Albany Continues – Granite Sky Walk, Whale World and Wild Weather

Deciding we hadn’t tortured the children for a while we headed up to the Porongurup National Park (45 kms North East of Albany) so we could drag the blossoms up to the top of Castle Rock to see the Granite Sky Walk.  The walk itself was 2.2 kms and quite steep towards the end, climbing through beautiful green karri forest – however every time we came to a sign saying how far we had yet to climb it came as a shock – surely we’d gone further than 500 metres?!  The girls impressed us yet again with their tenacity, everyone making it to the top despite Layla asking every two minutes when would we get there and Sophia playing David Attenborough (still), stopping to stare in amazement at every new ant hill on the way up.

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Heading up – too much energy to start with!

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Balancing rock – how many people have taken this shot?!

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View to the top

 

The Sky Walk itself involved a ‘scramble’ up the massive granite boulders using well placed metal foot and hand holds to reach a vertical ladder up a rock face to the viewing platform – so we elected for the adults to go up one at a time while the girls played on the lower karri lookout.  This incredible piece of engineering had to be seen to be believed, freely suspended 570 metres above sea level on the Eastern side of huge granite rocks the brochures tell me are more than 1,000 million years old. The vista was also breath-taking, lush green farming land, more karri forests, vineyards and the Stirling Ranges in the distance.  It didn’t pay to stand too close to the edge and look straight down on the Eastern side though, vertigo inducing doesn’t even begin to cover that sensation.

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Elected not to have the kids “scramble”!

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Walk with a view – don’t look directly down though

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Going down was much quicker

On our last day in Albany the weather seemed to decide it had indulged the Queenslanders enough and returned to what is more expected down South when it’s nearly June – cold, wet and blustery.  We had done most of our outdoorsy touring so headed to “Whale World” to hide from the elements. I really should have paid more attention the tourist brochures – initially I thought this was a whale information tour, turns out to be the last Australian whaling station that has been preserved complete with a whale ‘chaser’ vessel.  The girls had a ball climbing through and over the whaling ship (the beds were about their size, were men all short in those days??!) however the actual historical revelations about the whaling industry required a strong stomach – the guided tour of the site included the ‘flensing’ deck, boilers and a massive saw they used to detach the poor old whales heads. However there was some great general information about whales and even the suspended skeleton of a massive blue whale (but apparently this 24 meter behemoth is half the size of the biggest known blue whales).

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Inside the whaling ship

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The Blue Whale Behemoth

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The beautiful harbor where wholesale slaughter used to take place

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The Cheynes IV – Whale Chaser

Returning from Whale World (immensely relieved that most of our species had realised that whaling is barbaric) the weather became even wilder, to the point where we removed the girls from the campervan and installed them in the Prado with a movie – just in case!  Massive wind gusts off the ocean were rocking our little home and even once we decided it was safe enough to return Craig threw a tie down strap over the top and lashed us to the ground as added security.  Sleep was in short supply on our last night with the wind, rain and noise and we were actually relieved to be on our way – Albany was fabulous but the wild wind gusts that come with coastal winters were a little unnerving!

Albany

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Five days and nights free camping reached the record of Bay of Fires in Tasmania so when we departed Millers Point for Albany there was high level of shower desperation in the air (so to speak)! Also we had been free camping on dirt sites so the key requirement for a caravan park in Albany was grass – lots and lots of clean, green grass. Emu Point Acclaim turned out to be the park of choice and Emu Point itself was delightful, literally a point of land near the van park that had a little cafe perched at the end, a playground and calm stretch of beach that little ones would enjoy – and an off-shore ocean lap swimming pool complete with lane ropes! So wished it was summer at that point. Every morning I managed to escape for some peace and solitude, walking along the beach path that wound itself along the harbor and gazing out at the islands dotted around.

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Emu Point at Sunset

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Emu Point in the Sunshine

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Beachfront Walk

Our lucky streak with the weather continued as well (initially at least) and we were able to see Albany Harbor in all it’s sunny, crystal clear blue-green water glory – almost warm enough to brave the cold water and jump in, it was incredibly tempting. However instead we went fishing off the jetty and enjoyed the view – but not the fish, only catch of the day was a small crab attempting to steal bait, cheeky sod. The water was so clear that every single detail of the ocean floor was visible – in retrospect it was pretty obvious there were no fish to catch but the short people enjoyed the practice!

