First, I would like to express my apologies to anyone who has been waiting in anticipation for our next Blog update. I am a little behind due to our hectic new lifestyle called “work”. It has been a remarkably busy week; our bodies are feeling fragile and our minds are exhausted… but all for a good cause! We are lucky in a way as we have found a great spot to settle down for the next three to four months working on a citrus farm on the outskirts of Gayndah QLD. Plus, a Queensland’s Winter will be good for the soul! We are only four days into work, it has been tough! Hopefully soon our bodies will start to recover and adapt to our new working lifestyle. But enough of Gayndah, we have many months to write about that chapter, let us get back to Toowoomba!
Greetings from Toowoomba everybody! 11 days, our longest stint yet. Our previous blogs have been more of a diary entry, day one, day two, sleep, eat, repeat. Toowoomba has kind of rolled into one big lump for us, much more relaxing than our previous weeks prior and we managed to find a lazy routine.
We arrived in Toowoomba on Thursday April the 2nd, still feeling anxious after our border crossing into Queensland. We found that the Showgrounds in Toowoomba had the best deals in town for a powered site at $25.00 a night so we decided to stay four nights. We were lucky in a way, we arrived on Thursday the day before Queensland’s border protection increased their protocol for entry and the police had started cracking down on unnecessary travel.
Four nights tuned to six and six turned out to be nine (no Hendrix reference intended). We were kind of stuck in Toowoomba it turns out, without work we had no purpose and work was becoming hard to source.
We sent out job advertisements all over Queensland where we intended to travel on our journey. We had a few nibbles in Emerald where we had possible work on a cattle farm, this however fell through with the pandemic. We also had another bite north of Emerald in a small town called Clermont for two to three months, however the job was more of a voluntary role, caretaking an old farmhouse in return for accommodation. Communication was difficult with this job and with no word for a few days, we decided to come up with a plan B.
We either had two choices. Stay in Toowoomba until we found work or, drive to Hervey Bay, find an accommodation deal for a “14 day self-isolation package” (gives us reason to travel) and find work whilst there nestled amongst the seaside. The beach was looking particularly good to us, so we decided if we hadn’t heard any word from our job advertisements the next day, we would head North East to Hervey Bay.
Yasmin put a ban on my phone that day as it had had become a part of me the last few days, applying for jobs and clicking refresh on my emails awaiting a response. 12 o’clock came and I was “allowed” to have a sneak peak, no word from the email department however a job popped up on a Grey Nomads website seeking paid employment for an individual willing to do part time work as a cleaner on a citrus farm. I ended up writing a lengthy email explaining our situation, telling the employer we were happy to share the role however being two of us and being young we would be happy to do other roles around the farm if available.
We did not hear anything from the citrus farm that day so plan B was looking like the go, until we received a phone call later that night from the citrus farm. It turns out they had a full-time position for me in their packing sheds for the season and Yasmin could have potential work maintaining the gardens on their property as well as her cleaning errands. We had till the next day to decide, we messaged back in 5 minutes, the opportunity was too good!
The next day we left by 9am and hit the road to Gayndah where we would be spending the next three to four months working away in isolation, saving our pennies to hopefully travel further up the East coast (if the pandemic restrictions ease by then).
But enough about our plans and strategies let us talk about Toowoomba…
Toowoomba was beautiful, exceptionally clean, and much bigger than we anticipated. It is Australia’s largest rural town, and even beats Darwin and Cairns in regarding its population. The old architecture was incredibly special, the city was made of late 1800’s buildings as well as art deco era buildings. The main architecture that stood out though was the beautiful old “Queenslander” homes that were scattered around the CBD. I could live in one of those!
Toowoomba is home to many parks. I did some research whilst writing this in regarding how many parks there were in Toowoomba. I guessed maybe 70-80 turns out there is over 150!!! And these were not just ordinary average parks, majority of them were beyond “okay”.
Our favourite Parks were ‘Queens Park’ that was nestled on the edge of the CBD and ‘Picnic Point’ that overlooked the valleys of Toowoomba and these parks became the staples of our everyday routine whilst in Toowoomba.
Queens Park was huge! It has an open amphitheatre, cricket and rugby fields, kids areas, botanic gardens and the best till last the best off-leash dog park ever! Before I get back to the dog park, I would like to express how great Toowoomba is at being a dog friendly town, so many facilitated dog areas, off lead reserves and everyone seemed to love dogs!
Once again, the off-leash area at Queens park was our highlight. All we would have to do is find a nice shady spot under a tree on the well-kept lawn, unclip their leads and watch them run amuck with all the other dogs and their owners. We would sit there for hours either watching, reading a book, or eating ice-creams and the wonderful take away options Toowoomba had to offer. It was a nice way to unwind and relax and during my busy days of work I am sure to reflect on it and miss the peace and tranquillity of Queens Park.
