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!

26 November, 2011


Since we were going to be without the caravan for a few weeks we decided to continue on with our trip and come back for the van.  So our next destination was Inverloch where we stayed with Liz's Aunty Jackie and Uncle John, in their beautiful house by the beach.

We left Warragul and headed south through some absolutely beautiful countryside - green rolling hills as far as you can see.  We stopped in at the visitors centre in Korumburra to have a lunch break and found Coal Creek which is a historic village that displays some of the coal mining history of the area. We spent a bit of time having a look around coal creek before jumping back in the car and heading to Inverloch.

Coal Creek

Checking out the train at Coal Creek

We started our stay at Inverloch with a walk along the beach & Esplanade with Jackie, where the kids found a great climbing tree, and then headed out in the car to Eagles Nest (which is a rock formation at the end of one of the headlands) and Cape Patterson, before heading back for dinner.
The Climbing tree
The next day we headed south to Cape Liptrap and found the lighthouse, it was extremely windy and we almost got blown away [and unfortunately our camera did get blown away and broke :( ], so we continued on and found Bear Gully which is a beautiful camp spot right on the beach, then we found the small town of Walkerville South where there are old Lime Kilns right on the beach.  The beach was so beautiful and the weather was so good, the kids just couldn't resist getting in the water, so after their paddle turned into a swim! we headed back to the car and changed them into their swimmers to travel home, as you do.

Cape Liptrap

one of the Lime kilns
The kids "Paddling" at the beach

We have started a list of all the living wild native animals that we have seen on the trip, and this day we added two echidnas to the list.
One of the echidnas

Day two we headed to Philip Island, our first stop was the Philip Island Chocolate Factory where we picked up a few samples to try.  Then we headed to the Churchill Island Historic Farm, we spent a bit of time looking around, patting animals and going on a wagon ride.
Our next destination was the Koala conservation centre,  where we found a number of Koala's including some baby's.

Then we headed out to The Nobbies,  where there were hundreds of nesting sea gulls and their babies,  with our binoculars we could see the seals out on the rocks and as we walked along the boardwalk we also spotted a few penguins in their burrows.  By this time it was dinner time so we headed to Cowes ( the main town on Philip Island) and bought some Pizza's and had a picnic at the park.  After dinner we headed to the Penguin Parade.  We found some seats right down the front at the sand and waited for the Penguins to arrive,  and since it was breading season we saw hundreds of them come ashore in groups of up to 20 or 30 and waddle up the beach and then up the hills to their burrows. It was high tide with quite a big swell and at one stage we had to lift our feet to avoid getting wet. As we walked back up the board walk we watched the penguins (only an arms length away) waddle along and we even spotted a few babies waiting for their mums.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed the penguins, and they all coped extremely well as it was so late, we arrived back at Inverloch at 10.30pm.

Josh and Liz at The Nobbies

Brigadoon Cottages

As per the previous post, our Caravan is now stuck at Warragul, East of Melbourne.  We broke down when we were 1/2 hour short of our destination - Brigadoon Cottages (which is run by Ed and Michelle).  Originally, we were going to stay in our caravan at Brigadoon because all the cottages were already booked, but as luck would have it, someone cancelled their booking at the last minute - which freed up a cottage for us to stay in.

Ed and Michelle were soooooo kind to us and made us feel so welcome - this was really appreciated in our 'time of need'.  The Cottages are so beautiful.  We stayed at Tullamore Cottage which is perfect for a family.

Outside Tullamore at Brigadoon Cottages

We needed to travel to Warragul every day to speak with the Caravan Repairer (to talk through the issues with the van, and find a solution that we would be happy with to fix it).  So staying 1/2 hour up the road from Warragul at the cottages was just perfect.  We ended up staying with Ed and Michelle for 4 nights which was absolutely divine.

Mike caught the Flu (which Liz had 2 weeks prior), and it turned into a bad case of Man Flu :)   Mike was feeling pretty wiped out for two or three days, but some Nana naps and a few restful days hanging around the cottages was perfect to help get better - along with copious amounts of Panadine!

The kids loved all the wide open space around the cottages and even 'helped' with some chores before getting a wheel burrow ride (Thanks Ed!) 

The kids enjoying the wide open spaces
'Helping' Ed with the chores!

Wheel burrow Ride with Ed!

