North West 2012

Week 1 – Home to Kalgoorlie 

Day 1

Well here is the start of the blog and yep we are away. Left home at 5.30 a.m., heading for Adelaide. It was an easy drive with bright sunshine for nearly the whole day where we had lunch in Bordertown. So far the car is running well with no signs of trouble. Already gone through a full tank of fuel. We pulled up at the planned caravan park only to find the office is closed and no new guests are welcome after 2 p.m. Customer services the tourism industry – NOT! Well at least it was only a short drive to another park and they were more than happy to take our money. Weather is still good so bed time and hopefully its dry in the morning.

Day 2

Well the campground was under the Adelaide airport flight path which was great for Sam as he watched the planes flying overhead. Warm morning about 16 degrees so the shorts and t-shirt was the order for the day. Nice weather all the way to Port Pirie where we stopped for a break. This town had the biggest kids playground in the city centre that we have ever come across. Damn that’s going to make it hard for the rest of the journey. Continued on the drive through Port Augusta and arrived at camp for the night in Kimba. Kimba is one of the towns at the half way mark across Oz. It is also home to the big Galah. A nice Rotary free camp # 760 in Camps 6 book. A good place to stop again one day.

Day 3

The pink sky in the morning is a definite warning as we were in the car for about 30 minutes before the rain started falling. Grey skies and drizzly misty rain is what we had for for the first half of the day. Morning tea was in the car due to the wet weather. Ended up at Ceduna for lunch on the foreshore and thankfully the rain had stopped. Our nights destination was only an hour up the road at Penong which we arrived at just after 1 pm. Instead of going to the caravan park we decided to check out the beach camping at Point Sinclair which turned out to be an excellent choice. Camped on a private beach property with the ocean on one side and magnificent white sand dunes on the other. The only down side was the bitterly cold wind which was the end of the weather front that was passing. Very cheap campsite, flushing toilets on the beach – awesome location for surfers.

Day 4

We continued west traveling through to the Nullabor roadhouse where we stopped for lunch. Not much to see on the Nullabor being known as the treeless plain. We stopped at the cliff top lookouts and showed the kids the end of Australia overlooking the Great Australia Bight. Stopped for the night just 11 k’s from the West Australian border. Found a pearler of a spot on the cliff tops overlooking the Bight.

Day 5

OMG woke to the most magnificent views across the cliffs and bay but damn it was fresh! It was not cold as much as the slight breeze was just enough to make the nose run. We set off for the big 11 km journey to cross the border into WA and through the quarantine station. Thankfully we had eaten all the fresh food bar a couple of apples at had to be surrendered. Just over the border we stopped at Eucla and went down to the Telegraph station and jetty that were built in 1877. A great walk looking a the sand of time that have slowly taken over the building along with other nature that is slowly having her way with the jetty. The sand dunes of in the distance looked like the pyramids of Egypt. A simple day of driving pushing west after this until we stopped at a good free camp for the night.

Day 6

Watched another sunrise across the lands (haven’t missed one yet) before breakfast, pack up and on the road heading for Kalgoorlie. Splashed a bit of fuel in at Baladonia and drove on. The kids have travelled great so far and no issues at all. It rained to today for about 350 kilometers and then stopped about 50 km out of Boulder/Kalgoorlie. We have stopped for the next 3 nights in Boulder to refresh, reload and recharge.

Day 7

Well a lazy day today with some grocery shopping and hanging around the caravan park.  Went up to the Super Pit to check the progress over the past 10 years since we last visited it and WOW!  That’s one big hole in the ground.  The week has come to an end and after spending time in the golden arches uploading the photos it was back to camp.  It has started to rain big drops and it so wants to p### down but it is having trouble.

Week 2 – Kalgoorlie to Geraldton

Day 8

A lazy day around camp not doing much at all. We went for a drive into Kalgoorlie and visited the Lions club market and walked along doing window shopping. With no weekend trading after midday on Saturday in WA is quite bizarre but good. Back to the super pit at night hoping to see the big trucks running and the Super Pit lit up like a Christmas tree was to no avail. In fact there was very limited movement at all. Food restocked, fuel tanks full and laundry done so off we go tomorrow.

Day 9

Nice easy morning packing up and hitting the road. We drove along the Golden Explorers route north from Kalgoorlie. Stopped off at the Broken Arrow Hotel but it was closed. It is very different pulling into a town that once hosted 20 hotels, a hospital, 2 breweries and 15000 people but all that remains is a pub and three houses. Continuing north we arrive at the town of Menzies for morning tea. Another town established in 1895 that is merely a shell of it’s former self. The original town hall building was beautifully preserved and a great example of building things right. The servo up the road is for sale and the outside of it was covered from top to bottom in registration plates from all around Australia. We turned left out of Menzies heading for Lake Ballard to see the sculptures on the dry salt lake. Our next 280 k’s will be on gravel and sand roads. The drive in was relatively easy and we arrived for lunch. Had a great walk over the salt lake and Sam and I climbed to the top of an island over looking the lake. The girls stayed on the firm ground below. By the time walking and lunch was over we decided that it was to far to travel out to Sandstone not knowing the road conditions to be encountered so we set camp for the night at Lake Ballard. We kicked the footy for an hour or so in the afternoon to pass the time away that saw Sam needing a bucket bath as result of throwing himself in and under Em to get the ball. That red sand sure makes a mess.

Day 10 – 11

The drive out from Lake Ballard to Sandstone was not difficult at all but just long and slow going before we finally met the bitumen again. We stopped at Mt Magnet for lunch and agreed that it was still a non desirable place to spend a night. The locals were walking around with a carton under arms carrying on. We headed off toward Geraldton reaching a town called Yalgoo around 3 in the afternoon. This was to be our stop for the night in the council run caravan park. Hey $15 dollars and the only tourists but clean and neat. I walked over to the historic railway looking to get some good photos only to find its now the the horse track.

Next morning we pushed on pulling into Geraldton around 11 am. We got some info and booked into the Belair caravan park for 3 nights. This is to be our last best chance to stock up on food and fuel before heading further up and along the coast.

Day 12

Was up and ready to go at 8 this morning and on the phone to a 4wd workshop to get the oil changed. Yep they could fit me in if I came straight away, so off I went. I got back to camp about 10.30. Doing the tourist thing was the agenda for the rest of the day with a visit to the remarkable HMAS Sydney II memorial. This was truly a moving yet beautiful site to remember the brave sailors who sacrificed their lives during WW 2. The memorial honors the 645 men who never returned from the battle against a German warship off the Australian coast. The silver dome has 645 gulls flying on it to represent each of the sailors. Their names line the honor wall and the statute of the waiting woman really represents a sad part of our history. The memorial was built in 2001 to remember the HMAS Sydney II yet it was in 2008 that she was finally found lying off the coast from Steep Point 2450 meters below sea level. After the memorial it was time to head along the town foreshore to the kids activity area where they have a free water park and great playground equipment. Emily and Sam were in heaven as we sat watching them. We collected our annual parks pass for the coming months of travel through WA and returned to camp for a relax.

Day 13

Another beautiful morning and time to update the blog. The photos have been downloaded so off to the golden arches later to upload. The day is set for a walk along the foreshore, visit to the lighthouse, stocking up on the groceries and preparing for the next part of the adventure. Sam is buzzing around with a footy in hand so a morning kick is in order. We went to Greenough just south of Geraldton and had a look at the leaning trees. The trees are actually a variety of River Red Gums and have adapted to grow leaning over due to the constant south wind. It was back to camp, picked up the meat and set the second fridge up as a freezer. In the morning we head to Shark Bay for a week.

Day 14

Oooops second fridge as a freezer was a bad idea after nearly three days without power. We drained the trailer battery to a critical level and decided to monitor it during the day as where we planned to stay without power. Solar may not be enough. We drove on to Kalbarri National Park where lunch and some walks were the order of the day. The mandatory photo at Natures Window was taken and the views over the Murchison River with the red gorges surrounding – just magical. There is definitely something about being amongst gorges that is addictive. The trailer battery hadn’t come up to a charge so we decided to book into the Anchorage van park which was quite nice. We got the battery onto 240 volt for charging.

