Purnululu - Bungle Bungles
We set out early for our overnighter at the Bungle Bungles. The 53km 4wd only road in was a challenge and turned out to be the worst road we experienced. 2hrs later we reached the Ranger Station shaken but not stirred! Proceeded to the north end and Echidna Chasm at midday with the light filtering into the tight chasm only 1m wide in parts. A nice cool walk out of the heat of the day for lunch. Out to Osmand and Kungkalanayi lookouts for views of the ranges. Setting up camp at Walardi campground we watched the sunset over the Bungles from the dry river creek bed of the Bellburn Creek. Early start to beat the tour groups to Cathedral Gorge we enjoyed the enormity of the gorge and the incredible acoustics. Piccaninny Creek walk to the lookout was an incredible highlight with powerful ancient rivers coarsing through the rock bed to create a hard rock pattern. The distinctive beehive domes caused by cyanobacteria surrounded us as they soared towards the sky.
15 June 2018
Gaining 1.5hrs at the border seemed like a great thing until the sun went down at 5pm! A weird feeling given we had travelled a few hundred kms, but changed timezone so significantly. Relaxing at the Kimberleyland Waterfront Holiday Park we watched "Tully" play a few tunes at sunset and had pancakes for breakfast cooked on the BBQ. A trip out to the Zebra Rock Gallery to see some of this distinctive rock only found in this part of the Kimberley. A look at the Ord River Diversion Dam and Kelly's Knob lookout to see the town and ord river scheme planatations. Before our cruise on Lake Argyle, we had lunch and a swim in the infinity pool overlooking the lake. The cruise took in only 10% of the largest man made lake in Australia. After feeding some Archer Fish who spat at us we watched close up a freshwater crocodile. To finish a swim in the lake on pool noodles whilst drinking beer and floating dip and crackers. Laila was able to skipper us on the high speed boat back to port.
13 June 2018
Katherine to the Border
Passing through Adelaide River to view the war cemetery including some of the civilian victims from the bombing of Darwin. Details of the history of the area as part of the rearguard defence during WW2 were evident. The national monument had wonderful manicured gardens surrounded by harsh bush. An overnight stop in Katherine we had an afternoon swim whilst eating fresh chilled mango and mandarin from the on site orchard. We met Dot & Barry from Sydney, who we would bump into as we went further west. Trekking west we passed through the spectacular ranges of the Gregory National Park. A drink stop at the Victoria River Roadhouse was a lovely outback location. We continued past unimpressive Timber Creek along a partilcuarly bumpy road before arriving at the border for our fruit and vege "frisk". The border guard made us wind up the van to check every cupboard and the fridge including empty clear containers! 😮
11 June 2018
An early start for our day trip from Darwin passed through the town of Batchelor before heading to the Magnetic termite mounds to view both these in the floodplains and cathedral mounds on higher ground. A walk to Tolmer Falls gave our first glimpse of Litchfield waterfalls. Around to Wangi Falls, we had a walk up the rainforest track to canopy level before having a cooling swim. We climbed into the little "spa" in the side of the rock before jumping off the rocks next to the falls themselves. Lunch at Buley Rockholes before climbing into the natural rock pools. Very busy with a range of people all down the river. Our final stop at Florence Falls with a steep walk down some stairs to the swimming hole. Some black fish had a nice little nibble on our feet. German tourists decided to jump from an extraordinary height into the water, luckily not onto rocks! Listened to Pies beat the Dees in the Queens birthday game on the radio on the way back to Darwin.
10 June 2018
Arrival in Darwin to the Freespirit Holiday Park we had a nice swim in the pool before average $2 pancakes the following morning. A walk around Darwin CBD, before a trip to the Darwin Bombing and RFDS exhibition on the Stokes Hill Wharf. Virtual goggles and interactive displays made for an immersive experience during the bombing. The WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels had much history about Darwin and the use of the tunnels during the war. Saturday evening at the Greek Glenti Festival on the Esplanade showcasing Greek music, dance and tasty food. The Yiros meat bbq cooking was a sight to behold. Capped off with a Mythos greek beer and honey puffs. The Museum and Art Gallery of NT contained the exhibition of Cyclone Tracy, which wiped out Darwin on Xmas 1974. Very interactive, with damaged artefacts from the event, personal stories and sound recordings of the cyclone. A look at the Botanic Gardens before a trip to the Mindil Beach Night Markets for shopping & paella on the beach at sunset.
8 June 2018
Late afternoon took us to Waramungu Cultural Centre, which explained in a very interactive way the local aboriginal culture and environment. Learnt much about the various birds, plants and animals. Yellow Waters Sunset Cruise followed with an incredible array of birdlife and other animals including Crocodiles, Buffalo, Jabiru, Azure Kingfisher and a family of tiny Jacana (or "Jesus" birds) that walk on water. A spectacular sunset across the floodplains was simply stunning with the recent burning off of the national park. A trip to Nourlangie Rock to see some amazing rock art and the stories of Namarrgon lightning man. After a midday swim, out to Cahills Crossing to see local people fishing for barra with handlines and on to Ubirr rock for a Ranger tour of the area and rock art before climbing the Ubirr lookout for yet another beautiful Kakadu sunset. Adelaide River jumping croc tour had the added benefit of crocs eating a wallaby & another eating a smaller croc on the bank.
6 June 2018
Taking a right at Pine Creek we entered the southern end of Kakadu and a few kms in hit the gravel on the way to Gunlom Falls. A quick bush walk to Boulder Creek, before dragging the van across the worst road so far, but she made it! Glad we did because the setting at Gunlom was amazing. We trekked up the side of the escarpment like mountain goats in order to reach the top of Gunlom Falls. Well worth it as we were duly rewarded with a cool swim overlooking the valley below and the South Alligator River. Brilliant experience! The evening turned to Lachlan in charge of fire building and marshmallows again. Making it back onto the tarmac we headed to Mirra Mirra lookout walk with excellent 360 degree views of Kakadu before heading to our accommodation at Kakadu Lodge Caravan Park in Jabiru with a massive pool. We watched a Ranger talk here in the evening about crocs which was very eye opening. A look around town included the croc hotel, the town square and a diesel fill.
