Scenes from the Skeens

Archive for July, 2007

Nate’s Three Favorite Things About Our Trip

July 8, 2007 12:42 am

Nate and Mountain

Nate’s three favorite things:
1. I like when we played mini golf. (Daydream Island had an ‘All Around Australia’ themed mini golf course)
2. I liked when we swam at the Great Barrier Reef.
3. I liked when we went home.

When I asked Nate about him listing ‘going home’ as one of his favorite things to do he said, ‘ Well Mom you said I only had to list three.’ Writing is not one of Nate’s most favorite things to do. I should have asked him to calculate the distances between each place we stopped at and I probably would have gotten a much better response.

Maddy’s Thoughts on Our Recent Trip

12:40 am

On June 21st, 2007 we started our ten day trip to the Great Barrier Reef. We traveled in a large and noisy campervan. We stopped only twice before we reached Shute Harbour and rode a ferry to Daydream Island. The weather was bad to start. The worst part was that it was cold and windy and it didn’t rain enough to water the plants. Despite the weather we had a great time. The wildlife was amazing! The rock wallabies came right up to us and snooped through our bags.

Kids and Wallabys

Nate and I were attacked by lorikeets, which are small parrots. The lorikeets would come right up and eat out of your hands. The snorkeling was fabulous, but the snorkeling wetsuits were the opposite of fabulous. My brother and I looked like Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr. Seuss. When we went snorkeling we saw a giant clam and about 20 black sea urchins. Sea urchins can sting but black sea urchins can really sting!

Snorkeling, Daydream Island

On Daydream Island, one really neat thing was that they didn’t have sand. Instead they have millions and millions of little bits of dried coral. Day dream Island also has the biggest man made reef in the world. They let you pet and feed the reef animals.


After we left Daydream Island we drove to Airlie Beach and stayed for one night in a very pretty area (Eungella Park). Then off we went to Emerald. There are mining areas around Emerlad where you can pay to do some fossicking for emeralds, rubies and diamonds. We stayed there for one night and it was fun. Nate and I built a treehouse.

We stayed for two nights in Cania Gorge. They had bird feeding and the beautiful King Parrots that would land right on your hand and head.

Maddy & King Parrot

At night time you could go to the bird feeding area or sit around your site and there would be little bettongs eating the bird seed. Bettongs are the smallest marsupials. When we left Cania Gorge we finally went home!

Trailer Park Skeens

12:23 am

We spent our two-week winter break driving in a rented campervan heading towards the Whitsunday Islands. We knew that we couldn’t leave Australia without seeing the Great Barrier Reef (not actually the whole thing, but a very small part).

Britz Campervan

After a very slow start in Brisbane, where we rented the campervan we set off for day one of our trip. Our goal was to reach the town of 1770 by dark. I was actually quite excited about seeing this town as I had just taught an Explorer’s unit to the Grade 5/6/7 class I was working with and I had learned a lot about James Cook and his contributions to Australia. The town 1770 is named after the year that Captain James Cook of the Endeavour and his crew landed on the shore here. Unfortunately after five hours of driving and reaching long, dark winding roads we decided to park the campervan in a park in Miriam Vale for the night and recuperate for the morning when we would have another seven hour drive before reaching Airlie Beach.

The next morning we drove (I should say Dan, as he did all the driving) to Airlie Beach. We were feeling a little glum about the trip at this point as we had driven through some very wet areas. We had also been experiencing our coldest temperatures in the Sunshine Coast (13 C) and had pulled out our long pants for the first time. We had all decided though that we were not going to let the weather ruin this long awaited trip. It also helped to know that we would be staying at a resort on Daydream Island for four days. It sounded a lot more appealing than a campervan.

We had heard from some Aussie friends that we would see a lot more roos at this end of Queensland. We just didn’t realize they meant mainly along the side of the road as traffic casualties. I had visions of one jumping out of the bush and having to somehow explain to Maddy that we had just killed a kangaroo. She gives Nate a hard time for stepping on ants so I knew she wouldn’t let us off easy.

