Travel soothes the soul and heals the heart….

For those of you who know me there has not been a year where I haven’t spent many a weekend or a holiday travelling.

This may be with school groups/students or even personally.

What a year it has been. Not only has losing someone changed all that but add in COVID, and the ‘normalcy’ turned to shit.

I promise to not refer to COVID again! We all hear way too much these days and it has been all consuming for way to long.

Instead I am going to take you on a journey, the first this year. One of healing, time out, adventure and really, to put it bluntly, a necessary one.

It was time to take a break. To try and relax and take some time to ‘take stock’, ‘reflect’, ‘laugh’ and be somewhat normal.

Here we go!

The borders were due to open and we had a week free. So before the outback was booked up by all the travellers we planned our escape.

Day one – Saturday saw us take just a short trip to the Sunshine Coast where we began our weeks journey at Chateau Haines. The food was fresh, the beds amazing and the company even better (it was with my parents). What a way to start 💐

Day two – Sunday.

The driving started! We were up before the sun had risen. An eskie and picnic packed by my fabulous mother! Coffees made and a roadie croissant breakfast. The aim was to get to Blackwater. Approximately 8 hours away. Easy I said!!

It was great, along the way my co-pilot kept me going with trivia, reading the news, readers digest articles and more!

We passed the big orange and all sorts! There really are some ‘big things’ in the Australian outback!

The big orange, the big banana, the big elephant, the big spanner.. and more. However, I digress.. (what a word!)

We did make a slight detour to visit a friends old stomping ground. We even managed to take a photo outside the house she grew up in! That was a ‘tick’ on the achievement list!

Blackwater….. I’m not sure what to say but …. it is a small town. Not a lot was happening and the Japanese gardens they advertise were great to see through the fence. With not a lot open and the coal trains km’s long passing by we settled into our accomodation.

We did visit the second largest show of flags in the world – when compared to the flags in New York. Each flag represented the nationality of the miners/workers. That is pretty interesting! Brings to the forefront of the mind how multi cultural we are!

Dinner….. to be honest this set the trip up… red rooster was the only real option! I mean it could only get better! With time to relax and read, the TV on, I settled into my sofa bed and slept like a log! Nothing was open! Including the motels bar and restaurant.

Stomp, stomp, stomp!!! It’s 5;30 am, I believe and the shift workers were up and walking down the steps which backed onto our little ‘donga’. They were up and laughing, their work trucks beeping as they reverse!! Okay it’s time to rise!

I do not remember what breakfast was that day!! We packed up the gear and the car and we set off… Longreach here we come!

Actually now I do! We stopped in Emerald at a great cafe called Vybe. We only drove past the hospital three times trying to find it. I did comment on the fact if we went past the hospital again they might get suspicious! However, breakfast was delicious and the bucket of coffee even better!

There is a lot to see in Emerald. With our time limits though we narrowed it down to two things. Two amazing things.

First the walk through the mosaic tiles showing the past, present and future of the times! This was brilliant. Reading the plaques and ‘walking the story’.

The start of the walk
Each mosaic has a story!

Of course, the second thing we wanted to see was the largest Van Gogh sunflower painting on an easel in the world. I mean why wouldn’t you!! It was pretty cool!

Here it is!

So, goodbye Emerald, here we come Longreach. With a full belly and some sights under our belts we continued on our way to Longreach.

The next stop was Rubyvale and Sapphire. The place to fossick for the real thing! We topped up our coffees at a local shop and experienced the budget cuts it seems in the building of the public toilets!

The coffee stop at a local shop.
Budget cuts! Where the heck is the door?

Back on the road! With a short stop in Jericho, which backs onto Jordan creek. How biblical!

They may not have had any stores open but they were taking care of the open air drive in theatre, old style!

The schedule!
Old town sound!
The murals in town! Beautiful!

Okay Longreach here we come!! The destination and one of the main reasons we set off to experience the outback!!!

This was actually sunrise at the welcome sign!

Longreach is amazing!! We managed to sneak into the luminescent light show at the Qantas museum! This was brilliant! Not to be missed! I cannot show you any photos nor describe how brilliant it was! You will have to go and see this for yourselves!

