Thursday, 31 December 2009

grey day

Now there are only three.

We farewelled Zac, Heidi and Rachel at Coffs Habour airport and headed off to consol ourselves with some curry. It has been a dreary day on another front too. It started raining late yesterday afternoon and didn't stop. Zac and Rachel had a long surf in the afternoon ... I sat on the beach in the drizzle and watched them catch their best waves.

Back in the park, as the drizzle turned to rain and puddles turned to pools, people were digging trenches and organising themselves for the downpour. There was a mini lake lapping the edge of the tent where the kids were sleeping when they went to bed but they stayed dry.

This morning we rose early and had to pack up camp ... in the constant soaking rain. What a bag of laughs that was. We've managed to keep good humour all day ... the drizzle and rain has been constant ... all day. Its only just stopped in the last half hour or so but the drops are still falling from the tree branches above us as I write. Everything feels damp, although Maria was keen to get a couple of loads of washing done and dried after we arrived here at Saphire Beach ... only 5 minutes drive down the road from where we were.

So now we are just three and we're each sitting at laptops doing our own thing. Johanna has been working her way through The Little House on the Priaire box set on loan from the Winters (thanks guys) and Maria is continung her viewing nostalgia with shows she enjoyed in the past.

We loved being all together, now we will have a quieter season until Rachel and her friend Jess join us again in a week and a half. We'll discover what Coffs has to offer beyond the beach.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

tarpestry in tent city

Emerald Beach is like lots of spots along the Australian coast ... many of the sites are taken by regulars at this time of year, it's not uncommon to find people who have been coming here for 25 years.

Towards the front of the park the non-powered sites are full of regulars with there own brand of tenting. Part of the culture of this park is that the regulars erect little signs at the front of their site. I walked through 'tent city' for the first time yesterday and wandered past: Thomas' Tavern, Sue's Shack, Jacko's Joint, Helens Hotel, and many others including my favourite, Tracy's Tarp-Mahal.

One of the the things you read about grey nomads is that they are full of helpful advice and are always willing to lend a hand. This extents to campers in general I think. Anyway, further to Maria's post on Tarp Envy, I decided to seek some advice from Jacko as I noted that he had set up his van, annex and tarp in a similar configuration that I figured might suit us.

Little did I know that the art of tarping has many hurdles for the uninitiated. Jacko was as friendly as his name suggests and before I could extract myself I was learning everything Jacko could tell me about his 25 years of tarpestry on that particular site. He was quick to point out the hazards of his particular configuration following the downpour last night. Putting it very simply he suggested his set up was f*&#!d.

After discussing the demerits of the current 'extension' he followed through with, "I've got a big one that goes over the lot. Here come and have a look at this." We moved to the front of his van where he opened the boot to reveal a rolled up tarp that he assured me was a monster. "Hey, why don't you take this one and have a try," he offered.

The bottom line of his advice, "Look mate you just have to fiddle around and find a way that works for you. No two setups are the same mate," he saged.

Ah the wisdom of Jacko.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Tarp Envy

Colin wants to extend. He’s been thinking about it for a while now, ever since he saw those new shiny grey, reflector tarps. Everyone has them these days (gone are the old blue plastic tarps). They reflect the heat and sun AND keep you dry. Most people put them right over the top of everything – even their vans. Colin knows all the ways in which people use them and what works best; he has wandered around the caravan parks looking enviously and admiringly at what other people do. You can tell the Tarp pros no problem at all.

 Yesterday, while the girls shopped, we took ourselves to a camping store and had a look at the shiny new variety. They are, not surprisingly, more expensive than their old counterparts and you have to factor in the cost of poles, ropes and pegs. We decided it wasn’t really necessary and we would wait and see.

 That evening I see Colin just standing at the front of our sight staring into space. It is like one of those colorbond adds where the bloke stands out the front in his undies admiring his new roof, except Colin is in his boardshorts imagining that shiny new tarp, how it could fit and all the benefits it would bestow.

 Then it rained a lot last night and the forecast is for further rain – so yep we are doing an extension. It will keep the kid’s drier in the tent and we’ll have an outside Al Fresco dining area. It will also give Colin something to do everyday – adjust and readjust his new Tarp. Colin can’t wait to get to town now.

this only happens to others

Yesterday was memorable for the wrong reason.

I went around the beach about 150 metres from where we usually swim to where most of the swimmers and surfers on Emerald Beach go in the water. The surf was pretty big, so after playing around with Johanna for a bit I headed out again with Zac, Heidi and Rachel. We had good fun body surfing, Rachel had a body board, and always the adventurous one, was chasing the bigger waves just a bit further out.

She was about ten metres away. I told her to come back in a bit, the surf seemed to be getting a bit bigger and I didn't want her caught on a wave she couldn't handle. "I'm trying to," came her anxious reply. I swam toward her and assured her everything was alright and to catch the next wave in.

I've heard about rouge or freak waves. But like lots of things, until I experience it, its not that I don't believe it, its just that there is no experience to affirm the theoretical knowledge. All of a sudden the water built behind her then lifted her what seemed like metres above me, and then she was catapulted toward the beach. I had gone underwater to avoid the break. When I re-emerged and looked toward the beach, not only was Rachel nowhere to be seen (I would later learn she had ridden the wave of her life all the way to the beach after the biggest drop she's ever likely to experience), but Zac and Heidi who were 15 metres away before the wave broke were now 40 metres away. They hadn't moved, I had.

The beach seemed an eternity away. I have never seen the beach from this perspective before. Even when I go 'out the back' to surf, I do so only when the waves are smaller than this. The waves were breaking about 20 metres towards the beach.

At first I didn't realise what had happened so I swam towards the beach. After a few minutes I knew it was futile. My only previous experience of rips was much closer into shore where it is matter of a few strong strokes to get back to where you can touch the bottom. I was more afraid than I would have thought I would be. Even though the beach would have only been 150-200 metres away, the ocean felt huge. And I was alone in it with no floatation.

OK. What is the standard advice? Don't panic. Swim parallel to the beach. It didn't occur to me at the time that one way might have been better than the other. I chose poorly. After swimming for a few minutes and not sensing any progress I realised I was in trouble.

