Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wrapping it up

Well we are back home, and in the excitement of getting back into work, school, swimming, dancing, kinder and life in general, I haven't quite finished off this blog!

We had a fun morning at Peterborough checking out all things train related! They had a fabulous set up at Steamtown . Unfortunately it was pouring rain most of the morning and absolutely freezing, but we battled on regardless! We had a guided tour with a lady whose father was a linesman in that area for many years. Cooper in particular enjoyed seeing all the old trains and being able to climb in the carriages and the drivers seats too! The kids were very interested in where children slept in the train in those days - a tiny little cubbyhole above the parents bunks!

After the tour we grabbed some lunch from a cafe in town (who apparently had the best curry pies that Leon has ever eaten!) and jumped in the car to cross the border into New South Wales! Our destination was Broken Hill, where we stayed at the Broken Hill City Caravan Park for two nights (there were a choice of three caravan parks in the town).

The next day was a big touristy day! First up we headed to Silverton, about 15 minutes drive out of Broken Hill. It's a tiny little town, but one with a lot of history. We visited no less than three museums that day! First up was the Mad Max Museum. Having not actually seen the film Mad Max 2, which was filmed in Silverton, there was still lots to appreciate. The museum opened last year and has an incredible amount of memorabilia available to see. From film scripts to replica and original cars to costumes and promotional material, they had everything! Next up was the Silverton School Museum. The school building from 1889 still stands and has tonnes of historical items inside. The kids sat at an old desk and did some colouring while Leon and I got to look around. Lots of past students had donated their old readers, reports, uniforms and other school items so there was lots to see. Last was the Silverton Gaol Museum. There were thousands of items on display here, representing just about every facet of life in Silverton over the years. Football teams, war stories, fashions, equipment and appliances, hospital items etc etc, the list went on! Not much actual jail stuff, to Leon's disappointment but certainly lots to read and enjoy.

Back in Broken Hill, I had the bright idea of driving out to The Living Desert and Stone Sculpture Display . This was pretty cool, but I didn't anticipate the extremely steep 2.4 km return walk to check out the sculptures! Cooper claims he 'nearly died' on the walk and Imogen alternated between running ahead like a madwoman and collapsing in tears that she couldn't possibly go any further. However, once up the top it was certainly worth it, with an incredible view and some pretty cool sculptures.

We had a well deserved big dinner that night at the Barrier Social Democratic Club ('Demo Club' for short!) which is one of those rare places that still offers a big vege/salad bar to add whatever you like to your meals. Leon just about cleaned the place out of scalloped potatoes and pumpkin and I've never been so happy to see green beans in my life!

The next day, we crossed back over into our home state, Victoria. Much as we would have liked to power on home, ten hours would have been a bit much on the kids! So we stayed that night in Birchip (about 4 hours or so drive from Geelong) And the less said about that the better! However, if you're in that neck of the woods one day, make sure you go to Avoca. The pub has parmiganas for $7 if you order before 7pm and the small town boasts three bakeries, one of which has amazing pies and other yummy delicacies, such as custard tarts (not that I would know about that of course).

And then, not much later, we were home! A truly incredible trip. The Pathfinder tells us that in just over three weeks we traveled over 6,000 km and did about 104 hours of driving. We saw some amazing things, had some brilliant experiences and shared a lot of special stuff. The kids were brilliantly behaved and Leon was pretty good too. It is definitely something we will all remember for a long time and always look fondly back on. Now to planning the next Intrepid travels!

Til next time and thank you for reading!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The camel cup, Immie's Birthday and back to South Australia

Whoops, bad blogger here! Obviously we've been having lots of fun and adventures if I haven't found the time to jump on the computer! We've had a great couple of days and have left the Northern Territory and are back in South Australia. Saturday saw us celebrating Immie's birthday! (It was actually 2 days early but we thought she'd have a better day in Alice Springs than on the road for hours and ending up who knows where.) So the morning was very exciting, with lots of presents involved of course. Then we headed off to the Alice Springs Camel Cup! This is a pretty big event with lots of people there. It was a similar feel to the Geelong Show, with food stalls, craft marquees, souvenirs and of course camel races! These were pretty hilarious to watch. Pretty much every race there was one riderless camel by the end. And the camels tried to go every which way but forward. In between they had kids races and other funny events. It was certainly a great way to spend our last day in Alice.

