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!

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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.

Sea breezes at Lucky Bay


We left Parry Beach for Lucky Bay – after our time here I understand there are multiple reasons for that name but more about that soon. We pretty much just drove all the way to Cape Le Grand National Park, we didn’t even stop at Esperance as it was getting close to sunset and we wanted to set up before dark.

I’d phoned ahead to make sure that we wouldn’t get out to the National Park to find the gates were shut from 5pm but was assured that at this time of year it’s unlikely to be full (you can’t book sites at this NP – I’m thinking ‘Hunger Games’ in the busy Summer months ‘may the odds be ever in your favour’…) and we could just find a spot and the Ranger or volunteers would catch us in the morning to pay our fees.

We decided to set up the awning while we were staying here as it was a two night stop and the awning was still wet from our rainy days in Perth. A friendly neighbour came over to check if we needed a hand setting up as he could see that we were racing the sun setting but we managed to get it all up in time. (I love the people you meet when camping).

Our campsite overlooked the bay and though there were a lot of trees between us and the beach itself, we could still see the water and it was lovely. I’m not sure if it was a mild night or if I’d just worked up a sweat setting up quickly before dark but I decided that we would sit outside and take in the view for dinner – it turned pretty cold pretty quickly and without a fire we soon went back inside after dinner.


The last few days had been big driving days and very wet so I decided to turn the alarm off and try for a sleep in. We were up around 9 and our friendly park volunteers came to collect our camping fees (National Parks are such a cheap and beautiful camping option) and gave us some great tips on things to see including the Matthew Flinders rock commemorating his landing here in 1802.

We thought we’d check this out first so we headed off down the picturesque sandy beach of Lucky Bay – the sand here is so white and squeaks beneath your feet as you walk. The water is crystal clear coloured a perfect turquise before blending to a smooth navy blue as you head further out into the bay. The water was inviting but we’re a cold blooded family (I think I may even be part reptile) so we didn’t go for a swim but walked along the shore enough to get our feet wet.


I could see why this place was called Lucky Bay – I think we’re incredibly lucky to live in a country with such pristine beautiful beaches. It was very disappointing to see the amount of rubbush littered along the beach as we walked so when we saw a couple walking back from their morning fish I asked them if they had a spare plastic bag we could have. I put it in my pocket to use on the way back and we continued to the steps and lookout across the bay.


We scrambled over the rocks and eventually made our way to the place where Matthew Flinders landed in 1802. It was marked by a large rock seemingly held up by a far smaller rock at the bottom so the kids took great joy in pretending to hold the giant rock up above their heads. We managed some random phone service while at the rock so we phoned my nephew in Melbourne and sang to him for his birthday and told him where we were camping.

We scrambled back over the rocks and headed up the beach back to our campsite, stopping along the way to pick up rubbish – mainly bits of plastic and nylon rope – we managed to completely fill the plastic shopping bag we had! Miss6 was very good at spotting bits of plastic in the sand and putting it into the bag and did most of the work until the wind started. We’d all had our pants rolled up and bare feet, enjoying the glorious sunshine and the feeling of the sand between our toes. Until the ‘sparkly’ sand (as Miss6 identified it) started whipping at our ankles in the wind and the feeling of sand soon spread to across our chest, in our eyebrows, in our hair and then finally in our teeth. I was lucky, I don’t go outdoors without sunglasses so my eyes had some protection, the kids however weren’t that lucky and took to pulling their clothes up over their faces and Miss6 even put her boots back on to avoid the sand hitting any bare skin as we walked.

With the wind blowing directly at us (and stopping to pick up rubbish) it took nearly two hours to walk all the way back to camp for a late lunch. The wind started to pick up enough that the poles on the awning where beginning to move so we decided to take down the awning, just as our neighbours who’d been camping in a tent, decided to pack up and leave altogether. We got the awning most of the way in but in the wind and with the camper at full height (we normally set up and pack up the awning while the camper is wound down to avoid needing the ladder) we couldn’t get the zip done up and figured we’d just do that up in the morning when we packed up.


