Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Outback NSW - Cameron Corner

Both of us have wanted to go to Cameron Corner for some time now and for whatever the reason it’s just never happened, that all changed these last school holidays. With limited time available due to work and other activities, it was to be now or once again the trip would be postponed.

Weeks of planning, car preparation and organising had finally come to together and it was on the Friday of the Oct long weekend that we set off for our first stop – Mudgee. It was here that we collected Aj after a night of heavy rain and storms. Heading west we soon found clearer skies as we passed through Dubbo and Narromine before stopping for lunch at Nyngan. After filling our stomachs and letting the kids burn off excess energy we pressed on to Cobar for a nights accommodation in the caravan park. As the sun set we had time to take in a few of the local tourist spots which included a visit to the historical mining equipment which is part of Cobar’s Copper history.

An early start to the day ensured that we made good progress to our days travel, but nothing can prepare you for the relentless long stretches of road that lie between Cobar and Broken Hill. To break our journey we selectively stopped and various geocaches which excited the kids as they took charge of finding the treasure. Little has changed since our last visit to Wilcannia and this time was no exception, so we easily passed through town and onto the nearby rest area where we stopped for lunch. Here we chatted with a couple of truckies who continually drive the Brisbane to Perth run. It’s not something I could regularly do!

Back on the road we were constantly amazed at the wildlife which roams the open highway. Kangaroos, Goats and Emus were never far from the front of the bull bar. Arriving in Broken Hill it was surprising to hear that accommodation was limited so we jumped at the first spot offered to us. We booked in and set-up camp in what turned out to be a nice caravan park. As the footy grandfinal was on we kicked back and enjoyed the late afternoon with drinks and nibbles’.

A day of sightseeing around Broken Hill filled our next day. We took in the views from the Mullock Hill, which included some fun on the huge bench seat. We then headed out to the Royal Flying Doctor Service where the kids got to appreciate the size and remoteness of our beautiful country. After our tour of the base we headed out to the old mining town of Silverton, here we toured an old school. This was a fantastic view into our schooling past and something we all enjoyed. We looked around the old buildings and some of the Mad Max memorabilia which is on show. Back in Broken Hill we visited the Living Dessert Sculptures just on sunset.

A new day and a big step in our adventure through the outback, today we would be heading to Cameron Corner. We left Broken Hill by 9am with full tanks of fuel and water, lots of food and then a bit more of everything – just in case. In some ways the remote outback was a little daunting but a challenge that we met head on. Driving towards Tibooburra you quickly got to appreciate the semi arid environment we were entering. The roads were often dirt which created plumes of dust. Oncoming vehicles were visible well before they reached us due to the dust. We stopped at the roadhouse of Packsaddle where we enjoyed an ice-cream and a look over their SES shed before moving onto Milparinka for a late lunch. Back on the road we eventually made it to Tibooburra where we refuelled before heading west to the corner. The 140km of dirt out to the corner seemed relentless but eventually we crested a sand dune where the dog fence and corner store were visible. To our surprise the corner was bustling meca of cars and people. A variety bash had stopped over for a night, they consumed the whole campground forcing all the one-off holiday makers into bush camping. After setting up we sat back and enjoyed happy hour under a setting sun and then a star filled sky.

Our second day at the corner was pure relaxation, we spent the morning playing a few holes of golf on the new tri-state course before spending the afternoon trying to keep cool as the day had become rather warm. Late in the afternoon we shared a beer at the store before taking some memorable photos of the area.

As the day dawned we were up early as we had a big day ahead of us. Packing up we said goodbye to the corner and hello to a day of dirt roads. The 140km back to Tibooburra seemed to take forever but eventually we pulled up at the “School of the air” where a welcoming teacher showed us around the school. The kids were amazed at the fact only 9 children attend the school.

