You know you are raising strong and independent children when at 6 years of age they ask questions that you can only hope you answer in a way that will be memorable enough to stay with them until they are free to fly the nest to find the answers by themselves; ‘Mum, what’s the difference between a holiday and travelling?’ And so I answered honestly, taking Isabel back to a recent experience only five days earlier and knowing ahead of us was a further 6 hours in the campervan to Sydney. A holiday to me is stress-free and relaxing, travelling is a challenge. To get to Fraser Island, (a world heritage listed Island) it took us an internal flight from Melbourne, where we’d spent the previous 10 days exploring to Brisbane, only to arrive and discover that our only checked baggage was momentarily lost in transit. It then took us three hours to collect a campervan which mostly consisting of sitting around in 38 degree heat with nothing more than a vending machine for supplies, and after which we drove in the campervan back to the airport to collect our delayed baggage. We then drove what we’d planned in as a three hour drive to our evening destination; Rainbow Beach in Queensland. However, when you factor in that we needed two food stops and a bonus wee stop, that we had been on the go since 7am that morning and now were all feeling extremely tired and fed up, the drive itself became just over five hours, two of those in darkness with nothing but cats eyes in the road and the glare of oncoming road trains to guide us. That night, having finally found our campsite after some confusion over the exact campsite name, we discovered sleeping in the campervan was diabolical.
The electric fan we’d hired due to a lack of air conditioning in the back didn’t work which left us sweltering way into the early hours. We awoke the next morning looking somewhat frazzled and covered head to toe in mosquito bites. Yes, travelling is sometimes frustrating, it takes you out of your comfort zone, but it is always memorable. I can promise you all though that by 9am the following morning not one if us had any regrets. Antihistamines bought and administered, eggs benedict and coffee demolished including a well-deserved ice-cream, and we were all set for walking bare foot along the sand dunes at the Carlo Sand Blow (or at least we would have been had the sand not been unbearably hot for the kids). Not to worry, the next day we will be touring Fraser Island which leads back to Isabel’s question; to holiday at Fraser Island would be amazing, and perhaps one day we’ll return, take the flight to the nearest airport in Queensland, get a 4x4 to the four star air conditioned hotel on the Island and bask in the beauty while surrounded by life’s little luxuries for a week, sounds relaxing right. However, to travel involves getting up in the early hours and hoping that on this one day that we will perhaps be lucky enough to see a Dingo with the weather staying on our side long enough to enjoy the sights. We did in fact see three dingoes; two on the 75mile long beach and one in Central Station rainforest (the latter causing mild palpitations as reality hit just how close Zack had been moments earlier wandering on his own). We were able to swim in Lake Mackenzie and wade through Eli Creek, we saw the Pinnacles and the Maheno shipwreck up close, and we took an unexpected seaplane over the Island, none of which was promised and the experience wholly dependent on the sunshine which we were lucky to have on this particular day. To travel often means you don’t have time to repeat things had they not quite gone to plan (two hours’ drive to view the famous Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains only for them to be covered in mist springs to mind a week later), but is to get up the very next morning based on a friends recommendation and take a risk that what’s promised on arrival may not be possible should we arrive too late. In our case this risk soon paid off as we found ourselves arriving without a hitch in Tin Can Bay for 8am, just in time to feed dolphins in their natural habitat for $10 each. To travel is to move on from Tin Can Bay a few hours later knowing only our end destination for that day, and that everything else in between was ours to discover. Travelling is life changing, not only do you learn things about the world, but about who you are; what things you love, what you dislike (Isabel holding a dead fish springs to mind), and what you are capable of under pressure.
16th August 2006; More from Queensland
Dining with Bill Clinton and sleeping with ants!
