PS – one last entry from Tumbarumba!


Extreme Weather Events in Tumba


Don’t ever believe a blogger when he says the last post is playing! The day after Mal’s funeral it started raining and by Friday it was continual and torrential. Friday afternoon the main road out of Tumbarumba was cut with a car washed off the road. Lots of people trapped in town overnight. Getting in or out needed a four-wheel drive with water a metre deep flowing through the caravan park. A couple of very soggy vans were towed out and another car was under water where the second picture was later taken.

Standing at the foot of the steps behind the shops it’s a long swim to the toilets

This is the public memorial dedicated to all the timber men in the district which includes Malcolm’s name.

It usually stands high and dry by a long way but the Tumbarumba creek by now was 100 instead of 2 metres wide.


Less than 12 hours after taking those images the air temperature dropped to less than freezing and Tumbarumba got its biggest dump of snow in at least twenty years – it was 15 cm deep on the roof of my car and caravan, covering the streets, houses, trees and hillsides and lasted until after lunch before eventually thawing except for shady area and snowmen which remained icy until the next day.

A snow-covered Tumbarumba front garden

Snow covered hills behind the Tumbarumba townships


An uncommon sight, floodwaters in the foreground and snow-covered hills

Six days later the water still flows with a roar over the Paddy’s River Falls where sometimes over the past years it has been a mere trickle



An Early End – a New Plan

Farewell Mal

Mal’s red hair was gone but his spirit was strong ,back in June when we visited him before our trip.

On Monday 11th we farewelled our brother-in-law Malcolm Stuart at the Tumbarumba Presbyterian Church and the cemetery. The funeral filled the church and its hall to overflow – Mal was a big man, well-loved by his family and friends and widely respected within this rural community. In his life he had an enormous impact on so many people. As his son reported in the eulogy Mal loved to talk with people – wherever he was, whoever they were and about a wide range of interests. We will all miss him greatly.

Robyn Stuart with a small part of  Malcolm’s large family after the funeral when we had a chance to remember how Mal had influenced all our lives


Every trip, like a good story, needs a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s nice if the end has potential – hope.

The germination of our trip was long and slow. When we travelled through Central Australia more than thirty years ago, camping in tents with two very young children, we said on return that we wanted to see the West but it would need to wait. The actual planning probably took 2 years, gradually building momentum as departure got closer. This blog covered the month before we left until now.

The middle I think was our time after we left the Eastern States. We had previously travelled extensively in the East,  South Australia and the Northern Territory so it was Western Australia and the Kimberley that was so new, a landscape beautiful in an almost alien way, best described by Mary Durack.

If one were to paint this country in it’s true colours,I doubt it would ever be believed. It would be said at least that the artist exaggerated greatly,for never have I seen such richness and variety of hue as in these ranges.”

The distances were enormous, the populations scattered and small without the influx bought into the Pilbarra by the mining boom in minerals and oil and my favourite town of all would have to be Broome. As Ernie Dingo and Missy Higgins sing in Bran Nui Dai ” Soon I’ll be dreaming in Broome” “.

Our trip really ended in Tumbarumba with Mal’s funeral.  We may not end up getting home for five or six weeks, but we have neither the time nor the heart to drive back across the Nullabor and complete what we had planned – Perth to Esperance through what is reputed to be some of the most beautiful countryside in our country.

We will be back, however. Maybe next year or the one after  …. there will be a gap but stay tuned for the next instalment


  • We travelled for 101 days – 14 weeks and 3 days
  • We travelled for 16, 600 km – mostly towing the caravan at an average speed of 75 km but attempting to cruise at 90 kph on country roads.
  • We used  about 1070 litres of fuel paying up to $1.80 per litre. When travelling it sometimes cost $150 per day
  • We made seventeen different tours starting with a winery tour in Mudgee  and ending with our sailing with Dugongs at Shark Bay. We found the tour guides to be always informative and passionate about where they live even if they had taken the same tour with similar tourists a thousand times before
  • We took advantage of volunteers wherever possible
  • We spoke to our fellow travellers regularly – they were better than any written travel guides. Through such conversations we decided to stay in Lake Argyll and Coral Bay which were highlights of our trip.
  • Australia is an amazing country – if you possibly can – get out there and see it!