It's not that I'm a poor swimmer, I'm not great, but I swim in a pool regularly for reasonable distances. Of course swimming in the open water with not insignificant swell is an entirely different matter. That I had been in the water for a few very energetic hours already in the morning was probably the main problem because I felt myself beginning to tire, sooner than felt comforting.

Up until this point I had exercised senseless pride. Only the fools on 'Bondi Rescue' need help. I was now one of them although there were no life savers to come to my aid. I raised my arm and waved it hoping it was visible. The kids later explained that I was only rarely in view. I was far enough out that the swell was obscuring where I was. Similarly, I could only infrequently see the people on the beach. I knew the kids knew I was out there, but at this point I had no idea whether Rachel had been hurt and whether she was the focus of their attention.

I raised my arm again and waved. It had not occurred to me before I saw them that there would be surfers further along the beach. As it turned out one had seen my first wave and was now only 20 metres away. His mate, was following him too. With a board I could now rest and I knew I would be OK. After asking if I was OK, he exclaimed, 'That was a big one wasn't it!" He explained that he had watched me go out to Rachel then had been distracted. (Probably trying to catch a wave!)

I am extremely thankful he had been nearby. The kids, I later learned, had planned to get one of our boards out to me themselves, not a great strategy in hindsight. My rescuer and I sat out the back for some time. I was thankful that he was not only nearby but experienced. He was unsure which way to go so we waited. After a few minutes we determined that the current was taking us in the opposite direction to which I had previously tried to swim.

When we sensed we were clear we headed for shore. I was on the board, the bloke beside me was now swimming, leg rope still attached to the board. When we got closer to the breaks he climbed on my back, "a bit homo", he said, "but it works." We caught a wave. He jumped off but we were still too deep to stand up so he jumped back on my back. After another wave we both deboarded. He paused briefly while I shook his hand and thanked him and he was gone, paddling back toward the horizon.

I turned to see Zac and Heidi. Heidi was clapping above her head. Rachel, to my relief, was behind them carrying a surf board.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

A break with tradition

Today we changed our usual rhythm, well most of us did. Another Beach day didn’t feel appealing to the women of the family, so we hit the shops instead, joining the throngs shopping at Coffs Harbour for Boxing Day bargains. Colin came with a book and parked himself in a coffee shop, Zac couldn’t bring himself to go shopping and continued his surfing exploits at the beach instead.

 How wonderful to feel clean for a day – no sunscreen.

 Colin joined Zac on the beach when we returned after lunch, the rest of us lounged around reading, listening to music and snoozing. We all went for a walk along the beach later in the day, climbing the heads and exploring the next bay. There was a beautiful deserted beach, Colin and Zac had a swim of course but the rest of us didn’t want to give up that clean feeling. We got caught in the rain coming back, not that it mattered at all.

 Now we are all clean and showered again; Colin is preparing dinner, Zac is reading Rachel’s Leunig book, Heidi is setting up her new iPhone (birthday present), Rachel is doing something on her iPhone and Johanna is playing with her Nintendo. All is well and peaceful as each person takes some time out to do their own thing waiting in anticipation for the fish that Colin is cooking for dinner…..

Many times over the last few days I have been aware how precious it is to have everyone together, how fortunate we are that we all enjoy being together and doing things together. As our children grow into adulthood, I know that times like this will become rare, all the more reason to treasure them when they occur.

Beach Crawl

Beach crawl

 Dads idea;

Check out the beaches surrounding coffs harbour.

And so the beach crawl begins.


-one patrol that can withstand the bumps and lurches of beach carparks

-thongs – for when the ground gets hot

-food, for when we get hungry


A total of 6 beaches

 So I jump into the patrol,

Head out the window,

Seatbelt undone,

Music blasting into my ears,

Wind whipping my hair across my face,

And the calming view of trees and shrubs flashing past me.

 Arriving at a beach,

Jump out of the car,

Nothing in our hands, nothing on our backs,

A dive into the water,

A dash back across the hot sand,

And off we go again.

 It was one of those afternoons where I felt like taping a camera to my forehead, so I could replay the footage to old people and give them a glimpse of pure happiness before they cark it.

Saturday, 26 December 2009


How beautiful it is holidaying at the beach. Thinking about it, I had high expectations while working the last two weeks, and so far it has lived up to them. Beach is as enjoyable as always. Spend most of my time in the water, emerging periodically to re-hydrate and re-fuel. Surfing is fun, although the experience is very dependant on the waves.

Yesterday Dad, Rachel, Johanna and I went on a “beach crawl” and explored the 5 or 6 nearby beaches. To our surprise most of them were pretty ordinary with pebbles at the waters edge and big drops a couple of meters into the ocean. Although, to give the benefit of the doubt, we might have gone at a bad time. The first place we went to, which was alright, was called Moonee beach. It had a big flat body of water (where most people were) in front of the beach. We went back there today and took the surfboards out to play around. It was good practise surfing, especially being on the boards in flat water, similar to what you are out the back.

The food has also been really good, and I mean really, how to go wrong with good food and beach?

PS. All the kids have rip-sticks and I’m pretty jealous. I’ve never tried one. Just want one for a day or two to get the hang of it, then do nothing.

Christmas in the Caravan

We start celebrating Christmas Eve with a family dinner of Pasta (Usually homemade, but we had to do with Lattina Fresh this time) followed by the opening of our Kris Kringle presents. The deal is to pick a name out of the hat and buy the worst/stupidest present you can find ($10 price limit) Lots of laughs and fun. Then you have to guess who bought for you. You also have to wear, use and otherwise display your present.

Later we wandered around the caravan park checking out all the decorated vans and planning the ultimate Christmas decorations for next year – we’ll have the best van by far!! We continued our ongoing game of 500 (parents against kid’s – unfortunately Colin and I are getting done. We blame it on the fact that we are half asleep by that time at night)

Christmas morning began at 6.30am with the obligatory opening of presents. Well Rachel and Johanna did, Zac and Heidi were still asleep. After a quick walk on the beach (and a quick surf by Colin – and yes it was a quick surf) Zac and Heidi had surfaced, more presents and then pancakes, berries and icecream for breakfast.

We sunscreened up and headed back to the beach for a bit. Sadly the surf was disappointing but the die hards had a go anyway.

