Monday 2 January 2017

16 months on.....

16 months since we arrived home from our trip around Australia and 16 months since my last post on this blog.   I have recently had a few messages of people who 'followed along' that asked what happened to us when we got home. So here I sit ready to write about what life was like for us post our trip around Aus.

The truth is we very nearly didn't come home. Two weeks before our return, sitting in the caravan park in Port Augusta, Craig got a call from his workplace to say they had replaced him in his management role. And he would be back on the tools again, which paid less money, but it was a job nonetheless. It was the exact same day we had just chosen a rental property online and paid several thousand dollars in bond and future rent. Had the phone call came a day earlier we would never have organised a rental back in Perth and we would have kept travelling. Probably stopping along the way to get some work. Anyways, it all happened the way it happened... obviously for a reason.

We returned to Perth September 2015 and moved into a rental property in Perth Hills, close to my family and the kids school. Craig went back to work and was soon back in the same daily grind, he put in some long hours, often going to mine sites for up to two weeks at a time with little break in between. I took a few days of relief teaching here and there and was busy with the kids. We sort of made a plan to buy another house to live in and 'settle down'. But for the first time in our lives the plans we made were grey and sketchy and both of us didn't quite know if we were ready to settle. We were lucky. We made a decent amount of money between us. We were debt free which was lovely and soon saved up to hook the camper on again several times. One of those trips was back to our favourite spot on the map, Broome.

Setting up the camper in Broome felt a lot like going home.  That atmosphere of caravan parks, the chatting of old people, the laughing and playing sounds of the young kids on their bikes, the smell of sausages cooking for dinners, the fresh air, walking to the showers and spending an hour on the way talking to people, something which I had missed so much. We had a lovely rental in Perth, a nice big house that we quickly filled with our stuff. But it was lonely compared to the 6x6 camper and the open air of a camp ground.

One afternoon while in Broome Craig looked at me and said 'gee I would love to live up here in the Kimberley'. It had been a long cold winter in Perth. He was particularly stressed, having gone from the relaxed togetherness we had as a family on our trip to going back to the long hours, days and sometimes weeks he was away from us working bloody hard but getting nowhere fast. Once you know how the other way of living feels its hard to go back to the stress of work, other peoples shit, materialism, and greed. We did a good job to stay level and grounded but it was slowly seeping back into our lives and by this point, 9 months after returning from our big lap, we were ready to get away again.

It a fleeting moment, and without putting much thought into it, I jumped on my phone and glanced over teaching oppertunities in the Kimberley, WA. I flicked my resume off for a job as I sat at our campsite in Broome. I really never thought I would get a look in, but the next afternoon I got a call from the Principal who offered me a job on the spot.

So here we were at yet another fork in our lives. We sat by the pool at the Cable Beach caravan park and while the kids played we had the conversation. Do we stay in Perth, buy a house in the hills the following year. pay mortgage, pay rates, pay bills, work hard, pay more bills, go on a three week holiday once a year. It wasn't a bad life, It was actually a good one. We had good friends, lived close to family, the kids were in a good school. Craig made a lot of money, I made play money with my teaching relief work. It would be easy to stay in that rut. It wasn't a bad rut to be in. But it was a rut. Or do we grab life by the balls and have yet another adventure. Take this teaching job and live in a place entirely different from anything we had every experienced before. Taking this job meant we halved our annual combined income. Taking this job meant I took the kids out of their school again. Taking this job meant we were away from family and friends. But taking this job? well it kept life interesting. It meant we were within arms reach of our favourite parts of Australia. Camping and fishing possibilities endless, we would meet new people, see new things. And for me career wise, well taking this job would define me as a teacher. 

My biggest consideration in all this was my girls. Their little faces were laughing as they played in the pool at the caravan park. I sat and looked at them and wondered what benefits there would be for staying or going. I decided to ask them outright. I put it all out there to the kids before we made a decision. How would they feel moving all the way to the top of Australia and going to a different school for a bit.  And you know what they said? 'we don't mind Mum'. 

My perfect little kids. My well adjusted little kids. I knew we would be ok. 

So I signed on the dotted line. And five weeks from when I sent my resume we were packed, and had moved over 3,000km to our new destination in the Kimberley. Derby.

Saturday 3 October 2015

So, Was it 'worth' it?

What is worth? What is important? So often worth is attached to dollars. To money. 

Money? If money is the most important thing in the world then I am glad I spent every cent of life savings we had. It was 'worth' every moment. 

Were we being over indulgent and irresponsible, taking a holiday like this? Probably. Do I care? nope. 

