Thursday, September 10, 2009

10th Sept

Hi guys,
I know we are not officially on the road anymore, however I could argue that we are all still on the road to somewhere!
So if you are interested I invite you to check out our new Lions Den website (thanks to the talents of expedition Australia's very own Steve Baile) at to see what we are up to these days.
Please feel free to pass it around and I insist you all come and visit us when you come north!

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

31st August 2009 - LIONS DEN HOTEL, FNQ

It started during a simple break in Owl shrieks in the early hours of the morning. The gap was injected with a rather pathetic...meeeeeeowwww
......Meeeew?? What the hell was that? A weird sort of owl? A freakish change in pitch of geckos calling? Somehow in my half asleep brain I knew the noise just wasn't quite natural. After stumbling around in an attempt at getting myself together I peered inquistively through my timber venetians (not as fancy as they sound!)              
What interesting creature have I discovered? Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.......I gaze out and much to my disgust find that my creature is nothing more exotic than a small, fine boned, tabby grey cat. Big saucer eyes stare up at me and like all kind of freaky, creepy instincts cats have, it seems to know exactly where I live!
Eeeeeek.... a small feeling of panic rises up. It's making out like I know what it's going on about. The I've been everywhere Man attitude that all cats seem to be born with stares straight back at me. "OK What the hell are you doing in there?" Even though I've never met him before, I feel guilty......."sorry.....was that me that took you on holidays (even though you are a CAT!) and left you because you were scared and ran under the deck of a strange hotel and wouldn't come out, and now you're lonely?" mmmmmmmm?  No
I ponder these thoughts for a moment and realise my door handles are high........he's definately staying out there in the warm tropical night tonight (and hopefully catching himself a rodent or two). We are not that big a push over, and besides there's still Fritter to contend with. Fritter is the children's 3 month old Jack Russell/Tenterfield terrier cross who will not be so keen to give up his spot as top Pub Dog!
So basically we have a cat hanging around who wants to be mates, yet is quite confused about where he comes from. The jury is out about whether he will be staying around or going back to the ranger. Moral of the Story......never, ever take your cat on holiday!

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Saturday, June 13, 2009


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13th June 2009- LIONS DEN HOTEL

Another busy week with a HUGE long weekend and a few funnies to keep us laughing. The Cooktown Festival helped bring a few tourists to town and there was a great turn out for our bands over the weekend. Saturday was by far the biggest with a typical glorious day encouraging everyone to have a few bevvies and sit around on the deck and listen to some tunes. We had a couple of people set up some stalls with trinkets and also Jim from over the road did his snake show. He now boasts some of the deadliest snakes in the world, the inland tiapan, the coastal tiapan, the Mulga (or King Brown), and the death adder. He had them on display in tanks which was great for the visitors.
We've had a young croc out on the lawn, turkeys across the road and banded geckos under the piano. So great to be surrounded by so much wild life. This morning Jim bought in three pig legs, butchered from a wild pig he'd shot last night. Least someone is catching them, our trap seems to do nothing! Wild pig is not good eating but old Tom doesn't seem to mind...he smokes them on the fire out the back....mmmm tasty!
I had to save the rooster from Tom's cooking pot as well, as he was very keen to relieve us of it. I have however found him a new home (the rooster, not Tom) with our cook Kerry. At least until I can convince Max to build me a decent chook pen.
We performed a night ambush on the two remaining chickens on thursday night. Knocking them from their perch above the front door and chasing them down in the dark. After days of trying to catch them in daylight, this was a last resort. They love to wander the decks at lunch time, collecting tit bits from generous tourists. You see them at a quarter to twelve wandering up from the garden, ready for's quite comical.
Anyway all is starting to come together and we have settled in really well. Kids are loving their days at kinder/childcare and the staff are all doing what they're supposed to, what more can you ask for?

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday 30th May 2009- LIONS DEN HOTEL

Not many days have gone by and already I can bring you my second celebrity story from the Lions Den. The very well travelled Englishman Charley Boorman from the famous motorbike series with Ewan McGregor "Long Way Around", and his film crew visited and stayed at the Den on thursday.
Last weekend we recieved an email and a phone call from London explaining about Charley travelling from Cairns to Cooktown this week and wanting to find a 'means' to do so. Given the name of his new series is "By Any Means" it was exciting news to hear that he planned to do this part of his trip by motorbike.
Asking desperately if there were people in the area willing to guide/ride with Charley from Mossman, through the Daintree to Cooktown (or in our case just shy of it to the Lions Den), Max was the first to put up his hand.
By some weird twist of fate, Max had just bought his new motorbike KTM 530 only days before.....mmmm freaky?? So Max, Charley Boorman and Dave (a local owner of a bike company we deal with) had a lovely all day ride through the Daintree to Helenvale. Dave gave a dink to one camera man while Matt (Max's brother in law....Bridgette's other half) drove our new ute and the other crew. It was a fun day for them and as you can imagine a great experience for all of us.
They had originally planned to go on to Cooktown and stay there the night, but after a bit of pushing and prodding it was decided they would stay with us. We set them up in a couple of our safari huts and they had a ball riding around on some electric bikes that had been shipped here from the states for Charley and his crew to try out. We all had a blast riding around on these ultra quiet bikes....a bit freaky really. A trail bike that's quiet?....I know strange.
The boys had dinner of course, so Max jumped straight off the bike had a bit of a relax and then we were back in the kitchen cooking up a storm. So very different from our old lives....but isn't it great?
Anyway we had a crew of local people who couldn't believe their luck and a very late night with plenty of fun had by all. At one stage there was a new "Zero" bike in the bar and Charley gave us his shirt to hang up in the pub to remember him.
It was a great experience to have these people visit and stay with us and hopefully Max, Dave and Matt will all star in the new television series and DVD. It was great to hear their stories and hear about all the wonderful places they've been. Hopefully they will remeber our pub during their travels.
What do they say? Just another day I guess........

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday 23rd May - LIONS DEN HOTEL, QLD

 Just finished hosting Roothie and the crew from 4WD Action Magazine who turned up out of the blue last night. A new and improved 'Milo' arrived on our doorstep around 6pm last night, with half a dozen camera people in tow. We were over the moon of course and wasted no time in giving them a good night out.
After a good steak dinner and a few VB's the famous Roothie was right at home in the bar of the Den and we had a blast sharing stories and creating a few laughs. Turns out Roothie's talents extend further than 4WDing, with him revealing that for 17 years he was the writer of the horoscopes for People and Picture magazine........WHAT?......Absolute crack up and in a scary way I really wasn't that surprised. The man is full of hidden talents.
With great local company and even a black and white dog to boot we blew the froth of a few last night and I think we may even have succeeded in giving the great man a hangover..........gasp!

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday 22nd May 2009 - LIONS DEN HOTEL, QLD

As I sat here this arvo nibbling at my tender Nannigai wing flesh with salad and crispy potatoe wedges, caught only YESTERDAY out on the Great Barrier Reef, I was again struck by the thought that there are certainly worse things to be doing. Max grabbed a couple of hard workers and went out with our new mate Col, a local bloke who's been at us to go fishing since we arrived. It was a great success and they managed to catch, not only Nannigai but also beautiful Coral Trout. Just gorgeous!
Matt cooked batches of it up this arvo on the bbq and the whole staff enjoyed a huge fish cook-up...yummy.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

May 11th 2009 - Lions Den Hotel, Qld

Well I have had more relaxing Mother's Days I must admit, but there is something about adding more toilet paper rolls to a hungry dispenser that is rewarding non the less. Despite my best efforts and many moments pondering, I can still not work out why it is so difficult for people to retrieve toilet paper from the dispenser in pieces any larger than a twenty cent piece. I repeatedly return to the cubicle to find tiny pieces of toilet paper strewn around the room. Ahh... part of me understands the sheer frustration of not being able to entice enough of that white gold out of its dispenser, but the other half of me loathes the fact that as punishment they drop those microscopic toilet tissues on the floor! Surely there is a happy medium. I think I must either down size my toilet paper or upgrade their jailer....mmmm? See what marvelous problems I must overcome.
The rain has returned. Although with good humour we laugh that it is not wet season rain, but winter rain...ha! Such science. We have had a busy few weeks since the roads to Cape York have opened, but I suspect there are a few hairy spots on most of the newly opened tracks. Despite the rain we hosted an older group of 26 from a church group last night, and they had no hesitation in getting into the spirit with a piano singalong last night and a bit of a blow on the harp this morning.....gotta love their enthusiasm. Rock ON!!

