At last we turn north…

It was with a bit of a heavy heart that we started our trek north after disembarking from the Spirit of Tasmania. On the one hand, I was really excited about heading closer to home, and the call of a comfortable bed and familiar belongings was pretty strong. But I was also sad at the thought that in a few short weeks this amazing adventure would soon come to an end. Still, we had a few more sights to cross off our list before getting home so we headed out of Melbourne with the excitement of a new and unfamiliar destination around the corner.

We headed east from Melbourne, towards Lakes Entrance. We were heading towards Burra on the NSW/ACT border to spend a few nights with a friend and decided to take a more scenic route. I suspect Brandon is probably swearing at me for this decision (I did the route planning for this leg of the trip) because our lack of inter-cooler on the new turbo engine was regularly apparent to us as we drove the outskirts of the Snowy Mountains and through the high country! (when the turbo works hard, such as towing a heavy load up a hill, our exhaust gas temperature increases, causing an alarm to sound. We need to let off a bit of power to cool the exhaust down and avoid engine problems. Needless to say, this route created a litany of ringing alarm bells and made for a very slow climb!)

I wasn’t entirely certain of our first camping spot but a quick scan of WikiCamps as we were driving led us to a lovely farm stay called Tostaree Cottages. They have room for a few campers in a well-maintained, flat, open pasture that essentially feels like you are camping in their backyard. Covering something like 300 acres, the rolling green hills of this property were a lovely change from the rainy, snowy mountains we’d just left in Tasmania. The weather was sunny and glorious, although the air was still a bit crisp, but we didn’t need our annex and set up for a quick overnight stay. There was only one other group of campers there, a young family with similar-aged children who Charlotte quickly made friends with. The children then announced that shortly one of the farm’s owners, Greg, would be coming by in his ATV (all terrain vehicle) to take us all on a tour of the farm if we wanted. What fun!

Oh lord – what an adventure that ride was! Charlotte was desperate to stand up in the back with Daddy and one other child while I shared the front seat with Greg and our neighbour’s second child. Greg gave us lots of information about farming cattle and sheep (for meat purposes) and we identified new calves that were only a day or two old. Over hill and down dale we went, bouncing and banging and generally having a scream of a time. Now I know why those things are so bloody dangerous and cause so many injuries on farms! But we escaped unscathed and returned to camp after an hour or so with flushed cheeks and lots of laughs.

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Our camp site at Tostaree
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Tostaree Cottages are very picturesque
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Can you spot our camp?
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I’m still deaf from Charlotte’s squeals of delight
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Our transport
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This calf is only a few days old but it has already had a tag placed on its ear – we found many who had no tags who Greg said would have been born in the past 48 hours or so

From Tostaree it was onwards to Burra and across a new state border into NSW.

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We were heading to a visit with Chris and Peter (Chris is Kerrilee’s brother, my best friend we stayed with in Devonport). Chris and Peter live on acreage about half an hour outside of Canberra (officially in NSW) and we were made to feel very welcome during our stay there. We didn’t need to set up the camper as we were offered their spare bedroom. Chris and Peter both enjoy gaming so Brandon was able to catch up on the World of Warcraft gossip while we were there and I was able to catch up on some reading while Charlotte enjoyed the Nick Jr channel!

IMG_6534We were so comfortable, I forgot to take any photos at Chris and Pete’s place, so I asked them to send me something instead 😉 Here is Chris’s selfie!

It had been years since I was last in Canberra so it was great to be able to see the new parliament house site for the first time. And we crossed our second last state border! (a few times – we crossed out and back NSW/ACT every time we left Chris’s place!)

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We were counting down the days until we had to be home, so we only had time for a flying visit to Canberra, which included a drive around the outside of Parliament House. Charlotte loves a good Australian flag at the best of times, but even she was bowled over by the majesty of this giant flag pole high atop the hill at Parliament House.

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After Parliament House, we went to Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre. This was lots of fun! Like a giant science museum, every room is a different gallery with hundreds of hands on things to see and do. Charlotte was in her element and there was much squealing to be had… mostly by Charlotte, although a little from Brandon as well 😉

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Charlotte was picked to help out in the “liquid nitrogen” show – she was playing 0 degrees, or “cool” 😉

Charlotte had to play ‘cool’ and was told to show her ‘guns’ (finger points) but she struggled because the glasses she was given to wear only had one arm and kept falling off!

