Saturday, March 28, 2009

Day 29- Lake Tinaroo to Undara

Left the Atherton Tablelands behind and headed to the outback and the Undarra Lava Tubes. We finally have internet reception and power! so i have lots of catching up to do. I'll do today's update if i don't fall asleep first....

I went to bed! But i am now back....
The skiers had their music blaring at 6:45am! So everyone was up and awake and starting the packup nice and early, and we were on the road at 10:30. Which was pretty good seeing as we had been there for so long and everything was out.

Was mostly a good trip back through the Tablelands except for me missing a turn and Tim and I going on a bit of a zig zag route through to Millaa Millaa. We had talked about stopping at Ravenshoe pub for lunch cos the blog is rather short on CRAP reviews and Ravenshoe has the highest pub in Queensland, but it was early and he wanted to push on through while the kids were asleep.

Jordy was traveling with Mum and Dad and when we drove past Windy Hill Wind Farm they drove up to the viewing area and had a look. From there down the other side of the range the scenery changed immediately from the tropical rainforest to grassland savannah. We even had big mud termite mounds. We are officially in the outback.
Undara is seriously in the middle of nowhere. When I phoned to book a couple of days ago I mentioned the brochure we had that said van sites were $12 a person (valid to April 2009) and the lady said ok even though that was not their usual price. But when we got here the owner or someone had apparently said no, it was $30 a site so I was not all that impressed seeing as once we were here we had no options. Anyway, you get that. The caravan park is really unusual and not at all like a caravan park- it’s more like bush camping. I have to keep reminding myself we have power instead of using the gas stove to boil water etc. The first thing we did after unpacking the van was head to the laundry with three big baskets of washing! Dodgy arse old machines! Mum’s was full of bugs and old detergent and when we did a rinse cycle to clean it three frogs jumped out…?? Does no one else here do washing??

We had a quick swim while we waited for the laundry to finish. Lovely cool water! And then into the shower and dinner routine for the kids. They were both tired and grumpy so Tim cooked dinner while I wrangled with the boys. Roast pork and vegies. I updated the blog for the last few days worth of stuff and Tim sat outside with Mum and Dad and listened to the footy on the radio.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Day 28- Lake Tinaroo

The guys were straight out to check the traps this morning; about a half dozen or so more red-claws. We don’t have the whole place to ourselves anymore with quite a few more campers and boats turning up for the weekend.

Headed out again today. Went for a drive through Atherton to grab some groceries, and fruit and vege, and then off to Mareeba and Coffee Works. We had debated about going as it was $19 each for admission but we got a $5 off voucher from the tourist information centre and it sounded like you got to taste a lot of different things so we thought we’d give it a go. Good move!!! Great set up. We did not arrive until around midday and you would have thought that gave us plenty of time but you could seriously spend all day there. Apart from the 21 coffees to sample and 12 chocolates and 4 teas and 3 liqueurs, there is also a huge museum with great historical info and those individual audio tour sets where you can go around and get info on any piece that you find interesting. We only saw half the museum and even the non-coffee drinkers enjoyed it. Despite trying really hard I think I only managed to sample half the coffees on offer and only one tea and we did not leave until just before 4pm. You know you have had enough coffee and chocolate when the heavenly scent of fresh roasted beans makes you feel nauseous!

But we bought some for later from the gift shop (and filled a little sample cup of the free ones to take home too!). Incredibly enough you can ask for a free return pass that gives you free entry for a whole month! So, big tip, if you are holidaying in the area go there first and then you can go again and again and again whenever you feel the need for a coffee or chocolate fix.

We stopped to have a look at the dam wall at the entrance to Lake Tinaroo. The dam is at capacity at the moment so there is a lot of water over the spillway. Back at camp there are even more campers and ski boats here. Looks like we chose a good time to leave cos they are hooning and screaming all over the lake and have their music blaring.

A totally unorganized dinner tonight but a big feed of red-claw and sausages and vegies. Now that we have figured out how to catch them we are looking forward to the next river/lake that we can try our luck at. But Tim will have to wait a while longer before he catches a fish (let alone a barra.)

