We left Alice on the 4th April and headed west towards the West MacDonald Ranges. The scenery was so beautiful with many gorges and landscapes of high ranges and red rock. Our first stop was Simpsons Gap. We saw the beautiful permanent waterhole and just up from it amongst all the rocks are where hundreds of rock wallabies live. Such a lovely spot, wish we could have camped here. We then drove over to Ellery Creek Big Hole where we found a nice camping spot for the night and then went for a swim in the spectacular gorge. The water was quite cool, but once you got used to it we had a fantastic swim. We settled in for the evening with a lovely camp fire and a stew cooking in our camp oven. In the morning it was lovely to go for another dip in the gorge after breakfast before we headed back to Alice Springs for a quick grocery shop and another big day of driving.
The kids checking out Simpsons Gap
Wayne checking on dinner at Ellery Creek Big Hole
Jakayla having a lovely time at Ellery Big Hole
Me and the kids having a swim, the water was nicer than it looks
We headed north on the Stuart Highway where we noticed the scenery around us change slightly from arid & dryness to more green and even some water as we passed the Tropic of Capricorn.
Driving past the Devil’s Marbles
It was a very long drive, there wasn’t many places to stop and it was long hours in the truck. We eventually made Tennant Creek and went to the RSL for dinner. We stopped for the night about an hour’s drive after Tennant Creek in a free camp and then up bright and early for another big drive along the Barkly Highway. We stopped that night in another free camp just before Mt Isa where it was very hot, but luckily we had the generator running and some lovely cool air for the van.
The next morning we headed into Mt Isa and had a short look around. I didn’t find Mt Isa a very nice place to be honest, it was very hot and full of pollution from the local mining. In fact, even visiting the Information Centre was painful with the lady behind the counter not wanting to be there and boy did she let us know it!!! Most of our trip has lovely memories and we have an enjoyable time, but its good to be truthful and honestly, Mt Isa is a place I will never return and see again!!!
We thankfully left Mt Isa and headed west and stopped at a lovely place called Julia Creek. We went to the local swimming pool for a lovely cool down and have a nice wash in the shower afterwards (you take advantage of any hot shower you can while travelling!!). We camped out near the river for the night, but the bugs were so bad we had to cook dinner quickly and eat inside.
Parked next to Julia Creek
The next day we had another big drive but were getting closer to country towns so we made sure we stopped at Hughenden (for lunch at the park and a visit to their popular FJ Holden Café). I must mention the road along this part of Qld; Flinders Highway. Ask anyone from this area about this road and they will cringe, it is one of the worst roads we have ever been on and there are road works everywhere. There is just so much rain here, the roads can never be that great to start with! We were hoping that there was no damage to our van or truck to be honest. We stopped for the night near Campaspe River and had a nice night (with thankfully no bugs) and fresh water from a tank near where we parked. Sometimes it’s the little things, like fresh water that can make the day start off with a smile 🙂
Cooking in the great outdoors
On Wednesday 9th April we stopped in Charters Towers for a little look around. Little did we know we would be back in Charters in not too long!!! We then drove into Townsville and Wayne was in heaven in the biggest Bunnings Warehouse we have ever seen! We went straight for our camp for the night at Rollingstone Camp Area as the light was fading and we needed to set up. The people camping here were a little ‘different’ to say the least and the man in the camp next to us informed us that if we left our generator on all night, he would have pleasure in smashing it to pieces!!!!!!!!!!! Well, we assured him that we never leave our generator on overnight anyway, what a loser! Lucky we don’t meet many idiots on our journey. We got up nice and early and left this camp ground and headed for Forrest Beach where we paid for a week’s accommodation.
We got nice and set up at Forrest Beach van park and the kids loved running around looking for baby cane toads. It was a nice sunny, pleasant day and we had a little walk on the beach right near us before going out to dinner at the van pub (which is so popular, that if you didn’t book you didn’t get in!). As we headed back to the van, a few of the campers were walking around chatting about Cyclone Ita. We got our radio out and listened to ABC radio to get informed about the cyclone and started to get a bit concerned especially when some of the campers were thinking of leaving. We decided to wait until the next morning and make our decision. We woke up to rain, wind and a pretty miserable day. The wind was already quite strong and we realised would only get worse so we decided for the safety of our family we would leave and try and head south west for dryer land. Wayne luckily got our money back for the rest of the week and we started driving back with Charters Towers in mind.
For the last 4 months we have been using an Android app called WikiCamps to help us decide where to stay, it’s the best $5 I have ever spent! It’s a community based app where people can leave comments about their stay and how much it was. It covers all caravan parks, all free camps, national parks and even day stops and point of interests. I have left a comment for every single place we have stayed on our journey and look forward to one day going back through the comments to see where we have stayed and what I thought of them!!!!
So on our way to Charters, I got out the good old WikiCamps and found a place called Bivouac Junction Van Park. I said to Wayne we should check it out and if we don’t like it we can move on. The comments were all positive and they said it was a very rustic park, very laid back and was great for kids. Well, when we arrived and got out the truck with chickens running over to us, we thought we had landed in the Beverly Hillbillies! LOL. We handed over $150 for the week and found a great spot up the top and got to work setting up all our tarps and making it safe and comfy for a week. At this stage we were one of only about 3 or 4 vans so lots of room for the kids to ride their bikes and no lining up for the toilet or showers! We went grocery shopping the next day and on the Sunday we stayed inside due to lots of rain and a little wind (thank you Ita) and thought, oh no we haven’t escaped the bad weather, but Rory loved the rain and had a great time playing in mud puddles and chasing chickens around. Thankfully on Monday we woke up to a beautiful sunny day and some more vans started coming in, including more kids! Wayne and I were so happy, there is only so much ‘I’m bored’ you can handle in one day! We met a lovely family from Townsville (Jeannine, Owen, Josh and Isabelle & Annabelle). The kids were set, I was left alone for more than 10 minutes at a time (yay!) and as more vans/campers/tents arrived, so did more kids until at the time of the long weekend there would have been over 100 families there with hundreds of kids!!! My diary informs me that the kids were in kid heaven but lining up for the showers sucked LOL. Poor Rory had a bit of a rough time on his bicycle, he couldn’t stay on it!! We think that maybe he has had a big growth spurt and his balance was totally out and his legs were too long LOL and he keep coming back to the van in tears and bloody (lucky he heals quickly). Overall we stayed 10 nights at the park and it was one of the best times we have all had. I just hope I can find another ‘Bivouac van park’ for the next school holidays.
Our set up at Bivouac
Rory loving the mud and rain!
The kids made some lovely friends here
My friend called Smoko. She was apparently too small for dinner 😉
On Monday we headed back towards Townsville and had a better look around this time. We then headed to our new friend’s home for a visit and were lucky enough to be able to park out the front of their house and sleep the night. Thanks so much guys for having us over for dinner, the kids certainly enjoyed playing with your kids! Wayne sends his love to Leo 😉
Nice blue neck Rory (who couldnt put the tablet down long enough for a photo lol)
The next day we visited Castle Hill which has an amazing 360 degree view of Townsville from up high. I also tried to donate blood at a mobile blood bank, but was turned away as there had been a recent outbreak of dengue fever in Charters Towers! Scary. We said goodbye to our lovely new friends and headed towards Little Crystal Creek where we came across the most gorgeous water fall and natural swimming hole. They all went for a swim and we decided to stay the night in the car park (even though it said no camping!!) but we were good and even left the area cleaner then when we arrived. It was so quiet and lovely to hear the sound of the waterfall in the distance while falling to sleep. We have noticed that since Ita all the creeks and falls have much more water than normal, so our swimming hole was quite spectacular. In the morning we went for another swim, the water was very fresh but I’m glad I plucked up the courage to go for a swim, it’s a great way to wake up and feel refreshed. The drive to and from Little Crystal Creek was very narrow and steep especially with a large van at the back! We thankfully arrived back down at the bottom in one piece and went for a drive to a few more swimming holes including the Rock Slides and Big Crystal Creek. It was so much fun, pity about the mozzies!!!
A nice way to start the day at Little Crystal Creek
The water was quite cold so Im trying to talk myself into jumping in!
So glad i did, it was wonderful!
The Rock Slides, we didnt brave sliding down the rocks though, looked a bit rough!
