Animal Action

“Road Trip Activities #3 – Challenges”

Just before we took off, our friends got equally excited with our plans and started giving us challenges to do. The straight forward ones were to visit the compass points of the mainland, swim in the coldest water (Lake St.Clair), climb the highest mountain, etc. Then the kids started getting more from their friends, things like catch a fish in every state, spotting different animals (e.g. Tassie Devils), learning to tie different knots, sending pictures of patting a safe native animal, and the list went on.

It gave them something to focus on, kept them in touch with their school friends back home, and made them think about where they were at any time, adding to their education, as well as ticking off the lists.

What does everyone else out there do to keep the kids occupied and interested as you move around?

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Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Challenges, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Leave a comment

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.

 

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

Australian Animal Roadsigns

A fun game to distract the kids, on long drives, is to spot new animal road signs. There are loads of them out there, but my favourite was in the Daintree National Park, where the Cassowary population is under threat from local traffic. Speed humps have been installed everywhere to reduce car speed, and one particular sign advertised the presence of speed humps and cassowaries. With great humour an artist labelled the sign with “Before” and “After”, the latter being the hump drawn to look like a Cassowary that was hit by a car, and the comment to “Slowdown, Chill out, not Flat out”. Look through the gallery to find it.

We’d love to see any other animal road signs photos you may have encountered on your travels – send them with a comment on where you saw them.

Categories: Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | 2 Comments

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

Werrikimbe National Park, NSW

Shortly after leaving Armidale we chanced upon a sign to the grave of Nat Buchanan who died at the age of 72 in 1901. Like we did, you are probably wondering who Nat Buchanan is, but we discovered that after arriving in Australia from Ireland in 1837, he went on to create an unrivalled reputation droving cattle. The plaque next to the grave explained all his feats and having visited some of the areas he was droving we could well appreciate the achievement.

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Apsley Falls, Oxley Wild Rivers NP

Apsley Falls, Oxley Wild Rivers NP

Driving further along the road in the Northern Tablelands another sign triggered me to turn off to the Apsley Falls. I had read about these and also was keen to see what the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park had to offer. Two sets of falls plunge some 60m into the precipitous Apsley gorge and a series of lookouts offer some amazing vantage points to watch. The water levels were low and the river disappears beneath rubble at one point re-emerging around the next bend in the gorge.

Mooraback camp is a quiet oasis that lies in Werrikimbe National Park, and adjacent to the Oxley River National Park. Classified as a Gondwanaland forest, it is the remnant of forest from the supercontinent of the same name that split into the continents that we know today. The homestead was handed over to the National Parks in 1975 and is now critical habitat to a number of endangered plants and animals, including the River Hastings mouse. This rodent was believed extinct for over 100 years until rediscovered here in the 1980s.

Reaching an altitude of up to 1200m on the drive up it was quiet a refreshing change, from the mid 30 degrees of the previous day, as temperatures dropped to a brisk 16 degrees.

Driving into the clouds we were regularly sprinkled with fine drizzle. On arrival we had choice of the 5 sites, all recently mowed luscious green patches dispersed amongst the trees. A fire-pit and supply of wood offered us probably the last opportunity to have a campfire on this adventure. As daylight vanished and everyone else disappeared into bed the forest suddenly lit up with tiny flashing lights, and for 30 minutes a display of fire flies flitted gracefully between the trees in the forest in pursuit of one another. Hannah was still awake and came to watch this magical finale to our trip with me.

From the camp there are two easy walks, one takes you through a number of habitats in the forest behind. This 15 minute walk showcased many local birds, crimson and eastern rosellas, white-eared honeyeaters, golden whistlers, rufous fantails, red-browed finches, fairy-wrens, silver-eyes, and treecreepers.

The second walk is a 5km walk that takes you around the headwaters of the Hastings river that runs towards Port Macquarie, where it finally meets the Pacific Ocean. The streams and pools abound with platypus and Xavier and I were fortunate to see a number of them in the late afternoon.

The hillsides up in this NSW alpine region abound with colour at the moment and we had fun spotting many different spring flowers, including a few different orchids. When the clouds finally cleared and the sun emerged this place was a truly tranquil gem and worth driving the additional kilometres from the main road to visit.

One last night, and time for a final episode of the “bushman’s TV”. Each episode lasts as long as your wood supply, and though often similar, are equally riveting for young and old with every viewing. The last of the kid’s houses built from firewood were sacrificed, another display from the fire flies and it was time to farewell this remote spot.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, New South Wales, NSW, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Postcard from Xavier

Xavier's journal

Xavier’s journal

Busy day in Townsville!