I think Tinaroo has been a definite highlight for us all. No one specific thing but just a combination of all the great things to do in the tablelands area combined with the relaxing and beautiful campground here. Freedom for the kids and sitting around a campfire and fishing and sightseeing…. Does not get much better than this!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 27- Lake Tinaroo

Tim was up early to check the crab traps (that's him in the boat in the distance). Finally! Two more big fellas and two little ones. They are all being caught in really shallow and not at all in the deep water like they suggested at the shop. So he moved all the pots in closer and we’ll see what happens. He had time for a bit of a fish as well but no luck. These Barra are more elusive than the advertising suggests. LOL!

I went for a walk around the camp and grabbed a few photos. Then Mum, Jordy, and I fed two kookaburras. One swooped down and took some food from Jordy’s fingers but even though Mum said they were really gentle and hardy touched her fingers I think it was enough to intimidate Jordy cos he was not prepared to do it again. Darcy had a huge sleep in.

We pottered around camp for the rest of the morning; swept out the van, did some more washing, had a piece of my delicious Gallo dark chocolate for morning tea, Dad tried to read his book but Jordy had other ideas so they played Frisbee with a Tupperware lid and rode his trike and coloured in and tended the fire and tried to make one of the red-claws his ’friend’ and carry it around in a stubbie holder. Darcy is just blossoming out here with the freedom to wander around and discover things. He’s becoming a real little boy instead of a baby.

Tim marinated the red-claw tails for dinner, and boiled up the claws; really sweet, fresh meat. The local ranger called past for a chat and gave the guys some tips about catching red-claws. The traps should be in really shallow water apparently! So they went straight back out in the boat to move them in closer.

We put the little swing up for the boys this afternoon and they took it in turns (rather impatiently) swinging way way up in the sky. Darcy thought it was hilarious and he squealed and clapped and went much higher than Jordy.

The ranger had it right and we got more red-claw in time for dinner. A nice entrée of chilli-mango marinated crab with cous cous, and more left over for tomorrow. A simple stir-fry for mains, my last Gallo chocolate and a coffee for afters. Tim and Dad put the boat in and putted around the shallows to see if they could spot any crabs (the ranger reckoned you can often see them walking in really close). No crabs but they saw some bloody huge fish apparently. Then time for a relax as we all sat around the fire and chatted and enjoyed the cool breeze until late.

Day 26- Lake Tinaroo

Did a big drive around the region today. But first a run in the tinnie to check the crab traps. One baby red-claw and one nice big fella. But not the big catch that the boys were hoping for. Jordy is getting so confident in the boat and loves to haul the pots in himself. We did not take Darcy out in the boat but he was pretty excited about the crabs.

We headed to the Nerada Tea teahouse first up. Learnt all about the history of tea. Then had a chance to sample a couple of brews before enjoying a pot of our chosen tea and some yummy scones, cream, and jam.

Then on to Giallo Cheese and Chocolate factory. There was an observation window overlooking the cheese-making room and a tv showing another area of the factory. And inside the shop you could watch a lady making and decorating chocolates. We sampled about a dozen cheeses that were incredibly good. We bought a vintage, a sort of camembert, and a haloumi style cheese as well as a macadamia cheese. I don’t usually like stuff added into my cheese but this macadamia was amazing; it was almost like eating a white chocolate with macadamias, so we just had to buy some. We also bought a few chocolates but they were REALLY expensive.

We stopped at the Curtain Fig Tree on the way back past. Mum and Dad had been there in 1968! And Dad climbed to the top of the root curtain. This time they were content to walk along the boardwalk with the boys. We ate our sandwiches and threw the crust to the scrub turkeys. Darcy is so funny with them and keeps trying to chase them. And the boys played in the leaves.

We grabbed some milk and bread from Yungaburra (as expensive as we expected!) and then called into Lake Barrine which is a big lake formed in the crater of a volcano. The shop and teahouse at the lake used to be a hospital and convalescent home for soldiers during WWII and my Pop had been there so it was nice for me to learn more about his history and see where he had stayed so long ago. It’s a beautiful area and would have been lovely to swim in if we had packed our swimmers.

Back to camp in time for me to have a quick fish out on the lake. Got a little blowey with some grey clouds hugging the surrounding mountains so I did not stay out long (no bites anyway). Tim and Jordy checked the crab traps again (nothing).

