2019: Our Year in Review

We say it every year, but wow, where did the time go!  What a busy year that was, everyone says it and it’s true, the older you get the quicker time flies by. That’s exactly why you need to make the most of every day, live out those fantasies, tick off the bucket list items, laugh, have fun, explore and make memories.

We started 2019 in the Wilpena Pound campground in the Flinders Ranges. In fact, we were both already in bed at midnight! We spent the night drinking at camp by ourselves, with Shelly giving an impromptu concert of singing and dancing! George thoroughly enjoyed the concert (though he may deny that if you ask him!) and i’m sure some of our camping neighbours did too!

Fast forward 12 months and we are sitting at camp surrounded by friends, at one of our most favourite places ever …. Fraser Island.

Now let’s take a look back over the year that was 2019 …..


2019 Trips

January

We woke up on New Years Day in the Wilpena Pound campground in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. We’d packed up on Boxing Day and headed to Coffin Bay for a few days, before driving up to spend a week or so in the Flinders Ranges. Now summer is certainly not the time to be camping in outback South Australia, with temperatures reaching 48 degrees at one stage, but we survived (and the pedestal fan that Shelly packed wasn’t such a stupid idea after all was it George!).

January also saw us head back to the Hunter Valley Gardens with friends to see the Christmas lights. This is something Shelly had wanted to see for ages and they certainly do a good job, well worth the visit.

April

A last minute decision to head off for the Easter long weekend break saw us wake up on Good Friday, hook up the camper trailer, chuck the dogs in the car and head off down south. We had no idea where we were going to stay, we just started driving! We ended up near Tumut in the Riverina region of NSW, at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains. We found a great free camp in the forest, right on the water with plenty of room for the pups to run around. You may recall that last year we took the dogs away camping with us for the first time and they didn’t even last the whole weekend before they were taken home! Well we are happy to report that they were both surprisingly well behaved this time and had an absolute ball swimming, running around and 4WDing in the bush. I think they have now proved they can be well behaved and may be invited to join us on another trip at some stage!

By pure chance we also met up with friends, Tracey & Mark, and ended up spending our second night camping with them and their friends. Being the social butterfly that she is, Gelly in particular enjoyed her newfound friends to hang out with!

April also meant another trip up to the Hunter Valley to see the Hunter Valley Night Glow at Roche Estate. We caught up with Shelly’s cousins Lauren & Emma to enjoy a night of food, markets, wine, beer, fireworks and hot air balloons.

July

It started with a weekend trip up the central coast for Shelly’s best mate Adam’s 40th birthday party. As this was the week before we left for Birdsville we used this as our chance to pack everything in the camper trailer so we booked ourselves into a caravan park at Mannering Park for a couple of nights. Even though it was cold and it rained on and off we had a great long weekend and did some exploring of the local areas as well.

Friday 12th July saw us leave for our first ever Big Red Bash! More on this later ….

September

This was a girls weekend away for Shelly, her sister Kylie, all the female cousins, and a few friends for Kylie’s 40th birthday. We booked out a house in Woodford in the Blue Mountains and spent the weekend catching up, eating, drinking, playing games and decorating cup-cakes! This amazing house was actually a 100 year old church which had been converted into a holiday house.

November

Another 40th birthday celebration, this time a weekend P&O cruise. Generally the short cruises don’t dock anywhere, but this one docked in Eden and we were able to go ashore and visit the Food Festival. It was a great weekend catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. We had a group of 13 and we all had a fun weekend of laughs and maybe a few cocktails!, celebrating Ellen’s Fabulous 40th!

December

This year we decided to spend Christmas and New Year at one of our most favourite places …. Fraser Island. We first visited in 2006 and have been coming back ever since. After a few days to ourselves (the Island was fairly empty) we had friends join us after Christmas …. as well as the rest of the crowds!


Big Red Bash

Ever since the first Big Red Bash in 2013 Shelly has been wanting to attend. For those that may not know, this is the world’s most remote music festival, held at the base of Big Red (the largest sand dune in the Simpson Desert) in Birdsville, QLD. Well finally we made it and wow, what an event! This would have to be by far the best run event we have ever been to. They basically throw nearly 10,000 people together, camping in the middle of the desert for 3 days. There are concerts from mid afternoon every day, as well as other entertainment to keep you occupied. The headlining act this year was Midnight Oil! The whole event ran so smoothly. Our friend Stewy joined us (with his daughter and nephew) and we all had the best time, they say that once you go you will be back ….. and yep we caught the bug, we already have our tickets for BRB 2020!

