Way to go Whyalla!

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After leaving Warrnambool and still experiencing some adverse weather conditions, we pulled up for the night in an overnight rest area at Coomandook in South Australia. It was fabulous to park, stay hitched to the Jayco, just level up and step inside for the night. Things to consider – no 240V AC power, so the fridge was running on 12V DC or gas. No heater/ac, no microwave, no kettle or toaster. Were we worried? Nope! We still had the gas cook top and grill, lights, and the TV, which runs on AC or DC power. Easy peasy! Tea was cooked on the grill, it was a mild rainy night so we didn’t need the climate control, and even though the silos we parked next to blocked the tv signal, we were able to plug in our external hard drive and watch a family Disney movie! Spring rolls and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang .. it was a wonderful evening free camping for the first time in the Jayco. What about the battery if we were running the lights and the TV? Amazingly, though Paul kept getting the kids to read the battery charge level on the wall in the kitchen, we used 0.1V over the whole evening. Yep, you read that right, one tenth of a Volt. Virtually zero battery draw on the Jayco overnight.

It took less than 30 minutes to pack up in the morning, and a lot of that was because we didn’t want to get out of bed! Knowing we were going to be driving the Adelaide Hills in poor weather wasn’t motivation to get on the road. If you’ve driven the Hills you’ll know there’s a lot of inclines, some steep, some slow, but then there’s always the descent. When you are TOWING, it’s a whole different story. We were driving through misty rain, which settled in like fog in some sections, and Kirstine was glad that Paul was driving. The Legend has an automatic transmission, but there are still gears you can use to ease the pressure on the vehicle brakes as you descend the Hills. Most drivers cruise down with their foot on the brake, which means they are running the risk of overheating them. When this happens, they can fail. There are safety ramps in case this happens. We didn’t have this problem, as Paul drove the Legend down in 2nd gear, the REDARC Tow Pro Elite electric brake system helping guide the Jayco down.

Adelaide, Port Augusta and finally down to Whyalla. Paul & Kirstine were exhausted on arrival in Whyalla. Welcomed so warmly, and shown to our site by Deb, who jogged (!) with her rake, to where we needed to park, we were told that if we wanted to stay longer to just let them know, as Whyalla has so much to offer.

Over the course of the evening we decided that a day in Whyalla would be a good way to recover after a couple of long days of driving. 

Using Deb’s advice and Tripadvisor, we set an itinerary for the next day. At the Marina we were lucky enough to meet the resident pod of dolphins. Following in the boats that returned from sea, it is hard to find the words to describe the experience of meeting these beautiful marine mammals in such close proximity. They lingered right by the propellers of the boats and seemed intrigued by the humans lined up on the pontoons next to this. The two females swam with their calves and turned their heads to raise an eye above the water to watch us. Those eyes are incredibly soulful and proof of their sentient nature. The kids held their hands in the water and were able to make fleeting contact with these spectacular animals. For all the human interest in them, these dolphins epitomise marine intelligence, and observed us with the same level of curiosity. Luna wanted to get in and swim with them, fascinated as she was to see these big animals in the water!

Our next stop was the Visitor Centre and Maritime Museum. Cooper had spotted a Geocaching symbol, and we spent a few minutes find our very first geocache as a family! It really is like treasure hunting, and we’re sure it won’t be the last.

The tour of the former HMAS Whyalla is an absolute must, and we are so glad we followed the advice of our hosts at the Whyalla Caravan Park. Teresa is the embodiment of knowledge about the Whyalla, who for a time became the SS RIP after being decommissioned. Focussed on the safety of the visitors on board. We learned so much about the role of Minesweepers in World War II, and how difficult the living conditions on board must have been. Without giving too much away, the sea sickness and cramped quarters for non-commissioned sailors, were a challenge that didn’t distract them from their vital role in locating and neutralising enemy mines.

Teresa was very interested in our trip, and Luna has the great honour of being the first Assistance Dog on board the Whyalla. A guide dog once joined the tour, but the steep steps which necessitated a backwards descent for the handler, became too much for them and the canine. Though Paul helped Luna with some aspects, she was ready for every stair challenge that arose as part of the tour.

Taking a photo or two of us on her phone for media purposes, Teresa told us about a new local initiative, INATT (I’m Not Afraid To Talk), which is a support group for young men started by the local football team. Hand in hand with the Whyalla Suicide Prevention Network, this is another avenue for local men to find support in a safe environment. According to the newspaper article published in the Whyalla News on Thursday 12 April, the Founding Member of the group, Jeremy Edwards said that the “group aimed to break the stereotype that males don’t need emotional support .. we want to get rid of the stigma that you’re weak if you need help. We want to get more men talking about this kind of thing”.

