Lakes Entrance & Surrounds

Ahead of our trip to Lakes Entrance we referred to a lot of forums about travelling the Great Alpine Road over Mt Hotham with the Millennium Flamingo (Jayco Flamingo). Most of the posts were absolutely against taking a caravan or even camper trailer, but we decided to give it a go anyway. Turns out is was easy for our Nissan Pathfinder to pull the Millennium Flamingo over the ranges and we got to experience one of the most spectacular drives I have ever undertaken! The road between Harrietville and Mt Hotham was steep and winding in parts, but nothing extreme. Slowing down for the many corners allows you to take in the amazing views all around as you head up the mountain.

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Danny’s Lookout Mt Hotham

After leaving Mt Hotham, we thought we may have passed the best of the scenery, but oh, how we were wrong. The rest of the drive is surprisingly flat and once reaching the point where the road follows the Tambo River the scenery goes to the next level. I had never heard of this drive before and it should be up there with the Great Ocean Road as a must for travelers. We have already decided to make a week long trip of the Great Alpine Road, but this is about Lakes Entrance so moving on.

We arrived at the Big4 Waters Edge and were presented with the smallest caravan site we have come across yet. Thankfully, there was an absolute legend of a bloke camping a couple of sites up who expertly navigated me into the site. Once I had finally set up the camper and was ready to settle down for my first beer, Amanda arrived back from getting dinner and said we were moving tomorrow! She had taken it upon herself to negotiate a new site with management after seeing our tiny site and that it was squashed up against the most foul mouthed family next door. Now I know not to challenge Amanda when she gets her back up and thankfully management was savvy enough not to either and we moved to a bigger site in a better neighbourhood the next morning.

From the gloomy shoebox on the left to sunny wide open site on the right

Therefore, day one was about exploring Lakes Entrance and with the BIG4 located in town, we had the freedom to do this on foot. Before moving sites, we headed across the foot bridge to the main beach, which was great except for the water. On the plus side, the beach was broad and covered in shells and sea treasures, enough to satisfy any nature collector (ie. Fletch and Immy), but the waves were breaking right at the shoreline, so no chance of any wading or splashing in the water for the kids. After the beach, we walked up and down town, with Amanda finding bargains in the Op Shop (as she always does) and me finding a great milkshake shack made from delicious Gippsland Jersey milk!

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Quality Gippsland Jersey Shakes

It was the caravan park though that the kids were more excited about, so they could find their new buddies and luckily across from our new site was a couple of young lads of similar age to befriend. Fletch and Immy along with their new mates were inseparable and thankfully their parents were great to get along with too!

Day two we went to explore Metung, but first was a relaxing morning as the kids and their mates run a muck riding bikes and scooters around the park. Once getting to Metung we found a great playground in the middle of town with a water play area. We had a picnic lunch whilst the kids played in the water and then in the nature inspired play ground. The town itself had little to offer in the way of shops and cafes, but the walks on either side along the waterfronts were worth going there. On one side, we walked along the rocky beach looking for natures treasures and on the other we walked along the wharf’s boardwalk admiring the boats and swarms of jellyfish in the water.

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Metung Monkeys and Wharf Piggybacks

After a quick drink at the Metung Hotel, we ventured back to the caravan park to once again relax and let the kids play with their new friends. By this stage, we had also befriended the campers on the other side of us and I immediately thanked Amanda for being her sensible self and getting management to move us to our much friendlier area.

The next day was all about the caves, Buchan Caves to be exact. Amanda and I were excited to see them and only hoped the kids didn’t need a toilet break half way through. We needn’t have worried as the kids were as mesmerised as we were, to the point where even Immy at 3 years old walked the whole of the Royal Caves and 90% of the Fairy Caves all the while agog at the amazing ancient formations. It was great to see their minds running in overdrive as their eyes were wide with amazement.  I am struggling to find the words to describe the two caves we toured, so instead I will leave it to the following select photos to show.

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Fun Fact: The Stalactites grow 1cm every 100 years

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Royal Cave’s dragon head formation

One thing I can articulate is that the tour guides were fantastic, especially making sure the kids were able to see and experience the caves to their full potential, which makes it even better for mum and dad! The Fairy Cave in particular had the kids spell bound thanks to the guide spinning yarns about fairies, even pointing out Tinkerbell who often helps him find his way out of the caves. I had both kids next to me staring in amazement and whispering with joy at seeing a real Fairy standing amongst the magic sparkling fairy dust rock formations. This all to the amusement to the rest of the tour, who melted at how cute our kids were being!

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Lore has it Tinkerbell cast a spell so no clear photo can be taken!

The drive to Buchan was about 40 minutes from Lakes Entrance so we stopped at the local pub, recently rebuilt and reopened after a fire. The place is beautiful and the food delicious, a great spot to eat if you’re in the area, but there is little else in town to occupy the tourist, so it was back to the caravan park for some socialising.

Our last few days where spent relaxing around Lakes Entrance. Our time was split between a few games of mini golf (there is three to choose from in town), an expensive paddle boat ride on the lake, more milkshakes and of course hanging about the caravan park chatting with our neighbours and letting the kids loose on their bikes. We did venture out once more to Lake Tyers Beach on our last and only true beach worthy day.

