So what is all about? Well... hopefully, by the time we are done, it will be a comprehensive journal about a family of 5 who have travelled around Australia to see the sights and also do some volunteer work around the country! In Mid 2010 we started thinking about what it would take to fulfil a life-long dream... We wanted to bundle up our 3 kids, pack-up the house, jump in the car and hit the road - probably for about 12 months. It sounds so simple ... At the start of January 2013, after almost 15 months on the road; we finally completed Our Big Aussie Road Trip. We hope that you enjoyed following our adventures, trials and tribulations as much as we enjoyed having them!

31 October, 2011

Echuca to Mildura

We left Echuca on Monday the 24th October and headed further down the Murray - bound for Swan Hill.  After a few days of free-camping, we decided that we needed to find a washing machine and a good bath/shower, so we looked for a caravan park in Swan Hill.  The Big 4 was expensive ($57 for the night) but was really great.  We enjoyed the drive from Echuca, and pulled into Swan Hill at about 2pm.

At the Big 4 there was a 'Go-Kart' Track that the Kids enjoyed riding around on, as well as a large playground area.  We found the heated pool and all cooled off in the pool until a storm hit about 5pm and it bucketed down with rain while we ate dinner.  As planned, we used all the facilities the Big 4 had to offer, and caught up with all our washing (both clothes and kids!), and decided that one night in Swan Hill was enough, as we weren't willing to pay for another night at that price.

On Tuesday we checked out of the Big 4 but needed to get some school work done, and to see the sights of Swan Hill, so we drove into town and parked the Van near a playground.  We found the 'Giant Murray Cod' and had a play before Josh and Liz got stuck into School while  Mike and the other two went exploring.

After consulting our faithful 'Camps 5' Free-camping book, we decided that a good spot to stop between Swan Hill and Mildura would be 'Passage Camp'.  With the directions programmed into NavMan, we were on our way.  it wasn't going to be a huge drive to Passage Camp, so leaving at midday from Swan Hill wasn't going to be an issue.
We arrived at the road to Passage Camp (which was a dirt road) and realised that it was a bit more "four-wheel-drivey" than just a general dirt road!  We thought we were up for the challenge (and would get a great campspot) so we let some air out of the tyres and headed along a very bumpy dirt track.

It's hard to tell how bad the road is from this photo!!
Being conscious that our caravan is not an off-road van (and has very low clearance), we persisted towing the van along the track past fallen trees and carved up road, but after a while we decided that the best course of action would be to unhook the van, and take Bruiser to try and find the campspot (and determine whether we could actually get the Van through).

A slight obstacle - luckily there was a way around
Without the van, we carried on for a few Km's, but soon realised that there was no way we could get the van through.
Being very close to the Junction of the Murrumbidgee and the Murray, we decided to go and have a look at the junction, but after passing even more obstacles that made us slightly uncomfortable (including losing the track for a bit), we decided to abandon the whole idea and look for a new spot to spend the night. So we reversed the whole process that we had just undertaken for the last hour or so and re-hooked up the van and carefully drove the gauntlet back to the main road - stopping to get our tyres back to Highway pressure.

By this time it was getting quite late in the afternoon, so we opted for plan B, and drove onto the next town and camped at a small caravan park in Boundary Bend which was $17 per night (and you can tell the difference $40 extra buys per night!!).  Although the park was simple and the water was undrinkable, the kids had a good time playing on an 'old School' playground they found.

Once we left Boundary Bend, we wanted to find one night's accommodation near Mildura, and we found a free camp in Merbein which is not far out of Mildura, so we headed there.  The Merbein campspot ended up being Liz and Mike's favourite campspot so far with its idyllic location and its beautiful outlook.

View from the Merbein campspot
After getting the Van into the right spot in Merbein, we locked it up and went into Mildura to look around the town.  During our drive around the town, we stopped at "Lock 11" and as luck would have it, there was a paddle steamer ready to enter the lock and head up stream, so we got to watch the whole process occurring, which was very interesting for the whole family.

24 October, 2011


We pulled into Echuca before lunch, with just enough time to grab a bite to eat and jump aboard the PS Pevensey for a cruise down the river. The kids enjoyed jumping around on the wool bails onboard, thankfully it wasn't crowed as this kept them entertained for the hour we were on board, Sam however really didn't like the loud whistle from the Paddlesteamer and nearly jumped out of his skin every time it blew.
Our Paddlesteamer - PS Pevensey - the oldest of the Echuca Fleet

After our Paddlesteamer ride we walked through the Port and found the playground for the kids to have a run and to have some afternoon tea.  By this time we were all pretty exhausted and we headed back to the car to go and find our campsite for the night - another free camp about 8km out of town right on the river again.

Enjoying the dirt at our camp site

What a beautiful spot to do some drawings and colouring

Time for some fishing - unfortunately no one was biting
Although this was a beautiful spot it was not the most relaxing spot to camp with kids, with a 5 meter drop down to the water,  but the kids were kept busy with dirt play and drawings and watching all the water-ski boats fly by.

