25-30 March: Ticking off our final days in Australia

Author: Mrs A

Location: Sydney, Australia

We’ve had a busy week getting our final tasks completed in Sydney and saying a few farewells to our lovely friends.

Monday night saw us treated to an absolute gastronomic feast, delicious wine and food prepared by friends Cathy and Scott and hosted by Donna and Andy – we were incredibly spoilt, and it was so great to see them.

Tuesday was a little dusty after the excesses of the night before, but I headed off early to see my Gastroenterologist in St Leonards to hopefully be signed off to continue travelling. Thankfully I got the tick of approval, and Dr Smith also organised for all my notes to be sent across for me to take to the UK, should anything go awry.

In the afternoon, I had a bouncy blow dry to add that little bit of glamour before we headed to drinks with friends at King Street Wharf. Despite it being a Tuesday night we had a great turnout with about 17 friends joining us.

A little bit of bounce….

Wednesday was a great day to pack – we both are currently Qantas Frequent Flyer Silver – probably for the last time ever, so have plenty of luggage allowance – 42kg each! Still it was a good practice to get it organised and bags weighed in advance to settle any nerves.

In the evening we met up with more friends, Clive, Aisha, John and Eveliene for dinner and drinks in Circular Quay.

Thursday was the birthday of one of our kind hosts, Jenny, who is currently working her socks off closing down one of her framing shops, and upgrading another. She came home to a well deserved glass of champagne before we all jumped in an Uber and headed to a fabulous Asian restaurant in Coogee Beach, Sugarcane. Highly recommended if you’re looking for somewhere new to eat and are in the area.

After a crazy week, Friday was much quieter. Mr A and I went into the city for a few final tasks (Mark’s shaver broke, but thankfully within warranty and exchanged swiftly) and I had my final medical procedure – steroid injections into my airway. They’ve been working really well, and my Otolaryngologist (ENT, head and neck surgeon) showed me he was delighted with how the scar tissue is drawing back and opening out my trachea. We just hope it keeps on working. Again, he has given me notes and videos to take with me to the UK.

We had a quiet night with Jenny and David, all of us exhausted for our own reasons after a busy week.

Saturday morning finally arrived, and after a walk around the neighbourhood we packed up for real and did a final weigh in – thankfully all within our allowance still, despite a total of eleven bags.

Our Uber XL arrived on time and we loaded up the boot….

All piled up outside Jenny and David’s apartment block

We are finally off!

Enjoying the final breaths of Sydney air for a while

We have checked in seven bags, and are hoping we will see seven again at the other end. We have a kind friend who is driving through the early hours of Sunday morning in the UK to pick us up…not sure we are prepared for the 2 degrees centigrade forecast for our arrival though!

This will be the first time in 20 years we will spend more time in Europe than here!

Farewell Australia!

18-24 March: Nomadic life has its moments…

Author: Mr A

Location(s): Nowra, Berry, Sydney, Morton National Park, Orange

Let’s set the scene here. We have our worldly goods scattered around various locations in Sydney and surrounds. Our house contents are stored in two big cages in a warehouse in western Sydney. Our caravan and kayak had been stored nearly 6 hours drive west of Sydney. Various other bits and pieces are with friends in Matraville and Forestville. Life was getting complicated. It was time to rationalise the logistics!

We have found a storage business in Nowra that will take our caravan, car, kayak and bikes, and it was all under cover, with access to top up solar power. Oh and the guy who runs it said if we want work doing on the car (we do) or caravan (we hope not) then he can drop off and help organise. Perfect!

We headed for Berry last week after our Jervis Bay jaunt, and spent a few days parked up next to our friends’ property, and loved being welcome recipients of their delicious home grown produce!. They are such good company, always up to something interesting in that lively community down there.

Then it was back down to Nowra to drop the caravan at its new storage home before we loaded all our gear for the next 7 months of our UK/Europe trip into the car and hightailed it to Matraville. I had my bi-annual eye health check and Catherine was off to talk at a medical conference in Brisbane.

Sometimes this lugging around gear gets a bit tiresome, then we think “all in a good cause!”.

Tassie immediately settled back into ‘city pad’ mode.

Solar cat recharging on the balcony

She has three sets of fur parents who love her dearly. She’s a lucky lady.

