Saturday, March 21, 2009

Day 22- Innisfail

Quiet housekeeping day today. Went into town for a stroll through the markets. Got some super cheap and super tasty local bananas and avocados. Jordy played in the playground for ages. We finally found a map of Australia to stick on the wall to trace our progress on it so Jordy can see where we are- we really have come a long way :)

Went for a short drive out to Flying Fish Point (just 5 or 6km up the road). Would be hell to live there! Right on the coast with the beautiful curving bay of ocean...... and you can't swim cos of the crocs!

I had a nanna-nap at lunchtime with Jordy. We both needed it :) Then time to mop the floors and fold laundry.

Mum and Dad came over this afternoon for a swim and a BBQ. Darcy loved the waterjet in the pool! Tim and Dad sorted out their fishing gear looking forward to Tinaroo. I had a browse online at a few places to see tomorrow and next week. And now it's time for bed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Crystal Creek NP review

Big Crystal Creek, Paluma NP.
Stayed 2 nights. Standard Qld NP charges of $4.35 per person which is great value for such a beautiful camp site.

The road in is a little pot-holey but not much of an issue. And it is incredibly only about 5km off the highway even though it feels like you are miles away. There is no mobile phone reception for either Optus or Telstra Next G.

Lots of trees and a decent amount of grass. Lots of big ants though and it was flying bug city! LOL! But the mortein coils kept the bugs away from camp just fine.

There are a heap of little bays and nooks for each van with a lot of them having a picnic table or a water tap. The water is not drinkable so it's just for washing etc.

The toilets and cold showers are at one end of the camping area and while they are not flash they are pretty good for a national park and much better than the standard we are used to in NSW parks.

There is also a large day use area with free BBQs.

The creek is glorious and the scenery and bushwalks in the area are lovely.

Day 21- Crystal Creek to Innisfail

A couple in a campervan with three young girls must have arrived late overnight and Jordy was all excited to see 'kids!'. They all spent the morning drawing in the dirt, looking at beetles, and wandering around the place while Tim and i packed up our camp.

On the road at 10:30 for the couple of hours drive to Innisfail. Drove through Ingham and Cardwell which are both nice looking little towns. Cardwell's main street runs RIGHT along the ocean and it looks lovely. Not sure if there are crocs in the water there or not though. Probably. All the rivers we pass now have warning signs for them.

Although there are some really nice looking free camps around Innisfail, at Henrietta Creek and Babinda, we decided to stay in a van park for a few days. We need to recharge our power cos we are going to Lake Tinaroo for several days for our next stop, and we have lots of washing and cleaning to do! So we stopped at the Mango Big 4. We are the only people in the park! It's certainly not tourist season, LOL!

I took both boys for a swim in the pool as soon as we arrived. I could not find the sunscreen so it was just a quick swim! But it gave Tim a chance to set up without the boys in the road and he was hot and grouchy so it mide life easier for everyone - hopefully Tim won't read this entry! if you are reading, Tim, then i mean grouchy in the most wonderful way :)

There is a Denghe Fever outbreak in Innisfail at the moment so we are being careful with keeping bug spray on us and citronella on the kids. But i have not seen a single mozzie at the van park here so it's all good. And there is talk of another cyclone forming at the moment but the locals don't think it will amount to anything.

A quick trip into town to grab some groceries. Then home just in time for Tim to log onto MSN for our Lionsonoz monthy meeting while i cooked dinner- beef stroganoff and pasta. Darcy had fallen asleep in the truck on the way to do the shopping so he was up until 9:30. ergh! I tried to put him to bed at 7:30 but i nearly fell asleep while he jumped and horsed around on the bed so i gave up and watched the footy instead. It's the first game i have managed to catch this season so it was nice to just relax for a couple of hours.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day 20- Crystal Creek

It was soooo dark here last night that i had to leave the bathroom light on all night for Darcy. We'll have to get some kind of night light for him i think. Jordy was up super early and ready to go. He chased the scrub turkey for a while. Darcy tried too but was too slow! But he pointed at them and called "dook!" and toddled and crawled towards them. We gave the boys some bread to feed them with which they enjoyed. Then Jordy spent half and hour with a caterpillar crawling up and back and up and back on a stick and then on his hands and up his leg and over his belly. I was surpised that it survived but he was really gentle with it.

