Archives for posts with tag: travelling with kids

We can’t stay in Whyalla forever, even though I just want to stay in bed and sleep my flu away while B takes charge of everything, but on the road again we must go.

We usually don’t have much of a plan as to where we are stopping, all we know is that B flies in and then we have 2 weeks until he has to get back on the plane and fly back to work. We usually know where he is going to fly out from and so we aim to end up somewhere close enough to the airport for that to happen – someone has to earn the money to keep the kids and I living in style 🙂

Shall we stop at Port Augusta….no, let’s have a quick shop and get back underway. The kids are getting really good at snapping up opportunities as they appear and the skate park behind the shops is calling their name. Sending B and Big shopping is always a little dodgy, there is always lots of fruit and nuts and bread in the bags but usually nothing helpful in the way of ingredients for an evening meal…but I am too tired to care and so use the time to lay the seat back and have a snooze.

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They’re back, the Camps 6 book comes out and we have a look at what might be within a few hours drive of us, decisions need not be made yet but it is always good to make sure that you at least have the page open at the right map.

We drive and I, as always, point out the beautiful countryside which everyone drags their eyes towards and then promptly drops them back down towards iPod screens, Mad Magazines etc. I bet my kids wish they had a dollar for every time I say “Just have a look, take it in….one day you will tell your kids about this.” The countryside is amazing and I am happy to gaze out at it and wonder at what a task it must have been to take power lines up, over and through these hills.

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Shortly afterwards we slow to a crawl on the highway as we come across the aftermath of what looks like a three car accident. One car is in a field, looks like they drove off to avoid an oncoming vehicle. They are loading another vehicle onto a truck and in the middle of the road is the shattered shell of a caravan, just the floor and part of a side wall cling drunkenly to the chassis. Thankfully, nobody is badly injured but I feel sad for all involved, especially for the people who’s van trip has been cut terribly short.

We don’t have the heart to go much further and so pull into a little place called Baroota Campground. We are greeted by three dogs running in from a paddock where a 4 wheeler is working. Much to our delight and amazement we watch one of the dogs jump clear over the paddock fence whilst the others look on longingly. It’s a little muddy, we are the only people here but the fireplace is fantastic, the “shower shed” is huge and Little has a brand new friend, Matilda, the blue heeler.

Can we keep her?

Can we keep her?

Decisions have been made and we are going to head down the Yorke Peninsula to Innes National Park so off we go again.

The weather is awful, it is Winter and I have once again NOT excelled at navigation. We make it as far as Maitland and I suggest that there is a Showground where we can overnight. How good was it to pull in and see this undercover area where our van can snuggle underneath overnight!

Snug as a bug in a rug.

Snug as a bug in a rug.

Again, just a single overnighter and we are back on the road down the Yorke. On either side of the road are fields of green, which I later find out is barley. Apparently our next stop, Minlaton, is the barley capital of the world. It is also the home of The Red Devil, Captain Harry Butler’s monoplane. This “must see” monument radiates the pride and respect that the people of the Yorke Peninsula feel for their flying ace. I was inspired by this “self educated” pilot who was fascinated by flight from an early age but then also devastated to find out that he died so young, at 34, in 1924, possibly as a result of injuries sustained in an earlier plane crash in 1922. He was married in 1920. Sometimes life just doesn’t seem fair.

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So, I am inspired, the kids have played at the park and we have only about 100kms to go until we reach Innes National Park.

Teens with attitude...at the kiddies playground.

Teens with attitude…at the kiddies playground.

Finally get around to arriving in Elliston for a quick overnighter. While B is home we are supposed to free camp but we seem to a) take ages to pack up and get moving in the morning and b) spend too much time sight seeing and not enough time to get set up and settled at a free camp…..besides, after about 3 days in the bush I end up with a giant pile of washing.

Elliston has two parks but we opted for Waterloo Bay and the kids were glad that we did. This is the first time I have come across a pedal cart hire in a caravan park and for keeping our kids occupied while we were setting up and getting dinner ready this was just the thing.

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Some days this is my favourite view of these two

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Only another couple of years until he can get his learners.

Persisting in a seemingly hopeless quest, B rigged up the rods for another torture session  fishing trip. 

