The Year That Was & The Year Ahead

In 2015 I was bitten by the travel bug. On a whim and a prayer, I decided to drive over 1600 kilometres away to deliver a bed to a princess.

I live in Geelong, Victoria. My daughter moved to Lismore, NSW. When my daughter moved, she left a whole lot of boxes and bags in my lounge room. It was really depressing to look at the boxes. So I decided to take a trip to Lismore to deliver some of her belongings to her. Oh and I also wanted to take my granddaughter’s bed to her, (Cianna is the princess who needed her bed) as she had a new bed that had been left behind in Geelong. Hayley and Cianna flew up to Lismore. I decided to drive there. It is a trip of 1,690 kms.

I applied for leave at work. I only applied for about six days as I had the whole trip planned out to the minute and I thought I would be home in time to start work on my next rostered day.  (I work in Aged Care and we work to a roster, so my next shift after the trip would be the next Monday.)

I had planned time off work. I asked Dad if could I borrow his ute and my son said I could borrow his trailer. So we had everything in place. My sister said she would come with me for company. Dad and Corey and I packed the trailer and ute the night before I was due to leave. Now there is a story there. That damn trailer was the bane of my existence!

The trailer was full to the top. It had a cage on it so we could fit quite a bit in it. The princess bed was safe and sound at the bottom of the ute. There were bags and bags of clothes and shoes and we packed some of Cianna’s toys to take up to her. My Dad and son Corey tied a tarp over the trailer. It was an old tarp and it was a bit frayed. But it covered the trailer and all the items in the trailer. Talk about famous last words! My son said that he wasn’t happy with the tarp and we had a tarp in the shed that could have been put over the top of all the stuff in the trailer. Anyway the trailer was covered and that’s all that mattered!

I worked on the Monday before I headed off. I wanted to get to Wodonga the first night. I finished work at 3.15, got home, changed out of my uniform and headed off to Wodonga on the first leg of my epic journey. Or as the trip was dubbed “the Thelma and Louise trip”.  As I left the driveway of my house, I felt the weight of the trailer behind me. It was quite heavy. Dad’s ute is an automatic and she pulled the load okay, but I could feel it.

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The ute, and trailer, loaded and ready to go.

The first part of the journey was probably the most stressful, well there were other stressful moments and lots of laughs too.  When I left Geelong the traffic was okay. As I got into Melbourne, I hit peak traffic on the Western Ring Road. Traffic was bumper to bumper and we were driving slowly, on and off the brakes. My hands were sweaty and it was quite nerve wracking, as I had this heavy load of stuff on the trailer behind me, and the traffic was heavy and we were literally on the brakes, off the brakes, inching along slowly, for about 20 kms.

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Orange rope added to the trailer, to secure the tarp
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1st stop, Donnybrook Rd Melbourne, bought more rope.

 

I finally got through Melbourne and on to the Hume Highway. The traffic eased a bit.  I wasn’t happy with the trailer as the tarp was flapping around a bit behind me, so I stopped at the Donnybrook Road service station and bought some rope and tried to secure the tarp a bit better.  I also took the opportunity to change out of my runners into my slippers. My feet were sore from a big day at work.

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Slippers for my poor sore feet.

After Donnybrook Road, the trip was quite easy. I have travelled to Wodonga quite a few times to visit my sister Jodie and her partner Wayne. So it was just a few clicks up the freeway to Wodonga. I did stop at Glenrowan for coffee. I was feeling a bit tired by then and I smsed Jodie and told her I was tired and needed coffee and a sister hug. I couldn’t wait to get to Wodonga and put my feet up and have a rest.

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Did you miss me? I just went and hung my washing out. Even on New Year’s Day I still have to hang out the washing. Where is my maid?

I got to Wodonga at about 9.30, 10.00ish. I stopped for my first gas refill. I stopped at a service station just off the Hume Highway in Wodonga. Gas! I pulled up to the bowser and tried to do up the Gas pump to the car. Nope it wasn’t happening. I couldn’t screw the pump up to the gas inlet on the ute.  So here I was, heading off on a trip across NSW and I couldn’t even do up the gas nozzle to the car. What was I thinking? Was I insane?

