Our inaugural camping adventure - October 2008
The Pines Picnic Area in the Watagan State Forest had long been a favourite spot - only about 50km from (what was then) home and with fireplaces, so we could all embrace our inner fire-bug (or in Vaughan's case, "Fire King")!

Given our fondness for "the forest", it was the logical destination for our first-ever camping experience in October 2008 when we hired a camper trailer for a week.  In spite of a soggy start (and some over-friendly leeches), it proved to be a hit with all and if Nick hadn't been booked in for his graduation ceremony, we would have stayed longer!

Two-car convoy camping in the Watagan Forest - 2009
Following the success of our October 2008 camping adventure - and prompted by the need to get maximum holiday value - we purchased a tent and camping equipment in the January (2009) sales.  The temps had been 40+ for a week or so but we were keen and set off the next day on a test trip! We survived that hot start and went on to enjoy several camping trips during the year - all to the Watagan Forest.  You can read of our earliest trips here.

Scenes from 2010 - a record 56 nights away!
We broadened our horizons in January 2010, after purchasing our terrific trailer just prior to Christmas.

Our first extended (13-night) trip was to Nambucca Heads and then Kwiambal National Park (north-west of Inverell).  There were shorter expeditions during 2010 also to Lake St Clair, Lithgow (where we discovered Ironfest!) and our usual spot in the Watagans.  July saw us 1200km from home in the red dust scrub of Yowah (west of Cunnamulla).   It became obvious during the trip that our Commodore really wasn't up to the type of adventuring we wished to enjoy, so we purchased Elmer Fudd in October - before returning to Yowah to stay a month over Christmas in a miner's shack, with Erin's tent and our gazebos as overflow living areas.

2011 - adventures North, South and West(ish)!
We started 2011 by traveling the Blackgate "Road" to Thargomindah and enjoyed a number of other dirt track trips through the year.

Our "Lightning trip to the Ridge" in September was a definite highlight!  Vaughan was very happy to miss school - and cheered when we stayed an extra night (due to Elmer's mechanical issues)!  In all, we managed 33 nights away in 2011 - 15 actual camping, 14 in the miner's shack and the balance in budget cabins.  A good effort!

One of 2012's highlights was definitely 6 nights in the Warrumbungle National Park during August, our first camping trip since Lighting Ridge (though we have stayed in bargain cabin accommodation at Salamander Bay, Lithgow and Dubbo earlier in the year).   Soon after our wintry Warrumbungle wanderings we managed a quick weekend in the Watagans, revisiting some old haunts.  Time and other constraints were not as conducive to real camping during the year but even so we were away 17 nights and we improvised with day trips exploring both the Watagan and Pokolbin forests in between times.  Our geocaching endeavours prompted us to take some longer bushwalking hikes, which we enjoyed also.

During Autumn we had a fire-drum burning in our backyard at different times and sat around our pseudo-campfire, further honing our camp oven cooking skills.

Vaughan and I even slept out there ("under the stars") one night!

The latter part of 2012 was quite stressful.  There was much uncertainty as Nick faced a work relocation (or redundancy) - and to make matters more interesting, we received a termination notice on our rental property with an exit date of 5 December.  We hung tight, hoping for some synchronicity and on 6 December 2012, we arrived in Melbourne. 

For our first three months in Victoria we lived in temporary (4-star apartment) accommodation.  We managed a fair bit of exploration and found our new home in early February 2013.  We moved in on 6 March and I recorded our adventures in semi self-sufficiency on my other blog Hamby Home(in)stead.

We felt like real farmers when we became parents to our poddy calf, Tea!

She drank three litres of calf-milk, twice a day from May till September and then continued one feed a day until late October before becoming fully weaned.  Given those feeding responsibilities, it wasn't really feasible to go camping but we managed quite a few day-trips exploring our new state. One of 2013's highlights was our Burke and Wills “expedition”, which included “provisions” of dried fruit, corned beef and lime juice.

We hadn't given up on going camping, so used the quieter time of 2013 to plan our next large adventure, practice alternate cooking skills and upgrade our tents. 

We started 2014 wonderfully with a four-night camping trip to Wagga. In typical Happy Hamby Camper style, we stayed during a heat-wave but had a fantastic time in spite of the 40+ temperatures!  It was a good test of our new equipment and improved packing methods.

We returned in early May from ten wonderful weeks in Yowah, where many brilliant adventures were had!  We stayed overnight at Cobar on the way up, which was our first effort at en route camping.  Once at Yowah, Vaughan attended the local school so our camping adventures were scheduled during weekends and school holidays.  Given the high cost of fuel, we left the trailer at the shack and did our trips in Elmer only - a new experience for us!

It was cold when we returned to Victoria and we weren't inclined to camp during winter.  Yep, call us wimps!  Once the weather got warmer though we were off again.  In September we enjoyed a fantastic fossicking adventure, while based at Mortlake Caravan Park.

October saw us become the excited owners of a "new" caravan!  Well, new to us!  We enjoyed our first caravanning adventure (with dog!) over the Melbourne Cup "long weekend".  We headed out on Erin's birthday and finally arrived at Green Hill Lake (near Ararat) around midnight.  We stayed that night and the next before moving on to Dimboola and viewing the wonderful Pink Lake.  We travelled in a big loop from home and saw a lot of interesting countryside.  Our last night was spent at Melville Caves, which was a lovely finale - and I'm sure we'll return for a longer stay on another occasion. 

All in all, it was a fine introduction to caravan touring and we were keen for more adventures in the New (2015) Year, so set off again on 2 January 2015 for two nights at Sheepyard Flat, beside the Howqua River.

