Monday 8 May Lightning Ridge

Awake and ready to explore, it didn’t take long! Booked into a tour of underground art in pm and took a self guided tour around some eccentric homes, two castles and the bottle house, an interesting effect with the tops facing out. A Challenge for brickies ! The landscape here is flat and sandy with more trees than in the centre scrubby grasses. 

The underground tunnels are sandstone and the sculptures were all along the sides, it took an hour to go through. They were all carved by one man over fifteen years. There are all kinds of characters and well worth a visit. The chambers of the black hand is the name. internet here is intermittent, so this may never be published. 

Tuesday 9 May

We arrived at our next stop very quickly, Carinya farm stay is only 10 km down the road. The last  three km on a sandy corrugated road we drove very slowly. Jacinda welcomed us and told us to choose where to set up, as far away from anyone else as your power lead allows. No overcrowding here. It is quiet except for the geese and our nearest neighbours, four large pigs. They seem to pick on the black one. Right now the wind has dropped and we are sitting by our campfire listening to the pigs snoring. There are sheep somewhere, large bales of wool in the shearing shed. We’ve seen an alpaca and two goats, and the kids and lambs in a pen closer to the house. Lots of chooks. There is a small flock of unfamiliar noisy black birds swooping around, screeching like corellas. Forgot the bird book. It’s a long time since we camped out like this.

We had a lazy couple of hours doing not much at all then decided to try the hot bore water pool down the road. Two pools, not large and full of grey nomads except for one family. We chose the smaller pool with only four people, shallow enough to sit in. The other one was way too hot, I don’t know how they could stay in it. We turned pink and wrinkly, even more than I already am! Refreshing and soothing somehow. We have had a full moon for a week but it’s waning now, stars are bright in a cloudless sky.

Now out of town, at  Calinya farm stay the  Milky Way is stretched above us, like a starry blanket. The moon has crept up from the horizon, almost golden through the dusty air.

Wednesday 10 May . 

Jacinda gave us  a farm tour of sorts she actually gave us a history of the farm and how they live now. Then we wandered around to the chooks then the lambs which we bottle fed. A cheeky kid kept trying to butt in on the others to get more. 

Now we are at. Riverfront, St George caravan park, for two nights. Arrived about 4.30 not having eaten since breakfast and I was feeling quite sick . I did a bit of driving so Pat could nap but headache and sinus congestion made me lightheaded and my eyes hurt. The sunlight is brighter here. Lovely slow river and our campfire is on the bank. Wind has gone and we’re a lot warmer now. Guy next to us has a JR pup, he’s gorgeous. Long walk uphill to shower and toilet., it’s too dark to see the way! 

Thursday 11 May 

To St George, Riverside campsite, fireplace and wood provided. Only drawback was the amenities were in a tin shed up the hill. The river was wide and full, unfamiliar birds in the trees. Rustic, not manicured, how we like it.

Rode our bikes into St George 7 km, to the visitors centre first. The cottonwool I had seen on the sides of the roads turned out to be just that, we’re in cotton growing country. We signed up for a cotton farm tour tomorrow and a river cruise at 4 pm.  Rode another three km to the winery where we had coffee and shared a frittata, could have eaten one each easily, delicious. I had a half glass of Shiraz, lighter than in Vic because of the weather, very nice. Rode back to camp to get the car for the river cruise. Just a bit too late. We should have called the guy to find out where the.jetty was, a long walk in a hurry! We saw the boat and waved but they didn’t come over. Went to Foodworks instead, plus I bought some Jean shorts. That lost us 10 minutes at least. Chatted to a nice couple, at their campfire all evening. Teacher talk mostly, he was a principal of a primary school, retired  now.

Friday 12 May

Packed up and at the visitors centre before 9.00 for the cotton tour. Minibus full of old people! Oh dear we are too! We were supposed to go to the winery too but asked if we could miss that , we’d been yesterday. He only charged us half.Interesting talk, the cotton fields were being harvested by an enormous machine that rolled the fluff into giant bales wrapped in plastic Our guide was full of facts and figures and didn’t stop talking for two hours. I was interested but not that much! 

12 noon we left the tour and headed here to Dalby.302 km. With food and fuel stops it was 4.30 when we arrived.Hardly any towns all the way, bit boring scenery.Got lucky, a site with an ensuite right in town, bigger than St George. Luxury.

Photos on Facebook only

Thursday 4th May

Left at 10.30, a sunny, sharply cold morning. Headed to Narrandera where we might have stopped for coffee but kept going to Ardlethan, a tiny silo town. It is a popular spot for caravaners, the cafe probably is the most successful business in town. There were no other shops open in the only street. One had about ten washing machines in it, with a big Closed sign on the door. Over the street was a beautifully brick-edged little park with modern playground for the kids ( travelling kids presumably) neat lawns with picnic tables under shady trees and a toilet block in an enormous caravan parking lot. I wish I had taken a photo of the cafe. 

We have stopped for the night at West Wyalong. It is an old mining town and has retained a main shopping street of grand old buildings from the 1890’s. We just had to take the time to explore.The Showgrounds are extensive and at present doubling as a caravan park for those who want more space and a less manicured park. Power is on but no internet. We toured the town on our bikes, picking up fluoro vests and batteries for the rear lights. We just have to find helmets now. Left all our bike stuff at home. Apparently the motorbike shop may be able to help us. We are enjoying the trip, relaxing into meandering around in no hurry. Time now to do a moonlight teeth clean, and fill my brand new hot water bottle! 

To a wedding in Brisbane, the slow way

Tuesday 2 May 2023  Winton Wetlands, somewhere near Benalla, Vic

The rain started just as I came back into the caravan after cleaning my teeth in the moonlight to the sound of grumpy cockatoos swearing in the treetops. We drove around the huge wetland/lake/swamp after dark, looking for Boggy Bridge Road which led us into a maze of tracks inhabited by hundreds of kangaroos. We stopped eventually in a good enough spot, unable to identify the campsites from the general bush and tracks and set up on 12 volt power and gas. Chicken salad wraps for dinner and a cuppa. Now in our new improved bed, with the best mattress topper and extra soft foam underlay, we are cosy and looking forward to a good night’s sleep, undisturbed by dogs or bulldozers at 7 am. There is no one else in this pristine place. The alternative was a Big 4 in the town of Benalla, which didn’t appeal. A good start to a different kind of road trip, staying off main highways and out of big commercial parks where we can. 

We set off at 1.30 pm, which wasn’t planned but we’re not stressing over time or distance. Our pups have accepted our house sitters as temporary carers, and shamelessly go to them for cuddles and pats. We know they are in good hands, we’re lucky to have found Irina and Radu. 

Monday 10th October Bus to Rovinj

Rovinj is set up to appeal. Narrow streets are lined with pastel coloured buildings, shops full of enticing souvenirs or expensive clothing, the kind that don’t have visible price tags. Restaurants and cafes with views of the marina and a fortified cathedral on the highest point. We window shopped and resisted temptation, our bags are full.

The Adriatic is really that colour, quite chilly in October though, no swimming happening.

Met up with Tina, old friend of Pat’s from WA and she showed us around the village of Vodjan where she now lives, close to Pula. Dinner was fishy and delicious in a restaurant overlooking the marina. There are thousands of yachts and motor boats moored along the coastal towns, plenty of wealthy visitors cruising around evidently.

It was our last night in Croatia. On to England to,orrow.

Sunday 9th October

Woken at 6.30 by church bells, horribly early. Back to sleep till the next lot. We wandered the streets bought breakfast at the mlonimar, bakery. Rolls with ham cheese, and a lettuce leaf, no butter or mayo. It varies slightly from town to town but always no butter. And pastries, sweet or savoury, we liked the fruit filled ones. I had a burek sometimes, a meat filled flat coil similar to a croissant. Rolls were the staple lunch too, I had rye where I could.

After collecting brochures for identical evening island cruises, dolphin spotting and meal included, I elected the Vagabond boat, the salesman, big smile in a tanned face, had a deep voice that reminded me of the male voice choir we had heard earlier. It was the right choice. Ticket holders from the other boats all came aboard, it made sense to use one instead of half a dozen.