So I asked the girl behind the counter if she could help me. No deal. She didn’t know why I couldn’t do the nozzle up and she couldn’t leave the register to help me. I called Jodie and Wayne, and told them I couldn’t do the nozzle up. Before they could arrive to help me, I tried another nozzle and it worked and I had filled the ute up with gas before Jodie and Wayne arrived. So I paid for my gas and headed back to Jodie and Wayne’s. Ash, Jodie’s son, had cooked a roast and had saved me a plate. So I ate my roast tea and was soon in bed, trying to get some sleep before the next leg of the trip.

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I’m not sure what town this was. It was our first toilet stop after Wodonga.

So next day, bright and early, Jodie and I headed off. Jodie packed clothes and a doona and pillow. Wayne looked at the tarp, tied on with my orange rope that I bought at Donnybrook Road service station. He thought to himself that he should add his tarp to the trailer, and tie it on more securely. In his defence, he did have the man flu. And he didn’t tie on another tarp but he did tighten the orange rope that I had added.

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Beautiful autumn tones in the trees

So we headed off into the wild blue yonder, Jodie and I, the ute and the trailer, off on a big adventure across New South Wales. I don’t get out much and I have hardly seen all of Victoria, let alone travelled across New South Wales. When we headed off on our epic Thelma and Louise trip, I had never been to any of the towns that we drove through in NSW. I had plotted my trip and had also plotted how long it would take  between each town and each stop, and how long it was between stops.

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The trailer done up like a birthday present. We tried to secure the tarp.

My plan was to be at Tamworth by nightfall on the 2nd day, Tuesday, and to arrive at Lismore by about 3.00pm the next day to catch up with Hayley and have lunch with her in Lismore. Hayley had said to us to try and get to Lismore before 3.00pm and to try and get to Rock Valley, just out of Lismore (where they were living) before dark. Well best laid plans don’t often work out.

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Look at how dark the sky was.

We often had to stop to take toilet breaks. Sometimes at road side stops or service stations and sometimes on the side of the road, so that Jodie could go to the toilet. We often had to stop in the middle of nowhere so she could take a wee break.

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This rainbow followed us for ages.

Funniest moments! We stopped for a wee break. Jodie went running to the back of the car to have a wee, then bolted to the front of the car. When she got back into the car I asked her what happened. She said “big spider, big web.”

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The double rainbow. No frogs were harmed on this road trip.

We had a long trip to our first night stop, due to not knowing the roads real well and lots of toilet stops. It set my schedule back a lot. Oh well. What could I do? Not much. Just roll with it. We made it to Coonabarabran by dark on Tuesday night. We got a motel room and parked our ute and trailer in the motel parking space. We went to a supermarket and bought bread rolls and butter and meat, pickles and cheese. We had a small tea of buns and meat and cheese and pickles. It had been a long day and we were both really tired.

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The motel in Coonabarabran

There was a double bed and a single bed in the room. Jodie got the double bed and I opted for the single bed. I just wanted sleep and I don’t sleep well with others. So we got some sleep . In the morning we packed and Jodie tried to reverse the ute and trailer out of the motel car park. A lovely young man came and helped us and he reversed the car and turned it around for us. We headed off, trying to make up time and get to Lismore to catch up with Hayley for lunch.

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Sunrise in Coonabarabran

I smsed Hayley and told her we weren’t going to be in Lismore at lunch time so she stayed home and cooked us pumpkin risotto.  I had planned to get to Tamworth on the Tuesday night. Due to our tight time schedule, we did go through Tamworth, the home of country music, but we only stopped for a toilet break.

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On the way to Lismore, after we left Coonabarabran

I would like to redo my trip again, only slowly and I would like to stop at all the towns we drove through and take some time to look around and visit some of the museums, art galleries, hotels, restaurants, and rivers and lakes and wineries.

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The road stretches on ahead

So the 3rd day on the road and we headed towards Lismore. Due to our tight time schedule most of our meals were takeaway meals at maccas or other takeaway stores. We stopped for petrol, food and toilet breaks. We went through some lovely towns on our massive, quick road trip. I will come back and do it all again.

