We've given up our jobs, we've sold our unit ...
Now we're ready to live life - a caravan, a car, just the two of us . . . the possibilities are endless.

Come join us on our adventures ...

Monday, January 16, 2012

New home .. for a while

It's been a bit over a week since our last post - so slack!!  We've made a move from Bellinger River Tourist Park, where we stayed for 10 days in total.  A big thanks to Annette & Alan from the park for being such wonderful hosts and helping us out so much.

On the way back from the hospital, Aaron picked up that the front wheel bearings on the right side needed to be done.. as soon as possible.  So we got back to the caravan park and Alan recommended a mechanic in the next town over.  So off we went, and were so lucky to be able to put the car in straight away - we figured it must have been bad when the mechanic came back from the test drive and drove straight into the workshop... hhhmm.  Az spotted an old '48 Chev in the workshop, and of course we were then stuck there for another half an hour talking about the restoration of it (insert small yawn here.. hehe).  The mechanic kindly drove us back to the caravan park and said it should be ready the next morning, around tea time (I'm so obsessed with food, that I immediately thought he was meaning by dinner time the next night .. dirrrr Kesti!).  We had a pretty lazy afternoon - Az had beers with the permanent residents and the owner - having a chat well into dinner time .. I've learnt to just eat without him, cause he's such a social butterfly, he won't come home for hours!

I have started jogging/walking again (yay!!!!), so the next morning I had gone for a job/walk to the beach, thinking that Az wouldn't get up until about 8am..   So I got back in about 2 hours and he's up and ready to start the day.  As I was stretching, he turns to me and says, do you want to walk to get the car!! Well, I nearly fell over... but had to take the opportunity with two hands, as he NEVER wants to exercise.  I did think to myself that the mechanics is a fair way away .. by a fair way, I mean a LONG way.. but hey, who was I to bring that up :)  So after breakfast, we got the backpack ready and started out on our journey.. by the end of the road, Az turns to me and says, maybe this wasn't such a good idea.. I had to laugh!  We were only 20 minutes into the walk and the mechanic calls, saying it's all ready to be picked up and asked if we wanted him to pick us up.  Az, the avid walker, says to him, 'nah mate, we're all good, we'll be there soon anyway' ... ummmm, we weren't even half way there!!  So another hour later, and after a killer of a hill to finish, we made it to the mechanic, dripping in sweat and just glad to be out of the sun.  It was near 30 degrees, and VERY sunny.  I've never been so happy to be driving the Troopy - needless to say the air-con was turned on full ball as soon as we got in.

That afternoon, after a quick dip in the pool, we decided to pack up and leave the next morning.  What a mission - it took us a few hours to pack up.  It's amazing how much stuff you unpack when you're staying somewhere for more than a few nights!  Just as we hooked up the van, I remembered we were going to fill the car up before we hooked up the van, so I didn't have to do it once we were travelling.. Ooops.
The next morning (Wednesday 11th January), we got up nice and early, ready for the big day of driving the van on the open roads.  I managed to get the van out of the park by myself (well, with Az's guidance of course).  Backing the van is so much harder than he makes it look!

The van, nearly all packed up

So, I felt pretty good once we got on the highway, and I even got up to 90km/hr in some parts.. yep, I was movin'!!  While I was much more confident, we had the next challenge of filling the car up with the van on... deep breaths, deep breaths!  We turned off the highway, found a service station and just as I pulled in (without hitting anything.. thank you very much), we realised that the Diesel wasn't where we'd pulled up.. yep, obviously the concentration was on not hitting anything, rather than looking for the correct Diesel pump.  We looked around for the right pump, and it was right there, 2m from the entry door to the Service Station, right up against the wall.. seriously, what a stupid place for a petrol pump!!  So, lesson 2 in backing up the van.. lucky it was early and there wasn't any traffic waiting to come in for petrol!  I managed to get out the back, where there was a huge turning area for trucks and a random parking lot for the motel at the back - but there was no way I could get the van and car where it needed to be... especially as the petrol pump was on the wrong side to our car.  After a bit of swearing and frustration, we just unhitched the van (smack bang in the middle of the parking area.. hehe), and then I backed up the truck and filled up.  As I got out, I realised the Petrol Station Attendant was there waiting for us so he could fill up the car... slightly embarrassed I got out and said the first thing to come to my head, 'what a stupid place to put a petrol pump' .. hhhmm, should have probably taken a bit of time to think about something else to say!  So we had hitched up and were ready to go again - highway, here we come!

