Melbourne back to Sydney (inland) and on to Brisbane
(The newer entries will be added to the top of the page to save scrolling down through everything)
We stayed a few more days in Pottsville as planned, and then headed to my uncle's place to catch up with my parents. We haven't added much to the site recently as we didn't really go anywhere new. I'll start a new page when we leave Brisbane, and details of the holiday with my folks are here.
18/6/12: Today we decided we needed to see the sea again, so we drove east back to the coast. We ended up at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast for a bit, and then headed back to our old favourite Pottsville. We took the dogs for a walk along the beach which they loved, and spent the night at the roadside stop we used before. We’ll probably stay here a day or two, and then go back inland and wind up back at my uncle’s at the weekend for when my parents arrive. So all in all, not much to report.
17/6/12: We headed on to Canungra which is south of Ipswich. We drove through a few small towns and the countryside was really pretty. We ended up at Canungra showground which was much quieter. Canungra seems to be one of those country towns that’s decided tourism is the go, and is thriving. Lots of small shops and cafes open on a Sunday, and hundreds of people milling about. But it didn’t seem tacky.
15-16/6/12: We arrived at Ipswich showgrounds and decided to pull the van apart and get the battery charger installed. (It’s a 30 amp DC-DC 4 stage charger if anyone cares). It took most of the afternoon, and much of the next day, as we had to pull the dash apart, plus the kitchen cupboard with the batteries in it, and feed the wires thorough the van. All a bit fiddly. But all seems in order. We woke up on the Sunday morning to find that the whole showground was being used as a car park for the trash and treasure being held there. Literally hundreds of cars and coaches jammed all around us. So we left.
9-14/6/12: We spent the week at my uncle’s place (David and Rebecca) just south of Brisbane. It was really nice week. We didn’t do a whole lot really, except eat too much! After a bit of a disastrous first night sleeping in the house (the dogs wouldn’t settle and kept us awake most of the night), we opted to sleep on the drive in the van. We went into Brisbane on the train one day for a look around. We quite liked it. On other days we went for walks around the area, and did a bit of shopping. We had a look at the local lake and watched a few geezers racing yachts. But pretty much we lazed about reading and using the washing machine. Janine even went to bingo. Next stop: curlers and mopping the front step.
We got a DC-DC battery charger delivered there too. I don’t expect it’ll get much use, but it means we can relax about the batteries when we get periods of rain.
After a week, we decided to head off again until my folks arrive in a week or so. We went west inland, intending to do a loop back to the coast. First stop Ipswich again!
5,6,7,8 /6/12: Ipswich showgrounds. $18 a night for a powered site, and hot showers. We've stopped here for a few nights before heading to catch up with my uncle. There's not much to Ipswich. The town is quite nice and a lot of work has been done to make it pretty - boardwalks along the river etc. But the locals seem a bit feral. Its been nice to stop and relax around the van. Most stuff is running from the extension cord, so power is plentiful. Lots of movies / PS3 and internet. There's even greyhound racing here, what seems like every night. I'm tempted to give Clive a run, but now he can drive he doesn't see the point. We met a guy today riding his pushbike from Brisbane to Perth (4400 kms!). Although, he only set off yesterday so I'd be more impressed if we'd met him in Adelaide or somewhere. Anyway, off to Brisbane's suburbs tomorrow to catch up with my uncle.
1-4/6/12: We've been doing much the same as before. Caught up with Janine's mum before she left, and spending the nights in the roadside stop. Some nights we're the only ones there but it's quite safe. The weather has gone off a bit. A few days of rain put a dent in the batteries - down to about 60%, but they charged up again when the sun returned. We have decided to buy a DC to DC charger to charge the batteries while we are driving. We probably don't need it, but its good pece of mind, and stops us spending our days reading the long range weather forcast!
We decided to go for a wander for a bit while we wait for my folks to arrive. I've got an uncle in Brisbane so we are heading that way and will then do a loop inland, maybe even back to Pottsville! So we drove along the coast for a while, and watched the surfers at Hastings Point. Then we headed through Coolangatta and Surfers Paradise. Surfers is quite commercial- lots high rise apartments and geared towards the tourist. Once we got through that we parked up near Movieworld. Our first proper 'stealth' night, just in amongst a residential area. Was too easy!
26-31/5/12: After breakfast, we drove back up to Coolangatta in time to see Janine’s mum for lunch. She is staying with some friends in a large apartment block looking out over the sea. A nice spot. We took full advantage of a hot shower! We contemplated staying in the street overnight, but decided to head back to Pottsville instead for the night. We spent the next day in Pottsville again, and then headed back to Coolangatta for a roast the next night. And another shower. Since then, we’ve been hanging around in Pottsville, doing the same as before. We are really just hanging about waiting for my folks to arrive, but it’s a nice enough spot. We’ll head off in a day or so, and take a long winded way into Brisbane.