As well as attending the Big Red Bash we also spent 3 days camping at the Boulia Racecourse to see the Boulia Camel Cup – they say it’s the Melbourne Cup of camel racing! We’d always wanted to attend a camel racing meet and now we can tick that off the bucket list. So what’s it like? Well, lets just say it’s horse racing in slow motion …. really slow motion!

We also visited Cameron Corner (where the borders of NSW/QLD/SA meet) and Haddon Corner (where the borders of SA/QLD meet), Burke’s Grave & The Dig Tree (Burke & Wills), Innamincka, Birdsville, Winton, Longreach, had a beer in the Birdsville Pub and touched a fossilised dinosaur bone in Winton!

Over 16 days we traveled 4,838km, through 3 states, spent $1,290 on fuel and $210 on accommodation.


The 4WD’s & Camper Trailer

We are always spending money on these vehicles, they are money pits! And this year was no different!

We sold the old Prado

Early this year we made the hard decision to sell the old Prado. She was on the market for quite a while, but we always knew that a vehicle like this would have to attract the right buyer. For a start, not everyone wants to buy a 23 year old car with nearly 300,000 km on the clock! Anyway, after a few months on the market, that right buyer did come along, a young guy and his family from the central west region of NSW. He’d done his homework, he’d seen our website and knew exactly the life this car had lived, there was now no hiding anything!

It was sad to see her go, she’d brought us so many years of memories. She was what started our whole 4WDing and travel adventures together. It was this Prado that got George into 4WDing in the beginning, Shelly learned to drive off-road in the Prado. When we first started travelling together we slept in the back of the Prado, free camping or staying in caravan parks as we traveled around, all of the dogs have gone 4WDing with us and the kids grew up knowing this car. She took us on so many amazing holidays and to places across Australia that we would never have gone to without a 4WD. We spent our 2 month honeymoon travelling in the Prado, as well as many weekend trips with friends.

So many fun memories, it was really hard to watch her drive away with her new family, alot of memories drove away with her that night. But hopefully the old girl still has a lot of life left in her and this new young family can start making memories of their own.

We bought Leia!

By far one of the most exciting things that happened this year was buying Leia! For years Shelly has been talking about one day owning a Hilux, something George wasn’t entirely on board with. Anyway, as talk turned to selling the Prado we had to make the decision of which car to replace it with. It need to be Shelly’s daily driver, but we also liked the idea of having another vehicle to drive off-road on the weekends instead of taking the 150 out, so this eliminated any smaller hatchback purchase. George would have loved another 150 or even a 120 series Prado, but he reluctantly gave in and agreed to buy a Hilux!

The day we picked her up!

After alot of looking we found one for sale up in Newcastle, it was full of the goodies we would have added anyway so it was the perfect buy for a great price ….. only thing was we hadn’t sold the Prado yet, but it was too good to miss out on. So off we went with our mate Liam and headed up to newy to pick her up.

Upon returning home she was given the full once over by our mechanic and treated with various products from Cost Effective Maintenance ….. these guys follow our pages and when we bought Leia they posted us a pack of their products to use on her!

Shelly knew exactly how she wanted this car to look and after throwing a fair bit of money into it she’s nearly there! The first major mod was removing the cage on the back, modifying the backboard and shortening the tray. Luckily one of Shelly’s friends, Paul, was able to do this for us so we saved a bit of money there.

Next we threw some money to the boys at ARB Penrith and Leia was fitted up with her snorkel, side steps, under body protection, extended diff breathers and most importantly, her rear air locker! The last major expense was new suspension in the form of front and rear Bilstein shocks and 2” raised springs, complete lower control arms and all new bushes, ball joints and camber pins. Thanks to Auto Parts Co and Sydney Suspension.

We love her …. yes even George has learned to love her now too! Click here to see the Project Leia page and her transformation so far.

150 Series Prado

After spending all our money on the new car there wasn’t much left to spend on the Prado! He did get a re-tune and dyno early in the year though.

Cub Camper

Luckily the camper is relatively maintenance free and doesn’t require much, but we did buy a port-a-loo and shower to take travelling with us! Oh and the repaired awning after we riped it in Birdsville. We did also buy our Darche -12 degree sleeping bags …. so warm and so glad we bought them before the desert trip to the bash!

Lastly not camper trailer related, but the dogs bought George a swag for fathers day!

We haven’t tested it out yet, but we think it may come in handy to chuck it on the back of Leia for a quick weekend trip.


Weekend Adventures

This year we had a lot of weekend adventures, particularly after we purchased Leia, we were out every other weekend in her! We also spent a bit of time exploring around the local area we live in, as well as further afield. We all travel far and wide and see these great places, but there is often quite a lot of interesting places to visit in your local areas. Our area actually has a lot of history, you just need to go searching for it, which is what we tried to do this year.

