I was sitting in the sun wondering if the wandering ibis would eat the slice of tomato I’d just dropped when Elle mentioned that she’d just finished reading the Go West blog posts. I almost choked on my lunch. Having scheduled the last of those posts weeks ago I’d completely lost track of time. Which considering the current state of the world is not a bad thing.
The Victorian government loosened the Stage 3 Covid restrictions for the Queens Birthday weekend in mid June and in an effort to boost tourism asked people to take a holiday. We decided to wait until families had all returned home from their weekend away.
We had been contacted by the caravan park in Queensland where we had a winter booking, with the news that they’d been told that the QLD border would open on July 10th.
All state borders had been closed during the Covid lockdown except the Victoria / New South Wales border.
We decided to head north and wait in the warmth of northern NSW for the Queensland border to open before heading to Mulambin near Yeppoon.
Day 1, Thursday 11/6/20 Melbourne to Benalla, clear icy and 10 degrees
There is light traffic and there are no caravans, at least we won’t have to keep waving at passing vans. By 10:00am the temperature has dropped to 6 degrees by Yarra Glen. It’s always a nice feeling to be leaving home for the winter when the weather is cold. The fog follows us, creeks are full and there are wintry reflections on dams. A nice change after years of drought.
We stop at Yea for a warming pie to find that the town that is normally so busy with through traffic stopping for a quick bite is now dead, dead quiet. An electronic road sign says “Welcome Back”, with so few people around we feel that the sign is a personal welcome just for us.
We pull into the Benalla Showgrounds at 1:30 to find VeeWee already set up. It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon, we walk into town and buy a few groceries (from the supermarket where we did our pre lockdown shopping back on March 16th at the end of our Empty Esky Tour).
By the time we return to camp Elle and El Prado have arrived. We sit in weak sun and catch up on all the news. Gee it’s so nice to see everyone face to face and not on Zoom. A glass of wine, a leg slung over a chair, just yacking, this is the life we’ve missed. Being in Benalla again it feels like we are picking up where we left off pre Covid. Like a viral bookend, as it was here that we farewelled our mates to head home to an unknown and scary new world of lockdown.
The evening chill quickly settles and we’re scurrying inside to the warmth of our diesel heaters. Except of course, poor VeeWee who doesn’t have heat in in the RV and must start the engine for warmth. Last night, at home I made what was meant to be a Thai Red Curry Chicken with fridge leftovers to give us an easy first night meal. The rather small pack of frozen chicken turned out once thawed, to be veal, no matter. I also tossed in an extra chilli, a Scotch bonnet. In the haste to get away I’d forgotten that our mate Steve’s home grown Scotch bonnets are seriously hot.
The veal worked well and the curry although a little hot was delicious. Until we climbed into bed that is, when the indigestion started. At least searching for the Gaviscon kept us busy on a cold night.
Accom: $12.00 (no power, no water, amenities closed due to Covid, close to shops). On reflection Broken Creek Bush Camp just out of town is a far better option.
Travelling Kms: 245Kms
Note: On that last night in Benalla back in March, I wondered if we’d ever sleep in our van again. If we’d see our mates again. This new Covid world is like Russian Roulette and if there is a lesson to be learned it’s not to take the little things for granted.
Banned on the Run – Well I like to give every winter sojourn a relevant song name. I was wracking my brains over this one until VeeWee came up with Banned on the Run and as you’ll soon see it will become rather applicable.