There was a slight breeze up top but was the best place to be. I noticed a gull flying with us, around the boat , diving to pass in front. Others did too, it had apparently a fish in its beak. To our distress, it was a hook,, which had already ripped an eye out, dried blood streaked its neck. The salesman told us it can’t eat, the hook is stuck. By now a crowd had gathered and the gull had joined us on deck, not able to fly any more. We wanted to help. One woman used her bread roll crumbs to tempt it closer and was able to grasp it in one well aimed grab. The gull got one wing free so I helped hold it in while her daughter , 18 with strong polished nails, gently prise open the beak some more and revealed the hook completely curled around the lower half. I asked a man to get the ships tools, pliers, something and he dashed down the steps.

The awful damage

The bird seemed to resign itself to being handled and maybe knew we were trying to help. It settled and stayed still while she dislodged the hook first, impossible to bend it. She had to slowly drag it forward till it came free, only to reveal a third hook stuck in the feathers. It must have hurt but she freed it too. The bird started to wriggle but we held it for a moment to give it time to recover. It was not about to fly but moved away a metre or so and we threw it bits of fish leftovers from our plates and crumbs. It ate ravenously then retreated to a more sheltered spot. There were smiles and pats on the back and comments in several languages to the young woman on her skilful work. Her mother was so proud and we exchanged a happy hug of words in mangled German and English.

No one cared about only seeing one fin of a solitary dolphin. When I checked at the end of the trip, the gull had gone, hopefully flown to feed and recover. The hook was a grim souvenir for its rescuer.

Saturday 8th October

I awoke in the night to pitch black, or maybe my eyes were still shut. I needed to pee. I opened my eyes and foundI was looking at the wardrobe, blundered around the wall till I felt the door to the main room. Had a vague notion the bathroom was on my right but it was the kitchen. By now, thoroughly disoriented I had no idea where I was going. Knocked into a chair on the way to a sliver of light coming through the shutters and opened them. Relief, the door I wanted was behind me, open, a welcome dark rectangle. Knocked into the chair on the way.

Morning, we’re in a new apartment and had a laugh at my nocturnal wandering. The long drive and a 10 km walk yesterday was a bit much. We decided to treat ourselves to a restaurant breakfast before finding the Colosseum. Easy. It’s huge! And at the end of our street, large cobblestones all the way, probably the originals from the Colosseum or some other Roman long gone edifice. There was an Event happening in the arena. We could hear the funky music and excited yelling from the announcer trying to whip the audience into a frenzy. Appropriate. We found a vantage point outside the walls to watch. A world championship soccer tournament was in progress. The finalists had to manipulate the ball without their hands like gymnasts at the Olympics. Girls first then boys. Fantastic.

Back to our bed for a nap. Pat had seen a poster advertising a piano recital at a nearby church, we had to go. It was sublime. A duet of classical music, a portly gentleman, white haired and smiling and a slim young woman in glasses, flicking her hair back in between pieces with a serious expression, which didn’t break into a smile until the final bow.

There were perhaps twenty people dotted through the pews, in silent awe at their gift, wanting more but they were generous enough. We floated home.

Zadar to Rijeka via Plitvica National Park

Friday 7th October was a huge day! Dominic’s birthday, he was flash flooded at work. Terrible.

We wanted to see the National Park but tours left and returned to Zadar, 2 hours each way. After some discussion between two taxi drivers, the English speaker, offered to take us, wait a couple of hours and then continue the journey on to Rijeka which was our next stop.

8am our driver arrived in a very nice car and chauffeured us in less than two hours to Plitvica lakes. In the centre of a forest of beechwood mountains are a succession of turquoise lakes with waterfalls, one was 78m high. we chose a relatively short walk and followed the signs well, until we didn’t. Took the ferry across one lake to start, and back to finish. Except we turned right afterwards and did another 4km To arrive back at the ferry. We were not the only ones. Simon was waiting at Entrance 2 where he dropped us. We waited at Entrance 1. Mobile phones saved the day.

The beech trees were all colours of autumn and dropping leaves to make carpets for us to walk on. Tracks required us to look where we walked, steps up and down in stone were hard to see at times. Lots of tourists some with dogs, others with babies and a few big groups made our progress slow as we negotiated two way walking on a one way track. The lakes were clear and tempting for a swim. All we could do was take photos, thousands were taken that day.

Simon drove us on to Rijeka and our new accommodation and we chatted about the 1990’s war and politics, here and there.