JALC OZ 2018 – Travelling Australia

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Hello! We’re Josh, Amy, Lachlan and Cameron (“JALC”). Welcome to our website.

Please excuse the amateur nature of it all but we simply wanted to have something online to document our travels, record details and photos of adventures and experiences and have somewhere we can look back at when our year of travel during 2018 is over.

Plus people wanted to know where we are, how we’re going, what we’re doing and plan (or at least dream about) their own “Big Lap” adventure of Australia.

And, of course, those that have done it all before can also hopefully chip in their ideas on places to go, people to see, where the best camps are and lots of other knowledge and information. Feel free to get in touch if you have anything to add!

For many, many years we’ve dreamt about packing it all in for a year and heading off on “walkabout” (…thanks Cheryl…) around Australia to travel, explore, drive, camp, four-wheel drive, hike, fish, swim, bird-watch, rock-hop, sight-see, creature-hunt, snorkel and experience as much of this country as we possibly could in 12 months (within the reasonable bounds of a 5-year old and an 8-year old doing it all too).

About two years ago – maybe sometime in 2015 – we actually set a date and started seriously thinking about the planning and logistics – jobs, house, Ruby The Dog, kids schooling, our last two remaining chooks, the cost, mode of travel, ………the cost…….., tent?, camper trailer? or some sort of roof-top setup?, the cost, more thought about the cost, the boys age and level/ability to immerse/enjoy/learn from the experience, and, yes, yes, the cost (every now and again Aim has been busted on her calculator with a frown, shaking her head, mumbling about the cost).

But here we are, on the road…..JALC….OZ…….2018……………………

8 Dec – Cape Byron – our symbolic finish line

After driving some of the most remote, inaccessible and untouched places on the continent, we spent today driving through the metropolis that is south east Queensland. Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast. We watched the heaving traffic – bolstered by christmas shoppers no doubt. The boys spotted all the theme parks of course with huge water slides and towering roller coasters grabbing their attention.

Byron Bay

We’ve seen quite a few state borders around this land but the border between QLD and NSW is light on the fanfare – more concerned with making sure we know that “speed cameras are used in NSW” – we high-fived anyway (at 110km/hr compared to some outback border crossings where we drove across a dusty cattle grid at 5km/hr!). Our destination is Cape Byron and we are looking forward to reaching the most easterly point of Australia which will give us the final destination target in our around Australia travels – Northern-most point: Cape York, Southern: Wilsons Prom; Western: Steep Point; Highest: Kosciusko; Lowest: Lake Eyre; geographical centre of the whole bloody place (!) – Lamberts (near Finke in central Oz).

Byron Bay (7)

Although we’ve arrived here a week or so earlier than expected, being so close to home it was always going to have a sense of completion and act as our unofficial finish line. Byron Bay on a Sunday is hustle and bustle in town and even the walking tracks at the cape are busy with joggers and early morning walkers.

Byron Bay- we made it! (2)

As much as Byron has evolved into its hectic atmosphere, the place is still beautiful, the main beach is a favourite and the views from up at the lighthouse are fantastic – no whales to spot but even just watching the huge swell coming in and wrapping around the points is great.

Byron Bay (4)

So with a click of the camera, our trip has a sense of completion. We’re headed for Sawtell for tonight to see Nanna and then Korora to stay with Nick and Anna before we can get out to Darkwood for some space to unpack and maybe even clean the red dirt that’s probably permanently discoloured the Hilux.

Byron Bay- most easterly point of Australia

Our nomadic travels will continue until January when we’ll be faced with the daunting task of moving back home and going back to a normal life. But before then we’re looking forward to some time with the Sydney mob for chrissy, maybe some Blue Mountains sightseeing and kicking back for some central coast beach time.

Thanks for keeping in touch with us and our adventure – it’s been great knowing our small loyal band of readers has been following our trip. We thought we were going to be internet sensations at one point when one of our facebook posts hit 8000 people but our dreams of being celebrity bloggers faded as we reverted back to the usual viewers!

Gibb River facebook post

We’d like to put some maps and some facts and figures of where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and how we’ve done it etc together so there may be a few more blog posts popping up but otherwise, thanks for following our trip!