Back on the road, we headed south to Milparinka where visited the Sturt Cairn, this was an interesting piece of history and well worth the stop. Once again we had lunch in the deserted township of Milparinka. Pressing southwards we took an old bush track across to White Cliffs, this part of the journey emphasised the remoteness of the area we were in. For the 170km cross-country trip we only seen one car on the road.

Arriving in White Cliffs we were once again faced with a barrage of variety bash cars, two groups had occupied the entire town, forcing locals to open the showground simply so they could camp in town. We grabbed a spot at the caravan park where we spent the afternoon relaxing and reminiscing of our holiday to-date. A sour moment just on dark when Ethan ran into a steel post had us hoping there wasn’t serious injury sustained, however the resilience of kids shone through and he was soon back on his feet with the only damage being to Mum and Dad’s nerves.

Waking up, the early morning heat had us packing up rather quickly. A visit to White Cliffs wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Jock’s Place. This character of the outback lives in an underground home/mine, he opens his doors to tourists to witness the underground lifestyle, it was here that we seen opal in its rawest form. Heading further south we passed through the town of Wilcannia, this marked a milestone in our big outback trip, from here to home would be travelling on previously travelled roads. It didn’t deter us from enjoying the sights along the outback highways and by late afternoon we’d arrived at Cobar. Once setup, we had time for a few more geocaches before settling in for a relaxing night.

Unofficially this was our last day of holidays. The further east we travelled, the greener the countryside become, more traffic on the roads and sense of disappointment that our holiday was coming to an end consumed us. By mid-afternoon we’d arrived in Mudgee where we bid farewell to Aj before having one last night in the van park.

Our 9 day outback adventure seen us
• Go to 3 states
• Do 3400km of driving
• Visit towns of Cobar, Broken Hill, Cameron Corner, Tibooburra and White Cliffs

Friday, September 7, 2012


I’ve longed to take our kids caving. Aleesha-Jayne can’t remember her first experience while Samantha and Ethan had never gone proper caving. So in chatting to the kids about caving they all related their experience of walking through a large cavern out the back of Orange NSW. In reality they had never experienced the fun of crawling through tiny underground holes.

Over the father’s day weekend in conjunction with SES friends we headed down to Bungonia Caves for a weekend of caving and abseiling. The weekend started very chilly as A.j and I drove through snow west of the Blue Mts. Arriving late in the night it was pleasing to see Leonie had setup camp and we soon bunked down for the night. As the temperatures plummeted we were woken by Ethan who’d become very sick and was vomiting in the tent. Unfortunately this lasted for most of the night.

By morning Ethan and Leonie with much regret had decided to return home due to sickness. This was a bit of dampener for us but with Leonie’s blessing I chose to stay with the girls and we got ready for our first cave. With harnesses, helmets, & headlamps we headed into “Grill” cave where we all had a lot of fun exploring the tiny nooks and crannies. In some places the girls were excited that only they could fit through the tight holes while I had to go another way. After a few hours we returned to the surface. Later in the day we explored a number of other caves before returning to our campsite for hearty dinner.

Sunday morning saw me smothered with Father’s day gifts from the girls, unfortunately Leonie couldn’t be there to share the morning with me. After breakfast we headed off to Hogans wall where the girls were excited to go abseiling and with plenty others around to help they were soon being lowered over the 25m cliff. Sam couldn’t get enough and was quickly back for another go while A.j was a little more reserved.

With the weekend coming to an end, it was time to pack up and have a bit of lunch before heading for home. I can’t wait to share another caving experience with the family, hopefully will get to enjoy it next time.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Family helicopter ride

There’s something about a ride in a helicopter that gets everyone excited, whether it’s your first ride or you’ve been lucky enough to have had a few rides. So you can imagine the surprise on our kids’ faces when we surprised them with a helicopter flight. Both Leonie and I had gift vouchers that needed to be used so we opted to make the experience a family affair.

