Beautiful South Australia

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Who would have  thought that the beaches in South Australia would be so spectacular!  Or that the water temperature would be a perfectly refreshing 20 degrees.  Not me!  After shivering through Victoria and much of Southern New South Wales where even a toe-dipped in the water was a frozen nightmare, we are pleasantly surprised by the pleasantness of this state!

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Sure, we may have said farewell to the colour green for a while, but the sapphire sky and the turquoise water make up for it.

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We had had enough of being tourists in Victor Harbour so we headed deep down the Fleurieau Peninsula in search of the ultimate campsite for the long weekend.

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Yes, it was a little dusty, but with views of Kangaroo Island and these giant blackboys, we found ourselves at Deep Creek National Park.

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The park slowly filled up as the Friday afternoon rolled on, so we set up our camp,

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and then a decoy camp next door so no-one would encroach our personal space!

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There were the most perfect bays within a few minutes drive so we spent our days exploring these in the near 40 degree heat.

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Cape Jervis was just down the road, a town remarkable only for the Kangaroo Island Ferry that departs from here.  Sadly, the ferry is mammothly overpriced and so, not for us this time.  When Mum came to South Australia, this area around Rapid Bay and Second Valley were here favourite spots.  You can see why!  It’s reminiscent of the Mediterannean:

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The white sand and tranquil blue waters, the yellow cliffs, the jetty and the ice-block shop all made the beach at Normanville a winner!

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Australia Day came and went with a gastro bug included for free! The Hottest 100 was recieved with less enthusiasm as usual as I could barely manage a weak smile as my favourite songs came in, in between chucks!  I am still not happy with number 1 though.

Due to a dramatic rescue of a heatstruck hiker, and continued dangerous fire conditions, the National Park was closed so it was for us to move on.

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Back up the other side of the Fleurieau we are now at the lovely Port Willunga Big 4.  We started off staying for 1 night, but here we still are 4 nights later.

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The pool and playground are about 20 meters away, there seem to be only a few people here, and just down the road is Australia’s first official unclad beach.

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What more could you possibly want?  How about Mclaren Vale with its wineries and brewhouses a 10 minute drive away!  We spent one hot afternoon tasting beer….

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Please visit the Goodieson’s Brewery if you are ever here!  It is wonderful!  It even comes complete with a tyre swing and some friendly young people who entertained the kids for half an hour.

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We topped that with a winery visit the next day….

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Rosemount Merlot is one of my favourite wines! But because of the hot day, the best tasting ones were the chilled whites.

In between checking the reports of the cyclone back home, we have been visiting Aldinga Beach.  Could it be the best beach in the world?

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Do you know how easy it is to not have to walk to the beach with 3 kids?! You must obey the speed limit though!

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So, in between sick kids, sicker adults, beaches, pools, shark monitoring planes and wineries, it doesn’t leave much room for Dash being a thug, but we still have to flee the odd Mcdonald’s playground due to his actions against others.

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The kids are looking forward to getting to Adelaide tomorrow and seeing the big city.  We will spend a week there being metro and chilling in the promised heat.  Be careful what you wish for hey….

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A little bit of Murray, and some Victor

So, we have been busy little tourists since last we spoke.  We left the old Coorong after a hardcore wind blew up out of nowhere and just about blew us away.  I was on the phone to Carolyn, enjoying the peace, paddling in the ankle deep lake with a beer in hand, when all of a sudden, all our things started blowing away and Jen and I had to run to save their awning who took the full force of the blast.  Then that was it, 30-40 knots all night long.  Our idyllic little paradise was destroyed.  Again, Mother Nature had spoken, and it was time to hit the road.

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We headed North, our ultimate destination unsure, as long as it was somewhere on the Murray River.  Along the way we visited this church, the old mission school of David Unaipon.

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Did you know all the ferries on the Murray run 24 hours a day and are totally free?!  We took advantage of this many times over the next few days.

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What a novelty!  So much better than a bridge!

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We stopped at Murray Bridge,

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the home of the first bridge to span the river, for a quick picnic and grocery run,

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then continued upriver, heading toward the fabled town of Younghusband.  The banks of these upper reaches of the Mighty Murray were covered with holiday shacks, and filled with jetskis and wakeboarders!

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Man they had some green lawns.

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The surrounding countryside was filled with these barren brown fields of nothing, with a few sheds and ruins scattered about.  We later discovered that the ‘nothing’ was actually onions!  If you had a brown onion in your dinner tonight, chances are it was from the Purnong region.

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After much twisting and turning as we followed the meandering river, back and forth across the ferries, in search of the ultimate free campsite, we gave up on the elusive Younghusband.  Ladies, it doesn’t exist! Instead, we had a spew-mergency in the form of Jasper vomiting all over the back of the car.  Awesome.  Our free campsite with the best view of the Murray ended up being back at the ferry crossing at Caurnmont.

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Perched right on the banks, we had the best view by day and by night.

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There was even a rope swing for the lads.

And a Princess!

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What a beauty!  We tried unsuccessfully to get ourselves a ride on a paddle steamer.  The Murray Princess only does 3 night cruises, and every town has a ship that will only run on special days.  And we wanted to be touristy!DSC_1076 (800x532)

After Jasper and his spew, once in the car, and once in the caravan, we needed a place with a washing machine.  So we spent a couple of nights at Mannum, again on the bank of the river.

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It was a beautiful campsite bordering wetlands with so many different species of birds, it wasn’t funny!  And despite the daggy and slightly deserted town, we had a lovely stay.

