Sunday, 24 January 2010

PS & yurting 2010

The PS bit is being written from the veranda of a cabin in Holbrook ... 700km south of where we set off this morning. It has been a long day, 40 degree heat, lots of hills, no air con ... we are extremely thankful for the expansive cloudless sky over a beautiful sunset, the cool air, kangaroos, cows and gum trees below a perfect and bright half moon.

We chose a cabin. The thought of emptying the yurt of chairs, tables, tents, body boards, storage containers and surf boards, and setting up the tent for 1 night was too much. The girls have just run off to jump in the pool as dusk turns into night.

As well as gearing up for life in our other home, we have begun planning our mobile living for this year.

It is unlikely that we will have the opportunity for an extended time away in the next couple of years. Johanna and Rachel will be in year levels where missing school is not ideal (Johanna - year 6 and 7 and Rachel - 11 and 12) Instead we will make the most of shorter and hopefully more frequent excursions.

Our hopes for this year include:

10 days at Easter (somewhere close to Melbourne)

Two weeks in July at Byron Bay (to reconnect with the surfing friends that we met North of Coffs)

One month around September (Sunshine Coast)

3 weeks late Dec/early Jan in Merimbula

We shall see what unfolds.....

Saturday, 23 January 2010

the punctuating post

The girls are playing in the lake, Maria is lying in the shade, I'm in the yurt finishing off some work with the fan blowing on me. Its hot.

Today is our last day before we pack up and head south. Maria and I have been processing, talking and getting mentally ready to be back in Brunswick. We left the girls here at Lemon Tree Passage this morning and went back to find a wave, almost as a ceremonial punctuation. One Mile beach was pretty flat but I was pleased to see some swell back at Stockton where the beach had been closed two days ago. (see struck by the bigness)

Maria went for a walk.

I caught some waves.

All was good in our world.

I will miss the simplicity of this. Everything is basic and uncomplicated; clothes, food, accommodation, equipment ...

We are looking forward to the things we enjoy about being in Melbourne. Obviously being reconnected with Zac and Heidi. Our bigger living space. Watching the Aust. Tennis Open on our TV.

There is plenty to do on the work front, who knows what this year will hold. I will be spending some of the time driving back thinking about our expectations and goals for the year. Now I'm off to spend the last hours in the water with the kids and Maria, and sitting in the shade as the day fades.

For those of you who have been interested enough to follow us on this site, we hope that you have found a way to translate our own determination to live life fully with no regrets into your own lives ... for us the search for beauty and goodness is a daily adventure, where ever we are.

Bring on the next bit ...

Thursday, 21 January 2010


I was just re-reading over the blurb on our yurting page, reflecting on the list we wrote outlining what we hoped would be true of our time away. There is a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that all the things we hoped have been experienced, more so than we could have imagined. Caravanning does not necessarily equal a less stressful, simple lifestyle, we’ve seen plenty of stressed, busy families, but it has been true for us.

We have loved being nomadic - the freedom of mobility, we have been awestruck and had our souls soothed by the beauty of the Australian landscape, we have slowed down, shed our normal routines and responsibilities, we have been surprised by how little we really need, we have enjoyed cooking and eating and an active lifestyle.

Our yurting adventures have given us an experience of a different kind of living, it has broadened our perspective. We can appreciate the positive things about our yurting and our urban lives, as well as be aware of the challenges each brings. We do not need to choose one over the other, we do not need to try and import one to the other, they remain separate and different ways to experience life. Neither better than the other, just different. We love aspects of them both and struggle with aspects of them both. We feel privileged to have the opportunity to participate in both, to have a rich and varied life.

We have made choices to pursue these lifestyles and there are consequences, some anticipated and some not. In the end, we have one life, we want to make the most of the opportunities we have and the opportunities we create.

We dream of a time when we are based in Melbourne six months of the year and travel the other six, where we grow older and wiser, at peace with ourselves, each other and our world. We’ll adopt our yurting philosophy of having a general plan, setting out in that direction and seeing what unfolds. Who knows what adventures lie along the way, what twists and turns, what unexpected surprises will reveal themselves.....

'Living'  is the most precious and wondrous adventure of them all.

Joy Ride

Today unfolded, as most do, with unexpected twists and turns. The Patrol was ready first thing this morning so after Colin cooked tomato, bacon and eggs for breakfast we headed back to Salamander Bay to collect it. From there I drove the hire car and Colin the Patrol back to the airport - a journey made slower by the re-painting of the white lines on the side of the road. Hire car deposited, we drove back to the caravan park. There was the morning gone! Our original thought to head to Fingal Bay today did not seem so appealing after all the driving we had just done.

