Monday, November 2, 2015

Weekend Caving trip

With our family divided over weekend activities I took the opportunity to organise a social caving trip to Bungonia National Park for SES members and their families. As participants swelled to 20+ some of us made an early start to the weekend by heading out Friday night to setup camp and get a head-start on the others. It didn’t take long to soak up the atmosphere of bush camping with all the worries of city life behind us.
Saturday dawned early for many of us, either due to the nagging birds and first rays of light or for the others who had to leave home early simply so they could be ready for our first cave.  After an exhaustive gear check and obligatory photo we headed off to tackle B4-5 cave. This wasn’t our first choice of cave but due to a bat increase in Grill cave the authorities had closed the cave to the public.
With such a large group, which contained 6 children and a varying range of skill we were always going to take a long time in the cave. Each child had to be belayed over the difficult sections while adults sometimes struggled to fit through various holes and squeezes. However after 4 long hours we finally popped out at the other end safe and well. A number of us commenting on how physically demanding but satisfying it was to lead such a large group through what is a sometimes challenging cave.
Our weary bones set the tempo for the remainder of the day. We hung by the campsite predominantly building various activities to entertain the kids. At one point we had a flying fox, a slack-line anchored off, Frisbee games and a football being kicked around so needless to say as dinner approached there were plenty of tired people around, but what is turning into to be a bit of a tradition we all migrated to the cam kitchen for a night of laughter, card games and the odd tall story.
Sunday started a little slow after what turned out to be a pretty big night, too much alcohol was consumed and a lack of enthusiasm took its toll but by mid-morning we off to do some more activities. Some of us took the little kids abseiling while the more experienced cavers went exploring new depths. I think the abseilers proved that not all the fun has to be below ground with many of the kids showing no fear as they abseiled off a 30m pitch. By mid-afternoon many of us were making plans to head for home after another successful weekend at Bungonia Caves.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Weekend sport dominates our Winter

Having spent the second half of last year travelling I know Ethan was chomping at the bit to return to his weekend soccer this year. He hadn’t seen many of his soccer friends for quite a while so registration day rolled around he was full of enthusiasm. What was equally rewarding for us as parents but especially me, was to Sam so keen to play Netball for the first time. She’s always been our dancer and still continues down that path but with no encouragement from us Sam was eager to give it a go. She registered at the local club and soon slotted into a team with girls of similar experience. 
Both kids began their respective seasons with gusto, for Ethan his year away from the sport was evident in his speed and ball skills but over time he improved and by year’s end he was once again one of the top 3 players in the team. Collectively as a team the results didn’t fall their way this season with the U10 white team managing only 2 wins and as many draws.

For Sam in here first year of a team sport we couldn’t have been prouder, she started the season not knowing the rules or the positional plays but as the season unfolded Sam held down various positions on the court from both WD to GK and GD, each time she did it with 100% and came off the court having learned something new each time. Similar to her brother’s results they struggled against the more skilled teams winning only 1 or 2 games.

As the season and winter wound up the most pleasing thing for us as parents was to watch the enthusiasm from both our kids as they are both keen to do all again next season…… As a parent I can’t wait  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fast facts, figures and funnies from our trip.

