Welcome to Bashville 2017

I could hear people leaving the caravan from before the crack of dawn to head to Big Red. I was happy to lay in bed until a more reasonable 7.30 and let the early birds queue at the gate – the line the day before for early bird ticket holders was apparently 12km long!

As we packed up I checked the water tank where I had repaired a slow leak yesterday to see if it was still holding out. The leak had started again so I was under the van in my newly washed clothes to try and stop it. Our camping neighbours had some plumbing repair tape (I’d used all of ours driving to Mitchell Falls last year and forgotten to replace) and marine selastine that greatly assisted the repairs. As long as it holds for the next three days out at Big Red we’ll be fine.

We grabbed our wrist bands at the information centre along with some souvenirs. Miss7 then sat and watched a play while we walked across to the bakery for a cuppa and some sweet snacks for later. We headed out to Big Red just before noon and enjoyed an easy drive out with good road conditions and not much traffic.

We could see the sea of cars and campers before we got to the entrance – it’s certainly a bigger event this time around! We were guided by one of the 350 event volunteers to the back blocks where we set up the camper as the sun beat down. Despite it only being about 23 degrees, the Simpson desert offered little shade and certainly none anywhere near our camp. The awnings were to be our only campsite shade for the next few days.

The kids and I headed up to the top of Big Red for a slide down the sand dune on the boogie board. I was quickly reminded just how hard it is to walk up the 40′ sandy hill whilst dodging the country’s biggest bindies! On the way back to camp Miss7 boots had quickly filled with prickles scratching her ankles so I sacrificed my feet, gave her my thongs and walked back to camp barefoot – it was a slow and painful experience! 

We grabbed our camp chairs and some drinks and snacks and headed to the concert area ready for the festival to start. A Welcome to Country via a gorgeous video and live elder welcome, a few obligatory sponsor acknowledgements and Bashville was officially opened for 2017.

Missy Higgins opened the festival and she was brilliant. I fondly recalled all of my favourites from my teens as I sang along with Miss7 on my shoulders in the dance area and then on my knee at our seats (my back didn’t hold out very long!). Big Red again made a magical backdrop to the lights and sounds of the Bash. 

The dust lay thick like a fog on the horizon as the sun set over Big Red. I guess 6-7,000 people camping in the dirt will do that. I was grateful for our campsite up the back as we made our way along the track to camp together with the thousands kicking up the dust along the way. The foot traffic settled significantly by the time we got to camp as too did the dust.


Destination Birdsville

Despite being one of the last to leave camp in the morning we were off by 9am heading toward Windorah. We were met with a ‘Sold Out’ sign on the first fuel pump we came across but after a short queue we managed to find a pump and a friendly face to get the tank filled.

While we were in town we stocked up on some groceries and an overpriced leopard print sun hat for Miss7 as I’d left our sun hats at home (they’re hibernating in the cold in Melbourne). Travelling with vegans is easy on your meat supply but I’m not sure I stocked enough fresh veggies to cope so buying them now was an expensive exercise! Back on the road and despite Google maps telling me today’s drive would take 13 hours (!!) we managed it in around 6 with a few stops on the way.

One of the stops along the way was at a drop loo where some fellow travellers quickly warned us off using the loo for the smell. According to them they were the worst loos in Australia – they’d clearly never used the loos at Mt Connor or Kata Tjuta!

When I stopped at the start of the gravel road to let some air out of the tyres a local cop pulled up to check I was ok and told me not to bother with the air. I assumed that advice came with a guarantee that if I blew a tyre, he’d come and help me change it and I hit the gravel ready for the bumpy next stage of driving. I’d forgotten how rough this road was – with all the traffic heading to Birdsville there was a lot of dust but the new car handled it all easily.

Once we hit town in Birdsville and refuelled I got mum to run into the caravan park on the off chance they’d have a site. When I’d called to book several weeks ago there was a 7 day minimum stay on powered sites or 3 days unpowered so I’d opted for free camping on the common. As mum arrived the lady in front of her was cancelling her powered site to opt instead for a cabin – she was already sick of camping so we scored her site for the night.

