The Half Lap-Part 2- June 2017

This morning was one of those mornings that once we were up it was way too cold to hang around. I was shocked by how cold the night had been and was worried…had i packed enough blankets.

We have driven to Broken Hill quite a few times now as we have close friends who live there. We have always found the drive between Nyngan to Broken Hill extremely boring. This time we found it a lot slower as Matilda has had a sudden love for the toilet in the caravan and she would be telling us she needed to use it every hour. Being that she is at the end of toilet training we wanted to still encourage her, however it had now became an amazing fascination of hers…

The Barrier highway seems to span the distance to the moon with landscape to match that of the moon in some places. It was amazing to see the landscape change, particularly from the start at Nyngan where it changed in what felt like the blink of an eye. It went from lush farmland scenes to a barren desolate landscape that that would require the toughest to survive.

Speaking of survival, the amount of animals, both foreign and native have to contend with a mutual hazard…. The mass array of cars, 4wds, holiday makers like us with caravans, road trains (small compared to the Northern Territory variety which we were yet to experience) and the great number of Army vehicles that were in convoy. Often such animals which call the Barrier Highway and surrounds home, tend to frequent the bitumen and meet their demise on the tar against such a vehicle barreling down the Barrier. We experienced the need to stop and humanely assist an emu that had been struck by a vehicle. It lay helpless in the middle of the road unable to move its body apart from its head which appeared to us to be an action on its behalf asking for us to stop. There we assisted the defenseless emu and we were on our way.

We continued on our way avoiding a lot of fuel stops due to Patsy being able to span long distances over mum and dad’s Mazda. I’m sure the fuel was fine at the road houses we passed along the way, however one further advantage was the ability to wait for larger towns that generally have cheaper fuel. This will become more evident later in our trip where in more remote areas fuel was over $2 a litre.

Although the Barrier is quite a barren highway, it was interesting going though towns such as Cobar which has a strong history. This is evident by the grand buildings in the main street and a rich mining history. The only other town which one must pass through is Wilcannia. Although Wilcannia often has a stigma of being a place not to stop at, it appears to have a warm charm of its own which we will have to return and explore.

By 5pm we had arrived at Broken Hill were we accepted the hospitality of our friends back yard. We stayed three nights. We caught up on visiting places we loved visiting prior such as the great little town of Silverton where you could spend days exploring.

 

A short distance out of Silverton, we viewed the Mundi Mundi plains at sunset, a location famous for scenes in the Aussie classic movie Mad Max. We also finally got to drive up the Line of Lode Miners memorial which pays homage to miners that had lost their lives over the years. It made us appreciate the fact we still have our own fathers due to both spending years in the mining industry back at home. The memorial also consisted of a great look out where the great town of Broken Hill can be viewed from above.

20170629_155648Silverton outback.
20170629_171335Mundi Mundi plains.

After some boring shopping, we had a night of rest ready for an early start on our way to Quorn the following day to meet with friends from home on their way home from their own adventure…….

 

Gold Rush

Hill End, NSW

We got the opportunity for a long weekend so took the chance to escape as a family and visit the historical Hill End.

I have been here before but once was for a year 9 camp and the other was with my parents about 15yrs ago.

Being very interested in fossicking, we were keen in finding out about the gold rush history and maybe even have a chance to break out our metal detector.

The drive up took us more time than we thought. We did a visit to macdonalds which always ends up being too long as the kids convince us they HAVE to use the park. This of course results in Phill or myself having to climb into the play centre to wrangle the kids out.

The drive from bathurst to Hill End was very scenic. We arrived in town about 5pm and were keen to find the camp site. We checked out the sites at the township campground and chose our site with a nice little fire pit close by. The girls had fun helping phill build a fire and we settled in for an easy dinner around the fire before bed time arrived quickly.

Once the kids were asleep we enjoyed the ambiance of the fire and watching the shoot stars and satelites. We were playing with the settings on our phones and had some fun taking photos of the stars. This was the best i could get but was stoked with my first try and will have to do some research on getting better shots.