Luckily the girls had other plans anyway. Rachel and Ella are both very friendly and social beings and have struck up a friendship with a group of five families - I wasn't surprised to learn that the 12 children (of the five families) consist of 10 boys, I was happier however to discover that quite a few of them are under 12 years. The girls have been on at us to hire a boat, having never been in one before and being surrounded as we are by boats on rivers and lakes. It so happens that one of the families has a boat and a tube that they tow behind it. The girls were invited for a ride. We could hear their screams of joy from very far away! They had a ball, riding in both the boat and on the tube. Colin and I stood at the waters edge for a while talking with the dad's from the five families (the mums were all out for lunch)

We are about to have dinner - another two salads from our book (one with chick peas and the other  mushroom and spinach) and later we have been invited for drinks with the five families.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

struck by the bigness

Its a dark, clear and cool evening. The girls are off with friends, sitting on the jetty near our spot talking under a brilliant night sky. The neighbours radio is blaring, treating us with similar music fare to what we 'enjoyed' last night from the disco DJ. Maria and I are being boring, sitting on our bed reading The Age online and eating fantails. My Brunswick Heads local coffee beans now all gone, I'm onto Illy, the only beans the local supermarket stocked ...

Today we ventured back to the sea. Lemon Tree Passage is on a little penninsula that means even though our desinations is not far away on the map, the drive is a long way around. There are a few beaches we wanted to explore on the southern side of Port Stephens. We started with One Mile Beach (Johanna uderstandably exclaimed, 'How many one mile beaches are there?' - we seem to have come across a few!). The headlands and tight crescent were very pretty. The surf boards are having a rest, our new commodore hire car can accommodate our soft racks but the board overhang front and back makes is a bit much to cart them around all day.

You can see the region from the link below ... Stockton Beach (see comments below) stretches west of Anna Bay.

As we moved along the coast, the swell became more impressive as the beach orientation changed. At Boat Harbour we stopped and watched the rough seas crash into the rocks ... that was just an entree for what was to come.

Stockton Beach is awesome in the literal sense rather than the teenage exclamatory sense. The sand dunes behind it are rolling hills of pure sand that go on for kilometres. The beach was closed when we arrived due to the massive swell that thundered constantly. Not sure how far it curves around, but is is many kilomentres. The beach is flat and expansive ... everything about it today was big.

Sharing it with us was a camel train and numerous four wheel drives. The dunes are a major tourist attraction with operators taking day long 4WD excursions. Perhaps the most striking sight was a bus load of Japanese tourists. Now Australia has extraordinary beaches, but Stockton beach today was something special. So awestruck were these Japanese that they were drawn into the shallows in their clothes and then - I know this sounds strange but it was understandable given the context - they were standing as a group, hands outstretched as if worshipping the sea, shouting and taking in the enormity of the environment.

Sometime over the next couple of days we will check out Fingal Bay, a bit north of where we started today. A neighbour back in Tuncurry/Forster told us they thought it was one of the nicest beaches in NSW. The map suggests there is a walking track out onto the headlands so we will no doubt go for an exploratory wander.

Looming large is the reality that our privileged yurting season will soon be over for this time. We have had such an amazing time. But as we reminded ourselves today, it is not the caravan that gives us peace and joy. We are fortunate that we share an easy relationship and have tried hard to cultivate lifetsyle habits and perspectives that enable us to make the most of whatever situation we are in. This means that while this season comes to an end we will be managing the transition to our Brunswick urban way of being. There is so much about that that we love too.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

What happens, happens; take 2

This morning we packed up for the day and set out to explore Port Stephens, 30 minutes in Colin noticed the car was over heating. We pulled into a car park and when the bonnet was lifted we were greeted with a hiss of steam and water pouring out. Not a good sign. After topping up with water and finding the address of the nearest garage we set off but did not get far. We returned to the car park and called the RACV. At least we could wait in the shade with toilets and shops close by. The girls took themselves off to explore the shops and Marina close by.

"poor Pat"

Eventually the road side assist guy arrived, got us going and gave us the address of a radiator specialist (obvious leak in the cooling system). We left the girls to continue shopping while we made the short trip to a garage. Bottom line – the car shouldn’t be driven, at least not the distances we need to cover between Lemon Tree Passage and other parts of Port Stephens - and the guy can’t fix it til Wednesday. We called on the extra care cover we have with the RACV (for just such situations as this) and they organised a hire car for us. However the organisation and collection of the car took ALL afternoon – many phone calls, waiting for a taxi, having to detour back to the caravan park to collect licences which we were not carrying, driving out to the airport to collect the hire car etc…. Finally at 5pm we collected the girls, their quick look around the shops had turned into an all day marathon. Luckily they found plenty to do around the Port Nelson foreshore.

We were fortunate in many regards, to have RACV assistance, to be in a town and not stranded on a highway, that the girls could occupy themselves, that I had given the girls some cash…. etc… However spending all day waiting, sitting in cars and at a garage, in a taxi and hire car was not how we would choose to spend the day. ‘Wasting’ one day when there are only 5 left felt frustrating – that would be a case of ‘perspective’ happening…..

Strange how you can feel exhausted after a day of doing nothing. Tomorrow we will think about the problem of what to do with the surf boards that are in the Patrol. It does not look as though our soft racks will fit on top of the hire car, perhaps they will have to stay in the Patrol until Wednesday/it is fixed. Colin is in denial on this matter I think. If there is a way to do it, he will find it.

