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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Getting colder

Last week it was zero degrees inside the van when we woke up and the next morning it was -1... the pipes were frozen and the frost was thick and stayed on the ground for hours. So how do we keep warm when we get up (great sleeping bags take care of the cold at night)? Go walking of course! Liffey Falls was the destination that day and it was worth the drive and the walk.

We've done a little loop from Sheffield to Westbury, two trips to Launceston (the traffic in the big city is terrible... we're definitely country drivers now!), through Exeter and back around to Narawntapu NP . Yesterday we went into Devonport, so we really have completed the circle. Still so much to see and do in this circle though, and then so much more of the state to go...

Question - Are backyard fireworks legal in Australia?
Answer - In Tazwegia they are... and we enjoyed feeling just a little bit naughty with friends the other night as they tried out some of the bigger ones in the bag they'd bought. It really did feel like the neighbours should complain, but they were probably setting theirs off a few nights before on 'Cracker Night'!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Welcome to Tassie!

After a relaxing few days on the Murray River we had a great time with Dazz’s relatives in the Bendigo area (and far too many late nights!!!) Saturday the 10th of May was the day we really hoped and prayed our car wouldn’t break down… and it didn’t:) We only had one missed turn in Melbourne, but the GPS rescued us nicely and we were lined up for the ferry.

Neither of us could quite believe we were actually, really on our way to Tasmania. The travel sick tablets worked great and the Ocean View Recliner provided a great night sleep for her (but not much ocean view in the dark). He can’t sleep sitting up, and went back downstairs to watch TV. She found him asleep on one of the TV couches in the morning.

And then we were there. A beautiful calm morning in Devonport with the sun popping in and out of clouds to provide some great photos.

We spent the first two nights at Lake Barrington. Tuesday morning was stunning and cloudless so we dropped our van off at a camp spot at Lake Gairdner and went down to Cradle Mountain for the afternoon.

The clouds had come in a bit, but it was still stunning. We walked around Dove Lake and Dazz began his Cradle Mountain photo collection…

The next day was a bit drizzly so we spent the day inside the van and chatting to the other bloke camped there. He had a game license and had shot two ducks the day before, so gave us what was left for our lunch. Camp oven wild duck with home-made tomato sauce sandwiches… sounds posh doesn’t it!

We headed north (this time only 20km) to another free spot, thinking that we would try to get back up to a national park on the coast over the next few days, but the weather changed our plans. Thursday morning Dazz got up and there were no clouds. ‘Let’s go!’ he pronounced, and the lunch maker stumbled out of bed, figuring out what could be done in the car and what had to be done before we left…

We arrived back at Cradle Mountain and there was still not a cloud in the sky. The photographer of the house set up to take the obligatory reflection shots and then we headed for the hills. Marion’s Lookout is about 300 metres above Cradle Valley and was a beautiful lunch spot, overlooking Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain. The sky was still clear, so we decided to have a go at the summit of Cradle Mountain itself.

We took off at a fast pace, knowing we would have to keep on our toes to get to the top and back before dark.

As we started up the foot of the mountain she yelled at the photographer not to keep stopping to wait for her, because he might have a better chance of getting to the top to get some good photos. So, he took off. As she got to the rockier bit she noticed the poles marking the track went right, but he had gone straight up the mountain like a goat… She yelled. Oooops. ‘Are you coming back this way?’ ‘No, I’ll just keep going up here and see if it joins up. You go around.’

She wasn’t going around, and losing sight of him. It was steep and there was shale, making it slippery in spots, so she was going to keep following him in case he got into trouble. Up and up he went. Up and up she went. Finally he yelled for her to wait there. He was just about at the top, but the crevices between rocks were getting bigger and it was becoming more dangerous. He left his pack and camera bag in a cave and scaled the last little bit to see if it joined the main track. It didn’t. The view was spectacular, but he didn’t want to try to get back up with the camera bag.

So down we went – surprisingly easily. And then across, this time following the poles, and then up again. And up. And up. And up. The rocks got bigger and so did the crevices. Again, she stopped. Her legs weren’t quite long enough or feet steady enough to get much further. We didn’t seem to be far from the top, so he was going just a bit further, this time with the camera. The ‘top’ wasn’t really the top… it went down and up again… at least there were some cracks to take pictures through…

By this time we had gone a bit past our ‘turn around time’, so decided we really needed to get going. The breeze had got a bit cooler and the distant cloud had come just a little bit closer. A few rocks down and it got a bit more difficult. We took our packs off and dropped them down to the rock below and then lowered ourselves down. As he was lowering himself down he grimaced and yelped out in pain. Cramps. Front and back of his thigh, at the same time.

He rubbed it out a bit and hopped and limped and grimaced and gently lowered himself down over the rocks. A drink and some chips and a good deal of perseverance got him off the mountain. He just needed to ‘walk it out’ on the flat. So we walked and walked and walked. Of course, he couldn’t resist a few more photos either… Pain is always eased by a good photo or two.
We’re not mountain climbers. Looking at the photos from the top gave us vertigo that night! Would we do the summit again to try to get to the actual top? No way! What a stupid, dangerous thing to attempt! Are we glad we did it? You bet:)

We’re hooked on the area though, and are already planning the other day walks we want to do up there… of course, we’ll have to wait for another perfect weather day!

