With the Consultant confirming my stitches were on the mend, I was given the green light to travel out to Australia in time for my daughter’s album launch on 23rd February. Not only would this trip afford my husband Mike and I the opportunity to support Jenny at this amazing event, we decided to use it to go shopping for our motor home and visit friends and relatives, some of whom had previously done a big trip of their own.
First the Album Launch. It is important to give this some air time as it has been a huge part of all of our lives. As previous posts have said, my daughter Jenny met her Aussie partner Ben in London. They moved out to Australia, married and in 2009 were blessed with their first child, Jamie. Suddenly in November 2010 tragedy struck when, at only 18 month old, Jamie was found not breathing in his cot. He died despite the best efforts of all concerned. Jenny, a singer songwriter, found solace in her music and following a successful crowd funding campaign last year, raised sufficient funds to record an album called Love and Let Go. It is an album for bereaved parents and proceeds all go to the Australian Charity Red Nose (no affiliation with the British Comic Relief Charity). The twelve songs take the listener through her journey from the first track “Emptiness” through to “Good Again” and has been brilliantly produced. For more information and to hear the songs (everyone has their own favourite) visit her website http://www.jennymcgregor.com.au .
As you might appreciate, for me as Jamie’s Grandma, it was really important to support this event. Nearly 200 people attended, we heard Jenny sing 7 of the tracks live and, through the sale of raffle tickets and album sales, she raised almost $2,000 for Red Nose. Jenny continues to receive amazing testimonies from people she has helped through this album and I am immensely proud of her – as you can probably gather.
The next three weeks were spent progressing our plans for our Big Lap trip in July. In the UK we had already identified that Penrith, a short train ride the other side of Sydney, was home to several motor home dealerships, the biggest being Sydney RVs. We had been keeping our eye out for many months at the types of second hand vehicles coming on stream and had a few models in mind. Fundamentally we were looking for a motor home that was ideally two berth (certainly not too big), had a separate shower and toilet and a bed configuration that meant I wouldn’t need to climb over Mike during the night when I paid visits to the loo! Our research suggested we would need to spend about $100,000 (approx. £56,000) to get a decent van.
Sydney RV do advertise that they’ll come and pick you up from the train station but we decided we wanted to do things independently and not feel we were in anyone’s back pocket. Maybe we should have rethought that as we travelled on a scorching hot day and the hour long walk from the station almost took it out of us! We were left to our own devices to wander in an out of all the various motor homes which we appreciated. We discounted many of the vans we stepped into – predominantly because we didn’t like the layout, dark décor or they were just too big/expensive. As we followed the path round we eventually came across the brand spanking new motor homes and it was there that we found exactly what we were looking for! The Sunliner Pinto had a beautiful light and modern interior, separate shower and toilet, an electric drop down bed and was only 21 feet long. Although the cost was a good bit more than our original budget, we decided for the extra money we would be getting exactly what we wanted, the full assurance of the warranty and we should still get a decent resale value at the end of our trip.
Wayne, the sales guy, probably couldn’t believe his lucky day as we did not need much of his sales pitch to convince us. He was very excited about the multi-position seats for the driver and passenger and the slot for keeping drinks cool in the cab! When he told us there was a three to four month lead time if we wanted to order a new one we decided to just go for it – after all that fitted in with our timeframe perfectly. We did a little negotiation with the Manager around price for the newer 2018 model, added on extra for the bike racks and RV Gard protection to stop it discolouring and staining in future and then accepted a lift back to the train station. We were so absorbed in the fact that we had just purchased our motor home that we got on a stopping service back to Sydney rather than the express train we’d travelled on! Needless to say we had a celebratory drink or two that night!
Over the course of the next few weeks we spent a lot of time at the Westfield Shopping Centre at Warringah Mall – sometimes window shopping and sometimes buying things to leave behind in Jenny and Ben’s garage. Camping chairs, melamine plates, plastic glasses, pillows and road atlas were among some of our purchases and we spent time sourcing our Weber Baby Q and electric bikes for collection when we return in July. Mike researched the bikes and found a shop called 99 Cycles that had a great offer on the two we wanted. On firming up the order I then queried what discount they might be able to offer for having bought not just one, but two bikes. Whilst they couldn’t discount the bikes further they did throw in a heap of accessories including helmets, inner tubes, locks, tool kits and saddle bags – if you don’t ask and all that!!!!
As non residents we discovered we needed to get a Customer Number from the Roads Maritime Service in order to register our vehicle. Luckily the office was just down the road from where we were staying in Dee Why and we were helped through the process by some very attentive staff. Not only did we get our Customer Number, we also got NSW Driving Licences and our e-Tag for the tolls and bridges. We were starting to feel like real Aussies now especially with our Coles and Woolworths loyalty store cards as well!!!
Interspersed with shopping trips, we managed to catch up with my cousin Sharon who lives in Tuggerah and were pleasantly surprised at the ease of getting to places with our new Opal cards. Sharon and Jenny’s friend Tracey, were both subjected to a barrage of questions from us about what to take on our trip as both are seasoned campers. Camps 9 was duly purchased and we’ve still to get a portable vacuum device. Not so sure about a satellite phone though especially since we plan to stick to bitumen roads as far as possible. We left behind some of our summer clothes as well as the various towels and linen we took out with us from the UK.
Leaving Australia behind is always hard but at least on this occasion the return trip is very clearly on the horizon and we can’t wait! Sophie and Charlie – Grandma and Eggles will be back very soon xxx