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Mollymook

Moving on again today. We packed a lot of things last night, so after breakfast we finished off with packing our sheets, wash bag, electronics and food stuff. Before leaving I gave it a final sweep downstairs, Tim checked around the house for any stray things and then we were off at around 9.00am.

I had read about the triangle Milton, Mollymook and Ulladulla. Milton is a little old village set in the beautiful green countryside and my plan was to have a little wander around. As it turned out, we drove down the main street and that satisfied me enough. We felt it was a bit like Berry, loads of cafes and craft shops, but on a much smaller scale. Maybe if it was just Tim and me, we might have stopped and looked around, but I don’t think the girls were too keen to go from shop to shop.

We carried on to Mollymook Beach. A beautiful long stretch of white sand, crashing waves, sunshine and blue sky, a group of surfers in the water and … some bluebottles on the beach! Ellen had a point when she asked why there weren’t any signs up warning people about the little jellyfish. We spent a short time on the beach, watching the waves and the surfers, and thinking about Ellen’s friend Molly Snook! (One of the reasons why we *had* to see this beach.)

Mollymook beach.
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We returned to Princes Highway and stopped at the Rainbow Pie shop. We weren’t interested in pies as it was too hot, but instead entered the shop around the back, where it had been turned into a lolly shop. (“Lollies” seems to be the word for “sweeties” down under.) Behind the counter there was shelf after shelf stacked with big jars filled with different sweets. Behind us were shelves stacked with prepacked sweets bags. Hannah chose a 100gr bag of “conversation hearts”, Ellen and the grown ups found it a lot harder to decide. Hannah’s sweets would have cost $3.50/100gr, but then the girl behind the counter said we could choose 3 lots of 100gr from any jar for only $3! We ended up doing just that, Hannah got her “conversation hearts”, Ellen chose fruity flavoured sweets and the grown ups settled for “sour lizards” (which weren’t sour at all!).

I wanted to stop in Ulladulla, just because it’s such a funny name. But again driving through the main street was enough to get some idea of the town. Again not an awful lot to see apart from shops and cafes.

We pressed on to Batemans Bay, which we reached just before lunch time. Before reaching Clyde Street (one of the main streets), we had to cross a bridge. As we approached it, the lights went red, and the middle of the bridge was raised to let through a couple of boats. Then it was lowered again and we could cross over.

We parked near the water and popped into Woolworths where we bought a couscous salad and two small tins of tuna mayonnaise and crackers. We ate at the beautifully done up picnic area across the road which consisted of tables, benches and stools facing the water.
Batemans Bay Panorama

Before driving on to Narooma, our final destination for the day, we stopped at the Birdland Animal Park. All in all, we spent over two hours in this small but well laid out and wooded park. Here we saw the “Seven Little Turtles”, snakes, cuckatoos, wallaroos, kangaroos, deer, wombats, lizards, peackocks, koalas, ostriches and emus.

Slightly demented emu.
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Grub spotted by Ellen; is it a witchetty?
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We do get sunshine sometimes…
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I don’t think they noticed us.
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‘Python’ Price
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and daughters.
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Kirsten with baby wombat.
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For a while we were the only visitors and the girls loved photographing all the different animals and having a good run around at the playground.

About half way through our visit we made our way back to the half shaded circle for a talk about snakes and baby wombats. The ranger brought out two snakes for visitors to handle. Although Ellen really wanted to hold the snake, she changed her mind at the end and was happy just having the tail rest on her hand while Tim had the snake on his shoulders. Hannah also had a go at holding part of the snake. Both snakes had shed their old skin over the last couple of days and their new skin felt really smooth and nice.

After she had put the snakes away, out came Peanut, the baby wombat. She was about 8 months old and loved being held like a baby. She felt pretty heavy and not at all soft. The girls weren’t allowed to hold her, but were happy enough just patting her instead.

Although it was interesting to be able to handle some animals, the talk itself was pretty short and not particularly informative (i.e. no new bits of information).

One of the other visitors had kindly passed his bag of animal food to the girls, so around the park we went again, this time feeding deer and birds. Then it was time to wash our hands again, and feed ourselves. We enjoyed our ice creams at a picnic table in the shade.

At around 4.45pm we arrived at the Ecotel in Narooma, where we had booked a room for the next three nights. Tim checked us in and came out of reception carrying a cooking stove, saucepan and frying pan. Our accommodation is one big room with two single beds and one king size bed. It also has a small fridge, kitchenette and small bathroom with shower. What I like the most is the enormous window overlooking trees and with a small view of the lake and the rest of the town.