On this trip there were a few sketchy challenges that I had to overcome in order to get on with the journey... after the gas station challenge, came the skinny bridge challenge.  There is a steel bridge in Macksville that is so skinny that, while it is two way, you find yourself holding your breath when you cross,  and slightly sucking your tummy in - wishing it would make the truck narrower.  When we did the dry run, the bridge had been super busy and there were trucks coming the other way - it's one of those drives that you just want to close your eyes on and hope you make it out the other side.  As you can imagine, when it came time to cross with the caravan, I had been visualising the bridge as empty and as we came up to it, we only passed one car on the way over - yay!!!!  Challenge 2 = done!  The bridges after this were a piece of cake (well compared to that one anyway).

We made it to Port Macquarie by about 10am - I was killin' it!!  As we were making great time, we decided to go a little West from Port Macquarie and go to Timbertown in Wauchope.  Az has talked about  Timbertown quite a bit, so we thought it would be a good place to check out.. like most things though, it was much better in his memory than in real life.  We spent a few hours checking out the old timber machinery and looking at the old displays.  Not somewhere we would probably go back to, especially at the $20 p/person entry, but nice to see once.

On the platform, waiting for the Steam train

The steam driven saw mill

I don't think this is going to be a problem, except for Spiderman 
The sign reads, "WARNING Stand or walk only upon lines of nails or screws in THIS direction"

The Fire Station memrobilia

One of the Horse & Carriage horses .. beautiful

I was feeling pretty good, so we decided that we'd keep on trekking on, and would stop a few more towns South - as it was still pretty early in the day - had only just turned midday.  Before we knew it, we'd driven 350km and were only about 50km out of Newcastle!!  Needless to say, I felt pretty good about my driving effort - was exhausted, but was pretty happy that I'd gotten us, in one piece, to a few kms outside of our end destination.  Az did a wonderful job as co-pilot.  We found a nice little free camp on the riverside at Kuruah, so pulled up there and 'set up camp' for the night.  We went for a bit of a walk and found a bottle shop - I needed a drink!  Now I understand why Az just needs to sit down with a beer when he's been driving all day - I have a whole new appreciation for his efforts thus far on the trip!  And he too, has a new appreciation of a co-pilot.. not quite as easy as I make it look .. hehe.

We had dinner, sat outside and sipped our drinks and appreciated the scenery.  Just as we were getting ready for bed, a Winnebago pulled up behind us and an English family got out and asked if it was ok to camp there - as there was a sign that said no camping (we hadn't even noticed this.. oops)... we all got on the same page with a story in case someone came round, but we didn't even make it to the morning.  At about 9.30pm, we were awoken (yep, we were sound asleep already!! Oldies!) by a HUGE gust of wind... that shook the van like you wouldn't believe.  We were parked on top of a steep hill to the river .. so were a little worried we might get blown 'overboard'.  As we were considering what to do, we heard the Winnebago speed off....  guess they were thinking the same thing.

So, at 9.30pm, and still in our PJs, we made the decision to move camp, and as there was nowhere close by to stop, we ended up driving another 15km to a truck stop on the side of the highway.  While we were out of the wind, we were now listening to trucks stopping just behind our van for the rest of the night - they would stop for 10 minutes, motors running and then drive on... needless to say, we were more tired when we woke up, than when we went to bed.  After a lazy morning, we made our way to Newcastle - with no idea where we were going to stay the night.

