11-16 May: We’re heading “up the Track”

Author: Mr A

Location: Whyalla/Quorn, Ikara-Flinders Ranges

Our South Australia sojourn is drawing to an end after four months, and tropical central Queensland here we come! Our plan is to “head up the track”, as the saying goes when tackling an iconic outback adventure: the Birdsville Track. The track starts in South Australia’s arid north, and winds its way through three deserts before spitting you out, very dusty and thirsty, at the Birdsville Pub a few kilometres over the border in the central west of Queensland. It will be an adventure for sure.

But first we had a bunch of jobs to get done in the small town of Whyalla, where Catherine was once again going to fly back to Adelaide for steroid injections into her airway, a visit to the hairdressers and some retail therapy. I was being looked after by Tassie, and getting some local medical stuff done. Then it was a matter of cramming as much fresh food into the van and car as we could store. 1,700 km lies between us and our next supermarket in Queensland! Yup…thats a long way between fresh vegetables!

The steel works (top left) and the coastal walkway in Whyalla
Very rarely do we need to wear a mask these days but they are compulsory when flying, Top left, early morning at Whyalla airport, bottom left Whyalla from the skies
Catherine farewells the doctor and nurse team in Adelaide – primarily laryngologists Dr Theo and Dr Alice (right). She hopes to do some research with them later this year.
Later that day….post haircut and bouncy blow dry, a night out with friend of 35+ years, Ali ?
Friday farewell lunch with two of the Adelaide ladies from Catherine’s idiopathic subglottic stenosis support group, Carmel and Heather.

Whyalla is a town that has been struggling for years under threat of its biggest employer, the steel mill, closing down. Today the serious crime squad in London announced it was opening an investigation into the mill’s owner, but despite this cloud, everyone was super friendly and a strong sense of community was evident. But, we couldn’t wait to hit the road.

After six weeks on the very flat Eyre Peninsula, it was great to see the country rising up into jagged peaks in front of us This was the southern end of the Flinders Ranges, a semi-arid country containing some of Australia’s most important fossils and evidence of early human history. We had made a trip here back in 2004, but it was January and crazy hot. Now daytime temperatures are pleasant in the high teens and low 20s, and nights in single figures that have us both fighting over a snuggle with our hot water cat in bed!

Our first destination was the small settlement of Quorn, a town made famous by having for many years both the main east to west and south to north railroads passing through it. During World War 2, around 40 trains a day passed through the town carrying our troops up to defend Darwin and on from there on to fight against the Japanese in the Papua-New Guinea campaign. Nowadays its a very pleasant stop on the tourist route up into the ranges. It even has a tea shop serving a range of brews in English china cups. So civilised.

Quorn high street
Fine bone china teacups made in England
Quorn’s main street has stood relatively still for the past 100+ years
Quorn Railway Station
Wattle Bird
A beautiful Mallee Ringneck Parrot
A gaggle of White-plumed Honeyeaters
An Australian Magpie on our campground
Tassie hunting interesting smells on an accompanied walk

We had managed to snare a cancellation on the only caravan park in town. It is a really busy season up here, and we had heard from friends who stayed locally that there was an outdoor movie shown every evening at sunset. We dressed up warm and headed out. The film was projected onto the side of an old silo, very atmospheric, and had some really interesting content, including from an elder of one of the First Nation groups to live on this ancient land. So inspiring to to see a community pulling a project together like this.

Fifty seconds until the show starts – the sun has set and the new moon risen
Some of the projections during the 30 minute show

Tomorrow we head further up into the ranges and a three night stay on a sheep station, and then from there up to the end of the tarmac and the start of 519km of the Birdsville Track.

It may be a while before we get enough signal to upload another post, hence the heads up on our plans over the next few weeks. It would be an unusual plan that survives contact with the Outback, so our fingers are crossed, but we think we have prepared well enough. The wine cellar is full, the fridge groaning, and the tanks full.

