

27 April 2005
Next morning we went to the shops in town to shop for a birthday present for someone who travels with me and is having a significant birthday ending in zero on Monday. Purchased a nice gold and stainless steel watch with mother of pearl face and had it engraved with something appropriate while we had morning tea at a 50's theme cafe down the street. Just so as not to spoil the surprise the gift was wrapped up and put aside for the big day. Onwards then and the plan was to enter the Warrumbungle's National park by the back road and stay for a night. Brilliant scenic views and once at the campsite found that there weren't too many families even though it was in NSW school holidays. Peaceful place and next day opted for another day of rest and as a bonus many of the children left with their parents. There were an abundance of kangaroo, emus, and many birds completed the scene along with brilliant clear star filled skies at night. Next day on to Moree with a stop in Narrabri for lunch by the river, very pleasant oasis. Spent the night in CP with wall to wall caravans and campers in drive thru spaces not big enough for awnings. Luckily it was hot so we chose the inside with air conditioning for the night. Monday, the BIG day, started out with surprise birthday present and then after some driving had a perfect celebratory meal for lunch at a bistro in Goondiwindi. I even broke the diet for a piece of birthday cheesecake. Both stuffed we went on to Lake Coolmunda for the night with the views over the dam and the peacocks around the campsites. Tuesday we made it to Toowoomba for lunch and some shopping then flowers for my mum and dad's grave with thanks for our inheritance which has brought so much craft and techno joy over this holiday. Afterwards we continued to Crows Nest Falls NP for the night with one or two others and the birds. This area is really dry and shows how little of the rains this summer has made it west of the coast. Wednesday we took the tourist route to Mapleton stopping at Kilcoy for lunch. Since our arrival here craft has been in full swing trying out all the new wares acquired in the south from a plethora of craft stores and exhibitions. A little computer work for me but basically I have amused myself taking it easy. Today there was of course the ladies day out to the Brisbane Craft show just in case anything had been missed in the south while the men remained at home to do more mundane things like defrosting the fridge and washing the floor, all exciting stuff. Another couple of days here and then we'll be moving on for the last part of our journey home.

9 May 2005
Friday we finally started the trek home but first catching up with some friends not seen for a year or so at Nambour and some shopping, only groceries this time. Afterwards we drove onto Gympie and had lunch in a nice park before heading westwards with the final destination for the day at Kingaroy with relatives Liz & Norm. Also in attendance Robyn's parents and sister and her family. This was the weekend of the 100 year anniversary of Wondai school which many of the older relatives had gone to so this was the main entertainment for the weekend along with the endless meals and snacks. School P&C's always do a good job of catering and this was no exception. Luckily I showed restraint and only had the foods allowed on my diet. This was the May Day long weekend and we stayed on until Monday so as not to crowd the campsites. After all the final good-byes we moved on to Wuruma Dam, free camp with quite a few there but plenty of room for us to be a long way from everyone and blissful peace and quiet. No phones, No TV and No internet just the waterbirds and the occasional fisherman. This was another one of the almost depleted dams that we have seen this holiday and without substantial rain it will be empty long before the years end. The night sky was so clear and awash with stars and we stayed on while the water lasted leaving there on Wednesday. We had lunch in Monto and replenished some shopping needed. Nice town very neat and tidy could be tempted if the money was right. A long afternoon drive via Mt Morgan and over the ranges and down to Rockhampton for fuel food and much needed water. Thursday we took the drive north via the coast stopping at St Lawrence [no relative] roadside rest area for lunch and then on to Carmila where I decided to call it quits for the day and checked into the caravan park. Last off the blocks Friday morning and on to Sarina for a stopover at the railway craft shop and then on to Bowen and another CP for the night. Very quiet up this way seems that the southerners are not quite cold enough yet but won't be long. Saturday another morning stop at Home Hill,the very last craft shop for the trip [as you can see not empty handed] and then on to Townsville for refuel and just a couple of drinks to see us out for the trip. Lunch was had in the carpark before heading off to our last night at Jourama Falls NP. A great place to spend the last day of the holiday quiet and green and tropical for a change. There were many fish and tortoise in the creek and a few wild turkeys roaming the grounds. Last day Sunday we made good time to Innisfail and had lunch at the rest stop just north of the town before that last leg home. So here we are back home with a list work to be done before our next adventure but it will have to wait until we have caught up with the house and yard, fortunately kept pretty tidy thanks to the resident caretaker Luke. Thanks for your attention and there will be one last post when I have organised a selection of photos for you to enjoy.

30 June 2005
A longer holiday than at first planned but you can never have too many holidays.I have had a few things on the bus to repair and some improvements to make as a result of our experiences. Since our return I have fitted a recycled laptop to a spare space in the cab and a 7in colour touchscreen LCD screen to the dash so now we can have proper use of the GPS and the maps without having to drag out my laptop, small camera is coming so I can also use it for a reversing camera. Some new shelves for the nick knacks and some tidying up with the TV installation. While on the road we tried to travel on different roads to usual and stay at new places and on that score we succeeded. We have seen much more of Victoria and the outback roads of NSW and Queensland. A fair amount of the time we stayed with friends and family firstly with Robyn's parents in Mapleton both on the way down and the return home, at Laurie's in Paynesville with her and also while she was away in America, with Ryan our oldest at his house in Melbourne which became a second home with a number of shorter trips around the area with him and by ourselves and lastly a few days with cousins Norm & Liz at Kingaroy on our journey home. It lasted 148 days ,just 2 days short of 5 months, with the bus using 1740 litres of diesel and covering 12453 kms costing $1876.58 for fuel with an average consumption of 13.94 km/l or 20.3 mpg. I got a new camera, 17 in Wide Screen LCD TV for the bus, Digital TV set top box and an Mpeg4 movie player for entertainment. A new cranking battery for the bus in Melbourne and a major service while we were at Paynesville. Much of the time as I said was spent with family and friends, and at 18 national parks and 18 caravan parks when necessary. I washed the bus with kerosene twice in two days when we got covered in bitumen from the melting roads in the heat and twice while in Melbourne just to clean off the grime. We used just 4 kgs of gas, Robyn went to the tennis with Ryan ,two craft shows and a quilt show and craft shops too numerous to mention whereas I went to the wrestling with Ryan in Melbourne and to at least 4 or 5 computer markets also in Melbourne and spent numerous hours on the net while the craft shops were being plundered. My laptop has had two new motherboards replaced while we were away and another since we returned home, isn't extended warranty wonderful. A total of 1629 digital pictures were taken with 16 web site postings and 1649 website visitors. Thanks to all of you for your attention, no doubt you will be looking forward with anticipation to our next trip away later on this year. Where to well who knows, it will be just as big a surprise to us as you. Cheerio and thanks for all the emails, The Crew.

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