Cape Tribulation & Cooktown

Going up to Cape Tribulation and Cooktown had a LOT of discussion around it for weeks leading up to it. Lauren well and truly had her heart set on going to both, but I wasn’t as convinced. I knew the road up to Cape Tribulation was average for towing a van as big and heavy as ours (our Expanda is a 20ft van, so around 27ft actual length and we are almost at 3.2T), and then we couldn’t continue onto Cooktown with the van. It had to be left at Cape Trib, load up the cruiser to do the Bloomfield Track, then get a cabin for the night in Cooktown. All up, it was looking like an expensive week! We thought about just doing two days at Cape Trib, leave the van at Mossman and stay in a cabin, but then the cost would blow out even more if we did that and also got a cabin in Cooktown.

By chance when we were camped at Babinda Boulders we ran into a family who was heading back from Cape York and had also been up to Cape Trib (they towed their 17ft van through the Bloomfield Track!) And he assured me that Cape Trib is no problem for the van. So we booked a van site at the Daintree Rainforest Village for three nights, then their storage space for 2 nights while we went to Cooktown and booked a cabin there, then booked to stay back at the village for one, then back across the ferry the next day. Busy few days!

I was still just a little anxious about towing up to Cape Trib and the excitement started right from the ferry. A tip that no one mentioned, was to go across at a high tide. When it’s low it’s quite an angle coming off the ferry, especially for a longer van, even though ours is the outback model so lifted fairly high. We unknowingly turned up at low tide and the 50mm tow ball that I’ve been meaning to change for a DO35 hitch, clunked and banged as we drove onto the ferry. The exit was even more eventful as we watched the motorhome in front of us catch his rear bar on the ferry on the way off.  When it was our turn, the operator guided me to go hard right, then cut back left to get a better angle. It was looking pretty good until the bolts for the bike rack on the very rear picked up some of the timber boards and tore into them. As we went up the ramp onto the road, I could see the operator trying to kick it back down. Surely it happens often and it’s why they’re made of timber? Off the ferry we pulled over and waited until everyone else was off and gone so we wouldn’t hold anyone up, and away we went. It was a nice and uneventful drive to the van park, even though it’s narrow and windy, we didn’t really come across any large vehicles the whole trip and most people are pretty patient whether they’re stuck behind or coming the other way and we are taking up most of the road on a narrow corner.

The Daintree Rainforest Village is a great spot to camp with reasonable rates and the kids just loved the swings on the side of the hills. I could push Lucah as high as I possibly could and he’d just keep yelling to go higher and higher. In the three days we went to the Discovery centre, did as many walks as we could, board walks through swamps and rainforests, walks up isolated beaches, sunsets at Thornton and Myall beaches.  The Discovery centre was great for the kids with heaps of info on the rainforest, we went up the 23m high canopy tower, and even had a few dinosaurs that made noise and moved around to impress Lucah.  At Myall beach Loz took photos of the sunset and I walked so far up the beach with the kids that she got nervous as it got dark before we got back.  Pretty amazing with no one else around.  Walking back through the rainforest to the car Jaiden tried to scare the little kids about ghosts and swamp monsters. Funniest part is that he got scared and Lucah kept going, and going, and going trying to scare Jaiden more, until Jaiden got pretty frustrated with him.

When we first arrived at the village, the camp owner had told us to pack up on the morning we were going up the Bloomfield and tow the van to the yard at the top, but the day before we left, he came past and let us know we could leave the van where it was as they were getting pretty quiet. For the small fee to leave it there we were pretty happy we didn’t even have to move it. It also made it convenient for when we got back… But there’s more to that later on. So, we put some bits and pieces into the cruiser, locked the van and headed north past Emmagen Creek and onto the Bloomfield Track. The camp owner had already mentioned it was pretty corrugated and to air down so I took them straight down to 30psi and it was an easy drive.

