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Travel Australia with Kids

Tuesday, 16th May 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Headed into the beautiful, green and mountainous countryside of NSW, towards Bellingen and Thora. Our free camp site at Thora was at the foot of the nearby mountains, ringed by huge trees in autumn-coloured leaves, next to a very busy road (thankfully quiet at night) and very popular as witnessed by the constant flow of campers.  Of course being this high up and getting close to winter meant very cold nights indeed!  Thank goodness we travel in luxury with a gas heater on board - and I still used my hot water bottle to get to sleep at night.

We checked out the Steiner School at Thora which is set in the most magical location possible - on the plateau overlooking  the mountains and the streams.  It's a wonderful school (as all Steiner schools we have seen thus far are) and a dream landscape of a location, but I'm not sure we would handle the cold weather too well (Tiran's classroom had a built-in stone fireplace and they had lit the first fire of the year that day).

There was a good supply of kids at this camp spot as well - Kia and Tiran wormed their way into a "friendship" of sorts with a brother and sister set (13 and 10 years old respectively) who taught them to play badmington (they were starting to get the hang of it by the second day) and got into all sorts of tarzan play (swinging from tree vines and climbing rocks) with a set of 5 siblings.

The road between Thora and Armidale is the Waterfall Way (for the obvious reason) and we set out on our last day to exploresome of it.  We headed to the Rainforest Centre in Dorrigo National Park which was an absolute fountain of information about all things rainforest, and like all good places of education, it had DVDs to keep the boys entertained. We did the Crystal Showers Falls walk through the lovely rainforest where you get to walk behind the waterfall - quite a novel experience.  And beautiful Dangar Falls were flowing strongly after recent rains. We had a communal fire at camp on our last night and were joined by a young travelling Danish couple (which seems to be the predominant nationality of international travellers so far) and a few other campers. It wasa  very cold at night, so as soon as the fire had died down we all rushed back to our respective accommodation.

We set of for Coffs Harbour very excitedly - Mom and Dad had hurriedly made arrangements for a long weekend visit with us. We had spent quite a few hours trying to organise some accommodation for ourselves in Coffs Harbour - from ridiculously expensive caravan parks to some suggestions of possible free camp spots from fellow caravaners and CMCA Fellowship Directory members - but luckily the resort Mom and Dad had booked into (Aqualuna Resort at Sapphire Beach) were more than helpful in finding us a spot (albeit a very tight one!) to park the caravan and unhitch.  Although we LOVE travelling in the smaller and uncrowded towns, the larger towns are certainly handy for attending to "home" maintenance and doing some proper shopping a la Woolworths.  We also visited the Steiner School in town - again absolutely wonderful.

The 3 all-too-short days we spent with Mom and Dad were amazing as always. Even 6 hours from home, they hosted us at their place, cooking lunch and dinner every night (Mom had made excellent use of the car boot and loaded it up with all our favourite meals), looking after the kids constantly (having jacuzzi baths and slumber parties with Mamani and Baba every night so Mike and I got to wake up nice and slow each morning) and basically spoiling us rotten (specially having access to a lovely clean shower for 3 whole days)!

The top balcony of Mom and Dad's unit overlooked Sapphire Beach and on our first day we were treated to a brief dolphin sighting.  We were all so excited that when Tiran piped up about 2 hours later to say there was a huge pod of them, Mom, Kia and I rushed right out to have a look. Mom and I could see them straight away - about 10 or so of them jumping out over the crashing waves, but Kia kept saying he couldnt' see them.  After about 5 minutes of Mom and I giving him pinpoint directions about where to look, Kia said "well I can see some rocks, but not any dolphins" - yes, well, so our eyes aren't as sharp as a 6 year old's!!!  But it really should have clicked for us when we had been pointing to the same exact spot for over 10 minutes that those shapes weren't moving at all!!

The weather was wonderful every day, so we made good use of it.  We attended the Coffs Harbour Show (similar to Easter Show except not at Easter and about 1/10th of the size) where the boys had their first ride on a ferris wheel, witnessed the hilarious racing pigs (which also dived into a small swimming pool), the reptile show (only tolerated for the certain prospect of seeing and touching the juvenille crocodile) and did sand art which they gave as souvenirs for Maman  Robi back in Sydney.  The show had all the "usual" show stuff, just on a much smaller scale and not crazy busy, so it was truly enjoyable.  The next day was spent at the very quaint Coffs Markets near Park Beach, then a lovely picnic and hanging around the huge beach until high tide finally forced us out of our chairs and back to the car. We kept our goodbyes as short as possible and stayed in denial about how long it would be before we saw each other again - but in fact we missed them as soon as their car was out of sight.

We stopped by the Big Banana for the obligatory photo (it is now a big theme park) and the boys spent a few hours fishing off the jetty where they caught about 2 dozen pilchards to use as bait for the "real fish". Coffs Harbour has made quite a good impression on us - great school, lovely weather, local beaches and friendly people (so far anyway) so we actually visited a couple of real estate agents to get a feel of what was available and prices etc.  It's definitely on the "we can possibly move here after the end of our trip" list.


Beautiful camp spot at Thora - NSW (10May11)Learning badmington from patient new friends - Thora, NSW (11May11)View of countryside from Dorrigo National Park - Dorrigo, NSW (12May11)Blossoming fungi! - Dorrigo National Park, NSW (12May11)
Crystal Showers Falls - Dorrigo National Park, NSW (12May11)A more novel view of Crystal Showers Falls - Dorrigo National Park, NSW (12May11)The boys at Dungar Falls lookout - Dorrigo, NSW (12May11)Beautiful Dangar Falls - Dorrigo, NSW (12May11)
Beautiful Dangar Falls - Dorrigo, NSW (12May11)The Racing Pigs at Coffs Harbour Show - Coffs Harbour, NSW (14May11)They dive too!! - Coffs Harbour, NSW (14May11)First ever Ferris Wheel ride - Coffs Harbour Show, Coffs Harbour, NSW (14May11)

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