Lake Wabby, Fraser Island, QLD

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When we went to Fraser Island in May, to be honest Lake Wabby wasn’t on our must-do list. The Champagne Pools, Indian Head, a return visit to Lake Mackenzie and Central Station were absolute certs, but other than hearing about people hurting themselves throwing themselves down the sand, I didn’t really know much about it.

We happened upon a couple of the other sandblows on a meandering 4WD through the middle of the island one day, and decided that while we were there, we may as well check it out.

We got to the lookout, and Matt hopped out of the car for a quick recce, as Harper was asleep and my number one rule of parenting is “Never wake a sleeping baby”. He was back in a flash though, and insisted the view was worth risking the fury of the overtired baby for.

He was right.

We wandered about a kilometre or so through some rainforest, the boys in their best safety boots (i.e barefoot) lifting up rocks and bits of bark hoping to spot a lizard or snake. Lake Wabby is accessible from the eastern beach, but this way was very pretty, although an exceptionally steep uphill climb for the last little while. Totally worth it though, when you get to the top of the hill and see this.

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Pretty sure Cai thought he was in Tatooine for a minute there. And the best bit was, we were almost the only ones there. Apart from an older couple, of which the gentleman was nude sunbathing which I didn’t realise when I set up not too far away with my 3 million children.I only noticed when he got up to move away down the beach, which he managed to do without a wang flash, and the kids were none the wiser.

Being May, it was pretty cold, but we braved a dip anyway. Lake Wabby is the deepest of Fraser’s lakes, but there’s still plenty of shallow water for the kids and/or less confident swimmers.

It was quite simply a breathtaking spot, one of the many on the island, and I can’t believe we nearly missed it. Make sure you don’t – Lake Wabby is definitely deserving of a spot on your Fraser Island Must Do List.

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What’s your favourite spot on Fraser Island?

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Contingency Planning (or A Tale of Too Many Kilometres)

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Before we ran away from home, we discussed the hypothetical situations that would see us have to temporarily abandon our trip. It was probably the most logical thing we did in our planning stage, which was less planning and more having a beer and looking at photos of Cape York. Anyway, we talked about having a slush fund in case we had to go to a funeral, or what we’d do if the tenants trashed the house, or if one of us got sick (me) or eaten by a crocodile (him). And we talked about what would happen if our team, the mighty South Sydney Rabbitohs, made it to the NRL grand final.

We’ve contingency planned that one ever since we left Sydney almost eight years ago. We’ve always said, if we make a grand final, we go to Sydney. But given that the last time Souths booked a grand final berth was five years before I was born, we’ve never had to use it.

Until now.

When we are 2000km away.

Without, like, jobs and income and stuff.

Driving 2000km to watch a game of footy sounds absolutely ridiculous. Because it is. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to do it.

Because this isn’t just any game of footy. This is the game of footy I have been waiting for my whole life.

Matt is being all practical and logical about why it’s a ridiculous idea, but a) logic has no place in footy b) everything we do is unpractical and illogical and c) he once drove from Brisbane to Sydney to buy a snake.

Matt said he doesn’t want me to hate him for saying that we shouldn’t go, and I said that was ok because I have heaps of other reasons I could use instead.

I don’t know what our contingency contingency plan is. Maybe we’ll try to find a caravan park that will show the game. Maybe we’ll find a campground within walking distance of a pub. Maybe heart will override head and we’ll end up gunning it down the coast.

It’s going to be a long week.

Cleanliness is next to….absolutely losing your marbles

If being clean all the time is something that ranks highly on your list of personal attributes, this is probably not the lifestyle for you. It had been sometime since was last had an actual running water shower; we’ve got our solar shower bag and there’s always the good old wash out of a bucket, but actual running water with variable temperature – not so much.

I actually don’t really notice all that much until I have to go somewhere that other people are not covered in a layer of dirt and smelling like fire. Like the supermarket. Or one of our four (so far) hospital runs. We look enough like the Griswalds as it is, so yesterday en route to the supermarket we stopped in at Home Hill Comfort Stop for a wash.