Lunch saw the continuation of our Salad Fest – Prawn and mango, and Salmon and avocado followed by the usual desserts.

After recovering from lunch we headed a few kilometres up the road and had some fun at a river flat near the beach.

Today was a special day for many reasons, the main one though was that Heidi turned 18. Now we have two adult children – how old we are feeling but also how proud to see before us two wonderful young adults. What a good job we have done! Dinner was chosen especially for Heidi and reflected two of her passions, chocolate (fondue) and gelati.

And now to finish off the day we are about to play a new card game, Mhing (thanks Derek), hopefully Colin and I will fair better at this one. At least it will save us the indignity of going out the back door in 500.

For the record:

Whose body is this?

Sunburnt nose, sore shoulders, back and arms (also sunburnt), Chaffing on thighs, graze on top of both knees, skin off top of foot and cut between toes.

No, it is not Colin!! Zac is carrying on the family tradition of battle wounds from surfing.

Pain is good!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Is Near!

Today is christmas eve, Zac, Mum and Rachel are playing a card game, Dad is cooking and Heidi is in the tent.

In the morning we went to the beach. The waves were good (as usual)
We boogey boarded, swam and Rach, Dad and zac surfed aswell.

In the afternoon, Dad, Rach, Zac and I went around to each of the beaches near where we're staying and had a swim in each of them.
Mum and Heidi stayed at the caravan and relaxed.

When we got back we went to see santa at the games room in the caravan park.

We sat and watched then excited five year olds lining up to sit on santa's knee and tell him what they wanted for christmas.
When they had talked to him and gotten a photo they got a bag of lollies, and then the next little boy or girl would go up to him.

At the end when everyone else was gone me and Rach went up and got a bag of lollies.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

the reversing relationship test

The others are continuing a game of 500 they started last night ... it got abandoned late in the evening without a winner ... they are back at it so I'll post an observation about a tourist park phenomena we've seen played out many many times. It goes like this.

After check in the rig moves slowly through the park full of anticipation for the site that will be their temporary home. The male is 'always' driving. Said male's reputation is on the line.

Although not obviously gawking, surrounding campers already comfortably settled into their site are curious ... how well can this bloke reverse his rig? Let the games begin.

It is important to note that in most cases, the male's self understanding of his reversing competence far exceeds his actual ability. The female companion by now has disembarked and is stationed towards the rear of the site as  guide. Then, after one or two attempts a strange thing happens ... the blame for the less than competent reversing transfers to the female. Put  more simply, the male, often loudly and in exasperated tones starts berating the female for ... well for directing him incorrectly I guess. Its all her fault.

Well it couldn't be his. How could he admit to poor reversing ability with the neighbours taking notes. How embarrassing! He will need to communicate with these same people at the communal bbq.

Of course this meer male wouldn't be guilty of such behaviour would he? Thankfully the park staff here at Emerald Beach used a little tractor to collect our stored van and position it expertly on our site when we arrived to save me the indignity this time around.

With the expectations of a perfect holiday ahead, it is amazing how often couples get off to a testy start via this simple little routine ....

Sun, surf and sand

And sunscreen of course, copious amounts of it..... We have been making the most of the good weather and surf. There has been lots of surfing, boogey boarding, body surfing and getting wiped out by huge waves in the process. We have all had a good dunking courtesy of the big waves out the back - lots of fun though. We have also managed to play some tennis and have a family 'moment' on the jumping pillow. Unfortunately the old man of the family had to pull out, wisely I might add, before any injury could occur!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

We're Back

We had an early morning flight on Monday and allowed plenty of time, anticipating either being held up in Monday morning traffic to the airport or a crowded check in, neither of which eventuated, so we had time for a quick breakfast in the Qantas lounge before departure. Johanna has, over the years, become accustomed to the Qantas Lounge. So much so that in Sydney as we waited for our connecting flight she wouldn’t use the toilets anywhere else! (they’re so much better in the Qantas lounge)

Colin breathed a sigh of relief to find the Patrol still in the Coffs Harbour Airport car park, where he left it over a week ago. On arrival at Emerald Beach we set up the van, put up the tent and headed to the beach. (mind you the kid’s headed to the beach a while before Colin and I finished all the setting up!)

Last night we put up some christmas decorations to get into the festive mood. The caravan is now sporting flashing lights and tinsel on the outside and numerous decorations on the inside. Our neighbours are being treated to some pretty average Christmas music too (cheap Christmas CD) Quite a few vans are all decked out for Christmas, we have had fun checking out the competition.

We had a very noisy visitor during the night – a possum dancing? on the caravan roof for far too long. There are also kangaroos around at dusk and dawn and as usual the birds start to sing in the middle of the night (well that is what it feels like)

Today was a cruisy day, most of the morning spent on the beach. Colin, Rachel and Zac enjoyed surfing, Johanna, Heidi and I had fun on the boogey boards. The beach is in easy walking distance, the weather was warm and it was a very pleasant day.

For the record:

“Rachel which of these toothbrushes is yours?”

“I don’t know”

“What, do you mean to say you just use any of them!”

“Yep, kind of”

Colin – “Where are my thongs, Rachel have you got them on again?”

Maria – “Rachel, get my thongs off!”

Rachel – “but yours are so much more comfortable”

“Rachel your towel is the blue towel, not the green or the orange, only the blue. There is only one blue towel and it is yours – use only that one”

Monday, 14 December 2009

back in town

On Saturday rose early, we packed up, left beautiful Yamba behind and drove to Emerald Beach about 20 kms north of Coff Harbour. We dropped of the yurt, put a tarp over the bikes drove to Coffs Harbour airport, left the Patrol in the carpark there and jumped on a plane back to Melbourne.

Its now Monday morning and the week ahead is full of work tasks and Christmas celebrations.

It is great to have all the family together, although Heidi, like many of her year 12 friends is unwell. I brewed some chicken soup for her last night.

We will all get back on the plane in a weeks time to head back north and continue our mobile adventure.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Lessons learned today

Number one - there is no such thing as a quick surf. Two hours later Johanna and I are still waiting on the beach, we decide to walk home ourselves. (Colin and Rachel arrive later with flowers to appease two unhappy campers)

Number two - Kid's slides at the pool accomodate adults doing the 'right' thing. Rachel says to Colin, "Dad you just have to try this it is the best, go down backwards sitting up" Colin is perched at the top, the kid's say "Dad is going to hurt himself, he he he" Down he comes, spins out on the corner and lands with an almighty splash. He will have a bruise on his leg as a momento.