Next morning (Sunday) we were up bright and early with a long day of travel planned. We left Alice Springs (and the NT) and made our way back to Coober Pedy. The trip was long (approx 680kms) and pretty dull for everyone concerned! The kids did very well though and only really complained in the last hour or so. We didn't get to Coober Pedy til about 5 pm and the place was absolutely packed. Luckily we got a site and bunked down for the night.

Yesterday (Monday, Immie's real birthday!) wasn't as long a day in the car - a lazy 375kms from Coober Pedy to Woomera. It was a pretty interesting place. It's a defence town and has only been open to the public since 1982. Woomera was used for rocket testing and the launch and tracking of spacecraft in the early days of space exploration. They have a great display of restored rockets, bombs and spacecraft. Apart from that there's not much there! Apparently they only have a population of about 200 and if you don't work a minimum of 30 hours a week, you're not allowed to live there! Consequently they have an unemployment rate of 0! (Took lots of photos but they're on the iPhone and I didn't bring the cord to connect it to the laptop!)

The caravan park was pretty good, with big drive through sites so we didn't have to unhook the van. The best part of it though was the little bar in the grounds! It opens at 4pm every night and if last night was anything to go by, it's a very popular place! We wandered down just after 4 thinking we'd have one or two drinks - we didn't leave til it closed at 9.30! It was great swapping travel stories with all the other campers. Then by great coincidence a family from Torquay (15 minutes down the road from where we live) arrived. The kids had a great time playing together and it was nice to hang out with some people from home!

Tonight we're at our last stop in South Australia - Peterborough. It was another 300kms on the road today, so once we got here around 2pm we just relaxed. The caravan park here seems pretty nice too (very cheap too at $32). We've spent the afternoon catching up on washing and showering and will hopefully have an early tea and early night. Tomorrow we'll check out some of the sights on offer here - lots of trains by the looks of things! Then we'll head for the fourth state on our little trip, Broken Hill in New South Wales!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Getting a little bit dirty

Well, Leon's favourite part of the holiday finally happened yesterday (Thursday). He got the car a little bit dirty! We knew we wanted to check out some drives and sights in the MacDonnell Ranges, but weren't sure whether to go East or West. After chatting to one of our friendly neighbours at the caravan park, we learned that although the West was probably more visually appealing and there was more to see and do, the East was probably more child friendly, with shorter walks etc.

So off to the East we headed. And I'm incredibly glad we did. Amazing though I'm sure the West is, we saw some very beautiful sights on our little drive. The first stops were the Emily and Jessie Gaps which were both lovely and peaceful. The kids were excited that they had to cross a (very) little bit of water using some sticks and stones in the river bed, they felt very brave! Both these areas contain Aboriginal paintings and are important spiritual sites to the people of this area.

The caterpillars
The next stop was Corroboree Rock, which was a pretty cool 800 million year old formation. Despite it's name, it was probably never used for a corroboree but is a pretty important spiritual place for the Aboriginal people nonetheless.

On our walk to the lookout, Cooper spotted this tree, which he thought looked like a leg and foot so requested a photo of it!

We moved on to the next stop on the drive and in my opinion the most beautiful - Trephina Gorge, which is noted for its sheer quartzite cliffs and River Red Gum lined watercourses.Two gorges dissect the range: Trephina, with its wide views and sandy creekbed, and John Hayes Rock Hole with steep, narrow rock walls.We had a wander along the Gorge first and it was a pretty special experience. The sun was shining and it was so quiet and lovely. There were a few people down there and the same time, and one of them launched into a spine tingling Aboriginal song. It was pretty amazing, I felt like I could have been in the same spot hundreds of years ago. I would liked to have sat and just let the experience soak in for a little while but unfortunately the kids weren't 'feeling it' quite the same as I was so we pressed on!

 The drive to the Rockhole was along an incredibly bumpy, rocky and and times pretty steep and narrow path, which was recommended for 4WD. So Leon was in heaven! The 4 kms took us about 30 minutes to navigate through, but it was quite fun. Once at the rockhole we had a big, steep walk up one of the hills to the look out, which afforded some pretty amazing and worthwhile views. The kids did so well, I'm beginning to think there is some mountain goat in their blood somewhere! 

