Free Camp Friday – Calliope River, QLD

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Calliope is situated just north of Gladstone in Queensland. Calliope River Rest Area is a free camping area provided by Gladstone Regional Council.

The camping area is separated into a north and south area, divided by the river. The south area is accessible from the Old Bruce Highway, however it was due to be closed on 3/11/14 I believe in case of flooding. It flooded quite severely through there last year, and you can still see debris in many of the trees.

The north area is accessible from the highway; there is a day use area at the top near the historical village and store, with the camping area further down the road.

We camped on the north side. The vans mostly line the road at the top, but there is lots of grass and shade down the hill. We found a nice little hideyhole and were largely on our own and undisturbed, other than a pretty big brown snake who decided to come through our camp one day.

In terms of amenities, there is a toilet block on either side and a
composting toilet as well on the north side (although this is closed about six months out of the year). There is only non-potable water, so bring your own drinking water, and there are no fires at this site.

The Historical Village opens daily and you can tour it for a small fee. We didn’t actually do the tour because, well because my family are philistines, but we did get a glimpse into the past when we visited the monthly markets held in the village.

I love a good market, but I’ve learned not to get too excited too far in advance. Case in point: Seisia. One jewellery stall, one pongy stuff stall, the woman from the butcher selling dot painting pillow cases and one of the tour companies. But the Calliope River market was ace. A bit of fruit and veg (more pumpkins than I have ever seen before in my life), heaps of clothing, plants, and beautiful homemade goodies that would make great gifts (I believe the next one is December 7 so if you’re around you could sort out a heap of your pressies in one hit). The markets are held monthly and adult entry is by a gold coin donation.

As for the fishing – well, there were plenty of lines out there but I don’t know how well anyone did. We heard talk of Barra and Mangrove Jack but we didn’t see any. The boys did catch a couple of bream, but that was about as well as we did. And a heap of catfish, which were a bit of fun to catch. Heaps of birds around, we took an injured lorikeet into Gladstone for treatment and were surrounded by very friendly kookaburras.

WikiCamps gives the coordinates for the north area as 23° 57′ 41″ S 151° 9′ 8″ E and the time period is 48 hours.

Melbourne Cup Musings

I’ve always loved Cup Day. My great-grandfather was a farrier, and I’m pretty sure there’s some genetics at play to determine whether you’re a horse person or not. Plus, wearing hats and drinking copious amounts of alcohol are two of my very favourite things, so any chance to combine them is alright by me.

In the last few years though, I’ve started to look at the horse racing industry through different eyes. Through Cai’s eyes. And I haven’t really been all that down with what I’ve been seeing.

It’s a hard thing to explain to kids. We whip these animals so they run really fast and earn (or lose) people heaps of money. Sometimes the horses die. Sometimes the jockeys die. Sometimes people bet their rent or food money on the outcome of these races, and then have nowhere to live or nothing to eat.

I’m not down with the Melbourne Cup anymore. But yesterday, old mate came around with a sweep. “Clare will be in that” said Matt.

I’d decided that I wasn’t taking part this year (I hadn’t last year either) but I felt obliged. So I put my hand in my pocket to the tune of $7 and had a couple of entries in the sweeps.

Yep, peer pressure at 38 years old.

Anyway, race time drew closer and we wandered over to a neighbouring campsite to watch the Cup. That was a bit of an experience in itself, as our fellow traveller had penned a bit of a bush poem that she recited to us all about horse racing. It was about a horse named My Face, and I pretty much could have lived my whole life without hearing her scream “COME ON MY FACE” at the poem’s, well, climax.

There was also the race goer in the hat who, after I complimented her on it, informed me it belonged to her dog.

And the generator dying resulting in the TV losing power less than 30 seconds in was something even Murphy would be shaking his head at.

As it turned out, one of the horses I drew ran third, netting me a big $13. The kids thought that was pretty ace and promptly started hitting me up for new scrapbooks and maybe an iceblock.

Until they heard that one of the horses had collapsed and died shortly after the completion of the race.

And another was undergoing surgery.

Then, my little animal activists had a different view of that $13 altogether.

We’d like to donate that $13 to an animal charity, preferably equine, so if you are one or know one please get in touch.

Our Travel First Aid Kit

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I’m not ashamed to admit that I am slightly over the top when it comes to first aid supplies. A look inside my handbag reveals more than a packet of bandaids and a few tissues. Instead, you’ll find four EpiPens, about 35 thousand Ventolin puffers, a couple of spacers, enough antihistamine to make the authorities look twice, and usually an elastic bandage in case of snake bite. And that’s just to make a trip to the supermarket.

