Where are we now?

Where are we now?
Where are we now? Tahmoor, NSW. Updated 7th December 2011

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Humpback Season!

Well Shane finally had a day off on Monday, and we heard that humpback whales had moved into the Gulf. So we shipped Scarlett of to school and planned a day out together on the water in our boat. This is the boat mind you, I have only ever been out in once!

I don't know what I thought I would see, maybe one or two whales, but boy was I ever surprised!

Literally driving into town to the marina, I looked out across into the gulf and spotted my first whale breaching with a massive splash. I was so excited poor Shane had to try and calm me down, and keep me from jumping out of the car and racing down to the waters edge.


As soon as we got the boat out into the Gulf, we couldn't decide which way to go. In every direction I looked out on the horizon, were splashes from breaching whales and spouts of water flying up into the air as they were coming up and taking a breath.
At one stage we parked the boat about a km ahead of two whales travelling along parallel to the beach and turned off the motor. Within minutes they had caught up to us, swam past, then turned around and circled back to check us out. They were so close I could hear them breathing, which took my breath away!

Most of whales were travelling in pairs. We're not sure if it was mums with last years calves or mating pairs. But some were putting on amazing displays. They were breaching, lifting their tails high out of the water and slapping their side fins on the top of the water where it echoed across the gulf.

We felt guilty about having such a great day out without Scarlett (even thought there was no way she would have stayed out in the boat for over 6 hours), so I went and got her from school, and took her out on the water to see them for an hour or two before finally going home.

What an amazing day, we reckon we saw over 30 whales all up! I can't wait to get dad up here and take him out to see them; we really are so lucky to live up here.
Even today (Tuesday) on the way to driving Scarlett to school, we again saw them from the road, so we took a little detour down to the beach to just sit there together and watch the whales play.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Exploring the Range

 Most weekends we try and get out exploring the range behind the base. The base is over 300,000 acres including the range and it's filled with wild goats, sink holes and caves.

First stop was a massive cave called "Fig Tree Cave", guarding the entrance was a massive fig tree which made finding the caves entrance quite a challenge.

To get down into the cave you need to descend a very old rickety chain ladder, it was a effort to say the least. But once we climbed down into the cave it was amazing.

The pictures don't do it justice sorry, it was dark and the flash caught all the dust stirred up from our presence. But it went down so deep, and was filled with huge stalagmites and stalactite's.

Can't believe this is in our own backyard!

Wild goats run free all over the range behind the base

The next cave was called the "Goat Cave" for obvious reasons, it was where the wild goats hang out to escape the heat, and also go to die. It was at least a foot deep with goat poo, and the floor was littered with dead goat skeletons eeewwwww!

Shane exploring the far reaches of the Goat Cave

We stopped at a observation tower used in exercises to monitor the bombing and detonation of targets out on the range. On the roof was a couple of huge bird nests. Were not sure what the bird was who built the nest, but there was a healthy clutch of eggs waiting for mum and dad's return.

Big Sea Eagle, maybe those were her eggs?
Coming over the range to the other side where you meet the Ningaloo Reef

Bundera Sinkhole
Next stop was the 'Bundera Sinkhole'. This sink hole is protected as it contains endangered species of fish, and shrimp found no where else in Australia. It's tidal, meaning it is connected via a complex underwater cave system to the ocean.
Ningaloo Reef

We finally made it over the range, and met the crystal blue water of the beautiful Ningaloo Reef. We were up on the sand dunes above, when we spotted a huge Tiger shark cruising along the shoreline. I did what any normal person would do, ran down to the waters edge, and slapped my thongs on top of the water trying to attract him. Seems he had places to go and fish to feed, cause he never even looked back...

The Allousive Baby Turtles Hatching

The Ningaloo reef is one of Australia's biggest turtle hatchery's!

We were lucky enough when nana was here to see a mother turtle returning to the sea after laying a clutch of eggs, and now after many scouting expeditions the cycle is complete with seeing babies turtles now hatching.

Poor nana spent many afternoons, nights and early mornings (before sunrise) scouring the beaches looking for a hatching, and it was literally a week after she left we were lucky enough to see one.

We were walking along the beach one night, and one of the RAAF guys with us just happen to be up on the high tide mark when he saw three tiny little heads poking out of the sand. By the time we had all rushed up to him the sand erupted with what felt like hundreds of little baby turtles piling out all over each other, and making the mad dash down to the sea.

