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!