The Overland Track

Overland Track: 4 January – 10 January 2019

Many people have asked what our motivation for doing the Overland Track was. I don’t think there was any one motivating factor – it certainly hadn’t been on our bucket list for hiking for any time. We knew we wanted to spend a month in Tassie and when we started looking at what there was to do, the Overland came up and we recalled this from watching a DVD series before our lap around Oz. When we looked on the website for the track we were promised over 65kms of hiking through the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and world heritage area for Australia’s premier alpine walk.

While it had been just over 2 years since our multiple class 5 hikes throughout gorges and ranges in WA and SA when we did our lap, we felt confident that our resilience and love of the outdoors would get us through the hike, even if our fitness had dropped off a bit since coming back. I also realised that with my back injury and quirky feet, that there were limited years left for me to do something like this with the kids.

There was months of planning to be done and a lot of shopping at Anaconda for all of the gear we needed to get through the hike (the staff at Anaconda know me by name now!). Slowly but surely, piece by piece and sale by sale, we had everything we needed (possibly a few additional things that we didn’t thanks to a camping and hiking sale at Aldi).

Though we had plans to prepare well beforehand with multiple overnight hikes and other practice runs to get us ‘match fit’ for the Overland – none of these eventuated. Our one attempt at an overnight hike in the Mount Buangor State forest was an epic failure but taught us a lot about what we didn’t need to pack and the value of walking poles!

With our packs ready and weighed, a few additional snacks and meals taken out (there’s a cafe at Lake St Clair end so I removed breakfast and lunch for our final day and packed the credit card instead!), we got settled into our first night in a hotel for our last night’s sleep in a real bed with access to hot showers and electricity for a week!

Day 1: Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley (10.7km, 27 degrees forecast)

We decided on a hearty brekki to prepare us so Master 17 and I opted for scrambled eggs while Miss 9 had cereal and pancakes (breakfast of champions?!). Bushfires had broken out just south of the national park and the weather was predicted to hit 27 degrees for what is supposed to be the toughest day of the hike so I was a tad nervous and beginning to question this crazy idea! While the kids heartily ate, I struggled to get anything down before we jumped in the car and headed to the visitor information centre to grab the first shuttle bus to Ronny Creek.

At Ronnie Creek, I registered our party and we headed off along the flat duckboard start to the track after a quick selfie and Facebook post advising friends of our expected completion date should anything go wrong!

While we were likely the first public hikers to get started for the day, we soon found others joining, and passing us, along the walk as we made our way to Crater Lake. Despite the relatively early start (8.45am start), it was already pretty warm so we took off our boots and socks and enjoyed the cool refreshing water at the lake before heading off to face the steep ascent to Marions Lookout. By now the day had gotten pretty windy so we took 10 steps up the steep hill at a time to break up the steep climb ahead of us. Once at the top, we stopped for lunch trying to shelter from the extreme winds behind a rock. We took this opportunity to take off the shoes and socks and elevate them a little to avoid any swelling of feet in the heat. We reapplied sunscreen, cleaned up our lunch stuff, put our boots back on and left the day-hikers to enjoy the stunning views and shorter walk back to the car park.

We began walking along the long and exposed rocky alpine plains grateful for the wind in the heat to help cool us a little while we enjoyed great views of Cradle Mountain. Stopping at Kitchen Hut for some respite from the sun and to enjoy some of the unique history of the hut. Miss 9 was fascinated by the idea that in winter the snow can get so bad that the second story window of the hut was in fact a door and that the shovel hanging from high on the wall is used to help shovel your way out of the hut – a stark contrast to the sweltering day we were having!

We eventually got to enjoy some bush land hiking and some shaded parts of the track though we were still hot and tired and could see smoke off in the distance so when the rescue helicopter flew over, it was tempting to flag it down! Instead, I started looking for potential spots to pitch the tent as it was getting later in the afternoon and we were still a way off our first hut.

We hit the emergency ‘hut’ at nearly 5pm (though it looked more like some futuristic rounded shelter designed in the 70’s) and a sign advising that we only had an hour to go (which was lucky as we’d run out of water by that time). My feedback to Tasmania Parks and Wildlife is that they should have some indication of the kms you’ve travelled on their path markers along the way to help you to know how far you’ve come (or how far you’ve still got to go).