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The swimming pool clear Albany Harbor

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Fishergirl

Albany turned out to have a lot to see and do within close range and we ended up extending our stay twice, finally spending five nights and days in this neck of the WA woods. The wind farm we thought was going to be a bit boring (a walking track through a wind farm?) was actually awe inspiring, a field of eighteen wind turbines soaring into the air above us while we wound our way through a pretty walking track with elevated viewing platforms and visual of the nearby wild ocean coast line. The route also collided with the “Bibbulmun Track” a path that is sometimes boardwalk, sometimes dirt, sometimes part of a remote track and makes it’s way from Albany to Perth for those fit enough (or crazy enough) to want to walk/ride roughly 1000 kms. Being there at sunset the photography was perfect and even the girls were impressed with this spot – and it’s not easy impressing five year old girls with technology! Apparently this supplies 80% of Albany’s power supply as well, I’ve been surprised by how many towns in WA use wind power for either some or most of their power needs, great to see.

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A visit to Elephant Rocks near Denmark yet again made me pine for warmer weather – the Blue Pools looked devine in all the pictures but not quite the same under cloudy skies however the short walk to see the massive granite boulders that resembled wading elephants was worth the effort. I’m sure I could see Elephants – but the husband wasn’t sure, maybe it an individual imagination thing!

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Elephant Rocks

Bremer Bay and Millers Point – Serenity…

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After Hopetoun we decided to continue with the free camping theme, braving further bathing in our sink and use of the little foldup toilet seat that has become invaluable (especially for those short people only learning the art of the “bush wee”!) We found a little spot in the Camps Australia book called Millers Point, half an hour out of Bremer Bay and both of these places turned out to be absolutely stunning (I’m going to run out of descriptors if this beautiful scenery continues!)

Millers Point is actually a finger of land that juts out into the Beaufort Inlet West of Bremer Bay and is also a popular fishing spot based on the shacks setup there and the fisherman putting their boats in each night.  We arrived late in the afternoon on a dead calm day without a ripple on the glassy surface of the inlet in front of us or behind us.  We setup in record time and parked ourselves in the camp chairs to watch the inlet turn to orange, pink and finally royal blue as the sun set behind us.

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View from our campsite over Beaufort Inlet from Millers Point

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…and our view as the sun set….

 

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Sun setting behind us – you get the idea!

This was possibly the most perfect spot we had found to date in terms of camp setup – we were the sole occupiers of the camp ground, it was so quiet you could hear the surf breaking in the distance, the girls entertained themselves on the shores of the inlet, splashing and fossicking, we had a superb fire pit already established, wood was plentiful and the view – well, that was amazing.  In the morning we were entertained by these tiny little blue tailed birds that were fascinated by their own reflection in our car windows – although Craig was less than impressed with the bird poop on his 4WD!  I don’t think we had felt this relaxed since Coles Bay in Tasmania, not even the lack of a shower detracted from the absolute serenity of this camping spot.

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Chateau d’ InnsPlayground

 

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Foreground and background – beautiful 🙂

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My husband is a pyromaniac

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Marshmallows anyone?!

 

From this little hideaway we explored the nearby Bremer Bay, where once again we were gob-smacked by the gorgeous beaches. We could drive onto the main beach in town, a sweeping vista of white sand and green water (yet again!) and even the ‘fisherman’s beach’ where boats set out and local’s tried their luck at the jetty was a little gem of a blue green cove. Speaking of locals – this place was incredibly friendly, everyone went out of their way to help or advise travelers, especially the two gentleman in their boat who picked up our daughters ‘croc’ shoe that was sedately floating out into the harbor as we watched helplessly from the rocks!

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Jetty at Fisherman’s Beach Bremer Bay

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Fisherman’s Beach – apparently we aren’t fisherman!

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Main Beach in Bremer Bay – no words

 

Although Craig tried his hand with the fishing rod alas we were still fish-less by the end our stay, think the lack of boat may be seriously hampering his style – although it’s always fun trying (I guess). The up side of his fishing expeditions was the discovery of a beach just out of Bremer Bay only accessible by 4WD and with the deepest, softest most extensive dune system I’ve ever come across, it was like the Sahara.  Yet again we had the entire stretch of white sand to ourselves for the day and surprisingly for this far South in late May the day was warm and sunny – so all the girls (somewhat daringly) stripped down to underwear to romp around the sand dunes and soak up some Vitamin D. Needless to say clothes were within quick reach just in case some other intrepid fishermen decided to turn up in our little piece of heaven!

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Home away from the Chateau

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Hot enough for this!

