OK so yes, we are a little late in getting this sent out this time, it was 99% written and we finally had a chance to finish it so thought we may as well send it out, albeit very late!
Wow, what a year … Covid was still hanging around and we still ended up back in lockdown and with all our big trips cancelled again! At least we managed to start the year with a holiday … certainly not the way we wanted the holiday to end though (maybe that was an omen for how the year was to pan out!).
Anyway, here we go, let’s take a look back over the year that was 2021 ….
Just prior to Christmas we headed off to South Australia to spend the Christmas and New Year break exploring the beautiful Eyre Peninsula. We literally just made it across the border in time as they once again snapped shut due to COVID. We had our friends and followers messaging us updates and we were constantly checking our phones, but we managed to cross over safely just in time and start our holiday.
We spent a week camped at Streaky Bay and then moved onto Whyalla for a week. Anyone who’s been following for a while knows what happened in Whyalla and how this all turned out, but more on that later! This whole area of South Australia is beautiful and one you should all visit if you get the chance.
This was a special year for George as he turned 50, so as part of our ‘Festival of Fifty’, Shelly planned a weekend away at the Hunter Valley for George’s birthday, complete with plenty of taste testings, a Segway tour and Hot Air Ballooning (the latter was cancelled on the morning due to high winds so we are still yet to get back up there and do that!).
As another part of George’s ‘Festival of Fifty’ we headed up to Mannering Park (just north of Sydney) for a camping weekend away with family and friends. Shelly had been instructed many times that there were to be no parties at all to celebrate George’s 50th birthday …. well a surprise weekend camping with 20 or so of your closest friends doesn’t really count as a ‘party’ does it!
All turned out well and George loved it as people started arriving, some he hadn’t seen in years. We all had a great weekend together and even managed to make and decorate an offroad 4WD track cake for George whilst there (thanks Suzie, Deena and Tas!)
This is the month we headed back up to the Hunter Valley again for the Sunset Sounds Concert, it felt great to be back out and seeing live music again after so long. Daryl Braithwaite, Ian Moss, Ross Wilson and Shannon Noll (amongst others) put on a great show as always and even the soggy ground (literally sinking into mud up to your ankles!) didn’t worry us.
April was when boarders opened and we were able to fly to Adelaide to pick up the Prado with it’s new engine! This was a quick 3 day trip, but we still managed to do a little sightseeing along the way. We flew down on the Friday and picked up the Prado and camper and then went to the quaint little town of Hahndorf … best fudge ever! We then visited the worlds largest Rocking Horse in Gumeracha, as well as their onsite animal farm. We spent that night in the Rydges Resort, right on pit lane of the famous Tailem Bend racetrack, such a great hotel with good facilities, awesome service and even millions of dollars worth of cars on display in the foyer! We spent the next night camping in the bush and made it home on the Sunday night. Big drive, but it was good to finally have the Prado and camper back home in Sydney with us.
Shelly’s birthday month and wanting to do something different to celebrate we headed to Canberra for the weekend for a private behind the scenes tour (just the 2 of us) at Canberra Zoo. It was a cold start to the day at a chilly -4 degrees but the day just got better and better from there.
We had a full day behind the scenes tour hand feeding lions and tigers and bears, exploring the tiger enclosure, patting a cheetah, lunch with the giraffes, feeding and playing with otters and meerkats and so many other animals. At $695 per person it’s certainly not a cheap day out, but we both learned so much and had the best day, with some once in a lifetime experiences. Highly recommend adding this one to your bucket list!
June marks the start of all our trips which were cancelled for the year due to lockdown. First up, a weekend away at Blue Lagoon Beach Resort in Bateau Bay being hosted by The Duck and Ricko. CANCELLED!
Next up …. Big Red Bash CANCELLED! Keep in mind that we originally purchased these tickets for the 2020 concert which ended up being cancelled. Whilst the concert did end up going ahead in 2021 we weren’t able to get there due to Sydney lockdown. The Big Red Bash organisers have been great the whole way through and have carried over our tickets yet again to 2022!
Our weekend camping trip with friends up the Hunter was also …. CANCELLED!
Now this was the big one, we’d planned and saved so much for this trip as we had booked onto a 3 week tag-a-long trip with Great Divide Tours to visit Arnhem Land as part of George’s 50th birthday present. And yep, you guessed it …. CANCELLED! We’ve now booked onto the same trip leaving in 2022.
After so long of being in lockdown and not being able to go anywhere, we arranged a weekend 4wding and camping trip to Lithgow with a few mates. We were all looking forward to finally being able to get away, but this time it wasn’t Covid which caused the issues, but the weather! After a week of torrential rain and a weekend of predicted rain and thunderstorms we ended up cancelling this trip.
