Tired of being told that as a single mother with two young daughters (aged 1 & 3) I "can't do this" and "can't do that", I've decided to take the bit between the teeth, grab the ankle-biters (and maybe even my mum!) and head off to the outback for a holiday! It's a three-generation-jaunt - yikes!
Planes, trains and automobiles will all be covered during our trip, including taking in such sights as Uluru, Katherine, Alice Springs, Darwin and Kakadu (maybe more, who knows where our fancy will take us?!)
Wherever there is coverage, I'll be blogging on my trusty little laptop (hopefully from day one on Friday, 4th of September 2009) about our experiences - where we are, what we did, what we liked, what we didn't and anything else that comes to mind - all with that unique single mother perspective, of course!
Want to send a message of support, ask a question, or even tell me how crazy I am, LOL? I would love to hear from you! Do post your comments straight to the blog page
So if you'd like to hear how we are going or send us a message of support during our trip, check back here every day and all being well, there will be an update on our crazy trip - mum, bubs, teddies, tantrums, prams and all!
Talk to you soon!
Saturday, August 29, 2009, 9:49 pm [EST]
woo, can\'t wait to read your blogs - you go girl, you\'re braver than me - two totts in the outback - phew! LOL!! Chrissie :)
Thursday, September 3, 2009, 10:34 pm [EST]
Have nothing but admiration for you, have itchy toes myself...
Friday, September 4, 2009, 9:55 am [EST]
I'm so excited for you! I can't wait to read your posts!! I only wish I could do the same thing. I am a country girl, trapped in the city by an ex-hubby demanding access to our son. I may never get back to the bush!
Friday, September 4, 2009, 11:21 pm [EST]
Well, here we are at Uluru (Ayers Rock for those of you from my vintage
;)). This was one exhaaaaausting day! My Mum decided to join us for the
trip which is nice, a bit of adult company!
Both DD1yo and DD3yo were little terrors all day - probably because we had to wake up in the wee hours to catch our flights out here. The flights went smoothly, although wrestling with a nearly-2yo, and a big one at that, gets a bit tedious when they're strapped to your belly for hours on end. Kids fly free up until the age of two, so it's a great way to save some money, but a bit of a pain on a full plane. Unfortunately, the people sitting in front of us were very non child friendly and DD3yo would keep kicking the seat in front of her - oh dear! Amidst all of the tut-tutts and grumbles I restrained myself from screaming at them "can't you see that I'm trying to cope with two toddlers on my own - you're lucky they are not sitting on your heads poking you in the eyes!!" and gritted my teeth, saying over and over again, "don't kick the seat in front of you ' in that sing song voice which is usually a sign that you're about to have a nervous breakdown. Never mind, I thought, lunch! As I eagerly sniffed the air, and anticipated a hot lunch, I then realised that sadly that we were sitting within smelling-distance of business class. We got a sandwich and an apple - Qantas is a bit like flying Jetstar these days! DD3yo got juice that wasn't a pop-top, which she promptly poured everywhere except her mouth, whilst her tethered sister made grabs for everything in range - which actually was everything.
Today's saving grace was definitely the little "Trunki" pink pull-along suitcase that either (or both) children could ride aboard in the airports when we were pram-less, although getting stuff in and out of it was a bit tricky. Also, my new little netbook/laptop gets a mention, as I spent a few nights loading it up with the kids favourite DVDs and this kept them happy for some of the flight - a God-send! I wish I'd thought of "ripping" the dvds onto the computer years ago!
Finally we caught sight of Uluru out of the window - despite seeing it a thousand times in the media, it did make quite an impact - huge, red - magnificent! The Olgas were clearly visible too, and looked as though they were only a stones-throw away, although really they were 50ks Upon landing at Uluru we grabbed our hire car and headed off to our nice big apartment. I must mention at this point that everything here costs an absolute bomb - it's a given, and something that you just have to come to terms with, as of course everything out here has to be trucked in. It is possible to self-cater a bit which helps, but all of the hotels are owned by the one resort, so there really is no competition. That's not such great news for the traveller. Our apartment cost $380 a night, and that was an online discount rate. One hotel out here charges over $2,000 a night!
So by the time we collapsed, had a cup of tea and got settled in we only had a few hours before sunset, so the kids and I headed off to The Olgas (Kata Tjuta - I still don't know how to pronounce this!!), leaving my Mum behind to recover from the trip.
It's $25 per person just to enter the national park that contains Uluru and the Olgas. In hindsight, going out to the Olgaswas probably not a good decision with two cranky tots! Although it was a relatively colol day of 26 degrees (forcast is 30 tomorrow) it was still hot and rocky. My Phil and Ted's Pram is good, but not that good! We attempted a short walk, but conceeded defeat, and retreated back to the car after about 20 minutes. I will try again tomorrow with Uluru in the cool of the morning - I am hoping to push the girls around at least a bit of it, DDs allowing! It would be lovely for them to learn something of the cultural significance of the site.
The day did finish off nicely with both girls playing in the red desert sands as the sun set over a remarkably vibrant Uluru, with a full moon rising behind it. This is the famous spectacle that people flock to at the "sunset car park". There is only one place that you are allowed to go to view the sunset with your own car (another for coaches). On the bright side, it does get you mixing with other people and hearing their stories. Australians are a bit thin on the ground around here, with European tourists abounding. Signs on the road remind them to drive on the left, which is a bit disconcerting! Uluru does seem to be policed quite strictly in all repects, but more about that tomorrow when we've actually been to the rock to take a look - !
Saturday, September 5, 2009, 1:21 pm [EST]
Well, we made it around the base of Uluru this morning - phew! More tonight...
Saturday, September 5, 2009, 3:10 pm [EST]
I'm very impressed, i've been thinking about
doing the same thing with my three children, i have a van so why not, i
admire your courage, keep up the good work, you make me proud to be strong,
single women!! Have fun on your adventure!!!
