Road Trip through Coober Pedy

The stretch of road between Port Augusta and Coober Pedy tends to be thought of as a big stretch of nothingness but on our recent road trip I realised that it has a little more to offer than nothing. There are a number of gorgeous pink lakes, seen below in the photos I took quickly through the moving car window. 

To break up the drive, we spent the night at Coober Pedy. Coober Pedy lies along the Stuart Highway, about 800kms north of Adelaide and about 800km south of Alice Springs. The town's claim to fame is that it is the largest opal mining area in the world. Opal mines surround the town. Some are working mines and other's are abandoned - so be careful where you step! Coober Pedy's other claim to fame is it's underground houses. The underground houses maintain a consistent temperature all year round, not needing air conditioning despite plus 40 Celsius temperatures in summer.  

When in Coober Pedy we stay at the always lovely, permanently stuck in the 1980s hotel/motel, the Desert Cave. The decor might be a thing of the past, but it's clean and it has an old glamour edge to it. You can just imagine what it was like when it first opened. So fancy! An oasis in the desert. 

Last time we were there (back in 2013!) forked out the big bucks for an underground room (you have to stay in one at least once) but this time we cheapened out and went for an above ground room. For dinner we went to the hotel restaurant and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meal. Yes, it's expensive but you are in the middle of nowhere, of course it will cost you more than an equivalent meal in a city. Expect to pay more. The town itself, quite desolate does have a pretty element to it at the golden hour.

More pictures of Coober Pedy here.

Tips for Travelling with Kids

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On our recent overseas trip we took 8 flights including two that lasted for 13+ hours and we stayed in 5 different locations. Lulu has been travelling since she was small but she had never been on a long haul flight before. You never know how the kids are going to react to being stuck on a plane for 13 hours, but there are a number of things that you can do to help make the flight and a hotel stay a little easier. Here are my tips for travelling with kids.

THE FLIGHT

We were super lucky in that the long haul flight to LAX left Sydney at 6:30pm. Lulu had a bit of a play on the plane, then dinner. Post dinner she watched a cartoon or two then we changed her into her pjs, cleaned her teeth, read a story and then she went to sleep. We kept her bedtime routine the same as if she was at home (though she doesn't normally watch TV after dinner, but there has to be some on the plane treats, right?!).

Keep the bedtime routine as much the same as your at home bedtime routine. This goes the same for where ever you are during your trip.

PLANE CARRY ON

1. Spare Clothes

Whether or not your child suffers from travel sickness, at some point they are going to spill something on themselves. A spare pair of clothes is a must.

2. Lego

Lego is great for creative play and fairly easy to keep contained within a small space. We didn't end up using it on the plane but it was great for play at the hotel.

3. Books

Stories for keeping bedtime routines the same. Also handy for when the airline doesn't let you use headphones on take off and landing (am looking at you Air Canada!).

4. Colouring in book and crayons or mess free texts.

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HOTELS

1. Stay at a hotel with a restaurant

By the time you are up and dressed everyone is far too hungry and cranky to then be on a search for breakfast.

2. Make sure your hotel room has a seperate space for your child to sleep and if possible a balcony space your you to hang out while your child is falling asleep.

Our hotel near Disneyland had a seperate room for Lulu, which was fabulous. The hotel in Palm Springs had a space with curtains you could pull across to give the child some privacy for sleeping. This hotel also had balconies but we didn't end up using them because I was far too tired to stay up very long after Lulu had gone to bed. Nick ventured to the hotel bar some of the nights while us gals slept early. So I guess the other tip would be to stay at a hotel with a bar!

3. Hotel Pool

Make sure your hotel has a pool that can be used all year round. This will give you a great, 'free' activity to do on any quite days you may have. Again you won't need to travel far to get there either.

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Have you travelled with your kids? What are your hot tips?

Nick's mum overheard a mum saying that she often does the LAX-SYD flight and that they just have it down now - then she saw the mum and her two kids in business class! So that's one other way to make travelling with kids a little easier!

PS Mini-Break (Lulu's first flight!), Solo Plane Flight with BabySlippers, Cuddles and Aeroplanes

Henbury Meteorite Craters

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The Henbury Meteorite Craters are on the road back from Kings Canyon (If you take the Ernest Giles Road). We normally speed right past, keen to arrive home quickly. But this time we had a toddler with us who was getting fidgety and as we were a fair way from the next stop, we pulled in at the Henbury Meteorite Craters to have a closer look and let Lulu have a run around.

