It was raining when we left Paul’s daughter’s home in Limeburners Creek north of Newcastle in early January and its raining now as I sit in my sister’s home in Wangaratta six months later looking out over the green paddocks and the swollen river. In between we’ve visited family and friends in Victoria and South Australia during January and February then spent more than three months in Tasmania returning to Victoria in late June to commence another round of visits to family and friends. All this southern winter time is a stark contrast to the last couple of winters spent in northern Australia with its warm temperatures and vivid colours. When we leave Wangaratta we’ll be making a brief return to Robe in South Australia then travelling up to Sydney and Newcastle and finally southern Queensland before we fly out of Brisbane in late August to start our new adventures in Africa.
Photos and tales from our Tassie time will follow in a number of posts but in the meantime I thought I’d fill in a some details about our travels on the way to the Apple Isle.
Travelling in two vehicles was very useful in some of the more remote areas of Australia but with our plans for Africa and the type of travel we’d be doing up until then it made sense to part with one of them and we decided that’s we’d have to part with Paul’s Troopie. It’s been a great vehicle and tackled some extremely rough tracks so was sold with reluctance but also anticipation of the new adventures ahead.
We avoid highways and motorways when we can and had planned a route south from Limburners Creek which would lead us through the edge of the Blue Mountains but the torrential rain and flooded roads back in January defeated us. After reverting to the motorway our first night was spent in southern Sydney catching up with the ‘Unimog Mob’ who we met on the Canning Stock Route last year. After 18 months on the road Jim and Julie and their two kids have settled back into city life and it was good to yarn about the rest of our travels since we last saw them in Halls Creek and hear about their plans for the future.
Finally leaving the built up areas behind we headed into the mountains with a night at the Wombeyan caves and three peaceful nights in the stunningly beautiful Eucumbene River Valley in Kosciuszko National Park. It would have been very easy to spend much longer in the area but with so many people and places to visit we had to continue our journey.
Our next stop was a catch up with Andrew in Khancoban. We met Andrew last year while we were camped on the remote Cobourg Peninsula in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. Andrew and his wife spend part of each year in Darwin but the rest of the time they live in Khancoban on the edge of the mountains not far from the Victorian border and we had an invitation to visit when we were in the area. They own the Queen’s Cottage apartments and cabins which are perched on the side of a hill looking over the lake and valley in this lush green slice of the country.
We spent an enjoyable evening with them before heading on to Wangaratta to stay with my sister Dawn and brother-in-law Graham and to visit my Mum. The north east of Victoria has plenty to offer so while we were in the area we did some sightseeing and were also lucky enough to be able to attend the annual Opera in the Alps concert in the nearby town of Beechworth.
Another family visit followed with my daughter Bec and her family in Adelaide. We had a few days to get there from Wangaratta so we took a meandering route avoiding main roads and finding some great spots to camp on the banks of the Murray. We temporarily left the river to bypass some of the bigger towns and followed some rough tracks through the Murray – Sunset National Park. It was reminiscent of some of our outback tracks especially when a detour to avoid a fallen tree meant we lost sight of all tyre tracks and had to cast around to rejoin the track.
A long weekend in Adelaide passed very quickly with sightseeing in and around the city including visits to Chinatown and the Central Market, the Art Gallery, the Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Mt Lofty Botanical Gardens and several beaches. Venturing further afield we accidentally ended up in the middle of the Tour Down Under bike race in the McLaren Vale wine region. Our visit with Bec, Erik and family continued with a stay in a holiday house in the pretty town of Middleton on the south coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula. The weather was cool but it was great fun digging into the sand in the shallow water searching for the seasonal Goolwa Cockles. We enjoyed a few meals of this delicacy cooked with garlic, wine and pasta. As well as the time spent on the beaches the kids loved the visit to Victor Harbour for the camel ride and the horse drawn tram ride out to Granite Island.
From Middleton we had four weeks to slowly travel along the coast to Melbourne in time to board the ferry for Tasmania at the end of February. The first section of the trip was into the Coorong National Park, a very special slice of the coast on either side of a long narrow water course commencing at the mouth of the Murray and extending for over 100km. Our favourite camp site was at Tea Tree across a shallow section of the lagoon at the base of tall sand dunes leading to the ocean.
We made it further down the coast past Robe and Beachport to Mt Gambier to visit my friend Carol when plans changed. Guess we should have realised our plans rarely get followed. We returned to Adelaide where I stayed with Bec until mid March to give her a hand while she convalesced after a back operation. After a short stay Paul continued his journey along the coast past Portland to the Great Ocean Road and reached Melbourne in time for the ferry crossing to Tasmania on the 29th of February.
Bec made a good recovery and I enjoyed the opportunity to stay with her and her family for a longer period of time. An extra bonus was being there for the long weekend in March so we could all attend the Womadelaide Festival. Meanwhile Paul started his exploration of the north west of Tasmania and I flew to Launceston to rejoin him on 17th March. Stay tuned for our Tassie posts to follow soon.