Items filtered by date: April 2016
Sometimes I get so caught up in the day to day parenting stuff that I forget just how momentous this trip is. Packing up our lives, reducing our belongings to next to nothing and hitting the road is really big. Not just big in a physical sense, but big in an emotional, personal growth sense. When (and if) we return to the NSW South Coast in a year’s time, we will be different. We will grow and change through the joys and challenges. This trip isn’t just something we’re doing, it’s also doing stuff to us. With big changes comes big emotions.
I’m a crier. I’ve always been a crier. I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m angry. I cry when I’m frustrated. I cry when I’m happy. I tend to cry whenever I feel something deeply. Even though I’ve always been a crier, the tears can still take me by surprise and I often get embarrassed by them and pretend I’m not crying. So far I’ve been surprised by my own tears three times since we left home.
- Sunrise at Kingscliff beach
When we were in northern NSW we camped at Kingscliff Beach North for a couple of nights so I could have a stall at Kingscliff markets. On the morning of the markets I set my alarm for 5am. I gave myself far too much time to get ready, so once I’d had a cuppa and gotten dressed, I took my breakfast down to the beach to watch the sunrise.
I’ve watched plenty of sunrises on the beach over the years with Dave during camping trips, but since having kids I don’t think I’ve even witnessed one sunrise over the ocean. When you have little kids, and you’re sleep deprived, you don’t get up that early unless you absolutely have to. That means I’d gone almost four years without a beach sunrise. I’d seen plenty of sunrises in the previous four years, but none alone and none over the ocean.
As I sat on the beach utterly alone, watching the sun rising over the ocean, something inside me clicked. It was like all the stress and worry and business that had built up inside me from the first couple of weeks of our trip and the planning beforehand, it was like it all just dissipated and blew into the ocean. I stood on the beach and looked out to sea in the semi-darkness and it literally felt like I was standing on the edge of the earth. It was that moment that the enormity of what are doing sunk in. We are free. I cried.
- Wildlife Warriors Show at Australia Zoo
When we were on the Sunshine Coast we went to Australia Zoo. Before we left home, when we were busy getting rid of most of Jarrah’s toys, we told him that we would take him to as many zoos as we could on our trip around Australia. When we sold half his toys at our garage sale we told him that the money would go towards zoo tickets. So, our trip to Australia Zoo was primarily for Jarrah.
There was quite a lot to see at Australia Zoo and everything takes longer with little kids. Because of this, we decided that we only had time to see one show. I decided that we should see the ‘Wildlife Warriors’ show in the Crocoseum at lunchtime as it was highlighted on the information booklet and it looked to have a bit of everything.
The show started with a bird show. There was loud music and commentary and all different amazing and beautiful birds flew all around us as we sat in the audience. I’m unsure whether I was just tired or truly in awe of these majestic animals, or a bit of both, but I cried. It was only a few tears and I managed to hide them, but something inside me shifted and I felt happy and energised for the rest of the day.
- Breastfeeding at Capricorn Caves
We stayed in Yeppoon for 5 nights and explored the area, including a day trip to Capricorn Caves. Having a one year old and a three year old we could only do the one hour cave tour through the Cathedral cave. We started the tour with Dave wearing Dianella in the Ergo carrier whilst I led Jarrah helping him up and down stairs and through the semi darkness. Our guide narrated the walk the whole way giving us the usual information about the different formations in the rock as well as the history of the discovery and development of the caves. They weren’t the most spectacular caves I’ve ever seen, but they gave me a pretty amazing experience.
About halfway into the tour Dianella started howling. She’d had her lunch beforehand so her howls could only mean one thing, that it was naptime. She usually has a breastfeed before her nap, so there was no way she was going to fall asleep on Dave. Her cries were echoing throughout the caves, so as soon as we got a chance, Dave gave me the ergo and I strapped Nella to me to see if I could calm her.
It was at this point that we were led into the Cathedral Cave. This cave can be hired out for weddings and is also used twice a year to host ‘Opera in the Caves’. Pews lined the space and we were told to take a seat. At this point Dianella was still crying so I pulled down my top and started to breastfeed her.
The guide turned off the lights and music filled the cave. As we all sat in silence listening to the song played through the cave, with the best acoustics I’ve ever experienced, the guide used a remote to light up different sections of the cave in time with the music. The effect was awe inspiring. I sat there next to my husband and son, whilst nourishing my daughter in the most natural and fulfilling way possible and cried.
Every time I breastfeed I enjoy the moment. I feel thankful for the opportunity to connect with my child and nourish her from my own body. I breastfeed anywhere and everywhere without shame or thought but I’m pretty sure that cave was the most amazing place I’ve ever breastfed and that long after Dianella is grown up, I’ll never forget that particular feed.
So there we have it, that’s three times so far in the past five and a half weeks that I’ve cried from raw positive emotion and I feel that each moment has marked some sort of shift of consciousness. Every time I am stressed or frustrated or tired, I’m going to try to remind myself of how truly amazing this trip is on every level and how each and every one of us is growing at an exponential rate.
We’re having an awesome time. We’ve been camping at interesting places on the coast of Queensland. We’ve visited places we’ve never been before. We’ve been walking, swimming and exploring. I’ve had stalls at different markets and we’ve met lots of locals as well as other families travelling. We’ve had amazing days, and then we’ve had days like today.
We’ve spent this week camped at Yeppoon Showground. We intended on staying two nights which has quickly turned into five. Today began with Dave and I debating whether we should go to Rockhampton Botanic Gardens and Zoo, or whether we should spend the day exploring Byfield National Park. We eventually decided on the national park, but we’d spent so long debating where to go that by the time we were in the car it was almost lunchtime.
Byfield national park has two separate sections. Being that the kids were hungry, we decided to explore the Sandy Creek section which was the smallest but was the closest to us. On the map it looked as though we could drive out to one point via a 2WD accessible road, and then we could drive back on the beach. We figured we could have a picnic on the beach somewhere and driving on the sand would be fun.
I enlisted the help of Google maps and we headed out of town. The road turned to dirt and started to get potholed. The kids started to whinge that they were hungry. I offered them some fruit. We spotted our first crocodile warning sign. The road started to get bumpy and then it got even more bumpy. Suddenly we reached the end and in front of us was a few metres of sand and a choppy, menacing ocean. Dave stopped the car and suddenly Nella started crying. We both turned around to see her vomit banana all over herself and the car seat. Today we discovered that our one year old gets car sick on bumpy roads. Perhaps we won’t do as many four-wheel-driving adventures as we thought.
Dave jumped out of the car and looked at the beach before coming back to report that whilst there was one car down on the beach, it didn’t look like we could safely drive around the point and back along the beach. Neither of us thought to look at the tides before we headed off. With those plans thwarted, we cleaned Nella up with some baby wipes and turned around. Five minutes later and we realise that Nella had fallen asleep.
We drove until we found what looked like a beach access we could use to walk onto the beach. Once again Dave jumped out of the car and had a look. He returned to report that he could see cars on the beach that must’ve entered from the other end, but that there was no shade and it was very windy. I Googled how long it would take to drive to Byfield and the other end of the national park and since Nella was asleep, we decided to drive the 50 minutes there for a picnic and bushwalk. After about twenty minutes of driving, Dave pulled over because I was still feeling car sick. Of course, since the car had stopped, Nella woke up.
I sat in the passenger seat and breastfed her. Jarrah jumped out of the car to ‘look for treasure’, which on the side of the road usually means rubbish. Dave asked him to put his shoes on. It was then we realised that in our rush to leave camp we both had forgotten to put shoes on Jarrah. Whoops.
We certainly weren’t going to take a three year old bushwalking barefoot. So we all got back in the car, turned around and headed back to Yeppoon to have our picnic at a park beside the beach. We found somewhere to sit, got out the esky and Dave realised he had forgotten to pack plates. He made us sandwiches on the top of the esky and we ate our lunch. Jarrah had a play in the park then we showered Nella using the outdoor shower and put some clean clothes on her as by this stage she was covered in both vomit and lunch.
