Week 22 | Dampier to Bullara Station

Day 148 – 149: Dampier

Last night the port was lit up like a Christmas tree and the sunset wasn’t too bad either. I strolled along the beach taking it all in and happily snapping away on my camera.

It was chilly overnight dropping down to 11 degrees and it’s hard to drag yourself out of bed in the morning. We are heading into Karratha this morning to have a look around. It’s only about 20km from Dampier and on the way we detour into the North West Gulf Gas Project Visitor Centre. It’s closed on Mondays so we’ll have to come back tomorrow. Hearson cove on the Burrup Peninsular is not far so we drive out to see what is there. Wow, it is really picturesque. The dark tide line is visible on the rugged hill and the beach is covered in millions of tiny shells. The colours in the hill are reflecting along the shoreline in the cove, this is where the stairway to the moon happens on low tide and full moon. I’m hoping we will experience this at some point while we are travelling the western Australian coastline.

Karratha is quite an impressive town growing quickly with infrastructure to attract workers to live in the area. The buildings are modern and there are new housing developments popping up everywhere. There is a large Arts Precinct which houses a library and theatrette and currently has aboriginal artworks on display in the foyers. The staff at the Visitor Centre are really helpful and there is a lookout above the centre which provides a view over the whole township.

Andrew and Tim are going fishing this afternoon, it’s the first time the fishing rods will have a workout for this whole trip. They are fishing off the beach and after a few hours come home with 1 bream. Tim caught it and as it’s not big enough to feed us all Lyn is going to have it for her lunch tomorrow.

Tonight is roast night as Tim and Lyn will head off in the morning. The clouds have rolled in so I quickly put the roast veggies in the turbo oven & head across the road to the beach. Sunset certainly does not disappoint me tonight. The sky is a waft of colour, golden yellow, grey and bright pink. The smell of the roast beef is calling. Andrew has basted it in Bugsy’s tomato relish and it’s looking absolutely delicious. Dinner is a winner with us all.

Panorama sunset

I’m calling in for our monthly board meeting today and given that we are now in Western Australia it’s an early start for me to be ready by 7.30am. On the positive side the meeting is over by 9.30am which gives me plenty of time to go fishing with Andrew later today. I haven’t been fishing since I was a child travelling with Mum and Dad in the bush country. A storm has blown in and it’s not looking good but within half an hour it has passed and we head down to the beachfront to fish off the rocks.

Andrew is baiting my line and casting out for me (that’s my type of fishing companion), within a few casts I have a good bite. “Yank your line quick” he shouts you’ve got a fish. I am beside myself as I feel the fish taking the line. “Reel him in” he says, I’m pretty excited at this point as I bring my first fish into the shallow waters. He is well and truely hooked on my line, “go and grab a rag he shouts”.  Out of the water I run jumping with excitement. “What is it?” I ask, it looks like a grunter, it’s going to have to go back it’s under size. Oh damn, quick I need a photo of my first catch, off I run back to the rocks to get my camera. That was the excitement for the day. There were plenty more bites and only one other fish caught by myself, he had a black spot and was no bigger than my bait!

There is plenty of bird life at the park and each day the friendly corellas fly in and allow you to feed them by hand.  Andrew is in his glory as he loves any type of wildlife.

The shower of rain has bought in cooler weather so we are tucked up in bed tonight catching up on some Netflix shows.

Wildlife: corellas, minor birds, seagulls, galahs.

Day 150: Dampier to Onslow

We are leaving Dampier this morning at 9.00am and it’s only 16 degrees outside after a chilly 11 degrees last night. We’re heading for Onslow which is 82km off the highway. We’ve passed several quarries and mine sites on our journey today. Termite mounds are prolific and the road in is long straight and boring.

Wildlife: crows, wild budgerigars, corellas, dead kangaroos, dead cows, cattle.

Day 151 – 153: Onslow

Onslow is home to a salt mine and gas plant, there is little to do around the township. The population is just under 900 and there is a pub, beach club resort, 2 caravan parks, supermarket, chemist, hospital and a few other services.

The Oceanview Caravan Park is situated on Front Beach and run by the local council.

Ocean View Caravan Park, Onslow

Several sites are situated along the beachfront, ours is just across a mere 20 metres away from the rock wall.

Andrew and Tim are keen to try the fishing out and head out to 4 mile beach early in the morning. After a lovely sleep in I head down to the beach with Cinta for a walk. In the distance I see the guys fishing off the beach.  They’ve had no luck this morning, no doubt they’ll be back at it again this afternoon.

I take the opportunity to do a bit of cleaning in the van. Red dirt gets into absolutely everything. With Cinta on board I am constantly sweeping the floor as I can’t stand the dirt under my feet. This afternoon is spent catching up on some work and then I plan to make a lasagne and try out the cooking process in the Ziggy. Andrew loves lasagne and it is a real winner so it will be on the menu again!

Andrew is taking me for a drive out to 4 mile beach this morning as there is another small beach that is covered in shells. I thought Hearson Cove at Dampier had a lot of shells but this beach is impressive. The shells are about 12 inches deep and there are some large ones amongst them. Some of them are glistening in the sunlight and when I look closer they almost resemble the mother of pearl shell. They would make an amazing wind chime.

We are walking several times a day on the beach. The water is really cold and Cinta is only going in up to her belly. It’s also quite rocky when the tide is out, something she is not used to.

Andrew and Tim are fishing again this afternoon off the beach, still no luck. Cinta and I walk down at sunset and capture some great shots. The sky is pastel pink and blue, it looks spectacular against the rock wall.

Another lazy start to the day before tapping away on the keyboard again. I have to keep reminding myself of the positive benefits of working on the road as the negative benefits are beginning to overwhelm me this morning. It’s been a long day so a beach walk is needed to put things back into perspective. I’m sure happy hour will help too.

Clouds are starting to roll in and Andrew, Cinta and I head out along the boardwalk to enjoy the magnificent show that the sun setting is putting on display tonight. This is why we love being on the road.

Wildlife: seagulls, corellas, honey eaters, doves, crabs.

Day 154: Bullara Station Stay

Its time to move on again and leaving Onslow this morning it’s 19 degrees at 9.00am. We are heading for a Station Stay at Bullara. The countryside varies this morning from wide open flat surfaces to rocky outcrops and flat plateaus. It never ceases to amaze us how different the scenery can be from one day to the next.

Bullara Station is a third generation property sprawled over a quarter of a million acres. The 1.2km road from the highway is graded dirt. Tonight is camp fire roast night but they are fully booked out so we are very disappointed. Barista coffee and scones with jam and cream are on every morning from 8.30, we immediately decide we are having morning tea before we leave in the morning.

A late lunch and early happy hour are the order of the day. We’ve walked around the site and there are plenty of fire pits and lots of old rusted out machinery and tools from generations gone by. The outback shower is open air and very rustic, run by the donkey.  It’s really quirky, I love it.

The sun has set at 5.45pm with a magnificent display of cloud cover. Golden yellow tones turn into bright pink and then burnt orange and red. I never tire of a good sunset. I’m certain that sunrise will be just as spectacular. I’ve asked Andrew to wake me up, I don’t want to miss it.  The temperature is dropping and whilst it is going down to 11 degrees it feels a lot colder.

You’ll have to wait until next weeks blog to see how the sunrise looks!

Panorama sunset

Here’s a short video of my drone practice today.  I hope you enjoy it.

Wildlife: 2 emus, dead kangaroos, cattle, crows, hawks, eagle, kangaroos, sheep.

Week 22 total expenses:  $714.47, pleased that the expenses are slowing creeping down.

