A wonderful week spent doing virtually nothing was a just reward after a lot of medical issues. So a week free camping at Jugiong was just the ticket.

Jugiong Valley - the camp park is in the middle just right off centre

Jugiong sits amongst lovely sheep farming country just 60km south of Yass and 40km north of Gundagai on the Hume Highway. It was also in a notorious region of bushrangers in the early colonial days.

Police Sergeant Parry killed by the Bushranger Gilbert near this spot.

In the main street of this arty village, you will find a hotel, a wine cellar/gallery and a great little cafe. You can even see some of the local art featuring balls various sizes created from barb wire are on display outside. The entry to the extensive camp grounds is just outside the Jugiong Cellars in the main street with a quaint arty cafe next door, which also shares facilities with the showgrounds, a picnic area complete with a children's playground and a public summer swimming pool.

The campgrounds are nestled along the quiet Murrumbidgee River and have well maintained toilets as well as a dump spot but no showers. You can fill up your water tanks here with quality drinking water. Dogs are welcome on leash in the camping areas  but not in the picnic or playground area.

The tranquil Murrumbidgee River

Our friends, John and Robyn arrived a few days before us and snagged a terrific river view spot in the whole area and our spot next to them gave us a nice view too. Setting up the awning and chairs was just about all that we needed to do upon arrival as our friends quickly set the kettle boiling for our first of many cuppas.

A view across the Polocrosse field to the RVs & caravans

Lazy days, lot of chats and laughter, games and reading were the main things to fill our days. Even the wet weather couldn't put much of a dampener on our enjoyment though we all cheered when the sun came out.When the weather cooperated, we enjoyed short walks with John & Robyn's dogs to go and feed the friendly neighbourhood horses.

Jugiong Anglican Church built in 1895.

We were delighted to have a surprised early visit from Rhonda, a friend, who popped in for a night with a promise to come back & join us for a couple of nights over the weekend.

Some of the art to be seen at Jugiong Wine Cellars

Glorious sunshine greeted us at last and we were fortunate to be here on the Saturday when the local markets were on, which is rather small but offered quality wire and metal sculptures, a second hand books, homemade chocolates and fudges, and free wine tastings of a local winery.  The local cafe, The Long Track Pantry, offered quality coffees and lots of home produce including a variety of chutneys and jams along with the regular cafe style food.

There's always time for a cuddle

On the Sunday, we found that Harden, a nearby town, was having a Spanish Wine and Food Festival, so of course we had to rouse ourselves to attend that whilst we were in the area.

Do you reckon there is enough Paella for 3?

We were also blessed to watch the reknown Jugiong Polocrosse game in action just outside our caravan door.

Jugiong Polocrosse in action

So all in all this is a lovely region and village to visit whether it be for a day or a week.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

Waking up in the piccaninny dawn just as the light is just starting to steal up over the bush, I love to grab a camera and walk as the sun comes up. I draw near to God in the relative quietness, seeing the bush come alive.

Saunders Beach

Eventually I make my way back to the caravan to enjoy a simple breakfast and a quiet read. My hubby’s ideal start to the day is to sleep in even though he knows he is missing this magical start to the morning.

When he finally awakes, we share a cuppa and occasionally a cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs. (It is now hours after my original breakfast of cereal and thus becomes my morning tea).

Our rig

Packing a light lunch and some water, we would then drive and/or gently trek to some lovely spot. Maybe a bit of snorkeling amongst the reef or rocks might be a part of the afternoon, or maybe it would be a date with a book sitting in the gentle breeze under the shade of the gum trees in a comfy chair.

Gregory Downs

Rob is much more social than I am and would wander amongst the other Rv'ers and meet some new people or reacquaint himself with a previously met fellow travellers.

Happy hour is always a delight as we meet and chat with other travellers, swapping yarns and favourite places to visit over a nice cold beer or glass of wine.

Happy Hour at a beach

After a delicious dinner cooked on an open fire, chatting with our neighbours would often continue into the evenings around the campfire.