Week 3 – Shark Bay to Mt Augustus

Day 15 – Week 3

Hmm the battery has recovered a bit but I am not convinced. We rang the Steep Point rangers office to try to secure a beach camp site for three nights only to be told one night is only available. As this is a major drive out to the area a decision was made not to tow out for one night only but to do it as a day trip. We drove to Hamelin Station which is just 30km inside the Shark Bay World Heritage area. The property is an active sheep grazing station that offers unpowered camping. The amenities were awesome, neat, clean, big showers with great pressure. This is a place we would willing recommend to anyone traveling through. Camp was set and a relaxing afternoon was had before venturing down to the Stromatolites. Emily was in awe at seeing these 3.5 billion year old organism growing in the water. We read every information board along the board walk. A short drive back to the station where the biggest fully equipped camp kitchen was put to work.

Day 16

We headed off early in the morning for the long drive out to Steep Point. The gravel roads out were good but as soon as we reach the DEC run area it was corrugations. We drove to the sand a let the tyres down to the mandatory 20 psi before taking on the dune tracks. This was a poorly maintained track where the speed was not more than 30 kph for the next 43 k’s. Driving through white sands over looking opaque blue water makes for a great day out. Lunch on the beach was a treat and we were so disappointed that we could have three nights at this magnificent location. We pushed on after lunch exploring the area finally reaching the most Westerly Point of the Australian mainland. The tripod was set and the family photo taken (another to adorn the study wall). We started to drive out to the fishing cliffs but time was getting the better of us and a decision was made to head back to camp. It was a long day and long drive but so worth the effort having now done it.

Day 17

Camp packed and on the road again. A quick visit to Shell Beach to see the 120 km’s of shells that are up to 50 meters deep in some places. The kids had a ball playing in the shells before hitting the road. We drove further north to Carnarvon where we planned to stay for two nights. I needed to get the battery up to a full charge or replace it. We pulled into Winter Sun Top Tourist Park where they obviously work on the same self rating system as Kalgoorlie. I would have rated this park a two stars and not the four claimed. Long grass, unkept sites and the smallest showers we have come across so far.

Day 18

We went for a drive out to Point Quobbo to visit the blow holes. The warning sign on entering says it all “Big Waves Kill”. This is big wave territory where king waves are not uncommon. On getting out of the car and Sam seeing the blow hole gush there was non stop ooh’s and woh’s. The kids thought the blowing water was super cool and even we enjoyed seeing how high it was blowing. Up to 20 metres high and the sound was awesome. After this it was back to town for some quick supplies for the next week and a half as we are booked into Cape Range National Park for a week of camping on Ningaloo Reef. The end result of the battery is that it needs replacing. Picked one up in Carnarvon for same prices as in Melbourne so happy with that.

Day 19

Packed up and on the road again for a couple of hundred k’s out to the Kennedy Ranges National Park. We drove though to the town of Gascoyne stopping on the way to visit Rocky Pools. This was a great little spot the Gascoyne River that is a permanent water hole. Locked into the memory back for another trip as a few nights here would be bliss. Arrived at Gascoyne at lunch time and drove around the new town which is being built on high ground. The remains of the old town were evident from the floods a couple of years ago. You cannot help but to wonder the sight and power of a river to break its banks with such force the it almost wipes a town from the map. A short 60 km further up a gravel road and we reached the Kennedy Ranges. The sky was overcast and threatening all day and the humidity was high but the size and beauty of the ranges surpassed the weather. We had a short walk to one of the gorges before settling at camp for the night.

Day 20

Woke before sunrise, coffee and camera in hand waiting for the sun to light up the ranges behind our camp. It was worth it. A clear sky and rising sun changed the color of the ranges to all the different colors trapped within the rock types. The sandstone was so white and the granite so red. They worked well together. I decided that the class 4 hike up to the top of the escarpment was in order but best tackled alone. This was a wise choice as I scrambled over large rocks and stretched over big gaps until I reached the top. The view was sensational but damn it was hot. No shade on the top saw me start the descent after 20 minutes and a few photos. Arrived back at camp, quick feed and off we all went on some of the shorter and easier hikes into the gorges. This was a nice place to camp except for those little back sugar ants that were everywhere. The afternoon was spent relaxing it the shadow of the camper trailer. No tall trees for shade here.

Day 21

Another pack up and off to Mt Augustus we go. More travels and adventures for this short 228 km drive. It was an easy drive for 90% as the grader must have been a couple of days ahead of us. The dirt is becoming redder and redder, the river crossings more frequent albeit they are mostly dry. No telephone or radio for a few days, no news seen for three weeks, one wonders what is happening in the world. Must make time to read the paper online sometime soon (when we have a network connection). We arrived at lunch time at Mt Augustus camp ground which is iconic in its own right. Soon big business is building an airstrip and safari tent resort closer to the mount which may be the end of this style of camping on a cattle station. Mt Augustus is huge!!! In fact it is the biggest rock in the world and much bigger that it’s known cousin ‘Ayers’. The camp is on green grass over red sand, clean and simple. We look forward to watching the sunrise.

Week 4 – Mt Augustus to Cape Range National Park

Day 22 – Week 4

Up before the sun to capture Mt Augustus in the morning light. Just as the sun hits, the change of color to red is awesome. The whole mountain just glows for the first 15 minutes. After breakfast and some laundry it was time to venture off for the 46 km drive around the rock. There were a number of short walks to historic significance throughout the mountain and Emily has taken to this hiking. She led the way powering along the trails and over the rocks. It sure heats up quick here so luckily we were finished by 1 pm where it was lunch back at the park. Emily and Sam played under the sprinklers which brought back all those memories of growing up under them. Funny when you reflect back on the kids growing up under water restrictions. Suffice to say that the stay at the 5000 head cattle / camp ground was enjoyable and relaxing. Diesel fuel was on offer at $2.10 per litre so the Jerry cans were emptied into the tank and 30 litres purchased. All set for the next day of driving back to the coast.

Day 23

Still no phone coverage so unable to up load the blog. We drove along outback dirt roads which were smooth sailing and easy going. We have stopped for the night just 40 k’s short of Coral Bay in a free designated spot with toilets. Of course of pulling up the at 2.45 pm the regular caravan crowd was already in position with the shade sites taken. As we are not booked into Cape Range until tomorrow at 10 am I have decided to sit here listening to the never ending hum of (the caravaners) a generator and get the blog up to date, ready to upload. Fingers crossed we will have phone coverage from Cape Range. Oh yeah -the kids are happy sitting in the car watching a movie on their headrests. So glad I put these in before the trip.

Day 24

Another beautiful morning camped by the roadside and not to noisy at all. The generator was turned off at about 6.30 p.m., so that was good news. We drove into Coral Bay to have a look at the coastal town. Did the mandatory cake and real coffee with a short walk on the beach before we hit the road again. We decided to take the coastal track which is heaps shorter to Cape Range instead of going via Exmouth. Well it was shorter but I don’t know about time difference. The corrugated sand track was woeful and we were one dune behind the water nearly all the way so it wasn’t the most scenic route to take. We arrived at Cape Range (Osprey Camp) where have a site booked for 7 nights around lunch time. A week of not driving or breaking and setting up camp on Ningaloo Reef should be bliss. The next blog entry will be for the week on Ningaloo as nothing is planned.

Day 25 to 30

Slept through the night and woke to the sound of water breaking off the reef with thunderous crashing noises. The wind was up in the morning and in fact we had windy weather every morning for the entire week. We are able to find a few hours fishing on the cliff face for some of the prized ocean fish but got nothing but windburn. In the afternoons we drove 10 minutes up the road to Turquoise Bay where snorkeling over the coral looking at the amazing colorful fish and playing on the beach saw the days away. Each night the sunset over Ningaloo was great and when a few clouds came in it made the viewing more colorful. The kids had an absolute ball camped on the beach, walking though the white sand dunes, watching the sea turtles and dolphins swimming past within 20 metres of where we stood. A truly beautiful place to camp and relax for a week after being on the road which will be scheduled for the next W.A. Trip. Still had no phone coverage so been unable to upload e blog or any photos. Oh well -they will have to wait until Tom Price.