We were so happy to hear that Whyalla is taking positive steps towards supporting their community! This was our first stop on the Eyre Peninsula, and it has been incredibly welcoming and surprising. We’re so happy that we took 24 hours to stop and see a few things that Whyalla has to offer, particularly when it means finding out that mental health and suicide prevention is very much on the local radar, with residents taking positive steps to guide the future of Whyalla.

 

Keeping warm in Warrnambool

 

Our first port of call with our Jayco Expanda Outback! Arriving at the Discovery Park Warrnambool, we were given a lovely sheltered site, courtesy of the Management team. Remembering not to reverse with the Hayman Reese Weight Management System bars attached, we took a moment to dismount them, before Paul parked the Jayco in beautifully!

To say the kids were excited about the caravan would be an understatement! Paul jumped inside to start the preparation, but the kids had to wait outside. It was such a joy to watch their eyes pop when Paul raised the pop top. It was hilarious watching their jaws drop collectively as the bed ends were expanded, and clapping their hands as we rolled out the awning. THEN we opened the door. One by one they stepped inside and gasped. “It’s so pretty!”, “It’s like a hotel!”, “I want to sleep in the other double bed!”, “ I bags the top bunk!”.

It was a lovely afternoon as the kids explored the Jayco, marvelling at the storage, the seating areas, the kitchen, and the fridge. The three taps on the sink confused them a bit, but they’ve since figured it out, and we’ll clarify it for you later!

If you haven’t been to Warrnambool before, the Lake Pertobe precinct is a delight for children of all ages. Different playgrounds, a maze, a flying fox for littlies, and one for older kids (and their parents). Not only that, but there are opportunities to hire paddle boats or petrol driven boats on the lake. All this was only a short stroll from the Discovery Park. Warm in the sun, the kids ran non-stop, while Paul and Kirstine envied their energy. As the sun began to set, a chill settled in the air, so we retreated back to the Jayco and its heater.

At the mouth of the Hopkins River, near Logans Beach, we took Luna and the kids for some beach fun. Luna adores swimming at the beach, and the safety of the mouth of the river, where it can overflow into the ocean when it floods, is a safe place for water play, and an off leash area for dogs. Luna met several good mannered dogs, but her favourite was definitely a 7 month old whippet. Talk about run! For the first time, Luna couldn’t keep up with this canine bunny rabbit tearing up the sand, but she had a darn good go at it. It’s so wonderful when she gets to meet other dogs and have such fun, even better when the owners have raised their dogs right, and everyone plays nicely.

We left the Discovery Park with everyone comfortable with the Jayco and it’s many features, and ready to catch up on some work at our next location. Still Warrnambool! Needing to get our eldest son back to Melbourne for the end of the school holidays, it was going to be easier to stay in town so we could pop him on a train.

The Surfside Holiday Park had been very patient with us as we organised our plans at the last minute. We had an awesome site in a sheltered area, and another with with a Jayco Expanda poptop arrived too. Our kids played with theirs, Luna played with their dogs, and the grown ups shared their fondness for Jaycos. Thankfully the kids went off exploring at the beach, so Paul & Kirstine could sort photos, write blogs and make contact with media. We felt strongly about the latter, we’d travelled through areas like Terang and Cobden, devastated by the massive bushfires of St Patrick’s Day and thereafter. With Paul’s experience in this field, he wanted to make sure that our trip was a reminder for emergency services staff to speak up about their mental health if they are struggling.

The ABC South West Victoria was very interested in our story, and Daniel came out to record an interview and take photos. A lead to the story is on Facebook, and the radio interview was broadcast early this morning. If we can get a link to it, we’ll share it!

The morning came for us to leave, and with it a state wide warning for destructive and gale force winds. Definitely not ideal for towing! Kirstine checked with the front office staff, and they were happy for us to stay another day, waiting out the winds! It was cold, very windy, it rained and it even hailed! All the while, we were safely ensconced within our Jayco. The kids watched a movie, Paul was busy sending emails, and Kirstine got to work trying to catch up on reviews on Tripadvisor for the caravan parks we’ve stayed at, and attractions we have enjoyed.

How bad was the weather? The very important South West Emergency Services Capability Forum had been scheduled for that day. It had to be postponed, as it was the kind of weather that meant that the emergency services would be needed, and they were. The Victorian SES alone, responded to over 1060 Requests for Assistance across the state.