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Friday, April 24, 2009

24th April 2009 - LIONS DEN HOTEL, Cooktown Qld

Hello, I must apologise for my lack of communication. After taking over the hotel four weeks ago we are now enjoying the feeling of the place becoming our own, and have already inherited an "Old Man" (who has been living here in his old caravan for thirty years), a brood of teenage chickens, various varieties of cockroaches and bugs, a python and at least six goannas. It is an odd mix but we are happy to call them our own.
The pub is 134 years old, so all things considered it is not in bad condition. But as with any new place there are still things to sort out, junk to throw out and new plans to be made. We have had a mass chuck out of old shed junk and of course foodstuffs that were long past their 'best before' date....(mmmmm see what I mean about the benefits of even tempramental chickens?)
Our new neighbour Jim is a "Snake Man" at least that is how he is known around the district. He has a zoo of venomous snakes and works as a pest controller, a job that he revels in. We now gather our food scaps for the chickens and his pigs! Our first week an 8 foot Water Python was our new resident after escaping from Jim's truck. (Don't worry people they are not venomous and don't like humans).
Easter was a busy weekend and was our first real test of dealing with large numbers of people. It was a great success, with a band and an easter saturday BBQ a real hit with the locals and tourists.
The kids have adapted very quickly and having their grandma here over the past three weeks has been a great help. We could never have managed without our full time nanny over these early weeks....I think grandma will be glad to go home! HA
The weather is perfect and except for some rain over easter it has been magnificent for weeks. The wet season is definately over and I expect the Cape York roads to be open over the next few weeks.
Jake has started Kinder in Cooktown two days a week and Ella is 'hanging' to start at day care next week. She will go the same two days Jake is at Kinder and the other days Max and I will look after them with the assistance of a nanny, for those busy moments!
We have already had to lock them out of the kitchen as they love to slam open the door and sing songs or ask for biscuits right when we are busiest. There are currently three bar staff, a kitchen hand and cleaner that help us out here.
Jake and Ella are in love with the giant Rhinocerous Beetles that are everywhere up here. They find dead ones in boxes and create little bettle cities, lining them up and driving them around like matchbox cars...very funny. They also have become quite cosmopolitan, drinking babychinos every morning curtesy of our adoring staff and our "fancy" coffee machine.
What will they expect next?

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

APRIL 1st 2009 - LIONS DEN HOTEL, Cooktown, QLD

I can now, after nearly 5 months in the process, announce that Max and I have purchased the Lions Den Hotel in Queensland, 28 km south of Cooktown.
I am sure many of you have pondered over the past months, why we have spent so long around the Cairns district and far north Queensland. Other than being a gorgeous area we have been engaged in negotiations for the purchase of the historic Lions Den Hotel, three hours north of Cairns. Our return to the Far north after being in W.A late last year was triggered by the need to be back here and ensure the deal progressed. FINALLY last wednesday all our work paid off and we have now moved in and are calling Far North Queensland our new home.
Our time on the road was a vital part of our decision to take a chance and change our lives again, and dive into this brand new adventure. We are so excited about this new venture and are convinced that our travels have taught us and prepared us for the challenges that lie ahead. Our choice of a hotel was not an easy one, but it was an old idea that took flight once we visited the Lions Den Hotel last September after our trip to Cape York. It is a 125 year old pub made out of tin and timber set on seven beautiful acres of lawn and bushland, bordered by the gorgeous Little Annan River that is conveniently, this far north, croc free. So there is lovely swimming etc. It is a camp ground also that has 5 african style safari huts, camping and donga accomodation (rooms for workers etc).
I will have plenty of opportunity to fill you in more soon enough, but at the moment our settling in and planning continues. The kids are as excited and adaptable as always and the past 10 months have meant they have taken it all in their stride. Our sadness at leaving the road is dampened by the sheer fun and adventure that still lies ahead.....
Onwards and Upwards!

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

5th March 2009 - Mission Beach

Decided to head south about two hours to the lovely Mission Beach last weekend. We had been there before but not stayed for any length of time, so we decided to pack up the camper and head down for a few days. A change certainly is as good as a holiday and we revelled in the beach front camping and the soothing sea breeze. After making ourselves known to the 'caretaker' in his office (a mini van, a few chairs, a television, and a 1960's dune buggy strewn together under a giant ancient tarp) we chose a camp site under a huge fig tree whos' canopy protected us from the afternoon sun.
Hippys and rickety old caravans dotted the foreshore. Ageing men with equally ageing waistlines wandered around in their barefeet. The atmosphere was sheer relaxation and we certainly felt it rub off on us. Sunday morning saw the arrival of stalls for the sunday market, a vibrant affair considering it is still considered the down season for tourists. We wandered around aimlessly, cruising the aisles of leather bracelets, sun hats and fresh produce. When we finally returned to camp we'd purchased enough fresh fruit for two days, books for the kids and some fishing tackle for our not so well used tackle box.
The kids and I collected coral from the beach, seed pods and the odd cuttle fish to make a seaside mobile. Max played guitar and later in the arvo we wandered down the street to a great little cafe/bar that sat nestled on the foreshore. The kids as usual traumatised us for a portion of the meal but with friendly staff and a couple of wines the universe was restored to something resembling happiness.
Monday saw us getting adventurous again and heading into the rainforest. There are plenty of great walks around the little national parks in the area, so we took the kids south past south mission beach to Licuala NP, where cassawories and fan palms are in abundance. Much to Jake's disappointment, the cassowaries weren't as abundant as the fan palms, however they still had fun.
We returned to camp for lunch and a sleep for Ella, before heading north to Bingil Bay and Clump Jetty where we chucked the lines in for a bit of fishing. Jake is convinced that fishing means you put a line in and then pull the fish straight out. Within ten minutes he was asking where the fish were...." where are the fish?"..."I want to catch fish" (yeah right, that's what we all want isn't it?). If only it was that easy!.....sigh
Anyway after an hour of chasing Ella around trying to prevent her launching off the side of the jetty, telling her to SIT DOWN ON YOUR BOTTOM!!!!!!! We finally gave up and returned to camp for a dinner of chicken....much to Jake's disgust and tears. Oh well you can't win them all.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Monday 9th Feb 2009 - Daintree Rainforest, Qld