Sunset in Longreach
The accomodation 🙂

Longreach has so much to offer! The Stockmans hall of fame, the Qantas Founders museum and just what is around town. The town centre is a hustle and bustle of life. The Merino bakery a place to visit. Casey’s has great coffee to kickstart the day! So much to see including amazing sunrises and sunsets!

Oh and they have a courtesy bus to the birdcage hotel. The local pub which provides decent pub meals and a great atmosphere!

Sunrise!
The amazing murals at the accomodation!
We traded the pasture for the poisson (fish) on the second night.
Stockman’s hall of game – the traditional wife beater singlet and the history of it!

Longreach was an amazing place to visit. So much history, so much to read! Along with my new akubra we set off to Winton!

Winton – a place with so much history! It is known for the one place in the world where a dinosaur stampede has been recorded. In fossil form!

Banjos, our wonderful, amazing and most certainly memorable accomodation had a lot to offer. The one ply toilet paper, the brown towels, which disguised the stains, and the brilliant maroon shower curtain which stuck to you if you tried to turn around in the shower!

Eeeeiiikkkkk that was a surprise and one I hope not to relive! The darn shower curtain!

I mean for me it’s just a bed. However, it will be a fun memory. Good old Banjos!! It’s for sale everyone, just in case you wanted a slice of dirt and dust in outback Queensland.

Our cute exterior!
The shower dripped so I wrapped it up!

It was time to explore the town and the sights. This included the Winton club, where the first Qantas meeting occurred. Next to this is Arnos wall. A wall made up of all sorts of ‘stuff’ collected from the dump and inserted into the wall. Not only are there those amazing places but there is also the musical fence. A place where you can pick up a stick or a tube or even a metal pole and create sound on the pieces of metal, tubing and more that have been placed in all the right places.

The drum kit!
More of the musical instruments!
Arnos wall!

So while in Winton one cannot miss the dinosaur stampede! We booked a 3/4 day tour with Vicki from red dirt tours and boy what a day!

She was exceptional and took us on a day to remember. Off track with morning tea on a ‘jump up’ and lunch outside the stampede. We learnt so much from her and she was so amazing to travel with!

Here are a few photos to help!

Approaching the stampede! A preserved, only one in the world, dinosaur exhibit.
Can you believe this is natural erosion! Spectacular!
Who would wear shoes when one can be totally in touch with nature!
Beautiful! The outback is mesmerising if given the time to take it in!
Someone has a sense of humour!

The main area… the stampede!! So here goes! The history behind it is amazing! So many people were involved, it lay undisturbed for so long after it’s discovery! It is quite a place to visit!

The level of sandstone and rock that was removed to expose the stampede!
The larger carnivore on the hunt for the smaller herbivores while the ‘chicken’ size dinosaurs went crazy!
Take a walk around the area where the stampede occurred!

Winton was amazing. As the QLD borders had opened we did not get a chance to get in to see the Age of the dinosaurs which is a place which has the bones of dinosaurs, workshops and more! Next time!

Leaving Winton we headed off to Tambo. On the way we stopped at Ilfracombe and also Barcaldine, where the tree of knowledge is.

Again so much history, so much has happened in our own back yard! Who would have thought!

The machinery museum in Ilfracombe!
The structure built in response to the real tree having been poisoned!
Spectacular! The sounds even more so!
The ‘Eureka flag’ and statue. A place where the Labour Party was formed from the shearer’s strike!

Tambo. We arrived. What a tiny but spectacularly tidy and beautiful town. The people so friendly, bar the lady at reception, the pub with such a nice atmosphere and more.

Sitting outside facing the pool, the birds buzzing around, the sun setting and the breeze picking up, one could not enjoy the downtime. We even popped into Tambo teddies. A ‘must’ visit for those passing through.

The view for the evening.
Tambo teddies
The locals enjoying our crackers!
The country pub meal!

From Tambo we headed off to St. George. Our next stop. We passed through Mitchell and much more. The landscape, the tall grasses yellow and green, the mulgas and of course the kangaroos and cows!

Artwork at Fanny Maes
We stopped just in time for the echidna to safely cross the road!
The Balonne river weir St.George!

