Monday, August 31, 2015


Kids are funny. Except when they aren’t. I have three, and one is my carbon copy.

‘Luckily’ for Miss 10, she is often reminded that she is my mini-me. When you tell her that she grins from ear to ear, confident that surely that must mean all good things. I often wonder if people are referring to her wonderfully strong will and boisterous exterior, her predisposition to embellish a good story, or simply the fact that Miss 10 is very much the image of me? In any event, I love her just the way she is, and I am sure everyone else does too. She also says some funny things at times and lately I have even wondered about setting up a blog for her to share her exaggerated version of reality – you know, in case we aren’t already alike enough.

Liv and I with my gorgeous niece in the middle.

At an after school football practise recently, she embellished a story about how she is left SORROWFUL (her word, not mine) every night because I NEVER (except for every other day) go in to her room to allow her to vent the days’ events. Sorrowful! Can you imagine? And then when the adults all chuckled at her response (or perhaps they were chuckling at the fact that today was MY day to have my worst parenting moments put on display) she continued, “I thought turning ten would be the BEST YEAR OF MY LIFE! It’s been nothing but HARDSHIP! I’ll have to make sure I warn all the nine year olds I know that turning ten is not all that it’s cracked up to be!” Oh the drama! (She assures me that the cruise she just returned from with her Nana is an exception to the rule).

I’ll have to tell Miss 10 that turning 37 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either! I may be more confident in my own skin and happy with where I am in my life, but sometimes the constant demands put on a mum of three young children can suck a whole lot of fun out of a girl. (I can assure you that my recent trip to South America is also an exception to this rule).

Strangely though, I wouldn’t swap my children for anything; even when they are being funny or not being funny at all.



Thursday, August 20, 2015

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring has sprung

I don’t care what the actual dates on the calendar say, I’m telling you Spring is well and truly here. I know this because I woke up a week ago with an itchy throat, red and itchy eyes, a runny nose and uncontrollable sneezing, and put it down to being the aftermath of the EKKA. And then it got worse, and I realised that it wasn’t a cold, it was much, much worse indeed.

For anyone who has never suffered from hay fever, let me tell you that it’s the serious pits! It’s a solid month (at least!) of sneezing and red and itchy eyes and generally frustrating cold-like symptoms. It’s waking up at night and not being able to get any relief at all from the symptoms until you pop another anti-histamine. (Yay for anti-histamines!)

My symptoms worsened after I had children. (There’s something you don’t sign up for when you have kids!) I live on a property loaded with Cyprus Pine. We have one particularly large pine tree out the front of our house, directly in front of my bedroom window. Every year at this time I reach a psychological breaking point and threaten to get out a chainsaw and cut the tree down  - like any completely rational person would; it’s usually sometime between large gusts of pollen flying through the air in August, to the final pollen drops in September. The crazy woman in me can think of nothing better than dropping that pollen-dropping tree to the ground and sawing it into a million pieces. And then The Farmer reminds me that in order to improve my hay fever I’m going to have to get out and cover 20000 acres and remove all the other pine trees as well. It’s a lose-lose situation. Also (in related news), Cyprus Pine is too fast burning to be decent fire wood anyway…
My Kryptonite!
Thankfully I know I’m not alone. Mr B next door suffers hay fever too. Harvesting wheat in a Cyprus Pine environment isn’t his cup of tea either for a few weeks each year.

So whilst there may not be any new shoots on our winter-stripped trees at the moment, I know that they aren’t far away at all. The Cyprus Pines never lie, and I find that I’m already looking forward to October. Bring on the end of all the pollen.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Surviving The EKKA With Kids - Part 2

Tips for surviving the EKKA with kids

I actually made it to the EKKA again this year, which was only possible with the help of my mother. Once I made the decision to actually head to the big smoke for the long weekend, I tried my hardest to convince The Farmer to join me. You know how it goes… farm will go into melt down if he leaves for a few days, such a long way etc. Once my mother decided to accompany me and the children we were ready to go!

Having made it through the day – barely – here are my tips for surviving the EKKA with young children.

1.      Start early. Avoid the huge crowds and make it onto rides with little to no fuss before lunch. The same rule applies for the showbag pavilion. Which leads me to point number 2.

The kids and I on a ride together. Sam and Darcy didn't love it as much as Olivia and I did! ;)

2.      Get yourself a locker (and if you have more than two children and plan on getting show bags) get yourself two lockers. You can ditch all your gear until you need it and then you are freed up for most of the day. We left showbags and cold weather gear (like jackets) in ours, but other people left baby gear in there as well.