Saturday, September 5, 2009, 9:48 pm [EST]
Oh my gosh, I am so tired I can barely type, Hi Kylie, good on you, you
can do it!!
Well, today we got to Uluru at 930am and headed off on our walk. It was a long way (10ks) and got hot for part of it, but we were very well prepared, with hats, slatherings of sunscreen, fly repellent and covers to shade the pram, constant water and snacks and the girls cruised it. DD1yo slept most of the way, only hopping out toward the end to do her version of "climbing the rock". DD3yo hopped out at bits that looked interesting, and both had a great time. Mummy hoofed it through the open sun areas and we made it in 2 and a half hours - not too bad, LOL! Lots of the rock was closed off as different sacred sites, so often the base walk detoured out on to roads, etc. So one side of it was quite remote from the rock, and there would have been almost as much sense driving it by car (there's a road around it), however on the other side it was mostly shady and close to the rock, with great stories to read to the kids. DD3yo kept saying, again, again! LOL. I must say, that the actual rock climb looks so scarey! It's really, really steep with just a handrail for support. People seemed to be doing the descent by sliding on their bottoms - one slip, and you would just keep falling down - shudder! Still, there were lots attempting it, despite all of the warning signs about how it was the wrong thing to do culturally, and that 35 people had died trying (that alone would have scared me off!). It made for really entertaining viewing, anyhow. I didn't see one indiginous Australian at Uluru or the Olgas - I kind of expected to, but still, only tourists.
The cultural centre was a nice place for afternoon tea, then we did another drive out to the Olgas, just because they look so cool and spooky. Then back to the rock for the sunset which was again, a great thing to witness. The colour of the afternoon sun on the rock is just amazing - a kind of vibrant pinky-red. It glows. After that, we ditched plans to go to a restaurant (kids eat free here) and rustled up baked beans on toast - and it tasted GOOD! Okay, I'm off to retrieve my clothes from the laundry - I saw a dingo at the resort pool tonight - my first one! He stared at me and then loped off. A hotel staff member wandered over and told me to throw stones at it. Why? I asked, and he said that they did bite! The dingo looked a bit pathetic to me. I think I'll take him a left over donut, just in case I bump into him again. Surely he wouldn't bite the hand that feeds him? LOL. Anyhow, off I go! Tomorrow an early start, driving to Alice Springs - it's a fair way away, at around 450ks drive! Thanks for your messages, it's good to know I'm not talking to myself! hehe
Sunday, September 6, 2009, 10:35 pm [EST]
sounds like a great experience, have fun.
Monday, September 7, 2009, 12:24 am [EST]
Wow, what a great day. The drive from Uluru to AS was great fun! As we left Uluru, the road straightened out and the speed limit was raised from 110ks to 130ks. I decided to stick with what I knew, and stayed on 110. There was no shoulders on the road and it felt quite narrow, so I drove with caution. We stopped at three separate roadhouses (that's what they call service stations here) simply because they were so interesting! The first one was about 80ks from Uluru was like something from Mad Max. Free camping next door (actually, every road house seemed to have free camp grounds - I guess to get the business at the shop) so the place was full of young Europeans. A few of the Outback Adventure type minibuses were pulled up there too (not for the fuel, it was $1.81 a litre!) for the toilet block, a weird assortment of shipping containers covered in murals. Signs pointed to Emus, Cattle Stations, and all sorts of weird things. The lady proprietor came out wearing a tshirt saying "The staff are ugly, but gee the service is good!". She was really friendly and told me all about the huge flat-topped mountain we could see sticking up out of the red sand dune desert. It was Mount Connor, and apparently although it was 4 times bigger than Uluru, it wasn't a monolith, but a monolite. Don't ask me what the difference is - something about it not being a rock, LOL. Anyhow, onward we went, passing a few strange things along the side of the desert road, a tree covered in empty bottles, tyres propped up on posts, marking the entrance to dirt tracks that seemingly lead to nowhere, but you just knew someone must have been living down there, twice we saw huge eagles eating road-killed kangaroos. The road was quite busy really. Although at no point did a car come up at the back of us (until the Stuart Highway), and we very rarely caught up with another car, there was a car coming the other way about every 5 minutes. European Campervans, Brits Campervans (I had been prewarned to watch out that they didn't forget which side of the road they were meant to be on, so my hands were continually tightening on the wheel), Tour Coaches, 4WDs, the odd weird "I'm travelling around Australia and I don't mind painting it all over my minibus/car/ute" type vehicle. We saw maybe half a dozen huge Eagles soaring in the sky above the highway, no doubt waiting for more kangaroos to be hit by cars, although we never saw any, or emus, or dingos, or even a rabbit. Just birds. We passed by one roadhouse that looked too weird, even for us, and pulled up at the end of the Lassiter Highway where it meets the main drag, the Stuart Highway. This roadhouse seemed to have a representative from every type and nationality of person at it, so we grabbed a few souvenirs and our lunch and sat to watch the show go by the window. Here we finally started seeing a few Aboriginals, as they sat about on the grass eating their fish and chips or hamburgers. I was having trouble finding any sort of baby change rooms, so poor DD1yo was being crammed onto the passenger seat for nappy changes. She had been peacefully sleeping for the first 250ks. DD3yo spent the time chatting and giggling to herself, and eating snacks, of course! With both wide awake, we set off for the final 200ks with the girls watching their favourite Wot Wots show on the laptop. We pulled up half-way at Stuarts Well, home of the famous Dinky, the singing Dingo. This Dingo lived here with his owner, a gentleman who informed us that he and his dad were responsible for pushing through the first tourist access road to Kings Canyon, a huge tourist rock canyon. He then got Dinky, a rather placid fellow who was lying on his back, paws in the air, started, by asking DD3yo to play a tune on the piano. DD3yo leapt to it and started banging the keys - Dinky was off, howling his head off. It was hilarious, we were all in stitches, except perhaps for DD1yo who was clinging to me for dear life! Outside were the obligatory yards of kangaroos and emus which the girls loved to visit. Then onwards again. I had only seen two road trains the whole time, which was a bit disappointing, but I did get to overtake one - ooooh! LOL. Hardly daring when you could see 10ks in front of you, with no car in sight. The scrubby red sand desert dunes giving way to small hillocks that eventually turned into large gum-covered hills. This wasn't how I had pictured Alice Springs! But it was, we had made it, an hour or two longer than we had planned, but well worth the decision to drive ourselves. Upon entrance to the town we saw a couple of camels pulling what looked like a Gypsy Caravan. By this time, we had learned to accept anything out of the ordinary and so we took a happy snap and continued into town. Ahah - we had found where the Aborigines were! They drifted around the town in groups, hung out at the shops, sat with their paintings, hoping to make a sale. We found our hotel in the centre of town and rushed off to dinner at a restaurant outside on the main shopping area, "the mall". It was a balmy 30 degrees after the sun had gone down, and we tucked into huge rump steaks, while the girls, amazingly well behaved, tucked into their pasta and salads. A quick evening walk, and then off to bed. Early start in the morning, goodnight!