After 15 minutes, we hit another sign advising that we only had 30 minutes to go. The kids and I were ecstatic to know that we were nearly there! I’m not sure who timed that final 30 minutes but my guess is either their watch was broken, they had no pack on their back and ran the whole way there, or they were a sadistic soul preying on the tired hikers attempting day 1 of the Overland! Well over an hour later, and with what I could feel was the onset of a blister, we finally made it to Waterfall Valley Hut (noting that there were in fact no waterfalls to be seen). We were greeted by the friendly face of Judy the volunteer ranger who advised that despite being some of the last hikers to arrive, there were still plenty of beds available in the hut. She also advised that it got to at least 32 degrees today – no wonder we were bloody hot!

We met some other lovely Overlanders while cooking our spaghetti bolognaise for dinner and were tucked up in bed by 9pm on our wooden bunks. The hut has windows but no power so despite it still being light outside, it gets fairly dark inside and the sun rising at around 5.30am makes it fairly light by morning.

Despite it taking us 9.5 hours from start to finish (with multiple 10-30 minute breaks along the way), I was so proud of the kids for their efforts and making it through a pretty tough start to a week of more of the same.

Day 2: Waterfall Valley to Lake Windermere (7.8kms, 22 degrees forecast)

Sunrise at 5.30am after not too much sleep for me (kids seemed to have slept well even with Miss 9 sleep talking a few times). I dozed heavily between snoring from fellow campers and some late night arrivals and early morning departures.

After the first day, we were promised easier days following so we took advantage of a shorter second day by sleeping in a little to rest and recuperate. A hearty brekki of porridge with some chia seeds, cinnamon and milk powder (so yummy we might start making it like that when we get home) and we eventually set off at 12noon. (Not before Miss 9 managed to squeeze in a few games with some dice that Judy our friendly volunteer ranger had taught her – she even loaned Miss 9 the bag of die to take to the next hut for entertainment).

My feet were still pretty sore from the last part of day one so day two, while a lot shorter and flatter in terms of terrain, was still quite difficult. We stopped at Lake Will for a 30 minute lunch break but decided not to do the additional side walk to the lake itself.

Today was much colder than yesterday and we even got our gloves and hats and an extra layer on for parts of the day. With my feet being quite sore, we made an additional two stops along the way to take off our shoes and packs which the kids were grateful for too. Miss 9 was still pretty tired after a big first day.

If it weren’t for the logistical nightmare of trying to find transport from the end of the hike at Lake St Clair to our car back at Cradle Mountain (I’ve got more suggestions for Tasmanian PWS on some much-needed updates to the information on their website), I might’ve taken today as a rest day to allow the kids (and my feet) some rest time before attempting the rest of the track.

We made some additional adjustments to the packs along the way to get them right and my pack actually felt quite comfortable on my back (despite it being so heavy at 21kgs that I needed Master 17 to help lift it onto my back each day). Miss 9’s pack was slightly big for her (they don’t make hiking packs for children) so she liked to have fairly frequent breaks to take the weight off and lean forward on her hiking poles.

After 4.5 hours (including the 30 minute lunch break) through buttongrass plains, heathlands, alpine lakes and tarns (small mountain lakes), we made it to Windermere Hut and set up again inside the hut. I noted with some disappointment that our loudest snorer from the night before was also in the hut while others had opted for their tents.

We gratefully took off our hiking boots and walked down to the lake for a quick dip (this would have been the best hut to make it to on the previous day to enjoy a swim in the lake on such a hot day). While other hikers took a full swim, Master 17 went in up to his waist and I went in as far as my knees (the water was actually very mild as it is fairly shallow and warmed easily by the sun).

With some yummy cottage pie and mash potato for dinner we were off to bed as early as we could to get an early start for the longest day on the track.

Day 3: Lake Windermere to Pelion (16.8kms, 20 degrees forecast)

We were off by 9am ahead of a few of the other hikers, knowing that they would eventually catch up.

It was a cold and drizzly morning so we started the day in our raincoats, wet weather pants, and warmer clothes with Miss 9 setting a cracking pace in the light rain and wind. We traversed up over some beautiful areas, stopping briefly for a quick selfie with another hiker who was amazed that a 9 year old was doing the track (it was to inspire his own children, who were older, to do the track with him next time) before making it to the Forth Valley Lookout side track. Here we stopped for lunch while enjoying the views before getting back to the track for the last 13kms of the day.