St.George has a lot to offer and with more time we would have explored. However, we did the most important thing. A wine tasting and of course this was accompanied with a ploughmans platter. The cool breeze and a Merlot from the winery’s grapes could not have been a better way to enjoy the cool crisp breeze.

The ploughmans platter
The vines!
Riverland motel – a lovely place’

So the journey and outback adventure was coming to an end. We had seen to much and been so many places. So much history in our own back yards.

It was time to not necessarily relax, as the alarm was always set for 7am, but there was time to read, time to talk, time to learn and more.

The frosty morning and fog covered lands were the sight that greeted us on the last day!

So off we set, homeward bound. A long day ahead and a slight detour!

The painted silos something I had seen along the way. So while on the toilet I googled the nearest one to Yeralbon, a place we were passing through.

What a sight and what a story!

Spectacular!

To sum it all up.. as words and photos just do not do it justice, taking the time to, ‘take the time’ was just what the soul needed. The brain and the heart often rule our lives. More often than not one wins over the other.

This time we trumped them both and just got in the car and drove!

The outback is amazing, the landscape soothing.

If you get the chance, fill up the car, pack an eskie and just start driving. Who knows where you will end up and what you may see!

Although, it is great for the heart and good for the soul!

That liberating feeling! (Part 1)

It’s weird to think that a week ago today I was finishing the final day of the Salkanty trek, ending up at the base camp of Machu Picchu……

Now I am sitting in my all to familiar little abode with the spring breeze floating through the house, the suns out and I feel liberated, free and totally self satisfied!!

The South American trip was two years in the making! It’s hard to believe now that it is over.

I am still in awe of what we did as a team! I mean who can say they have built three fully functioning toilets for a small kindergarten class that were using the small patch of dirt behind their classroom as their toilet??

Well I can and the 8 students who came with me can!

It’s amazing what hard work, being a team and basically pushing through the mental and physical barriers of being exhausted, adjusting to altitude and an overall lack of sleep can produce.

Arriving at the camp, day 2 of being in South America, our view snow capped mountains that stretched for days! Tents, our accomodation.

I was totally overwhelmed with where we were and what we were about to undertake. Would we finish our project in time? Would we all adjust to the altitude? Would anyone get sick? All these thoughts, racing through my head.

I laugh now as all it took was looking out at the view and we had to realise that we had already achieved so much! We had arrived! The rest was easy!

Waking each day at 6:30am, breakfast in the small hall built by a previous team using mud bricks called Adobes, we fuelled our bodies for the day ahead. The hike down to the school was always a quick and easy one! As downhill always is!

When we arrived it was straight to work. Mixing concrete, sifting sand, walking to get buckets of water…. the list goes on! We all became brick layers, sifters and concrete mixers. We watched the wall start to grow, the first line of bricks already down! We worked alongside a local ‘Mistro’ named Sisilo! He was so amazing and man did he work. He NEVER stopped!

Here in the first world we have no idea what hard work is! These guys do!

Nothing happens quickly in a third world!

Over 6 days our toilet block started to take shape! It was extraordinary! Each day we would pack up, dirty, exhausted and sweaty ready for our warm bucket showers.

These showers though, were at the top of the hill we walked down every morning. Now as I said downhill was easy! The uphill was crazy! We felt the altitude when we started the climb! It was only a 1.16km walk, straight up mind you, but it felt like a mountain! Your heart pumping faster than ever before, your breath stolen from you, your legs burning and the sounds of blood pumping in your ears! Altitude is an amazing thing! You can’t see it but you can feel it!

It took us 47minutes on day 1 and I am proud to say by the end of the 6 days we managed to get it done in under 26 minutes! Booya!!!

When given the chance we can do amazing things! From start to finish here is our progress!!

How amazing is that!!!

I have been asked a few times before why would you pay, or make students pay to go overseas to build a toilet. Why make them pay to work?

Well it’s easy! Look at what we achieved! In the first 6 days of this amazing 17 day adventure (see part 2 coming for the second half of the trip), we flew 33 hours, went on 5 planes, discovered the airports, came together as a team, shared stories, discovered the sights of Cuzsco, hiked up and down a hill each day, watched our project transform from one row to ten to over 20!

We watched the small local kids smile as they themselves saw their toilets transform! Our gift to them! This strange group of white ‘Gringos’ who has flown across the world to build something just for them!

