Adventure

Road Trip Activities #1 – Birding

Big road trips with kids can be challenging, but when you plan to spend over a year on the road, that’s a lot of travelling. You know that you have to keep the kids occupied somehow or the relentless chants of “Are we there yet?” or “I’m bored” from the back seat are going to send you insane.

Our friends set us many challenges before we left, but an obvious one was to spot as many birds as we could given the plan was to travel as widely as time permitted.

Not being particularly knowledgeable I set an arbitrary target of spotting 200 species on the trip, and very soon the kids were trying to outdo one another with their observation skills. We had a field guide, but often a fleeting glimpse from a car window couldn’t be resolved flicking through the pages. Photographs were required – that’s where I came in, but that meant stopping the car to take them. Genius! All of a sudden the trip slowed down and it no longer became a rush from one place to the next. The pace slowed and we learnt how to relax and enjoy everything around us.

The birding did become a bit addictive I must say and those hard core birders we meet scoff at the 300+ total we have amassed on the confirmed sighting list. Nonetheless the kids learnt a lot in the process, to the stage where they could identify birds by the call, and even call them to us by imitating them.

Whether it was stumbling across a cassowary on a bushwalk near Mission Beach, watching flocks of Metallic Starlings flying in to roost at 5.15pm at Chilli Beach, or listening to Whistling Kites in NT, watching the birds has etched many memories from the trip and promises so many more in the future.

 

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Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Natural World, Photography, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Wollemi National Park

After weeks of rain and promise of a sunny weekend it seemed like everyone had made their minds up they were heading for the last camping trip before Winter. Coorongooba campground in Wollemi National Park beckoned and we headed off a day before the Easter break. The campground lies in the Capertee Valley, reputed to be the widest canyon on the world (not the deepest), approximately 135 km north west of Sydney, and is accessed from the village of Capertee.

The final 10-12km are covered across dirt road, through private property at one stage, leading through eucalypt forest onto a gently sloping grassy area, home in quieter times to a sizeable mob of kangaroos. We saw them on arrival but as the hordes started arriving they disappeared back into the solitude to be found in the forest.

The Capertee river runs below the campground, offering shallow pools for young kids to play in, and within a short walk deeper pools for the adults to swim in.

The campground was also punctuated with many wombat burrows too, and these animals waited until after most folk had retired at night before emerging to graze on the grassy areas. A bright moon helped spotting these creatures, though they could be heard quite clearly grazing close to the tents.

Simon (110AroundOz) took us  on a drive to the Ben Bullen 4WD track, a very picturesque drive that follows a ridge through the hillside, then into a narrowing canyon that requires a steep climb out across a rock face at Baal Bone Gap on the track. Photos don’t do it justice and we didn’t have the time to complete the track and were content to watch trail bikers flying up instead. A challenge for another time.

The trip coincided with Gemboree too, in nearby Lithgow, so we had an excursion to see one of the largest gem shows in the country, immersing ourselves in all things lapidary for a few hours.

This area has so much to offer, with some beautiful, highly accessible National Park campsites such as Newnes in the Wolgan Valley and Dunns Swamp to the north, as well as private camps like Turon Gates. Unfortunately, they are no secret and Easter holidays brought crowds that resulted in daily morning queues for the two toilets that were up to ten deep for several hours.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, National Park, Natural World, Offroad, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Taking the road less travelled…

Just another day’s driving in Arnhemland! It may be hard work at times, but the rewards are always found on the roads less travelled. At the end of this road was an empty campsite beside a beautiful river.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Travel, Travel Adventure | Leave a comment

Cape Levique

A magical peaceful place to pause, in a land of beauty, and rich in culture

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Explore, Explore Australia, Offroad, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, WA, West Australia | Leave a comment

Treachery Camp and Seal Rocks

Treachery Camp is a privately owned property a kilometre down an unsealed road from Seal Rocks. I think I’ve been going there for over 20 years now so the chance to have a quick weekend getaway was jumped at – a Dads and kids weekend.

Approximately 4 hours north of Sydney, Seal Rocks is a little village with caravan park, and general store, just north of the Myall Lakes National Park. Twenty years ago it was quite an adventure to get to but the improvements to the Pacific Highway in recent years, plus completion of a sealed road to Seal Rocks in the last two years have opened the area up to everyone.

Because of this the camp was busy, much busier than I was used to. We found a large spot near the billabong, in a forest of paperbark trees, which in prior years I would have avoided for an abundance of mosquitos. The billabong itself was barely a puddle left, and full of tiny fish, but the marks on the trunks of surrounding trees belied days when it was over 1m deep.