The drive is just beautiful. Up and down several ranges through the oldest rainforest in the world is pretty special. It’s steep, but the steepest parts that I think are around 31% are concrete and the creeks were really low being the end of October. It was a pretty uneventful drive to Wujal Wujal falls, then onto Archer point just out of Cooktown. Archer point was on the list of places to go as we had met some people in Ingham who had found a Nautilus shell on the beach there so we were keen to see if we could find one. However, the first thing we found was the litter! The ocean seems to funnel litter to these beaches and just fill it up. They have an annual clean up, but it’s just crazy and sad how much washes up. Thongs, bottle caps, bottles and an assortment of plastics right along the shoreline of each bay that face east. Amongst them we managed to find three Nautilus shells, and agreed to come on our way back and get rid of some rubbish. We also had our first issue from the corrugations and had some plastic trim loose on the cruiser that we had to pull off.  Later on I worked out I should have kept it and worked out a way to re-attach it, as Toyota wanted $250 for the one piece!

 We went on to Cooktown just in time to check in, go get some hot chips and sit up on Grassy Hill as the sun went down for another spectacular sunset. Cooktown is beautiful little town full of history. The two days flew past, seeing the museum, lunch and a walk through the botanic gardens and seeing some of the sights.  The museum has some great history not only on Captain Cook, but also WWII, Indigenous history and Chinese immigrants looking for gold.

We also had a quick trip to the hardware shop for a rubbish claw and thick bin bags. Heading back to Cape Trib we planned on not leaving Trethavan Falls later than 3.30pm so we wouldn’t be back along the Bloomfield Track in the dark. But before the falls we wanted to get back to Archer Point. The amount of rubbish we took away was hardly noticeable, but 3 big bags is better than doing nothing. Asher was by far the keenest, refusing to let anyone else use the claw. We ended up hanging out at beach for 5 hours, got sunburnt and explored the whole area. We still got a quick trip into Trethavan Falls (no swim, bit tricky for little kids getting into the water), then to the Lions Den for dinner. What a great choice for dinner as their meals are awesome pub meals and surprisingly busy for a Sunday night out in the sticks.

But… this meant a night trip through the Bloomfield Track. Only 10 minutes out from the Lions Den and Loz was already getting nervous at the idea. After the trip north on the Bloomfield I hadn’t quite aired back up to highway pressures so thought mid 30s in the tyres should be fine. The corrugations were substantially more noticeable, but in the rush to get back we chose to not air down further. We only passed one other car between Wujal Wujal and Donovan range.

We slowly crawled down the steep range in first low, then we got to the bottom the cruiser sounded like it was in excruciating pain. Torch out, bonnet up and enter issue #2. The air con clutch fell off after the bolt had vibrated so much it fell right out (turns out it’s a common issue on the 100 series cruisers). Luckily the front of the clutch had just fallen forward onto the fan causing the horrid noise. Lost the shims and bolt, but managed to save the clutch after shutting off the engine. My short-term torch bearer decided she wasn’t keen on being in the dark so with a barrage of nervous questions on how long we would be stuck there, got back into the car to play candy crush. The tyres were then let down to 28psi for an uneventful second half of the track, passing just 1 car the rest of the way. This was followed by a good sleep in the next day, and booking one more night to relax in the Daintree before heading back across on the ferry.

It was only the morning we were leaving I put it together that the tides made a difference for the ferry. I’d been pondering the trip back out with the van on, thinking of the narrow drive back and boarding the ferry that I clicked that at high tide it’d be an almost even drive between the ferry and the ramps. I’d actually taken note of the falling tide two days earlier at Archer point as it had allowed us to walk across the creek and over to a little bay on the other side, hardly getting our feet wet. I figured this made high tide around 10am two days later. Driving between Cape Trib and the ferry wasn’t too bad, just met a few cars on bends and had to stop for them to get past before I could get around, and held up a fair line of traffic idling down the range looking for a long enough spot to pull over and let everyone past. I’ve got to say, I was pretty happy to see a full tide when we got to the Daintree river.  Getting on and off was easy as.

After the initial resistance to go up, I’m so very glad we did in the end. It was one of the best weeks we have had so far.  I’m not sure we would go again (but I have started thinking about incorporating the CREB track into a Cape York trip), but it’s somewhere that needs to be on the bucket list. Pristine beaches and rainforests, an array of different animals and some easy but fun 4x4ing through reasonably remote rainforest.

