Sunday, December 28, 2014

Week 25 - Purposeful Meandering around Oz

Renmark - Mildura
Kilometres          29163 – 29789 km

Christmas time this year has felt a little surreal to us, being on the road away from family and friends and with limited media influencing our lives, the hype of the festive season has been lost in the bigger picture of travelling, so reaching Renmark has meant a lot to us. We’ve decorated the van in lights, put up the Christmas tree and its really starting to feel like Christmas.
Kids in the Water Park - Renmark
We only had a few hours drive on Monday morning after leaving Murray Bridge before reaching the Riverland region of Berri and Renmark. The kids were excited as we crossed the mighty Murray River a number of times on our way to the caravan park. The Riverfront Caravan Park in Renmark was recommended to us as a perfect spot to have Christmas. Its only one of a few times we’ve had to pre-book our accommodation on this trip and it was easy to see why! We hadn’t even stopped the car and the kids were gone.  There were swimming pools, a water park, playgrounds, a jumping pillow, tennis and basketball courts, canoes and so much more to keep them entertained….. Having setup, we picked up some mail from the post office which was filled with presents and cards from loved ones and we soon found ourselves slipping into the festive spirit. By nightfall our van was a sparkling array of colour with Christmas lights and decorations.
Red Cliffs of the Murray River
Tuesday started at a very relaxed pace, that is unless you’re our kids who were quickly out the door and off to the waterpark, where they soon made friends. By lunchtime our cherubs had returned with hungry mouths. After lunch we headed out to do some sightseeing around the area. We stopped off at one of the many locks that manage the Murray River water levels, along with an impressive lookout that highlighted the orange/red cliff walls that descend into the Murray. The region is teeming with fruit plantations and wineries and with this at our forefront our last stop of the day was at the Banrock Station winery. For many years Leonie and I have enjoyed their wines and today was no exception as we left the winery with a few more bottles to add to our collection….. Once again our day wasn’t done when the sun went down, the kids went to the “movie night” giving Leonie and I the perfect opportunity to enjoy our first dinner for 2 in almost 6 months.
Christmas lights on our van
Christmas Eve was the perfect lead up for the BIG day, we spent much of the day lazing around the park, either at the water park, in the pool or relaxing by the river. At one point Dave headed downtown to grab a few last minute groceries and regretted ever leaving the park, the shops were chaotic. The kids weren’t seen (figure of speech), for most the day as they played with their friends which really added to the relaxed atmosphere of the day….. By early evening the excitement on the kids faces really shone as they prepared for the arrival of Santa. As they went to bed food and drink was left out for Santa, then the real work begun!
Christmas lunch
