So what is all about? Well... hopefully, by the time we are done, it will be a comprehensive journal about a family of 5 who have travelled around Australia to see the sights and also do some volunteer work around the country! In Mid 2010 we started thinking about what it would take to fulfil a life-long dream... We wanted to bundle up our 3 kids, pack-up the house, jump in the car and hit the road - probably for about 12 months. It sounds so simple ... At the start of January 2013, after almost 15 months on the road; we finally completed Our Big Aussie Road Trip. We hope that you enjoyed following our adventures, trials and tribulations as much as we enjoyed having them!

04 May, 2012

Exmouth / Cape Range (Part 2)

On the morning of Tuesday the 17th April, we had to swap our sites at the ‘Kurrajong’ campsite because when we booked online (a few weeks prior to arriving), we could not get a booking that extended over 10 nights on one site, so we had the first 3 nights at Site 2 before moving over to site 9 for the last 7 nights.  We had to wait until 10am before the people on our new site had moved off, but once they were gone, we did a brief pack up of the van and moved to our new home for the rest of our stay!

When we were all settled in our new site, we just spent time around the site (playing board games and riding bikes) until after lunch.  In the afternoon we donned our swimmers and headed to Turquoise Bay again.  This time we did the Bay side.  It was different to the drift loop, but just as nice.  We spent a few hours snorkelling and paddling in the warm water on another cloudless day.  On the way back from Turquoise bay, we had a brief stop at the Bloodwood creek lookout.
Mike and the Kids at Turquoise Bay
Sam enjoying the body board we borrowed from Tim Edwards
The rest of the afternoon we lazed about in the shade of our van enjoying a nice breeze to cool us off on another warm day (~33 degrees).  After dinner, we grabbed our campchairs and went to the beach just in time to watch the sun sink down over the horizon.
Josh, Sam and Natalie at one of the many Sunsets we witnessed at Cape Range

Although the days were warm to hot, generally the nights cooled down to about 23-25 degrees which made it comfortable for sleeping under a sheet without getting too cold or hot (although we have been very thankful that we installed a small ‘car fan’ on each of the kids beds so that they can go to sleep with a fan blowing over them as their room can get very hot at times).
On Wednesday morning we wanted to go into Exmouth to pickup some more water (using our jerry cans), as well as pick up some more food, visit the post office and do a few other things in town, so after a fairly lazy start to the day, we bundled the kids into the car and drove to Exmouth (about an hour’s drive).  We did all the things that we wanted to do in town and then headed back toward Cape Range National park.  On the way we stopped to see the shipwreck of SS Mildura (a cattle ship wrecked off Exmouth in 1907). 
Looking at the SS Mildura shipwreck
Liz and the kids at the Exmouth Lighthouse
We also stopped at the lighthouse lookout to view the area from the highest point around.  There is a “Turtle Centre” on the coast nearby, so we also stopped there to have a look at the information and look at one of the beaches where the turtles would lay their eggs and also where the baby turtles scurry along the sand into the ocean after they’ve hatched.  We saw some signs of where turtles may have laid their eggs, but you really need to go at night to see the action.

The Jurabi Turtle Centre (looking from the lighthouse)

We stopped at a Bird Observatory (bird hide) at Mangrove Bay.  There weren’t many birds around, but we saw some fish and enjoyed the quietness of Mangrove Bay. 
Looking for birds at the Mangrove Bay Bird Hide
Our final stop on the way back from Exmouth was at the visitor information centre where we watched a bit of a DVD on Ningaloo Reef and looked at the exhibits in the centre.   It was quite late by the time we got back from Exmouth, so after some afternoon tea, we took the fishing rods down to the beach to catch some more fish!  Sam and Liz caught a Silver Dart each, and we decided to keep the biggest one to eat - so that the kids could see that fish doesn’t really come from a fish shop!  We went back to the van, cooked up our catch and everyone had a taste.  It was very nice (as it was so fresh) but it was a bit fiddly.  We decided not to watch the sunset from the beach, but enjoyed the end of another cloudless day at the caravan.
Natalie trying her luck with the rod

Liz's Silver Dart

On Thursday we were going on an 11am Boat cruise in the Yardie Creek Gorge (run by the Department of Environment and Conservation), so we had a lazy start to the day with a bacon and eggs breakfast.  We got down to the jetty at Yardie Creek just before 11, and boarded the boat.  The cruise didn’t go very far (only about 750m return) but was really interesting and informative.

On board the Yardie Creek Boat Cruise

The kids didn’t get bored on the 1 hour cruise as we watched for wildlife and looked at the plants in the Gorge.

Yardie Creek Gorge

Yardie Creek, Cape Range National Park

There are resident Black-footed Rock Wallaby’s (which are now only found in a few places in Australia) and we were lucky enough to see 7 of them as we cruised up and down the Gorge.