Either there are no fish in the ocean surrounding the jetties of SA and all the other anglers are liars or we are just completely useless at fishing. Fortunately, all of the jetties here also have a lovely sheltered seat close to the end and I find these to be a great place to make phone calls from whilst B cuts up bait and then stands aimlessly until the kids start complaining and we head back to the van.

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B from his best angle, Little excited about wetting the line & me on the phone – yep, that’s how we roll.

I think that I might actually have reached my limit for cliff top scenic drives, they are all beautiful but they are kind of all the same (Oh no, I sound like my kids) but the drive at Elliston includes artworks from the Sculptures on the Cliff Festival which makes it a bit more interesting.

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Saw that Coffin Bay National Park got a pretty good wrap on some of the online travelling groups (Facebook) so we thought that it would be a nice place to spend a few nights and days.

As we were driving into the Yangie Bay Campground, Little spotted a sizeable mud puddle and his eyes literally lit up – so glad that I got all that washing done at Elliston. B couldn’t get the bikes off the back of the van quick enough for him!

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Mud in the eyes….not this time around.

It was a beautiful spot where we pulled up and the weather held out nicely until we went to bed that first night. The second day was a bit of on and off rain but still able to get out and do a walk trail (saw an adult emu with a couple of youngsters) – or filthily a few more pairs of pants, Little!

So many little birds here, just wish that they would slow down so I could identify them in the bird book…..one was forced to slow down as he hit the side of our mesh tent, I keep imagining him going “bloody hell, that wasn’t there yesterday”. Fortunately, he just shook himself off and flew away. The usual visits from the kangaroos – how cool is it that native wildlife visits become the norm living this life.

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What’s that Skip, I should bring my bike and follow you through the mud, Skip?

The last day was just rain, rain and wind and so the inside of the van was disgusting and we started getting a bit of cabin fever. Must be time for a drive. Jumped in the Patrol and took some great tracks from the campground out around past some of the loveliest beaches and these sections of road that look like they belong on postcards….you know when the trees kind of meet up overhead and create a leafy tunnel….I am in my happy place again.

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I can see why this is a favourite destination over Summer for the locals.

Can it really be true, have we finally crossed a border into another state? Despite my mum’s predictions that we may only end up travelling around Western Australia we have finally made it across the Nullabour and into South Australia.

I had our day so beautifully planned in my head – van packed up the night before, an early morning wakeup call with breakfast up at the mess (no dishes to slow us down) and pull out around 7.30am…..why do I even bother! I think we actually dragged ourselves out of the mess at about 7.45, then B just had to check the tyre pressures, then we really should just pop into Woolies for a couple of last minute specials…..so, actually on the road at 11, yep, just as I planned.

B works with a guy (coffee club member) who’s mum lived in this tiny town called Widgiemooltha and B had promised him a couple of photos so we all piled out (after about a whole 40 minutes of driving) and wandered around the bush looking for a coloured stone garden border – which we couldn’t find. We did however find a couple of interesting old irons, horseshoes, bottles etc and a concrete dam area that used to be the town pool.

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Boys wandering through the old Widgie town area

Can I just say that I had already formed pictures in my mind of this leg of the trip, based on conversations with fellow caravanners and reading forum posts, and they involved track like roads, big road trains blowing us off the road as they went past and large quantities of desolate nothingness……needless to say, I was a little worried.

So finally, here we are at Norseman, the official start of the Eyre Hwy. We’ve had lunch, we’re fuelled up and ready to tackle the N Beast.

My first thoughts, this road is not that bad, maybe it gets a lot worse along the way. The scenery doesn’t appear that much different from what we were looking at on the road between Albany and Esperance. Keep on driving and hit the first of the roadhouses, everyone taking bets on how much the fuel will be, from memory I think it was about $1.87 – we had been warned about the super expensive fuel across the Nullabour – clearly by people who have never filled up their car at Nanutarra Roadhouse in the NW of WA!

I should have kept up with my blog posts while everything was fresh in my mind because I can’t even remember which free camp we stayed in the first night – but I bet the people around us did – kids very keen to have a fire, despite the fact we have arrived after sundown, with no firewood and the camp is stripped clean of any dead branches. I think I am starting to overcome my fear of speaking plainly to my children with others so close by.

