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Travel Australia with Kids

Friday 8th July 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Sunday, July 10, 2011

As we left Wonga Beach and headed inland we received word that my wonderful grandmother had finally succumed to her cancer - she passed away on Monday 27th June 2011.  We had returned to Sydney from the WA border in March to see her (and I'm so glad that we did it when we were all still able to enjoy being with each other) and I had made a decision then that I wouldn't return for the funeral, for a multitude of reasons. So we continued on our trip - saddened but with the sharp point of grief muted thanks to the distance.

We travelled down towards Cairns and took the magically beautiful road via Kuranda to head inland towards Atherton again. At our free campspot at Tolga, we met up with M & L, a lovely couple whom Michael had met very briefly in LaTrobe, Tasmania (soooo long ago!). We had a lovely catch up and discovered that we were travelling in roughly the same direction for next few weeks. We visited the Crystal Caves in Atherton - a huge underground "cavern" full of stones, rocks and crystals collected from all over the world.  It was quite an impressive collection and the kids loved it because of the groovy mining hats with lamps that they got to wear and because they could touch absolutely everything!

Had planned to spend the night at a free campspot in Ravenshoe (the highest town in Queensland) but found it closed down when we arrived. So we had a quick look at Millstream Falls (Little and Big) and headed further inland for the night, leaving the cold and rainy tablelands behind.  We had pre-booked our stay and tour of the Undarra Lava Tubes, which was very lucky because M & L who showed up a couple of hours after us without a booking were out of luck for a couple of days!  A very worthwhile and interesting tour of these "tubes" (tunnels really) that are formed through the supercooling of the top layer of volcanic lava.  They can only be discovered when part of the roof above them collapses but they go on for kilometers!

As the reality of Maman Robi's passing washed over me, aided in no small part by the outpouring of emotion via email and Facebook, I decided that I needed to return for the funeral after all. We weren't prepared for another marathon driving session (much longer this time!), so we travelled back to Cairns over the next day, stored Optimus and Ironhide and caught a plane back to Sydney (very exciting for the boys and I must say they behaved impeccably on the flight).  We spent 4 days in Sydney, helping as much as we could with the arrangements and although the occasion was a sad one, it was wonderful to see the family again.  My paternal grandmother and auntie had also just arrived from Iran, so it was a bittersweet reunion on that front as well.

We flew back to Cairns the day after the funeral and spent the next 2 days driving back to where we had left off - this re-treading of steps gave us all a chance to wind down from all the happenings over the weekend and get back into the "travel mode" again.  Stopped off very quickly at the Innot Hot Springs - yup, they were pretty hot! At our first rest stop (near Gilbert River) we had a midnight knock on the door from the police - apparently a teenage girl had run off after an argument with her parents and was last seen getting in a car similar to ours. The very apologetic officer had a quick peek inside our caravan and continued on his search. The next day as we passed through Normanton, we were hailed on the UHF by roadside workers - they asked if we were aware that a description of our car has been given out in relation to a missing/runaway girl. We were starting to think there was an APB out on us!

Travelling through this part of the outback, the true meaning of "Big Sky Country" finally revealed itself. There is often nothing between ground and sky to break the vista (no trees, buildings, even radio towers) and the sky is massive and overwhelms you! It has to be experienced to be understood.

Karumba is a lovely little seaside town, but unless you have an adequate sized boat for the sea or a boating license to hire one, there really isn't much to do there.  We spent the afternoon on the beach, walking and collecting shells, then headed back towards Normanton.  We had bookings for the upcoming weekend at Lawn Hill Gorge National Park so were planning on driving through Normanton, stopping only to have pictures with the huge crocodile statue.  But as we pulled over in front of said croc statue, Mike discovered that the power-steering liquid had all drained out. So NRMA was called (we're fast becoming their favourite customers) and the local mechanic showed up 20 minutes later and after a quick check diagnosed a leaking hose (I'm pretty sure Michael told him that at the beginning)!

Initial estimates were that we may have to hang around for a week, so the NRMA put us up in the caravan park and arranged a hire car (1 of 4 available in the whole town) and we called and re-arranged our Lawn Hill Gorge booking.  But as it turned out, the handy mechanic only needed 1 day to fix the problem - a loose clamp on the hose. I was sort of looking forward to "having to" stay put in one place, especially a place like Normanton where there is so little to do, you HAVE to relax and catch up on things like blogging.  But we were also quite happy not to have our schedule tightened anymore than it already has been.

Our last views of the lovely cane fields - road to Cairns, QLD (26June11)Lookout views from Kuranda - QLD (26June11)Lookout views from Kuranda - QLD (26June11)Curtain Fig Tree - Yungaburra, QLD (26June11)
Curtain Fig Tree - Yungaburra, QLD (26June11)I've never seen the actual end of a rainbow before! - Yungaburra, QLD (26June11)Ironhide & Optimus with their new Crystal Caves - Atherton, QLD (28June11)
Crystal Caves - Atherton, QLD (28June11)They loved those hats! - Crystal Caves, Atherton, QLD (28June11)Height from ground depicts annual rainfall, distance is from Ravenshoe - QLD (28June11)Little Millstream Falls - Ravenshoe, QLD (28June11)
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