A Country Practice … a trip down memory lane

Growing up I remember sitting down every week and watching A Country Practice, it was certainly a very popular show back in it’s day and reruns now are proving popular with everyone reminiscing and remembering their younger years. A Country Practice ran from 1981 to 1993 and was based around a hospital in a rural country town called Wandin Valley, following the lives and stories of the patients, the residents of the town and their ups and downs as they went about their daily lives. It was just a down to earth wholesome show, but one which did delve into some of the more serious issues of life from time to time. Everyone had their favourite character, who was yours? Was it the fun and quirky Molly, Sergeant Frank Gilroy, the town busy body Esme Watson, larrikins Bob & Cookie or was it Dr Elliott or Matron Sloan? There are far too many to choose from!

Now for those that don’t know, most of the outdoor scenes were filmed in and around Windsor, Pitt Town and Ebenezer in western Sydney, NSW. We recently decided to go on a trip out that way to visit some of the places that featured in the show. If you google enough you’ll find information and addresses on these locations, but we have provided information below that we found. Please do keep in mind that most of these places are private residences so remember to respect the owners privacy and do not attempt to enter their property.

First up and probably the most recognisable house from the show was the house that Frank and Shirley Gilroy lived in, as this was also the house that appeared in the opening credits.  

LOCATED:  Corner of Buckingham Street and Chatham Street, Pitt Town (opposite Pitt Town Primary School). (Private residence)


Next up is the Wandin Valley Church which featured in many weddings and funerals. This beautiful old church was actually Scot’s Church in Pitt Town, built in 1862.

LOCATED:  99 Bathurst Street, Pitt Town (corner of Buckingham Street)


Another unforgetable property was the Wandin Valley Police Station where Sergeant Frank Gilroy was based.

LOCATED:  17 Johnston Street, Pitt Town (Private residence)


The location of Muldoon’s Store has now been converted into a service station.

LOCATED:  85 Bathurst Street, Pitt Town (on the corner of Church Street)


The Wandin Valley Store is a pub, the Bird in Hand Inn in Pitt Town. 

LOCATED:  81 Bathurst Street, Pitt Town (intersection of Eldon Street)


The Wandin Valley School was Pitt Town Public. 

LOCATED:  17 Buckingham Street, Pitt Town


The Country Practice clinic

LOCATED:  Corner of Arndell Street & North Street/Court Street, Windsor (Private residence)


The property used as the Wandin Valley Hospital is a beautiful historic private residence in Oakville called ‘Clare House’, which was built using convict brick in 1828.

LOCATED:  29 Clare Crescent, Oakville (Private residence)


The local high school featured in the show was Windsor High.

LOCATED:  Mulgrave Road (turn off Windsor Road), McGraths Hill


Now this is one that everyone will know, who can forget the night Molly died, most of Australia was in tears that night! The filing location of Molly’s farm is located in Maraylya.

LOCATED:  St John’s Road, Maraylya (on the right hand side of the road, just up from the intersection with Cattai Ridge Road)


Doctor Terence Elliot’s home after he moved from upstairs at the clinic is located in Ebenezer. We didn’t get any photos of this one as the large property and house is built back off the road and hard to see.

LOCATED:  695 Sackville Road, Ebenezer.  Camelot (private home).


Historic Ebenezer Church (which is Australia’s oldest church) was used in several weddings for the show.

LOCATED:  95 Coromandel Road, Ebenezer


I’m sure there are plenty that we’ve missed as numerous buildings and houses in the area were used in the show, do you know any others?

Just a reminder though, please do keep in mind that most of these places are private residences. Respect the owners privacy when viewing and/or taking photos and do not attempt to enter their property without prior permission from the owner. The information given in this blog post is already freely available on the internet, but we have put it all together in one easy to find location.

Travel … we love it, but why do we do it?

Let’s be real here, who doesn’t love travelling?  You get to explore new and exciting places, you spend time with family and friends and you make memories that will last you a lifetime. Why wouldn’t you want to travel?

The thing is though, traditionally a lot of people have disregarded travel within Australia, in leiu of the ‘more exciting’ overseas travel. Australia is this huge vast land with some of the most spectacular scenery and many Australian’s never even get close to seeing it all. We all travel overseas to Europe, Bali, Thailand …. but we forget about this marvelous place that is right here in our own backyard.

Camel riding at Uluru, NT

The realization of this came years ago when George met a traveler from overseas who was telling him about all the places he’d visited during his holiday to Australia ….. he asked “Have you climbed the Harbour Bridge”? … No, “Have you seen Uluru”? … No, “What about snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef”? … No. It was at the moment that George decided that it wasn’t right that foreigners have seen more of our country than he had.

Uluru, NT

Luckily we both have the same love of Australia and of camping so this was the perfect plan! Over the years we have tried to experience as much of our country as we can, making the most of every experience that is thrown our way.

