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Travel Australia with Kids

Thursday 17th March 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Sunday, March 20, 2011

A steady rain started the night before we left Adelaide and continued through most of the following day as we travelled north.  We had to make a stop in the town of Gawler (about an hour north of Adelaide) to have our awning looked at - the caster wheel on the door had worn through the awning and it was leaking; luckily the awning people corroborated our conclusion that the awning had not been installed correctly.  We are in continuing negotiations with the caravan manufacturer about how best to replace it - for the moment some well placed strong tape is keeping everything in place.

We drove through the lovely vineyards of Clare Valley and through Port Pirie (just stopping for about an hour to look at the information centre and do a bit of grocery shopping) and decided to stop for the night at Mt Remarkable National Park, near the Southern Flinders Ranges.  It is a beautiful area surrounded by tall trees and well received sightings of kangaroos and emus as were entered the park.  There is an enormous number of camp sites (over 60 I believe) - and with only half a dozen or so other campers, we were spoilt for choice!

There was a lesson-learnt opportunity not long after we had arrived - as Michael was cooking up our BBQ dinner outside, he heard what he thought were yells and screams from the boys. Following the second scream he ran towards the sound (a good 200m away) to find both boys wearing shorts and sandals standing on a red ants nest. Unfortunately the shock of the bites on their legs had rendered them unable to move, so they were just being repeatedly bitten!  Mike's yells at them to move finally jolted them awake - no major harm done, they do now look where they are standing and walking in the bush!  I was having a little lie-down with a headache inside, and so heard nothing of this until recounted later by a shaken Michael.

We had initially come this way with intentions to travel onto the Flinders Ranges and Wilpena Pound, but the unwelcome prospect of another long drive brought about a further change of plans and trip planning in general. We decided that rather than rush to see as much of the sights as possible, we would choose fewer sites to visit in the hope that we would at least get to spend a good amount of time at each one.  So for South Australia, we decided to miss out on Kangaroo Island, Fleurieu Peninsula and the Yorke Peninsula - the idea is to do these sections all together on another trip (fingers crossed).  We also decided that we would try and see the Flinders Ranges near the end of the trip as we travel back inland.  So after a very muddy walk around a couple of tracks in the park, we packed up and headed back south again, to Port Augusta and the Eyre Peninsula.

At Port Augusta, we stopped in at the information centre which also houses the Wadlata Outback Discovery Centre, which is huge with tonnes of information about the region and its history and lots of interactive stations for the kids.  There is a wonderful DVD when you first enter (through a giant lizard's mouth) explaining about the creation of the continent of Australia and the geology of South Australia and the Eyre Peninsula - the kids went back and watched it 4 times (they loved watching Gondwanna break apart and the outline of the Australian continent emerge).  There was also a huge emphasis on the aboriginal history and dreamtime stories associated with the area - Tiran was spellbound listening to the stories and watching the still-picture films.  They both also loved the short 2 minute DVDs that showed present day aborigines making bowls, spears and boomerangs from wood and cooking a whole kangaroo!  There were also interactive areas in the mining and communication sections - we were in there for nearly 2 hours!  Well worth the price of entry.  Our stop for the night was a very windy camp spot at Fitzgerald Bay (northeastern corner of the Eyre Peninsula).

The next day turned out to be a very mechanically-skewed one.  We first had to stop off at Whyalla to have the truck's wheels rotated - that was a fairly boring 3.5 hour wait with the kids being stuck in the caravan most of the time.  In the afternoon, we were scoping out our next camping spot along some slippery dirt tracks and Michael had put the truck into 4WD mode.  When none of those spots proved suitable, we returned to the highway and Michael switched back to 2WD but almost immediately noticed that the steering was quite unresponsive.  We pulled over to check it out and Michael noticed steering break fluid dripping all along the inside of the front wheel.  The closest town was Arno Bay (just 4km away) but it was nearly 5pm at this stage, so we weren't at all sure if we would find the help we needed tonight!

As luck would have it, the very small town of Arno Bay has very friendly people and the IGA lady gave us the details of the local mechanic, who without hesitation gave us his home address just down the road and helped us out.  American Vehicle Sales were also great and available on the phone to answer questions about the truck.  It turned out that the transition between 4WD and 2WD hadn't completed fully before we started driving on the tarmac and the pressure built up in the differential caused the fluid leakage (in short, no major damage to the truck - yay!!). The mechanic's advice:  in the future when you switch from 4WD to 2WD, first drive a few meters in reverse to ensure the gear transition has completed before driving forward.

The next week was spent hopping from one beautiful coastal spot to the next (so spoilt I know!!). A couple of nights were spent at a beautiful spot near Arno Bay (Redbanks) and although it was still quite windy, there was plenty of sunshine and the kids spent most of their time playing outside in the huge sand dunes and on the beach.  Unfortunately the beach at this spot wasn't suitable for swimming, so we moved further south to Lipson Cove where the weather and water were so lovely that even I went in for a bit of a boogey board (the first time I've gone swimming since we left)!

But alas, the wind was chasing us again and due to the unprotected aspect of the site, it wreacked havoc with the gas pilot light of the fridge (it kept going out), so decided to move on again, this time to beautiful Port Lincoln.  After visiting the information centre to gather some necessary details on the "swim with tuna tours" and doing some food shopping (yes, another Woolworths!), we headed for beautiful Lincoln National Park.  They have just re-done the entire camping area at Surfleet Cove - the sites are large and well spaced apart, the toilets are brand new and everything is clean and lovely.  We got very lucky that as we arrived, another caravan was pulling out of the best spot:  best view of the bay, great access to the beach and very sheltered from any wind.

Our 4 days at Surfleet Cove were exactly what we needed.  There is just enough to do around the place to keep boredom at bay and not enough to make you feel guilty sitting around just enjoying the view.  There were regular visits from the small mob of kangaroos (the same 6 or 7 including a mother with a joey in her pouch) and emus, a gang of galahs that seemed to move everywhere together and a big hole in the ground (no idea why?) that became the centre of the play area for the boys ("the sinkhole")  To top it all off, 2 other families with kids were also staying there.  If there is one thing that the kids have really missed is having same-age companions to play with.  One of the families had 2 older sons (T aged 11 and W aged 9) and the other had a young girl, T (aged 3) who quickly became Kia and Tiran's "best friend"!

We tried our hand (well really our feet) at razorfishing at low tide (whereby you shuffle along the quite thick seaweed bed feeling for the very large shell of the razorfish sticking out and then wriggle it out of the sand) - an awfully big shell for such a small reward (the edible part is roughly the size of a scallop).  Mike also caught a good sized pike one night, so another seafood feast!

I must be missing my social schedule a bit, because the last couple of camp spots, I've been organising the Happy Hour gatherings.  Happy Hour works well if there are enough interesting people to talk to - and luckily so far we haven't been disappointed.  There is usually a good exchange of information about places to stay and things to see and do, as well as hearing other people's stories and experiences. It's quite a lot of fun - even for an "anti-socialite" like me!

The highlight of Port Lincoln would have to be the "Swim with the Tuna" experience.  Kia was so excited about doing it from the moment he saw the brochure at the information centre on our first day, but as he had caught a cold just as we arrived, we had postponed it as much as we could to give him time to recover.  There is quite a bit to see and do on the tour (which lasts 3 hours) from feeding the tuna (you need to keep those fingers well out of the way and they come up with quite a bit of force!), a touchpool with all sorts of sea animals (starfish, sea cucumbers, crayfish, crabs, sea urchins etc), an underwater tunnel observatory and of course actually swimming with the tuna.  Kia and Michael suited up in the wet suits, but despite endless encouragement from Daddy and the lovely diver crew member, Kia wouldn't venture out beyond the underwater platform.  He put his face into the water from the platform and couldn't see the bottom (of the ocean!!), and that sealed it for him! He was by far the youngest there and we were so proud of him for giving it a try!

