Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday 25th May 2013 Paradise Beach

Turns out we had -0.2 degrees overnight at the coldest part, which was just after sunrise, and it felt it! We both didn't sleep well, but the boys sure did. We eventually took the plunge to get up, make coffee and breakfast of pancakes and maple syrup, then went for a walk a few km up and down the river, to come back for a late lunch, and watch a few boats go up and down the river. Paul then set to work to build a fire pit and get some good hardwood coals going for dinner - a good old beef stew. With the sun heading down, the temperature was going the same way and it was time to start layering up again. Thermals are awesome.

Friday 24th May 2013 Lake Hume - Police Paddocks - Cobram - Paradise Beach

Somehow, we managed one of our slowest pack ups ever, and no real reason for it, so we didn't get away until nearly 11. We dialled in the GPS one of the sites chosen for the next stop - Police Paddocks near Rutherglen. It was less than an hour away, so we felt like real grey nomads barely doing 100km travel in a day. It was a lovely grassy spot next to the Murray, with about 1km of river frontage where there was a choice of great sites. We decided we needed to make up a bit of ground, as, according to the rough schedule planned, we were about 2 days behind, so we needed to cover a bit more territory.

The next site on "the list" was Scott's Beach near Cobram, so we headed for Cobram for a late lunch and some more supplies, including firewood. We planned at least 3 days here, so wanted to be able to set up a fire and cook up a good stew. We drove both sides of the Murray along the nature reserve looking for Scott's Beach, and even with GPS coordinates, we didn't find it. What was at the coordinates were day sites for picnics only. We did, however, find a lovely spot at the end of a track called Paradise Beach Rd, and we decided to call that home for the next few days.

We were fully set up just before sun down, and, with barely a breath of wind and a clear night, the temperature was already dropping rapidly. It was a full moon, and too bright to look directly at. For the first time ever, we saw a plane high up with contrails visible in the moonlight!

The weather report for Cobram indicated about 4 degrees overnight with possible frost, and it was almost with excitement that we headed off to bed to get warm. it appreas two beagles give about an extra 4 degrees of warmth, but it was still probably the coldest night we've felt so far, given we couldn't put Hades on.

Thursday 23rd May 2013 Lake Hume - Tallangatta

We had a very leisurely breakfast, and didn't get moving until around 11am. We decided to do a bit of a drive around Lake Hume, looking longingly at some lovely houses with fantastic lake views. We stopped briefly at a lookout over what was the old Tallangatta township that was flooded to make way for the dam (Lake Hume), then went through the "new" town as well a short distance later. There was another lookout through the Mitta Mitta Valley that went all the way to where Falls Creek would be and lots of snow visible on the peaks.

Lunch was decided to be at the Ettamoggah Pub back in NSW, but upon arrival it appeared to have closed for good. So we continued on to the Kinross Woolshed, making it just in time before they no longer served lunch. There were an awful lot of tradies vans having an extended lunch!

Back to "home" and a late afternoon walk down to the dam wall to see the Murray exit the lake and take a few photos. The wind had picked up and the place felt a lot colder than in Kosciuszko National Park as a consequence.

Wednesday 22nd May 2013 Lake Hume - Wagga Wagga - Uranquinty - Albury

We got away a bit after 9am to go up near Wagga to pick the boys up, ringing them up to let them know we were on the way so that someone would be there as their opening time was between 9 and 11am. We got there about 10.45, and the boys were very pleased to see us! Once we'd paid, the owner left the kennel and walked away elsewhere, whilst we checked the boys for any cuts or scrapes, as can happen in kennels, and found Indy's bad ear was looking mucky again, and he now had about 5 or 6 hotspots on his tummy that they didn't tell us about - or not know about. Not impressed. Later, we found they hadn't given him his medication properly or as we'd asked, so even less impressed. We also found Indy had chewed at his tail, something he hasn't done before, so that indicates he was stressed there, poor fella.

