Camp # 64, Day 292 & 293, The Coorong, S.A.

Sunset over ‘The Coorong’

It had been an emotional day saying goodbye to Heidi and Ruby. After the farewells it was a long driving day, pulling up just in time to see the sunset over The Coorong. Argh, just what the doctor ordered after the sadness and emotion of the day. Some clean, fresh air and a good dose of awe and wonder.

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We camped in the National Park, booking and paying for the site on the way. We never really know how far we may travel in a day, so being able to book and pay online is fantastic. It’s just a quick overnighted and after a good feed and a good nights sleep and we were back on the road the next morning.

The Coorong, a lagoon, runs some 140km from the mouth of the Murray River to Paranki Lagoon. It was made famous in the classic Australian Book, Storm Boy by Colin Thiele and two movies, the first starring David Gulpilil in 1976 and more recently in 2019 with Geoffrey Rush.

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We didn’t have a lot of time to stop here and explore but listening to the audio book as we drove gave us a better understanding and connection to the dunes and landscape we were looking at. With an added bonus of providing a great literary study opportunity for homeschooling.

By lunch we had finished the book and arrived back in Mt Gambier. We stopped in with Ann to collect some post and ended up staying for lunch. It was a lovely break and as always Anns warm and generous hospitality filled our tummies and nourished our souls. After lunch we had a further 150km to travel to Port Fairy were we would pull up for a few days.

 

Camp # 62 & 63, Days 286 – 292, Kangaroo Island, S.A.

Friends united on Kangaroo Island

What a stinker! The forecast is for the records to fall with a max of 48 degrees celsius. It certainly is the hottest we’ve ever experienced, burning not just your skin but your nostrils as you breathed in the hot air. Regardless of the scorching weather we were excited! Nothing was going to put a dampener on seeing Heidi and Ruby today.

Our ferry to Kangaroo Island wasn’t until 6pm. So with time to kill and the McClaren Vale, (another of S.A.’s top wine regions), just 15 minuets away, it would have been rude not stop and taste the flavours. There is no better place than d’Arenberg. So we booked lunch and arranged to rendezvous with Heidi and Ruby here.

Golidlocks at the Cube

We have loved their wines for many years, stopping here in 2007 on our way home, after living in Melbourne. Since then however things have expanded and they have built ‘The Cube’. Wine tasting, restaurants, events space, and wine museum. All sounds pretty normal but there is nothing normal about the extraordinary experience of The Cube. Multi sensory, quirky, crazy from the moment you arrive. Suspend all expectation and enjoy the journey down the rabbit hole is the best advice.

The quirky Cube!

But by far the best bit was meeting up with Heidi and Ruby. A reunion at the top of the cube was just amazing, as was the food we enjoyed in the restaurant. It was so surreal sitting across the table chatting sharing a beautiful meal and seeing the girls just picking right up where they’d left off some 9 months earlier. They are just so cute together.

Besties on KI

After hiding out in the air-conditioning for as long as we could it was time to hit the road and make our way to the ferry. The journey wasn’t without incident as the extreme heat was all too much for Audrey, the car. On a long and reasonably steep hill, the engine temp just got too hot kicking into a safety mode, which left us limping up the hill. Intermittently we’d lose power and be reduced to a crawl before it kicked back in for 30 seconds and then die again. Slow and steady we made it, hoping there weren’t any other hills to come.

The ferry was pretty straight forward, accept for the bit that was in reverse. Loading the van and car on required Ken to back it on to the ferry, which he nailed. Heidi also did a great job, in a new vehicle, in the stinking heat, but she was making it all look easy, like the boss lady she is.

Reversing the van onto the KI ferry – nailed it!

