Posted by Peter on 08/02/2022

Paying attention to road signs

We have been camped at Nick and Veronique in Waterfall for 25 nights – it wasn’t planned, but Covid-19 has a way of dealing with the best of plans. The plan is to stop at the Nungarry Rest Stop before heading off to Bendeela Recreation Area for 7 nights. We do not need to stop at the rest area but will be stopping at these rest areas as we travel around the country and this is a trial run to see how we go. We used rest areas often in our ravels around the USA and found them convenient for a one night stop. Google Maps shows that we have about 60km to travel.

After a few lovely days the weather has turned and we are now expecting a week of cold rainy weather. Not ideal. The new second battery has finally arrived and we now have 2 120AH AGM batteries which should give us more than enough power for a few days. Hopefully the sun will make an appearance and we can charge the batteries via the solar panel but if not, we will use the generator. The past 25 days have given us a chance to test everything and make sure we know how it all works. We have had some issues with the awning but hopefully those are now resolved. We will be back in Waterfall in about 2 weeks time as Margaret is going to be doing some baby-sitting but we are looking forward to getting on the road.

The trip to Nungarry Rest Area was fairly uneventful and we were one of a few caravans and RV’s spending the night at the rest area. Apart from the noise from the passing trucks, the overnight stop was a pleasant one.

Google Maps shows we have about 60km to get to Bendeela Recreation Area and there was nothing to warn us of what was to come. There are 3 roads leading into Bendeela. From the north one could take the B73 from the Hume Highway bypassing the Fitzroy Falls, from the east one could take Kangaroo Valley Road from Berry and from the south east one could take the B73 from Nowra. We found no mention of a particular road that was either recommended to use or avoid.

We left the rest area just after 09H00. We plugged the address into our Garmin GPS and were blindly following the instructions on the GPS. The first 40km was on the motorway and uneventful. We left the motorway at Berry and headed inland taking Kangaroo Valley Road. They say ignorance is bliss.

My mistake was not paying enough attention to the road signs. As we entered Kangaroo Valley Road there was a road sign prohibiting vehicles over 12 tonnes or 7 metres from using the road. I am still getting used to towing the caravan and the 12 tonnes registered in my brain but somehow the 7 metre limit did not. The Ranger and the caravan have a combined weight of just over 5 tonnes and I somehow went no further than doing this calculation.

Had I thought it through I would have realised that we are approximately 10 metres in length but my brain somehow didn’t do the calculation. The caravan alone is almost 7 metres in length. We passed two of these warning signs. On reflection though, by the time we passed the second warning sign there was nowhere to stop and turn around. Within a very short period of time the reason for the warnings became evident. We where about to go over a very steep long hill and the road was narrow and had been cut into the hill. There was barely enough room for two cars to pass side by side.

There where multiple hairpin bends with the recommended speed limit being 15km/h. It was a nightmare. We were committed with no way of backtracking. The hairpin bends come thick and fast and we had to use the whole road to get around the corner. Because we where travelling so slowly we soon had traffic behind us and they weren’t happy. The oncoming vehicles weren’t happy either. We were using the whole road and they would have to get off the road to allow us to pass. Going around the hairpin bends was a matter of blind faith. There was no way we could see if there was a vehicle approaching and we needed both lanes to get around the bend. Fortunately we did not encounter any oncoming traffic on these bends.

On one of the hairpin bends going up the hill the Ranger lost traction and the back wheels spun madly for a few seconds before again gaining traction. It is one of the scariest trips we have ever done and we had visions of us making the evening news for all the wrong reasons. Going down the hill proved just as difficult. The weight of the caravan pushed the Ranger and we had to crawl around the hairpin bends, again using the whole road to get around. Where it not for the electric brakes on the caravan we may well have made the evening news.

Once we cleared the hairpin bends and the traffic behind us could pass, they made their displeasure known. We apologised profusely and often. Lesson learnt – pay more attention to the traffic signs!

We arrived at Bendeela Recreation Area at about 11H30 and it had taken us about 2 ½ hours to cover the 60km. Bendeela proved to be a pleasant surprise. The recreation area is managed by NSW Water and the reserve is on the river. There is a huge open area for campers on a first come first served basis. The reserve is well maintained and it is quite a surprise to see such a beautiful area set aside for free camping. There are no showers but there are toilet facilities. The kangaroos and wombats come out to play in the evening.

Due to Covid-19 and the bush fires it is now necessary to make a booking but the booking fee is only $6 for 7 days and there is a 50 day annual limit which seems very generous.

We know that we cannot again take Kangaroo Valley Road when we leave Bendeela and we accordingly checked out the B73 north to the Hume Highway and the B73 south to Nowra. Both of these roads also have multiple switchbacks and hairpin bends but nothing as bad as Kangaroo Valley Road. We will leave via the B73 to Nowra which is, in our opinion, the best road when towing a big caravan.

