Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Out East ... in the van …

It's been almost a year since we "did the west coast + NT so we decided to head east this time - Canberra, Sydney and north to (near) Newcastle - Canberra to see Julie (friend since high school) and Carol (friend since 1st day of school).

As opposed to the trip last year when everything we owned was already IN the van and all we had to do was decide what to take OUT - this time we actually had to think about what to take!  THEN as soon as Joe came back with jumper cables!!! to boost the van :( from the Suzuki , we were off...

We drove along the Murray - our biggest (mostly only) major river and stayed at Mildura then Colbram both completely uneventful. There were vineyards on both sides of the road as far as the eye could see - all being irrigated from the Murray.  Grapes, citrus fruit, avocados, olives and rice that use a network of trenches from the river - no wonder that poor old river is almost non-existent by the time it tries to empty into the ocean at Goolwa! 

Afraid there are no photos of the vineyards etc. - didn't think the trip was worth a posting!
… then I saw CORN!!

Olive oil is also pretty big here so we stopped off at a small house along the road to sample their (very yummy) oils and were amazed that there were people having coffee out in the middle between towns at 10.02 a.m. - two minutes after they opened.

 Next on to Rutherglen
 -  it had been about 36 years since we are last there -and  we stopped at a few wineries and sampled (and bought) some of our favourite muscat (Browns), 

No architect-designed wineries here - but quite the building none-the-less!
Good ol' Corkcicle!!  This one with coloured "corks"!

then a nice winery for lunch and off to (up to) the Snowy Mountains  - part of the Great Dividing Range (our biggest (mostly only) major mountain range) heading for Canberra.

These are our "alps" - with quite steep, windy, narrow roads (urgh!) - only passable when it's not snowing

Pretty excited that we might see snow!!
It's cooler but no snow yet :(
 - that wasn't a problem but I didn't want to drive in the dark so we stayed in the parking lot of a lookout that had toilets (non-flushing but airy!).

-"nice" outdoor toilets!
-no noisy neighbours!
-nice sunset
Who could ask for a nicer camping spot!

I only need power when I'm hot (for air-conditioning) and it wasn't hot up here in the alps!  … and the good thing about Australia is you don't have to worry about wildlife bothering you during the night - there are no bears here!  - and once the doors are shut the snakes can't get in!

Nice view to boot!

So that went well until the morning when we tried to start the van … the battery was flat.  Up here in the "alps" they don't have cell-phone coverage so we had to wait for somebody to stop at the lookout.  Along came the local Fire truck so we hoped it could start us.  The lady fireman was supposed to clean the toilets so she was pretty happy to try and help - but nothing! nada!  So Joseph hitched a ride  with an unsuspecting couple and their baby, who stopped for a look at the scenery.  Hours later he and the tow truck arrived back - et voilà it started and now a non-stop drive to Canberra (3+ hours away) - no food stops, no gas stops - and we rolled into the road in front of Julie's house and that's where the van stayed for the next 4 days until a battery arrived from Sydney (that is a three hour drive away but for some reason took 3 days to get a battery here).


Turns out Julie was in Adelaide (!!) so we stayed with Carol and Graeme* - doing our darnedest to tick off everything on the itinerary Graeme had prepared, with poor-old Carol doing ALL of the driving in the rain (it rained all four days!)  because our vehicle wouldn't start!

Great hosts - Carol & Graeme!

We managed to tick off quite a few museums and galleries and of course the NEW Parliament House (now 30 years old).

The view from the "new" Parliament House - looking down towards the old one
and Lake Burley Griffen

Our favourite piece of art at the National Gallery.
Outside the Australian National Museum
PaperBlanks everywhere!

Inside the monument (in pic above)
Designed by an American for goodness sake!

The highlight of all those museums and galleries  turned out to be the glass factory where we sat and watched a team making a huge glass bowl - we went back again on Friday to have burgers from the cafe and ended up staying  for another while - so "blown" away were we by the whole process.

So we thought the girl in the striped top was just a helper - working her way up the ladder
Turns out SHE is the artist and because the piece is so large she needs help
so other artists help her out!

It was team work at it's best!
Eventually one of the girls put on this crazy heat-proof suit and crouched in position
to catch the bowl as the man cut it loose.
She then placed it in another oven off to the left
(I have a video but couldn't get it to load)
 Julie made it back in time for us to have a lovely meal with her two lovely daughters ( luckily we had a visit with her Adelaide just before we left!) and we finally left poor Carol & Graeme alone.

Graeme's beloved Riley!

Carol's Mum Mrs. Pudney (Shirl)
Looking good at 88

We turned the three-hour drive to Sydney into three days.  Carol had a list of "must-sees"  (where to get coffee IN the most amazing wood-furniture store I've ever seen …

Nice pieces!