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Using air to attempt to push a beach ball through a hoop – very hard!
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Brandon fascinated by this magnetic liquid – it has iron particles in it that caused it to be attracted to the magnets but it looked like the whole liquid was alive
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Lightening (man-made)

A favourite was this light harp – instead of strings, your hands passed over the lights in the harp’s frame which created the musical note (clearly I’m not giving you the technical explanation!)

One exhibit allowed you to feel a simulated earth quake. You built a tower and then watched to see if it would withstand the quake!

After leaving Burra we drove to Parkes, NSW – home of the The Dish, a radio telescope instrumental in supporting NASA throughout the Apollo program, and still active today. I had driven past this place (officially called the Parkes Observatory) quite a few times but never stopped so I really wanted to get there on this trip.

I really enjoyed our visit to the observatory. We watched a few 3D movies which gave us some interesting information on space, the relative size of things in space, and other topics relevant to the telescope. We were able to get quite close to the telescope and watched it move around quite a lot which was exciting. It stands 58m tall, is 64m in diameter and the dish alone weighs 300 tonnes. It can tilt to 60 degrees from the vertical and takes 5 minutes to get to this maximum tilt. For a full 360 degree rotation, the time is 15 minutes. Officially it is only rated to operate in maximum wind speeds of 35 km/h but apparently on the night when the Apollo landing was taking place, the winds peaked to 2-3 times that speed and it managed to cope (albeit with some nervous operators in the control tower).

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About to head in – is it just me or does Brandon look like he’s balancing on his heels?
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The Dish

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Dish Selfie

At the entrance to the visitors centre there are two opposing, smaller dishes called ‘whispering dishes’. Charlotte and Brandon went and stood next to one and about 20 metres away, I went to stand next to the other. Charlotte talked into the arc of the dish nearest her and I was able to hear her clear as day! It was fascinating and a great learning opportunity for us all 🙂

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Whispering dish – there’s one behind where I’m standing and you can see the other one at the other end of the garden

If you haven’t seen the movie, check out The Dish (movie) with Sam Neill and a host of other familiar faces. Classic Australian cinema 🙂

That night we stayed at Peak Hill just a little north of Parkes. Our plan to was to hit up Taronga Western Plains Zoo (aka Dubbo Zoo) the next day but we had been warned that Dubbo wasn’t that secure so best not to leave the camper unattended. To combat this, we decided to camp at Peak Hill then we’d be only an hour away from Dubbo and would take the car and camper to the zoo. Then we’d go to a Dubbo caravan park that afternoon after finishing up at the zoo.

We happened across a lovely little caravan park in Peak Hill called the Double D Caravan Park where every morning they put on a free pancake breakfast and the windscreen cleaning fairy comes to clean your windscreen! It was fantastic. It was also the only caravan park we’d stayed at that had a lovely looking (new) vegetable garden. Charlotte was attracted to the ponies and birds, of course 😉 We had a camp site immediately next to the toilets but it wasn’t a busy park and the visitors were mostly older so it was very quiet and we had a nice peaceful night.

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Our set up at Double D
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Lovely veggie garden
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Ponies
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I loved this emu statue – made from thatching
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The windscreen fairy visited during the night…

From here it was on to Dubbo and the zoo. I will do a separate entry for that as there are quite a lot of photos from the zoo, including a very special memory that I will treasure for the rest of my life!

Weeks on the road to this point: 14 weeks, 6 days.

 

And now it’s snowing…

I have clearly been out of Tasmania for too long – I somewhat naively assumed we’d have good camping weather when we were down there. Wrong! It’s spring – of course I should have remembered it is still cold and wet at this time of the year in Tasmania!

(I should probably point out for those readers who don’t know, I was born in Tasmania and spent the first 14 years of my life living there. I moved back in my early 20s for a year to study my first year of university at UTas in Launceston, then returned a few years later once I had completed university in Brisbane and gained my first job in academia at UTas Launceston, where I stayed for almost 5 years. I returned to Brisbane at the end of 1998 to start my PhD and have lived permanently in Brisbane since then. Tassie will always hold a special place in my heart but I have very clearly blocked out all the unpleasant weather-related memories.)

