Yass to WA

YASS TO WA

 

This will be something of a 5 month catch up to bring everyone up to date with where we are at in our travels.

 

Last entry was when we returned from NZ to “Call Australia Home” – a fair bit of water under a fair few bridges since then, so here goes.

 

We decided to come back to WA for a while as our precious little Sammy has been going through an assessment for autism, and we figured we might be able to provide some support for Clare and John while they went through the process.   The assessment has been finished now – quite a challenging process – and Clare and John are now waiting for the outcome and a plan of action. Watch this space.

 

Before we left Yass we spent a fabulous weekend with the Tritschlers at Batemans Bay on the southern NSW coast. What a lovely area, sea and sand and a paradise for energetic kids, who rode bikes, payed tennis, volleyball, surfed, kayaked, ate a lot and generally ran riot!! The olds were able to relax and enjoy the peace and relaxed atmosphere.

COLLAGE BATEMANS BAY

BATEMANS BAY

We left Yass in October and initially spent a few days in Wagga Wagga, where we looked at a collection of transportable homes – Wagga is the “Plonkit” homes capital of NSW –(‘Plonkit’ as one ‘plonks it’ on a block of land) and we got some interesting ideas for future home building.

 

From Wagga into Victoria where we stayed at Seymour – a really beautiful area on the banks of the Goulburn River, where we were entertained by a group of students going on a canoeing trip down the river.

 

Then to Beechworth, an old goldrush town where Ned Kelly plied his bushrangers trade in the day. The heritage buildings, including the old goal where Ned and his mother Ellen were incarcerated, the excellent Beechworth museum, were well worth a visit. We were amused by the honourable status that Ned is held in by the locals – only in Australia could a criminal and murderer be held in such high esteem!!! The Bakery in Beechworth is justifiably famous!

BEECHWORTH

BEECHWORTH

We explored the high country a bit – the snow had all gone by then, but how beautiful are the areas of Bright & the villages of Porepunkah, Wandiligong & Harrietville! We attempted to drive up Mt Hotham – a very challenging road, with signs of what must have been a very severe bush fire several years ago, but were turned back when the weather set in and we could not see a metre in front of the car! Given the road had a precipitous drop just there we decided to be sensible and turn around! The lovely man at the café in Bright where we holed up for lunch told us that “one had to respect the mountain” – we did!!

HIGH COUNTRY

VICTORIAN HIGH COUNTRY

BONNIE DOON

AAH FEEL THE SERENITY!!!

We bypassed Melbourne and went to Torquay, the start of the Great Ocean Road, one of the must-do road trips in Oz. The Great Ocean Road is an Australian National Heritage listed 243 kilometres (151 mi) stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford. Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I, the road is the world’s largest war memorial. And its absolutely magnificent. We stayed at a number of lovely coastal villages along the way, explored some of the hinterland, saw Koalas, and the 12 (although there are only 8!) Apostles.

GEELONG HIGHLIGHTS

HIGHLIGHTS OF GEELONG

GREAT OCEAN RD 1

GREAT OCEAN RD 2

THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD – one of THE road trips of Oz

From there we meandered into South Australia, where we spent a few days at Mt Gambier, with the stunning Blue Lake, The Limestone Coast where we stayed at Meningie on the shores of the beautiful Lake Albert.

IMG_3551

ON THE BANKS OF THE BEAUTIFUL LAKE ALBERT – SA

Kathy was keen to see The Coorong, where the Murray River meets the sea, and where Storm Boy was filmed years ago. The last time she visited this area was almost 40years ago, and she had wonderful memories of a very magical place. Sadly, the years of drought have taken their toll and it didn’t live up to expectations. Hardly a pelican in sight!

MT GAMBIER

THE BLUE LAKE AND UMPHERSTON SINKHOLE – MT GAMBIER SA

We explored the Adelaide Hills from Strathalbyn, where we stayed for a week.   This area is just lovely – the historic village of Hanhndorf was settled by German immigrants and has the most wonderful buildings and quirky shops and eateries. We went south to Victor Harbour, gorgeous area, and looked at Kangaroo Island (didn’t visit as the ferry to get there was waaaay too expensive !)

 

Next stop was the Barossa Valley, where we indulged at Maggie Beer’s Kitchen, visited the Barossa Valley Farmers’ Market, saw thousands of grape vines, and waved to Prince Charles and Camilla when they visited the town of Tanunda. All we saw of them was a fleeting glimpse of a white gloved hand, but the Royalist Liz was a happy camper.

SA

SA -HAHNDORF, THE BAROSSA, MAGGIE BEER’S KITCHEN (Yum!)

Then a few days at Streaky Bay, girding our loins to tackle the Nullarbor. The Nullarbor journey was uneventful until we got to the western side when we encountered 44 degree temperatures and a major and catastrophic fire near Esperance, which we had planned to visit. The smoke was pretty scary and the roads closed, so we thought it better to head north to Kalgoorlie. We spent a few days in Kalgoorlie, where we caught up with family members and were lucky enough to go to niece Rhiannon’s 16th birthday party.

KAL

KALGOORLIE

We had planned to go to Hyden and see Wave Rock, but another fire threatened, so we went to Bruce Rock instead, which was fun, then on to Dardanup to Kevin and Sue’s beautiful property. We left the van there and finally to Perth.

