First House sit – Inverell

Well here we are in Inverell doing our first house sit. We’re looking after two lovely Cocker Spaniels, Bella and Buster, a home, plants, a couple of budgies and two gold fish. I’m sure both Bella and Buster miss their owners, but I’m also sure being in their own home with all the things familiar to them is much preferable to being placed into kennels.

Bella and Buster have a good routine which they know
well. They seem to have a good idea of time, and remind us if we’ve forgotten their morning tea treat, or if it’s getting near their dinner time. They’re good company.

Inverell is on the western side of the Great Dividing Range. Before we came to the east coast, the Great Dividing Range was something we hadn’t thought about. It’s amazing! Very steep in places and the most beautiful rain forests, palms, trees and ferns near the highest parts.

Rather than tow our van across the range we left it in storage at the caravan park in Grafton ($1 a day to store). We packed the things we thought we’d need into our car including emptying our fridge. However, we have left some things behind that we wish we had here, one being our camera. All a learning curve.

A couple I meet a few years ago have been house sitting full time for many years now. They say they always try to leave a house better in some respect to how they found it. However, this house is spotless, so that’s not going to be so easy. Paul did take the light shades down and washed them, but that’s something that would hardly be noticed. I’ve trimmed the dead growth off a couple of ferns and am trying to encourage some new growth on all the pot plants and also the lawn. However, as we’re only here for ten days, I doubt we’ll make a noticeable impression. Just hope we don’t make a negative impression by leaving any thing noticeably unclean. That would be easy to do in such an immaculately clean place.


Grafton meets The Waltons

Apologies for sounding like a broken record, but Grafton amazes me yet again. Being here feels like being in a chapter of The Waltons. Perhaps preserving old buildings and trees helps preserve some of the values that were around at the times those buildings were erected, and the trees planted. Food for thought.

Our neighbours are in a motor home, so they take the bus into town when they can, rather than packing up their motor home. Yesterday, they went into town to see the midday showing of, The 100 Foot Journey (Helen Mirren movie), which we saw the day before – great feel good movie.

After watching the movie in the lovely old world type movie theatre, they waited for their bus. Ten minutes after the time they thought it should be there, they checked with a bus driver on another route. They had read the holiday time table by mistake, and in fact it was almost another hour till a bus was due.

Whilst still in front of the bus driver they discussed getting a taxi. The bus driver wouldn’t hear of it, telling them to get on and he’d take them home. He went a round trip of over three kilometres off his route and took them to the entrance of the caravan park. They had stood ready to exit the bus on the road opposite, he wouldn’t hear of that either, and insisted on doing a U turn so as they could alight right at the entrance.

Where does that happen! And in what era?

Gateway caravan park – Grafton

One of many gazebos in the park.

One of many gazebos in the park.

An avenue of trees lining a valley of green, one of several.

An avenue of trees lining a valley of green, one of several.

A pretty pond with seat in the sun. A pleasant place to sit in the sun and read a book.

A pretty pond with seat in the sun. A pleasant place to sit in the sun and read a book.

Pots of colour everywhere.

Pots of colour everywhere.

Another gazebo.

Another gazebo.

More like a botanical garden. One day I’ll count the gazebos, theres dozens of them in a multitude of sizes. There’s park benches under trees. There’s palm trees, jacarandas, moreton bay figs and native trees everywhere. There’s pots of colours and rose bushes. And there are birds chirping and singing everywhere.

The amenities have none slip matting and clean shower curtains. The cubicles are a decent size, so your belongings don’t get wet. They’re exceptionally clean and have stone vanity tops with a liquid soap dispenser at every basin.

Oh, and did I mention the price – $22 a night!!

Historical Grafton

Well, here we are in Grafton, a place that wouldn’t have been on our travel agenda if it weren’t for a couple of house sits we have coming up near by.

Since arriving here four days ago our travel agenda for the future has changed considerably. Our normal travel route would have by passed towns such as this, which in our mind were typical country towns without much to offer. Four nights here and we’re thinking we’ll most likely extend our time in and around this area to the end of October, which will be more than two months – yes, it’s that nice! And from now on, towns such of this will be high on our agenda to visit, towns that are away from the coastal rat race.

The mighty Clarence river runs through the town dividing Grafton from South Grafton. It’s Grafton that’s won our heart, not South Grafton. The town is laid out in such a way to make it very easy to find your way around, all with roundabouts and no traffic lights. It’s termed an historical city, and perhaps that’s what makes it such a quaint place.

At least half the houses are beautiful weatherboard, and most are well kept with pretty gardens on large plots of lands. The streets are all tree lined, some with massive Morton Bay Figs, but most with Jacarandas. Grafton is known as the Jacaranda capitol of Australia, and at the end of October they have an eight day Jacaranda festival. We’re hoping to still be here for that, and we imagine from the amount of jacaranda trees, that it’ll likely be one of the prettiest sights we’ll ever see.