So when it came time to think about our first aid requirements for our trip, Matt knew it was time to intervene. Although I’m known as the “cure everything with breastmilk and/or coconut oil” lady, I also like to have all my bases covered and be prepared for every eventuality. He is the voice of reason that tells me that I probably don’t need to bring along a whole chemist just in case.

However, although we left with what Matt still considered to be way over the top in terms of our first aid supplies, we’ve used just about everything we brought with us in the past four months. We’re at the point now where we will need to restock a few items in the not too distant future. And I have to say, even I’m a little bit surprised by what we’ve used and what we haven’t.

Touch wood, other than Cai, no one has been seriously hurt or injured so far. Cai of course had the infected mozzie bite and MRSA infection, and also sliced his hand open at Wunjunga in the period we refer to fondly as “4 hospital visits in 2 weeks”. Harper had a suspected ear infection and high temps for a couple of days in the early weeks that was we were able to manage just with pain relief. Mackenzie has escaped pretty much unscathed except for a couple of giant stacks, Matt just about knackered himself on the tow ball the other day and my only real injuries have come from wine in a box.

Here’s a few things we couldn’t do without.

EpiPens and EpiPen trainers

Obviously these guys are our first priority. We don’t go anywhere without them. The Authority prescription from our allergist gives us two at PBS prices and we pay full price for two more. Why carry 4? We’ve heard stories about misfires, EpiPens “blowing” due to extreme temperatures and having to use more than one dose while waiting for emergency services. For us, 4 is a good number to carry. We have the trainer pens so we can explain to people who don’t know about life threatening food allergies how an acute episode is treated and how to use an EpiPen.

Antihistamine

Cai takes a daily dose as well as having an emergency dose as the first line of defence in case of an allergic reaction, and we try to carry at least two months worth with us most times.

Ventolin and small volume spacer

We have 5 puffers stashed in different locations – 2 in Cai’s kit, 1 in the car, 1 in the bag and 1 in the box for easy access in an emergency.

Seretide and large volume spacer

Cai’s regular asthma preventer

Cortisone and Bactroban creams

Steroid and Antibiotic creams for use on Cai’s eczema, and we also use this combo on mozzie bites at times to try to calm the itch and prevent infection.

Various waterproof dressings

Gauze, non-adhesive dressings and Micropor

Syringes for administering Cai’s immunotherapy injections if we get somewhere so remote they don’t have the right size!

Silver shock blankets – you can actually use these in your bedding if it gets stupid cold too.

Elastic bandages – For sprains or snake bites

Triangle sling

Betadine

Saline

Paracetamol (and baby version), ibuprofen, aspirin

Sunscreen

Stingoes

Paw Paw Ointment

Hydralyte – which I forgot I had and could have come in handy after the last wine in a box incident.
Safety pins, spare prescriptions, spare spacer and mask.

What’s in your first aid kit? Anything I’ve forgotten?

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You can read this post, and other travel ideas over at the Wanderlust monthly link up!

Wanderlust

Losing My Travel Mojo

I don’t know what happened last week, but the shine fell off a bit. I lost my travel mojo.

I felt like I wasn’t seeing anything except the inside of a supermarket.

I felt like I wasn’t doing anything except waiting around for the boys to come back from fishing.

I felt like none of our systems were working, that nothing had a home.

I didn’t want to go home, and seeing as how we have tenants in I don’t think they’d really dig me turning up on the doorstep either, but I just wasn’t loving it sick anymore.

And feeling like that didn’t really make me a joy to be around.

But I’ve discovered that I’m not alone. It seems to be a bit of a phenomenon that around about the three or four month mark, some of us wanderers get a bit…homesick isn’t the right word but it’s a similar emotion. And I think that slowing down, and not really having a plan for what’s next, and wondering where we are going to spend Christmas, and chomping through our financial buffer zone a bit (hello new windscreen) certainly compounded that feeling.

And it probably sounds ridiculous and spoilt and entitled and a whole lot of other things too, to be living this amazing lifestyle and have even a moment of not enjoying it. But the reality is, we are five people living in very close quarters and we don’t all think the same or want to do the same things all the time, or have all the same interests or priorities. And that can cause a little bit of tension, especially when you’re not right on top of your game anyway. Let’s face it, life’s not all unicorns farting rainbows when you live in a house; it’s a bit ridiculous to think it will be in a tent.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even when you’re on the trip of a lifetime, bad days happen. Bad weeks happen. It doesn’t always mean you’re not doing the right thing, or that you should pack it all in and go home. Sometimes it might. But I think for the most part, if you push past it you’ll get your mojo back. A good pack down, a smooth move and a dip in the ocean and I am back. Bring it on.