Thankfully we were able to get away over Christmas. We left on Christmas Eve and drove up to Urunga (just south of Coffs Harbour in NSW) where we were camping over the break with friends. Whilst it rained at some point every day (so the ground never dried up) and our campsite was more water and mud than grass, we still had a great time! The weather most days was great and we spent a lot of time at the beach, 4WDing or out exploring.
A purchase of gum boots definitely made life around camp a little more bearable!
Weekend 4WD Adventures
To be honest, between lockdowns and weather, we really didn’t get too much 4wding in this year. We did start the year off with a quick trip out to Lithgow though to rescue a mate who had got himself stuck, yet again! We won’t mention any names LIAM!!!!
We were relaxing at home one afternoon when we get a message from Liam to say that he is stuck in the bush nearly 2 hours away from us. We couldn’t leave him there and we know he’d do the same for us, so we grabbed our recovery gear, jumped in the 4WD and headed off to find him. It certainly wasn’t the easiest of recoveries, he was stuck pretty good and there were times when we thought there was no way Liea was going to be able to get this 3 tonne Patrol out. But after a couple of hours of trying we finally managed to get the Patrol out and we all made our way home safely.
The only actual 4WD trip we got in was one up to Lithgow with our mate Trent and two of our followers who joined us for the day, Wayne & Meg. It was great to meet up in person and spend the day doing what we all love. Another long time follower who we feel like we know, but have never actually met is Hapy and he turned up to say a quick hello and meet us too!
Another strange year of lockdowns and all, but we still managed to get out and about exploring our local and semi local areas. There is so much to see within a couple of hours of Sydney and here are just some of the places we visited this year, starting with the Cataract Dam, one of the oldest and most picturesque dams in Sydney. We visited the HARS Aviation Museum in Albion Park and spent a few hours exploring and learning about the planes. Goulburn may not be the most exciting town around, but there is actually a lot to do around the area and a lot of history. We spent a day exploring. Of course, we can’t forget the day Shelly took George on an ‘A Country Practice Tour’! For those that remember this popular show from the 80/90’s you might want to take a drive out to Windsor and surrounds and you’ll see some of the place featured in the show. Check out our blog post here.
As mentioned earlier, we spent a weekend in Canberra for Shelly’s birthday and whilst the highlight was the private tour of the zoo, we also visited Old Parliament House and the War Memorial, as well as staying for the evening Last Post Ceremony, a highly moving and emotional service which was great to experience.
After years of driving past we finally spent a day at Mt Tomah Gardens, unfortunately a small area was still closed due to the bush fires which devastated the area, but it’s a beautiful property. What else do you do on a Saturday morning, head up to the Central Coast, call into the Hawkesbury River Oyster Shed and have oysters for breakfast! That was the start to our day which also included visiting Aboriginal Rock Art, visiting a Distillery and seafood by the water for early dinner. Another weekend we drove down south towards Wollongong, we went out to Warragamba Dam which had just started spilling so that was quite interesting to see and most recently we spent a day at Scenic World at Katoomba, followed by a visit to the Three Sisters at Echo Point and a short bush walk.
The 4WD’s & Camper Trailer
150 Series Prado
If you follow our social media channels you would be well aware of our dramas that happened over the Christmas/New Year break last year when …. the Prado died!
It all started when we decided to take a quick drive out to the lighthouse at Point Lowly (about 30km or so out of town) before leaving Whyalla, but the Prado had different ideas and we didn’t make it that far. Whilst driving up a small hill, towing the camper, the 4WD lost power, white smoke started pouring out the back and things just didn’t feel right. George pulled over straight away, oil was pouring out of the catch can and the engine was making a noise it really shouldn’t be! We knew straight away things weren’t good, we weren’t 100% sure at that point in time what had happened, but had suspected a cracked piston. We later found out that this was the case. Unfortunately this is a known problem with these engines and we’ve since had one of our followers and another friend have this happen to them.
Luckily we have NRMA Premium Care (never, ever travel without this as it covers you Australia-wide), so we jumped on the phone and an RAA (SA equivalent) patrol vehicle was dispatched to come pick us, the Prado and camper up. We were lucky that we were right off the side of the road, it wasn’t an overly busy road and we even had a nice view! Overall it wasn’t too bad a place to be stranded for a couple of hours.
