It wasn’t a long drive today but edging us a little closer to Adelaide for the start of the Tour Down Under. We did however cross back into South Australia and we feel excited about this next little leg. I also think my internal compass knows we are heading west and it’s kind of willing me to keep heading west. Part person, part homing pigeon.
Mt Gambier holds memories for me of many Nullabor crossing with my family and the place of a classic family story. Dad orders a cream milkshake from the Dairy here and then again a few years later on another trip to Melbourne for Christmas. We stop again at the same place, he orders the same cream milkshake. Only to have the lady respond with “your only the second person to ever order that.” Turns out dad is the only person in Australia that drinks cream milkshakes!
It also was the next stop to continue our run of family catch ups. Hayleys dad, Uncle Geoff and Ann are here. Needing to get to Adelaide tomorrow it’s just a one night stay. We booked into a caravan park, threw together an afternoon tea and had a lovely time showing off the van, catching up, and playing with the children. Ann has a really beautiful ability to connect with people straight away and she was down on the ground in no time with the girls sharing all about there toys.
A brief but lovely, time together. I am feeling very grateful to have been blessed with so many easy going, wonderful people in our family. It’s not always the case with families but I can honestly say I love mine and looking forward to visiting more in Adelaide.
We were up and at it early with a long drive ahead today but couldn’t leave with paying a visit to the famous Blue Lake. A large crater lake, located in a dormant volcanic maar. During December to March the lake turns to a vibrant cobalt blue and back to a steel grey colour during the cooler months. It really is a stunning blue and interesting phenomenon, nature just has it all!
After leaving Mt Gambier it was a lovely drive through the Coonawarra, premier wine country. Would have been lovely to stop and enjoy some of the fruits of this fertile land. But alas the clock was against us so we admired the scenery and added it to the ever growing list for next time. 😜
Today we left Seville after a lovely week staying with family and moving on to Dunkeld to visit with Hayley, Ben and Billy, more family, my cousins. It’s easy to forget how big Melbourne is and how long it takes to cross the city. It felt like we had already been in the car for ages, (and it had been hours) but we were only just getting out the other side of the city.
Once we cleared Melbourne it was a straight forward drive through some picturesque country. The further we got away from Melbourne the better it got, reaching the peak of prettiness as we arrive in Dunkeld, a town at the bottom of the Grampian National Park. Hayley works on Mt Sturgeon Station and we’ll be pulling up the van there for a few nights.
I love this area. Mostly farming, crops and cattle, but it’s the beautiful and dramatic River Red Gum trees that give character and theatre to the vista. Throw in the Southern Grampians and Mount Sturgeon and it’s easy to love.
We arrived with just enough time to get set up before dinner. Ben did a brilliant job of catering for our dietary requirements even if we were the butt of some of his jokes. We are hoping we may give him some material to feature in his up and coming stand up comedy routines.
Meeting Billy for the first time and seeing Hayley and Ben as parents was awesome. Honestly one of the happiest, easy going little dudes I’ve ever met. The girls loved having another house and toys to explore and Lulu a little play mate. It was funny watching her work out the dynamics of interacting with another little one and needing to share toys.
It was a lovely evening together but got the kids to bed and retired early. Unfortunately we had given very little notice of our visit and Hayley had to work but it was fine as we were keen to just have a lazy day catch up on some more school, washing and cleaning. Ben cares for Billy and the boys took us out to their farm to visit the cows and check on a few things. It’s great getting out on a farm and learn about the different ways to work and care for the land.
The following day Ben was keen to catch us a feed of yabbies from the dams so after a couple to trips setting the pots we took ourselves for a little self guided driving loop and finished with a delicious late lunch at the local gourmet hotel, Royal Mail, a must stop for beautiful food if you every find yourself here.
Part of Hayley’s work is caring for and managing a breading and release program for the Spotted Eastern Quoll. They have become extinct here on the mainland. But with healthy population in Tasmania and a few captive population, like the one here on the Mt Sturgeon property, there is hope of re-introducing them into the wild again. So we where lucky to get a private tour with Hayley.