Arriving at the Illawarra Regional Airport we were blessed with clear skies and after the obligatory paperwork we were ushered to the waiting area for our turn. Soon enough a smallish helicopter returned from a previous flight. We were given our final instructions and directed to the appropriate doors. The kids and Leonie sat in the back seat while I sat up front with the pilot.

After buckling up and securing the doors we asked the pilot if she would be so kind as to fly over our house as we thought this would be fun to see from above. “No problems” and we were soon lifting off. Everything below us quickly became miniature as we climbed to 2000ft. We were all amazed at the beauty which can only be captured from seeing the vista from the seat of a helicopter.

After a short flight north we were soon buzzing over the top of our house. The kids were amazed by how small our house looked from above. Flying west we ventured up onto the escarpment where we took in views of the water catchment area. From here we headed back towards the airport and soon enough our 15min joy flight was coming to an end.

Reality of our flight ending is when everything returns to normal size and you feel the skids touch the ground.
 What a great way to spend Sunday morning!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ethan turns 7

One of the joys in my life is watching the kids grow up and as a proud parent I get great satisfaction in watching them enjoy the spoils of life’s adventures.

Over the past weekend Ethan celebrated his 7th birthday. He kicked off the celebrations with a few of his mates coming over for a small birthday party. In typical 7 year old fashion they were non-stop for 3 hours.
Saturday morning was soccer. This is Ethan’s first year playing and to-date, he loves it. In one of the best displays yet, Ethan played an absolutely fantastic game of soccer. His ability to weave past players, turn on the ball and tackle continuously was a pleasure to watch.

Sunday 24th was Ethan’s birthday and it was no surprise that he was up early in anticipation of receiving his presents. The joy on his face as he opened his presents and sat on his new bike are ones to treasure. The massive new Lego set won Ethan and for the next 3 hours we collectively assembled a new Lego Police station.

To complete the day we surprised Ethan by taking him watch the Matilda soccer team play the Ferns at WIN stadium. The Aussie girls put a good show and I was pleasantly surprised by their soccer ability. The 1-1 draw was a good result considering the Matilda’s were outplayed for most of the game.

Happy Birthday Little man.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Taronga Zoo

Having a day out with the family can often be an expensive experience, but our trip to the zoo last week was far from that. Sydneywater is a gold sponsor of the Zoo and this means the staff gets to share in the spoils of free entry, couple that with Family Funday Sunday on the public transport and our trip to the city was great fun.

Leaving early Sunday we caught the train to Sydney, which the kids always love. After a short bus ride to Circular Quay we were soon on ferry heading towards the zoo. The city and surrounding harbour looked a million dollars as we made our way across the water.

Once at the zoo we took the cable car to the top where we started our slow meander downwards. There were a few “must see” shows and as we wound our way down the paths we took in the bird and seal shows. Along the way we checked out the reptile house and the giraffe feeding.

Our time at the zoo went very quickly. It probably had something to do with the beautiful weather and having such a lovely time with the family. A visit to the zoo wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the penguins and as always these fun little creatures didn’t disappoint us as they continually duck and dive around their huge pool.

Eventually we had to leave the zoo and head for the home. Once again the harbour looked magnificent as hundreds of pleasure craft littered the water. Back at Circular Quay we retraced our steps and took a bus to Central before another fun train ride home. Arriving home in the dark we were all exhausted but appreciative of the beautiful day we’d spent as a family.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Overnight family hike

As ya’ kids grow up you hope they’ll follow in your in passion and share in the things that you love. For me, it’s a love of the outdoors, especially the bush, camping and hiking.

Over the weekend we took the kids on their first overnight hike. This was our 2nd attempt at this adventure, the first was foiled by outside influences so this time the kids (and us) were super excited. We made sure the kids felt a-part of the hike by making them carry their backpacks. However their enthusiasm to carry as much as possible was short lived cause as soon as tried to put their packs on their back, they both realised not all their toys could along.

