First Solo Adventures in The Granny Flat.

Tuesday, Jun 07, 2016 at 11:41

Member-Heather MG NSW

June 1st to 8th June 2016

I am back on ExplorOz..and will be writing my travel blogs from hereonin.
They are musings and experiences of my travels alone in my new home on wheels so if that thought bores you to tears, stop reading now!
After much agonising last Friday I traded my BT 50 ute and 21 foot Outback Sterling caravan for a 2014 23 ft Jayco Conquest Motorhome with rear bed and corner ensuite. Just a few days later, I can hardly remember how traumatic this decision was for me, as already I have discovered how much easier it is to travel and live in a motorhome. I know I did not get anywhere what both vehicles were worth, but saw a replacement that looked perfect for me and wanted to be able to get out and about asap rather than miss out on it if I tried to sell privately!
In order for me to pick up the new vehicle I had to tow the van some 800 kms, through Sydney, so I asked my sister to accompany me. As It turned out the towing was a breeze and I really was surprised at how incredibly simple the journey was because I chose to stay in places where I didn’t have to do anything more than plug in power and put on a sullage hose. We stayed overnight at the showground at Bulahdelah because I knew that it was flat, and there would be lots of space. I did not want to have to stress about parking! The van and ute worked perfectly together, felt very stable, and , rather ironically it turned out, were the vehicles John and I had decided to keep long term. Had John still been alive we would at this time be enjoying three months fishing at Pardoo Station in the Pilbara region of WA. Sadly he died very suddenly last November, being struck down by a brain stem bleed which took out his automatic responses, such as breathing, along with upper body movement. He had just undergone a series of tests on his heart and had had colonoscoly and gastroscopy, passing all with no problems so it came as a big shock to us. It was his decision not to be kept alive on machines and we were grateful that he was able to make this choice as the alternative was rather terrible for a man who had been fit and active up until the night before.
I miss him more than words can ever express. We were fortunate to have a long and mostly very happy marriage, with 4 pretty special adult children, and had over 10 years of wonderful retirement together during which time we travelled extensively around Australia. We felt no need to join local clubs and had only a small network of close friends, being content to spend our time together bushwalking, fishing, and seeking out the back roads and quieter places to pull up and enjoy campfires and meals under the stars. To give up my travels and sit at home now alone is just not an option for me! I have realised that while I may not ever get over losing him, I have to learn to live with it and to be able to travel seems, for me, to be a great way of doing this. We had discussed what we would do if one of us died but I didn’t for one minute think that I would be the one to have to do this..after all my parents died in their early 70s and his are still alive aged 90 and almost 88!
For a while I contemplated keeping my ute and 21 foot Outback Jayco sterling van however when I realised that my movements were reliant on those of my friends and family were as I didn’t feel confident about setting out alone, I decided I needed to find something which enabled me to take off anytime I felt like it without having to ask for assistance. I had to do this for my mental health as at home alone I was at risk of becoming depressed I think. As wonderful as my three daughters have been in helping me through the past almost 7 months, I do not want or expect to have to lean on them for any longer than I have to.
A couple of weeks ago, I had to drive to Coffs Harbour to attend my Father in laws 90th birthday, and while there I visited the local Jayco dealer to have a look at the vehicle which I have ultimately bought. It is two years old, had only 17,000 kms on the clock and comes with some attractive extras, being second hand. Theres a diesel heater which is fuelled from the Fiat and yet to be tested, although I did run it for a short time the other morning and it seems to be very noisy so may need some investigating, a nudge bar, a tool box on the rear, side steps, a crimsafe door, leather seating, a Ibis air command air conditioner, a slide out generator boot which will fit my Honda 2 KVA plus a few other bits and pieces. A plus for me is an electric step and an electric awning, both activated by a button! As part of the deal, I had a drop down exterior table fitted, and a couple of extra 12v power points, so I can run my laptop and charge all the small bits and pieces that I carry with me.

I traded my Clearview mirrors on the BT 50 for a second battery so now have 200 amp hrs and a 120 watt solar panel. After doing the deal I was told that the Jayco dealer wanted to keep and use the ute for the business, something which does not surprise me at all as it was well set up with all the extras for towing! I did take the eazlift towing stuff and towbar and will sell them along with the stone stomper, Aussie traveller anti flap kit, a 14 X 8 foot c gear ground mat, a new trail-amate hydraulic jack and various other items. My problem is that I have to be home long enough to do this.