Then before it got too hot we packed a picnic and jumped in the truck to go for a drive.

The road to Paluma is quite narrow and windy. It's certainly not tourist season yet- we only passed two cars during the full 20km trip up the mountain and one of them was a decent sized truck that nearly cleaned us up. He was obviously a local bloke and not used to seeing much traffic on the road let alone another truck cos he was hooting down the road.

Beautiful drive. It was amazing to watch the vegetation change in the space of 5min from bush to tropical rainforest. It looked so much like Dorrigo (or they way Dorrigo looked when the rivers were full flowing) with the strangler vines and other trees that i recognise but can't name, and the waterfalls that flow right beside the road.

Not much at Paluma itself. Just a tiny village but there are some great walks and lookouts that would be worth doing. I did a really short walk that was really relaxing and i would have loved to have done the 2km walk, just not by myself so much and it's not Tim's cup of tea.

Called in to Little Crystal Creek on the way back down the mountain. Had our picnic at the BBQ area which is amazing well set up. And then went for a walk to the creek. Absolutely stunning! There was a series of swimming holes with beautiful waterfalls and a roman arch bridge that was built during the depression. The kids loved it. Darcy kept clawing at Tim to be put down and then made like spider-boy climbing all over the rocks, and Jordy just scambled over the place and wanted to swim in the pools. To be honest i did too but it was a little cool up there. Would have been worth it though cos it was just glorious. I think the rainforest and waterfalls must be a real sensory memory thing for me from my childhood because i could just sit there chill out for hours.

Had a hard time convincing Jordy to get back in the truck but we came back to camp, ate some more! and then went back down to the creek for a swim. Splashed around for ages. The waterhole is really deep so you can dive and bomb of the rocks which was fun cos i have not done that for ages. I drove out to the main road for a bit to check on the weather up the coast and phone for prices on a couple of camps for the next few days. Then back to get a roast chicken on for dinner. Bathed the kids, and early meal and time for bed.

I think for me the creeks and walks were a definate highlight of our trip so far, it's the kind of thing that i just love and find really rejuvenating, so it is going down in the 'highlight' section :) although i know Tim would not agree (not enough "things" to do cos walking and looking apparently don't count as "things"!) LOL!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wangaratta Caravan Park

Wangaratta Caravan Park, Bowen.
Stayed one night. $25 a night. This was the fourth caravan park we tried in Bowen so we saw a few in the area (we had trouble with the size of our rig). This was not the flashiest park but it certainly suited us.
Overall- 3 stars.

Location- 7/10. Only thing between us and the beach was a narrowish section of golf course. Big park and playground right next door. About 5min drive to town (but all the van parks are.) Good value and I would happily stay longer.

Sites- 7/10. Great selection of sites. Most are shady and some (like ours) are really big! Nice and grassy too.

Bathrooms- 5/10. Humungous shower stalls (all set up for wheelchair access), a little old and whatever but totally fine if you ignore the frogs :)

Laundry- Did not check them but I think it was $3 a load.

Shop- no.

Pool- 6/10. Massive deep pool! I had to swim way down to touch the bottom!

BBQ area- I can’t remember if I saw one! We did not use it anyway.

Playground- really great playground just next door with a big park area and mini road thing for bikes.

Other- nothing.

Day 19- Bowen to Crystal Creek

Beem out of reception so i'll back-date a couple of entries...

Big drive today. I had seen a nice looking National Park camp at Paluma called Big Crystal Creek with a good river and swimming hole that I wanted to try. We’d done plenty of beach-side stops for a while and felt like a change of scene. But it was about 280km away and that’s a big day in the truck for the boys. But they were great! I just kept the food coming and a had a Wiggles DVD on and we powered through. We were definitely at the end of their limits for the last 10km or so. But it was worth it.

The camp is great and only 5km off the highway. Nice bush camps with a picnic tables and even water on some sites. There is a toilet block with cold showers and, at the other end for day picnicers, there is a gas BBQ. Just 100M along a track there is a fantastic big deep swimming hole. Bloody big fish in there too but fishing is not allowed so Tim is massively put out!