4 June 2018
A short drive for some much needed relaxation time in Mataranka, after a few days working our way across the top of Australia from far north Queensland. Setting up in another red dirt, but spacious site we proceeded down to the thermal pools. The pools located at the back of the caravan park in the Elsey National Park were used by the US troops durin their downtime in WW2. Steel reinforcing around the edges and paving make for a now civilised pool in the natural setting. The movie, We of the Never Never, was shot here and the book written about this area. The Homstead from the movie was on site. Night time brought Nathan "Whippy" Griggs Guinness World record holder for whip cracking. He gave an excellent show including whips on fire to ACDC's shook me all night long! Following day we ventured to nearby Bitter Springs, so named for their bitter taste when first discovered. These springs were great, more natural with a few logs as you float down the river from end to the other.
2 June 2018
Daly Waters Pub
A long drive back up the Stuart Hwy via Tennant Creek and Newcastle Waters, we arrived mid afternoon to the Daly Waters Pub for our "traditional" outback pub experience. There were at least 50 dirt bikes on a tour of surrounding cattle stations, were lined up out front for a pitstop. The caravan park was packed, with the grey nomads in full force. We headed for the pool for a cool off and a view of the pub jam packed with bras, undies, hats, money, business cards from around the world. Managed to fit in a beer have a go at some darts. Evening show was the Pitt Family circus with spectacular acrobatic show from all four members of the tribe. Followed by a musical ensemble singing Janis Joplin style music. Some interesting concrete floor shower huts were a highlight for the ladies! 😉 An enjoyable stay all round, but felt a bit touristy compared to some of the places we have been. Saw the engraved Stuart Tree and the WW2 Airstrip and hangar on the way out.
1 June 2018
Barkly Homestead & Devils Marbles
We entered NT after 30kms and immediately the landscape became completely flat. Arrival by midday with the 30min time change meant the pick of the sites, a shower and a clean up after a few days in the bush. We treated ourselves to dinner at the homestead with happy hour drinks & massive burgers! An enjoyable stay before leaving early to get to the Devils Marbles campground. We setup right at the base of the marbles before walking the 5km round trip track. Laila built and lit her first fire, which was excellent with marshmallows under the shadows of the rounded boulders. Both sunset and sunrise were equally brilliant with the moon still in the sky at dawn. The changing colours of the rocks were a sight to behold. The stars were incredible overhead with no light pollution and the milky way illuminated in the night sky. The kids a bit grumpy when we misjudged the timing for sunrise, but the extra 30mins before dawn was character building!! 😉
30 May 2018
The spectacular Selwyn Ranges were the backdrop for our drive in to Mount Isa. Passing the turnoff for the ghost town of Mary Kathleen, we encountered stockman on 4 wheelers and trail bikes herding cattle across the highway through the station gates. Arriving into Mt Isa, the smokestacks and mine infrastructure certainly dominated the landscape. We had a nice view of the town from the lookout. Next a tour of the WW2 underground hospital, cut into the hill to prepare for potential attack from the Japanese. A maternity ward and even a surgical theatre complemented the old medical instruments. The hospital was never required for use. On this site we saw the "Tent House" an example of the housing used in the expanding mining town. Lunch out of town at recreational Lake Moondarra was plesant by the water in the shelter of the dam wall. Free camp at Camooweal Billabong some 3km from the road with birdlife, cattle and the stars made for another pleasant night in the outback.
29 May 2018
Cloncurry visitor centre & local museum our first stop, researching how Burke & Wills passed by near here on their ill fated journey. Some of the old relics from uranium mining town Mary Kathleen, now a ghost town were here. Onwards to the excellent John Flynn Place museum, with Cloncurry the departure point for the first ever Royal Flying Doctor Service flight in the biplane "Victory". Our "on tour" expert Lachlan, was in his element. We drove out to Cloncurry Airport, the destination of the first QANTAS flight from Charleville, to see the original hangar display. On the way to our free camp at Corella Dam, we passed the Burke & Wills monument before following the track to set up in a beautiful location next to the dam. Heaps of vans here, but very spread out so excellent feel. Lachlan was in charge of fire lighting tonight, with the usual marshmallows on the menu (nb Pascalls shares reqd). A cool night but greeted in morning with a flock of 20 pelicans landing on the lake.
28 May 2018
After viewing some of the local buildings & the cast iron gutter guards, at around 1pm we made the last minute decision to leave Normanton behind and drive out to Karumba and the Gulf of Carpentaria for Alana's birthday. Google maps gave us a bum steer with travel time double what it actually was. Anticipation in the car as we were told there was a croc on the road, but nothing eventuated even though there was water close to the road. The drive was pleasant across the floodplains with plenty of birdlife including grey brolgas everywhere like herds of cattle. A single power line followed the road. The caravan park pool was a welcome relief after the long drive. A few tips from the nomads led us to drinks at the Sunset Tavern overlooking the Gulf of Carpentaria followed a lovely seafood meal of massive local prawns and tasty barramundi at Ash's Cafe. Unfortunately the road to Camp 119, the most northerly point for Burke & Wills was closed on our way back south via the roadhouse.
