On the road again

After five nights in Perth catching up with family and friends, we’re once again back to living ‘The Life of Riley on Wheels’. And let me tell you, it feels pretty damned good.

Firstly, the five days and nights in Perth. We arrived at our favourite Perth caravan park, Karrinyup Waters around lunch time on Saturday. Time to set up and a quick retail trip before Alice called around for a coffee.

One of two lakes at Karrinyup Waters Caravan Park.

The next morning we enjoyed a pleasant walk with Alice and Tim. Up the beach path from Ocean Reef to Burns Beach, a takeaway coffee (in house dining was to busy to even contemplate), and back again to Ocean Reef. With the coffee, approximately 2 hours, without coffee, not much more than an hour – the Burns Beach Cafe gets very busy on Sunday mornings.

Sunday Night we went with the family to a cafe in Northbridge as Josh had a gig there. The lead singer, Amber, was ill. Never mind, the band managed and compensated quite well without her, even though we could clearly see they missed her as the front person. Most songs went off without a hitch. We took photos of the band, but sadly the stage wasn’t lit well enough so none are good enough to post.

Tim and his dad

Alice and her dad.

Monday, Paul’s birthday – a much needed hair appointment for me, then a visit to friends in the afternoon.

Tuesday, lunch out with friends to celebrate Bob’s 65th birthday, and retirement. We stayed the night at Bob and Di’s, along with Marina and Terry. A lovely night was had by all, drinking, eating and playing cards. We had a good laugh, as we always do. We play an assortment of card games, Pontoon, Brag, various forms of poker, and our own made up version of something that I believe is called Acey Ducey, Shoot the Pot or In-betweens..

It’s an hilarious game, but lethal. This is how our version is played.

Each of us put a dollar’s worth of poker chips in the middle to form a pot.

The first dealer is nominated and shuffles the deck. Two cards are dealt face up to the person to the dealer’s left. That person then has to place a bet against the pot that the next card dealt will fall in-between the two cards already dealt. If an Ace is dealt the player can call it high or low. The wider the gap between the cards the higher the bet is likely to be. This, I believe,  is the basic In-betweens game.

In our version though we’ve added a couple of variations. The first is that should the first two cards not allow for a card to fall in-between, e.g. two threes, or a two and three, then the player nominates that the third card will either be higher or lower than the two cards dealt. Instances when two Kings, or two twos, or a two and three, or a King and Ace (with the Ace nominated as low), most cards dealt will win. Most people will bet whatever remains in the pot.

This is where the game becomes lethal (and often hilarious – thank goodness we all have a sense of humour). In our version we have a penalty should one of the first two cards be repeated with the third card dealt – double the bet must be added to the pot.

So, this is how the first round may go:

1st player is dealt an Ace and a two and nominates the Ace as high. The only possible losing cards will be another Ace or another two. There’s six dollars in the pot, so the player bets the full pot – and is hit with another Ace. He loses $12 and the pot now holds $18.

2nd player is dealt a three and Jack, and bets $2 against the pot. A four turns up so he takes $2 out of the middle reducing the middle to $16.

3rd player is dealt a two and three. She nominates any Aces dealt will be high, which means she can only be beaten by another two or a three. With the odds stacked heavily in her favour she bets $10. A three turns up. Amidst much laughter (and cussing) she adds another $20 to the pot. It now holds $36 and the first round hasn’t even finished.

You may think the odds of this happening would be fairly rare. Let me assure you, it happens often. I’ve seen a pot increase from $6 to over $100 before two rounds are completed. Fortunately, we’re all very good friends and try to ensure none of us gets completely fleeced – we always try and leave some in the pot for any big losers to try to recoup their loses. It’s rare for any of us to end up losing more than $20 over a whole night, and we don’t play often. There’s not many places we could be entertained for so long, with so many laughs for $20 or less a person.