Kia and Tiran in giant hollow treet - Mt Remarkable National Park, Southern Flinders Ranges, SA (09Mar11)Lovely but wet Mt Remarkable National Park (09Mar11)The impressive entry into the Wadlata Discovery Centre - Port Augusta, SA (09Mar11)Kia and Tiran fooling around with the interactive communications centre at Wadlata Discovery Centre - Port Augusta, SA (09Mar11)
Having a dance at Fitzgerald Bay - SA (10Mar11)Sunset colours at Redbanks - Arno Bay, SA (10Mar11)View from our camp spot at Redbanks - Arno Bay, SA (11Mar11)Gotta get up high for the good pictures! - Arno Bay, SA (11Mar11)
A lovely warm beach day - Lipson Cove, SA (12Mar11)Tiran and Daddy boogey boarding - Lipson Cove, SA (12Mar11)He's really getting confident! - Lipson Cove, SA (12Mar11)Even Mom had a go! - Lipson Cove, SA (12Mar11)
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Tuesday 8th March 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Thursday, March 10, 2011

From Naracoorte we headed up to Bordertown - in hindsight not a particuarly worthwhile endeavour! We made the trip to see the white kangaroo colony (not albino kangaroos but a white genetic strain of the easter grey kangaroo) - but their enclosure (basically 10 acres of fenced area right next to the highway) was quite underwhelming and as your only view of them was from the perimeter, you were basically at their mercy for a good view and photo opportunity.  We had stopped off at a recommended bakery for lunch which the kids were eating in the car, and they weren't even tempted to get out and have a closer look!  The highlight of Bordertown?  A wonderfully fattening concoction of light sponge cake with a rich thick custard in between called a "bee sting"!  For any history buffs out there, ex-PM Bob Hawke was born in Bordertown and there is a bust of him in town somewhere - Mike refused to look for it!

Our next destination was The Coorong region, a fragile ecosystem of coastline, scrubland, lakes and lagoons famous for its abundance of birdlife in the wetlands.  We made quite a few diversions along dirt roads (one with such bad corrugations that Mike braved a very tight 3-point turn to get off it) in search of a camp area that would accommodate Optimus. There are plenty of gorgeous places to stay (all free with a national parks multi-pass), but the wind was blowing quite hard offshore and the majority of the spots were right on the water.  Usually that's our ideal spot - secluded, coastal, gorgeous views and free - but as the landscape around there area is scrubland, there was nothing tall enough around us to provide shelter from the wind!

We finally ended up at the tiny township of Narrung (population probably around 20), which is located on the banks of enormous Lake Alexandrina, and managed to find a sheltered spot near some trees in the large grassy camping area.  Due to all the rain in the area lately, the lakes were quite full. That was probably our longest driving day so far (we calculated approximately 450km!) and we weren't too keen to repeat it quickly!

We spent 4 days at Narrung and because there wasn't actually a lot to see and do, managed to get some rest (as well as upload blogs and pictures which were very overdue - much like these are!).  We spent a day exploring parts of the Coorong by driving down to Parnka Point and going over to Younghusband Peninsula in the zodiac.  Climbing over very large sand dunes and tracks for about 1 km led us to the Southern Ocean again - what a huge difference across the peninsula, with one side a sheltered lake system and the other the wind-swept surf.

The camping area was quite popular and the social scene was jumping with Happy Hour around the little shed occurring every afternoon from 4:30 to about 6:00pm. We met some really lovely people (none with kids though) who had been travelling around for years, so of course I drained as much information from them as I could about what to visit and where to stay.

Adelaide was our next stop and the very exciting prospect of seeing Mamani and Baba (Mom and Dad to me)!  We crossed Lake Alexandrina on the free cable ferry service towards Wellington, where another ferry took across the Murray River, past the top border of the Fleurieu peninsula, through beautiful vineyards around Strathylbyn and the very hilly and green farms around Hahndorf.  Spent a very enjoyable 3 hours walking around the lovely village of Hahndorf (well after we fed the 3 hungry boys their German sausage sandwiches, it turned very enjoyable indeed! Boys and their stomachs!).  The kids loved going into all the little shops.  Our favourite by far was the "Candlemaker" shop which we entered expecting to see candles, but were rewarded instead with a huge array of gorgeous German Folk Art made from wood - music boxes, ornaments, various toys and arches.  These are superbly intricate and delicate wood carvings of various themes (mainly Christmas scenes) in the shape of an arch (to go on the mantlepiece) which are lighted up by the tea-light candles interspersed in the design.  The detail and craftsmanship involved is phenomenol and they are crafted by special tradespeople in the Erzgebirge Mountains of Germany.  No photography was allowed in the shop, but go to www.candleshop.com.au/products/german-folk-art to see what they look like.

The next 4 days in Adelaide were a blur of activity and magical fun!  We stayed at the Belair National Park caravan park (about 15km outside of the CBD) as there are no free camping choices so close to a city.  The Fringe Festival was still on, so the areas around Rundle Mall (the main shopping district within the city) were quite busy (specially for country folk like us).  Although Mike and I are not big fans of cities anymore, Adelaide is very pretty (as cities go).  Lots of green parklands ringing the city itself and the churches and last century architecture give it a very different feel to the larger Australian cities.

My 42nd birthday was on the Sunday and Mom and Dad flew in for a whirlwind 2 day visit.  It was wonderful to see them - and the kids went berserk naturally! I started the day with lots of kisses and cuddles (as it was my birthday, the rule was that I could get kisses and cuddles on demand and the kids couldn't wipe away any of my kisses!), opening my lovely present (a gorgeous Tissot watch) and then meeting Mom and Dad at Semaphore Beach.  We spent a lovely (finally warm!!!) day at the beach catching up on all the news from home,  visited with our lovely friend Mrs Shakib, had a gorgeous dinner out and the kids had a sleepover at Mamani and Baba's hotel room (which had a bath!).  I wish I could say we revelled in our first night apart from the kids in nearly 3 months, but by the time we got home around 9:30pm and cleaned up from the day at the beach, we just fell into bed exhausted.  It was nice, however, to wake up with no demands for drawing paper or breakfast for a change.

The next day was spent at Glenelg at the Beachouse, a small amusement park with water slides, mini-golf, ferris wheel, carousel, dodgem cars and loads of video games.  Mamani and Baba treated the kids to a full day on the rides and the games - basically spoilt them rotten (as I'm sure they'll forever argue is the privelege they've earned for raising us kids). It had cooled down a bit by the afternoon, so we spent a couple of hours at the beach before it was time to say our sad goodbyes.  Kia, especially, was quite clingy to Mamani, but thankfully the goodbyes had to be quick because the cab was waiting for them - I don't think any of us could have weathered a lengthy one.  It took us all a couple of days to recover from the emotion and blur of the jam-packed weekend - but so well worth it!

Novel recycling of the Old Gaol - Bordertown, SA (28Feb11)White kangaroo (the only one close enough to actually photograph) - Bordertown, SA (28Feb11)The view from our camp area at The Coorong - Narrung, SA (01Mar11)Crossing the sand dunes of Younghusband Peninsula towards the Southern Ocean - The Coorong, SA (02Mar11)
Crossing the sand dunes of Younghusband Peninsula towards the Coorong Lakes - The Coorong, SA (02Mar11)Ferry crossing over the Murray River - Wellington, SA (04Mar11)My favourite shop ever!  - Hahndorf, SA (04Mar11)Not a German town without cuckoo clocks - Hahndorf, SA (04Mar11)
Very cool brothers! - Hahndorf, SA (04Mar11)The beautiful architecture around the city - Adelaide, SA (04Mar11)The beautiful architecture around the city - Adelaide, SA (04Mar11)Fountain at Victoria Square - Adelaide, SA (05Mar11)
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Monday 28th February 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Our first stop in South Australia was Mount Gambier, a quite sizeable town of 32,000, so an ideal spot to get some chores done, such as food shopping (wherever there's a Woolworths, there is a happy Parmiss!), caravan maintenance supplies and in this case a National Parks pass for the state which includes entry and camping fees.

The 2 drawcard features of the town are Blue Lake and Umpherston Sinkhole.  The enormous Blue Lake changes colour over summer, from a steely grey to a brilliant blue that truly defies description - hopefully you get an idea from the pictures, but the colour took my breath away every time I glimpsed it!  The Crater Lakes (of which Blue Lake is the largest of 4) also includes Valley Lake which has a sign warning that skin contact is prohibited due to the pollution in it (!!).  There is a lovely huge playground area (fenced thank goodness) next to the Lake where the kids spent a happy 2 hours playing.