27 May 2018
Georgetown & Normanton
An early start in order to catch the "always on" 1030 Undarra lava tubes tour was in vain as the tour was cancelled! We proceeded to the Kalkani Crater to walk the rim & view the volcanic landscape surrounding the crater. Onwards to Georgetown we toured the impressive "Terrestrial", one man's collection of over 4000 mineral specimens from Australia and around the world. The kids wrote their name on a peace rock before we pushed on to our free camp for the night at the old Cumberland Mine. It is now a bird watching lake with binoculars & brilliant scenery. After a wet Atherton our washing dried here in 8mins! We shared a campfire with music teacher David & Gillian from Tasmania who did a similar trip to us with their kids in a Dove some 20 years ago. Awaking to Alana's birthday on tour by the billabong, we packed up & headed further west. Definitely in the outback again and on to Normanton with life size replica Krys the Croc, the largest ever killed in the world.
26 May 2018
Leaving the windy coast we started the Savannah Way, over the hill at Kuranda before entering the tablelands at Mareeba. The historic museum had a range of old items including a school with slate tablets, a flying fox change dispenser and 3 way connected old telephones on which we could call each other. Heading south we stopped at the Mt Uncle Distillery for some tasting before arriving in Atherton. Rain, rain and more rain made for a gloomy time but we pushed on to the Yungaburra markets, the excellent butcher for a restock, followed by some platypus watching in the creek nearby. The massive Curtain Fig tree was incredible as was the spectacular Millaa Millaa falls. Our final stop for some cheese tasting at Gallo Dairyland including a vegemite tasting blue & a rainforest herb. We watched milking of the cows on a circular milking machine which brought great relief to Lachlan that he didn't have to milk them! After another rainy night we left early in the morning.
24 May 2018
Daintree & Cape Tribulation
We started a jam packed day with a Solar Whisper cruise along the Daintree River seeing some crocodiles, birdlife, green tree frogs and snakes. Crossing the river on the barge, we made it into the oldest rainforest in the world. The Daintree Discovery Centre provided excellent handheld audio tours for each of us, learning more about the different levels of the canopy and the variety of trees & ferns. A 23m tower gave us a view from above. Through the winding roads we stopped for lunch at Cow Bay before continuing on to Cape Tribulation and small part of the Bloomfield 4wd track complete with a couple of river crossings and some steep terrain. Back to Cape Trib, we walked the beach and the lookout before venturing around the Dubuji walk near Myall beach. We were lucky enough to see 3 Cassowary and their father crossing the road. Very rare sight indeed! Finishing the day at the Daintree Icecream Company, before a great meal at the Irish Pub in Port Douglas.
22 May 2018
A trip north from camp took us to Mossman Gorge and into the rainforest. Much development since last time we were here, but still an excellent experience walking underneath the canopy as we crossed the Mossman River and stopped for lunch on a few of the massive boulders that impede the flow of the beautiful clean water. We learnt not only rainfall contributes to the water level, but "cloud stripping" as the clouds pass over the mountains. Epiphytes, "wait-a-while" vine, strangler fig were some of the species of tree within the rainforest. A walk back over the suspension bridge we found a beautiful butterfly perched on the rail. Finishing here we passed yet more sugar cane to Port Douglas where we walked the main street and observed 4 mile beach from the lookout. The white St Mary's by the sea church was a quaint little building. A relaxing afternoon tea at the book cafe provided an excellent vanilla slice and coffee.
21 May 2018
Cairns & Ellis Beach
An overnight stop in "Bushy Park" Rollingstone, with Laila & Alana watching live stream of the Royal Wedding on the phone. We visited Paronella Park, a wonderful old tropical garden and entertainment complex built by Jose Paronella in 1934. Amazing concrete and clay architecture. Through Cairns to our destination at Ellis Beach complete with coconut palms, beach and rainforest behind. If it wasn't for the wind and clouds it would've been perfect. We made the most of it, collecting coconuts and cracking them open for water and flesh. 10K service on the car allowed us to spend the day in Kuranda. Up on the historic railway past Barron Falls and down on the treetop Skyrail, a spectacular view above the rainforest canopy. The Butterfly Sanctuary showed us many different types from pupae to full form. Homemade local icecream from an eccentric man in his cart ended our trip around the Kuranda markets. Fish and chips from the night markets in Cairns to finish the day.
18 May 2018
Our day trip to the resort island of Hamilton provided slightly better weather although the boat ride across the Whitsunday Passage was bumpier given we were on a ferry this time. Arriving into the harbour we viewed the multi million dollar yachts moored at the Hamilton Island yacht club. It's distinctive architecture including Sydney to Hobart winner Wild Oats emerging from the building, was an imposing sight at the entrance. Time for morning tea, and the kids were in raptures after an elderly gentleman (aka "Butt Man!") with his pants hanging low provided a cracking view with our coffee. 😂 Some games at the resort, walks on the beach and look around the island on the bus made for an enjoyable day. Our return journey included a stop off to Daydream Island to collect over 50 construction workers finishing their day. Daydream was one of the 7 resorts wiped out during the recent cyclone Debbie.
Whitsundays Island Cruise
First up the Camira sailing catamaran to Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet via Hook & Whitsunday Islands. Captain James Cook sailed through these waters on the same day as the ancient British Festival of Whit Sunday, and hence named the Whitsunday Passage. 30knot winds made for fast sailing, but the rain and clouds didn't give us the "island feel". Hill Inlet Lookout wave after wave of rain shower gave us glimpses of what could have been. Our trek onto a blustery Whitehaven Beach was brought to an end by a torrential downpour as we retreated for cover in Tongue Bay. Back on the boat for a warming BBQ lunch before entering the water for a snorkel near Hook Island. Disappointingly the weather gods were not on our side, so water not so clear. A very enjoyable sail back to port in the late afternoon made for a lovely sunset cruise with a drink, kids playing rope games on the tramps, and the Camira reaching at around 14knots. A nice way to finish an up and down day.