We can now say that yes we have climbed the Harbour Bridge, we’ve watched the sunset at Uluru on top of a camel, we’ve snorkeled the reef, we’ve explored underground mines, flown over a pearl farm in a helicopter, watched the sunset over Cable Beach, seen the Staircase to the Moon in Broome, held a baby crocodile, played with a baby lion and Tasmanian Devils and traveled through every state and territory in Australia. We still have so much more to explore, but we are getting there bit by bit. You see, the thing we decided to do was to just get out there and do it. We didn’t want to wait, we didn’t want to lose our chance to see the country.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

This all really hit home to us when Shelly’s mum passed away quite suddenly at the age of 71. It was then that we realized just how short life can be, you never know what lay around the corner so never ever put something off. We wanted to make the most of life and experience all the weird and wonderful things that come along with that, whether it’s standing on the tip of Australia, driving a racecar around a circuit, cuddling a Tasmanian Devil or even spending nearly $2,000 for a day trip to the Horizontal Falls, we want to do it all! There may never be an ideal time to travel, you may never have enough money, and you may never have enough time …. But if you leave it too long, you might lose that chance altogether.

We met back in 2003 and now 18 years later we have so many memories and experiences we have shared together. We both still work full time, we are paying off a mortgage, we have pets and families, is this the ideal time to be travelling? Maybe, maybe not? But we make it happen, we work hard to save money for our travel and we fit it in between work. We aim to take one extended trip of around 2 months every 3 years, with many, many smaller trips in between! We don’t have all the time in the world and we certainly aren’t rich, but we make it work for us.

We need other people to realise that you can do it, you don’t have to wait, you just need to find what works for you and your family. It’s great now that we are starting to see so many young families travelling and doing the lap, the life experiences those children are going to learn just can’t be taught anywhere else. We are both very passionate about travelling Australia and want nothing more than to share our adventures and inspire others to do so as well. And now with Covid and travel restrictions in place, maybe it’s the perfect time for you to get out there and explore what Australia has to offer as well?

For this reason we have our website, blog and various social media pages where we document our 4WD adventures and share our experiences with everyone. We all like to pry into other people’s lives don’t we, well here’s your chance! Hopefully we inspire others to also follow their dreams and get out there and explore our great land. There are so many new adventures waiting to unfold. Life is too short to live with regrets ….. So go on …. get out there!

Tailem Bend, South Australia

Tailem Bend is a small town located about an hour out of Adelaide, SA. This rural town is built on the banks of the Murray River and was once an important service centre for the South Australian Railways. It was proclaimed a town in 1887, not long after the railway line went through.

Nowadays though, Tailem Bend is more likely known as the home of Australia’s newest racetrack, ‘The Bend’. The Bend is Australia’s only track to comply with the latest FIA Grade 2 and FIM Category A standards, making it eligible to host international categories such as the World Endurance Championships, IndyCar and MotoGP. It’s also the second longest permanent circuit in the world, after the Nurburgring in Germany.

Construction started in 2016 and the first Supercar Championship race meeting at the track was held on 24–26 August 2018. The track and precinct is very impressive and it’s not even finished yet, plenty more plans in the works.

This was built on what was once Mallala Race Circuit, which for some time was also Mitsubishi’s testing facility. The track was purchased by the Peregrine Corporation, owned by the Shahin Family. This is the same family who is responsible for the OTR stores in SA (if you don’t know about this family and their story, look them up. It’s quite interesting to see where they have come from and what they’ve built). What they’ve done with the OTR stores in one thing, but this whole motorsport complex at The Bend is something else.

We will say that the one thing that we really loved about this whole story is that the Shahin family really do seem so down to earth and very involved in all aspects of their businesses. The way the staff at the hotel spoke of this family was great, you could tell they all appreciate them and have a genuine like for the family. We heard that they actually do spend a bit of time in the complex and meet and speak with the staff.

THE BEND MOTORSPORT PARK

Now we haven’t attended a race meet here or personally raced on the track, but we’ve both been to plenty of racetracks over the years (and George has raced on them) and this one stands out by far. Not only do you have the world class racing circuit, there is karting, drifting, rallycross, a 4WD adventure park, private villas, a Rydges Hotel and a Big 4 caravan park all onsite.

RYDGES PIT LANE HOTEL

You’ll find the hotel located within the main building of the pit lane complex. The hotel offers 100 guests rooms, some with private balconies and views over the racetrack and pit lane. Also the Apex Bar and Restaurant, Apex coffee lounge and obviously plenty of meeting rooms and event spaces.

The hotel has a very modern vibe and we really liked that. Our package deal came with a bottle of champagne on arrival, dinner and breakfast for 2. The food was great, we definitely couldn’t fault that! And the cocktails, yum – do yourself a favour and try a Lemon Meringue Martini! Lastly the staff were all great, ultra friendly and always happy to have a chat or a joke. We all know customer service is important, but when you have a stay like we did, it really makes you remember the place in a very positive light.