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We had a quick pitstop at Strathalbyn to visit an old friend of mine who has 3 boys the same age as our 3.  It was heaps of fun catching up and hard to drag the boys away from Josh and Hayden and their room FULL of toys!

We headed back to the coast, and Horseshoe Bay, en route to Victor Harbour a.k.a. touristville!

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First we hit the old Cockle Steam Train and had a lunch trip over to  Elliot Head and back.

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It was so nicely preserved and the boys were stoked!  Dash, still in his opposite world said “no, its not a train, it’s Thomas!”.

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It went right along the top of the dunes and was the first passenger railway in Australia!

Today we hit the other major attraction here, the horse-drawn tram over to Granite Island!

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It was a long slow ride along the 600metres or so of jetty with Misty the Clydesdale, but it was pretty cool.  What a beautiful view!

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 There are apparently leafy sea dragons hiding out in that seagrass!  But it’s too cold to go snorkelling so you’ll just have to take my word for it!

The weather, the all important weather has been perfect, with 25 degree days, but there are a few drops of rain falling as we speak.  Tomorrow we are off further south along the Fleurieu Peninsula, to find somewhere that we can get radio reception for Triple J’s Hottest 100 on Australia Day, and somewhere that’s not too packed.

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Good luck. This spot was fully booked out from tomorrow as Cadel Evans and co are riding into town in the 4th stage of the Tour Down Under.

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We got a little inspired and bought ourselves a new bike!

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Not entirely sure where we will put it yet…..

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Storm boy and friends

 

As I sit and contemplate the events of the past few days I realize that the weather is really the most significant thing in our trip. It plays such a role in determining the overall rating of a place. But we accept that we can’t control it, only have to make the most of it.  DSC_0969 (800x532)Thank goodness for the Willy Weather App which is our lifeline.  We were whingeing about the cold only a few days ago, so we were ill-prepared for the extreme heat that we got slugged with. The big hot 45 degree day was our day of departure from beautiful coastal Beachport, but it turned out driving in our climate controlled car was the only place to be!

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This morning the weather has again sealed our fate. We were sitting in the shade, watching the mercury climb toward the promised 39 degrees, trying to decide whether to move camp, when all of a sudden, the hot northerly breeze shifted to a cooling southerly! So here we are in the Coorong for another night. This is where the classic Storm Boy by Colin Thielle was set and filmed.The sprawling National Park is the Murray River Delta and is home to Australia’s largest concentration of pelicans.  (Townsville dump must be a close second.)  They are pretty shy though. They remember what happened to Mr Percival!

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We are camped on the bank of the water, it’s knee deep for hundreds of meters, clear, and salty. Perfect for a dip after the sun has warmed it, and perfect for the kids to play ‘mudskippers!’

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And we have it all to ourselves!

After the ambience of Mount Gambier, we went to the Adventure Playground in Millicent.  The playground is a destination in itself.  The boys loved it!

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The kids thought it was pretty cool too.

Then it was on to Canunda National Park.

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We squeezed our vans onto one cozy site sheltered from the elements amongst the tall sand dunes and thick coastal shrubs. DSC_0828 (800x532) DSC_0829 (800x532) DSC_0826 (800x532)

Every plant here feels like its been planted and pruned just for you.

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Like you are walking through the botanical gardens on your stroll over the dunes to the beach.

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And the colors, especially at sunset are straight from an artists palette!

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We journeyed on,

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Past a windfarm,

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Beachport was our next destination.

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We managed to squeeze into the sea of caravans

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side by side

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and right on the beautiful beach.

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It was a tiny town with a big jetty,

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and you could buy hot donuts from a van on the beach. Donuts on the beach. Who would have thought that would work! Then the heat kicked in. We had water pistol fights that usually ended with one kid or another crying.

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They like to shoot, but not get shot. Funny that. The buckets were safer! Hello personal space bubble!

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The beach was glorious white sand and the bluest water this side of the Whitsundays.

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The water was the perfect temperature for a refreshing swim!

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Yes, we swam in South Australia. It would be a crime not to swim in that beautiful sea. And although Beachport reminded me a lot of Amity Beach (jaws) the locals were not bothered, so I successfully followed suit. Jasper is mastering his new bodyboard and he loves surfing the little waves on the paddle board with Dad, much to Brian’s delight!

Robe was worth a drive through.  And though Robe isn’t famous for Robes, it must be famous for being quaint.

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  The Obelisk was were they used to store rockets and lifesaving equipment to shoot out to foundering ships!  The erosion is such that the obelisk will one day fall into the ocean.

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We visited Kingston SE on the hot hot day. There was the Cape Jaffa lighthouse that had been relocated in the seventies.

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It used to be on a reef in the middle of the ocean. I’m not sure what they replaced it with! Something just as big you would hope! The foreshore was pretty bland,

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but the playground had a roof on it yay!

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We thought about getting some lobster for lunch, but it was daylight robbery.

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At $100 per kilo, I wonder what Larry the Lobster would fetch at the market! If they are pulling them free from the ocean, I don’t understand why they are so damn expensive!

So,that brings us back to the Coorong. It’s currently a lovely 28 degrees with a 17knot SE that Brian is making the most of windsurfing on the lake. No forward loops, but that’s because the water is only up to mid-calf, not because he can’t do them Mat!

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The Aboriginal guy on your $50 note is from the village just near here, he was an inventor who never made any money off his inventions because he was black. His electric sheep sharers are still used today.