From there, we drove through Wagga again to get fuel, and continued south to Albury, stopping at the bakery at Uranquinty. About another hour to Albury, where we stopped for a few supplies then had a walk along what we thought was the Murray River, but it turned out to be a creek off it. No matter, it was a lovely walk through different coloured autumn leaves along the creek, then back to Lake Hume for a late afternoon walk along the water's edge.

Tuesday 21st May 2013 Koskiuszko Mountain Retreat - Corryong - Lake Hume

Another early start so we could get packed up quickly to get to our next destination. We wanted somewhere close to Wagga to be able to get the boys on Wednesday before 11am. We drove via the Alpine Way again, taking a short detour through Thredbo proper, then up through Khancoban and to Corryong so we could have a look at the Man From Snowy River Museum. We stopped at a cafe for lunch, then got some supplies at the local bakery and "Lamboutique - Paris, London, New York, Corryong".

The museum was interesting, however the display for Jack Riley himself was perhaps the smallest part. More space was devoted to old laundry mangles, butter churns and other kitchen paraphernalia, as well as a local member of the first Australian ski team and Jim Thompson, a POW who knitted an enormous blanket showing a map of Australia and the coat of arms. All worthwhile seeing nonetheless.

We then drove to a couple of possible campsites, one next to a pub in Jingellic right on the river that wasn't too bad, then another that was very picturesque but had a lot of shotgun shells and even some burnt out aerosol cans on an old fire. There was something about the place that didn't feel right, so we moved on, continuing along the river to the start of Lake Hume. The sun was starting to get lower, and we made an executive decision to stay 3 nights at a caravan park so we could leave the trailer behind for the 3 hour round trip to pick the boys up, and also get a load of washing in. And get 3 nights running of Hades.

We found the Lake Hume CP just before dark, and found a spot overlooking the lake, setting up quickly. We cooked the steak from Corryong and found it to be one of the best we've had in a long while - very tender, with an almost sweet aftertaste, it was gorgeous. Paul set up a fire in the portable fire pit right near the site made from an old washing machine drum, and it kept the cold seeping up from the lake at bay.

Monday 20th May 2013 Koskiuszko Mountain Retreat - Mt Koskiuszko

We were both awake well before 6.30am, and, keen to get going, we scoffed down breakfast and coffee before heading up to Charlotte Pass to hopefully reach Mt Kosciuszko. There are two ways of getting there, one from Thredbo and going up the chairlift, and the other following a service road up from Charlotte Pass, the shorter and cheaper of the two routes.

We got as far up as we could by road, and were on the track a bit after 9am. The weather report from the night before indicated snow and wind in the afternoon, hence why we got going early. It turned out that snowshoes are remarkably light and require very little change in gait or movement, and barely showed any indication of tripping us up, however ungainly they look.

The track, although snowed under, was easy to follow, with skidoo and quad bike tracks showing the way, and tall markers positioned about every 50m and good visibility. It was nice and flat with just a gentle uphill gradient, so that also helped get a good rhythm going. We set a good pace at first, until the weather started setting in, with a bit of a headwind creeping up to 30+km/hr and visibility dropping to being only just able to see the next marker pole ahead. The definition of the vehicle tracks also became more difficult. A few niggling hurts started to show themselves, we both were getting sore hips and standing still for any length of time didn't take long for the chill to seep through.

After a couple of km walking, we had just gone past the Snowy River crossing when 3 police on skidoos stopped to talk to us. Apparently a Korean fellow had been a week overdue in dropping his hire car back, and had been last known to be in the area - had we seen him. We had only seen one other person on the track who left about 10 minutes before us, a motorbike ride dressed in his bike leathers who said he'd go as far up as he could.

About half an hour later two NPWS rangers on a quad bike stopped to see how we were going, they were also on the search for the missing man. We continued on, much slower than previously, until we stopped and contemplated whether or not to continue, as our current pace would mean we would not get back to the car until late afternoon. The weather conditions were pretty ordinary too. We consulted the GPS to discover that Seaman's Hut only appeared to be a couple of hundred metres away, so that gave us renewed energy to make that and then decide what to do from there after a break out of the cold and wind, and fuelling up.

