Lachlan to S-E Queensland Road Trip, June 21, 2016

 

HOMEWARD BOUND:

Tuesday July 12, 2016

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This morning dawned cold but dry and we departed Forbes under light cloud.  Throughout the drive from Forbes, N.S.W. to Shepparton in Victoria, the roadsides were lined with water and water was evident across the farmlands.  In some areas the farmlands were still inundated with water as far as the eye could see.  The soil must be totally saturated as water lies everywhere.  Roads along our route are badly damaged by rain and floodwaters and road repairs are being undertaken along the way.

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The countryside is looking fantastic and green is the colour of the season.  Fat lambs by the thousands are grazing the lush pastures which is promising for “spring lamb” – the Sunday roast is assured!  Canola crops are looking amazing and the coming season should be a bumper one – hopefully the rains will ease so the crop can flourish.

Thankfully we encountered little rain today as the forecast led us to believe that we would be driving directly into the low pressure system.  Our approach to Shepparton (tonight’s stop) is heralded by a beautiful rainbow and more amazing cloud formations.  Tomorrow will see us in Melbourne where we board the Spirit of Tasmania for the final leg of our journey home.

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Monday July 11, 2016

Yesterday we departed Brisbane and headed for Armidale, New South Wales.  There was a feeling of home as we took the highway which led us from Brisbane.

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Once we drove up through Cunningham’s Gap we felt we were certainly on our way.IMG_5725On Saturday, the day before our departure, we had the most lovely day at Australia Zoo, Beerwah celebrating our grandson Tynan’s 4th birthday.  The crocodile show was the highlight of the day, although the animals and the variety of exhibits was fantastic.IMG_5626IMG_5652

 

 

This morning, Monday, we left Armidale and drove toward heavy cloud which was our first sight of the heavy weather front coming across Australia from the west.

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Driving down from the New England Tableland, the clouds were growing darker and heavier.

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As we approached Dubbo, the rain began to fall and visibility on the road once again became difficult.IMG_5736

Thankfully as the town of Parkes drew near, the skies cleared and we had a clear view of “The Dish”.IMG_5744

The country is looking amazingly green and plentiful following the flooding rains which we drove through on our journey north nearly three weeks ago.  There has been follow-up rain and many paddocks and low lying areas are still covered in water.  The sheep are happily grazing on lush new grass and all looked well with the world as we drove into Forbes under magic skies to rest for the night.

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Toowoomba to Hervey Bay (Sunday July 26, 2016)

Departed Toowoomba on Thursday morning (23rd) in more heavy rain – visibility was very low, especially as we came down off the Toowoomba Range.

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Within forty minutes we drove out of the rains and into our first glimpses of sunshine since we left from Lachlan.  We had arranged to pick up grandson Aidan at Karalee and felt a little nostalgic to see the area in which we lived for 29 years although I can not imagine living there now as the area has become so built up and looks nothing like the beautiful rural area we once knew.

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Arrival in Hervey Bay many hours later brought us into clear blue skies and magic sunshine with a temp of 19 degrees – the first touch of warmth since leaving home.

Today has been a special day with our grand-daughter’s 7th birthday celebrated in Queens Park on the Mary River, Maryborough.  The monthly run of steam trains, large and small was in full swing and the children and adults had great fun in the most ideal weather conditions possible. Hours flash by in the company of four little grand-darlings but we have much to pack into just a week here on the Bay.

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Coonabarabran – Toowoomba (Thursday, July 23, 2016)

Departed Coonabarabran under overcast skies but dry conditions.  However, just south of Moree the skies opened again and the drive from Moree to Goondiwindi was tedious and difficult with visibility severely limited with rain and road spray from car and truck tyres.  Rain came to an end at Goondiwindi and the journey onward to Toowoomba was at least in dry conditions albeit heavily overcast with the maximum temp remaining around 12-13 deg.

