RESTLESS/Chapter 16

Tasmania 2016 Eastern Half

This will be a roving report for the next three months commencing 12th February.
Loading the car and caravan on the ferry was an adventure in itself with only millimetres to spare each side (or so it seemed). Jude took a seasick pill, the doggies were tranquilised and I had a few beers before sleep. It was a smooth sail by all accounts and a happy event although there are some small negatives. The staff of the Spirit of Tasmania were very attentive and helpful. The service runs twice daily between Melbourne and Devonport for a 12 hour journey in the tourist season.
Day one and we visited the Bass Strait Maritime Museum which has an excellent historical display of things maritime. Of special interest is a deep sea diving suit worn by Judith’s Grandfather, J.E (Johnno) Johnstone. In 1938 Johnno walked 43km underwater on the floor of the ocean in Bass Strait looking for a break in the telecommunications cable. He had radio contact with the ship above, the ‘Julie Burgess’ and when he found the fault he said that he could not describe the problem and would need a camera. He and others then set about designing and making what is believed to be the first underwater camera in Australia.
Devonport is a quaint little town in the style of the 1950’s to 70’s housing with some very ornate large houses obviously built by those who made it good in this pioneering town. Set either side of the Mersey River it is the focal point of the Bass Straight Ferry connecting tourists, travellers and business with the mainland of Australia. The business centre is spread over the steep hills on the western bank of the Mersey River. Traffic lights and parking meters are the order of the council. We were miffed, however, at the $1.80 hour parking cost. Either you carry a lot of change with you or lose 20% of your $2 coin. Parking areas close to the city precinct also carry a charge but there is always Maccas for a free park next to the Information Centre!
We ventured out to various touristy venues making chocolates, cheese, berries and ice cream. The businesses are very well organised to cater for tourism and we only drove about 80km there and back. The countryside is very green and undulating, with produce fields, cattle, sheep and timber forests. Wild Blackberries grow by the side of the road.
Railton is a town where the residents excel in Topiary and some stunning examples are seen here
The town of Sheffield sports the name of Mural Capital as there are dozens of great murals depicting various country scenes. When the town was in decline the residents came up with the idea of creating murals on the walls of buildings. The result was stunning.
The Promised Land Maze and Village is a hoot and the wit displayed is very good. After walking around and looking at most of the creations we settled for Pancakes and topping and ate too much.
The road then took us around Mount Rolland and a twisty drive to Trowunna Wildlife Park where we saw our first ever Tasmanian Devil. Cute little things they are but can bite you severely.
Overcast, windy with lashings of rain. That was today 15th February.
In an attempt to get to Point Sorrel I had to reverse the caravan about 500 metres to be able to turn around as I found 3 locked gates and nowhere to go. The upside to this was Jude picking Blackberries whilst I was twisting and turning in reverse mode…Ha!
What looked like small hamlets on the map turned out to be the ultimate beach side properties and home to the wealthy citizens of the north.
We visited Hawley Beach, Port Sorrel and Squeaking Point.Then we took a backroad to Beaconsfield and the MUX was chugging away in 2nd gear to get over the hills. At almost every end point today I had to negotiate a very tight U turn. On top of that the roads are narrow!
We called in at Clarence Point and Beauty Point in the Tamar Valley and ended up in a caravan park at Green Beach at $22pn.

At Beauty Point on the Tamar Estuary, a special wharf houses two buildings. In one building is a commercial enterprises breeding Sea Horses which are exported world wide. The other building houses live displays of Monotremes, being the Platypus and the Echidna. Tours of both delighted us both.
The following day Jude did some shopping at Beaconsfield while I minded the dogs. We parked in an open area on the grass. I had the back of the car open and the next minute a voice called out Sir, please take control pf your dog!” An elderly lady walked past with her beautiful Samoyed dog and Blaise was bristled up protecting me! I took control and had a nice chat to her
Then we drove towards Georgetown over the Batman Bridge which spans the Tamar River. We had prearranged to meet a young bloke along the way to deliver a painting to him from our neighbour up the road in Peterborough. This happened and while we were waiting at the pre-arranged meeting place Jude picked some Blackberries. Then we drove on to George Town and as far as Lower Head Lighthouse and looked at the pretty houses and scenery along the riverbanks.
I had noticed that the MU-X had used a little bit of oil and called into the only service station I could find and asked if they had one litre to sell me. They only had 5 litre containers or a 20 litre drum. They agreed to sell me a litre but only had an old milk bottle for a container and so it happened. Then we went on to visit old friends who had moved to George Town and had a cuppa with them and spent an hour or so nattering to them.
Our camp for the night was at Blacks Lagoon which wasn’t all that lash but we managed to find a flat spot at the base of a sandy rise. It was an excellent ball game ground and Blaise drove me nuts. I eventually had to hide the ball as I grew tired. Some locals drove up and around us in a Suzuki and then up a sandy track to the beach. It unsettled me as I thought that they might have been up to no good but we slept well that night after watching MKR on TV
The next morning we went out to look for Waterhouse Lagoon but missed the turn-off. At the entrance to Waterhouse Conservation Park I chatted with a bloke from Queensland who said that there was good camping at Waterhouse Point. The signage was not good and in places non-existent. Some parks workers were on the job fixing signs. I chatted to them about me being able to turn the van around at the end of the track. They said we could. We looked at west Waterhouse Point, Ransom Beach and had a tight turn around in one. All the camp sites are fenced and not all close to the beach. Judith had to walk ahead with the two way radio to see if sites were suitable. Eventually we found an ideal site at east Waterhouse Point (Casuarina Hill) that was close to the beach and made camp for a few days.
It was an excellent camp. We had privacy along the fence line and had neighbours for two of the three days but only overnighters. Someone had left a pile of wood along the fence and that and a little bit of our wood saw us through for three nights.
We had endless ball games on the beach with Blaise and even old Jeddah became more lively and came down to the beach a few times. Jude played with her adult colouring in books and we both read books acquired from somewhere. A local wallaby grazed along the fence but Blaise chased it a few times but could not proceed beyond the fence. I struggled up and down to the beach with the walker and eventually found out that if I pushed it in reverse where the front wheels are rigid I could negotiate the sand much better. My left Achilles heel still giving me trouble and is painful. The weather was good around 24 each day but we did have a little bit of wind one day. No TV and no phone so we watched DVD’s and listened to mood music. We packed up on Saturday arvo late and with the dogs tucked into bed we went down to the beach for half an hour just two watch the evening colours change and some sea birds flying hastily to their night roosting place
On the road by 8am. Used Low Range 2nd to get up the hills. We had a look at Tomahawk on the beach. Then we refuelled and bought pies at Gladstone before setting off for Petal Point. Pretty green country with lots of cattle kept Blaise going. We stopped to take photos of the wind generators and saw a wombat scurry back to his hole. We got to Petal Point and found a beachfront site. Trouble was the beach was about 500 metres away. We had a snack for lunch, read and coloured in and the dogs wandered around. I noticed that Jeddah fell once whilst walking. We had a snooze and at 5pm doggies got fed. Jeddah’s back legs gave way when she went to eat her supper. After that she kept wandering off. Then she became ill and went and hid in the bushes. We managed to get her out of there and under the van. Then we saw that she was dying and that the end was near. It was cold outside and so we carried her into the van and set her down on her bed and blanket. She died at ten minutes past eight in the evening having lived for 15 years and 83 days. A sad time for us.
The following morning we drove to Scottsdale to the Vet and they took care of having Jeddah cremated. Then we pushed on to Launceston. I put the necessary address in to Tom Tom but it indicated a different route. Not trusting that route I decided to keep to the highway. Wow! What a ride over the ranges. 16km of narrow twists and turns. It took some steady concentration.
We camped at Old Mac’s RV Farm. A pretty spot. $10 per night with water available but no power. Probably 60 sites next to water the headwaters of the Tamar River. Lots of bird-life around. W
Judith went for a ride on the Chairlift over Cataract Gorge and also had close encounter with a Pademelon and some Fairy Wrens
Then we went shopping for stuff and did a heap of washing at a very modern and fancy Laundomat at a price. Jude was unpreturbed but I thought it was excessive. That took up most of the day. Our run of good weather came to an end when in started raining in the late afternoon.
We managed to hook up before the rain started in earnest. We drove out to Evandale which is a historic town dating back to 1811. We gathered lots of information at the Visitor Centre and then headed to the Tasmanian Gourmet Sauce Company in Evandale where Jude acquired some nice foods.
We had a phone call to say that Jeddah’s ashes were available and so we made for Scottsdale via Lilydale this time and collected them. There was a cost involved. Then we went looking for lunch and found a cafe that had Scallop Pies. We wolfed those down and then took to the road in the rain again. We managed to find a place to stop to boil the billy for a cuppa and discovered that we had left out plastic step up behind somewhere. Oh well, will have to find a Bunnings somewhere.
We visited Legerwood by accident as I wanted to see if we could get through some mountain roads in the Ringarooma area. Legerwood has the famous chainsaw carvings by Eddie Freeman depicting World War 1 scenes. The trees were going to be detroyed by the council and the small community rallied around and brought the soldiers of that time back to life again through Eddie’s brilliant artistry. We stopped to gather information and to take photos.
At Ringarooma there were No Dogs signs and so we beat a retreat from there. I asked the Postmaster about the mountain roads for caravans and he reckoned it would not be an issue but that there were rough places. As it was raining I thought it better not to attempt the roads today and we started to make our way to Weldborough on the highway, to camp there for the night. At Derby however we saw some vans parked down by the Cascade River and discovered a Free Camp and dogs allowed. And so here we are camped right on the river. The rain continues and we are parked on hard grass. Tomorrow we won’t be in a hurry, though, as we hope to look around Derby which is the capital of The Tin Dragon Trail
Nothing much happened today. It was a cold, misty, rainy day. Jude went for a walk through town. I did some computer work and played with Blaise, the dog. Late afternoon we had lots of laughs during Happy Hour with neighbours.
St Helens on the east coast of Tasmania is a beautiful place with a nice bay, irridescent waters and pure white beaches. A twisty road leads from Derby to this place and you have to keep your wits about you whilst snaking around the corners’. A fallen tree across the highway livened things up for a bit with Jude up front on a walkie-talkie directing traffic
We had a good camp at Policeman’s Point but the weather turned on us. After two nights we moved to Swimcart Beach on the Bay of Fires coast and managed to get an absolute beachfront site with the surf crashing on the beach less that 50 metres from us.

