Our life in a box

It’s really tough making decisions about stuff. We need to keep some of it, take some of it, and purge as much as possible. I find it amazing we have managed to accumulate so much stuff in the two years we have been living in Australia. ‘Ruthless’ was the theme for this month.

What to do with all the Kid’s toys? Now that’s a tough one. Toys and playthings evoke so many memories about their development and passions at different stages of their short lives. How can I possibly part with that toy giraffe that instigated Coby’s first smile? How can I give away Rhys’ much loved train table, the one he still plays with for hours on end? Realistically, we have limited storage space and he would have grown out of it by the time we get back (at least I console myself with this thought).

So came the day of the garage sale. The main point of it was to ensure useful stuff went on to continue to be useful, so everything was priced to sell. Of course we kept heaps of the favourite toys, but more than half of it went (mostly the large stuff). Our BBQ went, as did my old bike. Strangely, nobody wanted my old 1993 42cm telly that was still in perfect working order, with remote. Its flat screens all the way these days. We were blessed with a nice, sunny day and had a great turnout. Most of it went, and almost all the leftovers we were able to give to a charity shop.

Since then, all our spare time has been taken up with packing. The bulk of it was moved into storage last weekend. It’s kind of strange seeing your whole entire life in such a small amount of space, but I am glad we have downsized and de-cluttered.

Camping at HomeWe are warming up for our trip, by living almost exclusively on camping furniture in our house. I have to keep popping outside to get food out of the caravan fridge. The kids love the extra space, and Rhys keeps pretending the front room is a cricket pitch. The last of it is going on Sunday, and we officially move out Monday. I still have one last week at work, so Port Fairy Big4 Caravan Park will be our home for the last 5 nights in town.

This is the last blog post I will be doing from our home PC.  Mike has also taken the opportunity to write a final, pre-trip update on Mike’s Page.

So next time you will be hearing from us, we will literally be living in a box, as our journey of a lifetime begins…

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One Month to go

OMG. Reality is setting in. I’m spending January and February tidying up loose ends at work. The truck modifications are starting to come to an end. The house is looking a bit sparse through lack of ‘stuff’ we have already packed up. We are departing Port Fairy one month today…

To read about the ongoing truck mods, take a look at Mike’s page here.Kids enjoying the Big View.

Last weekend, as it was Mike’s birthday, we had trial run number two. Only one night this time round, and we opted for the luxury of a powered site. We were also lucky enough to enjoy the company of a good friend, who is planning to meet up with us for a week or two in the Northern Territory or Queensland. BTW, anyone else who wants to meet up for part of the trip let us know.

So the weekend wasn’t too hectic. We packed Friday night and left mid-morning Saturday. After just under 2 hours we pulled up at Princetown recreation reserve, the closest camping to the famous twelve (or nine) Apostles. We took a pitch close to the Playground, and set up our caravan at amazing speed, considering our lack of experience. I’m happy to say it took longer to set up our mate’s new tent than to set up the caravan.

We had a lazy afternoon in the sun, and I managed to try out my new bike. After the kids had a nap, we walked through the picturesque wetlands, over the boardwalk and up to the local town, which consisted of a General Store and a pub/cafe. We had to have a drink to celebrate Mike’s birthday.

Apostle Coast - StunningSunday we went for a walk to admire the spectacular scenery of the Apostle Coast. The Gellibrand River was still quite high from the recent floods, and the sea was rough so we stuck to the beach. After lunch all 5 of us, and kiddie car seats, crammed into the 4WD to explore the area and try out a 4WD track that ended at our campsite. I just couldn’t believe the lovely weather after all the rain and gloom we have had this summer.

We all packed up and made it home before dinner time. The kids were exhausted, and asked to go to bed before bedtime. Will this be a common theme of 2011?

The butterflies are really starting to kick in now. I’ve never had the slightest doubt about doing this, but given the recent chaotic weather, I know we will need to be very cautious, especially in remote areas. I can’t see us taking any big risks, but you only live once, and this is our adventure of a lifetime so BRING IT ON…

It’s a Maiden

Yay, its holiday time. Ten days off over the festive season gave us an opportunity to have a trial run in the caravan. We have owned it for a few months, but were yet to actually use it.

