Thursday, 9 April 2015

The End- more sputter and fart than whizz and bang.

So my blogging mojo left me at almost the precise moment we pulled onto my parents' front lawn in Newrybar and it didn't even look like making a reappearance through Christmas or New Year's. I thought I might be back into it in early January, but since it seems that whilst we've been living 'light', we had definitely been travelling with loads of excess baggage, so it took a few days just to get everything out of our campertrailer. Not to mention the three days of airing, vacuuming, bleaching, scrubbing and swearing at the camper trailer,  proceeded by even more days of transporting our travel goods and chattals back to Noosa, then painting, unpacking, reintroducing our children to their permanent home and amongst all of that, seeing friends and family en masse. So yeah, it's been a busy couple of months, all of a sudden it's April and I've got a few apologies to make:

1. I'm sorry I didn't get out my usual Christmas card. Merry Christmas to you all- hope it was awesome!

2. I'm sorry I didn't send a text about having a wonderful New Year. Happy New Year, I hope 2015 is all you wish it to be!

3. I'm sorry I've missed around 5 blog posts up the east coast from Mallacoota to Crescent Head. I'd planned to complete these in early February when Marguerite went to school and I'd have heaps of time on my hands. See how mentally retarded I am? Those posts will probably never happen. So sorry to all the Virgo/OCD/EverythingHasAnOrder Freaks out there following this blog. Let's just say the NSW coast was great, we had a few pretty ordinary weather moments and we packed up a few days early and just scooted back to my parents' house, such was our need to get back to 'home'.

4. To our beautiful friends who battled life-threatening illnesses and/or soul destroying issues throughout the year, I'm sorry we weren't there to help you. We are so blessed to have you in our lives, still here, a little battered and bruised but here nonetheless.

Here's what I'm not sorry about:

1. I'm not sorry that except for this blog and the occassional text or Facebook like, we were not completely 'present' in our community of loved ones. We love our friends and family, but sometimes it was impossible to contact you due to phone reception, timezones and the general melee of life with kids. And sometimes we were just tired. But most of all, we were enjoying the company of our little family and the adventure we were on. I'm not sorry about that. 

2.I'm not sorry I had an amazing year, travelling around a country which is incredibly diverse, mind bogglingly enormous, harsh and beautiful. 

3. I'm not sorry the trip has ended. As wonderful as travelling is, an ensuite, walls which don't move when there's a bit of wind and a finite area for my kids to play in (ie the backyard)... well, I'm in heaven.  

4.And last of all, I'm not sorry for the next comment: The Uyshuis is NOT lucky. Lucky means things of a wonderful nature fall into your lap through no effort on your part, or you take a misstep and avoid a disaster of biblical proportions. Sure, some lucky things happened on our trip, but we were not in any way lucky to have completed it. A camper trailer didn't find its way onto our lawn with our name attached to the registration one innocuous day. The house was not emptied and then filled with tenants by virtue of some mystical rental fairies. My husband's business did not continue to run itself nor did we remain blissfully unaware of issues concerned with it while we were away. No. We are not lucky. We made it happen. In fact, the bulk of the credit must go to Fiela and his amazing perseverance in hunting down and ticking off a goal on his Bucket List. We made sacrifices (I'll be staring at pink carpets and blue tiles for a lot longer) and made this trip a reality. You can too. But you won't be able to do it with luck, just a plan and some resolve.  

So there you have it. I've come full circle in many literal senses; a year on I'm still sitting in my own stink surrounded by packing boxes, we travelled around Australia- a dream realised and new, exciting and daunting challenges are presenting themselves for the year ahead.

If you have the wanderlust, organise yourself. The amazing adventure you will have will far outweigh the shit and drama of getting off the couch, getting a caravan and rolling off the driveway.

And most of all, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Gillards Beach and Bendalong

From our campsite looking out to Gillards Beach.
For many different reasons, crossing over the border into New South Wales was very much like turning over the page on what you know is the last chapter of a good book: there was a definite finality to it. All the loose ends were coming together, dates and times for staying with friends were being locked in place and we spoke of having weeks, not months left of this trip.

Gillards Beach.

And once we drove into Eden and traced already trodden steps up that beautiful New South Wales south coast, those feelings of homesickness gave way to something even more terrifying: Christmas loomed ominously and I had not done one thing to prepare for it.  But I got over that pretty quick, there would be plenty of time to indulge in a gorge-fest of materialism in the next two weeks.
Wallaby and joey at our campsite.
Anyway, we drove to Mimosa Rocks National Park, bang in the middle of Merimbula and Bermagui, to an enchanting spot called Gillards Beach. Having become something of a connoisseur of National Park campgrounds, I can confidently say that this particular one is probably in the top five of most awesome spots we’d ever been. Grassy sites and big firepits  sit on the top of treed dunes overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean and golden sands. Wallabies graze around the sites, echidnas search for ants and birds like lorikeets and blue wrens flit about the bush.
Mossy Mimosa Rocks.