Shelly spent a bit of time exploring the central coast of NSW with one of her friends, such a beautiful area and a bit of history aswell.

In June we took a group up to Morisset to have a play in the bush and to visit Ward 21, an old asylum for the criminally insane. Nowadays this is in ruins and overrun with weeds and graffiti, but back in the day it housed some of the most criminally insane people in Australia.

We had a relatively cold winter this year and there was a fair bit of snow around. On 10th August we took the dogs for a drive up to Lithgow so they could see snow for the first time (yes, they probably didn’t care, but mummy was excited, especially when it actually started to snow on us!). We all rugged up, jumped in Leia and only drove an hour from home before we started seeing snow. We headed off into the bush for a drive in the snow and to have a play. The dogs absolutely loved it! Gelly even ran off to go for a walk with some random strangers!

Later in August we joined Great Divide Tours on a tag-a-long tour to explore the Coxs and Kowmung Rivers area. As we spend so much time 4WDing by ourselves, it was nice to spend the day meeting new people.

Later in the year we found a some great 4WD tracks down near Mittagong where we could have a play. We had so much fun, we ended up heading back down with Liam the next week to have another go.

Pretty spectacular scenery around this area, as well as some awesome 4WD tracks, with barely anyone else around ….. now this is our idea of the perfect day out!

A day trip up to Lithgow with Liam in October really tested out the vehicles as we found some new tracks. George doesn’t get scared 4WDing very often, but there were a few moments this day!

In December we took a day trip down to Kiama to catch up with our friends Leah & Brendan from Track & Tide Adventures. Just over 12 months ago they packed up and took off travelling around Australia in their camper trailer. We hadn’t seen them since just before they left, so it was great to catch up on their adventures over the months and find out what is planned for the next year. Check out their website and facebook page to see what adventures these guys get up to!


We changed our name to Off The Track 4×4

In January this year we changed our name to ‘Off The Track 4×4’ and over the next few months we started to change our logo and name on our website and various social media platforms. We are happy with the change and it brings about a whole lot of possibilities for us for the future.

The huge news is that Cost Effective Maintenance came on board and are now officially sponsoring both of our vehicles. We have been using these products since we first purchased the 150 Prado and cannot recommend them highly enough and we are so happy to be partnered with this great company. They’ve even given a discount code for our followers to use, so check out their website and use ‘4x4OTT’ and you can save 10% off all items (excluding value packs).

Throughout the year we had a few competitions and giveaways running on our Facebook page and we thank those who entered, but most importantly those who helped out providing various items, particularly Coral from Shower Ezy who is always happy to be involved (go check out the website, they have some really handy items for sale!).

Our Christmas giveaway was by far our biggest and we are so appreciative to everyone who was involved in this giveaway, we love to spread the word about these great little Aussie companies and are glad to be working with you all.

Early in the year we did a sticker giveaway where we posted out about 70 or so ‘Off The Track 4×4’ stickers to our followers, it’s been great seeing these on some of your vehicles! One even got posted to one of our followers in Berlin! – we’ve gone international, how cool is that!

We also want to thank our wonderful mechanic Adam from A1 Autohaus for keeping the 4WD’s running and mechanically sound, the guys from Auto Parts Co for always helping us out with sourcing products for us and giving us new things to try. And lastly, the guys from Cost Effective Maintenance for their support and great products. Again, we can’t recommend them highly enough.

We’ve had so many new followers this year and have actually met a few of you in person which was great, it’s nice to know that people enjoy what we do. We are so grateful to all of you. We do it because we love it, but we also like that we can share it with everyone else. We love sharing our adventures and we love that we can inspire others to get out and explore as well.

So what’s next ….. There are a few ideas floating around of what’s next! But for now, we’ve been very busy this year establishing relationships with various different companies to enable us to give something back to our followers. Check our our Facebook shop for the products we are currently selling and details of discounts that some of the companies are offering exclusively to Off The Track 4×4 followers.


Celebrations

There were a few celebrations this year with Shelly’s sister and many of our friends turning 40. The parties kicked off in May for Liam’s 40th, with a great old school house party. Many of you would have seen or heard us mention Liam before as he travels with us quite regularly and is always out 4WDing with us ….. I think he enjoys hanging out with us so we can winch and snatch him out every time the Patrol gets bogged! Sorry Liam! Seriously though, this Patrol is a magnet towards water!

