Waylaid in Wagga



Waiting for mail to arrive can be a frustrating experience for us. It seems that no matter how organised the Senders and Recipients are, Australia Post delivery timelines just disappoint.

We were welcomed at the Big 4 Wagga Wagga Holiday Park, who kindly gave us a huge powered site for our stay. One of our three parcels was waiting for us, beautiful lens filters for the DJI Mavic Pro, provided and sent by FPV Australia & Mongrel Gear.

The next morning our next parcel arrived – Luna’s new mindDog vests and ID card. We were on a roll, and seemingly on track to leave on Sunday as we’d planned. A rainy day came in handy for creating a checklist – a review of tasks required before we can head outback again.

Paul took the opportunity to fly the Mavic Pro over the holiday park, with their permission, to provide them with aerial shots and a flyover video for their website. No air traffic (as per the Icom Airband radio), sunshine and light winds, and only territorial birds to worry about, it gave Paul a great sense of pride to pop the stills and video onto a BP USB stick and give it to the new park manager. Our thank you for their support of our travels.

You know that feeling of anticipation when you have something exciting due in the mail? Yes? Then you know the sinking sensation when the mail arrives sans awaited item. That was our Friday morning when we checked the tracking on a super important item, and saw it was still in situ, not even in transit.

Right – departure delayed, we kicked our checklist into action. Maintenance, replacing broken tubs, sorting under bed storage & rearranging same. Paul has been editing videos, and Kirstine went to replenish our emergency food supply tub. Part of Australia that we will be visiting are actually getting rain for the first time in several months. If roads are closed and you’re already on them, you can’t move till they’re opened again. “Be prepared” is not only a Scout motto, but ours as well. With a supply of tinned/packaged goods, we’re set if things turn slushy and we have to stay put.

The staff at Coles Sturt Mall have been awesome. Everytime Kirstine was there, she had engaging discussions with checkout staff about travel or mental health. On her last visit, the register operator was intrigued by our purpose, as he volunteers with Headspace in Wagga. They do outreach work in small neighbouring communities, and he agrees that it is there that the talk about mental health is important. Close knot communities welcome people coming in, trying to help their youth. This confirmed why we prefer to be in rural/remote towns!

A woman on a mission, moving a heavy trolley towards the carpark, Kirstine nearly forgot to stop in and pick up Paul’s medications from Blooms Pharmacy. Boy was she glad she remembered. Not only because it spared a return trip and accompanying frustration, but this errand item left Kirstine’s spirits buoyed in respect of recovering from the lows of PTSD. This, however, will be part of a subsequent post.

Monday morning arrived along with our registered post item. Why were we so very keen to receive this parcel? It contained BP fuel cards for the remainder of our trip. These cards were provided by the Nissan Australia Foundation, matching BP’s initial provision of sponsorship at the commencement of our journey. Without their ongoing support, our trip could not continue.

Tuesday afternoon brought confirmation of activated fuel cards, and a huge sigh of relief.

That evening we watched the sunset with a different sense of anticipation. This time as we watched the thousands of fruit bats take flight from their roosting trees on the banks of the Murrumbidgee, we waved goodbye. Sunrise for us would mean time to leave Wagga Wagga for now.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems

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Being a trained Remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAs) Pilot is fantastic, according to Paul.  Not only has he made new friends through his recent FPV Australia course in Sydney, the topic of RPAs (also known as a drone or unmanned aerial vehicle, UAV) has been a great way to start discussions about our current journey around Australia.

In fact, quite a few of the bigger discussions that Paul has had have started by someone asking him about his own RPAs and its capability.  Paul has also been able to help some people understand the laws around drones.

Unfortunately, there was a situation recently while Paul was flying his drone legally, testing the lens filters that we had just received.  Thankfully Kirstine was acting as Paul’s spotter and noticed that another person had decided to get out his own drone and started flying it towards ours from less than 30m away.  Kirstine let Paul know where it was in relation to Paul (as a good spotter should) and he returned his unit to the ground. The fact that the new person decided to fly his drone directly into the path of Paul’s and within about 15m at one stage as well as flew over the top of Paul where he was standing, understandably upset him.  He decided to not say anything as he didn’t want to make a scene.