Our second day in Echuca we headed into town to do some shopping and have a wander down main street browsing through some shops,  the kids favourite shop was the lolly shop where we bought a few treats.
We have been so blessed with beautiful weather since we left Sydney and in Echuca it was hot, so after we had finished in town we headed back to camp, changed into our swimmers and headed down the road a bit further to "Christie's beach" for a swim.

So refreshing - but not totally comfortable swimming in murky river water

23 October, 2011

Down the Murray we go

When we left Holbrook, we decided that we wanted to head along the Murray River, so we drove through Albury.  We needed to pick up some supplies, and the kids really wanted another play at the cool park that they had been to a few days before, so we stopped in Albury and had a play (while mum went shopping).  With all our supplies (except any fresh fruit - due to the fruit fly exclusion zone) we headed down the Murray river to a beautiful spot called Police Paddocks, which was a free camping spot right next to the river.

This was our first free camping night on our trip, and it went so smoothly and was such a beautiful spot that we decided to stay for 2 nights and have a 'School Catchup' Day as well as a swim in the river to cool off.  The weather got quite hot (30), so it was good to be able to have a dip in a very refreshing river.

"Preschool in the bush!"

Josh needed to make a Didgeridoo, so all the kids made one - and had a great time

 Although the days were quite hot, the nights cooled enough for us to have a fire to sit around and cook some damper to eat with golden syrup - yummy.

On Friday the 21st, we packed up and headed to Rutherglen to re-fuel and post Josh's first set of schoolwork back to the Distance Ed school.  Then it was North to Toucamwal.  We passed the Big Strawberry on the way, and just had to stop to buy a large punnet of beautiful strawberries.  Then it was on to Apex Beach, which is another free camping spot that was absolutely beautiful.  The campsite was near the river and had a large sandy beach which the kids enjoyed playing on.

Sammie the Strawberry
The Big Strawberry
Apex Beach
Fun on the beach

As we packed up to leave we noticed some of the other campers looking up into one of the trees and taking photos,  they had spotted a Koala.  Our kids were very excited to see the Koala and after spending some time checking it out we headed out of Apex beach down the very bumpy dirt road (our caravan handled it very well) only to spot 3 more Koala's along the way.

Next Stop - Echuca!

22 October, 2011


Between Sunday the 16th Oct and Wednesday the 19th, we stayed in Holbrook.  This was our first stop as BCA Nomads and so we contacted James (the Anglican Minister in Holbrook) and we met up with James, Skye and their 3 girls.  We had a lovely dinner with them on Sunday evening, and they were so hospitable - we felt very welcome indeed.

On Monday, Liz and the kids went down to an awesome park in Albury and joined in with Skye's Playgroup.  The kids had a great time playing in the park, exploring all the musical aspects of the park and swinging on the modern 'tyre swing'.  While Liz and the kids were in Albury, Mike spent a bit of time in the Op Shop, having a chat with the men who volunteer to work on all things 'op shop'.  It is a fantastic setup they have and lots of time and energy goes into keeping it running.

On Tuesday, Liz and Skye spent a bit of time planning kids church, based around the "Lords Prayer" program that our kids did at Kings Kids at St Philips Last term.  While Liz and Skye were working, Mike, Josh, Natalie and Sam went exploring in Holbrook.  We found the HMAS Otway and had fun climbing all over it.

That evening, we had dinner with the Coats again and then said our farewells to Holbrook and the Coats family.

16 October, 2011


In Canberra we stayed in the Exhibition Park Camping ground which just has the basic facilities of Showers and Toilets, and is only 8 km from the City Centre.
Exhibition Park Campground

Day one in Canberra the kids quickly made friends with our new neighbours, a family who are travelling around Australia in their big bus, after a sufficient amount of time playing with our "new friends" we heading into Canberra to have a look around.  First stop was The Royal Australian Mint, Josh is very interested in money at the moment and was very keen to find out how it is made.  Unfortunately they weren't making any money that day but the kids were entertained watching the robots move around even though they weren't actually doing anything, we suspect they are just on a timer.

Robot at the Mint

After a picnic lunch by lake Burleigh Griffin with the company of some Black swans and some Ducks, our next stop was Floriade.

We spent a couple of hours wandering around Floriade enjoying the beautiful flowers, checking out the reptile display and making pictures with fruit.

Day 2 in Canberra we did some much needed shopping to stock up on supplies of food.  It was Saturday and the Farmers Markets were on inside Exhibition Park, so we bought our fruit and Veg and then headed to the supermarket for the other essentials.

Next we headed to the National Museum of Australia,  which we have been to before with friends. Josh had been begging us to go as he wanted to build space ships at K- Space.  In K-Space you design on a computer your own space ships or houses and then you watch them in a 3D animation on a big screen.  We were the only ones there at the time and had K-Space to ourselves so we went through this process 5 times in a row and I think Josh and Natalie would have kept going if we had let them.