The thing that sets this hotel apart from others is the car museum in the foyer. As soon as you walk in the front doors you are greeted with millions and millions of dollars worth of rare, historical and unique Supercars and sports cars. Most are apparently part of the the owners own personal collection and some are still taken out on the race track from time to time. One of the brothers, Sam Shahin is actually quite an accomplished race car driver.

Contact Details and Location

Rydges Pit Lane Hotel

543 Dukes Highway, Tailem Bend SA 5260

Phone: (08) 8165 5730

The World’s Biggest Rocking Horse

Anyone that knows us, knows that we love to visit all the ‘big things’ across Australia and have a whole page on our website dedicated to this! Well on a recent trip to Adelaide we called in to visit The Big Rocking Horse in Gumeracha (only about 40 minutes from Adelaide).

At 18.3 metres high and weighing 25 tonnes, not only is this Australia’s Biggest Rocking Horse, it is the biggest in the world and it’s in the Guinness Book of Records to prove it!

Although it’s free to visit and take photos, for $2 you can climb the rocking horse, which has stairs inside which lead to viewing platforms in the head, on the saddle and one on the rocker near the base. You’ll also receive a certificate of achievement for climbing!

Toy Factory

Also in the complex there is a toy factory which sells some really great wooden toys which are made on site. You don’t see this type of old school workmanship too often these days. As well as the wooden toys there are plenty of other gifts and souvenirs and a range of lollies and chocolates.

The Shop is open 7 days a week (except Christmas Day) from 9am – 5pm

Wildlife Park

We can’t forget the Wildlife Park! For $2 entry per person (and an extra $2 if you want a bag of food) who could say no ….. well George could have, but Shelly wanted to go play with the animals!! Although it’s set on 7 acres, the wildlife park itself isn’t anything too exciting, but it was something to do and gave as a few laughs, and for $2 why not!

There was a range of animals including Alpacas, Sheep, Goats Kangaroos, Emus, Ducks, Cockatoos.

The Wildlife Park is open 7 days a week (except Christmas Day) from 9am – 4.30pm

CAFE

Lastly there is a cafe on site selling a wide range of food at reasonable prices. We grabbed a salad wrap and plate of chips and both were huge!

The Cafe is open 7 days a week (except Christmas Day) from 10am – 3pm

Where to find The Big Rocking Horse – 452 Torrens Valley Road, Gumeracha, South Australia.

A visit to Hahndorf, SA

Recently we visited the village of Hahndorf which is found about 1/2 hour from Adelaide.

Originally settled in 1839 by Prussian Lutherans, Hahndorf is now Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement.

Its German heritage is definitely still evident as you wander the Main Street which is filled with German pubs, cafes, restaurants, bakeries, chocolate and traditional sweets, wooden folk art, leather wears and cuckoo clocks!

Must say that wandering down the tree lined street was very pretty with all the autumn foliage starting to appear on the trees. This quaint little village is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Oh and the Lemon Meringue fudge … omg 🤤

ᑭᖇᗩᗪO ᑌᑭᗪᗩTE – It’s home!

Wow, what a journey that was! Like one of our mates said ‘there’s never been a more followed engine rebuild’

For those that are new to following us, here’s a quick run down of what happened …… we were holidaying in South Australia over Christmas and unfortunately we didn’t quite make it home! Our Prado broke down on 28th December 2020 (cracked a piston) and we were picked up and towed (including our camper trailer) to RH Automotive in Whyalla. These guys were great and went above and beyond to help us in so many ways. Unfortunately due to COVID and being Christmas/New Year, many places were closed and it was hard to work out what to do. Did we have it all towed back to Sydney (quotes were well in excess of $10K), did we get a new engine, a reconditioned engine (or recon ours) or did we sell and restart all over again? We did the sums and went with the most cost effective option for us. Luckily we have our NRMA Premium Roadside service which assisted us in this whole process and also contributed $3,000 towards towing, accommodation etc.

When we first put the post out there on Facebook about what had happened, so many of you (many we don’t even know) contacted us with information, offers of help etc. One in particular was our mate The Duck who rang George first thing the next morning and gave us a number of his good mate who owns a workshop in Adelaide, he couldn’t recommend him highly enough and said he’d already spoken to him and he was awaiting our call. Obviously it was something we hadn’t considered, having the car repaired in a different state and with people we knew nothing about. But after numerous phone calls and discussions we decided that it was our best option (and most cost effective). So on 4th January 2021 the Prado was towed to and dropped off at Auto Masters Salisbury. These guys also securely stored our camper trailer for us (at no cost) for the duration so that was a huge help.