The cops were just leaving there to continue the search, and the two rangers were on CB radio back to base advising of their movements. Before the cops left they said they had gone close to the summit but had turned back as the weather conditions were worse. We figured if they had turned back while on skidoo, there was little point in us continuing further, and the decision came as a welcome relief. Another 3km each way seemed like a tall order, but reaching the hut was a bit of a milestone in itself we were happy with.

Whilst out of the wind, the hut was still pretty cold, and not moving the cold was starting to have an effect on us, so we bade the NPWS guys farewell. The combination of a bit of food, energy drink and disgusting tasting energy gel with a Voltaren chaser, plus the knowledge we were on the home stretch and downhill most of the way, meant we made good time back to the car. The cops on skidoo passed us again, then we passed them stopped at the Snowy River, then shortly after a big group of 7 cops on foot passed us about 2km from the start of the track. All looking for this fellow that, if he was in the mountains for a week, is highly likely not to be found until after winter.

The last kilometre back to the car was a tough one, the Voltaren was wearing off and hips and ankles were very sore. But by 2.45pm, we made it, and those hurts started to become a dim memory. We went back to Jindabyne to drop off the hire gear, and heard the missing man may in fact have been Canadian, and the story was all over the news.

We went back to camp, had some lovely long hot showers, set another load of washing on for our last night before heading off closer to Wagga to pick the boys up on Wednesday. We have thoroughly enjoyed a whole campsite to ourselves, and the weather, while cold, has been superb, with barely any wind overnight and no rain except for the first night. Hopefully we will get a dry pack up in the morning.

Sunday 19th May 2013 Koskiuszko Mountain Retreat - Waterfall Walk - Wildbrumby Schnappes Distillery

After a leisurely breakfast, of pumpkin soup and sourdough toast, we decided that we would test out the new waterproof, but breathable, pants with the 6km Waterfall walk along Sawpit Creek. This walk was a loop following the creek to a small waterfall, and then through some large granite boulders. It was mostly flat, and the 6km came and went quite easily, or certainly more so if we had done the same circuit in Darwin humidity.

Back to camp for a lunch of the previous 2 night's leftovers, which weren't enough for one on their own, and then we went back to the Wilderness Adventure store to pick up the snowshoes and walking poles we were hiring, and a new fleece jumper for Paul, and some essential supermarket supplies for our Big Adventure.

We then went back along the Alpine Way to the Wildbrumby Schnappes distillery, tasting all 10 of their varieties, that included butterscotch, sour cherry, sour apple, peppermint, chilli and pear. They were all very tasty, perhaps the peppermint and the sour cherry less so, and because they clearly knew we were coming they had a 6 pack with our name on it of their most popular ones. How could we resist?

We got back home on dusk and started getting our clothes and packs ready for a 6.30am start, and were in bed by 8.30pm.

Saturday 18th May 2013 Koskiuszko Mountain Retreat - Old Geehi Hut - Keebles Hut - Geehi Hut - Khancoban - Tom Groggin

A 7am wake up brought us the coldest start we've had - minus 3.1 deg outside and frost everywhere! Thankfully the space heater, henceforth known as Hades, means we have slept in about 10 degrees which is quite comfortable. We have decided today we will drive up the Alpine Way to Kancoban, then work our way back, visiting the old huts along the way, such as Keebles and Geehi.

We left camp about 10.30am and headed along the Alpine Way, passing the Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery with the intention of dropping in on the way back home. It was a beautiful clear morning, and passing Thredbo we could see thick snow on the slopes to about half way down.