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Everyone is good and happy.  Daisy frustrates me at times as her favourite food seems to be Milk Arrowroots, and she shuns most of the food I prepare especially for her!

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But she is cute enough to get away with it of course.  The boys just adore her and try to outdo each other making her smile.  They adore each other too, most of the time.  The best toy you can get is a sibling.

If Victoria was a step back in time to the early 90s, South Australia seems steeped in history.  We feel more like we are in the 1850s.  It is remoteness too, whilst knowing you are only 100kms from Adelaide.

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Tomorrow we are heading inland to check out the mighty Murray River.  Who knows where the road will lead us!

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Mount Gambier, South Australia, Australia

Mount Gambier has just exceeded every expectation I have ever had of a destination.  It is just the right size to be able to find our way around easily and negotiate massages, GP appointments, licence renewals, gas bottle refills and groceries.  

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The Big 4 is right on the famous Blue Lake which is this surreal unexplained blue color during summer.

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Then in winter it turns a disappointing grey.  It’s also the town’s water supply but sadly your bathwater does not come out of the tap the same color!

We have seen so much while doing so little.  I have that many photos to go through, I thought I had better do a quick blog or else I will get overwhelmed again.  And its like housework.  If you do a little everyday, its easier.  So they say.   

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Today we did a day trip out to Penola and Coonawarra wine district!  

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No, not in the MG.  Jen and I would do a quick scout to make sure the winery had a toybox to occupy the kidlets for half an hour, and then we would bring all the troops in.

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 It was such a lovely setting with vineyards as far as the eye could see.  

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And what a perfect day!!!  25 degrees, sunny, perfect for winetasting! The ‘historic’ village of Penola was on the way:

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The kids loved the rose-eating sheep!

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We have seen the sun set over the water while waiting for the elusive fairy penguins.

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Me and the little children gave up waiting and sat in the car soon after this photo.   It was so cold, and we didn’t believe in fairies!  They came though, the Coopers reported.

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It was a beautiful place to hang out for a couple of hours, penguins or no.  

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This rugged coastline is home to many a shipwreck, and you can see why!  There are hidden reefs out there everywhere and the sea is so massive and unpredictable.

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It really feels like South Australia.  Wild and pristine.  Tourism here is easy peasy.  DSC_0732 (800x532)

So well set up and backed up by great resources.  We have been feeling like tourists.  

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Seeing the sights, doing the tourist thing

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Tomorrow we are going to brave the coast again, and the hordes of holiday makers.  Robe is booked out, so we are aiming for Beachport, which is on the way.  

Travelling with the 3 little children is not without its challenges this week.  Daisy had to have her 6 month needles which made for an un-fun evening.

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6 months old already!  Such a little charmer.  She grins at everyone she meets.  She is sleeping terribly.  I bought her an amber necklace yesterday, but am yet to see the miracle effects.

Dash has developed this new defiance where he lives in opposite world.  ‘was it good dash? -‘ ‘no, not good’.  ‘the lake is blue dash’ – ‘no, its green’.  That sort of thing.  We reverse psychologize a lot.  He still hates wearing shoes.

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Jasper is a bit of a legend.  He talks a lot, but its mainly asking questions about the universe.  ‘how do snails high five?’

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My other child is mostly well-behaved.  Just gets a bit crazy when he doesn’t get a surf for a while.

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We are looking forward to the beach and some 42 degree days!  Yay Summer!

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The rest of Victoria

Here we are, freezing our arses off in Mount Gambier, SA. Its summer, yet we are rugged up as if we are on an alpine snow getaway! While our dear Queensland sweats through a wonderful sounding heatwave, we can only huddle over a campfire with steaming mugs of tea, hoping our solar showers will deliver us from this peril.

In the beginning there was Apollo Bay and the Pisces Big 4 caravan park.

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At $80 a night, it was the most expensive place we have ever stayed at, but at least it was gorgeous.  Terraced sites rising from the Great Ocean Rd, beautiful views and a nice family bathroom!

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Tick, tick, tick the boxes!  Even another celebrity spotting.  We didn’t think we could out do Frankie J Holden in Merimbula, but we topped it with Nicky Buckley in Torquay, (Cooper sighting but we are claiming it too), and then who should roll in to stay at the Pisces park but Samuel Johnsen.  Remember that guy off the Secret Life of Us, with the nice voice who also did the Flame Grilled Whopper AD?

Christmas ended up being the most perfect day ever!

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The sun shone, the kids were spoilt, we played games on the beach,

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we ate,

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(ok, the flies were bad!) we drank,

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and were merry.

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The Gadsby clan shared the day with us, but the day really belonged, as always to Jasper, Dash, Lily and Daisy who opened their gifts with gusto, IMG_5301then quickly found their fave toys while we dealt with the leftovers.

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I wish these kids weren’t so fickle! Jasper loved his transformer for a couple of days at least…. I don’t even know where it is now! Apollo bay was the perfect seaside resort town.

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Pubs and cafes,

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beaches and bush walks (and bush drives) to entertain us.

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But we had such a great spot overlooking the bay, that we never wanted to leave!

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Boxing Day is the worst day to have to pack up and go. You are already nursing that post Christmas void, and to be cast out on a windy wet day was even worse. But everything was totally booked out and we could stay no longer, which of course just made us want to stay longer! We tried a couple of further spots along the coast, but then had to go bush to avoid the hordes of Victorians who converging on the seaside for their holidays.

