6 Weeks on the Road (Getting to know the Granny Flat)

Monday, Jun 20, 2016 at 17:29

Member-Heather MG NSW

Friday 10th June 2016
After two busy days at home during which time I packed up GF (Granny flat) with supplies and comforts, I set off to spend 4 nights in the Big 4 Park at Easts Beach Kiama, leaving home on Friday 10th June. It is my first stop on a 6 week trip solo, to places familiar and unfamiliar, up the coast of NSW probably as far North as Brooms Head or maybe Evans head, then inland to the Warrumbungles near Coonabarabran where I am meeting friends in early July, then to places as yet not planned, before coming back down the coast via Coffs Harbour to have any repairs necessary done on the GF, and to visit Johns family in Coffs Harbour, late in July.
It is a long weekend so the park is busier than it usually would be this time of the year, but there are still plenty of vacant sites. John and I used to avoid staying anywhere like this on a long weekend or during school holidays if we could , preferring the outback and sparse population so this is quite a change. There’s a big variety of campers..from large family groups in tents and camper trailers, through to all sized motorhomes and grey nomads in caravans and 4WDs.
For me it is a chance to spend a few days with my family. I have a daughter and son in law in Kiama with two children, and my son and daughter in law and their almost 15month old live in Gerringong.
On arrival I was assisted to park on my site and reversed correctly on my first attempt, up against the slab. It is simple when the site opposite me is vacant, as I proved when I returned after visiting my daughter during the afternoon.
Set up for me is simple, especially if the site is level. I just turn on the gas and the fridge will automatically switch after 15 minutes. I have discovered for the shower to drain best I need to have the rear and passenger side slightly higher.
On Monday, yesterday, the park quickly turned from busy and noisy to almost empty, as the Long weekenders vacated their sites. The family with 8 small children next door were gone not long after 10am.

I have had a lovely time catching up with the family, with grandchildren spending most of Sunday with me, playing on the jumping pillow and fantastic play centre (It is a Big 4 Park so there are plenty of things for kids to do), and yesterday my son and daughter in law visited with their very active and mobile 15 month old. He enjoyed chasing ducks around as much as anything else! Also caught up with two good friends so its been a social weekend.
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It is now Tuesday 14th and this morning I am setting out to the North, probably Bulahdelah showground for two nights. Feeling slightly terrified as well as excited as I pack up…missing that man who was so special and loved, but determined to push on and experience the next chapter in my life. Doing this is so much better than the prospect of sitting at home and doing nothing except feeling my loss even more.
I have chosen Bulahdelah because I can have the option of plugging into power to have coffee, but should be far enough from other campers to run my diesel heating without upsetting anyone should it be unduly noisy! My water tank is full and the toilet will be empty. So far as I know, I have plenty gas, or rather my GF does, so I will give the Hot water system a run on gas too. Will give the grey water tank a try, although I suspect it will leak. And I know that the showground is fairly flat, and within walking distance to the shops…important in a Motorhome…so I can wander in and have a look around, go to the free camp on the river and chat to the campers there too.
Wednesday 15th June.
I didn’t sleep all that well, but I am feeling better this morning, having survived my first days drive, from Kiama through Sydney via the M7 and M2 motorways..the only route to take..and then to Bulahdelah. I’m not sure for the reason but the roads seemed extremely busy with big trucks. When I arrived I did the right thing and called in at the tourist information office and paid for a night to use power $17. Have used the power to run the fan heater, coffee maker, boil water, and HWS, microwave.

When I go for a walk later I will pay for a second night I think.
I did give the diesel heater a run and it seems to be very efficient and warmed the place in no time flat, no noisier than using an air conditioner I reckon so will certainly not go cold when unpowered. I also heated the water on gas and once I knew that I can rely on it, turned it back to 240 v so as to save the gas. (Did I mention that I have not yet tried to exchange a gas bottle, or had one refilled and am a bit daunted by how to do it so putting it off for as long as possible!)
I managed to park the GF with rear slightly higher than front, so the shower drains well enough here although I had to run the front wheels up on ramps a little to do it. Have parked so the awning side faces the sun and its beautiful outside now the sun is beaming down. Tried to put out my awning yesterday afternoon but it didn’t respond when I pressed the switch so not sure what is going on there. The step worked ok having stopped working on 12v in Mallacoota so something is amiss with the electrics I think, maybe. Will have another try later and see if more successful, or maybe just leave for Jayco to sort out eventually. I am successfully locking the security door though, I am pleased to report. I know that all of these are minor things but they are all important to me.
