Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie, NSW.

Coffs Harbour:

We had a short stay in Coffs Harbour, with a warm welcome from these resident rabbits at the caravan park:

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Great! Now eating the carrot!

A visit to the harbour for fish n’ chips and then off again the next morning, via the Carob factory (Carobana) at Daniels recommendation where they also make fresh honeycomb. They are a small family business that have been around since 1982, it’s great to see them still afloat, they do well with most of their honeycomb bought commercially to add to other confectionery. They were all super friendly and had plenty of taste testing!

We then headed off with the van to Dorrigo National Park, beautiful spot known for its waterfalls, for a hike. It was so great to see the wildlife too:

Hike through Dorrigo National Park:

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We saw a Lyrebird!

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We then headed south towards Port Macquarie, finding a free camp along the way. Nice looking quiet spot, next to the Nambucca river, called Macksville Lions Park. There was a parking area dedicated to 24-hour stopping for caravans and motorhomes, opposite a residential area, a few other vans were there. Worst sleep EVER.. ha ha, all night trucks and trains rattled over the bridge then at 5:30am someone started their generator and playing country music quite loudly, then early morning road workers rocked up to dig a trench alongside the carpark, a deep trench, one that would be impossible for a car and caravan to cross.. So we had to pack up quick and ask them to stop briefly so we could leave before they completely blocked us in for the rest of the day! Drove to Port Macquarie and found a great caravan park close to the beach and set up. We ended up staying 3 nights I think, had a great time exploring the different beaches, the koala park, the strawberry farm, going to parkrun along the “breakwall”, a small food truck market, buying Esther her first pillow at her request, stocking up on fresh food and produce and digging for pippy’s at the beach.

Port Macquarie Koala Rescue Park:

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Tacking Point Lighthouse, Port Macquarie:

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Port Macquarie Town Beach:

Since having Esther, I would often take her into the water but wouldn’t go diving into the water with as she has yet to learn to hold her breath, but oh how I’ve missed that feeling of diving under a wave, so while we were here Dan watched Esther while I went for a walk out into the surf to swim. It was so refreshing that feeling as you dive under and the rush of water over your body! ah.!

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It was a relaxing stay in Port Macquarie before we headed south to Port Nelson.

Kingscliffe to Ballina, NSW.

People say “flying with toddlers is a nightmare”. Yet when we flew home to Perth, Esther was a dream, as she did a lot of it! Flight was at 8:30pm, she was asleep in my arms after take off and then she enjoyed the 2 spare seats between Dan and I to sleep for the rest of the flight. On the way back to Brisbane I came to understand that saying,  we took a red eye (midnight) flight back to Brisbane… This is her at 2:00am Perth time, 2 hours into the flight. She loved the view of all the passengers from her little cot (which she just fit into).

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She did sleep for the last 2 hours of the 4.5 hour flight (after the cabin lights were finally dimmed), she then woke up as we were preparing to land and screamed the whole time because she didn’t want to be strapped to me for landing or taxiing. We were exhausted to say the least when we arrived in Brisbane! Got a taxi at 6:30am to our caravan, then after a bit of a wait we drove… all the way down to Kingscliffe, had a beautiful breakfast at about 10:30am on the beach cafe strip, then we all went to bed for 3 hours! Which thankfully kick started us all back into the East Coast timezone.

We loved the NSW North Coast. With the convenience of a major city (Brisbane) near by when required, a real country relaxed feel and beautiful coastline. We think it would be a great place to live. Kingslciffe was so nice, a small surfy town south of Tweed Heads. We went into Tweed Heads for some shopping and a short swim in the bay. After a whirlwind visit to Perth, it was surprisingly nice to be back together in our van and on the road.

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We found a border sign!

Natural Bridge, Lamington National Park Border QLD/NSW:

We took a day trip out to the Natural Bridge and did a short hike through the rainforest, followed by a visit to an icecreamy on the way back to Kingscliffe. A must visit as advised by a worker at the Tourist Bureau. Turns out his wife worked there! Any excuse for fresh icecream though right?

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Dan spotted this Common Tree Snake.

