We were waving goodbye to Dad at 7:30, joining the Hume at Campbelltown in light traffic and making our way across the series of deep river gorges which lie to the south west, as the Nepean River flows in a series of arcs across the southern highlands. Turn offs to Mt Pleasant and the coast (Wollongong), passed by quickly and further on, the chance to visit the Bradman Museum was ignored, along with Mittagong and Moss Vale, which also lay along the path of the detour.
After the undulations of the Highlands, the M31 settled into a long fuel-friendly drive, eventually falling below double figures per 100kms and a tank reading at our destination of 11.2, which is not too bad for 2.5 litre petrol towing 1100kgs.
The closer we got to Goulburn, the more the haze increased, at times making a dull environment for the smooth yellow barked eucalypts to emerge from. The cleared paddocks of this sheep country want for rain and as the haze cleared, low yellow stubble covered the undulations. Green pick was few and far between.
Wind turbines lined the hilltops to the north at Taralga.
Instead of bypassing Goulburn along the highway, we detoured into town for morning tea and a meeting with the Giant Merino. Standing 15.2 metres tall, it is now on the south western approach but only moved there in 2007. When it was opened in 1992, it was closer to town but the highway bypass had what the locals affectionately call Rambo missing forty bus loads of tourists a day and the big fella became lonely. You can climb up the inside of this monster Merino ram, read the story of sheep and wool in Australia and when you reach the apex of your climb, you may peek from his eyes. He has seen better days and better views. These days, climbers are rewarded with a view of the big Bunnings across the street. His height is not his most imposing feature, nor his curled horns. Whilst tourists like to snap the profile of his head held proudly aloft in honourable homage to his kind or perhaps his entire body with its busy service station backdrop but even more imposing is the back view. Rambo has a sack that puts to shame anything Santa might lug about on Christmas Eve. This is one hung sheep.
We had a cup of tea and indulged in the sport of watching oldies reverse vans.
The remaining time till lunch was a smooth drive and then a turn off the highway and onto the old highway which use to run through the small and getting smaller heart of Jugiong. Only one of three petrol stations remains open and a motel still soldiers on. The only commercial money still changing hands is opposite the Showgrounds and pool complex, where the Long Track Pantry does a roaring trade and local fruit and vegetables and wines of the area are traded next door. We purchased a red from the Grove Estate at Young which will host our pasta tonight.
The Showgrounds provide our digs for the night. A long expanse of well maintained open area extends up from the banks of the Murrumbidgee. There is no power but you can choose your own spot. We chose to stay right beside the river and a long way from the amenities but I soon had the solar shower out in the 40C heat so we'll have our own hot showers. The river is wide and slow and down a steep bank and even on a hot day, the cockatoos have been heralding the late afternoon. Camping is free but a donation of your choosing is requested for the mainenance of the amentities block up at the entrance. The local council maintain a pool right beside the amenities.
Near the amenities block there is a sculpture of the policeman Edmund Parry, who was shot and killed by Johnny Gilbert on 16th November, 1864. Gilbert was a bush ranger in the company of Ben Hall when they robbed the mail coach near Black Springs, Jugiong, for the second day running. After the first robbery, they challenged the newly formed police force to "take them on" and in the ensuing gun battle at the second robbery, Parry was killed. New legislation was introduce to counter Ben Hall's gang, with £1000 pound reward offered and the police being given permission to shoot him and other bush rangers on sight, without trial, after eleven policemen were killed by bushrangers in the first weeks of the police force being established in NSW.
We had one hiccup when the van fridge wouldn't work on gas but I remembered a trick I learned for resetting the manual selection switch and it soon came right. Just as well or the refreshments wouldn't have stayed cold. Sue was also a little worried about the food. Another has developed as the day turned into evening. My little Toshiba notebook appears to have developed the "blue screen of death". This may severely inhibit some functions of the webpage. Oh well.
Sunset gave way to one of the truly pleasurable experiences of camping: a shower in the open air, under the stars. If you have never experienced it, I couldn't possibly explain just how wonderful it is.
We really do love the road and days like this exemplify why. There is nothing flamboyant about this lifestyle but the lowered complications which result make it so very appealing.
Into Victoria tomorrow under further heatwave conditions.