After lunch we hopped in the car and drove out to Hellfire Bay and decided to make the 20 minute walk to Little Hellfire Bay, a secluded little area that was supposed to be sheltered from the wind – except for today. Like Lucky Bay, the sand was really white and squeaked under your feet and the water was crystal clear. The wind was a lot milder here than Lucky Bay but still blowing over us making that sunshine even more appreciated.

The kids found a waterway that was desperately trying to make its way to the ocean and had fun blocking it off then letting it go in the hopes that the big surge of water would help it get there – and it almost did. We walked back along the path to the car, a very pretty walk amongst some trees, shrubs and wildflowers and even a few kangaroos on the way back (I quietly hoped that they stayed here and avoided the roadside for the drive home).

We made a very quick stop at Frenchman Lookout on the way back, it was a very large hill/mountain that seemed to be all rock and had a strange little hole at the top which made it look like it was wearing a hat (a beret perhaps?) before parking back at camp ready for some hot showers. Miss6 and I went first (and she was delighted to see two kangaroos right at our doorstep when she opened the camper door to head to the showers!) and though the solar showers were nice and warm, like Parry Beach there wasn’t much pressure.


We got back to the van to make a start on dinner while Master14 went to the showers, nearly getting blown over as he walked out the camper door. As I stood in the camper talking to Miss6 I couldn’t help but notice how much the roof of the camper was swaying left to right so I went outside to grab a couple of ropes to fasten to the roof of the camper and the ground to try to slow the rocking. The rain had started by now and I was getting drenched and blown away at the same time.


When Master14 got back from his shower the wind had picked up even more and the rocking of the van continued so I asked him to come outside with me to wind up the legs a little so I could hitch the car to the camper – somehow the idea of having an additional two tonne attached to the camper in this wind was very reassuring. We both got drenched while we were out there and came back inside looking like drowned rats to find Miss6 crying as she was scared of the wind and thought that we were getting blown away outside.

The winds reached 100km/h that night and it’s fair to say I got little to no sleep. Before this trip and even throughout it, people have asked me many times if I’ve ever felt scared camping alone and I’ve answered honestly no, never… until this night. The wind was so ferocious and the camper was rocking and moving about so much that I was very unsettled and repeatedly doing a risk management check in my head as the night wore on – ‘if this breaks, how would I fix it?’, ‘at what point do I move the kids and I into the main camper and out of the bed ends?’, ‘at what point do I knock on our neighbours caravan door and ask if the kids and I can sleep on the floor?’ – all of this went through my mind as the night wore on.

Though we are in a camper, the bed ends are little more than a glorified tent simply sitting a few feet off the ground and held in place by some strips of velcro. I’m not sure if my ears were decieving me but at one stage I could’ve sworn there was hail. It was midnight and I was still awake – six hours solid of this wind – at this point I started to think ‘if the camper has survived unharmed for six hours already, it’s likely to survive another six’ and managed to fall asleep.

I woke briefly to Master14 crawling in to bed with us, the pole on his bed had finally given way in the wind (it had been held together with nothing but two pieces of gaffa tape since the bracket broke in Silverton way back at the start of our trip – I’d bought a new bracket at the Jayco toy shop and figured I’d just wait til we got home to fix it). I went back to sleep with Master14 asleep between me and Miss6.

I woke soon after to an almighty crack and shot up out of bed thinking ‘that pole is down – I should fix that bracket now before the bed end gets damaged in this wind’ so I got out of bed and whispered to Master14 to look after his sister while I was gone – it seemed like I’d lost Miss6 in the bed somewhere as I could only make out one body, but figured she was under the covers again hiding from the noise. I walked to the other end of the camper and turned on the kitchen light and got out the bracket – it was then I remembered that the screwdriver was outside in the toolbox and did I really want to brave the outdoors to fix this bracket?

I’ll check the situation first, so I opened the curtains and went to turn on the light and realised that Master14 was sound asleep in his bed and the pole was still where it ought to be – I was so exhausted that I’d fallen into a deep sleep and dreamt the whole thing (not the wind – that was still VERY real). Back into bed with Miss6 who actually was under the covers hiding from the noise and I spent the rest of the night drifting in and out of sleep.

