We’d been invited down to Bellingen, only half an hour’s drive southwest of Coffs Harbour, so today we packed up our stuff from Aunty Judy’s house and drove away. We didn’t know that we’d be leaving our fun resort for the Promised Land.

Judy Bailey + Lauren Fisher (with Delaney)
Here I am with our kind hostess Judy — she's my dad's sister.

Judy kissing Brioni with David watching, January 2011
We said good-bye to Aunty Judy this morning when we were leaving Coffs.

Aunty Judy waving from her house, January 2011
Thanks for everything!

David and I first stopped at business acquaintance’s house in Bellingen. Ten months ago, a floor-tradesman had come to our house and purchased rolls of materials. His eldest son had left his skateboard in the shed, and we brought it with us in the truck to return it. When we arrived at their house, the family was home, although they were planning on driving to Port Macquarie for the weekend. It was great to be invited inside, have a cuppa and enjoy the company.

After seeing them, we headed for the countryside around the town. There’s a beautiful section of farmland north of Bellingen that is called Promised Land.

The countryside outside Bellingen, January 2011
The countryside outside Bellingen is lush and gorgeous.

The road to the Promised Land, January 2011
We drove around the back roads, enjoying the scenery and admiring the houses of those who live here all the time.

To get to the Promised Land, you first have to cross Never Never Creek. We stopped to have a look at the water, and the cicadas were deafening.

Brioni and Aisha, January 2011
We walked through the trees to the banks of the stream. Aisha found the cicadas' noise very loud and tried to block it out with her hands.

Calista, Brioni and Aisha with David and Delaney, January 2011
When David looked at Never Never Creek, he expressed a desire to float down it with a bodyboard.

Calista, January 2011
Calista loves the prospect of getting back in the water again!

Cicada of the Promised Land, January 2011
We found one of the noisy cicadas on the stones at our feet.

We know all about cicadas from our trip through Queensland. The girls weren’t shy about handling this insect.

When we were about to drive away, Brioni became distraught. She was afraid her cicada would become frightened by the noise of the engine. (It died a natural death during the course of our short trip back to town.)

While in Coffs Harbour, I contacted a local natural-learning support group. Brett: had invited us to Bellingen. We were meeting him and his two children: Kaiden and Jamala at a local park.

Brett and Nicole recently traveled around Australia for ten months. They drove their car and trailer entirely on free waste vegetable oil. Brett said he only had to pay once. Not bad for a trip around Australia, hey? We’re very impressed and it’s started getting us thinking about the possibilities of powering our trip on vegie oil.

Although Brett and David hit it off right away, it took a while for the kids to warm up. Four-year-old Kaiden was very confident and started playing right away.

Aisha and Brioni on playground equipment, January 2011
The girls started playing on the equipment.

Kaiden, January 2011
Kaiden decided to make the most of the wet weather and play in the mud.

Calista watching Kaiden, January 2011
Initially Calista just watched Kaiden playing, but soon she was enticed to join in — even if it did mean getting muddd!

Delaney, January 2011
Delaney didn't escape the mud. She's too heavy to carry all the time, so I let her crawl around on the ground.

Brett and David, January 2011
We felt a special connection with Brett and his philosophies of life and parenting.

Aisha planting, January 2011
Aisha started ambitiously transplanting weeds into the middle of the playground.

Brioni, January 2011
Brioni and Kaiden soon abandoned the playground in favour of erecting a bridge over a stormwater ditch.

Making a bridge, January 2011
The kids worked together very well to collect a variety of materials for their bridge.

Delaney, January 2011
Delaney enjoyed climbing in and out of the ditch as we sat nearby and watched our children play.

Our visit was cut short because two-year-old Jamala was overdue for a nap. The children were reluctant to separate, but we’ve made plans for another reunion tomorrow so they can have another play together.

Calista and Brioni playing with Kaiden, January 2011
The final touches on their bridge were leaves and handfuls of moss (to hold it all together).

Aisha still planting, January 2011
Up at the playground, Aisha had created a nice garden of slowly wilting plants.

We drove back out of town to the Promised Land. With a name like that, we’re certain we’ve picked the perfect place to camp tonight!

David and the girls on the bank of the Never Never, January 2011
We're parked on the banks of the Never Never Creek.

David, January 2011
David is still eyeing the water, making plans to ride the rapids over the next couple of days!

Aisha brushing her teeth, January 2011
Soon after we arrived at the creek, the girls decided to collectively brush their teeth.

Calista and Brioni brushing their teeth, January 2011
The girls enjoy brushing their teeth at random times when it's not forced upon them.

Although it’s been raining for the last couple of days, now that we’re camping again, the drizzle has stopped. We’re thankful that our weather is always perfect!

Lauren on the computer, January 2011
Here I am, blogging — a happy camper!