The last place we went to see was the Arltunga Historical Reserve. Arltunga was officially Central Australia's first town, born out of a gold rush after alluvial gold was discovered in a dry creek bed in 1887. The Visitor's Centre was pretty interesting, with lot of artefacts and displays on the history of the town. We were a little disappointed that the Arltunga Bush Hotel was closed though! Cooper was most tempted by the idea of a 'ghost town' but all that we really saw was the old Police Station and Gaol cell. There was more to see but by this stage it was about 4.30pm and we still had over 100k to get home so we called it a day and left. The highlight of this part of the trip was the road to get there! We had followed the Ross Highway for about 80kms so far, which was a sealed road. But for the 33 or so k's to get to Arltunga and back it was an unsealed racetrack! (in Leon's eyes anyway!) He unleashed his inner Dakar Rally driver and I'm not exaggerating when I say that all four wheels of the Pathfinder left the road simultaneously several times! I felt like I was in a Dukes of Hazzard movie. All in all, it was a really fun day and I'm so glad we headed east instead of west (will have to save that direction for next time!)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Alice Springs Tourists

In the hope of combating my late night frustrations with Blogger recently, I thought I'd attempt a post earlier than usual today! As the title suggest, we’ve spent the last couple of days being major tourists in Alice Springs. There’s certainly heaps to do here and no shortage of information on where to go and how to do it. We visited the tourist centre in town and picked ourselves up a stack of brochures (very handy as they included several discount vouchers – every little bit helps!)

So the first stop on the tourist trail was the Alice Springs Reptile Centre. Now, those who know me well will not be surprised to hear that I begged out of this one! I got dropped off at a nice little bakery called ‘Wicked Kneads’ where I spent a relaxing hour or so with a coffee and some magazines! Leon, Cooper and Immie had a great time though. They heard a talk about reptiles first up and Cooper very bravely held a massive snake! I couldn’t believe he did this but am glad to know he hasn’t inherited my ridiculously massive fear of snakes. They also saw several types of lizards, other snakes and Terry the Saltwater Crocodile. Leon said it was a fairly small operation, but very well done and pretty good value for money. After they picked me up from my momentary retreat, we grabbed some lunch and took it up to the Anzac Hill that overlooks the city. It had a great view over Alice Springs and a lovely Memorial. 

We then moved on to the next attraction, which was the Alice Springs Old Gaol and National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame (all housed in the one place). The Gaol was pretty cool, but Leon felt it had been prettied up too much from its original state to be truly authentic. There was a lot of interesting information on posters around the walls though and lots of old pictures. Unfortunately, when you’re a nearly 4 and 6 year old who can’t read that, it can get a bit boring! The kids did very well though and liked the cells and looking at the tiny bathrooms and toilets. Also displayed at the Gaol was a big Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame. Again, there was lots of information and pictures, but also a lot of items to look at. The kids were most interested in the typewriters, they had no idea what they were!  

Today was another big day of visiting the sights. We were very impressed this morning with the Alice Springs Desert Park. We made sure we got there in time for the 10am Birds of Prey display. It was a brilliant presentation in a lovely amphitheatre with a beautiful backdrop. The presenters were knowledgeable and interesting and showed us some beautiful birds. Cooper’s favourite was the Black Kite and Immie just enjoyed attempting to take photos with my iPhone. Unbeknownst to us she had switched it from camera to video mode and came up with some very interesting little clips! We spent another hour or so afterwards looking at the rest of the park, which showed all the different sorts of desert environments there are in the Outback and the kinds of animals that live there. A lot of the trees and flowers had information cards explaining what the Indigenous people use them for which was pretty fascinating. They are certainly very resourceful and make the most of the land around them! We had a really nice lunch at the great cafe there and spent some money in the gift shop. Overall, we really enjoyed the Desert Park, it was well worth a visit. And pretty reasonable too, Leon and I were $20 each, a voucher got Cooper in for free and under 5 was free, so Imogen was set too!