As others finally wander off to bed, Rob and I would mosey on into our caravan and play a few games of cards before retiring for the night.

No wonder this RV life is the life I love: A perfect day without obligations and cares, just full of warmth, love and companionship. What better way is there to see our beautiful country?

There's only one big thing missing... our family... if we could have them with us, including all the kids, then we might miss some of the peace but we'd gain so much more! That's  why we can't live on the road full time... we need lots of our family times too!

Wollongong - the happiest city in Australia

It is official. We have proof positive that we live in the happiest city in Australia. Certainly the people of Wollongong and its many visitors are certainly happily handy and prolific with their cameras.

Jetpac, a San Francisco-based smartphone app, creates a multitude of travel guides. They use publicly-uploaded Instagram photos to measure the smiles on the faces of people on 100 million images publicly shared Instagram photos from the different cities within Australia. Wollongong has been ranked as the happiest part of the country, in a mammoth image processing study.

Image Source: Jetpac

The happiest places in the Illawarra, based on smiles, include Hotel Illawarra, The Little Prince, Wollongong train station and Flagstaff Hill, with the latter being more popular for men. The most photographed restaurants are Amigos, the Harbour Front and Roppongi. Chef's Choice and Marco's restaurants also get a mention as being more popular with women. Nightlife spot, His Boy Elroy, gets a mention too.

The train station ranking high surprises me. I guess we are a people who are just happy to greet our visitors or to take the 90 minute long but easy commute to Sydney whether it be for work or pleasure of a day or night on the town.

In a follow up post, I will list some of the marvellous places in and around Wollongong that make us smile. I will also check out my kids (young adult’s fave places too) to give you a comprehensive guide of where to eat and visit during your time here in the happiest city in Australia!

The 15 Happiest Cities in Australia

as ranked by Jetpac’s Smile Score:
  1. Wollongong (43.4)
  2. Townsville (40.1)
  3. Canberra (35.0)
  4. Newcastle (34.9)
  5. Darwin (34.8)
  6. Cairns (31.2)
  7. Adelaide (28.7)
  8. Gold Coast (28.4)
  9. Byron Bay (27.3)
  10. Brisbane (27.2)
  11. Perth (25.6)
  12. Fremantle (25.0)
  13. Sydney (24.9)
  14. Melbourne (22.6)
  15. Hobart (19.8)
Image Source: Jetpac

People in Hobart aren’t taking as many smiling photos as much as in the rest of Australia, but I reckon it is just because they’re just don’t have the population to compete with. The people in Tassie have much to smile about their capital city too. Just pay them a visit for proof positive and take some happy photos there while you’re at it and post them on Instagram to prove it to the world.

Now that you know, you had just better come to our fair city as soon as you can and see just what is it that makes us so happy to take so many happy snaps of our fair city and the good times we spend here. We all want to be happy don’t we?

Those of us that live here we’ll just keep on smiling as we take many happy snaps of our life in this fair city

Information on this post has been collated from the following sources
The Illawarra Mercury

Top 10 tips for an eco friendly RV lifestyle

One of the major reasons we travel is to see the beauty of nature in our own country. It only seems natural to want to consider how we can be more environmentally friendly whilst we enjoy our travels. So this simple guide will help you 'go green' and have a great trip while protecting the environment & reducing our carbon footprint.

RV vacations are more environmentally friendly than fly/drive/hotel vacations. PKF Consulting, found that families of four taking RV vacations generate less carbon dioxide than families traveling on a plane, renting a car and staying in a hotel.

All my adult life I have been environmentally conscious, long before it became ‘trendy.” So it is a natural progression to consider how we could travel yet still consider our impact upon the environment. Now obviously travelling uses mostly fossil fuel and if we stayed home then that would save a lot of that fossil fuel. Well I am still going to travel so I need to keep looking and considering other options that I can implement whilst travelling and still be seeing as 'going green'.

It is easier than you might think!

