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"Rockytoo"
 Part 3
The travel adventures of
Geoff & Margaret Clifton
CMCA Member

 

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Wednesday 10/03/04
A cool grey morning at Six Mile Creek NP campground.  This is a typical S.E. forest picnic and camp set in a grove of tall old gums alongside a trickling creek.  Pit toilet, rainwater tank, picnic tables and signboards.  It is pleasantly clean and tidy.  There is a short bush walk to some cascades which we shall visit today.  We’ve had the place entirely to ourselves since yesterday evening except for a brief chat with three bush walkers who surprised me when they came chatting down the track as I had seen no other vehicles.  Seems their leader knew the tracks well and had done a loop from their car which was a Km up the road.  There was a chill in the air this morning, outside probably six deg less than in.  I must put an outdoor thermometer on the shopping list.  We were a bit more down on power this morning than I had predicted.  CD player left on all night.  Doesn’t use much but a trickle will slowly fill a bucket.  As we intend to stay here until tomorrow the batteries will get a test as we are well shaded by tall gums.

We left the Bega lookout yesterday morning and paid a visit to the TI.  A pair of volunteer gentlemen on duty today but a few polite minutes oiling the wheel again got us permission to use the phone line.  From there to the Bega Pioneer Museum, this time to pay our $2.50pp and go inside.  It is a rambling old house with tons of the disused and broken contents of local barns and attics arranged on shelves, in cases and machinery in back sheds.  Lots of grand old photo portraits of the past well to do.  Military bits, doctors bits, clothing bits, old camera’s and Edisons, mangles & washers, sulkies & tractors, diesel pumps & tool sheds.  Plenty to look through for a couple of hours.  I still love big old mechanical things.

Walking back to the truck we spotted a tap on the church wall.  As our front tank was now four showers down I decided to bring the truck around and fill up before leaving town which we did and had lunch while waiting.  Feels better to head off with full tanks.

We took the road to Candelo and slowly cruised up and down the hills.  We get a good view from R2 as her big wheels and high clearance put your bum six foot above the ground.  Coming into ‘town’ we passed a sign to the cemetery and next saw an old weather board shack with a huge and official looking TI style sign that said ‘Mr Information’.  Margaret reckoned not much point in stopping as we were already overloaded with info from Bega and that nobody would remember her relos, they left in 1903.  I pulled up anyway and looked out at an untidy old place with a lot of junk around and very loud country music blaring from the enclosed front verandah.  Walking up to the gated doorway and unable to see a thing in the dark interior a big voice came over the loud music.  ‘Gooday to ya sir, what can we do for you?’.  ‘Well it says Mr Information on the sign and Margarets ancestors come from here so..’.  ‘Oh orrite’ said the voice which was now starting to take shape as my eyes adjusted from the sunlight.  I found myself looking at scruffy old bugger with a filthy tee shirt and torn pants, unshaven, few teeth and big smile.  ‘Scuse the racket.  We’re ‘avin band practice, got a concert at the weekend.  Cactus Jack they call me.  This is ma band, the Country Cowboys, Joe on guitar & vocals, …. Drums,  me mate, the dog.  Ow ya goin’.