The night was brisk but certainly not cold. We enjoyed our no power site as we could get away from other campers and wouldn’t have to worry that our kids would wake them up at 6.30am. I was a spoilt mum this morning and was given a sleep in until 9am as Phill organised the girls breakfast and kept them entertained. It amazing what a fire and a good nights sleep does!

We had a small wander around the camp sites this morning. This camping ground has everything any camper needs. Clean flushing toilets and coin donation hot showers which were fantastic, a great camp kitchen and also a small laundry for only $3 a wash! At $8/per adult per night we were very happy indeed.

We set off on foot this morning to explore the small historical town. We definately recommend walking around town as there are alot of historical signs to read. We have to applaude the National Parks for how well presented the remains are now. Each site or building has a sign out the front showing photos of it in its prime and also a small amount of information. It helped to really imagine what this bustling place was like.

The newly constructed information centre in town is done so well and professionally. We was great as our children could walk around and easily look at the exhibitions too.

After exploring the streets we visited the general store which has basic supplies. We all enjoyed a rest out the front with coffee, hot chocolates and milk shakes. We would definately reccomend stopping at the general store it was a lovely little building amd hospitality.

By the time we made it back to the camp ground both girls were cranky and complaining that their legs were falling off. So we cooked up a lovely lunch on the Webber and the girls had a rest watching a movie.

After everyone had relaxed and eaten Phill decided we would go for a walk to check out Merlins lookout. I was a little hesitant to take the girls walking again as I knew it would result in sore legs and tantrums; but its Phills birthday weekend and its a walk he really wanted to do. Needless to say, 1.5hrs, 6kms, a broken wheel on the trusty kmart holiday stroller, two cranky toddlers later we returned to the van exhausted and tired.

The walk out to Merlins lookout was definately worth it. You can easily drive a car along the road but it was a lovely day and physically a very easy walk. Once your up top you can overlook the valleys of the gold rush days and theres quite a bit of information to read too.

By the time we got back to camp we cooked some yummy beer battered fish on the webber and settled around the fire for some camping tv.

The half lap…

So it’s two days until we leave for our dream trip… and I haven’t packed anything. Of course Phill has packed all the necessary things for the trip, but I just cannot get the time to get everything packed up inside. I’m definitely someone that needs a list when I’m packing so I thankfully have my huge list I’ve been adding to over the last week, but I find it so overwhelming to remember what the kids need while on the road. As any parents knows it’s very hard to pack children’s belongings when they use it up until the morning we leave i.e. bottles, comfort blankets etc. so i know I will have a lot of last minute packing to do and just pray i don’t forget essentials.

As I am trying to pack I obviously also have the children to care for throughout the day. So as I’m outside in the van they are inside the house pulling apart everything. They think it’s Christmas Day with all the new gadgets they are finding, I just want to get packed and it eventually becomes a war between us all day. Any clothes I lay on the bed to pack they come and unfold it all and mix it up. I find all the electronics and chargers, they then tie the chargers around their bellys to pretend they are galloping horses…the struggle is real and lasts for days, (yes i even tried bribing them with an Ipad and chocolate but apparently piles of undies on the bed are more interesting).

So after a very late night of packing we are finally ready to hit the road on Monday 26th June 2017. We had this great idea that if we leave extra early we will get a few hours driving in before our kids wake for breakfast. Well like any plans that involve children, that went out the window quickly when our 19 months old thought it was time to be awake and proceeded to cry for the first hour of driving. At this point in time we are already typical tired parents wondering what on earth have we done!

going

After we stopped for breakfast and stretched our legs, thankfully the rest of the drive to Nyngan was easy, uneventful and relaxing. We have my parents coming along for the trip too so it was nice to meet them along the way ready to find a good camp site. We checked out our Wikicamps App, which we will grow to love and rely on heavily through out our trip. We found the Nyngan Weir has camping available for free. This has no amenities or power but it was clean and quite with only one other camper. We arrived with enough time to set up and have a wander around the weir which was quite nice.

nyngan

We were curious why the other camper already have their air conditioning going with their generator. As we thought it was lovely weather. We very quickly realised immediately as the sun goes behind the trees its become extremely cold in the camp site and we all escaped to the comfort of our caravans quite quickly. Thankfully we could not hear their generator at all, but being so cold it wouldn’t have bothered and if we had one, it would have been going too!