We made camp in record time, got our swimmers on, and headed off. Water was refreshingly cool and super fresh. Jordy chased (and caught) tadpoles and we all splashed around until it got too cold in the water. It’s lucky it was a slightly overcast day as it’s quite warm here!

We saw a huge goanna climbing a tree. It must have been two metres long from nose to tail! And there are lots of butterflies and scrub turkeys and frogs. There are also a lot of annoying little bugs that are bigger than mozzies but smaller than flies. They try to get all in your face. But once we put out a bug coil they all disappeared from around our camp luckily.

Sausages and potato wedges on the Weber and a salad for dinner. The boys were in bed at 7:30. Tim only just had time to go up for a shower and now there is a nice light rain falling to cool things down a bit.

I am finding it really interesting watching the landscape and vegetation change. There are little things that are similar to home or to areas that I have travelled to out west but so many other things that make it so different. The super flat plains that extend for miles with a ring of mountains all around us are totally different to the land I grew up in. There was an hour or so today where we left the sugar cane country behind and the land turned to wetlands with the small scrubby salt-hardy trees which reminded us of the land out towards Moree. For the last week it has felt so strange to look out at what would be perfect kangaroo country but instead of seeing a mob of kangaroos in the shade of the trees there are big white beef cattle.

The water in a lot of the creeks and rivers we drove over today had an odd green milky colour which I have never seen before. Not sure if it’s a higher limestone content or clay or what but it looks quite beautiful.

Seawinds Caravan Park

Seawinds Caravan Park, Mackay.
Stayed three nights for the price of two ($55).
A simple, no-frills sort of park but the manager was lovely and it was right on the beach and it felt really peaceful so despite the fact that the individual scores for things will be lowish i am going to give it a thumbs up. :)
Overall- 3 stars.

Location- 7/10. Total beach-front. There was a grassed headland and then a walkway down the rocks and you were right on the beach. Bit of a drive into the town though. I think it was a good 15min back into Mackay (though if you just wanted to do some shopping there were plenty of shopping centres closer).

Sites- 7/10. Shady, quite large.

Bathrooms- 5/10. Did the job! LOL!

Laundry- 5/10. Just the usual basic washers and a dryer. One machine ate my money but the manager fixed it up for me. $3 a load. Good sunny clothes line.

Shop- None.

Pool- 5/10. Big pool with some shade but nothing special. We think it might have been freshwater... ?

BBQ area- 5/10. Little covered table and BBQ down on the headland area by the beach. Qould be quite pleasant so long as there was no wind and the mozzies were in bed.

Playground- None.

Other- nothing ;)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

CRAP review- Marlborough Hotel

Marlborough Hotel, Marlborough, QLD.
Greetings, pub devotees. Unfortunately, my reviews are not as often as you or I would like, but here is my latest little piece in my Crawling Round Australia Pub Crawl.

The Marlborough Hotel is located north of Rockhampton, south of Mackay. Not quite halfway, but close enough. We stopped here because for $4 a person, they let you camp in their back yard. This includes use of their showers & toilets, which is not too bad a deal. It’s off the Bruce Highway, just past the big colony of fruit bats for northbound traffic. Talk about a freaky sight! Right out of a Dracula movie!

Lovely little one pub town, with a Police Station, SES Rescue Unit, pool and a little shop. Can’t say I made it past the pub, although I did walk through the Lions Park next morning. Doing my bit. The only draw back is the train line runs right alongside the main street. Freight and coal trains run past pretty regularly.

What can I say. I live for little country town pubs. The feel, the atmosphere, the sensation as you walk into somewhere you’ve never been, but reminds you of so many places you have. So I may be a little biased when it comes to comparing them, but then again these are my reviews, and my idea of what a pub should be like. You’ll get used to it.

The beer was good and cold. VB, XXXX, and Hahn Lite on tap. None of your yuppy trendy Drys, Blondes, Mids, etc. One tap of each. Schooners and Pots. Keepin it simple. My only criticism here is that there was a slight odour to the beer, hit the nose just before you drank it. Dose of Bracton wouldn’t hurt, but the beer flavor wasn’t affected. Good cold glasses, and a short pull from the cellar to the taps. About 3 feet, I reckon!