Throughout this whole process, Tony kept us up to date and was always available whenever George called and texted with a query. It was a comfort to have that contact, considering we couldn’t just ‘pop in’ to check up on anything! It was also great when one of our followers spotted the Prado in the workshop (and later driving on the road) and sent us photos both times! It appears we have little spies everywhere!

Anyway, finally after a long 3 month wait, on Friday 9th April 2021 we flew to Adelaide to pick up the Prado (and it’s brand new engine!) and our camper trailer. Huge thanks to Tony and Dave and all the team at Auto Masters who were involved in the whole process, we couldn’t be happier to have our Prado safely home!! 1,400km in 2 days and we are home and the Prado did great. As we didn’t want to do Adelaide to Sydney straight up on a brand new engine, the mechanics had driven it around prior to us picking it up and put about 600km on the clock and checked it over.

So far, the engine sounds a lot quieter than the old one, feels smoother and has more power and we are still wearing it in, so all looking great so far.

So what does just over $21,000 give you? ….. apart from a very sad looking bank balance!!

  • Brand new genuine Toyota long motor
  • Brand new genuine Injectors
  • Brand new genuine Turbo
  • Brand new genuine Map sensor and filter
  • Brand new pump
  • Plus other things which were required to be replaced such as oils, filters, belts etc

Yes it’s expensive, but believe me, it was our best option and it gives us back our freedom and ability to get out there and travel and do what we love to do so that is priceless.

This was quite the experience and one we certainly don’t want to go through again! But throughout this whole process we were constantly surprised by how kind and genuine people can be … from being lent a car to drive around in for free in Whyalla, to being offered free accommodation (which we turned down), the hotel discounting our nightly rate, family and friends offering to drive to SA to pick us up, strangers contacting us with advice and their experiences with cracked pistons. We even went to look at buying a second hand car to drive home in and the car salesman called a friend who owned a trucking company to see if they could ship the Prado back home! It was all very surreal, but was nice to feel like we weren’t alone in such a stressful time.

Thanks again to The Duck, mate if it wasn’t for you pointing us in the right direction, giving us the confidence we’d made the right choice and constantly checking up with us, who knows what may have happened.

And of course to Auto Masters Salisbury, thank you for everything …. Guys, if you’re in SA and you need a mechanic, go check these guys out (they have stores in numerous locations). We can’t fault their work and service and would happily recommend them to others.

Lastly, the only downside in this whole situation is the lack of help from Toyota Australia – numerous phone calls and emails and not a single reply. We are on our second Prado and we also have a Hilux so we obviously love our Toyota’s, but it’s very disappointing to have no contact or backing at all from Toyota. We have a copy of a 4 page Toyota bulletin outlining this problem so we know they are aware and admitted that cracked pistons are a common issue with these engines so it’s very disappointing they won’t even reply. But like we said, that is the only downside to our whole situation and hopefully one we will never, ever have to go through again!

On the way home from Adelaide, free camping, campfires and sky full of stars …… back doing what we love doing best!

Australian Made … the only way to buy

This is going to be quite a short post, but we just wanted to let you know that we are excited to announce that we have recently teamed up with AMD Touring, Australia’s first dedicated Australian-made 4×4, camping and caravaning store.

Many people want to buy Australian Made products, now more than ever, but finding the products that you need can be difficult. That’s where AMD Touring come in. You see, they have done all the hard work and are out there every day adding new products to their website and it’s a one-stop-shop where you can find everything for your 4WD, camping or caravanning needs. And if they don’t currently stock what you are after, hit them up and they’ll try and get that company on board or even find an alternative Australian Made version of what you already use.

The website features many products already (with more being added all the time) and it makes it super easy for you to find quality Australian made products all in the one place. So next time you need something, check out this website first!

Don’t forget to use our Promo Code 𝗼𝗳𝗳𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘁𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗸 when you make your next purchase. You won’t pay any extra by purchasing via this website, but every purchase you do make will go a small way to helping us to keep travelling and doing what we love.

textile australian flag with crumples

Don’t forget that by purchasing Aussie made products, not only are you ensuring your money stays within our country, you are supporting local jobs and businesses and you have the knowledge that these products have been made and tested for use in our environment and for our standards.

Website: https://www.amdtouring.com

The bush is good for your health

Who doesn’t love to escape to the bush whenever they have the chance. Whether it’s hitting the tracks, bush walking or camping out for the night, we all love to be out and about. Do you know why we love this and why it feels so good? Did you know there are actually health benefits by spending time in the bush?

By taking a walk through the bush or forest you can reduce the level of cortisol in your body … this is the stress hormone which pumps through your bloodstream in times of stress and can have negative effects such as raising your blood pressure and heart rate, so if we can find a natural way to lower these levels, that’s pretty good hey!