We woke up that morning and quickly cooking breakfast on the gas stove to warm the van up. Our phone told us it had gotten to -3 that night. Thankfully we had packed large wool blankets which meant while in bed we were toasty and warm. It wasn’t long before we were all ready to hit the road for a long day drive to Broken Hill.

Planning for the half lap…

The time has come, we have bit the bullet and planning to do our half lap. We have been discussing and dreaming this trip for years, but there has always been a reason why it wasn’t the right time. Work, Children, Money… but after a while we decide, stuff it, life’s too short, let’s do this! 

At that point we had a 2011 Nissan Navara and a full off road camper trailer. We sat down and got serious about a budget and what we think we will need to complete this trip. Our main concern was fuel, the never ending expense for travelling this beautiful country. We know what fuel consumption we already got when towing our trailer so we quickly worked our what we will be spending on our trip. This price scared me a little, but again its all worth it!

A few weeks later we get an amazing offer. My parents decided to upgrade their current full off road caravan and have offered it to us at mates rates. It was too good of an opportunity to say no so we quickly purchased it before they changed their mind. That’s when we realised that we need to upgrade our tug in order to tow the new caravan. There was no decision needed as we had always wanted a Landcruiser Prado. So after some shopping around we acquired ‘Patsy’ the Prado.

Thankfully the caravan we bought off my parents was already set up with batteries and solar panels so we didn’t have a lot of work needed for the van. With Patsy the Prado she needed a lot of modifications done. When i picked her up from the dealers i drove straight to our local tyre shop. After having a bad experience with dealer fitted tyres from our old 4wd we were pretty keen to get a good set of all terrain tyres. They did a deal where they took our original tyres as they were obviously brand new and gave us $100 off each new tyre we purchased. We added a set of Mickey Thomspson ATZP3.   We have previously used this tyre for a long time now and they have been such a proven brand for us that we couldn’t go with anything else. To accomodate for the larger tyre we had to place a wheel spacer on the back of the spare tyre carrier. This also made it possible to add a rear work light on the back. This worked out fantastic but the rear spacer has a really annoying rattle that would drive us batty. A little bit of electrical tape and loud music helped solve the problem.We knew we immediately needed bar work. When travelling outback Australia, the wildlife is abundant so we ordered ARB’s summit bull bar, side rails and under body protection. We feel it is so important to have bar work on our vehicle just to make sure our car and ourselves are protected as much as possible, as you need to be prepared for anything. We also added a roof rack as we had found it so handy with our old 4wd for larger items or even just picking up some firewood. We got an auto electrician to install a dual battery system to Patsy so we could confidently run our fridge in the car and charge things without the worry of any batteries going flat. Another purchased i never thought would be so important as i do now is seat covers. We have always used seat covers in all our cars but just the usual basic styles. We wanted seat covers to protect the new seats from some of the worst forms of stain known…..toddlers!! As with all children it doesn’t matter how careful they are everything always gets spoilt or accidents happen so i wanted to protect everything as much as i could. We came across Black Duck seat covers which we had seen on friends vehicles but never used them ourselves. We purchased a full set to do the front and middle rows. I can honestly say now spending that extra bit of money was the best decision we had made to protect the inside of the car from the onslaught that is our children. I especially love that no liquids at all would soak through and made for such easy cleaning.

After all that work done she was ready to go.

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The exciting part is always working out where we are actually going. We had a ruff idea which was we want to go to Darwin and also Litchfield National Park. All the bits between were just bonus’. We love anything with history so our main idea was we wanted to explore the war history of the top end of Australia. We wanted to spend as much time possible in Northern Territory so the plan was to get out of NSW as quick as we could and head north from there. We tried to keep the itinerary pretty flexible to accommodate changes like closed roads or even times where we didn’t want to move on from our camp.