3.      Make sure you grab yourself those police ID tags for your kids. Crowds are crazy at the EKKA. Good crazy.

4.      Pack as much food and drink as you can, without taking away from the EKKA experience. You will still need to score yourself some show food (whether it be a Dagwood Dog, strawberry sundae, or some Queensland fresh produce) to complete your family day out. My kids were like bottomless pits however, so some nibblies and water were particularly handy.

Mum and I sampling the amazing and iconic Strawberry Sundaes!

5.      It can get pretty warm in the middle of the day. Pack sunscreen, hats and extra water! And remember to use them.

6.      Get to shows early. We arrived at the Racing Pigs display about an hour early. It gave us a base for lunch (in the shade), and we managed to score great seats for the show – which packs out at least half an hour early.


The kiddies and I waiting for the Racing Pigs show to begin.
Having said all of that, my kids were completely exhausted by 4pm, and we made an early departure. So my final tip for the day (which completely goes against my number one tip) is:

7.      Pace yourself. We peaked too early. Start with displays, walk around, visit pavilions, and shows (whatever floats your boat), and the rides and showbags will still be there later. I’m thinking if we’d arrived at about lunch, we could still have seen everything we wanted to see, and then we could have stayed to see the night show and fireworks display.

In any event, we came, we saw, we conquered. My plan for next time is to make it to the fireworks. We all had a ball and I didn’t manage to lose any children in the progress. I’d call that a win!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The EKKA - Part 1

Show Season

Not many people know this, but once upon a time (many, many moons ago) I was the 1997 Charity Queen at the show where I grew up. What this meant at the time (aside from receiving a sash and having to participate in the parade through town) was a very cool holiday prize that I was able to share with some friends at the coast.

Now all these years later, the show season means something entirely different to me.

As a teenager I always loved the EKKA for the rides and show bags. I visited the EKKA with my school and also with my family. As a bona fide ‘coastie’ I didn’t even realise that the EKKA had an animal contingent; or perhaps I did, but it held little interest for me at that time.

The Farmer and I went to the EKKA once when we were dating and he introduced me to the livestock sections, sheep and cattle dog displays and wood chop. I also paid my first visit to the Cattleman’s Bar and Jubilee Pub that evening. So did everyone else from rural Queensland as well I think; or so it seemed.

We have taken our children to the EKKA only once. It was a hazy mishmash of toddler-friendly rides, even more show bags and lots of animals. We managed not to lose any kids (WIN!) but now that the children are all a little older, there’s a good chance we will be heading back again soon.

Back at home, we have a close involvement with our local show. Some years ago, The Farmer and I got involved with the local Show Society. Somehow we snagged the Rodeo section, which was a steep learning curve but also my first foray into serious country business. I didn’t even know how to pronounce RODEO properly at that point. Later The Farmer became Vice President of the show, and then eventually President for a few years. For all of the work behind the scenes, it’s been a great way to get involved in the community.

And now the EKKA is just around the corner again. I have taken my flu injection this year and I am ready to face the crowds and cooler weather so that I might be able to enjoy a strawberry sundae, the Ferris Wheel, the sheep dog trials and the evening show in the arena.

Hopefully I see you there!

Monday, August 3, 2015



If you live anywhere in the world other than the "bush", you probably think kangaroos are these incredible, gorgeous, soft, cute, hopping animals. (And they are!) You probably want one as a pet. If you would give your left arm for a kangaroo as a pet, it's probably not a good idea to read on. Consider that a warning.

When I first moved ‘out here’ I was amazed every single time I saw a Kangaroo. "Oh look! It's hopping!" And "Awwww! It has a joey in its pouch!" And they are truly remarkable animals. There is something very interesting about them. And they are incredibly cute. I suppose even all these years later, I still am amazed that I live in a part of the world where I see so many amazing creatures on a daily basis.

But let me give you the facts as I know them about kangaroos:

1. Kangaroos are missiles on two legs, programmed to hit your car in the most expensive place to repair. This is a fact. You'd think after years and years of evolution they would have sussed out that the black strip of road connecting civilisations is a no-go zone. But no. Day after day these furry missiles continue to hurtle themselves obliviously towards moving vehicles. The first time you ever hit a kangaroo, you'll feel very bad about it and maybe even cry. But rest assured, the next time you hit one you'll be angry about it.