Next was Adam’s 40th in July. The party was the week before we left for our Big Red Bash trip so we hooked up the camper and headed up to the central coast and stayed in a caravan park for the weekend, using the time to pack the camper ready for the big trip. Another house party (in the cold and rain!), thank god for the fire pits scattered around! We also met one of our followers at this party, it felt like we already knew you, but nice to meet you in person Scott!

In August we celebrated the first holy communion of our niece, Tahlia, and also George’s sister, Monique, celebrated her 50th birthday. Both were celebrated with a lovely lunch with family and friends.

August also saw us attend our friend Oli’s engagement. This was another backyard party, but the setting was beautiful and the atmosphere was certainly one of fun and love.

September was Kylie’s 40th (Shelly’s sister) and as mentioned earlier we headed up to the Blue Mountains for a girls weekend away. It was nice to catch up with cousins we don’t see too often and spend a few days just chilling together in a beautiful (but very very cold!) location.

The last big celebration for the year was that of Shelly’s friend, Ellen. We celebrated Ellen’s 40th birthday on a weekend cruise with 13 people.


The not so good stuff ….

As we all know, life isn’t always about fun and laughter, sometimes you are forced to face reality and all the sad and unfortunate things that come with that.

In March Shelly lost two aunties within a week or so of each other. Everyone gets older and everyone leaves this earth at some stage, but it never gets any easier losing a loved one or seeing your loved ones go through heartache. We will never forget you Aunty Judy and Aunty Margaret xx

Life threw another curve ball our way in September when George learned of the passing of a friend, someone he used to work with. What made this worse was that we’d both seen the news reports about the accident and had no idea that we knew the person involved. This passing was sudden and unexpected and two young people lost their lives. They left home one morning having no idea what lay ahead, and unfortunately they never returned.

As if we hadn’t endured enough throughout the year, we ended the year with hospital visits for family members, the sudden death of a friend of a friend and lastly, the sudden and unexpected passing of another of our friends. Only 41, he went to sleep one night, never to wake up. This one left everyone in total shock, it’s hard to comprehend how life can be so cruel as to take someone so young and leave grieving family and friends behind.

Finally we ended the year with the horrendous fires that are burning throughout the country, some relatively close to home. While we endured weeks of smoke and ash falling around home, we had friends and family members being evacuated from their houses and another friend out there fighting them with the RFS. It’s been a pretty scary time for a lot of people.

Yet another reminder that life is so, so short and you really must live every single day to the fullest.


Other stuff

George spent a fair bit of time travelling with work again this year, including working at numerous 4WD shows at Gunnadeh, Eastern Creek and Maitland. August saw him head up to Rainbow Beach for a week to attend sales training.

We also met Graham, Shauno and Jock from 4WD Action and spent a couple of hours chatting and having a few beers with them one night. Great guys and for anyone who knows Shelly’s ‘plan‘, she was quite excited that night! Didn’t get a pic with them on the night though so Shelly had to hunt them down at the 4WD show the next day for a photo!

That same night we met The Duck from The Camping & Off Road radio show on 2GB. If you aren’t already listening to his radio show (available on Podcast as well) or his other Podcast “The Duck and Ricko’s Red Dirt Podcast” you really should check them out! Great down to earth guy who loves doing exactly what we do … escape the city and explore our great land!

How we spent Christmas

As we were heading to Fraser Island we held ‘family Christmas’ with Shelly’s family on 15th December with everyone heading to our house for Christmas lunch and presents. Our little nephew, Levi, is three now and really starting to get into the whole Christmas thing, so it was quite fun watching him with all his presents.

We celebrated Christmas with George’s side of the family with a dinner at his parents house. Lots of presents for exchanged and it was nice to see our our niece and nephew excited about opening their presents.

Christmas Day was a quiet one with just the two of us relaxing on the island. It’s not Christmas without decorations and presents, so of course Shelly decorated the campsite for us! We also saved one present to give to each other on Christmas Day.


What’s planned for 2020?

The main thing is to enjoy ourselves and have fun! Other than the Big Red Bash, we don’t have any major trips planned, so we will see what happens. We do head up to Queensland early in the year for another 40th birthday party and hope to have plenty of weekends away as well.

Big Red Bash!  Yep, we are going back again! So excited for the artists performing in 2020. It’s always been one of Shelly’s bucket list items to see John Williamson sing ‘True Blue’ live and now she will get to see that. John Williamson performed solo on top of Big Red for the first ever Big Red Bash in 2013 and now he’s back for the first time since then.

