Halfway across the Continent ~ February 2017

Friendship is not about who has known you the longest.
It’s about who came and never left your side.

Wednesday 1st February 2017

We had an enforced rest day because I was unwell. Pete Mate did some more work on the website and lounged about in bed. By evening I was feeling much better and have decided we will ‘do’ the national park tomorrow.

Thursday 2nd February 2017

We took Billy rambling… poor Billy. We set off armed with a packed lunch and a very poor map. We soon found ourselves on unsealed roads that had ridges to shake the bones out of your body. We found Mt Wudinna but unless you climbed it you couldn’t really see it for trees.

Me? Climb that? No way am I climbing that”
We continued on to find other rocks of significance. By now we were becoming a little concerned as there were not many sign posts. This resulted in us getting lost and going in a complete circle. Alice managed to get us back on track. We then went in search of the Organ Pipes, another rock formation. We travelled for miles and miles on another unsealed road which was worse than the first one. We then veered off on to goat tracks which was a nightmare. We had huge holes to avoid and well as scrub, trees and a very uneven track. Not my idea of fun. Again we found we had gone in a circle, all due to the lack of signs. Eventually the track we were on ended abruptly. There was no sign, nothing at all to indicate that the Organ Pipes were ahead or how far the walk was. I took one look at the track and knew my joints would not be able to cope, plus I had forgotten my walking stick.

Pete Mate decided to go and have a look. He was gone for ages but when he came back he said he hadn’t found the Pipes. We decided it was time to head for home where we arrived in time for a wine before dinner, which we ate in the restaurant again.

Friday 3rd February 2017

Pete Mate had a bit of a rest this morning after yesterday’s driving. I did three loads of washing, some cleaning and then took Billy shopping. I tried to get a haircut but they were fully booked and do not open on Saturday. I went to the supermarket for a few things and the only thing that was missing in there was someone serving coffee and cake. It was a community catch-up, everyone chatting to each other, me included, plus lots of laughter. I have never enjoyed doing the grocery shopping like I did today. Once home I was doing a few things when I discovered I had not plugged the television aerial in and that is why we had not had television all week. Oops.

Saturday 4th February 2017

It is 'get ready' day because tomorrow we are on the road again. We packed everything away and hooked up the ‘van. Later we had dinner in the restaurant and said goodbye to Sandy.

Sunday 5th February 2017

We left Wudinna around 10.30am and had a good journey through to Port Augusta. We have decided to stay here two nights so we can have a rest day tomorrow. We met our neighbours who are very friendly; they are heading west. The weather is very wet and the same is forecast for tomorrow.

Monday 6th February 2017

It rained for most of the day so we stayed inside keeping dry. I achieved quite a lot from my 'to do' list, mainly computer things. Pete Mate also did some work on the website.

Tuesday 7th February 2017

We left Port Augusta and enjoyed the trip through to Burra. The scenery was wonderful and I managed to take some photos through the car window as we travelled along.

Climbing higher. That shape in the centre of the picture resembles a penguin.
Or is it more like a dolphin? I wonder if anybody else sees something in it?
We climbed the Flinders Mountain Range and before long found ourselves in cloud.

Driving in cloud, an unusual experience for us these days, but all the richer for it.
We arrived at Burra around lunchtime and received a warm welcome from Wayne, the owner. The temperature was over 40 degrees so as soon as we had set up a basic camp we stayed inside in the cool. The poor air conditioner was working overtime trying to keep us comfortable. Whilst setting up we discovered our site backed on to a school playground. Bless.

Wednesday 8th February 2017

We spent another day inside trying to keep cool. These really high temperatures over 40 degrees are not agreeing with us.

Thursday 9th February 2017

We organised ourselves early to walk into the town before it got too hot. I took the camera along and took some photos.

We had to collect some medication so, whilst the scripts were being filled, we found a nice little café. We enjoyed home-made iced coffees which were really nice. We also chatted to some locals; the café was buzzing with customers. They also sold locally-grown fruit and veg so I bought one or two things.

We had a look around the town but the temperature was rising so we collected our medication and headed for home and the cool. We decided we would like to return to Burra when it is not so hot and explore some more. The playground, after the first day, remained empty as it was too hot for the children to play outside. There is always a silver lining if you look for it.

Friday 10th February 2017

We arrived in Renmark around lunchtime. Tony welcomed us to his park and was very considerate where he put us to shade us a little from the heat. We set up camp and then let Jo and Gavin know we had popped into see them. They were busy with commitments until Sunday so we made arrangements for happy hour.

We stayed indoors as outside was 47 degrees.

Saturday 11th February 2017

It is just as hot today but we had things to do. I did heaps of washing and then we went shopping ... we had no choice, we had run out of milk and wine. We were very glad to get back to the cool caravan.