So not much to report. Just lazing about. Getting out of jury duty, and solving all the days problems. The weather is mixed, but we are not van bound which is good.
24-25/5/12: Today we decided to head into Tweed Heads for a change. This is a much bigger town and we went into the shopping centre for a bit. The weather was pretty bad and raining so it was good to be inside for a while. We spent the night in Stott Island reserve which is pretty popular with over nighters. It was okay but very muddy. The next day we drove through Tweed Heads and on to Coolangatta in case Janine’s mum got in early in the day. It was pouring with rain so we had a quick look around, and then went to the launderette. Coolangatta is really the start of the Gold Coast which is quite a commercial area – lots of hotels and tourists. In the evening we drove back to the reserve for the night.
21-23/5/12: Today we got up and spent the day in Pottsville. It’s just a small town on the coast but it has good coffee, a dog beach, and plenty of water we can use. We have decided to stay here for a while until Janine’s mum arrives at least. A few days rolled into one really. Sleeping at the roadside stop, having brekky, heading into town, having coffee, walking the dogs having lunch, walking some more, before heading back for the night and cooking tea.
20/5/12: We decided that the solar panels needed a wash due to the dust and grime of driving down a few dirt roads recently. Trouble has been that we don’t have a ladder so all we can do is throw water up there, which wasn’t really working. But the showgrounds has a footy pitch with stands for the fans to sit on, which make great scaffolding for getting on the van. Job done. We went into Mullumbimby town for a coffee and some shopping, and then headed to Pottsville Beach a little further up the road. The town here is nice, and we went for a couple of hours walk with the dogs on the beach. We have parked up for the night on the roadside outside Pottsville Beach.
In a few days we’ll be catching up with Janine’s mum and a month later, my folks are coming out from the UK so we’ll be catching up with them too. Problem is we’ve mistimed our run. We thought we had miles to go, but this will all happen less than 45 minutes up the road. So we will need to find somewhere to hang out, and some projects to do to pass the time. If we keep this pace up, we’ll be finished in a couple of years!
19/5/12: Once we got going today, we headed back into Byron Bay for a bit, before heading inland again to Mullumbimby. We stayed at the showgrounds there which was fine ($20). We had hot showers and lolled about for a bit.
18/5/12: Today we needed to get up to Byron Bay to meet up with one of Jano’s sisters (Kath) for her birthday and a drink. So we drove into Grafton, used Macdonald’s facilities, and drove towards Ballina. The road out of Grafton follows a river (Richmond I think) for lots of kilometres. It’s a very nice drive. The countryside changed quite dramatically too. Everything is starting to look a bit more tropical. There’s still the gumtrees, but now they’re interdispersed with palm trees, and fields of sugar cane and banana crops. The houses look different too- raised off the ground a bit more, probably due to the river flooding. When we got to Ballina, we had lunch by the river, and then drove along the coast through Suffolk Park into Byron Bay.
We had a bit of time so we took the dogs for a long walk along the beach at Byron, before meeting Kath and Jac for a few drinks and fish and chips. Byron Bay is very popular with the back packer fraternity and street parking is heavily policed, so we tried to get into one of the caravan parks (none took dogs). So we drove back out of town 5 kms, and parked at a road side stop for the night.
17/5/12: This morning we drove back to the coast, and headed into Coffs Harbour. It’s a harbour. Quite a large town but pleasant. We did a bit more shopping and banking (interest rates are dropping here which is a pain) and had a look round the harbour. We spent a few hours here, and then headed off. We decided to stay on the side of the road just south of Grafton.
16/5/12: After leaving Bellingen, we drove further inland to Dorrigo. It’s a smaller version of Bellingen really, but not so well formed. We had a quick look round and went for look at the local waterfall before driving back down the mountain and staying at a free spot at a reserve a few miles before Bellingen. Another couple who were there said the Ranger had been, and told them it was no longer a camp area and that everyone had to leave. Apparently one of the campsites in Dorrigo had complained they were losing business, so the Ranger made it his business to try and rectify that, threatening fines etc, even though it is legal to camp there. We stayed anyway and he didn’t come back. But if you’re ever in the area, Bellingen is much nicer – spend your time (and money) there.
13-15/5/12: Today we left our campsite and headed into Crescent Head for lunch at the pub. We also managed to get the washing done at the launderette before heading back into Kempsey to stock up on food. We drove along the coast for a bit and then headed inland to Bellingen. Bellingen is a really nice town – lots of coffee shops and old buildings. It’s a bit hippyfied with lots of people having mid life crisis’s and getting back to their roots in a middle class way – bandanas, wicker baskets, and Toyota Prius’s. Lots of hand wringing and saving the world from imaginary threats like carbon dioxide and balmy summers. Not like us, living in a van run by solar! We stayed at the Showgrounds in town - $15 a night with hot showers / drinking water. It’s only a 5 minute walk back into the shops so a good base. We’d probably have stayed longer than the three days we did, but the annual show was on and we got kicked out. But for three days, we lazed about, read books, and drank coffee. The weather was still great but it got a bit cold at night which annoyed Clive, being so slim, so we got him a new bed.