 - where to get good fish & chips

…. at Burrill Lake

mmmmm… fish & chips and a cold beer!
(my mango beer from Broome- the only beer I can stomach)

- where to stay overnight etc. etc)…

- turns out the van had already been here before
when Mischa & Simone drove it to Adelaide for us!

- where to eat lunch...


Hang gliding - you could almost reach out and touch them…
they just walked off this cliff and started floating!

and it turned out that I actually enjoyed staying off-grid at a national park...

 because we were on the ocean (a tidal inlet but we could see the ocean) looking out towards Cronulla with some pretty amazing houses a short boat-ride away (gotta love having an on-board kitchen and toilet!  

The nature walk the next morning to see the Lyre Bird was a bust but surprisingly free of mosquitoes!

Then using my trusty iPhone, with it's wonderful bobbing blue dot, we made it across Sydney to the Lane Cove Caravan Park which is in a national park that is within spittin' distance of the centre of Sydney (well a 10 min walk and 1/2 hour train ride over the bridge away).  

Camp mates at Lane Cove

We stayed here about 35 years ago and it's still in very good condition and very well used AND reasonably priced ($39/night).  The only problem was the checkin lady who was seemingly devastated that I had booked a caravan site when I was clearly driving a van! but we ended up in a nice spot for our four-day stay (nice once Joseph positioned garbage bins in front of all the bright lights! - oh so many lights in these places).

Turns out the best part of Sydney (if you are a senior citizen (+60)) is the VERY cheap one-day pass to ride the trains, busses AND ferries!  So for $2.50 each day we hopped on and off to our heart's delight. 

We walked across the bridge on the most glorious day ...

Just the most beautiful site
- no matter where you see it from!

I am NOT walking UP there!
Cruise ship in Circular Quay.
Map of Sydney under the floor in the Customs House

"Great Barrier Reef" at the Customs House

We took the ferry to Watson's Bay for the required fish & chips (but we had salad)and  met up with Patricia Villaroel (our Chilean friends Pat & Alicia's daughter) who then drove us in and out of every bay on the way to Coogee Beach where she lives.  

Watson's Bay - they have a problem!

We did the Australian Museum AND the dinosaur exhibition!! 

Bunch of old dinosaurs
… except for Patricia!
Then walked with our yellow bag to our fancy hotel in Wooloomooloo.  We were going to the OUTDOOR Opera (Madama Butterfly) ON the harbour IN the Botanic Gardens and decided we would treat ourselves to a nice hotel within walking distance.
The setting for the opera

Before the show

Getting ready...


It was quite the magical night … helped by having beautiful weather … helped by having the most beautiful building in the world as the back drop … definitely helped by having some Puccini to fill the air …and, given the standing ovation, helped by some pretty-darned good singers as well

…  and even some pretty great fireworks  (at the end of the wedding) 

At half-time they build a whole new set!!

The "sun" in the harbour
and we were left (almost) speechless on our walk back to our very nice hotel.  

At Taronga Park Zoo - Sydney in the background

This Ibis came to sit (almost) next to me at the zoo!

Last time we drove through Kuringai-Chase National Park (35 years ago - almost to the day) the freeway was brand new and the rock cuts fresh and bright.  We've both weathered a bit since then - and it's now full of very aggressive truck drivers so we turned off and took the Pacific Coast Highway that went right through downtown Newcastle (that looks very nice right on the coast) and then on the outskirts, right through the MIDDLE of what Newcastle is famous for - it's coal.

Wind turbine in the middle of the coal!

We were right in the MIDDLE of the coal!   On one side were the mounds of coal and above us were overhead  conveyor belts (? probably a more accurate term) that fed another conveyor belt that ran along the wharf and then fed yet another convertor belt that could move up and down the wharf depending on where the ships were (much like a camera runs alongside a basketball court) that dumped it into the ships.

There were at least five ships being fed there on that Friday afternoon - and we were pretty sure they were all headed for China!

We stayed with my friend Raelene and husband Howard in the beautiful Port Stephens area that is full of lovely coves and beaches and national parks

Shoal Bay
 I used to catch up with Raelene in Sydney on some of my trips home, but it had been seven or eight years since our last visit and now they had retired to Shoal Bay.

Yep!  they're right there in the streets!!

Apparently I had been spoiled staying with friends and in parks with power ,so it was time to go off-grid again-  this time supposedly "on the beach" in a national park (on the beach" I can handle because there is usually a breeze).  There was a short 4km bone-rattling dirt road into the spot that, while very nice, wasn't quite ON the beach. Unfortunately it seems that our bed isn't working quite right (it's pretty-much permanently in the down position and crooked at that) but Joseph tells me that it is just a coincidence that this problem has arisen immediately after the bone-rattling dirt-road drive. Regardless it was another night with NO misquotes!  There has hardly been any since … well I can't even remember!!

Seal Rocks - near the park

So many beautiful beaches!

No comments:

Post a Comment