After setting up we put a load of washing on and enjoyed a nice hot shower before making our way to the pub for a meal and a pot of beer. The whole town was packed – much busier than our last visit in 2015 and the pub had smorgasbord meals on offer to help feed the hundreds of people there that night. The food was delicious and the beer lovely so I had a second pot before we headed back to camp ready for the drive out to Big Red tomorrow for our three days of fun at the Big Red Bash.

Fire and rain in Thylungra

After our last sulphur shower at Charlotte Plains we were back on the road counting emus by 9am. We refuelled in Cunnamulla but decided to head towards Birdsville via Eula rather than Charleville. We banked on having a better run than the KFC truck that got bogged in Eula on the way to the bash.

The drive was long and hot today. When we packed up at Charlotte Plains it was cold so I’d left my long sleeve top on and was quickly regretting it as the outside temperature got to 28 degrees (only 11 back in Melbourne apparently so I dare not complain!).

Quick stop for lunch by the side of the road and we were back on our way for an arvo stop in Quilpie. There was more traffic on the road this leg of the trip and most drivers were courteous, moving off the slim bitumen onto the side gravel to happily share the road, slowing to avoid too many rocks flicking up onto passing cars. One impatient douche was in too much of a hurry to slow down though and flew past us on the gravel flicking a big rock onto our windscreen leaving a lovely crack! I’m certainly breaking in the new car on this road trip.

In Quilpie we got some random phone service while waiting in the queue for fuel so I got to brag about the weather to friends and family back home. The Main Street of Quilpie is lined with rustic metal cut outs of cattle all the way down the medium strip – it really is a lovely town. We made a quick stop for the loo and some cold water and take away beers at the pub before we were on the road again toward Windorah. On our last visit here the library was running a free teddy bears picnic for kids and Miss7 (then Miss5) got to make teddy bear biscuits to enjoy in the car.

The drive west from Quilpie showed off some spectacular sky views. The sky was filled with fat fluffy clouds with a few breaks in them where the sun’s rays were sneaking through and creating a heavenly backdrop for us to drive into.

Drove for about an hour or so before pulling into the Thylungra campsite for the night – Nanna’s first side of the road free camp! Even though it was still 25 degrees we lit the fire and ate dinner outside with a cold beer then off to bed just as the rain hit to cool things down.

Fell asleep to the sounds of rain falling on the canvas roof – not quite the same as a tin roof but bloody close when you’re camping in remote places around this beautiful country.

Soaking it up at Charlotte Plains

The drive from Cobar to Cunnamulla was less about 80’s music and more about Emu spotting! I think I lost count after about the 20th mob of Emus – most with young though we never saw the black and white coloured babies.

Just before hitting Cunnamulla we turned off to head to Charlotte Plains Station after I’d seen a friend camp here only a few weeks earlier. I was looking forward to a 2 night stop & revive. At the first gate we had the option of 15km of bitumen then 15km dirt or 20km of gravel to get to the homestead so we took the gravel. The road was in good shape though you could tell they’d had rain recently and our new car and clean camper were quickly caked with rich red mud.

We arrived at the homestead and were greeted by the two youngest residents – a gorgeous 4yr old girl who hit it off immediately with Miss7 and her 2yr old brother. I paid up for two nights with power at the shearing sheds and a tour the next day for mum and I to take with the owner (grandma to the kids).

At the shearing sheds campground we set up with four other campers and joined them by the fire with a glass of red wine. It took some effort to get that glass of wine – mum had brought it for me and it had a cork top so it took us all some time and cursing to get the bloody thing open with the old fashioned bottle opener in the camp kitchen. Needless to say I ended up drinking two glasses that night after the effort of opening the bottle.

It was a cold night in the camper down to about 2degrees overnight and I was awoken at 6am with a slight drop on my face. In my sleepy dilusion I put my hand up to feel the tent and ended up with a deluge of icy drops on my face to wake me up! I mopped it up with a towel and laid back in bed for a bit to keep warm and let the sun come up properly before getting up for the day.

