Not all who wander….

About 10 years ago, when we had one baby and one on the way, Gaz and I bought ourselves a Jayco caravan.  We always planned to travel around Australia one day, when we could, and we made sure we got the outback model, as we wanted to be able to take it off road, to the Western Australian Coast and The Kimberley especially.  We knew it was a few years away, but we figured we would use it heaps for local trips in the meantime.

The trouble is, we didn’t.  It was too hard for weekend trips.  By the time Gaz got home and hooked it up of a Friday night it was dark, and of course, even if we only went an hour or two away, we were trying to unpack, expand the bed ends, make the kids and wrangle a tired toddler, and baby.  Then we added another two babies to that….and, besides a trip to QLD for a few weeks, we barely used it at all.  We ended up selling it, and it held it’s value very well, we didn’t get much less than we paid for it.

We weren’t however willing to give up the idea of travelling, and while people wholeheartedly believe me to be the princess, it is actually Gaz that is not a tent man and very much prefers his comforts.  We do however have hilarious memories of our one Christmas holiday in the tent that we bought.  We arrived at Mitta on New Years Eve at 8.30pm, so members of our family decided to take pity on Gaz and help put it up.  It was a grouse tent, but no one had put it up before, and at the end of the erection there was a flexipole left over and no one could work out where it went.  Oh well, it was standing, all’s well that ends well, right?  So, it had three rooms off it, and we put Georgia’s portacot in one, the other three girls on a mattress in the other, and Gaz and me were  in the third room.  The others, sensibly, went to the pub, and Gaz and I put everyone to bed and hit the sack ourselves.  For about 3 minutes.  Then there was a storm, and thunder so loud that the dog jumped up in the air and landed directly on my HEAD, in the dark..imagine not seeing that coming?  Then the rains were ‘ere, and we found out what the leftover pole was for.  It was the one that stops the rain coming into your tent.  Mitta had never seen as much rain in 35 years, and most of it was in our tent.  Gaz and i either end of it and tried to push the roof up so the million gallons of water spilled off, and when we heard people whooping and yelling happy new year, we leaned towards each other and kissed, both with one hand still trying to hold up the roof.  Fun times.  If I heard Gaz say “never again” once, I heard it a million times 😛

After that, Gaz got rather obsessed with having a bus, and experience told me that if Gaz gets something in his head, he is not inclined to give up easily.  He started looking at buses for sale all over Australia, and believe it or not (I know you are getting to know us better and you will believe this), we drove to Sydney and back in ONE WEEKEND from Melbourne, just to look at a bus.  We did this with four tiny children.  We are INSANE.  And in the end the bus wasn’t very nice when we saw it for reals.

About 3 years ago, we did buy that bus.  We couldn’t exactly afford it, but extended the mortgage to get it, as we figured that it meant a lot of us in terms of lifestyle.  Having four kids, hotel rooms are hard to get, and very expensive, and it would make travelling more accessible to us, and easier to manage with so many youngsters.

Meet the Funbus:

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He doesn’t mess around, the Gazman.

Gosh we have had some joyful times in this baby.  Some people laugh at us and the luxuries that we take on the road with us.  But we choose this…other people choose much more expensive houses, or suburbs, or cars, this was what we wanted, an investment in family time, and the dream of one day making that big, big trip.  It makes it so much easier to travel with kids when you have a kitchen and full sized fridge and comfy beds – we love it.

As you can imagine, when I got cancer, we thought the dream was over.  Especially now I am on chemo all the time, and need to be near a hospital.  What made it even less doable though is the fact that we haven’t got the money for Gaz to take the time off work to set off around Australia for one or two years.  We have been on some good trips in the last 18 months, but sometimes the bus has made me sad, as I think about the trip that we can’t and won’t do.

The work on my book is pretty much wrapped up now, and besides a bit of publicity, there is little for me to do until it comes out on August 26th and I start promoting it in earnest.  I have been wondering to myself what I would do to fill the time…it is 2 months basically, and I have thrived on being so busy.  Also, I know my nerves will be going into overdrive – omg, a book coming out!  Then, I had a brainwave.  The convo went like this:

Me: Gaz, how soon can you take a month off work?

Gaz:  Whenever really.

