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Thursday 28th Oct – Mildura to Menindee via Broken Hill

We are all loving it here. The weather’s 25 degrees outside, gorgeous. Getting warmer as we head north. Great people. Hugely wealthy country and strong economy. Notwithstanding the entertaining coalition govt.

We’ve crossed the mighty Murray river leaving behind the orange groves of northern Victoria into New South Wales, heading through Broken Hill, where more gold has recently been discovered.

We’ve travelled over 800km from Melbourne when we arrive at Broken Hill, a gorgeous city of just 20,000 souls in far western New South Wales. It’s prosperity is obvious, with wide flower-lined streets and beautiful buildings. Then we understand why, learning that the Line of Lode in Broken Hill is the richest deposit of silver, lead and zinc in the world. Over A$100 billion in wealth has been generated so far from this 7.5km-long ore body, the size of which will see mining continue for many years to come. www.visitbrokenhill.com.au.

The Far West region is about wide open spaces, red earth and pristine blue skies. And not quite flat horizons. The plains are so vast here, you can even see the curvature of the earth!

The horizon of this vast expanse extends beyond peripheral vision, beyond the Olary Range to the Flinders Range, some 148km. Latitude 141 degrees, longitude 31 degrees – and moving from 140″ to 142″. Proof that the world is round.

We decide to stay the night in a free camp at nearby Menindee Lakes. Arrive via an unsealed road. Right out in the bush now, although we see a few other campers.

We have the campfire going before the trailer tent is even set up. Garlic bread cooks in the campoven while the Golden Perch (known here as yellow-bellies) which we caught yesterday are sizzling alongside in a frying-pan on the hot coals, with olive oil, lemon zest and juice, soy, garlic and ginger. Rice and fresh broccoli quickly boil on our camper’s gas hob. Afters is Lemon Pudding.

Sudden excitement as Ed spots and kills a huge locust. We’re seeing a lot out here about the impending locust plague so just trying to help. Another visitor wanders unharmed through camp: a chubby, bright green frog, identical to the rubber ones we sell in the Crealy giftshop!

Early Wednesday morning, 27th October – monkeys in the trees?

It’s 5:47 and sounds like Africa. But the hooting laughter ringing from the trees is the kookaburras. They make me chuckle every time. Yes, even this early. They started at 4am this morning, so I took the dogs for a moonlit walk. It was a full moon on Monday and the sky is brilliantly lit, with the huge heaven of souther hemisphere stars swathed above my head, like diamonds in a blue velvet cloak wrapped carefully around the world.

The daylight comes quickly. Trevor arrives at ten to eight and takes us on an enchanting 7 hours into a strange red land.

Quote of the Day?

So dinner tonight’s been prepared by the boys. Watermelon and apple cocktail to start, followed by “kangaroo kebabs” in black bean sauce with rice and salad, then sliced bananas drizzed with cream and fair-trade organic dark chocolate. Well done boys! After we’ve worked on the marketing for these particularly Australian delicacies – kanga-babs, “makes your family bounce with health”, “you’ll leap for joy at dinner time” and so on, Tim leaned back in his chair and remarked with satisfaction, “That was good roo”. Quote of today, we think.

And if you’re thinking, how could you eat Kanga and Joey? There are millions of ‘roos across Australia with no top predator – well, they’re taller than David when fully grown and can disembowel a dog if cornered. So they’re officially a cull animal. The labeling on the kebabs says, “Good for the environment, good for you”. And I think it’s probably good for the ‘roos too, in a roundabout way.

Tuesday 26th October – Lake Charm to Mildura

Today we’re staying at the Buronga Campsite www.burongacaravanpark.webs.com on the shores of the mighty Murray. Stopping for two nights.  Tomorrow, Trevor from Mungo Park Tours is taking us into the desert. We’re going to visit Mungo Lake – except it hasn’t been a lake for thousands of years. Now it’s a starkly beautiful desert, with strange rock formations the result of wind-blown sand scouring the rock over tens of thousands of years, ancient art from when the local people lived here from 60,000 years ago right up until the time the lake disappeared. It’s said to the be oldest site of mankind in the southern hemisphere – the first bones were said to be “Mungo Man” then “Mungo Woman” was discovered, shortly followed by ancient burial sites. Seemed the living was easy here for a long time, with sunshine, water, game and plenty to eat, so the people could spend time on art and culture – with ancient jewellery and musical instruments discovered buried in the sands. Wonder what we’ll find.

Monday 25th October – Bendigo to Lake Charm

We had breakfast w Jerry at the house on Monday morning. So impressed with his lovingly home-made ready meals, one for every day Sara’s away for a month in the UK. What a domestic goddess – a hard act to follow!