Week 5 – Cape Range to Kurajini National Park

Day 31

Goodbye Cape Range as we hit the road at 8.30 a.m., heading for Exmouth where some urgent food supplies were required. The kids appetites are huge in the fresh air as we ran short of staples. It’s good to see no food is going to waste. Exmouth for me wasn’t a place that I would particularly rush back to but it is the only road off the cape (beside the corrugated dunes). Still it was good to see, the view from the lighthouse is great and the bakery do a tasty Vanilla Slice. A simple day was had driving to our free roadside camp spot inland as we head to Tom Price. The camp spot we had was in the finest of dark red sand that stains everything it touches and we had four other camps also pull in for the night. It was decided early that a communal fire was to be had that resulted in a late night with the kids playing with other children whilst adult conversations could be had. A nice spot to stop for the night.

Day 32

On the road nice and early and only a couple of hundred kilometers drive before we reached Tom Price Tourist Park for the next 2 nights. It was lunch and hot showers all round along with a couple of loads of washing taken care of. Late afternoon we drove into the town centre and the up to he top of Mt Nameless. Mt Nameless is recorded as the highest mountain drive in Western Australia. One side saw you looking down into an Iron Ore mine whilst the other side was overlooking the township. This was a real 4wd climb in the car and very low gear coming back down from the top. Some more washing, grocery shopping and general bits n pieces are scheduled for tomorrow before we head off into Karijini National Park.Finally got to catch up on uploading the photos and publishing the blog entries for those back home to enjoy. Things are progressing well befor heading off tomorrow for another week with limited telephone or internet coverage.

Day 33

What a cold night that was. It got down to almost zero degrees through the night. We had to get out the winter clothing sleeping gear for the kids. It was quite unexpected as the day had been a nice 26. The morning was nice and sunny and within the hour jumpers were off as the temperature picked up. Yep we did the top up shopping, bits n pieces and I got to upload the latest photos to the blog. I had to pull apart the door trim to Belinda’s side of the car as it was holding on by one screw. It was a surprisingly easy fix and things are back to normal again (for the time being) until the corrugations take their toll. Already for more adventures.

Day 34

Rang Pav for his birthday and had a good chat. Mark rang with Aus Post details as after a month and three phone calls to customer service the mail diversion is still not happening. So whilst packing up another call was made to try and sort the problem out. At least we have good neighbors who are assisting with the mail which Mark has to collect from them. Fingers crossed the problem is sorted this time. A short morning drive saw us reach Karijini National Park. A new camp set and the boys went for an explore. We viewed the Circular Pools gorge from the top before returning for lunch. A visit to the information centre to read about the history of the area and ice creams afterwards. When we got back to camp I set about trying to Tune the HF radio in to receive the AM broadcast of tonight’s game – Richmond v St Kilda. This became a frustrating exercise as the start of the game was nearing and I couldn’t receive a transmission. After walking away for 30 minutes I had another crack and YES, I got it. So as the temperature dropped down for another zero degree night I sat in the car with the seat reclined and listened to another magnificent victory for the mighty Tigers. Life is good even if you have to get the hot water bottles out to help get to sleep.

Day 35

Yep it was cold again and when I checked the thermometer at 7.30 with the sun having already been up for half an hour, the camper was 3.2 degrees. It is no wonder that no brass monkeys live out here. An easy morning was had around camp before we set off for a 3 hour hike into the gorges. We visited Fern Gorge and the walked the river down to Circular Pools where the last 300 metres was under the sufferance of, “I’m starving” before we had lunch. It was decided to take the shortcut out and a steep climb was required. Emily led the way and Sam powered along looking back every minute saying, “look how high we’ve climbed now”. I took so many photos as the views were just awesome it will be hard decide which ones to upload. The afternoon was spent with the kids playing with two the same age camped next door. No such thing as serenity in this camp.

Day 36

Week 6 Ah! Another cool and refreshing night yet not as cold as the previous. It was 4 degrees at 7 am so things are looking up. We hit the road by 9.30 to explore some other gorges in the park and these required us to drive about 50 k’s on gravel and partially corrugated roads. The first we came to was Kalamina Gorge which was signed posted as being a 3 hour hike. We decided that this would be the one for the day so water backpack loaded and off we went. This gorge was different to the others in that the tall walls were taller and more dominated by the red color. The water holes looked so inviting but down in the gorge was cool so no swim was required. We hiked in and came across some rock wall the was curved. This fascinated me to no end as to the forces of mother nature to result in this. The hike was relatively simple and completed by lunch. After lunch we drove to Joffre lookout and others close by and marveled at the depths of these gorges. The kids did really well and after a long bumpy drive back to camp it was definitely beer o’clock. Some packing up was done for the mornings departure. On reflecting the beauty of Karijini it would warrant a 5 night stop next time when the kids are older and the more challenging gorge hikes could be done.

Day 37

Up and at’em it was for me. Wide awake and out of bed by 7 am while the others still slept. We got on the road by 9 a.m., and headed out toward Millstream Chichester National Park being our planned overnighter. On driving out through the back of Karijini we stopped off for one more gorge being Hamersley. Talk about feeding the fascination of curved rocks. This place was amazing, incredibly picturesque and awe inspiring. The violent eruptions that must have occurred to create this beauty boggles the mind. The kids had fun climbing over the rocks and we caught up with fellow travelers we camped with earlier on. After exploring it was back on the road driving through mining areas until we reached the park. I had done no research on Millstream Chichester and it was initially planned as a means to and end kind of camp spot. We arrived at the Minilya camp and set up before the camp hosts returned and came to collect our fees. On hearing what the park offered for exploring it was 2 nights paid for and a third to be considered. The Wallabies were everywhere and coming in and around camp but they did leave you alone. The night was cold and yep the hotties were out again.

Day 38

A relaxing and easy morning was had around camp and we ventured over to the old Homestead for a look. The whole park was a sheep and cattle station until the government worked out that the natural aquifer could supply most of the water for Karratha and surrounds. The original property was in good condition with heaps of artifacts and history on display. A walk through the gardens imaging where the old buildings, tennis court and veggie gardens were was fantastic. When we got to the property pool it was yet another WOW! This natural poundage was warm, fresh and flowing. The water lillies that grandma Irving had planted were sensational. You could really picture living here and growing up. We met up with others we have met during the journey and beer o’clock was planned for at camp Peters this evening. After the walk we did the loop drive through the park, played in some small river rapids letting the red stained skin return to white before crossing paths with some others we had met at Cape Range. Yep camp Peters happy hour had another two guests. We returned to camp and I erected the camp shower for us all to freshen up before drinks. Happy hour was had for a couple of hours, good byes said for the time being as we all know we will probably cross paths again in the coming weeks. We decided that a 3rd night is not required so off in the morning we go.

Day 39

Woke at 2 am to the sound of rain falling. I got up and brought the chairs inside the tent and then laid in bed for the next hour listening to red dust being turned into mud. Come sunrise the rain had wet everything and a quick pack up was required between showers. The kids ate breakfast in the car which they thought was cool whilst Bin and I got dirty packing up. We were on the road pretty quickly and the rain was really just drizzle. We were headed for Karratha and tuned into the local AM radio station. All they kept talking about was the heavy rain in Karratha and how wet it was and how it was going to be be very wet for a few days. Oh yeah – NOT! On the way we decided to drive into Python Pools and have a look which turned out to be an excellent choice. The drive in was a totally different landscape again from anything we had previously or ever seen. You could use this area in a movie for a back drop it was that good. After having a quick look around it was Karratha here we come. We drove parallel to the rail line watching the super long iron ore trains. It had rained non stop and by the time we reached the town centre it was pouring. A phone call and booking was made for Point Samson van park and some quick shopping was done. We drove down to Dampier and looked around the water and point but the rain was relentless. I am sure this would be a nice place in the sun. Visited the Red Dog monument (the real one from before the movie) and headed to camp. The road in were becoming flooded, the wind was howling and the rain now torrential. I got very wet sorting this out from the quick pack in the morning to the putting away the groceries and sorting the car out in case of a quick escape in the morning. It was so cold and windy that I was relieved that the showers had heaps of hot water and high pressure. So as I lay here in bed listening to the wind and rain updating the blog it is decided that this area can be explored on another trip as we are out of here in the morning heading north where the sun shines and the nights are warm.

Day 40

Phew – we made it through the night. Woke to overcast sky but the rain had ceased, a wind was blowing and the canvas was dry. We took our time packing and hit the road. A visit to the former town of Cossack and a walk through the cementary shows how times of old were tough. We drove north before turning south towards Marble Bar. It was a very easy day driving and escaping the cold and wet. A free camp was found by a river 80 km north of Marble Bar. We had a small fire, the kids built a road with Sam’s trucks and it was 24 degrees on going to bed. Amazing what a couple of hundred K’s can do with the weather.