Note the link to more photos on the top right corner of the page...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Diff & the Grace of God

First, an applied linguistics lesson from the course Dazz facilitates...

The difference between language and animal forms of communication is the creativity of language. Completely unique utterances can be produced that are 100% comprehensible to listeners who have not heard them before. The title of this entry is one such utterance. I am quite convinced that no-one has ever used this particular combination of words before. So how do these two things relate to each other???

We left Swansea late in the day on Thursday, hoping to miss peak hour traffic in Sydney. A few traffic lights on Pennant Hills Road (both of us realized about the same time that if the massive trucks could fit in these tiny lanes then our little 4WD and van could!) and we were onto motorways and plain sailing.

Our lovely stop for the evening ended up being a truck stop on the Hume Highway just south of Campbletown. We were both tired and our sore throats had had enough of the day when we approached a stop with ‘facilities’. We saw trucks parked in the spaciously laid out area, and then a van and decided if it was good enough for them it was good enough for us. We were so tired that the dull roar of trucks didn’t bother us. I convinced myself it was like the trucks on the road behind Mum & Dad’s, or the trains at Grandad’s, and happily fell asleep. In the morning we could see the highway out one window and out the other window was a beautiful little lake… an amazing contrast!

We passed numerous rest areas that day, most of them like the one we had stayed in, but decided we wanted to aim for something a little quieter and nicer tonight. The Camps book had a place in Jugiong (between Yass and Gundagai), and approaching the town there were a number of big billboards extolling the virtues of this tiny village (pop. 120 I think). So we arrived at a nice little rest area beside a park, a fruit shop and cellar door across the road, and a motel and servo down the road. A nice stop for a night…

We jumped out for an explore and read all the info boards and decided it was time for dinner. As we got back to the car ‘Oh no!’ said he. ‘What?’ said she. ‘Oohhh nooo!’ said he. ‘Whaattt?’ said she. ‘OOHHH NOOO!’ said he. ‘WHAAATTTT?’ said she. ‘THAT!’ ‘Uhhhh’

‘What’ I hear you cry! A tiny little oil leak… nothing new for our car… except this was out of the back wheel.

The pre-existing noise that had been diagnosed as a benign diff problem that needed Nulon had been getting a little worse lately. We’d even bought the Nulon a few days before but hadn’t had a chance to put it in. Earlier in the day at the top of the hill at the War Memorial park in Goulbourn it really sounded unhappy, and Dazz had said he would take it in and get it looked at, and now there was a great deal more urgency in the task.

So at 4:45pm he raced down to the Jugiong servo and a seal in the wheel bearing and the diff was diagnosed to be the problem.

What about the grace of God? This is going to cost big money?

1. We were stopped in a free place (always good when you don’t know how long you might have to stay!!).
2. There were loos and water (another bonus when the duration is open-ended).
3. There was a servo that could fix it 1km down the road (we didn’t need to use any more of our RACQ annual allotment).
4. There were shops that sold bread and milk nice and close.
5. It really was a very pretty little spot – a few hundred metres through the show grounds and we were on the banks of the Murrimbidgee River (and yes, we were on the road to… Gunda…gai…)
6. The new diff fit! It’s out of a later model Jackaroo and was the only one Paul could find. The parts guy assured Paul it would fit our model, but we’ve all been told ‘big ones’ by the guy just trying to sell a part…
7. He didn’t actually pull the diff out of our car until the new part came in (the following Wednesday), so we could use the car to charge batteries while we marked up until then.
8. He got it finished just before closing time on Thursday night before the Anzac Day long weekend. (They sent the wrong bearing up first time ‘round so his wife went into Gundagai to get the right one off the courier so we wouldn’t have to stay the long weekend.)
9. As it turned out we think we got a good deal in terms of what he charged for labour.

So, all in all, a very mild motoring adventure by our standards.

Since then it’s been more of the same boring, everyday, run of the mill, traveling kind of stuff.

Looking for the riverside camp near Everton (between Wangaratta and Myrtleford) we saw a van in a field with a bunch of people. We slowed down and they waved us over, as Dazz said ‘I think this is private property’. It was. Their property, and they were quite happy for us to camp there for the night with them… only thing was seemed like they’d been drinking happily for many hours and were completely tanked!! A little too much unpredictability for our liking. The explained where the other spot was, but told us to come back if there was nothing happening there… fortunately for us there was plenty happening – a little motorhome club rally! We joined the motorhomers for a much quieter and predictable [read ‘early’] evening.

Next day we stopped in Myrtleford for half a church (didn’t know what time it started and didn’t get going very early on account of the overcast sleep-in weather), and then explored Bright in the drizzle during the afternoon. The weather forecast was for rain on Monday and then clearing so we went back to the same spot that night and spent Monday marking in the rain.

Tuesday was perfect photo weather – beautiful mist clearing to give Dazz a stack of reasons to keep stopping on our way to Beechworth. We were hoping to see some more autumn colours without the rain, and we weren’t disappointed. We love small towns were you can just park and walk around and see everything. Of course we did the obligatory Beechworth Bakery, and just smelling Dazz’s chocolate dessert was enough to give me palpitations.

Now we’re down on the Murray River, one of Dazz’s Dad’s favourite spots to camp. It’s been a relaxing mix of marking, eating, kayaking, washing and I’m now experimenting with bread making…