Time to chill out in the Lockyer Valley

After the constant driving and exploring of the Sunshine Coast, we changed pace and spent nearly a week with friends in the Lockyer Valley. This gave us the chance to slow down and catch up on things like laundry. Corey was able to spend a bit of time fishing with Terry and Zac on Lake Wivenhoe and so we met them out there for lunch and the girls were able to go for a ride in the boat.

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And find butterflies, which were very friendly!

A couple of days later, Corey went fishing with Terry in the ocean so I took the girls into Ipswich for the day to burn off some energy. Queens Park proved to be an awesome spot with a fabulous playground and a little Australian Native zoo.

Alas, no fish was forthcoming for dinner but we were able to go for a drive around the Scenic Rim and Lake Moogerah. We also did a couple of walks to check out the Queen Anne Falls (well, Corey and I walked, the girls hitched a ride quite early!).

One of the days I headed into Brisbane to catch up with some friends. A fabulous lunch and massive conversation with Tanya meant I was a tad late for a catch up with Mira, but it was great to see them both!

And with that, our time in the Lockyer Valley was done and it was time to head back to the coast! Where maybe I won’t get woken at 3am by this noisy bloke – he was beautiful, but he won’t be missed!

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Freshwater or ocean – which one do you catch more fish in? (Corey really needs the tips!). Have you travels through the Lockyer Valley before?

 

Playing tourists on the Sunshine Coast

From inland we head back to the beach to the Sunshine Coast with no real plans other than wanting to find something affordable (you know, because I’ve become a mega tight-arse and all!). Well, we were in luck and found the Cooroy RV park which is a Council run space – to call it a park really is quite a stretch, it’s really an oval with a caretaker, especially as all vans had to be self contained and there was no power available – however, the best part was that it only cost $10 a night.

It was the perfect base to explore the coast and so we did. We headed to the coast for a trip along the beach and to Coolum for lunch.

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We took a drive up through the hinterland to Maleny and Montville whilst the girls slept and a trip up to the coast to Mooloolaba.

We checked out Eumundi Markets which were awesome – thank goodness we only had 2 hour parking, because in that time we ended up with a new pair of shoes each, a little bit of Christmas shopping and a tonne of fresh fruit and veges.

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After this we went to the Ginger Factory in Yandina. The girls loved it here with the ginger train and the boat ride that told the story of the Gingerbread man who travelled the world (you know the story – ‘run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread man!). A really well done ride for littlies, featuring boats that took us around to view iconic vistas of the world created using marionettes. Very well done!

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We were also able to catch up with some old friends who are now based in Cooroy here as well which was awesome. Ali and Liam are old friends from Mundubbera and we’d worked out I hadn’t seen them since my Mum passed away. Through the wonders of facebook, we’ve been able to stay in touch but it was really great to see them both.

The next day we spent the afternoon with my friend Sarndra and her fam which allowed the girls the chance to run around and play with other kids and for us to catch up over chicken and chips for dinner.

After a few days in Cooroy we head over to Landsborough, ready for a day at Australia Zoo which was fantastic.

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Theme parks and tourist attractions are often not cheap for families. We’re extremely lucky that with a 2 year old, many things are free for us, Australia Zoo included. However, despite the fact that we spend $151 on entry fees for the three of us, you can see where every cent has been spent. It’s a fabulous place and Steve Irwin’s legacy is still very much alive and well. My marketing brain went into hyerdrive with how well the branding of the Zoo has been done and how Steve and his life story has been integrated in the signage and marketing.

We’d heard you could hire prams so we decided to do this and was surprised to find that it was only $14 for the day. I went back to get aonther one and due to computer glitch, managed to get that one for free. Completely saved our butts and allowed us to get all the way around with minimum drama and requirement to piggyback the girls.

Surprisingly the food court and gift shops were really reasonably priced too.

And after 7 hours, we were done! Exhausted but pleased we decided to do it!

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And that was the Sunshine Coast. There is no doubt a million more things we could have done whilst we were there, but we’ve reconciled ourselves to the fact that we are limited in what we can do with the girls not to mentioned, with the funds. We have to be very selective about what will provide value for money and keep the girls engaged.

