Friday, 19 August 2011

The End of Our Year Out - Time for Home

Today is 20 August 2011 - we’ve been away from home some 355 days Singapore/ Australia …not quite a full year - and this is the day we fly home - so I’m guessing this will be my last blog - (or maybe I might just squeeze one more in about the flights and our home reunions!)
We fly out from Brisbane tonight at 11.45 pm to Singapore, 3 hours stop over there before we fly to London, landing in Heathrow about 3pm Sunday afternoon.  Another 3 hour wait before we fly to Newcastle where Mark will be waiting to bring us home!  Bearing in mind the 9 hours time difference, that means almost 30 hours for the whole journey…..  Can’t say I’m looking forward to that!
Geoff’s outside soaking up the last of the Ozzy sunshine - and trying to top up his tan before we come home.  We’re just about packed and hopefully not over our luggage limit. 

The last few weeks have been a mixture of ups and downs.  Basically because we’ve been trying to sell the car and caravan - we had three very close calls with the van; people who really wanted it but for various reasons just couldn’t take her.  Anyway she finally went on Monday morning - a lovely couple who are looking forward to spending time away and I know they will just love it.  So once the van was sold - that was a huge weight off our minds - but everything then seemed so final.  We held a garage sale and sold lots of ‘stuff’ we’d accumulated over the year and the car went to one of the neighbours.  So all the boring stuff out of the way, we just had the last couple of weeks to enjoy ourselves!

Chris and Keith (from Atherton) have been staying at Geoff and Janelle’s too this week, departing to New Zealand today for a skiing holiday, so it’s been lovely to catch up with them again too.  We’ve been to the ‘Ekka’ which is the Royal Queensland  Show, with Geoff, Janelle, Keith and Chris - that was a fantastic day out.  Lots of animals to look at, horse jumping etc in the show ground, crafts, variety of stalls and side shows, displays etc.  It was really good.
 We all went up to the Gold Coast to meet up with John and Judy over from Perth and had a lovely meal out with them.  I’m not enjoying the goodbyes - but am so looking forward to seeing friends and family back home.

Last night the six of us went to The Outback Spectacular - a lovely meal and show about the history of Australia.  A great way to finish our time in Oz. 
So final thoughts about our time in Oz …..
Geoff keeps telling me I use the word “Amazing” too much …. but sorry - that’s how this year has been - totally amazing! 
We’ve visited fantastic places; have travelled almost 38,000 kms, invested some $8,600 in the Australian petroleum industry!!!.
Enjoyed the wildlife, the beaches, the outback and so much more!   People keep asking us what our favourite place has been - well there hasn’t been one ‘cause it’s all been so good.  You just think you’ve seen the best view ever, and then go around a corner and see something else just as breathtaking.  We’ve seen a lot - but there’s still so much more to see. (Maybe another trip might be necessary!!)

We’ve spent time together, talking, laughing, just ‘doing’ which has been really great for us.  Some comments before we came away were along the lines of  …“you two in a caravan together for 12 months??!! … you’ll kill each other!”  Well, maybe it was a bit of a concern (lol) but it didn’t work like that.

Have got to say that the best thing about our trip has been the people!  The places we’ve enjoyed the most have tended to be the places where we’ve met wonderful people, both family and new friends.  We’ve met some fantastic people - too many to mention - but you know who you are and we really hope to see you in England sometime in the not too distant future.  We’ve got to know family so much better which has been great - thank you for looking after us so well - we look forward to returning the favour when you come over to visit us!

You are a nation who strive to protect your rich and beautiful land and heritage.
We wish you well for the future and would consider it a privilege to return one day.

Australia …
You can travel around it or across it - but you will never get over it!   We have memories to last us a life time!

Geoff & Ruth xx
Cya Again Oz - We'll be back!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Wedding

The Happy Couple
 11 August 2011 was a very special day … not only was it Geoff’s birthday but Neil and Emma‘s wedding day.