Not only can you reduce stress and anxiety, trees can also improve your mood and attention span, so it’s a great help for mental health issues.  Trees are very calming and grounding …. If you’ve ever walked through a forest full of huge trees (think Valley of the Giants on Fraser Island for example) you’ll probably remember looking up at how huge they were compared to you, how tall and straight they are, how they can be so big and grow straight up through sand and not fall over ….. well subconsciously this was working on your mindset by bringing you back to nature, by helping to immerse yourself into your surroundings, by calming and grounding you. 

So what else happens? …. Trees omit a compound called phytoncides, which helps protect them from germs and insects. It’s basically the essential oils from the tree (the things that we smell and go ‘ahhh, I love the bush’!).  By breathing in the phytoncides, they can actually be useful for us by helping to boost our immune system.

If you haven’t heard, there is a practice called Shinrin-Yoku,  This is a Japanese term which translates to ‘Forest Bathing’ (also known as ‘Forest Therapy’).

The idea is that you immerse yourself into nature to enhance your overall well-being.  It’s a holistic approach to your health, taking in the mind, body and spirit.

Unfortunately we can’t always be in the bush, but we can still help to keep us chilled and grounded by diffusing or smelling essential oils. By diffusing Black Spruce for example, it tricks our mind into thinking we are in the bush and we can realise some of those benefits …. our mind is definitely a very powerful tool.

So next time you are in the bush, stop and think, take in your surroundings and remember that they are having more positive mental and overall health effects on you than you think.

If you would like to learn more about essential oils and how they can benefit you and your lifestyle, contact us or head to our Facebook group – Track to Nature – Essential Oils.

The day the Prado died

If you follow our social media channels you would by now be well aware of our dramas that happened over the Christmas/New Year break, but if not, let’s start from the beginning.

We decided to head to South Australia prior to Christmas to spend a few weeks exploring the Eyre Peninsula which is an absolutely stunning area that we had very briefly visited a few years ago and knew we had to go back again to see more. We spent a week in Streaky Bay which was amazing, so much to see, so many beaches to explore, so much yummy seafood and just an overall spectacular area.

After leaving Streaky Bay our next stop was Whyalla, where we were to base ourselves for a week to explore the surrounding areas …. well that’s where things didn’t quite go to plan.

First night we checked into our caravan park, awesome spot right on the beach, amazing views ….. and gale force winds! We lasted one night and decided to leave and head to another camp a little further inland.

View from our campsite

After packing up (not fun in that much wind!) we decided to have a look around Whyalla, do all the main ‘tourist’ things and finally drive out to see the lighthouse at Point Lowly, about 30km or so from town. Unfortunately we didn’t quite make it that far.

This is the lighthouse … we did make it there a week later!

We were driving up a small hill, towing the camper and all of a sudden the 4WD lost power, white smoke pouring out the back and things just didn’t feel right. George pulled over straight away, oil was pouring out of the catch can and the engine was making a noise it shouldn’t be! We knew straight away things weren’t good, we weren’t 100% sure at that point in time, but had suspected a cracked piston. We later found out that this was the case.

Luckily we have NRMA Premium Care which covers roadside assistance across Australia so we got straight on the phone to NRMA to arrange for a patrolman and tow truck to come out to pick us up. We were lucky that we were right off the side of the road, it wasn’t an overly busy road and we even had a nice view! Overall it wasn’t too bad a place to be stranded for a couple of hours.

When we broke down we were picked up by the local RAA serviceman (NRMA equivalent in SA). Tim and his wife Vanessa went above and beyond to help and we cannot thank them enough for all they did for us. At a time when we were both overwhelmed and not sure what to do, these guys turned up and just seemed to make everything easier.

Whilst we were on the side of the road we’d had another guy stop to check if we were ok and when we said that RAA were on their way, he told us that “oh you guys are in good hands, he’s a good bloke, owns a mechanical shop in town, you’ll be right” … and yeah, it worked out well for us. Tim and his wife Vanessa could not have been more friendly and helpful.

After being towed back to their workshop and told we could leave the vehicles there for as long as we needed, they then not only offered us one of their personal vehicles to drive around in whilst we were in Whyalla, but they offered us free self contained accommodation for as long as we needed it. Who does that, we aren’t used to strangers being so nice! We decided to accept their offer of the vehicle, which we were so grateful for as it meant we could still get out and about and enjoy our holiday over the next week, but we decided against the accommodation. We already felt so lucky that it just didn’t feel right to take too much. As it turned out we did the right thing as they ended up picking up more stranded travelers who were travelling with their dog and cat so they used the accommodation.

Vanessa proceeded to find us some accommodation, booked us in and took us there. Throughout the next week they both couldn’t have been more helpful and accommodating … the workshop was actually closed for the Christmas break but Tim went in to diagnose our vehicle, liaised with NRMA, they met us at the workshop whenever we needed access to the Prado or camper and they even invited us to New Year’s Eve at their house if we didn’t find anything else to do. Of course we can’t forget Henry the dog who was always around, such a friendly little boy. Puppy cuddles always make everything better (and we missed our pups) so it was always great to see Henry! We feel really lucky that we met this amazing couple and cannot begin to thank them enough for everything they did. They are just down to earth, genuine good people who probably don’t even realise how their actions affect other people, but they certainly went a long way in making our crappy, confusing and overwhelming dramas so much easier for us. It’s a special person who can treat total strangers the way they did and we are forever grateful to Tim, Vanessa (& Henry).