The weather played along, even providing a few of those awesome cathartic afternoon thunderstorms which reveal a fresh and sparkling world the next morning where there had only been the steamy sweat of humidity the day before. We fished (Fiela caught some very good sized herring) gathered oysters and threw them on the fire in the shell, swam, surfed, played on the sand and generally enjoyed ourselves.  Even the drop loo played along by not stinking that much. Sigh, this place was great but weatherzone was telling us that rain was coming and it wasn’t going to go again for a while, so we packed up and headed to our next stop on the northern side of Ulladulla.
Idyllic days...
But it's not all beer and skittles: tandem naughty corner action.
Really? You can't throw rocks at people? Close up? At all???

Bendalong is another beautiful spot, at a much more expensive campsite but with a waterpark, jumping pillow and all the other natural coastal playgrounds you could imagine. We set up just in time to avoid a horrendous downpour and hunkered down for what followed- about three days of wind and rain. Sure the sun came out just to almost dry everything out and allow us to go for a swim at the beach, but the weather was in general, soul destroying. On the upside, we had internet and power, so there was a fair-sized ABCKids fest going on in the camper, Fiela had ‘the most epic surf ever’, caught a heap of fish off the kayak and we watched as the kangaroos boxed on the lawn in front. This was another five days of great camping, despite the torrential rain.
Looking out to Washerwoman's Beach, a beautiful protected little bay at Bendalong.
And with the end of those few nights began the eating, drinking and socialising games as the Uyshuis stared down the barrel of over a week in the relative luxury of three solid homes and the hospitality of  friends and family.
Birds hassled us for food...

...which they got.

Grey kangaroos
 The rest of these pictures are of two male grey kangaroos 'boxing'. A few of the females were on heat, so the boxing happened regularly and as with the human world, the girls looked on thinking "What a pair of idiots!"

Some feral camp kid terrorising the streets.

A dry moment at camp.

Saturday, 17 January 2015


We went from Churchill, a purpose built mining town to a Lakes Entrance, a purpose built tourist town. I can’t say I was particularly enthralled with it, but then the weather was poorly (are you surprised?) and ho hum, I had home on my mind with only a few weeks to go before arriving back in Byron Bay for Christmas.
The colours of Croajingalong coastal forest.

Busting to get over the border into the familiar territory of New South Wales, we whizzed out of Lakes Entrance and up the Princes Highway. It was all starting to feel like home already with the eucalpyts, salty air and coastal heath. In the car I was researching our next stop around Merimbula in the Lonely Planet when I happened upon Croajingalong National Park, unparalled on the East Coast of Australia in its beauty and general awesomeness. Apparently. We were going past the turn off, I wanted to get over that border but this place sounded awesome so we turned around. Sigh. I almost cried. It was definitely starting to feel like home time.
Croajingalong beauty.

Anyway, there are a few bush camps in the National Park itself but the cold and wet weather was still around so we opted for the caravan park in Mallacoota. This is one of those parks which commands the best position in town, right on the headland overlooking the inlet and ocean. It was beautiful, though we did our best to ignore this by fighting over where to camp. On canvassing the area, I was opting for the sites near the playground with lots of space around us, whilst Fiela wanted the sea view and let’s be honest, to be within casting distance of the water.  We did laps of the park, much to the amusement of every grey nomad travelling around Australia who was now camped here, until I threw a complete wobbly and told Fiela to go and sort it out himself with a few withering ‘Whatevaaahs!!!’ thrown in for good measure.
Mallacoota. It's sunny!!!!

Set up with the sea views (hmmmph!) it was an excellent vantage point to watch the rain and wind as it descended upon our camper and my fragile mental state. I don’t think I’ve ever hated canvas walls so much.

But Mallacoota and Croajingalong unfolded itself to us over the next few days and it was beautiful in every way. We drove into the National Park itself and marvelled at secluded rocky coves and pristine beaches. We cleaned and ate big black mussels found by Fiela in the waterways. Marguerite borrowed books and DVDs from the little library over the road. The pelicans feasted on the leftovers of Fiela’s catch and it was good.
Deserted sandy beaches.