Sunday 12th February 2017

The temperature has cooled a little and we could sit outside in the afternoon. Jo and Gavin came over for happy hour and a good time was had by all.

Monday 13th February 2017

As the temperatures were a little cooler we decided to have a drive out and see some of Renmark. We have previously explored Renmark quite well so really it was a trip down memory lane. We started off at a lookout which gave us spectacular views of cliffs along the Murray River. We called in at the pub near the caravan park to book a table for tomorrow night. There was a bakery nearby where we enjoyed a very nice sandwich. We then went on to Lock 5 on the Murray which is nicely set out with really good toilets. Yes, clean toilets are important to me. These were exceptional with soap and paper towels. We didn’t see any boats going through the lock which was a disappointment. They have a static display there of an old barge - interesting but not the best subject for photos.

We then made our way to the Paringa Lifting Bridge because the bridge was due to open at 2:30 to let the river traffic through. It was interesting to watch, we saw four houseboats pass through and then the bridge closed again, allowing the backed-up road traffic to cross. We then went for a drive around Renmark before heading home. In the evening we went over to Jo and Gavin’s for dinner which was lovely. The food yummy and the company excellent.

Tuesday 14th February 2017

I worked all morning on the caravan park accounts. Everything went really well and I was pleased with what I had achieved. In the afternoon I walked over the road to the hairdressers for a much needed haircut. In the evening we both walked over the road again, this time to the pub for dinner with Jo and Gavin. It was a lovely evening with excellent company, good wine and yummy food.

Wednesday 15th February 2017

We enjoyed a good run through to Mildura, the temperature was not as hot as it had been but the sun still has that bite in it. We half set up camp and then stopped for lunch. We then had naps before doing the rest of the setting up. Our friend, Phil, collected us and took us to their house for happy hour and dinner. It was lovely to see them and the food was really yummy.

Thursday 16th February 2017

We both had appointments to see the doctor but only for script renewals. Pete Mate mentioned he had had this awful cough since he had a 'man cold' in October. The doctor was very thorough and Pete Mate now has to have some tests. By the time we left there it was time for lunch but I felt really nauseous because the doctor insisted on taking my blood pressure on my upper arm where I have pain. Anyway, after some toast and a hot chocolate I began to feel a bit better. We did some shopping and then found a garage to book Billy in for a service. Once home and the shopping away, we both had nanny naps.

Friday 17th February 2017

Pete Mate went into town to have his blood tests done whilst I stayed home and cleaned. The caravan must have wondered what was happening. Later, when Pete Mate returned, we had a late lunch and then did some reading and knitting. The temperature today is ideal.

Saturday 18th February 2017

After yesterday we enjoyed a quiet day, reading and knitting.

Sunday 19th February 2017

We collected Dawn and Phil from their house and went to their club in Merbein for Sunday lunch. We all enjoyed a lovely roast dinner followed by sticky date pudding. Too nice to leave any. We dropped Phil and Dawn off and went home for a nanny nap.

Monday 20th February 2017

We took Billy into the garage for a service. The morning was sunny but cool enough to walk and that is what we did. We were supposed to wait for Dawn and Phil to collect us but we did enjoy the walk. We met them at a coffee shop – I don’t know about them but we were ready for a cuppa. Pete Mate and I then walked over the road to the doctor’s for PM to have his lungs tested. Dawn and Phil said they would be in town a while so would take us back to the garage for the car. PM had his test and then we had to wait for the doctor to give him all his results.

Two hours later we walked out of one waiting room into another where we found Dawn and Phil waiting and the receptionist was English. PM invoked a little-known law under which Poms look out for Poms and we were next to see the doctor. Dawn and Phil had waited over two hours just to give us a ride. Kindness at its best. All tests came back clear, just a couple of things PM has to check with our GP when we get home (as in Emu Park.) We are still no wiser why he coughs so much. We left there and Dawn and Phil took us for lunch to the RSL. The meal was very nice but huge. They then took us back to the garage for the car and we said our goodbyes until tomorrow.

Tuesday 21st February 2017

Pete Mate and I visited the RAAF museum in Mildura. Alice told us the way and she obviously thought we need a drive out because she literally took us all around the houses to get there. The museum did not have any aircraft, just models, thousands of photos, WWII uniforms, aircraft engines, information and stories. These places are so important as they retain so much history. There was even a log book (photocopied) that belonged to Guy Gibson of the Dam Busters fame. There were so many sad stories but one stuck in my mind; two sons and a daughter all died in the same training accident in a Wirraway. How the parents coped I will never know. Another story which is sad and funny was about a pilot who crashed his plane but everyone got out alive. Later he was riding his bicycle around the airbase and a bus knocked him over and killed him.

The museum also had extensive information about the only WWII Aboriginal fighter pilot. As I said, lots of precious information that needs to be kept for future generations.