My best friend, Kerrilee, lives in Devonport with her 10 year old son, William. I was super excited to drive off the boat (at 6.45am!) and go straight to Kerrilee’s house for breakfast and a catch up 🙂 We had plans to do some camping with Kerrilee and William later in our trip so after stocking up on some groceries and doing some laundry, we reluctantly left the comfort and warmth of Kerrilee’s house and made for our first Tasmanian destination. We had originally planned to head to Arthur River on the north-west coast for a night and then Strahan for another two nights. But it was raining all down the coast and we were going to need to set up the full annex in order to stay warm. Therefore we decided to head straight to Strahan and set up there for 3 nights, which would make setting up the full annex a little less bothersome.

Strahan is a quaint town on the mid-west coast of Tasmania. I remember camping there a bit as a kid with my parents so I was keen to show my own family one of my childhood places of interest. Now that I think of it, it pretty much rained the entire time we camped there when I was young as well. Not sure how I could have forgotten that!

The town sits on the edge of Macquarie Harbour and is famous for two central things – huon pine and convict prisoners. Sarah Island, in Macquarie Harbour, was a convict prison that pre-dated Port Arthur and plays a rich, albeit brutal, piece in Tasmania’s convict history. The forests around Strahan, along the Gordon and Franklin Rivers, are the only place in the world that huon pine grows so abundantly. We did a wonderful boat tour of Macquarie Harbour, Sarah Island, and part of the Gordon River heritage area where we learnt all about these fabulous places and the history of the ‘piners’ who worked deep in the forest to bring the massive huon pine logs back to Strahan for the sawmill. On board the boat we also watched a documentary called The Oldest Living Tasmanian, about the piners and the huon pine industry in Tasmania. It was a fabulous insight into the history of this area and I would recommend watching it if you ever get the chance.

(Side note: this whole area is heritage listed but was once the centre of a massive uproar between the Tasmanian government and the federal government, with the high court having to step in and stop the bitching. Tasmania wanted to log the crap out of this area and put in a whole heap of big dams that would flood the entire area and damage acres and acres of old growth forests of species that only grow in this area. But a good part of the Tasmanian population cried out in protest – yay to Bob Brown, lots of trees were hugged and people chained themselves to trees and essentially lived in the canopies of the trees for months on end, and the federal government finally stepped in and said ‘you can’t do this’. It was one of the biggest conservation protests the world had ever seen and eventually the world heritage folks heard about this and decided it was time to take a look. The area was world heritage listed and the Tasmanian government were made an offer they couldn’t refuse and the area remained as it is now. Happy ending.)

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Brandon on board our Macquarie Harbour cruise
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Captain Charlotte 🙂
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Enjoying our front row seat on the cruise
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The glorious Gordon River
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Macquarie Harbour
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Macquarie Harbour – original lighthouse
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Macquarie Harbour, approaching the roaring 40s
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Exploring Sarah Island
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The old bakery on Sarah Island
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Exploring Sarah Island
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Strahan from the water
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The huon pine saw mill

As anticipated, it rained and rained and rained while we were in Strahan. It was also incredibly windy and on our last night there we encountered 92 km/h winds! Our annex stood through it all (we’d learnt our lesson after Echuca, and we had all the walls attached and the floor down which contributed to the stability). On the morning we packed up we had a brief break from the rain long enough to pack up without our stuff getting wet but the floor and walls all had to be put away quite wet which isn’t ideal. I’m writing this some two weeks later and they are still folded up in the camper and probably won’t get an airing now until we get home!

We had planned to stop for a night at Derwent Bridge which is approximately half way between Strahan and Hobart. It is also essentially on top of a mountain range and very close to Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair. Anyone familiar with Tasmania will know these places are typically frigidly cold and I wasn’t surprised when I saw the forecast for Derwent Bridge involved snow to 300 metres! That’s it – we were driving straight on through and direct to Hobart! (But not before the ‘kids’ had some snow fun first.)