The parking area at the Bowling club, visible from my dining table area, looks like a caravan park, with people reversed in neatly and all lined up. I could have parked there too for a nominal fee, or maybe cost of a meal, however I wanted power, and also am likely, no sure, to use the toilet before 8am. I spoke to two other women who arrived in big vans, with husbands driving, late afternoon, and it was good to have a conversation even though I am likely never to see them again. It is now after 8.30 and the vans are slowly departing. I guess that there will be a whole lot of new ones to take their place for tonight. Would love for another solo woman to arrive so we can swap experiences, or even a solo man!
I have been mulling over whether to book a powered site in Sawtell or simply turn up tomorrow around lunch time and try my luck. If it’s really busy and there are none suitable, I can always go into Coffs and stay. It’s not as though I need an exceptionally big site, just one which is not too difficult for me to get in and out of so I can have the GF serviced on Friday. I hate having to book ahead..and always have … although we always used to in places like Exmouth WA where powered sites are limited in the high season despite exorbitant rates!
Thursday 16th June
I managed to fill in my day yesterday with two walks into and around the town, taking a few photographs on my phone, and calling in to information centre to pay for a second night at the showground, and to get some information on walking trails on Alum Mountain. The volunteer was very helpful. It was so warm I had to change into a t shirt, and by the time I returned from the second walk my left knee was telling me that it would be foolish to walk any further. I decided to leave the other walks until my next visit, as I feel that I will be staying here again some time. It is a good half way spot between home and Coffs Harbour for me.
I was touched when a woman who I had been speaking to the previous day, persuaded her husband to stop on their way out of the showground for her to come and give me a hug and wish me well.
I spent hours reading, sitting outside in the sun which was almost too hot, and have almost finished reading my Bill Bryson book bout travels across the USA. He is so entertaining and I find myself laughing aloud at some of his descriptions of the back blocks of the country and also his memories of growing up. I tried once again to put out the awning with no success so will definitely need to call in at Jayco as it would have been good to take shelter from the sun in the middle of the day.
Lunch and dinner consisted of left overs reheated in the microwave , as I am eating my way through ready prepared meals from the freezer so I can replace food when I get to Sawtell or sometime before leaving Coffs Harbour.
I slept really well last night, (Wednesday) not waking for 7 hours, and had already fallen asleep while watching TV in bed. It was 10 degrees again inside when I turned on the heater and my weather app on the phone told me that it was 6 degrees outdoors and felt like 4.9. There is a thick fog so I won’t be going anywhere until it begins to lift. I shouldn’t take more than 5 hours to get to Sawtell or maybe less so I will be there for lunch I would think. Hoping to choose my site but its been so long since I last stayed there that I can’t remember whether this is ok.
I have had moments of intense sadness, loneliness, and longing for John during the past few days, while driving along the highway…when I see a wedgetail eagle soaring and sailing around the sky….or when a particularly evocative song plays on the iPod. I guess we shared so many happy hours travelling together in all the years we meandered around Australia and these are now going to be bitter-sweet.
I arrived in Sawtell before 11.30 so it only took me three and a half hours driving time from Bulahdelah. On my way to the Caravan Park I called in at my sister in laws place (Barb) and to tell the truth I was quite stressed about going to an unknown park to find a site and was still considering driving through to Park beach with its familiar layout. However in the end I drove to Sawtell Beach Holiday Park which is situated towards the end of Lyons Road, and once allocated my site, took a walk to check it out before driving in. This was a good move as it had two slabs of different heights and a rather large tree a little too close to where the side of the GF would need to be.
I returned to the office and was given a map with all the vacant sites circled, so chose one with no slab but that I knew I could reverse in a few times without too much trouble, and I have so far managed to do it twice. Have had to run up on ramps too so that the shower will drain but still haven’t really done this successfully. It seems to be so much harder than in the van!
Currently there is a special offer of stay 4 nights and the 4th only costs $10. The normal rate is $39 for powered site (again for 2 people).
I only connected up the power cord and sullage hose (which is running uphill and wont drain so it’s really a pain) as I have to go out tomorrow morning early to have the GF serviced.

During the afternoon, Barb and I did a longish walk around the foreshores and headland, along the beach to the Surf Club and returned via the main street, and worked up quite a sweat. The coastline is beautiful here, as it along much of the NSW Coastline and being this far north, the weather is quite mild for June. I haven’t really needed to run the heater tonight.
Friday 17th June
This park really is a lovely one, although many of the sites aren’t anywhere near level. The amenity block is brand new, very nice, and late this afternoon, I used the laundry to do my washing then drying…all done within a couple of hours for the sum of $7. The weather for the next couple of days is supposed to be a milder repeat of the storm which I experienced while I was in Mallacoota a fortnight ago, so there is no point in trying to get washing to dry on a clothesline!
I have talked to a few others in motor homes and in campers around me..and have met with nothing but friendly responses and helpful advice.
I had to go out early this morning and was gone until almost 2. The Fiat service cost me just under $600 and I was warned that the next one will be around $800. Not cheap however I guess its only once a year or 24,000 kms so they are less frequent than the BT 50 services.
