Friday, July 30, 2010

The Trip of a Lifetime….

So here we are, several weeks back into normal life and reflecting back on what the past 7 months have been about for our family. For many years I fantasised about a trip where we just jumped in the car and took off, leaving our cares behind us and only the road and great beaches ahead. Was it all worth it, would we do it again? You bet we would, in a heart beat! As a father, whilst I have probably spent more time than most with my kids and Bec I still hadn't had that 24/7 opportunity to just be there for an extended period of time. This was the highlight for me. Every morning just waking up with my family, no real plans for the day, starting with cuppas on the beach, watching Gus run free along the water's edge, exploring with the girls, having quality time all together. It really doesn't get any better than that. Truth be told we could have been anywhere but the scenery just added to the magic of it all. We have always been a close family, gee for years we all slept in the same room, single mattresses on the floor next to our bed, but this trip somehow brought us even closer together. You get an opportunity to see your kids differently when you have that much time together, you get to know them better, understand the intricacies of their personality and build even stronger relationships. For Bec and I we have had some challenging times that we have lived through in the past so for us to have this time, with no real hassles, just an opportunity to be with our kids, creating a loving environment for us all to share it was pretty special.

Favourite memories, every day really, how do you pick. It wasn't so much the big days like seeing the great barrier reef or doing the sky train in Cairns, it was probably more the quiet days, exploring depot beach, exploring Pambula river mouth, walking along one mile beach at sunrise, nights in the camper watching episodes of seachange, cooking our favourite prawn and fresh pea risotto with a glass of shaw & smith sav blanc, while the kids ran around the park. This being like groundhog day for us and was just so satisfying and ofcourse incredibly enjoyable. This after the challenges of East Timor, the cultural journey in Thailand and the life changing experience of our second home in India. There are days when I have to pinch myself that we have actually done all of this.

For me having had an incredibly busy 10 years, well 20 years really, to have this time with really not much to occupy my mind was very stimulating. There were so many ideas, reflections, dreams and possibilities that came flooding in and out of my thoughts. For many weeks I let them come and go and despite feeling a little pressure to record them I just sat with them for a time. Toward the end of the trip I found the motivation to sit down and write. I wrote about what I felt I had done with my life to date and what I still want to achieve. I wrote about what I stand for, which for me is a big thing because I have spent the past several years just trying to escape the conflict we had been experiencing and now finding that spirit to want to stand up again and fight for what I believe in, was incredibly liberating. I was able to capture a vision for what would make my life ideal, listen to Bec's thoughts about the same for her and see how our vision for the future was now so well aligned.

On a practical level I was able to finalise a draft strategic plan for my business which has provided me with a sense of purpose about my work. Interestingly I have been without business cards for about 5 years, not sure if this was my own passive aggressive resistence to my work or what it was but I return with new cards and a new plan and the energy to put it into place. Whilst in many ways I have been very successful at what I do, there has always been a sense of a lack of confidence, or a lack of belief in my ability to meet the constant needs of the people I was working with and due to my energy being very low I just couldn't chart a course out of the mire I had entered. It has been a bit of a Tom Cruise Mission Statement moment, about less clients and more attention, less work and more learning, less quantity and higher quality.

I read in a book that Bec had purchased about the power of meditating on your death. Sounds dark, but not really. It encouraged me to think about dying and what it was that was important, what I had done, what was it that really mattered and what was it that would matter in that moment of death. For so long I have been terrified of the thought of dying, of a life that never quite reached its potential and the decisions I had regretted and the time wasted and not well spent. It was so compelling for me to be able to put myself in that space and feel like I had in recent times made some really big and important decisions, felt really comfortable with where our lives were at, comforted by the time I have spent with Bec and my kids and knowing they are well on their way to growing up to be happy and confident and feel like we have been able to leave a legacy that will live on well beyond our time. For the first time in my life I felt completely at ease in who I am and where my life has come. Now don't for a minute think this means I am going anywhere because now that life has purpose, pleasure and is incredibly enjoyable I just want to revel in being happy. It is so great to feel genuinely happy. To be so in love with my wife, to be so connected with my three beautiful kids and to feel a real sense of meaning in our lives. My relationship with important people like my mum and my sister are very close and becoming closer and to feel so comfortable with these relationships is like a chapter in my life that is very important to me and is now giving me so much pleasure.

Today I went to India's assembly at school. She was invited to give a talk to the whole junior school on her trip overseas. There she was our little moochie, up the front microphone in hand, confidently sharing her experiences of India, the orphanage and what we were doing to help. You know when I was 11 I never would have been in a position to do what Indy did today, she was amazing. Since we have been back we have had a number of people come up and tell us how great our kids are, how easy they are to talk to and how knowledgeable they are and it just makes Bec and I feel great to see our kids so happy and confident in who they are and what they have experienced. The other day I put our photos on a revolving slideshow on my laptop and it was amazing to just watch photo after photo come up and reveal another page in our life story and the experiences we have shared together. There is no doubt that over the past couple of years we have truly committed to the spirit of adventure and whilst it has had its moments of worry it has created a wonderful environment of learning and experience for our family. To do this together has been priceless. I am incredibly proud of my family, my wonderful wife, Bec, my deep thinking oldest girl Indy, my special fun middle one Maggie and our little man of the house, Gus.

It seems like only yesterday Bec and I watched Julie and Julia and got inspired to start our blog just days before we headed off overseas. I think this has provided a great way to keep in touch with friends and family but also will provide an incredible keepsake for our family to look back on for years to come. I have enjoyed the challenges of putting my deepest thoughts and feelings on a page and whilst in some regard it is quite indulgent and perhaps even narcissistic, it has been very therapeutic and liberating. For those of you who have shared this journey with us, thankyou for listening, thankyou for your very kind words of encouragement that enabled me to be very honest and feel safe to write from the heart.

Our spirit of adventure trip may have ended but in many ways our life has entered the next chapter, what it has in store for us only time will tell but whatever it is we will face it together and seek to enjoy every minute.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Winter has arrived!

We are certainly not in Cairnsas any more Toto! Yes we have moved from the tropical weather of the north to now be experiencing -4 degrees in sunny Canberra. Our little heaters have been working overtime and we are using every spare bit of clothing and all of our rugs in an attempt to keep the icicles at bay. We have also been a little slack at our blog postings and have to admit we are on our way home mentally and soon to be physically. We have decided to push home a few days earlier to enable me to prepare for a return to work and also to finalise the renovations on our home. Last time I wrote we were in the gold coast awaiting the arrival of the Harry clan. It was fantastic to have some time with Kate and Matty and the kids. The cousins were all so excited to see each other, they had been counting down the hours until they arrived. We all spent the first two nights together in the camper which was very cosy but also a lot of fun. I imagine the kids will have great memories of bunking down together in the cammie. The kids went with Kate and Bec to dreamworld and whitewater world and had an absolute blast. The weather was a little cool for the waterslides but the rest was great. Indy our resident adrenaline junkie showed her courage yet again with two rides on the rollercoaster and even Maggie had a go second time around. Bec had to go on first time around and is still putting her vital organs back into place even now after two loop the loops! After our second day on the goldy it was time to head to Byron where we stayed in a beautiful home in Tallows right on the beach. The kids had an awesome time and loved the space of a large home to explore. Gus just kept running around in circles in the lounge room again and again, it was like a wild caged animal that had been let loose for the first time. The beach was incredible and just a short walk out of the back yard. We had a bonfire on the beach the first night and then the kids made this huge cubby house on the beach the next day which stood there until we left, much to the annoyance of a few of the Byron locals! My little nephew Maxie showed he is our very own Bear Grills. We had some great activities for the kids on the beach and also in Byron itself, it was a great time all around.

We left Byron and the cousins struggled with their goodbyes. We initially headed for one mile beach, about four hours away but as we took the turn off realised it was an 80km round loop of our route and decided to push forward towards Canberra. On the way it started to get dark early and the weather was coming in so at the last minute we decided we would stop at a place called Norah Heads. We drove in the park ready to set up and noticed we were on a boggy grass site that just wasn't going to work for us. So we stood there in the lightly drizzling rain, darkness approaching very quickly and pondered our options. Well not really, I said "we're not staying here" and got in the car ready to drive off, Bec just kind of stood there trying to process our options. So we were in the car again, after about 7 hours of driving and heading in the general direction of Canberra with the rain coming in heavier and approaching Sydney's peak hour traffic, only we could put ourselves in this position. We were well on our way to Canberra when we realised that the parks may not allow us to check in after dark and sure enough a couple of quick phone calls confirmed there was no check in options available to us in Canberra. In desperation Bec pleaded with one of the parks for some guidance and they suggested we bunk in at Goulbourn for the night. Good old '1234' and we were connected with a Best Western that had one family room available for the night and plenty of parking space for cammie. Do you think we were all happy to arrive and just be able to put the kettle on, have a hot shower and get in to bed after 10 and a half hours of driving! And that's what we did. Next morning we had a very short 40 minute drive to Canberra and proceeded to try to find a decent park. After about the fifth park we drove into we realised that this was an impossible task and we settled for what resembled an old drive in movie theatre, the Canberra motorhome park.

Canberra has been really great and we have had fun filled days packed with various iconic venues and experiences. Over a few days we visited the National Gallery, the national portrait gallery, the war museum, questacon, parliament house, the royal mint and frequented many nice eating places. Canberra is an awesome city to take the kids and for the most part these amazing attractions were free, a very different story to our experience up North. We caught up with the Wade family (Bec's cousin and her family) which was fantastic and the kids loved playing with the big kids. We decided to push straight for home, shave a couple of days off our trip and get ourselves organised for the challenges ahead assimilating back to 'normal' life.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Buddhists, Burglars and the Beach…..