When we left Australia after our month’s holiday back in 2009 I remember saying to Emma (only half joking!) “we’ll come back for your wedding!”  Well we did - we had the privilege of being here to join in the celebrations and what a fantastic day we had.
Emma and Neil
Neil (Geoff and Janelle’s son) and Emma got married at Cedar Creek Lodges/Thunderbird Park, Mount Tambourine - a beautiful setting/venue for the perfect day.  The wedding ceremony took place in the open-air with the sound of a running creek in the background and the sun shining through the trees.  Emma wore a beautiful dress, designed by herself and made by a friend, her bouquet was from Hawaii and she looked absolutely stunning!    Neil looked pretty handsome too!
Emma's bouquet
Neil and Emma had put so much work into the day - their own personal touches made the whole day so special.  From the decorations at the ceremony venue to individual pots of grass with embroidered names as place settings, tiny carved trees in lanterns as table centres, a tiny box with ’conversation starters’ on each table and a photo booth at the reception with a box of dressing up items for people to be imaginative with!  The idea being that people had their pics done, kept a copy for themselves but put the second copy in the guest book with a personal message to Neil and Emma …. what an original idea!  They also made up jars of choc chip cookie mixes for every guest - which I’ve already made and we’ve enjoyed eating!!  
The First Dance
Wonderful food and dancing in the evening.  
A perfect day - and we wish Neil and Emma a very happy marriage.  
Family Shot

Janelle, Emma, Neil and Geoff

It was great to share the day with other cousins too - Phil and Kayleen and Win came down from Cairns and John and Judy had flown over from Perth so was good to catch up with them again.

We had booked into one of the lodges for the night - and as a special treat we had one with a spa bath …. oh how I’ve missed my baths! So after all the festivities I decided to have a luxurious bath - except it took forever to fill the big corner bath and when I was finally able to turn the spas on, they spurted water all over the place!  The jets were pointing upwards and I’d not quite got enough water in - I’ve never seen Geoff move so fast since the blue tongued lizard episode two years ago!

A lovely breakfast the following morning shared with friends and family then a trip around the local crafty shops (where I bought yet more penguins!) and the beautiful scenery on the drive home just finished the whole couple of days off beautifully.  
View from Mount Tambourine

Thank you Neil and Emma for an amazing time and including us in your very special day! 

The One Day We’d Rather Forget …. lol

Ok - so most of this year things have just worked out perfectly - and all the way through from planning our trip right up to now, we’ve said ‘yes we’ve got faith, we believe this is right and we’re just going with it’.  Well on our way back to Brisbane from Cairns we had what could be described as an “eventful” day which could have challenged our thinking somewhat.

We left Cairns and said our goodbyes to Phil and Kayleen - no tears this time as we knew we were going to see them the following week in Brisbane at Neil and Emma’s wedding.  We decided we’d travel as far as possible that day, and try to make it back to Brisbane in 2 days, so it was gone 7pm and already dark when we finally found somewhere suitable(ish) to stop - a truck stop called Palm Tree Creek (sounds lovely eh?! - it wasn‘t!)  Anyway - we settled down for the night in the back of the car - well - we tried to settle down … problem was the 150 disco dancing cows mooing in the truck next to us - I’m sure they’d all been given ‘ecstasy’ so they were dancing the night away before they met their fateful end the following day!  Being deaf in one ear does have it’s advantages and I was able to turn onto my good ear and go to sleep.  Geoff however had more of a problem!  Not being able to get to sleep, he got up and was stood having a coffee outside the car when a guy came wandering about, shining a torch in everyone’s windows and having a good old nosey about - obviously up to no good.  Geoff (politely of course) had a quiet word with him about “going home, growing up, going to bed!!!!"

The next morning’s saga started about 5am…. Yes the cows were still dancing, and there was a new truck pulled up just behind us - who appeared to want to leave his engine running.  Never mind - we’d got our little cooker and would start the day right with a cuppa.  Geoff tried getting out of the boot of the car - but the tailgate dropped down and ate his leg!  I had to fight my way out of the side door to rescue him.  After a couple of seconds we realised why the truck still had the engine running.  It was, what the Ozzies call, a Honey Cart.  Basically the truck that comes to clear out the sewerage from the toilets, and the engine was running to operate the pump used to suck out all that had been put into the toilets!  (Be thankful I’m writing this blog and not Geoff!!!)  IT STANK!!!!!!  And honestly, no words can convey how disgusting it was!  We had to think hard about health and safety and whether we should actually light the calor gas stove for our morning cuppa!

Very soon after that, we set off!  It was pouring down and we aquaplaned on a very busy roundabout (rush hour) - thankfully someone was looking after us and we just missed hitting other cars.  
Safe and Sound - in Childers
 We travelled a full day again (thankfully no more mis-haps along the way) - planning to stop when we reached Childers where our Camp5 map promised us a lovely free camp site. About 40kms from our planned stop, Geoff realised we were very low on petrol - I asked our faithful NavMan where the nearest petrol station was and she promptly told me the nearest one was 42kms away.  We travelled the next half hour in almost complete silence - both of us sending up prayers that we would make it.  We weren’t sure if the petrol gauge was still faulty  but when the red light came on and we still had 30kms to go we were really worried.  