We are dropping the dirty car off for a major service to get fixed. We dropped the car off and are in a pick-up car taking us to the fantastic Reef HQ. As we are paying we look at the baby saltwater crocodile (he’s so cute). Then we slowly stroll into the interesting dive show where they talk about animals, then goes to give cuddles, a tiny nurse shark, a big hug.

Then we keep walking through the aquarium when we notice the show at the Discovery Lagoon where we got to touch a rhinoceros seastar. It was bumpy. Then they showed us where its eye was. On its arms there is a tiny red dot that’s its eye.

After we watched the predator feeding and the coral exhibit full of fish.

Treeny the green turtle got a very good feed and even came a metre away from the tunnel.

Overall I recommend going to Reef HQ because I loved it.

 

 

Categories: Animal Action, australia, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Postcard from Oscar

Oscars journal

Oscars journal

We dropped the car off for a service (in Townsville – editors note) then walked around town until we arrived at Reef HQ. As we walked in and paid we looked at a coupe of tanks with fish, saltwater crock and mud crab.

Then we walked into the aquarium, then we sat down and watched the dive show with Dyan. She talked about a green sea turtle called Treeny. Then she swam to go and give Cuddles, the tawny nurse shark, a big hug.

Then we went through the underwater tunnel. Then we walked to the Discovery Lagoon. There are starfish you can touch, then they fed a stingray, then we walked to the predator feeding. They feed all the fish, sharks and turtles. They feed them big fish heads, prawns, and little fish.

Then we went to a turtle hospital where they help turtles.

Categories: Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Big Lap, Car, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Queensland, Road trip, School, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Mission Beach

Cassowary

A Cassowary preens itself in the afternoon sunlight

Back to the coast we headed, taking a less precipitous road, descending 900m again towards Innisfail, then south to Mission Beach, driving past Djiru National Park before entering the quaint tourist village. The council operated caravan park sits behind the beach and offers powered sites for next to nothing so we settled in for a few days. We needed to get some schoolwork done with the kids, and the nearby library beckoned.

IMG_0137The National Park appeared to offer much better walking tracks than in Cape Tribulation so we set off initially on a short walk at Lacey Creek. The narrow path snakes through the thick forest, criss-crossing the creek and a few tell-tale cassowary droppings littered the track but none were spotted. I got mesmerised for 20 minutes watching a tree snake exploring the forest, systematically checking branches for food.

We walked the 3.2km Dreaming Trail, witnessed more cassowary droppings, oversized mounds of semi digested seeds, littering the path, but still no sightings. Many of the seeds were already germinating proving how effective the bird is as a jungle gardener.

With interest waning in the rain only Xavier and I continued from this track onto the 6km Musgravea track to Licuala. There was so much evidence of cassowaries that we were very optimistic about seeing one and sure enough 3km in a beautiful big specimen stood preening itself in the sunlight in the middle of the track. We carefully approached to about 20m, as these birds can be dangerous, particularly if protecting their chicks, but at this point it ducked into the undergrowth never to be seen again. A further 50m on and we encountered an echidna, an animal that we haven’t seen for ages.

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Back at camp the kids were very excited to find a few very large and carefully compiled humpys on the beach, spending plenty of time hanging out in them with other kids. It was good for them to find lots of kids around their age that they could let some steam off with.

The adjacent park was lined with rather attractive palms with clumps of fruit of different colours hanging below the leaves and Amanda got particularly excited when she found out there were markets on whilst we were there. She returned with bags of local produce, including monster bananas a bargain at 14 for a dollar! Oscar scored himself a huge second hand tackle box for 4 dollars, Hannah headed for the pineapple slushie stall, and Xavier spent time at the gemstone stall. He later returned with his collection to show the man.

The laid-back feeling around Mission Beach was very appealing but the dreary weather that had commenced once we hit the rainforest, continued. The wind and rain prevented us from visiting nearby Dunk Island but it was still very relaxing and the kids completed a big chunk of work for school. The time to leave came too soon

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Urandangie and beyond Mount Isa

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Just before the Plenty Highway ends and becomes the Donohue Highway past the Queensland border, we turned left, at Tobermory. For the next 70km or so of unsealed dirt there were regular signs promoting the Urandangi pub. Not that we needed to be tempted but the only pub between Alice Springs and Mt Isa was an offer too good to refuse. Still the humorous signs kept coming at regular intervals with things like “Hot Dusty Road, Ice Cold Beer”, and “Skippy’s Retirement Home”, many on recycled car bonnets. As we approached the town of Urandangie, the car bonnets announced the river crossings and features of the area, “Sally’s Crossing”. “Wallace Rockhole”, “Bill’s Crossing”, “Dinner Camp”, and many more.