After Kingscliffe we headed south along the coast for Ballina, where we stayed at a great caravan park near Shaws bay, they had a toddler play room and a toddler water playground, as well as easy access to the shore.

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We went for a day trip up to Byron Bay (beautiful town but super busy) and did the hike around the lighthouse, with magnificent views as you can see below.

Byron Bay:

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Can you see the dolphins?

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Nimbin:

Known as Australia’s most famous hippie destination. We ventured out, I expecting something a bit more out of the ‘fairy shop’ but Dan thought it would be what it was. A little bit of a run down town that had its hay day when it hosted the 1973 Aquarius Festival. The weather was a little unpleasant the day we visited, 38 degrees celsius and humid, so walking around town wasn’t exactly enjoyable! The drive out there on the other hand through lush farmland and forest was gorgeous. Unfortunately no photos.

 

 

 

 

Brisbane, QLD.

Ah Brisbane… Well we drove straight through the heart of the city with a caravan in tow, arrived safely at the dodgiest caravan park we have been to in alllll of Australia so far. I actually voiced that opinion on Wikicamps and you know my rule, it has to impress to bother typing.

It was rainy and I was still dealing with morning sickness, so again, not fond memories of the place. Plus.. we received a very heartbreaking phone call and made quick reservations to fly home to see my uncle before he passed. We made it and I am so grateful for the short time we were able to spend with him and extended family. We were also very grateful for those who helped store our car and caravan and who put us up and put up with us back in Perth.

So here are some of the highlights of Brisbane, although my camera lens died shortly after these photos so there aren’t many! Missing are photo’s of a reunion with a lovely family I initially met in Newcastle, NSW who had us over for dinner, we bought some ice creams for dessert to share and Esther insisted on going around to each person for a lick of their ice cream!

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10 years on? Once again, so nice to meet up with friends. The Great ASNM. Although we met in New Zealand at the Missionary Training Centre in 2006.
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Esther thought playing in the rain was the way to go!

Southbank:

This was an awesome place to visit and great for kids. We don’t have anything like it in Perth (that I know of). In the photo Esther still has a hold of a frangipani  flower she picked!

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“Sunshine” Coast, QLD.

It pretty much rained the whole time we were here!! ha ha. We think we might call it the Rainy Coast instead.

I’ve found it really hard to write about our time here, I feel nauseous just thinking about it. We were here a total of 5 weeks. We arrived a few days before Dan started work and initially we were staying at a caravan park by the beach in Maroochydore. It was nice, but I wanted more space for the longer stay, with Dan coming and going from work, juggling pick ups, showers and cooking I searched desperately for something else and stayed in a granny flat in Nambour, a hilly green region, 20 mins from Dans work.

Anyway so the amazing good news is we’re pregnant with number 2. After a long wait for Esther, with help from IVF, to have this surprise was so exciting and week 5 of the pregnancy was my favourite time. After having a positive pregnancy test I was on cloud 9!!!

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Little did I know my plans to cook wonderful dinners, bake wonderful snacks and spring clean the caravan were spewed straight into the toilet! Not just metaphorically. So I don’t exactly have fond memories of this place. I purely went into survival mode and managed to keep my toddler fed and alive for this period, hanging out everyday until she had her naps so I could lay down, often succumbing to just laying on the couch while she played. It was hard. I take my hat off to all those mum’s who have gone before me. Sorry I didn’t come and take your toddler out for the day. Sorry I didn’t bring you a smoothie so you actually ate and sorry I didn’t make dinner simply so you didn’t have to. I just didn’t understand! I was sick with Esther, I vomited until the day she was born but I think work was a distraction. I’m also very aware many have it much worse and many who would put their hand up to have it much worse, just to be pregnant (Wait a minute, what about me and all the fathers out there who also battle through this period! I worked all day, only to come home, listen to my wife complain, entertain my manic house bound child and cook dinner).. that was Dans two cents.. but he was wonderful to us!

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Catching up with a dear friend.

Mons French Playgroup:

Being in the one spot for a few weeks I sought out a playgroup and found a French one. It was great. I was very welcomed and it helped get me out of the house each week. Esther loved the interaction and had a few firsts including painting and I met some wonderful mothers. Great location too.