Coming down through some of the rocky and windy areas was torture on my feet (not only had I developed blisters but my less than attractive crooked toes were very painful and I was starting to understand why others with similar conditions, had their toenails removed or toes broken to straighten!). Miss 9 flew down these areas though and I had to frequently yell out to her to check that she was still within ear shot and on the track. She’s actually very good at following a track and spotting hard to find wayfinding markers so veering off track wasn’t really a concern.

At Pelion Creek we decided that the cold weather was behind us now and removed all of our cold weather gear and took the opportunity to give our feet and backs a rest for a bit. As we entered the myrtle-beech rainforest on the Easter flanks of Mt Pelion West, we sand ‘99 bottles of beer on the wall’ to help distract us from the lengthy and windy descent under the canopy of trees into Frog Flats.

At one stage, we had thought that we surely weren’t far from the hut (it was around 5pm and we’d been walking since 9am with breaks in between) as we stopped for a final rest and contemplated a bush wee or holding out until the hut. I’m glad we opted for the bush wee as it turned out to be another 2 hours before we made it to the hut!

The last 1.5 hours were relentless – while the terrain was fairly flat and picturesque – fatigue had set in and my feet were in a great deal of pain. By this stage Miss 9 was so exhausted and I, unable to help reduce her burden, told her she could cry if she needed. So she did. For the entire final 90 minutes of our walk and it was heart breaking (and exhausting as I tried not to do the same). While the kids were asking ‘are we there yet?’ and ‘can you see that side track that’s near the hut?’ every so often, I was muttering expletives under my breath about how ‘F’ing’ far away the damn hut was. The later it got, the more I was resigned to setting up the tent when we got to camp.

Our feet were aching and we were exhausted but we kept encouraging each other and eventually, at 7pm, we stumbled into the hut where I’m sure that Veronica and Andrew (a lovely couple we’d met on the track from Sydney), had saved us the last two bunks in the entire hut. Miss 9 and I shared a top bunk while Master 17 had the other top bunk and slept alongside some of our belongings to save some space.

My feet were so sore I nearly burst into tears when I saw Veronica waiting to show us our bunks on arrival. Miss 9 recovered so quickly after dropping her pack on the bunk and couldn’t understand why mummy just needed to put her feet up before heading outside to look at the pademelons and other wildlife outside the hut.

The hut was bigger than the first two nights but was packed with a lot of additional hikers who had ventured in from other tracks to base themselves at Pelion and climb the likes of Mt Oakley and Mt Ossa.

We ate just as it was getting rather dark and then went to bed as did most other campers. There was a loud group of hikers playing cards in the common area until rather late and I was almost at the stage of getting out of bed and going out with my mum voice to tell them to pipe down, when they too, decided to head to bed.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so grateful to lay down on a wooden bed and close my eyes as I was that night.

Day 4: Pelion to Kia Ora (8.6kms, 22 degrees forecast)

By now, we had met quite a few of the other track hikers as we all started on the same day and finished at the same hut each night (there were the odd extras along the way that doubled up doing multiple days in one – my definition of madness!). While we only saw a few of them out on the track each day (usually overtaking us at some point), we saw many of them in the huts as we cooked dinner or refilled water at the tanks.

One of the other groups included a dad in his 60’s hiking with his three adult daughters (Jen, Kim and Fiona). They had noticed how bad my feet were so Kim gave me some soft lambs wool to wrap around my toes to help with my blisters and quirky toes. The ranger also had a big roll of tape that I grabbed to secure my new toe rescue and I soon had very comfy feet. Until I put them into my boots and realised that they wouldn’t fit! I had to remove a lot of the padding and just put up with sore feet (with the help of some ibuprofen, airing of my feet enroute and the odd expletive when the kids were out of earshot).

Being a shorter day than the one before, we didn’t head off until 11am after a rigorous routine of stretching led largely by Miss 9 drawing on her dance class experience to prepare us for the day.

