Big Lap

A rubbish experience for the kids

Fifty Toes Walkabout kids love their nature but in some of the most remote places we visited they were horrified to find, what should have been pristine beaches, covered in rubbish. The rubbish primarily consisted of man-made plastics, ranging from thongs, toothbrushes, bottles and their caps, to cigarette lighters and the much more sinister ghost fishing nets. These nets float freely through the oceans, either dumped or lost by trawlers, often stretching for hundreds of metres, even kilometres sometimes. They catch anything above a certain size that comes in their path. When they finally wash ashore they cover the rocks like vast blankets.

Much of the debris we found originated from Asia or from passing ships, brought to our shores by prevailing winds.

Amongst the piles of rubbish it was not unusual to find dead animals, particularly birds and turtles that had either consumed too much plastic (as it is often mistaken for food in the water), or become entangled in ghost nets. Most upsetting was the discovery of a recently dead dolphin on one beach.

We like to leave places in a better state than when we arrived and the kids decided that they wanted to clean up the beaches. In Cape York obliging Parks and Wildlife rangers provided us with bags and within 30 minutes we had filled more than six sacks (as much as we could carry), with much more remaining. The same beach had had many tonnes of rubbish removed by a team only a couple of months prior.

In Cape Arnhem there was so much we decided to target specific items on 3 beaches. The first day yielded over 100 thongs, then the next day 331 cigarette lighters, again just the tip of the iceberg.

The kids had so many questions about the origins of the rubbish that it stimulated some interesting discussion, and hopefully it has made them more aware of the consequences of using “throwaway” plastics everyday. You can teach that in a classroom but the impact of hand-on experience is far greater.

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Categories: 4WD, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Kids Travel, Offroad | Tags: | 1 Comment

Eucla – Jetty and Telegraph Station

The modern day settlement of Eucla lies half way across the Nullarbor Desert, 11km from the border of WA and SA. a few kilometers away, below the escarpment, advancing sand dunes have marched on the old telegraph station. Not far beyond, the remnants of a sturdy wooden jetty on the desolate beach, final fragments of a port established in the 1870’s, cling to their structure. The telegraph line followed shortly after in the same decade and the settlement became an important repeater station on the line between Albany and Adelaide.

Ironically, it was a plague of introduced rabbits in the 1890’s that ate all vegetation that led to destabilisation of the dunes that went on to engulf the settlement, that was relocated  to the nearby escarpment.

 

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , | 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

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

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

Coloured Sands

Sands from our trip

Sands from our trip

I found a bucket full of zip-lock bags in the garage at the weekend. Each bag was carefully filled with coloured sands from our trip.

The kids were excited to see them resurface, many of which had been squirreled into recesses in the trailer for some time. As we each only had limited space all got quite skillful at determining what they wanted to keep, and if required, tough decisions would be made to keep something or substitute it for a new arrival. Very precious finds would also be posted home every now and again!

The sands had made it and with some suitable jars a very attractive display resulted.

There is a saying that if you take sand or soil from a place you will be destined to return one day. Maybe that’s why so much came back with us!

Categories: Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: | 6 Comments

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

Ten of the Fifty Toes gives a 5 minute trip summary (#5) – Photographer and fisherman’s view

OK so this is a bit out of order but number 4 will follow next week when I get the youngest to provide input

What were your three favourite places and why?”

