Monday, 25 January 2010

And back again.

Well, here we are.

Back in Leongatha.

We had a good time in Tasmania meeting again with family and friends.
Some of the time was interesting, much was excellent.

It will be these people whom we miss that will be the hardest thing about being in Victoria.

We collected our trailer and crammed the Prado and Xtrail with gear, put heaps onto the roof of the Prado as well, upturned our kitchen table onto the trailer cover and packed that as well and eventually made our way back here safely. This was not always a 'given', as it all looked a bit over the top.

That is, until we went to board the Spirit of Tas., where there were all sorts of people with strange loads on top of all sorts of vehicles. We felt right at home there.
The prize for strangest in the loading bay queue must be the person who had a complete shell of a VW Beetle on top of his car!
I felt positively small fry compared with that effort.

We loved the wedding of Jude's niece, seeing family and having some time to sit and breathe.
The Prado has decided that the fuel pump needs attention, and the exhaust billows smoke when it is first started. It is only $3500 to fix, we were told!

On our return we stopped in at the Fountain Gate Shopping Center, and proceeded to spend lots on furniture orders as we have no lounge or bedroom furniture or TV (actually we had to go into debt to do it, oh well). So they are ordered and will be delivered in 8 weeks when we get a house (we hope!), and some pay.

We thought that it would then just be a matter setting up the van and resting for a few days in Leongatha Caravan Park, then work and being at the park for the 8 weeks or so to come.

However the lady there informed Len that even though we had booked a week we would have to leave after that, as she had a golf tournament that had booked the park solid. We were floored, as we then had no home, a van, two cars and new jobs/schools/everything else.
We had told her that we needed the spot for some time, around 6-8 weeks, and had booked one week already. She had said we did not need to book the rest until we returned so we didn't.

To top it off the lady was very rude and her grandson was worse. Len is in shock!! Judith is calm.

In a panic we phoned the Korumburra Caravan Park and explained our situation, they have put us up and we will have to shift for a weekend in 5 weeks, and return again after the weekend, we can stay at the park, just in another temporary spot they will make for us. How good! The manager talks fast and non-stop to the point of nausea, but it feels, and is, much nicer here, so it has worked out well after all.

Korumburra is just west of Leongatha, and you drive through it to get there. So, we have to travel 15 minutes to work each way now, instead of 2 minutes, but we have a place to lay our heads at least.

We arrived late today (Monday) partly set up and will do the rest tomorrow.

Now, for a good lie down.

Monday, 18 January 2010


After being in Leongatha for a short time, we high-tailed it to Tas, to collect some gear and see dear family and friends.

Leaving Leongatha proved much more difficult than first thought.

We went to FOUNTAIN GATE shopping centre.
An enormous, maze of shopping delight.
There are shops enough to keep Imelda Marcos happy for a few days. Jude and Jessie for weeks, Sam for hours, Len for... well no time actually.

We then went via the M1, using the trusty GPS to guide us safely to the Spirit.

Unfortunately the male got into Melbourne, and disbelieved the GPS ('You can't be serious, you stupid machine. Shut up!, What? Surely you can't turn off the M1 THERE!!!! I am going to find it MYSELF, so there!').

It turns out that you CAN in fact turn off the M1 where it was recommended by the GPS.
(To be fair, the maps have not been updated for 2 years and there are new freeways in Melbourne that are not on the maps, so the doubt factor was high, having driven on non-existent roads coming into Melbourne a few days earlier, thought I should just like to make that clear, OK)

It turns out that not following the GPS adds considerable stress to the whole affair.
Added to this was the fact the one car was dangerously low on fuel.

After a couple of laps through the center of town, much grinding of teeth and considerable calming talk from the wife via our two way radios, we stopped for directions.
The older male was considerably stressed.
Stress has a way of spreading.
After some desperate conversations with a video shop operator (thanks customers who waited for the talk to stop) we set off, knowing we were in fact close.
Bursting onto the M1 again with instructions to 'Turn onto the M1, get into the left lane immediately, then turn off onto blah blah blah road, and you are set'.

We raced onto the M1, raced into the left lane and Len raced past the left turn off.
It was only a few hundred meters where we entered.

Needing to smash a few things, much hard breathing was done.

The train station looked lovely as we drove past it again. It was the first time we had driven over the Yarra.
Around we went again, time was ticking by. And why do light take SO LONG to change when the teeth are clenched so hard?

