Camp # 49, Days 230 – 231, Gunnadah, NSW

“They’re burning off at the Rampadells, The tawny flames uprise” – ‘Burning Off’ by Dorothea Mackellar

Following the dramatic recovery of Droney the 3rd, it was a late start to the days travel. It seemed it was going to be a resonable days travel with just 409 km’s to cover. However what that time didn’t account for was the fact we would be, again, traversing that old foe, The Great Dividing Range. Ugh! It’s always pretty country but inevitably it’s a slow and windy crossing. And for those in the back seat, always accompanied by a sickly queezy feeling.

A brief distraction from a crow tormenting a goanna crossing the road offered a little light relief.

You don’t see this everyday.

Finally we crossed the ranges and popped out at Tammworth – Australia’s country music capital. In honour or this fact we had been listening to Aussie icon Slim Dusty. Ken and I enjoyed the pace of tunes, although the kids were mumbling something about bleeding ears.

It’s a classic – Slim Dusty and G’day G’day

Turns out Tammworth isn’t just a great place for country music but also home to the best playground we have come across in OZ.

Now, we have seen some awesome playgrounds and unique play equipment and this just had it all. Different levels of play ranging from toddlers to young adults. Large spaces all creatively linked with, tunnels, meandering paths and waterplay creek beds. On the excitement-a-meter it rated extremely awesome coolest playground ever!!!

Playground excitement-a-meter

It was now very late in the day so we had a picnic dinner at above mentioned playground and pushed on for Gunnadah for just the one night. It meant we would arrive in the dark but traveling through this beautiful farming land on dusk gave a gorgeous pinky golden glow to the country side.

Late afternoon drives always have the best colours.

We keep hearing about how hard the farmers are doing it at the moment and on the drive to Gunnadah we saw signs out the front of one property requesting help to feed their livestock and horses, desperate times for some of our farmers. Delivering the reality of the harsh beauty of our land. Which is what has brought us on this particular drive and part of the country.

Gunnadah is the place where Dorothea MacKellar lived, loved and inspired the great Australian poem “My Country”. I love the poem and wanted the girls to cover it as part of our schooling. It was amazing to be in the place and share the same landscapes that bought this poem to page. For those unfamiliar with it enjoy.

“I love a sunburnt country” – Dorothea Mackellar

We finally arrived in Gunnadah after dark and spent just the one night. In the morning we walked up and visited the memorial to MacKellar which displayed some of her poetry but the visitor centre was closed.

Today’s travel was only to be a few hours, delivering us to Parkes, NSW. We took a little short cut, traveling along ‘Black Stump Way’. Could resist the name and I’ve heard and used the phrase ‘beyond the black stump’ through-out my life and here was a chance to see it. If you find yourself wondering what I’m talking about, it is a colloquial saying meaning ‘beyond the limits of civilization’.

Turns out there are about 5 places in Australia that claim bragging rights to the original legendary Black Stump, and it’s anyone guess which one is actually it.

Turned out however the black stump had be blacken on too many times and turned to ashes in a fire that engulfed the Black Stump Wine Saloon, said to the be original location of this dark and mysterious stump. So, today, roadside at a rest stop a replica stump stands to mark it’s historic location.

‘The’ Black Stump – or is it?

I can’t claim this knowledge has enriched my life much, yet it did provided a point of interest on the journey and I am indeed wiser with regards to black stumps in Australia. Love ya Strays.

Camp #48, Days 224 – 229, Trail Bay Gaol, Arakoon, NSW.

Even Skip and his mates loved Trail Bay, NSW.

A big leap of 613 km south today saw us leaving Queensland and back into New South Wales. Looking ahead, we are going to be in Adelaide for the Tour Down Under cycling event in early January and we still have a fair distance to travel. So with that in mind, there will be a few big travel days ahead. With a deadline to travel to, and a few clear ideas of places we want to visit, it has made it easy to plan head, mapping out most of our camps along the way.

Lovely lunch at Tweeds Head

Today we broke the travel up with a stop at Tweed Heads just over the border for a roadside lunch. We love these little lunches in the van. Usually we find a nice little picturesque place to pull up and it feels like we get to visit another wee town.

What a sunset, but we needed to setup – doh!

We finally arrived at Trail Bay just on sunset, which was a cracker! However our camp site wasn’t the easiest to get onto, and after much to and fro-inv we opted to just pull up on another site for the night and face it all in the morning. It was now dark, the kids were all crazy and hungry from being cooped up all day and it wasn’t far of bed time. Not that they were tired after sitting in the car the entire day. Ahh the traveling life has it’s moments.

