Flying Away – So Long New Zealand

Well, it has been 4 full weeks of traveling New Zealand and we have boarded our plane home.  We have explored both islands of New Zealand and seen some incredible things.

From the still present earthquake damage of Christ Church to the majestic beauty of the mountains and oceans, we have seen so much of this country and yet have only scratched the surface.

Traveling with our children has been tough but rewarding and we have seen them grow so much on this long holiday.

For now, we board our first flight from Auckland to Las Angeles in hope of getting some sleep along the way.


Our first plan of attack to airport and flight survival is being realistic.  Our children are 3 years and 9 months old.

We always get to the airport super early.    It was so interesting to see our flight status as “Relax” (a term that is used by my husband would not have the same effect”

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I don’t like spending any more time here than I need to but I also know feeding, diaper changes, security, feeding them again, finding a place to play, and so on takes a lot of time.

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We found this quiet out of the way little spot, super clean and the wall toys entertained both kids!  Now that Scarlet is crawling and of course putting EVERYTHING in her mouth, finding a good hangout location is a little more tricky/requires WAY more paying attention to what the hands put in the mouth!!

We play to our sons wants a little more when we travel.  So when he says he wants a $9 smoothie, we go with it.  A fed child is always a happier child.

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And yes, he loved it, and yes, he did require cleaning after…

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We also know that he loves to watch anything with wheels so we try to find a spot to park with a good window view.

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Beyond that, we just try and have fun.  We play with toys and usually find other traveling families to hang out with so our kids can play and we get to have Adult conversations!

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For long flights, we book our seats with no one in front of us and the ability to get a bassinet on the wall.  When we first flew to Australia Scarlet was 6 1/2 months old and not crawling yet.  The bassinet on the wall was AMAZING.  Now that she is 9 months, she is so much more mobile. I desperately tried to keep her in it so I could eat dinner but she just moves too much.  It was still great once she fell asleep but I had to keep one eye open if she woke up and wanted out.

Our other survival method for these crazy long flights is to take advantage of screen time.  As much as I might hate Roland totally zoning out with a screen and the tantrum that ensues when it is withdrawn, it does help us all get through such a long journey.

We are so fortunate out children are excellent travelers.  Any child will cry, complain, run, and just be a kid because they ARE A KID.  Our kids are by no means perfect and I still feel like crap when they cry, scream, throw food, kick the back of a seat and so on and so on but they are just trying to cope with the boring plane as best as they can and the more you fight it the worse it will be.

Keep little tools and tricks (Like a Busy Book) with you and survival is possible.

What are your go to survival tips for traveling with kids?

Getting to Milford Sound – New Zealand

There are a lot of places to see in New Zealand and by far the most spectacular so far is Milford Sound.  A unique world unlike any other in the world, Milford Sound is also far off the beaten track.

On our way, we passed through Lake Manapouri and Lake Te Anau.  Both have great places to stay and beautiful views.


These small towns are a great launching point for your 2 plus hour drive.  Take your time, stay the night and explore all of the beauty of the region.

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Once you leave Te Anau there are no gas stations, no stores and no towns along the way.  There are very few places to overnight as well.

You can find some campsites that are “self-serve” and even a few remote lodges.

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The drive is filled with spectacular sights so go slow, stretch your legs and gaze upon the views that are like no other.

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Road conditions also change from day to day.  Check every day before you drive.  You can have frost, rain, snow, avalanches, rock slides or pleasant sunshine. The weather also changes based on your altitude, on the day we traveled there was snow as low as 300m above sea level.  The next day, when we left, there were thousands of waterfalls caused by that night’s rain.Day 9Day 9Day 9Day 9NZ 8NZ 8NZ 8

This is the Kea

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The Kea is endangered and the worlds only alpine parrot.  It has sadly fallen prey to mammals and most notedly the Human.  The salt in our food will kill them as they cannot process it.  PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE KEA!

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They are cheeky little birds who will tear apart exposed parts of your car, wires, and rubber bits mostly. They are fun to watch and quite bold.

There are plenty of scenic lookouts and hiking trails along the way.

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Open Fields encased by snow capped mountains

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Dense forest

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Glacial formed rivers

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Clear Blue Water

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Mirror Glass Water

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When you get to the end of the road to Milford Sound you will find the information center/café and the harbor.

This is when you have finally reached your destination.


