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2009 Trip with Lionel
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Day 144 October 1
I'm back and what a week it's been. I had the van seviced by TowFix on Monday afternoon and while the nearside wheel was off Garth discovered that the chassis was broken at the place where the spring rubs! It was too big a job for him to tackle and so he suggested Dryden Trailers might do it.

I rang Drydens but they couldn't do the job and suggested I ring a guy called Colin at DeLuxe Trailers. Colin lives nearby and came to look at the job. and said he'd give it a go.

We took it to his place on Tuesday and when we went back after lunch he said he wouldn't be able to do it as there were gas pipes running along the chassis and a pipe inside. Oh dear! Or words to that effect. I crawled under and had a look. "If we disconnect the gas and I drain the pipe we could bend it out of the way and the pipe inside is just hydraulic for the corner steady. Would you have a go?" Colin relented and said OK and promptly got on with a most professional repair. He made plates and welded them in place plus welding rub bars to both sides. The springs had been rubbing on the chassis and wearing it. That was the cause of the break. He also made new retainers for the springs and I felt very lucky to have found such a good trademan who did a great job at a very reasonable price. He even painted the welds and plates to stop rust.

I got my feet fixed today after spending the morning on the phone to podiatrists far and near. My heels were cracking and made it painful to walk. I don't want another cellulitis episode!

We've been staying at Anne and Don's daughters place since moving from their old lovely property on Friday of last week and there has been so much to do. I don't know what time we will get off in the morning - we should have been in Goondiwindi today but now hope to make it tomorrow.

 Day 145 - October 2

We are on the road - left Yatala by 10 am. The GPS kept telling me to do a U-turn all morning and I just thought it wanted to take me a different route. I'd keyed in the wrong destination by mistake and when I finally re-did it all was well and it brought us to the caravan park with no problems. Silly boy.

Murphy has been at it again - this time with Anne and Don's van = no 12volt power. This means no hot water for showering as it needs 12v to light the gas. We had a look but couldn't find the fault so it means a visit to an auto-electrician in the morning.

It was great meeting up with the tagalong folk and we arrived in time for Happy Hour. It bodes well for a great trip and we are due at Mildura on the 13th. There were introductions all round - Ron has made special name tags for the trip with all the destinations on them. It says Goondiwindi to  Moree, Lightening Ridge, Bourke, Cobar, White Cliffs, Broken Hill and Mildura.

 Day 146 - October 3

An auto electrician came to the park and soon fixed Anne and Don's problem. It turned out to be a faulty earth so he fitted another wire direct from the battery to the body and all was well.

It was an easy 130km run to Moree and we were settled in before lunch. Many went for a dip in the mineral pool but I spent time trying to fix water leaks on A&Ds van and helping Frank who couldn't get his telly to work. The park shop provided us with lovely roast dinners for just $14 each. Lovely grub.

I ran out of Minax tablets and Noel took me into town to try to find a chemist but no luck. I'll just have to do without till I can find a chemist open somewhere.

Day 147 - October 4

This was a longer trip to Lightening Ridge but we all made it by lunchtime. It's a long weekend in NSW so the Minax will have to wait till Tuesday.

Happy Hour as usual was great and we all agreed to go on a coach tour in the morning. We also agreed we would eat at the Bistro of the hotel but didn't reralise with the public holiday plus our lot extra we threw the bistro into a bit of a tizzy so that poor Ron, who was celebrating his 60th birthday, and Sylvia had to wait two hours for their meal!

Day 148 - October 5

 

Ron is our leader and does a great job. I caught him here in full flight before we went on the tour.

Today we did a coach tour around some of the sights of this opal mining town. Eddy, our driver, kept us regaled with history and yarns of the colourful people who live and work here.

We saw a walk-in underground mine, listened to a talk byBrian,  an old miner with a great life-story, saw an open cut area and went into a castle an Italian miner has been building for the past 26 years. Incredible stonework but quite impractical and probably will never be finished.

It took all morning and we had a late lunch when we got back to the park.


