Brisbane

Oh my god we didn’t wake up until 11am. How lazy is that we must have been knackered and needed it but I’m shocked when we see the time. Felicia and Gabby’s father turns up and gives us a ride to the shopping malls. This is cool as it’s really raining heavily and we would have got soaked. We asked Toni where we could buy some cheap clothing and she suggests the local Thrifty store.

When we think about it it’s a good idea, as we need a lot of warm clothes and can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars. In the end we buy 2 jumpers, a long sleeved t-shirt and a scarf for me, a coat for Ali, a fleece and a couple of long sleeved shirts for Simon and a hat and scarf for Maisie. The whole lot came to around 55 dollars and we left pleased with our cheapo spending session.

We set off to find some internet access and ask at the library. We have to join and the internet is really slow but still we get an hour each for free and at least catch up a bit on a few emails. We spend most of the afternoon there, the kids read a bit and we try and find a relocation deal on a motor home for the next few days. No luck with that yet I guess we will have to keep trying there.

Toni left the house early this morning and when we asked her for a key she told us just to walk right in. This makes us laugh, very strange in comparison to England but nice too that she feels secure enough in this area to be able to do that.

We give her a ring and ask what they would like for dinner. Bill is arriving from Glassford this afternoon and when we’re walking around Woolworths buying the food we spy him walking up the aisle towards us. He tells us he came to find us and has left Ali sat outside watching a trolley of food. We have bought enough to feed everyone and although I’m slightly alarmed at the thought of cooking for 9 people it goes ok. I chose to cook Mexican food and it turns out well. We get Toni some flowers and chocolates to say thanks for putting us up. We share bottle of wine and have a toast to our new friendship!

It’s really cold now. I’m sat fully dressed in Felicia’s bed typing this. Tomorrow we have to try and get some stuff organised and make some plans to move on. As much as we love it here I feel guilty as we are kicking Gabby and Felicia out of their beds and I’m sure they will be glad to get them back.

Noosa

Simon went off early this morning to collect the hire car. We have managed to get a Toyota Corolla on a relocation deal for 50 dollars for the day which is considerably less than the 170 dollars our bus fare would have cost us.

We set off around 11am and after an hour or so stop at Noosa for lunch. We read that Noosa is the start of the surf and it looks to be an expensive place. In the end we got our lunch from a newsagent! Not quite what we had imagined but fairly cheap so all good.

We arrive at Brisbane airport where we have to drop off the car and give Toni a ring. She said she will come and pick us up and we’re really grateful for this as it’s a long way to her house and would cost over 60 dollars in a taxi. When we arrive her daughter Gabby is busy cooking dinner for us all. As she also has her 2 friends staying over it’s no mean feat for a 13 year old and we’re very impressed. I tell her I will take her back to England to teach Ali and Maisie some domestic skills.

Toni’s house is gorgeous a large sprawling bungalow with a massive back garden, a lovely pool and 5 cats. Maisie is in 7th heaven! It’s really great to be able to sit and chat to Toni and we show her some photo’s of our trip and talk some more about the Farmstay. It’s so kind of her to put us up and be so welcoming and it’s easy to quickly feel part of her family. At last we are all tired Toni and Gabby left Glassford for here at 4am this morning and as Toni has been at work all day she must have been exhausted. As we’re getting ready for bed Toni’s other daughter Felicia comes home. She’s 16 and has been working the evening shift at Hungry Jacks. I feel a bit awkward as I’m sat on her bed when I meet her for the first time but she’s really friendly like her mom and just grabs some clothes for the morning before saying goodnight.

Off to sleep now, it’s so good to be sleeping in a decent bed with fresh smelling sheets. ZZzzzzz!

Maisie’s Birthday

Today is Maisie’s birthday and our little girl is turning 11. Happy Birthday! I wake up around 7 dying of thirst and feeling decidedly hungover. I pray that Maisie won’t wake up for a while so I can go back to sleep but its no good she’s up and about by 7.30.

We sit in bed and she opens her presents, we bought her a Tamagotchi, the new Avril Lavigne CD, 2 tops, a pair of jeans and some jewellery. We have our breakfast and after a shower I tell her she’s in for a pampering. She loves all that and sits there like a princess flicking through magazines and reading the latest Hollywood gossip whilst I give her a manicure, pedicure and leg and foot massage. I then blowdry her hair and make her up before she gets into her new gear and we set off to McDonalds for her birthday lunch. It’s exactly what I need to cure my hangover shakiness and after stuffing ourselves full of junk we make our way to the cinema.