  1. “Cape York has to be on the list. Six weeks on the Cape was enough to have a good look around but we still didn’t see everything. The rugged tracks, and river crossings especially along the Old Telegraph Track were a fun challenge. The National Parks were beautiful and uncrowded and full of beautiful wildlife, especially the birds. For me the fishing here was highlight of the whole trip, partly because it was where the barramundi finally started getting caught but there were plenty of fish even in the dry season. The variety of habitat throughout the Cape continued right until the very tip at Pajinka. Beautiful beaches and a place where you can escape the crowds without too much difficulty”
  2. “Arnhemland impressed me from several angles. Firstly the sheer rugged and raw natural feel to it. On both our sorties into the region it was heartening to see rich aboriginal culture still thriving here and whilst we only had limited contact with people from the communities, those brief encounters were rich and very positive experiences. Watching my daughter being led to dance the Emu dance on the main arena by a local indigenous girl at the Garma festival was gorgeous. Even better was the fact that she was the first up and participated with quite a few dances. The camping was controlled by a permit system that works well despite the paperwork required to obtain permits.”
  3. “The Kimberley region in WA again provided a huge diversity of experience. Challenging driving on extremely corrugated dirt roads, particularly north of the Gibb River road, cultural glimpses into the past through some magnificent rock art sites, and uniquely refreshing waterfalls and gorges scattered through the region. The flora and fauna too is very different, the boab trees being the most obvious residents with their massively bloated trunks and relatively short spindly, outstretched branches. This was where we first encountered crocodiles in numbers, both fresh and saltwater ones.”
  4. Tasmania and Cape Levique would be very close behind these, places where we didn’t spend long enough and could easily revisit
“What was the best thing you took on the trip?”
“Probably my camera to allow me to capture glimpses that will forever remind us of the trip. Things like the air compressor and recovery tracks were essentials that we couldn’t have done without, given some of the places we visited. It was really important to make sure we could cope with any scenario as we were often travelling on our own”
“What did you miss most, or just couldn’t take with you?”
“I missed my Scuba gear the most. Given we spent a large part of the trip close to the ocean it was hard to go past places and not be able to dive. Unfortunately with the amount of gear I take diving it would have meant leaving all of the kids behind! A kayak or canoe would have served us well especially in the croc free areas. We had racks for them but just shied away from buying them. Perhaps next time I will do a lap dedicated to fishing and diving.
We didn’t physically have space to take a chainsaw, and in the end I left our axe behind to reduce weight. We coped fine without even with trees across roads – there are always other options available to you.”
“Would you do it again?”
“Yes. Probably in a different approach. I’d like to spend 1-2 months in a specific area to dig deeper and explore areas in more detail. Being on a strict budget we couldn’t do everything we wanted this time and a shorter trip would be easier to budget and plan for. Our trip was what I have christened “the reconnaissance trip” getting an idea of what is out there. With so much to see we’d have to spend years to see it all”
“How did schooling on the road go?”
“We used Sydney Distance Education Primary School. We chose not to use iPads as a large proportion of the time we had no, or limited, access to wifi or even telephone coverage. Packages of work were sent to our choice of destination (usually a post office) regularly then we would post back every fortnight. Teachers were always available for chats with the kids for those rare occasions we did have coverage. A daily routine was not possible due to the ad-hoc nature of our travelling, with days of cramming often engaged when a suitable location was found. That said we did focus on teaching times tables whilst driving along. The main challenge was keeping the kids motivated to complete assignments, particularly when other kids could be seen running around a camp, or there was a new place to explore”
Categories: australia, Big Lap, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Ten of the Fifty Toes gives a 5 minute trip summary (#3) – Navigator’s perspective

What were your three favourite places and why?”

  1. “Hot Springs anywhere, Zebedee Springs in El Questro (WA) , Bitter Springs near Mataranka(NT), Katherine Hot Springs(NT) and Berry Hot Springs (NT), as I hate cold water and I could spend hours in these after a hot dusty drive”
  2. “Cape Range National Park because the campsite was beautifully located just above the beach on the Ningaloo Reef. The snorkelling was excellent there and the Whale Shark excursion was just offshore (though departing from Exmouth) and that was a bucket list trip. The experience with Cyclone Quang added some excitement here too.”
  3. “Broome and Cape Levique. The town of Broome surprised me with great markets and our arrival coincided with the staircase to the moon on Roebuck Bay that we saw with good friends. Fishing off the jetty was impressive to watch – seeing people catch large fish and sharks circling below. Goombaragin in Cape Levique was a great spot run by Kathleen a local indigenous lady who showed us bush tucker, how to make clapping sticks, and with her husband John shared many stories around the evening fireplace. We knew two other families with kids there so a great time was had by all. The colour of the cliffs were a gorgeous red, and we loved Middle Lagoon, a trip up to One Arm Point and the inaugural Ardi Festival.”
“What was the best thing you took on the trip?”
“My iPhone was a very useful tool doubling as camera, source of knowledge for apps such as WikiCamps that was used a lot, weather forecasts, and emails”
“What did you miss most, or just couldn’t take with you?”
“I missed all my luxuries from home, like dishwasher, washing machine (the Fifty Toes Walkabout home-made patented model just didn’t cut it) and having a bit more space would have been nice. Apart from this I really missed a regular shower. We were carrying 160 litres of water in the trailer and many of the places we visited were very dry so a shower was not a luxury we could afford. Everyone else jumped in the rivers, lakes and sea but it wasn’t very often warm enough for me”
“Would you do it again?”
“Maybe in different circumstances as the kids schooling complicated things and wasn’t easy. Maybe when they have left home or are self-sufficient that they can stay at home”
“How did schooling on the road go?”
“Difficult. We have high expectations of our kids and they just wanted to finish their work as quickly as possible without putting 100 percent effort in. A lot of friction resulted when quality control was applied and we made them redo sloppy work. Hannah had to do her Naplan test at a roadside stop with dogs sniffing around her legs, far from ideal. Due to a lack of wifi for much of the time we couldn’t access much of the online content available to us. The libraries however were an awesome resource to use when we found them.”
Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Photography, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: | 1 Comment

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