As I write this blog it is Friday morning and we have arrived in Main Beach on the Gold Coast. Since our last blog we have travelled form Yeppoon to a little town called 1770, named after Captain Cook and his first contact with Australia. The park at 1770 was named Queensland's best park as it is situated right on the beach front. Whilst we had escaped the crocs and stingers of the north we were now confronted with the presence of stonefish and were discouraged from swimming or even walking in the water without footwear. 1770 though had the most beautiful sunsets you can imagine. There was a pilgrimage of campers at around 4.30pm in the afternoon as people headed on mass to the beach to sit and watch the sun go down. For the next 60 minutes or so there was the most amazing range of changes in the sky as first the sun set and then there were the ever changing shades of red and blue as the glow of the setting sun transformed the sky, even the kids were impressed. We had some nice walks along the beach, Indy's pancakes at the park one morning, and some good park time with the kids along the 1770 beachfront. We also had a nice beach day over at nearby agnes water where we were able to swim again. The water was crystal clear and beautiful. On our final morning we were packing up the camper, Indy had taken Gus for a short walk to the beach and everything seemed fine. Next minute we hear Gus walking up the road followed by a young lady with Indy and Mags nowhere to be seen. The lady had seen Gus walking up the road by himself and apparently asked him where he was going and he replied "I am going to see my mum" and he did. It turned out that Indy had decided to take Gus down to the park, got sidetracked in a game with Maggie and Gus decided to head off for a walk. Fortunately no damage done but a constant reminder of the challenges of a wandering 2 year old. I recalled the time when I was about 2 or 3 and apparently I walked almost a neighbourhood away, crossed a busy road to see the horses that lived nearby to our home. Gus wasn't quite this dramatic but remember he is only warming up.

From 1770 we headed back to the sunny coast and our stay at the lovely Coolum Beach. The drive went well and we arrived to our campsite again right on the beach at Coolum. After setting up Bec headed down to the beach with Gus and Mags and Indy and I did some shopping, picked up a bottle of bubbly and we enjoyed this on the beach as the sun was setting. After all of our trips to the sunny coast we had never been on the beach at Coolum and it was incredible. The next day the Westys arrived to stay at our neighbouring campsite. We had a great few days with Dave, Dan and the kids and some great waves at Coolum Beach. As you may recall from a previous blog Dave is affectionately known by Gus as 'Dragon Man' due to his dragon tattoo on his arm. Dave was very thoughtful and bought Gus a dragon tattoo to sick on his arm and Gus instantly became Dragon Boy and thought he was very tough. The weekend though was not short of its dramas. On the Saturday night at about 12.30am I was sleeping with Gus and I heard Bec in a very manly voice yelling "GET OUT OF THERE" and it was one of those surreal moments. I had no idea of where I was or what was happening. At first I thought Bec was calling to a possum in our bin but she was far too ferocious for that. It turns out Bec had earlier caught someone in our annexe going through her box of clothes and she banged on the camper and he had run off. She sat and watched for a minute as she had seen someone else out the corner of her eye. It turned out that this other person was scoping our car and just minutes later she saw the light come on in the car and a guy trying desperately to turn the interior light off, without success. It was at this point that big mama got out her man's voice and scared the intruder off. By the time I had worked out what was going on and had gone out to inspect there was not much to be seen. We did a quick pack up of anything valuable, locked the car, something we had gotten very relaxed about whilst up north and went back to bed with an ear to the outside. As it happened Dani had been going to the toilet a little later and saw a man in her car which she had assumed was Dave. She said to the guy (thinking it was Dave) "what are you doing in there?" He replied to Dan, "this is my car". At this point Dan realised it wasn't Dave and proceeded to have an argument with the intruder about whose car it actually was. He was in the process of trying to steal Dave's surfboard. Fortunately Dan managed to scare him off before he completed his task. So whilst the big boys slept our little women were on the job scaring off intruders and keeping us all safe! It turned out that several campsites were visited in the night and also the next night. Fortunately for us we didn't lose anything this time around. During the day the kids had some great time with the Westy boys, playing in the park, on the beach, and at the local park. Maggie just loves playing with other kids and Indy loves being in charge and being the oldest she had reserved the right to be leader of the pack. We played lots of games on the beach with the kids, sandcastles, flags, catch, beach cricket etc, and had a great time. One last little story, Gus was swooped by a small bird which actually cut his eye lid (only a small scratch) but certainly gave him a fright. Little man is certainly experiencing a broad range of experiences, some good, some not so good.

One of great highlights for us on this trip was our trip to Australia Zoo. Again for all the times we had been up here I hadn't had the opportunity to go, the girls went some years ago but the zoo had grown significantly since their last visit. It was amazing. The park was built so well and the range of things to see kept us busy all day. From the minute we arrived there were keepers standing just inside the front gate with baby crocodiles and lizards. Within 60 seconds of entering Gus and the girls were patting a baby crocodile and a lizard, it was just incredible. The kids had been watching the croc hunter movie all the way up so you can imagine there excitement at patting a croc! We patted kangaroos, saw snakes, crocodiles, amazing birds, alligators, lizards, elephants, echidnas, and an amazing tiger exhibition. There was just so much to see and do. We saw the show in the crocosseum which was just amazing to see the crocodiles in action. Indy and Mags and even Gus all had their photos taken holding a large python. Indy and Mags were exhilarated by the fact that they were brave enough to do this by themselves and as Gus woke up just as the photos were being taken we also got a photo of Gus and the girls holding the snake. After a day of walking around non-stop we visited the animal hospital on the way out. This facility was built by Steve in dedication of his mum Lynne and treated injured wildlife. We were able to walk around the hospital and through glass see the ER in action as animals were brought in. The hospital treated hundreds of animals every month and even had a koala ICU. The trip to Australia Zoo was just incredible to see a family who were so dedicated to their passion and mission in life. To think that a guy who liked to catch snakes and crocodiles had, through his passion for his cause, been the catalyst for the building of this amazing legacy. It was such a highlight to see the work of Steve Irwin and his family, it was almost unbelievable to see how all of this had unfolded. As Bec and I walked around the park we had the inevitable sense of sadness at what a loss his death was. It is so pleasing to see his legacy though continuing on through his zoo and ofcourse through the work of his family. What a great person he was and we felt very fortunate to be able to experience his work first hand.

Our last couple of days at Coolum were pretty quiet but nice. I was able to have a great surf to finish off a great surfing stop. We picked up some fresh peas at the supermarket, one of our favourite vegetables, and made a beautiful fresh pea and chicken risotto. Whilst we have been living life on the road our housesitter Maree has been busy managing our renovations at home. We have been getting a wall knocked out, new kitchen and flooring put in, ensuite retiled and new toilet installed and Bec had been managing this all by phone and long distance. So far so good and Marie has been a saint. We are assuming ofcourse that they have knocked out the right wall!!!! Bec was able to have a very inspiring visit to the Buddhist temple in the mountains behind Coolum with our good friend Amber. As I wasn't a party to this visit I will hand over to my beautiful wife to share of her experience….

On Wednesday Amber came and collected me from our Park to chauffer us on our beautiful scenic drive meandering through the hills to the Buddhist Retreat Chenrezig. Whilst I was so excited about our destination, the drive and some quiet time and space to be with Amber and chat was just what I needed! As we arrived the peace and tranquillity was palpable and you couldn't help but slip into a calm state. I turned my phone off and was ready to soak up every last ounce of this opportunity. As we walked into the grounds we came to the little café first. The café was filled with training Monks, Nuns and every day Joe's like me. You had to book well in advance as there was limited seating and they only made a certain amount of food and once that was gone, there was no more! Amber and I collected our lunch (there is only one option on the menu!) and went outside to find a quiet spot amongst the trees to enjoy a delicious vegetarian meal. (as you may not know Buddhists don't believe in harming any animals, hence vego only) After our lunch followed by delicious desert of chocolate brownie and pecan pie, we headed off to walk down our sumptuous feast and explore the amazing facility. We explored the prayer wheels, shrines and Temple which was a spiritual and visual treat with it's array of bright colours and textures. We then ventured down to the gift shop and mooched around exploring the great collection of reference and reading books, prayer flags etc. Amber and I both added significantly to our current collection of Buddhist literature and Amber very generously gave me a gift of prayer flags and a book on how to meditate, both of which I shall make excellent use of. On our drive home Amber took me past her, and her husband Corey's, home that was being built in Buderim. The views were incredible and their plans for their home are awesome! Back to the park to reunite with the family, recharged and refocussed after this special experience…Thankyou Amber!…..

Me again….things are going well for us. The trip north was a little draining but now we have relaxed and are definitely enjoying our time heading South. It is getting cooler, especially at night and Bec has even had cause to get the heater out on occasion. We have been keeping up with Master Chef, usually via the internet watching episodes as we go. Things are slowly becoming clearer for us in terms of our work and life choices we plan to make back home. Whilst taking the best part of 6 months off was a huge risk when you are self employed it looks like the work is starting to trickle in for when I return with numerous requests for support coming in over recent days. Bec is likely to start back at her nursing 1 or 2 days per week when we return although she is primarily focused on her full time role, as keeper of the house and all things family. Despite the opportunity to expand into other areas it is clear to both of us that Bec loves being a mum and loves the opportunity to be at home and look after us all. We all realise that she has an absolute talent for this and our kids (and me) are certainly better for it. I imagine Bec will venture into some form of counselling or therapy work as the kids get older and she is loving her research into building strong and happy families and sharing her own personal growth experience with others is something I am sure she will put to good use in time. As a family we are very excited about returning home to start our vegetable patch. We have resisted up until this point due to our travels but having watched Kosta's odyssey on SBS last night we are all very pumped up about getting our vegie patch going again. For me professionally, I am committed to rebuilding my people development business having taken my eye off the ball for a while and feeling absolutely drained of energy it is time to crank things up again. I am also starting to build a vision for what I would like to achieve with my life and the work we have all done at Grace Agape in India is hopefully just a start. I want to make an impact on the safety, health and education of kids and I want this to be significant. In this day and age it is unthinkable that hundreds of millions of kids are deprived of an education, that kids are exposed to wars and violence and that thousands of children every day are dying from things like diarrhoea. How to make a difference that counts, that is the challenge. What this ultimately will look like I am not sure but our work in India has provided an example of what is possible with help from friends and family. I am likely to head to Africa for work in 2011 and I have a feeling that this might provide us with our next opportunity, stay tuned for more details.