Picnic Point was amazing! It overlooked “Table Top Mountain” (which I will get too next) and the valleys of Toowoomba. There was a huge Pole that towered over the hill that flew a giant Australian Flag that danced through the blue April skies. There were many walking tracks that started and finished at Picnic Point that wound up and down the mountain face. There were parts of the trails that were a little gruelling, especially when on the ascend, but overall, it was a good moderate walk to get the blood pumping and dogs panting. The loop we walked on finished at a beautiful waterfall where the dogs had a swim and a much-deserved drink.
Now on to Table Top Mountain! What a walk!! I mean Climb!
We drove to Table Top Mountain the morning of a predicted thunderstorm, we thought it would be a good start to the day to tire out the dogs (and Yasmin) before a rainy-day in. The dogs were extremely excited when we arrived at the base of the mountain, a few stretches later and a big drink of water, we were off!
The walk turned into a rock climb very quickly, it was hard to climb the rocks when we had our dogs on leashes so we removed them from their harnesses and watched them bolt up the rock formations without any drama. The formations then turned to paths and the paths turned to loose stone rubble. There was a particular part of the climb where Moose started to whine whilst he was hopping down, he and Yasmin were not impressed by the steepness of the rock climbing and were both a little scared. Dixie on the other hand could not care less!! We think she may be part mountain goat! We were almost at the pinnacle of the mountain where that last 100 meters turned to a 70-degree elevation (this was much harder to come down then climb up!) with making it this far and our prides on our back we struggled up the last 100 meters to where we defeated Table Top Mountain and enjoyed the 360 degree views of the Valleys. The overcast day made great cloud coverage that in return made for some great photos.
As I stated before we stayed at the Toowoomba Showgrounds for 10 nights. The Showgrounds were noticeably quiet which made for good camping, we set up camp right next to a big pond that accommodated many species of bird. There were Stalks that would talk, Ibis’s perched or Ficuses, Pelicans that hovered like Zeppelins, Geese that did a silly walk like John Cleese, Ducks that would run amuck, Magpie-Larks that would leave a mark (shit all over your car), Lorikeets that sound so sweet and Corellas that drive you fucking bonkers!!!!
The Corellas were amazing…… at first…. There were Hundreds of them that would nest behind the pond, in the morning and evening they would fly overhead squawking and crying, 100 decibels of chaos! Luckily, the caretakers had a big air gun that would frighten them away, unfortunately though it would frighten Moose too! Overall, the Showgrounds were rather good, the only thing I could rant about was the cleanliness of the amenities, there was a band-aid in the corner of the shower that was staring at me for a week!
That about does it for Toowoomba. It is a beautiful, big, clean country town with plenty to offer and extremely dog friendly if you are wishing to take your pups. They also seem to love their Windmills! So many windmills! Yasmin and I play this game in the car where we count and tally windmills on our journey. I thought I would be a smartarse on our morning walk prior to leaving Toowoomba where I counted all 15 windmills that I knew of! By the end of the day Yasmin had beaten me by seven windmills 48 to 41. She has not let it go since!
Thanks for reading our Blog entry of Toowoomba. I will probably write a Blog entry in the next few weeks of our progression into working life on a citrus farm, until then keep safe, sending our love your way.
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.
Griffith, Darlington Point, West Wyalong, Dubbo and Tamworth (Part 1)
Greetings Comrades, our last week has been a hectic one trying to make the Queensland Border during this global pandemic. Our spirits have been high through the tough times and being out of touch from society in the NSW outback has helped with our piece of minds. If I had any wise words of wisdom during this current time, it would be that everyone (baring those who are ill or lack immunity) should go country, find a free camp spot, keep your distances and enjoy the sunsets, bird life and mother nature’s serenity, nothing good can happen being locked in a box watching free to air Australian journalism, to me that sounds like prison.
I am currently writing this blog update in Tamworth NSW in a very abandoned caravan park. We have just had some bad luck with the car, spirits have been low the past few days, but we can see the light glimmering over the northern Tamworth ranges. But we will get back to Tamworth and start at the beginning…. Griffith!
Where to start with Griffith… Well we didn’t like it much. I could almost finish the Griffith post and leave it at that……….. The end!
We arrived in Griffith late in the afternoon, we were finally excited to see a bit of civilisation after our remote drive through New South Wales wheat and corn belt. We noticed the changes in the landscape, the soil turning from pink to a dark red, the birds of prey that circled above changed from giant Eagles to graceful Falcons and the bland paddocks of wheat changed to uniformed old grape vines. I was excited entering the township of Griffith, I’d imagined it to be a bit like Mildura, an oasis in the middle of nowhere, I guess in actual fact it was an oasis in the middle of nowhere, I just felt it lacked character and class.