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That’s a wrap for Week 22 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Week 21 | Broome to Dampier

Day 141 – 142: Broome

Last night was spent at Cable Beach watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean. The beach was busy with 4WD’s parked, deck chairs, children running and playing in the sand. Two camel trains slowly passed us by at sunset and made for the iconic Broome photo opportunity. Cinta was in her happy place lyeing on the sand and we toasted to onward journeys and long lasting memories.

Waking up in Broome after a chilly night dropping to 11 degrees. The winds have picked up and it’s looking like they will steadily increase throughout the day. Andrew decides to bring the awning in.

There is a public holiday today for WA day and there is not a lot open apart from the cafes and tourist outlets. We have had to extend our stay by another night as the work I was expecting to complete today is not going to be ready until tomorrow.

The photo opportunities at the Jetty are calling. The cruise ship has departed and we are all keen to feel the sand between our toes again. We still find the colour of the sand being so dark quite strange after the beautiful clear sand on the beaches at home. The black grains form interesting patterns along the shoreline. The tide is out which allows us to wander under the Jetty for some photos. Further along the beach are more interesting rock formations and I’m in photographic heaven again. My iPhone and camera are bursting with images, I’m going to have to spend some time to get them uploaded to my google drive and sorted into albums.

Back at the park we meet our new neighbours from Port Lincoln and their dog Marlee. We chat about our travels, they have just come through from Port Headland and tell us how boring the trip from there to Broome is. Something to look forward to on Wednesday.

Another cool night dropping to 12 degrees and the wind is blowing a gale again today. I’m at the keyboard by 8.30 ready for a big day of work. Andrew is tasked with finding someone to fix our water leak in the pipe near the front of the van. The patch job at Alice Springs has failed and we’ve been dealing with the leak for quite some time now not being able to buy a replacement part or find a repairer to fix it.

The Visitor Information Centre has sent the details of a repairer to us and he’s agreed to come at 4.00pm. How lucky could we be. It’s 4.30pm and no word. We are chatting with the neighbours and talking about tradies and discussing how we are loosing faith about having our leak fixed today when Ron calls and says he is on his way.

What a relief, you don’t realise how inconvenient it is to not be able to have water running freely when you want it. It’s meant that each time we need water in a caravan park we have had to go outside to the tap and turn it on and then back out when we have finished to turn the water supply back off again.  We could leave it permanently on but it is such a waste of water dripping out through the leak we just can’t justify doing that when some communities are so desperate for water. Within half an hour and $105 later we have a new pipe and water is flowing freely again. It’s the simple things in life that make a happy wife!

You can never have too many sunset or pet photos; right?

Wildlife: galahs, cattle, crows, dead kangaroos, camels.

Day 143: Broome to Sandfire Roadhouse

After a cool overnight in Broome (11 degrees) we are packed up and ready to start heading south by 8.30am. It’s a pleasant 18 degrees and the cross winds are quite strong this morning. We are heading for the Sandfire Roadhouse which is about half way between Broome and Port Headland. We are hoping to be there mid afternoon so that I can do some more work.

I have to say that the Telstra reception has been extremely good whilst we have been travelling through Western Australia. The Northern Territory had the worst reception for the trip to date, with long stretches were there was no reception at all.

The neighbours were right, the road is long, straight and boring. I’m catching up on my blog today.

We arrive at the roadhouse just after lunch and set up on our unpowered site.  It’s $20 for a spot on the red dirt.  There is not much here, just a roadhouse.  I’ve spent some time doing some work and finishing off last weeks blog post.  Spaghetti bolognaise is on the menu tonight and then an early night for us both.

Wildlife: galahs, cattle, crows, dead kangaroos, camels, peacock, geese

Day 144: Sandfire Roadhouse to Port Hedland

Heading out from the Sandfire Roadhouse it’s 19 degrees and the winds are blowing a gale. The journey today will be another long boring stretch of road.

We’re counting caravans for something to do and after 1 1/2 hours on the road we have seen 65 caravans heading north. We’re not counting 4WD’s with rooftop tents either. The season is in full swing and we’re glad we are going in the opposite direction given the wind situation. Our fuel consumption will be a lot better than those travelling north.

The roadside sign says Welcome to the Pilbara Region, another area we are keen to explore.

Arriving in Port Hedland just on 1.00pm the caravan count is 125 for 4 1/2 hours on the road. We have found a lot of travellers are like us and pull up around lunch time at their destination.  Plenty of time to set up, rest up and get ready for happy hour!

We are staying at the free camp at the race track. Self contained vans can stay for 72 hours. There is a dump point, toilets and the parking area is large with a few shade trees and plenty of red dirt.  There is about 60 vans here tonight and we’ve seen some fantastic set ups, but check out the rig below.  Behind the truck is a jet ski and the small car at the side actually drives into the back of the rig.  We can’t begin to imagine the cost of the fuel bill to run this set up but it certainly looks impressive and no wonder they are taking advantage of a free camp.

Wildlife: peacocks, geese, camel, cattle, 2 dead cows, finches, falcon

Day 145 – 146: Port Hedland

The winter woolies came out last night as the wind was blowing a gale and the chill factor was just too much for me.  It was a cold night and this morning we are having our cuppa in bed rugged up and watching the news.  We haven’t really watched a lot of TV since we’ve been travelling and to be honest we haven’t missed it either.  We do tend to watch netflix when we have reception.

This morning we are taking a drive into the Visitor Information Centre to get a map on the street art around the town.  There isn’t much to see around this mining town.  There are a lot of shops that are closed and a lot of accommodation that looks deserted and unkept.  We can see why the township is offering a free camp for 72 hours.  They need to attract tourists and keep them here to spend some money.  The street art is in the laneways and some of it is difficult to photograph because of the locations.  It is such a shame that the artwork is not in more visually attractive areas of the township.

The stairway to the moon can also be viewed in Port Hedland but we are here at the wrong time of the month so we won’t be seeing it this time round.  Port Hedland is one of the world’s largest and busiest working harbours.  They transport hundreds of millions of tonnes of cargo each year.  We counted 17 ships on the horizon lined up to come into port to take on cargo.

Today we head out for a walk along the beachfront. Cyclone Veronica ravaged Port Hedland in late March and evidence of the destruction is visible along the whole coastline.

We stop to chat to two local guys who tell us about the beachfront park lands being completely under salt water. Most of the palm trees, shrubs and frangipani are dead. The paved pathways and some of the shelters are fenced off with security fencing and the sand dunes are all under re-vegetation. It brings back stark memories of the devastation at Mission Beach after Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

This afternoon is spent relaxing, I have my gel pens out and colour a postcard. I very rarely have time for being arty, it’s something I thought I would be doing all the time. I miss being able to be creative. I find myself telling Andrew that the next time we do another lap I won’t be working.

The clouds are rolling in this afternoon which means we could be in for a great sunset over the Indian Ocean. Happy Hour is bought forward and then we walk up to the top of the hill to watch the sun go down. As we were leaving the racetrack a gyro-copter is taking off and travels along the coastline down to the port. I’m eagerly awaiting his return to capture some video as he flies above us at the lookout. I’m waving madly while I’m filming him on my iPhone, here’s a short clip of him flying right above us.

The sunset wasn’t as spectacular as some we have seen, but each is special in it’s own right.

Wildlife: eagles, finches, budgerigar, seagulls, ibis, finches, budgerigars, honey eaters.

Day 147: Port Hedland to Dampier

Yesterday was very low cloud cover and last night we almost ran out of solar power. There was a light shower during the night and we are hoping that the red dirt has not turned to mud this morning. Cinta is off colour again today, she hasn’t come to greet me in bed like she usually does. Yesterday she vomited three times so we are not sure if she picked something up during our walk.