Not long now until the Harry's arrive. The kids have been counting down the days and it will be great to have the crew all back together again. We plan to spend the first couple of nights in the camper which should be cosy and a lot of fun and then we have rented a house outside of Byron Bay. Signing out for now, Nick Bec, Indy, Maggie and Gus.



Monday, June 7, 2010

Pushing though the K’s

We have made it all the way through to Yeppoon a town just out of Rockhampton after two fairly long drives, the first from Cairns to Airlie Beach (9 hours or 600km) and then to Yeppoon (6 hours or 500km). On our last day in Cairns we visited Karunda and boarded the sky rail trip which took us over and through the rainforests to Cavonika lakes. It was an incredible experience and the kids had a great time. Bec had a few wobbles on a couple of the high points, particularly when the carriage would grind to a halt and we were floating what seemed like a mile above the rainforest floor. The waterfalls were incredible and considering it was the dry season I can only imagine what it must look like in the wet. Popsy took the car and met us at the bottom which ended up saving us quite a bit of money as the round trip ticket was quite expensive. We decided to head into Palm Cove for a bite of lunch which was only 20k's from our location and a nice drive. Palm Cove is one of those idyllic esplanades with all the up market hotels and day spas and very nice restaurants. We decided to head to Nunu's for lunch, one of mum's favourites and had a lovely meal. For a change Gus was quite well behaved at the lunch and we all had the opportunity to enjoy our meal and the food was very nice. After lunch and the inevitable icecream stroll along the esplanade we headed back to Sue and Erics for an evening of homemade Pizzas and a few hands of tropical scoppa. The next morning Indy and I got up at 5.30am to take Jen and Nick to the airport before returning to say our goodbyes to Sue and Eric, pack up and head for Townsville. Sue and Eric had a lovely home and they were very generous hosts who went to a great deal of trouble to ensure we all had a lovely stay. At their home we saw these amazing green tree frogs that had made their home in the eaves of their home, there was also a beautiful little bird that made this incredible nest hanging from the clothesline. It looked more like something that had washed up on the beach than a nest bit there was at least one little baby in the nest and the mother constantly coming back to feed it. Gussy also enjoyed the baby lizards running around the ceilings and all of the kids loving having the two beautiful golden retrievers Harry and Topie to play with. It was interesting reflecting on life back in a house and both Bec and I thought we would love getting out of the camper and into a real bed in a real house but strangely we missed Cammie and were excited about getting back on the road and back into our camper. That isn't to say we didn't enjoy being at Sue and Erics because we had a lovely time with them and ofcourse with Nanna and Poppa but this trip was about being on the road and having some freedom and we were all very excited about getting that sense of freedom and adventure back again. What we weren't excited about was the 1700km drive back to the sunny coast.

We decided just to head to Townsville, about 5 hours away and stay for at least one night. On the drive Bec is doing reno's on the road. Whilst we are away we are having our dilapidated kitchen replaced and our bathroom that we are unable to use because of dodgy tiling replaced. Fortunately we have an awesome housesitter and a very friendly and capable builder working together to get all of this done while we are away. Having slaved through two renovations in the past few years we certainly understand the value of getting this all done whilst we are away and being able to walk back into a renovated home when we get back. We also had the bank change over our credit cards while we are away and the first we found out about this was when our card was declined at the store. Fortunately Maree our housesitter sent the cards up to Cairns and we were right to go again. We had to however redo all of our direct debits that Bec had painstakingly set up before we left as all of this had also declined for the month. Anyway it all gave Bec something to do on the drive. The kids for the most part have been so good on the drives, it is not all that much for them but they have been excellent and aside from a couple of meltdowns towards the end of our long drives they have been great. The other activity Bec usually does whilst we are on the drive is to find us a place to stay. We decided on Rowes Bay caravan park which looked like a very nice spot in the brochure. As we pulled up we noticed the pool was being repaired and not available, the sites were dirt, not grass and the whole place had a very average feel about it. One drive through the park and we were back asking for a refund and off to Bowen. So after 6 hours we decided to push on another 90 minutes to Bowen, a beautiful seaside town south of Townsville. On the way there Bec rang ahead to check availability and to our surprise for the first time on this trip the park was booked out. The grey nomads from down south had arrived on mass and we had no other option than to push on yet further and head back to Airlie Beach to one of the kids favourite spots. We arrived just on dusk and arranged to have the same site we had last time which was nicely tucked away with an ensuite attached, very nice. It was out first night set up and after 9 hours driving we were mainly operating on auto pilot. Whilst it was a long drive we knew we had covered a lot of ground today and were well on our way to getting back down south. We decided to stay for three nights after our long drive and let the kids relax a little before our next drive. We spent a day heading in to the airlie beach lagoon, this massive lagoon style pool on the esplanade which was great fun for the kids. The rest of the time we spent around the pool, playing mini golf, on the jumping pillow and basically taking it very easy. It was also great to be back in cammie and we had the opportunity to watch our final two episodes of our series Sea Change. Having sat through 3 series and about 3o episodes this was quite an event and the crew were all disappointed to see the end of our much loved series. It was quite special to be watching this series as we were in the midst of our own mini sea change!

We really are quite excited about moving on from North Qld, whilst it was great to do and to show the kids it is not really our sort of place. Between the midgys, the crocodiles and stingers, the beaches you can't swim in, the lack of a couple of seasons in their calendar (only dry and wet), and the huge distances involved in travelling up here we were reminded of how lucky we are to live in a beautiful town like Mt Martha. When we left on this trip we were really not sure what the result would be. Would we want to live and work overseas, live in one of the towns we encountered on our travels, return to Middleton or head home to Mt Martha. Over the past couple of weeks things have slowly started to become clear for us and we are enjoying every minute of what life is providing for us currently as well as feeling like we have a plan for the future. As always with us it is a work in progress but it is very satisfying to see the plan start to come together. We are reminded constantly of just how fortunate we are to have found a place like Mt Martha to live and we are becoming more excited about heading home at the end of our trip. It has been an incredibly exciting 18 months for us but also a time when we have been very unsettled. Leaving Middleton was an incredibly difficult experience for us for lots of reasons and it is only now that we are starting to really start to look forward. For the first time in a long time I have curbed the need to constantly be travelling and spend most nights of the week at home. I am building new plans for my business and Bec and I are building plans for a business we want to develop together and we are excited about building our charity and continuing to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged kids. We are committed to ensuring Indy and Mags get very settled in their schooling and are likely to enrol Maggie at Toorak from 2011 or 2012, a couple of years earlier than what we were planning, and we believe this will be a great opportunity for Mags. Bec is so excited about being able to nest, build what she calls an authentic home for all of us and make it our own. Our place in Mt Martha is certainly doesn't have the grandure of Middleton, or the beach views but is has a heap of character, is a really funky little place and makes an impact on anyone who visits. We also back on to a beautiful nature reserve, surrounded by amazing trees and greenery and only a short walk to one of the most beautiful little beaches in the bay. After all of the travel we have been lucky enough to do in the last few years we are now looking forward to getting home and putting down our roots and just settling, focussing on the kids schooling and activities and building our life in Mt Martha. It feels good to be arriving at a stage in our lives when we are now ready to look forward and plan for the future. Middleton was probably my favourite place on earth, I loved the beach, I loved our house, I loved the early days there when we lived in our little 2 bedroom place, it was also where I grew up as a kid with heaps of special memories and I enjoyed our life of being what was basically semi-retired. Middleton for a time allowed us to catch our breath and create some space and meet some wonderful people. Bec and I have never had so many friends as we had in Middleton. We needed that space in our lives for a period but we always worried about our work options and also what opportunities were available for our kids and knew that inevitably they would need to move away from home at sometime for either school, university of work. That is one of the considerations of where we are now, plenty of schooling options, unis and opportunities for work for both us and the kids. We miss our family and friends from Middleton but we are also not that far away from our friends and family in Adelaide and this allows us still to keep in close contact which will be even easier when we get home and settle into a bit more of a normal routine. Bec and I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and for lots of reasons our life has taken a series of turns that has provided us with the motivation and opportunity to travel overseas, to have the courage to go on this amazing journey and to move and establish a base in Mt Martha. This trip was about refocussing, reenergising and finding a path forward to the future for all of us. We believe that we are finding that path now and that life has some wonderful opportunities in store for us when we return home. We are also excited about spending some time with our friends and family in Melbourne when we get home.