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There is a lot to see and do here and only one place to stay.

The Milford Sound Lodge has various accommodations with everything from private bathrooms to a Resturant and Lounge.

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Australia Day 41 – We say goodbye to “The Beast”

How far can you drive a camper with two little kids in 6 weeks? The last picture will give you the answer…

Packing, no one likes it but it is a necessary part of travel.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to travel by motorhome was so I didn’t want to pack and unpack every few days into and our of different hotels.

When we got our camper I unpacked everything and there it stayed for 6 weeks.

Well, it appears we have added a few items over that time and now it just doesn’t fit.

We started our Australia/New Zealand trip with just one suitcase a few backpacks, not bad Eh?

We are at the Discovery Park Easts Beach.  It is likely the largest park we have been in and it is FANTASTIC.  Children’s toilets, baby bathtubs, child size showers, playgrounds, space, beach, the list goes on.

Dan took Roland for “A Run” (as we have taken to calling it)

This way I could get some packing done without the little dude trying to undo everything.  Scarlet was a willing participant that did not complain too much.

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This little duck decided to visit.  Clearly, a local favourite as to hoe friendly and hungry looking it was.

I have the added bonus today of a 1-hour massage, booked by Dan and an anniversary/mother’s day gift.  And I need it!  My right shoulder has been killing me.  It’s not a new issue but certainly aggravated by the driving and child wrestling that has been going on.

My massage was fantastic!  James, a seasoned Iron Man triathlete gave a great deep tissue remedial massage.  As he put it “A good Flogging”

All packed up we headed north to the Maui dealership.  Before leaving town we took in a few sights.

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Discovery Park Easts Beach

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Little Blow Hole

On the way back to Sydney,

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We might have left it looking a little dirty compared to the clean and ready to go models…

We took a quick taxi ride to our hotel and made the quick decision to get a new duffel bag to hold all our extra stuff.

The hotel staff had suggested a local shopping center that was close walking distance.  Thinking I wouldn’t be long I headed off and left Dan with the kids, planning to bring supper home with me.  It was about 4:30.

The shopping center had a Woolworths, foot locker and some various other shops (including the Japnese version of a dollar store) but no luggage to be seen.

Chatting with the employee of Foot Locker, he suggested a luggage store located in the World Square Shopping Centre.  Not having a clue and not having any data on my phone, I headed off in that direction.  A “short ” walk through China Town and I found the place mentioned.  Their quality was second to none but so was the $400 price tag on a small duffel bag.  I do love good quality but I also have a budget I need to follow.  Lucky me, I found a “dollar store” downstairs and they had the cheapest looking bag you have ever seen.  This thing might not even make it to New Zealand (and I packed it accordingly).

Well, there was NO way I was going to make it back to the hotel within a reasonable amount of time.  I had several kilometers to cover in the dark and hoping I didn’t get lost.  Thankfully I did grab a paper map before leaving and grabbed a bit of free WiFi before heading off.

Dan and I could also text.  He ordered pizza and I worked for it getting back.

Scarlet is SOOOOO close to crawling!  It is such fun to watch her try and she want so move too.

Anyone know what our totak driving was?

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Oh, and today we only drove 132.6 km

Australia Day 19 –

Distance Driven: 228 km

Steps taken: I give up, the bumps in the car make the FitBit crazy!

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I woke to the unmistakable sound of what could have only been hundreds of birds.  The sun was just starting to rise and the air was still cool. There were three distinct sets of birds, one I cannot identify, what I think are cockatoos and the unforgettable crow we all know

too well.   As I walked around, several other people were doing just the same.  Listening to the birds and enjoying the cool air before it gets unbelievably hot.

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The morning moon

Hughenden is one of three well know Outback towns associated with Dinosaurs.

Off we went to the Visitors Information Centre who also happen to have a large display.

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Obviously, Roland had a blast.

We made sure to grab som lunch before heading out.  Roland even found another little one to play with.  The Cool thing (pun intended) about this hotel pub was the fans, they mist water to keep you cool!!!

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We may have seen a 4 legged one of these in the bar today, lol!

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In case you are wondering, this is where we are today.

Today we drove the Dinosaur Way from Hughenden to Winton.  It is 200 km and we had a total of 13 cars pass us and all but 4 waived back.

Much like our prairies in Canada, some people will say there is nothing to see, everything looks the same and they just don’t like to make the drive.

