Convict History and Island Delights

The Britz-mobile is certainly a lot more compact than our last campervan but it is handy for negotiating the narrow winding roads in Tasmania. We are making more use of camp kitchens for washing dishes and cooking and will definitely appreciate a soft mattress and inside toilet when we finish this tour! That said, we have already had two nights free camping as we can be self sufficient using the leisure battery for fridge and lights. Tasmania has so many free and low cost campsites that we are spoilt for choice.

We are travelling anti-clockwise this time so it means we will go up the East Coast, across the top and then down the West Coast over the next eight weeks. It is not a huge island so we expect to only be driving between 50 and 100 kms between stops but there is plenty to see and do along the way. First stop was Port Arthur, a place of national and international significance, which gained World Heritage status in 2010. Port Arthur was initially a convict labour station before becoming a punishment station in 1833. We spent two days here and still didn’t see everything. Well worth the entrance fee which included a guided walking tour, a cruise past Point Puer Boys’ Prison and round the Isle of the Dead and access to 30 historic buildings and ruins.

I had read Marcus Clarke’s book, ‘For The Term of His Natural Life’ before visiting and it gave me a much fuller appreciation of the hardships the convicts endured not only getting to the island but their treatment whilst incarcerated. Visiting Port Arthur was a moving and humbling experience and should not be missed if you visit Tasmania.

Son-in-law Ben challenged us to do the Ghost Tour and warned me not to volunteer to hold the lamp as it is truly creepy. When our guide asked for lamp volunteers I didn’t give her any eye contact but still got picked! There were quite a few sceptics in our group and so we didn’t see any ghosts but still got our bravery awards! The sights and stories were interesting and we did just double check that “Amelia” did not hitch a ride home with us lol.

Tasmania is known for its fresh produce and we have already sampled the delights of Kate’s Berry Farm (delicious blueberry ice cream), Spring Bay (mussels), Darlington Vineyard (wine) and Sullivan’s Cove (whisky). Sullivan’s Cove Distillery are the only distillery in the world to have twice won the World’s Best Single Malt Whisky Award. Mike was all geared up to buy a bottle after tasting it only to find out they’d sold out!

Spring Bay Beach

Gorgeous Spring Bay Beach

The next big highlight for us has been a trip over to Maria Island (pronounced Marayah). The weather could not have been better – sunny blue skies, warm and not a breathe of wind. We hired mountain bikes to get around as no cars are allowed on this World Heritage listed site which also has a significant convict history. My poor thighs – they’d only just recovered from the Mount Wellington descent and were being forced to pedal up quite a few hills in first gear. How I missed my e-bike! Still it was all worthwhile as we covered a lot of the island on our day trip including the Fossil Cliffs, Painted Cliffs and Encampment Cove. We also saw our first wombats in the wild that were not roadkill victims. They are just so cute but they don’t stop grazing for photos!


Three Weeks In To Our Mini Pootle

We left home three weeks ago. Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis were unknown, the Coronavirus was quarantined in Wuhan and Australia was on fire. How quickly things change. In New South Wales, Australia we have had torrential rain which has helped put out the bush fires but caused severe flooding in places. Mike and I lost count of the number of times we got soaked through but we are really happy for the farmers who have seen little rain for the past three years!

Two weeks in Dee Why allowed us time to clear out our storage unit and move stuff to our friend’s farm in Dunedoo and catch up with our Aussie family. Granddaughter Sophie started Kindy and is very keen on homework and grandson Charlie enjoyed our trip to Circular Quay to see the Lunar Lanterns. There was quality Mum and daughter time, family meals and Mike and I celebrated our 17th Wedding Anniversary.

We took a short domestic flight from Sydney to Hobart and have eight weeks here to complete a mini lap of Tasmania. We have hired a campervan which we pick up tomorrow and are very much looking forward to living on the road again. We heard Tasmania is a lot like Scotland but we hadn’t expected to see men in kilts! Staying in a hotel in Hobart for the first few days has allowed us to take in some of the must do attractions in this lovely capital city. Hobart has the world’s second deepest natural harbour. Fish restaurants are everywhere and scallops feature heavily – yum yum!