Artists for next year are

  • Paul Kelly
  • Ian Moss
  • Tim Finn
  • John Williamson
  • Kate Ceberano
  • Shannon Noll
  • Dragon
  • The Radiators
  • Mi Sex
  • Wendy Matthews
  • Thirsty Merc
  • Marc Gable
  • Glenn Shorrock
  • Bjorn Again
  • Steve Balbi
  • Chocolate Starfish
  • Ross Wilson 
  • Vika & Linda Bull
  • Caitlin Shadbolt

Of course we will have plenty of weekend and short trips away and days out 4WDing in Leia!


Thank you to all of our family, friends and followers for their support over the past year.  Thanks for following our adventures and interacting with us, we even personally met some of you this year which was great and we also gained a few new camping friends!

If anyone sees us out and about make sure you come over and say hi, we love meeting new people and sharing stories.


As we look back and reflect on this past year, we are thankful for the love and friendship of our family and friends.

Wishing you all a very happy and safe New Year. Hope the year brings you many new adventures and memories ….. Bring on 2020!


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2018: Our Year in Review

What another busy year that was and time just flew by didn’t it. This year was a year of trying to get out more, more 4WDing days, more weekends away and more quality time with family and friends.

We started 2018 surrounded by friends at the Urunga Waters Caravan Park. This was a really fun week away with a great group friends …. and a few others who popped in at random times throughout the week! Even the rain and mud around camp didn’t dampen our spirits!

Fast forward 12 months and as we write this we are sitting at camp in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Anyone who’s been following our blog or photos on social media will have seen that we spent an amazing 2 days camped in the Coffin Bay National Park, WOW, words can’t explain how spectacular this place is! We then moved a little further north to the Flinders Ranges where we are camped in Wilpena Pound and spending time exploring this marvelous area. We have visited before, but never for an extended period and we are absolutely loving it.

Thank you to all of our family, friends and followers for their support over the past year.  Thanks for following our adventures and interacting with us, we even personally met some of our followers this year which was great and we also gained a few new camping friends! If anyone sees us out and about make sure you come over and say hi, we love meeting new people and sharing stories.

Now let’s take a look back on the year that was 2018 …..


2018 Trips

January

We spent a week with friends in Urunga, camping at the Urunga Waters Caravan Park. This is a great little park right on the water. It’s an older style park, but it has everything we need, it’s quiet and it’s conveniently located. Urunga is just outside of Coffs Harbour on the NSW mid north coast, it’s great for 4WDing, beaches and of course all the tourist activities, most famously the Big Banana!

January also saw us head away for the Australia Day long weekend. We camped at Percy’s Place in Pitt Town, a whole 29km from home! This place is great and you certainly didn’t feel like you were that close to home. Situated right on the banks of the Hawkesbury River it was the perfect setting for a hot long weekend …. We spent a lot of time in that river! This was also the first trip we decided to take Gelly and Charli away camping with us. We won’t dwell on the fact that our dogs are naughty, but let’s just say they didn’t last too long and luckily we were close to home as they were both taken home midway through the second day! In the time that they were there though they loved it and Gelly spent a lot of her time in the river too!

February

Our 5 year wedding anniversary was celebrated by 5 day trip to Tasmania. It was the first visit to Tasmania for both of us. Did we enjoy it? YES it was amazing and we can’t wait to go back there again, hopefully next time with the 4WD and camper trailer for a much longer visit.

We visited Hobart, Mount Wellington, Port Arthur, Bicheno, Launceston and the famous Salamanca Markets.  We had a private encounter with a baby Tasmanian devil at Cradle Mountain (so adorable) and we learned all about seahorses, platypus and echidnas at Seahorse World and Platypus House.  We visited the Beaconsfield Mine where tragedy struck in 2006 and we explored the beautiful historic Richmond, which is home to the oldest bridge in Australia.   Tasmania is so full of history and we learned a lot and saw some beautiful areas.

We certainly managed to pack a lot into a short period of time as you’ll see from the map below.

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We even detoured so that we could visit ‘Georgetown’!

July

This was our big trip of the year, it was when we made the trek back up to Cape York, the tip of Australia. We’d first completed this trip in 2013 as part of our 2 month honeymoon, but we had friends who wanted to go so we agreed to lead a trip. We had 6 vehicles and 15 people and we all had an absolute ball. I think it gave some of our friends an appreciation and understanding of why we love what we do. It was their first real remote trip and it was great to be able to share it with them all. Not only did we visit the Northern Most Point of mainland Australia, we had a beer in the northern most pub on the mainland, we swam under waterfalls, we saw crocodiles, we played with a dingo (he was very friendly!) and we had plenty of laughs and memorable moments.