This time we saw a fuel station which we had driven past some 30 minutes earlier from the opposite direction.
Jude filled the car (one problem down), Sam looked at our new shiny Melways, Len spoke to a bloke who offered to drive in front to the ferry.
His instructions were so clear that we declined the kind offer.

Onto the M1 again, we made the turn and Sam (GPS Sam, Global Positioning Sam) guided us safely and directly to the vessel.

Instead of 45 minutes spare, we had 30, so that was OK.

The voyage began smooth enough.

At midnight it was not so smooth.
At two in the morning it was positively rocking.

Len has always been a chronic motion sickness sufferer, so it was earlier that we unleashed the secret weapon, GINGER.

Applause, admiration, almost devotion to the miracle that is GINGER.

NEVER before has Len traveled and not been violently ill for days, so it was with much fear that the trip was planned.

The family had Travacalm, the ginger ones, Len loves ginger (how good is that) and ate it crystallised.
No-one was sick, even though much of the night was spent tossing back and forth, expecting the worst.
All hail ginger, and thank you Myth Busters, where they tested it thoroughly.

Sunday morning began at 5am with an announcement over the loud speaker, 7am arrived at the in-laws for breakfast, then to Burnie Apostolic where we saw lots of good friends, lunch with some of them and it was great to meet our mates again.

Later we went to the Walkers and are staying with the lovely daughter and hubby, and seeing our dear grand-daughter.

Very nice.

Oh, one last thing... it is cold here!

Until next time

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


So, we made it.

Leongatha is actually better than Len remembered it to be.
There are a few more shops, and very friendly people.

What there is not, however, is accommodation.
The new desalination plant is to be built near here (somewhere) and homes are nearly all full up.
We inspect two tomorrow. Here's hoping!

A certain Mr. Flower esq. wanted us to be over the magic 10 000km mark by the time we got here from Darwin.

The stats are (NOT counting from Melbourne to Leongatha).

1904.88 litres of diesel (I am so sorry, Planet Earth!)
$2585.00 fuel cost
Average of 19.22 liters per 100km (that is soooo bad, but a very heavy pulling load)
9856km to Melbourne in total.

If we add on the KM from where we were in Melbourne when we last filled to now, we add another 145.1 kms

WE GET.......


Hooray, I hear Mr. Flower esq. exclaim.

Hooray, we exclaim.

The rest probably say nothing much at all and go and make a nice hot cup of tea.

Now, we have been busy, and we have already secured a post box, so you can post donations to the 'Pay for the diesel' fund.

This is the new address for us all.

L. J. S. J. Clark (Whomever it may be you want to post to)
P.O. Box 93
Leongatha 3953
Victoria, Australia

Now, get writing!

Until next time (or you visit us here)

Addled Aide

We arrived in Adelaide after the trials of the Nullabor.
We saw a bloke on a push bike half way across!
We also knew what lay in front of the intrepid traveler, and wondered how the heck he was going to survive the time in the sun.
Then we drove through what he had already pedaled through, and wondered how he HAD survived the time in the sun.
There is an old bike at Nullarbor (The town that is, Nullabor on Nullabor, get it?) with an even older helmet. It is the bike and helmet of the first person to ride across the plains.
We are also pretty certain he was mad.

Adelaide put on it's best weather for us (read 'Stinking hot', and we had the pleasure of staying with the Flower family, and visiting the Jack family, both dear friends of ours. That was great.

We were a day ahead of schedule and were going to leave on Monday, but a Catastrophic Fire Warning was issued for the area we were heading to, and it would have been a struggle to get the van up the hill heading out of Adelaide. We waited until Tuesday.

Tuesday was wet and much cooler, so we headed out and drove to Ballarat, we would have driven into Melbourne but it was too hard to find a caravan space.

The van found additional leaks and we have wet bedding and coverings etc.
It looks bleak for the future of the van, insurance people will have a look in the next few days in Leongatha.

Today (Wednesday) we head to our new town and try to find a home to live in.

Today is also dawning bright and sunny.

The Main Game commences.
Until next time

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The view from here is hot

Esperence is a jewel in the tiara of the south west of Oz.
The Beach Drive is stunning. The water is so clear that close to shore waves seem to shimmer inwards, rather than move, as you can see straight through to the sand. The deeper water is magnificently turquoise, and we were fortunate enough to see a pod of perhaps a dozen dolphins frolicking in the waves on the first beach we looked at.
Driving along, seeing magnificence after magnificence we went into sensory overload and returned tired and happy to the caravan.
We left the next day to try to get as far towards Adelaide as possible.
It was 47 degrees in Esperance later in the day we left!