We took a ferry to the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) and found something to suit all tastes. Mike liked the strobe lighting room and the computer generated simulations, I was fascinated by the tattooed human who sat motionless for hours on a plinth and we were both mesmerised by the waterfall displaying random words.

The weather has been glorious and we did not need all the layers we packed for our trip to the top of Mount Wellington. We took a bus to the top but walked back down through the bush stopping at Australia’s oldest continually operating brewery on the way down. Old habits die hard!!!

Hello, Hello, Are You Reading Me? Over

It has been seven months since we finished our lap of Australia and returned to the UK in time to celebrate my father’s 96th birthday.

Birthday Boy

Dad’s Palindrome Birthday

We loved our time in Australia and were keen to return again with another visa in place. Luckily for us the Australian Government brought out a new visa in July called the Sponsored Parent (Temporary) Visa which suited our purposes perfectly! It required our son-in-law to get approved as our Parent Sponsor and then it was over to us to sort out the necessary medical, police checks, referees, $$$ funds and application form. Our five year visa was granted on the 24th September 2019 and the clock has already started counting down!!!


=”attachment_1036″ width=”1970″ /> It’s Officially Granted!

It was always our intention to spend Christmas with my Dad and so we have spent the intervening months getting ready to move in the New Year. Whilst we haven’t had quite so much clutter to throw out this time, we have had the added task of getting rid of all the furniture we are not shipping out to Australia. We have carefully studied the guidance about what we can and cannot ship and unfortunately the 22 bottles of gin I was given for my birthday did not make the cut! As I’m doing Dry January quite a lot of ‘regifting’ happened at Christmas time!!!

In addition to securing some really lovely tenants for the next three years, we have spent a lot of time enjoying the British countryside. This has included walking the entire length of the Thames Path (184 miles/294 kms) from the heart of the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier as well as four days along the Fife Coastal Path and three days hillwalking between Dollar ($) and Stirling (£)! Mike and I also secured our official red Park Run tee shirts for completing our 50th run a few weeks ago.
We have been desperately saddened to watch the daily television reports showing the devastating bushfires across Australia but especially in NSW, Victoria and South Australia. Balmoral, Kangaroo Island and the whole coastline around Batemans Bay hold very special memories for us. As for the wildlife it is just heartbreaking. We have read many reports that say once the fires are out these communities will be in even greater need of the tourist dollar and hopefully we will get a chance to go back in the future. But first we’re heading off to Tasmania. Our plans have been hanging in the balance somewhat with my father’s health not as good as when we arrived back in the summer. If he’s “spared” – an expression Dad has been using for the past few years – we fly out on the 28th January to spend two weeks in Dee Why with my daughter and family. Thereafter the plan is to fly to Tasmania where we have hired a Britz campervan for eight weeks and hope to see as much as we can before heading on to New Zealand for some quality sister time. Several of my previous followers asked if I was going to write another blog – I wasn’t sure …. until today!!!

Journey’s End

Completed Lap!

Pootling Around Australia

Having selected some rather yummy wines in the Hunter Valley, it was a great privilege to then get to share them with very special people on the final part of our journey. Newcastle and the Yeo’s were first on the list. The view from their balcony was amazing and we had a wonderful time together catching rainbows, eating, drinking, watching the sun set and the many tug boats and ships going up and down the estuary. The five minute ferry ride from Stockton was a novel way to get back and forth and I even managed to complete my 24th Aussie Park Run on the Saturday morning.

Wangi Wangi on Lake Macquarie was our next stop before heading on to Chittaway Bay to share another bottle of fine wine with cousin Sharon and hubby Steve.

As you may have noticed our lap missed out the pointy bit on the far right known as the Cape York Peninsula. Jura would never have made it as you require four wheel drive to get to the top. To give us a taste of what we can expect on our next trip Steve took us into Watangan National Park on a four wheel drive off road adventure. The photos do not really show how steep or rugged the terrain was but it was quite an experience and unlike anything we have ever done before. Thankfully the delicious picnic lunch stayed in our stomachs during this white knuckle ride. We felt very safe in Steve’s hands even when he had to do a 360 turn on the edge of a precipice!