Ok so we didn't dine with Bill Clinton but as a last night treat from Tony and Lenore they took us to a very exclusive Seafood restaurant on the water front in Port Douglas (Bill Clinton has eaten here) where we finally got to wear our glad rags. I'm not going to say too much except amazing food and good company, oh and dad get your wallet ready, this will be what I want as a birthday treat in March in Sydney! Besides the everyday seafood you'd expect of King Prawns and Squid, others included, Cray fish, Sushi, Whole Baby Octopus and Bugs. What we'll say here is that Bugs as you'd imagine look pretty ugly but they taste nothing like their name; totally delicious!
It’s Tuesday 16th August and it began with a hard mornings work, (Bum, Bugger, Shit as Lenore would say) then with the car packed, tyre pressure checked, a trip to Wooly's for fresh food and the drive through grog shop for the obvious, and as they say in Australia; ‘cool banana's’ we're off. With Tony’s map at hand we headed for our first destination, somewhere unknown up in the tablelands. It was great driving through all the towns we had already visited knowing we weren't going back, so much so that we lost track of the time and our first disaster hit just past Malanda. It’s getting on for 4pm and it get darks in an hour, we needed to find a creek to camp on, not a problem, or so we thought! An hour later heading towards Topaz (a town of less than 200 people) we found ourselves having searched every possible road to a creek with nothing at the end in a bit of a dilemma; it was dark. We decided to convince ourselves that perhaps a 'no through road' in Australia means something different only to have to reverse back down a narrow wooded path with headlights coming towards us; oops. Luckily the Census guy driving the car after telling us in we were in some of the roughest terrain in Australia quite happily directed us to a campsite unbelievably back in Malanda. Sorry Tony, mission failed, we retired to the Malanda Caravan Park paying $16 for both of us which we reasoned despite the setback was not a bad price.
We soon forgot about the errors of our ways when we were eating chicken stir-fry; it’s the only thing I can cook, and somehow ended up sharing it with possums. A little later into the evening and we are getting annoyed with the possums and resume to the fact that the great Aussie rule being that they are vermin as they never leave you alone when they smell your food is probably true. Morning broke and we ate breakfast with Cassowaries and Parrots. After checking out the waterfalls in Malanda we head to Milla Milla for more waterfalls and a walk around the circuit, the heights are amazing. We drove around in a circle (we missed the most direct route, it’s going to take a while to get used to all these roads we think) and headed to Mount Hypipamee National Park where we viewed the crater. Who knew that a big hole in the middle of the ground filled with green gunk that looks a little like something out of Star Trek would be worth a look? We did another 800m walk around the Dinner falls and decided we'd stay in Mila Milla seen as we were now tired from all the walking. The weather is pretty cool up in the tablelands so we decided we'd drive some distance and head inland tomorrow, (Nathan is getting worried about his tan fading you see) also we kind of feel much of the scenery is like being in the UK; green hills and cows everywhere with the difference being the vastness which is still breathtaking.
A note here for other good buys; A gift of the Lonely Planet Guide, it’s our bible, Tony's atlas, especially now we are learning to navigate better and Nathan's Grandma gave us a pack of cards on the day we left; the best way to pass a few hours at night despite only knowing one game; rummy! If anyone knows any other card games feel free to email us the instructions. Finally my Roxy money bag, I have to admit I packed it thinking I’d never use it mum but it is actually the next best thing since sliced bread, it keeps all our passports, money, camera etc. together, it’s discreet and best of all trendy. I only have one wish; that it wasn't pink as Nathan won’t be seen dead holding it so I get lumbered with everything.
We continue the journey stopping at Innot Hot Springs at Nettle Creek that are hot all the time; very strange stepping into them. Passing through the small town of Mount Garnet we joined the Kennedy Highway and 40 mile scrub (Fig and Gum Trees but nothing else) and arrived at our next destination; Undara Volcanic National Park. A note to make about the highways are how disturbing it feels to be in the middle of nowhere and to pass one lone biker, a PUSH BIKE, are these people insane?
