Friday, 22 June 2012

Port Douglas and Cairns

Things were pretty cold and damp (heavy dew) when we left Lake TInaroo, which meant that the camper had quite a wet pack up.  With a lovely drive out looking at more of the lake and the spillway, we headed towards Port Douglas.  On the way, we passed through Mareeba, which apparently produces around 70% of Australia’s coffee.  We stopped in at Coffee Works to sample the local ‘brew’.
Coffee Works has a bunch of interesting stuff to look through, including a museum, as well as ability to sample ALL the coffee and chocolate you can cope with (for $20 per person).  Given we had the girls, and not the 2-3 hours suggested to spend going through it all, we just went to the cafe and had a coffee, whilst the girls had milkshakes.  The coffee was delicious, and we made sure we bought a couple of bags of blended coffee on our way out.
Reaching Port Douglas, things were... well... busy.  We hunted around for a caravan park, and went into the first one, the Tropical Breeze...... amazing!!.  Unless you were happy to sleep on a postage stamp, and not mind the bad breath of your neighbour, you would be very happy there.  The sites were TINY!!!  We had done a lap of the park to suss it out (1.4 seconds it took), and as an added incentive to stay there, the door b#%*h came up to us with a ‘can I help you’, and ‘you MUST check in at the office beforehand next time...”.  FRIENDLY!!!!
From there, we went to the next best thing, which on the surface was lovely, but we quickly discovered was the GRUMPY GRUNT park.  No-one said hello, and we had the horrid hermit couple beside us, hidden behind their ‘shade cloth’ cave wall, and could not muster even an acknowledgement whilst moving around.  Your on holidays guys, RELAX a little... sheesh!!!.
Anyhow, we managed to keep busy for 3 days, swimming, shopping, at the beach, and generally hanging out.  It was a nice enough place, but we are definitely in no hurry, whatsoever, to return, unless we won Tatts and could visit one of the 105,405,202 resorts in the area.
It was a quick drive down to Cairns, but a spectacular one.  The Captain Cook Hwy runs along the coastline, and affords some spectacular views of the oceans and headlands.  Very twisty, (which Savannah started to feel a bit queasy from, but lovely non the less
Cairns saw us pretty much spend 3 days getting ready to go up the Cape York.  We hooked up with a number of the participants from the MySwag group staying in the same park, and started to make some lovely friends.  Glenn’s packing skills were WELL and truely tested as we had to pack for 3-4 weeks of travelling, as well as having a stint (1.5 weeks ??) of travelling without the camper.  Needless to say, Slim (our cruiser) is packed to within an inch of it’s life, but amazingly, we have all that we need (we think.... at least a couple of slabs of beer is in there)
We are looking forward to heading off with the 26 other vehicles tomorrow, and starting to get into it all.  First night is spent just below Cooktown, which should be lovely!!!.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

The race track has been upgraded

video

Mission Beach to Lake Tinaroo

Fondly saying goodbye to Mission Beach, we headed north again.

After some significant research and a little luck, we happened across a rare bush camping spot 50km south of Cairns, just past Innisfail, called Russell River National Park.  The park had no signage to get there, and only a little bit of information online, but enough for us to find our way.  To access it, you go through a very lovely, small seaside town called Bramston Beach.  Looks a lot like a holiday house location, with perfectly kept lawns and gardens, and sensational views of the ocean.  With a lot of these places, we often wonder what it was like to be there when cyclone Yasi was bearing down on them.  We’re sure it wouldn’t all seem so idyllic then
The camp at Russell River National Park was lovely.  It is limited to 5 secluded spots dotted along the road, each with access to a seemingly private beach.  This was in the Wet Tropics Heritiage area, and the beach and ocean was equally impressive.

The view of 'our' beach from our campsite at Russell River NP

Our campsite at Russell River NP

Our private beach at sunset

How could you get sick of this?