Our destination was Nth Era, in the Royal National Park. This is a popular spot for those doing the coastal track, but for us we didn’t have a great distance to walk, probably only 2km each way from Garie beach. Arriving at the carpark late in the afternoon the kids couldn’t wait to make a start and so we were soon on our way.

The path is well defined and for the early part is flat. After leaving Little Garie the track climbs up over the headland before dropping down into North Era. Once there we found a nice spot and setup our tent. The kids were eager to help and quickly had their sleeping bags and mats ready.

As the sun set behind the hills our afternoon culminated with a lovely stroll along the beach, watching the nearby fishermen and exploring the numerous rock pools. Once back at our campsite we feasted on an improvised hiking dinner and dessert. As the darkness took hold the kids were excited to watch the stars appear and play with their torches and cylume sticks.

Our night wasn’t without incident. A shower of rain blew across in the early hours of the morning and while it didn’t last too long, the droplets on the tent sounded much worse than it really was. This woke the kids and subsequently every 2 hours afterwards asking whether it was time to get up.

As morning dawned, the rain had gone but a cool chill hung in the valley, but this soon gave way to a beautiful morning. Hungry mouths and coffee were soon on the menu. We lazed around enjoying the laziness of the moment, other campers were hurrying to pack and continue their trek. For us, we eventually packed our things and surprisingly the kids were once again keen to put their packs on and start hiking again.

Our 45min return journey seemed to go much easier and with some regret we were soon back at the car. After ditching the packs we enjoyed an ice cream at the nearby kiosk. It was at this point that we were delighted to see a seal frolicking in the shore waves, this amazed the kids and was a great way to finish our first overnight hike with the kids.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Murrumbidgee Floods

It goes without saying that the summer of 2011-12 has been one of the wettest on record. So when the figure of 75% of NSW is affected by floods it comes as no surprise. The latest area to be inundated was the Murrumbidgee region, the Burrinjuck dam was overflowing and as a result the downstream communities of Gundagai, Wagga and Griffith were affected.

As part of the SES management of floods I was deployed to Wagga on Tuesday 6th March. The town had already been cut in two by the rising Murrumbidgee River and the CBD was now being ordered to evacuate. Every business and residence in the exclusion zone were sandbagged in anticipation. As night fell on the 6th everyone watched and waited for the river to peak at its predicted 10.7m. This predicted height would be enough to top the levee bank and in flood the CBD, but as the night unfolded and with a bit of luck the river didn’t reach its expected levels. The maximum height of 10.56m was recorded and many thousands of locals breathed a sigh of relief.

Arriving back at the Wagga SES after a good night’s sleep I was quickly deployed to Griffith where flooding had occurred for the first time in 100 years. Like Wagga, many Griffith residents had been forced from their homes taking very few possessions. I was tasked to the local Unit as the new Incident Controller with a briefing of “make it happen”. The local guys were burnt out, tired, over worked and swamped by the sheer volume of work that needed to be undertaken.

We quickly set about tasking fresh teams and standing down the guys that had been going all week. It didn’t take long for the size of this incident to become apparent. As soon as one chapter closed another quickly opened and quite often a new never-seen challenge would present itself.

Over the next couple of days I struggled with the concept that Griffith was flooding when there are no rivers in town and the sun was blaring. Irrigation canals and run-off from recent heavy rains seemed to be the cause. Canals would randomly burst their banks resulting in us continually chasing our tails. There were no gauge heights, nor predicted peaks to measure this phenomenon by, we literally flew by the seat of pants and occasionally we made mistakes.

Our focus was on the outlying communities of Yenda, Bilbur, Beelbangra and Yoogali. These towns had been under an evacuation order for a few days and the residents were keen to get back into their homes. However with the threat of flooding still possible this was a delicate situation as some residents had left pets behind while others couldn’t get to work as their business was part of the evac order. On the 9th March there was great relief for both SES volunteers and residents as much of the area was given the “All clear” to return to their homes. For me, this decision was like a weight lifted off my shoulders, the phones rang less, the public turning up at our HQ was reduced and there was a sense of accomplishment across the members.