A lunch stop in Mackay with some gourmet coffee, we headed to Big4 Adventure Whitsundays. On arrival the weather was beautiful and kids enjoyed the water playground and us the tropical pool. The complimentary afternoon nibbles was an event, although "the old grannies" devoured most of the food before we arrived. The kids were very keen to ensure we were not late next time round! The weather turned sour for the rest of our time in the Whitsundays, although we pushed on with our planned tours. A walk through the main street of Airlie Beach had plenty of backpackers, tie dye and beachy tourist products. Some of the houses on the escarpment and around the port were impressive including high on the hill the owner of Hogs Breath Cafe. Back at the the park, multiple games of mini golf, ping pong, tennis & basketball kept us entertained. Friday night outdoor movie under the stars to finish our time in Airlie Beach. Plenty of long term grey nomads here, some staying up to 7 months!
13 May 2018
Bundaberg & Capricorn Coast
Leaving Fraser Island, the barge took us back to River Heads and eventually a Mother's Day Maccas breakfast in Hervey Bay before collecting the van. We pushed on to Bundaberg to visit the Bundaberg Barrel, home of the Bundaberg Brewing Co. We toured the "True Brew Experience" about the history of ginger beer and finished by tasting each of the 19 flavoured drinks now made by the company. A long day on the road ensued, as we entered cattle country approaching Rockhampton. The surrounding landscape was a mixture of cattle grazing, sugarcane and mountains either side of the flat valleys that we travelled. Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn in the evening, we had a bite to eat before travelling on to a jam packed Waverley Creek rest area, just south of St Lawrence. A nice spot by the river, fully bitumised with good facilities for the ladies! 😉
12 May 2018
We quickly worked out our speed average would be around 12kmh due to the 4wd tracks, which were excellent fun but slow going, the afternoon was spent at Lake Mackenzie. A pristine lake in the middle of Fraser. Sandy beach, blue sky, dense trees surrounding the perimeter including yellow callistemons. We took a swim out around the point to a more secluded beach and left our names in the sand. The following day a beach drive along the Fraser "highway" where top speed is 80kmh. Sand was very firm and tyres down only a limited amount. Eurong beach our entry point as we followed the eastern coastline up to the SS Maheno wreck, a former ANZAC hospital ship run aground in 1936. Coming back down the beach to Eli Creek for a late lunch and a float down the creek through the surrounding rainforest. A couple of dingoes pinched someone else's lunch as we watched the light planes take off from the beach. Back to camp with Nanny burgers for Lachlan's birthday dinner to end a great day!
11 May 2018
Travelling through Maryborough, Queensland's first inland port, we arrived in time for afternoon tea at Pie & Pastries Paradise, an excellent bakery which we would return for lunch later. A mid size coastal town had a nice feel about it from the moment we arrived. A walk along the Urangan Pier at nearly 1km long was a good way to view mud flats on the low tide & the expanses of Hervey Bay. The Hervey Bay Boat Club & an early birthday dinner for Lachlan. Thursday nights means "meat raffle", & we promptly purchased our ticket. Excitement around the table when our number came up! We left the van at the caravan park & boarded the early barge for Fraser Island. Much anticipation about camping in the rainforest in our first hitout with our "off road" setup in the awning tent. Arriving at Central Station through sometimes some tricky inland tracks, we setup camp next to another family from Perth. The canopy was lush, with a few birds, possums & sugargliders to complete the scene.
8 May 2018
Gold Coast - Pt2
The GC means theme parks, so Sea World was next with a good array of displays, rides and demonstrations. The Seal Show, the Dolphin Show and the Extreme Jet Ski the highlights. We had multiple rides on the Jet Rescue rollercoaster where you are strapped on to a jet ski & blasted out around the track. Movie World the following day provided yet more rollercoasters including the only hypercoaster in the southern hemisphere DC Rivals, very impressive with a height of 62m and a sheer drop maxing out at 115kmh! Definitely the biggest rollercoaster we have ridden. Adam was selected to be part of the Hollywood Stunt Driver 2 "movie" - obviously they were looking for someone good looking, with acting skills & a handsome beard! 😉 Some Ben n Jerry's icecream whilst watching the traditional superheroes parade finished the day.
Gold Coast - Pt1
Arriving early to NRMA Treasure Island caravan park, the kids quickly got in the swing of things with the variety of onsite Kids Corner activities. T-ball, Dodgeball, Ping Pong and a jelly eating contest in which both kids won their age group! We only found out about the QLD long weekend in the past few days, so it was a bit more "intense" for us parents. But this was our planned "big town" stop, so got on with it. A casual dinner out in Surfers Paradise with Belinda & Ben at the Loose Moose. Catching up with Andrew, Barb & the kids at the caravan park was great. As luck would have it, Collingwood played Brisbane at the GABBA on the weekend we were here, so off to Brisbane on the train we went for this twilight game! A high scoring & exciting game saw the mighty Pies win by 7pts. 😁 Unbelievably, it was Laila's first "live" game of AFL, which she enjoyed very much.
4 May 2018
Ballina & Byron Bay
A quick couple of hours up the north coast of NSW led us to Ballina, home of the "Big Prawn"! After Grafton, we followed the Clarence River along, out to the coast. A substantial river with barges & lift bridges across. The winding river seemed almost european with the flood plains, but we were definitely approaching QLD with the sugar canes & tropical landscape. We chose to stay in Ballina instead of Byron, given they were charging over $200 for 2 nights on a piece of dirt in the "lead up to the long weekend"! 😠 Caravan park was excellent, close to Boulder Beach & lookout where we watched the "first light" sunrise over the ocean & surfers. Next day spent in Byron Bay looking around the town, lighthouse & the most easterly point of mainland Australia. Followed by a nice swim & a boogie board at the beach. Overall, Byron was a little disappointing. Very pretentious, not the relaxed feel we were expecting. Looked like a tired old lady. Glad we didn't stay in the end.