24-30 March: Wildlife spotting in Adelaide

Author: Mrs A

Location: Coromandel Valley, Adelaide Hills and Adelaide, South Australia

After the dust storms and dry environment of the Riverland it was a relief to pull up at our friends’ house in the Adelaide foothills, appreciating all the more the lush grass, and tenderly cared for fruit and vegetables. Leaving Berri, we had a big day’s driving across country.

Kim and Mike live in the Coromandel Valley. The valley was named after a ship (The Coromandel) from which a number of the crew deserted in 1837. The deserters hiked up into the hills, climbed a tree and watched until the ship left port, after which they surrendered to the local Governor and became free settlers.

Prior to the arrival of and subsequent settlement by these sailors, the area was home to the Kaurna people. They lived along the creeks and rivers, actively farming – fishing, hunting animals and harvesting native seeds, vegetables and fruits. We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Kaurna people, the traditional custodians whose ancestral lands we spent time on. We acknowledge the deep feelings of attachment and relationship of the Kaurna people to country and we respect and value their past, present and ongoing connection to the land and cultural beliefs.

A Red Wattlebird perches in the tree overlooking Kim and Mike’s garden

Not far from Coromandel Valley is Belair National Park. The Kaurna people called it Piradi, which means baldness. This was the description of the area when seen from the plains – the location where the city of Adelaide now sits. The Aboriginal population used to actively farm this area, a practice known as ‘fire-stick burning’ – clearing the vegetation to encourage grazing animals, making them easier to hunt. It also spurred the growth of understory plants such as bush potatoes and grasses which were harvested and used in cooking and flour making.

It was declared a National Park in 1892 and is South Australia’s oldest park. Since the 1920s, only native plantings have been allowed, resulting in a valuable haven for native birds and wildlife. Mr A and I were anxious to get out walking, and Kim kindly obliged us by guiding us on one of her favourite circuits in the park. Unlike many Australian national parks, dogs are allowed here, as long as they are kept on a lead, so we were joined by furry friends, Cooper and Rikki.

The rest of my birthday present had been delivered to our friends here – a monopod (used to stabilise the long lens when you’re trying to keep ultra still when photographing) and a fancy sounding MonoGimbal which connects the monopod to the camera. I also had a camouflage coat for my lens – to make it blend into the bush a little better.

Nothing to see here! Photographing a koala and birds, the monopod takes the weight and allows me to concentrate on framing and focusing!

Our 6km walk was the perfect opportunity for me to practice putting it on and I had some great subjects to practice on, with a few birds about in the cool morning, and the first koala we’ve seen since getting back to Australia turning up on cue!

Crimson Rosella coming out of its nesting hole in a hollow branch
A Red Wattlebird showing off its acrobatic prowess – these honeyeaters love flower nectar but also supplement their diet with insects
This koala has been tagged
Gorgeous – koalas are not bears, but more closely related to wombats
Another tree holds a nest site for a pair of beautiful pink and grey galahs

I took every opportunity over our visit to practice my photography, not too hard given the number of interesting walks and bushy areas around.

A New Holland Honeyeater – these little birds breed whenever there are nectar producing flowers in bloom, so despite being Autumn, they were busy flitting around courting and too preoccupied to notice me spying!
A Laughing Kookaburra – these are actually Australia’s largest kingfisher. We’ve seen them eat fish quite frequently (including goldfish from our pond) but they are also partial to frogs, mice and even snakes.
Galahs mostly eat seeds, but they like to chew on wood to keep their beaks sharp – usually close to a nesting hollow to indicate it is occupied.
Red Browed Finches flitting through the reeds beside the river
More honeyeaters
May I share your perch?

One particularly memorable walk took us in a circuit along the Sturt River valley and climbed up through the hills. It was a beautifully cool day and a novelty to wrap up warm. Known as Warri Parri in the native language (windy place by the river), the river valley was traditionally used as a travel corridor by the Kair a people linking the hills with the sea. The population would spend the cooler months on the plains, before heading up via this route in the hotter summer months to spend time in the hills. The riverside path we tracked along followed some of this route.