Highlights of the day were a magnificent old eucalypt tree in Coonabarabran, the sign indicating that Toowoomba was close at hand and the familiar sight of black soil country of the Darling Downs which is so intrinsically a part of our Queensland psyche.  You know you have crossed the border into Queensland when your hair begins to frizz and the Prickly Pear is waving at you from the roadside!

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Wagga Wagga – Coonabarabran (Wednesday, July 22, 2016)

Rain, rain, rain – we departed Wagga Wagga in bleak conditions en route to Coonabarabran.  South of West Wyalong we drove on roads which had just been opened following flooding.

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As we drove further north through Forbes and Parks, we passed paddocks and crop pastures which were inundated by flood waters – farm dams were overflowing and stock were looking very wet.

 

 

Our drive took us through the town of Temora – always think of Gwen and Larissa when I see this sign.

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North of Dubbo, on the road north to Coonabarabran the weather began to lift – we stopped for a coffee break and viewed some interesting signage.

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Today’s journey came to an end in sunny (finally) Coonabarabran – so lovely to be out of the rain at last.

 

Lachlan – Devonport – Wagga Wagga

Departed a cold and foggy Lachlan Valley on Monday 20th where the temperature was 2 deg C at noon.  The view up the Derwent River was quite mystic.IMG_1884

The temperature up the Midland Highway did not rise until we reached the town of Perth where it was 4 deg C.  Just south of the township of Ross we encountered heavy roadworks – looks like the continuation of the double lane highway.

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Evidence of the very recent and devastating flooding across the north of Tasmania was still evident with flooded paddocks near La Trobe.

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Thankfully the crossing of Bass Strait on The Spirit of Tasmania was calm and the drive out of Melbourne brought no hold-ups in peak hour traffic.  Our drive north through Victoria brought intermittent showers and from Albury to Wagga Wagga we drove through general rain.  However, the Riverina District is looking strikingly green and there is the promise of a great harvest later this year.

 

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CANNING STOCK ROUTE ADVENTURE, August 2015

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The Canning Stock Route is one of the most isolated and remote public tracks in the world and extends 1,800kms from Halls Creek in the Kimberley to Wiluna in the mid-west region of Western Australia.

It was established as a stock route in 1910 as a way to allow the east Kimberley cattlemen to compete on even ground with the west Kimberley cattlemen, who were monopolising the beef trade at the beginning of the 20th century.

Even today, travelling the Canning Stock Route is a challenging proposition.  The longest historic stock route in the wold traverses four deserts – The Tanami, Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson, and is primarily a bush track which is kept open but generally not maintained.  In parts the route is wildly beautiful with fresh water springs creating astonishing oases in literally the middle of nowhere.  At  other times wildflowers stretch as far as the eye can see.

Very few people ever get to see this unique part of Australia.  Dallas and I took the easy road and travelled the stock route with Outback Spirit in their Mercedes Benz G Wagons – the G “Professional” version is the toughest model with enhanced drivetrain and suspension.   The Australian Defence Force has recently taken delivery of approx 2,500 of these vehicles to replace its ageing Land Rover fleet.  Our four driver/guides, Rick, Mick, Darren and Steve were all highly experienced in outback driving and Steve (who grew up in Meekathara) brought a wealth of local knowledge re bush tucker, indigenous culture and local fauna and flora.

Our journey began by flying from Hobart to Melbourne then on to Broome.  From 40,00 feet we had our first views of the desert country of W.A. including the “never-ending” sand dunes”, and a view salt pans and clay pans.

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Our trip began in Broome where the travel group met at Cable Beach – the following images were taken in that area.  Sunsets over Cable Beach are stunning and coincide with the sunset camel rides on the beach.  We were taken aback by the insane number of four-wheel drive vehicles on the northern end of the beach as they seemed to stretch further than the eye can see.  We learned later that the main attraction is that this area is the local “nudist” beach!

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Our journey covered 16 days in all – each afternoon we pulled into a camp site where all 18 members of the travel party (plus 4 driver/guides) set up tents and portable sleeping equipment.  Outback Spirit provided the absolute luxury of 2 flushing toilets and 2 hot showers (each person was allowed 6 litres of shower water each per day).  Steve was the cook and prepared all meals “open air”.  Following photos are of camp sites and camp set-up.