Today was a bright and sunny day and we headed off with some tired sooky hikers who got into the rhythm of the day soon enough with a stop to take of the boots and rest the feet before continuing on to Pelion Gap. We even saw two of the yellow tailed black cockatoos along the way. After about 3.5 hours we thought we’d be very close to Pelion Gap (the halfway mark and resting spot for those doing the Mt Ossa or Mt Pelion East climbs) when we stopped for a rest in the shade and met Steven from Sydney who was hiking on his own and had started the day with a hike to Mt Oakley and was now about to lap us on his way to climb Mt Ossa! He told us that he thought he’d be at Pelion Gap within an hour which was heartbreaking for us as we thought we only had about 20 minutes until we were there (if it took him an hour, it would no doubt take us 2!). Soon after he left us, we saw him walking back towards us to advise that he was actually very wrong and that the gap was just ahead but that we should take a moment in the shade to reapply sunscreen as the next part of the track was very exposed. After all of us got sunburnt on day 1, we were most grateful for this advice!

After stopping for lunch at the Gap (where we found some shade a little way up the hill) and taking the opportunity to take our shoes off for half an hour or so, we were ready to continue on our walk wishing Steven all the best for his ascent to Mt Ossa. The currawongs are very clever on the track and renowned for opening zips and stealing food. We noticed a bag of nuts opened and spread on the boards and realised that it belonged to Veronica and Andrew so we packed them up and secured them back in their packs and rezipped their bags and laid them so the birds couldn’t get to their food again (they were off climbing Mt Ossa and had left their packs like so many others at the Gap).

After our break we put the boots back on (reluctantly) to head along the gradual descent from Pelion Gap to Kia Ora hut through the beautiful Pinestone Valley with views of the Cathedral Mountain. While this part of the track is apparently a favourite for many, my feet and blisters were awful on the way down and I found myself muttering ‘left, left, left, right, left’ just to be sure my feet kept moving!

Kim, Fiona and Jen (with their dad already ahead earlier in the day) went past us and Miss 9 suddenly gained more energy and latched onto them and flew ahead of Master 17 and I. While I wasn’t too worried about Miss 9 losing her way, I wasn’t exactly sure that she’d stuck with the girls so when she didn’t respond to Master 17 and I calling out to her, suddenly the pain in my feet was (not entirely) forgotten, and I walked as fast as I could just to ensure she was safely within eye or earshot.

We soon caught up with them all (largely due to Jen, also a mother, thinking that they should stop and allow me to catch up in case I was worried about my daughter) as they were stopped to admire an echidna next to the track.

When we arrived at the hut at 5.30pm another family that we’d met along the way with a mum plus four grown boys and teenage daughter, gave us some leftover Chilli Concarne as a ‘snack’ before we headed to Kia Ora creek and the little waterfall for a dip to cool off in the glacial waters! While I had every intention of diving into the icy waters, I only managed to get in up to my knees to help with the pain and swelling in knees, feet and ankles. Master 17 dove right in. And then jumped straight back out again – confirmation for me that it was far too cold for me to swim.

Back in the hut we met the loud group from the night before who had started the Overland the day before us and who were also the group that Judy had told us about that had one hiker with a 35kg pack (which included a 5kg keg that they drank on the first night!). Matt and Kara were very friendly and one of their party was running out of food so we gave them some of ours as we couldn’t fit in all that I’d packed for dinner that night after our rather substantial ‘snack’ prior to our swim.

We also left our second gas canister in the hut for other walkers as we had completely overestimated just how much fuel we would need to cook each day (especially since we didn’t need to boil our water, filtration tablets were enough to treat the water from the tanks each day and even then, we’d only started treating the water after day 3). We’ll start day 5 1/2 kg lighter!

Day 5: Kia Ora to Windy Ridge (Burt Nichols Hut), (9.6kms, 20 degrees forecast)

We were the last to leave the hut in the morning at around 10am to start the day with my feet already sore. We made it to the Du Cane Hut (aka Windsor Castle as it was once nicknamed – built in 1910 by Paddy Hartnett, a snorer, minor and bushman) where Miss 9 left a message in the visitor book while we enjoyed a short break.

Today we did our first ‘side hike’ – only 1km down to D’Alton Falls. We left our bags at the main track and I swapped my hiking boots and socks for my crocs (yes, I bought crocs for this hike and walking down to the falls in them was absolute bliss!). We took our lunch to the waterfall where we sat and enjoyed the view of a rainbow crossing the falls as we ate.

I was tempted to keep the crocs on for the remainder of the track (in hindsight I probably could’ve). We were enjoying the gradual climb to Du Cane Gap, using the A-Z game to keep us distracted and entertained throughout the day helped (we each had to think of something starting with each letter of the alphabet – we went through movies, animals, songs and musicians, adjectives, celebrities etc. throughout the day and I was pretty impressed with some of the songs and musicians the kids came up with).