But our few days on the coast were fantastic and it was great to experience the diversity of the area. From the beaches to the hinterland, it’s a beautiful part of the country. Despite growing up on the coast, I think I prefer the forests and hinterland over the beaches. That could be more to do with the tourists and crowds, but there’s something about the lush green national parks that I just love.

What’s your favourite part of the Sunshine Coast? Do you prefer the beaches or the hinterland?

From beach to bush

So after blowing all our data allowance uploading all the pics from Fraser Island, I am waaaay behind in my updates!

After our awesome week and a half in Hervey Bay and on Fraser Island we headed inland to catch up with family at Mundubbera. I spent much of my childhood in Mundubbera after Mum moved and remarried when I was a child. There’s a lot of history and a lot of memories that keep me connected to this place.

We spent a few nights out at our friend Alex & James’ cattle property, nearly 80km from town. The girls loved their time out there. James took them around for rides on the quad bikes to check out the cattle and some new bulls. They were lucky enough to see a few kangaroos and emus too.

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We were also able to catch up with a few old family friends too over the few days we were there, some of whom I hadn’t seen since my 21st birthday… which needless to say was some time ago.

On the way out, we made sure we stocked up on some meat from friends, Tim & Robyn at the Mundubbera Butchery. Winner of State and National Sausage King titles they really know their stuff.  Plus, we’d already tried the most amazing lamb burgers that we bought to take out to Alex and James’ place so we packed our freezer to the brim with pork & blueberry as well as beef sausages, steak, pork cutlets and the best ham ever!

Going back to Mundubbera is often emotional for me as it’s the last place Mum lived and where she is buried. It was so awesome to catch up with people that I hadn’t seen in ages even though this trip was an especially emotional one. The last time I’d been back to Mundubbera had been passing through after my dad’s funeral. Miss B was only 5 weeks old so this trip was the first time we’ve introduced both of our girls to her. Cue waterworks…

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Do you still the visit places that hold special meaning? Did you know that in addition to cattle, Mundubbera has a significant citrus, stone fruit and grape industry?

Our mammoth Fraser adventure

And a mammoth post filled with pics to show it all!!!

Having arrived in Hervey Bay amid dreary skies and rainy weather, we set up the van whilst the girls watched DVDs but before too long, the girls were keen to pull on their gum boots and get amongst it! Our stay in Hervey Bay was a short one before heading to Fraser Island. We stayed at Lazy Acres Caravan Park, because it was super convenient to set up and leave our van on site connected to power whilst we were away and have it ready for us when we returned.

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We headed to Fraser on the barge leaving River Heads on the Monday and returned on the Saturday and spent a fabulous jam packed time in between. We spent 5 nights at The Cathedrals in a permanent family tent which was easy, convenient and comfortable. (And affordable, which given we were paying for accommodation on Fraser and van fees in Hervey Bay, Nards-the-tightarse decreed that cheap was the only option!)img_3064

The last time I was on Fraser Island, I was in about grade 5 so my memories aren’t so sharp, other than some vivid memories of Lake McKenzie and the Maheno wreck, the rest is a blur… but this time around, the highlights were plentiful. It’s really challenging to put how awesome Fraser Island is into words. It’s an incredible place and so diverse in it’s landscape across such short distances. One minute you’re on a coastal beach track and before long it has turned into dense tropical rainforest, scrubby eucalypt forests or of course, one massively long white sandy beach. Fraser definitely has it all and more. I know we spammed our social media with heaps of pics of Fraser, but hopefully these pics will help paint more of the story.  Here are our highlights…

Central Station – I could rave about the rainforest on Fraser all day. I loved the trees and the atmosphere in amongst all the palms and pines.  So many different trees ranging from Kauri Pine, Hoop Pine, Scribbly Bark Eucalypts, Satinays, Piccabeen Palms, Pink Bloodwoods, Smooth Barked Apple Trees, Blackbutt and so many more, it was really easy to see why logging was the primary industry on Fraser back in the day.

Central Station was the hub of the logging industry that started on Fraser in the mid 1860’s and continued until 1991 when logging ceased and a Government inquiry was launched into environmental concerns.  The story goes that even the loggers were upset with how badly they had decimated the island. Consequently, Fraser then became a World Heritage Listed site.  You can see from these pics how gorgeous it is now and why it’s so important to preserve it!