On the 11th June, 317 days since setting off, we completed our epic lap of Australia and returned to Narrabeen. We are now back in Dee Why with a full fortnight to enjoy time with the grandchildren, their parents and other friends. We’ve got some stuff to sort out with our Aussie property and future visa options but the rental motorhome has been returned to base and we’re back into AirBnB accommodation enjoying the comfort of a proper bed and electric heating.

Final Statistics!

Pictorial Statistics

For those interested in the final statistics, we covered 24,000 kms in the motorhomes, 3,000 kms on our electric bikes and wore out four pairs of shoes between us. Our total expenditure excluding the cost of Jura was $36,500 which averaged out at $800 per week. Interestingly we spent more on alcohol than fuel but then again we were undertaking research on behalf of the AWAS (Australian Wine Appreciation Society)! The biggest expenditure was caravan parks because we didn’t do as much free camping as originally intended. That said, many of the caravan parks were in the best locations and being off season for the majority of our lap we got some great deals along the way.

We have created so many new memories, seen the most amazing places, met some truly lovely people and it has been the best year of married life (so far). We have been blessed with continuing good health and thankfully not experienced any traumas that have required us to cut short our trip. We thank each and every one of you who have continued to follow our pootling adventure and provided encouragement and comments through various means. The blogging experience was a new one for me but I have enjoyed the challenge of keeping you informed and mildly entertained over this past year whilst simultaneously reminding myself of the awesome journey we have been on. Fair dinkum I have no idea what’s next but there’s no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this.

I am an ABC (apparently)

We have spent the last few days exploring the Hunter Valley area which is Australia’s oldest wine region. Mike had done his research beforehand and lined up five boutique wineries we could easily peddle to from our Caravan Park in Nulkaba. Boutique wineries are basically small production wineries that don’t make enough to sell commercially through retail outlets. Some can be sourced in restaurants but most is sold through Members Clubs and the Cellar Door. Petersons had a beautiful Member’s Room and I’d happily sign up for membership if I lived out here as their wines were definitely the best in this area!

When John the Pom, as he likes to be known, at Petersons asked me what wine I liked to drink I said, “not Chardonnay”. “You’re an ABC”, he said. None the wiser, I asked him what that was. John the Pom replied, “Anything But Chardonnay”. John has the most plummy accent ever despite living in Australia for the past 38 years. He was adopted as a child in Somerset and had a successful career as a food critic before joining Petersons. His large frame supports his many tales of degustation and he is a great fan of Heston Blumenthal. He was an entertaining story teller and told us about his close friend in the tasting industry called Clittie. We thought he was having us on but no, it is her real name. She’s become quite attached to it and has named her business Clittie Tasting (no pun or porn intended).

Being winter the terrain is quite brown but it was still possible to spot lots of kangaroos in the vineyeards. The roos do sometimes attack the fruit but bats and very high temperatures are more of a problem. The area is best known for its Semillon and Shiraz both of which do well being cellared for 5 to 10 years. The small boutique wineries we visited explained they do not have the luxury of holding on to their stock because the Australian government charges them a Wet Tax year on year.

About eleven years ago we did a Hunter Valley Wine Tour from Sydney. Back then we particularly enjoyed our visit to Ernest Hill where the wines were given some interesting names according to where the ashes of various dead relatives had been scattered. We went back again this time to taste some more of their full bodied wines. There have been no recent family bereavements but their Cab. Sav. really was to die for! We did tastings at Iron Gate Estate, Ivanhoe Wines and Hanging Tree Wines and have replenished our depleted wine stock with ten beauties: six reds, three whites and one rose. Friends and family we’re about to visit are in for a rare treat as we can’t bring them home.

Uncle Ken, as he likes to be known, at Hanging Tree Wines was determined to knock me off my ABC pedestal. We had already learnt the 123 theory which states you should never judge a wine until you’ve had three sips. On this basis Uncle Ken produced a bottle of their Chardonnay and provided strict instructions on how I was to drink it. The first sip was just as it came from the bottle, the next sip was to be taken after I had allowed my glass to sit in front of the fire for a few minutes and the third sip was to be taken following a nibble of smoked cheddar. The end result was amazing – I actually found their Chardonnay to be a really drinkable wine!

So now after Yarra, Barossa, McLaren Vale, Clare, Margaret River and Hunter Valley Wine tastings Sheila, as I like to be known, is officially an MMEA – a Much More Educated Alcohfrolic!!! Cheers.