A beautiful sense of calm and serenity alongside this river
Feet have trodden this path for thousands of years
Cooper and Rikki probably ran three times the distance as us on this hike!
The water quality is being actively managed – there is far less water than in the past

Sturt Gorge Recreation Park is the second biggest park around Adelaide after Belair National Park. How fortunate for our friends to have both locations literally on their doorstep.

Our friend and Kim’s daughter, Ali came to stay on Saturday night with one of her sons, Lewis. The following morning I joined Ali, Lewis and another friend, Nicky (Ali’s not-at-all-wicked stepmother!) at an Adventure Room. We were handcuffed to bars in a locked room and spent an hour solving puzzles and unlocking padlocks. Much fun was had and we made it out with 40 seconds to spare!

The crack detective team

Later, I joined Mr A as we caught up for drinks and nibbles with Nicky’s husband, and long time friend (and amazing musician and film maker) Pete. A perfect Sunday!

Our time in the city concluded with another set of tracheal injections for me, followed by a lunch catch up with some local patients who sadly share the same airway disease as me and who are members of the support group I run. As always it was an absolute delight to meet these lovely ladies, an opportunity to share stories and our experiences along our journey.

L-R: Heather, Julie, Fay, Catherine and Carmen

It was a great chance to shake out the dust from our lives, reset and do all those things that only a large town or city can provide, but we were soon ready to be on our way. The many walks, laughs, fine wines and dinners shared with Kim and Mike greatly enjoyed and appreciated, we said our farewells, not knowing when or indeed if we will ever pass this way again.

14-21 February: Adelaide Heats Up..

Author: Mr A

Location: Coromandel Valley, Adelaide

With temperatures forecast to be in the mid to late thirties, it was looking challenging to be off in the caravan, so our friends offered us an extended stay with them. Hard to refuse when they are such great company, and live in a lovely leafy suburb up in the hills south of the city of Adelaide with a fab garden with heaps of shade.

The evening sun lighting up the eucalypts at the bottom of the garden. No koalas this visit, but they were there when we stayed three years ago.

They have two thirds of an acre intensively planted producing the most scrummy fruit and vegetables, and chickens consuming the meagre left overs and producing fresh eggs. A closed loop system!

A fine integration of flowers with fruit and vegetables
Handsome Cooper rules this roost with his partner in crime, Rikki

A highlight for me was being invited by Mike to go out on his tinny off the main beach in Adelaide for a fish with his mate Joc (more on him later). After 24 years in Australia this was a first. I know…shouldn’t have given me citizenship. So before dawn we were hitching up the boat and driving down to launch just as the sun was starting to make its presence felt on what would be another 36 degree (in the shade) day.

Serene waters in the dawn half-light

The slight  breeze on the water was welcome, and that suddenly increased to a roar has Mike opened her up and we shot out to sea. Crab pots were lowered, lines were cast, as I watched on in bewilderment at the frenzy of activity.  I had always written fishing off as a bit dull, remembering seeing blokes sitting by smelly brooks in England staring at apparently nothing for hours. Well this was chalk and cheese. It was frenetic, with garfish queuing up to get on their lines, and blue swimmer crabs jostling to get entangled in the pots. But interestingly there was never more than three at a time. Apparently they are so feisty there’s no room in the pot for the lucky onlookers. 

The first catch of the day as the sun rises – squid followed by garfish and crab

We were soon approaching our quota of crabs and garfish, with a couple of small mackerel and a couple of squid for good measure, and the talk turned to dinner recipes, and indigenous archeology. Strange bedfellows I know, but Mike’s mate Joc turns out to have been one of Australia’s leading lights in the field, not of fishy gastronomy, but early Australian history. I was so excited to have met him and have the privilege of listening to his tales of locating art sites deep in the Kimberley that no Europeans had gazed on before.