The next day was a lot brighter and less windy, but there were storms about and the sky was ominous looking at time. Despite warnings from other campers about the brewing weather and the slope of the site, Ken and I both felt confident that the Zone RV van could manage both without much bother, and it did.

How’s that for a spot!

We’ve had our issues with the van, but when it comes down to it she is well built and well engineered and we have great confidence in the product. Besides the view was too delicious to miss out on, we’re suckers for an ocean view.

Amongst the stormy weather we jagged an amazing day, 28 degrees, sunny and just a breath of wind. So we ditched school and made the most of the stunning location. We got the SUP (stand up paddle-board) out and the Packraft and played and paddled the morning away.

Making the most of the awesome weather

It was a super little camp, great facilities and kangaroos all around including on the beach. The girls enjoyed riding their bikes around until Charlotte got taken out by one of the roo’s. Just as she was riding past the back of our van a roo jump out of the bushes right into the side of her. Enough to stun them both but neither injured.

Skip’s everywhere
Fancy a dip Skip?
Skip even joined the sunset dance session

The historic goal on the site was constructed to house the convicts who were going to build a breakwater to create a safe harbour for ships traveling up the coast. Between 1863 and 1866, 90 ships and 243 lives were lost, so something had to be done. After years of construction, delays and difficulties with funding, hard stone and storms the breakwater and goal were abandoned in 1903. During WW1 it was brought back into service as a German internment camp, but now stands as a historic ruin and muesum.

Trail Bay – what an intro to NSW.

The near by town or South West Rocks was windy but pleasant. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at Malt & Honey and a little retail therapy in the Rawspice boutique. What a little gem, mostly I don’t enjoy clothes shopping but loved this shop and with my new fashion adviser – Lotte – I left feeling throughly zhoozhed up.

We took a drive to nearby Hat Head. I’d seen stunning pictures of this area but that afternoon the moody, stormy, weather and clouds returned. It was still beautiful just dramatic, wild and cold. Still Ken wanted to fly Droney the 3rd. But with high winds and low battery, alas, Droney the 3rd was not to return. This news was met with a collective forehead slap and a roll of the eyes from us all, not again.

Moody day at Hat Head!

Ken immediately mounted an ill prepared for the condition rescue mission. At least with the GPS co-ordinates he knew where to go but soon realized the terrain was too tough and cold for shorts, t-shirts and thongs. With rapidly fading light, Droney the 3rd was abandoned. Although the tale doesn’t end here.

With that, by now all too familiar, empty feeling of in the pit of his stomach, Ken had not given up on recovering and reuniting with his little drone. Dispite the next morning being a travel day, Ken rose early and with all the necessities to aid a successful recovery mission he set off with great optimism and determination.

Doney 3 all on it’s lonesome for 14 hours.

The new day had bought new luck and Ken found a track that led him close to Droney the 3rd with just a bit of bashing through the rough bush. This was very welcome news indeed and it wasn’t long before the mission was declared a complete success. After its night spent alone, lost in the bush, following a crash landing, Droney the 3rd was a little battered but seemed like he would live to fly again another day.

And they all lived happily ever after. 😊

Camp #47, Days 205 – 223, Coolum Beach, QLD

Ahhhh, it feels like coming home. Strange because it’s not home but these days anywhere we have been more than once and holds a form of familiarity, feels exciting. Apart from that we love the Sunny Coast and Coolum Beach.

There is always something going at the surf club in Coolum Beach.

Goldilocks is ready but we’ve booked and air bnb for a week while we go through the repairs and make sure she is ready to be picked up and move back into. Aside from van stuff we are keen to visit a few of our favorite places again. When here last, Ken was working back in Perth for a week and then working again once back with us so he really didn’t see much.

Other priorities are keeping up and catching up with school, getting some kind of regime for healing Georgia’s gut. There are some great health shops here, a GP to follow up with and plenty of cooking and researching for new recipes to be done.

Ken’s ‘salmon and avo stack’ was a winner.

We revisited the Ginger Factory again, this time with Ken, Betty’s Burgers – Noosa YUM, the gorgeous wee town of Monteville and our favorite German restaurants ‘King Ludwig’. The chef’s speciality soup is to die for and he is Coeliac so we felt safe eating there plus the views of the Glasshouse mountains, spectacular! And the kids were busting to visit Australia Zoo again.