Up and at it early but not for long. We had been keeping an eye on our transmission temp whilst driving and as long as we sat on about 85-90km we were ok but over that we were heating up and when we stopped we could see an oil drip coming from the left front wheel arch which smelt suspiciously like transmission fluid. Because of all that has come before we have some trust issues with our tow vehicle and this is our worst fear – breaking down in the middle of bloody nowhere! No choice but to have a look under panel A and see where the oil is coming from. What we find are some breathers that must have been disconnected when our snorkel was fitted, ok not a gasket leak or a ruptured hose so we soldier onwards – there is a running joke now that by the time we finish this trip our car will be minus most of it’s panels – we just keep stacking them up in the boot until we get excited enough to put them back on.

A quick phone call from the next roadhouse to the transmission workshop and we are given the ok to keep going – breather hose not necessary but get one when you can.

Our second stop was a rest stop just outside Eucla which we had all to ourselves and we could actually get mobile reception. We, mistakenly, thought that this was our last chance to eat all our fruit and veg so a delicious meal of cauliflower was enjoyed by all.

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We remembered firewood this time. Kids made a cool bike racing track as we had the whole place to ourselves. Note the missing trim from front wheel arch.

The next morning with a feeling of high excitement we pulled out to drive our last 30km on the WA side of the border. I had pictured us taking a photo as we came to the sign, I mean we would have to stop for the quarantine, so of course we would get a picture. In reality, we got to the checkpoint and no-one was asking us to stop, no signs telling us to pull over and put our fruit in this bin, so we sailed through to South Australia mildly confused and with poor old Big a little deflated.

Nothing for it but to keep on driving.

You can’t cross the Nullabour without stopping at the Head of the Bight. I had wrongly assumed that because we were out of migration season that we wouldn’t actually see any whales but we did in fact see several frolicking in the water much to my delight. There was also a sighting, by the kids, of a white whale – boys laughed but Sista not happy!

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Obligatory pic of happy family at the Head of the Bight lookout – Little upset that he is not big enough to look through the viewing telescopes.

We had met a man at Kambalda who told us that he always looked forward to reaching Ceduna and getting the best feed of fish and chips there so we talked with the kids and decided that we would aim to make Ceduna for dinner time and get our hands on this famous  delicacy.

By the time we got there we were buggered, we felt very grubby from a couple of days with no shower and long days in the car. We walked in, placed our order and sat down at the table. A funny thing about SA fish and chip shops – they don’t give you a number or write down your name, they just call out your order. In my defence, I thought that we were the only people to order a chico roll that night, it seemed that way at the time, and so we jumped up and grabbed our feed – but why have we got potato scallops, I didn’t order potato scallops? We spent the next 10 minutes eating the wrong order, whilst under the watchful eye of the correct orderee…….it tasted like sawdust and I felt like a clown – a tired, dirty, guilty clown.

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MAC Village Central

Okay, so I knew that at some point in time we would actually have to leave Kambalda MAC Caravan Park to continue our travels and maybe even manage to leave WA but it didn’t make leaving any easier.

It truly felt as though I was leaving Wickham again (this is where the kids were born and spent their early years). I can only say that it is a testament to the good people who work and live at the MAC and the strong sense of community that they have created there.

This post is a thank you to you all ……even the people I don’t remember to mention 🙂

To Johnny L, the unofficial Lord Mayor and his offsider Pat, I so miss your cheery wave in the morning as I made my pj clad walk up to the ablution block and the invitation to come have a cuppa. I miss sitting and talking and feeding the birds with you – so does Sista. I appreciate the way you treated my kids, especially when Big thought you were Pat – just without a beard, and they loved you for it. For coming to the mess with us for Big’s 14th birthday and for getting up early to have breakfast with us on our last day. I look forward to catching up on the road again somewhere.

We had to interrupt Big's cleaning to get this shot - note my carpeted annexe pad - living very flash!

We had to interrupt Big’s cleaning to get this shot – note my carpeted annexe pad – living very flash!