Written by Josh

Junabel Farm Stay

Driving up the long dirt driveway of Junabel Farm stay we didn’t know what to expect, we knew that there were miniature animals, and that according to Wikicamps reviews, the hosts were lovely and involved the kids a lot.

I was a bit hesitant as our kids aren’t the most relaxed children on earth, Lucah will be very vocal if he doesn’t like something (and there are many many things that he doesn’t like), Asher has the ability to go from a charming little angel to a wailing banshee within half a second if there is a dog nearby, so we weren’t sure how he would go with the animals. And Jaiden being a teenager is very hard to impress at the best of times.

Since we started planning the trip the kids were keen on farm stays, so we decided to just go with it and hope for the best. When we arrived, Ange the host showed us where to camp and set up and not long after she collected us for the kids to help with the afternoon chores. There were chickens, miniature horses, miniature goats, and some miniature chickens. It very quickly became apparent that we had underestimated our kids and that they were very keen to get in and meet the animals and help. Even Asher after a few little sooks quickly warmed up and it wasn’t long before he was happily walking around amongst the animals. Lucah immediately loved the chickens, he wanted to cuddle them at every opportunity. Jaiden loved the miniature goats and the dogs, and Asher liked the miniature horses the best.

Their chores were to:-  collect the eggs, feed the goats, groom the stallions, feed the chickens, and put the full size horse into his night paddock.

While we were there I was commissioned to do a residential mural on a water tank, Painting on a water tank is challenging because it is curved, so it really throws out the perspective! The couple who owned the property first wanted wings, but when I went to meet them, their ideas grew and they ended up wanting the full tank painted, with wings, kookaburras, frogs and other wildlife. I also added a portrait of their Blue Heeler dog and pet cat.

While at Junabel I also had my first opportunity to get my camera out! I really wanted to get a shot of a miniature horse named Baby Doll, she has one blue eye and one brown. She would let me get close but would never look the right way, I busied myself with taking some pics of all the other beautiful horses and their amazing dam and property.

Our stay at Junabel ended up being an excellent decision.  The hosts Ange and Mitch are just lovely and so good with the kids, it helped Asher conquer his fear of animals (while very timid at the start he came around by the end and brushed the horses, patted the goats and even got comfortable with the dogs) and the kids just loved helping out and got a taste for farm life.  They’ve since been planning what animals we are going to have when we move back into our house… so far they want chickens, a couple of goats, llamas, a peacock and peahens, and some pigs.

Things we learnt at Junabel

  • Lucah will catch a chicken to cuddle at any opportunity
  • If Lucah knows there are chickens around but he cant see the chickens, he will ask about the chickens until he can again see the chickens.
  • Baby chickens are really really cute
  • Many many hours can be spent photographing miniature horses.
  • Our kids do have the ability to listen, just not to us

Time to go!! Yeppoon and Kinka Kippa

First stop, Yeppoon.

The pressure was on to get there fairly quickly, as I had advertised for murals at the start of the year, thinking we would be leaving much sooner!

Thank goodness a few of them were still keen by the time we could actually get there even amidst all the Corona Crazy!!! The first one was a cute little Fish ‘n’ Chip shop at Kinka Beach called Kinka Kippa.

Now I tend to jump into things head first without actually thinking things through, so having done a couple of murals now I was a little overconfident and a lot underprepared. I greatly underestimated the time to sand, undercoat, add the characters and details, and then put anti- graffiti coating over the top.

When planning our trip Josh and I had agreed that we would mostly do free or low cost camps, however there were none nearby Kinka so we booked into the NMRA caravan park “Just while I do this quick mural” Welllllll…  Three nights turned into six nights turned into nine. The art of murals had a bit more to it than I had anticipated.  This was a new surface for me, with lots of windows and doors to make cutting in the undercoat and base colours a much bigger job than it first appeared.  And I’m not going to lie, there was definitely more than one tantrum on my part, I can be a bit of a brat. Once the base coat was on and I was able to get stuck into the details I was much more confident and was so proud of how it was coming along!

It really felt so amazing to stand back after it was completed and know that I created something so beautiful, I was really thankful that Kate and Adam the owners let me have free reign on the design and trusted me throughout the whole process.

