Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Southern NSW and South East Victoria

Leaving Sydney mid morning on day 6, we headed around the city on the toll ways and headed south on the Hume Highway. We had planned a couple of overnight stops to look at, and maybe stay at, and although they looked good, we decided to keep going. We ended up in Gunning and stayed at the show grounds. Gunning has two free camps, one by Meadow Creek - that was already crowded with vans - and the show grounds. The show grounds had a lot of grassed areas and only three vans over night.
Up to 1820, the Gunning area was the end of settlement from Sydney. The area was occupied by the Pajong “Fish River Tribe” people. Hamilton Hume explored the area in 1821 and Hume and William Hovell made the route from Gunning to what is now Melbourne and the first road from Sydney to Melbourne was established. It became the Hume Highway. Gunning became a travellers rest stop on the journey. Many colonial buildings still exist. The main street, Yass Street, has many of these buildings.

Most of the shops are tourist type shops – cafes, galleries, arts and crafts etc. and most were closed on the Monday. I suspect that being so close to Canberra it is a weekend type town were Canberreans would make a day trip.
After a lovely few hours walking around Gunning, and Peter getting his coffee fix, we headed towards Canberra, though sheep country. These were at Sutton.
By-passing Canberra we headed around the A.C.T. And spent the night at Chakola. It was so cold – got down to minus 4 overnight. We were very glad we have a gas heater AND a hot water bottle.
 The next day, day 8, we continued south to Cann River, filled up with petrol and headed west to Marlo. We have been here a few times and there are many rest areas along the Snowy Mountain River. We have our favourite, and this time there were no other caravans there – not that we mind having company. I guess most caravanner’s are heading north to the warm weather, silly us, we are not!!
We are getting much better at driving a short total distance each day, and spending more time stopping in the smaller towns to explore. We are also relaxing more in the mornings and not leaving places to well after 10am some days. One of the great things about free and low cost camping!! We headed to Orbost, just up the road from Marlo, and had a walk up and down the street. First stop was the information centre, in an old slab hut.
The town has information boards along the main street and surrounding streets.
Peter got his coffee fix, and I found a quilt shop.

We had decided the go only a short distance and stay at Golden Beach, on 90 Mile Beach. We looked at a few camps in the sand dunes, scared a number of kangaroos, but decided to go to the donation camp in the town as most of the dune camping was full of rubbish. Some campers are disgusting, not bothering to take their rubbish with them. The town camp was lovely. Big sites, clean, and quiet, and one could still hear the waves crashing on the beach. This was our site.
The next morning we had a look at the beaches, before heading to visit Peter's family.
Most days were cold and foggy - metal note, only visit in the warmer months!!
During our visit we did drive up to Mt Baw Baw. Snow is a novelty for us Queenslander's 😉.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Sydney - capital of New South Wales & VIVID

