We set off on our big trip west in fits and starts.

Girls in the trailer, November 2010
Our girls were ready to go, playing eagerly in the trailer by joining Delaney in what we've come to call the Dell Box.

Our first short drive to a friend’s house on the other side of Beenleigh showed that the design of the trailer’s hand brake was clearly inferior. While we were driving, it had been knocked on as we drove over a bump. Since we were at Tony’s house, he brought out some tools and helped us fix it. We were thankful to have found the problem on such a short, low-speed trip.

When we were ready to go (for the second time that morning), Richard and Sharla met us at Tony’s house. They and their three children were in their family car, towing our tarped-up box trailer full of their camping equipment. The couple of days’ delay from our original desired departure, meant that we got all the minor details finished on the trailer, including wiring up the internal lights.

Richard and Sharla originally postponed our departure because of rain, and used the delay to finish stocking up on equipment and supplies. It was a blessing that both families were ready to go at the same time.

Driving west, we headed for a campsite nestled in a circular ridge that form part of the Great Dividing Range. Heifer Creek is southwest of the rural town of Gatton. It’s where the Thiess brothers completed their first major earthworks job, carving out a huge section of sandstone to make a roadway. The Thiess construction company is now a huge, multi-national conglomeration, turning over $18billion annually.

Theiss Memorial at Heifer Creek, November 2010
There's a small memorial to the Thiess company at Heifer Creek.

Our camp was well off the main road, close to the stagnant Heifer Creek (so named because it’s about as big as a cow, I guess). We were disappointed that the kids couldn’t swim in the water, but there were other attractions to the campsite.

Heifer Creek, November 2010
We parked close to a row of mature trees, including a trio of lavender jacaranda.

Kids at Heifer Creek, November 2010
Soon after we arrived at Heifer Creek, the kids sat down for a snack. We quickly made friends with the campers who parked in the background.

I walked over and introduced ourselves to our nearest camping neighbours. Debbie and Myles had travelled from Redland Bay on Friday for a weekend of camping. They said they like to leave the city every couple of weeks. Their two small dogs were a great attraction for the kids who ended up spending a lot of time under their awning.

Setting up tent at Heifer Creek, November 2010
While we were looking after the kids, the men worked to set up the tent for the first time.

Camping at Heifer Creek, November 2010
Setting up camp.

Meeting friends at Heifer Creek, November 2010
One of the best things about camping is that you get to meet a variety of fascinating people like Debbie and Myles!

The kids soon set off to pick bouquets of lantana flowers. They startled several bush turkeys and would chase the big birds which fly up into the branches when they’ve had enough of small children.

Facing a bush turkey at Heifer Creek, November 2010
Jocelyn was intrigued by the bush turkeys that were slow enough to follow around but wouldn't let her touch them.

Collecting wood at Heifer Creek, November 2010
David and Richard took the trailer up the road and came back with a trailer-load of firewood.

A happy camper, November 2010
6yo Bronwyn was the oldest of the kids, the queen of the little campers!

Dancing by the fire at Heifer Creek, November 2010
The girls liked dancing by the fire.

Walking around the grounds, we were swooped by magpies although they didn’t actually peck anyone. In springtime, the Australian native magpies guard their nests by swooping at perceived threats. In urban areas, the magpies attack people, pecking the back of the head and being such a menace that individuals have to protect themselves with bicycle helmets and other protective headgear.

Watching for magpies at Heifer Creek, November 2010
"Watch out for those magpies!" I say.

Being swooped by a magpie at Heifer Creek, November 2010
The birds would fly very close to our heads, not actually touching us, but certainly close enough to startle us!

One afternoon, I climbed partway up the closest ridge. After tackling Mount Warning, I felt confident that I could navigate the steep rocky slope. Others had clearly forged a way before me, and I enjoyed the challenge of finding footholds in the treacherous ground. It wasn’t a friendly place for children (or the dog), and I left them all safe at camp.

On our last morning, David and our camping neighbour Myles climbed the tallest ridge within view. They walked partway up the road and waded through kilometres of prickly lantana before they were in the Australian native scrub. At the top of the ridge, they coo-eed to us to let us know they had conquered the summit. David loved having a companion on his adventurous trek!

David at the crest overlooking our campsite at Heifer Creek, November 2010
David at the crest overlooking our campsite at Heifer Creek.

The view of the Heifer Creek campsite, November 2010
From the small peak, David and Myles could look down at our campsite.

Funny cactus growing on the roof of the toilets at Heifer Creek, November 2010
There was a funny selection of plants growing out of the gutter of the toilet block at Heifer Creek.

Lauren and Sharla at Heifer Creek, November 2010
We had to lie on the tent to flatten it before folding it up.

As a campsite, it was a good start to our trip away. Although we couldn’t swim, the kids managed to transition to playing out in the bush, and we got to work out our logistical issues (like running out of cooking gas in all our bottles) while we were still close to civilisation!

Motorcycles at Heifer Creek, November 2010
Just as we were leaving, a motorcycle club posse pulled in for their morning tea.