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Page 167




 

We Broke the umbilical cord; we've left Emu Park for Banana.

I'm writing this from a small caravan park at the rear of the pub in the little town of Banana, Queensland. I'm going to be lazy and quote Wikipedia: Banana is a small town located in Central Queensland, Australia, in the Banana Shire, a Local Government Area. Banana is located at the intersection of the Dawson and Leichhardt highways, 46 kilometres west of the shire's administrative centre, Biloela. At the 2006 census, Banana had a population of 627.

More current statistics quote the 2011 population as being 378.

What else is there to say about Banana? Well, there's the obvious question; why is it called Banana? Do they grow bananas in Banana? No, it's too far south. Let me again quote Wikipedia.The town was named in the early 1860s. The name derives from an old dun-coloured working bullock, called Banana, used by local stockmen to help them when herding some of the wilder cattle into the yards.

Can I ask why the bullock was called Banana? No, I thought not. I always thought a bullock was a young bull but I was wrong. A bullock is a castrated male bovine animal raised for beef. Poor thing.

We arrived in Banana in time to have a couple of coldies, then a nana-nap, then back to the pub for a nice meal and - of course - a bottle of red. No cooking, no washing up. Ten million calories. This is the life. We'll be off again in the morning, to a place that we haven't visited before.

But before we leave Banana, Hello to the E-Team.

An overnighter in Condamine

On the way from Banana to Condamine we were overtaken by our friends Bruce and Beverley. Whereas we had only driven from Banana, Bruce had left Emu Park that morning. He doesn't mess around, that lad! Did I say lad? Bruce is 83 and has a big V8 motor under his bonnet. We stopped for a chat in a rest area then Bruce left first. We never even saw his dust after that. When we stopped for the night in Condamine, Bruce and Bev were long gone . . . never even noticed Condamine, Bev told us.

At the Condamine River Caravan Park the lady in reception parked us close up behind some cabins, blocking the light from our windows on one side. Did we care? No we did not. There was enough light to find the bottle and we'd be away next morning at the stroke of . . . whatever. We only have 193 km to cover to Goondiwindi so we should have an easy run.

Quoting from the internet again, The town of Condamine is home to around 373 people (five less than Banana), with the major industries being agriculture, forestry and fishing, and a majority of workers being managers. That last bit sounds like an oxymoron to me. And as for fishing being a major industry, perhaps that refers to a nearby fresh-water fish farm; after all, Condamine is 300 km from the nearest coast.

Another website states: Condamine is rugby mad with no less than three rugby teams, no mean feat for a town with 85 residents!

Eighty five residents? Who writes this stuff?

And on to Goondiwindi

The Leichhardt Highway south to Goondiwindi was appalling. It even had patches on its patches and every few kilometres there was a large, gleaming sign saying, Better Roads For Queensland. Talk about rubbing salt into it! One sign told us how many millions had been spent upgrading the coming section which, though only two years old, was edged by huge dips where the road edge had collapsed. Incidentally, the G.P.S.'s attempt at pronouncing Leichhardt was quite something.

We've stopped in Goondiwindi a couple of times before and, as on previous occasions, we found the town had little to hold us.

If our journey from Condamine was uneventful, our arrival was not. The caravan park allocated us a narrow site guarded by tall palm trees. As I turned sharply onto the site I found our new neighbour's bird cage in my way. I stopped and Pam alighted to ask the neighbour to move the cage onto their own site. However, such a request was unnecessary, the lady had noticed our Pajero approaching her pet and hurried out to its rescue. She was wearing a black bikini. With the way clear I moved forward but I confess my concentration had been broken. The car came to an abrupt stop as if I'd come up against an obstruction under a wheel. I tried a gentle rev but nothing happened. Only then did someone tell me that the side of our nearly-new caravan was hard up against a palm tree.

Reverse gently, I was advised. Instead of obeying I hesitated and thought it through. The caravan's right side, ahead of its axles, was hard up against the tree. If I applied full left lock to the Pajero and then reversed, the Paj would pivot about its rear wheels, the front moving sharply right and the tow ball, to the rear of the pivot would move slightly left. The tow ball was attached to the front of the caravan therefore that too would move left, away from the tree. And it did, limiting the damage to what I'd already done.

In my mind I was trying to find a reason why it was Pam's fault but eventually I had to resign myself to it. It was not Pam's fault, it was not the tree's fault, it was not the park's fault, it was that damned black bikini!

Bingara

Five minutes after leaving the Goondiwindi caravan park we crossed the Murray River . . . no we didn't, we crossed the Macintyre River. I'm at the wrong state border altogether! Thank you Wayne Carter for nudging me there. Anyway, the Macintyre River forms the Queensland/N.S.W. border at Goondiwindi and all our clocks became an hour slow as we entered New South Wales. Except for the G.P.S. which advanced one hour at the border.

For those not living in this country of multiple time zones, N.S.W. advanced its clocks one hour at 02:00 on October 7th, leaving Eastern Standard Time and entering Eastern Daylight Saving Time. Some states do the same, others, like Queensland, do not.

Q. Do we get confused?
A. Yes.
Q. Would it not be more sensible if all states did the same thing, whatever that was?
A. Yes.
Q. Well, why don't we do that?
A. Because each state or territory has its own government. Decisions like this may be obvious to anyone with half a brain cell . . . but not to state politicians. That is also why each state or territory has its own road rules, driving licences, vehicle registration laws, police, school curricula and on and on.
Q. Well, what is the Federal Government for?
A. You know, I've often wondered that.

If I maligned Queensland's roads in my last section, they were as nothing compared to the N.S.W. roads on which we found ourselves today. Well, we were on them between bounces during which time we were airborne. I was sometimes reminded of runways on long abandoned World War Two airfields, the surface crazed with cracks, weeds growing through. The smoothest part was an unsurfaced section of roadwork at which we waited about fifteen minutes at a red light to enter. Then a single car came the other way and we were cleared to proceed. Judging by the activity we passed, the repairs should be completed in time for the next Sydney Olympic Games.

The caravan park at Bingara was pleasantly quiet with no palm trees for me to assault. When we tried to tune in the TV we discovered no digital transmissions, just two analogue stations transmitting very grainy children's programmes. Oh, goody.

Hey, I'm supposed to be describing the little we saw of Bingara which was very positive. The caravan park was owned by the council. It was clean, tidy and quiet with green grass, trees and adequate amenities. Next time we'll spend more time in Bingara. On leaving we had to drive through the town centre which didn't disappoint either. A nice town.

It was several days later that we understood why people looked puzzled when we mentioned Bingara. We were pronouncing it Bing-a-a-a-ra. Everyone else knows it as Bingra.

Tamworth

Okay, I'm getting obsessed with this TV thing. (Getting?) So let's get it over with. Tamworth has six analogue programmes (two unviewable, four very strong), twenty three digital programmes, all very strong and four radio stations.

Ah, Tamworth, almost like coming home. Once again we are camped on the banks of the Peel River where previously we used to see a platypus. Perhaps we'll see one again. It means standing very quietly on the river bank at dawn (out of the question) or dusk (and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes).

The Edwards family, who own the caravan park, are as nice as ever. The park is fairly quiet, which is nice. Recently we've had to accept neighbours so close that we could have passed a cup of coffee through the window to them and we never felt we had any privacy. Here we have . . .

Pam just screamed and I nearly jumped out of my skin. She had put on her slippers in which a large ant was in residence. It bit or stung her, whatever ants do to demonstrate displeasure. Alas, the ant will bite no more.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Here we have no neighbours within eighty metres of us. Not at the moment, anyway.

What to say about Tamworth that I haven't said during all our previous visits here? If I find anything new I'll come back to you.

Ain't folk strange?

We are camped down by the river. Into the park came a couple towing a small caravan. They drove slowly around several times looking at every vacant site, and there were dozens. They seemed to decide on one a short way along the river bank from our site and reversed in and out several times. Apparently happy they unhitched their car. But they were not entirely satisfied even then. They climbed back into their car and, leaving the caravan where it was, drove slowly around the park again examining alternative sites.

They put me in mind of a dog turning in tight circles, undecided which way to face, before finally flopping down.

Van at Austin

After they'd left there was just our 'van in all that space.

Watching this performance from the barbecue area were several of the park staff eating lunch, a couple of permanents chatting and Pam. Finally the couple stopped circling the park and decided they would accept the site on which their 'van already stood. They rolled out their awning and brought out their chairs.

One of the staff observed how particular this couple was to find the exact site for their needs. Yes, replied Pam, And I'll lay odds they leave again tomorrow morning. She was right!

We had watched a couple behave in much the same way in the Low Level Park in Katherine. They left the following morning, too.

The streets of London

One of Pam's favourite songs is Ralf McTell's The Streets of London, first recorded in 1969. Whenever we attend an event where singers ask for requests, she asks for this song. Very few can oblige. While at The Ferns Resort north of Yeppoon, Queensland recently, we discovered that the proprietor, Marto, did know and love the song and he was happy to oblige. He sang it beautifully. Pam mentioned this on Facebook adding, Are you listening Wendy Wood?

Wendy is one of the Tamworth trio, Those Gals, who harmonise so well but ... they didn't know The Streets of London. After meeting Wendy for lunch today we returned to our caravan for a cuppa. Wendy took her guitar out of her car and sang The Streets of London for us!

Pam and Wendy Wood

Wendy and Pam after Wendy had sung.

She had learned it specially and it sounded fabulous, her voice being so sweet and clear. Pam was absolutely thrilled and when Wendy had finished singing, Pam gave her a big hug. Wendy asked Pam why she was trembling. Pam had tears in her eyes, she was so overcome by Wendy's kindness. Thanks, Wendy, we'll never forget this day.

Stating the obvious

On the packet of a 3M product: Made in U.S.A. with U.S. and globally sourced materials. Well, I suppose that just about covers it.

How do they do it?

While wandering through Big W in Tamworth I came across a quantity of quartz clocks. They were selling at an incredible $2.98 each. Not having any clock in the caravan except the one on the microwave, I bought one. Next time we visited the shopping centre I bought another.

Clocks

Our two extraordinarily cheap clocks

My question is, how can they market these quartz clocks for under $3.00? They are made in China, of course, where labour is cheap. But the Chinese manufacturer will have to provide the components, pay for labour, provide an individual box for each clock and make a profit. Then there is bulk packaging for transport, transport costs, storage prior to distribution in Australia, road distribution and costs associated with selling them in Big W stores.

The answer must be that Big W is selling at a loss, don't you think? People like me tell people like you about it. You call in at Big W to see for yourself and make other purchases while you are there. The clocks are 'loss leaders'. If that means they are a bargain I'm glad I bought two. 'Bout time I had a win!

On the road again

After many happy reunions in Tamworth we hitched up and hit the road. First stop was Gilgandra for one night then on to Forbes for another night. We've previously spent time in both these towns so are just staging through. At this moment we are in Forbes, leaving for Temora tomorrow morning.

More cooling problems with our Mitsubishi Pajero

After ten years of faithful service our Pajero's cooling system has started playing up yet again. I told you of the problems on the previous page. I also, rather foolishly, said that I'd eliminated the cooling system itself and that the gauge was working perfectly after the replacement of the sender ($145.00) and the gauge and voltage regulator ($991.55). Would you mind awfully if I rescinded those two claims?

After we left Emu Park and were travelling towards Tamworth I noticed more erratic behaviour from the temperature gauge. When we began dragging the caravan up a gradient, the engine temperature apparently went down. This pattern repeated itself so often that I can't have been mistaken. Totally illogical, I know, but that's what it did. Having eliminated all the previously mentioned components in the gauge circuit, perhaps it would be wise to have the actual cooling system serviced and the thermostat replaced. So, on arriving in Tamworth, the car was booked in for that work to be carried out and in due course, it was.

We left Tamworth for Gilgandra another $397.89 poorer but the gauge behaved impeccably. We remained overnight in Gilgandra and set off for Forbes in the morning. The needle of the temperature gauge now began wandering a little and my heart sank. The following day we travelled on to Temora and the gauge registered just above the cold mark all the way.

Folks, I'm getting desperate. The thermostat is not mounted near the top radiator hose as on many cars, it is fitted where the bottom hose returns cool water from the radiator to the engine block. A bypass pipe brings hot water down from the top of the engine to heat the thermostat, causing it to open when the engine reaches operating temperature. That hot water from the bypass pipe is then mixed with cool water from the radiator to prevent thermal shock to the engine when the thermostat opens. If the engine temperature rises, the water through the bypass becomes hotter, causing two things to happen. The thermostat opens wider allowing more cool water from the radiator to enter the engine water jacket and at the same time another part of the thermostat begins to close off the bypass pipe. At very high engine temperatures the thermostat will open wide to accept cool water from the radiator and the bypass water will be all but cut off.

Just to complicate matters further, whereas the thermostat is in the flow returning from the radiator through the bottom hose, the sensor for the temperature gauge is at the other end of the cooling system where the hot water is about to flow out through the top hose to the radiator.

Another Great Flying Day at Temora

To hell with the antics of the Paj's cooling system for now, we're here at Temora for another flying day. Yes, it's Saturday and unfortunately the day has dawned cool and overcast but we'll make the most of it anyway.

One of the two Spitfires is due to fly as is a Tiger Moth, a Lockheed Hudson and a Cessna A-37B Dragonfly. Temora Aviation Museum owns the only two airworthy Spitfires in Australia. As the Mk 8 is being fitted with a new engine it will be the Mk 16 flying. It would be great to see them flying together but it won't happen today.

Temora's is the only Lockheed Hudson still flying in the world and it always looks immaculate.

You would imagine the Cessna Dragonfly, from its name, would be a slow old biplane but that's not the case. In fact, it is a twin jet built for close air support, helicopter escort, forward air control, and night interdiction. It dates back to the Vietnam War era.

Yesterday was beautiful, weather wise, and the Dragonfly flew for a while to shift the cobwebs before today's display. I don't know why but I couldn't get very excited over the Dragonfly despite it doing aerobatics with white smoke streaming from its wingtips. What was nice was the effect of the atmosphere on the vapour trails after it had gone.

Vapour Trails

Ignore the light smudges on the left and right of the photo, they are just effects produced by the sun on the lens.
Look how the parallel vapour trails have formed into rings. The 'culprit' can be seen lower down in the distance.

The pilot of the Dragonfly was David Lowy, Founder and President of the Temora Aviation Museum and son of the Westfield Shopping Centre billionaire, Frank Lowy. Even David thought it incredible that two parallel vapour trails could reform into the shapes in the picture.

I think it's about time to move to another page so click on 'Next Page' below if you'd like to stick around.

And so ends Page 167.

Footnote: This re-working of Page 167 was completed on 4 April 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.