We drove all day to find a free camp called ‘Dandos’.

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Now say it with your most occa accent. ‘DANdos”. It was the sort of place you go when there is no room anywhere else. We felt sort of like we were intruding on a private party as all the other campers were the ones that went there every year. A pretty setting, we wouldn’t have found it if we hadn’t been following three V8 commodores who knew the way! So that’s where all the bogans are!

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Not to mention the tiger snake who wandered through our site! Thank goodness for our resident snake handler extraordinaire who whipped out his snake equipment and relocated it for us.

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But Dandos was ok, and a good place to get our bearings and reset our brains to the next leg of our trip. The post-Christmas-haven’t-got-a-deadline leg. Now we really are freewheeling!

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Problem was, everywhere we thought we wanted to stay was so full!  This is the beautiful Johanna Beach where Brian and I camped in the old silver van back in the day.  No room here!

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We did the 12 Apostles with about fifty thousand other people on a beautiful Sunday between Christmas and New years which made parking the car (with trailer) a dream! (not!)

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There was a bit of surf at the Gibson Steps Nathan, but soon after this photo, the wind suddenly shifted and it was no longer good.

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We still had nowhere to stay, but managed to squeeze into a couple of sites in Warnambool. A.k.a tourist Mecca! It had fabulous playgrounds and a skatepark, but the caravan park was that overcrowded, I still shudder when I think of those showers.

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We only stayed one night to recharge our batteries and we had the best idea ever.

Let’s Go to the Grampians!

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Finally, a campsite where we are not boxed in by bogans or anyone for that matter.

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We could watch the kangaroos graze, and the sun set over the mountains behind them.

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New years was a great night filled with cocktails and a campfire, no, a bonfire! Then new years day was rainy, ripe for recovery. We did a tour of a nearby gold mine

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and some wineries,

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hit the bush walks and lookouts,

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and chilled the feck out.

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The 2 degree night won’t even be mentioned. The towns we visited, Halls Gap, Stawell, Ararat, were all pretty daggy, and really seem stuck in about 1995. Why do they resist eftpos??

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At least the mountains were spectacular!

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Then we did it all over again – one night in Hamilton to have a proper shower and charge our batteries, then bush camping again at Princess Margaret Rose Caves. The caves were toured,

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the river was paddled (and Cory went for a swim! Ha!)

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we had a feeling of restlessness here though. Part anxiously waiting for the bloody busy holiday period to be over, and part impatience to get somewhere we actually want to be at!

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South Australia feels different already.  And, if we weren’t already feeling like we were in 1995, now its stepped back even further in time with the beautiful stately architecture and old castle-like towers we keep visiting.  We like it here so far!  Tomorrow is meant to be 30 degrees with no wind so we are looking forward to that!  Turn it on for us South Australia!!

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Victoria’s best and worst?

Worst was the Warnambool showers at the Seaside Holiday Park.

Best caravan park was the one at Apollo Bay.  Despite the cost.

Best windsurfing was at Point Danger, Torquay.

Best free camp was that one in the Grampians.

Best fun was Fitzroy.

Best thing: wildflowers!

The worst thing was the cold weather!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Ahhh, Christmas.  It is not my favourite time of year.  If we were home right now, I would be relaxing at Mum’s Seaforth beach house, the children would be running with their massive pack of cousins,  I would hardly see them all day!!   I could soak in the pool and enjoy a cold drink on a hot North Queensland day while Christmas lunch is cooked somewhere……  I really miss them!  And don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change where I am and what I am doing for the world.  It’s just that Christmas while travelling is hard to get enthusiastic for. It’s a bit of an inconvenience! We have so much extra clutter before we even get to the Santa Claus delivery.  Trays of mangoes, cartons of beer, festive cakes are taking up every available space.  I am obsessed with protecting my precious pavlova shell!  I am looking forward to Christmas day yes, so then it can be over!  We are at Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road.  The Pisces caravan park is one of the best we have ever stayed at, and it would want to be for the $87 per night pricetag!  The little town is gorgeous, and there are waterfall walks, beaches, koalas all within coo-ee.   The Gadsby clan – Lisa from London, Erin from Melbourne and Nanna and Pa from the Sunny Coast have all joined us and the Coopers here to have a great celebration.  The weather has been up and down, more down lately.  Cold and windy, maybe that’s what’s effecting me!  But I digress.  Christmas in Apollo Bay and The Great Ocean Road is really another story, and yet to come.

Victoria was yellowy brown baldy hills after we crossed from the lush-ness of NSW.  We had a great free camp spot at Pig Point which was on a perfect paddleboarding river with a swift current.  Brian raced me in the car.

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Then we decided abruptly not to follow Cory and Jen to Wilson’s Prom, and instead turned South Westward and headed to Melbourne!!!

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The Big 4 was in a perfect spot in Coburg, just to the North of the cool inner-city.  $53 a night to stay under some high-voltage wires wasn’t too bad!

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We had a fun filled and exhausting day at the Melbourne Zoo.  The boys were amazed.  The monkeys were exciting, being the first exhibit we saw.

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Dash loved the tiger and we had to drag him kicking and screaming away from the elephants……

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Jasper’s favourites were the giraffes and zebras.

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I’m afraid the old Aussie animals weren’t too impressive after all the ones we’ve been seeing in the wild!

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I visited that zoo when I was 5 and I vaguely remembered it so I hope Jasper has at least some memory of the day.  The best thing about the zoo for me was the kids being sound asleep by 7.30pm that night.  That’s worth the price of admission!