We’re packed up early and heading out at 8.00am. Taking the opportunity to fill our water tanks and use the dump point before heading off for Dampier. The turf club free camp is a great facility and we are thankful for 3 nights free camping.

We’ve been keeping in touch with our friends Lyn and Tim and they are at Dampier so we are going to head there for three nights to catch up with them again.  The Dampier Transit Park is a great small park, just the way we like it.  At $35 per night for a powered site, it’s a reasonable price.  We have a great site with a view of the Indian Ocean and the Port and we have some shade too.

Wildlife: horses, falcon, 3 dead cows, crow, corellas, minor birds, ibis

For those of you who are interested to see exactly how much it costs to be on the road, here are some of our statistics so far:

Days on the road: 147 (it only feels like we left yesterday…)

Kilometers travelled:  15,120

Cost of fuel: $2939.68; most expensive $2.049 at Erldunda, cheapest $1.289 at Miles

No of free camps: 44; we thought we would be doing a lot more free camping!

Cost of groceries: $3,679.24 (shame we have to eat)

Cost of washing: $97 (mainly sheets and towels, everything else is done in the bucket)

Eating out: $1,768.80 (OMG)

Alcohol: $677.40 (a requirement for happy hour, well that’s our excuse anyway)

Experiences: $2774.61 (Horizontal Falls was the most expensive but the best!)

There are a lot of areas that we could reduce our costs, so that will be a challenge over the coming months.

Week 21 total expenses:  $870.80 I’d still like to get this figure a lot lower, however, the extraordinary expense of $105 was necessary to fix our water pipe.

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That’s a wrap for Week 21 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Week 18 | Darwin to Lake Argyle

Day 120: Darwin

Our last day in Darwin and it’s a work day for me before we begin to head south and then make our way over to the West. Andrew is tasked with getting the van ready again for another travel day and doing the last minute running around for supplies.

We recently joined Aussie House Sitters and have today been accepted to do a house sit for 9 weeks just south of Perth at Whitby. We are both very excited and appreciative of the opportunity to look after a lovely rural property.

Wildlife: Horses, corellas, frilly lizard.

Day 121: Darwin to Bachelor

The military exercise was in full swing last night with hornets buzzing around up until 10pm. We’ve had a slow start to our day and the van is already to go.

We’re heading for Bachelor which is the gateway to the Litchfield National Park on the recommendation of new friends Tim and Lyn. It’s a short journey today of 84km and we are checking into the Bachelor Holiday Park before lunch time. We have a lovely unpowered site nestled in the rainforest and at $27 a night we are happy with that.

After setting up we have a quick lunch then head out to the Florence Falls. There is a couple of walking tracks to see the falls and I see a sign that says 430m. Great, let’s head that way. Then there’s another sign saying 135 steps down to the waterfall. Oh well let’s do it, we’re committed to the walk now! Going down was the easy part. I was dreading having to climb back up all those steps. The reward at the bottom is spectacular with an amazing swimming hole right under the two cascading waterfalls. There is a bus load of people swimming and I can’t resist getting in as well. The water is quite cold, but after the steps down to see it, there was no way that I wasn’t getting in.

Heading back up the staircase I am struggling and feeling every muscle in my legs. I stop several times before reaching the top. I am so unfit!

The next stop is Buley Rockhole. There are several small cascades and rock pools. There are people everywhere swimming and diving into the rock pools. You can also walk from here along the creek bed to the Florence Falls. The round trip is about 3.2km. After doing the staircase at the falls I wasn’t walking any further than I had to.

The Magnetic Termite Mounds are intriguing. They are all aligned North to South. This ensures that there is always an area within the mound that stays at an optimum temperature. They are also built on seasonally flooded black soil plains. Unlike the Cathedral Termite that builds its nest in well drained soils. Their nests can be up to 5m high.

Wildlife: cattle, horses, dead pig, sheep, lorikeets, galahs, cockatoos, blue eyed honey eaters.

Day 122:  Tolmer Falls & Wangi Falls

We head off early this morning to the Litchfield National Park to find the Wangi & Tolmer Falls. WikiCamps tells us that Wangi Falls are closed to swimming due to crocodiles being present. Apparently there is a cafe out there so we decide that morning tea is in order.

The falls are about 68km from Bachelor and travelling through the Litchfield National Park there are signs that the rangers are conducting controlled burn offs. The park is smouldering and there is evidence of new growth from earlier burns.

Arriving at Wangi we take the short walk down to the falls to find a group of people entering the plunge pool. They are from a tour bus and there’s lots of chatter and laughter about the recent crocodile sightings. I’m now really disappointed that we didn’t throw our swimmers in! The falls cascade over sandstone cliffs off the plateau into the plunge pool which is surrounded by pandanus palms and rainforest. It’s so beautiful and the water looks so inviting.

There is a short 450m walk to a viewing platform so we head off in anticipation of a spectacular view of the falls. The mosquitoes are bad and we’ve left the spray in the car so the walk is brisk up the hill. Then Andrew spots the metal staircase. Oh no, I’m praying there is not another 135 stairs like yesterday. Our calves haven’t recovered from the Florence Falls walk.

We climb the staircase, about 50 we think. There was no way I was counting them. We reach the top and there is no view to the waterfall. We are in the canopy of the rainforest. A selfie is in order and then we head back down. Our legs are killing us. After all the photos are taken of the waterfall we head for the cafe – closed! Oh well you can’t help bad luck!

Next stop is the Tolmer Falls. From the car park is a 500m return walk to a viewing platform which gives you a panoramic view of the Valley. The lookout walk is 800m return and the view from the platform which overhangs the cliff is amazing. Tolmer Gorge has been closed to the public since the 1990’s to protect the Orange leaf nosed bat & Ghost bats that inhabit the caves.

Our favourite falls in the Litchfield National Park were the Florence Falls and our favourite plunge pool was at the Wangi Falls. Whilst Litchfield National Park is impressive we can’t help but think about how lucky we are to live in a World Heritage listed rainforest area back at Mission Beach. Our rainforest and waterfalls are still the best we have ever seen on our journey so far.

Every day at the park the owners feed the birds.  It’s a spectacular sight to see.

Wildlife: Rabbit, kangaroos, hawk, galahs, cockatoos, lorikeets, dead snake, blue faced honey eaters.

Day 123: Bachelor to Vince Connolly Limestone Creek

It’s time to leave our lovely rainforest setting and head back through Katherine and then west on the Victoria Highway for Western Australia.

Morning tea is in the park at Pine Creek. We have 2 inquisitive blue faced honey eaters join us at the park table. We give them some fruit cake and biscuits which they quickly devour. We meet a couple travelling from Sydney who are heading in the same direction as us. Andrew has bought my attention to the slogan on the back of their pop top: The Love Shack, heading down the highway. I love it! One of my favourite songs!  I can’t get it out of my head now…

There are dark plumes of smoke ahead after leaving Pine Creek and it’s evident we are going to be coming close to a bush fire. The flames are burning right alongside the highway and you can feel the heat coming through the air vents as we travel. It’s a surreal feeling and we both hope that we will soon be far away from the fires. The bush is burning all the way to the Cullen River. We don’t know if it is a controlled burn or if it is just a bush fire out of control.

We arrive at the Vince Connolly Limestone Creek free camp and there is no one else here so we have the pick of the camp site. There isn’t much shade so we park out in the sun and take advantage of charging up our solar panels. Within 10 minutes another 3 vans pull into the campsite.

