Eighteen Months on an Island (not deserted)!

Well here we are living on an island… and it’s been so relaxing I haven’t written a post in forever.. well, that might not be it, could just be sheer laziness about the whole writing thing and keeping up with it but whatever justifies it works!

Island living… sounds idyllic, the scenery is definitely idyllic and there are many days I have to pinch myself to remember I actually live here.  Real life doesn’t go away though, for anyone feeling particularly jealous there are still bills to pay, kids to get to school, work to do, husbands to irritate, housework to ignore. Oh and the sand in your bed!  Should have predicted that one but it’s taken me 18 months to stop getting aggravated about it.  The amount depends on exactly how much housework I’ve ignored and how many kids have been in the house and how thoroughly I sat on the edge of the bed and brushed my feet together to de-sand before hopping in. It’s a bit like camping.. permanently.

It would have been so easy to go back to the suburbs and our busy jobs and kids in every after school activity they could manage in the interest of ‘personal development’ but we didn’t.  Instead we moved here, where you have to catch a boat to do most things we used to just hop into the car for and we have a curfew – after 730 pm we are stranded on the mainland and rely on the generosity of our friends to give us a bed for the night!

It’s an interesting re-mix of life balance, we work harder to do grocery shopping or obtain building supplies (or pay more) but life is more like it used to be, kids free to roam, simple pleasures such as watching the sun go down at the beach or swimming in a beautiful lake and drinking tea admiring  the vibrant poinciana trees from our front deck.  We have been lucky enough to meet some some amazing people from all walks of life and count a number of them as friends now. That happened so easily compared to other places we’ve lived that it must have something to do with who is drawn to live here, or is lucky enough to have been born here and decided to stay.

There is also the bizarre occurrence that there are three other families living here or with a holiday home here that all used to live near us in Mt Crosby out West of Brisbane and were our crew.  The odds of that happening seem far fetched unless you know they are all sisters that unite this group including my best friend in the world – family is definitely who you choose and it makes a new place so much more welcoming to move to.

There is so much to say about this little island off the coast of Brisbane but I’m just dipping my toe back in the blogging pool… so later gators…

Cheers

Michelle

Why ?????

Why are moving to Stradbroke Island ?
 There have been a lot of questions asked since we returned from our Christmas break announcing we were moving to Strandbroke Island (I would be lying if I said the shock factor wasn’t just a bit fun!) Why would you move, why to an island, why away from family…. The flippant answer is because we can – of course there is so much more to it than that, but also it sort of sums it up nicely.  Also I’m not particularly superstitious but sometimes the universe does seem to put these opportunities smack bang in your path that are impossible to ignore.

We have visited Brisbane and caught up with our family and friends often since leaving to do our around Australia trip in 2013 (that turned into an oops we aren’t coming back now situation).  Christmas last year shouldn’t have been any different, fly in, feel surrounded by people we love, get really sad about leaving and then come home and get on with life while marvelling at how beautiful the Mornington Peninsula is and how lucky we are to live here.

Except this time my beloved best friend had moved herself and her family….to an island….. a decision which baffled and bemused us.  Although beautiful, it was isolated, difficult to get to, had limited services and what on earth do you do there? Don’t get me wrong, we have camped on Straddie in days gone by and it is truly one of the most spectacular spots in Australia, but that’s a completely different kettle of fish to living in a camping destination full time.

So we all squeezed into her tiny little house and hung out with people we loved. We piled the kids into the car and went to amazing beaches with rolling waves, rock pools and sand slides, walked around the Point trying to spot dolphins and turtles, had the most amazing Gelati (that could have been the deciding factor come to think of it), bought coffee at the groovy whole food cafe right across the street and watched the kids play on the access road under the Poinciana trees.  It recaptured some pretty warm and fuzzy feelings of how much we loved this place before and how far away the ‘real world’ felt when we were there. Admittedly we were on holiday and life always has that warm haze about it that causes you to start fantasising about giving it all away to live on a desert island (or even a dessert island – don’t forget the Gelati!)  