We met Robyn (who had brought her Miss4 with her to play with Miss7) and another couple at the woodshed to hear about some of the history of Charlotte Plains Station that had been in her family for 94 years. Master15 was hoping to skip the tour and get dirty doing some real farm work but the truck they were expecting hadn’t turned up so he joined the tour. After seeing and hearing about the shearing shed,  Jack’s hut (& later Willy’s hut), the station cemetery and the homestead – we’d heard Robyn speak for hours about her family’s history – Miss7 had run off for lunch with her new found friend and we went back to camp for our lunch.

After lunch we grabbed our bathers and towel and headed to the bore and hot tubs, I think Miss7 may have been more excited at the site of the ‘cacoons’ (aka kayaks) by the hot bore drain. We spent a few hours soaking in some old tubs hooked up to the bore, floating in the bore drain and kayaking. As the sun began setting, the colours over the bore got richer and more vibrant – the blue of the sky was in stark contrast to the reds of the earth, and the greens from the recent rains were being enjoyed by some local Roos having a nibble and paying no attention to us.

We navigated the slippery and wet dirt roads back to camp, via the abandoned Jack’s hut and Willy’s camel paraphernalia and after a failed attempt to find a recently dead big black boar out on an old track. A hot shower to wash off the ‘mousse’ (aka moss) from our bathers and I was ready for a yummy hot dinner in the camp kitchen. It turns out that while the sulphur of the springs is great for weary bones and softening the skin, it’s not so good for Pandora bracelets. My once silver bracelet is now a golden bronze.

A quick game of cards with the kids before bed and pack up in the morning. This is definitely somewhere you could pull up camp for a week. Maybe next time we’ll stay down by the bore at the unpowered bush sites – who needs a hot shower when you can soak in a hot bore tub every day? 

Synthesisers and saxophones 

Well we decided to head to Birdsville for the Big Red Bash again this year and this morning we set off at ridiculous o’clock on our journey to the Simpson Desert.

Since our last camping trip to the Goulburn River at Easter I’ve bought myself a new rig with some real 4WD capacity and a 50mm lift kit. It turns out the hitch was a little high for the camper with the lift and neither Master15 nor I could shift the bolt to lower it. We made our first stop in the lovely town of Finley NSW that had been kind to us on our last trip to Birdsville (we’d lost a box off the camper and it was handed in to the local police who arranged a local transport company to truck it back to Melbourne for me!).

We’ve added Nanna to team kickarse for this trip so I sent her off to the bakery with the kids for a mid-morning cuppa while I searched for a mechanic to help us with our hitch. Big shout out to Boomerang Motors for coming to our rescue and taking the time and tools to get us on our way quickly and safely.

Back on the road for a few more hours of driving and singing along to the ‘I miss the 80’s’ play list on Apple Music. I’m glad my kids have an appreciation for my eclectic music styles and can sing along at full voice to such classics as ‘What about me’ or rock out with some air guitar to songs like ‘Money for nothing’. I was quickly reminded by about track four (of 99!) just how long songs from the 80’s went for and the length of intros filled with synthesisers and saxophones! We had far more patience for a long intro 20 years ago – they’d be breaking for an ad before the lyrics started if songs were like that now.

We continued our very own carpool karaoke for a few more hours before stopping in Griffith for lunch and some fun on the most amazing outdoor adventure playground – for little AND big kids! We even managed to get Nanna to have a turn on the zip line and got it on film for future bribery or bragging rights. The kids had a great time and the sun was shining even though the temperature hadn’t got above 15 degrees all day so we were well and truly warmed up when we got back in the car to hit the road again.

About two hours south of Cobar the road kill and wild goats by the road started. It was about this time when I started to rethink the original plan of driving to Bourke where it would be dark by the time we arrived. Better to stop in Cobar before the sun sets.

