The Aftermass

Unusually, Tracey arrived back from a toilet run with an inconsolably sobbing child.

Walks to the loos are generally a nice chance to chat with the kids and have a laugh. Without giving either much thought I both wondered what had happened and congratulated myself on not being responsible.

“You idiot,” Tracey reminded me. “I told you to wait.”

And even though I hadn’t captured any part of the conversation except this morsel I immediately knew exactly what she was talking about, and that she was right.

Christmas was over. Done. So yesterday – by which I mean actually yesterday. So almost last year.

And, to be fair, I thought I was helping when I got rid of our two Christmas trees. Why two? Because the first one we bought was deemed too small. Now I’d have thought, with seven souls living on an ex-school bus, small was precisely what we needed. But no. I think my kids were operating under the assumption there was a correlation between the size of the tree and the number of presents they’d eventually find under it.

Therefore, come Christmas, we had the substandard ‘childless’ family tree hanging at the front of the bus and the more satisfyingly Christmasy sized ‘greedy children’ family tree reaching nearly all the way to the ceiling in the gazebo outside.

I was keen to see both gone the moment we were done opening the presents. I love Christmas. Love it. It’s the highlight of my calendar. But the one thing our bus did not need was an injection of ‘stuff’. We don’t have top cupboards above the hanging space, or toy boxes at the end of beds or a garage to fill up. Pretty much every time we bring something onto the bus we have to remove something else.

“We talked about this,” Tracey reminded me over the howls of Miss5. “I told you not to get rid of the trees yet.”

“That was yesterday. I didn’t get rid of them until today.”

“You could have at least taken their decorations off it,” Tracey admonished me. “I tried to suggest it wasn’t ours but then I noticed the baubles they’d made.”

I think I would have got away with it except for my decision to go green and recycle them. It was never an option we would ferret them away on the bus until next year, but the show grounds we’re parked up at here in Mount Gambier has a wonderful little ‘op shop’ attached to it where people can donate their excess gear or pick up stuff they need for whatever they decided is a fair donation. Admittedly, a lot of stuff just goes walkies while the honesty tin remains rattleless, but it’s a fantastic place, I thought, to dump christmas trees.

Only one problem: it’s between our bus and the loos.

Even then, the kids wouldn’t have noticed except the caretaker here was operating, much like my kids, under the assumption it was still a very Christmasy time of year, and decided to place one of our trees outside the ‘shop’ for the sole purpose, I’m sure he’d say, to lend a bit of Christmas cheer to the place for people driving into the park. I mean, it’s not like you’re likely to sell a Christmas tree on the 26th of December, is it?

Good salesmanship is as much about your displays as your stock.

“I want my tre-ee-eee!” sobbed Miss5.

“No,” I said, giving my final word on the matter. “Christmas is over now until next year. We don’t need it.”

Even as I finished the sentence I was already heading in the direction of the toilet block.

In the end I’m not sure who was happier: my little girl or the grinning caretaker as he accepted my donation in the honesty box.

A treehugger is born

Managed to convince her to leave the big tree and only take the small one. This was not a quick or easy discussion.
Best thing about insisting one of us always accompanies the kids to the toilet block are the conversations. And opportunities to straggle met son.
Mount Gambier Show Grounds is great spot to park up for a few weeks (cheap as well). Close to town and a good area for the kids to kick a ball around. Plus the caretakers are a great couple who are on top of keeping it clean and green and improving things.
They’ve recycled old fridges into gardens for campers to utilise. Lots of herbs and even zucchinis and strawberries.

Umpherston Sinkhole, Mt Gambier

So much adventuring to do in Mount Gambier. This sinkhole was hundreds of meters from where we’re parked up. Yep, less than one k.

The path down wraps around the wall of the sinkhole. Felt like I was discovering the secret enclave of the Pigmy Poison People
Where the Pigmy Poison People are grade A horticulturalists

A ‘window’ through the overhanging vines to a gorgeous glimpse of the garden below.
The gardens in the sinkhole are beautiful. I don’t even like plants which can’t form the basis of a good salad and I thought it was stunning.

Kids played some hide and seek in the garden. Unfortunately I found them all when it was time to leave.

End of the road on the paths
Beginnings of a group hug. Like a Mexican wave they start slow and build from there

Blue Lake, Mt Gambier

A bargain outing – less than $30 for the family. Went down into the Blue Lake pump house and got to see the water up close. At least that’s what I expected. We got much more. 

This car plummeted into the lake about eighty years ago. The story is quite thrilling and involves a drunk vet running a guy off the road and then driving on to the next bar, having a few more ales and only then thinking to mention ‘Oh, John went over the edge at the lake.’ John Dutton was thrown out of his vehicle before it cliff dived into the water, and then became one of the very first rescues by aircraft when he was flown on a biplane to Adelaide hospital with spinal injuries. Told you – thrilling.
The water really is this colour. It’s stunning. Easy to think the photos all over social media are photoshopped but this is the actual colour. Even more stunning when you compare it to the lake right next door, which is green.
A water gun in action. This tour had EVERYTHING

From the pump house down to the water there was a lift in a well carved out by hand. It was awesome because it has a glass window so you can see the well walls all the way down. Better yet, only seven or eight people could fit in the lift at a time, meaning we had to wait around to get up or down. 
Betterer yet, there was a tunnel at the bottom of the well out to the water meaning Tracey could have fun photographing the kids.
I may have got in on it

Was a nice easy walk down and back to the pump house. Unlike….