Starting the deep descent into the bowl-like cirque of the Du Cane Range, sculpted by glaciers thousands of years ago, was tiring and painful on my feet (some glacial ice at about this time would’ve been a welcome relief). Miss 9 however, got her second wind and was off like a rocket again. Just as I was telling her that we should have no more than about half an hour to go, we spotted our first tent a short walk before reaching the Burt Nicholls Hut – a 5 star hut compared to the rest we’d stayed in! Managed to get a large top bunk space to ourselves where we set up beds, got changes and headed to the kitchen to prepare dinner.

Jen (one of the daughters) was a doctor so Master 17 asked her about popping my blisters. She happily advised that yes I should given they were all intact and giving me so much grief. She sterilised a needle for me but I was happy for her to do the popping for me (she was a paediatrician which was a lot closer to podiatrist than I was going to get!).

Dr Jen burst my blister for me (it covered the entire base of my pinky toe on the right foot) in the hopes that our final day hike might be less painful. In hindsight, I should’ve got her to burst my other one too but the pain getting the bandages off was excruciating & brought more expletives and even tears to my eyes (even after soaking in the collapsible sink we’d brought for 20 minutes).

Many of our Overland companions were leaving very early the next morning to walk to Narcissus and get straight on the ferry the next day so most were in bed very early. We were walking to Narcisuss to camp for the night as our transport wasn’t booked until the following day so we got to enjoy a bit of extra sleep and avoid the busy morning rush in the common areas.

Day 6: Windy Ridge (Burt Nicholls) to Narcissus (9kms, 15 degrees & snow forecast)

Our early morning hikers set off in the rain and it was still lightly raining by the time we set off at noon.

The final day’s hike for us as we were getting the ferry from Narcissus Hut rather than walking the final 17.5kms to Cynthia Bay. Today has no more uphill walking, just a gentle walk down the glacier’s path to the hut situated beside Lake St Clair.

The weather was a little varied today – one minute we needed the raincoats on and the next we were sweating in the sun. We bumped into our first Park Ranger – Melody – as we walked along the track (the others we had all met at each of the huts). She mentioned that the weather changing and blowing in and out like it was, was perfect for the snow on the mountain predicted for today. They do say to prepare for all kinds of weather on the Overland – starting in heatwave and bushfire conditions and finishing with snow with a bit of everything else in between is certainly ‘all kinds of weather’!

Miss 9 happily told Melody of the fresh Tasmanian Devil poo and all the wombat poo we’d been seeing along the track as well as the echidna, wombat and yellow tailed black cockatoo – all logged in her junior Overland Track guidebook.

We finally made it to the Narcissus River where Miss 9 finally got to cross the only suspension bridge on the Overland Track. It was a single person at a time cross and we were all reminded of the scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – which Master 17 enthusiastically recreated using his hiking poles as sword as he crossed.

Arriving at Narcissus Hut Master 17 and I were keen to pitch the tent for our final night (I was tempted to pitch it at Windy Ridge but got outvoted). I had carried nearly 3kgs of tent the entire track and was keen for that burden not to have been for nothing. Miss 9 was not keen on the tent however, so we slept in the hut where we met a lovely family with two young girls. Miss 9 was so excited to see other children (there were no others doing the Overland) that she happily played and chatted to them until bedtime.

Day 7: Narcissus Hut to Lake St Clair

Leaving the next morning on the ferry, we exchanged phone numbers with the family who live just outside of Hobart on a small farm and were happy to have us camp there for a few nights when we got to Hobart for some exploring. We always seem to meet the most lovely people in the most remote areas!

We got off the ferry and took our final celebratory photo at the end of the Overland Track marker before signing us out of the registration book as home safe where we happily saw the names of a few of our other fellow hikers (many others were doing the additional hikes to Pine Valley and continuing on foot to Cynthia Bay).

Breakfast at the cafe and returning our EPIRB to the visitor centre and boarding the Overland Track mini bus with 7 others who were about to start the track for the 3.5 hour bus ride back to Cradle Mountain. We stopped off at Queenstown for a yummy lunch and enjoyed some breathtaking views as we drove – including those that we had seen up close and personal during our hike.

We gratefully checked into our upgrade deluxe spa room at the hotel and ordered room service dinner after some nice hot showers. Feeling refreshed we drove to Dove Lake to watch the sunset and reflect on the remarkable achievement we had just made. I am so incredibly proud of the kids and the resilience, compassion, humour and grace they displayed throughout our latest adventure!