Because what if money isn't 'worth'. What if we gauged success on who were were, not what we had. What if it was more important to live rather than exist. What if we didn't even gauge success. Because we didn't care. What if creating memories was most important. What if.

What if we were to wake up and everything was taken from us. 

What if we never woke up, and we were in fact the ones that were taken from our money. 

Money can come and money can go.  

We as human beings come into this earth, then we go. Nothing lasts. Not money. Not people. Not things. 

Before we did this trip I was worried that we were spending all our money on something like this. Because that is what we are supposed to worry about.

Shouldn't we be saving money?  But then, for what? Somewhere to live?clothing? food? All things which I have as I type this and all things we had when we were travelling.

And if I hadn't done this trip I would still have all those things. And I would probably have more. More money. 

But I wouldn't have this. In my mind.


So many photographs taken. 

And so many postcard images in my head.


Freeze frames in time. 

Thousands of moments that are imbedded in my memory. They flash to me every now and again, a reminder of the beauty I saw. 

There are some things that money can't buy. There are some things that cannot be taken from us. Memories. 

Sitting on the beach in Coral Bay watching the sun rise, WA
Watching the kids play in the snow in the snowfields out of Canberra, ACT

The different blue colours in the ocean at Byron Bay, NSW

Where the rainforrest meets the ocean in Cape Tribulation, QLD

The sky and the clouds and the sand and the beach, Fraser Island, QLD
Seeing the staircase to the moon was a touching experience, Broome WA

The waves rippling the ocean surface in Bells Beach, Victoria

The angry ocean hitting the side of the cliff in Robe, SA

The nothingness that goes on and on and makes you feel so isolated but so peaceful, Gibb River Road, WA

Looking up at Windjana Gorge from our campsite, WA

Uluru in all its glory, signifying how small we are. And how short our time on earth is. NT

Watching this sun set, realising that today was over and the only sure thing in life is that the sun will come up again tomorrow. 

Not only do I have beautiful memories like the ones above. But I have snippets of time. Of interactions and observations of other human beings. Here are a few of the many notes I made while on the road. 

A man sits by the side of the track, painting a picture. A campfire burning nearby, a woman making paint for him to use on his canvas. A Jabiru stands gracefully beside him. An interaction between man and bird that was spiritual and silent.
Mataranka, NT

Dreadlocked hair and baggy clothing. A makeshift campsite. A tent, pots and pans in the back of a station wagon. A piece of rope hanging between two trees. A man and woman bending over a gas cooker preparing a breakfast. People, a moment in time. paths crossed that will never cross again. 
Malloy free camping area, QLD

Her eyes were wet from crying. She clutched her mobile phone tightly to her ear. Dressed in a school uniform with a backpack by her feet. Her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her life in observation.
On the train, Melbourne VIC

She stands tall. Out the front of a run down house. It is her land. Her home. her life. A baby perched on her hip. Their skin the same colour as each others, but not the same as my own. I look from the car window. The baby raises her hand and waves to me. We drive past and they are out of sight. but still in my mind.
Warakurna, Great Central Road, WA

They prepare a meal. Together. Peeling potatoes into a silver dish and melting the lard in the pan before placing the roast into the fat. The lid goes on. They sit and talk. Idle chit chat staring at each other. They are as familiar to each other as breathing. Their skin no longer as smooth as their first meeting. Years have gone by. One stands and enters their caravan. Their home. The other takes a crossword and with head down completes the puzzle. All the while the meat is sizzling in the pan. 
Echuca caravan park, Victoria 

She walks with proudness to her camper. Her shorts and singlet showing her tanned skin. Her hair in a messy bun. Her two boys play nearby. Her husband approaches. he takes off his hat and wipes the sweat from his forehead before returning the hat onto his head. The boys run to their parents. They put the lights on their camper. Its getting dark. A family together in the middle of nowhere.
Gibbs River Road, WA


At the very start of this trip I made myself clear to Craig. I said we are only going for SIX months. Not a day more. This is just a holiday and we are definitely going home at the end of it.

But a girl can change her mind, right?

So six months down the track I found myself saying to him 'lets keep going'. Please lets not go back to Perth right now. Lets go back north and stay in Broome for a while. And do the top end again. 

Our hearts told us to keep exploring this beautiful country of ours. To be like so many others we had seen and to keep going. To stop and work a few months here and there. To live the simplistic life of no bills, no responsibilities. Staying where we like when we like for how long we like. 