Joc’s involvement in indigenous Australian tourism over many years and support for the development of Aboriginal businesses was so inspiring to listen to. Now this is a bloke I’d love to be trapped on a desert island with. This has been a growing interest of mine, fuelled by reading everything I can find on what’s known (and often argued about) in the human history of Australia. Joc and Mike both have a strong respect for our First Australian culture, and this is so refreshing, as so many folk we have met on our travels have been ignorant, derisory or downright racist.

With a happy heart and a heavy esky, we headed back to the beach. As I was holding the boat ready for the trailer, a couple of sting rays wandered up to me and had a good nose round my legs. Its such a shame that one terrible accident can so blight these beautiful creatures’ brand. Steve Urwin, of Crocodile Hunter fame, had a tangle with the tail of one and it sadly ended with him having a heart attack after being pierced in the chest by the barb that tail carries. A sad loss. But these guys were just cruising, I assume they have been humanised by being fed, showing none of the usual aversion to hanging around swimmers they usually have. 

Stingray passing by
Garfish displayed in a bag
Blue is the colour….these Blue Swimmer Crabs turn salmon-pink when they are cooked

Well let me tell you that the feast that night was incredible. We kicked off with Coffin Bay oysters that we had picked up from the shops, salt and pepper squid, dipped in flour and flash fried with a dose of fresh lemon from the garden. Then a massive bowl of crabs, with a tamarind curry sauce Catherine had whipped up. Local wines flowed. I can see the understand the satisfaction Mike and Kim get from growing and catching this food themselves. Lots of work, but the rewards are clearly enormous, mentally and physically.

Another hot day loomed on the forecast, but Catherine and I were getting a bit stir crazy sheltering in the van, so took ourselves off before first light to head down to the nearest river paddle we could find. The Onkaparinga River (map) winds its way down from the Adelaide Hills, ending up in an estuary full of water birds , eventually emerging out to sea surrounded by red sandstone cliffs. It was pretty windy, but we pressed on and glad we did. As the fiery sun rose it beat us down though and we headed back to the car before sun stroke was on the cards! 

It’s still dark when we first arrive, but a warm 28 degrees already
Dawn breaking
As the sun pops over the horizon we are ready for the off
An adult Australian Pelican with its’ glossy black wings
A pair of juvenile Australian Pelicans
Black Swans
Where the river emerges into St Vincent Gulf near Port Noarlunga

Talking about the car, we had a couple of days worth of work done on the Landcruiser. A service that showed that at our 150,000km service there will be a few more costs to budget for, with a water pump starting to leak and brakes nearly ready for a refresh. But that’s not bad going given in the 12 years of ownership these will be the first expenses other than the routine service’s and two sets of tyres. The only problems we have had are all minor and related to the accessories we had mounted. the workmanship was pretty shoddy, and it was time to get the work redone. I hit gold with the firm we found called Clisby Auto-electrics. Just delightful guys and as far as I can see, did a thorough job for a good price. Thank you. 

We finished up our stay by joining Kim and Mike on a trip up to Lobethal, meeting up with Ali and Andy to go and watch a bit of music as part of the Strum and Stroll festival. There wasn’t too much strolling, and the strumming wasn’t as guitar based as we had hoped but it was a lovely evening nevertheless.

We took a picnic up to Lobethal to enjoy an evening of entertainment as part of their Strum and Stroll music festival
Two of the evening’s bands. No dancing allowed due to the pandemic…unless your’e a child of course!

It was very kind of Kim and Mike to have us cluttering up their drive for so long. They both produced such amazing dinners every night, including one evening of pizzas on the BBQ. Again creating another first for me – I rolled a pizza base. Yes, I’ve had a deprived life. Now it’s time to give them their time back and head off for another trip.

1-4 February: Adelaide and the Coromandel Valley

Author: Mr A

Location: Coromandel Valley, Adelaide, South Australia

Adelaide has been a city where we have had some great times on various visits to friends over the years. This visit has certainly continued that pattern!