The first few days after it happened was like a blur of constant phone calls to NRMA, mechanics, transport companies, family and friends, while we tried to work out what we were going to do and how we were going to get home, not just us, but the Prado and camper as well. After a lot of discussions and running through different scenarios we finally started to form a plan.

Prado – We had initially wanted to have the Prado and camper shipped back to Sydney so we’d at least have them with us and then work out what to do. We weighed up our options, 1) sell and buy another vehicle and start again, 2) buy a second hand motor, 3) rebuild our existing engine. For us we decided to go with the latter option as it seemed like the safest and most economical option. The next decision to make was who was going to do this! We were contacted by a friend who put us in touch with a mate in Adelaide who he couldn’t recommend highly enough. After a few phone calls to and fro we decided to go with him ….. a big scary chance leaving our car in another state with someone we don’t know!

So we then had the Prado sorted, but what about the camper? The shipping cost to get this home was just way over the top (mainly as it’s not a ‘driveable’ vehicle). We got quotes of up to $9,000 to get the Prado and camper towed back to Sydney!! Had COVID not been an issue we would have had someone bring Leia over to pick us and the camper up, but that wasn’t an option with border closures. The mechanic in Whyalla said he could store it for free for as long as we needed and a colleague of George’s who lives in SA also offered to pick it up for us and look after it until we could get back, so we at least had options.

After discussions with the mechanic who was taking the Prado, he advised that he had a storage facility where he could securely store the camper for us as well. Although it’s annoying not having the camper here to use, at the end of the day we decided that we’d rather put our money towards an engine rebuild than shipping costs to bring it back to Sydney.

Us! This was the hardest one to sort out as we couldn’t get a hire car from Whyalla that we were able to drop off in Sydney. Normally you’d say to jump on a bus or train or plane, but we needed to empty out the Prado for towing so we had a whole carload of ‘stuff’ with us, including a fridge! At one point we even went car shopping and test drove a Commodore as it was potentially going to be cheaper to buy a car and tow the camper home with us than it would be to have it shipped back to Sydney (and at least then us and our gear could then get home too!!).

In the end we managed to get a hire car from Adelaide airport that we could drop off in Sydney – we had thought George may need to fly from Whyalla to Adelaide to pick it up, drive back to get Shelly and the gear and then drive home! Luckily we sorted another option with Tim who was towing us to Adelaide.

Had to look at this depressing view for the 4 hour drive to Adelaide!

We met Tim & Vanessa at the workshop, packed all of our gear into their personal Landcruiser, which was going to tow the camper, and loaded the Prado onto the tow truck and all set off for the 4 hour drive to Adelaide. After arriving we dropped the Prado and camper off at the mechanics who are going to do our engine rebuild, loaded the Landcruiser onto the tow truck and Tim took us to the airport to pick up our hire car – we seriously can’t thank these guys enough for all they did for us.

Although it was scary leaving the Prado and camper with complete strangers, it finally felt like some of our stress was gone, we had our hire car and we were on our way home.

It was all just really bad timing with many places closed over the Christmas period and of course we had the COVID issue as well. Would have been so much easier for us or someone else to drive Leia over to tow the camper home BUT we wouldn’t be able to cross back over the border from NSW to SA without quarantining for 2 weeks!!

Anyway, always ones to see the positive in things, even in a bad situation like this … you may not think breaking down on your holiday and being faced with a $10,000-$15,000 engine rebuild would be classified as ‘lucky’!, but let us explain a few things. Life is always throwing obstacles in your way, shit happens and things don’t always go as planned, but it’s how you deal with it that matters. We could have been really angry and sad (don’t get us wrong, we were!) and thought ‘why me’, but we had to look on the bright side of things, we couldn’t change what had happened, we needed to move forward.

-Firstly, a few days earlier we were 400km further west (would have meant an even more expensive tow).

-We had been staying in a much smaller town where we may have struggled to get a tow and hire car at all, luckily Whyalla was a lot larger town.

-As we mentioned earlier, we have NRMA Premium Care which we would never travel without. NRMA helped us with sorting everything out, as well as covering $3000 towards transport costs, accommodation, car hire etc.

-A few days earlier we were 4WDing on a beach with no one else around … and limited reception.

-We do have another 2 vehicles at home so we weren’t going to be left with no transport for months while the Prado was out of action.

-We have a tent and swag so can still go camping even though we don’t have the camper trailer at the moment.

