4 June: Are we getting tired of all these lovely villages? Not yet!

Author: Mrs A

Location: Assisi, Umbria, Italy

Tuesday: While sad to leave Lago Trasimeno, we were keen to see some more of the area before we were due in La Marche on the eastern side of Italy. We decided to head to Assisi. Mr A was originally reluctant, claiming it was ‘too much about religion’, but given the whole town is a UNESCO world heritage site, I felt it was a location not to be missed.

It was a short hour’s drive and we were soon pulling up at a relatively new sosta outside a motorhome owning farmer’s house. What a view of Assisi it had!

We were also excited when a little ginger kitten came bounding up to greet us, six month old Esther is an Italian camping-cat!

Cheeky Esther bounds into Truffy for an explore
I wonder if she meows in Italian?

We wasted no time in getting out the ebikes and heading up the steep hill into town.

Mr A heading under the city gateway

As we rode up through the streets, very thankful for the electric motors helping us on our way, we passed a whole mixture of stone archways, pillars and building styles from throughout the ages.

At the very top of the hill there sits a fortification, the Rocca Maggiore, more than 800 years old. The views from here are fabulous, looking across the patchwork valley of Tescio. The castle has been built, pillaged, restored again and again in its history – it’s in pretty good nick these days but we didn’t go in.

Rocca Maggiore
Solid stone walls more than 800 years old
Fabulous views across the valley
Look where these little bike bring us!

The settlement of Assisi has been populated for thousands of years, with evidence dating back to 1,000 BCE when the Umbrians lived on the hill top in a small fortified settlement. The Etruscan civilisation took over around 450 BCE, introducing architecture heavily influenced by the Greeks, and then 295 BCE was when the Romans took over central Italy.

A Roman water trough still adorns a square

You may have heard of Saint Frances of Assisi? He was canonised in the 1200s, born and buried in Assisi and is co-patron-saint of Italy along with Saint Catherine of Siena. Pilgrims still flock to the town, and we saw several monks in long brown robes strolling the streets.

There are indeed a lot of churches in Assisi, containing magnificent frescoes and paintings by famous Italian artists. But churches aside, the history and architecture is fascinating, often intermingled through the ages.

Piazza del Comune

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
These pillars date back to the 1st century BCE – part of a temple dedicated to the Egyptian Goddess Isis
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva – interior from the 1500s, covered in frescoes
Magnificent painted ceilings

We made our way gradually through the streets, exploring nooks and crannies and stopping to try some local produce – some delicious Umbrian wine, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

A delicious crisp fresh dry white from Umbria

Sold! One tin of extra virgin olive oil and one aged balsamic ‘no caramel in here!’ – bought from Francesco, such a character…

Love the sign outside Francesco’s shop: ‘Please come in and taste now the best olive oils and balsamic vinegar, Later you will not feel like walking up again. Don’t miss this chance.’

Houses frame yet more views of the surrounding countryside as we descend through the town
Such a clean and uncrowded city

The most famous of all the churches is probably the biggest, Basilica of St Francis. It is also the most visited, with coach trips heading here just to see the artwork here. I recall visiting while an art student at university, way back in February 1990. The temperature was slightly different then, I can tell you – think snow flurries and bitterly cold wind! I decided not to go back in, but did a fly by on the bike to remember how it looked.

Outside the Basilica – inside, frescos painted by Giotto depict St Francis’ life
A grand entrance way

As we returned to camp, the farmer and sosta manager pointed out his cat had a litter of four kittens needing good homes. They’re only a month old at the moment, so too young to adopt, but very adorable…no room for another cat in our life though, our Aussie Miss Tassie is still our most important fur child.

Kitten fur is just so silky soft

We settled down to a relaxing evening, enjoying the view as the lights turned on across Assisi.

Better than watching the TV – I even got a cat curled up on my lap for half an hour!

The Basilica of St Francis all lit up
Looking up to the castle
Sunset over Umbria
Santa Maria degli Angeli – just around the corner from our camp. Famous for housing the home of St Francis and his followers – where he founded the Franciscan order and also where he died in 1226.