Then we left – waved goodbye and hopped on a plane to Vanuatu (yes I know, we were having a horrible time of it). Maybe it would have been a different outcome if we went straight home to reality – it might have just been another holiday pipe dream.  Instead the idea took root and grew while we had time on our hands to contemplate it. An opportunity for our kids to spend some of their most formative years in a beautiful natural environment that would encourage them to be outdoors and active.  To learn about aboriginal culture in a way most kids would never experience – by going to school with them, living next door, participating in their customs and traditions. To separate from our spiralling involvement in all things materialistic and online – no shopping centres or even much of anything retail, a smaller house, cheaper car, less possessions, more focus on the environment, friendship, connecting with people around us.  Kids able to walk to school from home, play in the street and be three doors down from their oldest and dearest friends in the world, everything you could see or do no more than a fifteen minute drive away. Less stress, less hurry, less spending, less busyness.

The question slowly became why wouldn’t we do it. You’re not always in a position to take this kind of leap but right at this point in time, we could. We both work from home, our kids were delighted at the thought of being near their mates and living on an island and we could make it work – so why not? It still might have slipped away from us – but we came home and without even really having that final discussion of ‘are we doing this’ we just made it happen. That’s seems to be a source of fascination for everyone as well – I’ve been told we are the most portable family ever and how on earth do we do make this work, packing up the family and moving all over the place.  I’m not even really sure, we just seem to do it – but I will try and explain that too.. but in another post as it’s late now and I seem to be keeping our ginger moggie awake – the only member of the family who doesn’t care where we live as long as there is food (although possibly that applies to our kids as well…..)

Night

Michelle

 

Innses are doing (a bit of) Australia again

Well I’ve been incredibly lazy about this blog since we returned from the big trip around Australia – and I’ve had several complaints about people missing my updates seeing as we are STILL on the move around this beautiful country and I haven’t said a word about it! I still have so many posts to catch up on about our travels and what we have been up to since it all ended. We have been living in one of Australia’s best kept secrets, the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. Maybe not so best kept since it made it onto the National Geographic’s list of top 15 places in the world to visit in 2015 – but still mostly a Victorian secret. 

our local spot

 

Unbelievably we have chosen to leave this slice of gorgeousness and move ..again… we have been accused of being on the run from the police and/or having gypsy blood but regardless change seems to be the one thing we Innses aren’t afraid of (mostly not afraid, I’ve had a few anxious moments!) There is something to be said for stability, security, living in a place with people you’ve known forever and family close by. It’s warm, cosy, reassuring and safe, which is a wonderful place to be – but it can also stop you doing new things because losing that is scary. So we weighed it up – the opportunity to live on one of the most beautiful islands in Australia and expose our children to a different culture and environment while they are still forming their own views on the world for better or worse, versus staying where we are loved, happy and already living in a spectacular bit of paradise. Needless to say we are yet again garage sale-ing and giving away our possessions so the island has won.

That doesn’t mean I’m  happy about leaving, that it hasn’t been a decision fraught with fear, doubt and anxiety as we prepare to leave our far from standard but oh so wonderful extended family where we have experienced a much needed cocoon of love and inclusion. I did see an interesting experiment recently though where a blackboard was put up in a public space and people were asked to write their greatest regrets on it. Without fail the were things people didn’t do (not mistakes they had made)… lesson learned, we are going to take the chance rather than live with the regret of not trying. There is so much more to write about that particular decision, that’s to come… 

new beaches

 

  

I have a lot of writing about the places we have seen and lived since we started that epic journey around Australia so much so I barely know where to start, but this is my lead in post, I’ll get back in the swing….

Ningaloo Reef

We departed Denham headed  for the famous Ningaloo Reef via the town of Exmouth – not that we had actually booked anywhere to stay, after perusing Camps Australia and determining that were five or six camping areas within the National Park area itself we decided that surely we would be able to find a site even during school holidays?  There had been mutterings from some of the grey nomads we had chit chatted with about having to get there first thing in the morning to wait for a site but I think we had forgotten that in between having the conversation and arriving (or completely forgotten which area they were talking about, after four months it was all starting to blend into one!)

So it was a bit of a rude shock driving into Exmouth to find a big board up on the outskirts stating the national park was full!  Mind you – so were all the caravan parks.  We were beginning to think parking on the side of the road might have to be an option (you aren’t supposed to but driving hours back or forward from Exmouth didn’t really appeal). So began the big caravan park ring around to find that two at least had overflow areas – now this is a new concept for us, not sure if it’s just a WA thing but we have discovered that the parks in these high traffic tourist areas reserve areas for folk like us that turn up in town without a clue that it’s school holidays and wonder why we can’t get a site.  I think it must be bad for tourism turning people away because they keep the overflow areas and the Lighthouse Caravan Park we checked into was only just finishing grading the new overflow area that afternoon and were even still waiting on council approval!