Our camp at Swimcart Beach north of Binalong Bay was absolute beachfront. Camping facilities there are excellent with space for Caravans and Big Rigs
After routine shopping, washing and gas refills in St Helens we checked out some of the beaches to the south. Our destination was Upper Scamander Forest though and this was a beautiful mountain forest camp at Trout Creek Camp on the Scamander River. Getting in and out was quite hairy towing the van up and down some very steep inclines. The forest tracks were in good repair however.

Saturday saw us drive to St Marys where we ate Fudge from the Mt Elephant Fudge and Chocolate Shop and parked with others in a Free Camp at the Golf Course. Judith visited two markets and variety shops in town and found some treasures. Then we drove to the Evercreech Forest north of Fingal and visited the White Knight old growth White Gums which reach up to 90 metres in height
It was a privilege to stand among the 4 remaining White Knights of an old growth forest
We left the van at St Marys and took the short journey to the Pancake Barn at the top of Mt Elephant Pass. The road was very narrow and twisty and we were glad the van wasn’t lugging behind. Back at St Marys we packed up, hooked on and tackled St Marys Pass down the range which is just as narrow with many twists and turns. We found a free campsite at Lagoon Beach where we could hear the sea but have no close access to it.
After nine days Free Camping and with four of those days being over cast we ran out of battery power on the morning of the 10th day. We made for Bicheno Caravan Park for a couple of days to wash clothes, replenish supplies and charge all the batteries. Bicheno is a cute little town with a pretty harbour in Waubs Bay. It is known for its Penguin Tours of Little Blue Penguins who come ashore at night to do what Penguins do…whatever that is
We did a day trip out to Coles Bay to see what we could without entering a National Park as our furry child is prohibited from entering them. The best part was buying seafood from Freycinet Seafood Farm where we bought a good supply of food.
The following day we did a ‘mammoth’ 175km drive to Primrose Sands where we camped out in the grounds of the RSL for three nights. Along the way we visited Kates Berry Farm just out of Swansea and had scrumptious Scones and Tea at her Just Desserts Cafe which overlooks part of the berry growing pads and the stunning views of Freycinet National Park in the distance.
Just a little distance further south we had a good look at Spiky Bridge which was built by convicts in 1843.and a great deal of concentration is required especially when passing large trucks. I felt pretty drained by the time we arrived at Primrose Sands. Although the name evokes pleasant thoughts we were unimpressed with the shanty town of unregulated building sites
We decided to visit Port Arthur and the Tasman Peninsula without the van and we were glad we did so, as the roads were once again, a challenge. Port Arthur itself was a disappointment for us with their ‘canned’ tourism approach….too organised with queues of people waiting to buy tickets, and frankly, tourism promoting the misery of Port Arthur and its subsequent notoriety is not for me and so we left, but not before being told off for parking in the ‘wrong’ Disabled Parking Bay
A visit to the Port Arthur Lavender Farm was a delight and whilst I sampled a Lavender Milkshake together with scones, Jude bought Lavender Bags to make the cvar and van smell nice.
Saturday was a non driving day and we read books, worked on the internet and enjoyed fresh Mussels in white wine and thyme over savoury rice, all prepared by Judith, in the van.
In Hobart we camped at the Showgrounds for a couple of nights. A rather bleak place with all manner of RV’s parked in rowa, We caught up with friends in Hobart who gave us a short tour of the inner city.
In Hobart we discovered that all traffic north or southbound have to pass through the centre of the city.
Judith went to see the art displays of the world renowned gallery MONA (Modern Old and New Art) and she came away with mixed feelings.
We were then invited to camp at Oyster Cove by new friends and we ended up in the middle of a mowed 50 acre property. As we had made a service appointment for our car for the following Monday, this place suited us. From there we explored the region including Bruny Island and Mount Wellington. We did the menial jobs such as shopping and washing and also had the wheels fotated on the car. Then there were Fétes and Markets to attend.
To our great delight we were able to see wild Tasmanian Devils in the early mornings close to our caravan. We could also hear them growling the forest in the day time
We took the ferry to Bruny Island and drove most of the tracks. The highlight of the day was seeing an Echidna close-up on the side of the road and driving the forest track from Leenawanna to Adventure Bay. We bought fresh honey, garlic and chocolates on the island

