It scarcely seems possible and was completely surreal driving back through awful Sydney traffic. But after 371 days on the road, we were back to see my dad in Westleigh. After parking and leveling Alice in the sloping driveway, the boys were straight into dad’s 1950’s Mechano before it was time for dinner. It was wonderful to see Dad, Alison and my aunt and uncle, Ros and Les for dinner and a glass of lovely champagne. On Sunday we were off to Dural to see my sister Kirsty and her wonderful family who I’ve missed so much.


After a quick trip to Leichhardt to collect a years worth of mail and of course the most important thing, Lego that James bought on-line six months ago, it was back to Westleigh for our very last sleep in our beloved 14′ wobbly box that we’ve called home for the last 372 days.


Canberra – take two

Canberra was an opportunity too good to miss to catch up friends.  Our erstwhile ‘Big Lapper’ traveling companions the Lonerghans had recently relocated from Adelaide. After setting up in a noisy caravan park in Fyshwick, we met them at Canberra’s Arboretum before a relaxing take away dinner and chat at their flat in town.


Next morning it was off to see Kris’s old friends the Fayes at Yarralumla. We were meant to see them the week before Christmas, but our car decided that was just not to be. It was great to see them and meet their newest family member, Anneliese. After a delicious brunch, we all packed into Betsy and hit the Hume to meet my dad in Westleigh, Sydney for more family reunions.

Green Acres Farm Tarcutta

Wanting to spend as much time with our friends as we could, we convinced Alex and Mel to join us for at least one day at Green-Acres. In many ways this is like returning to the womb for us. A place of comfort and security where we can de-stress and properly relax. Farm life ranges from doing absolutely nothing to frenetic busyness when things really need to be done. Because time with Alex and Mel and their girls was short, Kris’s uncle Robert asked Alex and myself to help with the suitably manly job of relocating a 12 foot long fence post removed by flood waters in Oberne Creek. Once the hard stuff was over, we went to the top of ‘Ellis Hill’, the highest point on the 705 Ha farm for sweeping views of this section of the lower Riverena. Next morning, true to his word, Robert saddled up ‘Bridie’ for pony rides for Tullie, Ella, Sam and James. All too soon the Blanches said ‘farewell’ and were off, leaving us with another 12 days of wonderful farm life.

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Each morning, Sam (followed eventually by James), would wake early, sneak out of the van to let the dogs off and the chooks out. We also suggested strongly that they not stand at the end of Robert and Jenny’s bed each morning waiting for them to wake up! Over the next week, jobs around the farm included checking electric fences, a bit of mowing and gardening and roo shooting for dog meat.


It wasn’t all work though. Each morning we checked to see if ‘Ruby’, one of six farm dogs, had had her pups. Robert also took us down to the creek in search of carp to spear. I also taught Sam how to shoot a 22 rifle and Robert showed Sam how to reload ammunition. Whilst completely useless skills for a city kid, I was letting Sam revel in a place that is magical when you’re eleven! Robert also made a beautiful knife for Sam (from an old lawnmower blade), razor sharp and complete with leather scabbard, hand tanned of course! A highlight was watching Robert slaughter and skin a hogget (a slightly older lamb). Whilst a little grizzly, it is where our meat comes from, and Kris and Robert were able to explain all relevant parts of the ‘engine and gearbox’ to Sam and James (and me too).


The next morning, once over his understandable squeamishness, James decided he wanted a hogget tooth. Down to the gully we went to where the entrails and head had been left for the worms and birds. Now who’s squeamish? After the hogget had been bled overnight on the 50 year old hand made gallows, the two sides were put in the ute, taken to the kitchen bench and sawn up into relevant cuts. I asked ‘if the sheep was feeling a little saw?’ – Dad joke, zen level.

We were also lucky enough to be joined by Kris’s parents Geoff and Sue, who had driven down from Sydney for the week. This inspired a Klimpsch family gathering on Saturday afternoon, 9th January. There were 18 of us in all and it was great to catch up with everyone. The evening was rounded off with Ruby finally having her pups. Six cute little black and white balls of mewling fur.