The Alpine Way was a twisty windy road, and just after Dead Horse Gap that marks the Great Dividing Range the cloud came in, giving an eery look through a section of dead snow gum trunks. We continued on to a dirt track that marked the way to Old Geehi Hut, which took about 20 minutes to reach. We felt a tinge of regret that a 4WD was already there, however no-one was around, and we had to take judicious pictures to avoid sight of the vehicle. It was a lovely spot next to Old Swampy Creek, and we moved on, stopping to survey a creek crossing and determining it was shallow enough to traverse. Funnily enough Paul couldn't convince me to test the depth.

On the other side we could see what the map told us was Doctor's Hut, but was on the other side of the creek around the bend that we'd just came from. Not long after was Behr's Flat where Keebles Hut is located, and we chose this place to stop for lunch. There were a number of fire rings, and again this was clearly a spot that would be popular in summer.

After lunch we continued a bit further to Geehi Hut, which is accessible from the Alpine Way with 2wd vehicles as we had made a loop around. Again, this appeared to be a good campground with well spaced out sites, numerous drop toilets and room for expansion on to a flat area further from the creek.

We went back onto the Alpine Way to continue to Khancoban, and stopped at a cafe for afternoon tea, before heading back the way we came. We did a detour to the Tom Groggin Rest Area that looks to be another good, popular camp site, and saw what is likely to be the highest point of the mighty Murray River we will see on this trip.

By this stage, it was a little after 4pm, and we realised that at this rate we would be due back at camp at about 5.30, right on dark, so we'd better head to avoid silly wildlife. And it looks like our visit to the schnapps distillery may have to wait until tomorrow, hopefully it will be open on a Sunday.

Friday 17th May 2013 Koskiuszko Mountain Retreat - Rainbow Lake - Jindabyne

Another gorgeous still and sunny morning, we pored over the map to determine what the day's activities would be. We decided to do the short 3km Rainbow Lake walk, which would be our first venture walking in some snow, building up to the Mt Kosi walk. There was a little bit of snow under the trees at the start of the walk, but in open country it was clear.

We were able to circumnavigate the lake, and the whole walk took about an hour and a half as we stopped often to take lots of photos. With rain pants and raincoat on, we were able to generate quite a sweat, and Rachel's pants disintegrated at the seams. Back to Jindy for yet another purchase, and we also bought a compass as a backup to the GPS should it fail on the Kosi walk, which we had decided to do on Monday, as the weather report indicates clearing skies and reduced winds. Here's hoping.

We stopped into the bakery for lunch, then stopped at the rest area at Thredbo River for a short walk there, stopping to talk with a man that said he used to live in Darwin. We walked about 1km up the river, stopping to watch a couple of guys fly fishing in the rapids. We then went back to camp to do laundry, start another fire and make a dint in the red wine. Rachel discovered that she may have been sitting just a little too close to the fire, melting one of her crocs nearly all the way through (some would say that's not a bad thing, the fashion accessory that they aren't). No real damage done, but it was a close thing.

Thursday 16th May 2013 Koskiuszko Mountain Retreat - Jindabyne - Smiggins, Perisher and Charlotte Pass

Upon waking, we made coffee, rugged up then took a walk around camp in daylight. Each campsite is nestled into snow gums and not cramped in side by side, and sites for vans or trailers have a little semi-circle to drive straight through. We are sited right next to an amenities block that we have all to ourselves.

We headed into Jindabyne to stock up on supplies, and get some information from National Parks on whether finding the source of the Murray is viable. It seemed the easiest way would be from the Victorian side, and would require 4WD access that we weren't really prepared to do alone. We got much better advice from an adventure store that seemed to indicate getting to Mt Kosciusko would be a better option with snowshoes from Charlotte Pass, a shorter route than from Thredbo and didn't involve purchasing a lift pass either.

We then went for a drive up to Smiggins, Perisher and to the end of the road to Charlotte Pass. All these ski resorts have snow, but are not open yet, and we got to see where we would start the walk to the mountain.