Undara in aboriginal language means 'a long way' which is true of the place we are settling as we travelled a long way to get here. All around us are volcanoes, but the main attractions within the park are the lava tubes. We decided against a trip to venture inside them, mainly because of the prices, we have to stick to our backpacker budgets, but also as after speaking to a few people we reasoned that they'd be similar to the caves we had previously visited and that there was an equally good walking track that offered the same info as the guide would tell which was free. So off we went around the 'Kalkani Crater Walk,' a 10 minute walk supposedly (I need to be a bit fitter to fit into this category, but in my defense it was very steep) to the rim and an hour around the edge with sights as far as the eye could see. What was particularly funny was half way round bumping into an elderly couple that just happened to originally be from Grimsby; how small the world can be.
Next morning we awoke to see Kangaroos extremely close to our camp and even more moving was seeing that a mother still had her Joey in her pouch. This particular Joey came out to play and was amazing to watch up close. Let’s just say here that breakfast went cold and the photos we got were pretty cool to say how close they came. As a side note Nathan is struggling with lighting camp fires, it seems that after three different attempts something is going wrong as they won’t stay alight. Tony if you are reading please help. I can’t bear another night of Nathan trying endlessly to make it work, I’m totally not dissing his caveman efforts though; gathering the wood and getting the fires started have been impressive and at least we have another ten and half months to master keeping the fires lit.
We have travelled through Greenvale, Charters Towers and Ayr which are all small friendly towns that have been a good place to refuel. We did manage to spend our first night in between these camping for free at a spot we found called, rather appropriately, Fletchers Creek. You so know we couldn’t just pass through. There were a few other people camped for the night so it wasn't quite all to ourselves but still pretty nice, we would have stayed another night but we ran out of grog. And besides this I would have needed a ‘number2’ eventually and I still haven’t plucked up the courage to dig a hole!
We travelled through Ayr and arrived at Bowen where we had a bit if a dilemma. Bowen is notably a great place to stop, the beaches are amazing, but it is still an hour from Airlie Beach (the best place to see the Whitsundays) and we didn't fancy traveling again, so decided we'd take our chances leaving this amazing spot and continue the drive to stay at Airlie Beach. Driving into Airlie Beach was lovely especially as it’s the ‘Hahn's Yacht festival’ at the moment so yachts are all out in full force as far as our eyes could see. After investigating a dismal backpacker caravan park and a rather nice one that was too far out we eventually settled on the Whitsundays Gardens. It’s a half hour walk into Airlie Beach, at only $18 a night with a pool and great toilet/shower block so we were pretty happy we took the time to look around.
Here in Airlie we did the obvious; sunbathing on the esplanade, enjoyed not driving for a while, we fixed the gas bottle and while doing this met Jane in the camp kitchen. Jane is from New Zealand and also a helpx host who has offered us to work at her b&b on the South Island when we go over. We’re both getting bitten to death by ants at night and of course I’m here writing this while having a few ‘tinnys’. We did what we’d always planned to and booked a value for money trip to the Whitsundays for $99 each. What can we say here other than that it was truly amazing! At first we were apprehensive as they packed 47 of us eager beavers and 3 crew members onto a not large enough looking boat, but as we set sail they opened the top deck and everyone moved around. The first stop was Montaray Bay to snorkel; the water was a little cold but the fish more than made up for it with some of the largest we've seen yet, and friendly jelly fish if you can believe that although I still chose to swim away. We passed by Daydream Island and then was taken ashore by a dingy to the Hill Inlet Lookout, 650m upwards through national park, but once we arrived at the spot and looked out it seriously stole my words, it was jaw dropping, for miles nothing but gorgeous silica white sands and clear Blue Ocean. I've never got down a hill so quick knowing that this was our next stop; Whitehaven Beach.
