Friday 28th March – Tuesday 2nd April 2014 – Photos

I’m a bit behind, but know how much some people love a photo blog, so here it is. I’ll get onto the word part of it soon, hopefully tomorrow!!

Over taking a truck on the road to De Grey Campground

Over taking a truck on the road to De Grey Campground

Our camp at De Grey

Our camp at De Grey

Sunset over the De Grey River

Sunset over the De Grey River

Sunrise at De Grey camp

Sunrise at De Grey camp

Some camels (not ours) arriving at Cable Beach, Broome

Some camels (not ours) arriving at Cable Beach, Broome

AHB and MMB after their camel got up

AHB and MMB after their camel got up

All of us on the camels

All of us on the camels

Sunset shot

Sunset shot

Second sunset shot of the camel ride

Second sunset shot of the camel ride

Sun going down on Cable Beach while on a camel

Sun going down on Cable Beach while on a camel

BSB with her camel "Joe"

BSB with her camel “Joe”

HGB with her camel "Wongi"

HGB with her camel “Wongi”

AHB and MMB with their camel "Muscles"

AHB and MMB with their camel “Muscles”

HGB feeding Wongi a carrot

HGB feeding Wongi a carrot

Sunset at Cable Beach

Sunset at Cable Beach

HGB pulling BSB on the flying fox at the station at Broome

HGB pulling BSB on the flying fox at the station at Broome

Him getting ready to go up in the chopper with Mr Crossfit

Him getting ready to go up in the chopper with Mr Crossfit

Up in the chopper looking over Roebuck Bay

Up in the chopper looking over Roebuck Bay

Water birds from the chopper

Water birds from the chopper

The station at Broome

The station at Broome

MMB getting her nerf on

MMB getting her nerf on

The kids lining up for smoko at the station with "Wonder Chef"

The kids lining up for smoko at the station with “Wonder Chef”

And inhaling  the smoko

And inhaling the smoko

AHB with Frankie Diddles

AHB with Frankie Diddles

The coast at Gantheaume Point

The coast at Gantheaume Point

The kids at me at Gantheaume Point

The kids at me at Gantheaume Point

The kids and me exploring at Gantheaume Point

The kids and me exploring at Gantheaume Point

Me about to land on BSB at Gantheaume Point

Me about to land on BSB at Gantheaume Point

Stay tuned for more photos of the next part of the adventure, and hopefully the words that go with this post…

Friday 21st- Friday 28th March 2014 – Paraburdoo

As we left Exmouth the landscape made a gradual change to a much more interesting scene. Slowly, gone was the flat, low shrubby country and it was replaced by many more beautiful gum lined waterways, many of which must have been underwater rivers as there was not much actual water about, and rolling hills and iron ridges of various size and colour. The spinifex grasses were all in seed, which made for some interesting viewing; a lot of the hills we drove passed looked like you were watching a 3D movie without 3D glasses on – it really was quite odd; all a bit shimmery.

As we got closer to Paraburdoo we even drove through a few little rain storms, quite a novelty to use the windscreen wipers for the first time in quite a while.

We all travelled reasonably well, I’m still very thankful for all the audio books that are keeping everyone quietly entertained on the longer journeys – though we do need to break it up with some tunes every now and then to keep the driver sane!

Paraburdoo probably isn’t on many people’s “places to see” list while travelling this country, but my closest male cousin works at the mines there, and we hadn’t caught up for a few years, so a brilliant opportunity to see some different country and catch up with some wonderful people.

Growing up in central New South Wales I had one set of cousins who lived about 1/2 an hour away, while my other cousins all lived in Queensland. The close cousins were my Mum’s Sister’s children, and I think there is a special bond between us all. Many of my childhood memories involve these cousins, and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them again as adults – as a child, because I was the youngest of the NSW cousin tribe, I sort of unintentionally got left out of a lot of activities (or maybe it was intentional as I was a pain in the arse…) so to reconnect at different times with these guys has been lovely. The elder of these cousins, Mrs Beautiful Chickens, lives near Brisbane, and while we lived in Brisbane a few years ago I saw a lot of her and we became friends as much as cousins, and although her brother Mr Mine (the one at Paraburdoo) was much closer in age to me, I definitely had lost contact with him a bit, and was really looking forward to catching up again.

Not to mention the chance to catch up with his lovely wife, Mrs Mine, again, and to see/meet their children. We were able to time our visit to coincide with Mr Mine’s rostered days off, allowing quite a few days to hang out and do stuff together. Unfortunately Mrs Mine still had to work, but we had the weekend and the evenings together.

Arriving with bag loads of washing and having not had a shower for nearly a week, though we had been swimming in the ocean everyday, is an interesting way to enter a house, but these people are so lovely that I honestly don’t think they could have cared less.

Some more lovely rain overnight, making me very thankful that we were all happily packed into a house, especially one with air-conditioning, as although the rain cooled things down, it was still pretty hot.

The 2nd cousins eating pizza

The 2nd cousins eating pizza

Saturday we split camp, with the boys heading to the gun club to shoot some stuff, and the girls (+ 2year old Mop) went to the Paraburdoo library and then the milkbar for a treat supplied by Mrs Mine.

The kids having a Paraburdoo treat

The kids having a Paraburdoo treat

The libraries in Western Australia really are great, taken that I have already established my love of libraries, but they really are welcome little havens. The Paraburdoo library was filled with very new looking books and dvds and everything was neat, tidy and air conditioned – which out there is totally essential!

Paraburdoo is a mining town that was established when the mine was first started in the 1970’s or sometime. The majority of the houses in town are owned by the mining company (Rio Tinto), and rented by the minors, with a few other businesses in town keeping the place going, such as a supermarket, bottle-o, service station, doctor surgery, mobile dentist, and visiting vet van. Most people in the town wear High-Vis clothes and work shifts and rosters at the mine.

Saturday afternoon saw the men disappear into Mr Mine’s “Man Cave” (which as he is a committed member to the gun club up there is quite an exciting place to be) to clean rifles and talk about bullets and stuff, while the kids spent the afternoon in and around the pool.

Mr and Mrs Mine have two children. Banana has just turned four, so our girls loved hanging out in her room playing dress ups and making up loads of games around that (the favoured being Rupunzel, which consisted of tying a long piece of any coloured material around your head and pretending it was hair).

Banana, HGB and MMB dressed up as Rapunzel (though they look like shepherds)

Banana, HGB and MMB dressed up as Rapunzel (though they look like shepherds)

Their two and a bit year old son I have dubbed Mop, as he sports the same mop-like haircut that I had as a child. Mop is a total live wire and I’ve never seen a kid his age, like him in the pool. He is fearless and although his swimming style is far from regular, he manages to get everywhere he wanted to go, even if at times we all thought he was about to drown!

Mop and AHB underwater

Mop and AHB underwater

As always, I think the kids all formed a closer bond with each other than they did with the adults, which is really how it should be. Though I really did enjoy watching them all together and having little interactions with both of my first cousins once removed, I don’t think I rated anywhere nearly as highly as the kids on the “fun scale”, especially MMB who seemed a very big hit, especially with Mop.

The Mine’s also have a beautiful dog, who prior to them having children we were all a little worried about how she would adjust to life not as the only child as she is part Rhodesian Ridgeback, and can be rather protective. She has grown into the most beautiful family dog though, and although her personal space was probably being encroached fairly often, she coped very well with the influx in child numbers, and seemed to love the extra attention, especially that given by AHB.

During our communications prior to arriving at Paraburdoo, Mr Mine had offered to take us on a tour of the Paraburdoo Mine. The lovely Mrs Mine had offered to look after the kids for us, so He and I donned our High-Vis mine gear on Sunday morning and headed off with Mr Mine for a tour.