After a trip mainly for the kids this morning, this afternoon was mainly about Leon! The National Road Transport Hall of Fame was on the agenda and it was actually pretty good. It comprised three displays – the first of which was the Old Ghan Historical Railway. The kids were getting fairly sick of written displays by now but there were plenty of interesting items to look at, as well as the old train you could get on and walk along a section of. The walkway sections of the train were tiny, you certainly wouldn’t have fitted two people walking in different directions.  Luckily there was a playground there too, so after a quick recharge on the swings we moved onto the Road Transport Hall of Fame section. This was a huge and pretty incredible display of all sorts of vehicles. There were trucks, buses, army vehicles, fire engines and vintage cars to name a few. It was really well set up and covered a huge area. It also incorporated the Kenworth Dealer Museum which was obviously a lot more trucks. One good display was a cabin that had been split in half so you could climb in the middle and get a really good look at where the driver sat and where he (or she) slept. Again, kids were free and it only cost Leon and I $14 each to get in, so everything we’ve done so far has been pretty good value.

I've got heaps more photos to add, but if I hope to be in bed before midnight I'll have to leave it there! It's taking forever to load photos on here for some reason. Plenty more will be on Facebook later if anyone is interested.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to get out and find some 4WD in the Macdonnell Ranges. Leon wants to get the car good and dirty with some red sand! 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Final days at Yulara

We've had a quiet couple of days at the Ayers Rock Resort. We both agree, although it's been a lovely place to stay, three or four days probably would have been enough. If we'd researched a little further, or been able to pick the brains of some people who had already come this way, we might have changed a few things. For instance, we were under the impression that Kings Canyon was a little closer and would be a good day trip. However, it's a good 600 km round trip from Yulara (which is where the Ayers Rock Resort is.) So what we probably should have done is cut our stay at Uluru short by 2 nights, and spent those at Kings Canyon. Never mind, some things can only be learned from experience and at least it will be nice to save something for next time!

Saturday saw us take a little drive - about a 260 km round trip - for beer! No not really. With not much to do after already seeing Uluru and Kata Tjuta we thought we'd go for a little drive and take some photos of things we'd seen on the way in, but didn't want to stop with the caravan on (and Leon had usually just overtaken several caravans and cars and didn't want them to catch him again!) We drove to the crossroad where you can turn off to Kings Canyon and stopped for a packed lunch.
Lunch at Red Centre Way

On the way back we stopped at Curtin Springs, which is a petrol station and roadhouse that also offers free camping spots. Much to Leon's delight, they supplied him with a slab of VB for $70 which was a much more reasonable prospect than the resort prices and saved him from rationing! He also insisted on taking us on a couple of tracks off the highway, which freaked me out no end as I had visions of Wolf Creek type situations happening to us. We arrived back at the resort safe and sound though and celebrated with my first chai latte in weeks at the Red Rock Deli. Then that night, thanks to the wonders of modern technology we were able to watch the very exciting (yet ultimately disappointing) Cats vs. Bombers game.

Sunday was another fairly quiet day. We walked over to the shopping centre, then made the kids day by catching the shuttle bus back to the campsite. We also checked out the other attractions in the town of Yulara, namely the airport, power station, mechanical repairs centre and dump point (I did say it was a quiet day.) Another high point for the kids was the Camel Farm where Immie had her first camel ride ever! (Once again Blogger is being difficult tonight with photos, but there are more on my FB page of course. If you look at Leon's FB page, you'll mainly see photos of all the burnt out, abandoned cars we've discovered along the way - lending credence to my Wolf Creek paranoia, as well as lots of pictures of beer.)

Today (Monday) was an early start and a big day in the car, from Yulara to Alice Springs (approx 445km). We only had the one stop, at Erldunda where we had previously spent a night. Unfortunately their mice plague had not yet ceased so our lunch was slightly marred by the smell and sight of dead mice littering the place. Undeterred, we pressed on and were in Alice Springs by about 2pm, after leaving Yulara at 9am. The kids have been so good in the car, entertaining themselves really well without the dvd player or hand held consoles. They've been playing lots of games, doing some drawing, eating and when all else fails I let them take pictures on the older, small camera. (Immie likes to take photos of herself doing cranky faces and close-ups up her nostrils. It's quite entertaining a the end of the day scrolling though the photos to see what they came up with!)