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We spent the rest of our stay hitting the shops and cafes of the uber trendy Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.

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We were somewhat of an oddity with 3 kids in tow, but the hipsters were more accepting of us here.

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We would visit a cafe for morning tea, wander round and find another one for lunch, then somewhere else for an afternoon beer!

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Ok, so we blew our budget a little bit in Melbourne.  Especially seeing as we did it all over again the next day!

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Brian’s baby sister Erin lives in Fitzroy so we even had a local (not a hipster!) to show us around.

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Team Cooper caught up with us and together we journeyed ever Southwards back to the coast and Torquay.  Bell’s Beach was not going off sadly.

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But lucky for us, the Factory outlets were!

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Just in time for Christmas shopping.  Oops, we blew our budget again!

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Not to mention the cool cafes!  This was our ‘cold-pressed’ coffee experience:

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Brian went to the Museum of Surf all by himself.  He liked the Bell’s Beach Bell – You’ve got to win it to ring it!

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And this is the actual wetsuit worn by one of them in Point Break!  What a great movie!  Even though that beach where they ride the 100 year swell isn’t actually Bell’s Beach.

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In Torquay we had the fortune to experience an extreme Victorian weather event.

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We were stoked to put our jumpers away, if just for one day.  The beach wasn’t beautiful,there were flying spiders and it was crowded, but it was THE place to be.

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The water was too cold for me though.

Then we headed along the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay, ready for Santa.

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 Only 2 more days!!!!!  And so far, our new shoes are coming in very handy!

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Oh, Daisy has started eating solids!  A whole new dimension has just been added!

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Merry Christmas everyone!  Love to all.  I’m more excited already!

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xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

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NSW Endings

Wow. What a finale! NSW, you were wonderful.  We couldn’t have picked a better spot to farewell the magic coastline than Merimbula.

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The Big 4 on top of the hill was one of our top caravan park stays with a kids craft room, heated pools,playground, wonderful views and even an onsite cafe/bar which apparently is THE place to be in Merimbula on a Saturday night.  If it’s good enough for Frankie J Holden to call home, it’s good enough for us.  Brian even  saw him come out of the surf one morning.  They call this the Sapphire Coast, and you can see why:

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  The weather really turned it on for us.  This was the surf beach, with epic 4 foot left-handers peeling at least 200 meters across the bay.

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There was even a little cafe at the top where one could have a hot beverage whilst watching the other half surf.  DSC_0267 (532x800)

Very convenient!  Just don’t plan to do lunch there with everyone and then expect them to have eftpos!

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I was hoping to accomplish a bit of Christmas shopping in Merimbula, however my favourite toy shop (Kmart) was nowhere to be found.  The locals were friendly though.

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4 fun soaked nights here was enough to recharge our batteries and we were ready to do some more driving.  We turned Daisy forward facing in the car after deciding she must surely be getting bored looking at the headrest.  She was so excited she almost burst!

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Lucky we have a Prado.  3 babyseats across the back is no easy task!  Our back seat looks like this now:

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We traversed inland,

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up and over the Great Dividing Range

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and into alpine country. 

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We saw a sign along the way that invited us to come and try the ‘Famous Bendoka Pie!’

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Now, I’m not a pie-lover, but this chunky steak pie was definitely a winner!

Our target for the day was Jindabyne.  Before we got there we were immersed in beautiful hilly green sheep country, followed by spectacular treeless yellow alpine sheep country.

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 Then we came upon Lake Jindabyne and a howling 30knot wind, and found ourselves a sheltered little spot at the Jindabyne Holiday Village.

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For $38, this one was a bit of a bomb.  There were weeds everywhere, a big scary dog roaming the place, and an eerily deserted feel.  Only the tumbleweeds down the street were missing!

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But the amenities were spotless, and they had my favourite thing, a kids bathroom!

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Being off-season, we didn’t find the Jindabyne-ians very warm and friendly – they even loudly complained about our noisy children in the noisy pub!

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 The locally brewed Kosciuszko Beer was beautiful though and made up for their lack of courtesy, to some degree.

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We only spent a night in Jindabyne.  It was cold.  Then we headed warily up the mountain towards the Alpine Way, a road not recommended for caravans.  First stop was Thredbo!  There was even some distant snow!

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The boys were very excited to see it, even from a distance.  And Brian was carving it up of course!

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Ha!  For a town with the motto ‘365’, Thredbo village was very, very quiet. It was pretty much just us, a bakery, and the best flourless orange cake I have ever tasted.  With ski village prices!

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We had planned take the chairlift up the hill and walk a couple of ks to the Kosciuzsko lookout however the wind was reaching 45knots so they sensibly had closed the chairlift and we had to content ourselves with the toboggan instead!

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Needless to say it was waaaaaaay better than the one at Coffs Harbour!  Sorry Big Banana!

Thredbo was a pretty little town and it made us start looking at prices for a ski trip there one winter.  It’s only 2000kms from Mackay after all!

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But, bigger things awaited us, namely the Alpine Way.

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We set off with a little trepidation, but the first thing we met coming the other way was a mini bus that was towing a trailer with a car on it!  So we figured we would be fine.  Turned out all the warnings really pertained to driving in wintertime.  We got stuck behind this slow caravan for most of the way though!!!

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The kids weren’t really enjoying the scenery as much as we were unfortunately.  Daisy was no longer excited about facing forward, but was acting a little motion sick from all the twists and turns so we had to stop fairly frequently for peacekeeping missions.