We drove through Mount Hope and I was reminded of our last trip when we stopped in for a cuppa. I ordered a mocha at the pub (the only place in town on the main road) and the lady behind the counter said she’d not made one in the four years she’d been there yet mine was the second one she’d made in just two days. Plenty of Melbourne coffee (or not so in my case) lovers on their way to the bash. While waiting by the toasty open fire an old timer who works in the Cobar mine popped in, took out his guitar and started singing some Johhny Cash. Memorable pit stop but not one we had time to relive today.

The closer we got to Cobar, the quicker the sun started to fade and the more the foliage by the side of the road, with its silver and black shades, began to look like the silhouette of a kangaroo. We passed emus, herds of wild goats, sheep, cattle and kangaroos and I’m happy to say I remained alert and our new electric brakes work a treat.

We rolled into Cobar just after 5pm, impressed Nanna with the speed at which we set up the camper and unhitched the car and headed out to the Fort Bourke Hill lookout for the last of the sunset at 5.30.

Hot dinner, some reshuffling of pantry and additional items that ended up being packed at the last minute then it was time to settle down with blankets and hot water bottles to watch Ghostbusters II – another 80’s classic to round out the day and warm us up for bed.

We’re staying at the caravan park which is lovely but quite noisy with nearby truck traffic. I’m hoping with my ‘snore blocker’ ear plugs I get a better night sleep than the five hours I got last night right before my nine hour drive!

A journey…of sorts

So this blog post has been sitting in my drafts for some time. I’ve had a few more moments of fear and anxiety since I wrote this reflective piece but things are definitely looking up! I think I finally feel brave enough to actually post this… 

This week will mark six months since we returned home from our four months on the road. Master 14 is now Master 15 and Miss 6 is now Miss 7 and me? Well I’ve had a birthday and started my 39th year with a steely determination not to let others take me for granted and to keep investing in solid time and adventure with my two munchkins (albeit the biggest munchkin now stands taller than me!).

While we’ve taken the camper out for a couple of short trips, most of our journeys of late have been of the figurative type. I’ve started a new job and moved the kids and I into our own home complete with furkid and a new paintjob throughout.

This should be a time of great joy and excitement for all of us. I’m lucky my new job is great and I get to work (again) with a great group of like-minded yet diverse people and so far, it’s keeping me challenged and content.

After two years living with my very generous dad (minus the four months we spent on the road in our trusty camper) with the furkid taken in by mum – we’re finally all together in our own home where the kids can paint their rooms any colour they like and I can hang as many pictures on the wall as I like. Needless to say, Master 15 went with a lovely shade of blue (convenient as it was already that shade when we moved in) and Miss 7 selected ‘leopard print’. She compromised and went with some leopard print decals to stick to the wall.

We’ve been in the house one week now and for the past few months as we packed and planned, the excitement has been building and we were all rapt when we finally moved in (especially mum and dad I think!). After the first five nights the kids went to their dad’s for their time with him and I was left alone in the house, just me, my thoughts and my furkid.

The excitement seemed to wear off when nightfall came and I’d realise I was alone and slightly afraid – not very kick-arse at all. My closest friends and family know that on NYE of 2015/16 I was assaulted and though I recovered from my physical injuries after about a month, the emotional scars have taken far longer to heal.

Travelling around Australia with my two favourite people (and meeting some new friends along the way) was arguably the best therapy anyone could ask for. If I wasn’t immersing myself in the rugged and remote beauty of our wonderful country or laughing, playing and singing with the kids, I was driving. Driving sometimes five hours with the stunning scenery surroundng us and the view in the rearview mirror reminding me just how far I’d come.

Coming back to Melbourne was hard (life on the road is AWESOME) but I seemed to settle in ok and get on with life determined also, to leave that earlier chapter of my life far behind me. The kids had been going to stay with their dad every fortnight since we got back but I always had dad home with me when I lay my head on the pillow and that was reassuring. More reassuring than I’d realised it seems.

My first few kid-free nights in our new home soon turned from excitement to a sense of overwhelming emotion and tears. At first I thought I was just super tired but I soon realised that having my dad there each night had made me feel safer than I cared to admit and that being alone now was hard. Just over a year  after my ordeal and I thought I’d largely gotten over it but it seems there’s still a long way to go on my personal journey. A journey I’m still determined to make, surrounded only by people who love, support and most importantly respect me.