We meet a couple from NSW heading for Broome. They were at the same park at Bachelor last night and tell us of their adventures. He is doing an online course to become a marriage celebrant & has to do a mock ceremony so he approached two couples at the park and married one of them. Apparently they were in tears at the mock wedding! Shame we missed it. The other couple are from Cardwell and heading to the Kimberley’s. It’s amazing how many people we meet from Queensland.

Free camping in the great outdoors

It’s 36 degrees outside so it’s very hot getting set up. The afternoon is spent sitting by the caravan in the little shade that we have. Time for some sketching and colouring in. I’m almost relieved that there is no reception as it is a good chance to digitally detox!

Today’s travel was 262km, quite a big day for us. There will be a few more of those as we head towards the border and over to the coast of Western Australia.

Did I mention the flies are back?

Purple lilly

Wildlife: Rabbits, cockatoos, lorikeets, galahs, horses, cattle, jabiru, black cockatoos, dead pig, blue faced honey eaters, crows.

Day 124: Vince Connolly Limestone Creek to Saddle Creek

Leaving the free camp this morning it’s 25 degrees at 8am. It’s an early start as we were awake before sunrise. Last night we were visited by a herd of cattle feeding in the bush right beside the van, it scared the living daylights out of us at first. We were both sitting on the bed peering out the windows trying to see what was going on.

I’ve started to write my blog each day in Notes on my iPhone and then I can either cut and paste it into my blog site or I can email it to myself and then do the cut and paste to the site on my laptop. It gives me something to do while we are travelling as I don’t need to be connected to the internet.

As usual Andrew is at the wheel. I’ve driven about 170km for the whole trip so far & we have now clocked up over 12,000km. The Victoria Highway is a little rough around the edges compared to the Stuart Highway.

The road trains are out in full force and today one is “up our date” as Andrew describes it. He doesn’t have a load on and finally goes past. He’s wandering all over the road for quite a few kilometres.

What is it with trucks today! Another has just passed us “like a bat of hell” says Andrew and then is wandering into the right hand lane. About a kilometre up the road he puts his breaks on and pulls off the side of the road. He’s got a container & a 4WD Ute on board and one of the straps around the Ute has come loose. Let’s hope that’s all the truck experiences we have today.

The landscape is dry, red dirt, spindly grasses, ant hills and dry creeks. The clouds look like big balls of cotton wool.

And then we enter the Victoria River Region and the escarpment almost immediately changes to rolling Rocky Mountain ranges and plateaus. The colours in the rock face range from deep rust to burnt orange and black. The sun shining on them is intensifying the hues.

We pull into the free camp at Saddle Creek just after lunch time and there are several vans & motorhomes here already. It’s only 60km to the Western Australia border and everyone is talking about what you can and can’t take over the border.

There are two motorhomes parked beside us, both ladies travelling solo. One is heading back home to Perth and the other has come across from Tassie. I admire their sense of adventure and tenacity to be travelling this vast countryside on their own.

The afternoon is spent outside with fly nets on. Andrew is reading and I decide to try to sketch the blue faced honey eater who joined us for morning tea yesterday.

We also meet a couple from Lennox Head who have travelled different areas of Australia over the years. We watch the sun set with them and the moon rising over the rugged cliffs. It’s an amazing site.

With a few veggies on board I decide to grate them all up and make some veggie fritters to go with our steak. I don’t have any bread crumbs so I use some bread and an egg to bind the mix. I manage to get them into a pattie and start frying them off. They just weren’t holding together. The taste is ok, Andrew quickly reassures me and says we are having a Masterchef dinner of deconstructed veggie fritters!

Today’s travel was 281km.

Did I mention the flies?

Wildlife: crows, cattle, dead kangaroos, wild budgerigar, horses, 2 dead cows, doves, galahs.

Day 125:  Saddle Creek to Lake Argyle

I’ve had a restless night, something was biting me. It felt like ants. We also had a vehicle come into the camp site very late during the night shining their headlights. The occupants had been drinking and pulled in to use the toilets and leave their beer cans behind. Some people have no respect for camp sites that provide free facilities for travellers and that’s all I’ll say about that!

We woke up to an infestation of ants in the caravan. Out came the spray and we almost choked ourselves on the fumes. The pantry was emptied and everything wiped over, surface spray all over everything again and the caravan mopped out. An unwelcome start to the day but the benefit of an unexpected caravan clean in the middle of nowhere.

We are now on the road and heading for the border. It’s 31 degrees at 9.00am.  The border is only 60km away.  We pull into checkpoint charlie fully expecting to be here for some time.  The boot is up and the caravan open, within 5 minutes we are on our way again.

A further 41km takes us into Lake Argyle.  The scenery is spectacular and I’m busy snapping photos all the way.  On arrival we wait in the queue to enter the park.  I make my way to reception to pay the fees and then we are met by the parking attendant who rides her bike in front of us to our site.  She then proceeds to tell Andrew not to stress and starts instructing him on how to back into the site.  Within no time we are set up and ready to explore all that the Lake has to offer.

Lake Argyle panorama

You simply can not go past the infinity pool, perched on the cliff face.  It’s known as the most spectacular pool in the Kimberley.  We certainly agree, the view is breathtaking.  We take a drive across the Ord River Dam wall, it is an engineering master piece sitting on a fault line between Darwin and the Great Sandy Desert.

The resident musician is Steve Case and he’s playing on the grassed area of the cliff face in the afternoon.  Cinta is allowed to come too, so we take some drinks, nibblies and treats for Cinta and sit back, relax and enjoy the tunes from our era as the sun sets and the moon rises over the cliff face.  We continue on to the beer garden and have an amazing meal of crispy skin salmon and of course Andrew has parmigiana.  Steve plays more tunes and we enjoy quite a few more drinks.  I finally feel like I am on a holiday.  There is no work happening this weekend!

Wildlife:  Brown snake, crocodiles, sea eagles, pelicans, cormorants.

Day 126: 19/05 Lake Argyle

We have booked the lake sunset cruise and head out at 2.00pm for 4 hours cruising the lake.  The cruise also includes a swim.  While it is very tempting we both decide that we are not going in the water.  We have seen the size of the crocs along the banks while cruising and we just can’t do it.  A croc is a croc in our view and not to be trusted, even though they are freshies.

The skies decide to open up and a heavy rain cloud appears behind the cliff faces and then the rain comes.  The guides tell us that it is quite rare to experience a beautiful sunny start and then to experience rainfall on the cruise.  We all get soaked, what an experience.  Then there is a spectacular rainbow.  We stop in a secluded bay to watch the sun set while enjoying drinks and a cheese platter.  This is the life. Where to next?

It’s been a big week this past week, with lots of amazing destinations.  We are ever so thankful that we are able to experience all that Australia has to offer.  It truely is a remarkable country.

Wildlife: brown snake, crocodiles, comorants, sea eagles, pelican, cormorants.

Week 18 total expenses:  $851.57 – not too bad considering the cruise cost of $90 each (seniors discount).

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That’s a wrap for Week 18 of the Lap of the Map.

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Week 17 | Adelaide River to Darwin

Day 113: Adelaide River to Darwin

After a slow start to the morning we head off to Darwin, only 112km away and check into the Robbie Robins Reserve.  As we turn into the street I notice the Don Dale Detention Centre on the left hand side of the road.  It’s a Detention Centre for male and female juvenile deliquents.  There are 4 gates into the reserve & we are met by Sonja at gate 3.  There is a small office and Sonja explains that the reserve is an Equestrian Centre and the speed limit is 5km and you must give way to horses.