Cai’s Wild Life

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Yesterday started out with rescuing a lorikeet out of the river and taking it to a vet in Gladstone and ended up with an email from Bindi Irwin.

A few weeks back, Cai decided he wanted to enter a competition being run by Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors to find a Visionary Wildlife Warrior ages between 5 and 17. And while he didn’t win, he was one of 8 finalists for 2014. I’m so proud of him for his passion and his commitment to that passion, and I wanted to share his entry with you all. Cai expresses himself much better verbally than in writing (I think I’m the opposite so I don’t know how that happened) so he spoke this to me and I typed it up for him.

My name is Cai and I am 9 years old. I come from Brisbane, but at the moment I am travelling around the country with my family in a camper trailer.

Steve Irwin inspired me to become involved in wildlife conservation. When I was little, I was a pretty sick kid. I spent a lot of time in hospital. One day, my mum and dad got me a Crocodile Hunter DVD to watch while I was on a drip. I loved it so much I watched it over and over. And from then on I was interested in wildlife and wildlife conservation. I used to walk around with a pillowcase full of rubber snakes and do snake shows for my family and friends. Mum says that I would only wear khaki clothes and she used to have to take my Australia Zoo shirt off me when I was asleep so she could wash it. When I got older, mum and dad let me have some snakes of my own – a friend of ours is looking after them for us at the moment – but mum is still saying I can’t have my own freshie. Yet.

I am passionate about saving our saltwater crocodiles and changing people’s ideas about them. Salties are my favourites. When I was in Cape York I saw a big saltie on Jackey Jackey Creek and it was just awesome.

Because we’re living on the road, the whole of Australia is my community. We meet heaps of new people all the time, and I always talk to them about wildlife. I explain to people why they shouldn’t catch and kill sharks when they go fishing, and if dad and I catch a shark we always let him go. I also started a petition at my old school to send to Campbell Newman asking him to stop shooting the crocs in Far North Queensland. I took my whole family to a protest rally to try to stop the shark cull in WA.

I always talk to other kids about why crocs, sharks and snakes are awesome and why we shouldn’t kill any of them, and I’m working with my family on putting together information packs for kids to help them understand why we need these creatures in our environment. I think that most kids really like them as much as I do, but they learn to be scared about them from their parents. I’d like to help kids teach their parents all about wildlife. I’m also working on making some YouTube videos too.

I want to help teach other kids about why our ecosystem needs apex predators like sharks and crocs, and what will happen to the environment if we keep killing them all off.

Steve Irwin taught me to be passionate about our amazing Australian wildlife, and why we shouldn’t muck with it. If you don’t look after nature, the whole ecosystem will collapse. I’ve always wanted to be just like Steve, and one day I will.

I know you will mate.

Sunday Roast – Sausage Sangers Evans Style

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Yeah, I know, it’s Tuesday. But we’ve had a hectic few days. We travelled to Rockhampton on Saturday, shopped and packed up a storm on Sunday and yesterday travelled to Calliope which, for about 120km journey seemed to take forever. We must have driven through (or sat at for a while) at least 10 sets of roadworks. But posting a Sunday Roast on a Tuesday is probably, like, a really apt metaphor for my life or something, so here it is.

The sausage sandwich. The snag sanger. Bangers on bread. Whatever you want to call it, it’s Aussie as. The only problem is, your usual humble snag contains about a million ingredients that Cai is allergic to.

Over the years, we’ve done some kilometres in search of a Cai friendly snag. We met a butcher at Maryborough who had a grandson with food allergies, and as a result he started making Failsafe snags. A health food shop in Hervey Bay used to order some in, along with nitrate free ham and bacon, once a fortnight for us from Brisbane. The first time he ever ate a sausage sanger aged 4, Cai proudly proclaimed that he was “just like all the other kids”, which was a pretty tear inducing moment I have to say.

We found a fantastic butcher in Brisbane last year who made Cai friendly snags and I’m pretty sure we were single-handedly paying his mortgage for a while there, until we realised that red meat was triggering Cai’s eosinophilic oesophagitis. So they went off the menu again.