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Beaches of WA – Sigh…

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..but no fish!!

 

 

We reluctantly headed off after three days in this glorious location, headed to Albany and probably yet more overwhelmingly incredible scenery – Western Australia I think I may be in love with you….

 

 

 

Hopetoun

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Hopetoun was a little footnote on our journey across the bottom of WA, where we free-camped for a couple of nights just of the town at 12 mile beach and built fires each night and played on what was almost our own private beach. We did venture into the sleepy little town of Hopetoun for coffee and phone/internet connection however the weather was behaving for us so we mostly played in our own front yard.

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Dancing Queens

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Just us for miles – 12 miles actually as this is 12 mile beach!

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Other direction – still nothing – random child though, who does she belong to?!

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No more fishing – time for a beer

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Layla decided to take a nap in Hopetoun itself (or at least pretend)

 

Yorke Peninsula

20130531-104908.jpgYorke Peninsula is the “boot” of South Australia and home to my mum whose family all originated from this region. Visiting family again gave us the opportunity to briefly live in something other than 6×2 meters of enclosed space – although that isn’t as bad as it sounds provided the weather is fine and we can embrace the great outdoors! The girls (and my mum) were delighted to see each other again and we had the rare opportunity to spend Mother’s Day with all three of our female generations – leaving my long suffering husband as the one and only male yet again ! We did conclude Mother’s Day at the rather good local winery (Barley Stacks) where he scored his own present – a five liter plastic container of tawny port. Although this doesn’t sound particularly classy the port was good quality and the container perfect for storage and use camping – should last Craig at least two months of camp fire night caps depending on stress levels!

The Trip Poison of Choice

The Trip Poison of Choice

York Peninsula is primarily farming land however we ventured right down to the bottom of the boot’s foot to the Innes National Park (considering the name it seemed appropriate that we visit!) My mum hadn’t seen this region so we were happy to show her what was in her own back yard – it’s very true you don’t play tourist in your home State very often. Turns out this is another of those wildly beautiful edges of Australia with light houses, cliffs and jetties into the big blue, proving Craig wrong about South Australia being boring – think seeing as I originated from here he’s pushing his luck a bit there…

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Naracoorte to Robe South Australia

Our trip out of Victoria to South Australia was a nostalgic one for me, having grown up in the South East in the country town of Naracoorte. Driving through the outlying towns (or even just seeing direction signs) brought back memories of netball/football games, awkward teenage crushes, youth group shenanigans and visiting friends on their farms. Country towns must suit parents of girls  – boys I liked always seemed to be far, far out of town! We stopped by the house I grew up in, where our first family pet (rough tough little black poodle called Simmaron of all things) was buried under the now huge willow tree in the front yard and I grabbed a quick picture before the now owners decided we were stalkers and called the police on us. Funny how places always seemed so much bigger when remembered through the eyes of our smaller selves.

As the husband isn’t quite as enthused about my childhood memories (particularly the first boyfriend discussion for some strange reason) it was a quick walk down memory lane before our next destination, the seaside fishing village of Robe. It had been a very long time since I visited Robe so my impressions of it were vague but it turned out to be a beautiful and peaceful sea side stop. We arrived almost at sunset in weather positively balmy for the South this time of year and headed to the beach out the front of the Big 4 to play. Other than dealing with sympathetic looks re: my black eye we had a very quiet and uneventful stay in Robe, some would say this is par for the course for South Australia however it’s always nice to go back to your roots – and realise how far you’ve grown from them!

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Grampians Horse Riding Centre

This was our last stop on the way out of this beautiful Victorian spot and wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  The owner of this great establishment and I have mutual friends and had met at their wedding previously so we dropped in to say hi and let the girls have a pony ride.  This was a very exciting day as not only did Cam teach them all about how to approach the horses, catch them (that had varying success) and lead them back in but by the end they were able to ride around by themselves (in a very small enclosed corral I should add!) That amounted to a few steps actually, once their very savvy horses realised that the little legs couldn’t actually reach past the saddle to give them a ‘giddy up’ in the ribs they soon stopped moving.  Never the less it was unaided riding and these were two happy girls – Sophia has now decided she would like to be a horse vet (well, plus cats) – even after Cam demonstrated how you take a horses temperature – which resulted in gails of giggles and genuine concern for the horses, um, comfort??!!

