Soul searching in the Hunter Valley

After having such a relaxed weekend last weekend, we were more than keen to get on the road again and soak up more of the crisp fresh air and nature, this time with the whole tribe. I’ve been wanting to stay in the Hunter Valley since we bought our caravan, so as a spontaneous trip, we booked a night in just that spot.

Our Saturday mornings are all about Kurt playing football, so we got that done and dusted then hit the road. Again, we were prepared, having packed the night before and just adding in fridge supplies before we left. This trip was our first one since the reno with all six of us going, so we were eager to see how the caravan layout worked for us all now. We set up the dinette bed before we left for Manns eldest kids and set off for the weekend. We booked an overnight stay at Ingenia Holidays, Big 4 Cessnock and I’ve got to say – what an absolutely peaceful park! Minimal noise and you can hear the gentle sound of frogs in the dam. It’s located right at the bottom of the vineyards which you’d never even know. The camp kitchen was out of this world! A wood fire pizza oven, fire pit, fruit trees, jumping pillow, swimming pools (not heated unfortunately), and the grounds are so flat, tidy and lined with beautiful grape vines which just adds to the beauty of the gorgeous wine country area. The amenities were a new and tidy as well.

We set up camp quickly, did our park tour and cooked up some noodles for lunch outside. Then we headed into Wollombi, a place my best friend has been telling me to visit for so long! The whole drive out there I was just admiring all the paddocks, cottage houses, trees, everything I could see. I was imagining what the day to day life would be like for these people living on their acres with surroundings so picturesque and fresh. This feeling came over me and I thought, what am I doing living where I am? Being out here just feels so right for us. It’s something Mann and I dream of doing one day when the time is right.

Driving into Wollombi, I instantly fell in love and was so excited to get out of the car and walk around exploring the village. First stop was the Wollombi museum where they had on display the old court room, holding cells, kitchen and exercise yard from 1866.

Then we ventured over the street to a very unique but super cool antiques store run by a local who lives at the back of the property. Not long after, Mann and I needed a coffee hit and the kids all ate ice cream from the gelato bar. We probably sat outside the general store for half an hour, just wasting time, drinking coffee, eating ice cream and talking random things among us. It was so good to be able to take in our surroundings slowly and at a steady pace rather than rushing around. Wollombi has so many historic buildings that are just beautiful and takes you back in time.

We checked out a few other local stores, then last minute decided to go for a drive out west and just see where we ended up. We drove past beautiful creeks, paddocks, homes, found a vacant block of land we wanted to explore, just filled with trees, cacti, ferns, mountains, an old rusted out car, kangaroos, it was just beautiful. At one point, I said to the kids “Listen to that!”. They all stopped still and were silent for a good 15 seconds just standing there, listening, trying to find what I was talking about. All you could hear was complete silence and the sound of a beautiful bell bird. Before they could ask, I said “That’s what you were listening for, the beauty of silence”. It was the kind of silence that is so blissful and quiet, that you could start to hear that buzz in your ears. I’ll take that moment with me forever.

After that stop we headed back in towards Wollombi and we were surprised to see on the side of the road, a hugeeeee wombat. I’m talking massive! He was the cutest thing waddling around. All the kids were amazed – even Mann haha! Seeing the wombat reminded me of my Nana. Her favourite animal was a wombat and she had about 5 teddy wombats in all different sizes in her bedroom. It was nice to remember back to that. Then we passed a field with some ponies so we stopped to give them a pat and some grass. That too was another beautiful moment with all the kids. It was just us, the ponies and nature. 15 minutes later, we hopped back in the car but quickly stopped down the road to watch the cows grazing. It really is the simple things that are the funniest, and that bring the best memories. It was a completely sponsneous drive but one will all take with us forever.

We had all these plans of cooking in the camp kitchen for dinner, or even to try out a cool restaurant we passed in Cessnock called The Mine Shaft but by the time we got back in town, it was getting late and we were all exhausted, so KFC it was. Then we headed back to camp, hanging out in the van with the heater going strong in 4℃ at only 8pm! I will admit I was so nervous about how cold it was going to get through the night haha. We rugged up, played charades, the kids played cards and drawing games. Mann gave me a relaxing neck rub – gosh he’s so good to me! Before we knew it, it was 9pm and we got all the kids to bed, even ourselves.

I woke through the night at 4am, checked my weather app to see how cold it was and it read 1℃. When we all woke at 7am, it was -1℃. Surprisingly and just as we’d hoped – inside the van did not feel that cold. It felt much colder to us when we stayed in the Blue Mountains. We opened all the curtains, peaked outside to see nothing but beautiful misty fields and the sun starting to rise. The grass, car, poles, were all layered with ice. You could literally snap the grass. It was something I hadn’t yet experienced like that, but had been dying to see. I rugged myself up and took it all in. It was such a beautiful morning that the cold air didn’t phase me. As cold as it was, I went with the mindset, I can either live in the moment or hide away from it.

Mann cooked up bacon and eggs for all, we got ready and headed to Kitchener for the morning to see the old mine shaft and let the kids burn off some energy at the park. There are two walking tracks at the Poppet Head Reserve, and we decided to take the dam track which said it was a 20 minute walk. We took it slow, stopping where we wanted and having an explore. It was a beautiful spot with old rickety bridges, swans, orange mushrooms, muddy puddles and beautiful views of the dam. Definitely  a nice walk to do with the kids.

Afterwards we headed in to the vineyards for a country drive and a chocolate fix at the chocolate factory. Then we headed back to camp for a coffee, and to start packing up for our late check out we had at 2pm.

Mann and I talked about how different the last two weekends have been, but how good they’ve both been. One was absolute beach side, the other – absolute country side. Both so relaxing but we agreed the Hunter Valley had a far more relaxed vibe as the park was quieter with less campers during our stay.

The caravan layout for all six of us was a hit too – a bit squishy at times when we’re all trying to get in and out but overall we are so happy with how we have done it. Now to await our few days away next week in Forster for Kyle’s birthday. Can. Not. Wait. We are just loving getting into the groove of enjoying our weekends away in the caravan exploring new places. It definitely makes a hard working week worth it when you’ve got a fun filled family weekend planned.

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