Two weeks on the road – Ollie’s first big Trip – Part 1

Pins are our overnight stops, orange for camping.

With Ollie soon to be put into daycare and Rosie returning to work in a months time, we thought it might be a good time to head up the coast for a few weeks to visit my parents in Hervey Bay. This is a big post so I’ve split it into two parts. You can find part 2 here.

We’d never done a big trip like this before with Ollie, so we were unsure how he would travel for long distances. Fortunately he did very well, sleeping most of the trip and amusing himself for a lot of the time he was awake. Because of how the van passenger seats and the baby seat sit, Ollie was able to see out the window and watch the world go by.

We knew starting this trip that we wouldn’t be able to travel as far each day with an 8 month old in the back, so we set ourselves a limit of around 500km a day. That’s not too much driving and let us work out ahead of time what campsites or motels were in the vicinity, giving us a little bit of planning leeway.

Day 1 – Saturday 31 August

We set out with the van very heavily loaded up on Saturday morning around 9am. We had to leave Ollie’s pram behind, which ultimately worked out okay and wasn’t a big issue.

Just starting out

The van was so loaded up that I put some lightweight gear on the roof in a supposedly waterproof gear bag. Our first stop was Goulburn for one of many, many fuel stops on the trip. We got to Sydney without any hassle, though the usual traffic at Pennant Hills Road reminded us again why Sydney traffic is ridiculous. It started raining just as we got out of Sydney onto the Pacific Motorway.

Our first stop was in Mooney Mooney for a very good lunch at the RSL. Ollie charmed the locals while we had a burger and a seafood pasta.

When lunch was over, the rain was coming down very hard. We drove until 4pm and made the call that we would not be camping this first night. Ollie was just getting over a cold and setting up a tent in the rain isn’t a fun way to start a big trip.

We looked for a little town just off the highway and found Karuah, staying at the Karuah Gardens Motel (Karuah Motor Inn). It was a little dated, but very clean and the heater worked. It’s also cheaper than the other two motels slightly closer to town.

Motel was pretty good.

That night we walked all of 300 metres into town looking for dinner. We found the Kuruah RSL and headed in for our second RSL meal of the day. We weren’t too disappointed though – with the little ‘locals’ card we’d gotten when booking our room, drinks prices were $10.10 for a round. We kept ourselves amused and watched in amazement as someone won 2 full sized footballs on the claw machine, and then was unable to get them out due to the anti-tampering construction. It took at least 30 minutes and 4 people trying before a young lady that worked at the bar managed to get both of the balls out. Hours of entertainment at the Karuah RSL on a Saturday night.

We’d managed to get in about 4.50pm, which is good because the place really started getting busy. The Karuah RSL Chinese Restaurant must be the busiest place on the north coast of NSW, with people wandering in prior to the 5.30 opening even though the lights were off. We ended up getting a meal there much later that night and the food was okay. We were just packing up and thinking of what to do next when Ollie projectile vomited everywhere and we took that as a cue to leave. Given we could have been camping that night, a motel room with a shower wasn’t such a bad choice. We walked (stumbled) back to the motel past a very spooky cemetery and had a decent nights sleep, although with a early wakeup from Ollie around 5.30am. (this becomes a theme throughout the trip).

The only other notable thing that happened that first day was our fuel economy. 13.14L/100km is exceptionally good for the van, although rubbish for literally any other car built this century. We put it down to the pumped up tyres and maybe a downhill run from Canberra to Sydney.

Day 2 – Sunday 1 September

On day 2 we were on the road by 6.30am. It was our first father’s day – I got slippers 🙂 The weather had cleared overnight and it was a beautiful morning.

We drove for an hour with Ollie asleep in the back before deciding to stop in Taree for breakfast.

We had a great pie at the French Taste Bakery, but the coffee was pretty average. #RosieandOliverscoffeeadventures

Cheap as chips though, compared to our spoilt Canberra bakery experiences. We had a stroll by the water trying to tire out Ollie and ended up watching a pod of dolphins make their way up the river while changing a nappy. Parenthood is strange.

We drove on to Nambucca Heads and stopped there to make lunch from the dinner ingredients we didn’t end up using the night before. We nabbed a picnic table in Gordon Park next to the river and cooked up some chorizo and potatos while Ollie met every dog that came past.

Fancy Caesar salad

A quick tidy up, then back on the road.

With the better weather, we knew we’d be camping so we looked up some likely campsites while driving.

Book is a big help finding ideas for campsites.

Black Rock Campground in Bundjalung National Park won, so we headed into the small town of MacLean to pick up some supplies.

