Coming Home and Lessons Learned

So we’re home. And home is lovely. After months of living in arid landscapes, red dirt and deserts we had forgotten just how ‘green’ Cairns is. It’s so pretty with the mountain backdrop and rainforest. The ocean isn’t the glorious aquamarine of the WA coast but its lovely in a north QLD kind of way. Isn’t it wonderful we have experienced it all?

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The beach vista in North Queensland. It is rather lovely.
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The West Australian Coastline is worlds different in light and water clarity. Totally lovely.

So we did it, the trip of a lifetime, and it was just grand. No regrets. We gave up our jobs and drove 20232 kilometres across the top, down the west coast, across the middle and a quick dash down south. Fantastic. Australia is amazing.

So here are some random statistics on our experience travelling remote Australia by 4WD.

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Free camp near Karajini National Park. Totally splendid view and I have ordered this photo as a huge metal artwork for our wall at home. Great photo by Kevin.

The ultimate trip cost

  • We were away for just over 16 weeks in total and we spent $18 681 in total. I’m happy with that. I had budgeted for $1000 per week plus an extra $4000 for car repairs and maintenance. We came in under budget in our weekly spending averaging at $800 per week and went over in the car expenditure which blew out to $5860. Three services in Kununurra, Tom Price and Kapunda, front wheel bearings in Broome, rear parabolic springs and 4 Cooper tyres in Geraldton and, thanks to the Simpson Desert, new rear shock absorbers in Kapunda. We didn’t actually need the new Coopers but we were getting frustrated with the flats we were getting on the skinny split rim tube tyres and opted to replace them with fatter tubeless. No flats since so it was worth it.

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    Sexy beach shot on the beach in Geraldton. New shoes and a nice butt lift.
  • We travelled 20232 km and spent $4696 on fuel. The most expensive fuel was at Mt Dare Station SA just before the Simpson Desert at $2.15 per litre and the cheapest in Kapunda SA at $1.21 per litre. That’s a bit uncanny that South Australia wins the crown in both cases and it wasn’t even planned.

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    Good on you South Aussie – both cheap and expensive
  • Food came in at $4514 and we ate way too much chocolate. We would stock up on chocolate and other assorted snacks when we got to a big supermarket as that sort of stuff is too expensive to buy in remote locations. We bought 6 blocks of chocolate in Broome (after 2 weeks on the Gibb River Road) as it was so cheap and ate them all in 3 days. That’s why I had to buy moo moo’s in Broome. We ate a little too well and were not as disciplined as we are at home. Let’s not talk about all the kitchener buns and chocolate donuts in Kapunda. I’m paying for that extravagance now.

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    A South Australian Kitchener Bun. Taste bud heaven. One for breakfast every day. Need more moo moos.
  • Accommodation costs were very reasonable at $1957. A good mix of free camping, national parks, the luxury of three nights in a cottage at Geraldton and a couple of nights in a cabin at Kapunda because it was freezing cold.

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    Free camping at its finest. James Price Point north of Broome
  • Miscellaneous spending was $1654. This money was put aside for tours, entry fees and everything else. There were quite a few Op Shop purchases in there. It was one of my favourite activities in a town; pottering through an Op Shop in an exotic new destination. My wardrobe expanded unnecessarily and exponentially much to Kevin’s perturbed amusement and mild disgust. (Chuckle)

See my other blog on more detailed trip costs The Savannah Way from Cairns QLD to Broome WA: How much does it cost?

Other random observations as follows…..

  1. Between us we managed to read 28 books and listen to 3 audio books. Every book swap was taken advantage of with much gusto. That’s what we did in the evenings. Read books and ate chocolate.
  2. Ugg boots are just the best footwear on holiday, even in warm country (clean feet with ease)
  3. I made bread 14 times in the Weber Baby Q, and with home made lentil soup this was our most popular meal choice. (Chocolate for desert of course) We called our Weber ‘Baby you fat bitch’. A little harsh I know, but she was so big and heavy and took up a lot of space in the camper. We wouldn’t have gone without her though. She gave us so many awesome meals.
  4. The two equally worst roads were the Simpson Desert crossing and the Kalumburu Road to Mitchell Falls in the Kimberly. Both were particularly punishing to our vehicle but the scenic reward was worth it so no real regrets there.
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    Simpson Desert bounce over 1000 sand dunes like this. New shock absorbers……
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    Corrugations on the Kalumburu Road. They were doozies….

    See my blog THE GIBB RIVER ROAD for more on this…….

     

  5. People ask what was the absolute highlight of the whole trip and I find it impossible to narrow it down to one place. We saw and did so much that was absolutely stunning, each in its own unique way. So many ‘wow, moments. I loved it all.
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    Dales Gorge at Karajini National park

    So the highlight has to be the length of our trip. Four months was an ideal time frame. We didn’t feel pressured for time and we felt the pure joy of freedom to explore at our leisure. That was a sufficient length of time though as by the end we were both weary. I don’t think you can keep appreciating it as much if you do it perpetually. It was time to come home and we actually started to look forward to a couch, a TV, our own toilet and a bed where Kevin doesn’t have to climb over me to go out for a wee. It’s the little things.