We must have driven through commission area to begin with, old weathered homes, overgrown gardens, kids playing on the roofs of the neighbours’ cars and junkies hanging around their stock rear wheeled commodores wearing oversized tracksuit tops on a hot Griffith afternoon. Yas and I looked at each other in the car thinking what have we got ourselves into.
Before I get into the story a little more, I should explain that Yasmin and I were planning to try and find some harvest work in Griffith for a couple of weeks prior to venturing on to our next location. You may as well of guessed that it didn’t happen…
We found a caravan park on the other side of the railway tracks behind the industrial area of Griffith. We decided to only book two nights as we didn’t know what to expect when we were going to go job hunting the next day. The park owners were lovely and it had good hot water pressure so I will give Griffith a tick in the box for that. It was also the first time we got to encounter what the average backpacker life entailed of an evening, sleeping in tents, cooking communally, rolling darts and idling the car every hour to charge their appliances.
You learn things every day. This was our first lesson. Never apply for jobs on a weekend…. Lesson number two, don’t apply for jobs through job agencies, they will not get back to you.
The next day we woke with hope, we did some much needed clothes washing and ventured out with the pups to find some work. We thought we would start with the local information centre and hopefully get pointed in the right direction for some work. The day started off greatly…. Not. Griffith isn’t the best when it comes to dog friendly towns. They do have a dog park, all five by five meters of one if you could call it that. The biggest thing it lacked however was foot paths, and the dogs did not enjoy a single minute walking through the jungled nature strips that contained every prickle in the weed encyclopedia.
Our 25 minute walk into town turned into an hour walk, stopping every 30 seconds to pull out the next bindi. There were even occasions where we had to carry our dogs through knee high weeds, looking very super touristy for the locals. We finally arrived into the heart of Griffith where we found the information centre under an old Airforce fighter plane. The lady behind the counter wasn’t of much help, she gave us a couple of job agencies numbers and websites to send our resumes. Being a weekend, we couldn’t walk into to the job agencies and talk face to face, so we grabbed a coffee down the main street and quickly sent of our resumes and a cover note.
It sounds like I am an old man ranting in this post, I only have one last one before we head to Darlington Point, this falls back to the main street of Griffith. Who designs a major town street facing east to west with no tree cover, sunlight in your eyes in the morning and vice versa of an evening… oh the same guy who designed Canberra. Well done!
Sunday was a chore day for us, we went to the supermarket for supplies and Bunnings a few times for caravan purposes. Sunday must have been a day off for the backpackers, when we left the caravan park a group of four men were drinking VB tins and when we got back late they were still drinking VB tins. I went to put the rubbish out that night and you should have seen the bins, probably 5 cases worth of VB tins… fair effort lads.
Monday was pack up day. We decided to head to a free camping spot 30km south in a town called Darlington point that fell onto the Murrumbidgee river. We thought we would wait a few more days to see if we would get a bite with our job applications. We woke up early and drove the dogs up to Hermits cave which lies on a scenic hill overlooking Griffith. This is where Griffith becomes positive. The early morning dawn view was incredible. Looking over the town’s street lights as the sun started breaking through the dark sky. The sky turned to a blood orange, and the hills turned black creating a silhouette. It was beautiful to describe it simply. We ended up walking till the sun was high, we saw some impressive bird life and even encountered my first Major Mitchell sighting in the wild, it was an exciting time!!
So that was Griffith, there were some positives, if anyone is thinking of going I’d highly recommend not taking your dogs and stay just out of town in places like Yenda and Hanwood, these little towns were really well kept and were close to the big wineries and attractions. My Uncle in West Wyalong did ask me if this was my first time experiencing outback NSW, and he explained it very well.
“Remote Outback NSW towns are rough, Griffith will look good once you experience places like Bourke”
We arrived in Darlington Point around lunch time. We turned right instead of heading into town and ventured into a state park that fell onto the Murrumbidgee river. There was no one in the whole park and we had free choice of any beach (riverbank) to choose from. We ended up staying at Boomerang beach. (They call them beaches because the riverbank was all beautiful clean sand)
Talk about a view, River at our doorstep, surrounded by huge ancient towering gums. In the evenings and mornings, you could time the huge colony of Corella’s flying over the river, the size of the colony was gigantic and when flying over it sounded like the hum of a helicopter.
We had a very relaxing time at the river, Moose never left the water once again waiting for the big carp to splash, Yasmin did her crocheting (something different) and I fished and practiced the fiddle (The corellas sounded nicer squawking in the trees)
Darlington Point was a nice small quiet town consisting of the essentials a Butcher, Post office, small supermarket and Pub. Being St Patricks day we went to the pub and ordered a couple of handles (that’s New South Wales term for a pot) and a sixer of Guinness to take back to camp. I spoke to the lady behind the bar and asked if she knew of any jobs going around. She unfortunately didn’t know of any however was incredibly helpful and wrote down a few Facebook groups in the local area that we could post our job adds onto. We liked the idea of this and to my disgust being an analog guy living in a digital world started posting resumes on all local social media boards to places we were travelling to.
