Tuna Salad in Port Lincoln

At Port Lincoln we check into the first caravan park we encounter, based on gut feel. Evidently the (persistant) gastro bug is affecting that gut as well ... and we spend the night sheltering from gale force winds on an inhospitable cliff top. We check out early and the next caravan park quickly puts everything right, with pelicans and breathtaking panoramas aplenty.

Port Lincoln is the tuna capital of the Southern Hemisphere and our stay is defined by the great Swim-With-The-Tuna experience, worth it just to see everyone squeezed into wetsuits, let alone the chance to paddle alongside these fish on steroids. Our swim is preceded by the chance to hand-feed the tuna breakfast, followed by a sailing tour around the harbour, and capped off by the close call of Rikki (and Sam) being forgotten in the bathroom after everyone disembarks back at the port.

Port Lincoln also gives us an unexpected team building opportunity at the local BMX track, as we cheer on one another to conquer the jumps and dips. And just when we thought that nothing could surprise us, Jack reveals a new love for washing the dishes, and for preparing Israeli salad (cucumber, tomato and a fair whack of salt) for lunch and dinner.

We spend a further two days in quiet family bonding mode - and giving the gastro gang some much needed rest and relaxation - before deciding that it’s high time we head bush again.

Feeding frenzy as we hand deliver brekkie to the enormous tuna. Best take the edge off that appetite BEFORE we get in the water...
All suited up and ready to swim. Worth mentioning that neither Rikki nor Benji made it past the steps before declaring they were too cold to go further, the consequence perhaps of flipper shoes that were at least four sizes too big. But full points for effort.
Budge and Jack float amongst the tuna. Moments later Budge ditches the snorkle and dives down beneath them, brave lad.
Bihary BMX Bandits.

Achievement in Arno

In Arno Bay we have a playground and a pier only a stone's throw from our caravan, and the kids revel in their independance, frolicking and fishing at a whim.

After spending an entire day out on the pier, mostly on his own, Jack finally catches his first fish. Apparently his stamina is impressive not only us but to rest of the fishing folk too, who donate a few extra fish to his bucket to bring his catch tally to seven. We clean the fish, fillet them, flour them, egg them, crumb them, fry them – and then ask them not to take it too personally when the kids are less than enthusiastic about eating them.

We also celebrate a second milestone that sets an equal record for perseverance – after more than two years of false wobbles, Rikki finally has a loose tooth. Meanwhile Budge enjoys his own spiritual Sabbath high, sneaking away on Friday night to watch the St Kilda game at the Arno Hotel.

Quotes of the Stay:

“Argh, I’m covered in fish tiles!” Said by Jack after unhooking his catch and getting scales all over his hands as the fish keeps slipping from his grasp.
“My arm ankle hurts!” Said by Benji as he rubs his elbow after bumping it in the car. His logic does somewhat hold.
Jack and his prize catch of Whiting.
Up close and personal with a crab. Until now the kids have found only crab shells/ skeletons, so finding the real thing is a treat.

Whyalla... Why!?

Next stop from Flinders is Whyalla. Ahhhh Whyalla...
Where the beach is littered with broken shells and seaweed.
Where the park equipment is busted and rusted.
Where the nightsky glows red from the steelworks that never shut.
Where apparently nobody eats out, ever, because there’s only one fish n’ chip joint in the whole city, and poorly signed to boot.
But – importantly - the laundry works (critical with gastro bug still on board), our caravan site is on the foreshore (so we can nod off to the sound of lapping waves), there’s time to attend to some overdue repairs on van and car, and there is a Woolies supermarket where we can replenish our dwindling supply of essentials (who would’ve guessed that rice milk and tofu would be so hard to find in the small country towns and outback stations we’ve been lodging in of late!).
Less than 48 hours later and we’re more than ready to say bye-alla to Whyalla.

More Flinders Fotos

Racing up the escarpment in Wilpena Pound.
Identifying aboriginal etchings in Sacred Canyon.
Rest break on the Arkaroo walk.
Unwinding after an intense 4-wheel-drive with some yoga. Here, the Tree Pose.

The Trade... The Burger... The Car Poo!