It’s a lovely big lush green grassy area and caravans are all along the back fence.  There are both powered and unpowered sites and at $37 a night for power and water it’s about as cheap as you will find in Darwin.  The washing machines are free of charge which is an added bonus.  There are no frills here, no swimming pool, camp kitchen or playgrounds for children.  It’s perfect for us under the big shady trees.

Wildlife:  Hawks, cattle, eagles

Day 114-119: Darwin

There are a lot of things to do this week while in Darwin.  Cinta is due her annual vaccinations so we’ll need to find a vet.  The car is due for it’s 30,000km service and is booked into Ford, unfortunately they couldn’t give us a loan car for the day so that means we’ll be stuck at home when that happens.  We need to find somewhere to buy some new wheel chocks for the caravan as the two we have, have cracked and split when we’ve used them on gravel surfaces.  The wire support to the outdoor table on the side of the caravan has broken, so Andrew will have to come up with a solution to that.

The wind is blowing an absolute gale today and overhead there is an impressive array of aircraft flying around.   I’ve checked with my favourite internet source Google and Exercise Diamond Storm 2019 is currently taking place between Darwin and Tindal up to 29th May.  It’s an Air Warfare Instructor Course and involves military personnel from the United States and Australia.

Some of the aircraft involved from the States are: F-15C Eagle and B-52 Stratofortress Bomber; and the US Marine Corp MV-22 Osprey and AH-1Z Viper.  RAAF aircraft participating in the exercise include the F/A-18A/B Hornet, F/A-18F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, Hawk 127, AP-3C Orion, P-8A Poseidon, C-17A Globemaster, KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport, E-7A Wedgetail and C-130J Hercules. It’s going to be a very noisy week!

We are fortunate to have good friends Daryl and Jenny Caesar who have been living in Darwin for quite a few years now and they are picking us up to take us down to the Stokes Hill Wharf for a sunset dinner.  It’s so beautiful sitting on the wharf in the cool breeze watching all the boats sailing in the harbour and the seagulls flying about.  There are so many choices for dinner at the wharf and of course seafood and Thai is on my hit list.

A ‘must do’ in Darwin is the Mindil Beach Market and Daryl and Jenny are keen to take us down to experience it.  Everyone knows how much we love our food and we are in foodie heaven.  There is every nationality you can think of at the market.  I love that you can take a deck chair and your drinks and just find a patch of grass and enjoy the evening.  I decide to try something totally different that I have never had before. Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake based on cabbage and vegetables and it is delicious!  Apparently the sunsets are amazing at Mindil Beach, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be the night we were there…

Jenny recommends that we visit the Royal Flying Doctor Tourist Facility at Stokes Hill Wharf.  It is another ‘must do’ in our books.  They also offer discounts on admission for Seniors, it’s $22 each.  The facility has two iconic Territory stories in the one location.  The story of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Bombing of Darwin Harbour.
There are two 20 minute movies to watch; the life size hologram of John Flynn the Founder of the Flying Doctor Service tells his story of the birth and growth of the RFDS and the life size hologram of Rear Admiral Etheridge Grant who was the Commanding Officer of the USS William B Preston narrates his own version of the Bombing of Darwin Harbour.  The movies are well narrated and very informative.
Modern technology through Virtual Reality transports you back to Darwin Harbour of 1942.  You are at the original Stokes Hill Wharf, standing on the deck of the Neptuna as it is bombed to the point of it exploding and sinking as well as sitting on the wing of an American Kitty Hawk, engaging in a dogfight with the Japanese Zero’s.  The staff tell you to swivel on your chair and move your head up and down and around to experience the full reality of the movie. It’s an incredible experience and at times I felt a little motion sickness and had to close my eyes before refocusing.

Botanical Gardens are a favourite of ours to wander around and enjoy the sheer beauty of nature’s flora.  The George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens are situated on 42 hectares and are over 130 years old, surviving World War II and Cyclone Tracy.  There is a lovely plant house with tropical orchids and bromeliads, a waterfall in the rainforest, fountains, children’s playground and several themed walks.  Dogs are allowed, so Cinta enjoys a morning out with us too.  I just love how the mosaic is created on the footpath, it reminds me of a necklace.

We take a walk around State Square and view Darwin’s Parliament House which opened in 1994.  Across the road is Government House which is set on 13,000 square metres of hillside gardens.  It is pretty as a picture with it’s white picket fence.  There is a short video on the government website which takes you on a tour through the house, it’s worth having a look at.

I managed to wake up in time for a sunrise this week and it did not disappoint.  We’ve had a great week in Darwin, however we will be looking forward to moving on again next week as we make our way back to Katherine and then head for Western Australia.

Wildlife:  Kookaburras, plovers, ibis, horses, peacocks, black cockatoos.

Week 17 total expenses:  $2177.16 – well over double our budget!  Some extraordinary expenses this week with a car service at $810.20 & Cinta’s annual vaccinations at $125.  Luckily we’ve had quite a few weeks under budget!

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That’s a wrap for Week 17 of the Lap of the Map.

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Week 15 | Alice Springs to Mataranka

Day 99-101: Alice Springs

Time to catch up on some baking before we head off on the next leg of our journey. I’m baking a batch of chocolate chip muffins and decide to try putting them on the bottom shelf of the turbo oven today. Winner, they have turned out much better!

I’ve picked up some Lebanese cucumbers and I’m making a batch of pickled cucumber.  My niece Belinda gave us a bottle when we left Ararat and they were amazing. I’ve never tried to make it before so here’s hoping they turn out ok. Mmm they are pretty good!

We’ve got two new neighbours at the park tonight and both are fellow Queenslanders. One couple from Gatton and the other from Rockhampton. We immediately strike up conversation with them and enjoy hearing about their travels.

Wildlife: Galahs, warblers, kangaroos, rock wallabies, No 28 parrots, finches, black cockatoos, magpies, flies.

Day 102: Alice Springs to Devils Marbles

It’s time to leave Alice Springs today after a 9 day break, the road is straight and the speed limit increases to 130km. It’s hard to imagine travelling at that speed. We were hoping to stop at the Tropic of Capricorn however the roadworks made it impossible for a caravan to negotiate the entry point.

We have to pay extra attention to dead wildlife on the road as the eagles won’t leave the carcass until the last minute. On the verge is a dead kangaroo, we count 7 eagles around the body, the most we have ever seen on our whole journey.

I haven’t driven much on this trip, today is a big day for us (407km) so I take on 90km of the journey and bring us into Barrow Creek for lunch. It’s not terribly inviting so we have a quick snack inside the van away from the flies and then we are back on the road again.

The landscape is dry, red dirt and in the distance are the Davenport Ranges. We are staying at the Devils Marble Hotel Caravan Park tonight on an unpowered site for $10.  It’s Anzac Day and as I enter the pub to pay for the site, it’s packed with people watching the footy.  Entry is around the side of the pub and we pull up close to the gate.   A hot shower is always welcomed after a long drive.

It’s been sometime since we have enjoyed a dinner out. The reviews on Wikicamp are very favourable for the hotel so we decide to have a date night. Dinner did not disappoint. Andrew had his usual Parmi and I had the grilled barramundi with chips and a delicious Greek salad. It was amazing! Three pieces of Barra! Who would have thought in the middle of nowhere a little pub could put on a great meal. It was worth every cent.

Wildlife: dead kangaroos, eagles, crows, 2 dead cows, corellas, plains turkey, flies.

Day 103:  Devils Marbles to Renner Springs

Departing the Devils Marbles Hotel and the flies are sticking to us in the hundreds. My new job is to try to kill them with the fly squat. We have a method of leaving all the windows down, picking up speed, wind them up & then I kill the hanger-ons with the fly squat!