Just leave us here forever were our thoughts. We were hand in hand with a 4x Gold Lager and a large glass of wine walking on sand that I can only describes as squeaks under our feet it’s that clean. Can you believe they even make telescopes out of the sand? We were all advised that we could clean our jewelry in it; my cheap bangles didn’t quite work though. All the hard saving to make this trip when it comes to seeing things like this makes it all worthwhile; if you said I had to come home now I would have been happy having been on this beach; it will stay with me forever. Not that we have to come home for a while yet. A luxurious BBQ with fresh fish and fruits and two hours later we found ourselves swimming back to the boat where we headed back to Airlie Beach via Hamilton Island and South Molle Island. The advertised cheese platter they offered on our return was merely a cracker with a lump of cheese but I don't think anyone could have complained; the magic and beauty of the day was stuck on everyone’s faces and in everyone’s hearts.
So this is where we leave you for now; next stop Mackay and maybe a little light work. We hope all is well with you all, remember we love seeing your messages on the website; it makes our day to read them. Take care for now. Lindsay and Nathan x
Despite my best efforts above, the feelings I had viewing the Whitsunday’s in 2006 really were indescribable, I genuinely never thought I’d feel it again but I was wrong. We’ve been back from taking Isabel and Zack on their first travel adventure to Australia about four weeks now and I’m still struggling to process everything we did in such a short space of time without feeling overwhelmed by all that we actually achieved, not least, surprisingly finding myself stood with a tear in my eye as I captured the first look at Lake Mackenzie on Fraser Island. As I took in the scene in front of me it was the same jaw dropping moment as I’d had in 2006; clear blue waters and miles of white silica sand with beautiful rainforest surrounding the edges. What’s more was a clearer understanding of the feelings that produce those tears being about more than the scene in front of us, but of an acceptance of how all our hard work saving and planning of our 26 day adventure to include this trip was worth any sacrifices we’d made along the way, because in that moment, just like The Whitsundays. I’d have stayed forever. In that moment was confirmation that travel is the only thing that makes you richer, sure our money will return, but this time won’t. As it happens we had only 45 minutes to enjoy this moment in time before we were moving on to the next stop, and with Zack already diving into Lake Mackenzie minus his armbands to follow Isabel we had little choice but to pick up our jaws, put our hearts back in our chest, and go and join the kids. That’s the joy of kids, you learn to live in the moment; they don’t have a second to spare to stand still when adventure is in front of them beckoning to be played in.
When I think back to my summer holidays in Cornwall and Devon I wonder if in some way these were the backbone to me learning to love travel. Sure they were holidays in the sense that we always returned to the same cottage in the evening, but each day I remember we always had something new planned; a national park to explore, a cliff top walk (often more miles than mine and my sisters little legs wanted to walk), a different beach, a tourist attraction, never knowing what time we’d return that day and never the same place in one holiday. One year my parents broke the mold and took us to the Lake District. I hated it. As far as I was concerned there was nothing to do other than walk or cycle around the same lake for a week. I officially had the worst parents in the world. I’ve always struggled to comprehend why I felt the way I did but perhaps now I understand, the young nomad in me despite not being able to articulate it, had already fallen in love with the adventure that can be found in escapism on holidays, staying in one place was alien to me, I associated holidays with finding the unknown and exploring it, I still do. I suspect that my parents were looking for a holiday that year; somewhere that offered the things they enjoyed but without having to travel every day to find it. I suspect they were looking for a more relaxed environment. I wonder what their thoughts were on the return home; did Lake Windermere live up to expectations, or was the fact that we returned to Cornwall all the clarification that is needed? I actually could picture Nathan and myself enjoying some time in the Lake District, but would it work for us as a family? Now this would take some serious investigation. You see, everywhere we went in Australia we were surrounded by beauty; landscapes, wildlife, the weather, the vastness and clear night skies, and for the first time I actually could have parked up (and did when the kids were sleeping), put out the camping chairs and watched as the world passed by, but the kids, they don’t view the world in the same way we do. The landscapes were for running and playing in; climbing the gum trees, not taking photos of the beautiful bark and incredible height as they soared high above us. The wildlife was merely something to become a tick box; yes we saw a kangaroo, yes we saw a koala, yes there were lots of birds, and yes we fed a dolphin, but they’d rather tell you about the duck that was trying to eat their ice-cream as we were sat amongst the kangaroos, or the dead fish they had to hold in order to feed the dolphin! The weather was merely an annoyance when it meant having to stop play to put more sun-cream on, or arguably a blessing if it became another great reason to spot an ice-cream shop. The vastness wasn’t something to stare at through the campervan window; this time was for watching their favourite films on the iPads, singing along with each other, and for Isabel to surprise us with her teaching abilities as she used this time to learn Zack to count to ten and to recognise all his colours. Nor was the clear night sky there for star gazing (well maybe for just a couple of minutes) because this time was meant for staying up late, for being outside in PJ’s while we playing a game of UNO. (I can’t remember the last time we played Rummy and have made a mental note to play a hand.) It doesn’t for one second mean they didn’t appreciate travelling or Australia, they just viewed what was in front of them in a way that allowed their imaginations to be free as only a child would.