After happy hour five of us went out for tea - we started  at the Bistro at the pub but the service was appalling so we left and went to the Bowling Club nearby where we had a lovely meal, nice cabernet wine and good company. We ended the night by drinking a bottle of Galway Pipe port that Ron had been given for Fathers Day.

Son Chris rang and we had a nice chat on Skype - unfortunately the saucepan of water I'd put on the gas to make coffee boiled dry while I was talking to him and then doing this page! Murphy!!!

Click to see today's pics

Day 149 - October 6

This was a busy and interesting day. In the morning we went for a drive to do the shopping and I needed to post a book - I'm still selling copies of my 'Australia Calling'  by the way. It's easy using PayMate from my 'To Order' page.

After lunch we drove the Yellow Door Route and went down a lot of very steep steps to reach a very well lit room where opals of all sizes and value were for sale. We did a tour of the tunnels and had an interesting talk by a guide who had done a lot of mining himself. This mine is owned by an incredible man who has filled part of the mine with fantastic sandstone carvings and statues. We met Ron, the sculptor, and he told us about his work. Some of the group went away with less money but prized souvenirs.

Then we drove to the Cactus Garden and walked around the extensive and splendid garden with its display of many, many different varieties of succulents. The pictures will show these better than words!

Many of the claims had old caravans on them that had been used as accomodation at some time in their life but most were in a sad state of disrepair.

Here are some views of the Cactus Garden -














And this is the view from the site of the first shaft sunk in  'The Ridge' as the locals call it.



Here's the plaque at the first shaft



The entrance to the town is impressive with this concrete mixer - typical of those used to wash the material dug in the mine claims



Ron, seen here at work,ui owns this mine and has created wonderful sandstone sculptures seen in the next pics.








Our group in the same mine being shown how mining is carried out




Day 150 - October 7
No pics today - we spent most of the day on the road from Lightening Ridge to Bourke - the first part to Walget was very rough and pitchy. When we stopped for morning tea, Anne found potatoes rolling around the floor as a cupboard catch had broken. I had a spare so we'll fix it in the morning. There was other stuff rolling around plus a couple of cracked eggs.

After Happy Hour we went to another caravan park out of town 7km where the ACC Golden Westerners Branch were 'mustering' and joined them for a combined barbeque. It was a great evening of fellowship with fellow caravanners and the food provided by the local Rotary Club was great - steak, sausages and salad followed by lovely apple pie plus tea and coffee. The local Shire Manager gave us an interesting talk about the history of Bourke. the surrounding area and the Darling River.

I managed to get in contact with Steve in London and had a good chat. I'm hoping to stay a few days with them when I go to the UK next year. They had just got home from a holiday in Crete so Barb was out shopping. I'll try to talk to her tomorrow.
Day 151 - October 8
Before leaving Bourke Anne needed petrol so we did a bit of a tour of the town before getting on the road. I needed lpg as well so it was after 10am before we were underway. It was only 160km to Cobar so it didn't matter and we had a nice run with much better roads today. We saw some wild goats on the way - there are many thousands of these in various parts of Oz and I believe there is a good export market for them.

After lunch we did some shopping and had a look round the town. It's a nice caravan park with spacious sites and green grass plus modern amenities.

After happy hour we went to the local Services Club for dinner - a very nice mixture of Thai and Chinese. We had two entrees and two mains between us with some fried rice and were very full.
Day 152 - October 9

This was the sort of road we drove on today. Don felt it was boring and it was a little featureless I'll admit -  but we kept a lookout for emus and other wildlife and I enjoyed the run.

We were much later that the others getting away and that limited the time we had to explore White Cliffs. Maybe we'll have a look in the morning.









We did see quite a few goats and in fact I nearly ran a couple over as they ran in front of the car.

They were a bit camera shy and I only got a distant shot.