Christmas day started way too early with our kids tapping on our curtain just after 6am, the excitement they shared was priceless and we soon started to open all the presents. Across the park kids could be heard screaming and laughing as they saw what gifts they’d received. We enjoyed a beautiful morning playing with the kids as they pieced together various Lego sets or other games…. By mid-morning and for the next few hours the aroma of peoples lunch cooking could be smelt across the park, for us we had a beautiful roast with all the trimmings (camping style). The traditional afternoon siesta was a must as the kids headed off to play with other kids and by mid-afternoon we were all at the pool enjoying a refreshing swim. As with most Christmas’s there wasn’t much urgency to eat dinner having gorged ourselves at lunch but leftovers provided ample pickings for us, then to complete our day we had drinks with another family in the park..…. Our first Christmas away from family and friends had certainly felt a little strange at times but with so much fun and excitement in the park it was easy to have a nice relaxing day.
Victoria border crossing
If Christmas was a slow relaxing day in the park then Boxing Day was the complete opposite. Over the course of the day there must have been 50-60 new arrivals, vehicular movements, bicycle traffic and pedestrians in the park was incredible and in some respects “not as enjoyable”. We spent much of our day slowly packing things away that seemed to have multiplied over the course of a week. Presents were packed away and throughout the day we frequented the pool numerous times to cool off then it was back into the packing/culling of things. At one point in the afternoon Ethan and I headed down to the local BMX track to do a few laps and jumps….. To finish our lovely stay in the Renmark we had dinner on the banks of the river with the sun setting over our shoulder.
Lock 11 with a houseboat preparing to go up-river
Saturday saw us on the move and heading east. It wasn’t long and we were crossing the border, we stopped for the obligatory photo, passport inspection and money exchange as we entered Mexico (Victoria)…… Jokes aside the SA/Vic border could easily be missed if it wasn’t for the one sign. An hour down the road we were in Mildura, our home for the next few days. After setting up we spent a few hours seeing Mildura, our first stop was Lock 11 on the river which operates daily as paddle steamers and houseboats traverse the river, the kids watched in awe as a houseboat came up the 3.5m lock. We saw a few more attractions around town before heading back to the van to enjoy happy hour in the afternoon sun.
Orange World - Mildura
The last day of the week was a typical Mildura summer’s day – very hot with temp peaking at 35deg. We spent the morning around the van catching up on a few domestic chores. Leonie took the kids to the shops for a bit of retail therapy while I watched a bit of cricket. In the afternoon we went to Orange World for a tour of their plantation. For 90min we learnt about the various fruits grown and processes used on the farm, followed by a delicious sample of their product. We returned to the van where the owners put on a sausage sizzle for all their guests. The night provided a nice opportunity to interact with others doing similar travels.