The closer it got to morning, the more I contemplated not packing up, skipping Kalgoorlie and just bunkering down here until the weather died down. I didn’t know how we’d go trying to pack up in gale force winds – we’d had a couple of windy pack ups and they were a pain in the arse but the wind was nothing compared to this. By the time it came to get up and start packing up, the rain had slowed to an ‘on again, off again’ and the wind had lessened enough that we thought we’d have a crack at packing up.

We tried to stay indoors for as long as possible getting everything ready to go for the outdoors when we could hear the moments that the wind died down and the rain had stopped. We got almost to the end of the pack up and were trying to zip up the awning bag and clamp down the camper roof when the wind picked up and I’m sure it began to hail (if it wasn’t hail then it was the coldest, hardest, sharpest rain I’d ever felt and I’m from Melbourne!). Our hands were completely numb, red raw and quite useless by now so our lovely neighbour came over to help us out by grabbing the zip and zipping it up for us.

I’d made Miss6 sit in the car to stay warm and dry but Master14 and I were soaked and freezing and I was exhausted before the day had even began (Master14 had slept like a teenager through the whole night so he was as fresh as a daisy). We had deliberately packed up without our jumpers (mine was still soaked through from the night before anyway) as we’d only brought one jumper on the trip and figured we would need them to warm back up again in the car. I cranked the heater, put on some dry trakkies and my ugg boots (so glad I packed them – though for those that know me, I wouldn’t go anywhere without them!) and we hit the road with high hopes of the wind and rain easing as we headed inland to Kalgoorlie.

Lucky Bay sure is a beautiful part of the world and I certainly felt lucky to spend some time here and even luckier that we (especially the camper) survived a night of gale force winds here too.

Tall trees


When we left Margaret River it was pouring with rain though we’d managed to get packed up before the rain really hit. As we drove along we hoped that the rain would ease as we’d planned a few stops before camping at Parry Beach tonight.

The first stop was the Gloucester Tree near Pemberton – 53 metres in the air and all you had to climb on were some metal pegs stuck into the trunk of the tree. When we arrived by some miracle the rain had stopped and the tree was open for climbing so we made our way to the base of the tree and looked up – it was so high up that I couldn’t fit the tree in one photo.


The kids made me read the sign at the bottom which quite clearly stated ‘not recommended to climb in wet and windy weather conditions and not recommended for children’ – oops. Miss6 saw the last point as more of a challenge I think and raced up those pegs quick as lightening.

I climbed behind the kids with plans of coming to their resuce and catching them if they fell – though I spent most of the time trying to keep up with them. Playgrounds certainly are a wonderful training ground for small children and big trees. I tried the ‘don’t look down’ theory but found that it was actually pretty interesting to look down and see how small things were getting as we ascended the tree – it was the looking straight ahead at the peg in front of you that sometimes caught me off guard and I felt the need to blink a little to get my depth perception back.


The view from the top was pretty amazing – though we weren’t on fire watch it almost looked like small spot fires in the distance as the clouds were so low and it was so cold that there were small spirals of steam or fog billowing gently from the tops of the trees in the distance.

Being on the bottom for the climb back down was a challenge – I nearly had my hands stood on a few times by Miss6 (aka spider monkey). Back on solid ground and it took us a while to thaw out our hands from the icy cold metal pegs that were still wet from all of the rain. In the car and on our way to the next stop and more tall trees at the Valley of the Giants.


We bought our tickets and headed out onto the bridges through the canopy – as we walked I realised that the bridges aren’t terribly solid and actually rocked as you walked across them which felt a little weird. The view from the tops of the Tingle Trees was pretty spectacular with the highest point still not as high we we’d just climbed at the Gloucester Tree but impressive none the less.

The smaller trees down below almost looked like shrubs  and you could hear a creek below well before you could make out any water on the way back down. I think the kids were most impressed with the ground walk through the Tingle Trees, especially the ones you could walk right through – fire had gutted the dead parts of the base of some of the trees making large holes for you to stand in.