Fun for all the fam at the Ginger Factory
After lunch at ‘King Ludwig’s’

Moving back into Golidlocks was great. We were all keen to get back to our own wee crib and the rhythm of van life. The first setup though was hilarious, trying to remember what to do and we had a new jack on the front to work out how to use. It took about 20 minuets to finally get the legs down on the van and get inside.

It’s not always sun and surf in van life, just most of the time!

Coolum caravan park was fantastic and we met some really fabulous families. So great for the kids to have playmates and Georgie in particular made a special little friend which was so nice because she really misses home and having her bestie to play with. While they were all younger than Charlotte she had them entertained and hanging off her every word.

All the kids playing together in the caravan park #vanlife

Inspired again by Australia Zoo another bake sale was organized, this time for Georgie with her little friend Indi and they smashed it selling out and raising $106.00 for the Tiger protection program run through Australia Zoo.

Boom! $106.00 for Australia Zoo’s Tiger Protection in the GF bake sale

After extending our stay at the CP a couple of times we finally had to move on but not before having and epic beach day on Noosa Northshore. We just love taking a picnic lunch, having a drive on the beach and parking up.

We love the Sunny Coast, fantastic weather, no crocs and so much variance in beautiful natural landscapes.

With the batwing awning providing plenty of shade it’s just awesome sitting back and watching the girls play, swim, dance, build, create and generally have a ball.

An epic way to finish our time on the Sunny Coast, bid farewell to Queensland and make our way south to New South Wales.

1707kms in 3 days. Cape Trib to Coolum, Days 202 – 204.

Well we broke our own rule after only one week. Our attempts to slow the pace down and not be constantly on the move came unstuck as Zone RV pulled a rabbit out of a hat and announced the van was going to be ready the day we were leaving Cow Bay.

Having just had such a wonderful week here in FNQ, I was feeling satisfied with all we managed to see and do in Queensland and we were keen to get back to Goldilocks and get back on with van life.

Had a top lunch at the ‘Grazing Goat Cafe’ in Mackay.

So out with our promise to slow the pace down and we decided to leg-it down the coast as fast as possible. Three long days of travel, overnighting in Townsville and just outside of Rockhampton. We really did just pull up late in the evening, ate, washed and reset for the next day.

Cardwell, QLD, where we listened to the Melbourne Cup on the radio while we ate lunch.

Cardwell was devastated by Cyclone Yasi in Feb 2011, but the community rallied and with lots of rebuilding, it looks fantastic today.

The days were long but I love watching the world go by, Ken enjoys the driving and listening to podcasts and the girls love watching movie after movie on the ipad. Ugh, I judge myself harshly for this and as much as I hate it, the guilty truth is, I have just given in to allowed the ipads to occupy the girls and get us through these long, confined days in the car. I suppose its that old 80/20 rule. At least Elsa keeps singing to me, offering encouragement and support to ……. ‘Let it go, Let it go’.

Cow Bay, Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation, Days 195 – 202. QLD

Sunset above the rainforest in Cape Tribulation

What a wonderful week! We are so far behind on the blog. I find myself writing this post 4 months after we were actually there. (and posted 8 months later!!!). However with that said, as I start to revisit in my mind the things we did I also remember the feelings I had about this place and the time we shared. I distinctly remember feeling this might be my fav spot yet, (but then I say that a lot).

We have come back from our overseas trip with a focus to clean up our eating, improve our gut health and that was even before we had Georgia’s ceoliac diagnosis. However, my idea’s of this being a gradual process were not to be. With Georgia being so unwell at this point (in constant pain with her tummy, losing weight, refusing food, aching bones and joints) and Ken commitment to get his body in a state of ketosis it felt like a drastic and immediate change.

But a change for the good and while it felt a little overwhelming to be doing this all while traveling Australia, and the challenges that brings it is a positive change for our family and we are all going to benefit for this. I was very grateful to just be in the one spot for 7 days so I could wrap my head around it.

The house was amazing. Loads of space, set amongst the rainforest and the pool was just sublime. We were off gird so the house was running on solar and had no air-con. It was hot and humid, for that authentic rainforest experience, so to be able to cool off was wonderful.

We love getting out and exploring the new and exciting locations we find ourselves in but everyone equally enjoy’s the treasure of down time at home. And this house was very comfortable to just mooch about in. I even found the time to read a book. Totally unheard of, a guilty pleasure, taking the time and just sitting around reading or staying up late into the quiet wee hours of the morning to read in peace.