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Trip from West to East

A Fast Trip Across a Large Continent

The illness to our brother-in-law Malcolm Stuart meant a dash from Perth to Tumbarumba in the Snowy Mountains in NSW a distance of nearly 3,600 km. We left at Dawn on Tuesday with the intent to drive during the daylight hours as far as possible each day, stay wherever we could and get to Tumbarumba by Saturday afternoon.

The first two nights we free camped on roadside stops at Fraser Range Area, 80 km past the Norseman turnoff (the first picture) and then at the 222 km Peg Camps Rest Area 222 km West of the Eucla border between Western Australia and South Australia (the second picture). Free camping meant that we could drive further and get away earlier in the morning. We will do more of this on any further trips. You can manage a couple of nights with a bucket wash instead of a shower!




At Eucla, fueling after the border quarantine post, we got a mobile call to tell us that Malcolm had died, in Tumbarumba Hospital, with his wife and children with him. This did not change our intention to continue to be there as soon as possible.



Considering how long we were driving, towing the van, the trip went very smoothly, with stops at the Beautiful Valley Caravan Park at Wilminton (just past Port Augusta, now in South Australia) and at Balranald the next night. Having used all our prepared meals we ate out both nights. On this trip we have travelled through every State and Territory on the Australia mainland – sorry Tasmania, left out again!

We arrived in Tumbarumba on Saturday at 3.30 pm, having travelled via the Hay Plains and Wagga Wagga – our shortest days driving at 550 km.


It’s a long, long road!


“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. Which road do I take? she asked.

Where do you want to go?  was his response. I don’t know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter”

Lewis Carroll



Car and Caravan look “country” now

As we write this from Charleville Queensland we have traveled 1470 km in 7 days. So far we have experienced about 7 “long” roads. On the Great Western Highway, we were competing with thousands of other vehicles for road real estate. Once we branched off after Lithgow, however, “highway” describes a two-lane road, usually well-sealed and maintained but with little traffic to distract us from enjoying the scenery. It’s been a wet start to 2010 in Eastern Australia, so everything has been green and lush.

On our trip to Tullamore we saved lots of distance by taking the local back road from Peak Hill. After about 20 km of good, narrow bitumen we were faced by 40 kms of wet, red dirt road. While it was wide and well graded compared with some we have experienced, there had been heavy rain in the past 24 hours and deep puddles and mud often covered our way. The photo shows the road in one of the better stretches where it was possible to get out with the camera. Soon after, the car and the caravan were heavily caked with red mud, all over. We have now decided to avoid dirt roads where possible!

Leaving two days later, the local road from Tullamore to Nyngan via Tottenham was straight smooth and flat bitumen for 140 km, with fields rich and green with potential crops, stretching to the horizon on both sides.

In another two days driving the Mitchell Highway we have covered 850 km. During that time we have seen 2 motorcycles, dozens of trucks and caravans beyond counting. Grey Power!

In the next 19 weeks we hope to travel 20,000 km, over more than 20 major roads before we rest our heads at home again.

It’s a long, long road!

Passing~Time with Gary & Julie Lawrence

Road Map of Projected Trip

Julie and Gary Lawrence are in the planning stage of our long anticipated trip across the northern and western parts of Australia. We hope to leave at the start of July and spend five months to return in December. The Map shows the distance to be about 12000 km. but with side excursions we expect it will be closer to 20,000 km by the time we get home. We will be towing our 4.3 m (14ft) Avan caravan with our Ford Falcon and mainly sticking to the main bitumen roads. For those not used to the Australian outback, these “highways” are very narrow when you leave the east coast and are often pretty rugged. They are also populated by hugh trucks travelling at high speed.