Back before the park was built for tourism, people used to drive their cars into the hollowed out bases and take photos – this killed the trees though as they have a shallow root system so now boardwalks protect the root system from human traffic. Some of the trees are over 400 years old and the most impressive old tree was aptly named Grandma which Miss6 thought was funny. We were lucky enough again with the weather in that the rain stopped in time for us to walk through the Valley of Giants but it wasn’t long back on the road before it started raining again.


It had stopped and the sun almost seemed like it was coming out to say hello when we reached Parry Beach campsite so when I paid the fees I also paid an extra $5 for a barrow of wood for the fire. We set up camp under some trees (not as tall as the others we’d seen that day but enough to provide some shelter) and Miss6 was delighted to see a number of rabbits hopping about as we set up, along with a couple of Magpies and Kookaburras.

We did some exploring down at the beach and up into the bush where we found lots of lovely wildflowers and the kids ran around chasing each other all the way back to camp. We lit the fire and sat around it eating our dinner and telling ghost stories trying to scare each other (all Miss6’s idea of course). The rain held off for the night but it was still getting very cold so I made up the hot water bottles to try and keep our beds warm – though we’re in a camper the beds are no different than being in a tent except we’re higher off the ground. Master14 doesn’t seem to feel the cold like I do but I was grateful to hop into bed and have something nice and warm to take the chill out of my bones and toes! We drifted off to sleep with the sounds of the waves crashing onto shore again and I remembered how much I love that sound (even if sometimes it does seem similar to a distant busy highway).

Stalactites and wineries


While we avoided the rain while we packed up, we didn’t avoid the wet – the awning and bed ends were soaked. We headed to Busselton and got there in time for some hot soup for lunch and booked us onto a train ride down the pier. Unfortunately the underwater experience wasn’t open due to some storms the night before. We had thought we’d ride the train down the pier then walk it back but the weather was a bit cold and we’d brought our lunch from the car so I didn’t really want to walk back the 1.8km carrying everything in the cold.

The train took us to the end of the pier and it was truly amazing just how long the pier is. We had the opportunity to spend some time at the end of the pier where an artist had painted pictures of whales to scale – the kids and I were pretty amazed at just how big some of them were. The Humpback and Right whale were fairly large but the Blue Whale was absolutely ginormous according to Miss6.


The neighbouring visitor centre had told the kids about some of the caves in the area – one nearby that had a ‘tunnel of doom’ for the kids so they were pretty keen to head there before we made our way to Margaret River. I called ahead to Wharncliff Mill and booked a site for two nights and headed to Ngilgi Cave for their last tour of the day. The cave is 500,000 years old and pretty spectacular – even I had a turn at the ‘tunnel of doom’ and we all liked the amphitheatre too – laying on our backs and looking up at the stalactites hanging from above was like looking at a surreal city.

We got to our campsite and set up with hopes of lighting a fire but it started raining so we stayed indoors. The rain had cleared by morning so we headed down to Cape Leeuwin to check out Jewel Cave – the largest show cave in WA. The entrance was large and well made and we later learned it was entirely man-made as the only natural entrance to the cave was a 12m deep hole resembling something that Bugs Bunny would crawl through and led directly to an 8m drop to the ground.


The cave was stunning – it had some similar stalactite and stalagmite features as Ngilgi but less of a narrow adventure and more huge open areas. The cave used to have water in it and the boardwalks would sit higher but the water has all dried up. They’ve found fossils of a Tasmania Tiger in the cave, it had falled down the hole and couldn’t get back out in the dark.


We climbed back out the 500th step and headed to the car for the drive to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, the tallest on the Australian mainland, sitting in the most South Westerly point of Australia where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet. We joined our tour guide and walked the 172 steps up to the sixth floor and out onto the balcony – it was a blustery view of the ocean below and would’ve been quite a tough gig as the lighthouse keeper back in the day.



We learnt that there were 22 ship wrecks before the lighthouse was built and only one after it was built. The ship that wrecked was built by the same company that built the Titanic, only this one had enough life rafts to save those on board – I don’t think it says much for the captain’s they hired though as this one ignored the lighthouse warning and tried to cut the corner. Luckily the lighthouse keeper saw the ship’s distress signal and lit fires along the shore to guide the life boats safely to land.