19-20 February: King Valley winetasting

Author: Mr A

Location: Whitfield, Victoria

Tuesday morning saw us saunter south from the small settlement of Chilton, just south of Albury, well rested after the best nights sleep in months thanks to the cooler night. The drive took us down through the King Valley in the foothills of the Victorian High Country. We landed at a lovely little campsite in the small village of Whitfield. Tassie, or camping cat, decided she liked the place using pretty much the same criteria as us….there were no dogs yapping or cars racing round. It’s a very laid back little place called Valley View Caravan Park and we’ve loved it.

We took a gentle ride (Catherine’s first since her stomach op two weeks ago) down the road to a winery that friends had recommended called Pizzini Wines. I recognised the logo as their Pino Grigio was our go-to white.

Only 3km each way, this was a very gentle ease back in to cycling!
One of our favourite sign posts!
Pizzini, nestled in the valley, spectacularly peaceful – all about to be shattered as harvest has started here

Well, we were blown away by the rest of their range as well. We both really like cool climate wines, and Italian varietals, so we tucked into this tasting with gusto. Their Barberas, Sangioveses and Nebbiolos we thought we’re exquisite. Just so well balanced, delicate wines. Our lovely host even dropped off our case of purchases at the caravan park!

Wednesday: The first few hours of today were spent trying to make room for more wine and all the extra clothes we have now brought with us because our belongings are all in storage. We have discovered the joys of packing cubes….I know its sad isn’t it but they are sooooo good at keeping things organised in the somewhat restricted space of our caravan and car.

After the frenzy of organising we headed over the road to another winery, Dal Zotto Wines. Not as spectacular, but still three bottles made their way somehow to our under bed storage!

Catherine said she felt up to a longer ride today so we headed out to explore some gravel roads along the King River.

Beautiful gum-tree lined lanes with no traffic – bliss!
Grapes are ready for the picking…
A miniature horse foal – so cute – we also saw deer, sheep and many wombat burrows
A chill out before starting dinner

It was a great ride with the temperatures being in the gentle mid 20s, the vineyards looking ripe for harvest, and apparently at 3am this morning they will start harvesting!

It has been a great start to our travels in Victoria, but off to pastures new tomorrow. Marysville and Melbourne here we come!

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.

December 9-14: Goodbye Sydney, Hello NZ!

Author: Mr A

Location: Sydney, Australia, Auckland & Omokoroa, New Zealand

We said goodbye to Sydney in traditional fashion with lots of lovely catch ups with friends who we won’t see for a while. Breakfast at The Boathouse in La Peruse reminded us of how little of Sydney we really know. What an awesome spot, and a very lardy breakfast helped blow away the cobwebs from the night before.

Then in the evening it was a home cooked curry from friends Aisha and Clive. I won’t attempt to describe how Pakistani food is different to Indian, all I know is the former has now found an equally tasty place in our culinary heart as the latter! Yummy..who knew something called ‘balls of happiness’ would be so tasty…?

Aisha and Clive’s fabulous view from their balcony
The sparkling city views at night

Then it was time to say goodbye to Miss Tasmania and drop her off with her Christmas hosts, Rosemary and Richard. Another fab meal appeared and was tackled with gusto. We are so lucky to have friends who we know will love her staying and exploiting their warm laps during the festive season.

Princess Tasmania enjoying the sunshine before we whisked her off to Hornsby

Finally the day we had long prepared for arrived, and we were off to the airport. We wanted to do a long trip to New Zealand, managing three weeks on a couple of occasions just left us hungry for more. So this will be a six week extravaganza, thanks to the generous hosting from Catherine’s dad Richard and his wife Sue.

After a laborious check in and truly awful food on the plane, a decision was made that LATAM airlines wont be on our Christmas list! Very ordinary…but we arrived in one piece and our 60kg of checked luggage (containing inflatable packrafts, camping gear and the many types of clothes suitable for the land of the long white cloud) didn’t carry on to Santiago, so that was a bonus.