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The first peek at snow – little did we know, more was to come!
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Our rig in the snow at Derwent Bridge
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Brandon threw a snow ball at his car
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Flowing water down a mountain – stunning
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One of the many hydro-electric power stations in the area
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Snow!

We pushed on to Hobart where we had been offered a place to stay with a primary school friend of mine, Andrea, and her family. The promise of a warm building to sleep in rather than a camper was pretty enticing. The main purpose of visiting Hobart was to spend time with my beloved cousin, Anica, and her partner, Phillippa, the closest thing Charlotte has to ‘aunts’ and very important people to us (not forgetting her real great-aunts, of course!). So we spent as much time as we could with them while in Hobart and didn’t do a huge amount of site-seeing. We’ve been to Hobart quite a few times before so this visit was all about family. That being said, we did go to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) because Brandon hadn’t been there yet; Brandon and I also did a Cascade Brewery tour while Pip babysat Charlotte for us. Brandon spent a lot of time building Lego – our host family are avid members of the Tasmanian ‘brick’ enthusiasts scene and had a ‘brixhibition’ coming up the following weekend. Brandon was more than happy to help out by building one of the displays that Andrea planned to exhibit that weekend.

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Charlotte and Anica have an affinity for building stone cairns
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Brandon takes Anica’s scooter a spin!
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Ready to ride!
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Charlotte, Pip, Anica and Nancy
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The imposing Cascade Brewery facade – I grew up just blocks away from this building
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Enjoying our Cascade tour
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Hmmm, just a small purchase
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Lego Ninjago!
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Lego Ninjago!
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Lego Ninjago!
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Charlotte enjoying MONA
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The Aurora Australis ice breaker was in town
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Fun with Anica and Jimmy
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Constitution Dock
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Fun with the ‘aunties’ in the sun (yes, there was some sun!)
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Family love
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More family love

Andrea’s ferret was also a big hit with Charlotte. I’m not convinced – a little too much like a rodent for my liking and I suspect Dobby would probably dispense of it pretty quickly. Still, she was good for some laughs.

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Ferret on your back?
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Ferret down your shirt?
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Ferret in your lap?
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Ferret selfie!

Leaving Hobart our plan was originally to then travel to the east coast of Tasmania and spend 3 nights camping at the Bay of Fires with Kerrilee and William, then head to Devonport and spend 3 nights at Kerrilee’s house before boarding the boat back to the mainland. Kerrilee and I had already agreed that if the forecast was for rain, we’d just head straight to Devonport and stay with her for 6 nights and do day trips from her place. I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was what happened!

We had a lovely extended stay in a warm, dry house (I’d almost forgotten how to set up the camper by now!) and we visited a number of the local attractions that we hadn’t seen on any of our previous trips to Tasmania. First up was a day trip to ‘the nut’, a landmark in Stanley on the western end of the north coast of Tasmania. When I was first there as a kid, you had to walk up and down the nut if you wanted to check out the view. These days they have a chairlift which made the trip far more pleasant for these old bones!

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The Nut
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Chairlifts make it so much easier!
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Chairlifts make it so much easier
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Chairlift selfie
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That’s Kerrilee and William up there
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Not keen to fall
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The view from the top

We also visited 41 Degrees South, a salmon farm just outside of Deloraine. I don’t like salmon so the free tasting didn’t do much for me, but I came away with a great jar of what I’m going to call ginseng dukkah (they call it ginseng spice but it seems exactly like dukkah to me!). Can’t wait to try that on some chicken when we get home 🙂 After a visit to the salmon farm, we met a former UTas colleague of mine for lunch in Deloraine, then stopped on the way home at the Ashgrove Cheese Farm, for a tasting of the local produce. Cheese – mmmm – my weak spot 😉

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Feeding the salmon
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41 Degrees South Salmon Farm
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Can’t quite see but there’s a fish down there
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Can’t quite see but there’s a fish down there
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The water that feeds the salmon farm
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If there’s a rock to be climbed, Charlotte will climb it
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Charlotte enjoyed the playground next to the river in Deloraine
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Charlotte and William trying to maim each other at the playground
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See that boil? That’s a shy platypus 🙂
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Painted cows at Ashgrove Cheese Farm

Another trip involved a visit to the Mole Creek Caves. This was a great chance to see a wet cave up close and to see the glow worms they have in the cave. Once privately owner, this cave system is now managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Tasmania and it was a great day out. Unlike Tunnel Creek in WA, we didn’t need head lights or anything here – the caves are all lit electrically. You have to go through the cave with a guide and he turns on and off the lights as you reach various stages of the walking track. It’s very well done and quite enjoyable. It also remains a steady 9 degrees inside the cave all year round, so I was a bit chilled and actually felt warm as we came to the surface again!

