All Good Things

All good things… involve books – that’s what you thought I was going to say right? Actually our trip has ‘come to an end’ and it was good, but I thought I’d take some time in this post to comment on the books I read. Its not a holiday if it doesn’t involve some reading!

As some of you would know I have started writing a book about bi-vocational mission and ministry and its value to the church. Much of it is drawn from my own experience and from the experience of pastors around Oz. I had thought of doing further study in this area, but I actually just want to write a readable and helpful book – not an academic treatise. Either way it involves research and study beyond what I would normally do. And in the process of that research I find myself heading down various rabbit holes and getting deeper and deeper. The whole question of vocation has been intriguing and while I started with Luther and his ‘revised’ understanding of vocation during the reformation, I somewhere stumbled across Miroslav Volf as a contrary voice to that of the reformers. And he has some excellent stuff to say.

As we were travelling I was reading Miroslav Volf’s book ‘Work in the Spirit’, where he takes issue with Luther’s understanding of vocation and suggests that what Luther envisioned suited an age where a person generally stayed in one position for life and it rarely changed. In modern times where careers change 5 or 6 times Luther’s idea doesn’t work as well, so he proposes a view of vocation that is both pneumatologically and eschatologically based. In short he suggests we see our gifts (charisms) as indicators of our calling and that we view the goal of work as to live as if we were in the new creation – to redeem and restore the parts that are ‘broken’. That’s a super short summary of a very dense but valuable read.

I don’t think I will be finished writing any time soon as I keep learning and having my thinking challenged. It’s actually quite invigorating. So Volf was my first book – not really a holiday read, but I needed that space to really focus.

As well as this I managed to get thru the Pianist of Yarmouk, an autobiographical story of a Palestinian/Syrian refuge and his struggle to get out of the devastation of Syria. A tough read, but worth the effort. A ‘Quarterly’ essay free on Kindle was The Prosperity Gospel – How Scott Morrison won and Bill Shorten lost, a bit of an insight into what went down in the last election. Just a quick read and not that fascinating. And over the last few days I have started into A Watermelon, a Fish and a Bible, by Christy Lefteri. It wasn’t a ‘big reading’ holiday by any stretch, but that’s ok.

To finish the journey, we left Crystal Springs and after wandering for a short while, finished up at ‘Sid’s Camp’ just out of Northcliffe, a super cheap campground on private property where you can stay for $5/night/person and $10 if you want power – so $20/night for us – check it out on Wiki-Camps. Cheap as chips for a very cool set up. We spent two nights there and shared it with a bunch of grey nomads who were also enjoying the warm vibe and the budget prices. We figured out that if we somehow lost our jobs and all of our cash, we could probably survive at Sid’s place for a long time with those sorts of prices! While there we made a trip down to Windy Harbour, a beautiful spot with some funky old houses all built very close to the ocean.

From Sid’s we headed north to Greenbushes, which is a little town really well set up for free camping. It was just an overnight stop, but it’s a town that has gone to a bit of trouble to make their village interesting with plaques down the main street on every house giving some history of what they were ‘back in the day.’ We ate at home, but the two pubs there look like they do a decent feed too.

Bunbury on the beach

It seemed each day ended with ‘where to now?…’ This time the answer was Bunbury! Why?… Because we have never actually spent any time there and the Bunbury council were offering some free camping right on the beachfront. We pulled in across from back-beach and a cafe. It was on a main drag, but pretty cool that a busier place had made the space for travellers like this. We spent over $1000 in town so the local businesses did ok out of us 🙂 (Danelle bought a new phone…)

But one night was enough. When you have been living remote and camping in quiet places, being in a city just doesn’t feel good. We left Bunbury with enough grunt in the battery for one more night of free camping. As we surveyed Wikicamps the choice was Drakebrook Weir just out of Waroona, a beautiful spot again to chill for a quiet night. There were 3 or 4 of us in the are that night and it was another great discovery.

With two nights to go we decided to move towards Fremantle for a final stop and ended up in the caravan park at Woodman point, not such a great idea when I discovered we were just 50m from a main road. Instead of waking to silence or to birds we woke to traffic – trucks – buses – horns… Hmmm… Still we enjoyed those final two nights before heading home on Wednesday, a day early, but thinking we’d like some time to clean up after the month away.

So endeth the trip and beginneth the clean up!

Get the Coffee Right…

Get the coffee right and the rest will take care of itself!