2 May 2018
After a massive couple of weeks we arrived in Coffs Harbour for some much needed R & R! We caught up with some school work and various diaries in the well appointed camp kitchen of the Park Beach Big4. We played ping pong and basketball, swam in the pool & generally chilled out. We had an ultimate banana smoothie at the original big thing (1964), the "Big Banana" & rode the indoor Giant Slide. A walk around the Marina & across the breakwall to Mutton Bird Island, where migratory shearwater birds come to nest each year.
1 May 2018
Tamworth & Bellingen
Along the Newell Hwy towards Coonabarabran stopping for lunch in the park by the river joined by some very nosey geese. Laila had her Cavoodle fix, with another traveller in the park walking his puppy. On to Gunnedah, the inspiration for Dorothea McKellar's poetry of "My Country". Arriving in Tamworth we headed straight for the Big Golden Guitar, the icon of the Country Music Capital. Also seeing bronze statues of Slim Dusty & Joy McKean before some afternoon tea. Our freecamp spot at Moonbi Lookout was fantastic, seeing both sunset and sunrise across the valley. Taking the "Waterfall Way" we wound our way over the steep hills and past some waterfalls including the impressive two-tiered Ebor Falls. Arriving in Bellingen for lunch we walked the main street of this lovely relaxed tree change town, birthplace of Adam Gilchrist & home town of pianist David Helfgott. Confronted again with the dreaded 45 degree rear to kerb parking which meant a fair walk up the hill! 🤔
29 April 2018
Setting up camp in a very busy park as it was the last weekend of NSW school holidays, the warmth was noticeable given our previous destinations. Taronga Western Plains Zoo was our activity for the day, with a wide range of not often seen animals. Eland, the largest antelope in the world, Bongo a cross between a cow and a deer from the Kenyan highlands, critically endangered, fewer than 100 left in the wild; and Przewalski's Horse a donkey looking animal from the Mongolian Plains. All the enclosures were excellent with fencing well below the eyeline which made the zoo feel very open and the animals appear much closer than they were. We saw the cheetahs and lions feeding on multiple steggles no.9 chickens right up close to the glass which was quite exciting in the newly opened "Pride Lands". We walked around on day one and had a quick drive through the zoo "safari style" on day two in order to see a couple of things we missed. An excellent day and well worth the time.
28 April 2018
Bathurst & Parkes
Arriving in Bathurst for our "hot lap" of Mt Panorama, we strapped Flora the Flamingo to the front of the Prado before hitting the dizzy speeds of 60kmh around the track. A few walkers using the public road as their exercise course provided some obstacles to make it interesting. A morning tea stop in Orange with a vanilla slice and a walk along the main street. Arriving in Parkes for lunch at Cooke Park we had a photo with the Elvis statue. Parkes has an Elvis festival every January to celebrate "The King". Out of town to "The Dish" made famous for its contribution to the Apollo11 moon landing on July 20, 1969; the subsequent movie of the same name. The CSIRO Radiotelescope was an imposing structure amongst the surrounding flat countryside. We viewed some of the models of the telescope, sounds of different constellations and information regarding some of the technology the CSIRO have been involved with including development of Wifi and Aeroguard.
27 April 2018
Oberon - Jenolan Caves
Saying goodbye to Aldo & Gloria, we continued along the Federal Hwy to Goulburn and the Big Merino. We walked inside and up to each eye for a birdseye view of some service stations and Bunnings! Finishing with Lachlan and Adam posing in front of the "business end".😁 Setting up camp in a brisk Oberon, the heater was working overtime on our powered site. The trip out to Jenolan Caves was a steep gradient with switchbacks everywhere. Arrival at the caves we started with the Chifley Cave, the first lit cave in the world, named in 1952 after Ben Chifley the local federal member of parliament. They carried 700 batteries in each day to light in colour for just 3 hours. The larger Lucas Cave traversed 910 steps and showed us many different types of limestone crystal formations including The Broken Column, The Dragon's Head, and also the underground Styx River.
25 April 2018
Canberra - Anzac Day
Up at 3am to attend to the Dawn Service with 40,000 of our fellow Australians. Temperature was cool, before becoming bitterly cold the closer we got to dawn. The moving ceremony soon commenced with heroic tales from various wars, messages of hope, letters sent home, and insights into the theatre of war. The projections onto the stonework stood as a memorial to all those who have served the nation in all wars and conflicts. The touching tributes from underneath the flickering light of the lecturn struck at the core what it is to be an ANZAC and a proud Australian on this day. It certainly brought a lump to the throat as the sun gently rose above the war memorial. The ANZAC March later in the day made us just as proud as we recognised the servicemen & women as they passed by us. The military band was fantastic as the sunny day shone upon us, a far cry from before the dawn! We are so thankful we could share this important experience with our kids at such an early age.
24 April 2018
Canberra - Pt4
A morning tour at the AIS saw Lachlan in his element, particularly when we found out our tour guide was in the ACTIS hockey program. We started in the Sportex area where we tested our skills on a variety of equipment from rowing to wheelchair basketball, to the Olympic winter sport of skeleton. A tour of all the onsite facilities followed including gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, weightlifting & swimming. Across town to Parliament House and subsequent tour of the building through many of the corridors of power, portraits of former prime ministers and of course the House of Representatives and the Senate. The design allows for "we the people" to stand on the roof on top of our public servants! Also the building lines up the the war memorial so when the sitting prime minister thinks about sending troops to conflict, they have the perspective of the past. We also viewed the old houses of parliament and the miniature village of Cockington Green to complete a busy 5 days.