After another lunch by the lake we went to the National Film and Sound Archive and spent some time looking at some displays and enjoying the kids corners.  Then it was time to head to Parliment house for a look.
Our trip to Parliment house started with Tears,  it was a windy day and the water feature out the front of Parliment house was being cleaned and unfortunately some of the cleaner spray blew into Natalie's eyes.  So after finding out what they were spraying, washing Natalie's eyes and calming her down we headed through security into parliment house.  We had a good look around and sat in the Senate and the House of Reps and had a good run around on the grass on the roof,  after all this we were exhasted and headed back to the caravan.  The kids enjoyed playing with their "new friends" while we got dinner ready.

Tomorrow we head to Holbrook.

Off we go...

So our initial thoughts of leaving on Tuesday or Wednesday (11th or 12th of October) were a little optimistic! We did manage to do all the things that we needed to get done to allow us to jump in the car and drive off into the sunset (or rather a bit of a gray morning with a few spots of rain) on Thursday the 13th of October 2011.  This date is also Liz's Birthday, so it will be a date that we won't easily forget - which is really nice.

We spent the week sorting out all the items that we were going to take with us and packing the van in a fashion that seemed to make sense to us - but we're sure we'll be doing lots of re-organising along the way.

We installed a roof cage on Bruiser so that the second spare tire and a few jerry cans could go up top and then managed to put everything else that we thought are 'essentials' for the year into the back of the car or in the van.

By Wednesday night, we were confident that Thursday would be our departure date...

On Thursday morning, after some breakfast and some presents for Liz, we did some last minute packing and then jumped into the car and waved goodbye to Nanna and Pa as we drove off - headed for Canberra.

We were very thankful for a smooth and trouble-free trip from Sydney to Canberra.  The kids travelled really well and were glad to be finally heading off on our 'trip around Australia'.

To our pleasant surprise, It was a whole hour before anyone asked 'When are we going to get there' (good on you Sammie).  The kids kept entertained with drawing and colouring most of the way.

School's In!!!

First day of School - Term 4 2011

Josh started school for term 4 2011 with the Sydney Distance Education Primary School while we were still living with Nanna and Pa in Terrey Hills.

The school work is going well and we have been mainly focussing on maths and english but have also made great progress with the first unit of science.  The below photo is Josh enjoying a science experiment with bubbles:

Science Fun!

12 October, 2011

Our last night in Sydney... at least for a while!

After many hours of packing, sorting and organising, we have arrived at our last night in Sydney (at least for a while!).  It has been a really busy time lately.  In the last 2 weeks we have: handed the house over the its temporary owners, moved into Mike's parents house, Mike has finished work, we have moved out of Mike's parents house and into Liz's parents house, we have sorted all the gear and culled as much stuff as we can so that we are only taking as much as we think we need, we've bought and installed a roof cage for Bruiser, Josh has started school via the Sydney Distance Education Primary School, we have packed the Van, and we have packed the car (and we have been burning the candle at both ends to achieve all of this!  not to mention fighting off a bit of sickness - just to top it off).

However, with all of the above behind us, it means that we are now ready to drive out of Sydney tomorrow morning - which also happens to be Liz's Birthday, so it will be a memorable day all 'round.

I would have loved to write more and post a few pictures of some of the last 2 weeks, but time has cut me short :)

So, next stop is Canberra!  So make sure you "watch this space..."

05 October, 2011

The Mason Nomads (not Grey Nomads - Yet!!)

Some news which we have not yet shared on our Blog is that we have been officially accepted as BCA Nomads!

So what is a BCA Nomad you ask??  Well, BCA stands for Bush Church Aid Society, and is an organisation that shares the gospel, builds up the church, and cares for people all around Australia.

BCA began it's life in Australia in 1919 when the "Colonial and Continental Church Society" (CCCS) enabled BCA to be properly constituted - however you could say that BCA's beginnings were as part of the CCCS which was established in the Swan River Colony in Western Australia in 1836.

BCA operates a Nomads Scheme.  This scheme is designed to put travellers in touch with BCA Field Staff where travellers can offer their skills and fellowship to the staff and surrounding communities for as much or as little time as they have available.

Although our family isn't the 'typical' Nomad demographic, we certainly do qualify to be Nomads, so we have signed up, received all the relevant information, and been in touch with the BCA Field Staff that we intend to visit in the first 6 - 8 weeks of our trip.  We have planned our initial route around 5 placements in the areas that we intend to visit first on our trip.

When we were first discussing about a potential trip around the country, we wanted to ensure that we contributed something back to people and communities that we visited.  It was very important to us that this trip wasn't going to be all about us, all of the time.  So we decided that we would investigate how we could contribute to the communities that we visited, and the BCA Nomads Scheme seemed to be the most logical solution to us.

Our regular church in Sydney (St Philips South Turramurra) have supported many people who have gone out into different communities around the country and around the world, and so this has encouraged us to also be using our gifts as we travel our beautiful country.

We are really excited about what opportunities lay ahead of us through this scheme.  We really believe that you only get to know a community properly, when you entrench yourself in it!  Tourist destinations are fine, but a community isn't about what attractions are in its borders, rather the community is all about the people who live in it, and what better way to get to know a community than to volunteer some time, energy and money into making it a better community.