Getting off the ferry at about 7pm we opted to spend the first couple of nights in nearby Kingscote. It wasn’t too far to drive that evening and gave us the chance to explore to eastern side of the island before having our last four nights at the western end of the island. We pulled in and set up, but it was just so damn hot and not much fun! A real baptism of fire for Heidi and Ruby. The heat, with not even a breath of wind was just a killer and it only compounded the adjustment to the dusty / dirty / lack of privacy lifestyle, that can be the traveling camping life. It’s fair to say at this point Heidi was wondering what she had gotten herself into.

We got through dinner and somehow Heidi got Ruby to sleep in the hot little minivan. The floor of which was still roasting from radiant heat off the road surface. A new record was set for the hottest day, officially reaching 46.5 and then finally at 11.30 p.m. the cool change arrived. It was still a sleepless night for our visitor but at least the heat was gone and it could only get better from here.

The following day was almost cold. What a contrast from the day before. After breakfast, Heidi and I were inducted into the LOL (latest kids craze for our girls) club before we hopped into the car / van and made our way Stokes Bay Beach. Turning up the the bay itself didn’t look that impressive or maybe it was the inclement weather. Other travelers had told us to find our way through the rocks and then you come out on a beautiful beach, they weren’t wrong.

It was an adventure itself getting through the rocks, twisting, turning, crouching through low passes and then a lovely little lagoon and the beach beyond is revealed.

Stokes Bay Beach

Too cold for us big kids to swim but the kids weren’t going to let a drop of nearly 20 degree put them off. Although it wasn’t long before they too were feeling cool. After a bit of sand play we made our way back to the cars before finding somewhere for lunch. Unfortunately as is often the case, we were assured on the phone that gluten free eating is all good. However then when we try and order it turns out there is only one thing Gigi can eat, usually a salad. The lady was very kind and tried to be as accommodating as possible but not much fun for Gigi. The views at least were stunning.

We returned back to camp for a rest and later enjoyed a beautiful walk along the beach and a couple of beautiful wines. The kids were exhausted and were no trouble getting to sleep. Enjoying just a few more glasses of wine and chat we also retired earlish. Heidi was still trying to catch up on a few missed winks from the night before.

Australia Day today and it’s a travel day. Moving to the other end of the island with a stop off at Seal Bay along the way. We did a fabulous tour and had the chance to get down on the beach with the endangered Australian Sea Lion. Totally gorgeous they are and it was a delight watching them on the beach. The youngest being playful in the surf and the older one keeping the order of things just right.

Tough being a Sea Lion

Heavily hunted for there fur and oil their populations are still recovering however there are concerns for their survival as the colonies are struggling to grow. More research is required. It was something special to be on the beach with them even if it was from a distance. They can be very playful and relaxed in the water if they approach you however on land they are slow moving, making them more vulnerable, defensive and aggressive.

KI Sea Lions

A short drive down the road we pulled into Vivonne Bay for a beachside van lunch. The colour of the water was absolutely amazing but the wind, wild and most unwelcoming. After lunch I braved it out of the van down to the beach and received a complimentary exfoliation. Nature at its extremes, beautiful and brutal all in the one moment.

Vivonne Bay

Finally we pulled into the camp. Looking into the towering eucalyptus we spotted three koala’s before even checking in. The park was pretty empty so we scouted about and found a site that was going to suit us best. We weren’t even set up before Wallace the wallaby decided to adopt us and the Cape Barren Geese wondered on by. Wallace made himself right at home and appreciated the bowl of water Georgia put out for him. Finally before the day was out an echidna caught our attention in the bush behind our site.

Wallace the Wallaby

It wasn’t the most spectacular location and didn’t have stunning views but it certain takes the cake for the most amazing wildlife experiences. I don’t know how the wildlife park down the road makes any money when all you have to do is stay here at Western KI Caravan Park.

The girls have a lot of play to catch up on and I always have a lot of washing to catch up on so we opted to just chill out van side today. Kenny treated us to some Keto Lammingtons, which were delicious! And Heidi and I were still enjoying the fruits of purchases made from D’arnberg. Wallace the ever faithful (to his stomach) wallaby was never far away and it seems all the noise in the night was the koala’s swapping trees.