Another sunset shot

Relaxing at camp at Russell River NP

Our camp set up at Russell River NP
For those cursing and swearing our names whilst reading this, we will give you some ironic sweet justice to make you feel better.  When we arrived, there was a lovely onshore breeze, a little chilli, but nice and fresh.  At about 6pm when this started to die down, a strange, but foul stench started to invade out camp.  The wind turned to a light offshore, as is usual over night, and the stench got significantly worse!!!.  The onshore breeze had been masking the smell of some dead, rotting animal in the bush behind us.  Sitting out after the kids went to bed wasn’t an option, although Amy did have the benefit of a blocked nose most of the time!!!  We prayed for the breeze to start each morning, even though it didn’t really start up until 10-11amish.  I guess paradise has it’s price as well!!!
The other consideration was whether there were crocs around.  Given we had a creek near us, and a big long beach, we decided not to test the waters (so to speak), and stayed right away from the waters edge.  The kids did enjoy playing in the sand with buckets and spades though, which saw a few hours go by.  The rest of the time was spent relaxing around camp, cooking a beautiful roast dinner, having pikelets for morning tea, (thanks Bernie for the camping recipe book, it’s coming in handing again) and watching the kids ride their bikes down the slight slope into our camp.
Glenn did also enjoy the fact that whenever he seemed to need to go for a shovel walk, he invariably found himself with one or more little ‘poo partners’.  That in itself isn’t too bad, although as most would know, if you wait too long (sorting out your little partners) sometimes your business can go back in.  The things we have to deal with.
 After spending 3 nights enduring the bitter / sweetness of ‘stench camp’, we decided it was time to move on.  Given our decision to join the MySwag group for the first part of the Cape trip, who leave on the 23rd June, we had a little bit of time to enjoy the surroundings.  We decided to head to Lake TInaroo, in the Atherton Tablelands.  We headed up a very very steep and windy road from Gordonvale, which climbed up onto the highlands.  Lake TInaroo is a lovely spot, with a number of campgrounds surrounding it.  The campground we were at was a lovely, well kept, peaceful spot looking over the water.  We did get inundated on the Saturday night however.  Sheesh, these weekend campers interrupting out 8 month holiday... the cheek!!!

Lake Tinaroo

Somewhat off-putting....

The other challenge we had to deal with was the sign on the toilet door advising us of the native “Giant White Tailed Rats” that were active in the area, and they can chew through cans, car wiring, eskys.........  eeerr.. WHAT??   After previous experience with rodent trouble in our car, we decided to put everything possible away in the car, and follow the advice on leaving lights on as well.  We did note that we were the only ones to do this however.  Either we fell for it, or the other campers were ‘lucky’.
 Tomorrow we head off to Port Douglas for a few days (awwwww, bummer huh) before finally heading back to Cairns for the final checks and restock prior to going to the Cape.  We will enjoy getting back to the coast, this ‘mountain’ air is a little on the cool side!!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Camp Races

videoThe girls were honing there race skills on the slopes of our campsite.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Townsville to Mission Beach

After spending just over a week at Townsville, we picked ourselves up and headed north again.  It was great to spend some time with Nan and Pa (Amy’s folks) in Townsville, and the kids got a lot out of it.  We did feel however that we spent nearly the whole time doing ‘jobs’.  We did a big reset of the car, stocking up on food, water, drinks, and other bits and pieces.  We also got Slim (our 4wd) serviced, and Glenn did a check over, and rotated tires across the camper and Slim.  We managed to fit in a little swimming, (still a bit cold) and a number of coffee / lunch expeditions.  Amy and Glenn even managed to squeeze in a very luxurious ‘date night’ out at a speccy restaurant.  Very spoilt!!!.

In driving out of Townsville, we’d heard a lot about Mission Beach, and were really looking forward to our stay there.  The drive was beautiful, following along a number of large mountain ranges, as well as the seaside.  We also started into the rainforest country. 

Mission Beach definitely lived up to expectations.  We headed straight for a caravan park right opposite the beach, with a great pool, and more importantly, a playground right beside our campsite.  The girls were in heaven!!  It was hard for them to decide what to do, play on the playground, go for a swim in the pool, or walk to the beach for a jump in the sand and waves.  We managed to fit all of the above in at various times.  Very exhausting!

Even though it has been 6 weeks since we left a very cold and wet Melbourne, we really have noted just how much this visit to Mission Beach seems to have marked the real ‘start’ of our holidaying.  Things have been really enjoyable to date, and definitely busy.  We have done a lot of lovely visiting, and checking out some of the countryside, but probably not what we really consider ‘relaxing’.  We have also been trying to escape the cold, especially the freezing 1 – 3 degree nights, which we have finally done.  Pretty lucky that we can say 6 weeks in that we are ‘starting’ our trip.

The 4 days we have spent around Mission Beach is the longest camping stay we have had, and has been full of those real holiday activities.  The beach got a good workout with Glenn teaching Savannah how to dive under the little waves that were rolling in.  Amy also enjoyed showing the girls how to play hop-scotch in the sand.  The park has been reasonably busy with long weekend visitors as well, which the kids have enjoyed given all their new-found play buddies.  One of the nights we had splashed out and went out for a family dinner.  We got drawn into the ‘Fish Bar’ by the atmosphere, and a guy playing guitar and harmonica.  The food was very enjoyable, (none more so than Amy’s oysters, or so she said / moaned).  The girls entertained a lot of people, including the staff, with their dancing to the live music.  One lady remarked how impressed she was with the dancing, and that there were some dance moves that she’d never seen before!!!!  Very nice experience.

We definitely enjoyed watching everyone pack up and race back to their homes, knowing that we didn’t have to do that this time!!