After some research and debate, we decided to throw ourselves in the deep end. Our challenge was a two night trip to a campsite with no shower, no power and limited facilities. It was also free. If we survive this, then anything else should be a piece of cake. So the Sawpit Camp site in Mt Clay state forest was chosen, and we were off on New Year’s Day.

We packed everything we thought was needed. Mike spent around two hours with the jigsaw puzzle that was loading the four bikes on the bike rack. We took photos so he could remember how he did it. I was armed with my notebook to record anything we had forgotten or realised we could use. By the end of the trip, the list was quite long. Van & Truck set up

Sawpit was rather busy, not surprising given the time of year. However we easily found a spot right next to the local motor home club. Mike managed to reverse in the caravan after only 2 attempts and started teaching me how to set up. Kids were happy to go off exploring the trees and ‘Sawpit’ next to our site. Features of the area included composting toilets, picnic tables, wood-burning BBQ’s, spacious and flat sites, and not much else.

After setting up, and having lunch, we decided to spend the afternoon cycling to Narrawong beach for an excursion. Both the kids have bikes now, and they are attached to ours via a Trail-gator. Both of them are happy to hold on and be towed along. I’m really glad Rhys has finally worked out how to pedal forwards instead of backwards, although I will miss that extra calorie burn. We had an easy afternoon walking on the beach, pushing swings and eating ice cream before cycling back.

The kids were too excited about the novelty of sleeping in a caravan to have an afternoon nap (this will wear off pretty quickly, I’m sure). By sundown they were exhausted. A quick bucket bath and they were asleep in moments, not to be heard from again until 9am the next day. They never sleep that late at home.

Sunday was spent in Portland, walking and eating out for lunch. The local YMCA pool had a ‘Family Fun Day’, which was a load of fun for both us and the children. Coby surprised us by having a go on the big waterslide. She has never had the confidence to do anything like that before. Rhys was happy to just splash about in the toddler pool with the pool toys.

One thing we have immediately noticed during this trip was the friendliness of fellow campers. Everyone camping in the surrounding area came over just to say Hi and introduce themselves. We met another family on our second afternoon. They were experienced caravaner’s, and were travelling for a month over their holidays. We exchanged stories and got lots of great tips and advice. It also helped that their two older children were more than happy to entertain our little brood while we sat around and relaxed.

Kids having funSo we survived our maiden voyage without any major incidences or mishaps. The truck still needs some maintenance but everything in the caravan appears to be in great working order. We arrived back at home tired but happy, and feeling a bit more prepared for our year ahead.

Just to be sure, voyage two is currently in planning, and a camping trip with just the truck is also on the cards if time allows. For now it’s back to the packing and truck preparation.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Merry XmasMerry Christmas to everyone, hope you are having a great Christmas break. We are spending ours doing some serious organising and packing. Mike is continuing with his modifications and I am making curtains with Oma. We have only 2 months until we leave so we have to get stuck into it.

Hopefully we will have a dry run with the caravan for a night or two before I am due back at work.

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy 2011…

There is a House in our Carport

At long last, we are finally in possession of our new home for 2011.

The new CaravanSure, we owned it a month ago, but physically getting it from its old home to its new proved to be a bit challenging. The couple we bought it off live over 1100 km away. Their next door neighbours had an incident with their water tank, which flooded the exit route for the van. Thankfully the van was fine. After waiting two weeks for the area to dry again, we had family visiting from the UK, so Mike was unable to take off straight away.

Finally a time was arranged in our busy schedules, and Mike did the two day round trip. After an hour fitting the tow hitch, setting the brake controller and doing paperwork, he was off. This was his first time towing a van and I was secretly very nervous about the long trip home. But he made it in a day without any problems.

The van was set up immediately in the front yard, showing it off to all visitors who came round for a sticky. We spent an afternoon or two sitting in the van, making plans and discussing storage options. I must say, I love it. It’s in really good condition, and even has that ‘new’ caravan smell, as the previous owners never cooked in it, and looked after it very well. Everything works, including the air-conditioning. The van has a few idiosyncrasies, where the previous owner made a few minor and somewhat helpful modifications. Some bits we haven’t managed to work out yet, and we have a few of our own to carry out.

After one failed attempt, the van was successfully backed into the carport, right next to our front door.