At the end of the hot day we pulled up at the pub. To my delight there was a tap of Guinness, but this was just another cruel joke because in a town where the population is 7 adults the demand is obviously not sufficient to justify keg beer. As we quaffed our drinks the publican brought out two loaves of bread for the kids to feed the horses. When they returned she led us all out through the pub, through her lounge and into the backyard where a mob of baby joeys pottered around. One particularly friendly one, Chat, who loved a scratch and a cuddle came up to the kids and grabbed them in a tight hold, awaiting a scratch under the neck. He became quite interested in my beard, grabbing it in both paws before landing a kiss on my lips before I could escape.

The town was established in 1885 and became a popular stop for drovers on the Georgina Stock route between Camooweal and Dajarra. Even Chinese migrants en route for goldfields stayed and worked here. The publican, Pam, provided us with an interesting summary of the history which provides a good read around the campfire.

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We were then directed back down to the campsites near the river and established ourselves at Wallace Rockhole, where the pools of water looked promising to catch dinner. Unfortunately the only yabby we caught was returned unharmed as it would have only provided a snack for one!

The kids did find an inland python sitting on the rocks below the camp. Another beautiful starry night around the campfire was followed by a morning threatening rain. Dark clouds gathered from the West and a rainbow appeared nearby, but as we headed north towards Mt Isa we left it behind. A cattle muster crossing the road provided a temporary diversion from the unsealed monotony of driving.

Muster on the road

Muster on the road

Mustering in progress

Mustering in progress

We were greeted by a huge power plant at Mt Isa, and knowing the Queensland National Parks have online bookings we thought it prudent to book a place at Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill). After a lengthy process, more painful than pulling a tooth we found there was only one site we could book for three consecutive nights. Simon booked three different tent sites and we agreed to sort it out on arrival. Funnily enough we never seem to stop long in the big towns to explore and as soon as we have refuelled, restocked supplies we tend to head out as quickly as we can.

With the park 390km away we found a beautiful free camp by the O’Shaughnessy river on the way, arrived late in the afternoon for a quick refreshing dip, another campfire and marshmallows for the kids and the melodic bubbling of the river the next to the camp very quickly helped everyone fall asleep very quickly after another long day’s driving.

O'Shaughnessy river cascades and crossing

O’Shaughnessy river cascades and crossing

Categories: Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Photography, Queensland, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Devils Marbles (Karlu Karlu)

It is a long drive from Mataranka to Alice Springs, with not much in between, and the major town, Tennant Creek, by all accounts is not worth staying in. We chose to ease ourselves into the cooler climate gently with two stops before Alice Springs. The first day we made a stop in Daly Waters to see the Stuart’s Tree, basically a tree stump with a large “S” engraved in the trunk (clearly visible if you squint both eyes and turn your neck at 45 degrees), supposedly engraved by John McDouall Stuart’s party on his third attempt to reach Darwin from the south in 1861/2. Then we had a quick look at the Daly Waters pub. Every inch of the walls and ceiling is adorned with caps, police badges, bras, foreign currency notes, rugby shorts, and much more. A cold beer would have been welcome but we still had more driving to do.

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Very close to the town of Elliot, we stopped for the night at a magnificent birding spot known as Longreach billabong. This long waterhole allowed waterfront camping and as we sat there stately jabiru storks, spoonbills, and brolgas strutted along the water’s edge. Meanwhile, darters sunned themselves with wings outspread, and rainbow bee-eaters scanned the sky for their next meal while sitting on dead branches.

The sunset was one of the best we have seen on the trip and our fellow travellers from home, Joel and Abelia “Our Roaming Home” finally caught up with us to exchange stories around a campfire. A great finish to the day.

Up early the next day, after a chilly night, we set off for Kunjarra (The Pebbles) a sacred women’s site just north of Tennant Creek. The site itself offered little more than a chance to stretch our legs and stroll along a short path through a hillside of small rocks, so we didn’t stop long.

Just beyond Tennant Creek is another hillside covered in rocks, but Karlu Karlu, or the Devils Marbles are more impressive and worthy of a stopover. The campsite was very popular (full) but we squeezed in a spot and set off to explore before the sun went down. We all had a lot of fun exploring the rocks, climbing all over them, and Xavier read us the Dreaming stories of the Devil Man, Arrange who spat on the ground, where it turned into the granite boulders that now litter the surrounding landscape. Plenty of photo opportunities kept me busy, even early the next morning before we left.

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

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