The dealer continues through the pack placing all played cards upside against the unplayed cards. Once through the pack the deal passes to the next player. Should the pot be completely won, all players again replenish it with another dollars worth of chips each. Once the deal passes to the last player the play continues until the pot is completely emptied. It’s a game I’d recommend only with caring friends – without a care factor it could be easy to lose the shirt off your back. With caring friends it’s fast game, and a laugh a minute.

Yesterday, our last day we enjoyed a walk through Bold Park with Alice. Bold park is a very bushy park that feels like you’re miles from civilisation, yet it’s smack bang in the middle of Perth’s expensive Western Suburbs. A wonderfully maintained track, good hills to get our heart rates up, and the occasional glorious city view peeping through the trees – it’s a gorgeous place. Then Josh met us afterwards at Clancy’s Fish pub, overlooking City Beach – good food, tasty tap beers, and a view to die for,  a lovely last day in Perth for a while.

City views from Bold Park.

And today – it’s good-bye to Perth and for approximately five months. We’re now approximately three hours north of Perth at a free camp on the banks of Lake Indoon (near Eneabba). There’s flushing toilets, hot showers, and good shelter overlooking the lake for happy hour. And as it’s now just gone five, the shelter beckons….. It’s good to be back on the road. What a pleasure!

Pelicans landing on Lake Indoon.

Advertisements

Preparing for The Gibb River

Our plans for this winter’s sojourn are to leave Busselton early in May, and return early in October. This year we’re planning to do full justice to just the North of Western Australia, including the Gibb River Road.

The Gibb River was originally constructed in the 1960s to transport stock from the surrounding cattle stations. Now it’s predominantly used by tourists. 660 km of what’s noted to be spectacular scenery – it’s been my number 1 ‘Bucket list’ destination for longer than I can remember.

The road conditions vary from bitumen to natural rocky earth, and is, in many places only suitable for four wheel drive vehicles with a high clearance. Towing caravans is not recommended. So, we’ve been researching tents and sleeping mats. We’re also undertaking regular yoga exercises to try and get us supple enough for rising from a 4 inch air mattress placed on the floor of a tent….. Not as easy now as it was during our tenting days 15 years ago.

We’ve found a touring tent second hand from Gumtree. It’s canvas, so nice to sleep under, and fast to erect. It only needs to be pegged out at the base, and then the insertion of a centre pole, taking around 1 minute. If the conditions are windy it will also then require guy ropes, but most times I gather on the Gibb River, guy ropes won’t be a necessity.

Looking a bit wonky without grass to peg the base to.

Looking a bit wonky without grass to peg the base to.

Bricks inside instead of the necessary  pegs provided a rough erection simulation.

Bricks inside instead of the necessary pegs provided a rough erection simulation.

These normally retail for around $500. This one was second hand but was missing it’s centre pole, and is in need of couple of patches. We managed to acquire it for only $50, plus around $40 for a new centre pole and patches for the necessary repairs. Now all we need is the camp mattresses. Comfort is going to be paramount if we’re to enjoy the trip, so we’ve decided on the slightly more expensive bonded mattresses, now it’s just determining which one, and then to find them at the cheapest possible price.

Our plan is to put the caravan into storage in Broome for three weeks whilst we complete this Bucket List destination. We’re also going to tack on a second trip to Cape Leveque, and a road trip into the Bungle Bungles, both also four wheel drive only destinations, and places not suitable for towing a caravan. We’ve done both Cape Leveque and the Bungle Bungles before. Previously we flew into the Bungle Bungles and then did a helicopter tour around the beehive like formations. It’s apparently a totally different experience to drive to it, and to camp overnight. And Cape Leveque – twenty trips wouldn’t be too many trips to this amazing destination. So, tacking on a few days extra for a second trip seems like a good idea.

The Gibb River road stretches from Derby to Kununurra in the far north of Western Australia, with plenty of camp grounds dotted along it’s length. The abundance of hikes, waterfalls, gorges and fresh water swimming holes means the trip can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks. I gather ten days is about normal to do it justice. So, we should have plenty of time to fit in the other side trips before heading back to Broome to pick up the Travel Home. I’m sure after three weeks of roughing it under canvas, and sleeping on air mattresses we’re going to be looking forward to getting back to the comforts of the caravan.