We thoroughly enjoyed our 4 nights with Ed and Michelle staying in luxury in the cottages and we all felt refreshed after our stay.

     When we first got the Caravan, we signed up to NRMA's "Premium Care" roadside assistance package so that in the 'unlikely event' that the van needed towing, it would be covered by NRMA.  Well, luck favours the prepared and sure enough when we broke down, NRMA organised all the towing.  What we didn't realise was that NRMA also give up to $3,000 benefits on things like Car Hire, Accommodation and other things.

So after our 4 nights with Ed and Michelle, NRMA organised 2 nights accommodation in Neerim South (not too far out of Warragul).  We had a bit of time and so we thought we'd go and have a look at Thomson Dam and Walhalla (an old Gold Mining town outside of Moe).  We had a great look around the Dam and Walhalla, including a short 4WD from the dam to Walhalla.

Overlooking the Thomson Dam Wall

Walhalla Bandstand
When it was time to head to our next stop at Neerim South Caravan Park, we let Navman choose the way - BIG Mistake!  Even though Navman was not set to 'Shortest Path', it still chose a route which took us through a state forest, and then onto a very hairy 4WD track.  After multiple 'tense' moments in the car, we got to an extremely steep descent which was a final hurdle to get us to a 'good road'.  With Liz and the kids out of the car, Mike took Bruiser very carefully down the "Lizard's Lament" track, and we made it down quite easily - but it was a very interesting experience, especially since all our recovery gear was in the caravan. 

This picture doesn't do the hill any justice!

Nonetheless we made it safely to our next stop at Neerim South Caravan Park, where we stayed in a cabin for 2 nights.

Neerim Sth Caravan Park Cabin

19 November, 2011

"Darnit" in Darnum

We’ve come unstuck!  3,000Km’s into our 40,000Km?? journey the Caravan is at the Caravan Doctors!  We left Melbourne and headed east where our destination was going to be Brigadoon Cottages where Liz’s Cousin and his wife live, and manage the cottages.  We were about 30K’ms away from Brigadoon Cottages when a Truck driver overtook us and indicated that we had a problem with our Van :(

We immediately pulled over on the M1 Freeway and Mike jumped out of the car and ran to look at what was the problem.  Smoke was pouring out of the right hand caravan wheel, and the wheel was super hot.  There were no flames, but the burning metal smell was pretty awful.  We thought that the issue might have been brakes (because we’ve hit that problem before and had it fixed) but after a few minutes, Mike suspected it was a failed wheel bearing.  We didn’t want to stay on the M1 too long, so we looked at how far it was to the next turnoff, and the Darnum Exit was 500m over the crest of a hill.  We limped off the Freeway and pulled the van onto a side road that had grass area where the kids could run around while we organised what we figured would be a pretty painful process.

Loading the Tow Truck in Darnum

Off to the doctor

To cut a pretty long story short, the failure we experienced was indeed a wheel bearing.  The wheel bearing collapsed which then caused subsequent damage to the Axle.  Obviously this wasn’t great news for us, however everything else about the situation could not have been better if we had planned it ourselves!  Our NRMA Roadside Assistance (premium package) organised everything for us to get the van to the ‘doctors’.  The tow truck turned up in about 15 minutes,  Our NRMA Insurance is most likely to cover the damage costs (this is to be finalised on the 22nd and the caravan repairman feels that the insurance is very likely to pay), one of the dwellings at Brigadoon Cottages (which was booked) became free at the last minute, and Ed (Liz’s Cousin) and Michelle (Ed’s wife) very generously allowed us to use the cottage (which was awesome – more on this in the next blog entry because we stayed 4 nights), the Roadside assistance package will pay up to $700 for accommodation fees (in the immediate breakdown area) to cover expenses while we don’t have our van and we have the gear to proceed while the van gets fixed if required.  So although it’s bad news, it’s actually not that bad, so we’re just treating it as a slight change to our plans.  We really feel that this God is looking after us perfectly.

We are carrying a tent and all our camping gear with us (most of the camping gear we use in daily life in the van) and so once the van was secured at the repairers, we packed all the gear we needed to continue our journey in the back of Bruiser (the Landcruiser) and we’ll be able to continue our journey (with help from Ed & Michelle and Liz’s Aunty and Uncle who are both providing us with some accommodation).