I dashed into the city and was relieved of $500 plus dollars and got the good news of no further deterioration in my eyesight. Medical expenses between the two of us are crazy and mostly not covered by Medicare or our private health insurance. No wonder there is such a strong correlation here between income and health. Still, we are glad we live in Australia not the US.

Our next task on the storage juggle list was to visit our stored house contents in western Sydney. We figured we needed to access the winter clothes bag having checked the temperature in England (a top temperature of 11 degrees centigrade anticipated for our arrival!) – we fly this coming Saturday, straight into the Brexit Storm!

Next job – collect the kayak and other bits was had left out at our friends property out at Canowindra. A 5-6 hr drive out into western NSW. I devised a cunning plan though, after reading about a overnight bike trip some people had done in the national park inland from Nowra. Mrs A was up in Brisbane at a conference, so I headed down to Nowra collected the bike, dusted off the bikepacking gear, and headed for the hills. Well, I couldn’t actually see the hills through the driving rain and fog. Was this a smart idea? I consulted with my more optimistic half. Mrs A said “the forecast looks like it’s better further inland”, so I applied the right foot and started winding my up into the very wet high country.

I parked up at a pub close to the start of the ride (handy hey?), and got the camping gear loaded on my beast of a bike.

Ready to head off…and the sun is shining!

I love that bike, and still smile every time I throw a leg over the saddle. I didn’t get away until mid afternoon, but the rain had held up so was feeling pretty perky. Well until I remembered I had forgotten one of the most essential items of gear…my tea mug! Oh no! I had snuck in some Tim Tams (yummy Aussie chocolate biscuits) for my favourite ritual on these solo trips of getting the tent pitched somewhere gorgeous and getting a brew on. Still I pressed on regardless and was thrilled that the maps app and routing a friend had sent me was working a treat.

One happy bike-packer!

The route traverses into the Morton National Park which stretches for just under 200,000 hectares through sandstone plateau country crisscrossed by gorges. I had been reading about a 5-day ride through it called ‘Attack of the Buns‘, but only had time for two half days. I’d picked the section that several people had commented was through especially stunning and wild country. They weren’t wrong.

I started dropping down towards a small stream I had read about in the trip write up. Well the small stream was now a grown up river after all the rain. I paused, checked the time and decided to camp just before it and see what the morning brought weather wise. My reading of the forecast was they had no clue. Weather up in the hills here is notoriously unpredictable.

The tent was soon up and the issue of the lack of mug solved – use my empty Pringle container! Yes it is all health foods on these trips without the conscience on my shoulder of the lovely Mrs A. Now I can definitely say, do not pour boiling hot liquid into a cardboard Pringle container. It all went horribly wrong and the much better Plan B of drinking out of my food bowl was implemented.

Norman no-mates tent

I rose in the pre-dawn darkness and checked the river. I was going to have wet shoes for the rest of the trip but so what. I packed the gear and set off when it was just light enough to see where I was treading. It was up to the hubs but I pushed through, and I’m so glad I did. The riding from here was stunning.

Stream? A full blown river more like!
Made it!

Friends ask me why I always do these trips solo. My response – I can go at my own slow pace, and when I see country like this I’m so glad I can take my time to just stop and look. Silver cobwebs were hanging across the scrub. Mist was hanging over the cliffs. Not a person to be seen. The stillness is just something else. No other voices to break the spell.

Magical morning mist, birds, wallabies and not another person…
Dew coated spider webs sparkling in the morning light

I rode the somewhat soggy track but it was pretty easy going and eventually reached a point mid morning where I reluctantly had to turn round.

So tempting to keep on going…
A stream or my pathway ahead? Thank goodness for fat tyres

Perhaps to some people it would have seemed a lot of effort to get the bike all loaded up for one night. But not for me. I love the chance to ride and reflect, listen, smell and feel the bush. I’m going to miss it in the UK and Europe, but it will be replaced with country so different to this, country shaped and filled by human endeavour.

It was a long drive to Canowindra and I was running out of daylight. You really don’t want to be on these country roads at dusk with kamikaze kangaroos about. My eyes are also not good for night driving. So kayak collected, I headed over to Orange, where a friend had recently moved back to from Manly. It was her birthday so a great excuse for a catch up. We had a lovely time, wine tasting and eating at a brilliant restaurant called Mr Lim. Check it out if you’re in town.

