We managed to spend lots of money on the car and on Kathmandu clothing while in Adelaide, so we decided we need to stay away from cities as much as possible. The house sits were great and allowed us to stay in Adelaide for 3 months at no cost, so it wasn’t all bad. Our grandson, Ollie is growing rapidly & we plan on calling in again around April on our way west. While there we helped Jason build Ollie’s new cubby, visited boutique breweries & some wineries in McLaren Vale region.
We left Adelaide on Wednesday 8th October 2014 & went via The Barossa to Springton to stay with friends Christine & Val who are fellow Kedron owners. Rick & Lea were there also, so happy hour consisted of good friends, fine wine & yummy nibbles. We also enjoyed a roast pork dinner together with Apple crumble & custard for desert. Deb & I went on about a 5 klm walk the next morning to try & compensate for the extra calories but an extra 50 k’s or so was needed I think.
On Friday the 10th we travelled to Swan Reach on the Murray. This is a favourite free camp of ours when passing this way. There are only a few spots on the water so you have to be lucky to score one. We spent the first night behind another van but quickly jumped in when one moved from a water front position the next day. We walked about 200 metres to the ferry & crossed over for a walk around town, a visit to the grocery store & lunch at the pub overlooking the river. The Meals were great and the beer was most enjoyable. I put the end wall of the annex up & the TV outside & spent the Sunday watching the Bathurst race. And what a race it was!
Every afternoon the wind picked up to 30 + knots so we decided on Monday that we would move on & try and find something more sheltered from the wind. We paused in Wakerie to do some shopping & stopped by the river for lunch. We continued on to Moorook which has a pleasant camping area right on the river with nice grassy sites for $10 a night unpowered or $16.50 for powered. There are clean flushing toilets, a dump point & drinking water on tap behind a small shed near the boat ramp here also. Even though it is close to the road there is very little traffic & quite peaceful. The bird life is plentiful & it’s a great spot for kayaking or boating. It may get noisy in summer on weekends as they water ski here as well. They have huge meals at the the club & there is a shop across the road. We also started a new hobby to give us an added interest while on the road, it’s called geocaching & it’s worldwide. There are caches hidden all over the countryside, usually in places historic or with a unique view. We have downloaded an App for $12 & it scans your local area for caches & guides you to them. We later upgraded to premium membership for $39. Once you find the cache you log it in the cache & then online. The person who placed the cache gets an email & any notes you may include about the find & it is added to your list of finds & a smiley face appears on the map.
We stayed at Moorook for a week & then moved to Lyrup on Monday 20th October. This is another great spot on the Murray & as we were expecting temps of 38 degrees we hooked up to one of the four power outlets for just $5 per night including camp fees. There’s a great club in town & the meals are massive. I hade the biggest t-bone with mushroom sauce I’ve seen in a long time for $19 & Deb had chicken Parma that fed us for lunch the next day as well.
After four nights at Lyrup we then headed southeast into Victoria to another favourite stop at Murrayville. We had power, water & immaculate ammenities for just $9.90 per night. We did some sightseeing as we searched for more caches & found some interesting history around the town. A local asked me to come and show her how to put the awning out on her 2 year old van, which they had used about 6 times without knowing how to set it up. I was repaid with a dozen eggs, after all it is the country. We met a couple from Woodford near Caboolture who were camped beside us. They were excited at the prospect of retiring in the next couple of years and discussed it over several happy hours with some fine old port consumed in the process. We also had a great $10 roast meal at the local cafe on the Sunday night, which was on paper plates with glad wrap over them. Now that’s classy! For just $55 you can stay a week, so we moved-on on Friday 31st October. They just got a grant to install two cabins & a proper camp kitchen but unfortunately this means the fees may rise to $15 a night. Still, cheaper than caravan parks.
Our next stop was Walpeup about 85kms east. It’s another little town that charges $10 per night with power & water available & the amenities are spotless. It’s only a small park which can accommodate about 10 vans. There’s also a bush walk across the road that leads to the cemetery which we often visit to gain a feel for the history of these remote towns. The graves here aren’t that old as the Mallee was one of the last areas to be opened up for farming wheat & sheep due to the nature of the Mallee scrub. Also it’s basically desert country with extremes of climate experienced throughout this area. There were a number of people camped here for several months as this was the start of the grain harvest season. The women are employed to operate the weigh bridges etc. in air-con comfort, while the men drive trucks, work in silos and fixing huge tarps over the grain stores. We stayed here 2 nights while the wind blew & shook the van about. Truly this is harsh country to live in.