 

We have shuttled back and forth between Perth and Dardanup since then. We had lovely Christmas celebrations with family – Sammy is exactly the right age for finding out about Santa and presents! We’ve had a great time being Nana’s. Sammy is a beautiful little man and we are totally besotted. He calls Liz ‘Lili’ which is too cute.

SAM 2

SAM

SUPER -SAMMY

12746316_102BBQ 101 Continue reading

Posted in Yass to WA | Tagged , | 3 Comments

New Zilland

We have had a fabulous and adventurous 3 months in The Shaky Isles, travelling around much of the North Island. What a beautiful country! The grass really IS greener on the other side of the ditch.

In our last entry we were planning our trip to the south of the North Island. We were of course travelling in the depths of a NZ winter, with rain, snow, ice, howling gales and sub-zero mornings. But we are made of tough stuff, and we had a safe and cosy car, and the motels in NZ are fully equipped for frozen travellers! We stayed at Turangi, at the southern end of Lake Taupo, before braving the Desert Road, with magnificent views of the Mountains (Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngarahoe) resplendent in their snowy glory. The Desert Road was very icy in places, with icicles hanging off the rock faces, but the NZ driver didn’t turn a hair!

The Desert Road

The Desert Road

Then to Marton, a town we were interested in looking at as an option. Saw a few homes there, but …no.
Off to Masterton where Liz’s Uncle Trevor and Auntie Sandie live, in a beautifully renovated NZ Villa , on 20 acres just out of town. We had a fabulous couple of weeks with Sandie and Trevor, and their lovely family. We got snowed in at one stage – all roads leading in and out of Masterton were closed for several days and it even snowed (but didn’t settle) on the back porch.

Liz enjoyed working with Trevor on the house renovations – one evening we celebrated the last of the guttering to go on the house. (Trevor has been renovating the house for some 25 years, so this was a major milestone!)

Celebrating the last piece of guttering!

Celebrating the last piece of guttering!

Pleasant Sunday

Pleasant Sunday

Love the Wairarapa – cute little towns with great collections of restored homes, much loved by Wellingtonians who want to escape the city.

The Wairarapa The Wairarapa[/caption]

IMG_2625

IMG_2620

A highlight of our time in the Wairarapa was a visit to Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre, where we experienced all sorts of NZ wild life – and learned that NZ has only 3 native mammals, and they’re all BATS! We were so lucky to see the White Kiwi, with beautiful pearlescent feathers!

Mt Bruce - Home of the White Kiwi

Mt Bruce – Home of the White Kiwi

We braved the Rumatakas – mountain range between Masterton and Wellington, with THE most horrendous road clinging to the side of the mountain, with instant death waiting for the unwary. It was icy and snowy, but again, the Kiwi driver nailed it. We checked out a potential housesit near Pahatanui with magnificent views over the hills to the sea– but decided that looking after 15 dogs (ranging in size from Jack Russells to huge White Shepherds, to Great Danes) 8 cats, 20 kittens, 2 pink and grey galahs, a lizard, chooks, sheep, and wild horses, on a vertical property with goat track access, was not our idea of a restful time!

The Rumatakas

The Rumatakas

The Rumatakas

The Rumatakas

After the snow cleared we went to Otaki where we stayed in a cute little beach house (bach) for a week, and from there explored the Kapiti Coast, Wellington, Pahatanui. Loved the Kapiti coast with the artistic vibe, beautiful coastline and Kapiti Island. We were so lucky to catch up with old friends, Pat and Deb, who live in beautiful Ruamati, Barry, Liz’s oldest mate ( they were born in the same hospital in Raetihi 4 days apart – Liz claims seniority!) and Joan from Petone.

Friends from way back! Barry and Liz

Friends from way back!
Barry and Liz

Pat and Deb in their fabulous tree top house

Pat and Deb in their fabulous tree top house

Joan

Joan

The organ Liz played in her youth - this could tell a few interesting stories!

The organ Liz played in her youth – this could tell a few interesting stories!

Some friendships, no matter how many years and miles separate us, never die!

Wellington is described as The World’s Coolest Capital, and we can see why. Big foody culture, lots of art and culture, and those wonderful colourful Wellingtonian houses clinging to the hillsides. We took the Cable Car to Mt Victoria, where Liz went to Uni in the day, a touch of nostalgia!

Wellington

Wellington

Then back to Auckland, via the magnificent Huka Falls, and endless classic Kiwi scenery. New Zealanders are a quirky bunch – every little town has its own character and appeal.

Huka Falls near Taupo

Huka Falls near Taupo

Quirky NZ!

Quirky NZ!

Back in Orewa with Auntie Barbara, who generously took us all over Auckland and showed us the sights.

Auckland

Auckland

It was lovely to spend time with cousins and their families.

We explored the area north of Auckland –Wellsford, Warkworth, Dargaville, Whakatane, – and east – Thames, Coramandel. All stunning.

Beautiful Countryside !

Beautiful Countryside !

Sadly we decided that NZ, while it is a superbly beautiful country to visit, is not for us. We realised that it is ultimately important for us to be near Sam – we want to watch him grow and for him to know us. And no AFL! Except for half an hour at 11pm every Saturday night. Rugby remains a mystery to Kathy! Liz discovered that after 35 years in Oz, she is more Aussie than Kiwi – a wrenching decision for her to make. So we made the difficult choice to come back over the ditch at the end of August.