Didn’t have a change of clothes that day!!

Views of the beautiful Hinterland Region:

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We also visited the Eumundi Markets, after discovering them on a short holiday here in 2015  and we still think they are Australia’s best!

Buderim Ginger Factory:

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Can you see a tail?
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It’s a bearded dragon in the playground 🙂

Esther learning the pogo stick! Well after learning to walk it’s only the next step right?

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Celebrating Dan’s last day of work at the shop.

Then on the road to Brisbane…

Fraser Island, QLD.

October, 2017.

Raining all the way from Tannum Sands, we pulled into a soggy caravan park near the town centre of an industrial looking Bundaberg. We were over it after a long day driving (from Moura) and finally pulling in was a welcome reprieve. Although it became a mexican takeaway night with an Esther ready for bed and no real time to prepare food. Sometimes it feels like a mad rush and with Esther sleeping in the kitchen (well the caravan, it’s all one room) its not a viable option to feed her, put her to bed, then cook our own dinner. We only spent one night in Bundaberg, a visit to church the next morning where I was made to feel so welcome and spoiled by experienced mothers who had cool trinkets for Esther to play with, (what I did bring didn’t seem to keep her entertained). Lunch in the van outside church and off again.

With recommendations to visit Fraser Island we headed to Hervey Bay. Close to our budget limit and lovers of the Barefoot Investor, we had put some money in a “Smile” account before we left (although our whole trip warrants usage of the smile account) which we had used for things that didn’t quite fit in our budget. We found a package deal for 3 nights accommodation including breakfast, taking us and our car over on the ferry, which was too good to miss. What better time to use our “Smile” money to celebrate our birthdays so we made the booking.

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Lining up to drive onto the ferry.
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The Ferry.
Thick rainforest within a km of driving off the ferry.

Lake Mackenzie:

This place is stunning. The clearest water, whitest sand, but chilly! It is a perched lake, so only filled by rainwater. Where the water changes from clear to blue in the photo it drops off quite deep, Dan and I went over with some snorkel masks to check it out and it was kind of scary as the floor disappeared into a blue abyss (apparently only 8.5 m deep, so visibility must’ve decreased because you couldn’t see the bottom).

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SS Maheno Shipwreck (1935):

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Champagne Pools:

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Sandblows & Lake Boomanjin:

In my mind I was expecting something different, so when we hiked in the heat to see a sand dune I was utterly disappointed ha ha. Lake Boomanjin (the red lake) looked like it had rusty water lapping up on the shore, supposedly discoloured by the tannin from the Tea Trees.

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Driving out of the forest back to the beach we found this very still turtle on the track. Not sure if he was dead or alive we pulled over. At first he didn’t move much, but he was a good 100m from a water source. Dan put some gloves on and picked him up, put him in a reusable shopping bag and took him home.. nooo.. took him to the lake we were passing. After thrashing and tearing holes in the bag when Dan released him he seemed very happy to swim off.

Things to see and places to visit on the island are not that far in distance, but seem to take forever 4WDing. The track was boggy sand with roots so unless you want whiplash you needed to take your time going up, down, over and around. Except for driving along the beach, it was difficult to get any speed up.

Long neck freshwater turtle.

Eli Creek:

It was a little overcast when we finally made it to Eli Creek, packed with people enjoying such an awesome spot on the beach and a shallow running creek you could float down. The water was a little cool so Esther didn’t enjoy it as much as anticipated and the weather was cooler as we got there later in the day than planned due to the lack of speed 4WDing in the forest.

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My turn driving on the beach!

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What is that in the distance?
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A cement truck?
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And another truck!!

 

Central Station Rainforest:

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Add it to your bucket list!

Mackay to Tannum Sands, QLD.

October, 2017

Mackay:

 A few months prior we sent off some resumes and emails introducing Dan to some Mower shops on the East coast offering a few weeks to a few months worth of work. We got a fantastic response and were now ready to pursue some of the leads. Unfortunately for us the shop owner in Mackay met and liked Daniel but wanted him to stay on until Feb, 2018. We wanted to be in Sydney for Christmas so that wasn’t going to work, we declined and continued to the next follow up. So in answer to people’s question is it easy to get work on the road? I think it is if you are flexible. If you have a shorter time frame, save some more money before you leave and don’t worry about working, or if time is not an issue you will have many options. Mackay was the last place we found coconut palms. Oh so sad!