Barb and I spent the morning visiting her (Johns) very elderly parents in Coramba, both of whom are very close to totally blind but insist on living in their own home and consent to only getting help from within the family! I am glad we took the time to do it because I may not get out there again over the weekend.
I called in at Watsons Jayco, and it seems the awning is a mystery. There is power to the switch but nothing happens when it is pressed so it may need a new motor. I have been asked to call in on Monday morning to the service centre before I leave town so that one can be ordered if necessary and I can also then book a date in the latter half of July to come back and have any warranty work done.
On my return to the park, I filled the water tank and then connected the flat out drinking hose to the mains pressure inlet. John just to swear about the hose and now I have a better understanding of what he was on about! Its fine once its all working but takes a while to get right. I took my time doing everything, expecting to be here for another couple of days. Barb is insisting on dropping her car here tomorrow all day for me to use, instead of taking the MH out so I might use the opportunity to grocery shop, as I was going to do that on Sunday.
This afternoon I received a very distessing and distressed call from one of my twin daughters who is 33 years old, 20 weeks pregnant with her first baby, and living and working in Canberra with her partner. She has had a few issues of late with this pregnancy and it seems that a scan today discovered that there is no amniotic fluid around the baby so there is little chance of it surviving, at least without significant and ongoing health issues. I feel so sad tonight..for both of them, and for us all as a family…it is another tragedy following so close on Johns death. My initial reaction was to pack up and head for Canberra in the morning, however she will be in hospital over the next few days and is being treated for an infection, her partner is staying with her and is very supportive, and no decision will be made until further consultation with Doctors on Monday as to how to progress from here. Having spoken with her a second time, we have agreed for me to wait until then, although I will still go to Canberra to be of support next week, and will leave Monday morning. The Pacific Highway is becoming a very familiar route of late but I don’t want to drive it on a day where the weather is forecast to be very wet up and down the coast.
Saturday June 18th
Many people I speak to, when I relate my story briefly, tell me that I am inspirational but I don’t feel that way…my life is more bearable when I can move around and it helps me to grieve. I guess we are all different though, and what is good for me is not for someone else.
Today when I checked Facebook it reminded me that this was the date that John and I arrived at Pardoo Station. How I wish I could go back in time..but only IF I could change the outcome.
Today has been mild and mostly becoming more overcast as the day progresses. As she promised, Barb delivered her car for me to use today so I took advantage of it and went and grocery shopped then visited Johns parents again in Coramba. His Dad slept for the duration of my visit but I hope I managed to fill a couple of hours of Mums day. She is blind (they are both blind) so there are so many activities no longer within her capabilities, however they are still living at home with only help from the family. I have hidden some cash in Barbs car to thank her for her kindness as I know that she will refuse to take any from me! It is a family trait!
After lunch I took an hour long walk around the headland and return and worked up a sweat again. It seems to be unseasonally warm especially at night, maybe because rain is on its way.
Have chatted to all three daughters today and we are all keeping hopeful and supporting our girl. I had a very restless night (I think we all did) and was glad that I didn’t have to begin the drive to Canberra this morning.
Sunday 19th
It’s a very wet morning in Sawtell as forecast so I am glad to be staying here. Its pretty good to have everything I need inside the GF..have my umbrella hanging on a hook, inside a bag, inside the door..outdoor ugg boots on a waterproof sheet on the step. Air conditioner is keeping the place warm, have great coffee to drink, TV and internet. Just wish I could make things well with my darling daughter and her tiny unborn baby.
Last night, two of Johns sisters and the 40 year old daughter of one of them, picked me up andwe had a Thai meal out in Sawtell, followed by a short visit to the RSL Club. How times have changed…none of us drank anything except water, and at the RSL myself and Barb sat on a comfortable lounge and talked while the others put money in a poker machine. How I detest those things! It was good to share food and stories with family. I have been part of their lives for 45 years or more so there’s a lot of shared history. When they dropped me back at my site, they obviously had no idea that to park with headlights directly shining on a neighbours camper trailer and then to say their good byes at top volume were both not good ideas, even though it was only 9.20 on a Saturday night. I think they woke everyone else in this quiet place up..ooops! I wonder whether I should apologise for their behaviour to my neighbours but hey..it was only very early and no one has yet come to escort me from my site…Maybe we got away with it!
July 3rd, Sunday
Tooraweenah Caravan Park.
So much has happened in the past couple of weeks, since I left Sawtell in a hurry.
I had to make a quick trip to Canberra to support my youngest (in the family and of twins) daughter during a very sad family crisis.