We arrived at Sue and Richard’s house full of curiosity to see how it looked, since the last time we saw it was in the construction phase. Wow….what a home. Just check out the location, the views, the garden. I think we will manage here!

Looking up at their house from the reserve
Richard and Sue enjoying their view
Customary cheese and wine nibbles before dinner
Dusk falls across the reserve and neighbouring golf course with magnificent skies

It was up bright and early to try out our new packrafts. A short stroll across the reserve at the end of the garden and then across the tidal flats and we were on our way. This was their first time in the water, but all went well and we think we will get a lot of good use from these lightweight (less than 2kg each) that pack up into a day pack.

Looking back towards the reserve and where Richard and Sue live (and our new boats!)
Pulling away from the Omokoroa headland, the island behind Catherine
King tides have sculpted a new coastline here (including dismantling some cliff edge properties)
Pied Cormorants taking off at the sight of us

We headed out hugging the shore and immediately fell back in love with the Bay of Plenty. The scenery is just so magnificent, with all the winding waterways framed by the Kinea Mountains. The vegetation is so lush, the air so fresh…and no flies! The bird life was prolific, and we just pootled along, as you do in a packraft on flat water (they are not a fast boat in these conditions). But we weren’t in a rush and just loved drinking in the beauty of this place. We consider making a dash across the open water to Matacama Island, but with no life jackets and little idea of the current played it safe and headed back to our launch point.

We were invited over to a Christmas party at the neighbours’ house and watched a massive electrical storm play out over the bay. Just as we headed back to Richard and Sue’s house, the heavens opened, and I mean opened! This was an incredible downpour, locals saying they had never seen anything like it in their lifetime. I think that phrase is going to be used a lot as our weather patterns continue to change. We have seen our fair share of rain on our trips here, but this was extreme.

Anyway, we are prepared with all the gear and (in my case a least)…no idea :).

Onwards to our next phase of adventures down under!

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!

10 October- 28 November: The seven week sprint

Authors: Mr & Mrs A

What a whirlwind of a seven weeks we have had since arriving back in Australia from the USA! Our goal was to get the house rented again before the Christmas lull, and set ourselves up to be free and funded to travel for the next few years. We decided that meant renting our place longer term and unfurnished, to prevent further deterioration of our contents and allow us to access our things from storage if we needed to either stop travelling and rent, our swap over clothes and gear.

In parallel to finding a new real estate agent (that we would have confidence in to protect our asset), we needed to slim down what we were going to store – restricting ourselves to only the things we felt were high value to us, financially and emotionally. That left a lot of stuff we needed to re-home, either through selling or donating to friends/charity.

We also needed to ensure our health was in optimum shape before hitting the road, and lastly but most importantly we wanted to spend as much time with Sydney based friends as possible, as we plan to be spending a lot less time there in the coming years.

So here’s the summary of how we have spent our time, and what we have accomplished. We make a good team with very different skills, and this scorecard reminds us of that.

Social scorecard

This photo says it all, lots of laughs and drinks, and great food (eventually!). Our friends were so generous with the their time and support. We couldn’t contemplate what we are doing without their help and it is much appreciated.

Catch-ups with friends: 12 awesome breaking bread occasions that created some great memories to take on our travels with us.

Medical

Of course heading home means a chance to see the dentist and get all essential check ups done…and to have a few doses of general anaesthetic drugs too – in Mrs A’s case at least – Mr A is a finely tuned machine…ah-hem….

GP visits: Mr A: 3 / Mrs A: 2

Pathology/tests : Mr A: 1 / Mrs A: 2

Specialist visits: Mr A: 3 / Mrs A: 3

Operations: Mr A: 0 / Mrs A: 2 (with another one booked for February 2019)

Dental visits: Mr A: 1 / Mrs A: 1

Friends visited in hospital: 1 (Eric, you’re a champ!)

Trips to vet: 1 (Princess Tassie in fine form)

So it has been a busy period on the health front – trying to both manage excising conditions, and be proactive about monitoring our general health. Getting health care whilst of no fixed abode is a real challenge.