 Number three - We still haven't got the hang of these summer storms yet. (At least this time it was only us getting wet and not our bedding) Colin and I headed off for our usual ride to the supermarket in the late afternoon. It looked a bit like it might rain so we did close up the tent, pack up around the caravan, bring in the clothes etc... As we are paying for our salad ingredients for tonight we hear the rain on the roof. As we reach the door we see torrential rain blowing in at 45 degrees. We wait a bit to see if it will ease, it does a little. We take our chance and ride into thunder, lightening and rain. At least all that bike riding at the gym was not in vain! I decide to ride right through some big puddles, why not, just for the heck of it, I am soaked through anyway. The water is warm. Actually it was quite fun.....

relationships ... all we've got

When you hang out at the beach and in caravan parks you get to see a lot of families together. And when the routine is like we are currently living, with each other all the time, the caravan and tent not offering a lot of personal space; you realise that if the relationships aren't working it is pretty hard to find any deep joy or peace in the activities that ccompany these places.

In the glimpses of the news in recent days I've been observing the (Tiger) Woods family falling apart and can only imagine the pain ... perhaps exagerated by the public scrutiny. But the pain of broken relationships happens all the time to ordinary people.

Part of our yurting mantra is 'thankfulness'. I am overwhelmingly thankful for the beautiful people in our family, and love the enjoyment we derive from each other. Maria and I often talk about how lucky we are and sometimes wonder the extent to which we create our own 'luck'. Either way, every day is a gift. It is easy to say that as I sit beside the pool watching the girls play, but I know that my enjoyment of today is rooted in the habits of life and work in Brunswick.

At the end of the day, whatever our circumstances in life, if our close relationships are not in good shape then nothing much seems to help ... loving and being loved - fully gnarly (that was for Rachel - "Dad, just because you surf doesn't mean you are cool". Yes I am 'cause I use cool words like "gnarly")

Thursday, 10 December 2009

fudge mania

This is a special post for you Heidi.

Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!

It tastes better than it looks, it feels so beautiful and squishy in your fingers, it melts in your mouth and there's none left for you.......

pleasurable fudge day

Today Mum, Grandma and I walked into town while Rachel and Dad went for a surf.
We looked in sevrel nice shops and bought a couple of things.
Then we went to the lollie shop "Sweet Vintage" which i have mentioned in previous blogs. I bought some lollies and had an ice-cream. Mum had an ice-cream, and Grandma had an ice-cream and bought some fudge for our dessert.

We had six different flavours, cookies and cream, lemon meringue, malteaser, choc orange, sticky date and caramel apple pie flavour.

It was one of the niceest desserts i've had in a long time.

We were each intending to have a little slice of each but most of us only managed two or three pieces each, on the other hand, rachel ate four of her pieces and tried to eat more but mum said she'll get sick.

After we went to the lollie shop we all went in the pool (except Grandma) and then mum and dad got out and me and rach stayed in for basiclly the whole afternoon.
It was so fun.

It was one of the most pleasurable days i've had so far on this holiday.

Yamba Days

We  are spending the mornings at the beach, the afternoons at the pool and in between times, riding our bikes, walking into town, parting with our money at the Lolly Shop (great icecream too) and generally relaxing and having a good time. We've been amused by birds, possums, large and small lizards and pelicans. We've gone through a container of sunscreen, still haven't caught a fish and are managing to sleep in until almost 7am!

"the girls putting the tent up while the boy cooks dinner"

For the Foodies, we've continued the salad fest with warm beef nicoise and bbq chicken and cranberry. The kid's are loving them too. Grandma says the trip would be worth it for the food alone!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I See

on the road to yamba

i see;
flashes of open fields and mountains, trees and hills broken by the occasional small town.

i hear;
the roaring of the wind as it rushes in the open window.
music competing to be heard over the roar of the engine.

i smell;
the chicken we had for lunch and the heat of summer air.

i feel;
waves of air that scream through the car window, playing with my hair and numbing my face.


i see;
an endless stretch of the unknown

i hear;
the laughter, wistles and triumphant cheers of the people who can have managed to catch a wave, the roar of the waves as they crash into the sea, the screams and peals of high pitched laughter of children who venture into the cool water.

i smell;

i feel;
the ocean swelling beneath my feet, water caressing my shoulders, the pull of a legrope on my ankle, the soft lullaby of the waves as they rock me to a place of serenity.

it feels so good to be back here, it feels as if i've been away for weeks, the amount of things we have done, seem impossible to fit into a time span of three days such as spending time;

-down at the beach
-trying my luck at surfing
-fishing off the bridge
-wading into the river at low tide
-watching as HUNDREDS of fish swim beneath my feet
-heading down to the shops to but some bits and peices
-going to market, to market, to buy lots of food
-travelling from brunswick heads to the airport, to yamba
-spending half a day in the swimming pool
-racing around the caravan park on bikes.

just to name a few.

its late out, and the mosqitoes are hunting, so im going to finish my first ever blog right about now :)

Arriving at Yamba

Today we, dropped Heidi off at the air port, ate a very unhealthy lunch, arrived at Yamba and had a swim in the pool.

It started in the morning at about six o'clock when i heard mum and dad up, i scurried around to get dressed and put my thongs on and went out side to go for a walk on the beach, like we had done the previous morning.
I stepped out of the caravan into the beuaiful sun of the morning and decided it would be really nice to have a walk on the beach.  Except mum and dad weren't outside, i looked in the tent, then checked the tiolets, Bummer, i had missed them.

When mum and dad got back we had scrambled eggs for breakfast and then grandma, rachel and i went for a walk to get out of mum and dads way while they started to pack  up the caravan.
We saw lots of fish in the lake. We watched them for a while, it's really fasanating to watch them go in their little groups and then go together to form one big group.

Then we went to the Ballina airport to drop Heidi off at the air port, it took about half an hour to get there. then we had red rooster for lunch, chicken and chips, it was so gross but so yummy.

Then it took about another hour and a half to get here.