Day 41

19.1 degrees at 7 am after a restless nights sleep. The old body is in shock I think from the icy to warm nights. We drove into Marble Bar for morning tea. We visited the War Memorial at RSL park which was a simple but moving tribute to our soldiers. Marble Bar has so much history being recorded as the hottest place in Australia. 161 days consequently with the mercury over 37.6 degrees. Not once has the temperature ever been recorded at zero or less. A short drive out of town brought us to the Jasper rocks once thought to be Marble. The colors in the rocks were incredible and when splashed with a bucket of water their true colors revealed. Having spent nearly 2 hrs playing it was time to head north again to find a camp near the coast. We ended up at 80 mile beach caravan park which is really another working station. The kids played in the sand, ran along the waters edge and collect shells. This was an impressive place with a beautiful coast line.

Day 42

We packed up early and visited the beach again for another play before leaving at 10 am. We drove north for a couple of hours reaching Barn Hill Station where we are staying for three nights. A non powered option was chosen so we got to drive along the properties cliff top to select a spot over looking the ocean. We had lunch before setting up and the venturing down a track to the properties private beaches. Not bad for $24 a night. I have paid for tomorrow nights 3 course station cooked meal. $40 for family of 4. On going to bed you could hear the ocean tide coming in, crashing against the rocks below the cliff top camp.

Week 7 – Barn Hill Station to Middle Lagoon

Day 43

Week 7 Yep we are north as it is now hot. A very lazy day is being had before more beach exploring and dinner. Time to charge a few things up on the solar and plodding around. In general a good day was had with Anthony and Bronwyn arriving in the afternoon. We have crossed path with them since Cape Range. At 5 pm we all went to drinks and dinner where an Koori band played covers for at least 5 hours. Country made soup, roast beef and veggies with ice cream and fruit salad for desert was devoured. This was a real enjoyable night.

Day 44

The overnight sea mist had rolled in during the night and everything was soaked. It didn’t take long to dry out but the humidity had everyone sweating by 9 am. The phone reception here is so spasmodic that it is not possible to post pictures. That will have wait until Broome tomorrow. Rang AAMI and lodged an insurance claim to get mainly the back door repaired or replaced and a couple of other repairs from an incident. Also got enough reception to ring and book the car in for it’s second 5000 K service for the journey. A relaxing day watching the fisherman wash their bait (no ones catching a single thing) and general sorting. Tomorrow we have a 100 K drive to Broome.

Day 45

Woke to a sunny morning with clouds rolling in from the bay. The sound of the waves crashing in at high tide, I hope we get more cliff top camping in the near future. We packed up camp and the humidity was rising with a sky threatening to give us a shower. It must have been about 80% during the pack up which wasn’t pleasant. On the road by 9 am and pulled into the Cable Beach van park by 11. We had a sight allocated opposite the resort pool and playground which was really handy. We quickly made camp, Bin took the kids to the pool whilst I headed off to the panel beaters to get the insurance quotes. Back at camp by 2, quick lunch and a couple of hours playing in the pool with the kids. We walked down to Cable Beach to watch the sunset (7 min walk) and then spent the night uploading photos to the blog.

Day 46 and 47

The kids were up early wanting breakfast before going to the park. We spent the morning at the van park before heading off to the shops. Sam and I got much needed haircuts before returning for an afternoon by the pool. We decided that dinner would be at the beach of which this time we took the car and drove it down to the waterline. The kids played whilst watching the camel rides go past. An enjoyable evening. The next day we did some needed cleaning of the car interior and clothes, again visited the shopping precinct before spending the afternoon by the pool. Just waiting on the insurance company to allocate a panel beater. We have decided to leave in the morning and try to get a free camp 40k out of Broome on the water near James Price Point.

Day 48

Another good morning was had with the camper packed, water tanks filled and ready to try and find a free camp. We were at Quandong on the coast nice and early and found a bloke leaving a site. The sand was real soft and on talking to him he explained how he had to winch his caravan into position. No stress I thought so I let the tyres down and drove in. Easy. Got the camper positioned on the sandy cliff overlooking a private beach when trouble struck. The winching had left massive sand ruts that saw me armed with the shovel moving soil to try a get a level to drop the floor. The sun was hot and after 30 mins of cursing the wincher enough was enough. He had destroyed the ground to such an extent that it would have taken another 2 hours to make it livable. Nope I’m on holidays so we hooked the trailer on and drove away. Pity as it was a great spot. We drove around exploring but to no avail in finding another children suitable spot. We decided to return to Broome after lunch, went to the information centre and booked 3 nights at Middle Lagoon and 3 nights at Cape Leveque. Back to the van park for another night it was which Emily and Sam thought was ace because it was pool time again.

Day 49

Easy pack up today as we only set up for the overnight stop. In the car and off along the fine red sand road to Middle Lagoon. The corrugations weren’t to bad but the sand was real soft in some places. It took about 2 1/2 hours to drive 90 k into there. We were lucky enough to find an unpowered cliff top spot looking down to a beach. Anthony and Bronwyn (fellow Tvaners) were their and having enjoyed their company at several locations it was good to see them again. An attempt at fishing was had and I think by now that I have the cleanest line on the west coast. Ah – back to the sound of the ocean at camp again.

Week 8 – Middle Lagoon to Cape Leveque and Broome

Day 50 / 51

Up and at em early so Anthony and I can clean our fishing lines. We walked 2 km to a beach just near the river inlet. I was using lured whilst he used bait. After a couple of hours the fish count was Anthony 9 Garfish and 1 Whiting, Rod 0. Hmmm. The fish was filleted for Pre dinner appetiser and a lazy day planned around camp. Belinda has been reading Hunger Games so I picked it up and started to read it being someone who hasn’t read a book in years. Anthony and Bron brought the fish over which was good and a big spaghetti Bol was cooked for all. The next morning we were earlier and off to the tidal river to catch the big ones. Another couple of hours spent fishing and watching out for the resident croc was VERY unsuccessful, in fact the tide came in and floated my croc to the other side of the river. Oh well – bare foot for me until we get back to Broome. We said goodbye to Anthony and Bron and spent another relaxing day at camp reading.

Day 52 / 53 / 54

Farewell Middle Lagoon and hello Cape Leveque. We had a short three hour drive to our new camp site and arrived at Kooljamin before lunch. Our allocated site was another cliff to view so smiles all round. Another two families with kids pulled much to the delight of Emily and Sam. Justin and Emma had three whilst Tim and Lisa had two kids. Two very nice families who we spend the next days with. All the kids were taken to the eastern beach for a swim.and later to the western beach for shark fishing. We were given half a watermelon that was the size of a full large one back home. This was cut up amongst the three camps as everyone devoured the cold juicy melon. The sun was very hot here which saw me grabbing for the long sleeve t-shirt. The cliffs were so red, the beaches white and the ocean light blue making a perfect blend of paradise. We had a day trip into One Arm Point and had fed Barramundi and Sea Gurltes at a hatchery before lunch at Cygnet Pearl Farm. Lunch was big and so full of flavors that the taste buds were going nuts. An enjoyable three days.

Day 54 Woke up at 4 am to the sound of wind which progressively got louder and stronger. By 5.30 I was outside trying to secure the sail that by 6 am was taken down. The red dust storm was horrendous and swirling. You couldn’t smile without getting a teeth full of dirt. We were better than the others who couldn’t keep their stoves alight long enough to make a coffee. Obviously we were happy to let them use ours. Camp was packed and we hit the road by 9, destination Broome. Easy drive on dirt roads back to the Cable Beach Caravan Park where we set camp for the next 5 days. The car is booked in for the door repairs on Monday.