I had mentioned that if we found somewhere on our travels that sold preservative and additive free snags that perhaps we would be able to give them a go, and ever since then Mackenzie has been like a dog with a bone. Every place we pull into, she asks, “are we getting sausages here?” I had thought I’d found a place in Townsville, they advertised them on their website but then didn’t actually have any. (Turned out they also sold crocodile meat so Cai wasn’t keen on us shopping there anyway.)

I put a call out in a Facebook group for possible sources as we moved down the coast, and found a Yeppoon retailer that had a market stall in Rockhampton on a Sunday. It was the first stall we saw as we walked in, and BOOM! Lamb snags in the cold cabinet.

They did have buckwheat flour in them which Cai would ordinarily avoid, but as a one off we decided to take our chances. He declared it would be worth a bit of reflux for his first sausages in almost a year.

Add some gluten free flatbread (easy as, 2 cups GF self-raising flour and enough water to make a pancakey batter and fry in a pan), and some pan fried onions and mushrooms, and it was certainly a Sunday Lamb Roast we’ll remember for a while. Definitely worth turning down a date with Tom Cruise. I didn’t manage any photos because it was scoffed too fast and also, well, not really that attractive, but the kids didn’t care. Because they were (almost) just like all the other kids.

Ever gone on a ridiculous food seeking quest? Or is that just me?

Free Camp Friday – Tell Us Where To Go!

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It’s becoming clear that we have NFI where we are headed in the near future. So we’re asking for your help!

We are pit stopping near Rockhampton this weekend to shop, shower, do washing and all that exciting stuff.

Then we head towards Gladstone for a couple of days at Calliope.

From there, we’ll spend a couple of weeks at Agnes Water/1770 before stopping in Hervey Bay for a couple of days to show Mackenzie where she was born.

In the words of that seminal classic “Dude, Where’s My Car?”

And then……

We don’t know where to go!

We probably should start heading inland from Hervey Bay, but then we miss the Sunny Coast. Which will probably be busy (and exxy) by then anyway.

Most likely we will start heading towards Toowoomba and then meet up with the New England Highway. Or maybe the Newell. We want to take the kids to Forbes to show the kids where Nan grew up and Matt spent his holidays, but we’re a mighty long way away from there yet.

So – tell us where to go. Know any great spots we should visit? Obviously we’re interested in cheaper options, and we love to support van parks who don’t charge us exorbitantly for the kids. Dog and camper trailer friendly are our only other requirements.

It’s travelling Choose Your Own Adventure style!

Budget Travelling – Frugal Food Update

When it comes to budget travelling, I think we might be as budget as they come. “How much does it cost?” is probably the question that we and other travelling families are asked most often. And obviously the answers vary pretty widely. But it doesn’t have to cost a bomb. We left home with $7000 and the income from renting out our home. I’m going to start exploring our budget in a bit more depth for you shortly, but for now, here’s an update on our not going to the shops every five minutes experiment. It’s going gangbusters. We’re on Day 10 today, and here’s what’s left:

3 GF Pasta
5L Rice Milk
500mL Olive Oil
1 pack wholegrain Sakata crackers
1 big and 3 small tuna
3 tins mixed beans
6 tins tomatoes
1 tin baked beans
5 tins assorted veg (corn, beetroot)
4 meat meals (2 bacon, 1 steak, 1 mince)
2 cups GF flour
Motherload rice
Assorted jams, honey, coffee, tea, popcorn kernels etc
2 onions, 2 cloves garlic, shallots, half a sweet potato.

That is a Masterchef mystery box waiting to happen, is it not? Realistically I think we could probably make it 14 days if we had more fruit and veg to pad things out, but as it is I think we’ll make it to 12 and then shop. Which is still much better than every 4 or 5 days.

I spent $340 last shop, which works out to $28.34 a day for a family of 5 and a dog. I’d estimate I’ve cut between $10 and $12 a day off our last few week’s food bills, which is enough to give us a bit of breathing room as we come into the parts of the coast where free camping isn’t as accessible. I’m pretty happy with that for a first effort, although there’s definitely a few things I’ll do differently this time.

I didn’t meal plan or make a shopping list.

I KNOW! I committed both of the cardinal sins of frugal shopping. Last time we shopped, we were going to buy either a freezer or a vacuum sealer, and I had no idea which so didn’t see the point in making a list. I also didn’t stocktake the pantry stores before we went either, so quite frankly I’ll be surprised if I’m kicked out of the talking about food on the internet club. This time, I have redeemed myself by making a fortnightly meal plan which is as scintillating as it sounds, but all jokes aside it is a sensible thing to do. Otherwise you find yourself in the position of trying to work out whether you can put tinned beetroot in a curry (I’m thinking no, right?)

