In 2011, Ken and I house-sat at Collarenebri and it was at a time when we knew he had a lump, he’d had several scans as well as a biopsy and we were waiting for the results and that dreaded diagnosis. That ‘process’ took nearly four weeks, and our ‘waiting game’ was done at Collarenebri. The round trip from Collarenebri to Tamworth was a 700 kilometre journey for us, and I remember what an incredibly long day it was as we waited almost five hours, (having managed to snag an appointment only the previous day) to see the ‘The Prof.’ – the Specialist who was to become ‘Dr Wonderful’ for Ken for a few years. That day, driving back along the Gwydir Highway from Tamworth, was a Pivotal moment that changed both of our lives forever. Somehow, not just then but through the whole cancer journey, we always managed to find a positive (however it wasn’t always easy!)
Driving along the Gwydir Highway today all those memories were flooding back. I arrived and set up my camp at the very squeezy caravan park at Moree. Yes the sites are certainly a squeeze, but the four thermal pools plus the lap pool make it all worthwhile. And as I walked from my van, past the ‘site’ Ken and I had been on when last here, my heart went GULP! Heart rate increased, tears welled up and I realised that this too is a new part of my journey. As I revisit places that we’d gone to together it is now somehow healing, yet bitter-sweet. And though the 39 degree thermal pool warms and soothes me, the tears now flow as I sit in my caravan tonight, feeling somewhat sad and lonely. And I know that it’s OK to have these moments. Tomorrow is a whole new day :)
Sunday: I’m feeling much better this morning, and hoping you’ll stay with me on this journey of mine! It was only about 4 degrees when I got up (cool, yet not as cold as some of the mornings I’ve had in the last two weeks), and so in the cool air I wandered over to the pools. The lap pool was 28 degrees – perfect for some laps so I happily swam 10 laps, then stepped into the warm 37 degree pool before venturing into the 39 degree pool for about 15 or 20 minutes. Bliss! And a perfect way to start a new day.
Since my last blog two weeks ago I have ventured both further north and west in NSW enjoying free camps, a few nights with friends and some caravan parks as well. I’ll back-track just a little.
Leaving Maude after my Sunday night as the only customer in the Maude Pub, I headed to Hillston and found a lovely spot on the banks of the Lachlan River. This was to be my first, proper bush camp and I really enjoyed the solitude and just sitting watching the river. I could have easily stayed another night but decided to continue on to Lake Cargelligo the following day. I had half thought I might get my feet wet and take the kayak out for a paddle, but the minus temperatures each morning had me deciding it was too damm cold to think of getting wet! Mind you the days have been absolutely beautiful. Sunny, clear skies with temperatures around 18 degrees most days, but of course those clear skies bring very cool nights. I set my alarm for the following morning so I could photograph the sunrise over the lake and though it was minus 1 outside, it was still worth getting out of bed for. The bird life on Lake Cargelligo is fantastic, and watching the Pelicans come in to land or take off is like watching a jumbo jet take off. The following morning I had fog and could not see beyond the reeds at the edge of the water. Even so, that was also very beautiful. Just no sunrise to view. It was so peaceful and quiet there, I decided to stay another night.
I met ‘Robyn’ at Lake Cargelligo, also a member of the Rolling Solo group and turns out we are both on our way to Alice Springs in August, each on a different route but we’ll meet again ‘in the middle’. It was lovely to enjoy a cup of tea, and share stories followed by a wine before she took off the next day.
I enjoyed a quick visit to Ken's nephew Ben Howard, Jane and baby Frankie in Parkes, then on to Dubbo for the night. My next stop was a little place called Broke and I was very excited about going there as I was meeting up with my good friend Meredith. We’ve maintained our friendship for over 50 years!
Meredith’s friends Annie and Ian arrived Friday night along with their friends Bill and Suzanne. We had a great time that night, and what extra luck for me! Ian plays guitar, Bill plays Ukelele and Suzanne guitar so we had a wonderful night singing tunes around the campfire. Meredith and Bill arrived Saturday morning with their camper trailer and once set up, we all headed off to visit a few wineries. Thankfully, although we did enjoy tasting various wines and partaking in coffee and cake, I also bought a dozen bottles of Verdelho/Chardonnay, and it didn’t send me Broke! They are packed away and I’m hoping they may even make it home! Time will tell.
How lucky I was that Meredith’s friends, all so musically talented, were also very happy to teach me a few chords and tips in my Ukelele playing. One of the biggest things I learnt is that I need to practice! No good putting it under the bed in ‘storage’ when I'm travelling. It needs to be within view. So I am pleased to say that I have been strumming and practising a few chords almost every day.
My weekend at Broke went way too quickly. Meredith and I both very excited knowing we’ll see each other again in six weeks when she flies to Cairns to join me, as we head from Cairns to the Gulf and then on to Alice Springs and beyond.
Paula and Irvin, friends of Karen invited me out to their property, about 10k out of Barraba. ‘Taralinga’ is an absolutely stunning property, and after an excellent season the paddocks are all looking lush and the cattle very content. Irvin is an absolute visionary and when Ken and I visited in 2011, Irv had started building his ‘rammed earth’ home. It is an absolute labour of love and requires a massive amount of labour, patience and time to create this home. It is still in production but I was amazed at the size of the home six years on, and now with the roof on, work is continuing and I do hope I get to see it completed one day in a future visit.
Paula is also a Rotarian and as luck would have it I arrived on the night she and Irv were going to a Rotary dinner in the nearby town of Manilla. Thankfully there was a spare seat on the mini bus so I was able to go along, and had a great night meeting other Rotarians from Barraba, Manilla, Tamworth and Boggabri. The fellowship and welcome from Rotarians is always enjoyable.
It was after midnight by the time I was back in my van after the Rotary dinner, and after a long days’ drive I was fairly tired. I slept well and I also slept in, so had a late start on Tuesday morning. Leaving Barraba at around 10.30am and with almost 380k to Lightning Ridge, made for a long days’ drive. By the time I arrived at Lightning Ridge, the park I had planned to stay at was fully booked (that’ll teach me not to pre-book!), but thankfully I was able to get a powered site at the Outback Pub and Caravan park, as well as a pub meal that night as I was too tired to think of cooking.
Rusty old trucks, cars and machinery of all sorts look as though they have certainly seen better days and many lie rusting as if in a graveyard. Given the high price of Black Opals (well out of my price range) I wonder ‘where’ does all the Opal money go? Certainly not visible in the stony dusty camps! Perhaps it’s in their jam jars? There are many interesting characters that live in Lightning Ridge and it seems to be a very hard way of life. They must love what they do to stay there. I believe a Mining Lease is about $500/year and council ‘rates’ about $300/year and most miners have a 20 year lease.
So Hoo Roo till next time !