4-18 February: Back on the road again

Author: Mrs A

Location: Sydney and Cowra, NSW and Chiltern, Victoria

The first week of February saw me admitted into hospital for surgery on my stomach. Four days at North Shore Private Hospital with a fabulous view, and I was released into the care of Mr A and our friends’ home in Forestville, a leafy suburb near the Northern Beaches area.

Fabulous sunrise crossing Roseville Bridge on the way into hospital
A room with a view…better than most of the hotels we have ever stayed in!
The morning after surgery wearing my XXXL gown! It was soon replaced with a more suitable size…my liquid diet wasn’t much cop!

Forestville’s a lovely quiet location, on the very edge of Garigal National Park. John and Eveliene’s house has gorgeous views across a valley of gumtrees, filled with squawking cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets by day, and the soft calls of the boobook owl at night.

While I slowly healed and learned how to eat food other than clear liquids again, Mr A took himself off on an 8km hiking adventure with additional paddle, taking the pack-raft on his back. He hiked from the house down to Carroll Creek, and from there paddled under the Roseville Bridge. He even found his way home again without too much trouble…

Mr A’s pack – hard to believe there is a boat in here!
A waterfall along the shallower part of the creek
The boat all inflated and ready for further exploration by water

After about a week of good rest and soft food, I felt ready to get back in the caravan, so we farewelled our friends in Forestville and headed off to Matraville to collect Tassie. Our departure was only delayed by dead batteries on the car – the problem with leaving it parked up over Christmas and not charging…ah well, a learning for the future. $650 and two new batteries later, we were finally away, and this time really ready to explore.

We left Matraville and Tassie’s foster parents, Jenny and David, on Saturday morning and headed up to Canowindra to collect the Zone.

Tassie had a great time exploring the barn, but was soon passed out once we reached the van park in Cowra for the night.

Miss T exploring the farm machinery
On to Cowra for a couple of nights
One tired Burmese cat…though she seems happy to be back in the Zone

We stopped in Cowra two nights, an opportunity to get the car and caravan cleaned up and stocked up with food. The van park is lovely and leafy, though we were pleased we had access to electricity (and hence air conditioning) as the temperatures rose up in to the 30s. We even were treated to a surprise visit from Tassie’s other foster parents, Rosemary and Richard, as they passed through Cowra on their way to lunch with friends.

And so this morning we set off, heading on our way south. Our first destination was to be a pub on the outskirts of Albury, but with temperatures reaching the late 30s today we decided to find a caravan park again, and enjoy the comforts of air conditioning.

We crossed the border into the Victorian High Country, and headed for a little village called Chiltern.

We’re camped up tonight beside a water bird filled Lake Anderson…no relative.

Lake Anderson

Despite the warm temperatures we went out for a stroll around this very picturesque little village. It was initially a gold mining town, but now is a service centre for the agriculture providers surrounding. It has a couple of pubs, one apparently serving boutique wine (not on a Monday night though) and the other boasting ‘real Thai food cooked by a Thai chef’…we were almost tempted.

This very closed bar claims to sell boutique wine…

The centre of everywhere you would want to be…apparently

The local mechanic collects old bikes

The village has an enthusiastic historical society and a large museum (also not open on Mondays), several antique shops and the buildings painted in heritage colours and preserving many of their original features. It’s very pretty and inspires authors and artists according to the local tourist literature. The National Trust has a hand in ensuring the preservation of many of the buildings here.

Dow’s Pharmacy boasts original fixtures and fittings from colonial times, including products, records and pharmaceutical equipment

The Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park is not far from here, though the temperature today hasn’t tempted us to get on the mountain bikes for an explore (and I’m not sure my surgeon would advise that 2 weeks post op!). Maybe we will get there tomorrow – it’s meant to be a bit cooler.

It’s great to have my operation behind me and to be back travelling again. Mr A is doing all of the heavy lifting for this trip as I can’t do any for 6 weeks, but he doesn’t seem to mind the extra exercise. We’re both pleased to be back on the road seeing Australia with our adventurous fur child.

Five surprisingly good locations across SA & NSW

Author: Mrs A

To conclude our top 20 locations on our lap of Australia, our final 5 leave Western Australia and take us in to SA and NSW. These locations were surprising in that we had reasonably low expectations and were delighted by what we found there.