Dinner was a feast, with a fine haul of yabbies and tapas accompaniment. It has been a very relax visit and delightful to get to know Billy and watch the girls meet and play with another little cousin (2nd cousin). Thanks so much Hayley, Ben and Billy for your hospitality, we loved our visit with you in your stunning patch of the country.
It’s lovely to again find ourselves in the company of family. This time on the outskirts of Melbourne, staying with Carol and Sean-Michael (my auntie and cousin). It was a tricky little maneuver getting the van in but Ken does another superb job with Seans guidance and it’s not long before we are settled in and sharing a meal together.
We’ll have about a week here, dependent upon lining up some appointments for Georgia to be sure we are doing all the right things to help her gut heal and ensure we are managing her Coeliac’s well. While she made immediate improvements when we stopped eating gluten, she still has a sore tummy, pain, discomfort, lethargy, nausea and aching joints and bones pretty frequently.
In hindsight this was not the best time to try and peruse appointments with many Dr’s shut down over the Christmas / new year period. However we did manage to get things lined up for either this visit or on our return to Melbourne when we come back to catch the boat to Tassie.
While we waited for these appointments it gave us time to see other family, welcome in the New Year, for Ken the chance to knuckle down and work on the taxes, for the girls to catch up on school work and spend quality time with Carol, Stef, Nick and Sean. Stef and Nick were just newly engaged so it was an exciting time.
The girls were throughly enjoying the comforts of a home on our door step and the interaction with Carol, Sean and Stef. Carol is a teacher and it was wonderful having her help to work through and catch up in some areas of the schooling.
We caught some very hot weather which I guess is expected at this time of year. Despite the heat and being on the tail end of the berry picking season we managed a most delicious haul of strawberries and raspberries. The girls were keen for a visit to the cinema so on a 45 degree day, we choose to shelter in the cool with the new Mary Poppins film.
We also fell foul to the Christmas/new year shut down on a few other outings. Trying to find some great gluten breads and cafes for Georgia. We had been spruiking how good Melbourne was for food and say ‘wait till we get to Melbourne’ only to find everywhere we went was closed. Then in the same outing on the promise and expectation of having her Christmas present of ear piercing fulfilled, that too never came off. With two very sad and disappointed girls, we all returned to the van feeling deflated. Still I suppose well chalk that one up to building resilience.
On our final day we succeeded with the ear piercing and finally found somewhere to eat safely in Melbourne but the appointment with the Gastroenterologist was an epic fail on my part. The second we walked into the waiting room, (full of adults and the elderly), I realized my error. I had been so keen on trying to find a good Gastro guy, well recommended that I total missed then fact he needed to be a Pediatric Gastrointestinal. Doh!!!!! Luckily after our trip to South Australia for the Tour Down Under well be back in Melbourne and have another chance to get it right.
Our poor planning had finally caught up with us and left us in a bit of a pickle finding somewhere to camp. We would have loved to get down into Wilson Promontory National Park but being peak season and spots allocated via a ballot system months in advance it was just a little unlucky timing.
Not having any joy finding anything on the ever reliable wiki camps Ken came across another site called Youcamps and bingo! What a little beauty. Atop a hill looking across Wilsons Prom, on a dairy farm, surrounded by the most picturesque rolling, lush green hills, dotted with little black and white ladies of the bovine variety. Think a Devondale Milk advert and your there.
The first days the weather was a little off with showers and Lulu had also come down with a bit of a vomiting bug, closely followed by Georgia the next day. Now that’s a new experience I hope to not repeat again – two vomiting children with the five of us cramped in the van, with weather too wild and wet to put the awning up or be outside. Still it could have been worse, fortunately the rest of us were spared.
It did seem we were going to miss even a visit to Wilsons Prom but after two days cooped up in the van with sick kids and them both doing a little better, I packed a picnic and we made a break for it.
It was a bit ambitious, as Georgia doesn’t travel well at the best of times and we didn’t make it to any of the must see’s in the National Park but we enjoyed the fresh air, a picnic between showers and a run on the beach.
Ken managed to get a couple of early morning rides in to Agnes Falls as training for his riding tour when we get to Adelaide and the ‘Tour Down Under’. We all managed to head down and see them one afternoon.
For us just a wee taster of this much adored part of Victoria but on to Melbourne for time with family, health checks and tests of Georgia and to see the New Year In.