At Big Crystal Creek, the water was so clear and beautiful
Lovely cascading water falls everywhere
Finally someone made a great name for a creek
We stopped at Ingham for groceries and an op-shop visit and then decided on a free camp up the road for the night, with one side of the camp completely covered in cane sugar. Now let me tell you about the rain in this area; it never stops for starters and the ground is very muddy and unpleasant to walk on. We got to our free camp and parked for the night near a table and chairs. There was a light drizzle while cooking dinner but that night the skies opened up and down it came. Wayne was stressing we would get bogged in the wet grass so first thing we moved our rig up a big higher on some gravel and had breakfast. I noticed while going to the toilets (which I might add had hot showers!!!!) that there were a couple of power points, so after Wayne confirmed they were working, out came the extension cords and we had power yay! This came in so handy as the rain just didn’t stop all day, so the kids watched TV and I watched some shows on my computer and we all were happy for the day. Backpackers came and went while we were there, often getting bogged. These poor people packed into their campers like sardines and often having to set up their tents on wet grass. We invited them all over the next morning for some hot tea and coffee which was apparently appreciated! We left a donation at the camp grounds as hot water (and power) for any free camp is a luxury and should be appreciated.
Camping next to the sugar cane. The ground was soaking wet but we got power and hot showers!
On Anzac Day we headed north and stopped in Innisfail for a look around and morning tea. We unfortunately didn’t make any Anzac Day marches, but most were called off due to the heavy rain in the area. We then arrived at an RV friendly park in Babinda. It was huge and had good amenities showers that cost $2 for 4 minutes. A Motorclub was there, so lots of grey nomads trying to cope with the rain and humidity. We parked the van, got it nice and secured and went for a drive around the area. We visited The Boulders, which is an amazing rainforest with a creek and huge stone boulders lining the creek. All the billboards advertising The Boulders showed clear calm water, but when we arrived it was a torrent of muddy water rushing downhill. We absolutely loved walking through the rain forest in the rain and safely looking at the creek from viewing platforms. Due to it being in the tropics, we were soaked to the bone but not cold! Apparently Babinda claims to be the wettest town in Australia, and we tend to agree with them. If the rain stops, the sun comes out and we are hit with 100% stinking humidity and then half an hour later it starts raining again. We are supposed to be just hitting the dry season here!!! How on earth people get their clothes dried or stop mould growing on everything for that matter is beyond me.
The Boulders, too dangerous to swim in but gorgeous to watch
Our wet walk through the rain forest was amazing
Unfortunately after dinner, Jakayla started to feel sick and by the time bedtime came around she was being violently sick into a bucket. I ended up putting her on the floor of the van to sleep with a bucket handy and she had a very unpleasant night. She woke up with very bad cramps that wouldn’t go away along with a bad headache, so I got Wayne to drop her and me off at the little Babinda Hospital while he and Rory used the local Laundromat. The hospital was great but were concerned about appendicitis, so told us we needed to head up to Cairns Hospital for an ultrasound. So the boys picked us up (with clean dry clothing) and we drove for an hour to the hospital. Gee, when you have kids they certainly give great fast service, we were straight onto a bed in the kids ward with lots of attention! (I was worried we would sit in the waiting room for hours). After an ultrasound and blood tests, we were very thankful that all was good and she more than likely had a viral infection, I’m so glad it wasn’t her appendix or even Dengue fever to be honest. So after a very long and tiring day in hospital we headed back to our campground at Babinda for an early night to bed.
Not a happy camper, luckily much better then next day
On Sunday, Wayne was reading about a kayak place up the road that hired out kayaks for people to use from one part of Babinda creek downhill to another part. After chatting to some people who were staying at our park, we followed them with our truck to the section where they hopped in the creek (with their giant inflatable tubes – how fun!!). We talked Rory into going as even though Jakayla felt much better she was still a little tired and unwell. This creek actually starts at The Boulders we visited the other day and goes right past the park we were staying at (not sure where it ends!). So me and Jakayla dropped Wayne and Rory off next to the creek with some drinking water, bananas, his mobile in a clip lock bag and lots of luck! Two hours later they arrived back at our park having had a great time! The current was strong enough to push them all the way down the creek, where thankfully the water was nice and clean. I tried to give our van a clean, but it’s impossible to open up all the windows and try and dry out as it will be bound to rain any second! The next day it was Jakayla’s turn on the kayak and she loved being on the water, she didn’t have to do much just sit at the front and relax. We had a nice time in Babinda, but I think visiting in winter (their dry season) would be a better time!
Rory having a great time rowing down Babinda Creek
Next stop is Cairns where we are currently organising a Great Barrier Reef cruise and a trip on a rainforest cable called Skyrail. Until next time….