The longest 30kms ever, and just passed our free camp for the night, ….. we pulled into the service station ……   plup plup plup - and the engine cut out - completely out of petrol!  We rolled down to the petrol pump having to pull the petrol hose tight to reach the car!  But we made it!    Thank you - thank you - THANK YOU!  

To celebrate we bought a pie and went back to our lovely free camp for the night, set up the stove for our cuppa - only to find that Geoff’s milk had gone off - ‘instant yogurt’! So back he went to the service station to buy some fresh milk (and a bar of chocolate to celebrate the worst 24 hours of our year!)    So ….. a rough day - and many would say that we had a lucky couple of close encounters … we on the other hand believe that God was with us, looking after us and keeping us safe - as He has done throughout the whole of this year.
Snug as a Bug in a Rug - waiting for my cuppa!

Having a lie in .....

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

On Our Way Back

Once again I’ve left it weeks without keeping up this blog … it just shows how busy we’ve been and/or how much we‘ve been enjoying ourselves!!  I’ve even had one or two frantic e-mails, from friends who are only keeping up to date with us via the blog, checking that we are ok!  So thought I’d best make an effort and bring things up to date.
We went to a couple of Rodeos up in Coonamble and Cobar which were certainly an experience.  Children as young at 8 riding the steers is just amazing; they have more guts and/or ‘get up and go’ than we’ll ever have.  Geoff decided that women on horses need hand brakes!….and he didn’t know ‘steak’ could run that fast!!

Ruth trying to get warm!

We spent time up in the Blue Mountains at a place called Oberon - it was freezing up there!  It was actually a bit of a difficult time as both Geoff and I caught colds and it was so cold and wet that we couldn’t really do a lot.  Apparently the day after we left it snowed.  I know it’s winter here but ????…. and somehow we really didn’t expect it to be so cold and wet in Australia.  It was beautiful up there though, the mountain ranges are just out of this world.  To think of those first pioneers crossing the mountains with nothing more than a horse and swag is mind blowing.
Blue Mountains

Ruth, Geoff, Phil & Margaret
We met up with Phil (pastor from back home) and Margaret in Sydney and had a lovely couple of days with them.  We took them back up to The Blue Mountains and they did the walk around the base of The Three Sisters - Geoff and I looked on from above!
The Three Sister

Lane Cove National Park
Phil actually managed to get us interested in the bird-life and Geoff and I spent the next day walking around Lane Cove National Park in Sydney with the camera and binos pretending to be twitchers!  Only problem was that apparently (and according to Geoff!) I made more noise than a bowl of Rice Krispies as I was walking so scared the birds away.  (My nick name for the week was Snap, Crackle and Pop!)   Must say though that Australia has got some absolutely beautiful birds and it’s great to sit and watch them.  
Sulphur Crested Cockatoos
Byron Bay
We’ve spent the last couple of month catching up with people who we’ve met on our way around and saying our goodbyes and re-visiting some of the more special beaches too.  In particular we had a week at Lennox Head again and had a lovely time with Bill and Charmaine aka Kate.  It was great to see them again and we’re hoping to see them over in England one day.  We were also able to catch up with Neville and other folk at Ballina Baptist Church which was lovely.

We arrived back in Brisbane towards the end of June and spent a couple of weeks doing jobs on the caravan and getting it ready for sale.  It’s now sat ‘gleamingly’, with road-worthy and gas safety certificates, on Geoff and Janelle’s front drive with a ‘for sale’ sign on it, and has been advertised on GumTree web site too.    We’ve had faith all through this trip and God has certainly provided for us in so many ways, so we’ve no doubt that the van will sell.  We did have one ‘interesting’ offer from a lady who was supposedly a marine biologist working off-shore.  She said she wanted to buy the van for her son in Malaysia and she would arrange and pay for shipping etc.  Payment was to be made by Paypal - all seemed reasonably believable … until she said she wanted us to pay the shipping and she would reimburse us - we even got an official looking email from Paypal saying they had the total amount ready to transfer into our Paypal account once we had paid the shipping.  Hmmm … that’s when alarm bells started to ring.  We googled ‘Gum Tree Scams’ and it seems this is a regular con;  thankfully we didn’t fall for it - but it is a bit upsetting to know that people out there are so wicked that they would go to such lengths and deviousness to cheat people out of their money.

Once we’d done all we could to the van and we still had four or five weeks left before our journey home, we decided we’d go “Aussie”…..put a mattress in the back of the car and set off back up to Cairns and Atherton Tablelands.  How adventurous was that?!  

We did a couple of nights free camping, stopped off at Clint and Sharon’s place just outside Mackay so were able to say our goodbyes there too.  

Phil, Geoff, Ruth, Kayleen & Sheree
We’ve had time with Phil, Kayleen and Sheree in Cairns - lovely meal last night at Charlies on Cairns Promanade - with the biggest prawns ever!  

View from Keith & Chris's Farm
We’ve been up at the farm with Chris and Keith in Atherton, had a lovely family Chinese meal with all the family there and were able to meet the newest addition to their family, baby Malachi,  and we also met up again with Keith’s cousin, Janine and Brian, from Canberra, who we met when we were down that way earlier this year.  We’ve had a lovely meal with Judy and Murray and were even able to see Dot and Bev yesterday back up at the farm.  I had a lovely coffee meeting with Hanna at the Chocolate and Cheese factory (so of course had to sample some chocolate!) and we’ll be seeing a few of the others at Neil and Emma’s wedding next week in Brisbane.  What a hectic few days!  But it’s lovely to see everyone again and I know I’m going to be so sad when we have to say our final goodbyes.   
Ruth, Geoff, Bev & Dot
Ruth and Hanna
Ruth and Chris

So …. Just two weeks left.  We’re heading back to Brisbane today - we should make it back to Brisbane on Saturday or Sunday - and that’s pretty much solid driving.  Australia is such a BIG place you just don’t realise how big until you’re driving 6 inches on the map and it takes you a week! 

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Out Back

It’s been so long since the last blog, I’ve kept putting off writing as I’m not quite sure where to start.  We’re constantly on the move, visiting new places, seeing new sights, meeting new people and generally having a fantastic time.  I think my best bet is to just say a few words about the more memorable places and things which have happened over the past few weeks.  Here goes ….

Koroit Procession - "2 people with a bit of rope"
Port Fairy … After the Great Ocean Road we stayed at a lovely town called Port Fairy, unfortunately the weather wasn’t fantastic but on one of our day trips out we visited a tiny Irish town called Koroit who were having their annual festival.  It really did have to be seen to be believed!  The grand opening of the procession was announced as (and this has to be ‘read’ in the Irish accent) “and the procession is led by two people holding a bit of rope”  … and it just went downhill from then on!  Horses that decided they’d had enough so stopped pulling the cart, an Irish group singing Scottish songs (out of tune) and a very sad array of stalls and street entertainers.  We laughed so much it was well worth the $12 each entry fee!  But hey, they all put so much effort into the day and it was obviously a big thing for them - bless ‘em!

Blue Lake
Hamilton and Mount Gambier - A volcanic crater at Mount Gambier called the Blue Lake which really was astonishing and changed blues throughout the day depending on the sunshine.   We also visited some lovely water falls.  From Hamilton we had a trip out to Portland which was the first settlement in Victoria and the start of the wool trade there which Australia became famous for.  From Mount Gambier we also visited the most southerly point in South Australia - a fair few miles to anywhere!
A Very Cold Ruth
Mount Barker - we just had to stay at Mount Barker (my maiden name) and it was well worth the visit.  The views from Mount Barker were lovely.  
View from Mt Barker

View from Mt Barker
Hahnsdorf Pub
We had a day in a German town called Hahnsdorf (wine country) which brought back lots of memories for me of my time living in Germany.  It was a lovely town selling all the authentic German meats, toys, clocks etc.  
Known as The City of Churches
From Mount Barker we took a bus into Adelaide - it was about an hour’s journey, and we spent time touring the city on a guided tour bus, along with a visit to the local Chinatown. Another eye opener for us

Moving north from Adelaide….  
As the miles rolled on it was soon open scrubland and a feeling going bush again; Geoff was conscious of something he’d felt months ago as we’d approached Port Augusta last time having crossed the Nulabor desert… it was the excitement of heading into the Red Centre as it’s called… north up into the centre of Australia and beyond… (the first 2 months of our trip) and it was the signpost for Port Augusta “that lit his fire again” he loves it out there!
The Very Beautiful Flinders Range
The Flinders Range … to us was the equivalent of the Great Ocean Road - though in the desert - something different to see around every corner, stunning views, colour and scenery; it really was mind blowing …The mountains of mauve peaks and steep gorges stretched as far as the eye could see.  
Flinders Range
Sacred Canyon
Geoff's impression of an Aboriginal Emu