Camp went up, the boys went off exploring, the campfire started and Simo set a high standard with his curry for the first meal. The boys found sticks and the obligatory marshmallows over the campfire saw the night draw to a close.

First thing Nick braved the surf at Treachery beach but after breakfast we headed for the more protected waters at Seal Rocks where the boys swam, paddled and tired themselves out. A friendly Kookaburra visited my rear tyre and coughed up it’s equivalent of an owl pellet – full of beetle shells, leaving it on the tyre.

The big sand dune between camp and the beach is a huge draw card for the kids, as they run up and down in the heat of the sun. Some of them even got an introduction to sandboarding by a man who makes them, and soon enough the youngsters were speeding down the dunes extolling the virtues of the board.

The short walk to Treachery Head offers magnificent views back to Seal Rocks lighthouse, and Lighthouse beach to the north, with Treachery beach to the south. In calmer conditions in the past I have watched whales and dolphins playing in the waters just off the headland here.

I had heard dingos inhabited the area but had never seen one at Treachery before. Maybe it was because we were close to a place called Dingo Flats but we had a few visits by very wary dingos cruising past looking for an easy snack – none around six very active hungry boys! Then there was the obligatory snake sighting, a red-belly black snake cruised through the camp followed by the curious boys, careful to keep just enough distance to be safe.

And when they weren’t exploring the boys resorted to the irritating but totally harmless current craze of bottle flipping

I was surprised how crowded it was but even then our stay was pretty peaceful in the magical forest and all the mosquitos, it turned out, had moved to live in the toilet block! Still beautiful but changing fast.

As we drove back to the Pacific Highway we diverted the 5km to see the 400 year old Grandis tree, once claimed to be the tallest tree in NSW, but since exceeded by some remote tree back in the Blue Mountains.

 

 

Categories: Adventure, Australian Outback, Beach, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, New South Wales | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Thaipusam, Malaysia

Malaysia is a wonderfully culturally diverse, but rapidly changing country, with massive economic and infrastructural growth in recent years. It was really pleasant, therefore, a few years ago, to find a place where traditions still flourish, so close to Kuala Lumpur. Every year the local Hindu community celebrates a festival called Thaipusam, early in the calendar year, around the full moon.

The festival is a celebration to the Hindu Deity Lord Murugan and takes place in and around the Batu caves.

Devotees spend over two weeks fasting, drinking only sugar cane juice to cleanse their bodies, then on the day pay penance in ways that have to be seen to be believed. Kadavis, decorated structures bearing images of their deity are borne on shoulders, and Pal Kodum pots of milk are balanced on their heads as they walk from the nearby river towards the steps that lead to the caves. Many will pierce their cheeks and tongues with long metal skewers, whilst others hang limes and miniature Pal Kodum pots from their backs and chests, suspended on chains attached through their skin by fishhooks.

In the oppressive heat of the day the fasting and excitement takes its toll and family members are on hand when their eyes roll up and they stumble. Stools are placed under them to rest before stumbling forward towards the mighty staircase that leads into the lofty caves. The climb is long and claustrophobic, and once inside the eyes adjust n the darkness to see devotees dancing around fires and only then can the penance end and items removed from their bodies. As the tongue and cheek piercings are removed their trance-like state seems to evaporate, smiles are restored and the celebration continues.

Although it might appear somewhat confronting it was a fascinating and exciting day.

Categories: Adventure, Explore, Festival, Journey Narrative, Malaysia, Tradition | Tags: | Leave a comment

Turon Gates, NSW

A storm the previous day had blocked the entry with a fallen tree, but our arrival was well timed as we were told the men with chain saws had recently left. Approximately 3 hours from Sydney and just over half an hour north of Lithgow, a rather rugged track leads you to Turon Gates.

The dirt road takes you up into the wooded forests, down to the river, crosses wooden bridges and past wooden cottages before you reach the camping area. Horses, geese, kangaroos and chickens fill the grounds, and though we saw none freshly dug wombat burrows belied their presence and platypus inhabit the river.

Our travelling friends Simon, Hillary (110 around Oz) and family had organised another gathering, this time with the promise of horse-riding for the kids. Five vehicles and plenty of kids camped next to a river meant the adults could kick back and relax in front of a roaring campfire. Simon very quickly set up a spit over the fire and we left the pork turning to climb the nearby Devils Climb, a steep path up to the ridge behind the valley, commanding views either side of the ridge. With the peak conquered and a healthy appetite, a dinner of spit roast pork and potato bake was very welcome. The riverbank was searched by the kids and a crossing was attempted but the cold rushing waters repelled their best efforts.

A hearty bacon and egg breakfast the following morning set the kids up well for their riding and some very tired kids quickly fell asleep on the return journey. We’ll be going back again for sure, in fishing season, and in summer when it’s warm enough to swim.