Eli Creek – the biggest creek system on Fraser, it’s a hotspot for tourists who wish to while away the afternoon floating down the shallow creek. This creek flows directly into the ocean and at high tide, can cut access up and down the beach which is why it was so important to get past it at least two hours before high tide!

We spent half a day at Eli Creek and managed to pick a day where it wasn’t super packed with tourists. The girls loved it and even I got wet, which was my first swim on Fraser (the water was bloody cold though!). The creek has the covered forest part and the wide open mouth heading into the sea.  It was definitely worth paying the $15 for the tubes we bought from Big W and the girls had an absolute ball!

Eli Creek was a highlight for Corey too!

Lake McKenzie – was just as stunning as I remembered and the water is truly incredible. I know everyone raves about how clear it is, but all the pics just don’t do it justice. The sand is so white and when the sun hits the water the aquamarine shallows and dark blue deep water just pops.

4wd driving…everywhere – Corey loved the 4wding both on the beach and on the inland tracks. The inland tracks were rough though… however, at one point after a very long day, both Miss B & Miss A slept for over 10km of bumpy tracks (poor me ended up with a kinked back from twisting around to stop their heads from flopping around).  All up, we did over 500km whilst on Fraser!

This map gives you an idea of how much ground we covered – we didn’t even see half of it!

  • entered Fraser Island via Wanggoolba Creek on the South-Eastern side
  • we went up as far North as Orchid Beach
  • did the teal track behind Happy Valley to Lake Allom and out just before the Pinnacles (at Sunset!)
  • did the brown track from the beach to Lake McKenzie & Lake Birrabeen several times
  • went as far South as Eurong Beach along the beach

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Even I had a crack!

Chillaxing on the beach – We stopped and had lunch on the beach a few times and drank water which ran from the streams into the ocean… and yet not one dingo did we see! (Although our tent neighbours saw one so they were around).

Champagne Pools – Up past Indian Head, this natural pool created by rock is likened to champagne when the waves crash over the rocks and fizz in the pools.  We were there when the tide was a little low to see the full effect, but it’s the best time for littlies to actually go for a swim.  In the pools were little whiting and tropical fish too!

Beach fishing – of course, one of the big highlights had to be catching his first ocean fish! (And rocking his All4Adventure shirt too!).  The two fish were little Darts but they tasted pretty good!

Maheno wreck – I found the history of the Maheno really interesting – I remember seeing the wreck as a kid, but had no recollection of it’s story and didn’t realise it was a hospital ship that was being towed to NZ for scrapping when its tow rope snapped and it ended up wrecked on the west coast of Fraser. After no one was interested in salvaging it, it was determined that it would stay so it was stripped and left there. The Australian Special forces then used it for target practice in preparation for World War 2!! And now it’s a popular tourist stop along 75 Mile Beach!

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Lakes that weren’t McKenzie – In addition to Lake McKenzie, we checked out Lake Birrabeen which was also gorgeous (although Corey said it was a bit stinky), Lake Wabby which we saw from the lookout and Lake Allom where we stopped to see the turtles…

On our last morning, we headed back to Lake McKenzie for another dip – I finally went in for a proper swim and the water was beautiful. Lake McKenzie is also apparently known for it’s jewellery cleansing properties so I rubbed the sand on and sparkled up the gems!  Fabulous way to finish off our trip!

And so ended the Fraser Island adventure!  It definitely got the thumbs up and we will be back!

We returned to Hervey Bay where I caught up on mountainous piles of washing, restocked pantries and fridges before we went exploring around the the local area.

We took the girls fishing off the pier and to the discovery sphere which provides interactive displays about some of the indigenous history, flora and fauna from the region and history of the local area and Fraser and for a grand total of $8 for all four of us, it was a great way to kill an hour or so!

Tonight was capped off with some trick or treating around the caravan park with half a dozen or so kids dressing up and doing the rounds – the girls loved it and it was a really nice end to the day. Hearing them yell out Trick or Treat was super cute and they loved their first full-on Halloween!

Have you ever been to Fraser Island or Hervey Bay? If so, what was the highlight of your trip?

