Saturday, 31 May 2014

Focus on fuel efficiency!

During our ten-plus years together, Nick and I have owned several cars.

On reviewing the archives it seems we've bought a replacement vehicle every two years. Of course, we chose to buy Elmer Fudd but all our other car purchases were due to necessity rather than choice.

When we merged our households, I owned a Holden Apollo and Nick had the blue Commodore. My car, Kitt (named due to my fondness for the Knight Rider car), was slightly more fuel efficient and therefore used more often.

Sadly Kitt was written off in 2006 and we had limited funds available for a replacement.  The best we could do at the time was a green Hyundai (top left).  What a glamour! Despite it's bargain price, it served us quite well for almost two years and is remembered fondly.   For some considerable months it was driven with a stick wedging the driver's window open/closed and the stick would work loose as we drove, resulting in window crashing down and driver/passengers jumping/swearing etc!

We traded the green Hyundai for a red one in 2008.  The red car was part of a deceased estate and had received very little use.  We hadn't expected to get such a good bargain, though the low price may been due to the fact that it smelled very strongly of wet dog (or worse)!  In any case it was definitely a step up, not least for the fact that the windows stayed in place without the need for a supporting stick!

The red Hyundai was well used, travelling many kilometres up and down the NSW Central Coast.  It was even put into service as a camping vehicle for our early trips!  It reached the end of it's life in 2012, shortly before we relocated to Victoria.  The timing was less-than-best as there was already considerable stress without car drama - but we are used to that! 

Nick sourced the green Ford Laser as a replacement and it became our "menagerie car" for the drive South. 

Mintie (as that car was known) broke down last week.  The expected cost of repair far exceeded the value of the vehicle, so once again we were car hunting.

A new car wasn't really on our agenda but after researching more thoroughly it was a much better option than the alternatives - and so we collected our brand-new Ford Focus this morning.  It should serve us well into the future!

The blue Commodore was with us for over six years before it was traded in October 2010 for Elmer Fudd.  We love our Fudd truck but we don't take him everywhere cos ...  well, he drinks - a lot! 

No doubt you'll see a lot of the Focus because as well as being Nick's commuter car it will be used for more fuel-efficient adventuring, closer to home.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Misty Mountain Munching!

Since returning home from Yowah, Vaughan's been asking about the mountains we can see on our way to and from school.

We packed a sausage sizzle picnic today and headed up "into the sky" for a late lunch.  Wow! 

Nick and I have previously visited the memorial cross at Mount Macedon on a fine day but everything was a bit more magical today.

We (mostly) enjoy al fresco dining in all kinds of weather, throughout the year - but this was our first misty picnic!

After lunch we walked a short distance to the cross, doing a geocache along the way.

It was a puzzle cache so we had to decode the co-ordinates, which prompted us to read more of the signage about the history of the cross and reserve.

We solved the co-ordinates for another cache but decided against looking for it, given the mist was even thicker further down the mountain where we needed to look! Everyone was starting to feel cold by that stage anyway, so it was a good time to head home.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Dinner's done!

Well, as you can see some of our dinner was overdone. Less coals, more foil and a greater level of supervision would have all helped!

I only have two sizes of camp oven though - very small and quite large, so we had to improvise.

Often we cook vegetables in with the meat but I wasn't keen to drop them in on the marinade. The vegies in the small camp oven were fine, it was the foiled packs that didn't fare so well. There were no real complaints and I actually liked the slightly charred, smoky corn!

The pork was very nice but there wasn't much flavour of the marinade through the meat and I'm not sure we'd bother again.  I reckon the netting got a lot of the benefit! Possibly we could do a basic rolled shoulder another time and serve it with some of my home-made chutneys, which would be just as tasty and far less messy!

Nick cleaned the camp oven of all the honey/soy/marmalade toffee last night and it came off a lot easier than expected - hooray!

Happy Mothers Day!

I've had a lovely day and received lots of Mothers Day gifts, cards, calls and wishes.  We stayed home together and did some much-needed organisation at a laid-back pace.

Among my various gifts was this dump-shop find.  It's a fire-box on legs.  Well, that's how I describe it!  Obviously it's not glamorous but I saw it's potential when I first spotted it - and $10 was a bargain price!  Nick lit our first fire in it today, around lunchtime and stacked up the wood to create lots of coals.  By 3:00pm we were ready to start cooking.

What are we cooking?  We're hoping it will be something special.  It looked good on Nick's latest 4WD Action DVD.  Roothy made a marinade of honey, soy and marmalade.  He added some chilli powder also.  We aren't as heat tolerant, so scaled back the chilli but kept the other proportions the same - equal thirds. I marinaded a rolled pork shoulder roast in the mix while the coals were being generated. 