House Rental

We have learnt a lot from our first two experiences as landlords. We wanted to apply that knowledge now and do things a little differently. So we found a new agent, thanks to a great recommendation from friends, and had a much better experience through the marketing and sales process, culminating in a signed agreement within three weeks. Well done Jacquelynn and Jessica of Ray White Freshwater!

Prep time: We lost count of the number of days we spent cleaning and fixing things in the house and garden. Suffice to say there was much that needed doing to ready it for showing to prospective tenants at the premium end of the price range that we are at.

Open house: 1

Viewings: 2

Cubic metres of contents eventually stored: 40m

Compared to our previous experience it was quite painless. We are were properly briefed on prospective tenants, good advice was given and a new tenancy agreement signed.

Selling/donating

There’s nothing like living in a small space (a caravan) to refocus the mind about what you really need to live comfortably! We (Ok lets be honest here, Mrs A played the lead role in this activity) decided on a long list of things we wanted to sell or give away. When we looked at the cost of storage (a tortuous process in itself to find that out!), we quickly realised it made no sense to store things that weren’t really valuable. So it was time to “let go” of furniture we had had for some time, and sell it while it had at least some residual value. There were also things that we felt we wouldn’t need in this next phase of our travels.

For instance our bike and boat fleets have been reduced. Six bikes down to two, and sold one kayak and two packrafts, although we have replaced the latter with smaller, lighter versions for flat water only. We even sold old cameras, sunglasses, a GPS unit, the list goes on. Every item for sale had to be carefully photographed and presented well, with accurate descriptions, then packed and sent off. Time consuming but the payback was fantastic, both financially and the feeling we got from decluttering our home and garage.

Furniture & items sold/donated to friends/neighbours: 40

Trips to Vinnies/Lifeline: 8

Furniture sold on Gumtree: 4

Items sold on eBay: 19

Items sold on Facebook groups: 2

Original artwork sold: 9

Funds raised from all the above: $12,000!

Financial

We had a few things to sort out. Our first step as always was a review meeting with our financial planner. As usual he provided us with a really high quality assessment of where our investments stand, and what strategies we should use to maximise them going forward. We came away feeling confident that the life plan we have for the next few years (travelling both in Australia and internationally), is affordable now we have set up the house to provide a predicable income supplement to Mr A’s super.

We have mixed feelings about being told how lucky we are to be able to do this. Yes luck has played a part, i.e. some things that were outside of our control have gone well. However, we also feel we have played our part in determining where we find ourselves now, with smart decision making and sacrifices made along the way.

Money saved on insurance: Its amazing what deals can be done if you look hard enough and on a fixed income now we are very motivated to do that. For instance, why should our car be registered in an expensively rated city area when it won’t be there? Or through persisting with our storage insurance research we secured a deal saving 66% off our initial quote, saving thousands off our annual bill.

No home address?: Some companies are still slow to enable their systems to deal with those of us who choose to have no fixed abode for long periods. We found through research that there is often no legal reason companies need a physical address for you, but they will often tell you there is. Old habits die hard, and they do so love somewhere to send their marketing material.

So what’s next?

After 7 weeks, the sprint to achieve our goal of being able to set ourselves up to extend our travelling lifestyle is over. We drove out of Sydney yesterday, turning our back on a lovely home, plumbing connected to a sewerage system, dishwashers and ironing boards. We headed south to Kiama and will spend the next 10 days visiting some friends before storing the caravan and car, eventually retuning to Sydney a few days before our New Zealand trip.Sadly Tassie can’t be with us on every part of our travels, but she is being so very well looked after in feline foster care with all the warm spots and cuddles she needs.

We have certainly picked an interesting time to leave the security of our home, as the biggest storm in 40 years hits us. The caravan is swaying in the wind and we were warned last night we might be marooned in our caravan park by a flooding river. Well, so what? We have everything we need in here (except a blue Burmese cat to snuggle up to!)…the next adventure begins!

November: A new phase of our life about to begin!