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After being growled at by Ruby, Splinter, the 13 year old father, was unceremoniously taken to the vet at the next opportunity to prevent any further such occurrences. Green Acres has now given the boys the trifecta of spectacles, births, deaths and Robert and Jenny’s marriage 3 years ago. The next day, Robert saddled up ‘Socks’ to muster cattle in his front paddock. The intent was to separate and then load three bulls onto his truck for the market in Wagga. The heaviest bull was 1062 kg and understandably, they were all a tad grumpy at being separated, tagged and then prodded from pen to crush to truck. The combination of agitation and extreme strength made this very stressful all round. Sam also learnt some new and colourful farm language that I look forward to hearing again in his teenage years.


In many ways, this felt like the real end to the trip. We had a lovely week here in Jan 2015 to repack our van after the berserk final week of packing up at home, so it was fitting to be here at the end as well. After sad farewells, and with David Bowie playing respectfully on the stereo, we headed to Canberra to catchup with friends, old and new.


Tumbarumba – Henry Angel Flat Rest Area

Tumbarumba Rodeo had always been on the bucket list, so when Betsy decided not to play ball back in Pambula, we weren’t sure if we would make it. But as they say, everything has a habit of working out okay, and so it did. Alex and Mel and the girls decided to join us for the new years day rodeo at the Tumbarumba show ground. After a luxuriously slow pack up from ‘Tom Groggin’, we set up at Henry Angel Flat rest area about 8 km out of Tumbarumba and arrived at the Rodeo just after 1 pm. Having been to one way back in Cloncurry, we had some idea of what to expect.

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The kids hanging out with Danika Boland. Put your hands together for Miss Rodeo Australia 2015!

We saw steer wrestling, bucking ponies, stallion chute out, bareback and saddle bronc riding and of course the main event, the bull ride. Unfortunately the skies opened just as the main event started, which meant we missed some of the bare back bull riding. Perhaps next year. After the heavy but short lived rain, we headed back out to the lovely Henry Angel free camp before saddling up next morning to make the short ride back to ‘Green – Acres’.

Tom Groggin Horse Camp

Keen to escape the crowds we ventured further into the Snowy mountains. Right to the border of Victoria to set up camp on the Murray River at Tom Groggin Horse Camp (and yes there were horses, but not the wild kind).


A local from Jindabyne, what better way to wash off after a hard days ride?

There were some more steep hills on the way, meaning second gear for me going up and down, with rest periods on the descents to let our stinky brakes cool. However, we made it without a hitch, pulling in to our camp and setting up with a nice view over the mountains and river. Our camp was idyllic, we were perched just metres from the river and had the place pretty much to ourselves.


Alex and I had made the effort to ask at the park gatehouse if Tom Groggin camp was full. The uninformed reply was ‘Oh yes, this time of year I expect it will be very full’. The horse camp was nearly empty. Alex and I rode up to Tom Groggin proper, about 3 kilometres up the road, which was just enormous. Probably six foot ball fields worth of flat, empty space not including the extensive river frontage. I guess the gatehouse attendants don’t talk to the rangers or get out much.  We whiled away our two days here chatting, swimming in the 22 degree river, sitting around the fire and relaxing. This would definitely be a spot to come back to.


James, Ella and Sam deciding between NSW and Victoria in the Murray.

This was also where we would see 2015 finally disappear. New years eve was sombre, with some tears from James and Kris as the enormity of the trip that we have been planning on and off for almost a decade and then living for the last 12 months inexorably drawing to an end. None of us really wants to go back. There is a visceral freedom about what we have done and a closeness in our family from this experience and I don’t think any of us wants it to slip away. The good news is that we are still away, yay! And that we got to share NYE with great friends. We even made it to midnight – just…



NYE 2015 – what a perfect end to an extraordinary year for us.