We made a short video on Bendeela Recreation Area and you can view that here.

Posted by Peter on 23/01/2022

It was only a question of time

With the Omicron variant of Covid-19 so prevalent in Australia, it was only a question of time before we were affected. The authorities in Australia are making a real mess of dealing with the Omicron variant and it is everywhere. The case numbers are simply staggering and we are constantly receiving Covid-19 alert notifications from NSW Health.

We had planned on spending a few days with Margaret’s daughter, Veronique, and her family in Waterfall and then visiting her other daughter, Genevieve, in Sanctuary Point. Veronique and all three children have now been affected by Covid-19 and Margaret is a close contact due to the time that she spent with them. In terms of the NSW Health regulations Margaret is now required to self isolate for a period of 7 days and have two Rapid Antigen Tests, one immediately and the second on day 6. There are however no Rapid Antigen Tests available.

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, famously said, “This is not a race”, when talking about dealing with the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It would appear that they felt the same way about sourcing Rapid Antigen Tests. Other countries in the world have a plentiful supply and are giving them away and Australia is now desperately trying to source them. It is not a race until it is a race. The economy is slowly grinding to a halt with some supermarket shelves bare. There is no toilet paper or meat in our local supermarkets.

With no Rapid Antigen Tests available, we had to book Margaret in for a PCR test. The local drive through testing centre is closed due to flooding. The only reason we could book Margaret in for a PCR test is because she has symptoms – she has a fever. The testing clinic website is very clear, they will not test you if you have no symptoms. We booked Margaret in for a PCR test on Friday morning and the result was back by Saturday morning – negative. So far so good. In terms of the NSW Health orders Margaret is required to have another test on day 6 and if that is negative she can come out of isolation and self monitor for another 7 days.

We are reluctant to move until we are very sure we do not have Covid-19. Margaret had a second PCR test on Monday and it was again negative. Margaret’s family have had to cut their holiday short as the entire family now has Covid and the adults are pretty ill.

While we are stuck waiting for quarantine periods to pass, we ordered some new batteries for the caravan. When we looked at the caravan it appeared that there where two batteries. There are two battery boxes and they are well strapped up to prevent the batteries from moving during transit. When we opened the battery boxes there was however only one battery. So much for full disclosure by the seller. We intend to spend long periods off the grid and batteries will be important so we decided to install 2 good AGM batteries. With Covid-19 being rampant across Australia all the supply chains are taking strain and our batteries are now delayed. We are stuck here until the batteries arrive.

Posted by Peter on 12/01/2022

Time to do something new

With our time on Great Escape now just a memory, it is time for a new adventure. Covid-19 has made a real mess of international travel and we are reluctant to try and travel overseas until the world figures out how to deal with the virus and international borders re-open. We are fortunate that we have a holiday home at Jasmine Lakeside Village and we have been staying at our holiday home while we figure out where to next. We can however not stay at our holiday home on a permanent basis as the NSW State laws restrict us to 150 days per annum with a 21 consecutive day limit. The laws have been relaxed for those who have nowhere else to go and we fall into that category.

Given the international travel restrictions and some serious cabin fever, we have decided to buy a car and a caravan and do a lap, or two, of Australia. It is fairly common for retired Australians to do ‘the lap’ and they are commonly referred to as ‘Grey Nomads’. We will join the Grey Nomad fraternity – we are all for ‘adventure before dementia‘.

One of our neighbours was also selling his on-site caravan and, very expensive, boat. Watching him sell these was also astonishing. The boat was up for sale at A$82 500. It sold within 12 hours and the buyer wasn’t interested in taking the boat out, or checking the motor started, even though the offer was made. The on-site caravan was up for sale at A$55 000. It also sold within 24 hours and the new buyers spent all of 10 minutes inspecting it. There was another on-site caravan that needs to be completely gutted and it too sold for a handsome price in no time.

Investopedia define a bubble as, “… a situation where the price for something—an individual stock, a financial asset, or even an entire sector, market, or asset class—exceeds its fundamental value by a large margin.” They also identify 5 stages of a bubble – Displacement, Boom, Euphoria, Profit-Taking and Panic. It seems to me that most financial markets and asset classes are in a bubble which is the result of far too much money sloshing around in the market. Our on-site caravan was no exception and it looks to me like we are in the Euphoria stage of the bubble. The common thread seems to be, ‘this time it’s different’, but I think that is a common thread in every bubble. There is just too much money chasing too few goods and services.

We have spent the past few months looking for a suitable vehicle (referred to as a Ute in Australia) and caravan to do ‘the lap’. We are not buying into the Euphoria stage of this bubble and it took a while to find a Ute and caravan at a reasonable price. The market right now is flooded with Utes and caravans where the sellers have bought into the Euphoria stage and they want ridiculous prices.