While I still feel let down by the person who hurt me I feel perhaps just as disappointingly, let down by a system that is supposed to keep people safe. It’s definitely been a journey and one that I’m still on but as long as I keep looking forward and only glance in that rearview occasionally to see how far I’ve come, it will be an adventure.

Writing this blog was not only a great way to document our adventures around Oz but a cathartic exercise for me in my own personal journey. I’m not ready to close the chapter on the kickarse mum and with a few small trips with the two kids and camper on the horizen I reckon I’ll start this baby back up again. Safe travels everyone and we hope to see you on the road soon!

Home sweet home

After 21,970 kilometres, 122 nights, 59 different overnight stops, 2 kids, a camper and a kickarse mum have finally made it home. While Miss7 was happy to be home to see her Daddy, Master14 and I could have easily stayed on the road longer.
We spent our final night on the road in Horsham with a long lunch stopover in Ballarat and the back roads back home to avoid anything remotely city-like. A fairly uneventful home-coming the kids were picked up within half an hour of arriving home and I’m left wondering what’s next for the kickarse mum?

Without the open road and living in a camper am I still a kickarse mum? Determined to continue earning the title, I’m back ‘home’ with a fresh perspective on life and a determination to take more control over my own destiny, move away from people and places that take me for granted, give myself to those people and causes that I am most passionate about and slow down to enjoy all that life has to offer.

But first, I need the motivation to clean the camper! I hope to be able to afford to keep the camper, do some repairs and renovations to it so that we can get out on the road again. With a list of places we want to go back to, places around Victoria that we’re yet to discover and a host of short weekends away on the wish list – there’s still plenty of opportunities to keep 2 kids, a camper and a kickarse mum out and about in the great Australian outdoors. Watch this space…

Until then I’ll go from choosing between one of three tshirts, shorts or jeans and thongs or runners – back to the corporate wardrobe choices with the jeans to look forward to on weekends (which also means I need to keep track of days again!).  

Birthday in the Barossa

After a foggy start in Port Augusta (and a $5 load of laundry!!) we were on the road to the Barossa Valley for a few days before the final trek home. Miss6 would be turning 7 while we were in the Barossa and it felt good to know that we wouldn’t be spending the day driving for hours in the car. It also meant that I had to encourage the kids to play at the playground together while I grabbed a few groceries at the supermarket (plus birthday card, gift bag and a little toy for the big day).

We got to the Barossa in the afternoon, lucky enough to have made some lovely friends three months earlier who had a 1,000 acre sheep farm that we were going to camp on. Miss6 quickly raced off to play with their little girl while Master14 and I set up the camper before spending the afternoon and evening hanging out with our friends in front of the fire.

The five days straight driving must have had more of an impact on me than I’d thought – with no alarm I managed to sleep until 9am. Miss6 joined our hosts for a lovely long walk across the farm while I relaxed and got breakfast sorted. Our friends had very young children who still had daytime naps so once the kids were in bed, we headed out for the afternoon to see some of the sights.

We ended up at Maggie Beers Farm to watch one of the free cooking demonstrations in her former TV studio kitchen. The hearty roast vegetables that they made were delicious and the kids even tried some of the veggies they didn’t normally like – luckily they had the recipe there for us to take home! After dressing up in Maggie’s apron and posing for some kitchen photos, we enjoyed some afternoon tea while and lots of taste testing in the farm shop.

We’d heard about Whistler Winery where they had a Kangaroo sanctuary so headed there for the afternoon. I did the obligatory wine tasting and ended up buying a bottle that I liked as it’s not available in Melbourne (a perfectly legitimate reason for buying yet another bottle of wine) while the kids played outside doing their treasure hunt. The kids and I then went and patted some of the kangaroos, treating them to a couple of almonds – one of their favourite treats. Miss6 is really loving the idea of being a wildlife rescue worker when we get back – she’s even asked for a farm for her birthday!

