After leaving the Belmont Pines Caravan Park, we were able to visit our next house-sit clients – Rob & Robyn at Dooralong. They have a lovely home and property, set amongst groves of orange trees. We were very welcomed and pampered – Robyn cooked a lovely roast dinner, and then served up breakfast the next morning. They are in the midst of harvest and sale of the oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit – all of which I can assert from experience taste just wonderful. We left the following day with a big bag of fruit. I must say it didn’t last too long – Rick made a fresh mixed juice – oranges, a grapefruit and a lime. Sweet and tarty at the same time.
Fellow Kedron owner Tony owns a large property near Cessnock at Congewai. We stayed with him a couple of years ago when travelling south and it was lovely to catch up with him again. Tony and Annie are a lovely couple, and are in the midst of combining two households worth of furniture and ‘stuff’ – not an easy job at any time. We had been planning on getting the brakes on the tug replaced in Cessnock while at Congewai, and asked Tony for a bit of local knowledge. Turns out that Tony himself is a mechanic (officially retired). He was more than happy to do the repairs, and then went on to do the service on the tug as well. Rick has been looking at replacing the standard mirrors on the cruiser with Clearview mirrors (especially designed for towing) for quite some time, and seeing as Tony actually acts as an agent for Clearview, we decided to go ahead with that project as well. So Rick and Tony were profitably occupied on the vehicle, Annie was working, and I kept sort of busy hopping around the place.
The Williams River Caravan Park at Clarence Town is a lovely spot. Clarence Town is a fairly quiet small town, and is also quite close to where my brother Brett and sister-in-law Christine live at Brandy Hill. We were invited for lunch on Sunday and had a beautiful roast pork dinner. It was a great family dinner. We haven’t seen Brett and Christine for quite some time, and their daughter Megan for even longer, so it was good to catch up and to see and explore the new house. They recently bought the property at Brandy Hill and have built a house there. It’s a fantastic location, looking down across the valley, and Christine has done a amazing job with the interior design and furnishings. She certainly has a talent for design.
I finally gave in and agreed to replace my existing Windows Smart Phone. The signal reception on it is pathetic. Here at Clarence Town, Rick had a full 5 bars with Telstra, while I had no service whatsoever. We will try and recover some costs from the original supplier, but in the meantime, it’s time to research a new phone (didn’t really want to do that!!!)
On Monday, it was back to Belmont Pines, so that I could attend my appointment on Tuesday with the Orthopaedic Clinic at John Hunter Hospital. To say that I was wound up was putting it a little mildly – there were a lot of prayers said while in the waiting room that the specialist would agree to have the cast removed. In the end, it was almost an anti-climax when it came off. Then the head honcho had a quick look at it, and said under his care, I would have been able to walk on it for the whole six weeks. I could have screamed, but as long as it was off, it didn’t matter a whole heap. I was given some simple exercises to loosen up the ankle which I’m still doing. The first couple of days there was a limp, but now, unless I jar it, it’s all good. Whilst on this topic, I have to congratulate the staff at both Manning Hospital in Taree and the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle. Without exception, they were unfailingly polite and helpful, and although there was some waiting involved in all areas, matters progressed smoothly and easily. Rick and I took along the e-books and kept occupied while waiting.
Since the Dooralong house-sit wasn’t due to start until mid August, we had plenty of time to wander the Hunter Valley, staying in various places. The initial plan was to stay at the Cessnock Showgrounds for a week or so and check out some of the wineries. Unfortunately, ‘twas not to be. We stayed one night, then rang Tony at Congewai asking for a favour. The showground is definitely not a place where I would stay more than a night. The bathroom facilities are ordinary in the extreme and cleaning is obviously not a high priority. Fortunately, Tony was more than happy for us to camp on his lawn again (parked in next to his own Kedron), so off we went.
Whilst here though, we drove to Maitland (nearest Telstra dealer) to check out new phones. I’ve made what is for me a huge decision – to abandon the Windows Phone and switch to Android. I’ve really been reluctant to do that, because I’ve been a Windows person (despite all the problems) for over 20 years. But, it was time. Decided on the HTC One XL – and would you believe it – it was completely unavailable in any shop in Maitland. Apparently only available ONLINE with Telstra. So, on the computer, order, pay and delivery to Congewai.