We pay to help as without us they would still be going to the toilet at the back of their classroom, in the dirt and the dust.

We pay to show our over privileged children just how lucky they are!

We pay to give back to those less fortunate.

We pay to find ourselves and to build on what we have already!

We pay to build resilience, grit, patience and awareness!

We pay because the benefits far outweigh the costs!

(Stay tuned, this is only a snippet of what was a life changing, mind altering and liberating 17 days!)

Road Trips – what not to do!

Okay, so if you are ever unsure about how your relationship is with not only your partner but also your kids….. Take a road trip!

An unplanned one. One you haven’t thought out, planned for or even spent time trying to figure out what’s what.

Then see if you all come back in one piece, or if you all come back at all!

Let me take you down memory lane. It was a little while back now, but at the time we needed yet another car.

My husband had a thing with never hanging onto a car for to long.

We needed not just a car… but a car that was in Victoria.

Living on the Gold Coast one would think after the hours he had spent looking, there would have been one closer. Well there wasn’t.

So without the money having cleared in the bank ,the four of us set off on a plane to Melbourne.

A young daughter aged 8, a teenage boy aged 14, myself and my husband. We had no idea what the car would be really like, or even if the money was going to clear in time, but I trusted the hours it seemed my husband had spent on cars for sale and in the end all would be okay.

I even managed to imagine the beautiful scenery, the laughs we would have and the memories we would make!

road trip 2

The hard part was I didn’t even know where we would be sleeping…. this sent my OCD and planning brain into overdrive. A few deep breathes and quiet restrained meditation I managed to just go with the flow. I mean what could go wrong?

I should have realised that all would not go as planned when my daughter kept asking; ‘mum, what are we doing?’ ‘where are we staying’, ‘how long will it take’, ‘Is there a plug for my iPad?’. My reply was valid and honest in that I said; ‘I have NO idea darling!

This is what happens when a 40 year old male has an idea. I am sure if I had said, “honey there is a great dress in this shop in Melbourne that I have to see”, he would have laughed at me and turned up the TV!

FAST FORWARD – skip the plane ride and near death experience in the Taxi from the airport.

Well we pulled up and the Nissan Patrol, chunky mans car, was in the drive way.

I left the two men to do their thing, while I got the kids organised to start the long trek home. The whole time I was thinking to myself, lets hope this car is not a lemon!

lemon.jpg

Once all the finances had been settled we got into the ‘new car’. The husband and kids exploring all the new things and me just sitting int he front seat thinking I hope we make it! How different we are!

Spending the days driving for hours on end with a continual nagging feeling that the car was a ‘lemon’……… only to have this fueled by the air con shutting off …….. and then the speakers stopped working…… and being told, ‘do not worry this is normal!’

You have got to be kidding!

Not only do the long drives test your patience but also your ability to sleep in weird and wonderful positions.

I also managed to keep everyone happy, all while feeling flustered, as I had to clean the husbands sunnies, peel a lolly wrapper for the daughter and unpack the condoms we had bought for the teenage son who wanted to see how big he could get them to be if he held them out the window.

Does this sound normal to anyone else.

Mum, whens lunch? Babe, can you make me a sandwich? Mum, can you change the song? Babe, could you get me some water? Mum, how long until we stop?

Babe, why didn’t you see the sign? (Me thinking; because I was making you your bloody sandwich on my lap, on the lid of an esky traveling at 110kmh with no air con in the middle of summer, what bloody sign??)

My reply: Sorry darling,  all my fault, I will be sure to keep my third eye out for all the signs next time!

I swear I was was a second away from doing a tuck and roll out the car! The patience was being tested, the fuse being shortened!

Three days later, two motels, a lot of coffee, lollies and country hick towns we were almost home.

Now I must share with you some tips should you ever have the desire to drive and unplanned trip of 1800km….