Well this is certainly a land of contrasts and never has it been more obvious in Australia than right now. Devastating bushfires in our home state of Victoria and outrageous floods across Qld and the top end. I have been scanning the news service websites, constantly scrambling for new footage and information in regards to both.
The floods it seem have a less tragic air about them, stories of local characters joining together to chuck little morsels of chicken from the pub verandah into a flooded street, shotgun in hand, waiting for pot-shots at marauding crocs in their waterlogged community. You can't help but smirk at their ingenious. People flying beer into stranded communities.... god forbid we go dry!
The fires however are tainted in horror. We dread the headline that will greet us as we fire up the computer in the morning - 35 Dead, 45 Dead, 95 Dead, 108 DEAD!!!! It's climbing higher and higher. As a photojournalist the places, the flames, the stories are all too familiar but magnified in severity by a hundred. It is not something any of us want to see again......
Unfortunately tragedy today finds us closer to home...not our family directly, but the family across the road.
We are staying at a friend's property just over the Daintree River, where they have kindly let us shack-sit their half built dwelling while they are away working. It's nothing fancy but it is fancier than a camper trailer so how can we refuse. The forest is glorious! Lusciously thick, green, and inundated with epiphytic ferns and vines of all kinds. The frogs are a frantic soundtrack for the forest and the volume is unimaginable. We are often kept awake at night....listening
However all this was no consolation to the family on the property across the road not 200m away. Yesterday at about 9.15am their youngest son Jeremy was taken by a crocodile off their family jetty, he was only five. It is almost unbelievable. As we drove off the property yesterday we knew straight away something was wrong, there were cars around, two police vehicles had come over on the ferry and everyone looked worried. As we sat waiting for the ferry to return to our side on the northern bank of the Daintree river, a local woman stated to the guy behind us that Jeremy had been taken by a croc. It is tragic.
As the morning went on the local community here did everything they could and everybody with a boat had it in the water searching for the boy, the croc or both. I can't imagine that Croc will get off with a warning.....I wouldn't like to be him right now. Unfortunately the boy's seven year old brother witnessed the whole attack so that can't be good.
Anyway we hugged our kids tighter and thanked our lucky stars, what else can you do?

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

31st January 2009 - Cairns, Qld

Well I have to admit that last night was one of the stranger nights I have had on the road. Max has flown to Brisbane to attend the funeral of his grandmother, so we have returned from the Daintree to camp again in a Cairns caravan park. Sleeping soundly at 11pm, the caravan park in a hush around me, the night was broken by the piercing sound of our Landcruiser's horn...... What???? strange indeed.
Shocked awake, confused, I'm thinking to myself what the hell is that?
At first I thought it was our battery system, somehow gone into some sort of electrical meltdown, but after a dash to the side of the tent I realised the sound was coming from the car. The rain must have short circuited the horn's wiring or some such bizarre mystery.
The rain is hammering down and all the neighbourhood can hear is our car horn blasting through the night. I'm crapping myself trying not to wake up absolutely everyone. I dash back inside to grab the keys and open the car door. I'm slamming on the steering wheel, trying to unjam the horn.....all this in my underwear. The horn blasts on and I'm thumping the steering wheel......anything just to make it shutup!
Eventually I'm thinking I'll have to pop the bonnet and try to disconnect the horn manually. I slam the door and half a second later the noise magically stops!
My heart is beating so hard and part of me just stands there in the rain waiting for it to start up again. I wait but nothing happens....ahhhhhh the relief. 
The kids slept through the whole I said very, very bizarre!!
( We have updated the photo album with some new pics for those who are interested )

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Friday, January 23, 2009

23rd January 2009 - Cairns, Qld

As I pattered my way precariously through ankle deep water on the way to the toilet block, I noticed a woman stumbling around in the downpour, restling with a tarp, some ropes and steel poles. A comical sight I must admit, but my heart did go out to her especially since I'd seen her doing the same thing two hours before. I had my umbrella in hand of course and although we had had gallons of rain, it was still pelting down.
My first thought was 'gee, what if she'd been camped here last week' the rain coming from the sky would have been the least of her problems. Her rock show was right where the swollen river had risen to and could possibly rise to again. Anyway to foreign tourists who speak little english it is always harder to explain these things. After all she was wearing her middle aged, floral bathers around in the rain so I guess she was prepared. Yes, I helped her of course and within no time we had a dodgey little silver shelter erected for her bits and pieces. Ahhhh the fun and games of caravan parks.
The other thing we have been restling with is the concept of afternoon sleeps. The heat of the day does a good job of making the camper trailer a virtual no-go zone during the hours of 8am and 4pm. Little baby brains don't cope so well with going without sleep but trying to convince them that the hothouse is a good place to lay down their heads is even harder. We have overcome this problem with a couple of cheap fans which blow their invisible magic over them and Ella at least can snatch an hour or two sleep.
We just celebrated Jake and Ella's 4th and 2nd birthdays.... yes, they are a week apart. The Landcruiser is virtually over flowing with new toys and things. I see an eradication program is on the cards.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

13th January 2009 - Cairns, Qld

Toady we seem to have arrived out the other side of a monsoonal trough (in other words a cyclone that is not really a cyclone) that has kindly dropped 520mm of rain on us over 4 days. 320mm in one 24hr period.......mmmmmm wet you say. Our trusty campertrailer has stood up to the test and even after having 4-5 inches of water running under the tent and unmentionable amounts falling on top, the canvas has not failed us.
Our thongs and rubber matting tried to escape on us numerous times, swept along by the river forming under and around our camp as the rain fell. Nearby Freshwater creek that borders the caravan park put on a spectacular show swelling to three times its' height and width to engulf all the low lying areas. The camp kitchen did not fare very well as it became part of the river, the barbecue's silver heads barely visible above the flood waters.
In addition to the record rainfall, yesterdays king tide of 3.8 metres created an added worry for anybody close to the river. With a huddle of other residents we watched anxiously as the time of high tide came and went, pushing the flood waters back up the river. The highest tide of the year could not have come at a worse time.
However as quickly as the river rose it receeded, taking with it most of the water threatening camps and caravans. A comfy 30 degress made the whole episode very pleasant. Quite funny to think we recieved the equivalent of Lethbridge's annual rainfall in less than 24hrs. Ha....the irony.
Today the sun has returned and we are all drying out. The plants and trees are happy and the local kookaburras are again up to no good. Too smart for their own good those birds.
Max is our washer woman and has whacked all the damp bedding through the washing machine (wet from humidity not rain). I now have Jake's birthday to think about this weekend, he turns 4....... pool party anyone?

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

13th December 2008 - Cairns, Qld

Apologies for our absence..... In the course of our travels over the past two months we have found ourselves back amongst the tropical palms of Cairns. We are well and truely in the 'build up' to the wet season. The time of year that is most humid and hot and includes glorious days and many afternoons of grey, angry skies that usually don't deliver much. The true wet will not officially start till next month, it is then that we may wish we had something more to protect us from the rain than our camper trailer. Ha! Oh well we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
The kids are excited about the lead up to Christmas, and I have dazzled them with my nine dollar christmas tree and two dollar lights from 'Clarks Craaazzy Bargains'. We have decorated it to resemble something of the chrissy trees of old, and they seem happy enough. We have attempted to see 'Santa' a couple of times, but both children get to the front of the line and eye him off suspiciously. I guess that polyester beard just doesn't cut it with todays generation!
A visit recently from Grandma kept the kids out of our hair, and Max and I were able to escape for a couple of nights on the town with some new friends. Jake and Ella's week of opening and closing Grandma's airconditioned cabin door, looking in cupboards, opening the little fridge and watching her TV, reminded me that living in a house to these kids now really would be a novelty.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

13th November - UPDATE

Hey all, just a note to let you know that our photos have just been updated and there are a few pictures to keep you entertained and up to date with our goings on. More soon....

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

28th October - Broome, WA

I forget.....that like adults, children have things they love to shop for. Today it was made clear that the DVD section in Target country holds the same appeal as christmas morning. After a scary movie scene last night and a few tears, the desperate father made promises of a visit to the shops today for more suitable movies. Hence with a bag full of 'Iggle Piggle', 'Bottle Top Bill and his best friend Corky' and of course 'New Macdonald's Farm' (of course it can't be classed as old anymore) we set off back to camp. When I really think about it I'm not quite sure why I thought two playschool DVD's and a handful of others would stimulate hungry minds forever. Oh mistake.
Today we are absorbing the fine environment of Broome and in between discovering 12,000 year old dinosaur footprints and learning about the pearling history, we enjoyed a drive along the pristine beach of Cable beach. With the tide moving 10 metres in less than 6 hours, this place is really something unique. We are blessed again by very few people and have been able to enjoy Broome at its relaxed and laid back best.
With lunch yesterday at the local Roebuck Bay Hotel and again a swim in the cool waters, what more could you need..?

