From the Tropics to the Outback in Two Days

Before I founded Tree & Pixie Creations I was a high school teacher. I still am a high school teacher, just one who has been on unpaid maternity leave for almost three years. When I was at university I was awarded the fantastic opportunity of completing one of my practicum placements in the Northern Territory. The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation sent six of us to Tennant Creek for a month to teach. It was an amazing experience I will never forget. Since I have such fond memories of learning to teach in the territory, it made sense for me to register to teach in the NT so I could pick up some casual work during our travels.

Last week whilst we were in the wet tropics, near the Daintree, and it was pouring with rain and I was going insane inside the caravan with the kids, I received a call from a little school in Central Australia asking if I could teach for a few weeks. We did the maths and worked out a date I could arrive and suddenly we were off! After over two months of travelling the East coast of Australia, it was time to head West.

 Since our kids are so young, we tend not to travel more than around three hours in one day. We find that’s the maximum they last before they start losing the plot and screaming the car down. It’s the reason why we are unsure if we will get an entire lap of Australia done in a single year. But, suddenly we found ourselves with two weeks and 2200km to travel. Unless we want to spend every night in different place, we are in for some longer travel days.

We woke up yesterday morning in the Atherton Tablelands (near Cairns) and began our biggest day of driving yet. We drove for what felt like forever with screaming and arguing children. We had bought new toys for them the day prior, but realised that instead of keeping them entertained, it just gave them something to fight about. We had purchased Jarrah an etch-a-sketch, but Nella was incredibly jealous, so we had to make a stop and purchase her one too. The sibling rivalry has begun! For the first time ever, we resorted to bringing out the tablet and putting on a movie for the kids.

After 5 hours we passed through Townsville and turned onto the Flinders Highway. We had our first night’s free camping at a roadside rest area where we could watch the road trains and listen to the freight trains. Jarrah loved it.

This morning we set off for another big day of driving. We stopped in Charters Towers first thing in the morning, before heading further west.

At lunchtime we stopped in a tiny town called Balfes Creek, where we found a tiny playground, some toilets and a closed pub. We had a picnic lunch and came across a lady named Tracey who is walking her way around Australia to raise money for the Black Dog Institute and raise awareness for depression and mental illness. She’s a mother, a grandmother and is literally walking around Australia pushing all her belongings (and her little white dog) in a cart. Talk about inspirational! She left from Byron Bay 6 months ago and is averaging 25km a day. Check out her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/onewomanwandering. I think travelling alone and on foot around this country takes bravery. I asked her what made her decide to walk and she told me that she’s never really liked people (or walking) but is now seeing the good side of the human race through her travels and is loving it.

After waving goodbye to Tracey, we kept heading west. The kids once again started whinging and fighting, so we stopped and set up camp at the back of the Prairie Pub. The pub was closed and whilst we were setting up we saw a man ride into town on a bicycle and sit out the front of the pub. I went to have a chat to him and found out he was from Japan and was riding his bicycle from Brisbane to the Northern Territory to look for farm work. His English wasn’t that strong and I tried to explain he could just set up camp and talk to the pub owners later, but I’m not sure he understood. Instead, he sat out the front of the pub until 5.30pm when the family who owned the pub returned and opened up. He then came to the camping area and pitched his tent. By this stage Dave had cooked us Bolognaise for dinner, so we invited the Japanese tourist to our campsite for a meal. He was very grateful. I told him I thought he was brave. Imagine coming to Australia with very little English and riding a bike thousands of kilometres to the desert to look for a job. Just amazing! These people make what we are doing seem like a walk in the park.

After dinner we went inside the pub for a drink and got talking to the lovely owners who were very friendly and hospitable. The pub was filled with interesting memorabilia and antiques, including mannequins having a drink at the bar and a room with a trampoline and toys for the kids. I even felt comfortable enough to breastfeed Nella whilst sitting at the bar. The owner joked that I couldn’t breastfeed in the pub and I laughed too and joked that I would post online and he’d get some lovely publicity from outraged mothers. We all had a good laugh and I realised I’ve never received a negative comment for breastfeeding in public. Hopefully I never will.

The past two days have brought us from the rainforest to the outback and what a difference that’s made. I’m sad that we won’t see the ocean for a few months, but excited about returning the desert and the characters we’ll meet along the way.

Happiness and Growth

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.