I spent 6 nights in Canberra where I stayed at EPIC (Exhibition Park in Canberra) within walking distance to my daughters home in Hackett. EPIC is a good base for exploring Canberra, and easy to find when traveling from the north along the Federal Highway. I paid $33 for power and water, which is the rate per double, and the amenities are typical of a big showground although also have a laundry with washing machines and 1 dryer, and clothes lines which are handy. I reckon they could do with 2 dryers because of the typical winter weather in Canberra.I was glad to be able to choose my site but was still having difficulty setting up so that my shower floor would drain there. I have since mastered this I am happy to report.
There is a bus stop outside the main gates, and a taxi will pick up and drop off from there too. I didn’t have to use either service as I either walked, or was picked up by my family.
It was a very distressing, traumatic time for us all, especially my daughter and her partner, who endured an induced labour and the birth and death of their perfect tiny baby boy and my grandson just 21 weeks into her first pregnancy. They named him Tasman. He weighed just 390 gms and was 26cms long. We are all still grieving Johns sudden death last November and I took it very hard for a few days, while trying to be supportive to my daughter.
No one in their right mind would choose to stay in Canberra in the middle of winter! One morning it was -5 and my air conditioner turned off the previous evening at -2. I ran my small fan heater all night and the thermometer at head height was 14 but it felt much cooler inside! I tried my diesel heater, however because I had not bothered to call in and fill my Fiat tank when I arrived in Canberra, it was too cold for it to work too! (I had read about this happening but I was in such an anxious state due to the family circumstances and also because I had never stayed at EPIC, decided not to visit the Service Station!) There was a huge frost on the ground which took hours to thaw and disappear, and the top temperature for my entire stay rarely hit double figures!

I filled my days with visits from and to my daughter, walks around the area familiarising myself with the closest shops, and reading, watching TV and indoor pursuits. In Watson, there is an IGA supermarket, and it was only about 20 minutes walk one way from EPIC. I didn’t find it the sort of place where you met other campers and barely spoke to anyone else, maybe because of the weather. Some days were wet as well as cold! The walk one way to my daughters place took close to an hour for me but really helped to keep me warm even on the coldest days!
I left Canberra last Monday, 27th June and travelled to West Wyalong, via Yass and Temora, trying to escape the coldest temperatures as I made my way slowly north in inland NSW. When I started out, the temperature on my dash read 3.5 and there was a strange symbol on the instrument panel. I have since discovered that it was an ice/snow warning! I had intended staying in temora however the small caravan park there didn’t look inviting, and the one near the Airport seemed to be undergoing renovations with earth moving equipment. There was a lot of water lying beside the road and mud! I decided to continue as I am not too confident that my Granny Flat can handle mud!
My decision turned out to be a good one. The West Wyalong Caravan Park had large, choose your own drive through gravel/blue metal sites which were great. I paid $29 and stayed two nights. The owners were friendly and amenities were clean. I did quite a lot of walking around the town, finding one which followed the green belt, a series of parks and reserves. Also drove to the Wetlands and had a walk there along the boardwalks and small foot bridges. It is in places like this that I sorely miss John as he was a fountain of knowledge when it came to birds! In the town centre there were some lovely old buildings and the good range of shops looked quite prosperous I thought. Another bonus was that the weather was warmer than Canberra…although anywhere apart from the alpine region would be I think!

On Wednesday when I left West Wyalong, I decided to do a detour through Condobolin to Forbes, which added 100kms to the trip, roughly double what it would have been had I followed the Newell Highway. I found the road from the turn off 30 kms north of WW, to Condobolin, quite stressful to drive. Much was narrow, 2 way, bitumen which wasn’t the problem. Rather, the edges were crumbling, jagged and in most places there was quite a big drop off which I did not want to drop my tyres onto! Luckily there was little traffic and I was lucky to encounter most of it when the road was wider. I pulled off for a truck to overtake me so I didn’t hold it up or put added stress on myself!
In Condobolin I pulled up and took a walk around the town centre and along the River which was flowing and brown. I did try to be friendly but my efforts were snubbed by the locals and I don’t have particularly good vibes about the place, although it was bigger than I had expected. There had been a lot of rain during the previous few days and one of the nearby towns, Ungarie had been inundated for the third time in a few years.
From Condobolin the road followed the Lachlan River to Forbes and there was so much water lying each side of the roads. In one place it lapped the bitumen edges and it was really scenic with reflections of blue sky and trees. Unfortunately there were no opportunities for me to pull over and take photos and I really miss being able to be able to do this at will as I used to when John was driving. I had to slow for cattle on the road in one place, quite an ordinary occurrence on country roads. It wasn’t as narrow as the other one so I relaxed and enjoyed the drive.
In Forbes I pulled off the road and spent a couple of very enjoyable hours in McFeeters Motor museum where I had the pleasure of Mrs McFeeters interesting commentary and conversation. It was very good to talk to another woman! Afterwards I had lunch on my vehicle before driving through the free rest area on the river and then around town.