It smells great, so fingers crossed it will be a taste sensation - as cleaning the burnt marinade off the camp oven will be a mission!  

Thursday, 8 May 2014


We enjoy visiting the local ducks and geese and usually take some bread to feed them. 

In very recent times we read a notice outlining the various health issues experienced by waterfowl due to eating bread.

Angel wing was one of the syndromes listed - and some of these birds already suffer from that condition.  This afternoon we took some chook pellets with us.  The geese greeted us with their usual normal enthusiasm, though they were not at all enthused by the menu change.  When Vaughan offered a handful of pellets to one goose, it pecked his fingers instead!

The ducks were far more appreciative.  They snuffled through the grass in search of more pellets.  Typically the geese weren't happy about missing out, so chased off the ducks and then tried the new food.  It must have been good because the ducks didn't get much of a taste after that!

In looking for some angel wing information this evening, I found a recipe for gourmet duck food.  I think we'll just take some chookie pellets when we next visit but it's good to know there's a recipe if we are feeling super-keen!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Mail in a box!

The mail truck came twice a week to Yowah, except on public holidays and days when the water-crossings were too high. 

Our mail at home is generally delivered every week day.  We had arranged (ie. paid!) to have it held during our ten-week absence. 

We collected it all today - in an Australia Post box!  Erin had already deposited another load of letters and small parcels, before these photos were taken.  Yes, there was quite a lot!  The bulk of the mail was Erin's and she was happy to have it.  Nick and I didn't receive much other than the usual bank and superannuation statements, customer loyalty correspondence and utility bills - although I was pleased to see my Vistaprint order and a Mother's Day parcel!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Home again!

Our nice NRMA serviceman had spoken to Nick about the difference in petrol prices between Deniliquin and Echuca. Echuca was cheaper, so we stopped there to top-up Elmer's tanks.

There was a sign in the service station window stating "big scrubbies sold here". We were intrigued.

Erin pointed out it was unlikely that large scrub pythons were being sold but we didn't have any other ideas.  As it happens, scrubbies are a type of worm - for fishing! Betcha didn't know that?!

It is around 250km from Deniliquin to home. Yep, we were that close when Elmer conked out!  We stopped a few times along the way.

By Tooborac, I needed a loo.  As you can see, Vaughan and Erin used the stop to test their balsa planes!

Our next stop was to buy BBQ chickens, chips and salad for lunch. We bought milk closer to home.

It was lunchtime when we arrived home.  We'd already eaten the chippies but had a second course of chicken and some salad.  Nick unpacked Elmer and then headed off to work.  Erin began sorting her caravan.  Vaughan happily rediscovered various toys - and I made a slow start on restoring order to chaos (after lighting the fire)!

Departing Deniliquin

We were up early to pack Elmer ready for departure. As usual, Nick was in charge of actual packing. Erin and I created a stack of items next to the trailer.

After most things were out of the cabin I did the washing up and floor-sweeping in preparation for returning the keys.

We were on the road again by 8:30am, a little later than scheduled but still quite respectable - particularly given Elmer's "back-back" had been totally repacked.

We enjoyed our time in Deniliquin and were particularly thankful that our roadside assistance had covered just about all costs.  Both accommodation options exceeded the maximum payable benefit, so we were out-of-pocket $33 in total - plus the repair cost of $154.  Had we paid the full accommodation costs and two sets of towing fees as well as the repair, our wallets would have been considerably lighter - and our hearts much heavier! 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Awesome $154 news!

The Toyota service manager, Andrew, rang while we were out. He'd asked about Elmer's after market immobiliser system.  Nick and I answered as best we could. 

Andrew confirmed Nick's thought regarding Elmer's problem but at that stage the solution was still not clear.

We were only back at the cabin a few minutes when we received another call from Andrew.  Elmer was fixed and ready to be collected!  Even better the repair was only $154!   Understandably, there was huge relief all round!

Nick and I walked across to the NRMA depot.  Andrew greeted us. He handed over a small part - a fusible link - which was the cause of Elmer's problems. The link is designed to short if there is a wiring issue.  Elmer's hadn't fused but the connection wire had worn through and that had shut-down everything. 

Deni dallying

After we shuffled our belongings to the cabin and settled the pets in their tent, Nick and I explored the caravan park facilities. (Erin was happy relaxing and Vaughan was enjoying a TV fix, given he'd mainly done without for the past ten weeks).

We had lunch and then went exploring. Back in February, en route to Yowah, we'd stopped for a quick breakfast at "Deni" but hadn't seen anything of the town otherwise.