After our break from schooling while we travelled in Europe. This was the focus of each morning and the few outings we had took us to the Daintree Discovery Centre which was super, Cow Bay beach – beautiful, cool, interesting beach coombing an awesome tree swing, and a drive to Wadjul Wadjul falls for a picnic with a couple of local crocs.

The weekend bought family time with Meg, Andrew and Jack. Saturday we went back to Brooklyn for lunch, a catch up and play. Then Sunday we all meet at the Daintree River for a crusie before returning to our house for lunch, a swim and more chat.

Walking through the canopy at the Daintree Discovery Centre

It’s been a really joy spending time with Meg and Andrew and to see the next generation of cousins play and laugh for hours in the pools just awesome.

Magic memories made right there. We round out our week with a totally terrific trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. It was a small tour of just 25 leaving from Cape Trib and departing from the beach here it’s only 20 minutes to the reef. Conditions were great, the water was warm and we all had enough time to have a fabulous snorkel seeing oodles of cool fish, giant clams, turtles and clown fish.

Ocean Safari were the company and the staff were super. Suppling a prescription set of googles for Georgia was a complete bonus but the guys on the boat were fab, looking after every little need. Making sure the kids saw all the best stuff and teaching them how to dive down to explore more. They are the only ones who operate out of Cape Trib so you cant miss them but do yourself a favor. It really was just a wonderful morning.

The girls are getting great at snorkelling

The next day we departed having loved every minute. We got word the van was ready to be collected in Coolum so it was going to be some very long days to leg it down the coast. We bid farewell to FNQ, satisfied in what we have done but already looking forward to being back one day.

Cairns, Days 192 – 195, QLD

The girls at Muddy’s playground Cairns.

So we are back on the road but this time without Goldilocks the van. After the rough treatment the roads of Cape York dished out she was in need of some work and Ken was keen to have her all spic n’ span by the time we got back. However this meant the car was in Cairns and the van now in Coolum on the Sunshine Coast some 1,500km away.

Feeling we hadn’t quiet finished our time here in FNQ we opted to pay for accommodation and see the things I just knew I couldn’t leave behind without regret. So after 3 days in Cairns reacclimatizing to the humidity we booked a week in a house in the Daintree / Cape Tribulation.

So so so glad we did and didn’t miss this beautiful bit of OZ. It also came with the added bonus of spending a little more time with my cousins Meg, Andrew and Jack, and enable us to gather a few remaining items they had stored for us while we were away.

At the aquarium

While in Cairns we visited the lagoon and the aquarium. Kicked of the schooling which had been on hold while overseas and cleaned out the car. What a state we had left her in. It was a shock to open the doors and see the dust, sand and uncleanliness we had become immune to while traveling in the Cape. Amazing how one’s standards drop when in the bush.

Pelicans on the waterfront

We had also made the decision that we needed to slow the pace down of our travels. While it’s exciting being in new places so frequently the traveling is over whelming. Not leaving enough time to catch your breath, keep up with the schooling, keep up with the blogging, keep up with required nourishment for each member of our mob.

Georgie has been unwell for months now. Complaining of tummy aches and aching bones and joints. Bless her, she hardly complains but it was time to slow down and have things investigated a little more.

While in Perth we went to our GP and run some test and on our last morning here in Cairns the GP called to say she had tested positive to Coeliac’s Disease. BOOM! What now?

Back on the ‘Captain Cook Highway’ 😉

Well as we were packed and already on the road we continued to Cape Tribulation for a quiet week to read a lot, do what we can to help her gut heal and process what this all means.

Halling around Europe, Days 131 to 191.

Having had this trip already in the pipeline we have halted our Great Australian Adventure and headed to Europe via Perth.

Fulfilling a long wish to all holiday in Scotland together we are traveling across with mum and dad Glover before joining the Hall Clan to walk sections of the West Highland Way.

Making wonderful family memories, catching up with dear friends and taking advantage of not having a tight and fixed work/school schedule this is what we got up to in our photo blog.

What a vast contrast to the last isolated month we have had in Cape York.

What a bonnie time the Hall and Glover clans had together in Scotland.

Stronachlachar, Scotland

Our first AirBnB in Scotland at Stronachlachar in the Trossachs, a beautiful area of Scotland that feels very remote, yet is only an hours drive from Glasgow. It was our base for the southern part of the ‘West Highland Way’ walk.
All ready for our first walk on the WHW – ‘Blamaha to Rowadennan’.
The statue is of Tom Weir, famous Scottish broadcaster and climber – Tom inspired my imagination as a kid with his TV show ‘Weir’s Way’ in the 70’s and 80’s where he’d walk all the great walks of Scotland.
Walking turned out to be a brilliant way to have great catch up conversations with our families that we only really see every few years.
Love this image of my nephews, James and Michael. They are both troopers when it comes to walking.
One of the cracking days of sunshine, Loch Arklet in the background.