Our euphoria was short lived, the next day had a different challenge. Waters travelling downstream were impacting on another area of Griffith and it was decided to evacuate another resident in an attempt to divert water flows through his property. Once again the members sprang into action and we assisted to evacuate this particular land owner. A selfless act of courage by this resident that I’m sure won’t go unnoticed.

Just as our day started to slow down a call was received for a possible breech in a levee bank, we tasked a team to do recce. It was soon after this that I received a frightening call saying “the guys had been washed off the road, and needed help”. My floodrescue training proved vital and within minutes we had despatched teams and Westpac Lifesaver III to the scene. It’s at this point that minutes seem to take hours, but we soon had notification that all 4 members had been winched to safety. A positive resulted but a mark on the “Service” and my time as I.C.

As my deployment came to end there was still so much to be done. Additional teams were arriving all the time, the replacement I.C arrived just in time and as I departed the Griffith HQ I was comfortable with the job my team and I had accomplished.

Thanks to my fellow OOA team for a job well done.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Commissioner's Citation

Back in mid-December I was completely surprised to receive a letter from the SES stating that I had been awarded a Commissioner’s Citation for my many years of contribution to the Wollongong Navrescue event.

Navrescue is a bush navigation event where teams navigate through bushland to various checkpoints in an attempt to gather as many points as possible in a 6 hour period. The event has run for approx.’ 20 years and has allowed many members of the SES to hone their navigational skills while others have used the event to gain competency in the mapping skill.

On the 30th January at an awards ceremony held at the Wollongong headquarters I was one of five members who received the citation for our outstanding contribution. The award was presented by Commissioner Murray Kear, in front of family and friends. Also on the night many members received various long service awards ranging from 5 to 20 years.

Well done to all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Christmas/New Year period

It’s a time to year that we like to spend with family and friends and this year was no different. With our kids’ finishing school earlier than most, we headed off to the Umina Caravan Park for a few days with friends. It was only a 4-day getaway but with all the kids playing so well the parents found time to relax and unwind.

Returning home I was fortunate to have a week off with the kids. We did a few activities together which included the movies and a day’s caching. As Christmas day approached, family from afar arrived to celebrate the festive period with us, this included Aj who was with us this year for Christmas.

A disappointment this year was the fact that I’d drawn the short straw at work and had to be “On-call” for Christmas and Boxing Day. As it turned out the standby was very quiet but the threat of that possible call dampens the enthusiasm to celebrate a little.

Christmas Morning was filled with excitement as the kids (the big ones as well) were thrilled to see what Santa had left them. I think everyone was happy with what they received. Lunch was a typical Aussie feast with plenty of ham, chicken, beef and salads, topped off with lashings of desserts. The afternoon saw some family leave while the rest us had the usual Christmas day nap.

The period between Christmas and New Year was quite except for the juggling of kids as Leonie and I worked the few days in between.

Our New Year’s celebrations were very much a family thing, we headed into Wollongong to watch the fireworks display over the Wollongong harbour before heading over to Chris and Belinda’s where amongst friends we celebrated the beginning of 2012. New Year’s Day started slowly but we had big plans, the kids were so excited because we were heading off on our first overnight hike. With everyone carrying a pack we drove up to the Royal national Park for our walk into “North Era” beach. Unfortunately everyone else seemed to have the same idea and the park was shut to all visitors. After some quick thinking we changed our plans to do some car camping down at Carrington Falls.

In the first week of 2012 my parents came down for a holiday with us, which was very nice. The kids, who don’t see much of their grandparents love having them around and are always doting over them. We finished off the festive season with a few days camping at Bendeela, in Kangaroo Valley. While the weather wasn’t too good, it didn’t stop us enjoying some time paddling on the river, riding bikes and relaxing with friends.