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Lakes Entrance Paddle Boats $25 per boat, but lots of fun.

On that day, we parked at the Waterwheel Beach Tavern and it was a five minute walk to the beach through the low tide lake and the sprawling sand dunes. The water again was a bit rough for a proper splash in the sea, but calm enough for the kids to get wet and enjoy it to about knee deep. The beach itself was covered in shells and Immy was extra keen to find shells to make necklaces. The previous day our neighbour’s daughters had started a ‘shell jewellery gang’ and gave a necklace to Immy, so now she wanted to join the gang! We had dinner that evening at the Tavern, the best meal of our trip, looking over the lake and the sand dunes and listening to the waves.

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Lake Tyers Beach was stunning!

Lakes Entrance could do with a couple of nice bars and/or restaurants as we had to go out of town for a decent meal (Buchan and Lake Tyers). Otherwise we found the place a great spot to take the kids and were relieved in the end that we moved sites as we come away with friends as well as wonderful experiences.

P.S. Lakes Entrance and the surrounding areas had the cleanest beaches I have seen for a while. I did not have to pick up one bit of rubbish for the whole trip!!

 

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

Park Play, a Pub and Plodding through the Past

A very lazy day planned for today started with Immy climbing out of bed, walking straight out the door insisting that she has to go and visit her new friend that she and Fletch played with yesterday. Thankfully, we convinced her and Fletch to wait until they had eaten and got dressed before heading to the other side of the caravan park to find their little mate. Little did we know at that same early time that this mate (also named Fletcher) woke and said to his mum “ok I need to go find my new friends Fletcher and Immy now.”

The rest of the morning was spent hanging around and enjoying the caravan park. The kids were off with the other Fletcher and his siblings, whilst Amanda and I kicked back and relaxed. There was a bit of rain overnight, so I was not surprised to see them come back with clothes soaked through from splashing in muddy puddles. They demanded we dry them up quickly as they had to get to the indoor play area to meet their friends, and it is here I met their parents and discovered we could have let them all meet at 6:30 this morning and have a sleep in ourselves.

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Already a better putter than me!

We played a spot of mini golf next door to the Big4, which usually costs to play, but the owner let the kids have a casual hit thinking they would get over it quickly. This was the case with Immy, but Fletch was determined to get a hole in one on as many of the holes as he could. After the golf was the jumping pillow again. Immy has impressed us with how brave she has become with being in and around the bigger kids. Previously Amanda or I would have to hold her, as she demanded that we bounced for her, but now she flies up, being bumped and bounced by the bigger kids without even flinching. Just as it got to full capacity with kids, the heavens opened and it began to pour with rain. All the kids scattered off, back to their respective campsites, with the exception of our two who seemed reinvigorated by the rain and having the pillow to themselves. Eventually the rain got so heavy they could not get back up to the top with the water flowing down making it to slippery to do so.

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More like a Slip’n’Slide than a Jumping Pillow!

Thankfully, the weather turned for the best and we went into town and enjoyed a warm and pleasant afternoon. We walked around town admiring the historic buildings all with a plaque stating the year of construction and what it was originally built for. We went back to the record and bookshop and I decided not to buy the record player as I think it had since been glorified in my dreams. From there we walked along the boardwalk at the wharf looking at the sailboats and fishing trawlers. It is quite a nice spot and would benefit from more cafes or bars along the river for people to stop and enjoy the scenery.

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Port Fairy Wharf Boardwalk

The next stop was one I had locked in before we even left home and that was to have a beer at the oldest licensed pub in Victoria, The Calendonian Hotel. It has been kept mostly in its original state from the outside, still a simple single story building with white wash walls with a couple of tables outside, so it was not hard to imagine folks rocking up on horseback for a couple of drinks back in the mid 1800s. It helped that Immy was fast asleep and that Fletch had a new puzzle to complete, so that Amanda and I could relax and ponder not if, but how many times her Poppa Tommy would have drank there as a young bloke growing up in Port Fairy.

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A brew or two at ye olde Caledonian

After that, the adventuring was done, but the holidaying continued. As we drove back into the caravan park we passed the kid’s new friends as they left making me feel a little guilty about having that second beer, so that they were not able to say a proper goodbye. Fletch being a trooper says “don’t worry I’ll just go off again and find a new friend.” Sure enough for the rest of the afternoon we found him talking with other kids and playing with them. In the evening, we kicked the footy around and had another play on the jumping pillow before bed.

So not a lot of adventuring today, but a great day none-the-less as we relaxed and enjoyed seeing the kids mingle and play with other caravan park kids. Obviously, this too enabled Amanda and I to chill out and even have a cuppa and read our books in peace. The Big4 here in Port Fairy is a ripper for kids, small enough to let them loose with confidence and plenty of things to do for all ages. As someone who loves history Port Fairy is a mecca of historic buildings and rich in aboriginal history throughout the surrounding area. However, the history that struck us most was finding Amanda’s Poppa’s home, where he was born and grew up, still standing and one of the heritage listing buildings.