Lesson number three; try and get work at a town before getting there.
I ended up finding a website called www.greynomadsjobs.com it’s designed for retired nomads however it did have many jobs that suited us. There was heaps of work advertised all over Australia, that being either paid or volunteer work for meals and accommodation. I ended up finding a job advertisement in the hinterlands of Queensland picking citrus for 6 to 8 weeks, I applied and the next day we had scored the job! The best thing was that we had accommodation provided for a small price and that our dogs could stay on premises. Our only dilemma was we needed to be up there in 10 days. So we had one more relaxing day at Darlington Point and planned a 10 day trip to get us to our work place in Queensland. Our next destination West Wyalong!
It’s hard not to be poetic about West Wyalong. It’s a small rural mining and farming town in the heart of NSW. Surrounded by wheat farms with the odd grazing sheep in the paddocks West Wyalong just hits you. The big windy street with old two-story buildings and endless pubs. It reminds me of the small towns in England, except that it isn’t green and cold, it sits against the pink soil and the beating sun. The back streets seem endless until they hit the train and vanish into the fields of wheat. Most of the township is old, big quarter of an acre lots, colourful succulents that sit next to the old steel chook wire front fences and the smell of jasmine that lingers through the air captures the essence of this old NSW country town.
The biggest novelty is the towering antennas that are tied to the rusty corrugated tin roofs. If you could see West Wyalong from a hill, you’d almost rename the town to the city of antennas.
Alright enough with the fantasy book descriptions…
I have family on my mother’s side who live in West Wyalong. They have been living there for four years and it was time I paid a visit, plus, the convenience that it fell on our route to our next destination, Dubbo. We stayed two nights, I would have liked to have stayed more but we had a deadline to meet in Queensland for work. My Aunty Rick was the hostess with the mostest, I felt a couple of kilos heavier by the time I left. Uncle Matt was our tour guide on the second day. West Wyalong (being far from everything) made a big day in terms of sightseeing. We went to Weethalle where we witnessed an old silo painting by the Melbourne based street artiest “Heesco”. The town was pretty barren like most country towns, boarded up shops and abandoned homes of what once used to be a viable farming town dependent on the railway silo. We ended up making the day a small pub crawl, a beer in every town we went to. Weethalle had an old pub just across the road from the silo. We learnt that in NSW you no longer ask for a measurement of drink, instead, they always will pour a schooner without question.
Lesson number four, don’t ask for measurement of beer in NSW or you look like a dick!
We then ventured on to a town called Ungarie, I had to guess why we were going to this town and its particular importance to me. It took me a while before I figured it out. If you’re an AFL (Aussie rules football) fan you’d most likely guess, however if you follow Essendon then you’d definitely guess that this was the hometown of the Danhier Brothers. Like the town before us it was once a striving town and not much was left to show of it, however next to the Pub was the Big Sherrin Football, a dedication to the Daniher Brothers. We spent some time being tourists trying to capture those novelty photos before we hit the pub and had a delicious ‘Tooheys Old’ beer.. maybe two…
I forgot to mention before too that on our journey from Darlington Point to West Wyalong we drove through a few towns that had novelty statues. One of them was the big Tennis racquet devoted to the Australian tennis star Evonne Goolagong Cawley in a town called Barrellen. We also witnessed a statue of a Kelpie in a town called Ardlethan, Ardlethan’s claim to fame being the hometown of the Kelpie Dog. We had to get a picture with our crazy Kelpie!
Our next town on the agenda was Lake Cargellico, from the name you might have guessed it was on a big lake. Yasmin was very envious of the lake, especially watching all the water ski boats on the crystal glass lake, the water skier inside of her was screaming with jealousy. It was a beautiful lake, it stretched for miles! It’s hard to believe something like this would be out this way in the dry landscape of outback NSW.
Lake Cargellico is probably the first town Yasmin and I have come across where we have encountered a black fella/white fella population. She was a rough town, bars on all the pub windows and worn buildings. The white fellas were the scary ones though. We went to go get a beer at the local ‘Bowlo’ (Bowling club), there must have been a funeral on that day, the whole town was practically there wearing flannel in dedication, and they were beyond drunk. Drunk to the point that it made us uncomfortable. Even made my Uncle uncomfortable and he is almost 7 foot. As Uncle Matt said “you haven’t experienced outback NSW before have you…. She’s rough” Almost made Griffith look good.
So after many kilometres of driving we went through Ungarie again for another few cold froths (our last time for a while because as of now all pubs are closed in the country due to the pandemic) and then to home where we relaxed for the night watching Quentin Tarantino films.