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Discover Australia, Explore Australia | Tags: | Leave a comment

Camping at Coolenden

Our friends Simon, Hilary and daughters (110 Around Oz) invited us for a camping trip down south of Sydney for the weekend. Having been stationery in Sydney for what seems like an eternity Xavier and I jumped at the opportunity to escape to the bush. An early start saw us heading south with minimal traffic, and within 3 hours we had headed inland from Nowra for the last few kilometres to Coolenden. The property is privately owned and given the recent chills of winter there were very few campers there.

Xavier and I checked out the Shoalhaven river that snakes around the perimeter of the property. Fast flowing and quite deep it is popular with kayakers and anglers alike, but way too cold at this time of year for a dip let alone a paddle.

Without the trusty Camprite trailer we had resorted to the other extreme, a tiny two-man tent, three poles that can be put up in a couple of minutes.

The weather gods were kind, and once the glowing sun sank behind the trees a roaring campfire replaced the warmth. With foil covered spuds in the coals, a pot of chili over the top, and the first bottle of red open the night was set.

The morning was overcast, threatening rain so Simon suggested we go for a drive. We packed up, and watched Satin Bower birds hopping around as we finished our breakfast.

As we turned off the dirt road onto Mintbush track and viewed a drop into what appeared to be a mud-bath I suddenly realised this wasn’t the Sunday drive I was expecting and I probably hadn’t prepared as well as I might have. Descending through the mud was fine but when Simon explained we’d return the same way I was left wishing I’d checked the winch was working ok. Dozens of dirtbikes ploughed their way around us as we negotiated the increasingly rocky descent. We negotiated the creek crossing then turned around before the track becomes known as Monkey Gum. With one hairy moment where I found myself leaning against the window to ensure enough wheels stayed in contact with road (two is usually enough to feel ok) the return was slow and steady, picking the path through rocks and washouts. The final mudbath exit proved easier than expected too. Two “souped up” cars made it look harder by getting temporarily bogged, and some aerial antics that must have hurt their undercarriage but we all exited gracefully and headed back for lunch and the return home. A very short but enjoyable weekend escape.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Flashback to Cape Levique

As the weather deteriorates here in Sydney, with the arrival of winter imminent, our thoughts returned to those warmer places we visited last year as the temperatures started dropping. One of our favourites was a small eco-resort called Goombaragin, where we camped for a few days with two other families we had met on the road. Our hosts Cathy and John were very welcoming, showing us some of the local ways and putting on a communal campfire in the evenings for everyone. The area is magnificent to explore, and it is even safe to swim here from the beach. Heed the crocodile signs in this area though, particularly around the rivers and mangroves. It’s a rugged road from Broome but still relatively accessible if you drive carefully.

Look out for the Ardi festival around June, when many local artists from across the peninsula display their talents.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Natural World, Offroad, Photography, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, WA, West Australia | Tags: , | 2 Comments

The most junior Ten of the Fifty Toes gives his 5 minute trip summary (#4)

What were your three favourite places and why?”

  1. “Twelve Mile Lagoon in Lakefield National Park, Queensland because this was where I caught my first barramundi on my own. Dad helped me pull it up the bank but I caught it myself. It was 60cm long and tasted delicious”
  2. “Lake Wabby in Fraser Island, Queensland. We could run down steep dunes into the deep water and the water was lovely and warm. It was raining but I didn’t want to leave”
  3. “Swimming with Whale Sharks in Exmouth. I was a little bit scared of swimming in deep water at first, but when I finally jumped in I couldn’t believe how big and beautiful the whale shark was. They are the biggest fish in the oceans. People think they are whales because of their size but they are harmless giants that only eat plankton”
“What was the best thing you took on the trip?”
“Probably my fishing rod. If you don’t have any food you can use it to catch fish for dinner all you need is a lure or some bait. Unfortunately though I did break a couple of rods on the trip, one because a big bream snapped it, but I still landed the fish and ate it”
“What did you miss most, or just couldn’t take with you?”
“I missed Grandma while I was away. I really missed not having a bike, so we had to borrow other kid’s bikes off them whenever we could. There were lots of nice kids on the road who shared their bikes with us”
“Would you do it again?”
“Yes I would, because I would love to keep fishing and snorkelling on the reefs. I never get bored swimming or fishing.”
“How did schooling on the road go?”
“Great. I loved the work, especially the Maths books and I even got a Maths award from my teacher whilst on the road?” (Editors note – he had no problems finishing the work whenever he got it and was the model student. The other two were more of a challenge!)
Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Photos, Road trip | 3 Comments

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