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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!

Food for Free and Food for Thought

With a squeeze, we managed to get everything bundled into our new motor home and made the short journey to Burleigh Heads, a place that holds very fond memories for us from previous holidays. Had we been members of the surfing fraternity we would have known the Gold Coast Open was happening there that very weekend! The place was pumping – that is everything apart from the surf! It must be difficult to compete in a surfing competition when the waves were few and far between. No such problem in Byron Bay where there were plenty of waves but oh so many people to have to dodge!

We’ve made good use of our bikes this week and cycled to Base Camp at the bottom of Mount Warning (a volcanic plug whose height would easily qualify it as a Munro back in Scotland). We hiked up through the rain forest, in the rain, but only managed to get half way up before reaching signs saying we should not attempt to reach the summit if it was after 1 p.m. It was after 2 p.m. – our late start being the result of our Let’s Go motor home deciding to Let’s Not Go!

The ice cream served up at the Cold Slab in Burleigh was as we remembered, truly scrumptious, and Surfers Paradise was still an over rated concrete jungle (in our humble opinion).

We hit upon some free food this week and it wasn’t of the bush tucker variety. Our first freebie came when Mike ordered two coffees and a scone. The chap serving us came out with our coffees and two date scones. He explained they’d warmed up two scones by accident and did we still want them at no extra charge. “Oh alright then!” we said, especially since they came with extra jam and cream! Next we went off to the supermarket to buy some groceries to restock our new mini-fridge. I planned on making a chilli to use up store cupboard tins and try out the home made chilli powder Jake gave us. As the cashier was totting up the vegetables I noticed the one red chilli I had bought scanned through at $4.75. I asked her if that was indeed correct because if it was £2.50 for just one chilli I’d say forget it and add in more of Jake’s chilli powder. She checked and it came out the same price which she agreed was a bit steep! The cashier then looked at the other veggie items she’d scanned and felt a clove of garlic for $5.50 and cup mushrooms for $1 a piece was probably not right either so she deducted the cost of all the fruit and veggie we’d bought! Good fortune is supposed to come in threes and our friend Colin is probably hoping we’ve bought the McLaren sports car raffle ticket we spoke about! Flowers from my daughter Jenny on Mother’s Day topped everything off beautifully.

Mother's Day

Mother’s Day Flowers

We are now back in New South Wales with only about 800 kilometres to go. With four weeks to complete this we can afford to take things at a slower pace. After leaving Mount Warning we drove to Brunswick Heads. This pretty little seaside town has more boutiques and coffee shops than anywhere else we’ve visited together with the dearest Caravan Park. In every sense of the word they are away with the fairies (check out the fairy boxes outside the fire and police stations).

Brunswick Heads

Choppy water at Brunswick Heads

Byron Bay was always on our list to visit as it is the most easterly point on Australia’s mainland. I had planned to do a skydive until the weather changed but we enjoyed the steep walk up to the lighthouse. Despite the sun being in our eyes one minute, it was raining the next and we got absolutely drenched on the 20 km cycle ride back to Lennox Head where we were staying. We managed to get a game of mini-golf in today before the rain started and hopefully the weather forecast correctly predicts we’ll manage to complete tomorrow’s Park Run in Ballina before the rain kicks in again. All good for acclimatising us to the British summer!

Thoughts are turning more towards our return home and what that holds for us. We are grateful we still have a number of different options but it has been a difficult week of adjustment. It will be wonderful to see family and friends again though and before too long I’m sure we’ll be planning our next road trip!!!

Three Amigos!

One of the best bits about this lap has been the people we have met. We have exchanged phone numbers with a select few and vowed to hopefully meet up with them again as we travelled through their home towns. This week we have had laughs, barbeques and amazing hospitality from Colin and Kim who we met back in Kalbarri and Vicki and Jake who we met way back in Ceduna. Mike also met up with a former work colleague from Basingstoke and we had a wonderful lunch with my daughter’s in-law’s, in-laws at Cotton Tree.

Our intention with Colin and Kim was simply to give them a quick ring and say “Hi we’re in Noosa”. After dinner on our first night in Noosa I duly dialled Colin’s phone number and was relieved to hear he still remembered us. Biggest surprise of all was that he was parked only four sites along from us on the same caravan park. Turned out that they had returned from their lap too early to get back into their house in Noosa which was rented out so they were killing time at the same caravan park we booked into. The chances of that happening had to be about a million to one – clearly meant to be. Colin took us on a guided tour of Noosa one day and we got out and explored the National Park on our bikes another. Loved Noosa but found it too busy and expensive to consider a move to the Sunshine Coast!

