Saturday, 3 December 2011

Beach holiday here we come

The end of the school year is nigh, everyone is exhausted, and I think we’re well and truly ready for the summer holidays to officially start.  I’m regretting that months ago, still high from our last holiday, I thought we’d set off on our next holiday at 6am, the first day of the school holiday. 

So this Friday at 6am we’re meant to be packed and ready to go.

And we’re not the least bit ready for it!  And not only are we not ready for it, but I’m not even ready to get ready.

I’ve booked us into Darlington Park caravan park, just north of Coffs Harbour that according to the crazed cyclists we met at Armidale in September, is the BEST caravan park in the whole of Australia.  Big sites, right on the beach, pool, archery, camp kitchen and best of all a jumping pillow in view of the site I’ve booked.

I hope it’s as good as it looks on the website and from the personal recommendation.  We’re all looking forward to having a proper holiday where we actually get to open a book, perhaps even read it, stay put for more than 2 nights and possibly even get a sleep in!!!

Bring it on.  

Does somebody want to pack for us? 

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

From top to bottom (of NSW)

One week down...  not sure how many kilometres but at least 3 or 4 tanks of fuel.

Best lines from the kids so far:

Isobel: Actually I'm the smartest in the family.
Hugo: We're going to meet the snow today for the first time.
Hugo: Getting me a drink of water is more important than anything you're doing.
Simon: Whatever you do, don't call him Stinky Pete. 

Camping highlights:
Surviving -2 degree temps in Armidale.
Meetings lots of interesting people: 
Geoff and Sue cycling from Perth to Byron Bay!
Steve the fossiker, kids likened him to Stinky Pete. Great character who taught us how to fossick for sapphires. We got a few too. More interesting than fishing, that's for sure.
Bushwalking along a razorback ridge with the kids and having lunch in the most spectacular places.

Sick-of-camping highlight:
Boorowa Hotel. Spent the night in a classic Australian hotel. Double story, on the corner, wrought iron verandah. Met more lovely people including the pub dog. Best of all it was almost as cheap as the caravan park in Dubbo and it included b'fast! 

Tracing the steps of bushrangers:
Hugo has loved going to all of Thunderbolts' hangouts. His hideout at Tenterfield, his cave at Armidale, his rock at Uralla and his statue there as well. We decided not to check out his grave - too morbid.


We are loving NSW country towns.  They are filled with graceful old buildings and loads of character. Werris Creek, near Tamworth had a supermarket with pressed metal ceilings and columns, an historic railway station, and other beautiful buildings.
Glen Innes - just stunning including its Post Office.
Canowindra - the main street has a bend to it and each side is lined with beautiful old buildings. I wished we'd taken a photo.
Boorowa - more old buildings.

The thing we love the best is that none of these towns have been 'glitzed' up for tourists - just all in that authentic, slightly run-down, we-were-once-prosperous-and-proud kind of feelings emanating from them (if buildings could talk).  Most of these towns are thriving little hubs with friendly locals.

One bloke yesterday saw us pull into the Canowindra caravan park (smallest one we've seen) and pull out again. He came across the road with the local paper to show us the recent article on that caravan park that said it was great.  He said 'the bloke that runs it looks like a no-hoper but he must be doing alright as it's won a few awards.' What a great promo for the park! Previous owner used to give people afternoon tea when they arrived. If we weren't so intent on reaching the snow we would've stayed there, just because of his recommendation!

The changing and passing landscape has kept us all captivated and engaged. Kids chat away together in their elaborate imaginary world, sing along to Charlie Pride and play I-Spy. We resort to a CD of nursery rhymes when we need some quiet, chill-out time.

We even swung past Parliament House in Canberra to show the kids where the PM works, where Simon and I have protested, and accidentally came upon the Edmund Barton Building and statue. If it didn't house the Australian Federal Police and have 'no standing' signs everywhere we would have taken a pic of Hugo Barton standing next to a bronze of his namesake. 

The snow and zoo!!
Two of the biggest things we've done with the kids is take them to the Western Plains Zoo and the snow. Strange that on Sunday and Monday we were slapping on sunscreen, and enjoying the heat and dust of the zoo with all the great animals there on show.  And by Tuesday afternoon we were donning the thermals and fleeces and braving the slopes with our little $30 snow 'slider' from Aldi and enjoying our first flurry of snow. Yes, late September and it was actually snowing today up in the Snowy Mountains! 