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Honest to goodness tumbleweed!

I find the sheer vastness to be compelling and fascinating.  I was not board for a single moment.

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There are few roads coming off this main highway and they make sure to mention each town you can access.  The few roads we saw generally came with warnings and 4 wheel drive only.

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0ur arrival in Winton was simply hot.  33C (we will laugh at this temperature later) and the locals are talking about how nice and cool the weather is.

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The area is comprised of mainly sheep and cow farms.  There is a lot of history with the sheep herding as well.  Another interesting note is that it was originally named Pelican Watering Hole!

Thanks to the local information center we have made our plans for tomorrow and today we will check out a small display on the main street.

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We had a little time before supper so we sat out on the grass at our site for the night.  Scarlet needed her weekly picture and now that she can sit for long enough I can start taking it them in more interesting places!

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Supper was at the pub/hotel across the street.  We were the first to sit in the dining room.  Cool, dark, quite, just what we needed after the stark contrast of today’s drive.

Dan and I have remarked a few times now about how wonderfully chatty everyone is.  Both locals to the places we meet and also fellow travelers.


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One of these things is a little more adventurous.


Tonight was no different.  We were joined by a couple who has 12 Grandchildren of their own and they were pleased to be honorary grandparents for our kids, even if only for supper.  Another group, this time made of 4, joined the room as we were finishing up.  That didn’t stop us from bantering back and forth and Scarlet was a hoot.

The man with a beard would do everything to get her to react and smile at him but every time she would first look at me to see how she should react.  She did warm up to him and they had the best time clicking, giggling and babbling back and forth.

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Roland took this pictures.  He now knows how to use the shortcut to get to the camera, take single rather than burst photos and then he will show you the photo he took.


Day 20 – Dino Capital and McKinlay

Started out day in Winton, the Dinosaur capital of Australia and finished our day in Mt. Isa, at total of 507 km

A quick drive out of town landed us in the beautiful outback and surrounded by Jump Up’s ( a clever name for the rocky hills that stick up here and there.

We aimed to visit Australia’s Age of the Dinosaur as early as possible.  Although the locals keep telling us that the 30C temperature is a welcome change on the cooler side of things, we are feeling the heat.  By 8 am it was 25C and rising quickly.

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Did you know Australia had Dinosaurs?

Did you know they have unique dinosaurs that have never been seen anywhere else on earth?

This was such a big event that you can read all about it here

It was a late start driving to our next location and we finally made it to McKinlay!

Did you figure out what is here?

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Yes, more beautiful landscapes but we also found…

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Somwhere Roland could play with tumbleweeds, but that’s not why we drove all the way out here…

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This is the film location of Crockadile Dundee!

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This is the distance we drove from Winton to get to McKinlay, just incase you were wondering. (not to mention the 1000s of km we drove to get to the outback in the first place)

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It’s hot.  Were hot.

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A little night driving was unavoidable.  We even took a moment to stop in a rest area and turn off the lights.  It was just amazing!!! The stars!!!!

By the way.  There are crazy long vehicles here. And I saw my first wild kangaroo.  Well, I saw the back of it hopping off AWAY from the road thankfully!

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Australia Day 18 – Crossing the Great Divide

Distance Driven: 382 km

Steps Taken: 9,641

We started our morning in Townsville.  We stayed at another Big4 holiday park.  I just love their attention to detail.  The playground and splash pool were all shaded.  Just perfect for little ones to play.

Since we knew we had a big day of driving we got Roland playing as soon as possible.

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He continues to gain confidence on the jumping pillow.  Today I had him actually jumping, lifting his legs and landing on his bum!  He had a blast.

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Running after him on the playground I decided to add in some extra effort.  I haven’t been running nearly as much as I would like so I added squats, push-ups, and pull-ups and I ran after him.

We finished packing up and headed across the Great Divide – the mountains that stretch across a portion of Australia and have caused a dramatic difference in landscape from one side to the other.

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We are headed for McKinley but that will take us a few days.  Have you figured out why we’re going there yet?

Heading into the Outback we had heard of the Road Trains.  They are regular transport trucks but with three, four or even five trailers.  They are one thing to see and another thing when trying to pass them in a heavy clunky motorhome.

