School finishes on a Thursday and by 5.30pm we are ready to go. We stop approximately 20 minutes later at Coolalinga Macca's for dinner. Leo and I create our own burgers and I have to say it is the best thing I've ever had sober from a fast food restaurant. Fresh lettuce! Haloumi! Red Onion. The chips are served in a metal basket and they taste terrific. I add dijonaise and it just brings it all together so perfectly.
We drive for another 45 minutes and just on nightfall we arrive at our destination. It's dark, but we can smell the fresh earth and farm animal manure as soon as we step out the car. The gardens are beautiful and lush, an array of flowers and bold green leaves that flick us as we walk the path to our house.
It has wonderful bright paintings on every wall and enough bunks and mattresses for all of us. Rooms were divied up into boys/girls/mums. It suits us, although sadly our enormous wooden framed king bed with the leopard skin blanket has the faint smell of vomit attached to it. We settle in and eventually sleep.
It's a slow start for our first morning. Bacon and eggs for breakfast, the kids feed the petting zoo (rabbits!goats!pigs!) carrots and the Mums do all the stuff to ensure some form of cleanliness and order. Eventually we leave for Buley Rockhole which is a little piece of paradise in the form of rocks and water. We jump, splash, swim, then walk, then eat a delightful picnic lunch.
We drag ourselves to Florence Falls and it is worth every hesitation - not many people, cool, clear water and the perfect jumping spot - for those that dare. Six metres up the cliff face that the 8 year old shimmies up in moments (she's been here before) and then leaps daringly into the water. It's gorgeous to watch. I wish I could say I joined in....but unfortunately the fear of slipping off the side of the cliff face and causing injury to myself was too great. I did let my ten year old do it though!
We are fairly exhausted when we get home and enjoy a home made meal of burgers, sausages and salad to finish the day.
The owner of the Butterfly Farm is quite a character and seems harmless enough. I nip out to the car by way of their back yard as the front way is completely dark and appears closed. On my return he and another male staff member cajole me about the beer I'm taking in, joke that we should share it with them. One approaches me from behind and pretends to dance with me. It's creepy and innapropriate and I'm seething as I walk away.
I tell the Mum's as soon as I return and am reassured. Next time I will take a torch and go the dark way, avoid them. I feel a bit better but still wonder how is it some people think it's ok to invade another persons space so easily. I wish I was bold enough to tell him that it made me uncomfortable but settle on possibly submitting a mediocre trip advisor review.
The next day we wonder around the town of Batchelor for a bit. It's pretty small and the museum is closed so we look at the unusual miniature castle and then go shopping at the local store. We spend a small fortune on icecreams and I hire two dvds - Hunt For The Wilderpeople and Ghostbusters. They prove very popular later in the day.
We head back to Florence Falls and this time instead of walking down the 135 steps I follow the Shady Creek Walk that is 1.1kms long. It is majestical. Woodlands turn to Wetlands and all I can hear is water, wind and birds. There are little bridges that run over the creek and it is picture perfect - bright green moss, gentle running water and ancient land surrounding me.
We spend another couple of hours swimming and jumping at Florence. I insist we all walk back along Sandy Creek which is surely a better option than climbing UP 135 steps back to the carpark. It seems so until one of the children discovers a leech on her ankle and just about dislocates her knee trying to shake it off. Then it's like a contagion as child after child finds leeches on themselves. Fortunately they are pretty small and we are a tough crowd, kids are ripping them off and throwing them into bushland without breaking stride. So proud.
We go for dinner that night at the Butterfly farm restaurant. It's quite busy and several local families are eating there - surely a good sign. Sadly the kids $13 fish and chips turns out to be the lesser known cousin of fish - the finger. I eat some delicious barramundi and someone else has the nasi goreng which tastes fantastic. Adult meals are almost $30 a pop which is a bit distressing but worth it. I speak a bit more with Chris the owner and enjoy it - he's a fascinating character and 20 years ago bought an empty block of land and turned it into this wonderful, exciting home. Just don't be grabbing people from behind pal, not cool.
The next morning it's pack up and tidy time. The three days have passed in a flash and I feel relaxed and loved. The kids are happy, the car stinks because water spilt and I didn't clean it up, but I feel regenerated and connected. It's a privilege to spend time with such solid women and their entertaining children. I mean the bottle flipping! Seriously -if you haven't heard the sound of a bottle landing every three seconds for hours on end then you have not lived!