Later on, we were walking around the edge of the river near where we were staying, when the same person decided to fly his drone directly above our family.  Our eldest daughter received a small drone for her birthday, (we’ve created a monster – FYI), and  actually said that this other person was not flying in a safe manner.  She didn’t like it and felt scared.  That was when Paul decided to go and have a quiet conversation with the hobby flyer.  As you would expect from an arrogant person, when Paul politely raised concerns for our family in relation to his flying techniques he just brushed Paul off and told him “how does it affect you” and to just “keep walking”. This person could not care less that he had flown his drone into the path of another, and was in breach of regulations. 

There ARE rules around where and when you can fly a drone, based on its weight.  In this case he was breaking at least 3 laws. But that is enough about other people having a negative affect on us. Suffice to say, just because you can afford a drone, doesn’t entitle you to fly it how you like. Please, educate yourself, or even better, contact FPV Australia and complete their CASA Approved course. 

On a positive note, Paul got to put his training and experience to the test whilst we were in Gundagai.  We found some very old bridges (vehicle and rail) which showed potential of being part of some fantastic pictures.  Paul did all the things a trained RPAs Pilot should do.  He checked his location on Oz Runways to make sure he could legally fly there.  He had his Icom supplied Airband radio on him so that he could listen to any aircraft in the area.  He laid out his Mongrel Gear Australia Landing Zone mat on the ground to highlight where he would land.  He checked the weather and did all the safety checks on the Mavic Pro prior to take off.  Kirstine was his spotter.  The result was a fun and safe flight for the DJI Mavic Pro. Keep an eye on our You Tube channel for the footage once Paul has had a chance to edit it!



Pathways to Healing

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During the week that we were in Sydney, guests at the Ingenia Big 4 Emu Plains Holiday Park, Kirstine and the kids spent a lot of time chauffeuring (hop-a-long) Paul to/from his course. Thankfully negotiating the busy M4 & M7 was made infinitely easier by the amazing Clearview Mirrors on the Legend. More people should have these on their vehicle – it really does help to take the stress out of driving!

Kirstine ventured out with the children into Sydney one day, to see some of the iconic sights. We figured out the Opal Card system, and hopped a train from Emu Plains to Central. The kids squealed with delight to be on a “double decker train”, and were amazed that the seat backs are reversible, so that they could face the direction of travel. From trains, to the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, street performers, a trip to Manly on the ferry, the kids were agog at all the people and structures. So much so that on the way back to Emu Plains, the littlies dropped off to sleep.

The staff at Ingenia Big 4 Emu Plains were very accommodating of Paul’s injury, and even gave us the key to the disabled shower facility for the week that we were there. It’s amazing how much you take a simple thing like showering for granted, until you have only one foot available for balance!

Leaving Sydney on a rainy Saturday morning, towing the Cub, was an interesting experience! Whilst Kirstine handled it well, it was very obvious that local drivers are very self-focussed on the road. We’ll definitely be teaching our kids to drive in a different way!

We’re really fond of the township of Bungendore, and staying at the showgrounds again was lovely. The caretakers are delightful, remembered us and the kids, and we made the time to enjoy the fresh scones they brought over as we were setting up. Ann even brought a dog biscuit for Luna, and chocolates for the kids. No-one missed out!

It poured rain on one day, which we were prepared for, and with Kirstine miserable with a head cold, it was a close-quarters movie day for the family in the Cub. Five people in one camper trailer could have been a recipe for disaster, but everyone seemed to understand that we were “all in this together”, and by the next morning, the braided river system that had been the road to the amenities block, had subsided and freedom of movement was enabled.

