Saturday, 15 June 2013

Still Heading North - Upward

Well . . .  here we are again, folks.  Sorry for the long absence but travelling does that to you.  Computer problems (a few hours work is out there in the ether somewhere) – or should that be operator problems?, lack of internet service, unreliable power source (and that’s another computer problem which will be addressed later) and speaking of power THAT’s another story as well! On top of all that there is travelling, sight-seeing, meeting new people and work.  Yes, that’s right, work.  You’ll all just have to keep reading to find out the details of these little snippets.  

And so, on with the trip.  We did, in fact, take a few ‘tourist drives', and spent quite some time admiring the small country townships that in times past we have just driven through.  We had another couple of ‘paddles’ in the kayak & even took the fishing rods for a ride.  I put it that way because, quite simply, I’m certain there are no fish in the lower Clarence.  If they are there, well they still are there – because none of them even tasted our bait let alone took the hook!  Drifting and paddling are very therapeutic ways to while away the hours.


Another wonderful way is to take a cruise along the Clarence – all the way past Harwood to the Pacific Highway Bridge – a total of two and a half hours for just $20 AND with live music. Met a lovely couple from WA (Matt & Kathie) who introduced us to a couple of wonderful ideas which we have since adopted.  First item was a business card folder, for keeping cards both from businesses which we have used (and more importantly found helpful) as well as cards from fellow travellers.  The second is a “Visitors’ Book” which is a super way to remember the people you have met, where you met them and somewhere for them to leave their contact details for follow up when we reach their home turf. 

After the cruise, the weather started to close in, so whilst Gordon prepared to roll in the awning he hung Dustee’s cage in a nearby jacaranda.  A short time later he heard another cockatiel having a chat from up in the branches.  As he approached the cage the ‘blow-in’ fluttered down to land on it and stayed there when Gordon brought the cage inside.  No sooner than they were inside than the ‘new’ bird started to talk. “Who’s a pretty boy?” “Who’s a pretty girl?” Who’s a pretty baby girl?” “What’cha doing?”  It was blindingly obvious that this was someone’s pet.  After the storm passed (and it was quite wild), we door-knocked some of the permanent vans nearby – no-one had lost a cockatiel or knew any local who owned one.  We then went to the office to ask, and they in turn contacted the local vet.  All to no avail.  We left our phone numbers but by the time we left Iluka some 3 or 4 days later, no-one had claimed “Cheekie” as he/she/it is now known.  Fortunately we had purchased the larger cage in Coffs Harbour (the day before Dustee went AWOL) so we had enough room for both of them. 

Leaving Iluka, we saw the damage caused by the storm the previous Sunday.  It was no wonder Cheekie sought refuge – there was evidence of some very wild weather throughout Bundjalung National Park and Iluka Nature Reserve. 
Heading over the range, via the Bruxner Highway to Tenterfield.  Although the label ‘highway’ is much of a misnomer – ‘goat-track’ would be more truthful.  On arrival in Tenterfield, we learnt that there are more differences than just geographical from ‘The Coast’ to ‘Across the Divide’.  In Lismore it is pronounced “Brucksner” whereas in Tenterfield it is known as “Brooksner”.  Hmmm – however they say it, it still needs a lot of work.  As I write this some six weeks or so later we have still had only one fuel consumption level anywhere near that of this particular stretch of driving.  It peaked out at 15.38l/100k.  
Tenterfield is a beautiful ‘RV Friendly Town’.  The trees lining the streets have just begun to turn, with their autumn colours putting on a glorious display in the late afternoon sunshine.  
The good folk of Tenterfield (and not necessarily my brother Bryce and his lovely wife Erika) have maintained the historic feel of this very welcoming town.  [Although in their relatively short time in Tenterfield, they have become widely known & obviously well-liked with Bryce very involved in the RSL sub-Branch and the local Bowls Club as well.]
From the historic School of Arts Building – restored and phenomenally well maintained – where Sir Henry Parkes’ speech outlining Federation of Australia first saw light of day, to the very rustic, almost original, saddlery of George Woolnough.   For the uninitiated, George was immortalised as the “Tenterfield Saddler” by the iconic Peter Allen.
Although the railway no longer operates through Tenterfield, the Station and its outbuildings are all painted and maintained to the highest standard and house a well researched rail museum.  Periodically the grounds also host local markets, and on these days entry to the museum is free.
Just a short drive away, from an old ‘overpass’, the original railway turntable can still be seen.  Thanks to Erika and Bryce for the guided tour, and a terrific meal at the local tavern –quality food at a reasonable price and with top notch service!

