Monday, 21 February 2011

Half Way

In some ways the past 6 months have flown by, yet in others it feels like it’s been such a long period of time. We’ve done so much, seen so much, met so many fantastic people, had lots of laughs, taken on many new ‘sayings‘, travelled so many miles, visited so many different places, so many camp sites, walked on so many beaches, swam and fished in different oceans, rivers, lakes, swimming holes and pools, ………..  
Geoff's Cobia ... was very nice!

Every single bit of our time so far in Australia has been amazing - even the few difficult things have been lessons for us to learn.  And we’ve learned some lessons and things about ourselves while we’ve been here. 

Our 'ouse!
One of our biggest lessons has been how much we don’t need.  Being used to living in a 3 bed-roomed semi back home, with all the usual furniture, gadgets, junk - to now living in an 18ft caravan - well most people would consider it a nightmare.  I must admit to being a bit concerned at first - but we really don’t need all the ‘stuff’ we collect  and we’ve managed perfectly well with a tiny kitchen come sitting room come bedroom with very minimal storage etc.  (That’s not to say we’re moving into a tiny bedsit when we come back home mind!)  But it has made us realise that we often spend money for the sake of it and buy gadgets because others have them or they look good on the tv advertisements! Maybe “keeping up with the Jones’s” is something we all do without really realising it.  And being on a tight budget and not needing things has certainly taken the thrill out of shopping for me - window shopping’s just not the same!

TV - that’s another thing … when we bought the van it came with a tv - which we carted around with us for approx 12,000 kms and didn’t watch it once.  When we were in Atherton we decided to leave the tv behind.  It was taking up valuable space!!  We’ve not missed it (well maybe Coronation Street and Emmerdale) and have spent more time talking with one another and others instead of sitting in front of a box.
I must confess that we had many many talks and discussions before we came to Australia about the need for a van with a bathroom - however - a van with a bathroom would have cost us approx $25,000 (£17,000) more - so I’ve had to get used to site ‘ammenities’ … and you know what - they’re actually generally really really good - and the plus side is that I don’t have to clean a bathroom!

We have really missed our families and friends, Church and especially Phil’s preaching!  We’re visiting so many different churches, different denominations with some very different styles and have received varying degrees of welcomes - but nothing beats East Cleveland Baptist Church, the worship times or Phil’s sermons!  ECBC Rocks!!!!
We’ve been so grateful to have the computer and internet so we can keep in touch with people via facebook, skype, and of course this blog.  Thank you for your comments and for chatting - please never feel that we’re busy talking to someone else - if you see us on chat on facebook - chat - we want to talk to you!

When we started off on our journey, Geoff said if, or when, anything goes wrong the first thing to do is put the kettle on and have a cuppa. Things always seem better when you’ve sat down and thought about the situation after the initial panic.  

the beard didn't last long ... it was far too hot!
Something I’m coming to realise more about myself is that I can’t please everyone all of the time and if some people don’t like or agree with me, my beliefs or thoughts, then that’s ok - they don’t have to. 

So … half way through, and our plans for the next six months…
Nelson Bay
We’re currently at a beautiful place called Shoal Beach, Nelson Bay which is not far north of Newcastle and Sydney.  We’re booked on this site until Thursday of this week then we’ll move on down the coast a little further, probably to Stockton or Newcastle.  We’re hoping to meet up with Margaret and Eric (friends from Redcar who are visiting family in Sydney) and will spend a few days in and around the Sydney area.  
Anna Bay
We’re also planning to meet up with Geoff and Janelle again at Easter and visit cousin Bill and his wife Hilde in Bright, Victoria.  We’ll visit Melbourne and Adelaide and eventually get to Victor Harbour in South Australia before we find our way heading back to Brisbane via Broken Hill (which we couldn’t do earlier because of the floods).  We’re hoping to meet up with Phil and Margaret in Sydney in June on our way back and aim to be back in Brisbane for mid-July … in time for Neil and Emma‘s wedding.  We will of course keep you posted as our plans have a habit of changing quite significantly! 

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Lennox Heads and Red Rock - NSW

Lennox Heads

Baby shark washed up on the beach - rescued by Geoff!
Following on from our two weeks at Brunswick - we moved down the coast a little to Lennox Heads- it was literally just about an hour’s drive down the road - so compared to some of the travelling we did in the earlier days - this really was “just down the road”.  Thankfully it was just a short drive because, unbeknown to us, wiring was burning through under the bonnet causing the lights on the car and van to behave very strangely.  If we’d travelled much further we could easily have had either a very serious accident or the car explode in flames!  Once we’d parked up sitting quietly outside the van … Geoff not quite sure how to tackle this next motoring problem … weighing up the ‘what might have beens’ and the expense of taking it to a garage to have it repaired  … me silently saying my prayers …. a ute pulled up at the side of us and hooted.  “They look familiar”, “I know them”, “What are they doing here?”  “the fastest answer to prayer ever!”  were thoughts that quickly went through my mind as I registered that it was Geoff and Janelle - come over to see us for the day.  What an amazing surprise and within 15 minutes the car was sorted!


The camp site was just over the road from Lake Ainsworth - a fresh water lake where I enjoyed swimming most days.   The water in the lake though was black - and I mean black in colour - not dirty black.  Apparently it’s stained black from the tea tree leaves.  It’s really weird, and a bit disconcerting, swimming and not being able to see your hands in front of your face under water.  It’s very clean and warm and I enjoyed swimming across the lake several times.  To see the children playing in the water - jumping out of trees and generally having so much fun was great - how long before health and safety bans their fun we wondered?!  One event though did open our eyes  to the every day risks when all of a sudden everyone left the lake - very quickly - apparently a brown snake had been spotted!  Thankfully I wasn’t in the water at the time but it did make it all very real to us the importance of being vigilant at all times.