3 - 10/5/12: We’re still at the camp near Crescent Head. The weather has been perfect and it seems silly to move on. It’s about 20-25 C during the day with clear blue skies. Plenty warm enough to warm up our solar showers to nearly too hot. At night it gets quite cool so we’ve been lighting a fire. The batteries are fully charged by 9 am and the fridge uses next to nothing over night because it’s so cool outside. We do the occasional run into town for more food. The weather is supposed to be good til the weekend so we’ll probably move on then.
2/5/12: Lots more sun today so we got the solar showers out and had a nice hot shower. Much nicer than the ‘wash’ in the van. Nipped into town for some supplies and generally spent the day lazing about, walking on the beach and playing on the PlayStation. Its nice to relax again after all the driving / van issues
1/5/12: Some sun today so that was good. Didn’t do much other than wander up and down the beach. Had a fire tonight which was a struggle with damp wood. Some sun today though which is promising.
30/4/12: We were told that Ellenborough Falls was nearby and worth a visit, so we went there. The road was terrible; about 10kms of it was dirt road, and lrge chunks of that were either missing or corrugated. It felt like the van was going to fall apart. The falls were nice and we spent an hour or so there. We took a different road out, which was still unmade, but it didn’t seem as bad. We’ve decided we need a break from touring around driving most of the day, so we’ve decided to pay for a site for a few days – our first paid stay on this leg. We headed just south of Crescent Head which is just north of Port Macquarie. It’s only $15 a night as it’s a ‘bush camp’, but the water’s drinkable and there is a little bit of intermittent phone reception. We aim to stay here for a few days. It’s right on the beach and there’s hardly anyone about.
29/4/12: We drove along the coast road through Tuncurry towards Taree. It was a nice drive, with large lakes on the left, and the sea on the right. We didn’t want to drive too much today, so we headed inland to Wingham and stayed at a free site on the edge of a river. It was a good spot, with clean toilets and fresh water. I slept well (earplugs) but apparently there was a lot of comings and goings overnight in the car park, with people going fishing. We didn’t do much today – just relaxed.
28/4/12: Today we headed north again but on the freeway to get back to where we ended up yesterday. We went through Newcastle and stopped briefly in an industrial beachside suburb and took the dogs out, before moving on. We went along the Nelson Bay peninsula and stopped at Anna Bay for lunch and a walk. Anna bay has massive sand dunes with camel rides and 4wd on the beach. It was a bit commercial, but interesting. We then back tracked towards Raymond Terrace, and headed to a really nice rest stop in the forest at Bungwahl, just east of Bulahdelah.
26/4/12: We got up today and rang Mercedes who said the part was in, and to come in at 2pm. So we had a leisurely morning watching a bit of TV and refilled our water tanks, before heading into town. We sat around for a couple of hours while it was fitted, and decided to stay one more night at the road side stop as it was getting late in the day. The van seemed fixed which is good.
27/4/12: Today we set off from from Gosford and headed north up the coast road. We went through The Entrance, and Swansea, and it was good to be back on the road again. We stopped for by a beach, and then the same old fault with the van returned. No indicators etc again! We contemplated going to Newcastle which is the next biggest town, but couldn’t face starting again with our 4th Mercedes dealer in 10 days or so we rang Gosford and let them know we were coming back. Annoying as it was, they pulled the van to bits, tested everything and found a faulty relay. They assured us that it was now fixed for good. We’ll see. We spent another night in Gosford at the road stop. It seems like we have spent more time at Mercedes and Gosford than everywhere else put together.
25/4/12: Today the sun was out all day, and our batteries got fully charged. It wasn’t so bad just sitting in the sun reading and drinking tea. We played a bit of scrabble and I wore my slippers. Just need a pipe now and I’m set. Even had time to do a bit of training with Clive. Tomorrow we head back to Mercedes to hopefully find the part has arrived, and they can fit it.
24/4/12: It was great catching up with Kay but we decided to move on today. Our batteries needed to see some sun after being inside for a couple of days. We drove across the Harbour Bridge and headed north out of Sydney. Our plan was to clear the northern suburbs (which are really nice but we’ve both been there before), and to get back onto the coast road heading north. About an hour later we arrived at Gosford. And as we did, our indicators etc stopped working again. So off we pop to our 3rd Mercedes dealer in a week. We were ropable but to their credit, they fitted us in, and found ‘the fault’; a dodgy steering column module. Which they don’t stock. Melbourne do though. But tomorrow’s a public holiday. So it won’t be in until Thursday. So we have to hang around Gosford for two nights. To say Gosford is the arse end of the world is being kind. So we drove to a roadside freeway stop instead, which was ok. There was plenty of grass for the dogs, and it all felt nice and safe.