Monday, September 7, 2009, 11:17 pm [EST]
I am typing this one now so I don't forget anything, but of course no
internet coverage out in the desert! So I'll post this one as soon as I
can, but it could be a day or two late! Well, we're having a great time,
but I wouldn't say this holiday is for relaxing! Two little kids =
exhaustion! They are having a good time, though!
We got up at the crack of dawn to get to the Alice Springs Desert Park, which was really good. It had long winding paths through different desert ecosystems that you could easily push a pram along. Because we were there at 730am, it was lovely and cool and had a huge range of desert animals to look at learn about. There was a very dark nocturnal house that was a great way to see all of the animals that are normally asleep. It was a bit sad though, as so many of them were near to extinction thanks to feral cats. The rest of the day was spent driving around AS, checking out the lookouts, the mall (where the shops and cafes are) and having afternoon tea at the Royal Flying Doctor. Then we said goodbye to our lovely hire car (a Toyota Aurion - $580 for 3 days, although if we had driven one way in reverse from AS to Uluru, we would have been hit with a $300 fee on top!) and headed off for our next form of transport - The Ghan. The Ghan is an 80 year old form of transport, a train that goes from Adelaide to Darwin, via Alice Springs. I am writing this from my bunk (which my 3yo is sharing, the 1yo has a little bed on the floor). This train is pure luxury. From the moment we arrived at the station, you could tell that this was no ordinary train trip. I think most people waiting there were quite excited to board this posh looking train. Huge Ghan signs adorned everywhere. Friendly conductors welcomed you aboard and tried to meet all of your wishes. Dining is a-la- carte, although the girls only ate the bread rolls and milk The dining car is something to behold, beautifully polished and lit - it is like travelling on the orient express! They even supplied a high chair for DD1yo - they are the only children on the whole train I think, and they are being spoiled to death by staff and pasengers alike, mostly adoring grandparents, I think! No single-mum intolerance on board at all either, which is good! And concession rate makes this piece of luxury half price - $800 for AS to Darwin, and both children (under 4s) travel free! We have a teeny ensuite with shower, fold up toilet and handbasin. The girls think it's just fabulous! Okay, off to bed, Katherine stop and sight-seeing, then Darwin tomorrow. Excuse this being disjointed - my mobile has just picked up a message, so there is obviously highway coverage here, just pressing submit!
Monday, September 7, 2009, 11:21 pm [EST]
Oh, it's Tennant Creek, that's why we have internet and phone - just saw the station signs - LOL!! 3yo is still awake in excitment of sleeping on a train!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009, 9:35 am [EST]
Good for you! Go for it girl. Love your children and live it.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009, 5:44 pm [EST]
Sounds AMAZING. Be safe and careful of dodgies and take lots of water and have a brilliant time:)
Tuesday, September 8, 2009, 7:46 pm [EST]
Tuesday, September 8, 2009, 11:02 pm [EST]
Did I say i was exhausted before? I was wrong - that wasn't exhausted -
THIS is exhausted! LOL. Got up after broken sleep from bunking with DD3yo
who ended up sleeping upside down (as they do!) for the 630am breakfast
sitting (early dinner sitting means early breakfast - damn!). We watched a
beautiful golden sunrise from our beautifully set breakfast table. With so
many waiters, I could get used to this service - if it weren't for the
kids taking up 110% of my attention, I would be revelling in being pampered
and spoiled. Speaking of which, the girls are the train mascots - everyone
adores them. Moving them through the train is like trying to get rockstars
to the stage door. People crow over them, talk to them, pet them - it's
quite cute, actually! DD1yo struts around like a wobbly Mick Jagger,
lapping it all up.