Mr Mine is a very calm and laid back kind of guy, always has been, and I really loved seeing him in his professional environment. Mr Mine is really well suited to his job, and his knowledge of the whole mine history and overall scope of the mine was very interesting. This may be one of those times when the pictures are worth more than the words, but the one thing the pictures don’t show is just how HUGE the whole thing is. Everything there looks the same as mini versions, but totally on steroids, which I think you lose a bit in the photos, but here you go:

Him and me with Mr Mine before our mine tour

Him and me with Mr Mine before our mine tour

Him and me at the graveyard

Him and me at the graveyard

Him and me at the graveyard again

Him and me at the graveyard again

Tour with Mr Mine

Tour with Mr Mine

Paraburdoo Mine

Paraburdoo Mine

What it's all about - Iron ore

What it’s all about – Iron ore

The mine

The mine

Big digger and truck

Big digger and truck

Big digger

Big digger

Quick explanation of a couple of things, the graveyard is where the machines that have broken down completely go, where they are then used for spare parts, or one day brought back into service if it is deemed financially viable, or left forever. These are the only vehicles you can get close too, as all the ones that are working really are very dangerous. When up in one of the big trucks, there is something like a forty metre blind spot in front of them, and they are enormous, so would squash a person without even noticing. The rest are photos taken of the numerous mines at the site from varying vantage points. The mining up here is different to lots of places as they are pulling down mountains, not digging big holes, to get the iron ore.

That afternoon we headed back to their home for a party that HGB had organised during one of her english units of school work. Good excuse to make a cake, eat loads of lollies, dress up and have a good time! The kids got to ice and decorate biscuits, which was good fun, the only issue was when Mop decided to swallow a snake lolly without chewing it properly, but once it was retrieved all was ok.

MMB with her biscuit

MMB with her biscuit

During the week we decided to take a day trip to Karijini National Park. We had originally thought that we would go and camp there after being at Paraburdoo, but the reality was that it is still so hot up here that the walks through the national park would become sweat treks, and the sleeping would be near impossible due to the heat. We thought a day trip to check it out would help us make the decision whether camping there would be suitable or not.

Mr Mine brought the two kids along with us and took us to some lovely spots in Karijini. It really is amazing countryside, very Albert Namatjera (an Aboriginal artist who painted amazing Australian Landscapes). The view was ever changing depending on the light. The rocks could look so very red, then fade away to brown. I had all kinds of wonderful words flowing through my head at the time, but they are all hiding from me now.

Amazing country. You drive along, and all of a sudden in the distance these massive red cracks open up, huge gorges flowing through the land.

Looking into the gorge

Looking into the gorge

Another shot of the gorge

Another shot of the gorge

A gorge at Karijini

A gorge at Karijini

Swimming at Karijini

Swimming at Karijini

Swimming at Karijini

Swimming at Karijini

We had a lovely time, the swim was very welcome, and it did confirm that camping at Karijini at this time of the year really wasn’t going to be our best option. We went back to Paraburdoo, via Tom Price (a nearby mining town) for an ice cream and a few supplies.

The rest of the week passed in a comfortable manner, very relaxed and easy going. The kids and I went to the library a couple of times to do a bit of work. The kids swam heaps, played heaps and generally enjoyed Paraburdoo.

It was hard to believe that an entire week went by while we were there. The Pilbura lifestyle is definitely not for everyone, but there are worse places to be. Summer must be incredibly hot, and how people lived there without air conditioning I don’t know, but it is very well cooled down now, making it very pleasant.

I loved catching up with Mr and Mrs Mine, seeing Banana again and meeting Mop. Such a brilliant family. Goodness knows when we’ll next get our paths to cross, but I hope the time before drinks is not as long as the last one.

All of us with Mr and Mrs Mine, Banana and Mop

All of us with Mr and Mrs Mine, Banana and Mop

It is still very hot up here (and I do realise this post has flipped between past and present tense the entire way… sorry about that!) but we are hoping that the worst of the hot and wet has passed and our trip north, and then the beginning of the eastern journey is now possible.

Life is an ever changing event…

Sunset at Paraburdoo

Sunset at Paraburdoo

Sunday 16th – Friday 21st March 2014 – Cape Range National Park

Amazing how quickly time gets away from you, and before you know it you are a few weeks behind…

We moved out to Cape Range National Park on the Sunday. As we’d scoped out the sites the week before, we headed directly to the one that we had picked as first preference. There was a campervan parked in the spot, but it looked like it was ready to leave. He went and asked them and sure enough they were packed up and ready to head off, so we waited around for them to go, then plonked our trailer in the shadiest spot available. Not many other people about, so looked to be a pretty quiet week. We soon realised that that was the rhythm of the place. Most mornings the campsites would clear out, but by the afternoon many of them were filled again. Loads of tourists, especially Germans and some kind of pretty Swede/Norwegian people.

We went for our first snorkel at Lakeside (which was where we were camped, with the snorkelling zone only about 500m away), and we were a little disappointed. I think after the ease of snorkelling, especially with the kids, at Coral Bay, Lakeside was pretty big. Fortunately the disappointment didn’t last long, as each session got better and better as we snorkelled through the week. It was just so different from the previous snorkelling that we’d done as Lakeside sanctuary zone was a bit like a dessert as you headed out, and then you’d come across these amazing outcrops of coral with fish everywhere. I think on that first snorkel we missed most of the good bits.

We headed to the information centre to pay for our stay at the park, kids picked up a couple of free activity booklets and we all had a good look about, so really interesting videos and information boards. Bit the bullet and booked in for five nights, just hoping and praying that the horrendous, constant, hot wind that was there on our first visit to the park was not to return…

Amazing sunset that night, as there was most nights that we were there.

The view of the range at Cape Range National Park

The view of the range at Cape Range National Park

Our camp at Lakeside

Our camp at Lakeside

A very different landscape with the small range to the east of the coast, but all fairly dry and desolate. This country that we live in sure is an ever changing and vastly different place.

Monday saw us up and ready to explore some other snorkelling spots within the park. We decided to check out “Oyster Stacks” which is best snorkelled at high tide. The access to this site was not as easy, you sort of had to get over loads of rocks to get to the water, and then entry was over some more rocks. The snorkelling was pretty good though. He and AHB went snorkelling straight away while the girls and I went for a bit of a scramble up the rocky beach. We soon decided that we’d made the wrong decision as it was a little hot rock scrambling! So back we headed to the snorkelling boys and joined in.

Totally different snorkelling at Oyster Stack, much more central, and easier to find the good stuff. We managed to see our first turtle while at Oyster Stacks, which was a pretty big thrill for all of us! Turtley Awesome Dude!!

During our time at Cape Range we ended up seeing quite a few turtles. They seemed to wedge themselves under rocks to get a bit of a rest. Fairly well camouflaged, until you spot them, then they are just there! Amazing creatures to follow as they look so cumbersome, but they flow through the water with the smallest amount of visual effort. They seem to just flop their flippers and zoom out of sight!

We left Oyster stack and went for a swim at another beach called Sandy Cove, before heading back to camp for lunch and a relaxed afternoon reading books and playing in the shade.

Monday afternoon we left AHB fishing and the girls playing in the sand (as their ears were still playing up) and He and I headed out for a snorkel at Lakeside again. Depending on the tide, there is a pretty decent current at Lakeside, you can enter the sanctuary zone and float down over all of the coral, especially once you’ve figured out where the best bits are. We saw some more turtles and a few stingrays and I must say it was much more relaxing snorkelling without a small child clasped in each hand!

We let the kids stay up to watch the full moon come up, which seemed to be quite a while after the sun went down, but was very spectacular. We felt like going over to all the other campers and pointing it out to them, as everyone else seemed to be missing out… I mean, it was a spectacular full moon coming up over the ranges at a National Park, nothing special…

Tuesday we decided to stay at Lakeside and have a quiet day there. AHB and He went for a snorkel just off the beach at Lakeside and found another couple of turtles wedges under the rocks – funny critters. They also found an enormous snail like creature about the size and shape of a football, obviously some kind of squishy body underneath, and then an enormous appendage out the front that looked a bit like a horn – or a very excited male… Absolutely no idea what it was called, and although we have found shells on the beach that look the same, though fifty times smaller, we’ve never seen anything that big. I obviously had to then go out and have a look at it! Very strange indeed.

