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.

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!

A Surprising Week

Hurricane Harper

Hurricane Harper

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 – 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?

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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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?