Pre dinner drink at the very fancy local RSL in Orange

All too quickly it was time to point the car back to Nowra and store it there until early November. It’s really happening…we’re off for a whole new adventure.

14-17 March: Dodging the rain in Jervis Bay

Author: Mr A

Location: Huskisson, Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia

Thursday: It was a novelty at first hearing rain crashing onto the roof of the caravan. An excuse to brew endless cups of tea, finalise our trip plans for Europe, and snuggle down with Miss Tasmania!

An attempt at an evening walk is cut short by our first rain drops
Jervis Bay looking dramatic as the horizon disappears under torrential rain heading our way

Friday: We managed a short 13km cycle along Jervis Bay’s shoreline shared path, with a hot chocolate reward for our minor efforts:

Half way along our ride the grey skies part to allow fingers of sunlight to beam down onto the bay
Nice to wrap up warm and enjoy a hot drink

The late afternoon cleared allow for a fabulous sunset:

The last sunbeams catch a turquoise wave as it breaks on the shore
Grid-like rock pools at the water’s edge reflecting the sunlight
A copse of gum trees catching the last of the light
We’ve not seen the sun all day, but still it goes down
Sunset
Time to go back to the Zone for dinner!

Saturday: After a couple of days of little activity we were getting a bit van crazy, so drove into Booderee National Park to tackle one of the longer circuit walks. Booderee translates as “Bay of Plenty” in the local language of the Koori people, who have now been handed back this land to continue with over 20,000 recorded years of custodianship.

Well, didn’t we get lucky with the weather. The park was looking fabulous, all glistening and shiny with the foliage recently washed clean.

Setting off from Steamers Beach Car Park
Walking down towards Steamers Beach
The ferns gleaming in the sunlight after their wash in the rain last night

A Jacky Lizard also seems pleased to see the sunlight, and wasn’t keen to move off the step to let us pass
Mrs A on the walk down to Steamers Beach – with another 10km left to hike we decided against going all the way down and back again

There wasnt a heap of birdlife, but plenty of wallabies bounding around. The flora certainly looks like it has recovered pretty well with the lush cover back after the devastating fires of Christmas 2001. We drove back from Tasmania through the area a few weeks after those fires and both shed tears for all the animals burned to death in the inferno that took 400 firefighters to get under control.

In 2017 fire once again ravaged the park. You can still some some of the impact, but it once again is looking mostly healthy. As for species lost, then it is not such a happy story. Since 2004 a monitoring program has been in place and sadly has seen local extinction of some glider species and the “common” ringtail possum. Inexplicably mammals in both fire affected and non-affected areas seem to have suffered. Researchers are at a loss. My uninformed view – this is a pattern we are seeing all over Australia as climate events become more extreme and humans continue to encroach on habitat at a shocking pace. You may have seen the more alarmist articles that are predicting complete ecosystem collapse as insect numbers fall drastically.

On that cheery note check out some of these fab photos from the ever talented Mrs A!

Mr & Mrs at the lookout
The beautiful Blacks Harbour – named for the aboriginal residents
Apple time at Blacks Harbour
Such a picturesque location
Would be great snorkelling here
Calm waters with Caves Beach just around the headland, popular with surfers
Could spend hours checking out these rock pools, full of little fish
Another bay, further around – the water looking amazing through the trees

We always love visiting this area – this was where I proposed to Mrs A back in September 2000 after all – and we will definitely be back again. We just love how we are still able to find something new in the region every time we come, whatever the weather.

10-13 March: Back into New South Wales

Author: Mrs A

Location: Boydtown & Tuross Head, NSW

Sunday: Driving north from Lakes Entrance it wasn’t long before we were back in southern New South Wales, pulling into Boydtown for the night. Boydtown was the original settlement in Twofold Bay, settled by Benjamin Boyd in the mid 1800s.

This is the area where Thaua aboriginal people had developed a special relationship with killer whales, which would herd humpback whales towards their spears. The first Europeans learned of this and recruited the Thaua people to help them with their whaling activities, There are still the remains of whaling stations and a whale spotting tower in the area.

Today, the settlement is home to the beautifully refurbished Seahorse Inn and a growing community as land is sold off around the pub. There is also a 40 acre campground at reasonable prices and beach access.

Not crammed in at Boydtown Camping Ground
Miss Tassie wondering where her Victorian haven has gone!

