Well with just a few days before we hit the open road again we thought we'd keep you updated on what’s going on here in Far North Queensland. Since our last entry we've had a few more trips that we thought you may be interested in;
Tony decided to take us off-road in his 4 by 4 Musso up in the Black Mountain at the edge of the Tablelands on the Rex Range. One of the main things we noticed while following the track was how quickly the scenery changed from rainforest to bush mainly due to the amount of light that could seep through and how open the land was. We drove for around 45 minutes over rugged paths arriving at a small creek running through the middle. You know me, we stopped as I just had to have a paddle; it was freezing. I was tempted to reenact the scene from Dirty Dancing where Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze are dancing along a log. I was all for it until I noticed Kerry (Kerry and Dave were a couple working at the resort, they only lasted only a week) had already tried something similar and lost her thong, (Aussie word for flip flop not knickers!) her fella Dave had to wade in to his waist to retrieve it. Something was telling me Nathan would not be doing this so I was to best steer clear of the log.
Part of the track crossed over what is known as the 'Ghost Road.' A billionaire known as George Quaid built this road that believe us is as long as the stretch from Doncaster services to Brigg on the M180 as a way through for people buying property near a lake he had also built. The only thing was he'd told the government he was only building a track, so when they discovered this road now fully equipped with slow pass by lanes they were less than impressed and denied access. It is still closed down to this day and is not shown on any map anywhere!
From here we continued through rugged sections and it was here that I struggled to catch my breath for a few minutes. Nathan and Dave spotted a rather large snake of around 2 meters long baking in the heat of the sun in the middle of the road, reversing to get a better look it was determined that from the quick glance Tony got it was most probably called an Eastern Brown; one of Aussies top 10 poisonous snakes. Needless to say I was on snake alert especially as Tony was reversing yet again as he had spotted another snake on the road, and leaning out he grabbed it,
brought it into the car wriggling it very much in front of my face, Nathan and Dave were trying to make the car two inches wider at their ends while I, and I have to admit, I did a very high pitched scream, and extremely panicked to the very best of my ability only to find out after looking at Tony's smiling face it was an old hockey strap!
Half an hour later, including 3 schooners of Mid-Strength I began to see the funny side. Added to the humour was an Israeli fella asking us if we had any weed, I clearly must have still looked completely shell-shocked? Throughout the day we had drove up through Kuranda which is famous for its sky cable and Mareeba where I saw my first (of many I hope) Kangaroos. These are now on our front page of the website and without a doubt is one of our favorite pictures even though we couldn’t have imagined actually spotting them on a golf course with folk playing.
So just before we leave Mossman we thought it best that we put all the camping gear to test, and what better way to do this than by going straight into the outback deep in the bush. Of course we didn't do this by ourselves; Tony led the way and kept us updated with facts such as the creek we were camping next to wouldn't have crocs in as it was too cold (phew). As you might tell we really appreciate these facts.
We camped at a place called Emu Creek. It took us just under an hour to set up our first camp site, this we are guessing will get better as I now know what I’m doing with a tent and gas bottle. We collected fire wood and Tony set the fire going. I have to point out here I really am not a hunter or gatherer as the only logs I could find were more like twigs. I shall take up the role of domestic goddess and set up the kitchen from now on. Fire alight and the night setting in I cooked my first stir fry. Yes Rachel I cooked, and apart from the fact we were missing salt and pepper it was pretty darn good. I have to admit I have been told, and I take this for the truth, that apparently even if you can cook in Australia it isn't possible to bring this talent back to the UK, so sorry if you are reading this and hoping for meal invites! With the red wine flowing, Nathan keeping the fire happy, the moon almost full and shining so bright we thought at one point it was car headlights, we ended the night retiring to our tents happily p***ed. However during the night we discovered a fatal error being that we’d bought a cheaper version torch in the hope of saving money only to find that it switched on/off as it pleased, this is no good when you are looking for a good spot for a wee. I have yet to experience having to dig a hole for a no2 but have no doubt I will do eventually, I shall refrain from writing about it though so no need to panic. Talk about instant hangover cure in the morning though, honestly brushing our teeth from a cup and looking out into the vast openness was breathtaking. I know it could be costly but every so often if you are planning a big bender of a night out I would suggest possibly trying this as a hangover cure?