We had a 10,000km wheel rotation done on the car in Kingston and a full service by Jackson Isuzu in Hobart. We drove the Channel Hwy around the Snug Tiers Ranges, visited Flowerpot, Grandvewe Sheep Cheese Farm, Verona Sands, Egg and Bacon Junction, and had lunch in Cygnet at The Old Schoolhouse Tea Shoppe. Drove back home along Nicholls Rivulet Road and decided it will be too difficult with van to come this way to Huonville.
The next day it was rainy, cold and windy……shopping…bought clothes, refuelled and measured 8.6/100km.
Jude had a haircut, we had an arvo snooze and then went Woodbridge Fair where Jude bought treasures and some hot food which we ate down at the Marine Discovery Centre, with Blaise looking over our shoulders.
Cold outside today. I had 3 falls today…not good.
We drove up Mt Wellington after Tom Tom took us on a journey via wet roads. After coming down off the mount we visited friends and took Jude to Salamanca Markets. Jude left her phone in our car and asked Security if she could borrow a phone to ring Brigitte to convey a message to me. I picked Jude up and drove home after getting lost again!
We visited the Kingston Markets, a Car Boot Sale and drove up the Snug Falls Road….drove the top way but found a 45 min walk which was out of the question….drove on with the road until a dead end…..bought Hamburgers at Snug Takeaway and ate them at Snug Beach…then drove ocean road of Oyster Cove to Kettering Harbour then home
After leaving Oyster Cove we made our way to Huonville via Sandfly (love these names). Then Geeveston and Dover via Police Point and then on to the Hastings Thermal Springs.When we got there we found a very small space to turn our rig around but managed after driving over parking bollards. The springs were a let down but we had a nice hot shower after coming out of the waters. We continued driving south and found a good camp site at Gilhams Campground in the Southern Forest Reserve. We only had the road in front of us and then the beach.
The next day we drove as far as Cockle Creek and then into the eastern side of the Southwest National Park after getting permission to take Blaise, the dog, in there.
I walked to the to the Whale Sculpture with great difficulty and then found the camera batteries were flat. So Jude walked back to the car to get the spares and some of them were also flat! I fiddled with them and swapped some around and we managed to get photos of the sculpture.
Driving to the sculpture we reached the southernmost vehicle access in Tasmania and Australia
43 degrees 34 minutes 43.7 seconds SOUTH
146 degrees 54 minutes 04.0 seconds EAST
Back at the van the day turned cold and it started spitting rain…. so we hitched up and left. We called in at the communities of Southport, and then Dover, but their campsites did not attract us. We stopped on Geeveston Town Common for $5 per night with lots of Ball Throwing space……Jude visited the Lolly Shop, I fell over unhitching and grazed some skin off my arm. The van’s batteries were a tad low so we went to bed early and slept like logs
Today we drove to Huonville and did shopping and looking at things and then I went for a ride on the Huon River Jet Boat…What a blast…another one off the bucket list
Easter Friday was a rest day and we lay about reading and Jude cooked a roast
Saturday we went exploring the Tahune Forest and some tracks mentioned in a 4wd Tasmania booklet. Trouble is the booklet is about 10 years out of date. And needless to say we got a tad lost and after taking the Brackenridge Fire Trail which had some extreme washout our adrenalin rush for the day was over and we made for our camp again. Sunday saw us back on the road and after clearing the city traffic in Hobart we motored on to Oatlands where Judith visited the restored Mill and I made camp on the banks of Lake Dulverton. We also caught up with some friends from home who are travelling in Tassie for the next month. The next day we made for Ross which has an Australian Wool Centre and Wool Museum. We bought some quality clothing at a price !
From Ross we took the back roads through Cressy to Deloraine to miss the Easter home traffic. It was a nice sunny day and the road, which was narrow as usual, wended its way across the green pastures of the midlands
Once in Deloraine we made camp on the banks of the Meander River in this picturesque town. The next day we caught up with a long lost cousin for coffees, cakes and lots of chatting
Having found out from our cousin Susan that another cousin lives in the area we went hunting the following day and found where he lives. We will catch up with him on the way back. Then we went to the Honey Shop at Chudleigh. Got in just before a busload of Japanese Tourists arrived.
Then Tom Tom decided to take us on a deviated course to the town of Sheffield. No signage and no name to this mini pass but I was down to 1st gear chugging over the top. It was long and very steep. Whew!!
The Sheffield Mural Painting Competition was on and we had a tour of the wonderful art that the artists portrayed. Had lunch at the Blacksmith Gallery Café
We were going to stay in the Free Camp at Sheffield but as the sun was shining so nicely we kept on heading north and found a caravan park at $23 per night right on the beachfront
Turners Beach is our home for a few days. We will explore the area and then slowly keep on heading west until we run out of road
Tasmania 2016 Western Half
Halfway through our Tasmania holiday. 6 weeks down and 6 to go
Camped at Turners Beach in Caravan Park run by Lions Service Club
Drove to Burnie via Penguin along some of the shoreline but access is difficult as a rail line and wild scrub stops frequent access. No beaches either, just rocks
On the way home we took to the country roads again and managed to find some steep pinches again. Getting down to Gunns Plains, pictured below was something else. Pleased we did not bring the van this way
Jude visited the Michelangelo Exhibition at the Burnie Regional Art Gallery. We had lunch with friends at Workers Gallery which is a magnificent building right on the foreshore of Burnie. It facilitates artists in residence and also has a shop and restaurant.
On the way back to Turners Beach we drove into the hinterland via Gunns Plains and a very steep downhill
The next day we drove out to Leven Gorge. It is a 20 minute walk to the apex of the gorge so we gave that a miss. It was cold outside. We drove further down road and then along a narrow mountain track skirting the Leven River but eventually turned around. We saw a Tasmanian Devil …it disappeared into the undergrowth after running across the road
Autumn is upon us and its getting colder
Our next adventure took us to Yolla, about 15km south of Burnie, where we went looking for long lost relatives in the cemetery. We found Judith’s Great Aunt Catherine who was buried there in 1931 at the age of 45. We then went looking for her husbands grave in the Old Cemetery in Wynyard but could not find his grave. Jude managed to take in a market and we went exploring up the Table Cape which is the headland which juts out into the sea north of Wynyard. We made camp at beautiful Boat Harbour for the night quite close to the sea with tow or three other free campers. Did I say it was cold?
I woke in the early hours to start worrying about getting back up the steep hill at Boat Habour but the Isuzu climbed it in second gear without much strain. We visited a number of beaches from there to the west but settled for Stanley Beach and found a site in the caravan park close-by. The day was hot and cold. We read and Jude cooked with the Baby Q. I had to play numerous ball games with the dog.
Tuesday
Camped at Stanley…..did Tourist Drive in morning and found other free campsites. Drove to Smithton and did some shopping. Then we drove towards Woolnorth and stopped at the end of the bitumen and turned around. Drove to Marrawah after reading all about Woolnorth and the Van Diemen’s Land Company.
The wind was blowing a gale at Green’s Beach but 100 metres back from the beach there was some shelter and so we parked up…… And decided to stay for the rest of the day. Read some history of Aboriginal Tasmania and the Mt Cameron West petroglyphs. Going to look for them but will unhitch van.
Wednesday
Plurry cold. Decided to give petroglyphs a miss in the morning. Maybe next time. My brain wants to do it but my body is not up to it. The Splendid Wrens came for a visit and one hopped up on the step. We drove to Arthur River and the Edge of the world. And it was bloody freezing. Jude went on to take photos
Then on to The Tarkine and saw old growth forests, new growth forests and burnt forests. One needs to go on specialist tours to see the real Tarkine, I think. It is a special place. Tarkine is pronounced ‘Tar-keen-knee’ by the local Aboriginal clan who hunted in the forests before the invasion of the island by the British in 1803
An interesting idea seems to work to scare Tasmanian Devils away from the road thus saving them from becoming roadkill
We drove back to Smithton to refuel and camped at West Esplanade under the spotlights. Cold with showers of rain. The following morning we filled up with water at a designated tap before setting off again
It was a beautiful clear morning and with great river reflections on the Duck Estuary.
We drove back out past the Tarkine this time, and then skirted it by driving the Pieman and Long Plain roads. Some very steep sections were encountered and it seemed that there were 5 bends in every kilometre for the 200 we drove this day
Stopped for lunch at Corinna and watched the ferry operating.
After lunch we had a close encounter with a truck and a motorcyclist on the wrong side of the road. Drove on over hills and dales and bends and camped at Waratah Council Caravan Park. It was wet. Tried camping on the grass but it was a slight rise and even 4×4 couldn’t get us up it was so slippery. So, we pushed in on another site and stopped. Bitterly cold.
We were going to stay two nights but decided to push on.
More winding roads. Stopped at Tullah and bought lovely wooden bowl. Info place at Rosebery was closed but we gathered that Montezuma Falls was out of our reach. Pretty town. On to Zeehan. Looked at museum for info. Camping area didn’t excite us and we pushed on over even more hills to Strahan which is set on Macquarie Bay. A very beautiful town. It was raining…thetown reminded us of Coles Bay…sort of upmarketish.
Camped at Ocean Beach. Rough night. Howling gales shook the van. Shearwaters nest there
Left early for Queenstown over more hills and thick forests.

