A trip down Memory Lane

Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Saturday, January 18, 2014

After the amazing hospitality with Cassandra and Graeme, we were back on the road and headed to Port Macquarie. Sadly we didn't have much time here, but planned the following morning to head to the local Koala hospital before heading down the coast to Lake Macquarie and to see my old school friend Adam.

We arrived late to our camp site and just had time to stick some washing in the machines and to enjoy an ice cream from the van that happened to drive around the camp site.  The next morning we packed up early and headed to the Koala hospital.  Much like our last experience at an animal hospital this ended in tears, Tim’s tears.  It was all just a bit too much for him and when I had accidentally walked into a spiders web and was in a massive panic throwing my camera and bag and anything else I could remove from my body across the path, Tim appeared inconsolable that Koalas were being hurt by cars, dogs and fires.  I did my best to reassure him whilst desperately hoping that there wasn’t a giant golden orb spider setting up home in my hair.

At the entrance to the koala hospital, there was plenty of information about all the residents and also details about adopting them.  Tim declared that he was going to adopt Barry Koala.  With this story, how could any one resist?


This comical little male koala came to us in winter 2008 being found by one of our staff lying prone in the middle of a road.  Barry was in very poor condition, dehydrated and close to death.  He was also very small for a four to five year old koala.

It took a fair bit of tender care to restore him to good health, but after many  weeks of prime quality leaf and formula he began to respond, gaining weight with  his coat starting to get lovely grey soft flecks peaking through the dry brown coat.  We also discovered that Barry had quite a pronounced case of scoliosis/kyphosis which is a curvature of the spine that causes quite a deformity.  This unfortunately has caused Barry to be quite a short stocky little koala – but he is a giant when it comes to temper and personality.  Barry can be quite a grumpy little koala at times!!!"

Before I could even attempt to question this decision, Tim was busy filling out the paperwork and in his delicate state I didn’t dare question him.  He paid his $50 and I insisted that we also buy a mini Barry to take on our adventures.  Mini Barry has his own Facebook page and everyone sends photos of Mini Barry around the world, so Mini Barry joined our gang.  Once he was a little less emotional I had to advise Tim that he was  not the only person that had adopted Barry, and he was extremely distraught to hear this as he genuinely thought that Barry was his for the next year and he would have his name proudly displayed on his cage, bless.

An hour into our drive the sun was shining and it was a beautiful NSW day.  The problem with this was that we knew La Toya needed a new radiator and this weather was definitely not going to help, but we had her booked into a garage in Sydney, we just needed to get here there….. needless to say we didn’t make it!! 

I had stopped looking at the scenery we were passing through and instead had spent pretty much every journey since we broke down watching the thermometer and until now it had not moved.  Then all of a sudden, it rose, I shouted, Tim panicked and we pulled over onto the most well placed hard shoulder in NSW in my opinion.  I jumped out and there was no need to look in the engine to see the problem, water was happily cascading out from under la Toya, the radiator was definitely a gonner.  Amazingly on a closer inspection the hard shoulder that we pulled onto was actually attached to someone’s drive way so we reversed back as far from the motorway as possible, parked up under a tree and dialled the road side recovery.  For once I was less stressed and panicked than Tim, possibly because as a kid I spent many an hour parked at the road side in broken down cars as living in the UK and generally having family cars that were on the verge of getting their vintage plates meant that overheating and breaking down was a standard part of most family outings.  Oh how we all look back so fondly at little Eric the red Mini, but oh the hours we spent willing him to get us home as well!

Anyway I digress, we called the RACQ, thankfully we had passed the 72 hour window in which as new members they won’t rescue us and then spent 3 hours on the phone at the side of the road trying to work out what to do.  We were members of the RACQ which is the Queensland road recovery service but as we broke down in New South Wales we had to also deal with the NRMA their local recovery company.  Just to make matters worse it was also Saturday so all garages were closed until Monday.  It turned out that we had broken down in the most awkward place with no big towns anywhere near us, so we had two options, get towed 8km to the nearest town which had nothing and sleep in the back of the van with no shower, toilet or means of getting around for the weekend or get towed 170km forgo our option of a free motel room and hirecar and make it to the safety of my friend Adams house.  With the agreement of Adam, we took option 2. 

As I mentioned luckily, given that it took 3 hours to sort out our rescue, we had managed to pull over in the safest possible spot for miles as strangely someone lived on the side of the motorway and so we set up camp on their drive.  It was all very civilised, as it was in the high thirties we parked under a tree, had a picnic under the boot and got some very odd looks from the man whose drive we were on; strangely he didn’t invite us in for tea and cake.  We were very thankful as his house had Wolf Creek written all over it.  One problem with being stuck at the side of the road for 3 hours is that inevitably I was going to need to pee.  I didn’t want to flash the road and definitely didn’t want to pee in Wolf creeks garden so this left one option.  The salad bowl.  Yes I did.  I tucked myself safe and sound in La Toya and peed in the salad bowl, oh how low you go when stranded on the side of a motor way!

We had to question whether Barry being a part of our gang was affecting our luck….

Once rescued we had the joy of a 170km trip with a less than chatty tow truck driver which was a little awkward to say the least.   So we turned up in the least stylish manner possible (aside from being bundled out of a police car) and rolled La Toya off of the tow truck and in to the front lawn, we were welcomed into the Thompson house hold which included Adam’s mum Dawn who was visiting from the UK, his wife Rachael, their adorable little girl Athena and Bas the dog.   We were due to be staying for just 2 nights so that we could have a trip out to the Hunter Valley, but with no garages open until Monday, it looked like we would be outstaying our welcome before we even arrived.