On the way back to the farm we stopped in at Nuriootpa to try the hot chips and gravy at the Chicken Centre – we’d been told they were the best chips you could buy and they weren’t wrong! I later found out that Kamiel even makes his own chicken salt – the kids and I thought they were delicious and a great entree for a dinner of leftovers.

After dinner we joined our friends again so the kids could play in the loungeroom – this is the most indoor space the kids have had in months and they’re loving it. Tomorrow is Miss6’s birthday and we’ve been invited to join our friends for a roast dinner. I think the excitement was getting too much for Miss6 as she stayed awake for ages talking to herself in bed while I sat freezing at the kitchen table trying to secretly wrap a few things, write in her birthday card and blow up birthday balloons.

We woke in the morning to a very excited little girl and a van full of pink happy birthday balloons and a hot chocolate date with our friends at a local cafe. After morning tea I’d planned to take the now Miss7 to the local gem shop for some fossicking but they weren’t doing that activity at the moment so she just got to check out some of the gems and window shop in another kids boutique clothing store before we headed back to the cafe for lunch instead.

Our friends then went back home for naps while I took the kids to the world’s largest rocking horse for a look around. The neighbouring toy shop had some amazing wooden toys available and Master14 bought himself a wooden puzzle cube after our hike to the top of the rocking horse (I’m yet to master the puzzle though he’s mastered it a few times already).

We then took a walk through their animal sanctuary with a small bag of food to give to the goats, alpacas, ducks and kangaroos – one of the alpacas decided to have a little nibble on Miss7’s arm but the tears soon subsided when a couple of little roos joined us for a feed.

We finished the day off with a yummy roast, happy birthday singing around a birthday cake and an evening with our friends and generous hosts. I’d been worried how Miss7 would go having her birthday away from home and her Dad but she had a great day and is smitten with her little friends and their family. It’s been a lovely few days in the Barossa with its lush green pastures and meandering vineyards and the views from our camper on the farm have been a beautiful last adventure for our trip.

Driving wheels

We were a bit late packing up in Kalgoorlie and for the first time all trip, we missed check out and didn’t leave the caravan park until 10.30. Although leaving Broome felt a little like the ‘trip home’ we still had so much to see and do and went from coast to inland and back to coast again. Leaving Kalgoorlie to make the hike across the Nullarbor – that feels like we’re ‘driving home’ and the trip is most definitely ending.

This trip has been far from a holiday – we’ve had the odd stops where we’ve managed to relax but most of it has been a shared adventure and opportunity to learn more about our amazing country, the rich history and culture of its people, meet some amazing people and make what I hope to be life-long friends, bond as a family and do some soul searching. I’m not sure I’m ready to go home just yet…

I had a draft itinerary for our last month of the trip (I didn’t bother writing it down or even thinking about it until we were at 80 Mile Beach and figured I should try and at least make sure we got home on time) and while we’d tweaked it here and there and swapped nights and locations a few times, the plan for the Nullarbor was really just to get across it as we’re running out of time.

Day one, I’d just hoped to get from Kalgoorlie and stop somewhere along the way once it got to late afternoon with no particular preference as to where. The volunteer at Parry Beach had given me a few good spots to stop at as had our KC family friends so I thought we’d at least aim for one of them if possible as we went. I stopped at Bunnings in Kalgoorlie for some zip spray to help with Master14’s bed fly incase we needed to unzip that on the way home, we grabbed the obligatory Saturday morning sausage and then we were on our way.

We were only stopped for fuel along the way wherever we happened to be when I got to half a tank so I was cruising quite comfortably on about 95km/h with 3/4 of a tank of fuel when the revs on my car suddenly spiked and I realised that I was in nuetral – the car had popped out of fifth gear. I put my foot on the clutch and put it back into fifth but then the same thing happened so I tried to hold it in fifth for a bit but that didn’t work either.

I put it into fourth and all was ok so I slowed down and kept driving to the next service station which happened to be in the middle of nowhere and no town to be seen. I asked the French guy behind the counter if there happened to be a mechanic nearby but he didn’t know what I was talking about and asked me if I wanted Diesel fuel so I thanked him and went to the payphone to call my mechanic in Melbourne.