So we are a coffee loving family who also love to go off grid on holidays. Good coffee is easy when you have 230v power and the Breville Dual Boiler making your brew, but once off grid it gets trickier. The inverter can power the grinder so no probs there, but then its a case of choosing which method you prefer. I don’t mind the aeropress and the like, I can get by with a stovetop or even a plunger, but last year my Christmas present was a Bellman CX25P, the duck’s nuts of stove tops where (so the Youtube clip says) you can get a great shot of coffee and also manage to texture milk.

So I’ve probably made 12 coffees this trip with the Bellman and here are my thought in case you’re heading down that path.

  • There is a learning curve – you will need to make at least 5 or 6 coffees before what you have is barely acceptable! Even then you will still get the odd failure and the odd fluke that is brilliant but you are not able to repeat.
  • You wouldn’t do this at home as is takes a lot longer – think 7-10 minutes to make a flat white.
  • Dosing and quantities are an issue. I use the ‘6 shot’ size because I like it strong, but still haven’t got consistency with what I produce – partly because there is no tamper and its painful trying to tamp coffee with your fingers or a spoon.
  • You can get a good coffee – occasionally even as good as from the machine – but its tricky to master.
  • It’s hard to stop the ‘spluttering’ that occurs when you release the coffee.
  • I think most people would give up on using this method before mastering. I know I almost did. Danelle reckons its not worth the effort.
  • The set up and clean up is way more than with the machine. Think coffee grinds everywhere.
  • I will be making a tamper when I get home. I think that will solve the issues for the most part.
  • For $250 its a very nice product – if you can be bothered. I will be keeping mine, but only because I don’t want to be beaten by it!

The reality is that you can get a good coffee in almost every country town these days. There is generally a little boutique cafe that uses good beans and actually knows their stuff – like this little beauty in Kulin called ‘Acres of Taste’. Kulin is better known for its massive waterslide (true story), but this place does great coffee and sweet treats. Ravensthorpe also makes a good coffee at the BreadnButter Bar.

Acres of Taste in Kulin
Kulin Water Slide – Click the pic and read the story – pretty cool!

Moving on from the Porongorups, we were Albany bound, but neither of us wanted to stay in town, so it was a quick visit to the much loved Gourmandise Cafe for lunch and a bit of shopping for the essentials before heading out to Cosy Corner campground for the night. We were there along with what looked like a few folks who were doing it tough and living rough. You can stay for free for up to 7 days, so it looked some were saving on rent by living in the bush.

We only stayed a night before leaving for Denmark where we met up with darling daughter Ellie, who was camping out with 15 or so mates.

Denmark has always held a magical place in my imagination since surfing Ocean Beach as a kid. I remember wonderful summer days getting waves right off the headland and feeling like I was king of the universe because I was conquering these massive swells. The truth is more like I was able to catch tiny fat burgers and ride them to shore because I was a small twelve year old and I had a board that floated me like a boat!

While that may be the truth Danelle knows that any time we are in Denmark we have to ‘check’ Ocean Beach – even if its been over 40 years since I last saw waves there… Still the lure is there – (probably spurred on by the original 1966 Endless Summer)

Well this time was the trip that broke the drought!

A decent swell had been pushing thru and there were waves all around the coast and some great banks further around the bay. I sent the drone out for a reccy and spotted a main peak as well as a few others. The weather was looking nice to it was time to go and have some fun. As you can see the swell was solid and a heap of fun to actually get into!

A sweet little bank
Crowds were thin
Ah… so nice!
This bloke was magic to watch on the mal

So we hung around Denmark for 3 days, chilling, walking and surfing. The weather was surprisingly kind so I made the most of it while we were there.

On our final day, the Monday evening, we set out to the Denmark Tavern for dinner. As we entered another couple around our age did so at the same time. It was pretty packed and there were no tables free. I saw a family about to finish and asked if we could grab their table. All good.

So we went up to order and as I did I saw the other couple looking like they were going to have to eat outside where it was pretty chilly. I said ‘We have a couple of spare seats at our table – you can grab them if you like.’ thinking they will probably take the table and seat a small distance apart from us.

When I got back from ordering the tables were still together and Danelle was chatting with Kylie, while Frank looked a little like I felt… Are we really going to have dinner with complete randoms?… For the next 15 minutes we engaged in a level of conversation that affirmed we were within each other’s space, but we weren’t sure if we wanted to actually go the next step of actually connecting properly. Frank would look away when the conversation waned and I did similar – happy to be just table sharing. But the ladies continued to talk and before long we were caught up in it. It looked like we were going to be dinner company for each other.