Day 3, we stopped for lunch at Bulladellah and purchased a couple of Opal Cards to use on public transport in Sydney.Travelling in Sydney is easy by public transport. One can get to any destination by either bus, ferry or train. What is difficult is buying a ticket!
Sydney uses a system of Opal Cards, that need to be applied for and mailed prior to visiting Sydney. The card then needs to be topped up. We go to Sydney a lot, and last trip when trying to get an Opal Card, we simply couldn't. All local "Opal Card" vendors were for topping up Opal Cards. We did catch a ferry at Rose Bay, and there was a single ticket machine there, so we could get to Circular Quay.
So, we decided to go to Sydney last minute, and researching Opal Cards online, I found that it would take 5-10 days for card to be mailed. Not enough time, as we were leaving 4 days later to drive down. I continued researching and found a link to Opal for Visitors. This gave me a list of places I could buy an Opal Card once in Sydney. That would be good if you are staying near one of these places. Fortunately for us there were a couple of locations on the way down. One was Bulladellah Post Office, and it was easy to purchase and all our questions were answered. We put $20 on each card, and now we have Opal Cards to use each time we visit Sydney.
Next stop was for fuel and a look at the old Leyland Brother's 'Ayers Rock' - it was less than impressive.
We arrived at Sydney's Lane Cove National Park Caravan Park, a lovely park on the northern end of Sydney. It has been over a year since we stayed here, and this park is the cheapest caravan park in Sydney at a cost of $45 per night for a powered site and the best thing is it is close to all transport.
We were lucky to have visits with family.
Unplanned, but fortunate for us, the Sydney Vivid festival was on while we were there. We drove to Huntley's Point Ferry (we once lived near here) and caught the ferry into Circular Quay. Vivid 2017 – 26 May to 17 June, is a festival of lights, sounds, ideas, and food. It occurs each year around this time. We only spent a few hours walking around from the Quay to the Harbour Bridge. There was so much ore to see, so next year we will be back to see more. Words can't describe how wonderful we thought it was, so I'll let the pictures do the talking.
Light Waves reflecting as the tides move.
Landscape of the Mind shows how the body reacts to different personal experiences.
Crystallise moves when individuals approach and move.
Portholes shows changing environments as seen through port holes.
Don't Step on the Crack is inspired by childhood memories.
 This one was in a back lane, and we only found it because I downloaded a Vivid App. It is called Tidal and told the story of waves and the beginning of settlement.
Lights of Thought moves according to hand gestures.This would have been interesting to use sign language to see what animations it would produce, but too many in the queue.
Fractual constantly changes colour and moves to create different fractures.
Music Box was illuminated on historic Cadman's Cottage. It is an interactive display where four individuals play a game on special pads on the ground. They use their feet to play and as they play the visual on the cottage changes.
Organic Vibrations on facade of the Museum of Contemporary Art was fascinating to watch. Lines and shapes are constantly evolving to create this ever changing art work.
Connections visualises the movement of radio waves from everyday life - I'm not sure how this works, but the more people around the brighter the colours and the more they moved.
Axiom is also an interactive display that involves music and lights moving as people walk around and through it.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Northern NSW - beaches, rivers, rainforests

We left home mid morning to miss the peak hour traffic, and crossed the border after midday. We arrived at Yelgum rest area just after 1.30pm for lunch. We find it easier to stop and make lunch, rather than get fast food, and the break from driving is good. I was reminded why I don't use public toilets when I used the Yelgun toilets – rubbish all over the floor, water didn't work, toilet disgusting. Such a shame when this is a great lunch or even overnight spot. We continued on. We would normally stay at Halfway Creek free camp but it has been taken off the list, so we needed to try somewhere new.
Found it.... just south of Grafton at Hotel/Motel 5. It is a lovely place with green grass and level spots.
All one needs to do is buy a drink at the bar. However, we had dinner and drinks in the restaurant. Peter had a roast dinner and I had fish and chips and the food was pretty good. The total for food and drinks was $35.90, so a good choice for overnight. The owner/manager was really good, as were the bar staff. There was a little bit of traffic noise overnight, but not enough to keep one awake.
The next morning we continued to head south along the Pacific Highway and stopped at Valla Beach for lunch. One can always find the perfect lunch spot when driving down the east coast of Australia.
We had planned to stay the night at John's River, but it was still early when we arrived so we decided to continue to another free camp behind the Coopernook Hotel on the Landsdowne River, not far from our favourite caravan park on this part of the coast at Croki. Behind the hotel is a free camp for patrons only, and again it is a very grassy area surrounded by farms. The river is not too far away and there were people fishing. Next time we may have more time to stay longer and Peter can (maybe) catch dinner – LOL!! Peter had a couple of beers at the hotel and we had a lovely walk along the river and spoke with some locals. A lovely spot.
Now onto Sydney.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Road Trip 3 - opal country