We visited Umpherston Sinkhole - twice; once in the evening to watch the possums feeding and again the following morning to actually see the magnificent gardens.  The sinkhole (basically a cave whose roof has caved in) was beautified in 1886 by James Umpherston by building terraces, rock walkways and the planting of hundreds of shrubs, trees, ferns, vines etc.  It's a beautiful sight, but being in there in the (relative) quiet night, you feel you're in another world altogether.  We did see 1 possum during our night viewing and fed it some bread that another couple had given us - it crept closer and closer and was getting quite demanding with the feeding so we made a hasty exit.

Heading out of town, on a whim we turned onto the road towards Carpenter Rocks and Canunda National Park, where the camp area was next to an oragne lighthouse (all the ones I've seen so far have been white). It's a very remote and inhospitable part of the coast, with a history of shipwrecks. And to commemorate the history, there is the wreck of an old fishing boat on the beach which is fully accessible at low tide. The next morning we headed for beautiful Southend, passing through the lovely farming community of Millicent (where we stopped for lunch at yet another huge playground in the Domain for some obligatory energy expenditure by the boys) and Beachport.

We're trying as much as possible to stay in free camping spots - not only as a budgetary precaution but also because most of the free spots (in South Australia anyway) are located in national parks, so there is a lot more chance of spotting animals (a favourite pasttime of the boys).  In this instance, we couldn't fit into any of the free spots, and the one that we could fit into (Beachport Conservation Park on the banks of a very large and very dry Lake George) didn't meet the most important requirement - Mike's Gut Feeling Test!  So we ended up at a very small caravan park called Lynnie's - which turned out to be a great stay!

Spent a lovely warm day on the beach, boogey boarding and playing on the sand dunes and trawling for fish in the beautiful calm of Rivoli Bay - this time with great rewards:  the boys caught 9 flathead!  None of them huge, but big enough to keep and cook.  They're starting to feel like true fisherman now!  And to top it all off, the lovely couple hosting the caravan park presented us with a huge cooked crayfish, so we had an absolute seafood feast that night.

We spent the next day around Beachport - walked the length of the 2nd longest jetty in SA (original length 1220 metres, remaining length 772 metres) and the boys had a quick swim in the Pool of Siloam, reknown for its buoyancy due to a salt concentration 7 times that of the sea.  It was a very cold day and even with their wetsuits on, the boys weren't game enough to stay in for more than a few minutes and wouldn't agree to float on their backs to test out the theory.  Mike did though - floated nice and easy on the top!  We also met "The Wicked 5" - a group of young European backpackers travelling around Australia (the Wicked comes from the van rental company, not their personalities!).  What amazed me was that most of them didn't know each other - they'd hooked up en route and decided to travel together to a certain location.  Maybe it's "normal" backpacker philosophy, but I'm not sure my personality is pliant enough to get along and travel with people I don't know!  Good on them!!

Stopped quickly in Robe for some bread (the boys could keep a bakery in business all by themselves with the amount of bread we go through on a daily basis) and a look around - it's a lovely seaside town, but the cold and cloudy weather took away from the ambience.  Our stop for the night was Long Gully Beach at Little Dip Conservation Park and it took a bit of effort to get there.  First we had to negotiate a very corrugated dirt road for about 4km (slowed down to about 10km/hour) only to reach the entrance track to the camp area which included a bend that was cut quite deep into the ground, so Michael had real reservations about Optimus and Ironhide crashing into each other.

He paced along the track a few times to try and get a feel for it - we waited around so long debating whether or not to go ahead that The Wicked 5 showed up too!  We watched their little van maneuver over the track and Michael decided that we should go ahead and try it.  He did very well and we bumped our way into the camp area, which was very large with quite a few other campers already set up.  We ended up camping close to The Wicked 5 and spent a very cold but social evening chatting away.  I do love chatting to the young adventurers travelling across this beautiful country - they are so full of energy and their take on everything is novel and interesting.  And the stars were out in force that night as well - it was a very cool, clear night and the clarity of the sky was a revelation!

Bid farewell to our new friends the next day and headed inland towards Naracoorte via Kingston and the Big Lobster - the kids were very impressed, but that doesn't take much!  The road inland passed mostly through farmland and made a nice change to the lovely coastal scenery.  We reached Naracoorte National Park just before 5pm and the very kind ranger (who was just about to close up shop and head home) met us at the gate with brochures (for our visit tomorrow) and a heads up to head out to the "bat cave" at dusk to watch the exodus of the bats for their nightly feeding run.  Unfortunately it stated to rain as soon as we set up camp down the road at the beautiful camp grounds in the National Park, so no bat cave that night.

We spent the morning of the next day at Naracoorte Caves - although the caves aren't as visually stunning at Jenolan Caves, they have incorporated other things at the park to make the trip worthwhile including the Wonambi Fossil Centre which is a good sized re-creation of the world of the megafauna as it could have been 50,000 years ago.  There were robotic life-size models of quite a few of the animals of the era and interactive displays explaining the procedure of finding fossils.  It was actually very enjoyable as well as informative.

After lunch, with the weather having turned a lovely 26 degrees and sunny, we decided to head into Naracoorte town and check out the man-made swimming lake. We were not disappointed!  It's an enormous swimming pool in the shape of a lake, with a pontoon in the middle and a shallow sand "beach" on one side.  It's even got lifeguards during the warmer months! The kids had an absolute ball splashing around for a good 3 hours before we dragged them away with promise of some food!!  Unfortunately we had forgotten to bring Kia's goggles for the swim and after a couple of hours of underwater play his eyes were very sore and red!  "I'm never going to see again!!" he wailed (what a Drama King!!).  We finished off by making the trip out to the bat cave at dusk - for some reason I was expecting a mass rush of wings overhead as the bats headed out, but they mostly exited in small groups of 2-5 at a time.  They were also a lot smaller than I expected, so mostly you would just see a blur going past! I guess some experiences sound more impressive than they really are!

 

Welcome to South Australia - border sign (21Feb11)Beautiful Umpherstone Sinkhole - Mt Gambier, SA (22Feb11)Beautiful Umpherstone Sinkhole - Mt Gambier, SA (22Feb11)Beautiful Umpherstone Sinkhole - Mt Gambier, SA (22Feb11)
The magnificent colour of Blue Lake! - Mt Gambier, SA (22Feb11)Submerged fishing wreck - Canunda National Park, Carpenter Rocks, SA (22Feb11)Long walk at dusk - Canunda National Park, Carpenter Rocks, SA (22Feb11)I love the orange lighthouse! - Canunda National Park, Carpenter Rocks, SA (22Feb11)
Kia and Tiran climbing aboard at low tide - Canunda National Park, Carpenter Rocks, SA (22Feb11)Lovely Southend Beach - Southend, SA (24Feb11)All set for the fishing expedition - Southend, SA (24Feb11)If you're not covered in sand, you aren't making a good effort!  - Southend, SA (24Feb11)
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Monday 21st February 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We had a few more stops we wanted to make before saying farewell to Victoria (although we hope to come back and see the northern section at the end of the trip in November sometime), so headed off to Portland.  Our campsite for the next 3 days was actually in Narrawong which is about 15km east of Portland - we stayed at the Sawpit Campgrounds at Mount Clay State Forest, so named because they actually used to have the sawpits there; they had a little demo wagon with the large logs and the sawpit setup there as well.  It was a beautiful spot, completely surrounded by lovely large gum trees.

Since the successful catching of fish in Port Fairy, the boys' agenda had skewed relentessly towards fishing at every possible location with flowing water.  Portland is known as the fishing capital of southeast Victoria so they were all excited about getting in some quality fishing time!  There is a very long drive-on jetty where people just pull their cars over and set up their fishing rods - but it was quite rocky and the kids' little fishing rods were too little to make that work, so it was off in the zodiac again!  They launched from sheltered Nunn's Beach - Mike had to time turning on the motor between the oncoming waves, hopping in the boat and moving forward before the next wave pushed the boat back toward the beach.  They still had to scale the last wave and it crashed right over the boys who were sitting in the front - it was a great show from the shore!  Despite patiently trawling up and down the shoreline for over 2 hours that day, no fish were caught.  But the kids were rewarded with sightings of a huge stingray and a playful seal while they were fishing off the pier near the marina.

