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.