Week 9 – Broome to the Gibb River Rd

Day 55 to 58

Not much happening for the first couple of days. The car has been stripped of all the food, fridge and valuables. The dirt was pressured cleaned off, food supplies stocked and we are now ready to live without a car for 4 days. I dropped it off first thing on Monday morning and was told that they plan to have it back to me by Tuesday afternoon which is great news. We booked the obligatory camel ride along the beach which the kids loved. Basically we have killed time here as we wait. The wind is still blowing but slowing down. The groups of families we have met escaped the dust storm still blowing up at Cape Leveque forfeiting their camp fees and we are all at the same van park. I have arranged for four families to all head the beach this afternoon with cars for the kids to play until dinner and the sunset. this is to be our last bit of beach for the trip as on Wednesday we head to Derby and then due east across the Gibb River Rd for the next three weeks. No mobile coverage or power so no blog updates until late July. The panel beaters have rung and finished so a couple hours set aside for the repack of the car. Will get the photos uploaded tonight and everything charged. Can’t wait to hit the road again. We went to beach with three other families , had dinner and left well after sunset. By the time got back to camp and did some packing there was no time left to upload photos. On the road tomorrow.

Day 59

Well the car is packed, trailer packed and had lots of visitors at camp this morning saying good bye (for now). We left Broome at 10.45 am headed for Derby. Arrived early afternoon staying at the Kimberley Gateway c/van park. Real friendly staff and welcoming. We walked over the road to the butchers to arrange the meat purchase next three weeks. They Cryovaced the meat on the spot and free of charge. We have decided to do 2 nights here just to ensure all food supplies are done and everything is secure. We went down to the mud flats and photographed a Boab tree with the sun setting behind it. After 2 months I still enjoying watching sunsets and photographing them. After tomorrow there will be no more costal areas so new sunset photos of rock walls. So looking forward to getting on the Gibb River Rd and in the bush again.

Day 60

On leaving Derby we visited the prisoner Boab tree on the outskirts of town. Not long after we turned right and east away from the coast. We were now on the Gibb River Rd. the first 100 odd K’s were on the bitumen and just a short step of gravel before we turned right and down to Windjana Gorge. On entering the park you a greatest with awesome rock face of black and orange. The walls were so high and dated from the Devonian period some 360 million years ago. We got a nice spot right in front of the walls under the shade of a tree. After lunch whilst the kids were playing I did a couple of short hikes on my own where I was some about 30 odd fresh water crocs, a large green olive tree python and so many birds. The next morning with the family set for hiking we returned into the gorge for croc spotting. Sam thought it was awesome whereas Emily was more reserved around them. A relaxing afternoon was had around camp.

Day 61

Up bright and early with the sound of kids playing at other camps. It’s fresh in the mornings but the jumper is peeled off by 8 am as the day starts it’s daily heating. The temperature hovers around the 28 degrees. We drove down to Tunnel Creek where an enjoyable three hours was spent with torches as we hiked through the water filled tunnel exploring some of the caverns off to the sides. A walk around the exit located some Aboriginal rock art before returning into the darkness back to the entrance. An awesome experience. The history of Jimdamarea and his three year evasion of capture is such a tragic but fascinating story. In the late afternoon Justin, Emma and family arrived where the kids once again played, us oldies yacked and a late night was had.

Day 62

A casual pack up and departure before we pushed further east through the awesome Leopold Ranges and into Silent Grove campground. Once camp was set, lunch consumed it was time to drive 10 km to Bell Gorge. They have ceased allowing camps here so the drive now a necessity. We played in the cold fresh water and I managed to put to practice the playing with shutter speeds whilst photographing the waterfall. Tomorrow I plan to hike to the bottom of the falls to capture more photos. This is a very scenic gorge and a must see on the Gibb. An easy evening was had until some fool put a butane can into a fire pit at 9 o’clock setting of an explosion that was nothing short of a bomb.

Week 10 – Bell Gorge to Drysdale Station

Day 63

The morning was spent with Sam and his new friend Ash playing footy and cricket in the camp ground. Emily and Dayla played their games. After lunch we set off back to Bell Gorge where we hiked to the bottom of the falls. The water was refreshingly cold but so pure for swimming. I got take more photos before the hike out. An easy afternoon at camp.

Day 64

Off to Barnett Station to explore Manning Gorge. The drive through the ranges is magnificent, the road condition is good and the sun is hot. We stopped off to explore Adcock Gorge and then on to Galvans Gorge. Galvans has taken the top spot for beautiful and picturesque. I followed the instructions given and located some ancient art in the Gorge. We arrived at Barnett Roadhouse with no i problems and on pulling in we were able to find a camp right near Ash and Dayla which was great for the kids and parents alike. The kids were taken for a swim in the river before the night was spent sharing a fire with another great family we met.

Day 65

Today we made lunch and headed off for our 1 1/2 hour hike into Manning Gorge from camp. We crossed the river using the tinnie with a pull rope and hiked across the mountain ranges. It was hot by 10 am and the hike was not protected by any shade. We made it to the gorge falls where we ate lunch. The kids stripped down for a swim whilst I set about taking photos. Emily and Sam rode the crocodile that a tour guide had carried in. Watching a few people bomb off the top of the falls was quite a sight. The downside was that we now had to hike back out of the gorge to camp. I ended up having to carry Sam on my shoulder for a while. Once back at camp I headed off to find the touched up (repainted) aboriginal art before taking the kids for a swim in the river. A perfect damper was cooked on the fire and an early night was had.

Day 66

On the road by 9 am and headed for Drysdale Station on the Kulumburu Rd. We stopped in to see the Barnett Gorge which had four great free camp sites. By the time we arrived there was nowhere to park the car and trailer so we decided that this gorge will have to wait for another trip. The drive to the turn off was very scenic and road conditions were good and then it was horrendous. The 59 km to Drysdale Station was the worst corrugated road I have ever driven on. Watching the car panels shake, the bullbar vibrating to the opposite direction of the chassis. This was a long, slow, dusty drive in. On arriving we were greeted with no hot water for showers and the washing machines not working. The camp ground was huge and spacious and the dinner menu not in our budget at $90 for a family of four.

Day 67

Day 68 Missed the sunrise this morning however woke to another beautiful day. Got talking to the camp host and it was revealed that another traveller had accidentally come across some aboriginal art that not many are aware of. I managed to glean from him the rough location so it was in the car by 9.30 to see the documented art and the not so documented. The Ancient art was approximately 1000 years old and called Windjana. After taking so many photos we headed off to find the rare. The directions were fairly accurate and we found the camp host in there looking for himself. This was a single piece of art depicting someone important and it was different. More photos and then off to continue exploring other rocky outcrops for art. The afternoon was spent with the kids swimming in the river before another evening fire.

Day 69 Pack up day and moved on another 100 km up to the Mitchell Falls. The trip in was much talked about by other travelers describing the road conditions as bad. We took it easy and two hours later arrived at camp. We took a position directly opposite the helipad that sees a constant flight of four choppers from 8am to 4 pm. Sam was in heaven as he listened to the turbines, smelt the Avgas and watched them taking off and landing. Every 4 year old boys dream camp. An afternoon swim in a river was cooling and refreshing.

Week 11 – Mitchell River National Park to Kununurra

 

Day 70

Yep 8 am on the dot the choppers wound up the motors and proceeded to take tourists on flights all over the plateau. Watching the come in to land was reminiscent of watching M.A.S.H where you hear them coming in before seeing them swoop in over the tree line. Maybe this camp is every 42 y.o. dream camp too. The water pack was filled with fruit, snacks and of course water. I went over and booked a flight off the top of the falls as both kids were of a weight that meant they could share a seat. We had our Pre flight briefing and weigh in before heading off on the 4.6 km hike to the top. It turns out that eating all those fresh salads for dinner is good as I have dropped 6 kilos so far and about 2 inches off the waist. The hike in and up to the top was a very enjoyable, scenic and hot. A swim at the top was in order before we ate all the food. We headed over to the landing pad (rock) and waited for our flight to arrive. The look of anticipation and excitement on the kids faces was awesome. When the chopper landed and pilot asked who was sitting in the front with him I was quickly told “No, Emily or Sam.”. As the choppers have the doors removed Em opted to sit between Belinda and me which meant Sam got the front seat. The 6 minute flight off the top with the banking figure 8 turns to see the falls had the Vertigo going wild in me. I still managed to take heaps of shots of the falls before we arrived right back at camp. The smiles on everyone’s face was another priceless moment as we waited for the adrenalin to settle. I decided to hike back in and take more aboriginal art photos at Little Mertens Falls whilst the kids and mum went for a swim. I managed to get up and behind the waterfall and look out over the landscape which was magical. A long long day so an easy night was had.