I am not sure why, however this was a really indecisive day for me. I had planned to stay in the Big 4 Park in Forbes and indeed this is where I did stay, however drove all the way through to Parkes and looked at the showground there before returning the 30 plus kms to Forbes, and booking in. The showground was very out of level, quite wet and did not look at all inviting!
Forbes Big 4 was a small, green and flat park, with friendly owners. It cost me $34.20 with the Big 4 discount, so is not a budget stay for one person. How I wish they would offer a singles rate! My only problem with the park was that there was no TV signal although there was a cable to plug into the side of the vehicle. I discovered that the Granny Flat does not have such a point, or if it does, I haven’t found it!
I used my laptop and internet connection to watch some programmes on ABC iView and didn’t miss the TV, so it wasn’t really an issue. I also took the opportunity to plan my next day so that I would avoid my indecisiveness and it turned out to be a good move.
On Thursday, I left the park at 8 when the temperature was still only about 2 degrees, and pulled in to a parking area along Lake Forbes. There I took a half an hours brisk walk around the edgee of the lake pausing to take photographs. I soon warmed up! Afterwards, I managed to find the Woolworths supermarket and park in the carpark provided (taking two spaces, or rather more like 4) in a place where I could easily get out of. I did my grocery shop and put the cold food in the fridge before heading back on the road to the Radio telescope north of Parkes off the highway a few kms.
I really enjoyed the couple of hours I spent at ‘the Dish’, spending time taking photos as it moved from upright to sideways and reading the information panels and displays inside the building. I paid $6 to enter the 3D theatre and thought the 3 short movies (half hour in total) were fantastic. It was my first 3D experience by the way.
Back in the Granny Flat, I took my time to have lunch as the car park was flat and the fridge was being powered by gas. From there I travelled north, through Dubbo to Gilgandra, following the very busy Newell Highway. I guess because there are so many B doubles and other such large vehicles, the road surface is very rough and bumpy, and the trucks do tend to try to dictate the speed. I tried to move over whenever I could to avoid holding them up but it was impossible to do it with every one and felt quite pushed to travel a bit faster than I normally like. Luckily there are reasonably frequent overtaking lanes.
It was before 3 when I pulled into Gilgandra Caravan Park, finding my first queue of vehicles. It’s across the Castlereagh River and is flat and green with lots of space. I paid for two nights there and was given a large, drive through site with a cement slab to park beside. For the first time I was given a singles rate which, because of my two nights stay, was $25 per night for power and water. It was a good choice of park for me with a walk across the bridge and back along the river to the Coo ee and visitor centre, for some exercise. I was surprised to find a really impressive collection of aboriginal artefacts and shells on exhibit. As well there was a local artists exhibition of mainly birds and an exhibition of the Coo ee march which was organised by local family to enlist young men to join up for war service. It was quite a sobering experience when I walked back to the town centre, past the War memorial wall where the name of all those local men and boys who gave their lives for their country is listed. There were so many! How I felt for their mothers and families!
I took the opportunity to use my spare day to do some laundry ($5 per load) and to use the slow cooker to prepare my meals of next few days. It gave the interior of my mobile home a lovely aroma but I also needed the air conditioner to keep me warm as there was an icy wind which made sitting outdoors uncomfortable.
I really enjoyed meeting other travellers at the communal fireplace and happy hour around 5 each evening and it was one of the reasons I decided to stay in this particular park. I had read positive comments on Wikicamps. It is just so good to be able to talk to other people, although each day I have also been talking on the phone to at least two of my three daughters ( one is overseas in the UK for a month), plus friends.
I left my air conditioner going while I was out and on return it was just so lovely to have a warm place to have dinner and then my shower.(I have noticed the past few places I have had no problems parking so my shower drains. Just have to ensure that the rear of the GF is higher slightly than the front..mostly easy to do.)
Yesterday after I had walked back to Gilgandra High School and cast my vote in the Federal election, I returned to my vehicle and packed up. When disconnecting my water hose, I took the opportunity to partially fill 3 of my collapsible water bladders so that when I go to stay in the Warrumbungles National Park campground in a couple of days, I have plenty of fresh water. There is none in the park.
It took me less than 20 minutes to be on my way and with only about 40 kms to travel I knew I was going to be very early arriving in Tooraweenah. I stopped and made myself a cup of tea in a level roadside rest area, and then called in at the Warrumbungles viewing platform to take more photos but was still here before 11. I had planned to arm myself with apologies for arriving so early however there was a sign on the Office door indicating that the Owners were absent and I should choose a site and get set up, and they would visit me later. It wasn’t hard to find a site as there was no one else here so within a few minutes I was parked. It took me little time to connect the water, power and sullage and make myself a coffee. While I sat outdoors and drank it I read through the Information folder about local activities and attractions which I had picked up at the Office.
