Friday, 28 November 2014

The Greater Port Macquarie

It's nice to have a break from the holiday parks every now and then, and we had that in mid-North Coast when we were able to stay with longtime family friends. We literally set up camp in their horses paddock - power and water connections into the horse stable and all. The horses kept us company and did really well to have us there, with Dusty and Maxie following them around, climbing the gate to pat their noses, stirring up their feed while they were trying to eat. It really gave another unique learning opportunity for Dusty. How many 4 year olds can say they took a week long internship learning the care and feeding of horses in nothing other than a horse paddock? Dusty learned so much that week he insisted that HE knew the best way to dress, feed, and care for horses and the owners had to learn from HIM. Generally he knew his stuff, too! So even though we'd moved on from the amazing South West Rocks coastal town to a rural country property, we were again happier and loving the experience. 

Our friends were such generous hosts and to despite our begging they wouldn't give us any property jobs to help with, so we were left to relax and sightsee for the whole 7 days. So, so lovely of them. So we spent a lot of the week sightseeing from the car, starting in Port Macquarie.

Port Macquarie region is just full of trade, horsey properties, good shopping centers, historical museums, wineries and even a zoo. There really was so much to do that we felt overwhelmed. Maxie discovered that he loved running down the rows of grapevines.

And Tim talked Dusty into trying the grapes straight off the vine. 

Dusty got Tim back... 

We supported the Douglasvale Winery (run completely by volunteers) by buying their wine and port, and taking some fresh garden herbs off their hands too. They have the most diverse range of fruit-bearing trees, and are totally excited by visitors so they can share what they've learned / are learning about traditional techniques in their restored historical garden.

Another day, while I spent the morning on the computer, Tim took the boys to the zoo. Heaps to see and many animals to pat including this friendly dingo and koala...


We learned from Tim's mum that her late-father (Tim's Opa) had helped to build parts of a theme-park called Fantasy Glades in the '70's, and so we set out for a day trip to show our boys the artwork by their great-Opa. We eventually found the park and crawled under a fence to get in, totally confused by the website directions, and then we realised it was closed for refurbishments. Amazing place and it will be really special to see it opened again one day.

Port Macquarie is another one of Australia's beautiful country-feel places with stunning coastal lookouts.

I have to admit though, I was not enjoying myself as much as I should have, because I was worrying. We had the opportunity to leave our dog, Siah, with our friends on their property when it was time for us to move on - and while we knew it would be a good idea for all of us to let him stay while we continued traveling without him, it was a very painful decision. We love our boy dearly. 

So after much indecisiveness and a good amount of sobbing by me, we packed Siah's goodies and left him with a lot of hugs and kisses with friends we trust and love. He was more than comfortable and really relaxed, and we knew it would save  us just that little bit extra stress while on the road, plus meant we could fully devote ourselves to our children and their safety, so it really was the right thing to do. Since we left him there we've seen photos of him tucked up for sleep in front of the TV. I'd like to think he misses me as much as I miss him, but it's hard to know these things with dogs isn't it?

Beautiful boy. When we drove away there was no way I could stop within 100klm because I knew I'd want to go back and get Siah the next day (maternal instincts! Tim had no feelings whatsoever!) so we just kept drivin', and drivin', and drivin'... 'Keep on going, Tim...' I kept saying...

And you'll just have to wait for my next blog to see where we ended up... So stay tuned :) 

Until next update  xo 


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Arakoon and South West Rocks

We stayed at Arakoon near South West Rocks for a few days and oh-my-word, it was soooo amazing. Within the first hour of setting up the caravan there were kangaroos all around us giving Dusty a chance to take close up photos...

It turned out that Australian wildlife are EVERYWHERE at Arakoon, so the place had a real personality about it. That, and the Trial Bay Gaol, which (as we read) plays a massive part in the history of the region not only as a Gaol, but as a bakery for the town, a life-saving service for ship-wrecked boats, and a full German cultural hub and safety respite during WW1. The building remains are stunning, it is everything I anticipated it would be (I had been dreaming of visiting this historical landmark since I read about it in the Gold Coast Sun 6 months ago). 