All up, a two hour drive.

When we got here me and rach went straight to the pool and stayed there for the whole afternoon, did i mention it's really hot here?
Mum even came in the pool, that's a rare thing.

Then we had showers and i took grandma and rachel on a tour around the park, since i'd been here before.

It's so nice to be caravaning again.

Monday, 7 December 2009

You gotta laugh

It was a debacle. Rachel, Johanna and Grandma were due to fly into Coolangatta at 10pm. Colin, Heidi and I headed up to Tweed Heads/Coolangatta in the afternoon, perused the shops, walked along the foreshore, had some dinner and passed some time in a coffee shop. We arrived at the airport 30 minutes early only to find security had closed (the last flight out had left), too bad for the people waiting for the two flights still to arrive. You couldn't access the gate lounges. We waited near the baggage collection checking the Tiger flight details on the monitor. There was no ETA. Around 10pm Colin went to ask if the flight was on time, only to find out Tiger Airlines is not in this terminal, it is 1km around the corner. There were no signs anywhere indicating this! We dashed out, joined the queue to pay for the parking ticket (a Virgin flight had not long arrived) and headed to the Tiger terminal, texting Rachel to explain our delay. Having our children arrive and my mother in a wheel chair (broken leg) without us there to greet/help them wasn't what we had planned.

We found them at the baggage carousel. The flight had arrived 30 minutes early. Being wheel chair bound Grandma was the first on and last off. During the flight she was asked if she needed a wheel chair at the other end (hers was in luggage) or could she just hop, it wasn't far!! She replied that yes she did need a wheel chair. On arrival, no wheel chair. To cut a long story short the Tiger service and help on arrival left much to be desired. The three of them had managed with a good dose of humour.

When we finally arrived at Brunswick Heads  it was obvious it had been raining. The bright orange and purple sky, lightening and thunder we saw and heard in Coolangatta earlier in the evening had been through our caravan park and oh dear the tent flaps had been left open (no hint of a storm when we left in the afternoon) As we pulled up at 11.30 pm it started to rain. Where to begin. We almost tipped Grandma out of her wheel chair getting up the kirb, there was lots of shooshing and be quiets (most people here had been asleep for a couple of hours) - Rachel is as enthusiastic and exuberant as her father and loud with a capital L, bags and suitcases were stowed in the caravan wherever there was a hint of space and while all this was happening Colin was assessing the damage to the bedding and belongings in the tent. Colin and I had moved our stuff into the tent, we figured getting into a caravan and our double bed was enough of a challenge for a Grandma with a broken leg, getting in and out and up and down from a mattress in a tent was asking a bit much.

The ''damage' was not insignificant, as Colin groped his hand in the light of a torch he discovered a pool of water, right in the middle of his sleeping bag!. Bag, sheets and part of the mattress were all wet, so was some gear stowed at the front of the tent. All the wet stuff went on the clothes line, over the outside table and chairs, all squished under the roll out awning. Around 12.30am all was done that could be done. Colin and I shared a single bed mattress, a sheet and a sleeping bag. In getting ourselves organised I said something along the lines of "I don't want you to be uncomfortable" and we both stiffled uncontrollable giggles at what, given the circumstances, was a ludicrous statement.

What was that yurting mantra thankful, whatever happens, happens.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

a more positive mantra

So if you've read previous posts, you might recall the yurting mantra:

Don't rush.

Don't complain.

What happens happens.

Maria has helpfully suggested we could state it in the positive rather than the negative; so ...

Be slow.

Be thankful.

What happens happens.

Be my BFFL

If you don't like sop, don't bother reading any more.....

We have decided since doing some blogging last time we were away to be a bit more consistent this time. In hindsight the blogs have been a way to record our adventures, our thoughts, our feelings and our learnings. A valuable thing to have. We don't expect anyone to be reading all of these (the grandparents maybe, they are the only ones with the time and inclination I would imagine!)  At the end of the day our blogging is for ourselves, if others find something humorous, interesting or thought provoking that is a bonus.

This year has had three distinct kinds of 'living'  experiences - yurting, at home with Colin also at home, and at home with Colin away. 15 or so trips to PNG this year (for a week or so at a time) has meant a fairly consistent week at home , week away existence. When he is away Colin works, eats and sleeps (literally) and when he is home there is a lot of catching up to do (work and family) so it is usually a busy time. The pay off is the ability to do what we are now - take some time out.

Each of those different kinds of 'living' experiences means a different way of experiencing our relationship. When we are yurting we are together all the time and it is wonderful to think of weeks without Colin going away. We find ourselves moving comfortably into companion mode, just enjoying being together and doing things together. Today was a beach day. Colin's favourite kind of day. Most of the day has been spent going backwards and forwards to the beach. I walk and lay in the sun, Colin goes in the water. I saw him come out from a swim and walk back with his arms outstretched leaning into the wind, pure enjoyment written on his face. One of the many things I love about him is his passion and enthusiasm for life, his ability to enjoy and appreciate. He is a lot of fun to be with, even if I do take the mickey out of him now and again! bffl

The kids take delight in teaching us MSN speak, so bffl (for the uninitiated, pronounced biffel and meaning best friends for life) is what Colin and I jokingly say to each other as the kids roll their eyes and groan.

We have loved being away in the caravan on our own and can see ourselves doing more of it in the future, perhaps we will bcome true Grey Nomads one day. Now we are anticipating with great joy the arrival of Johanna, Rachel and my Mum tomorrow. Heidi will also join us, schoolies will be over. We shall have all our girls with us, only Zac will remain at home. He starts his summer job on Monday but will join us for Christmas. So much to look forward to.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Icecream Eating Etiquette

This morning we continued our hunt for fresh local produce at the Byron Bay Farmers Market. It was a bit disappointing, not as much produce as I expected, we came away with some beautiful tomatoes though.

We bought a soft/foam surfboard ready for Rachel and Zac, who, after having a go on Colin's board in recent times want to give surfing a go. It is a good board to learn on.

We answered the call of our schoolies girls and took them to and from the supermarket again (their rented house is a long, long walk from the supermarket!)

We ambled slowly (calf muscle improving but still impeding normal activity) along the beach at Byron while Colin explained to me yet again why the waves are so perfect here.