Staff were really friendly. After setting up the van, and sitting for my first beer, the barman (who turned out to be Steve, the publican, ex fitter and turner for Bundaberg Sugar for 20 years, 3 sons, just doing a stint as a publican before retiring, been at Marlborough for 3 years, no the deers head was there when he started) was quick with a how do you do, where you from, where you going little conversation. Soon determined the footy was going to be on later, I could take my beer out to the van, and the kitchen opened 6 to 8.

This is a big thing for me in a pub. Friendly openness. A welcome feel. You really only get it when you walk into a real country pub. Now I’ll grant you that there may only be 1 or 2 other people in there, and the staff are bored shitless and need to talk to someone, anyone! But I’ll take that anyday over a “$3.90 thanks” and a turned shoulder as they would rather polish some glasses.

Lucky I’ve made up a bit of a scale and score sheet, but, to keep things in check. The Marlborough fell short in a couple of other areas, but as little pubs go, I reckon it was a beauty. Plenty of character and plenty of characters. Scored a 6.7, which is not a bad total. Food let the place down a little.

Food was regular pub fare. Hot, brown, frozen veg, filled the plate. Averaging around $15 a plate, is was no bargain either. But it filled the hole that a full days travelling makes, and saves prepping and washing up. Money well spent.

Kids weren’t particularly catered for, except no one minded them running around. And the back beer garden / huge lawn was heaps of room for them to go crazy. There was a huge white dog, as friendly as could be, very placid. Just dawdled around behind the kids, tongue lolling out. Might have eaten them, but was pretty well fed, and didn’t look like it could be bothered.

Best feature was definitely the bar, and the staff. Finally, a bar you can sit at! About 8 metres of polished timber where you can sit, watch the tele, and comment on life. Add to that bar staff who love a chat and a joke, and involve everyone in the conversation. Can dish out a bit of stick, but take it as well.

To top it all off, great memories of home, when my Bundy was served on ice in a glass, with a can of coke on the side. Add as much or as little as you like, and if you don’t need coke next time, the shot is cheaper!

So all in all, a great pub. I probably think higher of it than it may deserve, since it has been so long since I’ve been in a decent country pub, but its definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. I mean cold beer, good company. It doesn’t really need anything more than that.

Day 18- Mackay to Bowen

i know Tim finished his CRAP review but it's not on the blog... i think he must have had trouble uploading it so i'll check on that in the morning. Early night for us tonight. Tim is already in bed asleep and i am not long up myself.

I'll do today's update tomorrow but we are in a nice van park near the beach. Our plans have changed again and instead of waiting here for Mum and Dad (who have headed up to Innisfail) and going across to Charters Towers this weekend i think we are now heading up the coast further. We don't need to be at Litchfield until first week of May so that gives us a week longer than we thought so we should have time to do Atherton after all. yay!!!

good night.


Made decent time to Bowen. We got away surprisingly early seeing as Mum and Dad had already left and we had the kids to watch as we packed up, but they played happily around the camp so it went smoothly. Finding a caravan park in Bowen was not so smooth! I had heard about a free camp just south of Bowen but it was just a place one bloke mentioned in an old thread on a forum with rather vague directions. We gave it a go! Turning off the highway onto a dirt track that looked like it might head towards a river. We were optimistic at the first turn when we could see the beautiful azure blue water of the bay… but then the road narrowed and the bush turned scrubby and we reached a dead-end at a person’s property. So we had to reverse all the way back to a small driveway and Tim performed a miracle six point turn and we high tailed it back to the main road and a caravan park.

A proper park should have made things easy but we tried two that looked nice but had sites that were too small or too tight for our rig to enter. Then a third that we would have fitted in fine but it was just a basic park and they wanted $32 cos they charged for the kids!! No where we have gone to has charged for kids under 3. So we tried lucky camp number 5! Yay!! Right near the beach with a good pool and massive kids playground across the park. Big shady site for $25. Also RIGHT on the golf course for those that like golf (made for a nice view and some privacy for us).
So while the driving all over town was getting a little old it gave us a chance to see the coastline which is really very beautiful. Amazing blue water after the slightly grey-blue at Mackay.