So – We still call Australia home! Where in Australia is another decision to make. There’s a lot going for the east coast – close to Tim and Emma, Ross and Val, The Tritschlers, closer to other places, easier to jump over the Tasman whenever Herself needs a Kiwi fix, and on it goes. For now we are happy to be back in our caravan in Yass, with plans to head off soon to explore Victoria and South Australia, heading back to Perth in time for Christmas with Clare, John and SAM! If necessary we will kidnap Sam and bring him east with us – his parents will follow!

Posted in New Zealand | 2 Comments

Over The Ditch

We finally made it! After an “all clear” from Liz’s medical people. we lost very little time in making the bookings and making plans to leap the ditch. The last couple of weeks in Yass were spent making lists, packing, unpacking, packing some more, saying fond goodbyes to special people in Yass and Canberra, making more lists, repacking, you get the picture. The winter weather had well and truly set in around the place and we shivered through -6 degree mornings!

Chilly in Yass

Chilly in Yass

An enormous THANK YOU to the beautiful Tritschler family for their love and support and for holding our van and car hostage while we explore the Land of the Long White Cloud. We spent the last weekend in Canberra with Emma and Tim, who very generously gave up their electric blanket for us, not to mention getting us up and to the bus at a ridiculously early hour! Thanks guys! Our trip to Sydney airport and across the Tasman was uneventful and Liz’s Auntie Barbara was there in Auckland to greet us. We are staying at present with Barbara, in beautiful Orewa, just north of Auckland, and she is looking after us so well!

Beautiful Orewa

Beautiful Orewa

Liz is a bit pleased to be “home”!!

A bit happy to be Home!

A bit happy to be Home!

She has sampled hokey pokey icecream, chocolate fish, NZ milk, feijoas, and roast kumera. Caught up with cousins, and watched a rugby game.

Cousin Mike playing rugby.

Cousin Mike playing rugby.

We have been busy the last couple of weeks getting organised. Thanks to Liz’s dad, we were able to buy a car so we can explore. Meet Peggy-Sue, the Peugeot! Very reasonable price, low kilometres, good condition, comfortable. We also got a sat nav so we don’t get too lost. We resurrected our 35 year old NZ drivers licences – totally painless experience, didn’t even have to sit a test! – joined the AA and gathered a raft of maps and ‘where to visit’ booklets. Trying to get our heads around the telecommunication system – mobile coverage is expensive here, and the system is a bit odd, but we’re getting there!

Meet Peggy-Sue

Meet Peggy-Sue

We have already decided that Auckland is not the place for us – it’s a big sprawling busy city, with 30% of NZ’s population living here, and horrendously expensive. Real Estate in Auckland is, I think, even more expensive than Sydney, with relatively modest homes fetching a $million dollar plus price tag, and the prices rising daily. How young people can afford to buy and live here is a mystery. We have explored the area just north of here a little. It is really beautiful, very, very green, never far from beautiful coastlines, attractive little towns and picturesque farms.

Goat Island

Goat Island

In typical fashion we have driven along some challenging roads!

Challenging Road!

Challenging Road!

We have visited a gallery full of magnificent carvings made from ancient swamp Kauri timber. When we win lotto…..!

When we win Lotto...

When we win Lotto…

And the local café at Wellsford!

Wellsford - check the tomato sauce in the cafe!

Wellsford – check the tomato sauce in the cafe!

When Liz’s father died a few years ago, she and Kevin donated their dad’s extensive model train collection to the Helensville Railway Museum. We visited yesterday and saw part of the collection on display – the rest is still in boxes waiting for an ambitious layout to be finalised. Maurice would be delighted, and the folk who run the museum obviously hold Liz and Kevin in very high regard for their generosity.

Helensville Railway Museum

Helensville Railway Museum

Next week we are heading south, booked into motels to look at life style properties near a town called Marton, and in the Levin area. More affordable than Auckland. We have been looking at this area for a while online – but just last week there were huge floods in the region, so we will see if we need gumboots! Planning on catching up with more family members and friends down there. Put the kettle on, eh!

Posted in New Zealand | 3 Comments

Yass Still!

Yes, we’re still here in Yass.  We originally intended to stay for a couple of weeks, and some months later, we’re still here!  As many of you will know we have dealt with a medical challenge, with Liz going through the Medical Mill.  Initially the medicos were convinced she had stomach cancer, which was a seriously frightening prospect, and it took a long time to have this diagnosis changed.  After a series of ultrasounds, CT scans, and gastroscopes, all of which took their own sweet time, it was confirmed that she had instead an enormous stomach ulcer, which  was in grave peril of perforating.  The treatment has involved heavy  duty meds, and a complete lifestyle change – NO more fatty foods,(and those of you who know Liz’s love of deep fried fish and chips will appreciate that particular sacrifice) NO alcohol, NO spicy stuff, NO smoking (Yes, she is now a non-smoker!!) She  has been a really good girl and as a result is much better than she has been for years and years.  She has to have another gastroscope next week which we are confident will show healing, sees the surgeon again on the 2 June, and again we are confident that he will be able to  give her a clearance.   Seems that the ulcer has been there simmering away since 2008 when she had her last gastroscope, and she was told at that time that it was all ok.  Wrong!!!  We are eternally grateful to Liz and Colin and their family who welcomed us to stay on their property while all this was going on,  the support and love  of all our family and friends, and thankful that the crisis happened near Canberra where the medical services are awesome, rather than in some of the outback regions we have been to.

We had planned to cross the Ditch to NZ in March, but made the decision to stay put until we had a medical clearance.  The specialist put the fear of god into us by describing what would happen if the feral ulcer perforated, so we thought it would not be prudent to travel to NZ until he had another look, so now we are hoping to be able to go some time in June.