We decided to have a little rest before heading out in search of supper. And what a search it turned into! We are based at the top of the town, then you drive across the flat and up the hill at the other side. Up the hill there should be a shopping centre with a Woolworths and Italian eating place. Could we find it? Back down the hill again in search of the information place, which had shut by now but had a map or two up on the wall. It turned out that the shopping centre was even further up the hill. So back up the hill, this time we did find it and bought a loaf of bread for breakfast tomorrow and then couldn’t find the Italian place at all! After walking around the whole of the shopping centre we gave up and headed back into town. Along the flat we found a fish and chips shop and bought two very tasty pieces of Barramundi fish and a medium size box of chips. By now we were all flagging as we were getting pretty hungry, and I’m happy to say that hardly any food was left over!

Something else that made us all happy was the fact that Ellen’s foot wasn’t hurting anymore, the swelling went down and now she has three distinct red lines along the side of her right foot. She is able to wear her sandals and walk, run and skip properly. There was a short message to her from the Firth family (another RTW family from the UK) which cheered her up even more.

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Bluebottle beach

Our sunny day arrived as promised. Great drying weather, so Kirsten did a final load of washing and hung it on the line to dry. The girls were delighted to catch an episode of An Vrombaut’s charming ’64 Zoo Lane’ on Australian TV, despite being ‘too grown up’ most of the time to watch it on their Zen players; must be the warm memories with seeing it at home. We then popped into Huskisson Bakery for some bread rolls (our sliced loaf had gone mouldy in the warm, humid air) and some treats for tea.

A nice healthy lunch at home (salad and tuna on fresh rolls) and then we mad-dogged it down to the beach in the noon-day sun. Now, which beach? We drove past a pleasant spot on the way to Vincentia, then tried to find Greenfields Beach (which features in tourist brochures), but it must be one of these places with no road access – we couldn’t see how to get there. So we returned to Hyams Beach only to find it packed with cars and no room to park in the shade. Much too busy.

Our Booderee Park ticket was still valid for today so we went back to Iluka (where we had our damp picnic lunch yesterday). The car park was empty but for us, and we had a vast stretch of beach to ourselves; just a few campers a long way down to our right. Yes, this would do nicely. Not too much in the way of shade, but there was a gentle breeze and we had our hats, sun cream and UV tops for the girls. The waves were not too rough, the shore shelved gently and the sand was beautifully soft (and slightly squeaky) under foot. A perfect spot.
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We spread out our towels, left our bags and ran into the water. An ideal temperature, pleasantly warm whether in or out of the waves. I floated on my back, bobbing with the swell; the girls splashed around in the shallows squealing as the gentle breakers caught them.
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We emerged for some cubes of refreshingly cold watermelon before having a quick sunbathe. Then back into the sea again to cool off. Ellen pointed out the occasional blob of jelly washed up on the shore, the size of a large coin with dark blue strands squiggled over the sand. We weren’t quite sure what damage they’d do to us so we kept our distance. However, there were no warning notices around these beaches and we understood that all the really dangerous jellyfish were to be found further up the coast in the tropical waters off Queensland.

So when Ellen suddenly started screaming in pain we felt sick with worry and concern for her, but at least we had some idea what might be the matter. A couple of blue strands were stuck to the side of her foot, so we removed these with a towel and washed the area with one of our bottles of drinking water. Ellen is a tough cookie – a fall with scraped knees does not bring many tears from her – but this time she carried on crying and was obviously in excruciating pain. We felt so helpless as parents; you wish you could take the injury upon yourself instead and spare your child. So we packed everything up, Kirsten carried Ellen to the car and we drove to the nearest chemist’s in Vincentia.
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We had great faith that they’d know exactly what to do; this must be a common problem around here. But the girl who came to help us confessed that she’d only just moved to the coast, so was it warm water or cold water you’re supposed to treat the injury with? Her colleagues came to the conclusion that it was probably warm water and that the offending creature was a Bluebottle. Meanwhile, Ellen could have a dose of antihistamine syrup (we later read the label and it’s intended for hayfever and allergies) and we could give her ordinary painkillers. We returned to the car, gave her ibuprofen and applied some antihistamine cream from our first aid kit.

We stopped in Huskisson for a second opinion from the pharmacist there. He said that warm/hot water denatures the proteins causing the sting, but that it only really helps if applied immediately (tricky if you don’t have a Thermos flask with you on the beach). Fortunately Ellen’s pain was starting to subside and we all went for a therapeutic (and messy) ice cream.

Back in Woollamia Ellen rested on the sofa for the remainder of the day and started to feel a lot better; she stayed up with Hannah to watch the latest instalment of the addictive ‘My Kitchen Rules’, a sort of souped-up ‘Come Dine With Me’ in which five Australian couples take it in turns to prepare a three-course meal for each other, with the added pressure of two renowned chefs who contribute the major share of the points when voting.

Ellen will have some blisters but should recover in two or three days; at least tomorrow is a travelling day so she can take it easy. When she came to write her diary she was clear that she didn’t want to mention anything about today’s incident – she simply wants to forget about it.

