We finally left Charleville after 6 jam packed days, with our first stop being Augathella. We don’t travel huge distances in a day and we try to stop regularly, usually just to see a town we are passing through or for lunch, or sometimes even just on the side of the road so everyone can have a walk around and stretch their legs. This works well for us. So our first quick stop after leaving Charleville was not that far out at Augathella. We went for a drive through the very small town, saw our second painted silo (It could possibly have been a water tank, I’m not exactly sure) and stopped to read all about the Kenniff Tree, a tree made famous by the bushranger brothers, Pat and Jimmy Kenniff. Apparently they would tether their horses to this particular tree so that when they got themselves in trouble when visiting Augathella it was an easy getaway on horseback. It also happens to be a coolibah tree (you know the poem ‘Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, under the shade of a coolibah tree’) First time for us seeing one, theres lots of first’s for us on this journey! It was a quick stop but sometimes those quick ones are the ones that make a big day in the car seem small.
Second stop was a little place I had never even heard of but is apparently known to everyone else including the royal family. Its called Tambo and is located on the Matilda Way about half way between Charleville and Longreach. Its the home of the Tambo Teddies. These Teddies are hand made from Australian wool and each bear is named after a local station around Tambo. Some local ladies came up with the idea to raise some much needed funds for the farmers that were doing it tough, basically to get the small town through the drought. They are the softest, most adorable teddies I have ever laid eyes on and I can see why people fall in love with them. Archie and Ashton were lucky enough to be asked to pick a teddy and help name them. So Mt Playfair Archie and Forrest Hill Ashton were born. Only problem was that the boys fell in love with their teddies and didn’t want to leave them behind. Ashton considered using his savings to purchase his but soon realised just how much of his savings that was and decided to cry and make me feel like the worst mum ever instead! Needless to say those 2 beautiful teddies are still sitting on the shelf at the Tambo Teddies store in Tambo. Although even a couple of weeks later writing this I have to admit the thought is crossing my mind to call the store and have them posted to us for the kids birthdays at the end of the year. Joel thinks I’m crazy and he had forgotten about it the moment we left the store, the difference between mums and dads I guess! Haha. Anyway at 8 and 10 I’m thinking the boys are a little too old for me to be buying them teddies for their birthdays! It was a great stop though, and lunch and teddy naming added another story to our journey.
We decided to stay at a low cost camp in Blackall for the night, Wikicamps told us there was a bit to see around the area and we had heard great things about the free tour that happens every morning at 10am at the local museum. Blackall is the birthplace of the Jackie Howe, a blue singlet worn by shearers back in the day and apparently invented by a bloke named Jackie Howe who also happens to hold the world record for shearing the most amount of sheep in a day, a whopping 321 in 7 hours and 40 minutes, while he was shearing in Blackall. There is a statue in his honour that we managed to see, along with the black stump. There is a saying ‘beyond the black stump’ which basically means in the middle of nowhere. Blackall originally has a black stump that was used to survey the area, and used in the mapping of inland Australia, it became famous as anywhere beyond the black stump was soon known as no mans land or the middle of nowhere to Aussies. The 10am tour at the museum actually ended up being a highlight though. A old ringer and shearer by the name of Stewart has been the beating heart of the history here, he says he can’t read or write but he tells a damn good yarn. He took us through all the old buildings and the old water pumps, saddles and cars. Theres hundreds of pieces of memorabilia here and he has managed to make most of them work again. The kids were asked to demonstrate everything and were even allowed in the locked part of the museum where the old cars and trains are parked to get their photo taken inside them. At the very end he let them walk the horses around just like they did in the old days when they used to have to pump water. He was so great with the kids and we think they got more out of their time with Stewart in Blackall then they could’ve in a whole term at school, honestly the things they learnt and heard in this couple of hours was so mind blowing.
From Blackall we went to a station called Lara Wetlands. This magic place is part of a station just south of Barcaldine, and has the most amazing natural wetlands and a hot natural bore to swim in. They supply canoes so you can paddle around the wetlands and try to spot the hundreds of birdlife that call it home. There was also live music on the afternoon we were there, open for everyone to go. You are able to park the entire way around the wetlands, so you can be as secluded or as near to other people as you like. We only stayed one night here as we were needing to get to somewhere that had good internet service to knuckle in and catch up on work and the kids had school work that needed to be done as well, we were so behind, but if we could’ve we certainly would have stayed longer, it was a magic spot!