Tis the season to be jolly fa la la la la and so on. There has been much discussion about what Christmas away from home is going to be like. By far the hardest bit is going to be being away from family and friends, but we are determined to make it a really enjoyable day.
Not only are we going to be away from all our familiar Christmas rituals, all the usual Christmas gastronomic delights will be absent too. This Christmas is going to be gluten free, dairy free and sugar free. Being unable to fall back on my usual repertoire of Christmas classics and with those dietary restriction it’s a little daunting and there is no way to take any shortcuts. Ugh! 🙁 That said we had a wonderful Christmas Day. Nothing a few very long days cooking couldn’t solve.
By Christmas Eves end, Christmas decoratation and lights adorned the van and awning. Ginger bread baking and decorating done both gluten free and non gluten free (to keep everyone happy).
Reindeer food was prepared. Christmas carols had playing almost non-stop. Christmas cooking and prep completed, and at the 11th hour I finally finished sewing the Christmas stockings. We were ready and everyone was excited!
Christmas morning was a magical as usual. Breakfast delicious! Fresh fruit and nuts, homemade egg nog both almond and cows milk, festive pumpkin bread and cinnamon butter. A very happy and relaxed morning the kids played and enjoyed the new toys, we spoke with family and eventually pulled together Christmas lunch.
Lunch really was delicious. Chicken Devine terrine with homemade gravy, local crayfish and seafood sauce, mango salsa, roasted vegetables and spinach, avo and pomegranate salad. A very festive and colourful plate of food and our great little foodie daughters loved it all. Making all the effort worthwhile.
Desert follow not long after with Kens keto trifle which the girls couldn’t eat (due to dairy) so I tried to make a sugar free pavlova that failed miserably. Making a pav in the crapy oven in the van was always going to be a long shot and then when the gas bottle ran out at some point during the cooking the game was up. It did however crumble up to make a beautiful Eaton Mess. Phew!
The remainder of the day passed and relative peace and playfulness. Allowing for a chance to reflect on the many meanings Christmas time can hold and how fortunate and blessed we are.
Boxing Day was spent the way it should be. Doing as little as possible, eating left overs and watching cricket. Since having children the first and last of those have been challenging. But for some reason this year it all come together. The temperature was perfect – warm but not too hot and the kids were content playing with new toys. In the evening Ken took the girls down to the local fair and I even had a moment of peace in the van to myself. Arhhh the serenity.
Unfortunately we were unable to stay any longer in Lakes Entrance as the caravan park was filling up with all the holiday makers that had booked well in advanced, unlike us last minute / fly by the seat of our pants kind of people. Between Christmas preparation and just enjoying Christmas around the van, we saw very little of the sights or delights of Lakes Entrance. It will however be fondly remembered for a fabulous Christmas on the road.
So bummed we have only got 2 days here. With Christmas less than a week away we need to get to Lakes Entrance, Victoria, so we can settle down for a few days, deck the van with bails of tinsel and get into full swing of festive frivolities. While it was short we definitely enjoyed every little minute.
Our drive delivered a beautiful little discovery that we’d be driving through Cooma and right past the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre. Perfect timing for lunch and an education on a real jewel of Australian engineering.
The Snowy Hydro Scheme began in 1949 and took 25 year to complete. It is a hydroelectric and irrigation system consisting of 16 major dams, 7 power stations and 1 pumping station, 225 kilometers (140 miles) or tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts. It is about to undergo a massive expansion with Snowy Hydro 2 scheme in the not too distant future.
Living in the van and loving free camping the girls have had to become very aware of; what requires power, how we get it and how we use it depending on whether we are plugged in to 240 v in a caravan park or replying purely on solar from our panels and solar blanket. So this just added to the discussions we have been having as we travel around and past these sources of renewable energies, (solar farms, a solar collector, wind farms and now a hydroelectricity).
If your passing through Cooma the discovery centre is a must see. The construction and scale of the scheme is certainly impressive but my favorite little knowledge pick up was Cloud seeding. I never thought you could grow clouds but then, why not?