We drove down to Cape Nelson and the lovely lighthouse, passing several wind farms (southern Victoria is apparently doing a major project with these wind farms providing electricity - great place for it too as it is always blustery around the points).  This area is also apparently the best place in Australia for sightings of the blue whale (usually through a helicopter or fishing boat tour) - you can see their 10 metre high blows from the shore on really clear days and we were told at the information centre that they had been sighted from Cape Nelson.  Unfortunately this particular day was quite overcast, so no sightings - have put down on our newly created "we have to come back and do this later" list!

It was Kiavash's 6th birthday on the 20th of February - I can't believe it's been 6 years already since he came into my life! It really does go by so very fast - it made me really appreciate this amazing amount of time we're spending together and also made me wonder how we'll ever go back to a "normal" life of school-work-spending-time-together-only-on-weekends???  Kia put quite a few things on order for his day, so we had to compromise somewhat based on time, weather forecasts and our general trip schedules.  He started the day by waking up 1 hour earlier than usual to open his presents (somewhat pre-ordered by him) which he absolutely loved. After pancakes for breakfast, and between all the lovely Happy Birthday phone calls from the family, we managed to pack up and head out to Cape Bridgewater.

It was a very blustery day, so we had to rug up to a somewhat extreme level (with 2 jumpers, wind-breakers and beanies!) for our walk to see the fur seals.  It was a 1.5 hour walk each way along the cliff tops of Cape Bridgewater overlooking the Southern Ocean, so there were times on the way that we literally had to drag the kids along!  But I loved the walk - it was nature at it's most natural, with the majority of the path unfenced along the cliffs. The viewing platform was directly above the seal frolicking area, so we had a great view of the 30 or so seals that were sunning themselves, or swimming around nearby.  We were somewhat remiss with our provisions, having brought only water and no snacks (!!) so we had to use food bribery to get them back to the caravan. Even with this enticement, poor Michael had to carry Kiavash back in his arms most of the way - it was his birthday after all and everything was to be done to make him happy on his special day!  Tiran, on the other hand, was amazing and walked the entire way there and back again with very little complaining!  We did the birthday cake (which was a cinnamon teacake as requested) when we got back to the caravan, with Kiavash polishing off half of it. We drove to our next camp spot at Dartmoor and Kia finished off his birthday watching his new DVD ("Fantastic Mr Fox") with a bowl of popcorn followed by a slumber party in the dining room with Tiran and Daddy (Mom insists on sleeping in a proper bed!).

Dartmoor is quite a small town on the way to the border.  They have done a novel take on the now seemingly ubiquitous tree carvings - there is a huge "fairy tale" tree in the local playground which depicts a multitude of characters from various fairy tale stories.  We decided to cross the Victoria/South Australia border the long way by going through Nelson - the main reason being that we wanted a few extra hours to finish off as much of our fruit and vegetables as possible!  So it was fruit for breakfast and morning tea and a salad for lunch (needed some junk food after that!), and a quick drive around the lovely seaside town of Nelson.  We then waved goodbye to Victoria, dumped the few fruit and veg we couldn't finish in the quarantine bin (which we actually missed on our first run because I was expecting a much larger and more official-looking area, rather than just a small bin on the side of the highway just before the border!) and crossed into the next state of our discovery tour!

Sawpit demo at the campgrounds - Mount Clay State Forest, Narrawong, Victoria (17Feb11)Our beautiful campspot at Sawpit Campgrounds - Mt Clay State Forest, Narrawong, Victoria (17Feb11)Lighthouse at Cape Nelson, Victoria (18Feb11)The boys at the lighthouse - Cape Nelson, Victoria (18Feb11)
Fishing day at Portland, Victoria (19Feb11)Kia fishing off the marina pier - Portland, Victoria (19Feb11)Tiran fishing off the marina pier - Portland, Victoria (19Feb11)Happy 6th Birthday Angel Face - Sawpit Campgrounds, Mt Clay State Forest, Narrawong, Victoria (20Feb11)
DINOSAURS!!  - Sawpit Campgrounds, Mt Clay State Forest, Narrawong, Victoria (20Feb11)Big birthday cuddles from Tiran - Sawpit Campgrounds, Mt Clay State Forest, Narrawong, Victoria (20Feb11)Southern Ocean blowholes - Cape Bridgewater, Victoria (20Feb11)Petrified Forest  - Cape Bridgewater, Victoria (20Feb11)
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Thursday 17th February 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Sunday, February 20, 2011

The weather turned on the waterworks again as we left Johanna Beach - but it actually made the farmland and rural scenery even more vibrant and alive.  The fog was quite thick in the morning but lifted as we descended towards the Great Ocean Road sights.  First stop of the day was the 12 Apostles - even in the rainy and overcast light, they are beautiful. Although it was a weekday, it was packed with busloads of Asian tourists and when we returned to our rig at the car park, we found quite a flock of them surrounding it and clicking away like mad!!  Next was Loch Ard Gorge - another well known and gorgeous spot (photographed to death).  Kia and I also walked the extra 300m to see the cemetary built for the victims of the shipwreck (only 2 people survived) - although only 4 bodies were recovered, the families of the other victims had built gravemarkers in their memory - it was a really lovely place.

London Bridge (which was "disconnected" from the mainland when part of it fell away into the sea in 1990) was quite a hit with the kids - Tiran loved the story of how 2 people were on the outcrop when it happened and had to be rescued by helicopter.  We passed through the lovely town of Peterborough (thought about staying there, but the caravan parks were way too expensive!), had McDonalds for dinner at Warrnambool (our first foray into junk food since we've left) and then headed for our camping spot at Port Fairy.  It was on a wonderful private farm called Skillagalee with power, dump point and a toilet and charged $5 a night by donation (absolute total bargain!) and it was only a 2 minute drive to the town of Port Fairy (population 3,500) and 20 minutes from the mini-metropolis of Warrnambool (population 32,000).

We stayed a wonderful, and all too short, 6 nights at Port Fairy and we can both say that so far it has been our favourite location!  We visited Griffiths Island and watched the shearwaters fly back to their nests (which cover the entire island) at dusk - an amazing sight of endless swooping black outlines overhead, a few of them quite close to our heads as they dived straight for their nests. We contemplated diverting to see the Grampians for a couple of days (as the weather forecast for Warrnambool and surrounds was quite ambiguous), but a timely (15 minutes before we packed up to leave) call to the Visitor's Information at Hall's Gap in the Grampians put a stop to those plans as most of the roads within the actual park were closed for repairs over the next couple of months due to the recent flooding!  Not to worry, plenty to see and do right here.

The Sheep Dog Trial Championships between Australia and New Zealand were on at Port Fairy that whole week, so the kids and I spent a couple of hours one afternoon having a look.  I thought it was fascinating (specially as the lovely commentators explained the sport as it happened), but the kids were a bit disappointed that the dogs didn't have the same success with the sheep as Babe the pig - the action was far too slow for them!  We visited Tower Hill Game Reserve which is located within the craters of an extinct volcano and was Victoria's 1st National Park (declared in 19th century).  There has been an extensive revegetation project and the reserve is now made up of forests, grasslands and marshes.  We had very close encounters with an echidna, a couple of roaming emus and a mother-and-child koala set that climbed down from one tree in search of another one - now that was awesome!

The kids and I (poor Mike had work to catch up on) spent a lovely day (well it turned lovely after Tiran had finished with his monster tantrum thrown for no reason in particular!!) in Warrnambool visiting Flagstaff Hill, which is a life-sized recreation of a small 19th centry seaside village (with a little school house, church, fire station and relevant stores of the period).  It even has a little harbour with a couple of boats, pigs in pens, 2 lighthouses one of which you can climb into, and roaming volunteers in period clothes who are more than happy to have a chat about life in the old days.  There is also the Loch Ard Peacock (a life sized ceramic peacock that was rescued from the Loch Ard shipwreck and is reputedly worth $4 million) which is a truly beautiful work of art!  We then headed for Pertobe Lake and their adventure playground which is a fabulous place to spend an afternoon with the kids.  There are about half a dozen different playgrounds, a maze, a shallow lake (guess where Kia spent the afternoon??) and little water features everywhere.  The kids got some good running around time in the beautiful warm sunshine.