Only 8km further along the Stuart Highway is Karlu Karlu more commonly known as Devils Marbles. Karlu Karlu is a provider of bushfood including meat and plants. The elders passed down to their children what to eat and when, where to find it and how to hunt or harvest it.

Devils Marbles

I am in photographic heaven and climb to the lookout which is only 300m along a meandering pathway. To the south of Karlu Karlu is a significant cultural area and no photographs are allowed in this area. There are plenty of other amazing photographic opportunities and I am stunned at the natural balancing act of each and every formation. Absolutely breathtaking scenery. I couldn’t pass up the selfie opportunity!

The Stuart Highway is a long straight highway and surprisingly in very good condition. The scenery is the same every day, red dirt verges, tufts of spindly grass, native trees and red ant hills are becoming far more prominent. Travellers are stopping and putting clothing on them, it becomes an amusement.

Worthy of a mention is Morphett Creek, the first creek we have seen in quite sometime with water in it. Not actually flowing but water that doesn’t look stagnant.

We are camped at the Renner Springs Desert In and it’s pricey at $28 for an unpowered site. The amenities are old however clean and the staff are friendly and we have a patch of grass to park on. There really is a lot they could do with this place in regards to general upkeep. There’s a pool, but one look at it and it’s forget about it!

We spend most of the afternoon inside as the flies are a real nuisence. The geese, rooster and chickens are hanging around the van so Andrew can’t help himself and feeds them our stale bread. We had to come out for sunset as it was pretty special. Andrew is teaching me to play Jin Rumi as there is no mobile or tv reception we play well into the night.

Today’s travel was 260km.

Wildlife: Dead cows, eagles, horses, Willy wagtails, chickens, roosters, corellas, cattle, peacock, geese, minor birds, flies.

Day 104: Renner Springs to Daly Waters

Neither of us has had much sleep. The wind has blown up overnight and the trucks coming and going has kept us awake. There are some places you want to stay forever and there are some that you just can’t wait to leave. This is one of them. We are on the road by 8.30am.

Yesterday we passed a guy on a push bike on the highway. He was camped at Renner Springs overnight. He must have been up early this morning as we have passed him again 40k to the north. Imagine the impact of the road trains passing him.

The scenery is slightly different today with a chocolate coloured dirt along the verge and the trees are more dense and much taller. Some are full of yellow flowers. There are clumps of pinky purple flowers growing along the edge of the roadside.

We arrive at Daly Waters around lunch time and there are vans lined up along the roadside. There’a an old helicopter perched on top of an old tin shed, there are tin bushranger sculptures and an old army truck parked up beside the pub. Then there is the iconic Daly Waters Pub.  Stepping inside to pay for a site, the bar is covered in business cards and coasters pinned in every nook and cranny. There are bras, nickers, shirts & hats hanging everywhere.

The staff are all backpackers and really friendly. The guy serving me immediately new Mission Beach as he’d done a couple of days banana picking in Innisfail. The campground is spacious, mostly gravel with a green spot for tents. Powered sites in the middle and unpowered around the perimeter. The amenities look like little dongas each with a toilet and shower. We take an unpowered site for $20.

All set up so we head over to the pub for lunch and a cold beverage. Andrew has a steak sandwich and I can’t go past the Barra burger. They were both huge and the chips were yummy.

I’m watching the cowboy across the street get his horse out of the float. He’s a short guy, jeans, checkered shirt, Akubra and bare feet. He rides bareback over to the pub, dismounts and tells us Elvis is keen for a beer. The barmaid leads Elvis to the bar and there is no chance I am missing this photo op! Elvis was under age so there was no chance he was getting served a drink, he had to settle for tickling the ivories on the piano. Where else would you see a horse in a bar playing a piano! The great Aussie outback that’s where! Another highlight of our adventures, one never to be forgotten.

There a lot of Queensland number plates in the park and our neighbours are from Ingham, what a small world. They are doing the real outback along the Savannah Way and then off to the Gibb River. They are travelling with their boxer Sally, she’s three and a real cutie. There is a lot of dog sniffing going on between her and Cinta.

Dinner is out under the stars after dark, after the flies have said goodnight. We listen to the music from the pub, it’s live music every night and it’s our type of music from the 60-80’s. What a great night and not a bad sunset either.

Wildlife: Eagles, dead cows, dead kangaroos, crows, minor birds, flies.

Day 105:  Daly Waters to Mataranka

Leaving Daly Waters it’s 27 degrees at 9.00am and there is plenty of fresh road kill on the highway. Three dead cows, it must have been a bad road strike.  Todays drive is 184km.

We’re staying at the Bitter Springs Cabins & Camping ground on the banks of the Little Roper River.  It’s a large campground with many sites nestled in the rainforest.  The staff here are really friendly and the amenities are really rustic.  We feel right at home and choose a lovely site.  We’re offered a 10% discount to stay for 3 nights.  The first thing we notice when setting up is that there are not many flies!  The fly nets can stay in the car.

We can’t wait to explore the thermal springs, make sure you tune in next week to see what we get up to.

Wildlife: Dead cattle, dead kangaroos, crows, eagles, hawks, cattle, frogs, kangaroos, warblers, grasshoppers.

Week 15 total expenses:  $ 830.78, under budget!

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That’s a wrap for Week 15 of the Lap of the Map.

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Yellow Rose

Week 6 | Cobram to Kerang

Day 36 & 37: Cobram to Echuca

Waking up again in the free camp at the Boogara Ski Beach at Cobram alongside the mighty Murray River. The scare guns have started again and the white cockatoos and galahs are coming back into the state forest. The guns go off on an irregular basis between 7.00am and sunset. It keeps the birds away from nesting and feeding in the orchards. At first we didn’t know what it was so a quick google search soon enlightened us.

We almost ran out of water this morning so we called into the Cobram Showgrounds to fill up before departing. Andrew has to miss out on his shower and wait until we reach our destination. We are heading for Echuca which is only 105km away and we are going to camp at the Rotary Park which is alongside the Campapse River. It’s 31 degrees and tonight’s low is expected to be 12, such a variance in temperature.

As we travel we pass many orchards, turf farms, acres of hay, dairy properties and horse adjistments. We have noticed in Victoria that there are a lot of power nap rest areas. A great idea to remind travellers of the importance of taking a break.

It’s overcast in Echuca when we arrive so we register at the gate of the park and take a walk around the area to choose a spot. The park charges $10, there are no toilet facilities but there is water available, a dump point and picnic tables along the riverbank. It’s a little unusual as there is a large multi use area and then a small mini railway which is located further down along the river. We meet another couple who have just set up and talk about the options of where to camp. After we set up I head back into town to do our weekly shopping. The township is busy & some of the streets are quite narrow.

It’s hard to drag myself out of bed today when it is only 12 degrees. Andrew keeps reminding me that it’s still summer, how on earth will I cope in winter.

We take the scenic drive route through Echuca along the Murray River. I was disappointed that I didn’t see any paddle steamers. There are a lot of flash river boats moored along the riverbank though. We cross the river and for the third time we are back in NSW again and take a drive around Moama.

Tomorrow we will head off to Bendigo and check into a caravan park for a few days so that I can catch up on some work.

Wildlife: Dairy cattle, sheep, horses, cockatoo, galahs, kangaroos, magpies, minor birds, rabbits and ibis.