Friday, October 24, 2008

24th October - Fitzroy Crossing WA

We are back in civilisation after an eventful few weeks travelling the beautiful Kimberley region. We have had an action packed time including nearly being burnt by bushfire in Bell Gorge (King Leopold range off the Gibb River Rd), almost tripping over a freshwater crocodile in the darkness of Tunnel Creek (a 1km creek carved tunnel under a limestone range), had a driving light rattled to death on the corrugations of the Mitchell plateau, been overwhelmed by the stench of a drowned cow in the King Edward River, and finally stood isolated, like the last people on earth, overlooking the magnificent and dramatic Mitchell Falls. (Both kids came the 6.6km into the falls…just awesome!)


The animals we have been coming across have supplied us with so many laughs including the small Northern Quoll that climbed onto our kitchen and into our (empty) pots and pans looking for goodies at Mitchell Falls. The comical Frilled Neck lizards that run on two legs across the Mitchell Plateau, and of course the freshwater croc that we took by surprise as we walked by torchlight through the water filled Tunnel Creek. This is adventure…..


This morning I had a tiny yellow honey eater bird eating a baked bean out of my fingers….????

Bizarre….It must be a Fitzroy Crossing thing.


Anyway tomorrow we head to Broome where we will be quite an embarrassment with our dusty, dirty, filthy car and trailer. Oh well…. all in the name of fun!

12th October - Bungle Bungles – Purnululu National Park WA


"You picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel………" Kenny Roger's crooning words from the song 'Lucille' run through my head, albeit slightly varied lyrics due to our circumstances.


After a fleeting visit to the mostly undiscovered Bungle Bungle range, 300 km south of Kununurra, we had left the park and headed north to the Gibb River Rd and the famous El Questro station. Having set up camp and unstuck the shorts from the sweaty seat covers, we relaxed, pulled out a beer and began discussing the day's events.


Minutes into this, Max (looking over the car) exclaimed that we had lost our spare tyre from its cable mount under the car! Given that it was a brand new unused Mickey Thompson tyre and new rim, it is quite an expensive bit of equipment to just lose.


Thanks to the patience of my parents who were happy to take another day out of their time dependant travel schedule and look after the grandkids, the next day we were able to head back to the very rough Bungle Bungle track in search of our 'loose wheel.'


It was always going to be a gamble…$200 in fuel alone to drive there and back, despite whether we found the tyre or not. We left at 6.30am. The road back included 50km on the dusty Gibb River Rd, 200km on the bitumen and then 56km into the Bungle Bungles on a rough, un-maintained track that requires careful negotiation and slow going. It takes nearly two hours to travel the 56km.


Anyway moral of the story is we did not find the spare wheel. A replacement wheel and tyre ended up costing us $598 from the dude at Bridgestone in Kununurra at ten minutes to 5pm. Nice going!


Our arrival in Kununurra was delayed slightly by stopping to help a Sydney couple on their honeymoon. The young couple, glowing with newly wed enthusiasm, were on a road trip from Broome to Freemantle in a Britz camper. They had blown one tyre, and soon realised their second had a very fast leak. As we have two air compressors, we spent the last 100km stopping every 15-20km to inflate their fast leaking tyre, so they too could make it into Kununurra for replacements. Aaahhh…. eventful day.


All was good that night as we pulled into El Questro at 7pm, in time to kiss the kids good night. We were relieved to get out of the car and did not want to let that new spare tyre too far out of our sight.

10th October - Lake Argyle, WA


After being 'granted' permission to enter the great state of Western Australia, minus our fruits and vegetables, we were told to check for resourceful cane toads attempting to abscond across the border. Toad free, we turned south through the jagged rose coloured cliffs of the Ord range towards Lake Argyle.


Ten years ago, I flew over this magnificent Lake as part of a flight from Kununurra, and it was something else to see it from the air. As we drove in through the ridges and valleys it was clear how this area was capable of holding water 18 times the size of Sydney harbour.


Once we'd set up camp and done our historic duty in visiting the re-located Durack Homestead (moved from the valley when the dam was built). We stood looking over the mighty stretch of water and were nothing but impressed. It was a vivid blue reflecting the cloudless Kimberley sky, and out of its depths rose jagged hilltops of stone. 


The Ord River dam was an impressive piece of engineering with no concrete, just clay and rock holding back the waters. The size and stillness of the lake in contrast to the coloured rocks was just amazing. It was definitely worth the detour in to see this mighty, yet under utilised lake.

Monday, October 13, 2008

9th October – Road from Katherine NT to Kununurra WA

Who ever thought that tearing up old magazines and letting the little pieces fly out the window could be so much fun? It seems that our children have found a new way to amuse themselves as the kilometres tick by. Unbeknown to us the affair has been going on for quite sometime, hence nearly half of 4WD ACTION has disappeared across the barren land before it we noticed. The unfortunate hazards of leaving windows open.


Illegal littering aside, the road across to Kununurra is a beautiful mixture of coloured escarpments and rolling grasslands, all edged by the mighty Victoria River. Crocodiles sun themselves on the sandy banks and dodgy little roadhouses pop up every few hundred kilometres, offering up their services to heat damaged travellers.


We of course are enjoying the reasonably cooler conditions of the inland after a hot and humid week on the coast at Darwin. Our path will now lead us across the border into Western Australia, where we will have to hand over our fruits and vegetables before being allowed to pass.


Tonight we will camp on the shores of Lake Argyle, the giant lake formed by the damming of the Ord River. Nearby is the Lake Argyle Diamond Mine, and further on the spectacular Bungle Bungles NP, which will give us plenty to do for a few days. Maybe I won't need those magazines after all!


Sunday, October 5, 2008

5th October - Darwin, NT

Well I think the Wet season may have begun! The last two days we have had tropical downpours around 3 or 4 o'clock, after the standard hot, humid day. The rain is not really a big deal, it is just funny seeing it turn on like clock work now we have hit October. Have not seen rain for so long that Ella has been crying when the downpour begins. It only seems to last half and hour or so, and is still a balmy 33 degrees so don't worry.
Took ourselves off to a crocodile park yesterday (grandma and pa in tow), to get ourselves up close and personal with a few salties. Our encounters in the wild have been limited to a few sightings on the East Alligator river and the sight of a shiny eyeball or two while spotlighting. I was lucky enough to feed one of the prehistoric beasts with a chicken leg, which certainly made my day. Jake and Ella held a baby saltie which made a good snap for the photo album.
Well it looks like the rain is easing and we will be able to safely take ourselves off to the Mindil Market after all. Jake and Pa are still swimming.....hope they didn't get hit by lightening!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

