Travelling through the tropical rainforests of Queensland the last thing you would anticipate stumbling upon is a century old Spanish castle. Yet there it is – Paronella Park – sitting beside a flowing waterfall. It should be in a fairy tale, not in the humid northern Australian jungle. 

The castle’s creator was Jose Paronella, who emigrated from northern Spain to Australia over one hundred years ago. Jose was in his early twenties and full of ambition and romance. He had left his fiance in northern Spain, promising to return to marry her when he had made enough wealth to let her live comfortably. And what was his plan for making money? He built sugar-cane farms in the tropics of this southern continent. 

When Jose returned to his native Catalonia near the border with France he discovered his fiance had married someone else. Dejected, and determined to sail back to Australia with a wife, Jose asked his former fiance’s younger sister to marry him instead. She agreed, and Jose brought Margarita back to the Australian tropics. On arrival in 1929 they started building Jose’s dream of a Spanish castle ten thousand miles from his childhood.

It would be wonderful to think that when their neighbours first saw Paronella’s crazy grand plans, they all uttered in unison: “No way, Jose!”

But Jose did have a way, and by the end of the 1930’s Paronella Park would have ornate turret-topped towers, stone balustrades, and star-filled ballrooms. Grand balconies would overlook the turtles playing in the creek flowing through the grounds. On weekends Jose and Margarita would host lavish parties in their castle, and hundreds of people would fill this enchanting place in the Australian rain forrest. 

When Jose died in 1948 the family were already rebuilding after a disastrous flood only two years earlier. And over the next five decades the castle would begin to fall apart through fire, cyclones, and the ever-encroaching rainforest surrounding the Catalan castle.

Almost fifty years after Jose Paronella died,  a young couple purchased the park in ruins. They slowly began to clear away the five decades of creeping tropics and repair a crumbling dream. Today, once again, hundreds of people walk through Paronella Park daily and marvel at a Spanish Castle ten thousand miles from where it should be.

When the Riley family visited recently, my favourite part of the park was an avenue of giant Kauri trees leading down to the creek. Jose Paronella planted them knowing he would never see their magnificence. He planted them for future generations to enjoy.

In a similar way I hope our caravan lap around Australia as a family will inspire dreams in our kids that will outlast us as parents.

There’s an ancient Greek proverb that says: “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.”

The Bible says something similar about itself: “This Book will be written for the generation to come, so a people yet to be created may know God”. (Psalm 102:18).

What metaphorical trees are you planting today that will inspire the dreams of generations to come?

A section of Jose Paronella’s castle in Queensland
The Castle’s riverside courtyard – with Joanne enjoying the sunshine
Joanne and the Riley kids on one of the castle’s many balconies
An avenue of Kauri trees planted by Jose Paronella in the 1930’s


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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year during 2021 to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.


The Riley family travelled north during June to the remote Western Australian town of Broome. The road to Broome this time of year is filled with travellers chasing winter’s warmth, including holidaying families in heavy-ladened caravans, dreadlocked twenty-somethings in cars packed with fire-juggling paraphernalia, and bus-filled retirees in the sunsets of their own lives – all careening up the Great Northern Highway.

Broome is such a wonderful winter escape during the cool middle of a southern hemisphere year that its population triples for three months. In the early spring, when the troops of travellers finally depart town, Broome returns to being a hothouse of humidity leaving residents wanting to live inside their own fridges.

But a centenary before this paved motorway sped travellers north by their tens of thousands chasing winter’s sun, there was another road twenty miles further west – the “Old” Broome Road. 

This now forgotten road (if you could ever really call it a road) was the path poor sojourners either walked or sat astride beasts of burden as they travelled to and from Port Hedland in the south, and everywhere in between. Those with more money and sense travelled by boat, for the Broome road had too many depravations. The road was pockmarked with the heavy hooves of horses and cattle, sandy and windswept from the tropic’s summer blows, and devoid of any semblance of drinking water. Those who travelled it needed resilience and courage in spades, and maybe just a touch of insanity.

When gold was discovered ‘down south’ in the Pilbara in the late 1800’s,  prospectors who had been chasing pearls in Broome walked over three hundred miles down this road to try their luck in the goldfields. To travel this road was to suffer. So many prospectors experienced significant hardship, and even died travelling this path, that the road became known as the “Madman’s Track”.

It was said that if a person wasn’t already crazy to travel the Madman’s Track, they would be by the time they finished.