Alice Springs seems very big after most of the places we've stayed in - they even have a Woolworths, hurrah! We've got quite a bit planned for the next few days, culminating in the Camel Cup on the 9th. Tonight though we had a fantastic meal at Bojangles Saloon. Amazing place, with incredible decor and a great menu. Leon went all out and ordered their Outback Mixed Grill which included the following - A beaut combination of Kangaroo, Territory Camel shaslik, Buffalo medallion, Venison sausage and our own Lemon myrtle infused Crocodile rissole! 

On that delicious note I'll leave you. More to come tomorrow I'm sure!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Uluru and Kata Tjuta

Well we have had an amazing couple of days exploring some incredible parts of this country. Yesterday morning, after a fantastic sleep we headed into Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park. It was $25 dollars an adult, free for children under 16 and that gives you three days access to the park. We visited the cultural centre first which was pretty eye opening. It told the story of the Anangu people, who have been the owners and guardians of this area for tens of thousands of years. There were displays and lots of information to take it. One of the most interesting displays was a 'Sorry Book'. This contained hundreds of letters from people apologising for either taking a piece of Uluru home with them, or taking photos of areas that you're not supposed to. Reading through some of them was really fascinating (all the identifying details were crossed out).
After some lunch we drove to the base of the rock. Cooper actually asked Imogen to pinch him cos he couldn't believe he was actually there! Having learnt a bit about Uluru at kinder last year, Cooper was really interested in everything about it. After reading a lot of information at the cultural centre about how the people wish no one would climb Uluru anymore, and the deaths of nearly 40 people who have attempted the climb, I was amazed to see so many people already on their way up or down. We didn't climb, but had a walk around the base of Uluru (not the full walk which was over 10 k!). We saw some beautiful and special sights as we went along. It was certainly something I won't forget and hopefully the kids will look back on it as something to remember.

Today we took a packed lunch and headed towards Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). It looked pretty amazing on approach and certainly didn't disappoint once we got there. From the car park to the first viewing platform it was only about a 20 minute walk so that's where we ended up. We've decided that the kids are probably a bit too young to be able to get the most out of this trip. Cooper was happy to keep walking and exploring, but little Miss nearly 4's legs were sore and tired after about a kilometre (of fairly rocky and steep paths to be fair!). So, although we would have loved to do the 'Valley of the Winds' walk, we turned around and went back. 

Tonight we got to see some fireworks for Territory Day! (Good time to be up here!) We are really enjoying this caravan park. Although slightly pricey ($50 a night) it's got a great layout, amenities etc. Kids give the playground a tick, which is most important. The only downside is the price of everything! And considering you're in the middle of nowhere, you don't have much of an option! For example, tonight Leon paid a ridiculous $38 for a 6 pack of Carlton Cold! So, a warning to anyone else headed this way - stock up!! On everything, but especially beer!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hello from Ayers Rock Resort!

Well tonight sees us very happy to be in the camping ground at the Ayers Rock Resort. What an amazing place!

To backtrack a little, we had a great night's sleep at Erldunda. Although we'd been locked in from 9pm (for our own safety apparently) there was not a noise to disturb us. Showers in the morning were fine and we had a quick breaky before hooking up the van and hitting the road again.

After we'd been on the road about an hour, I got excited by this sight - was it Uluru?! Luckily, Leon had been informed by a local the day before that Mt Connor often fools tourists into peaking with enthusiasm too early! We stopped at Curtin Springs (where we paid $2.16 a litre for diesel!) for a photo opportunity of the aforementioned mountain and a stretch of the legs.

Before we knew it, it seemed we were arrived at the Ayers Rock Resort. If you follow the link I put up at the start of this post, you'll see what a huge place it is. After we checked in and got the van set up at the camping ground, we got back in the car to look at the rest of the place. There are heaps of different accommodation options, apartments, resorts, backpackers etc. Heaps of different eateries - we had our first lunch at Gecko's cafe. It also boasts a shopping centre with supermarket, gift shops, post office, hairdressers, car hire etc etc.

We found a little lookout post to check out the incredible sight of Uluru. We can't wait to get a bit more up close and personal, probably tomorrow. The kids are happy that we are setting up camp for a couple of days (5 nights, 6 days to be exact) and we won't be doing heaps of travelling over the next couple of days. Uluru itself is only about 20k from where we are.

Blogger is being very difficult for me tonight with photos so I shall return with more tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Finally in the Northern Territory!