On Sunday 2nd November we moved on to Lake Lascelles at Hopetoun about 75klms south of Walpeup. This is an amazing camp situated about 400klms from both Adelaide & Melbourne. There’s free camping allowed for about 1.5klms around the lake, with the remaining 500m taken up by a number of unusual cabins recently built to look like water tanks, shearing sheds and stables. They’re quite swish and only cost about $30 per night per couple. There’s about a dozen powered sites for $20 per night and surprisingly these are well supported even though the free camps beside them are equally as good. This demonstrates that caravan parks need not feel threatened by free camps as there are people that will pay a reasonable fee for power and water. But they won’t be ripped off by the greedy ones charging exorbitant fees for jumping castles & pools with water slides. There’s 3 toilet blocks, bins and a number of taps around the lake. There’s even a dump point down the road. The lake is used by locals for skiing so it can get a little noisy on weekends and I heard you need to get in early over school holiday periods, as it gets packed out. There’s heaps of bird life here & I especially liked the red rumped parrots. Like many towns throughout the Mallee country this town has many businesses closed. It has a small IGA, butcher come coffee shop, post office come camping supplies, cafe and hairdresser. We made a donation for the free camping and spent about $400 at several businesses in town during our stay. We endeavour to support the towns that offer these facilities in order that they will see the value in having free camps and hopefully spread the word. Photos of Lake Lascelles below:
We could have easily sat here until we were due in Melbourne, but decided we should move on and see other places while we are here. We left Lake Lascelles on Monday 10th and stayed at Green Hill Lake, Ararat which unfortunately was quite dry at the time. The wind was howling once again so other than a short 30 min walk we hid in the van most of the time and moved on the next morning.
On the morning of the 11th we left Green Hill Lake, did some shopping in Ararat and moved on to Glenpatrick Campground. This is a beautiful camp in a valley surrounded by forest and the sounds of bush birds all around. There’s a brick shed with a fire place that was great to keep warm in out of the wind. There’s also very clean flushing toilets maintained by a local named Col. It’s a donation only camp and is sometimes used by various 4wd clubs as there’s plenty of forest trails around the hills. We met with a few others and had a great night of wine & port around the fire together.
We phoned Mal & Kerry who were travelling in the area and decided we’d meet up at Laanecoorie free camp by the Loddon River. We went via Maryborough (Victoria that is) to do a shop & have a look at the famous railway station which is quite spectacular as can be seen below. On arrival we set up in a lovely spot that was fairly level and plenty of sun. Within 5 minutes this tosser in a motorhome pulls in right beside our annex blocking any view. How rude, as there was plenty of room to spread out. The next morning this tosser then fires up his gennie and goes to hop in his little Suzuki to drive into town. I then tore strips off him for parking so close and then running a gennie right beside me. He said it will only run about 6 hours. I cracked and gave him quite an earful before he switched it off and took off. Some people need to learn some camp ethics. But all that aside we had a lovely time for a few days with Mal & Kerry who we haven’t seen for quite a while. We introduced Mal to geocaching and he took me out gold detecting. We had much more luck with the geocaching than gold detecting. We only found the tip of a miners pick and several tacks and crap. But it’s a rewarding hobby for the lucky ones and I can see how it could become an obsession.
On Saturday 15th Nov Mal & Kerry headed south to do some more detecting and we went northeast to Greens Lake free camp which is in between Echuca, Bendigo and Shepparton. Its quite a large lake which is pipe fed like many throughout Victoria for irrigation and recreational purposes. There’s a six month maximum stay here and there are a few Grey Nomads members who come and stay here for 4 or 5 months every year but manage not to look like feral camps. They welcomed us into their group on arrival and we joined them for a birthday party for one of their group who was 78 years old and still travelling in his motorhome on his own. We had set up camp right on the waters edge so we could pump water directly from the lake as needed to save carting water all the time. Well this turned out to be not such a good idea as it bucketed down rain most of the night and we were surrounded by water in the morning. If we needed to move it would have been quite a challenge and likely would have required some winching. Thankfully we had a mostly fine day following and some wind to help dry things a bit.
After a couple of days squelching around on wet ground we decided to move on to Warburtons Bridge near Castlemaine. This is another gold mining area with numerous areas where you could still see evidence of diggings throughout the bush. Apparently there were about 30,000 miners in this area at one time. The camp was a very peaceful area on the banks of the Loden River. Quiet during the week but can get busy on long weekends & holidays. The sounds of bush birds rang out through the day and into the night. We went for a drive up through the hills and into the forest and located another 10 geocaches. We stayed here about a week until it was time to head to Wandong to have the grey water tank fitted.
We stayed at Barringo Reserve on the Sunday night. We walked 5 klm to a cache and only just located it before our phones died. We really need to get a proper handheld GPS if we are going to make this an enjoyable hobby.
We headed over to the caravan repairer at Wandong the next morning, dropping the van off and heading down to Campbelfield to pick up the tank and some fittings. This of course took longer than expected and we didn’t get started till 11am. Then we had several leaks we couldn’t fix due to the type of drain hoses that Kedron had fitted. We stayed overnight and and went to the local pub for a most enjoyable meal as we needed to get some more fittings in the morning from a Mitre 10 hardware 10klms away. Eventually we got away and headed down to Melbourne and stayed in the Five Ways Caravan Park overnight. We did some washing, shopping and topped up our tanks before heading down to the waterfront waiting to board the Spirit of Tasmania at 5:30pm on Wednesday 26th November.