Around Australia Week 1 – Shakedown Trip to Katoomba

Marg and Rob, toasting the trip and new friends!

Marg and Rob, toasting the trip and new friends!

Off to Katoomba

Heigh ho, heigh ho! It’s on the road we go! Da dum, da dum…

Okay, corny, I know… but it’s just so exciting to finally get on the road when you’ve been looking forward to a trip for so long! Now ‘fess up: all we caravanners are the same. There’s nothing like that feeling of setting off.

The fourbie pulled the van stoically up the hills (and both Mount Ousley and Lapstone hill are reasonable challenges with a big van) and then we pulled into Katoomba Falls caravan park. Now, I know I’ve completed the Tow-Ed course, but I’ve decided to ease in gradually to this business of backing the van onto a site, so I just did the signalling while Rob backed in. (My hero is Cathy, aka Jayco Gypsy on the Caravan and Motorhome on Tour forum. This gal nails it every time when it comes to backing into sites. I want to be just like Cathy…)

We had barely started sussing out the site when Dianne P. raced up to say a quick ‘hi’ – it turned out she had another Crusader van similar to ours parked just three sites down, so needless to say we caught up over a wine a bit later on.

Then it was off to the Three Sisters. I actually grew up around the area so I’d known about the Three Sisters for what seemed like forever, but I’d never actually got around to visiting them. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting them to be so imposing. I really enjoyed our afternoon there (yes, even descending the Grand Staircase and then huffing and puffing our way back up again!)

Katoomba Day 2

Rob and a bunch of blokes from nearby vans stood around discussing tech stuff (look, I know that weight distribution and hitches and so on are Very Important Things, but discussion of all this tends to have my eyes glazing over in a nanosecond). However, I know Rob picked up some interesting stuff (well, he was making notes) while I was more interested in the way the clothesline was attached to the drawbar of the van next door… windproof, they tell me!

Then it was off to Scenic World. What a great day. Loved the glass floor in the skyway car so you could actually look straight down the side of a cliff as you were going across it. It’s a perspective you just don’t get from standing on a lookout staring out. The funicular railway was a bit confronting (sitting in the front seat looking straight down as the car plunged down the side of the hill… I never was one for roller coasters, and that’s what this reminded me of!) The history of Scenic World was fascinating: I couldn’t believe that one family had built this place up from an old coal mine to a tourist attraction that has had 27 million people visit (since they started keeping records in the seventies, apparently). Imagine having that kind of vision. And they just keep thinking of more things to add to it. Rob loved hearing Phillip talk about the mines and the growth of Scenic World – he said to me later: “I could have walked around talking to him all day!”

Boy, those old miners were hardy characters. I couldn’t believe they had to trek from top to bottom and back again every day to work the mines: they weren’t allowed to ride in the skips.

After Scenic World it was back to the park, and on to the cooking segment of the DVD. Now, Rob and I usually have fairly basic food on the road (good stuff, but nothing fancy. There’s no Master Chef cuisine going on at the McAlister caravan.) However, at family functions everyone asks my daughter-in-law Kim to make ‘that yummy potato salad’, and I’ve made it quite a few times too. It’s one of those recipes that have been handed down: Kim got it from her mum, and I’m not sure where it came from before that!

So… the family favourite potato salad got a vote for the first cooking segment, along with a very simple but very nice baked pumpkin salad. These are easy, quick, and good to have warm or cold, so if you haven’t got the recipe from the website yet, fire up Google and visit to get your copy! (Mike Ede, who was standing and watching the cook-in with his wife Cynthia, was roped into trying the finished potato salad, and pronounced it ‘Good… VERY good!’)

Katoomba to Mudgee via Mt Tomah

We pulled up stakes at Katoomba and after a quick farewell to our new friends (and exchanging email addresses) we set off for Mt Tomah. Friends of mine had been to the botanic garden there and pronounced it a lovely spot, so it had to be on the itinerary. And indeed it was: Lorraine, a ranger there, told us all about its attractions (it’s a ‘cold climate’ plants garden) and pointed us in the direction of a nice walk. What a great spot to have lunch. (I believe it’s really popular for weddings, too, and I can see why.) No problems getting a caravan into the area for coaches – it’s nice to be able to call in on the way to somewhere else.

Mudgee and Gulgong

On to Mudgee: and what a great crew we met up with at Mudgee Valley Tourist Park! We pulled into the park quite late, and it was soooo nice to be welcomed enthusiastically by these friendly folk, right next door to us. We were able to get a drive-through site, so setting up was nice and quick: plug into the power, attach the hoses, wind down the stabiliser legs and we were ready to kick back and relax.

Janet’s stories about the Beanie Festival at Alice made me want to go there, and I loved seeing Marg’s setup for her sewing machine, ready for quilting. I’m sure a lot more craft gets done on the road than most of us realise.  I’d meant to bring along Isaac’s (grandson’s) cot blanket to finish sewing together – it’s made from knitted medallions – but forgot it in the rush to get on the road. And of course, while we gals were talking about craft, life on the road and great places to visit, Rob and the blokes were having a good old natter about tow vehicles, torque, kilometres per litre and such things. (Amazing how we all never get tired of discussing such things, isn’t it?)

The next day started out by meandering around the Farmers Market, right in the centre of Mudgee, and bought some yummy fresh produce to stock up the van. That was followed by a visit to the Robert Oatley vineyard and a wine tasting. Rob was the designated driver so he could only have a sip or two, but we took back some great wines for future happy hours. There are so many vineyards around Mudgee that it’s hard to choose one, but of course you don’t have to stop at one! We saw people on bikes doing a tour of various vineyards; now there’s an idea if you’re feeling fit and want to do something a bit different!

We drove on to Gulgong, and headed for the Henry Lawson Museum. Rob, particularly, likes to visit museums in various spots: they’re all so different and filled with fascinating glimpses into different times and different lives… country museums, maritime museums, war museums… and of course all the smaller museums focusing on one particular thing (such as shells).

We mooched about the Henry Lawson museum looking at the different periods of his life and the people who were important to him, as well as samples of his writing. I have to admit that I was as much fascinated by his mother, Louisa, as by the man himself. She sounded like a very strong and determined lady; a suffragette who would take no prisoners! The people there have done a great job of organising the exhibits, and are in the midst of renovations that will enable them to extend the display.

After a night relaxing at the Henry Lawson Caravan Park (where else?) we went for a wander along the main street the next morning, and stopped a while to sample the coffee at the Butcher Shop café before heading off. (The coffee gets a “thumbs up”, by the way.) Judging from the number of people eating there, the place is pretty popular.

And that’s it. A whirlwind few days, but lots of fun. Next, it’s on to catch up with some of the family at Dubbo.

Marg, Marg, Jan and Marg (at Mudgee)

Marg, Marg, Jan and Marg (at Mudgee)

Janet, Marg and Marg with some of their craft work and quilts.

Janet, Marg and Marg with some of their craft work and quilts.


Bernie, Janet, Marg and Rob enjoying a natter.

Bernie, Janet, Marg and Rob enjoying a natter.

Marg and Janet at Happy Hour

Marg and Janet at Happy Hour

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