Sunday, June 24, 2012

On the road again

Well, after a few years of staying put, we have decided to hook up the caravan again and head into the wilderness - well the eastern seaboard. Now we are a group of 7 (2a 5ch) fitting snugly into a 7 berth Jayco Swan pop top camper. As we eat breakfast this morning there is a sense of eager anticipation - Miss 6 and Mr 8 are climbing on mum; Mr 13 has his nose in a book; Mr 12 is chowing down on some breakfast; and Mr 2 is doing his best to spread breakfast all over the table. Today's destination - Tamworth

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Brisbane and Mount Tamborine

Greg has a friend from uni living in Brisbane who kindly let us stay in his backyard, under the large mango tree with a vocal bat population. Alex and his wife Cath have three beautiful children: Jack, 4, Lachlan, 2 and three month old Elizabeth. Our kids were very happy to have a house to play in, including lots of lego and Thomas trains, plus a backyard full of really cool toys, and three new friends to play with.

While in Brisbane we caught a train into South Bank and visited the science centre and museum- free with our Powerhouse membership. There were some fun activities on due to the school holidays up there. After that we took a ferry to New Farm Park which had an excellent playground.

We have become playground junkies and love checking out different equipment. Queensland has much more exciting play grounds compared to NSW. The ferry made me only moderately nauseous which was a happy outcome.

On our second day we went to the much anticipated Dreamworld, which seemed the best option out of the theme parks for a boy who still couldn't get his dressing wet.

Archie surprised us by going on not only the Wiggles Big Red Car but also the Mick Doohan motorbike roller coaster. Sadly Greg was too tall to go on, but when I managed to glance at Archie during the ride he had his eyes wide open and was shouting 'this is cool!'

Greg and Darcy braved the 'Wipeout' ride while Arch and Jess loved the 'Dorothy's Teacups' ride. We all went on the log ride, although Jess became so terrified in the middle of the ride that she climbed over her seat and onto my lap, which made for a scary descent into the splash pool. It was a super day and one I think we'll remember for a long time.

After leaving Brisbane we stayed in Mount Tamborine for a couple of days. It was peaceful with a creek to paddle in, but still no swimming. We all enjoyed looking at the craft etc shops. Jess and I especially liked the fairy shops. Most of the shopkeepers looked a little distressed to see four kids coming in so we divided up to minimise their anxiety. I resisted the urge to buy more German music in the German clock shop- the rest of the family sadly just doesn't seem that enthusiastic about it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hot Buns

On our way towards Brisbane we decided on a free campsite at Tiaro, 40km south of Maryborough. We passed a few bushfires on the way and the smoke combined with dust from NSW's duststorm made for rather poor visibility. One bushfire was very close to a crematorium, which made for some interesting discussion. Our site for the night was in the bush near the Mary River. After we had settled in amongst the trees the wind picked up and the smoke became quite thick. We made our escape plans, checked the smoke alarm (AKA dinner bell) was working- thanks mum- and took the boys down to the river for a quick wash before dinner. The water was quite chilly so the boys were out quickly and the older two ran back to the caravan to warm up. Unfortunately Darcy met misfortune while getting his pyjamas on. In the process of warming himself near the oven that was roasting our potatoes, he got just a little too close and seared his rump. At first we thought the burn was only minor as he laughed, but then he started to feel it. Greg took him back to the river as we had very little water, and there were no taps nearby. After a while we realised how big the burn was, about 10cm diameter, so I took him off to Maryborough Hospital, an 80km round trip, where they had a suitable dressing for him. Darcy is a bit sensitive about the whole thing so we ask that you please don't make him the butt of any jokes...Thankfully the bushfires didn't come close to our campsite, as it would have been tricky for Greg to move the van without the car.

No visit to Queensland would be complete without a trip to THE BIG PINEAPPLE!! Dry activities had to be found as Darcy would need to keep his dressing dry for around a week, and it doesn't get much drier than this. The Big Pineapple is as touristy as you can get. The absolute highlight of the entire trip for Greg was a ride on the nutmobile to visit the macadamia farm (sorry, too much sarcasm?). Actually the kids really enjoyed it and I must admit that the brand new goat kid on it's wobbly little legs calling for its ma was very cute, as were the baby chicks that we had a cuddle of. Darcy smuggled out a couple of macadamias, although we later bought some, and even Jess is now very competent at cracking them open with a hammer and offering everyone the crumbled insides.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rockhampton-Agnes Water

Rockhampton had a rodeo which we took ourselves along to. It was an interesting insight into the male mind. It made me wonder how bull riding began- who was the first person to say 'hey, why don't we tighten a rope around this cranky animal and see how long it is until we get gored?'. Darcy has decided on a career in beef cattle farming, and wants to know when he can take up bull riding as an extra-curricular activity.