October

2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the Cub Campers brand and to celebrate Cub Campers invited all Cub owners to a 50th Anniversary Jamboree held at Del Rio Riverside Resort at Wisemans Ferry. We didn’t know anyone who was going, but thought it would be a good long weekend away so ‘why not’. As it turned out, we had a great weekend and met some people who we will definitely keep in touch with and catch up with again …. In fact we’ve since been camping with one of the families again already! Cub put on a great weekend with goodie bags, talks and activities, a gala dinner and drinks and a BBQ breakfast on the last morning.

The whole Cub family was there, along with some of the employees from their North Rocks factory.  it was great to meet and have a chat with Roger Fagan, the founder of Cub Campers, and hear his stories of how it all began and the obstacles that have stood in their way over the years.

November

We met a family at the Cub Campers jamboree and arranged to catch up again and go camping, so this saw us head up to Soldiers Point for a weekend.  We all had a lot of fun with plenty of drinks and plenty of laughs. The others in the group were great as well and I think everyone had a good weekend.

December

Shelly had wanted to go to the Hunter Valley Gardens Christmas Light Spectacular for years and finally George gave in! We made a weekend of it and camped in the Hunter Valley and spent Saturday visiting the various wineries, cheese and chocolate shops and Shelly’s favourite, Pukara Estate.  We even tried Bacon Beer at one of the breweries!  Later that night we were meant to meet up with friends to visit the lights, but as it turned out a storm came through and they closed the gardens and cancelled the lights 🙁  So unfortunately we didn’t get to see the lights, but we did have a good weekend and spent way to much money!  We will now revisit in January to see the lights, with hopefully better weather next time.


Filming for ‘Cub Stories’.

In last year’s ‘Year In Review’ we mentioned that we had been approached by Cub Campers to see if we’d like to be part of their ‘Cub Stories’ web series.  We were already heading away to Percy’s Place at Pitt Town for a long weekend camping trip with some friends over Australia Day so we arranged to meet up with Fiona from Cub Campers to film our story.

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We met Fiona at Percy’s Place early and she filmed us driving in, setting up the camper and then she interviewed us both as well. The day was so incredibly hot, we had our friends heckling from the sidelines and we had two whingeing dogs to deal with, but it was a lot of fun. We really weren’t sure what to expect, but Fiona made everything so easy and fun and we were both happy with the end result, so it was all worthwhile! Click here to check it out.


Celebrations

Little Levi turned 2 in March and we had a lunch with family and friend’s at his house. It’s been great watching Levi grow from a baby into a little boy. It’s been a big year for him, he is starting to talk a lot more, he’s started soccer, he’s changed day care centres and he got his first bike.

In April we attended the wedding of Shelly’s cousin, Mel and her husband, Matt. This was a beautiful day, with the ceremony also incorporating a christening for their daughter Chloe. The reception was held in Cockle Bay so we treated ourselves to a night away at the Hyatt Regency.

The next morning to celebrate our brother in laws birthday we went to the fish markets for a seafood breakfast …. seemed fairly strange at first but this place is packed early in the morning and apparently a seafood platter at 9am is perfectly acceptable!

October 31st was not only Halloween, but it was also the 21st birthday of George’s son, Tre. They certainly aren’t kids anymore, Tre is 21 and Min is 23!

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October was also a big month for Shelly’s dad, Johnny, as he turned the big 80. We celebrated at our local tavern with a lunch for all the family and friends and it was a great day catching up with everyone.


The 4WD’s & Camper Trailer

We are always spending money on these vehicles, they are money pits!

90 Series Prado

Something Shelly has wanted for a long time was a black bull bar on the old Prado. Last year we purchased some Raptor paint with the intention of painting the bar on the 150 ….. As it turned out we just bought all new bar work for that Prado instead! So while we were off on holidays at Cape York, the old Prado took a holiday with our mechanic. We came back to a new windscreen and pretty black bullbar and side steps and we absolutely love it, it changes the whole look of the 4WD.

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During the year, one night while parked out the front of our house, our aerial and base got stolen off the Prado.  This was Shelly’s chance to get the pink aerial she’s been wanting!  She has gradually been adding her little touches of ‘pink’ to this 4WD and below are the latest!  George said he’s never driving this 4WD again!

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After painting the bar, the old rusty standard steel rims needed to go, so we got some new black wheels to fit with the theme ….. a set of 16×8 Sunraysia steel wheels from Dynamic Wheel Co.

150 Series Prado

The 150 Series Prado was also given new wheels and tyres – 17×9 Mickey Thompson Deegan Pro 2 wrapped in Dick Cepek Extreme Country 265/70×17.