I will head to the showers and wash away the day and contemplate an evening of loud music – there is a disco on the ‘activities for the day’ here at the caravan park. The music is loud that’s for sure, at least the music is OK – Men at Work, I Come from a Land Down Under, at the moment. Sounds like music meant for the parents not for the kids.

Oh dear, now it is Achey Breaky Heart ….. could be a long night. At least it finishes at 9pm.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Where are the people like us?

Colin and I have been pondering the demographics of caravan parks. (The following are simply observations and in no way judgements) It seems to us, in our limited experience, that holidaying in caravan parks is a very anglo kind of thing to do. (Colin was greatly surprised the other day to see a Muslim woman appropriately covered from head to toe) Even more than that, it is a very ‘working class’ kind of thing to do. When you have four weeks annual leave, most ‘professionals’ are holidaying in apartments and holiday houses, not caravan parks. Many of the people we have met come to the same caravan park year after year at the same time of the year. For these ‘working class’ families this is their annual holiday. It is a lot cheaper than an apartment or holiday house!

There is also a slight difference between those caravan parks centred around lakes and waterways, where boats, fishing and jet skis are the go, and those that are centred around surf beaches. There is perhaps a wider demographic at surf beaches. Of course there are also National Park and free camping kind of parks, of which we have no experience. And the lack of amenities means it will probably stay that way!

This helps explain why we often feel the odd ones out. Most places we go we realise that we don’t have much in common with our neighbours. (The exception being the four couples we spent New Years Eve with and consequently the rest of the week) Our caravanning is not our annual holiday, it is a lifestyle choice. The same was true for our new found friends in Coffs, they chase the surf and choose to spend as much time as possible each year travelling. (they had a fair degree of ‘holiday’ discretion time)

We also have a fair degree of flexibility and choose to spend as much of it as possible experiencing a more nomadic and simple lifestyle. Surfing also features highly for some! The grey nomads are likewise making  lifestyle choices. It seems to us that there is a difference between those who have their holidays at a caravan park and those who are making a lifestyle choice to be there.

We don’t fit with the ‘working class’ holiday makers, we don’t fit with the grey nomads and in the places we have stayed so far we have not come across many others similar to ourselves. That is why it was such a joy to spend time with our new friends in Coffs – finally some other people similar to ourselves. They will be together again, with some others, in Byron Bay in July; surfing of course. We are planning to join them. Spending some time with kindred spirits is something worth pursuing.

Lemon Tree Passage

This funny sounding place in Port Stephens is our last stop before heading home. Situated on a peninsula, bordering Tilligery creek (more like a  river), it is beautiful. Blue clear water dotted with mooring boats and edged by green, treed hills. It feels like a quiet haven to end two months of travel.

"our yurt is closest to water"

Yesterday was Saturday, moving day, a strange phenomenon in caravan parks at this time of year. During peak times you have to book in week blocks, Saturday to Saturday. So on any given Saturday a good proportion of the caravan park is packing up and moving on, travelling on the highways and then unpacking at a new place (or going home). We joined the caravan parade yesterday and arrived around lunch time at our new destination. Not long after all the other new arrivals turned a sparse  green camping area into a hive of activity. Arriving early as we did meant that we were finished as others were arriving and could sit back, drink in hand, and watch the goings on - who can back a caravan and who can't, who can put up a tent without resorting to four letter words, how hot and frustrated parents deal with tiresome children.....very amusing when it is not us!

"taken minutes before the storm"

The writing of this blog was just interrupted; I was sitting in the shade looking out over the water when the wind changed direction and started blowing a gale. Word on the ground was that a hail storm was passing close by - we prepared the caravan and tent just in case and then walked out on the jetty to watch the storm pass to the east of us - grey ominous clouds, lightening and a fierce wind moved quickly past.....

Johanna , not surprisingly, was generous enough to pass on her head cold, Rachel had a day or two with a sore throat, then Colin started yesterday (sore throat and blocked/runny nose) and Jess woke up this morning with the same. Luckily for her she was heading home today. We took her to Newcastle airport and put her on a plane for Melbourne and 15 minutes later welcomed another of Rachel's friends, Ella. Ella will spend the week with us and join us on the road trip back to Melbourne next weekend.

We are beginning, reluctantly, to accept that our time away is coming to an end. We have both begun to reflect on our experiences (I am sure there will be some writing about this) and emotionally and mentally prepare for the transition time that will come - the ending of one thing and the resuming/beginning of another.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

walking beauty

SOP ALERT: do not read if not open to sop

As I read Maria's last post chronicling our adventures today I realised a piece of our yurting story that has been left unsaid. When we spend time on the beach, as has been our almost daily custom these past weeks, I get to see it from a few perspectives. There is the initial scan; what is the overall 'feel' of the place. This is naturally affected by weather conditions but also sea and sand scape, surrounding environment such as hinter and headlands.

Once we have found our spot, I spend plenty of time at the waters edge, keeping watch over the girls frolicking in the surf. I am not one for sitting or lying on the beach ... in fact I don't even take a towel to the beach. But from where ever I am, wandering on the sand, body surfing or out the back sitting waiting, I can usually see our 'home', marked by a maroon bag that goes with us whenever we are on the sand.