Having had a lazy day yesterday it was time to get out and see some sights. First stop the Flinders Chase NP Visitor Centre. An other great Visitors Centre with a fabulous display of how the region was formed, the history of the animals and peoples who have lived here. We spent a good amount of time here before getting out in the park and visiting Admiral Arch and Remarkable rocks.

Kangaroo Island – Admiral Arch and Hanson Bay

Both were remarkable and it was an absolutely beautiful day. We had taken a picnic of rice paper rolls but with a howling wind and no shelter from the midday sun we opted for a mini van picnic by the lighthouse. Heidi’s mini van was very basic and didn’t much enjoy the unsealed roads but all the girls loved having a bed to lie on, be it for watching a movie or having lunch on while out and about.

The evening produced two shows one an LOL performance, put on my the three girls and the other by a Koala who was on the hunt for some more juicy young leaves. I was surprised to look out the van window to see a large Koala walking past. He then walked around the back of the van, had a good look at us and then jumped up the tree nearest the van. The usual encounter with Koala’s is just staring at a tiny, sleeping bear way up in a tree. But these guys stay pretty low down and aren’t too shy, which is amazing.

Koala strolls through the camp

Our penultimate day on the island was a beach day at beautiful Hanson Bay. White sands and crystal waters just beautiful! The girls are still getting the hang of the boogie boards and it was a first for Ruby. Seeing them play, get dumped, help each other recover, get back out there and make memories in the surf together was just magic. We love our beach days and it was lol the more special for getting to share it with Heidi and Ruby. Can’t wait to do more when we get home.

Our final day is really a travel day and we are all trying to not think about the the farewell. We pack up, hitch up and drive the nearly two hours to the other end of the island to Penneshaw, where the ferry arrives and departs. A picnic lunch and play before we board and soak up our last 45 minuet together. Once we disembark we know it’s going to be a bit chaotic with other vehicles and passengers everywhere so we are ready for a quick but tearful goodbye.

Picnic before getting on the ferry

It was heartbreaking watching Georgie and Ruby farewell each other. They are a match made in heaven and I hate separating them, but they both do a super job squeezing all the love they can into each other with one last embrace. We then jump in the car with wet, blurry eyes that don’t dry up for nearly another hour. Dear sweet girls.

On our way back to the mainland

Heidi and Ruby head back towards Adelaide for a night in a comfy bed, the privacy of walls, doors and your own bathroom! Such simple luxuries we take for granted everyday. For us we are legging it back to Melbourne to get ready for the next adventure, Tasmania.

Camp # 61, Days 279 – 285, Aldinga, S.A.

Setup roadside for 7 laps around Uraidla in Stage 3 of the 2019 TDU

So today we are making our way to Aldinga Beach. Ken is leaving us to do a three day cycling event/tour – getting out on the routes and some of the climbs that the pros are doing and then watching the finishes. So I thought Aldinga would be a great location as the race comes past here on two days and Ken will actually ride past us too.

But before we get there we found ourselves a choice location road side to watch the TDU (Tour Down Under) some more. It was still hot but had dropped out of the 40’s, so having the van with us and the awning for shade, air-con for comfort, TV for the coverage and fridge for cool refreshment meant for a pleasant afternoon. Not only that, we were being treated to 7 laps so would get to see plenty of cycling and even get ourselves on the TV!

TDU Zone for a Day

I had some red plastic plates left over from christmas so we decorated the van to look like the KOM jersey (although in the TDU its navey dots), hung the bunting and chalked up the road with a big TDU ❤️. It was fun getting in the spirit of the event. There was loads of folks riding the course ahead of the pros and we cheered them all along. It always brought a smile to their faces, getting a clang of the cow bells and shouts of encouragement.

Then the race starts coming through. About a dozen police motorbikes, then the pre-race motorcade, more police, race director, race referee, neutral service car, more police, TV and photographer motorbikes and then the leaders of the race followed by the peloton, service cars, more police, ambulance, and finally the green light vehicle meaning the road is open to public again. Quite the procession.