We head for Bendigo to have the requisite trailer inspection from “Vic Roads”. It passes, the plate is attached and we head north.

Monday night at Lake Charm

Our first night camping “on the road”. We’re mindful not to drive at dusk due to wildlife all over the roads then, and at dawn too. So we pull in on an unscheduled stop. Lake Charm doesn’t yield us any fish so we have a quick supper and an early night.

Saturday 23rd October – day one – “at the exclusive Wild Duck Creek”

Our first two nights are on our friends’ beautiful farm near Mia Mia. Wild Duck Creek is landscape which seems unchanged for millennia, and we set up camp on the ridge giving 360 degree views of the surrounding, vast countryside. The trailer tent opens in a jiffy and it’s our first time so it takes us about an hour to set up camp. Dinner tonight is “lake and steak” – salmon caught by David and local steak, served with salad, then apple pie warmed through in our “camp oven”. It’s a success! Jerry, our host, comes to have dinner with us and bring some of his beautiful “Heathcote Estate” chardonnay. We have a bottle too of gorgeous red we bought from a most unusual biondynamic vineyard near Healesville. All’s good.

Our campsite is in lush grass, with 360 degree views of countryside clothed in green, decorated with swathes of yellow flowers, all under the vast azure sky.

Jerry joined us for “steak and lake” supper – salmon we caught the day before.

The next day, kids, dogs and I traversed the river. They all swam. We saw roos, goats – then suddenly Tim called, “Quick, there’s an enchillada!” (Quote of the day.) Sapphire, his Lab had discovered an echidna half-buried in the stand of trees above the eagle’s nest. Just his spines showing, with freshly dug brown earth to either side of him where he’d hastily burrowed.

Our dogs can’t believe the wildlife here! Especially “the giant bouncing rabbit-creatures”. The Labs seem concerned about retrieval expectations…

Victoria to Queensland: next leg of the journey

We set off from Melbourne on Saturday 23rd September. It’s rained heavily in the night but luckily we can load the camper trailer under the carport out of the wet. Camping’s not going to be so great if it rains!

David and Amy return from Spotswood Quarantine Kennels at 10.30am with three very excited hounds! Then David and Ed set off for some last minute arrangements, including putting into storage anything we’ve brought which we don’t need en route for the next month. We’re flying back to Melbourne for 10 days at the end of November, so are storing a few things to use then.

Why back to Melbourne? Well, Ed’s going to be doing his VCE (Victoria Certificate of Education – equivalent to A Levels) so he gets to experience “the changeover” at Mentone Grammar School. This seems like a really good idea (though maybe the kids don’t think so): Year 10 spend the last 10 days of term getting a head start on Year 11 (that’s the equivalent of the UK first year of A Levels). Enables students to get a heads-up on what to expect, to iron out any difficulties and to go into the long summer break with a clear idea of what’s ahead – even to do some more advance work over the summer if wanted (in between the surfing?)

Amy and Tim are visiting the school too, taking part in the end of term activities. Great chance to meet the kids who’ll be their friends when the new year starts on the 1st February 2011.

Planning the Journey

Planning the journey

It’s been a month of planning and now the dogs are out of quarantine, we’re off!

Three months to tour Australia is such a gift! Can’t believe we can do it. Lists upon lists have been compiled, debated and completed. Even David who’s not a huge list fan has been obsessively planning the trip. He’s driver, engineer, first-aider and emergency co-ordinator, after all. I’m attaching some of the lists here for you, when you’re planning your next expedition.

Release the Hounds!

So after a month of incarceration, our dogs are out of quarantine at 9.30am! That’s not fair, actually, because they’re looking great. Spotswood Quarantine Kennels have looked after Diamond, Jade and Sapphire really well – their coats are glossy, they’re calm and Diamond’s even put on some weight (hard to achieve, lucky her). We’ve had “visiting rights” and they’re been so excited each time. Guiltily, we’ve left them with treats of chicken or chewy bones and I’m sure they’ve soon forgotten about us once we’ve left.

Have you ever thought it strange how we spend fortunes trying to learn to “live in the present” and dogs do it naturally.

If you’re not as good as your hound at this, I recommend two great books:

“The Gift” by Spencer …

And the amazing “Power of Now” by the uber-intelligent Eckart Tolley

August Summary

Our first month in Aus has flown by. We have enjoyed Melbourne although the weather has been cold, with only a couple of days of sunshine.

Realising that our children don’t actually have to start school til the 1st Feb, we’ve decided to seize the opportunity to travel for 3 months, principally around Victoria, NSW and Queensland. So with a great Land Cruiser Sahara, a huge Mountain Trail trailer tent, 3 children and 3 dogs released from quarantine on Saturday 23rd October, we’ve set off on our journey.