We stayed in a tiny wee motel room in Moss Vale, but you’d swear it was the Ritz Carlton from our reaction. One week in a tent and you’d think we’d never seen running water before.

TV for the kids, a bath for Erin and a pub right across the road where we all had dinner. Bliss. My friend joined us for dinner that night, and for breakfast the next morning with his missus and their new baby – a lovely wee fella.

This was to be a short stop however, as NSW was about to face the most extreme heatwave in 22 years. Catastrophic was the word used to describe the conditions, which meant over 40 degrees for a good three or four days, extremely dry and windy too. We wanted to be set up on the coast when that arrived, so we took off after breakfast hoping to find an ocean breeze and a place to sit out the heat. We got one out of two.

The caravan park we booked had all the facilities. Powered sites with fresh water, a swimming pool, a climbing frame and ‘jumpy pillow’* for the kids. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t very nice, and it wasn’t on the coast. It was on the Lake. Close to the coast yes, but no breeze. Which would have been useful when it didn’t drop below 38 degrees one night.

Anyway it served its purpose. We lolled in the pool when the heat rolled in. We searched for shopping centres with air-con when it got too much. And we learnt another few valuable lessons.

(Restrospective rules: Number 1. Never put your hand where a spider might be hiding. Number 2. Double check your route before going anywhere. Number 3. Always leave with two full tanks of diesel)

Number 4. Never accept the spot they give you.
Go in and have a drive around before making your choice. We ended up in the middle of this grassy patch with no shade, harassed by bloody ducks and surrounded by cheap stationary caravans where most people actually lived, rather than just having their holiday homes. Now there’s a good bit of this in most caravan parks, but you can generally find a spot nowhere near it. Not this time though.

Number 5. If there’s a heatwave coming, stay on the coast.
Not near the coast. Actually ON the coast. This was our own fault, and right round the corner from the site, was a bloody coal refinery too! Duh!

It was hardly the untouched wilderness we were hoping for. But hey, we got through the catastrophic conditions and we got the solar panels working, which I was particularly happy about. We could now live off the grid, and go virtually anywhere.

Katie had a slow start to the school year in Bathurst, but it slowed down even more in Lake Macquarie. The heat made it difficult, we weren’t very well organised, and also Katie had a fit one day saying she didn’t want to work – which ended up in a crying huff from 9am, to about 3pm. It was a real trial of wills, and at the end she broke thank goodness – got on with the work and we haven’t looked back since.

Learning experiences of a different kind

Another experience the kids are getting on the trip are the people we’re bumping into along the way. They’re meeting all sorts of odd folks they wouldn’t come into contact with ordinarily. I think it’s actually a very good thing.

“There’s a lady in the kitchen who talks too much.” Katie tells me.

“Really? Let’s have a look.”

The kitchen was an open pagoda next to the pool, with a TV and a few benches, and a 30 odd year old woman sitting watching a quiz show. I arrive, say hello, start doing the washing up with Katie lurking at my waist, and wait.

It didn’t take long.

She couldn’t help herself. Offering up unbelievable details of life to someone she’s never met before, with virtually zero encouragement. I say ‘virtually’ because the more this lady talked, the more I felt sorry for her. I felt like she needed a little bit of a response now and again. “Hmm… Oh… Aha…”. She obviously had nobody else to talk to.

She was travelling down the coast when her ute broke down and needed a new engine. It was in the local garage but they were struggling to get it fixed. She had been there for weeks. Living in a tiny wee yellow tent right next to the jumpy pillow. She had a push bike, and would go for cycles now and again. She had a computer, and would do, god knows what on it now and again.

She talked about her father a lot, and her boyfriend from Dubbo who was looking forward to seeing her when she got the ute fixed. He loved her for who she was, nothing more, nothing less. She’s not going to get plastic surgery because she’s beautiful inside. Her father was from Maclean, which is a ‘Scottish’ influenced town further up the coast. He was safe from the bushfires so far, but he didn’t like the extreme heat. He liked to watch movies and the last one they watched together was ‘Twister’. She didn’t like it, and he enjoyed the fact that it scared her a little.

So there you go, I got all of that just doing the dishes.
Katie and I walked back to the tent.

“I see what you mean Katie.”

Tolerance. It takes all sorts of people to make up this world. Let’s just say it’s tolerance she’s learning.

The Pelican capital of Australia

One stinking hot day we had a trip to The Entrance to watch some old ladies throw fish to Pelicans.

Sounds weird but it was nice.

The Entrance is a naturally beautiful place that people have done their best to ruin with tacky shops.

Spot the Pelican?

We had an ice cream then home. No breeze again that night, and the next day it was 35 degrees by 8 o’clock in the morning, nudging 44 later on. The pool was like vegetable soup by lunch time. Yummy.

At last the heatwave was over. We were almost up to date with Katie’s schoolwork and it was time to leave Lake Macquarie. Woo hoo! An hour up the road at Port Stephens we checked into a cabin for a night. It took us about two minutes to realise we would have been better off spending the previous week there, but hey.

We were there to visit old friends of my mum and dad’s. Along with a few other families, we all used to spend our weekends out on Loch Lomond camping, waterskiing, burning sausages, singing and getting drunk. Not the kids of course, but we were dying to get stuck in.

Their son was visiting from Scotland so I got to see an old pal I hadn’t seen in 20 years. It was lovely to see them all again, and with my dad only just having passed away it was quite a nostalgic visit. A reminder that the memories we’re creating for the kids right now, will last a lifetime.

It was very exciting heading off to our next destination. Although a month or so into it now, I realise it’s always exciting when we have our entire lives packed up, and we set off for somewhere new.

Next stop?
The longboard surfers’ paradise of Crescent Head.

*Jumpy pillow

A large rectangle of latex that’s secured to the ground and inflated, creating an enormous pillow that kids jump on. I’ve only ever seen these things in Australia. I thought Skye had actually broken this one as two minutes after they started scrabbling all over the bloody thing, it was flattened. Skye had been digging around the edge with her spade and I thought she’d buggered it. Shit! I later discovered they deflated the thing in the evening so people can get some sleep. Ha!