Then it was Mike's turn to have a day with the kids while I spent some time finalising some blog posts and pictures etc.  They spent the whole day around Griffiths Island, trying their luck fishing, but to no avail!  This was actually the first day Kia had given the fishing experience a go (he had a bit of a sore leg from all the running around the day before so opted for a somewhat more sedentary day) and by the end of it was apparently starting to get the hang of casting (thanks to plenty of instructions from fishing pro Tiran).  The following day (our last in Port Fairy) we spent together chugging up and down the canals and beaches in the zodiac, trawling for fish. It took until the early afternoon but as we were coming in for lunch, both Kia and Tiran simultaneously hooked baby salmon! It was such a shock to all of us that it was an Abbott and Costello skit for a while there, with me trying to steer the boat while Mike tried to help them both reel in their lines and put out the net to catch the fish!  That was Kia's first ever fish - and he was truly hooked after that!  They hooked a couple more baby salmon, but we let them all go as they were too small.

Did I mention that Port Fairy is our favourite place so far...................!  Very sad to leave it, but a whole big country out there to be seen yet!

12 Apostles (photo by Kiavash) - Great Ocean Road, Victoria (11Feb11)12 Apostles (photo by Kiavash) - Great Ocean Road, Victoria (11Feb11)12 Apostles (photo by Kiavash) - Great Ocean Road, Victoria (11Feb11)The boys at the 12 Apostles - Great Ocean Road, Victoria (11Feb11)
Loch Ard Gorge (photo by Kiavash) - Great Ocean Road, Victoria (11Feb11)Loch Ard Gorge - Great Ocean Road, Victoria (11Feb11)Loch Ard Cemetery (photo by Kiavash) - Great Ocean Road, Victoria (11Feb11)Loch Ard Gorge (photo by Kiavash) - Great Ocean Road, Victoria (11Feb11)
London Bridge (photo by Kiavash) - Great Ocean Road, Victoria (11Feb11)Echidna at Tower Hill (photo by Kiavash) - Port Fairy, Victoria (13Feb11)Echidna at Tower Hill (photo by Kiavash) - Port Fairy, Victoria (13Feb11)Models of the volcano craters at Tower Hill (photo by Kiavash) - Port Fairy, Victoria (13Feb11)
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Friday 11th February 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Sunday, February 13, 2011

The voyage on Spirit of Tasmania II was only slightly more tolerable than the first crossing, proving to me once and for all that I have no sea legs!  The kids again excitedly watched our entry into port in the morning and Michael and I were both grateful that we were maneuvering Optimus through major city streets before rush hour began.

We dropped the truck off for service in Rowville and drove to see my lovely BMS workmates for my "farewell" morning tea at Mulgrave (about 20 minutes away). It was nice to see them all and the kids had an absolute ball with all the attention lavished on them (Kia fell a little in love with Kellie which is quite easy as she is lovely), but I felt strangely detached from it all.  It was quite hard to get my brain clicked into "work" gear for the few things I had to take care of at the office.  We also used the opportunity (and resources at the office) to pack up 3 boxes full of the stuff we didn't want or need and shipped them back to Mom and Dad for storage (not sure where they will fit anymore of our stuff, but God Bless them for trying!).  We picked up the newly serviced and cleaned truck and headed out towards Torquay on the south coast of Victoria.

We spent 3 days in Torquay at the Torquay Foreshore Caravan Park (which we later learned is the biggest in Victoria!) and had a lovely day at the beach, visited the big surf shops where the 3 boys all got wet suits (as we concluded that swimming at the beach in the near future would be too cold in swim suits - Quicksilver provided the best suits and service by far, Rip Curl were terrible!) and boogey boards and visited the other seaside towns of Anglesea, Airey's Inlet, Fairhaven and Lorne.  All lovely holiday spots, but much too touristy for our taste.  And to really reinforce our newfound desire to be in remote, uncrowded camping areas, we were placed next to a campsite housing 8 or 9 twenty-somethings who decided that despite the rain and freezing cold, they needed to make as much noise as possible until 2am!

On our way to our next camp spot, we stopped at Memorial Arch at Eastern View, which is unofficially the start of the Great Ocean Road.  The plaque there explains the building of the road by returned World War I soldiers using the rudimentary tools of the time.  There are also some amazing houses built along the cliff faces in that section of road!  We spent the next 2 nights at the little caravan park at Wye River - an absolutely gorgeous (and patrolled) stretch of beach and a very small town!  The boys all broke in their wet suits and boogey boards - Kia loved it and picked it up fairly quickly; Tiran decided to do it on his own time and terms which pretty much meant letting the board float in the very shallow waves!  There was also a lovely tidal lagoon, where they splashed around on their boards, and some koala spotting in the nearby trees where Kia's camera skills were put to good use.

We passed through lovely Apollo Bay (reminded me a lot of Terrigal) and then veered off towards Cape Otway with a visit to the Lighthouse in mind.  On the way through we saw a few cars pulled over to the side of the road, looked up in the huge gum trees and voila!...koalas galore!  We had a great time for the next half an hour wandering around with our heads pointed straight up spotting koalas and taking their pictures.  The Lighthouse experience was more disappointing - it would have cost us $50 as a family for admission (to a lighthouse?  come on!!) so we decided to give it a miss. Yes the kids were disappointed, but we are also trying to teach them about the value and cost of things.

Our campsite for the next 3 nights was at Johanna Beach which is quite remote but continuously busy with campers coming and going.  The camp area itself is quite large and grassed - quite lovely in fact. The sea was somewhat savage and an awesome sight!  Just wave after vicious wave crashing on the shore and even producing little "blowholes" as they crashed into the sandbar just off the beach.  There was a huge lagoon however and some good sized sand dunes for the kids to play on - Kia especially had a great time climbing repeatedly up the highest sand dune he could find and sliding down.  Fishing on the beach was also a novel experience - the undertow was so strong that Michael would cast his line as the wave receded and run back before the new one hit. Got plenty of excercise, but alas no fish (well none of a respectable size we could cook anyway!).

Johanna Beach is also where Michael and I decided that we needed to put some effort into changing our attitudes about travelling, plans and life in general.  We have been on the road for 2 months now, but I still felt like we hadn't completely disengaged from our previous mindset.  And now all external excuses have been removed, so it really has put it all into great perspective that any such change needs to be deliberated by us.

On the downside, there were several sightings of tiger snakes in the campsites down the road and the march flies were absolutely relentless!  Can't have everything I guess...but we're gonna keep looking just in case!

 

Torquay Beach - Torquay, Victoria (04Feb11)Tiran at Torquay Beach - Torquay, Victoria (04Feb11)Kiavash at Torquay Beach - Torquay, Victoria (04Feb11)Braving the cold waters - Torquay, Victoria (04Feb11)
It's much warmer to be buried in the sand! - Torquay, Victoria (04Feb11)The Starship Enterprise house Mike always wanted - great way to get the views! Eastern View, Great Ocean Road, Victoria (06Feb11)Another gorgeous house with fabulous views! Eastern View, Great Ocean Road, Victoria (06Feb11)Memorial Arch - Eastern View, Great Ocean Road, Victoria (06Feb11)
Memorial Arch - Eastern View, Great Ocean Road, Victoria (06Feb11)Our camp spot at Wye River (photo by Kiavash), Victoria (07Feb11)Our camp spot at Wye River (photo by Kiavash), Victoria (07Feb11)Beach and lagoon at Wye River (photo by Kiavash), Victoria (07Feb11)
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Thursday, 3rd February 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Monday, February 07, 2011

We managed to time our visit to Cradle Mountain to coincide with spectacular weather - sunny and a bit breezy! Unfortunately the day got off to a rocky start when Tiran threw a huge tantrum at the visitor's centre and was relegated to the naughty bin - which in essence meant that he would not be going to Cradle Mountain at all!  Removal of trip privelages has happened on a couple of occasions so far, but this was by far the most significant experience to miss out on.  So I took the first shift with Tiran, while Mike and Kiavash took the shuttle bus down to the park. They spent the majority of their hour there at the boat shed at Dove Lake where they got very close to a friendly echidna!  We then switched roles and I did the 2 hour Dove Lake Circuit walk which was just lovely, and a great part of it was boardwalk and flat.  I ended the loop at the boatshed and gave the elusive echidna every opportunity to show himself again, but no luck!