The reserve contains 12 craters which were formed when a meteor hit. The walk around the edge of the first crater is fairly easy, perfect for stretching your legs after driving. Lulu even walked some of it. Nick & I were both too tired & wanted to get home quickly so we didn't walk around the other craters. The flowers on the craters were beautiful. We were there late in the day so the lighting was just perfect. No need for photo editing filters!

You can also camp overnight there for a small fee that you drop into an honesty box. There is a long drop toilet and a few campfire pits. A great location if you like to camp in peace and quiet. As I said, we didn't stay too long, but it was definitely worth pulling off the main road and taking a look.

Pit stop on the Feb '13 roadtrip - Coober Pedy

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Coober Pedy lies roughly 800km south of Alice Springs and about 800km north of Adelaide. If you're driving to & from Alice Springs to Adelaide, there is no way to avoid it. The town is surrounded by, well, nothing at all, above the ground that is. The main industry is opal mining. Opal was discovered there in 1915 and many return soldiers moved to town to mine it after World War 1. 

Most of the town lies underground, which makes for a fairly deserted streetscape. It was the return soldiers who introduced the underground living, similar to the dougouts they lived in in the trenches of France. I had thought the underground houses were just to escape the heat! As I had never stayed in one of the underground hotels we took this return trip from Apollo Bay as the perfect opportunity. It was quite strange without natural light and silent, so silent. If you like to fall asleep in a quiet, dark room, The Desert Cave Hotel is the place for you. 

We arrived early afternoon & set out on a little walking adventure, before having a beer at one of the pubs and an early pizza dinner. I love the fruit on the roof of John's Pizza Bar & Restaurant. Everyone from Alice Springs who has been to Coober Pedy says you have to have dinner at Tom & Mary's Greek Restaurant, but we think the pizza at John's is the bomb. After dinner it was a quick sink bath for Lulu and then early to bed for all of us to rest up for the last day of our three day trip home.

Roadtripping with a Baby

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Last Thursday we headed off for our annual trip to Apollo Bay. We had decided to drive, mainly because Apollo Bay is a 2.5hr trip from Melbourne & if we flew we'd have to hire a car to get here from the airport anyway. However, Apollo Bay happens to be a 3 day car trip from Alice Springs and I think Lulu must have sensed that she'd be trapped in a car for 3 days, so she threw up before we even left the house and then 3 more times before we reached the Finke Start/Finish line, which is about 15km from Alice Springs. 

Since we were still in mobile phone range I looked at the cost of a flight to Adelaide for Lulu & I. Fights were less than $250 and with the possibility that Lulu would continue to be sick during the day when we're 300km from no where (not an exaggeration), we turned back and took the flight. Nick, the hero, met us in Adelaide the next day with the car. We spent two nights with my parents before continuing the journey to Apollo Bay. Lulu wasn't sick over the weekend & only threw up twice during what became an over 10hr car trip. 

It's normally about a 7hr trip to the Bay, but when you're travelling with a baby you need to make a lot of stops and the stops aren't just running to use the loo or buy a drink. You've got the nappy change, a feed (and yes, she'll suck that bottle down as slowly as possible), stretching her little legs, playing on the swings. The old 'she'll just fall asleep because it's so boring' did not apply. She slept for maybe three hours in total! My tips for roadtripping with an 11 month old? 

  • ensure you can reach from the front to give the baby a bottle in the back - my arms are way too short for this to be comfortable
  • Interactive book/s - Lulu loves books where she can feel different elements ie sandpaper, fluffy, bumpy. One of these books can keep her entertained for ages.
  • Hanging toys - hang different toys from the handle above the door.
  • Snacks - I lost count of how many rice crackers Lulu ate. Many ended up on the floor but they all kept her occupied for a while
  • Sesame Street - At some point it's all just going to get to be too much. This is when you crack out the sesame street on the ipad. Yes, I was someone who said my kid wouldn't watch tv in the car but when confronted with a crying 11 month old who just wants out though we stopped 10 mins ago? TV wins. 

Have you done a big road trip with your baby?

Any tips for our trip back? We are contemplating another flight!