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Swamp tales

While our big adventure in 2016 was as much a trip of a lifetime with my kids as it was a time of healing for me, I’m thinking that this latest adventure might be a journey of self discovery.

We spent the first day of the New Year on a day trip to the North West of Tasmania to Tarkine and the dismal swamp. Not sure what I thought I’d discover in a swamp about myself but I was reminded just how much the mozzies love me!

To get into the ‘swamp’ (aka the largest draining sinkhole in the Southern Hemisphere) you get to don a helmet and hair net, lay down on a mat and slide down a 110 metre slide in just 15 seconds! The ride did advise that those with neck or back injuries shouldn’t go down the slide but I loathe the idea that the action of one aggressive drunk have left me with a lifelong injury and chronic pain so I ignored this and followed the kids down the slide (it was just a slide after all – what could be the harm?). Needless to say, I paid the price (and I’m not just talking about the rather exorbitant entry fee to walk around 1.2km of swamp pathways).

After some cursing, deep breathing and stretching, the kids and I meandered around a series of pathways learning ore about the sinkhole, and now state forest, and meeting the very cute pademelon – a small wallaby-looking native.

Being stuck in a sinkhole and surviving ‘off the land’ might not be so bad though – there were a lot of crayfish holes dotted all throughout the forest – I could think of worse to have to dine on to survive.

After a bite to eat we headed back via Stanley – a picturesque seaside town. As we approached we could see a giant sized lego looking block looming large in the distance. This turned out to be the ‘Nut’ (owing to a one time attempt to drill through the ancient volcano core only to find it was a ‘hard nut to crack’).

We drove to the base of the Nut and took a chairlift to the top to take in some of the 360 degrees views from the top. I think Melbourne might have some competition for the title of ‘four seasons in one day’ – we went from freezing winds that made your eyes water, to balmy breezes and then blazing hot sun as we walked the 2km track taking in multiple viewing platforms.

Other than the breathtaking views of the town, Bass Strait and surrounding national park, the Nut seemed to have a very large and very friendly population of beautiful butterflies and the odd unique tree for hiding under or climbing along the way.

Back to camp for a swim in the pool after dinner – not a bad first day of the year.

To help prepare us for our pending Overland Track hike, I’d booked Master 17 and I into massages the next day to help loosen any tight muscles.

We took advantage of these appointments to grab a few things from the shops and check out the Information Centre and Makers Workshops where we got to try our hand at making some denim paper with subtle Tasmanian icon animals embossed into the paper.

Fish Frenzy was recommended for lunch so we headed there for a yummy lunch overlooking the foreshore before the kids enjoyed a swim in the ocean and I got my calves wet – despite it being a pretty hot 25 degree day, it felt more like a 35 degree day in Melbourne).

After a few hours we headed back to camp for some chill time and dinner. After dinner, we headed back to the Makers Workshop car park to join some lovely volunteers for a talk on little penguins (formerly fairy penguins) and some penguin spotting after dark. The fluffy babies looked very cute until mum or dad arrive back from a day at sea eating and they pounced on their parents for dinner. It was pretty amazing to see a colony of penguins so close to the CBD – something I thought only Melbourne/St Kilda had to offer.

Off to bed for our final night in Burnie drifting off to the sounds of the ocean.

Mermaids in Burnie

Despite some noisy ‘C’mon kids we need to have an early night cos I’ve got lots of driving to do tomorrow’ camp neighbours kicking on late into the night, we all got a good night sleep and woke to the melodic tunes of neighbouring roosters harmonising with the local kookaburras (at 5am!).

It was a sunny 22 degrees in Burnie so we walked from the caravan park across the road to the beach for some lunch and afternoon in the sun (after a morning hitting the shops for some essential – and not so essential – items, including an inflatable mermaid tail).

The water seemed freezing to me but Miss 9 and Master 17 were happy splashing around while I got on with the job of blowing up the mermaid tail. I quickly grew disinterested in using my yoga breath for inflation purposes so Master 17 volunteered to walk back to the van to blow it up with the air compressor while Miss 9 and I played in the sand.

