27 February 2010


For those of you who suspect we are just travelling from pool to pool up here in Far North Queensland, you will be amused to hear that we spent a bit of time in the city yesterday at the.... pool. This is a special pool though, not just any old pool. It is the pool at the Esplanade, right on the water so that hopefully people won't feel like they are missing out with the fact that Cairns has no beaches. It even has lifeguards.

We walked to the marina to check out where our Great Barrier Reef tour will be leaving from. We stopped to tame a crocodile:

And then we walked around a bit. I had Eli on my back in the Ergo and we were both just dripping in sweat. We passed a million and a half cafes and restaurants, but we had our mind set on the air conditioned luxury of the Cairns Central Shopping Centre. I knew they would have sushi.

Long before we got to Cairns, Nick spotted an advertisement for Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort, Australia's first and Queensland's only 5 star caravan park. The activities and amenities sounded magnificent - loads of activities for the kids (huge play areas and pools, water park, movie nights, pancake breakfasts), free shuttle bus into the city.

After our big drop in morale, this place was the only thing keeping Nick motivated to come to Cairns. So we were disappointed (understatement) to find that on top of the $30something they were charging for a powered site, they wanted to charge $15 extra per child. That's a bank-breaker, that is. So we decided to stay at another place while we were doing the touristy stuff, and maybe stay at Coconut for just one day to enjoy all of the kiddie stuff.

You might remember that we got into Cairns really early, so we thought we'd just stay at Coconut that first day and move on to a cheaper place for the rest of the week. We were delighted (understatement) to learn that this month's special is... kids stay free with adults if you stay for two nights! Conveniently, Eli isn't quite 2 years old this week (it's only a white lie, right? It's not like they check ID), so we are just paying what we would be paying at any old place.

But here's the thing - we had mentally prepared to spend the extra for a night because it was worth it to us. So we have decided to shell out for a villa for two nights (it's gotta be two for that kids free special) before we head back south. We'll have bedrooms and TV and a full kitchen with our own big fridge and an oven, a spa bath, ahhhh. I am looking forward to it (understatement). We can give the motorhome a good scrub so it's ready to go for our trip back.

BUT FIRST... The Great Barrier Reef. We leave in 45 minutes! I can't believe it. We chose Sunlover for our tour - Nick actually liked it best before he discovered that it was one of the cheaper options. I'll tell you all about it, I promise.

26 February 2010

More swimming!

Check out this cute happy jumping-in-the-water kiddo:

Nick got some great pool and water park pics yesterday:

We're off to check out Cairns today. The place we're staying has a courtesy shuttle to the city. Our kids love any sort of bus ride, and we love not having to find a place to park the motorhome in a city! It looks like there are a whole lot of awesome things to do and see around here.

We will also be booking our Great Barrier Reef tour today! Nate is uber excited for the snorkelling. There are soooo many different tours so it's a big hard to know which to choose.

25 February 2010

Quick tracks to Cairns

Poor Maya is ready to go home. This morning she had a little meltdown, declaring her hate for "this tiny motorhome". We told her we were just going to get to Cairns, and after we were done in Cairns we would turn and head back to Sydney. She was happy to hear that, and seems to be willing to enjoy the rest of the time travelling instead of resenting it all, as long as we're heading back soon.

We left Airlie Beach, aiming for Townsville, about 300 kilometres away. On the way, we drove over Burdekin River and I so wish I would have taken a picture of it as I have never seen a river that colour. You know the brown that a river turns when it is flooded? This one was almost orange, like clay. It was huge and bizarre, and for some reason it scared the crap out of me.

Townsville was odd, like a work in progress. It seemed deserted. We had our lunch at The Strand, the centreish area on the water. Water that you can't go in, due to stingers and... wait for it... crocodiles. We're in croc country. There was a netted-off area for stinger-free/ croc-free swimming. We just stayed at the playground.

The kids were happy to keep driving, so we scratched our plan to stay for the night and moved on.

At dinnertime, we stopped in a small town called Cardwell (which Lonely Planet claims has a population of 10,000, but we couldn't for the life of us work out where they were all hiding their houses. There didn't even seem to be a grocery shop). We treated ourselves to grilled fish and chips - local barramundi, sooo delicious - and had a picnic near the crocodile infested water overlooking Hinchinbrook Island. Here is the warning sign:

The warnings seem so mild.

Here was our picnic view:

The kids were, again, happy to keep going, so we decided to push on to Cairns, only about an hour and a half north. Nate had fun snapping pictures in the backseat:

We didn't quite make it and stopped for the night at Innisfail. We left early this morning for the rest of the drive, and it was so beautiful. Very rainy, very dark dramatic clouds obscuring the tops of the very green, jungle covered hills all around. Here's a shot from the moving vehicle:

We are really in the wet tropics now. I'm so looking forward to seeing more of Cairns.

The kids love to swim

We have been doing a lot of swimming! At the place we stayed at Airlie Beach, the pool was incredible, and we went swimming most mornings and late afternoons. How could you resist this?

The kids loved the two waterslides:

Eli is fearless. He jumps in and even swims to the surface. Nick discovered that. I'm not one to wait and see if they make it to the surface on their own. That's what dads are for. I took a few videos of him hopping in, but they disappeared from the camera! Here's the best photo:

Maya and Nick:

So of course Eli wanted a turn:

Nate attempting what appear to be one-handed handstands:

Nick would have packed the pool up to bring with us if he could.

24 February 2010

That's how the other half live

We were blessed with wonderful weather for our cruise around the Whitsundays.