Byron Bay (5)

 

 

5 -7 Dec – Wide Bay

Leaving the Gladstone coast behind we headed south and our first stop was an old favourite from 15 years ago – Turkey Beach – where every house, shed and shack has at least one tractor used to tow and launch their boats off the beachfront. The place has changed a bit – there’s a new concrete boat ramp (negating the need for an un-boggable tractor) and there seems to have been an associated decline in the local tractor population. But the boys got to see enough that they got the idea why they have an annual tractor festival! The unique attraction that has popped up is a community library which is based in a shipping container with a cool giant bookshelf artwork on the side.

Turkey Beach (3)

Turkey Beach (2)

Unfortunately the bushfire situation- although easing today – meant we avoided much of the coast through the 1770, Agnes Water, Deepwater area. We pushed down the long drive on the highway and then into Bundaberg with a lunch stop on the Burnett River foreshore. A bit of a scenic drive out to the coast around the Burnett Heads proved how bad the coastal gale was blowing – we couldn’t get out of the car!

Maryborough (3)

With the whole region’s national parks camping areas closed, we decided to try a bush camp at Bingera State Forest which is mostly pine plantation which tends to provide some good shelter from wind if you pick the right spot. There’s a  lot of harvesting going on so finding a good spot was difficult but eventually we got a sheltered little nook. For a ‘quiet’ bush camp we had some unfortunate late-night cars driving around which wasn’t very enjoyable but it did the job as a quick overnight stop.

From there we did a great drive through Hervey Bay – what an esplanade – from the awesome waterfront houses of Point Vernon we cruised the coastal strip with non-stop shops, cafes, restaurants and every type of accommodation. We counted at least five Indian restaurants along a five kilometre strip!

Harvey Bay (2)

Out through Maryborough and we couldn’t resist a walk through the main street to see some of the awesome old architecture up close. We didn’t get very far before the distinctive whistle of a steam engine caught our attention and right in front of us a unique little steam train pulled up. People were milling around and we decided to see if we could get a ride. Queensland has some expensive tourist attractions but this little $7 gem was a ripper – $7 for the whole family!

We toottled along around the edge of the CBD and along the river breathing in steam and too much coal smoke. Why walk when you can steam-train your way around town? The steam engine has a great history which the volunteers couldn’t talk about enough. The town has also taken up a bit of an obsession with Mary Poppins – we couldn’t understand why people were taking photos of the pedestrian traffic lights!

Maryborough Mary Poppins Stop go light

Through the Tuan State Forest – mostly pine plantation – which has enough small wild pine trees to supply the world’s christmas tree needs (yes, we did see one car sneaking out of the bush with a fresh-cut pine tree on the roof racks!).Eventually we reached Rainbow Beach and did the short drive out to Inskip Peninsular. The beach at our campsite overlooks Fraser Island just across the narrow channel where we could see 4WDs zipping along the beach once they’d successfully made it onto the beach off the barge.

Inskip Penninsular Frazer Island Ferry

The campgrounds are starting to fill up as people jostle for the prized spot for the Christmas holidays. They didn’t bank on a week or more of constant, gale force sou-easterlies blowing drizzly showers in on them and we watched a few people shift spots once they realised the waterfront views also entailed exposure to the weather! We set up back in the sheoaks but the wind kept going and the showers sometimes got heavier than we’d like.  11 months+ of travelling Australia and we’ve been incredibly fortunate with weather – almost always dry and only a few wind storms that came and went fairly quick. So close to the end of our travels and we got the worst day-time rain of all.

Bird Inskip

Even any chance of travelling over the short Fraser Island barge trip was not attractive with howling wind gusts up around the 60 and 70km/hr mark. Plus the early morning high tides meant a quick day trip wasn’t going to work although we watched some people drive through saltwater to get onto the barge which departs off the sand. We had a go at fishing which looked promising but returned nothing although some dolphins swam close by (ahh, that’s why we were catching anything – they’ve probably already eaten them all).

Inskip Peninsular Fishing

The boys found some kids to play with and that kept them amused – even when ten minutes of drizzle would blow in they just got off the beach and did colouring-in instead. We stared at maps trying to work out camping options that didn’t involve the heat, fire, wind, crowds and rain that we’ve encountered recently – there’s not much jumping out at us. Being only a day’s drive from family, a comfy bed, no tent, shelter from the weather and relief from the biting insects of Australia – we’re tempted to call stumps on an amazing trip before we walk away with a bad final impression in the final days. We walked out to the end of the peninsular and spent some time on the beach exploring. It’s a nice place and there’s no wonder that thousands pack in here at holiday time.