Day 71

We decided to camp a 3rd night up on the plateau and drive to the Surveyors Pool and doing another hike to see the waterfall. We were only about 15 K’s from camp when we noticed that exhaust had got quite loud. On reaching our destination and inspection revealed the worst. The exhaust pipe had broken from the flange at the back of the turbo which was not good. We still did the hike in and watched the water pouring down from the mountain with so much force. To think this is the dry season where it hasn’t rained for a couple of months. A slow and noisy drive back to camp where the bonnet was opened to let things cool before I could do a proper assessment of the damage. Lucky for me another camper with same car offered to assist. The inspection was not good. The sway bars had to be removed, tie rod ends removed just to get the broken pipe out. An impressive display of bush mechanics was performed that saw welding with jumper leads off my batteries and packing the gaps with liquid steal putty. We managed to get 3 out 6 nuts back on the exhaust before we found the cause. A broken bracket half way along pipe had left the exhaust unsupported. Back out with the welding gear and after 4 hours straight the car was started. Success. No leaks could be heard. It was decided that we were going to drive off the plateau in the morning, back down the heavily corrugated roads to Drysdale Station where would reassess.

Day 72

After a bad nights sleep we packed up and headed off. Belinda was not impressed when I placed the fire extinguisher at her feet for the drive down. Better to have it ready that not I thought seeing that we had no idea whether the repairs would hold up to 200 Ks of corrugations. We drove down the first 100 and stopped off at the Bradshaw rock art for an explore and a break. This art is apparently disowned by the Aboriginal people with some dated at 30,000 years old. The art had a distinct African style about the pictures and was really impressive. Of course more photos were taken. A burial site has human remains visible with three skulls. Em was, “oh yuk” but Sam was impressed at the eye sockets and no blood. Back in the car and the next 100 K’s done before arriving at Drysdale. No fire and the repair seems to have held up well. We decided that we would head for Kununurra the next day to seek repairs before going back up the Gibb River Rd to finish off the sight seeing.

Day 73

Off we went from Drysdale Station headed toward Kununurra not knowing if we would get that far. The drive down from Drysdale wasn’t as bad as on the way in as the grader had been during the week. We turned left back onto the Gibb River Rd and cruised at a leisurely pace. On arriving at Ellanbrae Station we stopped off to try the much talked about scones. On arriving the grass at the property was lush and green which looked so out of place but so right. The scones were worth every bit of their $4.50 each as we feasted on one each. The kids felt special as they washed theirs down with hot Milo. The drive on from here was easy and pleasant with the rivers being low in water. As we rounded a bend the Cockburn Ranges came into view and were nothing short of spectacular. Photographs taken and some video we pushed east passing Home Valley. We plan to try and come back here after repairs. The Pentecost River was low and flowing so the crossing was routine and not much later we passed the El Questro turn off. Another place we plan to visit. We arrived in Kununurra about 3.30 where the RACV were contacted to engage our Total Care cover. This is a must for all travelers as they were fantastic and set about covering our camp bookings and costs until we can get back on the road. The repairs done by Terry were great as we were now in a town. We checked into the Lakeview Discovery Park and on explaining our potential time delays the staff were supportive and accommodating. The RAC WA man came out to confirm the mechanical break down and he was not impressed. Turned out that he owns the towing company that charges $4000 for recovery off the Mitchell Plateau. It got worse though as he also owns the exhaust repair shop in town. After a healthy dialogue between the two of us he conceded that the Patrol was not going to be taken off us and towed to his yard. Ah! Beer o’clock had arrived and was much needed.

Day 74

We were moved from an unpowered site to a powered site this morning so a quick and basic pack was done. The camper repositioned and set up and a day of washing, swimming in the pool before a visit to the shops for a look around. An easy day was had and after dinner we headed to the show grounds to watch the fireworks as it was the towns celebratory weekend. Emily loved watching them bouncing up and down on the spot whilst Sam clung tightly around my neck not so sure. Few phone calls made and received and found out that Pav (one of our best men) is over the blog photos and headed our way to join us on our month return to home. Plans made and we are meeting him here in Kununurra on Sunday week. We are looking forward to his arrival having previously traveled together in 2010.

Day 75 / 76 / 77

We went for a drive to look at some of the attractions and sites around town. Kununurra is a very clean and picturesque place to visit. The national park 2.5 km from town, Celebrity Park, Zebra Rock gardens (awesome mango cheesecake, Ivanhoe Crossing and the list goes on. Lots to do over the past few days. Monday morning saw me down the streets seeking the earliest time for exhaust repairs available at different mechanical and engineering businesses. Top End Motors were great and agreed to inspect and attempt repairs on Tuesday so I ensured I was there at 6.45 am as they opened at 7 am. RACV arranged a hire car for the day which the kids thought was cool. A long day waiting to find out whether the Patrol exhaust could be welded without needing to order in a new dump pipe was had. At 3.15 pm they called to say all done. The workshop took the whole system out and set about fixing our handy work and making new brackets to ensure it never fails like that again. We are back on the road. Belinda got a few groceries, the kids had a swim and I set about reloading and packing for our departure tomorrow. Back up the Gibb River Rd we go. The photo uploading will have to wait until next Sunday.

Week 12 – Kununurra to El Questro to Kununurra

Day 78 / 79

On the road again all fixed and running well. A short drive back to the Gibb River Rd saw us turn left and head out to El Questro. We arrived before lunch to a very crowded camp ground but still we opted to stay there. It was substantially cheaper than the $1800 p/n stay at the homestead. There was a two piece acoustic band playing so it was actually good value for money. The next day saw us head out to Zebedee Springs for a morning swim and soak. The natural spring flows at 32 degrees all year so after about an hour we all had prune skin. We drove around the properties tracks and up to a number of lookouts before returning to camp for a relaxing afternoon. The kids decided they were hot so donned the bathers and played under a sprinkler. In all it was an interesting place to stay but very commercial.

Day 80 / 81

Off to Home Valley was the order of the day. A whole 24 km had to be driven out through the Cockburn Ranges, across the Pentecost River and onto the station. On arriving we were greeted to lush green lawns to camp on with an amazing kids play ground. By far this station was more presentable than El Questro and a lot less dustier. The in ground pool was a bit dirty and very cold. Emily and Sam played non stop with other kids only returning to camp for food and water. At night the staff would be three quarts drunk and would get on stage and play the guitars singing all sorts of covers. The restaurant area was amazing. In the afternoon a drive down to the river to watch the sun set light up the ranges was amazing. This was a good place to have a couple of non driving chill out days without being crammed in next to other campers.Week 11 – King Edward River to Kununurra

Day 82

The drive from Home Valley was relaxing, scenic and uneventful. We made it back to the end of the Gibb River Rd turned left and headed for Wyndham stopping off at the Grotto on the way. We drove to the Five Rivers lookout for lunch and head back to the big croc for a picture. I bought a Boab nut that had engravings done from an indigenous local for $20 as opposed to $80 in the shops. Time had come to head back to Kununurra to meet Chris who was due to arrive about 4 pm. We stopped at the Gibb River Rd sign for a family photo and as we were getting ready the police stopped and offered to take the photo for us. Chris arrived on time and an evening of chatting was the agenda.

Day 83

A busy day was had getting groceries, preparing the vehicles, organising bookings for the Bungle Bungles camp sites. We caught up with some other travelers that we had met along the way. Generally this was a nothing exciting day that seemed to disappear before you realised leaving no time for phone calls.

Week 13 – Bungle Bungles (WA) to Keep River National Park (NT)

Day 84

Off to the Bungles we go. Our two vehicle convoy head out of town toward Halls Creek. The drive through the mountain ranges was scenic and the road conditions excellent. We made it to Turkey Creek for lunch before continuing to the Bungle Bungles National Park entrance. Tyre pressures dropped and off we went for the 2 hr 50 km drive to the camp sites. Chris got to put the Jeep through its first water crossing. The road was hilly, corrugated and slow going but still we made camp by 2.30 so an easy afternoon was had.