  6. Kevin and I, for the first time, spent 24 hours a day with each other, for four months in a confined living arrangement. We survived, we laughed a lot, we became more tolerant, we relaxed into a comfortable camaraderie and it made our relationship stronger. It was a fantastic experience to share.
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    A shared experience at its finest

    See my blog for more on snorkelling with whalesharks Waves, Wild Wind and Whalesharks

  7. We saw hundreds of emus in all states. They were the dominant wildlife on this trip which was great because I love them. They’re so quirky.

Lessons learnt along the way

Follow the weather. The perception of a holiday is 95% dictated by the weather, especially when living under a canvas roof. A place that is simply magnificent in sunshine becomes bleak and horrid in wet, bleak, cold and overcast weather. During the winter months the North of Australia is the place to be. Gotta love warmth and sunshine.

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Just add sunshine to turn an ordinary scene into paradise

 

Less is more and will save you grief. We overpacked. Too much ‘stuff’. I tried to be minimalist when we packed but failed and it became obvious when at our first service, the mechanic assumed we were there to get our suddenly sagging rear springs replaced. We carried too much ‘just in case’ stuff and things that only got minimal use. The heavy generator and max tracks sat on the roof rack the whole way with no use, the boat only got used twice, the BBQ plate that got used once, there was too much stuff in our internal cupboards like the heavy camp oven that didn’t get used, too many clothes (in my section). The excessive weight of our vehicle became stringently obvious in Kapunda when the mechanic replacing the shockers couldn’t lift the vehicle with a 4 tonne hoist (our gvm is 3.3 tonnes). No wonder we suffered trying to cross the Simpson Desert and had the considerable expense of replacing our suspension.

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Up and over the dunes with our heavy load. There is a lot of useless weight on that roof rack just to start with and I’m pretty sure ‘Baby the fat bitch’ was bouncing her way up and down the floor. See my blog Crossing the Simpson Desert: What the heck were we thinking?

It’s nice to have a home to come back too. We did actually consider selling up everything to travel perpetually prior to this trip. Sell the house, hit the road and be totally free. That’s a romantic notion though and I’m glad we didn’t go down that path. It’s wonderful to be free but living in a confined space, always on the move takes its toll. I’m positive that the thrill of travel wouldn’t be as great if it was a way of life rather than just a holiday. I guess it’s a personal thing because some people happily do it but we need a place to go ‘home’. Then we can plan and get excited about the next adventure. And there will be more………..

Thank you

So to those people that faithfully followed my blog on this adventure, thank you for coming with us, thank you for the likes and nice comments and I hope you enjoyed the journey. I hope I encouraged other people to do similar and inspired you to visit these amazing places in our beautiful country. It is so worth it. We are much richer for the experience. Kevin and I have luckily both got our jobs back straight away so we didn’t even have to line up at Centrelink, which is a huge bonus. We took a risk and the reward was beyond our expectations.

There will be more………….

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Cape Leveque with my favourite WA colour scheme

Broome and Dampier Peninsula

OCHRE CLIFFS, BLUE SEA and CREAMY SAND with a touch of MELANCHOLIA

Laverton to Uluru: The Great Central Road into Australia’s RED HEART.

Just what is it about Lawn Hill Gorge?

QUOBBA STATION AND RED BLUFF : SWELLS, SURFERS AND HUMPBACK WHALES

Adrenaline filled adventure at Karajini National Park

and more …….

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Home is beautiful too, lets never forget that.

Departure Day

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SETTING OFF ON THE GRAND AUSSIE ADVENTURE

Departure day. Its finally arrived.

It kind of feels surreal.

We are actually really doing this.  I never thought we would be able to do it until retirement but we made it happen. Just goes to show that when you want something bad enough you’ll find a way.

Its a weird day because, after months of just sheer excitement,  we are actually full of nervous trepidation. A million things are frantically going through our heads. That will pass 100km up the road and turn into sheer joy but what a funny, strange sensation to have in the final straight.

There is relief too though. For so long the travel to the West for months has been just a pie in the sky concept. Not really feasible. Not really sensible. Just a pipe-dream.  A ‘gonna do one day’ thing that you never really expect to happen unless you win the lotto.