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Before too long, we were up and over the range, and the mountain scenery gave way to some more sheep farms!

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Halfway down, we realised we were doing this crazy steep road without our electric brakes working!  Unfortunately, we discovered they probably hadn’t been working since the plug got replaced in Kiama!  Something got lost in the translation from a round 7-pin plug to a square 12-pin.  Thank goodness for sport shift in the Prado.  It probably saved our brake pads from wearing all the way out, and we managed to fix the brakes ourselves later with the help of a diagram and a little trial and error.  Fraser – you would be proud!

So that was it.  NSW was done and dusted.  It took 2 and a half months of travel and we had the grandest time doing it.  Our top picks for NSW would have to be the Blue Mountains for dramatic mountain scenery,

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Limeburner’s Creek National Park,

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Myall Lakes National Park

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and Gillard’s Beach at Mimosa Rocks National Park for the greatest campsites.

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Merimbula is one of the prettiest spots with the best caravan park, and Yamba was a top town.

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Kangaroo Valley was a lovely wildlife experience and the best ever free campsite.

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And Dorrigo National Park had my favourite rainforest.

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Best caravan park would be the Big 4 at Darlington Beach, just North of Coffs Harbour.  Merimbula Big 4 would be a close 2nd place.

My least favourite was Edgewater Caravan Park at Port Macquarie.

Brian’s best surfs were had at Merimbula, Mollymook, Depot Beach at Murramurrang National Park, Crowdy Bay, and Foster.  Just to name a few.

Next stop, Victoria!!!!!!!  Apparently ‘The Place to Be’, or so the number plates proclaim.  We’ll see!

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Mollymook, Murramarang and Mimosa

We left Jervis Bay en route to Ulladulla. It wasn’t far down the road at all. Checking every potential surf spot along the way….

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But the only problem was, it was a bit daggy and dodgy looking. I guess we should have judged it on the name alone. Ulladulla’s saving grace was the town of Mollymook only a kilometer to the North who had a nice beach,

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and a wonderful golf club sitting smack on the foreshore with endless views and 2 for 1 steaks!

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The caravan park was a bit of a dive, but we only paid $25 a night cash in hand so we could overlook the not so spotless amenities. We ended up staying 3 nights even though the park was situated right on the highway! It just sounds better and better doesn’t it?!

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Lucky for us, the next stop on our itinerary proved to be a real gem.

IMG_4919 (800x800)Depot Beach at Murramarang National Park. This park is known as the place the spotted gums meet the sea.

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It was just stunning.

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We arrived on a Friday night, and even though the campground was pretty well full, we still felt supremely peaceful and at one with nature as we relaxed in our campsite presided over by the towering spotted gums.

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The wildlife here is ridiculous!

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Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Swamp Wallabies abound. Ha.

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Brushtail possums with massive babies, bandicoots, and so many different birds were there to annoy us as we tried to toast a marshmallow or two.

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Rosellas are my favourite!

One thing we didn’t expect were leeches!

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We headed on down to check out the beach, Jenny reassuring us that the kangaroo track she was leading us down was, actually the track to the beach. This is the track we should have taken:

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Jasper and Lily were starting to freak out about the pointy grass, again reassured by us, their responsible parents. When all of a sudden I looked down and said ‘what’s that?”, and at that moment every thing turned to panic as Jasper saw the leeches too and started to scream like a banshee! Jen picked up Lily and ran forwards through the rest of the swamp to the beach, and I grabbed Jasper by the hand and dragged him backwards out of the swamp with Dash already on my hip. Jasper was performing these bloodcurdling screams all the way and I am amazed nobody came to see what was going on! Cory was already on the beach and safely picking off his leeches, Brian was nowhere to be seen – he had earlier gone to the beach with Daisy, on the actual proper path. DSC_0137 (800x532) But he could hear the screams! We got up the hill and had to pluck at least 10 leeches off each of us. Yuk. I hate leeches! I have never seen so many on the ground just begging you to stop for them! Ew.

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Anyway, apart from the leeches, Depot Beach was a lovely place to while away a few days. Bushwalks and rock platforms,

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even some surf to be had.

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We journeyed ever southwards, unsure of our next destination.

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Narooma was a possibility:

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but, no.

Camel Rock?

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A small tourist drive took us to the tourist trap of historic Central Tilba.

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Fudge, Gelato, and knick knacks. Everyone knows a place just like it!

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Oh, and a great old pub!

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But then, it all got surpassed by the majesty of our next stop – Gillard’s Beach, Mimosa Rocks National Park.

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It was a hot tip from a couple of campers at the last place. We had an absolute beachfront site atop the dunes with endless views from our pillow!

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Again, the place was lousy with wildlife, but I didn’t see any leeches!

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We had sunshine, we had rain and wind, we had freezing cold, but it was always beautiful.

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These are the mystical Mimosa Rocks:

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We did a day trip to Bega which was only a short drive away, on a rainy day.

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The cheese factory was ok – the best thing about it was the piece of chocolate Baileys cheesecake and the triple uddered cow!

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Back at camp, we found ways to amuse ourselves. There was the enduring RipCurl search (fruitless this time), dress ups, hide and seek,

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And the endless entertainment of the campfire!

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Rain hail or shine

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We left there this morning

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and wound up at Merimbula Big 4. A welcome change with washing machines and hot showers, a swimming pool, even a bar! This is our last stop on the NSW coast and we will head inland in a few days.