Upon leaving Bungendore, we were welcomed at Gundagai Tourist Park by Gavin & Allison, for a week’s stay. We can’t head to the outback until Paul’s ankle is more healed, and of course by this stage, other family members had succumbed to the head cold. We maintain that our youngest son was Patient Zero. He usually is!! It was a quiet week of catching up on video editing, school work, and itinerary planning. We’re waiting on one small jigsaw puzzle piece before we can confirm our itinerary for NT/WA. We know it’s going to hot. We know it’s going to be humid. It’s just the way our travel cookie has crumbled!

While in Gundagai we had a discussion like none we’ve had so far. Mr S came to see us on our first evening, and shared the story of the loss of his son only earlier this year. Completely unexpected, by his parents and friends, Mr S’s son was a gifted musician, and one to take care of his friends, and who’d had a best friend in a German Shepherd growing up. In his early twenties, Mstr D was always willing to listen, and always asking if his friends were okay. Whilst Mr S shared with us more personal details of his son’s life and death, we respect that this is not our story to tell. We are very much hoping to see Mr S again next year when we are back in NSW, and maybe film an interview. Why are we keen to do this? Mr S has started a Facebook page, and despite his own loss and grieving, regularly travels and visits the pub in Tasmania where his son’s friends hang out. He has done this regularly, and now has Mstr D’s friends see him and come and talk, arm wrestle, and share their feelings about life in general. The statistics for this part of Tasmania in relation to youth suicide are horrifying. In the Apple Isle, a pristine state that so many people seek to escape to from the rat race of metropolitan life, why are so many young people despondent about their future? Mr S is so concerned about this, and doing his part to disrupt the mind set of these young people. “If you feel like it’s all too much, phone me before you do anything”, he has told them. Despite his grief, his own pathway to healing involves trying to protect the vulnerable youth in his son’s home town. We were moved to tears, and emotionally exhausted afterwards. As we say to our children, you never know what battle someone is fighting on the inside, so always be kind. Mr S, thank you for sharing your story, your pain, and your passion for the wellbeing of the youth your son cared about so much. We are in awe of your determination!

Flight school by FPV Australia

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FPV Australia (one of our fantastic sponsors) offered recently to put Paul through one of their Flight Schools so that he can become a commercial Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Pilot.  This certification means that Paul can capture images with his DJI Mavic Pro in areas where a hobbyist cannot fly.

The training was really thorough, as you would expect, considering that FPV Australia is certified by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to provide this course. Paul learnt heaps thanks to his instructor, Jason.  The training included navigation, airband radio use, emergency procedures, charging batteries, weather predicting, aeronautical terminology, legislation and much more. It was the first time in nearly 18 months that Paul has had to concentrate full time on a course. He enjoyed it, but it was not without its challenges to his anxiety. 

Luna joined Paul for the training and was a huge hit with the other students.  Of course, as Paul was still on crutches for the first two days of the course, it was difficult for him to take Luna outside for toilet breaks, but thankfully the students kept offering to take Luna out at every break.  In fact it appeared to be a competition as to who was going to offer first and take Luna for a walk! At one stage there was a tie so Alex and Zoe both took her out. Of course, Luna was not used to be without Paul, and on the first day of being taken outside by one of the course students, Luna zipped away and headed back inside towards Paul. The students trying to help, freaked out thinking that they had lost Paul’s assistance dog. As soon as Luna found Paul (inside the building), she dropped by his side and stayed there. Everyone was amazed at the bond between Paul & Luna, and her insistence on being next to him as much as possible. Of course, she’s not a pet, she’s trained for a specific purpose and was on duty.

Luna was also a huge hit with the staff at Club Marconi and the Star Buffet.  It was great that FPV Australia had informed the club and restaurant that Luna was going to be there, so it was relatively stress free for Paul.  The staff were fantastic with Luna and were all looking forward to seeing her each day.  

As part of the training, Paul and the rest of the students had to fly a DJI Phantom and also perform the role of Spotter.  This practical time was not about playing with the RPAS, but it was about honing our skills to become professional pilots. 

Interestingly Luna, who loves to try to catch drones, behaved during the practical flying sessions.  As you can see from one of the photos, there was one unit directly behind her and yet she stayed where she was told and performed the role of spotter perfectly.