Shrek 3 is the choice of film and I enjoy what I see of it before falling asleep and missing the last half. Still the kids thought it was good and I guess that’s all that matters. As we ate late we’re not ready for dinner and we go back to the hostel. It’s a really fantastic place, although not that central the facilities make up for that and we decide to go and see the Didgeridoo workshop taking place later.

The fella turns up with his Didge and spends 10 minutes explaining how they go out into the outback looking for the sticks. They have been hollowed out naturally by termites and after a few months of drying out can be carved and shaped into an instrument. He must be one of the weirdest people I have ever met and in the end I have to move as I can’t stop laughing. Despite his funny explanations and really strange manner he makes the session interesting and I think Simon and Ali enjoyed it a lot. They have a go playing the thing and at last the fella plays it for us. He accompanies himself on the guitar and it is a very beautiful and moving sound conjuring up images of the boiling, deserted and arid outback.

By 10pm we’re all tired and order take out pizza before heading off to bed. Tomorrow we’re leaving Hervey Bay for Brisbane. It has been an enjoyable few days here, almost everyone who comes here visits the stunning Fraser Island but we just hadn’t got the money for that. I’m not sorry, despite our friends telling us it was one of the highlights of their OZ adventure we had such a great time at Glassford Farmstay that I’m glad we stayed there longer. At this point in our trip now we are starting to have to make some choices about what we do and we can’t afford everything. I keep thinking to myself it will give us an excuse to come back anyway!

My Birthday in Hervey Bay

Well you know, today has been a slightly different birthday to usual. Normally I wake up at Glastonbury Festival very hung-over. Last year we didn’t get our tickets and had our own little festival in Cornwall with our friends Alli and Adrian, it’s a bit strange- as I normally spend my birthday with them but its cool waking up in at Glassford Farm and I couldn’t wish for a better start to the day.

Actually that’s a bit of a lie, in all honesty it was freezing cold and I did get a bit of a fright this morning. I went for a pee first thing and when I turned around to give it a flush realised a bright green big frog was down the toilet scrabbling around!

We make our way up to the barn and as promised Bill, Toni and Nerylyn are waiting with crispy bacon for our breakfast. Its raining heavily today and we wolf our sarnies down before setting off with Rosie for Miriam Vale. I’m so sad and I have to bite back the tears when we say goodbye to Bill and Toni. As we leave Toni invites us to stay with them Brisbane at her house, how cool is that and it will of course save us some money. The Aussies are so generous and I feel a bit overwhelmed by it all, we have had the best time here and I think we have all loved every minute of it.

The bus arrives, a bit late and we get on. It’s lovely and warm and I crash out listening to Powderfinger on my MP3. Around 3 hours later we arrive in Hervey Bay. We have booked to stay at the YHA Colonial Lodge at the recommendation of our friends Marie and Carl who stayed here a few years ago. It is a lovely hostel and as a surprise Simon has booked one of the “villas” for us. It’s really nice and we quickly chuck our gear in before catching the bus back into town.

We split up for a while and Ali and I go to get Maisie some birthday presents. By now it’s quite late and although we had planned to go out I decide I would rather get some wine and a Chinese takeaway and stay in. We watch a film called The First Daughter; I read some birthday emails, open my presents (J-Lo Glow Perfume, a silver necklace and a lottery ticket that won me 30 dollars!) and speak to my Dad and one of best mates Nicky.

Don’t remember going to bed but got there somehow.

Cattle Station

Today was a bit more of a struggle to wake up but I did eventually manage to scrape my sorry bum from the bed. I’m feeling a bit tired but not too stiff and once again looking forward to a day on the ranch.

After breakfast Bill takes the kids off to milk the cows and after helping Rosie clear up we go to meet the neighbour Jack. He has turned up in his ute with 5 dogs hanging out the back of it and tells us all about their job as working cattle dogs. It’s interesting and he’s a really great character. I love hearing him explaining to Ali and Maisie how the dogs are trained and he gives us a little demonstration of their obedience skills.

The weather today is lovely and we decide we will ride this morning. After saddling up the horses we set off and ride all through the eucalyptus trees and out to the hills. It’s just awesome, so beautiful and we have the best time. I’m feeling really confident and all my long lost childhood riding skills have come back. Cantering around the fields, I let Jasper go a bit and we sneakily jump a few logs for fun. The more laidback Western style is a bit different but easy enough. Maisie has decided riding horses isn’t for her but Ali and Simon love it and we all have fun. Three hours later and we get back for lunch. Fairly hungry by now and ready for a good feed.