Steak and vegies for dinner- got to love this weber! I fell asleep putting Darcy to bed but the others did not stay up long with the cool wind that was blowing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 25- Lake Tinaroo

Finally a lazy day of hanging around the camp just relaxing. Tim, Dad, Jordy and I went out sort of early in the tinnie to check the crab traps. Nothing! Oh, nothing except a little fat fish; live bait! But no red-claws which was disappointing but not surprising seeing as we know nothing about catching them. Nice out on the lake though. There are heaps of old dead tree skeletons that dot some inlets and sections of the lake and we managed to drive up over one. Some screeching and leaning and jiggling in the boat to get off it. You can water ski all over the lake and I know I sure as heck would not want to come across one of the submerged trees.

We had tried half-cooked potato in the traps but had also heard that cat or dog food was good so we came back to camp to try a couple with little pierced tins of cat food. Who knows!

Later on Tim and Dad headed back over to the main village of Tinaroo on the other side of the lake so Dad could get his fishing license (they forgot on the way through). It’s a much much quicker trip by boat than it is to drive around the lake. Really choppy over that side apparently even though it is lovely and calm over in our bay.

While they were gone we fed a kookaburra and watched the birds. Saw a trail of furry (stinging) caterpillars that I moved out of the way so the kids would not get stung. Jordy and I did a heap of colouring in and some activities in his colour/activity book.

The blokes had a chat to the people over at the shop and apparently the red-claw like much deeper water than where we had been putting the traps and potato is the way to go, so they moved the traps again on their way back to camp.

And the barramundi are biting on worms. So they got out some spades and dug up a feast of worms from the waters edge before Dad, Tim and Jordy headed out in the tinnie for some serious barra fishing. Jordy had a ball out there but noone caught anything. Jordy was convinced the worms were his friends and he carried them around for hours. Ergh.

We got the little washing machine off the truck and did a load of washing (the only thing that we ever need a town for really, but out here there is no one else anywhere around so we can run the generator.)

Mum, Jordy, and I drove out to the walks around Lake Euramoo and The Chimneys. It was a nice stroll and interesting to see but nothing earth-shattering. Managed to find a spot of mobile/internet reception on the hill at the entrance to our camp at Fong On Bay so we could extend our National Parks booking. Then quickly back to camp to bath the boys and get dinner on; a simple meat loaf on the weber and a damper in the campfire. The damper was rather black on the bottom and gooey on the inside- better luck next time.

Day 24- Innisfail to Lake Tinaroo

Lazy pack up this morning but we must be getting the hang of it cos we still left by 11:00 even though Tim had to run into town for milk and bread and we stopped at the local butcher for some meat (just in case the guys have no luck with the Barra!)

Drove the same road as yesterday through Millaa Millaa and then on to Malanda and then Lake Tinaroo. The day-use park at the entrance to Lake Tinaroo looks really well setup. Actually, we have noticed that all the national parks facilities in Queensland are well setup and maintained. A long drive around the lake and over the dam wall with a drive-through each of the other camp sites that we were pretty sure we would not be stopping at but a drive through to check them out just in case! And then finally arrived at Fong-On Bay. The other sites all have designated camping spots but this one is just open space and really big so you can camp anywhere on the lake that you want. We chose a spot right at the point overlooking the water that is plenty big enough for both vans with a fire area in the centre and then nothing but grass down on to the water.

This is the first camp we have been at where we can have an open fire. Actually, it is also that first place that has been cool enough to WANT a fire! It’s lovely and cool here tonight and the sky is full of stars. A lot of bugs and mozzies though so we have the coils burning and the bug spray on.

The boys had a great time this afternoon just doing little unremarkable things but generally having a good time throwing a ball and playing with sticks and riding the trike etc. I threw together a pork and potato and vegie stew and stuck it in a casserole dish in the weber BBQ nice and early and let it cook away slowly. Then I half cooked some potatoes for bait, and Dad and Tim put the tinnie in and headed out to put in some crab traps for the famous Red-Claws and I seriously have all my fingers crossed that they catch some.

This is certainly the nicest campsite we’ve stayed in and I imagine we’ll hang around for most of the week.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mango Tree Caravan Park

Mango Tree Tourist Park, Innisfail.
Stayed three nights. $31.50 a night, even with our Big4 member discount cos we were charged for one child. First time a park has charged for the kids! The park was ok but certainly not worth the money. Did not offer as much as most other Big4 parks. Friendly staff though.
Overall- 2+half stars.

Location- 5/10. Close to town and close to the highway.

Sites- 7/10. Sites are good with some shady ones. Some average sized sites but some bigger drive-thru ones as well. Also had cabins.

Bathrooms- 5/10. Totally fine but nothing special.