We loved making new memories in Warrnambool and are very grateful to the holiday parks that supported us as we inducted the kids to the world of our Jayco, and then caught up on much needed work. We genuinely hope that some of the local emergency services have seen our photos on Facebook, heard our interview or been told about it. When your career, either paid or voluntary, involves helping people in difficult and disastrous situations, you cannot underestimate the effect this has. If you have an Employee Assistance Program available, or even mandatory counselling after traumatic events, find the courage to be honest. As hard as it may be, as trivial as it may seem at the time, speaking up will change the course of your life for the better!

On the level with Hayman Reese

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Towing a caravan is a huge responsibility, not only because Jayco have loaned the Expanda Outback to us, but because we are negotiating traffic “in amongst it” with other road users and feel we have a duty of care to our family and others on the road.

Anthony from Cequent, the parent company to Hayman Reese, feels passionately about safe towing and the need to break down the stigmas around mental health, so we’re a great team in more ways than one!

On Friday last week we packed up the Jayco at Big 4 Mornington Peninsula, and met with Anthony and a couple of his team. They arranged for a new tow bar to be fitted to the Legend, which then enabled them to fit the Hayman Reese Weight Distribution System when the Jayco was hitched up again. The system was fitted and carefully configured back at their head office, while Anthony showed us around the family of products in their showroom. This was super exciting – ROLA roof racks and transport systems, Thetford Porta Pottis, clever jockey wheels, cargo barriers, everything you need to build a caravan or camper trailer except the walls. Have you ever seen the hitches available for those massive 5th Wheeler caravans you see on the road? They are seriously impressive! Anthony is hoping to get one of the ultra-cool ROLA Titan trays to us, with some accessories so that we can move some of our heavier/bulkier items out of the Jayco and onto the roof of the Legend, reducing the tow ball weight of the caravan. Having also given us a Tow Ball Weight Scale to measure the load of the caravan on the tow ball, we’ll be able to adjust how we pack the Jayco to keep everything balanced.

Cath brought us coffee and couldn’t do enough for us as we waited in the showroom. Anthony brought in some of the management team to meet Luna (and us!), and we laughed when told that coming to meet us meant bringing presents! Such was the draw of Luna to the staff, that we ended up with a 2-pack of Reese LED lights (or UFO lights as Kirstine calls them), and a heavy duty Reese cable lock which will be great to help us secure the Jayco.

Rarely a day goes by that we don’t have discussions about the stigma of mental health and suicide. This day was no different. This particular team member spoke with us at length on the topic, with his close neighbours having lost their son to suicide. He was obviously still emotional about this, particularly as the acrimonious breakdown of marriage and refusal of access to the son’s children are believed to have been the catalyst to his decision to end his life. The mood was sombre as we discussed this tragic event, and the perception of the Australian public to the topic of mental health was raised. The manager we were speaking to is from Sri Lanka and described the differences between working there and in Australia. He told us that in Sri Lanka, your work colleagues are like a second family, and it is common to simply speak your mind when you are upset about something, regardless of whether work related or personal, with open communication between work “family members” being the norm. He believes that this is generally missing in the Australian workplace culture, which Paul & Kirstine could only agree with. Enforced hierarchy can make communication difficult, and the everyday greeting of “How are you?” is often superficial and rolls off the tongue without the expectation of a genuine answer. What would you do if a workmate actually told you that they were “feeling down and have been for a while now”? Would you stop and listen, even though their honest response caught you off guard? How different would it be if “going to work” was more like “working with family”? Paul and Kirstine have experienced workplaces like this, and fervently wish that they were more commonplace. We’d already heard from another team member who had a bad experience with a boss who was a corporate psychopath and left the job as a result in order to preserve his mental health. Sadly, Paul & Kirstine have experienced this end of the scale too, which begs the question – why can’t we all just get along without hidden agendas and be kind to one another??

With the Weight Distribution System fitted, Anthony and his team walked us through the process of mounting and dismounting the bars, and the difference in the vehicle’s balance front to back was obvious. With our upgraded Dobinsons suspension, and now the Hayman Reese system balancing us out with the Jayco, the responsibility of safely towing a caravan will be a pleasure!

Jubilant with Jayco!

With our Cub Camper Supamatic Escape due for some well deserved tender loving care, Paul reached out to Jayco to see if they could assist with a caravan so that we could finish the trip around to Western Australia. We were joyful beyond words when they contacted Paul and were more than happy to provide us with a Jayco Expanda Outback. Hoping for only a small van for Paul & Kirstine to sleep in (similar to the Cub), we were blown away to find out that the Expanda Outback can sleep all of us! We have a new Platinum sponsor!

