I Give Up – Sorry

Sorry everyone – or more realistically, one or two of you! I had hoped to keep this travel blog going, but there is just not time left after I deal with travel, housekeeping, companionship with Glenyce, FATIGUE, and diary writing, maintenance of cameras and computers, and so on.

Sooooooooo ….. this is the last entry in this travel blog as we travel. We’ve taken almost 7,000 images so far, and there are many excellent stories to make, but I’ll do it myself on my own web site, some time after we get back.

I can’t believe the physical and psychological limits I’ve run into in doing this long trip.

I’m not sure what the future holds as regards caravanning and trips and photography and writing.

Goodbye all for now

Is my face red? Way, way, way behind on my blog!!

Going on 3 weeks since my last blog! Tut tut!! This is not what I bargained on – the sheer fatigue of writing and especially on how long it takes preparing pictures to make it more interesting.

I am afraid that I was quite unprepared for the slowing down of my poor old body. Not so old at 77 – but, nevertheless, damnably slowed down. My fingers go at snail’s pace, even though my mind still feels mercurial – in patches, anyway. I am sometimes full of ideas, but my body lets me down – especially my mal-typing fingers.

Oh, why do I make so many typing errors? I wish I could touch-type. “One day I’ll take the time to learn”, I often tell myself. Anyway – there’s all sorts of reasons why I’m not keeping up with my intentions. Probably my psychiatrist (yes, I do have one) could tell me, but he never would – he never tells me anything but leads me to my own therapeutic pathway – or some such guff But it seems to have worked over the last 15 years.

In truth, we have taken so many terrific photos, and had so many intersting experiences, that I am just bursting out to tell it to the world. But that’s where it slows down and my intentions are more or less stuck in molasses.

I can see that the solution to a lot of my problems is to do a lot of text editing and image preparation off line, and then go on and complete it.

I’ll be back!!

Aspects of Caravan Life on a Long Trip

The caravan is a Viscount Ambassador, bought by my father in about 1967, and now regarded as a vintage caravan, with a club following. Even for just the two of us, it takes a lot of effort to fit our stuff in, and to work around each other in the cramped confines of the floor space. Here are some more or less random shots I’ve taken on our way from Melbourne up to Cairns.

Taken from between our beds, a view of Glenyce cooking in the kitchen, on the gas stove, accessed by sliding across the bench top. This bench top was originally chip-board, but over the years it started to disintegrate, and finally collapsed when we were in Merimbula, NSW. We found that a workshop in nearby Eden was prepared to manufacture a new, better one for us within a day or so. That was lucky, and we are grateful for their kindness.

a_glenyce_cooking_602px_1_IMG_3889General view taken from the kitchen table, viewing the kitchen bench (not extended), with storage for plastic crockery, and cups and mugs and some foodstuffs, and my bed with a light over it (Glenyce seated on it). The bed – not the light.

Inside the refrigerator, which is the original one, from about 1967, and is quite small. To replace it with a modern one would require very extensive remodelling of the interior, which is not justified. We only ever run it on electricity, and just keep it closed on trips in between stops. It can run on gas, but that requires the pilot light to be extinguished when we refuel. In fact, it might even be illegal, or voiding the insurance to travel with it on. I’m not sure. We NEVER use the van without being on power, anyway. That’s for refrigeration, heating or fan, and electric blankets for back pain. And of course, for the laptop and cameras and phone recharging.

This is my drawer with underpants, socks, handkerchiefs, electric razor, a jumper, some medications, etc. For this long trip I packed 8 each of pairs of socks and underpants. And about 12 shirts, and 5-6 pairs of trousers. Things get grubby on the road, and we might not wash clothes all that often. It varies, and we’ve been lucky so far. The facilities in modern caravan parks are pretty good. d_bill's_socks_and_undies_etc_602px1_IMG_3732

The main wardrobe is pretty full because we need clothes to last over a week, in case we can’t get washing done and dried. The above-listed supply of clothing can be seen in the wardrobe. The rod has been stable for many years, and usually holds up. But not this time! When we arrived at Lightning Ridge, the rod had come out of its holders, and all of the clothes collapsed into a heap. But some deft work with a screwdriver and rolling the rod underneath Glenyce’s feet straightened the rod up reasonably well, and we hope it will be OK for years to come! Or maybe I had better get a length of new rod when we get home. Or even in Cairns – it’s a big city!