Back to camp mid afternoon, and we did the short 3km Sawpit Creek walk, prompting the very important question of "what scat is that?" LOTS of roo and wallaby poo, and the disconcertingly large wombat poos that require very careful foot placement. While we didn't see any wombats, we did see lots of wallabies and roos. There are either only a few wombats that only poo on the track, or lots of them that just go anywhere they damn well like.

With almost no wind, we then bought a bag of firewood to set up a fire just outside the camper. We were visited by a couple of a little too friendly possums which we did not want to attract to camp. We also discovered a shot of Bailey's in a chai latte makes for a very nice nightcap.

Wednesday 15th May 2013 Oura Beach Reserve - Wagga Wagga - Koskiuszko Mountain Retreat

We packed up the camper and headed back to Wagga to refuel and then it was off to the south of Wagga to drop the boys off at the boarding kennel. We then went back to Wagga to buy new boots as Paul's were no longer being water resistant, and my boots were never quite right, being slightly too small. We also ducked into Big W and bought a $30 space heater, as we had decided we would camp at a caravan park 16km from Jindabyne in Kosciusko National Park for a few days.

Once that purchase was done, we headed for the 4 hour drive to the Kosciusko Mountain Retreat, knowing we would be getting in just after dark, which was not ideal. After Tumut, we drove up onto the plateau in the national park and saw our first bit of patchy snow, and some fog as well.

3 minutes, according to the GPS, away from our destination, we very nearly hit a big roo! Over 4,000km of driving with no incidences and we thought our luck was up, but the big roo ducked to the left in time not to be collected by the trailer.

We pulled into Kosciusko Mountain Retreat to find we were the only ones camping in a large campground of nearly 100 spaces, plus about a dozen cabins. It was quite breezy, so there was a bit of effort in pegging down the annexes. Once that was down, the skies decided to empty, and there was steady soaking rain for most of the night.

Tuesday 14th May 2013 Oura Beach Reserve

Tuesday was a nice quiet day, not doing much but wandering around the reserve and an afternoon nap. There were a few brief but light showers and the overnight temps dropped to around 4 deg.

Monday 13th May 2013 Ganmain - Oura Beach Reserve

We woke around 7am, feeling surprisingly chipper on 4 hours sleep or less, but had to pack up the camper in light but steady rain. By about 10am we were off again, this time to a spot near Wagga called Oura Beach Reserve on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. It's a lovely spot that would clearly be popular on long weekends and in summer, but we only had to share the place with about half a dozen other caravanners well spaced apart. And a trip of less than 100km! Unheard of!

Once we had selected our spot, we waited about half an hour in the car on the off-chance the rain would ease, which it did, so we were able to set up without getting too damp. This would be our first 2 night stop over to justify setting up all of the awnings on the camper.

Sunday 12th May 2013 Wentworth - Ganmain

From Wentworth, we then headed east about 500km for Ganmain, a tiny town about 60km north-west of Wagga Wagga, where we were to visit Julie and Marshal Nelson, the breeders of Indy and Keg. We had only been there a couple of hours when it decided to rain, which it hadn't done there for about 4 months. Julie had only just got a new baby Beagle that was being rumbled by a litter of 4 Maremmas of the same age, but younger by a few days, it was fascinating to see the difference in the development of the breeds as the Maremmas were far more coordinated than the beagle! As the rain continued into the night, the beautiful white of the Maremmas turned to brown and wet as they didn't seem to care how wet and muddy it was.

A great meal of spag bog was washed down with a few reds and beers, and conversation went until about 3am.

Saturday 11th May 2013 Somewhere near SA, VIC and NSW - Wentworth

Breakfast was a good old traditional bacon and eggs, and then we headed off, driving along the border of South Australia and Victoria. This was also the border for the Murray Sunset National Park, and on the other side were what appeared to be vast wheat fields to the horizon. A real highlight on this stretch was seeing a huge flock? herd? of emus, many hundreds of them, at full gallop.

We stopped for a latish lunch at Wentworth to see the junction of the Murray and the Darling rivers. It was there we decided to overnight at a caravan park so we can do a couple of loads of washing, and our site was about half a dozen paces to the Darling River, sharing with a few ducks. Only a couple of hundred kilometres driven today, so that puts us dangerously close to grey nomad status. 