With everything packed up and Stanley ready for off (we finally named the car, we'll let you figure out why we picked this name. A little clue being that at our car was missing a few beats) we headed in the direction of Chillagoe, made famous for its caves. With over 600 discovered and still caving organisations finding more we had no doubt this would be a fantastic day out. One of the first things we noticed driving were just how long the roads were and with few or no cars passing for miles. At one point I got out to take a photos only to see Nathan driving off in the distance, it really was a worrying thought with all that surrounded me should he not return just how isolated Australia is. He came back! We passed a world famous Australian pub called Lappa which is located in between Emu creek and Almaden, it is famous for being the only pub where you have to take your own beer. Already we have been surrounded by some stunning wildlife and views, a few of these include Black Cockatoos, Australia's biggest eagle; the Wedge Tailed Eagle (worryingly this was eating road kill as we drove by), termite mounds of outstanding sizes and Indian cows that just roam as and where they please; hence signs at the edge of the road warning drivers to take care and not for the fact that we may knock one over, no, more so that they will come out of nowhere and do plenty of damage to passing cars!
We passed by marble mines, you know that we ignored the do not enter sign and got a piece of marble for souvenirs purposes, and an authentic Aussie shooting range just set in the vastness of the outback and arrived at Chillagoe a little over an hour and a half later. Cillagoe is set along the Wheelbarrow Way with only 18km of the road remaining unsealed. We purchased tickets for the cave tours, I did think maybe we should just explore ourselves and soon learnt why this is the most craziest of ideas I’ve ever had and is now consequently the best $13 Nathan and myself have ever spent. With a bit of time to spare before the tour we did a little bit of exploring, Nathan’s luck was in, a viewing of historic Ford cars to start with. Unfortunately the old guy that restored these cars reminded me far too much of the guy from the horror movie 'Wolf Creek' so I was eager, as anyone whose seen this film would be, to get out of there! Thankfully the next part was much more thought provoking. We went to a place called the ‘State Copper Smelter Ruins.’ With all the information available it was hard not to feel sorry for the men that had to work in these mines, the conditions were shocking and even the heat we were experiencing was a little too much if we stood still for too long so all our sympathy's went out to them during this time.
Moving on to do our designated cave tour we were met by our ranger named Mick, we aren't joking this was his name, and all given packs to strap to ourselves with torches. The cave we were exploring was called the Royal Arches cave mainly because as you enter you can clearly see what looks to be from the side an image of Queen Victoria. I couldn't see this on the way in and was convinced no one else was seeing anything just nodding in agreement, but as we went deep into the cave and various other formations was pointed out to look like the most bizarre things such as elephants, candles, Picasso etc. I was determined on the way out I would see this image of Queen Victoria; and I did. At parts of the journey through the cave even though the flooring had all been man made for our convenience and ladders put in, some of the areas you had to climb through were really tight or low. Once we were in the heart of the cave Mick asked us to turn our torches off, the complete blackout that followed was something unreal, the eyes don't adjust ever and being lost in the extensive systems of the cave is not something we'd ever want to experience, never mind the fact that Nathan had just spotted a rather large huntsman spider and I was really aware that this was out of sight at that particular point. Besides the limestones and various roots that were dangling from trees high above us we saw, as we'd hoped, fruit bats hanging from way above. The tour lasted an hour and a half and was a must do for anyone; fantastic. We ended our day doing a short walk to the balancing rock, (A big rock balancing on a smaller one on a hill, sounds unsafe right, it looks unsafe, but it is the perfect photo opportunity.) Finally we viewed some original aboriginal Wullumba art, it is rather strange on to the eye on first appearance but there is something entirely different and interesting about it (we didn’t buy any it was too expensive on our backpackers budget).
With our eyes adjusted to the daylight we headed home passed Dimbulah and Mareeba stopping at Almaden 'Cow Town' (namely for the fact that cows just roam around the town) for a few beers. We were really taken aback by this country town pub, it was truly so rural and Australian by nature, the kind of place you could retire to, and like every pub you imagine in a small town in a film-unique! The trip itself was a great experience in many ways, we are much more aware of the vastness of the roads we are about to embark upon and the challenge we are about to take in travelling Australia in all seasons.
So here we are today, 13th August, with only a few days to go until we leave, we are really ready to hit the open road and all the challenges that may occur, and then this happens, Nathan goes and rolls the bosses car!!! Don't worry besides a few cuts and bruises Nathan is fine and smiling but the car, having been rolled twice, is now minus a bumper and a cracked front window shield. In all fairness they were drag racing at ‘The Reef and Rainforest Track’ 2km North of Mossman and Tony did race the car again despite the damage I’ve just described, Nathan on the other hand is now nursing a headache. (Check out the photos on our website.)