To the big bus brigade, Ted & Dave, who were always ready and willing to lend a hand or a tool for any job on the go as well as the advice…”go slowly, 300km a day is plenty”

To Ray and Sandy from Tassie, for selling me on the Flavorstone cookware (I have got one now and I love it too!) and for reminding me that family are everything and that I should make sure that I post lots of photos for the family we have left behind.

To all the prospectors (Al, Al & Wendy, Thommo, Lindsay and Co) thank you for sharing your knowledge, your stories and your Minelab 5000 settings with us – a more diverse group of people I have yet to meet!

To the Chinese Geos, for showing us that 5 grown men can all live in a Jayco Expanda quite happily and that language does not have to be a barrier to friendship. Thank you Michael for making us steamed bread, playing bucket ball with the boys, teaching us words in Mandarin, answering questions about your life in China and for letting us teach you how to play Uno – we miss you.

Photo is terrible but best one I have of us with Michael

Photo is terrible but best one I have of us with Michael

To Trudi in the office and all the MAC staff, you guys rock. To the people in the Mess – thank you for not shutting the doors when you saw us coming up for tea……I know that watching Little hit the desert bar and Big go up for 4th servings must have made you question that decision, so thanks.

Last but not least thank you to Woolies Kambalda for saving me so much money on food…..it’s just not the same going shopping anymore 😦

I also need to mention my best Mother’s Day surprise ever! Sista had picked up a colouring in competition from the Kalgoorlie library that had a single line asking “Why you loved your mum”….not only did she fill in that line but attached another 3 pages!! God only knows what she put on it (I didn’t even realise she had done it until she was dropping it off), but she did say that she put good and not so good things on the list….getting more worried now 🙂 Anyhoo, she got a phone call telling her that she had won first prize…..best daughter ever xx

So wish I could had read that list.....librarian wouldn't even let me do it unless Sista said yes.

So wish I could had read that list…..librarian wouldn’t even let me do it unless Sista said yes.

Enraptured by the price of our previous visit, I chose to spend the following fortnight back at the Kambalda Caravan Park with a view to making once a week visits to Kalgoorlie to provide lashings of history for the kids and I – efforts were made to find tourist attractions in the Kambalda township but even a visit to the Shire Office in town provided only a single option “Have you been to the Red Hill Lookout?” Me “Yes” (Enter the sound of silence).

They do have a cool recreation centre and playground, skatepark and a Woolies that has enabled me to save a fortune! I have never seen so many Reduced For a Quick Sale stickers in my life.

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One of our first visits to Kalgoorlie was actually prompted by my friend mentioning the Boulder Market Day, on her blog http://www.followingourhearts.com , and her talking about the free Superpit Tour which you need to line up early for (first in, first served). Some days I manage to surprise myself – we got in to Boulder and snagged ourselves seats on the first tour of the day!!

The tour runs for an hour and they take you along the pit roads, through the haul truck workshop and into a viewing room on the side of the pit that lets you see the trucks being loaded and gives you some idea of the size of this big hole.

ImageAn interesting fact that came up was that for every 6 trucks that get loaded with rocks they manage to extract about a golf ball size amount of gold…..not much, especially given that this is considered by some to be the richest square mile on the face of the Earth.

On Market Day you can also see demos of dry blowing and gold panning and we found these to be really interesting and an informative reality check – it must have been a lot of work for little reward for most of the people who came to the goldfields.

We also visited Kal during History Week and managed to get onto a Town Hall Tour given by a historian employed by the Shire – he was very entertaining but unable to answer a question that has intrigued me for a good decade now “Why do so many magicians, illusionists and hypnotists visit Kalgoorlie?” Not that I want to cast any aspersions on the good people of the Eastern Goldfields but…..?Image

I am assuming that the kids were inspired by the historic tour and just wanted to check the quality of the carpet and pressed tin ceiling….at least I hope so anyway.

When you come to Kal make sure you visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service out at the airport – they run regular daily tours that are well worth the very modest entry charge and a walk around the small display area may well bring a tear to your eye (the patchwork wall hanging) or a laugh outloud (medical chest display). Having lived in the bush before we have used the Flying Doctor and are so grateful for the work they do – here’s hoping that we have no need of them during our Big Trip but always nice to know that they’re around if we do. 

We still need to make a couple more visits to Kal to check out the cool museums (kids groan) so I will leave it there for now.