Needing a break after being home for some 6 weeks, and with Peter working renovating, and me still sorting out books and school stuff, we headed off in the direction of Lightning Ridge, N.S.W. We arranged on our first 2017 Road Trip to Tamworth, to catch up with friends of almost 30 years, Steph and Eddie. They were doing a Graham Rogers Country Music Tour that ended in Lightning Ridge.
We only had planned about 10 days away, before needing to be home again for other commitments, so the first few days were long 3 – 4 hour drives and overnighters. After a few last minute house tasks we headed off.
First stop was Warwick for lunch and petrol. Next was Inglewood in Queensland for overnight. This is a free site provided by the town and it is well looked after, even providing free firewood for the barbecue. There are no toilets or water available, and one must be fully self-contained, but on the other side of the highway there are toilets, potable water and a dump point. The town has a few cafes and a pub, and a great pizza shop. We stocked up on milk, bread, and ham … and Peter had his coffee -$4.50 - 7/10 and he was happy.
We next stopped at Yelabon to look at the remains of the old dingo fence, which was interesting.
We stopped at Goondiwindi for petrol and continued along the Cunningham Highway to the Barwon Highway. We saw lots of cotton on the side of the road, so it must be harvesting time. 
Our next overnight stop was Nindigully Pub. We have been here before and obviously got here a little late as there would have been about 40-50 vans already here. We camped along side the Mooney River, across from the pub. There is a short walk along the river that has information boards about the history of the area.
The pub has a happy hour at 4.30pm and a bell is rung to let all the campers know. Drinks are $1 of a middy and house wine. Dinner menu is a little expensive, but if one can get there for lunch the prices are reasonable. We (as in Peter) had a few beers in the beer garden and watched as the camp fire was lit. They do not have moscato or sweet wines, so I drank water. It is a very interesting pub and well worth a look. Walking back to the van we could hear the cows mooing across the river as they were herded back to where-ever.
The next day we took a different road, the Thallon-Dirranbandi Road, which was much better, to Lightning Ridge. We checked in to the Opal Caravan Park and found Steph and Eddie. This is a lovely caravan park, although a little expensive. It has much better facilities than last time we were here, and although it is a fair distance from town, it is close to the hot artesian baths.
We like Lightning Ridge, and have been here a few times. Just so much to see and do. This time we chose to do the Green Car door tour again up to Nettleton's First Shaft. This was built in 1902 by Charles Nettleton, and although he found no opals at first, he did in future shafts. There is a labyrinth there that was built about 2011, no one is sure by who, it just appeared. One walks around the maze and contemplates good thoughts. Also at the site is an old house made of mostly cans. It has been added to since the last time we were up here and now coloured bottles form a part of the structure.
One of the great things at Lightning Ridge is the duo – Mel and Susie. We first saw them in Winton, and have been following them (maybe stalking) on FaceBook. They are very good story tellers, and are now based at Lightning Ridge and perform 6 afternoons a week at the Opal Caravan Park. 
As we were meeting up with friends on their last leg of a country music tag along, we were happy to see some new artists that we did really like. Trevor Tolton is a young performer that has a voice that reminded me of Mark Lindsay – anyone remember him?? Here Trevor (right) is performing with Alan Percy (left).
Here is the star of the Tag-along Graham Rogers. We enjoyed the concerts.
After a great 3 days at Lightning Ridge, 4 vans with 8 of us headed north to St George. We stopped at Hebel, just over the border on the Queensland side. There is not a lot there. A general store (with terrible coffee) and a pub. It is believed the Kelly gang frequented back in the day.
There is a free camp north of St George, off the Carnarvon Highway before one gets to Beardmore Dam and along the banks of Lake Kajarabie. There is room for a few vans right beside the lake, and room for many more just up on a flat part of the camp. We set up, keeping in mind the large overhanging trees, and stayed two nights, simply relaxing. We also were able to have a fire, so we got to use our new fire pit. It was great.
We had a great catch up with Steph and Eddie, but the next day we parted ways as we headed further north-east, and they headed south. 
We had planned on staying the night at Westmar camp, but the toilets were closed and it was a little exposed to the highway, so we continued on to Dalby. We can upon Bowenville Reserve. How have we not been here before?!?!? It is a large open grassed area on the banks of Oakey Creek. There are so many places for vans. The only down side is there is one small toilet block, so one really needs to be self-contained. We liked it so much we stayed an extra night before heading home.

So home again for a few weeks and then another road trip - woo hoo!