We’ve been in Australia for a week now and while we still haven’t found a suitable motorhome or bus (not thinking of a caravan as it means a towing vehicle as well), we’ve certainly seen some of the Victorian countryside.
Departing Christchurch pre-dawn as usual (why do we have such ridiculous departure and arrival times?) after a night at the Sudima next to the airport, we arrived in Melbourne on a beautiful day, collected our hired car (a small purple Fiat Punto with a weird gear shift system) and were soon on our way heading towards Drouin near Warragul via the Dandenongs. Our GPS took us down lots of country roads (our preference) rather than motorways and we visited a couple of Melbourne RV dealers on the way. The news was discouraging …”You’ve come at the wrong time”, “You should’ve gone to Sydney”, etc.etc. However, our focus was on private sales which Dave had lined up via the internet. First however we had to get an Australian phone number, essential for communicating with the advertisers. We had long discussions with several very helpful Telstra salespersons regarding a package which included internet access ….. but eventually it was discovered that as neither of us had an Australian credit rating, even I – an Aussie – couldn’t open such an account! In the end we purchased a stand-alone modem and Dave will continue to use his NZ phone number. Not ideal but cost-wise it works out.
We were given a lovely warm welcome at Spike and Maggie’s beautiful home in Drouin, and used it as a base for the next few days.
A motorhome in north Melbourne beckoned so we drove up on the motorway – a mere 100km or so – and half way there one of the rear tyres had a spectacular blowout.
Luckily the traffic was light so Dave managed to steer us across three lanes and onto the left shoulder where he could change the wheel in comparative safety. After inspecting the motorhome (dismal) Dave phoned the car rental people and was told to get a new tyre and they would pay for it. As luck would have it a Bridgestone centre was almost right next to the motorhome, but they did not have the right tyre and informed us that we would be lucky to find one. Back to Drouin, then next morning we rolled in unannounced to the local tyre place, took off for a huge breakfast at the Warragul Farm Market Cafe (highly recommended), then back to pick up the Fiat with its brand new tyre. A successful morning.
After a few days we decided to make a long day of it and inspect a bus at Safety Beach south of Mornington, then continue down the peninsula and take the vehicular ferry across from Sorrento to Queenscliff.
There were several vehicles we wanted to see in Connemara and Geelong but the owners persistently refused to answer Dave’s emails/phone calls so in the end we did not see any of them that day but continued through Ballarat to beautiful little Moonambel in the Pyrenees just north of Avoca. Vineyard country! Although there were plenty of signs saying vineyards, cellar sales etc we only spotted a very few vineyards from the road and they were at first sight (and only from a moving car) poor imitations of the lush green-golden ones at Blenheim, even given that it’s now autumn. We hope to investigate them closer when we have more time.
It is very dry around Avoca-Moonambel and at least one sheep station has resorted to an alternative source of income.
Incidentally there is a good camping ground at Moonambel with impressive facilities. It used to be a football field – hence the wall decoration. Moonambel boasts little more than one shop, a few houses and FOUR churches!
My cousin Arthur and his wife Joan are the absolute souls of hospitality and Joan in particular was very keen to assist with the hunt! She arranged for a friend to inspect a motorhome which was about 200 km away, and also put us in touch with other people. To show how dry it is in Moonambel, here is their big dam-that-was.
The road to their property, such typical Aussie countryside. It’s good to be back..
Luckily they have a good bore on their property and should be able to weather a long dry spell although some of the garden is beginning to suffer. Not the rose garden though. There is a lovely view of the Pyrenees through their kitchen window.
We made a day trip all the way down to Geelong to inspect a rather old bus which at first sight was quite good – very well fitted out, but it had a dodgy gearbox and for various other reasons was decided against. That was a long trip just to inspect one bus! That evening Dave heard from the owner of a Ballarat motorhome – and as it really did sound promising so next day we made yet another long foray into the countryside. As I write this blog, it is still the main contender. We did not have time to see much of Ballarat but I was immediately struck by the number of impressive old buildings. The sun shone – but the wind was distinctly chilly. There were signs on the motorway to beware of ice. It’s not bushfire time, but fire awareness is still very important.
On the way back to Moonambel we were constantly in awe of the old stone walls which line the roadway, all constructed in the old days by pick-and-shovel and much elbow grease.
There is a huge wind farm at Waubra, with 128 wind turbine generators on 17,300 hectares of farmland; each turbine is up to 120 M high and they generate enough clean green electricity to supply 140,000 homes. “Each turbine can produce 1.5 MW at full power, and the 192 MW produced by Waubra Wind Farm generates 650,000 tonnes of CO2 savings at peak production. This equates to taking nearly 150,000 cars of the road each year.”
Dave renewed our car hire for a few more days and we set off for Jen’s place in Melbourne, with a stop at a recommended RV dealer on the way. They had a showroom full of the most beautiful new motorhomes, with price tags to match of course, and we were looking for something considerably more downmarket – after all it’s only for 6 months.
They did have one suitable but very very basic vehicle and offered us quite a good deal and probable buy-back, but the price was still rather high.
Today – one week after our arrival – we are going to inspect another bus, a Toyota Coaster; and plans are to see a Hino Rainbow tomorrow. It is amazing the number creative ways in which these fairly old buses are fitted out. The bus at Safety Beach for example had a chest-high kitchen bench and the stove was directly above the entrance steps, one would have to either stand on a lower step or to the side to use it.