The next day after some tucker we left North bound to Dubbo. Yas found a good review online of a dog friendly caravan Park 50 minutes south of in a town called Peak Hill.
We ventured through a town called Forbes ‘home of the Elvis festival’. Forbes was a beautiful old town, and when we get back from our big trip I would definitely go back to experience the Elvis festival, it looks magical! We then went through Parkes. If you were around when the Moon landing was happening (or if you’re a conspiracist “wasn’t happening”) you would know Parkes to be famous for the Big Dish that helped broadcast the Moon landing all over the world! Yas and I play this game when we are driving, whoever see’s the landmark first wins 1000 imaginary points, Yas saw first obviously!
The Dish was incredible, the information centre was closed due to the virus, however we were very lucky to witness the dish actually moving. Many photos later and an hour’s drive up the road we finally made it to Peak Hill.
We chose Double D caravan park because it had a great reputation with dogs on premises. It had a dog run and separate dining areas that you could take your dog in with you too. We mainly chose to stay here though because it offered a doggy day care centre (free of charge) which meant Yas and I could venture into Dubbo and experience the Open range zoo!
The next day was zoo day! After a big morning walk with the dogs we ventured north to Dubbo. We hadn’t booked tickets yet as we wanted to suss out the zoo because of the virus situation. The zoo was open which was a plus and there were hardly any cars in the parking lot. For all the haters out there, we were in an open-air zoo, plenty of fresh air and followed social distancing suggestions.
It was such a good day! We brought our bikes with us because you can ride around the zoo and we ended up riding 10 kilometres riding from each enclosure to the next. We encountered Giraffes, Hippos, Lions, Elephants and all the in between.
After a big day we took the dogs for a big walk around the little mining town, we walked up the hill and witnessed the old open cut gold mine which was breath taking. After a delicious dinner we ended up watching the Dish on the laptop (probably the number one movie watched on the caravan parks premises) and went to bed to recuperate for our big drive to Tamworth the next day.
Once again after a big walk to tire out the dogs, we drove 5 hours north east to Tamworth. I couldn’t believe how hilly the area was around Dubbo, I’d always imagine it to be flat, however sometimes I had to drop to third gear to get up the hills! We drove past beautiful rock formations and endless windmills until we finally reached the flood plains on the out skirts of Tamworth. The mountain formations around Tamworth were absolutely breath taking, and once again was bamboozled on the idea that Tamworth was not a flat outback country town.
Tamworth has recently been (still is) in a big drought, however it has had some big rain this past month, so we got to witness Tamworth as a green Oasis. It’s a beautiful old town, all the buildings are of Art Deco design and the streets are very well kept. We drove to the Golden guitar to get the tourist photo. You had to take your pictures of the guitar on a certain angle or else you’d get a big KFC chicken sign in the background as this was located right next door.
After our touristy things we set north for Toowoomba QLD. We found a free camp spot just out of a town called Manilla at Split rock damn, on our way out I said to Yas “I’d love to come back here one day and experience ‘country’ Tamworth when everything isn’t closed”, turns out I apparently jinxed ourselves…
Lesson number four; don’t jinx yourself
Lesson number five; never trust google maps
After Manilla we turned right behind the town and took a back road to get to our camp spot for the night, we then went down a dirt road, crossed some cattle grids, went through a framers property with cows all over the road, went through another cattle grid then drove a few kilometres on a very average dirt road. This is when I noticed the temperature gauge, and she was hot!!
Before I continue with the story this was the current situation that Yasmin and I were in: Queensland were closing their borders Wednesday at Midnight, and it was Tuesday. This was the last thing I wanted to happen!
We popped open the bonnet to find a shredded fan belt. Great! I then went to check my phone… No reception…. THE FLIES!!…… I threw a rock at a tree then calmed down a little. I walked up the hill for a little bit to find some phone reception, I couldn’t gain internet access to find NMRA’s number for road side assistance, so I ended up calling the father in-law to tell him about our situation and to get the number.
I called NMRA, the reception was terrible and it cut out. I called again same thing. I called again, finally gave them my rego details, same thing. This went on for a while! Finally after two hours of calling we had a Tow truck coming our way! The tow truck then got lost and our location wasn’t showing up on the maps. Finally, another hour later, its pitch dark, the mozzies are biting, she finally arrived!
After a while the car was on the back of the truck and the caravan was connected to the tow ball and we were off. We could only go one way on the road (by the way we then learned from our local driver, the road that we were on wouldn’t have taken us to our camp spot regardless!) It was a very long road! A very shit road in fact! The lady drove like a mad man across the corrugated dirt road, slamming her breaks when we went through the 100’s of cattle grids and tight bends. Yasmin was turning white in the back seat! It was midnight when we arrived back to Tamworth, what a big day! I ended up driving the car off the back of the trailer, I’m guessing that’s a big no no in todays health and safety standards, but she didn’t seem like one to care too much about following rules. We had the opportunity to have our caravan towed to a caravan park for the night, but guessing it was only a fan belt we decided just to crash in front of the mechanics so we could leave early in the morning and make the state border closure. We guessed wrong!!!