Beaches are beautiful places. For lots of reasons. There are some beaches in NSW that have had an added, subtle beauty this summer. As I scan the sand and sea, looking along the vast expanse of foreshore there is one sight that takes a beach from beautiful to spectacular, whatever the conditions.


I realised early on this expedition that we have differing primal instincts when we arrive at a beach. I want to get into the water. Maria is inclined to walk its length. Slowly but purposefully. So a common and wonderful sight is Maria's walking shape. I can recognise her walk when she is not much more than a spec in the distance. It is a spectacular feeling for me, when  look up and there she is, either returning or leaving, her form adding splendour to the view.

When we are back in Brunswick, one of the the things I will miss  most is the view of the beach with Maria walking on it.


Today we checked out the beaches North of Foster. We looked in briefly at Black Rock, Red Head and Diamond making our way up to Saltwater and the promise of decent surf. We left in light drizzle, walked on hot sand at Diamond beach, drove in pouring rain up the Pacific Highway and arrived to blue sky at Saltwater - and they say Melbourne weather is changeable! We picnicked on the headlands at Saltwater National Park admiring the view and the slow, gentle, rolling waves, perfect for beginner surfers, albeit a bit small.

Colin and Rachel had a ball on the surf with their boards. The small waves were about right for Rachel, a bit too small for Colin but provided him with an opportunity to become more 'acquainted' with his new board.

On our way up we noticed traffic backed up on the opposite side of the Pacific highway - an accident. As we headed for home 4 hours later we saw that the traffic still appeared to be at a standstill so made a detour to Taree instead. We filled in some time there, had pizza for dinner and journeyed back down the Pacific when all had cleared, somber at what most likely was a fatal accident.

Tomorrow is moving day- packing up, driving and unpacking, for the last time before we head home. The end is looming and we are sad about that.

Friday, 15 January 2010

not just recreation

"Harley Ingleby"

As per a previous post, we were coincidentally on the same break as newly crowned world longboard champion Harley Ingleby last week. Alongside a magazine (PACIFIC Longboarder) article about his victory, the question is posed, "Why would anyone choose to haul a nine foot longboard half way across the world when you could practically carry a shortboard quiver on your back, like arrows? The answer is simple.

"While all great surfing is difficult - as you carve a moving object across a moving surface - longboarding introduces the added dimension of walking the board, the traditional high water mark of expertise in the great tradition. Walking adds the poetry to the prose of carving, the subtle improvisation to the solo, the finesse to the grunt and muscle of bodywork. If you like, longboarding is flamenco on water - flaming moves, passionate runs down the line, soulful arcs, posturing on the nose with the wave crashing and nipping at your back offering the clacking castanets and drumming of the dancers."

In his novel 'Breath', Tim Winton says, "How strange it was to see men do something beautiful. Something pointless and elegant, as though nobody saw or cared."

... and for me at least, longboards are easier to ride.

Beach x3

Today we made up for the lack of good beach going over the last few days by visiting three in a row. We started off at our local beach with the amazing sand dunes, unfortunately they weren't that great to slide down, the girls kept getting stuck/stopping on the way down. Then they had a bit of a swim in water that has become progressively cooler over the last few days.

We headed 20 minutes south to Pacific Palms and had a look at the local patrolled beach - pretty but also pretty flat. We kept going to Boomerang Beach and hooray, finally some surf. Colin took his board out and the girls had fun in the surf. (I kept a nervous eye on them all - no flags or lifesavers here!) A little later we headed round the next bend to Blueys Beach and Colin surfed again and the girls played in the surf. This time they had to wait until Colin could watch them before they could enjoy the pounding waves. They reminded me of ten pin bowling, all standing knee/thigh deep and getting bowled over by the waves. They had a lot of fun. We loved the beaches down this way, picturesque and with decent surf.

For the record:

Who misplaced the key to the toilet block - Rachel of course

Who got asked if they were a model - Rachel

Who spends half an hour after having a shower doing hair and make-up in the toilet block - Rachel and Jess

Who has been social, getting to know our fellow caravaners, well those between the ages of 10 and 18 - Rachel and Jess

Who turns heads wherever they go - Rachel and Jess (far too blonde and attractive for this mothers liking)

And Finally

Who cooked an inedible pasta dish for tea tonight, to which the girl's responded, "Don't look so disappointed dad, you can't get it perfect every time!"

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Rest Day

Today was an enforced rest day, Johanna came down with a heavy cold and was feeling miserable. We made a quick stop at the dvd store on route to dropping Rachel and Jess in town. Johanna spent the majority of the day resting and watching dvd's on the computer, Colin and I snoozed and read and Colin caught up on some work. Funny how the less you do the more lethargic you feel!

Late in the day we decided to all get a bit of fresh air - you can fish sitting down, so fishing it was. The bait used around here turned out to be live worms; guess who did all the baiting of the hooks! They were long, long disgusting things and they wriggled when you put them on the hook, gross was the unanimous vote by all the girls.(we had picked Rachel and Jess up on the way) Our poor form at fishing continued, we only mamaged to loose the bait, not a bite to be had. There were still a few worms left when we gave up fishing so they were set free in the river. More free food for the fish.