While the kids were away over Easter, Paul & Kirstine had been guests at the Colac Otway Caravan & Cabin Park. Vi generously provided us with a cabin and gave us space for a few hours to set up the Cub so that it could dry, after a heavy dew in Castlemaine had meant we packed it up wet that morning. Canvas plus moisture = mould and mildew if you don’t get it dry, so this was a focus for us. By late afternoon it was ready to be packed up again, meaning that Paul & Kirstine could finally relax. Amazingly, we slept for 12 hours into Good Friday! That has never happened before! We took that as a sign that we were mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. Taking Luna for a walk later, we met people who shared their experiences with depression, and its effect on their families. The Legend being parked outside our cabin meant that people were looking to see who emerged so that they could talk to us. Paul even met a man who had attempted the ascent of Mount Everest! Aside from that initial long sleep, it was a busy few days over Easter. The peace and quiet of the caravan park was fabulous, and it was wonderful to sit in the garden, watching the chooks and the Shetland pony, while we waited for a roast to cook in the new hooded bbq. We summoned the energy to pack up and leave, thanking Vi, who was surprised when Kirstine told her that it was the most comfortable bed she’s slept in for a long time. As we were leaving, a man recognised the Legend from our stay at Moama and said hello! It’s a small world isn’t it?

The Big 4 Mornington Peninsula were so incredibly accommodating of our specific needs. Arriving initially with the Cub on Tuesday, we picked up the Jayco Expanda Outback on Wednesday, so this Big 4 gave us a second powered site, side by side, so that we could begin the changeover. Angelo at Jayco was brilliant, showing us through the caravan, and explaining how to expand the beds, work the fridge, cooktop and awning. He was thorough, friendly and patient, particularly as Kirstine was amazed at the features of the Jayco, and was excited with every switch, light and cupboard. We would have loved to take photos and record the walk through, but as many of the Jayco products are assembled on site where the pick up was scheduled, this wasn’t possible. We’ll just have to show you all the features ourselves, so stay tuned!

Thursday was a big day sorting and “moving in” to the Jayco, and on Friday, after meeting with another new sponsor, we came back to drop off the Jayco again, and take the Cub out to the repair agent we had organised. Lucky we have this hitching/unhitching business down to an art! The Big 4 staff also gave us a box of chocolates and a card for our wedding anniversary, which was such a wonderful surprise. By Friday night we were utterly exhausted again. That restorative sleep we had in Colac seemed so very far away, but my goodness, look what we have been able to achieve!

Our itinerary has been finalised

driving-oz

We have now published our last Itinerary!

It is hard to believe that we have been on the road for just over 12 months raising awareness about Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Assistance Dogs.

Unfortunately we have not been able to secure a Sponsor to help cover the Spirit of Tasmania fees to get to Tasmania and back again to complete our event (approximately $2500), so at this stage we will not be able to include Tasmania in our event.  If an organisation steps up to support our event and covers the costs, we will add Tasmania to the end of our travels.

We have also almost used all of our fuel vouchers, so we may have to reduce the distance we travel each day to ensure we stay within budget.

Check out our latest Itinerary by clicking here

 

Cub Campers – Over & Above!

 

Can you believe it’s been nearly 12 months since we picked up the Cub Supamatic Escape? It’s hard to believe that our gorgeous Cub has been through nearly 50,000km of the Australian landscape, including some of Australia’s most iconic roads – Uluru, Cape York, the Stuart Highway, the Strzelecki & Oodnadatta Tracks .. in many respects we have yet to fully comprehend the experiences that we have had, but all have been with the Cub Camper, and it has never let us down.

Being back in Victoria for the school holidays, we contacted Cub to let them know that  our trip may be extended, and as such we felt it right to return the Cub to them, making other arrangements for the remainder of the journey once we get going again. To be honest, with the extreme conditions that the Cub has been through, it needs a little bit of a “pick me up” as a reward for its resolute and dependable travel as our accommodation companion. Nothing that can’t be fixed, and we are in the process of organising this.

Yesterday we alluded to some massive changes in our journey.

You would be right in guessing that we will not be taking the Cub with us as we travel over to Western Australia and up to the Northern Territory before coming south. Maybe we’ll even get over to Tasmania if we “hold our tongues right”.

What you may not have been expecting, as we certainly weren’t, is to hear that Cub Campers have GIFTED us the Supamatic Escape, for the purpose of furthering our promotion of mental health and suicide prevention, that darned Black Dog that so many of us know.

ARGH!! Easter Sunday we received this news. We haven’t slept much since then, because we can’t honestly believe the amazing gift we have been given.

Will we give the Cub the love and attention she needs? Absolutely!

As to whether we will sell the Cub, or keep it to use as we later promote our documentary and book, we honestly don’t know. We had already been entrusted with the Cub Camper a year ago, and even had a Cub Story made by them at Yulara with our family in May last year.