Top 10 tips for an environmentally friendly RV lifestyle

  1. Keep your vehicle in tip top condition. Well tuned vehicles not only save you money but they also reduce emissions and use less fuel. Drive at a considerate speed, you will reduce the fuel you use and save money, but you will also be more relaxed and aware of your environment as you are driving.You might even be able to consider fuel options too such as bio-diesel.
  2. Drive less. I already mentioned that we are still going to travel. See the sights in your own backyard. Consider staying an extra day or two when you visit an area. You will also find some bonuses in staying put a bit longer. You will be more relaxed and you’ll have the opportunity to see more of the area right where you are. You also have the opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers more too!
  3. Leave no trace. Leave the location as you found it. Dispose all of your waste thoughtfully, including waste water and black water. Sometimes this might even mean taking it away or even home and disposing it away there. If at all possible, go the extra mile and leave the place better than you found it. If everyone did this, the locals would be happy to have campers in the locality. We really appreciate and enjoy our beautiful nature parks, beach, desserts and lands so leave it beautiful for the next visitors too!
  4. Recycle and reduce. Try to buy your things without any extra packaging. If you are just buying one or two items, you don’t need that plastic shopping bag. Plastic bags can take up to 500 years to biodegrade so take a re-useable shopping bag. Go a step further and refuse to use any plastic bags.
  5. Take only photos. Never remove wildlife from it’s natural environment including shells, flowers and coral.
  6. Keep campfires small. Keep fires specifically for the purpose of cooking and heat. By keeping it small you are also reducing the amount of fuel being used as well as ash and pollution. Do not try to burn plastics or other non natural stuff as this can be toxic.
  7. Convert to solar power. Consider converting all your power needs to solar power which is a renewable source. Not only are you saving the environment, you will be saving your finances. You won’t need to rely on powered sites as much. You will even be able to consider free camping or boon docking if you wanted to.
  8. LED lighting. Change all the older incandescent lighting to LED lights, which not only require very little energy to run , you will also have much better lighting at nights. You will require much less power whether it be solar power, your battery, 240 volts or a generator.
  9. Save energy. Turn off appliances as much as possible esp when absent from your RV. Don’t leave lights on, lower the thermostat on the air con if you really must leave it on. Use natural shade of trees etc, use your awnings and drapes or blinds accordingly to reduce sunlight in hot weather or to warm up areas in the cooler weather.
  10. Use water sparingly. In places it is a very scarce resource. It will also make it less work for you if you are self sufficient in your RV. Avoid bottled water and install a water filter and take your own water when possible.
  11. Avoid using disposable, throwaway items as much as possible such as paper plates. Reuse as many items as possible. Even if you buy a takeaway dinner, wash and re cycle the containers several times – all this helps reduce landfill. If you’re really concerned then go a step further and plant a tree while you’re out travelling!
  12. Buy locally. Nothing beats the fresh taste of food picked just hours earlier. Not only are you supporting the local farmer and businesses but it also reduces the amount of waste and fuel emissions from the shipping process. So stop at the roadside stands when you see them or visit the farmer’s markets in towns, you’ll be so glad you did for the wonderful taste alone. If you like your beer then try the locally brewed beer where possible. Let your taste buds have an adventure too at the same time you are supporting the local community. 
  13. Change your cooking habits.  Use your cooking fires sparingly. Use a dutch oven and cook multiple courses at the same time. Personally I love to use a thermal cooking pot such as my Dream Pot which often only requires 10 minutes cooking time and then utilizes the thermal qualities of the pot's outer layers to insulate and continue the cooking similar to a slow cooker. Multiple course can be done as well as cakes, bread etc.
  14. Change your laundry habits. Opt to hand wash your clothing instead of using a washer and dryer. You not only use less water , you also use less soap which causes environmental damage. Do you realize that you do not need to wash every item of clothing after every wear. Often we have only worn something for a short time doing very little and thus not even sweating much, so hang it up in the fresh air and then put it on again in a day or two. Of course if you have done a intense bush walk up the mountain and have sweated your heart out, then obviously you need to change & wash your clothes. In addition, you may want to consider reducing how often you change your bed sheets and towels. It can all help save water, soap and energy.

As you can see, I just couldn't stop at just 10 tips.