On our final morning in Airlie Beach we awoke and pondered about whether to stay on another evening or not. What was really on our mind is the stretch we aptly named the 'suicide stretch'. Basically from Airlie beach to Noosa, nothing but sugar cane and bitumen for about 1200kms. The thought of packing up was a little difficult to process, but after some breakfast and a coffee we were up and away. The beauty of the ensuite is the kids can have a shower together while we are packing up and also Bec and I get a quick shower in after packing up and heading off on the road clean and fresh. So off we go again, this time hoping to make it all the way to Yeppoon. On the way we stopped at a park in Mackay for lunch and a play at the park and pushed on to Yeppoon. For the second time on this trip we were playing with our petrol supplies and watching the distance to location and the kilometres of fuel left. There was only a few kilometres in it and we were down to our final 20kms of fuel when the service station appeared just short or Yeppoon on the horizon and we were able to stock up again and finally make it to our destination. Having just arrived last night the town looks very nice and after our homeschool this morning we plan to head in and have a look around. The park we are in is very nice and set on about 130 acres of fairly lush grassland and tropical trees. We went for a nice walk this morning, Indy is doing her project on Buddhism and Maggie is doing some spelling with Bec. Gus is driving his cars around the camp kitchen. Every day we say a little thankyou for how lucky we are to be on this trip and have this very special time together. Well time to get the kids out and head into town, that's all for now…..Nick, Bec and the crew.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reaching the Halfway Point

Leaving Mooloolaba seems like a long time ago now as I sit here typing this blog in Cairns. We travelled the 1680km and finally arrived in Cairns on Sunday to meet with Jen and Nick and have a few days out of the camper at Sue and Eric's lovely home in Edgehill in Cairns. Last time I wrote we were on the verge of ticking off one of our 'bucket list' items, visiting the Great Barrier Reef. We headed out at 7am by courtesy bus to the marina where our large cruise ship was awaiting to take us out to the reef. On boarding the ship we all rushed quickly to the top deck (of three decks) to get what we imagined would be the prize spot to sit. It was a beautiful view from the top deck as we slowly meandered through the marina and out of the harbour of airlie beach heading for hook reef. Once clear of the marina the captain put his foot down and fired up the large engines and we were off. Our prize location quickly became a very windy and very cold spot to sit and we all ventured back down in to the lounge deck for morning cuppas and to hear a little more about our journey. The trip to the reef was to take 3.5 hours via daydream and hayman islands and one other resort before landing at the pontoon on hook reef. On the way out there the crew briefed us on what activities were available to us to experience. If we were prepared to pay for it we had the option of a helicopter ride over the reef, a massage, a guided snorkel tour and a scuba dive. Bec and I reviewed all of the options and decided we would give the girls a guided snorkel tour and Bec and I would do a scuba dive. Remember this is the girl who was terrified of snorkelling only a matter of weeks ago now signing up to go up to 6 metres below sea level on a scuba dive. We had a briefing on the ship which was a bit of a challenge with Gus clearly not interested in what the gentleman was trying to explain but we managed to get the gist of it. While we were receiving the briefing the girls were visited by the onboard marine biologist who sat with the girls for quite some time answering all of their questions and pointing out some facts about the reef and what to look for when they go snorkelling.

We had some morning tea on the trip and did our best to evade the oncoming sea sickness, the girls were fine but tired after the early start. After what seemed like an eternity we finally saw in the distance the pontoon appear like a mirage on the horizon. There was an immediate buzz in the cabin as people started jumping up to get a headstart and get on board. We were very fortunate only to have about 50 people on board a ship that caters for over 300! Bec and I had received our scuba dive times, unfortunately we had to go at separate times due to having Gus on board. We arrived at the pontoon and immediately went on the submerged boat to have a tour of the reef. After this the girls went on the glass bottom boat and I went for my scuba dive. The dive was pretty exhilarating, the fear of doing something you have never tried before combined with the obvious lack of skill and experience should something go wrong down there. We got our stinger suits on, our tank, flippers and goggles and heading down the stairs into the scuba chamber to have a quick briefing and test session before heading out down to the reef. The dive went for about 30 minutes and was amazing to get down below and see what happens under the surface. The reef had been quite badly damaged by a recent cyclone and the overall visibility was relatively poor but nevertheless the whole experience was one that Bec and I had wanted to do for a long time. It was amazing. After I returned Bec was pretty much straight into her dive and went through the whole routine. She had a few nervous moments waiting for her instructor and another nervous diver who eventually pulled out after several attempts to get started. I think this probably helped Bec take the focus of her own worries as she watched this poor lady battle her fears. Bec was a champion as always and handled the dive like a seasoned professional, coming out of the water with a smile from ear to ear. Meanwhile the girls who had spent their whole time going up and down the on board water slide had to get ready for their guided snorkel tour. They were very excited and had a lovely young girl take them out to the reef with their snorkels, goggles and flippers on. They had a great time and learnt a lot about our precious reef. The water was a bit choppy, the wind quite cool and the visibility average but the day was still a day to remember and one that we were very excited to have had the opportunity to experience. We packed up our gear and boarded the boat for the long road home. The crew put on the movie Nemo which kept Gus quiet for most of the way home as Indy stretched out on the couch upstairs and took a little nap.

The next few days in Airlie Beach were fairly quiet and recovering from our big tour of the reef. The park was good for the kids and they enjoyed the water slides, the park, the mini-golf and the outdoor movies. We packed up cammie and decided to push up towards Townsville. We made pretty good progress and upon arriving in Townsville decided to stop for a quick lunch and stretch stop and then head on to Mission Beach. All up it was a 6.5 hour drive, our longest yet but we were pleased to get the distance covered and to pull up at Mission Beach. As always the internet images filled us with great expectations of what we were to experience. The park was set on the beach only a road width away from the beach. The park had some good facilities for the kids and overall the park was fine. The beach was beautiful except for the fact that you couldn't swim there due to the presence of crocs and stingers. Mission Beach is famous for the presence of the Cassowary. All the way in on the drive are signs asking people to slow down and warning of cassowary crossings. After several days with not so much of a sniff of a cassowary we thought it was all a big conspiracy to lure in the unknowing tourist. We spent a day heading out to Tully and visiting the large golden gumboot. On a flight several years ago I was fortunate enough to see the documentary on the making of the gumboot which was a seachange meets grass roots (both ABC television series) documentary of a small town trying to make an impact on the tourist market. It was very funny and provided a special flavour to the visit to Tully. The gumboot stands over 6 metres tall and represents the highest amount of rainfall experienced in one year in Tully. We were able to walk up the gumboot to the top and look out, it was good fun. We also decided to go for a drive to Tully Gorge about 50 kms out of Tully. It was quite a drive but well worth it. Tully Gorge national park was an amazing sight with this massive wall of water meandering down amongst the rocks and trees. After spending some time on the coast it was refreshing to see a natural freshwater spot like this which was just beautiful.

As we drove back to Mission Beach we had nearly arrived when out of the corner of my eye I saw it, they mythical creature, the never to be seen Cassowary. It was slowly walking along a driveway with its two young birds in tow. Bec, like Peter Parker jumped out of the car still moving and ran into the bushes after the cassowary camera at the ready. She managed to get some photos and we had our cassowary experience, quite unexpected. The next day for homeschool Maggie wanted to research the cassowary to find out a bit more about it. It turns out that they are quite rare in Northern Queensland and were in fact badly affected by motor vehicle deaths, hence all the signage. They are apparently one of the most dangerous birds alive having even killed a 16 year old boy. The boy happened to be trying to beat it to death with a club when the bird in defence cut his throat with its very large and sharp claw. The boy died from his injuries. They are also very protective of their young and it was advised to keep your distance. Fortunately for us our naivety didn't cause us any damage and we survived our cassowary experience, more luck than good judgement. Peter Parker always gets her shot though, even risking life and limb to get it!

We met up with a family from the UK who we had been running in to at several places on our trip (one mile beach, Emerald Beach, Airlie Beach and now Mission Beach), they assured us they were not stalking us. The kids were building a good friendship and we asked if they wanted to join us for a bbq that evening. We had a lovely night and the kids had a great time. Stef and Clare and their kids were nice people and we all had a good time together. The next day it was time for us all to push on. We did the usual photo taking and sharing of details and we were off to Cairns. Mission Beach was okay but really didn't make a huge impact on us as an experience. Tully Gorge was a cracker and I think next time we would choose to stay in the National Park there. Because of our efforts to push up to Mission Beach we only had a short drive in to Cairns that day. We timed our trip to arrive at Sue and Eric's just after Jen and Nick got in from their flight and everything worked to plan. Eric had prepared a nice late lunch for us and we all had a great time catching up. That night we slept in a real bed and were glad not to have to set up and pack up cammie for a few days. The next day we ventured down the esplanade at Cairns which despite the lagoon being closed for maintenance there was more than enough activity to keep all of us entertained for the afternoon. The following day we all had a quiet day, Gus was overdue a good sleep and the girls were getting tired after their late night 'Barry Evil' exploits with Popsy and tropical scoppa marathon. We have a couple more days in Cairns before turning and slowly heading for home. Bye for now, Nick, Bec and the crew.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

UP, Up We Go……

We have just pulled into Airlie Beach this morning and it has been an interesting ride up the coast of central Queensland. Mooloolaba was a great stop providing us the opportunity to catch up with old friends and visit all of our favourite parts of the Sunshine Coast. We ate out at our favourite restaurants including having a real iced coffee at the Baked Poetry café in Peregian and then on to Aromas for lunch in Hastings Street Noosa. Our spot in Mooloolaba was near perfect and absolute beachfront. Unfortunately our neighbour parked himself all of two metres from our caper and chain smoked for the final four days of our stay which was very disappointing. The clean fresh air was not quite the same and poor little Gussy had to endure smoke coming into his bed day and night. Needless to say we ended up spending a lot of time getting out and about including some special beach walks. At one stage the girls packed their backpack with supplies including first aid, sleeping bag, hammer, binoculars amongst other items and headed down to the beach for a 'woman vs wild' experience. They collected dead crabs to eat, found a small cave to set up camp and made a fire to sit by. Aren't kids and their imaginations just fascinating to watch? The girls have been doing well with their homeschool, in fact Maggie has finished her year 2 maths work and her teacher has put her up to year 3 maths for the remainder of our time, she feels very special! Indy went on to her college website and downloaded a heap of work from her teacher which sent her head spinning for a few days. True to form though Indy sat down and planned her way forward. We had a nice evening with our friends Gary and Judy having drinks by the beach before being joined by Amber and Corey for pizzas and an opportunity for a catch up. Judy and Amber are both very close friends of ours and we have so many special memories of our time with them up here. Our final night we headed over to the Westys and the kids disappeared upstairs for the night while Gus was in boy heaven with the biggest box of cars and trains you have ever seen. The three Westy boys had accumulated good supplies over the years and Gus took full advantage. Dave and Dan cooked us up some roast ckicken and vegies which was very thoughtful given we haven't had an oven cooked meal for some time, we had a great night. We offloaded our surfboards and guitars at the Westys to lighten the load a little and packed for the trip up to Cairns. As we were leaving Mooloolaba we drove past the road sign which read over 1600km to Cairns. We plugged in Mt Martha into the GPS which said 1800 km to home. It was quite sobering to realise just how far we had come yet we still had so far to travel.