Crossing the road the other way took us directly onto the beach - a lovely clean, sandy beach with great waves - which we enjoyed playing in - especially on the body board.  I took my morning walk along the beach most mornings - even at 7am it was so hot!  
Jan and Graham
While at Lennox Bay we met up again with two couples who we’d met at Brunswick Bay.  We were invited to lunch with Jan and Graham who we may do a house swap with in a few years time, and for an evening bbq with Kate and Bill.  What lovely people we’ve met while in Oz.  We also went to the Lennox Pub with Kate and Bill - ask Geoff about the chilli!!! 

On Sunday we went to Ballina Baptist Church - Ballina is the next town from Lennox about 10 minute drive.  We had the best welcome ever - people were so friendly - and we were invited back to one gentleman’s home for lunch.  And what a house it was!!!! 


We’ve now moved down the coast a little further to a sleepy town called Red Rock - originally called Blood Rock - following the massacre of some of the Gumbaynngir Aborigines who lived nearby
by the newly formed NSW Mounted Police way back in the 1800’s.


The caravan site is again just a 2 minute walk from the beach - I can hear the sea as I write.  Geoff has been fishing, we’ve both been swimming.  There’s a river which loops round a large sandbar… swim across, walk over the sandbar - get back in over the other side, and then float around to where you started!  It’s great!!!  Apparently just before Christmas the whole of the site was under water following the heavy rains and floods.  

As I write this blog, 10pm on Tuesday night, family in Cairns are awaiting the biggest cyclone on record - I just hope and pray that they are all safe.  I spoke with Kayleen this morning who told me that they had to batten down everything they could, have filled the bath with water, have candles ready as the power will be out, and, if the worst comes to the worst, they will go under their house to hopefully remain safe.  All patients from the hospitals in Cairns have been evacuated by air to Brisbane, hotels and caravan parks evacuated and closed, the airport closed, schools and shops have been shut and everyone has been told to stay at home if they’ve not already been able to leave the area.  The cyclone winds are expected to be in excess of 250km per hour in Cairns.  It’s hard to imagine what it will be like - the devastation it will cause - the feelings of helplessness as you sit and wait, not knowing if your house will stand up to the winds, all you have worked for may be wiped out in minutes. 

I’m also reminded that our original plan was to go anti-clockwise around Australia - which would have put us in Cairns region right now.   When we changed our plan we certainly didn’t know what was going to happen with the floods and cyclones - seems someone bigger than us knew though ……..

As a post script to this blog - it’s now the morning after the night before …. I’ve spoken with Kayleen in Cairns and she told me of the horrible night they’ve endured - BUT everyone’s fine.  No serious damage to the house although a tree or two have blown down - thankfully (and amazingly) not onto the house!  Family up on the Atherton Tablelands have also had a rough night, but again everyone’s safe and not too much damage to report.

Brunswick Heads

(I started this blog about two-three weeks ago - so apologies for the ‘old news’).
Water Lizards - liked to sit with us at the table just outside the caravan!
Due to uncertain weather conditions both north and south of us we had to book another week at Brunswick Heads!  What a hardship eh?!  ….  more beach days, fishing, general chilling - how on earth will we cope??

We’ve just been for fish and chips for our tea and a walk along the beach, it rained on the way back … hmmm could be in Redcar - well maybe not coz despite the rain, we were still in shorts and tee-shirts and not feeling cold at all!  And the beach was not quite the same as Redcar - there were people surfing and others swimming in the bay.  We’re back at the caravan now and Geoff’s sat outside reading (it’s stopped raining)  and I’m inside the van with the air con on - and it 8pm.  It’s starting to get dark now - so beware the mozzies!  They seem to really love me.

For my Christmas pressie I got lots of beads and jewellery making stuff so I’ve been busy making ear rings, necklaces, bracelets, watches, bag/phone charms etc.  Janelle ‘commissioned’ me for 6 charms and I’ve had my first sale this week - a necklace and matching ear-rings.  It’s lovely to be able to sit outside and play away to my heart’s content - just hope I’m able to sell some of them now or we know what everyone will be getting for Christmas and birthdays for the next 5 years!!

We’ve had a day at Byron Bay - although the weather wasn’t fantastic - so hey, we’ll have to go again!  The beach there was lovely and that’s certainly the place where people go to ‘catch the waves’.  It’s sort of a cross of 60’s hippie and new age.  And it was packed.  So although it was lovely to visit - and we will go again - we wouldn’t choose to stay there I don’t think.

We’ve met some great people on the site - one couple want us to go see them next week at Lennox Heads when they get back from their travels and are keen to arrange a house swap in a couple of years time for a few months so they can visit England/Europe.  Sounds like a plan to me!  

For my birthday mid-January Geoff and Janelle had arranged to come over for the day - what they didn’t tell us was that Neil and Emma and Lisa and Grace were coming with them.  We had a lovely time with them, went out for lunch and enjoyed my wonderful penguin birthday cake - made by the very talented Emma!  Geoff and Janelle bought me (well us coz it’s for Geoff too) a mini electric oven/grill so that when we’re on a camp site, we don’t need to use our gas oven.  Good eh! They bought lots of other things too - so I was well and truly spoiled.  Oh… and Emma and Neil gave me a Terry’s Chocolate Orange!  Mmmmmmmmmmm.  Not something you see in Oz!

Several people have asked if we’re getting bored yet with the travelling, not having to work, living in the van etc etc ….. NOT A CHANCE!   We could quite happily become “grey nomads” …. those people who have sold up and plan to spend the rest of their days travelling around Australia in their variety of amazing mobile homes, caravans, campers etc. Geoff is fascinated with the different styles of mobile homes etc - it’s certainly very big business over here.