Many centuries ago Jesus talked on a hillside to a large audience about a similar Madman’s Track: “In life” Jesus said, “make sure you travel the road no-one else is on. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and most people are travelling this road. Less people are walking the narrow way, and it’s this path that leads to life” (Matthew 6:13-14).

Jesus was talking about a path many people are still on today. A crazy metaphorical road chasing cash, fame and recognition, and earthly successes. This road, Jesus said, was temporary and led to destruction. His way is better He told His audience, and it had less people travelling it.

I do hope that’s the path my family is travelling on, as we continue to follow the Son.


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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.

Good News on Australia’s First Ever “Big Lap” of the Continent

The Riley “Big Lap of Australia” in our Gypsy Express farewelled the city of Perth this week to begin our trek up the western coast towards Broome – and then on to the warmth of Darwin in the Top End by mid-winter. 

The nights are becoming a little cooler in the south of Western Australia so we’re chasing the sun north as it continues its autumnal recession. 

As a Seventh-day Adventist pastor I’m proud the first person to circumnavigate Australia in a motor vehicle was a Seventh-day Adventist evangelist in 1925. Neville Westwood had planned to travel from his home in Perth up to Darwin to help spread the Good News and do some work in the remote northern communities. While he was up in the “Top End”, Neville decided to just keep going and lap the continent – a feat never achieved in a motor car.

Today, the Riley family is doing our “Big Lap of Oz” in an air-conditioned four wheel drive, towing a comfy caravan, and on (mostly) paved roads with plenty of fuel stations along the way – but Neville Westwood had none of that. His pioneering lap was all done in a tiny second-hand 1923 Citroen 5CV they nicknamed “Bubsie”. For much of the journey Neville had to travel on cattle tracks and through scrub and dessert at under 10kmh, and buy fuel from farmers by knocking on their door. Punctures were repaired by stuffing grass and leaves into the tyres, and there is a faded photo of the small Citroen being pulled across the famous Fitzroy River by local Indigenous women.

When Neville arrived back in the city of Perth at the end of 1925 there was a large crowd of celebrating West Australians to greet the motoring evangelist pioneer as he drove his beaten-up little yellow “Bubsie” back into the city.

Almost a hundred years later the Rileys are ‘travelling in Neville Westwood’s tyre marks’ – both geographically and also spiritually. The Riley Gypsy Express is hoping we, like Neville Westwood, help share the good news;- the good news of a loving God who created this beautiful and vast southern continent; the good news that our future is filled with a “Blessed Hope” of re-creation (see Titus 2:13 in the Bible).

You can visit Neville Westwood’s pioneering Citroen in Australia’s capital city Canberra where this hundred-year-old car is on display at the National Museum of Australia. Here’s a quick video of Bubsie’s restoration and display.

(Note: Neville Westwood’s travelling companion for this incredible trip was Greg Davis. Davis left the trip after a few months when they both reached the town of Albury in south-eastern Australia)

* In Titus 2:13, the Apostle Paul writes: “We look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.”


When Captain Leo Gwyther badly broke his leg working on the family farm in Leongatha in southern Victoria there was concern. Next season’s crops needed to be planted if the family had any chance of surviving what the papers were calling “The Great Depression”. The early 1930’s were difficult not just in Australia but all over the world.

So of course Captain Gwyther’s son Lennie volunteered for the task. He harnessed together the horses, and for weeks Lennie drove them up and down the family’s one hundred and sixty acres. He ploughed and planted and perspired solo to make sure the job was done before the summer’s heat really set in.

When Captain Leo asked Lennie what he would like for his reward, Lennie had only one thing on his mind. Lennie wanted to travel to up to Sydney for the opening of their magnificent and shiny new Harbour Bridge. But Captain Leo knew there were two obstacles to granting Lennie his request: The first obstacle was Lennie would have to travel one thousand kilometres by foot to Sydney, all on his own. The second obstacle was Lennie’s age; the lad was only nine years old.

Lennie’s mother said no to the request straight away as all anxious mums would, but Captain Leo wasn’t so quick to deny the boy his day. Lennie wanted to take his pony –  Ginger Mick – who Lennie had grown up with. If nine-year-old Lennie Gwyther could plow one hundred and sixty acres of farmland with a team of working horses then perhaps a two month sojourn alone to the city of Sydney was not beyond consideration.