As we pulled into the camping area we saw market stall holders packing up outside the hotel, and several coaches parked up on the lawns nearby. Apparently the hotel had just hosted a couple of hundred people on a P&O cruise calling in at nearby Eden for afternoon refreshments. All very nice but sadly no oysters left for the likes of us!

We set up camp in the spacious grounds, and headed off for a walk on the beach. The cloud was rolling in, threatening rain, but very little fell after all.

Beautiful views across the ranges
Prancing along the water’s edge

We had a special sunset however.

Best sunset in ages
A fabulous sky show you just can’t stop watching

Monday: From Boydtown we called into Eden to complete a few tasks at the post office, before heading to Pambula Lake to the fabulous Broadwater Oyster shack there. We last visited about 12 months ago, and our memories of the delicious shucked oysters were still fresh. We were not disappointed – a dozen each and two dozen to take away. Fabulous and well worth the wait!

Our destination for the day was Tuross Head. We last stayed there about 2 years ago, having had to smuggle Miss Tassie ‘the wallaby’ in, as pets were not allowed. This time she was fully permitted, and enjoyed a bit of an exploration around the grounds (full of rabbit smells!).

Cat walking does not burn many calories…

Tassie proving to be a poor hunter – didn’t even notice the skink in front of her nose!

Tuesday: Tuross Head is a lovely settlement – not really much there in terms of entertainment, with a handful of small shops, a Chinese restaurant and a combination Thai and fish and chip shop.

But that doesn’t matter – it is surrounded by white sand beaches, sparkling turquoise waters and a shared pathway which explores the coastline. It’s perfect for those who enjoy peace and quiet as well as outdoors activities like kayaking, cycling and fishing.

After a lot of car time the past couple of days we were determined to get out and explore under our own power, and did a 13km cycle around the coast, following the pathway around to Coila Creek and back.

Mr A peddling off along the quiet cycle ways
Coils Bar behind me – the border between ocean and lake
Riding alongside Coila Creek which is currently a lagoon, closed to the ocean
Still perfection – Coila Creek behind the dunes
Dead tree provides a sculpture alongside the creek
Mr A enjoying the day!

Our afternoon stroll took us in the other direction, to a lookout overlooking the Tuross River and Horse Island. There are so many opportunities to explore this area by boat, we are certain to return again with our big kayak and a longer booking at the campground.

Looking out the tumultuous mouth of the Tuross River

Hold onto your hats! The wind picking up in lieu of a change in the weather
Enjoying the view from the lookout
Beautiful tree-lined streets

We’d been able to nab ourselves a beachside campsite, having booked in just after a long weekend, the perfect location to set up our chairs and enjoy our take away oysters with a glass of Chardonnay.

,

A home with a view…couldn’t get much closer to the sand

Wednesday: We moved on again, initially planning to visit Ulladulla, but finding the campgrounds either ridiculously expensive ($50 a night) or allowing dogs but not cats – even mostly indoor ones which come out only accompanied on a lead. We bypassed the town completely and moved on to Milton, camped up on the showground.

The blue sky has left us for a few days, with the coast expected to receive some very welcome rain. It was much cooler today with heavy overcast skies. We took the opportunity to start our packing for our next adventure – in 17 days we leave Australia and head back to the UK to begin travelling there and in Europe. We continue up the coast tomorrow to Huskisson on Jervis Bay…we’re expecting to use our rain coats!

4-18 February: Back on the road again

Author: Mrs A

Location: Sydney and Cowra, NSW and Chiltern, Victoria

The first week of February saw me admitted into hospital for surgery on my stomach. Four days at North Shore Private Hospital with a fabulous view, and I was released into the care of Mr A and our friends’ home in Forestville, a leafy suburb near the Northern Beaches area.

Fabulous sunrise crossing Roseville Bridge on the way into hospital
A room with a view…better than most of the hotels we have ever stayed in!
The morning after surgery wearing my XXXL gown! It was soon replaced with a more suitable size…my liquid diet wasn’t much cop!

Forestville’s a lovely quiet location, on the very edge of Garigal National Park. John and Eveliene’s house has gorgeous views across a valley of gumtrees, filled with squawking cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets by day, and the soft calls of the boobook owl at night.