At 9am the train pulls into Katherine station, and most people pile off and into the tour buses. It's a four-hour tourist stop, and everyone is eager to check Katherine out. The landscape has drastically changed from sparse red desert dunes, to scrubby bush, finally to thick bush. In the morning, tales were told of wild pigs and donkeys. I saw donkeys, dingos and brumbies just that morning. None seemed bothered by the train - I guess they had grown used to it. The tour we had chosen was Katherine Gorge (now renamed an aboriginal name - nitmiluk). We were pre-warned to take sunblock and water, and the kids were slathered in white and appropriately tanked-up all day - it was 37 degrees, with 80% humidity, very hot indeed. By the time we got to the boats and set off the heat was rising. The gorge was amazingly beautiful, but I spent so much time reapplying sunblock, nagging "drink this - drink more!", "don't lean over the side, there could be a crocodile!", no DD1yo, don't throw your hat overboard!", etc, that I really didn't get to soak much of it up, myself. The main thing was, of course, that the kids had a ball. Simply hearing DD1 & 3yos calling oooooooooh! at each bend of the river was priceless. Half way through everyone piled out for a 700 metre rock and step hop to the second gorge to get on another boat. This was the really hot part. Carrying DD1yo who was 14 kilos was an effort over such a rocky path for such a length, and although DD3yo did fabulously well walking most of the way, I piggy-backed her for some of the way on the return walk, which was even hotter than the first one. There were some amazing rock murals there that were fascinating. Crocodile traps were dotted along the river banks, along with sandy beaches that were nesting sites for freshwater crocs (we were told the way to tell the difference between fresh water and salt water crocs, was that freshwater ones were the ones that swam away from you, salties are the ones coming right for you!) There was a bit of curiosity as to why I was there alone, but by the end of the day people were shadowing us to see that we were alright, bringing the girls iced water and chatting about them. The girls were so well behaved, as they have been for most of the trip so far - I'm very proud of them. I was happy with myself today too. Both girls were well hydrated and not the slightest bit burned or heat-stroked today. Mind you, they were very tired, and both fell asleep in the bus on the way back, so I sat there nursing them while everyone else went for a look at the town of Katherine. Then back to the Ghan, and off we went to Darwin, arriving 5:30pm. We were transferred to our lovely hotel which is a very comfortable suite with a harbour view and breakfast- a bargain at $250 a night. First thing I did was leave the girls with Mum and popped out to hunt and gather - we needed dinner! It was breath-takingly humid even after dark. It wasn't hard to find take aways and supermarkets, as the city centre is a block after block of shops, night clubs and restaurants. Many people pack the streets tonight, but in a nice safe atmosphere. Darwin so far is like a cross between Sydney and Canberra, with palm trees. It's actually really pretty. Anyhow, that's enough from me - kids are clean, fed and asleep. Time to r-e-l-a-x!!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009, 11:13 pm [EST]
Big round of applause
Go girl power
Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 11:21 am [EST]
I take my hat off you to you! I think it is wonderful that you are in the right headspace to move out of your comfort zone. I guess the secret is to have it in your mind what you want for yourself and your children and just do it, oh and to be extremelly organised. The children probably will not remember this epic journey but you always will, all the highes and hopefully not too many lows. Goodluck and ENJOY! Warm regards, Lee-Anne NCSMC (National Council of Single Mothers & their children)
Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 11:01 pm [EST]
Ahhh, a more relaxed day at last - kinda! A leisurely breakfast (if you
can call constantly running backwards and forwards from the buffet bar with
10 different requests for each child, and DD1yo calling out encouragement,
leisurely!) then we were off on a half-day visit to the near-by wetlands
and jumping crocodile cruise. DD3yo had seen a brochure with this on and,
surprisingly, decided that she would like to see this. (Tonight I reflected
that on this trip, DD3yo has gone from a crocodile-phobic, little girl that
screams when a fly is in the same room as her, to one that yells "get
off!" when a fly lands on her, and adores watching huge crocs leap for
lamb chops!) I ummed and ahhed about this tour a little, as the thought of
the two girls on a coach and possibly being too noisy did cross my mind,
however I figured that a 1 hour trip surely couldn't hurt - and it
didn't. For 99% of the time they were quiet angels, just excitedly
chattering and giggling. The rest of the small bus was half-filled with
pensioners, a few whom we had met on the Ghan. All was sweet. We saw the
most fabulous wetlands first up. I thought how happy the birds must be
there, miles and miles of grasses and swamp - apart from the crocs that
apparently moved in occasionally! Then on to the famous jumping crocodile
cruise. DD1yo saw the boat before anyone else, and immediately started
yelling and clapping her hands - she obviously enjoyed the Kathering Gorge
cruise from yesterday! Alas, as we were all boarding a poor old lady fell
down and broke her wrist, but she was ambulanced away and we were assured
she was okay. Off we went, on the wide, beautiful river - almost
immediately we got to see what we were all there for - a croc snaking his
way over to the boat. They had felt the vibrations of the boat, and knew
what was coming. They all had names, the biggest being Bogart, who was over
5 metres long, and only had one leg left. He has lost 3 legs in fights over
the years. He ate his chop sedately, and then enjoyed a head scratch with
the feeding pole! The rest all put on a stirling jumping performance. It
was kind of surreal to see these creatures so close-up, wild and free - and
just a bit scarey. DD3yo was loving it, crossing from one side of the boat
to the other to get the closest view, although she did keep yelling "your
holding my hand too tight Mummy!". DD1yo was entranced - she couldn't
take her eyes of the crocs, but her favourite part was when the sea-eagles
swooped down to steal meat of the string rods. Flocks of kites came down to
feed too, and we got to see baby crocs hanging out on the sandy shore -
they were so cute. It was a great cruise, a real sucess with the girls, and
not too long a day to be a problem with them being in a bus with other
people. Now all I have to do, is work out how to do a day at Kakadu with
them....working on it, working on it....LOL
Louise, thanks for your message!
Lee-Ann, thanks very much - I'm hoping that DD3yo will remember some parts of the trip, as she's nearly 4, and I can remember o/s trips from the same age. At the very least, they are having a ball right now, and we are all having a great time together :)
Thursday, September 10, 2009, 11:56 pm [EST]
We had a bit of a cruisey day today. We got up early and walked to the fish-feeding ($11 adults, $7 kids 3 up, no single parent concessions), along with the rest of Darwin's tourist parents. It was great, the kids loved getting in the water up to their knees and feeding the multitude of huge fish that come and nibble the bread.
Then we paid homage to the shopping gods, and saught-out the biggest shopping mall in Darwin, Casuarina via the free hotel shuttle (services most Darwin hotels). After spending too much money, we headed back to the hotel, then after a brief recharge, went over to the Imbil Beach Sunset Markets (free) - I believe that half of Darwin were there tonight, you could hardly move. Luckily the pram made headway through the masses. Wow what a diverse mix of people and stalls. Heaps of tourists, aboriginals, perhaps even some non Aboriginal Darwinians. Everyone was having a good time, bands were playing, food stalls were everywhere, and a quick glance at the beach revealed a beautiful orange sunset. Darwin is really growing on us!