DRUM ROLL – BIG NEWS We left Noosa having secured the sale of our beautiful motorhome, Jura. Jan, her new owner, dropped something of a bombshell by asking us to consider leaving Jura behind. Long story short – we have. The saying goes that the first offer is often the best offer. Jan was the first person to view Jura and on the basis she met our asking price and contributed half the cost of our replacement hire vehicle we have let her go. Since driving off into the sunset Jan has asked a couple of questions about how things work and gushes about how much she LOVES her. I’m glad but also gutted which is why I probably came down with a heavy cold this week, sniff sniff.

Jura Off Into The Sunset!

Jura’s new owner with pooch

Poor Vicki and Jake didn’t know what they’d let themselves in for when they invited us to come and stay with them in Algester (a southern suburb of Brisbane). “Come and enjoy a comfy bed that doesn’t move about”, they said. “Thanks”, we said but then had to do a very unBritish thing and ask for extra favours. Not only did we enjoy a comfy bed for four nights whilst temporarily motorhomeless, we filled up their beautiful new granny annex with all our worldly goods including bikes, barbeque, table, chairs, linen, clothes, alcohol, cleaning materials, etc. No room to swing a cat or Jan’s little dog. The handover happened on Tuesday and we picked up our hire van on Friday. This allowed us a couple of days to box stuff up and see the sights of Brisbane.

The Adventure Continues!

Jura’s Replacement

Brisbane has a great public transport system with buses having specially constructed roads all to themselves. We took advantage of the free City Hopper ferry, cheap buses and trains but left the electric scooters to the experts!

Having passed my cold on to Mike we weren’t at our most energetic so we took a gentle stroll through the Botanic Gardens even if we couldn’t smell the roses. There were some interesting contemporary art displays including the following entitled Circle Work (resting) 2019 which basically allows circular areas of lawn to take a break from routine maintenance!

DRUM ROLL – MORE BIG NEWS Some of you will know we’ve been in negotiations over the sale of our two properties in the UK. Well due to our solicitor’s incompetence, combined with the continuing saga over Brexit, the deal has fallen through and so we will be returning to our house in Maidenhead at the end of the lap. Maybe I’ll consider writing a book instead?

The Rain/Shine Coast

Druket Lorikeets

Druket (Wet) Lorikeets

April Showers have been happening all week unfortunately and it put paid to our plans to visit Carnarvon Gorge. The Gorge and the main road leading to it were closed off due to flooding so we had to head south via The Country Way instead. It was actually a very scenic drive with the fields full of Brahman and Hereford cattle and sweetcorn. We passed through Banana Shire without seeing a single banana tree though! Hmmm, something of a theme happening here when it comes to fruit huh – last week there were no pineapples along the Pineapple Trail.

Thankfully the same cannot be said about the Gemfields with Sapphire coming up trumps when it came to actual sapphires. We took our little bag of gems back to the place we bought the bag of dirt from and they kindly separated out the wheat from the chaff (so to speak). Turns out we had quite a lot of good quality gems in amongst the quartz! Armed with the knowledge of what to look for we bought another bag of dirt and have ended up with 66 stones for cutting! Not bad for the equivalent of £30 with the largest sapphire being the size of a peanut (we only have cashews!). Next step is to send them off to Thailand and if we’re lucky we’ll get them back in six month’s time!

Childers was a lovely little town and we would have stayed longer if we didn’t already have a rendezvous planned with a potential buyer for Jura. The Caravan Park outside of town was one of the most serene bush settings we have encountered. Staying at the park were a number of Hot Rod enthusiasts and their stories were entertaining round the evening campfire. Jeremy Clarkson eat your heart out. ‘Hot Rods’ are not just your run of the mill classic cars, they have large engines modified for faster speed and this lot pulled equally quirky vintage caravans. In the early morning dew I went round and took a few photos to add to the photo album!

This week will see us catching up with two couples we have befriended along the way, as well as family (if my daughter’s sister-in-law’s mother-in-law counts as family).!