Heading ever westwards now – the grass is golden, the storybook hills are blue

Too much information? So you look at your watch and you say it's 10.00am? Well, you're wrong – that is unless you are sitting either due north or due south of Charlie here, who is somewhere between Gunnedah and Coonabarabran, on the 150 degree meridian – which is where they settled AEST, so you're all inaccurate a bit compared with Charlie, who rather unhappily  is sitting ON the sundial on the 150th degree Meridian – yes, we found it!

Bill, the Pawnbroker: There he was in the middle of Gunnedah, pink socks, red shirt with purple braces, one of which was undone and fallen down the back of his trousers. ‘Listen mate – can I call ya mate? Those tyres on ya bikes are too soft – look here, too soft I tell ya… so where are ya from ? Where? Never heard of it. Look at this town – what more couldja want? Gunnedah. What you were born here? Gowarn! What’s ya name? Ted? Bet it’s changed since you saw it last – all the years I bin here, lemme see, 73 years, see ’em come and go I have, seen ’em all. I was a pawnbroker ya know. Who was ya Godfather? Nah, really – I knew him well, that lawyer, ‘cos I was a bit of a crook so I needed lawyers quite a lot. He was a fine gentleman that, fine gentleman, not like ‘is son – now that was a bastard…’ We listened for upward of half an hour, wasting time in the sunshine, laughing at his comic antics. He told us, ‘There are just seven things ya need in life and they all begin with ‘f’ : Food – Family – Friends – Finances – Freedom (ya know the kind I mean, Ted, none of this ‘when are ya going to be home for dinner?’) – Fun … and … um (glance at Nancy) …I can’t remember the other one – maybe you can.’

‘Let me fix one of your braces, Bill, it’s come apart.’

Firm friends by the time we parted…

View of Gunnedah from ‘Pensioner’s Hill’ – so named because of the Swaggies who used to hang out there from the Depression onwards, because of the unlimited supply of water from…. Now it’s a sculpture park, courtesy of Rotary (and funds from some mining corporation)
Dorothea McKellar
Dorothea Mackellar, Australia’s beloved poet and keen horsewoman, as remembered in Gunnedah – – Now her family’s homestead outside Gunnedah is being threatened by Whitehaven Coal’s mining of the Liverpool Plains.


21 Jun20 report

So, being hardy and determined, we quarantined ourselves for just three months before starting out again. We set off on 17th June, full winter and we should be in the tropics, but because the borders are still not open, that’s a tall order.

Everything from the kitchen sink to the dog basket – loaded, finally

We farewelled Dungog, trailing through Singleton, Aberdeen, Scone for overnight, then Wingen, Murrundi, Willow Tree, Wallabadah. Then tragedy struck (what’s new?) with a sign on the dashboard that our ‘safety restraints’ were ‘compromised’ and to report to a repair shop immediately. Luck was with us, however, when we hightailed it to Mercedes in Tamworth (thinking our trip might be again extensively delayed). A morning roaming Tamworth was well worth while, finding out (they assured us) that it was just a glitch in the van’s computer system.

Saying hello to Slim Dusty and then Smokey Dawson and his partner and wife Joy McKean was just one of the treats in the unintended stop.

Then it was off to visit dear long time friend Geraldine in her very last week in Quirindi, (Imperial Hotel was warm, fresh, clean and girl-friendly) …

… before landing in the mud and grass of a leafy campsite beside the Namoi River and – Gunnedah, where Ted was born! In this photo, Charlie is waiting impatiently in his basket for our first trip into Gunnedah.

18 March 20 report

This could be the shortest blog in human history – and there’s no photos – just a synopsis of our convoluted attempts to depart over the last few months… and a demonstration of how the Blackwattle Crew, roaming, just never give up.

Plan No. 1: Depart in July 2019 with our newly arrived Van (Sprinter) from Germany. Well, that didn’t work as the van hadn’t even arrived in Australia – didn’t arrive until November 2019. The fact that the e-bikes from China were now going to arrive in October (20 working days from September 11) seemed to make it all okay. We were meant to depart in November…it was in the stars.

Plan No. 2: September, 2019. Too late to go north, so, after making all sorts of plans to meet friends and family around NSW and Victoria, we set off in a borrowed van (thank you dear friends), wandering happily around NSW and returned in November to collect new Van, but the e-bikes still hadn’t arrived.

Plan No. 3: November, 2019. Finally received the Sprinter, but it didn’t sprint so well and had to be returned to the manufacturer for multiple issues. You’d think we’d take a small hint at that point. No, never, not the Blackwattle pair.

