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!

11 September, 2012

Karumba to Cooktown

We woke up to another beautiful and peaceful morning at Corella Dam on Thursday 16th August.  The nights had been very cold, but this morning wasn’t too bad.  After breakfast we got stuck into a little bit of school.  Unfortunately, Josh started feeling sick (he had come down with the same thing that Sam and Natalie had come down with a week or so earlier, so Josh lay low for a few hours).  After school, we packed up the van (which was very quick because we’d stayed hooked onto the car) and drove towards Cloncurry.  We stopped in Cloncurry, went to the post office and filled up the caravan tank with water.  We grabbed some lunch in town and then headed North toward Normanton.  Our stop for the night was at a roadside rest area, but it was well off the road and was pretty quiet with only a few road trains rumbling by during the night.

Friday 17th August – We drove to Normanton and had lunch in the park next to the statue of the biggest crocodile ever shot – an 8.63 metre monster called Krys – it was a true dinosaur!  We were amazed that something so big actually existed so recently (1959).
An accurate impression of 'Krys' - the largest crocodile ever shot!

Josh, Natalie and Sam enjoying climbing a tree at Normanton

We drove from Normanton to Karumba, which is a town right near the bottom of the Gulf of Carpentaria.  We setup at the caravan park and went for a brief drive around the town and had a look at the river and beach.  When we were back at the caravan, a man from a neighbouring van came over and gave us 2 large bags of Blue nosed salmon fillets, so we cooked them up and ate them that night – they were delicious.
High tide is really the only time you can fish off the beach in Karumba and High tide was at 8am on Saturday morning, so we got up, had breakfast and went fishing early on Saturday.  The kids had a few turns holding the rods, and Josh was the first to pull in a fish (it was a puffer fish, so we threw it back!).  After about an hour, Mike hooked onto a decent size (40cm) Trevally.

Fishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria

Mike's Trevally

Josh enjoying a spot of fishing

We didn’t get any other fish that day (although we had lots of bites and were constantly changing bait).  Nonetheless, we had enough fish to fillet for a good feed.  However, we knew that we wouldn’t be eating our fish that night because every Saturday night at the Caravan park we were staying at, they have a free Fish BBQ.  On Saturday afternoon, Liz and the kids went for a swim in the caravan park pool (as it was pretty warm).  The rest of the afternoon was just spent around the caravan.  That night we went to the Free Fish BBQ and ate some beautiful salmon.  There were also some entertainers who sang a few songs – it was a great atmosphere and was very well attended (mostly by gray nomads who seem to spend between 4-6 months in Karumba).
The Free fish BBQ at Karumba Point Caravan Park
On Sunday morning, all 5 of us woke up at 6:30am when it started raining on the caravan!!  We haven’t seen any rain since near Albany in WA (which is about 5 months prior).  The shower of rain only lasted about 15-20 minutes, but the kids were all quite amazed at the sound (we think they’ve forgotten what rain is like!).  So our day started pretty early that day.  By 9am it was dry and quite blowy (and fairly cold with lots of clouds).  However, high tide was about 8:45am, so we got going and went fishing down on the beach.  Unfortunately, we didn’t catch anything that day – we didn’t even get any bites, so we played a game of ‘boules’ on the beach (with shells and a stick) to entertain ourselves.
Playing 'Boules' on the beach with shells and a stick
 After we’d had enough at the beach, we went to the Karumba Point tavern where there were some Sunday Markets and we had a quick browse through the few stalls at the markets.  That afternoon we played some board games around the caravan before heading into Karumba to find a park where the kids played on the equipment, and then we all played hide and seek for a while.  One of the ‘things to do’ at Karumba is to watch the sunset over the Gulf, so we had an early dinner and then went down to the beach at sunset to watch a spectacular sunset over the Gulf of Carpentaria.  It reminded us of the staircase to the moon near Broome (but this time it was the sun).  It was a great way to spend our last night in Karumba.
A spectacular sunset over the Gulf of Carpentaria
We did a bit of school at the Karumba Point Caravan Park on Monday morning before packing up the van and driving to Normanton to fill up with diesel and buy some bits at the supermarket (but we were a bit disappointed with the foodland in Normanton because there wasn’t much there and it was hideously expensive).  We had a look at the Normanton Railway Station (which is the home of the Gulflander train which sometimes runs from Normanton to Croyden).   
We were amazed to see lots of Brolgas around the Karumba Area
Brolgas in the grass
We left Normanton and drove east.  We stopped at Croyden and had lunch and the kids had a brief play at the park.  That night we stopped at a free camp half way between Croyden and Georgetown.  The campsite was next to the Gilbert River, and so we went down and had a walk along the mostly dry riverbed (but we didn’t get too close to the water because there would be crocodiles lurking in some of those waters).  It was a quiet place and was a pretty good free camp because there wasn’t much traffic on the road that night.
A very dry 'Gilbert River' which would be amazing to see in the wet season
Tuesday 21st August - After school, we packed up the van and drove from Gilbert river to a free camp closer to the east coast.  Some sections of the road along the stretch from Gilbert River to the Kennedy Highway are very interesting sections of road.  There is a single lane of bitumen and then dirt shoulders on either side.  When another vehicle is approaching, you have a bit of a game of ‘chicken’ until you are close enough to move over to the dirt and pass each other with one wheel on the dirt and one on the bitumen.  It was quite interesting – especially when the other vehicle was a truck or road train. 
The two-way development road!