The vacuum sealing worked well, but it does take practise.

My bag cutting minion cut the bags way too big, which is neither frugal or environmentally kind. You do need a bit of a gap between the food and the top of the bag, but we ended up with a bit of plastic waste which made me feel guilty. Also, I did have an air bubble or two which isn’t ideal, and although the food didn’t spoil we ate the same thing a couple of nights in a row to get rid of it before it did.

I didn’t buy enough fruit and veg.

I wasn’t sure how it would all fit in the 60L fridge, so opted for a few emergency cans as backup. Turns out I had plenty of room for fresh. I also struggled to find a good fruit and veg shop in our last location, which didn’t help, but we’re hoping to hit a market this weekend. I’ll buy a heap more this time, and vacuum seal some of that too.

I bought coconut milk instead of coconut cream.

Like a der-fred. Coconut milk is basically just watered down coconut cream, no? So half as many tins and use half coconut cream and half water. (This is why you make lists, people, and don’t just blindly grab stuff of the shelves while you cry.) (May or may not have happened.)

GOAL: 14 days under $400 – is someone playing the Rocky music or is that just me?

What do you spend on groceries? Any top budgeting tips you’d like to share?

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Old school fun for kids

One of the things I love about living on the road is watching how the kids play now. Because for the most part, there’s only the two of them, if they don’t want to play alone they only really have one other option. That’s not to say they don’t still fight; of course they do but they are playing better together now than they ever have.

It’s also been interesting seeing them come out from behind their screens. Although we had substantially cut back on tv time anyway, they did tend to be pretty attached to their iPads at times. Not having 200GB of data to use up a month put paid to that pretty quickly though, and I think the iPads have only come out for schoolwork, and even then only a few times.

So I guess you could say we’re rocking it old school. And the kids have definitely had some old school fun this week.

We have a big tree right out the front of our camp, which has just been calling out for a rope swing. Matt hooked one up for them with a bit of firewood for a seat and so far no one has kicked anyone else in the face – win.

They’ve also been doing a heap of hand sewing. Mackenzie stacked it in her brand new hippie pants last week, so I had to grab some supplies to sew them back up. I will also have to grab some more should anyone else need repairs done, because they’ve been commandeered by the kids (as have most of my chux cloths, half a packet of nappy wipes and one of my tshirts).

And even though we live in a tent, you can’t go past a tarp cubby. A couple of spare poles and pegs and they had their own hideyhole to play, talk and create right on the beach.

How would your kids cope without their tech? (asks the woman blogging from her phone!)

Sunday Roast – Breakfast Dilemmas

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When you don’t have the options of eggs or toast, quick brekkies are hard to come by. If we’re hanging around camp all day, then a leisurely bacon, pancakes, soup or mince and veggies isn’t too much trouble, but on the days we are packing up and moving, Matt has my butt out of bed at sparrow’s, barking orders like he’s Michelle Bridges and I’m a very poor contestant on The Biggest Loser.

Something had to give for moving days. We’ve tried “everything free” cereal, which everyone but me likes (and Mackenzie will only eat dry). We’ve tried porridge which everyone except Mackenzie likes, but gives Harper a sore tummy. I was pretty much ready to just succumb to the idea of wine for breakfast (not for anyone else, just for me) when our friends pointed us in the direction of a delicious smoothie.

So on our OMG real shops excursion earlier this week in Airlie Beach, we picked ourselves up a smoothie maker/blender type hoosiebobbie. Not the George Foreman one, but similar with the bottles that click on and whizz it all up and Bob’s your aunties live in lover. It has a nifty 300W motor which is probably at the upper end of the scale of what we’d like to run through our inverter but in the mornings when we’d use it we’re pretty right for battery power, and if we’re in a park with a camp kitchen we can always use that instead. Of course, Mackenzie (who was drinking Vicky’s green smoothies with freaking KALE in them in Cape York) has declared she doesn’t like smoothies, but as you may be coming to realise Mackenzie doesn’t like much that’s not mashed potato or pancakes. She has, however, eaten three pieces of orange vegetable that wasn’t carrot this week, so I am calling that a win.

Cai’s Favourite Smoothie Recipe
1 Banana (or half if it’s a biggie)
1 tsp raw cacao
1 tsp raw honey or 1 Medjool date
1 cup of your preferred milk (we use rice or coconut)
1 tbsp oats
Ice if you’ve got it and your blender can handle it!
Whizz it up and drink!

What’s your favourite smoothie? Got any tips for a quick brekkie on the run?