Our day started out with a courtesy coach picking us up from our caravan park. Five nights there and we didn't move the motorhome once! On to Abel Marina to hop onto The Voyager.

Now that we're out of the peak tourism season, a lot of things either aren't running or are different to their usual. Our tour was one of them, but it was a good change. The big, new boat was being fixed up, so we went out on the older boat. As one of the crew said, "Same head, different hat." We got the same tour, just on a smaller older boat and at a cheaper price. I'm not complaining.

We "set sail" and stopped first at Daydream Island to pick a few more people up. Off again, and onto Hook Island. We disembarked and marvelled at all of the colourful tropical fish in the clear waters just under the pier. One of the crew threw in some bread for them (and gave some to the kids to do the same) so we could get a really good look. There were even a few Maori wrasse down there, which are very distinctive, big blue fish with huge lips. We got into the Coral Viewer, a semisubmersible, and headed out to look at the fringing reef. There weren't a huge amount of fish on the reef (that we could see anyway) but the different varieties of coral were more interesting and beautiful than I would have thought. Spaghetti coral, stag coral, plate coral, brain coral, elephant ear coral.

Back on shore, we walked to the resort for a bit of snorkelling. Now as I have mentioned before, it is stinger season, so we were all given lycra stinger suits to wear in the ocean. Even little ones for the kids (well you would hope so!). How cute are they? Maya reminds me of Cathy Freeman circa 2000:

We fitted the kids with life vests so they could float around with their snorkelling gear, not having to worry about the swimming part. Most of the group headed out with some of the crew to feed the fish, so Nick went to have a look while I stayed shallow with the kids. Maya looked incredible, floating face down, kicking around - she didn't come up for air for ages! Eli didn't like the sensation too much and wanted me to hold him. After awhile, Maya and Eli were ready to get out (and into the resort pool), so Nick and Nate went out to the fish feeding together. Nick was surprised how nice snorkelling was. He hadn't thought it would be anything special. Nate was so high on the experience afterwards that it was all he could think or talk about. He is very much looking forward to snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.

Once we got back on the boat, we headed for Whitehaven Beach. It was voted (by whom I'm not exactly sure) as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. With all of the hype, it was anticlimactic getting there. Nick wonders how a beach can be in the top 10 when you can't even swim in the water without a special suit on. It did have the necessary components: white sand, tick; turquoise bath water, tick; free from development, tick. It unfortunately also had loads of leaf litter all over that white sand which really took away from the scenery. It was fun to watch all of the little fish in the shallows though, and at one point I could see a dark thing about 10 metres away, moving in our general direction - so I stood up and found myself looking at what looked suspiciously like a small shark. It was pretty cool.

Our next port of call was Daydream Island again, but this time to get off and have a wander around. The kids posed with the mermaid:

We enjoyed a smoothie at the bar, a swim in the lovely resort pool, and a play at the cool playground.

Nate snapped some pictures on the trip back home, including this candid one of Maya and me making funny faces:

It was a good day, especially the snorkelling. It was fun (and shocking) to see the multi-million dollar mansions and $6000 per night resorts on Hamilton Island from our boat. The scenery was beautiful - tropical islands popping up out of the clear blue sea. It was something to do once, to see what all the fuss is about. If I ever go back to the Whitsundays, it will be to stay on Hamilton Island.

22 February 2010

Long overdue... PHOTOS!

Waaaay back at the Gold Coast, we lost our camera case which also housed the cord needed to upload photos to the computer. Remember that? I certainly do, because my blog has been seriously short on photos for a long time! I just checked and saw that the last photos I posted were of our Mt Warning climb back on 27 January. Yikes! I am in the process of remedying that situation now, starting with this post.

If you're interested in the pictures, have a look from 3 February onwards. Hopefully I'll get it done tonight! That would make way for the new photos we'll surely be taking tomorrow...

I'm so excited. We have been hanging out at the caravan park, waiting for our camera cord to arrive, before booking anything that we would want to have photos of. (Coincidentally, I have been fairly ill for the last few days with a throat infection, but I'm on the mend now.) Now we have said cord and have booked our Whitsunday Island Adventure! One day on the sea, enjoying the beautiful scenery, with a few stops along the way for snorkeling (stinger suits included!). The kids are so excited, and so are Nick and I! And I'm so glad we'll be able to take photos.

I asked Nate the other day what his favourite thing about travelling has been, and he said Fraser Island. Cooool, I'm so glad I didn't just go by myself!! In particular, Lake Mackenzie - and I discovered that Nick did take a few photos before the camera died! I'll upload those in the appropriate post, post haste. Maya said that her favourite was the Great Barrier Reef. I said, "But we haven't seen it yet" to which she replied, "But I'm going to love it!!"

Nick has the kids in the pool and I'm going to now go make us some vegetable soup for dinner. Just what the doctor ordered.

19 February 2010

The Whitsundays

20 February, 2010

Would you believe we're finishing up our eighth week on the road?

Due to our low morale, we have blitzed central Queensland. We stayed for one night in Rockhampton and did the obligatory drive around town, but we really did it no justice. Ditto Mackay, which looked like a really lovely tropical city - all we saw was the dodgy caravan park, a shopping centre, and a motorhome handy man who did some waterproofing on the leaky seals. (They still are leaking, by the way. Nick just checked with a hose. Leak 1, motorhome handy man 0.)

Now we are enjoying some *sun* in Airlie Beach! Nick washed all of the bedding today while the kids and I hung out in the lagoon pool with two waterslides and a shaded kiddie area. It was nice to know it was going to dry, and dry it did. Bummer about that leak though, but there will definitely be someone who can fix it in Townsville... right? The only RV repair shops in Rockhampton and Mackay were all booked out with the weekend coming, so we'll have to call ahead to organise something in Townsville. We neeeeed to get that fixed. There is visible water damage up there.