But our heads told us 'go home'. Go back to work, go back to school, go back to family, get your shit sorted. Its not fair on the kids to live in this limbo land of doing what we please. They need routine and structure. The six months is up. 

Our heads won. 

Our last morning pack up was rather surreal. All the 'lasts'. The last time I closed the kitchen, the last time we packed up the stretcher beds, the last time we did up the canvas cover...

Just about all packed up on our last morning

I reversed onto the camper and Craig connected up. Then we made our way the 9 hours from Leonora, through to Perth. Home.

As the roads and the landmarks got more and more familiar I felt a strange feeling. Similar to the feeling I had when we left Perth for the first time those six months prior. Its hard to describe but it is sort of a nervous/anxious feeling. When we left it was nervous/anxious/excited. But on our return it was a nervous/anxious/deflated feeling. 

Time had just gone so fast and it was all over. So final. We pulled up in our driveway, reversed the camper into the yard and headed over to my mums house just in time for a cooked dinner. Ahh I had missed my Mum! We were so tired having done three consecutive massive driving days. We had red dirt all over us and we were wrecked. All five of us were emotionally drained. We ate a quick dinner before coming 'home' and sleeping as a family on the lounge room floor on our camper beds. It was just too much to go off into our own rooms after sleeping together so long!

As most of you know, we had two houses before we left on our trip, and to help fund our travels we sold our family home. Our other property is rented out for 12 months and is too far away from the kids school. Therefore we had organised ourselves (over the phone when we were in South Australia) a rental property in our home suburb which is close to school, shops and my family. 

The next few days were a blur of collecting our furniture from the sea containers stored at a friends property and my parents house. Unpacking boxes and getting back to 'normal'. Getting our dog back. 

The principal at school said to bring the kids back for the few days before term ended so they could re acquaint themselves. So all too soon the kids disappeared to school, Craig went back to work and I was left in this huge house unpacking. Stuff. Stuff that had been so important to me before we left. But stuff that seemed so insignificant now. 

I had a few cries during this time. I thought Craig would be the one who was depressed to be home. But it was actually me that didn't cope so well! 

On day five of being home everyone else was at school/work and I had to go couch shopping as we had sold our couch before we left. It was during this shopping experience that I sat in a big leather arm chair in Hervey Norman and sobbed like a baby.  It was then I realised that I needed to get over it. 

I got a subway for lunch and re grouped. Telling myself that I was bloody lucky to have done such a big holiday. It was over now. This was my life again. And I have a good life. One that I am lucky to come home to. 

It was only ever a holiday. Nothing lasts forever. 

Monday 28 September 2015

Great Central Road stats

Kilometres travelled


Time it took us from Kata Juta turn off to Leonora

Day 1: 6.5 hours driving
Day 2: 11 hours driving

Average speed

up to 90 kilometres an hour on the freshly graded roads

down to 20 kilometres an hour on the road on the NT side of the boarder. This section of the road was near impassable and was by far worse than any road conditions seen on Gibb River road or Cape York Peninsula.

Fuel price

$2.50 per litre for diesel. (opal fuel available but No unleaded)

Fuel stops on the road

BE CAREFUL as these stops have limited opening hours. And they are not places you would want to camp for the night waiting for fuel.

Docker River General Store (9am-5pm m-f, 9am-2pm s-s)
Warakurna Road House (8.30am-6pm m-f, 9am-3pm s-s)
Warburton Road House (9am-5pm m-f, 9am-3pm s-s)
Tjukayirla Road House (9am-5pm m-f, 9am-2pm s-s)
Cosmo Newberry (10am-12 noon then 3pm-5pm m-f, 10am-12 noon s-s)

Fuel consumption per 100 litres: between 13.7-14

Permits Required

WA: Department of Aboriginal Affairs

No costs

Police station check in

Laverton Police station (08) 90311202
this is non compulsory if you have purchased your permits, but as we travelled alone we chose to check in. They take your details and write in their register. We also gave our estimated travel times to my mum, with instructions to call police if we didn't text her in three days.

Other traffic

3x cars with campers heading Westbound
1x hire vehicle heading westbound
2x cars heading east bound
2x cars parked at Lasseters cave
2x cars with campers at campground
3x road trains fuelling up at Warburton

Matilda's backseat Tally

268 abandon vehicles
15 Camels
2 Donkeys
1 dingo
1 wedge tail eagle

Great Central Road part 2

road conditions in WA

Once we had crossed into Western Australia the road, like magic, became a lot smoother. 