-After being stranded we ended up staying at the Sundowner Motel Hotel and these guys were awesome, so lucky we ended up in this motel. They let us extend our stay day by day as we were trying to work out what was happening, helped us with everything we needed, they asked for updates and they genuinely seemed like they cared and wanted to help. The food in the restaurant was amazing and the rooms were great, highly recommend this joint if you are ever in the area.

-We were lucky we were in a largish town where we could actually get out and explore. Instead of sitting in the motel room feeling sorry for ourselves we were able to do absolutely every thing you could possibly do in Whyalla!!

-From the moment this happened we had people offering help, family, friends and our followers, everyone wanted to see how they could help. People we don’t know were getting in touch with us to offer help with towing or mechanics or share their stories, it was overwhelming how much everyone wanted to help us … people that didn’t even personally know us. Even the day we went car shopping, the car salesman called a friend who ran a towing company to get us a quote!

So yeah, it was a really crappy situation, but we dealt with it the best way we know how and now we just wait and hopefully one day soon we will have the Prado back even bigger and better than ever!

2020: Our Year in Review

2020 – well that’s a year none of us will forget in a hurry!  It was certainly a year of change and unknowns. 

After the fires and floods of late 2019/early 2020, it was just another kick in the teeth to then be greeted by COVID19.  It sure tested our strength and resilience didn’t it.  I’m sure you all know someone who was personally affected by COVID19, whether they contracted it, were tested for it, lost their job or unfortunately lost their life.  It changed our world in so many ways, but in many ways for the better.

Personally we were both very lucky and continued to work through out, actually busier than ever!  Shelly has been working from home since March and George was on and off working from home from March onwards.  Our daughter is a chef and was out of work for a while, we know of people who lost loved ones and we certainly know many friends who endured the test and subsequent ‘wait’!  

Gelly & Charli are absolutely loving having mum and dad working from home and I don’t know what they’ll do if things ever go back to normal and they have to live outside during the day like normal dogs! 

It’s definitely been a tough year for many people and hopefully we have all learned a little from this and one day we will look back on this year with memories of the things we achieved and changed, rather than the struggles and general shit year that it was.  One day we’ll sit back and go …. Yeah, we survived 2020!

Anyway, let’s move on and take a look back over the year that was 2020 ….

2020 Trips

January

Our year started on Fraser Island camping with friends.  We’d headed up just prior to Christmas and had a great couple of days with barely anyone on the island, just the way we like it!  Our friends started arriving from Boxing Day onwards …. as did the crowds!  But we still had a great time and if you know where to head on the island and stay away from the popular tourist spots it never feels that crowded anyway, it’s a huge island.  Anyway, after a great few weeks away we headed home to start the year and all our plans that went along with that …. little did we know at that point what lay ahead for the rest of the year!

Over the Australia Day long weekend we headed down to Currarong on the south coast to spend some time camping with our friends Leah & Brendan.  They’d been working in the Holiday Haven Currarong caravan park and this park had been affected by the bushfires and they had been forced to close, obviously losing a lot of their holiday tourist income, so once they reopened we were more than happy to head down and spend a little time and money in the park and surrounding area.  It’s a great area, one we’ve never spent too much time in, but we will go back again for sure.  We loved spending time with Leah & Brendan and exploring the area, even spending a morning out on the boat with Brendan … too cold for Shelly, but George & Brendan went snorkeling and loved it.  This trip was also Leia’s first time towing the camper and she did great!

January also saw us head back up to Queensland for our mate Stewy’s 40th birthday party.  We left a few days earlier and combined it with a work road trip for George to visit some customers along the way.  The party was a dress up ‘Bogan’ party, which was a bit of fun …. And let’s face it, we really didn’t need to try too hard dressing up for this one!!  George has always referred to Shelly as a bogan (and I think he’s been converted over the years as well!), but it was fun to dress up and enjoy a night with friends.

March

In March, Rob ‘The Duck’ (from The Camping and Off Road Radio Show on 2GB) decided to host a long weekend camping trip down at the Kings Point Retreat in Ulladulla. We’d met him a year or so ago and had a few beers together so we knew he’d put on a great weekend, and he did, and it was great to catch up again.

The idea was to get a group of people and head down to the south coast and spend some money in the area after the devastating bushfires and yep, we spent a bit! About $850 actually, including a new second battery for Leia, shopping and a few meals out.

The highlight of the weekend (for Shelly anyway!) was a concert on the Saturday night featuring the awesome country music singer, Adam Harvey. He is such a great entertainer and such a funny, friendly guy, even George ended up enjoying it! We ended up heading back to camp and continued drinking with The Duck and some of his friends and had a great night with some great people.

December

There were times throughout the year when we wondered if we’d even be able to go away at Christmas. And then with all the border closures the next step was deciding where to go …. we picked SA and all seemed great, until they got an outbreak and said they were locking down! Anyway, luckily it ended up ok, we got our border crossing passes approved and we made it ….. we actually crossed the border at 8.30am and they then closed it at midnight that night! 2 weeks exploring the Eyre Peninsula of the SA coastline and we loved it….. until the Prado died, but that’s another story!

