Thursday, 30 December 2010


 We arrived in Brisbane at Geoff and Janelle’s place on 17 December - a couple of days earlier than planned - mainly due to the fact that we couldn’t find an affordable place to camp!  It was the beginning of the ‘summer holidays’ so camp sites increased their prices beyond ridiculous.  Thankfully Geoff and Janelle were happy for us to descend on them early - and it was lovely to sleep in a proper bed with a proper bathroom (and bath!) again.  The weather was also a factor - although it’s supposed to be summer - hail storms and heavy rain were beginning to dampen our camping spirits!  (Emma froze a couple of hail stones!)

Janelle and I took to swimming each morning - in the local open air pool - it’s just not normal swimming in an outdoor pool in December!  We’ve managed 60 lengths and have felt really good!  Even when on a couple of mornings it was raining lightly we were still able to swim outdoors. 

Christmas has been really amazing in so many ways …. But it’s just not normal.  And that’s not just us saying that - the Ozzies are continually telling us that things aren’t normal at the moment.   We’d expected - and indeed everyone else was expecting - lovely sunshine and a temperature of 35 ish.  Instead we’ve had rain, rain and a lot more rain!    In the past week we’ve had about 9 inches of rain - and we’re not in the worst of it.  Some areas are totally cut off.  Areas have been declared national disaster areas.  People who had planned camping/caravanning holidays have been washed out.  Christmas on the beach has certainly not been possible.  Yet it’s still a warm 25+ deg …. It’s just not normal!  Apparently it’s the worst rain in December for 150 years - and we‘re here to sample it.

Another thing that’s not normal - cold meats and salad for Christmas dinner … I missed my  sprouts, turkey and roast potatoes - though the meal was absolutely lovely.  We went to Janelle’s nephew’s for Christmas dinner along with other ‘rellies’ …… 38 people altogether!  Luckily they have a huge covered area outside where they were able to lay the tables and we enjoyed our dinner and getting to know others there.  Had the weather been better - I’m sure we’d have taken advantage of the outdoor pool.  We did enjoy a beautiful cooked Christmas dinner at Brian, Lisa and Grace’s home last week - the turkey cooked in the barbeque was loverleeee!

Talking of ‘pools’ I’d been reliably informed of how hot it was going to be over Christmas, so I’d commented that I might need a paddling pool to keep cool … so thanks to Emma and Neil - that’s what I got!  And no that’s not what Janelle and I have been doing our 60 laps in!  It’s sat in the back garden now, already full of water, waiting to be warmed up by the sunshine which apparently is due on Friday!  


It was odd/strange/sad being away from family and friends on Christmas day - but thanks to modern technology we were able to talk to family members by phone or on Skype.  It was great to see Heather, then Dad, Dawn, John, Rachel, Sophie and Michael who sang ‘We wish you a merry Christmas!”, and to speak with Katie, Carl, Kev, Sean and Lisa and, because Carl was at Church when I phoned him, Mark, Helen and Phil too!    It’s also been lovely to receive lots of messages via face book - thank you for your lovely wishes.  Missing you all lots!

Last night we helped out with a meal for the homeless … about 120 of them!  Bobby, who works with the homeless people in and around Brisbane, was originally from Hong Kong and was saved from his drug/alcohol/gambling addiction and life of serious crime through the work of Jackie Pullinger - if you’ve read the book Chasing the Dragon you’ll know what sort of a life he previously led.  He became a Christian and, along with his wife Branwen, they do an amazing work with people in the area, including running a car wash which then funds bus’s to pick up the homeless people on a weekly basis to bring them along for a meal.  It was fantastic to see so many people enjoying their meal and then listening to Bobby’s testimony.  Also amazing was the amount of volunteers willing to give time on Boxing Day … they actually had to announce in Church on Christmas Eve that they didn’t need any more volunteers thank you!  Take a look at their web site - it’s worth it!

We’re planning on going to see the fireworks in Brisbane on New Year’s Eve with Geoff and Janelle and Neil and Emma.  Again - that won’t be normal - but it will be exciting and good to experience the Ozzy way of bringing in the new year.  