In the meantime we have not been exactly idle!   Its great to be close to Tim and Emma who have settled into their beautiful house in Canberra, and its lovely to be able to call in for a cuppa or have a meal together.  Tim has got a contract with the Tax Office, working on their website, and Emma has just completed a course to enable her to teach Pilates, and they are enjoying bike riding all around the place and climbing mountains! Liz assisted them build a fence to give them a bit of privacy from the traffic – certainly not in the same category as Sydney traffic, but enough during “peak minute” !

Tim and Emma's fence

Tim and Emma’s fence

Val and Ross came down from the Mountains for a few days, and another time my sister, Telphia-Leanne, and niece Pia visited, and we got the chance to play tourists in Canberra with them. Canberra is really a beautiful city, especially in autumn when the trees are in glorious autumn colour. The view from Mt Ainslie gives you a fantastic birds eye panorama of the layout of Canberra. Its really a series of small country towns surrounded by bushland, and manages to combine the facilities of living in a city with the ambience of a country town. It’s a foodie’s paradise with every imaginable cuisine available.

Around Canberra

Around Canberra

Telphia-Leanne and Pia

Telphia-Leanne and Pia

We spent a week with Val and Ross in the Blue Mountains before they set off on their Grand American Tour. Love the Mountains!

Love the Blue Mountains!

Love the Blue Mountains!

Our beautiful and talented sister, Telphia-Leanne, graduated with her Masters Degree from Sydney University, and we were fortunate enough to celebrate her success with her. So proud!! We spent a couple of days in Sydney with Kathy’s niece, Liz, and her gorgeous family.

Telphia-Leanne's Graduation

Telphia-Leanne’s Graduation

In Yass, we have spent lots of time with the extraordinarily busy Tritschler family. Liz enjoys watching the kids play soccer, netball and rugby, and we continue to marvel at their prowess with the horses. A few weeks ago, hundreds of trucks of varying vintage drove through Yass as part of a celebration of The Hume Highway. Liz loved that!

Haulin' The Hume

Haulin’ The Hume

And we went to the Yass Show

Yass Show

Yass Show

The weather in this part of the world is typically Aussie extreme– “droughts and flooding rains”. We have survived 40-degree heat, minus 5-degree frosts, hail, torrential rain, gale force winds – you name it! Last week there was even SNOW just up the road – we had driven the road not half an hour beforehand but missed it.

Frosty Morning

Frosty Morning

We are cosy and safe in the caravan.

Cosy in the Caravan

Cosy in the Caravan

So-the plan is now to jump the Ditch as soon as Liz gets the medical OK. We will initially go to Auckland to stay with Liz’s Auntie Barbara, and then do a lot of exploring. We’ll let you all know what we do. Stay tuned!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The Jeep Saga Continues..

Ruby was due for her 30,000 km service last week. We had booked her into the Jeep dealership in Canberra, and passed on to them the correct part number for the fuel system door, which, you may recall, was broken and previously the incorrect part had been sent from USA.

Being patient souls, we very carefully advised the Canberra Jeep dealership of the correct part number, told them a little of the history of our not-so-ideal experiences with random Jeep dealerships across the country, gained assurances that such things would definitely NOT happen in Canberra.

So we dropped Ruby off at 8am, went off and had breakfast with Tim and Emma, then explored the Portrait Gallery and lunched with Tess and Harry. Lovely day.

Arrived back at the dealership at 2pm as arranged.

“No worries, Liz, we are just upgrading the computer system in the car, won’t be long”

An hour later… “The good news – we’ve fixed the fuel system door. Nothing actually wrong with the door, it was only a spring. We took a spring off another vehicle and attached it, no problems”
(Now remember this “fault” was diagnosed in November, we had waited 2 months for a spring!)

“Now the bad news. While we were upgrading your car’s computer, our computer had a hissy fit, and we’ve blown up your computer”

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU’VE BLOWN UP OUR COMPUTER??????”

“Yes, Elizabeth, we’ve blown up your computer.”

Stunned faces. Disbelief. Desire to laugh hysterically. Or cry.

“But, we’ve ordered another one from Melbourne and it will be here tomorrow morning with any luck”

So to cut a long story short, they did give us a courtesy car, and even permitted us to drive it out of the ACT across the border into a foreign state (New South Wales) The computer did arrive and they did replace it, and we picked up Ruby the next afternoon.

The borrowed car was exactly the same colour as Ruby, just a smaller version of a Jeep. We told our friends in Yass when they looked at it quizzically that we had driven the car through a car wash and shrunk it!! They almost believed us.

Hey, Honey, we shrunk The Jeep!

Hey, Honey, we shrunk The Jeep!

We are beginning to think we are jinxed with this bloody vehicle. If we scratch the duco, will it be a pale shade of yellow underneath?

Posted in The Jeep Saga Continues | Tagged , | 7 Comments

South Coast of NSW and Canberra

What a varied and exciting month we have had!

Christmas in Yass/Canberra was awesome! Breakfast with Liz and Colin and four very excited children, a lovely lunch with Emma’s family in Canberra, (thank you so much Megan and Tristan for being such generous hosts). Just lovely to spend the day with Tim and Emma, Telphia-Leanne, and the extended family. All followed by “leftovers” back at Yass for a late evening meal. Liz and Colin have a very sensible tradition where gifts from Santa are opened on Christmas Day, and gifts from family are opened on Boxing Day – a way to curb that totally overwhelmed feeling and a lovely way to extend the fun! So we got to do it all over again on Boxing Day. So in spite of missing very special members of our family and friends, we had a great time. Hope you all did too. Telphia-Leanne spent a couple of days in her wee tent with us at Liz and Colin’s – that was good!

