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Published: December 26th 2010
Tuesday morning dawned dry with even some blue sky around – it was still chilly though. The previous evening Graham had chatted to the owner of another TERRANO – yes – there is another one and it was probably the one we thought we had seen in Maleny a few weeks earlier as the owner could recall being in Maleny on a soggy Sunday afternoon! This morning I popped along and took a photo. Then we had another pancake breakfast which was equally delicious as yesterday’s (this is not a good habit to get in to!). So by the time we had chatted to various people it was 9.35 when we left. We had really enjoyed our stay in Benalla (apart from the cold and showery weather!).
We were soon able to get on to the Hume Highway, a dual carriageway that went all the way to Melbourne. As it was a very good road we made excellent time and in a couple of hours we were on the outskirts of the city. We could see the skyscrapers of the city centre on the horizon but we could also see dark, threatening clouds. We then took the M80 Eastern Freeway
– another excellent road heading towards Heidelberg. With only about 10 kms to go and coasting along at about 90kms per hour a chap in a car overtaking us pointed frantically to the side of the caravan. Almost immediately Graham could sense that all was not right with the off side caravan tyre. Somehow he managed to get the car and caravan off the carriageway in one piece (or is that two pieces?) and across the hard shoulder into an emergency parking bay which luckily happened to be just where we came to a halt. Because of Graham’s health issues and also the fact that the caravan was jutting slightly into the hard shoulder, we didn’t fancy trying to change a caravan wheel. So we called the RACV and asked them to help and it was just as well we did. Just at the moment we came to a stop the rain came down in torrents and we got soaked before I could rescue our anoraks and umbrellas from the caravan. In the UK people who break down on motorways are urged not to stay in their cars but keep well away. We presumed it was the same in Aus.
The RACV said someone would be with us within an hour so we prepared for a long, wet wait but it was less than 30 minutes when a large yellow tow truck pulled up behind us. What a relief that was!
The tyre was an absolute mess and looking back along the road we could see bits of it strewn across the freeway. There were two choices – either the truck would load and take the caravan to a safer location or an attempt could be made to replace the off side wheel with the spare. Because the caravan was in a pretty safe location the mechanic thought it would be easier to change the wheel rather than to unhitch the van, reposition his truck in front of the van, load it onto the truck, drive off somewhere else and then reverse the procedures once he’d found a “safe place” and then still have to change the wheel. Alas, the decision to change the wheel was the start of a catalogue of embarrassments. Graham swiftly removed the cover from the “spare” only to realise that it was secured with a padlock. Do you think we could find the key
to the padlock? Of course not. The mechanic had to break it off. The wheel was held to the back of the caravan with a metal plate on a large bolt and a very large nut. Do you think we could find a tool to fit the nut? Of course not. Disappointingly, neither could the mechanic. He was reduced to chiselling away at the nut which took an age before it even began to move. After what seemed like an eternity he removed the spare. But was there enough air pressure in the spare? Of course not. After this series of embarrassing developments we were surprised to be on our way again quite so soon and “limped” carefully along until we reached the Caravan Park a good two hours later than planned.
The caravan park is in a pleasant suburb of Melbourne and not too far from either Daphne or Grant. The CP people had warned us that the site they had allocated to us wasn’t one of their better ones – it wasn’t normally used but because of the amount of bookings they’d had for the Christmas period it was brought into use. Even then we were told
we would have to put the van in the storage area for at least two nights because they were absolutely fully booked. That suited us as we were planning to stay with Daphne but it was still a shock to see the slope we had to negotiate to get the van on the site. The back end hit the ground which, fortunately, was soft so, with a bit of brute force, Graham got the van in position. The next problem was that, although where the van sat was level, the drive sloped away quite quickly so there was not enough of a gap to secure the jockey wheel – the tow bar was too close to the ground!! But with the help of another friendly neighbour and TWO car jacks the van and car together were raised high enough to get the jockey wheel on and then had to be raised even higher whilst lowering the car on its jack to detach the caravan from the car – what a palaver!! And to think we would have to move it again in just a few days!!! Later in the day we went to Daphne’s and had a splendid evening meal
with her and David who had arrived from Warwick a few days earlier. Back at the caravan we slept soundly after what had been quite a traumatic day.
The following day, Wednesday, reality began to set in. We would have to get a new tyre for the caravan, preferably two, before we were able to travel far and we would have to arrange to put the van in storage over Christmas and then return it to a site a few days later while we stayed at Daphne’s. But today we received mixed news from the site managers. There had been a cancellation so we didn’t have to put the van in storage – HURRAH. But we would have to move it from its current site as that had been allocated to someone else – BOO! We were offered a choice of two sites – which would we prefer? Why can’t you put the newcomers on one of those two sites and leave us where we are we asked! I’m not sure we got an explanation except that it would mess up their computer system so we selected what we thought was the better site. But we could only have
it if we moved straight away because, if two or more units came in “by chance” that evening the site would be lost. So we got busy putting everything safely away again and Graham towed Sweetie round to the new site. Whilst the space where the caravan would sit was flat and roomy, yet again there was another nasty slope to reverse up. Graham did his best but the back end dug into the gravel and I was a bit slow to get him to stop. There was a wider access to this slope and our new neighbours (even the lady) seemed to have a good understanding of the best direction to attack the slope from. Actually, their help was invaluable and so Sweetie was soon stood in her new site where she’ll stay for a couple of weeks. We felt pretty exhausted after all this effort – thankful that once again some great Aussie fellow campers had come to our rescue. We went round to Daphne’s later for supper with David while Daphne went out to meet up with some friends.
We had Thursday to ourselves as Daphne and David were busy shopping. We went to a local
shopping centre called The Pines – it seemed much bigger than when we were here eight years ago and had just about every shop we might want except Big W! We went into a travel agent and made serious enquiries about a trip to Vanuatu but then had second thoughts as January seems to be right in the middle of the cyclone season! We think now we will probably go to New Zealand for a week but will decide after Christmas. The weather seems to have settled down a bit and is warmer during the day but still chilly at night.
On Friday morning the sky was blue and it was reasonably warm! I had spent quite a lot of the night wondering what was making noises outside the caravan. Our neighbours were to one side, a fast flowing creek was at the back and trees and scrub were on the other side. I concluded it must be possums or ducks (which are plentiful around the park) or what else? I thought there would be a mess outside but everything seemed OK. I had offered to make a dessert for our Christmas Eve meal at Daphne’s so we popped
to the local shops for ingredients which were diabetic friendly so I spent quite a long time searching for the healthy options. It didn’t take long to make so, once done and in the fridge, I packed ready for our two night stay at Daphne’s – bedding, clothes etc. We got to Daphne’s at about 6.30 and enjoyed a pleasant evening with her and David. We had a lovely meal and everyone seemed to like my dessert! We phoned Sarah in snowy Prague and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ (40 today!!) and later in the evening we all had the opportunity to talk to her and Darryl via the ‘Skype’ system – a great way to end the day.
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