Here’s Glenyce reorganizing her packing of medications, and socks, etc. We each take a variety lot of prescription medication, and made sure we have a forward supply of enough of everything to last about 8-10 weeks. We’ve seen our GP, who has printed out a list of prescriptions and the disorders for which they are prescribed. This will make it easier for getting new scripts if we run out.

This is my main drawer with many of my prescriptions, plus Beconase, and other over the counter things, plus odds and ends like a selection of pens and pencils, erasers, nail files, scissors, etc.

Here I’ve contrived an arrangement of two power boards which feed the rechargers for 3 different cameras, the Samsung Galaxy S3 phone, a spare phone battery, the  6″ Tom-Tom navigator, a Comsol 7800 mAh spare power battery, a charger for a pair of Uniden 5W walkie-talkies, etc. Oh – and a powered USB hub  with 7 sockets (4 USB 3.0 and 3 USB 2.0). Sheesh – what a tangle!

A wider shot of the previous junk doing those various tasks which the high-tech idiots like me tend to surround themselves at these times. It includes the laptop, plus one of two 2 terabyte portable hard drives I have which contain most of our life hitherto, in the sense of most files from the desktop back home. I’m also backing up all of the images I’m making on this trip, plus the contents of the supposedly interesting blog in which you are reading these words. The blog and images actually reside in my web site, elfram.com, which is somewhere in an air-conditioned, backed up, secure data farm (rooms full of disk units) in Sydney, or perhaps Melbourne now, as I (that is, myself as a customer paying to be hosted somewhere) have been bought and sold several times, amongst 4 different firms.


Pictures from Moree Artesian Baths

Back on 19th July we stayed for several nights at Moree, at the Gwydir Carapark, which is a pretty big caravan park with lots of cabins, as well. Very popular with the grey nomads such as ourselves. Some people just come here and stay for weeks!

Well, the first thing that happened was that I was backing in the caravan, aided by Glenyce, when the bloke next door yelled out “Aye!!” or something like that. What had happened was that they had placed the tap for our water supply low down on the ground, so that it’s easy to miss. Which means that it’s easy to hit, because it was only wrapped with a little bit of white plastic bag. In any other caravan park, when they do this, they mount the tap at waist height, usually attached to a stout white post. And even then , I’ve observed another unfortunate caravanner, in Merimbula, years ago,  knock the whole lot over and break off the tap, causing a fountain and water loss for the rest of us, for a while, util they plugged it.

Anyway, I did hit the bloody thing and didn’t hurt my van and slightly bent over the tap, which did work, as you can see, because our white water hose is attached to it in this picture:-

watertap i hit
Low-placed water tap I hit and bent – no damage to me!

We had quite a good time at this caravan park, as you can see in a picture I’ve already placed in a previous post in this blog.

I’ve taken pictures of the various pools at four different temperatures, not including a long, lap pool, which was at a  comfortable 28 ℃. Here is the pool at 34 ℃, as the sign says:-

34 degC pool
34 ℃ Pool

Here’s the one at 35 ℃:

the 35 degC pool
The 35 ℃pool

And here is the slightly more uncomfortable pool at 37 ℃:

37 degC pool
Warming up a little at 37 ℃

And the hotty at 39 ℃. This one has a sign warning you to not use it for very long, especially if you have problems with heart or circulation.

39 degC pool
More challenging pool at uncomfortable 39 ℃

At Lightning Ridge, there is a hot artesian pool open 24 hours a day. We didn’t go there because we were tired from another tour, but they say there are a lot of warning signs, because the water is well over 40 ℃.

All of this region of NSW and Queensland has hot artesian water. In many regions it is full of dissolved salts from the underground regions it has traversed. The water IN the Great Artesian Basin has originated from rainfall on the Great Dividing Ranges, and Wikipedia tells me that much of it has travelled underground for up to 2 million years before emerging from the ground. It travels through water-bearing rock such as sandstones which have  been capped by later laying down of marine sedimentary rocks impervious to water.