The noise of the peloton passing is incredible!

A photographer from the Adelaide Advertiser even stopped to try and get a photograph of Lulu whom was sitting in her bath roadside keeping cool and watching the race.

Now that’s how to spectate – Lulu keeping cool in her bath!

It was super cute but in the end Lulu wouldn’t co-operate and we never made the front page. The photographer did get this shot though of Charlotte and Georgia. The girls loved it and we are talking about making it an annual pilgrimage, hopefully with the whole family next time.

CYCLING – Tour Down Under – Stage 3 – Lobethal to Uraidla. Picture SARAH REED

We arrived at Aldinga late in the day, with a quick trip to the shops, dinner then we made sure the van and Ken were all setup to be away for a couple of nights. The next morning we dropped Ken off in the city at his accommodation before picking up a few for bits from the health food shop. We tried to catch up with Ken on the road to cheer him along before the pro’s but just missed him. He got up the famous ‘corkscrew’ which was to feature as the final climb on Stage 4. With all the cyclists on the road I wasn’t going to bother clogging the road up anymore and Georgia doesn’t do well on the winding roads anyway.

Riche Porte takling the ‘Corkscrew’ about 20 times faster than Ken!

We weren’t far from the finish line of that days stage so we made our way there and watched the sprinters do their high octane finish beneath a couple of Koala’s snoozing away in the trees above. Seemingly totally oblivious to all the noise and goings on below. With an hour and a half drive back to Aldinga we got home very late. It felt like a big day driving, which I don’t do a lot of these days, but it was nice to be behind the wheel even though the google maps and I haven’t made friends, yet!

I was shattered today and keen for a day at home but it was really our only day to see Ken on the road. We rose early prepared a quick batch of pancakes and bacon and jumped in the car heading and hour away to Strathalbyn. A beautiful picturesque town, even though it was covered in race barriers, gazebo and branding. We jagged a totally fantastic spot and we set up for a picnic breakfast before watching Ken come into the final corner of his 100km ride. Not concerned about his time, he stopped for a chat before heading for the finish of this stage, the People’s Choice Classic.

Getting ready to knock out 100km in the Challenge Tour – part of Stage 5 – Glenelg to Strathalbyn

Ken was loving his own tour, it was well run and catered for all the participants needs putting on, breakfast, lunch, transport, bike hire and set up, riding gear and more. His legs were feeling great, even after minimal training so he was really pleased.

Ken was feeling pretty relieved and chuffed with himself as he crossed the finish line in Strathalbyn

The girls and I wandered down to the finish line to join in the festivities and meet up with Ken. There was a local market on which we enjoyed and the crowds and buzz of the TDU were mega. We decided to not stay for the professional cyclists to come through, we still had the drive home, and food to prepare for dinner and picnic lunch tomorrow with Uncle Peter, Aunty Merle, Meg and Jack.

Strathalbyn is a beautiful town and really knows how to host a TDU finish

We were always going to meet up with Uncle Peter and Aunty Merle but it was to total bonus to get to see Meg and Jack again. Just by chance we ended up being here at the same time. It was lovely for the kids because they had all got on so well when we stayed with Meg last August. Ken was missed but still we had a lovely evening in the warm, and relaxed hospitality of family.

Good old fun at Uncle Peter’s

During the evening Meg scoped out a good spot to watch the tour roll past tomorrow and plans were made to meet again and enjoy the TDU together. It was going to be a circuit again, with just four laps this time but beach front, so we were going to have lovely views.

Even though we were staying only minutes around the corner Meg and co had beaten us to the spot and nabbed the two best car parks for us to set up in. Location was perfect and weather sublime! I set up the batwing awning on the car and now we had shade too. It really was a wonderful few hours together. I love sharing these moment and making these family memories, with both Kens and my family, they are so few and far between which I guess is why it’s so special.