Tuesday also saw a change in the weather, with the rank hot wind of our last visit coming in for the morning. Fortunately it changed direction by late morning and the lovely cool breeze returned. It definitely reinforced that we’d made the right decision the week before by returning to Exmouth for the week – even a full day in that wind would be enough to drive the whole family nutty…

We built some sandcastles and decorated them with all the cowries that we’d found, as you are not allowed to collect any shells. The kids managed to build a pretty good castle together, with only a few small issues about someone knocking down someone else’s castle…

The kids then spent a few hours after lunch knocking over most of the school work that we had left for the term, which we finished the next day. Glad to have the school term out of the way and ready to go out on a few adventures!

Another snorkel at Lakeside that afternoon while the tide was quite low. Very different view of things, having to go around a lot of the coral rather than over it. Some very big schools of fish to be seen as well as our first reef shark – which I had thought that I’d be terrified of, but they really do just look like a big fish, and it was pretty timid, so didn’t hang around for long. Apparently low tide is the time to see the sharks, though we didn’t see many more during the week.

Wednesday we headed to Turquoise Bay to do some snorkelling. Turquoise bay is apparently on of the top five beaches in the Southern Hemisphere, or some such, and it was very beautiful, though not our favourite type of beach, obviously lacking any waves as it is on a reef. We headed out on a family snorkel again, for some reason BSB feeling a bit scared and unwilling until she got into it again. The visibility was pretty poor, but He, AHB and HGB did see a sea snake. There were plenty of fish out there, but the kids had tired of snorkelling a bit, and the visibility didn’t help us out.

After our family snorkel we headed around the corner to the drift zone at Turquoise Bay, which I felt that He and I needed to check out before deciding whether the kids should come in or not, as the drift can be quite a strong current and there are massive warnings telling you how dangerous current can be. Finally some good parenting (which comes all undone at the end of our trip…) Anyway, we had a pretty good snorkel, though it was pretty choppy due to the wind. Plenty of amazing fish to be seen, some of which were massive, but we decided that the kids could give it a miss.

I am a bit sad that I never got around to buying an underwater camera, as it would have been great to have a photographic record of our time snorkelling – one for the wish list of next time!

Thursday was to be our last day at Cape Range, and we decided to stay at Lakeside and to snorkel there for the day, overall we really felt that it was the best snorkelling on offer, especially given how easy it was to get to.

The girls decided that they wanted to have the morning out of the water, so AHB, He and I headed out together for what turned out to be the snorkelling session of our visit. We went out at high tide, the drift was perfect, the snorkelling easy, and by now we knew the area well enough to head straight to the good spots.

We came across another massive school of really big fish and chased them around for a bit, saw heaps of smaller beautiful fish, then saw a white tipped reef shark about 1.2m long. It had been a pretty successful snorkelling session already, but then we came across a massive stingray that would have been about a metre across its body, with a tail about 1.5m long. We were pretty impressed with that, but then we came across four more, one of which would have been nearly 2m across the body and a tail about 3m long! It was ENORMOUS! To think that there are creatures out there that are that big so close to shore was pretty amazing. I can’t even imagine what it would be like out in the deep ocean coming across massive manta rays and other huge sea creatures – let alone a whale!

Filled with elation we headed back to camp where I had a one on one session with HGB to finish off her maths work for the term. Really made me appreciate how easy home-schooling one kid would be.

That afternoon we decided that we should all have one last snorkel together. The conditions were horrendous, really choppy and windy, tide going out, so the drift was really strong. I had MMB and BSB by the hand and had to work so hard to get out there, then once we got our there you just couldn’t even pull up in one spot as you were pulled so fast, and it was pretty low tide, so the coral was pretty close and very easy to bump into, which isn’t good for the coral, or the people, and it was all just very stressful and horrible. As soon as we got out to the coral, I pulled up and said I couldn’t do it any longer, to which He agreed that it wasn’t very safe. So we all turned around and headed straight back in. Disaster! I think BSB coped with it pretty well as she was a bit unaware, and HGB was ok as He had her on her own, and AHB was ok as he had done a fair bit of snorkelling by then, and was kicking along by himself, but poor MMB had to deal with the brunt of my panic. She was very quiet at the end of the swim and took a while to come good. She wrote something in her journal to the effect of “Mum was holding my hand really tight and twisting my arm – I didn’t like it”. Poor little sausage – such a shame to end our snorkelling on such a crappy note.

Absolutely divine sunset that night though, and everyone in high spirits.

Me and BSB playing silly buggers Cape Range

Me and BSB playing silly buggers Cape Range

MMB and BSB - Ain't life grand

MMB and BSB – Ain’t life grand

He and I with sunset behind

He and I with sunset behind

Sunset at Lakeside, Cape Range National Park

Sunset at Lakeside, Cape Range National Park

Sunrise last morning at Lakeside

Sunrise last morning at Lakeside

Overall we had a brilliant stay at Cape Range, and although it is probably not the most picturesque place, it definitely has some amazing features, and somewhere I would very happily return to.

Brilliant pack up with everyone helping out a lot. We headed into Exmouth, posted off all the school work, bought the kids an ice cream for such a great pack up, and a chocolate for finishing the term so well, and off we headed to Paraburdoo – a mining town in the middle of the Pilbura…

Saturday 8th – Sunday 16th March 2014 – Exmouth

Apologies for anyone who’s been waiting for this post, and second apologies for anyone who was hoping there would be photos. In a nut shell, it was too windy on the coast (Ningaloo/Cape Range National Park) when we went there last week, so we decided to come back into Exmouth for the week and do some school. It’s been really hot, and I haven’t taken many photos.

The end.

That’s the short version for anyone who is time poor. The long version will start now.

Pack up from Coral Bay was pretty good, grabbed ourselves a “pack up day coffee” and headed off in the direction of Exmouth. Few jobs to get done in Exmouth, including taking MMB to the hospital as her ears had been getting increasingly sore, and if we were heading out to the national park for a few days, we thought it best to sort that out first.

Quick stop at the Information Centre before heading to the hospital to see the Dr. Turns out she had a fungal ear infection – oooo gross, but some good ear drops and then some ear plug stuff with one of those headbands to stop your ears getting wet and off we went.

It was pretty hot, and very windy when we got out to Cape Range National Park, but we found a pretty good camp spot with some shade that looked promising, except for the sick, dying kangaroo camped next to the table. We unhooked the trailer to bags our spot and headed off to the information centre out there to pay for our camping. We decided to just book in for three nights as we needed to go back into Exmouth on Tuesday for some supplies and things.

Headed back to our trailer, dying kangaroo still there, but not long after we got there, it died. Think it must have been hit by a car or something, and managed to get under the tree. Promise we didn’t have anything to do with it.

Lunch was difficult to make as it was so windy everything kept flying away. It was about this point that He and I looked at each other and knew we’d go mad if we stayed in that wind for even one more hour, so we packed back up, went back to the information centre, got our money refunded and then headed back to Exmouth to camp for a few days before trying the national park again.

There are two van parks in Exmouth. The first one had better reviews, but when we got there the office lady was rude, and the pool was quite small, so despite the fact that it apparently had “the best camp kitchen in the whole of Australia” we decided to give it a swerve and head to the second van pack to check it out.

Second van park had much friendlier staff, the pool was enormous, there was a grassy site under a tree for us, so we booked in for four nights (pay for three, fourth night free). The plan got adapted for the weather, and we spent the afternoon in the pool.

As the wind was meant to keep up all week we decided to hook into the kids schooling at the library, as it was air conditioned, and leave the reef til the weather improved.