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Standard dinner time for Esther with guests.

Bundoora Dam: Free Camp

As I’ve said before, these free camps have such a different vibe to caravan parks, we love them but haven’t used them enough. We’re currently in Victoria typing this so if anyone has any suggestions for the rest of our trip home (back to Perth) please send them my way. No unhooking the van, so an easy pack up the next morning. Generally more remote so less reception and no power therefore choices for cooking/entertainment options are simplified. This was such a gem that I even commented on Wikicamps. We put our net in for red claw over night to no avail… but a lovely couple felt sorry for Dan and generously gave him some of theirs that they had collected out on their tinny in the middle of the lake. Maybe all this lack of catching is just an opportunity to appreciate everyone else’s generosity and remember that, when we finally catch something!

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Emerald:

A place on Dan’s must see list. A place to channel the inner treasure hunter. I don’t have any photo’s of Emerald. hmm. We weren’t there long, Dan went out for the day to Sapphire and Ruby to fossick, he had no luck finding anything but he did find some cut sapphires at a great price that Tom has agreed to make into earrings. I managed to find my first playgroup walking distance from the caravan park. Esther loved it. Thank goodness for technology it is as easy as googling playgroups and you will see a list of locations and times to attend. This was also the case for library ‘Rhyme Time’ and have attended a few different libraries around the country when the timing has worked out, such an awesome free service.

Entrance to Carnarvon National Park:

We heard lots of wonderful things about Carnarvon National Park, but we will now have to keep it on our bucket list. We headed out there (60km detour one way), knowing that the day before the road had been closed. Although not that high, the water was flowing fast and there was more rain due that evening, We did watch others cross and survive but we decided to not risk getting flooded in when we only wanted to stay one night in order to head to the next job offer before time evaded us. We found a free camp (donation to APEX who maintain it) on the way to Gladstone called ‘Dawson River Rest Area Moura’. It was a busy spot with a little playground, toilets and apparently hot showers for a small fee.

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Tannum Sands: Canoe Point Park

We pulled in for a lunch stop not sure if we would stay, but with the weather as dreary and wet as you can see we kept driving. A few of the roads were closed along the coast, so we missed out on going to 1770 which we hear is beautiful. As you can see Esther had an absolute blast playing in the sand and mud.

 

Airlie Beach, QLD

It was so nice to see my cousin James, his wife Liz and their children again. We were able to conveniently park at the rear of their home, which made enjoying meals together a breeze. Boy were those meals delicious. Liz spoiled us with good home cooked food the whole time we were there, from scones to muffins (PS I still need to get that recipe off you), smoothies, a quiche bake-off, what a machine! Even treating us to her famous lasagne. It was delish! Disappointingly for everyone else, one night the enchiladas fell to the ground being brought out to the table, but it wasn’t the gluten free ones it was the glutenous ones, so I still got to enjoy dinner!! A rough week for them with kids home sick from school, they still managed to accommodate and spoil us. Introducing us to the “train game”, post cyclone home reno’s 101, where the hip hang out for some casual dining and the best places to fish.

Esther loved playing with new toys and her new friends. She even got to take some of the toys with her, including a Wiggles guitar! Which we’ve heard a few times now.

Thanks to James we were also treated to a flight with Air Whitsunday over the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands, something I had only dreamed of doing. It was amazing and I would highly recommend it. To see the reef from that perspective, the colour, the patterns and how long it extended on the horizon was amazing. I saw some sharks and Dan saw some turtles. It was truly stunning. Here are some photos, although not sure if they do it justice.

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The De Havilland Beaver .
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“Heart Reef”

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Liz kindly watched Esther for the morning and looking at these photo’s I don’t think Esther even knew we were gone (Note the bracelet):

Airlie Beach Lagoon:

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Views from the restaurant we went to on our last night together.