I didn’t really want to have to drive to the nearest town and stay a few days to wait to get my car fixed – by now I was sick of other mechanics working on my car and things going wrong with it. After a reassuring phone call to him, I was back on the road with the knowledge that I was driving home to Melbourne in fourth gear and only able to do about 85km/h. With all of the delay with my car and having to drive that bit slower, we didn’t get very far along that first day and made our stop at Newman Rock where we parked near a fire pit and table and chair setting.

We were the only ones camped there but after taking a walk later on we found a couple of other campers further down the track. I’d had people tell me not to camp all alone at these roadside stops – I’m not sure who they think is just lurking in the bush in the middle of nowhere but we felt quite safe and were looking forward to watching the stars by the fire for the night. Then it rained so our plans for the fire changed to sitting indoors and keeping warm.

Day two, I wanted to at least get to Eucla so we were off by 9.30 and driving through intermittant rain and seeing a lot of the same scenery as the day before – trees and shrubs of varying shades of green. Until we hit Madurah where we stopped at the lookout for a great view of the Hampton Tableland which looked like a vast area of grey/green low lying shrubs with the odd tree popping out. I stopped for fuel at the Eucla caravan park and decided I’d actually had enough driving so paid for a site and managed to find a secluded little spot amongst some trees with a fire pit where we managed to feel like we were still bush camping.

As the weather was a lot cooler, I’d planned to put dinner on in the thermo pot in the morning so that by the time I’d driven all day and set up camp I could just sit down and serve up dinner rather than the hassle of cooking – this was quite possibly the best plan I’ve had and was working a treat.

Day three, I paid my $1 for a five minute shower which was enough to wash my hair and it was back on the road again for another long day of driving. My back at this stage has really started to play up and cause me quite a bit of grief and discomfort so I’ve lathered it in Rapigel and popped Nurofen to help with the driving.

The landscape changed again as we drove through the Nullarbor National Park it was back to trees and shrubs until we hit the Nullarbor Roadhouse and the Western end of the Treeless Plain (which Master14, being the teenager that he is, liked pointing out what must’ve been the only tree in sight). We stopped at the roadhouse for fuel and some lunch in the car before a quick make believe game of shops in the old Nullarbor Roadhouse complete with old fuel pump and rusty cash register.

Back on the road to the Head of Bight where we went to the visitor centre to do some whale watching. This week (and this year) is a record with around 170 Southern Right Whales in the Bight (including 81 calves and their mothers). We got to see around 20 whales and their calves while we were there – it was amazing. Some were just floating, others breaching or waving their fin and tails in the air.

The coast itself was breathtaking and made you feel like you were standing on the edge of the world. We spent a fair amount of time at the Bight so it got too late for us to get to Ceduna for the night and we stopped at Cohen Rest area where we ate our preprepared hot dinner around another campfire telling ghost stories and looking at the stars.

Until of course Miss6 stole my camp chair so I sat in hers – let’s just say that kids camp chairs (or even just cheap adult ones I think it is) don’t have drink holders that are sturdy enough for a glass of wine – mine went A over and went all over me and the chair. It was bedtime for us all after that.

Day four and it was raining when we woke – I love the sound of rain on the roof – until I remember that I have to pack up the camper. Luckily it always sounds worse than it is and we managed to pack up without getting terribly wet. For most of the afternoon yesterday and for most of the day today we had some lovely green pastures as our scenery and even a windmill or two (or ten or more when we drove through the pretty town of Penong). We also passed through the town of Kimba – apparently halfway across Australia and home of the Big Galah.

Although I was very tired, I managed to get us all the way to Port Augusta for the night. We had thought about doing a night in Coffin Bay but I realised that all we would’ve done was set up the van, eat dinner, go to bed then pack up and go in the morning and miss anything good about it. By getting to Port Augusta now, it means that we can spend three nights in the Barossa Valley and possibly even squeeze in a sleep in before the final drive home to Melbourne.