So..I picked up my new vehicle last Friday, 27th May. I had to transfer some gear across from the caravan and then drove my new vehicle to the park I had booked into in Coffs for overnight. I had paid ofr a drive through site for two nights and I reckon we could have fitted three of my motorhomes parked one behind the other there. It is quite different to drive from the ute, with blinkers and lights on the left side and wipers on the right, and now that I have worked out how to start it..(theres a process!!) I feel quite confident sitting behind the wheel. The biggest problem so far is staying under the speed limit, and luckily there is an alarm activated when the speedo hits 105 kms ( the GPS tells me I am doing under 100kms at that point). Having already driven well over 1000 kms in it I feel quite at home, and love being up above most other vehicles on the road with great views.
On our return journey, I stayed overnight, powered, at the Australian Motorhome park north of Heatherbrae, as my sister had booked a room there. I used my own tank water but put out power and sullage hoses so I didn’t collect grey water in the tank.
On the way home we called in at my sons place and my sister collected and drove my Mazda 2 home for me, so I have a vehicle to run around town..not that I am planning on being there very often from now on. It looks so small parked in the garage where the BT 50 sat, and there seems like metres front and rear of it for me to get to the other areas of the garage.
I spent three nights parked on the front lawn (had to drive up the grassy slope as I could not get the MH in reverse up there without causing too much stress on the vehicle!). Have since discovered there are a couple of buttons I could press on the dash which may enable me to do it..a traction button, and theres also an UP button which assists when driving steeply uphills with a load on. I may be ok when I have had more experience reversing this rather large vehicle, and get to know the rear view/ reversing camera.
I went into a frenzy of reorganising and packing what will be named “The granny Flat” and set off south for Mallacoota Victoria, on Wednesday morning on my first solo trip. I figured that I may as well pack as for a long term trip as I probably wont be home from now on unless I have to, and even then can park level enough outside my front door and stay in it rather than having to unpack.
I took a drive around the park when I arrived and then booked in for a week. This time of the year its around $23 per night per couple and unfortunately there is no solo rate. I have only just realised how unfair this is and that maybe parks could offer the unpowered rate to solo travellers. I am staying at the Foreshore Park, run by the Council. It has something in the vicinity of 900 sites and would be amazing to see full as it is at Christmas time and Easter!
Mallacoota was one of Johns favourite places, and continues to be one of mine. He loved his fishing here and I love the walking opportunities. We had come here quite often. One of our good friends, an avid fisherman, lives here so I have someone familiar in town, and we have been enjoying one anothers company, walking and having dinner together. I have declined invitations to go out in the boat fishing as it is very cool and often wet!
Friday June 3rd
I had intended getting out and talking to other people in the park, but there are few sites occupied becaue it is winter, and they are all couples who are off doing things together so there have been few opportunities. The weather doesn’t help either, as there have been frequent showers which arrive without notice! The weather is forcast to really deteriorate for the weekend so I am glad I have a roomy vehicle to move around in.
I know it will be different to travelling with John and there will be periods of loneliness however already I feel so much more positive about facing the rest of my life without the person I loved most in the world by my side. I know he would be happy for me too. As I said earlier, I cannot bear the thought of being home and want to live each day as fully as I can…
I am planning on being away from home for the next two months, using it as a time to get to know the features of my new home while it is still under warranty (3 months from the dealer and 12 months on the Fiat engine) and getting any repairs necessary attended to. I will have the motor serviced before long too as I don’t have any service history, although it runs like a dream.
While here, I am using tank water to see how long it will last me with normal use. Im not sure of its capacity yet..seems to vary according to the model and year but is either 80 or 120 litres fresh water. Im not storing grey water unless I have to, due to it rapidly turning toxic.
Have managed to tune the TV..a job which had been Johns until we had the sphere auto satellite system put on the caravan. Because I will be spending lots of nights alone, and in many places where there is not TV reception I think I will eventually pay the cost of having this luxury item added to my MH. I got to rely on having up to date news and weather details, as well as being able to watch my favourite ABC TV shows no matter where we were. Will see how I go for the next few months while I save up for it, if I still think I want it later in the year.
I have already discovered that the rear of the vehicle needs to be higher than the front, so that the shower can drain, otherwise I have to spend 5 minutes trying to wash it down the drain! This morning I took a drive and on my return, reversed into my site and drove up onto ramps which has solved that problem, however now I am out of level side to side! Not a big problem really, and one I will get more used to solving as I gain experience. At least it is easy to pack up and drive out, and it doesn’t involve too much effort. On this angle, the drawers automatically close! ( John was pedantic about being level and would have had to rectify it!)
