Townsville & Magnetic Island, Australia

Once upon a time, many countries ago, I set off around the world all bright eyed and bushy tailed, alive with adventure. This week I was reminded of that feeling by the most unexpected of things – traveling with two babies under the age of 2.

The joy in my toddlers face as she eyed up our simple twin room and gasped “We sleep in the hotel” was just gorgeous. Less joyace when she repeated it at 1am, 4am, 6am, but never the less we’re glad she’s a keeno travel lover.

We were only in Townsville for a few hours, between the late night flight and lunchtime ferry. My husband fondly reminisced about the time he lived here over a decade ago, and threw in the intriguing fact that there’s a bar with a round pool table (Flynn’s Irish Bar.) How did I not get to see this! Oh yes, because we’ve swapped Irish Bars for crack of dawn walks to kids parks instead.

The Strand was perfect for this with beautiful Gothic trees to hide-and seek around. Sadly we missed the (free!) water park and instead grabbed a lazy breakfast at a foreshore cafe with killer views over to Magnetic Island.

‘Maggie’ is delightful. We were here for a family wedding on Picnic Bay beach but easily filled 8 days here. I’m grateful for 3 new discoveries; 1) Winning a jug of beer at Trivia night at local backpackers – ah the good old days! 2) Adding the new word ‘Moke‘ to my vocabulary. And…

3) The unique experience of riding bareback and barefoot on a beautiful early morning trail ride of the aptly named Horseshoe Bay.  It was a fitting send off to remember my recently deceased childhood pony, and an achievement in itself squeezing into a stinger suit and galloping through the Australian bush 12 weeks after giving birth.

Where we stayed:

The Ville Resort Townsville – http://www.the-ville.com.au/

Bluehaven Holiday House, Horseshoe Bay

Horse riding – http://www.horseshoebayranch.com.au/

 

 

 

 

 

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Tolmie and Mansfield, Victorian High Country

For xmas 2015 the husband rather mysteriously presented me with a USB drive featuring the film;’The Man From Snowy River.’ For the unacquainted, it’s an Australian 1982 classic set in the Victorian High Country around Mansfield (3 hours drive from Melbourne.) Flash-forward to the Easter long weekend and we booked a quiet AirBnB hidden way off the grid, 15 mins down a dirt road, near to the tiny town of Tolmie. Think birdsong, log fires & scrabble. Bliss.

For those fitter than I (or for those without a cheeky 11 month baby glued to their hip) you can do 7 day rides deep into the bush, taking in Craig’s Hut & many of the film’s locations. I was happy with an energetic 2 hour trail ride run by the fantastic company Hidden Trails. For those really keen, there’s an 1988 sequel; The Man From Snowy River 2. Yes, we watched both.

Travel with an 8 month old baby…

One of my favorite pictures. 8 months old, 30 degree heat, first holiday and she's happily asleep on a loud, choppy speedboat traveling to the islands from Belize city...

One of my favorite pictures. Our 8 month old daughter fast asleep on the back of a loud, choppy speedboat traveling to the islands from Belize city.

‘You’re traveling to Central America and Asia with an 8 month old?’ ‘You’re traveling by bus overland across the Mexico Chetumal border?’ ‘You’re taking a baby away for 6 weeks?’ were all questions people asked even more than ‘You’re eloping in Belize?!’

To anyone that knows us (my visit list is up to 65 countries now, hubby’s 35) the answer was ‘of course we are – our 8 month old will love it!’ And she did.

Our route was AustraliaLA – Belize – Mexico – UK – Singapore – Australia. 45 days, 8 different beds in 5 countries, 52 hours of flights, hundreds of new faces and experiences.

I’ve honestly never seen her more curious, more happy, or more adaptable. What surprised me the most is how natural it comes to them. She got more sleep on our long haul flights & dealt with jet-lag quicker than both of us! Watching her dip her toes in the Caribbean, charm Singaporean strangers on the MRT and scoff Mexican tacos till her heart is content was utterly worth it.

We found 6 weeks away with a baby a crazy, exhausting adventure, but most of all a huge bonding experience. Our daughter relished having both mum & dad (and grandparents) around her, as well as the overwhelming kindness of doting strangers. Everyone loves a baby. I’d of had one long ago if I knew how useful they are for nabbing the best seats on buses and cutting boat queues :)

There’s so much written about the negatives of travel with children, about baby routines, about jet-lag adjustment schedules etc. People often stress about whether such young babies will miss home or feel secure.

Before we left a friend gave me the following advice, which I absolutely love (in the context of travel and just motherhood in general); “You are their home. You are their safe place. Make all the lists you want of tips, advice, things to pack. All they really need is you. “

Beautiful. Simple. True.

 

Scepan Polje, Durmitor National Park

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We booked a rafting tour through Old Town Hostel Kotor and headed up to the National Park as a day tour (74 euros). It’s a winding 3 hour drive each way, with some pretty spectacular views that give Lake Bled a run for its money on neon blue water. The white water is apparently level 2 – 3; enjoyable with a few drops & splashes. With river temperatures of 4 degrees you wouldn’t necessarily want to fall in, even with a wetsuit. After the travel, a nice breakfast & lunch, you spend about 2.5 hours on the water. The best bit was during a waterfall stop when our guide casually remarked that we were in Bosnia! Apparently border control is pretty relaxed on the Montenegro / Bosnia border since we had no passports. A shame, as I’d love to add ‘raft’ to my list of border crossings.

Gorkhi – Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Terelj is what pops up on google image when you think Mongolia; wild horses, grassy plains, nomads, gur tents. It’s where Mongolia lives up to its ‘endless blue sky’ reputation.

We’ve come here to sleep in a traditional gur; a cosy igloo made of yak fur. The interior is like being inside a russian doll, with flower painted beams holding up central dome and fire chimney. It burns an almost tropical heat, as you’d hope for those Siberian winters.

Our host family, namely 3 year old and 7 year old sisters, know two english words; ‘food’ & ‘horse.’ An American tries to amaze the girls a GoPro. She counters by showing us how to take panorama shots on her mum’s I-phone. These tourist camps are only 90min out Ulaanbaatar. To find true nomads you have to venture a few days further into the Gobi desert.

The horses are sturdy 14 hands mountain natives tacked out in rope girths & makeshift bridles like resilient little grafters. I tried to feed one an apple, it snorted in my face. Sadly at night their legs are bound so they don’t roam too far. They’ve learnt to canter on a half-pence and refuse to be patted, as if to retain their wild streak.

IMG_5044To get a little further ‘into the wild’ we took a 5 hour trip down the Tuul river by canoo with http://www.mongoliancanoing.com. Our german guide Ernest starts stories with; ‘when I was living in a squat in Berlin…’ and ‘when I hitchhiked a ferry to Ireland…’ He’s an ideal river companion. Having lived in UB for 10 years with his wife and kids he’s full of interesting stories, especially about his longest trips 40 days downstream all the way from UB to Lake Baikal! We stop for a picnic lunch on a spot straight out of Little House on the Prairie – wild ponies, nomad women airing their laundry and mountains scenery. It’s definitely a worthwhile day tour. Plus after the icy river, coming home to a cosy gur fire never felt so good.

Terelj tour; booked through Bobby at UB Guesthouse. $90 USD for 2 nights, including food, transfers & 2 hours horse riding.
Canooing; $95 USD a day for 4 – 6 hours on the river, including food and transfer.

 

Previous Older Entries

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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