The children are fast becoming little wild things, though. It's hard to get anything but bread, fruit, milk and junk food down them, apart from their 10-course breakfasts. They run about screaming and wrestling all day, cracking each other up, giggling. They adore any form of public transport, and chat to anyone going, even DD1yo, who really only has a handful of recogniseable words, but dozens that nobody can decipher!
They are now, of course, tucked up on bed after their nightly dreamtime stories that we got from Uluru - usually a blood-thirsty one - they have lovely pictures aimed at preschoolers, but the stories are pretty violent! Mind you, DD3yo thinks that this is great - LOL.
Friday, September 11, 2009, 9:47 pm [EST]
Another quiet day - mammoth breakfast followed by a walk and lunch in the mall. Darwin is so quiet, it's not like the other capital cities. They say that you can cross the road with your eyes shut here, and it's not far wrong! It is a beautiful city, with it's wide roads, lovely gardens and palms, absolutely stunning harbour of crystal blue water. There was a little playground in the middle of the mall in the shade, however it was so humid that the girls soon had red cheeks and had to be taken into airconditioning to stop them from overheating themselves - they think they can play outside like they normally do at home, but it's far too hot for that! I've uploaded a couple of pics - one may seem weird, but it's actually the biggest ceiling fan I've ever seen - even the kids were fascinated! LOL. The brand made me laugh, too. "Big-assed Fans" - I kid you not! The rest of the day was spent doing a bit of net surfing for the cheapest car and accommodation rates for Kakadu. I finally found a great hire car rate on www.ntstandby.com.au but managed to put in that I would be dropping the car back at Alice Springs airport, instead of Darwin - hmmmm, if I had unlimited funds, that would be just fine, LOL! Thanks to Dino of ntstandby for sorting that one out. Finally, all is sorted out and we head off for a night at Kakadu the day after tomorrow, then one more night in Darwin, and then fly home - sob! One more day to soak up the sights of Darwin.
Saturday, September 12, 2009, 11:16 pm [EST]
A nice relaxed day poking around the Museum and Art Gallery of Northern
Territory and the Northern Territory Military Museum - mainly to find out
about the two big events in Darwin's history (and that tour guides
constantly refer to) - Cyclone Tracey, and the World War II bombing of
Darwin. Both museums were worth a look. The Museum of Northern Territory
had a Cyclone Tracey exhibit that was really good, with a pitch-black
chamber that you could stand in to hear what a cyclone sounds like -eeirie.
The kids enjoyed some interactive bits, and we had a great lunch
overlooking the beautiful harbour at the Museum of NT. Fantastic setting,
and obviously a favourite with the locals which is always a good sign,
however it is a little on the pricey side, so not for the budget-conscious.
At this point we decided that we deserved a bit of spoiling. The Military
Museum had a theatre film on the bombing of Darwin which was what we wanted
to know about - over 65 air raids happened during WWII. Funny how I (and
apparently the rest of Australia) thought that it was only one or two
raids. Over 250 people were killed, although before any raids happened
Darwin was evacuated, and so only 2,000 people remained - and only 63 of
them were women. The kids enjoyed wandering through the lush gardens
looking at all the army hardware - tanks, guns, cannons. The main guns that
were set up on the harbour point during WWII were never fired at the enemy,
and were sold for scrap to a Japanese salvage firm in the '50's - how
ironic is that!
Another cab home (although if you pay $35 per person, there is a hop-on- hop-off bus around the city), as cabs worked out more economical with most trips totalling $12-$15, and we had time for a swim before supper - the girls loved the beautiful baby-pool with it's luke-warm water. At 6pm in the evening, the pool was probably at it's busiest - no direct sunlight and just perfect temperatures. The pool was heated by nothing more than the Darwin climate - it reached 34 today. The humidity didn't bother us at all, so either it has decreased, or we are acclimatising! But we have been still for 5 days now, and time to move on to our last location before heading back to Darwin to fly out - Kakadu! To see the pics from today please click here, and if you'd like to leave me a message on the blog, please click here
Sunday, September 13, 2009, 11:17 pm [EST]
Well holy molely it is HOT here! We drove to Kakadu this morning in our
spanky Eurocar hire car (cheapest rate in Darwin at the moment - $59 a day,
plus insurance, etc). It took about 3 hours, but that's probably a little
slow - sit on the 130 speed limit and it would be quicker. The trip was
pretty much bush, bush bush, but with the odd crocodile sign here and there
- things like, EXTREME DANGER! signs as you went over creek bridges, or
swampy stretches of the Arnhem Highway. Pretty cool, actually, although it
does make you wonder what you are meant to do if your car breaks down in
these areas, with no mobile phone service - do you become crocodiles
maltesers? crunchy on the outside, with soft centres...LOL. We immediately
noticed the temperature difference upon arriving at Jabiru - it was about
38 degrees with high humidity and whoa nelly, the only thing to do was
spend the afternoon in the pool - so we did! The girls are adoring their
swims (and so am I). Our hotel is actually in the form of a huge crocodile
- we are in it's belly somewhere. The Holiday Inn Gagudju. We had stayed
at the Holiday Inn Esplanade in Darwin, and it had been so good we figured
that we couldn't go wrong with another one. It was good to get there, as
DD1yo has been in an awful mood all morning - until we went swimming, that
is! We checked out the closest visitor centre, which wasn't too exciting,
and again, soooo hot. It seems that all of the visitor centres in NT are
way back from the car parks, so you have to lumber through the heat with
the little ones for 5 mins or so before you reach them - doesn't sound
like much, but in 38 degrees, it's enough to dehydrate them a bit. After