Jack’s shack was a bit like the Bega Museum, mostly full of crap that nobody else wanted.  But Jack had most of it either working or serving some useful function and boy was he enthusiastic about giving us a guided tour of his Candelo music studio.  I think I may have sold his tape recorders second hand for $40 thirty years ago.  We were guided up to the half acre back yard, the concert venue.  Mind you don’t trip on those iron things in the long grass.  The sound proof stage was the three sided remains of an old shed.  ‘Put all the power and stage lighting in’, said Jack pointing out strung strands of old tps running to and from a gal box and a few globes nailed to the posts.  Spit roast, a rusted 44 gallon drum.  The gents, an old drum half circled with a rotted tarp so the ladies could go indoors for privacy.  ‘Gunna get this all finished up for the concert on Saturday.  Come along, all we ask is a gold coin to cover public liability.  Got over 80 people to the last one’.  Jack asked if we knew how to preserve tomatoes as he had a big box full and we were able to tell him how we had just oven dried a lot of our crop and bottled with olive oil and herbs.  ‘I can do all that, got the wood stove all set up in there.  Was all rusty and had rats living in the firebox when I got it but I fixed it all up.  Does me hot water too and saves me a fortune.  Electric bill went down $600 when I got rid of the electric tank.’  Jack actually saves a lot more money and effort on hot water.  His shirt and pants were testimony to the heater not having been lit for a long time.  ‘Scuse me torn pants, I just ripped ‘em when I got up’.  Or did they just fall apart when he got up, from Christmas dinner J.   Higher up the back we toured the vedgie patch.  Unkempt and healthy as.  We’re not so far south from Nowra where our tomatoes finished and died off from rust but Jack’s were just starting to ripen and full of flower.  Not a bug or yellow leaf in sight.  ‘Ya like spinach?’.  And in Jack went braking out an arm full.  Digging into the grass he came up with some beautiful apple cucumbers, a capsicum, tomatoes, mint.  ‘Help yerselves’.  ‘Gotta show you through the studio and video editing room’, he said leading us into the house.  Um, careful where you step, if you can see through the drab.  ‘Jimmy Little was down here last week, good mate of Joe’s, they grew up together in Berry or Bowral.  Jimmy said he’d love to make a recording in an old analogue studio like this again.  Can’t beat the sound.  What would it cost me to do a record here Jack.  Nah I wouldn’t charge Jimmy.’  An old Hitachi VHS camera came out of the back of the ‘Country Cowboys’ road van.  ‘Got hours of film from us touring ready for the movie.  We got an album out in 2000, sold over 600’.  We slowly worked our way back towards R2 shaking hands with the band and thanking Jack for his hospitality and garden produce.  Oh we did get a few tourist brochures from a pile on the shelf.  They were pretty dusty and a few years out of date but what the heck.  What a character.  Cactus Jack and the Country Cowboys.

We went up to the Candelo cemetery where Margaret quickly found the grave of her great, great grandfather and grandmother.  Felix Darragh 1804-1889 and Alice (nee McGee) 1808-1881.  The stonework was badly subsided and grown with weeds.  We did some gardening, cleaned some stone with a wire brush and took a photo.

About 12Km of slow, steep and winding dirt road from Candelo over Tantawangalo Mountain took us down to Six Mile Creek.  Lamb chops an the bbq and a big plate of Jack’s spinach.

Thursday 11/03/04
Yesterday morning we tidied after breakfast and dressed in jeans & boots to take the bush walk to the cascades.  It was sign posted 10 minutes and most such signs we’ve come across are applicable to the very fit.  This was very much the exception, it was a 3 minute dawdle to the trickles.  Very pleasant but left us feeling shortchanged so we gave the boots a bit more of a workout climbing into the steep hills around the rest area.  Six Mile is a peaceful place to read a book and stare at the stream, not so much an activity site unless you have some local knowledge and can find some bush walking trails.  I haven’t even found a trail and would need to fire up the gps to find my way back if I did,  Six Mile is a freebie and has full wheelchair access to the loo and the path down to the cascades lookout.

Had an easy arvo.  Margaret put the finishing touches to a cross stitch project she began five years ago and I put a set of nylon strings on a guitar which I had strung with steels last year and they just didn’t suit.  Now I must try to remember a few of the party chords I used to bash out in my younger days.

We had neighbours yesterday who politely set up some 200 meters away.  Steve and Linda.,  Dinks from Gerroa who have been on the road for 16 months with a cruiser and camper trailer.  After dinner we shared their campfire and talked over a few wines until midnight.  They have crossed Oz four times in their 16 months tho have then taken it slow on either side.  Their opinion, everywhere was interesting but nowhere as pretty, as ,south east NSW.

Today we shall pull up stumps and head towards Pambula via Mount Darragh, named after Margaret’s great grandfathers brother who surveyed much of the area.

Friday 12/03/04
A brief sunrise over the horizon at Pambula River disappeared behind cool grey clouds.  It looks like rain but this part of NSW has seen very little for a long time.  The forests look good with bright green tree ferns and lush undergrowth but the rivers and creeks are just a trickle if not dry.  The farmland is mostly yellow and dry.  We passed a flock of freshly shorn sheep and a mob of cattle turned out on the long paddock but there really wasn’t much for them there either.