The meals were slow to arrive – an hour had passed and now we were sharing life stories, parenting experiences, travel experiences and more. After two hours we had eaten, talked at length and we had actually discovered that we liked these people and they liked us. It was one of those serendipitous moments where you realise you have been fortunate to be in one another’s space. I imagine if we lived in Bunbury we would be friends with Frank & Kylie, but instead we shared a meal and moved on. As we stood to leave we introduced ourselves ‘I’m Andrew and this is Danelle – great to have shared dinner with you!’

‘Frank and Kylie – likewise.’

And so it ended as quickly as it began, but it was a beautiful experience – to share a table with complete strangers and to enjoy it thoroughly.

We left Denmark on the Tuesday bound for… well we couldn’t decide so we just began driving and loping along to see where we ended. It turned out that Crystal Springs Campground looked good. Just out of Walpole 15kms and run by DPAW, we were the only ones there, apart from some poor tenters. It was cold and the rain was kicking in. We went for a walk to the beach, but got rained off, did a bit of exploring, before the weather said ‘go home and stay warm’. Its a beautiful rugged part of the coast and on a nice day it would be great to look around.

Crystal Springs

At this point we really were wondering ‘where to from here?’ Neither of us wanted to head back to old familiar places like Margs or Busso, but what was out there that we hadn’t discovered? When you have travelled a lot in the south-west its tricky to find new places.

to be continued…

Will We Make It?

Imagine being trapped in a caravan with your spouse for 4 weeks…

Four whole weeks and all you have is one another for company… Can you pull it off?

That was the question I was quietly asking myself as we took off. For the last 18 years or so we have been busy co-parenting two kids who have always been on holidays with us. The question we have always asked is ‘what will the kids want to do today?’ We have enjoyed the time, but we have rarely been alone together for long stretches, but now it’s just us… We had done previous holidays – 3 days here, 5 days there, but never 4 weeks so this was a genuine new experience and to some degree a test.

I’m overstating it a little – but not a lot. It was a genuine question I knew we were going to face. Would we still be able to enjoy one another’s friendship, laugh together and find things to do that brought us both joy. Or would we discover that after 18 years we had drifted more than we thought and that there was some hard work to do just to connect again?

We often joke that we have nothing in common – quite literally – outside of our shared faith and commitment to Jesus we are chalk and cheese. But it turns out we are still good friends, we do still love just hanging out and while we miss the kids we are in no doubt we can have a life without them. I sensed it would be ok, but you just don’t know until you give it a real test. I’m writing this from a caravan park in Woodman Point with one day before we head home and it has actually been one of our best holidays ever.

The lesson?

No lesson – just a sense of joy and gladness that all is well with us.

So – back to the road. We spent a couple of windy, rainy days in Esperance – fortunately we both have books to read and shows to watch so it wasn’t simply ‘sit in a caravan and mope’. I checked the surf at Esperance, but the swell was massive and no one else was out so I figured it probably was best I didn’t paddle out either.

We went from there to Duke of Orleans Bay, a place we had heard about at weekly TGIF fireside chats in Hackney Way. John and Deb had been and recommended we make the extra effort to head that way. Our travel plan was really simple – go as far east as you can and then turn around and come slowly back. This place is only 60kms East of Esperance, but I’m guessing that most people don’t make the extra effort because Esperance is far enough. I’m so glad we did! Wharton Beach was stunning and we spent two days walking, surfing, droning and 4wding the area checking it out and loving the spectacular beauty and remoteness. The Condingup Tavern is also a fantastic place for a feed. We spent one evening there and had some excellent food and great service. Danelle recommends the date and walnut crumble 🙂

Wharton Beach – Stunning!
When you wish you had brought your longboard…

We stayed here a couple of days and then decided to push further east – as far as we could go without having to drag the caravan down bush tracks. So the end of the road for us was Cape Arid Nat Park where we were the only ones in the whole campground. We thought Wharton Beach was speccy, but I reckon Cape Arid just pipped it for beauty and if you love to be remote and isolated then I don’t think you could beat Thomas River campground in winter. We walked the beaches, enjoyed the views and at the end I managed a surf in the beach-break. We drove up to the middle of the bay where the waves were cranking more than the headland and I hit the water. It wasn’t the best wave I’ve ever had, but just to be out in that stunning patch of ocean with no one else anywhere around was worth it. A few head high sets gave me some challenge and then we headed for camp again.

The only ones there…

We walked around the headlands for an hour one morning and while I went back to camp, Danelle sat on the rocks and watched a pod of dolphins hunt a school of fish in the crystal clear water. If you have never been to Cape Arid then do yourself a favour! Just don’t do it like this bloke… If I had a gripe though it would be that the cost of Nat Park camping is starting to get a little bit prohibitive. At $15/adult plus $15 entry that equated to $45 for the first night or $75 if Ellie and Sam had been with us. Yeah – it balances out a little if you stay longer, but I am thinking its time DPAW took a look at their pricing structures and reviewed them. Otherwise families will stick to caravan parks – which will work out cheaper – and everyone will miss out.

