176. Collecting Penny

We arrived back to a wet and windy Christchurch on the usual midnight express. Despite the announcement soon after take-off that we might be in for a bumpy ride, the bumps did not eventuate, and the journey was further enlivened for Dave by finding he was sitting right next to his old Christchurch doctor (and the husband of mine).

Next morning it was straight to Swannanoa, where our friends’ driveway welcomed us with a brilliant display of old apple trees (the property used to be an apple orchard).


 Both T5 and the red truck had survived the winter very well despite not being under cover. T5 was dry and smelled fine, perhaps due to the three containers of dessicant we left inside plus a liberal distribution of dry tea bags. One bag tucked inside some clothes had burst which gave me a bad moment till I realised what all the little black things were! But the clothes smelled fine, unlike the towels which had been in another cupboard without any tea bags and simply smelled of disuse.

The truck had become home to a starling family who somehow constructed a nest in the engine bay. Our friends discovered it about a week before our arrival when they opened the bonnet to check the battery. They removed as much of the straw as they could but by the time we arrived the nest had been rebuilt. Luckily there were no eggs.


Within two hours of regaining our ‘home’ we were on the road. We headed straight for the chestnut orchard, still looking very wintry with mostly bare-branched trees; at this time last year, according to a reminder from Facebook, it was a sea of green branches, not just green grass and flowers. This time at least there’s a pukeko’s nest in the long grass and some quails skittering about. 


After stocking the pantry, collecting Penny the foxy was our next focus. Penny’s foster dad David J was happy to make the trip from Taumarunui to Wellington so he could spend time with his granddaughter there. (We received a text message the day before we arrived: “Penny wants to know why I would rather have a baby on my knee instead of her?”) We headed for Blenheim with T5 in tow, planning to take a day ferry over to Wellington with just the truck (so Penny could travel back on the ferry in the truck and not in a cage beside lots of strange dogs).

After outback Australia and in particular the very dry country around Nic and Mick’s in the Somerset area north of Brisbane, the green Canterbury plains dotted with lambs, flowering trees all along the highway, occasional foals (including one particularly striking ‘paint’ foal which eluded my camera), snow-clad distant mountains and in particular the surprisingly green hills of the Kaikoura Ranges were a welcome revelation. We were back home!  Even if it was a grey rainy day ….


One sobering moment was on the Ranges when we came upon a huge semitrailer laden with cars which somehow overturned after negotiating a particularly tricky curve.


We stopped at Domett for the usual delicious lunch…..

img_3469…. and also visited the seal pups north of Kaikoura but it was too early in the (new) season for them and only a few older pups were around.



img_3490Arriving in Blenheim we made the snap decision to try a new POP site near Picton, which turned out to be a rather nice huge green paddock.

We were at the ferry terminal by 8 am next morning, this time doing the crossing on the newer Interislander “Kaiarahi” which has very comfy reclining chairs in the huge viewing lounge with large windows on three sides (why didn’t I take a photo?).

Once off the ferry, a quick trip to Animates to get Penny some treats, and we were at David J’s son’s place in seemingly minutes. Penny shot out as soon as the door was opened, did a double-take and instead of her usual who-are-you bark, immediately started dancing and climbing over Dave, then me, then Dave, then me …. definitely she knew who we were after 6 months. A lovely reunion. Our very grateful thanks to David and Marion for looking after her so well. I’m sure if Penny could talk she would have some wonderful tales to tell, of rat hunting on the woodpile and visits to the neighbour (and his fire) whenever left at home alone, and helping in the woolshed, and … and …

here’s the photo David J took of us as we were leaving. Obviously taken in Wellington …!!


The trip back to Picton was without incident, although we were expecting a very rough trip judging from the wind and waves in the Wellington inner harbour.img_3505img_3508img_3509 But it was a smooth journey, with a beautiful sunset as we entered the Marlborough Sounds. An outgoing ferry was lit by golden light but by the time Dave had grabbed his camera and scooted outside the light had gone.


Penny seems happy to be back in T5 but I do think she misses the large warm farmhouse kitchen at Taumarunui, not to mention expert ball-thrower David.

It rained again most of the way back to Christchurch. We stopped at Nin’s Bin for some mussels and crayfish but the hefty price tag for a tiny little cray hardly big enough for the two of us and the lack of mussels due to the bad weather spelled disappointment.


So here we are back in Christchurch, waiting till the long weekend is over and we can get our special caravan TV re-tuned to the Geosynchronous orbiting satellite. Apparently the satellite’s position has been changed and the TV/Caravan repair places have been inundated with irate people.

Wikipedia says:

“A geosynchronous satellite is a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, with an orbital period the same as the Earth’s rotation period. Such a satellite returns to the same position in the sky after each sidereal day, and over the course of a day traces out a path in the sky that is typically some form of analemma.”  ……  These satellites are commonly used for communication purposes such as radio or television networks, back-haul and direct broadcast.  There are also some weather satellites and classified military satellites. GPS systems do not use this type of satellite.

Is it really Spring?? I keep on thinking it is time to get out more warm clothes ….

Postscript: Six months living in another caravan with a different layout has consequences. Too often one of us says – Where is X? and the answer is – I know exactly where it is … in (this cupboard or that) … in the Australian caravan!

175. The Best-Laid Plans ….

THE PLAN: Leave the caravan and Jeep at Nic and Mick’s until we return to Australia some time next year.

Tuesday 11th: Caravan and Jeep to Caloundra for servicing. Collect late afternoon. Return to N&M’s.