I have worked out the Tom Tom navigation system, and also how to connect my ipod so I can listen to my music while in transit. On the rear sound system I have bluetoothed my phone so can talk to people through the speakers. I know I can also run the sound from TV through this however haven’t managed to do it yet. Trying to learn a new feature each day and not doing too badly.
Many of the fittings are the same as those in the Sterling which helps..the same great LED lighting system, HWS, an AES 3 way fridge, air conditioner, blinds/flyscreens…
It is pretty nice being able to pull up for toilet or lunch, and not even have to leave the warmth of the vehicle to do so, especially in bad weather. Its secure too, feels so safe with doors all locked.
The weather for the next few days is forecast to be particularly wild and wet all along the east coast so I am expecting to have to spend much of it indoors. Am very happy to have a big enough space to move around in and don’t expect to suffer too much from Cabin fever! I have books to read, writing to do, TV to watch and internet to waste time on…trips to plan too. In any short bursts of ok weather I will don my walking jacket and boots and get out for a walk.
Mallacoota has so many beautiful walking trails, many of them in Croajingalong National Park which surrounds the town. Even in the warmer months the weather can change very quickly here, and its common to see four seasons in one day. The waters of the inlet provide an ever changing vista depending on weather conditions. Shopping is pretty good for a small town, with two supermarkets and a butchers, bakers, newsagency and a few cafes, pub and golf and bowling clubs. The local markets which are held at the Mud Brick centre in town are also enjoyable to go and I am lucky as they are being held tomorrow morning. I will definitely go along.
Saturday June 4th
Well, the forecast certainly was correct! It is very wet and windy here today.
I decided early this morning before the rain set in, to connect to mains pressure water so that I would not need to get out in the wet and fill the tanks when I ran out during the next couple of days. I am very pleased now that I did it.
My first attempt at connecting the water wasn’t all that successful. I went up to the local markets and was gone a couple of hours, as I stopped in on the way home for coffee. Wondered why the area under my awning mat was so wet, and discovered when I went to run water that I didn’t have any! The hose had come off the connector on the MH and was spewing copious quantities of water all over the ground! Bugger! I have a flat out drinking water hose on a reel and its very long, needs to be laid out on the ground with no kinks and have water run through it before connecting to the MH and while I thought initially I had managed to do it, I didn’t really klick it into place! Will be more careful in the future, however this was my first attempt.
I am almost an old hand at connecting sullage hose and the power cord, managed to fill the water tank at home but got wet in the process! Have emptied the toilet cassette a couple of times and plan on having to do that often. Must make a note to pack the long handled spade when I call in at home towards the end of next week, so that if I need to dig a hole to bury the toilet cassette contacts out in the bush, I can do so as I plan on using the toilet whenever I need to. I use an environmentally kind product named Odour-b-gone tablets in it so as to not harm the earth, and it works very well for me.
I know that I will have to disconnect the gas bottle when empty and have it refilled too..another challenge and a task that was Johns to do. Luckily the two bottles are 4 kg size so I should be able to get them in and out of the side boot without too much trouble, and be strong enough to lift. It was something which worried me about keeping the sterling van as it had 9 kg bottles and they had to be lifted out of the front boot, something which would have been impossible for me to do full! I am only a touch over 5 foot and mot all that heavy, although I like to think than I am stronger and fitter than I appear for a little old white haired woman! I can swear and curse like a truckie too if that helps… with apologies to any truckies who may be reading this!!
Speaking of which…I am going to get a CB radio fitted to my motorhome as I really miss having one. Will need it when travelling with friends and family in other vehicles, and I like to keep informed as to traffic conditions, oncoming wide loads and heavy vehicles, and other such information.
June 5th Sunday
What a wild night it has been here in Mallacoota…and for much of the Australian east coast. I woke at around 1am to feel the motorhome being buffeted by very strong wind gusts. I do think it is more stable that the caravans ever were however it was a bit disconcerting, especially when I am by myself.
It is a great test for the vehicle watertightness and one so far appears to have passed, with no leaks evident. Havent checked the exterior boots yet though. I was glad that I had put the antenna down yesterday and surprised to find that it hasn’t affected the signal strength at all.