  1. We lived a nomadic lifestyle for 184 days
  2. We spent every night in the van except 1 when we decided to stay in a cabin and it was the worst night of our trip.
  3. We visited every mainland state and territory in Australia.
  4. We did 31468 kms
  5. We setup the caravan 70 times
  6. We used 4340 litres of diesel at an average of 13.7 ltr/100km.
  7. Dearest price we paid for fuel was $2.15/ltr on the Lasseters Hwy. The most expensive we seen fuel was $2.25/ltr at Kings Canyon
  8. We nearly had 2 head-on collisions because of overseas tourists driving on the wrong side of the road.
  9. Our coldest temp was -2deg at Dubbo while out hottest was 42deg at Kununurra
  10. Our average nightly accommodation was $39.90
  11. Dave went through 4 pairs of thongs
  12. For the first 3 months we didn’t have a drop of rain.
  13. We never setup or packed up the van in the rain for the entire trip.
  14. We learnt of a new Australia animal – It’s called a Wazaroo, these placid animals lie beside roadways in all parts of Australia. They come in all shapes and sizes and in some parts of western QLD they out number all other animals.
  15. Road-trains have the right of way, even if they’re not on your side of the road.
  16. Its going to be so good not to wear thongs in the shower
  17. 90% of caravaner’s give you a wave when you pass them on the open road.
  18. Every town has at least one pub.
  19. Thank God for ipads and dvd players.
  20. Not all water tastes the same.
    Our lap of Oz
  21. The tooth fairy and Santa managed to find us even though we weren’t at home.
  22. We’ve travelled on dirt roads that are in far better condition than some tarred roads.
  23. Our reversing camera saved a lot of arguments
  24. Geocaching took us to some amazing and unique locations that we normally wouldn’t have seen.
  25. The wiki-camps app was the best $4.95 we spent.
  26. Alcohol was our 4th biggest expenditure, hence we are now home to de-tox
  27. We’ve made lifelong friendships and met some interesting characters along the way.
  28. Every day the kids would whinge about having to do schoolwork.
  29. Fuel was our biggest expenditure.
  30. At our furthest point, we were 3840km from home.
  31. We took over 4000 photos
  32. The longest we went is 5 days without a shower.
  33. We can count on 2 hands the amount of times we’ve watched tv in our 6 months away.
  34. Happy hour is a way of life when travelling.
  35. The longest we spent in one place was 11 nights.
  36. We’ve learnt there’s no secrets when you’re living in a caravan
  37. Teachers deserve more money
  38. It’ll be nice to sit on the toilet without the person in the next stall hearing your thoughts
  39. Distance is only relevant to how far the next petrol station is away.
  40. We're already saving for our next lap.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Week 27 - Purposeful Meandering around Oz - Home sweet home

Canberra – Home
Kilometres          30815 – 31468 km

It’s our final blog of this trip, as I write this we are having our first night at home in more than 180 days. Whether it be 6, 8 or 12 months away once you know the end is in sight there’s always an element within that just wants to get home and relax……. But as they say “all good things must come to an end”.
Captain Cook Fountain
Leaving Wagga by mid-morning on Monday had the kids excited as we were another step closer to them seeing their friends at home. Heading towards Canberra there was a steady flow of hot rod cars leaving the nation’s Capital after the Summernats, this event had us struggling to find suitable accommodation but just after lunch we were squeezing in to a caravan park. We spent an hour so relaxing by the van before telling the kids we were heading out for a picnic dinner and a ride by the lake. Unbeknown to the kids Leonie’s girlfriend and family were in Canberra and we’d organised a surprise catch-up for the kids. Well the excitement on their faces as they saw their friends for the first time in 6 months was priceless and they were soon off playing. Our picnic by the lake was cut short as a huge thunderstorm lashed Canberra forcing us indoors where we continued our night of catching up with great friends.
Kids swimming at Casuarina Sands
Tuesday dawned  a little slow for some female adults who’d drunk way too much the previous night but by mid-morning with kids super keen to see their friends again we headed out to Casuarina sands (near Cotter Dam) for another catch-up. After a few hours swimming and exploring we headed back into town to see Leonie’s grandmother and share our traveling experiences with her…..  We also managed to catch up with old friends from Wollongong who now live in Canberra. By days end we were sharing a meal with more friends and sharing more tales of our adventure.
Views of Canberra
Wednesday started with an element of surrealness to it, after 6 months of traveling we were going home today and back to reality. The kids were so excited and were already pestering about when they could catch up with friends etc, but to prolong their excitement a little longer we headed out around Canberra to grab a few final photos and see some sights. By late morning we couldn’t put off the inevitable any longer and headed northwards. At 2pm and 184 days after setting off we were finally home.
Home sweet home
Thanks for being part of our journey and we can’t wait to do it all again.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Week 26 - Purposeful Meandering around Oz