These were tested out on our trip to Cape York and we were very happy with them.  One of our other vehicles also fitted them before leaving and they too were happy, these are an extremely good offroad tyre.

Like the old Prado, this one also got a new windscreen (installed the day before leaving for Cape York …. nothing like being prepared!).  An unexpected expense during our Cape York trip was a new Starter Motor, a detour back to Townsville and this was sorted quickly, (thanks Alect Auto Electrical) and later in the year a new alternator.  Boy these vehicles are expensive!

Both vehicles also got their new Off The Track stickers.

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Jobs

Last year we mentioned that George had left Bridgestone and started a new job …. Well as it turns out that wasn’t the job for George and he soon left and picked up his new job which he absolutely loves.  He’s now an Account Manager with Dynamic Wheel Co, covering NSW and ACT. This is the absolute perfect job for George as he is specializing in alloy and steel wheels predominantly for the 4WD market, could you get a more perfect job for a guy like George!.

Shelly is still at Capital Results, there have been a few changes over time but it’s basically been over 20 years in this job now!  She’s also still running her Scentsy business, Awaken The Scent. If you’re interested, we can deliver Australia-wide so check out the website and see if you’d like to order anything. Our whole house is filled with Scentsy products and aromas, even George is a huge Scentsy lover!


George’s outback trip

Now, it’s no wonder George loves his new job so much, September saw him head off with 5 of his workmates on a mini outback trip, disguised as a ‘sales conference’! George flew to Brisbane and met up with the others, loaded themselves into two vehicles and hit the road, first stop Thargomindah. Over the next few days they visited Innamincka, Burke’s grave, Cameron’s Corner and Tibooburra, before finally finishing up in Broken Hill.


Jungle surfing

After our Cape York trip we spent an extra day in Cape Tribulation so that we could go Jungle Surfing!   What a great experience this was to fly through the Daintree Rainforest on zip lines.  The platforms are up to 16 meters high and you can reach speeds of up to 45km/hour as you fly through the trees  ….. we even flew upside down on one of the sections!  The views were amazing, looking over the jungle canopy and across the Great Barrier Reef, such a fun way to spend a morning.


Paronella Park

Jose Paronella was a man who had a dream, a man who worked hard to make that dream become a reality and what an amazing story this is.  In 1929 Jose purchased 13 acres of scrub along Mena Creek and set about creating this special place.  Jose lived here with his family, but also opened it up to the public so that they could all enjoy the spectacular place aswell.  Jose built the whole park by hand, including hand planting over 7000 trees.  This was also home to a Hydro Electric generating plant which supplied power to the whole park, the earliest in North Queensland.

This had been on our list of places to visit and we can highly recommend it.  The entry price includes overnight camping fees so you can explore at your leisure.  Once we arrived Shelly set off on foot to explore the area and take some photographs while George set up camp!  Later that night we went on one of their guided tours (also included in the entry price) and learned a little more about the history of Paronella Park.  The current owners of the park even came out to speak with the group after the walk and explained a little about the history and their experiences and involvement since purchasing the park.  This is one really well run tourist attraction and you can see why they win so many awards.  This one should definitely be on your list of places to visit.


Pergola

After years of having the ugly triple car port in the yard we finally installed a new pergola earlier this year and we love it ….. now to just work on the rest of the yard!  Anyone got any ideas on how to have a nice backyard AND an American Staffy ……. our house would look amazing if we didn’t own Charli!  In case you are wondering why the camper trailer is hidden behind temporary fencing …. ask Charli!


RIP Bob

Shelly’s little cockatiel Bob died earlier this year.  Bob was nearly 18 years old and although Shelly has always had birds and aviaries, Bob was always the favourite.  Even Shelly’s sister loved Bob and she’s scared of birds!  Bob lived in 3 separate houses with Shelly over the course of his life and he was always a big part of the family.

Bob lived in our kitchen and often came out to play.   He was a strange little bird who much preferred to walk than fly and he absolutely loved rice bubbles, they were his favourite!  I remember one time when we were living in a rental property we arrived home to find the cage open and Bob gone, we walked around the house calling his name and followed the slight chirps we heard – we eventually found him at the other end of the house in the bedroom, hiding behind a set of drawers shaking!


How we spent Christmas 

Christmas Eve we had lunch at our house for Shelly’s side of the family. A big lunch, lots of presents, a few drinks and all your family, what better way to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas Day we headed to George’s sisters house to celebrate with George’s side of the family.  Again, plenty of presents and food and great company.


What’s planned for 2019?