Author: Mr A

Location: Curl Curl, NSW

We sit surrounded by packing crates. Our cat looks as bemused as we do at the state of the house! Our prized possessions being taped up and sealed in crates, with Catherine and I having no clue as to when and where we will open them again!Two weeks today we will pull out of our driveway unsure as to when we will be back. We have rented the house out again, but this time unfurnished, as we want to continue to travel for at least a year and more likely longer, and offering the place unfurnished means longer more stable rental income. Well thats the plan anyway. We’ve locked in our first tenant with the help of Ray White Real Estate, who will manage the rental while we are away.

So we have spent the last few weeks decluttering, selling furniture and stuff we don’t want to store. It’s been hard to let some things ago, but also liberating now as we look around at a more streamlined set of possessions. It all sounds pretty good, and it is, apart from the fact that we will be separated from our fur child Tasmania. She will be in superb foster care though with a couple of sets of friends, but of course will be sorely missed by us. With any direction you take in life there are always compromises to be made. Giving away our treasured book collection yesterday for instance – that was tough – but it made no sense to store them – we are trying to get our costs down of course as we will need to live off the rental income and my super.So as well as finalising the packing we are organising the multitude of things that you need to change if you will no longer have a permanent address. Of course this has been so much easier now almost everyone can transact with you without sending mail, except the RTA of course, bless them. Oh and CIL, the specialist caravan insurer who would have a huge percentage of their customers of no fixed abode! Some companies are still struggling with the digital transition it seems.

So what happens next?

Lots of people have been asking us that question, so here’s the summary. When we leave the house we will spend a few days in southern NSW catching up with friends, and then make our way back to Sydney minus the van and the car, which will be stored with some of those friends who don’t live in Sydney and therefore have nice large driveways! Thank you if you’re reading this! Then it’s off to the North Island of New Zealand on the 12 December for 6 weeks, basing ourselves with some of Catherine’s family just outside of Tauranga.

Then the plot thickens. We will spent February and March around southern NSW and Victoria, then head off to Europe in early April.

Once there, we are going to be motorhome based nomads, starting in the UK then heading over to Europe in May, which will of course be a seperate economic area by then, so our plans are pretty flexible based on what agreements are reached on Brexit. For example, maximum stays of 3 months for UK passport holders is one option being debated. We will see have to see how it all unfolds.

Lots of excitement and unknowns in the Anderson household at the moment. Catherine has some ongoing health issues which will need to be treated and managed within these plans, so we will need to be flexible.

We so appreciate the support of friends who are helping us make this happen, offering foster care for Tassie, helping me fix things (I need a lot of help). Leaving our friends behind as we spend less time in Sydney is going to be tough. However, we have been offered the opportunity so we think we should grab it.

7-12 September: A brief return to city life

Author: Mrs A

Friday – location: Newcastle

We continued our journey south, watching the temperature drop a few degrees and the skies turn grey and heavy with rain. We were to have a somewhat gentle introduction to city life, with an overnight with our friends Karen and Chris in Merewether, Newcastle.

Tassie’s been here before, and was soon running from room to room, exploring every nook and cranny before crashing out on our bed exhausted from all the excitement. We meanwhile relished in fast internet speeds, and relaxed with a cup of herbal tea to catch up on news.Tea progressed into champagne, and the four of us then went out for a delicious local curry – Mark and Chris careful not to overdo the cheese and nibbles before we went!

Saturday-Wednesday – location: Sydney

After a delicious breakfast in Newcastle, we moved on for the last leg back into Sydney. We’d booked caravan storage in Marrickville, quite a central location, but this meant driving through Saturday afternoon traffic on one of Sydney’s busiest arteries, Parramatta Road…not really designed for towing.Mark drove excellently despite the stressful conditions, and before long we were emptying the last of our freezer bits and pieces and heading to our friends’ apartment in Matraville, not far from Botany Bay for a delicious roast lamb dinner and a well deserved glass of red wine.

