Category Archives: Caravanning

Mallacoota

Betka Beach

Betka Beach

In February of this year, we bought a Travel Auction package we saw advertised on TV to a Mallacoota caravan park. In these auctions, you are told what it would cost, then you make a bid-the top 50 bids win. The parks RRP for a 10 night stay was $330, we bid $180 and won. We then had to pick a date for travel within 12 months of winning. Mallacoota is right on the Vic/NSW border, so close to 520 kilometres from Melbourne OR Sydney you wouldn’t argue about it, and considered one of Victoria’s most remote towns. It has a population of around 1000 that swells to about 8000 over the summer holidays (that’s why we came just before!)

We left Daniel’s place in pouring rain (the wettest we have ever had to pack up in) and headed east of Traralgon for the very first time with the van.  As we travelled, we realised why we’ve never come this way before with the van-the roads are a disgrace to the state of Victoria. So very rough towing a van!

One patch of about 1 kilometre of road outside Stratford was so potholed, we just knew we’d arrive to all sorts of mess inside and we weren’t wrong. We have a portable oven, hotplates and fruit bowl that fit neatly into a spot on the bench beside the fridge and above the built in hotplates in the van. That stuff has travelled all over Australia sitting there but when we arrived and opened the van door in Mallacoota, it was all strewn all over the floor. Squished tomatoes, avocados and electrical goods covered the floor!

Mallacoota

Mallacoota

We set up in the rain and it continued for the next 20 or so hours without a let up, but Sunday afternoon it cleared for a while so we managed a drive 3 ks out of town to the very beautiful Betka Beach to take a look and some photos. Wow, what a lovely spot to have to ourselves.

Betka Beach

Betka Beach

Monday, we braved the wind and took the boat out for a bit of a fish. The boat played up-coughing and spluttering and generally being a bit scary to be out in that wind. The fish were hiding and it was a waste of time for a number of reasons. We came back in and Russ arranged to have the boat looked at by a local mechanic the following morning.

Tuesday was a perfect day for fishing, so after collecting the boat from the mechanic, followed by an early lunch, we set off out. The boat seemed to be going well, then once again, it started spluttering and coughing-so much for the miracle fix we’d just paid for! Never mind, it was a super calm day, so we just limped out a tiny way, parked up in a pretty spot and started to fish.

We only brought 7 fish into the boat, but all were well over size so we counted it a great success. We came home with 5 flathead and one bream, returning one 33 cm flathead as that’s just too small to bother with at the fish cleaning table. Fish for dinner Wednesday night, and some for the freezer.

Tuesday night, we had a yummy dinner at Lucy’s Handmade Rice Noodle Shop here in town. A funny little place where you grab your own wine glasses, water,condiments and hope the food you ordered makes it to your table. We had the best steamed bbq pork buns I’ve ever had, fried pork dim sims I’d have not known were dim sims if I hadn’t ordered them (hand made and so different from shop bought), really delicious chilli prawn salad and fried rice. The bbq pork buns were ordered as pork noodles but somehow got lost in translation so we missed out trying the handmade noodles. Oh well, now we have to go back!

Shipwreck Beach

Shipwreck Beach

Today we hung around the van, watching the cricket, until the boat-motor-fixit-man called to say it was done. By the time he called, it was too late to go fishing, so we went out to Shipwreck Creek and Beach and Pebbley Beach for a drive. Back home, we had our flathead tails for dinner.

Flatty tails

Flatty tails

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Insurance update

We got the call Friday to say the whole insurance claim on the damage to the van AND the boat trailer has been accepted. So while we are away in Bali in January, the local caravan repairer will fix it for us.

It was a $14,000 job, but the new boat trailer is a further $1800. The repair also fixes a nasty dent Russ put in the van when it was a week old. When he did that and we took the van in for it’s first service, the manufacturer offered to fix it. I said we’d wait until he dented it again so we got more value for our excess. This latest dent wasn’t our fault so no excess!

Like they say, it’s an ill wind that blows no good!

Things that go BUMP in the day!

Streaky Bay

Streaky Bay

It took us a couple of weeks to travel from the farm at New Norcia in Western Australia, to Traralgon in Victoria where we plan to base ourselves for a few months.

After leaving the farm, we spent a night at Coolgardie caravan park, a night at Cocklebiddy Roadhouse, another at Nundroo Roadhouse, then six at Streaky Bay.

