Mouse’s Holiday, part 1: 1400km on the road

Hello!  Still here, still reading your blogs, just busy travelling…

This is the first big trip we’ve taken with Mouse. The first one was a shake-down, and highlighted some of the issues, but a longer trip is a whole other story. Not quite like having a toddler along, but there are similarities. Regular meals and bathroom breaks, can’t be left alone, especially in cars on hot days…. But it’s a joy watching his incredulous delight at the dog beach, with all those other doggos playing, swimming, fetching and sniffing. And even more delight at the 3 acre fenced off-leash dog park, where he was allowed off the lead and to do zoomies, which he’s missed. He hasn’t quite got the idea of coming when called yet, but I can now see I have to give some serious priority to it when we get home; 3 acres is a large area to have to pursue him in should he decide to play Catch Me.

So, the trip. It didn’t start well; our car is nearly as old as the caravan, and it chose packing day to give up on the air conditioning, without which one doesn’t undertake a journey of any distance in Queensland. Net result was the Husband spending 6 hours in town getting it sorted, while I tried to pack as much as I could. Normally, I make a list, we split the task and the job is done smoothly and efficiently. This time, we forgot a few things…. Like the cordless drill which winds down the caravan stabiliser legs much faster than the old hand crank. And my camera. And a second pair of pyjamas. And the guy ropes for the awning. Never mind, we have work-rounds for everything, and it’s good to test our ingenuity! Miz Lizzie has had her undercarriage and suspension rebuilt since you last saw a photo of her, and now rides a good deal higher on larger wheels, which makes her stronger, stops things bouncing around inside and saves wear and tear on her frame.

Mouse was a model passenger. The back seat is wide enough that he could stretch out full length, and he took full advantage. We stopped every couple of hours to let everyone walk about a bit and get the blood circulating again, which meant the journeys took a little longer than usual, but we arrived in better shape as a result.

First stop was Tannum Sands, a pretty beachside suburb just south of Gladstone. The caravan park is just lovely: spacious, in beautiful surroundings directly opposite the beach, well landscaped and cared for. Just one tiny downside: the bitey insect life at night. Mosquitos and sandflies. During the day, not so much, but venture outside at night and the little devils are feasting on you in short order. We’ll be staying there on our return journey as well, so I have dug the tropical strength insect repellent out of the first aid kit to make walking Mouse less of a blood-letting exercise. He loved it there; foxes in the woods behind and possums up the trees made for excellent smellyvision for him.

The second night was at Landsborough Pines, a caravan park 3km from Australia Zoo of Steve Irwin (“Crikey, crocodiles!”) fame. It’s small, and really lovely. Many of the cabins are permanent residences, a few are holiday accommodation, and there’s a separate section for caravans and tents. Between the two is a really gorgeous duck pond/mini lake, complete with ducks, geese, wildfowl, turtles and fish. The water is aerated daily with large jets which make a lovely sound and look spectacular. The amenities were rather up-market for a caravan park, there was a very posh barbecue pavilion overlooking the duck pond, and the only downsides were that one tree housed a colony of rather smelly and noise fruit bats, and we were situated under a gum tree that dropped gum nuts on the roof all night. Once we’d worked out what the noise was, it stopped waking us up!

Day 3 was the longest leg of the trip. We also crossed south into New South Wales, which meant a change of time zone, an hour ahead. It made for a long and tiring day, but our destination was worth it. The White Albatross holiday park at Nambucca Heads is arranged in a crescent around a sea-fed lagoon behind a rock wall breakwater. On the other side is the ocean, and at night you can hear the surf, but you are protected from bad weather. Once again, there’s a mix of permanent and holiday accommodation and sites for tents and caravans. The place is immaculate, beautifully landscaped, well managed and incredibly clean and tidy. The sites are all flat, making set-up easy, and we have an en suite bathroom block for our exclusive use with brand new fixtures and fittings. Mouse is delighted with our stay here, as just around the headland is the dog beach, filled with new furry friends and their parents. If we weren’t fairly sure he’d disappear into the dim blue distance in short order, we’d let him off the lead, but we have at least switched to the 8 metre lead for walks here. The sand is pale vanilla-coloured and very high in silica, so it squeaks underfoot with every step. There’s surf here, as it’s not protected by a reef, which is a novel experience for Mouse, and there are quite a few dogs who have learned to coast in to shore on a wave.

