We Put The Brakes On Our Trip

Some things just aren’t meant to be.

“You kids need to make your beds,” I heard Tracey telling the kids when I woke up on Monday morning.

She’d let me sleep in a bit because we were heading off on our next big adventure – driving down to Paronella Park to see the ‘castle’ – and she wants me fresh and well rested when I take the wheel of our 13 tonne beastie.

Everyone I’ve spoken to who’s seen it says it’s worth the time. For me, I want to know about the history of the hydro electricity which was installed there. I saw it on a doco once and it’s stayed with me. I also figure it’ll count as educational for the kids. Points for me.

The run of poor luck stopping us from getting there, though, has been otherworldly, even for us.

It began when we’d started to pack up the day before.

“We need to get this done before it rains again,” Tracey kept saying.

“Just left me finish another coffee,” was my repeated response. Because coffee. And lazy.

Then it started raining.

So far, nothing unusual. Me ignoring Tracey and paying a price.

But since then it’s been one thing after another. There’s been a shit-tonne of rain so bridges and roads were flooded and to top it off some poor sods had an accident on the Captain Cook Highway and the road was blocked. In the end we decided to wait until the next day and I went back to bed. The kids still had to make theirs though.

Then, rather wonderfully, I got to sleep in again this morning because, you know, I was driving the bus. But it seemed I used up the last of my good luck on that.

“Can you smell that?” I asked my family shortly after we passed the Port Douglas round about.

“It smells a bit like rubber,” said Tracey. “How’s the temperature?”

“It’s all good,” I said. “But the bus is sluggish.”

I’d been wondering if maybe it felt like that to me because I’d been driving my sister’s zippy little car around for the last couple of weeks.

“It could be burning sugar cane,” suggested Miss9.

“I hope you’re right,” I said to her, sniffing. “It could be. Maybe.”

We decided to pull over and check it out anyway. And unless there was someone burning cane somewhere between our back tyres, it was probably the brakes.

There was smoke to go with the smell.

“Everyone out!” I said, jumping back onto the bus.

No one moved.

“Everyone out who doesn’t want to die a horrible death,” I tried next.

That got them out of their seats. And might I add, thank you for the inspiration, JK Rowlings.

It all settled down and we tried again. We’d been going through an especially hilly and windy and imminent death about a meter to our left sections of the road, so I’d been using the brakes a bit. I was hoping I’d just been a bit reliant on them.

But when I nursed her into Cairns and she refused to ease away from a set of lights I figured we weren’t going to make it another two hundred kilometres so Tracey got on the blower to find us a place to park her until we could get a bus doctor to take a look. As it turned out, we already had one looking at adding a fan to our radiator on Thursday.

And, sadly, Paronella Park is looking less and less like it’s going to happen this trip.

“We can still try get there on our way back to Gympie,” Tracey said tonight after we’d tucked the kids into bed and were looking at our changed itinerary for the next week or so.

I don’t know if I want to risk it.

“It’s starting to feel like forces beyond our control are working to stop us getting there,” I said.

“Or maybe,” said Master11 from the bunk where he was supposed to be asleep, “the force,” because Star Wars, “wanted us to find this place to stay first. It’s awesome!”

Yeah, it certainly isn’t going to feel like we’re roughing it while we wait to have our bus looked at.

Maybe we were just meant to stop here on our way there. We’ll know soon enough.