At night after happy hour we all went out to dinner at the Underground Motel. It's an incredible place and besides a lovely 3-course meal we were given a guided tour of this fantastic motel which is entirely underground but is most luxurious and well presented. Here are a few pics:












We enjoyed a great dinner and really good company










One of the bedrooms (left) and (below) a stairway leading to a sunset viewing area












Our happy smiling group





















Just an example of the lovely corridors cut from the underground workings = there's more rooms than the underground hotel at Coober Pedy plus lounges, a bar and a dining room.


Day 153 - October 10
We had a look around this interesting little town before we left this morning with the highlight being Jocks Place. Jock is a garrolous old boy who delights in taking $5 off people to shown them around his incredibly untidy and dusty underground dug-out. His tales never stop and it's a great experience just to listen to him.

We also had a look at a photo place and general drive around the area before traversing the lovely smooth road back to Wilcania. From there it was a relatively easy drive to Broken Hill where we arrived in time for Happy Hour at the Lakeview Caravan Park - the lake's not very evident these days!
Day 154 - October 11
A fairly relaxed day to day after all the activity of recent times and supposed to be a Board Meeting in the evening. Unfortunately our Secretary Alan left his modem at home in Melbourne so we postponed the meeting until Tuesday  when Rob, Al and me will all be in Mildura and can share modem reception for the meeting . We hold it using MSN Messenger regardless of where each member is situated at the time.
Day 155 - October 12
We booked for a City Tour today for $30 and it was worth it as we saw places we would not have seen on a drive around by ourselves. I took a few pics as well.



Emus are quite at home on the fairways of the local golf course. Most 'greens' in this area are sand scrapes where sand mixed with sump oil make the putting surface as water is too scarse to grow much grass.
Day 156 - October 13
Today we left Broken Hill heading for Mildura and the ACC National Muster. There was a pretty wild wind blowing across our bows for most of the way and the wind persisted when we reached our destination. It was great meeting so many old and new friends again and it promises to be a great week despite the weather.


I finally got an acceptable goat picture - they are prolific in the outback but take off when you stop to photograph them.




















It will be fairly busy here at the muster so I'll suspend the diary for a few days and start it again next Tuesday when I take off on yet another tagalong tour.
Day 164 - October 21
Well the National Muster was a huge success with about 135 caravans and 260 people there and enjoying all the activity.

Yesterday I said goodbye to Anne and Don who I've been with for the past few weeks. They are heading back to Brisbane via Swan Hill and when they get home will soon be moving into their new home in a high rise being built.

I moved to Red Cliffs where the tagalong starts and met many of the people I'll be travelling with over the next two weeks. 

Lloyd Junor our leader has been doing these trips for twenty years so we are in good hands. During the muster he dropped my front water tank and fitted more stone protection. He thought the gas bottles should be more protected to stop stones bouncing off them so an old carpet was brought into use.
We all headed off in convoy with everyone in contact by UHF cb radio and this was quite a new experience as previous tagalongs have been less structured. Today we used a lot of unsealed roads and there was a lot of dust in the van when we stopped.

The following pictures were taken at the Mungo National Park - relics of habitation date back some 60,000 years and it's a truly remarkable place - once a huge lake but nowadays dry.



 










Day 165 - October 22
We had a relaxed start today and didn't hit the road until about 11am as we were only going to Menindee just 130 km or so away.












Lunch was a nice little spot with a few trees and the road although unsealed wasn't as dusty as yesterday. Maybe the fact that I locked the back windows and opened the roof vent may have helped.












Secret men's business - it needed three heads underneath to fix the broken spring and pierced chassis! Not my van btw.

Day 166 - October 23


I detest snakes so this notice on the amenities door didn't impress me one little bit!

Despite that it's a nice park on the shores of Lake Menindee although the water has receded due to the drought.

 










Today is a lay day for relaxing or exploring nearby features so a number of people took advantage of the shade and lovely background.







Day 167 - October 24
"Gentlemen's Hours' Lloyd called it as we didn't get underway until 9.30. The showers were cold this morning and I don't think the facilities justified the $25 a night they charge with no reduction for someone on their own.

