Last week, with the help of my new ‘el cheapo’ sewing machine, I managed to finish whipping up curtains, (mosquito net) fly screens and window socks for the camper van – just in time for the Elvis Festival in Parkes.

At around 360 kilometres away, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to celebrate our newly completed camper fit-out as well as to discover what we’d forgotten to organise or pack.

With a 3-day window of Rest days (what the police call their days off ….. although Nigel would call them “work around the house” or “work for Kaye” days) we booked a dog-friendly caravan park at Peak Hill – not far from Parkes – and took off excitedly last Thursday morning.

Now, in my defence when I first raised the idea with Nigel, it was spring and the weather was sunny but cool. However Thursday’s weather, while sunny, was anything but cool – at around 42 degrees! Gradually our excitement turned into a rude awakening. Questions like “What if we can’t park close to the main activities and have to walk for kilometres? What if Bowie can’t handle the heat? What if there’s no shade?” While we didn’t quite blame Elvis for the heat wave, we definitely questioned why on earth he chose to be born in January.

Of course, none of those questions seemed important when, around 20 kilometres out from the festival, the oil light decided to turn itself on, screaming “pull over now or I’ll blow the engine up!” or words to that effect.

Now the idea of stopping by the side of a country road with a very furry dog in 42 degree heat with no shade to be found was somewhat off-putting and after a few seconds’ debating, we decided to venture on towards Parkes in the hope that the light might decide to turn itself off. Unfortunately that was never going to happen.

Fortunately however, we managed to make it to a service station without said engine blowing up. Unfortunately, after topping up the oil to the level dictated by the manual, the light stayed on leaving us with no other course of action but to wait for our friendly NRMA man to arrive. Fortunately, the NRMA were quite understanding of Bowie’s discomfort and the stated hour’s wait was reduced to 20 minutes (if you remember the Nissan towing debacle, I’m happy to declare that all is now forgiven!!).

Strangely, the manual wasn’t quite correct and more oil needed to be added (who argues with an NRMA mechanic?) but unfortunately and again, contrary to the manual, the light stayed on leading to another hasty decision – to drive on (Nigel), while praying for divine intervention (Kaye).

Of course the light did eventually go off, the engine didn’t blow up and, back at the caravan park, the heat did finally dissipate ……………but not before the mandatory dust storm had blown up.

Now dust storms are all well and good when you have all the windows closed and the air conditioning on but unfortunately (sorry, I had to get one more in) every window and door had been opened to allow for any cooling breezes that might eventuate during the night.

Suffice it to say that our Elvis holiday was short lived and, with 46 degrees predicted, we took off the next morning – in a very dusty van – for the cooling comforts of home. Instead of bopping out -to “Blue Suede Shoes” we spent the following day mopping out – the floor, walls, windows, curtains and bedding all had to be washed.

‘So what’s the verdict?’ you ask. We love our new camper van!

And we’ve decided to name him Elvis.

Elvis Before

Working on it

Elvis After

Jumped the gun…….

So perhaps I was a tad early with Christmas cheer and wishing everyone a happy new year because, after my dismissiveness (apparently not a word) the last quarter of 2019 is proving quite tenacious. In fact, there are all sorts of events to celebrate before the wind down to Christmas.

Let’s start with the recent heavy rain last weekend. Twenty seven millimetres fell in Cobar, making it the second highest rainfall  in 2019. While it hasn’t broken the drought, there were a lot of happy farmers  and many people took to social media to celebrate in pictures. Here are some of my favourites – from Facebook’s ‘One Day Closer to Rain’. Photography left to right by Ingrid Cassidy Jayda, Justine Campbell, Oliver Ozzey Gordon and Tracy Bennett.

Of course, rain in the bush can sometimes be bitter-sweet as it’s often accompanied by flooded, undriveable roads and shops, such as our IGA store, that needs to be sandbagged at the hint of a deluge.

In our case, with patchy grass and no driveway,  the dirt quickly turned to mud and no matter how many towels I put down, the vinyl floor became a patchwork of prints from muddy, red paws and police boots.

