The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

31 May, 2013

Heading North .... at last

With a slight diversion after leaving Polish Hill we are generally going north.

Seagulls were keen to take the bait

We travelled to Moonta, to catch up with David and Carol, and I was lucky enough to be taken out fishing - catching three whiting I must add, and I'm sure one was the biggest in the boat, even if Phil and David don't agree.  Hels opted not to go shopping but instead stayed and read a book on the sun lounge, also taking in the majestic view over the bay.

Wait for me guys, don't you realise the water is COLD!

We reluctantly dragged ourselves away and travelled to Port Pirie catching up with Ursula & Michael.  Always great to catch up and have a red or two, Michael is a bad influence and leads me astray.  Also had the opportunity to check out Tyson's (their son) new home.

By now we have eaten & drank consistently for close on 3 weeks the belt has gone out a couple of notches, so from Port Augusta onwards we will dine on lettuce and water only!

After leaving Port Pirie we travelled through Port Augusta and further north stopping in a free camp approx 58km NW Glendambo [633] - Mulga Well North Rest Area and have even shed a few clothes layers.  Looking forward to getting into the sunshine again and putting the jumpers, coats & beanies away for a long, long time!

Our view from camp 633, as the cloud build on sunset
So much for wishful thinking, over night the cloud cover came across and I could see flashes of lightening in the distant.  So in the morning we set off northward bound and slowly it became darker and the mist on the windscreen turned into showers of rain.  At this point we decided to stop in Coober Pedy and have a look around, in particular I wanted to go out to the Breakaways as it had been some time since we had seen them.  Well, Coober Pedy is usually a dusty place but as you can imagine the red dust has turned into red mud, so no walks up the street and after driving out to the Breakaway turn off we found that the road had been closed.

Only one thing to do, back to the van and go out for a pizza for dinner ...... bugger the lettuce and water!

Mmmmm ... some viewing platform.

Views of Coober Pedy town

The main street
Coober Pedy has recorded 24mm of rain and it's now red mud under foot so will pack up and keep trucking north today........will get sunshine soooooon!  :o)

some of the underground housing

22 May, 2013

Polish Hill, Clare Valley

After being in Adelaide for a week we packed up and headed to Polish Hill, located in the Clare Valley region of South Australia between the towns of Sevenhill and Mintaro, for a 4WD Club gathering.   We made our way to Auburn, a small town to the south of the Clare region for Wednesday night.  Here we stayed at the Auburn Recreation Ground [Camp 6 - 390] and had an enjoyable night around the campfire before turning  in for the night.  At this stage the layers of clothing had increased to 5!!! - with some overnight rain to freshen things up.

Polish Hill River Church & Museum
Polish Hill River at its peak had a community of more than 300 Poles who had immigrated to the area in the early 1850's onwards.  The old church still remains today and is a museum featuring artefacts from the Polish settlers.

From Lance's comprehensive itinerary for the weekend we knew the gates to Polish Hill hall and our camping area didn't open until 11 o'clock so this allowed for a sleep in which Hels was most great full as it was quite cold.  Upon arrival at Polish Hill we joined another 4 vans already set up and by Thursday night 12 members had settled in which set the scene for a great 'Happy Hour' around the campfire.  By Friday night we had more than 30 families camping in the area with several fires in various types of fire places.   I'm not sure if this was not a small competition to see who could build the best fireplace.  Friday night included soup and sausage sizzle, this just seem to blend into the happy hour, thanks  to the cooks Phil & Rolly and Soup makers Jill, Fiona, Carol, Karen, Eli.

Activities enjoyed during the weekend included:

"Popeye" was the first to light his brazier

"happy hour" in the hall

Our camp site

The other happy hour

More braziers, I think the competition was on
Melrose Day Trip
- was scheduled for Friday and Saturday, subject to track conditions, this travelled via Clare, Gladstone to Melrose then entering a private property driving around tracks up and down hills providing some beautiful scenery and views of the gulf towards Port Pirie . Finishing at Bartagunyah Wines before heading back on predominately gravel roads to camp.  We chose not to take this drive but instead went into Clare on the Friday for supplies and to post some mail and could not go past the Clare Bakery, particularly as it was lunch time!  Tea was provided by the club and included a selection of soups, baked potato and sausage sizzle.  A big thanks must go to Michael, David F and Craig for arranging the trip.

Clare area day trip

- visiting Warwick Grove Olive plantation @ Leasingham (tasting award winning olive oil), morning tea, coffee and cake & wine tasting @ O'Leary Walkers Winery, visited Blyth& called into Medika Art Gallery where resident artist Ian Roberts spoke about his work and history of the Gallery which is a beautiful restored Church built in 1886 (if you're ever passing through Blyth it is well worth a visit). He also instigated the opening of a small cinema which brings big screen movies to the rural community, for me this was a real surprise when I walked through the door and saw the relatively modern theatre.   From Blyth we travelled to Clare where we had lunch at the Middle Pub - everyone enjoying delicious meals.  From here we travelled back to Polish Hill with a couple of hours to spare before Happy Hour and wine tasting!  This trip was organised by Chris and Carol with their local knowledge made for a great day, thanks guys.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil tasting @ Warwick Grove Olive Plantation

The convoy lined up at O'Leary Walker Winery

View from veranda at O'Leary's and emu sculpture

Was a nice spot for coffee & cake .... & wine

Blyth Church and now Art gGllery

Blyth Hall

Sculptures depicting the farming area in Blyth
Saturday night Bush Dance - the Band Wild Matildas had everyone up learning the art of bush dancing and thoroughly enjoying dancing to their wonderful music.  I think some of the guys had initial doubts when we had to hold hands and form a circle. A lot of fun was had by everyone and I'm sure with lots of video evidence taken on the night will be some stirring at the next club meeting. You should have heard the moaning in the morning, not from hangovers but the old muscles were felt the next day, who said age is no barrier!!

Let the music begin

Now for dancing ....
Pancake breakfast Sunday, as if we needed more food, but that didn't seem to stop anyone from taking part in the breakfast and some pancakes, thanks to the cooks Alan & Eli and the maker Fiona & Mel. Oh by the way I did see Hooky come back for seconds .... or was that for Marie's breakfast in bed? Sunday morning followed by visits to local wineries while some packed and headed back to Adelaide and W@#k,  he, he.  - we visited Sevenhill winery which is the oldest winery and vineyard in the Clare Valley.  Within the winery is the magnificent St Aloysius Church (with crypt) and visitors are welcome to look through.  The Winery has been owned and operated by Jesuits since 1851 and still produces sacramental wines plus an extensive selection of table wines.

St Aloysius Church - Sevenhill

It was fantastic to catch up with old members of the 4WD club and reminisce about the wonderful trips we had shared over the years.  Great to also meet new members and we thank Lance and Jill for all their planning and organisation of a great few days. 

15 May, 2013

Along the Mighty Murray

Well it's been a while since the last blog as we have been free camping and had limited service.

We finally finished celebrating Briony's birthday and started to make our way along the Murray River to Adelaide.  As we had been in a caravan park for nearly 2 weeks decided to free camp, so out with the 'travel bible' (Camp 6 Book) and searched for suitable places.  The first one that stood out was camp 584 Boomanoomana State Forest, you ask why, well with a name Boomanoomana we had to stay there just so I could write Boomanoomana in the blog!.

Boomanoomana SF, Sandy Beach camp [584]

Sandy Beach - on the River Murray

Plenty of firewood, wine overlooking the Murray

Boomanoomana State Forest is approximately 100 km (give or take 50km) east of Albury on the Murray River. We stayed at Sandy beach camp site which was 4.5 km in from the road and on a nice sandy bank.  When we arrived some nice chap had left a pile of cut firewood, and being the only ones there, we enjoyed a great campfire.  The afternoon was nice and captured some vitamin D from the sun but that was short lived as the afternoon shade became quite chilly - so fire was a bonus.

