Travel

Travel (18)

After a weekend of back to back markets in Northern NSW (both of which didn’t amount to many sales) we crossed the border into Queensland. We decided to avoid the Gold Coast as it’s busy, expensive and there isn’t much there we’re interested in seeing. We entered Queensland slightly inland at Natural Bridge. We would have stopped for a photo as we crossed the border, but both kids were sound asleep in the car and as any parent knows, you don’t stop the car when the kids are sleeping.

After consulting Wikicamps, we decided to camp at Canungra Showground. Dave has wanted to explore Lamington NP since he did a school project on the place when he was a kid. Canungra seemed like a good base for a rainforest expedition. The Showground had great facilities (I’ll go into more detail about camping at Showgrounds in another blog post) and was on Canungra creek, which was great to swim in with shallow spots for the kids and deeper pools for us.

We drove out to the Green Mountain section of Lamington National Park the next morning and boy was it an interesting drive. The road was steep and winding with plenty of one way sections. This is pretty common for mountain roads, but you couldn’t actually see to the end of some of the sections in order to see if a car was coming. We even had to dodge cattle and wallabies too. Thankfully, at 9:30am on a Monday morning, the road was fairly quiet. A drive that looked quite short on the map (I think Google maps quoted 35mins) actually took us an hour.

We stopped at a lookout at the top and the view was well worth the climb. At the end of the road we found O’Reilly’s guesthouse as well as a national parks visitor centre and the beginning of numerous bushwalks. After reading the signs we asked a National Parks officer for some advice on which walks were suitable and which would be too difficult for a three year old to do. We were informed that the signs were indeed being overly cautious and we that we shouldn’t have any trouble completing a Grade 4 walk (rated as difficult). We were told that they had to put up warnings as they get the “Gold Coast Brigade up here with their high heels” with no idea about bushwalking. Ha!

It was suggested that we complete the Rainforest Return (1.4km), have some lunch in the café at O’Reilly’s guesthouse, and then complete either the Moran’s Falls Walk (4.4km) or the Python Rock track (3.1km). We chose the more difficult of the two walks.

The Rainforest Return walk began with a meander on a boardwalk through the rainforest where we saw plenty of birdlife. We then turned off the path and entered the Tree Top Walk; a raised boardwalk above the canopy of the rainforest. Built in 1987, it was the first Tree Top Walk in the world and certainly looked it’s age. Jarrah referred to it as the ‘wobbly bridge’ and was a bit scared until he saw the amazing view. At one point there was a ladder which disappeared 30m up into a tree to a small viewing platform. Dave climbed the ladder to take in the view whilst I remained below with the children.

After the walk we had lunch in the café which, as expected, was very expensive. We just shared some toasted sandwiches and hot chips which fed us for under $30. The view from the cafe was absolutely lovely.

We then drove 1km back down the road to the beginning of the Moran’s Falls walk. The walk wound down through the rainforest until we reached a lookout over Moran’s Falls which were pretty spectacular. We headed a little further and reached another lookout, this time over the valley and mountains. This was the turnaround point so we stopped for a snack. By this point Jarrah was too tired to walk back up. He’d done pretty well, for a three year old, to get that far without complaint. I had worn Nella in my wrap the entire morning so I opted to wear Jarrah on my back in the ergo. Dave wore Nella in the wrap on his front and the backpack and I hauled 17kg of pre-schooler on my back. By the time we had walked the 2.1km back to the carpark we were both hot and sweaty. It was certainly a great work out.

We arrived back at camp exhausted but happy. Lamington National Park was stunning and we managed to complete two bushwalks in one day with a one year old and three year old in tow. Success.

Friendly Ballina

                We’re two and half weeks into our trip and have spent most of the week staying in Ballina on the NSW north coast. We needed to spend a few days in a big town in order to take our Prado to a mechanic to get the suspension upgraded, and a few other bits and pieces done, before we head to more remote places. If I had to choose one word to describe our stay in Ballina, it would be ‘friendly.’ From the people running the caravan park, to the other travellers camped nearby to the locals we’ve met; every single person has been incredibly nice, helpful and friendly.

                The caravan park we chose to stay it is located just outside Ballina and is called Ballina Headlands Holiday park. It is part of the Big4 chain and although it was the furthest caravan park from the mechanic, we chose it as it had good facilities and great reviews on Wikicamps. We hadn’t pre-booked but when we showed up, the lady at reception was extremely friendly and accommodating. I requested a site near both the amenities and playground and that is exactly what she gave us. When we drove into the caravan park, we were met at our site by another staff member who directed us whilst we reversed into the site. What great service! The sites are quite small and close together, but the facilities themselves and overall cleanliness more than made up for it. The park boasts a pool, two playgrounds, a spacious camp kitchen and a rec room. We used all of these during our stay, especially the playground across the road from our campsite. We could supervise Jarrah as he played in the park, without leaving camp. Perfect.

                This was the first time during our trip that we met quite a few other families. Some were just down from Brisbane for the school holidays, but others were travelling for an extended period like us. We spent quite a bit of time chatting to the families and comparing caravan layouts, discussing different campsites and the direction we are travelling as well as general parenting chitchat. Jarrah had a great time playing with the other children and we even had other kids over for a play at our campsite. All the other campers were incredibly helpful. One gave me some wine so I could cook risotto, another (who was a trained nurse) gave first aid to Jarrah when he fell off the play equipment and had a bloody nose and mouth.

                One of my aims during this trip is to take the kids to a different playgroup every week. This serves a number of purposes: To socialise them, amuse them with new and different toys and so I can have a chat to other parents with kids of a similar age. It also gives Dave some time alone at camp to study. This week we attended Little Pelicans playgroup in Ballina. It is a Playgroups NSW playgroup and is held 3 mornings a week in a dedicated space behind the local library. We chose Wednesday morning to attend. The ladies running the group welcomed us with open arms and told us it was free as it was a ‘trial visit’ for us. At three and a half, Jarrah was the oldest child there. Most of the children were closer to Dianella’s age. Both kids still had a great time playing indoors and outdoors with a variety of toys. Jarrah built a giant city out of blocks and Nella rode a trike for the first time. I had a cuppa and sat down with the other mums who were friendly and interesting to talk to. We discussed travel, art, handmade businesses and parenting. The mums at the playgroup reminded me very much of my mama friends back home in Jervis Bay.

                Other than a day trip out to Nimbin and a trip to Bunnings to see the Big Prawn, we haven’t done much site-seeing whilst in Ballina. We’ve chosen instead to relax and enjoy the caravan park. It’s quite refreshing to slow down our pace a bit and settle into this new life of ours. Our next stop is Kingscliff then we will go wherever we feel like at the time. Freedom is a wonderful thing.

One Week in and we're still alive

  • Time:Monday, 29 February 2016 00:00

We’ve been on the road for just over a week and this is the first time I’ve had a chance to sit down at the computer and write. Our first week as a family of four, living on the road in a caravan, has been a bit of a whirlwind. We never got a chance to take the caravan for a test trip before we packed up our lives, so we’ve learnt how to use the caravan whilst travelling.

Our first four nights were spent in caravan parks in Western Sydney and on the Central Coast, saying goodbye to our families. We ate a lot of food, the kids had late nights and we celebrated Dianella’s first birthday not once but twice; once with Dave’s family and then again with mine. After leaving the Central Coast we drove to Mudgee, a country town in NSW where we used to live. We parked our caravan in a friend’s yard and then celebrated Dianella’s birthday again, with more cake. This time it was her actual birthday though. She must think that eating cake every day is the norm for a one year old.

Tree & Pixie debuted at the markets in Mudgee on Easter Saturday and boy was it busy! My new compact market set up worked out well, but I hadn’t made enough stock. I sold out of quite a few items and learnt that I need my set up to be compact, but not so compact that I run out of items and miss out on sales.

After Mudgee, we stayed a night at a friend’s place on their farm. We ate a lot of food, drank wine, played scrabble and the kids spent most of the time there running around naked and being totally feral. It was lovely.