I did notice that the artesian water in which we luxuriated has not been chlorinated, so I hope it has been sanitised by some method such as ozonation, etc . Or maybe not!

As a matter of interest, I might add that this particular blog item took over 2 hours to do, including the graphics and such things as looking up how to do the ℃ sign in HTML code, because this laptop keyboard doesn’t have a separate numeric keypad of numerals which I usually use together with the Alt key to get non-standard characters.  It all adds up, and my bum is aching – the chair in this  caravan  is not the most comfortable. Hope you enjoy reading it – I wrote it here in Rockhampton, where we’ve had a 3-night rest. Now we have to decide whether to go up the coast to Cairns, or inland a bit, such as to Emerald, then up to Charters Towers. Oh well – the weary life of the traveller …

In for repairs at Rockhampton for 3 nights

Yah! sheeeez!! Zounds … and such-like appeals to the universe to spare me. Nothing serious has happened, except that my laptop’s hinge has broken  somewhat – actually, a lot – and I’m cautious about the possibility that the screen might fail, which does worry me greatly. That’s because my sodding phone has turned out to be opaque to my logic, and major actions such as banking and emailing haven’t worked there, in my hands, anyway, so the loss of my contacts with the outside world in the manner to which I have become accustomed would be highly regrettable, to say the least!

To catch up: in the last episode I said we were heading for Injune. But we got there at 3 pm,  so we decided to drive a further 174 km to Rolleston, where we arrived to claim almost the last overnight powered spot! The 456 km we drove was quite testing, and I came up OK, except that again I was too sleepy to do anything more than back up photos out of phones and recharge batteries, etc. The previous night was when the laptop hinge failure occurred, and after Glenyce and I inspected it,  we decided that, as we are dependent upon the damned thing, then we need to have one that is not likely to fail. As it is, the data lines could be cut at any moment. Who knows….?

So we need to buy a new laptop, and set up sufficient software to run it in the manner I have become used to. This means bloody Windows 10, and Office 365, etc., etc. Anyway, today, Saturday 23rd, we headed from Rolleston to Rockingham – a fair way –  not measured yet. So we need to shop for a good laptop on a Sunday. That’s because after phoning a lot of caravan parks in Rocky, we finally got on for only 2 nights powered site. Must have power!!

The drive through the Queensland countryside was very interesting, and because I put into my 6″ Tom-Tom navigator the address of the place, it took us there unerringly. The Voice is called Karen (according to the book), and she makes some funny mispronunciations of names. “Leichhardt Highway” came out a real hoot! The system really works quite well, in general.

Anyway, here we are, in Riverside Caravan Park, on the banks of the huge Fitzroy River which runs through Rockingham. It’s beautiful, with the lights of the CBD buildings twinkling across the river, reflected in the water. But although I’ve taken some interesting night shots, I’m just far too tired to resize them, etc. Everything from today is still in two cameras.

It’s nearly 11 pm, and it’s 27 degC in the van with the fan on and the screen door open. Apparently this is unseasonal – a heat wave, someone said. Anyway, I MUST get to bed NOW, because I have to find Officeworks and/or Harvey Norman, and make a purchase of a laptop somewhere over $1200, and then arrange for Office, and so on, as well as get to grips with bloody Win 10. I have no wish to use touch screens, incidentally. Gahhhhh!!

G’night from a healthy but tired Bill and Glenyce Leithhead. We’re OK but a bit frazzled by problems and heat. Have to be in Cairns for booking next Sunday, but know that getting powered sites all the way up will be a real problem. All these grey nomads – like a mob of sheep!!

Brief progress report

I find myself embarrassed by riches, that is, today we’ve taken a lot of good images, just like yesterday, and although they’re in the laptop, I’m /we’re just too fatigued to make the image suitable for use in this blog.

This is contrary to my initial aims, but I have to recognise the inevitable onset of physical and mental barriers contrary to my aims. My apologies, dear reader – or even, for all my hopes, dear readers!

Summary: Today we travelled from Lightning Ridge through Hebel, where we lunched and photographed a quaint 120-yo pub, and café. No, we hadn’t heard of Hebel, either. It’s worth a visit. It also had a children’s play area with astro-turf under the swings. Get this, dear reader: some individual had deposited a classically-coiled turd directly under those swings! I reported it to the shop/café, and she said she’d get the council or someone she knew onto cleaning it up. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t get into the head of someone who does that. The shop lady said “You’d be surprised what happens around here – some people have no pride in their community or themselves!”