When we left there we had a few things to do ready for our departure tomorrow - shopping, topping up with fuel, replenishing the wine stock and collecting medication to name but a few. Somewhere in the middle of that we had lunch at the café we seem to have adopted. Once home I sorted the shopping and some washing then had a short rest before getting ready to go to Phil and Dawn’s for dinner. Phil collected us and we enjoyed another beautiful meal at their house. In the last few days I have eaten so much I feel I might just be sorry later on. After the meal Phil took us for a drive around and showed us where the Murray River had flooded in December. Every tree had a ring marking the water level. We also had a look at the new marina. We were not home long when I realised I had overdone the eating. I did not enjoy a very restful night.

Wednesday 22nd February 2017

Taking into account that:-
(a) we are not packed up ready to leave, and
(b) my disturbed night left me a bit of a wreck,
we decided to stay another day and leave tomorrow. I tried to get all my packing away done before the heat of the day. I did have a lot of rest and by nightfall felt better. No sympathy required as it was self-inflicted, eating too much of the wrong things.

Thursday 23rd February 2017

The temperature today is much cooler than yesterday. We left Mildura just after 10.00am having decided to modify our route to take in some 'silo art' along the way. We first travelled to Patchewollock (pronounced Patchy Wollock) to see the first of the painted silos on the trail. The little town was dying before someone had this great idea to paint silos. Now tourists are bringing much needed revenue into the area. In Patchewollock, artist Fintan Magee painted a local farmer, Nick Hulland. We were going to stay the night at the caravan park but decided, as it was still early, to have lunch and carry on to the next painted silos. I bought lunch at the community store and was served by a lovely lady who told me what a difference the silos have made to the town.

The painting of Nick Hulland on the Patchewollock grain silo. Down by his right foot stands a real figure to
give the painting perspective. My tame graphic artist scaled it up and reproduced it so you'd recognise him.
We ate lunch whilst looking at two giant mallee fowl sculptures made of corrugated iron.

The two corrugated iron mallee fowl. Mallee fowl are an endangered species found in this area.
It was an hour’s drive to Brim where we viewed more silos. Again they were so well done. These were the first silos to be painted. The street artist Guido Van Helton had the idea and after much discussion with various people the community of Brim decided to run with it. The portraits on the silos are of local people and the detail is wonderful.

Problems with photographing these four. Each silo threw a partial shadow across its neighbour.
The top of each silo was in shadow from the roof giving each of the subjects the appearance of
wearing a bishop's mitre. Also, power lines crossed in front of the lot.
After Brim it was on to Sheep Hills where the silos were painted showing indigenous people. The artist here was Adnate. The only word to describe all the silos is 'amazing' with a capital A. After being on the road over 12 years we have seen and done some amazing things and today would be high on the list.

Remembering the huge size of these paintings, just look at the quality, look at the eyes.
Again power cables spoil the overall effect. The curving white streaks at the top represent
the millions of stars at night as seen by a camera set to a slow shutter speed . . . I think.
We then had to find somewhere to stay the night and drove another half hour to Murtoa. The Murtoa Caravan Park caretaker was away but a fellow camper told us to just find a site so we did, the only site that is 'drive through' (i.e. long enough to accommodate a car and 'van hitched together). We were both very tired and did not want to do much other than open a bottle of wine. We decided to stay here two nights, right on the bank of a lake.

Friday 24th February 2017

We enjoyed a lovely relaxing day. We did a short walk alongside the lake to the war memorial, it was all very pleasant. I took photos of the mural in progress on the amenities block. Painted by a local lady. We did some reading and Pete Mate worked on the website. Keith, the caretaker, came over around dinner time to tell us not to rush in the morning as the 10 o’clock checkout does not apply in Murtoa, they seem to work on a different timescale to the rest of Australia. As I said, very relaxing.

Saturday 25th February 2017

The journey from Murtoa to Ararat may have been a fairly short one but it was not pleasant in any way. The roads were so uneven I felt nauseous the whole journey. We arrived at lunchtime to a warm welcome from the owners. We had a choice of a few sites and soon got the ‘van set up on one of them. Then we discovered how uneven the site was and it is difficult to get in and out of the ‘van because we cannot use the step. The owners are new, they only bought the park in December and have a lot of work to do.

Sunday 26th February 2017

We visited the information Centre and came away with lots of information. The Ghost Tour that Pete Mate wanted to do wasn’t running. We had a drive around and then went home to plan the next two days.

Monday 27th February 2017

The two Museums we want to visit are not open today so we had a rest day.

Tuesday 28th February 2017

We visited Langi Morgala Museum which was quite good, they had a lot of interesting things. Ararat seems to have quite a few sports people that did well in their field. We drove out to another caravan park to compare but decided the one were in was the better of the two.

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