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Getting ready to enter Mole Creek Caves (note the lack of hair!)
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Stunning cave sights
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Impressive spelunking 😉
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Leaving the cave

It was lovely to spend some time chilling with Kerrilee and William and not having the stresses and strains of camper life.

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Bananagrams fun (and practicing our spelling)
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Relaxing at Kerrilee’s place
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The view from Table Cape on the central north coast
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Last supper with Kerrilee and William

But all good things come to an end and pretty soon it was time to board the boat again and head back to the mainland.

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On board once again
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Kerrilee took this image of us as we sailed past – if you squint, you can see me in pink on the top deck, far left

The end of our trip is drawing near – I can’t believe that, at the point we got on the boat, we only had 2 weeks left on our adventure! Yikes! I’m not ready to face going back to work just yet. I suspect it will be a bit of a culture shock. But we still have a few things to cross off our ‘to do’ list before we drive back up our driveway, so you can expect to hear about a few more adventures over the coming 2 weeks 😉

Weeks/nights on the road to this point: 14 weeks, 1 day.

Nullarbor and beyond…

Forgive me as it has been some weeks since my last blog post.

I have come to realise that providing regular posts relies on having some relaxing down time that allows me to bring out the laptop and set myself up in a comfortable environment. I’m fussy like that. Unfortunately circumnavigating Australia in the time period we are doing is kind of the antithesis of things like ‘relaxing down time’ and ‘comfortable environments’. And we’re doing quite of lot of fun things so it’s hard to make time to sit down at the laptop 😉

For anyone contemplating a trip like this, I definitely suggest you make sure you have lots and lots of time. It really is an exhausting endeavour to travel around the entirety of Australia in just under 4 months. We started the trip with naive optimism and allowed ourselves to spend extra nights here and there. While this flexibility made for a more relaxed first half to our trip, it has undoubtedly contributed to us feeling a little more rushed for the second half.

At the end of my last post we were about to head off across the Nullarbor. I was super excited about this prospect for a number of reasons. Probably the strongest of these was that crossing the Nullarbor meant heading closer to the things I was more familiar with – towns I’d been to before and even landscapes I was used to seeing. We wouldn’t seem so far away from it all, we’d be back into a similar time zone. Another reason for looking forward to crossing the Nullarbor was that I really wanted to see the Nullarbor! I’d heard so much about this epic stretch of Australia and it once seemed so formidable. I was excited to be able to see if for myself.

So when last I wrote we were staying the night in a hotel room in Esperance to escape the cold (oh boy – if only I knew then what awaited us when we arrived in Tasmania!)… Because we didn’t need to pack up the camp site in the morning, we made use of having a little extra time and visited a local wildflower show. We missed the ‘big’ one in Ravensthorpe on our way to Esperance so it was nice to read a flyer advertising a smaller display at the local church.

The local horticultural community had put a lot of effort into their show and they were very welcoming when we walked in the door. There were a few other stalls/displays that caught our eye, including a lovely lady who had ‘raw’ wool and was combing it and spinning it on her wheel. Charlotte thought that was pretty cool. Another element that caught Charlotte’s attention was the questionnaire we were given to fill out. One very enthusiastic club member had put together a series of questions that you could only answer if you went around to all of the exhibits and read the accompanying information. The exhibits that provided answers were all numbered so Charlotte took charge of the clipboard and saw it as her job to help us find answers to all the questions! I was hoping for a small reward or congratulations at the end after we diligently went around and wrote everything down but alas we just drifted outside the door and no-one was any the wiser to our newfound understanding of the local salt lake flora community 😦

I have a few photos from the display but Brandon’s wildflower post (hopefully coming soon!) will tell you more…

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The entrance to the wildflower exhibit
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Some of the exhibits
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Some of the exhibits
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Some of the exhibits

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Brandon and Charlotte consulting over the questionnaire

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After this it was on towards the Nullarbor and the longest, straightest stretch of road in Australia (146km). I actually ended up driving a lot of that to give Brandon a break from driving. I figure what harm could I do driving in a straight line?!