Some damage had already been done on the 100km of rough road behind us. We did an anderson plug, a spotlight and had loosened some bolts in the bull bar. The most damage we had done on the whole trip was done in this 100k of road.
We were able to increase speed on this better road conditions and we made it to the Giles weather station at the town of Warakurna about 4pm. 

Giles weather station, see the white balloon on the left of the photo, its a weather balloon that gets released every morning at 8.45am

A piece of 'space junk' from an Apollo mission way back in the 1970s. Very cool!

A tribute to Len Beadell, the guy who first graded these outback roads including the Great Central Road, Gunbarrell highway, and the road he named after his wife, the Anne Beadle Highway.

We had a look at the camping at Giles, but realised that camping in a lockable caravan is one thing, but setting up a camper was not wise in this community. So we decided to press on and drive to a camp spot allocated 131km up the road.

we pulled in on dark and were happy to see two other people already set up camp. because this is Indigenous land you cannot camp wherever you want, you must stay in the marked camp areas only. So here we were, at our very last bush camp for the trip, the Yarla kutjara campground. No toilets, no power, no water, no nothing. Just a patch of land a little off the road. 

It was very quiet, very dark and may I say a bit eerie that night!

The next morning we woke and packed up. We were 89km east of Warburton so looking at the time we thought we would get there just as the fuel opened at 9am. 

Then, when we got there we realised that we were still on NT time as we forgot to change our clocks! So we had an hour and a half to kill before the fuel opened! And there were already road trains lining up to fill their tanks too!

The community is closed and the only camping that can be done is in a locked and barbed wire compound. We decided to get some breakfast so opened up the camper then and there and heated up some beans on toast! Two stray dogs come hungrily sniffing around us and we had to shoo them away. People drove past and stared at us but we had no problems with anyone in the time we were there. 

After breakfast we lined up with the truckies to get our fuel. Craig then took the morning shift and we had an uneventful drive to Tjukayira roadhouse where we fuelled up again. Something really gross happened here. Poor Matilda was busting for a wee. We tended up till this point on the GCR to only use our porta potty when we did bush stops for morning tea and lunch. But here we were at the roadhouse and there were two toilets that looked cleanish. I wiped the seat for her and left her to her business. A man was already occupying the second toilet and I heard him finish and flush. As I took outside Matilda's toilet I heard a gurgling sound.... it was vibrating through the ground and I suddenly realised what was happening. I opened her door and grabbed her off the loo just as the mans SHIT he had flushed gurgled up and bubbled out matildas toilet!!!!!!!!! oh my god it was so disgusting. She did not get one drop on her thank god. But I scrubbed her with that hand sanitiser gel and I said to Craig we are not putting our bums on any more toilet seats this trip. Its porta potty all the way. 

So gross. As I sit here and write this a week on Im still squirming and wanting to wash my hands!!!!!!

Anyway back to our GCR adventures......

I took the afternoon drive. The road from the bad piping road house to Laverton was long and rough. We had sort of planned to just stop wherever and camp. But there actually isn't really anywhere to. And we were making good time so decided to press on to Laverton. The kids are used to long distances. And we have colouring books, iPads, DVD players and games of eye spy on hand! 

Then a few hours up the road we see the man who had done the shit at the road house. He had stopped and shot a camel by the road. His rifle sitting beside the freshly killed beast. And he had a knife out cutting into its hump. It freaked me out actually. Matilda in the backseat saw what was going on and asked 'should I count that camel in my tally mum?'


During this stretch of the road we saw camels, dingos, donkeys and so many dead abandon cars. 

The ladies from 'Follow the Sun' some fellow travellers, had counted 270 abandon cars on the GCR. Matilda decided to count them too and she ended up with a total of 268!!!! So we either missed two cars or they had been moved in the weeks between Follow the Suns trip and ours! 

Get on the bitumen at Laverton and still have to watch for Cows!

I don't normally drink Coke, but I had a can on that stretch of road, to keep me going. We ate dry crackers for lunch and pressed on and after passing through the community of Cosmo Newberry we finally arrived in Laverton. We decided to fuel up then push on to Leonora, where we did our final set up for our around Australia trip. We cooked our final dinner in the camper and then put the babies in their camper stretchers for the final time. 

I felt a bit sad that night. A bit relieved we had done the trip. A bit happy we would soon be in a house. A bit nervous about going home. A bit anxious about the kids going back to school. A bit lost that this time tomorrow it would all be over. 

Sure we will do lots of little trips here and there but our around Australia trip would be over. 

