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.