Sunday, 6 July 2014

Road trip - Undara Lava Tubes.

Taking 4 boys camping is a big task. Taking 4 boys with autism camping is a huge undertaking. But taking 4 boys with autism camping by myself as a single mum sounds like the stuff of nightmares. However, it was time to step well outside my comfort zone and plan our very first camping trip.

I chose to take the boys to see the Undara Lava tubes because we might as well make the trip an educational outing as well. The Undara National Park is about 4.5 -5 hour drive from Townsville going via the Harvey's Range Rd route. There are longer routes from Townsville such as going via Ingham or Charters Towers. About 18 years ago I went out there and then much of the distance was dirt road. This time the entire journey was sealed road but in a very few short sections it was one lane only and cars have to pull over to allow the road trains to pass. This was what the roads looked like in the worst sections. This photo was taken by one of my boys.
We stopped in Greenvale on the way there and on the return journey for fuel, a stretch and toilet break. The boys all coped well with the drive but I made it easier for everyone by having snacks, drinks and charged ipads within reach.
We stayed at the Undara Experience in a family swag tent. This is what ours looked like.
There was a double bed on one side and two bunk beds on the other side. In the middle was a small deck with a bar fridge, sink, power points and small table and chairs. We took our own bedding to keep the cost down but you can hire bedding. 

There is a restaurant on site but I had packed our portable fridge full of food. Near our tent was an undercover area to prepare meals. It had push button gas BBQs, a sink, communal fridge, kettle, toaster and picnic tables.  I used the BBQs to cook our meals but next time I might take an electric frypan then I could cook at our tent. The kid's meals at the restaurant were $12.50 each so just one meal for my boys would have cost $50 before I had even picked a meal. The adult meals were between $20 - $35 from memory.  We did go and have a couple of baskets of chips one lunchtime while the kids warmed up by the fire. 

We went in winter so the nights were quite cold. The daytime temperature was pleasant except when the wind picked up. The boys were a bit upset that it was too cold to use the pool. But everyone loved the hot water in the showers. The communal showers and toilets were very clean and well maintained and there was plenty of lighting along the paths for late night toilet runs.

We did a few bush walks while we were there. We did a few around the resort and then we also drove to a different section of the national park where you can walk up to the rim of an extinct volcanic crater. That walk was about 2.5k and was a bit steep in places but the Littlest Man could manage it with his tiny legs and in the areas he couldn't then I was able to do it while carrying him.

Here are some photos of us chilling out after all the exercise. Note all the ipads, they are a must for taking my boys anywhere as they help the boys cope with change. I must say that all 4 boys coped very well trip. Things went far smoother than I could have hoped for.

To access the Lava Tubes you need a guide. We went on a two hour Archway Explorer tour where we went into a couple of sections of the caves. There were boardwalks and stairs into the caves so it was a safe and enjoyable way to access the caves. I chose this tour because the Littlest Man might not have coped with the more active tours.

The boys loved the trip and had a great time. I made the trip easier for myself by preparing some meals in advance which I placed in disposable aluminium trays and then heated on the BBQ. This meant I wasn't away from the boys for long periods cooking. I also have a giant sports team sized water cooler that I filled with ice and water before left home. So we had icy cold water the whole time we were away. The only thing I didn't think to do was to have a meal prepared at home waiting for our return. I certainly didn't feel like cooking an evening meal when we got home.

We have a few small weekend trips planned for the next few months. These trips will be very budget friendly as part of making memories and also as birthday present treats for my boys. This trip was for my twins as they turned 11 just days before we went.

Happy camping for everyone else spending school holidays out bush. 

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