The power of the Internet reveals that our Bluebottle jellyfish is another name for the Portuguese Man o’ War (I’ve certainly heard of that) and that strictly speaking, it’s not a jellyfish at all but four coexisting colonies of creatures that all depend on each other for survival. But mainly that the sting is extremely painful. Poor Ellen.

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Booderee kangaroos

Our second day in Jervis Bay and we were determined to see something of this area after our Blue Mountains washout. The forecast indicated an overcast day with a 10% chance of precipitation so we packed snacks and raincoats and drove towards Booderee National Park at the tip of the southern curl of Jervis Bay.

Of course the drizzle set in almost straightaway and we debated whether to turn back; a day getting soaked isn’t much fun, nor is sitting in a car in a beautiful park wishing we could be out exploring.

We decided to check out a few sights anyway so we would have some idea where to return to if it turned out fine tomorrow. First stop was Hyam’s Beach, reputedly with the whitest sand in the world. But when we reached the settlement there was precious little indication which way we should go; we randomly turned left and found no ‘this way to the beach’ sign. So we turned round – and spotted our first wild kangaroo, grazing in a picnic area! We pulled over to snap it as it had its breakfast and it stared back at us in quiet resignation – “here we go again; haven’t you seen a kangaroo before?”
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Down the other end of the village we found a parking area. The rain eased off for just long enough to let us dash down to the sea and back to the car again. Yes, the sand was quite dazzling considering what a leaden sky there was, but does it really out-white every other beach on the planet? I’m not convinced.
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Then on to the Aboriginal-owned National Park where we paid our $10 for a two-day pass. We collected leaflets from the Visitor Centre where the staff were fielding a constant stream of campsite bookings on the phone – it’s a popular spot, it seems.

The Botanical Gardens were not far away so we squeezed them in before lunch. Fortunately, the rain held off for much of the rest of our time in the park, leaving us with a comfortably warm day with no direct sunshine. Sadly, the interesting programme of activities only ran during school holidays so we missed out on tours of the Koori Garden (with its medicinal plants used by the local Koori people). Instead we wandered the paths with the whole place nearly to ourselves (just two other visitors there). My favourite-named tree must be the Scribbly Gum; when we saw it, all became clear.
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By now it was lunch time so we drove on to Jervis Bay Village Store for a couple of sandwiches. We ate these at a damp picnic table near Iluka, one of the many sandy beaches along the northern shore. Heavy breakers crashing into the shore despite the supposedly sheltered location within Jervis Bay.

We headed east along the ‘backbone’ road of the park (past another grazing kangaroo) and stopped at the intriguingly-named ‘hole in the wall’ – is that where you can get money out of a sand-bank? We walked down a 400-metre access path and found the calmest beach of the day. The sand was littered with all manner of pretty shells, and the girls assembled their collections of favourites.

A view to our right of a low strip of rock jutting out with a crumbled section in the middle – the hole. We walked along to the gap past rock pools (a few darting little fish) and flocks of red and blue parrots startled from the trees. It was still overcast, but we were happy to be outside, just pottering around the countryside, stopping where we liked and when we liked. Not in search of any great tourist ‘must-do’, but open to small unexpected moments. This is what we have been waiting for from Australia; let’s hope there’s much more to come.

The hole in the wall.
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When the rain looked like it was returning in earnest we decided to call it a day and drove back home for tea. One scary moment when a large black spider (it could span a tea cup) appeared on the living room window; fortunately it was on the outside.

We’re still hoping for sunshine tomorrow to let us take a dip at one of our beaches. We’ve had a week of rain now; that’s quite enough.

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Knock on the head

After a fairly good night’s sleep we were woken by… yes, you’ve guessed it right… yet another shower. Apparently, all this rain is quite unusual for this time of year, but at least the catchment areas are filling up nicely. It’s just that we’ve had enough of it now!

We spent the first half of the morning catching up on washing and the girls had a great time playing table tennis and listening to a children’s CD and dancing away to the music. Wherever we stay, they will always find something to do.

Suddenly the rain started to ease off and by now Peter, the owner, had turned up to cut the grass. He had warned us about it, but with all this wet weather we didn’t think he would turn up. Time to introduce ourselves and confess that I had driven over a plastic cover and cracked it. He was pretty cool about it and just casually mentioned that he would have it fixed. Phew!

Off we went to Huskisson, the nearest bigger town in the hope of finding a better internet/mobile phone connection. We drove to the Lookout Point and daydreamed about how nice and lovely it would look in dry and sunny weather. According to the forecast it should be wet on Monday and Tuesday and sunny on Wednesday. But that’s when we moving on! We considered maybe staying an extra day to enjoy this area in beautiful weather, but it would mean packing up and moving into different accommodation just for one night.