My brake controller came up with a short circuit message today so that's something to investigate. No sign of burnt wires.
After we settled in at Wilcannia caravan park I was delighted to see Brian and Robyn from the Australian Caravan Club pull in. They only intended a lunch break but stayed and joined us for a town tour and for a meal at the Golf Club. Then in came Allen and Phillipa from Gippsland who where also on their way home from the National Muster at Mildura and also joined in our activities.

Local Bill Elliot gave us an interesting talk about his own career and facts about the district before acting as tour guide around the town.

Brian is a great guitarist and the night concluded with  music - no-one knew the words but it didn't matter!











We have a bear and Kermit the frog with us and they carry little notebooks in their backpacks so their 'minders' can record their travels. I've printed out a few pics of them for the books and last night they were 'arrested' by security at the club.

Their 'parents' change every day. Hilarious!



Day 168 - October 25
An easy day today -we were only driving to White Cliffs about 90km away. Along the way we saw more goats and the odd sheep and kangaroo. With 16 or so vehicles and about 30 people it's not surprising that Ch. 18 often has spontanious wit on its airwaves.


Although it threatened  rain in the after noon it was secret men's business again as vans were repaired or modified including mine that had developed a water leak plus a short circuit in the brake wiring.


 As usual happy hour was most enjoyable and people are getting to know each other better and relaxing as the trip progresses.




Day 169 - October 26
Another Bill joined us as our guide for a tour of the diggings and a look at the solar power station that played a part in the early development of alternative power supplies. Bill was a great guide and told us that before he came here to mine he had spent many years as a policeman in Victoria.

Here are some pics taken during the tour:













Divining rods made from fencing wire are used to find 'faults' and we all had a go - some with success others with no effect whatsoever.

Even the 'children' had a look at the solar dishes














The weather turned very inclement in the afternoon while some of us were inspecting the hotel and happy hour was cancelled. It also looks like sticking to the sealed road to Broken Hill instead of heading for Milparinka as planned tomorrow.
Day 170 - October 27
We cancelled our proposed travel to Milparinka as the road was closed by brain and instead came here to Broken Hill and a very nice caravan park - I even got a discount for being just one.

I thought you might like to see the recent dust storm as it was experienced here on 'The Hill'. It must have been frightening
Click to download

Everyone hurried to Woolworths to re-stock cupboards and fridges as we have been away from shops for a while.
Day 171 - October 28
What a day this turned out to be. First 'happening' was when I followed others into a dry creek bed for the morning tea stop and got bogged! There was plenty of assistance and advice and after unhooking the van Peter with his 4x4 soon had me out and on the road again. Murphy wet himself laughing!
The road alternated between lovely smooth bitumin and atrocious corrugated gravel with plenty of dust. When I opened the van at day's end at Milparinka I found the milk carton had rubbed through and milk was mingling with red dust on the floor. A lovely mess and a cleaning job.

This was the  wedding day and Colin and Laurel re-newed their vows after 64 years of marriage! Everyone entered into the spirit of the occassion and it was an hilarious evening - a highlight of the trip. The pictures tell the story:


































Day 172 - October 29

In the morning we went exploring locally in this historic area. The road out to Pooles Grave and Sturts Cairn was not too bright but I had a lift with Garth - and the two 'boys' were with us as well.











This was part of the climb - I reneged half-way!


































































After lunch we moved on to Tibooburra and set up in a caravan park. In the evening Andrew and Janet and I wen to the Family Hotel for dinner and of coarse went in the bar to check out the Clifton Pugh nudes on the wall!

On this trip we have been raising money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service by collecting fines for real or imagined misdemeanors each night and
have raised quite a bit but one of our tagalong people, Elly Smith by name, wanted to do more and said she would clip her hair with a number 3 comb if she got enough sponsors!

 I'll bring you an 'after' pic on Saturday
when she's had the clippers treatment! Because she is keen to involve as many people as possible she asks that any readers of my website send your cheques c/- Aussie Outback Tours, 28 Cootamundra Place, Junortoun, 3551, Australia.