The week has seen us in a pretty good school routine consisting of getting to the library when it opened, at about 8:30, staying there doing English work until it closed for lunch, at about midday, then heading to the local water/splash park for lunch and a play and a cool down, then back to the library when it opened after lunch for some maths, then back to the van park for a swim and play, dinner, then bed.

A few little hiccups during the week. The first on Tuesday morning when we discovered ants all through the tent. Tiny little fuckers that had eaten holes in the floor of the tent and were all through the swags and everywhere. Disaster. So pissed off.

He went and made friends with the maintenance guys who came down and sprayed around the tent while I emptied the tent of all our bags and swags and got rid of as many tiny little shitters as I could. Fortunately when we got back that afternoon they all seemed to have gone. That was until a few nights later when the kids had gone to bed and then let us know that there were ants in the tent. Loads of crappy little ants that had eaten about twenty tiny holes in the floor of the tent. We evacuated the kids and started dragging all the swags back out while He went to ring the night crew at the van park who was a very unhelpful man who told Him that ants were just part of nature and what did we expect him to do about it… Ummmm, come and stop the fucking ants in your caravan park from eating holes in our tent floor would be a good start.

Fortunately, the unhelpful man’s wife turned up about five minutes later with a can of insect spray and we dosed the whole tent before stripping down swags and remaking mattresses so that we could go to bed. I will admit that this was not the highest point of the trip, and while I didn’t quite dissolve into the mess that I was at Cape Le Grand, I was not the most emotionally strong or stable that I had been on tour.

We did get the job done though, and fortunately made it through the night without any more ants in the beds. Not leaving anything to chance, we did get some antrid the next day and sprinkled it all under the ends of the tent where the main ant holes were. Fuck knows what you are meant to do with tiny little ant holes all over the tent floor…

These ants are apparently called either Argentinian Ants or Balinese Ants. Whatever, they are horrendous. Tiny, only about 3mm long, light red/brown colour. They’ve been known to make nests in people’s engines and eat all the electrics, or so the wives tale goes. They’ve certainly left their mark on the tent. Fortunately the holes are tiny, so hopefully no long term issues…

Fortunately the van park decided to refund us a couple of nights, and since then we’ve just been rolling all our stuff up every morning and only unrolling mattresses as we go to bed. There have been a few ants in the tent, but most of them have been dead.

The other low point has been the heat. During the day we’ve escaped most of it by being in the library, (where the kids have worked like Trojans – seriously making me proud), splash park at lunch, then pool in the afternoon, cold showers (though not really cold as I think the cold water is at about 20 degrees) before bed, then a squirty bottle of water in the tent that I wake up and squirt everyone with all night. First night was lovely as the wind continued from the day, keeping us cool, but we’ve had a couple of absolute stinkers where there has not been even a whisper of any breeze at all.

I think we’ve managed to do ok. Spirits have remained fairly high. As I mentioned, the kids have done so much school work and have put in loads of effort. Every night I do wish for a breeze to keep the air moving, some nights have been ok, but definitely the kind of weather when not even a sheet is pulled up.

Going off on a slight tangent…

I do really love libraries. The Exmouth library is only quite small, but the librarians have been very friendly all week, and we’ve basically taken over the place and pretty much had it to ourselves. Again Western Australia came through with the goods, and as long as you are a member of a Western Australian Library you could become a member here – Thank you Albany. We’ve borrowed books all week, which has been especially helpful as our book worm, AHB, was running seriously low on books, so we’ve been able to fill the void.

Children’s books have always drawn me towards them; I love a good picture book, but also love kids novels. I’ve managed to read a couple of youth fiction this week, one called “The Hundredth Horse” (by someone or other) and the other called “Grace” (by Morris Gleitzman) and I thoroughly recommend both of them. I never know if adults get deeper meanings out of kids books, but I wouldn’t know what age to suggest these books are for. AHB is about to read the horse one, so I’ll see how he goes, but some deeper meanings (like child neglect) may go over his head… we’ll see.

The library here is closed on Friday’s, so we went on a bit of an excursion instead. We read up on the turtles that nest around these parts, found some nice shell beaches, saw a ship wreck from a cattle ship that came aground in about 1907, and then spent the afternoon in the pool.

Having been in Exmouth all week, I think we’ve managed to do all we needed to do. Kids schooling is now a couple of weeks ahead of schedule and we are ready to hit the reef.

The weather at Cape Range National Park looks much better for this week, and we hope to do some brilliant snorkelling. There is minimal phone service out there, so don’t expect to hear anything from this adventuring team.

A few other things that I’d forgotten… We had another trip to the hospital (two week wait for a GP appointment around these parts) with HGB who developed sore ears, which also turned out to be a fungal ear infection.

Picked up HGB’s school work on Monday morning from the post office, and even though I’d said I was going to give the kids last week off as a mid-term break, we ended up doing that work this week as well – mean mum.

Kirks have a soft drink that they only sell in Western Australia, to my knowledge, called Kole Beer, which we’ve discovered, and it’s pretty good. Totally pointless anecdote, but if you’re here, give it a go…

Can’t think of much else. Wishing and hoping and praying that the snorkelling is good this week. Until then…

Tuesday 4th – Friday 7th March 2014 – Coral Bay

While we were in Carnarvon we were getting mixed reports about Coral Bay. Some said it was awesome, others said it wasn’t really their thing. We nearly decided to give it a miss, but it just kept coming back to me, so we ended up deciding to come for a few days.

On some advice from B-he, we headed on a side track to check out one of the properties along the way that you could stay on the beach at. It was the worst road we’ve been on so far, corrugation limiting us to first gear a lot of the way, dry as far as the eye could see, loads of shrubs, and only the odd goat or two to spot. Despite all that, the kids travelled pretty well, especially given the fact that the last hour and a half should only have taken about twenty minutes.

Back on the main drag we headed into Coral Bay, not really sure what we would find. One friend had advised us to go with really low expectations, and let it surprise us – this we did, and surprised we have been.

As we’ve been travelling through Western Australia and seeing all the beautiful and stunning coast line we’ve been a bit stumped as to why it isn’t as popular as the east coast. It hit us on our drive to Coral Bay that most of the coast line is absolutely amazing, but leading up to it is nearly complete desert! Where as on the east coast people move to the coast, near the coast, inland from the coast, and basically end up taking over the entire 100km inland from the coast, which is all beautiful and lush, here, sometimes only 10km or so from the coast it is dry and desolate. The coastline is breathtaking here though.

Coral Bay is a lovely little town that consists of two caravan parks, a few other places to stay, several tourist opportunities (like glass-bottomed boats, four-wheeler motorbikes, sea plane trips) and a really beautiful bay that has coral and tropical fish that you can snorkel amongst right off the beach!

The bay

The bay

The best deal at the caravan park was to stay four nights, pay for three, so that’s what we did. We are now at the end of our third day, heading into our fourth night, and have had a really lovely few days just hanging around the beach and relaxing.

A stingray in the bay

A stingray in the bay

Looking for reef sharks

Looking for reef sharks

AHB's crab

AHB’s crab

MMB's crab

MMB’s crab

HGB’s school work is waiting for us at Exmouth, so we’ve had a bit of a relaxed week of school. We’ve done a fair bit of drawing, mostly of the fish we’ve seen while snorkelling.

Kids all got a bit sunburnt on our first day down at the beach. As mentioned in some other post, we aren’t really stay all day at the beach kinds of people, but as there was snorkelling involved, that kind of changed, and we seem to have missed a suncream application. Nothing like we all would have got when we were kids, as in the sunburn didn’t hang around all week, and was actually completely gone by the next morning, but a good wake up call for us none the less. We’ve been much more vigilant since then.

Loads of beautiful fish to see while snorkelling, including some very strange looking ones that I’ve never seen before. One looks like a big long sausage with an extended nose and it can change colours, even go stripy and dotty… And some of the colours on these fish are amazing – intense blues and yellows, greens and purples.

It only took the first half an hour or so to get HGB and BSB snorkelling properly, with so much to see I think they got distracted, totally relaxed and started to enjoy it.