From superstorm to superpit

After our windy night from hell and with the bad weather continuing in the morning, we only stopped long enough in Esperance to refuel the car (by the time I got to the servo the fuel light was on and turns out I only had 0.5 ltrs of fuel left in my tank – talk about cutting it fine!) and do some grocery shopping for our next leg of travel.

We left Esperance by mid morning and didn’t get to Kalgoorlie until around 5pm after stops for lunch, fuel and a stretch of the legs. I was absolutely exhausted by the time we’d set up and had dinner and was looking forward to a more restful sleep this time.

I was obviously still pretty knackered in the morning as I think I pressed snooze on the alarm about five times before getting up so we only just made it to the tour bus in time to collect our safety goggles and high vis jackets for our Superpit tour at the KCGM mine. Our tour guide Jill (or Jilly) was very informative and not only took us into the mine but gave us some history and insight into towns of Kalgoorlie and Boulder and the local gold rush.

In 1893, A few Irish lads by the names of Paddy Hannon, Thomas Flanagan and Dan Shea found nearly 100 ounces of gold (no they didn’t walk into a bar) in the Kalgoorlie/Boulder area which sparked a gold rush and the subsequent discovery of one of the richest gold deposits in the world – known as The Golden Mile. The rush saw around 49 individual mines established and in operation before Alan Bond started buying up the leases in the 80’s to create one giant open cut mine (I’m pretty sure he found himself in a bit of trouble around this time so the deal was never finalised and KCGM – Kalgoorlie Conglomerate Gold Mine – took over). The mine is now owned by two overseas companies, one of which is putting their half up for sale if anyone wants to loan me a heap of cash to buy it??

The mine looked similar to the Cobar open cut mine we saw on our trip to Birdsville last year but much bigger and the tour took us through areas of the mine where we could also see the machinery. The kids were pretty excited by the huge dump trucks emptying loads of rock (Miss6 was especially excited at the sight of the pink and blue ones which supported different mens and womens charities) and some of the massive tyres in the yard used on the trucks.

The colours in the rocky walls were quite lovely with reds and yellows through the first few layers of the mine, running into the darker grey with some black dotted throughout as the mine got deeper. KCGM have done some significant replanting of native trees and shrubs in the area with plans likely to include letting the superpit fill with water once operations are complete in 2029 – the water coming out of the mine has five times the salinity levels of the ocean so I’m not sure what kind of plant and wild life that will support in the future?

The tour finished at lunchtime and the bus parked back at the tour office conveniently across the road from the old York Hotel so we decided to stop in for lunch. The pub is a beautiful old building with gorgeous ornate ceilings and an equally gorgeous wooden staircase leading up to some accommodation and an outdoor belcony with views down the main street of town where we enjoyed a scrumptious lunch in the sunshine.

We made what was supposed to be a quick little stop at the Town Hall for a look where we bumped into the local historian. I mentioned that I worked for local government back in Melbourne so he opened up the Council Chamber and Mayor’s private meeting room for us to have a look. The ceilings were made with ornate pressed metal and the furniture was carved out of solid wood (unlike the ‘office’ furniture of our Council chambers). The Mayor here still wore the Mayoral chain and robe for formal occassions and we found out that the very first Mayoral robe was imported from the UK for a cost of around 200 Guineas which at the time was equivalent to buying four houses! Talk about blowing the budget! The robes were the same as the Lord Mayor of London and the Mayor of the day thought that Kalgoorlie deserved the same.

Next it was off to Hannons North Tourist Mine where the kids and I got to climb up into a giant dump truck and pretend to drive it – it’s so unbelievably massive to be in the cabin of one of those things. We also looked around the old buildings and equipment before trying our hand at panning for gold – needless to say we didn’t find our fortune and I haven’t been able to fund an extension of this trip with the proceeds.

We finished the day with a drive out to the public lookout at the Superpit for sunset – it was a pretty spectacular sunset and I wished I’d taken more photos. Tomorrow we start our official ‘drive home’ hitting the Eyre Hwy and making our way across the Nullarbor.