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Layla on Trigger

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Solo Riders

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Sophia on the Lovely Ted

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Leading In

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Not sure who is leading who here…

 

 

 

 

Grampians National Park

We returned to the ‘mainland’ from Tasmania without incident or sea sickness (phew) and moved into my dad’s place en-masse for a few days. My dad and step-mum are always good natured about these invasions, dealing with the noise, chaos and mess in exchange for cooking, cuddles, fresh made juices and for my dad assistance with the odd job. The husband had lined up a bunch of modification to our camping setup after the trial run in Tassie – which at first I thought was just more male tinkering. However, it was proved he does know what he’s on about (no-one tell him though) as the carpet on the floors absorb noise, dust that would otherwise end up in beds and stop our feet from freezing. The new high density foam on our bed has dramatically improved our quality of sleep (and lowered the level of crankiness) and a hand held vacuum? Worth every penny with the camper now carpeted! Dad and husband spent a day making some very nifty movable steps for the girls to climb into their bed without demolishing the couch cushions and I think there were other things that were technical and essential but slip my mind – not being directly related to comfort or security.

After all this busy-ness it was a little reluctantly (again) that we packed up and hit the road for South Australia. First stop was the Grampians National Park, I hadn’t been to this area since I was a teenager on Youth Camp but I had vague memories of it being beautiful. Apparently I’m not senile yet as it is an absolutely stunning part of Victoria, driving into Halls Gap there were kangaroos literally everywhere – in the school grounds, camp grounds, by the local shops – everywhere! This was exciting until I walked around the back of the camper one morning with the girls in tow to find a reasonably large buck just lolling around behind our living quarters! He didn’t seem in a hurry to get away from us and the girls were almost hypnotised by him so we all just stood for five minutes and stared at each other. This impasse ended when Craig came to investigate and the kangaroo stood up to full height in quite a threatening manner – apparently even male humans aren’t popular with these boys.

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Seemed to like the girls pink pyjamas !

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Hello Roo

Once again we subjected our children to the cruel and unusual practice of hiking for hours on end over mountains but to their credit there was only one truly monumental melt down otherwise they were complete little champions about it all. It would have been good to do some of the more challenging hikes and access the stunning scenery from these paths but that is just going to have to wait until the girls are older. Evenings were spent around the camp fire toasting marshmallows and we were glad that it was this route we had decided on rather than the Great Ocean Road (also beautiful but done many times before).

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Post Short Person Melt Down – I’d had enough too!

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Big Day for Short Legs!

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Looks like a face to me!

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Follow the Leader

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Beautiful View after a Very Long Walk!

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Coming up the Canyon at the Peak

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Troopers

The only down side of this stop-over was a slight safety malfunction that was extremely embarrassing considering I am a so called safety professional (don’t mechanics always have the worst cars??) One other modification Craig made in Melbourne was a connection for the van stabiliser legs that allows us to use an 18V hand held drill to wind them down instead of man (or woman) power. I objected initially as it seemed like quite a good upper body workout while on the road but Tim the Tool Man insisted. So in Halls Gap he passed me the drill and requested that I wind up the stabiliser legs – after looking at him blankly I think the penny dropped that I really am not that familiar with electric drills – especially not in this capacity! So a very brief instruction session followed which included making sure I slowed the drill down as the legs were nearly up – the first two were a bit quick so the next I bent down to check what where the legs were and obviously loosened my grip on the drill. I’ve never been punched in the face but in the movies it never looks like a big deal – I’m assuming this is incorrect if the big heavy handle of an 18V drill smacking me in the eye socket at full speed is anything to go by. To the husbands credit he initially cradled my head and made sure my eye was still in it’s place before commenting that people were going to think he hit me! Although no-one accused him of this, as the beautiful blue, purple, green and yellow hues of my eye emerged I did get a lot of funny looks – and very few souls actually worked up the courage to ask me what happened, I’m assuming in case I said I walked into a door (because the drill story is so much more plausible!) There have been many jokes about me not doing as I’m told or listening and needless to say I haven’t been authorised to use power tools since then….

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Ouchy

Deloraine, Mole Creek and Cradle Mountain

I think we left our run to Cradle Mountain a little late – by the time we arrived in this region it was freezing, rain was coming in sideways and any thoughts of hiking through this beautiful area had turned into camp fires and hot chocolate longings!  However – our first stop after Launceston was delightful, the little town of Deloraine – beautiful, quaint, featuring a meandering river with modern art on the banks and a supply of hippy types camping out on the sidewalks! I loved this spot, nestled in between mountain ranges with a melting pot of tourists, locals, hippies, overseas back-packers and picturesque scenery.