After many weeks of discussions, researches and many many changes we had the plan. We would go up through Broken Hill, past the Flinders Rangers and along the Oodnadatta Track. We planned on coming back onto the main road at Marla where we would head up to Uluru, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and up into Darwin and is huge surrounds to explore. From Darwin area we would come back via Kakadu. At this point we had a flexible idea to come home. If we were short on time we were just going to come home the way we came up which is probably the quickest and if we had plenty of time we would be going through outback QLD for more new adventures.

the big one

We soon found as we left that all of this would go out the window quite quickly when you have kids!

A week adventure in the bush…part 2

Newnes

After the vomatron attack the night before from 4 year old Matilda, we had a slow start again as I was still trying to get the smell out of the van. I was also a little terrified about the idea of taking Matilda away into the bush with a vomiting bug.

We hit the road excited at the idea of heading to our favourite destination Newnes. Newnes is an old shale mining area located in the Wolgan Valley. The drive into Newnes is incredibly picturesque. If you have a chance to stop at the top of the mountain you will get some incredible photos looking down into the Wolgan Valley. There is a safe place to stop on the right with plenty of room! Going down the mountain is always very windy and narrow. I always get nervous especially this time towing our van. Thankfully it was an uneventful driving down without passing anyone.

As we arrived at the camp ground we were greeted by a very well manicured paddock with many kangaroos. There was only one other tent set up so we had the freedom to choose anywhere. We could see a beautiful stop under the trees right next to the Wolgan River. Although its called a river, it has the look of a crystal clear flowing creek. It was only to the depth of our knees at the front of our van with a smooth sand bottom. Just perfect for the kids! We quickly unhitched the van and went straight to the creek for an afternoon cool off.

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Hallelujah the kids slept in!…… I can’t believe it as I’m typing this. You will soon get to know that our children are not the best sleepers but unbelievably they slept in until 8.30 am! The simple joys of a mother. Now I may explain it as a lovely feeling, but the way we were woken up was just scary. You see usually we have to sleep with a child each as they always fight and wake each other up at night, but they seemed so tired so we gave them the benefit of the doubt. We woke up to both of them giggling and then Phill shockingly exclaims, “ARE THE GIRLS OUTSIDE?”. YES, YES THEY WERE!! Matilda and Harriet had both unlocked our caravan and gone to use our camping toilet set up outside. We called out, “what on earth are you doing?”. Matilda proudly says, “I’m just using the toilet and teaching Harriet how to wee wee”. This really scared us as we always thought about keeping people out of the caravan not keeping the kids inside the van. So now we have to look a new locks, out of the reach of toddlers hands to make sure they don’t do anymore early morning toilet walks next to the creek.

We decided to go for a drive to the Glow Worm Tunnels. We decided to drive Black Fellows Hand Fire Trail which we have done countless times now and it always seems to change with weather conditions. It also makes the trip a lot quicker. This time is was one of the worst conditions we have seen it. Nothing that would ever stop Patsy the Prado, but it definitely took some maneuvers and technical driving. We ate lunch on the drive as it was forecast for 37 degrees and we weren’t to keen to be sitting around in the sun. We arrived at the glow worm tunnels to a full car park but got set for our walk anyway. we loaded up with water and torches with the girls so excited about seeing worms (the simple joys in life). I carried a stick with us the entire way incase of snakes. We walked very slowly as the girls were adamant they were going to walk the entire 2 km return walk. After 300 m Harriet was already looking to be carried so she jumped on Daddys shoulders for the walk. This walk was so lovely and very easy. There were a few stairs to climb but nothing the kids couldn’t handle, or myself. The tunnel possessed so much history with pieces of steal sitting around the area showing signs of a lot of work from back in the day. Make sure you pack your torch as the tunnel is extremely dark, but the glow worms are amazing. The kids were amazed by them and were so intrigued by how they glow.