Plan No. 4: December 2019, Van issues fixed, but still no e-bikes (was it a scam, do they really exist?), too late to go north, we set off for the south of Australia, but everywhere we went seemed to burst into flames a couple of days after we departed – Mallacoota, Lakes Entrance, Dargo, Bright…I started to worry that there’d be a knock on the door by the police asking about this coincidence… While trying to find a way home to collect our e-bikes, which were running five months late (now we had a tracking number) we grieved with the rest of Australia at the bushfire calamity. The way north was blocked by fires, so we headed west. Not a good idea. The temperature went up and up until it was hovering between 45 and 49 degrees. (Nah, we didn’t have air-conditioning because smarty-pants Blackwattle Roaming was going north in the winter and south in the summer.) By now, instead of free-camping to get home we were heading for caravan parks with swimming pools… that worked okay until the pools became as hot as the air. Gasping from the heat we arrived with relief into our air-conditioned home in Dungog to finally collect our e-bikes (fabulous, as it turns out).

Plan No. 5: Thus finally equipped with our Carbo e-bikes, we set out again in March 2020, this time planning to be victorious – only realising slowly, with the rest of Australia, that we were heading into arguably the greatest crisis Australia has had in living memory, Covid 19.

So, writing this from Temora – shall we go on? Shall we curtail our ambitions? In our minds, we are headed for Western Australia – along the Great Australian Bight to Perth, then up the west coast almost to Broome, then across the Tanami Desert Track to Alice, over to Queensland via Birdsville, where we have a date with old sailing friends who completed their circumnavigation at the same time as our own boat, Blackwattle.

News is trickling in day by day. This trip involves visiting Aboriginal communities (I think – is purchasing fuel ‘visiting’? – or is the service station located at a distance?), will Northern Territory close their borders? It’s easy to socially distance ourselves in our self-contained RV, but are we doing ‘unnecessary travel’ which the Prime Minister has cautioned against?

So, no, we can’t go on. The PM said this morning, NO ‘non-essential travel’. We’re on our way home, back to Dungog. As I said, this could be the shortest blog in human history… not that I’m competing… watch this space. If there ever IS a Plan No. 6, it’ll be found here – eventually…

Starting again soon

We thought we had started, but discovered that starting – really starting – isn’t as easy as we thought, so we’re home again, to collect bikes and have van repaired (yes, brand new van – waited 11 months for it, state of the art etc, not happy Jan)

Home again – walking Charlie early, before it gets to 45 degrees

The most interesting place we visited by far was the hill billy, tootin’ and shootin’, deer hunting, 4 wheel driving, swag-sleeping, night-life lovin’ Dargo, north of Lakes Entrance, half way up the mountain to Bright.

…and we’re away…

Heading north… I think

Thursday 26th September, 2019

Not much to report really…

It is a beginning and no beginning. With the supreme optimism built only of hope and no knowledge, experience or any other advantage, such deriving from a family of intrepid land explorers or a degree in some nature-derived subject – such that they make up in modern universities to cast the net ever wider for rich international students – we are setting off. We don’t even have our own campervan, but such has been our enthusiasm that we couldn’t wait for the promised van from Germany, the country which is reputed to produce faultless workmanship and on-time trains, in the hope that we can transverse Australia without need for a maintenance stop.

So here we are, travelling in a borrowed Fiat van with an entire orchestra of percussion instruments hidden within the vehicle which we can’t mostly identify. We wouldn’t really mind the instruments, if only they had a conductor to keep them in line. As it is, the instruments, being rattling cupboards and clinking glasses and clanking tools and lazy doors and jangling spoons and knives, not to mention various percussion instruments in the vibrating car-body, it being of Italian origins – and we all know what an unruly lot they are – they, that is the instruments, have no way of seeing each other, therefore play at their own pace, and to their own idea of the tune, whatever that is, which we have not discovered, and play it at a seriously louder volume because of Dungog Shire’s famous, even, one might say, legendary roads.

Introducing us

Can you see our van, Blackwattle Roaming?

We think it will be mostly family and friends who see this. We don’t want to send emails, as they may be intrusive when we’re only talking about our travels. By writing this blog, you can choose to read – or not!

However just in case you don’t know us or happened here by accident, we should tell you a little about who we are:

Ted and Nancy met in Sydney way back in 1982. Ted was an architect, with multiple sports/hobbies of flying, sailing and skiing. Nancy has had a mish mash of a career – mother of two kids, school teacher, TV presenter, actor and producer, businesswoman in the fields of aviation, tourism and travel and finally, journalist and writer.

In 2003, Ted and Nancy threw caution to the winds, gave up their careers to become gypsies by sailing around the world on their Peterson 46 yacht, Blackwattle, returning in 2008. After so much fresh air they couldn’t return to the city so ended up discovering Dungog in the Hunter Valley and moved there, acquiring cattle, horses and dogs (Charlie) in the process.

Eleven years later, they decided to be on the move again, returning to a gypsy life, this time on land, driving their newly acquired 4-wheel-drive Sprinter motorhome to wander Australia as they had wandered the world on Blackwattle. Naturally, they call their new mobile home, Blackwattle, after their beloved boat by the same name.