Bill tells us he is going to be putting up some new fencing in the afternoon and asks us to help. We all set off and before long he has us like a well organised chain gang. Gabby marks the fence, me, Jill and Ali carry the fence poles, Simon and Terry knock them in and the little kids bend the wire into shape. In a couple of hours we have fenced nearly a km of paddock and we’re all completely knackered. Its hard work and we haven’t finished until we’ve loaded the ute up with firewood.

We all pile back in and Bill lets Ali drive back. It’s not a private road; no one wears seatbelts and Simon, Gabby and Maisie are stood up in the back. Hmm! Quite scary! Anyway they all get back in one piece and Ali’s year has been made. He’s beaming from ear to ear and tells us the past three days have been his favourite experience of the whole trip!

Simon books our bus tickets and accommodation for tomorrow. Sadly we have to leave in the morning and none of us want to go. We sit chatting around the fire and Bill tells me he is going to get up early in the morning and make me a birthday bacon sandwich. Off to bed now. Exhausted but very happy.

Riding

We are sharing the guest house with Jill and her family and were woken up around 7.30 by Theo shouting at the top of his voice. Still we wanted to get up early and despite the cold we’re quickly out of bed and dressed. We make our way over to the barn and have our breakfast. Stood around the fire we look up at the sky, ominously overcast, it has been raining very heavily overnight and the ground is really boggy.

First job of the day is to milk the cows Gracie and Princess. Bill explains that they provide enough milk for the farm guests, although they have run out since we arrived due to our hot chocolate consumption! We make our way to the barn and Bill gives a quick demonstration before encouraging us to have a go. Oh my god what an experience that was! Still it’s not too difficult although Ali managed to squirt the milk almost everywhere but in the milk pail.

We take the milk back to the house for straining and watch Chris mending a bullwhip. He explains that they can cost upto 400 dollars and are all hand made. They are plaited in such a way to make them supple and use the best quality leather. He tells us he used to make them a lot. They show us how to crack the whips, although this isn’t too difficult the skill is cracking them in the right place. (Not behind your ear as I managed to do)

Bill decides we’ll ride later to give the ground a chance to dry up a bit and we all pile in the ute for a ride. Daily jobs on a ranch this size include checking the levels in the water bores. Water conservation is really importance here and even though it has rained heavily the dams we visit aren’t full. Bill explains that checking fences is also an ongoing task and he constantly checks on the cattle. The ranch breeds heifers for sale, which will be grown at other farms to a larger weight before reaching the slaughter house.

The kids really love the bit of off road 4 wheel driving and its really interesting listening to Bill telling his tales about the history of the land he obviously loves so much. He shows us the molasses lick that the cattle use, an Aboriginal shield cut from a tree and a Bull Ant nest.

We get back to the farm and its time for Chris and Dan to leave. It’s been great listening to their stories. Dan breaks horses for a living and shows us a graze on his ear he has got from taking place in a calf scruff. This involves wrestling the calf to the ground and then branding it and sounds like part job part sport. Bills parents have arrived and we’re introduced to Marie and Big Bill. After lunch we’re going riding again and despite my slightly sore arse I’m excited about this, I think we all enjoyed yesterdays ride a lot.

There are no ceremonies today and we’re expected to find our own horses and their tack. As we have all forgotten which saddles and bridles we used it does take a while but eventually we’re ready to go and set off. Lorel is also riding today for the first time in about 40 years and I admire her enthusiasm for it all. The land is stunning and I think we all feel there’s a sense of simplicity about life here on the ranch.
We ride for a couple of hours and by the end of the afternoon Simon, Ali and I are all cantering around on our horses. It’s fantastic to see Ali has gained so much confidence around the horses and enjoyed himself so much and Maisie has also trotted on Starlight. (Something she thought she couldn’t do) As everyone heads back to the farm Bill asks Simon and I to help him muster the milkers. (Rounding them up) Herding cattle on horseback was just so cool; I felt like a cowboy and absolutely loved it.

Bills girlfriend Toni arrives with her daughter Gabby and after dinner we help clear up before heading off to bed. Our original plan was to stay for one day and night but as we are having such a great time we decide to stay longer. Simon sorts this out with Bill. Hurray! How cool is that!

Glassford Creek Farmstay

Today has been for me a realisation of dreams that I have had since I was a little girl. After a long, cold and restless night we were up at 5.30am and quickly chucked on our clothes to get warm. Our taxi at 6.20 drops us at the greyhound terminal and we catch the bus to Miriam Vale two hours down the coast.