We did a bit of fishing and crabbing at Streaky but really didn’t do too well until the second to last day when we caught 10 tommy ruff and 8 whiting and missed a few good sized crabs that came in on our fishing lines. No matter, it was a nice stop in a really nice park that we’ve always enjoyed.

Our next night was spent at a caravan park at Crystal Brook (not far from Port Pirie). It was a lovely surprise to have a long-time family friend Chris Daley and his partner Miriam pull up outside the van and stay the night in a tent near by. Always fun to catch up with Chris and all the gossip, share a meal and a few drinks.

On our way to Keith the next day, we stopped at a red light on a pedestrian crossing. Unfortunately, the woman in the car behind us didn’t! We heard a dull thud as we were pushed forward by her car. Jumping out of the ute, we hurried to check the damage. At first glance it didn’t look too bad so we pulled off the crossing and swapped details.

The harder we looked though, the more damage we could see. The van’s rear bumper weld had split, she’d pushed the whole bumper back into the van and bent the spare tyre mount. We could see where she’d hit the boat trailer too. Russ managed to pull the bumper out and we took off the spare tyre and put it in the back of the ute to travel on.

We contacted our insurance company and drove on.

We spent 2 nights in Portland with friends, a night in Port Fairy with our son and daughter-in-law, another with friends then arrived here in Traralgon. On the way, Ian Grant Caravans (who we nominated to do the repair) called so we dropped in there on the way past and they quoted the repair.

Caravans are super expensive to work on so I was expecting a few thousand dollars. The quote was reaching $7000 when he asked if there was any interior damage. We hadn’t actually checked, so it was a bit of a surprise to lift the bed and find the inner wall of the van is cracked as well. To fix it, the bed and wardrobe and all side panels have to be removed and the inner wall and outer panels replaced. Ka-ching!!!!! The quote just skyrocketed to around $14,000. If that bit gets accepted, an old dent Russ did dropping the boat on the van will be fixed too!

At home here in Traralgon, Russ tried to get the boat trailer built so he could take the boat off the ute. The trailer axle has been bent so he had to take to it with a hammer to just get the boat on. We’re not sure if the wheels go round properly, but the van repairers have added the trailer into the quote!

The repairers are also going to fix the van for us while we are in Bali for 10 days in January.

It’s so lovely just being here with my son and our grandchildren, I’m really not worrying about the van. No one was hurt so that’s the main thing!

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Back in Perth then off across the Nullarbor

Manchester to Abu Dhabi

Manchester to Abu Dhabi

We arrived back in Perth on October 16th after what seemed like a particularly long flight. We got held up boarding in Abu Dhabi then held up again on the tarmac. Not what you need with a 12 hour flight ahead. Neither of us got more than a couple of hours sleep and I felt the service by Etihad’s cabin crew was a bit slow and surly.  I was hot and thirsty and it was hard work to get a glass of water.

Harry

Harry

We spent two nights in a motel near Todd and Deb’s so we could catch up with them and Harry which was great as we hadn’t seen them since Iona and Simon’s party in Leeds 4 weeks before. Deb cooked dinner the night we arrived, the next night we went out for Chinese in Vic Park and the following day, we had yum cha in Vic Park. It was all excellent.

On Saturday night, we stayed with our friends Charley and Beaty-we met them many years ago at a caravan park in Denham and have remained good friends since. Beaty cooked us a lovely dinner and we caught up on all the Shark Bay news.

Monte Casino

Monte Casino

Sunday, we drove to the farm at New Norcia where our van was stored with family on a farm there. I can’t tell you how nice it was to sleep in my bed, with my pillow and doona etc-so lovely. I hadn’t slept well since we got off the plane and didn’t again on the Sunday night, but Monday, I slept like a log finally. I had that trouble the last time we came back from the UK, but it wouldn’t stop me flying!
Wheat Monte Casino

Wheat Monte Casino

It was a lovely visit to the farm as usual. Pam and Carson organised a bbq on our first night, then Russ and I made fish tacos on the second. In between packing up the van and shopping for fresh food for the trip ahead, we  had time to get out and about round the farm to see the crops, and to see a huge mob of ewes and lambs being drafted for shearing the following day.

Faces in the flock

Faces in the flock

Carson had shot and frozen us 9 rabbits and they gave us plenty of lamb they kill and some beef. Our freezer is filled to bursting as we still have about 20ks of fish and crab meat in there too.

It was sad leaving as I doubt we’ll be back in WA next year for any length of time, but Lewis is working on us to go to Bali in January which we may do.