I managed to convince the kids to hit a couple of wineries for the afternoon with the bribery of some lunch. I’d always thought of wineries when I thought of Margaret River but now I was starting to think of caves as well – I figured lunch at a winery would even things out. We had a yummy lunch at Watershed Winery with a lovely view of the vineyard below before we headed to Voyager to check out their gardens (and taste a few wines while we were there).


The gardens there are immaculate and would be gorgeous to look at in Spring with the roses in full bloom. There were two other wineries I wanted to visit but decided against rushing to see them at the end of the day so instead, we decided we’d stay a third night as we’d saved a night by not staying in Busselton. With our spare time we grabbed some fuel and groceries before getting back to the campground where we all had a play on the adventure playground right next to our campsite. We lit the fire and sat around it eating dinner and toasting marshmallows for the night.


We woke the next morning to some pretty nice weather so we decided not only to visit Sunflowers Farm but to head to another cave – the more the kids hear about, the more they want to visit. After paying for another night and a milk crate of firewood we were off to Sunflowers Farm – the big attraction that Miss6 was especially looking forward to.

Sunflowers Farm was full of animals that you could walk around feeding, patting and even getting into some of the pens with them. We fed and patted our way through lambs, goats, joey kangaroos, clydesdale horses and a shetland pony, chooks of all sorts of breeds, guinea pigs, rabbits, pigs, llama, an emu and an ostrich (note: just drop the food over the fence for the ostrich – I tried to hand feed it and it took the idea quite literally and nearly took my whole hand with the food).


After visiting all the animals and going through two buckets of feed we headed back to the main office where there were a couple of goats roaming freely, a corella that liked to talk, some three day old chickens and some very young kids and lambs that you could sit with in their pen. Well, Miss6 very quickly made herself comfortable in this pen and I started to wonder how I could get her out of there – she was happy with the idea that we go off for the day and pick her up later.

Luckily, it was feed time and she got to hold a bottle of milk and feed one of the kids and even Master14 got in on the action (they were very cute and hard to resist). We finished off the visit with an ice cream – we’d heard great things about ‘Simmo’s Icecream’ and thought we should try one. We went for two scoops and they were piled up that high on the cone that both the kids needed a cup to put the top scoop on (which it easily filled) as the weight of it meant it had started sliding straight off.

We burnt the mega ice creams off on a pirate playground before hitting cave #3. This time it was Mammoth Cave, a large open cave that you enter from one end and walk right through to the other end. We were given some self-guide audio devices and headphones so that we could hear about the cave as we walked through it. This cave was home to over 10,000 fossils when it was originally developed for tourists – the work of putting in boardwalks through the cave uncovered the fossils and confirmed the existence of mega fauna in the area which was very interesting to Master14 and I.


Miss6 however, was especially keen to walk all the way through the cave and then come up and walk back over the road we’d driven on to get there. On the way out of the carpark we saw a car crashed into a ditch at the entrance, we stopped to check everyone was ok before heading off to another winery for me (this time I bribed the kids with promises of a cheese platter).


We started at Lawrence Winery as I’d been told to check out their lavish loos. While we were there I also made sure to taste some of their wines and pick up a bottle on sale before we checked out the gardens and lady on the lake statue (not its real name but a fond nickname). The kitchen had just closed so we couldn’t do a cheese platter here but they told us that the food at Black Brewing Co. across the road was amazing and still open so we headed there for a cheese platter and some fat fries.

I got Master14 to try the blue cheese on the platter and he could handle a few bites before sticking to the cheddar and soft cheeses. I had to trick Miss6 into trying the blue cheese but it didn’t work so I ended up eating nearly all of it myself (there are worse things in life).

I’d forgotten that we knew someone that lived in Margaret River and ran a local winery so after checking in with family in Melbourne for the details we ditched the planned visit to Vasse Felix (next time list) and headed to Sandalford wine to say hello. Unfortunately she wasn’t working that day but I bought a bottle of their Shiraz (though their Rose’ is to die for) and headed to the chocolate factory (I’d nearly forgotten about this place – sacrilege to us chocoholics).