With La Toya safely parked up on the lawn and our bed made up in Adam’s man cave we just relaxed and enjoyed our weekend.  And  what an awesome weekend it was.  We had a trip to Hunter Valley, first to Audrey Wilkinson for amazing views and great wine.  Tim and I foolishly agreed to get on the Shiraz train and after 6 different Shiraz, each getting more and more oaky, we were crying to get off but the wine police were not stopping this train and we had to endure the whole journey before we were allowed off.  Next up McGuigans for some more wine and also for fantastic cheese, you can rest assured we did not board the Shiraz train here; and finally a stop for a quick beer tasting. 

So Monday morning we were up and ready at 9am with a list of local garages to call to get La Toya booked in.  We were initially astounded that a few garages refused to look at her as parts for Hiaces, were too hard to come by??!!  Finally we found a garage that would take her in and sounded sure that they could get her parts and get us back on the road by Tuesday.  There was one last problem to overcome… we either had to driver her there and hope that she made it without getting too hot, or we had to get the RACQ out to deliver us there.  To avoid any more time spent at the side of the road panicking we booked the RACQ.  As it was with our membership we get delivered to a garage for free if the garage is within 9km, guess what, our garage was 12km away, but for the small price of $15 I was happy to pay it and see La Toya safely at the garage.

As a good friend Adam decided to take our mind off of our broken van and took us on a tour of Newcastle, it was nice to see tht the Newcastle foreshore which is fast becoming a metropolitan and developed area.  The Port of Newcastle is the largest coal exporting harbour in the world, according to Wikipedia, in 2009 it exported 97 metric tonnes, this is great news for Adam who happens to be a train driver transporting coal!!  Next up we visited the beaches of Newcastle which were absolutely stunning, with rugged cliffs and crystal clear water, surf and even a pod of dolphins (which happened to scare the life out of a body boarder for at least 30 seconds until he realised that they were not sharks).  We found a stunning bar overlooking the beach and treated ourselves to a well-deserved beer.

In an effort to try to make ourselves useful whilst staying we took responsibility for taking Bas on his daily walk.  The novelty of this walk was brilliant, it started by doing the Lambeth walk and ended with a trip down Memory Lane, best dog walking route ever and also the best dog ever.  We were both well and truly in love with Bas and we think that the feeling may well have been mutual given that we soon discovered that he had been sneakily sleeping on our bed when no one was around.  Bas is a Groodle, which is a Golden Retriever mixed with a poodle and it is simply the best looking most lovely natured dog I have ever met, with his big brown eyes and bushy eyebrows and beard, he could get away with murder.

So by Tuesday morning we were waiting with baited breath for the garage to call to tell us that La Toya was fixed and ready to collect.  Rachael told us to stop waiting around and to call them to see what was happened, but being the ever polite Brit, Tim didn’t want to pester them.  By lunchtime there was still no news, so he gave in and call.  Surprise, Surprise, the part had not arrived so it definitely wouldn’t be ready until the following day.  Rachael took great pride in telling us, told you so, ha ha!!   Needless to say Tim was on the phone at 9am the following morning to get an update.

So by Wednesday afternoon, we finally got the call that we had been waiting for, La Toya was fixed and ready to go.  The nervous energy had been too much and after one last trip to the bathroom it was time to go and fetch our baby.  However, my luck took a turn for the worse when I dropped my phone into the toilet.  Amazingly, it seems that iphones can on occasion be more sturdy than you expect, after a quick dry off and a rest in a box of rice, she was a-ok and no worse off for her little swim.

At the garage, we had to face the horrible ordeal of paying the garage bill, $800 lighter we were back on track with a brand new radiator and La Toya seemed to be back to her old cool self.

We got back to Adam and Rachael’s at about 4pm and decided to err on the side of caution and impose ourselves for one more night so if we did have any trouble on the journey at least the next day garages would be open.

So we treated the family to a Chinese, we headed off to the local takeaway and apparently everyone in Rathmines was having a Chinese for dinner so we put in our order and got told to come back in 30 minutes.  Where better to pass the time than in the local playground.   When we headed back to the Chinese, Adam decided to wait in the car and we went and waited inside where we then spent the next 30 minutes talking to the local crazy lady who didn’t seem to know if she wanted to order food or not much to the annoyance of the staff, she declared that she knew we were foreign (apparently we didn’t look like we were from around here), she knew  I was a vegetarian because I seemed like a gentle soul and continually told us that she didn’t belong in Rathmines and needed to travel.  We were a little tempted to offer her La Toya for a good price, but we resisted.  Now I know why Adam opted to wait in the car, hmmmph!

After our short 2 night visit turned into 5 we finally said our final farewell to all the Thompsons.

Thank you all for being so kind and understanding in our hour (well 5 days) of need. If it wasn’t for you this would definitely have been one miserable blog involving hungry, unwashed people sleeping in a broken van in a garage somewhere in the middle of nowhereville!!!

From memories of broken down cars as a child, to memories of our misspent youth in Cornwall to taking Bas on his daily walk, this really was a trip down Memory Lane.  Thanks Adam, Rachael, Dawn, Athena & Bas for having us!!

Onwards to the bright lights and the big city of Sydney.
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