We had to be careful with our torch's as they can confuse the turtles path to the ocean, so Shane who had the biggest light shone it down the beach to the water and that was the way they ran.

We were so lucky the whole experience was over in less than 10 minutes, and if we had of been just a few steps ahead we would never of heard anything and missed the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First Day Of School

Scarlett is going into year 3 at Exmouth District High School. There is only one school here in Exmouth and it is a combined primary and high school with about 400 kids. Some of these kids come from as far away as Coral Bay 150kms away!

Scarlett's first day of school
We are 40kms out of town so poor Scarlett is first on and last off her little bus. We meet to bus up at the front gate a 7:15 and she gets to school approx. 8:15 for an 8:30am start. It's an early morning, but with that comes an early finish of 2:30pm to account for the heat up here in summer.

Scarlett with Ronnie her awesome bus driver!
 We are really lucky Ronnie let's Scarlett take here ipad on the bus so she can watch movies and play games. And Wednesday is lolly day on the bus, a huge hit with the kids as Ronnie gives them all lollies for the ride home.

Off we go for the hour long trip to school
Nana with Scarlett on her fist day

Hitching a ride to the front gate to meet the bus

Being the only kid on base has it's perks!

Her teacher is Miss Alborough who we met last year on our familiarity visit in Now, she is lovely.
Scarlett does really love school, but the heat has really knocked her. When I asked her how school is going? she tells me she hates recess and lunch. The heat can get up to 47 deg here, and the kids hate going outside. It's not unusual for Miss Alborough to find them sitting at the class room door at the end of break trying to feel the air-conditioning coming under from inside.
There is air-conditioning in the library, but they only allow so many kids in at a time. So I always let Scarlett know if it is going to be over 40 deg that morning, so on break she can make a run for it to the library and can get in before they close the doors.

A big week for Scarlett

I know I am so far behind in this blog..... the internet here is practically non-existent so it has been a struggle. But I'm tethering to my mobile and will endeavour to catch up over the next couple of weeks.

While here nana really helped with the last of the unpacking, and cooked some lovely meals for us. We took her down to Coral Bay for a day to thank her, turtle sight seeing (we only saw one big girl returning to the ocean after laying her clutch of eggs) and also snorkelling out at Oyster Stacks.

Oyster Stacks is our favourite snorkelling spot

Nana with this big female leather back had just laid a clutch of eggs up in the dunes

Beautiful big shell Scarlett found

Scarlett was also lucky enough to go horse riding with a beautiful Defence family that live here on the beach and out in the ocean!


But before we knew it, it was Scarlett's first day at Exmouth District High School, so the new routine had to begin.....

Monday, March 24, 2014

Let the adventure begin!

Saying goodbye was so hard, especially since we left Scarlett with nana and grumpy in Sydney. But driving 5500km's towing a 3 ton caravan for the first time and keeping an 8 year old entertained, was not the most ideal situation. So the decision was made to leave Scarlett in Sydney and get nana to fly her over later in the month, once we were settled.

Shane's Uncle Jo and his OEM
Our first stop was at Shane's great aunt Glady and uncle Jo's place in Gundagai for lunch. We spent most of our visit scanning family history documents for Shane, and learning about the 'Order Of Australia Medal' awarded to uncle Jo for his work in the local community, not bad for being over 90. That night we also visited and stayed with his great aunt Jean in Wagga Wagga, where here the family history lesson continued way into the night.

We decided we were going to free camp the entire way across Australia to Exmouth, proving you don't need a lot of cash to do this type of travelling. Some of the camps were awesome, we even had one on the bank of the Murray river that was so beautiful.

Murray River Free Camp

Day 8 on the road saw us make it into Perth for some R & R, and let Shane do some much needed mechanical repairs. Shane did a boat tyre on the way into Perth, and on the way out of the tyre repair place did a second tyre on the Pajero. We also had caravan fridge problems, and door troubles in the caravan that Shane fixed. Shane also had to get the windscreen of the Rodeo repaired after a 'near death experience' on the way into Perth. Oh, and we had to replace a deep cycle battery in the caravan too!