Luckily for my credit card and waist line that it was almost closing time though we did find the time to taste test everything on offer, buy a chocolate map of Australia (I’ve told the kids we’ll eat one holiday location at a time when we get home) and some other tasty treats before heading back to camp. 

On the way back home we drove through Cowaramup and they had they’re own version of the lady on the lake – a striking resemblance we thought. 


It was a gorgeous sunny day and a lovely mild afternoon – perfect for lighting the fire and sitting around it to eat our dinner again though we didn’t toast marshmallows this time. Our last night in Margaret River and though I wasn’t expecting too much from this place, we were all pleasantly surprised and really loved it – could definitely come back here again!

Perth


We hit the outskirts of Perth – four lane freeway, Nova FM, traffic and rain – it almost felt like we were home! The caravan park we stayed at had a huge duck pond with ducks, geese, birds and even a rabbit and a playground all across the road from us – much to the delight of Miss6.

After getting ourselves set up we took a drive to the beach to check out Hillary’s and possible ferry to Rottnest Island before we headed to the supermarket for some groceries and then some fuel – it was the first time since we’d left Melbourne we found fuel for under a dollar.


It felt like it had been go,go,go for a while now and we were all tired so I let us have a sleep in the next day before making a big batch of hot porridge for brekki – a treat (yes we love porridge) that we haven’t had the weather for in ages. We hopped in the car and took a drive to ‘Caravan Land’ and visited the Jayco Toyshop (and yes, it felt like a campers toy shop where you could easily stay and spend a fortune there!) for some new awning brackets and fridge knobs before it was off to Fremantle to check out the Prison where we hoped to do a Tunnels Tour beneath the prison grounds.

The tour was only open to people over 12 (Miss6 was more disappointed than we were at hearing this) so we did the ‘Doing Time’ tour. Our tour guide, Moira, was a very animated guide providing informative and funny commentary throughout the tour and the kids and I loved it. She took us through the prison and gave us a detailed history of it as a convict settlement first and then prison. The heritage listed buildings were eerily beautiful with a dark and interesting history.


It began to pour when we left and there was a huge double rainbow cutting across the dark grey sky above as we got to the front gate. We drove from there to the older couple home who we’d met at Lake Argyle and then again along the Gibb – they’d invited us over for a roast dinner. This was the first time in over three months that the three of us had stepped foot inside a house!

It was a lovely evening sharing stories about our adventures and we felt very grateful that we’d much such wonderful friends who welcomed us into their home for the night. We had to get up early the next morning to take my car into Toyota – apparently the weird smell I’d had Geraldton look at was an oil leak and rather than wait around a few days there for a part I’d booked it into Toyota in Perth for them to repair.


We dropped the car off and hopped onto a bus into the city and got off at Kings Park. The first playground we found was built with wood and other natural materials and included sculptures of local wildlife carved with a chainsaw into large logs. The kids were having a ball playing chasy through the tunnels and maze and up and over the logs and wobbly bridges. They were using the umbrellas as laser guns and I was reminded again how my ‘don’t ever buy kids guns’ theory doesn’t always have the effect you’d planned.


We walked a few kilometres further into the park and came across a nature play zone. It was a huge area that encouraged kids to get back to nature, get dirty and climb trees – we loved it! The kids walked along big logs over creeks, built cubbies with branches and swung from ropes and climbed trees. It would be great to see more of this type of play area without having to worry about people suing councils for minor injuries while getting out and active in nature.


We hopped on another bus and headed into the heart of the city where we checked out London Court (which felt a bit like going to meet Hagrid for some wizard shopping) and grabbed some lunch. We headed to Elizabeth Quay to wait for the ferry across to Perth South and the Zoo. While we waited I got a call from Toyota – it wasn’t just a seal that needed replacing, the leak was coming from a part that shouldn’t normally need replacing and as such, there were no new parts available in Australia and I’d have to wait 21 days for a part from Japan! I nearly had a heart attack at this news before quickly gathering my senses and thinking of my options (trade the car for a new one, leave it here to get repaired and hire another car to take me home and put my car on the train back to Melbourne, wait it out 21 days in Perth though we were due back in Melbourne in 18 days OR the preferred option – find a second hand part and get it fixed now). The guys at Toyota went on a hunt for the part second hand for me while I took the kids to the Zoo.