Moving on from Tenterfield, we travel up the New England Highway to Warwick and then out to Washpool Camping Reserve on the shores of Lake Leslie.  The idea was to head inland and away from the ‘holiday hordes’.  We were very wise to arrive on Wednesday!  On arrival – and at this camp you cannot pre-book; it’s first come first served – we noticed that it was much more highly populated than we had previously seen it.  Little were we to know . . .  there was more to come – much more!  Posters around the entire camp area advertised a free concert on Saturday night – with ‘Tootsie’.  Apparently we are/were one of the very few who had no idea who or what ‘Tootsie’ was.  From the 40 or 45 vehicles at Washpool when we arrived, by Good Friday night there were over 1400 ‘camps’.  Camps of all shapes & sizes – motorhomes, caravans, campervans, camper-trailers, tents, swags . . . you name it, it was here!  As far as we can discern we are the only 5th Wheeler, and as such of more than passing interest.  AND . . . with each campsite there appeared to be at least one watercraft.  

The camp immediately to our left/rear started off with Tracy & her Prado and off-road camper-trailer.  She told us her husband would be arriving later with their two young children aged 5 & 7.  What she didn’t say was that he would be towing their speed-boat.  Before he arrived, their friends Nick & Mandy arrived.  Nick towing his speed-boat behind his 4WD and Mandy in her car.  Out of these 2 vehicles and boat came the most amazing amount of gear.  Two tents, four gazebos, 4 sets of skis, 4 knee-boards, 2 ski-biscuits and all the accoutrements! . . . coolers, tables, chairs, hammocks, tarpaulins (used as flies on the tents), wet-suits, life-jackets and a full-sized 6-burner barbecue – the plate of which took two burly fellows to lift into place!
Then arrived Sarah & her family (three children) in their Prado/Cub-Camper combo followed by her husband in yet another vehicle towing a PWC.  He was followed by two teenage lads in a car (they occupied the second tent set up by Nick & Mandy) and they also brought a jet-ski.  And then to round out the campsite – Tracy’s brother Craig arrived in his ute – with swag set up in the back – with yet another jet-ski and two hard-shell kayaks.  For all of this, they are the nicest neighbours – no screaming/squealing from the kids (from 3 to 18 years of age), no loud music, civilised hours for the boats and EVERYONE wore life-jackets whenever they were anywhere near the water.  A lovely, healthy ‘outdoorsy’ group.  All I can say is there must be money in cotton/sorghum farming and real estate in these parts – they have all the toys for the boys.  Then again, the girls enjoyed them as well.  Both Mandy and Tracy were very good drivers of the speed boats, and Tracy was by far the best skier of them all. 
Saturday saw their camp swollen by the arrival of Craig & Tracy’s mum & dad and another couple with their two teenage children.  The day was glorious – sunny with light breezes to keep cool by, and surrounded by lovely fun-loving people.  This despite having been woken at 4:15am by some inconsiderate idiots deciding to go fishing.  These the owners of the boat with the most unreliable motor in the entire SE Queensland!  Seven efforts, lots of swearing and yelling, and finally they depart for their expedition at 4:50.

At least I was first in the shower for the morning!

The concert – Tootsie, remember – began at 6pm – whether you wanted to be a part of it or not, you couldn’t escape it!  Some songs were good, some were bad and many more were just so-so.  Tootsie’s favourite saying was “suck it up” and she used it often. And loudly!  And long!!  Long after 11pm.  Over 19 hours makes this one very unhappy camper.
Once again the heavens opened on Sunday.  Watching our neighbours huddle under canvas in an effort to escape it made me very grateful for Toad Hall and all the comforts.

That's about it for now - will be back soon.  Still heading north.

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