Wednesday, 12 August 2015

An Accessible Adventure: Our Winter Escape!

Canowindra in July is cold. Very cold. 

It is during this season -in the depths of winter- that our little house becomes cramped and tense as we keep the kids indoors for days on end. 

You get good at finding indoor activities...

Being born with Muscular Dystrophy means that your lungs, and the muscles that support them, are weak. Cold weather usually brings respiratory infections. They can be a killer. So we decided it was well worth the effort to plan a get-away. North Queensland is our winter haven!

We spent weeks searching and praying for suitable accessible accommodation that would fit us, then many hours ringing to check and double-check it. So it was with a fair measure of anticipation that we hit the road before dawn one morning, for our Queensland Road-Trip/Migration! 

Whenever we cross the border between NSW and Queensland we immediately feel better. It's a 'coming home' feeling for Benjamin, as he grew up on the wide open plains of south Queensland. Inevitably he winds down the windows and says: "SMELL THAT KIDS?! WE"RE IN QUEENSLAND!" Inevitably they cheer -after a good 10 hours to get there- and inevitably I smile and laugh. The air does seem free-er and warmer. It's a relief. 

This is how we roll, long-haul style!

After a brief stop over at Nan and Pops near Warwick, we headed straight for Hervey Bay on the coast above Brisbane. We miraculously found Koondari Resort online, and I'm so glad we did! They had the most accessible family room I've seen. The kids had a blast roaming over the tropical bushland paths and basketball courts. It was in walking distance to some good things. One day we went for an epic walk down the local 1km long pier, another day we explored the beautiful botanic gardens, and on another we made the effort and carried each of the kids down the 16 steps between them and the shore. It was beautiful to say the least.. They hadn't had sand between their toes for years.  (And yes, Gideon did break his leg just days before we went on holidays. But that's another story!)

After Hervey Bay we headed due north up the coast, via some friends in Bundaberg, and then on to Gladstone (great botanical gardens, not so great cinemas. Again, another story!) 
The day we headed for Mackay we stopped in on one of 3 accessible cave sites in Australia, just past Rockhampton. We discovered Capricorn Caves three years ago, when we first made the migration, and it was still as interesting and exciting an experience for the kids to visit there again. Caves are a special rarity for them..

Heading further north a few more hours, you drive into Sarina, and if the wind is right, you can smell the sugar mill before you see it.  As anyone who has driven through north Queensland knows, vast sugar cane crops line the roads on either side, as far as the eye can see. Sarina sugar mill is one of the big Queensland refineries that processes the local crops. The Sarina Sugar Shed is right next door, a must-see, with an interesting and informative tour. AND, at the end of the tour, the kids get a fairy floss the size of their heads! The definite highlight for our three!

In Sarina we caught up with close family we hadn't seen for years. Aunty Deb and uncle Pete's house is a tropical oasis next to sugar cane fields. The kids roved all over their sprawling lawns with their cousins, just with the odd warning to look out for brown snakes!
Another night we had an impromptu BBQ with aunty Meg and uncle Mark, and afterwards hunted cane toads on their back lawn. Little cousin Emily skilfully rode on Anwen's lap, (much to their mutual delight), while the four kids and aunty Meg roamed around like a hunting pack with the spotlight. It was a nighttime adventure!  

A little further north we got to Mackay, as far north as we would venture this time. After also miraculously finding Potters Oceanside Motel online, it was a delight to stay there, with the very friendly staff going out of their way to accommodate our needs. Mackay was so deliciously warm the girls and I even felt like a swim one afternoon, after a long walk. (Yes, I cheated and hired the free bike for the long walk!)

Our days of living out of a suitcase were limited though, and it was bitter-sweet to head south again.
Coming home to Canowindra was a bit of a shock, after the balmy weather of Mackay. The closer we got to home, the colder the wind, and the darker the heavy clouds. We had come home to the coldest couple of weeks of bitter winter, which saw the first local snow in about 30 years! We kept the kids home from school for a week, but back home in our little warm haven of a house, we were happy. We had traveled about 4,000km, had a good taste of the sun, and let the warmth back into our bones. 

Back home in Canowindra, when the weather finally cleared it was good to get back out on our block again. Two of the ewes surprised us and had their lambs early and they had managed to survive the freezing conditions. The winter rains had come; the grass needed slashing and our 200 baby trees needed rescuing!   

On our block where we will build..
Since then it's been a busy month or so for us Read's.. I think we have only just recovered from holidays, and gotten back into routine. But it was worth it. We have been blessed with only minor ill health this winter, and we are so grateful for it. 

All these long cold months we've had regular conversations as a family on the topic of how different it will be for us all "when we are in the new house"...
It's hard to describe how much we are all looking forward to living in this new home. A home that is well insulated, solar passive and naturally warm; a home with good air quality and no mould; a home that is big enough, and designed well enough to be able to accommodate our family with ease during winter.. A dream-come-true would be to be in this home before winter sets in next year.

How much of a relief it will bring, and how big a difference it will make for our family, is hard to describe with words. It's a feeling which almost makes me cry.
And so we walk on.. 
Thanks so much for sharing the journey with us.

P.S: A full update on the 'miracle house' fundraising coming soon! 

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