We ended up parking the van outside Aaron's Godparent's house and did a drive round town, stopping at each caravan park in and around Newcastle... with no real luck.  If they had a spot, it would be nearly $400 a week, due to the peak period we are in.. bugger.  The drive into Newcastle with the van was nail biting to say the least.. but Az took me the long way round, so wasn't too bad.  Even driving without the van through town was stressful enough!  Understandably, Az just wanted to jump into the driver's seat, as he knew exactly where to go, and was getting frustrated at having to give directions for every turn.  We made it through the day though and even got to catch up with one of Az's friends that he grew up with - having lunch at the Honeysuckle Hotel - which was a beautiful converted woolshed.. we were drooling at the fit out.. so nice!

Sandra and Graeme (Godparents) were gracious enough to allow us to stay in the van out the front of their house until Sunday, when we were able to get into a caravan park at Belmont, just a few kms from their house.  So we are now settled into Spinnakers Leisure Park, where we'll be for the next month - maybe longer depending on where I can find a job.  It has a little gym, 2 pools and is a short walk to the shops and only across the way to Lake Macquarie.  It's quite a nice spot really - we're right up the back of the caravan park, overlooking bushland - so quite private and we have our own amenities - which is just a 10m walk.. perfect! 

We had a few days where we were feeling quite beaten - nothing was going right, everything seemed to be going against us, no matter what we did - making us question our journey.  We wondered if these things were telling us to turn around and go back.. but we've decided to keep at it, and take one day at a time.  I'll be starting to do some markets in the coming weeks, and hopefully work on Milkk Money a little more.  I'll have a job in no time, and in about 4-6 weeks we're hoping Az will be able to start the recovery towards being back on the tools - as you can imagine, he's chomping at the bit to get back to work, but is focused on a solid recovery.

Today I went for my first surf in Newcastle - I was quite nervous, as I was surfing without Az and at a new spot - I usually get quite nervous even with Az when I surf a new spot.  But managed to get a few waves without any board breakages or beatings :)  Am now looking forward to another surf very soon.. and at least we have a pool to get wet in anytime.

So if anyone is coming to Newcastle in the next few months, make sure you let us know, would love to catch up :)

Our new spot for the next few months .. just lovely

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Plaster off Plastic on

Since the last post, we've done a few bits and pieces.  The most exciting, is that my Mum & Dad came down for a night - which was wonderful.  It was so good seeing them and having that support, even if just  for a night.  I thought I was doing ok until I saw them and then just needed a cuddle from them - funny how a cuddle from your Mum and Dad just seem to make everything so much better.

They arrived on Friday mid-morning, and we had a yummy roast pork dinner - our belated Christmas lunch/dinner..hehe.  Again, the caravan oven made the yummiest pork - crackling of champions I tell you! Before dinner and after they'd had a bit of a stretch and we'd caught up for an hour or so, we were keen to show them around the area - as if they hadn't done enough driving for one day.. oops.  We took them to Bellingen and had some lunch at the Old Butter Factory, which was lovely and had a look around the shops again.  Then headed up the mountains to Dorrigo - Dad loved the trains.  Aaron was able to do a bit of sightseeing in the passenger seat, as he wasn't able to fully appreciated the scenery on the way down, as he was concentrating too much on the driving and keeping the caravan from the hundred metre cliff drops!

After Dad had fixed a few bits and pieces that I wasn't able to, and after dinner we sat down and watched Soul Surfer (the story of the American girl who had her arm bitten off by a shark and is now a professional surfer) again - which again put everything into perspective.  Mum and Dad camped in our annexe - so we now know we're able to house visitors quite easily .. so feel free to come visit anytime anyone :)

Mum's Lunch - complete with a tomato sauce face

Our lovely guest suite .. inviting isn't it

On Saturday, we started our "Maintenance 101" course - I tried to fix the side of the van - the external cladding popped out of the trim (I know!  I even sound like a true maintenance woman!!) .. but have now found out that my wrists aren't quite strong enough for the drill, so will be working on that one.  I had to hand it over to Dad to finish - who made it look extremely easy.  Next I attempted a new washer on the tap on the front of the van - SUCCESS!!!!  Easy peasy .. until Az told me that it was a super simple one to fix - buzz kill.  I tightened the hose clamp to our water tap and then started on the car .. oh yeah, I was on fire!