We don't plan on going anywhere at the moment though. We have booked in for 4 nights (at the price of 3 which works out to a ridiculously low $30 a night! For the Whitsundays! Crazy!) Nick has just gone to the office to talk about booking some kind of day cruise. We really don't know what exactly we should be seeing around here, but we have heard that Whitehaven Beach (I think that's what it's called) is The Best Beach In The World. That sounds pretty special.

So morale is back up. I have to admit, it was a bit higher before Nick just tested the leak and found that it wasn't fixed. The sun is still shining, we are at a resort that Nick has been looking forward to for weeks, and we are on paradise's doorstep. Honestly, the ocean is turquiose. We are surrounded by palm trees. Tomorrow, we may spend the day cruising around the Whitsundays. Nice. This is the life.

I just wish I felt better :o( I'm a bit under the weather. Throat, ears, and a cough. It makes the pool feel not so good. I'm here blogging instead of taking Nate back to the pool. Bummer. I think I need to get off now and help Nate alleviate his boredom.


19 February, 2010

We have a lizard! Nick and I noticed her around about a week before the kids spotted her, and when they did they were so excited. She's just a little skink and for awhile hung out under our fridge - quite a feat as there really is no "under". Now she seems to be in the little-used grill, because she pops up from behind it occasionally, typically when we are doing something with the fruit basket which is above the grill. Nate held her for a bit today, and then Maya did (squealing all the while) and then Eli did (also squealing) and then she jumped! She was outta there. Nate is good with her though, quite calm, and she'll happily hang out on his arm for ages. Sometimes days go by without a Sheila spotting. Nate and Maya have drawn portraits of her. It's all very cute.

Okay, so I wanted to write about Hervey Bay.

We stayed at the Scarness Beachfront Holiday Park. It was absolutely beachfront - the steps Duedown to the sand were a few metres from our motorhome. This was the first caravan park we stayed at that was right on the beach, and we were excited about it because getting all of the sand off before getting into the motorhome always sucks a bit - now we would be able to walk straight into the shower! Awesome. And to boot, the area we were staying in has the safest swimming in Hervey Bay. No stingers, very calm waters, very shallow.

On our first night there, we went for a walk on the beach but not a swim. Just a short walk away was a playground, so the kids played there for awhile. And that was the last time we ever went to the beach. True story. The next day it rained all day long, and we stayed in. The day after that we went to Fraser Island. And the next morning, we were off. Funny stuff.

I'm always paranoid about keeping the screen door closed, especially at dusk. On our first night, it was very windy and Nick pointed out that there weren't likely to be any mozzies out in that kind of wind. He was right. We even had dinners at the camp kitchen, after dark, and there were no mosquitoes. It was a nice hiatus. Bonus.

One more thing of note is the bat colony! Wow, there are a lot of bats at Hervey Bay, and they come out at dusk. As we sat at the camp kitchen eating our dinner one night, there appeared in the sky a bit inland of us a huge group of bats, all flying south. The group just didn't stop either - as far as we could see behind them there were bats. Thousands upon thousands of bats, all flying south in a large line. It had to have been at least 10 minutes of solid bats. Some broke free from the group and came to check out the trees above us, but they all continued on. We saw this the next night as well. It was incredible. I Googled and found that this is a normal occurrence.

So that's that.

18 February 2010

Jumping ship

Ahhhhhh. We are centimetres away from turning tail and heading back to Sydney.

1) It's the wet season! My plan to speed things up a bit rather than meandering so much doesn't fit with Mother Nature's plans of raining a lot and often.

Why this is a problem: Today we headed from Hervey Bay (which I haven't even written about yet! And if I don't, there was some incredible nightly bat activity that I still want to research a bit. I'm talking thousands upon thousands of bats flocking south every evening at dusk. Anyway...) through Bundaberg and towards Town of 1770. What a name. At least, we intended to go to 1770, but we were thwarted by water on the road. We braved a few floodways, but then we came to one that the ute in front of us wasn't even willing to try and we realised we weren't going to make it. We chatted with said ute driver and he shared his local knowledge with us - there are at least four more parts of the road that would have water over them at least as high as this between where we were and Miriam Vale which was at the Bruce Highway, our outlet. We weren't going to make it to 1770, and we weren't even going to make it through that way to Rockhampton. We had to turn back towards Bundaberg and cover that almost 70 kilometres all over again. Bummer. Annoying. Frustrating. All of that.

Also a problem because: That leak upstairs? It is a leak. Nick took some duct tape (the white kind, classy folk that we are) to the seal on the outside, hoping that this would at least temporarily alleviate the problem. When we stopped for lunch, however, he checked for water upstairs and found it. Plenty. We need to have it seen to by a professional, and we plan to do that tomorrow morning.

And one more wet season issue: Laundry is expensive. We'll pay the $3 to wash a load rather than hand washing - that's worth it to us, especially as we recycle our clothes as much as possible so don't create that much laundry. But the standard fee for drying is $1 for 10 minutes! Robbery! Tonight, for the first time, we are paying to dry our clothes because it has been raining since we left Suzy's house and nothing will dry. My Ergo got soaked through on the Fraser Island tour bus and won't dry. All of the towels we have been using to soak up the leak upstairs (under some plastic to keep the mattress dry) are in need of washing and drying. We are paying $18 for two loads of laundry.