We revisited the best icecream place I have ever been to - Yes Johanna, the sticky date and ferrer rocher icecream are better than I remembered. Though I must tell you we need to give Dad lessons in how to eat an icecream. The first mistake he made was to order gelati and icecream in the same cone, of course the gelati melts quicker than the icecream and because he specifically requested that the gelati be on the bottom it slowly melted wreaking havoc with the icecream sitting on top of it. I did suggest perhaps he should lick the gelati around the bottom to stop it dripping down the side. He did try, but it dripped anyway, making a mess of the cone, dripping all over his hands and onto the footpath. On top of all that he managed to get it all around his mouth as well. I did consider going to sit somewhere else but I thought that might be a bit mean. He completely used up his serviette trying to clean himself up and I had to give him mine as well, plus he had to wash his hands back at the car with water from the drink bottle.  I am sure you can give him some pointers when you come up!

Eating icecream non-messily may not be his forte but his meals more than make up for it.

Bacon, asparagus and poached egg for breakfast and an attempt to re-create a beautiful meal we had at an Italian restaurant (fettucine with a mushroom, bacon, white wine and cream sauce.

mobile again

The simple act of walking was very pleasurable today. Tomorrow, unexpected things aside, I hope to lower myself gently and 'old-man' like into the surf.

We made a couple of trips to Byron Bay today... one this morning to go to the farmers market and the second to pick up Heidi and a couple of her friends to drop them at the supermarket. While there this afternoon we ventured on the sand for a stroll, my most adventurous escapade since invaliding myself. The beauty of the waves curling around that point is extreme. Alongside Noosa, the other north face beach (with swell bending around the point) in this part fo the world, I reckon the beaches are as close to perfect as you can get.

When we got back it was low tide in the river. (Our site is right on the bank). I laughed at the youthful exhuberance of a bunch of blokes who had waded into the middle and decided that the exposed sand was a good spot for some beach (river!) cricket.

We have been doing what we've had to, mostly in the late afternoons and evenings, but in these days while Maria and I are childless, work has taken a back seat. We are very grateful for the privilege of enjoying this time together. This afternoon a young European couple with a toddler pulled into the site beside ours in one of those campervans. There were times when 'that was us'. The holidays we could afford when we had four young kids were camping ones ... ah yes, I recall the routines and joys of being in a tent with four kids. We loved it. But I'm glad that was then and this is now.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Happy Hippyville?

Today was one of those 'dream' kind of days. Luckily Colin's leg was well enough to drive, the weather was not great for the beach (not that Colin could surf anyway) so I managed to drag him away from the coast and into the hinterland. We followed our noses, stopping where we wanted. We meandered our way through Uki, Nimbin, Lismore and Bangalow. The scenery was spectacular; green rolling hills, mountains and picturesque small country towns. I would have loved to know who lived in these places and why? We wandered (well Colin hobbled) up and down main streets, into touristy, hippie and yuppie shops. We had a vegie burger in Nimbin for lunch and a divine Pecan pie in Bangalow for afternoon tea.

Nimbin was a rainbow coloured, hemp and herb heaven, but also touristy (the main street) and somewhat depressing. There wasn't a vibrant, lively feel that I expected. There were a few people around who had obvioulsy partaken of the weed far too frequently over the years and a shouting match occured in the street. Perhaps we just saw it on a bad day. I wonder what the real Nimbin is like, it certainly didn't seem like happyville.

One of the things I love about being on holidays is that Colin does the cooking. We brought with us a cook book titled  "Simple but perfect Salads". Our goal is to work our way through it. We started last night with a grilled, red pepper, potatoe and eggplant salad accompanied by a steak (a rarity for us, steak is too expensive for a family of 6!) Today when we were driving through the mountains we saw signs advertising great prices for local produce and stopped to make some purchases. So, Colin is currently whipping up a pear, walnut and crispy bacon salad accompanied tonight by .... sausages. Oh well, I can't complain - steak last night and prawns the night before!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

In Keeping with Tradition

Before we came away Colin and I visited his parents. The conversation turned to memories of a 3 month family sojourn in a caravan when Colin was 8. One of the things that happened on this particular trip was a rather nasty surprise for Colin when he went down a very long and very hot slippery slide. He was in too much of a hurry to grab the hessian bag that was supplied to keep from burning your backside. His cries of glee soon turned to cries of another kind.

The stories continued and a pattern emerged, Colin injuring himself regularly and consistently on holidays! In the last couple of years he has pulled a calf muscle while surfing, taken the skin off his nose, also while surfing (watch out for your own board), fallen on slippery rocks while fishing, hurt an already injured thumb putting up the annexe etc... etc... You get the picture.

Well true to tradition he has done it again - another pulled muscle in the same calf as before. My advice to him is to try and remember you are in your forties, not your twenties, you can't do the same things any more. No running and diving into the surf, just walk sedately like and old man and slowly lower your tired old body in... and do us all a favour in the process!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

not exactly what I had in mind

The few days before we drove out of Brunswick were full ones. Given the amount of packing and organising we needed to do, I had been wondering if we were going to get to leave on time to get to our first scheduled stop over at Goulburn. As is often the case a short conversation with my wise woman helped change my thinking and at once helped me formulate a mantra for yurting: it has already added significant satisfaction value to our time on the road.

Don't rush.

Don't complain.

What happens happens.

It has application every hour. One of the great things about being away from urban professional living is having more control over when things happen .. if at all. At the end of the day it is about expectations. All frustrations and disappointments spring from unmet expectations. It follows logically then that peace and satisfaction are similarly related to expectations.

The yurting mantra will no doubt serve me well.

But its easy when things go well. Today they have not.

When in Brunswick, Maria regularly goes for a morning walk along Merri Creek. I sometimes join her. When we are away the walk is usually along the beach. The routine is typically that we walk together for a bit, then I go for swim and while Maria keeps walking. So it was this morning.

I had taken the plunge and the inital shock of the water temperature quickly gave way to that invigorated feeling of being alive in the elements. I was just about to take my second plunge into the oncoming surf when I stepped into a dip in the sand and ... twang. It must have looked pretty funny really. My untanned torso literally hopping out of the water toward the beach, every now and again gingerly proping my right leg with tawn calf muscle on the sand ... all the while willing the pain to recede. Sometimes the power of positive thinking fails miserably.