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Beachcombing

Anyway – crisis averted and a dirt pad is better than driving on – although it was really annoying to drive into the national park the next day and find that sites had become free! We even extended our stay here for another day, this is close to one of the most beautiful spots we had stayed so far with the clear green water, snorkelling, beach combing, massive clam shells to be collected and perfect weather.  The beach was a short walk across the road and over the dune and we spent a lot of time there while the husband attempted to catch fish – or I should say attempted to catch legal size fish as there were some throw backs!

 

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Treasure

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Beautiful Coral Bay

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Finding a Spot

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Coral Bay

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Beach Bums

 

We failed miserably at our attempts to teach our kids to snorkel however – they found the water too cold to wade in and try it at Coral Bay, where you can literally snorkel off the beach (but perhaps with a wet suit at this time of year?) We took a glass bottom boat tour out to the reef itself (after discovering the exorbitant cost of swimming with the whale sharks – unbelievable!) Where it was attempted to put the girls in the water with a pool noodle to snorkel – but this too ended miserably!  Admittedly there was quite a strong current so it wasn’t like we could just float along side them and teach some technique, it was all I could do to stay in one place while they got their snorkel and mask on – and the first mouthful of water pretty much stopped their snorkel escapade dead in tracks.  Oh well – two wet cold short people returned to the boat while the grown ups took turns snorkeling at least!  The fish and coral were beautiful, perhaps not as amazing as the Great Barrier Reef but the whole stop over in Ningaloo was a relaxing, sunny beach retreat.

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Snorkelling

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Denham and Monkey Mia

This whole region of the WA Coast (in fact the entire WA coast) is stunning with it’s turquoise water and sandy beaches, really just continuing the theme that was started from the moment we hit the coast line of this State. Our primary intention here was to visit the dolphins of Monkey Mia but being homeless nomads we opted out of paying exorbitant fees at the conservation area itself and instead checked into the Shark Bay Caravan park in Denham, only a 10 minute drive past the Francois Peron National Park to Monkey Mia.

I’ve only been vaguely aware of Monkey Mia – there were stories of how you can swim with dolphins there and feed them but it wasn’t something I paid a lot of attention to. Once we were headed there however I thought it would be an exciting thing for our children to be so close to dolphins in the wild and have a greater appreciation for these beautiful creatures. That’s not quite how it went though!

The story of this area is a little sad, when it was discovered people would swim with and feed the dolphins at will and apparently they became so dependent on humans they would even leave their calves out in the deeper water to die while they came in to be fed (I’m not sure what that says about Dolphin maternal instincts, a free feed never enticed me to leave my babies?!) Now it’s a strictly controlled conservation area and the dolphins come in several times in the morning to be fed but within this area there is no interaction with them (unless you are one of the lucky ones to be called forward and give them a fish) and they are restricted to several fish each.

When you arrive there is a board stating when the dolphins had come in previously and how many people were on the beach watching them, luckily for us they had only been in the once and that was much earlier so we were expecting a sighting soon. We setup for play time on the beach and awaited the royal guests arrival. It was exciting sighting the first shadows slipping through the water near the jetties, and the park ranger (or whatever they were called!) started issuing orders about where to stand and what to do. We were able to stand in the water initially as three dolphins started slipping past the gathered crowd entertaining us all – once they moved onto feeding though everyone had to return to the beach and they selected three people to come into the water and hold the fish. We missed out on that count which might have held the kids interest a bit longer – as it was I was shocked to hear them asking if they could go get lunch while the dolphins frolicked right in front of them! I know my children like their food but really? Apparently natural wonders still only hold their attentions for a short period of time but as we were enjoying it they were ordered to entertain themselves on the beach.

