Week one on our latest walkabout

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May 28th 2016
Published: May 28th 2016
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Christies Beach, Echuca Christies Beach, Echuca Christies Beach, Echuca

What an idyllic setting
It wasn’t intended (which will become a theme for this trip), but Marg got to have her birthday at home which was nice, but the journey waits for no (rude) man – or old woman for that matter, and we headed off on Friday 19th.

Since our last trip, Geoff has been fixated with getting the van and car (at least) a little closer to being legal. We have moved water tanks, adjusted what we carry and a heap of other things including asking the chassis manufacturer for advice. That meant that we had to make a stop on our way out of town, but it was fortunately in the direction that we were heading. All very complicated, but we did leave with something to lower the front of the van which should improve its handling. Marg was of course thrilled with the need to find somewhere to weld the new spacer to the drawbar, but Geoff reassured her that all was good.

We made good progress and got to Echuca by late afternoon. The decision was made to check into a caravan park and look for an engineering business to do the welding. Geoff carries a small welder
Christies Beach, Echuca Christies Beach, Echuca Christies Beach, Echuca

Making coals for the camp oven...yum
for emergencies, but this needed some professional expertise. We found one that could do the job on Monday, so we decided to go to a free camp on the banks of the Murray just out of town for the next 2 days. There were lots of sites in the area known as Christies Beach, but there had also been some recent rain and most required getting across a lot of mud. We found a great spot over-looking the river that did not require crossing lots of mud and set up camp. Apart from frequent passes by the ubiquitous trail bike riders it was quite ideal really, until Sunday night...

A little way from our caravan there was a structure that had the shape of a caravan, but clearly was never going to move from its spot on the bank. An assortment of junk surrounded the structure, and a dog on a chain. We had not seen anyone near the structure, apart from other campers - until Sunday night. Then a fellow arrived and he was about 3 axe-handles across the shoulders and didn’t get any smaller closer to the ground. Clearly intoxicated, a torrent of expletives erupted aimed mainly
Christies BeachChristies BeachChristies Beach

Left or right, the view was magnificent
at a house that was on private property on the other side of the track. The dog copped its far share as well. Of course there was no response from the house as the occupants had left shortly after our delightful ‘neighbour’ arrived, but that didn’t stop the spasmodic verbal attacks going on into the night. ‘Barking mad’ is an apt description. Geoff slept with one eye and ear open all night.

Monday morning saw us up bright and early (that is a relative term for us) and we made our exit with little fuss into Echuca where we left the van for the drawbar to be welded, and on to the shops. I haven’t mentioned the gas hot water that was not working yet, (in fact we needed to boil the kettle to have our morning ablutions on Saturday and Sunday) so we resolved to get that looked at as well while we were in Echuca. So after picking up the van, we toddled around to a local caravan manufacturer for him to have a look at it. We explained how all the other gas appliances were working but not the hot water. First thing he did was
Mildura, Chaffey house 'Rio Vista' Mildura, Chaffey house 'Rio Vista' Mildura, Chaffey house 'Rio Vista'

Chaffey Bros designed the irrigation system that put Mildura on the road to stardom.
to look at the gas line leading to the heater where it comes through the floor to go into the heater. There is a gas cock there and it was off... Two bloody days of cold bird baths out of a basin...

So having fixed all our problems we were off once more and found a great spot at a place called Gunbower Island (North West of Cohuna and North East of Kerang). It is on the Murray River, but we did not bother getting close and found a nice level spot beside a billabong. All was good although the morning was very cold. Geoff had spent the previous afternoon trying to get the new TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring system on the caravan) to work – to no avail, but in the process he had flattened the car battery. Flat; you could play billiards on it! Even the jump start battery couldn’t get it going! Fortunately there were some other campers nearby, and one was able to come over and give us a jump start. About those bloody tyre pressure thingamy bobs. Not only do they not work, but neither does the reversing camera on the caravan to which the tyre pressure thingies were connected.

Next destination was a place called Beggs Bend, again on the Murray River, this time just a little East of Robinvale. It was another great location and we were perched right above the water, and initially the only folk there. It wasn’t long after we got set up that another van turned up. They were newly retired dairy farmers from Gippsland and were on their first big trip. Kevin and Robin were a lovely couple who we warmed to immediately. Geoff had to go into Robinvale, only 10 minutes up the road, to post a parcel to one of our daughters, so off he set. He decided to get some cash from the ATM and went through making his transaction to the point of taking the card out of the machine. He then walked around the corner to the car and realised that he did not collect the money! Racing back the 20 mts. to the machine he found a young indigenous person standing there who said: “You just missed it, the machine took it back”, which he repeated again with a little more detail. There was another person standing behind him looking at Geoff as if he had 2 heads, and he did not say a word. Geoff accepted the young fellow’s statement, and the young fellow walked off. After making the transaction again, Geoff walked into the bank to check how many transactions had taken place (if the money is not collected, the machine will take back the money and cancel the transaction). Sadly the answer was”2”. There was another witness who saw it all, and he followed Geoff into the bank and was adamant that the young bloke was stuffing something into his pocket as I came around the corner and that Geoff should report it to the police.

So he did. It was a very time consuming exercise, and when the 3rd police officer invited Geoff into the interview room to make a statement with the advice that it would take about 40 minutes, Geoff thought it was time to call Margaret who was back at the van sipping her Sav Blanc with her new found best friends. That was of course a huge mistake as she immediately thought that the entire estate, our first born and anything else of value was now lost forever. There was some relief a couple of hours later when Geoff explained that it was $60 that had been donated to the indigenous folk of Robinvale.

We decided to stay, as did our neighbours, at our lovely spot at Beggs Bend for another day. Oh dear another mistake. The weather turned and the rains came. Surely it would clear quickly after all only showers were predicted for the region. I should explain about the soil that makes up the immediate vicinity of the river bank - lovely when it is dry, even almost like concrete in some places but those places turn into viscous, sticky, gooey traps when there is any moisture about. Geoff and the neighbours went for walk in the afternoon and we all came back 100 cm taller with the mud under or shoes!

Guess what? It rained even heavier all night. Morning came and Marg was pressing to go; Geoff was not so sure. Another van had come in and chosen not to camp near us, but they had decided to leave and we watched them get out without too much apparent problem. That was it, we had to make a try. We hitched up and Geoff selected 4 wheel, low range, centre diff lock and off we went. Top speed was about 15kph, although Margaret would say it was closer to 50kph, and the car and van decided where we went. Geoff did have fun trying to tame the beast, and eventually we did get out – good thing the trees knew when to retreat. Such fun – slip, sliding away.

So here we are at the end of our first week and we are in Mildura. Still together and in one piece, no damage done to anything other than a lot of mud on the car and van and enjoying the lifestyle. What more could you wish for. More soon.

Look out Byrnesy, we are heading your way.


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