our swim, we waited until about 5pm when it had cooled down and drove out
to Ubirr Rock. I was excited to see Croc warning signs only 1k from the
hotel, and also wild brumby road sign warnings. Ubirr was amazing place,
5,000 old rock art everywhere you look, as clear as the day it was painted,
in places. Not too far to walk, with a pram/wheelchair path that goes for
1km, but if you want to see the good stuff, you have to abandon the pram,
and climb - so we did! Fabulous views, but we didn't make it to the very
top as DD3yo was getting tired. As a little boy about the same age in front
of us was being helped up by both his parents, I was thinking that it was
times like these that single mums have to find the extra strength to be
double the parent! DD1yo being lugged up by yours truly wasn't getting
tired, but she was chattering with excitment so loudly, the ranger giving a
speech at the lookout over Arnhem Land was entirely drowned out! So we
quietly retreated back down the rocks to the abandoned pram....phew, even
though the sun had dropped, it was still a very hot climb! Back to the
hotel we went, in search of dinner. There were no shops open in the tiny
Jabiru, just the service station - mini pizzas and garlic bread would have
to be it! A Yellow Water cruise tomorrow, so better get off to
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 12:18 am [EST]
Yawn, long day. Got up early after sleeping in the big crocodile (such a
thrill for little girls!) and headed to Yellow Water, Cooinda which is 54ks
down the Kakadu Highway. The cruise set off at 9am, but even by this time
it was hot. I must say that this would have been a gorgeous cruise in our
aluminium canopied boat, but for my ankle-biters, who were tired and cranky
after staying up until late - the curse of the shared hotel room (it's
happening again tonight). It was much easier to get them to sleep in the
separate bedroom in our Darwin hotel. So I spent most of this peaceful,
beautiful cruise wrangling the pair of them. Yellow Water is amazing - wild
brumbies graze a stones-throw from big crocs - we must have seen 20 crocs
today. Swimming, basking on the bank, fighting. One was asleep, surrounded
by hundreds of ducks who seemed not to be too bothered! We also saw huge
Jabiru which were a type of stork, and all sorts of ducks, kingfishers,
geese, you name it. Wonderful huge lotus plants and flowers floated in the
water with beady-eyed crocs dangling beneath, waiting for some unsuspecting
duck to come along... At two hours, the cruise was too long for my two
today. Whereas they adored the 1 hour jumping croc cruise - I wanted them
to enjoy the animals as they drifted about peacefully in the wild, but of
course they far preferred the crocodile circus - go figure! LOL. After the
cruise, it was back to the Croc hotel for a refreshing swim in the pool,
and then on to Darwin, with a short stop at a town called Alligator. Here
they had a cafe boasting Nickolodeon on a plasma tv - hooray, a peaceful
cup of coffee! There was also a giant pet Barramundi there in a tank - Bob
- he was very tame and very cute. But oh, it was so hot again today. i
think it stayed on about 30 degrees in the middle of the night last night
alone. Humidity was about 87% today, with the temp around 38. These
temperatures have cleared up some health problems with the girls though,
amazingly - for example, DD3yos bad chest has completely cleared up. The
rest of the trip to Darwin was fairly uneventful, until we arrived at our
airport hotel - and then promptly lost the car keys. Half an hour of
frantic searching later, it was found under one of the baby seats. Finally,
here we are, fed, watered and ready to sleeeeeep. Home tomorrow - our last
day in Darwin, and we're sad to leave it.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 12:44 am [EST]
Home again, home again, jig-a-jig jig!
Back to the everyday - ho-hum! Will write a bit more when not so knackered!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 11:11 pm [EST]
Well, typing this aboard the plane whilst DD3yo is colouring in the
Qantas kids pack and DD1yo is asleep. It's not a full flight to Brisbane
(we then fly Brisbane-Sydney), so we have two rows of seats in the middle
which means DD1yo is laid out and buckled up - I'm actually free for 10
mins - it's a single mother miracle! So I thought I had better use the
time wisely to sum up our holiday, before DD3yo hijacks the laptop for a
Well, this holiday has been really great. Tiring, there's no doubt about that, but we have been on the move for over half of it, so that's fair enough. It has been difficult to juggle the kids at times, but it was well worth it. I feel that kids of single mum families sometimes don't get the advantages that kids with a mum and a dad still together do. So to equalise the playing field, we need the finances (all of this trip was saved for and paid for by myself - we did not receive any funding, other than our concession rate on the Ghan (train) and some entry fees), the time (I'm on holiday from my work), and most importantly, a heck of a lot of energy and organisation. Now I am not the worlds best organiser, my friends will tell you that. So to organise each day's clothes, transport and activities (and this blog of course!) for each day, I have been up until the wee hours each night. Some nights I have been completely exhausted just keeping both kids attended too. I have had to change my travelling wants - instead of doing everything I have wanted to, I have had to gauge if the kids want to, or can handle it, and if they are compromised, then I can't do it - and that's that. Such as walking a long way, doing extra tours, climbing look-outs, etc.....
and that was the end of that - the baby woke up on the plane, and my quiet time was over! So I am picking up where I left off here at home, the next day.
The Northern Territory, in my opinion, was a fascinating place to visit. Lots to see and do, plenty of stuff for kids if you went looking for it. Climate-wise, I wouldn't go any later in the year than we did - I think our visit bordered on the really hot, humid weather prior to the wet season.
So, here are the facts - forgive my spelling, I'm working from memory here - if there are any obvious mistakes or memory omissions, I'll edit this later...