Anyway, off through Dirribandi (got fuel there), then off to stay overnight in our caravan in St. George, which is distinguished by having the Balonne River, which feeds into the Darling, so who’s waters ultimately empty into the sea in South Australia via the Murray-Darling Basin. St. George is also distinguished by being probably the most regularly flooded town in Australia! In 2012 the town was evacuated for a week.

But they do a lot of fishing here, and have competitions, and catch huge Murray Cod, as well as bloody carp. Tomorrow driving 236 km north through Roma to Injune. No, I hadn’t ever heard of it, either, but it does have a caravan park, and enables us to drive on Saturday through the Carnarvon Gorge area, which is pretty spectacular, and then up towards Emerald, which is a gateway to Rockhampton, on the Tropic of Capricorn, and on the coast of the Great Barrier Reef.

Catch you later!!!

Lightning Ridge bus tour and also unexpected afternoon entertainment

We’ve had a marvellous whole day (two nights) at Lightning Ridge and loved it, but must move on, to where we don’t quite know. We did an excellent Black Opal tour with a dozen people in a small bus. The big steps were a struggle for us both!

Over the duration about 4 hours, an English (Lancaster) driver both entertained and informed us, as we toured a lot of the “camps” and other notable things in this strange place. I’m very tired and can barely type. This fatigue is becoming a major problem for us both. We’ve got over 200 photos but I haven’t  time to process images and write about things we have experienced.

We did receive daily entertainment both afternoons at 4:30 pm by Mel and Susie, who joked, sang, delivered poetry, and did comedy, with audience participation. They are Melanie Hall and Susan Carcary. They work all over Australia, and do school workshops, and so on. They are also adjudicators at Folk and Yarnspinning competitions. We enjoyed them very much.  They have a web site at: http://www.melandsusieontour.com.au/

Here they are with us today:

mel and susie
Us with Melanie Hall and Susan Carcary in Lightning Ridge.



Minor Catch-up from Thurs to Sun 14th to 17th July, 2016

I apologise that there has been a hiatus in this trip blog for several days. I am posting almost daily updates through my Facebook page at Bill Leithhead (I’m the one at Glen Waverley), because it’s easier to take phone photos with my Samsung Galaxy 3, then post them straight into FB.

I am also attempting to do this blog, which needs images put through the laptop (I haven’t tried that via the phone). And that needs the images to be down-loaded from camera into appropriate laptop folders, then the images cropped, the quality adjusted and then images resized down to about 300 pixels wide for this blog. That needs my use of either Paint Shop Pro 8  or Irfanview on this laptop, then insertion of the image and editing into the blog text. So that takes a lot of extra effort!

I’ve also been SMSing the family, with one or two hiccups, and emailing them and others. this all takes time.

See, what has happened was that by Friday night, we found ourselves completely exhausted from our first three days of travel. We were extremely surprised by this, and dismayed. We’ve done big trips before, but the years have passed and arthritis has taken its toll, among other things. I think it’s not so much the driving, but all of the extra bending and twisting that are part and parcel of caravan living. This is exercising muscles unused to it, and that’s good, and that will improve our fitness and weight in a month or so.

So on Friday night we arrived at Gilgandra, and barely had enough energy to do more than set up the van, prepare meals, eat, wash up, take medications, and do the usual chores around the cramped van necessary for good order., and then we wrote our written trip diaries, which we have had the habit of doing for over 15 years.

Then I did the charging of cameras, phone, etc., and we both had insufficient energy to do more than the minimum, so we flaked out early and slept well through without waking. Saturday we pushed off for Moree, via Coonabrabran, a favourite town, where we had lunch and revisited the Crystal Kingdom, initially visited on a Cairns trip in this very van with our three young children in 1979. Then off to Moree, where we now are.

moree car and van
Settled in Moree for 3 days, recovering and relaxing in the artesian baths..

We booked in for 2 nights at the Gwydir Carapark, here in Moree, and have now had a relaxing day today – Sunday 17th, and have booked in for Monday night as well, giving us a free day to relax tomorrow. The hot artesian pools are excellent!