Centenary Tower, Mount Gambier

Tracey needed me to take the kids away from the bus so she could get some work done so I decided the kids and I would walk up to Centenary Tower, near the Blue Lake. What a fecking idjit.
Some days they have the tower open so you can go up. Pleased to inform they didn’t when we were there. Those last few steps might have done me in.

“Carry me up the stairs.” Nope. Barely able to carry myself at this point. I should mention we’re not talking tens of kilometres of trekking here. It’s about half a click.
This lake is right next to the Blue Lake. It’s green. As such it’s the Jan to the Blue Lake’s Marcia. I took some lovely photos of the views from the tower but they didn’t turn out – and I am NOT going back up to take them again. Here’s one of Green Lake. Picture something with more horizon and less foliage and you essentially have it. 
The kids were still complaining about the walk up to the tower two days later, but not as much as my legs and lungs. 

Engelbrecht Cave, Mt Gambier

Me, excited about my cave ‘ticket’ for no other reason than it embarrasses Miss14 when I do such things. . Again, only about $30 for the six of us. 

The entrance and our guide. Early Mt Gambiens used this cave as a dump. By which I mean an actual dump. Animal carcasses and all manner of stuff. It’s been cleaned out now. He said.
Was like the Batcave. Never understood how Batman could hide out in a cave so close to town without being caught until I came to Mt Gambier. They reckon there are unexplored caves and caverns everywhere around here.
A diver dummy. Guide said apparently the water in the caverns they dive in is so clear it looks just like this – as though they’re floating in air rather than in water. Presumably without a spear through their chest.
This isn’t the bottom end of a well in the cave ceiling, like I thought, but rather a naturally formed hole where plant acid or something has reacted with the something else and slowly eaten a neat hole down into the limestone. I sort of drifted off at this point wondering how many of these deathtraps were around the place.
Stairs down into the abyss, where you can go diving in the caverns – if you have the eight years experience and certification necessary so you can safely navigate through cracks where you have to remove all but your respirator and can fix problems with your equipment underwater with your eyes shut in case you bash it against a rock wall and it breaks. Apparently having done a Padi diving course when you were 16 while on a family holiday in Cairns doesn’t count for much. Lucky.
Scolloping. Very rare, because this is a dry cave, and very beautiful. A dry cave means there are no stalactites because the water doesn’t seep in through the ceiling of the cavern, but rather though the limestone the cavern is made of. You know what? It made more sense when the guide said it. Basically, people who know about these sorts of things come to this cave to see this dimpled rock.
Not thrilled to be dragged into yet another potentially lethal hole in the ground. He’s gonna love Coober Pedy. Guide asked for questions. “What are the chances of a cave in?” Was told something like one in a thousand years. Still not happy, Jan.

Have we done any homeschooling with the kids today? Tick
This is a map of the cave/caverns leading off from Engelbrecht Cave overlaid with a street map. You can see the word ‘entrance’ where we went down into the cave. Notice the huge cavern under the highway. This didn’t seem to worry the guide as much as the people listening to him.
Several local readers have suggested we try the Mt Gambier Blue Lake Lemonade while we’re in town, so we took the opportunity to try one before we left the gift shop.
If this is what one bottle shared between five kids can do to a tongue…

Cave Gardens, Mount Gambier

Right in the centre of town – I mean literally – is Cave Gardens. This is a must free. I mean, must see. 

Right next door there’s also the Main Corner Complex which has an hour long movie showing the local aboriginal creation story for Mt Gambier and the geological one. Was far from boring and the kids loved it. Did I mention the word free yet? Because it totally was.
Not only is the cave entrance lovely, with a walkway around it, but at night there’s a light and dreamtime show projected for anyone standing around the cave. It’s really wonderful.

A Little Christmas 2017

My Christmas shirt. I happened to mention to Tracey when she wanted to buy a kangaroo cookie cutter at Sovereign Hill I’m not a fan of Australiana, so it serves me right.
Rollerblades were a hit. Mainly onto knee and elbow pads and bums.

Boxing Day 

The happy birthday calls came in for Miss8 all day. She hated them.
Pin the horn on the unicorn. Things sure have changed since my day. We were directed towards the hind quarters of our mighty steeds.

A small party with kids from a neighbouring bus
Miss10 wins musical chairs. That’s Miss5 going ass up behind her.

Raising a family on little more than laughs

This post is not in any way sponsored.



  • Ha – your Ms 8 is EXACTLY the same age as my nephew – and 5 days younger than my Ms 8.

    I never imagined Mt Gambier was so interesting or beautiful – thank you.

    (oh – and still suffering from Christmas Tree here – I am ASSURED tomorrow is the day I can dismantle!!)

  • I remember a family trip to Mt Gambier in 1979 when i was a kid, and those pictures bring back great memories. I think I’ll have to have a family trip with my own kids!

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