23 April 2018
Canberra - Pt3
A very informative tour by our knowledgeable guide, revealed many of the untold stories associated with the many names on the Roll of Honour wall. Guiding us through WW1 & WW2 exhibits, Victoria Cross recipients in the Hall of Valour, Afghanistan, the Hall of Memory (including the tomb of the unknown soldier) and finishing through the Aircraft Hall to watch an audiovisual display of a Lancaster Bomber on one of its bombing runs over Europe. The kids enjoyed the interactive Discovery Zone with displays of trenches, submarines and helicopters from WW1 through to Vietnam. To end the day, we watched the moving Last Post Ceremony. My words do not do justice to the extremely impressive memorial to our past. Visionary for the memorial, Charles Bean said it best, "Here is their spirit, in the heart of the land they loved; and here we guard the record which they themselves made." We could have spent a week here and still not seen everything.
Canberra - Pt2
A beautiful sunny day greeted us as we toured the Royal Australian Mint to learn the history & process of minting our coins. We saw two holey dollars (our first currency) with their subsequent dump formed by governer Macquarie's decison to split the original spanish coins into two to increase the volume of currency in the new burgeoning colony. We viewed three Sydney 2000 medals; Gold (made at the Perth Mint), Silver (made with silver from Broken Hill), and Bronze (made from all the discontinued 1 and 2 cent pieces - "the people's medal"). The tour ended watching the robot "Titan" lift a 750kg barrel of $1 coins. Onwards to the Australian War Memorial for a wonderful & comprehensive display of historical & current war events. An actual landing boat from the Galipolli conflict lay before us as we entered the WW1 exhibition followed by life like dioramas of Lone Pine & other battles which made you feel like you were actually there. The memorabilia was simply outstanding.
22 April 2018
Canberra - Pt1
Passing through Cooma to finish our journey along the Murray River, culminating with the Snowy Hydroelectric Scheme Discovery Centre. An excellent resource with fantastic interactive displays showing all the components of the system & how each section works together. Arriving in Canberra, we hired some fluoro green bikes for a self guided tour around Lake Burley Griffin to get our bearings and see some of the sights. We stopped at the Old Depot Markets for a coffee and a bite to eat before continuing around the lake which was a brilliant way to see Canberra. Afternoon brought a quick look in the National Library and then Questacon, which is the national science & technology museum (Scitech on steroids!). We moved through many different areas, made electric circuits, learnt about sight, sound, reverse osmosis, gravitational forces, viscosity, threw at a speed gun, and summoned the courage for a "free fall" slide! Awesome!!
20 April 2018
Bucket list tick! Let's Flamin’ Go on the top of Oz.
What a fantastic experience to climb to the summit of Australia's tallest peak. We decided to challenge ourselves with the 18km trek from Charlotte Pass on a stunningly clear day. With much anticipation we set off along the old road to Mt Kosciuszko which closed in 1976. Some snow from last year still was visible amongst the terrain as we passed snow gums, herbfields, waterfalls and tiny streams trickling. Then our first snow on the track as we descend into the valley of the Snowy River. We all sipped with delight from this mountain stream feeling like the explorers of old. A morning tea stop at Seaman’s Hut allowed some respite with 3kms to go. The final ascent became busier as the numbers grew at Rawson Pass with the extras from the Threbdo chairlift. The final push was uplifting as we put our boots on the orange survey marker to complete the climb. Our lunch view was simply breathtaking on top of Australia!
19 April 2018
After checking in with the information centre, we planned on two “warm-up” hikes before the big one. First the 5km Porcupine Walk, which wandered through snowgrass, mint bushes and snow gums before ascending to a large group of granite boulders resembling porcupine spines. Sitting on these boulders provided extensive views of the Main Range and Thredbo Valley and was a perfect spot for lunch sheltered from the wind on a cool day. Next the 3km Rainbow Lake Trail took us to a lovely spot at a lower altitude with the lake created by a dam which was built to supply water to the Hotel Kosciuszko. The day finished with a view over Lake Jindabyne from the Pumping Station Surge Tank which is part of the Snowy River Hydroelectric Scheme.
18 April 2018
We zipped along the Hume Hwy (first dual carriage way for a while!) to Gundagai with a brief stop at the Dog on the Tuckerbox. Onwards to Tumut to view the massive Blowering Reservoir, Dam & Power Station. The world waterspeed record which still stands today, was set here in 1978 by Ken Warby driving the “Spirit of Australia”. Up the tortuous start to the Snowy Mountains Hwy, we soon reached the plains and lakes across the “Roof of Australia”. A most enjoyable & spectacular drive (very glad we took the slight detour) as every turn was yet another beautiful vista as we wound our way across the alpine landscape. Brown plains, rocky outcrops, snow gums, the “Big Trout” in Adaminaby, kangaroos and even a mob of brumbies. We arrived in the late afternoon to our picturesque campsite overlooking Lake Jindabyne. The kids made friends with some kids from Canberra and played cricket until after dark.
16 April 2018
We boarded the PS Pevensey paddlesteamer for our cruise down the Murray River from the Port of Echuca, once the second busiest port in Victoria. The Pevensey is the oldest paddlesteamer still in use on the Murray, built in 1911 she holds the record for most wool bales carried by any paddlesteamer, and was used in the TV miniseries “All the Rivers Run” as the “Philadelphia”. The kids skippered briefly in the wheelhouse as we meandered down the beautiful river on a lovely morning. We set off for our destination of the cartoon based Ettamogah Pub just outside of Albury-Wodonga where we free camped for the night.
We followed the Murray River upstream towards Echuca, stopping at a very cold Swan Hill for lunch. The River Walk we completed included the once hand cranked lift bridge and finally the Giant Murray Cod. Torrumbarry Weir to view Lock 26 and the 6 gates that hold back the mighty Murray. This "new" weir was only completed in 1996. Also still visible on the NSW bank was the 14 removable steel trestles which were winched in and out of the river for servicing or to allow the passage of floods. This weir stood from 1923 until 1992. Arriving late at Merool on the Murray, we settled in for the night. The morning started with some time at the Port of Echuca and the Discovery Centre, including a tour of the Port. Next to the National Holden Museum to view Holdens from the first model released in 1948. A trip out to the Great Aussie Beer Shed provided much laughter & Aussie memorabilia including safes from Flemington, spend a penny doors from Flinders St station, & beer cans galore.