A wander around outdoors has revealed branches down and debris strewn about. A couple of campers on the waterfront have packed up and moved out but I don’t think I would be doing that in such awful weather. Driving today would be dangerous, especially out of Mallacoota where the road is lined by trees for much of the way, and I think it would be difficult to outrun the bad weather anyway..unless of course you were going home. My opinions of course!
I am glad to have a good book to read. I am enjoying “The Lost Continent” by Bill Bryson. I love his writing style..very descriptive and honest as well as well as funny. It is a good day to catch up on TV programmes I have missed on iView too..The rain is becoming increasingly heavy as I write. Todays is forecast to be 40 to 80 mm so I guess the worst may be yet to come.

My sister is checking my house for any damage this morning. So glad I have someone close by to do this for me. I will be calling in and staying a couple of nights there at the end of the coming week so will attend to anything which needs doing. Ill be sorting out and pricing a lot of gear that I no longer need, so I can sell it..a stonestomper stone guard which we had made to fit our van with the extended drawbar, an Aussie traveller anti flap kit and 2 bars, trail-a-mate jack/jockey wheel, the eazlift WDH and heavy tow bar, c gear ground mat, shade cloth long awning wall..…and lots of other assorted gear. The issue is that I have to be at home long enough to do it as I cant carry it all with me.
While staying here my old Nespresso coffee machine finally stopped, so while at home, I will be replacing it with a new one which Nespresso virtually gave me last year for being a good customer! I do have my stovetop coffee maker which does the job when unpowered, but it is just not as good when I am powered. There are a few bits and pieces that I packed which I will remove, and a few others that I want to put in..still in the early days of deciding just what I need but do not want to overpack! My needs are different to when John and I were travelling together.
After that, I am going to be the ‘good Nanna’, stay in a park close to two of my adult children and their families for four nights in Kiama over the long weekend, before setting out to the North of Sydney…somewhere. I am in search of places to stay unpowered to test all the workings of the batteries, solar and 12volt gear, the diesel heater, and also to determine how long I can use the water tank for before having to refill. Also looking for other female solo travellers or any friendly travellers to talk to, maybe do a walk with. Hope to find a few places which allow campfires so I can use my camp oven too, although I reckon after this rain, it will take a while for wood to dry out. (I do have firestarters packed).
Monday 6th june
Its still raining although the wind seems to have quietened for the moment. Last night there were gusts strong enough to rock me around, and it was quite unnerving! According to my weather app, Mallacoota has had over 90 mm since 9am, and more is coming today. Yesterday the rain didn’t ease enough all day for me to get out for a walk. I foolishly started out dressed in my goretex jacket but returned in a hurry, dripping wet! There has been much worse at home
During the afternoon I had a lovely visit from a couple of Exploroz members who are staying in Mallacoota and happened to read my blog. It was so good to put faces to names of people who share a love of similar roads, experiences and places to camp. I felt as though they were long time friends as I have been reading their blogs and forum posts for years!
And, would you believe, I added a comment to a post on the Caravaners forum and discovered that another member of that group is parked just across the road. Have plans to have a cuppa together..when the weather clears a little! Or should I say…IF the weather ever clears.
The power of the Internet eh!!
The rain today looks as though it has set in. The water level in the Inlet is rising and the park is full of big puddles and small rivulets running which need to be dodged when going anywhere. I decided to empty my toilet cassette, despite it not being full. Its not one with wheels so I didn’t want to have to lug it the distance to the dump point when it was too heavy, and couldn’t be bothered driving over there as that necessitates undoing water, sullage and also power then trying to park again in these very wet conditions. Anyway it was a very wet exercise but it is done and now if it pours non stop until I leave I wont have to jog to the amenities and get wet! Can empty when I am at home.
I am so glad that I am not reliant on solar although under these extreme circumstances I would ensure that I moved to powered site just for the comforts.
I don’t have anything planned today but maybe our friend here will drop by and we will take a drive out to look at the ocean which is reputed to have swells of around 7 metres. For future trips I will pack my art materials as drawing would be a great pastime on such a day as this.
I am happy to still be able to report that I can see no water leaks inside my GF (granny flat)and also that so far everything seems to be working as it should.
Tuesday June 7th
I woke to a much more beautiful scene, a very picturesque sunrise over the Inlet and later a stunning clear morning with sunshine.
Late yesterday afternoon I moved my motorhome to a higher site, and parked sideways so this morning I had lovely views over the water. And because all the other campers had also moved to higher ground, my views were unimpeded….glorious and rare in this popular place. I was pretty happy with how easy everything was to much faster than in a van! I have definitely made the right choice for me.