Day 38: Echuca to Bendigo

Leaving Echuca this morning and it’s 11 degrees.  We are expecting a top of 26 at Bendigo so it should be pleasant when we arrive.  Our first stop this morning is Rochester to see another 2 silos.  They certainly don’t disappoint me.  Jimmy DVate is becoming one of my favourite silo artists.  The Azure Kingfisher is feasting on a golden perch that it has caught from the Campaspe River and the endangered Squirrel Glider is clinging to a red river gum. Silo art is bringing visitors and tourists to rural communities that have been struggling, it’s hoped that the works will rejuvenate the small townships economies.  If you are visiting any rural communities, please sign their visitors books and leave a donation.

Wildlife: Pelicans, galahs, cockatoos, rabbits, sparrows

Day 39-40: Bendigo

We’ve developed a habit of sleeping in…  Most unusual for Andrew and I, however Cinta has developed the habit too.  Back in Mission Beach we would be up at 5.00am, now we’re getting up at 7.30am.  Sunrise in Victoria is around 7.00am and we’re missing that too!  We are staying up later though because of daylight saving and not going to bed until anytime after 10.00pm.  We’ve become a bit addicted to Netflix of an evening, thanks Julie (you know what I mean).

We are staying at the Gold Nugget Caravan Park for 3 nights which is about 8km out of Bendigo.  It’s a large park with cabins, a residential village, putt putt, games room, camp kitchen, dog wash, pool and large grassy drive through sites.  The amenities are relatively new and spotlessly clean.

Starting the day off with a drive into the city and we come across road works on the main road.  What a nightmare with traffic banked up everywhere.  It appears that they are converting 2 lanes into 4 and we feel terribly sorry for the residents on either side as the dust is horrendous.  We discover Lake Weeroona and decide to stop and walk around the lake.  It’s a lovely walk with wide pathways, plenty of shady trees and lush green grass.  The ducks are obviously used to people and don’t scramble for the water when you approach.  Birdlife is prolific in the trees as well. There is a lone kyaker doing laps across the lake in the middle of the day, how hot would that be.

The next stop is the city centre to view the amazing heritage buildings.  Bendigo became the world’s richest city between 1850-1900 due to the gold rush.  It is now enjoying a cosmopolitan revival.  There are over 100 buildings and monuments designed by William Vahland a German architect.  The Vahland Drinking Fountain which was designed in 1881 was recently restored in 2016 and after photographing it, I got quite a good spray while waiting to be able to cross the road!

The Bendigo Art Gallery is also on my “to do” list and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.  Founded in 1887 the rooms are of European design with highly polished floors, ornate plaster arches and cornices and diffused natural sky lighting.  There were 3 new galleries added in 1962.

The current exhibition that I viewed was Body Politics.  The works were from the galleries permanent collection and were from leading artists such as Emily Kngwarreye, Michael Cook, Abdul Abdullah, Petrina Hicks and Polixeni Papapetrou.  Depicting the significance of those who push the boundaries and challenge dominant narratives through their art.

Rosalind Park is located in the city centre and it’s where you will find the Poppet Head Lookout and Bendigo Heritage Mosaic, the Rotunda and the Conservatory, just to name a few of the attractions in the precinct.   The lookout was originally a poppet head from the Garden Gully United mine and was installed in 1931.  There are 124 steps to the top with a magnificent viewing platform as a reward for completing the climb.  I didn’t realise how scared of heights I was until I completed it.  Andrew waited under the trees with Cinta.

At the foot of the poppet head lookout is the Bendigo Heritage Mosaic completed in 1987 and designed by mosaic artist Maery Gabriel and completed by local volunteers. The mosaic depicts various aspects of the towns history and is designed to be viewed while looking down from the lookout.

I’m a lover of flowers.  I love the smell, the colours, different textures and I love photographing them.  Next up the Botanic Gardens.  We spend quite a bit of time wandering the gardens taking in all the senses that are being awakened.    There are several precincts within the gardens including the Cottage Garden, Habitat Garden, Edwardian Garden, Indigenous Garden, Northern Victorian Garden, National Lavender Collection and the National Canna Collection gardens.  There is also a bird aviary and the Arch of Triump (which I was going to photograph on the way out and can you believe I forgot!).

I can’t resist a visit to Bendigo Pottery, Australia’s oldest working pottery.  Established in 1858 and operated at it’s Epsom site since 1863.  There are 10 kilns, 5 bottle, 3 circular and 2 rectangular which are no longer used as they are part of the museum and heritage listed.  The pottery is a tourist attraction which also includes a cafe, function centre, artist studios and antique centre.  There are some lovely local handmade artworks for sale, I really appreciate the value of this important tourist attraction.

Wildlife:  Ducks, swans, parrots, cockatoos, galahs.

Day 41-42: Bendigo to Kerang

It’s travel day.  Time to do the pack up and head off again.  First stop is Pyramid Hill.  We couldn’t come this close and not visit.  A friend of ours grew up in Pyramid Hill from the age of 3-16, so we thought we should stop in and see her old stomping ground.  As it turns out Leanne’s cousin owns the local coffee shop, but unfortunately it was closed the day we visited so we had to buy our morning tea from the Bakery Cafe.  Another vanilla slice for Andrew.

We travel on to Kerang.  Our home tonight is at the Kerang Turf Club and it’s a free camp with water and toilets.  We’ll stay 2 nights and explore Kerang.  We’re both hoping to see some local track work in the morning at sunrise (that’s if we can wake up in time…)

It’s a lovely afternoon, perfect for getting the drone out of the box again and having another trial run at flying.  I didn’t play video games as a child so I’m struggling with the joy stick.  I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually!  My first flight is a disaster and I land in the dirt.  The second flight is much better after reading the instructions on the joy stick.  I’m in the air for 5 minutes and quite excited about the vision I’ve viewed on my phone while flying.  Next step to look at the video in the app.  No, can’t find it.  It appears I forgot to press record.  Time to charge up the batteries again and take a 3rd and 4th flight.  Note to self; press record after take off.  Success.  I’ll post the video on my Facebook page as I can’t work out how to post a video on my blog at the moment.

The wind has picked up this morning, it’s blowing a gale so the awning is coming in.  We decide to give the caravan a really good clean inside as we’ve been on the road 6 weeks and the dust is really starting to show.  While the caravan is only 19’6, it’s a bigger job than we both thought.  The car also gets a wash.

Sunday is always budget day and next weeks funds have arrived in our account.  I keep a small notebook that I record every expense we make and then on Sunday I enter all the expenses into a detailed spreadsheet.  Any funds left over for the week are put to a separate account and this is already starting to build.  We’ll use those funds to extend our trip or purchase something that has not been allocated in the expenses for the year.

Wildlife: Sheep, horses, shetland ponies, cattle, crows.

Week 6 total expenses:  $685.26 – under budget!

If you’d like to see more photos of our journey, you can follow us on Facebook or Instagram:

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That’s a wrap for Week 6 of the Lap of the Map.

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Mother of Ducks Lagoon Guyra

Week 3 | Goondiwindi to Coonamble

Day 15 & 16 | Goondiwindi

We decide to pack up this morning and move camp over to the shed where the cattle are shown.  It’s another stinking hot day and the shaded spot is most welcoming.  The wind is also blowing a gale again.  We have a neighbour and he’s hooked up to the only water supply under the shed.  We’ve met some interesting people on this journey already and that’s all I’m going to say about our neighbour…

Goondiwindi is famous for the great Goondiwindi Grey “Gunsynd” so it’s on Andrew’s bucket list as everyone knows he’s a huge racing fan.  We take a drive down town to visit the statue located on the banks of the MacIntyre River and take a short walk along the levee bank which was built in 1956 after the town experienced 3 major floods.