Help the Flying Doctor by sponsoring Elly - a cheque for $10 or more would really help. 

Day 173 - October 30
In case you are not sure of our whereabounts this map will help. Today we went to Camerons Corner where SA,Qld and NSW meet.

Here's me at the marker with Chris



The hotel is the only buiding in a vast area



























































































A great day and one to treasure in the memory for a long time.









After Happy Hour I was given two jobs - finesmaster for Sunday and minder of the two 'children' tomorrow! I could hardly carry them plus the money and my port and glass. Someone took pity and carried my chair.













Day 174 - October 31
The road in places was pretty rough and I managed a puncture and ruined tyre on one rough section. Fortunately a tyre service was open here in Broken Hill on a Saturday afternoon and I was able to buy a new tyre. A piece of glass had penetrated right in the middle of the tread.

Remember I told you that Elly had agreed to have her hair cut off to raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service?

Well it happened tonight! Elly practiced on husband Keiron before letting him loose with the clippers' Everyone chipped in and many hundreds of dollars were raised - more is needed and you can also contribute. (For the address see a couple of days back.)
                                              


                                                            

                                                 Doing the deed - Keiron concentrating hard
                            What have I done?


     






Not to be outdone the boys shaved their beards off for further donations

A great effort by everyone and a fitting finale for a great tagalong although it still has another day to run.




Day 175 - November 1 - my Birthday!

This should be on a new page but I'll be home on Wednesday and the diary will go into recess.
My birthday really started back in Mildura where ACC friends John and Syvia went to a lot of trouble and presented me with a framed picture, a bottle of Galway Pipe port and a card signed by all the people at the National Muster.

Then Sue rang to wish me a Happy Birthday on Friday from all her family including Jock Dog because they would be out of phone range today.

Today just about everyone on the tagalong plus ACC members etc all have been giving me birthday wishes and Jackie and Chris rang. Great! We are all going out to dinner as a 
farewell for the tagalong so doubt there will be more tonight.

We went to Silverton today - it's a ghost town really compared to what it was in it's heyday but it was interesting to see some olderv buildings. There are resident artists in the area with galleries but paintings are not my thing!






We visited a tourist mine and went down on a guided tour. It was hard work with little headroom and the steps were hard to see as the mine is unlit and you rely on a lamp on your hard hat.









The day finished with a farewell dinner at a Chinese Restaurant with much hilarity and good humour. It's not only the end of the tagalong but the end of twenty years of guided outback tours by Lloyd and Brenda and the nostalga was lovely to hear. I had an upset stomach unfortunately and wasn't able to enjoy the food. A great experience and a lovely bunch of new friends - I hope we meet again somewhere along the track. A group photo was taken and I'll post it here if I get a copy.


I'll be home earlier than Wed - I made good time today and it was easier to keep driving with the a/c on than cook in the van. It was 40c in there at lunchtime.

I took the road on the north side of the Murray and that nearly brought me undone as the last time on this road was with Vi and the memories came flooding back. I resorted to shouting and felt better afterwards!

I covered about 500km and camped on the banks of the Murray. I now think I'll make for home tomorrow and emailed Chris next door with the news.




 















Day 177 - November 3
It's over! After 177 days on the road I'm back home again. The weather changed violently overnight and the peaceful river with the reflection of the rising full moon was a grey windswept scene this morning and strong gusty crosswind was my lot all the way home.

Despite the bad conditions for towing I was able to cover nearly 500km to reach home around 4pm having listened to my horse in the Melbourne Cup run fourth for the second year in a row.

I'd left the gas turned on and the pilot light for the hot water had emptied both cylinders - Murphy again! I managed to use a cylinder from the caravan so was able to have a welcome hot shower before bed and to warm the place with the gas heater.

It's been a great trip and I've got lots of memories, the places I've seen and the people I've met along the way plus Murphy's interferance.

Next year I hope to visit the UK and the Continent - if you want to share the experience come back to my website around the end of May next year. Thanks for following my travels - I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings.