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A ten stage plan to take us to mid-April 2015.

This 1,650 kilometre route will take us south, west and then north again. We'll see places we haven't seen before and 'catch up' with friends along the way - Hans and Lorraine at Lakes Entrance, Roger in Churchill. In Dandenong we'll have some paintwork attended to on the Pajero and I'll suffer the indignity of a camera down my throat - one of the things we oldies do for amusement. Yes, Monika and Eckard, be warned, we'll be close by. At Werribee we'll hopefully meet up with Gail and Jerzy and attend the huge Avalon Air Show. My old mate Jim is flying over from Perth for Avalon so that will be fantastic; not seen Jim for years. Then we'll visit the Grampians, crossing off another item on our bucket list, call at Swan Hill - so watch out Phil and Cath - then on to Mildura to meet up with another Phil and the lovely Dawn. Yes, and you Gavin and Jo, you can't hide from us in Renmark.

Now that must all be really boring if you don't know any of the people mentioned. Sufficient to say that, Jim aside, these are all friends we've met on our travels so why not plan now to retire early, buy a caravan, see Australia and make a shit load of new friends?

Map plan

Our proposed route. The black lines are the state and territory borders.
The red ovals are where we'll be stopping.

We plan to leave Goulburn in mid-January. By the time we reach Mildura in April, summer will have ended and we'll be half way through autumn. Time to be heading further north for the winter, don't you think? Me too.

Goulburn Airport and Railway Station

The weather was still all over the place; most mornings were glorious without a cloud in the sky but we were no longer fooled. There was every chance that there would be rain or even a thunder storm by evening. Anyway, we sallied forth to the local airport and arrived just as a twin turboprop aircraft flew overhead at 15,000 feet ...

Para plane

The parachute plane was an EMB-110P1 built by Embraer-Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica in Brazil in 1979.
Registered VH-EQB, she is configured for lifting parachutists and can carry twenty four at a time.

... and disgorged nine free-fall parachutists. Well, there were nine parachutes but some were solo and others were tandem - I'm not sure exactly how many parachutists there were. The wind strength had picked up and conditions were approaching borderline but all the parachutists landed safely.

Parachutists

Some of the parachutists just after they landed made a colourful scene. We could hear them whooping
as they descended and from their voices after they landed, the adrenalin was still pumping.

However, we then learned that one of the parachutes had malfunctioned and been jettisoned at altitude; the parachutist deployed his reserve 'chute and landed safely.

On chatting to the man who owned the business, we were told that all skydivers were well trained to cope with such an event which only happened about once a year at Goulburn. Maybe we are a jinx because this is the second time we've been present when a 'chute has malfunctioned and been jettisoned; the first time was at Temora.

Think about what it must be like; you jump from the plane which is flying at 15,000 feet (4.6 kilometres) above the Earth. You don't open your parachute, you fall faster and faster until the wind resistance balances the pull of gravity and your speed stabilises. You are now plummeting at about 200 kilometres per hour. This is called your 'terminal velocity'. At a predetermined height you pull the ripcord but your parachute fails to open correctly. It may be possible to correct the problem by pulling on the appropriate rigging lines but how long can you risk trying that as you hurtle Earthwards? You have a reserve 'chute but before opening it you must jettison the faulty 'chute otherwise the two will tangle. You must remain totally calm, jettison the main 'chute and fall clear, and all the time the seconds before impact are ticking away. Then you pull the ripcord on the reserve 'chute knowing that if this one fails you'll be featured on the evening news.

The Tour Director and I did tandem jumps over Mission Beach in Queensland. Not she and I on the same parachute, each with an experienced parachutist. I left the aircraft before Pam and when the 'chute opened I looked around for her. At first I couldn't see her, then she hurtled past about 300 metres away, still descending fast with the experienced parachutist looking up at the partly deployed canopy and tugging at the lines. My God, I thought, I'm going to have to cook my own meals! However, the canopy snapped open and I watched from above as she landed safely, totally unaware of the drama.

But back in Goulburn, all was well. The faulty parachute had been recovered but the 'bag' and other accoutrements were missing. A small aircraft took off to conduct an aerial search and soon located it and it was recovered. Then the paperwork began ...

There was a café incorporated into the parachute centre and we went in for a coffee. We were amazed at how many people were in there, all except us involved in some way or another with parachuting. Also, all except us had English as a second language (can't explain that) and I had the dubious honour of being the oldest person in the place by a country mile.

Parachute Packs

A row of parachutes and harnesses ready for the next jump. But the weather had other ideas.

The next 'stick' to jump had to wait and see if the wind would abate. Instead it picked up and brought with it torrential rain and thunder. We decided not to wait, we still had the railway station to see. As we drove away I needed the wipers on maximum speed to see at all.

By the time we reached Goulburn Railway Station the storm was just passing.

Storm

The ground was left soaking as the storm moved on - towards the airport.
Blue sky replaced dark cloud and in no time everything dried out.

Unfortunately there was no activity at the station but a string of grain wagons was parked near Platform 3. Every wagon was covered in graffiti.

Graffiti

How much would it cost in aerosol paint sprays to decorate this train ... assuming the aerosols were bought legally?

And how did I know that these wagons carry grain? There was a spill of grain at the back of one of the wagons and the pigeons were gorging themselves ... until some mean-spirited Pom clapped his hands loudly.

Pigeons

Okay birdies, you can go back to your lunch now.

Lake George

If you were to drive from Sydney to Canberra you would find yourself turning left off the Hume Highway just past Goulburn and taking the M23 Federal Highway south west. Keeping an eye on the scenery to your left, you would notice either (A) a large lake, or (B) a large, flat grassy plain, or (C) something between the two. Wet or dry, this is Lake George; it is an interesting lake and one of the world's oldest. It is 25 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide. When full, as it was from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, the lake holds about 500,000,000 cubic metres of water. If you want that in litres, add three more noughts. I calculate that comes to 500 gigalitres, or the same volume as Sydney Harbour. But hey, don't take my word for it. Unfortunately it's almost as salty as Sydney Harbour. Today (January 2015) it is, to all intents, dry; farm stock grazes on the grass on the lake bed.

In 2010 when Lake George was dry, two Canberra artists installed four zebras on the lake adjacent to a highway stop used as a "Driver Reviver" site. The zebras were named Stopper, Reviver, Survivor, and Dasher. They were a sensation, but the Government of New South Wales ordered that they be removed following a complaint from the leaseholder of the land. There's always one ...

Being surrounded by high ground, water drains into the lake but cannot escape. Without any outflow to river or ocean, water can only be lost through evaporation or seepage. This results in the lake being highly saline.

Mystery used to surround Lake George; the lake's water was reputed to disappear, sometimes overnight, and return as quickly. There are fanciful myths that Lake George is connected by underground tunnels to lakes in Peru or South Africa. Some say that as Lake George drains, a lake in New Zealand fills, and vice versa. There is even a story that the water flows through a fissure in the lake bed and comes up in China! The official explanation is far less intriguing. Slow lake level fluctuations are simply the difference between water inflow and evaporation. During wet times of the year inflow is greater, at other times evaporation is greater. Rapid changes in water level are caused by strong winds blowing the shallow water to one end of the lake bed. Rapid return of the water occurs when the wind drops and the water again finds it own level.

Lake George is, even when full, very shallow with a flat bed. The water is about a metre deep in most places and the deepest point has been measured at 7.5 metres when the lake is full. It wasn't always so, however. Test drilling of the lake's bed reveals that the thickness of sediment beneath the lake exceeds 250 metres. The oldest sediments, which lie some distance above the bedrock, were dated at 3–5 million years using spore and pollen analysis and magnetic reversal stratigraphy.

What is 'magnetic reversal stratigraphy'? Over periods of millions of years, the Earth's polarity reverses and later reverts back. During a reversal, a magnetic compass would point south. The polarity of the Earth affects sediments which acquire a 'depositional remanent magnetization' which reflects the direction of the Earth's field at the time of formation. In plain English, examination of a sample from a test bore can determine whether the Earth's magnetic field was reversed when that layer of sediment was laid down. If a timeline for polarity reversals is consulted, it can assist in dating the sample.

Incredible, isn't it? I'm still not entirely convinced the earth isn't flat. On a recent drive along the Federal Highway we could see from that elevated viewpoint that there is some water on the south east edge of the lake, whether it's the last dregs remaining or fresh water running in as a result of the recent rains I can't say.

Lake George

Lake George, almost dry. When full, the water would be over my head.

Windfarm

One of two wind farms across the 'lake' through a 200mm zoom lens. Can you see a fence running across the lake?
One local publican claims it's to keep the male and female ducks separate when there is water in the lake.

The Wood Works Gallery at Bungendore.


Bungendore is every bit a tourist town. The Wood Works Gallery is very well-known in this part of New South Wales for its fine craftsmanship and for its fine prices!

