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Travel Australia with Kids

Saturday 25th June 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Monday, June 27, 2011

All the doubts we had harboured about our decision to drive so hard and fast to get to the Dance Festival were washed away over the weekend. At the risk of sounding very politically incorrect (but it's my blog, so what the heck?) our impressions of the Aboriginal people we had come across so far was one of confusion and sadness.  But at Laura we got to see large community groups and the interactions were relaxed and joyful - maybe it was the festival atmosphere, but it was fabulous just the same.

The festival was packed (I heard 5000 attendees at some point) but a wonderful atmosphere.  The weather was magical - clear blue skies everyday and warm (nearing hot, but not quite). There was lots of dancing (as would generally befit a Dance Festival) but also music, films and art.  The organising committee had a very laid back attitude - they worked very hard, but didn't set a high score for timetables or schedules.  Mike accidently tuned into their channel on the UHF and could hear all the to-ing and fro-ing between the volunteers and organisers - quite good entertainment, actually. Kia and Tiran were absolutely mesmerised with the opening night's dances, but by the last day had had their fill and preferred to play at the campsite.  The ground was so black from the backburn that they both changed colour by the end of the day!

We visited nearby Split Rock - our first view of aboriginal rock art.  I thought it quite impressive, although I had nothing to compare it against yet.  We split up on the last afternoon:  I went down to the last part of the festival for a bit more music and dancing and the boys and Mike stayed at camp to relax.  Unfortunately for Mike, his relaxing was cut painfully short:  he was scouting out our departure route and went to move an overhanging branch from a tree, which as it turns out was harbouring a nest of native bees, who, understandably, got very upset with him and stung him a few times!

We had suffered a punctured tyre on Optimus on our first night at camp (thanks to a broken bit of tree branch on the ground); Mike had done a patch job on it and it seemed to be holding up quite well over the weekend, but we weren't completely certain that it would hold up upon driving. I kept an eye on it for the first few kilometers and as it seemed to be holding up, we relaxed.  We arrived at our next campspot - the Lion's Den Hotel at Helenvale, about 30km south of Cooktown - to discover that we had lost the wheel!  (Mike: "The wheel is gone".  Parmiss: "Oh you mean it's shredded?".  Mike: "No, the whole wheel including the rim is gone!").  Hilarious a couple of weeks later, but at the time we weren't laughing!  Mike deduced that while putting the patched tyre back on the caravan he got distracted and forgot to actually tighten the wheel nuts.  Wonder where our tyre ended up?  Hope it's not too lonely out in the outback roads between Cooktown and Laura!  I still can't believe we drove over 100km with 3 tyres on the 5th wheeler and didn't even notice!

The very friendly mechanic at Cooktown couldn't provide us with a spare tyre or the replacement parts we needed, but he patched up the threads on the wheel rim so we could get back to Cairns.  We spent the day looking around lovely Cooktown - a very clean and quiet town; I got my museum fix and Kia got his crocodile fix with the "Croc Shop" which featured an enormous 5m crocodile statue in the front window and was filled with crocodile paraphenelia.

Then off to Cairns via Mareeba to sort out our tyre situation - I have to say I've been really impressed with the NRMA Premium Care; they've stepped up everytime. We managed to get all our errands and shopping done at the "big city" and had a quick look around the marina (where we saw some jaw-dropping boats!  Tiran has now decided that after this trip is over we have to buy a massive boat and travel around the coast of Australia!) and foreshore before heading up along the beautiful coast road to Port Douglas and then to our camp spot at Wonga Beach.  The weather was quite tempermental during our stay - hot when the sun was out, cool and windy when the clouds came over.  But given that it was now late June, we were quite happy to be up north.

We spent a day up at the Daintree and Cape Tribulation.  It's a huge area and so very very commercial - it seemed as if nearly every building we passed was a resort, B&B or backpacker accommodation of some type.  The Discovery Centre was excellent - in addition to the great information about the area, they also had some very handy animal documentaries showing in one of their theatres, so the boys were kept busy while we got to actually look through the centre properly.  We had lunch near the beach at Cape Tribulation - all quite nice, but sorry to say, not all that spectacular.  I was much more impressed with Mossman Gorge - beautiful rainforest surrounding this postcard-style gorge with huge white boulders.

Although we felt we hadn't really seen much of the Queensland coast, we're quite excited about heading inland towards the Queensland Outback - and how did we go through half of our trip so fast anyway????

Camping on the black soil - Laura, QLD (17June11)Warm welcome from Uncle George to start the festival -  Laura, QLD (17June11)Eventual winners Lockhart River -  Laura, QLD (17June11)The didj players did an awesome job! - Laura, QLD (17June11)
Laura Dance Festival -  Laura, QLD (18June11)Laura Dance Festival -  Laura, QLD (18June11)Laura Dance Festival -  Laura, QLD (18June11)Laura Dance Festival -  Laura, QLD (18June11)
Laura Dance Festival -  Laura, QLD (18June11)Laura Dance Festival -  Laura, QLD (18June11)Laura Dance Festival -  Laura, QLD (18June11)Laura Dance Festival -  Laura, QLD (18June11)
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