I just love the planning of our trips. I get almost as much joy out of the planning as I do from the trips. Life’s little pleasures! Gee it’s good to be alive.

The Majestic Top End

We spent our last afternoon with Kelv three days ago. While a roast was cooking, he proudly showed us around the farm – It’s absolutely huge.

Kelv couldn't be prouder of his mangos if he owned the farm himself.

Kelv couldn’t be prouder of his mangos if he owned the farm himself.

Avenues of trees stretching for miles in every direction.

Avenues of trees stretching for miles in every direction.

The farm now has the contract to provide Coles, one of our biggest supermarket chains with mangoes this year.

Just some of the boxes in packing shed waiting to be filled.

Just some of the boxes in packing shed waiting to be filled.

I can’t believe how much his own home patch has grown. I’m sure the palms are a good 15cms higher, and there’s green lawn now showing where last week it was just red dirt.

Remember this sand patch less than a week ago!

Remember this sand patch less than a week ago!

It was sad to say good bye, but time moves on, and so must we. Friday saw us heading down the Victoria Highway, which forms a section of the Savannah Way, one of Australia’s great drives.

The Victoria River splits the Gregory National Park, home to some of the majestic scenery in Australia. Hundreds of miles of panoramic scenery, so stunning I’m sure my heart missed a beat a couple of times. It was like watching an enormous nature movie, the windshield our giant screen….. Breathtaking.

Majestic.

Majestic.

Breathtaking!

Breathtaking!

More at every turn in the road.

More at every turn in the road.

I believe theres even more stunning scenery to be seen on side trips from the Victoria Roadhouse, which is smack bang in the middle of it all. We didn’t stop this time, but mental note to myself, ‘stay a night or two to explore next time’. A definite must.

After around five hours driving we arrived in Western Australia, then only a short distance further and we were at Lake Argyle. More on that tomorrow.

After almost two and a half years we're back in WA.

After almost two and a half years we’re back in WA.

What a pleasure!

Dunmarra Road House – worth a stopover

We left Mt Isa and headed for Katherine with two stops on the way. The first was uneventful at Barkley Homestead. The second at Dunmarra Road House had us socialising with some special locals.

I’m not sure what it is about cows and us. A lot of our more special memories from this road trip involve bovine creatures. We had read that Dunmarra has a few resident water buffalo, and if you’re lucky enough you may see one or two wandering between the caravans.

However, the water buffalo seemed to make a beeline for Paul ‘the cow whisperer’, and stayed nearby all afternoon and well into the evening.

Check out the span of those horns.

Check out the span of those horns.

Sharing an apple.

Sharing an apple.

I thought she was going to come inside.

I thought she was going to come inside.

Enjoying a head scratch.

Enjoying a head scratch.

We thought she was going to join us for a beer with the neighbours.

We thought she was going to join us for a beer with the neighbours.

But no, she just wanted another scratch.

But no, she just wanted another scratch.

There were two others that we managed to get close to as well, but these two were the most photogenic. We had a lovely time at Dunmarra. What a pleasure!

We’ve been in Katherine for more than a week now catching up with Kelv, and also our friends Bruce and Wendy. It’s been a busy time with lots happening. We look like having a spare day tomorrow,  so I’ll try and post again and bring you all up to date. There’s lots of news, and I promise – no more cows.

Mt Isa

We’re in Katherine waiting for Kelv to pick us up and take us out to dinner – so a few minutes spare for a quick update.

Firstly, as promised, a little bit about Mt Isa. We stayed there for three nights after leaving the station. It was good to have a bit of time to clean some of the dust out of the caravan, and to just chill down a little after that experience.