29th October - Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu N.P

I have to admit that I have a thing for funny place names and Jim Jim Falls has for a long time held a fascination for me. JIM JIM....who the hell was Jim and how did he get such a breathtaking waterfall named after him? I admit that the waterfall was not actually flowing (as it doesn't in the dry season) but at 180m high the straight gorge walls made you feel like you were in a hole you couldn't get out of even if you tried. The walls went straight up, allowing Jim Jim Falls to be known as the tallest single drop waterfall at least in the southern hemisphere. The sight was amazing.
We made the trek down a well graded gravel road to the camp area from which we traversed a slow, rocky 4WD track dotted with patches of bulldust and sand. Leaving our cruiser behind, we began the real challenge. The 2km return trek into the base of the falls over rocks and boulders, through a gorge carved out mercilessly by the wet season waters. A shallow emerald lagoon lines the base of the gorge, housing fish and any crocodiles that managed to find their way into the gorge during wet season floods. The signs here are clear "ACTUNG" ...Do Not Swim. 
We were warned that the hike into Jim Jim Falls was not suitable for small children, but buggered if we were coming this far and not giving it a go. Ella was strapped to Max's back via a backpack and Jake just had to use his little three year old legs. It was a picturesque climb, made that much easier by the decision to wait till late arvo, so the humidity and sunlight were at their minimum. Jake did a wonderful job and only towards the end as the boulders got too large did he need to be carried on my back.
It was a challenge scrambling our way through the last hundred metres of huge boulders, but as we crested the final obstacles we were greeted with the most welcome sight known to man (or woman). A huge, cool, emerald plunge pool that was so deep, rimmed by the towering walls of the falls. Just an amazing sight. To top it all off, this part is crocodile free as it is a scramble for anything to get up there, let alone a crocodile.
Well we swam, we wallowed and we gazed up in wonder as we floated the cool waters. It is amazing to find water this deep so late in the dry season, but it made us realise how deep this pool must be as the water cascades off the clifftop, pounding into the rocks below during the wet. Such a great experience. We reluctantly called an end to our swim, packed up our gear and began the trek out. As the sun faded we found our way out of the gorge  and managed to capture some pretty pics as the sun disappeared behind the range. Such a classic Northern Territory sunset.
The following day we began the journey again into the lesser known Twin Falls, 20km from camp. The 4WD in required a deepish water crossing of the Jim Jim river, but nothing compared to the crossings we have been through up the Cape. The kids have been obsessed with the recent arrival of grandma and pa, and so we have benefitted from their constant desire to be holding one of their hands. No complaints here! The walk in to Twin Falls was easy compared to Jim Jim and included a leisurely boat cruise up the gorge that reminded me that I really hate groups of tourists. It was a pictureque place with white sandy beaches lining the base of the falls and deep green pools similar to Jim Jim, yet here you couldn't swim and the easier access made it popular with 4WD tours.
After leaving behind Jim Jim, we made for the northern boundary of Kakadu and finally pointed our 4WDs towards Darwin. Kakadu National Park was a grand mixture of aboriginal rock art, stunning wetlands, a buzz of neverending wildlife and a tribute to aboriginal culture. It really was something special.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

22nd September – Elsey National Park, Mataranka, NT


Have felt the smooth weirdness today of the wheels on bitumen. The first bitumen we have seen since visiting it briefly in Cooktown and before that leaving it way back on the east coast just north of Cape Tribulation.


Gee….we have covered some rough roads not least of all the long arid stretches of the Gulf and its spectacular bulldust corridors. (Parts of the road that suddenly become sand as the hard surface breaks down.) The car has worked hard across this top end, but is still ploughing on. Although our GPS, video camera, tailgate and car seats have all become innocent victims of the never ending dust.


The day after we left Lorella Springs Station we made a bush camp by the Roper River just shy of Roper Bar. It was a dry isolated road but as the track followed the river it offered some rare chances for shade along its banks. Crocodiles are prevelant in the eastern sections of the Roper River but our camp, although right near the bank, was a good three metres above the water line. We set up camp and afterwards collapsed into our chairs in the shade of the trees.


At dusk the toads came out of the wood work. Dirty great Cane Toads, of every size and shape came hopping up from the banks of the river, with their care free, care less attitude. There was a bit of carnage that night as we did our bit for the aussie environment. Whacking them here and there, sending them back to where they came from where we could. It was all in the national interest of course.


After heading to bed that night, we were soon reminded of just how close we actually were to the river. Although high above the bank, we could hear crocodiles moving around, swimming and doing whatever it is that they do at night. The sound was disconcerting, especially as we were surrounded by reeds that rustled every time even the tiniest cane toad stumbled through it.


Huge, Giant Fruit Bats, dropped their bits and pieces down upon us from the trees throughout the night, and their wings thumped as they flew from the branches.


It was a long night as we pondered the likelihood of a croc climbing the bank. We looked down upon our children at ground level, from high up on our camper's double bed and thought 'I guess it's pretty unlikely'. As you guessed there wasn't much sleeping done that night.


We packed up the next day and set out for a different camp. We failed to find a good roadside camp past Roper Bar, so we pushed through to Mataranka where we are due to meet my parents on Wednesday anyway.


This morning we saw a goanna swimming in the Roper River. I didn't even know they liked to swim.


The croc free swimming of the western end of the Roper River led us to Elsey National Park, just outside Mataranka, where we are camped a few hundred metres from the water. It is a very quiet and pleasant campsite, easy to spend a few days. We will sit and wait for the imminent arrival of grandma and pa and make use of the great swimming…. goannas and all!

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20th September – Lorella Springs Station, NT


 I don't think you ever quite get used to the sight of a giant, green tree frog in the toilet, but over the last few weeks it has sure become a common sight. Sometimes, if you're really lucky you get one under the rim and one swimming in the bottom, both clinging on for dear life to the porcelain when you flush. Of course I don't want to see them flushed, but over time I have learnt two things. One, they certainly don't want to be turfed out into the 40 degree day and two, they are perfectly adapted to suction themselves to the walls of toilet bowls. Strange things animals will do out here to survive.


After leaving Karumba we passed through the pretty much nothingness town of Normanton where you can have a beer at the pub at 8am but can't buy takeaway anything till 12pm. So much for a big resupply! We left town with only half the goods we really needed and headed into the isolation of the Gulf towards Lawnhill National Park.


Lawnhill is a National Park renowned for its gorgeous waterholes and gorge as well as the 'Riversleigh' section that houses millions of year old fossils. We visited both, and to be honest were a little disappointed after hearing so much about the place. But it was lovely to have croc free swimming and we got to cruise the waters of Lawnhill Gorge with our inflatable dinghy. Swimming with the fish under the shade of palms was beautiful.


After leaving Lawnhill we went north again taking the back roads up to Barraloola. We crossed over the border into the Northern Territory after nearly three months exploring Queensland. The township of Booraloola was a disgrace to say the least but like all outback towns you take what you can get and move on. In our case it was some frozen bread, milk and a bin to dump our oil in from a scheduled oil change. Here they didn't sell takeaway beer till  2.30pm, so again we left town without valuable supplies, but this time we had no backups.


As we drove north we crossed into the newly formed Limmen National Park that houses a huge stretch of natural springs. Many of these springs also feed billabongs on the 960,000 acre cattle station, Lorella Springs. After hearing a good word about this place from another couple, we took the 30km deviation off the main track to visit it. Well…we thought we had landed in heaven.


It is a working cattle station but has a beautiful camp with green grass and huge eucalyptus trees and best of all, croc free swimming in a thermal pool. The place is run by a funny little bush character named Daryl (that Max managed to do an under counter deal with for two 36 can blocks of XXXX GOLD) and was occupied by only three other groups of campers. Fred…the talkative, yarn spinner from 4WD Action magazine, out there to do a magazine story. Rick…the bizarre metrosexual that drove out there in a Suzuki Swift only to fish from his sea kayak in croc infested waters, rifle across his knees. The most placid, girlie spoken man that I had met in a long time, but he did dangerous stuff neither of us would dream of. The last mob were a couple that had driven up from Alexander in Victoria on a THREE week holiday….Go figure??? Anyway god knows what they thought of us but it was a wonderful few days of good company, good conversation and a great environment.