Cancelled trips – So, as it turns out we didn’t have too many holidays during 2020, like everyone else, a lot of our plans were cancelled or postponed. Here’s what we missed out on:-

– Our Bushfire Support Camping Weekend which we were hosting at the Hidden Creek Campsite down in Jervis Bay – hopefully we can still hold this at some point.

– Easter camping trip out west with the dogs

– Big Red Bash in Birdsville – this has been postponed until 2021

– Also back in July or August when things were starting to look a little better we decided we’d plan a few weeks up at Karumba to get away …. Of course that got cancelled when the NSW/QLD borders were shut!

Weekend 4WD Adventures

As much of the year was spent in lockdown we didn’t do anywhere near as much as we normally would, but we did manage to get out a few times with friends for some fun 4WD day trips.

Back in March we took a quick day trip up to Stockton Beach, Leia’s first time on the beach so we were interested to see how she’d go and she was great!

In May we took a drive up to the Watagans, we hadn’t left the house for about 2 months at this point so it was great to get out for a day.

In June, we had our first trip out with friends after lockdown, a quick day run up to Morisset with Adam, Liam, Scott, Jack, Trent & Amber. We’d gone up here back when we first bought Leia and she had the full cage on the back and there was this one hill George just couldn’t get up. So it was time to go back and tackle it again and this time we won …. not sure if it was Shelly’s amazing driving skills or Leia’s less weight and lockers!

A trip up to Mt Sugarloaf with Liam and Trent ended up being quite a muddy day! All three 4WD’s were bogged at various times and the winch and snatch straps definitely got a work out!

In late August the snow started falling in Lithgow so we headed up there to meet Liam & Karen (who had camped up there in the snow the night before!) to have a play. Seeing an area that not that long ago had been destroyed by fire, now covered in snow was quite surreal. We ended up running into our mate, Adam, in the forest as well and the trip ended up getting a little more exciting after an incident with a tree … luckily we had our winch and all recovery gear with us.

September saw us head back up to Stockton Beach for a quick trip, followed by lunch with the kids. It also saw Shelly get bogged for a second time, but luckily we spotted our mate Ian from Great Divide Tours and he came to our rescue … talk about good timing!

We had another trip up to Lithgow in November after being invited out with Jason from APC – we had a great day exploring some great tracks, including the Spanish Steps which gave the Prado a great work out!

Day Trips

It was hard this year to get out and about, so we spent a lot of time exploring areas that either had limited people around or areas close to home. Everyone seems to travel far and wide to sight see but don’t realise the little gems that are in your own backyard. We love exploring our local area and have found some really interesting places, particularly this year. There is no much history surrounding us, you just need to look.

We decided to head out to Lithgow with the dogs for a day of sightseeing, exploring and 4WDing. We spend a lot of time out Lithgow way but on this day we found so many places we’d never visited before. We saw the devastation from the fires (will post more pics of that later), so very sad. The dogs loved being back in the bush and we had two very tired and exhausted puppies that night! We visited Blast Furnace Park, Bracey Lookout, Hassans Walls Lookout, Lake Lyell Recreation Park, Rydal, Lake Wallace, Wallerawang, Portland (including the Silos which were awesome) & Lidsdale State Forest.

During a day trip down to Bowral, not only did we find some great lookouts and hang out with Mary Poppins and the great Sir Don Bradman, we also found the old shale mining town of Joadja. This town now lays in ruins, but we did spend a good couple of hours exploring and taking photos, very interesting place. There is also a distillery onsite so we had a quick tour and taste testing whilst there, well why wouldn’t you! Unfortunately that was also the day someone ran into the back of Leia – luckily there was no damage to our car.

Scheville National Park – Located not far from home we found this place which was so interesting. The land seems to have had many lives over the years, from a cooperative farm to a migrant camp to a military training facility and an agricultural college, among others. Nowadays the public can wander around the Scheyville Camp precinct and see the ruined and restored buildings and learn all about its history.

Glen Davis was an oil-shale mining town and in its heyday it was home to around 2500 people, nowadays it’s basically a ghost town, but what a beautiful area it is. We’d never visited this area before and spent a day driving Glen Davis and the surrounding areas and the landscape is beautiful. We’d like to go back and camp out there and spend some more time exploring.

How many of you knew that the world’s second largest canyon is located right here in NSW? The Capertee Valley is actually 1 km wider than the Grand Canyon, but it’s not as deep. How cool is that! Worth stopping off to check this out if you are in the area.

Another day trip took us down to Robertson, which is where the Australian movie, Babe, was filmed. It’s also home to The Big Potato!, as well as some great waterfalls and walking trails.