23/4/12: We got up early because it was Kay’s birthday and we wanted to get a card and some flowers before breakfast. During the day we walked up and down the main street (King Street), and then took the dogs for a run in a park. The houses around Newtown are nearly all old and full of character, which seems odd but good so close to the city centre.
22/4/12: We got up fairly early and headed back to Bilpin reserve on the way into Sydney. We emptied out toilet (when I say ‘we’, I obviously don’t mean me) and took on a bit of water. Then it was off to Sydney to stay with Kay and Brian. Luckily for us, her apartment block has a secure loading bay with a 3 metre high roof so we could park in there. No solar, but it was cloudy and raining anyway. We had a quick look round before a bbq tea. Newtown is very nice. Bustling and quite like an English town – the main roads aren’t straight and gridlike, like they are in Melbourne.
21/4/12: In the morning we drove into Lithgow to get some more supplies as we decided to stay another night in Mt Wilson. We got back at about midday, and the place was packed. The ‘perfect’ parking spot was gone, and we struggled to park anywhere. Apparently a church group were having a do there for lunch. They left about 3pm, so we got our spot back. But they came back again at 4pm and surrounded us again. We went for a walk in the afternoon to the ‘lookout’ we found on a local map, but there wasn’t one. Just trees. We had fun watching all the ‘normal’ people going into the ‘toilets’ and then come running back out. By bedtime there were about 20 tents up and a few more people about.
20/4/12: We arranged to catch up with my cousin Kay in Sydney on Sunday, so we decided to stay around the mountains until then. There were a couple of spots listed in our book for camping, but before we went there, we drove up to Mount Wilson to a look out. It looked really good up there. No lookout that we could find, but the ‘town’ of Mount Wilson was really nice. Lots of colour from the autumn leaves. We drove until the road ran out looking for the lookout but didn’t find it. Had fun doing a 58 point turn getting turned round to come back down! It turned out you can camp at Mt Wilson so we did. We lit a fire and more or less had the place to ourselves.
19/4/12: We got up at 6 am and set off to Huntingwood near the Eastern Creek Raceway. Got ourselves booked in to Mercedes and spent the day there. Its a bit awkward when you live in the van with two dogs. Mercedes reception doesn't really cater for that. Never mind. The guys at this dealership sorted the problem, and its been fine since. They advised us not to go too far incase it reoccurred, so we drove back into the Blue Mountains, and are spending the night in the rain at Bilpin by a park. Had a curry and a piping hot brew, and ready to settle in to watch a bit of TV.
18/4/12: Recently we've been getting a warning light stay on the dashboard, and today it wouldn't go away. and the wipers / indicators stopped working intermittently. So we drove on the Orange which has a Mercedes dealer. We left it with them for a few hours, and they were useless. Couldn't have been less helpful. So after wasting the best part a day, we decided to just drive on to western Sydney to a bigger dealership.
We left Orange about 5pm, and it was pouring down. We restarted the van several times until the wipers worked, and then drove through the rain, fog and dark of the Blue Mountains. In the end we spent the night in a roadside stop at a small place called Hazelbrook just outside Katoomba.
17/4/12: Rather than jumping back on the freeway to Sydney, we headed inland and north towards Narrandera. The country side is quite flat and dominated by grain growing, with large silos in every small town inbetween. From Narrandera we headed towards Cootamundra, and had our first bit of bad luck this time round. We got a smashed windscreen from a rock flicked up by a truck. Its not too bad, and doesn't leak. We popped into a windscreen repair place, and the bloke said the roads were so bad after the recent rains if we fixed it, it'd probably only get broken again. So we'll leave it for now.
We stopped for the night on the side of the road just east of Young.
16/4/12: We set off for Bendigo, and on through to Shepperton. Both are nice country towns, but we didn't really stop as we've both been to them before. We drove on the Cobram, and stayed the night in a free camp called Big Tom's beach on the banks of the River Murray. It was a great spot - no amenities (unless you count a large pile of excrement with a toilet seat perched on top), but nice nevertheless. We've learned not to poke our head's around the door of 'bush toilets'.
13/4/12: We finally left Melbourne again and headed for Castlemaine to the north to spend the weekend with friends. We had good time, lolled about and had a bonfire on the Saturday night. Everyone there was a vegetarian so I was a bit pastey pale by Monday morning, and pretty desperate to eat something with a face on it.
After returning to Melbourne for some stuff (and a couple of shifts at work to pay for ipads etc), its time to head off again, back towards Sydney, and then north.