Me:  If my next scan is good (in about 2 weeks), let’s take the bus to Western Australia and drive up the coast to Broome.

Gaz:  Yep, good idea.

And just like that, once again, I have realised that I DON’T have to lose everything, I just have to find another way.  So, as long as the scan is showing some shrinkage (I am not expecting otherwise, but you never know), and I get the go ahead to go on maintenance chemo, we are packing up the funbus and the four kids and heading from Melbourne, across the Nullabour.

Once again I have a new lease on life.  How incredibly FUN to plan a trip, with such an enormous amount of this beautiful country to see…on the way there, and up the coast.  I am spending heaps of time planning what I will cook, how I will turn it into a fun learning experience for the kids, how to use my manual camera again, so I can get some really good shots.  What books we’ll take, what movies we will watch, when we will stop, how long we will stay…phew!   A whole month of rambling around with my fairies and my fella, with nothing else to do but be together and relax.  What a DREAM.

It’s really helping at the moment…I am doing it tough with chemo side effects, truth be told.  When I wrote my last happy post I was starting to feel some pain in my foot from the skin drying and peeling, a side effect of a tablet chemo I take called Xeloda (known in cancer circles as Helloda).  Since then it has got a lot worse, like my skin is mostly peeled off, especially on the very tender arch of my foot, and there are cuts, like papercuts all over it.  It KILLS.  For the last four days I have been able to do none of the things that keep me sane, like cook dinner and do the school runs and the groceries etc…everyone has had to do everything for me.  That is when I start to fall into a bit of an emotional heap, as I feel the quality being sucked out of my life.  I have also lost the feeling half of one of my big toes, and the tips off about 3 of my fingers.  One day the thing that keeps us alive won’t be almost as deadly as the bloody disease….we can hope, anyway.

So, I am busy, busy in planning mode!  Any tips anyone has on driving the Nullabour from Melbourne to Perth, and travelling up the the coast, places to stay, things to see, things to avoid, easy things to cook, how to maximise storage, good ideas to make it interesting for kids, basically ANYTHING, please leave a message here, or over on the Five Fairies facebook page.

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5 Comments on “Not all who wander….

  1. Ask Mummy Smiles…she did a fabulous trip around Aust with the children. Ofcourse WA is the best!!

  2. Do you have a slow cooker or a pressure cooker? If you were in one spot for the day you could put the slow cooker on in the morning then forget about it til dinner time, or a pressure cooker can be put on at the end of the day and dinner will be done in 10 mins, and you could do double and reheat leftovers the next night. Some recipe ideas- risotto, lasagne, bolognese, casserole, slow cooked roasts etc. Enjoy your trip!

  3. Oh your fun bus looks sensational.
    We did a 10wk trip (3.5+ yrs ago) from Sydney to WA across the Nullabor , up to Monkey Mia and back down the coast again all the way down and arround to Esperance – with a Jayco Caravan.
    Our twin monkeys were 5 at the time and it was an awesome trip.

    I wrote quite a few posts about it. The Camps Australia book is excellent for free camping spots , be aware budget in that Caravan parks charge for each child on top of the site fees.

    The Nullabor has limited water so you carry all you need and even in the caravan parks you can’t hook up to water.

  4. You’ve picked the right time of the year weather wise and will most certainly have plenty of company as the “grey nomads” follow the warmer weather up the WA coast. I worked in Derby for a few years and when making the move back to Perth made the decision to drive back so as to see some more of the state. Best decision I ever made and I hope it’s the same for you. I’d highly recommend the detour into Monkey Mia for a few nights. I had time limits as I had to be back in Perth for Christmas so managed to squeeze my intended one night stay into two but loved it so much that the following year I made the trip back to spend a week with the dolphins. I hope everything falls into place for you to pack up the bus and hit the road!

  5. Hi, I just wanted to say that your article Mum’s don’t die with the light inside of you is probably the only article that I have gone back to read twice. Tonight as I go to bed feeling exhausted and like a shitty parent, a bad worker and an all out loser, I read your words to draw on your strength! Just looking at your recent blog entry and I get a sense that you are really cherishing every moment in life. I loved the recent one about you sharing some quality time with your daughters. Thanks for the encouragement and for keeping things in perspective.

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