Day 85

The night was fresh but by 7.30 the jumpers were off as the hot sun beat down for the day. Our camp site has hardly any shade so we made sure that we were ready for the hike early in the morning. First we drove to the Mini Palms Walk which was to be the biggest of the day. We hiked up the drive river bed into the Bungles that had tall Livastonia Palms growing everywhere. I could hardly believe my eyes on seeing that the Bungle sandstone domes are actually a conglomerate of river pebbles. I never expected to see this. Inside the gorge it was like being in an air conditioned room with a cool breeze blowing over your skin. After this we headed to Echidna Chasm where we hiked up to the end which is now blocked from entering and can only be seen from a platform. Still it was sight to be seen. I expected to see more dome shaped bungles than I had seen so far. In the afternoon the kids and I drove Chris down to the helipad where did his first ever chopper flight. We waited the 30 minutes for his return of which the kids were so excited to about. I had given Chris my camera with zoom lense to take the aerial photos with. The evenings get cold as soon as the sun drops behind the tree line but still I have resisted long pants since arriving in Kalgoorlie at the start of the journey.

Day 86

The hot morning sun greeted us again with another hiked planned for early on. This time we were heading south into the bungles and around the back of them to hike into Cathedral Gorge. As we drove in my previous disappointment of not seeing domes was quenched as I was faced with awe inspiring site. This was the Bungle Bungles that I wanted to see. The hike in was enjoyable and breath taking seeing and being amongst these magnificent ranges. Cathedral Gorge itself was a sight to see and hear with the natural amphitheater every singers dream and young noisy child’s delight. The hike was over by lunch time so we returned to camp for a relaxing afternoon of kicking the footy before the evening fire.

Day 87

Farewell Bungle Bungles and hello Lake Argyle was the plan. We drove out for 2 hrs before hitting the black top. A stop for lunch at the Doon Doon Roadhouse topped off with ice creams saw all of us smiling with a sugar high. We drove into Kununurra where we topped up the fuel, got fresh salads and headed east. The drive was a long day on the road but we determined not stay in Kununurra again. We got into Lake Argyle around 4 pm where we caught up with Kim and Robyn who were two great people we met along the way. An uneventful day covering distance best describes the day.

Day 88

This morning we hiked over the mountain to the Durack Homestead which was simply a magnificent museum of time gone by in the area. The original location of the homestead is now at the bottom of Lake Argyle. At the top of the mountain you could look across the lake which was currently hold 25 times the volume of water in Sydney Harbour. The day was hot so the kids went swimming with Chris in the infinity pool over looking the lake. The van park has so much potential to be a five star resort with the mountain views around the lake and pool. For $35 a night it was worth it for the views alone. We spent our last night in WA sitting around camp having a few drinks looking back over what we had seen and done.

Day 89

Good bye Western Australia, hello Northern Territory. We packed up camp and headed off at 9 am and within 30 minutes we were at the border and changing the clocks to 11 am. Sam thought this was good because it was morning tea time and nearly lunch time all in one. The drive was only short until we reached the Keep River National Park. We set camp, ate lunch and the kids played around camp. No one wanted to go for a hike as it was hot so Chris and I headed off. We did the 3 km walk venturing off the track up to the rock walls to look for Aboriginal art. We were not disappointed and got some great photos from about 5 different sites as well as finding the middens with evidence of a shell fish diet over a thousand years ago.

Day 90

Oh this time zone thing has thrown us. Woke at 7.30 am this morning which was 6 am the day before, no wonders everyone was sluggish. We drove up to the north camp to do a hike through the sandstone ranges. Belinda and the kids were doing the 5 km return to the Aboriginal art site whilst Chris and I were doing the 7 km loop. The sandstone was identical to that of the Bungle Bungles even with the dome shape characteristics. On reaching the art we were disappointed as there was only a tiny bit compared to the amount found the day before. The walk was good though and we were back at camp by lunch time. On driving back I noticed on the GPS map a red dot that referred to an art site. Chris and I decided that we needed to explore this and try to find a way to the rocky outcrops which were overgrown in Spinifix. For some reason this art site was no longer for public viewing. We set off in the car finding a place to park it whilst we trudged our way through the chest high grass. This was exploring just like we use to do together 30 years ago. Boys will be boys. After about 25 mins we found the old walk track around the rocks also heavily overgrown. Bingo! We found some and a good picture too. We tried to make our way to the 2nd outcrop but the heat and Spinifix beat us (this time). Satisfied with our find we returned to camp, showered, lit the fire and drank beer. Belinda did a nice damper for desert. Another great day.

Day 91

Slept in again until 7.30 so it was a pretty busy morning feeding the kids, packing camp after a couple of days and securing everything. We drove through to Timber Creek where we caught up with Dean (Sgt in charge) at the police station. A short stop before headed in to town to get lunch and the off to a nearby National Park to find a place to stop. On arriving all the camp sites were full so we decided to head further east toward Katherine. We pulled into the Victoria River Roadhouse which was our stop for the night. Cheap at $15 for the family with showers etc. We sat around and calculated the road ahead with only 17 more days of touring to go and a lot of country to cover. We decided that the Savanagh Way through Hells Gate and down to Lawn Hill Gorge is the path to be taken. Looks like all the photos are going to have to wait for uploading as most of the area has no phone coverage.

Day 92

On the road again and heading further east toward Katherine for morning tea / lunch. The road into Katherine was boring and lacked scenery. It was a drive that required concentration due to the number of skippys that were sleeping on the road. We made Katherine in time for a real coffee at the Coffee Club before shopping for food, having lunch and filling the water tanks for the week ahead. After lunch we drove south to Mataranka and into the Elsey NP for the next two nights. We set camp, built a fire and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.

Week  14 – Mataranka (NT) to Bowthorn Station, Kingfisher Camp (QLD)

Day 93

Brrrr! A fresh morning in this part of the world with the overnight temp going down to 5 degrees. By 8 am the jumper was off as we sorted a few things around the camp. It got hot really quickly so we headed down to the hot springs for the much need swim and soak. It was back up the road to camp for hot dog lunch and after a couple of hours it was back in the car and to the hot springs again for more swimming. All the firewood you can burn is provided here for free so a few extras were taken for the coming nights.

Day 94

Another fresh night and glorious morning saw us on the road by 8.30 am as we head out of Mataranka and toward Lorella Springs camp. A long day was planned in the car as we need to make distance so we can have three nights at Lawn Hill. It was and easy and uneventful drive out through Roper Bar and through the ranges. The roads were in fairly good condition with not to many corrugations. We made it to Lorella Springs around half past 4 where after camp was set it was down to the natural hot spring river flowing through the camp for a relaxing swim and soak. I have penned this location in for a warranted and longer stay and explore of the million acre property. A super easy soup and toast dinner tonight that hit the spot perfectly.

Day 95

Pushing further east we go along the scenic Savanagh and across the wide river crossings. We stopped in at Borroloola for refueling and lunch. Mmmm crinkle cut bucket chips and pies for lunch and the kids were in heaven (and dad). It sure beat Tuna and crackers! We headed off further east reaching the Robinson River by 2 pm. We inspected the free camp sites and decided this the spot for the night. Someone had left a big pile of firewood so we took the pleasure of burning it. This was a great camp site yet again and with the million star viewing in the middle of the bush and ice cold beers. Perfect.

Day 96 A great nights sleep and up bright and early. We hit the road still pushing east crossing the QLD border by 10.45 am, which really was 11.15 am by the time we turned the clocks forward for the last time. Hells Gate was our lunch destination before venturing on to the Kingfisher Camp for the afternoon. We turned right off the Savanagh Way and commenced the descent south bound. Sadly this is to continue as we start heading home. On arriving at camp the auxiliary battery in the car dropped straight away to 10.6 volts. It appears that it had dropped a cell so bush mechanics to the rescue. We took the battery from the Tvan and swapped it for the car battery. Beer remained cold and the food in the fridge spared. It was the time to kick the footy and have a beer before dinner. An early night was had by all as the cool air came in and it was warmer inside than out.

Day 97

Kingfisher camp was a good stop spot and our planned route for the day was through the cattle station property of Bowthorne through to Adels Grove at Lawn Hill Gorge. This is the same route as two years ago but today the river crossing levels were significantly lower causing no problems. We arrived at Adels Grove by 12.30 pm where we found a nice sight down in the grove amongst the palms. As the temperature was hot it was lunch with ice creams for treats afterwards. Our plan is to spend three nights here relaxing before the long days in the car heading south / south east toward home. An evening fire and a kick of the footy saw the day before dinner.