Until Marguerite’s bike took on a life of its own, sped down the hill while I ran after it, Marguerite yelling encouragement until it finally came to a stop in the back of a fellow camper’s car. He was fairly gracious about it all, unlike the lookers’ on who were rolling around on the grass laughing their heads off. It was time to go. New South Wales beckoned and I was like a sailor, ears wide open to the Sirens’ Song.

Croajingalong beaches.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Grampians and other bits of Victorian pieces.

Woops, we’re back in Newrybar at my parents’, Christmas has been and gone and all of a sudden it’s been weeks since my last post… Where were we??? Who knows? Who cares? 
Grampians Group Shot.
Oh. That’s right, the Uyshuis was just leaving FlicknAl’s heading to the Grampians. Tearful farewells are becoming my forte, but I’d dried my eyes enough to see the rolling hills of the Victorian lowlands give way to the sudden jumpup of the Grampian mountain range. We’d planned to stay at a national park campsite close to Hall’s Gap, the main town, but decided against paying $38.50 for a drop toilet and a bit of cleared bush. What-the-overpriced-campground-Batman?! Freecamping in Victoria just become fairly unfree. Luckily for us, there was a glitch in the Napthine program and just 10km up the road was a national park campground for free, but with all the same stinky facilities. Yay for the Uyshuis!
The Pine Forest and its free camp sites.

So we walked up and down the main track in the Grampians. The weather was still cool and at times wet so this tempered the enormous effort it took to haul our fattened backsides up there after the Hamilton stopover. We made a fire that night and looked at the night stars for the first time since… a long time. And for a moment we forgot we were over putting the camper up and down… missing our family and friends… tired of the cold and rain.

We left the Grampians and scooted through some beautiful countryside until Daylesford,  a 'spa' town with lots of boutique shops, bakeries which only made sour dough using spelt flour and day spas promising eternal youth. We settled for a meal at the decidedly chic Daylesford Hotel "Oh darling, don't worry, I would NEVER sell an abomination like sweet rosè: it's definitely dry! " and stayed at a pretty spectacular free camp 10 kilometres out of town at Mt Franklin.

Mt Franklin is a beautiful spot situated in the middle of an extinct volcano; pine trees cover the walls and we set up at the bottom, looking out over the grassy lawn and contemplated the last five years spouting every parents' catch cry "Where has the time gone and why do I feel so bloody tired?"
Our five year old.

The next day our little girl turned five. I’d had some guilt issues over the meagreness of her birthday presents, but she was happy with a new dress, birthday cards and a few new toys. And pizza and olives and dessert of  portugese custard tart later for dinner and a night at a Big4 campground in the Yarra Valley- two playgrounds, jumping pillow, pool. Birthday celebrations complete!

A moment of complete bewilderment. Where are my children and who are these loving imposters???? 

Fortunately for our credit card, we managed to negotiate this wine region without actually buying anything. Yep, we’ve turned a corner!

We drove east across Victoria into the Gippsland, visiting Churchill, one of those strange purpose built mining towns of little character except for those whomj we were visiting: Jana and Marlene,  South African stalwarts of our pre-child Gold Coast days. Jana's husband Clayton works in the wood mill nearby (though coal mining and a huge electrical plant are also some major industries) and the two of them gave some insight into some scary bushfires they'd experienced in the last few years, and even more frightening, the average weather pattern of the Gippsland which goes something like this:

3am: cold
6am: wet,  windy, cold
9am: wet,  windy
12pm: hot
3pm: very hot, windy
6pm: wet,  hail, 
9pm: cold.

What the? Apart from driving out to Yarragen, a little town with a lot of little shops and cafes, we did little else but eat and catch up on what had been years of missed news. We had shaken our heads in disbelief at their descriptions of the weather but then experienced everything Gippsland meteorology possibly had to offer except sleet over the next two days.   Whilst it was sad to say goodbye to these guys, I'll admit to being very pleased to get out of this Bermudian weather vortex.
Cuties. Just before Caesar karate chopped the flower.
More cuties.

So on we drove. And drove. Yet still, it felt like we were treading water. Seeing old friends had given us all a fresh bout of homesickness and I for one was officially over being in a camper trailer as the wind and rain raged around us. Thankfully the weather turned and while we still had showers, wind and temperatures which refused to go above 21 degrees, it wasn't that pervasive rain which drops on your head into your brainL we weren't wearing jeans and jumpers every day. Still, I was ready for home and summer, neither of which were forthcoming.

Kings of the Grampian World.

Halls Gap from the top.

Oh it's all Grampians. Rocks and water, alright?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Bits and Pieces Between South Australia and Victoria.