Our first stop we pushed up past Bundaberg to a small beach side town called Bargara. We were in a park just off the beach which was ok, probably quite nice but compared to what we were used to it seemed a little average. Unfortunately Gus had surrended to the lurgy and was quite unwell. We went to the doctors for an assurance that there was nothing serious and got the all clear to proceed. I unfortunately had a bit of work to do, a tender for an important client, that took up some time and we ended up in Bundaberg couriering it to Victoria before moving on up the coast. We made it all the way to Rockhampton for our next stop. Again a pretty average stop in a large regional centre. Park was ok, pools were very cold and another trip to the doctors, this time for antibiotics for Gus. Getting the medicine was one thing, getting it into the little man was proving a whole other challenge. He is at that stage now where if he doesn't want to do something he just won't do it. We tried talking to him, bribing him, roughing him up, nothing was working. In the end he just got so sick that at one point he just laid back and took his medicine. From that point forward he behaved and within a matter of a day or two he was back on his feet and looking much better. We had a hit of tennis and a swim in the pool before packing up and heading on again. You will notice the descriptions getting shorter as the places are getting less interesting as we go. After two fairly average stops we were hoping for something a little special. Bec had discovered a little spot called Cape Hillsborough national park which was a little off the beaten track but took us out of the next regional centre just past Mackay and back to the coast. We weren't sure what to expect, but again that is the great part of this trip, just rocking up with fingers crossed and seeing what you get. Well thankyou God, this was a cracker of a spot. Again we were right on the beach with just such a beautiful aspect. It was highly tidal so in the morning the sand goes on forever and then at other points in the day the tide comes in and the beach all but disappears. There were millions of tiny crabs on the beach that spent the day rolling these little balls of sand which after a few hours covered the entire beach, it was quite a sight. the tide comes in and the beach all but disappears. There were millions of tiny crabs on the beach that spent the day rolling these little balls of sand which after a few hours covered the entire beach, it was quite a sight. It was very special to be back on the beach and back to our routine of morning cuppas walking on the beach letting Gus run free as far as he wanted to.

Yesterday was a special day being Maggie's 8th birthday. Indy went to a lot of trouble decorating the camper and we all made an extra fuss of Mags given she had no family or friends at her party and we had no phone reception so she didn't get her usual birthday calls from all of her admirers. We woke up to pressies on the bed and then Indy made Mags her breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup and salt and vinegar chips on the side, just the way she likes it. We went out for a beach walk and were hoping to cross the causeway to a little island called Orchid Island only to find that the tide had come in and there was no longer a causeway. No bother, we just turned North and headed the other way along the beach exploring the coast. Indy found a large rock formation just in the water and proceed to take her and Maggie up to the top (refer the photo). It was actually quite high and Indy remarked on the way down that this was the "amazing experience of her life". The park had a very nice pool which we took full advantage of as the girls were given a day off of homeschool for Maggie's birthday. We couldn't bake a cake for Mags but put together a cake made up of lamingtons and snow mallows which was a definite hit. After a few party games and lunch we decided to try the causeway to Orchid Island in the afternoon with the tide abating. Once we got to the causeway we realised it was not going to be an easy walk. With no shoes on Indy and I we tried to walk on the pile of rocks that was the bridge to the island only to find many of them covered in oyster shells. Whilst carrying Gus I lost my footing a little and as I reached for balance and put my foot down I sliced the bottom of my foot on several oyster shells and our adventure to Orchid Island was over. Still we enjoyed a long and quiet stroll along the beach back to our camper. There were some beautiful shells to find as well as this gold fleck in the sand that was quite unique. Gus has got into a habit of rock throwing at the moment which is not a real problem except for two things, one he likes to throw them at our car, and two he sometimes throws them straight up in the air which also means they come straight down from the air. On the way back he did one of his big throws, straight up and down and on his head producing a nice little egg on his head for his troubles. Indy and Mags grabbed a container for their sand crab catch and we all made the leisurely stroll back to the camper. That evening we enjoyed the fish and chips put on by the park managers and Mags chose one of her favourite movies for us to watch. During the movie Mags fell asleep and proceeded to snore her way through the final stages of the movie and her birthday. Needless to say she had a wonderful day and Indy was the perfect big sister, who even presented Mags with a voucher for 5 favours (including hugs and kisses if required). It was a great day.

The park was a good one, frequented by the usual evening visits from the bats, several kangaroos (one that thought it was a dog lying out the front of someone's caravan dead to the world asleep, very cute), wasps (including a nest not far from our camper), crabs, hermit crabs, a very inquisitive possum and a very cute little green tree frog. This morning on our final morning we went for one last long and slow stroll (or should I say limp) along the beach. As we were down there (tide out this time) three kangaroos came hopping down to the water's edge. Two of them were obviously vying for pack position and proceeded to spar on in front of us as we enjoyed their company. Here we were just Bec, Gus and I and three kangaroos on this long stretch of beach, it was quite beautiful. This stop was just what we needed after several long drives and a couple of average stops. We are on a bit of a mission getting up to Cairns and this is the most driving we have done with the most number of short stops and it is getting to be a bit of a grind. This stop was just what we needed though. This morning we packed up and fortunately only had a short drive of about 130kms from Cape Hillsborough to Airlie Beach. As usual there are the grey nomads cruising around Australia at 75km an hour, quite dangerous really. At one point we saw coming in the other direction one nomad with about 6 semi trailers, 4 caravans and about 10 cars banked up behind it. I am not sure why they haven't learnt the art of pulling over to let the traffic by, it isn't that hard. We will often pull across to the side, slow down a few k's and let the cars go by, it takes all of the stress out of the drive for everybody. Anyway we have decided to stay at a big 4 park to give the kids a few activities to do (waterslides, jumping pillow, mini golf, outdoor cinema etc) and we have also gone for the ensuite site. The ensuite site, equipped with our very own toilet and shower is like heaven after you have endured the long night walks to the toilet and stood lining up for your shower at night. The kids love being able to go to the toilet at any time and have their own shower. We had a quick drive into the town this morning and it looks amazing, with a large lagoon for the kids to enjoy and an amazing marina. We are looking at booking a trip out to the reef in the next couple of days which should be very special and something we are really looking forward to. We will stay here for 3-4 nights before pressing on to Townsville and then Cairns. It will be great to spend a few nights here, kids are happy, no driving and get to see the reef. After all the reef is a big part of why we have made the journey up here. We are planning to go by boat to knuckle reef on a cruiser that hooks up with a pontoon, has a waterslide for the kids, has snorkelling, viewing chambers in the boat and lunch and other snacks provided through the day. We can't wait. The weather is a very pleasant 27 degrees and calm. That's all for now, talk with you soon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Heading to an old favourite….

As I sit and type this blog I look out the back of the annexe through our window and we are five metres to the sand and about twenty five metres to the water. There is nothing between us and the incredible Mooloolaba beach and we can sit and have our morning cuppa and watch the kids play in the rockpools below our camper. We have stayed in some beautiful places on the trip so far but none can top the beach frontage of the Mooloolaba beach caravan strip. In this blog you will find we have experienced great friends, great waves, changes in travel plans, Nick trying to be a real man (which ofcourse you all know that I am not) the dreaded lurgy and death threats! That should be enough to keep you interested for a few extra paragraphs, this one is a real page turner. About a week ago we left our friends the Woodsys and their little patch of paradise at Emerald Beach and headed up to Ballina, just south of the Qld border to meet up with our friends the Westys. Our departure from Emerald went quite smoothly and we arrived in Ballina to a near empty park and what ended up being a great site to stay. We arrived a day earlier than just about everybody else which gave us a chance to experience the beauty of Ballina before the park filled to capacity due to a Qld long weekend. It literally went from empty to full in 24 hours with a park full of long weekend revellers. Our site was situated just above the Westys site and their friends so was perfect for all. Upon arriving in Ballina though we ventured into our first experience of an unpowered site, much to Maggie's disgust, no TV for 5 days. As we were setting up in the late afternoon we went to turn on our solar power for our lights and nothing happened, another problem on a fairly long list of failures with our new Jayco van. As we chased the sunset to end of day Bec rushed out to see what she could do only to call a little later saying light the candles she had no luck finding any supplies. As I was finalising the set up the girls were inside setting up candles and torches and eeking out the last of the laptop battery watching a movie keeping Gus entertained. The girls were enjoying the adventure. Fortunately though at her last stop a kind lady offered to show her to a place where she could find some lamps for us which was good given it gets pretty dark at night when you have no lights, funny about that! The girls were actually disappointed when Bec returned with lamps and wanted us to pretend we had no lights. Unfortunately little man had caught the lurgy and had a very high fever although with true Gusto it was only to last 24 hours before he was again running through rockpools naked looking for nip nips (crabs). We finalised our set up and enjoyed our chickpea stew by candlelight in the annexe and all was well.

The following morning we headed out to the shops to let everyone have some space as they arrived to set up. We returned to find the Westys all set up and ready for a great weekend. It was great to see the guys and this was a perfect setting for a family catch up. Soon enough the kids were off and playing and we all had a chance to settle in and catch up. Over the past couple of weeks I have been working on my beer drinking abilities with Joe and thought I would put it to the test with Westy. Having seen his esky full with Tinnys for the weekend I decided it was high time I went out and grabbed myself an esky which I promptly did and filled it with a carton of beer topped up with ice. This was my weekend to drink myself an esky full of beer and prove myself to be a real man! Well high hopes fell well short of expectations which I am sure will be no surprise with my best effort being about 3 beers in a sitting, maybe four at a push and at the end of the weekend there was more full bottles than empties, an absolute failure by anyone's measure. The surf was incredible at Ballina, so too were the crowds and I took my time getting in to the water. Over the weekend I became more confident and ended up having some great waves. Great to see Dan and Dave and the kids, it has been a while and we really enjoyed our time with them. Dave has a new dragon tattoo on his arm which Gus thought was fantastic and he spent the whole weekend referring to Dave as Dragon Man and running around saying 'I want one' referring to the tattoo. The park was filled with wild turkeys who were chased around the park all weekend by our pack of kids, who looked more like a hungry angry mob. Between all of the families I think we had 14 kids, so you can imagine the pack of them running after these poor bush turkeys. On the first night we were the first to light our fire so we became the home base and where there is fire and marshmallows there will be children and so we became very popular campsite. Between that many kids a bag of mallows doesn't stand a chance.