Mike had been shown a well-worn wombat track at Ronnie Creek by their bus driver, who advised that if we arrived around 6pm, we would see the wombats making their way down the track to the river's edge.  We relented on letting Tiran come along (mainly because we both wanted to see the wombats and also if 7 hours in the caravan wasn't going to get the point across, another method needed to be found!). The shuttle dropped us off around 5:45pm and we immediately spotted a lone wombat grazing and slowly making his way down.  We also spotted a couple under the boardwalk and got very close to another one by the river's edge.  However by 6:20 (when the last regular shuttle leaves the area) we were all pretty cold and figured we'd done well enough with the wombat spotting to go back up.  Made our way down the last of the really curvy roads to our camp spot at Gowrie Park (close to Sheffield and in the shadow of Mt Roland) for the night arriving just before dark.

The next day we visited the beautiful town of Sheffield (Town of Murals) - unfortunately the rain had started again and kept at it most of the day.  I did the audio tour of the murals (there are over 50 in the town overall) - it was very interesting to hear not only the story and history depicted in the murals, but also the artist's perspective and intent in their art.  Our stop for the night was the town of Latrobe - never seen so many antique shops in one small town!  Sunshine was out the following day as we walked around Latrobe and down the heritage track to visit the Axeman's Hall of Fame which also incorporates a Platypus Experience exhibit.  The platypus display was very well done and catered for everyone:  there were information boards about every aspect of platypus life, a huge platypus "environment" display which showcased the various stages of their life and burrows, even a David Attenborough DVD about the platypus on a loop play. After lunch we headed to our last stop in Tasmania - S & L's house in Devonport!  Kia was so excited to be seeing Boo again and we were just as excited to be seeing our friends.

Mike hadn't had an opportunity yet to test out his new boat motor, so we kidnapped S & L and went down to a boat ramp off the Mersey River to break it in.  As we drove up, the lovely sunny weather disappeared to be replaced by very strong winds! Tiran, S and I stayed near the car, but Michael, Kiavash and L braved the elements and went out anyway - only to return 20 minutes later soaking wet from the waves crashing over the bow of the boat!  They had a blast - well except maybe Kia who was imploring Daddy to go back "There is water in the boat Dad - this is NOT good!".  We had a lovely dinner of home-made pizza at S & L's house and W joined us as well for a mini-reunion of Lagoon Beach.  The next day was our last in Tasmania and was spent giving the caravan a very good clean as well as doing some essential shopping.  Mike, L and the kids made another trip down to the boat ramp to finish breaking in the motor (it's a tricky business!), followed by a session of washing Ironhide who was very dusty!  A lovely sausage and home-made hamburger BBQ dinner at S & L's house was followed by very hurried goodbyes as we were now down to the wire for the cut-off time for checking in for Spirit of Tasmania 2. To make sure we indeed made it off the island, L gave us an escort to the docks!  It was very sad indeed as we pulled away from Devonport and waved goodbye to our lovely new friends at the mouth of the river - Tasmania had been a magical experience!

Cradle Mountain, Tasmania (30Jan11)Dove Lake circuit walk - Cradle Mountain, Tasmania (30Jan11)Dove Lake circuit walk - Cradle Mountain, Tasmania (30Jan11)Cradle Mountain, Tasmania (30Jan11)
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania (30Jan11)The Boat Shed - Cradle Mountain, Tasmania (30Jan11)Wild wombats at Ronnie Creek - Cradle Mountain, Tasmania (30Jan11)Murals at Sheffield:  religious starts to the town - Sheffield, Tasmania (31Jan11)
Murals at Sheffield:  wild horses - Sheffield, Tasmania (31Jan11)Murals at Sheffield:  Cradle Mountain - Sheffield, Tasmania (31Jan11)Murals at Sheffield:  Weindorfer at Cradle Mountain - Sheffield, Tasmania (31Jan11)Murals at Sheffield:  Weindorfer at Cradle Mountain - Sheffield, Tasmania (31Jan11)
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Sunday, 30th January 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Heading back west, we stopped at the town of Legerwood to see the memorial wood carvings.  A row of trees had been planted in 1918 to honour the men who fought in World War I and a few decades later they were in danger of falling, so the innovative people arranged for an artist to use a chainsaw to carve out renditions of a few of the soldiers from the town who had died in the war.  Very well done.  The inland roads cover mostly rural country and are so picturesque and serene to drive through.  We stopped for the night at an immaculate caravan park in Low Head (it was so clean, even Michael acquiesced to having a shower in the blocks!).

The next day we stopped in Beaconsfield, the site of the mining accident that saw 2 miners (Todd Russell and Brant Webb) trapped in a very small space for 2 weeks.  The Heritage and Mining Centre had a huge room dedicated to the incident including a recreation of the space where the miners were trapped - very small indeed and I couldn't imagine how it would have been in total darkness as well!  The centre also has quite a few hands-on displays of old equipment and machinery and a fantastic gold diggers' display complete with a replica shack, panning troughs and a hand-cranked pump that actually worked. The kids had a ball there!  There is also a viewing area of the actual working goldmine (which is next door) and you can see the holding cages go down to be filled with rock ore, back up and slowly loaded onto the conveyor belts. Unfortunately our new friends C & V were still in Chain of Lagoons, but we dropped by their house and said hello to their lovely dog!

On our way to Wesbury, which was to be our campspot for the next few days while we explored Launceston and surrounds, we saw a sign for the Westbury Rodeo which was on that day. As we arrived quite late (around 2pm and the activities were due to finish at 3pm), the lovely gentleman at the gate didn't charge us an entry fee. None of us had been to a rodeo before - it was quite an event and we witnessed buck-jumping, bullock-riding, breakaway roping and steer wrestling (of course I looked up the terms on the internet, how else would I know what the hell was happening?). The boys were quite impressed, especially by the couple of guys that managed to stay on the bulls as they bucked!

The next day we headed out to Cataract Gorge in Launceston.  It is a fabulous family area: beautiful scenery of First Basin dam and Alexandria suspension bridge, huge grassy areas and playgrounds, a swimming pool with large paddling area as well as swim lanes, roaming peacocks, peahens and peachicks, a chairlift for the aerial view and plenty of walks to do if so inclined. We spent most of the day there and were blessed with gorgeous weather. In the afternoon we decided to take the kids to the Queen Victoria Museum (Kia had seen a picture of a dinosaur exhibit in one of the tourist brochures and kept pestering us to go) - it was free entry and what a truly wonderful museum.  There is indeed a huge dinosaur exhibit with loads of skeleton and dinosaur models on display, a very detailed exhibit about the wrecking of the "Sydney Cove" on Tasmania's northeast coast, the salvage operations of which led to the discovery of Bass Strait, and a fabulous place called the Phenomena Factory which is filled with hands-on scientific displays.  I think Mike and I had more fun in there than the kids!

After successfully "convincing" me of the absolute necessity of a boat on our trip (and having acquired one from Mike's brother-in-law), Michael had been quite relentless in "convincing" me that we needed to get a motor for it! He found one for a good price fairly close to Launceston, so made at early that morning to buy it.  So a "free" boat has now ended up costing us $1600 (so far) - but I have to say it will come in handy on our trip!  We next visited Evandale, a beautiful little town about 20 minutes from Launceston.  Our major reason for visiting was to see the statue of Harry Murray - the most highly decorated soldier of World War I and great uncle to our lovely Colleen Close neighbour, Atholl Murray.  There is an entire room (appropriately named "The Murray Room") within the information centre/town museum dedicated to Harry Murray's life and contributions during the war, and a statue of him in town.

We then headed back to Launceston as my old computer just wasn't coping (or rather I was no longer coping with it!) and we needed a new one. I had promised Kiavash another visit to the museum, so while Michael was finalising the computer purchase I braved driving Ironhide in city streets in search of it - I had a rudimentary map of the city with me, but no matter how many different roads I tried, I couldn't find it (very odd given that we had found it quickly the day before)!  I put it down to my atrocious sense of direction, went back and picked Michael up, and after another 20 minutes of going around in circles, found out that the map was actually outdated!!  We finally made it back to the museum, but only for 15 minutes before closing time!  Launceston itself is a lovely city, maybe because it's still on the small side as cities go, and it has a European feel to it.