After I tried to keep walking and gave up, Maria kept walking while I sat and waited for her return journey. Scraping the bottom of the barrell of 'this won't beat me', I decided some tricept pushups and bike ab crunches were the thing to do. Sublimely ridiculous really. Maria returned and I hobbled back home. Thoughts of making the most of the surfing conditions before they get huge over the next couple of days fade with every step (I mean hop.)

As one does these days Maria jumps on the internet to do the remedy research. I've subsequently spent the morning shifting between lying on the bench seat with my leg on the adjacent table, offending calf resting on an ice pack (frozen garlic and rosemary sausages), and the bed with my bound leg elevated by a sleeping bag.

Don't rush - no choice there.

Don't complain.

What happens happens.


The beginning of a new Adventure

Driving two and a half days North without airconditioning was always going to be a bit of a challenge!  Thirty something degrees, all windows fully down and a warm gale blowing through the car. Lucky Heidi and I aren't pecious about how our hair looks. I figured out if you wear a hat it helps, but you need to be careful it doesn't blow away. I also figured out moving to the right back seat when the sun shines in the front left brings some relief. On the plus side you get to hear and smell so much more - roaring semis hurtling past, unbelievably noisy cicadas and that wonderful smell that is green living things.

We deposited Heidi in Byron Bay with her houseful of Schoolies friends (we were her free ride up, much cheaper than an airfare) and headed on to Brunswick Heads, which we loved so much when we were here last time and decided to return to. A couple of hours later, finally unpacked, we got a call from Heidi, "Can you come and get some groceries for us?" We had already offered to use our car to transport all the grocery shopping back to their rented house. Back in the car and back to Byron Bay we headed and joined the hundreds (literally) of schoolies all shopping at Safeway that afternoon. It was an amusing experience. Some people were obviously doing grocery shopping for the first time and had no idea. How many kilos of ham to make sandwiches? Which is a better buy, chicken wings or skewers? There were bare shelves (Safeway had obviously not anticipated the onslaught) especially for softdrink etc... The queue at the three operating checkouts were humungous. One group of girls walked their shopping home in the trolley. The streets teemed with 18 year olds, hundreds of them, lots of energy and a party vibe, but we were mighty glad to get back to Grey Nomad land here at Brunswick Heads.

I have learnt two new things - Colin has given me a geography lesson - the sun rises earlier here (like before 5.30am!) because we are further East than Melbourne and the sun sets earlier here because we are North of Melbourne. That translates into going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. We slept in this morning almost making it to 7am!

Today we have washed clothes, ridden our bikes, visited the bottle shop, been to the beach, attempted to catch the fish we can see in the river right behind our caravan, (to no avail) been for a walk, reacquainted ourselves with the shops, washed some of the dirt and grime from the caravan (well Colin did) and sat marvelling at the beauty of this place.

driving in the natural air

There is something iconic about driving in stinking hot weather, windows down, music loud enough to be heard over the wind and engine noise. It is something that air conditioning in cars has robbed us of ... for Maria, Heidi and I, 1650 kms in 2 and a half days at 85 km/h, windows down the whole way from an hour out of Melbourne ... much more enjoyable than we imagined it might be.

I frequently leaned my head out the window and inhaled deeply. The smells of the countryside were good food. I got so hot in the afternoons on the passenger side that Maria retreated to the drivers side rear seat to leave me alone in the front. The overnight at Governors Hill in Goulburn has become a regular stop. The '2 star' restaraunt nearby has had its last patronage from us though ... I knew I was in trouble when I asked if the fish could be grilled, and the order taker/chef (who would have looked more at home in the mechanics shop) told me he wasn't sure because the it came frozen.

The beach front park at Coffs was a differnt story ... went for a walk on the beach after we got in after a 700k day and we opted for a self cook dinner. We were wondering why it was getting light so early until we realised that in this part of the world we are probably a 1000kms east of Melbourne, but in ther same time zone, so the sun is up at not much after 5.

A little highlight on the way was stopping at New Italy. Only an hour or so short of Byron Bay, this oasis cafe has great Italian coffee and deserts, but more sugnificantly has a museum and pavillion celebrating the Italian migrants that settled in the region a hundred years ago.

"parked at New Italy, nearly there ..."

We dropped Heidi with her friends in Byron Bay and have had an amzing 24 hours in Brunswick Heads. This place is incredible. We've eaten very well, gone for an early morning walk, a bike ride, I've had a few swims in the surf, we've wandered around the local shops, caste a line in the river chasing the huge fish that you can see in the glassy smooth flow, cooked, and generally just pottered around at snails pace.

... and we've settled well into 'grey nomad' observation/fascination mode as we did on our first yurting adventure.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


On the way back from Port Moresby last week, my umteenth and last trip this year, I browsed the bookshop for some reading unrelated to my work projects. I was delighted to find Adventures in Caravanistan: Around Australia at 80ks. Part of the pleasure of going away is the anticipation so a preliminary immersion in life on the road was good food for my soul.

About a year ago we stood in a park in Williamstown on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon and dreamed of how good it would be to leave the city and travel around. Its not a particularly unusual thought for us urbanites, but there was something about the thought that took hold. Why not we wondered? Really. Why not? Why wait until we are grey to be nomadic? Who's rules say you can't do it now?

The thought of buying a caravan had never entered our minds before that discussion. We couldn't let it go. Maria always says that choice is always real ... its about embracing the consequences of the choice that is hard. So we imagined how we could make traveling happen. Our original ideas of months away have been tempered as we weighed up the implications of the particular stages of schooling our kids are in.  We landed on the more sober and in some ways more sustainable approach of monthly excursions.

So we are about to embark on another trip up the East Coast. We fell in love with Brunswick Heads when we were there in July, so we are going back ... why not? Then we gradually come down the Coast to Port Stephens and end up back in Brunswick (Melbourne) in late January. That's two months on the roads, including a week back here in the lead up to Christmas (flying).

Maybe we make our own luck, either way, I'm one fortunate bloke. Taking nothing for granted, sucking in the pleasure of the moment, even this early ordinary morning in a quite house when there is peace to be had.