Downtime in Bundy

The next stop in our travels was Bundaberg where we were originally planning to spend a couple of nights, but ended up staying three nights at the Wyper Park Scout Camp. We found this little gem on Wikicamps and at only $10, this awesome little camp had showers and toilets and heaps of space for the girls to run around… and not many neighbours which was awesome.  The caretaker Mick was a character and up for a chat but he was helpful and interesting and he is a great asset to the Scout Campgrounds!

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Having left the tranquillity of 1770, we were really only planning to spend time in Bundy to restock on supplies and kill some time before we headed to Fraser Island on the 24th October, but we liked our little camping spot so much we stayed an extra night. The kookaburras came out every morning and the girls had fun trying to spot them and chasing them around.img_2452

We spent our time in Bundy covering the Botanical Gardens where the girls fed ducks and turtles before heading to Bargara beach for fish & chips for lunch and a drive out to Elliot Heads along the coastal road.

 

And one of the evenings, at Mick’s suggestion, we did a great little walk behind the Scout Camp which overlooked the Burnett River.  The girls loved it kept telling us they were going through the ‘jungle’.

We also checked out Bundy’s little Zoo and saw some birds, an emu and some little tamarind monkeys. Situated next to a massive playground, it was an easy way to spend a morning!img_2547

We also met some great neighbours in Ritchie, Natasha, James and Alex who arrived on our second night there. After 10 months on the road, their trip was coming to an end as they headed back home to NSW before Christmas. But, they were a wealth of knowledge and picking their brains was awesome – we spent a good hour or so taking notes and highlighting a few things on our map based on their recommendations and experiences.

We know we missed some of the obvious tourist activities in Bundy – ie the Rum distillery etc, but the girls just don’t have the attention span so we have to look at our tourist options through their little people lenses and pick the activities to suit. Overall though, our time there was enjoyable and our camp a nice little spot.

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Have you ever come across a great little unexpected camping spot that made you stay an extra day? What obvious tourist attractions have you missed due doing a trip with younger kids?

We found paradise in 1770

Why Captain Cook didn’t decide to drop anchor and stick around a bit I’ll never understand! We’ve spent 3 days at Seventeen Seventy and we love it. A stunning piece of the Queensland coast with the most gorgeous sunset over the ocean you’ll ever see – particularly on the East coast given the sun sets in the west!

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After our two week break in Yeppoon, we packed up and left my sister and her fam and headed for Agnes Water and Seventeen Seventy. We weren’t sure when and where we’d eventually stop, but thankfully we ended at the 1770 Camping Ground right on the beach.  We’ve been lucky enough to meet another family with a two and four year old as well and so the kids have been happily occupied, meaning the parents have been able to unwind a little too.  Every evening, we’ve watched the sun go down as the kids have played on the sand and in the water – it has been bliss!

We’ve spent our time here mainly at the beach, although today we hired a paddle board to take advantage of the flat ocean and stunning weather.

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We even sussed out the real-estate here which surprisingly was quite affordable with 4 bedroom homes with ocean views for just over $400k… But don’t worry Mildura peeps, we have no plans to move here… for now! But be warned, Corey has put Agnes on his retirement list!

Tomorrow we plan to continue down south – not sure where we’ll stop yet but it’ll either be Bundaberg or Hervey Bay… we’re booked in for Fraser Island on Monday where we’ll spend 5 nights.

Have you ever been to Agnes Water/1770? What destination have you been to that you’d describe as paradise?

 

Home to Poontown

No matter how long you’ve lived away from your hometown, the minute you’re back in the vicinity it always seems like you’ve come home. I moved away from Yeppoon the minute I finished high school. A friend and I threw everything we had into a bunch of bags, caught the tilt train and moved to Brisbane ready for Uni. I returned to live in Rockhampton for a few years to finish Uni after my mum got sick but once completed and given the chance to head for the city again, I was off.

When the date for my 20 year high school reunion was decided, we hadn’t yet made the decision to do our trip, so I probably would have just flown up for the weekend. However once we decided to do it and started our planning, we simply factored in the reunion dates and ensured that we got there in time, making somewhat of an unorthodox ‘lap’ but one that has ultimately allowed us to fit in key dates and do the things we wanted to do.