It is likely that the Van will be in repair until Monday the 28th November, so we will be spending a week or two without our van, but continuing to see south East Victoria.

18 November, 2011

The Masons do Melbourne!

After spending a month out of a big city, driving through Melbourne’s busy toll roads, to get to our caravan park, felt very stressful!  But we made it through and settled into our very small (predominantly permanent resident) caravan park. There were only about seven sites for “non-permanents”, there was no room to put the awning out, and also nowhere for the kids to run around, but it was cheap J.

The next morning after getting school work done we headed out for the day to explore Melbourne, our first stop was Brighton Beach,  where we had fun looking at all the painted beach huts and walking along the beach.
Our Favourite Brighton Beach Hut

The kids were keen to ride on a tram, so our next stop was St Kilda were we caught a tram into the city.  While in the city we spent a bit of time looking around, and we did a loop of the city on the tourist tram and even managed to find a great playground by the river. We found an exhibition to go to called screen worlds, which had lots of computer games to try and also talked about the history of TV and Computers.  We all had a lot of fun playing Wii Mario Kart on a massive screen.  By this time it was starting to get quite late and we ended up catching a packed peak hour tram back to St Kilda, we were very thankful when two ladies gave up their seats for us and we squeezed four of us on those two seats.  After grabing a bite to eat for dinner we headed into Luna Park to have a look around, the kids of course were very excited and wanted to ride on everything. But since it was already 7.30pm and everyone was already tired we decided we would get better value for our money (and have more fun) if we came back the next day, so we headed back to the caravan for the night.

Riding on the Free Tourist Tram

The next day we had a very lazy morning watching TV and had a late breakfast (because Luna park doesn’t open till 11am!), we headed back to St Kilda and spent quite a few hours having an absolute ball at Luna Park.  We all had fun on the roller coasters, the flying elephant ride and the carousel. Mike, Josh and Natalie all loved the pirate ship, Mike, Liz and Josh enjoyed “the Spider”, and Mike and Josh’s stomachs nearly turned inside out when they rode on the Enterprise, which spins very fast around and upside down. As it was a beautiful sunny day the park got very busy in the afternoon and the cues for rides were getting very long, so once we had had quite enough fun we headed to Brighton and had a picnic dinner on the headland (which we had prepared in the morning using our Dreampot) before returning to the caravan - exhausted.
Like a kid in a candy store!

This was my favourite ride

Can you spot Mike and Josh?

Can you spot Liz and Josh?
We wanted to go to church while we were in Melbourne, and The kids ministry team from Bible in the bush in Red Cliffs, were from Glen Waverly Anglican church (GWAC) in Melbourne.  So the next day being Sunday we headed to GWAC for the 10.30am service, where we were very warmly welcomed. Our kids were so excited to see some other children that they knew (from Bible in the Bush) and they all had a great time at kids church and we really enjoyed the GWAC Service.  After church, we were invited to lunch at a Pizza restaurant (which had a playground) which was really lovely.  We had a great chance to catchup with our new friends while the kids played.

We want to thank Bob, Ian & Natalie, Zoe, Fiona & Andrew and all the other people we met at GWAC for making us feel so welcome.

13 November, 2011


In Ballarat we stayed in a Caravan park just outside of town, because it was the cheapest! After setting up the van we headed into town and found the Information centre. On the map we picked up we spotted an adventure playground by the lake so that is where we headed for a play, and a walk by the lake.

The Adventure Playground
Lake Wendouree

The next day we headed to Sovereign Hill, it was meant to be wet but we deceided to go anyway and we are glad we did, becuause it didn't rain - it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day and we all had a great time.
We struck gold when we went gold panning, and the kids were right into it, so we ended up panning two or three times over the day. We all enjoyed the Red Hill mine tour and a Horse and Cart ride around the town.
We watched the Gold pour, which is were they melt some gold and pour it into a mould, and Natalie was chosen from the crowd to hold the $170,000 gold bar once it was cooled, and thankfully she didn't drop it.
Gold panning at Sovereign Hill

Natalie holding a 3Kg Solid Gold Bar

We found these three!

