Journey Narrative

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.

 

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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

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

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

Return to Noosa

Almost a year after we last left Noosa with heavy hearts the promise of a joyous family occasion saw us departing Sydney in the early hours and heading north for my cousin’s wedding. The plan was simple – drive the 1,060km up the coast in the first day, the kids sleeping for a good 4 hours before dawn, a few stops to stretch legs, swap drivers, grab a quick snack, five nights in three locations then return more sedately via the inland road, taking two days, and allowing time to fossick for sapphires in gem country.

Our first stop was the relative luxury of the Noosa Islander resort and catching up with cousins and their families, who are usually scattered around the globe. The kids took over the pools and spas and we made the obligatory walk out to Hells Gate in the National Park. Only minutes from the main street in Noosa the National Park always presents fantastic opportunities to see Australian wildlife at it’s best. Our British visitors were not disappointed witnessing dolphins swimming close to the shore, dozens of turtles, and even a pod of 4 humpback whales less than 100 metres from the shore. We indulged in the pleasant waters of one of the beaches then looked for Koalas in the Eucalypt forest of Tea Tree Bay.

A short ferry took us across the Noosa river to the North Shore where we enjoyed two days escaping the very popular triathlon and celebrating my cousins wedding. Lots of dancing and merriment – the chocolate fountain was a favourite with the kids and the day passed all too quickly.

We found a baby frogmouth on the ground and a call to Australia Zoo was made. A pick-up was suggested but we didn’t witness it.

Then as the week came to a close an invite to stay on a houseboat for a night changed our plans and we extended our stay a little longer. We fished, swam in the river, caught up with family for a little bit longer, and looked out for Richard Branson on his island in the river, Makepeace island. He wasn’t there!

A peaceful night on the boat, then home the next day – the extra night meant a long drive back in one day and no fossicking this time.

 

 

Categories: Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Fishing, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Location, QLD, Queensland, Road trip, Travel | Tags: , , | 2 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

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

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