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.

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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.

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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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?

A Surprising Week

Hurricane Harper

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I’m not mad keen on them, but if I had to name the thirteenth week of our adventure, it would be the Week of the Surprise. Some good, some not so good. Some – well, you’ll find out.

Let’s start with the good.

1. Watching the mighty South Sydney Rabbitohs win the NRL Grand Final for the first time in my lifetime. That was pretty special, even if we weren’t there but were in a caravan park in Airlie Beach surrounded by backpackers who had absolutely no idea what was going on.

2. How much I really enjoyed Airlie Beach. I thought it was going to be a bit touristy, and it is don’t get me wrong, but the colour of the water well and truly made up for that. We could probably never afford to live there in a million years unless we lived in one of the van parks, but that doesn’t mean I’m crossing it off the list.

And then, the not so good.

1. Opening my cutlery drawer and watching a mouse crawl out of it. It took me a minute to work out what was going on, because mice in the cutlery drawer isn’t something that generally happens, unless you’re Snow White I guess. Anyway, I was less than impressed, and the cutlery all got a big dunk in the bucket of Milton.

2. The squashed spider on the chopping board. I can only assume that Spidey had been attached to the pumpkin I pulled out of the vege box, and then as I rolled the pumpkin to cut it, he met an untimely end. RIP Spidey, and another contender for the Milton bucket.

And finally

Harper is at an age where she’s starting to make a few connections about going to the toilet. We let her have a fair bit of time with no nappy on to encourage her to work it all out. She also likes to jump in and out of the tent when we are setting up or packing down, because it’s not difficult enough to do without having to worry about squashing a toddler.

We packed up and left Airlie Beach, and on arrival at Carmila Beach started to set up the tent. The initial unfold and getting the poles in is a two person job, so I jumped in to help Matt in what’s a pretty familiar routine now.
And then I stepped in something squishy.

Yep, Harps had pooed in the tent 280km earlier at Airlie Beach, and we had unknowingly wrapped ourselves up this little present and brought it with us.

Suffice it to say, no nappy time will be a bit more strictly supervised from now on.

How was your week? Step in anything you shouldn’t have?

Free Camp Friday – Carmila Beach, QLD

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It’s a bit wild and woolly here today, and we’ve seen our first rainfall since driving through Tully about 6 or 7 weeks ago. We were actually a bit worried about getting the tent wet again, as we’ve found that it can be a bit leaky after a prolonged dry period and seems to need that bit of reseasoning every now and then. Luckily, we escaped the 3am downpour with no rain coming inside the tent.
Carmila is one of those Queensland beaches where when the tide goes out, it really goes out. About a kilometre and a half. I think we were the only people here who weren’t eating fish for dinner last night as the soft plastics weren’t really cutting it. Luckily, there’s a petrol station up the road where you can buy bait, so we’ll see how that goes today.
There’s no drinking water here at the camp, but again just up the road (about 5km or so) there’s a water point where you can fill up. We stopped in here in July and it was chockers, but it’s emptied out a bit now and this time we managed to snag a spot on the beach front. We’ve had some pretty spectacular views of the lunar eclipse the other night, and another beautiful moon last night. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, it’s free (72 hour stay) and it’s possibly my favourite camp so far.
Carmila Beach is approximately 100km south of Mackay. Suitable for all sorts of campers, however there is some pretty soft sand here, so heavier vehicles/2WD are probably best off up the top of the site. There are couple of toilets here, but they’re a bit of a hike from the further away camp spots so BYO – there’s a dump point here too.

Fridges and Freezers and Eskies – Oh My!

We’ve come to the conclusion that our current food storage solutions just aren’t cutting it. Admittedly, when we left home 3 months ago, our food requirements looked a little bit different from what they do now. And admittedly, living in a camper trailer is maybe not the best time to make massive dietary changes, but it’s just the way it’s turned out.

So where our 60L fridge was coping just fine when we were eating a heap more legumes, now that Harper’s tummy and my immune system seem to be saying no to beans, it’s bursting at the seams a bit.

We’ve been finding that we’re only able to carry about 5 days worth of fresh food which is not hugely practical for some of the more remote places we’d like to go, and it’s also expensive as our top up shops turn in to full shops and blow our budget right out of whack.

What we really need is a freezer, but that’s not really an impulse buy when you’re trying to live more frugally! So, while we’ve decided to put a savings plan in to place so that we can get a freezer in before next dry season when we plan to head to Arnhem Land, it doesn’t help us much for right now.

So, for now, we’ve gone with a vacuum sealer. I toyed with the idea of one before we left; I even borrowed one to see what I thought – and never got around to using it. We gave it a burl in the camp kitchen yesterday (although with only a 120W draw we would be ok to use it with our inverter and not drain our battery too much) and I was pretty impressed. It’s definitely created a lot more room in the fridge, and although getting it done was a little time consuming it’s certainly no more so than having to trek through a supermarket.

We’re hoping to get a fortnight out of this shop; if we do we’ll have cut our expenditure by $17 a day which is pretty huge when you think about it.

After all, a dollar saved is another day sitting on a beach somewhere.

PS – We’re nominated in the 2014 Bupa Best Blog Awards – check out our fancy badge!

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Free Camp Friday – The Bend, Coen

Cape York is home to some pretty pricey camping, but there’s a heap of free and budget options as well. One of those free camps is The Bend at Coen, 3km north of town.

The Bend is one of those rare free camps that is suitable for tents, trailers and vans. We stopped there on the way north and it was pretty busy, but by the time we came back down a few weeks it was practically deserted – in fact when we pulled in there was no one else there!

We did have a dip in the water, but like all waterways in Far North Queensland it pays to be on croc watch.

There’s no drinking water so BYO, and the pit toilet known as Windyloo Is possibly the stinkiest I’ve encountered – it will make your eyes water! We used creek water for our doing the dishes and having a wash.

Coen has a couple of fuel points and general stores that are not too expensive but only have limited lines. The pub is reasonably colourful – it’s called the SExchange – but also has a lot of historical information and photos from Coen’s past.

There’s behind the pub or at Charlie’s Mine, which we’ve since heard from other campers is a bit of an experience. But if your budget needs a day or two of not spending money (as ours frequently does!) The Bend is your best bet.

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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?