Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Brisbane Trip Day 25: Armidale -> Newcastle

It was even colder this morning - 6.7 degrees when I got up. Beautiful and crisp though. I started sorting our stuff a little and was about to make a cup of tea when some people arrived at our tent - a man and lady from the New England Lapidary Society, saying that they were setting up for their gem show and would I be leaving today. I said I was and asked what time they were starting - they said 9am. It was just before 8 at this stage so I said that I wouldn't be out by 9, but I'd be as quick as I could. They went around to all the other sites and told people that they had to leave - several of them had paid for another night, or even the whole week, and were understandably quite upset. The gem people were quite rude about it too 'Well we have this area leased, so you'll have to go'. (The caretakers had been away on the weekend and volunteers had helped out, and we figured they must just not have known about this previous booking).

I started packing up at 8.10, and we were all ready to go at 10.20, one of our quickest pack ups ever. By this stage the caretaker had come down and apologised to everyone and said that the lapidary people had no right to go from site to site - and that they didn't start their show until Thursday, they were just marking out the sites today, so everyone could stay a few more days if they wanted to. Some people had already packed up enough that they decided to go anyway, others decided to stay and move in a few days.

We all went to the toilet and on the way back we stopped to chat to several people (and met a very cute puppy), so it was 10.50 by the time we left. It was a beautiful sunny day and not cold any more. I really enjoyed the first part of the drive to Uralla - I've driven that road many many times and it was exciting to see it all again. From Uralla I kept going to Tamworth rather than turning off to go the Buckett's Way - I figured the highway would be easier with the trailer on.

The drive to Tamworth took a lot longer than expected. We were stuck for a good while behind another camper trailer who was driving quite slowly. Twice the truck driver behind me leaned on his horn because I hadn't overtaken the trailer when he thought I could have (neither times felt safe to me). I was glad when we had an overtaking lane and the 2 trucks behind me were able to get past us both. At the next overtaking lane I was also able to get past the slow trailer and was able to drive a bit faster - although I'm often quite slow on windy roads. Before Tamworth the road has a few very steep sections as the elevation drops quickly - this time the speed limit for buses and trucks was 60, so this was possibly steeper than the scary hill a couple of days ago. There was no one behind me as I came down these 2 hills, which made it less scary but I still didn't enjoy it at all, I found it rather stressful. I appear to have gripped the wheel quite hard too because my forearm was very tight and sore afterwards.

We eventually made it to Tamworth and drove past the Big Golden Guitar, then continued south. The road from Tamworth to Muswellbrook had a lot of of roadworks and we were frequently stopped or slowed to 60 or 40, which made the trip take a lot longer. There was another steep hill coming in to Murrurundi. As we came into the town I noticed a dragon fly stuck in my windscreen wipers, so we pulled over opposite a park so I could let him free. I also wanted to check my brake lights on the trailer as on Saturday the connection from the car seemed to wiggle loose as we drove - everything was still working today. We all went over the road to use the one toilet available - Amelie was amused that there were 3 different toilet paper dispensers, all different designs, all fully stocked. There were more roadworks as we continued south and we eventually made it to Muswellbrook around 3pm - way later than I had expected. As we drove in we could see open cut mines on the other side of town - whole hillsides that had been exploded, it was quite striking.

We stopped at the park next to the railway station and I made us some sandwiches. While we ate we saw 3 long trains go past with a variety of engines on them. We explored the park a bit and had a rest, then continued on through town and got some petrol, and stopped at Aldi to buy a 4-pack of Choc-mint ice creams (it took us a while to get to Aldi because first I turned left out of the petrol station instead of turning right across the highway, and tried to get there the back way, then ended up turning right onto the highway further down, and then missed the turn into the street I needed and had to go far enough up the road to find a place to turn around.) Eventually we had our ice creams and were on our way again.

The drive to Singleton was easier, and I enjoyed driving through both Muswellbrook and Singleton and seeing all the old buildings. And lots of memories from both towns. Beyond Singleton, just before Branxton, there's a new road which skips all the rest of the towns and makes the trip to Newcastle much quicker. This was much easier driving and we made good time. It was exciting to come into Newcastle through Wallsend and point out more familiar landmarks, including another street where I used to live. The trip out to Blacksmiths went smoothly and we arrived at my brother-in-laws around 6pm.

The kids were all excited to see their cousins and we sat and ate pizza with them and then I sat out the back and had a cup of tea while chatting to my BIL. Once I felt rested enough I went to get the trailer - when I'd arrived there were lots of cars in the street so I was worried that it would be difficult to even get the trailer to the driveway - by the time I was ready to try, everyone had left (there is a yoga studio across the road so the cars were from the yoga class). We'd moved the couch out of the garage, last time it made it a just a bit narrow and a bit tricky to turn the trailer at the end to avoid the garden. With great directions from my BIL, I backed up the street, into the driveway and through the garage, with really no problems. We unhitched in the garage and pushed the trailer the rest of the way into the yard, and quickly had the tent up. After a bit more of a chat I put the beds up and enjoyed listening to Liam talk to his uncle about movies and books and science and puzzles.

Caitlin hung out with her cousins (either on the trampoline or watching tv) until they went to bed, then she rang some friends. Once everyone else was in bed, Liam and Amelie watched Dr Who and Pokemon on Netflix, and I went to bed to read for a while. The kids came in not too long afterwards.

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