Amongst other things, it is a city that boasts a pristine white sand beach and bath-warm shallow waters that are fabulous for a spot of kayaking. Well that was one afternoon outing for me anyway, testing out the new top deck I had zippered on to the kayak that makes it a full-on open water boat.

Launching at Seacliff Beach – not another soul about!

I had dropped Catherine off for her next lot of injections in her throat to keep this persistent narrowing of her airway at bay. Then she had organised to meet up for lunch with a group of ladies who are members of the support group she manages for that disease. It’s always so great for her to meet others in person and judge how her considerable labours in administering it are valued.

A lovely catch up with Adelaide ladies with iSGS

She was buzzing with enthusiasm when I picked her up, and I felt so proud once again of what she has accomplished. The lovely doctor she met for the first time who gave her the injections greeted her by calling her “the visiting celebrity” much to her amusement. 

We had been invited to stay with a couple of friends who live up in the hills to the south of the city centre. It’s been such an interesting visit, as we share many passions that involve getting out and about in the great Australian outdoors. They have two thirds of an acre that‘s heavily planted with all manner of vegetables and fruits, with chickens clucking away and laying the most gorgeous rich yellow yoked eggs.

Mike and Kim and their loyal pooches
A 7km walk around the neighbourhood with the dogs, Cooper and Rikki
A babbling creek that runs close to their house has a new walkway alongside it
Princess Tassie enjoyed exploring the garden while the dogs were away but stealthily ignored the chickens ?

One dinner in particular will always stick in our minds as they had taken their tinny (small metal tin boat with an outboard motor) down to the city beach and just a few hundred metres offshore sunk a line and some crabbing pots. Apparently the sea there is rich in blue swimmer crabs, almost at plague proportions at the moment. Lovely to hear that something is thriving so well in these climatically challenged times. Well, they were absolutely delicious, together with some small garfish and herring they also caught. A salad picked fresh from the garden, and washed down with a local chardy. Then peaches straight off their tree. What an absolute feast of fresh bounty!

Look at this absolute feast!

Another couple of friends had agreed to join us for a paddle and they suggested a local spot that was a dolphin sanctuary. We crossed our fingers and sure enough up shows a small pod pottering round us having a fish. The weather was just perfect, not too hot considering the time of year. Adelaide can have some scorching weather but we are currently delighting in La Nina dominating, bringing some fresher temperatures and the odd shower or two. 

Peter the dolphin whisperer
Nicky snaps an obliging dolphin on her phone
And a flippered friend passes us by
Missile or dolphin?
Loving the freedom this inflatable boat provides
Longtime friends, musicians and dolphin whisperers, Pete and Nicky

As well as activities, eating and drinking, it has also been a busy few days getting jobs done while we are in a city, like haircuts, and shopping.

We have had some issues with our Land Cruiser’s 12 volt accessories, a legacy of some poor workmanship back when we initially had the vehicle fitted out in Sydney. A visit to Toyota ensued, and they also told me after running an engine scan that I should have a “trans wash”. I clearly looked a bit bewildered, and somewhat nervous. The young lad then hastily clarified, a transmission wash out. I briefed an audible sigh of relief and booked that in.

I also found a local auto electrician, who after examining our vehicle for a few minutes asked me if it was a Prado. Now that may not seem like a red flag unless you are familiar with the Australian car scene, but let me tell you it did not inspire confidence. He was all we could find at short notice, and added zero value but still charged me his call-out fee! Not happy…. now we have a booking in ten days time at a business specialising in the area we need. It just means a shorter trip to the Yorke Peninsula than we had planned – no great hardship. So let‘s keep our fingers crossed the electrics behave themselves while we away. 

Happy haircut and a bruise on the neck from injections!

Day 178: 24 November – Being kind to our bodies!