Lennie left Leongatha with Ginger Mick on a warm summer Wednesday in the February of 1932. His family was not to know at the time that sixty years later a life-size statue of the boy and his small horse would be erected in the small town to mark the extraordinary expedition. A brave boy in bronze – as a memorial to a feat beyond what twenty-first century parents would allow any of their children to attempt.

Lennie’s tools for the trip was a bed-roll, his tooth brush, a water bottle, his oversized bucket-shaped cloth cap…. and silk pyjamas. The boy headed north-east travelling about twenty kilometres a day. At the end of each day Lennie would stop at a farm house and ask if Ginger Mick could eat some of their grass, and if the both of them could sleep in the farm’s barn. In the first few weeks Lennie dealt maturely with a dangerous summer bushfire passing through his route, as well as the constant threat of vagabonds on the road. 

News of a rural boy’s ride from from the green hills of southern Victoria up to the bright lights and bustle of Sydney for the opening of the huge Harbour Bridge began spreading over fences and down the road ahead of Lennie. Newspapers around the nation began picking up on reports from their country cousins of Lennie and his pony Ginger Mick’s journey north. Headlines were giving him the moniker “Lennie the Legend”, and the nation’s readers were requiring daily updates on his progress and safety. The London Times were even reporting on the the boy and his pony back in the Mother Country. 

By the time the pair had reached the newly built Australian capital city of Canberra – the halfway point on their journey – Lennie had become a national celebrity. The Prime Minister of the country, Joseph Lyons, invited Lennie to have morning tea with him. Lennie couldn’t help but notice the sheep grazing on the front lawn of Parliament House as he ate scones with Australia’s premier politician.

When Lennie and Ginger Mick finally arrived into Sydney ten thousand people crammed into Martin Place to greet “Lennie the Legend”. Lennie was a little lost in all the attention and adoration as most nine year old boys would be. He had to be shepherded through the large crowd by two dozen police, and was annoyed with some of the greeters who were plucking hairs out of Ginger Mick’s tail as souvenirs. 

Six weeks earlier Lennie had set off from Leongatha with farewells from his family. All he wanted was to see the brand new Sydney Harbour Bridge, and now he was being asked to ride across it on Ginger Mick as a national celebrity during the opening celebrations.

When all the ribbon-cutting was over, and tickertape was being swept from Sydney’s streets, Lennie and Ginger Mick began their long return home. The Sun newspaper reported the young boy’s departure with the following line: “Lennie, being a typical casual Australian, swung into the saddle and called ‘Toodleloo!’”

Today, when you visit Lennie and Ginger Mick’s statue in his home town of Leongatha, you’re reminded of the courage an adventure like theirs requires. All exciting escapades involve the ingredient of bravery. But another component is not so obvious – the element of faith. All journeys in life require a faith that, despite our fears, everything will turn out well in the end.

And for Lennie and Ginger Mick everything turned out just grand.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil. For my Creator walks with me; His rod and His staff comfort me.” (the 23rd Psalm, verse 4)

Lennie Gwyther (aged nine) in his familiar over-sized cloth cap along with Ginger Mick. Lennie was given the pony as a gift on Lennie’s second birthday
Lennie & Ginger Mick riding passed the dignitaries as they opened the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932
In the southern Victorian town of Leongatha there’s a statue of their boy “Lennie the Legend” and his pony Ginger Mick


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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.


The Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island live up to their given name. Standing sentinel on a weathered cliff, these massive formations have perched in this one spot over the Southern Ocean for aeons. They have watched, they’ve been weathered, and they have stood firm – almost as monolithic metaphors for strength and imperiousness. 

Facing south from the cliffs, Antarctica is out there somewhere. On the clearest of days you would never be able to see the great white continent from here, but through squinting eyes you are aware it’s the next land mass over the ocean once the Roaring Forties have been conquered

On the day of our visit the Riley kids ran among the massive granite boulders looking for recognisable shapes, and also really good places to hide. These rock formations  are nature’s superior version of a Henry Moore sculpture display

“The Eagle” was the most obvious of the weather-hewn shapes to be seen. The “Helmet and the Sword” were discovered next, and then a “Cake” – a discovery perhaps influenced by the fact it was my son Theodore’s ninth birthday. The “Sad Puppy” was one  of our final discoveries, and was seen only when the shadows of the setting sun had thrown enough reddening tones to reveal some round eyes and floppy ears.