At the prospect of having to fork out a few thousand dollars to repair the car (more than I’ve ever spent on my trusty vehicle) I thought I’d ask the Zoo if they recognised a Zoos Victoria Membership through some sort of recipricol arrangement – turns out they do and I managed to save myself $60 in entry fees! The kids and I walked around the Asian and African displays (we didn’t have time for the whole Zoo and figured we’d seen a lot of the Australian wildlife first hand on this trip).

Miss6 absolutely loved the Elephants and was disappointed that we’d missed their feeding and drawing time but we were all pretty rapt that we were at the Lion enclosure just as the male lion stood up to stretch his legs and give us a roar. While we checked out the Orangutans Toyota called me back to say they’d found a part and could have my car finished by Thursday afternoon – an additional two days on our original stay in Perth but a lot better than 21 days. They were also happy to loan me a car for the next few days until mine was ready so we left the zoo and hopped back onto the ferry in time for the last bus to go past Toyota before they closed.

It felt a little weird (and nice) to be getting into a (new) clean RAV with nothing but us passengers and our belongings for the day, rather than being filled with half our worldly possessions and half the Gibb River road dust (or an accumulation of that and every other dirt road we’ve driven on). The next morning we all slept in again and obviously needed it as Master14 didn’t get up until 10.30! I put on a huge pot of potato and leak soup in the thermo pot, did a couple of loads of washing and then hopped in the car to take the kids to Mandurah for lunch and the afternoon.


While it was still chilly, the rain had held off and the sun was out so we managed to sit outside along the wharf to enjoy some lunch and milkshakes at one of the cafes. After lunch we had a wonder around and the kids window shopped at the indoor markets while I tried for a 30 minute massage – my back has been getting worse and giving me headaches so I wanted to keep those at bay until we get home. I was only a few minutes into the massage when Miss6 knocked on the door and came in – she helped the massuer by giving my calf muscles a good rub while my neck and shoulders got some attention. It wasn’t the best massage (they rarely are) and I realised that if there’s only one thing to look forward to when I get back to Melbourne, it’s a bloody good massage from Janine to fix my aches and pains!

After the massage we went to the playground, had a go on some of the outdoor gym equipment, walked along the little pier and back over the bridge before we took a scenic drive around town and headed back to Gwelup, enjoying some lovely sunset views as we drove along the coast. The phone rang at 8.30 the next morning – it was Toyota to say that my car was ready if I wanted to pick it up and head off for the journey home. If I’d known they were going to finish the car so early I wouldn’t have booked the Thursday night accommodation already and would’ve got up early to have everything packed up ready to leave.


I asked if I could pick the car up later in the afternoon and they were fine with that so the kids and I drove into the city and I took them to the Zoo again (since that was free and my repairs were costing me a small fortune, we’d ditched the idea of a ferry to Rottnest Island and opted for the Zoo again). This time we were there in time to feed the penguins, pat a snake, walk with a keeper through the primates area and be at the amphitheatre in plenty of time to watch the Elephants get fed and play some games.

The two female Elephants did some exercise, had their feet and mouth checked, drew some pictures with chalk and ate some hay while we got to watch and learn more about this gentle giant. We left the Zoo with a very happy couple of kids and headed back to Toyota for a car swap.


On the way back to the caravan park we decided to stop at Hillary’s again where we hoped that the Chocolataire shop didn’t have quite the queue it had on the weekend when we visited. We sat down and enjoyed some hot chocolates and hot churros with salted caramel sauce and strawberries as a late afternoon tea. We thought we’d go for a swim in the pool back at the caravan park but when we got back it was pouring so even the 30 degree temperature of the pool didn’t persuade us to go outdoors and instead we stayed in the van listening to the rain on the roof and hoping it would stop in time for us to pack up in the morning.