Out of range in the Flinders Ranges

The earth turns red, the landscape stretches as far as the eye can see. We are in the heart of Aussie nothingness, away from the distraction of phone, emails and internet and free to connect with the vastness, the stillness, the intense beauty that is the Flinders Ranges. Admittedly, the weather is more cloudy and wet than we’d hoped for. But it doesn’t prevent us from making the most of our Flinders experience and in our five Flinders days…

• Jack dines on his first Kangaroo burger at Parachilna Pub, to which he comments “It just jumped off my plate!”
• We visit sacred sites with aboriginal rock etchings and cave paintings, and after teaching the kids to recognise the aboriginal symbols for emu, kangaroo, shelter and waterhole, delight in seeing them use two rocks to scratch them out themselves.
• We spot enough wallabies, kangaroos and emu in the wild to become, dare we say, almost blasé about it.
• We add two of our own words to the English language, and put them to frequent use:
“Muddles” Defn. muddy puddles
“Car Poo” Defn. the great lumps of mud that fall of the underside of the car in piles behind the wheels after parking
• The kids discover the thrill of four-wheel-driving through terrain that is inaccessible to the ordinary car. Budge discovers the thrill of changing a punctured tyre in the rain (even the almighty Landcruiser has its limits).
• Jack nominates himself as Sam’s new power-walking-buddy and gets one hike under his belt before twisting his ankle. But the dream still lives on for both mum and son…
• And the Benjster, resilient little dude that he is, hijacks another kid’s bike and teaches himself to ride without training wheels. Seizing the moment, we negotiate a trade so that Benji can have the training-wheel-less bike all to himself, for keeps.

The biggest upside is our hike through the Wilpena Pound, a 3 hour hike for many, a 4.5 hour hike for us… but one where the weather clears as we scale the rocky escarpment and the sun breaks through the clouds when we reach the top, affording us the most magnificent views.

The one downside is a persistant gastro bug that rears its ugly head at night, targeting Benji for the whole of our stay, and giving Sam a “run” for her money one evening too (pardon the pun). But it’s nothing we can’t handle, and Jack’s exclamation as we hit the summit of on one of our final Flinders hikes – “Woah, you sure don’t see THIS from the classroom window” – reassures us that we’re on the right track in more ways than one.

That, and Rikki’s enthusiasm about seeing more “original” paintings….. (that’s “Aboriginal”, Rik).

We bookmark Flinders as a destination we’ll definitely return to.

Off for the first hike from our base-camp, Rawsley Station.
Forget Zebra Crossings.
In Flinders, it's all about the Emus.
Discovering why daddy needs a snorkle (or as Benji would say, "norkle") on his car.

Jack shows his strength at Arkaroo rock.

A Remarkable Stopover

En route to the Flinders Ranges, we decide – purely on impulse – to stop overnight in the town of Melrose. The drawcard is the magnificent Mount Remarkable, which we cycle around in the afternoon heat, attempt to climb as the sun sets, and later admire in the moonlight. With each passing day, the cap of the spontaneous adventurer is fitting even more snugly on our heads.

Benji takes the lead as we ride down Melrose's main street, Mount Remarkable in the distance.

Clarity in Clare

Our sojourn in the Burra bush was perfectly timed to aid our transition to life on the road. We have returned with a heightened appreciation of... EVERYTHING! Initially we had to transition to caravan life from home life in suburban Ormond. Now we transition to caravan life from bush camping. We spend two nights and a day in the Clare Valley, cleaning, washing and generally organizing ourselves. And with due credit to Monty Python, we find ourselves noting in delight every small comfort, with SUCH genuine appreciation.
A toilet that flushes! LUXURY!!
Taps that can be left running without fears of the water supply running out! LUXURY!!
Hot showers! LUXURY!!
Washing machines! LUXURY!!
Electricity that doesn't need a generator! LUXURY!!
A well stocked supermarket with aisles upon aisles of food! LUXURY!!
Phones within range... Skype... Internet... LUXURY LUXURY LUXURY!!!!!
Our world has been reduced to a caravan, car, a few sets of clothes, some tubs of food, some recreational toys and a few techno gadgets. We feel wealthy. We feel blessed. We feel like royalty.

The Most Aptly Named Highway in the World

THIS is the road you take to get to the remote Burra Creek Gorge.
We kid you not.

 
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Bush Camping in Burra

We head bush on a Thursday planning to stay overnight, only to realise Friday morning that with a long weekend approaching and without any pre-booked caravan park accomodation, we have no option but to hang out in the wild. We're hardly on our own though, with a steady stream of campervanning/ caravanning/ tenting families joining us in what is apparently Adelaide's worst kept camping secret - the remote Burra Creek Gorge.