Thanks to the excellent training, Paul was able to pass all the tests (aeronautical theory and practical RPAS flying) which means he is closer to gaining his Aeronautical Radio Operator Certificate (AROC), Remote Pilot Licence (RePL) and RPA Operator’s Certificate (ReOC).  All we are waiting on now is the paperwork from CASA confirming that Paul is now a licenced RPA Pilot.  We were also very pleased to hear that Luna had been accepted as an honorary student and actually received her own certificate when we visited their head office in Yass!

For Paul, drones are no longer a toy, but a tool of trade that will be used at every opportunity to capture what we are doing whilst on our event, and hopefully Paul will be able to pick up some freelance work to help us fund this journey that we are on.  Now that Paul has completed this training, his letter to Santa includes list of  bigger RPA such as the DJI Phantom 4 Pro or a DJI Inspire 1 or 2 Pro (or similar), so that he can capture the best quality images and video that he can. Kirstine isn’t sure if Santa’s elves produce them at the North Pole, but she’ll put the stamp on the letter for Paul anyway!

John, Chantal, Kim and Jason, THANK YOU for all your support of not only our event, but for supporting Paul through his training. He never felt like “just a number” on the course,  and even when his anxiety had him struggling during the day (or panicking the night before), you made sure procedures were in place to ensure he had the best experience possible. He passed, and we are eternally grateful to you all. 

Complementary Communications -refined by RFI

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It has been a busy couple of weeks, our pace being slowed (literally) by Paul’s broken ankle.  We have already told you about Incredibly cool – Icom and Goodies from GME, and now we have RFI on board, who have refined our communication capability.

RFI produce the highest quality antennas for radios.  For us they supplied a UHF antenna (CDQ5000-B), a VHF antenna (CD21-35-50) and a Bury System 9 phone kit (including an antenna,CDQ7195-B) to make sure that we have the best possible reception available.  These antennas work brilliantly with the vehicle mounted UHF radio and Airband handheld radio that Icom supplied us.

Kirstine and the kids met up with the RFI team whilst Paul was on a course with FPV Australia.  Unfortunately, Paul had to wait until his ankle started to feel better (and he was able to wear a moon boot) before he was able to fit the new equipment.

Paul was finally able to install all the new equipment onto the Nissan Patrol Legend last weekend and it has made a huge difference to the quality of our communications. Of course Paul couldn’t fit the equipment on his own, so Cooper volunteered to became the apprentice mechanic and helped Paul by getting the tools and equipment he needed.

The Bury mobile phone system really easy to install and use.  There is a noticeable increase in the phones reception and the fact that it holds the phone securely whilst also charging the phone is fantastic!  Now all Paul needs is a new mobile phone 🙂

The Icom Airband radio sits nicely on the dash in its specially designed vehicle bracket. Having the radio mounted antenna (normal handheld style) on whilst the radio is in the bracket, gets in the way of the passengers view.  With the new RFI airband VHF antenna (a cable to the external antenna replaces the handset one while in the vehicle), the vision is clear again.  The reception is also a lot better.  Paul fitted one of the external speakers that GME supplied us with, which ensures no messages are missed, even in a noisy environment. 

The Legend looks like it’s ready to take on the world, or the Australian outback anyway!

The Art of Listening


A recent thought provoking conversation with a palliative care volunteer validated so much of what we talk about regarding suicide prevention. Before you get too lost in wondering what the link between these two topics is, read on.

“We’re trained to Listen. Even if we’ve heard the story a dozen times before, we listen as if it’s the first time”. Putting this into the context of this lady now caring for an elderly relative, it would be so easy to say “yes! You’ve told me before!”, but who does that benefit? A moment of frustration leads to the sorrow of a loved one who doesn’t remember already regaling you with the story in question. Instead, a simple “oh! Tell me more!” validates that person’s story, their life, and their wellbeing in that moment of time. This is the Art of Listening. 