We have also been seeing a lot of cars we don’t know from home.  Being right-hand drive vehicles plus the lack of salt (causing corrosion) we get to see all sorts of new cars.  This one example.

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As we pass through the mountains of the great divide we come to the first town, Charters Towers.

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Lying some 140 km from the coast you might wonder why such a town exists (as I wonder why any town exists, how did people decided to come here to live and build the community I am seeing)


Charters Towers was created on accident.  You see, an aboriginal was showing some prospectors around, on Christmas Eve 1871, when horses bolted after a lightning strike. The boy found both the horses and a nugget of gold at the base of a creek.

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Soon the town was bustling and I mean stock exchange, gold rush, second largest city in Australia and all in the late 1800!  It had a population of 30,000 back in the day.

As with any gold rush, in came the unscrupulous.  A stock exchange was created to help protect the potential investors.

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Unfortunately, in the 1900’s it became uneconomical to continue to mine the gold.  With this and WW1 most people left the area and now there are just 8,500 people.

Present day the Stock Exchange is a few little shops like a bookstore, art gallery, gift shop and café.

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Much to my excitement Charters Towers has an Ambulance Museum.  Of course, it was closed.  But that didn’t stop me from looking through the windows!

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And yes, Dan gets his Fire Halls too.

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The further we drove the sparser the trees became.  The only farming we have seen is hay, cows, and horses.

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We have managed to drive as far as Hughenden, that’s 382 kilometers WEST and that is just a drop in the bucket as far as the Outback is concerned.

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We were treated to a lovely sunset and dark quickly fell as I made a hodgepodge of supper.

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As the kids fell asleep Dan and I sat outside in the cooling air (remember it got up to 30C today!)

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The stars are beautiful.  We are finally away form the light pollution of the coast and I can see so many stars!


In Dan’s high school days he and his friends played Robotech. (It was also an anime they watched.)

In the second series, the characters were located in South America and they were part of the Army of the Southern Cross.  Dan and his friends would have never seen this particular constellation as they are from the northern hemisphere and it is in the southern.

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Tonight, we broke out the tech and used an App called GoSkyWatch and we found it!

Day 18 (151)Jupiter was so bright tonight that I could actually capture it with an IPhone.



The stars are so bright and stunning.  I could stare at them for hours.  I wish I had the equipment with me to show you every last detail of the milky way and all the constellation I see tonight.

Australia Day 15 – What a Beautiful Country

Australia Day 15 – What a Beautiful Country

Distance Driven: 444 km

Steps taken: 8503

Yesterday we bought Roland a Soccer Ball and first thing this morning we headed out to play.  He doesn’t quite get the concept of kicking rather than throwing but were working on it.  I actually got him to kick it back and forth a little bit.

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My plan is to head further north to find some diving on the Great Barrier Reef.  Now keeping in mind Cyclone Debbie jut passed through here a few weeks ago and it was a category 4.  So off we drove, 444 km in total.

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I have been finding it interesting that we will go from full strength on our phone to nothing at all.  Or rather I assume I can call for help only as this screen shot says “SOS” on it.

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We are so out in the middle of nowhere that we frequently see signs telling us how far away the closest ambulance is.  Signs like “Next Ambulance 25 km Back” or something like that.

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We also seem to find a lot of abandoned cars.  Not sure what the story is, perhaps it costs too much to tow them away?

The terrain continually changes too.

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We go back and forth from burnt forest, mountains and vast valleys that are cultivated with either cattle or sugar cane.

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We even got to see some changing weather today.  The storm must have been heading north because the roads would be wet but we didn’t have rain for most of our drive.

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As we got close to McKay we started to see some evidence of Cyclone Debbi but it wasn’t until we were getting close to Airlie Beach (and Proserpine) that her damage became truly felt.

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There are signs with thick metal posts that are FLAT on the ground.  Trees with no leaves or fallen down.  Fences, roofs etc. all damages.

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I have heard that protons the reef has been greatly affected as well.  Coral destroyed and algae covering the decomposing damage.  This could be disastrous for the Tourism and ecosystem of the area.

Many of the hotels and resorts are still closed due to power outages and damage.

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As we drove through Airlie Beach we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly this community has come together to get thins moving.  Although the damage is vast, many places have reopened and the place is filling up quickly.

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We found a place to stay for the night and have headed across the street for some supper.