Not the most flattering photo, but I had to show you my maintenance attempt .. hehe

So onto the car - I attempted to tighten the air-conditioning belt - I didn't do too bad, only had to get a little help from Dad.  We did a few other little bits and pieces, and by the end I was exhausted - my brain was on overload - so much to remember!  It felt good though, learning something new and challenging myself to push through the automatic 'I give up' when it got hard. 

After we'd finished all the maintenance that we could possibly think of before Mum and Dad left, we had a bite to eat and then it was farewell to M&D once more.  

Sunday we did a drive down towards Port Macquarie, to have a look at the roads and see where we might stop next - I had to work out which roads to take the caravan on that weren't too hard for me.  We stopped in at South West Rocks - it was nice, but didn't really take our fancy, Scotts Head - where Aaron managed to get asked into a caravan he was checking out (the owner was very proud of it - picture a sun drenched older lady, dripping in gold and wrapped in an animal print sarong .. with no bra) and went into a "Recycling Centre"at Nambucca Heads, but it turned out to be just a tip .. no tip shop *insert big sad face here* .. so we figure we'll head to Port Macquarie and try and find a free camp around that area and then push through and get down to Newcastle.  

Ummmm..... ok, I'll watch out for the wild elephants .... 

The pool at the caravan park has been a saviour - there have been quite a few muggy days, so a nice dip in the pool has been just the ticket!  

Az enjoying the pool .. you can visualise him swimming like a submarine .. all body parts under water, except his arm

Enjoying the water together .. 

Today was our follow up appointment with the Hospital - to get the plaster taken off and start Physio.  The plaster was taken off (actually Az had to take it off for them .. short-staffed) and the 25 staples were taken out by a medical student from England - after Az's arm was looked at by an Indian Doctor - both had started today.  We overhead the Nurse talking to the medical student telling him that they don't really "go to too much effort" - about the small details .. ummm, ok.

So the verdict - the thermoplastic splint (a big piece of plastic moulded to his arm) has to be on for 4-6 weeks, then back to the Physio to take it off.  He has exercises to do with his hand every hour.  They were happy with the healing of the wound - well when I say happy, they said it was good enough to take them out.  The Physio/Occupational Therapist was hilarious - she would have been about 45kg and every time she sat on the office chair, she had to jump up and down on it for it to go down.. gee, what a problem .. hehe.  They seem to think that he won't be able to do any hammer/drill type work for 12 weeks and then he should be able to get back into it.  Apparently the nerve grows back at an inch per month, so they estimate that he'll get complete feeling back to his index finger in about 6 months - about 99% of feeling has returned to the rest of them .  All in all, Az was quite happy with the prognosis - he said 3 months was a lot sooner than he had anticipated being able to work, so that was a good thing.  

Az playing with the off cuts from the splint .. nice moustache honey

Az doing a Leyton Hewitt impression

The plastic splint

This does mean that I'll be doing all the driving and towing for the next 4-6 weeks.  We were planning on leaving tomorrow, but we have had another turn of luck.  The front wheel bearings (right side) have decided they need a change - a job Az would normally do (when both hands are in action).. so we took the car to the mechanic this afternoon and are now carless.  We're hoping to get it back tomorrow, which means we'll probably leave on Wednesday at this stage.  Our goal now is to get to Newcastle and stay there for a few months and try and get a bit of work - and then do trips in the Troopy to the places we may not be able to see on the way down.  That way we can have a base and then work and come and go when possible.  At this stage we're thinking maybe a few months in the area, but we'll see.....