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The journey took us over approximately 800 sandhills on which we experienced the occasional bogged vehicle which always created much excitement.  Following are images of driving the stock route and salt pans, etc.

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We met a few vehicles along the track.  Most interesting were the cyclists.  We came upon this young German man named Thomas who had been cycling the stock route for five weeks and was within a day of reaching Halls Creek.  The Canning Stock Route is the triple Everest for extreme cyclists.  Thomas was motivating himself to complete his adventure with the thought of reaching Halls Creek and sitting down to a huge hamburger with mayo!  A little further down the track we found an inscription Thomas had made on an old fuel drum near one of the water wells.

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Further along we met up with a 62 year old man cycling the track from south to north – he was accompanied by his 22 year old daughter following in a small four-wheel drive vehicle – she told us she had never done any four-wheel driving before this trip and her radio equipment was not functioning!

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Lake Disappointment (or Kumpupirntily) was an amazing sight – a salt lake which is located in the Pilbara region which lies on the Tropic of Capricorn due east of Newman on the southern side of the Little Sandy Desert.  It covers an area of 33,000 hectares (330 sq kilometres).  An amazing experience to walk upon the thick crusting salt – we all collected a little to bring home.

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Of course, the Canning Stock Route is famous for its 50 drinking wells – all set a day’s journey apart (for the cattle droves).  Many of the original wells are now inoperable, some still render clean, clear drinking water and some have been restored.  Outback Spirit raise funding (through the sale of drinks to their travel participants on the Stock Route) to aid the restoration of wells.  Below are images of the many wells we visited.

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Our guides commented that the display of wildflowers along the stock route this year is the best they have witnessed in many, many years.

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Wildlife was certainly not prolific along the stock route – the animal we sighted most often was the wild camel.  At one camp site a family of camel greeted us from the top of a nearby sand-dune and they appeared to be quite curious and amused at the antics of the humans. Other fauna sighted were the Ta Ta lizard, the glorious Thorny Devil, Blue Tongue Lizard, Ants, Golden Orb Spider, Peregrine Falcon, Black Kite, Chicken Hawk, Emu, Galah, Butterfly.

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Refuelling the vehicles and topping up with drinking water was facilitatd along the way in the community settlements of Billiluna, Kunawarruthu and Wiluna.

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Signs of interest along the way.

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Durba Springs (Jilikuru) was a popular spot for drovers to rest up for a few days whilst driving cattle down from the east Kimberley.  The area is also home to a number of distinctive Western Desert Aboriginal rock art sites.

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Durba Springs also exhibits some “white-man” rock art.

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The rock formations and local beauty of Durba Springs –

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Of course, in such remote and harsh country we find no shortage of graves.

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Mechanical failures are evident by the side of the track.  Amazingly, the only inconvenience our party suffered was a flat tyre on our final leg into Newman.

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As we left the Canning Stock Route the road took us through the pastoral lease of Glen-Ayle Station.

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Our long journey south on the Canning Stock Route was another of life’s extraordinary experiences and will, most probably, change our lives yet again.  Our special gratitude goes to our hard-working driver/guides, Rick, Mick, Darren and Steve.  Here at the southern marker for the Canning we took our photographs of our happy travelling party – Australia is a huge country of unexpected beauty, harshness and adaptability.

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And the captivating beauty of Western Australia goes on and on and ……….

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Snow Event in Lachlan Valley – Monday August 3, 2015

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What a glorious view from the kitchen window when we woke this morning – couldn’t believe our good luck to have had a lovely snowfall overnight.

However, the falls have kept coming and the snow which was around 6 inches deep (15cm) when we took our first steps outdoors is more than 1 foot (30cm) deep at mid-day and the snowstorms continue to come in over the hills.  It is the most exciting snowfall we have experienced here in 11 years.  And the silence of it all!

