a little bit country…

Travel, and road trips in particular for the G.O. and me, serve several purposes and different places feed different aspects of our psyche. Without having an exact itinerary in mind when we set off, recently we returned from a three-week, 2000+ kilometre road trip that answered the call of landscapes further afield.

While the G.O. was born here, his early childhood years around the coastal country area we now reside, and both of us spent a good many years in Sydney at one time or another, I come from country inland, the Upper Hunter Valley around places now fighting encroachment from coal mines. I have no desire to live there again, the past is the past, winters are cold, coal dust triggers my asthma, and the beach is hundreds of kilometres away. But spending time driving familiar roads, strolling well-trodden streets, and exploring new… this road trip catching up with family and friends, sharing places where I grew up with the G.O., exploring other places neither of us have been… is one we’ve been wanting to do for far too long, despite it being almost-but-not-quite our own backyard.

We moved from Sydney at the end of 2015 to live 500 kilometres north in the Nambucca Valley. At the beginning of 2016 we bought a 22-year-old pop-top caravan and did a one-month shakedown trip around Victoria, followed by a four-and-a-half-month road trip around Australia. Since… other than day trips, we’ve spent time away from home with Dad when he was unwell, a two-night long-way-home detour on the way back from visiting Dad for his birthday in 2019, and for me a weekend in Sydney with a friend at the beginning of 2020, until recent holidays on the coast a week here and there in late 2021 and earlier 2022.  

After we returned from our 2016 road trip it made sense to sell the pop-top as the G.O. needed several rounds of osteo surgery that would keep us close to home. In early days of Covid restrictions on movement as well as risk of infection meant travel wasn’t doable. In the interim we constantly talked about trips we hope to do.

In mid-2021 with the G.O. recovered as much as he’ll ever be and officially retired, we bought a 2012 full-size semi-offroad caravan with an ensuite to which we added solar power so we could travel independently. Now with fuel prices and accommodation-of-all-kind prices sky-rocketed and ongoing waves of Covid, currently our most viable travel option is within our own state.

The caravan offers us the best of all worlds. We enjoy dog friendly pub meals, takeaways and food shopping we don’t have access to in our village but employ leftovers and ingredients similarly to what we do at home. When we go out for a meal which we can never finish, the remains go into plastic tubs I take with me and into our caravan’s tiny freezer… we really look forward to creating another meal from them. Before we left home, I grabbed as much from the garden as was ready to pick, emptied the contents of the house fridge into the caravan fridge and packed more than enough pantry basics. Along the way we enjoyed shopping for fresh food locally from small country town stores.

Best of all we remembered the knack of campfire cooking and renewed our love of camping in the great outdoors… glamping actually, with convenience of nearby showers, toilets and waterways.

On this trip as well as pub camping, staying on friends’ property, at privately and Council owned caravan parks, we camped at Reflections Holiday Park Lake Glenbawn & Reflections Holiday Park Copeton Waters and stayed a couple of nights at Reflections Holiday Park Evans Head where we holiday from time to time as we do also at Reflections Holiday Park Hawks Nest, so it was welcome news to discover the following…

Reflections Holiday Parks are managed by the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Land Managers. As land managers, NSW Crown Holiday Parks don’t own this land. We are its caretakers on behalf of the people of NSW.
It’s our job to maintain and nurture this land; to preserve it for future generations and to create unforgettable experiences for our visitors to access and enjoy these exceptional natural assets.
Australia’s native flora and fauna are like nothing else on earth and NSW is no exception. The diversity and beauty of our natural assets are perfectly showcased on these prime pockets of NSW Crown land.
Our role is to ensure the economic and environmental sustainability of these precious resources; the holiday parks and recreational reserves enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Whether it’s coastal erosion management, tree replacement, upgrading a playground or installing a boardwalk, our aim is to delight our visitors whilst also caring for these priceless natural treasures.”

Road trips are the equivalent of human wings. Ask me to go on one, anywhere. We’ll stop in every small town and learn the history and the stories, feel the ground and capture the spirit. Then we’ll turn it into our own story that will live inside our history to carry with us, always. Because stories are more important than things. – Victoria Erickson

Day 1_Denman_collage
Road trip day 1. Called in for a cuppa at Dad’s. Bonus… got to see both nieces and my brother as well. After a further hour-or-so drive through scenic Hunter Valley countryside checkered with open cut coal mines, horse studs and vineyards we arrived at our first overnight stop… pub camping at Royal Hotel, Denman. What’s not to love… small country town, pay for a nice pub meal and drinks instead of accommodation, dog friendly.

Day 2_Merriwa Dunedoo_collage
Road trip day 2. Merriwa pit-stop for bakery, country shops and silo art. Then on to Dunedoo (pronounced dunny do) a favourite country town stopover… Dunedoo Caravan Park is small, tidy & inexpensive, good pub food at Hotel Dunedoo, both are dog friendly. The pub’s mixed grill might not be the legendary size it once was but even still the G.O. couldn’t finish his meal or the excellent cheesy garlic bread, nor me my favourite crumbed lamb cutlets… so we took the leftovers back to the caravan freezer.