On the Sunday evening it was clear the park was starting to liven up with the noise levels increasing, unfortunately in the site right next to ours. The couple next to us, who for the whole weekend up to this point had been quiet, respectful and friendly decided it was time to let their hair down (ironic seeing that he was bald) and with a few friends over drank well into the next day. Ofcourse their drinking area was all of about 3 metres from where Bec and Gus were trying to sleep. It doesn't end there ofcourse, at about 1.30am I heard this very loud yelling with one man accusing another man of going into his girlfriend's tent. The language was very loud and very colourful albeit also very offensive. Just as they arked up I heard Bec unzip the window and started to tell the men what she thought of them, as I suggested that might not be a good idea given their state of intoxication Bec worked this out and stopped mid sentence and let them have their stoush. It was one of those moments where you just sit there waiting to hear the inevitable progression into a fist fight and knowing that you are about to hear one of the worst sounds there is, a fist hitting another person's head. The yelling went on for some time, fortunately no fist fight followed. What did follow though was our once quiet neighbour starting to threaten in very loud and aggressive language to get in his car and start driving through tents, getting his knife out to stab people with and getting out his baseball bat to bash people with. He then went on to abuse his friend who we thought was the girl he was actually looking to protect in the first place. All the while the security guard was apparently on site doing very little to calm the situation down. After some time of yelling, swearing and threats our neighbour settled down and took a quick nap before getting up to play his blues music and brag about his antics on his mobile phone until about 4.30 in the morning. Needless to say Gus was very unsettled and Bec and I wouldn't have slept more than an hour or two for the night. The next morning we reported the whole thing to the park manager who apparently had the security guard's report which said he warned the site about noise at about 11.30 am, that was it. As I later found out from Bec we think the security guard may have been enjoying a few drinks with our neighbours throughout the evening so was in some way implicated in the whole debacle. Anyway Wayne the camp manager walked up to our neighbour and said he had 30 mins to pack up and get out of the park or he would pack them up himself. As he was packing up he made a feeble attempt at trying to explain to Bec that he was simply trying to protect his girlfriend, no apology and a very shoddy attempt. You can imagine Bec's response which was short and sharp as she reminded him that she actually heard every word he said and that it was disgraceful. Not much of an evening but ofcourse all good blog material!

By Monday the park starting emptying pretty quickly and we had the fortune to be able to sit back and just watch everyone leave and head back to normal life. It was again a reminder of just how fortunate we are and we enjoyed not having to head back to work just yet. That afternoon we decided to start our pack up to make things a little easier in the morning so I packed the annexe walls and the pantry. That evening there was only about half a dozen sites being used and we enjoyed the quiet and freedom that an empty park can provide. We set our fire, played spotlight with the bats flying above, witnessed a couple of shooting stars in the clear evening sky and had a nice piece of steak for dinner. As I headed to bed I left Indy and big Mama by the fire rugged up and enjoying their evening. A little later the girls came into bed and a few minutes later, really from nowhere, the rain started. Not a few drops but a torrent of rain that proceeded to fall for the next 18 hours of our journey. By morning thanks to the fact that I had packed the annexe walls everything was drenched and Bec and I proceeded to do a rain pack up, the worst of all. There was no let up with the rain and we decided to push on regardless, packed the camper and headed north to the Sunshine Coast. We decided to skip Stradbroke Island and continue to push up north to ensure we make it all the way to Cairns. The Westys agreed that we could all head to Straddie on our way back down the coast so we won't be missing out. On the way we worked through our options, Maroochydore, Coolum or Mooloolaba. Bec was very keen on Mooloolaba and gently persuaded us all on its merits and sure enough she was spot on, Mooloolaba strip is a cracker of a place and we will post a few photos on our blog in the next few days to give you an idea of just how great a spot this is. In many ways coming up here to the sunny coast is like coming home. This is the place where in some ways Indy grew up as we spent many wonderful trips up here with great friends, great work and great experiences. Yesterday Bec and I awoke with the lurgy but didn't let is stop us from enjoying the surf at Alex headlands followed by a great brunch at our favourite little spot Raw Energy. As we were enjoying our brunch Gus quietly proceeded to demolish Bec and my smoothy and we didn't think too much of it at the time. The girls went for a shop and I took Gus back for his day sleep. Usually Gus is like clockwork with his sleep, give him his dummy and put him in bed and off he goes, not today. He gradually wound himself up to an above normal hyperactive state, bouncing around on the camper bed and putting on a real show with eyes absolutely wired. We think there must have been something in the smoothy that was akin to red bull and Gus was riding the high! An hour or so later he crashed back to earth and slept like a baby but we enjoyed the show for the time it was on. In the afternoon Maggie and I went for a run, she was determined to do it and did pretty well as we ventured along the coast running track. Back for showers and out for Augellos pizza at the park and watched the fire twirlers on the beach and listened to the bongo drums by the shore. Another great experience to remember. So life goes on as we head up the coast on our pilgrimage to North Queensland. The weather on the sunny coast is living up to its name with beautiful sunny days and great waves. Indy has just cooked up a batch of pancakes and Bec is expecting her morning coffee so it is time to say goodbye for now.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Equator Bound…….

We are currently in Coffs Harbour, Emerald Beach to be exact. We had a great time at our last spot at One Mile Beach. The weather was beautiful everyday and our morning walks on the beach were the highlight of each day and set the scene for the hours ahead. Maggie's friendship with Kirra drew stronger each day and they were inseparable through their remaining days. Cam and Amanda were a great couple and we spent time each day with them either on the beach or at the park or ofcourse by the pool. On our second to last night Indy was preparing the schnitzels for dinner, Bec, Mags and Gus were just heading down for evening nibbles and drinks with our friends and everything was very relaxing, or at least so I thought. Just as I was sitting taking in the ambience with Indy I heard Bec yelling to me to grab a cloth, Mags was screaming that Gus had hurt himself. As I walked around the camper I saw Bec running to the camper with blood dripping down her shirt with Gus in her arms screaming. As it turned out Gus had been playing on one of his bumps around a corner when all the kids went flying around it on their bikes. Just as Bec yelled out to them to watch out for Gus one of the kids ran straight into him and he went flying through the air. The handle bar hit Gus in the head and split his head open and he was in a state of shock by the time he got to me. Long story short, he was and is fine aside from the small but nasty gash on his head. It was just on sunset and Bec and I had the difficult decision of do we or don't we go to the hospital to get him checked out. We decided not to on the basis that it was going to traumatise the little man more and between the three families on our street we put together all of the first aid materials we needed and with our triage nurse on hand we dealt with the injury in house. We put on some steri strips which seemed to be doing the job and tried to calm Gussie down, he was quite traumatised and just needed to get himself together. Ofcourse every one in the street, including all of the kids needed to come and check in on Gus which whilst very caring did upset him more. After some cuddle time Gus composed himself and was ready to face the world again. Off he went down the street and back into his playtime like nothing had happened. After a little playtime we went back to cammie for dinner and an early night. Unfortunately Gus is a very sweaty little man, on his head, so each time he sweated his steri strips would come off. The mixing of blood and sweat was not helpful and it took some creative first aid from Bec to get it all under control. The next morning Gus woke up giving us a rendition of the event yelling out "Watch out for Gus" "Watch out for Gus" and then followed up with a "bang!" This ofcourse went on and on for some time as he relived the experience to us. When we went out that morning he went up to the bike and went through the whole thing again. No need to worry though as he has bounced back very quickly and aside from what will end up probably to be a fairly decent scar he goes on relatively unscathed.

Whilst at One Mile Beach we had a great morning in the surf with Indy and Maggie taking turns on the Mal to show off their surfing skills. Even Big Mama returned to the surf to show off her old moves, just like riding a bike, she was up and away on her first wave and proceeded to ride the waves like a pro. We had a rotation policy with Gus as I took Nicko's surf school with each of my students. The wave at the point of One Mile Beach provided a perfect little one foot breaking wave for the crew. After surfing we were off to the pool and the small water slide provided endless entertainment for the kids followed by a quick dip in the spa (or bath as Gus called it) to warm up before heading back to the camper. One Mile Beach provided experiences with kookaburras, lorikeets and large goannas or iguanas (I am never sure which is which). It was a great stop and we all had a fantastic time. As always though the time to pack up and move on comes around and we were heading to Crescent Head. We packed the cammie, said goodbye to our new friends and off we went. As we were driving we reviewed the map and decided that we would push on to Coffs Harbour and bypass the stop at crescent Head for a little more time with our friends at Coffs. We decided to stay at Emerald Beach, very near to our old friends Joe and Kellie Woods and their three boys Tom, Noah and Levi. We were also not far from Mick and Trish, another of our old Adelaide friends that have moved up to warmer pastures. Upon arriving Joe walked up from the beach with the boys and we made some plans for the days ahead. Next morning Joe and I headed off for a surf around the corner and then we all caught up for dinner at the Woods house. Whilst we were there we skyped Kerry Gask an old friend of Bec and Kells and it was a full reunion for the old girls who not only had a great friendship in Goolwa but also relived their girls trip together to Coffs several years earlier. The next morning Joe and I decided to get up for the dawn service (with Indy) which we attended at the Woolgoolga RSL, not quite the Auburn service we are used to in SA but glad we made the effort to go and show our respect. As it turned out the surf had dropped away so after the service Joe prepared his boat and he and I went out looking for lunch. Kellie organised my fishing license online that morning and we launched at Emerald Beach and headed out off shore being careful not to drift into the protected sanctuary zone, which proved problematic without a GPS on board. Joe used his best nautical skills to keep us in the right spot, or so we thought!