In so many ways, Yeppoon has changed significantly. I noticed these changes when I went home for my Nana’s and then my Dad’s funeral a few years ago and the progress hasn’t stopped since. There is now a big shopping complex (which was always rumoured to happen but never seemed to eventuate when I lived there), the much longed for Maccas finally arrived, the Bowls Club which was central to my grandparent’s social life has been knocked down and replaced by a Toyota dealership and most recently the beach front had undergone a massive redevelopment including more retail space with cafes and shops and a water play area for the kids.

But many things have stayed exactly the same… that moment when you crest the hill coming into town and see the water glimmering in the sunshine with the Keppel Islands on the horizon still evokes the same breathtaking awe, the fruit bats hanging in the mangroves not far from the main beach are still there as too is the the screech of lorikeets at dusk and the smell of that salty coastal air mixed with marshy mangrove odour… it’s all still the same.

And in many ways our 20 year high school reunion was similar. Aside from the friends that you’ve kept in touch with over the years, of the 50 or so students that returned, there were some there I just picked up from where I left off when we last saw each other in the school yard, and some that I said nothing more than a polite hi. Whilst it is still somewhat trippy to think that 20 years have passed since we graduated, on the whole most people were exactly the same and surprisingly we had a really good night. Which given I was hanging with this crew of awesome chicks, would have been enough in itself without the reunion!

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After the reunion it was good to catch up with friends and we were lucky enough to stay with friends who lived a street back from the beach, so we spent a lot of time at the beach and in their pool (well, I didn’t… it was way too cold for me!)

We head over to Emu Park for a few hours to check out the singing ship and I was really glad to have been able to look over the new tribute for the ANZAC centenary.  The boardwalk from the ship, historic feature hut and new courtyard area was a really lovely way to pay our respect to the diggers from the local area.

But the most moving wartime tribute I think I’ve ever seen was this one over looking the bay depicting the landing at Gallipoli using the coast line to add realism and the Keppel Islands to simulate warships. So well done, and a very poignant reminder of the challenges of that battle.

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After a week beachside, it was time to hang out with my sister so we swapped the coast for a more rural setting and headed to inland to a small pocket between Yeppoon and Rockhampton. Here the cousins were able to run riot and get to know each other. Chickens seem to be featuring a bit on our trip. Since staying at Mone’s prior to our trip, Miss B has been quite enamoured by chickens and we’re just about convinced that we need to get some when we return home. Both our friends in Yeppoon and my sister had chickens and the girls loved seeing and talking to them and collecting the eggs each day!

We also checked out the free Zoo at the Rockhampton Botanical Gardens.  The zoo has been there ever since I was a kid, but I thought the girls might like to see the chimpanzees.  There’s been a lot more refurbishment done since I was last there and the girls had a ball checking out the animals and trying to find the chimps.

When my sister offered to babysit, Corey and I headed off to the Rodeo. He was a bit gutted he didn’t have his Akubra, feeling somewhat out of place with all the cow cockies, but I assured him it was for the best.  We were able to have dinner and a few drinks, and watch a few bulls… even get ice-cream on the way home… all whilst the kids had a sleep over in the lounge room.  It was hard to get any good shots given how dark it was, but this grey brahman bull was very impressive!

The next day we took the girls into Yeppoon’s annual Pineapple Festival, an event I hadn’t been to in over 15 years (kind of fits into the some things still stay the same category!) but the girls loved it and Miss B was thrilled to get a free pineapple!!!

After the festivities, we headed home where I cooked up our last dinner before we headed off the next day – including a choc ripple cake, which is not such a common occurrence in Queensland.  I hadn’t ever seen one until I met my hubby and so when I mentioned it to my sister and I received a blank stare in return, I knew I had to make it for her.

14800667_10155352902431808_469416654_nAnd then it was time to go.  On to the next adventure!

Does it still feel like ‘home’ to you when you return to your hometown? Have you ever heard of choc ripple cake?

A month of stats – first month in

Ok, so this is a few days late, but we’ve always found it fascinating when people post up the stats of their trips and so we’ve been keeping a few of our own… Every month we’ll post up the stats of our trip.