Day 3_Mudgee region_collage
Road trip day 3. Mudgee region via pit-stop to check out the sights in and around country town Gulgong. Made it to destination @antscountrycakes in time for long overdue TGIF drinks with dear old friends… who made us a beautiful dinner and dessert which the G.O. had much anticipated sampling.

Day 4_Mudgee region_collage
Road trip day 4. Mudgee region @antscountrycakes farm stay. Sneak peek @antscountrycakes caramel tart with special caravan stash chocolate topping, destined for diners at the local Cooyal Hotel.

Day 5_Mudgee region_collage
Road trip day 5. Diesel rocks Mudgee region farm stay R&R. @antscountrycakes gifts us a lovely take home fruit cake. And, despite cool windy weather we enjoy a perfect wine country sunset with a splash of my favourite rosé in the sky.

Day 6_Mudgee region_collage
Road trip day 6. K.I.S.S. @antscountrycakes Mudgee region farm stay… missed out on our planned Sunday pub lunch ‘cos chill wind isn’t conducive to dog friendly beer garden dining. However, Monday night takeaway pub pizza and a complementary bottle of local red from Cooyal Hotel is worthy consolation.

Day 7_Lake Glenbawn_collage
Road trip day 7. Arrived at Lake Glenbawn (a 15-minute drive from my hometown of Scone) a couple of decades after my last visit. Omg it’s so good to be back, settling in for a couple of days glamping and revisiting memories. Had to cook my own dinner. Not a patch on @antscountrycakes but with the sunset, and food we bought en route -bread from Merriwa Cakes and Pastries, veggies from IGA Merriwa and meat from Max’s Country Cuts- it was pretty special.

Day 8_Lake Glenbawn_collage
Road trip day 8. Renewing my acquaintance with Lake Glenbawn aka Glenbawn Dam back in the day… like the name it’s same same but different. The G.O.’s first time here and Diesel’s, who’s about walks, swims, bunnies and skippies.

Day 9_Lake Glenbawn_collage
Road trip day 9. Dealing with leaving Lake Glenbawn tomorrow just as we’ve settled in… a morning walk all about future camp-site possibilities and longer stays, and for Diesel as many swims as possible, followed by a chilled-out afternoon and you-can’t-buy-this dinner à la day 2 pub food leftovers we stashed in the caravan freezer + bacon from Max’s County Cuts + backyard eggs from Merriwa Tourist Welcoming Centre + this’n’that from the fridge including our own homegrown green beans.
 

Day 10_Murrurundi_collage
Road trip day 10. Couldn’t drive past Burning Mountain Antiques at Wingen where we’ve been dropping in for years to check out Barry’s amazing tables and old wares, enroute to Murrurundi. First stop is Fox’s Store for a chocolate malt milkshake with a side of cream & jam sponge before a browse through its retro offerings and a stroll along streets full of memories to the old Joint Stock Bank building which was once owned by my great-grandparents who were tailors & seamstresses. Their surname was Button!

Day 11_Wallabadah Quirindi_collage
Road trip day 11. Stepped back in time at Wallabadah ‘The Way It Was’ Heavy Horse Field Day with @our_river_cottage who tipped us off about the event. Then on to Qurindi for lunch, check out the sights, and surrounds from Who’d A Thought It Lookout, stumbling across stunning mural art on our way back to Murrurundi.

Day 12_Murrurundi_collage
Road trip day 12. Murrurundi… not born here but where I grew up with many happy memories and why I have an affection for small country towns. The Liverpool Range with Mount Helen to the east and Mount Merlo to the west were a perfect backdrop for Sunday arvo drinks under our tree with a local friend. Noodles made with leftovers, fridge and pantry stash for dinner.

Day 13_Bingara_collage
Road trip day 13. Life imitates art at Barraba… chance encounter of speccy silo art -by a favourite street artist Fintan Magee- that looks a lot like the G.O., a water diviner himself, before heading on to Bingara where our first glimpse is the flood impacts, and last for the day another stunning country town sunset.

Day 14_Bingara_collage
Road trip day 14. A beautiful morning indeed to explore Bingara early before the day warms up. Quite a different feel between the climate we left in the Upper Hunter and arrived to in the west of the New England.

Day 15_Bingara_collage
Road trip day 15. Fortuitous indeed was our decision to stay one more night in Bingara… the ultimate destination of the morning walk was Roxy Cafe, beautifully reminiscent of Greek cafes of our childhoods and whose five-day working week understandably starts on a Wednesday.