We’re staying here for a week, heading north again on 26th. Tomorrow I’ll tell about the things we’ve done over the past couple of days

Travel trinkets

We’re off on our travels again soon.

This trip has been planned and anticipated for months and months, and we’ve come to realise that in the future, we’ll want to do a lot more trips with Miz Lizzie the caravan. We needed to reconsider our towing vehicle. We have a very nice modern car we love, with lots of useful features, excellent fuel economy and a very enjoyable driving experience. But it’s not really up to the job of pulling the caravan very long distances. It gets the job done, but long term it will suffer excessive wear and tear. We’re sad to see it go, but we’re selling it. Instead of doing what most people in our position do, replacing it with a new and enormous ‘tank’ with a vast and thirsty engine and multiple gizmos, we have bought a 12 year old workhorse.

I like the idea of recycling a perfectly good older vehicle, which has several benefits: there are scratches, dings and fading paintwork, so I’ll never worry again about putting a scratch on its gleaming surface; it comes already fitted with a number of things we’d have wanted anyway; it’s affordable (and so are parts!), despite being a much more powerful and roomy vehicle than we’re used to, and finally, it feels cosy and safe despite its size, unlike many new cars which are sleek, complex and intimidating. It has been looked after, and we will continue to look after it, so I hope to enjoy driving it for many years. Oh, and I love being higher up, with greatly improved visibility and larger windows.

Meet Bill. He’s a Hyundai Terracan, a 2.9L CRDi, with 7 seats and already set up for caravan towing. He’s capable of hauling 2 tonnes. We’ll be taking out the rear 2 seats to give ourselves an enormous cargo space. He’s tall, with excellent visibility, proper 4WD and chunky tyres. But there are three important things he doesn’t have. The first is satnav, a very, very useful thing in this enormous country of vast distances and poor signage. The second is a reversing camera. The car is nearly 5 metres long, and the driving seat is a very long way from the towbar… And the third thing is Bluetooth hands-free for our phones.

Hence the trinkets. We’ve bought a Garmin satnav after days and days of research, and it seems pleasantly easy to use and intuitive, plus it has Bluetooth built-in so it enables us to use our mobile phones hands free, safely and legally. The other trinket is a replacement rear-view mirror with a built-in display for a reversing camera and a forward-facing dashcam on its back. We can reverse safely, and also record our front and back views in case of accident.  The mirror is enormous, about 25cm (10 inches), so we get an excellent view too.

Naturally, I’ve made a little pouch for the Garmin. Well, you didn’t really think I could resist, did you? The Garmin’s not built in so it’ll need to be removed from the car when we leave it.

I’ve put a sheet of tough vinyl between the layers on the front of the pouch to protect the screen from damage by sharp poky objects, and the whole pouch is padded and quilted to give it a better chance of survival when I inevitably drop it.

Because there may be times when we need to get at it with one hand, I’ve made a button and elastic loop closure; no fiddling with a zip or buttonholes. Don’t you love the way the button matches the fabric? And that ribbon is just perfect; I got it from the lovely Annett in Germany as part of a package of goodies – this is absolutely the right place to use it.

And the car’s name? The Husband is responsible for that. Terracan -> Billycan* -> Bill. It’s a very good name for the car, who’s definitely a bloke 🙂

*For non-Aussies, a billycan is an essential feature of Australian outback camping, used for making tea and cooking over a fire of gum leaves and wood. Perfect for our Bill and the life he’s going to lead.