We’ve had some pretty big snorkelling sessions, walking up the beach to float back down with the current over the reef. Today AHB, He and I went for a snorkel and came across a school of mixed types of fish numbering about sixty! We followed them for quite a while – it was completely amazing. I didn’t know that fish ate coral – but they certainly do, as I’ve learnt here, you can hear them crunching into it!

Last night here, then off to Exmouth tomorrow to move to the national park and hopefully find some even more amazing coral and tropical fish to see.

Beautiful sea breeze most of the time, very dewy over night though, so pack up tomorrow is bound to be a bit later than normal.

Oh, and we very successfully put the tent up in record time when we got here. I was feeling a little nervous as it was a little hard last time, especially the fly, but this time it went up like a dream. Fingers crossed it stays a good tent.

Only a short one this time.

Thursday 27th February – Tuesday 4th March 2014 – Carnarvon

Carnarvon – what a place – planned on staying one, maybe two nights, we stayed five nights…

Before anyone goes and puts Carnarvon on their “Must-Visit” list, I am pretty sure that our enjoyment had more to do with the people that we met, rather than the actual town.

Our time in Carnarvon started with a contact from a good school friend of mine with her cousins. He had been in contact with one of the cousins, who was currently out of town with his wife having had their first child the week before, he gave us the contact details of his brother, who I shall call B-he.

He rang B-he as we were driving around Carnarvon looking, increasingly despondently, at the caravan parks. We arrived at the Wintersun Caravan and Tourist Park, and things started looking a little bit better. It is not tourist season at Carnarvon at the moment, and it hasn’t rained there in some many, many moons, so everything is looking a bit dry. The Gasgoyne River is an underground river that flows right past the town though, so there is plenty of water for irrigation, and fortunately the Wintersun Caravan park had been taking full use of the water and the lawns were green and things looked pretty good.

We’d talked to one of the people who worked there, and had found a good site, and He was just about to walk into the reception area to pay for the site for a couple of nights (only 2 as it was bloody hot in Carnarvon, and the pool didn’t look like it was going to entertain and keep us cool for any longer than that) when B-he called back, told us to hang on a minute and that he might have found us somewhere to stay… Things were looking even better.

The call came back a few minutes later and we said goodbye to the lovely staff at Wintersun and headed back into town. If ever you are passing through Carnarvon, and need a van park, I’d recommend this one, it was by far the best we saw there.

Anyway, we met B-he at a house in town that is owned by his family, but no one currently lives in it. It was sparsely furnished, with a dining table and a few side boards all that was really there, but as we have everything we need, and the place was air-conditioned, we were as happy as pigs in mud.

We had never actually met B-he before, but it was like we’d known him a long time. B-he was extremely casual, gave us the key, showed us through the house, told us to make our selves welcome, said he’d better get back to work, but would be back after work for a beer! Wow – we had fallen on our feet.

True to his word, B-he came back after work and we had a couple of beers, got to know each other a bit, while our girls entertained his youngest daughter, who I shall call M2 (who was a very cute two year old who our girls instantly loved).

B-he rang back later that night having checked the tides, and advised us to head to the Carnarvon Blowholes (which are about 70km out of town) for a look about and a snorkel the next day, then catch up with him later to work out what else we should do while in town.

Amazing house that we were staying in. It had about five or six bedrooms and several bathrooms as well as a great kitchen. We only really used two of the bedrooms, the dining table and one bathroom, but it was superb. Brilliant location too, right across the road was the mouth of the Gascoyne River, so amazing sea breezes most of the time, and oh, what a view!

Sunset from the front of our house at Carnarvon

Sunset from the front of our house at Carnarvon

So off we went to the Blowholes the next morning, as advised by our new tourist guide!

The blowholes were a little disappointing that morning, with not a whole lot of action out of the actual blowholes, but it was a dramatic and lovely coastline, and looked to be a great place to spend a hot day.

The morning at Carnarvon Blowholes

The morning at Carnarvon Blowholes

The coastline at Carnarvon Blowholes

The coastline at Carnarvon Blowholes

From the blowholes we headed down the road a bit to a great little snorkelling bay that B-he had told us about, where we promptly found ourselves a big shady shelter to put all of our stuff and then we headed out snorkelling.

This is where we snorkelled

This is where we snorkelled

Couldn’t really get the younger two into it, because as soon as it got the tiniest bit deep, they freaked out and wanted to stop. In the end we left them playing on the beach while we had a bit of a look about. It was pretty cool – loads of coral (though not much of it very striking in colour) and heaps of fish about.

We snorkelled for a bit, then went for a walk up the beach to look for shells. We bumped into one of the families that had been at Big Valley with us for a night or two (which I forgot to mention in my Big Valley post) who were also travelling Australia. They have two kids similar ages to our younger two, and they’d all had a good afternoon or two kicking around camp. These guys are starting to struggle a bit on the road, mainly due to their kids wanting to go back home. Made me feel glad we had four kids that could all keep each other occupied.

Spent the rest of the morning snorkelling, looking for shells and feeding the fish our bread scraps (which we have since learnt is very bad for them, apparently long term causing liver issues – but at the time we didn’t know this, so it’s ok). The only mishaps during the day being a couple of small cuts from shells for the girls, and then me having to dig a few pieces of oyster shell out of AHB’s foot – which has now thankfully healed up well, for a minute I was starting to envisage tropical ulcers and all sorts from the deep cut and warm waters!

Thought we’d better call back into the blowholes on our way past, and were very glad we did as the tide had changed, or the swell was different, or something, and what had been rather piddly in the morning was now really quite impressive.

The blowhole blowing

The blowhole blowing

Blowholes blowing

Blowholes blowing

The blowholes in the afternoon - good parenting?!

The blowholes in the afternoon – good parenting?!

When we got back to town, B-he called and said that they were going to The Yacht Club that night and that we should come along. So we got showered and off we went. With a classic comment from MMB about how much she loves wearing boy clothes, and that they are very comfortable, which coming from the pretty-in-pink-I’m-not-wearing-my-brothers-clothes-ballerina that we left Orange with 8 months ago, is quite a change. I later heard her hitting AHB up for some more hand-me-downs!

Walking along the river frontage on the way to the yacht club was beautiful, and although the yacht club was nothing amazing, its outlook was spectacular.

As we walked into the yacht club, we were met by B-he’s Dad (who I will call Big-D) who greeted us with “I saw you walking out of my house, so presume you must be (insert my friend from school’s name) friends!”. Big-D then preceded to walk us around and introduce us to people, found some boys for AHB to play with, and then our girls found M2, so everyone was happy. A lovely evening was spent meeting new people and being shown the hospitality of a coastal/rural town.

Next day we pottered around the house and went for a drive to see what else Carnarvon had to offer, which really wasn’t much. In the tourist season, which also happens to coincide with the tropical fruit growing season, there is a bit more to do, especially the “Fruit Loop” which is a circuit through a couple of roads that travel past a lot of the plantations that sell their fruit and veg at roadside markets, though at this time of year we could only find one such stall open, and with pretty limited stock.

Back at the house we all had a pretty quiet day, AHB read a lot through the heat of the day, and the girls watched a few movies. We also did a bit of baking while we were there, decorated the cake and everything, even though it wasn’t anyone’s birthday.

We even baked a cake because we could

We even baked a cake because we could

B-he had told us to try some fishing off the jetty just across the road from our house, and even though we are the worst fishermen in Australia, we dug the rods back out, bought some bait, and headed down at sunset to try our luck. And what do you know?! After being there about ten minutes, MMB, who was fishing with a stick that she had found and then wrapped some discarded fishing line around, added a hook and some bait and had dropped it into the water was calling out as something was on her line! Sure enough, I ran over and helped her pull up an enormous cod! Enormous on our scale, but big enough on most people’s.