You can read our blog post about the whole experience here, but long story short, we were stuck in Whyalla for a week whilst everything was sorted and while we worked out what to do next. We had initially wanted the Prado and camper shipped back to Sydney and have the work done locally, but the shipping and transport costs were unbelievably expensive so we were recommended a mechanic in Adelaide and decided to go with him. We also had the issue of how to get the camper home as we couldn’t get a hire car with a towbar and brake controller (at one point we even went car shopping and test drove a Commodore as it was potentially going to be cheaper to buy a car and tow the camper home with us than it would be to have it shipped back to Sydney!). Eventually it worked out and Tim, our wonderful RAA patrolman, towed the Prado to Adelaide and we followed in their Landcruiser towing our camper, and both were dropped off at Auto Masters (they even stored our camper for us). Tim then took us to the airport to pick up our hire car and we made our way back to Sydney.
Finally in April we got the call that the Prado was ready, borders had opened and we were able to fly over and pick up the Prado & camper.
This whole experience was one that we certainly wish we hadn’t of gone through, but we were constantly overwhelmed with the support and offers from help we received from EVERYONE. Tim & Vanessa (Whyalla RAA) were absolutely amazing and went out of their way to help us from the very minute they picked us up – as far as even lending us a vehicle to drive around in whilst we were there! From the moment we posted that this had happened we had our followers, family and friends offering help and advise. One follower even called and spent an hour on the phone running through their experience with us. Everyone was getting in touch with us to offer help with towing or mechanics or share their stories, it was so overwhelming how much everyone wanted to help us … people that didn’t even personally know us. And to our mate, The Duck, who rang us the next morning and told us he’d already spoken to a mate who owned a mechanical workshop in Adelaide, explained the situation and he was awaiting our call, we can’t thank you enough! It was hard to even contemplate leaving our vehicle with someone we didn’t know, but to have a personal recommendation was great.
Once we picked up the Prado and drove home to Sydney it was due for the first service on the engine so off to the mechanic it went to check that all was ok.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the only time we saw the Prado on the back of a tow truck this year … whilst driving down the motorway near home one weekend things didn’t feel right so we pulled over, went to check wheels and saw that the wheel nut was lose so went to tighten it ….. only to find out that it was not lose, it was not connected at all! The whole wheel stud had sheered off and the front drivers side wheel was being held on by one nut. Luckily we pulled over as that could have ended very badly for us and potentially others on the road. No-one wants a wheel coming off while doing 100km down the motorway.
No major mods for Leia this year, just a few new stickers and a pink recovery hitch! So apart from a few trips to the mechanic, she really didn’t live up to her name of ‘the bottomless pit’ like George calls her … certainly not compared to the Prado this year!
Unfortunately though in one of our recent storms, she did get hit by hail and needed a trip to the smash repairer to make her pretty again! Luckily insurance covered all of this. Interestingly though, the Prado was parked about 5 metres behind her and didn’t get any damage!
And lastly both of the vehicles received new personalised number plates this year, something we’d been thinking about for a while, we love the look and are happy with our colours we picked as they suit the vehicles more than the old plates.
As we were preparing for our big trips this year we sent the camper off to Cub for a full major service and once over. We’d also been having a few issues with the zipper the last few times we’d used it so we had new zippers installed around the door and some more lighting and USB points beside the bed.
Off The Track 4×4 updates
As always, we did a few giveaways this year, including our huge Christmas Giveaway with prizes totaling over $1,000. We couldn’t do all of this without the support of all the great businesses who we work closely with, but special mention must go to our sponsors, Cost Effective Maintenance and our great mates at Auto Parts Co.
Earlier in the year we teamed up with AMD Touring, Australia’s first dedicated Australian-made 4×4, camping and caravanning store and have been working closely with them since. So if you want to buy some Aussie made camping or 4×4 accessories, check them out!
As mentioned previously, we were also lucky enough to meet a few of our followers this year, Wayne & Meg and Hapy. We also met Peter whilst we were camping at Christmas. It’s always great to meet people in person after so long of interacting on social media! We have a few plans in place for the new year (Covid dependent) which will hopefully mean we can meet a few more of you!
Camp Cooking group
Our Camp Cooking Ideas & Tips Facebook group that we run is still going well. This started back in April 2020 and we’ve now got over 9,500 members.
Track to Nature …. Essential Oils
Last year we started Track to Nature Essential Oils and the way these are being incorporated into our lives grows each and every day. So many people are benefiting from the use of essential oils to help lead a more natural life. It’s even helping with our dog’s wellbeing, from calming them in thunderstorms, to helping ease itchy skin and upset tummies. If you are interested to see how doTERRA Essential Oils can fit into your life (particularly your camping, travel & outdoor life), feel free to contact us to discuss – or join our Facebook group
I’m sure you are all well aware, but we do have our own merchandise which we sell (our magnets in particular are so popular!) and we are also affiliates for a number of companies. Whilst we do receive commission for the sale of some products via our affiliate programs, there are many which we don’t. If you check out our website, we have been able to set up discount codes for some companies, which enable a discount for you and nothing at all in return for us. If there is something in the 4WD or camping sector that you are looking for, please remember to check out our shop and see if it may be available. Or feel free to contact us as we do have a lot of contacts in the industry and are always happy to provide our opinion and knowledge and/or point you in the direction of someone we know and trust who can help you.