The kids had a big play in the playground then we set up camp. Just a basic unpack as we are only staying one night. Then a much anticipated swim in the pool. We met another family that have traveled a lot but are now in Bowen working for a while. Then we went down to the beach for a look. The kids had a splash in the waves (water was soooo warm!). There was a stinger net just 100M down from us but we had it on good authority that we would be fine in the shallows. Fingers crossed!

Super simple and yummy dinner of chicken and vegetable stirfry and an early night for all.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day 17- Mackay

Lazy morning but a super busy afternoon!

Tim and Dad went into Bunnings and SuperCheap early on to get some bits and pieces. Tim repaired the torn flyscreen on my bed end, fitted some chrome hanging rail to the roof near the bathroom cubicle, and fixed the catch on the vanity cabinet. And i gave the van a bit of a tidy up and folded laundry.

We wanted to take Jordy to see a sugar mill (he is interested in sugar cane) but the nearest one was back in Sarina (about 30min south) so we headed off before lunch. Looking though the tourist brochures it looked like there was a museum there as well but turns out it is not open Mondays :( We were early for the tour so grabbed some lunch and drove out to Sarina Beach. A lovely little spot on the water that turtles apparently nest along. Season ends around now though so we won't get a chance to see any hatching.

The Sugar Shed tour was interesting. During the crushing season i think it would be better as you'd get to see the whole mini mill work and see each step of the process. But the guide crushed some cane and we all tasted the juice (including Darcy!) and had a chew on some crushed cane. Then we got free fairy floss!!! I gave some to Darcy to try and he screamed for more. hehehe. Jordy tried some ginger beer and thought it was disgusting and made his belly tingle.
We drove out to heave a look at the Mackay harbour. They have a massive port here and you can see the gigantic carrier boats all lined up on the horizon waiting in a queue to load up with coal or sugar.
Back home just in time to shower the kids and have a quick BBQ dinner. Boys crashed in bed after a big afternoon.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day 16- Mackay

Jordy was up early this morning so Tim took him down to the beach. I stayed in bed! Apparently there were little crabs everywhere and they played and chased them for ages. Tim caught a couple to let Jordy hold them. He wanted to take one back to Mum and Dad and show them so he carefully cupped his hands together and carried it ever so gently the whole way back to their van.... he excitedly told them what he had and opened his hands .... and there was nothing there! Poor man was devastated. I am hoping he can try again tonight.

After breakfast we headed into town to the Mackay town centre markets. Not much to see but we grabbed some fruit and some yummy looking apricot slice. There was actually a massive looking market at the Mt Pleasant shopping centre that we saw on the way home but too late.

Then we went to Bluewater Lagoon. It's an amazing free council-run water park. There is usually a big climbing play castle with a bucket at the top that fills and empties onto your heads but that section was closed (massive bummer cos it looked great) but Jordy and i went on the water slide four times and he would have gone again and again but it was a really hot day and i thought he'd had enough sun.

Darcy splashed and swam for ages. One of the lagoons is really shallow so it's great for the little kids. And it's not at all crowded though i imagine in tourist season it would be packed.

Went to call into Woolies to get some bread and milk but they are closed on a Sunday! Surprising cos Mackay is a big town but i think everywhere should be closed on a Sunday anyway. Spent a couple of hours doing house work and laundry while Tim re-arranged the back of the truck and Jordy had a much needed nap. He is exhausted with so much going on.

Then i helped mum with her blog. The boys are just down at the beach catching crabs :) so i might follow them with the camera and see what they are up to.

updated... the crabs win, but Jordy had a great time. We lazed around on the little headland here at the park and just watched the water for a while. The beach here is lovely. Even though there are other people out for a walk it feels like you have the whole place to yourself. The sand is a little grey though so Darcy gets in such a mess.

We met another couple, David and Lyn, at the park that are from just outside of Darwin and have spent a lot of time at Litchfield and they are convinced that once we get there we will never want to leave :) Was great to chat to them. They travel about 6months out of the year and are just on their way home at the moment. They said they may even call out to Litchfield in a few months to say hello again.

We were planning to cook something from Nardia's cookbook for dinner but there was no spinach at the market. So we had a really easy dinner of leftover risotto and bludged a couple of sausages off Mum and Dad. Then i made a chocolate pudding in the microwave for dessert. The kids were up a bit later tonight cos they good naps. I went to bed not long after they did and Tim fell asleep in front of his laptop. :)