Our Maiden Camper Road Trip

Late last year Amanda found an online deal for cheap flights and booked a holiday to NSW flying into Sydney and out of Byron Bay. The idea was to test run a camper style holiday in caravan parks to see if we really wanted to buy our own camper trailer. Questions such as, would the kids handle the road trips; could we handle the kids on road trips; what would we really think of staying in caravan parks; how difficult is it to tow and setup these campers and can we be bothered? After all Airbnbs are everywhere and so cheap! Hence the test run was booked.

As the date closed we were still constantly looking up camper trailers. Two weeks before we were due to leave Amanda finds one that we just had see in person. To cut a long story short we said screw the hired camper, we have to buy this one and we did! Yikes did we do the right thing? We would find out soon enough in a baptism of fire as we were now due to leave one week from the time I picked it up.

The travel plans obviously had to change. We could not refund the plane tickets, so Amanda would still fly, as this would be easier for the kids and now I was to drive to Sydney and pick them up from the airport. The night before I got a head start travelling to Benalla, staying at the in-laws’ house with our new Jayco Flamingo where I was to leave at 4am the next morning to get to Sydney airport in time.

IMG_0513The official Duth’s Adventure Apparatus

Without the kids to stir me I slept like a rock! That was until the house phone kept ringing eventually waking me up. I checked my phone for the time and, oh no, It was flat! Hence no alarm. In a time that would have impressed Usain Bolt I sprinted around the house getting all my stuff and jumped into the car and sped out of the driveway. It was 6am.

Finally I was able to speak to Amanda, who was thankfully not angry and just happy to know that I hadn’t crashed! After all I should have been on the road for two hours and ironically was supposed to have called her to make sure she hadn’t slept in. Amanda’s start to the day was not as simple as first planned either as she struggled to find the car park place we’d booked. Turns out it had moved and was not signed, making her super close to missing the flight. This trip was off to an ominous start.

There was some amusing things along the way though to alleviate the pressure. When getting to the Melbourne Airport, Fletch all wide eyed and excited says to Amanda “I love this holiday! Sydney is great!” They were also directed to board the back of the plane that meant he had to go on the tarmac and could see all the plane, which blew the kid’s minds. Once actually in Sydney they had to catch the train into the city (because their driver was now two hours late) and with the exception of Fletch falling into the gap and getting the fright of his life, they loved the whole travelling experience!

IMG_6421Immy & Fletch seeing the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the botanical gardens

They made it safely to Sydney and spent time in the city and the harbour where I eventually met them after dropping off the camper. We meandered around the harbour and botanical gardens, but left soon after I arrived with the kids exited to spend the night in the camper.

Back at the Lane Cove River Tourist Park we were able to settle in as a family, setting up the Jayco for the first official night away. It wasn’t until we left that we discovered that this caravan park was the film location for the Home and Away TV show, remember Pippa had the caravan park?

IMG_0526Our first overnight stay in the Jayco

The kids took to caravan life pretty quickly, chasing the bush turkeys through the trees, all barefoot of course. That night the kids took forever to get to sleep, both absolutely hyperactive with excitement.  Eventually Amanda and I were able to settle outside and enjoy a glass of wine. We realised pretty quickly that we had probably made the right decision, getting this camper could be the best purchase we have ever made for our family.

Stay tuned as I recount the coming days of our holiday and our quirky family tales.

Next in Part 2 is Nelson Bay.

 

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below or following #adventuresofduth.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

Our Easter Long Weekend

Easter this year had fallen close to my Dad’s 60th birthday and the birth of my new niece, so we wanted to get together to celebrate with the family. Keeping the location closest to my brother and his newborn, we locked in a trip to Horsham staying at the Horsham Riverside Caravan Park. There we met with my parents and siblings and the afternoon was spent relaxing together around the camper an later enjoyed fish and chips for dinner, along with a few too many red wines.

The morning’s walk sunrise and the corella’s Party Tree.

The Saturday morning Fletch and I woke early and decided to go for a walk along the river to see if we could find any possums. It was still dark at this point, so I held out hope we would chance a sighting, which luckily came through with two jumping from tree to tree and climbing into one of the old riverside huts. As the sun began to rise (an amazing sight over the river by the way), the corellas started to get more vocal to which Fletch commented “the parrots are being very loud, they must be having a party!” With the sun up Fletch decided it was passed time to go around and wake up everyone, firstly my sister and brother in their tents and then my dad in his cabin (my mum never one to sleep in we found on the river trail going for a run).

The hike through the valley to Fish Falls

By 9am we’d hit the road heading to The Grampians to check out some walks and lookouts before heading to Halls Gap for lunch to meet with my Aunty, Uncle and Cousin. First stop was Zumsteins, a small area (carpark) with multiple walks from it. We wandered around the creek running by the carpark before hiking the 2.3kms to Fish Falls. Now for some reason us blokes decided thongs would suffice for the day ahead, which at 1.5kms into the hike I had utterly regretted. I think we all at some point muttered that these falls better be worth it as we shared carrying the kids on our shoulders or backs.