It's the first authentic camping experience for the kids and a babtism by fire for all. Burra Gorge has it all!!!
The Pit Toilet that doesn't flush and let's you watch your poo pile up on top of everyone else's poo!
The slimy creek that is too dirty to swim in but perfect for catching yabbies!
The locust plague that fills with colour and movement what might otherwise have been an empty void between the departure of the morning flies and the arrival of the evening mosquitoes!
The walking tracks that lead to nowhere... or to flooded creek beds too deep to cross... or to mountain sides too steep to climb... or too long grass that looks friendly from afar and only reveals its burrs and thorns once you are stuck in the middle of it!

Five days later we emerge, covered in dust and sweat, insects matted in our hair, mozzie bites on both sets of cheeks, punctured tyres on at least one bicycle, any fears of falling into the Pit Toilet well and truly conquered (even by the littlest Bihary), and habits of personal hygiene a distant memory. We drive out through clouds of kamikaze locusts who play Frogger with our car, goannas lined up along the side of the road in anticipation of locust lunch.
Needless to say, we have had an absolute ball.

The first campfire for the trip. Marshmallows and guitars waiting in the wings. 
Rikki chasing butterflies. Ok, we lie. Rikki chasing locusts.
Our one excursion out of the Gorge takes us to the township of Burra and its fantastic passport tour, where one key grants you access to a multitude of historic buildings and mines. Here we strike a pose at the Open Copper Mine.
Burra Bliss

SA Snippets

Three days clocking up the kilometres as we hugged the South Australian coastline. Worthy stopovers rating a mention include:
* Our first encounter with a member of the infamous "biggest in Australia" family - this time Larry the Giant Lobster in Kingston SE;
* An inpromptu tour of the Ralph Fowler winery where we purchased the wine for our bridal party over a decade ago;
* Meandering through the German inspired hamlet of Handorf and its jams, salamis and koffeehaus culture; and
* Cycling in the mangrove tidal swampland at Port Wakefield.
The other worthy almost-stopover was the Coorong National Park, where Budge proposed to Sam on the "Young Husband" Peninsula way back in 1998. Too rainy to get out for a wander, so the wetlands are enjoyed from the comfort of the car. "Look kids, here's where you guys all began..."

In the shadows of Larry the Lobster...
Sampling grapes from the vine at the Ralph Fowler Winery.
Cycling through the expanse of swampland nothingness at Port Wakefield.
Had to happen!

Radiant Robe

Onto the idyllic seaside hamlet of Robe, SA - a place of many firsts:
* our first family fishing expedition
* our first four wheel drive along the beach
* our first non-ensuite site (meaning a longer shlep to the toilets in the night)
* our first laundry load ...
* and with loud-mouthed, foul-mouthed "cheryl" camped across from us, our first real need to drop down the privacy screen in front of our caravan's awning.
The kids continue to amaze with their ability to adapt - Benji asks to go "home" when we're out in the car and he wants to head back to the caravan, and is referring to O'Loughlan Street as our "old home". Meanwhile Rikki's new mate Chloe from the Mt Gambier caravan park is here again in Robe, so it's like being back in the old neighbourhood. "Cheryl"and her rude rants notwithstanding, we discover that two days in paradise is not enough. With another fine day forecast before the rain sets in again, we effortlessly bunk down for a third.

Traffic but a memory as we drive along Robe's 10 Mile Beach.
Off for a morning fish...

 
No bites yet. But there's always tomorrow.
A final ocean dip as the sun sets on another glorious Robe day.

Blue Lake, continued...

Oligatory "entering a new state" photo that was ommitted from our last entry, because Sam was asleep at the time and didn't realise Budge had taken it. Oops. 

The all important Blue Lake shot. Including the lollies that were used to bribe the kids to hike down to the lake in the morning, only to discover that the memory stick from the camera was still in the laptop, hence the need to hike back to the caravan and get it, then bribe the kids a second time to hike down to the lake all over again.
Taking in the fairytale magic of the Tantanoola Cave and all of its stallegmite/ stallactite glory.