Some great waves in the middle of the bay – crowd factor = low!
The water couldn’t get much clearer
Here fishy fishy…

With the battery dying we decided to head back to Esperance and let it recharge at a caravan park. Our current 100ah battery gets us 2-4 days off grid depending on how much solar recharge we can find. Shortly I will be upgrading to a lithium battery which should give us longer use and faster re-charge – oh yeah and it aint cheap… around $1K

So we hung around Esperance for 2 days reading and chilling before hitting the road for… um… we’re not really sure. We headed west and finished up at the old Fitzgerald school site, just 40kms out of Jerramungup, another freebie in the middle of absolutely nowhere! The school had been demolished and the grounds are now available to passing travellers for camping on.

That’s us below and the old school oval

From Fitzgerald we headed to the Porongorup National Park to spend a couple of days bush-walking and enjoying the vibe of the mountains. Danelle loves to walk and I love to surf, but we are both pretty good at enjoying the other person’s stuff. The first day there we climbed the Devil’s Slide on a cold drizzly arvo – a decent effort to get to the top – and on the way back I experienced the ‘slide’ as I lost my footing and landed heavily on my left butt. I’d show you the bruising… but I think (hope) Danelle has deleted the picture 🙂 We chatted to the new managers of the Porongorup Tourist Park and discovered they had been down south on holidays, saw the park for sale and decided to buy it… as you do. So from engineering and social work to caravan park management in one quick move! They look like they love what they are doing so I’m sure it will fly.

How’s the serenity?
A nice outlook over the Stirling Ranges

If All The Year Were Playing Sport…

‘If all the year were playing sport, to holiday would be as tedious as to work – but when they seldom come – they wished for come.’

Prince Harry in Henry IV Part 1 – Shakespeare

I don’t remember a lot from high school, but this little bit of Shakespeare stuck with me. I had to learn a whole bunch of quotes for my English Lit exam and this was one of my favourites. It has also been one of the more significant and formative ideas over the years as I have tussled with the balance of work and play.

When we travelled Australia back in 2009 it seemed that every other traveller we met was hoping to eventually do nothing but travel full time. There are actually countless people on the road every day with no plans of heading home, who are doing nothing but moving around day after day, because apparently this is ‘the dream’. Well I think Prince Harry was on the money with his thoughts as even though travel is wonderful and not working is less taxing, it is only so because we have something to compare it to. I can only imagine how tedious and unfulfilling it would be to do nothing but live in a caravan and indulge my own pleasures every day. Life needs (and indeed has) a far greater purpose than our pleasure and self indulgence, however that is not a common or even popular narrative.

I have really enjoyed the last 3 1/2 weeks of travelling, but I know this is not my life. My life is intended to have purpose and to be about service and connection and even sacrifice.

So with a mere two days of holiday left I thought I’d write some reflections on where we have been and what we have done – but against that backdrop. This has been a much needed and enjoyable break, but as we head home it is with a sense of purpose and joy as we go back to the things we have been called to do and the people we have been called to live alongside of. This is where our life is (primarily) and the breaks only serve to remind us of how privileged and blessed we are to live the life we do.

So read on as I ramble around to and fro with travel tales, theological reflections and the odd bit of plain silliness.


It was June 26th that we left home for Guilderton where we would spend the first evening and celebrate my mother in law (Val’s) 80th birthday. We had a great evening there with family and the next morning hit the road bound for Esperance, but with no set time to be there or to move on.

‘Where to hey?’ Its a question we have asked one another often over the last 3 1/2 weeks. That night we finished up in York, a quaint little town in the Avon Valley where there is free overnight camping by the river. It was raining and cold, but we enjoyed walking the streets and checking out some of the culture and architecture that makes this town unique. A great first stop and a place we’d love to revisit some day.

From there we asked that same question. ‘Where to now?’

Hyden was on my radar as after 46 years in Oz I still haven’t made it to Wave Rock and I thought it would be nice to go, seeing as how it was on the way. That said we weren’t far from Narrogin and from some old friends we hadn’t seen in 5 years or more, so we phoned to see if they were home. It was a ‘yes’ so we diverted to Narrogin and spent 4 hours drinking tea and catching up. It was wonderful and rich to spend time with people we love but with whom our lives haven’t intersected much for some time. We had a feed at the Narrogin Hotel – porterhouse steak and chips for $18 was pretty good and then retired to the van for a chilly night.