Fish Falls and my brother and I taking in the view

The hike itself was actually pretty easy and the views amazing, whether it was through the bush following the creek or along the mountain’s edge looking down into the valley. Eventually we rounded one last bend and the falls presented themselves and thank the gods they were spectacular. It was a relief to know the hike was definitely worth it upon seeing the water cascading down three levels in the rock face with crystal clear pools all around. My brother, sister, Fletch and I were first to arrive, with the others lagging behind thanks to our little hiker Immy and her little legs. By this stage, we had climbed all over the massive boulders and rock faces up and around the water falls. It was an great spot to explore with the kids and would be even better in summer cooling off in the pools and creek below the falls.

On the walk back we were again in two groups. The first lead by Fletch, who now had a stick in hand helping him walk faster like Nonna, and Immy leading us in the rear guard, not concerned with pace instead checking every rock and stick along the way. Eventually we made it out and went on up to Halls Gap to have lunch in the park. Wowee, Halls Gap is busy at Easter! People everywhere! Not a spot I would like to stay on a long weekend if I can help it, but definitely would stay a random weekend to see more of the town and the Grampians.

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The view from near the car park at The Balconies lookout (Amanda and kids to the far left)

After lunch and ice creams, Amanda and I decided to take the exhausted kids back for a sleep, whilst the others stayed to check out the Venus Baths (which were dry and underwhelming by all accounts). The kids were still awake by the time we reached the Balconies Lookout, so spontaneously we decided to check it out. Just a quick note first, if you can try and get a park up top as it looked like a far slog to walk up the hill from the main road, luckily we managed to get a park in the top car park. One of the visitors told us the actual Balconies Lookout was a similar view to that from the car park, so we stayed close rather than walk the indicated 1 km. We bypassed the viewing platforms, climbed through the boulders to the cliff’s edge and found ourselves seated at one of the highest points around with an unimpeded view. We would have loved to spend longer there with the kids exploring in and around the boulders and taking in the amazing views, but tired two year olds’ need to sleep.

That night we all ate at the Victoria Hotel in Horsham for Dad’s 60th. It was there I met my niece for the first time and ran to get the first cuddle for the night. It wasn’t to last though as Fletch and Immy stole her from me every time I got my chance. It was really nice to see them take an interest and fall in love with their new cousin.

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The Easter Egg Hunt

On the Sunday, after the Easter egg hunt (always fun!), we all drove out to Natimuk, about 20 minutes out of Horsham, to visit a farmers market on that morning. I love markets, even if I don’t buy anything, it’s just nice to wander around and talk with the stall owners about their produce or crafts. Immy became obsessed with a specific stall that had various hair paraphernalia, wanting the yellow bows so she can be “like Emma Wiggle” and the clips, specifically the “Elsa and Anna one!” With grandparents, aunts and uncle doting on her she left with five clips and ties in her hair, a walking advertisement for that stall. On the way out of town we stopped at a couple of garage sales, picking up some bargains and chatting with one of the home owners who lived in a renovated church and was selling unique antique kitchen ware.

That afternoon we were all spent from the previous day in the Grampians and relaxed by our camper enjoying each other’s company and some drinks. Amanda and I managed to get away for a walk without the kids, a moment of peace that was an absolute gift. It was also a chance to catch up with some of the other campers, who praised our kids at how well behaved they are “a credit to us as parents” I think were their exact words. We were completely surprised by the compliment as we felt they had been rather difficult, especially the two year old Immy who has now been promoted to the big leagues as a professional two year old, full of attitude, tantrums and stubbornness!

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An alleyway in historic Beaufort

On the way home we stopped off at Beaufort, a cute little town with many historic buildings and plenty of cafes  and nick-nak stores to chose from. Immy and Fletch are really showing that they have very different personalities developing with Fletch a mirror of Amanda and Immy more like myself. When overtaking a truck Fletch worriedly exclaimed “too fast Daddy!” Immy a second later yells “again Daddy faster!” Seems great now, but as a father I’m worried about what that girl is going to put us through.

This was our second official holiday in the camper at caravan parks and it is becoming clear about how much our lives have lost that personal interaction and communication. Many times you will walk passed a stranger at their site and stop for a chat. You learn about them, their camping setup, the places we should go, the tips and tricks with travelling they have learnt. Yes for the most part you can Google all this, but nothing beats having a chat with someone face to face. What was so normal 10-20 years ago feels so foreign now and makes you realise more and more that you should just put your phone/tablet/laptop down and chat with the people around you. You never know who you might meet or what you might learn.

 

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie