The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

28 December, 2016


On Boxing Day packed up and left Adelaide heading to Auburn to House sit for a couple of weeks - the car was loaded down with all that we had eaten and drunk since arriving in Adelaide!  Briony had a few days off so she came with us - had to stop at Bunnings on the way as I was eager to spend my Christmas money and brought a Ryobi drill and impact driver.  On this occasion we stayed in the house because we could not bring the Caravan in the drive as guests were staying in the B&B. On arrival the rain had started so had to do a lot of running in and out to bring our food etc into the house.

Auburn house sit, just mowed the lawn.
Made acquaintances with the cat (Timmy Tiger) and chickens (Black-beauty & Henrietta) and settled into the home.  That night a huge storm came through - I slept through but Helen could not sleep due to the noise of the wind.  In the morning she was surprised to see little damage as she imagined all the trees to be blown down & chickens flying around in the wind!!  The following day when we drove Briony back to Adelaide we noticed a lot of debris on the road as we detoured via Balaklava and Mallala as the Rhynie road was closed due to large pine trees across the road.

Mike and myself after sampling at the Old Bastard winery Clare
Friends Mike and Joy came up and we visited a few wineries before celebrating the New Year (it was a bit of a struggle to stay awake after our tastings!!).  We thoroughly enjoyed our House sit as the township of Auburn is very pretty and ideal for exploring the Clare Valley.  I was able to ride the bike every morning along the Riesling Trail and as the weather warmed up we enjoyed having a pool.

Our site at the Auburn Recreation Caravan Park
Michael & Kathy came back after having a great holiday and we moved to the Auburn Caravan Park for a couple of days.  Drove down to Adelaide to celebrate my birthday with Briony, having a great lunch at the Kentish Hotel followed by icecream at St Louis in North Adelaide.

20 December, 2016

Adelaide for Christmas

After completing my Santa training it was now time to work! For 2 weeks I worked in Santa's Wonderland @ Wayville in Adelaide and most days completed a 10 hour day!  The centre was great for the kids - certainly enjoyed the joy that kids get from seeing Santa.  Each day I came home with letters and gifts including a little girl's dummy that she handed over to Santa!!!  By the end of the 2 weeks I was exhausted but happy to be part of the Christmas festivities.  Was also called upon to step into the Santa role at the Brickworks Shopping Centre where I walked around the centre meeting the kids and having photos taken. At the end of my working stint I am very relieved that Santa only comes once a year!

Inside Santa's Wonderland @ Wayville

It's all good for Santa!
During the build up to Christmas we celebrated many times with family and friends - so wonderful to catch up with people and be amazed how the little nephew and neices are now parents of kids in their early twenties and late teens!!! Was also special to have Briony home to join in our Christmas celebrations and we thank everyone for their hospitality - we had a terrific time.

A wonderful Christmas Lunch hosted by David & Carol

Our Cactus cock Dinner - 'old' friends getting together for over 40 years

Geoff with sister Barbara & brother Colin

17 November, 2016

Back in SA

Sunrise @ Burra Gorge

Departed 8.15am from Broken Hill so the workers could set up for the Rock Concert.  Travelled down the Barrier Highway with a very strong side/tail wind, calling into Terowie where we did a drive around the town.  Had a look at the free camp but it was a bit hot and way too early to set up so continued on.

Drove onto Burra Gorge (Worlds End) where we found a nice spot, but my hay fever was causing me grief and camping in an area of crops and dry grasses did not help.  Went for a walk down to the water hole where I went for a very refreshing swim - Helen wimped out saying it was too cold!!

Our camp site @ Burra Gorge

Refreshing swim at water hole in Burra Gorge
 Only stayed one night - drove back into Burra then onto Clare where we stocked up with supplies before staying at Auburn in the Caravan Park looked after by Eric and Helen.  We have stayed here before and found it a nice spot with very friendly hosts - great Happy Hour every night!! Was able to get the bike out and go for rides in the morning along the Riesling Trail and the Rattler Trail. The Riesling Trail goes from Auburn to Barinia (33kms) and has storyboards with information on the local history, the landscape, the Ngadjuri people, the communities and local heros. The scenery includes views of vineyards, bushland, farms, historical buildings and tree lined lanes. The Rattler Trail goes from Auburn to Riverton (19kms) - the trail takes its name from the rattling old train that used to work the route.  Thoroughly enjoyed my rides although only rode for an hour return so did not complete the full trails.  We also caught up with Rosemary, who Helen grew up with and now owns the local Coffee Shop - Mellers (great coffee & scones!!).  Also visited property we will be house sitting early next year and are looking forward to returning to Auburn.