The actual Nullarbor Plain

The actual Nullarbor Plain

Tuesday, we hooked the van up and started our 3500km drive home.  I always think it’s such a long way, but once we’re out on the road, I love the trip. It’s not all as flat and featureless as my photos show it to be-there are some lovely treed stretches. This time too, there was lots of water lying about and quite a few wild flowers early on, so really lovely.

On night one, we made it to the former gold rush town of Coolgardie, night two we got to Cocklebiddy, last night we made it to Nundroo Roadhouse and today we arrived in Streaky Bay.

Without looking it up, I think we’ve come about 2100 of our 3500 so far, but we are staying here for 6 nights so we can do some fishing and crabbing-something we haven’t done since the end of July and are missing badly. Crossing into South Australia, we only had to hand over a bit of lettuce and a wedge of lime to the quarantine man so I reckon we shopped pretty well. Our first job after that crossing was to go to the supermarket in Ceduna and stock up-we were both shocked yet again at the prices and are seriously considering a move to the UK where most things are so much cheaper!

After we leave here, it’s two nights/3 days on the road to Portland where we’ll stay 2 nights, a night in Port Fairy, another in Warrnambool, then on to Traralgon where we’ll base ourselves for the next few months.

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Busy Days

Shark Beach pano

Shark Beach pano

Thursday we spent a quiet day in. We went to friends for dinner, but I cooked. With 7 of us eating, it was much easier to eat at their flat with its dining table, plenty of crockery and glasses etc.

Beaty and John organised nibbles-I really loved Johns home-cured olives! I made savoury bread cases filled with curried crab for entree, followed by braised rabbit and veg and a pasta bake for mains. Beaty bought us drumsticks for dessert which was great.

Friday, we put the boat in at Eagle Bluff and fished for a couple of hours just bringing home two black snapper. That night we had drinks and a sausage sizzle with some of the lovely people on our level of the park. Thumbs up to the butcher-his black pepper beef, and beef and garlic snags were wonderful, as were his hogget (two tooth) loin chops. Hogget was half the price of lamb and twice the flavour so it was a win!

Yesterday, we were to move from site 108 to site 12 down on “death row” (someone has to die for a site to come vacant lol). As it turned out, the office stuffed up the booking and we had to move across the way from 108 to 104 for the night, then move today to 12. What a pain ITA!

Shell Beach

Shell Beach

After our move yesterday, we took a drive out to Shell Beach, back to Goulet Bluff, then across the road for a look at Shark Beach. It’s a well kept secret with much, much nicer shells than Shell beach, thick, white and loose so you walk ankle deep in the tiny cockle shells that live in the super saline water, then are thrown up on the shore in big tides and storms. We put the ute in 4WD to explore some old station tracks until we reached the old shearing shed bore then got back on the highway and came home.

After drinks with Beaty and Charlie before dinner, we ate our two black snapper along with wedges and salad. Just salt and pepper and baked in foil in the oven, they were wonderful. Our neighbour Narelle came over after dinner to sit and chat and have a drink. It was a great evening.

Today, we moved at last onto site 12 where we’ll stay for our last 16 days here. What a bugger of a site to get on to. We are the biggest van in the row-everyone else has smaller pop tops. We broke a concrete paver and scraped the shell cement wall, then got the van to a point where we couldn’t go any further back with ute. We had to unhitch, re-hitch in a different position and push the van back. What a performance!

I’m making pea and ham soup while I write this and relax.

Braised Rabbit and Vegetables

  • 3 rashers bacon, diced, fatty ones are good, I cook slowly to render the fat, then don’t use oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 sticks celery, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 8 Rabbit Pieces (I had the back ends of two rabbits-saddle and legs),
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cups water or low-salt chicken stock (the gravy mix is salty remember)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 large carrots, chunky cut
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into eight pieces each
  • gravy mix (enough to thicken the two cups of stock/water), mixed to a paste with cold water (I use a really good commercial demi glace made by maggi. I buy it in 2kg tubs)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (I had it but I forgot to use)

    Braised bunny

    Braised bunny

Method

  1. Gently fry the diced bacon to release the fat, then add the onion and fry until softened. Add the garlic and celery and cook a few minutes more. Tip onto a plate.
  2. Add the rabbit to the pan and cook on all sides until lightly browned. Add the tomato paste and cook stirring a minute or two, add the wine and cook until it’s reduced.
  3. Now, add the stock, bay leaves and thyme, the celery and bacon on the plate, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots, cook a further 30 minutes. Next it’s the potatoes-add them and cook all gently for about 30 minutes more or until the potatoes are tender. In total, about 1.5 hours cooking.
  5. Finally add the gravy paste to the pot and stir gently until it thickens, then add in the green peas for a couple of minutes. Serve in bowls with parsley scattered over and fresh white bread and butter to mop up the gravy!