It was awesome to catch up with old friends Robyn, Martin and their girls, Geoff, Lachy and Geoff's new fiancĂ© Michelle, and my old flat mate Dave too. While in Perth, we stayed with Shane's old Navy mates Donna and Shane, they were the most amazing family and so welcoming.

Coral Bay
But after 4 days of drinking and eating it was time to make tracks. We stopped just short of Carnarvon on our first night (again another free camp), and on day 2 rolled into Coral Bay. We had made such great time we were only 100km's from reaching our goal, but two days early; so we decided on two nights camping here to relax and recover from our drive. WOW this place is so amazing, we did come here on our earlier adventures, and I had such wonderful memories. It was just as beautiful the second time 'round......

We arrived at the base on a Friday and everyone was so welcoming and happy to see us. The removal went smoothly, with the truck arriving early on the Sunday! After a week of unpacking and putting furniture together till 10'o'clock each night, we were finally settled..... mostly!

Scarlett and nana arrived a week later, and it was so good to see them both. I think it had been 25 days since we had left Scarlett, (the longest time I have ever spent apart from her), and it was so good to have her back with us.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Where did the last two years go????

2012 - We settled after our trip in a small Delfin housing estate in Sydney’s west called Ropes Crossing. Shane was posted to RAAF Richmond, and it was time to get back home and spend some time with the family.
Scarlett's 1st day of school
Scarlett settled into School well and went straight to 1st class (having missed Kindergarten while we were travelling around the last year). I will admit it was a struggle for her to keep up with her class, but she did really great and moved into 2nd grade the following year.

I started a job at Narellan in the June, but the 50min drive was painful, if it wasn’t for the hours really suiting me (basically come in when I want, and work from home when I don’t want to come in) I would never have taken it. The work was dirty and very manual, having to clean and list items for sale on eBay for a third party holding warehouse.
Living back near home was amazing being able to watch my beautiful niece Isabella growing up over that year. We had her naming day, and a wonderful Easter all together. And her first birthday was a huge day out at the local dam.

Isabella's 1st Birthday

Scarlett’s pet goat at nana and grumpy’s house had two babies, Scarlett was lucky enough to see them being born and raised which was a highlight every time we visited.
I managed to sneak away with my girlfriends Jodie and Michelle, to Phuket on a tour with the “Sunny Cowgirls”. Let me just say, what happens in Phuket stays in Phuket……..
Adam and Courtney's Wedding
I was also bridesmaid for my long-time friend Lynda at her wedding in Sydney, which was lovely and mum and Shane also attended. But I must admit the Wedding of the year was my brother Adam and his beautiful partner Courtney’s. Scarlett was flower girl with Isabella, and it was the most beautiful day. I think it meant so much to us all, as we welcomed the most beautiful amazing sister in law in the history of ever Courtney into our family. We just love her to pieces.
We went to the V8s for a week in Bathurst, and also spent the Oct long weekend in the hunter Valley. I think this was the first weekend the van actually made it out since the Tamworth Country Music Festival in Jan. Nicky, Martin and Scarlett who we met on our travels around Australia also came up with their van for the weekend. It was just like old times travelling around Australia together again.

The year flew and before we knew it Christmas was upon us!
2013 – Shane, Scarlett and I packed up the van after Christmas and went for a couple of weeks holiday down to the Victorian High Country, where we stayed at a lovely caravan park on the river in Bright. We explored Beechworth, which is a beautiful town famous for the last days of Ned Kelly’s life. We took a few day trips into the mountings to see the famous “Man from Snowy River’s Craig’s Hut” and other huts famous in this area. The scenery was amazing and we were reminded of the devastating bushfires around Falls Creek on the way in that decimated the area only a few years ago.