Well today we are doing it – hitting the ‘frog and toad’ with months of absolute freedom ahead of us and damn it feels pretty good. We feel brave. Running away from home. Bye kids. Bye jobs. Bye house. Bye rut. HELLO to really living. (I say all this with a cheeky grin)

With some heavy duty planning and saving by yours truly, all obstacles have been overcome and all contingencies covered. One manky gall bladder gone and one bank account nicely brimming with holiday cash. Although the tide went out a little with yesterday’s rock flung by whipper snipper into the glass sliding door trick ($600 emergency glass repair at the very last minute – bugger, bugger, bugger!) I obviously needed a quick lesson that not everything always goes to plan.

So now that this day has arrived we can finally just relax, go with the flow and have faith that my planning was good. Just live in the moment, let each day be an adventure and have absolutely no regrets.

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We have so, so much to look forward too. Its a beautiful country out there. Today the sun is shining, the open road beckons and in this moment of time we are free. Really, really free. Today is a great day.

Seeya later alligators and stay tuned for what is to come.

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The Great Packing Conundrum

Our Trayon has wonderful merits. It’s so quick to set up and pack down, its simple, its comfortable, has ten storage locations and every place we camp at it always attracts envious glances from other campers.  There is one aspect of it though where I need it to be more like the Tardis on Doctor Who. My clothes cupboard. Kevin and I have one cupboard each as our allocated storage space. That’s for clothes, shoes and other odds and sods. This is my space.

I`m positive that every female reading this has just gasped in horror and said `no way!`.

Unfortunately this is the sum total of my space for up to 6 months of travel. Travel that will include warm weather in the North and frigid weather in the Central deserts. Every thing from swimming togs to ugg boots and beanie. Not to mention all my lotions and potions and hair brushes, toiletries, a couple of books.

So I laid out my clothes on the bed for starters. Bear in mind that this is the already thinned out, must have, totally essential pile!Its a collection of purely daggy, long wearing camping gear. Stuff that is great in the bush and around a campfire. Nothing flash enough for a fancy restuarant or a night on the town. Just tees, shorts, jumpers, tracky daks, togs and of course my ugg boots. There is no way I can leave my ugg boots behind!

ITS THE GREAT PACKING CONUNDRUM. How do I fit this much stuff in a space that small?

Kevin thinks I`m crazy getting organised 2 months in advance. He packs the day before. One jumper, four tee shirts, 2 pairs of shorts and enough jocks so that he can wear one pair inside out and then back to front before he needs to change them. Its a guy thing. He’s more interested in the tool box. I always have the last laugh though because the inevitable happens. He runs out of clothes. Then he has to wear mine. Its true . Here’s the proof.

So pretty in my purple jumper.

Anyhow where there’s a will there’s a way. Everything that was on my bed is in that cupboard. Packing pods is the answer. Everything is separated into categories and packed in a pod. Going across Northern Australia first so the winter woolies are at the back, shorts, tees and togs at the front. Even got 4 books in ready for lazy days on beautiful beaches. High five to me.

(Anything extra can always be snuck into Kevin’s box anyway. He`ll never know until he needs to wear it)

The Map on the Dunny Wall

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I get so much value from planning a trip; almost as much as the trip itself. It’s the anticipation, the imagining and the dreaming. I look at a map and I paint a picture in my mind of how it’s going to be. From a tiny splodge on a map I can visualise some version of paradise.

So I like to plan a holiday. I like to organise the finer details. It’s not a chore because it gives me so much pleasure using my imagination.

So let me tell you about the map on the dunny wall.  It’s a big map; really big.  After all Australia is a big country with vast distances and I was planning a workable format for this big adventure. I was having trouble picturing the complete journey. Google, such a wonderful resource most times, kept leading me along the black top roads. We want dirt.

So I found a big dusty map of Australia in the dark recesses of a disused drawer and a black marker pen became my best friend.  That black line that I drew on it travelled from Cairns along the Savannah way all the way to the Western Australian Coastline. Along the way, in my head, we canoed along peaceful gorges, frolicked in natural hot springs and created clouds of billowing bull dust as we explored remote 4WD tracks. Such pretty mind paintings. When we got to Western Australia those paintings became staggeringly beautiful, an explosion of colour. Corrugated dirt tracks leading to picturesque waterfalls on Mitchell Plateau, red sand and turquoise sea near Broome, red ochre gorges with enchanted fern laden pristine water holes at Karajini, the sublime vast views from the summit of Mt Augustas and swimming in the azure Indian Ocean with the whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef.  I could see us throwing in a line and lazing aimlessly on the most beautiful white beaches, where ‘the only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair’ (Thanks Zac Brown – that’s my theme song).

Wow. That great big partially torn map with its ugly black scribbled lines is just the most beautiful work of art I have ever seen.map of 2017 holiday

So, over the last couple of months it has taken pride of place on the dunny wall. A location where one has the time just to sit and ponder. It has provided inspiration, reminded me to stay focused on the end goal, to budget and save furiously and remember that in a few short months we are going to be really following that black squiggly line.Map take 2

 

Defeating the ‘But’ Monster – Planning a lap of Australia

Our dream has been to travel remote Australia without a time schedule, to have total freedom, to be whimsical.