After our beautiful night at Lara Wetlands we stopped in briefly at Barcaldine, which isn’t too far from Lara. Barcaldine is the home of the tree of knowledge, which happens to have played a huge part in the forming of the Australian Labour Party back in the 1800’s. Regardless of what side of the political fence you stand on, this town played a huge part in the making of Australian Political History. I actually had no idea that the shearer’s went on strike because they wanted better pay and better working conditions, and that when the owners of the sheep and land just brought in others that were happy to work for nothing the whole thing turned into a major fight. Apparently this included guns and burning shearing sheds down, among other things. Anyway what they called the Tree of Knowledge is where the shearer’s met for their first meetings, and this is apparently how the Labour Party came to be. I was just super impressed with the building around the tree. The tree itself is pretty underwhelming, it’s also been dead a long time and I think what is there now is actually a replica of the original tree, but the wooden blocks hanging from the roof over it almost make a giant wind chime. It was without a doubt my favourite piece of Architecture in Australia so far. So much so that I took more photos of it than I did of the actual tree itself!
I think what we’ve noticed is that it’s these little stops seeing things of interest along the way are what makes this trip so good. The fact that there is time to stop and look at the small things and not just drive by because you’re on a time frame and have to be somewhere, so you can get back home within the week or fortnight. We’ve found it’s the places you just stay for a night here or there that are more memorable then we ever thought they would be. And sometimes it’s the places you never knew about that you stop at on a whim that turn out to be the best places! We did make it to Longreach no problems at all and we had a good time getting there, but I’ll save the Longreach goodness for another post!
I didn’t really have any expectations for Charleville, and had not even really done a lot of research on it. I’d googled it and figured out there was a bit to do there, including a cosmos centre which I knew the kids would like and a ww2 tour which I knew Joel and Archie would like but other then that I had not even looked at places to camp. I think sometimes this works out to our advantage though because once in Cunnamulla and then again in Yowah when we said we were headed to Charleville we were told to make sure we stay at the Evening Star Tourist Park which is about 10 kms out of town but worth the extra driving. Word of mouth is honestly the best advertising because otherwise I may have missed this absolute gem of a place!Read More
After our beautiful station stay we stopped over in Cunnamulla to get a few supplies and see the museum and Cunnamulla Fella statue. Most embarrassingly for my boys I played the Cunnamulla Fella song for them while we were at the statue (thank you Spotify!), let’s just say they didn’t appreciate me dancing to it in front of the statue. The museum was good but I’d be happy not to do it again, there’s not a lot of interactive stuff for kids but there is a lot of old things to look at including an old telegraph switchboard among many other things. After the muesum we went to get some food supplies, the local supermarket was a little disappointing as the day we were there they had no meat, no bread, a very small choice of veggies, and not much fruit. Luckily we found a butcher that was open that we were able to top up some meat supplies, Cunnamulla is a pretty small place and it made me very grateful for the choices we get back home. We decided not to stay in Cunnamulla but continue on through Eulo to Yowah, the home of the Boulder Opal.Read More
On our drive to the Angledool church and then up to the small border town of Hebel last week we stopped and spoke to the police at the border about what we needed to do as Queensland residents to get back into Queensland given that we had spent all of the covid lockdown in NSW. He told us that the border opened to tourists from other states as of Friday (this was Tuesday) and that from what they had been hearing it was going to be a complete madhouse trying to cross on Friday with 250000 other people that had apparently applied for border passes. We were booked to stay in Lightning Ridge until Friday. We hadn’t purposefully booked our stay to coincide with the border, we had simply booked 2 weeks and that was how it had worked out. Lesson learned, I need to pay more attention to dates and what’s going on in the world. We decided there and then that as the cop had said we would be crazy to wait until the same day as everyone else and left a day early on the Thursday.Read More
2 weeks in Lightning Ridge was what we gave ourselves, so many people looked at us like we were crazy when we said we had 2 weeks. ‘What will you do for that long?’ was a common question!
The truth is we’ve tried to do everything, twice! And I’m sure there’s still stuff that we have missed! It was also the last week of the school term and we had school work to finish up so that we could all actually have a 2 week break without fighting to get it all done. So throw in a few days spent finishing that off, not to mention some online work meetings for us and our everyday work we do for our businesses back in Townsville and the 2 weeks flew by! We also were lucky enough to have some family come and stay at Lightning Ridge the first week of the school holidays (our second week there) and that was really nice for us all.Read More
A few hours west of Tenterfield is a fairly big place called Inverell. This was the next stop on our post covid travels. (Yep post covid travels is a thing now) Our plan was to make our way slowly towards Lightning Ridge, and Inverell seemed like a good place to stay for a few nights. We have been fossicking for sapphires before in Rubyvale, Qld and we all loved it and Inverell is known as ‘The Sapphire City’ so we figured while we were here we’d give it another crack. All 4 of us really enjoy fossicking, Archie and I get sick of it usually before Ashton and Joel do but we love finding treasures.Read More
Our first week on the road post covid-19 lockdown, we headed a couple of hours down the road to the beautiful Tenterfield. Even though some borders are still closed, including the Queensland/NSW border camping is now allowed in NSW so we decided it was time to hit the road again to make the most of the time we have in our caravan. Even though we could cross the QLD border given that we’re QLD residents we decided we wouldn’t just yet and we would head west instead and stay in NSW for a little bit longer. Tenterfield was our first stop.Read More
The truth is I had to stop watching the news. I had to for my mental health. The first couple of weeks after covid-19 started making headlines I was like a junkie, I couldn’t stop watching. But the truth is the media created a fear inside me like I’ve never felt before, the good news was few and far between and the bad was shown over and over again. Throw into the mix the fact that we were a month into what was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime in our van, something I had been working towards and dreaming about for much of my adult life, and travel was now off the cards indefinitely. It was tough. It still is. For me it’s always been the not knowing. The uncertainty of if we will be able to carry on or if we need to start thinking about being somewhere on a more permanent basis. If there had been an end date right from the start that would have made things so much more comfortable for me and my feelings! But there wasn’t and there still isn’t really. The truth is no one knows how long this whole thing will drag on for, and I think even when it’s all in the past the financial and mental repercussions will live on for a long, long time.Read More
Stop number one on our official first week travelling, technically we have been travelling since August 2019 but its been a bit all over the place with trips to Europe and China thrown in and lots of time spent parked at families houses in NSW while we changed vans and did all the jobs we needed to do before we fully left.
So with the date to leave supposed to be early January and it now being mid way through February we have finally launched for the 2nd time. First stop was Yamba, NSW. We stayed at the Blue Dolphin Holiday Resort, and man oh man is it lush! Located right on the Clarence river it is one huge park. Complete with jumping pillow, slides, water park, games room and its own private jetty, the pool even has a swim up bar! We only spent two nights here and it cost us $78.30 per night for the 4 of us but we had such a good time I would spend the money again!Read More
- London trains are great if there is only one of you. If there is four of you and you’re not going too far it’s actually cheaper in a taxi.
- If you do decide to use buses and trains and are staying in London a few days buy a oyster card. If we had done this right from the start we would’ve saved ourselves a lot of money.
- Get yourself somewhere to stay that has a kitchen, or at least a kitchenette. Food in restaurants and cafes is expensive, and day trips are made even more expensive if you’re buying breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most meals cost us a minimum of 80 pounds and with the exchange rate from Australian dollars thats over $150au! We managed to have very hot days while in London, in fact it was a heatwave, and having to buy water added to the cost.
- If visiting in August/September it is berry season. We had a local that we knew tell us about this and we are so glad she did! Every day we were in London we would go to the local Sainsburys and buy the most delicious blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cherries. One punnet cost between 1 and 2 pound so $20 Australian dollars got you a lot of berries, and they were legit the biggest, sweetest, best tasting berries any of us have ever had! The kids even had them for dinner one night because they were sick of eating out, and in their words “we just want something fresh!”
- London food is actually quite different to our Aussie food, and I have quite fussy kids so to be honest we struggled a lot with finding things that they would eat. A lot of places do not do just fries, and if they do its 10 pounds for a tiny bowl of fries, thats over $15 for enough fries for a snack for one, its totally crazy!
- The hop on hop off bus is great, you see a lot of London in one day and you can get on and off to see sights and stay as long as you like, it also includes tickets on the water ferry so you can go down the river Thames. They’re not cheap but we had the best day out and found it the best way to see a little of a lot of things. The only other thing I would suggest is to start early, theres so much to see and do and it all takes time, try to fit as much into that day to take advantage of the ticket while you have it, also if you do it first up you get to see what you do and don’t want to see while you’re there, and they give you a lot of information too.
- The museums are all free! Even the National Art Gallery is free! We didn’t want to spend all our time doing museums, but pick one and do it, we didn’t get to do many so I can’t recommend one but just choose one based on your families interests.