Care of Grandma and Grandad from England, the kids both have in car DVD players for the really long journeys. They are the type that can be strapped to the back of headrests, but are removable for nights in the van. But we are keeping these a secret until Christmas.

It’s less than 3 months now until we go. Organisation will really start to speed up now, as I have some time off over Christmas. Mike is getting into installing more essential extras for the truck. The stereo/GPS is going in tomorrow, and the draws and cargo barrier will be fitted in the coming weeks.

The excitement is building rapidly. So join us next time as we continue to prep the Patrol and begin packing up our possessions. It’s going to feel good de-cluttering our life.

Kids jumping on the bed

We have the Cart

After months of internet browsing, asking questions of E-bay vendors, and going for the occasional long drive for a viewing, we have finally bought a cart to go with the horse.

Our new travelling home for most of next year is a Coromal Corvair PC546 pop-top. It’s got bunk beds for the children and a large double island bed for Mike and me. The facilities are great, with air conditioning, a small kitchen, fridge, stove, grill and a microwave. There is a small dining table (which can also convert to extra sleeping space) with enough seating for the 4 of us. There is a large amount of cupboards and storage space. Most importantly, it is ‘off-road’, and has the same sized wheel/tyre as the Beast. Family ‘off road’ vans are difficult to come by, but we took our time and found the (almost) perfect van.

The van doesn’t have partitioning for the kids, but Oma is going to help out by making some curtains for the bunks. There is no TV, but I am thinking this might be an advantage. It doesn’t have a battery system, but Mike is planning on installing a dual battery system in the truck for lighting and a second fridge.

Speaking of which, Mike has been having a great time of late doing a few modifications to the truck, and learning all about 4 wheel driving. Last weekend, I watched nervously for an hour as he drilled a couple of very large holes in the side of the truck to install a snorkel. ‘Unnecessary!’ I said, but he really wanted one so we went ahead and did it. We now are able to drive across deeper water crossings, should we ever need to. Yay!

Drilling for snorkel

We have slowly been buying essentials for the Patrol / trip. Mike got hold of some great, custom made storage draws for the rear of the Patrol. We also now have a brake controller for the caravan, towing mirrors and a set of mud tyres (again, not really necessary, but great fun when you are off-road).

Mike has been out a few times with the local 4WD club, learning the ins and outs of driving the Patrol. A few weeks ago he did the Border track along the Victorian/South Australian border, through Big Desert Wilderness area. He is planning on doing a few more trips before we head off in March, to gain experience on different surfaces and situations.

So we will be picking up the caravan in the next couple of weeks. The next job is to start planning what to take, and start packing up the van. The leaving day is still over 4 months away, but we need some time to prepare. Considering we will be living in a space smaller than our current bedroom, and with less storage, for over a year, we had better be sure about what is essential.

One thing that has concerned us about doing this trip is the children missing out on interaction with other children. So we have decided to address this by visiting different Playgroups as we travel around this vast country. We have started a new page on our Blog, to talk about our adventures with Playgroup Australia. You can read our first entry here.

So join us next time as departure gets ever closer, and the serious preparations get going.

Where are we going?

One of the most common questions posed to us by family and friends is ‘Where are you going during your trip’? We are trying to not over prepare, as things happen and plans change. However, a rough strategy is essential, and we already have an idea of what we want to do.

The first major decision was which direction we take first. This has been a discussion point since day one, before the trip was even confirmed. Anti-clockwise would mean travelling up the populated east coast first, and travelling to remote areas once we were more experienced travellers. However if we went clockwise, we have the east coast to look forward to once caravan and travel weariness set in.

In the end, practicalities made the decision for us.

Our route will mainly be influenced by the dry season up north. The trip will start at the beginning of March. Basically, we will be travelling around Australia clockwise, sticking to the coast for the majority of it. We will visit the Kimberley’s at the start of the dry season in May (depending on the severity of the Wet season), and hopefully will be experiencing Cape York around the end of the dry season in October. One way or another, the trip will end around Christmas as I am due back at work 3rd January 2012, and Coby will be starting school soon after.

A wish-list of places to visit and things we want to do is forever growing and changing. Mike and I have done a lot of travelling BC (Before Children) and we know that most of the decisions will be made as it happens. But I don’t want to spoil the surprises that await, so I’ll keep everyone guessing…

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