During our trip, we stayed at:
Voyagers Emu Walk Apartments, Yulara (Uluru) - good that you have separate bedrooms so that you can get the little ones to sleep and not disturb them, but bad in that they are split level, and with little kids, that is a fall worry, and kind of tiring going up a big flight of stairs all the time. The resort has a free self-serve laundry and even supply the washing powder - this is the place to catch up on your washing! The apartment itself is modern and comfortable. It IS expensive, but don't be fooled, cheaper rates ARE available if you check on Wotif.com.au, which Voyagers will then match (this also avoids the $5 Wotif booking fee). I saved nearly $200 this way - always check online discount accommodation websites first, if you can. The cheapest hotel to stay at at Uluru is the Pioneer Outback (same company owns them all), and they also have the only food take-away. Be aware - Yulara is expensive even if you camp, but then you kind of expect such a remote resort owned by one company to be, don't you? The nearest (85ks away) roadhouse towards Alice Springs offers free camping, so if you can plan around staying there before and after Uluru, perhaps you can save some dollars...
Aurora, Alice Springs - okay room, good location being the only hotel off the Mall (main tourist shopping area, not huge but okay). You could probably do better or worse in Alice Springs.
The Ghan (train) - horrifically expensive at $700 for Alice Springs to Darwin for Gold class (mid range, sleeper cabin with ensuite, meals included, transfers included), but it IS a fabulous way to travel. If you have the extra bucks, go for it, you only live once - and remember, concession means you pay child prices, and kids under 4 go free ;) (Red cabin class is also fine, just share ensuite with smaller cabins so you would probably spend most of your time in the suptuous lounge - cheaper (no bed) class probably not so great with kids).
Holiday Inn, Esplanade, Darwin - Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Great value for money (this was my online booking exception - I got a much better rate by phoning the front desk direct and booking through them, rather than using online discount sites). They had the most fantastic staff that can't do enough for you everywhere. Great rooms, great service, great pool, guest laundry on site ($4 per load) - this is an excellent hotel that we felt spoiled in.
The Gagadju Crocodile hotel, Jabiru (Kakadu) - Great place to stay with the novelty of it being in the shape of a big crocodile. Rooms are a little dated, but all rooms open out to the pool (child gates), which is fully shaded and has a good little kids pool. Service wasn't fabulous, however. Seems to be staffed by lots of young people (travellers?) that don't really care too much about what's going on.
Darwin Airport Resort - we stayed here for 1.5 seconds, the "Deluxe Bungalows" were hot and had insects - we moved to across the road to... Darwin Airport Inn - owned by the same company, but cool, modern rooms. The free Airport transfers (the Airport is practically next door) are an added bonus for both airport hotels
Attractions that we visited:
Uluru - $25 per adult to access the National Park for 3 days (this is long enough) which includes access to the Olgas, kids were free, but I can't remember the cut off age - I think it was 16yrs. Uluru is a great place to visit with kids - lots of Aboriginal story boards around the shorter walks of the rock, and the rock itself seemed to fascinate them. Watch the temperatures with them though - a good rule of thumb for the Northern Territory anywhere seemed to be early morning or very late afternoon.
The Olgas - Kata Tjuta - are well worth the hour-or-so round trip for a look or a walk (but again, when it's cool). A gentle warning - take whatever you need with you - there is noone at the actual sites of Uluru and the Olgas, other than - well - tourists! No water sales people, no guides, rangers or supervisors (other than emergency phones). You're on your own, and that can be just a little unerving in such a harsh environment. Make use of the Uluru cultural/tourist centre for information and maps of the site, and plan ahead - particularly with regards to the Olgas, where you are 50-odd kms away from Uluru, and the services near to there.
Alice Springs Desert Park - about $20 (concession) - I can't remember! I think I needed to pay for DD3yo too. It was good though we only had an hour and a half for this, and it wasn't long enough. Great, and educational and you won't believe the amount of animals that live in the desert. Opens at 7-ish in the morning which is a great time to go - no crowds, and cool, not cold at this time of the year (September)
Katherine Gorge - 2 Gorge cruise - $80-odd dollars tour available off of the Ghan which included the coach transfers. Coaches are only good for short periods with little kids, of course and this one was only about half an hour both ways. The cruise was split in two with a hot rocky walk between the two boats, but you do get to see an Aboriginal rock painting. The kids enjoyed this cruise as it was fairly short at 1 and a half hours for both boats and walk.
Darwin - Fish Feeding, off the Esplanade - a big hit with both kids. Times vary with the tides, so check with your hotels reception. The earlier you get there, the deeper the water is for the fish to nibble your kids toes! Make sure that they don't submerge past their knees though, they did say that box jellyfish are possible, and their sting is fatal
Adelaide River Queen Jumping Crocodile cruise (near Darwin) - one hour coach ride from Darwin or drive yourself - the kids and myself loved this, plenty of action with (almost) pet river crocs, white sea eagles and whistling kites (birds) all coming over to the boat for a feed. For those that hate the heat, there is an air-conditioned cabin below or open-top up above. There are a few companies that run jumping croc cruises, however this one is the original and I suspect they have the older colony of animals available to them. They are also reasonably cheap, at only about $25. We did it on a half-day coach trip with Oz Adventures for $100 for myself, $50 for DD3yo and DD1yo was free. A hire car would probably be around the same, if not a bit cheaper.