The girls did however enjoy watching a couple of dolphins frolic in the river while Colin fished (everyone else had either given up, or never got started, by then) Rachel and Jess have also been enjoying attending the Solid Rock Cafe in the evenings, a beach mission kind of event with live music etc... The surf continues to be poor which is disappointing for Colin and his new board. We had a beach free day today but hopefully will head down to Pacific Palms tomorrow where the surf may be better. There is also a local beach with huge sand dunes at one end, the girls want to boogey board down them. So much yet to do and  only two more days here.....

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

public disgracefulness and a jumpy lunch

Its an outrage. You don't have to be a masterchef to know there are some elementary things about cooking steak so it turns out delicate and tender. Start with a decent bit of meat ... make sure the plate is really hot and its heavy enough to retain the heat, only turn it once, always let it rest ... etc.

At Saphire Beach we enjoyed some excellent scotch fillet, with more mouths to feed here we found some well priced Porterhouse and decided to have it with a simple salad of our own design ... tomato, fresh basil and fried haloumi cheese. Gorgeous.

All is in readiness ... everyone is set to relocate to the river bank picnic table, we've got all the ingredients ready to chop for the salad, drinks ... we're all good. So I go down early to get the plate hot. I suspect it will take a good 10 minutes for the plate to heat up ... $1 for the heating and another couple to complete the cooking.

I insert the coin and wait. The usual public bbq sounds are emitted, some creaking as the plate warms. I wait for the warm to become hot. I wait some more. And some more. Surely it will get hotter than this. In hindsight, the telltale sign was that the plates were pristine silver, not a blackened burn stain anywhere. I wait some more. I hold my hand over the plate ... within a centimetre - it's not going to get any hotter, its probably as hot as its going to get.

Then I make a mistake. I think it will be OK. I drop the first porterhouse on the spot that I reckon is the hottest ... it barely sizzles and within a second there is silence and within another 10 seconds that most terrible of sights ... the juices are oozing out and bubbling along the base, announcing that if I continue with plan A I will end up with broiled steak. There is no choice but to abort. Plan B was sub-optimal; our yurting fry pan is not a heavy base although last night I let it get really hot and didn't overload it and our meal was great. Memo to self; put heavy base grill plate into yurt for next time incase of emergency (public plates that only get hot enough to fry an egg).

Why bother offering public bbq plates that don't get hot. Someone should start a political party: People for Public Bbqs that get Properly Hot, the PPBPH party. There have been more ridiculous ones.

Meanwhile, today was sunny but with an onshore breeze, so the beach was pretty messy and rough. We had some fun getting buffetted by the choppy waves then retreated to the more sheltered river bank for lunch. The girls had a ball jumping off a board walk into a deep spot in the river that was part of a netted off 'swimming pool'.

"Johanna doing a twist"

"Jess taking the plunge"

"Rachel hold her nose for the decent"

Monday, 11 January 2010

farewells and the reverse test again

We said our farewells to our new friends, thankful for a social week with lots of laughs and stories. Below are some happy snaps, Gavin and Julie are standing infront of their amazing caravan (see previous post "seeing in the new year yurting style") and Scott and Jen on Sandy beach where we spent a fantastic last day north of Coffs.

This is where Johanna got some first class surf coaching from Scott and caught some great waves for her second day on a board .. .

Each new place brings a brand new perspective and routine. We knew the next season would be different when we loaded into Pat (the Patrol) at Coff airport with the newly arrived Rachel and her friend Jess and Rachel swithched on their NSW playlist on Rachel's Mac in the back seat and treated us to a couple of hours of teenage pop music.

After a 3 or 4 hours driving south into the heat we arrived at Tuncurry/Forster. This place is a veritable summer playground. There must be hundreds of ski and fishing boats in the waterways ... the caravan park is crowded ... its one of those places where you pack in and feel like you are living on top of everyone.

When we checked in we were greeeted with, "We have been waitng for you to arrive!" Not the usual greeting. More than a little curious I was then walked twoards our site. "It will be pretty tight to get your van into here, would you like me to go and get the tractor and do it for you?"

I summed up the situation and told him I'd give it a shot and yell out if I got stuck. Gulp. Fresh from poking fun at caravan reversing (see previous post "The reversing relationship test")I knew this would be personal triumph or disaster. Maria and I stood and assessed the situation, I explained my plan, climbed in a made the first pass. As I got out to make a progress assessment one of the 'at least 3 blokes' going about their business but really wathcing to see how much of a fool I was going to make of myself quips to me, "You realise this is a test of your manhood?" Gulp again. Self talk - "Stay calm." "Its not Marias fault if you get it wrong."

I make the second pass and we're looking OK, a really sharp turn into a tight spot is so far going extremely well. I climb out again to discuss the fine tuning tactics with Maria. One of the other blokes comments, "Best caravan backing I've ever seen." On the outside I stay calm, on the inside I am punching my fists into the air, "I'm the man!"