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Another beautiful spot with a minimum temperature of 7 degrees forecast for tonight. Yipee.

Christmas is looming and so is our deadline of the 21st December. We have a Christmas booking at Apollo Bay. It has meant that there has been mounting pressure this past couple of weeks to make sure we don’t stay too long anywhere so we have enough time to visit the Snowy Mountains and Wilson’s Promontory between here and then. Christmas. I have mixed feelings. I’m going to miss my family all gathered at Seaforth. But Brian’s parents and sisters are joining us at Apollo Bay which will be awesome. I haven’t done any shopping for the kids yet, and we can’t get them anything big, ahhh, feeling the Christmas pressure again!!!

Oh well. Maybe a spot of shopping in Merimbula tomorrow.

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Rain Rain Rain and Some Other Things…

Sitting cosy in the camper trailer.  Right now the thermometer says its 19 degrees, but surely it’s lying.  It is right above the stove and boiling kettle!  A cup of tea is on the way and I need to get rid of this cabin fever.  We are at Jervis Bay in beautiful Booderee National Park.  The beach is this perfect white fine sand reminiscent of Whitehaven Beach,

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and the water is azure blue,

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or at least it would be, if it would stop bloody raining!

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Outside the tree tops are blowing in the 30knot wind, luckily we are fairly sheltered here.  It makes us feel like we are still in the Blue Mountains!  At least there you expect to have crappy weather.

The Blue Mountains was beautiful.  It was blue, and cold.  So cold.

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And for 2 days there was this constant drizzle.  It was a lot like England actually!  The village itself had this great atmosphere.  All cute cosy cottages with chimneys clinging to the ridge between two great valleys.  But it was really the 3 sisters we came to see. The clouds parted momentarily, and there they were!

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Pretty spectacular!

When it was 8 degrees,

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all we could do was find a pub with a fireplace and Guinness on tap,

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 and we were happy for a while.

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We got some sunshine which made a visit ‘Scenic World’ worthy with its cablecar,

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and the steepest railway in the world (or maybe it was the Southern Hemisphere…. either way it was very steep) which they used back in the day to fetch the coal out of the cliff-face below.

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Nah, that’s just the pretend one.  This was the real one:

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Still ultra steep, but marginally safer!

Down at the bottom station was a fabulous boardwalk through what they call ‘Jurassic’ rainforest.

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I kept telling Jasper to look out for Dinosaurs, but he told me in no uncertain terms that the dinosaurs are all dead!  How sad!

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Scenic World was a great tourist trap, but worth every bit of the $35 entry fee which gave you unlimited rides.

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 It was the poor parents that had their limits though.

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 We had to coach Jasper to say he was only 3 so he got in for free.  Actually, we do that at most caravan parks too.  He will start to believe it soon!

We found a dodgy 4×4 track called Narrowneck along, well, a narrow neck.

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It’s a fun way to sight see, from the safety of your climate controlled 28 degree Prado interior!

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We tried to do a bushwalk…..it was only a couple of Ks.  Ok, the sign did say hard…..

First we had to convince the boys to get shoes on and get out of the car.  Then we packed our backpack, donned our baby carrying frontpack for Daisy, and sidesling for Dash, then with jumpers and beanies in situ, off we set.  The path was wet and muddy with roots interspersing a steep path, a straight drop off to the left down a forested embankment, and here’s us with a baby, a toddler and an overconfident 4 year old!

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 Would you call us brave or stupid?  After being overtaken by some young, cool, able-bodied hikers, and after multiple meltdowns courtesy of Dash and his shoes, we turned around.  Luckily we had only gone about 50 meters so the way back was less harrowing!!!

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Dash and his shoes.  That is just another story.  He has lately decided that shoeless is the only way to be.  No matter how cold, or wet or prickle ridden, no matter if they are thongs, or crocs, or boots or sandshoes, socks or no, he lets us put them on, then he will walk two steps, then fall to the floor howling!  For now, we are giving up.  The bottom of his feet are close to leather anyway!!

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And, in case our memories and our memory cards weren’t already full enough, at night the valley was floodlit!

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So, after Katoomba we headed to Kiama.

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Down the hill with our electric brakes working all the way.  By the way, we didn’t see a shred of bushfire evidence.  But by the time we got to our destination, our caravan plug was all melted and burnt out.  We could only stay for a couple of nights as the park was booked out for the weekend.  Pretty spot, little town on some surf bays,

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a blowhole, a lighthouse

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and a coffee shop or two.

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Luckily one of their other attractions was an auto electrician who was able to replace our plugs the very next day.  The catch was, we were on our way out of town.  So we drove around some beaches, then went up and over a mountain and into the stunning Kangaroo Valley where we knew there was a free campsite.

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Probably not the smartest road to take though with faulty electric brakes and a full tank of water.  There were numerous slippery hairpin turns on steep ascents and descents to contend with, but we made it ok.  

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The campsite was a gorgeous carpet of emerald green grass with a river on one side and some big cliffs on the other.  

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Apart from being absolutely free and absolutely picturesque,

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it had these brilliant wombats that strolled around grazing on the grass and doing their best to ignore the campers.  DSC_0042 (800x532) DSC_0041 (800x532)

They loved getting their photo taken!