29 August – 29 September 2016

Total kms – 5594km

Amount of kms Corey has driven – 5589km

Amount of kms Nardia has driven – 5km

ACCOMMODATION

Total nights away – 28

Number of free camps – 5

Number of unpowered sites – 7

Number of powered sites – 16

Most expensive park we’ve stayed – $50p/n for a powered site at Kings Canyon Resort

Favourite camp spot – Willow Springs

Total accommodation costs – $712

FUEL

Total litres of fuel used – 925.05L

Most expensive fuel – 1.97/L Kings Canyon

Cheapest fuel – 1.15/L Broken Hill

Total fuel costs – $1487.59 – eek! that’s the cost of fast tracking!!

RANDOM FACTS

Best lunch – Quorn – Emily’s Bistro (best pies ever!)

Most expensive coffee – $5.75 @ Peterborough (unfortunately not the best coffee ever!)

Highlight so far – Skytrek & Uluru

Lowlight so far – Clutch dramas resulting in 4 unplanned days in Port Augusta

Total cost of groceries – $1046.80

Total cost of beer – $217 (coz you know it needed it’s own category!)

Vehicle costs – $157.90 (Hawker mechanic, brake fluid, coolant)

Caravan costs – $1035 (first service plus $700 for weight distribution set up)

Touristy things – $227.40

Misc spending money – $1240.10 (snacks & lunches, DVD repairs, laundry, park memberships – this is clearly where we need to learn to cull!)

Gas bottle refill – 1 so far – $28.85 at Home Hardware Alice Springs

Number of dump point empties – 3 (glad that’s Corey’s job)

And that’s it! The summary of our first month on the road!  I’ve been tracking expenses with a spreadsheet (never thought I’d see the day but hey, when the bucket of $$ is finite, then these things have to be done!).

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Hopefully we’ll be able to slow down a lot more and spend more time free camping.  We’re staying in Yeppoon for three weeks so that should save us heaps in accommodation as we have some free accommodation options there.  As for the rest well we expected the first month to give us an idea and when we average out what we’ve spent compared to our budget, we’re actually not that far off the mark!

Do you track how much you spend when you’re travelling or on holidays? Are you like us and way under-estimate the ‘misc spending’ that occurs?

Hightailing it to Longreach

After we left Gemtree, the mission was on to make it to the coast in time for my 20 year high school reunion on the 1st October. This meant some big days of travelling simply to make the miles, but we also wanted to make sure we saw a few of the things we wanted to see.

So we prioritised high-tailing it up to the Three Ways to turn onto the road towards Queensland until we got to Longreach. We stopped for a quick look at the Devil’s Marbles…

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And then only twice overnight on the way.  The first was a free camp about 140km east of the Three Ways turn off where we saw the most beautiful sunset… but had to deal with 37 degree heat and a billion bugs!img_1272 Then we stopped at Corella Dam which was a beautiful spot that we’ve ear-marked when we come back that way in July/August next year. We tried to do a bit of yabbying/red claw catching, but no luck!

We also had to stop at Walkabout Creek Hotel!  Still as in-love with his knife as ever, Corey couldn’t resist a knife gag in front of the sign!

Although our aim was to stay in Longreach, Corey really wanted to stay in a little caravan park in Ilfracombe, just under 30km out from Longreach and so that’s where we ended up and it was definitely worth it. Hosts Cathy and Jesse were great holding a happy hour gathering the three nights we were there in their purpose built shed. Each night, either Cathy or Jesse would tell tall stories, recite some bush poetry and give some insight and history about Ilfracombe and surrounds. It has definitely been the most sociable caravan park we’ve stayed in so far.

Apart from happy hour, we went into Longreach to do the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, which unfortunately with little kids, meant that we really didn’t do it justice. It is an amazing collection of outback history and filled with small detail that is impossible to take in with two little girls who were over it after an hour of walking around.

We stayed for the stockman show which was brilliant and certainly captivated the girls – Miss A loved it especially!

After the SHOF, we headed into town for some lunch and as it turned out, went searching for a boofhead sized Akubra.

I’m not sure if I’ve shared the story of Corey and his desire for an Akubra yet… You may recall when we were stuck in Port Augusta for a few days getting our replacement clutch that we headed out to the Australian Arid Botanical Gardens for the afternoon. In the small gift shop there, I found Corey trying on these Akubra hats. That in itself makes me chuckle as it’s no great secret that my darling husband has quite a ginormous head. Whether it’s a baseball cap, bucket hat, motorbike helmet… or as it turns out, an Akubra, it’s a very rare thing for him to find a) a hat that even fits his head and b) a hat that actually looks good when it’s on his head.