It didn't matter where we went in Arakoon, it was just darn pretty all the time. From the rocky headlands and beaches in between... 

To the fire-red sunset on the beach... 

... The bush trail walks ... 

And the ultimate steep walk up to the incredible lighthouse, which is one of the largest, and one of the last remaining working (with its original lens, to boot) lighthouses in NSW. So, so pretty. We visited at night as well as at day and were captivated by the magical beam spinning round, my most favourite thing in the world, especially when I know it's my mums most favourite thing too (I hope you'll see it one day soon, mum). 

The Lighthouse Keepers cottages are holiday rentals now - now that would be a magical holiday.

Just look at the view from up here...  

I think we were at our highest coastal point yet.

Back on the ground, Tim taught Dusty how to snorkel in the saltwater pool at the caravan park, and then they went out into the seaway at South West Rocks. Such an amazing experience for Dusty who was swept along with the incoming tide with Tim guiding him along. 

We had a lovely swim there at low tide and almost decided to live there for good! 

We explored the area, went for a very long walk to the end of the very long rock wall, went into town to browse the local streets, tested out all the playgrounds, and got to know the area quite well. (It reminded me of The Spit and Seaway at The Gold Coast in a way.)

The Big 4 Caravan Park was the best we'd been to so far, just perfect for young children with plenty of quality playing areas and friendly families to hang out with.

And just a couple of action shots, of 2 kangaroos, and our happy Rhodesian ridgeback jumping like a kangaroo ... 

We didn't really want to leave Arakoon and South West Rocks! But we had plans to meet friends further south, so it was time to go. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Macksville, Utungun Farm, Dorrigo (just south of Coffs Harbour)

At Utungan Farm (just outside Macksville), we set up the caravan in the cow paddock. There was so much good stuff happening during our few days at the farm, like sharing meals with our much-loved cousins and generally taking in the scenery and beauty of the family farm, hosted by Tamara, Matt, Geoff & Nadine, and their folks Marlene and Doug who have been on the land for decades. We canoed up the creek for a little spot of fishing, had a pizza-oven night, bathed in the creek during the hottest parts of the day, played in the dirt and explored the local area. 

We visited The Pub With No Beer and loved it. 

And took a drive to Bellingen and then up the range to Dorrigo where we discovered - with a huge amount of excitement from the boys - a railway museum with hundreds of old trains and carriages (and other industrial relics from Australia's earlier years) in the open air.  

Later on, I took some time out to plan our journey, drawing in the dirt with a stick. I'm finding so many ways to inspire and teach the children about Australia, history, and life-skills just through simple outdoor activities like this. Dusty and I added sticks for locations, and he also added rivers and places we had visited recently. 

Dusty and Maxie have become closer and closer, just so joyful to have each other's company. It's a beautiful friendship that I reckon could only have blossomed through this adventure. We love to see how our relationships are becoming so much more meaningful with this time together. 

Maxie had his first experience in a canoe and tried his best to tip us over squirming and screaming. On a second attempt, we invited our big red dog into the canoe, and Maxie was content as the whole family was together. So the 5 of us paddled upstream, I would have loved a photo but there was no way I'd take my camera aboard. We spotted a huge carpet snake and rowed alongside it for a while, watching it glide along the log uninterested in us. I decided to not swim again after seeing that!

Dusty is enjoying himself immensely and is retaining so much of what we see and say - repeating landmark names, checking the map and navigating, talking about next stop to visit, bringing up memories from last places, he is surprising me with the unusual names and information he is retaining. He is totally at ease now with travelling every few days and excitedly tells friends he makes in playgrounds, "Bye! I'll never see you again, 'cause we're travelling Australia again tomorrow!"