This was the final post covering our adventure to Port Fairy, so be sure to head back and check out Part One: Foul Weather, Family Heritage and Footing it Through a Volcano and Part Two: Lady Island Lookout, Lighthouse and a Lava Flow Beach to get the full story of our getaway.

 

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

Foul Weather, Family Heritage and Footing it through a Volcano

Our first trip for months in the camper and we were champing at the bit to get on the road, even with the weather forecast being raining and windy. Port Fairy was the destination a place neither of us has been before, yet very high on our list of places to stay. The trip was broken up into a few segments with our first stop at Hoppers Crossing to meet our friend’s new baby, to Immy’s maternal delight. We stopped only at Mortlake thereafter before arriving at Big4 Port Fairy Holiday Park late in the afternoon.

It had been blowing a gale the whole four hours from Lilydale and Port Fairy was consistent to say the least. Gusts of up to 50km/h made for a fun time setting up the camper and the annex. With difficulty and I’m sure great hilarity to those nearby watching, we finally beat the weather gods and thankfully had the annex setup. With the two young kids of 5 and 3 the annex gives us a nice space in the evenings to relax, so it was important for us to get it setup. The evening we spent in the caravan park with the kids playing on the jumping pillow, catching up with other travelers and settling in for an early night.

img_2725.jpgAir in a big bag = The best invention

The early night intentions of then waking fully rested for the first day of adventuring did not eventuate. The wind through the night was even worse and although Amanda and I obviously slept we both felt we were up all night with the banging and flapping of canvas and random paraphernalia being flown around outside. Thankfully for us though we had the annex setup so all of our belongings were sheltered and even better the kids were none the wiser to the weather’s foul temper during the night!

With the exception of Fletch spilling a whole bowl of cereal onto the camper couch and floor, the morning was uneventful and relaxing. We eventually made our way into town to the local market, which didn’t have any hot sauce, so we left quickly and walked around the centre of town to check out the place. Our eyes are always drawn to opp shops (thrift shops) and antique stores, but what I did not expect to find was a record/book store. I spent far too long in there sifting through boxes of records and chatting with the owner about all manner of music and literature and was amazed that I did not spend any money…at first. There was a record player that called to me as well as a series of Tin Tin comics that I serious need to have!

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Amanda at her Poppa’s childhood heritage listed home

About town there is a number of historic buildings, which I absolutely love, but none better than the home Amanda’s Poppa Tommy grew up in. Number 1 William Street is now a lovely heritage listed Air BnB, but to her it was the house he was born and grew up in. A number of times as we walked past a street of old bluestone houses we commented how little Tommy would have been running past these houses as a young fella and now our kids are doing the same.

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Blustery South Beach

With the wind still blowing, albeit a little less than the day before, we settled for a quick drive around the waterfront and coast stopping for a couple of pics looking out to the raging south sea. Lunch, then a play back at the caravan park and I left to visit a garage sale across the road. I managed to pick out some kids books and a wicker basket I knew Amanda would love because I am a great husband and had nothing to do with a record player and comics flooding my every waking thought.

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Tower Hill Crater Lake

In the afternoon we decided to visit the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve as the kids have been obsessed lately with volcanoes in there imaginative play. In their mind, I know they would have imagined a conical mountain with a lava flow spilling over the top, so it was hard to convince them that the lakes and surrounding hill rim was the volcano. Even I was amazed at how big the crater was as we drove our way around it to the visitor centre.

Plenty of animals to see on the many walks at Tower Hill

It is extremely picturesque, which is a testament to the work that’s been done there since restoration started in the 1960’s. We went on a couple of the walks, first the Lava Tongue Walk through the wetlands. I was not expecting to see much wildlife as it was overcast and cool, so when we found not one but two copperhead snakes just off the boardwalks we were all pretty excited. As we returned back to the visitor centre we saw the first of many emus, which was exciting enough until we then saw two koalas nestled up in some nearby gumtrees.

cofThe view from the top of Peak Climb Walk

The other walk we did was the Peak Climb Walk up to the top of the centre hill of the crater. Fletch ran ahead with Amanda in toe and they disappeared to have some bonding time together, leaving Immy and I trudging along at 3-year-old pace. This gave me some quality time with my little lady and also slowed me down enabling me to take in the surroundings in a lot more detail. A great example was spotting a kangaroo off in the scrub that I would have otherwise missed. She surprisingly walked the whole way up the steep inclines telling herself how strong and good she was and that Santa would be so happy with her! Naturally, I emphatically agreed, as I did not want to have to carry her up to the top. The view was worth the climb, with the lakes, volcano rim and coastline in full view.

cofBambino’s awesome woodfire pizza.

Back at the caravan park the kids loved playing in the indoor play area for the 5 and unders’ before enjoying some woodfire pizzas by Bambino [Side note: if you see these guys, stop and get the Damo’s Special! You’re welcome].

 

This is Part One covering our adventure to Port Fairy, so be sure to stay tuned for Parts Two and Three to see what else we got too.

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

 

 

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