We managed to find a 2014 Ford Ranger XLT 3.2L Auto Dual Cab with 78 900km for $A30 000 but it was in the country and took a day to get there and drive it back. The vehicle had a full service history, had been well looked and was inspected by the Ford dealer in Cowra who gave it a clean bill of health. It was also all set up for towing a caravan.

We also managed to find a 2005 Roadstar Voyager 4000 caravan for a reasonable price. The caravan had only had one owner who had recently passed away and his widow was now reluctantly selling the caravan. Our requirements for a caravan were very specific – we have been travelling for many years and we now know what we need. It had to have a full bathroom, a washing machine, a decent size fridge and freezer and enough water and power for us to be off the grid for a large part of the lap. We have no intention of simply travelling from caravan park to caravan park as many of the grey nomads do. We also wanted evidence that it had been well maintained.

The caravan was being sold by Bill Paterson from Shamrock Caravan Workshop who had been responsible for maintaining the caravan and was now selling it for the widow as a favour. The caravan had clearly been well maintained and met our requirements. The widow had bought into the Euphoria stage of the bubble market and wanted A$40 000 for the caravan. We initially offered A$34 000 for the caravan and settled on A$35 000.

Even though the caravan had been well maintained, it had been standing for a while and ‘lot rot’ had started to set in. One of the water tanks had a leak, the caravan was fairly dirty and the bathroom needed an upgrade. The Park Managers at Jasmine Lakeside Village were kind enough to let us park the van on a vacant site near our on-site caravan and we managed to get the caravan live-able fairly quickly. We, in our normal manner, have no plan and will make it up as we go along. Our first stop is just south of Sydney to visit Margaret’s daughter.

You can see our setup costs here.

Posted by Peter on 08/08/2021

Great Escape has been sold

After owning Great Escape for almost 4 years, we have sold her. We, and in particular Peter, have decided that owning a yacht is not for us. Of all the travelling we have done, the time in the yacht has proved to be the most work and the least enjoyable. Somehow we get blinded by the dream of owning a yacht and sailing off to exotic destinations. The reality, especially when you own an old yacht, is that most of the time is spent attending to the maintenance of the yacht. Yachts live in a harsh environment and require constant maintenance. There are many, many yachts near us where the owners have bought into the dream but have not kept up with the maintenance and the yacht is simply rotting away. We saw this happen in the RV world in the USA and the term they use there is ‘lot rot’.

Coupled with the amount of work that needs to be done, is the fact that sailing is really hard work, especially as you get older. Running around the deck of a yacht that is being bounced around is not easy. Peter has done 3 big passages (all over 1 000nm each) and they are demanding. Four hourly watches in lousy weather is demanding especially when you are crossing an ocean and there is nowhere to stop. It may be easier for those who grew up sailing but learning to sail later in life is a steep learning curve and very time consuming.

It was with some trepidation that we decided to sell Great Escape. Selling a second hand yacht is also not an easy task and can take many months. It had taken us over a year to buy a yacht. As it turns out, it was far easier than we anticipated. The Australian border has been closed for almost 18 months and overseas vacations are not possible. There is also a shortage of yachts in Australia due to the fact that no yachts are allowed in. There would normally be a large amount of overseas arrivals each year and many of these yachts would then be sold. Many Australians are now buying boats, yachts and caravans and travelling round Australia instead of going overseas.

We decided that we would sell Great Escape ourselves. We have in the past been highly critical of the second hand boat market and our view has not changed. We appreciate there are many honest boat brokers but the majority are, in our opinion, dishonest and will do and say anything for a sale. There was no way we where going to pay a boat broker to do something that we could do ourselves. Great Escape was probably in the best shape she has ever been in when we listed her for sale.

We listed Great Escape on a number of websites and went to great lengths to present her properly. We made a video and that can be viewed here. Great Escape was on the market for 6 weeks before she sold. We received 4 serious offers, one of which was made in the first 24 hours. It is time to do something different.

Posted by Peter on 27/06/2021

Clipped Wings

We, along with everyone else trying to travel around the planet during this pandemic, have had our wings clipped for the last 18 months. It is really frustrating and I now have a serious case of cabin fever. To add to the cabin fever, it is now winter in our part of the world and I don’t like the cold. The Australian States have a habit of declaring lock-downs at the drop of a hat. Sydney has just gone into a 14 day lock-down but fortunately we are just – and I mean just – outside the strict lock-down area. Things could be worse. We have the yacht at a really nice marina and are lucky we can travel between the caravan and the yacht. We moved the yacht to Trinity Point Marina a year ago thinking it would be a short term stay but a year later we are still here.

We are among the rich and famous with some very expensive boats as our neighbours.

One of the really nice features of Trinity Point Marina is the floating wave attenuator. Even when the wind is blowing and the water on Lake Macquarie is a mess we are well protected.

Until the world gets Covid-19 under control we will enjoy the marina.