Friday 10th May 2013 Gladstone - Paringa - Somewhere near SA, VIC and NSW

Seeing that I made twice as much rice as necessary for dinner, breakfast was a sort of rice pudding made from sweetened condensed milk and chopped up apricot delight. It was a great start to the day, seeing that we only had a 3 hour drive instead of 7-odd!

Our destination was the Paringa Bakery outside of Renmark where we were catching up with our friend from dragon boating days, Dennis. He was taking us to a friend's property on the banks of the Murray on the Victorian side, who met us mid afternoon and took us for a trip in his tinny for about an hour and a half. We went right up to a place called McCabe's Corner, which is the junction of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. As this spot is actually on private property, the plaque there isn't often accessed by visitors, so we felt very privileged indeed. The boys loved sitting up front, sniffing hard as we whizzed along, we must have looked a bit of a sight to a couple of huge houseboats and their occupants moored nearby.

Back to camp, where a good hardwood fire was set up for the camp stew, and a couple of reds may also have been involved.

Thursday 9th May 2013 Coober Pedy - Glendambo - Port Augusta - Gladstone

And the third most boring stretch of road is from Coober Pedy to Port Augusta, with Glendambo as a lunch stop, again eaten in the car due to the flies. We stopped briefly in Port Augusta for fuel and a brief walk along the wharf, then we headed for the hills to stay in a little town called Gladstone, the caravan park there was very quiet and picturesque right next to a little park.

Wednesday 8th May 2013. Alice Springs to Coober Pedy

We left Alice Springs and headed for the most boring of stretches of road along the way, stopping at Erldunda before the border to South Australia for lunch. LOTS of flies, so lunch was scoffed in the car.

The next most boring stretch of road was to Coober Pedy, until you get to the outskirts where it's like a lunar landscape with mounds of dirt dotted everywhere for the underground mines. Our site for the night was Reba's Underground Caravan Park, just to the south of Coober Pedy, sadly, it was only tents in the underground bit so we had to contend ourselves with an above ground site. There was a bit of breeze so it was quite cool.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Murray River Trip - Sunday 4th - Tuesday 7th May 2013. Darwin - Katherine - Tennant Creek - Alice Springs

Sunday 4th - Tuesday 7th May 2013

After what seemed like ages, we finally were set to go after lunch for the 3 hour + drive to Katherine. A day later than anticipated, but not without a last minute minor medical emergency with Indy getting a huge hot spot on the top of his head that required treatment and antibiotics. Fortunately the trip to Katherine was uneventful, and we made it to Paul's dad's place before dark. A bit of a restless night, as first nights inevitably are, and we made a leisurely kick off around 10.30am Monday after catching up with brother Andrew to get to our favoured spot on a hill with a repeater tower about 90km north of Tennant Creek, after a lunch stop at Three Ways.

Being miles from anywhere, we were treated to a brilliant night sky with no moon from the top of the hill. The only other lights were the occasional traveller and triple trailer road train.

Tuesday morning had a brilliant dawn, but an extra few minutes lie-in meant a missed photo opportunity. The huge number of flies didn't miss an opportunity to go up a nostril, to the extent that we were not prepared to have "raisins" in our breakfast, and just had coffee and a muesli bar instead. We stopped in Tennant Creek briefly to sort out a clunk coming from the trailer coupling with a good fill of grease.

Another middle of nowhere stop for lunch, accompanied by some grey nomads that appeared to have stopped for the day. Why, we'll never know, there was nothing there. And then onwards to Alice Springs to the Heritage Caravan Park, where we have been on 3 previous occasions. Nothing special, but we know where it is on the southern side of Alice, it's usually quiet (except for tonight), it has good shower facilities and it's dog friendly.

Planning an underground campsite at Coober Pedy tomorrow night. Should be interesting!