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Denham, Shark Bay, Monkey Mia

Sunset from our van

Sunset from our van

Yesterday, we arrived in Denham for a 5 week stay. Maybe more of you know it as Shark Bay, or know of its near neighbour Monkey Mia-famous for dolphin feeding.

When we first started travelling, we managed to get here about 6 winters in a row, but haven’t visited in three years now, so it feels good to be back. I have to stop myself feeling sad though about all the people we met in the early years who aren’t here now through death, illness or old age.

The boat and trailer are organised and ready to go, it’s a pity the weather hasn’t cooperated. It was just too windy to take the tinny out. At times like this, we can usually go over to Monkey Mia and crab and fish but the direction of the wind even put paid to that. We used the spare time to catch up on a couple of weeks worth of laundry and make Chilli Jam from the lovely chillies we bought at a farm gate in Carnarvon on Friday. We also bought tomatoes so it’ll be chutney next!

5 Cup Chilli Jam

5 Cup Chilli Jam

After accepting it was too cold and windy to fish, we took a drive out to Monkey Mia to see it’s still there and check out the boat ramp. Our friend Beaty here in the park told us her neighbour caught 34 crabs there this morning so of course WE are off to try and do the same tomorrow!

Shark Bay on the way home from Monkey Mia

Shark Bay on the way home from Monkey Mia

While we were organising dinner, I looked out the window to see the most amazing sunset we’ve ever seen here. I raced out with the camera and found everyone out of every caravan, 5th wheeler tent and motor home out taking photos as well. Then Russ took the camera up to the dunes for a few more photos. We reckon it almost rivaled the sunset at Mt Augusta the other night! Once again, that amazing colour is EXACTLY how it was-not post editing!

Our salad at dinner tonight was made using more of the lovely stuff we bought in Carnarvon-pumpkin, and the best rocket you’ll ever buy-from Morels in town. I know the sauce is the similar to last nights that we had over the eggplant dish, but it works so well with this salad I had to do it. I would add fetta or bocconchini to the salad if I had them but I didn’t! You could use spinach instead of rocket, but I like rocket the best.

Pumpkin and Rocket Salad

  • 1/2 cup natural yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint (all I have on hand or I’d use fresh)
  • 1 teaspoons runny honey
  • 2 cups diced Pumpkin
  • 1 red onion, cut into chunky wedges, then separated
  • 1 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small can baby beets, washed, drained and halved or quartered (rinsing them stops them bleeding through the salad)
Pumpkin and Rocket Salad

Pumpkin and Rocket Salad

Method

  1. Mix the yoghurt, honey and mint together. Pop in the fridge.
  2. Preheat your oven to 190c
  3. Toss the pumpkin, onion, cumin, paprika and pine nuts in the olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
  4. Spread on a baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender (but not mushy)
  5. Arrange the rocket on a platter, add the roasted veg, scatter the baby beets then drizzle over the yoghurt mix and serve.

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Mount Augustus

From Emu Hill Lookout about 8ks from the caravan park

From Emu Hill Lookout about 8ks from the caravan park

Russ and I have bucket lists within bucket lists, and and a trip out to Mt Augustus from Carnarvon has been on one of our obscure ones since we first drove past the sign telling us it was 490ks inland from the highway.

We’ve driven up and down the coast, in and out of Carnarvon, passing that sign, reading about Mt Augustus and wondering how we could get out there and see it-the biggest drawback being our on-road van vs the mostly dirt roads leading to it.

About a month ago, after discovering we could get accommodation at the Mount Augustus Tourist Park we decided to bite the bullet, leave our van in a park in Carnarvon and go see “the rock”. It’s apparently the largest single rock in the world-at 8km LONG and 710 metres high it’s way bigger than it’s more famous Aussie rival Ayers Rock/Uluru, but much less known.