Yesterday we drove west on TR10, out of Six Mile Creek climbing the dirt mountain road up onto the plateau farmland.  One of those roads where you are in awe of those who managed to cut it out of the steep mountainside.  Turned left on Mount Darragh Road towards Pambula along which we came to ‘Mount Darragh’ where I took Margaret’s photo beside the signpost and later at the road sign.  A long slow decent through some nice country with plenty of 45Km bends took down to the Pambula River picnic area.

We were washing today which is done by recycling a bucket of shower water (we don’t use grey tanks) with clothes & detergent into the esky which sits in the shower on a non slip mat for a drive.  We were looking for a river stop to get rinse water.  Getting clothes dry in cool weather will mean stringing a line inside to finish them while we drive today.

A mishap on arrival at the rest area has made me sad, if not embarrassed.

Manoeuvring R2 onto level ground I misjudged two things.  Looking in the left mirror I didn’t notice the high part of a tree leaned in closer than the base and on full lock the rear overhang swings out a long way.  Crunch!  The damage is a bit nasty.  The awning support was caught and ripped down the side of the truck mangling the awning, breaking a window, a clearance light and punching half a dozen holes in the fiberglass siding.  Big time bugger!

This will be my first ‘at fault’ insurance claim.  Feeling bad but that’s what we pay the premiums for year after year and hope not to use.  I’ve had to make some common sense decisions on what to do in a remote place with no service on Margaret’s gsm phone and my cdma out of action.  I took photographs of all the damage.  Removed the mangled metal supports, wired the bent and squashed awning roller to the roof rack and duck taped the holes in the window and siding.  I’ll write an email up, ready to send to Ken Tame when we get into town.  I can probably get the fibreglass patched and maybe get the awning replaced in Melbourne but a full fix will be unlikely till after the trip.

Ah well.  Get the washing in, breakfast & shower then head for the coast.  I need to catch a fish to raise my spirits.

Saturday 13/03/04
We left the Pambula River rest area yesterday morning and cruised 11Km down to Pambula Lake.  Seems we came out on the south side of Pambula and missed the town.  Went down to the boat ramp, the lake is huge, and found a tap and a garbage bin.  Both very welcome as we had one empty tank and had not seen a bin for the 3 days we had been in the forests.  As well as being overcast it is very smokey.  Margaret has heard on the radio that a fair bit of controlled burning has been happening.

26Km down to Eden which for no good reason I had expected to be bigger.  The main street crests about half a Km of hill, has a couple of big pubs, an IGA and an assortment of small cafes and guest houses which look like they’ve come to the end of the tourist season.

Lunch on the north side of Eden on Aslings Beach.  Very pretty spot with an amazing use of real estate, a huge cemetery virtually on the high tide line.  I was tempted to have a try for beach worms but the wind was very strong and straight off the sea so I would have had a heck of a job getting a line out anyway.  Should have some and put ‘em in the fridge, well tried anyway, as we ended up in a great looking fishing spot.  At the cemetery end of the beach we found a loo block with a tap so rinsed out the days esky of washing, towels today, jeans & jumpers tomorrow.  Drying can be a bit difficult but these did well on some low trees overnight.

Took a walk along the main street, looked at the outside of the whale museum which had closed at 3.45pm and looked rather small for $6 a head.  Drove down across the cove and harbour then climbed up onto the point keeping an eye out for a campsite tho Margaret expected us to drive south to Ben Boyd NP.  A look at the Lions park saw a lot of cars but just around the corner we struck gold.  The lighthouse and RVCP (volunteer coast guard) are on a spectacular lookout point called ‘Eagles Claw Reserve’.  There were some well defined wheel tracks through the pines at the end of the road so in we went and secluded ourselves in a corner with a few bushes separating us from the cliff top and the waves crashing below.  Took a walk over the coastguard building, a two storey brick observatory covered in antennas, wondering if I’d be able to go in and say gooday and was surprised to find a big ‘visitors welcome’ on the door.  Had a long yak with Margaret the volunteer as she checked fisherman in and out and broadcast the weather forecast. 

We got TV reception here, everything but ABC as usual, but ended up talking till bedtime and never used it.

Woke to a glorious sunrise on the cliff, took some photos and picked up others litter around our parking spot.  Our little contribution and thanks for having us but importantly we don’t want to be accused of it.  Want to be able to tell folks that we leave places cleaner than we found them but touch wood, haven’t needed to point that out yet.