Friday, 17 July 2009

pat and yurty ready to go south

After a few wonderful weeks based here on the north coast of NSW we are packed up and ready to head back to Melbourne. Johanna has enjoyed the last couple of days having made a friend or two and getting involved in the variety of activities the park puts on.

It might be a bit hard to read but Johanna's first prize in the colouring comp is announced on the notice board.

The weather has been fantastic. Bright sunny days for the last few ... a bit cool only around 20 but it has been good to feel the warmth of the sun knowing what we will be back to in a couple of days.

Lots to be thankful for ... now for the long drive. (a few photos from the last few days below)

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The true story of the stinky bait

A couple of days ago Johanna complained that the car smelt like a fart. The next day I complained that it smelt like a toilet. We thought maybe it was the fishing bucket left in the back but didn't take it out. This morning we were getting in the car ready to head off and PHEW. Johanna refused to get in. Colin decided to check the fish bucket and when he took off the lid - stinkarama - the bait from two days ago was still in there (two warm days). The lid went back on, Johanna put the window down and stuck her head out all the way to the petrol station where Colin bought a nice vanilla smelling car deoderiser, Johanna hung it right next to her head.

On our excursions we found a beautiful spot in Iluka for fishing.. Oh what the heck, lets throw in a line and see what happens. The river was blue/brown and meandering, a rocky shore, grassy banks and a picnic table or two. Other people were around and the fish were biting - beautiful. Out comes the fish bucket and off comes the lid - phew - still stinks. Oh well maybe the fish won't mind rotten bait! Johanna and I won't touch the bait though. We throw in some lines and are immediately snagged, both rods. We try again, same thing happens. Meanwhile the fishers to our left and right are reeling them in and now and again the wind blows and the rotten bait smell wafts on the breeze. The old couple down wind of us look at us strangely - Johanna hears the man comment - "pooh something's dead"

We have managed to stink out the place, embarrass ourselves by continual snags emphasising our amateur status as fishers - it is time to make a swift departure. The offending bait is wrapped in a plastic bag, the fish bucket washed (along with our hands) and as we drive off we make a stop by the rubbish bin and in goes that stinky bait. Good riddance.

smells and feathers

Angling (another word for fishing)


Nomadic (Wanderers)

Guess who left the fish bait in the back of the car for a couple of days. It went off and stunk out the whole car so on the way to Iluka today dad bought a smelly thing to go in the car.
We went to Iluka to see what it was like. It was a nice town but we would rather be here.

Tonight we are having fish, potato and salad. Last night we had steak and salad, nothing like what I said.
It’s funny because if mum smells something before dinner that’s what she wants to eat that night. e.g. On Friday mum smelt pizza, that’s what we had. On Saturday mum smelt steak, that’s what we had. On Sunday we had taco’s but she didn’t smell that. On Monday she smelt steak so that’s what we had.
Last night I watched a movie in the movie room, most nights there is a movie on in a room with a projector. The movie was called Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
To tell what movie is on that night you go out to the front of the park and there is a whiteboard shaped like a surf board, each day they write the activities that are on. There are usually things like treasure hunts and art stuff. Then at the bottom it tells you the movie that is on that night. Tonight there is no movie on.

Today I took a really nice photo of a lorikeet. I really did take it, believe me.

This evening dad and I went to the jetty to watch the first stars come out. Dad spotted the first star and then I spotted the Southern Cross that's the first seven stars we saw. We sat and listened to all the sounds we could hear, lorikeets (gee they are noisy), boats coming in for the night, seagulls and pelicans. It was really lovely.

This evening dad and I went to the jetty to watch the first stars come out. Dad spotted the first star and then I spotted the Southern Cross that's the first seven stars we saw. We sat and listened to all the sounds we could hear, lorikeets (gee they are noisy), boats coming in for the night, seagulls and pelicans. It was really lovely.

These are the photos of the birds I took.

"dad took this one "

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

work and play

I started this week knowing it would involve more effort on the work front. Even though I had done some at Bryon Bay, the load was always going to get heavier this week.  The whole yurting thing will only be possible of I fgure out how to work meaningfully while being based away from Melbourne.

Realistically I am unable to do anything on operational customer facing projects. But if this is going to be sustainable then I've got to work out how to keep up my contribution while away. This is a non-trivial challenge because I have not historically done well in mixing work and beach life. There have been a couple of times when 'innocently' checking emails has cost me days of emotional relaxation in the past.

So the attitude always had to be different. It is early days but I am learning the following:

1. I cannot afford to see work as an intrusion when yurting. The choice is between working in my shorts and T-shirt in Yurty, overlooking the beach or the collar and office option, rather than a choice between being with Maria and Johanna meandering the shops and working ... if that makes sense.

2. Work matters, in fact some of the projects I am involved with are really important ones. But they are less important than it sometimes feels and seems when in the middle of them. Life matters. Spiritual, emotional and physical health are fundamental.

3. Turning on and off - being 100% engaged with the activity of the present (not wondering about another) is a fundamental skill in being able to mix work and yurting. I'm much better at this than I used to be, but still learning.

4. Taking in the beauty of the moment is a discipline. Work life teaches me to always think about the outcome, to be obsessed with the next thing, wondering about what is next. Yurting is about being, not so much about doing.

I've got L plates on ... more to come.

Pat and Yurty go east of everything

Perhaps it is the frivolity of being away from listening to ABC news everyday ... but I like being a bit childish when roaming around. So the car and caravan now have nick names. The Patrol is now affectionately Pat for short, and the caravan ... well what else but Yurty.

"pat and yurty ready to leave east of everything"

Maria commented today that there have been different 'sound tracks' for the various trips we have done. This time she has been fittingly listening to (on her mp3 player) the soundtrack for the TV series East of Everything, the ABC drama set around Byron Bay, that we really enjoyed when it was on last year.

So it is fitting that this yurting experience be dubbed - Pat and Yurty go east of everything.

Byron Bay is a great spot. Like Noosa further north, it is blessed with a headland with sweeping north facing beach so the break peels of the point beautifully. The sun had gone by the time we left, but we wanted to grab some shots of the wonderful panarama before we left ... so grey as the sky is ... these are for the memory vault.

You can see our campsite, east of everything (Byron Bay) now as the header on the website.