Mt Isa is a newish sort of town, located in Queensland not to far from the Northern Territory border. It was only established in the early to mid 20th century when lead, copper, zinc and tin were discovered there. It has since boomed as a mining town, providing wealth for many of the people who flocked here from all over the world.

During the 2nd world war after the bombing of Darwin, it was feared further attacks would follow with Mt Isa’s rich mineral source being a prime target. Within 15 weeks following Darwin’s bombing, the  residents in Mt Isa had built an underground hospital in preparation. Much of it was built by hand, and with only a small population from which to draw volunteers from. Fortunately, the hospital was never used except as a cool place for the nurses to rest during their night shifts. The remoteness of the destination meant there was nowhere for the Japanese to refuel, so the invasion never happened and the hospital has never been more than a tourist attraction. Kudos though to the volunteers who built it in such a short time.

Underground hospital - thankfully never needed.

Underground hospital – thankfully never needed.

Mt Isa is typical of much of Australia’s mining areas – red!!!

The white house on the red hill.

The white house on the red hill.

The towns water is now supplied by Lake Moondarra., a artificial lake built on the Leichhardt River. The lake was created in 1957, a welcome treat for the townspeople who use it for water sports including swimming, boating and fishing. It’s a popular picnic spot.

Man-made in 1957, a welcome addition that provided both water and entertainment.

Man-made in 1957, a welcome addition that provided both water and entertainment.

And that’s about it on Mt Isa. It’s worth a stopover to have a look, but it’s not a holiday destination.

Kelv’s house is finished, and his harvest is almost due to start, so a lot happening at once for him. We’re hoping to stay here for another couple of weeks to help him get started with his garden.

It’s getting humid here now. We’ve debated staying for the build up before the wet, but we have a few things we need to attend to back in WA. That’s our excuse for escaping the humidity anyway, and we’re sticking to it!

This week I want to source some trees and palms for his garden. I love tropical gardens. It’ll be hot planting them out, but it’ll be a pleasure to come back here next winter and see how they’ve grown.

More from Sarina Range

We finished our house sit at Sarina Range officially two days ago, but stayed an extra night to enjoy a ‘happy hour or three,’ plus a meal with Elaine and Larry. Elaine reminds us so much of our friend Eileen from Perth. We told her that on our first meeting, and she was concerned that may have been a bad thing, which of course is so very much not the case. Eileen is the salt of the earth, someone who calls a spade a spade, and within a few minutes of meeting her she feels like a life long friend. A feeling that doesn’t diminish no matter how long one knows her, and no matter how infrequently we meet up. So, to tell a woman that she reminds us of Eileen is to pay her a tremendous compliment.

Whilst we were there we had a lot of trouble with uploading photos as the internet could be a bit hit and miss. The ones I uploaded previously didn’t do any justice at all to Titan. However, saying that, none of the photos since have done him a great deal of justice either. He’s a brindle, and just like our last rescue cat, Fuji, who was also a brindle, somehow the colouring of their coat seems to blend out in photos and somehow disguises the character that otherwise shows in their face and eyes.

We did capture a typical photo of Titan having a day nap with Tommy Tigger. Again, his colouring doesn’t show him up to his best in a photo, but it was about the best we could do. They often snuggled together through the day, and always at night. Sometimes back to back, but more often as is demonstrated in this photo, with Titan having his front paw protectively wrapped over Tommy.

Tommy Tigger enjoying the protective paw of Titan.

Tommy Tigger enjoying the protective paw of Titan.

Much as they both were very comfortable with us, they were both clearly overjoyed to see Elaine and Larry return. Whilst Tommy Tigger in typical haughty, independent cat style (the reason I love cats so much), couldn’t have cared less when we left, Titan looked a little sad. I’m sure if he could have things his way, Elaine and Larry would be his favourite people, but he would be very happy to have dozens more living with him. That’s so as he could do a continuous round getting petted from each person in turn without wearing out his welcome with each person.