10 minutes later I'm still shuffling the thing around trying to get the wheels in just the right place, the gloss has gone, but I'm coming out OK. I later learn from more than one of our neighbours that they had called on the tractor - not this Aussie bloke.

... at least not until next time.

Sweet 16

This is the view from our caravan park in Tuncurry/Foster. I am sitting in the shade (because it is hot) enjoying the blue of Lake Wallis. This is boating and fishing territory, a very different feel than our previous surfing spots.

Yesterday was moving day; packing up, driving and unpacking. Rachel and Jess arrived safely, negotiating a change of flights in Sydney, one piece of luggage was lost in transit though. It arrived via courier later in the evening.

Today is Rachel's sixteenth birthday. We began the celebrations with pancakes for breakfast.

Then came the usual  preparations and sunscreening for some time at the beach. You may notice that Colin is waxing his NEW Longboard. (Looks like I'll be getting my new whizz bang camera after all!) Unfortunately the surf was poor today but Colin christened it anyway and the girls had fun playing in the small waves. They spent most of the afternoon in the pool while Colin and I shopped and took care of the 'jobs'

All this chilling out is turning Colin's head to mush this afternoon (perhaps he is daydreaming about his new board), he managed to almost back into a car in the Bi Lo car park, missed the turn to our caravan park, pinned in the wrong code for the boom gate...... He is sitting safely in a chair beside me at the moment uploading photos, hopefully his concentration will have returned before he begins dinner - Rachel has requested chicken and cranberry salad and a Pav.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Last couple of days in Coffs

We have been driving, riding bikes and surfing/swimming. Slow, lazy and very enjoyable days. Once Colin has finished working we head off, sometimes on our own and somtimes with our neighbours. Yesterday we drove to Urunga, rode our bikes around a bit (Johanna took a corner too fast, raced up the kirb but managed to stay upright, though she did buckle the wheel of her bike), tried a couple of salads at the Boardwalk Cafe for lunch, and walked along a very long boardwalk to a very ordinary beach. Colin had a surf at Coffs on the way home to make up for the disappointment.

Today we headed to Sandy Beach with one of our neighbour couples. What a jewel of a beach - hidden away and not well known. The surf was about right for Colin and once again he found it easier to surf on a borrowed mal - looking more likely that he will acquire one! And I had a play with the whizz bang camera - still hopeful that I mught acquire one!

Johanna had a ripper of a day. Our kindly neighbour (who just happens to have coached olympic swimmers and once was third in a junior National Iron Man Comp) gave Johanna a surfing lesson. On only her second time on a surfboard he took her way, way out the back, where she couldn't touch the bottom, the waves crashing....(I just reminded myself of all his qualifications and experience!! Actually I had complete faith in him) He showed her how to go over waves and stay on the board, gave her tips on how to better surf on the board, how to read the waves, chose the perfect waves for her and gave her a gentle push to get her started - she actually surfed green waves, had a beautiful left hand ride for the longest anyone in our family has ever stayed upright. She's hooked. She fairly danced out of the water. The only problem was the baggy bather bottoms, a trip to Best and Less on the way home has solved that particular problem. We bought a size too small - they should stay up no matter what the conditions.

We shall be sad to say goodbye to our friends this evening. We all leave tomorrow - they return to Queensland and we pick up Rachel and her friend Jess from the Coffs Airport and head further South to Forster. Another week and another part of the adventure unfolds......

Thursday, 7 January 2010

What happens happens

Most days we don't make plans. The weather reports are unreliable, so we wake up and see what the day may hold in terms of weather, make a decision about where to start and let the day unfold as it will. It is such a different way to live than our urban lives.

Having no expectations, letting the day unfold as it will has lots of benefits - dissapointment, anger and frustration are rare, surprises, enexpected delights and contentment abound. Even when we do make a tentative plan we hold it lightly, changes happen all the time. Like yesterday when we planned to head into Sawtell Beach early in the day, Colin taking his computer and working as necessary during the day. That was at 9am, at 1.30 pm we were still at the caravan Park, something important had come up at work and Colin needed to spend the morning writing emails and on the phone. Our Yurting mantra of 'what happens, happens' stood us in good stead. Johanna and I played air hockey in the games room and had a swim in the pool instead. Later in the day we headed to Emerald Beach for a swim/surf (closer than Sawtell). The usual frustration and annoyance at such a disruption to plans was absent, our laid back lifestyle results in laid back emotional responses too it seems. Perspective and expectations are amazing things, their influence is under-rated I think.

If our desire to spend as much time as possible 'yurting' is to continue to be a reality then yurting does not equal holiday. Work is part of the yurting life. Finding ways to marry the two will be crucial.

We spent some more time this morning at Emerald Beach, this time with our neighbours. They are great surfers. Colin had a go on a mal (longboard) and is now coveting one. I saw the photos taken of the mornings surf with a whiz bang camera and now I am coveting one! Seems like not all vices are nullified by our yurting lifestyle.

