(Caravan Parks are Terrible for this Kind of Thing) - Mt Gambier to Home
We’ve been a bit slack with our blog, so grab a cuppa before you start reading our final tome.
Mt Gambier was a big hit. We saw many things that we have never seen, including climbing Mt Schank, a probably extinct volcano, and visiting Blue Lake, the water being the most incredible blue colour.
After seeing much of it already in pictures, the Great Ocean Road was better in real life and we all enjoyed visiting the great array of places. There was a good variety of scenery from out-of-the-way places to the tourist-swarmed Twelve Apostles. We spent a long while exploring Loch Ard Gorge, especially playing in the sand at the beach. Port Campbell was interesting – from the boy who screamed maniacally at sea gulls, so much so that people right at the other end of the beach were talking about him, to waking up one morning to watch a digger demolishing a large building from our beds.
When we reached Anglesea we decided to slow down and smell the roses a bit before Christmas hit. There was plenty to do just in the caravan park itself – from the pool, to mini golf, to the beach / river, a gym, a few games of bocce to go-kart bikes. We explored the surrounding areas, including the famous Bells Beach and the beautiful Lorne. The kids have become skate park fans and we are spending quite a bit of time hanging out with the local teenage boys, who don’t seem to put our kids off from performing their tricks. Both the teenagers and our kids watch each other with sideways glances to see if they have impressed. They are learning that concrete is hard and can remove and bruise skin very well, but they have also learnt that risk-taking is a buzz when you can pull off a new stunt.
We stayed in a posh caravan park (sounds like an oxymoron) in Queenscliff, on the Bellarine Peninsula. The park had an indoor heated pool, kids club and a movie room, which was a big plus for our TV-starved kids. Standing at Point Lonsdale, one of the heads to Port Phillip Bay, watching the big cargo ships sail past the narrow gap was great fun. One beautiful day was spent exploring Queenscliff on hired bikes. We found some really interesting international markets – shipping containers full of crazy antique furniture and stuff (like an old ship’s door and an old bike with an Asian-style trailer, old-fashioned ride-on shopping centre toys, weird Japanese poker machines, etc.).
From here on in it was all about catching up with family. We spent an enjoyable weekend with Jo’s brother Kev and Janette and their daughter Kate, camping in their front yard in Melbourne. They showed us a few local sites but we pretty much just hung around and chewed the fat, which was a nice break from caravan park small talk.
In Ballarat we caught up with Jo’s Mum and Dad, her brother Paul and Ros, with their kids Eloise, Alex and Olivia, and Kev, Janette and Kate joined us too. The place we stayed was amazing – it was an historic site, formerly a wealthy family’s home, turned into an orphanage, then a school. It is now a very fancy resort with tastefully restored self-contained apartments (and a welcome step-up from what we’ve stayed in for the last 6 months). We felt very spoiled to stay in such a fancy place – thanks Mum and Dad! This was living it up and we tried everything on offer: paddle boats, pool, giant outdoor snakes & ladders and chess, beautiful gardens and lake, gym, table tennis, etc. Ballarat is a beautiful old town and we enjoyed exploring the area, but more so catching up with family. It’s great being away from the hustle and bustle of commercialised Christmas and spending it with people you love.
Heading back to Melbourne, it was time to catch up with Andy’s family. We stayed with Andy’s brother Geoff, Katrina, and their kids Josh and Aaron who pampered us all. Andy’s mum was there too so it was great to spend Christmas and New Year together. There was enough time to hang out lots and to explore places we hadn’t been to before. Day trips to Phillip Island, Mornington Peninsula and a ride on the Puffing Billy in the Dandenongs were all lots of fun.
We are now back in the camper in Corowa, on the Murray River and are feeling close to home – a neighbouring Victorian asked about local NSW rules, a strange feeling after so long away. It’s so stinking hot here that we had to go to the RSL for dinner tonight, just so we could sit in the air conditioning. We have been in the pool about 5 times today. Despite this, we are enjoying our last time together as a family before home. Every time we cross the Murray River the kids are confused about what state we are in. We have visited local towns like Rutherglen and Glenrowan, and have tasted local wines. Today the kids made giant chocolate freckles (organic, so it must be healthy), we went to Yarrawonga, where we thought we would linger longer (Slim Dusty fans will know what we’re talking about – we listened to the song as we drove into town) and we watched the kids on a waterslide.
This is our final stop before returning home and back to reality, and we have mixed feelings – getting back to the comforts and friends will be nice, but to be honest, we could keep going for a good while yet. This lifestyle seems to suit us well and we’re not looking forward to the business of daily life again. You’ll have to all be nice to us so we don’t get the blues. We have met many interesting people, caught up with good friends and family, seen lots of beautiful things, learned a great deal about our wonderful country and ourselves, covered over 25 000 kms (please don’t count the carbon footprint), read well over 20 books each, put the camper trailer up and down exactly 60 times, not worked for 6 months (although as someone wisely said, ‘It’s not a holiday, it’s an adventure’ – there’s plenty of work to do, just a different type), grown immeasurably closer as a family and experienced amazing things together – all with big thanks to God. Thanks for tuning in, we hope you enjoyed sharing our adventure with us. If you want to sit through a slide show of about 4 000 photos, let us know. This is our final blog, so with a tear in our eye and plenty of memories in the bank, we sign off.