The swinging chair is Elaine’s favourite place to enjoy a cuppa or a read. It’s positioned so as to overlook the entry to the property and the two bottom paddocks. Wallabies are usually happily grazing here, particularly in the early morning or late afternoon. A very pleasant place for a read, and I almost fell asleep here as the breeze swayed me two and fro on more than one occasion.

A lovely chair to enjoy a nap in.

A lovely chair to enjoy a nap in.

Our van, and the accommodation is high on a hill, with a steep hill down to either get to the road at the front, or the creek through the back paddocks. I nicknamed both hills, ‘Cardiac Hill’. I’m not sure whether I was getting a good cardiac work out by the time I walked back up each time, or whether I was close to cardiac arrest. Needless to say, poor Titan didn’t get the walk each day that he’s used to, and had to make do all to often with a run around the house area. Not easy to instigate as he doesn’t fetch a ball, but by enthusiastically stamping my feet at him he seemed to get the message that there was a bit of game involved. I’m not sure who looked the biggest idiot, him running in wide circles like an electric train set, or me instigating each lap. I suspect as far as looking like an idiot, I won hands down……

The natural habitat down by the creek - at the bottom  of Cardiac Hill.

The natural habitat down by the creek – at the bottom of Cardiac Hill.

Sarina Range would be a lovely place to live, but staying there only for a short time had us at a bit of loss as to what to do with ourselves.

At Elaine’s suggestion we took a day trip to Eungella National Park one day. It’s almost two hours drive in each direction, but was worth it. A beautiful park with nice walk tracks to water falls, and lovely little concreted fords placed to drive through the clearest of creeks to get to the picnic area and walk tracks.

A cool, clear stream to ford to get to Eungella picnic ground.

A cool, clear stream to ford to get to Eungella picnic ground.

A walk track in Eungella (pronounced Youngilla). A cruel reminder of how unfit I am.

A walk track in Eungella (pronounced Youngilla). A cruel reminder of how unfit I am.

We’ve now moved on and are camping at a farm stay just a little north of Townsville, after spending a single night at road stop stay on the way here. We’re expecting another wet week. This year Queensland’s ‘dry season’ has been unseasonably wet. In fact for our last night at Sarina Range we received 213mm of rain (that’s more than 8 inches for those like me, who can relate better to imperial measurements). We weren’t sure whether or not we were going to be flooded in. Elaine drove us down to the road before we hitched up to make sure the creek hadn’t cut the road off. It was flowing fast, but was still below road level. I’m not sure if that’ll be the case after tomorrow’s expected weather. A stormy day tomorrow is expected with thunder, lightening and lots of rain.

We’re camped in a reasonably boggy place, so it’s possible we’ll be stuck here for a while. We’re hoping though to get a fine, warm day before we leave so as we go across to Magnetic Island off the coast of Townsville.

Watch this space…..

Ya can go off a place

A week of wet here in Airlie Beach, and today I think we’ve had more rain than that which has been received in total in the preceding week. It’s even cold today at 17°.

P1050134

Yep, our vans almost ready to start floating.

Our barbecue table is standing in about 4 inch deep water. Ya can go off a place. Only joking – but seriously……

P1050133

Guess we’re not barbecuing tonight.

It’s 30° and fine in Broome – feels like the grass is always greener somewhere else sometimes. Perhaps after nearly 40 years of living in WA we both just became used to predictable weather. In Perth in summer it’s hot and dry, almost without exception. In winter it’s cool, and there’s a reasonable amount of wet days, winter after winter without exception. That’s when folks go up to Broome, where it’s warm and dry, day after day without exception.

I often say, ‘no good complaining about the weather, you can’t control it, so just live with it.’ But this time I feel justified in complaining. Weve tried to put a lot of miles between us and bad weather. Seems we’re destined to live with wet feet lately. I don’t mind crisp cold. And I don’t even mind a day or two of rain, but this is so much more than that. It’s supposed to be the dry season. It’s bloody torrential.

P1050136

Im wondering when I should get the oars out for our neighbours.