We’ve got a long drive ahead of us — 1800 km or 1100 miles — on our way to north Queensland to see the total solar eclipse. The girls are excited about this opportunity (and they can’t really grasp the distance we have to travel first) because we’ve been learning about solar eclipses, thanks mainly to Avatar — The Last Airbender.

Olive the dog in the drivers seat, November 2012
We almost leave our friends' house with another passenger. Olive the dog is quite persistent about sitting in my seat!

Looking at a map, November 2012
Before we set out, we plan our route north so we divide each day's driving into manageable sections.

We are using a combination of free-camping sites and friends’ places as stop-overs on our trip north. We use the magnificent Camps 6 compilation to find places to stay, and we prefer those that are free.

Our first over-night is at Tiaro (pronounced “Ty-ro”), where we take back roads until we’re at a park on the banks of the Mary River. The Mary River is infamous because a previous government proposed to dam it, until it was publicised that rare fish, including the Queensland lungfish inhabit the fragile ecosystem.

Camping at Petrie Park, outside Tiaro, Queensland, November 2012
Our bus joins half a dozen other campers at Petrie Park on the Mary River.

Calista and Brioni going for a swim, November 2012
The girls quickly suit up and we head down to the water for a swim.

Calista, Delaney and Brioni in the Mary River, November 2012
Although three of the girls jump at the opportunity to go swimming, Aisha prefers the sterility of a man-made pool and opts to stay on the bank with me.

Brioni exploring the riverbank, Mary River, November 2012
With Brioni's bright bodyboard acting as a beacon, it's easy to keep track of Brioni's whereabouts on the far side of the river as she explores the new landscape.

I later joined Brioni in the water to help her retrieve an inflatable beach ball from the far side of the riverbank. It’s a good place for swimming because there’s little or no current and the river is shallow enough to walk in many places.

The camping area was friendly, and I accepted a brochure from a Jehovah’s Witness. It’s interesting to me that although the woman didn’t seek my name or even remove her sunglasses to show me her eyes, she was endeavouring to make a connection with me. It reminds me to remove my sunnies — especially when talking to my own children — and to connect on a first-name basis with people if I want to start a relationship.

It’s good to be on the road again. We’ve settled into our housebus, and all four children joined me on the bed tonight. There are small things that aren’t working well — glass containers, thumbtacks on the cork-board, breaking drawer latches — but overall it’s a smooth-running household.

It’s good to be home — on the road — in The Gifted Gypsy.