My heart has always said ‘just do it’, after all life is unpredictable.  It’s not wise to procrastinate and say we’ll do it one day. One day may not happen. The only moment is now.

My head however is under the domain of the infamous ‘But’ monster.  For the benefit of my sons I must add that, no, this has nothing to do with anuses so don’t even go there………. (It’s a boy thing)

The ‘But’ monster is the stifler of dreams because it thrives on fear.  It’s been sitting on my shoulder for years and whenever the possibility of following our dream was raised, it was smothered by BUT, BUT, BUT.

But the kids have school, but we have to pay for the kids university expenses, but we have a mortgage, but we have bills, but the car isn’t right, but how can we travel without an income, but we can’t save enough money, but we have to save for our future, but we are too young to give up our jobs, but we are too old to give up our jobs, but maybe we should pay off the house first, but what do we do with our house, but what if we rent it out and have bad tenants, but we have a cat, BUT WHAT IF A GREAT BIG BLOODY METEOR CRASHES TO EARTH AND DESTROYS OUR PLANET.

You know what? The fact is that there will never be a precisely ‘right’ time where all the planets line up to say “go now”. Life just doesn’t work that way.

So the ‘But’ monster, although it still hovers, has been banished from the Preston kingdom, because now I know the formula to successfully following our travel dream.

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Opportunity is a bit random and involves some planetary alignment, but 2017 happens to be a year when for the first time our kids are independent. University is done and dusted. Two of those kids are currently living in the family home this year. So that eliminates the house issues. We have house minders and with a bit of persuasion (or blackmail) some rent keeping the mortgage afloat. Plus our ancient cat can live his life out at home still. That is opportunity.

Preparation is the key though and preparation is all about money. We decided over a year ago on the all important ‘when’. This is so important as it gave us a budget time frame.  We then worked out how much money we would need IF we went for 6 months. Significant research and calculations are required here on everything you envisage spending money on. ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING including spending money, remote expensive fuel, supermarket food, pub meals, camping fees, tours, entry fees, gas bottle refills, all the bills back home, mortgage interest, vehicle accessory purchases, emergency car repair funds, car services and spare money to survive a couple of weeks when we return with no jobs. The figure is staggering and we divided that enormous mind boggling figure by the number of saving weeks. Amazingly, with some discipline, it was possible. That is preparation.

We have both kept our employers well informed of our intentions and although we have to resign to go away for such an extended period of time, there is a really good chance we may get our jobs back again.

So that folks, is how you resign from your jobs, and travel in complete freedom, worry free, for up to 6 months without any income. That is how you triumph over the ‘But’ monster and live your dream.

For us preparation and opportunity will meet on the 26th of May 2017 to be precise – with a bit of good luck being the icing on the cake. The wet season has been amazing this year so the West Australian and the Northern Territory landscapes will be stunningly vibrant.

Haha ‘But’ monster – I laugh in your face!

Michelle’s countdown begins

mapsKevin and I have gypsy hearts. Australian gypsy that is – the kind who craves the pure, unfettered freedom of life on a dusty, outback road. A simple longing for red sand between the toes, sapphire blue skies, crystal nights under carpets of stars, wafts of lazy campfires, the sky ablaze with colour at sunrise and sunset and the chorus of budgies and galahs.  A longing for a life that is simple in a vast land that is quite simply stunning.

Of course reality dictates that such an unfettered life of freedom is just a pipe dream except in short joyful bursts of annual leave. We have jobs, debts, bills to pay, house to maintain, obligations and schedules.  We work hard at our jobs to earn money to pay for this life and in the evenings we sit inside our four expensive brick walls blankly watching reality tripe and bad news on a TV.  That carpet of stars is out there but we don’t see it. We don’t see the sunrise or the sunset except in brief glimpses while we are doing something else. It’s wrong. We know that. We have known it forever but it’s the life we have been conditioned to live in.   We are blessed to have our health, food on the table, shelter over our heads, a collection of ‘stuff’ to make life comfortable and of course an occasional adventure. But we want more and we want less if that makes any sense. More of the extra-ordinary and less of the ‘stuff’.

So 2017 is our year. We have put ourselves in the position to give our gypsy hearts a glimpse of the freedom they are seeking. We have saved hard and put a little money aside each week for the ‘big trip’.  The one where we resign from our jobs, leave our house in the hands of our children and run away into the sunset. Towards the west where the sun sets into the sea and that great big Kimberley moon makes a staircase. And oh the anticipation.

Not forever. It’s just a taste. One of two things will happen. It will either get it out of our system for a while or we will enjoy the taste so much that we will yearn for more and have the courage to dismantle the shackles that bind us.  But that’s for later. In the here and now we have 54 days until we hit the red dusty road that’s paved in gold.