What a lovely friendly place this park is! I thoroughly recommend it if you enjoy quiet small places with fireside happy hours each evening, where complimentary nibbles are provided. Sarah and Geoff do everything possible to ensure that you are given special treatment, beginning with morning or afternoon tea of scones, jam and cream delivered to your door a short time after arrival. There is a singles rate too which is much appreciated by those who are traveling solo. It cost me $22 per night for power and water. There is a laundry and the small amenities block is spotlessly clean.

Tuesday July 5th
Camp Blackman. Warrumbungles National park near Coonabarabran NSW.
I have stayed here before a few times with John and knew the layout of the park and the campground. On arrival I paid for my powered site for three nights, as I am not sure how long my friends are staying, and will probably extend as I love the place so much. The cost is $8 per day vehicle entry (or a Parks Pass or exemption pass, like I have) plus $11.50 per person a day camping fee for power, so it’s an economical stay for me. There is no water to sites and I have carried extra with me in collapsible water bladders so I can have hot showers in my GF instead of having to walk (or drive) to the showers a couple of hundred metres away.
Before I selected a site, I parked close to the toilet dump point and emptied my toilet, in case the weather is so bad while I am here I have to stay indoors all day. This happened on a previous stay when it poured all day.
I managed to reverse into my site right to the rear with tyres against the wooden barrier, and then rolled forward onto the ramps so I am parked reasonably level and the shower still drains well. Its becoming easier each time for me.
Because I am staying for a few days I put out the small C gear ground mat, and placed my extra water on it to hold it in place. The surface of the site is blue metal/bitumen so I can’t hammer in pegs.
I was soon having a coffee and sitting outdoors with a view of the mountains and the sounds of the small creek babbling along close behind me. There were periods of sunshine when it was warm hover more often it was cool with a chill wind blowing. I had lunch and read for a while and eventually friends arrived separately and parked their vans. One couple have a new van and are 3 days into their shake down trip and managed to do a small amount of damage (broke a tail light on their ute) while doing a too sharp turn into the site and their rigid stone guard on the front of the van hit the rear of the vehicle. Ooops..they were not impressed! I kept well away until things calmed down!
We had a lovely evening sitting around a roaring campfire and then shared a meal of lamb shanks cooked in a camp oven. It was lovely to have a meal prepared by someone else, and also to have friends to talk to. Around 9.30 we beat a hasty retreat into our individual vehicles when the forecast rain arrived. Very early this morning, around 3 am, I was awoken by a big loud thunderstorm and heavy rain and I was so glad I had put all my gear..chair and table….inside in the dry.
This morning it is very dull and grey with heavy cloud and our chances of doing a walk together are not all that good. Things may change later in the day I hope. The friends mentioned above do not like staying around if the weather is bad so they will leave tomorrow if it’s no better. I guess when you are still working and only get a couple of weeks at a time to take the van away then its understandable, but for me with no real plan for the next 3 weeks, it is very different and I can sit out the weather and wait for a sunny day.
There are quite a few people here, probably because it is school holidays, and also because of the season, many people choose to have power! I reckon it is the only choice if you want to be really comfortable regardless of the weather.

July 24th
I am writing this while sitting in the Caravan Park at Park Beach Coffs Harbour. It is my last stay until I start home on, hopefully, Tuesday.
Since I last updated my blog I have seen some new country and tested out my Granny Flat on some dirt roads with interesting surfaces. I am now a lot more confident that I can still get to see places off the black top, so long as I take care, and that buying the motorhome was a good decision after all. I am still mourning the loss of my ute and the caravan and often get a twinge when I see other couples out enjoying their travels, asking myself “why me?” I have already clocked up over 5,000 kms since I took delivery towards the end of May.
I ended up staying in the Warrumbungles for a total of nine nights, although I did break that into a seven day and then a two day stay as I drove to and stayed in Baradine for a night in between. I used that day to do some grocery shopping and all of my laundry which had somewhat piled up. My friends and I managed to do the Grand High tops and breadknife walk on a clear and perfect day where even up on top, it was quite still and magical. The previous day had been bitterly cold and wet so we felt very lucky.
Once the friends left, I did a series of short walks which left from the campground. One walk was Belougery flats circuit which I did twice and I had to get my feet wet both times. It took between less than one and a half hours but was good for my soul. I also walked back up the road and to the Picnic area at Wambelong, along a short interesting trail up and back downhill, with occasional views across the gorge and countryside. I had to take my boots off to walk across the creek for that one as the level had still not dropped enough to rock hop!
One afternoon I decided to have a campfire with my wood and cooked firstly a casserole in the camp oven, followed by a damper. I sat and thought often of John and how much we loved doing this simple task together. It was one of the reasons we often camped alone somewhere on a dirt track and I missed him sorely that evening.