MacLean is a lovely place and one we’ll probably go through again. We had a quick drink on the banks of the river, got some beer from the bottle shop and drove straight to the campsite.

Black Rocks has about 20km of dirt road before you get to the campsite, but it is a well maintained road.

There are very large and difficult to see speed bumps in the site itself that would cause problems for low vehicles though. The sites are all spread out and separate from each other by very thick scrub.

There was barely anyone there when we went. Dinner that night was fried-rice, which we’d never cooked camping before and turned out very nicely.

Black Rocks Campground has lots of brush turkeys running around and in the evening after Ollie and Rosie went to bed, we were visited by a small rat-like marsupial. We suspect it’s a Long-Nosed Potoroo. There was also some fruit bats in the trees above us, but my picture skills weren’t great. That night was pretty cold and there were a lot of stars in the sky, BOM reported it got down to 4 degrees overnight. We didn’t mind too much, we were sheltered from the winds and our new sleeping bags were very warm. Ollie didn’t enjoy it as much until he joined mum in her sleeping bag, but that’s why we bought the biggest ones we could fit.

Black Rocks has good access to the beach from all the campsites, but the beach itself probably isn’t great for swimming even in summer. Lots of warnings about rips and currents.

Day 3 – Monday 2 September

As Ollie was teaching us, early starts are a habit on this trip, so we woke up around 5.30am. Rosie had been looking after Ollie all night (“jerk baby was a jerk“), so I took him out of the tent for a walk while she got a bit more sleep. We headed to the beach and got some good glamour shots with the just risen sun.

Pack up took about an hour. We were still working out where everything went at this stage so it was a little slow. We were on the road by 9am though. We stopped in Brunswick Heads for breakfast at the Terrance Espresso bar. The bacon and egg roll was quite good, but again there was some below average coffee.

Back on the road, we went through kilometers of roadworks and then entered Queensland.

Drove straight past Brisbane and the Gold Coast as usual – one day we’ll have a reason to stop in there.

We continued in typical crazy traffic you get on the highway in south-QLD, and then made it to Buderim. Our friends welcomed us with glasses of champagne and nibbles on the grass in their backyard, and then treated us to steak and veggies for dinner. An early night very contented.

Day 4 – Tuesday 3 September

This day was planned as a chill day on the Sunshine Coast. I picked up a coffee for Rosie while she had a bit of a sleep in. We met up with some other friends in Maroochydore and had an okay lunch at the Post Office Bar & Beer Garden. We got to meet their brand new daughter, but they strategically didn’t bring their 3 year old.

After lunch we drove down to Cotton Tree Pier for an afternoon on the sand in the sun. Several friends came along and Ollie got to play with some much bigger babies.

We had forgotten to bring swimmer nappies, so Ollie was pantless.

Learning to crawl properly

We think this helped him learn how to crawl on his hands and knees, since he wasn’t keen about dragging his junk around on the sand. All we know is that after that afternoon, Ollie was crawling everywhere rather than commando crawling. The water was cold, but we braved it up to our knees at least.

Back at our friends place, we had some delicious pizzas for dinner. Ollie was very restless that night due to teething.

Day 5 – Wednesday 4 September

The next day we went for swim down at Chamber Island. The temperature was quite warm for this time of year, nudging 30 degrees. The water was bloody cold though.

We all went for an excellent lunch straight after at Rice Boi at the Mooloolaba Wharf. From there it was straight back on the road. Ollie fell asleep straight away as we headed north up the highway. It was a quiet drive from everyone – I think we were all too stuffed from lunch to talk much.

Big thanks to our friends for letting us stay at their place for two nights. It made a huge difference to the feel of the trip and let us slow down for a while.

We arrived to an empty home (rude) and let ourselves in. Hamish, the consummate guard dog that he is, came straight over to the strange people in the backyard and presented them with a ball to throw. A very happy Nanna got to see Ollie again (it had only been 4 weeks since last time, but still) and we settled down to chill out in the warm Hervey Bay weather.

On the way up I had noticed that the solar panel fixed to the van roof was no longer charging. I found that the flexible panel had caused the solid wires that connect the panels to the MC4 connectors to snap due to movement or vibrations. Not a huge issue as driving charges the battery as well, but a bit annoying.

Some idiot trying to fix a solar panel

Dinner was more steak and salad and a lot of beers with Dad.

Day 6 – Thursday 5 September

We woke up early due to Ollie and spent a quiet morning around the house. Rosie did a lot of washing and sorting and I took Dad to Jaycar to try find a solution to fix our solar problem. I ended up soldering a flexible wire length in place and then holding it all together with lots of duct tape. It’s not a perfect join as its difficult to solder a thin metal strip on meltable plastic, but it does the job and continued working for the rest of the trip. Well, maybe 60-80% of the time. 🙂

Ollie was a big help sorting out the van.