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Much to Roland’s delight, there is a playpark for him to get his wiggles out.  The food was 5 star despite the cafeteria like setting and we all went home full.

Oh, and Scarlet learned a new trick while eating dinner tonight.  She can’t stop doing it now that she know how.




Australia Day 14 – An Otherwise Normal Day

Distance Travelled: 125 km

Steps Taken: 6643


Today marks two weeks in Australia.  At this point, most people have had a nice long vacation and are ready to head back home.  We, on the other hand, still have 4 weeks in Australia and another 4 weeks in New Zealand.  The span of time alone is almost daunting.

Today we took a little break and had a “normal” day.  We didn’t start our day with this plan, we had actually planned to do a long drive!  As we came into Rockhampton, we saw a mall that was open and needed some lunch.  Well, one thing turned into another and this was our day…

It started off like most days with some driving.

We passed by some interesting signs ( I just can’t get over the signs here!)

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We learned that we have entered into the Tropic of Capricorn.  A very interesting latitude that is shared with places like Chile, Southern Brazil and South Africa.

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I had tried wearing Scarlet backpack style, she settled down quickly, but lunch came so quick that we didn’t spend much time with it.

Lunch, by the way, was DELICIOUS!


Walking around this mall we found Kmart!

Roland quickly grabbed himself a basket and off he went!  No parent was invovled in this activity, this was all Roland!

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After doing a little shopping we went to the movie theater just in time to see the new Smurf movie.

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It was such a nice treat to just sit and relax for a few hours.

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We found a place right outside of Rockhampton to stay for the night and even picked up a pizza on the way out of town.   Dominos had this fantastic board so you know what stage your order is in. 🙂

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Day 13 – Wild Dolphins


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Today is a special day.  Not only is Scarlet now 7 months old but we are headed to the Barnacles Dolfin Centre!

This fantastic group of volunteers has taken on the responsibility of helping to keep this rare species of Australian Humpback Dolfin safe due to a set of circumstances that have brought them to this little cafe on the shores of this little bay.

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These wild dolphins came to this little spot first in 1950, as one was injured and beached himself in front of the cafe.  The locals began to feed him and named him “Ols Scarry”, for the battle scars seen on his body.  After gaining his strength, he returned to the wild but continued to visit for free fish.

Some years later another dolphin began to visit the same location, “Scary” and she began to bring her calf in 1991. The calf “Mystique” is now the Alpha leader of the pod and visits the bay daily for a free meal and other members of the pod can be seen as well.

It should be mentioned again that these are WILD dolphins.  There hare heavy fine for anyone who touches or swims with these rare creatures.  They are fed 1/8th of their daily intake and are fed ONLY fish that are caught in the estuary they feed in. This experience is heavily controlled for the safety of the dolphins.

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Despite waking at 6, skipping breakfast and heading straight over, we still had quite the line of people in front of us.

Members of the pod usually show up around 7 am and feeding starts at 8 am.  Naturally, holidays and weekends are busier and I recommend you show up no later than 6:30.  Currently (as of April 2017) the cost of entry is $5 per person and $5 per fish.

Since the amount of fish is limited for each dolphin the staff proposed that today, with the LARGE number of people, that we all let the children have the opportunity first.

We were fortunate enough to have Mystique and his son Harmony come and visit today.

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Once 7 am arrives, small groups of people are lead onto the shore (after removing shoes and sanitizing hands).  There the volunteers, who are also standing in the water will tell you about the dolphins.

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After getting up close we waited around until feeding time at 8 am.


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Here, Roland is handing Kevin his Fish Ticket so that he can feed the dolphins.

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The volunteers helped us to hold the fish just right, head first so Harmony could have his breakfast.  I was just amazed at how gentle he was. Gingerly taking the fish from Roland.


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Roland even managed to score another fish from a large family with 8 children.  When Mom saw Roland wanted another fish, she insisted he have one of hers and off we went to feed Mystique.

I’m telling you, this kid gets soooo many free things.  He doesn’t know how lucky he truly is.

A few things to note about visiting the dolphins.

1. Get there early

2. They are wild and may not be there every day.

3.  Flash photography is like an arc welder to their eyes (Blindly Bright)

4.  Put the phone on Airplane Mode.  Your phone going off (even in silent mode) will disrupt their sonar and could scare them off for the day.

5.  The Barnacles Cafe serves an amazing breakfast so stick around and enjoy your time in Tin Can Bay.  There is also a public pool and park.