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Nullarbor here we come!
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The biggest inhabitants of this neck off the woods are suicidal bugs!

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The scenery of the Nullarbor was rather bland but we expected that. However, we pulled over at one of the many lookout spots along the way and were rewarded with a great view of the coastline – that was what I really wanted to see. The Great Australian Bight – it was awe-inspiring. Before long we had crossed the border into South Australia and immediately lost 1 and ½ hours!

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Yippee – another state line 🙂
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The Great Australian Bight – very impressive
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Bight selfie
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Charlotte just loves contributing to any rock pile she can find (and we’ve actually seen quite a few on our travels!)

I underestimated the impact that changing time zones was going to have on me. When we crossed into WA we lost a few hours and suddenly it was sunset at 5pm. The days seemed to end much quicker, although we were getting up earlier – I was waking at 5.30am because my body clock was telling me it was 7.30am. On mornings when we had to get up and get moving early, that habit worked quite well for us. Alas on days when we drove long distances, setting up at 6pm and then having to scramble to get Charlotte showered and fed in time for a decent bedtime was next to impossible. Charlotte has now had to get used to having a lot of flexibility with her bedtime which is fine while we’re on the road, but it will be a harsh return to reality when we get home and get back to our regular routine! (Although I suspect she will actually quite enjoy going back to a regular routine and will respond well to the boundaries we’ll have to re-enforce.)

Crossing into a new time zone can sometimes be difficult – one minute it is 4pm and the next it is 5.30pm. I know it probably doesn’t seem like a big deal but when you are driving from one destination to the next and you are making plans to stop at a certain place and set up camp for the night, you tend to watch the clock a bit in the late afternoon so as to avoid having to set up camp in the dark. Crossing the border into SA we suddenly lost some time. Thankfully we were staying at the Nullarbor Roadhouse that night which makes set up a little easier (dinners usually take place in the roadhouse restaurant on nights like this). Charlotte actually made a friend at the roadhouse – the 6 year old son of a fellow camper trailer travelling family, The Howards, who we had actually seen at the lookout earlier that day. We shared a dinner table and discovered some remarkable similarities between the Howards and ourselves. It was a lovely connection and when they said they were heading to Streaky Bay the next day we decided to modify our plans and head there too (we had originally planned to Venus Bay for a few nights but we had no reason to be there specifically, so stopping a short distance away from that in Streaky Bay was not difficult).

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Charlotte and Ashley – we haven’t seen a camel yet!
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The Nullarbor roadhouse’s own attraction 😉
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Fake whale selfie

 

On the way along the second half of the Nullarbor the next day we stopped at the Head of the Bight, which is the best place to see whales during the spring season. We weren’t disappointed – there were at least 5 pairs of mothers and calves frolicking in the water beneath the cliffs and it was delightful to watch.

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Whales, whales and more whales
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Whales, whales and more whales
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We have seen so many of these fellows on the road! Shingleback lizards – literally hundreds on the roads

Our (my?) reason for selecting Streaky Bay wasn’t just to give Charlotte a play friend for a few days; Jo showed us photos of the bathrooms which were all set up like ensuites – each has a toilet, vanity and large shower. The Streaky Bay Islands Caravan Park has only been open since February of this year and it was such a luxurious treat to find such great amenities! The park has large (very large), tiered camp sites that are perfectly flat.

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The attraction of a clean amenities block!

It was a great place to stay for a few days. It was also a bit cold and windy but we weren’t allowed to use our OzPig stove. This was a great opportunity to head into town and look for a Mr Heater Buddy portable heater. We had wanted an alternative heat source for times like this and had been researching camping heaters so we were pleased to find the local hardware store had what we wanted. We won’t use it in the camper itself (despite what you see in this photo – that was a test), it will be for the annex.