That afternoon we went out looking for whales on the Hervey Bay Whale Watch Quick Cat II. We’ve been out before with this group and we were not disappointed this time. Heaps of whales and with Ollie in the chest carrier he was safe from falling overboard. We saw heaps of pods of whales that afternoon, but the highlight was the small calf repeatedly trying to get their breaches and tail slaps just right. Just like a really, really big puppy. Rosie swears that she is not and probably will never be a skilled nature photographer, but she got some very good photos and videos as you can see below.

Sorry about the sound quality…

Day 7 – Friday 6 September

Before this trip, we’d managed to convince my parents that a night camping near Hervey Bay would be a great idea. Mum and Dad hadn’t really been camping together since the 80s, so we were curious to see what happened.

We woke up that Friday (early as usual) and picked up some supplies from Woolies with Nanna babysitting. It’s weird doing things without Ollie. as you just get done so much quicker.

Once we were all packed up, including packing up Dads car because of his dodgy foot, we headed out to Goodys On The Beach for lunch. Very disappointing meals, but the view and service was quite good. We met Graham and Sharon, friends of my parents, who were joining us for some camping.

Beautiful location, rubbish food, good service.

After lunch we drove the short distance to Lenthall Dam Campground. The drive in was on some very dusty dirt roads and you head through some scabby-looking pine plantations, but once you get past all that the Lenthall Dam area is lovely. Campground is wide open and mostly flat with good toilet facilities. Spaces are limited apparently to preserve the dam water supply. There was only 2 other groups when we were there. Fires are not permitted at any time at this campground, which is a bit of a shame. There is limited Telstra reception at the site.

That afternoon was quite windy, but fortunately the van is nothing if not an excellent wind break.

All three couples started setting up around the same time, and it was good to see our little Aldi instant up tent got put up the quickest. I had time to help out Mum and Dad work out how to set up their little dome tent for the first time. We were all quickly set up and sitting down around a table for a wonderful afternoon of drinking in the sun.

Highlights from that night include Sharon enjoying some new music, the sun setting over the dam, hamburgers cooked under LED light, far too much cheese, pate and biscuits, and the small ‘little rat thing’ that came to visit (another potoroo, not a water rat or betong). Ollie loved being the centre of attention as always.

Day 8 – Saturday 7 September

The morning saw us waking up a little later than usual (7am), with Graham and Sharon already on the dam on kayaks. We cooked up some bacon and egg breakfast wraps and started packing up. Iced coffee for breakfast, which became a bit of a trend on the rest of the trip for Rosie. I managed to help pack up Mum and Dad as well as our site, which is probably why we were finished last.

View out over the campground

Once all packed up there was a bit of a ukulele performance in the morning sunshine. Then we said goodbye to Graham and Sharon and left the campground for Maryborough to see the ‘German sausage tree’.

A quick walk around the park and then we headed off to the beach, while Mum and Dad went back home. The veteran’s park in Maryborough is a lovely place and well worth a visit – they have a ‘percussion tree’ that has a variety of xylophones and other instruments to play around with.

On the way out we saw another black Delica that waved at us. We saw a heap of Delica’s on this trip, but only a very limited number of drivers waved at us. We headed to Shelly Beach in Torquay as we’d been there before and knew we’d get a some food along the Esplanade. Before the beach we had a quick but average pub meal at the Torquay Hotel, and then it was time for Ollie’s first swim in the ocean. He didn’t mind the waves or water, but (like me) he didn’t really enjoy how cold it was.

We were the only ones swimming between the red/yellow flags and we felt pretty safe as there was a surf life-saving relay event going on right next to us. They seemed to be having a lot of fun and there didn’t seem to be an age or fitness limit to compete in the relay.

We went back home mid-afternoon and had a quick drink with my aunt and uncle, as well as a cousin that was visiting from the Sunshine Coast. It’s amazing who you see when you’ve got a cute little baby 🙂

Rosie and I had lined up my parents to babysit Ollie that night for a bit of a date night. We went out to The Dock Bar & Restaurant for a quick bite to eat ready to take full advantage of our first real no-kids night. Sadly though, Rosie started feeling a bit ill almost immediately, and so after dinner we only had on drink at the Hervey Bay Boat Club before taking the courtesy bus (curtsy bus) home. We got home at 8.30pm, not exactly a late night for us, but it was nice to have some time off together.

Continued in Part 2.

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