If we hadn’t been spoiled enough already Esther got her first ride in a small boat, although at times it was questionable as to whether she was enjoying it. James spotted turtles and showed us some of the devastation from Cyclone Debbie with a few boats still stranded. On the way we picked up a bag of ice from a vending machine, to keep our catches cool, not sure if we have any of those in WA! Meanwhile, I think James luck was about to change with us on the boat! Nothing again!

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What else do you do with a camera case? Shoe?

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So sad to say goodbye, but all the better for the time spent together. Looking forward to our future adventures on Kangaroo Island, or when they come to visit us in Perth. Beautiful family, glad we’re related!

Townsville, Bowen & Conway Beach, QLD.

This is a short post so I thought I would delve into a bit of our style of travelling. Once we have packed up and are in the car we head in the direction we want to go and I look up places to stay on WikiCamps, read reviews and call ahead to check availability and pricing. If we are not committed to a particular location we just drive, then when Esther wakes up we might stop somewhere for lunch check it out and decide to stay or keep moving. This has been one of the enjoyable, adventurous things about our travels, getting in the car and not knowing where we will stay next.

We had a few things we needed to do in a big town so in this case we were already committed to Townsville. We left Perth with the new fancy and expensive Hema HX1 (thanks to an abundance of BCF vouchers for our birthdays and Christmas from family), which died on us after our 2nd town, Hema Support were helpful and we were able to collect another one in Tom Price. Unfortunately this one died when we were in Cape York, it wouldn’t charge. By this point we were looking for alternatives. In the end Dan chose a 7inch tablet where we uploaded the Hema maps app and iGo app, working just the same as the Hema but costing half the price (WAIT: There is more to this story than Felicia is willing to tell, after three nights researching bloggs and Satellite Navigation manufacturer websites, I decided a 7″ Samsung tablet with the right software would be more suitable, They have a long battery life, a great screen resolution, faster processing speeds, work with GPS and GLONASS, plus I would also have a tablet to use instead of borrowing Felicia’s. Apparently I was wrong in my assessment and had made a poor decision. Felicia felt very strongly against this solution and gave a number of very feeble reasons as to why… after seeing the error of my ways we bought a Garmin from Harvey Norman. The sales assistants assured us that we could install the Hema Maps…. Turns out they were wrong and we then exchanged it for the Samsung tablet and it has worked wonderfully ever since. Dan).

Townsville:

We attended a school fete with food trucks, went to some markets early the next morning and had our first spiral potatoes on a stick! We took Esther to the foreshore water playground in the afternoon where they also had another fair with food trucks and rides. Lots happening in Townsville!

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The view from our caravan of Mount Stewart.

Lunch stop @ Bowen:

The town seemed dead when we passed through but the coastline was stunning!

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Normally used for rinsing your feet, however also the perfect height for rinsing Esther

Conway Beach:

An unexpected detour led us first to a Nudist caravan park.. ha ha, no mention of this minor detail on wikicamps, it was only when I called after we couldn’t locate it and mentioned we had a 1 year old he said it wasn’t for children and it was a nudist camp!

So off to this caravan park: Conway Beach Caravan Park, so full of character, especially suited to families with children, (or the big kid in all of us). They had a train that did laps around the caravan park twice a day (for free), as well as a nice pool with a slide, toddler waterplay area, 2 sizes of jumping pillows and an American styled “diner”, but my favourite was the painted cabins and toilets, the yellow lighting didn’t do my photo justice but the colour was fantastic, a really bright friendly place to stay.

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View leaving the park.

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Next stop: Airlie Beach!

Atherton Tablelands to Mission Beach, QLD.

After the Daintree we headed South for Atherton, eager to go to a Saturday market, only to miss each one. Our timing was out and in one case by a week as the biggest and best market was advertised as the last Saturday of the month, it was only the 4th Saturday… with 5 that month 😦

When we traveled to Cairns from inland QLD, we drove through Atherton and were looking forward to returning and exploring. It was etched in our memory as a green oasis after our 6 months in the outback. When we returned it did not disappoint, lots of fresh produce and dairy’s.

Gallo’s Dairyland:

Malanda Falls:

We stayed at the caravan park in Malanda, they had a few farm animals including these turkeys! All puffed up chasing his lady!

