Tag Archives: Travellingwithkids

A lesson in reversing the van…

For most of my adult life I’ve always wanted to visit the town of Seventeen Seventy, locally referred to as “1770”. There’s something rather dreamy about visiting a sleepy seaside village named after a year. A tiny town, situated roughly 500km north of Brisbane and surrounded on three sides by the Coral Sea and Bustard Bay. It was the second landing site of Lieutenant James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour in May 1770 and is a huge part of Australian history.

The road into 1770 and nearby Agnes Water was not what I’d expected. I’d imaged a windy, coastal road that took in the beautiful vistas of the ocean. Instead, it was surrounded by dry, dense and rugged bushland. The little towns, like Rosedale, our picnic lunch stop, felt quite deserted and very remote.

As we arrived at the town of Agnes Water we checked Wikicamps for a good spot to stay and found a place called ‘Horizons Kangaroo Sanctuary & Camp Ground’ – 4.5 stars is almost as good as it gets, throw in some wildlife and the kids will be over the moon. We drove through the gates and the dirt road leading into the property gradually became narrower, more winding and then suddenly…very steep. Too steep. The X-trail could not pull the weight of the van up the hill and as the front wheels started slipping we decided it wasn’t safe to go any further. This was new. 100m up the hill with a ditch on one side and a drop off on the other the only way was down. We had to reverse. ”Just take a few deep breathes everyone”. I climbed out, worked out we had about 1 metre to work with and very slowly started guiding the car and van down the hill. Seriously not for the faint hearted! The kids didn’t fancy going off the edge – I’ve never seen them move so fast. They jumped out and agreed to meet us at the bottom.

We were doing ok until two backpacker filled campervans arrived behind us. You can just imagine their faces when they realised there was no way around and that they too, had to reverse. Fifteen gruelling minutes later with a small audience by now and we were back where we had started. I’m not sure if you know this but some campers just love watching the ‘newbies’ try to park and reverse their vans. They pull up a chair, make a cup of tea and watch the show. No pressure. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes (like yesterday) we get it horribly wrong. You’d think we’d have it mastered by now! We are getting better, I promise.

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As for our wildlife camping idea, it was obvious that we were not going to be able to spend the night there so we headed off to the first available campsite and found ourselves on a flat, gravel free surface, right on the beach in 1770. A small wooden fence was all that separated us from the beach. The view over the bay was spectacular. This is one of the few places in Queensland where you can watch the sun set over the water. As we walked along the sand that evening, fishermen standing in the water and nearby pelicans hoping to steal a catch forming a backcloth of silhouettes, we now fully appreciated why this was such a popular holiday destination.

After breakfast the following day we took a leisurely stroll along the beach to a heritage listed site, a cairn situated on Round Hill. The cairn stands on the site where one of Cook’s crew carved the date on a tree near where they came ashore.

Rockhampton was our next destination and as we wanted to get there before dinner, we quickly packed up and headed straight off. We were going to have dinner with good friends that we hadn’t seen in years. There is only one way in and one way out of Agnes Water and 1770 and it’s quite a long, monotonous road. If you’re planning on visiting, allow yourself a few days there at the very least and don’t forget your fishing rod!

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I’d like to share a tip for all the future caravanners out there. A lovely family that we met on the cruise ship gave us very valuable advice when it comes to reversing a caravan. The person guiding the driver stands in front of the car and van reversing, facing the driver. If you want them to reverse the van to your left, call out ‘pull left’ at which point the driver pulls the steering wheel to their left and if you want them to reverse towards the right, ‘pull right’. It has saved us from embarrassment numerous times but especially in 1770!

 

Bula! A warm Fijian hello.

Walking down the steep stairs from Deck 3, we boarded the orange life boat and were on our way.  This was our first tender on the cruise and an awesome experience for the kids.  As the boat drew nearer to Port I reminisced back to 10 years ago, when we first arrived at Denarau Island. I was pregnant with my son and mum to our then nearly two-year-old daughter, we had booked a last-minute trip to Fiji from Australia. It was a brilliant holiday and one we still talk about today.  It’s hard to believe a decade has passed and I found myself asking, what happened to the time? Our daughter is now, almost a teenager.

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Denarau Island is man-made and built on reclaimed swampland.  Doesn’t sound too inviting does it?  But with it’s palm-lined beaches and out of this world swimming pools, they’ve done an amazing job turning it into a popular family holiday destination.  Here you’ll find some of the best five-star hotels in the Pacific, all lined up next to each other facing out towards the ocean. The marina has some lovely boutique shops and fantastic restaurants, including the famous Hard Rock Café.  From here you can take a charter boat to any of the spectacular outer islands.  Denarau is linked to the mainland by causeway and is about a 15 minute drive from Nadi, on the western side of the main island of Vitii Levu. Nadi is home to the unique Sri Siva Subramaniya temple, the largest Hindu temple in the Southern Hemisphere. Nadi is also the best place to do your souvenir shopping compared to the inflated prices found near the resorts.

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Denarau Island is well-known in the Pacific region for its golf course, situated directly opposite the resorts. You can walk the Island relatively easily or you can catch the famous Bula Bus which will cost you $8 per day for unlimited travel (kids under 12 travel free). The windowless bus has a delightful thatched roof and is a great experience for the whole family

There are no white sand beaches so if you’re after these you’ll need to visit one of the outer islands. If you’re very adventurous then Denarau will probably struggle to excite you but if you’re looking to relax and connect with your family then you’ve found the right place. Our days here comprised of swimming, reading, kayaking, playing games with the kids and taking many siestas!  By far, for us, the best time of the day was sunset, the beating of the Lali (a Fijian wooden drum), the lighting of the tiki torches around the pool and having a relaxing sunset drink whilst listening to the sweet tunes from the Fijian locals.

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Our day this time was no different. We spent it wandering from one resort to the next, a stop at the Radisson, a drink at the Westin and lunch at the Sofitel (which was a lot more affordable than the Sheraton, who wanted to charge us $33 for a burger, taxes not included). The Sofitel had a real Fijian authenticity to it, my feelings motivated by the welcoming hospitality of all the staff.

Our day trip ended with an afternoon swim at the Sofitel resort which boasts a great waterslide for the kids and a hammock lined beach. If you want to make use of all the resort’s facilities you will need to book a ‘day-room’ by contacting the hotel directly. This is expensive and not far off the nightly rate. As we were only here for 6 hours and August is peak season we opted not to do this.

We always manage to find ourselves on the last tender to the boat, soaking up as much of the time there as we can.  We watched the magnificent sunset over the ocean while we made our way back to the twinkling lights of the ship in the distance.

The locals on Denarau told us that our next stop, SavuSavu, is the real hidden gem of Fiji.