2) F*&^ing mosquitoes. They are getting worse and worse. Maya and I look like we have gnarly skin conditions. It's gross and itchy and annoying and uncomfortable and maddening and frustrating, etc etc etc. And it isn't going to get any better in the direction we're going.

3) The beaches are from here on up are unswimmable, or so we're told. Stinger season, mate, from Rockhampton north. No fun. Oh well, it's raining anyway. Who wants to go to the beach?

4) Long stretches of driving ahead. There was a whole lotta nothing between Bundaberg and Rockhampton, just 340ish kilometres of driving. This is the longest we have gone in one stretch (besides from Sydney to Urunga), made especially long by our backtracking. We could have stopped, there were a few tiny places along the way, but we just weren't interested today - we wanted to get to a place where we could have our leak seen to. That place was Rockhampton, nothing closer. It is equally far to Mackay, then to Townsville, then to Cairns. Cairns is still over 1000 kilometres away! 1000 wet, dreary, wet, humid kilometres. The long distance driving part isn't the most fun in the world, and even less fun for the kids, especially little Eli. I can either be sitting up front with Nick, keeping him company on the lonely roads, or sitting back with the kids trying to keep them entertained. I find that I much prefer sitting up front. I just need to work harder on finding the joy in sitting in the kiddie section.

5) Close quarters. I'm not naming names, but one of my children is really hard to be around this closely for this long. Okay, maybe two of them. It's not doing any favours for our marriage either.

We're not going to give up the dream just yet though. I just don't know how we can keep it up when it is seeming more like hard work than the rewarding adventure we had hoped for. We're going to stick it out to Cairns. We're looking forward to the Whitsundays and the reef, and I'm still holding out hope that some Cape York miracle tour will fall in my lap. I think after that though, we might retreat with our tails between our legs. Maybe we'll say hello to our friends in Sydney and keep heading south. Not sure yet.

17 February 2010

Fraser Island

Will you believe me when I say that we took two pictures on Fraser Island before the camera battery died? I guess that cord is good for more than uploading photos - it's also necessary for charging the camera. Crap.

BUT! Go right ahead and type Fraser Island into Google Images, and you'll see what we saw today, and pretty close to the pictures we would have posted. I considered jacking some pictures to post here as "stock photos" but, well, reconsidered.

EDITED TO ADD: I was wrong! There were a few more than I thought, and I'm posting them below.

Our day started out with the bus picking us up from our caravan park at 7:20am. No problem, we're early risers around here. Nate was thrilled to see that it was a double decker bus, so up to the top we went. There were a few stops after us, picking up more people along the way, and then we were at the vehicle barge to take us to Fraser Island.

The ferry ride lasted about 35-40 minutes (according to the announcement). You can see Fraser from the mainland, but you're seeing the wild side, not the beach side, so it's hard to believe that under all of those trees is sand. We got off the ferry and onto our big 4WD bus for 40 people, and it was full. We were the only family with kids so we got to sit right up front, Eli and Maya safely strapped into their carseats, to avoid the worst of the bumpiness.

The "street" sign read "Speed limit 30 on tracks, 80 on beaches". You don't see that every day. The track was pure sand. Our driver/guide/commentator (Brad) said that the rain we have had over the last few days makes it much easier to drive on sand since it compacts down. Well there's one plus anyway. It also encourages little bugs that like to suck blood, but I swear I'll try to avoid the topic for the rest of this post :o)

Our first stop was Central Station. Not a thriving train station as its name might have you believe, but an old ranger station. We went for a walk on the boardwalk admiring some amazing trees and plants, and there was little Wanggoolba Creek on our left. Brad explained that this creek is a sacred spot to the local Aboriginal women - because it is crystal clear and maintains a steady temperature of 18 degrees, it is where they traditionally give birth (or I dare say WAS where they traditionally gave birth, now that there are steady streams of tourists to break up the peaceful solitude).

Next stop, the amazing Lake Mackenzie. Wow. Please Google it and check out the pictures. Here, I'll make is easier for you. It really does look like that, except that today was very overcast. The sand is white, the shallow water is that tropical light blue, and the deeper part is sapphire. The water is absolutely crystal clear. It is warm and clean and wonderful. Nothing feeds it except rain water, and nothing goes out either. We had a swim there for about an hour, and it was awesome. Nate said, "I'm having such a great day! Thanks for bringing us here!"

Here are some photos:

Fraser is famous for its wild dingoes. The only two pictures we took before the camera battery died were of some dingo safety signs. One illustration on the safety sign was of some parents frolicking in the water while a small child played alone on the beach with some sand toys, silently being stalked by a pack of dingoes. Brad said that recently a 7 year old boy was "taken" by dingoes because his parents hadn't been watching him. I felt a bit sick about that for awhile. Sobering stuff. We learned that if you find yourself in a confrontation with a dingo, you should maintain eye contact with the dingo, fold your arms across your chest, and slowly back away. Never turn and run. Never wave your arms and yell or do anything else that might excite the dingo.

We did see one dingo today. Brad said he hoped to find one feeding at the tip (where the rubbish from the resort goes) or on the beach, but there were none to be found. We chanced upon one (don't panic Mom, it was from a distance!) as we walked to the bathrooms to put our swimmers on before hitting Lake Mackenzie. It was in a parking area and there were people all around. It only had eyes for one thing though - the bag of rubbish that someone had left behind their car (despite all of the warnings not to leave food or rubbish about for this very reason). But a man got to the bag first and put it on top of the car, and the dingo took off. I must say, we were very vigilant at the beach.