While we were at the hospital, we were able to catch up with Robyn Luke, our celebrant and good friend from our wedding.  It was great to be able to catch up and spend her lunch break with her.  We were all surprised when we worked out we'll have been married for 2 years at the end of this month - wow!

While we were initially a little disheartened about Az's predicament, we have been made to realise that life is too short to worry about the small stuff.  I awoke this morning to someone standing outside our van (on the road), and was asked if we were missing anyone from our van.  Apparently they had found a lady in the bathroom, collapsed, and didn't know where she was from - ie. from the park or from outside.  The lady outside our van was waiting for the ambulance.  It turned out that the lady who collapsed in the bathroom was a camper in the park, who had a husband and two teenage boys with her.  No-ones knows how long she was in the bathroom or what happened to her - so the ambulance came and took her to hospital but she passed away a little later.  She had just celebrated her 47th birthday..yesterday.  

It really goes to show, while we've had a few unfortunate events in our lives recently, we are still alive, still healthy and still able to live life.  From this point on, we will be endeavouring to live life to the fullest and not take anything for granted.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day Trippin'

So we got up nice and early so I could go for a surf.. but didn't end up surfing.  We went down to our 'local' beach and the waves weren't really inviting me in, so we decided to take a drive to another beach.  The Northerlies were starting to get up, so there wasn't too much to choose from.

We went from the beach to the Tip Shop - oh boy......  You should see this place - it was a combined tip shop and builder's yard - soooo much stuff.  So Az and I were both drooling .. while he was outside looking at timber and stuff, I went on inside .. and as I approached one aisle, it was like the heaven's starting their orchestra .. OH MY GOD!!!  Milk bottles and soo many of them!  And it wasn't just milk bottles, there were old soda bottles, mason jars (like the ones in America.. very crafty), old film projectors, scooters... I had to hold myself back!  Being on our traveller's budget (which I wasn't liking at the time), I bought 4 bottles (such a crime to leave the rest there!!) and a tiny cake stand, that will work perfectly with my mini cakes ..
Are you jealous??  I would be :)  

It isn't this big in real life - it's only about a hand length wide.. so cute!

The Tip Shop even had a car ...

and a bus .. cause you never know when you'll need one

I was super tempted to go back and buy all the milk bottles - and then got to thinking that I'll be doing some markets soon and every market I go to, I'm asked if I sell the milk bottles that I have as a display... sooo, the perfect opportunity to make a bit of "milkk money" .. hehe, excuse the self promotion and pun.  So, today, I'm going back to see if I can't get a deal on buying the remaining 26 milk bottles.  Oh, I love our life!!

Once we'd finally managed to pry ourselves away from the Bellingen Recycle Centre, we decided to see where the road took us..  conveniently, it took us to another antique shop... where we found the most adorable little tricycles and scooters.  The owner of the shop was so full of character - he was a tall, skinny tattooed guy, who had more facial hair than a grissly bear and so scruffy that you just wanted to get a comb out and just give him a hand.  He had two sheds, one for restoring old furniture and the other was the retail shop - he'd come in every few minutes to let everyone know that he was there if they needed any assistance and to tell us again that he's got a great range of rare spare motorcycle parts.  I was wondering why he kept telling us this, but then I saw the shirt Az had on - it was an Indian Motorcycle shirt...

We drove from here to Sawtell, to have a look at the surf and a look around town - it's really pretty.  We drove through a caravan park to try and get to the beach, no access to the beach but this caravan is so big that the campers can actually do their jogging circuit around the park... seriously.  We saw about 10 joggers/walkers just in the time that it took us to drive around the park!!  Once we departed the caravan park and the throngs of joggers, we found ourselves on one of the lookout points at Sawtell, overlooking the North and South .. just beautiful.  We thought we'd go for a dip in the sea bath that's there, but once we got to the edge, noticed all the slugs in the pool, and I opted for the photographing (with my new underwater camera that Az got me for Christmas!) rather than the swimming.  Az said it used to be a lot nicer, but I guess like most areas the Council doesn't have the cash-flow to be able to keep it maintained.  The weather was just spectacular - such a good day to be outside.