On the display board in the car-park down the hill there’s a photograph of a family visiting the Rocks in the late 1800’s. Over a century stood between their touristic trip to this remote part of the world and my family’s visit. The only difference between us (apart from an Eagle’s Beak slightly longer back when Queen Victoria ruled the British Empire) was they had brought their dog. My wife tells me we’ll NEVER own a dog… and so maybe the reason I saw a Sad Puppy face in the Remarkables is some kind of three dimensional Rorschachian inkblot revealing the sadness of my soul at a future without Rover.

Standing beside and among and inside these rock formations I can’t help but compare their existence to mine. When our shadows were cast upon their permanence it only served to emphasise this life’s fragility and failures. These Remarkables will be here well after the Rileys are not. 

The ancients have often compared nature’s Creator to a rock. At the Remarkables I am able to catch a glimpse of the reason for the comparison. 

There is a story in Scripture from almost three thousand years ago of a totalitarian leader of a world superpower. He craves absolute power and immortality and yet dreams one night of a divine rock that smashes into his ego and all those who come after him. This biblical story is not a prophecy of a catastrophic meteor, it’s a metaphoric promise of Christ. It’s a story of a Saviour who brings strength and peace to a world needing permanence.*

In Jesus, we do indeed have a Remarkable Rock. It is He who gives our life shape. As we walked away from the cliff face, I was closer to this Rock than when I had arrived.

(* This story of the king of Babylon’s dream is found in the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapter 2)

An eagle’s perspective of the Remarkable Rocks on the remote south-west corner of Kangaroo Island

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.


Three generations of my family stood on a windswept cemetery hill a mile outside of the small southern New South Wales town of Boorowa. A rain storm was heading towards us, and we only had a few minutes before the welcomed wet arrived.

My mother understood the significance of the moment, but my kids would probably only appreciate the memory of a graveside stop in a few decades’ time.

“John Mulcahy” the headstone read, “A native of County Cork in Ireland who departed this life in 1867 aged 88 years.”

John Mulcahy was my mother’s great great great grandfather. In 1836 John purchased tickets on a boat for himself and his wife, and also their ten children – and they embarked on a three month sea voyage from Ireland to a new British colony in the southern hemisphere. The trip would cost him the lives of his wife and his seven-year-old son to Scarlet Fever, and John would see a fifth of his fellow passengers and crew die of the same infection before they reached Sydney cove. When they arrived, those who survived were forced into quarantine on a remote headland miles from the colony. “Fever Ship!” shouted the front page of the fledgling Sydney Morning Herald, and the vessel’s survivors were scorned.

John Mulcahy would spend the next two months in a makeshift tent with his nine children, released from quarantine when Governor Bourke deemed the Fever’s outbreak over. 

John took his family south and inland, two hundred miles from Sydney. He took them to sheep country, and they stayed for over a century. Four generations of John Mulcahy’s family stewarded the land and the livestock, and today Italian suit companies clamour for the superfine Merino wool the area sends back to Europe. 

My mother and my children stood by John’s grave, in the same place our ancestors had stood grieving over one hundred and fifty years previously. The spot seemed sacred to me, but my kids just rolled their eyes and asked: “Is this over yet, Dad?” They’ll thank me in a few decades…. I hope.

John’s tombstone is engraved with words both macabre and also deeply meaningful:

Remember me as you pass by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now you soon must be
Remember that as you think of me

The rain began to fall, and my children welcomed an excuse to scurry from an ancient burial ground towards the car. I took my mother’s arm to help her over the uneven ground, and we followed the kids’ lead back to the vehicle. As I helped her into the passenger seat she half-whispered something to me so the kids wouldn’t hear: “David, I hope I’m not forgotten when the next generation is gone.”

That may very well be every adult’s fear as we confront our own mortality.

On a windswept and wet hill, a mile outside of the historic town of Boorowa, I had ancestors from both yesterday and today speaking to me. A message from the tombstone of the dead and the lips of the living: Our time is short, so make your life mean something.

The Apostle Paul wrote something similar two thousand years ago: “For each one of us is a masterpiece of God’s, created deliberately in Christ Jesus to do a good work in this life.”*

My life is short. By God’s good grace may it mean something.

(* Bible quote taken from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2 verse 20)

Beside the grave of John Mulcahy (1779-1867). The Riley kids may be smiling in the photo, but as soon as I hit “click” the asked: “Can we go now?”
The small town of Boorowa in southern New South Wales has an annual festival called “Irish Woolfest” to celebrate immigration from the Emerald Isle that built their wool industry. This photo captures the ‘running of the sheep’

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.A group of people posing for a photo

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Almost all of Australia’s internal state borders are straight. They mirror the majority of the continent’s flat terrain. Those dashed territorial lines on a map represent the separation of former British colonies into today’s self-governing states.

But if your eye wanders down the map to the south-east corner of the country, you’ll see a line of dashes snaking all the way to the outback of South Australia. This meandering border separates Australia’s two most populous states (and the country’s oldest colonies); Victoria and New South Wales.

The snaked line of dashes on the map isn’t the result of a cartographer’s machine malfunctioning, nor is it because he might have had a beer too many by the time his ruler reached the fourth quadrant of Australia. That serpent of dashes represents the mighty Murray River.

There is something  special about the Murray River. Well, there is to me.

As a child being shuttled regularly on the long car journey between the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, the Murray signaled something significant whenever it was crossed. On the other side of the Murray River is where laws changed. It’s where football fields transitioned from southern codes to northern. It’s where the darkness of my heart turned to light or possibly back to a deeper black, depending on the direction I was travelling. 

The Murray River: from its rapid beginnings in the Snowy Mountains, its slow dawdling across an ancient flat land through multiple attempts of humanity to civilise it into dams and irrigation systems, and then finally the river’s release into the giant mouth of the Southern Ocean. Two and half thousand kilometres of meandering water, making it one of the longest rivers in the world. But to me, in my childhood memories, the Murray is more than just another river.

I’m currently stalking the Murray westward on our family lap around Australia. We’re following the river’s flow west towards South Australia. As the week has unfurled, the Rileys have swum in the huge Lake Hume near the city of Albury, and then watched turtles feeding along the dam wall before being chased away by a sudden rain squall. We’ve splashed about in shallows near the historic township of Corowa, making sure not to swim out into the middle of the river and be dragged too far downstream. We’ve camped along its banks watching sunsets and river cod jumping at insects on dusk. 

The other night our daughters were talking about strands of their hair coming loose from their head as they swam. They were mildly concerned they had somehow managed to pollute the river as their hair floated downstream, or possibly even endangered fish. “You’re now a part of the Murray,” I reassured them as we washed the river’s mud off our feet, “And the Murray is a part of you”.

The biblical account of creation tells us*: “God formed humanity from the mud, and then He kissed life into each of them. With this combination of mud and the Creator’s breath they became a living soul.”

Each of us are made from something material and also something supernatural. When we allow ourselves to become physically close to creation we can sometimes hear the quiet voice of the Creator whispering His wishes for our lives.

And so today, the Murray River is letting me cross a border; a border into another Kingdom. 

A Kingdom of eternal tomorrows.

(* Bible quote taken from Genesis chapter 2, verse 7)

The Murray River in south-eastern Australia is the third longest navigable river in the world (behind the Amazon and the Nile)
One of our campsites during our travels along the Murray River


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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.


As a dad with young kids there’s a parental maxim I’m continually repeating to myself: 

“The days may be long but the years will be short”. 

Each day with young children can seem a drawn-out repeat of the previous, so I endeavour to minimise some of my frustrations with this old adage: “The days may be long but the years will be short”

Every evening when I bang on the bathroom door and tell my daughters to “hurry up in there!” – I whisper to myself: “The days may be long but the years will be short”. Each morning when I rush around the house asking my eight-year-old son: “Where are your school shoes, lad? I can’t believe you’ve lost them again!” I stare down his I-don’t-care-about-shoes facial expression and say to myself….. “The days may be long but the years will be short”.

When I speak with parents whose offspring are into their latter teens or even older, they share with me their laments and regrets regarding not embracing this “younger” parenting season with their own kids. These more experienced parents miss the long days of when their own kids were smaller, and they prod me with a large stick of urgency to spend more time with mine.  

Yes, the days may be long but the years are short.

As both a father of faith and also a minister of religion I was blessed early last year to baptise my then twelve-year-old daughter .  The baptismal ceremony and subsequent celebration was held just weeks before the pandemic pressed ‘pause’ (or possibly even ‘cancel’) on regular life for most of the world. Jessica’s baptism into Christ – a rite of passage marking the maturing of a believer’s faith – jolted me into a realisation that the days had begun to stop being long and the years were beginning to be short. 