- Harry Potter was so worth stopping over in London for, the place is mind blowing! My advice though is dont pay for photos in there, theres actually quite a few opportunities later on where you can pick up a broomstick and take your own photo, so save your money. Also it takes way longer then the 3 hours they recommend, take food and water! There is sooooo much you can spend your money on, the souvenirs are everywhere and some of them are amazing, my kids wanted one of everything! While they obviously didnt get one of everything I would factor in at least $100au for a keepsake, even the chocolate frogs and Berties every flavour beans are pricey when you compare it to Australian $$. From personalised trunks to personalised journals, jewellery and clothing they have everything you could ever imagine and you have no choice but to walk through it all, there is no avoiding it! Harry Potter deserves its own blog post though!
- If going in Summer prepare for the heat, i was not expecting it to be so hot! Nothing is air conditioned either so the trains and underground are sweltering. On the other hand 2 days later it was cold and raining and we all needed long pants and jackets. Pack for all seasons and thats just in your daypack!
- It took our kids the entire four days in London to recover from jet lag. Which means they were tired and cranky a lot of the time especially come early afternoon. They are 7 and 9 and were falling asleep on trains and buses by the end of the day, when getting off you would have to wake them and to be honest it was a nightmare. Give yourself plenty of time, make sure you’re back to your room early so they can have a rest, it was something we did not do enough of in London and our kids were so over it all by the end of the day which made our days in London that bit less enjoyable.
- Eggs in London are very very pale and mostly flavourless, we are very spoilt in Australia, especially when you can get them fresh from a farm!!
Just recently we flew 21 hours from Australia to London with a 1 hour stopover in Dubai, we’ve flown before with our kids but the longest flight was about 6 hours. We flew over 3 times that long this time and theres a few things I learnt along the way!
- A one hour stopover to get from one plane to another in a huge airport like Dubai is not enough time! Especially when it takes 15 minutes to actually get from your plane to the actual airport building and they drop you at the opposite end of the airport to where you actually need to be. I’m actually not sure how we made it to the connecting flight on time, I think it was sheer luck! On the bright side we got the heart rates up running through the airport.
- If you purchase a product so that the kids can lie down to sleep (like the Kooshy Kids blow up pillows I did) make sure both you and your husband know how they work before you get on the flight. I had blown them up and figured out how they worked before we left so the one i blew up was fantastic but unfortunately there wasn’t enough room for me to do the second one and as Joel had not even looked at them before we left he couldn’t work out how to use them so only blew up one compartment, it kinda made it useless and more of a pain then anything, I’m very grateful we had at one though as it meant at least one of the kids could stretch out to sleep, if only we had the two!
- Make sure you make any special requests for food allergies before you get on the flight. We didn’t even think of this and unfortunately Joel has a dairy allergy. He pretty much didn’t eat for the entire 21 plus hours as there was literally nothing on board that didn’t contain dairy and we couldn’t even get something for him at the stopover in Dubai as we didn’t get time, we almost missed the connecting flight as it was.
- Use the toilet early in the flight so you can try to avoid using it later in the flight. By the end of our first flight I was actually scared to be in there as I felt like I might catch something it was that disgusting. There was even blood smeared all over the mirror! I mean come on people what on earth are you doing in those tiny little airplane bathrooms? Also make the kids go before they are totally busting, the toilets on the first flight from Brisbane to Dubai always had a line up, even though it was an overnight flight, and some people seem to take forever! It doesn’t work so well when you have a child that needs to go right now!
- Jet lag is talked about all the time amongst adults, but kids with jet lag is whole next level! Our kids were dead on their feet by the time we got to our motel in London, so much so that that they couldn’t even carry their own bags as they fell asleep on the train, so even getting them to walk was almost too much. The plan to have showers, go for a walk then have an early dinner so we could all go to bed and hopefully sleep all night didn’t exactly go to plan because by the time all four of us had showered the two kids were sound asleep. We shook them, tickled them, talked to them but no matter what we did we couldn’t wake them up. So at 4pm in the afternoon London time both kids were down and out! Fast forward to 12am London time and child number 1 is wide awake and ready to go, by his watch its 6am in Australia so he’s a little confused when I tell him its the middle of the night over here and if he can’t go back to sleep he at least just needs to lay there and be quite so everyone else can sleep. He’s also disappointed that he missed dinner, sorry mate but at midnight the chances of us finding you food are pretty slim! Anyway I settle him back down and surprisingly he actually does eventually get back to sleep, but at 2am London time child 2 wakes up and is ready to party, but because he is unable to party he decides to cry instead. So the long and the short of it is I’m not sure if I would have slept all night or woke up ready to go at 2am because when you’ve got kids their jet lag is your jet lag!