Christmas at The Tritschler's

Christmas at The Tritschler’s


Tony Tritschler's collection - a lifetime restoration of old buggies and trains

Tony Tritschler’s collection – a lifetime restoration of old buggies and trains


Boxing Day Kayaking on the Yass River

Boxing Day Kayaking on the Yass River

After Christmas we headed for the South Coast of NSW where we were really lucky to stay for a couple of weeks or so at Judi and Onno’s beautiful property near Bodalla for a couple of weeks. (Judi is Tim’s Emma’s lovely mother) They run a nursery, propagating landscaping plants, which they sell at the Canberra Markets. What a great setup they have, with a serious shade house and watering system, lots of fun “toys”, a really spectacular home, and Lady the dog. We ‘property-sat’ for a few days while they flew to Queensland for a well earned break.

Shades of Green at Bodalla

Shades of Green at Bodalla


Liz had a ball on Onno’s ride-on lawn mower, and lusted after his bob-cat!

Liz on a Serious Ride-On!

Liz on a Serious Ride-On!

..and lusted after the Bob-Cat

..and lusted after the Bob-Cat

We learned a bit about propagating, taking cuttings and potting up plants. We sincerely hope the plants survived our rather awkward efforts!!

Will they survive?

Will they survive?

We had such a great time down on the coast, exploring from Ulladulla to Bega, lots of beautiful coastline and small beach side settlements, beautiful forests, historic villages. All really beautiful. Of course it was the middle of the summer holidays, and every nook and cranny was filled with thousands of Canberrans on their ritual coastal pilgrimage. The traffic was horrendous and every caravan and camping park and beauty spot was packed to the gunnels. We were told that it was like this for 6 weeks every summer, and then the tourists disappear back to Canberra and the locals have their paradise to themselves again. Weren’t we fortunate to have a secluded and peaceful spot to park up the van!! We spent NY Eve at Narooma with Judi and Onno and their friends, picnicking and watching fireworks over the inlet – lots of fun! (In bed by 9.30 – we are really getting into this Gray Nomad routine!) Another day we discovered Tilba and Tilba Tilba – absolutely beautiful little villages tucked off the main road. At the Dairy there we sampled and bought beautiful local cheeses and fresh, non homogenized milk from real Jersey Cows, which Kathy had not tasted since she was 8! What a find. Another day we had lunch and champagne with Judi and a group of wonderful women who all ride motor bikes – Judi rides a Harley – on the deck of Judi and Onno’s boat house overlooking the inlet. So civilized! We had a fabulous time and so enjoyed Judi and Onno’s hospitality and meeting so many of their wonderful friends and family.

The Mogo Forest - can you hear the Banjoes!

The Mogo Forest – can you hear the Banjoes!

Seals at Naruma

Seals at Narooma

Soldier Crabs at Narooma

Soldier Crabs at Narooma

The Boat House at Narooma

The Boat House at Narooma

All too soon we left to return inland – towing the van up the very steep and very winding Clyde Mountain road was a challenge, especially Government Bend and Pooh Corner!!

We are now housesitting Megan and Tristan’s home in Canberra, looking after Clementine the Cat, and their surprisingly productive vege garden. Canberra is such an easy city to live in – it was designed to be. Locals tell us that Canberra living is a perfect blend of city convenience and facilities with country town ambience. It’s like a series of small townships linked by stretches of bush, and an amazing road system, and certainly has everything one could wish for – a vibrant arts and performing arts community, an extraordinary number of good restaurants, all the shopping you need, beautiful and interesting architecture, very little of which is multi-story, and a ‘peak hour’ which lasts about 20 minutes! We went to Mt Ainsley where the city plan is revealed at its very best, with the War Memorial- Old Parliament House and New Parliament House all laid out in front of you. Quite remarkable.

Canberra from Mt Ainsley

Canberra from Mt Ainsley

War Memorial Canberra

Beautiful memorial statue of "Weary" Dunlop at the War Memorial Canberra

Beautiful memorial statue of “Weary” Dunlop at the War Memorial Canberra

Tim and Emma moved out of Sydney last week to live In Canberra – they have rented a fabulous 1950’s house in one of the older suburbs of Canberra, walking distance from Civic (the City Centre) and all the facilities. They are both so excited to have room to move and a garden and loads of cupboards! We helped them erect a privacy fence as the house is on a ‘busy’ street (mind you ‘busy’ is all relative after living in inner Sydney!)

Today is Australia Day and the big firework display is on this evening. We can hear the bangs from here and every dog in the neighbourhood is barking! Clementine the Cat is very sensibly under the bed.

Next week we are back in Yass, housesitting for a couple of weeks for Chrissie and John, looking after 3 acres, alpacas, chooks and dogs. Another ride-on for Liz to play with!

The van is parked up at Liz and Colin’s – thanks guys☺. It’s strange living in a house again – all this space and lots of rooms to do things in! We miss our little nest though.

We heard about the bush fire near our old property in Donnybrook – so glad to hear that all of our friends and everyone’s properties were safe, and that our kangaroos came home the next day to have a special feed. Scary stuff.