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Roland found a digger!

As we drove out of Tin Can Bay we were treated to many more wonderful sights of Australia.  I have seen several wonderful murals in the small towns we pass through.

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The signs continue to entertain us, this time intentionally!

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Fatigue Zone: Question: What’s a group of toads?

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Answer: A Knot

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The varied landscape continues to change.  Forest, Mountains, Grasslands.

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Fires are no joking matter here. Most of the forests we see have burn marks on the trees.  The warning goes all the way to “Catastrophic”!!!

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Flooding is another problem they have. 


We also made a side trip into Woolworths to restock


So you know those pictures of toddlers left alone for just a few minutes. The ones where they cause a disastrous mess.  Flour all over the kitchen, markers on siblings, bum cream.

Well, I know this camper will never be the same after Roland has been living in it for 6 weeks.



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I gave him a yogurt pouch to have while we drove.   A few minutes later I look back on this mess.

One of the signs we have seen a few time is Wild Cows

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Today I’m pretty sure we actually saw some!  No, I didn’t get a picture of them but Dan starts referencing the song “Wild Boys”.  I didn’t know it and had no signal to look it up.  He wanted to be funny and start singing “Wild Cows”.

Tonight we stopped in “Green Achers” for the night and as I come back from a short walk I can hear music coming from the camper.

Apparently, all he did was turn on the radio and there it was.  I had no words when I walked in and heard this.


Australia Day 12 – The Kids Need to Play

Distance Driven: 453 km

Steps Taken: 7,982


Scarlet is now 7 months old.  When we started to plan this adventure she was only 1 month old and how things have changed.

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Despite being out on the road and in her carrier, she continues to improve with her sitting, rolling and getting around.  She, of course, is talking more too.  Scarlet loves to sing, especially when she is tired, and has recently added for sounds to her vocals.

Both kids a are adjusting so well to life in the camper.  Simple things like eating and sleeping continue to smooth out.  Every morning both kids wake up around 6 am.  The only reason we know is eventually Roland starts talking to Scarlet loud enough that we wake up.  He will crawl over to her side of the bed, open the blind and start to tell her all about the things he can see.  She happily coos back to him.  It is a beautiful sight and I wish I could get it on camera without disrupting them.

Roland regularly requires running around and lots of stimulation so we can have a happier calmer Roland during our long drives.  Today’s play was no different.

First was a walk around the property.

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We found some pretty cool bikes that he wanted to ride.

We then grabbed Scarlet and headed for the Kids Club.


Both kids had a blast playing with the toys provided.

With play time over we packed the caravan and headed, once again, north along the coast.

You see, we really don’t have much of a plan.  Each day we look at the time when we leave, either the park or that day’s planned activity and we decide how far we think we can drive for the day.  Then we get out a phone and start looking for a place to stay.  This is often (at the moment with the Easter Weekend upon us) followed by several phone calls asking about availability.  We also keep a close eye on all the free places to stay in case we cannot find an alternative.

So as we drive and search for our next location we are treated to varied scenery.  I noticed the forest type changed frequently and the main crop switched from Sugar Cane to cattle once again.

The mountains grew up around us and we headed for more major cities.

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Outside Brisbane, we encountered our first “major” traffic jam that lasted about 5 minutes, lol.

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Again I found the extra back seat handy as I got Roland to eat while Dan drove to allow us some extra drive time.

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Brisbane looks like an interesting city.  As there are no caravan parks with availability we will just drive through today.

There are so many bridges here and a variety of styles.  I would like to come back some day and explore the city further.

These are just two of the interesting signs we see while driving.  There are also a variety of different animals other than your kangaroo or koala, like horses and even things we couldn’t identify.  I just love this steam train crossing sign, it was close to the Gimpy Gold Mining and Historical Museum. (a place we might need to visit tomorrow)

Speaking of Gimpy, there are a lot of rather oddly named places.  Like Broken Head and Tin Can Bay (Where we have driven today).Day 11 -  104

We have arrived in Tin Can Bay right at 5:00 and managed to sneak into the IGA just before it closes for the night.  As I prep and serve dinner, I look over to see Scarlet it what can only be described and Soother Heaven.

With that I will leave you for today as tomorrow we start bright and early with the hopes of seeing and even feeding some friendly sea creature…