Kirstine clearly remembers a moment when her father was in palliative care, and his pain relief was causing hallucinations. “Look at the birds on the bed!”, he said, as Kirstine examined the end of the bed for the invisible avian visitors. “They’re lovely, Dad, what sort are they?”. “They need to get outside”, Dad continued, becoming agitated. Another relative in the room suggested Kirstine shouldn’t encourage the situation, but she saw no harm in it, and telling her father that were were no birds would have upset him. He was concerned for their wellbeing, as much as Kirstine was concerned for his. “Do you want me to let them out, Dad?”. He nodded. Kirstine opened a window briefly, and made the motions of helping the birds to freedom. Dad relaxed visibly then. The birds were safe and free.

Recently, Paul called Kirstine into a conversation with Ms Z (who asked not to be identified). She thought she had heard of us on radio or television. Ms Z was emotional, and Paul felt that she needed another female to speak with, though he stayed in the conversation too.

Estranged from her family after losing a loved one, Ms Z has struggled as a lone female. Told that she could not attend her father’s funeral, and having been so close to him, Ms Z was open in speaking about her isolation, her visits with her psychologist, and her struggle in being given a “diagnosis”. Ms Z felt that with her state of mind being “named”, this restricted her behaviour to within those boundaries. She considers herself as grieving the loss of a parental figure who always protected her from the rest of her family. Without that protection, she is struggling to define herself as an individual separate to her family.

We stood and listened as Ms Z spoke from the heart, the light rain fell over us, and Kirstine held her as she sobbed uncontrollably at the world – her loss, her grief, her anger, her loneliness. It was a hugely emotional moment for all of us.

Later, Ms Z came to spend time with the children, showing them how to crochet, and leaving us with a beautifully crafted piece to remember her by. When we left the next day, she had already been to say her goodbyes. Ms Z is confident that she will get better, as dark and scary as the world is for her at the moment. We look forward to one day reading her story, her way of reconciling the conflicting emotions she experienced as she comes to terms with her life.

Kirstine also spoke with a man, Mr M, who commented on her Nissan shirt as a way of initiating conversation. He had seen the Legend in the campground, and was curious but also eager to share his own story.

After ending a toxic relationship, Mr M had consumed a large amount of alcohol before encountering a rather amazing Victoria Police officer (VCP – Very Caring Police officer). This officer stopped him trying to step in front of vehicles, as he attempted to take his own life. To retell his story, we are paraphrasing, but the outcome is the same.

VCP – “You have two options, Mr M, we’ll take you home, or you we’ll arrest you and lock you up for the night”.

Mr M – “I have a third option. You give me your gun, and I take care of myself here and now”

VCP – “That’s not a good choice Mr M. How do I explain how you got my sidearm?”

Mr M – “you can tell them I hit you over the head, took it, and turned it on myself”

VCP – (a big fellow apparently, so option three was not plausible!) “That’s a lot of extra paperwork for me Mr M, and won’t really work. What if I gave you a fourth option?”

Mr M – “what’s that?”

VCP – “we take you to hospital and get you some help”

Mr M took up the fourth option, and got the help he needed in hospital. Years later, Mr M is still here, and telling his story and encouraging others to speak up and connect with people.

When is the last time you actually LISTENED to someone struggling with a problem?

Did you know that if someone opens up to you about their mental health, they genuinely DON’T EXPECT YOU TO FIX IT?

Did you know that when people talk about suicide, if they feel that their story will be heard, often already have a plan? Did you know that by telling you, they want help to stop feeling that way?

ASK them how long they’ve felt that they needed to end their life. ASK them how they planned to do it. ASK when they were planning on enacting their plans. Don’t tell them that they are being selfish, or will get over it.

This may seem scary to you, but simply by LISTENING and offering to support them as best you can, you could be saving someone’s life.

The current generation is forgetting how to interact on a personal level, not a virtual one. Previous generations are still working through the taboo of speaking about suicide. Be the change we need to see in the world! Discover the Art of Listening.

Remember, if you are concerned for your own wellbeing, or that of someone you know, you can contact Lifeline 24/7 for support. They are always ready to Listen.