So … while Christmas has been far from our normal “normal” we’re having a lovely time - are being VERY well looked after, enjoying the new experiences and not doing much of anything really.  We hope you’ve all had an amazing Christmas and wish you all the best for 2011. 

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Good Day Gone Bad ... (to hopefully Good Again)

Two nights free camping … (in Australia they have lots of free camping along the roadsides as there are thousands of people touring - loos and wash basins provided and usually somewhere to cook - free bbqs) - and we were awake bright and early on Wednesday morning.  By bright and early I mean about 5.00 am.  There were others in the site so we did our best to be quiet and were ready to move on at 6.30am - our earliest start yet!  Looked like we were all set for a good day!  

We set the sat nav to take us to Bundaberg - we were only about 13kms away.  A nice easy day.  We’d decided to book onto a paid site for the night - needed showers and to do some washing -  we found a lovely site just outside Bundaberg and right on the coast.  The office was open early 7.45 and he allowed us straight onto a pitch, just across the road from the beach and it’s a lovely spot.    Trying to be extra quiet as others were obviously still sleeping we put the caravan onto it’s plot and got the awning down etc.  Then a neighbour advised us we ought to turn the van around.  Ok - no hassle - we weren’t unhooked or anything so Geoff smartly turned the van around and I started sorting out inside while he did the bits and pieces outside - putting the legs down, awning out, unhooked the car etc.  

Just as I’m putting the kettle on there was a big bang and the caravan rocked and shook.  I thought that Geoff had got caught under the van so ran outside.  But no, the jockey wheel, which the caravan stands on while you set up, had slipped off its blocks - so no great hassle really.  Except - Geoff saw me come charging out with a look of horror on my face and promptly reversed the car into a tree - even bigger bang!  Geoff ….. Not …… Happy … at …. All   !!!!  Hmmmmmm

Geoff went off to the wreckers yards to hunt down a new back door for the car - while I set to with the washing and went for a shower.  Except - the key for the shower block was in the car - so I ended out having a cold shower in another block!  Ruth…… Not……. Happy!  Then to top it all - I dropped my towel in the puddle of water so had to try to get dry on the little dry corner of the towel.   I got the washing out of the machine and carried it to a clothes line near our van - but - it was all boggy and I got sloppy muddy feet!  Ukkkk!

Thankfully Geoff was able to buy another  back door for the car for just $100 and we’ve (well mostly Geoff but I did help a bit) spent the past 3 hours sorting it out!  So now - to add to Geoff’s list of jobs he’s done while he’s been here is mechanic too!  Though …. if he hadn’t reversed the car into the tree in the first place …….   

Why is it that some days turn out that way and you wish you’d just stayed in bed!

Off to the beach now - the day just gotta get better!!!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

There’s Gold in them mountains!

Since the 1850’s gold has been mined in Australia.  Many have lost their lives mining for gold in atrocious conditions.  And many people still mine gold today - either for work or as a hobby.

Areas of Australia are still known to have gold on their land - and it is big business!  People are finding gold every day - so why not us??

When we were at Cairns we became friendly with a couple called Mark and Deidre. Mark shared with us that they had been fortunate in finding a significant amount of gold over the past few weeks and showed us two lumps weighing approx 5 oz and a tub of little nuggets which he’d found.  We decided to try our luck and bought a second hand machine from Cash Converters.  (Bearing in mind that machines cost on average $5,000+ our little machine at $100 was probably a bit wishful thinking!)  We tried out luck at Herberton and at Janice and Charlie’s place at Rocky Creek - but unfortunately all we found were bits of wire and a couple of old bullets.  We tried other places where we were stopped and picked up a dollar coin and more bits of wire!

We decided to do things properly when we were in Clareville and bought the necessary Fossicking Licences and the relevant maps showing areas where we were allowed to look for gold.  It was so hot, the sweat was pouring off us, there were so many mosquitoes we had bites on our bites, the spiders webs that you walked through were so thick it was like fishing line - and you just had to wonder what spider had been able to spin such a web.  It was not a good experience!  And what did we find??  Nothing but bits of wire and rubbish!