Charlotte and Jack encouraging the riders through ringing their ‘cow’ bells

From here the race and the TDU finished with a mountain/hill top finish on the famous ‘Old Wilunga Hill’. Only about 30 mins away and this is where Ken was. After climbing Wilunga himself his group set up to watch the finish. Instead of heading back to Adelaide with the rest of the folks we collected Ken here.

He was totally pumped after a great couple of days but pretty exhausted, as was I. In my mind we’d have a couple of totally chilled days, hanging by the beach and pool but in reality it was hectic but totally enjoyable and to say I enjoyed having the bed to myself was an understatement.

We had a do nothing day around the van day the following day and our final day in Aldinga was spent on the glorious beach. You can take the car down so we set up on the beach and had a wonderful day. The water was lovely and the wind down. Perfect for paddle boarding and the kids finally got to crack our the Christmas boogie boards. We just love these family beach days.

Prefect conditions for the SUP!

The only downer was Georgie getting a bad sunburn! Every time I turned around she had her hat off and when I told them to reapply it never happened. Poor poppet was so sore and by the next morning her lip and cheeks had blistered. As a parent you feel so responsible but on the other side I know she will never ignore my instructions to wear her hat and put on and reapply sunscreen again. She’s never had a burn or seen bad sunburn before so never known what us pesky parents keep banging on about but she’ll not forget this in a hurry.

A top time here in Aldinga but we are all just a tad excited about what’s to come next. Visitors! And not just anyone but besties, Heidi and Ruby. It has all just come together with great ease and we can hardly believe we are going to be seeing them tomorrow.

Camp # 60, Days 276 – 278, Tununda, Barossa Valley, SA

Hooked up the extra shade cloth on the awning to keep cool!

HOT, HOT, HOT! Luckily I had booked this park well in advance, (top tip thanks Jacobsens). The tour was literally riding right past us and it had a huge pool and water park. Ironically it was too hot to venture outside, even too the pool. We did eventually go but not until it had started to cool down a little in the late afternoon.

So we mostly found ourselves flaked out in a puddle of sweat in the van. Even with the air conditioner on, lying still I was sweating. Ken was totally over cooked one of the days and didn’t even bother getting out of bed (Ken – I was probably tapering down for my own mini-tour in a couple of days!)

On our last day the tour was riding through, so we were going to have to leave the van and my FOMO was well and truly amped up or maybe it was the cabin fever setting in. I finally mustered everyone into the car so we could attempt to see a bit of this beautiful part of Australia. I had snuck out for an early morning walk through the town which was full of history old building and beautiful Lutheran Churches and I wanted to see more. We couldn’t leave without taking in some of the scenery and finding some delicious food and or wine from this magnificent region.

Maggie Beers Farm shop and Restaurant was not far away and seemed a good little outing before finding a shady spot to watch the race come past. The shop was delicious but mostly off limits for the dairy, gluten and sugar free diet. We did however manage to have a quick but yummy lunch and they were great at accommodating our needs.

From here we just headed straight back to the van and walked out the back gate of the park to watch the race come by. A beautiful elevated, shady spot on a slight hill. The usual fanfare come through first and Ken has rigged up the live feed on the iPad so we can watch the race as it approaches. The excitement is building, the cow bells ringing, and ………….. gone. Even on a hill the pace was up and in a moment it was all over.

The Peloton roll through Tununda on stage 2

Oh well, more fun and excitement tomorrow. We are leaving Tanunda but have discovered that we will be traveling some of the route the TDU is on and there is a section on which they do 7 laps. That sounds like a much better viewing day. We’ll have the van hitched on, providing all the comforts of home to set up for the day road side and get to see the riders pass 7 times. Perfecto!

Camp # 59, Days 272 – 275, Adelaide, SA

One of our evening bike rides home from the city.

