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Blue Snoopy is a 2012 Nova Vita Caravan pulled by a 2012 Nissan Navara ST Dual Cab Ute.

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Rathmines NSW – 8 August 2009

Several weeks ago we made plans to meet some friends (who we met them through the Winnebago RV Club) at Rathmines NSW for a quiet weekend of free camping on the shores of Lake Macquarie, an easy 2 hour drive to the north of Sydney.  This weekend would also be our first real “free camp” as previous free camping experiences had been with large groups of people at planned camp sites.

Saturday started as a magnificent winter’s day with clear blue skies and a cool but comfortable temperature.  The high south westerly winds forecast for Sydney had moderated and it was really perfect to escape home. We had planned a departure somewhere for between 7.30am and 8.00am and by 7.45am we had commenced our short journey.

Until several weeks ago, we had not heard of Rathmines which is surprising as it is a significant historical site from World War II.  Rathmines sits to the south of Newcastle on the shores of Lake Macquarie which is Australia’s largest saltwater lake which is four times the size of Sydney Harbour and has a massive 175km of shoreline.

During the war, Rathmines was the location for a flying boat base with Catalina flying boats arriving at the Base in February 1941.  As a result of the establishment of the base, many personnel brought their families to live in the towns and villages near the Rathmines base which influenced the establishment of the local communities and infrastructure.
The RAAF Base at Rathmines became the largest RAAF flying boat base in the southern hemisphere.

Following World War II, Rathmines was used as a ground training base, and the Officers’ Training School was formed there along with training facilities for senior non-commissioned officers, physical training instructors and national servicemen.

In 1962, the Base was sold to the Lake Macquarie Council.   Many buildings were privately purchased and removed from the site or used by Lake Macquarie Council as community halls.   A large hangar, complete with electrically-operated doors was pulled down and shipped to RAAF Base where it still stands today.
The original Rathmines base has now been heritage listed by the NSW State Government and an application for similar recognition has been made to the Federal Government so that funds may be raised for the erection of a hangar type museum.  There is still a lot to be seen of the remains of the base and the council has placed informative signs in the appropriate places detailing what that part of the site was used for.

We arrived at Rathmines at 10.00am and were greeted by our friends who had arrived a day earlier.  Paying special attention to the signs relating to camping etc, we parked Blue Snoopy safely in a designated parking area.  After sharing morning tea / early lunch with our friends, we headed off for a tour of the local area and finally ended up at the local bowling club that was the planned venue for our evening meal.  It was at this time we discovered that the bowling club had been booked for a 21st birthday so a decision was made to head to the local shops and obtained the required supplies for a BBQ back at our camp site.

When we returned to Blue Snoopy, we noted that our refrigerator was still operating on 12 volt power.  It appears that the gas had failed to ignite and we can only speculate that the slope of our camping site exceeding the recommended 6 degrees for operation of a gas refrigerator.  As was our original intention, we turned Blue Snoopy 90 degrees and placed levelling blocks under both front and rear left wheels (fortunately “She” had insisted on carrying the extra blocks).  The refrigerator switched to gas immediately.  Much to our surprise, the refrigerator was still very cold and little impact had been made on the house batteries.

Thanks to some EXPERT cooking from our friends, we shared a wonderful evening BBQ under the stars and later under a near full moon.  This was heaven!

We also spend several minutes looking at the Moon and Jupiter through a small telescope that had been taken for the weeekend.  Unfortunately a device that eliminates dew on the lens of the telescope had not arrived as planned so our look at the sky was shortened considerably.

We headed towards bed just after 10.00pm.

As this was our first real “free camp”, we had spoken about what we should do to increase the safety of the stay.  With this in mind, we retracted the slide-out, dropped the TV antenna to the roof, retracted the side step (the motor home makes a hell of a racket if you start the IVECO without retracting the side step), stowed most off our loose things and pulled the curtains around the cab rather that blocking the front windows with our insulation screens.  With the exception of one local with a desire to “burn rubber”, the night was quiet and we slept very well.

The alarm was set for 7.00am on Sunday and we were outside speaking with our friends by 8.00am.  We shared a fabulous breakfast of bacon, eggs and champers (finished breakfast at 11.00am!) and then ventured off for another walk around the area.  After the walk we shared some iced coffee and cheese before packing for a departure just before 2.45pm.

We returned to Sydney via Morisset Showground where a public dump point is located.  The dump point is not sign posted and had we not noticed the blue cover over the pit, we may have spent a fair amount of time trying to locate it.

Thanks to the company of a couple of wonderful people, a great venue and some fine food and beverage, this weekend will be fondly remembered for a long time.

We have more camping to do at Rathmines in the future.

3 comments to Rathmines NSW – 8 August 2009

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