After sending a text message home to wish my mum a happy birthday, we drove back to Nowra’s Stockland shopping centre in search of leggings or thin tracksuit bottoms for the girls. The trousers we bought in Bolivia are beginning to get a little short, but they would also be too thick and hot for Ayers Rock, Darwin and South East Asia in a few weeks’ time.

Once there we had no problems finding a good selection in KMart. Hannah settled for a light grey pair of leggings (which can also be worn underneath a dress/skirt) and Ellen chose light grey and light weight tracksuit bottoms.

By now it was time for lunch (and the drizzle had set in again) and the girls couldn’t believe their luck when we spotted a Subway. We had already seen several of these in Australia but usually at times when we had our own picnic lunches. The girls were happy to share one drink and one big roll with ham, tomatoes, cucumber and mayonnaise and chose a cookie each. We didn’t hear them for the next half hour …

Tim took the girls back to the car afterwards while I quickly dashed into Woolworths to get a few boring items like kitchen towel and hand soap. In the meantime Tim had managed to get an internet connection and booked our next accommodation at Narooma’s Ecotel.

On the way home we needed to get petrol and I have been dreading this, what with our record of things going wrong recently. We tried to find out which petrol to get by looking in the car manual and were really worried when I read something about LPG! I got out and opened the “fuel flipper flap” (not my words – that’s what they call it in the manual) and was immensely relieved when it mentioned the words “unleaded fuel only”. We topped up, paid by credit card (!) and off we went back home with a full tank. Over 500km worth of petrol left in the tank, that should easily get us to the next place.

Back at home we all took turns playing table tennis and one of us even got hit on the forehead. No, I won’t say who, but it was an excellent shot! The drizzle had stopped so we ventured out into our back garden which goes down to Currambene river, where the girls had fun playing with sticks.
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Crimson Rosellas in the garden.
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Our house, nestled among posh neighbours.
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Too soon it was time to get back inside, hang up yet another load of washing, put the girls in the bath and potatoes in the oven, make tuna/mayonnaise, grate cheese, wash lettuce, chop cucumber and tomatoes, warm up beans – sit down and eat supper.

Hannah and Ellen then happily typed a message each to Oma to wish her a happy birthday and then we drove back to Huskisson to phone her and send the emails.

When we checked the weather again, it had improved and tomorrow should be dry and Tuesday should be sunny. That means we should finally be able to get out and really enjoy this beautiful area with lovely white beaches and nature parks.

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Something of an Apollo 13 feel to our time in Australia so far; a string of technical problems and failures one after the other, requiring all our ingenuity to overcome them. Today we cleared out of our cabin in the Blue Mountains (we had 100mm of rain overnight, and we sure heard it), got the SatNav set up and made our way back down towards the coast. But the little gizmo that plugs into the cigar lighter to power Lady TomTom went on the blink almost immediately, requiring Kirsten’s magic touch to get it to work at all, with every bump of the road then breaking the connection again.

Soon it had degenerated to such an extent that Lady TomTom’s battery was flat so we turned off into Springfield to park. A rummage around in the boot to cobble together an alternative power source – another gadget that converts the car power socket’s 12 volts up to 240 volts AC, then a mains power adaptor to bring it down to 5 volts DC for Lady TT. Fortunately she was happy with this Heath Robinson solution so we continued our journey in her capable hands.

We cut across a corner to bypass Sydney, heading past Camden and Picton (we visited their namesakes in the USA and NZ respectively) to Wollongong where we picked up the Princes Highway (no, don’t know where the apostrophe should go; they never seem to use it) which runs around a fair portion of Australia’s coast. It turned dry for a while so we stopped to have our sandwiches (Hannah made them for us this morning) at a rest area.

Soon the rain resumed and the rest of the journey was in miserable drizzle. We attempted to stop in Berry (full of craft shops and nice places to eat), but even on a wet Saturday it was so popular with Sydneysiders and tourists that we could find absolutely nowhere to park. So we pressed on to Nowra and got directions to a big shopping centre with a KMart and a Woolworths. The former provided us with sets of bed linen (seems we’ll need our own sheets most of the time given our strict budget) as well as new footwear for the girls. We got a few days’ provisions at Woolworths (my debit card doesn’t work at this branch either) before driving on to our destination in Woollamia.

We got there just in time for tea. There’s plenty of space in this holiday home even if it’s a bit musty and tatty in places, and it’s tucked away in a quiet spot in Jervis Bay. Can’t say much about the surroundings as the weather has stayed too grotty to get out; the forecast is more of the same for Sunday and Monday but maybe our last day here will be fine…

This evening the ‘My Documents’ area of the laptop failed, becoming so corrupted that we are now barred from accessing anything stored there. At least we’re up to date with uploading our blog entries so we haven’t lost any text, but we are left wondering what is going to go wrong next. And at least the Apollo 13 mission returned home safely, so we’ll stick with that analogy…

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