We had two nights at Firth Park later in January and went back there again for the ANZAC long weekend - our coldest/wettest camping ever! Although we started planning another trip for later in the year, we found ourselves moving again.  Drat!  We chose to live in the van, while scheming for a more permanent base somewhere where the weather is warmer and more consistent.

We continued to be based in our van (and tent) throughout 2016 - but for two months house-sitting over winter.  Touring holidays seemed too much effort so we had several nights in a dog-friendly cabin in April and a couple in a different caravan park to our usual one during May.

In spite of not going away, we achieved many marvelous family outings.  Our 10th wedding anniversary was celebrated on Mount Franklin in January and we found our 500th geocache later that month.  We discovered Maldon in March and liked it so much we returned in April.  May saw us visit the amazing Quartz Mountain and Maryborough.

Winter was cold (with some snow) and we hibernated while house-sitting. From mid-September we've been conscious of our "Victorian Era" drawing to a close, so are doing our best to fit in as much sight-seeing as possible before we leave (in February).

Without doubt our December highlight was our 750km Sunday Silo Sojourn!  As it happened that day-trip was our last great Victorian adventure.  The area of Victoria is 237,629 km². We definitely didn't see it all but saw a lot around school, work, weather and other limitations - hooray for us!

A lot happened in 2017. We were busy in January, getting ready to move to QLD.  Elmer the Blue was involved in an accident a few days before leaving, so the 1700km relocation trip was his final adventure with us.  It was sad to farewell our original truck and though we now have Elmer the Gold, he isn't quite the same.  Our first trip with our second truck was out to Dalby over the April long weekend, staying in a budget Bandit-friendly cabin. Sampling snotty gobbles was an experience of that trip! In June we booked a "mini hut" at Stanthorpe for a weekend away.  We thoroughly enjoyed visiting Donnellys Castle and Ballandean's pyramid.  July saw us heading out to Sapphire, to try our hands at fossicking there.  It was our first visit and we had fun exploring.  Later that month we bought a camper trailer, about a week before selling the vanRegistering our new acquisition was a long-winded process and when it was finally achieved, we had a night away to celebrate! Everyone was bunked in together that trip, which prompted Erin to buy a swag.  We were all more comfortable during our September trip to Yowah!  Of course there were many daytrips during the year, some truck modifications and equipment updates also.

Nick made great modifications to our camper trailer in 2018. The first of two solar panels was fitted in time for our Roma long weekend.

We were on power for two nights and then stayed a night at Chinchilla Weir on the way home, without electricity back-up.  Everything worked well, which led to Nick doing more improvements once home again. Two custom fridge slides were fitted for our Engels, a large wooden box was put on the drawbar (which incorporated a neat fold-down "kitchen" bench) and the second solar panel fitted in time for our pre-Christmas week at Nambucca Heads.  New water hose and rather neat nozzle tap were also ready for our December trip.

2019 was a harder year.  My Mum died in January and Nick's Mum died in June. I did a shorter road-trip with Nissa in July.  (We stayed a night in a historic pub at Grafton, which was novel).

Nick and I took a few days to drive down to Melbourne in September, staying at several country hotels along the way.  Once in the city, we spent a week playing tourist with great friends before road-tripping home again, visiting Tanya and Brett en route.  Our final night was in Nambucca Heads (at a different park to our previous stay) and we enjoyed that, too.

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Each year I tally our camping nights (and total nights away also). It's great to see how far we've gone, in the face of life's interruptions. For a long time our best effort was 2010, with a total of 55 nights away but we far exceeded that in 2014 with 83 - wow! It's been a bit different since. In 2015, we had 6 nights camping and 88 staying in caravan parks using the van as temporary accommodation. 2016 continued in similar fashion. Of it's 366 days we had 7 nights away, 300 in the van and 59 house-sitting.

Although I usually count nights away as achievements, after being based in the van/tent for around 18 months I was happy to report that 304 nights of 2017 were spent at home - in a house! We had 11 nights in budget cabins and 10 in our new camper trailer. We continued to enjoy home-life (and backyard camping) in 2018, though Nick and I had a fantastic overseas adventure in August/September. After coming home, we began scheming to use our camper trailer - beyond the back yard!  Our scheming paid off and we managed two trips before the end of the year.

Our camper trailer stayed put in 2019.  We may have done some backyard camping but our nights away were in paid accommodation, varying from budget through to an up-market Melbourne apartment!

2020 has also been challenging due to Covid-19.  Nick, Vaughan and I were supposed to road-trip to Melbourne/South-coast NSW in the Easter school holidays but that plan failed (so a friend and I also missed out on our long-overdue girls' weekend).  Nick and I had a night in the camper trailer at home and more recently two nights in a budget cabin at Jandowae.  The year's not over yet, though!

2009 - 19 nights away (9 camping)
2010 - 55 nights away (39 camping, 2 nights in "the Tinny" and 14 in Lui's shack)
2011 - 33 nights away (15 camping, 1 night in "the Tinny" and 14 in Lui's shack)
2012 - 17 nights away (8 camping)
2013 - 0 (sad but true)!
2014 - 83 nights away (13 camping, 4 caravan-ing and 66 in Lui's shack)
2015 - 6 nights camping!

2016 - 7 nights away (2 with family, 3 in a themed cabin and 2 in the van away from our usual site)!

2017 - 26 nights away (5 in an AirBnB, 10 in budget cabins and 11 in our new camper trailer) as well as 4 house-sitting for friends and 7 in transit while relocating from Victoria to Queensland!

2018 - 24 nights away (10 in our camper trailer, testing various improvements)

2019 - 14 nights away (7 in a flash apartment, 3 in country hotels, 2 in cabins, 2 with family).  I scored an extra night with Nissa in a historic pub room at Grafton!

2020 - 2 nights away (in a budget cabin) so far!

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