15 April 2018
The previous nights wind (& dust) was still persisting and we woke slowly after limited sleep due to the storm, the Victorian Hoons on the other river bank and the railway horns. We decided to power on through the conditions, to view Lock 11 lower the Rothbury paddlesteamer as it released the 450million litres out of the lock. Onwards to "Orange World" & our old italian orange farmer guide Mario. What a crack up. He had more gags than the comedy festival, intertwined with an informative tour of the farm. The farm was where the old Cottees cordial ad was filmed, and previously home to Jane Edmanson from ABC's Gardening Australia. The kids both got to drive the tractor and were our "tour guides" for a short period. Finished up with them squeezing their own orange juice for us all to drink. Great fun! The weather & rain was closing in, so after a quick drive to Wentworth to see the confluence of the Darling & Murray Rivers, we went for Pizza and Peter Rabbit at the movies. 😂
14 April 2018
We left Broken Hill under the cover of rain clouds & even some passing showers as we traversed the Silver City Highway towards Mildura. This was a stark contrast to the searing heat of the past few days. The rain was just enough to stick all the red dust to the car and van but not wash it! The drive was thoroughly boring with the only feature the new water pipeline from Wentworth to Broken Hill. Arriving in Mildura to a simply wonderful caravan site on the edge of the mighty Murray River. Bird life, paddlesteamers and redgums completed the serene picture. Then came the "Mildura Armageddon". A dust storm like something out of Wizard of Oz swept across the dusty plains bringing with it 50kmh winds testing our camping skills and pegging of the awning. The previously serene redgums now posed imment danger to the flimsy canvas of the bed ends. We decided to convert the table to a bed for Alana & Laila. Lachlan & Adam slept on the floor so we were all under the hard roof. 😦
12 April 2018
Broken Hill - Pt2
A bumpy ride over 39 "dips" on the road to Silverton finished at the Mad Max Museum, an eclectic collection of memorabilia from these films produced in the area. From Max's car, to the gyrocopter, to costumes and other props from the movies, it was a sight to behold. Next a visit to the Silverton Gaol and Historical Museum with many artefacts from the area and around the country. Coins, banners, artwork, bridal gowns, and an x-ray machine! The famous Silverton Hotel, used in many movies, provided a cool beer (or lemonade) on a hot day. Then underground 100 feet into the Historic Daydream Mine learning of the old days. From the Galena, they would extract 100oz to the tonne of Silver, anything less was thrown out! Nowadays they get only 10oz to the tonne. Finally a walk around the town of Broken Hill to view the beautiful heritage listed buildings, a 100m x 12m canvas of the local landscape called The Big Picture, the largest acrylic painting on canvas in the world.
Broken Hill - Pt1
A long drive from SA included a stop in the railway town of Peterborough, formerly known as Petersburg before WW1 "de-Germanification". The Town Carriage Museum showed an "in car" video of the railway landscape to Broken Hill & some of the old tales including Bob the Railway Dog. We stumbled upon an old movie theatre repurposed as a cafe with excellent coffee, poor vanilla slice & a wonderful setting amongst the memorabilia. We charged towards the NSW border with gale force winds & dusty willy willy's across the plains buffeting the car. Passing 140 hectares of the solar farm, which produces 126,000 Megawatt-hours of renewable power each year, we arrived at "Silver City" & lobbed into the caravan park after a big day on the road. The woodchips on the site made a nice change from the red dust we had endured since leaving Perth. A morning trip up to the Miners' Memorial upon the Line of Load which gave sweeping views of Broken Hill & the world's largest park bench.
10 April 2018
An overnighter in Whyalla gave us a picturesque beachfront site, but not much else. We set out early, entering the windy roads of the Flinders Ranges & having a quandong muffin for morning tea at Quorn. After a quick look around the historic town, we approached Wilpena Pound and Arkaroo rock (the head of the male snake in Adnyamathanha aboriginal culture). We set up camp in the Wilpena campground on a blistering 38 degree day, before having a swim in the icy resort pool that allowed about 5mins of swimming before hypothermia set in! A cool night under the stars was a welcome relief. The following day started with an early morning hike along the river bed to the Hills Homestead and ascent to Wangara Lookout for a panoramic view of the Pound and St Mary's peak. By mid morning the heat was stifling, so set off in the car for Brachina and Bunyeroo Gorges for views of the Razorback range & rock formations, some of which were 570million years old. Marshmallows on the open fire.
9 April 2018
Port Lincoln - Pt2
An easy start to the day with a leisurely drive around the marina to see the large fishing trawlers and the even larger luxury houses. A walk around the CBD of Port Lincoln revealed much of the history of the area including Matthew Flinders and his cat Trim. Flinders charted much of this coast on his way to circumnavigating the continent. He named the town after his home county of Lincolnshire. A stroll along the grassy foreshore took us to a statue of the mighty mare MAKYBE DIVA, winner of 3 consecutive Melbourne Cups. Then a short trip to Coffin Bay for our Oyster Farm Tour. We donned waders and after a short breifing about the history of the area, proceeded out to a table in the middle of the oyster stacks to consume coffin bay oysters straight from the water. The kids tasted their first oysters "au naturale" and with a splash of lemon. We learned how to shuck an oyster before returning home. A lovely seafood dinner at the Port Lincoln Hotel to finish a great day.