The Hannah Cabinet

The Hannah Cabinet was made over a six year period from thirty four Australian and international timbers, four
species of historic shell, seventeen varieties of precious and semi-precious stone and twenty three carat gold with
extensive marquetry on eighteen doors and one hundred and forty drawers. Made by Geoff Hannah; the price: $1,500,000.

A closer look at the intricate marquetry inlays that make up the decoration on this
cabinet. Even the underside of each of the 140 drawers is beautifully carved.

The Hannah Cabinet

Pam and I were totally devastated when we realised we wouldn't be able to fit the cabinet in our caravan. Never mind dear, perhaps something else for your birthday?

Table and Turtle

           Table made from Yew: $16,500.                                      Long Necked Turtle in White Cedar: $7,920.

Dresser

This dresser had just been sold for $55,000.

A Very Warm Welcome to Alice III

Please join me in welcoming Alice III to the team. If you've just joined us, Alice I, II and III are actually Garmin GPS navigators. The first Alice, a Garmin Quest, became obsolete. Alice II was recently accidentally damaged by me and was exchanged for an identical model, a factory refurbished Garmin Nüvi 3790T who will simply be known as 'Alice'. I, as driver, rely very heavily on Alice.

My initial navigator was prone to falling asleep or throwing a wobbly when I swore at her for making an error. Worse, she habitually said 'left' when she meant 'right', or there was a long pause while she established which hand her wedding ring was on to identify left from right. She is now our Tour Director (First Class) and she does an excellent job, aided by the ever-patient Alice.

Goodbye Goulburn, Hello Cooma

If we thought we'd escaped the weather pattern in Goulburn we were wrong. Cooma presented mostly beautiful mornings, deteriorating through the afternoon, to rain and sometimes thunder in the early evening. Ho-hum.

Well, here we are again in Snowy Mountain territory. We visited Cooma previously from a base at Jindabyne; this time we visited Jindabyne from a base at Cooma. Twice in the past we've stayed at Jindabyne and on both occasions we found the lake water to be low, extremely so on our first visit.

Lake Jindabyne2007

Lake Jindabyne as we saw it in March 2007 ...

Lake Jindabyne 2015

... and as it was in January 2015, overflowing into the Snowy River.

The Jindabyne water level is today causing a predicament for the authority which controls the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. In the past the Authority ran roughshod over everyone who stood in its way. They dammed the Snowy River without caring a fig for everyone downstream, depriving farmers of water for irrigation and leaving the bed of the once-mighty river a weed-ridden trickle. All sorts of protests and legal action came to little, the Authority being owned by three governments - the Federal Government in Canberra, the New South Wales State Government and the Victoria State Government. What chance did the ordinary person have against an organisation with such powerful backing?

Lake Eucumbene is the main storage lake for the Hydro-electric Scheme. Currently it has spare capacity and the Authority finds itself unable to transfer the excess water in Lake Jindabyne to Eucumbene. Instead, in order to prevent Lake Jindabyne from flooding, it has had to open the Jindabyne Dam and release a huge volume of water down the Snowy River to the ocean. All the water that flows through the hydro-electric generators eventually finishes up in the Murrumbidgee and Upper Murray Rivers west of the mountains where the water is sold to irrigators and there is never enough. Water lost is money lost.

The Authority has printed a poster explaining why the water in Lake Jindabyne cannot be pumped up to Lake Eucumbene. I can't make head nor tail of it; sufficient to say they claim it's impossible. I wonder what the founders of this world famous civil engineering marvel would think of that? The word can't wasn't in their vocabulary.

To recapitulate from an earlier time, construction of the Hydro-electric Scheme was commenced in 1949. It required 100,000 workers recruited from all over the world. To accommodate the workforce, seven towns and over one hundred camps were established. A network of 1,600 kilometres of road was built across previously inaccessible mountain country.

Over twenty five years, sixteen major dams, seven hydro-electric power stations - some deep underground - and a pumping station were built. These were connected by 145 kilometres of tunnels and 80 kilometres of aquaducts driven through the mountains. As an engineering feat, it was nothing short of phenominal. The manual workers on the scheme had to be supported by a vast army of other trades and professions from surveyors to doctors, from lawyers to tree planters ... and a multitude more.

The end result was that water from many rivers that had previously flowed east and south from the mountains to the sea was tamed and redirected west of the mountains to the Murrumbidgee and Murray food bowl area, powering seven hydro-electric generators as it descended. Sometimes the same water powered a turbine at an intermediate level then another at a lower level. End of subject.

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