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Funky Art Work

Beautiful Deloraine

Beautiful Deloraine

Walking Path

Walking Path

Deloraine River Bank

Deloraine River Bank

Our camp site was about half an hour on from here at Mole Creek – an unfortunate name for a beautiful spot at the foot of Cradle Mountain. We had tried to book a powered site at Cradle Mountain itself however none were available – after freezing our butts off all over Tasmania we decided that no heater was a deal breaker so we booked at Mole Creek – this turned out to be a stroke of luck. The van site was right next to one of those crystal clear streams that should be in an english fairy tale but was reportedly inhabited by platypus – which weren’t sighted despite the girls searching high and low. The husband was delighted as camp fires weren’t only allowed but fire wood supplied AND we had power for a heater – funny what becomes nirvana after weeks of camping. Only draw back was the possibility we (as in Craig!) offended the lovely group of young french back-packers next door by putting on a terrible fake french accent. This was partly because I’m walking around repeating french phrases constantly as I learn and partly because he just can’t help himself – seems to think that putting “la” in front of everything and putting on a bad accent is the equivalent of knowing French!  Level of french affectation seemed to be proportional to the amount of red wine consumed around our camp fire so hopefully they were oblivious as well by that time of night.

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Best of all was this area had relatively clear weather compared to up the mountain so while we did venture up to the peak and wander around some of the child friendly tracks the constant rain and wind (avoiding the wombat poo at every step and turn) made us very happy not to be camping up the top! W

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What’s with the Weather?!

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Wonderland Walk at Cradle

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Cold!!!!

This was also the site of the girls fifth birthday celebrations so will always hold a special place in our memories of Tasmania.  The day was marked by lamington cake, balloons, small toys (emphasis on small) and exploring the local caves – the glow worms were a huge hit as was the point at which the guide turned out all the lights in the deepest darkest spot possible.

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Happy Birthday Littlest Campers

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Camper Party (it was raining)

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Making a Wish – hopefully not to go home!

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Celebrating in the Caves!

I do wish we had made Cradle a priority when we arrived, it’s a disappointment not to have completed some of the walks around this incredible area, however the husband has pledged to bring the girls back to do the overland track when they are old enough – there was no mention of taking me though, maybe he thinks I will be too old by then???!!!

Bay of Fires and Moo Cows

We didn’t think anything was going to live up to the playground right in front of our campsite at Coles Bay – but we were wrong.  Moving into the Big 4 at St Helens, right on the edge of the Bay of Fires we discovered a jumping pillow (!!!), a playground and games room that we could camp practically in front of.  I may or may not have been seen jumping around on the pillow with the kids a few times – as always there is no photographic proof (I don’t think). It seems this has become the kids paradise tour of Tasmania – which we are going to put an immediate stop to by going free camping after we check out on Wednesday.  Of course it’s going to be a stark contrast after camping Disneyland but I’m sure the kids will cope – it’s a matter of the adults coping with the whining!

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Kid Heaven

So in line with our aim of spoiling the kids fun we went and looked at all the spots the locals had recommended along the Bay of Fires for free camping.  I may have also been a little reluctant, having been accustomed to power, running water and shower blocks (sigh) but as the photos will attest to, this place is the Tasmanian Whitsunday’s.  Before all the Queenslanders get their knickers in a twist I know it can’t compete with the water temperature but otherwise there is white sand, turquoise water and miles and miles and miles of beautiful beaches.  We are slowly luring the kids in with promises of night beach fires, toasted marshmallows and beach frisbee – plus hunting down every piece of detritus the ocean throws on the sand and declaring  ‘treasure’ so it can stink out the camper.

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Bay of Fires

The other highlight of the day was visiting the Pyengana Dairy Company headquarters, set right in the middle of the lush green grazing fields with a mountainous backdrop where we also trekked to one of the highest water falls in Tassie.  The “Holy Cow Cafe” offered tastings of their traditionally made cheese (to die for), home made ice-cream and milk that hadn’t been homogenised, leaving the thick layer of cream on top. This is almost impossible to obtain on the ‘mainland’ so I’m devastated about leaving the land of cream topped milk now.

Pyengana Cheese Factory Pyengana Moo Cafe

St Columba Falls

St Columba Falls

This was all topped off for the little people by seeing a real working dairy and lots of frolicking calves – although it made me realise what little city slickers we are raising when they became overly excited every time a cow ‘mooed’ and I had to explain what an udder was!!