Kathy’s foster-brother Ronnie has just had a liver transplant and is slowly recovering. Get well soon, mate, we are thinking of you and Tania constantly. xxx

Posted in South Coast NSW/Canberra, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Yass

 

Jeep Update.

The airconditioning unit had to come from USA, didn’t it! Thoroughly p’d off, as driving around NSW in summer without aircon is not a lot of fun. However, we sucked it up (no option really) and resorted to the old fashioned 4/80 method of cooling. (ie: 4 windows open and 80 km per hour!) And funnily enough we have survived. Thankfully the part has now arrived and we will be having it fitted next Friday in Penrith. Friends and family have given us heaps of flack about our “Cheap” and have been telling us all sorts of horror stories about 15 recalls for Jeeps, and the guy in Queensland who had a “destroy my Jeep” party, but we have also heard similar stories about Holdens, Toyotas etc, and we figure that this will be the new normal with most vehicles now being manufactured in countries other than Oz. We have forgiven Ruby for her idiosyncrasies.

We did manage to exit Val and Ross’s back garden, much to their relief. I think they thought we would be bothering them for the duration. We travelled south to Yass, about an hour from Canberra, where we parked up on Liz and Colin’s 120 acre farm. Liz is Kathy’s Goddaughter, and the daughter of our old friends Anne and Alan Stewart, who also live in Yass. Liz and Colin have 4 “free range” children,(Sammie,14; Casey and Zoe,12; Tom,9) 7 horses, 14 cows and 13 calves, one dog, Max, and an aloof and rarely seen cat, ironically named Smoochy! They very bravely live in a large shed, and what a happy and busy and loving family! The kids all ride and it has been a real pleasure sharing their activities with their horses, end of year school concerts, and generally sharing in their lives. We have been made so welcome. It has been great, too, to spend time with Anne and Alan. Liz has thoroughly enjoyed getting her hands dirty and messing around on the property, whipper snipping, watching calves being born, and doing “farm things” with Colin. She has missed that sort of activity since we’ve been on the road.

Perfect Afternoon at Rivers Reach

Perfect Afternoon at Rivers Reach

End of Year Assembly

End of Year Assembly

THE Best Lego Collection!

THE Best Lego Collection!

Christmas Concert

Christmas Concert

Stormy Sky over Yass

Stormy Sky over Yass

We also managed, after a bit of detective work, to catch up with Kathy’s friend and work mate from another life, Teresa, and her son, Harry, who live in Canberra. We last saw Harry when he was 4, and he’s now 25! We met Teresa for lunch at the beautiful Botanical Gardens in Canberra, and picked up as if we had never had a break in our friendship! So good! Then we met them both again for a tour around Old Parliament House, where we thoroughly enjoyed the 2014 Political Cartoons exhibition. It made us think how very fortunate we are to live in a country where we are allowed to take the piss out of our politicians! And lets face it; there is currently plenty of material available for piss taking!! Sat in the original House of Representatives and the Senate, and saw portraits of the early Prime Ministers. Lunch that day was in the New Parliament House, which I have to say is very impressive, in spite of the gun toting security guards. More portraits of more recent PM’s, notably absent being Rudd, Gillard and Abbott, but maybe they are still on their way. A magnificent portrait of the former Governor General, Quentin Bryce, which totally captured her elegance and compassion.

Canberra

Canberra

We will be spending Christmas Day with Tim and Emma in Canberra with Emma’s family. So generous of Em’s sister, Megan, to include us. Kathy has excelled herself by cooking her famous Christmas Puddings – in a caravan – no mean feat! Kathy’s sister, Telphia-Leanne, will also be joining the party, so although we will be sorely missing Clare and John, Sue and Kevin, Val and Ross, Michael, Libby and the Girls, Judith and family, all the Kiwis, and most especially our beautiful boy, Sam, we will have a great day.

After Christmas we are heading down the coast to Bodalla where we will be looking after Emma’s mother’s farm for a bit, while Judy and Onno go to Queensland. Judy and Onno have invited us to stay with them for a while, which will be lovely, as we plan to explore the South coast very thoroughly, it all looks glorious! At the end of January we will be heading back to Yass where we are farm-sitting for Chrissy and John, who have chooks and alpacas.

So that’s brought us pretty much up to date.

We wish each and every one of you a Wonderful Christmas wherever and however you spend it.

We miss you all.

We wish you lots of good food, good company, laughter, and most of all – LOVE!!!

happychristmas1

Posted in Yass | 3 Comments

Those odd things you see on the side of the road

One of the joys of travelling are those unexpected and quirky things you see on the side of the road.
Australia is full of BIG things – like the Big Pineapple, The Big Prawn, The Big Guitar. And strange letterboxes, and ….

So here’s a random selection of some of the strange, unusual and interesting stuff we have stumbled across.

China on the road near Bremer Bay

China on the road near Bremer Bay

Somewhere in Northern NSW!

Somewhere in Northern NSW!

Morris Isis posing as a letterbox somewhere along the Murray River

Morris Isis posing as a letterbox somewhere along the Murray River

The Big Prawn - Northern Coast NSW

The Big Prawn – Northern Coast NSW

The Headless Horseman near Hay NSW

The Headless Horseman near Hay NSW


Emu Farm Gate

Emu Farm Gate

On a verandah at a cafe near Alice Springs

On a verandah at a cafe near Alice

[caption id="attachment_296" align="aligncenter" width="640"]For Sale somewhere near Tamworth NSW For Sale somewhere near Tamworth NSW

Another excellent mail box!

