Brutus and I met on the internet, the way so many relationships start these days. He was older than I had hoped and lived in Tasmania while I was on the Gold Coast, but all obstacles can be overcome if you are meant to be together.
I asked my sister, Marion, who lives in Tasmania and whose judgement I trust implicitly, to check him out for me and she rang me excitedly to tell me that he was very well preserved for his age. He was clean and tidy and had a good body and she felt we would make a good team, so I booked my ticket and went off to meet him.
It was love at first sight! His last partner was sorry to see him go and gave me instructions on what he did and didn’t like, how to get him started in the morning and how to jiggle the key to his heart so he would let me in. I soon found out that Brutus had a stubborn streak and was reluctant to go backwards, but 10 minutes of therapy and we soon sorted that out. We stayed with Marion for a few days and then she insisted we had our first night alone before we came back to the Gold Coast to live.
I should have known that our detours that day were a sign of things to come! As I’d missed meeting up with some new motor home friends, Rick and Janis, at Friendly Beaches on the Freycinet Peninsula, Marion suggested Mayfield Bay as a good place to go, so with a decadent little side track to Kate’s Berry Farm near Swansea, I headed south to the beach.
Well, I missed the turn off heading south and ended up at Triabunna, turned around and blow me down if I didn’t miss the turn off when I was heading north as well. Decided that perhaps I was meant to go to Friendly Beaches after all, so that’s where I headed off to. (To get there – 175kms – should have been 60kms if I’d headed straight there!)
What a magic spot! Not a soul around, so Brutus, my 1986 Ford Econovan and I settled down for a quiet night. Lesson Number 1 – position the van facing into the wind, not side on to it. We were buffeted by strong winds the whole night but Brutus kept me warm and comfortable. The next morning I shared my breakfast with a wallaby after a refreshing walk along the beach.
It was soon time to start my journey home. We left Marion’s at Kalangadoo, near Lake Leake and headed to Devonport (185kms away) to catch the Spirit of Tasmania to Melbourne. The countryside was beautiful …. and the Berry Farm and Ashgrove Cheese Factory pleasant diversions along the way. I just love the beautiful raspberries in Tassie!
An uneventful Bass Strait crossing, and I arrived in Melbourne and off the boat about 7am Saturday morning. I spent 3 nights with my Aunty Mollie – 94 years young – and left there exhausted after going out for dinner every night I was there. She’s got more energy than I have!
My next stop was to catch up with my old school friend Bob, who lives in Warrak, about 20kms from Ararat in Western Victoria. (240kms from Melbourne). Bob tested Brutus out on a drive to a beautiful spot that looks out over the fields to Langi Ghiran National Park and across to Mount Buangor. Very pretty country and spectacular views.
I left Bob’s about midday after a lazy start – destination Echuca.
I was determined to stay on the Murray River somewhere, but ended up in a caravan park at Moama on the NSW side of the Murray. It was only after Brutus and I got settled that I realised the park was under the bridge between Echuca and Moama , so it wasn’t the quietest night I’ve ever enjoyed. However, I got out my Camps 6 book and started planning my next night’s stop – time to get out of the comfort of caravan parks and into the wild!
My planning didn’t work because I made better time than I expected so I kept driving – and driving, and driving. Finally I passed a sign to Goobang National Park camping ground just south of Peak Hill and decided that was the place to go. The name should have been a warning. I missed the turn off – I’m good at that – but saw another one about 70 kms further on at Tomingley so I thought – ok, I’ve been given a second chance to go there, so off I went. 42kms off the highway I see the sign to the camping ground. Thoughts of isolation, National Parks, and Ivan Milat and I decided this wasn’t for me, so working on the theory that Brutus prefers to go forwards, not backwards, I kept following the road to get back to the highway.
By this time I had done 618kms from Moama to Tomingley and then added another 150kms with this little diversion that put me, via a town called Yeoval, back on the highway south of Peak Hill,– yep, at the turn off I’d originally missed! Pitch black at this stage and I’m sooo tired so headed off to yet another caravan park at Peak Hill. For those travelling through Peak Hill I can thoroughly recommend the Double D Caravan Park. Apart from the fact it was in Bogan Rd, which I have to admit did give me a moment’s hesitation, everything about it was great. Friendly owners, not too many sites, hot clean showers, off the highway and quiet. I put up the roof, got into my pj’s and went straight to bed. (Total mileage today – 770kms – too much!)
Lesson I learned – have back up plans.
So, out with the Camp 6 book again and I picked out a pretty good looking road side stop south of Moree for Friday night. Back up plan was the Moree Showgrounds, which offered camping also. I’m feeling good about Friday and gaining confidence with my travel plans. Silly me!
I stopped at Gilgandra for the worst coffee and a bite of a stale lamington – so bad I couldn’t finish either – and headed off – next stop Coonabarabran. Well, I followed a road heading to a C but it was Coonamble, not Coonabarabran. Whoops, another detour! Another 200kms added to my trip. Another tank of petrol! Another place I hadn’t planned to see. I really will have to brush up on my navigation! Or plug in the GPS!
What did I learn? It’s only 3 hrs to Lightning Ridge from Coonamble, and if I didn’t have a job to come home to I would have just kept driving! I finally made it to Coonabarabran and headed north to Moree. I pulled in to my first choice of stopover, had a look around, and had my doubts. When in doubt, don’t, has stood me in good stead over the years, so off I headed for Plan B, the Moree Showgrounds. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got there, a big sign – CLOSED UNTIL SEPTEMBER 30TH. Whoops – no Plan C! Out with the book again and there’s a road side stop about 10 kms north of Moree, so that’s where I headed and that’s where I stayed. Bloody noisy trucks whizzing by on the Newell all night but after another big day driving it didn’t take long to fall asleep. ( Total approx 570kms today – 200kms less than yesterday, but far enough!)
Sights along the way – wish I’d stopped and taken photos –don’t know why I bother having a camera
• huge fields of canola – bright yellow amongst rich red ploughed earth and brilliant green crops.
• The Warrumbungles providing a stunning back drop
• Emus in fields – can’t help but get excited about that! Especially the mother and baby on the side of the road – made my heart glad!
• A little goanna risking becoming road kill as it darted from one side to the other – phew – made it! Some wombats and kangaroos not quite so lucky – although not as much road kill as I expected to see. And what there was, the crows were making short work of. They have to have some use in life, horrible birds…..
I wake up early, look at my map, and I’m thinking the Gold Coast and home is in striking distance. Only 570 kms to go. I’m going for it!
Brutus climbed through Cunningham’s Gap without a worry. But oh boy, did he hate the climb out of Canungra. Almost home and poor old Brutus let me know that short sharp hills are not something he likes. By the way I share that sentiment. Both he and I were very relieved to arrive home safe and sound at about 3pm Saturday afternoon.
I’m really happy with the way Brutus travelled. Very comfortable to live in but he chews through the petrol, so I will definitely be planning my trip in the future with a petrol budget in mind. Now that I’m home I realise that only about 10% of what I’d put aside for my new lifestyle will ever get used, so the next cull of possessions is happening. Also, I have a sticky door lock on the driver’s side and often have to climb in through the passenger side – not my best angle if you happen to be going past!
Brutus is now a commuter vehicle for the next few months until I finish my working life, but I can’t wait for the time that I can take that detour to Lightning Ridge, or any other place, without any time constraints and the absolute freedom to go where I want, when I want, and the only thing stopping me will be my petrol budget!
Give me a wave when you see me – there’s always good coffee and cold wine at the ready and Brutus and I look forward to making new friends.