The road we stayed on that night was super busy. Every time a car went passed our caravan would rock. Trucks were the worst. Let’s just say we didn’t get much sleep that night!
The next morning, dark circles beneath both our eyes, we struggled out of bed to tackle the big day. The mechanic opened at eight, so I walked in and gave them the keys for the car. They went to work straight away which was a relief. Then the bad news started rolling in. The Falcon’s water pump had cracked hence why our fan belt had torn. It will cost us $400 for the part but it could be in done in two hours, I didn’t even blink, we still had time to make the border! An hour later we get another phone call. The water coolant bypass pipe had shit itself, and unfortunately was not mendable. Luckily enough they sourced a good second-hand part but being a big job, it couldn’t be fixed that day. There went our opportunity to make it across the border.
We found out the news at 11 in the morning. We weren’t going to stay another night in front of the mechanics, so I ended up contacting the NMRA and RACV to get our van towed to a Caravan park for the night. Phone call after phone call we didn’t end up getting to a caravan park until 6 o’clock that night! And a thunderstorm had just came over us as we were setting up the caravan for the night we were drenched! We haven’t had much luck at this point and to top it off we had damage to the caravan form the tow truck the night before!! Yasmin’s clothes rack had snapped in her cupboard and water was leaking through the roof as the silicon had cracked because of the jolts also. These things I could fix so I wasn’t too concerned, but the tow truck had hit our modified BBQ that was strapped to our storage box on our draw bar.. That I couldn’t fix… So back to the phone for an insurance claim…. I never want to work in job that requires me to call people every day after this experience! So with dampened spirits and dampened, stinky dogs in the van with us, we ordered in pizza and chilled with “The Office”.
The next morning we received a little hope. We contacted our work contact in Ban Ban Springs, QLD to tell her our disappointing news. She however was optimistic that we would gain access across the QLD border as we were there to work. A bit of research later we found that the government had exemptions for crossing the border, and FIFO workers were granted access if they had written documentation as evidence for work in the state. Finally a win for us!
We spent the next day exploring Tamworth, it was nice to be out of the industrial area of town and close to the main parks. We walked our dogs to a dog friendly park and found a bookstore where I purchased some reading material. We also experienced this wonderful Ice Creamery in Tamworth called “Scream Ice Creamery”. We found out that the owners had the same intentions as us working around Australia, Tamworth however being a stop on their endeavours has turned into a few years. If you ever decide to come to Tamworth try this Ice Creamery out, they put melted Nutella in your waffle cones!!
Our car unfortunately wasn’t ready that day so I went into to reception to book another night at the caravan park.
The owners of the Caravan Park were very upset. They had just found out that all caravan parks across the state were not allowed to take on any new patrons. All their hard work had been washed down the drain. It will be interesting to see if their business survives from this pandemic like a lot of business in Australia, all I know is next year is going to be rough!
Since writing this blog a lot more has gone down hill for us, I will continue on with the story when we have overcome our troubles. Tamworth is a beautiful place, it’s just unfortunate that we haven’t had any good luck.
Low and behold the day has finally happened! Today we start our adventure and our first destination is Mathoura, New South Wales.
We ended up staying in a free camping spot on The Edward River that joins onto the Murray River. It was a beautiful well-kept area (big hand to NSW parks for the amazing amenities) and because we left the day after the long weekend there were hardly any other campers which made for a much more peaceful and relaxing experience!
The days went nice and slow, Moose never left the river bank in anticipation for the jumping carp through out the day and Dixie learnt the art of a deck hand, watching and whining after my lures were cast in anticipation of catching the trophy fish! The trophy fish never came unfortunately but three now dead carp later and a tiny Murray cod released Rex Hunt style made a successful fishing experience.
The sounds of the native birds added to the comforts of the area and the sights of the Yellow Crimson Rosellas in the reed beds made a picturesque experience. We even came across a wild mob of Emus on a morning bike ride, although not far from home, made the realisation how fast the Australian landscape can change.
I am writing this journal update in Griffith NSW. We just arrived today after a long windy drive. We saw some beautiful scenery and went through some very remote towns. Our highlight though was the Eagles! So many Eagles between Carrathool and Conargo, especially near Oolambeyan National Park where we saw 10 eagles preying on the roadkill and swaying in the trees. When you drive past an Eagle as it flies off past the bonnet of your car you realise that they are a monstrous bird with legs almost as thick as mine!
Griffith has been a different experience so far. We came the back way through the commission area, passed the ratty commodores and most likely some Meth dealers. Hopefully tomorrow’s experience is much nicer, we plan to finally find some work for a few weeks, however if unsuccessful we might move on… we’ll soon see.