Again, these are in order of visiting rather than ranked in any way:

1. Streaky Bay – Eyre Peninsula, South AustraliaReason: This was our first stop after having crossed the Nullabor, and our first taste of oysters since leaving Sydney back in May. It was spring when we reached Streaky Bay, and the weather was not quite settled. We had some fabulously warm mornings, but the afternoons often whipped up with quite a blustery wind. Nevertheless it was a great location to introduce us back into semi-civilisation, with a 10km coastal cycleway to explore, and some interesting road trips to natural landmarks. Quite a unique location.

2. Port Lincoln – Eyre Peninsula, South AustraliaReason: We visited this location purely so I could go cage diving with Great White Sharks (a bucket list item and well worth the trip – I chose the ethical option with Adventure Bay Cruises). We originally booked in at the caravan park there for two nights, but loved it so much we stopped longer. Port Lincoln as a town has some great little restaurants, fabulous seafood and plenty of services. A short drive away is Lincoln National Park, home sea eagles, osprey and fur seals you can snorkel with, and numerous picturesque beaches. A flat cycleway follows the coast around into town and along to the marina (and possibly beyond), great exploring with plenty of birdlife. We really enjoyed our time here.

3. Clare Valley, South AustraliaReason: Anyone who knows us well (and our love of fine wine) will probably question why this fits as a surprising visit. Well the fact is we almost left on the first night due to the cold damp weather, but we were pleased we stuck around. The rail trail is a great drawcard here, relatively flat and guiding you to some fabulous tastings. The visitor information centre is award winning, and if you are there on a Friday night they do a wine tasting with $5 glasses of wine and $25 bottles and a cheese and nibbles plate – a brilliant way to meet your fellow campers and taste some local fare.

4. Tanunda – Barossa Valley, South AustraliaReason: Of course the wine was fabulous – we had some great fun cycling around the area which is pretty flat with some off road cycleways, and great tastings. Highlights were Artisans of Barossa, Izway and the Taste of Eden. It was also our first opportunity to taste Vietnamese food in a long while at FermentAsian – a restaurant with a veritable bible of wine on offer – more than 1000 bottles. We settled for one!

5. Cowra – New South WalesReason: Cowra is just an hour from Orange which we have visited on many occasions, but remained a blip on the map for more than 18 years. This time we picked up some literature about it while visiting Forbes, and thought it sounded lovely. As usual we laughed about what the differences were likely to be from the marketing material (often towns read like quaint French villages but disappoint horribly!). Cowra actually exceeds expectations! Surrounded by rolling hills (making the cycling a bit more of an effort than we’d been used to!), lots of interesting history surrounding the Japanese POW camp and some stunning gardens, Cowra also boasts a wine bar with fabulous selection of local beers and wine, and some great places to eat out. We loved the Indian restaurant – we’d put it up there among the best we’ve been to in Australia! The campsite was delightful too, grassy and shady, hosted by a lovely couple who became friends. Definitely worth a visit.

And that concludes our top 20 locations around Australia so far! We’ll be setting off again in two weeks, first to the Sapphire Coast, before doing an about turn and heading north through to pastures new. We’re looking forward to more (hopefully positive) surprises on our horizon…

Where can you find these locations?

Day 196: 12 December – Hello Orange

Author: Mr A

From: Cowra

To: Orange

Distance: 101km

We said goodbye to the lovely Keira and Glen, and hit the road. A very hot road….winding through this park-like countryside and coming to our first hills since Adelaide. We drive through the settlements of Milthorpe and Blayney, looking as fab as ever. Then we rolled into Orange and straight past our caravan park entrance. It looked like it had been abandoned, with a scruffy half derelict building lot out the front. Thankfully once you are in the Canobolas Caravan Park the aspect brightens up…a little. We decide to only pay for one night and see what we think.

We unhitch and leave Tas in air conditioned comfort as we swelter in the 32 plus degree heat of mid afternoon. We decide not to cycle and take the car as we need to grocery shop. It is a productive stop at Bunnings (what would a self respecting caravaner do with out the Big B?) and then into the town centre. Now we have this image in our minds of a very picturesque, tranquil Orange. Wow…it has changed. Catherine literally is millimetres from getting knocked over by a car that overtakes the one that has stopped to allow us to cross the road. I shout out and she just pauses as he whistles past in front of her and flies off. We are back in ‘civilisation’. The local Supa IGA is also a disappointment. For an area that’s known for its produce, the fruit and veg is really very ordinary.