Sunset fishing

Sunset fishing

MMB with her cod

MMB with her cod

We spent about another hour there, but only caught a few little fish, MMB being the main catcher, much to the disgust of the others, especially AHB who would dearly love to be able to blow off the curse of his parents and actually catch something edible! Then we called it a night, even though the kids wanted to stay there forever. He gutted and filleted the cod on the way home, and we popped it in the fridge ready for cooking!

Gutting the fish - some less impressed than others!

Gutting the fish – some less impressed than others!

We promised the kids we could get up early the next morning to fish again:

Sunrise at Carnarvon

Sunrise at Carnarvon

This time with a bit more luck spread around, though not on the actually eating size fish, just quite a few that were kissed and put back.

BSB kissing and releasing a fish

BSB kissing and releasing a fish

While we were fishing that morning a lovely lady stopped by on her bike and introduced herself as B-he’s wife, who I shall call B-she. B-she extended an invitation to us to come around for fish and chips that night, and also let us know that “Frozen” was on at the movies in town that afternoon.

We didn’t get up to much else that day, but I did take the kids to the movies to see “Frozen” for the second time. I ended up with BSB scared out of her brain sitting on me (and being a hot little ball of sweat), AHB sitting very close on one side, and HGB clutching onto me on the other side. With not a very effective air-conditioner added into the mix, I felt lucky to survive the ordeal. We all thoroughly enjoyed it again though!

Around to B&B’s for fish and chips for dinner, where our four played really well with their two, the aforementioned M2, and her big sister M1 (who is a similar age to HGB). We spent a really lovely evening getting to know the B&B’s a little better, discussing the highs and lows of the world we live in, and possibly some of us drank a little bit too much wine…

Next day the one that had drunk a little bit too much wine was feeling a little bit steady, but we had organised to go out to Big-D’s plantation to have a look at all their young trees and to catch up with his step-daughter and her kids again, who we had met at the yacht club. Fortunately Little-D (the step-daughter of Big-D) is really nice, and very forgiving of those with hangovers, even providing a rehydrating ice-block for the one that needed it!

A really lovely morning was spent at the plantation, again, just chatting about the world, before taking all the kids (11 in total, our four, her four, a friend of her eldest son, and then a friend of hers with two) down to the river, which was flowing above ground for the first time in years, for a swim. Extremely idyllic setting, and despite my hangover, a great way to spend the morning. It was actually Monday, but a public holiday in Western Australia, so all the kids were home from school. The kids all had a brilliant morning. The Gasgoyne was flowing gently through a few waist-deep clear pools of warm water. Trees overhanging the banks, sun shining, light breeze blowing, kids running and splashing and even playing “Marco-Polo” at one stage as a big group – imagine that – fresh flowing water, new friend’s to play with, sunshine and good times.

AHB then stayed on for the next couple of hours, as Little-D’s eldest was the same age, and we do try to find AHB a bit of “boy-time” whenever we can.

Back to B&B’s that afternoon to go over our maps, which we’d neglected to do the night before. The girls all had a lovely time playing together and ended up with the hose in the front garden spraying each other in the nude, which then turned into sliding along the slippery front veranda that they had the hose running onto. A great game that kept them occupied all afternoon. However, just after I’d given them the five-minutes-til-we-have-to-go warning, HGB slipped over and completely cracked her head on the cement… bound to happen… instant enormous egg on the back of her head… fortunately no blood, but we headed home for some pain relief and an ice-pack anyway.

Home for medical attention and some quiet time before some dinner and a last fishing session on the jetty, at which only BSB caught anything that was edible. Not that we actually know what it was, but we ate it for breakfast the next day, and it was beautiful.

Oh, and the cod that MMB caught was delicious, we had it for lunch on one of the days we were there.

Tuesday morning saw us packing up and leaving the huge house, hopefully making it look like we hadn’t been there at all!

Final goodbye to B&B&M2 the next morning before stopping in at Big-D’s sister’s plantation on our way out of town to pick up a tray of the most delicious mangos I think I’ve ever eaten. The Mango Lady was out on her tractor, but we tracked her down to thank her for the Mangos. She is just like her sister (my school friend’s mum) and was welcoming and loving and entertaining.

I will remember Carnarvon for the wonderful, generous, colourful mob of people that we met, sure that we could have stayed another week and met more of the friends and relations.

I may have to edit this later, I’m sure some of it doesn’t make sense, and I’ve probably missed some stuff too… forgive me? I just need to post it or I’ll be even further behind…

Monday 24th – Wednesday 26th February 2014 – Kalbarri

I didn’t think this would be a very long post, but I seem to be crapping on a fair bit…

I will start with a link to the updated map:

http://www.travellerspoint.com/member_map.cfm#/tripid/557830

Three-quarters of the way through our trip, and it looks like we’ve gone about three-quarters of the way. Right on target. That’s good.

I left the last blog (before the extra tips one) with us packing up from Sandy Cape and heading off on the next leg of the adventure. Truth be known, we weren’t really sure where we were heading to. We thought that Geraldton might be worth a look, so that was where we went.

Geraldton wasn’t very impressive. Someone had told us that it was rather like Bunbury. We didn’t think so. We grabbed a coffee, scrolled through the internet sites for Geraldton, and then went for a drive. It was hot, it was windy, it was shade-less, and although some websites said that you could do some good snorkelling here, we will be at Ningaloo Reef in week or so, which seemed to negate the snorkelling there.

Our last stop was to fill up with fuel, at which time I fortunately remembered that I’d had the kids school work sent to the post office at Geraldton, so that then became our last stop!

I do detest grumpy postal employees, if you can’t smile while getting someone’s mail or helping them buy some stamps, please ask to work in the back room. I always end up feeling like I’m guilty of something, and all I ever want to do is pick up my mail. It isn’t my fault said postal worker doesn’t like their job.

AHB was totally stoked as the next three books in the series he is currently reading were included in the package of school work. We didn’t hear from him for the rest of the trip.

Next town on the itinerary was Kalbarri, at which we would be arriving right on lunchtime, the words “Fish and Chips for lunch?” coming from His mouth had never sounded so inviting! We set out to find some fish and chips while we tried to figure out if this was where we wanted to stay.

The thing that we are discovering about travelling through this part of Western Australia at this time of year is that it is the quiet season. It is bloody hot and windy, and most of the grey nomads (or “Coffin Dodgers” as I read them being described today!!) are some other place where they are not melting! This means that a lot of businesses in these towns either only open part time or close down completely. For us, this meant that the fish and chip shops weren’t open (insert sad face) but fortunately the pub does $12 lunches, including a fisherman’s basket with salad and chips, so we were ok.

HGB had dramatically faded before lunch, and I feared she had another migraine (which trying to deal with in forty degree heat was not what I felt like doing), but after smashing a couple of jugs of lemonades and fisherman’s baskets with her siblings, she improved dramatically and admitted that actually her headache had started when she had read for too long in the car… Thankfully.

We researched a bit while at the pub, thought we’d check out a camping area just out of town called Big Ranch (or something), hoping that it would be as good as Big Valley had been. Unfortunately Big Ranch was picayune to us – lots of horses that you could pay exorbitant amounts to ride, a pool full of back-packers throwing down premixed drinks, and loads of dust with little shade. This nearly prompted us to smash out of Kalbarri for more northern country, but instead we headed back into town to check out another van park that had a great looking pool on their website.

Fortunately, the website didn’t lie, the pool was there, and sparkling clean, we were offered a grassy spot to roll out our swags (as we felt it too windy to bother with the tent), and here we have parked ourselves for three nights.

The pool has been a godsend and we spent most of the first afternoon in and around it. Also, the wind has been a very helpful, combined with the pool wetting us down regularly it has kept the heat down just enough. Each afternoon the wind seems to change direction (Fremantle Dr?) and drop the temperature about five degrees, and this wind keeps up well into the night, making for very pleasant temperatures in which to sleep.

Tuesday morning saw us up at 6am and heading out to Kalbarri National Park to check out the National Park and try and do a couple of short walks before the heat got too much.