Some of the Art sculptures on the Nuriootpa to Anguston bike track

Whilst staying at Auburn we had a trip to Adelaide to deliver boxes to Briony who is living in North Adelaide.  Had a great catch up which included lunch and a grocery shop - she was able to stock up as we had the car.  After delivering her and her groceries home we drove back to Auburn where we spent a couple more days before heading to the Barossa for the 4WD Club 30 year reunion.  Had a wonderful week end meeting new members and reminiscing memorable trips with 'old' members!

Upon leaving Nuriootpa we went to Inglewood to pick up bed base for Briony, delivered bed to Briony's place in North Adelaide, then off to Mount Compass to spend a couple of days with Helen's sister Glenda (all this done dragging the Whale behind the car!!).  Having a good catch up with Glenda and some of her family, we travelled to Pt Willunga where we stayed for 3 nights - just having a few rest days.  Celebrated our 42nd Wedding Anniversary with lunch at Star of Greece, having a lovely meal and glass of wine.

Departed Pt Willunga ((needed to drag jumpers and jeans out due to cold weather!!) and drove to Brownhill Creek Caravan Park where we stayed another 3 days.  To our surprise we were camped next to our old Parado which we sold approx 11 years ago!  The owners had just sold it and were waiting for new owners to pick up. Had a great catch up with close friends Mike & Joy @ Coromandel Valley before travelling onto Levi Caravan Park where we stayed until Boxing Day.
Brownhill Creek Tourist Park - one of the local Koalas

Port Willunga

15 November, 2016

Wilcannia, White Cliffs to Broken Hill

View from Wilcannia Caravan Park down Darling River to town bridge

Continued travelling on the Barrier Highway and endured quite a strong head wind - not good fuel economy!  Stayed at Wilcannia Camp Ground which great right by the Darling River and with recent rains the River was quite high.  In the 1980s Wilcannia was Australia's third-largest inland port town. From 1859, the river was plied by paddle steamers, which travelled as far up as Bourke. In the past we have only fuelled up in Wilcannia and got out quick however now they are trying to encourage travellers to stop and experience the history of the town including the architecturally impressive buildings made of local sandstone.  There is a great coffee shop called Miss Barretts which is worth a visit and we also had an enjoyable Chinese meal at the Golf Club. The Caravan Park is clean and tidy and looked after well by new onsite Caretakers.

Wilcania Caravan Park on the banks of the Darling, which was flooding into the camp area.

Watched the super moon come up over the trees from the camp ground.

The Darling River - highest we have ever seen

Great Coffee Shop @ Wilcannia - well worth calling in

Drove out to White Cliffs which is a pioneering town born through the discovery of opal in the 1890s and whilst the days of great prosperity have passed, there are quite a few people who still live there. There are approx  135 dugout homes in White Cliffs - with summer temperatures soaring to more than 50 degrees Celsius, underground homes experience a constant 23 degrees Celsius.  We picked up a Heritage Map and drove around the town, which did not take long!  Stopped at the Underground Motel which has been in operation for more than 20 years and took a look at their Historical Museum which is worth a visit.  Wanted to see some opals however many of the larger tourist centres had closed for the season, Found Aussie Southern Cross Opals was open and we were entertained by Richard in his dugout.  His presentation included a video and his passion for the area was evident in his stories.  Sighted a few opals - one of which he let us hold to view the colours however when he told us the value, we put it back in the box quick - it was worth over $30,000!!!  Back in Wilcannia we joined Jim (whom we met in Cobar) and shared a Chinese meal at the Golf Club which was delicious, then retired back to the Park to sit and watch the rising of a Super Moon.   We persevered even though the mozzies were very aggressive that night, and saw a magnificent moon.