Hopefully you have enjoyed our update, fingers crossed we find some work and we find some nicer spots around Griffith. If you know of any send us a message, we are keen to find out some spots.
Heathcote is located in central Victoria, about two hours drive north of Melbourne. We have been here since December living in a fully contained bus at the back of Yasmin’s parent’s property. In that time we have been busy restoring our caravan and tow vehicle for our epic around Australia adventure. It’s now March, I had planned we leave by January, needless to say we are a few months behind track, there was a lot more work then anticipated but in the end we got there!
MANY SWEAR WORDS AND BEERS LATER………….
Most of my time spent in Heatchote was working on the caravan at the Father in-laws (Terry’s) garage. It’s very handy having a Father in-law who’s trade of qualification happens to fall in the line of mechanics. We’d be lost and financially done for if it wasn’t for Terry and his efforts! The Caravan wasn’t all smooth sailing though, when you purchase an old caravan that has been sitting by the seaside for some time you do happen to find RUST. The picture to the left is of me after a few hours underneath the caravan removing the surface rust. The Drawbar too had been re-done prior to purchase however unfortunately to Terry’s pleasure the drawbar had been tacked on very unprofessionally. Needless to say we wouldn’t have gotten very far…..
Overhead welding doesn’t seem very fun, with all the sparks burning away at your skin inside of your overalls, many swear words later and we have ourselves one of the best engineered 70’s Franklin caravans in Australia!
Every morning rain, hail and shine we would go for a big walk before our daily tasks. We would usually walk up Viewing rock which overlooks the township of Heathcote and beyond. Its funny how the wild life changes even though your only two hours away from your previous location.
In Millgrove we really only accounted wombats, birds and the occasional deer or wallaby. Heathcote on the other hand is over run with kangaroos and the dogs took a liking to them, especially young Dixie girl. We didn’t know what to do, we played good cop / bad cop but she would still chase the little buggers, so we invested in a shock collar! We were hesitant at first, but after a week Dixie no longer chased them! Worth its value in the end.
The Heathcote golf course was just down the road, not that we play golf but it was great way to go for a walk and let the dogs run wild. Most mornings when we went for a walk Robyn my mother in law would accompany us on our walk. It was embarrassing when we did the golf course walk because Yasmin and her Mother would stop to do Lunges at certain holes.
We did manage to escape Heathcote whilst living there. We went to Cape Patterson for a weekend where we got some much needed beach therapy. I went surf fishing but only managed to catch kelp and happened to get stung by a blue bottle. Yasmin did some sandy beach Yoga and the dogs had a blast on an off lead dog beach fetching balls in the crashing waves. All in all it was a good weekend away, with all the bushfires that were going on it did effect the views of the ocean however did make for a good blood orange sunset!
Whilst in Heathcote we got the chance to visit a few of it’s natural landmarks. One place we went to was Pink Cliffs which Is located behind the local Township. This interesting and colourful phenomenon was exposed by early gold mining activities. It was a bloody hot day though, well and truly in the 40’s. We went early before noon and it was still too hot, Dixie and moose were keen to get home and have a well deserved big drink of water.
I managed to escape Heathcote again whilst living here to catch up with a mate for his birthday down in Port Fairy. Yes more seaside therapy! We had a great time surf fishing on the east beach, drinking a few beers down on the Warf watching all the old sailing and fishing boats and enjoying a sneaky cigar under the stars of a typical cold, windy Port Fairy’s evening.
Both Yasmin’s parents live in Heathcote, and prior to living in Heathcote Yasmin’s Mother’s side had an old farm just up the road in Tooborac. We ended up taking Yasmin’s Grandad (Rex) down to his farm so he could show us what it was like to live there back in his days. Tooborac is extremely hilly and Rex has just turned 89 this year! Rex didn’t even break a sweat! I hope I’m that fit and healthy if I reach that age.
We’re just about to hit the road soon, it’s all finally happening! We have spent the last few days working hard transitioning all our stuff from the bus to the caravan. We thought we were going to run out off room for cupboard space but at this stage we have three spots that need filling! I guess we will accumulate some items on our trip! Our first stop is Mathoura, New South Wales! It’s time to cross the border! We look to stay a few nights at a free camping spot on the Edward river before heading north to Griffith to hunt for some work. Is it weird to say that I am looking forward to work again??? That may change quickly but needless to say I’m excited! Catch you all soon for our Mathoura blog!
WARNING: This mostly contains images of delicious food from our favourite places
We are currently spending our next month in Heathcote, Victoria working on the Caravan for next years travels. Whilst work is in progress I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog on the area that we once lived in, especially our last week in our green oasis. (It’s currently 40 degrees outside, it’s very dry in central Victoria, missing the Warburton Valley heaps right now.)