Heading about 40Km south today to Wonboyn on Disaster Bay at the north end of Nudgee Fauna Park.  Shall check out the harbour and wharf shops on the way out.

 

Sunday 14/03/04
Left Eden and took the sign south to Orbost which is about a weeks drive at the rate we are going.  About 25Km south turned in to Wonboyn, a little village 10Km from the Hiway and 15Km from the Ocean & Lakes.  Just as we came in sight of the town the old fuel tank problem resurfaced.  Even tho I took the tank off in Nowra, bash and pressure washed the rust out and refitted with new filters it is still not right.  The rust particles block the pick up pipe causing the fuel line to go under vacuum and take in air.  Damned annoying but not yet the end of the world.  Half an hour with the spanners gave me the opportunity to fit the new primer pump, which was in the glovebox, drain the water trap of sediment particles, bleed and fire up.  This problem will be worst when tank is below a third full so we need fuel but it is 107.9c in this town.

We decided to battle on and took the sign to the beach, which quickly became a dirt track, then a sandy overgrown track.  A local had said he doubted we would make it down to the beach in R2 so the challenge was set.  As soon as we passed the ‘no caravans past this point’ sign we found that it had been a very long time since anything as big as R2, especially as high (3.8M) had been down this way.  I engaged 4WD to be on the safe side in the sandy ruts.  The philosophy for driving a big 4WD rig is to use it to get out if you need it, not to get in, and we would probably have made it OK.  But one spin of a back wheel in sand with 11 tonnes on top can instantly put you in a hole so on went the front diff.  The next 10 Kms went from adventure to anxiety as we passed the caravan park sign and took the track on down to Greenglades on the beach.  I was now frequently climbing down from the cab to break away half dead branches and small trees blocking both the sides of the track and our roofline.  In low range first gear crawl I had Margaret running around the truck with the walkie talkie CB radio screaming centimetres, touching, no go back, watch the branch on your left.  ‘If I could see the bloody branch I wouldn’t have you there would I!’.  After an hour of this and pulling into scrub to let the more than occasional car get past we came to a spot where we were a chance of a thirteen point turn and Margaret spat the dummy.  That’s it.  I’ll be the first to admit that by now I was on adrenalin overload and definitely in need of a beer and a smoke but when we pull to the edge and stopped the engine I could hear the surf crashing not far away.  We walked 150 meters holding trembling hands down the last part of the track which opened onto a lovely picnic area and parking spots.  Welcome to Greenglade on Disaster Bay.  The northern end of Nadgee Nature Reserve.   Walking back to R2 I removed a few more trees and down we came.  Beer and a smoke please.

Once again a little discretion, good manners and crossed fingers has found us another wonderful campsite.  In fact the best so far.  A local fisherman told me, the  ranger would rarely come this far and not on the weekend as they won’t pay the overtime.

The fishing here is great, for others.  I collected pippies getting nipped by hand sized cranky crabs, which ended up out numbering the pippies below the sand.  Got cungi and was given some salted pilchards.  Six tries, one not quite beached small tailor, one big bite and a crab could not compare with the guys equipped with big long, beach rods and baiting with fresh frozen pilchards.  They were reeling in good,sized salmon and tailor for two days.

Monday 15/03/04
Nadgee Nature Reserve (since 1967) is signed as of great importance for not just endangered species but for monitoring and tracking a very near pure breed population of dingoes plus feral foxes.  Of a morning the beach and sea grass flats are covered with doggie prints.  Haven’t heard or seen anything other than cranky possums when we shone a torch into trees.

Last night we had the pleasant company of Colin, 55 year old cattle farmer from Mystery Bay who also has the LPG gas fill sign posted just before the campsite.  A happy, generous and good natured old country boy.  Three other overnight vehicles two of which belong to two families who arrived before us.  They hiked over to the next bay and the men canoed around with the heavier camping gear. The ‘three stooges’ as I have named them are back for their last morning before returning to Melbourne.  Big rods and pilchards, the whistle is sounding off again.  One of their group wears a whistle in his mouth like a pipe and gives a blast every time a fish is hooked up by one of the group.

Time to tidy up, attend to secret men’s business and tackle the outbound trail.  Today’s target is Malacoota.  Maybe we will, if not there’s always tomorrow.


 

 



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