Author: Mrs A

Location: Adelaide

Distance cycled: 24 km

After several days of excess – fabulous food and wine and not too much exercise – we decided to start the day early before the rain came across and jump on our bikes for a ride. We were out before 7am and cycling along the shared pathway along the seafront, heading for the port.We saw dolphins fishing in the shallows and a lot of coastal birdlife flitting around the dunes. There was not a breath of wind – the water on St Vincent Gulf was like a lake.As much as we enjoyed cycling the hills of the Coromandel Valley, it was exhilarating to whizz along on the flat pathways, giving a chance to look around and chat as we travelled. We reached the boat ramp to the dolphin sanctuary and watched a couple of kayakers launching for an explore before returning to camp.

The rain started late morning, by the time we’d showered, done a load of washing and consumed a couple of cups of tea.

Those that know us well may recall that in ‘real life’ we follow a 5:2 diet (two days a week we fast and consume no more than 500 calories). While we managed it occasionally in the early days of our travels, we have definitely let it slip the past few months (the last time I fasted was before my operation in September!). It’s all too easy to give ourselves excuses to not fast (‘we’re more active’, ‘we’re not eating bad stuff’ etc) but we (I!) have decided to try to get back in to the habit in the lead up to Christmas. It also forces us to be alcohol free for a couple of nights a week – something we haven’t been good at doing at all!

Mr A spent an afternoon chilling out and reading while I had a hair cut – not quite as successfully bouncy as Margaret River’s blow dry, but definitely feeling more human now!

We’re getting fairly packed up this evening in preparation for moving on tomorrow morning to our next region, friends and more wine in the Adelaide Hills! Tonight will be vegetarian and alcohol free…

Day 177: 23 November – Friends new and old

Author: Mr A

Location: Adelaide

We’d hoped to burn off some of our excesses of last night with a bike ride, but the weather was wet and windy with a severe storm warning…fair weather cyclists indeed. For lunch we met up with friends made back in Margaret River. We’d shared some good food and wine and kept in touch. It was great to swap stories of our respective travels since then and reflect on what will come next. It’s easier to get enthusiastic about our experiences and plans with other travellers, compared to friends who are still in corporate life and don’t always want to be reminded of our footloose and fancy free lifestyle!

After an afternoon spent driving around Adelaide on various chores we were reminded what ‘city life’ is like. Traffic, congestion, noise, the anonymity of being just another driver on the road – no raising of the finger off the steering wheel in acknowledgment, as we had experienced whilst driving across the country. Sydney is going to be hard to adjust back to in a few weeks.

For dinner we were excited to be meeting up with the rest of the family and friends who Catherine has known since growing up next door to the in the UK in the 1980s (about 34 years!). Good food and conversation about our respective lives. Sad though to say good bye so quickly and not know when we will see them again. Life on the move.

Day 176: 22 November – Farewell bush, return to the beach

Author: Mrs A

From: Coromandel Valley, Adelaide

To: Semaphore Park, Adelaide

Distance driven: 33km

As we emerged from our bed this morning Kim and Mike queried how we slept. ‘Fine, thank you’ we answered this typical morning question. But then it emerged why the question had been asked – right above our caravan last night, was a rather handsome male koala, who had apparently been doing his donkey-pig impression all night. We hadn’t noticed a thing, being completely shut up with our air conditioning on!

For a koala, he was a rather active male, as he moved positions three times throughout the morning, before climbing down the tree and strolling off down the valley to do more donkey-pig impressions up another tree. If you have never heard a male koala, click here for a link to YouTube – the sound is incredible, and so unexpected coming from a cuddly creature!

Below, Mr K senses another male koala in the air and plans his next move….

He begins to make a slow descent….All that work deserves a break, so it’s time for another rest and stretch out those hand muscles…Finally down to the bottom of that branch, another rest before making the rest of the journey to see the other male off…About 20 minutes after this photo was taken we once again heard the donkey-pig sounds in the valley – he’d made the final climb down and made it to a new tree to do some grunting from!