We had a house in Millgrove, Victoria which was the last town before Warburton if you were heading along the Warburton Highway. It was a brilliant location to live, we backed onto the beautiful ranges and overlooked Mount Little Joe. The Yarra River was 100 meters down the road perfect for a summers swim or spring fish, there was a rail trail that could take you all the way to Lilydale. (Riding one way isn’t too bad as the trail is about 40km long. We tried walking the whole distance once with the dogs! We accomplished the walk, however our feet did not appreciate us for at least a week afterwards.) We also had the luxury of an aqueduct trail up in the hills behind us which was a nice quiet location to walk the dogs and had beautiful views over the valley. Oh and in winter it snows on Mount Donna Buang which is only a 5km drive from Warburton.
There is also heaps of beautiful wildlife in the hills. Cockatoo species from Corella’s, noisy white crested Cockatoo’s and beautiful Black yellow tailed Cockatoos that would sing in Spring. If you were lucky enough you could spot a few Gang Gang cockatoos in Spring too! We also had friendly King Parrots and Rosella that would sit on your verandah and eat seeds from your hands, Kookaburras that would sit on your clothesline and up in the hills you’d come across skittish Lyrebirds. We also saw heaps of deer, although a pest they are beautiful creatures to come across.
The Warburton Valley was a very quiet place to live, weekends were different however. Being classified as Melbourne’s back door steps for some weird reason the Melbournian crowd would come though in their fancy porches, or kited up on their fancy motorsport bikes. The trails would become infested with lycra bike riders who shouldn’t be wearing lycra and tourists with no walking trail etiquette. So if you are considering visiting the area come during the week! I guess this goes for most places which is only a few hours from any major city. Apart from the summer weekends it was a beautiful, quiet, peaceful area to live. It was remote so we didn’t have any fast food chains in a 50km radius, there were no such things as Uber eats and if you were lucky enough to get ADSL2, Netflix or broadband was not an option! Which really suited us. Unfortunately as we were just leaving our local video shop closed, so long analog world! 😦
When we sold our house we ended up with a very short settlement, so by the time we had to give notice for work we were only able to have a week to enjoy the Warburton area. We managed to get to Noojee, we walked the old trestle bridge and went to the iconic pub. The feed wasn’t that great but did pick up a Noojee pub bluey!
We also managed to drive across to Eildon, it was a hot day but we managed to cool off in the dams and fly fish on our way home in the Archeron river. On our way home through Healesville we said farewell to my favorite burger joint Monroe’s Burgers. I’ve eaten a lot of burgers in my time, this is by far the best!
Apart from a few little day trips we made most of what was at our back door. We walked the many trails around the area, the dogs swam and fetched sticks in the river, we got to say goodbye to a few friends we have made in the area and enjoy the sun go down over the Valley.
Because food is such a important topic to us and we plan the day around it we managed to tick off our favorite places to eat too. If you are in the area and want to dine check out these places! If you want a burger head to Monroe’s Healesville. If you want a damn good wood fired pizza head to a quaint little restaurant called Little Joe’s in Warburton. If you are craving a Parma no place better then Cunningham’s Hotel in Yarra Junction. Their Irish Parma is to die for, and being Irish they have Guinness on tap!!
The best till last is Gladysdale Bakehouse between Wesburn and Yarra Junction. Our last meal was here and it was big one at that! I’d hate to know how much money we have spent here the last 6 years, but it was definitely worth the cause!! Best breakfast options ever! When they have pork belly as an option instead of bacon you know its going to be amazing! If you’re heading to Warburton don’t go to the Warburton Bakery for a pie or dessert, it’s beyond average to the cuisine they have at Gladysdale Bakehouse!
So that about does it. After a full belly we returned the keys to the realtors and drove two and a half hours north to a very dry and dusty little country town Heathcote, Victoria. Although dry and dusty it has its own beautiful landmarks that make Heathcote so special in its own way. The Kangaroos though are out of control! Don’t drive this way at night if you are in the area!
I hope you enjoyed our Warburton blog, it was more of a food review if anything but they were definitely worth the mention. Stay tuned for our caravan renovations and before we leave on our adventures I’ll post a blog article on Heathcote Victoria and its surrounds.
With only 30 days till our settlement day its been a mad rush to organise the caravan renovations. Being a cabinet/furniture maker by trade I have taken it upon my self to create extra room in the Caravan to make it more liveable for our adventures. The object is to create more storage which is light weight and matches the 70’s retro interior theme.
Remove bunks, turn into clothes wardrobe and pantry
Remove fridge and oven, turn into cupboard storage and storage for hot water system and plumbing
Remove Bed, Replace with a Double sized mattress with lift up storage mechanism
Its handy when you work for a company that has all the tools and machinery you need to complete your projects during lunch breaks. Hence the rush!!