How do I squeeze the last few moments out of being a dad of young children during a worldwide health crisis? The answer for me was to pack up the family home, and take my wife and three young children on a year-long trip around Australia during 2021.

I’m aware that one day I won’t be around. I think about that every time I conduct someone else’s funeral. And I wonder how my kids will remember me in the days and years that follow, and what sort of loving mementos and legacies I shall leave in their lives.

I’m hoping a year together in a tin can, travelling the terrors and beauties of this wide brown land, will provide eternal memories and character-shaping experiences. 

The travel days may be long, but this year will be too short.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord… Blessed is the parent whose life is filled with them”
(Psalm 127)

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.


Manila, the capital city of the Phillipines, has a population almost the size of Australia’s. My last visit to that major Asian city involved me in a taxi having a minor accident with another vehicle on a busy roundabout. When my cab was side-swiped my immediate thought was selfish: “Great… now I’ll have to find another ride…. it’ll take them ages to exchange insurance details!”

My taxi-driver must have sensed my Western inexperience with Filipino ways. He put his hand on my shoulder (I was riding in the front seat like all Australian males should in taxis) and reassured me: “Stay here. This will only take two minutes.” He was wrong. It took a minute before he was back in the cab with a fold of cash he had negotiated from the at-fault driver in the other car.

They do things a little differently in the Manila of the Phillipines.

The Manilla of Australia is where the Rileys spent yesterday afternoon. With a population ten thousand times smaller than its Asian namesake, the Manilla of the Northern Tablelands is better known for rich wheat harvests, and cute lambs playing in paddocks (and apparently my vegetarian kids didn’t really want to know about the fate of those cute little lambs…).

It has the far-too-wide main street that proudly shouts: “We have plenty of space here!”, and also the Art Deco architecture that reminds me of my grandparents. 

Despite this small town becoming world-famous for paragliding, the thriller in this Manilla was to drive our car across the long, narrow bridge high above the Namoi River. Each of the Rileys instinctively breathed in to reduce the width of our Toyota Landcruiser as we edged passed a car coming in the opposite direction. It was such a buzz that at the end of the bridge we did an immediate u-turn and drove straight back over and returned into town.

Afternoon tea in Manilla needed to be had with an elderly great-aunt that Joanne hadn’t seen in three decades. Chocky bickies and lemon lolly-water to hype the kids up, and chats about recent meetings of the local arts and crafts association. Country towns in Australia are all the same, and they’re each uniquely different.

Oh, and I’m sure the town of Manilla in the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales does have a taxi somewhere, we just didn’t see it today. 

MANILLA, NEW SOUTH WALES (45km from Tamworth)

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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.


I’m re-orienting this Reverential Ramblings blog to provide a written (and occasional visual) account of our year-travelling-around-Australia adventure.

For the year of 2021 I’m dragging my wife Joanne and our three children on a 40,000km circumnavigation of this great southern continent, and we’ll be exploring more than just the geography. And I mean it when I say “dragging”. Joanne was not that keen. It’s taken me over two years of constant nagging and manipulative mansplaining to convince her an odyssey around Oz with our oddball kids was a good idea. Rather than being convinced of the genius of the plan, Joanne eventually agreed…just to shut me up.

God bless her, and God bless the ability of a husband to wear down his wife eventually.

Surprisingly, the kids have also been bland in their response to take a year off mainstream schooling and trek around the world’s largest island with their father. Despite my explanations of old friendships continuing online, and new relationships being made on the road – the three Riley kids have been been slow to embrace my enthusiasm.

So, we’ve packed our home and rented it out, upgraded the car to tow a newly built caravan, and set out in faith that pandemic-related lockdowns would simply set us free to be unhurried in our travels. We’ll allow the Creator of this continent to send us down whatever rock-strewn road He believes an adventure or lesson might await.

I had been saying to the family during our planning of the trip it would take only a month of settling into new routines and daily rhythms before the realisation dawned on them that dad’s idea of a Big Lap around Australia was brilliant. And yet, after our first day of travel over the Great Dividing Range to the town of Tamworth, I’ve come to the realisation that it might take a little longer for some of the family members to come to that dawning. 

However long it takes, I know a new morning will come. 


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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to travel Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read of one man’s sacrifice on the Kwai River in Burma.

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