After Lake Mackenzie we got back into the bumpy bus for a drive to Eurong Resort for lunch. Buffet! Too bad the food sucked. No fruit, no veggies aside from the iceburg lettuce, tomato, cucumber and grated carrot salad. Pasta bake, pasta salad, weird curried potato salad, scarily pale looking Asian beef something, cold chicken, stodgy white bread rolls, unrecognisable cold cuts. It was all very below average. Nate got himself a bunch of pasta salad (which was actually the tastiest thing) and ate half before saying he was still hungry but didn't want anymore of that. I extolled the benefits of a buffet, and he took a new plate to suss out his next move. He examined everything carefully and came back with a large mound of grated carrot. It was a bit like that. The upside is that I usually overeat at a buffet, but not when the food is crap.

From lunch we headed up the east coast of Fraser via 75 Mile Beach, which also happens to be the main highway. Brad told us about what's happening in the ocean - stingrays and bluebottles in the shallows, a few varieties of sharks a bit deeper, and a treacherous tide that wants to carry you right out to sea.

We went right up to the Coloured Sands, aka The Pinnacles and got out for our photo op. Well, those of us with working cameras did anyway - the rest of us got out for a closer look. Google it, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Next, down to the Maheno shipwreck. In 1935, the ex-luxury liner had been sold for scrap and was being towed when an out of season cyclone broke the rope and it ran aground. It's really incredible. I've seen bits of sunken ships, like a mast sticking out of the water at Byron Bay, but never a whole ship on the shore, partially buried in the sand. It is all rusted out now, but you can imagine how impressive it would have been 70 years ago.

Just another few minutes' jaunt in the bumpy bus to Eli Creek! We had about 40 minutes there to frolick in some more crystal clear water. The guy at our caravan park that sold us the tour told me that the water that flows into the creek takes 4 years to pass through the sand, all the while absorbing the abundant minerals and being filtered to perfection. If there weren't so many people traipsing through it every day, it would be beautiful to drink. It was a lovely traipse as well. Eli was crazy for it. We stripped him down to his undies because he pointed at the water and shrieked, "Water! Jump!" and off he went, happily doing just that. Maya and I walked along the creek on the boardwalk and then walked back down in the creek. Gorgeous.

And back again into the bumpy bus, back towards the ferry to take us back. It was at about this time that Brad asked if there was anyone French on the bus (it was in context, trust me), and Eli exclaimed into the silence, "Meeee!" It was very funny.

We all had a really wonderful time. It was a nice change, letting someone else do the planning and researching and driving. I had never been on an organised tour before and I kind of loved it. If I ever come to Fraser Island again, it will be in a 4WD camper, I'll bring all of the supplies I need, and I'll stay for 4 or 5 days and check it all out slowly. I'll fish in that treacherous ocean, hunt for pipis on the shore, and bring lots of toxic mozzie spray. Oh come on, you really didn't think I'd make it through the whole post without saying "mozzie" did you?

Budget woes

15 February, 2010

We're having trouble staying within our budget. We were amazed to find ourselves overbudget last week, after spending three nights at my friend's place and another two nights free camping. There were a few things purchased, like Nick's cheap crocs, some new textas, a replacement camera case and camera cord (which we will hopefully get soon so that I can start posting pictures again!) and a birthday present for a friend, but all of that was less than $60. I just have no idea how we did it. Even examining our expenditures shed no light on the subject - we spent less on food than the two weeks before. I just don't know. I do know that we'll need to be more careful though, or we're going to blow through our savings before we leave Queensland, and that would SUCK.

The beach at Noosa was gorgeous. Walking up from the ocean to where the fam was at in the sand, with the palm trees and blue sky and incredible houses/hotels hidden in the tropical trees on the hill, mountain in the background, it was unreal. I'm going to have to plan some seriously tropical holidays after we move back to Portland, because the Oregon coast is just not going to cut it. It is beautiful, world class, but the water is just plain cold.

After lunch we decided to head to Hervey Bay. We didn't realise how far it was, but we're looking at over 150 kilometres today. That's cool. Maya had a nap, and Eli is still snoozing away. We're hoping to find a Fraser Island tour that won't break the bank. Nick says he would like to go but doesn't think it will be "worth the money". I don't know what money could be better spent on personally. Maybe I'll just take Nate and Maya, and Nick and Eli (who might not appreciate an in-and-out of the vehicle kind of tour) can just hang by a pool somewhere. Or maybe this will be my lone day trip to replace Cape York. We'll see.

I've been reading about Fraser Island and it is getting increasingly interesting. Lonely Planet warns of the dangers of the sea around the island, saying "if the undertow doesn't get you, the sharks will!" Awesome. There is no shortage of beautiful fresh water lakes to swim in if we are so inclined, which I'm sure we will be.

As we drove inland from Noosa, back to the highway, the temperature climbed to 35 (that's 95 for you Yanks). Then we hit a storm and it dropped down to 26 within 2 minutes. Rain cleared (or we drove through it to the other side), temperature back up. Now we're back in the rain, this time with some lovely thunder accompaniment, and we're cool. So funny, this Queensland weather business. The humidity isn't humorous though, not at all. No sirree.

My goal today is to find some citronella oil and tea tree oil and to put together our own mosquito repellant. And that's all I'm going to say about mosquitoes today.

13 February 2010

We parked at my lovely friend's lovely place near the Glasshouse Mountains for a few days. It was lovely to have a home base, and we even borrowed her car a few times to go to out rather than moving the whole motorhome up and back down the very steep driveway. The first time, coming in, was a bit dodgy - at one point the motorhome was leaning alarmingly to one side, so much so that I stood well away while helping to direct Nick in so that it wouldn't fall on me if it did indeed fall. It didn't.