Very excited today to hit the NT! It was a pretty long drive from Coober Pedy (approx 488k!) but the kids did amazingly well. We had a couple of stops for fuel mainly, at Marla (where we took this picture of one of the many road trains we've seen along the highway) and Kulgera.

Along the way we saw a pretty incredible sight. Two advance cars with lights flashing, advertising a wide load. Then this monstrosity - two trucks towing a huge piece of machinery, it was the biggest thing we've ever seen! (Excuse the picture quality, it was taken through our very dirty windscreen!) We actually had to pull over off the road to allow it to pass.

Once we crossed over into the Northern Territory, Leon was very excited to see the speed sign! Yikes. I can't count the caravans we have overtaken thus far, Leon scoffing at the thought of 'cruising along'.

Not sure if you're able to make out the price on this bowser, but yes, we paid $1.92 for diesel! Also, they obviously experience a lot of drive offs in this part of the country. Most petrol stations ask you to take credit card or ID into the shop before filling up!

We arrived at Desert Oaks Erldunda at about 3pm and were very impressed to see our first patch of grass! It's the first caravan park that we've stayed in so far with grassed sites. It's actually a really nice place - it helps that it was about 24 degrees and blue skies when we got there. We were hooked up to water for the first time in two nights - you forget what a privilege it is to have running water in the caravan!

After a lovely afternoon relaxing in the sun, we headed over to the Tavern for tea. Delicious meals, but the highlight for the kids was chasing mice around the restaurant! Yes, apparently they're in the midst of a mice plague and our kids were the lucky benefactors. There are mice all over the caravan park and we actually noticed quite a few of them running across the highway between Marla and Erldunda.

Tomorrow, we will hit Uluru! We anticipate about 4 hours of driving, so a fairly reasonable day. (How our thoughts have changed on what is reasonable and what is not!)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Days 3 and 4

Just a very quick one to let you all know we are still alive! As expected, yesterday was a pretty big day travelling. Clare to Glendambo was approximately 477 kms of driving, which on paper should take about 5 and a half hours. Of course, fuel, toilet and food stops all were needed, so we probably got to Glendambo at about 4pm.

On the way we stopped at a great little playground at Port Germein and had lunch in Port Augusta (which we expected to be way bigger than it actually was!) We also echoed hundred's of travellers sentiments when we said "Thank God for Spud's!" (Spud's Roadhouse, between Port Augusta and Glendambo. Only petrol for miles... and miles and miles.) Although this was a super long day in the car, it was quite exciting to see the landscape changing, becoming scrubbier and sparser and the colours of the land slowly reddening. It finally felt like we were somewhere different, on our way to our goal! 

Glendambo was an amazing stop. A population of 30, two petrol stations, a motel, pub and caravan park on the highway. That was it. No water to hook up to, just power. And no grassed sites of course, just dirt! But it had a lot of character and for Leon, the pub was the winner! It had an open fire, beautiful meals (the kids chips and nuggets looked like they were being presented on Masterchef. Although the same can't be said for the 'bowl of ice cream and topping' that was complementary with the meals - a frozen and defrosted once too many times Dixie cup with the lid removed and a blob of topping on top!) 

Trying to break up the days a bit, we planned a slow one for today. Only about 2 and a half hours driving, from Glendambo to Coober Pedy. This was the first part of the trip without mobile phone reception, which concerned me slightly. The highlight of this drive for the kids was finally seeing some road kill! Yes, apparently my kids are sick deviants who want to see dead animals. Cooper was actually in tears the day before because Leon had seen a dead roo at the side of the road and not pointed it out! So today, we hadn't been driving long when Leon spotted a kangaroo who had met an untimely end and pulled over. The kids hopped out very excitedly, leaving me in the car shaking my head in shame. I don't think they were too impressed with what they saw - Imogen definitely doesn't want to see one again and Cooper says he doesn't really mind either way but probably not! Maybe there is some hope for them after all! 

We are staying the night at the Stuart Range Caravan Park. It's got an almost stadium like set up, with the playground, undercover bbqs and toilets in the centre and then the camp sites laid out in rings around them. Because we got here nice and early today, we got a prime position in the front row! After we'd set up the van we headed into town. Very dusty, dry and dirty (to use some alliteration for the day). But very interesting, seeing all the buildings set into the underground. After some lunch (John's Pizza Bar - he's on Facebook!) we visited 'The Old Timers Mine' which was an old opal mine rediscovered in the 60's and set up as a museum now. It was very interesting, Cooper in particular loved it. 