The reason that I went to Baradine was to visit the Pilliga Forest Discovery centre and to drive to the Sculptures in the scrub. I stayed overnight at the showground, in Camp Cypress where it cost me $20 for access to power and water. ($25 for couples). The bonus was a free large top loading washing machine and being able to park wherever I chose. I talked to a young member of staff at the Discovery centre who said I ‘should get through’ and to a couple who had driven to the sculptures in their 4WD who said it was slow and rough in places and was hesitant to do the drive as they mentioned sandy sections, corrugations, washouts and creek crossings. How I wished that I had the security of another vehicle traveling with me!
I decided to return to Camp Blackman for a couple of nights and do a different walk, cursing about not having a 4WD! While there I did the lovely Goulds circuit walk along a much rougher track than the highway which is the Grand High tops trail. I had phone signal for much of the way which was comforting as I worried about what might happen had I fallen and done myself an injury. There was no one else out there and it meandered up to the top of two tors and then back to join the main track back to the carpark. I have since decided to buy that epirb and to carry it with me on similar walks, just to be safe.
When I finally left the Warrumbungles and Coonabarabran, I took the Newell Highway north towards Narrabri, firstly calling in at some sandstone caves in the Pilliga Nature Reserve. There was only one km of dirt road in very good condition to the car park and a beautiful return walk past some stunning sandstone formations 1.7 kms in length.
Returning to the Highway a little further north I turned left onto No 1 Break road and followed it to the turn left to the sculptures in the scrub, another 11 kms to the car park. Probably there was about 30 kms of dirt road, some small corrugations which I was able to sit on top of at 60 kms per hour and it was no problem at all for me. I felt a lot happier about my Granny flat!
It was too early for lunch so I decided to set out on the 3 km walk up hill and past the 5 especially commissioned sculptures and then back through Dandry Gorge. I was so glad that I had managed to get out there as I found the sculptures so fitting for the environment. There was an information board provided with artists statements and descriptions of the sculptures, as well as seating. The track was level and easy, and the walk back along the gorge was lovely.
I had lunch back in the Granny flat and tried to decide whether to stay in the campground overnight as I had planned. There was no one else around and no phone signal unless I walked back up to the top probably 300 metres away, maybe more, where there was barely enough to send a text message. While I thought I was probably safe enough by myself, I didn’t know whether I would feel the same way on the middle of the night and didn’t want to spend hours awake panicking! Had John been there we probably would have stayed a couple of days, revelling in finding a place all by ourselves, as the campground had clean, new looking toilets and there were free barbeque facilities and tanks with water in the day area.
So, with a heavy heart, I drove out and towards Baradine, deciding the next day to drive through to the north to Pilliga.It was soon obvious that the road from this direction had much more traffic. It was in much worse condition with some quite long stretches of deep sand where I had no choice but to try to stay in the wheel tracks and keep going, all the while wondering whether I was levelling out the sandy hump in the middle due to my lowish clearance. The corrugated sections were deeper too and I couldn’t get up a lot of speed as there were creek crossings and washaways which I did not want to hit too hard and fast! It was not all that much fun and I did worry about what I would do if I had any mishap!
Boy was I glad to see the bitumen again a few kms out of Baradine! I drove to Camp Cypress and found it totally vacant. Instead of staying out in the campground at the sculptures alone, I stayed in town alone and paid $20 for power. Next morning I was kind of pleased about that as it was a very cold and frosty start, with ice still on the ground hours after the sun rose.
I took the road to the north towards Pilliga and another 30 kms of dirt, sometimes a bit challenging but mostly in ok condition. A few kms out of town I stopped to check that all 4 tyres were inflated…just to be sure! I took a few photos of the town and then stopped briefly at the Bore baths for a look and more photos. The icy wind did not make me keen to try a dip in the water so I was soon on my way to Wee Waa where I thought I might have a look at the showground to stay overnight. Once I arrived I decided to have lunch in the town and then continue to Narrabri showground where John and I had stayed previously.
In Narrabri showground I was charged the amazing sum of $8 when I flashed my CMCA membership card and announced that I was solo! Thought about staying for a week…Nah.. not really! By now I was keen to get across to the coast as the school holidays were drawing to a close and it was safe to get to the National Park.
On Saturday 16th, I left Narrabri with full water and fuel tanks and took the Killarney Gap road towards Bingara, stopping at the Sawn Rocks picnic area (another place that John and I visited a couple of years ago) to do the short walk and stretch my legs. I was surprised at the number of floodways which had water flowing over them, and had no recollection of them on our previous drive. Obviously this road would be closed after heavy rain.
I stopped in Bingara and walked around the town, taking photos and buying a weekend paper. It looks like a lovely place on the river and maybe I will return there and spend a few days some time. About half way between Bingara and Delungra on the Gwydir Highway, I drove to the Myall Creek memorial walk carpark and once again stretched my legs on the 500 metre walk with information panels and seats at regular intervals along the way. It was truly shocking to read about the senseless murder of 28 aboriginal children, women and old men by the whites who had stolen their land and water in the 1800s, and a sobering reminder of our dark history with regards to the treatment of the first Australians.