Thank God for Tony and Annie. The property is lovely and peaceful, full of bird-life, some kangaroos and a trouble-some emu. The only house-hold animal on the property (apart from toy poodle Mardie who is more family member) is Monty, a 24 year old horse. Monty is normally a quiet, placid creature, but he took great exception to the emu. Was not happy at all, and spent a lot of time running away from it. Tony got a phone call one day from a neighbour, alerting him to the fact that Monty had made a break for freedom. We think he may have jumped the fence (not an easy task for a 24 year old), and banged one of his fore-legs. He was brought home very chastened, but still running away from the emu. Not happy, Jan!!!!
This was the same day that my phone arrived from Telstra. Amazing – 2 days from order! It’ll take me a while to get up to speed with the operating system, but at least I’ve got a phone signal now. Next thing to do is to return the Windows phone to Allphones.
We also took the opportunity while here to hit a couple of the wineries. I mean, why waste being in the Hunter Valley. We concentrated on a couple of old favourites – McWilliams and Lindemans wineries. Didn’t go overboard, just a couple of bottles from each, but it was a lovely, sunny day, so good for a drive.
NSW School holidays finally finished, so after thanking Tony and Annie once more for their hospitality, we headed off towards McNamara Park at Broke. McNamara is a free camp with a 3 day limit. Facilities consist of toilets and bins, but there is a large area to camp in and it was pretty quiet. The township of Broke is pretty small, with a General Store which has been improved a lot since the last time we stayed there. Rick conducted an emu parade of the area and collected three-quarters of a large rubbish bag full of ‘leavings’. So many people just have no respect for the facilities on offer and leave all sorts of crap behind. It was a lot cleaner by the time that Rick finished his job.
In checking the maps, and Camps Australia Wide 7, we finally got the picture that there is very little in the way of free (or even cheap) camping in the Hunter Valley. It is very heavily influenced by coal mining with a lot of accommodation purely for miners. There are a few caravan parks which are quite expensive ($30 – 35 per night) for what they are. We discovered while driving around, that the majority of the tourist accommodation is from Cottage and Bed & Breakfast type places. Not our style at all. There are a couple of very nice looking lakeside campgrounds which have powered sites, but you have to fill the tanks before locating your site, and there is no on-site dump-point!! For this, they charge $31. I asked the manager how other people deal with the lack of dump-point and whether non-chemical toilets could be dumped into the sewerage system. The answer was no to the sewerage system, and “she wouldn’t know!” to the question of how others cope. Considering the local popularity of the spot for school holidays and weekends, I find that a bit of a worry.
So, long story short, we booked into Denham Caravan Park. We had thought about staying a week, but with the coal trains and local ‘yobbs’, it was actually quite noisy. We booked for 3 days, so we could cover the weekend, but then bolted. Pity, because it’s a nicely kept park.
By this time, we were growing a little tired of the lack of facilities in the Hunter, so after a bit of investigation, decided that coming back to the coast was the better option. And, incredibly, it was cheaper.
So, we are now at Norah Head, which is only 40km away from Dooralong where we have our next house-sit. Norah Head is east of Wyong and Tuggerah, between the ocean and Lake Budgewoi. It’s not busy and the winter accommodation deal is $130 for 7 days. Not going to argue with that! We’ve had mostly sunny weather, although the breeze has a touch of ice. As I write I’m sitting under the awning enjoying the sunshine. We’ve now booked in for another week and are getting some jobs under-way that we promised ourselves to do while at Dooralong. Rick needs new spectacles (appointment tomorrow) as well as making an appointment with Bloom Hearing after losing one of his hearing aids.
Norah Head is a nice caravan park and reasonably well kept. The staff are very helpful and friendly. It’s interesting though because the park is infested with rabbits. And I do not use the word ‘infested’ lightly. Apparently there is an eradication program under-way – but it aint working! If you go out at night, rabbits scatter every where. and you’ve got to be very careful where you put your feet because of the holes. I don’t have a problem with them though ‘cos they are kinda cute – but they are really big! I don’t think I’ve eve seen such large wild rabbits!