 

They believe in US, in our travel to promote mental health throughout this country. They believe in YOUR ability to listen to and support us. Find them on social media – Like, Love, Share – tell them how awesome they are for caring!!

This is one time where we are speechless at the generosity we have been shown.. expect many #TBT from us in relation to the Cub, this fabulous piece of Australian engineering which has been with us since we left Victoria in May 2017.

THANK YOU CUB CAMPERS!

Of Buddhas in Bendigo & Colourful Castlemaine

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When you are tired from travelling and weary at the very thought of setting up camp with the kids, an excited welcome by staff at a caravan park can make all the difference! This is how it was at the Big 4 Bendigo Ascot Holiday Park. Their energy was infectious, and they were so happy to show us the sites they had put aside for us. They gave us two, so we had plenty of room to set up the camper and the swags! Even better, it was right at the driveway, so EVERY vehicle that came in to the park could see the Legend. We saw many heads turning to look at her awesome signwriting by the Nissan Motorsports Team.

Over the course of our stay, we had plenty of chats with staff about our trip, Luna, German Shepherds, the hard work that goes into running a caravan park. Luna even got to play with Scooter, a manager’s German Shepherd boy with gorgeous colouring, who enjoys his rides around in the park golf buggy. Watching these two play chasey around the Legend was a sight to behold, with excited mohawks on both dogs, which is a trait of excited German Shepherds.

Lynda took photos of us for the park’s Facebook page, Karyn gave the kids an extra treat when they went to buy themselves an icecream, nothing was too much trouble for these wonderful people! We made good use of the new camp kitchen and bbqs, and even got to watch our news story on WIN Bendigo on Tuesday night. Yes! If you aren’t following our Facebook page, you may not have seen the link we posted. We were interviewed by WIN TV on the shores of Lake Weeroona, and it was a great experience. Even the kids were interviewed, but of course, the news only goes for half an hour, so they didn’t get to broadcast the stories the kids wanted to tell about our travels! The reporter even commented that he “got a geography lesson” from talking with the kids.

Kirstine had taken a couple of hours on Monday morning for some “self care” and drove out to The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, which is under construction just outside of Bendigo. Being there just after 9am and the first visitor, it was lovely to have Chantelle open the door and welcome me, and to meet Michelle who has not long started working there. They offered to take me on a tour of the Stupa and the gardens. Watching a DVD about The Great Stupa and the sheer scale of the project, was fascinating. When it is done, it will be a major centre of Buddhism in the southern hemisphere, and a satellite for prayers for Peace and Compassion throughout the world. The religious artefacts and holy relics donated from Buddhist temples, displayed in cabinets are inspiring. Being able to read stories behind customs, as well as some hands on exhibits, makes the practises accessible to all. There is no requirement to be Buddhist to visit, and all faiths are welcome. This was particularly evident in the Peace Park, where bodhi trees stand tall with their heart shaped leaves, and contributions from other major faiths, such as Islam, Sikhism, Catholicism and Indigenous culture, will have their own place. Buddhism is inclusive, and even other traditions of the Buddhist faith will be represented. Such is the desire for Peace and Compassion, centred in this location. Kirstine turned the prayer wheels, their clockwise motion amplifying the prayers inscribed tens of thousands of times on scrolls sealed within.  The Stupa itself will be complete in a couple of years and must then be painted. The artwork already on the ceiling over the area which will house the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace, is so magnificent, that the entire structure will be breathtaking when complete.

A quiet stroll through the Peace Park after the tour left Kirstine feeling introspective and hopeful, and wanting very much to return and continue her prayers for Peace in the world. Having been able to place her hand on the jade halo which will crown the priceless Jade Buddha when it returns from its world tour, and is unveiled at the Stupa, was momentous. There are few words which accurately describe the energy in this location. Everyone is happy to be there, in this epicentre of Peace, and everyone is welcome to find some of this elusive way of being. Take the time to go and experience it for yourself.

Our stay in Castlemaine was brief, but this is a very pretty town at this time of the year. Even the site map from the Big 4 Castlemaine Gardens Holiday Park was full of colour and suggestions for sightseeing and activities while in town. Whilst we had been provided with a site for the night, we were told to choose another if we found one we preferred. As it turns out, we’d been given a beautiful spot anyway, right near the camp kitchen and amenities block. It was a shame to have to leave the next morning, but Easter is one of the busiest times in this area, and we had places to be and things to do.

In the last few days we’ve had some MASSIVE developments in our trip, and we’re looking forward to sharing this with you in the next few days. And yes, we’re leaving you with this cliffhanger!!!