I wandered around the park yesterday and took photos, also when Simo called in and invited me out for a look around, we took a couple of drives out to Bastion Point and Betka Beach. Saw Betka when it was full to bursting and then a couple of hours it had broken a wide channel through to the ocean which was interesting. The seas were very wild and still are today.

As yesterday progressed, the weather improved and I had the chance to talk with the other people staying here. My friend came and had dinner with me, and it has been really good to have someone to share food with. Dinner alone is something I continue to struggle with, as is cooking for just myself. I have always loved food and cooking and I think have quite a reputation as a good cook, however immediately following John’s death, I lost the urge and am only now starting to get it back. I have always loved having friends around for dinner and cooking exotic meals…and John was so appreciative of the food I dished he isn’t here, there doesn’t seem much point in my doing it! Hopefully it will return.
My motorhome kitchen does not have an oven and I once would have really missed it, however have a slow cooker packed also my camp oven so can bake bread, roasts and the like when I get the chance. My needs and wants are different. The smaller fridge (150 litres) is also more than ample for me now, as I don’t have to stash cans of beer or anywhere near the same quantity of food in it.
I joined a local walking group this morning at 9.30, and with lunch and camera packed, did a lovely coastal walk from Betka mouth along to Quarry beach and return. For most of the walk I was in the company of a woman who I seemed to find an easy rapport with. We talked about a range of topics and I am sure she enjoyed the time as much as I did. At the conclusion of the walk, we returned to the home of one couple and enjoyed lunch together, followed by an absolutely delicious and rich chocolate mousse cake she had made to celebrate her husbands’ birthday! I chose a great day to be part of this really friendly, welcoming group of locals for sure and feel like I know many of them now. I first met many of them when I came down for a week in February and camped in my Oztent, and love that they make visitors so welcome. It is a lovely community and there are many single people my age in town.
We walked in perfect weather, and when I returned to the park, my c-gear ground mat was all but dry so I packed it up for travel tomorrow. Will give it a hose down when I get home, and dry it thoroughly as I intend selling it and using a smaller one now.
I have filled the water tank too, so that I don’t have to do it at home, although I am intending on staying in my Granny flat instead of moving everything inside for two nights, so will connect water, sullage and power probably. I am thinking ofusing the gas hot water and diesel heater while home, so I know that it all works when I want to stay unpowered.
Have discovered a couple of small items which require repairs. My electric step is supposed to retract on 12v but will only do it on 240v, the grey water tank sensor has gone into meltdown despite there not being any water in it, and I am still having problems locking the crim safe screen door, although the other part of the door seems fine. Have started a list to have attended to when I get to Coffs Harbour. Nothing serious I guess although I do not want the step to be stuck out when I travel.
Wednesday June 8th
I was awake early once again and got on the road about 8am. Had a really good drive home, only stopping for toilet and a brief lunch stop, and also to fill up with diesel in Narooma. Was pretty pleased to find I had only used 60 litres since leaving Ulladulla a week ago.
I waved at every RV which passed me, both motorhome and caravan, and only had the odd person return the wave. Not sure whether its because I am in the motorhome, or because of the location - Coast instead of inland. It kind of disappointed me though maybe I am more conscious now that I am alone and not talking to John as I drive. These days I listen to my iPod music, loud, and sing along!
When I arrived home I attempted to drive up the wet ground and grass to park on the flat area beside the garage where we used to park the van. I could only get part way before I went into a slide and then stopped abruptly, leaving big muddy wheel tracks ploughed into the lawn! Bugger!
I reversed out, drove around the point, and when I got close to home, engaged the Traction button and had another go with slightly better results however was still nowhere near level. I had to make do as I was not going to give it a third attempt, having by now turned my lawn into quite a muddy mess! (Mental note to self at this point to start planning and saving for some landscaping work to be done so I can drive in and park level regardless of weather conditions.)
With the next two nights at home, I only unpacked the essentials and the dirty laundry and got on with the chores. Plugged the power into the GF and only the following day did I check the fridge temperature. It seems that the angle was too great for the fridge to work. Another lesson learned!
Overall, I am happy enough with my choice of vehicle although would have loved to have been able to afford to buy a 4WD or semi off road version. Given the extreme weather conditions I experienced I was glad that I had gone with the bigger vehicle. My first week has taught me quite a lot about life as a Motorhome owner. I am yet to test my unpowered set up but will now plan to do so next week.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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