While I slowly healed and learned how to eat food other than clear liquids again, Mr A took himself off on an 8km hiking adventure with additional paddle, taking the pack-raft on his back. He hiked from the house down to Carroll Creek, and from there paddled under the Roseville Bridge. He even found his way home again without too much trouble…

Mr A’s pack – hard to believe there is a boat in here!
A waterfall along the shallower part of the creek
The boat all inflated and ready for further exploration by water

After about a week of good rest and soft food, I felt ready to get back in the caravan, so we farewelled our friends in Forestville and headed off to Matraville to collect Tassie. Our departure was only delayed by dead batteries on the car – the problem with leaving it parked up over Christmas and not charging…ah well, a learning for the future. $650 and two new batteries later, we were finally away, and this time really ready to explore.

We left Matraville and Tassie’s foster parents, Jenny and David, on Saturday morning and headed up to Canowindra to collect the Zone.

Tassie had a great time exploring the barn, but was soon passed out once we reached the van park in Cowra for the night.

Miss T exploring the farm machinery
On to Cowra for a couple of nights
One tired Burmese cat…though she seems happy to be back in the Zone

We stopped in Cowra two nights, an opportunity to get the car and caravan cleaned up and stocked up with food. The van park is lovely and leafy, though we were pleased we had access to electricity (and hence air conditioning) as the temperatures rose up in to the 30s. We even were treated to a surprise visit from Tassie’s other foster parents, Rosemary and Richard, as they passed through Cowra on their way to lunch with friends.

And so this morning we set off, heading on our way south. Our first destination was to be a pub on the outskirts of Albury, but with temperatures reaching the late 30s today we decided to find a caravan park again, and enjoy the comforts of air conditioning.

We crossed the border into the Victorian High Country, and headed for a little village called Chiltern.

We’re camped up tonight beside a water bird filled Lake Anderson…no relative.

Lake Anderson

Despite the warm temperatures we went out for a stroll around this very picturesque little village. It was initially a gold mining town, but now is a service centre for the agriculture providers surrounding. It has a couple of pubs, one apparently serving boutique wine (not on a Monday night though) and the other boasting ‘real Thai food cooked by a Thai chef’…we were almost tempted.

This very closed bar claims to sell boutique wine…

The centre of everywhere you would want to be…apparently

The local mechanic collects old bikes

The village has an enthusiastic historical society and a large museum (also not open on Mondays), several antique shops and the buildings painted in heritage colours and preserving many of their original features. It’s very pretty and inspires authors and artists according to the local tourist literature. The National Trust has a hand in ensuring the preservation of many of the buildings here.

Dow’s Pharmacy boasts original fixtures and fittings from colonial times, including products, records and pharmaceutical equipment

The Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park is not far from here, though the temperature today hasn’t tempted us to get on the mountain bikes for an explore (and I’m not sure my surgeon would advise that 2 weeks post op!). Maybe we will get there tomorrow – it’s meant to be a bit cooler.

It’s great to have my operation behind me and to be back travelling again. Mr A is doing all of the heavy lifting for this trip as I can’t do any for 6 weeks, but he doesn’t seem to mind the extra exercise. We’re both pleased to be back on the road seeing Australia with our adventurous fur child.

30 January – 3 February: Exploring new areas of Sydney

Author: Mrs A

Location: Matraville, Sydney, La Perouse

After a few initial culture shocks of being back in Sydney (lots of traffic, very warm, and a lot of time spent complaining to Telstra!) we have settled back in with our generous ‘flat mates’ Jenny and David in Matraville. We have had a busy few days ticking off the usual medical appointments – a biopsy and 90 minutes in a dentist’s chair for Mr A, an airway procedure with an ENT specialist for me (with tentatively great news about how my airway is looking – nice and wide open!), plus a few nice experiences tossed in for luck – hairdressers and a catch up with friends at a new restaurant.

Saturday Mark and I decided we needed to get some fresh air and headed off a short drive from where we’re staying to the coast, just a 5 minute drive to Kamay Botany Bay National Park.

Ever wondered where Matraville and Botany Bay National Park is?

We have both lived in Sydney for more than 20 years, and could hardly believe we are still being introduced to beautiful natural areas such as this as we set off to explore somewhere new.

Dramatic skies accompany us as we walk along the cliff top

And not a breath of wind to stir the waters…

Our destination is Cape Banks, and the ‘island’ we reach via footbridge. We had no idea this existed before today and the grey humid skies only added to the mysterious atmosphere.