General Store in White Cliffs

White Cliffs from the look out

Sunning on the main street - we had to drive around as he was not going to move!

On our drive around town tour

History and Culture Centre in White Cliffs Underground Motel

From Wilcannia we travelled to Broken Hill where we stayed at the Racecourse, which is a great spot with green lawn!!  Were able to stay for 2 nights as they were setting up for a Rock Concert on the weekend and the camping area would be closed so they could set up.  Did a bit of shopping however did not buy too much as we were going into SA and had to go through Quarantine checks. Had a day in town with first stop the Visitors Centre where we got a town map which helped us on the Heritage walk.  We found this walk really interesting with so many buildings still standing strong - some being built in 1800s.  Also visited the Art Gallery however they were in between exhibits so not a lot of paintings to look at.  As we have visited Broken Hill before we have seen many of the highlights, so was happy to move on after a couple of days.  Also said goodbye to Jim as he was going in a different direction to us.

On our walking Town Tour of Broken Hill - The Palace Hotel in background

Trades Hall, Broken Hill

Second night viewing of Super Moon

31 October, 2016

Gin Gin - Gold Coast across NSW

After leaving Yepoon we called into Rockhampton to empty the 'shitter' and fill up with water before travelling to Gin Gin and setting up camp at Greg & Debs (approx 20kms east).  Upon arrival we were met with burnt out countryside as a big fire earlier in the week had burnt up close to their home. Quite a bit of smoke and when Greg & Deb got the OK they back burned at night while the wind had dropped off.  Another day of smoke and when wind blew up and a few spot fires flared up Helen was ready to pack up and leave. I had a chat with Greg who explained the situation and in particular pointed out that the trees here are different to the ones down south ie they do not explode in a fire.  I decided it was safe to stay but Helen had already nearly packed up - consequently I was blessed with a few hours of quiet while Helen stewed!!

Greg & Debs camp kitchen

Gas hot water shower run by a solar pump

However the smoke cleared and we were invited up to the house to watch the Melbourne Cup - had a good afternoon but did not get the winning horses as Deb cleaned up with 1st 2nd & 3rd!!! Had some showers of rain which cooled things down and helped distinguish the fire and with an early evening thunderstorm the air was a lot fresher.

Greg feeding the pig sweet potato

Greg & Deb's Dorper Sheep

Fire down by the creek, unfortunately a couple of the trees fell down over the creek.

The fire continued for days ...... and of course the smoke!

From Greg & Debs it was back onto the Bruce Highway with heaps of cars and trucks - we were going to head inland and take the back roads but decided it was quicker to endure the Highway. Stopped for lunch at a park in Gympie and noticed a Windscreen Repair van - the guy had stopped for lunch but was happy to repair a chip for us! Continued onto Beerwah where we stayed at the Sports Ground.

Friendly kookaburra keeping a watchful eye on our camp at Greg & Debs

Drove onto Maudsland where we pulled into Wayne & Susan's (Tenelle's parents) property and had a great grassed site right next to the pool and spa!!!  Said we were so well set up we may not leave!

Great camp spot in the back yard - coffee, bar and spa at our door step/

Had a day visiting friends and meeting baby Abe and called into Helen's neice Julie to collect Briony's boxes she had stored.  So now we had quite a bit of extra weight to distribute in the car and caravan.  After having a fantastic few days with Wayne & Susan we reluctantly packed up and after taking the stands of the van down, noticed a punctured tyre where a nail had gone through. Wayne got his jack out and it was fixed quickly - so lucky to have it happen there instead of out on the highway somewhere.
A few 'hazards' to watch out for @ the pool in Kooralbyn

Headed up to Kooralbyn and spent the night with Leon and Sandy - spent a lot of time in the pool as the temperature was quite hot.  From here we travelled back to Beaudesert and drove on the Cunningham Highway up over the range through Boonah then turned onto the New England Highway to Warwick.  Lunched at Lake Coolmunda which was a nice spot although quite a hot day and plenty of flies!  Stayed at Yelarbon Recreation Gounds which is a nice spot for an overnighter with lovely gardens maintained by volunteers.  Next morning it was already 29 degrees by the time we departed at 8.30am.  Fuelled up at Goondiwindi before battling with millions of trucks on the Newell Highway.  Pulled into Moree and stayed in Mehi River Caravan Park and with the van temperature at 37 degrees, put the aircon on for some relief.  A storm blew in but no rain or thunder. Decided to stay another day as weather was cooler - Helen had a haircut and I had an artesian bath. Afternoon brought thunderstorms and rain which was most welcomed.