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Beautiful landscape in NSW, with great cloud formations

We drove through towns called Wagga Wagga, Temora, West Wyalong, Forbes, Parkes, Coonabarabran, Gunnedah, Tamworth, Uralla, Armadale, Glenn Innes and Casino. So you can look up our trip on Google and see where we traveled, if you like. It was a long, quick, mega trip with lots of driving, not much touring and just trying hard to reach our goal of Lismore.

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Tamworth, Landcruiser Country

We stopped at one town to buy tie downs to try and secure the tarp better. At another town we bought a big waterproof tarp and tried to secure that over the load to try and keep it dry and to try and stop the tarp from flying out the side of the trailer as we travelled.

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At the top of the hill, Uralla

We did our best and I think we got to Lismore at about 5.00pm. It was starting to get dark. We contacted Hayley and she sent us some directions on how to get to her place at Rock Valley. Rock Valley is 20kms out of Lismore. It is right on the edge of a rainforest. There is a track into the rainforest that takes you into the property where Hayley was living.

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St Kilda Hotel, Armadale

We headed out on the road to Rock Valley. The instructions were not very clear and were better understood if you were driving in daylight. One part of the directions read “turn left after the green house” and as it was pitch black by the time we were on the Cawongla Road, we couldn’t see any green house. Jodie stopped a man who was driving along the same road. He realized we were after the M.O. (multiple occupancy) and he said you had to head over two cattle grids. That sounded familiar and Hayley had mentioned cattle grids and M.O. so this kind man took us to the driveway we needed to turn in to.

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At Rock Valley

We headed over two cattle grids. We started to drive up a bush track. It was dark and we were on a narrow track with trees close to the side of the track. As we drove up we had no idea where we were or if we had to turn off or keep on heading up the track. We came to a steep part of the track. An ominous sign on the side of the road said “engage first gear” and then we got bogged. The trailer would not follow us up the track and the ute was threatening to bog down in the muddy track. So we parked the ute, left the lights on and headed up the track on foot. Jodie was a lot more calm than I was.

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The bush not far from the house in Rock Valley

I sometimes get to a point where I just seem to have a mini meltdown. We walked up this track in the dark, using our phone torches as lights. My torch went out as my phone battery died. We came to a fork in the road. Jodie said we had to take the left path so we did. I would have kept on walking up the hill in the dark. We finally got to the house and Cianna came out and gave me a hug. It was worth the whole trip to have a hug from my gorgeous little granddaughter.

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The house in Rock Valley

We went inside and chatted. Hayley came down the track with me to unhook the trailer so that the track was clear for other people living on the M.O. It is a one way track or a single track and vehicles can only go up or down in single file, so we had to move the ute and the trailer. We unhooked the trailer and left it on the side of the track, and Hayley drove the ute up the track to the house. It was wet season and the track was wet and slippery. At the house where Hayley was staying there was  grass up near the house and no drive way. So we eventually managed to bog the ute.

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Flowers in the forest

The first night we got there, we ate pumpkin risotto and sat around and chatted. We set up Cianna’s bed. Cianna slept with Hayley, and Jodie and I had a single bed each to sleep in. We had both bought our own doonas and pillows.

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On a bush track near the house in Rock Valley

Cianna was attending a country school so the next morning (Thursday) Hayley and I took her to school. To get to school Cianna and Hayley usually had to walk down the track to meet the bus. It is a walk of about 2kms. It would take them about 20 to 25 minutes to walk down there.

The bush around the house is lovely. It is lush tropical rainforest. There are just trees and bushes, shrubs and small waterways all around the property. It is very pretty.

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Lush rainforest Rock Valley

The beauty of the forest is breathtaking. Hayley and Cianna sent us some lovely photos of the rain forest. The only draw back to the location is that Hayley didn’t have a car so she was very isolated.

We stayed with Hayley and Cianna Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We made a few trips up and down the hill to take their belongings from the trailer, into the ute and then up to the house. We weren’t game to bring the trailer up in case we got it bogged. It was very wet and mushy up near the house.

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The rainforest from the second story of the house

On Saturday morning we had to leave, as Jodie and I were both due to start work on Monday. We went down to the bottom of the track and hitched the trailer up to the ute. Most of Hayley’s belongings had got wet on the trip up. We drove through some heavy rain heading in to Coonabarabran, on the way up. The famous tarp had shredded and had worked its way through all of Hayley’s clothing.