An unfortunate result of our warming planet, is less snow fall in the Australian Alps. A cloud seeding program began trial in 2004 and started in 2011. It enhances the snowfall in the catchment areas, increasing the runoff and ultimately the volume of water to generate, clean, renewable energy. As an added bonus the NSW ski resorts have reliable snowfall, and there is an increase run off for the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, (for irrigation).
It was a beautiful drive and we jagged a fabulous camp site on Lake Jindabinyne. One of our most scenic camps. On one hand so grateful to be here and on the other a full on forehead slap, agh only 2 nights. There was a nice little bike path along the foreshore of the lake so after dinner we went for a lovely evening ride.
The next day I was feeling very excited, Mt Kosciusko! Australia’s highest peak on the mainland at 2,228 meters (7310 feet). A little know fact Mawson Peak in the Australian Antarctic Territory, is arguably the highest Australian peak at 2,745 meters (9006 feet).
We would have loved to do the full track but time, weather and with Lulu refusing to go the the sling, walking long distances is a really struggle. But I was determined we’d make it one way or another. So armed with snacks and chocolate and the discovery you could get a chairlift from Thredbo most of the way (with the pram), we set off. It seemed do-able. From there it’s either a 4 km walk to the Kosciusko lookout or 6 km to the summit.
The weather wasn’t looking kind with storms, thunder and lightening forecast. But with an early start we hoped to beat the bad weather. It was cold and overcast, but the sun did break through in patches making it just exquisite! So so so beautiful. One of my absolutely favorite spots.
200 species of alpine flowering plants have been recorded and home to the endangered southern corroboree frog. We didn’t see one but I was excitedly on the look out as they are truely spectacular and it was breeding season.
We did however get to see snow still on the ground from winter and the girls were thrilled!
We had really enjoyed our walk but decided we’d only go as far as the lookout. Was a bit gutted to not make the summit and be so close but I’ll look forward to coming back to do it another time.
We timed things perfectly getting back to the chairlift with enough time to grab a quick drink at Austrlia’s highest restaurant before taking the slightly freaky but stunning ride down the mountain. About 10 mins after we got down the heavens opened and the forecasted storm unleashed.
Although it was brief we left the Snowy Mountains content but keen to return.
The nations capital. My first visit here and I’m feeling excited. After a week in Sydney we’ve got some schooling to catch up on but then we are surrounded by such great educational places to visit I think we just need to pack in as much as we can and the work books aren’t going anywhere.
The caravan park is pretty close to all the sights and a mixture of caravan park and cabins. It had a lovely pool and new amenities, parrots and birds galore and a few mountain bike tracks around it for Ken.
Totally spoilt for choice of great things to see and we’re not going to be able to see it all. Parliment House was the most obvious one not to be missed, so we headed there first. What a fabulous afternoon, fabulous tour and fabulous building. The artistry and pride that went into all the little details of construction and finishing touches is magnificent. It would be hard to not feel a swell of national pride.
It was of course a great experience visiting the House of Representatives, The Senate and learning how our government functions, however it was the building and symbolism of every detail that just blew my mind. 2018 was the 30th anniversary year of the building and to celebrate a LEGO model of parliment house was commissioned. It was more than just a model of the building but included many noteworthy moments of history and characters from over the years.
It was awesome, the kids loved it and I learnt something new. You can build LEGO as a profession, this can be a career path is you wish, and your job title, Master Model Builder.
Next was Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre. What a fabulous day. So pleased the girls got to come here. So much learning, so much fun. The staff were all mad crazy scientists and their passion was infectious.
The National Library was another great visit with many national treasures to behold. We joined a couple of tours. Having been following the voyages and discoveries of Captain James Cook and seeing that the library had an exhibition we couldn’t not go along. The other tour was in the Treasures Gallery. A fastinating collection of documents, artifact, painting, tales and treasures from Australias young history.
With a drive by of the Australian War Memorial we drove up Mount Ainslie to a lookout to take in the views of the nations capital and reflect on the what a lucky country we are.
Our last day in Canberra we visited old Parliament House – the Museum of Australian Democracy. Our timing was brilliant with the instillation of a new exhibit of political cartoons tilted, Curiouser & Curiouser with a Alice in Wonderland, down the rabbit whole theme going on. While the girls were not particularly taken with the cartoons (Ken and I enjoyed them) but they were thrilled with the dress ups.