Revisiting my original journal often has me cringing at the way I’ve worded things, and at the innocence of my youth. Whilst I may now be slightly wiser and am hopeful that these days I’m wording things a little better, unfortunately I suspect that Isabel would be non-too happy to confirm that I’m still managing to create moments that rival those of 2006 and cause her to roll her eyes at me. Take the silica sand at Lake Mackenzie where I began by taking a few moments to clean my wedding ring in it and soon found myself transported back in time giggling at not only the thought of me attempting to clean my cheap bangles on the Whitsunday Islands, but also at Isabel’s shocked face. You see this time around I had paid a little more attention to our tour guide who had educated us about the specific uses of the sand, I can’t say I understand wholly how the sand is used for parts of telescopes, but I did hear clearly that it was a great exfoliate and I wasn’t going to waste a minute not making use of this. Thinking about the scene now I can accept how for a six year old witnessing her mother randomly and vigorously rubbing sand into the soles of her feet whilst everyone else was either lying motionless basking in the sun, or enjoying the rays reflecting off them in the Lake, at how this can be perceived as embarrassing. If I’m honest though, I’m OK with sharing this with you all, whether we are hard working from our careers, as a mother, or both, surely when presented with this opportunity of essentially a free treatment we’d all aim to squeeze it into our time restraints in some way or another; right? It turns out also that we’re still fans of spotting signs with our names on, and having seen a sign for ‘Fletcher Road’ in Queensland we of course pulled up and insisted Isabel and Zack pose with us for another obligatory photo, cue more of the eye rolling. I like to believe this is a ‘thing’ and we’re not the only family who do this. I do however hold my own mother responsible for this tradition, with my earliest memory being of her discovering ‘Tee Total’ Street in St Ives and having us all pose as she giggled away at the thought of this being her perfect street name. To be fair mum was never a big fan of drinking alcohol and loved a good cuppa so I can see why it was deserving of a place in the family album.