As we left the M.O. the cage of the trailer came adrift and swung off the side of the trailer. The four bolts holding the cage on had worked loose. We stopped and tied the cage on with our tie downs. And headed off to Lismore. Our tie downs did a great job and the cage was held on securely. We went back the way we had come. Lismore, Casino, and on to Geelong. We had lunch at Glenn Innes on the Saturday, after we had left Lismore and Hayley and Cianna.

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Graffiti at Lismore

It wasn’t that easy. We lost our trailer. We headed towards Coonabarabran, hoping to make it there before dark. As we went past Gunnedah, and with Jodie driving, in pitch black darkness, no street lights, the trailer came away from the ute. We were driving along and all of a sudden there was a loud banging noise at the back of the ute. The three bolts that held the trailer to the towball yoke had come undone and the trailer was bouncing along behind us, held on only by the chains. It made an almighty noise as it banged along behind us. We stopped the ute and went back to see what had happened. The tow ball was still attached to the ute. The trailer wasn’t. So we undid the trailer and pushed it in to the bushes on the side of the road. We unhitched the yoke and towball and removed everything from the trailer and toolbox. Then we headed to Coonabarabran to find a room for the night.

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Graffiti parrot at Lismore

We didn’t realise we were closer to Gunnedah when the trailer broke, and we probably should have headed back there for the night. It was late and dark and we were both tired. So we headed to Coonabarabran. We got a motel for the night and bought tea and settled down for the night. In the morning we tried to organise for someone to help us to get the trailer towed or fixed. My car insurance company wouldn’t help me. We finally headed back to see if we could find the trailer and perhaps get it fixed. We drove back 96kms and then drove even further back. The trailer wasn’t there. Somebody had stolen it. So not only did our trailer break, and not only did we backtrack to find it, adding an extra 2 hours to our trip, when we drove back to get it fixed, it was gone, stolen!

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Street Art Lismore

I had phoned my son the night before, after the trailer broke. I told him what had happened. He said if we couldn’t get the trailer fixed that it was okay and not to worry too much about it. It was only a trailer. Just leave it on the side of the road if we couldn’t get it repaired. When we realised it had been stolen, it was a relief that we wouldn’t have to tow the blessed thing all the way home to Geelong. Jodie and I just laughed when we realised that somebody had pinched it.

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Sunrise at Rock Valley

So with no trailer to worry about, we headed off on our drive home. This was the Sunday. We were now 2 hours behind schedule. We were not going to make it back to Wodonga til late Sunday and we were both not going to be able to go to work on the Monday. I wanted to drive home to Geelong on the Sunday night but I was too tired and Jodie and Wayne didn’t want me driving home in the dark, late at night, being so tired.

So I phoned work and cancelled my Monday shift. We got in to Wodonga quite late. I slept over and headed home in the morning.

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Still sunrise over Rock Valley

Now I realise how much I have digressed! I originally started by saying that I was hit by the travel bug last year – 2015. In 2016 I want to travel a lot more. I really enjoyed my road trip with my sister and would love to travel around Australia a bit.

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The road in to the houses at Rock Valley

2015 also saw me doing a lot of work to my house. I have had my home for 28 years and have never really spent much money on the house. So in 2015 I got new blinds for my house. The blinds are day and night blinds, so the night blinds block out the light and heat. I also bought central ducted heating. I am about to have an air conditioning unit installed. Then it is time to buy a new stove as my stove is not well.

So out with the old and in with the new. Here’s to 2015. It was a good  year for me as I went on a great road trip and I managed to lose my son’s trailer in the process. He wasn’t really too upset and I will buy him another trailer soon. In 2016, after I have finished spending up big on appliances for my home, I will start saving up for another road trip.

Keep your eyes on this space and follow my journeys. I am sure you will be amused by the many funny things that happen to me on my next adventure.

Would I do this trip again? Oh yeah. But no trailer this time. Jodie says she will come on another road trip with me as long as we don’t pull a trailer behind us.

 

 

 

 

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