We did another tour of all the important rooms and it was indeed an old building and easy to see why the new Parliament House was required.
Still fastinating and well preserved. Following the tour we explored the next level of the building on our own and easily filled the rest of the day in various play spaces, rooms dedicated to creating your own Zine (mini magazine on any topic) and more dresses ups. This time accompanied with the inspirational story of the famous figures the dress ups depicted. Top day!
Canberra was ace! Makin me proud of our nation …… well for a moment anyway, till I think of the appalling behaviour and shenanigans some of our politicians engaged in. Ahh, the dark n’ light n’ various shades of grey of the human condition.
Hi everyone I’m back and just been to Sydney, let me tell you all about it…
Today we packed our bags, jumped in the car and headed off to Sydney. When we got to the hotel we unpacked and went to check out the afternoon tea 😋. After we got back it was all most dinner time so we hoped into a taxi and went to the Queen Victoria Building for dinner. And to see the beautiful 24 meter Christmas tree 🎄 with 100,000 crystal decorations .
Today was our first full day in Sydney starting off with a terrific buffet breakfast. After that we headed down to the Opera House which was just a short walk from the hotel.
From there we headed to the Sydney museum.They had lots of things to see and learn about the city’s history. Also it was built on the same site as the first building in Sydney and Australia!!!!!!!!
After that we headed back to the hotel for lunch and a rest. That evening we decided to go to the abc kids Christmas concert which was actually really fun. We had a nice picnic diner and then went back to the hotel ready for our next day in Sydney.
Today we got ready and headed down to the Manly ferry ⛴ . On our way we found a great Christmas market in the Rocks, were we spent our morning. After that we hoped on the ferry which gave us great views of the Harbour. Once we arrived we decided to find somewhere for lunch, which in my opinion, was far too healthy. Then we had a walk around town and along the beach before heading back to the hotel having room service for dinner.
Today we went to Taronga Zoo, it was loads of fun. My favorite animal was the Komodo Dragon Sadly we had to go early because mum had a massage. In the evening we walked to Sydney Observatory where we had a private tour with a lovely Guide called Kat. We launched rockets (made out of plastic bottles ) and had a tour of the night sky 🌌. After the tour we went back to the hotel and had dinner.
Today mum had to do some shopping 🛍 so dad took us to the power house museum .It was so fun. There was loads of experimenting to do which I love. Also there was a starwars section which dad made us go through. Lulu cried. I had to give Georgia directions because she had her hands over her eyes; it was really cool. Someone like Riley would have the time of their lives but that’s not me, so I just got it over and done with. Dad managed to get one photo out of me. Then we got a taxi back and had lunch at the hotel so we could be ready to see Cinderella the ballet that evening.
Sydney was fab. I loved every moment, definitely coming back soon…
The drive in was sunny but as we arrived in the mountains the weather closed in and it wasn’t long before we were shrouded in cloud and it was pretty damp. Katoomba was our first choice of places to stay but they were full and suggested Blackheath.
The park was perfect for us, it was pretty quiet with a great playground just across the road that the kids loved. Being so close to Sydney now we plan to have a few days exploring in the mountains before leaving the van here in Blackheath and driving into Sydney for a little city break. We’ve found the best way to see a big city is to stay in it. Often there are no caravan parks close to a CBD and the parks on the outskirts of big city’s often have more perminate residence and have a totally different feel.
The first day we awoke in thick cloud and it stayed for the day. We took the opportunity to catch up on some school but it wasn’t long till we were all getting in each other’s way. So the kids and I went back to the park but it was all to slippery and damp so walked into town for some lunch. Ken joined us and in the afternoon we visited the Blue Mountain Heritage Centre.
Some of the information centers are just super and this one was great. Helpful staff, a great display of the history of the area, acknowledgement to the indigenous people and a virtual reality system to explore a nearby but difficult to access gorge. It was a fun experience and helped us pass a bit of time when the weather and visibility was so poor outside. Reports were coming in of good visibility on the other side of the ranges so we jumped back in the car and went for a drive.