We recently splashed out and purchased a Baby Q Webber. Other than being the most amazing purchase we have made in a while, I love that i no longer have the smell of cooked dinner in the caravan all night long. I set the girls up with a movie at the table waiting for dinner to be cooked. As i was outside telling Phill how simple cooking outside is, I could hear Tilly telling Harriet, “Shhh this is going to be so yummy”. You see Tilly has a tendency to believe she is old enough to cook for herself just like every other 4 yr old, going on 24 years old. Usually i like to encourage her love of helping in the kitchen but in the caravan makes it a little to dangerous being close quarters. All I found on the table was an empty bottle of BBQ sauce and a piece of bread absolutely smothered in very thick sauce. Although she was absolutely so proud of her yummy dinner, you can imagine her tantrum when i told her she wasn’t eating half a bottle of BBQ sauce for tea. Oh the joys….

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The following day was forecast to be above 40 degrees. We had very little plans, everything consisted of sitting in the creek under the shade all day. It was an amazing day to do nothing except swim and eat! Half way through the day i noticed Tilly had lots of dots around her mouth and before we knew it she was covered in small blisters. As soon as i saw it i knew it was hand foot and mouth…bugger! Time to start disinfecting the van and everything else…again!

The day to go home was considerably cooler making the clean up so much easier and quick. It was such a lovely drive out of Newnes like always. This time we had to stop at the top of the lookout as we smelt a suspicious smell of a nappy. As we pulled up I noticed Harriet has chocolate on her chin. As I got closer I realised it was NOT chocolate but she had been muching on the contents of her nappy and IT WAS EVERYWHERE!! Under her nails, in her teethm through her hair, down her shirt…it was endless and horrendous!

At this point I was 110% happy to be going home to a shower!

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A week adventure to the bush

A weeks escape

Its the usual morning of getting ready to go away. The kids decide its the one day in their lives they want to sleep in, then everyone refuses to eat breakfast. While telling the girls, “come on sweets, lets eat weetbix” it soon progresses to, “EAT OR WE ARE LEAVING YOU AT HOME”. We finally strap everyone in the car ready to go with half eaten toast and no hair being done…but who is going to judge….its camping time!

We have family in Mudgee so the drive almost seems routinely now. Our two children know the usual places we stop to stretch our legs and have lunch. As we drove through Lithgow you can imagine the unimpressed reactions when we didn’t do the usual and very convenient ‘Maccas run’. We told the girls we are having something healthy and to quote Matilda, “I’m not inviting you to my party anymore silly boxes” which is her idea of being nasty. This cold shoulder treatment continued for 20 mins down the road. We both joked about what they will be like in 10 years time….

After realising that a ham and cheese wrap wasn’t the most disgusting food they have eaten they happily travelled the rest of the way to Mudgee with ‘Waltzing Matilda’ being blasted from the Patsy’s speakers.

We had organised to stay at Phill’s brothers place which is on 5000 acres about 40 mins out of Mudgee. They had given us all the directions we needed which consisted of “3 lefts and you wont miss the gate”. We found ourselves driving down a single lane cattle track road towing our caravan behind us, questioning if we are possibly lost… maybe we turned left a few too many times. Suddenly, as we came over a crest on a hill we were greeted by the most magnificent white gates I could imagine being straight from “The crown” TV series. This was our indication we were in the right place.

Once we were settled, our neices and nephew wanted to show us around their house, which was a late 1800’s grand farm house consisting of 7 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms. We went for a walk and met their 3 pet pigs and many goats. Much to their surprise, Matilda showed of her wild side by wanting to go into their yards to catch a pig and goat.

With all the running and excitment of playing the girls weren’t keen to go to bed at all. But after each having a late bath and a glass of milk they settled in quickly. Just as Phill and I were settling in with a book for the night, Tilly surprised us by sitting up quickly and vomiting all through her bed. She then began walking towards our end of the van and vomiting across the kitchen floors and up the cupboards. THANK GOODNESS for baby wipes…to spare you the gruesome details we went through a packet of baby wipes before being able to disinfect the floors. As this was only a quick week getaway I realised I didn’t pack any spare sheets for their bed… Such a rookie mistake.

By 10.30pm we all passed out in bed after a huge eventful day wondering what the week ahead will bring us….20180115_204000