Monthly Archives: September 2012

through the Grampians

En route to Adelaide is the Grampians National Park, a haven of fresh air, breathtaking views and invigorating walks.

Our first stop was Hall’s Gap where we stayed the night. The first challenge was getting into the campsite, as we were too tall to fit under the gate, then we had to find a space big enough and easy enough for me to get in and out of as I couldn’t see to reverse, then we had to get some help actually switching everything on and getting it all to function (by watching our dvd several times, and getting a nice man to help)!

Once installed we settled into our house on wheels and enjoyed our first night in the Grampians. The next morning thanks to the tourist information people we found a route suitable for our van and made our way through the park stopping at The Pinnacles, Balcony looks outs and MacKenzie falls before driving through Horsham to spend the night in Edenhope.

Words are beyond me to describe these views, but this is the Australia I came here for for… the great outdoors. I love driving, I love climbing, walking, seeing, doing: travelling. This weekend was all of those rolled into one. I hope my photos do it justice…



campervanning to Adelaide

I was close to tears when I saw the size of it, filled with fear when I watched the dvd on how to use it and elated at the prospect of another Australia adventure to add to my list…

7.7m long

Relocating camper vans is one of the best and cheapest ways to travel around Australia. I managed to find a van that needed to be driven to Adelaide, I found two friends who wanted to come and i managed to muster up the courage to say yes when the relocation company only had a 6 berth dual cab van available – the biggest in their fleet!

We checked around the van, marking damages and scratches, and then the van man got into the cab with me to show me how it all works for the driver. Now the school bus and even dad’s van seemed a piece of cake, as this vehicle was far far bigger! The monitor/computer screen that I needed to use for reversing was broken. Great. Then the reverse sensor that tells you when you are going to hit something was also broken. I was starting to feel pleased I hadn’t paid $600 to rent this thing!

So we pulled out of the parking space, swinging wide to compensate for length, rounded the corner and exited the car park. The most challenging part was about to come, as we needed to park in a car park to stock up on supplies. I found a large space, pulled in and felt pretty pleased with myself. After loading the fridge and the various cupboards with food and booze for 3 days, we set off on out way to Adelaide via the Grampians National Park. As we got onto the road, my confidence grew and I realised how exciting it was, squawking ” I’m driving a house!!!”

Driving along the highway we were making pretty good progress, as I cruised along 10km below the speed limit ( to be honest that didn’t last long) but a light came up on the dashboard… an exclamation mark! I was rather alarmed, so pulled over, whipped out the manual and we all tried to figure out what on earth it meant. It seemed to be something to do with the vehicle’s speed equalization…

Further on, I looked in the wing mirror and saw that the door to the “house” part of the van was swinging open!! We pulled over, again on the highway, all jumped out and found it closed and locked. The three of us wondered if it was possible we all could have imagined the same thing, but carried on our way. As we pulled into a lay-by for a toilet stop the girls were pleased to see people waving to us. They weren’t, they were waving their arms in horror as they too noticed our door swinging open! It seems something was broken, which we solved by tying it with my scarf!

No other major drama other than almost running out of diesel because we couldn’t find a diesel pump that wasn’t for trucks! And almost arriving back at the drop off point late because of it…

The day after I dropped off the van, I got into the driver’s seat of a car and hated it! It was strange to be so low down and not see anything!

Did I enjoy the experience? Yes of course! What would I change? MANUAL transmission please! Would I do it again? Yes, indeed I am driving to Sydney next week!

Further posts to come of the fun had on the way to Adelaide…

sunday riding

This was written some time ago…

Sunday Ride

“Do you have any plans for Sunday?” I was asked last week. Plans?? Hmmm… well, I have to do some laundry, sweep my room, maybe catch up on some sleep, but those can all wait. “Nope” I said with a grin. “I thought we might take you for a ride then”. This was MUSIC to my ears! I had been anxiously hoping, that on my final weekend here in the bush I would do what I have hoping I would do all this time!
Ever since my very unexciting ride back o