During this time one of my lovely friends I had met in Moranbah years beforehand messaged me and told me she was starting up an online business/publicity page and that she would love for me to be her first article. Now if you know me, you will know that this is wayyy out of my comfort zone, getting my photo taken and talking about myself terrifies me! I reluctantly agreed, and thankfully Kate was as lovely and warm as I remembered and she put me at ease straight away.

The kids loved Yeppoon as well, staying at the NRMA park meant they had a jumping pillow, playground and pool on our doorstep and the beach was only a short walk to go looking for shells, crabs and sand dollars.

Before we left we were worried about the kids getting enough social time, but straight off the bat they had kids their own age to hang around with.  Asher even made friends with the owner of Kinka Kippa’s 4 year old, a cute little dude named Thomas, Asher was very proud to have his very own friend.

While we were in Yeppoon we also got the opportunity to catch up with some other friends from Moranbah, and their beautiful kids, it was so great to see that those friendships are still just as strong as they ever were!

Things we learnt in Yeppoon

  • When you are overwhelmed with a major task at hand, don’t overthink! Instead put your focus on what needs to be done next and take it step by step!
  • Rendered walls are MUCH harder to paint on than a smooth surface!
  • I will have many tantrums throughout the creative process
  • Have more faith in myself
  • Caravan parks are expensive but are so good for the kids to keep entertained and so bloody convenient!
  • Homeschooling is hard.
  • Josh is an amazing stay at home parent.
  • Never underestimate how many times a 7 year old can say “Jumping Pillow” in a day
  • You can not lose weight while spending every day at a take away shop
  • Kids do not ever run out of energy ever
  • Friends from Moranbah feel like home

Swapping vans and dodging coronavirus

The original plan was to leave on April 1st.  That meant we had 2 weeks after Josh’s last swing at work to:

  •  Finish off our kitchen and bathroom renovations
  • Build a storage room into our garage
  • Pack the house
  • Move into our van
  • Find tenants and move them in

It was a little bit stressful to say the least. And then to top it off, the word Coronavirus was starting to be heard more and more.

Sitting in our old van watching Scott Morrisson slowly wind back some of the economy and shut down pubs, clubs and restaurants as the cases rose was pretty surreal, particularly because we now had tenants lined up for our house, so we had to go….somewhere?

So off we go 15 minutes down the road to the in-laws in the nick of time before lockdown!

So what do we decide to do? Relax? Spend time with Family? A little R&R? NOPE we decide we will sell our Mazda, Buy a Landcruiser, Sell Our Van and Prado and then find a new van before we leave!

But I tell you what, we are SO glad we did, the kids have so much more space and the best part is we have a door between the kids’ area and our area so that I can paint at night! Because you know….. Priorities!

What do you mean, live in a caravan?

Mackenzie Falls 2018

If you had of told me a few years ago that I would be living my life in a caravan travelling around painting murals with my husband and 3 sons I would have laughed!

In theory this lifestyle is something my personality type should not enjoy at all! Noise, Confined spaces, planning, new experiences and new people are all things that would generally make me uncomfortable.

And yet, somehow, it works!?

We did 4 months on the road in 2018 to transition our family to moving back to the Sunshine Coast from Moranbah. This is it below, we lived in it for 5 months all up and toured through Northern Territory, Western New South Wales, Adelaide, Mount Gambier, The Grampians, The Great Ocean Road, then followed the south coast up to Sydney and back through the middle of NSW to settle on the Sunshine Coast.

Camping on the Finke River 2018
First day of school 2020

Moving back to the Sunshine Coast was meant to be our “End Goal’ Have you ever had an “end goal”? Something you look forward to, something you revolve your life around and strive toward? And then it happens and its incredibly anti climatic?

That’s what happened when we moved home! I don’t know if it was all the changes happening, Josh doing FIFO, or had we built it up so much in our minds in our 7 years in Moranbah that nothing was going to live up to the expectation, or maybe it was that we had just done a 4 month trip and that deep down that was what we wanted to be doing? Probably a mix of all!

So about 6 months after moving back the decision was made! 2020 would see us hit the road! But of course, things in our lives have a habit of not going to plan….. that and we always, ALWAYS leave everything to the last minute.

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