When we arrived at the Big 4 caravan park in Carnarvon, we hoped we’d find some nice neighbours happy to keep an eye on the van and boat the three days we were to be away. Better than that, we had Yarpturk (just near Warrnamool) couple Roz and Graham, and Geelong couple Maureen and John (Graham’s brother) beside us. They were more than happy to keep an eye on things for us including putting the boat motor in their annex and covering our generator with a tarp when it rained. Such a great stroke of luck for us.

I booked us twin share accommodation-at $88 it’s half the price of the “fully self contained” units . I wrote an e-mail (or two) to the current manager to ask what we would get/ should expect for our money and was told we would get a room, single bed (including linen and an extra doona for the cold) and a towel each and that was it. The ‘tea room” had a small fridge, kettle and microwave, the park had free bbqs. So no fridge, tea and coffee making facilities in our room, no TV (actually no reception). It’s like camping with no need to bring the tent.

We took crockery, cutlery, hotplates, a pot and pan, knives, chopping board and precooked dinners for our two night stay. We loaned our hotplates, pots and pans, dishwashing liquid and tea towels to people who hadn’t asked management what they’d need.

Outside our luxury donga

Outside our luxury donga

It was about 190ks of sealed road, then 300ks of dirt-a bit rough and rocky in the creek crossings, but you could definitely take a 2WD out there if you weren’t too fond of it. Having said that, two 4WDs arrived on night one having done tyres in the creek crossings. It took us 7 hours to get there but we did stop for lunch and to take lots of photos. I overtook two vehicles in the two hours before Gascoyne Junction, then one vehicle passed us in the next 5 hours it took us to get to the rock. It’s remote!

We arrived around 4.30 made ourselves comfortable, then grabbed a drink and the camera and wandered to a spot in the park where we witnessed maybe the most spectacular sunset we both reckon we’ve ever seen. It was amazing. When it faded and the sky turned to dark, we were then treated to a million stars in the crystal clear night. We had a lovely couple from Sydney in a room a few doors up and sat and watched the stars with them until about 10pm then Sunset 6headed to bed.

Our full day was spent driving the 49k circuit of the rock, stopping in at various walks and lookouts along the way. My favourites were the peaceful, pretty, Cattle Pool (Goolinee) where we walked about a kilometre along it’s banks, and the Pound where we walked up about a kilometre for views back into the pound and out over the Lyon’s River Valley.

Goolinee

Goolinee

Back at the park we were hoping for another beautiful sunset (that didn’t eventuate), but the clouds cleared at about 7pm and we had that big starry sky to enjoy again. We had a nice chat to a couple of Australian Electoral Commission workers who were out visiting the nearby Aboriginal Community of Burringurrah. Their accommodation had been booked by an agency who didn’t know/tell them they’d need to take food. They could buy baked beans, eggs and microwaveable pizza from the shop, the manager loaned them cutlery and crockery and when the elderly microwave in the tea rooms gave its last gasp and died, we loaned them our hotplate, pot and pan to cook their dinner in. We had a lovely chat with them over heating meals and doing dishes, then sat out til around 10pm again looking at the stars.

On Thursday morning we headed home, choosing to go back a different way for 230ks until we met up with the Mullewa Road again. About 15ks from the park, an Aboriginal family (maybe grandmother, grandfather and little grandson) waved us down and told us they’d run out of petrol (we only carry diesel). They asked if we’d take them into town but honestly, the back of the car was jam packed with our gear to save it getting dusty in the tub again. I said Russ and I would go back, get the petrol and bring it to them. The woman (who did all the talking) gave me her debit card, pin number and jerry can and off we went. The little boy (about three) had just clung to her looking at us until I asked if they had water (no, so I gave them a bottle of ours) and would he like a banana. YUP!

Fuel Sales MATP

Fuel Sales MATP

Back at the park, Mr. Doom and Gloom (the fuel bloke), reckoned the card would have no money on it and the fuel wasn’t going out the gate if it wasn’t paid for. I said fill the jerry can and we’ll give it to the kid if that’s the case. But I knew it’d be fine and it was. We got back to them, they grabbed an old coke bottle and started funneling the petrol into the tank. We went on our way home once again stopping to take heaps of photos, for lunch and arrived back in Carnarvon at 4.30.

Back in Carnarvon today, we’ve put the boat back on the roof of the car, shopped for fruit and veg down South River road, been to Woolworths and the doctor so we’re ready to go to Denham tomorrow.

If you ever find yourself in Carnarvon with a few days to spare and your car’s not to precious, go out and see Mount Augustus-it’s well worth the 1000k drive!

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