Day 1, Sunday 5/6/2022, Melbourne to Tocumwal, raining 9 degrees
This is our third attempt to get away and quite possibly the longest stint we’ve had at home. The warning light that flashed on the Jeep’s dashboard as we pulled into Marlo back in February turned out to be a problem with the torque converter in the automatic transmission. We decided to try a mechanic who had been recommended to us but had to wait until we could be fitted into his heavy schedule. Then along came Easter and the transmission expert became a Covid close contact. Then we were meant to be in Coffs Harbour for our sister-in-law’s 80th birthday celebrations but missed that and how grateful we were. You see the weekend bash turned out to be a Covid spreading event of family proportions. We breathed a sigh of relief and thanked the Jeep. Mapping out a Plan B we decided to catch the relatives in Hervey Bay as they were booked in there on June 4th. The transmission expert took one look at our car and refused to work on it. Back we went to our old repairer who was in the process of moving premises. And thus, another wait, a big job became a bigger job with a bigger price tag. By the third pack-up and third round of farewells to family and friends, we were somewhat tense, and we’d missed the hook-up in Hervey Bay.
If car repairs weren’t enough petrol prices were going through the roof due to Covid and the war in Ukraine and whatever else could be blamed. Melbourne fuel prices were now dearer than the dearest prices we’d paid in the Kimberley in 2015. Now you could say “Why not just stay home?” But we’re not getting any younger and this, like every trip, could be our last so we suck it up and press on and hope that it keeps us fit. After all, Melbourne and most of the southeast is having the coldest winter in 20 years and we’re only a few days into June.
The route we take on each trip is often dictated not by what we’d like to see, but by other influences. The Covid pandemic which in two trips north changed both our destination and our direction. This year we’re at the mercy of climate change and disastrous flooding in New South Wales and Queensland. As we head north, a second band of rain has settled over the east coast and doesn’t look like moving offshore any time soon.
To negotiate Melbourne we take Eastlink, the Monash through the city tunnel, onto the Tullamarine Freeway and pick up the Hume Highway northwards. The rain stops as we reach the city but starts again as we join the Hume. It’s cold and miserable and obviously, Woody’s hearing is on the blink because as we near the Shepparton turn off he only grunts when I suggest continuing up the Hume so that we can see the snow on the alps!
Crossing the Murray River, Tocumwal is a sight for sore eyes. There are some new shops since our last visit in November and the pub on the corner, Tattersall’s has been given a new lease on life, it looks inviting and advertises ‘fancy dining’. To give you an idea of size, Tocumwal has a population of around 3000 people and in the summer, it positively seethes with Melburnians camping on the Murray River. The now unassuming airstrip was home to Air Force trainees during World War Two and legend has it that they would buzz the Main Street of town.
Down at the freedom camp on Town Beach, we back up to the riverbank and turn on the diesel heater. The rain has now eased to a sprinkle and within 10 minutes the van is cosy and warm and there’s toast cooking for lunch. A puddle on the floor near the loo appears to have escaped from the fridge but I’m not surprised as, like the cupboards, it is chockers and near groaning. Outside, ducks are roaming about and a houseboat floats by. No sooner has he gulped down lunch than Woody is off for a walk around town. I just want serenity and warmth.
The rain holds off, so I venture into town and back but, other than a chap in a doorway telling me he loves this weather, things are deserted. Well, it is Sunday evening. At least there’s a smidgeon of warmth in the air that there wasn’t in Melbourne. There are kangaroos grazing on a nearby lawn and I spot a Mum and her Joey not far from our van.
The weather closes in again with thunder and lightning at around 6:30pm. We heat up a bowl of pasta and turn in early as we can’t hear the TV over the pounding of rain on the roof. I make a mental note, well at least we made it to Tocumwal.
Accom: $10.00 campground (water, toilets, dump point)
There are 17 vans here and one tent. Pity the poor bugger in the tent.
Fuel: $40.83 (205.9 c/litre)
Towing Kms: 315kms
Unique place names: Wunghnu (one ewe), Tallygaroopna and Koonoomoo just to name a few.
Did you know that Tocumwal has the oldest peppercorn tree on the Murray River?