Sunday was Mr A’s birthday, so we were joined by about 30 friends at a pub in the city for drinks and nibbles and a general catch up. Much fun and frivolity ensued of course.Monday and Tuesday were earmarked for the all essential medical check ups, with good news for Mr A’s eye pressures, less good news for my airway (but a new procedure to try in October), and some steroid injections into my foot to allow some comfortable hiking in the USA.

We got all our jobs done and managed to fit in a couple of cups of tea with friends too. Sydney was back to its usual sparkling self:

Wednesday was a final packing day as we fly off to Los Angeles in the morning. We started with an early morning walk in the Malabar Headland National Park. Mr A and Jenny walked, while I (on doctors orders not to use my foot much, post injections) did a little bird spotting – mostly wattle birds, New England honeyeaters, lorikeets, cockatoos and fairy wrens. What a pretty area and great time of day to enjoy the sunrise and birdlife.Mr A took the opportunity to catch up with a bunch of old work colleagues for lunch while I had a hair cut. Lovely.We finished off our day joining Jenny and David for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. Fabulous food and company as always.While we are away, Miss Tassie will be staying here at her luxury pad in Matraville for the next month. She’s settled in nicely, already solar mapping out the apartment. Apparently the new chairs on the balcony suit her, while she is also finding the colour scheme elsewhere works with her glossy blue coat. She’s in good hands here.

3-4 September: Heading south & back into NSW

Author: Mrs A

Monday – Location: Noosa to Coolum Beach, then to Brisbane

We were all sad to say farewell to our friends Ray and Wendy in Noosa, particularly Tassie, who had become accustomed to her choice of laps and enjoyed her days relaxing on the daybed watching the activity on the river. But it was time to collect our Zone from its couple of days of pampering and head on our way.

We called into Belmondo’s on the way out of Noosa, finding ourselves spending a ridiculous amount of money on a handful of items, before heading south to Coolum, the home of Zone.

Before long, we were pulling away, and heading on the highway south to stay the night with our fellow Zoners, Libby and Phil.We had a brief whirlwind of time to transfer our cases and food back into the caravan, dig out the smart clothes and get changed, before the four of us drove into Brisbane for the evening.

The weather has been tumultuous – really cold for Brisbane (about 15 degrees centigrade!) and wet – but as we arrived at South Bank the clouds lifted to give us a fabulous display across the river into the city.After this, we parted ways, Phil and Libby ending up at a pub helping celebrate a nephew’s birthday, while Mr A and I joined three lovely ladies for dinner in a French restaurant beside the water.

I’ve been invited to talk at the Australian Society of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery here in Brisbane next March regarding my work with the rare disease I have, idiopathic subglottic stenosis. Two of the ladies we met were paediatric ENT surgeons here in Brisbane, and the third worked at a pharmaceutical company, supplying equipment for the surgeons, and a sponsor for the event.

We had a lovely evening, delicious food, and I got to talk about a cause very close to my heart (and airway!). I’m looking forward to next year’s event already and all the good it can potentially do.

Our very generous hosts collected us at the end of our meal, and whisked us back to their home for warm drinks and conversation. Such incredible kindness from friends we only met for the first time in March this year!

Tuesday – location: Brisbane, Samford – Queensland and Woombah, New South Wales

Breakfast was our first port of call, the four of us heading down into the nearby village of Samford to Phil and Libby’s favourite café, Black Sheep. Delicious Eggs Benedict for three, and a breakfast wrap for me, and we were all happy campers, definitely not in need of lunch today!

We had a chance to admire the five plus acre property we’re staying on, full of birds, rolling hills and bushland – just beautiful – before our hosts escorted us on our way via their secret route to the main road south.

There followed a stressful few hours on the M1 motorway, packed full of tailgating semitrailers and road trains going much too fast for the wet conditions.

We finally pulled off the road at the little settlement of Woombah, breathing a sigh of relief as we left behind the noise and the traffic and set up camp in a site with a fabulous view.We have probably driven past this area a dozen times without any awareness of what’s here, but it’s a lovely rural settlement sat on the banks of the Clarence River close to the estuary. There are over 100 islands in the wide river here, the nearest to us being Goodwood Island.

