Editors Note: I wrote this post about a week and a half ago, but after a few user issues and then technical frustrations, it got deleted three times before I could post it. As such, some of the info is dated, but we’ll do our best to catch up. Read on and enjoy.
I have learnt a few things over the past few weeks and only some of that had to do with the two uni assignments I had due on the day before my birthday. I thought I’d outline them at the start and elaborated on them as we go.
Learned thing number one – don’t let Megan and Pete use your fishing gear
Learned thing number two – don’t stand downwind of a campsite caretaker when he rolls a funny looking cigarette
Learned thing number three – you can have a baby while living in a caravan with three kids and travelling around Australia
Learned thing number four – no matter how many times River falls down a slide, she still wants another go
Learned thing number five – If a kid asks you to pick up a rock for them, it might be because there is a snake under it
Since our last update, we Batty-three have ventured far, covering some 1200km or so, an almost unheard of distance in my frugal view of fuel usage. However, the kilometres have paid off, as we have had some fantastic times, met some amazing people and visited some awesome places. As we left you last time, we were camped in a small tourist town just north of Mackay. I am not sure how we ended up there, but I think it had something to do with me needing to do some work. I did spend a fair bit of my time fishing though, so it can’t have been all bad.
For three or so days we stayed there, before heading an hour or so west to a small campsite just outside Eungella (pronounced young-gella) National Park, where we had planned to meet Megan and Pete who were coming to visit. Called Platypus Bushcamp, it is a 25acre property right next to the Finch Hatton Creek, situated in some pretty impressive rain forest. For 21 years it has been owned by Wazza, a character worthy of significant mention. According to Wazza, he was passing through the area 21 years ago and chanced upon the property when he saw a small sign saying “Camping.” In his own words, “I walked over to the creek, had a look down, thought shi(vers) I can live here, so did.” He used to run a trucking company from Byron Bay, and certainly hasn’t left any of the Byron lifestyle behind. Although he denied it, the fertile rainforest soil possibly contributed to his continual supply of leafy green additive that went into more than a few of his rollies. Angela and I took River for quite a few spontaneous walks when Wazza got out his little round tin. The girl is hungry enough all the time without her getting the munchies too.
Despite Wazza’s quirks and the almost constant rain, the Platypus Bush Camp will stand out in our memories as one of the best places we have visited on the east coast. Wazza was looking to sell it too, and if it wasn’t so far away from a surfable wave, I reckon I could have talked Angela into staying.
One of the things that made it so good, or so we reckon, was the rain and the communal picnic shelter. Being some-what restricted by the wet, we and the other campers there spent quite a bit of time in the shed and as a result all got talking. One such group of campers were the Turner’s, who have been travelling for the last 6 months. Five of the six of them hail from Albany in Western Australia. The other, four month old Isabelle, hails from Coffs Harbour. “How can this be?” you ask. So did we. Three years ago, Bruce and Narrelle decided they would pull their three boys out of school and travel Australia for a year. Bruce was a builder, so reckoned three years would be enough time to wind things down. Five months out though, the pair found out they were Preggas McGreggors with their fourth. After a couple of weeks deliberation, they decided to stick to the original plan and left home, sold their house and closed up shop on New Years Day this year. For a month they travelled until they ended up in Coffs Harbour where Narrelle booked into the local hospital, had her final month of check ups, then had the baby. The guys are bloody troopers, although Angela isn’t quite convinced we can imitate the feat in a tent and 4WD with only three seats. Half the shame really.
Their three boys were a lot of fun. Not long after they arrived, the trio were building a tower of rocks. Eventually they came over and asked if I could help them move a largish rock. Thinking it might have been a bit heavy for them, I obliged and dumped it on their tower. It wasn’t until then I realised the real reason they wanted my help. Under the rock a juvenile brown snake had been snoozing away until I intruded and not it seemed pretty unimpressed. According to Wazza, it was just a harmless tree python, but the combination of angry, brown and snake, I wasn’t taking too many chances. The kids thought it was all a blast though.
Now it’s not quite right of me to have got this far without mention of Pete and Megan’s visit. Before we left Sydney, they promised they would come spend a week with us, no matter where we were. I am not sure they really understood what they had done. So after three days driving, they finally found us camped at the bush camp, although the reunion didn’t go quite to plan. The bush camp’s driveway was littered with tree stumps, just low enough to escape notice over the bonnet of a Falcon, but just high enough to lift one of its wheels of the ground and get it stuck. Every car we saw drive in hit one of these stumps, even us. Pete and Megan were just unlucky enough to get one right down the middle. Since this trip started, I have had to recover two vehicles. Wesley’s and Megan’s Tom, if you, Madeline and baby Z decide to come visit, I’ll have the snatch strap ready. Dad, if you are reading this, I hope Megan and Pete have already mentioned it to you.
Despite the inconvenient start, we can’t begin to say how happy we were to have Megan and Pete come visit us. After being alone for nearly three months, the company of familiar faces was great. We really appreciate the effort they went to to come up.