Hats of to Adelaide for having a quality caravan park tucked away on the outskirts of the city. It’s not something we have found in any other capital. It’s fantastic as there are bike paths everywhere so we will be able to ride about the city and get in to the vibe of the Santos Tour Down Under.

Keen to soak up that vibe we have an early dinner and go exploring on the bikes on our first night. It’s very picturesque and the CBD is quiet. We ride up the main drag with only a few other cars. Where is all the vibe? I was expecting the city to be buzzing. We did just catch a glimpse of the TDU village but nothing was on and it was getting late so we made for home in the dark with some very tired kids. They did great!

Cruising around Adelaide’s CBD

The next day we schooled, grocery shopped, tended the laundry and found a Naturopath that seen us on the spot to help heal Georgia’s gut. She is still having regular pain and aches and feel we need to do more to aid her recovery. It was such a great find and helped give us a little support I was seeking.

It was a very warm day so a quick dip in the pool before heading into the city in the late afternoon to visit the art gallery and state library. There was an exhibition on of Picassos early sketch work which was a little weirdo for the kids so we just skipped to the sketch room were we could have our own go at sketching. Was a little something different for the girls and ticked some of the homeschooling boxes. The Library had a Chinese exhibit on and we all had a go at doing Chinese calligraphy.

From here we explored the shopping precinct looking for a good place to eat for Ceoliac. Along the way we came across the most fabulous health food store with the most delightful owner. It was perfect timing as I had things to pick up for Georgia and the selection of gluten and dairy free products was fabulous.

The next day was our first taste of TDU racing, the Ladies Race. We were keen to get the girls out to see the ladies competing and performing at the top level. We jagged a totally fabulous spot, shaded, on a hill and right out the front of a delicious cafe all geared up for GF and DF as the owner is Ceoliac himself.

Our first taste of the TDU with the Womens Race in Stirling
The girls loved the whole Pro Cycling Cavalcade

Totally kicking goals at the moment, which is just what we needed. I think we were all feeling a little weighed down by the dramatic change to the way we can eat and Georgia being unwell and miserable. She doesn’t let on but, she is not her usual happy self.

Georgie and her wonderful colours – on a little side trip to Hahndorf

In the evening we headed back the the TDU village to soak up the atmosphere and get up close to the men’s teams at the Team Presentation, prior to racing starting tomorrow. It was pretty cool being there in the flesh with all the cycling pros and commentators we have watched on TV for years. We wrapped up early as the girls were participating in the Mini Tour in the morning. So we all need to a good nights sleep for an early rise the next day.

Ken, checking out his old work sponsored team – Dimension Data

First we had to ride to the event and then get the girls set to do their circuits on the same course the men will be racing on in just a few hours. Georgie was cool as a cucumber and Charlotte was a bag of nerves but excited at the same time. They were in different age groups and we all stood on the barrier to cheer Gigi on. She did great and stayed on her bike with only a few near misses, but talk about the carnage.

The Girls getting pumped ready for the mini-tour!

OMG heart in mouths as a group of 50 or so 4 – 7 years olds, pumped to the max approach the first u-turn corner. One really shouldn’t laugh but they were crashing everywhere. Coming in at top speed, all the parents shouting “slow down, Break, BREAK, BREAK !!!!!” Total carnage, bless them, pile ups, crashes into the barriers, bikes just slipping out from underneath them.

Georgie tearing up the track – with her tassels!

A few tears, no real injuries, and most dusted themselves off and got back on. But now all the parents were nervous wrecks and questioning the sense of having enrolled the precious little ones into this total madness and mayhem. Still most of the finished with smiles on their faces and Gigi did so well. Big sister was the first to greet her beaming with excitement and pride. It was worth it just for that moment right there.

Georgie took it all in her stride! Rider 149 from Perth.

Next was Charlotte and she also did super. A totally different approach after watching the carnage of the first group her strategy was to just take it slow and play it safe. In the end, (somehow, as kids do), she made a friend and the two of them just casually rode along chatting away oblivious to the fact they were totally slowing down the pace of everyone else on the circuit. But again finished without incident and beaming.

