Winton and the Dinosaur Trail

Mel&SusieWe were planning to free-camp at Long Waterhole just outside of Winton, but so many people said “You have GOT to see Susie and Mel at the Matilda Caravan Park!” that we decided to stay there instead. (As it was, there were people visiting the show who were camping out at Long Waterhole anyway!)

There were several dinosaur places in the area, and I needed to catch up on some work, so we decided that Rob should go out to The Age of Dinosaurs to check it out, then we’d both go to the Dinosaur Stampede the next day.

We didn’t get to see Susie and Mel the first night, because we caught up with Bruce and Marg Gow from What’s Up Downunder instead for a drink and a chat. As it happened, Susie was carrying the show by herself because Mel was over in Edinburgh finding 3 different venues for their performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  Continue reading

Portable ScanSnap Scanner – Take Your Office With You

ScanSnap_smlAs we were about to leave to go on our last trip, the mailman arrived with the latest bill from our phone company. I saw that they were still billing us for a previous phone/Internet plan, even though we’d signed up for a new one… so I took it with us to deal with once we got set up. 

It was several days before I got to it, and then, in the usual dreary process when I was being passed around from one person to another on a phone chain, I found that I needed to access information on previous bills. I’d been caught like this before on the road, needing information that was back home. The problem is that we don’t want to take the contents of our filing cabinet with us!

I resolved to fix this once I returned home, by scanning ALL essential information and recent bills and keeping it on my computer. Continue reading

Booster Aerial for Internet Coverage

After being a bar or two short of the coverage we needed (in fringe areas) in our recent trips, we decided to buy a booster aerial. (I still remember having to go outside the van at night at Darlington Beach Caravan Park and rest the laptop on the bonnet of the car to upload a YouTube video – slow as a wet week inside the van; uploaded in minutes outside. Grrr.)  Continue reading

Portable Grey Water Tank

Since more and more campgrounds are adopting a policy of ‘self contained vehicles only’ (meaning you have to take your grey water (showers and washing up) with you to a dump point rather than letting it drain into the ground or under a tree) we decided to buy a portable grey water tank.

We found this wheeled 40-litre tank on eBay for $79 plus freight.

http://bit.ly/18FdKTM 

GreyWaterTankGreyWaterBack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Posts Update: Yes, I’m behind! I’m busily catching up on all of our posts from our recent “Opals and Dinosaurs” trip from the coast to Lightning Ridge, along the dinosaur trail and back to the coast. I have to catch up soon because we’re off to the ACC Mudgee Muster, and there are going to be more posts from that!

 

Evening Star Park at Charleville

After researching parks on WikiCamps and online (and having a few people recommend it) we headed for the (pet-friendly, if you keep track) Evening Star Park at Charleville. We actually didn’t go into Charleville much at all (just to replenish the groceries and buy postcards to mail off to family) – because we were too busy enjoying the surroundings out at the Evening Star. Continue reading

Cunnamulla and Wyandra

The road between St George and Cunnamulla was a shocker: it was like a switchback ride. Not only were we tossed from side to side, every so often the road sent the van plunging down then up again. The curious thing was that you couldn’t see anything on the road surface to indicate that this was going to happen. One minute you’re bowling along happily (well, bumpily); the next you’re plunging up and down. Continue reading

St George and Bollon

Cruising on north-east, we left Lightning Ridge at around 8.30 and bumped and swayed our way along the road to St. George.

We decided on St. George for three reasons: (a) it was time to have a stop; (b) people had told us that the Pelican’s Rest was a nice park and (c) Rob’s brother lived and worked there some years ago, and he just wanted to have a look around.

Pelicans Rest Park St George

Continue reading

The Opal Caravan Park Lightning Ridge

We heard about this park well before we got here (reviews on Badger’s site, word of mouth and WikiCamps): all mentioned the fantastic amenities. We totally agree. They should be used as a blueprint for all parks! Not only are there glass doors on the showers, there’s more room than I’ve ever seen before in a caravan park for your clothes outside the shower door. Two shelves, hooks in sensible positions, and plenty of space to put your shampoo bottles, soap, shower gel or whatever. Not to mention the hair dryers and hand dryers that actually work efficiently! The sites are spacious with plenty of room for your van, awning and vehicle. Continue reading

Lightning Ridge

We left Bernie’s and headed for the free camp just outside of Lightning Ridge – well, about 10 kms out, to be precise. This was a nice big rest area with a well-maintained Blue-Water style toilet. There were about fifteen rigs of all shapes and sizes there overnight. We called it The Big Emu for obvious reasons. (Rob had a close-up look and tells me that the towering emu sculpture is made of Volkswagen parts.)