During one short break in the rain, we decided to bundle River into the baby-backpack and hike up to Araluen Falls. Only a short walk by most standards, it was definitely worth it. The falls are spectacular, rushing headlong down the mountain and into a decent swimming hole. Neither Pete or myself were willing to brave the cold, but had the sun been out, I think all the warning signs against jumping from rocks and trees would have been ignored.
Three nights later though and after turning down Wazza’s offer to run the place while he took off on his own holiday; we decided we all needed a bit of sun. Angela and I had already spent a few days in Seaforth, just north of Mackay, so decided to head back there. Besides, the fishing had proved promising on our first visit. When we turned up, we found we were camped just over from the Turners, and it wasn’t long before we all headed up the beach, bait pumps in hand, in search of a hoard of nippers, ready for a decent fishing session the next day. With the kids going crazy over every little yabbie we pumped up, it wasn’t long before our bucket was filled.
On the advice of a Seaforth regular, we headed down to one of the boat ramps, all hoping to reel in the catch of a life time. After baiting Pete and Megan up, they were off and in just under an hour, Megan managed to land three fish, a feat that took me six or so weeks. With the rest of us down on our luck, we left the remaining bait with the Turner troop and headed back to camp for an overdue lunch. The following day though, Pete, Megan, River and I headed down to a more secluded part of the river I had scouted out earlier. Before the rest of us were out of the car, Pete had managed to bait up a line and throw it in. By the time we had got down to the beach, he had reeled in a 40cm+ flathead. Despite hours and days of trying, I still have never caught a flathead. We stuck around a bit longer though, Pete and I both having a bit of fun with some small bream and whiting; I even got a small muddy in my crab pot. None of us got eaten by crocs either, so that it a huge plus.
While we were there, we paid a visit to the local Uniting Church. A congregation of 20 or so people, with us five, we packed the small building out. As a small rural congregation, it is part of a larger Parish served by a single minister. This leaves much of the work up to lay members of the congregation who, from what we saw, do a great job with limited resources and support. Speaking with a few of the regulars afterwards, we were welcomed like old friends, and they seemed genuinely disappointed they we wouldn’t be sticking around long enough to make it to the next service. As seems typical with many of the small rural churches we have visited, they are made up of an aging congregation, and they have a genuine concern for the life of their church in ten or 15 years time as each of the members will eventually leave this world for the heavenly one.
This was in contrast to the Mackay Family Christian Church we visited the week prior. After turning up late, as usual, we enjoyed the lively music and great singing, can’t say we were impressed with anything afterwards. Sadly we were taught a message contrary to the message of the bible, and despite the 200 strong, young congregation, we left at the end, having been largely ignored, despite hanging around for a while afterwards. It is a shame that many of the smaller churches, truly serving God are dying out (literally), while large churches like this seem to thrive.
Eventually though, our time with the Richardson’s came to an end. We suggested that Pete and Megan ditch uni and soccer and keep travelling with us, but I think they thought we were joking. It was sad to see them go, not entirely because we had lost our baby sitters of six days. Us Batty-three stayed on at Seaforth for the rest of the week, while I tried to fit half a term of uni into four days as assignments were due. I handed both in within an hour of their due date. I didn’t even get to go fishing once, the whole time I was working on them.
From Seaforth, we hoped to make it to Cairns in a day, although that plan was quickly dashed by another three hour pack up and slow Patrol. Around Townsville, as it was getting dark, we decided we had better find somewhere to sleep. After being turned away from two places that were full, we ended up on the side of the highway, in a rest area, the only tent in a sea of Wicked style camper vans and grey nomads. After the constant roar of trucks passing by and occasional hooting of irresponsible youth’s cars we woke (if woke is the right word, more like opened our eyes) early and hit the road, eating up the last kays to Cairns. As it was my birthday, we treated ourselves to Subway for lunch. I got a footlong meatball sub and white choc macadamia cookie, a meal I crave every time we drive past a Subway billboard.
We spent a couple of nights up at Palm Cove, just north of Cairns, while we got the Patrol ready for our Cape York adventure. We visited the Northern Beaches Generations Church (An Assemblies of God Congregation) and with River lovingly welcomed into their crèche were able to enjoy ourselves undistracted. Later we even got invited around to a blokes place for a barbie, but wouldn’t be in town long enough to accept.
After the Patrol got the all clear from the local mechanic and we somehow fitted three weeks worth of food in the back, we headed off, and that is where I will leave you all for now. Except to say we ran into Carli and Andrew Green, my cousin and her husband. They spotted us on the vehicle ferry crossing the Daintree River and eventually caught up to us near Cape Tribulation. It was great to find a familiar face in such an unlikely place, not just because they gave us an excuse to forgo peanut butter and honey sandwiches, which have become the norm, for a cafe meal on a Daintree beach. So guys if you are reading this, we really appreciate you risking life and limb overtaking us on that poorly maintained excuse for a road.
As I write this (for the second time because I didn’t save the first copy), we are camped at a place called The Bend, just north of Coen, on Cape York Peninsula. But more on the barra and crocodile action next time.
Brendan, Angela and River