When we arrive we are met by Rosie, a cheerful Londoner who has been working for accommodation and food at Glassford Farmstay for the past few weeks. We pile into the ute and within 5 minutes are making our way along an unsealed road on the way to the farm. The scenery is breathtaking, nothing like anything else we have seen anywhere along the East Coast and I’m smitten. Rolling hills, tall gum trees and spartan looking greeny brown grass cover the land as far as we can see.

Around half an hour later we arrive, the farm is a large beef ranch with 4000 acres of land, 350 cattle and over 30 horses. We make our way up to the long drive and pull up alongside a sturdy and spacious looking white painted, wooden house. The largish barn serves as a kitchen and dining area and as it is completely freezing we’re pleased to see a basket with a log fire burning away in the middle. Rosie encourages us to make ourselves hot drinks and endless rounds of toast with local honey for breakfast. No sooner have we made a start on that than we’re interrupted by a booming voice. Attached is one of the most friendly and instantly likeable people I have met.

Bill is the owner of the farm and warmly introduces us to the other guests. A British/Australian/French family consisting of Lorel (Aussie born, lived in England for the past 40 years) Jill, her daughter (UK born lived in OZ for 10 years) Theo aged 4 and Chloe aged 3( Born in Australia) and their Dad Terry ( French).

In no time Bill announces we will be riding and after kitting ourselves out in layers and layers of shirts, cowboy hats and riding boots we follow him out to the horses. Rosie has explained to us that there are no routines or set timetables here and we can do as little or as much as we want to join in with the daily farm business. We saddle up the horses and after 5 minutes of instruction we’re off. The kids are both looking really anxious and although I have got complete faith in Bill and Rosie I can see why. This couldn’t be further from a riding school experience. Bill doesn’t like the horses to walk in single file and we make our way in our group across the absolutely awesome and beautiful, wild looking land.

We ride for about an hour and Bill gives us some great informative explanations about the wildlife, trees and cattle along the way. The kids just love it. Despite their initial nerves they’re both grinning and as I know Ali was a bit worried it’s fantastic to see him getting more confident. With a bit of encouragement he is so pleased to be able to make his horse AJ do what he wants. My horse Jasper is a dream to ride, very lively and fresh but really responsive and despite not having ridden for years I feel really confident and just love it. Maisie is riding Starlight and Simon is on Canada.
We make our way back and after sorting the horses out head to the barn for lunch. Bill has made some potato and celery soup and we have cold chicken, ham, boiled eggs and salad to go with it. So good. We were all completely freezing at this point and mugs of steaming coffee washed it all down and warmed us through.

Bill then announces we have to move Nobbsy the bull back to the pastures. Apparently he is a fantastic bull who loves his job so much he forgets to eat in between servicing the cows and therefore has been penned in for the past 3 weeks to give him a rest and feed him up! Getting Nobbsy up the ramp and into the truck is no mean feat and I was scared just watching Bill. The bull was massive and although not enraged, just pissed off enough to show Bill who’s the boss. Watching him snorting, pawing the ground and rolling his eyes whilst crashing around his pen was a scary and exciting experience. Eventually though he was in.

We set off along the road to the pasture. Four year old Theo sat on Bills lap and helped to drive. The kids loved it, racing along in a big van with Chloe and Theo whooping along as we sped up and down the hills. When we arrived Bill let Nobbsy out and once he was at a safe distance we all jumped down and listened as Bill explained more about the day to day running of a ranch this size.

Back at the house and Bills mates Chris and Dan have arrived. Another couple of cowboys, they stride in and explain how they took the back roads here to avoid detection by the local police. Having been involved in a collision with a roo they have a light missing on the car which needs replacing! Bill explains that Polocross is a very popular sport in these parts and they will give us a demonstration if we want.

They saddle up 3 horses and after a quick explanation they’re off. A cross between polo, lacrosse and rugby it’s a dangerous and thrilling looking game and we watch from the edge of the field.

We get back to the barn and have some homemade biscuits and hot chocolate. The kids feed Poppy, a hand reared baby kangaroo who has just been weaned from the bottle. It’s magical watching them and after a quick chat we decide we definitely want to stay here longer than our planned day and night.

Our dinner of roast beef cooked in a huge cast iron pot over the open fire is fantastic and we sit around the fire later listening to Don Williams. I tell Bill I know the words to the songs despite not hearing them for 25 years. He tells me he has been listening to the songs every night for the past 25 years and still doesn’t know them!