The more passionate you are about the environment, the easier it will be to be more considerate of the environment in everything you do – not just for you and the next people to visit the site, but for future generations as well. You love the places you on your trips and I am sure you would love for your kids and grand kids to have the same opportunities later on.

Free camping at Pildappa Rock, SA.

I would love to here your tips on how to be more environmentally friendly
whilst on our travels around the country.

The Bed Slideout

Things are going along nicely now that the slide-out mechanisms have arrived. As you would have seen earlier, Rob made the box like slideout pretty quickly. The steps at both sides of the bed were already completed but the frame for supporting the bed couldn't be completed until the slideout was in place and the actual bed base frame worked out completely.

The steps both sides of the bed were in place

However as is often the case, there was lots of fiddly bits that needed to continue to make the slide outs complete.  For example, Rob couldn't really get started on the bed base until the slideout was in. The hinge the air rams and the rollers all had to be not only positioned just right but there is no instruction book for how to put everything together and I am not talking about the slide out mechanism.

The steel bed frame
Rob fitted the bed frame into the rear slideout. He needs to be able to keep access the bus's motor available. Also we want to make the best use of every bit of space we can.

The bed needs to be hinged to access the storage underneath

So the bed is to be fitted with air rams to allow it to be hinged and lifted. Of course lifting a sliding bed comes with its own challenges. The hinge has to be deep into the slideout but the air rams need to be able to move with the bed

Closer detail of the air rams

The teflon rollers of the slideout

They needed to be wired up. They needed insulating and then lined.

By the way if you want to know more about the slideout installation itself then there is more to see on the manuafcturer's video here.

Beef & Butternut Ragout Recipe

I like to have a meal or two frozen ready in the freezer before we leave home for those days when we are too busy travelling, sightseeing or even just plain too lazy to cook, after all we are on holidays!

I need to recoup and recover from previous operations and I can't think of a better way than to hit the road for a short week or 3. So whilst I sort out a few things at home first, my mind is already on road trip. I have started with this scrumptious casserole that I made at home in my Dream Pot, one meal tonight and the rest ready for the caravan freezer!

So this time I thought I would try this wonderfully easy adaption of a tasty French stew.

Beef and Butternut Ragout

(5 generous serves)


500g trimmed beef cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
4 pinches of ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 (800g) tinned tomatoes
3 cups (500g) butternut pumpkin/squash



  • Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add beef & toss well to coat.

  • Heat oil & add beef and shallots; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil & cook 5 minutes.
  • Add butternut; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes

  • Place in DreamPot for 6 hours. If you have the larger pot as I do, then you will need to fill the smaller pan with boiling water to maintain internal heat.

  • Serve with rice or potatoes and green vegetables

The Slide-out systems have arrived

It only took 11 months for the American company, to finally get through the communication break down and get the slide outs shipped to us in Australia. We were very, very persistent.

Just in case you are unfamiliar and want to ask 'What is a slide out?' Think of a slideout or slide out as a boxy wall expansions that literally slides outs giving you a lot more usable living area or room inside the trailer or motorhome. Some can be pulled out manually, some are wound out and some have a little motor to drive the mechanism. Our latest ones are motorized with an over-ride.

The smaller of the 2 slideout mechanisms
Still they have arrived. Rob is so happy. He persisted with Lippert Component, as in his opinion, they are the best on the market. Rob has his innate understanding of the engineering as well as his personal experience of building his own slide-outs on two previous caravan trailers. He is very secure in his opinion, which is why he persisted when most others would have given up with all the run around we went through. So now that we have them, we can really get stuck into the bus conversion.

Starting the extending 'room' that will house the 2 seater reclining lounge

Though there was much that needed to be done, as evidenced in previous blog posts, there was little or no point in doing any of the finer, finishing details until the slideouts were done.

The lounge slide out is ready to be covered in aluminum sheeting.

Once the slide out 'rooms' are completed, we can start to put up the internal walls and cover the kitchen cupboards and bench tops etc.
Come back for more updates on the slide-outs.