Next week is a New Year. Have a safe and enjoyable celebration.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Week 24 - Purposeful Meandering around Oz

Adelaide – Rapid Bay – Victor Harbor – Murray Bridge
Kilometres          28674 - 29163km

The week started with us having our last full day in Adelaide and after our previous late night we all enjoyed a sleep-in. Most of our day was spent around the van pulling down Xmas lights or packing up extra gear that seems to accumulate after spending so long in the one spot. The siege in Sydney seemed to dominate the chit-chat throughout the park with people unanimous on the fact “it had to happen sooner or later”…. At some point during the day we ducked out to grab a few supplies for the days ahead, but generally it was nice to have a relaxing day.
Camp site - Rapid Bay
It was sad to say goodbye to Adelaide, but under dark cloudy skies we headed south down into the Fleurieu Peninsula. We had a few stops at various coastal villages, but every stop was very short lived as the howling southerly winds had plummeted the temperature and made life outside the car unbearable.  About lunchtime we pulled into the tiny town of Rapid Bay and instantly agreed this is where we’ll stay the night. A small campground right on the water’s edge, a fishing jetty and no more than 10 houses in the town made for an idyllic postcard and a great place to stay. By the time we’d setup the sun was shining and the wind had dropped to a tolerable gale. We spent the remainder of the day exploring this small bay, which once boasted a limestone mine, 400 workers and shipping movements to other parts of Australia.
Old Limestone mine and disused jetty - Rapid Bay
Wednesday dawned with no hint of the previous days wind, with clear skies we decided to stay another night. We headed out mid-morning to see some more of the peninsula. Cape Jervis was only 10km down the road and its from here that the ferry leaves to go across to Kangaroo Island. The island can be easily seen from the mainland and we watched 2 ferries load and unload their cargo of passengers, cars, trucks and motorhomes. Unfortunately at $700 return (2A 2K car/van) we opted to spend our money more wisely and somewhere else….. Continuing our exploration of the peninsula we checked out the Deep Creek NP and the wind farm before returning to the van where we spent the afternoon relaxing. The kids had made some friends and were off playing cricket & footy for most of the afternoon.
Kangaroo Island ferry
With only a short distance around to Victor Harbor there was no great urgency to our Thursday morning. We’d packed up and travelled to Victor Harbor before lunch, unfortunately the wind had returned along with the rain so we headed to the nearest shopping plaza to kill a few hours so we didn’t have to setup in the rain…. After a few hours of retail therapy for the girls, the rain had blown away allowing us the setup in dry conditions. We spent the rest of the afternoon lazing by the van or down on the beach.
Cape Jervis with Kangaroo Island in the background
There was no wind or rain on Friday so under beautiful sunny skies we headed out to the nearby Granite Island which joins the mainland by a 600m long jetty. A horse drawn tram takes passengers out to the island as a tourist attraction, like many others we chose to walk out and ride the tram back which the kids loved. While on the island we visited the fairy penguin colony which houses sick or frail penguins. These cute little guys drew plenty of ooh’s and aah’s from the crowd of onlookers….. Returning to the van the weather was warm enough for the kids to have a swim while Leonie and I managed to get a few last minute Christmas presents wrapped and posted.
Fairy Penguins - Granite Island
On Saturday Dave woke to one of those “lightbulb moments” when you realise you’ve missed an important date or you haven’t paid a bill. For us it was both, the lack of a rego sticker and with no regular mail we’d forgotten to pay the car rego. Luckily after a few phone calls our mini crisis was everted. Phew! Nothing like a stress free morning to start your day..... About lunchtime we headed out to do a bit more sightseeing of the area. To the NW “The Bluff lookout” provided fantastic views of Victor Harbor and the coastline right around to Kingston S.E.  From there we headed around to the coastal towns of Port Elliott and Goolwa. The area seemingly a buzz with holiday makers setting up for their Christmas camping trip….. Back in Victor Harbor we had another walk out to Granite Island simply to bask in the afternoon sun, oh and to find a few more caches. By late afternoon we’d retired to van for a relaxing happy hour…..
Horse drawn tram - Granite Island
Our 3 nights in Victor Harbor had gone way too fast but it was time to head north towards our Christmas destination. We left the caravan park timing it perfectly to watch the Cockle Steam Train arrive in Victor Harbor for its Sunday excursions between VH and Goolwa….. Pushing north we quickly felt the effects of moving away from the coast, the temperature soared to 37deg but we were glad for the warmth after the blustery coastal conditions. It didn’t take too long to reach Murray Bridge where we opted for a 1-night stopover. After setting up, the kids were soon cooling off in the pool while Lee and I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and the end to another great week.
Victor Harbor and jetty
By the time we write again Christmas will be over for another year. To all our Family and Friends, have a wonderful and Merry Christmas with those close to you. Stay safe over the festive period and hopefully Santa brings you something special.