Often it is said in speech about how small the world can be; and I agree, especially if you are willing to talk to strangers. Take the Grimsby couple mentioned above, Grimsby isn’t far from our birth town Scunthorpe where both Nathan and I grew up and was the connection at that given moment that instantly transported us back to our roots prompting me to write home about our paths crossing. Only a month ago we found ourselves making a similar connection whilst sat talking to a New Zealand couple and enjoying a coffee with a scone waiting for the rain to pass up at the lighthouse we were visiting in Byron Bay. Natural first questions are about where each other live, and upon discovering we live in Sheffield they were quick to disclose that they were in fact Sheffield Wednesday football club supporters. Their decision to support this team was based solely on originally living in a town called Sheffield in New Zealand who at the time didn’t have a football team many decades ago. They were in the process of planning their first trip to England so were naturally delighted that we could share first hand our thoughts about the best places in and around Sheffield to visit, and in turn we discussed our connection to New Zealand with my family who live there, and of the time we had spent travelling around. I found myself thinking about this couple after the recent terrorist attack in Christchurch as this is where they now live, and despite not knowing either of their names my thoughts that day drifted to their wellbeing. In 2005 in England on a walk along the Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay coastline my mum and dad came across a couple, one of whom had fallen badly and was awaiting the air ambulance to rescue them. It was a cold and miserable day but despite this they stayed with this couple from Wrexham for two hours, only leaving as they waved them off in the air ambulance and never heard from them again. My Dad chose this spot along the coastline for us to scatter my mum’s ashes. My mum had always loved walking and being close to the sea, and this particular spot is a place my dad can feel close to his wife with an incredible story of how strangers can become friends and leave a lasting impression, even if only for a couple of hours, much alike this New Zealand couple. In my original journals we haven’t reached Byron Bay where we were compelled to make a return trip to with my mum and dad which included visiting the lighthouse, but it feels apt to write this now, that as we were driving out of Byron Bay a few weeks ago I found unexpected tears had escaped my eyes. I didn’t know at first that I was crying and then I felt one land on my hand. I didn’t know it then when I was talking to the New Zealand couple, that the connection we had made was much more than the country they resided in, talking to them had taken me back to a place my mum held dear in her heart, a place I have a Dictaphone recording with her voice on from the time she and Dad travelled visiting her sister, nieces and nephews; the same niece (my cousin) who kindly babysat Isabel and Zack only a few days earlier in Melbourne. I didn’t know it then that I’d chosen a scone; the very sweet treat we always choose as one of mum’s favourites when we want to feel close to her. I didn’t know then why exactly the tears fell when we were driving out of the Bay; I just knew I felt like I was leaving something very special behind. But I know it now as I’m writing this that thanks to that connection at the top of the lighthouse in Byron Bay that this is my place for me to feel close to mum. To conclude, choosing photos to compliment my ramblings is always something I leave to the end, imagine my surprise when I realised the only photo I have of our return to Byron bay with mum, dad, Rachel and Andrew at the top of the lighthouse in Byron Bay is in fact one of me and mum.
To Isabel and Zack; If I can ask anything of you it’s to choose to live in a way that saving to explore new places near or far are a priority over new furniture, coffee (I can’t tell you how much coffee I gave up to make Australia happen), clothes etc. I’m not saying don’t have these items, I’m just saying choose wisely. Expensive clothes fray and fade but memories made seeking adventure never do. I also need you to know that I gave up the opportunity to eat ‘Bugs’ once again in Australia in favour of the Burger Bar that had a kids menu at Coffs Harbour; one of you owes me an a’ la carte seafood meal when you are earning.
To Mum; When I asked Isabel what her favourite thing about Australia was, she answered; ‘The Holiday Inn at Melbourne.’ ‘You what,’ were the first words to leave my mouth, disbelief that of all the things we’d made possible that this was the first thing that came to mind, and all because it had an outdoor swimming pool. I should imagine this is how you felt when we left the Lakes and I’d said my favourite bit of the holiday was the fairground ride and nothing else. Hand on heart; I apologise for being a teenage brat. I have considered apologising in person to Dad, but the fact that he keeps my envy levels at all-time high, having only recently returned from two weeks travelling around India is reason enough that this is my comeuppance, and therefore all that needs to be said on the matter.
Above is Dad’s newest travel photo in India at the Holi festivities; his quest to ensure I remain envious, followed by the four of us relaxing in Lake Mackenzie on Fraser Island in Australia just over a month ago now, mesmerised by the clear water.
Photos at the beginning are of our first sight of the beautiful clear waters and white silica sands on the Whitsunday Islands in 2006, and of course me and mum at the Byron Bay lighthouse in 2007.
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.