Three little people in their camp stretchers

Great Central Road part 1

The Great Central Road (GCR) is a stretch of approximately 1,200km of dirt road that spans from Yulara, Northern Territory right through to Laverton, Western Australia. The road runs through Indigenous communities and reserves and because of this you must obtain a permit to travel this route. You need two permits, one for Northern Territory land and one for Western Australia.  Permits available online (current in September 2015) from the WA Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Territory CLC 

We left Yulara mid morning after a pack up in the warm sun. As we were driving past Uluru to go out  to start the GCR Matilda requested one last drive around the base of the rock. So we put on John Williamson 'Raining on the rock' as our sound track, and we did a lap, each of us staring out the windows at the enormous landmark and each of us contemplating that we would in fact be back here sooner rather than later. 

As we pulled onto the road to take us out to kata Juta and the start of the GCR we saw the most massive eagle who stared at us and then took flight. Watching him soar high in the sky and into the distance was a memorable and a slightly emotional moment as we pulled away from Uluru and headed to Kata Juta, which is Indigenous for 'Many Heads'. It is a rock formation that is made up of several large structures that do indeed look like 'heads'. 

The walk to the Kata Juta lookout was easily accessable as it has been made into a board walk. Nevertheless I still had my hiking boots on! 

The little flowers that made a carpet, at kata Juta

We then turned west and onto the Great Central Road

As we turned west at Kata Juta and onto the dirt road I felt a little uneasy. Almost like we 'shouldn't' be on this road. We stopped to let the air down in the tyres and I jumped in the drivers seat to do the first leg of the trip.

The first part of the road

Bored selfies as craig sorts the tyres

And off we went. We hoped to make it to Giles Weather station as our first over nighter as some fellow campers had said they had camped here the night. 

The first 50 or so kilometres were lovely. Well as lovely as a dirt road can be. I sat on about 80km and we wondered what all the fuss had been about the rough road conditions. Then up ahead we saw a grader. 

Once we passed the freshly graded road and onto the un graded road it started to get rough. Like really rough. I slowed down somewhat and had to keep two hands on the steering wheel, making it hard to get a drink! 

Our first stop on the road was to see Lasseters Cave. In the 1930's Lewis Lasseter headed out this way in search of an illusive 'Gold Reef'. He had first discovered this reef when he was 17 years old and he made the trek back out here several years later to find it again. Unfortunately for him, his camels (with all his tools and supplies) ran away from him. Starving hungry he made his way to this cave and sheltered from the hot sun for 25 days. His diary was found in the cave several years later with a quote saying 'what good is a gold reef I would trade all the gold in the world for a loaf of bread'.

This was the view from the opening of the cave, I took this pic to remind myself that this would have been Lasseters view for 25 days while he sheltered and waited to see his fate. 

Little miss with a screwed up face. At Lasseters cave walk.

 From the cave we drove into Docker River, an Indigenous Community, to fuel up. I would have taken photos but there are signs everywhere requesting no photos be made. So I will have to use words to describe it and you can choose to believe me or not. 

As we pulled into Docker River we could feel the poverty oozing from the pores of the community. Gutted houses sat abandon as gatherings of people had made camp in the front yards instead. The streets were lined with rubbish, soiled nappies, soft drink cans and hot chip boxes. Old car wrecks sat in front yards. There were no gardens, no grass, no trees. A general store sat at the T intersection of the road. parked out front were cars with no windows. More occupants than the seats allowed for. The petrol bowsers were locked in big steel cages. There was no signage on the store. Just bars covering the window to make it look and feel like a prison. 

We pulled in and both agreed our children were not getting out of the car. An Asian lady, an unexpected sight, appeared from the shop and pulled a set of keys from her pocket to open the fuel bowsers. She told us she was working here on her visa for three months. I asked where she lived and she pointed to a small house nearby.

Dark eyes from the parked cars peered at us before looking away so as not to make eye contact. 

As craig disappeared into the store to pay, I pressed the central lock button on the door and waited. I knew I was unwelcome here. I was not wanted. I was a stranger and I was a symbol of another world. A world in which these people wanted nothing to do with. 

Craig emerged from the store and got in the drivers seat. He proceeded to tell me about the sight inside the store. Of a young girl wearing nothing but her underwear, standing behind her mother. A baby sitting on the floor with a jar of nutella, scooping the chocolate spread from the jar with her bare hands. 

The fuel was our most expensive to date $2.50 a litre. 

It was a relief to pull out of Docker River and continue on the road, not far west of Docker River we crossed the boarder and all of a sudden we were back in our home state of Western Australia.