Besides all of this we can’t go without saying how grateful and appreciative we are with all Tony and Lenore have offered us here at The White Cockatoo. In between the hard work, which in itself has some fantastic memories (Lenore we'll always remember; 'but it'll get creased!'), all the trips Tony has taken us on with great commentary (‘do ya get what I mean’) and advice from both of you that we have taken on board and now aim to put into action wherever possible, we are indeed sad to leave behind some great friends. All we can say is thank for the opportunities you have given us, keep checking our updates and we hope that you have as many happy memories as we do, and if all else fails; 'Cool Bananas!'
That's all from me and Nathan for a while, we'll be sure to keep you updated as soon as we can and look forward to hearing from you all soon as it’s a great to know you are following us.
Lindsay and Nathan
I have to admit I’m a fan of the ITV show ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.’ If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about it’s a programme set in Australia where a bunch of celebrities live in the rainforest for three weeks competing in various ‘gross’ competitions to win stars in order to be fed something other than beans and rice. I like it because I’m in the comfort of my own bed or on my settee with very little chance of ever agreeing to do anything as remotely ridiculous. It’s fair to say even with all the encounters mentioned above; snakes, spiders, and new revelations such as the large cockroach that joined me in my shower causing me to vacate and without thinking run in only a towel to reception to look for the owner Tony to rescue me from it, that my time in Australia did not harden me to natures smallest of critters. In fact it only secured my love of rice and beans so to speak and has had me questioning having read the above just what we’ll encounter on our next trip. I must practice my ‘it’s cool, mums not scared face.’ I remember mum often saying to me; ‘Lindsay, it’s only a spider don’t be so silly,’ but thinking about it I can’t ever remember her removing them. Its thoughts like this that I add it to my mental list of questions I’ll never know the answer to, but I can smile at the thought that perhaps she was without knowing teaching me the invaluable skill of ‘parent acting.’ Nathan and I have somehow managed to create kids who love being outdoors, once again it’s the Nomad within us I’m sure, but unbeknownst to my children I’m often parent acting when it comes to removing worms, spiders, and general creepy crawlies which to be quite frank make my stomach flip, but I MUST NOT look grossed out. Parent acting also works in many other situations such as being underground; it turns out being deep in a cave at Chillagoe wasn’t enough to put us off buying tickets for a self-guided tour of underground tunnels in Budapest for my Dad’s 60th birthday. Once inside we were presented with two tunnel options; lit or unlit. Off we went, unlit, pitch black and cold. Now picture this; five ‘parent acting’ adults and a two and half year old, ‘there’s nothing to be scared off,’ this is SO much fun isn’t it,’ ‘you hold Daddy’s IPhone and shine the light forward, no not in Uncle Andrew’s face, forward, no that’s Grandad’s foot…’ I can imagine what my mum would have said; ‘You idiots!’
What’s heartwarming about writing this blog is being able to recognise how some things have remained the same about who I am since the original post in 2006. My cooking for one, I have little interest in learning how to cook amazing dishes (top tip, if like me you dislike cooking only marry someone who has a love for it; Nathan has a love for cooking and I in turn have a love for eating it), and therefore I remain the domestic cleaning goddess as mentioned above. We didn’t know back then that negotiating our roles when camping was going to be the key to learning how to live together. In the beginning the arguments we had were mostly over who was going to do which part of setting up camp each night, it soon became apparent whose strengths lied where; l much preferred eating Nathan’s culinary camp delights to my sloppy burnt messes and soon learnt to leave Nath to it while I set up the rest of the camp which consisted mostly of unpacking and repacking our bags and boxes of worldly goods. Incidentally we did manage to get a routine that saw our camp set up in Australia in less than half an hour, camping these days with all four of us genuinely means we’d be lucky to complete in 90 minutes! I wouldn’t call us ‘glampers’; we’d need an inflatable sofa for this to happen, but we do have an extensive range of gear that allows us optimum comfort in a tent the size of a small house. Thankfully though much the same direction applies when setting up our camp, although I have been upgraded to chief holder of the poles; not necessarily the best upgrade when often the great British weather means it’s raining. These days there are very little arguments over who cooks whether it is camping or at home, we have agreed set nights and believe me when I say I take great pride in knowing that the kids LOVE my ‘teatime night.’ Hands down; fish fingers and potato waffles with beans wins over fish baked in oils served with various roasted vegetables every time. It’s worth noting here though that the kids will eat Nathan’s food and incidentally have crowned him the best chef in the house. I have no intentions of arguing with them. It’s funny though how food can remind us of people. When I think back to my mums cooking; and at worst was the meat on her Sunday Roast, nearly always over cooked and chewy, but at best was her signature dish ‘savoury duck.’ Always on a cold day arriving home from school if I could smell it cooking as I opened our back door and it brought a smile to my face. Mum always told us it was a treat night and we’d eat every last bit. It turns out that mum bought savoury duck from the local market, it was always the cheapest meat option, and added to the pan with it was two tins of chopped tomatoes. That’s it. Served in a bowl with some fried potatoes, and I never knew, I always felt I must have done something super cool to be rewarded with this dish. A few weeks ago I made jam tarts for the first time in my adult life; I didn’t burn them, and what was even more spectacular was Isabel insisting we take them to share with her friend Alfie who we were meeting the next day because they looked and tasted like the best jam tart she’d ever eaten. Her words. Take that Mary Berry.