A few us decided to tackle Ben A’an the “mountain in miniature” at 1,512 ft.
Girl Power!

We all done this cracking walk on an old military track to Inversnaid following Loch Arklet from the house. Bruce completed it twice!

Ardgour House, Corran, Scotland

Brilliant nights with the family socialising in the great room at Ardgour House. This was to be our base for completing sections of the northern section of the West Highland Way.
My brother Ryan and his partner Margret were able to join us for this week of the great clan Hall gathering of 2018.
First up was was a walk around Glen Coe.
Spectacular, breathtaking, the scale, beauty and ruggedness of this place is mesmerising.
Lulu, loving it at the wee playground at the Clachaig Inn, where we all caught up for lunch.
Nana and the girls

Another cracking walk in the Glen Coe area.
Georgia, closing one of the gates behind us, the girls loved the walks in Scotland.

The whole family took the Jacobite ‘Hogwarts Express’ from Fort William to Mallaig
What a great experience and of course the kids loved all the Harry Potter connections.
Luke and Charlotte all ready to depart from Platform 9 ¾

Bruce and I took a walk up to the Glenfinnan viaduct where the crowd climb the hill to see the ‘Hogwarts Express’ come through.
Glenfinnan Monument to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the 1745 Jacobite Rising 

Runner Up of the 2018 Clans talent competition!
Charlotte & Luke competing in the Harry Potter Trivia comp
Aunty Jodie took all the kids rock climbing at the National Ice Climbing Centre in Kinlochleven – Gold!
Well done guys!
Sadly it was time to leave our families and Corran and head our separate ways to explore more of Scotland.

The girls at Eilean Donan Castle
Next up was a special treat for the girls organised by Bruce and Beccy at Shieldaig Lodge Falconry. The Harry Potter tour of Scotland continues
Georgia had a ball, she just loves birds.

Was brilliant getting to spend some time with Bruce and Bec before we headed on our own to Skye.

Gotta love the stunning Scottish landscapes

Skye, Scotland

Leonie’s seem more of Scotland that I have, but I get to visit Skye on the trip, the Skye bridge is in the background.
Kilt Rock, Skye – changing dramatic scenery was just round every corner
Our AirBnB looked on to the dramatic Cuillins, inspired us to watch a bit of Outlander in the evenings!
Colours, I wouldn’t normally associate with Scotland.
Great family day out to Dunvegan Castle
We celebrated Leonie’s birthday in style at the award winning ‘Three Chimneys’ for lunch in Skye, the girls were amazing, really adventurous with their food choices and big thumbs up to the restaurant for making us feel really welcome as a young family.
The quintessential Skye shot, love a Hairy-Coo!

Stow, Scotland

Next up was a big drive to Stow to catch up with our special friends from when we lived in Scotland, Paul and Helen. They always make us feel so welcome when visit and we all still pinch ourselves when we see our kids running amok together!
We never let a homeschooling opportunity pass, and we had a great day out visiting Melrose and took the opportunity to pop into the science fair.
Georgia made a new bestie!
And I managed to go mountain biking around Stow with my old bestie.

Edinburgh, Scotland

And on the way through to Edinburgh, we managed to have a great wee catchup with another dear friend from my uni days Jen where we got to meet the gorgeous Iona for the first time.
Edinburgh always brings back so many great memories for Leonie and I and the girls loved it.
Of course, Charlotte was hyped to be in the birthplace of Harry Potter…
We got to visit our old favourite places to eat!
And just had a jolly good time!

Wellingborough, England

We couldn’t leave the UK without seeing my folks again, so we headed down to Wellingborough to spend a few more days with my my mum and dad and sister.

Crete, Greece

In some ways its sounds crazy to say we felt like we needed a holiday, but a week of doing nothing but eating, swimming, and sleeping in a beautiful setting certainly felt like it hit the spot.

Paris, France

We got to spend a few days in Paris, before heading back to Australia – Charlotte just loved it.
The Bastille Markets were a hit!

Perth, Australia

And then back to Australia, for Charlotte’s Christmas present to Taylor Swift live in Perth
And we got to share Lulu’s 2nd Birthday with the family in Perth before heading back to Cairns to continue out Great Australian Adventure.