12 November, 2011


Strathfieldsaye is part of the Greater Bendigo Area - it is only 15 minutes from the Bendigo CBD, and this was our next BCA stop.  We pulled into Strathfieldsaye on Thursday afternoon (3rd November).  Steve (the Minister of the Anglican church in Strathfieldsaye) had organised for us to be able to park our caravan on the property of one of the couples from his Parish - this was such a blessing to us (in so many ways).

Steve and Vanessa Weickhardt with the Mason Family
 After meeting Beth and Geoff (our hosts) and setting up the Caravan, we headed to the church (the Uniting and Anglican congregations have combined) to start on a few jobs that Steve had lined up for us.

The church
Mike got busy building a sandpit cover over the existing sandpit and Liz started sorting out a music cupboard (that hadn't been touched in quite some time).  The kids kept themselves occupied by 'helping'  Mike and doing some drawing as well as playing on the DS and Leapsters.

 We spent a couple of hours on the Thursday afternoon at the church, then knocked off for the day.

Building a sandpit cover

When we got back to the property, Geoff took us all out on the Four-Wheeler (Quad Bike) and we looked at his property and went Roo spotting.  We saw our first (live) Kangaroos of the trip - which was surprising since we've covered 2500Km's already!

On Friday morning, we helped Vanessa (Steve's wife) feed Kuba (her horse - who lives in the paddock next to where our Caravan was parked), then we went back to the church and continued working.

Kuba the horse was a good neighbour during our stay at Strathfieldsaye

On Saturday morning we finished off at the church and then headed out to Lake Eppalock to have a look.  Saturday was really hot, and because the lake was full of blue/green algae (so we couldn't swim), we headed back to the farm and the kids had a good run-around in the sprinklers which cooled them off nicely.

Cooling off under the sprinklers

Steve and Vanessa had kindly invited us to join in their daughters Birthday Celebrations with a BBQ at their place - which was a great time to have a chat and get to know Steve and Vanessa.  The kids had a ball playing with the other kids.

On Sunday morning we went to the 9am service, because it was the first Sunday of the month the Uniting Church minister ran the service.  This was a very different service for us and the kids had to stay in with us the whole time, but did very well (on the whole).   We went back to Bendigo on Sunday afternoon and rode scooters around Lake Weeroona.  It was a much cooler day than the previous day (and even started raining on us a little) but it was better than sweltering in the heat and we had a great time at the Lake.

Scooting at Lake Weeroona
On Monday, we were waiting for the School Post to come into Strathfieldsaye, but it didn't come until the afternoon (which meant it was too late to move on) so we stayed another night.  On Monday afternoon, Geoff kindly let us use his quad bike and so we had a few rides around the property - another real hit with the kids (and Mike!).

Quad Bike Fun
Throughout our stay at Stathfieldsaye, we were so thankful for the generosity and kindness of Geoff and Beth - they really made us feel so welcome and shared their house with us like we were family.  We were so grateful for this and have learnt a lot from them.  We will always remember our time at Strathfieldsaye with Steve, Vanessa, Geoff and Beth.

On Geoff and Beth's Property

09 November, 2011


After leaving Red cliffs, we set our sights on travelling toward Bendigo.  We didn't want to head straight there, so we thought that we'd find a (free) night's accommodation somewhere before arriving in Bendigo.  We picked a spot called Skinners Flat Reservoir which is only 100 km out of Bendigo.
We had a good drive south and arrived at our campsite in the mid-afternoon, which left enough time for a bit of school work and a play for Natalie and Sam.

Skinners Flat Reservoir campsite
We were intending to stay at this campsite for one night, but as it turned out, we only got 1/2 a night!! Josh had been feeling unwell all day with a sore tummy, and he woke at about 9.30pm with bad stomach pains. After consulting with a nurse and then a GP on the NSW Heath Direct line they decided that they couldn't rule out the possibility of him having appendicitis and they thought it would be best if he was seen by a doctor that night.  So at 10.30pm we packed up the caravan,  transferred Natalie and Sam from their beds to the car and we headed to Bendigo (100kms away). We pulled into Bendigo hospital emergency just before midnight, Mike parked the car and van on the street and Liz and Josh headed into the hospital.  Mike put the other kids and himself back to bed on the side of the road.  After been seen by the Doctor and tested for a few things Josh got the all clear that it wasn't appendicitis, but they didn't know what it was. So an exhausted Liz and Josh stumbled back to the caravan at 3am.  After a couple of terrible hours sleep we were woken at 6am with garbage trucks and cars moving around, and since we were taking up quite a number of parking spaces outside the hospital we decided to move on, so we all got dressed and headed off to find the Bendigo showgrounds which was to be our next campsite.  By mid-morning the next day, Josh's pain had subsided and he was feeling much better.