What I find timely is the amount of referencing I make to alcohol. In my twenties its apparent that alcohol played a big role in my evening consumption. In particular I talk about instant hangover cures being the breathtaking scenery we often woke up to. It is true, quite literally we would wake up and be in awe at the new landscape in front of us and instantly be ready to explore the surroundings or pack the car to move on to the next best thing. These days I wouldn’t recommend it as a hangover cure though, I failed to mention the nights; although there is a chance this comes up in later blogs, that we spent with our heads hanging out of the tent desperately trying not to throw up on the cheap ‘goon’ (the cheapest of boxed wines) we’d bought from a local grog shop on route. On occasion, and I’ll say this loosely, I’m still partial to a drop of alcohol but I feel less inclined to tell you all about it. I wonder if it’s because I’m approaching my late thirties and have my ‘I should know better by now head on,’ or if it’s because I’m a mum and have a responsibility to act accordingly. The truth is I don’t enjoy the hangovers anymore, and if I’m honest I much prefer sharing one bottle and knowing that the money I didn’t spend on alcohol can be saved for more meaningful things. I recently woke up in a hotel room I’d shared with one of my best friends. We’d ended our night after one bottle of wine with a cup of tea and chatted till the early hours. Waking the next morning hangover-less meant we’d enjoyed the uninterrupted sleep we did get and felt revived enough to tackle the day in front of us, my view on the drive home wasn’t breathtaking but the thought of the smiley faces that awaited me was. I come from a family who enjoy a drink, my mum and dad I realise now have always being very liberal when it comes to me drinking alcohol (legal age drinking I might add), and I thank them for this. Because of this I was clearly able in the writing of my travel blog to express my stories as they were for my twenty something self and it is only now writing this that I am able to reflect on the importance of this. On the few occasions I remember mum being drunk it was always at time where she was surrounded by family having a great time; half a tin of White Lightening cider on holiday in St Ives, one too many Budweiser’s in a bar on our local High Street one Christmas Eve with both mine and my sisters friends, and a particular birthday night out in Lincoln trying her first cocktail. Dad, we shall say no more, our epic Sheffield pub crawls remain etched in memory with love. I am also the very proud niece of an Uncle who to this day is 11 years and 5 months sober, his battle with alcohol, as is anyone who has managed to stay sober, was not an easy one to begin with, and I have no doubts still tests him to this day. When I looked back at the emails we shared during this time in Australia they were full of wit and grammatical errors that far exceeded mine (I couldn’t ever share them publically), but unbeknownst to me at that time his alcohol intake was at an all-time high and he was soon to be close to destruction. I won’t go into details, it’s not my story to share, but what I will say is that I witnessed our family never giving up on him, and my Uncle battle his biggest challenge yet to win back the respect of his family. (Although he may well tell you this was nothing compared to learning to speak and read Korean, or the recent bike climb he achieved in Vietnam.) These days his emails are coherent and dare I say it funnier, he is inspirational and someone I am proud to call family, he is also proof that breathtaking scenery is better witnessed sober as he continues in a quest to explore new countries.