Craig's Hut

But before we knew it, Shane was called up once again and was sent back to the Middle East on another six month deployment. We managed a great week off together before he left; staying down at mums van in Currarong - but saying goodbye was one of the hardest days Scarlett and I have ever had to face.
Singapore's Merlion
Not long after Shane left I was made redundant and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I did not have to juggle work with Scarlett’s school drop offs and pick up’s. It was certainly refreshing.  I had also started a TAFE course two nights a week studying Small Business Management, so a good friend Barb offered to stay with me and help out on those two nights.
Time flew by with Shane away and in July we all met up in Singapore for 12 wonderful nights as Shane was given some R and R to see us. WOW what a country! We had the best holiday and recommend it to any family wanting to go abroad and visit a safe, clean, kid friendly destination.
We stayed on Sentosa Island and had everything we could possibly want to do at our door step. There was Universal Studios, and Underwater World, a huge Waterpark, and a million other things to see and do. We visited four of their world class zoo’s and literally ran out of time to see and do everything we wanted to do.
Gardens By the Bay Singapore
October saw Shane return home to us and the birth of the second little princess for Adam, Courtney and Isabella; a beautiful little girl named Emily. She is so beautiful and Bella is showing all the makings for a very protective and hopefully helpful big sister.

Isabella welcoming Emily

Scarlett was awarded Sports person of the Year

Bitter sweet was the birth of little Emily, as we also got word of our January 2014 posting to Exmouth in the remote north west of W.A.  
Shane immediately purchased a fishing boat and in November we went over for a handover visit. It is such a remote and beautiful part of the country, we all very excited to be embarking on another big adventure.
We have loved our time in Sydney, being close to family, and reconnecting with friends. Living at Ropes has also been amazing, I can honestly say I now know what living in a community is and will miss them all terribly.
So follow along the Cheney Caravan Of Courage as we take another trip across to the West xxx
Merry Christmas Scarlett

Thursday, March 6, 2014

40,000km's later!

I have had a lot of questions regarding how much we spent? Well here is a basic breakdown on our expenditure.

Fuel $9,800
Food $8,600
Accommodation $8,100
Entertainment $8,000

In total recorded expenses were $34,500 but I can honestly say it was closer to $70,000. I would never take on a trip like this without having at least $52,000 in the bank. It’s realistic to cover things going wrong (new car fridge $1,200) and expensive once in a lifetime experiences like the Horizontal Water Falls Tour $1,835. Why would you come all this way and not have the cash to do these amazing things as you probably won’t ever be here to get the chance again.
Fuel - This was our biggest expense! It was so expensive ($2.20 ltr) in some of the small outback towns, we carried two fuel jerries and topped these up in the cheaper areas whenever possible.

Food - This was our next biggest expense! We hardly ever ate out, making all our snacks and lunches each morning and taking them with us on any day trips. I also cooked every night in the van utilising produce purchased from the side of the road and fish whenever we were able to catch it or had it given to us. Again we bought up big in the larger towns, and avoided the smaller towns. Keeping a menu, and planning meals made this easier.
Accommodation – This could have been heaps lower if we had not had Scarlett along with us. Having an only child, and one so young, meant that we always went to big van parks with pools and playgrounds every other week or so for her to socialize. There are so many free camps out there that are beautiful, and Shane and I (had it just been the two of us) would have stayed many more nights at them. Our favourite free camps included – Gregory Downs Free Camp just outside Lawn Hill NT, Mary Pool Rest Area NT and Spring Creek Rest area NT where we left our van for the day while exploring the Bungle Bungles.

Gregory Downs Free Camp

The best caravan park was Cairns Coconut Resort, where Scarlett had an awesome time in their cool pools, playgrounds and Water Park. Followed by the Whitsundays Big 4, where we had a membership card giving quite a good discount on multiple night stays. We also invested in a Top Tourist Parks membership card giving us good discounts in their parks too.

Cairns Coconut Resort

Horizontal Waterfalls
Entertainment – The most expensive was the Horizontal Waterfalls Day tour out from Derby being $1,835.00 and by far the best experience we had on the trip. Second was the Whale Shark Swim at Coral Bay being $870, but also worth every cent. Also worth noting was the Kuranda railway/skyway at $220.50 and the yellow waters sunset tour at Kakadu NT $196.91, also two amazing tours we all thoroughly enjoyed. (These prices are/were for the three of us combined).

So what were our top 10 most favourite things?
1. Fraser Island

2. Horizontal Water Falls

3. Karijini National Park

4. Ayres Rock
5. Kakadu
6. Coral Bay

7. Margaret River
8. Cervantes

9. Kangaroo Island

10. Bremer Bay

So when you add up the van ($42,000), the car ($28,000), and the expenses ($70,000); we could easily have made a great headway into a mortgage……but in the end it’s only money, and the experiences and time spent together as a family….PRICELESS