Mark put us in touch with friends of his who happened to live in Claremont and who were into gold detecting in a very big way.  We met up with Bob and Olive and they invited us to their home to show us their finds.  It was totally mind-blowing to see their treasure trove - and to listen to their stories.  They took us out in their car to show us areas which they believed would be lucrative for us and had we been staying in the area longer - would have taken us out with them and helped us find some gold.   And I have no doubt whatsoever that we would have found some with their help. 

So - we’ve found nothing (yet) and no - we’re not upset - we’re not jealous of those who have found gold and we’re not mad that we’ve not been so fortunate. 

We’ve actually realised that we are soooo very rich in so many other ways.  The experiences we’re having while here in Australia - the amazingly warm, friendly people we’re meeting - total strangers inviting us into their homes. Sometimes eating with us, or taking us out, family and their extended families welcoming us into their homes, making us feel so much at home and at one with them.  But most of all - to know that God our Father has given us these opportunities - to know that (as the song goes) He is more precious that silver - more beautiful than gold - and our desire is to know Him more because, although a little bit of gold would help us financially throughout the year we know that our God will supply all our needs!

On The Road Again

I can’t believe the last blog I wrote was almost a month ago!  The time has just flown by.  And now … where do I begin to fill you in on all that we’ve done since our fantastic time at Palm Cove. Let’s see (and I hope I can remember all we’ve done) - when we left Palm Cove we went to…..

Herberton … my cousin Bill and his wife Hilde have a holiday place at Wondecla just outside Herberton. Bill travelled from his home in Bright, Victoria, to do some work on the property while we were there so we were able to have ‘smokos’ and dinner with him every day and a couple of trips out.  We went to the local museums, the Crater, visited family in Atherton again … coz like bad pennies we kept returning to Chris and Keith’s (we just felt so much at home with them that we kept going back for meals and swims!!)  We had a lovely farewell meal with Phil, Kayleen and Sheree, Judy, Murray and Kirsty and Bill at The Brothers Club in Cairns and Geoff and I stayed at Phil and Kayleen’s that night …. Ohhhhhh bliss ………… the bed was sooooo soft and soooooo big compared to what we’ve got used to in our little van!  And I had  my first bath in 3 months … heaven!!! 

We’d left the van at Rocky Creek up on the Tablelands at Janice and Charlie’s place (Janice is my cousin Win’s daughter).  They have a mango farm and were having a few problems with the mango slicing machine so Geoff volunteered to take a look at it for them - in return for a couple of nights free camping in their garden!  Anyway - to cut a long story short - the problem was solved and Geoff enjoyed thinking of new ways to help make the whole mango slicing/drying process more productive and efficient leaving Janice time to do her nails!! (sorry - in joke there).  And we enjoyed getting to know Janice and Charlie and their lovely children Brendon and Katelyn.

It was strange leaving Janice and Charlie’s because we’d always had a “plan” - we had always known where we were going and we’d spent a lot of time recently with or near family too.  Now we were leaving and the only plan we had was Brisbane for Christmas.  We didn’t think we had any family in between so we actually felt a bit like we were out on a limb. 

So from Rocky Creek we drove down to Innisfail which was going through a terrible thunderstorm at the time - so we kept on going!  From there we went to a campsite several kms south of Townsville called Alligator Creek where we did our laundry etc before setting off again the next morning for Charters Towers and the Goldfields.  On the way there we free camped on the banks of the Burdekin River at Macrossan Bridge for a couple of nights - where unknowingly Geoff set the generator right on an ants nest!  He came back in to the van a funny colour after dancing around trying to get rid of them!  We did some shopping at Charters Towers and visited the gold mining museum - marvelling at what the miners endured in the 1800’s.

We arrived in Claremont and booked in at a site for 2 nights thinking that we would move on pretty quickly.  However - we then discovered that my cousin Dave and Lynn were managing a camp site at Blackall - about 130 kms south west of where we were.  So arranged to go to stay with them for a few days.  On Friday morning we packed up the van and drove out of the site to the local information shop to check that the roads etc were ok for us to travel.  There’d been some heavy rain over the past few days but it was a lovely sunny day so we couldn’t see there being any problem.  We were told in no uncertain terms that there was no way we would get out of Claremont.  The storms out west had caused rivers and creeks to break their banks and roads were up to a metre under water.  So - turn around and back to the site to book on for another night - which turned out to be another three.