Did our washing there and refuelled and then came up THE CLIMB out of Queenstown. We made it in 2nd gear even though it was an extreme climb. Downhill was 1st gear. Saw beautiful water fall from overnight rains. Queenstown town buildings uniquely 1890’s era. Saw lots of older people running businesses and even old people walking the steep streets of the town.Town common very stark from all the mining. We stopped at Lake Burbury in the Thureax Hills. Lake Burbury is the biggest hydro electric dam in Tasmania 4km off the highway and put the awning out. Sun, wind, rain, cold. Put the awning in…played ball. Watched Julie and Julia movie. Sporadic rain and windgusts through the night
Sunday
A wet misty morning. We drove on to Derwent Bridge and The Wall. The latter was awesome to say the least. We spent about two hours there.
Then we took to the road again via Miena and Interlaken, backroads to say the least, seeing Tyhe Great Lake, Lake Sorell and others to Oatlands. The rain had stopped by now but the wind did not let up. Along the way we stopped on the side of the road and as Jude got out she came face to face with a Tasmanian Devil. I saw it too before it disappeared into the scrub
What struck me most this afternoon was the waste of timber felled during a different era. White man has been very destructive on this island
Monday saw use meander on to Ross once again and marvel at the bridge built by convict labour and completed in 1836. It spans the Macquarie River
Then we indulged ourselves in wool garments at the Tasmanian Wool Centre.
The road now took us to Campbell Town, Avoca, Fingal and back to St Marys where camped for the night at the Recreation Reserve. The sun was out for the first time in a week and we soaked it in. The following day we made it back to Swimcart Beach on The Bay of Fires narrowly avoiding getting tangled up in Targa Tasmania. Some of the cars were awesome.
Jacobs Ladder 2016

Having driven to most of the ‘bucket list’ places in Tasmania there still remained a few places to go where we have been excluded from as we have our ‘Furry Child’ travelling with us. So whilst camped at ‘Old Mac’s Campground’ in Launceston, I took the opportunity to drive out to the ski fields’ iconic road in the Ben Lomond Mountain Range within the National Park with the same name. The highest point of the range is Legges Tor, rather unimposing at 1572 metres above sea level. One of the Aboriginal name interpretations is Toorbunna and though the meaning is obscure it may mean Rain Walk. Ben Lomond National Park protects around 220 alpine plant species. Bennett’s Wallabies, Wombats and Pademelons are in abundance while Eastern Quolls inhabit the Ski Village in winter, no doubt living on what humans discard
It as an exhilarating morning drive and to breathe in the crisp, fresh air at the top of Jacobs Ladder was absolutely great!

Cancer

Back home at Peterborough in May of 2016 I noticed blood in the toilet bowl after having a pee and I immediately contacted our local clinic and gave a sample for analysis. And this is where the story about my cancer comes in.

My Doctor, a German born native with a strong accent and a rather brusque but to the point bedside manner, just said “You have cancer” It struck me like a thunderbolt. After all my niggly ailments over the years I was not expecting this.

An appointment was made with a Urologist in Adelaide and within ten days, which is quick by country standards, and off I went to visit him. It seemed however that all he wanted to talk about was fishing, which is not a favourite subject with me but he said that he would refer me to a specialist at the Lyell McEwin Hospital in Elizabethvale and would mark it as Urgent. When I asked how long ‘Urgent’ was at the Lyell McEwin, he replied “Oh, two to three months”. And this set the scene for the next half year and more.

We decided that waiting around for that length of time, worrying about what is going to happen next was a waste of time and so we packed the caravan and headed for Far North Queensland and Cape York. At Eromanga in Western Queensland I switched my phone on to make a call and received a call soon after. It was my Doctors who wanted to see me. When I told her where I was she was most indignant that I could not do this but I insisted that there was nothing to gain by sitting around waiting for a call. Three months later we were back home again to start the rounds of doctors appointments and procedure that I had to endure

To put all of these appointments into perspective I need to tell you that we live 230 kilometres from the hospital

 

Escaping the cold 2016

 