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Streaky Bay has a few sights to see, one of which was a series of blowholes which we took a trip to see. Charlotte loved the long boardwalks that allowed her to run ahead of us. I just love the cliffs and coastline here – it’s breathtaking. And cold! The wind that comes up here pretty much comes straight from the South Pole, I’m sure!

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Lots of boardwalks to get to the blowholes

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After two nights in Streaky Bay, it was time to continue the trek east – we had a date with a big ship that was going to take us across the Bass Strait! So we headed further along the Eyre Highway towards Victoria, a route that took us through Kimba, South Australia. I had heard about the painted silos that seem to be dotted across the country, mostly in South Australia and Victoria. So I was really pleased to see that Kimba had some painted silos! They were every bit as impressive as I had hoped they would be.

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Painted silos at Kimba

Charlotte was pleased to see that Kimba also had a giant galah 😉

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The Big Galah

We weren’t exactly sure where we were going to end up when we left Streaky Bay because we didn’t know exactly how far we were going to be able to travel that day (recall what I said earlier about changing time zones!). We had thought we’d stop at Port Augusta but nothing there really took our fancy and we still had a little bit of daylight left so we kept moving. We headed a little further east towards Wilmington but we couldn’t find a 24 hour rest stop which was the first time we’d had that problem. It seems the southern states may not have as many of them as we’d encountered in WA. So we were starting to get a little nervous when it was getting to be dusk and we hadn’t yet spotted anywhere yet to stay. WikiCamps hadn’t provided any morsels of joy either.

If we were travelling in a caravan we’d probably be able to just pull over on the side of the road somewhere and set up camp. You have more security in a caravan and don’t feel quite as open to the elements. But in a camper trailer, where all your cooking and living still happen outside and when you only have canvas between you and what waits outside, it’s a little less secure. In order to stay warm (well, not freeze), we also have to make sure all our canvas was zipped up tight which means no windows to look out. You’re a little like a sitting duck if someone wanted to come along and cause trouble. So we try to avoid just pulling up on the side of the road, particularly in towns, unless we’re in a gazetted rest area.

We finally found a caravan park in Wilmington and given the time of day we had no choice but to make camp there. It was actually a very pleasant last resort. The Beautiful Valley Caravan Park is more like a bush camp. We didn’t need a powered site just for one night so we were able to choose where we wanted to set up. We were also allowed to have a fire which was great – we used one of the fire pits a previous guest had established. We were nestled in the trees in a very private spot but with the advantage of a toilet block a few metres away. There was even a children’s playground and a pony to keep Charlotte entertained. It was quite a lovely surprise. And Brandon wants to head back there to do some sight-seeing around Alligator Gorge (not suitable for towing). As usual as soon as we had set up camp, Brandon disappeared into the bush to see what treats he could find 😉

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Pretend bush camp at Beautiful Valley
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Charlotte by the camp fire
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She found a pony 🙂
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Our view from the camper 🙂

The next day we headed off with the excitement of knowing that we were going to reach Victoria today. At least, I was excited. As we have been getting further and further east I have noticed Brandon getting a little less excited about places, perhaps not quite as enthusiastic as I have been about our impending Victorian/Tasmanian travels. I suspect that’s more a sign of him missing all that is now behind us and feeling rushed more than not necessarily wanting to go east. The downside to doing a trip this quick is that a lot of places you really like or want to explore you can’t really spend a lot of time at. It’s more an opportunity to identify parts of the country you want to come back and visit again. I know Brandon has already started planning a southern WA trip to see the wildflowers in more detail, hopefully this time with his Dad.

I was excited to be heading towards a part of the country I felt more familiar with, scenery that made me feel ‘at home’ and seemed less foreign. I have gotten so much out of what we’ve seen so far and am thrilled we had the chance to spend so much time in WA, but I was also constantly aware of how different the countryside over there was and how far way we were from everything. We were now going to be visiting places I’d been to before but wanted to share with Brandon and Charlotte – it felt nice to be heading towards a part of the country that was closer to home, that looked and felt more predictable.

Unfortunately, the predictable hostility of the weather was something I had forgotten about, something that caused us some troubles as we headed east and then on to Tasmania. I’ll save that story for the next post…

Weeks/nights on the road to this point: 11 weeks, 1 day