In need of fresh air and exercise, we set up camp, donned our rain coats and headed off for a walk.The sun was starting to set so we only went a couple of kilometres, crossing over the bridge to Goodwood Island and checking out the wet sugar cane fields before returning for the evening.More rain and thunder entertained us, a novelty after the dry and drought of the inland areas. Sadly, it seems the rain is sticking to the coast, not helping out the farmers this time.

We’ll continue our journey south tomorrow, and with a continued forecast of rain, have not made any plans for where we might end up…all part of the adventure!

30 August – 2 September: Noosa…we love yer!

Author: Mr A

Location: Noosaville, Noosa River, Queensland

Thursday: We left Tin Can Bay to drive down to Coolum and drop our van off at Zone for a service. I was reflecting on how well things had gone as we approach the final leg of this trip….Lo and behold, a logging truck approaches on the other side of the road, and suddenly there’s a big crash as a massive stone puts a hole in our windscreen and showers Catherine and Tassie with shards of glass!

We quickly paint the broken area with nail polish lacquer to prevent the cracks spreading. A phone call to NRMA and a repair is easily organised. It could have been a lot nastier if the windscreen had totally shattered.

We arrived at Zone and ran through the job sheet of minor warranty work and service items, then left them to it and headed up to Noosa. Our friends who live there had invited us to stay with them for the weekend. Just driving along the river to their place brought back so many happy memories from our last stay here on the way up the coast back in April.

We all piled into their car and headed for lunch to one of our favourite spots in town, Belmondo’s, a deli on steroids. You can find every kind of produce here and lunch was a taste sensation after so many outback miles of fine food deprivation!

Back at Wendy and Ray’s apartment, the next treat is a quick trip out on their boat up the river. The water is pristine after weeks with no rain.We chat about our plan to come and rent here when we have had enough of our full time nomadic phase. It certainly is nice to be in an apartment again with endless water on tap and a toilet I don’t have to empty every morning! Tassie also approves, taking up her position on the day bed watching the non-stop action on the river. Watching the sunset turn the water to red, we both feel that we want to see this view a LOT more.

Friday: The windscreen repairer made short work of popping in a new one, and we are ready to roll. We met up with some fellow Zoners in the evening, plus Caroline and Brian, with their lovely kids, Hannah and Hamish, who we knew from Sydney before they took the plunge and moved up here. It was a great evening, and reminds us how much we miss friends being on the road and constantly travelling.

Saturday: We headed off to the Eumundi markets, we had loved them last time we visited and had some present buying to do.All sorts of local folk are selling their wares, or cooking up tasty treats. We could so get used to this life!

Back in Noosa we had a bit of a special dinner planned with our fabulous hosts. A new restaurant had just opened up down the road, so we gave it a whirl. What awesome food, very innovative taste combinations right from the pre-dinner coacktails. I had a cheeky little number containing bourbon, Shiraz (yes!) sugar and lemon. Delicious – check out YoYo next time you’re up this way.Sunday: A little worse for wear this morning, it was market time again – this time at the local Noosa farmers market. It seems the whole town turns out to buy their weekly fruit and veg, so you can see it is a bit of a social catch up as well. The food we buy is all just so yummy. Fresh olives with flavours that just leap out at you. Nitrate free bacon. Oranges and apples that are bursting with juice.

Our hosts again take us out on their boat and we pull up onto the white sand at the mouth of the river and wander down the beach. It’s just simply the most beautiful lifestyle I can imagine.We come back and pile into the fresh produce for lunch.

No wonder everyone we meet here is so friendly and jolly. Yes, its an expensive area to live in compared to other parts of Queensland, but if you can afford it why wouldn’t you try it? It will be interesting to be here through the hot and muggy three months of summer though. Let’s see…

To finish off the weekend we went to the Sunset Bar for a couple of drinks…guess why they called it that?What a view. Great beer on tap, free live music, good bar service. I could enjoy making this a regular Sunday night catch up spot with friends!