Swan Hill – Echuca – Wagga Wagga
Kilometres          29789 – 30815km

In writing our penultimate blog its hard to realise that we’ve been traveling for half the year, 26 weeks has gone so fast yet been filled with so much adventure.
Dust storm in Swan Hill
We left Mildura on Monday and to the shock of the kids we headed straight into NSW, they instantly thought we’d changed our plans and were heading home. I had to remind them there was no way on earth we were rushing home…… Our drive down to Swan Hill jumped back and forth across the Murray River, we passed numerous spots where we could have stopped and had a few lazy days by the river but it wasn’t to be. Nearing Swan Hill the wind was howling and sky got darker, our first thought was we were driving towards a bushfire. It turned out to be a dust storm created by the recent harvesting of crops in the region, what good topsoil the paddocks had was now being blown hundreds of kilometres north. The skies were so full of dust that it felt like early evening not early afternoon as it was….. We’d soon found a van park and quickly setup ensuring the van was all locked up as the dust continued overhead. Later in the day the skies returned to normal and we headed out to explore the nearby “Pioneer Settlement” attraction. We joined a mock school lesson from the 1900’s where the kids wrote with nib pens while in another section of the park they made butter using and old glass butter churn and we witnessed Pianola playing. Our short stay had the kids enthralled and we vowed to return.
Main St - Pioneer Settlement
On Tuesday we headed out to see a few other sights in Swan Hill before returning to the Pioneer Settlement. This time we watched a blacksmith and wood-turner sculpture their craft, we had a ride in a 1920’s Dodge and a horse drawn carriage and a tour of the GEM Paddle Steamer. At one point we dressed in period costume for some photos, we watched a “still picture movie” and the kids made some sisal rope from a few strands of string. By days end we’d thoroughly enjoyed our look back at the pioneering days with the kids amazed at how things were made and done in the past.
The kids with the butter churn
Wednesday saw us moving further up the Murray River and into Echuca, we hadn’t had any luck trying to pre-book accommodation so we weren’t sure how long we’d be staying in town, but with an ounce of luck we managed to score a spot in a brand new unadvertised caravan park right on the Murray River….. After setting up we headed back into Echuca for a few New Years Eve supplies and a bit of sightseeing. We wandered along the Old Port precinct where we saw the various paddle steamers and visited the chocolate and lolly shops. Returning to the van we quickly settled into the festive New Years Eve mode as we sat by the river enjoying a drink and nibbles, the kids played in the river as countless pleasure craft zoomed by. With only the sun to remind us of the time we headed back to the van at dusk only to realise it was well after 8pm and we hadn’t had dinner. After a good feed we amused ourselves watching the party revellers across the river bring in the New Years in wild style.
New Years Eve on the Murray River
With no hangovers to worry about we had a slow start to New Year’s Day. By late morning we headed back into Echuca where we hired a small tinnie for a days fun on the river. We putted up the river admiring all the houseboats that had docked along the banks for a night of partying, every so often we’d stop for a cool dip in the river before heading up to the open speed limits of the river, here we wound up the throatle of our 6hp motor to whopping 12km/hr only to be overtaken by a paddle steamer. With our ego’s deflated we beached the tinnie and enjoyed a picnic and swim on the river bank….. Returning the tinnie by late afternoon we’d had our share of sun as temps hovered in the high 30’s. Back at the van we quickly found our spots by the river where we once again enjoyed a refreshment or 2, this time with a much earlier evening.
Port Of Echuca
Friday had us leaving the Murray River region after a lovely 2 week stint criss-crossing the river from Renmark to Echuca. On a sad note there was the realisation that we were heading closer towards home as we entered NSW and up to Wagga. The southern parts of Australia were being scorched in 40+ temps and everywhere we looked the heat haze radiated off the plains. Stopping for lunch the shade offered no relief from the scorching heat so we ate in the car with the aircon running. Arriving in Wagga we opted for some accommodation with a pool and that’s where we spent much of the afternoon trying to stay cool. By 8pm it was still a stifling 35deg and a restless night ensued.
Crossing into NSW
Saturday dawned with an early morning caching run around the outskirts of Wagga with a caching buddy who lives in town while the rest of the family tried to have sleep-ins but the morning heat put pay to that idea.  With the morning temps nudging 35deg it was perfect for a few loads of washing which seemed to dry in record time. By mid-afternoon the temperature had climbed to 40deg, the pool offered the perfect relief and we spent much of the afternoon in and out of the water….. At dinner we headed out for nice pub meal with some local caching friends.
The Beach - Wagga style
We opted to have a lazy Sunday morning around the van, the kids played peacefully together allowing Leonie and I do a few domestic chores, one being the cleaning of the car inside and out. About lunchtime we headed out to see a few sights around Wagga, the kids had a good laugh when we arrived at the Wagga Beach only to find no waves. We saw the levy bank which had failed to hold back floodwaters in 2012 and my subsequent SES deployment to Wagga and Griffith. We then went  out to the Botanical Garden and the miniature railway before heading to Williams Hill for views of the city….. Our last night in rural NSW was spent sheltering from a severe thunderstorm which lashed the area.

Bye for now.