Another excellent mail box!

Springs[/caption]

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Sydney – WA – Sydney – Kiama – Blue Mountains

Well, we survived the drive from Newcastle to Sydney with only a few minor nervous breakdowns – the traffic for us little country hicks from SW WA was horrendous, so fast, so thick and seriously scary! After much negotiating of motorways we finally arrived at a very crowded caravan park, with very little to recommend it except its proximity to the airport. Poor Liz could not cope with the squashy parking bay, and we were obliged to go girly and request assistance from the CP manager! Needed several stiff drinks to negate the scariness and the humiliation! Then we braved the traffic again to drive up to Tim and Emma’s for a very yummy dinner.

We popped back to WA for a couple of weeks to celebrate Sammy’s second birthday, leaving our van and Ruby in the Sydney CP. Sadly, the poor little bloke was sick and spent a few days in hospital, so the planned Big Birthday party didn’t happen. Then Clare got really sick with gastro, so while it wasn’t the visit any of us had planned for but it was just lovely to see everyone. Super Sammy enjoyed his birthday presents when he was well enough to take notice. We had a lovely lunch with The Girls (and Barry) from Donnybrook – thank you Sue for organizing that, so good to catch up with you all.

Lunch with The Donnybrook Girls (and Barry)

Lunch with The Donnybrook Girls (and Barry)

We spent a few days with Sue and Kevin on their new property near Dardanup – great place guys – and watched Kevin and Sue play with their new toys.

Sue and Kevin's New home

Sue and Kevin’s New home

Then – bugger me – first Liz and then Kathy came down with the dreaded gastro, and Kathy developed bronchitis. We had to reschedule our flight back to Sydney, change hire car and CP details. Not fun. This also meant that we didn’t get to spend time with several people we had hoped to – Marion and Peter, Libby, Tobes and Pia, Possum – sorry folk but you would not have thanked us if you had caught our germs!!

Eventually back to Sydney, where we holed up for a couple of days recovering, before driving to the South NSW coast to beautiful Kiama. What a glorious part of the world – lovely beaches, rainforests and mountain passes, and a plethora of quaint little towns. Kangaroo Valley must surely be one of the most beautiful valleys in Australia. We were there on Remembrance Day and parked up near a lovely bit of bush and observed the minutes silence with the birds and wind in the trees for company – then heard the bagpipes playing from across the bush. Very beautiful, very moving. We were in Berry on the day of Gough Whitlam’s memorial service and stumbled across a Labor Party meeting in the local pub, and were invited to join them to share the service on the big screens. An extraordinary experience, shared with a group of The Party Faithful!

Jamberoo - hinterland of Kiama Coast

Jamberoo – hinterland of Kiama Coast


Then just as we had started to relax back into the Nomad rhythm, Ruby broke her air-conditioner! Oh shit. And various other colourful expletives. We were able to get her into the Jeep Doctors in Woolongong with a week’s wait. Luckily the weather was mild, and we could cope with the old fashioned method of cooling – 4/80 – ie 4 windows open and 80 km per hour! When they eventually took a look at it – 5 hours in the waiting room later – they diagnosed that the AC was terminal, but sadly no they couldn’t fit us in for weeks. Plan B was to book Ruby into another Jeep dealer in Penrith at the base of the Blue Mountains, where it would take several days to repair. (at least the parts don’t have to come from USA!) Another change of plans and yesterday we drove the hot car, and the van, up to the Blue Mountains and parked up in Val and Ross’s back garden in Wentworth Falls. Now anyone knowing the Blue Mountains knows that all the roads off the main highway are glorified goat tracks, and real estate is mostly vertical. The back entrance into Val and Ross’s back yard is (a) down the end of one of the glorified goat tracks, with a miniature turning circle at the end of it, and (b) through an extremely narrow gateway, onto (c) at least a 40 degree slope, with logs and trees and rocks and beautiful gardens. Ruby’s driver and the navigator were both a tad anxious about the prospect of coping with the goat track, the minute turning circle, and reversing through the narrow gateway. Especially as Val and Ross had sold tickets to their neighbours for the spectacle.
Goat TRack in the Blue Mountains

Goat TRack in the Blue Mountains

Nice Flat Parking Spot!  Please note skinny gateway!

Nice Flat Parking Spot! Please note skinny gateway!


Suffice it to say – WE DID IT!! Took a while and a couple of panic attacks, but we did it. So proud of ourselves. Val and Ross were out lunching when we arrived so we could do impossible things without an audience. They arrived later to find us camped calmly under their trees, having a coffee and feeling pleased with ourselves.

So, at sparrows this morning we delivered Ruby to the Jeep dealer, hired a car for the duration, and hope like mad they will fix it properly, under warrantee, in a reasonable time span. The fellow we hired the car from is also a jeep owner and funnily enough had an even longer and more frightening list of Things That Have Gone Wrong With the Jeep than we did. And in spite of it all, we all still love our Jeeps. However, if anything else serious goes wrong with Ruby, it could be stretching a beautiful relationship!! Watch this space.

So here we are, for a week or two with long suffering and very generous Val and Ross. We went to the local golf club last night and helped them lose a Trivia Quiz Night. Next weekend we are heading with them to The Big Smoke to see the lovely Emma performing The Bonettes.