We are cooking dinner tonight for our neighbours -  a few of our favourite salad discoveries.

Guess who has caught the surfing bug!!  Heidi we are getting outnumbered here big time....

and our new friends showing us how its done ...

and we were lucky enough to have a world (longboard) champion on the same break to ohh and ahh at ...

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Dolphins and Bikes

The last couple of days we have been living out part of our Yurting mantra - 'go slow'

Yesterday the weather was not great for the beach so we headed into town and visited Johanna's choice of  'touristy' thing to do - the Pet Porpoise Pool. It has the usual dolphin and seal shows (you can also see reef fish, penguins and an almost clone of Steve Irwin with his reptile show) but the difference here is that it is interactive in that you get to feed a seal, penguin and reef fish, touch the reptiles and also touch the dolphins. After the show they swim upside down (belly's exposed) along the edge of the pool where you can stroke them. You can also queue up for a kiss from a seal and dolphin - all of which Johanna enjoyed. She even stuck her hand up as a volunteer during the Dolphin Show and got chosen to clean a Dolphins teeth!

I did feel sorry for the animals though. It can't be much of a life - performing tricks day after day in the same enclosures - although as they explained all their animals had been rescued/injured and were unfit for release in the wild. Still, seeing animals in their natural habitat, doing their natural thing is far preferable.

Later in the afternoon we walked around the harbour area, along the North Wall and up a steep path to the top of Muttonbird Island.(great views of the coast from here, unfortunately the clouds obscured some of it)

Today was 'back to work day' and Colin started working in the mornings. While he worked Johanna and I had a cruisy morning and we all farewelled another of the couples (from the group of four we spent New Years Eve with), Johanna was sad to see them go because they were the ones with three kids. After lunch we packed up the bikes, drove into Coffs and then rode to Sawtell and back. It took over an hour each way, it was however a leisurely ride - Johanna was not really keen to come so her riding was less than enthusiastic! Colin had a swim at Sawtell of course (lovely beach there) and a quick surf once we got back to Coffs. (the surf board stays in the back of the Patrol at the moment, always at hand...) We had fish and chips by the harbour and fantastic icecreams (for your info Heidi, marsbar and passionfruit, Dad had ginger spice)

Most of our evenings are rounded off by pre dinner drinks with our neighbours (4 couples down to 2 today), dinner and then back to visit the neighbours for a night cap. Very pleasant days indeed.

Sunday, 3 January 2010


Sometimes, you hear a common word spoken in a way that infused it with meaning. In Japan, everywhere you go you are greeted with "irasshaimasen", the Japanese word for welcome. Women bow at the bottom of escaluators, shop keepers acknowledge your presence with the word and family members greet you when you arrive back home with the same word. It is everywhere. Its deep meaning is naturally lost in its familiar use.

On disc 2 of the Waifs live album "A Brief History", Vikki follows up the opening song of a gig with a simple word; 'welcome'. She says it in a way that invites the audience to be at home, to be the recipients of hospitality. I love the way she says it. I heard it again this morning while I was stuffing our breakfast tomatoes with fresh basil.

Today we ventured south of Coffs to Sawtell. It is a great little town. We wandered along the beach, around the headlands and through the shops. One shop was particularly enjoyable. Blues music was playing softly, the whole front of the shop was open. it had some of the best books titles I've browsed in a  long time. I flipped through a coffee table book creatively crafted around aspects of travel and a small recipe book on comfort food. It also stocked CDs and vinyl records. Right across the the front of the store was a giant mat with one word emblazened on it, "welcome".


Perspective is an intriguing thing. A few days ago when it rained continually for a couple of days, while inconvenient and definitely damp, it wasn’t a big issue for us. When you have a month, what’s a couple of days of rain? However for those who had one weeks holiday between Christmas and New Year it was a different matter. Many muttered about packing up and going home. The rain was for them disappointing to say the least.

If I imagine a giant beachball, with the usual different coloured wedge shapes, and myself as a tiny Lego person standing dwarfed by it, then all I can see of the beachball is the yellow wedge, maybe a little of the green beside it. I have no knowledge or experience of the blue and orange wedge on the other side. My perspective is limited. (I am a white, middleclass, educated woman living in the 21st Century – that in itself is a huge influence on what I ‘see’) It would be erroneous to assume my perspective (yellow wedge) is the only one there is, or that it is the best/correct colour. How often do you hear the words, “Yes, but the reality is….” In other words, one person’s perspective is different from another’s.

It is easy when making decisions (from something as simple as will I do the dishes even if it isn’t my turn? to will I change jobs?) to do so on the basis of a singular perspective; after all it is all we know. Our perspective and experience also gives rise to certain feelings which can be powerful influencers in decision making. Colin and I have pondered this dilemma and questions around perspective and ‘reality’. A lot of our poor decisions have been based on a singular perspective or reaction to strong emotions. It seems to us (at the moment – this perspective will most likely change with greater experience!!) that if we can take into consideration multiple perspectives, can acknowledge our feelings and express them authentically and appropriately (they may influence the final decision or not) then we are well on the way to better choices and decision making, ie living.