n Mornington Peninsula I have been desperate to get back in the saddle and really experience a horse ride, on a real horse. ..
I was instructed to come to the house at 8am (on a Sunday!) and wear jeans, long sleeves and plenty of sunscreen. After a not so good sleep, and a chilly early start I skipped over to the house in my most convenient horse riding attire. Thank goodness my jeans are stretch!
After making lunch (should I blog about my cooking too?) which was a pumpkin and carrot frittata and gathering up yesterday’s baking marathon: a fruit and muesli slice, raisin brownies, apricot and orange muffins and double chocolate chunk cookies: I was put into a pair of boot and fitted for a hat. (Not a riding hat, like us Europeans are used to, but a cowboy hat!)
At about 9 am E, K and I got into the Ute and drove off the other yards to collect some saddles, whilst D and C went off to round up the horses. My first shock, perhaps, was that the horses had to be found, and then saddled. I could barely lift the heavy thing out of the Ute (not a good station hand am I?) About 8 horses galloped into the yard: All excited, all frisky, all not looking very calm.
So Oaky was saddled and bridled up and I walked him around a little bit before trying to find a place to climb up so I could get on. Apparently he has an odd body shape, so his saddle rolls a bit as you try to get on. Poor D seemed a little bit unsure of whether to put his hand on my arse to shove me onto the horse, so I had to climb onto a water trough and transfer myself to the horse.
We set off, the children in front, and myself and K at the rear, making sure to keep out father and son horses a safe distance apart as they don’t share much love between them. I needn’t have worried about Oaky’s friskiness, as he was in their words “too old, lazy and unfit” to give me any bother. He was In fact a very gently horse, who when kicked slipped into a reluctant, but smooth trot, which my audience were impressed with. My last official riding lessons were about 20 years, but I still remembered my “rise and trot”, “heels down” and how to gather the reins. Those puzzled me at first, as I had never used an open rein and of course held those all wrong.
Once back in the saddle, the memories I have of always wanting to have my own horse as a child came flooding back, and the enjoyment I have always felt when sitting on one surrounded me as we walked through the paddock under the crisp blue spring sky. We stopped once we found a tree that provided shade and good stump (for me to climb back on the horse) for morning smoko. We ate our fruit, fed E’s horse the cores and the children shared stories of funny horsey happenings in the bush. On we went through the trees for some time until we reached Tiger’s Hole. A damn/creek in a picturesque spot: perfect for our bush picnic.
My saddle bag had a quart pot in it, which we filled with water, and put in the fire the children made for Quart pot tea. Having cleared the ground of ants and sat cross legged in the dirt eating our lunch, whilst the children did running jumps into the creek: I realised I had (had to) let go of a lot of my hang ups which had manifested in adult years. Sitting on the ground where I can SEE ants is one, eating without washing my hands is another, trusting a horse I don’t know, wearing someone else’s shoes, peeing in the bush… all of which might not seem much, but I hadn’t realised how much they had made me restricted.
Before heading back, we mounted the horses (with the help of another water trough) and Oaky and I had a photo shoot, as well as a few little trots for the camera. Everyone wanted me to experience Oaky’s “beautiful” canter, and game though I was after my initial hesitation, it was short lived due to my stirrups being just a tad too long to feel comfortable.
On the ride home, the sun was blazing and all of us here breaking a sweat. I found it hard to imagine mustering all day in much sharper heat, for much longer and at a much more demanding pace than Oaky’s totally chilled out gait. We trotted quite a bit on the way home, and once or twice, sniffing the air of the home stretch, Oaky broke into an unexpected canter, which I wish I could have enjoyed, but my reservations about stirrup lengths and inexperience made me pull him up sharp and we continued at a healthier, slower pace.
Arriving home, I felt an overwhelming sense of pleasure in finally experience something that these bush people clearly love. The conditions were perfect, nothing went wrong, and apart from having to walk around in a John Wayne stance for two days, it was an invigoratingly positive experience.


Toughen Up!

Toughen up!

I was told this an uncountable number of times in my first two delicate weeks here and it puzzled me each time as I never thought I was being particularly weak!
However, life in the bush IS tough, it IS harsh and it’s not for the fainthearted.
I have never considered myself to be a girly girl: although I do like to paint my nails occasionally, I am not afraid to get my hands dirty. I also enjoy wearing a pretty dress and heels occasionally, but I am just as happy in jeans and trainers.
The family obviously consider to me to be more delicate than daring and simply because I wasn’t brought up in the bush, I have the disadvantage of being much more sensitive and affected by the ways of life out here.
My second day here was a good introduction to what was to come, when the cut up carcass of the cow we have been eating for the last three months was dragged through the kitchen, leaving a trail of blood and hung in the cold room for several days before it was butchered.
When C put an axe through his foot and didn’t go to hospital because “it’ll be alright”, I was shocked. When K’s horse tripped, threw her and rolled over her, she didn’t go to hospital for scans or x-ray, cos “she’ll be alright”.
When the puppies were born to a work dog and fathered by the randy Labrador, I was told we’d be lucky if any survived. The previous three litters didn’t have a very high survival rate, thanks to bush harshness. In this litter, one of them escaped watchful eyes, and was savaged by its father at 6 weeks old. The puppies had a deadline too, and i did my best to help rehome them, having been told that their fate would be sealed with a pair of pliers if they couldn’t find homes to go to.
Their mother, apparently a useless dog, was “dealt” with once the puppies were weaned. Thank goodness it was done whilst I wasn’t on the property. The Cats here have a pretty harsh life too, and I have learnt that no animals get buried if they don’t make it.
The work dogs have a very short life: It’s rare that they reach retirement. If they don’t get killed by something, they are done away with once they no longer serve their purpose. If they hurt themselves they either have to get on with it, or they are shot. There are two right now running around with open wounds. When I asked if there was anything that could be done (thinking that despite the idea of touching it making me heave, perhaps I could sneakily give them some care), of course I was told that could lick it so they’re fine.
Then there are us humans, who are not allowed to feel pain or emotion sometimes. Only the other day I was eating lunch when a particularly strong onion in my potato salad made my eyes water and my nose run, when I remarked upon it at the table, simply because I was surprised, I was told to “suck it up” and “move on”. Thanks
And that’s not to mention the other dangers here like spiders and snakes that could kill you. Or dingos that can rip young cows to pieces. Naturally I was worried about all of the above and asking the relevant questions regarding my safety. Some of the responses I got were that dingos can’t pick locks (goodness, there I was thinking they were the local locksmiths) and that I was obsessed with snakes! Well, I said in my head, Obsessed no: well-read, concerned, aware: yes!
Every time we go for a drive I pray we don’t see a Dingo or a wild pig, as I know there is a loaded rifle in the Ute, and every time I go for a walk I desperately hope I won’t see a snake.
And if I dare to mention something that hurts or upsets me I know that I will be told to Toughen Up, which on them the irony is lost when I think about just how silent I have been …