Stanley_story

 

Stanley_story

At last, Rob got a chance to try out his new folding firebox.  Clem, who made it, used the heaviest guage stainless steel mesh he had, but still wasn’t completely sure that it wouldn’t buckle once the fire got going. Well, so far so good – it worked like a charm!

rob_firebox

The next day we scooted off to the Opal Caravan Park at Lightning Ridge to stay for a few days. We planned to catch up on a bit of washing, enjoy some down-time, catch up on the blog and other tasks, and of course, check out Lightning Ridge.

Bernie had told us that we couldn’t miss seeing the Chambers of the Black Hand Mine, so on our second day at The Ridge we paid $30 each to go on the self-guided tour. (The price included a DVD about the mine. For an extra $5 each we could have opted to deeper and tour an opal mine, but after exploring Bernie’s, we decided to give it a miss.) One of the staff showed us around and gave us a potted history. Essentially, a miner named xxx used to do a bit of digging then, when he got sick of that, he’d amuse himself by doing carvings in the soft rock. As you do.)

We wouldn’t have missed this. Some might think that $30 a head for a self-guided tour is a bit much, but this truly is unique. The carvings encompass everything from Ancient Greek and Egyptian scenes to modern-day, brightly-painted superheroes. (Hey, you can even spot Dora lurking in a corner!) And you’ll love the whimsical humour in the depictions of our polititicans. Oh, and by the way… there’s a good reason you have to wear a hard hat to descend the steep, narrow staircase: Rob bonked his head twice on the roof going down.

Here are a few pics:

ChambersBlackHandEntry

Cahmbers2

Chambers3

Chambers4

Chambers5

We followed up the trip to the Chambers of the Black Hand with a quick visit to the markets. You can’t half tell that opal mining (or noodling) is the main business around here. Take a tip: if you want to set up a stall at the Lightning Ridge markets, pick something other than opals. You’ll stand out. 🙂 The opal stalls varied when it came to content and quality, but if you wanted an inexpensive memento of a trip to the opal fields, you’ll find it here. Not only can you choose from opals of various colours and values, you can also buy rocks with a seam of potch; glass vials containing glowing small stones or chips of opal; uncut opals; toy trucks filled with opal chips… well, you get the picture. Stick an opal on anything and put it on a stall.

We didn’t actually buy anything opal-y; we bought some carrot cake for afternoon tea, which proved to be absolutely mouth-watering.

opals_markets

Bernie had also told us that the local pizza joint made the best-tasting pizzas ever, so (knowing there was a campfire performance that night) we opted for a late lunch/very early dinner. Wow. Bernie wasn’t kidding. This gourmet pizza was some of the nicest we’d ever had. (Half chicken and half seafood, in case you’re wondering.) We added a plate of rocket and pear salad, and… what a meal. If you’re in Lightning Ridge – and the shop is still there – try Bruno’s Wood-Fired Pizza.

pizza

Everywhere you drive in Lightning Ridge, you see car doors. Some of them have signs that say things like “Red car door tour” with an arrow (there are various coloured Car Door Tours) but locals use car doors – suitably painted – to point the way to houses or driveways or… well, pretty much anything else you can imagine.

Got a car door to spare? It'll find a home in Lightning Ridge...

Got a car door to spare? It’ll find a home in Lightning Ridge…

We’d heard from other travellers that you either love Lightning Ridge or you hate it. Some people stay one night and then move on; others stay for a week or more. Well, actually, we kinda fit smack in the middle. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it. Paired with the experience at Bernie’s camp at Glengarry, we wouldn’t have missed the experience.

On Sunday night, we were entertained by locals Willy and Joey; a 2-hour performance around the park campfire. What a hoot. Joey sang (and had a lovely voice); Willy played guitar and sang numbers. Their songs were accompanied by a running patter of comic asides. There were lots of guests sitting around on camp chairs or on the grass, and nobody seemed inclined to go home early. In fact, at the end Joey was chuffed to say that this was the first standing ovation they’d ever had!

WillyJoeyHansJudy

I’ll do a separate post on the Opal Van Park – the amenities here are amongst the best we’ve seen. (That’s one or the reasons we stayed here: of course, caravanners talk – and pass on info about the best parks!)