On day three we took at ferry from Shute Harbour over to Daydream Island. It is the closest of the islands to shore, only ten minutes by ferry, and it is also the smallest. We were very pleased to be greeted by a host waiting for us with shell necklaces and tropical drinks. It made us think that somehow they were going to make all those clouds in the sky disappear. We spent a good part of the first day exploring the island. You can walk from one end to the other in under an hour. They have also constructed the world’s largest man made reef (as Maddy will tell you more about in her blog post.) All in all our time on the island was probably the best time of the whole trip. It is hard to believe that one small place provided us with a diverse range of boating activities, stingray, shark and fish feeding, amazing wildlife along with all the other activities such as swimming, snorkeling and bird feeding.


Maddy and Nate spent each morning feeding the large barrimundi fish or petting the shark stingrays. These experiences were as Nate described them to a friend of ours today, ‘so nervous and exciting at the same time, I almost cried!’ We were sad to leave after four days and I think it will be something the kids remember as a favorite part of their time in Australia.

Wallaby with Joey

Our last four days were spent at campgrounds; all were appealing for different reasons. After driving up Queensland along the coast we wanted to experience the hinterland or outback part of Australia on our way back.

Our stay at Eungella National Park was quicker than we would have liked it to be. We had a breathtaking view from our site and it was the morning we woke up to bright sunshine that continued for the rest of our trip. This was also an area where you are almost guaranteed a sighting of a wild platypus at a place called Broken River. Unfortunately after several days of hard rain they all seemed to be off in drier areas. We drove a little farther inland to Emerald and it looked like the weather was finally on our side. The drive was unlike anywhere else we had been before, although parts of it reminded us of Arizona.


You could see absolutely nothing besides trees, sand, termite mounds and a few hopping kangaroos for over a 100 kilometers before reaching a town that consisted of four houses and one shop (which had the four home owners sitting out front of it). A friend of ours had warned us about filling up with petrol at any station we came across so luckily we didn’t run dry. We also passed hundreds of termite mounds on our way. It took us a while to figure out what these massive mounds were. It seems obvious now as I explain it but they resemble massive anthills spread out throughout the deserted fields. I didn’t share out loud the thought of what would happen if you stomped one of these mounds because I knew Nate would be the first to volunteer for the experiment.


Our last two nights were spent at the Cania Gorge. This camping ground was set within the Cania Gorge National Park. The drive into the park was incredible and again breathtaking. I think the thing that surprises me the most about Australia and the areas that we have visited is that every place is so unlike the other. The array of wildlife also changes and we were happy to see that this particular area had a large variety of birds.


Maddy had spent her days on Daydream Island mothering the lorikeets that would feed out of her hands so she was doubly excited to see King Parrots and cockatoos flying around our site. Each day in the late afternoon you could feed the birds that lived in the area. We soon gave up our favoritism toward the lorikeets and bonded with the King Parrots who were a lot gentler and quieter than the lorikeets.

Rainbow Lorikeets

The absolute highlight of this park was the bettongs. A lot of you are probably saying, ‘the what?’ Bettongs are the smallest of the marsupial family and are very rare in Australia. For some reason this area was crawling with them. Every night while we were sitting around the campfire you would look down and see these small creatures digging holes in the ground looking for food or just snooping around the campsite for some scraps. They are incredible to watch as they hop just like a kangaroo but resemble a large hamster. It took all the kids strength to not try and pick one up. If they have the kangaroo’s hop I am sure they have the kangaroo kick as well.

Our drive home was thought provoking. We all agreed that it was going to be strange to arrive home and not have an over excited dog to greet us, but we also agreed that what we had missed the most about this ‘home’ was the beach. We have become so accustomed to seeing the ocean every day and walking along the beach. Now that our time here is down to ten weeks and counting it seems like too short of a time to do everything we would like to do. We do feel extremely lucky to have experienced all that we have. I just know I plan on spending each and every day here on out in some way or another on the beach………that is when I am not in the classroom!