As we drove along and got closer to the east coast, we really noticed the volume of cars increasing, and the frequency of traveller’s vehicles decreasing.  For the last 5 or 6 months, almost every car we have passed on the road has been a traveller (or a truck/roadtrain) but as we headed into the east coast (and a greater population) it really became evident that the demographic was changing and that we were heading back to more densely populated areas.  We also started hitting hills along the roads (and we’re not used to hills because most of the country to the west of the great dividing range is pretty flat).  Finally, we saw more clouds that we had seen in a long time.  In fact, that night we even got a very light shower of rain and the clouds were really set in.
At our Freecamp with lots of other travellers
Sam, Josh and Natalie found some logs to play on

Wednesday 22nd August - We left our freecamp after school was done for the day and drove through Atherton to Mareeba. We’re used to going hundreds of kilometres between ‘towns’, and we found ourselves going from town to town in only 30 or 50K’s.  Sam would sing out from the back of the car: ‘We’re in another town’ whenever he saw a populated area – he was quite amazed that there could be so many people so close together (compared with most of our time in the last few months).  When we got to Mareeba, we setup at the Mareeba showgrounds as it was pretty cheap (and included power but no water).  After lunch, we went to the visitor information centre and got some information about the surrounding areas.  We also had a look at their very impressive exhibition of the history of the Mareeba area.  Later that afternoon, we drove out to Davies Creek falls and did a short walk to the waterfall lookout.  We walked along a beautiful creek and then headed back to the car. 
Walking along the river at Davies Creek Falls

The Creek above Davies Creek Falls, Mareeba

Josh, Natalie and Sam enjoying our bushwalk

The next morning, we did school all morning to catchup a little bit.  After lunch, we went shopping and did a few odd jobs around town before heading back to the van.  When we got back there, we thought it was about time that we washed our caravan (for the first time on the trip – so well over 10 months!!)  It had picked up a lot of red dust after doing some dirt roads in the Pilbara and the Kimberly’s, so it was a pretty big job, but everyone got in and helped out and it wasn’t long until it was looking white(ish) again.

Washing our caravan for the first time on the trip so far!

On to Cooktown...
On Friday 24th August, we drove from Mareeba to Cooktown via the inland road.  It was a pretty big driving day, so we didn’t pull into the caravan park in Cooktown until it was quite late in the afternoon.  However, when we’d setup the van we drove to the visitor information centre and then went to Finch Bay as well as the lighthouse lookout which gives great view over Cooktown and the surrounding areas – in fact, that spot is the exact hill that Captain James Cook (who was Lieutenant at the time) climbed up to look for a way out of the area after his boat had been stuck on a reef and needed repairs in 1770.  After the lookout we had a brief walk along the foreshore and found the James Cook statue, the musical ship (which was a hit with the kids) and a few other things along the river at Cooktown.
The lighthouse lookout in Cooktown
Looking over Cooktown

Captain James Cook's Statue

The kids enjoying the Musical Ship on the foreshore at Cooktown

Saturday the 25th of August was the Cooktown Show day.  There were also some markets on at the foreshore, so we went down to the markets and had a browse around and then kept walking all the way along the foreshore to Fisherman’s Wharf and back to the Markets.  After morning tea, we made our way to the Event Centre to have a look at the show.  There were some stalls inside, and some ‘sideshow alley’ type rides and games outside.  Out the back of the centre there was a kindy Farm and Natalie and Sam queued up with Mike to pat a few of the animals (which they thoroughly enjoyed).
Sam and Natalie with some Guinea Pigs at the Cooktown Show day

We left the show at lunchtime and went back to the caravan park.  It was pretty hot in Cooktown (and quite humid), so we took the opportunity to go for a swim in the pool, where we were joined by the neighbours kid and his mum.  Almost the whole time we were at the caravan park in Cooktown, our neighbor’s 4 year old boy hung around and played with our kids.  The neighbors were a little overbearing, and the boy was a bit of spoilt brat (and an only child who always got what he wanted) so it wasn’t great fun some of the time, but the kids mostly enjoyed playing with him and digging in a huge dirt pile at the front of our caravan site.  However, by the time we left Cooktown, we were quite happy to be leaving them behind.

We spent all of Sunday packing up and preparing the car for our camping trip to the top of Cape York Peninsula.  We had planned to leave the caravan in Cooktown and take the tents and camping gear on our trip to the top.  We thought it would take about 2 weeks to look around the Peninsula and get to the top.  It is always a huge effort to pack everything that we need from the caravan, into the car in order to do a camping trip (especially because we’re using most of the things we want to pack all the time!), However it always seems worth doing once we’re on our camping trips, and we were sure that this time would be no different.  When we needed a break from packing, we went and had a picnic lunch in the park in town and then went to do some food shopping at the IGA to stock up for our trip.  That afternoon, the kids rode bikes around the campsite, played with paper aeroplanes with the neighbours kid and we finished getting ready in order to head off toward Cape York the next day.  That night we met a bloke (who pulled into the caravan park that day) who runs tagalong tours along the old telegraph track on Cape York, so Mike got some tips from him about the road conditions and how to navigate some of the tracks that we may decide to venture on!  It's always worth collecting as much local knowledge as possible - especially when you're heading off the beaten track!

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