Can you see the Black-Footed Rock Wallaby??

And another Black Footed Rock Wallaby

After our boat cruise, we drove to Sandy Bay to have a swim and cool off on a nice warm day.

Sandy Bay - it was a beautiful place to swim and splash around

The rest of Thursday was spent around the campsite playing lego, Uno or other games.  The kids also went bike riding around the campsite.  That afternoon, we tried some ‘sea-soap’ and ‘sea-shampoo’ that our neighbors (Emmit and Fiona, also from Sydney) gave us when they left the national park that morning.  So we went down to the beach to have a bath in the sea! (don't worry, it is fully biodegradable soap)  Surprisingly it worked quite well!  We did feel nice and refreshed after our Sea-Bath.  That afternoon we were back down at the beach at sunset to watch the sun slowly sink over the horizon again – it was a beautiful sunset and all the campers in the Kurrajong Camp were there watching it.

We had decided that we wanted to walk the Mandu Mandu Gorge on Friday morning, so we got going quite early that day (because having walked Yardie Creek Gorge in the middle of the day, we found that it is better to do it early rather than when it’s hot).  We were at the gorge by about 8:30am.  It is a 3Km loop with some very steep and slippery climbs/descends, but it was well worth doing.  It didn’t have any water in the gorge, but we saw another Black Footed Rock Wallaby perched high up in a rock wall.

Walking along the riverbed at Mandu Mandu Gorge
The kids did really well walking and climbing to complete the loop track.
we made it to the top of Mandu Mandu Gorge

The view from the top of Mandu Mandu Gorge

After we’d finished at the gorge, we went to “lakeside” campsite to snorkel, but it wasn’t appropriate with the winds and currents, so we went back to Turquoise Bay to have a snorkel and a swim before lunch back at the van.  We had a quiet afternoon around the campsite as everyone was tired after the long and steep gorge walk.  Mike went fishing for a little bit (but didn’t catch anything) and the kids played in the sand dunes on the wind blown beach.

Mike trying for the big one!

There is a snorkelling spot called “oyster stacks” that we wanted to go to on Saturday morning, but you can only swim at it on the high tide because the coral is very shallow.  The High tide on Saturday morning was at 10:15am so we didn’t need to get going too early that morning.  We decided to have a holiday treat and we treated ourselves to Pancakes for breakfast.  We also got dinner cooking in the Dreampot before heading out to Oyster stacks for a snorkel.  It is a bit difficult to get into the water there because it is a sharp rocky entrance to the water, but Mike took each of the kids out into the water to see what we think is the best snorkelling that we have done while we’ve been here in Cape Range.  There is so much life in the water (compared to a very arid landscape above the water) and we saw heaps of fish, lots of colourful coral, some starfish and lots of other interesting things on the reef.  Sam put his goggles on and rode on Mike’s back.  He loved looking at the fish and coral while he was pulled along.  He constantly stuck his face under water and looked around until he needed to come up for air.
Mike and Josh heading out for a snorkel at Oyster Stacks
Sam riding Mike's Back to see the coral and fish with his goggles
After Oyster stacks, we went back to Turquoise bay to have a swim and a splash around on the sand.  The wind was blowing offshore so it made Turquoise bay a lovely place to be.  Mike and Liz went snorkelling, and Mike got to see a sea turtle resting in a rock cave, and the kids splashed around on the beach with the Body board that Tim Edwards had lent us.
Josh enjoying the body board on another cloudless day at beautiful Turquoise Bay
It was well after lunchtime by that stage, so we went back to the van for lunch and rest time (Sam slept because he wasn’t feeling 100% and had been waking lots at night in the past few nights, while the other two just read books).  Josh has really picked up his reading and he absolutely loves to read.  He has read lots of Roald Dahl books, he has just finished the 3 Wishing chair books by Enid Blyton and has already finished most of his library books for next term at school (even though it’s still holidays).  It is great for his reading ability and he is doing really well.

The rest of Saturday was spent around the campsite until it was time to visit the beach for another beautiful sunset after dinner.