Camp on the Wakool River

Oliver was up early to see sunrise over the River Murray at Euston CP

After leaving Boomanoomana, with some extra firewood on board, headed east travelling through Finley and Deniliquin - couldn't stay in Denny as we didn't have a ute for the muster .. ha ha. Friday night camped on the banks of the Wakool River, NSW [873] just on the out skirts of Kyalite.  From here kept eastward bound with the intent of staying at Lake Benanee [874] on Saturday night but when we arrived early afternoon the wind was blowing off the lake and a decision was made to continue to Euston.  A prime site next to the River Murray was selected for the night at the Euston CP followed by a visit to the local club for dinner and watched the Crows (AFL) on the big screen.  I won $3.65 on the pokies but as I couldn't work out how to cash the ticket (new to me),  I reinvested and lost the lot .... bugger.

Road works at the Bottle Bend camp site [1194] .... oh the serenity!!

Another couple of noisy cheeky characters at our camp - Apostlebirds 

Colin (my brother) had called and said he would drive up from Adelaide and meet us at Bottle Bend camp [1194], 20km west of Mildura on Sunday.   A couple who Colin & Yolanda had meet on a previous trip would also meet us at Bottle Bend.  On arriving at Bottle bend we saw Norm & Maureen's van parked right in the middle of the best spot so we pulled up close by so they could not miss us on their arrival back from a trip into Gol Gol for supplies.  When they returned we quickly struck up a bit of banter about parking close to their van so knew that we would have a good couple of days in their company.  Colin & Yolanda arrived right on queue ...... around 3 pm just as the billy was boiling!.

Norm had been travelling in the van for many years so had plenty of stories and knowledge to share over the next 3 days.  With Norms knowledge of free camping he was able to source some excellent fire wood, this was required not only keep warm but for billy tea and using Norm's special double sided toaster.  Norm has promised to make one for Hels and we can pick it up when we pass through Taree next.  We were also privileged to observe a new section of road constructed in the park, apparently this was to trap water for future regrowth in the area, not every day you have graders in the camp ...... just as well!

Needed 2 fire pots to keep warm
I had to buy crumpets so I could use Norms "special" toaster

Norm had been out collecting firewoood

Norm and Maureen, now that's Maureen's ipad but how come I only saw Norm using it? Was it just the colour he liked!!

We tried to entice Norm and Maureen to stay an extra day by making our specialty "stockman's delight" without success so Colin and I stayed on for and extra day after Norm left, to finish burning the firewood, (thanks Norm) and to discuss the next camp site.

Breakfast on the banks of the Murray

Not often you get a bottle of 1975 port to drink around the fire, thanks Colin.

After a lot of head scratching a decision was finally made to head towards Barmera and a free camp on the banks of Lake Bonney, SA [180].  We had eaten most of the fruit and veg to avoid handing too much over at the check point so also had to stop in Renmark to get fresh fruit for the next couple of days.  We found the camp spot which was right on the lake but needed to be cautious as some of the track was sandy.  This was our camp until Sunday, so we had plenty of time for fishing (without any success, not even a carp) walks along the beach and taking in the sunsets and sunrises.

Camp at Lake Bonney



Lake Bonney Hotel, built 1853 - couldn't find the bar!

After Lake Bonney travelled further down stream on the Murray to Swan Reach, this free camp is on the opposite side of the river to the town and pub, so after setting up caught the ferry over the river to the Swan Reach pub for Mothers Day lunch. 

Swan Reach, Tenbury - Hunter Reserve camp [222]

This was a great way to celebrate mothers day for Helen and Yolanda as well as a nice finish to a great week with Colin before we head to Mt Pleasant, Mt Compass and then into Adelaide visiting friends and rellies.

Hels on the ferry heading to the Swan Reach pub in the background

Mothers day lunch with Colin & Yolanda.

Now after 2 weeks of mainly free camping along the River Murray we are heading into Adelaide for a week before heading north ;0)