Dave told me that Sharon and Clint (by cousin Dot’s daughter) lived in Claremont and I should give her a call.  I felt a bit cheeky - but my other cousin Geoff in Brisbane gave her a call and she appeared at the camp site on Saturday afternoon inviting us round for a meal on Sunday night.  Clint and Sharon and their children, Bronson and Jacqui were lovely and we spent a great evening with them and discovered we had so much in common.  We’re so glad that we were able to meet them.  And they had a Christmas tree up so I actually felt a little bit Christmasy!! 

While at Clermont we also met up with a couple who were into gold detecting in a big way - I’ll do a separate blog about ‘gold’ - but it was so lovely to be invited into their home and for them to show us their finds - what truly lovely, friendly people!

We were stuck in Claremont for 5 days due to the heavy rain - although we actually had really hot sunny days while we were there. And even on Monday morning when we were told we could get out of Claremont we couldn’t get to Blackall to Dave and Lynn. Our way out was to back track all the way to MacKay on the coast adding another 6 hours to our plan.   It’s a shame we didn’t get to see Dave and Lynn but we didn’t want to take the chance of being stuck in Blackall if further rains then prevented us leaving there - and according to locals, that was a big possibility. Again vicious thunder storms at Rockhampton decided us to keep on going - and we free camped at Sharon just outside Bundaberg.

We’ve done a fair bit of free camping over the past few weeks - we have a generator so we’re able to have some electric - but out of courtesy to other campers tend to switch it off at 8pm as it’s a bit noisy.  So lots of early nights!

Now we’re at a paid site just outside of Bundaberg, right opposite the beach.  The weather’s hot and sunny and I think we’ll probably spend a few days here enjoying the holiday atmosphere again.  It’s hard to believe that Christmas is just a couple of weeks away and so strange with it being hot and sunny - especially hearing of all the snow back home! 

And our plan for the next week or so is to travel slowly down the coast to Brisbane to Geoff and Janelle’s for Christmas. 

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Beach Bums

There couldn’t be a better place to be a Beach Bum than Palm Cove just north of Cairns!  So that’s where we’ve been for 11 days - doing absolutely nothing except eating, drinking, swimming, fishing and reading!  Oh and baking a cake or two!

We enjoyed getting to know some of the other campers at the site and had a couple of barbeques and meals with new friends.  A night making (and then drinking) gluwien (a hot, spicey German red wine) with Gerd and Mark and Deidre too - never to be forgotten!  However we decided it probably wouldn’t take off in Cairns - more suited to cold winter evenings back in England!

We enjoyed having some visitors while we were there (hence the baking cakes!) - Phil, Kayleen and Sheree; Judy, Murray and Kirsty and Glen and Hanna.   So we’re not losing our hospitality gifts just yet!

We went to the Generations Church for the two Sundays we were there - a very modern, lively and extremely welcoming Church.

But all good things must come to an end - so we moved on to our next good thing!  Cousin Bill and his wife Hilde have a property in Herberton so we’re going to spend a week or so at their place before starting our southward journey towards Brisbane in time for Christmas.

Sunday, 31 October 2010


We spent two days in Cooktown - leaving the caravan in Cairns and booking into a (tiny) cabin for the night (at an extortionate price!)  Never mind - it was well worth the visit and good to learn some more of the history of Australia and the first English man (from only a few miles from our Redcar home) to set foot in Oz.   The Capt Cook Museum was well worth the AUS $20.

Our journey to Cooktown - up the east coast towards Cape York; as far as you can on bitumen roads before it becomes inaccessible unless you have 4WD vehicles; through mountains on very windy roads with big drops; some absolutely amazing views and coastlines …WOW!

Apart from Captain Cook (and very large crocodiles!!!!) Cooktown is also famous for fishing - and my first real fishing experience took place during this trip - I managed to catch a seagull (I did catch a Spanish mackerel first but the seagull decided he’d have that!)  Geoff then had fun unhooking the bird, and a Travelly (which was HUGE!) but managed to bite through my line and got away.
 (Honest it did and it was big!)

And … for our Redcar followers … we had our evening meal at the local bowls club where Chicken Parmo was on the menu!!  How amazing was that?!

On our way home we came down through the Black Mountains and again some spectacular views.  We stopped at Port Douglas (holiday spot of rich and famous) for a much needed ice cream!

So …. Your History Lesson for the day ….

Captain James Cook - born in November 1728 in Marton, Middlesbrough.
Grew up in Great Ayton and attended school there.  He used to climb Roseberry Topping and enjoyed the solitude there.
At the age of 16 James moved to Staithes to serve his apprenticeship in a shop - it is assumed that this is where he first fell in love with the sea. 
18 months later - after an unsuccessful apprenticeship in the shop - he moved to nearby Whitby where he was taken on as a merchant navy apprentice - for three years.

In 1768 Cook set out on an expedition which was to last 3 years.  It was during this trip (June 1770) that his boat The Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, and Cook and his crew needed to make repairs to the boat on the beach - which took 7 weeks.  The coastline was claimed as British Territory.  The area they landed is now known as Cooktown. 

This was the first British landing in Australia although the Dutch record landing in 1606

Capt Cook died on 14 February 1779 (aged 51) during his third voyage when he came into conflict with locals on the island of Hawaii.

His parent’s home in Great Ayton was moved to Melbourn in Australia in 1934 - brick by brick.

Here endeth your History Lesson for today!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Chris and Keith’s - Quinola Lakes - Atherton

We’ve been at Chris and Keith’s place now for 2 weeks -  acres of land including woodland, a dairy farm with 120 head of cattle which are milked twice a day, fields of corn grown for fodder and wheat grown and used as silage.  Virtually in the centre of all this farming they have built a Christian Camp Site consisting a big hall/kitchen, 4 cabins each sleeping 8, 4 covered wagons also sleeping 8 and stacks of space for tents.  There’s a swimming hole with slides and a big lake for canoes, swimming etc.   Our caravan is parked in Keith and Chris’s back garden but we spend most of our time in their lovely home ….. so you can understand why we’ve been here for 2 weeks - and would happily stay longer but we have places to go and people to see!

So what have we done over the past two weeks????  Loads - but I will pick out some of the high-lights.

We’ve attended two church services with Chris and Keith at Malanda Baptist Church and even went to the pastor’s home for “Smoko” (coffee break to you and me!) Buddy (the pastor) is a carpenter and recently won a competition for his carving of a whale - everywhere we’ve been we’ve seen pieces “carved by Buddy Smith” - so Geoff - in  his unique style - asked him if Church was a part time thing as he obviously spends so much time whittling away.  Thankfully Buddy took this ok and invited us to go see some of his work.

Chris and Keith took us to Lake Tinnaroo for a picnic lunch, followed by Lake Eacham where Chris and Ruth went for a swim.

We also had a day out with Chris and Keith at Chillagoe (about 2 hours drive) to some caves.  We did the ‘touristy’ thing around the three caves.  A lovely day - very hot - in fact, so hot even Geoff went for a swim in the Water Hole at lunch time.  (Unfortunately no pics to prove that tho!)

Today we’ve been to Church with Glen and Hanna (Chris and Keith’s son and daughter in law) followed by a bbq at Glen and Hanna’s home - yummy!!!

A guided tour of another cousin’s daughter’s farm (Lynn) - check Ruth out on the back of the bike!

A trip to local Hot Springs which was so relaxing - however the stream was so hot you could only just put your toes in for a couple of seconds.

Best Chinese EVER at Pagoda Restaurant where Chris and Keith took us for our anniversary!

Ruth attended a Women’s Christian Conference Day with Chris which was excellent and a film night at a local church.

Geoff has enjoyed helping out about the ‘place’, cutting acres of lawns on the “ridey on” lawn mower, mending the lawn mower and cabin after Ruth drove into it (that’s another story!!), and cooking meals.

And loads of other little trips to local places, markets etc.

And next - we’re off to Cairns - parking up at Judy and Murray’s home and spending time in and around Cairns for a few days before taking a trip up to Cooktown.  (Think Cooktown may well be the next Blog instalment).