NT Museum & Art Gallery, Darwin - some good stuff here, and admission is free. Good Aboriginal Art, great Cyclone Tracey exhibit, nice lunch cafe Military Museum, Darwin - Admission - $10 concession, the kids were free, but I can't remember the age cut-off...it was at least under 4s! - this museum was mostly about the bombing of Darwin which is fascinating stuff, and was obviously played down a lot by the government of the period, which perpetuates today. If you have the time, take a look. Kakadu National Park - entry is free. There is one town, Jabiru, with a few hotels, camping, etc. Too many attractions to list, but we did Ubirr Rock walk (free) which had a wealth of paintings, many accessible by pram and the Yellow Water Cruise ($80 adult, kids under 4 free) which wasn't great for young kids but great for nature-lovers. Longest cruise is 2hrs, shortest is 1.5hrs. They go all day, but aim for the earliest or latest to avoid the heat. If you are driving yourself, it's 50-odd kms drive from Jabiru, or you can stay next door in the Gagadju Yellow Water Resort
Hire Cars - are expensive (www.ntstandby.com.au had the cheapest rate in Darwin), especially if you want to insure yourself against their ridiculous accident excesses of $3,000 plus. Then there are the one- way drop off fees in some cases, and the biggie for us which was excess kilometres. It seemed that all companies offered 100ks a day only, and in the NT, you soon surpass that. After that, you're up for 25-27c per kilometre. Baby seats are a further expense of around $8 a day each, and I insisted on these for both children, not just some substandard booster for DD3yo. And on top of these extras they wack you with another tax - so at the end of the day, the hire cars cost around $200-$250 per day. This was for a full-sized vehicle with full insurance. This seems a lot, but something to keep in mind, is that if you go wherever via coach, you are not just paying for your own seat, but the kids as well - the car is often (but not always) the cheaper option. Of course, there are some great reasons to go by coach - no worries about how to get somewhere, fatigue, and the added bonus of a tour guide's description of where you are going and what you are seeing. However, there are also some great advantages to driving yourself. It gives you that feeling of being in control of your own trip, "doing it yourself", stopping where and when you like. You'll see things that you just won't see on a coach or train, such as wacky roadhouses with singing Dingos! It breaks up your journey and gives you more variety. And of course, nobody cares how loud your kids are in your own car! In my case, the kids were too young for me to seriously consider driving all the way to the Northern Territory, so this was a great compromise.
The hire car companies I used were:
Hertz from Yulara (Uluru) to Alice Springs (no drop off fee this way, but go the other way and you're up for $300).
Europcar from Darwin to Kakadu and back (their full-sized vehicle is slightly smaller, but they are slightly cheaper. The baby seats weren't quite as good quality as Hertz, and the indicators were on the left-hand side - slightly annoying.
ANOTHER Kakadu option is a one-day coach trip from Darwin. AAPT, amongst other companies, run these. AAPT offered free passage to under-2yos (many NT companies charge for over-1yos, stating that Northern Territory law says that all over-1yos have their own seat) and also, AAPT had a representative out at the Imbil Sunset Markets giving out 10% off vouchers. Tours are $199 an adult, half for a child 2yrs+. This is actually a good financial option, as the tour includes a Yellow Water cruise (about $70), rock painting visits and lunch, plus a couple of other attractions. It is around 250kms to Kakadu from Darwin, so pretty good value, plus you get the bonus of the bus driver being a tour guide and telling you about everything as you go. The only trade off is that it is a VERY long day, around 12hrs, and if you have young children that may make it a less attractive option - hence, my decision to hire a car and take a couple of days to do it.
My new netbook/laptop - this little gem was worth it's weight in gold.
It served as an email-checker, blog tool, kids dvd player, photo downloader
and storer, and accommodation/attraction/flight information/booker. I kept
checking the Qantas site (not third party sites, they take longer to get
the latest prices) and actually found flights over $100 cheaper the closer
the flight day got. Ended up booking our return tickets within 3 days of
leaving for half of the normal discount price - $350 Darwin to Sydney, and
a good route and time, too. With Qantas (and probably other airlines) you
can now check-in online. You can choose where you and the kids sit in the
plane, and all you need to do is print out your boarding passes (which
hotel receptions will do for free by you emailing it to them). My little
netbook/laptop has definitely paid for itself.
Mobile phone - took it, used it occasionally
Canon Ixus camera - automatic everything - it needed to be, as most of my
photos were one-handed, quick snap jobs as I balanced a child in the other
arm! Also served as a home-movie recorder, thanks to the 2gb SD card - a
must for the single mother! Back-up all of your photos onto your
netbook/laptop if you have one and it will free up your camera SD card
DON'T forget your chargers for all of the above!!
Trunki - this little kids plastic suitcase with wheels and horns to hold onto is ingenious. It allows the kids to use it as a ride-on, or be pulled along on it (even two at a time) - great for entertaining bored, tired or cranky travelling kids. It even tows along without any kids as a great carry-on, the only minus is that it is a bit of a pain to open and close alot - if you don't do it carefully, everything falls out! The Trunki was a bit of an indulgence at around $80, but boy was it worth it! The Trunki is our new travelling friend...
Pram - I took my Phil and Ted's Sport pram, and this was a no-brainer. I needed to push both children at times and this is my everyday pram - why suffer with an el-cheapo for a trip, just because it is light-weight? I had no problems with taking my big pram, as I am used to it - take what you and the kids know and are comfortable with - when you are a single mum, this is your extra pair of hands, sometimes
A spare bag that is almost empty, or better still, fill it with money- saving food you know the kids will eat and will travel well. I took snacks, baked beans, noodles, apples, spare tea and sugar, etc, and when the food is eaten, you can use it to bring home all the toys and tshirts you are going to accumulate - kids get the same luggage allowance that adults do (with Qantas, at least) so a small spare bag gives you the chance to take them up on that option - it can go through as checked luggage, so you don't have to carry it around at the airport after check-in, and if it is small enough it can ride on top of your own large (wheely) suitcase, looped over the pull-handle
So, that's it from me in my single mother travel blog. I hope that you have enjoyed reading my ramblings and found it interesting, or maybe just a help for planning your own outback adventure :) If the Northern Territory sounds like your thing, save your pennies and go -go-go. It's exhausting when done in a condensed time period, it's not cheap either, but great fun for all, and incredibly culturally enlightening too. The Northern Territory is like no other place - you'll see Australia in a whole new light after taking a look around the Northern Territory.
Thanks for reading,
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Saturday, September 19, 2009, 6:15 pm [EST]
Well done, I've been reading every day and it makes me feel just a
little braver to take the step of going on a more adventurous holiday than
an hour up the coast - thanks for taking the time to blog your amazing
Sunday, September 20, 2009, 11:52 pm [EST]
Thank you for sharing your journey with us, you are an inspiration!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009, 1:07 am [EST]
oh, i so want to go now!