Our kids played with her kids and had a ball. They had one school day while we were there, so our presence was a bit disruptive (knowing there are kids playing at your house with your toys while you aren't there - although we made a point of announcing that we would be out and unavailable for the day while they were at school). Once we got over the hump though, it was really great to be there. My friend is 20 weeks pregnant with twins, which is so exciting. Maybe the plane ticket fairy will deliver me a ticket to fly back to visit her and help out at the end of June or beginning of July when those babies join us on this side. That would be excellent. I looooooooooove babies, and a double dose would be so good for my soul. Oh yeah, and it would be good to be able to help as well, to make this not completely about me. I'm a tad self-absorbed if we're being honest.

I'm pretty sure I had the best cup of coffee I have ever had in my life at The Upfront Club in Maleny. Worth noting, so there you go.

After a wonderful birthday party at the beach at Caloundra yesterday, and after a swim in the deliciously warm ocean, we camped on a back road. For some reason our toilet was so stinky that Nick had to remove the toilet cassette overnight and of course emptying it was our first priority this morning. We woke up at 6:30 to cars all around us, which we thought was odd as we were near a scout hall and cricket club. Driving away, we saw that there was a farmers market on just down the road. Aha.

Also worth noting: We have now lost three pairs of shoes. Among other bits and pieces. Lost shoes #1: Eli's crocs. Well, croc-like shoes, but the cheap version. We noticed at our next stop after McLean that he no longer had shoes in the motorhome, and recalled them sitting on the table where we had had lunch. Lost shoes #2: My black Haviana thongs. This wasn't a great tragedy, because I'm pretty sure mine had been inadvertently switched with someone else's while we were staying with our friends in Sydney, before we left. There were always so many pairs of black Havianas there, and I noticed one day that mine seemed to be more worn than they had been, and a bit too big. So I wanted new ones anyway, and accidentally leaving them on the beach at Byron and not being able to find them when I went back for them was an excuse for new ones that fit. Lost shoes #3: Nick's new (less than a week old) crocs that he bought to replace the ones with holes in the bottom. He left them (and one of our water bottles, bummer) at the park where the birthday party was yesterday. They were gone this morning.

I was hit hard with some sort of sickness last night. Sore throat like swallowing razor blades, I couldn't sleep because every time I swallowed, which you do way more than you think you do, I was shocked painfully awake. A bit of a fever. I woke up rough, and we decided to drive up to Noosa and find a place where we could just hang out and I could rest and sleep and get better so that tomorrow I can be back to normal.

We got to Noosa early, before 8, and were amazed at how busy the town and beaches already were. The beach was packed! All of the carparks were full. We had a nice drive around and noted the natural similarity to Byron Bay. Gorgeous. But I needed sleep, so we found our home for the night. Other than realising that I was indeed being repeatedly bitten by a mosquito and hunting it down, I had a nice sleep. Eli napped with me a bit later on.

We are getting to a really exciting place for me. I have been looking forward to Noosa, and I'm looking forward to checking out the town and beaches tomorrow. We're getting very close to Fraser Island which is a place I have wanted to see since before my first trip to Australia when I was absorbed in pictures and stories of the land down under. The largest sand island in the world, home to the purest dingoes, only accessible with a 4WD. I learned yesterday that there is an Eli Creek there, so we'll have to check it out. I'm not sure what our best bet is for getting there. I'm thinking that a tour would be a better bet than hiring a 4WD since neither of us have any sand driving experience, and having a commentary would be interesting for the kids rather than being in just another beautiful place.

The reef isn't far off either. Wow, the Great Barrier Reef. I want to do a tour thing on a semi-submersible where the bottom of the boat is underwater and you look out at the reef through a glass wall, rather than a glass-bottomed boat. Nick was reading about one tour that spends 5 hours at the reef and includes snorkeling gear and a buffet lunch (never hurts). Not cheap, but this is once in a lifetime stuff after all.

My number one draw is to Cape York, the northernmost tip of Australia. It is impressively far from where the paved road ends, and there are lots of options for getting up there. You can hire a 4WD which we wouldn't do with kids - actually we probably wouldn't do it without kids either as some of those river crossings are scary enough without the possibility of crocodiles. There are week long tours that drive you up and either fly or boat you back down, but the kids would be miserable sitting in an off-roading vehicle for 4 hours a day. Nick suggested that, since I'm the one who really wants to get up to Cape York, maybe I should just do it on my own and do a one-day tour. This flies you up at a low altitude (billing itself as the "longest scenic flight in the world"), gives you some time at Cape York, and flies you back down higher up and quicker. Sounds perfect. Well, as perfect as we're gonna get travelling with kids. I think perfect would be doing a longer tour and getting up to Thursday Island as well. So Nick looked into that option a bit today, and I was supremely disappointed to learn that such a one day tour would set us back around $1100 for one person. Eek. Can't justify it. I'll keep looking and see if I can find anything else, but I'm thinking I'm going to have to count out Cape York. Bummer.