2. Kangaroos eat the feed intended for other livestock, and plants in your garden. In fact they eat pretty much everything they shouldn't be eating. And if anyone reading this has heard fantastic stories about "the near extinction of kangaroos", then they surely haven't taken a drive past our sorghum crops, or the burgeoning wheat crops of our neighbours. No problem with kangaroo numbers out here. And these kangaroos don't have a problem breeding either. It's not uncommon to see a kangaroo with a tiny joey suckling at the teat, and a bigger joey in the pouch, and an even bigger joey, independently hopping beside its mother.

3. The smell of a three day kangaroo carcass on the side of the road is something you won't forget in a hurry. Enough said.

4. Kangaroos make great working dog meat.

5. They really are beautiful and incredible creatures. Watching them drink at a waterhole, or bound effortlessly over fences, drains and tall grass is mind boggling. Seeing a joey chasing its mother and wobbling as it hops still makes me smile, and furthermore, it reminds me of what a wonderful part of Australia I really live in. And how lucky I am to live here.

If you haven't been to this part of the world yet, then pack your bags, and come and have a look. But remember to drive carefully. Our road hazards are often of the furry and moving variety.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Inca Trail - A Bucket List Adventure

Day 1

We met the last three people who would be joining us on our hike (we travelled with Intrepid - who I would highly recommend to people of all ages), and made our way from Ollantaytambo to Km 82, which marks the official start of the Inca Trail. You are here with many other people all about to start their own adventure.

After posing for your group photo...

Seriously, the best group ever. A truly great group of wonderful people. #intrepidtravel That's me, front and centre. make your way to have your passport stamped and then you cross the bridge over the Urubamba River to start the trail.

Game on. Inca Trail just got real...
After the first hill (which is a bit of a killer), the terrain evens out and you find yourself walking through a really dry, desert like environment. It's hot. Even in the middle of winter. But thankfully for us, it wasn't wet. Expect to see motorbikes and donkeys on the trail on this day. Also expect to see food and drink stalls and plenty of toilets. (And make the most of them, they only get worse).

First stop. Note the stalls behind us.

Uphill moments were pretty terrible, but you tend to stop every hour or two for a break and history lesson, which seems to break up the long days. Victor, our guide, also told us about a 'diagonal walking' technique that took the pressure off knees. It really helped and we continued this every day. Our first official ruins were Llaqtapata and Willqaraqay. Here we learn that much of the 'Inca Trail' isn't in fact the original Inca Trail at all, and that only small parts of the original remain today.

Llaqtapata ruins. Day 1.
We were pleasantly surprised by the lunch set up.

All our meals were eaten in here.
Our first campsite (after walking for 7km) was Wayllapampa. This is the last place you will see donkeys or pack animals on the trail.

Could not believe all the porters were so keen to play soccer at the end of the day!

View from my tent - night one.

Our tents.

Our entire 'PEAK' group. The trekkers and the porters, chefs...etc.

At the end of Day 1 I felt good. Much more relaxed, only the mildest of headaches, and physically fine. Our Intrepid guide had told us to drink at least two litres of water a day to help with altitude, and it was definitely helping.

Day 2

We were up early. Ear plugs are a must - donkey calls will ring out through the valley during the night and they will help you sleep in spite of the incline you will be sleeping on as well. Mornings on the Inca Trail are cold. But rest assured that you will have stripped off only 10 minutes into the day. Our Porters introduced themselves, and it's not an understatement to say that these guys are worth their weight in gold. They are so hard working and just incredible. I have an incredible respect for them.

 We had been told that Day 2 would be the toughest. It was a long day - 8km up and two km down. It was also the highest altitude we would reach on the day. Whoever said that didn't lie. It was tough.

It was a steep uphill start, and then the microclimate changed, and things cooled down in the cloud forest.

Cloud forest - Day 2.
On Day 2 we didn't stop for lunch - our guides had told us that it would only make us feel sick as we climbed higher and higher. We were encouraged to snack instead, and we had a big feed when we reached the campsite. There are still a few stalls on Day 2, so make the most of them and top up your supply for Day 3.

My thighs were burning here!
The uphill was tough. Most people felt it (okay everyone felt it) in their knees or thighs. As the air thinned, we stopped regularly. Don't be surprised if you stop every 10-20m to catch your breath and then head off again. Whatever works!

I saw my first wild llama...