We decided that we would not dally on the Nullarbor, and skittle across as quick as possible. 'As quick as possible' turns out to be between 80 and 100kph. It also means 'two days of lots of driving'.
The view across the Nullarbor for passengers is not as one may expect. There is no places that are red dust either side, but much low scrub-land and some wooded areas. It is not a place to settle down and raise a family, we feel. We met my brother and partner (now newly pregnant) at Caiguna Roadhouse where he is working until next week.

The view for the driver across the Nullarbor looks a lot like a temperature gauge of a motor vehicle.
There is a very solid and delicately balanced link between the temp. gauge and the accelerator pedal.
As the vehicle is pulling quite a heavy load, it tends to run from 1/2 way up to 7/8 to the dreaded RED zone. A slight touch harder of the accelerator pedal and it soars to the RED zone, and heart attacks occur spontaneously for the driver, who must nurse the system down a tad, until it feels safe-ish to continue on. Even stopping and idling to cool things down a bit actually makes the car get hotter!
MANY hours were whiled away looking anxiously down to the temp. gauge and up to the road, then repeated, and .... well you get it.

We have driven for over 800k one day and over 700 the next.
Adelaide is only 5 or 6 hour away now.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

What's in a Name?

If you come from Tasmania it is easy to pick a foreigner.
They say 'Lawn-seston', not 'Lon-seston' for 'Launceston'.
Interestingly, if you are from England, the original pronunciation for Launceston is actually 'Lawn-ton', spoken very quickly.

Tasmanians don't let the fact that they say it incorrectly bother them when they frown at foreigners who pronounce it differently than the local dialect dictates.

Albany is actually 'Al-bany', not 'All-bunny'. We got that right so we fitted in there, although dealing with N.T. number plates was a little problematic, so we left them on the Prado.

En route to Albany we had a fantastic drive along Highway 1, the route is bumpy, narrow-ish but lined with great forests and lots to see and do.
We stopped at Donnybrook, where they have a huge playground for free, so people drove at least 5000kms to play there (well, we did).
That probably makes it not technically 'free', but there was no entrance fee. It was a great way to split up a 550k drive.

From there we went to the Diamond Tree Reserve, where they have BIG trees that have had the tops cut off and a cubby-house plonked on top, to be used as fire watch towers. There are several, we were told.
We decided to climb the one in the pictures.
Jude and Sam got 1/2 way up and returned to Terra Firma (The more firma, the less terra).
Jess and Len went to the top, and it was quite a feat for a 9 year old. Very scary thing to do, and gained some appreciative 'ooh' and 'ahh's from those waiting their turn to risk heart attack or sudden impact death.

We then went to the Forestry Air Walk, in amongst more BIG trees. Much like Tahune Airwalk in Tas, without the opportunity to scare everyone by bouncing the cantilever, sadly.
Mind you it did sway sideways much more, a fact Sam tried valiantly to exploit.

Albany itself is nestled in the lee of some granite hills, snuggled down in a hollow, where it has a good snooze each day between 12 noon and 6pm. (Not really, it just sounds like it should, being in a hollow and all).
It is also a beautiful town, and one should take a trip to the Natural Bridge and see the awe-inspiring coastline. There are also two 'Blow-holes' nearby, where there are holes in the granite the size of a basketball. If you wait long enough for a good swell then you are treated to a very surprising jet propelled gust of compressed air, strong enough when we were there to remove hats, glasses, tee shirts (Jude held hers down after seeing Len's fat belly exposed to the other visitors in an amusing moment for all but Len), and perhaps strong enough to exfoliate exposed skin, should you so desire.
We were told that some splashes out to sea were two whales. After lots of patient waiting with the tele lens on the camera, and a pic or two of the splendid splashes the larger animal made it dawned that they did not move at all, and looked suspiciously like a few rocks way out at sea that were just being rocks. The pictures have been discarded.
The final thing about Albany, that will be mentioned here, is that if you want a good pizza in Albany, then you must go to Jo-Joe's Pizza.
We bought the jumbo version, $24, fed everyone and there was some left over!!
It just fitted through the caravan door with a slight tilt. Truly the best pizza we have tasted as well.