We found our caravan park, The Gateway Lifestyle park, with the help of WIKI camp reviews. Five stars is the most that can be given to a caravan park, which is a shame. When we first arrived here we wondered if we had the right place. It looks more like botanical gardens than a caravan park. Everything about it from the gardens, the large sites and the amenity blocks indicate it deserves more than five stars. Add the price to that ($22 a night) and it deserves 7 stars at least. Mind you, that’s from the point of view of a grey nomad. Families may have a different point of view. No jumping pillows, no playgrounds, and only a small swimming pool – all added bliss for grey nomads, as it means any little blighters will be bored silly (causing their parents to take them elsewhere with any luck).

We’ve eaten out twice since arriving here, something we seldom do as we’re used to meals being overly expensive, and mediocre as far as quality. ¬†We went out for a pub lunch the other day and both had fantastic meals which included vegetables, $12.90 each. Wow!! We’re so not used to that. Then tonight we went to the local RSL club for a smorgasbord. Soup, prawns, all the different roast meats, great veges, and all the other standard hot and cold fare, plus a big variety of deserts and coffee – $20 a head. By Perth standards we’re gob smacked.

We’ll be leaving here on Saturday next week for our first house sit. We have two coming up. The first is for 10 days and is looking after two cocker spaniels, budgies, fish and the garden. The 2nd one during September/October is also looking after two dogs, along with a rooster and his four lady friends, wild birds (of which they feed a multitude), and 26 cows, LOL!! It’s on 120 acres and they have quad bikes, tractors, ride on mowers etc. Should be an experience to remember – cows, ha ha, who would have thought…..We’re really looking forward to that.

We’re taking our camera out tomorrow to get some photos of both the caravan park and some of the things around this town that makes it an endearing place to be, so watch this space.

Feeding the birds at Nelson Bay

No, these photos are not taken at a bird park or zoo. These beautiful rainbow lorrikeets are everywhere in the trees around Port Stephens. They keep to the trees until you have something on offer. But beware if you walk outside with a crust of bread, as you can see I got mobbed!!!

Supposedly wild birds

Supposedly wild birds



Check out the colours.

Check out the colours.

Simple eats are the best eats

Gee it’s great to back on the road again. We’re currently in Port Stephens, and what a stunning piece of countryside this is. But more about that later.

Although we could sleep in our van whilst it was being repaired in Newcastle, we still felt ‘displaced’. Consequently, apart from breakfast we were eating most of our meals out. While there was nothing to complain at in any of the meals we had, nothing was overly memorable either.

Today we packed up a picnic lunch and took it to the foreshore at Lemon Tree Passage. Our picnic consisted of slices of nice bread a container of garlic butter mixed with olive oil, a container of particularly nice chopped tomato (the type of tomato that smells like it’s just being picked off the vine), mixed with finely chopped onion and lightly drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, and a zucchini thinly sliced into rings seasoned with salt and white pepper, and some grated parmesan.

We took some baking paper and put it on an electric barbecue in the park on the foreshore, spread our bread with the garlic butter mix and toasted that on the barbecue while at the same time browning up the zucchini slices. When it was cooked we topped the bread with the zucchini slices, the tomato mix and some parmesan.

Sitting at a park bench eating it with the sun warming our backs was so much more enjoyable than any of the meals we’ve eaten out. Such simple fare, but delicious.

We followed it with a flask of coffee and a crisp, sweet apple. To top off the ambience of good, simple, fresh food eaten el fresco over-looking beautiful Port Stephens Bay, we had the company a of cheerful magpie. She sat up at the table with us as we ate and shared our bread and parmesan, (she wasn’t impressed with anything else we were eating though). She chortled away to us as we ate. Delightful!

Repairs almost completed

We’re still in Newcastle. We took our Travelhome to get the front lifting legs replaced with the new, stronger type now being used on their Travelhomes. We also arranged to get a large storage locker added to the under frame, as well as a general safety check.

Safety check picked up a major problem. Both axles were slightly bent, which had caused major damage to three tyres on their inner side. As we haven’t driven over any large bumps or done anything that could have caused the damage, we figure it was possibly already like this when we purchased the van. Bit of a shock as no damage was evident. Also we had someone do the bearings in the caravan prior to moving into it, so it should have been picked up then.

Luckily it’s been picked up now and no real damage has been done (except to our bank acct). It could have been disastrous should two of the tyres have blown at once, and from the damage that was occurring, this was quite a possibility had we continued driving with it.

Travelhome have been terrific. They work on the van during the day, and then move it into their yard for us to use over night. So, we haven’t had the additional cost of finding alternative accommodation whilst the repairs are carried out. They’ve also had someone come out to service the fridge and the diesel heater which had some minor problems, and along with the new tyres and a couple of other things, are not adding a percentage to these costs. We’re grateful for that, as the repairs are costly enough as it is. Never mind, any home has it’s maintenance costs, and a caravan is obviously no exception.

We’re only waiting for the new tyres now which should be fitted early tomorrow, and we should be on our way by mid morning. We’re probably going to head for Port Stephens to have a look. The whales should be around there at the moment. It’ll be nice to get back on on the road again, and although most of the repairs won’t show any noticeable difference to us, the storage locker will. Currently our outdoor table and chairs are on our bed while we’re travelling. Now they can go in the storage locker, making packing up much easier on the morning of travel, and also making one night stops much simpler.