Throughout life we are forever escaping from something. The older one gets the more susceptible our bodies become to the vagaries of the weather. Trying to find the best weather, however, is normally a journey of some thousands of kilometres in this vast island continent.
We lived in harmony with the weather in Darwin until we arrived to our mid 50’s and then the humidity started to wear us down. And so, being free spirits, we took to the road and after five years on the road, on a warm November day, we bought a house in a small rural village in South Australia. We blindly shut out the possibility of what colder weather might do us when the winter months arrived. Lying 540 metres above sea level and in a temperate zone in the Flinders Valley Complex, our winter temps hit a low minus 10 one year. So to escape these extremes we endeavoured to take off for the winter to warmer climes. Unfortunately, around about the start of winter ‘Murphy’ makes his appearance in various forms but health issues. We are forever getting colds, rotten teeth or arthritic issues. Mechanical failures also loom into the picture and on 2015 we only escaped at the beginning of August. This year we have expedited troubles and have managed to escape mid-June.
We planned to leave on the Monday but got so excited and wound up about taking off that we hit the road after lunch on Sunday. Our first camp at Mingary Siding was about 300 metres from the Barrier Highway in the rail corridor and in a spot which prickle free. It was thought and we were indoors before sunset. That night we managed to wear three layers of clothes under the doona with a warm Kelpie on top. The wind dropped, we slept well as the traffic died down after 9pm and woke at daylight with a layer of ice over the car and van
Heading north out of Broken Hill on the Silver City Highway the greenery was akin to that of Tasmania after some good rainfall recently. The Patchwork Road is being patched with more bitumen sections on the way to Tibooburra. By 3.30 we had had enough of driving and found a pebbly campsite at the intersection with the Cobham Road to White Cliffs.
A short time after setting up camp we had a visitation by a family of Emu teenagers and their inquisitiveness and Blaise’s Camp Guard duties were quite funny. She is very obedient though as we called her back from potential hurt. We didn’t light a fire as there was a strong breeze about which increased intensity during the night. We were able to sleep by only wearing two layers of clothes.
Day 3. We were on the road by 9am the next morning. Saw Kangaroos and Emu’s early. Then Lake Bullieu. Could have camped there if we had driven just a few kilometres further. Just a short distance further north and we came across some bush artwork
We loved the Tool Tree and Little Tool Tree and an old satellite dish which stated Watch the Road!
At Tibooburra we refuelled @ $1.36l and went on our way again.
A slow trip today but we managed 350km. Silver City Hwy is sealed in places up to Tibooburra and then the
bulldust patches through Sturt NP have been sealed as well, making the drive more pleasant. Once through the Dog Fence at Warri Gate, we stopped for lunch and also had a quick ball game which resulted in a left leg limp.
The road was good overall but with some sneaky washouts. The roadside vegetation was very green with new growth, luxuriant in places. There was a bit of water lying about in gullies and some creeks. I managed to drive through some mud much to Jude’s horror. We got to Noccundra Waterhole in the late afternoon to find about 20 rigs parked there. We were lucky to find a good spot in no time and set up camp. It was definitely warmer here but the mossies were bad and chased us indoors as the sun set.
Day 4. Shorts and T shirt day. Fiddled with van brakes as there was a clunking noise. It went away. Then I used the Jockey Wheel to raise the car higher so that I could fit under to reposition and cable-tie the Diff Breather, which had come adrift. Sorted out the front of the van for wood storage and took wood box out of back of car for more space for Blaise. Jude cooked a great curry on the fire and we drank copious amounts of red wine on a late lunch day. Then we all had a sleep. The Yabbie Net caught three minute Yabbies which we threw back. When the mossies chased us inside we went to turn the radio on but it refused to co-operate. Then I stuck a CD in it and could not retrieve it. Decided radio is a waste of time and will buy a free standing one
Day 5. Light cloud about. Up at 6 for coffee and doggy outs. Then we got underway towards Eromanga.
Once there we bought pies at the hotel and then got the key for the museum and a bus load of tourists came in too. Diesel was $1.38 at the pump where they make it. Got in to Quilpie and the last site in the caravan park. Had a relax. Refuelled and bought fuel at $1.48. Bought an Anderson plug at a price and replaced the broken one on the van. Bubbled up in the spa in the park which was quite therapeutic.
Day 6. Jude drove some of the way getting experience. Stopped for a microwaved pie at Cooladdie Roadhouse and then 0n to Charleville for internet, food and grog supplies. We boiled the billy at Morven and later we found a good campsite at the Neil Turner Weir at Mitchell with many others. Jude cooked Kangaroo Stew on an open fire and we used up most of our meagre wood supplies. The dry Gidgea wood burned well.
Day 7. Rest day. Expecting rain later in the day. Lay about doing as little as possible. It became progressively cooler and bylate afternoon spots of rain made us pack up and go inside. The rain started with sproradic showers and then it rained heavily through the night
Day 8. Got out of the van this morning and the blacksoil squelched up through my toes
Jude carried Blaise to the car so as not to get mud everywhere. Then she walked up front with the handheld radio and tested the track for mud depth. We only had about 100metres to the bitumen
Low Range…….. and I try a gentle light footed approach. All 4 wheels spin and the van stays motionless and the MUX slews sideways. Then the right front wheel in Traction Control grabs a piece of grass and I manage to get the van moving. We get traction and then make it through a big puddle of water to safety. Phew!!!!!!!
We met a mob of cattle in the Long Paddock on the way to Roma
We camped at the Big Rig Park. Quite a squeezed reverse park-in but I did it with colours on a first attempt.
Drove around town doing shopping and fuel ups.
Day 9. MUX is having its 20,000km service at Harvey Black Isuzu. We are spending time reading and surfing the net
Day 10. And we are back on the road heading east to Chinchilla via Miles. The road is lumpy and bumpy and there are still road works going on 5 years after we found them whilst travelling home. After a spot of lunch in a park we took a minor backroad to Wondai. This road, was in place, the worse surface sealed road we had driven on in many years. It was built over black soil plains and the undersoil has subsided causing very large sunken sections. We got as far as Stuart River where there is a large free campsite with no facilities. The traffic stopped around 9pm and started again around 5am, giving us a good chance to sleep.
Day 11. Wondai, Ban Ban Springs, Biggenden, Childers and finally Bundaberg where we parked up in a friend’s yard next to a busy highway. The day time temperature is 24C and I soon discarded my winter clothes for shorts, a T-shirt and sandals. We will hang around here for about 2 weeks

