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

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!

Camp # 53, Days 250 – 251, Jindabyne & Mt Kosciuszko, NSW

On our way to Mt Kosciuszko – Australia’s highest peak

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.

They just don’t make graphics like they used to.
Snowy 2.0 – The proposed capacity upgrade to this extensive system

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).

Georgia knocking out 700W on the cycling machine!

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).

Looking onto Lake Jindabyne from our camp spot.

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.

Great bike riding round the lake

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.

Getting some help on our way upto Mt Kosciusko

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.

The scenery on the walk was beautiful and the impending storm made it that more dramatic

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.

Corroboree Frog

We did however get to see snow still on the ground from winter and the girls were thrilled!

‘Dreaming of a white Christmas’!

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 made it to the lookout – Mt Kosciuszko is the peak above Leonie’s right shoulder.

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.

On Top of the World!

Although it was brief we left the Snowy Mountains content but keen to return.

Camp # 52, Days 244 – 249, Canberra ACT

Future leaders of our Country?

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.

Great tracks on the ‘Bruce Ridge Nature Reserve’ right behind the CP
Hear! Hear!

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 great learning about all the design features of the building and how it mirrors features of our democracy.

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.

LEGO, Parliament – why not!

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.

Australia’s first female Prime Minister – a great role model for our girls.

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.

Charlotte had a ball constructing this rat-trap!

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.

The view from Mount Ainslie

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.

Loved the political cartoons.

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.

Easy to imagine Bob Hawke sitting here with his feet up on the table!
The girls with a replica of the mace given to Australia’s by the UK in the old parliament

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.

The Christmas spirit making it’s way into Parliament