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After one night, we had to pack up again and head the 50kms back through the valley and to Kiama to get our brakes fixed finally.  We first had the problem in Yamba with the trailer brakes locking up in the wet, so it was a relief to get it resolved.  Remember the movie Babe?  It was  filmed in Kangaroo Valley so at least it was a tourist drive going up and over a different mountain past the greenest grass, painted black and white cows and fluffy sheep.

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Baa-ram-ewe.

We drove all the way back into the valley again for a second night and Brian and Cory did a mammoth paddling effort all the way up the river, and then down the rapids.  Brian said it was like Kakadu with towering cliffs either side of the fast flowing water, dodging rocks and submerged trees.  But he didn’t take a camera.  And he’s never been to Kakadu.

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So it was raining in Katoomba, raining in Kiama, sunny and hot in Kangaroo Valley with a great forecast for the rest of the week, but Jervis Bay has turned on the taps again for us.  Last time Brian and I came here, it was blowing 40 knots.  Hang on, the sun is temporarily shining, better take a picture or 2 of this magnificence.

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Now, better get on the road again!  Australia awaits!

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9 Weeks Young and Then There Were 8

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Forster. What a beautifully positioned caravan park! Right on the shores of the river, sheltered behind a hill, the perfect place to wait out a few days of rain! It rained for about 12 hours straight, then stopped for a few, then it rained again for the next 12! We were not upset though, because halfway through the drenching, our dear buddies and fellow Eagle/Prado enthusiasts the Coopers arrived to join us in not so sunny Forster! And then there were 8.

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They got rained out when they tried out Yuraygir National Park further north. It’s not fun camping out when its raining. Apart from the rain and the mud and the cabin fever, you really need to be plugged in so you at least have the TV for the kiddies once all the laptops go flat. So, they hightailed it south to join us and wait out the weather.

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Our next destination seemed a fairly easy choice. There were a few campsites to choose from in the Myall Lakes National Park. We figured we would just cruise on down and pick the best of them. We packed up while watching the storm clouds roll in for another round of pelting rain in Forster. That made for a world record pack up pace and we were on the road by 8.30am! Not to mention the fact that we were racing Cory and Jenny to see who could pack up the fastest…. Then we hit the road with our new convoy! CB radios at the ready!

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We found a nicely placed pub in Buladelah and waited out a huge storm with a counter meal and a middie (that’s a NSW pot) and followed the meandering road through the National Park til we came across the lake crossing, and crossed in style.

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It wasn’t the first time we wished we had amphibious vehicles!

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The perfect campground awaited us just down the road at Mungo Brush.

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Perched on the shores of Bombah Sound, just a sand dune away from the ocean.

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The sound at night was the gentle lapping of the lake water with the roar of the ocean contrasting in the background….. it actually kind of sounded like a dishwasher! And it was very cool to meet our awnings and have a common patio with a water view!

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Look Nathan – WAVEs!!

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Our mornings were fun frolics on the lakeshore. It was a beautiful sandy bottom and shallow for miles. Not too freezing….. just right.

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Then we went on the Rip Curl Search…. we went a little bit off road and learnt a little bit of a lesson….

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Found some mad sand dunes, but we had nothing to ride them on.

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For some reason Brian wouldn’t let us use his surfboard!

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The afternoons were spent bushwalking:

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Then the evenings were ripe for a twilight paddleboard:

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The water was onyx, the pelicans and the swans glide out of your way, the cormorants watch you warily, and it is peace, pure peace. Once you get out of earshot anyway.

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But with 4 parents, and 4 kids, our lives are a little bit easier! Especially since Jasper now thinks he is an honorary Cooper!

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He and Lily are almost the same age and they are really enjoying each other’s company. Jasper is opening up to the world of Barbie and Tinkerbell, while trying to educate Lily on the wonders of Autobots and Decepticons! I think Barbie is winning at the moment.

The next day we went back to the sand dunes, this time with an old beer carton to ride! We didn’t get it from the recycling bin, but we did have a look in there to see if we could find something better…. luckily to no avail.

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Brian is loving having a partner in crime:

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But where was Cory when Brian most needed him? Asleep. Brian went for an early morning surf, the surf was no good but he got accosted by a dingo that followed him all the way to the beach and back.
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It wasn’t a friendly dingo either.
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And it howled while it was waiting for Brian on the beach! Brian stood on the sand and there were hundreds of dolphins surfing in the waves, a couple of humpbacks further out the back, and then this bloody dingo waiting for him atop the dune. Cory is the wildlife man, and Brian had need of his counsel. Instead, he had only his wits and his surfboard to defend him, and he somehow made it past the dingo without injury.

The lake was safer.

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And the sunsets…..

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were divine:

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Yesterday we said our goodbyes to Myall Lakes and drove through Newcastle to find ourselves at The Entrance.

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We are surrounded by rain. Last night we got the wildest storm at about midnight. The thunder and lightning were right on top of us. We said to each other, gee it’s amazing there isn’t any wind…… then the wind kicked in and both our vans nearly lost our awnings. Brian and I, Cory and Jen wordlessly ran outside in the howling wind and lashing rain and pulled in our aluminium awnings amid the lightning strikes! Then we all jumped back in our vans soaked and shivering to recover! The rain was so cold. Then we listened to the rolling, almost continuous thunder roll away and prayed to the weather gods that we wouldn’t get any hail! And we didn’t. Yet. More storms are expected tonight, we will have our awnings down and the hatches battened BEFORE the storm this time! We should be heading to Katoomba and the Blue Mountains next but will be checking the weather/fire report prior to departure tomorrow. Bloody rain. Piss off!

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