Inskip- crab under tent

3 – 4 Dec – Tannum Sands

We departed Yeppoon and cruised through Emu Park and then inland to Rockhampton where we loaded up a full tank of fuel with the cheaper prices. Rocky is huge – it must be one of the biggest populations in country Queensland. A big Vinnies shop caught our eye and we are on the hunt for Enid Blyton books – Famous Five, Secret Seven etc. The air con was great and there was a good library of books (not Enid unfortunately) which we sorted through and made a selection.

Turkey Beach

There’s not much to report on the drive from Rocky south – it’s pretty dry, dusty grazing land. We pulled into Gladstone to pick up our final school packs from the post office. Gladstone could be a nice place except for the industrial dominance with massive powerlines zig-zagging everywhere, non-stop coal trains, smelters and smoke stacks – even the river and coast is shipping terminals and huge loading structures. But, you know, jobs and growth.

Tannum Sands

We decided to try a caravan park down at Tannum Sands on the coast and found a quiet caravan park – pretty basic but the boys had a pool. After a night of lightning and distant thunder, the next afternoon actually saw a good thunderstorm roll in and a good amount of rain for about an hour – hopefully that is falling down at Deepwater and up at Eungella where the fires have really done some damage.

Tannum Sands (2)

We’ve got the map out and google says we are only 10 hours and around 800kms from where we started out almost a year ago so the home straight is in sight if we need to cut the trip a week shorter than planned.

Harvey Bay Coral

30 Nov – 2 Dec – Yeppoon

“Where the hell’s Yeppoon?”………“Between ya knife and ya fork”. So goes the joke an old woman in the visitor information centre rattled off when we asked where we could buy the bumper sticker. GG Pat and Cliff passed through here probably 35 years ago on their travels and came home with the “where the hell” bumper sticker which was sure to be the centre of gossip at the time in the Cardinal Gilroy Retirement Village!

Cape Hillsborough (3)

We tried to find the sticker in newsagents and other souvenir shops but that classic bumper sticker has faded away unfortunately. Anyway, the good news is we had a safe drive down the highway with a lot of smoke, lots of fallen trees and even small fires smouldering away nearby but no road closures. We stopped in at an old camp we used 15 years ago on the foreshore at Carmilla which has been well looked after by council. There were a couple of people camping but the little village was full of fire trucks and firefighters waiting around for the fire burning up in the nearby hills to get worse and come towards the houses – at this stage they’ve told the town to get ready to evacuate but hopefully they get some reprieve.

Bird- Yeppoon

Change is not coming in a hurry though – our stay around Mackay coincided with the most extreme heatwave they’ve had for 70 years! Rockhampton, just 40k inland from Yeppoon, is heading for its 7th straight day around 40degrees so we’re glad to be on the coast but it’s still damn hot! Fortunately, without being able to get out to Byfield National Park to camp, we have landed in a caravan park which has two pools and the best waterslide of any caravan park in Australia! The boys can’t get enough and the adults have a bit of fun too! On Friday there was only our boys and two other kids on the waterslide – by midday Saturday there would have been 50 kids and the park manager had to be there to police the rules – mainly trying to stop 10 kids landing on top of each other.

Yeppoon Water Slide

The foreshore areas are nice for a lunch stop but the wind is intense and the water is a frothy mess of white-cap waves. Our hopes for some time at Byfield are dashed with the fire closures and the “Big Sandy” sand dune that we failed to get over on our last trip through here will have to wait as a challenge for another future adventure. In fact all the national parks we were hoping to visit and camp at the whole way down the Queensland coast and even inland at Blackdown Tableland and Carnarvon Gorge are closed and it’s really thrown a spanner in the works of our trip – the heat isn’t forecast to ease and the size of the fires is not looking good for the parks being reopened anytime soon.

Yeppoon

We’ve had such a good run of weather for 11 months and to be so close to the end of our trip and being restricted by heat, fires and park closures is really disappointing. Our tent can see the end of the trip is getting close too and is looking forward to retirement. It has copped a battering in the wind with more broken poles being replaced or strengthened with gaffa tape and one splintered pole even sliced a 50cm rip in the tent fly – more gaffa tape to the rescue!