Our Sponsors and Supporters
Of course we couldn’t end a year without saying a big thank you to our vehicle sponsors, Cost Effective Maintenance. These guys are the most friendly and helpful people you’ll find and they’ll go out of their way to talk you through any problems you may be having and try to offer a solution. If you haven’t checked out their range of products you really need to! Use code “4x4OTT” to receive a 10% discount off all items (excluding Value Packs) – we know that plenty of you are using this code, so keep it up!
And to Jack & Jason at Auto Parts Co, you guys are the best! They have the best range of products and can generally source anything we need. They go above and beyond to help us out and are always willing to throw us some goodies for a giveaway and/or give us something to try out. Don’t forget to Use code “OTT4x4” to receive a 5% discount off all items on their website (except already discounted items).
Lastly, as mentioned previously, there are so many companies which are always happy to donate to our giveaways and we appreciate that they trust in us as much as we believe in their services and products. Most of these are just small companies themselves, yet they are always willing to help out, so make sure you check out their pages and send some love their way too!
George turned the big 5-0 and we were able to mark the celebration with a camping weekend away with family and friends.
Our nephew, Levi, graduated from pre-school … how cute does he look in his little outfit!! He’s not our little baby anymore, this little man goes off to big school next year.
As for the kids, Tre bought his first house, such an achievement for anyone in these times, let alone someone in their early 20’s. He was busy renovating it to rent out as an investment property. Min, moved out of home and into a rental of her own and has been busy putting her stamp on it and making it the perfect little home. We couldn’t be more proud of both of them.
And lastly, our mate Stewy, who we do a lot of travel with, welcomed a new baby daughter into the world with his partner Lisa. A huge congratulations to them all, including Stewy’s eldest daughter, Rori.
How we spent Christmas
As we were away for Christmas we held our ‘family Christmas’ weekend on 11/12 December. On the Saturday we went to George’s sisters house for lunch with his family and Sunday was spend with Shelly’s family at our house.
Christmas Day was spent camping at Urunga. A perfect day of seafood cooked on the Weber and a few drinks. Even Santa (and his dog!) popped in to visit us at camp!
What’s planned for 2022?
2022 is basically a rerun of what 2021 should have been!
We will hopefully finally do our Hot Air Ballooning which was cancelled.
In July we have the Big Red Bash at Birdsville (which was actually tickets we purchased back in 2019, but Covid ruined our plans 2 years in a row). Fingers crossed, third time lucky! The lineup for this is great with JIMMY BARNES headlining!!! Plenty of other great Aussie bands
The Rolling Stones Review starring: Adalita, Tex Perkins and Tim Rogers
In August/September we have our postponed Arnhem Land tag-a-long trip with Great Divide Tours. We are excited to have the opportunity to explore this remote area of Australia. We’ve never visited the top end of NT, so very much looking forward to this amazing experience.
As 2021 was such a strange year we weren’t able to get out and do too much 4WDing, so hopefully 2022 brings lots more weekend adventures in the bush and a few more weekend camping trips. We know the content on our page may not have been too exciting this year, but it’s hard when you are in lockdown and don’t do anything! Therefore, we are hoping that less restrictions will mean more great adventures we can share with you all.
As always, thank you to each and every one of you who supports us and seems to enjoy what we do! Many of you have been following for years and we really do feel like we know you, we all know what social media can be like at times, but our ‘people’ are the absolute best!!! Knowing that we can do something we absolutely love doing and then share it with others and they enjoy it too is amazing. The messages we get saying how inspiring we are or how people wish they could do what we do or wished they travelled when they could, asking for our opinion or advice on products or holiday destinations … sometimes it’s a little strange to think that we are just doing what we love, yet people look up to us! And the support we got with our Prado issues was overwhelming to say the least, we really do have the absolute best bunch of followers anyone could ask for!!
We know it’s been another difficult year for many and we only hope that we have in some way brought a little something to otherwise trying times.
Don’t forget, if you see us out and about, don’t be shy, come over and have a chat, we always love meeting new people or some of our followers. And please, spread the word – LIKE, COMMENT & SHARE on our socials and lets inspire even more people to get out there and explore.
We do hope that 2022 is a better year for you all, filled with good health, fun times, new adventures and lots of magical memories.
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