Our big plans for 2019 are to visit the Big Red Bash!  Finally we are going! ….. Shelly’s been pestering George to do this since it first started! Another one of our bucket list items is going to be ticked off.  This 3 day concert is the most remote concert in the world, taking place outdoors in the Simpson Desert, just out from Birdsville at ‘Big Red’, the highest sand dune in the Simpson Desert.  We have the tickets and we are going!  Headline artists for next year are MIDNIGHT OIL, THE LIVING END and KASEY CHAMBERS, with many others including Richard Clapton, 1927, Wendy Matthews, Chocolate Starfish and The Chantoozies.  If anyone wants to join us on this trip, let us know!

Other than that, we will be taking a few weekend or short trips again and plan on spending a lot more time out 4WDing and exploring.


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As we look back and reflect on this past year, we are thankful for the love and friendship of our family and friends. We have had quite a few of you go through some hard times this year and it makes you realise more than ever that we only have one life and you need to make the most of that.  Do what makes you happy, enjoy every day like it’s your last. Cherish the moments you share with others, make memories wherever you go and live a life with no regrets. You are only given one chance at life so make sure it’s a great one 💕

Wishing you all a very happy, safe and adventure filled 2019. Get out there and experience some of the magical places that surround you. Bring on 2019!


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2017: Our Year in Review

Ok so this year started with us sitting in the Urunga Waters Caravan Park and guess what …. we ended it in exactly the same place! Yes we are back here again over the Christmas/New Year break. We started 2017 off with us at Urunga, near Coffs Harbour on the mid north coast of NSW. We spent the Christmas/New Year period here with friends last year and celebrated New Year’s Eve with complete random strangers who had camped next to us. We invited them to our campsite to celebrate NYE and we had a great time, that’s what camping is all about.

Well now we are back here again and this time we celebrated with our friends, Lauren and Liam and their kids and niece, our mate Stewy and his daughter and other friends Michelle & Matt and their son. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the New Year than with our beautiful friends.

So again, this has been an incredibly busy year for us. It’s been a year of ups and downs in many ways, we’ve had the stress of renovating, a change of jobs, medical issues and operations and numerous other obstacles, but we’ve also had many great times as well.

Let’s look back on 2017 …..


World Record Attempt

Always ready to try something new, this year on Saturday 4th February, we took part in the world record attempt for the World’s Biggest Haka, which took place on Waitangi Day 2017.

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The Haka that we learnt and performed was the famous ‘Kamate’ as performed by the NZ All Blacks and Kiwi Rugby League Teams.

Unfortunately the record was not broken, but we had a fun day and also tried our first Māori hangi … amazing!


Little Levi turned 1

On 6th March our little nephew turned 1!  We are all in love with him and he is truly the cutest little boy around! It’s awesome watching his little personality grow and beginning to interact with us more.  He’s one headstrong boy, needs to do everything himself and he has no fear!  He loves dogs and will happily share his food with them! He loves feeding our two and they are so gentle with him (so much for big scary, dangerous staffys!)


GS2Min returned from the UK

After 2 years working in the UK as a Sous Chef, George’s daughter returned back home in August.  She’s settled back in to life in Australia (even having a job lined up before she even landed in the country!).  Not sure how long she’ll hang around for though, we have a feeling she’ll be off exploring again very soon.


Spreading the word

This year we were nominated for the Travel Blog Awards with Mr Promocode.  We didn’t win, but we were grateful just to be nominated.  We’ve gained quite a following on social media over the past years and we love sharing our adventures with everyone.  We’ve been approached by news readers and government bodies to use our photos over the past couple of years, as well as most recently by Cub Campers, so social media is certainly the way of the future for advertising and spreading the word.

We are also now in the Top 3% of TripAdviser Reviewers, making us a Level 6 Top Contributor and one of the most popular reviewers in Sydney, with over 45,000 readers.


Renovations

This was the year to knock off a few of the home renovations we had been talking about for so long.  We understand why people stress with renovations, we had lots of arguments and lots of tears, but we are both very happy with the results.

The kitchen started off as maybe just replacing cupboard doors and bench top and ended up turning into a complete rebuild. We have a huge kitchen and it’s one of the reasons Shelly wanted to buy the house, so this rebuild was important to get it right. We both love the end result, just a few little finishing touches still to go and it’s done! (yes George, the plantation shutters aren’t installed yet, apparently this is all Shelly’s fault!)

The front door has made a huge difference and we love it. It’s the first thing people see so we are getting lots of compliments about this one!  Wasn’t hard to be better than the old entrance way!

Lastly we redid the powder room and it finally matches the bathroom (only took us about 9 years!).


Celebrations