We are now at Esperence, another 500 or so ks, and tomorrow we explore some beach driving, we think.
Until then.

Friday, 1 January 2010

So, where's the Pestilence?

Some time ago, in a life long forgotten Len once decided that it was necessary to move from Tasmania to Geraldton, in W.A.
Geraldton was chosen because;
1. It had the best year round temperature for anywhere in Australia.
2. It was the furthermost place from Burnie with the best year round temperature in Australia.
3. It was the furthermost place from Burnie and the (then) Mother-In-Law in Australia with the best year round temperature in Australia.

After purchasing tickets etc. He eventually did not go, deciding to face the perils at close quarters instead of long distance.
One result of the last decision was the he always wondered what Geraldton would be like, thinking that it in all probability it was a dump and that it was a very good thing to have not been living in that city for all those intervening years.

It was with some interest and a little dread that we drove into there last week, on Boxing Day.

Well, it is very nice, as it turns out. Everyone loved it, it is bright, warm (not hot or cold) and has great places for family and seems a very friendly place to be.
It would have been OK to live there after all.

It is windy, but the locals consider that an advantage, promoting para-surfing as a sport for Geraldton's trendy people who can still wear small bathers and not make people feel ill.

We saw some Stromatolites in Shark Bay. Actually there are the largest collection on the planet.
Being an algae-rock thing they don't provide any entertainment as all, but we have seen then now.
Jessie nearly expired on the few hundred metre walk into them, it was stinking hot and very bright on the shell walk.
They also mined the shells some time ago, cutting them into bricks for building with. Very strange.
Kikipedia says 'Stromatolites (from Greek στρώμα, strōma, mattress, bed, stratum, and λιθος, lithos, rock) are layered accretionary structures formed in shallow water by the trapping, binding and cementation of sedimentary grains by biofilms of microorganisms, especially cyanobacteria (commonly known as blue-green algae). They include some of the most ancient records of life on Earth.'
So now you know.
In the pictures they look like burnt scones that grandma forgot to watch and then threw into the sea to forget about.

From there we high-tailed it to Perth and this is also a beautiful city, as we were told it would be. It has great gardens, a very 'outdoorsy' feel about it. The King's gardens overlooking the town are magnificent,the Bell Tower is very interesting as well. We paid the price for the tower and went in, where we saw actual bells played by actual bell-ringers. We were told that this is the only place where you can see this happening before your eyes. We think this may be so, as usually the bells are up in a tower, locked away and only share the space with a few dozen soon-to-be-startled pigeons, who also happen to be in various stages of deafness (I assume, given where they live and all). In civilized Perth they have a whole bunch of windows where you can watch the bells tumble when pulled by the somber, rather old fashioned looking people who volunteer to train to pull the chords. The fluffy part of the chord is called 'Sally', which seems appropriate for some reason or another. The bit with no fluff on it is just called the 'Tail'. A set of bells are called......
'A Ring' of bells. How cool is that.
(We were discussing collective nouns as we drove into Coral Bay and came up with a knit of sheep, a neigh of horses etc. We have to make ways to while away the hours spent watching the scenery go by)

So, Perth gets a big thumbs up, we could live here, Fremantle is lovely, Rottnest Island was too dear to travel to, and it has great beaches and some snorkeling we were told. Been there - done that, cheaper. So we gave it a miss.

We were also told we had to have fish and chips on one of the wharves in Freemantle, being home of all things seafood etc.
We did.
We have had better. (Burnie has better fish an chips than anywhere, surprisingly!)

Tonight Len and Sam went to IMax and saw 'Avatar'.
What a pleasant surprise, not the red an green 3D but the better polarized version. It wasn't done to impress with gadgety 3D tricks at all, but was the best 3D We have ever seen.
Well worth the money, go see it, in 3D if you can, and at an iMax if possible.

Pestilence? I hear you ask.
Well, we were coming home from Perth after watching the 20/20 match where we saw three of the best catches ever made, and the sky had a strange dustiness about it.
We later were told that there were fires north of Perth, where we had just driven through.
It seems we are being chased to Leongatha by Moses, or someone who has similar tendencies towards natural disasters etc.
We have had floods and now fire, just leaves pestilence I believe.
That will be interesting to see what happens.
Tomorrow the travel begins again, 5 hours to Albany. Is that ALL bany, or AL bany??
We find out tomorrow.
Until then.