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Friday, September 12, 2008

September 12th 2008 - Karumba, Qld

"Ey Karumba" .... that's all we could pretty much say as we pulled into the little known seaside town of Karumba, 70km out of Normanton, on the Gulf of Carpentaria. We were greeted with bright blue waters and blinding white beaches, a tiny fishing village, supported by a thriving fish and prawning industry. The large port on the Norman River serves not only as a fishing port but as an export hub for live cattle. (I guess all those millions of Brahma cattle we've been seeing have got to go somewhere.)
The Gulf is a beautiful sight and it is here in these relatively shallow protected waters that the fishing is said to be the absolute best in Australia. We are surrounded by not only fishing enthusists, but people obsessed by fishing. At the crack of dawn they are out in tinnies, charters and whatever vehicle they can find, and at the turn of the tide they return with bags and bucket loads of fish. There is a fish cleaning area near camp and by midday fishermen and woman are cutting and cleaning, filleting their catches ready for the pan. To be honest I don't know what they do with all they catch. It seems to be far too much for anyone person to eat day after day.
Getting over to the Gulf from Cooktown was an adventure. There were many a moment when we asked ourselves how we managed to find such isolated places, but it paid off as we got to see some wonderful cattle stations. As there are no direct roads to the gulf from the Cape most people go down the coast to Mareeba and across the Savannah Way through Georgetown etc. However we decided to shoot south across country from Laura (on the Cape York Road) to meet up with the Burke Developmental Road that crosses the base of the Cape York Peninsula from east to west. A slower more isolated path, but full of birdlife and rich cattle grazing country. We managed to dodge a few steers and not add to the excessivly high wallaby road toll.
The days here are gorgeous, and we are blessed with spectacular sunsets that put on a show over the water. When we get tired of this place we will head south west towards Normanton and more of the Gulf country. It's a sight to behold.
I guess all my loitering around the fish cleaning area finally paid off as it looks like we are having fish tonight! (Told you they couldn't eat them all themselves....hee, hee)

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

September 6th 2008 - Cooktown, Qld

Back where the hills are undulating and the tracks are maintained. We are tonight in the relative comfort of a motel in Cooktown..... we hit the big smoke! After a few weeks in the desert like conditions of the Cape we have come to rinse the dust and grubbiness off one set of clothes at least. We have things to do and see, so we took the opportunity skip the camper setup for at least one night.
Cooktown is another town that has jumped out and surprised us with its natural beauty and unpretentious attitude. We spent time at Weipa on the far north, western side of Cape York and really loved it. It is a lovely sheltered spot and for a mining town we were extremely surprised. Thanks to a few new friends and some senstaional weather, we now call Weipa one of our favorite places.
The kids are going along great, and seem to revel in the whole new place, new friends experience. We will spend a few days here before backtracking slightly and heading west towards Normanton and the Gulf.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday August 31st - Top of Cape York

"We made it!" We have officially made it to the northern most tip of Australia.
We are camped at a place called Loyalty Beach, only 30km or so from the top of Cape York, a west facing beach with a beauitful outlook and plenty of water to wash off the red dust. The trek to the top was completed yesterday when we clambered over a rocky range, down to a little outcrop on the water that is the geographical tip. A small sign marked the official spot, stating the longtitude and latitude and reassuring us that we were in fact at the northern most point.
It was a great feeling, and after a gruelling second day on the Old Telegraph Track, it was a pleasure to see what we had come all this way for. The 4WDing was fantastic and non-stop. Our day was filled with river crossings and steep eroded banks, as well as washouts and incredible holes, both in and out of the water. We did two recoveries, one after our rear diff got hung up on a massive bank exiting a river, and the second from deep sand on the track to the Jardine River.
The car and trailer managed magnificently and some of the angles they were on was amazing. Big name crossings like Gunshot and Nolan's Brook were conquered with no worries, as well as the dodgey old log bridge crossing at Cypress Creek (that a car had put a wheel thru a week prior). The kids loved the whole episode and Ella spent a lot of her time sleeping on the roughest parts...bizarre!
All up, the trek up the Cape via the Old Telegraph Track was everything we had been hoping for and more. We will now hang about enjoying the gorgeous environment and perhaps move further south to another beach on the western side of the Cape tomorrow.
Three Tawny Frogmouths (owls) have been roosting in the tree next to our camp for the last two days, disappearing at night and appearing again in the morning. They're not as interested by our presence as we are by theirs. This morning the kids have been playing with a large but dead mud crab. I guess at the end of the day the world is a playground right?

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Thursday 28th August - Cape York (Elliot Falls)


It's funny how when you are in the warmth it feels like the whole world is too. It is hard to imagine the 4 to 12 degrees that Melbourne is in, as we enjoy another balmy 32 degree day.


Reception is an elusive stranger out here so I attempt to write the goings on bit by bit. I will post these pieces when we once again hit the bright lights….or at least a telecommunications tower.


We are now well and truly on track to the 'Tip'. We are on Cape York at a place called Elliot Falls, a well known place to wet your toes on the trek to the top. Gorgeous waterfalls (Twin Falls, Indian Head and Fruit Bat Falls included) that allow a rare opportunity for Croc-free swimming this far north. We are only a hundred km's from the tip and up here the peninsula is less than 80km across.


It is dry and arid, quite different to how we both pictured it. The trip east to the coast at Chilli Beach was a voyage through the more familiar rainforest as we travelled through the Iron Range. However that is apparently the only true rainforest on the Cape.


Chilli Beach was blowy and a bit stinky but also quite interesting as you realise how far up the east coast you are. The tide came in and out and bought with it the inevitable rubbish that blows up the east coast of Australia. We can only blame ourselves for that one! The place however was quite beautiful with stark white silica beaches, meeting the frenzied growth of the rainforest.


On our way back to the development road from Chilli Beach, we took the lesser known Frenchman's Track, which turned out to be a fantastic decision. The track was great fun, with heaps of washouts and holes to negotiate, not to mention that it ran along the top of the Iron Range before dropping down into the Pascoe River. The Pascoe River crossing, according to our reference books, is a notorious crossing on this track and can be not only deep but extremely hazardous. Being quite late in the season the water level was acceptable, just coming up to the sills on our cruiser, but the approach and departures from the river were more than challenging even without a camper trailer. With an extremely steep descent from the southern side and a long rocky climb over boulders out of the river, it would definitely be the toughest thing we had been through as yet.


The Frenchman's Track is not recommended for trailers and right in front of us was the reason why. However with a good walking of the river and a discussion about our best line, we decided the car was capable of pulling the trailer out the other side. The convenient positioning of a couple of cruisers with winches (having smoko) on the other side, certainly cemented our feeling that it was now or never. We made it through. The rest of the track was just as interesting and challenging as we drove through to meet with the development road and continued heading north to Bramwell Junction and the start of the OTL (Old Telegraph Line).


