Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Kangaroos: Take 2

The Mackay Bluewater Lagoon is one of the coolest public pools, it even showed up in an email I recently got from Trip Advisor with their top 10 most recommended pools in the world. Fortunately for us we had the whole thing to ourselves, unfortunately for us it was freezing cold and all the water slides were closed during the winter. But we made the most of it hanging out on the playground splash pad while killing a few hours, or more like one hour. before they were too cold.

Ryder's duck face in this just about kills me dead. Homeboy don't mess around.

Besides the polar bear plunge, the rest of the day was spent traveling until we made it to one of our favorite stops. Cape Hillsborough. Otherwise known as Cape Kangaroo. Not really, but that would be very fitting. We settled into the campground, enjoyed the hot showers and free wifi and explored along the beach as the sun set.

The beach was covered with these balls of sand made by soldier crabs as they dug their holes. At least that was the conclusion the kids came to, based solely on an episode of Octonauts. Octonauts has proven to be quite informative and I am always amazed at all the facts the kids remember. We got into a heated debate about the migration of Saltwater Crocs. Google finally settled the disagreement, Jason-0, Octonauts-1.

What makes this place so special is that every morning as the sun comes up, dozens of kangaroos find their way out of the bush to graze on delicacies the tide has brought in (and the food that the campground owners scatter out for them, gotta keep their moneymakers happy). Sunrise was around 5:30 am and I kept waking up all night worried that I would sleep through my alarm and miss it. Yes, I'm a dork. I woke up before the sun to the sound of rain. I was so nervous the kangaroos wouldn't come out because of the weather, and nervous that the kids wouldn't want to come out either because of the weather. Maddox, my ever trusty sidekick, was eager to join me and we quietly made our way in the pitch black through the woods (in any other situation I would have been scared out of my mind), the only sound was the breaking of twigs underfoot and rain softly falling on the canopy of trees above. As the woods opened up to the beach we could already see a few silhouettes of kangaroos gathering for breakfast. Kylie and Jason joined us a few minutes later (Jayden was too tired and volunteered to stay with Ryder who was still sleeping) and it was one of the most magical moments I had ever experienced. The sunrise itself was remarkable, add the novelty of kangaroos and it just about blew us away. Documented by no less than 500 photos. I wish Jayden and Ryder could have experienced it, but I hope it's one that Kylie and Maddox will always remember. I know I will.

Is there anything cuter than a baby joey? I think not.

Later that morning we decided to walk out to that island on the left that can be accessed during low tide. It looks deceivingly close in this picture, but by the time we finally got there the weather had made a turn for the worse. Rain, winds and some threatening waves made us turn around. We still enjoyed exploring, trying to identify and catch soldier crabs, turning over every rock, trying to break open coconuts, collecting shells and any stick that resembled a gun.

I wouldn't let him bring his treasures with us, so he requested a picture before he left them. I always love seeing his collections and what catches his eye.

I know how precious this time with just our family was. It is something I didn't take for granted as I tried my best to really be present in the moment. It's not to say that I didn't ever lose my temper, or get frustrated or wish I had a bedroom that I could slam the door and lock myself into, but I recognized what a gift this experience has been. At times my heart was so full it hurt.

This beautiful moment came to a screeching halt when one second later Kylie's arm swung back and smacked Maddox square in the eye. Oh the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth that ensued for the next 30 minutes...

Much to our excitement we found that the kangaroos wandered around the campground. They were a little timid and shy, but friendly enough to allow the kids to pet them before hopping along. Now how many kids can say they have pet a kangaroo in the wild? A domesticated campground still totally counts as the wild.

Maddox is always so good to Ryder (which isn't always reciprocated), watching out for him and quickly running to his aid whenever he is need. He has such a loving and sensitive heart, that boy. Ryder was feeling frustrated that he couldn't pump, so Maddox clipped their swings together so that he could pull Ryder along as he pumped. That look of adoration on Ryder's face says it all.

Today's lunch stop was at an abandoned rail line in the middle of a cane field. Lunch is always the same, grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches, but at least the setting has a little variety.

We pulled into Airlie Beach that evening filled with excitement for one of our most anticipated days, and anxiety about the looming forecast. There wasn't much we could do about the weather, but we made the most of it while shivering in the public pool (which, we could definitely take some pointers from the Aussies when it comes to public pools) before rain and lightening forced us out. We drove around in a cloud of gloom trying to find an empty parking lot that we could camp in and keeping our fingers crossed that the weather would miraculously change.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Noosa & Carlo's

We spent the night in the parking lot of the Brisbane LDS church (next to this temple). Sometimes we stayed in awesome caravan parks with swimming pools and cool playgrounds on the beach. Other times we drove until we couldn't drive anymore then found the closest place that allowed overnight camping. It was all part of the adventure. In the morning we traded in the campervan for a more reliable one. It didn't have an arm rest on the drivers seat, which bugged Jason the entire rest of the trip. But it also didn't have the ant infestation like the last one. Being able to pour a bowl of granola without ants crawling out of the box was priceless. Plus we didn't have to worry about it breaking down on the side of the road. That's always a good thing. 

