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Travel Australia with Kids

Wednesday, 25th May 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Thursday, May 26, 2011

We had spent our last night in Coffs Harbour at the southern breakwall, which is an unofficial free camping spot.  There were only 2 other caravaners there for the night and we awoke to find that our poor truck had been "ice-creamed" during the night - at least they didn't throw a rock!

One last activity before we bid farewell to Coffs Habour - the Pet Porpoise Pool.  Mike and I really aren't keen on doing too many commercial outings - it would be phenomenally expensive and we would rather teach the kids to find other ways to be amused and thrilled.  We are, after all, travelling around this magnificent country where there is so much to see and experience naturally. The major impetus for this particular outing was the promise of actually touching the dolphins. And I have to say it was well worth it - we got dolphin and seal kisses, I got the chance to feed a jumping dolphin and at the end of the show everyone gathered at the pool edge to pat the dolphins on their tummy as they swam by on their backs.  The seal and dolphin shows were both entertaining and informative and there were little penguins too!!

Made our way further north, stopping quickly at the small-ish town of Woolgoolga (just outside Coffs) in the vain hope of seeing the whale migration (yes, still in denial about the reality that we are in fact still a month or so too early). We continued through Grafton (just another big town really) and through the very cute town of Maclean (with their tartan-designed power poles) where we saw our first sugar cane fields.  The Clarence River is the life blood of this area, and empties into the Pacific Ocean between Yamba and Iluka.  We had a quick stop and look around at Yamba (mainly because it was voted best town in Australia to live in) - nice enough area and quite a bit larger than I had expected, but we really didn't have the time to explore properly.

We spent a night at the New Italy rest area next to the museum and pavilion complex, which are quite extensive and impressive and tell the story of the settlement of New Italy - which goes like this:  about 350 Italians boarded an expedition organised by Marquis de Ray aboard the "India" headed for a new life in New Guinea.  Conditions there were so horrible that they all then sailed onto New Caledonia which wouldn't allow them to settle, so they set final sail for NSW where Sir Henry Parkes accepted them, but separated them and forced them to integrate into society.  This didn't work out too well either, so they petitioned to settle elsewhere together and were given some rejected land (deemed by settlers as too hard to cultivate) and so New Italy was born.  The pavilion is actually a tribute to their origins in Italy and beautifully depicts the 20 regions of Italy with lovely murals (all painted by the same successful Italian immigrant in his retirement years) and tonnes of information.

Had one cold and rainy day and night in Ballina (fishing plans thwarted yet again), where we spotted our first cane toad (yuk!!) then headed up to Byron Bay.  We visited the Steiner school - very impressive set up and one of the few in Australia that goes all the way to Year 12.  Unfortunately neither of us were too impressed with the "principal" who had joined not long ago after many years teaching at a mainstream school - we both felt that he absolutely did not embody the Steiner principles.  Byron Bay lighthouse and the surrounding national park are beautiful (and still in denial we scouted around for some whales - no luck, but we did see a pod of 4 dolphins) and is also where the "most easterly point on the mainland" is located.  The town itself has a very trendy and "happening" vibe to it, but it was ridiculously busy with tourists, even this late in the season. And we really don't do busy and crowded too well. We also visited nearby Mullumbimby to see their Steiner School - which was our favourite one so far.  But the town itself was way too alternative for us and the real estate is actually more expensive than Sydney.

We were quite exhausted from the last few weeks of travel, so we decided to pick a place to hole up for a few days, get some rest and plan out a very general itinerary for Queensland.  We decided to head inland again and chose Toonumbar Dam near the small town of Kyogle (about 80km west of Byron and 60km south of the Queensland border). We stayed there for 5 nights and although the weather was wet and cold, it was a beautiful spot with plenty of boating and fishing opportunities. The boys adapted well to the poor weather by playing Lego, play-dough and drawing with the occasional DVD thrown in for some much needed sanity for us.  They also caught plenty of catfish - we kept the first 3 and threw the rest back (there's only so much catfish one can eat).  Michael also caught his first bass ever when he took the boat out for a spin on the dam on our last morning.

Tiran livened things up by getting a tick stuck in his back - not a huge deal by most standards, but with our boys, anything which signifies a medical intervention is usually enough for a melodrama of gigantic proportions.  After about 30 minutes of pleading, cajoling, threatening and at one point trying to hold him down while Mike tried to extricate the tick, we gave up and Mike and Tiran headed into the hospital in Kyogle.  They returned 3 hours later, minus tick, a much happier Tiran as he had scored a "special hospital grade band-aid" out of the ordeal.

Next stop............Queensland!

Just look at that gorgeous face! - Pet Porpoise Pool, Coffs Harbour, NSW (17May11)Lining up for our kiss - Pet Porpoise Pool, Coffs Harbour, NSW (17May11)Big Kiss! - Pet Porpoise Pool, Coffs Harbour, NSW (17May11)Kia shaking fins - Pet Porpoise Pool, Coffs Harbour, NSW (17May11)
Wet whiskery seal kiss - Pet Porpoise Pool, Coffs Harbour, NSW (17May11)Seal show - Pet Porpoise Pool, Coffs Harbour, NSW (17May11)Dolphin show - Pet Porpoise Pool, Coffs Harbour, NSW (17May11)Parmiss feeding jumping dolphins - Pet Porpoise Pool, Coffs Harbour, NSW (17May11)
Tiran feeding the little peguins - Pet Porpoise Pool, Coffs Harbour, NSW (17May11)Some of the murals of the Italian Pavilion - New Italy, NSW (18May11)Italian Pavilion sign - New Italy, NSW (18May11)Beautiful Byron Bay lighthouse - Byron Bay, NSW (19May11)
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