Cape Palmerston

It is amazing that we have travelled so far and wide across this country enduring the extremes of what Australia throws at you. We have been so fortunate that the weather conditions have been on our side the whole way.  After almost a year on the road we are happy to be flexible at this late stage of our trip to take whatever mother nature throws at us!

yeppoon 2

28-29 Nov – Cape Palmerston

We did a fairly short drive down the highway, through Sarina and out to Cape Palmerston. There’s a few camping options and the choice of an inland track that’s rough-as-guts and slow going or, if the tide is nice and low, a quick drive along the beach that takes only 15minutes to get to Windmill Bay campground. We were lucky that the tides were way out to expose a beautiful wide beach and we dropped a bit of tyre pressure and drove onto the beach spotting a dead sea snake along the way which deserved a “stop and poke”.

Cape Palmerston- dead sea snake

Palmerston is so different to Hillsborough with crystal clear water, beautiful beach sand and calmer winds. We got to Windmill Bay and had an empty campground to wander around to find the best spot – in fact we got greedy and parked the car right near the beach so we could sit under the shade of the side awning with uninterrupted views – and put the tent 30 metres back where it was shadier and more protected if the wind got up.

Cape Palmerston (4)

It was a great spot for exploring the beach, we had a go at fishing and the boys found the usual flotsam and jetsam to play with (in this case thick rope, golf balls and even a hard hat (?)). Yet again, the heat was extreme and the constant smoke haze was a bit disconcerting but a few fresh oysters chipped off the headland and the first peace and quiet away from the two wheel drive tourist trail alleviated all.

Cape Palmerston (7)

After a beautiful peaceful night we were all set for another great day in paradise. We were sitting around getting lures tied on for some fishing action as the tide started coming back in when a ranger ute pulled up near us. We had no mobile reception where we were and had not been following what we were now being told was a big bushfire emergency – we knew the heatwave was breaking some records but the fires were turning out to be very bad.

Cape Palmerston (6)

The ranger was such a nice bloke – very apologetic for being the bearer of bad news – the news being we had to pack and leave immediately – but also apologetic that there was no immediate danger – as in no nearby fire – that needed us to evacuate – basically all national parks from here to the sunshine coast were being closed as a precaution due to extreme fire weather. Luckily some local knowledge from the ranger pointed us in the direction of another nearby campsite which was a council reserve very similar to the spot we are now but much safer with better escape routes in the event of fire. So we packed and hit the road – luckily the timing was ok to drive along the beach again and half an hour later we were at Notch Point.

Only one camper was set up so we had plenty of room to find a shady spot. The beach is beautiful and it made us feel a bit better after having left the very nice Windmill Bay. The neighbouring cattle farm has their cows wandering through acting as the lawnmowers. The farmer came through on her quad bike and had a chat – very concerned about the fire situation and concerned for us hoping to travel south with road closures along sections of the highway – if we had to stay a while she said to come and see her for anything we need like water refills but we are pretty stocked up so we’ll be fine for a few days if we need to stay.

A walk along the beach identified some good gutters in the surf where we decided to target our lures. Straightaway Cam and Amy had a big fish follow the lure into the beach. It took a while but finally Josh got a strike and pulled in an absolute dinosaur – a cross between an eel and a croc with the nastiest teeth you’ll ever see! Long Toms are considered by some to be delicious but you need to know how to fillet it and get the 2 million little bones out. The effort that would be required saved this guys life and he got to swim away – a very good fight though which was fun.

Notch Point (4)

25-27 Nov – Mackay – Cape Hillsborough

We decided to skip the platypus spotting up at Eungella as we’d had the most amazing experience spotting them in the Teemburra River. The fires seem to be gathering momentum plus the heat is on so they’re other good reasons to not head further up into the hills! We headed down towards Mackay through mostly sugarcane but also growing satellite urban subdivisions which spring up alongside brand new shopping centres. We booked a site at Cape Hillsborough on Smalleys Beach and were surprised how good the site was.

Cape Hillsborough (3)

The drive out to Hillsborough is spectacular with the peaks and outcrops providing amazing scenery.

Cape Hillsborough (9)

There was a huge tide and the wind was making a churning frothy ocean but our site was set back and protected. The breeze that did get through the dune vegetation was very welcome because it is really, really hot. Luckily the campground has a tap connected to town water so we could walk down and get a bucket of water to cool off – our first bucket was quickly noticed by the resident kookaburras and one dived head first into it with two others coming down and perching on the edge to drink and splash. Realising the local wildlife was feeling the heat as well, we got another container and filled up some water for them – wow, what a way to see the local birdlife!

They were lining up – mostly politely except for the angry wattlebirds and friarbirds who thought they could jump the queue by squawking and pecking and fighting the others.