Charlotte and her new friend cruise round the circuit!
Charlotte had a ball after being a bit nervous before the start.

We had intended to head home and come back for the men’s race but once we were here and as it was getting hotter and hotter the thought of dragging everyone home and then gearing up to go again wasn’t appealing. So Ken rode home and back to picked up a couple of chairs while the girls and I picked our spot and set up camp.

Catching the freebies from the pre-race cavalcade.

It made for a long day but a fun day. We got to be part of all the build up, pre-race paraphernalia and meet some of cycling royalty. The crowd swelled the excitement built up and the racing got under way. It was indeed exciting and fast.

Leonie got to meet Anna Mears – a track cycling legend!

We had placed ourselves just after the finish line, on a corner and with the big screen TV in front of us so what we couldn’t see, we could watch.

Perfect spot for watching the first day of main racing

A fabulous last day here in Adelaide. The girls loved the buzz, (Lulu slept through the entire race), but they were pumped and looking forward to watching more racings!

TDU 2019 – Day One

Phew, cause they were going to be watching it anyway, but at least we wont have as much moaning as we may have had. With the race finished we packed what we could carry (we collected so much stuff from the pre race vehicles we couldn’t take it all, hats, cow bells, egg shakers, inflatable batons and so on). The ride home was all down hill and after a hot day we all jumped in the pool to get cool. Perfection! Thanks Adelaide.

Camp # 58, Days 271 & 272, Mt Gambier, SA

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, famous for it’s blue lake.

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.

Anne, getting an intro to LOLs from the Girls.

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!

Blue Lake – the result of a volcanic crater

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. 😜

Getting into the wine regions in SA @ Coonawarra

Camp # 57, Day 268 – 270, Dunkeld, VIC

Happy times on mums back at Mt Sturgeon

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.

Setting up at Haley & Bens – Ken struggles to park the van when there is too much space!

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.

Views across to Mount Sturgeon

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.

Ben’s been making these cheese boards from the local redwood cutting them with a big chainsaw, he gave Ken a great intro to using a chainsaw and now he’s off to get one!

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.

The Girls and Billy had a ball together!

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.

Ben gave us a great tour the farm.
The sheep were very keen to check us out collecting yabbies.

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.

Fresh yabbies, caught from the dams in the bath! Delish!

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.

Haley took us to visit the Quoll’s at Mt Sturgeon – gorgeous!

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.

Camp # 56, Day 260 – 267, Seville, VIC

Fun times with family in the Seville Park

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.

Riding on the old rail trail – Ken got a couple training rides in here as well.

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.

Enjoying Dessert at Steph & Nicks

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.

Cooling down at the Seville water park on another hot Melbourne day.

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.

Yay! Charlotte got her ears pierced.

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.

Quintessential Melbourne in ACDC Lane

Camp # 55, Days 257 – 259, One Tree Hill Farm, VIC

One Tree Hill – Great views while blogging!

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.

Looking out over One Tree Hill farm to Wilsons Prom at Sunset

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.

Out temporary view out to the Prom – Ken had setup in the wrong place!

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.

Weather with character! The mist was blowing over the hills.
It got really windy, so I got Ken’s help to wash and dry the bed sheets!

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.

Agnes Falls – a lovely wee spot.

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.

Camp # 54, Days 252 – 256, Lakes Entrance, Vic.

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.

Who doesn’t love a swim at Christmas!

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.

Blinging up the van for
Christmas

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).

The Girls and their Gluten Free Gingerbread Man factory!

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!

All set in the van on Christmas Eve

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.

Opening and playing with presents

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.

Crayfish for lunch – yes please!

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!

Has to be a Trifle (or two) at Christmas
Accidental Eaton Mess – Yum!

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.

Relaxing watching the Boxing Day Test – Sublime!
Classic Fun at the Christmas Fair

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.

Lakes Entrance – the perfect place for a boat!