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Hen & Mr Gobbler! Such a laugh to watch.

Tinaroo dam:

We bought a permit to fish here at Tinaroo Dam, nice afternoon, but that’s about it…

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Mungalli Dairy:

Oh my, oh my, oh my, this was breathtaking.

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I love being able to sit in our van and look out the window at such stunning vistas. It really is the reason to travel.

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Kurrimine Beach:

Kurrimine Beach is just north of Mission Beach, a very popular tourist destination. We decided to try Kurrimine instead and loved it. WikiCamps had some great reviews of the area and I think all of the 3 caravan parks were about 100m from the beach. We managed to collect more coconuts, give a de-husked coconut away, go fishing 3 times without success, meet more really nice people, a group from Melbourne who told us of their fishing adventures the day before out on a boat catching BIG fish, who then drove home and brought us a couple of kgs of it! We are so spoilt.

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Charley’s Chocolate Factory:

They run an excellent tour, most importantly friendly, with lots to see and the focus was on the chocolate. They are in a unique position to demonstrate the chocolate making process from tree to bean to bar. The farm is owned by a couple who moved from Melbourne and decided to start a cocoa tree farm on some land they’d bought.

During the tour, we were given a history of chocolate both ancient and modern, then we were taken to the nursery to see how their cocoa plants are grown from seed, there is a very narrow window that they have to import and plant, from memorey about 10 days! Then we were walked over to where the cocoa plants are grown and harvested. The way they trellis their trees to protect them against cyclone and produce a bigger yield is really amazing.

We then returned to the shed to hear, see and taste how the cocoa beans are extracted from the pod, fermented, roasted and made into bars. I actually missed a bit of it as an older lady fainted in the humidity and was lending a hand. The tour concluded with lunch and an opportunity to purchase some bars of ‘Australian Origin’ chocolate!

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Cacao tree green house.
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This my friends, is the beginning of what you know as chocolate! The flower before the fruit.

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Esther crawling over to the Cacao fruit! She knows a good thing when she sees it.
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One of a few Australian Cacao Plantations.

From here we hopped back in the car with the caravan in tow and headed further south to follow up some job opportunities for Dan.

Daintree, QLD.

Late September, 2017. The beautiful, beautiful Daintree.

I will reiterate how nice it was to be back in our van after our time in a tent. It was luxurious and Esther was excited to be reunited with some of her toys as well as get her new birthday toy train:

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We enjoyed showering again in our own shower, having air conditioning, our lavish kitchen, block out blinds and minimal unpacking and packing in order to sleep (throw some toys, books and clothes off the bed and off to sleep, as opposed to blowing or re-inflating the air mattress).

We stayed at the Daintree Caravan Park, friendly accommodating staff and the surrounds were lush, birds all through the tree canopies singing every morning, bandicoots and friendly ants that made a nest in the arm of our camp chair, overnight!

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View at the caravan park.
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Our set up. same old.
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Female & Male Australasian Figbird.

We headed back across the ferry to check out the Daintree National Park and also some of the tourist sites. We did a hike through the rainforest and paused for any loud noises to see if it was a Cassowary, but never to see one. The only Cassowary we saw was a statue of one prior to boarding the ferry, that and a million road signs warning of their supposed presence. I’m not sure they even exist, kind of like hoop snakes and drop bears or wild Koala’s as opposed to bred in captivity! We are now in the ACT and I still haven’t seen a Koala in the wild.

One of my favourite things was visiting the Daintree Icecream Co. With a self guided tour of their amazing orchard and only one choice to purchase a 4 flavour sample of their freshest ice-cream, I think ours was coconut, wattleseed, soursop and passionfruit, all from their orchard.

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This is a rather large Jackfruit @ the Daintree Icecream Co.

Sugar Cane fields everywhere and a well advertised chocolate tour of a cocoa plantation, which turned out to be more about sugar cane, to which I was very disappointed, I’ll say no more and just rave about the one we did further south that was excellent in the next blog.

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Juicing a sugar cane.
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Vanilla Bean vine.
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Cacao Tree
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Cacao fruit

Our beautiful child:

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