Broken ankle & changed plans


We can’t speak highly enough of the Big 4 Seymour Holiday Park for their support of us after Paul broke his ankle. Not only did they extend our stay, gratis, which brought Kirstine to the brink of tears, but the staff were always trying to make sure that Paul had the access he needed to the amenities, putting as little strain as possible on his bad ankle, as well as his good one while on crutches!

A second x-ray while we were in town thankfully didn’t show a second break, which had been suspected. Paul was given the all clear to start using a moon boot in a week’s time!

The day we left, packing up took much longer than usual, as you might expect. It was ridiculously frustrating for Paul to have to sit and watch the kids and I pack up camp. We weren’t in any rush though. Our eldest daughter has been watching closely how to pack the inside of the camper, and took to that like a duck to water. Our youngest daughter jumped up on top of the camper to help manoeuvre tubs into place, to secure with ratchet straps. It was the first time she’s done it, but she’s obviously been paying attention and knew just what to do. 

Kirstine started her full time driving duties, and reversed the Legend into place to hitch up the Cub Camper. 

We were sad to leave Seymour. We didn’t have the opportunity to meet & greet, or speak with community groups, which is hard for us as we like being busy in that respect, yet EVERYONE we met was SO helpful!! Even Kirstine’s grocery runs to Woolworths led to super friendly chats with staff & locals. Whatever is in the water in Seymour, keep putting it in there! 

Our travels were only short that day, and we pulled into the Big 4 Borderland Holiday Park in Wodonga mid afternoon. Not only had the wonderful manager provided us with a site for the night, she marked out the best ones on a map, and pointed out one with an ensuite that we were welcome to use! With the strain of moving with crutches taking a toll on Paul’s good ankle, it was super convenient to have amenities less than 3m from the camper. A massive & ominously dark storm front had us setting up as quick as possible, anticipating a downpour, but rather amazingly, it all blew over! It was an early night for everyone. The kids were dealing with the mental change in processes – Dad supervising and Mum driving, Paul was exhausted for the same reason, and still in pain with his ankle. Kirstine was fatigued after 2.5 hours of getting used to driving while towing the camper. Thankfully she is very familiar with that stretch of freeway, which made the adjustment much easier. 

The next day’s trip was longer. We were bound for Goulburn for a couple of days. Enough time to try and rest Paul’s ankle and work out our routine for the coming week. The Managers at the Big 4 Governors Hill Carapark were delightful. Upon hearing of Paul’s broken ankle, they offered us an ensuite site, to save him having to move to the amenities block on crutches. Kirstine was struck dumb by this generous offer. As we’ve organised accommodation along the way, we are always grateful for anything we are offered in support of our trip. To now have an ensuite available for our stay in Goulburn, was just above and beyond. Even better, the kids got to enjoy the bird enclosures, working model train village (they could make the train stop at the station!), and the musical ants in the garden. Kirstine loved the well appointed camp kitchen, so she could cook up a storm, and Paul met some great people also staying at the park. He got to swap stories with another SES Controller, speak with a delightful gentleman who is undergoing cancer treatment at Peter Mac in Melbourne (and who offered to help us pack up the next day!), and another man who now lives in his new bus, and was fascinated by what Paul had to say about drones, while Luna & his dog played!

We’ve become accustomed to “rolling with the punches” on this trip, and finding ways to overcome obstacles as they throw themselves in our path. Paul’s broken ankle has been a pretty big obstacle, and one that couldn’t be planned for.

Anticipating Frustration, we’ve instead been met with Acceptance.

Anticipating Irritation, we’ve instead been met with Generosity.

Good people have not only supported us, but offered additional resources to make Paul as comfortable as possible.

We’re still figuring out the impact to our itinerary, as we want to be sure that Paul’s ankle is healing properly before we head to the outback again. We’re currently in Bungendore, NSW after a week in Sydney, which we’ll fill you in on later. We have much to do here, but as Paul REALLY needs to rest his ankle, Kirstine is NOT above “misplacing” his new moon boot in order to restrict his movement .. hehehe.