Destination Weipa 2016

Having done all the necessary jobs and visitations as far as Bundaberg, we set off on a new adventure to visit new places and ones we had been to long ago. New roads are the order of the day but unfortunately they are built on the foundations of the old ones and remain bumpy and uneven.
We made it to Winfield, a small enclave of designer built houses for the well off on the banks of Baffle Creek. The creek came up in the 2012 flood and drowned nearby houses up to two metres in depth/ Our friends had a big job ahead in the restoration and got through the disaster with colours. Nearby there are thousands of Macadamia trees owned and operated by an American company. We managed to scrounge some on the windrow which is all part of our hunting and gathering
We last visited the Town of 1770 and Agnes Waters some 45 years ago when they were backwater hamlets. Today they look like the ‘Gold Coast’ with rich man’s houses and poor mans caravan parks abounding the valleys and hills and billboard advertising everywhere. We came away saddened and made for Miriamvale as we now needed to refuel the MUX
At the information Centre in Miriamvale we discussed driving over Blackman’s Ridge to the Boyne River Valley. I had driven in before a long while back and there was something about it that I needed to be reminded of. It was the very steep and descent on the other side. Someone asked if I knew what I was doing and I said Yes.
We managed second gear over the range and first gear with brakes on down the steep and narrow incline. We were lucky not to meet other vehicles on the pass as the vehicle coming up the range has right of way
A short way down the valley we turned in to The Discovery Centre Recreation ground where we were able to camp for $10 per night and $5 for power for our length of stay. We took that up as rain was forecast and we needed hrd ground to stop on. The rain came all right and it rained hard until a short while after sunrise. Then it stopped and the sun came out and by midday the grounds had dried.
We camped here for a couple of days and then edged on to Gracemere on the fringes of Rockhampton via Calliope. Once again the Queensland roads proved to be tricky with almost dangerous dips, railway crossings and rough surface roads. Rockhampton was busy and we went looking for various items and ended up at shopping mall the size of our hometown
We managed to find Markets over the weekend at the Farmers Market at Yeppoon and The Heritage Market in North Rockhampton. Our journey also took us to Rosslyn Harbour, Emu Park and the Singing Ship and Keppel Sands.
The Singing Ship at Emu Park. A well thought out collection of pipes which catch the breezes and then make haunting sounds
The development in housing and apartments staggered us somewhat having remembered the places as slow easy-going seaside hamlets and now the scenery has changed into a sphere of resort type enclaves. There are still a few old beach shacks and Queenslander Houses around.
Leaving Rockhampton on the last day of school holidays saw a busy road. We pulled in to a Driver Reviver Station and had a chat and a coffee with travellers and locals. We spent the night at St Lawrence Campground with other travellers. There was no fee although a sign at the entrance gate said so. The campground is in the Rodeo Grounds and adjacent to the mangrove swamps, and the mosquitoes chased us inside before dark.
St Lawrence has a history to it when in the 1800’s a Meatworks was established there and meat exported to Brisbane by steamer. It is not known why the endeavour failed.
Clairview Roadside Stop has been closed and instead a community caravan park has been extablished. The ablutions and a Craft Centre can still be found at the old site. Clairview attracts fisherman from all over the country.
At Flaggy Rock Railway Siding another community camping area has been established with about 5 acres of manicured lawns and shower and toilets sand other facilities. We decided to stop and found a good site and set up camp. The Kookaburras gave us their morning and evening choruses and the Plovers hung about nearby as they obviously had an egg they were watching. We slacked off and stayed two nights
The next day we drove out to the coast down a number of roads looking for a beach to explore but were thwarted by the ever encroaching signs of suburbia making access to beaches difficult. We managed one very sharp turnaround at Salonika Beach south of Mackay.
Late afternoon we made it to a cane field close to the road next to the General Gordon Hotel at Homebush Locality. The pub owners were friendly, charged us $5 a head, gave us a good feed at a reasonable price and also let us fill our water tank in the morning. Being on a city by-pass road meant that there was little road noise between 9pm and 2am. Thereafter sleep became erratic as cars and trucks coursed the pavement just metres from us. A late afternoon Cane Fire got our interest. It soon died down however.
Being slightly under the weather from sleep deprivation I had a ‘senior moment’ when refuelling the car at a country store in Calen. I had grabbed the wrong fuel hose and realised my mistake immediately but not before putting .8 of a litre of Unleaded fuel in the diesel tank. I then filled the tank with diesel and rang Isuzu on their Hotline for advice. The advice was to have the tank drained and flushed and that they would have someone call on us within the hour. The friendly RACQ man from just up the road came around and after a discussion with him, we decided that the ingress of petrol of less than 1% of the tank capacity would just mix in with the diesel and dissipate. We checked out another two beaches but the same scenario applied. At Proserpine we bought Heartworm tablets for our furry child and then set off for Hideaway Bay on the coast. Jude managed to obtain the very last site in the caravan park and we settled in to sit out the unseasonal rain which was bearing down on us.
Jude did a Craft session with some other touring ladies at the Caravan Park’s Common Room, the following morning. In the afternoon we drove to Dingo Beach, Gloucester Point and parts of Hideaway Bay gaping at the million-dollar houses built there. The road to Gloucester Point is not sealed and was very wet and slippery
Saturday morning saw us drive to Airlie Beach so that Jude could visit a Market on the Foreshore. We were utterly stunned by the development that had happened at Airlie over the past 40 odd years. We drove over to Shute Harbour to see the development and pending development in the form of a Parking Garage for tourists to leave their vehicles. Shying away from the throngs of people and traffic we visited Conway Beach down the coast to find an unrushed, tranquil place with few people about. Nearby Cedar Falls was a sight to see after all the rain.
The following day at Bowen, we marvelled at the wonderful murals before continuing on and finding a bush camp at Plantation Creek Boat-ramp, east of Ayr, in the late afternoon. It wasn’t the most exciting place but we were tired and this had to do. After some really heavy rain I moved the rig to a better spot and away from the streaming water.
A spot of breakfast at Maccas in Ayr made us resolve to never eat there again. We managed to bypass Townsville and then we called ahead and caught up with an old mate in Ingham for a cuppa. He was in good health and spirits.
This was the week of rain. Driving along the Bruce Highway in the rain wasn’t fun, as trucks would splash huge amounts of water at the windscreen with their rows of wheels.
At Cowley Beach Caravan Park, we booked in for a week. Managed to park the van on a cement slab. It was actually the slab that we camped on, way back in 1996. Not much has changed at Cowley Beach over 20 years, There are some new self-contained units but the reception office and the ablution blocks still look drab and old. The management is no better. The only consolation is that the beach was only 100 metres from our van. Unfortunately, we could not get a beachfront site we had in the past but the one we had would suffice.
We went for a number of drives to wineries, markets and various shops and stores whilst at Cowley Beach. The following Monday we were on the road again, this time heading for the Atherton Tableland.
Apart from the lush jungle vegetation of the far north and the endless fields of sugar cane Bananas and Paw Paws grow in profusion. Apparently three quarters of the total banana production of Australia is grown in the Innisfail area
A common native wanderer north of the Sydney and right up into Cape York and the wet tropics is the Brush Turkey or more commonly known as the BushTurkey.
Visiting Mungalli Bio Diverse Dairy and the driving the Waterfalls Tourist Route made for steep uphills and downhills with the caravan in tow and some very tight turn-arounds and especially at Millaa Millaa Falls. The latter was flowing beautifully after the recent unseasonal rains
to let Jude get over a bout of sneezing and coughing, We thought about staying longer and doing some local drives but we had light rain and the site turned into mud. At Malanda we did some shopping for supplies and at Gallo Dairy Farm we bought cheese and chocolates. The next tourist stop was the Coffee Works in Mareeba where a coffee percolator was acquired. We had lunch at Jacques Coffee Plantation, bought a curio and did a refuel at Mount Molloy and pulled up for the night at Bustard Downs farm. The amenities were good but not suited for disabled people. Each campsite had a lean-to cover and cement slab. But there wasn’t much room for error as we found out the next morning. We had to unhitch and manually swing the van away after I swung the van out too early and touched the steel upright. We got out of that one unscathed and decided that Bustard Downs was more like Bastard Downs
We had another early camp at Laura in the grounds owned by the Roadhouse after climbing the ranges and then descending them again. The road from Laura to Musgrave Roadhouse was good but from there on there were some serious corrugations which were unescapable. There are now a number of sealed sections on the Peninsula Developmental Road bringing relief from the rattles at times
Our days of rest from driving came at Big Bend of the Coen River. The crystal-clear waters of the river invite you to sit there and dream the day away. Excitement however was about to befall us. The cattle station which surrounds the town and town common of Coen were mustering stray cattle. A helicopter, a Stockman on horseback, a Stockman on a Quad bike and two cattle dogs were working hard to get the last bull to co-operate. All this was taking place across the waters from us and about 50metres in distance. The bull then decided to cross the shallow river and came up the embankment on our side and made for us stopping a mere 5 metres from me. I tried to shoo it away but then thought the better of it and herded Jude and Blaise and myself into the caravan. The bull then saw no more antagonists and took off around the back of the van. The stockmen then lassooed it and brought it to the ground. Later in the day a truck and trailer arrived and the tied up bull was winched on and taken away. We did not learn its fate.
We cooked our meal on the fire and later in the evening our neighbours came over for a chat. The Brown Tree Frogs kept serenading us with their chirping.