09 February 2010


11 February, 2010

We had some serious rain last week. Well really, the whole time we were at the Gold Coast up through a couple of days ago, it rained every day. I love rain, usually. It is so fresh and cleansing. I love the smell. I love the grey, especially with a backdrop of green. It's beautiful. What can I say, I'm a native Oregonian. Here's the "but" you could probably sense was coming. When you don't have access to a clothes dryer, life gets a little bit tricky in torrential rain. We either have a leaky window or it was left open a bit (I hope the latter) and had heavy rainfall of the flash flood variety. Said window is located in what we euphamistically refer to as "upstairs" - the bed above the cabin. It got wet. I didn't realise the full extent of the wetness for a couple of days which was long enough for the smell to set in on the bottom of the mattress. Ugh. With the rain, we were at a bit of a loss as to what to do about it. Alas, we were blessed with a dry day and were able to put the mattress outside in the full Australian sun (which is quite different from the full Oregon sun if you don't know - this is the type that bleaches your whites as they dry on the line). I used my favourite eucalyptus oil spray for its natural disinfectant properties and which I will use at any opportunity because it smells so good I could almost drink it, and that, paired with the equally detoxifying sun treatment, cured our foamy mattress of its waterlog. Yay.

Another "but". During those days of having damp clothes draped throughout our motorhome, we also began to encounter more mosquitoes. It's one of those tropical things, and we are moving more and more north towards the tropics. We were at a caravan park's camp kitchen eating dinner, and dusk snuck up on us. You'd think I'd be more on the ball with the whole dusk thing since I have been attacked by mosquitoes, mostly at dusk, since I was a little kid. I somehow only manage to notice when I'm being eaten alive. Plus I'm lazy. It's just so depressing, and annoying, and too much like hard work. To be safe I have to dress myself (and Maya) in long-sleeved and long-legged clothes and spray all of our exposed areas with mosquito repellant. Every single evening come dusk, no matter what we're in the middle of, unless we're safely tucked away inside. Even then though, the stray mozzie (or four) manages to find a way in, so we have to go on a hunt to mercilessly slaughter them, every night. Tonight I wore a cardigan even though I was far too warm for one, and discovered a mosquito biting me on the arm, through the sleeve, in the closed up motorhome. Sigh. Double sigh. I'm really thankful that this is a malaria-free country.

So what's my point with all of this mosquito rambling? I'm not sure really, except that it has brought up conversations about possibly changing our course and avoiding far north Queensland for a few months. It's unfortunate, because FNQ is the top of my list of things to see in Australia. Poor Nick is over me whinging about mosquitoes, and possibly all of you are too. My plan is to buy a big bottle of citronella oil and make my own mosquito spray to replace the lovely Miessence one I just ran out of, which I will wear like perfume. It will be my signature scent. I'll try to cope. I want to see a cassowary in the wild.

Rain + mosquitoes = homesickness. Not for our former home necessarily, although our clothes line was under the pergola for all-weather drying, and that pergola was an excellent place to enjoy a cup of coffee while the rain poured down all around. Just A home really. A functioning home, no matter what's happening outside. A bit of space. A bedroom that's always ready to sleep in and doesn't require a nightly moving of stuff from the bed to the front seat to make room. Ooooh, I am realising I shouldn't be writing all of this unless I want to dwell in the homesickness which I really don't. I want to see FNQ. Honestly though, I'm suspecting we aren't going to make it a whole lot farther than that. Well Uluru, we have to make it to Uluru. And shit, I told the kids that they would be able to swim with the dolphins at Monkey Mia. And I have long wanted to travel around Tasmania. Oh and Valley of the Giants in southwest WA is another thing I have told the kids about and looked forward to seeing again. Hmmm. Maybe we just need to adjust our pace a bit so we are doing more and seeing more and not stopping for more than a night or two at most in any one place.

07 February 2010


It's been an easier transition than I thought :o)

When we left our resort, we headed back to our friends' place. The kids were thrilled to get back to play with their new friends, and we were looking forward to hanging out, checking out the eco village, baking some gluten free/ sugar free carrot cake cupcakes to share, sticking around for a Nick-made dinner, and having a sleepover (in our motorhome out the front). It was wonderful. We felt so welcome and thoroughly enjoyed the kids enjoying themselves (so much Lego! and colour coded! like a dream!!), and after they were asleep we actually hung out awake! With other adults! Drinking wine! And talking about non-kid things! Ahhhh. Refreshing. This morning I enjoyed a cartoonishly large cup of delicious coffee - my stomach was a bit annoyed but the rest of me was in heaven. Thanks so much guys. We had a great time.

We are now in Brisbane. First stop was Chinatown so that we could have a planning session over yum cha. Yum. There is a lot of cool stuff to do around here with kids, and if the rain eases up a bit (there has been so much rain in the last couple of days that there has been flash flooding in the area) we'll have lots of nice outdoor stuff to check out. There's a sciencey place that looks really fun, so that's probably where we'll head in the morning.

On our way to a caravan park this afternoon, we passed an amazing looking playground and turned around to check it out. It is huge and covered, so when the rain came again it was no problem at all! Very nice stop. We also found that there are plenty of spots around here to park for the night, so that will save us the almost $50 we were going to spend on accommodation. Nice. And I sold two cookbooks this week! If you don't count the theme park tickets which were 75% of our week's budget on their own (I'm not sure why you wouldn't count them, but just stick with me here for the sake of discussion), we came in well under budget for this week. We just have a bit of frugal living to do to make up for the other few weeks over budget and we'll be golden.

Oh, I also wanted to acknowledge the dude at the playground that turned my afternoon around. He was pushing his little 2 year oldish boy on the swing, and Eli was hanging out next to them, enjoying their enjoyment. He had already been on the swing for awhile and indeed could spend the better part of the day on the swing, and I sat watching him, thinking I couldn't be bothered to go over and put him in the swing and then stand there pushing him. When this other little boy was done, his dad helped him out of the swing and walked my way. He asked if Eli was my little boy and I said yes. He said kindly, "He wants to go on the swing." I said, "Yeah I know, he always wants to go on the swing. He was already on it for ages". He nodded, smiled politely, and walked away. And it hit me like a slap in the face - Oh my God, I'm that parent. I could be doing something really easy and making Eli and I both really happy in the process, and instead I'm just sitting here grumpily, resenting the fact that he wants to go on the swing again and needs my help to do it. Wow. He's two years old! What an amazingly silly thing. Dude, you'll be happy to know that I did get up and push Eli on the swing, and we both completely enjoyed it. And dude, thanks. You made my day.