We next headed towards Cradle Mountain, but at my request we decided to take a roundabout route and visit Liffey Falls on the way.  It was gorgeous countryside, with kilometer after kilometer of idyllic farmlands and little towns.  Once we passed the town of Liffey itself, the road started following the Liffey River and at most points it was just a stream, but you could well see the damage the floods had done in the area just 10 days before - quite a bit of wooden debris against property fences and long reed grass bent right down to the ground. The closer we got to Liffey Falls, the narrower and windier the road (which as dirt and gravel at this point) became - poor Ironhide had his work cut out for him dragging us and Optimus all the way up there. With 4km left to go, we reached a sign "Narrow windy roads, short wheel-based vehicles only" which put the caravan well out of contention!  We were pretty stumped for a while as to what to do - in the end we parked Optimus in a grassy stretch next to the road and Michael stayed behind for guard duty and I drove the kids down to Liffey Falls.  Definitely the right decision as the road was extremely narrow with some unforgiving bends and absolutely nowhere to turn around!  The walk to the falls was short enough to staunch any complaining by the kids and there was ample space to play around in the creek at the base of the falls.  After lunch, we stopped off in Deloraine and did the "sculpture trail" - another innovative way to bring in the tourists and take you around the town.  Our camp site for the night was at Lake Gairdner (close to Moina) on the bank of the Iris River.  Again the wooden debris in the river reminded us that the gorgeous area we were in now had been flooded not long ago!  That night we were again treated with platypus sightings!

Tree carvings at Legerwood - Tasmania (25Jan11)Tree carvings at Legerwood - Tasmania (25Jan11)Tree carvings at Legerwood - Tasmania (25Jan11)Kiavash and Tiran - Mine & Heritage Centre, Beaconsfield, Tasmania (26Jan11)
Panning for gold - Mine & Heritage Centre, Beaconsfield, Tasmania (26Jan11)Wokring the pump - Mine & Heritage Centre, Beaconsfield, Tasmania (26Jan11)Watching the rodeo - Westbury, Tasmania (26Jan11)Watching the rodeo - Westbury, Tasmania (26Jan11)
Alexandria bridge and First Basin dam - Cataract Gorge, Launceston, Tasmania (27Jan11)View from platform above Alexandria bridge - Cataract Gorge, Launceston, Tasmania (27Jan11)Beautiful roaming peacocks - Cataract Gorge, Launceston, Tasmania (27Jan11)How lucky to see the peahens and peachicks too! - Cataract Gorge, Launceston, Tasmania (27Jan11)
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Tuesday, 25th January 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Heading up the east coast of Tasmania now.  First stop of the day was Sorrell Fruit Farm where you get to pick your own fruit - must say an ingenious idea for a business:  you get the public do the hard work of picking the fruit and pay your for the privelege!  The kids had a ball picking strawberries, cherries and silvanberries (which are very similar to blackberries but larger) and Tiran was excellent at quality control (would only let the "ruby red cherries" make it into the container!).  We got 4 containers full of fruit and went on our way.

Next I dragged everyone to visit the historic town of Richmond - full of old buildings that have been turned into shops and restaurants, the Richmond Gaol (really what could possibly impress me after Port Arthur I wonder?) and the miniature Old Hobart Town model.  It was absolutely packed with tourists, and although I'm in that crowd, it did take away from the whole experience somewhat.  Michael and the kids spent the majority of the day watching the ducklings and eels in the river under Richmond Bridge - it was lovely weather, so why not?  We then had a very long drive to our next camping destination at Chain of Lagoons - the road from St Marys included Elephant Pass which was quite narrow and seemed to be comprised solely of hair pin bends (with reassuring signs stating "long vehicles toot horn before rounding the corner" - but I think any warning at this stage would be too late!). The campgrounds were quite full, but we did manage to find a lovely spot - the best part of which were our new neighbours. There was S & L and their 2 dogs Boo and Poppet - a lovely family with huge hearts and matching laughs. Their travelling companion W with his dog Molly and friends C & V and their children M & B and their 2 dogs.

We had been quite lax in watching the news, so were actually unaware that the week prior to our arrival in the area, a large part of the northeast had been subjected to flooding due to heavy rains!  We only found out the night of our arrival as we stopped in St Marys to fuel up and were chatting to the petrol station manager.  The weather in the area had been very unpredictable lately and during our week's stay, the seas were still quite choppy.  The beach had a nice calm lagoon that's fed by the tide, which provided a safe playing area for the kids. The hit of the party of course was Boo - Kia's new best friend.  He became very attached to him and spent every spare minute playing fetch and running along with him. Luckily S & L are extremely patient people and spent a lot of time teaching Kia the ins and outs of canine behaviour.  Tiran decided that he needed to "own" a dog as well and adopted Molly who had the loveliest disposition and did not complain to being dragged by her leash all over the campsite as Tiran took her for "a walk".

We spent 6 glorious nights at Chain of Lagoons - just couldn't tear ourselves away from our new friends (and the kids new friends too, both the 2 and 4 legged varieties).  The evenings (rain or shine) were spent around campfires (wood curtesy of L and C who went driftwood shopping for us!) till late in the evenings chatting away (what camping is all about after all). We made a couple of daytrips to see the nearby areas.

First one was to the Freycinet National Park and Coles Bay - we had intended to see Wineglass Bay, but had neglected to do our homework and had gone quite unprepared both attire-wise (kids with sandals) and provisions-wise (not nearly enough water).  Also a talk with the ranger led to the conclusion that the steep walk there and back would prove difficult for Tiran (so another disappointment!).  We then headed up to the Friendly Beaches (still in Freycinet) to give the kids their obligatory beach playtime - it was still quite windy but the sun shone through enough to make it quite a pleasant afternoon.  The afternoon sun reacted strongly with the large amount of seaweed on shore and the smell was our cue to move on. Bicheno was next - some whingeing by the kids at yet another stop, but our first stop at the Blowhole put an end to that quite quickly.  Some impressive water spouts had them enthralled!  We were also told by some locals that this was the best area to see the fairy penguins come ashore at night - once the kids heard that, they were determined to stick out until dark.

We walked around the foreshore track to the Gulch - a long pier overlooking a narrow island where thousands of seagulls nest and make a huge racket all day long!  We met another lovely family fishing off the pier and while chatting away were treated to the miraculous site of a pod of 4 dolphins swimming in the channel directly in front of us (unfortunately it took me by surprise, so went undocumented on film!).  We had dinner at a lovely place called the SeaLife Centre, then made our way back to the Blowhole to await the fairy penguin march.  After an hour on the cold rocks, all of us shivering due to poor clothes-planning again, we decided to call it a night.  There were so many people there making noise and shining their lights around that Michael was convinced they had scared all the penguins away anyway.  However all was not lost - as we were driving out of Bicheno, we saw one across the road and another 3 when we pulled into the boat ramp area.  The kids got quite close to them, so it was a successful sighting after all.  We didn't get back to camp until after 11pm, to find our lovely neighbours quite worried about us!

Another day I dragged the family north to see the Bay of Fires - not knowing exactly where this was, we headed out to Policeman's Point, right at the northern end of the region.  Managed to do a bit of tame 4WDriving as well to get there. The beach had a huge sandbar through the middle, with deeper water on the far side, so Michael and Tiran tried their hand at fishing, while Kia and I pottered around the beach.  We got some pizza at St Helens and took it to The Gardens (just to get a couple more shots of The Bay of Fires area) for dinner at the beach (pretty chilly dinner with the sun going down).  But the lovely campfire was roaring and waiting for us when we got back!

We headed off the next day to a big send off by our neighbours - with promises to visit S & L at Devonport on our last leg of the trip.  We were quite sad to say goodbye - specially Kia leaving Boo!