There are times that I wish that we could have done this trip in two lots of six months, so that we could see all the good bits at all the right times; I bet the wildflowers around here completely transform the landscape. It really is pretty hot and dry here, and I presume it will be for the next month or so. However, once arriving at Kalbarri National Park we found the beautiful Murchison River flowing through the valley.

Hawk's Head Lookout, Kalbarri National Park

Hawk’s Head Lookout, Kalbarri National Park

I have yet to mention that along with the heat and dust and wind, there are loads and loads of little, black, sticky flies… They are everywhere and seriously nearly drive you mad. I’m determined to buy one of those terrible fly net things that you put over your hat, despite how dorky they are – it will join the long list of things I never thought I’d do, but now find myself doing, which now also includes walking around a caravan park in my swimmers all afternoon (and not just around the pool…)

LOADS of flies

LOADS of flies

The view was lovely, and the water was enticing, though the air temperature was only about 28 degrees at 7am, we thought the opportunity to cool off too good to miss, so in we all went.

The Murchison River

The Murchison River

Getting ready to swim in the river

Getting ready to swim in the river

During our swim, BSB decided that we should all cross the river and see what was on the other side, which we did. Didn’t find much, but it was fun none the less.

When we got back to camp we had some breakfast and then got into the routine of swim, school, swim, school, swim, eat, swim, school, swim, school, swim, eat, swim, school etc. This got us through the day quite well, and about half of the school work we had to do.

While passing the day as described above, we were chatting to one of the guys who works here, and he informed us that the Murchison River was flowing for the first time in ten years due to a large rainfall inland near Meekatharra, so we were pretty lucky to be here right now as it turns out!

Wednesday morning was a slower start as we only had to be at the foreshore of the Murchison River in Kalbarri at 8:45am for the pelican feeding. This is an information and feeding session of wild pelicans run by volunteers in town. Apparently it started some forty years ago when a local restaurant owner used to go out fishing every morning and feed his excess to the pelicans on his return. The restaurateur is no longer around, hence the volunteers.

Pelican Feeding in Kalbarri

Pelican Feeding in Kalbarri

The kids feeding a pelican

The kids feeding a pelican

More pelicans flying in

More pelicans flying in

Pelicans heading back to the water

Pelicans heading back to the water

I learnt some things about pelicans. The gold rim around their eye gets darker with age. They weigh about 8kg and eat about their bodyweight in fish every day. The males are substantially bigger than the females. They flip the fish over in their beak so that it goes down their throat head first and therefore doesn’t get stuck. They have a really big wingspan. I’m sure there was more, but that’s all that is coming to mind. Oh, and of course, their beak can hold more than their belly can.

At the beginning there were only two pelicans, and the volunteer gave her spiel, then fed them a couple of fish before asking anyone in the small audience if they would like a go. Then about ten more pelicans flew in, better late than never! Most of the fish had gone by this stage, but a few of them got one, then when they seemed to realise there was no more free tucker on offer, the pelicans all turned around, walked down to the water and immediately started fishing for themselves. They really were quite sweet.

The rest of the day has been filled with school work and swimming (and a sneaky donut for the kids for morning tea from the local bakery). I had the weekly issue with AHB not wanting to participate in the amount of schooling I expect from him, which when added to the heat of the day was fairly frustrating. I’m sure that by the end of this trip I’ll be more than ready to hand them back to real teachers at normal school!

Added to the list of bad parenting today was confiscating AHB’s book until his school work attitude improves – How bad am I?! Hopefully it will only be a day without the book before he pulls his head back in and gets his work done in the allotted time instead of staring off into space and daydreaming…

Overall though, I’m sure AHB is putting more effort into most things. I just hope that he learns soon that if he just knuckles down and does it (whatever “it” may be), it will simply get done. Sometimes he spends so much time trying to think of ways to avoid whatever it is, that he’d have finished said task three times over…. grrrrrrr.

I do feel sorry for BSB at the moment as she is struggling to get her head around where she fits in the school spectrum. Her friend has moved into a different class at her old preschool, at which I am unsure that she will get a spot on our return, and then she’ll start school the next year, and the poor little poppet can’t quite work it all out. She is asking some big questions at the moment too, like “Are all people made?”, which always need a bit of investigating to get to what she actually means. She’s a brilliant little thing – always making us laugh, when she isn’t getting stroppy! The kid;s teacher has sent up some early readers for her, which she is devouring. She seems much happier now that she has a few more things to do while we are doing school work.

I feel I should now add in a paragraph about the other two girls, but don’t want it to be a token effort. There time will come! Needless to say, we are all pretty bloody happy at the moment. Life is an adventure; we are living the adventure; living the dream.

Tomorrow morning (Thursday) will see us packing up and heading to Carnarvan for a couple of nights before hitting Ningaloo! The kids have all been practicing their snorkelling in the pool, so hopefully we’ll find a nice shady spot to set up camp and snorkel to our heart’s content! Send out some good vibes for us.

Laters.

More tips from the road

A request came in for some more tips, especially about food, so we’ve thought of a few more.

Firstly, when packing, whether it be your bag, or your car, or your trailer, pack in layers. As He says, “it’s all about the layers”. Try to make each layer as flat as you can before putting the next one on. It is a bit like a game of Tetris – get each layer as flat as you can so you can build the next one.

Again, I must highlight that everything will be different for every travelling family; things that work for us may be an absolute disaster for others. For example, He is doing 85% of the shopping and cooking and overall food getting for us, while I’ve taken on the role of educating the children and the cleaning up. Ideally, I’d like the kids to be helping out a lot more with both the cooking and the cleaning, but it is just one goal that we haven’t got around to addressing.

Food. I think that on the road you end up eating less than you normally would. This advice really depends on how long you are going for, as if it is only a short trip, you probably don’t really get into the swing of things to worry too much. It also depends on the storage you have available.

We’ve got the biggest car fridge that we could fit in the car. I think (though am not totally sure) that it is the biggest one that ARB sell. It takes up the half of the boot in our Prado, the other half being used by whichever child sits in the back seat. This fridge has been great, though works best when there is lots in it, and can struggle a bit if it is on the empty side and the day is hot. It is big enough to hold all the cold food that we need for about a week, including some salad, fruit and vegies, as well as any beverages that we want to keep cool.

We also have a massive esky in the trailer that we use for storage of the rest of our food. This esky is not kept cold. The esky is great as it is totally sealed, so ants etc. can’t get in, and provides a solid place for the storage of the dry food. Occasionally after a big shop, we will have a bit of overflow, and that food just gets put wherever it will fit.

My main thoughts on meals is that it really depends on how long you are travelling, and what your general budget and family tastes are. We started off with menu plans with lots of variety, which included everything from chicken breasts to roast meats, corned meat to tuna. Now, seven months in, most of our meals revolve around mince, sausages and tinned tuna. Which, when written down, sounds terrible! But He does heaps of different things with the meals, and they are all delicious!

If you are doing a shorter trip, a couple of weeks to a couple of months, I’d keep it simple. You don’t want to be carting every kitchen implement around on the off chance you might cook such and such. And actually, even if it is a longer trip, I’d try and think about as many meals that you can cook using similar utensils.

I received some great advice before we left from a friend who had done about a four month trip with five children ranging from 12 down to about 5. She said that the way they tackled it was to focus on six meals that they knew everyone in the family enjoyed eating, and took everything they needed to cook those six meals. Whatever implements they needed for those six meals formed the basis of their initial packing. She also imparted another gem, something like “If you get into the trip and decide you need a potato masher, and you don’t have one, go and buy one, they’re not very expensive”. Wise lady.

Another big one that we’ve found is portion control. It is not easy to have little bits of left over food while travelling, as storage is at a premium, so I advise that you figure out how much your family will eat, and buy food to suit. For example, we run on about 500g of mince for our family meal. This means that it all gets eaten, therefore no waste, and no storage of left overs.