Moore artesian baths, I took a "refreshing" dip into the 37 degree water

Picked up repaired tyre and took Gwydir Highway heading to Walgett where we were going to free camp however I was not happy to stay there.  Continued on Castlereagh Highway to Coonamble where we stayed at the Show Grounds which is a nice spot with power/water and toilets for a gold coin donation.  Stayed an extra day and checked out the main street, particularly all the murals of local characters which form part of their Hall of Fame.  Another hot day with the van recording 42 degrees - out to the Bowls Club for dinner and people watching!!

Lake Coolmunda, our lunch spot adjacent to the camping area.

Yelarbon Recreation camp ground, great overnight spot.
Coonamble pub

The main road thru town passes the pub at the end of the main street

Some of the art work of local characters in Coonamble

From Coonamble our next stop was Warren where we called into their local Fete.  Travelled down Oxley Highway to Nevertire then onto Mitchell Highway, had lunch at Nyngan before turning off onto Barrier Highway to Cobar.  Was continually being passed by a Police Patrol car who was catching quite a few vehicles speeding.  Free camped at Cobar by the Lake.

25 October, 2016

Down the Coast

We packed up, said our goodbye to the cat and dogs and started heading south. We are on a mission to be south in the Barrosa Valley, South Australia (some 3,500 km at the other end of Australia), by the end of November for a reunion.

Not far down the track we met up with Brett, Kylie & kids and were able to thank them for the opportunity to house sit. They had a great holiday and were happy to hear there were still 3 dogs and 1 cat at their home!!!!

I had a training course to attend in Cairns on the Monday for a position I was going to fill for a couple of weeks in the lead up to Christmas -  ho, ho ho!! We decided to stay with Rod and Ruth again in the tablelands and I drove down for the training. What was going to be a couple of nights turned out to be a week - not the first time that has happened.  Had a day out driving to Speerwah, Kuranda - up to Wrights Lookout, Barron Falls.  Had lunch in Kuranda which was very busy with visitors from all around the world!  On the way back 'home' we called into Emerald Creek Icecreamery just out of Mareeba - the best tasting ice cream!

Wrights Lookout

Barron Falls

After departing the tablelands our first stop was to catch up with Chris and Mike who were house sitting just out of Yungaburra. The timing worked well as we celebrated Mike's birthday and followed up in a couple of days with Helens.  Was great to catch up again - we may not see them for a while as our travel plans do not look like coinciding in the near future.  From Yungaburra we travelled through Millaa Millaa, Tully, Cardwell.  Was going to stay at CMCA RV Park in Ingham but did not have a grey water tank nor a tap on the outlet so Council Rules we could not stay!!! Drove onto free camp - Rollingstone Bushy Parker Park where we stayed for the night - went to the Pub for tea (very average).

Off again down the Bruce Highway passing through Townsville and Ayr, stopping at Guthalungra Rest Area for lunch.  Stayed night at Gunnago Caravan Park approx 10kms north of Proserpine - nice spot.  Met up with Phil and Rosemary who have been on the road for 18 years!  From here we continued on the Bruce Highway stopping for lunch at Clairview and camping at St Lawrence Campground - plenty of room and clean amenities $10 (no power/water).  Flocks of Magpie Geese in the wetlands and heaps of kangaroos around.

St Lawrence camping area

Kangaroos feeding as the sun sets accompanied by hundreds of Magpie Geese in background 

St Lawrence camp area is also the local rodeo grounds

Drove to Yepoon and stayed a few nights with David & Elaine enjoying the warm weather while we can as have heard down south is still freezing cold!