Az's crab hand .. hehe

At Sawtell 

The sea bath at Sawtell

Just in case the stairs covered in moss weren't warning enough ...

The slugs that had taken over the pool .. they were mesmerising when they swam

Our bellies were starting to rumble by this stage and while on our way back to the caravan, we got distracted and ended up in Urunga - another lovely little town.  The caravan park there was awesome - it's situated right on the river and there's this wooden boardwalk that just seems to go forever, and takes you down to the beach.  The boardwalk would easily be 1km long .. well in my mind it would be anyway!  We did a stroll through the park to go down to the river and were so impressed with the Park that we went to the Reception to see what the rates were like, thinking we might relocate once our days are up here..  we'll see how that one pans out once we go to the hospital :)  I think the pub just over the road overlooking the River was a slight advantage for this caravan park.. hehe

As you can imagine, we were really starting to get hungry by now - it was about 10.30 and neither of us had had any breakfast.  So we hightailed it back to the caravan and devoured anything we could get our hands on.

The rest of the day saw us go for a dip in the pool - well Az up to his chest with his arm sticking up out of the water, and Az watched some DVDs, while I did some Milkk Money creating.
As the sun started to sink into the horizon, Az thought he'd give left-handed shaving a go ... and he did extremely well.  He only ended up with one cut (that bled for about an hour), so was pretty happy with himself.  We have an appointment on Monday 9th to get his cast off.. as you can imagine he's starting to get super super itchy and even more curious to see what's underneath.  We've already got a makeshift scratcher in place - he's seriously just like a little kid!  So Monday can't come soon enough :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day Trip #1

After a day of rest and relaxation (which pretty much involved a lot of sleeping), we decided to do a bit of a day trip .. well a bit of a drive around this area.  We drove down to Repton - turns out we're super close to the beach!!  Very exciting.. tomorrow morning = surf .. yay.

On the way to Bellingen, I spotted a sign that leads to my dream shopping experience ..  a tip shop!  We drove up there, but being a public holiday, it wasn't open ... bugger.  So I think I might be going for a little drive tomorrow... wooo hoooo!  After this slight detour, we arrived into Bellingen and our first stop was the Old Butter Factory.  Az and I have found our ultimate house!!  It's a converted Butter factory - so 2 levels, all open plan and the second floor has a large walkway around it - with enough room for bedrooms .. oh it was amazing!  So I think we're going to have to start drawing our house.. and put it with all the other designs we have made after seeing amazing structures...  I wonder what we'll end up building or buying??  The Butter Factory had a collection of little shops - art galleries, handmade goods, imported eclectic collections and a beautiful little cafe..  which were all located around a beautiful garden in the centre that featured great handmade ornaments and sculptures.  I found so many little bits and pieces that would be perfect in our house... but they stayed there :)

The town is very reminiscent of Byron Bay or Bangalow - chic stores and cafes, in period buildings.  We found a really cool little coffee shop that doubled as a vintage store - they even do trade ins on vintage goods.  The furniture is all mismatched and there are awesome little collections of goods on the tables - just to tempt you further.

We ended up having a coffee at a little coffee shop off the main road - and were entertained by a brother and sister piano playing pair (there was a few instruments that people could play if they wanted to) - we were just a little jealous of their talent.  I even got Az to admit that he wouldn't mind listening to some classical music ... might put that one on the "TO DO in 2012" list.. hehe.

After meandering up and down the street, we found a beautiful 3 story house conversion to have lunch at.  To compliment my burger, I had a homemade lemonade .. yummo!  The views were pretty good too.

Az's cast is starting to get a bit itchy .. and the curiosity is growing to see what's actually under the cast