We drive back to our park a little disappointed (and shaken), with our first impressions of the Orange we were so looking forward to revisiting. Tomorrow should be better – we’re not fasting – and it definitely wont be an AFD (alcohol free day) that we compell ourselves now to have two days a week…..and we are going wine tasting. Yippee..!

Day 194 & 195: 10-11 December – Stunning gardens and feeding my inner geek!

Author: Mrs A

Location: Cowra, Central West NSW

Sunday 10 December

Sunday morning began cool and dewy but soon warmed up to the early 30s. It didn’t feel uncomfortable though, parked up under a huge tree casting plenty of shade. A BBQ brunch commenced our day, with freshly baked bread and merlot and pork sausages we picked up in West Wyalong.

We had lots of jobs we wanted to tackle today, along with getting our sheets, towels and clothes washed. eBay was the first port of call, with a generator for sale and a 4WD Water Bra (never used or even taken out of its packaging!). I was chief photographer and advertisement writer while Mr A cleaned up the products to ensure they had no evidence of dust on them. Next was cleaning the caravan, washing and vacuuming floors, and Mr A did a good sort out of the storage areas. Our final task was to apply Velcro to our lock covers on the tool boxes to ensure they stay closed. A fiddly job!

A seven kilometre cycle concluded our afternoon – sticking to the least hilly pathways around town. Camp hosts Greg and Keira joined us for a drink after they finished work at 6pm, sharing their interesting journey from being heavy machinery operators in the mines out near Broken Hill to now tending lawns and helping out grey nomads here in Cowra – how life changes!

Monday 11 December

Today was earmarked for more fun activities. We started off out at the beautiful Japanese Gardens in Cowra. Spanning 5 hectares, the manicured gardens are a place of peace and serenity, benches and stunning views around every corner. As with most Japanese gardens, water played a key feature, with ponds filled with Koi carp and waterfalls abounding.We strolled, admiring the views and marvelling at how comfortable the 33 degree day felt amongst all this green and water.We decided to enjoy lunch in the café at the gardens (sadly not Japanese food – the only menu nod to the inspiration was a miso soup!).

Just a 20 minute drive away, we next headed to Canowindra. Mr A and I went our separate ways – he headed off to a coffee shop while I entered the Age of Fishes Museum. This museum was set up in the early 90s after a significant 360 million year old fish fossil bed was discovered near Canowindra. Going back to my geography roots, this natural history absolutely fascinates me, and it is incredible how this was stumbled upon.

The original find (Canowindra grossi – the only evidence of a fish of its kind in the world, unearthed by accident on a farm) was back in 1956, and a slab of rock has been displayed in Sydney for many years. In 1993 an archaeologist questioned whether anyone had looked for more in the same area. The answer was no, so he set off to investigate further. What he found was the biggest find of ancient fish fossils in the world – more than 100 fish of four species. Just incredible. The biggest find was fish with bone structure in their fins almost identical to human arms and wrists, and the ability to breathe through a nose as well as gills. The feeling is that these fish are extremely close to being the first creatures to start leaving the water and moving about on land – they are still looking for evidence of this, but no footsteps (or fin steps) found as yet.After all this learning, we thought it should be time to go and try some local wine. We headed to a winery on our way back to Cowra, but sadly the cellar door was only open at the weekend. Such a shame. Hopefully the Orange wineries will be more welcoming over the next few days…yes, I know, another wine region in our future!…And so to our final evening in Cowra. We again enjoyed the company of Keira and Glenn for a few beverages while our Weber cooked up our butterflied pork. We shared a few stories along the way, Mr A lamenting that I will never let him have a chain saw. Our close friends will know why…and so do Glenn and Kiera now.

I joked that Mr A would set our roast pork onto his iPad to rest if I didn’t keep an eye on him, and picked up a heat proof mat and a piece of foil so he could set the baking tray safely on the side. Our pork had been resting about 5 minutes when I realised Mr A had actually put it on his iPad and covered it with foil!!! Oh how we cried with laughter! Despite this, it tasted rather good with the roast sweet potato and steamed bock choi. I wonder whether Apple have ever registered a use case for the iPad as a resting tray for meat?

It’s amazing we are still alive….onwards….