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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

July 12th - Palm Cove

Still here at Palm Cove in case anyone was wondering where we had escaped to. We wish we could be bringing you more dramatic news but our stay around Cairns has been delayed until this friday at least as we wait for Ella's compression bandages to arrive (which will control any scarring of her burn). It has been a bit of a challenge for us as we are always keen to keep moving. However the first priority is getting Ella sorted.
Living in a caravan park has been an adventure into the wierd and wonderful. The wonderful being the friendly smiles, the elusive bronzed body, the nods, and the sharing of pegs at the clothesline. The weird being the strange pot smoking, white wine drinking neighbour that refuses eye contact, or the bizarre family of 'Christian Soldiers' with seven kids all decked out 'cult like' as father overlooks camp on his cushioned deck chair, his wife pursuing her wifely duties. Ha! All in the name of diversity I say.
It's actually quite entertaining watching the comings and goings. Sometimes you're up, sometimes your down. But overall it is all a bit of fun and of course there are worse places to be in the world. I just laugh to think of what they make of our kids waking at 6.30am and announcing to the world that they have wet their pants.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

August 5th - Palm Cove, QLD

Looks like we will be calling Palm Cove home for another ten days or so after visiting the Cairns Hospital today. We had organised to do a video conference with doctors at the Brisbane Children's hospital at 12.45pm. So after a bit of peering and prodding, and gazing through computer screens, it was decided that Ella would have dressings re-applied for three days and then measured up on friday for a compression bandage that will manage any scarring. The wound is nearly healed and although it is still pink and rather delicate, they think it will be Ok in 10 days to manage just with an elastic compression sock.
As Cape York is not full of hospitals, as everyone knows, we all decided that we are better to wait the ten days and get the compression bandage fitted before we head up the Cape, as opposed to waiting another couple of months till we hit Darwin. Ella doesn't care either way. As long as she can wear her yellow boots and have a chocolate bicky every now and then, she's happy.
So with all the ins and outs the moral of the story is that we will wait in this seaside paradise until our work is done!

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Monday, August 4, 2008

July 4th - Palm Cove, Qld

Well certainly alot has happened over the past week and I feel like we have looked on, walked on, or splashed in the waters of most of the beaches this upper east coast has to offer. Some better known than others, but most with pretty much the same things on show, crystal torquoise waters and long, curved beaches. Some with palms and some without. We have been lucky enough to find some lesser known places like St Helens beach (north of Mackay) and Bramston Beach (south of Cairns), where we have pretty much been able to camp on the foreshore overlooking the water. As well as others like Mission Beach and Airlie Beach which have had their own individual vibe to enjoy.
We loved Mission Beach and would definately return in the future. It is a very cruisey little town with plenty of hippies and wide open spaces to allow relaxation to come easily.
We are now in the gorgeous little town of Palm Cove, just north of Cairns. We have been here before so we knew what to expect and although it is a little busier, it is still as enjoyable as always. Have secured a little corner of the Palm Cove campsite for five days, a beauitful position opposite the beach, with huge palms and fig trees. All secured for the grand price of $17 a night.....ahhh the serenity.
Anyway we will now get Ella's arm checked out at the Cairns hospital and change the CV's in the Landcruiser before heading up the Cape.
Alex and Scott are holidaying up here till wednesday, up from Melbourne, so it's nice to have some time with familiar faces. Beautiful weather, the beach, few bevvies and some old mates ......what more could you want?

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

July 29th - Mt Etna Caves, QLD

We are sitting here as the sun goes down, with strange bush turkeys hovering at our feet. Quite disconcerting when you see their beady little eyes, hungry for morsels. We have run into them before, but not quite as friendly or pushy as they are here at the Capricorn Caves (previously the Mt Etna Caves), 24km north of Rockhampton.
Arrived here about 3pm after stopping in Rockhampton to visit our friendly Foodworks.
Our previous camp just out of 1770 (the town) and Agnus Waters, was in the Eurimbula NP, called middle Creek. It is an obscure fishing location that we hoped no-one bothered to drive out to, and we were pretty much right. We weaved our way through tiny, and i mean tiny, sand/dirt tracks that took us for 19km, out to the mouth of the very tidal Middle Creek. But gee when we got there was it worth it! Even now we are amazed that we managed to find such an isolated campsite, only 30km or so from the very touristy Agnus Waters/1770.
Our camp was up high on a headland looking out over the ocean and Middle Creek, 300 degrees of water. Just gorgerous! Anyway I will be sure to post some photos soon so you can all photoshop yoursleves in.....

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Friday, July 25, 2008

July 25th - Fraser Island

Well the rain has finally stopped, after dumping more than 120mm on us in less than 48hrs. It rained non-stop for two whole days and only ceased late last night. The gale force winds continued to gust into the early hours threatening to tear our place apart, before leaving us in an eery silence this morning. The kids, who normally wake with the birds at the first hint of daylight, slept in till 7.45am. Allowing a rare sleep in for us too.....bizarre.
We have seen two dingoes while we have been on the Island. The first sorry looking specimen, we saw wandering aimlessly on the beach the first day we arrived. The second Max and Jake met, as they made a mad dash in the downpour to the nearby bushes (not all of us can have an ensuite). It was scrounging around near the tent, in the pouring rain, looking again very sad and sorry for itself. After the initial shock of being disturbed it dashed off, only to stand around for a few minutes just in case we decided to send a few morsels its way, before disappearing.
As the rain and wind bombarded us, we spent the first day hiding from the elements inside the tent. But as the conditions continued into the second day we decided to brave it and attempt a few of the inland tracks. It was an absolute crack! The tracks that had been dry two days earlier were running like rivers. It was great to see. So our boring afternoon turned into some of the best 4WDing we have done so far.....Great stuff. We sank in the sloppy sand and hit some deep wheel ruts that were carved out even deeper by the fast running water. Crept thru giant rainforests with pools of water over the track, and attempted to take photos with only a parka to keep me and the camera dry. Not so succesful.
We had avoided the beach because of the hazardous conditions, and the howling on shore wind which was causing the sea to come up as far as the dunes. However the inland tracks were full of their own hazards and we had fun negotiating them as the rain continued to hammer down. Eventually we ended up on the coast at Happy Valley, one of the islands so called resorts, where we had a quick bite before deciding to brave the beaches back to our campsite. We were still nearly three hours from low tide but because of the winds there was high seas no matter what time you left.
So we gritted our teeth and with the rain still coming down, made a dash for camp, negotiating the waves and washouts as we went. Other vehicles stuck by the same weather were also nervously looking at the surf as they drove along the beach trying to reach camp. Ha! All up quite an eventful day and we really got to see nature at its wild and wooliest....

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

July 22nd - Fraser Island

With cruiser and camper primped and preened, food stocked to the roof and two travel worthy children, we waved goodbye to Noosa and headed for the sands of Fraser Island. It was strange being back on the road but straight away we gave a collective sigh of relief and felt that freedom creep back into our bones. Ella and Jake were excited and enthusiastic to be back in the 'big black car' and be towing our house again.
Made our way via Rainbow Beach to Inskip Point, which was beautiful and crawling with 4wd's and families swimming and fishing. Here we boarded the barge to scoot us the 500m across to Fraser Island. The distance from the mainland to the island is shortest from Inskip Point and we had heard that most good beaches and 4WDing was accessed from this end. 
As the barge bumped rather awkwardly into the beach on Fraser, we loaded up and after letting our tyre pressures down, took to the beach. Awesome stuff! The beaches are beautiful and although we were a couple of hours off low tide it was still easy enough to negotiate our way north and through some beach streams. The day was grey, but with the raging seas and white sands, it was exhilarating. It was a strange feeling hooning along the beach thinking at any time the fun police were going to come along and tell us to get off the beach. Cool fun.
There is bush camping along certain sections of the eastern beach (which we had already paid a permit for) so we chose a secluded looking spot and tried to find a suitable camp. Our first attempt found us mounting a soft white sund dune that would give any dune from the Simpson desert a run for its money, but the cruiser managed it fine and we found gorgeous grass and sand covered camps, nestled just off the beach behind the first dune. GORGEOUS! We nearly managed to get the trailer and cruiser bogged on our first attempt to position ourselves, but success prevailed.
Setting ourselves on a secluded grassy knoll looking back towards the beach we revelled in our perfect campsite...ahhhhhhh
Our second day still saw grey skies but we decided to do some inland 4WDing to see the three giant lakes and beautiful rainforests. It really is a place of contrasts. We drove 15km or so up the beach, past people fishing which again made me wish I knew something about fishing...sigh... and turned off onto an inland track.
Much to our disgust the inland lakes were inhabited by those wacky foreign tourists who think throwing around giant flourescent beach balls and floating five to a blowup boat is something we all enjoy to see and hear. NOT! So we hightailed it away from the hire cars and backpackers and made for the serenity and isolation of the eastern beach.
Back to the beach we enjoyed the afternoon, although not much sun.
Last night the grey, threatening skies delivered on their promise and opened up. We knew it was coming so it was no great surprise to wake at midnight to hear the rains coming down. The rain has continued non stop through this morning and we are holed up in our camper. A change of camp, as planned today, doesn't seem like such a great idea in this weather. So we will sit it out till we can get back onto the beach.............maybe the next blog will be about the great cup of tea we just had!