And I haven't even mentioned the national parks and waterfalls east of Armidale!  We will be going back there in December we hope to spend more time there.

We think by this time tomorrow we will be curled up in our sleeping bags in amongst the giant gum trees of East Gippsland and then winging our way to my grandparents where we'll have a few days of needed stillness!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

First practice run

Sundown National Park, down near Stanthorpe QLD, was the destination of our first proper camping trip in years. It was important as we had Ruari (pronounced Rory) and Bertha for the first time and ideas and plans to do this for 14 months.

Fortunately for all of us, Rurari and Bertha were a joy to camp with, and all of us loved the whole camping experience - even though it was freezing! Rurari is our 4WD and Bertha is a fantastic camper trailer  - Track Shak for those interested in details.

For five days we didn't camp with anyone else, and only saw two other groups of people the whole time we were there. Sundown is lesser known than its neighbour,  Girraween National Park. But it was BEAUTIFUL and we loved it. My favourite moment at Sundown was of course watching the sun go down over Red Gorge on our last night.

At our first campsite, Broadwater, the kids entertained themselves by throwing rocks in the Severn. They would've been happy to do this all day if we'd let it happen!

We then, stupidly, decided to check out the other side of the national park. Stupid in that we had to pack down our tent, and then pack it up again so we lost half a day doing that!  The road to Red Gorge took us 40 minutes (7km) from the entrance of the national park. The vegetation was different, the hills were just COVERED in the wattle in full flower. And Red Gorge itself was gobsmackingly spectacular!  I loved it!

Here the kids would've been happy smashing charcoal between rocks all day and then covering their bodies with it.  Glad to see that they'll cope without ABC3 for a few days at least!

We learned a lot about how NOT to camp.  But that's what all these smaller trips are about - learning and improving our camping know-how and getting more efficient with pack up and pack down!

Waking up one morning we discovered we had a flat tyre.  This is when Simon realised that small thing in with the jack was actually quite important. It's what allows us to access our spare. But he'd left it on the floor of the car port!  Remember, we hadn't seen another soul in the national park at all.  Not less than 5 minutes later we heard cars. The first car through the clearing was another Landcruiser. Phew. But a different model and didn't have the same part.

Oh well, we could use the spare on the camper trailer. That's when we discovered those tyres had 6 nuts, not 5 nuts like the 4WD.  Heart sink moment.  Fortunately for us the blokes were still hanging around and one was a mobile mechanic who was fully kitted out.  He had a compressor, a tyre patch kit and was our saviour!

To me, felt like strangely dressed angels came to our campsite, helped us, and left again. If only this was the only problem we faced. But we also had to call in to Stanthorpe Hospital on our way home because of Simon's chest pain.  Got a photo of it too! Again, we were lucky.  Pain stopped and on we went. Warwick Hospital - 45 minutes. Ipswich - another hour on. Hospitals all along the way!!

Here are our photos:

We will be heading back to Sundown soon. And I'd love to move to Tenterfield!  I LOVED it. Great coffee beside a crackling fire, friendly people, just a town with a certain something. 

Ready, set, go

Well the camper trailer is packed, kids are asleep, and we're all set for our trip south.

For months I've been planning to head down the Kidman Way to get a small taste of outback NSW but the other night when I was checking out the weather for Bourke, I saw it was forecast to snow in the Snowy Mountains at the end of the week.

Anyone with children will know that if you're kids have been desperate to see or experience something, it doesn't matter what you've planned to do, of course their wishes will win you over every time.

And so tomorrow morning instead of heading off to Goondiwindi and Moree heading towards Walgett for the night, we're heading due south and plan to overnight in Tenterfield and check out Thunderbolt's hideout, Bald Rock and make our way south via the New England Ranges, perhaps detour to Dubbo to visit the zoo, and freeze our butts off in the Snowy Mountains.

I don't really mind what we end up doing. I love the feeling of being completely open and flexible to whatever comes our way. We will have a great time wherever we go, whatever we do.

Ahh holidays, nothing quite like them to get over the stress of packing!!