The next morning they played zombies in the church parking lot with their new nerf guns while I made breakfast. It's a funny way of living, this RV life. The world is your playground, and I love it. I love waking up to a new place every day with the promise of adventure awaiting.

Today's adventure included Noosa Heads. Which could easily be one of my new favorite spots. The quaint city itself had such an urban chic vibe with an upscale character. It was clean, hip and absolutely charming. A stones throw away from the beach and nestled among the most beautiful scenery, I could easily see ourselves retiring here. If only Australia weren't so far away. We saw koalas at the sanctuary, but I was bound and determined to find wild koalas out in nature. After a few failed attempts everyone was getting skeptical, but I was feeling pretty confident at Noosa Heads. The information office lists any koala sightings that day and there just so happened to be one. I thought it wouldn't be too hard to spot but finding a koala "high in a Eucalyptus tree before the bathrooms" proved to be a little more tricky. We didn't know where these bathrooms were and after walking for over 20 minutes we were about to give up. We found the bathrooms, but they were surrounded by dozens of trees and it really was just by chance that I happened to spot the fuzzy little tail high in the tree. It even peed. The kids thought that was a riot. Jason stayed in the campervan because there was no parking. I feel bad he missed it (honestly he could care less, he saw the picture and got to enjoy a quiet rest), and I really missed having him there to carry Ryder, he was so grumpy and refused to walk, I thought my back was going to break. But totally mostly worth it!

At least the walk itself was gorgeous as it hugged the pristine coast line. The surfers were fun to watch too, there were some pretty good breaks.

This beach was one of my favorites. Maybe it was because it was the first time we had a truly warm evening, maybe it was because we were there during the golden hour or maybe it's just because sitting on the beach with my family is my happy place. Whatever it was, I just loved it.

The next morning we went to Tin Can Bay where you can hand feed dolphins. Two thumbs up for a unique experience, but one thumb down for over-commercializing it. Not only did we have to pay a small fortune just to feed them for five seconds before ushering in the next person, but we also had to pay just to watch. But it was so cool to have the opportunity to feed wild dolphins, not like the ones caged up at Sea World. I'm glad we did it, I just wish it was a little more authentic, but that's business. The pelicans were just as cool. I don't think we had seen one in the wild before, at least not this close. They were massive, easily as tall as Ryder, and had no fear. It made me a little nervous when they would get close, but as long as they stayed an arm's reach away they were fascinating to watch.

Carlo's Sand Blow in the Great Sandy National Park was incredible. I just have a thing for sand dunes. Especially when they are found in the most unassuming places, like the middle of this forest. You hike through all these trees and then all of the sudden there's this massive dune right in the middle of it all.

That view with the ocean in the background is pretty spectacular.

We lucked out to find an abandoned boogie board and the boys had the best time sand boarding. This time the hill wasn't quite as massive as the one at Te Paki so it wasn't such a grueling hike up, but it was still steep enough for some thrills. They kept busy building ramps and jumps and I absolutely love seeing them get lost in the outdoors and their imaginations.

These are actually the tops of trees that were once a forest before the sand gradually took over as the wind blew it little by little to create this sand dune. Mother Nature is rad.

Like toss the egg, but with sand balls. They got pretty good, of course they are both pretty competitive so I would expect nothing less. I was busy building sand castles with Ryder and paused to look around at everyone busy playing in this beautiful setting that we had entirely to ourselves. It filled me right to the brim with joy.

Fraser Island was one place I had on our bucket list. An island made entirely of sand that you could camp on and take 4WD adventure tours. Unfortunately it wasn't feasible with the cost and the time, so we settled on exploring the beach where the ferry takes off and looking at it from the other side of the water. This beach was still unique, it felt like we were on a deserted island.

There's Frasier Island across the way

We ran into some forest fires, it made for a smokey drive.

We had recently watched "Saving Mr Banks" about the life of PL Travers, author of Mary Poppins. When we saw that we were going to be driving by Maryborough where she grew up we wanted to stop for a quick peek.

This is the bank that her father worked at and her family lived in an apartment on the floor above it when she was born. Kind of cool. Australia really has it all!