Deniliquin has a population of around 8,000 - so is huge compared to Yowah and the surrounding towns! 

It was a short walk from our caravan park to the town.  We found a lovely park with well-trained, optimistic ducks who flew and/or swam to the bridge very quickly when they spotted us!  We had an enjoyable afternoon poking around the various shops before walking "home" again.

Suite shuffle

There were quite a few break-downs yesterday, so when Nick arrived at our accommodation he'd only managed to collect a few more things from Elmer and our trailer (cos the serviceman needed to be back on the road to help others).

We were quite comfortable in our family room at the Centrepoint Motel - and were relieved that Oscar and Keegan could stay in the nearby laundry. We bought a few items from the local IGA for dinner. We had a microwave, plates and cutlery but the room wasn't really geared for self-catering.

Nick and I walked up to the NRMA depot / Toyota dealership this morning.  The service manager wasn't sure whether he'd have time to look at Elmer this afternoon.  He mentioned delays in getting parts, even when the problem was determined. 

In the circumstances we thought it best to find more suitable accommodation in case our stay stretched out for more than a couple of nights.  The Riverside Caravan Park was just across the road from the NRMA depot.  We called in and were able to obtain a cabin for the night (with further nights available, if necessary).  Shelly and Andrew made us feel very welcome and lent us their ute to collect our various  belongings, children and pets!

We were able to exit our motel room by 10:00am, only needing to pay $28 (the difference between the tariff and the benefit paid by our roadside assistance cover).  Our self-contained cabin was cheaper, so our contribution was just $5!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Halted on Hay Plains!

Elmer limped along after breakfast. His condition was getting worse.

Previously he'd travelled 15-20km between rests - and he would start again after about five minutes.

His last tired hops were only a few hundred metres each and then he stopped completely. Fortunately by that time we had a little bit of mobile signal and were able to call roadside assistance.

Help was an hour away, so we amused ourselves while waiting. Nick and Vaughan engaged in a sword fight, before retrieving our kites from the trailer to take advantage of the strong wind and large open area.

Nissa rang just after we'd called RACV and heard of our new adventure, while we were having it!

Bruce, the NRMA serviceman, arrived with a car trailer to tow Elmer.  He took Erin, Vaughan and I with him into Deniliquin - and arranged our overnight accommodation en route. Once there, we quickly retrieved a few items from Elmer (including Oscar Cat and Keegan the rainbow lorikeet) before setting up "home" for the night.  (Nick stayed with the trailer and was collected with it about an hour or so later). 

Black Swamp Breakfast Stop!

We'd bought some milk while at the Hay service station and were looking for a breakfast spot when we spotted the Black Swamp rest area.

Although we had some cereal, the outside temperature was a big frigid so we opted for tea and breakfast biscuits as a first course. 

We'd filled a thermos prior to departing from Yowah, over 21 hours previously. The water was still hot(ish), thanks to our trusty Stanley thermos and it's insulated cover. Our hot beverages may not have been the hottest we've ever had but we did appreciate them!

Conked-out kip

Elmer hadn't been keen to leave Yowah. He'd coughed a bit, even before we moved off and would miss a beat occasionally as we drove along.

After leaving Bourke, we travelled 160km down the road to Cobar - where we refuelled (though forget to check if our petrol cap was still there from ten weeks ago)!  It was cold so Erin, Vaughan and I tucked our sleeping bags around us and dozed as we drove along. We were half-way between Cobar and Hay when Nick decided to stop for the night.  As he was drove into a roadside rest area, Elmer's engine stopped - and wouldn't start again.

There was nothing we could do at that stage, so we made ourselves as comfortable as possible and slept till early morning. It was around 6:00am when we woke. Fortunately Elmer was happy to start and we headed off to Hay where we refuelled again, topped up Elmer's oil and water - and thought we were set for the day. There was even some talk of being home by lunchtime.

15km south of Hay, Elmer stopped again.  Oscar appreciated the break from travelling but Nick and I were a little concerned.  We made another 20km hop before Elmer conked out for the third time.  Like before he started again after a five-minute break.  Phone reception was minimal so we continued onward.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Plan B(ourke)

We re-fuelled at Cunnamulla and then headed out of town, toward Bourke. In all the rush of packing up, cleaning and leaving, we hadn't stopped for lunch but ate a series of snacks instead.

At some stage during the late afternoon I remembered the wonderful hamburgers we'd purchased from a Bourke café during a previous stop-over and suggested we dine there.  Upon arrival in Bourke, we were all disappointed to discover the hamburger café was closed - as was much of the town. 