Nothing much happened the next day and the day after that we drove the last 260km to Weipa. About 160km is gravel road and the rest is sealed. The gravel bits were not too badly corrugated and the road improved markedly after the Y junction where the road splits to Weipa or Cape York.
There were some seriously deep dips in the road and I drove with great care. We were stopped at the Haul Road by a Boom Gate and a Traffic Light and had to wait about 10 minutes for the Haul Road to clear before we were allowed to cross

Cobbold Gorge 2016

I had heard of Cobbold Gorge on a previous visit to Far North Queensland and kept it in mind for a future visit.
Along the way on our journey to include Cobbold Gorge in to our itinerary this year, we stopped for a rest at Mount Garnet Caravan Park
“No way am I going to take my caravan on that awfully corrugated road beyond Georgetown. My mate’s trailer fell apart on that stretch of road” said my neighbour, who parked up next to us. Not that corrugations would worry us much after travelling to Weipa a few weeks back. But with some trepidation we enquired at the Georgetown Information Centre about this ‘horrific’ stretch of road. The answer was almost the same but with some additional information that the corrugated bit was only 14km long. I rang Cobbold Gorge Village and the receptionist said that the road was corrugated in places but in general OK for caravans and camper trailers. As it turned out, two, hundred metre sections of the 14km stretch, were corrugated. The rest was a breeze. It depends on what level of corrugated roads you have experienced. So much wrong information! The road from Georgetown to the old gold mining town of Forsayth is 42km in length and from there it is 45km of good gravel road to Cobbold Gorge Village. There are a few buildings at Forsayth and a Hotel cum General Store cum Post Office cum fuel outlet. It is also the Terminal for the Savannahlander Train on its weekly journey servicing isolated towns and communities all the way from Cairns.
Frank Edward Cobbold, generally known as FC, was a charismatic character who held vast pastoral holdings in the late Nineteenth Century in this sandstone country of Far North Queensland. Somehow Cobbold Creek, a tributary of the Robinson River, was named after him. Pastoral Families such as the Cobbolds, Corbertt’s, Clark’s and Terry’s have made a living from raising cattle on the holdings over the past 150 years. The Clark Family, who, like others, emigrated from Europe in the late 1800’s, took up this lease and named it Robin Hood Station, supposedly as it had Sherwood Mining Lease as one neighbour and Forestvale Station as another. Later this station was divided in to three sections and Simon and Gaye Terry and their children became the lease holders of Howlong Station, next to Old Robin Hood and Robinhood itself.
It wasn’t until 1994 that Simon Terry and some fishing mates, bush bashed their way in to this remote gorge, to discover that there was more to it that just a waterhole on Cobbold Creek. Cobbold Gorge was there, hiding in the shadows of the sandstone plains countryThe idea then came about to diversify to tourism to help their cattle holdings survive the droughts and Cobbold Village was created in a resort style of accommodation with ensuite cabins and caravan park facilities.
To my mind the Terry family run a very slick and polished operation with friendly staff and tour guides and all to a fine order. A Camp Kitchen is provided for campers. There are powered and unpowered caravan sites and the Village is Pet Friendly. There is a licenced Bar, quality Restaurant and Infinity Swimming Pool with three levels of temperature. There are submerged stools in the main pool so that you may sit in the water and enjoy a cold drink from the bar. The Village also has disabled access to all facilities.
From May to October visitation to the Village and Tours to the Gorge take place. There is a morning and a midday tour on a daily basis. Comfortable, air-conditioned four wheel drive coaches ferry the visitors to the gorge. The journey is only 4 kilometres to the gorge over some steep dips and climbs. Each tour tales three hours and the cost is nominal for such a great experience. The first hour of the tour is taken up with a walk up and over the sandstone plain to experience bush tucker, aboriginal folklore and to view into the gorge from the top of the gash in the rocks. The next two hours are taken up by slowly cruising the gorge in electric boats that take up to 10 people. The gorge is only 480 metres in length and 33 metres in heght. It is a relatively young gorge in geological terms and probably no more that 10,000 years old. The creek has not weathered the sandstone very much and that is why it is still only two metres wide in places. The amazing sculptured walls leave you breathless. At one juncture our tpur guide stopped the boast and asked everyone to be quiet and to listen to nature’s symphony orchestra playing the symbals as the water, seeping through cracks in the sandstone fissures, spread over and drips down mosses clinging to the cooler parts of the rock face. Archer fish, Rainbow fish, a variety of Grunter and Black Bream fish are found in the gorge. There is also a presence of FreshwaterTurtles and Freshwater Crocodiles.

Living with cancer

As there has never been a reported cancer sufferer in our family tree, it came as a surprise to me when my GP at the time blurted out to me that I had cancer in the month of May 2016.

But let me start at the beginning.

As a child I was fascinated by the opportunity that I may have to see in the new century. I used to say “Gee, I will be 57 when the year 2000 comes about”. Life went on and I shifted continents and country of allegiance, got married in 1969 and in 1999 we landed in the town where we still live today. We bought a 100 year-old sandstone cottage and started to build up our new home after being Grey Nomads for five years. It was at my Mother’s funeral in 1999 that my younger brother said to me “Why are you limping?”. I had not noticed.

This was at the start of my adventure with total knee replacements. By 2002 it became apparent that the two of us would get no sleep in the same bed as I wriggled around too much trying to get into a position to whilst sleeping so that I could be painless and find some comfort. So I bought my own queen-size bed, we closed our little shop down that we had selling crafty stuff and took up to being on unemployment benefits. A short while later I was awarded a Disability Pension and Judith a spouse’s living allowance and by 2010 we were both receiving the old age pension from the government.

By some strange coincidence both Judith and I suffered from knee ailments and had both our knees replaced with Titanium steel ones over a period of 10 years. All operations were successful. My left knee which has now been in operation for 14 years, gives me a tweak of pain every now and then and might need some attention in the near future.

Sleeping alone brought benefits like staying up late reading or watching TV.  It was also quiet with no deep snoring sounds to be heard. I also brought a Chemical Portable Toilet into into room, so that it was not a big issue getting up in the middle of the night and stomping down the length of the corridor and through the kitchen and laundry  to the toilet, at the rear of the house. I started sitting to empty my bladder and found that it emptied very well. I know this is not a very manly thing to do but it is definitely a lot cleaner.

This was 2002 and I bought myself a wheelchair as my knees were killing me. This was also the time of the Health Insurance debacle and my Specialist suddenly retired and I had to start all over again. Luckily Adelaide Orthopaedic Specialists were still visiting Port Augusta Hospital and I was able to get my first Total Knee Replacement in the winter of 2003. This brought some relief and I still went down on the list for my next knee replacement and this happened in 2005 also at Port Augusta Hospital, but with a different specialist. By 2006 I was walking well with my staff and by 2007 walking without using my staff.