If you’ve never been to Home Hill, it’s a great little stop. The 48 hour free camp itself is just parking bays on the road, so not really a spot for tents or people with a thousand kids. But if it’s just two of you in a van, it’s fine.

Across the road though is the comfort stop with 5 minute hot showers, toilets, BBQs in the camp kitchen and a coin op laundry next door.

Harper had fallen asleep in the car on the way to town, so we agreed the boys would go first while Mackenzie and I stayed with her, and then we’d go when they came back. And what followed was a fantastic example of the difference between having a shower when you’re a dad, and when you’re a mum.

Matt came back from his shower beaming. That shower was the best thing that had ever happened to him. He didn’t know what to do with all the hot water. I was going to love it. He’d never felt so clean.

I was getting pretty excited about the shower at this point.

And then Harper woke up. And suddenly my two person shower with Kenz was a two person plus a toddler shower, which quite frankly is a far less appealing thought.

Have you ever seen a greasy pig chase? That’s a bit what having a shower with a toddler is like. She’d fallen over twice before I even turned the water on. I wouldn’t recommend trying to shave your armpits with a baby on your hip unless you actually are a contortionist. In the end, I gave up and hoped for the best.

I was still a bit dirty, and not particularly relaxed, but I was cleaner. Which at this point is really all I can hope for. Until next time – which will be dad’s turn to take the toddler.

I did however manage to snap before and after photos of my feet.

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Morning Tea with Bill and Betty

As of today, we’re looking after Funny Dunny for a couple of weeks. The Tait’s are moving on and have handed over the huge box of dunny roll and the rego book to us. The official caretaker, Bill, comes down once a week to empty the donation box and check on things, but they like having someone around to keep an eye on things. And for now, that’s us.

Bill’s wife Betty invited us up for morning tea this morning. Things like that are always a bit tough for us with our dietary restrictions, but Betty has grandkids with a heap of food allergies too, so she didn’t bat an eyelid when I walked in with my plate of coconut pikelets and assortment of toppings.

We were a little late getting there because the kids were filthy, and when we were introduced to the mayor I was glad we’d spent the extra five minutes getting rid of a layer of dirt! Bill and Betty’s place is beautiful, with views over the beach and lush gardens. Their entertaining area is sort of half indoors, half outdoors, and I can certainly think of worse places to spend a morning.

Bill has a couple of fantastic BBQ ovens that he has built himself out of old kegs and other bits and pieces. He was a cane farmer for many years and a fitter and turner by trade. And now, he collects bits and pieces and turns them into giant BBQ works of art. He’s even on occasion brought them down to the campground for a big cook up.

Bill and Betty have two little dogs, and Bill brings them down to the campground with him. One is a tiny little black and white thing called Possum, and it seems that Possum is Harper’s spirit animal. Harps was beside herself when she saw Possum out the window today and chased her around all morning. Pretty sure Possum heaved a sigh of relief when Harper went home.

It’s funny to look at the other side of free camps – the administrative side. Bill showed us a tool that he’d found inside the donation box where someone had tried to rip it off. They reckon that since they started keeping a record of rego numbers (which they did after a theft) that people seem more likely to put their $5 in the box. We talked about what sort of improvements could be made to the park, and we might even help out with a bit of maintenance if they can get it approved. We also talked about the fact that council are only likely to hear from the unhappy campers, so we’re making sure we fire off a few positive emails to try to help keep these free camps open.

So we’re here for a little longer, minding the visitor’s book made from handmade paper, cleaning the dunny and maybe even hosting the occasional happy hour. If you’re passing through, stop in for a night or two and say hello.

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Sunday Roast – Mrs Tait’s Stewed Melon

It’s been a bit quiet around here this week. I’ve been battling with an unwell baby who seems to be having a reaction to just about everything she eats at the moment with lots of sore tummies and sleepless nights as a result. It’s a road we’re familiar with given Cai’s medical history, but even though we know where to go and what to do this time around, as a parent you can still feel pretty helpless.

So we didn’t do much this week. I did a lot of reading and thinking and planning, but that doesn’t always make for earth shattering reading! I did, however, finally get around to making Mrs Tait’s Stewed Melon.