Another fantastic Sunset over the Indian Ocean

We got up at our normal time (6:30-7:00am) on Sunday morning, but we got straight into breakfast and got ready to head into Exmouth to go to Church.  This made it 2 weeks in a row at the same church!  Something we haven’t done since leaving Sydney!  We went into town and had a great time at church – there are some great people in Exmouth, and Lachlan Edward’s sermon was another really good one.  After church, we did some shopping at the IGA and then had lunch at the Brumby’s Bakery.  We were joined by the Edward’s family at the Bakery and enjoyed chatting with them again and getting more of an insight into life in Exmouth.  After lunch, we grabbed some fuel and then drove back toward the Cape Range National Park.  Along the way, we wanted to have a look at ‘Dunes Beach’ where Lachlan sometimes goes Kite Surfing.  We stopped at the base of the large Sand dune and climbed up to the top to have a look.
Mike, Sam and Josh at the top the dune at Dunes Beach near Exmouth

We had lots of fun jumping off the large Dune – it was very steep on the windward side.  While we were there, Lachlan and 2 other Exmouth locals turned up with their kites to go for a kite surf.  We stopped to watch them for a while before heading back to the caravan for the afternoon.
Mike leaping off the top of the sand dune
The kids made friends with some Exmouth locals (the Cook family) who were camped at the same campsite as us for the weekend.  The kids played well with each other and had a lot of fun riding bikes and chatting and the Cook’s invited us to go crabbing with them on the beach after dark.

We had some dinner and then went to watch another lovely sunset and have a chat to the other campers who turned up to say goodbye to the sun for another day.  When it got dark, we joined the Cooks and went down to the beach to spot for crabs.   There were hundreds of Ghost Crabs and Fiddler crabs to be seen and caught (but then released).  We all enjoyed strolling along the beach under the star filled sky (with no moon, so there were millions of stars out).

The wind patterns at Cape Range were quite strange.  The wind blows steadily in the afternoon, but then at night (11pm) it picks up to what feels like gale force and shakes the caravan and awning all night long.  This keeps the caravan nice and cool, but unfortunately this makes it a bit difficult to sleep!  Normally, the next morning the wind is still blowing, but subsides during the morning until it starts picking up again during the afternoon.  Although it has been quite windy, it hasn’t stopped us doing anything that we wanted to do while we’ve stayed at Cape Range.

The kids have done a lot of riding while we’ve been at Cape Range.  The Kurrajong Campsite is great for riding as it has lots of foot paths and no through traffic.  However the gravel road over hard roadbase is very unforgiving if there are any crashes.  We have used more bandaids, and have had more skinned knees, arms, faces, etc in the last 2 weeks than in the last 2 years!  Luckily all the scrapes seem to be healing nicely, but during our stay, there were regular screams from someone who has come unstuck on their bike.
Monday the 23rd April was our last full day at Cape Range.  We had a nice lazy morning before getting ready for snorkelling at Oyster Stacks again at high tide.  When we got to Oyster stacks it was a perfect day for snorkelling with a slight offshore breeze and no swells coming in, so we all had a really nice look at the coral and fish there again.  We left Oyster stacks and went back to Turquoise Bay for the last time and did the ‘drift loop’ again.  The water was crystal clear (clearer than our swimming pool!) and Liz saw a shark swim by (only a Wobbegong, but still a shark!).  We had another good snorkel at the drift loop and Natalie, Josh and Sam all enjoyed watching the fish as they drifted over this amazing place.  After snorkelling, the kids were keen to get back to the campsite so they could play with their ‘new friends’ (the Cooks), so after lunch the kids all went down to the beach and buried each other in the sand.
Natalie enjoyed being buried by Jessie!
We definitely wanted to see our last sunset at Cape range, so when it was time, we headed down to the beach, and witnessed the best sunset that we’d seen since we got there (and we’ve seen some pretty good ones, but this one was superb).
Sam at our last 'Cape Range Sunset'

It truly was a phenomenal sunset

We were all so amazed at the colours across the whole sky that evening

After dinner we went back down to the beach with the Cook kids and played “spotto” and searched for more Ghost Crabs.  It was lots of fun and the kids were thrilled to be playing out in the dark with their headtorches.

On Tuesday morning we packed up the caravan and prepared to leave the National Park.  We said goodbye to the Cooks and also the camp hosts, and drove back into the Exmouth Big 4 .  When we got to the Big 4, we saw Leanne and Greg and their two boys (Pat and Luc) who we had seen in Bunbury and Lane Poole Reserve.  We had a good catchup with them and the kids played together for quite a while.  Josh played his DS (in Multiplayer mode) with Pat and Luc, which Josh thought was fantastic, while Sam played with Pat and Luc’s diggers and cars in the dirt. 

We were only going to stay 1 night in Exmouth before we headed off again, so we made the most of our time and we did loads and loads of washing, went to the IGA to re-stock a bit, had a good swim in the pool, and had a nice, long freshwater shower – which was very nice after a while of washing off in Saltwater.
Our time in Exmouth/Cape Range was such a great experience for us.  We were on school holidays so didn’t have to worry about getting school done, we got to know some great Exmouth locals (the Edwards, and the Cooks), we saw a beautiful part of the world with great Snorkelling and beautiful gorges, and we had a nice relaxing time as a family –all for $16 per night!  We couldn’t ask for much better.

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