Greetings from Toowoomba, Queensland! Yes, we made it!!
It’s been a rainy day here which in a way has been great, I can finally go through and organise my emails and finish off my blog post on Tamworth NSW. I thought I’d begin part two with the good news. It was getting a little dreary and stressful before, the stress is now in the past and I can continue the story with a clear head… anyway this is how it goes……
When it rains it pours!
It’s 1400 hour on a Friday and we receive a phone call… your car is ready to be picked up. $1200.00 later, we had the old falcon backed up to the caravan. We still had time to reach Ban Ban springs by Sunday, set up camp and commence work citrus picking on the Monday!
That evening we walked up to Oxley lookout which looked out over the township of Tamworth and beyond! It was a beautiful night another well-deserved ice cream later and a cuppa tea called for an early night to recharge our batteries for our busy day next.
Its 1000 hours, the car is all packed and all I must do is connect the caravan to the car. I start winding up the caravan’s front stabilizers in order to lower the jockey wheel to connect the caravan to the tow ball, when I notice something…
There was a clean break on the caravan’s chassis where the drawbar ends, not on the weld but the actual C channel. This wasn’t good! I picked up my phone straight away and called “Terrys Help line”, his word confirmed my worst-case scenario, the caravan wasn’t going to go anywhere anytime soon.
Lesson number 6; mechanical faults will always happen on a weekend when most businesses are closed.
After a stressful tantrum in my head I found a number for a mobile welder. He was there in 30 minutes however after having a look and a poke he wasn’t keen on doing the job “too much responsibility on his behalf if his braces didn’t hold” which was fair enough in hindsight. This is where we thought our trip had come to an end! Without work in Queensland we couldn’t cross the border, and with what the welder had explained to us to fix it properly would cost us an arm and a leg!
Saturday wasn’t a good day for us, bad luck after bad luck. What were our options, what were we going to do? Would it be wise to just come home, fix the caravan and wait out this pandemic, or would we buy another caravan and find other means to get our old girl home? With it being a weekend, all businesses were closed in order to contact. Let’s just wait until Monday and call around, if no good news can come from it, we may have to get the father in-law to rescue us with the tilt tray truck!
We contacted Judy our employer from Ban-Ban Springs to tell her our bad news and that we couldn’t make it. Judy was incredibly nice about our situation, she had plenty of other workers interested in our position however she did say she was very keen to work with us and for us and for us to experience citrus picking. Judy also informed us that if we could somehow fix our problems that there could be an opening in the first few weeks as time has shown a few people drop out during harvest, It was nice to know that we still could possibly have work however with our situation I was fairly doubtful that this would happen.
The next day to cure our Sunday blues we went for a drive to a little town called Nundle. Nundle is a pretty little town built on the Peel River during the gold rush era. Unfortunately, most of the little quirky old shops were shut due to the virus so we ventured on up the mountain the town sat under to have a look at New south Wales version of “Hanging Rock”. The views looking over the valley were incredible. We captured many great photos one of which made a Facebook group’s “Travel Australia with Dogs” cover photo for April. We then drove down the mountain for a relaxing afternoon by the Peel River, where I tried my luck at a little panning. One little sapphire later I called it quits so we ventured back to the Caravan Park where we had an early dinner, a brisk walk with the dogs and an early night for hopefully some positive news the next day.
We are almost at the end of Tamworth Part two. Before I finish with the story, I’d like to share with you a poem I wrote to help capture the essence of Tamworth as a town.
I once thought of Tamworth as a town to lay flat on a wheaten belt,
Red dust and tumble weeds drifting across the cracked country roads,
The smell of leather from the horse saddles drifting through the air across the fields of spelt,
And folk walking about, guitars in hand, bootcut wranglers tightly against their bodes,
But to my surprise she wasn’t so flat, however, wound, with valleys and hills,
Red turned to green, weeds turned to brooks and trees turned to art deco blocks,
Oxley lookout so grand with views afar giving your body thrills,
And the sunsets so surreal, blood oranges and blues once turned to black beats with a flying fox.
Monday morning, D-day! Rain was predicted in the afternoon so to tire out the dogs (and the wife) before I made some calls we drove up to Oxley lookout where we went for a hike towards Flag Staff Mountain. It was a muggy morning with the rain about to come and by the time we made the gruelling hike to Flag Staff Mountain you could wring a litre of sweat from our singlets. The walk was worth it, we were feeling good with the endorphins kicking through our bodies. After our hike we drove into town where we parked the car (In Tamworth they angle park with the car noses facing the streets, the small things!) and celebrated with a coffee before we went back to our caravan spot to tackle business.
My first (and only) phone call I made was to a welding business called Red Hot Welding. The owner was about to head out to an off-sight job however nicely enough drove to the caravan park on his way through. He was there in 15 minutes, had a look, told us he could fix it by the end of the day! It’s fortunate it was raining that day and the idea of him working on the caravan under cover instead of his outside job appealed to him. He had his mate there half an hour later with a tilt tray truck, up the caravan went, and she was off!
We spent the next few hours huddled under the small barbeque area of the caravan park whilst the rain started to really kick in.