Mr A takes the bold step off mainland Australia onto the bridge to the island
Despite the calm winds the surf crashes over the rocks
We find a little rock shelter to watch the water from
More sculptural rocks…

Once on the island we have fabulous views over to the mouth of Botany Bay
Container ships constantly enter and leave from Botany Bay…
The Minmi – a ship wreck from 1937 – It was originally built in Glasgow, Scotland and is gradually disappearing into the sea
More of the Minmi wreck – two crew members died when it ran aground here

We continued our walk a little around the bay, driving around to Little Bay where we took to the beach and followed the soft sand around to Yarra Bay. We had never heard of Yarra Bay, but found out it is a nominee for the best beach in Australia. We called into the Skiff Club for lunch.Oysters and calamari sustaining us, we then decided to inflate our peak rafts (handily stowed in our backpacks) and paddle back to the start of the walk. Perfect!Our day concluded with a delicious barbecued roast lamb dinner with Jenny and David, simply delicious.

Sunday morning saw us joining Jenny and David for another new experience, strolling along the Hermitage Foreshore Walk from Vaucluse to Nielsen Park. Just a short 1.8km each way, it links several little bays alongside Sydney Harbour and provides some gorgeous views.

Our first view of the bridge, helping justify the high price of property in this area
Jen, David & Mark set off along the walkway

A lovely crested bird – a Shrike-Tit perhaps?

My favourite view of all, through a sculptural tree creating multiple windows…

We farewelled Jenny and David after a swim and returning to the start of the walk, and headed off to Sydney’s north shore for a catch up with two more friends, Donna and Andy.

They treated us to a couple of delicious gin and tonics – including a non-alcoholic one for Mark as he was driving. Together with a delicious platter of cheese, biscuits and pickles and a great catch-up, it was as ever, lovely to spend time with our friends.

An exotic selection of gins and tonic waters

Soon though, it was time for more farewells as we drove to our final destination for the night and the coming days, Forestville with more friends, John and Eveliene.

I’m about to head into hospital for an operation and they have kindly offered a bed for my convalescence. It’s a strange feeling being ‘homeless’ in what has been our home town for so many years, moving from destination to destination with a car full of cases and possessions. We couldn’t do this without the kindness and generosity of our friends here in Sydney, and for that we will be forever grateful.

Goodbye NZ we will miss you!

Author: Mr A

Location: Auckland New Zealand

Well it’s nearly time to head to the airport and bid goodbye to this fabulous country and people. She has touched our hearts again with the beauty of the mountains and coastline, the fresh produce that can be brought at roadside stalls, the cooling breezes that even on a hot day provide a tingle of freshness.

Leaving Omokoroa was hard. We feel priveldged to have watched the sun set over the hills there so many times. To watch the clouds swirling round the peaks of the Kaimai Range in in the distance as we sat on the patio and chatted with Richard and Sue. To watch the flocks of godwits as the tide changes make their daily flight back and forward to their preferred feeding grounds, never failing to make us “ooh and ahhh”. To stand on the beach and breathe in that air that is so fresh and clean it makes your nose tingle. These are the memories we will store away.

The tidal mudflats, a feeding ground for so many birds
Oyster Catchers flying in to join their flock
We wish we could communicate the bird calls across the sands, the geese, the godwits, the swans, oyster catchers, stilts and more…
The sense of peace and serenity here is second to none

We once again have experienced the kindness of people as we travel. Yesterday was such a great example of that. Collected from our hotel, we were whisked out to a friend’s house in the posh end of Auckland’s coastal suburbs. It was a day we will always remember.

Friends reunited – strolling along the waterfront at Mission Bay
Excited to be seeing somewhere new
A little post lunch margarita action to celebrate Auckland Day
Bonnie the gorgeous cat-dog knows a good lap when she finds one!

The lively conversation with the whole family engaged. The fabulously long lunch down on the water. The sharing of stories, music and jokes. Suddenly 10 hours had passed in a blink, but the deeper friendship forged will last I think a lifetime. This surely is what life should be about if you have managed to carve yourself some space from the day to day pressure of earning a crust.

The sad fact of travel though is that you do have to say goodbye a lot, and we’ve said a few over the last days. However, we look forward to seeing the Sydney mob again. Fasten your seat belts we’re incoming!