Posted in Sydney-WA-Sydney-Kiama-Blue Mts, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

NSW -Queensland- NSW

Sorry, sorry, sorry! Over a month since our last update! Some of you must have thought we’d driven off the road, or blown ourselves up, or run away to sea. Sadly, its not that exciting – the reality is we had troubles with our bandwidth on our gadgets, and then there was so much sightseeing to do, and… and… and…!

Since our last post we have been to Dubbo (the Zoo), Coonabarabran, Tamworth, Moree, Pittsworth, Brisbane, Wardell, Sapphire Beach, just north of Coffs Harbour, and we are now in Forster (pronounced for some unknown reason Foster, with a silent “r’)

The Dubbo Zoo is remarkable – you can drive round the place, and You are in cages rather than the animals, who have pretty much free rein to wander in pristine conditions.

Dubbo Zoo

Dubbo Zoo

Coonabarabran is memorable for Liz’s total inability to say the name of the town!

We indulged our inner Country at Tamworth, and visited the Golden Guitar, and saw a photo of a ridiculously young Keith Urban. We decided one fine day to drive out to a berry farm, and set off intrepidly, following the mud map provided by the caravan park. Just down the road, according to the mud map. The road quickly deteriorated into something akin to a goat track – hairpin bends up and down vertical ranges, instant death if we were unfortunate enough to meet another vehicle coming the other way. Visions of our bleached bones being discovered years hence, deep in an impenetrable gully. Hours later, we finally reached the berry farm only to find it was CLOSED and up for sale. The mud map showed a wee town, Nundle, just over there. Lets go. “There” turned out to be a corrugated gravel forestry track, through dark and gloomy pine forests. I am sure that somewhere in its depths was a gingerbread house. A number of dead wombats on the track. And of all things, the body of a huge wild boar, complete with enormous tusks and insanely grinning skull, lying on the side of the track. Ruby kept assuring us we would get back to civilization at some stage. Just as we were bordering on hysterical laughter, and starving hungry (it was 3pm by this time!) we emerged from the gloom, and stumbled on Nundle, a gorgeous little village, with a very welcome café! We asked the woman behind the counter how to get back to Tamworth, as we had just come “that way” “Oh no“, she said, “You cant get to Tamworth that way!” Well, we had and we did!! She fed us a delicious late lunch and we followed her, very easy, directions back to Tamworth!

Getting lost in the forest near Tamworth

Getting lost in the forest near Tamworth

From Tamworth we drove north up the Newell Highway, through Gunnedah (allegedly the home of Koalas – we didn’t see one!) and Boggabri (Kathy Lived there once years ago – either it has changed beyond recognition or Kathy has a very poor memory!) We planned to stay 2 nights at Moree to sample the warm and health-giving artesian waters. Unfortunately, the Caravan Park we stayed at was quite spooky – a lot of permanent residents, mostly workers in their Hi-Vis gear, lounging about drinking beer and making raucous and gratuitous remarks. It was the first and so far only time we have ever felt uncomfortable in a Caravan Park. Suffice it to say we only stayed one night, and gave up on the warm waters!

Then into Queensland, and to Pittsworth, where we spent 2 weeks with our lovely big sister, Judy, and bro-in-law Bob on their property. Had a great time there, visiting Toowoomba several times, experiencing the clubs in Pittsworth – great meals and a chance to play the pokies. (1 cent bets – the last of the big rollers!!) and generally catching up with Judy and Bob who we hadn’t seen for 5 years. We were also lucky enough to spend a few days in Brisbane with nieces Bronwyn and Sarah and Sarah’s beautiful family, Doug, Tom and Katie. We so enjoyed our time with them. They took us to Southbank, which is absolutely beautiful, and thankfully totally recovered from the floods a few years ago. Tom (9) and Katie (7) are an absolute delight – Tom created animations from a series of photographs and an online program – clever boy! – and Katie was delighted to discover that Kathy and she had the same name – so it was Princess Katie and Queen Katherine!!

The Sisters Catching Up A pretty good caravan park at Pittsworth!

The Sisters Catching Up
A pretty good caravan park at Pittsworth!

Southbanks with Sarah, Tom and Katie

Southbanks with Sarah, Tom and Katie

The northern coast of NSW is beautiful. Very green and lush and tropical, banana and sugar plantations, and quite extraordinary highways.

Harvesting Sugar Cane near Coffs Harbour

Harvesting Sugar Cane near Coffs Harbour

Beach near Forster NSW

Beach near Forster NSW

We celebrated Liz’s birthday at Sapphire Beach just north of Coffs Harbour. We had planned a feast of prawns and a glass or two of white on the beach to witness the Blood Moon, which Tim assured us he had organized just for Liz. Sadly it bucketed with rain that evening, so no moon on show, so we were forced to demolish the obscene pile of beautiful Coffs prawns in the comfort of the van! Forster is located on the banks of several beautiful lakes, the weather is absolutely perfect, and they sell the best barra and chips from a delightful café overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Tomorrow its Blacksmiths Beach, just south of Newcastle, then we gird our loins and attempt to circumnavigate Sydney. We have found a CP near the airport, where they will look after our van and car for 10 days while we fly back to WA for Super-Sammy’s second birthday. (thank you Clare for donating your Frequent Flyer Points!) We are so looking forward to being back in WA for a few days and will catch up with family and friends in Perth and Bunbury and Donnybrook.

And we still haven’t seen a live Wombat or a Koala, despite lots of signs advertising their presence. I suspect its false adveretising.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment