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.

GERALDTON WA TO THE GREAT CENTRAL ROAD LAVERTON : Ocean to Desert – Goodbye to Lands Edge

IT WAS A HEART WRENCHING AFFAIR leaving the coastline of Western Australia. I crane my neck seeking one last glimpse of that strip of alluring blue and then it was gone. Inside my soul was kicking and screaming, dragging its heals and hanging on with clawed fingers. It was just sad like I was losing something precious. We had the most wonderful time on this gorgeous coastline.

Its all a trade-off though. We said goodbye to the ocean but in the process have gained something back in the desert; something just as precious and soul stirring.

On the coast in the popular National Parks we had a nightly routine. Watch the sun set into the sea, retire into the camper out of the wind and read for a while before sleeping to the lullaby of waves. Here in the desert, however, that time of day is the most special. When the skies pastel layers of pink, mauve and blue start to disappate, we enjoy the warmth and companionship of a blazing mulga campfire. Other than the crackle of the flames, the silence is absolute. It’s utterly still and for the first time in over a month we hear white noise in our heads. That chandelier of stars commands our attention and we have quiet conversations feeling toasty warm while that cold desert air descends heavy around us. This too is special.

Now, instead of our bed sheets being salty and crunchy with beach sand they have a whiff of campfire about them. All is good with the world. We are still out here doing it and appreciating another new phase.

Our Landcruiser is now a totally sexy beast after having been fitted with new fat Cooper tyres and rear WA made parabolic leaf springs to give it the butt lift it so seriously needed. So with total confidence once again in our rig we finally turned to the East from the Geraldton coastline and two hours later passed a big sign announcing ` You are now entering the Outback`. The point of no return and the commencement of phase 3 of our trip.

Our trip is composed of three phases

Phase 1: The Savannah Way- Cairns to Broome

Phase 2: The WA Coastline and Karajini

Phase 3: The Mega Desert Crossings – West to East

In this last and final phase we will traverse most remote and isolated regions of Australia. Through the Great Victoria and Gibson Deserts into The Red Centre of the Northern Territory and the Simpson Desert crossing back into Queensland.

This phase will be different again and we are both excited about the adventure ahead. As I write this we are heading for the remote WA township of Laverton, permit to cross Aboriginal land in hand, as we prepare to cross The Great Central Road. Next blog post will be from Ayers Rock in Territory.

Finally in the desert we have a free camp all to ourselves

Waves, Wild Wind and Whalesharks CAPE RANGE NATIONAL PARK EXMOUTH

whalesharkNingaloo Marine Park and Cape Range National Park

Just quietly, between you and me, I’m so impressed with myself.

We are at Cape Range National Park for five nights, an absolute highlight of our Australian meanderings. Cape Range is on the Coral Coast of Western Australia and is on the coastal strip adjacent to the famous Ningaloo Marine Park. The ocean is turquoise and crystal clear and the coral reef is right there off the sandy white beaches. It’s a pristine wilderness.  The clarity of the water here is so incredible – like looking through glass.

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Can anyone spot the octopus? The water is so clear.

Of course, like most of the national parks in WA, its inevitably and deservedly popular. The nearest town to the park is Exmouth and there are signs everywhere stating CAPE RANGE NP CAMPGROUNDS ARE FULL, despite there being a choice of six campgrounds.

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Turquoise Bay. Is it any wonder Cape Range National Park is popular.

Anyhow this is why I’m so impressed with myself. Yours truly, madame way over organised, booked our campsite in advance. And by advance, I mean 6 months ago. I remember putting so much time into reading travel blogs trying to ascertain not only the best out of the campgrounds but also the best site in the best campground.

But you know what? I bloody nailed it. High five Micky Jo. Not only did we drive straight in without any booking hassles, we ended up on ‘millionaires row’ in the best campground in the park (Site 9, Osprey Bay Campground). Called ‘millionaires row’ due to the spectacular ocean views (the other campgrounds are tucked behind sand dunes). The view is simply breathtaking.

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One of the three campsites on ‘millionares row’ with an ocean view
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The view out our windows was just stunning

Kevin fishes right in front of the camper (with no success but that’s not the point), we have snorkelled the reef right off the beach, seen an array of colourful fish, stingrays, turtles and a reef tip shark and we are a 650m stroll to the absolute most exquisite aquamarine Sandy Bay Beach where I worship the sun and the water like I haven’t done for years.

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Kevin doing his thing……..
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And me doing mine!

And of course, no visit to Ningaloo is complete without a swim with the Whale sharks on a Ningaloo Reef Tour. It cost us $800 but what an absolute buzz. Chaotic trying to avoid fins in your face and a bit of space jostling as you all swim frantically chasing after the massive sharks as the hoover their way through the ocean. It was all go, go, go. (Very much like the ‘Swim with Dolphins’ in Zanzibar, Joel) It was worth it getting to snorkel alongside the world’s biggest fish and we jumped into the water five times following them. We swam on top of them, alongside and Kevin just got out of the way of the huge mouth in time so he wasn’t sucked in with the plankton. Such fun and so exciting. We also saw humpback whales breaching and snorkelled coral bombies. What a sight. Great day.

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A mermaid and a Whaleshark??
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We look like snorkelling pros don’t we?

Then the next day the weather changed. There is always wind on the WA coast but it got really windy. The type of windy that we were sure our little camper on its legs was going to be sucked up in some sort of wind vortex with us inside (off to the Land of Oz we go).  The sound of canvas furiously flapping at night even blocked out the roar of the ocean on the reef. It was so bad that a caravan pulled up stakes and left at 2.30am. We would have liked to be in a caravan with non-canvas walls just then. Where it was going too at that hour I’m not sure. It was cold the next day and when the sun was hidden by clouds the aquamarine ocean took on a more ominous grey quality with 3m swells. It’s the first time the weather has been disagreeable for us and the weather plays such an important role in your perspective of a place. Fortunately, it passed though, the sun came out, the sea turned aqua and although it was still windy all was good with the world once again. Of course, today as we had to leave was picture postcard perfect and neither of us wanted to go but better to leave on a high. A few tears but one day we’ll be back.

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Lovely Sandy Bay

Even though we are pretty much bitumen bashing on this portion of our holiday, we are still remote. In fact, everywhere in WA is remote. The distances between towns are huge. The Coral Coast is unique because its where the desert meets the ocean. Literally. Inland we were driving through red sandhills every 100m or so, just like the Simpson Desert.

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The inland view out the window. It goes on and on and on…………

And there’s nothing. From horizon to horizon its flat, featureless and boring. But then you see this absolute jewel of a coastline that makes Western Australia so incredibly special. We suddenly have this special affinity with the ocean and each evening as I stroll the beach watching that vibrant sunset I am aware how privileged we are to be able to do this.

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I will so miss these sunsets

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How much does it cost to Travel Australia by Road

Australia by road on a Budget: How much does it actually cost?

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I’m keeping a record of every penny we spend on this trip. I roughly budgeted for $1000 per week when I was planning the trip so out of interest I’m curious as to how much it actually costs us in reality.

Australia is not a cheap travel destination, however, by road it is possible to reduce the financial outlay with some planning. A vehicle with 2 fuel tanks has enabled us to buy more fuel in bigger towns where it’s cheaper and travel longer distances between re-fills. Carrying a freezer and a fridge has allowed us to do the same with food. (The cost of food in remote small towns is outrageous – it was $50 for a carton of coke in Borroloola). The occasional free camp reduces the accommodation expenses so the Camps 9 book with every free camp in Australia listed is a worthwhile investment and National Park camp sites are much better value than Caravan Parks.

The boring numbers that follow are the statistics for our first month of travel from Cairns in Queensland to Wyndham at the top of Western Australia via The Savannah Way with a detour up the Top End of the Northern Territory.

Month One Stats:  

Total Expenditure:  $2730.93   (For a whole month of travel this is pretty good – that would just be our airfare if we went overseas)

Broken into the following categories

Fuel:                           $ 906.83

Cheapest fuel in Darwin NT @ 1.26 per litre.

Dearest fuel in Doomadgee QLD @ $1.70 per litre

Accommodation      $527.40

6 nights in Caravan Parks @ $214

13 nights at National Parks @ $176.40

1 night in a Darwin Motel @ $77

4 nights at station campgrounds @ $136

5 nights free camping at roadside stops @ $0

Food                           $857.65

Miscellaneous          $241 (gas cannisters, cooker, phone charge, markets)

Car repairs                $213 (2 x flat tyres)

Nil Sightseeing Tours purchased in this period – we walked and swam everywhere and they are way too bloody expensive to justify.

So, we are in fact doing quite well after our first month, slightly better than forecast. However, as we head across the Gibb River Road I anticipate a catch up will happen. High fuel and accommodation costs are unavoidable and we want to see everything this time. No scrimping here. We are getting a car service done before we go in the hope that prevention is better than cure and cross fingers our tyres hold up. Kevin’s itching to swap the split rims with tubes for tubeless fatties (please, please no more flat tyres!)

Boring post over…………..

 

 

Lorella Springs Station – Savannah Way, Northern Territory

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPARADISE FOUND

Paradise is a hard word to define because everyone’s concept of it is different. Fortunately, Kevin and I are on similar wavelengths here (except his version includes beer). We have found a pretty good version of paradise here at Lorella Springs Station.

This place is magic. It’s completely wild, natural, untouched and remote. A destination for 4WD adventure seekers only.  The road is far too rough for all but the most rugged off-road caravans, so it’s quiet and everywhere we go we have it mostly to ourselves. A few camper trailers and other slide-on campers come and go and some 4WD bus tours but they don’t venture far from camp.

We spend a couple of days following 4WD tracks through sand, mud, rocks, bulldust and water. There is a thousand kilometres of them on this one million-acre property. On foot, we clamber and scramble over rocks and through creek beds following pink ribbon markers in trees and we are always rewarded with an exquisite waterhole (crocodile free), gorge or waterfall. We drive, walk, swim, drive, walk, swim.  Its lovely. Its adventurous. It’s just our kind of thing.

We camp only 20 metres away from the natural thermal spring in the creek. It’s not too hot and not too cold and in the early morning steam rises from the creek. I stay in there until my fingers wrinkle like prunes.

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Michelle in the completely natural thermal spring. How awesome to have it all to myself.

We visit places like helicopter pool, fern gully, fossil fern, la spa and nannas retreat. Each place is unique and lovely and worthy of just one more swim. It’s a wonderful piece of the Northern Territory that has stayed wild, untouched and completely natural. No paths or handrails or causeways.  I hope it stays that way.

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The very beautiful Helicopter Pool. Magic and 10/10 for wow factor.
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Crystal clear water
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Eat ya heart out Russell Coight! That would be la butt in ‘La Spa’ swimming hole.
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Boiling the billy and picnic lunch at ‘Fern Gully’ swimming hole. The water was lovely.
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Swimming through the Gorge at ‘Nannas Retreat’ to reach the cave at the other end. Adventurous!

Lorella Springs is located at the end of a 29km track off the Cape Crawford to Roper Bar Road. It is definitely remote, you need a 4WD to get here and you certainly need one to enjoy the attractions. The property borders Limmen National Park and is a commercial enterprise. The station owner concluded that a better living could be made from tourism than cattle.  The cost to stay here is $20 per person per night but this includes access to the whole property which extends all the way to the gulf for spectacular barramundi fishing and you can remote camp anywhere you choose. It pays to be totally self-sufficient and bring extra fuel as the station will charge you $3 a litre to top up here. There is bar with happy hour at 5pm every day and there are facilities at the main station campground which is huge. They are unique facilities. It’s kind of amazing showering under the stars a few minutes after you light a fire under the ‘donkey’.

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The roof less shower cubicles and its unisex and the shower curtain blows open.
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The ‘donkey’ behind the facilities. Light a fire under it as you have hot showers. Yay!

The best time of year to visit is now, in May and June, after the wet when the waterholes are still flowing. Later in the year they dry up and some become stagnant. At this time of the year they are amazing.

We only got a small taste of this paradise but that’s good because it gives us a reason to come back one day.

The following piccys show some of the ‘interesting’ 4WD tracks.

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Although the photo doesn’t capture it very well. This was steep.
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Add some rocks for good measure. My head nearly fell off here

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Definitely put this place on your bucket list. Its awesome.

Just what is it about Lawn Hill Gorge?

“Lawn Hill Gorge has ‘it’. Precisely what ‘it’ is I’m not sure how to put into words. I guess it’s like trying to explain what colours are to a blind person. It’s just something you need to experience yourself or it has no meaning.”

From Leichhardt Falls we take the shorter route via Augusta Downs Stations and join the Gregory Development Road to the Gregory Pub. After a delightful swim in the Gregory River its only 100km further on to Boodjamulla National Park and Lawn Hill Gorge.

The first 65 odd km to the Century Mine turn off used to be great because it was well maintained for the numerous trucks going in and out of the mine. However now the mine has closed and the layer of seal is pot holed and disintegrating rapidly. Makes for an interesting ride dodging from one side of the road to the other avoiding mega pot holes. The last 15km into the National Park is badly corrugated dirt but the camp ground is full of caravans so it did not obviously deter them.

We always stay at the Boodjamulla National Park campground. Adeles Grove Caravan Park 10km away is very shady with green grass on the banks of Lawn Hill creek. Its lovely if your stay is all about the camping, nice facilities and a restaurant but we come here to hike, canoe and swim in the pristine waters of the Gorge and all this action starts at the National Park campground. Its dry and sparse with cold water showers but is nice and quiet. No generators allowed and only 20 sites that must be pre-booked online if you want to snag a spot in peak season.

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Our camp site at Boodjamulla National Park

Now about Lawn Hill Gorge. Some places just have that ‘wow’ factor. I’m hoping to see a few of them on this extended trip but on this occasion, we chose to start our adventure with a known ‘wow’ spot just to kick it off nicely. This is our sixth visit here.

Lawn Hill Gorge has ‘it’. Precisely what ‘it’ is I’m not sure how to put into words. I guess it’s like trying to explain what colours are to a blind person. It’s just something you need to experience yourself or it has no meaning.

In the words of John Denver, it just ‘fills up my senses’.  Visually it is striking. The colours mixed together on an outback palette create something quite extraordinary.  The water in Lawn Hill Creek is a deep jade green due to the calcium carbonate content. The gorge is ochre red and against a brilliant blue outback sky it is beautiful. I can never take a photo that does it justice.

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The water is genuinely this gorgeous shade of jade green

My favourite place at Lawn Hill is in the middle of the gorge, drifting aimlessly in the canoe in the late afternoon shade and just taking it all in.  The canoe traffic has vanished for the day make it a place of complete solitude. The water is still and reflections are mirrored on the surface. The silence is complete. Only on occasion, you hear a willy wagtail chirrup or a corella squawk by or the gentle lapping of water on the canoe. It is so unbelievably peaceful.

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The middle of the main Gorge where Boodjamulla the rainbow serpent dwells

The swimming in the green water is just absolutely delicious despite the presence of freshwater crocodiles. They won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. We don’t even know they are there unless we spot one sun baking on a log as we canoe past.

We think its essential to bring your own canoe to Lawn Hill. They can be hired from Adeles Grove but its quite expensive and only available during the day. We bring our own ‘Sevylor’ inflatable. It packs up quite small and gives us the freedom to canoe to our hearts content, including sunrise and at night (that was a bit hairy). That way you can take photos like this.

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A sunrise canoe is just magnificent as the first rays of sunshine touch the gorge walls
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Our inflatable canoe is just perfect to carry on a long trip. Takes 5 minutes to pump up by hand and folds up quite small.

So our three days here have, as usual, have been just so lovely. Mostly swimming, canoeing and relaxing as the weather was very warm still and swimming in that divine water is just a heavenly experience. Hard to leave but this time is different as we are not homeward bound.

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Beautiful swimming

Its time for us to turn left and head for the Northern Territory border. Exciting days to come. Lorella Springs Wilderness Park and Limmen Bight National Park next and this is a wild and remote part of the Northern Territory (complete with natural hot springs).

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

Map in the dunnyMap in the dunny

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

 

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.