December 5-8: Mothballing the car & Zone

Author: Mrs A

Location: Canowindra, Bathurst and Sydney

Tuesday: Everyone awoke feeling a little dusty after our impromptu celebration on Monday night, but life on a farm must go on, however foggy the heads! Jo somehow found time to show Mark and I around the old house that sits on the property, the central parts still pretty sound after nearly 100 years standing. Jo and Alan have some exciting plans for a new home, office and guest quarters on the site, with building hopefully starting next year.Mr A and I drove into sleepy Canowindra to send off the last of our eBay sales, a couple of Christmas gifts to the UK, and return our tyre-pressure monitoring kit back to the factory for testing. Despite fully reinstalling the monitors from scratch in the morning, they still failed to show all our wheels on the system.

We were more or less the only people on the streets – it’s amazing how the handful of clothes, craft and trinket shops survive with such light traffic.

Alan, Jo, Mark and I finished off the day by heading into the nearby small town of Cowra, hoping to eat dinner at the Indian restaurant there. Mr A and I had dined there last year, finding the food delicious, and definitely up there with our favourite meals. Sadly, on arrival we found the restaurant in darkness, the phone number seemingly disconnected. What a shame. We opted for the local pub instead, The Oxley, which was buzzing and provided some tasty dinners.

Wednesday: We awoke knowing we had a challenging task ahead of us – to decide what items to take out from the caravan and back to Sydney with us. We were now leaving the caravan until February so had to think about all eventualities. Finally we had packed our bags, done a final tidy up and took the Zone to its undercover storage place. The Zone looked dwarfed by the barn, and we feel sure it’ll be protected from the elements, settled amongst fabulous views over the coming weeks.We farewelled Jo and Alan and drove to our next destination, Bathurst. There we stopped the night with friend David and his two boys, Felix and Rory, enjoying steak and salad and a good night’s sleep. This is where the Cruiser will spend the next few weeks while we are in New Zealand.

Thursday: David dropped us at Bathurst station and Mr A and I began our slow journey back to Sydney. Boarding a coach to Lithgow at 10am, we finally reached our next accomodation in Matraville around 4.30pm. A long hard slog!

It was great to see Miss Tassie though, and soon our patient and generous flat mates Jenny and David arrived home from work for dinner and a catch up.

We’re definitely clocking up the favours, and feel very fortunate for the strong friendships we have built up over the past 20 years in Australia which are allowing us to enjoy the lifestyle we have chosen.

Friday: After a very sedentary few days, we were determined to get out for a walk. It’s a gorgeous temperature here at the moment, mid 20s, and perfect for a stroll. We walked down to South Maroubra Beach and back, clocking up over 12km – very pretty scenery.The afternoon was spent doing a little Christmas shopping and a visit to my ENT surgeon (iSGS followers – I had my first awake steroid injection into my stenosis!).

Saturday: A hair cut was in order for me – I decided to get quite a bit chopped off and it’s now the shortest its been in several years – thank you Toni for fitting me in and doing a great job as usual! Jenny and David had invited a bunch of their friends over for Christmas drinks and nibbles in the evening, so Mr A and I helped prepare the apartment for visitors, starting with quality testing the beverages – a glass of French Champagne before the guests arrived.A fun evening proceeded – delicious food and drink accompanied by much laughter and interesting conversations. Fabulous!

Dec 1 – 4: Inland to Canowindra

Author: Mr A

Location: Crookwell & Canowindra, NSW

Saturday: We left the gourmet delights of Berry behind, with two fridges and a freezer groaning at the seams. My trousers also seemed to have shrunk in the Berry water. It was time to head over to friends Alan and Jo at Canowindra, where we would be storing the van until February.We decided to miss the hairpin bends of the Kangaroo Valley route, and headed across the top of Moreton National Park via the Nerriga road. The small rural centre of Crookwell was our destination, and a council run caravan park that I saw had good reviews… on arrival that we felt the good reputation was completely justified. What a spotless little place!

Sunday: A much postponed day of cleaning the car and van was in order, plans for cycling shelved in the gale force winds. I had just finished giving the poor old cruiser some polishing when the dust storm hit. I was not best pleased. We then realised why the first grid connected wind farm in Australia was built on the edge of town. Blimey it can blow there.