Ken found a place with views to fly the drone and the roadside had plenty of wild flowers for me to enjoy. With the soft afternoon light bring to life the scenery it turned out to be a beautiful afternoon.
The weather improved the next day and after schooling we popped through to Katoomba for lunch and to see the 3 sisters of the blue mountains. What a crowd they draw, by the bus load. Still it is a breath takingly beautiful view and so iconic of Australia.
It has been such a long time since we have seen any cats for Georgia to write about. I was willing one to appear so we could report to you about the Cat of Katoomba but it wasn’t to be. We did however see a fabulous parrot of brilliant red and green and right beside the path to yet another viewing spot of the Blue mountains and Katoomba Falls.
He put on a fabulous display of how to strip a Geralton Wax bush of it’s seemingly delisious flowers. Being all awash with the christmas spirit, the girls nicknamed him the christmas parrot and painted him when we got home.
The remainder of the day was filled with excitement packing bags and preparing for a week in Sydney. Charlotte in particular loves a big city, food, fashion, luxury and convenience get her in a total spin. On the other hand, eating out these days is frought with dietary requirements so we will see how we fair not being able to cater for ourselves.
Two things have bought us to Parkes. The Dish and the one the kids are all excited about, The Parkes Christmas Parade and Markets, with wait for it …….. Christmas ponies!
What a way to kick off the festive season. It’s certainly going to be a different Christmas away from the family so were keen to immerse ourselves in whatever Christmas cheers we can find.
We arrive early afternoon and got set up in the Spicer Park Caravan Park. What a gem. It was quiet and we got a wonderful site next to the playground backing on to the town sporting field. But the best bit was they supply bath mats! Now that might not seem like that big a deal but believe you me it is. I never appreciated the shear luxury of a bath mat. So far this has been the only park we have stay at to do this and what a point of difference.
The Christmas Market and Parade was excellent. Starting late in the afternoon it was just cooling down. Set in a Park in the middle of town there were food vendors, stalls, a few rides and games, an outdoor christmas movie after dark and of course the parade.
The town had gone tinseltastic. All the school children had dressed up, local businesses decorated floats and cars, the emergency services tinseled up their vehicles and the local dragon boat club and pony club didn’t disappoint. The whole afternoon evening was wonderful. Top show Parkes.
The next day we awoke with a couple of additional van guest. Two Christmas Elves appeared without a single note as to what, why or where they had come from. The girls were very excited to have a couple of christmas elves about the van and they were swiftly named, SugarPlum and Cookie.
We then spent the day catching up on washing and putting tinsel up and about the Van. It certainly was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. All the while treated to a great display of country cricket. With front row seat from our Van it would have been rude to note sit down and enjoy our first cricket for the summer.
Parkes is named after Sir Henry Parkes (1815 – 1896), an immigrant from England, of lowly education and standing, that went on to become “the most commanding figure in Australian politics” . He was the longest non-consecutive Premier of the Colony of NSW and became known as the “Father of Federation” due to his early promotion for federation of the six colonies of Australia. You’ll find his image on our $5 note.
I knew nothing of Sir Henry Parkes before coming to Parkes and it’s been a great education for us all. We have continued to come across references to him and his achievements particularly while visiting Sydney and Canberra. This is one of the things I love about our travels is, the connection to place and people. It has bought Australia history alive to me and reinforces what a great classroom we have.
The main reason for visiting Parkes was ‘The Dish’ at the Parkes Observatory. Parkes and the Radio Telescopes located here played a pivotal role in receiving and transmitting the images of the moon landing. The story was bought to our screen in the 2000 movies, ‘The Dish’, and was mostly accurate.
The visitors centre was fantastic! We spent half a day there and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. They had a great booklet to keep the kids engaged and watching the, massive, operational, radio telescope dish being moved about by NASA (or whichever scientific body had there aloted time of use), was pretty cool. And you’ve gotta love that little touch of Australian juxtaposition.
This immensely piece of technology listening deep into space, the cutting edge of human scientific endevour, and the sheep in the paddock next door just grazing away, none the wiser.
We loved our stay here and so glad we made the detour away from the coast. We are all the richer and wiser, from the black stump, to the glittered hooves of the christmas ponies and the investigation of space, our galaxy and beyond, its been a blast.