We then walked down onto the beach to look for some more interesting treasures. We explored the rock pools and found lots of cool shells. Jarrah found a crab claw and nothing major went wrong. We then stopped by the information centre and Shell museum before heading back to camp to chill out for a while.
I think tomorrow we’ll go to the zoo.
We haven’t quite hit the one month point of our travels which means we’re still finding our feet. Social media is usually filled with the positives: beautiful holiday pics, posts about how wonderful everything is, how wonderful we are, how the sun is shining out of our arses. We tend to only share the good things. We don’t want people to know when we’re struggling. Well, here is my little reality check. Travelling Australia with two kids under four is tough. Really bloody tough.
I’ll qualify this by explaining that I am enjoying myself. I’m pretty sure my husband is enjoying himself. The kids are enjoying themselves. They’re adapting and changing and it’s magical to watch. In less than four weeks, Jarrah has turned from a kid who was shy in new situations to one who will talk to everyone and I mean EVERYONE. He will talk to every single person who walks through our campsite, or visits my market stall, or looks at him walking down the street. Nella is having a great time exploring the world and she is sleeping better than she has in months. I don’t regret our decision and I definitely don’t want to head back home. But, I never realised how tough it would be to live in a caravan with two little people.
Before we left I had plenty of people tell me it would be hard. Some people were jealous of our adventures but most people said they wouldn’t or couldn’t do it. I didn’t really pay them much heed. I’d camped before, plenty of times. I see myself as a pretty competent parent. Prior to our departure, I’d just spent six months looking after my children, helping run a community organisation AND running my own business. How hard could living in a caravan with two kids be? Pretty hard apparently.
So we’d camped plenty of times before. In a ute or a tent. This time we’d have a caravan. We’d be living in luxury compared to the kind of camping we were used to. What I hadn’t thought about was that most of our camping experience was pre-children. How many times had we been camping with Jarrah? Maybe four or five. How many times had we been camping with TWO kids? ONCE. Yep, we were really experienced. Ha.
So I suppose you’re wondering what exactly I’m finding tough. Firstly, I’m exhausted. Truly, deeply inside my very being exhausted. For some reason I imagined this trip as a relaxing holiday. What I forgot was that holidays with children aren’t really all that relaxing. They’re fun, but certainly not relaxing. With small children there’s always jobs to be done. Bathing, washing clothes, changing nappies, cooking, packing snacks and so on. These tasks all take longer when camping. You have to walk to the shower block to bathe the kids, or fill a bucket with water and dunk them in it. You have to cook a nutritious and tasty dinner in a small space with less equipment, you have to use buckets to fill your twin tub washing machine and complete three different steps to wash, rinse and spin the clothes. All of this is done on top of packing down camp and setting it back up again once or twice a week alongside finding time to sightsee, drive from place to place, take the kids to playgroups and run a handmade business. No wonder I’m tired!
The second thing I’m finding tough is always being in a state of high alert. You can’t really let your guard down in a new place with a one year old and a three year old. When you have a house, you can childproof it. Of course you still need to supervise your children, but you can duck to the toilet without worrying too much about what will happen. When you’re camping, there’s no way to childproof the great outdoors. From Nella eating rocks, to Jarrah playing on a riverbank, the kids need to be watched 24/7. Sure, we could lock them inside the caravan but a caravan is a pretty small space and even our one year old has worked out how to unlock the caravan door. Every time we lock her in she thinks it’s a game and unlocks it and falls two steps out onto grass. This is accompanied by howling. One year olds come up with the best games, right?
Whilst I type this Dave and Jarrah are at Bunnings looking at gates and pet fences. We’re trying to find a way to create a transportable and safe outdoor play space for the kids so we can spend less time chasing after them and more time relaxing.
Whether we find a solution or not, I’m happy. I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. Dave and I are getting along better than we have in months. Every single day we’re meeting new people and seeing new things. This children are growing and learning at an increased rate. Despite the challenges and exhaustion it’s worth it. The most enjoyable things are often the most challenging too.
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.
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.