The photographs below have been taken on our property throughout the morning – we found one hen who bravely exited the hen-house when we opened the yard gate, but she pretty quickly turned and hurried back inside.

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Hedley to Lachlan – May 23/24, 2015

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The road home begins on the South Gippsland Highway as we drive toward Melbourne, St Kilda and the Spirit of Tasmania.  Temperatures here in South Gippsland are low and the feel of winter is definitely upon us.

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Good old Melbourne – lots of traffic even on the weekend.  It is comforting to see the faces of St Kilda and to know that we are close to Bass Strait and the journey home.

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Sunday morning and we offload in Devonport.  Winter certainly has arrived here in Tasmania with a temperature of -6 degrees from Devonport to Campbelltown.  The landscape is so magnificently beautiful in a thick, sparkling coat of mega-frost.

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As we drive into heavy fog it is possible to look into and photograph the face of the early morning sun – not often something one can do.

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The full face of the rising sun above the Bass Highway – taken through morning fog

For us, the best sight of all after such a long journey is the final turn in the road to home in the wonderful hills of Lachlan.  Have to love living in Tasmania.

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Moss Beds Road – the final turn in the road to home!

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Wodonga to Hedley, Victoria – May 20, 2015

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Wodonga to Hedley – over 500 km drive, however the scenery has to be some of Australia’s prettiest, especially through the high country.

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As the road leads into the Victorian high country, we pass through magic white eucalypt stands, so iconic to this area of Victoria. The township of Yackendandah is truly spectacular and so too the nearby towns of Myrtleford, Harrietville and then on to beautiful Bright where the spectacle of the last of the autumn colour is magnificent.

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Beautiful autumn colours of Bright, Vic

The ascent of Mt Hotham takes us on a winding road which drops off spectacularly into the valley below.  However, approximately halfway up the mountain we drive into low cloud which becames so heavy that visibility is reduced to one/two metres and brings our driving speed down to 30 km/hour in some places.

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Mt Hotham

The descent from Mt Hotham opens out into another gorgeous valley.

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Once we enter into the Shire of East Gippsland, it is another three hours before we reach our destination and friends in Hedley in South Gippsland just in time to watch the sinking of the last light of day.

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Hedley on South Gippsland Highway, Victoria

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Armidale, Dubbo, Wodonga – May 19, 2015

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Our departure from Armidale yesterday morning was wet, wet, wet.  We drove in and out of rain all day long en route to Dubbo.

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We drove through vast plainlands of cattle country and enjoyed some magic cloud formations along the way.  Outside of Parkes the roadside was littered with cotton bolls – enough to make a spinner’s heart weep.  If only the driver would stop so I could collect a bag full!

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Once again, it was with a sigh of relief that we reached our destination of Dubbo, home of the great Western Plains Zoo.  Tomorrow we are hoping to drive in finer conditions.

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Today, Tuesday, began hopefully as we drove southward from Dubbo through cattle, sheep and cropping country which has benefited enormously from the rains which have fallen. The first rains were falling as we drove northward to Queensland  three weeks ago – at that time this country was dry and parched.  Pastures have been sown since those first rains fell and the new seed heads are looking beautifully green and healthy.

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Road to Gundagai

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Rainfall earlier this morning lies in the table drains alongside the road as we take the road “along the way to Gundagai”.


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Unfortunately for us, just one hour north of today’s destination of Wodonga (Vic) we drove directly into a severe electrical storm. We were engulfed in the storm for a distance of 20 kilometres. The rain became so torrential at one point that we were forced to pull off the highway and sit it out as visibility became negligable.  Once we were back on the road, just a little further along, we saw large patches of ice beside the highway and were thankful that we had missed the hail.

We rest in Wodonga tonight and can only hope for better driving weather tomorrow!

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Southward Bound, Scarborough to Armidale – May 17, 2015

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Today we exited Brisbane and took the Ipswich Highway to the Warego Highway  on to our destination of Armidale in New South Wales, via Warwick, Stanthorpe and the New England Tableland.