Laundry- 5/10. Also fine but nothing special. Front loaders $4 a load, same for the dryers.

Shop- no. Had gas bottles but nothing else. Had a great butcher around the corner though!

Pool- 5/10. Pool was really shallow but it did the job of cooling us down.

BBQ area- 7/10. Good undercover BBQ area at the pool with a tv and full kitchenette with fridge and microwave.

Playground- none.

Other- nothing.

Day 23- Innisfail

backdated! and no reception here so will do photos later...

Did the big waterfall drive around Millaa Millaa today. We all piled into Dad’s 4WD to make it easier over the mountain range. Beautiful countryside through here, really amazing. There is still sugarcane everywhere but also lots of papaya and banana covered hillsides. And we are back to dairy cow country!

We called into the Mungalli Creek Cheese factory for morning tea. It could quite possibly have been for lunch cos we were there at 11:30 but I did not want to fill up on ‘real’ food when there were so many nice looking cakes to try. And I was only saying to Mum yesterday that I thought I was due for a proper nice coffee from somewhere (we were even going to head to McCafe for afternoon tea just for their coffee and cake!) so we figured we’d treat ourselves. We also had a free cheese and yoghurt tasting which was really, really nice! Some quite different cheeses like herb and paprika quark (like ricotta) and a delicious feta, and incredibly good passionfruit greek yoghurt. And not expensive either. I settled for a bottle of REAL organic biodynamic milk. The kind of milk that you have to shake before you drink it cos the cream rises to the top. I’ll admit it is not as creamy as I had hoped (like the milk fresh from the farm at Dorrigo) but it’s still pretty good.

We headed off to the waterfall circuit after that. Saw some beautiful scenery. There are probably a dozen really big waterfalls in the area but we chose three to look at; Ellijaa, Zillie, and Millaa Millaa falls. Ellijaa falls had just a small waterhole at the bottom but quite a big drop so there was a lot of force in the falls. The bottom of the falls was soooo windy that it was hard to swim in under the waterfall to the little ledge in behind the water but it was worth the effort. I took Jordy in with me and he was pretty happy to swim in the water (but kept complaining about the cold!) but I think the noise or the wind of the falls may have scared him cos once we got under the water he just yelled to go back to Grandma and Grandpa on the bank. So we did.

Next one was Zillie. A HUGE drop and only visible from a walkway and lookout from above. No swimming here! But we saw a massive spider that was just hanging over our heads before we noticed it. Freaky huge thing.
Last of all we stopped for a picnic lunch at Millaa Millaa falls. Even though it is not even close to tourist season and we have seen virtually noone around the place Millaa Millaa falls was packed with tourists. I can’t imagine how busy it will be there in a couple of months. Although the water was a little cool so maybe over winter it is too cold to swim in…?? There was a really large swimming hole and the entire back of the falls is all rock ledge where you can sit behind and look up through the back of the fall. It was really beautiful with the sun sparkling through the water. I wish I had of had a waterproof camera to take with me. Jordy had said he did not want to swim this time so I went in by myself (everyone else was just too wimpy) but once he saw me in the water he wanted to come in too. So we had a bit of a splash and swim over to the other side of the little lake (but not under the falls this time).

I had to include this photo for Tim… not really sure what the statue designers had in mind.

On the way home we called in to the camp spot at Henrietta Creek that we had thought about camping at. It was really nice! We needed the caravan park for a few days so no point having regrets but it would have been a lovely spot to stay. From there we drove on to the Crawfords Lookout (right on the road). Massive drop! Hard to believe that we were driving that close to the edge of such a big drop. There is a canopy walk called Ma:Mu rainforest walk that goes out along the edge of the mountainside but at $20 a person we decided against it (we’ve all done the Dorrigo one more than once so it would be nothing all that different).

Back home in time for another load of washing and a quick dinner of ham and cheese quiche pie thing in the microwave. Surprisingly yummy! The boys both went to bed at 7:30 and I fell asleep putting Darcy to bed and Tim fell asleep putting Jordy to bed and that was the end of it! I got up at 10:30 when it started to rain and I realized we had not bought the clothes in or wound the windows up on the truck, but I was straight back to bed.

We both certainly needed the sleep. I have to say that even though we are not working I have never been so tired! We never seem to have time to just sit down for 5minutes. It’s always go, go, go. But it is nice to be busy living rather than busy working.