Back in April our original plan (Plan A) was to travel across to the Eyre Peninsula but due to Covid and with WA still having hard borders it no longer made sense to cross over only to spend 14 days in isolation on our return. So we decided that rather than follow the crowds to the north at this time of year, we would just go south – to the cold and the rain and hopefully seclusion. We are due to take long service leave from church work in April next year so we wanted to give the new caravan a good workout before taking it across the country and back again. So far so good.

The new van was an unexpected pick-up. Last year I began searching for a ‘mum and dad’ van (no bunks) to set us up for long service leave. I had a Gumtree search permanently there for Jayco Silverline Caravans – kinda like a hotel room but on wheels. I was hoping we might be able to pick up an older one for a sub $50K price. But the more I looked the more I annoyed myself. There were no bargains and most were $65-70k and I didn’t want to spend that kinda money. I deleted the search and decided to look again closer to the time.

Then one day sitting in a Dr’s waiting room I decided to kill time by looking for vans on Gumtree and I happened upon a 2018 Silverline for $49K. It looked way too good to be true, but I rang anyway just in case it was genuine and the voice at the other end told me the van had been sold subject to the purchaser getting finance. That was ‘the one that got away’ if ever there was one!

I got home and looked at the ad again… ruefully….

Over the weekend I I felt like I should call back and check if the finance had worked out. I haven’t done that before but I was pretty devo that I had missed out on a serious bargain – if it really was one. So I called on Monday and the owner told me that finance hadn’t worked out and that it was mine if I wanted it. I arranged to check it out the next day and then proceeded to REVs check and scam check every detail I could find. As it turned out the van had been in an accident and the original owners had new for old insurance so rather than repairing it they just got a new van and then the current owner had bought it for salvage value c. $45K. He spent $2k on repairs but just never got around to using it. He sounded legit and the details all checked out so we went for a look.

To say I was keen was an understatement. I was ready to put $49K on the table that afternoon if needed. The van checked out and even though it was dirty from sitting and being unused it was awesome and had more bells and whistles than we could ever have imagined. As we chatted about the sale the owner let me know that he had some ‘wiggle room’ because it was un-licenced and would need to go over the pits. I was already sold at $49k, but if there is wiggle room then count me in… (Lesson = never tell buyer you can drop the price)

‘How much ‘wiggle room’ have you got?’ I asked, thinking I’d just let him call it. ‘

How’s $47500 sound?’ he replied. Inside I was ecstatic. Outside I matter of factly said ‘Sure – sounds fair.’


We paid a deposit and then set about figuring out how to get it back on the road – hoping we hadn’t just purchased a very expensive mobile spare room. It turns out you need to get the repairs signed off by a panel beater, get gas and elec compliance checks and then take it to dept of transport for rego. A few hoops to jump…

So I picked it up on a Friday and had each of these appointments scheduled back to back. It all went well and it was only as I was driving home that I realised how stressed I had been. It definitely had been a bit of a gamble but the end result was worth it We had picked up a van selling for between $60-75 for $47500 plus the $700 costs. It was earlier than we expected to buy it, but we were now ready for holidays. So this was to be our test run where we iron out the kinks and discover what works and what doesn’t work (Jayco don’t do well on drainage…)

We left Narrogin bound for Hyden and that ‘Wave Rock’, determined to finally see this WA icon and tick it off the bucket list. Before leaving I discovered that the diesel heater I had installed prior to leaving was constantly cutting out on start up. So just a tip if you are doing a similar install: I had tapped into the pump wires for power, but these cables weren’t capable of handling the current pull that was needed at start up meaning the heater would fail to kick in. Because the van had been on 240v the whole time we were at home I hadn’t spotted the problem. So it meant a quick stop at the Narrogin Auto Elec to pick up some heavy duty dedicated cabling – problem solved.

Wave Rock caught me off guard! What an awesome and unique place. I had seen pics and always thought it was interesting but no big deal. But it is seriously worth visiting – and pondering ‘how did all this happen?…’ We walked right around in the bitter cold and then headed back to the van and another roadside freebie for the night. Fortunately the heater was now working as the fingers and toes were near frozen and the night was getting colder.

The next day we pushed right thru to Esperance. picking up a great coffee in Ravensthorpe – while also being reprimanded for standing too close to the person in front of me – we have noticed many smaller country towns are far more ‘covid sensitive’ than we are with hand san at every front door along with a serious request to actually use it. I may have faked it a few times… I mean how much cleaner can a bloke’s hand get when you simply go from shop to shop?…

To be continued…