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.

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