Richard and Bernice have been great friends to us the past couple of weeks. Always good for a fishing tip or a beer around the campfire, they’ve raised and camped with their own kids and understand that sometimes the baby screams or the kids are ratty and there’s nothing you can do about it. Bernice pointed out all the melons growing wild near the campground. One of the other campers had given us a jar of jam made out of these melons last time we were here, and Bernice was experimenting with her own recipes. She was also stewing them, which Cai gave a big thumbs up so I thought I’d give it a go.

I still don’t know what sort of melons they are, but all the locals eat them and no one’s been poisoned yet. I made some tweaks to the recipe Bernice gave me, but seeing as how I don’t know what the melons are called, I’m giving the recipe her name.

And seeing as how you’ll probably struggle to find these nameless melons, swap it out for the stewing fruit of your preference (apples etc)
Also, there’s no really strict measurements as it will depend on how much fruit you’re using and your own tastes re the spices.

You’ll need
Your fruit – skins and seeds removed, cut into small cubes
Sugar – I used rapadura
Whole cloves 6 or 7
Raisins – organic sulphur free – 2 tablespoons
Cinnamon stick
Star anise
Rind and Juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange – I only had oranges so used the juice and half the pulp of 1
Fresh ginger finely chopped

Then you
Sprinkle your fruit with sugar, cover and leave overnight. Mrs Tait also soaks her raisins in brandy or port, but I left that bit out and they still softened up beautifully.

The next day, cook the fruit in own juices, adding your lemon and orange rind and juice and your spices.

Cooking method and time
Because we have small and expensive gas bottles for cooking, I try to use as little gas as possible. I did try bringing this to the boil and then finishing it off in the thermal cooker, but it does seem to need the more direct heat. Mrs Tait did one batch in her pressure cooker that came out quite well. In the end, I put my saucepan (no lid) inside the camp oven and hung that from the tripod over our fire which stewed it right down beautifully. It’s not the world’s fastest process, but luckily I don’t have anywhere else to be.

Cai was eating this just straight out of the jar, but you could add to breakfasts, yoghurt, custard, rice pudding etc depending on your diet.

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I didn’t add the final photo – it’s not all that glamorous really, but when it’s all brown and soft it’s all good!

Free Camp Friday – Babinda, QLD

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Babinda is located around 50km south of Cairns, and provides not one but two free camping areas. The 48 hour camp at The Boulders isn’t dog-friendly so that was out for us, however the 72 hour camp at the Rotary Park was a great place to stop for a few days.

The grassed area was pretty swampy when we arrived, but there’s plenty of space. It was pretty busy, but people tend to clear out by about 10 so if you get in before lunch you’re pretty right.

Facilities at the park include toilets, cold showers, drinking water, an RV dump point and hot showers for a fee ($2 for 4 minutes). A short walk into town gives you a bakery (who sometimes bring excess stock down to the park at night), laundromat, SPAR, couple of pubs and other assorted stores. Plus a great op shop – perfect for replacing the mysteriously vanished cutlery (is that just me?)

Regardless of which free camp you stop at (I’d suggest both if you’re not travelling with pets) a trip to The Boulders is a must do.

The Legend of the Boulders

Easy walks to the lookouts with absolutely spectacular views. We also took a dip in the swimming hole – it was bloody freezing when we were there – but incredibly calming and serene.

Babinda is definitely on our “must go back” list.

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Camping Tip of the Week – Things That Bite

They’re baaaaack! We’ve had some pretty big tides this week thanks to the super moon (and the equally grouse moon the next night) and there’s a lot of water around. And mangroves. And very little breeze. All prime conditions for mozzies and midges.

Having lived in River Heads aka the midge capital of the world, I do know a few things about them. For example, I know that they’re not actually biting you, but peeing on you which is as gross as it is annoying. I know that midge mesh provides a false sense of security. And I know that everyone has a different way of trying to repel them.

After a particularly savage attack on my ankles last week, I put the call out to our Facebook friends, who are as intelligent as they are attractive. Here’s some of the remedies they shared.

Out of your traditional line of personal insect repellants, you can’t go past Bushman. The Green Death. When we lived in River Heads, we tried all the other ones on the market, and Bushman was hugely better at doing it’s job.