Merry Christmas from the Bere’s

Monday, December 15, 2014

Week 23 Purposeful Meandering around Oz

Kilometres          28025 - 28674km

The start of our full week in Adelaide couldn’t have been more relaxing. Well at least it was for the kids and I, Leonie on the other hand had decided it was time to get most of our Christmas shopping done, so just after 9am she headed off to the biggest shopping complex in Adelaide to get her shopaholic fix for the month…. For most of the day the kids and I did it pretty tough, the kids either rode the pedal carts around the park, swam in the pool, played pinball, ate ice-cream, went for a ride on the cycleway, had a picnic lunch and we did a few domestic chores…. Meanwhile the barrage of text messages from Leonie meant she wasn’t having the best of days. How could a shopaholic not have a good day doing something she loves? Apparently she couldn’t put her hand on the right gift and she kept getting lost in the huge shopping complex. At least by days end most of our Christmas shopping was complete.
Adelaide skyline
Tuesday was one of those days I’ll remember for a long time to come. Our holiday schedule coincided with the cricket test match in Adelaide and the unfortunate death of Phil Hughes placed great sentimental significance on this match and I wanted to be a part of the day 1 action. My first time inside the Adelaide Oval was amazing. There were 23000 people on hand to witness the tribute to P.H and throughout the day the emotional tributes continued. The weather was perfect, the Aussies piled on the runs and I had a great day. Late in the day I caught up with another old school mate who was in town on business, we made a quick dash to a pub where we downed a few bourbons…. Meanwhile Leonie and the kids had a relaxing day getting a few more presents, the kids had Santa photos and generally had an enjoyable day.
1st ball Adelaide Test match
On Wednesday the weather was more conducive to staying indoors, constant light rain swept across the Adelaide region. We chose to head to Glenelg where we jumped on a tram and headed into the city. The kids had a ball traveling on this form of transport for the first time. Once in the city we meandered up and down the Rundle Mall, while the rain may have dulled the brightness it didn’t dull our enthusiasm with the sights n sounds of Christmas providing a most enjoyable buzz. We had lunch as we watched the buskers entertaining the crowd…. Returning to Glenelg we had a brief look around the surrounding mariner and jetty before heading back along the coast to the van.
Rundle Mall - Adelaide
Thursday saw us up early and heading north to the Barossa Valley. We opted to only go for a day-trip as our previous visits to wine regions have proved very costly, so to reduce the temptation we thought it safer to only stay for the day. Heading north we drove past the Holden manufacturing plant where we stopped to take a historical photo. Our first stop in the Barossa was the “Wolf Blass” winery where nothing is done by halves. The kids were well looked after ensuring the parents could dedicate their time to tasting and spending money. We spent most of the day zigzagging through the valley, stopping at various wineries and shops such as Penfolds, Peter Lehmanns, Jacobs Creek and the Maggie Beer farm shop just to name a few, with each of them offering their own speciality….. With the kids nagging us to see some Christmas lights we made a full day of it by spending a few hours of our return journey driving around the suburbs checking-out Christmas lights.
Penfolds winery - Barossa Valley
With us having such a big day on Thursday there was no urgency to get out of bed on Friday morning, but by late morning we were heading across town to catch up with some of our traveling friends who live in Adelaide. Meeting at a park the kids were quickly enthralled with the skate bowl and playground equipment leaving the parents’ time to relax and chat. Before we knew it a few hours had lapsed and it was time to head for home. We had a few shopping stop-offs on the way before spending the remainder of the afternoon relaxing by the van.
Henley Beach sunset - Adelaide
Saturday was predicted to be a scorcher, the temperature peaked at 35deg. As we didn’t have anything planned for the day we spent much of our time lazing by the pool or at beach, even the shade offered minimal relief as a hot breeze blew across the area. Late in the day with the temperature dropping we headed out for a leisurely drive into the city where we checked out the V8 supercar track, china town, some of the parks that surround the CBD and a few of the picturesque church’s that are dotted across the city. We ended our day by having dinner at the beach with a fantastic sunset backdrop.
BIG Rocking Horse
On Sunday we had another busy day planned. We drove across town and up into the Adelaide Hills where we spent a few hours visiting the small villages of Lobethal, Gumeracha and Woodside. We stopped at the BIG Rocking Horse and the Melba’s chocolate factory, the latter being very dangerous with so much yummy chocolate on offer….. By mid-afternoon we were heading back to the city as the kids had a birthday party to attend, once again the good friendships made traveling were evident. While the kids played at Jakobs party Leonie and I took the opportunity to do a bit of retail therapy….. To wrap up our beautiful day and great week in Adelaide we had dinner with friends and then both families went to “Carols and fireworks” in Modbury.
Fireworks at Christmas Carols
Another great week on the road!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Week 22 - Purposeful Meandering around Oz