Nothing to be blue about at the Blue Lake

No discernable rhythm to our days just yet, but plenty to be chuffed about:
* We've explored three Aussie towns with gusto - Port Fairy, Portland (yesterday) and Mt Gambier (today). A priate ship, a cable-car ride, a war museum, a train museum, two sink holes, and a volcano - the stuff that homeschooling legends are made of.
* We're here in Mt Gambier at the perfect time of year to see the Blue Lake in all it's bright blue glory. Had we visited between May to November, it would have been much more tricky explaining to disappointed kids why the Blue Lake was actually grey.
* No bedwetting accidents OR middle of the night sprints to the toilet ... yet.  Though there has been a rather unfortunate poo-in-the-bathers incident involving the youngest Bihary after snacking on one too many pitted prunes. "But mum, I TOLD you I needed to go toilet...."
* We're told that that the dismal Melbourne weather that hitchhiked a ride with us will be disembarking here at Mt Gambier and sunny days await. Not a moment too soon, since we only packed two jumpers per child and they're both slowly being covered in tomato sauce after enjoying BBQ dinners every night this week.
* The Big 4 caravan parks pitch themselves as a kids paradise - with  jumping pillows, swimming pools, games rooms and bike-and-scooter-riding allowed anywhere in the park. With so much to keep the kids occupied and independant, we're discovering they're a parents paradise as well.
* We've managed to find room for all our books. Our travel books, our story books, our reference books, our puzzle books, our hard cover books, our scrap books, our notebooks, our comic books, our e-books AND our audio books. Now we just need to find the time to read.
* We've met another family from regional Victoria who are also starting out on, as Rikki says, "a trip around Os-trail-ya". Dad's a builder, mum's in education, daughter's 5 and son's 3. And there we were, feeling so unique.
* The kids are yet to discover the fully functioning TV in the caravan... with St Kilda in the semi finals tonight, the same cannot be said for Budge.
* We've even "made a little challah, we made it all ourself, we put it in the oven, we put it on the shelf..." A few more weeks and we'll be giving Glicks a run for their money. Shabbat Shalom to all.

Rikki keeps warm waiting for Budge's coffee to boil.
All aboard Portland's famous cable tram. (Midway through our ride, a channel nine crew came to film a segment for some travel show. As expected, the tram got performance anxiety and stalled. And stalled. And stalled. Our 12 o'clock ride that was meant to be for 1 hour... didn't see us back at our caravan for lunch until 3.)
Three little Biharys at the base of the AMAZING sinkhole at Mt Gambier.
Last Friday we squeezed 45 people into our home for a farewell Shabbat dinner.  This Friday it was enough of a challenge to squeeze 5 of us into our caravan. Note the very impressive looking challah home-baked by Sam Glick.

Novice adventurers explore Port Fairy

Learnings after one full day away:
1. We have definitely packed way way too much of some things (does everyone really need their own nail clippers!.. or two hats!...) and forgotten some obvious others (frypan..! sneakers for Benji..! BBQ tools ..!!!).
2. Budge's supreme efforts to ensure all five bicyles could be towed away with us was worth every bit of sweat. There is no better way to sightsee.
3. Fears about Jack rolling off the top bunk were unfounded. Fears about flatulance in a small enclosed space were not.
4. Booking an ensuite site for our first caravan park stopover was worth every penny, even if the public amenities are the same distance from our van.
5. Succumbing to the temptation to fill every nook and cranny in the van and the car in our final hours of packing was SHEER madness.
6. Our one day caravan driving intensive was one day too short when faced with the reality of reversing into a campsite car park, for real.
7. Installing curtains on the kids bunks that can be pulled shut to give them personal space n' privacy works a treat.
8. Porridge is not as tempting a breakfast as we'd hoped, no matter how many chopped nuts, seeds, fruit n' cinnamon we stack upon it.
All in all, a glorious day. We fit in a swim, lots of scooting and cycling, a tour of Port Fairy, bbq dinner, an ankle sprain, some caravan troubleshooting, and even get the kids to write their own journal entries, eat a few vegies and snack on fruit. Feels like we've been at this gig for years.
It's only later, when we realise that we had the kids date their journal entries February 29, discover that we packed kilos of teabags and not a single mug, and find out that the bedtime success of our first night won't be repeated quite as easily on the second.... that we're forced to admit, there is indeed a long road ahead. Lucky for us, we have all the time in the world.

Busy journalling...

A snap from the tail bike as we head into town...