Looking forward to some time on Trinity Beach and catching up with Phil and Kayleen and family too - a handbag shopping trip with Kayleen and Sheree is calling me while Geoff is looking forward to some serious fishing.  Will let you know who catches the most!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Dot and Bev's ... Georgetown, Northern Goldfields

Imagine …………    a dusty track off the main road (main road being a single ‘development’ road for much of the way), drive 5 kms, past mango plantations, a further 2 kms … with kangaroos jumping over fences at the side of the track, skinny cows wandering about, termite mounds in their 1000’s,  dust and dust and even more dust … until eventually we see a sign saying Avaca Glen Farm …. an old Queenslander House (basically a house built on stilts to protect it from the floods and to help keep the house cool) with open doors everywhere to ensure a flow through of air and giant ceiling fans to keep the house cool (after all it is almost 40 deg), a giant dining table in the kitchen - the centre of all family life - 1200 acres of land, houses for the two sons and their families on the land, fields of hay which is cut and stored ready for sale, cows, pigs, chickens, amazing coloured birds (rosellas, parrots, budgerigars, kookaburras etc)  singing their lovely songs, stacks of farming equipment, a shed that Geoff would die for, a wagon used to deliver the straw, a huge expanse of water called a dam which they are making bigger to take advantage of the rain fall in the wet season to ensure they have sufficient water in the dry season …. and Dot and Bevan - two of the loveliest, most welcoming people we have ever met!

Imagine (or maybe you’d better not) … a trip to the loo to find four little eyes peeping over the top of the toilet cistern … two tiny little white frogs - and a white lizard on the loo wall.  Very disconcerting going to the loo with these creatures watching I can tell you!  Sitting eating our evening meal with frogs croaking at the door,  grasshoppers gazing at us through the windows, all sorts of little (hmmmm and some not so little) insects flying about … and this is all completely normal for Dot and Bev and life at Avaca Glen Farm.  And you know what - after a couple of days we are getting very used to it!

After dinner we made our way back across the garden to our caravan …. about 20 little toads were sat outside our door - but they ran off once we arrived (thankfully!) We’d left the windows of the van open (with the idea it might be a little cooler in there - wrong!) but with the mesh screens closed … supposedly to stop insects getting through … wrong again!  So as Ruth lays on the bed with the cover pulled up to her nose directing Geoff where the little blighters are … Geoff spends the next 20 minutes killing moths and other flying beasties!  When we were finally laid in bed we listened to the sounds of the nightlife outside - it felt like we were in Jurassic Park! It was totally amazing.

Sitting, relaxing, in the garden - trying to find some shade coz it’s so very hot - watching the parrots, budgerigars, Dot and Bev’s two little dogs, listening to the sounds of the nature happening all around - is totally mind blowing.

Geoff had a day out in the wagon with Roy (Dot and Bev’s son) delivering straw to a farm “just down the road”  (about 80kms away!) - hard work so he tells me - but he must have enjoyed it coz he volunteered to do it again a couple of days later!

A trip out to Georgetown - the largest (well only) town nearby - and ‘nearby’ is 60kms “down the road“.  Georgetown consists of; a tourist centre where we were able to see amazing stones and minerals mined from the local land; a post office; a tiny tiny police station (no bigger than our kitchen back home); two tiny churches - one Catholic, one Anglican - both made from corrugated sheets of steel - and both probably seating no more than 30 people;  a couple of petrol stations;  a shop; hospital; primary school - a total of 50 children from age 4-9, with 2 teachers, 2 teaching assistants and Dot and Bev‘s daughter in law is the principal (at the age of 10 children go off to boarding school); nursery; caravan park and a fantastic swimming pool (which of course I had to try out!).  So all in all - not a ‘town’ as we know it (but I guess it has everything there that the people need) - but it’s really no wonder that Dot and Bev only go shopping once every 10-12 weeks over to the Tablelands … they have the biggest pantry/cool room ever!

I’m pretty cool with the lizards and frogs and am even coping with the smaller of the flying insects … but I don’t like the big dragon fly things - especially when they fly down my tee shirt - I got in a bit (ok a lot) of a panic much to Geoff’s amusement.

Sitting with Dot and Bev we could listen for hours to the tales and adventures of their lives. There is no doubt whatsoever that they have worked so hard for what they have - they are rich in life experience and in love and are so very very happy with their lives - maybe a lesson to be learned for us and many others.