Anyway the fish were biting and we proceeded to catch a mix of red rock cod (throw backs) and beautiful snapper. All in all we caught about 40 rock cod, all thrown back and 9 snapper. We also each caught a wobigong shark. For me this was the highlight of the session. It took quite a while to pull the shark up and for the most part ofcourse I had no idea what I had on the line but it kept pulling down and put up a huge fight. As it turns out as I was pulling the shark up to the surface to let it go it just opened its mouth and took off. It had actually tried to eat the rock cod that I had caught and actually wasn't hooked, it was just trying to get a feed. As Joe said he will think twice before taking on another rock cod! We had just about finished when we saw a large police boat approaching our position. This boat would have been at home on Sea Patrol, it was massive and pulled up alongside Joe and I in our tinny. They cautioned us about the sanctuary zone and said we were right on the edge, which was fortunate as we had been fishing further out just minutes before. They checked our licenses which again was lucky as I had organised mine that morning. They checked our catch and cautioned Joe on changing his rego over from SA to NSW. All in all it was a major brush up against the law and Joe and I came out unscathed. We packed up shortly after and headed in with our catch much to the surprise of Bec who was used to me coming home empty handed. We headed over to Joe's parents house and had our freshly caught snapper on the bbq with some butter and lemon cooked whole in foil. It was beautiful. Joe very generously gave us the remaining fish which we ended up filleting the next night and cooked in the pan with butter and lemon which again was just beautiful eating. We had a great long weekend with the Woodsys surfing, fishing, playing at the park amongst other things. The kids all got along really well and Bec loved her time catching up with Kellie. We enjoyed seeing the new home of the Woodsys which is a beautiful 2 acres just behind Emerald Beach with an incredible vista and a property which they have put a lot of effort into and is showing some real potential. They have bought well and have a great home for many years to come.

This morning I had a surf out the front at Emerald Beach with my old mate Mick and the kids had a good morning of home school. After our morning coffee we decided to go for a walk around the headlands here which was just beautiful. It was quite a stroll and at the end of the headland we just sat for quite a while and watched a pod of dolphins frolic in the water. There was about 20 of them and they are such graceful creatures. Gussy ofcourse loved to watch the Dolphs! We have made our way home for a swim, Gus is in bed with Indy having his arvo nap, Maggie and Bec are doing some reading and activities and I am finishing my blog. Emerald Beach is a great park and we are right behind the dunes only a short stroll to the beach, constantly visited by the native birds, kangaroos, and large lizards. The 6 nights here have gone very quickly as we prepare to set sail again tomorrow and head up to Ballina in Northern NSW. In Ballina we are spending a few nights with our friends the Westys before heading out to Stradbroke Island which we hear is going to be absolutely beautiful. Life on the road is going fantastically well as we make our way north toward the equator.

Monday, April 19, 2010

In the Swing of it…..

I was just reading my last blog and couldn't believe it was from a week ago. The days at the moment are just blending together and we are pretty much oblivious to what day of the week or month it is, a very nice feeling to endure. Last time I wrote we were in Bendelong and since then we had a couple of nights at Huskisson and then one night in Wollongong before landing now for a 5 night stretch at one mile beach. So we left Bendelong, the surf was dropping out and the girls were ready to move on, so we drove into a town called Huskisson in or near Jervis Bay. We stayed in the local caravan park which in the main was a bit disappointing given our last couple of stops but the town itself and surrounding areas were absolutely beautiful. A short drive from where we were staying was the Jervis Bay national park and we had a day trip out there. Initially we just drove around and weren't really all that inspired until we decided to stop at one of several beach spots in the park. We decided to visit Green Patch. We pulled off the main road and into the car park, jumped out and went for a walk to the beach. You kind of walk down this path with the beach view protected by the large native trees. As we walked through the trees on to the beach we walked onto this beautiful white sand stretched out to amazing beach, clear water and small rocky outcrop. After a short walk along the beach it was decided to grab our bathers, dig in for a while for some scuba diving and beach time. The day before we had noticed a very fishy smell coming from the car and had noticed we had left a bag of shells in the car that we probably shouldn't have. Having removed the shells I was worried to find that the smell had not disappeared and I couldn't work out why. I was worried that the car might have taken on the smell and we would be stuck with it for the rest of the trip. As I ran back to the car to get our bathers I opened the bather box in the car and found the cause of the stink. A couple of the shells we grabbed at depot beach must have had something inside that was now coming out and making its presence felt. The box stank, but fortunately after removing the culprits the smell was gone from the car. Anyway I took all the bathers I could find down to the beach and the snorkel gear. Indy was first to meet me on the beach so she and I went out for a snorkel. Then Bec decided she was up for another round except for the fact that she didn't have much in the way of bathers apart from her rashy top. This ofcourse wasn't going to stop Big Mama and she proceeded to head around the rocks strip down to her undies and her rashy top and in she dove off the rocks. It was ofcourse worth it with hundreds of fish swimming all around us and the water was beautiful. You know though you never quite think these things right through and when we exited the water Bec realised she now no longer had underwear and her bra was wet from swimming. So Big Mama was putting on a bit of a show with Maggie taking photos the whole time, none of these are likely to find their way to the blog though!

At Green Patch we noticed there was camping available in the park which in hindsight probably would have been a preferred choice with the caravan park in the town full of school holiday revellers. Anyway a note for next time that this would be an option for us. We headed back to town for Maggie and Bec to meet up with our friends that we made in depot beach, Lisa and Maddie. Maggie and Maddie are like two peas in a pod and enjoyed playing together. Bec also connected straight away with Lisa and they were like two old friends getting reacquainted. Lisa and her husband Matt run the dolphin and whale watching business in Huskissons and are a lovely family. Lisa and Maddie came over for a Friday night drink and we had some very nice Haloumi with our cold drinks. The kids just ran wild together for ages and all slept well again that night. The next day we pushed on again and headed for a surf leisure resort at Wollongong chasing the promise of a few waves. On the way we drove through 7 mile beach and Gerroa amongst other very nice small towns and in hindsight should have stopped and explored these towns further. We are likely to stop in here on the way home! We drove into Kiama and had a quick look around before pushing on for what I was hoping was going to be a great stop. We arrived in Wollongong after about a 2 hour drive and found our park again a little disappointing. It was on the beach but protected by what Bec called the prison wire all around and there were a few interesting characters walking around the park. We went for a swim and hired some bikes and went for a nice beach ride. Pizza for dinner from crust, very nice and decided one night would do us. Next morning I had a quick surf out the front of the park before we packed up and pushed on for our longest leg yet.

On the way Bec had the laptop on her lap and we were looking to find a good stop to settle in for a few days. We had considered Umina Beach and Norah Heads but pushed on to find a little spot near Nelson Bay called One Mile Beach. It was a real find, Bec did very well. In the end we drove for about 5 hours all up non-stop, the kids did incredibly well. The drove took us right through Sydney inner suburbs which was an experience in itself. The car did a fantastic job and for a driver who had never towed anything more than a trailer up until last year I think I did pretty well navigating the Sydney streets, camper in tow without incident. The whole driving and towing process has so far been without any trouble, touch wood! I think back to when we first picked up the camper and drove for our first stop at Point Leo, just a short drive from home. The park was basically empty and we could have any site we wanted. Bec and I spent at least 45 minutes trying to back in to the site, we couldn't get the camper off the towbar, couldn't set up the annexe, broke the door, couldn't set up the fly bed ends and basically just survived our first night. The Jayco induction undertaken by our young female salesperson went for about 30 minutes and consisted of her very quickly setting everything up and saying okay a lot of times and us just nodding and hoping that we would recall the instructions we had just received. Slowly but surely we picked things up from others in campsites and practice certainly helps. Now driving is very comfortable, the wider mirrors are a great help, backing works very well and we have got ourselves into some very tight sites several times now without a problem. The secret really is as always just take your time, a few deep breaths and don't rush. I have to say I still get nervous towing through heavy city traffic and my heart always jumps a few beats each time we get to a new camp site but we are now much more confident and all works well. Bec and I work like a great team and we pretty much have our routine together now for set up and pack up with now very little stress or bother. Each pack up and set up each takes about 90 minutes so it is a bit of work but we just steadily do what needs to be done and it all works very well. A far cry from our first trip to Point Leo!

It was great to leave Sydney and to keep moving. Now at One Mile Beach we have found a quiet little campground, surf only metres away, a great pool for the kids and a lovely young family a few sites down. The kids have made more friends, both the girls and also Gus has found a little buddy too, another 2 year old boy who loves trucks and bikes and the two of them are pretty much like twins. Bec and I have enjoyed meeting the kids Parents Cam and Amanda and we are really enjoying their company. Always nice when your kids meet up with nice kids with nice parents and we have been so lucky on the trip with the wonderful people we have been meeting along the way. The mornings here are brilliant and Bec and I start each day taking Gus to the beach with our cuppas while the girls slowly gather themselves out of bed. Gus runs free on the beach, dude out running through the waves blonde locks waving in the light morning breeze while Bec and I walk along enjoying yet another beautiful sunrise and share our gratitude for how lucky we feel to be doing this together. Nice to be so in love and being able to share these experiences together. Sorry for the little bit of sentiment but we really are just loving our time together so much and Bec and I are just in such a great space to be doing this trip. She really is a beautiful woman, my wife and I am reminded of this every day when I see her interact with others and see how easily they warm to Bec's personality. I am very lucky to be able to share my life with Bec and we are loving every minute of our time together. We are now really in the swing of the trip and each day life just gets better and better! We are all getting a bit of time doing what we enjoy, the kids are doing well with their homeschool and everyone is sleeping well and loving life in the camper.