You might remember that we foolishly bought a camper trailer (‘we’ meaning ‘I’) and then discovered that we weren’t camper trailer people after all and should definitely never be allowed to tow or reverse such a beast! After a year, in which we managed to use it for just one night – in the back yard – it became painfully obvious that said trailer had to go and we’ve since replaced it with a VW Transporter van, which we bought a couple of months ago and left behind at Gloucester to be fitted out as a camper.

At 366th in the queue (such is their popularity) it’s been a long time coming but a few days ago DRIFTA emailed to say that our van will be fitted out and ready to collect on the 6th of November. That’s right! Today! Unfortunately, as excited as we are to see the completed work, the earliest we can pick it up is the 18th .

To be honest, I did briefly consider catching a train to Gloucester, picking up the van and then driving back to Cobar but there are no direct train routes from Cobar to Gloucester and I would have had to go via Central with travel and stop-over times totalling around 27 hours. Still………

With the van due to be completed in November and Nigel’s annual leave commencing on the 17th, I decided as unofficial roster clerk to add a few days off without losing any coverage. I was feeling quite chuffed at my outstanding rostering (also not a word) until I realised that our house was rented out for that first few days and therefore unavailable!!

A hasty Plan B was formulated and bad fortune turned to serendipity when we secured dog-friendly accommodation at Wattle Lodge (a 2-bedroom cottage on a one hundred acre cattle farm in Glendon Brook.) With an opportunity to explore the Hunter Valley with its dog-friendly restaurants and wineries I’d say crisis well and truly averted!

And for those, who might be interested, the web site photos look lovely.  http://www.thewattlelodge.com.au/

This one of the cottage was taken by Stan Carter Photographics

When we leave Glendon Brook we’ll catch up with Nigel’s parents on the Central Coast before making our way up the coast to Paradise Beach – hopefully arriving after our holiday tenants have departed. Note to self: when organising holidays it’s a good idea to block accommodation BEFORE someone else books it!!!

Our trips to Paradise Beach are also often bitter-sweet with the anticipation of strolls on the beach, dips in the pool and catching up with friends only slightly dampened by the mandatory list of chores that arise when you  ‘live’ in your house for less than 3 months of the year.

On our next trip we’ll be re-mulching the gardens with river stones, which while looking spectacular for the first year or so, will eventually disappear under the piles of leaves that fall from the trees along our back fence.

It’s quite strenuous work transferring a half a tonne of pebbles by bucket from the ute to the wheelbarrow, then negotiating the sub floor steps before finally tipping them into the back garden. In fact, it’s been on our job list for quite a few months but there’s always been an excuse to replace that chore with an easier task, like pruning or weeding.

There’s also a Yesterday, Today Tomorrow plant, which I’ve just discovered is poisonous to dogs so that will have to go. Not that Bowie’s vices include chewing plants – discarded food scraps in the kitchen bin are much more to his liking – but we can hardly advertise as dog-friendly with dog-unfriendly plants in the yard!

And in case you’re thinking what other chores could there possibly be in Paradise, our job list includes but is not limited to: Paint the balcony ceiling; paint all skirting boards and architraves; clean along the tops of the PVC pipes in the sub floor; meet with handyman Ron regarding painting the front door red and replacing the tarnished chrome towel rails, soap and toilet roll holders in both bathrooms (think living on a house boat); meet with photographer Martin regarding putting professional photos up on Stayz; update the inventory (always fun!) and sand and re-paint all balcony rail posts. Notice the number of painting jobs left till last? Enough said.

And just a note on photographer Martin, who has kindly agreed to my request to photograph the house. Here’s one of his recent photos of the devastating fire that swept along Nine Mile beach in Tuncurry. Thankfully that fire is now under control.

So 2019 is well and truly not over and I’m now researching short trips in a camper van to dog-friendly parks on grassy creek or river beds. Bring it on!!

And in case anyone is interested in doing the same, here are a couple of good sites including Pupsy https://pupsy.com.au/ and Travel Australia with Dogs https://www.facebook.com/groups/496641167356061/