Fortunately there was a Chinese restaurant at the Bowling Club and we enjoyed a great meal at a reasonable price.  We called ahead to Cobar after ordering.  There was no cabin accommodation available and we couldn't make contact with Kidman's Camp reception (at Bourke).  In the circumstances, we decided to drive on - and sleep in the car when necessary.

Last Eulo loo stop ...

Eulo is about 70km from Yowah and we often stop there for a loo stop en route to Cunnamulla. 

We called in at the shop too for drinks and a tub of honey. 

This modern shop was built to replace the former store, which burned down not long after our January 2011 departure from Yowah.  I wanted a shot of Elmer in front of the new store, similar to this one but there was a grader parked in the way, cos the driver and some of the other road-workers were having a morning cuppa!

Cheers, big ears!

We had intended to wear our bilby ears for a group shot near the large wooden sculpture at the bilby sanctuary but ran short of time.

Our next thought was to do a group shot while wearing them at Currawinya National Park but the ears had been left at "home".

As a final compromise, we made a quick stop at the Currawinya turn-off as we drove past on our way to Eulo/Cunnamulla - and home.

Leaving ...

While Nick stowed away all our stuff I worked to restore the shack to the way it had been, prior to our arrival.  (I'd taken photos of the pantry shelves, which helped greatly but I could have used photos of some other areas also)! 

Erin vacuumed cleared space while I continued to shift our gear out - and quickly spring-clean the shack.

By midday, Nick had managed to stash everything into Elmer (and the trailer), which was an impressive effort.

I then deemed the shack to be in good order for Lui's return. Lui had visited earlier, unconcerned by our chaos. We knew he would be back a bit later in the day - and wanted everything to be ready for him.

After leaving the shack, we did a few final missions before heading out of town.

We didn't say all the farewells we wanted but it was time to go and so we went.

Packing up ...

We packed a lot yesterday but did a fair bit of socialising too.  We worked into the night and then Nick set his alarm for "stupid early" so he and I could get up and do more after a well-deserved rest.

It's just about always a shemozzle at the end of an adventure - and this trip was more so because we'd been at Yowah for ten weeks!

It was quite cold overnight.  Vaughan came in for a snuggle early this morning.  He didn't get up "stupid early" with Nick and I.  Neither did Oscar.  The two of them stayed tucked on/under my purple sleeping bag for as long as possible!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Hello (and pomelo)!

We finally met Louie yesterday (though I now think Lui is the correct spelling)!

We were beginning to think we might leave before he arrived but he rolled in late that after-noon - and it was lovely to see him!

We chatted a bit more today. He used to have an exotic fruit orchard at Tully - but 20 years of work was wiped in the cyclone a couple of years ago. He brought pomelo, red dacca bananas, sugar bananas and navel oranges from the Coast - all grown by a friend. The red bananas and pomelo were quite new to us and we were keen to try pomelo when Lui offered a taste-test. What a great thing!

The social whirl ...

We've been packing today. Working fairly consistently. Every so often we stopped to take a load of rubbish to the tip - or do a bit of socialising!

Fred is our lovely neighbour and Nick has visited often - as has Vaughan. I expect Vaughan is usually too busy playing with the dogs to notice much else. He obviously looked about a bit more today because he started to grin and then read Fred's sign with great enthusiasm and emphasis!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Sunset Sausage Sizzle

We've spent a lot of time on the Bluff during our various stays. It's a special place and we really enjoy watching the evening sunset. 

When Vaughan's teacher confessed she hadn't watched a sunset from the Bluff, we offered our company (and some meat-tray sausages)!

It was a lovely, impromptu evening - and the sunset was gorgeous, with just a sliver of moon showing.  Hopefully we will have inspired more Bluff visits and/or sunset viewings!

School Photos

Very early during our stay at Yowah, I was asked to take this year's school photos. It wasn't something I had done before but I do take a lot of photos and was happy to offer my services.

My good friend Naomi (a great photographer, with far more experience than I) gave some tips and much-appreciated support from the sidelines. Between her advice and my innovation, I'm quite chuffed with the results, which have definitely exceeded my expectations.

It was a fun morning, though I was pleased that there were only a few students and staff for my first foray into school photography.  Once home again, I chose four or five photos of each child to copy onto a disc.  I did minimal editing to the group shots, before selecting two or three of each configuration to include on the same disc.  I was able to apply borders and captions to the group photos, so gave several choices for each selection.  Perhaps on another visit I'll get to see the printed and framed copies hanging in the entryway. 

Vaughan will have school photos taken again later this year, at his usual school - so will have two sets for 2014, which is pretty neat!