Finally on Easter Monday we were on our own and headed bush. We camped out at Washpool Camping area in Towarri NP (near Scone, NSW). It felt so good to finally camp out in the bush instead of caravan parks and friend’s yards. As a family, we’ve done plenty of camping over the years but have never owned a caravan. Sleeping in the bush in a caravan felt like absolute luxury. We have a fridge, running water, hot water and electricity. I am so glad we chose a caravan and not a camper trailer.

As I write this, we are in a caravan park in Armidale NSW. It’s raining, the kids are asleep. We’re warm, and dry and incredibly happy with our new lives.

 

5 Challenges Planning Our Trip

  • Time:Wednesday, 16 March 2016 00:00

As our date of departure draws near, I have begun to reflect on the planning process that has occurred over the past two months. Everyone always wants to know how to plan such a big trip. They ask questions like: where do I begin? What needs to be done? How can we do it too? Whilst I am not going to answer those questions in this post, I will list 5 parts of the planning process I have found the most difficult.

 

  1. Caring for Children

Our children are young. Our eldest is 3 and our youngest is not quite 1. There is only so much self-directed play that can be expected of children so young. Planning such a big trip has taken a lot of work. One thing I found incredibly frustrating was the fact that I never got a chance to complete a job in one sitting. Every time I started to pack something, or organise something I would get interrupted. Nella would wake from her nap or Jarrah would ask me to play with him. I think it took me three days to pack 3 boxes in the kitchen! To add to my frustration, less than two weeks before our departure date both kids contracted a tummy bug and required extra attention and care. Everything takes longer with kids, and not just in the planning stage either. It’s good to remember that once we’re on the road, everything will still take longer with such young children. If Google maps says a drive will take 3 hours, I think I’m going to expect it to take 5 hours with kids!

 

  1. Paperwork & Phone Calls

When we decided to travel around Australia and I envisaged planning our trip, I always imagined purchasing the vehicle and caravan and packing everything. These are the exciting and tangible jobs. What I never really thought about was the stuff behind the scenes. I have spent hours and hours on the phone and internet over the past two months doing boring paperwork. I have spent my time organising car insurance, caravan insurance, contents insurance, transferring registration on vehicles, organising storage, Centrelink payments, applying to teach in different states (so I can work as a casual teacher on the road), disconnecting our internet and electricity, cancelling our lease etc. These jobs had to be done and I didn’t enjoy a single one.

 

  1. Deciding What to Pack

Whilst this part has been exciting, it has been difficult too. Our caravan only has so much space, and trying to decide what we should take with us and what can be left behind has been very challenging indeed. I’ve packed my own clothes 3 times and I still think I might have packed too many. We’ve never been caravanning before and have only been camping a handful of times since having children, so working out what we need is definitely going to be trial and error.

 

  1. Budget

We haven’t even left yet and we are way over budget. I am talking at least $10 000 over budget, which for low income earners like us is HUGE. I am the money manager of the family and I run a tight ship. My husband loves telling everyone how much more money we have, now that I manage our finances and I happen to agree with him. I pride myself on writing a bloody good budget. We sat down and wrote a budget when we first made the decision to travel and have revised it numerous times since, but expenses have kept popping up that we never even thought about and boy have they added up. Some of these include: vehicle and caravan modifications, car servicing, transfer of registration, mobile business overheads, roadside assistance and the list goes on. I am hoping that our on road budget will be more accurate than our planning budget.

 

  1. Time Constraints

Most people take a year to plan a trip like this. We took less than three months! We spent a few weeks looking for a caravan and as soon as we’d bought our van, we set a date to leave 2 months later. This has meant that much of our planning has been rushed and has meant that it has been more expensive. We haven’t always had the time to shop around for the best deal, and have even had to ask mechanics, caravan repairers and auto electricians to bump us up in the queue so that work can be done before we leave. We also ran out of time to do a test run in our caravan which means the day we leave our house for a year will be our first day travelling in a caravan. I think our first few weeks on the road will be a steep learning curve.