We soon heard Master 17 returning (from the distinct tooting of passing cars) before seeing him emerge from the Bass Hwy draped in a giant teal coloured inflatable mermaid tail. The kids were quickly in the water leaving me with the novel I’d planned on finishing on the sail over from Melbourne. The kids eventually retreated to the sand where they got stuck into their favourite beach pastime of burying Master 17 in the sand and digging holes, building moats and sand castles and eventually burying Miss 9 all the way up to her neck (my little girl is growing up?!). After hours at the beach, we all had a little bit too much sun (I could never imagine going to a beach in Melbourne if the weather was only 22 degrees – being closer to the hole in the ozone sure makes for some different heat).

We headed to the foreshore for some food and New Year’s Eve festivities. Miss 9 carefully chose her face painter based solely on their ability to paint an animal face and left happy with her new tiger looks. The two thrill seekers then boarded the Lethal Weapon ride on full stomachs before we headed to the beach.

On the beach was a giant bonfire with some mega logs giving off great flames and heat – enough to be the envy of any campfire loving traveller!

Young circus performers played with fire as they juggled, swung hoola hoops and jumped skipping ropes to the beat of a live drum performance. Soon after a spectacular fireworks display went off while we stood on the beach watching.

Despite the great weather, music, bonfire, some wild glowing hair and front row seats among a growing crowd, team kickarse were anything but, and retreated back to camp around 11pm to see in the rest of the New Year from the camper.

Heads eventually drifted off at midnight to the sounds of the pops and bursts from the final fireworks display. And so 2019 and the next chapter in our adventures begin…

Sail away

After a massive year in 2018 (including parenting largely on my own with the patience and help of Master 17 and Miss 9) I was exhausted and feeling a lot older than I actually recall being!

I decided to chop all of my hair off and soon realised that I was my mum! My mum is an incredibly resilient and youthful woman but it was a shock to see her reflection in the mirror – especially since we’re so vastly different in so many other ways. I really want my own identity – seperate to my mum and to my role as mum (though that is a role I cherish and find incredibly important, rewarding and challenging).

I’ve been looking forward to the end of the year and the start of four weeks leave to get on the road and into nature again with the kids to discover a bit of Tasmania and rediscover myself and my family.

After a fairly solid day of packing and getting the final preparations underway, we were up at 5.30am (at least I was) to head off to Port Melbourne to board the Spirit of Tasmania for a day of sailing. We woke to some fairly dismal weather after a preceding week of heatwave but grabbed some hot drinks on the way and boarded the ship by 8am. I had booked us some recliners for the trip so that the kids could chill and rest if they needed so after dropping some stuff at our chairs, we went for a walk.

The ship has a cinema so I booked us three of the final six tickets to see ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ at 4pm and was looking forward to seeing with my Queen loving kids.

After a brief walk around the boat, we headed to our chairs to settle and I decided to take a natural ginger travacalm tablet (just in case) and settle back for a quick nap before getting stuck into my novel, taking Miss 9 to get her face painted, walking the deck, enjoying lunch in the cafe and then our movie.

I dozed for about an hour before receiving a surprise phone call (the teens seated next to us were providing running commentary throughout the trip on the availability of the 4G network!) and then grabbed some snacks to keep us going until lunchtime (it seems in my packing regime and attempts to empty the food in the fridge at home before we left, I neglected to pack any snacks for our sail!).

And that’s about where my plans took a sharp detour. I quickly went from feeling old and tired and ready for a relaxing read, to feeling 21 and hungover as hell! Reclining at the tail end (boat lingo is clearly not my thing) of the boat sailing the Bass Strait was a queezy ride indeed! Our daytime cruise consisted of me dozing between regular ginger tablets and deep yoga breathing (a handy skill learned while pregnant 18 years ago and etched in memory), I tried to join the kids for lunch and the movie but couldn’t manage it and Master 17 ended up watching the movie solo while Miss 9 kept me company until we reached Davenport.

Down on the car deck, Miss 9 was most pleased that all of the dogs were being reunited with their owners (she’d burst into tears when we parked and could hear some of them barking all alone). We were off the ship fairly quickly and on our way to Burnie to make camp for a few days.

Thank goodness for daylight savings – we arrived at camp at 8pm and quickly set up before heading into town to grab some food to rustle up dinner, Turns out 8.30pm on a Sunday isn’t ideal for food service so we ended up at a drive through before heading back to camp for a good nights sleep in the trusty Dove and the first night of our next instalment of 2 kids a camper and a kick arse mum adventures.