Week 15 – Lawn Hill Gorge to Birdsville

Day 98

Good morning to another awesome day with sun shining, a slight breeze blowing and not a cloud to be seen.  We went for a morning walk along the track up the Lawn Hill river through the camp ground watching the fish swim by.  This is truely a relaxing place to visit and it is no wonder people have it in their bucket list of places to visit in Australia.  We fed bits of apple to the Bower birds which are really game and come very close to humans.  This also meant that we had to make sure everything was put away as they are great theives of others items.  In the afternoon we drove down to Lawn Hill Gorge which was 7 km’s away and hired the canoes.  We spent the next 2 hours paddling our way up the gorge, carrying the canoes around to the second gorge and continued paddling.  Gliding down the river with the tall walls either side of you and towering palms you can imagine a time gone by when dinosaurs roamed this part of Australia.  We spotted a couple of fresh water crocodiles basking in the sun waiting for the next feed of fish.  Canoeing the gorge was every bit as good as the first time we did it.  We headed back to camp absolutly exhausted where some RnR was in order before settling in for the afternoon relaxing.

Day 99 A nothing day was planned for today with just lazing around camp, some short walks, a little bit of maintanance on the cars and finishing off some washing.  This was to be our last day of perfect weather being ensured.  We had most things done by lunch time with a kick of the footy and some easy reading.  Chris and I poured over the maps and worked out our trip home via Mt Isa, down to Birdsville and through the Flinders Ranges.  Our road report listed the Birdsville track now open after having been cut by flood waters down the Cooper Creek.  Still we have no idea what that actual road conditions will be like but the route is chosen and decisions made.  A nice warm night around camp with yet another fire ended the day.

Day 100 100 days on the road – what a milestone! We had camped packed and on the road by 9 am. We took the scenic drive down through Riversleigh Reserve which is now a World Heritage area due to dinosaur fossils being discovered throughout the privately owned property. We took time to do one of the short walks where you get to see the bones fossilised into the rocks before venturing on. We had some easy river crossings to negotiate as we headed for Mt Isa.  The drive itself was easy going and country very scenic with rolling hills and lots of vegetation.  A few roos were spotted during the drive and lunch was shared on the side of the road with a few flies and a pesky bee that was determined to try and sting me.  The damn thing just wouldn’t take the hint so when the opportunity was right I explained with a more controlling hand.  It got me!  A rash formed under the arm with a slight sting.  As we drove toward Mt Isa all we could see was smoke rising from nothing less than 10 fires burning through bush land.  As we rounded a bend bang there one was right in front of us on a highway loaded with traffic doing 100 km/h.  The flames were roaring and the heat could be felt through the car as we drove straight along side it.  Quite a sight to see.  We arrived in Mt Isa and stayed at the town caravan park which was choc-a-block full.  The Mt Isa rodeo was in town for the weekend.  Still a hot shower, a few beers and a good feed of roast chicken rolls with pasta salad was enjoyed.  We met a returned service man from the Australian Army who was a medic in Afghanistan.  He was great to talk with and had a lovely family that were three days into their four month trip in the reverse direction to what we had just done.  More beers and pouring over maps saw the night out.  

Day 101 We escaped another freezing night which we had expected and were on the road by 8.30 a.m. heading due south down the map.  The road out of Mt Isa into Boulia was all bitumen and a very easy drive.  Emus were seen walking the sides of the road before we stopped for lunch at one of Bourke and Wills stops.  We made a decision that due to the wind that was picking up and the chill factor making it feel like 16 degrees outside that we would drive on.  We pulled into the council run camp ground at Boudorie about 3.30 p.m., where camp was set and yet another hour was spent kicking the footy.  I succumbed to the cold and climb up into the gear sack dragging out the wrapped up winter clothes.  Yep I needed the cargo pants and jumper as the cold a finally struck and we weren’t use to it.  Still we had no rain and as long as the wind stayed up there would be no frost.  The camp cost us $10 for the family with power, hot showers and clean amenties.  There was also a natural artesian spa that was next door and free but I could bring myself to take the warm clothes off.  This was a good place to camp and one to remember as value for money.  Not much to see in town though. An early night was had after the day on the road and only a short day ahead to Birdsville.

Day 102  A fresh night it was and the beanie was needed in the morning to keep the ears warm.  Within 30 minutes the sun was up and we were thawing out very quickly.  We packed up camp promptly and went for a walk down the main street having a look at a historic homestead.  This was a good warm up for the legs and body before getting in the car for the days drive.  We continued due south and arrived in Birdsville at midday.  Nice big camp sites at the caravan park made for an easy set up before we headed into town to buy some pies and pasties for lunch.  We ran into a couple of brides (so they were dressed) only to learn that the SA Variety Bash was headed into town this afternoon with over 150 cars.  We had good instructions to take the kids out into the street to greet them on arrival and to take a bag with us as they will have a few things to give away.  Come the afternoon after watching the town slowley transform for their arrival it was out into the street we went.  Wtaching all the done up, weird, wonderful and old cars come into town was awesome.  Everyone was dressed in theme to their ride and as for giveaways – OMG!  They stopped next to the kids and gave away chocolate, lollies, footballs, soccer balls, more chocolate and lollies, pens, soft toys, games and then some more chocolate and lollies.  I needed a to empty a 45 litre tub to fit the amount of giveways handed out.  This made for an awesome experience on our first visit to Bridsville and they all camped in the same park as us which was a delight for the kids.  I like Birdsville!

Day 103

A day of rest and play.  A n easy morning at camp with breakfast and chores squared away.  A walk to the Birdsville Bakery for some savoury pies and cakes before heading off to Big Red – the tallest sand dune in Australia.  As we approached the base of the sand dunes you could see the Variety cars had come out to have some fun and photo opportunities. Once again they were so engaging toward Emily and Sam and certainly brought a huge smile to their faces as well as ours.  One off the vehicles even had a Nintendo set up inside the rear seats.  We drove up the back of Big Red onto the top of the dune before heading down to the base for some four wheeling fun.  The Jeep driven by Chris performed really well and the big Patrol provided heaps of fun.  Everyone had a great day playing in the red sand and the sun.  That night dinner was at the Birdsville Hotel where a huge smorgasbord style dinner was provided.  The beer was cold, the food hot and plentiful.  I was glad it was only a short walk back to camp.

Day 104

South bound we go toward South Australia.  We drove down the Birdsville Track heading for a camp 52 km before Marree.  The drive down was not as difficult as anticipated with most of the road formed and graded gravel.  The country side moved between vast dune country to bush oasis around the rivers.  The kids were kept busy in the back with all their snacks and toys whilst we cruised toward home.  We made it to our camp at Clayton Station which was a donation to camp.  The camp was off the side of the road in a clearing where they provided a flushing toilet.  There was also a huge water tank that had been cut in half and set into the ground with the biggest plug.  You were welcome to fill the tank with water from Artesian Basin that was also thermal and warm.  As the outside temperature was now cold and breezy no bath opportunity was taken.  

Week 16 – Maree (SA) to home (VIC)

Day 105

It is amazing what a light drizzle of rain can doo to a camp ground.  The area around us had turned to sticky grey mud that was going everywhere.  As if we needed more mess to clean after being on the road for this length of time.  Oh well – all part of the experience.  The drive in Marree was on wet clay also so this made the drive cautious and messy.  Due to the weather we spent the best part of the day in the cars travelling south where we reached the town of Peterborough.  A van park was in order for tonight as hot showers and a heater was going to be required.  The van park was exceptionally neat and clean.  Plenty of room to camp and a small but adequate camp kitchen to cook dinner.  A kick of the footy and some TV at the end of the day.

Day 106

Whoa – it got cold very quickly.  At least it wasn’t raining as that would not have been fun.  The Tvan was nice and warm to sleep in and a great sleep was had so I felt fresh and ready for the day ahead.  We hit the road for a nice easy day of driving taking in the sight on the way toward home.  We pointed the cars toward Sea Lake where we found the local sports ground provided camping, and indoor room, hot showers and toilet all for a couple of $$.  this was great value and again I was able to buy a powered site to run the heating in the van.  Well this was it – the final night of camping for the this trip.  Tomorrow was to be the final drive home.

Day 107 

A safe drive home for all of us was achieved.  We had just had the greatest adventure as a family living the dream of camping around part of Australia.  The Tvan performed faultlessly and although it looks small it was perfect for our family of four.  Emily and Sam experienced so many new things in life and made their own memories to grow with.  As for myself – it was a family holiday that will be remembered forever.