However another question arises, if there are multiple perspectives and my feelings arise from my present and past experiences then on what basis do I make a choice or decision. Perhaps this is where values and principles came to the fore. I need to make a decision that is in keeping with what I value – this may be religious/spiritual in nature and it may not. It doesn’t really matter, whether we are conscious of it or not, we all live on the basis of values/beliefs.

Yurting is a conscious and purposeful attempt to experience another reality, to open ourselves to other perspectives on life and living. Our urban life is simply one way of living, it has its benefits and its drawbacks. Yurting is an experiment with perspective and ‘reality’. However, you don’t have to ‘go away’ to do this. Last year, the whole of the year, we pondered, wondered and attempted to live out the questions we had around perspective and reality and we discovered and are still in the process of discovering many things. As I consider a New Year and a new decade I am excited by the continued journey to discover, experience and perhaps understand the nature of ‘reality’

Saturday, 2 January 2010

back to slow

I know how silly it sounds, but it can feel busy. Not in the same sense of urban busyness, but the simple activities of going for a walk, going to the beach, shopping, cooking, cleaning up, pottering around the yurt doing odd jobs (yesterday the hinges on the bed broke) all become the routines of life.

This morning has been 'back to slow'. I woke earlier than Maria and Johanna so took my coffee down to the beach. The beach here is steep so the waves break close to shore ... lovely and peaceful with people walking and doing their early morning dip.

Maria is now off on a long walk, Johanna is watching a video with one of the kids from next door and I'm listening to the Waifs, sitting outside typing and cooking breakfast. This morning we're doing tomato with basil, an egg and bacon on a muffin.

I'm sipping Tetleys now as Maria walks back across the park, so I'll go and get her breakfast happening.

The other reason today will be slow is forced. Yep another injury ... got a heavy blow from a fin yesterday - was relieved to see no blood but it was pretty colourful within minutes. So here I am again with the ice and elevation routine, at least for today. :)

New Years Eve

We spent the majority of news years eve putting up our new tarp that we named Trever Tarp. We also have come up with some other creative names for our other caravan accesories, Annie Annex and Ariel Awning.

That evening we went to the camp kitchen and cooked a lovely steak to have with our olive, fetta and tomato salad.

After the washing up was done and we all felt satisfied we got some snacks and took our chairs to our new neighbours little communty of four couples. One with three younger kids. Teagen, 4, Ben, about 10 or 11 and Chris, 7. And another couple with a teenager, Tess.
Her father, Wally, as everyone calls him, seems to mytseriously escape whenever he gets the chance.
Everyone focuses on something else for a minute or two and then he is gone.
First they check in his caravan, where one time his was trying to catch some rest.
Then all the kids would go searching for him. One time he was myseriously gone for about an hour or so.

We smashed a pinata for a while (everyone enjoyed Gavin's comical comentating "Oh noo you've knocked his head off, oh you're hurting him now")

At midnight we popped party poppers blew whistles and had sparklers.

Then we went back to the caravan and had a big sleep.

seeing in the New Year yurting style

When we were in Byron Bay in the middle of the year (the site of the above photo) we stayed at a park right on The Pass, the surf break on the headlands. A few metres around from our site a group of campers caught my eye. In particular there was a small retro caravan, completely silver and clearly custom built. In the same way that snooker enthusiasts carry their own pool sticks that screw together in the middle and go in cases that only other enthusiasts would recognise, this group of surfers had a surf board rack that stood behind the silver van on which they stacked their boards. I remember thinking it looked like a scene from the "From where you'd rather be" Corona Extra advertisement.

It is our custom, after we are settled, in to wander around the park to 'check out' the scene. At this spot, Saphire Beach, it took longer than usual because we spent the first day trying to clean up and dry out after having to move in the rain. We already had had a couple of polite casual converstaions with people walking past our site. When we did get to wander around I was surpirsed to see a silver retro van just like the one at Byron Bay, parked in a group of four vans in a cirle with a big communal area in the middle. Surely there couldn't be two vans like this. Then I spotted the board rack ... it had to be the same van.

We had already been invited to join the group for a drink, and that became an invitation to join them for their new years eve countdown. So after Maria, Johanna and I dined in the camp kitchen on some superbly cooked scotch fillet and greek salad we picked up our chairs and wandered the 20 metres around some trees to join their circle.

What they hadn't told us was that it was Mexican theme. Everyone (4 couples, one with 3 kids and another with a teenage daughter) was dressed up, fake moustaches, sombreros and they had just finished a full on Mexican feast.

We had a fabulous evening. Apart from the usual banter, the kids (little and big ones) kept us entertained with a pinata, there was lots of joking at the expense of one of the blokes called Wally who was always disappearing - really, and Gavan gave us a tour of his silver retro caravan, complete with passion and pride. Among the story telling, we learned that one couple had been married on the beach at Byron Bay and another at Noosa and the teenager was hoping to make the Commonwealth Games swimming team. The four families camp together regularly, with a common love of surfing and dirt biking (at least the blokes like dirt biking.)

And what were the blokes all drinking, Corona Extra.