Life went on and in 2008 I had a Carpal Tunnel operation to my right hand which alleviated the pain and numbness. Then in 2009 I started feeling pain in my left hip and then again in my right hip. I went through the process again of having a Cat-scan done of my Lower Back. The specialist told me that my hips were fine and did not need attention but that I had the onset of Spinal Stenosis and that doctors are loath to operate on someone over the age of 60 as there were too many variables of what could go wrong. At this time I was 66. I was given a variety of prescriptions but mainly relied on Diclofenac and so I slowly but surely lost my ability to walk properly and needed a walking stick to keep my balance right. In 2013 I was in Alice Springs and visiting with Bill and Liz. They had just installed new floor in their house. The floor had a concrete base and a soft padded vinyl type covering. It was very smooth to walk on and I was in my socks when I slipped and fell backwards hitting my head quite hard on the floor. I was a bit dizzy for a few minutes but soon recovered.

A few days late Bill and I and another bloke went camping in the Cleland Hills. s remote part of Central Australia about 500km west of Alice Springs. One morning the frying pan dropped out of my left hand as I tried to pick it up. I immediately thought that I had had a stroke but discounted it later on as my face still held its position. The following day I was weak when we went exploring. By the time I got home again I started experiencing hot flushes with my skin feeling like I have been sunburned. I went to see our local physiotherapist and had acupuncture and massages, all to no avail. While massages were good I returned back to the old position by the late afternoon.

I started seeing Doctors at our local clinic and ended up seeing a different Locum every time. My condition became steadily worse and I asked if I could get a referral to a specialist in Adelaide this was done on 4th July 2014. In January of 2017 I was summarily taken off the list with a statement that my condition was not bad enough to be worthy to be seen by a specialist. In the mean time my condition started deteriorating by the day. I was dragging my left foot, tripping up on objects and falling, mainly to my left side. A Doctor friend of mine, in Melbourne, became alarmed when he saw how bad my mobility was and arranged for me to have an MRI done and then three months later, when we returned from a visit to Tasmania, to see a Neurosurgeon in Melbourne. This bloke was kind and caring and said that I did not need an operation but would benefit from seeing a Neurologist and he suggested a friend of his in Adelaide. That eventually happened in September of 2016 and is ongoing at the moment. So now I was taking 750mg Lyrica twice a day, 1000mg Naproxen once a day, 100mg Tramadol twice a day and Sozol once every second day. This effectively cuts my back pain out with no side effects.

Back home in May of 2016 I noticed blood in the toilet bowl after having a pee and I immediately contacted our local clinic and gave a sample for analysis. And this is where the story about my cancer comes in.

My Doctor, a German born native with a strong accent and a rather brusque but to the point bedside manner, just said “You have cancer” It struck me like a thunderbolt. After all my niggly ailments over the years I was not expecting this.

An appointment was made with a Urologist in Adelaide and within ten days, which is quick by country standards, and off I went to visit him. It seemed however that all he wanted to talk about was fishing, which is not a favourite subject with me but he said that he would refer me to a specialist at the Lyell McEwin Hospital in Elizabethvale and would mark it as Urgent. When I asked how long ‘Urgent’ was at the Lyell McEwin, he replied “Oh, two to three months”. And this set the scene for the next half year and more.

We decided that waiting around for that length of time, worrying about what is going to happen next was a waste of time and so we packed the caravan and headed for Far North Queensland and Cape York. At Eromanga in Western Queensland I switched my phone on to make a call and received a call soon after. It was my Doctors who wanted to see me. When I told her where I was she was most indignant that I could not do this but I insisted that there was nothing to gain by sitting around waiting for a call. Three months later we were back home again to start the rounds of doctors appointments and procedure that I had to endure

To put all of these appointments into perspective I need to tell you that we live 230 kilometres from the hospital

First up was a ten-minute appointment with the Registrar of the Urology Department

Then I received two letters a week later. One for a Cystoscopy Procedure and another for an MRI of the lower bowel area. A Cystoscopy is when a small tube with camera is inserted in the penis pipe and the camera then tells the viewer what is happening inside the bladder.

The first time for the Cystoscopy Procedure we were just 30km short of arriving at the hospital when they rang to say that the specialist was sick and that they were re-scheduling the appointment and would send me a letter. After two weeks I rang to find out what was happening and they very apologetically made another appointment for me. In the mean time I came down to the hospital for the Lower Bowel MRI. That result was not conveyed to me until four weeks later!

Having a young female nurse handle my private parts with such competence was something else to get my head around but I survived the feigned embarrassment. A thin tube with a miniature cameras head was inserted into my urinary tunnel of my penis. The Cystoscopy showed a large tumour the size of my thumb inside my bladder. Then I had to come down for a pre-op consultation and saw various nurses and a very nice Anaesthetist. We agreed on a lumbar injection to deaden the lower half of my body while keeping me conscious. So on 7th December 2016 I went in for a Cystoscopy and Turbt, as it is called, to remove the offending tumour. Another male anaesthetist with a heavy South African accent proceeded to give me an epidural lumbar injection. After 7 attempts he gave up as he could not penetrate the calcified bone joints to get to the nerve and so I had to have a General Anaesthetic.

I woke up in a ward with three other old blokes, one being Vietnamese and not speaking much English. He was, however, in good shape for a 96 year-old. The operating doctor came by and told me that my bladder has been scraped clear of cancer but that the cancer was the aggressive type and that it was possible that there could be some remnants left in the bladder wall and that the specialists would have a look at the procedure at a meeting at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and that they would get back to me. He told me that I would be kept in overnight and that I could go home the next day.

At this juncture I had a catheter attached to my bladder and in the morning two nurses came by to remove the catheter. They were rough and hurt me somewhat. I went and had a shower and then after I was dressed, I got up to do something and my walker slipped from underneath me and I fell forward. The next thing I received a needle jab and it was Goodnight. I remember having severe pain in my back and kept on trying to get up to alleviate that pain but a nurse kept on pushing me back into the bed. Man, they pumped me full of drugs. Told me I had kidney failure and all types of other things. Kept on asking me if I was in pain while Endone and Oxycontin were used liberally. By the third day I started weaning myself off the drugs refusing to take them. On the Sunday I was wheeled out of my room to an x-ray machine and had a special x-ray done of my lungs. They said my lungs were damaged and I said that I knew that but why the x-ray in the first place. “Oh! you have been coughing”. I retorted that I have not coughed in years and I pointed to a nurse who was coughing, not me. They became very embarrassed a quietly disappeared. On the Monday I agitated to go home and the hospital agreed to transfer me to the Peterborough Hospital by ambulance. On Tuesday I vacated my bed and the nurses ordered an ambulance for me. This was at 10am. By 3pm nothing was happening and so I asked what the go was. The nurses station became a flurry of activity and not long after they asked if I minded going in a Hire Car. I agreed and my transport arrived at 5.10pm. A stretched limo Black BMW to take me to Peterborough. It was the talk of the town for a while. I received excellent care at the Peterborough Soldiers Memorial Hospital and was released to go home on Wednesday evening

And then the wait began to see what the specialists have come up with for further treatment. Christmas and New Year came and went

 

 

 

Posted in Life Stories.