Wed. 12th: Big clean-up of both including vacuuming etc. Cover both. Final packing.

Thurs 13th: Fly home to NZ.


Tues 11th: Drove to Caloundra. A km or so before the caravan servicing place, there was a sort of crunch but we thought it was the road. Dropped off caravan at servicing place, drove to Jeep servicing place. Received a phone call …..


The crunchy bit was the spring which Dave had repaired in Mt. Isa, breaking …

These are the spring pivots supposedly “serviced” when we bought the van in Melbourne, they did a great job on them.. not.



This is the spring leaf that was bent when the locating pin sheared on the road to Gregory Downs, I am amazed that it lasted so long but this was the main reason for taking it to a service place to be checked out, very lucky it was so close when it finally broke and we were able to limp the rest of the way.



SO the caravan will have to stay on the hoist for a week or so until they can get a new spring/springs. By which time we will be in NZ.

SO we were not able to access the caravan to retrieve my favourite NZ kitchen knife, empty the rubbish bin (including some sugar), do final cleaning, vacuum, insect spraying etc etc. Thank goodness all linen, the duvet, spare clothes, towels and so on are already washed and stored in plastic bags.

Apart from the above we have been enjoying the ambience at Toogoolawah, and caring for the dogs/cats/horses since we arrived last week.


We made an earlier trip to Caloundra, with wonderful views of the Glasshouse Mountains on the way, but unfortunately we could not stop on the very narrow twisty road to take good photos.


We had lunch at Moffat Beach, where the waiter just happened to be wearing a T-shirt featuring a Christchurch cafe! He said it was the first time he’d worn it for months, and couldn’t get over the coincidence…  (Photo by Dave)


Dave managed to find time to have a snooze…


…and I investigated the flowering trees – a sign of Spring in Queensland, where daffodils and jonquils are sadly lacking …


Sunrises and sunsets are always awesome around here.


174. Last Australian Camp!

We had one more night before being due at Nic and Mick’s where we will be on house/horse/dog/cat/cattle-sitting duties until it is time to fly home two weeks later.

Leaving Tin Can Bay we drove through more hectares of pine forest ….

img_3229img_3226…. until finally we reached Gympie where we stopped for lunch and Dave explored the Gympie Gold Mining and Historical Museum. I decided some sudoku was more attractive. No photos from Dave – he had the wrong lens on his camera. No photos of the town either, I was too busy trying to navigate up and down the steep streets especially when we strayed off the highway.

Our last night we spent in a remote bush camp somewhere on the road between Gympie and Nanango, in the South Burnett region of Queensland. Rather optimistically called Broadwater, there is a narrow creek beside which we camped and enjoyed a reasonable but not remarkable sunset, surrounded by bush noises and with only one other known camper well out of sight on the other side of the reserve.




Dave went bird hunting ….


On the way to our final destination we stopped at Murgon and visited the Information Centre just in case there was something interesting in the vicinity. It was there I spotted this sign about Duboisia (the native Australian corkwood tree) with its useful medicinal properties.



The first commercial crop of about 5 acres was grown in the area in the 1940s. There are now approximately 1000 acres sown. The plant is propagated by cuttings grown in pots in a hothouse. It has a high water requirement. Up to two crops can be harvested per year.

Duboisia grown in the South Burnett region of Australia has a particularly high concentration of the tropane alkaloids scopolamine and hyoscyamine. The plant’s properties were known to the early aboriginals.

I think this is a Duboisia plantation, spotted a few days later.


Also these are examples of Bunya nuts which I haven’t seen elsewhere. Dave charmed the information ladies with his Kiwi accent!img_3237

Next morning, we reached Nanango in good time for morning tea with Elaine and Frank, then on to Toogoolawah in light rain. Finally our destination came into sight:


We are now camped in the same position as four months ago. We have done 19,650 km, seen many beautiful sights and had some wonderful adventures.

This was supposed to be the last blog for a while but seeing we are here for 2 weeks before flying home we do expect to see/do a few more things. As for example driving all the way back to Gomeri three days after passing through that small country town, to watch Nic and Mick doing some ‘cutting’ with their quarterhorses (we actually got there too late to see them). It was a huge weekend event with people – and horses – coming from near and very far judging by the size of some of the motorhome-horse floats.



Very loose reins, hold the pommel, guide with spurred heels … The horses were amazing, wheeling, backing, feinting …ears pricked, coats gleaming….



It was a fine day but very windy, therefore rather cool, and after some hours sitting in a grandstand watching the cutting it started to pall and the thought of some nearby wineries became increasingly attractive. So off we went for lunch at one of the  Barambah/Moffatdale wineries, which shall remain nameless. Nothing wrong with it, a reasonable atmosphere, pleasant wines, a small but adequate menu, nice scenery …. but not a patch on NZ wineries in my opinion. Still, we left with one of their champagnes and a Verdelho (the same wine in which my salmon was expertly cooked – but why was it Atlantic salmon and not NZ?  Think air miles, global warming, etc etc.  I asked the waitress but she had no idea).


We also had a look at the Bjelke-Petersen dam (Lake Barambah). The huge camping site was chockers. People, kids and boats were everywhere. Not our idea of a peaceful camp, but there WAS plenty of water to play on and in.


The water skiers were all just out of sight. Apparently the fishing here is very good.


“What are those people doing in our pool?”



We have over a week left so will probably do some more exploring of the region; plus the caravan and Jeep should both have a service in Toowoomba before they get wrapped up and stored until we return some time next year. So, maybe one more Aussie Blog is to come??