While I was taking wildlife photos, Mr A was doing a cooking demonstration for Kim and Mike, whipping up a fine breakfast on the Weber Baby Q accompanied by a delicious sourdough loaf he’d picked up from the local bakery.

After breakfast it was time for us to pack up, say our farewells and move on. Only a short journey today, down to the Adelaide coast. Our first choice of caravan park had refused us entry, stating they allow small dogs, but not small cats. We don’t really understand that decision, particularly given Tassie is indoors 90% of the time, but grudgingly accepted it. This means we are nearly 25km away from the friends we planned to see.

The positive thing about our current location is the wifi on the park – we have access to the NBN (National Broadband Network – a faster speed of internet) and unlimited usage. Very rare – most caravan parks have offered us 300MB – open a few emails and it’s all used up, and usually tortuously slow. We have learned to not rely on getting any coverage in most places.

We had been invited to catch up with Bob and Ann Gadd, friends we had last seen back in May in the Hunter Valley just as we were setting off on our adventure. We decided to Uber over to see them – driving would not really be an option – they are wine connoisseurs and we were taking one of our favourite prize winning wines from Amelia Park.

Lots of delicious food was eaten, amazing wines consumed and many travel stories and tips shared – Bob and Ann have been all over Australia and have plenty of ideas of locations to visit that are off the beaten track…we have a long way to go!

A surprise visitor arrived at the end of the evening, their son Mike over from the Margaret River for a wine judging course. It was the first time we had met Mike in person (see him in Cathy’s photos on Facebook occasionally) – though we talked about him and his wife Virginia a lot in the Margaret River!

We caught another Uber back home at the end of the evening – our latest night for a while at nearly 1am!

The below photo (as we were leaving Glenelg) is quite unflattering, but mostly taken for Cathy, Mike’s sister!

Day 175: 21 November – Biking and financial planning – now thats a combo

Author: Mr A

Location: Coromandel Valley, Adelaide

Distance cycled: 18km

Today was going to be a corker – 35 degrees – so we set off reasonably early for a ride to beat the heat. Kim was tour leader taking us up and down the significantly undulating paths of the Coromandel Valley. It was a pleasure to have cars behave so respectfully towards us. A pleasant change from Sydney.

The girls were turning a few heads of course…

Kim had the advantage of skinny tyres I must add in my defence:

Catherine just powers along: And the most common view for me was from the rear: I finally got them ease up for a lakeside stop:

And with not a scrap of lycra to be seen we had a great ride!

After some food shopping (we seem to go every day!) we had a Skype call with our financial planner, Paul Brady. Now I am going to unashamedly plug this guy as he and the amazing team he has hired at Brady and Associates have just been life changing for us. In an industry with its fair share of charlatans, Paul has been a standout quality advisor, who we now call a friend, and has helped us making some smart choices with our finances. But much more than that, we feel we share some common values about living and loving life that have made him so easy to work with. Having a safe pair of hands to help you plan your wealth creation is one of the most important decisions to be made I reckon.

So we talked through our two year plan for how we ideally want to live our life, and yes we can make it happen. Oh what a feeling. I know luck always plays a part in how your life plans out, and we have had some very good fortune in our work lives, and some not so good in our health, but even that could be so much worse. We have taken some risks, both leaving family and friends and our comfort zones in the UK, and both pursued very different careers, but shared a value of trying to do the right thing by our respective customers, and that has been the key I think to how rewarded we have been by our jobs. Clients have turned into friends, friends into customers, it’s too connected a world to not do the right thing, and yet many businesses don’t seem to yet realise that.

The day ended with a lovely long birthday dinner for Mike, fresh seafood, salads from their garden, a beautiful aged Grenache, neighbours dropping in.

These last few days with our hosts have reinforced the importance of being part of a community. The way neighbours help each other out, as some age or lose their partners, this is how people are meant to live. Mutual respect and a sense of belonging.

We miss our friends and the identity that comes from being part of a team at work, travelling does bring some challenges in that regard, but the mobile community of grey nomads (in which we have made so many new friends) has helped offset some of the potential isolation.