Sacred Canyon
We stayed at Wilpena in the Flinders Range National Park and had a trip to see an Aboriginal Sacred Canyon which again was truly amazing.     
Eagles flying overhead, kangaroos, wallabys, sheep and emus on the roads - we had to stop several times to let them cross!  
Baby Joey in Mummy's pouch
One of the many emus

We drove along the Parachilna Gorge (towing the caravan) - only a 30km trip but due to the un-surfaced road (that’s putting it mildly!) and having to stop to take lots of photos - the journey took us 3 hours!    
The un-surfaced road - this is a good bit!
Parachilna has a population of 7 … yes seven!  One pub or ‘Road House’ and a caravan site.  We didn’t stay there long!!  We also visited Farina - which is a ghost town - however several people have formed a group to rebuild and make safe the remaining buildings.  It’s hard to believe that it was once a thriving town - however when the local Railhead and stockyards moved up to Maree when the Ghan Railway extended (short for Afghan) it’s a case of pack up and leave - and that’s exactly what happened at Farina.
Shop Window Display at Quorn
Quorn  - I have to say that we really enjoyed our time there - it was so peaceful and we felt very relaxed (even more than normal!!)  It was just like stepping back in time 100 years - the shops were in a time warp.  I do struggle with some of the things which are advertised as ‘tourist attractions’ and wonder how they actually get away with it.  For instance, we visited a toy museum near Quorn, and yes there were lots of old games etc (many which I can remember playing with - so yes I know I’m getting old!) but there were more spiders and cobwebs in that place than I’ve seen anywhere, and ivy growing on the walls on the inside which had come through broken windows etc!  I do think that if you’re paying to go into a ‘museum’ the least you can expect is that it’s clean!  (There rant over!!)
Going down Day Dreamer Silver Mine
Near Broken Hill - we went down an old Silver mine - which was a bit scary if I’m honest.  We went some 200ft underground and at one point, we had to turn our lights out to imagine what it would have been like for the miners.  It was a real eye opener as children as young as 8 years old would be sent down the mines as well.. Evidence of this born up by the tiny shafts in the walls that only a child could get down!

One of the many metal sculptures
Silverton - another town which was almost deserted - a couple of galleries to look at - Geoff has been fascinated by the metal art and I think will be trying his hand at some of the sculptures on our return.  BUT... so often we come across a real gem… whilst here we had time to visit the old Goal.. It turned out to be the most fascinating museum either of us have ever visited anywhere. Every space (including the cells) was packed with local and Australian history. A true credit to those who have put that display together.

Noodeling for Opals
White Cliffs - way out in the middle of nowhere!  Famous for Opals being found there in the 1860’s. People flocked there,  though a slow hard tedious process soon reduced the numbers to the more hardy miners who stayed on and settled. They made their homes underground because of the heat.  We went ‘noodeling’ which is a term used for people who look in the rubble of those who have done all the hard work  mining  (they’ve used their noodle or head and let someone else do the hard work!)  We actually found several pieces of opal - one in particular was lovely and we took it to Bret at the Cathedral Gallery in town who made it into a pendant for me.  Geoff has enjoyed cutting open a rock to find opals inside, although these are known as ‘shotgun’ as it is shot through the rock and not really big enough pieces to cut out.  Was great fun though and to have a memento like this pendant is a fantastic long lasting memory of Oz.

Our Opal Finds

Pendant made from an Opal we found at White Cliffs
From White Cliffs to Cobar we had a bit of an ‘incident’ with the car - it seemed to be using far too much fuel and we were unsure whether we would actually make it to Cobar before juddering to a halt.  We stopped at a rest area and eventually another couple came in to stay the night, who had a 10ltr jerry can of fuel.  We unhooked our caravan and I stayed there with the other couple for company while Geoff drove the 60kms on to Cobar to refuel and re-fill all the jerry cans.  We’re sure now the petrol gauge is faulty - but it really wasn’t worth taking the chance at night time.  
Cobar -  we’re at Cobar now - another town famous for mining - copper, zinc and gold over the years.  We’ve visited the Heritage Centre which was good and again had an eye opener into life for the early settlers in Australia.  Geoff reckons the government got things wrong way back in the day … the convicts should have stayed in Britain and we should have been sent to Oz - however I don’t envy the work the convicts or the early settlers endured.  Life out in the ’bush’ and all these surrounding towns and villages we’ve visited, still seems quite primitive to me; it’s been fantastic to visit and see how life is for people here, but I’m looking forward to being back in civilisation again in the next couple of weeks!  Might have to drag Geoff away though as he’s loving it!!!