Road trip

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.

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

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

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

Ten of the Fifty Toes gives a 5 minute trip summary (#2)

Time for H to give her quick recap on trip highlights:

What were your three favourite places and why?”

  1. “Trial Harbour on the West coast of Tasmania was my favourite place because I love the endangered Tasmanian Devils and this was where I saw one. I was sleeping when it tried to raid our rubbish in the campsite and Dad woke me up. They are quite rare and this was the only wild one we saw. Luckily it was a healthy one.”
  2. “The Whale sharks can be found on the Ningaloo Reef in WA. Swimming with these huge fish was my best experience of the trip as they are not very common and they are huge! The girls in the crew were pretty cool too and I’m hoping to go back on work experience one day with them”
  3. “The campsite at Cape Le grand near Esperance in WA was my other favourite place. The people there were lovely and lots of kids to play with….”
  4. “Oh and don’t forget the chocolate factory in Margaret River – all those yummy free samples and the chocolate fondue”
  5. “And winning the watermelon eating contest at the Port Lincoln Tunarama festival……”
  6. “And trying to learn the traditional dances with the indigenous clans at the Garma festival in Arnhemland”
“What was the best thing you took on the trip?”
“My diary because I used it to stick brochures in of every place we visited. I can now look back through it and remember all the places that Mum and Dad have forgotten about”
“What did you miss most, or just couldn’t take with you?”
“I missed my toys, bike and scooter. We only had limited storage space and so took very little from home. We borrowed friends bikes along the way. I also missed my school friends. We had a spare bunk bed in the trailer but not enough seats in the car to take a friend.” Editors note – although we had a 7 seater Pajero the back seat was removed for extra storage space
“Would you do it again?”
“Definitely”
“How did schooling on the road go?”
“It went pretty well even though it was very hard with all the distractions. Some of the projects were really enjoyable “
Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ten of the Fifty Toes gives a 5 minute trip summary (#1)

Time for a few short interviews with the family to reflect on the trip. Starting with the kids, X up first. If anyone wants to ask a question please send a reply to the blog and it will be added.

“What were your three favourite places and why?”

  1. “Cape Le Grand National Park, WA. Our campground at Cape Le Grand was full of kids all the time we were there, and the road was safe and great for cycling around. The beach was close and the beautiful white sand and small waves made it perfect for swimming. At the end of the beach were great rocks to fish from, though we didn’t catch much. I liked the fact that there were plenty of snakes around. We found highly venomous Dugites, harmless pythons, and three other species, all around the campground. Great to watch and keep a safe distance.”
  2. “Swimming with Whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef. We took a boat from Exmouth to see the largest fish in the ocean. Our crew were fantastic, very knowledgeable about the whale sharks but also friendly and very helpful to the swimmers as we had fairly rough weather. We swam right alongside the huge fish, the largest was almost 8m long. It was very exciting.”
  3. “Gem hunting was a favourite activity we did at several places. I love to fossick and being able to dig up your own gemstones was particularly exciting as you never know what you may find. It is an addictive hobby. We found garnets on the Plenty Highway in NT, Opals in Coober Pedy in SA, sapphires near Sapphire in QLD, and thunder eggs at Mount Hay, QLD.”
“What was the best thing you took on the trip?”
“My dad gave us a pocket knife at the start of the trip and I used it until it finally broke and I was given a new one for my birthday. I used it often for whittling wood, making cubbies, cutting fishing line, and many other things. It was so useful that Dad even borrowed it quite often.”
“What did you miss most, or just couldn’t take with you?”
“I would have liked to take more books on the wildlife and gems and rocks but we only had one drawer each in the camper trailer to put everything in. More books would have meant less storage for clothes and fossicking finds!”
“Would you do it again?”
“Yes. I have already asked Dad to take me back on the road for a fossicking trip to find gemstones. Dad wants me to be a bit bigger and stronger so I can do my fair share of the digging”
“How did schooling on the road go?”
“We enrolled in Sydney Distance Education Primary School (SDEPS). Mum and Dad were our supervisors. We had to send our work back every few weeks. It was hard to finish so much work every two weeks, especially when other kids were around playing, or if there was a great new place to explore”
Categories: Adventure, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Road trip | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

And so it ends….for now

I knew that once we crossed the border into NSW again psychologically everyone would be thinking of home, and once you do that travelling it’s hard to keep going. Across the border Amanda and I knew we could just drive home in a day, though neither of us aired it openly. We had had to kill a week getting home on a trip that would normally be done in a day. We had deliberately tried to take our minds off it by visiting people and getting to some more out of the way places but with a couple of days left it was increasingly hard to plan.

We had planned to visit Barrington Tops but some navigation errors saw us turning off towards Tom Creek, shortly after Mt Seaview, and before we knew it we were switch-backing our way, in 2WD, up a narrow unsealed road, over 1000m again. Once again the road less travelled rewarded us with magnificent views of remote farmland and national park forest but it wasn’t in the plan. At the end of the day we stopped overnight in Barrington, kicked a footie around to let off some steam and got to bed early.

Over 13 months since we had left Sydney, and 56,000km later we realised the next morning that it was time…..we couldn’t delay it any more, and with that we waved goodbye to the outback and the countryside and crawled back into the slow traffic that congests Sydney’s streets every day.

Arriving home again was a bittersweet experience. I knew Amanda needed to get back to see her family, and a fair bit of maintenance was required on the car and belongings, but it also meant the dream was over. The kids needed to invest some time re-acquainting with school friends too, so we arranged for them to attend the last two weeks.

Sydney Distance Education Primary School were fantastic with their support, understanding and flexibility with the teaching as we travelled. Often having no telephone reception for days, even weeks, created challenges but the kids teachers were always willing to adapt to our needs and this was appreciated. It wasn’t always easy as we found being on the move so often meant we didn’t get into a daily routine. Lack of that discipline made it more challenging for us and the kids.

Our Camprite trailer was a workhorse that never faltered, and with the support we got from Perth for a few minor things, on a couple of occasions, it was one less thing to worry about. Having a trailer that can be set-up and dismantled easily in under 5 minutes (I timed it) is great, particularly in adverse weather, and being able to house 2 adults and up to 4 kids in bunks off the ground (no worrying about snakes or crocs required) is something few camper trailers can provide.

The Mitsubishi Pajero did us proud too, never shying from its job to get us into remote and rough terrain, as far off the beaten track as I dared. The scratched and dented paintwork is testament to this and if anyone knows how to get rid of bulldust please let us know as even the interior has a red tint throughout.

Everyone asks “What was the favourite place?” so I might get Fifty Toes Walkabout members to answer the obvious questions in a few more blogs to follow – just in case you’re wondering, and if anyone has a burning question or two let me know and I’ll include them. Hope you enjoy the quick recap of some of the photos from some of the great places we visited.

Back home we can now start planning for the next trip, whilst looking for work, and who knows where that might be!

Categories: Adventure, australia, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Road trip, Sydney, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

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