Day 16_Copeton Waters_collage
Road trip day 16. We love small country towns, but nature called. We got to Sepoy Knob at Copeton Waters in good time to set up, collect firewood and turn leftovers into camping food lunch… fried sandwich excavated from the freezer + omelette + leftover takeaway Chinese food + the last slice of watermelon. First time here for all of us. Might stay a day or two… or four. 

Day 17_Copeton Waters_collage
Road trip day 17. Another TGIF rolls around at Copeton Waters. Neighbours are pretty relaxed.

Day 18_Copeton Waters_collage
Road trip day 18. Back to basics at Copeton Waters. Wondered if I could still make an edible campfire damper … it’s been a while. Next time I’ll remember to pack currants and golden syrup… Dad’s favourite way with damper. Team effort… I mixed the damper and the G.O. got the fire just right.

Day 19_Copeton Waters_collage
Road trip day 19. The handful of weekend boaties, fishers and water-skiers have departed… really their presence only added interest rather than chaos… and we too are preparing to farewell Copeton Waters tomorrow but will return.

Day 20_Evans Head_collage
Road trip day 20. Lunched at the Lunatic Hotel and browsed in Tiffany’s as you do when passing through the village of Drake on the way to Coraki or so we thought…. you can’t always get what you want… sometimes you get what you need. Our intended destination was its small riverside caravan park, except we arrived to find Coraki overrun with a campervanners convention. Fortunately, we weren’t too far from our go-to holiday spot at Evans Head where a mystery credit from a previous stay paid for our first night site fee, later we spied dolphins in the river as we walked along the foreshore, and our idea we might grab some takeaway food didn’t work out, so we ate leftovers for dinner which was delicious and saved another forty bucks. Even the G.O.’s disappointment at missing out on Coraki magically disappeared.

Day 21_Evans Head_collage
Road trip day 21. Beach weather. Fortunately, we’re at Evans Head where dog friendly Airforce Beach is one of Diesel’s faves.

Road trip map
Approx. 2100 kilometres… 21-day road trip plus a 3-hour drive home on day 22. Photo credit: Google Maps (source)

Our only consideration was to arrive home ahead of the holidays, which we did in plenty of time to tidy the house and garden. We wish you and yours all the best for the festive season and the coming new year, 2023.

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck


20 thoughts on “a little bit country…

  1. What a fabulous record of a beautiful trip. My kind of thing. Travel a bit, look at beauty, sit a bit, look at some more beauty. Drink a coffee, have a snooze, take a walk, eat cake, make an interesting meal with what you have, sleep like a log. Wake up, repeat. I’m now seriously looking forward to our trip. Not having much luck getting hold of the Boambee Reserve peeps to book a BBQ hut for the evening of the 4th Feb; I’ve run about 6 or 7 times, left voicemail and sent email but no response at all. At this rate, we may have to find an alternative venue. Any thoughts?

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  2. What a great travel log. Loved that you had a little group of photos from each day that showed the character of the places and then the map at the end to show where all you had been. Great job! Best wishes for the holidays ahead. We are off to Adelaide for Christmas and then to New Zealand for a couple weeks. xx

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    1. Thank you. I took a lot of photos as trip mementos so as well as daily Insta posts in real-time I thought to do a blog post to sum it all up and crystallise my thoughts. So pleased to hear you will be travelling. As usual we are in good company… life is resuming some normalcy.

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  3. I loved reading about your trip. You did a great job documenting with photos to really cinch the feel of each day. Diesel really knows how to live too. Ha ha! Your culinary delights look just scrumptious! Blessings and joy to you this Christmas.

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  4. Never mind about the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Uluru . . . thank you for sharing quintessential Australia with us . . . to me a wondrous Yule gift I am reposting to friends near and far . . . bestest for the days to come . . .

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  5. I have followed your trip avidly on your social media and have lived every minute of it.
    I’ve lived in Australia 29 years now (makes me blink a few times at the speed with which it’s gone!!!)… and all my travel each year has been on the road. Camping and Glamping has always been our way & the smell of cooking outdoors cannot be rivalled by any chef as far as I’m concerned.
    Our roads are spectacularly good for any sort of road travel and I’m now looking forward to husband dear to get our Commuter Bus up & ready as a motor home for the two of us.
    Looking forward to seeing you’ll 🥰
    Have a very safe & Happy Christmas 🎄

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love sharing our travels and when I have virtual company, makes me happy when others enjoy what we do, and in return I also love being inspired. All through the generosity of social media. How exciting to have plans for your motor home. I’ve just been speaking to Kate about Feb… it feels like it’s real this time.

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  6. Oh I loved your trip! Thank you for taking me along. I love country towns too, the way each one is finding a reason for people to stop and look. They are so resilient. My travelling days look to be a long way in the future, but I have lots of wonderful memories to draw on.
    Have a wonderful Christmas time, Dale, and best wishes to you, the GO and of course Diesel Dog. 🌲

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