 Altitude is hard to explain. It affects everyone differently. Mostly I just found that I lost my breath easier, and I was more susceptible to headaches. It was a long hike up hill, and eventually the peak was in sight. Warmi Wanusqa (or Dead Woman's Pass) is 4215m (13829 ft). And you can feel it. When you reach this part of the trail it's hard not to be excited. Adrenaline kicks in (or maybe that was just the shot of rum that we were met with by tour members) and you are ready to continue. This is the highest point you will reach. There is no turning back from here, so I was excited to think that I was actually going to do this!

Metres from the top and still needing to stop and rest.

Jim, Victor (guide), me and Libby all jumping in excitement.

These are my travel buddies! Sarah, me, Leesa and Libby. We made it!

And then it was downhill!!! Kilometres of STEEP stairs. It's about an hour or even more downhill to Pakaymayu, our second campsite.

This is me taking a break.

And the view from our second camp site.

Resting our tired feet.
Day two stats.
 We requested a small dinner after a HUGE late lunch. This night was FREEZING cold (I was good in my warm sleeping bag). We were at this highest campsite for a full moon. It was equal parts eerie and magnificent.

PS. If you hear a story here about a murder or a German woman by her new husband, it's total urban legend. You won't hear about it anywhere else. Good for scaring tourists if nothing else.

Day 3

Another chilly morning. You can see the uphill walk ahead of you right from the get-go. The good news is that you can also see the first ruins where you know you will be stopping. The altitude was still playing havoc with my pulse, so it was more slow going. It's not long before you arrive at the first of several ruins you will see that day. Welcome to Runkuraqay ruins.

A welcome respite from an uphill hike.
Feeling energised, it's a short while later that we made it over the second pass. There is something about making it over a pass that releases more adrenaline. It's a downhill run again until the next (and major) ruins of the day. Sayaqmarka was an original stopping point for people travelling the Inca Trail. It's an extra 100 stairs up to visit it, but well worth the effort.

Sayaqmarka - amazing!

Up in the ruins.

Day 3 is not only the longest day (more than 16km if you consider the walking through all of the ruins) but it's also the most scenic. I could have walked for hours more. Amazing doesn't even come close to describing Day 3. Here are some shots of Day 3 scenery.

Heading to the lunch campsite. Original Inca Trail. (New bridge obvs).

And more trail...

And a tunnel! There are about 3 of them.

Almost at the lunch site.

Still loaded with energy and up in the clouds.

It looks scarier than it actually is.

And then (after lunch) it's down to another set of ruins. This is Phuyupatamarka.

It started to rain, but as we were up in the clouds, it didn't last, and upon our descent, it disappeared entirely. After these ruins it's ALL downhill. The stairs are awful on your knees. We were so close to the third camp that we almost ran down. Here are some top shots from the last run of Day 3.

We found the Urubamba River again!

Intipata Ruins

Looking down at the Day 3 campsite from the last ruins of the day.

We fit in one final ruins for Day 3 - Intipata. You can hear trains and can even catch brief glimpses of Aguas Caliente in the afternoon.

'We made it to camp with sunlight to spare. The Day 3 campsite has had flood damage this year and was undergoing repairs, so the campsite was crowded. The toilets were the most revolting I'd ever seen but the company was fantastic. We spent the evening doing the 'thank you' ceremony. This is where speeches are given and we tip everyone and say goodbye to the porters who we won't see from this point onwards. After that we all collapse into bed in anticipation of a 3:00am start.

Day 3 stats!!!
Day 4

Woken at 2:45am we all dress and are wide awake in excitement that today we make it to Machu Picchu, even though we still have over 5km to the Sun Gate (Inti Pinku), and even more to the actual ruins.

The walk is easy. Eventually we make it to the Monkey Stairs (named because you pretty much need your hands and feet to scale the steep staircase). Our guide, Victor, did it in 13 seconds!!

Monkey Stairs
 When you've worked so hard for something, the end result can be quite emotional. I shed a tear or two at the Sun Gate. It was everything I had hoped it would be.

My first view of Machu Picchu - and the windy road off the mountain. And yes, there were tears!

Our amazing group looking down on M.P.

The Four Dirranbandi Inca Girls!!

And then it was all over. Completely surreal and perfect. We were all physically exhausted. The bus trip down the mountain to Aguas Caliente signalled the end of an amazing four days. It was a physical and mental challenge and I am so, so, so glad I attempted it.

If you haven't already done so, read my post on preparation and packing for the Inca Trail here.