Days like today

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.