I’m not mad keen on using it forever though, and I’m even less keen on using it on the baby. There are some natural bug sprays on the market, I haven’t tried them as yet, but I am a big fan of the home remedy.

Keeping covered is obviously a big one, and good for sun protection too. I’ve found that midges are sneaky little buggers though, and will find the gaps around your cuffs or between your buttons. Our mate Al used to wear a boiler suit when he came to visit.

Keeping your skin oily seems to be a pretty common theme too. Bushman is quite oily, and a lot of people swear by Avon Skin So Soft or a concoction of baby oil and Dettol. I’ve been smothering the kids in coconut or olive oil, which seems to provide a reasonable barrier.

Getting the camp fire going seems to help, especially if it’s a bit smoky.

Nicole also suggested taking a Vitamin B supplement which apparently can make the scent you emit from your pores change to something less attractive to the midges. Sadly, I don’t think she is referring to the V(itamin)B that comes in a green can, although with enough of the supplement I guess you’d neither know nor care about the midges.

Once they’ve got you though, then what? Commercial remedies include Stingoes, Itch Eze, Paw Paw ointment and calamine, while both Felicity and a local farmer told me you can rub the inside of banana peels on your skin to stop the itch.

Quite frankly, I think I’m just going to do all these things at once.

Are there any I’ve forgotten? What’s your top tip for keeping the bugs at bay?

Camp Cooking – More than Beans

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Thinking about food, preparing food and eating food take up a large percentage of my day. I know, life’s tough. But we’re faced with a few more food issues than your average travelling family, so it’s pretty important that we’re prepared like there’s an apocalypse imminent.

Cai has a couple of chronic health issues that necessitate modifications to a “normal” diet. First of all, he has anaphylaxis to cashews and shellfish. In order to best protect him from a serious episode, we also avoid items that “May contain traces of” these foods.

He also has a disease called Eosinophilic Oesophagitis which is almost harder to explain than it is to say. Basically, he has an infiltration of a type of white blood cell, called an eosinophil, in his oesophagus, and they’re not supposed to be there. When he eats (or in the case of eggs, smells) his trigger foods, he suffers from severe reflux and vomits up to 20 times a day, which can be very damaging to his oesophagus. Cai’s EoE is triggered by wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts and soy.

He has also had severe reactions/asthma induced by the sulphite family of preservatives and MSG and other flavour enhancers. We generally avoid all preservatives, flavour enhancers and artificial colours to be on the safe side.

Cliffs Notes Version – that’s no
Nuts
Shellfish
Wheat
Eggs
Dairy products
Soy products
Preservatives
Additives
Flavour Enhancers

And on the whole, we all eat the same way. The girls have a few variations and I’m in the middle of an experiment with food and my own autoimmune issues but for the most part we all eat the same way. We figure our fridge is the only fridge in Australia that he can safely help himself in, and “giving up” whatever foods pales in comparison to having a sick little boy all the time.

The question we get asked most frequently is “well, what DO you eat?” And look, in all honesty we do have a core list of meals that are on pretty high rotation, but I think that was the case before the restrictions anyway, and I think it’s the case for most families. In some of the places we travel to, we can’t find rice pasta, or a wide range of wheat free products. And while I’d love to eat a wholly organic diet, it’s just not affordable or even available in remote parts of Australia.

We don’t have fancy equipment to help with our meal preparation. 2 of my saucepans came out of an $80 box we bought 7.5 years ago when we first moved to Queensland and none of them have handles. I was going to bring a stick blender, but Matt just wanted to bring the blendy bit and attach it to a drill to use it so I decided I’d rather do without. We’re rocking it old school, just with an allergy friendly twist.

As part of our adventure, we’re hoping to raise awareness for kids like Cai who suffer from Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders (EGIDs) and the charity who supports us, ausEE. One of the ways we can do this is by sharing some of our tried and true favourite recipes, which (I hope) will show you that there’s more to allergy friendly eating than pears and rice. And there’s a lot more to camp cooking than baked beans.

If you’d like to know more about EGIDs please visit ausEE Inc

What’s your favourite camping meal? Are you travelling with special needs? Let me know!