Hanging Tree Wines

Ha Ha

Bay Watch

Ten months down and only another fortnight on the road. It has been an epic adventure and thankfully it isn’t quite over yet. This week we have been hugging the New South Wales (NSW) coastline and seen some amazing bays. We visited Crescent Head many years ago under different weather conditions and circumstances. It is a place of great sentimental value to my Aussie family and it felt quite strange to be here under our own steam. We were given a camp spot surf side and were soon rubbing shoulders with surfing dudes and bingo fans!!! Mike and I did not join either party but we loved walking up Little and Big Nobby for the stunning views. I also had an energetic swim against the incoming tide on the lagoon side before sunset. Truly a magical spot.

Since leaving the Northern Territory, we have planned our route so that we can partake in as many Saturday morning Park Runs as possible. Queensland and NSW have offered us a good selection and for the past eight weeks we have been out there on the startline at 7 a.m. ready to go. Mike is now way faster than me and having turned 69 at the weekend I’d say that is pretty good going! We had breakfast out – a rare thing for us, but very popular with the Aussies. The sun was out so Mike donned his new Ray Ban sunnies (what a thoughtful gift!).

Birthday Boy!

Birthday Boy

We enjoyed the Botanic Gardens at Coffs Harbour, the tasteful graffiti wall at Nambucca Heads and here in Forsters it’s all about the oysters. Who wants McDonalds when a hundred yards further down the road you can buy fresh premium oysters for only £1 each? I have been converted! We also enjoyed some beer tasting at Forster’s only microbrewery, the Coastal Brewing Company. They weren’t officially open today but the lady running the place originally comes from Leeds and liked our accents!

Forster is located in the Great Lakes Region but it also has an amazing coastline. Yesterday we saw a pod of dolphin and today it was a couple of breaching whales. We hope to see a few more closer to shore in order to photograph them. It is getting much colder now. Today it only reached 16 degrees so shorts out, trousers in!

It’s been a while since we regaled you with stories of our vineyard tours. Fear not, next week we’ll be in Hunter Valley and Mike has already worked out a full itinerary!

Gone Fishing

Gone Fishing, Ballina

Fishing in Ballina

With Australia being bounded on all sides by water, its hardly surprising that one of the main pastimes here is fishing. It’s not just men, we’ve seen plenty of women and children casting off from bridges, harbour walls and beaches. (Still haven’t found out what the collective term is for both sexes that fish. Firemen and firewomen are referred to as firefighters. If anyone knows what the term for fishermen and fisherwoman is then do please let me know!) We have yet to see anyone land a really sizeable fish but there is still a thrill when the rod bends and something appears at the end of it. Personally I have no desire to take up the sport. I still carry the physical and mental scars from my childhood of when I had to kill a trout with a priest and when a fish hook got stuck in my finger, not to mention handling worms and the smell.

Fishers and surfers have been out in force this week in the seaside towns of Ballina, Yamba and Coffs Harbour. Its getting a bit cold for swimming now but we are enjoying beach walks, long shadows and the late autumn sunshine.

We took a little detour through Maclean, a town that actively promotes Scottish heritage and cultural identity. What started as a little project in 2000 to paint half a dozen telegraph poles with tartan designs to coincide with the arrival of the Olympic Torch, has turned into a massive feature throughout the town. There are over 210 family tartans painted on telegraph poles and for 20 cents you can buy a map to see where they are all located. Local families were allowed to sponsor a pole for $60 and volunteers ensure the pole’s appearance is maintained if they become damaged or faded. Matheson (although with an added “i”) was located outside the ambulance station!

And finally, a little ditty called:
‘Ode to the collectively named Fisher Folk’

Launch the tinnie, Vinnie
Fetch the rod, Todd
And don’t forget the reel, Neil.
We’re goin’ fishing.

Remember the bait, Kate
Try the yabby, Gaby
Perhaps the prawn, Shaun.
We’re goin’ fishing.

We’ll catch a stack, Zac
With the right hook, Luke
When is high tide, Clyde?
We’re goin’ fishing.

You netted a great haul, Paul
Only an hour at sea, Lee
What’s that smell, Belle?
Ahh, you’ve been fishing!