We have been deliberating just what to do about our trip to Cape York.  There is an offroad main section of the trip to Cape York referred to as the Old Telegraph Line (OTL).  This has quite a few creek / river crossings, and depending on conditions, can be interesting.  Glenn had been reading an offroad 4wd / camper forum online (MySwag) for quite some time, and coincidently, they had been organising another Cape York trip for the same time.  This year there is quite a big group (up to 27 cars).  After MUCH deliberation, we have decided to join the MySwag group on the OTL section, which will be a lot of fun.

They leave Cairns on the 23rd June, so we have a week and a half to fill in.  Should be able to do that ok I imagine!!  We will head off and explore some new places tomorrow, saying a fond farewell to Mission Beach.  I’d hazard a good guess and say we should be back here.... one day!



Motorbike racing at the Playground
Mission Beach

A walk on the beach before bedtime

Busy digging at Mission Beach

Happy Days

Hop Scotch on the Sand - not sure who had the most fun

Friday, 8 June 2012

Townsville

Love 'The Strand' at Townsville and loving the warmer weather, although Townsville is experiencing a 'cold snap'. All relative of course. We had to put a jumper on.

Our stay in Townsville with Amy's Mum and Dad was mostly filled with restocking and washing the car and camper, etc. But we did manage to enjoy some of the great cafes and restaurants and of course the 'Rock Pool', only walking distance from the unit.

Nan and Pa loved spending time with the kids and were very sad to say goodbye . Mention of the prospect of a pool and beach at our next camp spot was just the ticket to make sure the kids weren't too sad to leave also.

Heading north to Mission beach where we will hang out for a few days.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Snaps from an earlier Camp

Here's a few photos from the Arcadia Valley, south east of Carnarvon Gorge.  (Well before reaching Townsville.) It was a lovely, quiet camping spot. We spent 2 nights there (very cold) and just relaxed and made sure we collected plenty of firewood for the evenings. 

We made damper, making the most of the fantastic coals from the fire. The best we had ever made I reckon and Savannah loved it, her first taste of damper. 




Saturday, 2 June 2012

Bourke to Charters Towers

From Bourke, we headed north and finally crossed into Queensland, chasing the hotter weather.  We stayed overnight in a great park in Charleville called the Evening Star.  After talking to Amy’s cousin Shayne, he gave us a great recommendation to go out to a cattle property that another cousin, Dale, was managing.
This property is a remote, 450,000 acre cattle station, 180km west of Charleville on which Coles use to get a large amount of their beef that go into the supermarket.  They can have up to 12,500 cattle at a time, and life keeps them pretty busy.  The stay was short, as we didn’t want to get in the way, but was fantastic.  The kids loved interacting with all the animals, collecting eggs, feeding the dogs, and ‘riding’ the horses.
Then a short stay at Amy’s Aunt and Uncle at their cattle property in Dulacca. So lovely to see them and sad that there are so many years in between each visit.
Glenn had fun playing with the ‘big toys’, fixing the 60 tonne, 420 horse Power, D9 bulldozer with Amy’s cousin Shayne.  We had a great stay with Shayne and Nicole and their four kids.  Our girls had an absolute ball and so did we.  And we were very grateful to have somewhere dry and warm to stay over a couple of very wet and cold days. 
Arcadia Valley was the next stop.  The chopper pilot from Dale’s property had given us the ‘scoop’ on this great camping spot and it was lovely.  We stayed two nights, and thankfully had the benefit of a campfire to help us deal with the freezing nights.  And I reckon it was the best damper we have ever cooked on the open fire.
Canarvon Gorge for 2 nights after that.  Glenn and I had been here before, but didn’t realize how lucky we were last time to have been able to stay in the campgrounds right at the gorge.  At the time, it was the start of school holidays, which we thought wasn’t so good, but that’s apparently the only time they open the camping grounds.  So this time, we had to pay $35 per night in an over price, over-crowded caravan park nearby.  Anyway, the girls managed a 10km walk and we saw some lovely sights, so it was still worth it.  On many sections of the walk, we had to wobble on stepping stones to criss-cross the river and Savannah fell in at one point, boots and all.  She wasn’t perturbed and kept soldiering on with wet pants, socks and boots.
At Charters Towers, we decided to stay in a cabin overnight at the Dalrymple Caravan Park (or ‘tourist park’ as they call it, which I suppose sounds more impressive and a reason to charge more).  Heavy rains were expected and we were glad when some rain eventually came to justify us wimping out.  The rain is fine, but given we were due in at Amy’s folks in Townsville the next day, we didn’t want the hassle of having to dry the camper out.  Anyway, it was nice the having the toilet in the same spot as your ‘camp’ and other such ‘luxuries’.