Myself and Glenyce relaxing in the hot artesian baths at Gwydir Carapark, with baths at 28 (lap pool), 34, 35, 37 and 39 degC. The latter is very tiring and limit said to be 15 mins. Some of this water comes from the coastal mountain ranges, and it takes up to 2 million years to get here!
Myself and Glenyce relaxing in the hot artesian baths at Gwydir Carapark, with baths at 28 (lap pool), 34, 35, 37 and 39 degC. The latter is very tiring and limit said to be 15 mins. Some of this water comes from the coastal mountain ranges, and it takes up to 2 million years to get here!

Then on Tuesday we have resolved to travel to Lightning Ridge, a westward detour of 300 km to see the black opal fields, and probably stay two nights there.

Made it to West Wyalong

Well, too much has happened so far, and we’re tired but happy. Glenyce fell off the bed wrapped in her sleeping bag at 6 am, onto the narrow space between our beds, like an upturned turtle. We sorted it out and went back to sleep, but in 50 years it has never happened before. Exciting isn’t it.

We nearly ran out of petrol twice, went through towns we’ve never heard of before, and forded two slightly flooded creeks. Got to here, West Wyalong, on the Newell Highway in the dark, and had to set up by torch-light – once more, something we always avoid.

fake horse and tray cart vfrom local farm ,in Coolamon museum, 14/7/16
ntique tray cart from local farm, plus very original fake horse made of vertical cross-sections of dark coloured, curved wood. In Coolamon Museum, NSW,14/7/16.

In the beautiful little township of Coolamon we met a nice man named Brian Holden,  who showed us his museum. This was verging on staggering in its collection of old grocery store fittings and so on, and a huge display of antique farm equipment, tools, horse and carts and other vehicles and then an even more impressive collection of memorabilia from the 2nd world war (mostly the 2nd), especially regarding local personnel.

"up to date store" from q920s in Coolamon now an extensive museum
“Up To Date Store” was the title given to this large store in the 1920s. It is now a museum full of the most amazing objects including much farm machinery from nearby farms, and also much memorabilia from the World Wars One and Two. Well worth while!!


Trouble was, he went on for so long that we lost track of time and were late getting going again.

But – unexpected surprises like this are just what are looking for on this trip. It’s a good start!! 


new hotel coolamon
The beautifully kept ‘New Hotel Coolamon’ stands guard at the southerly entrance to the town of Coolamon. There is also an excellent museum up the street from here, as well as a range of places for good quality food.

The first leg completed relatively smoothly.

‘Fraid no picture today. (Did one in Facebook.) A very late start (after midday) to get away, and then a smooth run through the Eastlink, Bulleen Rd., Rosanna Rd., etc., then onto the Hume. Usually when Glenyce is doing last packing I get toey and then we sometimes have snippy “words”, but not this time, because I made it a personal project not to do that – but she said she felt it anyway. Projection? Maybe.

The run to Wangaratta is OK – smooth and green – better than the lousy summer dirty creamish colour. A desultory lunch at some roadhouse, then off again. We homed in on Wang guided by our Tom Tom 6″ navigator, whose voice name is apparently “Karen” – she’s agreeable enough, and is well-programmed.

We’ve had an excellent tea with Ron & Mary – with champagne. We talked over lots of topics, including the illnesses and vicissitudes of old age. They are both dealing with issues which are increasingly serious, and it’s a worry. We had good chats about the ways to Queensland and what to see, and family, and so on.

Now we’ve struggled with a very muddy site in Wangaratta, but the heater is on and I’m getting used to typing on these little pads. Anything to keep my brain alive!! Today’s been a rush, and now for a mandarin and then the written diary which we always do individually then swap to read each other’s.

It’s been a struggle to find everything because we’re overloaded for a longer trip, but we’re coping OK so far. Glenyce is getting painful thigh cramps. I hope she gets a really good sleep – me too. Because I was up to 3:40 am last night doing ‘puter wrangling, she let me sleep in to 8:35 am before gently shaking me awake. She’s a darling.

Longer drive to Forbes tomorrow, then Coonabarabran, then Moree. Love these aboriginal places names – don’t you?