The caravan park we stayed at was divided by a road. On our side of the road contained 4 couples including us. To the left of us was a nice couple from Western Australia who were stuck in the state after coming over here to attend a reunion. To the right of us were a very lovely couple from the Netherlands who were stuck in the country due to the pandemic. They however had a positive view on life and were enjoying the tranquillity of Tamworth whilst waiting for a flight to become available for their journey back home. Across the road from us was a retired couple from Queensland. “Blue” was his nickname, once a redhead, was here in Tamworth to have some skin cancers removed. Blue and I got talking the day our caravan was taken away and it turns out he was highly decorated in the Army being a tank commander. He ended up pouring me a cup of tea and we both started talking about our experiences in the military, next thing later Yasmin’s being called over, being served a nice hot cup of tea on a cold rainy day, he was a true gentlemen.
Gladys was ready not long after our pampering, she was as good as new when we picked her up. Terry said they had done Gorilla welds, although ugly, were very strong. So we had good faith in the caravan to continue the rest of our journey. The best thing too was he only charged us $200.00 cash and $80.00 for the tow! I was so relieved when I heard the price thinking it was going to cost us thousands!
We left the Caravan connected to the falcon that night so we could head off quickly the next morning. I contacted Judy again, the citrus’s hadn’t ripened as of yet so unfortunately work hadn’t commenced and no one had dropped out, we decided however that we would still drive North to Tenterfield NSW the next day and hang around the border until we hopefully heard some good news.
The next morning after a walk and some needed supplies we ventured north bound on the New England highway towards the border.
6 more nights in Tamworth then anticipated and $1800 dollars later we were finally on the road! The New England highway was a very picturesque drive and I think we tackled it mostly in second gear. She was very hilly! The highway was very well kept and had double lanes every time you went up in elevation which gave me the peace of mind when big B doubles overtook me when I was slowly chugging away in second.
We found a rest area on the side of the road that had beautiful views of Bluff Mountain, 20km south of Tenterfield that night. The view from the rest area was magical however being close to the highway didn’t make for a dog friendly camp spot. That night we had delicious left-over curry that we bought the day previous and started planning a plan B option in case we couldn’t make the Queensland border.
The next day Yasmin found a free camping spot at the Paddy’s Flat camping grounds and hour and half east of Tenterfield nestled amongst the national parks. We decided that we would spend a few nights somewhere peaceful and away from civilisation. If we didn’t hear any news from Judy, we would venture to the outer east coast of NSW and try our luck from there.
Once again it was a hilly drive through The Great Dividing Range but a worthwhile one of that. We passed a little town called Drake on our way (nothing special) then turned left on to a dirt road that took us down the edge of a mountain.
After our rough experience in Tamworth I wasn’t feeling good about the situation we were in again, we lost all phone reception, the roads were rough, steep and where we were staying was subject to flooding. Stressful Callum later eased his worries with wine from a box but more on that subject later.
We drove through a gully on our descent called “Pretty Gully” it came from out of nowhere. Last year that National Parks up here were subject to bushfires, so majority of the trees were black with stunning green growth nestled amongst the charred tree limbs. Pretty Gully though was like a tropical oasis with towering palm tress and exotic plants that were once planted here a 100 years ago from the early settlers. It soon went from tropical to charcoal again, some more steep declines and we were finally there!
The Clarence River was the centrepiece of Paddy’s Flat. The river is nestled between two mountains, one of the mountains having a huge rock face that would bounce off the rivers surface in the late noon. Its hard to describe the area as a whole… You know those Hollywood blockbuster movies where the President of the United States is fly fishing in the rivers of Nebraska with a fat cigar in his mouth only to be interrupted by a helicopter barging in and disrupting his leisure time with world ending news!. The landscape in those scenes would best describe it. Beautiful.
We set up camp on the pebble stones of the riverbank that day, Moose went straight for the water and become one with the river. He practically didn’t move from the river the whole duration of our stay.
I was still a tad stressed at this point, from the descent down but also the pondering of what the descent up would be like. Would we make it out? Without having reception also, we decided to stay for one night and to ease my stress we cracked into the goon. We both were a tad tiddles at the end of the day, we went for a jolly good walk through the plains that were nestled amongst the river as the valleys widened and balanced in single file on the edge of the old wooden bridge that lay above the babbling river. To top the day off we had nutritious packet noodles for dinner, a naked bath amongst the jumping fish and a hot cup of tea to sooth our souls before a deep slumber.
The next morning, we packed up camp and hit the ascent. We got out of the bank without any dramas and drove up the mountain in first gear, 2000 revs for a good 15 minutes. We were three quarters up the mountain when our phones came subject to reception. I had an email waiting for me from Judy wanting to know our whereabouts. I gave her a call straight away; the citrus hadn’t still ripened enough for picking however she was a little concerned about the pickers and whether they’d be up to the manual labour. She still wasn’t guaranteeing us jobs however was nice enough to let us use her letter of employment to enter the state just in case an opening came up.
We turned right when we arrived at the main road towards Tenterfield instead of left towards the coast. The whole family had a wee break in the Lion’s park at Tenterfield in anticipation of a long line when we reached the border further north. We drove underneath big electronic signs on our way informing us about permits and border closures due to the pandemic, “will this letter be enough to get us across the border?”
We finally arrived at the border, there were no lines of cars as anticipated, we were in fact the only ones there, we pulled into a slip lane where we met two police officers patrolling the border. It was lucky I think we encountered the happy police officer not the grumpy one next to him. He read the letter of employment we gave to him, wrote down my licence number and we were off!
We made it!!!
We are currently in Toowoomba right now staying at the Showgrounds Caravan Park. Toowoomba has been amazing so far, but I will talk further on the subject on my next blog update. Until then, all the best.