Tiran hunting down those strawberries - Sorell, Tasmania (19Jan11)He won't eat them, but he decided he would pick some for his brother - Sorell, Tasmania (19Jan11)Got to climb the trees to get the good cherries!  Sorell, Tasmania (19Jan11)Reaching for the juicy ones at the top!  Sorell, Tasmania (19Jan11)
Old Hobart Town model village - Richmond, Tasmania (19Jan11)I love the attention to detail!  Old Hobart Town model village - Richmond, Tasmania (19Jan11)Collins Street in Hobart as it was in 19th century - Richmond, Tasmania (19Jan11)Prison escape!! Old Hobart Town model village - Richmond, Tasmania (19Jan11)
Lovely historic buildings - Richmond, Tasmania (19Jan11)2 days without the beach was more than he could take!  Kia at Chain of Lagoon's Beach, Tasmania (20Jan11)Tiran at Chain of Lagoon's Beach, Tasmania (20Jan11)Getting in a spot of fishing! - Chain of Lagoons, Tasmania (20Jan11)
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Monday 17th January 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Monday, January 17, 2011

On our last day in Hobart, we decided to re-visit the 2 venues that had thwarted us.  First up was the Cadbury Factory, which despite the touristy hype of it all was actually quite good value.  The amount of chocolate they load on you during the tour alone pays for the price of admission!  Although viewing the workings of the actual factory are no longer open to the public, they give plenty of information with simulations and DVDs and even tastings of the chocolate making process. It was quite interesting actually and Kiavash (the renowned chocolate hater) discovered that he doesn't mind the taste of white chocolate too much (which in fact contains 0% cocoa, so that would pretty much explain it).

Next stop was the Alpenrail Swiss Village Railway - it's a miniature recreation of a Swiss Village with trains going through it and I must say the size of it is astounding!  And the attention to detail quite impressive (I've included a few pictures in the gallery).  The man in charge also manipulates the control panel in the room to simulate thunder, lightning and fog as well as day and night (where all the little lights come on throughout the village and trains).  Kiavash was totally besotted and of course his excitement couldn't be contained within himself and he had to act as tour guide to all the other poor people who were there trying to watch. At our request for more information about the actual construction, the nice man put on a video made in the late 1970s/early 1980s that showed the father and son team that designed and built the whole thing - talk about dedication!

After running around doing some more chores, we packed up and said goodbye to Hobart (must say so far our least favourite campsite location - I think we're getting used to being able to camp in gorgeous coastal areas!) and headed south towards Huonville.  We stayed the night at what would surely be a gorgeous spot in Franklin on the banks of the Huon River - except that it was still raining relentlessly!  The kids refused to be daunted and although the river bank wasn't suitable for playing, they found 2 good sized rain-created creeks, put on their raincoats and played outside until dinnertime.  Franklin is one of the prettier lake-side towns we've come across and has retained some of the old buildings from the last century.  It is also the site of the boat building school, which we didn't get to visit as it was opening too late in the day.

Our next stop was Cockle Creek - where the southernmost road in Tasmania (and Australia too!) ends. The Camps 5 book indicated that we couldn't go all the way to Cockle Creek with Optimus as the bridge across had a 5 tonne weight limit.  However, Michael was determined to "check it out" and lo and behold - they had upgraded the bridge recently so that it now had a 25 tonne weight limit!  So we made it to the "end of the road" after all.  Our camp spot for the night was in a gorgeous spot (Boltons Green) with exceptionally well-manicured lawns - and around 7pm we discovered why this was so.....pademelons come right up and munch away on the grass - very exciting to just sit with the windows open and watch them!  And during the night a pesky quoll stole one of Tiran's shoes - he still hasn't forgiven the whole quoll population and accuses them all of being the thief!

Mike and I were quite keen to do the South Cape walk (which takes you pretty close to the southernmost tip of Australia) and from our research and advice by rangers, it was certainly a do-able feat with the kids (not a difficult path, but quite a long one, approximately 2 hours each way with the kids). So we set off the next day geared up against the on-and-off rain.  The first 45 minutes of the track was along a path that was quite rocky and strewn with tree roots, so the going was slow.  We finally reached the "boardwalk" area (which was old and soggy in some parts) - and Michael noticed that there seemed to be a bit of a leech issue across the way.  As we had both already been attacked and we had neglected to bring along any insect repellant, we decided it was probably safer (specially for the kids who had managed to escape attack so far) if we turned back - disappointing for sure!  Michael carried Tiran (and the backpack with our lunch and water) the entire way back (another 45 minutes) on his shoulders (pretty impressed I must say, since even thus laden he left me behind by a good 5 minutes!).  I think Tiran was simply expressing Mike's sentiments when upon reaching the end of the road and disembarking from his shoulders, he exclaimed "Phew! That was long - I need a rest!!!".

We then drove through the beautiful towns of Dover (absolutely gorgeous with hilly farmland leading to the aquamarine beaches below) and Geeveston (which I would have liked to visit, but again not enough time) and spent the night in the overflow car park area of the Tahune Airwalk Reserve as we intended to do the airwalk in the morning and then head off. What a beautiful place the Tahune is - these majestic trees that tower over you and frankly put you in your place with respect to time on Earth significance (some of the Huon Pine trees are over 1000 years old) and the beautiful Huon River flowing past.  It was very serene and the weather was perfect - sunny with just enough breeze to make the airwalk and suspension bridge crossings interesting!  We were glad we had a couple of hours of outdoor time because the next 4 hours would be spent driving to our next destination (drove to a potential campspot at Freycinet NP but it proved too tight a fit for Optimus despite 30 minutes of trying) which was White Beach Caravan Park near Port Arthur.

We're in 2 minds about caravan parks - on the one hand they are great as you don't have to worry about your water levels or having access to power and they generally have very good facilities (this one had excellent ones). On the other hand, it doesn't really have the same community and friendly vibe of free camping sites - people generally go to caravan parks together so the groups are already formed. And of course they cut into the budget quite a bit! We got very lucky at White Beach as they placed us next to a family with 3 kids who were on a semi-permanent site (their holiday spot) and they got along really well with the boys.  White Beach itself was just beautiful and we had a very relaxing morning in the sunshine - I actually dozed off reading my book on the beach (can't remember the last time I've experienced that!). That afternoon we visited the Tasmanian Devil Park at Taranna - the "Kings of Wind Bird Show" was very interesting, and the Tassie Devils ranged from babies to teenagers to adults, so the kids got to see quite a bit of them - including the last feedings of the day (separately for babies and adults).

The next 2 days we visited the astonishing town of Port Arthur - if you are interested at all about the history of not just Tasmania, but Australia, this is a MUST-SEE destination.  They have done an absolutely remarkable job at this facility - the preservation of the buildings is on-going, the amount of information is staggering, the displays are first rate and they even cater for the kids with an actual archaeological dig.  The tickets are for 2 consecutive days and if you want to see everything, you will need 2 days!  The expanse of the site really impressed me - but once you consider that at its peak it housed nearly 2000 inmates and another few hundred staff, it really was a good sized town.  The memorial built to honour the victims of the 1996 shooting was very poignant and although the names of all the victims are etched in the wooden cross at the site and around the memorial pool, not once is the name of the perpetrator mentioned (quite fitting I think).  Finished off the day by visiting Eaglehawk Neck - the Tasselated Pavement was particularly interesting. Although formed completely naturally, you would swear the "tiles" were old stones laid by men!

Brave Tiran at the Never bite off anything bigger than your head! Cadbury Chocolate Factory, Hobart, Tasmania (12Jan11)Alpenrail Swiss Model Village - Hobart, Tasmania (12Jan11)Alpenrail Swiss Village Model:  It's all in the details!  Hobart, Tasmania (12Jan11)
Alpenrail Swiss Village Model: a wedding party at the church - Hobart, Tasmania (12Jan11)No beach to play on?  Not to worry Mom! - Franklin, Tasmania (12Jan11)Franklin Lock Up (not much crime apparently!) - Franklin, Tasmania (13Jan11)Beautiful Huon River - Franklin, Tasmania (13Jan11)
Pademelons on our front doorsteps - Cockle Creek, Tasmania (13Jan11)We managed to keep them inside for a good 10 minutes before they scared them off!  Cockle Creek, Tasmania (13Jan11)We made it!!  A bit of perspective on size! - Tahune, Tasmania (15Jan11)
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