Should he ever regale this story, he would no doubt argue that he hit the jackpot with the Akubra he found (size 64 Coolabah style, for those who might care!) however, my retelling of the tale would not be the same. Notwithstanding my discouragement however, his object of desire has now become an Akubra. The only reason he didn’t purchase said Akubra at the Botanical Gardens is due to the fact that their logo had been stamped into the side of the hat and he wasn’t so keen on that.

So by the time we got to Longreach, he was dead keen on finding a size 64 Akubra so we traipsed through four different outfitters and sadly (for him, not me) none had anything in size 64 or above!

So alas, we left Longreach hatless and headed back to Ilfracombe where we headed to the local swimming pool. Having been born and bred in Queensland, I don’t do cold at the best of times and I especially don’t do cold swimming pools, but in Ilfracombe they have a mineral thermal hot spring pool which is like soaking in a hot bathtub – my kind of swimming. We spent a bit of time there before it was time to head to happy hour.

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Having spoken to a few people during happy hour, we’d highly recommend Ilfracombe over Longreach if you’re headed that way!

Have you ever been to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame? Do you own an Akubra?

A gem of a place

When undertaking research and sussing out where other families had gone and recommended on their trips around the country, time and time again Gemtree came up in my research and so I had said to Corey we had to go there. Orginally planning 4 or 5 days there, unfortunately we were only able to stay three nights, and ended up leaving the day of the renowned camp oven roast night which was a bit of a shame. However, with over 2500km ahead of us to get through in 6 days so that I could get home in time for my 20 year high school reunion, we knew we couldn’t afford another night.

The three nights spent at Gemtree were the first time in the three and a half weeks we’d been on the road that we had actually just sat and relaxed. Up until this point, we had been on the go, filling our days with tours or drives or sites to see.

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Gemtree is a beautiful little spot about 140km North of Alice Springs, with tonnes of space and a relaxed vibe and is situated in the Central Gemfields where zircon and garnet can be found. Hosts Aaron and Kate McMaster run fossicking tours and there are 4WD tracks to while away the time for those interested. We decided not to do any of that and try to catch up and chill out for a few days however we did end up buying a bucket of dirt to try our luck at fossicking for garnet under a little hut (made especially for those who want to experience some fossicking but don’t want to do a tour – perfect for families who have kids that are too little for a full day’s tour).

We found a heap of garnet and even managed to find 5 pieces that were worthy of cutting into stones for jewellery so I think perhaps there will be some little necklaces made as a memento of our trip for the girls.img_1246

Prior to our arrival, the area had had over 3 inches of rain in a short period of time so things were quite lush and green, which to be honest can be said for the majority of the Northern Territory that we’d seen. Most places were thriving and the red desert landscape most people are familiar with hasn’t been our experience so far.  I’m not sure if the wet also bought out the mozzies or not, but Billie ended up with some ripper bites which we managed to keep under control and not scratch – yes, it meant I had to get up about 3 times a night to the sound of her yelling at me to put on ‘more cream’ but they’re starting to heal well.Her right foot though was nearly double the size of the left due to a massive bite on her ankle!

The second night we built a fire and toasted marshmallows and cooked damper on sticks. Something that, to be honest, was not so successful given both girls have no fire sense and came precarilously close to the fire on too many occaisions to count resulting in a condensed experience and bed time for both. We tried again the following night with much better success which just reinforced to us that fire safety is something we need to spend more time on with them and not assume that they know.

 

We met other campers and spent a few nights around a campfire talking shite which topped off an awesome time.

The highlight at Gemtree, was hands down, the stars. The nights were so clear and the stars were amazing… a million specs of amazing. I played around with the camera a bit to get some shots, but these pictures just don’t even come close (which probably says more about my proficiency with the camera!).img_0258

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It was nice to have some downtime and a break from the walking and touring and I think the girls appreciated that too.

Have you ever heard of Gemtree before? Where is your favourite spot to camp for a few days R&R?