Tomorrow we hope to cross another border and stay at Erldunda, NT. This should be our last stop before hitting Uluru! The kids are very excited about being so close. I'm pretty excited about being able to set up and spend more than one night somewhere! The caravan has been so fantastic so far but I feel like we haven't been using it much, will be great to really test it out over a 5 night stay!

Extra Notes from Leon: The showers at Coober Pedy require 20 cent coins for every 3 minutes. And you can't put in 60 cents at once and get 9 minutes! You have to put money in when in runs out again! Also, now would be a good time to stock up on any alcohol, should you be heading towards Uluru (see uluru post as to how expensive beer is!).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Coonalpyn to Clare

A lovely easy day today! Thank goodness cos tomorrow is going to be a big one (more about that later!) After the usual early rising that comes with having two small children accompany you on your travels, we hit the road fairly early.
Excitement over the speed sign

For some strange reason I was put of charge of navigation. (Those who know me well will be gasping in horror, I have zero sense of direction and still can get lost in the town I've lived in my entire 28 years. There's a play centre that we've been to a couple of times just up the road in Ocean Grove - each and every time I get lost and have to ring friends swearing with frustration to help me!)

Anyway, there I was in charge. Google Maps on the iPhone in one hand, in-built car navigation in the other. I took us on a lovely scenic, countryside tour (in Leon's words "bloody goat tracks). I'm sure he enjoyed navigating the caravan around the narrow corners and hilly climbs!

But we reached beautiful Clare at a decent hour. After setting up the van we drove about 15 minutes down the road to a historic town called Mintaro, home to a living hedge maze. The kids had lots of fun racing around, finding clues to help us through and checking out the gnome village and giant chess set. There were heaps of old fashioned cottage style houses and the oldest Jesuit church in Australia to have a peek at as well.

Immie thinks the gnomes are a bit cheeky!

We made it to the centre!

"I'm the Grumpy Old Troll, who lives under the bridge!"

Tomorrow we set our sights on Glendambo. As mentioned it will be a huge day. Google Maps suggest 5 hours, 19 minutes. But with a heavy caravan and two kids food and toilet needs it will probably be a fair bit longer! So if you don't hear from us tomorrow night, hopefully it just means we are tucked up in bed fast asleep!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 1 - Done and Dusted

Well we have survived our first day on the road! The intrepid family left Geelong around 9am (slightly later than planned - as usual, things always take much longer to finalise than you think!) With a few toilet and petrol stops along the way we excitedly crossed the South Australian border round 3pm.

The original plan was to stay at Bordertown but, buoyed by our good speed and the kids behaviour, we decided to press on to Keith. First mistake! The one caravan park was a bit scrubby looking and had no playground (gasp!) Next stop on the map was Tintinara. Second, even worse mistake. After spending a tense fifteen minutes trying to actually find the damn thing, we discovered it was a Norman Bates-ish motel with two dirt sites they presented as their caravan park.

So finally, around 5pm we rolled into Coonalpyn. At least there was a playground, plenty of large, grassed sites and a steal at $22 a night. Moral of the story is 'Stop while you're ahead!'

Tomorrow we plan to be up bright and early and Clare is on the agenda. Highlights so far for each member of the family have been the 110km speed limit (Leon of course - yes even with a large caravan on the back!), Cooper saw two purple trucks (yes, he's easily pleased) and Immie was allowed to be the keeper and distributor of a bag of mixed lollies. As for me I'm just glad none of the family has kicked me out of the moving vehicle due to my extremely pesky chest infection/cough from the depths of hell.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

T minus...

Well here we are, only 2 sleeps away from heading off on our first big trip in our new caravan! There's been a lot of planning, a lot of research and a lot of packing involved to get to this point. (The first two mainly by Leon, the last one mainly by me!)
I thought a blog would be a good idea so that any of our friends and family who were interested could keep up with our travels. Will try and jump on most nights and update with some photos and hopefully some interesting stories!
We plan to head off bright and early Friday morning and make it over the South Australian border. So, back to the last minute packing and frantic list making. Til next time!