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Ipswich City

The Warego Highway took us on a nostalgic drive through the areas of our youth where, in our Rural Youth Club days, we camped and socialised with the Muttapilly, Harrisville and Rosewood clubs – many a marriage resulted, as did our own.

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Muttapilly

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A little further on we caught our first glimpse of the Scenic Rim before climbing up and through Cunningham’s Gap and out onto the mightly Darling Downs.

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The Scenic Rim

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Coming off Cunningham’s Gap

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Darling Downs

As we neared Stanthorpe rain began falling – this trip has been plagued with rain.  Across the border and into New South Wales as we climbed onto the New England Tableland, it was apparent that the beautiful autumn leaves, which we so enjoyed just three weeks ago, have fallen and the tableland has readied itself for the starkness of winter.

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Tonight we rest in Armidale.

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Hervey Bay to Moreton Bay – May 16, 2015

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Sugar cane – Maryborough

This morning Tim brought Jodie and new baby son Jackson home from hospital before Dallas and I departed from Hervey Bay.  It was not easy to leave with having had so little time with baby Jackson, but at least we have counted all his toes and fingers and know he is safe and healthy.  We left both Alexis and Mackenzie clucking around their new brother, although Alexis was beginning to show some signs of denial!  She is not too sure just what having a new baby in the house might mean. Southward bound once again through the sugar cane fields of the Maryborough district, and into the pineapple plantations and cattle country as we drive toward Scarborough and Moreton Bay to meet up with son Liam and his family before we depart Queensland tomorrow.

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Pomona

Can’t believe that we are passing through rain again as we drive through the Pomona area. However, it is a comfortable feeling to be travelling through areas of Queensland which we have grown up with and know so well.

More heartfelt goodbyes tonight as we farewell Liam, Brooke, Tait, Aidan and little Tynan.  It never becomes any easier to say goodbye, especially with the little ones.  Aidan and Alexis have both pleaded with me to take them home to Tasmania with us.

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A Child is Born – Mission Complete! May 15, 2015

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This morning on the 15th of the 5th month 2015 at approximately 9.00a.m. (with the assistance of medical intervention) Jackson Patrick arrived weighing 7lb 1oz – a fine, handsome little man looking out with wonder at this new noisy, bustling world he has entered.

Both mother and baby are doing fine and today it was smiles, ooohhh’s and aaahhh’s all around. Jackson’s two older sisters are vowing to love and defend him – probably until he is old enough to totter into their bedrooms and rearrange their treasures.

The birth was just in the nick of time for Dallas and I as we can no longer delay our departure from Hervey Bay tomorrow morning for our southward journey home.  Of course, holding such a precious and new life makes one wish to remain close by, but for us it has been a joy to sight and hold Jackson close and to welcome him into our family.  I daresay it will not be too long before we are back to spend more time with him and our other beautiful grandchildren.

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The Wait Goes On! May 14, 2015

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Point Vernon

It will be two weeks tomorrow since Dallas and I arrived in Hervey Bay to await the birth of Tim and Jodie’s third baby and our newest little grandson.  The baby has not joined us yet and we all wait patiently. Mother and baby are doing fine, but mother is wishing and hoping for her pregnancy to end.  Most of our time has been spent with our two young grand-daughters Mackenzie and Alexis – yesterday we painted a tea-set together to fill in time.

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We have accompanied expectant mum on long beach walks and yesterday even resorted to taking her yabbie pumping – alas, all to no avail.  Tim cooked a hot curry in the hope for some result, but that did not work either!

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Pumping yabbies at Point Vernon, Hervey Bay

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Yabbies

Medical intervention is scheduled for tomorrow morning and we all have our fingers and toes crossed for the cry of a newborn babe.  It is our last hope for seeing this little boy before we must leave Hervey Bay on Saturday morning to return southward.

All I can say is that he is following in the footsteps of all Baker males who take life at their own pace and in their own time!

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