Point Turton – Clare – Adelaide
Kilometres          27187 – 28025 km

It was another lazy start to our week as we attuned ourselves to the lifestyle of the Yorke Peninsula. The kids had a small amount of school work to do on Monday before we headed out for another sightseeing drive. We headed south through the golden fields of wheat. Many of the farmers in this area are working from dawn to dusk 7 days a week in an attempt to harvest their crops before any heavy rains make their paddocks unusable. On numerous occasions we stopped by the road to watch the big combine harvesters slash the wheat or tractors and semi-trailers cart the wheat off to the bulk storage facilities. We bounced along the coast from one fishing town to the next. Many of the towns looked like ghost towns with the majority of them being holiday havens….. At one point we stopped at a massive wind farm where 50+ wind turbines generate electricity for much of the peninsula. At another point on the peninsula we stumbled upon the grain terminal of Port Giles, here the semi-trailers queued 10 long waiting to unload the wheat while ships were loaded for overseas export.
Golden fields
On Tuesday it was sadly time to leave the Yorke Peninsula, we’d fallen in love with this area, its relaxed lifestyle and beautiful vista were hard to leave. We headed north towards the wine region of Clare Valley. Along the way we detoured into the small town of “Snowtown” which is synonymous for the 1990’s “bodies in the barrel murders”. Having read the book we soon spotted and stopped outside the bank in question for the typical touristy gawky photo of this morbid crime. Pressing on we were soon arriving in the picturesque town of Clare, this part of SA is the home of Riesling wines and our base for the next few days. We grabbed some info on the region and a few supplies before checking into the nearby van park where we once again caught up with some of our traveling companions who’d come from the Flinders Ranges. We spent the rest of the night swapping tales of our recent travels.
Wheat harvesting
As we’d planned a day of wine tasting on Wednesday there was no urgency to our morning. I don’t know about anyone else but drinking wine before lunch has all the wrong conjugations so we waited till just before lunch to head out. Our first stop was one of the yummy bakeries in town. From there we visited a one or two lookouts and a few wineries. The heat of the day meant we spent more time trying to find relief in the shade than tasting so by mid-afternoon we were back at the vanpark using their pool. A few hours by the pool proved much more relaxing and a nice way to finish our day.
Wind Farm - Wattle Point
On Thursday our friends Karen and Stuart and their boys moved on leaving our kids fumbling for play mates. The weather was a lot cooler so we headed out to sample a few more wineries and on a number of occasions we walked away with a bottle of their finest red or white. Throughout the day we visited some of the other delights the Clare Valley has to offer, all the time being surprised by how localised this wine region is, a kilometre either side of the valley meant we were back out in the wheat country.
Welcome to Bodies in the Barrels
All too soon it was moving day (Friday) again, but this time there was an “air of excitement”. This was our 3rd capital city of the trip and we were all looking forward to spending an extended time in the one place. We’d scored a last minute deal with our booking and were happy to be situated on the coast in suburban Adelaide. Just after lunch we were setting up, Sam was super keen as it was her job to put up the Christmas tree and many of the other decorations she’d made, the solar lights were strewn all over the annex and for the first time it started to feel like Christmas….. The kids quickly made friends in the park and we had a big game of caravan cricket happening out the front. While the kids played some of the parents enjoyed a festive happy hour. We finished our first day in Adelaide with some homemade pizzas as the van park had 2 pizza ovens for use.
Sevenhills Winery - Clare
Saturday dawned as our first full day in Adelaide and after a slow start we headed out to make a dent in our Christmas shopping. We headed into Rundle Mall where I’m sure everyone else in Adelaide had decided to go, or was it that we hadn’t experienced any Christmas crowds to date. Either way, we got the one gift that we’d had on hold and headed out to find a suburban Westfields. It was here that we battled the car park crowds for 30min simply trying to find a spot to park. We both wondered was it really worth the effort but eventually we joined the hordes of other shoppers as we browsed the shops for a good few hours. Obviously with the kids in toe we didn’t get too much but we now have a list of things a mile long…. Returning to the van we had a quick bite to eat before I took Ethan out to watch our first A-league soccer match. While we were keen to see Western Sydney win, Adelaide were too classy and we quietly blended into the crowd not wanting to show our true colours.
Adelaide United V's Western Sydney Wanderers
Sunday turned out to be one of those days where there was never enough hours in the day. We joined other geocachers at the Adelaide Geocachers Xmas party, the kids got some lollies from Santa while I got to catch up with a few old caching friends and an old school friend who is also a fellow geocacher (small world). From there we headed to Mt Lofty witnessing the spectacular views of the city where once again we met up with another school friend who I hadn’t seen for 30+ years….. After an all too brief catch-up we were on the move again, we headed across town for dinner with some friends we’d met back in Perth and Albany. They’d been home for a few weeks and were keen to hear of our travels, the kids played like they’d known each other for years and we all enjoyed a beautiful bake dinner (our 1st in 5 months)….. The day’s activities had been a lot of fun with us not returning to the van till late in the night.