At Rockhampton Zoo we watched two beautiful chimpanzees eating strawberries and yoghurt with a spoon. Jess and 'Occy' blew raspberries to each other. On Sunday after church we had a great time at the Heritage Village Children's Fair. There were lots of vintage and antique quilts to look at in the houses that had been built in the 1850s and recreated. The human kids got to cuddle the goat kids, play with old fashioned toys, help in a magic show, sit in an old fire engine and generally get an idea of how life was like for early Australians. HSIE-tick!

After the fair we drove south to Calliope River, which also had a recreated historic village. Isaac found a piano and tried to tap out a few tunes, but it didn't seem to have been tuned since it was built in the 1800s. Or maybe Isaac just needs to practise. There were also lots of interesting and finger-trapping machines to try, such as this corn sheller.

Off then to 1770 and Agnes Water. Agnes Water has the most northerly surf beach on the east coast of Australia, and the first surf beach we've been to this trip. Archie got strapped back into his bubble which was a good thing as he drifted out a way and had to be rescued by Greg. Barbie Mermaid had a fine time swimming and being leisurely on and under the sand.

Monday, October 5, 2009


We were expecting a parcel of mail with some important 'stuff' to have arrived in Townsville, but alas it hadn't. So we spent an unplanned night in Townsville in the hope that the mail would arrive the next day (it didn't). Townsville doesn't have a lot to do or see so we just enjoyed a picnic on the waterfront and lots of swimming and sliding in the caravan park's pool.

In Bowen we tried to go snorkelling at Horseshoe Bay but the visibilty in the water was very poor due to the coral releasing their spawn- how inconsiderate! The next day was much better and Greg and I took turns with the older boys going slightly off shore. No crocs here but I did have in my mind the last time I went snorkelling around 100m out near Byron Bay, seeing a shark swimming a few metres below me. I was glad when a couple more snorkellers joined us, I figured it reduced the risk to me just a little! Arch and Jess had a very industrious time on the beach with buckets and spades.

We stopped in Sarina near the sugar mill to visit the Sarina Sugar Shed, a miniature version (as the larger mills don't take children under seven years old on tours). A retired sugar cane farmer took us through the old and new methods of growing, harvesting and refining sugar. We had a taste of molasses- ick!- as well as sugar cane, juice and then lurid blue fairy floss, given to the kids before mum could say no! The smell of sugar cane has been with us almost constantly since Mossman, and the cane trains cause lots of excitement for the kids. Greg has switched his mid life crisis plan from opal mining in Coober Pedy to sugar farming in Queensland. We stayed overnight just south of Sarina near the beach in a free campsite. There was an abundance of fresh coconuts which kept the kids busy for several hours and blunted my favourite kitchen knife. We walked out onto the mudflats in the morning as the tide had gone out a long way, possibly a kilometre or more. After bandaging Darcy's oyster-cut foot and releasing Archie's secreted hermit crab we were off to Rockhampton.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Paluma Range National Park

On the way to Paluma Range, 60 km north of Townsville, we stopped in Tully. The big gumboot (which represents the amount of rainfull Tully had one year) proved to be a fun slippery dip for the kids.

We camped at Big Crystal Creek, which had some basic facilities and lots of families as Queensland school holidays have started. The bush around was lovely but very dry compared to what we had seen around Cairns. Unfortunately some yobs had also decided to holiday here. After 24 hours of listening to their yelling and swearing, and putting up with them breaking beer bottles and lighting fires, 'someone' called police, who sent out four nice police officers to shoo them away. Yay police!

We spent lots of time swimming in the large creek, reading -Ranger's Apprentice for the boys, absolutely brilliant, relaxing in the hammock and more lego. The older boys developed a great interest in lighting leaves with a magnifying glass. Seems their pyromania is yet to be fully extinguished.

Camping nearby were three boys the same age as Isaac and Darcy. They wanted to try homeschooling so we did a bit of maths and also learnt about world heritage areas. I was a bit worried when one of the answers to 'what are the world heritage areas in Australia?' was 'Bonniedoon'! One night Isaac organised a very exciting night game of 'customs' which involved sneaking through the bush and trying not to get spotted with the torch. Arch was very good at it, being so little. Actually we almost lost him in the bush, as he was trying not to be found and didn't answer when we called!

Each day finished at the creek, with jumping off the rocks into the water for the three boys, and watching the tadpoles and fish for the rest of us.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I feel much closer to home now! This part of Australia is well populated, which makes me realise just how remote the NT and outback Queensland is. We booked into a caravan park for a week, one that has a pool, putt putt and a playground and is close to town. It also has curlews that cry at night. One is very patiently sitting on two eggs. Her mate stays close by and flaps and screeches if anyone gets too close.

Rusty's Markets was our first activity. There was a fantastic range of tropical fruit that looked so fresh and was very cheap. The kids bought some evil looking licorice straps after sampling each variety. They chose the less coloured licorice and thankfully didn't seem to react much. We have tried them on different foods this trip where the results are unlikely to affect anyone but them and us, and have discovered that they can cope with small amounts of a few things that previously they couldn't, like cow's milk. At a 'green' toy shop I had lots of fun buying presents for our three nieces and two goddaughters.

Cairns has a large, free swimming pool on the esplanade, as there are no beaches near the city. We had a good swim there and met a family from England who live on a large yacht. They have been sailing around the world for three years with their two boys aged five and eight. For the last 14 months they have been through Melanesia and their stop in Cairns was their first visit to a western civilisation in that time. The boys were delightful- both spoke only English but with heavy French accents like their mother. They do school every day, as they don't really pay attention to what day it is. Their mum was a bit stressed trying to watch them at the pool. I guess she was used to them being a bit more contained! They had been shopping for lego, 'pirate' lego of course. The thought of being confined to a yacht for so long with two young non swimming boys made me appreciate the freedom of a caravan. I suppose though the thought of being stuck on land doesn't appeal to them at all.

We sought out low cost activites mostly, as it would be easy here to spend our entire holiday budget. One day we found a 4WD track to Trinity Beach. I wasn't sure if we'd actually get back along this track as it was so steep and uneven in parts. Greg of course was in his element. The beach had lots of rock pools to explore. Isaac learnt a painful lesson about not putting his hands where he can't see. He touched something, possibly a white worm type thing, that left hundreds of tiny hairs sticking out of his hand. These were painful and were too fine to be removed with tweezers, so Greg used duct tape to stick on them and pull them out. One week on the blisters are still painful. The kids found dozens of hermit crabs in the rock pools. Some were 'between' shells. When they outgrow a shell they find a bigger one to move into. A great industry started, with Darcy leading the building of 'Kids for Hermit Crabs', and arena in the sand that included a nursery, breeding area (!) and exile for crabs that had nipped anyone. The kids had so much fun doing this, much more fun I think than an expensive tour somewhere, which made us really pleased that we don't have limitless funds.

Kuranda had its annual Spring Fair on so we drove up and had a look. Lots of locals were dressed up, including one elderly woman dressed up in a skin tight striped possum costume- very passionate about her cause! While in Kuranda we went into the butterfly (and moth) sanctuary. Jessamy was quite frightened of the butterflies, but fell asleep and didn't realise a large one had landed on her back. They were very beautiful to watch.

We had our first rainy day for the whole trip in Cairns. It was a good time to stop and do some schoolwork- of which we are doing almost none these days!- catch up on the kids' journals and get some shopping done. The following day it rained again. This was the day of our trip to Michaelmas Cay on the Great Barrier Reef. Thankfully as soon as we were clear of the mainland the sky was sunny again, and remained so throughout the day. Unfortunately the winds were strong and I hadn't taken any motion sickness tablets, as the last time I had on a cruise I slept through it. I was soooooo sick, as was poor little Archie. As one of the cruise ladies walked around handing out vomit bags she commented that they had never gone through so many bags before. The snorkelling just off the cay was great. We saw some really big fish and many colourful ones, plus of course all the different varieties of coral. Isaac and Darcy thought it was 'amazing'. Archie and Jessamy were able to do some snorkelling too, although Jess found the flippers a bit tricky. We took some underwater photos which we haven't had developed yet. Cairns was exciting and busy but I'm glad we're going to a national park again next.