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

July 17th 2008 - Noosa

Hi all,
...... Onwards and upwards!!!! You should all be happy to know that after a visit to the hospital in Brisbane again today the doctor has given us the go ahead to move on. They are more than happy with Ella's progress and are confident she will heal up in a few weeks. We have been decked out with a supply of dressings and will do the dressing changes ourselves every seven days till we hit Cairns, where we will do a final video conference with the doctors. Ahhh modern technology.....
After a few average days we are now revitalised and have used the down time to pull everything out of our roof rack pack, fix a puncture in our boat, put new shocker mounts on the trailer, service the cruiser, wash some blankets and sheets (that had been visited by bush mice at our last camp) and rebuild one of our air compressors. Busy, busy but all good. On top of this we were able to catch up with many family members, share in a birthday (Bridgette's 25th) and drive in Brisbane peak hour traffic with our camper trailer...TWICE. See even on boring days life is an adventure.
We will spend the weekend finalising things and will head north to Fraser Island on monday. From there we will cruise up the coast to Cairns where we will video conference with the Children's hospital before getting the go ahead to escape up the Cape. MMMmmmmm isloation.....and leeches...yay

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

July 15th - Noosa Qld

Good News.....returned to the Children's hospital yesterday for a review of Ella's arm and there is a great improvement. The doctor is confident it will heal on its own and has cancelled the surgery for wednesday, so we are greatly relieved. There is no need for a skin graft and we will just continue with the current dressing, changing it every four days or so. Tough as old boots is little Ella and is just her normal self.
We will now stay at Perigian Beach at Noosa for a while till we find out when we can move on. We will continue to drive to Brissy for dressing changes as needed.
All up we are using the opportunity to do some repairs and maintenance on the car and trailer and some cleaning of our gear and bedding.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

JULY 10 - Gold Coast

Just a quick update to explain that we are on the Gold coast and around Brisbane as Ella has burnt her arm and is getting treatment at the Childrens hospital. We were camped out at Carnarvon National Park in the Salvator Rosa section, having a lovely time and had been there for two or three days. Early arvo Ella managed to fall backwards off a small camp chair onto the ashes of a small fire that had been alight that morning. It was a about 4pm but the coals underneath were obviously still hot enough to do a bit of damage. Anyway we managed to get water onto it and dress it properly, then drive the two and a half hours out to a rural hospital. Since then we have been to Tawoomba Hospital and then onto the burns unit at the Brisbane Children's Hospital, so the best people are looking after her. She has been great and doesn't seem bothered by it at all, has been a real trooper. She will however need a skin graft to help it all heal, which looks like happening this week.
In the meantime, we are all fine and Ella is having a wonderful time playing with her cousins (who live up here) and visiting the beach. Anyway all's well that ends well so we will see what happens over the next week or so.

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Monday, June 30, 2008

30th June 2008 - Simpson Desert to Charleville

Pulled in to Charleville Qld this morning about 11.30am, and gazed wide-eyed at the big city. Not quite a big city but to us it felt somewhat bigger than what we were used to. We have decided to bed down here for a couple of days to do a complete re-stock of our food supplies (at a real supermarket) and get some admin and washing done. First stop was a dodgey pub for that LONG awaited counter meal, which actually was quite good. Ahhhh, so with full stomachs we continued the buy up.....bananas.....ooohhhh...salad.....what is this strange world?
On our travels to Charleville we had headed north from Birdsville (after the Simpson) towards Bedourie than cut a diagonal path north towards the rarely talked about Diamantina National Park. The thought of staying on the main roads east was a bit of a drag, so we literally travelled thru the middle of nowhere to get to what ended up being a magnificent place. With great pleasure we stumbled off the desolate plains to be greeted by Gumhole waterhole, a beautiful, shady little place. We quickly made ourselves at home and wasted no time in cruising the cool waters in our boat and building a campfire....the stars....the stars.!
After spending time at both Gumhole and another little campsite at nearby Hunters Gorge we reluctantly left Diamantina, to again be greeted by the isolation as we made our way back to meet the road heading east to Windorah.
Had a night at Windorah where I had Lee Kernaghan songs playing over and over again in my head...... before heading to a great campsite on a lake just out of Quilpie. Anyway to cut a long story short. Beautiful campsite, great wildlife and even the strange group of travellers that insisted on camping on top of us on the last night, couldn't destroy our spirits. YAY for lakes in the middle of nowhere!!!!!

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Saturday, June 28, 2008


The Simpson desert was an absolute hoot!! We did it all....forded rivers, slid through mud pans, and sank in bulldust. Such a crack up really. Headed East out of Birdsville on a sunny morning covering the 37 odd km out to the BIG RED sand dune and the start of the desert. The track out to Big Red was as challenging as we had seen and we kept saying to ourselves "yeah, some desert". The water at some crossings cascaded over our windscreen as we ploughed through, the mud trying to suck us in if we deviated too far to the sides of the track. It was quite an introduction to this new adventure.
When we eventually arrived at the foot of Big Red we let our tyre pressures down and mumbled to ourselves something about a track that goes around???? Yes of course that's a good plan we said, after all why risk it with a trailer and two little kids? So we very proudly took the more cutious route to the north that we thought took us around the worst of Big Red. NOT SO. In our slightly confused yet dedicated way (there was no way Max was not going up even if it did look rather steep)...this is the easy route right? We gritted our teeth and let the Cruiser do its work. If you haven't guessed we now think the world of our car!!!!
The cruiser didn't miss a beat and ploughed up that sand dune with no worries what so ever. It was literally a breathtaking moment as we hit that crest. The car pointed us to the sky for those final seconds where we were suspended before the momentum finally pushed us over and the sight ahead of us was incredible. As we paused on the dune top, ahead of us lay a sheet of water (from the recent floods) and just one single track megerly making its way over a sandune off in the distance. It was incredible! For a split second your mind goes 'Oh my god'.....before you realize you can probably go around.
Anyway as we know now, we in fact launched ourselves over the main BIG RED dune, not the bypass route. The main track is in fact the easier route and people deviate to take the Bigger Route. Mmmmmm anyway neither of us can say we regret it. In fact I'm glad we can say we climbed it. Pity we can't say the same from the other direction HA!
We drove on through the desert negotiating water and sand like it was as natural as spinifex. Such a strange contrast in one of the harshest deserts in Australia. Great fun though.
We noticed the trailer, but all up the cruiser handled things wonderfully and after each dune we breathed a collective sigh of relief. It was great fun. The desert finally had its way with us when we were stopped by a relatively small dune, angled and highly corrugated. We tried multiple times but couldn't get traction to take us over. Max with his dogged determintion didn't want to give in but eventually we had to admit defeat and set up camp. The camp that night was one of the best we've had so far. Gorgeous skies, vivid colours and just alive with animal life.
Next morning we backtracked to Big Red, closely followed by a couple of Fords. Our attempt at crossing Big REd via the so called easier route was not as successful, with both the F150 and ourselves needing a little tug from a friend (F250) to get us up over the crest. Ahhhh all in a days work................

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