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Arrival of the Visitors

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The Crowd

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Ready for the Close Up

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Showing Off

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Feeding Up

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Chilling at the Resort Area

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Turtle Sighting from the Jetty

 

We also went out on one of the two catamarans that operate out of Monkey Mia, once for a sunset cruise which was all about relaxing with a glass of wine and watching the sun go down and then the next day for a wildlife cruise of spotting dolphins, turtles and sharks – all of which were sighted. The girls had a great time as the catamaran was loaded with kids of a similar age and they all took over the netted areas between the hulls and screamed “dolphin” in unison when there was a sighting – I’m very surprised they dolphins came in for a bow wave ride with all that noise going on! We however had a very relaxing time with the short ones off with the gang, had almost forgotten how wonderful it is to be out on the water after so many months of looking at it from a beach (yes, I know, terribly hard life we lead)…

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Monkey Mia Jetty

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Our Ride

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Out at Sea

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Ahoy Captain

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Hello Sailor

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Sunny Days

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Sunset Cruise

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A Little Sisterly Love

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Bali (State of Australia?!)

Ok, so Bali doesn’t technically qualify as part of our around Australia trip – however – since we were reliably informed by our Western Australian counterparts that Perth-ites often travel there three times a year I’ve decided that it can be an honorary State of Australia for the purposes of my blog. Why Bali?  Well until now we had resisted the Australian Bali craze however flights are so cheap out of Perth and it  was roughly half way through our mammoth tour of Australia –  there is only so much living in a campervan one can do before going slightly (or a lot) batty.  So we left our campervan parked in our friends drive way (love you KL and Cam), repacked our bags with summer clothes and hopped a plane to Bali. It nearly didn’t happen, Craig and I are both a little risk averse when it comes to travelling with the short people and there were many discussions about the fact that Sophia can’t resist experiencing her surrounding through her mouth (not advised for South East Asia) and how Bali Belly could ruin the whole two weeks. However, we hopped a plane and went and joined the ranks of thousands of Australian’s who flock to this Indonesian tourist hot spot every year.

Having spent time in Asian destinations before Bali was pretty much as expected – hot, humid, crowded, slightly unsanitary by Western Standards but also fascinating, charming and exotic. As usual seeing things through children’s eyes is a whole new perspective, they couldn’t have cared less that people looked different, that there were broken sidewalks or that nothing seemed like home – there was just endless fascination with the shops selling so many bright and unusual items, a love of travelling everywhere by taxi and spending half of each day in the pool.

As we were told by so many others who had travelled here, the girls were a source of endless fascination for the locals – not so much in the tourist hot spots of Kuta and Seminyak but when we travelled out into the regional areas of the temples where local tourists from Java frequented. After a dozen requests to take photographs with the girls (and one couple who tried to actually pick Layla up) our Nanny informed us that  many of the Javanese hadn’t seen white people before let alone twin girls so they were as fascinated by us as we were by the local Indonesian culture.  Layla seemed to take it in her stride (born exhibitionist) however Sophia took to hiding behind my legs as soon as anyone with a camera came near her!  We were also constantly amused by the local taxi drivers who questioned Craig every trip about why we weren’t having a third child – didn’t he want a boy??!

I loved the local culture, the colour, the food and being able to dine out every night in another beautiful restaurant and having a local nanny smoothed the way in regard to obtaining great local food, especially fruit (although I was a little bemused by the road side vendor in the mountains who attempted to sell me a rifle when we hopped out to buy strawberries!) Another highlight was the local man who was merrily bathing in the local drainage system completely naked (as you do when you bathe) right next to the main highway!  The amount of pollution and rubbish accumulating in local waterways was a little sad for me, it feels that we are contributing to their economy with our tourist trade but the down side is also generating a ton of plastic water bottles amongst other detritus that often makes its way into the environment or gets burnt resulting in a constant atmospheric smog.

We made some amazing family memories –  riding elephants at the Safari Park, stroking a sleeping tiger cub, being harassed mercilessly by the local cheeky monkeys,  watching the sunset over the water at Jimbaran Bay while eating seafood and visiting some stunningly beautiful temple locations – as well as spend a lot of time just idling around our hotel pool and reflecting on life in general.  Somehow in amongst the crowded busyness this became a time of being able to rebalance and refocus on what life is really about.   Although we were all more than ready to return to Australia after two weeks (the girls weren’t that chuffed about Indonesian food I have to say!) it was with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for how lucky we are to be on this trip and looking forward to the remaining two months.

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Sunset at Jimbaran bay

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Beautiful Temple Area at Tanah Lot

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Fire Dancers at our Restaurant One Night

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Elephant Safari – Complete with Silly Hats!

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Botanical Gardens – Welcome Cool Respite

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Star Attraction!