We do some shopping and I decide that I should make some muffins in the glass oven.  Andrew is busy socialising again.  I heat the oven, place the muffins in their little silicone cups and head out to pop them in and splat, muffin mix all inside the oven!  After a few explicits Andrew tells his new friends he better go see what’s happened.  Long story short, he saves the day and gets all the mix back into the cups and take two.  Muffins for tomorrow morning tea!  Following that small hiccup roast pork and vegetables for dinner is cooked with no major dramas.

There’s a few hours work to be done today, so I’m busy pounding the keyboard again.  After lunch we take a drive out to the Botanic Gardens and Cinta has a swim in the lake.  The gardens feature only native plants and there are bbq areas, playgrounds, fishing, canoeing or swimming in the lake.

We haven’t seen TV since leaving Mission Beach, so Andrew decides to see if he can get it going.  No luck so he heads off to town and finds a very handy guy who straight away says he knows exactly what’s wrong.  There is a fuse inside the 12 volt plug and it’s blown.  $1 fix.  Happy with that, we now have TV reception and we see the news for the first time in over 2 weeks.

A slight hiccup overnight.  The lights in the van start flickering.  The fridge automatically goes over to gas.  The gas is not actually on as we are on 240.  Hmmm.  We are not real handy with this sort of stuff.  In desperation we turn the gas on so the fridge can keep cool. A quick check of all our gauges and the solar gauge is registering 1 bar.  Lucky we have a 240 battery backup, so that is turned on and our solar battery is charged up again.

After a restless night for Andrew and a lengthy discussion in the morning we come to the conclusion that the lights, water pump, TV and being under shade have drained our solar power and could have also had an affect on the fridge.  After charging up the solar battery and putting the fridge back on 240 it’s lovely and cold and we are ready to start another day.

Wildlife: Wild ducks, magpies

Day 17 | Goondiwindi to Inverell

Our neighbour has left so we decide to give the car and caravan a good wash before we head off for Inverell.  Departing Goondiwindi we cross the border into New South Wales and reset our clocks forward an hour.  We are travelling along the freight route on the Newell Highway through to Moree.

The landscape is awash with a sea of brown crops; sorghum.  Further on we see fields of chickpeas and stop for morning tea outside a pecan farm near Warialda.  It’s a much cooler travelling day at 30 degrees and we are finally travelling through the hills.  It reminds me a lot of the countryside around Toowoomba.

We check into the Sapphire City Caravan Park for the night and I’m greeted by a charming young man named Luke.  He’s originally from Victoria but lived in Cairns for many years.  We had a great chat about the area and about our journey so far.

The park has 10 lovely grassy sites on the side of the hill and you can easily drive through to set up. It has an amazing camp kitchen which even has a piano!   I head down town to pick up more supplies and decide to buy a skillet.  It will be handy for when we have 240 power so that we don’t have to use our gas.  Andrew is busy socialising again with the neighbours so I prepare tonight’s dinner; pork stir fry and cooked in the skillet of course!

Wildlife: dead kangaroos

Day 18 & 19 | Inverell to Guyra

Bacon and eggs for brekky and then we pack up and head off for a free camp in Guyra.  Just outside Inverell we pass the Sapphire Wind Farm; the largest wind farm in New South Wales.  There are cattle droving on the roadside, we see sheep, goats, horses and there’s a vineyard as well.

Glen Innes is our morning tea stop and dump point.  We find a lovely park adorned with pine trees and a small creek.  The air is fresh and we are heading for a top of 29 and minimum of 15 in Guyra.  I’m thinking I’m going to have to dig into the winter box and get a cardigan out tonight.

Mother of Duck Lagoon is our overnight stop and what a gem.  It’s a large grassy area with toilets and it overlooks the wetlands.  There is a shelter a short walk away across a small bridge and the golf course.  There is about 20 vans in the park tonight and Andrew soon finds plenty of people to socialise with.

We take a walk down to the golf course just before sunset at 7.55pm and wow, what a show the sunset provides.  I’m madly taking photos as I always do.  The golf course has a lovely lagoon at the entrance and it’s the perfect focul point for my sunset shots.

It’s getting fresh.  We’ve been experiencing over 40 degree temps, so 15 degrees tonight is feeling cold to me.  Out comes my winter box from under the bed.  The neighbours tell us that they’ve been there for 2 nights & the people beside them have been there for 3.  They are relatively local to the area and say that the lagoon is not policed by the Council in the off season. (the sign says only overnight stays allowed)  We decide to stay another night as the area was not full of vans anyway.

Next morning we take a walk up town and shout ourselves morning tea from the local bakery.  There’s a coffee shop next door and they allow us to have our bakery treats while enjoying their piping hot coffee.  Cinta is with us so we settle down outside the cafe.  Sometimes you just have to have a real cappuccino!  14 degrees overnight and an expected top of 24 today – bliss!

Another spectacular sunset over the lagoon at the golf course.  We take a walk back through the greens and I capture some more amazing photos of the sun setting over the lagoon.  Heaven, this is what it’s all about.

Wildlife: 1 dead echidna, wild ducks

Day 20 | Guyra to Gunnedah

We head off around 9ish, it’s only 18 degrees and it’s pleasant doing the pack up.  We travel through Uralla, home of Captain Thunderbolt.  There is firewood stacked everywhere in sheds along the highway and chimneys adorn the old homes.  It must get quite cold out here on the plains.

Back on the New England Highway to Tamworth and I’m keen to see the Golden Guitar.  Tamworth is busy.  There’s no parking near the Guitar for caravans, so I have to be satisfied with a drive by – no photo!  All the caravan folk have told us that Tamworth is not RV friendly even though they advertise they are.  We decide not to stay and head for Gunnedah.

The landscape is dry, barren, hilly and there are large rock formations along the highway.  It’s now 37 degrees.  We decide to stay at the showgrounds.  The site is green and we can easily drive through.  The facilities are very old, but clean and it’s only $25 for a powered site.

It’s time to stock up with food again, so I head down to Woolies and when I return home and unpack I discover that I’ve been charged for 12 mangoes instead of 2!  $36, so back in the car again to get my refund.  Muffins and a roast dinner in the glass oven again.  One of the guys in the park yells out that the smell was driving him wild!  Dinner was delish.

Can you believe I didn’t take any photos today!!  I can’t!

Wildlife:  Goats, 1 reindeer, dead cat, cockatoos & galahs.

Day 21 | Gunnedah to Coonamble

It’s 28 degrees as we head out along the Oxley Highway.  Cattle country and they are droving along the roadside.  The cattle are not startled by vehicles going by, they’re too busy eating the green grass.

The landscape is dry and barren again, though we see acres of sorghum growing.  There are some sunflowers along the fence lines, it’s lovely to see some colour today.  It’s hilly country and at times the bushland is very dense.  We also pass a winery, The Wattagan Estate; I can’t say I’ve heard of their wines though.

We stop at the Castlereagh River park for morning tea at Coonabarabran, it’s lovely and green and an elderly lady and her carer walk across the road and feed the wild geese.

The signs along the highway say “From Mountains to Marshlands”, but the land is dry and barren again and we see many whirlwinds whipping up the dust and everything else in it’s path.

Coonamble is home of the first water tower on my bucket list.  It’s an aboriginal design painted in 2017 by John Murray, Sooty Welsh and Bob Barrett.  It was part of a project to Pave the Way to Gular Arts Festival 2018 in a bid to attract tourism to local townships.

Tonight we stay at the Coonamble Riverside Caravan Park and the amenities are spotless.  $26 for the night.

Wildlife:  Dead pig, kangaroos, wild geese.

Week 3 total expenses:  $611.81, I’m much happier with that this week.

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That’s a wrap for Week 3 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!