I went out for a surf this morning and had a nice 1-2 foot clean wave on the point here with my Mal board. I had it to myself for over an hour before being joined by a few locals. One of them was a nice old guy who has a surf museum in his house here with over 150 boards and memorabilia, he was a very nice guy. Whilst I was enjoying a wave Bec decided to do some washing while the kids were busy homeschooling. Actually Maggie was joined by her friend Kirra and it is the best Maggie has worked the whole trip. I think we have signed Kirra up as study pal for Maggie for the rest of the week. Anyway as Bec was putting the washing in the machine she noticed something moving in the bag. She emptied out the contents of the bag on the lawn and there was nothing in the bag, next thing a pair of my boxer shorts started hopping away along the grass. Sure enough Bec grabbed the shorts and a mouse darted away in to the bushes. Not sure what attracted the mouse to my shorts! After the mouse saga we all headed down to the pool for a long swim. All the kids hanging out together, enjoying the pool slide they have here and running around madly. Gus and his new buddy trying to outdo each other with their dives and slides. Gus at one point was walking over the bridge, under which Indy was swimming. It was an arch bridge so was a few metres above the pool. I instantly could tell what was on his mind and as I ran to grab him he leapt off the bridge and into the pool, fortunately Indy was there to catch him as he popped up out of the water, our little daredevil! Ofcourse this became his favourite trick and was repeated several times before his lips started to turn blue and he had to spend some time in the spa defrosting.

Having heard from friends and family in Adelaide and the early start to Winter we feel doubly blessed by the very mild Autumn days we are enjoying here. Each day is a replica of the last with weather around the mid 20's, up to 27 in the next couple of days. Clear starry nights, calm mornings and cool afternoon breezes, very spoilt. We have decided to take up the offer of pay for 3 stay for 5 here and just rest up for a few days after a few short stops in recent days. The kids are having a great time with their new friends and we are too. This certainly is a beautiful country we live in and we are experiencing some very special places together. As I write, Jack Johnson is playing on the CD, the kids have gone for a swim with their friends, Bec is chatting with Amanda and Gus is running around with his new friend, life is good. From here we will head to Crescent Head or nearby to this before heading up to Coffs Harbour. Love to all our friends and family out there, Nick, Bec, Indy, Mags and Gus.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

See Photos Below

Hi all, Just to let you know we have learnt how to add photos and if you scroll to the bottom of the page you will see a selection of our experiences which we will refresh with each blog, enjoy!

At one with nature…..

It is now Tuesday April 13th and we are very much in to camper life. Having no idea really of the date or what day it is, is always a sign of a great time. We are now not wearing watches and thanks to a no signal zone at our last campsite have become brave enough now to turn off phones and email and just live in the moment. I know it sounds like an obvious thing to do but you just don't realise how these things become such an entrenched part of your life and we have had so many things on the go, it is now time to let go and switch off. Since our last blog we have had an awesome time at Pambula. Each day included a morning of homeschool for the kids, surfing for Dad while Bec and Gussy walked on the beach. The girls then proceeded to campsite activities through the holiday program and then each day ended with either a campfire (marshmallows included) or a movie at the outdoor cinema. Our campfire arrived a few days after we did, as they were originally all booked. This was great. It is one of Bec's favourite things to sit by the campfire playing 20 questions with the kids and just watching the stars. You can just imagine it, Bec sitting there with her now famous quote "I feel at one with nature" this ofcourse as she was sitting sipping her Frank Potts glass of red and sampling her pollo al funghi risotto! Well we were as close to nature as we had been for a long time. The kangaroos at Pambula were amazing, they were everywhere. Every morning Gus would wake up and out he would march to see how many roos were camped outside the camper awaiting his arrival. One morning we were greeted with the surprise of a kangaroo equipped with a baby joey in her pouch, who was continually poking its head out to see what all the fuss was about, only to slip back in to the comfort of its mother's pouch. Each day was pretty much the same which was great. The girls loved their evening movie, we would walk them over to the outdoor cinema with quilts and popcorn and set them up for their movie. They loved it! Each day they had a craft activity and they made finger puppets, sand bottles, card making, woodwork and pencil pots. They entered a mini-golf competition and also hired a little bike buggy and rode around the campsite with Gussy sitting on the front of the bike with Mags and Indy peddling. Little man in his hand me down pink Lady bug helmet ofcourse. As the week ended the park was slowly evacuated until on our final couple of days there were only a handful of people left. I should have known better but as you get more relaxed you don't think too much about the security of your stuff. A nasty surprise on our final morning as I was packing the camper to leave I noticed my surfboard had been stolen. Not a nice feeling to know that someone had been that close and had stolen the board from under our camper. I thought I actually had heard them in the early hours of the morning but didn't think that much of it at the time. Whilst my board was on its last legs it was a favourite and was an integral part of our trip. Hard to be on a surfing safari without a surfboard. Ofcourse this threw the morning into chaos as I hunted around the local surf shops looking for a reasonable second hand replacement, which fortunately I found with out too much bother. The ironic thing was that my board had a crack in it which it had had for a long time and I had just repaired it the night before! Not a great way to end what was a great week all up.

We left Pambula and headed for Depot Beach in the Marramarang National Park in southern NSW. This was a recommendation from one of our neighbours along the way and we were looking forward to it, not that we knew too much about it. On the way Bec and I started to wonder about what the park may or may not have given it was in a National park. We knew we had power but it was only a fleeting thought as to whether or not we had water, as it turned out we didn't. For all the things we didn't have, there were certainly many more things we did have. We were in a small camping ground nestled in the scrub just a few hundred metres from the waters edge. Our site was tucked in between several large trees backing on to the natural scrub of the park. It was quite beautiful and Bec's favourite stop so far. The beach was spectacular with some incredible snorkling opportunities which we made good use of and the evenings were spent sitting by the fire looking up to the stars. The initial response from the girls to the campsite was that we were at the worlds worst boot camp! Cold showers, no facilities, no running water and worst of all no TV! Like any good movie as the days went on the girls fell in love with their surroundings and eventually wanted to stay on when it was time to go. Maggie made a friend in Madeline, our neighbour, we were delivered fresh fish cooked beautifully by our neighbours, and we spent each day walking and swimming in the incredible depot beach. I snorkelled a lot with the kids and we had a great time. I then asked Indy to watch Gus and I took Bec out for a snorkel. I didn't realise it at the time but Bec was terrified at the prospect of going out where she couldn't touch and was swimming over rocks and other things. At the end of her first snorkling experience Bec remarked that she was incredibly liberated as she fell in love with the world of underwater life. The sea was rich with sealife and Bec just loved swimming with the pull of the ocean as the seaweeds would sway with the currents, it was spectacular. Ofcourse on Day 2 when we went out Bec and I ventured out far deeper and explored far more than Bec ever thought she could possibly do. In the end Bec lost herself in the experience and it wasn't until we were back on shore and I told Bec where we actually went did she realise just how far we had ventured, she has just found a new passion! Indy and I had a couple more attempts at fishing and apart from snagging a poor little fish that seemed to have got the hook caught in its fin as we were reeling in we had absolutely no luck. This ofcourse made all the worse on the final day of fishing as we were about to pack up a young kid came over and on his first cast caught a beautiful squid, just not our time! Stay tuned for more fishing updates as we progress. In the morning as the girls wandered back from the toilet and Indy was just waking up I was standing outside our camper and a beautiful rosella came up and landed on the chair in front of me. I grabbed a piece of bread and before I knew it I had at least 20 of the most colourful birds you could ever see on my head, arms and all over the chair in front of me. This was the start of another morning ritual one which the kids absolutely loved. We have some great footage of the kids feeding the birds. A couple of videos of Gus with birds in his hair and flapping around his face, priceless images! Indy enjoyed putting bread on her hood on her head and walking around with the birds feeding on her head. Maggie especially loved her time with the birds, it was quite special, you just can't believe how many of these birds were scattered around our camper! Ofcourse we also had our now expected visits from the local kangaroos, Gussies favourite pets! We also had a vist from a giant iguana at least 3 feet long, several kookaburras and beautiful king parrots. By the end of our time at Depot beach the girls forgot about TV, made some new friends, enjoyed being very close to nature and even got into the spirit of fetching the water. It was an absolutely spectacular spot to spend a few days and we were sorry to leave, even though I didn't surf once. We are also starting to feel more comfortable about staying out of the usual caravan parks and spending more time in the national parks which are just incredible, although Maggie just mentioned not so speak too soon as she is sitting again watching her TV!

We left Depot beach without a specific destination in mind, again a very liberating experience. We knew we were heading to or near to Ulladulla, a surfing Mecca on the coast of Australia, just not sure where. Ulladulla was a bit too built up for our liking so we continued through and headed for Bendalong, a spot off the princes highway, ofcourse on the coast and once again in a national park although this time the amenities are in good supply. The drive was just over 40 minutes all up and we are now in a campsite overlooking the beach from a spot high up on the hill. Again the beach is quite spectacular and we have spent our first day exploring the local beach and rockpools. Bec was spending some time with Gus as Indy, Mags and I went exploring. Bec was recounting to us that she handed Gus a couple of little periwinkle shells and he put them down on the rock together, looked up at Bec and said "Boobaggers" that is gus talk for boobies! I am not sure where he gets that from, couldn't be from me…. The highlight of our walk though was a visit from several very large stingrays only a couple of metres off shore, they were so beautiful and graceful and the kids loved seeing them, Bec got a great photo. Which incidentally is fast becoming another great hobby of Bec's taking great photos, she is becoming quite the photographer! We have a huge site and are set on beautiful green grass, backing on to the lush scrubland that litters the hill above the beach. Ofcourse there was the usual accompaniment of the local kangaroo population a few feet from our camper as we were setting up. It seems we are travelling from one unforgettable location to the next. We ended our day cooking a delicious chickpea stew, cooking outside overlooking the ocean on a clear evening. The weather here has been beautiful, each day seems more perfect than the last, except ofcourse for the lack of swell. Which I am sure we will make up for in due course. We have been inspired by the lack of technology at our site in depot beach and have decided to put the phones away and only check messages and emails from time to time, it actually made quite an impact and allowed us to really relax into the trip, another step in our learning and our unwinding on this journey of ours. With each day that goes by we are reminded of just how special and just how important this trip is for us as a family. We are planning to stay here for a few days and then head on to another national park at Jervis Bay, one of Bec's picks, let's see how we go. Love to all our family and friends, Nick, Bec, Indy Mags and Gus.