If you can cryovac your meat, do. Firstly it keeps longer, secondly it won’t drip in your fridge. Most butchers have a cryovac machine and are happy to seal up any amount of meat you want.

It helps if everyone will eat the same things at each meal too. We found it didn’t take long for everyone to get into the swing of it, though our littlest is currently having some issues, especially with breakfast, but we run with if you don’t eat when it is eating time, then you don’t eat.

Actual menu suggestions… again, depends on what you’re into. As I said, we’ve ended up using mince, sausages and tuna as our base, though we’ve just added some lentil type beans to the mix, just for a vego meal every now and then.

At the beginning we had quite a few herbs and spices, but weren’t really using them, so ditched them somewhere along the way. We were also using jars of stuff (like bolognaise sauce), but then discovered the little packets of stuff (I think by Continental) which you add to sausages or mince or tuna (or whatever) add some water and some vegies and cook it all up. These take up very little space and are pretty tasty. These we have with rice, pasta or couscous, mainly, though will throw in a good old bangers and mash if we have the facilities.

Initially we had a rotation of porridge, cereal, pancakes, and bacon and eggs going for breakfast, though it got a bit hot of porridge, so it got cracked off, then we all got a bit sick of pancakes, so haven’t had them for a while. Most mornings He and I now have muesli with milk and sometimes yogurt, and the kids have cereal (which is normally some kind of muesli-type thing these days) three or four times a week and bacon and eggs the other mornings.

Bread is hard to cart around, so we eat a lot of wraps. Lunch is mostly based around ham wraps with varying degrees of salad included. Most of the time now we give the kids a bit of choice about what goes in their wrap, though sometimes we just make them up and the kids either eat it, or don’t…

We’ve also found that making the lunches at lunchtime is just as easy as doing it in the morning. On one hand you don’t have to store premade lunches, but on the other you have to have everything with you. We make sure we have a knife and chopping block in the car, and also try to take a small grater with us everywhere, so we can make lunches if we don’t have the trailer with us, or the trailer is all packed up, everything else is normally in the fridge anyway.

We ended up with a long flat container to store all our plates, bowls, cutlery and cooking things in, except for saucepans. Again, this shape worked best for packing in layers.

Bring cutlery you like eating from. Crappy knives and forks will drive you nuts. Bring enough so that everyone has one of everything, you could bring a couple of spares, but seriously you won’t use them much, you wash up more.

Did I mention the other time that you might want to get used to not being as clean as you probably are in your normal life. Just saying. Sometimes you may not be able to have a shower everyday. But maybe you already don’t…

And if you’ve got the option of a hot shower, wash everyone’s hair, sometimes you just don’t know when the next hot shower will be.

Bring a couple of books with you. There are times when it is nice to just sit down and read for a bit. Probably bring books that you are happy to leave behind somewhere though – you can trade them at many caravan parks, and again, storage is often a bit light on, so you don’t want to be carting a heap of books that you’ve already read (and don’t want to read again) around.

Except maybe if you’ve got a little kid with you, then I’d say pack their favourite 10 books that you can read again and again. Supplement from Vinnie’s when necessary.

And finally, another wisdom imparted from Him, “If you are going to share a toiletry bag, you are going to get hairs on your toothbrush”. Which is true. And for some reason, the males in our family, though they have the short hair, always end up with the long flowing locks of the women in their lives wrapped all through their toothbrushes…

That’s all I’ve got for now. Am sure there are things I’ve forgotten. You get that though!

Friday 21st – Monday 24th February 2014 – Perth and Jurien Bay

This won’t be a long post. We’ve had a fairly quiet few days.

Left Bunbury and headed to Perth. Went to sail the “Fun Cats” on the Swan River again. I decided it would be best if we just hired one cat and He took the kids out, as I’m a bit of a scaredy pants and it wouldn’t be much fun for the kids. Everyone had a great time.

Sailing on the Swan

Sailing on the Swan

Sailing on the swan again

Sailing on the swan again

Still sailing on the swan

Still sailing on the swan

Then we went back to Mr and Mrs Pushbikes place, though they had gone away for the weekend, but had kindly offered their place for us to stay at. We had plans of doing a few things while in Perth, and there was even a massive sea lion that had plonked itself on one of the beaches, but we really didn’t end up doing much.

Friday afternoon saw us all relaxing, Saturday morning we went for a drive up to Hillarys, a suburb to the north of Perth, but we didn’t find much we wanted to do there. Went back to Mr and Mrs Pushbikes, helped the kids make some playdoh, and then just hung around again. LAZY! But think we needed it.

Left Perth reasonably early on Sunday, not really knowing where we were headed. Checked out The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park, near Cervantes, which were pretty amazing. They are limestone pillars that have had all the sand eroded away from them. Loads and loads of these tall things in this one spot. Pretty amazing.

The kids at The Pinnacles

The kids at The Pinnacles

Back in the car and we kept trucking north. We’d spotted a place on the camp map called Sandy Cove Recreation Area, which offered cheap camping with minimal facilities, so went to check it out. It is just north of Jurien Bay.

There was nothing amazing at all about the facilities here, but the beach looked nice, and although there were a few people about, most looked like they were only there for the day.

The kids had a quick swim, then we went for a walk to a point at one end of the beach, which offered a lovely 270 degree view of the ocean. Back to camp so the kids could do a journal catch up, and we could set up our swags. Then back to the beach for the kids to have a good long swim. All the day trippers were gone by now, so we had the place to ourselves.

AHB jumping a wave at Sandy Cape

AHB jumping a wave at Sandy Cape

All the kids getting smashed at Sandy Cape

All the kids getting smashed at Sandy Cape

Getting my artistic on...

Getting my artistic on…

Doing our own little Toyota ad

Doing our own little Toyota ad

Back to camp for dinner, and a frank family discussion.

The vague plan had been to stay at Sandy Cape for two or three nights, but it was bloody windy, there were loads of flies, and the toilets (which were the only amenities there) were absolutely rank.

As lovely as the beach was, though not great waves, we decided that the one night would be enough for us.

Early bed time ready for an early start the next day, and the adventure continued.

Thursday 20th February 2014 – Bunbury – A picture is worth a thousand words.

The first photo is from Big Valley. The next ones show our day. WOW.

Black Cockatoo's at Big Valley

Black Cockatoo’s at Big Valley

Mr Dolphin and MMB with Numnum

Mr Dolphin and MMB with Numnum

AHB driving the boat

AHB driving the boat

Numnum's pod

Numnum’s pod

Numnum up close

Numnum up close

All of us swimming with Numnum

All of us swimming with Numnum

Who's that?

Who’s that?

All of us swimming

All of us swimming

Numnum under the water

Numnum under the water

Numnum up close

Numnum up close

and again

and again

Numnum and baby

Numnum and baby

Me feeding Numnum again

Me feeding Numnum again

Me swimming with Numnum

Me swimming with Numnum

Me feeding Numnum

Me feeding Numnum

Me swimming with Numnum

Me swimming with Numnum

Numnum and her baby

Numnum and her baby

MMB and HGB on the biscuit

MMB and HGB on the biscuit

HGB and BSB on the biscuit

HGB and BSB on the biscuit

HGB and BSB on the biscuit

HGB and BSB on the biscuit

Him and AHB getting smashed

Him and AHB getting smashed

Again

Again

and again

and again

HGB and MMB up high

HGB and MMB up high

BSB and AHB

BSB and AHB

BSB, getting her head snapped off, and AHB

BSB, getting her head snapped off, and AHB

BSB and AHB

BSB and AHB

girls on the biscuit

girls on the biscuit

AHB WAYYYY up high

AHB WAYYYY up high

AHB solo on the biscuit

AHB solo on the biscuit

Girls on the biscuit

Girls on the biscuit

Girls again

Girls again

and again

and again

Me and MMB

Me and MMB

and again

and again

Little girls

Little girls

Little girls again

Little girls again