Murray Mouth. Or Motor Mouth.
Happy snaps at the Murray River Mouth.
Leaving Rapid Bay wasn't difficult: at the end of two days drive would be the most amazing wine district and better still, the Flick'n'Al Show (groovers we'd met at Daly River).  I'm not sure what I was more excited about... But first there were about 600 kilometers to get through, so strap yourselves in.
Murray River ferry.
First of all,  I love South Australia. It appeals to me on so many levels; as a farm girl, a beach chick, wine gourmand, Upper Middle Bogan. The list goes on. I'm also well read and I like a bit of arty farty stuff.  But the Coorong? Storm Boy? Did I miss something? This was the next stop for the night and every person I mentioned this to immediately oohed and aahed.
Coorong bush.
Of course, the plight of the Murray Basin runs deep with me and I love a restored paddle steamer. Crossing the Murray via ferry was cool, and there was a certain desolate beauty about the Coorong, but I was glad we hadn't built a trip around it. Apparently if you get over the dunes into one of the campgrounds next to the open beach then it is worthwhile, but we stayed next to the inlet and the windy weather ruffled up the water like an old sheet that's been on the line for a few weeks. We were the only ones in our camp ground and it was a lovely spot to watch the sun go down and the flocks of sea birds come and go. But it wasn't awe-inspiring for me. In fact I'm filing it in the same category as the Pinnacles: useful in a conversational way. For example: "Oh yes, I've been to the Pinnacles. We met up with Kate and Wills there, they're so busy you know but we managed to fit each other in..." etc etc.
Coorong Inlet.

Coorong birds... Peter Weir must have spent a lot of time here.
Coorong pelican colony.
After one night we moved on to Robe, the polar opposite of the Coorong with its cafes and boutiques, each one offering some or other wine to taste. The beach is long and sandy, the headland rocky and the fishing apparently legendary.We splashed out on staying at the Big4 (($60 per night) and used every possible facility available- heated indoor pool, jumping pillow, camp kitchen (for hide and seek) and the playground.

Ho hum.

The next day was a BIG day though. After an hours drive we would be in the Coonawarra wine district, home of Big Reds and scene of one of the Best Day's of My pre-Trying to Be Responsible Life. I had drunk my way through a wine tour with some great friends back in my mid twenties. Oh life was grand- no kids, no mortgage, and no need to worry about which wine I was tasting : " I'll have a go at No 8 thanks! I believe it's the Peenott Nwaah" Snigger snigger. Needless to say the day ended with a bus full of guffawing twenty-somethings who'd made wine purchases based on the type of bag the bottle came in rather than taste, because let's face it, we stopped tasting at the second winery. I believe a bottle of port I'd bought at the 6th winery served as a doorstop for about eight years. Anyhoo, I digress. This time with kids in tow and a serious red wine buff at the helm, it actually was all about how it tasted (more ho hum).
We went to Brands Laira (delicious wines across the board), Rymill (nice wines and the fishponds filled with carp out the front were winners for the kids), Wynns (good cheese platter) and Katnook (great wines). The Riddoch Highway cuts through the middle of the wine region, making it incredibly easy to navigate your way around. This would be our last go at a wine region, and with the vines full of those green leaves and little grapes starting to form, it was all quite romantic. Queue tired creatures in the back of the car and a stop at the IGA for biscuits in an effort to get to Hamilton and FlicknAls without a complete riot.

Quite possibly the worst timed visit ever, FlicknAl were in the middle of selling their house and  had an inspection the day after we arrived. But they were just as excited to see us and with Marguerite's head about to explode with anticipation, it was a lovely reunion. With complete understanding we were set up in the shed and the children were given strict instructions to touch ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!
Caesar and the Great Life Vest Tantrum.
We exited the clean zone of their property and made our way down to Portland. Fiela and Al had left early in the morning to go fishing, and Flick, the kids and I made our way down later to enjoy the hot day at the beach. Flick had packed an amazing lunch of deliciousness and truly, it was a beautiful day. The boys caught 56 flathead so they were beside themselves. So were the kids who on return, finally had a free run of the house and the baskets of toys kept around for FlicknAls granchildren.
Marguerite and Mac, FlicknAl's harassed dog.
What followed were days of good food, great wine and best of all, excellent company. The weather had made an atrocious turn for the worst though and by the time we finally hauled our much fatter backsides into the car to leave for the Grampians, I'm sure these hospitable, beautiful people were silently thanking every God they knew. I'm surprised I kept it together when we left; being with these two felt like being home, and with our entry into Victoria, New South Wales so close I could almost smell the waratahs, homesickness returned again. With only a few weeks left of this epic adventure, the thrill of setting up the camper AGAIN had lost its shine a bit.