Cape Hillsborough- Birdbath- impatient!

Our favourites were the bush stone curlews who snuck in after we’d gone into the tent (they thought they were sneaky except we’d moved the water container near the tent so we could watch from inside!). They not only had a drink but one even got in and immersed itself in the water. The curlews sought of adopted us as their favourite campers and just hung around our campsite which we didn’t complain about.

Cape Hillsborough (10)

We headed into Mackay for a day trip – mainly to make use of their huge multi-level free swimming lagoon (it’s even got a waterfall joining the two levels!). The water was pretty shallow mostly and the cool water temperature we were hoping for was not to be – it was almost warm! But it was better than nothing. Mackay is definitely in the grip of a significant heatwave and we seem to have landed in this region at a difficult, uncomfortable and sweaty time! We got a text message from national parks putting a fire ban in place (of course for the two nights after that text we had people having fires) – even when it became apparent there were major bushfire emergencies emerging to the west at Eungella (where we’d just decided to avoid!) and to the south at Deepwater (where we were planning to be in a few days time!). Likely most people didn’t get the text message because they hadn’t booked.

Cape Hillsborough (2)

The tides get up to almost 6 metres then recede to expose a hundred metre wide mud flats. Amy and the boys found a green turtle in a small creek that was completely beached and exposed to the incredible heat with little chance of dragging itself back to the ocean. There was a good chance it would get cooked in the burning hot sun before the tide came back in hours later so there was an emergency relocation undertaken.

We managed a nice beach walk one evening with a sea breeze keeping us cool but we were pretty limited as to bushwalking or other activity. We stayed three nights but it’s a busy, popular place and our site was booked out so we hit the road hoping to escape the heat.

 

23-24 Nov – Captains Crossing – Mia Mia

We packed up after drying the tent off with a bit after some rain overnight. The expected overnight noise with the barra-chasers going out at all hours of the night didn’t eventuate and it was a quiet place considering the number of blokes, boats and beer around. We passed through Proserpine and stopped at Airlie Beach to reminisce about our Whitsundays sailing adventure that departed from here about 15 years ago.

Mia Mia State Forest- Plover with spurs and young (2)

The yachts looked very enticing but we opted for some swimming in the foreshore lagoon and gazed out over the water. Our plans were to head inland to hopefully spot some platypus in the Mackay hinterland which is renowned for the monotremes – particularly Eungella which we intended to visit.

Mia Mia State Forest (5)

One of the campgrounds up at Eungella has been closed so we looked at other options and decided to try Mia Mia State Forest where you could find you own spot.

Mia Mia State Forest (2)

The forest is pretty ordinary with obvious cyclone damage to both the native forest, the pine plantation which was essentially flattened, and the steep road which was almost impassable with bad erosion and wash-outs.Mia Mia State Forest- Baby Plover

Add to that the thick Lantana and it’s not a good look. We had almost given up finding anywhere suitable to camp when we reached Captains Crossing on the Teemburra River. The river is flowing well and is a beautiful temperature. There was a group camping near the road but we went in just a bit further downstream from them and spied a great tent site right next to the river.

Mia Mia State Forest Camp

The people next to us had trail bikes and a quad bike but they were pretty tame and surprisingly quiet considering they were up all night with their fire blazing away – we didn’t hear a single word from them. We had a great time swimming and floating down the rapids.

Mia Mia State Forest (7)

The birds and butterflies were great with the red bottlebrush trees along the riverbank attracting brilliant blue Ulysses butterflies and a range of honeyeaters.

Mia Mia State Forest- Ulysses Butterfly

The kingfishers are incredible to watch – we’ve never seen so much activity with them either zooming through or otherwise hunting with a big splash into the river right in front of us. .

Mia Mia State Forest (3)

It was about 5am when Amy got up to investigate a splash in the river that she was sure was a platypus – Josh rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. Five seconds later it was confirmed as a platypus and Josh dragged himself out of bed (it better not be a turtle!!). We watched two platypus go about their dawn routine – well Amy watched briefly and then went back to bed (!) while Josh walked up and down the bank for hours watching three platypus hunting – at one point coming within a metre.

Mia Mia State Forest- Platypus

Mia Mia State Forest- Platypus (2)

The next morning was very quiet on the platypus front. At least one bushfire nearby was billowing a huge amount of smoke and the haze was thick which wasn’t ideal for spotting.

Mia Mia State Forest