We were all fairly tired, so we had a fairly low-key day.  We got new tyres for the Caravan, did some shopping and had a bit of a play around Lake Weeroona (including watching with the friendly birdlife of the lake).

The Birdlife around Lake Weeroona

03 November, 2011

Bible in the Bush

On Thursday 27th October, with only a short drive from Merbein to Red Cliffs, we took the opportunity to do some school work in the morning.  After Josh's schoolwork, we packed up our van and headed down the Calder Highway.  We arrived at the Red Cliffs Caravan Park and spent the rest of the afternoon getting the van setup (and did a bit of shopping to replenish supplies).

The main reason for going to Red Cliffs was to stop in at "APOSS" (the Anglican Parish Of Sunraysia South - another BCA church that we had been in contact with).  The timing for us could not have been better.  On the weekend (28th to the 30th October), APOSS was holding their 4th annual 'Bible in the Bush' weekend.  Dale Barclay, the Minister of APOSS, had organised a couple of jobs which we could assist with on the Friday, so on Friday morning we met Dale at St Mark's and started doing a few jobs to prepare for the weekend.  Friday really started to heat up, and after we'd finished at the church we went back to the Caravan Park (which didn't have a pool) so the kids had a great time cooling off in the sprinklers.

Bible in the Bush first came into being in 2008 with the goal of providing a weekend of good quality Bible teaching in a rural/regional area, so that people may hear God’s word and in his grace obey it and be transformed by it.  The main speaker for Bible in the Bush 2011 was the Right Reverend Stephen Hale, from St Hilary's.  Stephen was speaking on 2 Peter throughout the weekend, and we both thought his teaching was fantastic.  The Music Team was also from St Hilary's and they did an awesome job throughout the weekend.  The kid's ministry team came from Melbourne's Glen Waverley Anglican Church (GWAC).  Our three kids had such an excellent weekend of fun and Bible Teaching - they really thought that it was the best weekend of our trip so far.

The weekend started on the Friday night with dinner and the first talk (and Kids program).  It was a bit of a late night for the kids, but they thought it was unreal being up so late - and were loving playing with all the other kids.

Even though Liz and Mike had a couple of jobs to do throughout the weekend, (including running the bookshop, watching the coffee machine, helping with setup/pack-up of the dining room, and some general cleaning) we still managed to get to most of the sessions and enjoy great fellowship throughout the weekend.

The Saturday morning sessions were great and after a lunch together, some of the kids and adults went to the park for a play, while the other adults participated in workshops - which were very useful.

Saturday night was another late night, with an early evening session followed by a beautiful dinner together.  After dinner, the music team entertained us all with renditions of some golden oldies.  Unfortunately Mike (and Dale) didn't make all of the evening entertainment as they were otherwise occupied with someone that walked in off the street who needed some help.

Sunday's session was a normal weekly church service for APOSS followed by lunch (which they also do weekly) and was an excellent end to a great weekend.

We feel so blessed to have been part of such an encouraging, uplifting weekend, and our thanks go to Dale & Rachel and the team for allowing us to be part of their weekend.

The Mason's, the Barclay's and Mark Short (BCA National Director)

We were pretty busy with Bible in the Bush, and we didn't get much time to see the sights of Red Cliffs over the weekend, so we decided to stay another night.

Monday morning was a quiet start to the week with a bit of a sleep-in for 3 very tired kids (and 2 pretty tired parents!).  We also got to have a play with some friends from GWAC, who had been camped at the Caravan park.  After saying goodbye, we started some school work, and some other friends from Bible in the Bush dropped by for a quick play.  After lunch, we wanted to look around the town and surrounding area so we went for a drive to explore Red Cliffs.  We found 'Big Lizzie' at the park, and managed to find the Red Cliffs of Red Cliffs.

The Red Cliffs of Red Cliffs!
Big Lizzie

We really did enjoy our time at Red Cliffs with the folk from APOSS.  We will have fond memories of this part of our journey