We appreciate your efforts at reading this blog and sending us comments, keeping us connected. Thank you!

Day 174: 20 November – Exploring the Coromandel Valley

Author: Mrs A

Location: Adelaide, Coromandel Valley

A warm day was promised with blue skies overhead as the morning dawned. We decided to pop on the air conditioning to ensure Tassie was kept comfortable as the temperature climbed to the early 30s…she of course responded by hiding behind the pillows on the bed and snuggling down – there’s no pleasing some people!

Mr A decided to do an early morning cycle to try and get a handle of our surroundings, returning at 7.30am with a face of shock at the number of and steep angle of the hills around here! After several months of pretty flat cycling we suddenly feel like we are in the foothills of the French Alps!

We joined Kim for some breakfast of bacon and freshly laid eggs, before bringing Tassie out to the garden for an explore, the dogs safely locked away. She had a good stroll around and came face to face with her first chicken, which she didn’t think much of, before returning to the safety of the mobile apartment for a nap.

Next it was the dogs turn for some exercise, so we joined Kim on a stroll around the neighbourhood with Cooper and Riki.

Mr A and I volunteered to pop down to the shops to buy a few supplies for tonight’s and tomorrow’s dinner, and Kim pointed us in the direction of her favourite supermarket. OMG. What initially was meant to be purchasing some fish, chicken thighs and a lime turned in to an almost $300 shop!!

What a fabulous supermarket – why there are not more of these (and why Adelaide deserves this one and not Sydney’s northern beaches, I don’t know!) in Australia, I have no idea, but Foodland Frewville really sets the bar. The fruit and vegetables are set out like art displays…

There is a breadbar instead of a bakery, with all sorts of goodies on sale – Mr A was like a kid in a sweet shop!He emerged with a caramel donut – to share with Kim over a cup of tea when we got back!The Cheese was from all around Australia and the world – Mr A collected some washed rind sheep cheese from France and a bitey Stilton from England…after our journey through small town Australia, this was paradise.

We returned to unload our wares and Kim advised us there was some local wildlife up the road – in fact we probably strolled right under him on our return walk this morning. Yes, a young Koala chilling out in a eucalyptus tree…

Kim and Mike’s garden is also a haven for birdlife, with parladotes nesting on their patio, honeyeaters in the bottlebrush flowers, and pink and grey galahs looking down on us. Just a little paradise.

Our day concluded with a fabulously decadent evening of oysters, followed by a delicious Thai green chicken curry and dessert – Mr A delighted to find Kim had baked a fresh lemon meringue pie, and me perfectly happy with the final scoop of my dairy-free ice cream from Bunbury in Western Australia, along with a selection of fresh berries from the garden. Oh and I almost forgot the wines – an excellent selection from our tastings in the Margaret River region…Fabulous!

Day 173: 19 November – Farewell to the Clare – hello Adelaide

Author: Mr A

From: Clare Valley

To: Coromandel Valley

Distance: 152 km

After spending the morning cleaning the car and van, we reluctantly dragged ourselves away from the Clare. It was a slow drive down into Adelaide, I’m pretty cautious behind the wheel, knowing I have several tons behind me you don’t want to be trying to stop too quickly. Late afternoon saw us winding our way though the city streets and then climbing up a winding steep hill into a really scenic part of Adelaide we had never been before.

Catherine’s friends and neighbours from when she lived in Hastings moved out to Australia 30 years ago, and we have visited them a number of times over the years. A surrogate family really. We had been invited to stay with Kim and Mike for a couple of days, so first job was to park up on their drive, a proposect that at the beginning of our trip would have filled me with horror. Now…easy peasy.

They have a lovely home with a massive ‘market garden’ at the back, brimming with fruit and veggies, some of which were incorporated into a fantastic dinner.

Oh the potatoes fresh from the ground – the fresh berries and strawberries – so delicious. Local wines were produced, of course. A cracking night was had.