05 February 2010

Crap, we've gone and spoiled ourselves.

6 February, 2010

We have been at Treasure Island Holiday Park for something like 10 days now. Wow. In that time, we have had a lovely clean camp kitchen, a lovely clean toilet block with wonderful showers, complete with steady water pressure. We have enjoyed the Kids Club, go karts, mini golf, and amazing swimming pool. We have also enjoyed steady access to a power supply which means air conditioning whenever we feel we need it. Two of us have slept in the tent every night, so we have all had ample sleeping room.

So we're driving away today, and I already miss the daily shower, flushing toilet, extra fridge space, and double sink for washing dishes. Goodbye, water slide. Goodbye family room with bathtub. And goodbye air conditioning.

A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about what I miss and what I thought I would but don't. I think I need to remind myself of those things so it won't be so hard to leave.

Things I thought I would miss (but don't):
-- Multiple daily showers. Not easy to admit in this land of water restrictions, but I used to find it hard to regulate my body temperature without a shower. 40 degrees? Cold shower. 10 degrees? Hot shower. End of a long sweaty day, feeling grumpy and icky? Cold shower. Too long in the pool and feeling cold and chloriney? Hot shower. I have always been a showerer, but I have surprised myself on this trip with how dirty I have been able to tolerate being.

-- Sleeping alooooone. I love my sleep. After sharing my precious sleep with my three babies over the last few years, I quit in July and started sleeping alone. All alone. I was sure that I would find it very hard to once again share a bed, but it has been lovely. We move around, so sometimes I sleep with Nate, sometimes Maya, and most rarely Eli (because if I'm there he just wants to breastfeed all morning, but if he's with Nick he sleeps). I'm loving waking up to their sweet sleeping faces. Occasionally I get kicked in the back or rolled over on, and sometimes their restless sleep can render me sleepless, but the other night Nate exclaimed in his sleep a laughing "Wow!" and that kind of thing makes it all worth it.

-- Pristine cleanliness. I'm amazed how much dirtiness I can tolerate. Not washing the bedding as often as I would like, walking on a sandy floor and sleeping in a sandy bed - they aren't my favourite things in the world, but they are completely tolerable. Huh.

It's all a good reminder.

03 February 2010

And we're still here...

We decided to splurge and buy theme park multi pass thingys - unlimited entry to two parks until the end of June. We aren't going to be hanging around until the end of June, but we figured we could stick around for a week and go to Seaworld and Movieworld a couple of times each and make them worth it.

We started out with Movieworld. It is very American - even the ride announcements (you know, "Please keep your hands inside the carriage at all times" and all that) are done in American accents. It's a Hollywoodish place, so it makes sense. There are loads of rides at Movieworld which are almost all too scary for our kids, but there is plenty of other stuff to do as well - shows (Shrek 4D, a stunt car one, a Batman one, etc), interesting shops like the Harry Potter shop which is cute and Nate really likes as he's fully into Harry Potter at the moment, and a whole kiddie rides section with ultra tame rides for all ages. Eli particularly likes the little train that does a few laps around its enclosure. Very cute.

Here we are with Shrek:

Nate and Maya in the Wild West:

An exhilirated Nate after the ride started:

And more:

Seaworld is really great. I understand why dolphins are such a cliche - it's because they're awesome. It is mind-blowing what they are capable of, and how trainable they are. We saw people surfing on dolphins, dolphins swimming with only their tails in the water and the rest of their bodies straight up in the air, spectacular flips and dives, and lots of flipper waving. There is a dolphin nursery where you can see the babies and mums and learn how similar dolphins are to humans - 9-10 month gestation, 2-5 years of suckling (yes doubters, a minimum of 2 years is recommended for human babies, and the world average is 5 years).

Here's some fancy dolphin action:

I really enjoyed the bull shark exhibit. I had no idea that there were so many sharks inhabiting the canals of the Gold Coast, very interesting. For every 4 humans killed by sharks, there are 1 million sharks killed by humans. Huh. This no-nonsense exhibit teaches that the vast majority of shark attacks are not only cases of mistaken identity, but they are also very rarely fatal. Suggestions for fending off an attacking shark include gouging its eyes, punching it in the face, blowing bubbles, and shouting at it. Only in Australia.

There are rides at Seaworld as well, arguably better than those at Movieworld. Here are some pictures:

A particularly cute picture from lunch:

We went to a Bert and Ernie Island Adventure show and Nate and Maya were lucky enough to be invited onstage by Elmo and Cookie Monster:

We just have a few more things we want to do at the Gold Coast, including another visit with a lovely friend who moved up here from Sydney. She was among the first people I met here when I sought out like-minded parents, and generously lent us a stroller for schlepping around the theme parks. Her partner makes a mean mango daiquiri. I'm going to take advantage of her amazing, huge kitchen to make a batch of gluten free carrot cake cupcakes! Yum.

We also hope to make it back to Seaworld on Sunday to hang out at the water park there, weather permitting. It is massive. There is an incredibly alluring water slide that I'm looking forward to. Hopefully by then we will have found the cord that allows us to upload photos! At least we still have the camera.

Then we'll be off... Brisbane? Or Mt Tambourine? Not sure yet.