Port Lincoln - Pt1
We headed down the Flinders Highway in search of the elusive Murphy's Haystacks. The usual poor signage on the Eyre Peninsula led us to a gravel road detour of a couple of kms before finally seeing the carved rocks, eroded over time, jutting out of the top of the hill. Next a trip off the highway to the underwhelming Talia Caves. A lunch stop in Elliston before powering onwards to Port Lincoln. The driving was tricky as the narrow road and the high wind kept us on our toes. The destination of the Port Lincoln Tourist Park was fantastic with panoramic views of Porter Bay, the tuna pens and Boston Island. Sun and Moon rises were magnificent across the bay with the tiered park allowing a great vantage point from each site including ours. We took a quick drive up to Winter Hill lookout at sunset to take in a 360 view of the town of Port Lincoln, the grain fields and across the tip of the Eyre Peninsula. A dewy night leaving a fair bit of condensation on the canvas.
5 April 2018
Arriving early afternoon we set up camp for a couple of days. Some fishing off the jetty provided no feed for night one. Fish and chips from the shop instead! Day two an early start to catch the low tide and the "Razorfish hunt". Razorfish are a mollusc type creature similar to a scallop and just as tasty. We sauteed these as a very small entree for the 4 of us given the small size of the harvest compared to the very large shell. Following this, we took a trip out to Point Labatt to view the Sea Lion Colony, the largest mainland population of Australian Sea Lions in the world. Some rambling over rock pools at Smooth Pool was a nice spot for lunch. The water temperature was a little cold for full immersion yet Lachlan did it anyway. Last stop was the whistling rocks and blowholes towards Cape Bauer which ended a full day in picturesque Streaky Bay.
3 April 2018
The Nullarbor : Part 3
We left Moodini Bluff in search of the state border, although it seemed like we had driven a long way across the country already. First stop on the Eyre highway today was Eucla, where we saw the ruins of the Eucla telegraph station. It connected WA with the rest of the country in 1877 with the first message, "Eucla line opened. Hurrah". We got our first glimpses of the southern ocean as we ascended the Eucla Pass. On to the border we went, with the obligatory photos with the big kangaroo and the border signs. After this, the spectacular Great Australian Bight, the Bunda Cliffs and the historic Nullarbor Roadhouse. Colona Rest Area was our final free camp of this stretch. We had it pretty much to ourselves in the middle of the bush, with a lovely sunrise overlooking the plains. In the morning our push through to Ceduna included a stop at Australia's Biggest Windmill in Penong before completing the Nullarbor and we celebrated with a coffee and a vanilla slice!
2 April 2018
The Nullarbor :Part 2
We headed out on day two of our Nullarbor adventure towards the 90 mile straight. Cruise control was getting a workout, as we rolled along the seemingly endless tarmac toward Caiguna for our lunch stop to finish the 146.6km. We drove over what would be the first of three RFDS landing strips. After our first $1.87 per litre diesel fill up in Cocklebiddy we traversed yet more kilometres before reaching the Madura Pass. What an unexpected highlight! From the lookout, the Madura plains sprawled out reminiscent of the Serengeti. Silver scrub bushes interspersed with the odd wirey dark green tree. Half expected a lion to take down a wilderbeast! Our nightstop free camp was not far from here at the Moodini Bluff rest area complete with palatial drop toilets. 😁 A nice well protected spot none the less. The Ziggy BBQ had its first appearance with a nice roast chicken & veggies for dinner. We finished the day 45mins ahead of WST with the next 45mins to come at the border.
1 April 2018
The Nullarbor : Fraser Range Station
We left an overcast Kalgoorlie to commence our journey across the Nullarbor. Visiting Kambalda, we drove up to Red Hill lookout to view the expanses of the salt lake, Lake Lefroy. Arrived in Norseman for lunch, where the kids mounted the trusty steed "Norseman" who unearthed a piece of gold bearing quartz which led to the founding of the town. An easy drive after lunch to Fraser Range Station where we set up camp for the night. A quick walk around the property revealed a few wallabies, emus, a baby camel called Mr Squiggles and a calf called Bozo. A nice view from the water tank lookout across the Station, followed by a few drinkies overlooking Fraser Range.
31 March 2018
Day 2 - Kalgoorlie Boulder
A nice warm day to start and you could feel the heat radiating from the rock beneath us. We left the caravan park and headed straight up historic Burt St to our first stop, The Super Pit. The enormity of the pit was simply staggering. The large haul trucks ($4M each) looked like matchbox cars as they snaked their way down the side of the pit. Each truck can carry 240 tonne and it takes around 7 trucks to recover just 0.5kg of gold. Leaving the Super Pit, we headed to Hannan's Tourist Mine to try our luck at some panning of our own. Alana had success of sorts with a tiny spec or two, however on passing the spec to Adam's finger, it blew away in the wind, such was the significance of the find. 😉 Following a seat in a haul truck of our own, we decided the heat was getting to us and time for lunch. Cue the Exchange Hotel with an ice cold beer and steak sangers on the menu. Finally, we saw our old mate Paddy Hannan for a refill of water bottles to end the day.
30 March 2018
Day 1 - Perth to Kalgoorlie
We succesfully made it out of the driveway and on to the Great Eastern Hwy on our way to Kalgoorlie. After Mundaring, the kids enjoyed following C.Y. O' Connor's "Golden Pipeline" as we traversed the countryside. Stopping at Meckering to see the site of the 1968 earthquake we viewed the Salisbury Homestead still standing (or not!). Merredin provided our lunch stop with a few artistic silos to view on the way out of town. The road from Southern Cross to Coolgardie was particularly bad, but we received a nice little tow from a few road trains. Our night stop in Kalgoorlie included Good Friday dinner courtesy of Shark Tails and a nice dumping of rain from midnight onwards. Adam very much enjoyed a bit of "awning maintenance" at 2.30AM!! Little did we think our first night of rain would be in Kalgoorlie!!