On my return to the Granny Flat, I decided to have lunch while I listened to the calls of birds and wished I could stay the night.
By the time I turned onto the Highway I felt tired but continued through Inverell and on to Glen Innes where I stayed the night at the Showground. I had to stop a couple of times and walk around as my leg began to cramp up from sitting with it on the accelerator for so long. There was a really strong gusty wind blowing too and I found that the big uphills were a bit of a struggle if I didn’t engage the ‘UP’ button early enough! I did feel some pressure to drive a little faster than I had become used to on the slower roads of the previous few days but at every opportunity moved across to allow vehicles to pass.
I was surprised at the stark beauty of the historical showground buildings combined with the bare wintery trees, and walked around taking lots of photographs. I also walked down the hill to the shops and bought a few groceries to get me through the next few days at the supermarket. While I expected to have very cold weather there, it wasn’t actually too bad as it was cloudy overnight. I did run my heating though. There were very few people camped and the closest would have been at least 50 metres away, maybe further. It was unusual to find a place where there were multiple amenities all around the ground and we could choose anywhere to park. They were basic and I parked close to toilets which was all I needed. The following morning before I left, I drove to the dump point and emptied my toilet, rather than having to walk with and carry it. There was no discount for me being single and I paid $20 which is not unreasonable. The caretakers cottage was just outside the showground gates.
On Sunday morning, I called in at the Standing Stones situated on a high point just out of town, and on the road towards Grafton. Then I was on my way toward the coast and Yuraygir National Park near Brooms Head. It was one of those very foggy mornings which didn’t make my drive down the Gibraltar Range all that much fun! I had planned to call in at a lookout or two, and also to the Boundary Falls campground that John and I had stayed in a few times, but there was no point in such heavy fog as I would not have been able to see anything! I took my time driving with care down the steep and winding road but luckily there was little traffic and I didn’t feel pressured, managing to move over to let the odd vehicle pass.
At the rest area at the Mann ? river, I pulled up for over half an hour and made a cup of tea and walked around before getting back on the road. Despite this, I was still at my destination by lunch time.
John and I had stayed in the Lake Aragon campground a few times and so I was very familiar with it and the other camp on Redcliff. I drove the long way around just to check how many people were there. The road was quite sticky as there had been showers very recently and I was a little worried that I might lose traction but apart from having a lot of mud on the mudflaps, I was fine! I found a lovely site in Redcliff which was off by itself and level enough for my shower to drain, and parked there for 5 nights to test out my battery and solar power.
I paid the same amount there to stay ($11.50 per night) as I did in the Warrumbungles with power, hot showers and flushing toilets, but being on the coast, it is probably a lot busier. It is still a cheap stay for me. My batteries lasted well as the weather was mostly sunny, apart from the final day which was very cloudy and wet. I watched some TV most mornings and every night, and used minimal lights..being quite careful about only using the ceiling ones and not the strip LEDs which use more power. My gas bottle is still not empty which is amazing as I only have small ones and its lasted me this whole trip so far. I had adequate water too as I partially filled up the 3 20 litre collapsible bladders before I arrived. I am still unsure as to the size of my water tank but think its 80 litres.
While staying the five days there I had little contact with other people and found it so very lonely. In many instances couples traveling together don’t want or need others to talk to or they are already traveling in groups and its really hard to actually have a conversation with anyone else. I spoke to a daughter on the phone but that was the only time I spoke, on a couple of those days, despite getting out and having a walk around the headland and campgrounds. Before John died I guess its something I didn’t pay any attention to either.
And finally, I arrived here in Coffs Harbour on Friday, two days ago, to spend a few days with Johns family. His almost 88 year old mother fell and broke her ankle a few weeks ago so is now in a wheel chair with leg in plaster….for an indefinite length of time. And his 90 year old Dad is still going strong, although spends most of his day sleeping. Thank goodness most of the six sisters areclose at hand and willing and able to help out.
I have so far driven out each day and managed to turn around and park the Granny flat in the dead end street they live in at Coramba so I can visit and do some chores. For a long vehicle it is surprisingly easy to turn around..luckily as there is not even a cul de sac to turn in!
On Tuesday I finally have my electric awning motor replaced under warranty and will hopefully be headed towards home later that day. I am not too sure that I am looking forward to getting home but have a girlfriend visiting from Thursday for a few days and have various things that I must attend to before I fly out with eldest daughter for 10 days in Vietnam on 15th August. It is a tour commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan but that is another story!
My apologies for any spelling and grammatical mistakes but I need to get this finished or it will never get done, as in some of my past blogs. I hope in the near future to upload some photos to accompany the text too.

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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