Monday morning we set off across a series of back roads towards Canowindra, another small rural town between Orange and Cowra. It was great drive, reminding us why we love travelling in rural NSW. Empty roads and an ever changing scenery. Big sky country is such a great way to describe this part of the world. All was serene until we pulled over and I noticed we had shredded a tyre along the way! With a tandem axle it’s hard to notice a flat, and our tyre pressure monitoring system had been playing up.

So it was out with the tools and off with one of the spares. First problem, a bright spark at the first caravan repair place we used in Sydney had put a odd size nut on one of the bolts, after he cross threaded the original. Burly farmer Graham came to the rescue. We were pulled over at the end of his drive and after spotting us there half an hour earlier, he took pity on us and lent a hand. Well took over actually!What a top bloke. Again we were reminded of why we love travelling in the country amongst these genuinely friendly folk.

A stop at the Canowindra tyre shop (more friendly, helpful people) and a new tyre will be winging its way to them. Again we regret not changing the wheels on the van to match the Cruiser when we first brought it from Zone. It would have made life a lot simpler. Safety Dave, the company providing the (not-working) tyre pressure monitoring system, also got a good serve.

So finally we arrived at our next ‘drive surfing’ destination. You have heard of couch surfing? Well we have taken that to the next level and bring our whole home to driveways all round Australia. So be warned, there could be a Zone headed your way soon!This is the first time we have seen Jo and Alan’s new place. Alan was a boss of mine in our previous lives in the IT industry, and he and his wife (a former maternity nurse) have reinvented themselves as farmers. How about that for nerve! Selling their fabulous, architect designed house in Berry they purchased this 258 acre property (previously a famous horse stud) earlier this year, and are now living in the stables. They have already got one cash producing crop of lucerne under their belt and are breeding pedigree goats.Why would they do this, you might ask? The subject of many a conversation over a good red last night. Basically neither were ready to hang their respective hats up quite yet. Jo got interested in goats whilst at Berry and had real success with breeding and showing them. Alan has the ability, it seems, to turn his hands and brain to solve any challenge.When you see people starting new phases of their lives like this, you are reminded that we are only limited by our ambition and courage. We are lucky enough in Australia to have so much opportunity to explore what we are capable of, and often the means to do so.

Whether it be starting new venture on Amazon (well done the Wards – Nestandnook.store) or developing properties in Newcastle (go the Molloys!), or casting off city life and moving a family to start a new life and venture in Bathurst (all power to the Cummings – Destinyag.co). I could go on…

I think the constraints of traditional thinking about how our lives should unfold are being cast aside as the notion of a ‘career’, steadily moving up the ladder in the same company, proves to be an increasingly rare occurrence for many people.

29-30 November: Blissful bounties in Berry

Author: Mrs A

Location: Berry, NSW

Thursday: We survived the storm in Kiama, emerging unscathed to head a short way south to Berry. We’re fortunate to have good friends living there not far from Seven Mile Beach, and parked up the Zone at the top of their property.

After a cup of tea with Barb, Mr A and I decided we ought to get out for a walk, despite another impending rainstorm. We drove down to the very deserted beach, arriving just as the heavens opened!The weather didn’t stop us, and we enjoyed the hike with the rain and wind at our backs, with the shower stopping in time for our return route.We enjoyed a great evening with Barb and Omar, a delicious chicken hotpot and some fine wine of course, before retiring to our bed up on the hill, lulled to sleep by a chorus of croaking frogs. Very relaxing indeed!

Friday: The day dawned bright and sunny, and we got a chance to admire our fine view across to Budderoo National Park.We had a delicious breakfast in Berry with Barb, Omar and another friend, Joanne who happened to be in town, before taking our kayak down to Broughton Creek and launching it for a paddle. After all our hard work the past few weeks, this was finally us reaping our reward, and the morning was perfect for it.Spring has truly sprung here, and the riverside was lined with young calves, staring in shock at this 7+ metre giant boat cruising past. There was not a breath of wind, providing us with some amazing mirror-like reflections.We paddled just over 9km, before returning for hot showers and a relaxing afternoon. It’s been a while since we’ve been allowed such luxury!

The four of us concluded the day with a delicious Thai feast at Leaf, a local Berry restaurant, before retiring for the night. What a perfect start to our time away from home!