  1. Take your own pillow – and one for each of the kids as they will fight no matter what. If you don’t you will find they steal yours just when you need it most!
  2. Toilet paper – As the need arises often when you need it most being in the car with an old man and two young children. Oh and of course it will be right at the time when you just passed the last toilet stop for the next 100km!
  3. Pack music – I think we could all sing the lyrics to the full CD of James Blunt… I still, today, 5 years on cannot play the same CD! It has scared me for life! One CD – 3 days. You do the math with how many times we listened to each song!
  4. Remember you will forget something, and no matter what or who did it, it will be YOUR fault!
  5. 5. Wet wipes are essential – you can clean up anything and everything with these! If you remember to pack them!

It was a long trip and we all survived, but I must tell you what append to the car. Well it was in fact a lemon and we sold it three weeks later.

I was right after all!

Awe – one of the top ten.

Awe, one of the top ten emotions I learnt about in my positive psychology course.

It’s actually a great word.

Before I talk about it let’s define it:

Awe is: “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder” (dictionary.com). It’s synonyms include: wonder, amazement and astonishment.

I hadn’t realised how many times I had experienced this emotion until I took the time to think back and reflect on all I have done, everything I have seen and where I have been!

Here are some of my ‘awe’ moments, where I have felt amazement, wonder and complete overwhelming appreciation for beauty. Being in that moment, in that place at that time to capture what I have.

1. Sitting in a cave which acted as a safe haven for the women and children. Housed in the mountains of Kenya, one of the guards puts down his machete and picks up a camera to take some photos.

2. The skull of a deer lying next to a watering hole where lions and elephants frequent. The circle of life in real time!

3. An African sunset. I just couldn’t believe where I was and how lucky I was to experience this alongside people just as motivated as me and who take the time to develop our young people. Taking them across the globe to volunteer and dedicate their blood sweat and tears to help others. A truly awe inspiring thing to do!

4. This picture says it all. Sitting in a hotel sipping on a cider looking over a watering hole and this is what we get to see. Animals in their natural habitat. A truly unique experience, and amazing to be a part of.

5. A young monk sitting in the temples in Cambodia. Days spent dedicating his time to helping others give thanks. Only having one meal a day, he is still so thankful and always willing to do what he can to help others appreciate their surroundings and to be thankful for what they have.

7. Cambodia 2017 – working as a volunteer alongside some students in our sister school. Two boys who have nothing, sitting next to one another watching what was going on. A special moment for them both that I captured. I was in awe of how resilient these young people are despite the hardship they face each day!

8. A small puppy in Myanmar, one of many, that just sits alone in the city, the temples or any place where tourists may be. Some are used by the locals to get money or donations as they ‘cannot feed themselves’. A helpless puppy.

9. A tree that has shown us building a temple will not prevent it from being all it can be. One of the most beautiful temples in Cambodia.

Taking back its space!

10. A cupcake parlor called ‘Blooms’ in Cambodia. Run by an English lady who educates the local women and gives them a skill. This amazing cafe is situated on a street full of dust and pollution; however, behind the glass walls resides this magical place and the most delicious cupcakes!

11. Three of the children from our sister school in Cambodia. They may have walked 5km to school that morning, had no breakfast and the only clean water they can access is when they are at school! Despite this, they are still so truly happy and grateful!

An amazing culture!

12. A picture tells a thousand words. The killing fields in Siem Reap, Cambodia. A confronting experience no matter how many times you go. A bracelet made and hung as a sign of respect and acknowledgement to every body, set of bones or child killed in what was a very hard time in Cambodia.

13. In the skies of Myanmar, a bird takes flight!

14. Like life sometimes we refer to the light at the end of the tunnel. This just made that statement seem so real! It resonated with me as on another level as the tunnel may seem dark, but there are always patches of light along the way!

15. Early in the morning, camped on the side of the Clarence River in NSW, we wake up and find a spider has spent hours crafting the most beautiful and intricate web. The dew made it even more amazing to look at. The time, the effort and detail was amazing!

16. Working with some horses in Gatton, QLD, and this little spider (mind you a very poisonous one), is out getting some sun!

17. Snow on the Gold Coast.

18. I thought this was normal, I mean come on, everyone has a snake help them when they are marking. She was so comfortable!

19. Taking the pet snake for a walk – is this normal. The looks we got that day!

These are only a snippet of the many times I have experienced the emotion, ‘awe’.

Be sure to take the time to look up,put the screen down and take a moment to appreciate your surroundings!

It is truly amazing!