Due to poor weather we stayed in Wonga Beach an extra night. Took advantage of it and took the kids to the Mossman Library to start getting them into a homeschooling habit. Well ostensibly it was for homeschooling purposes but actually more because we wanted to use their wifi. Or so it would have seemed to anyone watching the kids in there.
There was a fantastic birds’ egg exhibit there which almost, but not quite, managed to garner the kids’ interest. To be fair though, the whole thing lost it’s integrity when Miss9 spotted a bit of a mistake. “Are crocodiles birds now?” she asked, pointing at the label on a couple of the larger eggs.
It really was fascinating to see the diversity of markings and egg sizes. “It’d take all day to crack enough of those ones to make an omelette,” said Master11, pointing to some even smaller than Cadbury Easter Mini-Eggs. If I’m honest the whole thing just gave me a craving for chocolate.
Eventually encouraged a couple of the kids to look for books to borrow out. This was Miss9’s pick. No, she wasn’t joking. Yes, she was devastated when I wouldn’t let her take it. No, the other kids appear to be idiots.
I took the opportunity (dumped the kids with Tracey) to go in search of coffee. This was me letting her know I was going. So long, suckers!
Found this sign as well, which had me giggling. At first I thought they were effing swearing…
…like in this sign, which was on a shop window in town the previous week. I love Mossman, I’ve decided. My sort of people.
Making sushi for dinner with Auntie Kerri in her home – a couple of converted train carriages. It used to be a restaurant so she’s even got a commercial kitchen. She let each kid choose their filling, make it and eat it. This is Miss7 doing the traditional squash-the-sushi-roll-with-a-spoon step they so often leave out in dodgy supermarket sushi cafes.

Miss13 cooked us shortbreads. I wanted to ask what she used for colouring but I was too scared to. All I know is we didn’t pack them on the bus.
The problem with leaving is packing up. The gazebos, chairs etc – easy. The collections of crap the kids want to take with them – not so much. We already have an ice cream container of broken shells from beaches we stopped at on the way up, but I drew the line at Miss4’s stick collection.
I explained we don’t have room. “All you need to do is put them in there,” she kept saying. “I can’t,” I told her. “It’s full of your sea shell collection.”
Came back from the loo to this. Forget thieves removing your stuff – this is why you lock your vehicles when you leave them, people!
Even though there were tears when we left Uncle Darryl, Auntie Kerri, Myles and Grandma, the excitement at what lay ahead of us soon took hold.
“Look!” said Miss7, when we headed off this morning. “It’s Tasmania!” As seen from north of Cairns? Either continental drift has been busy since Christmas or we might need to add Geography to our homeschooling curriculum.
A whole stretch of the coastline given over to rock balancing. I wanted to stop and take some nice photos (read as let Tracey take some nice photos) but there wasn’t enough room for a bus amongst the half dozen cars.

It’s hard to focus on the road when you’re presented with these sorts of views out the windows.
But then bits of road like these remind you to.
The road from Cairns through to Port Douglas and on to Wonga Beach goes insanely close to the ocean. It’s fantastic.
Called some people with bus smarts.
Worst thing about this was knowing if the whole thing went up in flames I wasn’t going to be able to make a coffee while we waited for the firies.

If you look very, very closely you can see the smoke in this shot.
Instead of going on to Paronella Park we had to pull up in Cairns until our appointment on Thursday with the bus doctor. He was going to put in an extra fan on our radiator. Now he’s got the brakes to look at as well. Hope he bulk bills.
The lovely Sarah gave the kids ‘jewellery’ in the form of an arm band.
On arrival at Big4 Cairns Coconut Resort we were shown around the park in this. “This is the best ride!” squealed Miss4.
Sights like this helped. Here for four nights. I think there’s going to be more tears when we have to leave.
“We need a bathroom like this at home,” Master11 told me. “A sink each.”
Tracey reading the little girls a book – Shh Don’t Wake The Baby – in Cloudland before bed. Already our favourite room in the bus.

Raising a family on little more than laughs

This is not a sponsored post.


  • Hope you get the chance to explore PARONELLA PARK it is worth the effort I must say … that’s if it hasn’t washed away prior to your arrival.
    So much historical info available.
    Judith Palmer

  • You guys look like your having a ball! That is despite the smelly brakes. I’m still jealous of your trip, BUT I am thrilled to get my new screen doors – something i have been wanting for a long time. Keep having fun, and don’t forget to post in the Sunshine Coast Bloggers unite group when you can!

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