After a busy, busy few days taking in the sights in the Blue Mountains, Mudgee and Gulgong we decided to go back home via Dubbo and Bathurst to catch up with some of the family: Rob’s Aunty Rita and cousin Pam. While in Dubbo we stayed at the Big 4 (Dubbo Parklands) which was of the usual consistent Big 4 standard. We asked for a drive-through and got one, and a bonus was the car-wash facility right opposite. (The next morning I walked into town to get a newspaper – about a half-hour walk across the Macquarie River bridge – and there spotted the Poplars Tourist Park within spitting distance of Target and a Bob Jane T-Mart: this smaller park could be handy for those who have a bit of shopping or car maintenance to catch up on.)
At Dubbo Parklands, we were not far from John and Rhonda in another Crusader van. We took a photo of them standing near the back of their van: their motto was almost a match for ours! I quote: “Just cruisin’ around living the dream”! They try to get away for about 4-6 months every year.
Aunty Rita was such fun to visit. She’s in her early eighties, independent and feisty, and has energy to burn. She answered the door in her jeans and a striped T-shirt, apologising for not dressing up for the visit because she’d been cutting back vines in the backyard. She also keeps the battery of her car charged if she’s not going to be using it for a while, has an air compressor for the car tyres, loves her Honda mower because it ‘starts first time every time’, and keeps on hand a small chainsaw help tame the garden. Oh, and she has also finished two gorgeous throw rugs and makes her own jam! What a powerhouse. Louisa Lawson (Henry’s mother) would have greatly approved.
We had planned to fit in a visit to Western Plains Zoo if we could, but as it turned out we just didn’t have time. Well, that’s a good excuse to come back another time!
At Dubbo I also picked up a charm to add to my Pandora bracelet as a memento of our shakedown trip. I plan to do this for every leg of the trip. This time, I chose a basket of fruit – to represent our visit to the Mudgee Farmers Market.
We pulled up stakes the next morning (waving goodbye to John and Rhonda) and headed for Bathurst. The only park in town is the Big 4 Bathurst Panorama next to the “Big Gold Panner” statue. We put the van on one of the bigger sites for motorhomes at the back of the park, then after picking up a few supplies at the camping store adjacent we drove into town to visit relatives. (I guess most travellers who stay at the Bathurst park have transport, so the drive into town is not a problem… although it could be a nuisance to be so far on the outskirts of town if you didn’t want to unhitch.)
Bathurst has an extensive shopping centre and some nice restaurants, and Machattie Park in the centre of town is always nice to walk through. If you’re a fan of motor racing, you’d probably enjoy a circuit of Mount Panorama – start in Pitt Straight, go up to the top of the mountain, down through the S’s and then down Conrod Straight. (Just don’t forget that speed limits apply!)
On the day we came in, we ate out with my cousin Lorraine and her husband Noel, then the next day we caught up with Rob’s cousin John, his wife Faye, and Rob’s Uncle Bill. Rob’s parents are buried in Bathurst, too.
So far our Internet connection and our setup with the laptop at the computer workstation is working beautifully. Fingers crossed it continues!
We had originally planned to stay in Bathurst two nights and then have a long day’s drive home to Shellharbour, but changed our minds and left Bathurst just after lunch and drove to Cowra, to shorten the next leg of the trip.
Cowra had several parks to choose from, but we opted to stay in the Cowra Van Park because it is right in town – a handy walk to the Club for dinner. We really liked this park, and I think a lot of other people do too, judging by the number of people staying there. And, if we ever needed proof that it’s a very small world, we were parked just across from Keith and Kath Smith, who had noticed our van at the bottom of Lapstone Hill, just as we were starting our pull up the Blue Mountains! The last thing they expected was to run into us in Cowra.
Keith and Kath were, like so many of the people we meet, a lovely friendly couple that we’d love to meet up with again one day. (I’m sure we’re going to catch up with people in more than one place in Australia as we travel!) They are one caravanning couple who have survived a potential disaster – the caravan before this one caught fire! It was a write-off, but they were blown away by the kindness of the park owners where they were staying, who put them up in a cabin for a week. Needless to say it didn’t put them off the lifestyle: they love it so much that they have made it a permanent way of life.
We were also interested to meet up with Dick and June Mahoney, who were acting as the relief managers at Cowra Van Park for three weeks. After various stints of managing parks himself, Dick decided he didn’t want to do it full time (well, of course not, he wanted to travel!) so he and June just step in when other hard-working caravan park managers need a bit of a break. He says “These short jobs enable us to visit our three children in South Australia and Queensland.”
(This is just one example of how people can earn a few dollars to fund their travels – we’re saving up stories to tell you about in a future article in Caravan and Motorhome on Tour!)