With just a few days to go until Christmas 2018 this year I feel the most reflective I ever had which I am sure is in relation to our much anticipated return to Australia which will shortly follow this festive season. I feel very humbled to be in a position to make this trip in the year that Nathan and I will celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary, that’s not discounting the 6 or 7 years prior to this that we still can’t agree on when exactly we officially started dating, and more so that we are blessed with two happy and healthy children who we are now able to continue our story with. When I began dating Nathan he took great pleasure in telling me just how many cars he’d owned and how he was in fact buying a new one that following weekend. I genuinely have no interest in cars other than them getting me from A to B safely so it came as a surprise to me when I first met his cousin Shane at the car garage Nathan was purchasing the car from to hear him being greeted by the nickname ‘Jonah,’ and with this followed many a story told about his bad luck with cars. Fast forward to Nathan rolling Tony’s car in Australia and what you are about to learn in future blogs, and I was starting to see some truth in his nickname. Fast forward again to our current day and even when buying a car from a reputable company and having them serviced regularly we still continue to have the worst luck with cars. Shane is no longer with us but I think even he would be amazed at how Nathan has been unable to shift the jinx of the name Jonah. But one other name sticks with me when I think about the car stories we’ve had over the years, and that’s ‘Stanley,’ the name we gave to the car we bought mentioned above. I have to say here I’ve never named a car since, I don’t think I ever will, but for some reason this car that missed a few beats in the beginning (based on what I’ve just told you don’t be fooled here that this was the only time) was the perfect way for me and Nathan to be able to discuss his stammer openly. ‘Stuttering Stanley’ from a scene in the film Sixth Sense came to mind and opened up a gateway for us to talk about Nathan’s history with his stammer and for him to be able to recognise that he hadn’t allowed it to stop him achieving in his career and with his many friendships. As the years have passed I am so proud of how Nathan has addressed and found ways to manage his stammer, to most people these days it is unnoticeable. When I fell pregnant with Isabel one of Nathans first concerns was whether she’d inherit his stammer? I took him straight back to the memory of the days we drove for hours in Stanley, of the lifelong friendships we’ve both made along the way, and at how much he’s achieved because of his work ethic and ever climbing career; should Isabel or Zack inherit one of traits I love most about their dad then we will in turn help them, and with Nathan as their proof they would see that life isn’t ever bound by a stammer. Truth be told, I’m more concerned about Nathan carrying the name Jonah with cars and passing the jinx onto one of the kids; they are going to need a good career to carry the weight of financial responsibility that comes with this one!
Let’s end with the thought of us standing in front of the Christmas tree a few days ago posing and shouting ‘Merry Christmas’ for the 7th attempt at a photo with both of our children smiling at the same time, it didn’t happen, instead it ended with all of us all bursting into fits of hysterics as we viewed the failed attempts. All these years since the Balancing Rock and I’m still desperately capturing those moments in time that we want to remember forever with photographic evidence to look back upon, but what’s changed is that I no longer save just the photo with the perfect smile, for me capturing the ordinary moments is always more poignant. If a destination has moved us enough we will remember it instantly, yet the laughter that comes with everyday life can soon become blurred against everything else that is happening, these photos, to me, are worth a thousand words when captured in print and perhaps this is something my mum already knew. Mum was undeniably shocking for taking what seemed like one too many a mundane photo of such things like a duck that captured her attention walking beside her whilst on holiday, yet with utter pride she’d sit us all down to look through the photos and tell us in detail the story behind why this particular duck had taken over so much of her camera reel. Dad continues to follow suit with many a photo on Whatsapp of his hotel rooms complete with open suitcase for display purposes, I know mum would approve here. Sure, in our current society with ‘selfies’ and the need for a ‘like’ to somehow crown a photo worthy I suspect mums duck (nor Dad’s suitcase) would have achieved many followers, but she wouldn’t have cared, they were her photos which she chose to share with us, I’m only sorry now that I didn’t appreciate the time she’d taken to share her stories with me. I would today thank her for teaching me that the most beautiful things in life are not things; they are people, places, memories and pictures. They’re feelings, moments, smiles and laughter.
To Isabel and Zack; When I was a few years older than you both are now my mum had once put fake ants in our kitchen sink for me to discover. I remember shouting the house down looking for help only to discover my mum hiding behind the sofa laughing uncontrollably. Despite having never told you this story I was recently reminded of it as you, Isabel, had taken the greatest pleasure in hiding fake spiders that you’d been given at a Halloween party for me to find. Upon hearing your laugh it was identical to that of your nanas, and the cheeky faces you and your brother were both pulling at my expense I have no doubts would have had your nana laughing along with you. I hope you always have this cheeky streak in you both much alike your Dad, never let anyone dull your sparkle for discovering comedy in the simplest of terms.
To Mum; As we sit down to Christmas dinner this year we will all be together, we will raise a toast to all our loved ones no longer here, and at this very point when I think of you I shall be smiling; to you, the only mum I know who could consistently serve up over cooked meat every Sunday roast yet who ALWAYS served the tastiest of Christmas dinners. Merry Christmas.
*The photos I've added are pretty reflective of what I've written, but just in case, to begin we have Nathan with the aforementioned rolled car, the Balancing Rock, and proof I did and can cook.
I am a 'wannabe' Nomad who currently lives in Sheffield with my husband and two children. I genuinely love exploring new places but finding time to fit this in is tricky so more often than not I'm found in the closest independent coffee shop because nothing cheers me up better than a decent coffee.