Being here is an amazing adventure and all my romantic ideas of cattle station life are coming true, sat here listening to the men chatting about cows and rodeos and drinking Bundaberg Rum. Off to bed now it’s a long cold walk in the dark to the guesthouse. Bill tells us first job of the day tomorrow is milking the cows! Yeee ha!

Botanic Gardens and Zoo

We woke up at 8am when the fella from the Glassford Farmstay called us. We decided last night that we definitely want to do this as it sounds really good fun. We arrange that we will catch the bus from Rockhampton to Miriam Vale tomorrow morning at 6.45am and he will collect us from the bus terminal at 8.55 when we arrive.

That sorted we get up quickly, we have to move out of here as unfortunately they don’t have room for us tonight but they have given us the name of another place across the bridge and overlooking the river. We have some fruit and yogurt for breakfast and load up in the van for our lift to Rockhampton Heritage Hotel. It’s costing us 80 dollars (33 quid) for a shared room with 4 bunk beds and no toilet or shower but when we arrive I’m not too bothered despite our rapidly diminishing funds. It’s very atmospheric here, from the outside very pretty with wooden trellising all around the high veranda and a kitsch 1970 look to downstairs. Upstairs though is cool, old fashioned saloon style, I feel like a cowgirl walking around this place.

Rockhampton is described as the beef capital of Australia and there are loads of steakhouses, life size cattle figurines and cowboy hats. Apparently the PC brigade haven’t reached Rocky yet and darl, gal and mate are the general terms of address for everyone here. Suits me I love all that.

We catch the bus to the Botanic Gardens. We have a long walk around the cactus and Japanese gardens before the kids play in the park for half an hour or so. We are joined over lunch by a large number of birds including Lorikeets, Peacocks, Kookaburras and some other tall white things with long bony looking beaks. Next we walk around the small zoo. The animals here are nearly all well known Australian species and we enjoy the opportunity of seeing Koalas, Cassowaries, Wallabies and Dingoes close up. As we are heading back to the bus we stop off at the small visitors centre and the lady tells us about the spiders on display and shows us a baby crocodile in a tank. As the Botanic Gardens are free we agreed it was a great way to spend the afternoon and we have had a lovely time.

Get back to the town centre and while Simon has his haircut me and the kids sit in the bar and have a drink. Tonight is 10 dollar steak and karaoke night and we have our dinner around 8pm before heading off for an early night. 5.30am start tomorrow.

Greyhound to Rockhampton

Simon woke me up early this morning. I slept like a log and it takes me ages to wake up properly. (Still swaying!) We had a quick shower and chucked on our warmest stuff before making our way up to reception where we have to wait for the courtesy bus to take us to the Greyhound Terminal at 11. It is pissing it down and fairly cold. All I can think off is the fact that I’m so glad we aren’t joining Rowan, Oscar and Jason on the sailing trip today. We hear a girl saying she has cancelled her trip as its so stormy looking.

The bus eventually arrives a bit late and we all pile on. It will take at least 7 hours to get to Rockhampton but to be honest I’m quite looking forward to sitting doing nothing all day and don’t really mind. The first hour or so goes quite quickly, the last Harry Potter film is showing and we all sit glued to it despite having seen it loads of times before. I stare out of the window as we carry on. The land is very flat, quite bare and barren looking and so much space! We seem to drive for miles without seeing anything other than fields and a few trees. I imagined as the East Coast is the most heavily populated part of Australia that we would drive past lots of towns on our way but so far it’s not been like that and we don’t see much on the way.

We stop at a truck stop around 2.30pm and have 4 of the most toxic sandwiches I have ever seen. I refuse to eat mine and save it for later when I’m really hungry and might be able to force it down. Eating cheaply and healthily here seems to be a contradiction in terms and unless we cook our own food our budget limits us to Hungry Jacks, McDonalds, Red Rooster and KFC. Despite being a junk food addict even I have got fed up with it and feel quite unhealthy these days.

I listen to my new music on my MP3 on the way and read a few magazines. At last we arrive and ring the Rockhampton YHA to come and get us. About 20 minutes walk out of town, it’s a decent hostel with porta cabin type accommodation, shared kitchen and TV lounge.

We walk to the nearest supermarket, a large Woolworths and buy lots of fruit, some salad, cheese and yogurt. None of us could face a big dinner tonight and we just picked at fruit and carrot sticks. The kids then watched TV and I sit typing this. We’re not really too sure what we’re doing here in “Rocky” but decide to sort that out tomorrow. We have a vague idea of hoping to sort out a farm stay over next few days. Tired now off to bed.