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An new adventure minus the camper trailer.

We have decided to leave the camping feet behind and put on the hiking boots and backpacks ready for an adventure to S.E Asia.fullsizerender-3We  flew directly to Phuket-Thailand, arriving at midnight.  We were pleased to find the driver from the hostel was ,as promised, waiting for us in the arrivals hall.  He drove like a “bat out of hell” and got  us to the hostel in record time.   By 2am (Australian time) we were walking the streets of Phuket in search of food and an ATM.  Being deliriously tired, we ended up in a karaoke bar, eating spring rolls and listening to Thai style reggae music.  Lets just say, we ate and ran, although Hamish enjoyed the party atmosphere.

The next morning we had an early departure, catching the Ao Nang Princess ferry bound for Railay Beach.  We were herded into the long boats and arrived at our magical destination ready for a week of rest, sunshine, swimming and Thai food.

img_1960-2Railay Beach is a truly beautiful destination, only accessible by long boats.  It is surrounded by limestone cliffs and jungle and there are no cars.  We enjoyed morning swims in crystal, green, glassy waters before the wind kicked and the day trippers arrived.

We treated ourselves and booked a home at the Railai Beach club.  Our accommodation for the week was a traditional Thai style home amidst the jungle and limestone cliffs.  We were surrounded by tropical gardens and enjoyed the open air living.  This gave us a perfect opportunity to unwind, read books and sleep.

img_2675Highlights at Railay beach included watching the spectacled langurs playing in the midday heat.  We referred to these guys as the nice monkeys, however we stayed well clear of the naughty monkeys that silently swarmed and surrounded you (like a well trained army) whenever there was food about. Once we ended up eating inside, with the doors locked!

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Another highlight was the nightly ritual of watching sunset soccer.  The locals play a serious game of soccer on the beach and Lachie had to join in the action.

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We ate plenty of thai food and even the odd kebab, washed down with fruit shakes and coconut water. Griffin our hungry teenager was in food heaven! The fun came to an end when Lachie came down with a serious case of food poisoning.  We had a hairy couple of nights with a very sick boy but managed to get him to Bangkok where he could rest in the comfort of  an air-conditioned and clean guest house.  “Bangers” was fun, lots of bargains to be had and it was great to immerse ourselves in some of the action on Khao San Rd …two nights was enough though.

Next stop Laos.

 

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On the Road Again

It is time to hook up the camper and head away on another outback adventure.  We awoke at 4:20am, as Griffin set his alarm for a super early start.  We were keen to get a few kms under our belt on the first day of travel and ambitiously set our sight on Mambray Creek, Mt Remarkable SA .  We travelled over 1100km and wearily rumbled into to Mambray Creek before the sun set.  The boys were amazing on the car trip and kept themselves entertained reading books,listening to music and having quick soccer breaks.  We were able to convince the kids to drive a bit further as the other camping option we offered was “Snowtown”… that completely freaked them out.

IMG_6128 IMG_6114 IMG_6132Our next destination has been on our list of places to visit for some time.  The Flinders Ranges exceeded expectations, the gorges and geology of the area is incredible.  We found a fantastic campsite on a dry river bed and set up for a few nights.  We hiked around Wilpena pound, ate like ferals at Parachilna Hotel, played soccer in the dry river bed and started the nightly ritual of playing scrabble.

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After a few nights it was time to move on again, we were excited to visited Arkaroola. Many travelling friends have told us Arkaroola is a “must see” destination. We took the more adventurous 4WD track in, passing through the town of Blinham. Blinham offered us no fuel or drinking water but delicious homemade Quandong pies. We called ahead to ensure fuel and water were available at Arkaroola. Feeling reassured we pressed on, driving through magnificent mountain ranges and over dry riverbeds. On the rough roads to The Ark, we lost the plug to our tank and any remaining water we were carrying, fortunately fresh rainwater and bore water were available at the campsite.

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Arkaroola is a wilderness camp that has focused on conserving the land since the 60’s. It is a geologist’s paradise with an amazing array of rock substrates and formations. Arkaroola is home to many emus, wallabies and wallaroos, it is a truly magical destination. We walked the spectacular mountain ridge tops and through the valleys. We did some adventurous 4WDrives through the gorges and Geoff did the extreme Arkaroola ridgetop 4WD tour.

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From Arkaroola we hit the dirt again then headed to the Northern Territory via the Oonadatta Track. Leigh Creek offered us food, fuel and water and then there was a whole lot of nothing for the next 1000kms. A whole lot of nothing included the desolate saltpan of Lake Eyre. Lake Eyre created impressive illusions, unfortunately photos just do not do this vast landscape justice. We toyed with camping on the banks of the lake but the flies, the lack of water and reviews by other campers, deterred us. Instead we camped at Coward Springs, which was truly an oasis in the desert. By day we flapped flies and as soon as the sun set the mosquitoes swarmed us. Ignoring the insects we focused on the palm trees, a warm spring, showers and a spectacular sunset. This was the perfect way to end a big day driving through the desert. Fortunately easter bunny found us in the desert, we enjoyed hot cross buns and melted chocolate eggs.

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From Coward springs we followed the old Ghan railway line. The elusive Dalhousie springs was our planned destination. However, as we know, things do not often go to plan!

Lunch was enjoyed at the Oonadatta Roadhouse, then the adventure really began. We followed the signs to Dalhousie, until the final intersection where a small sign posted to an outback station, flawed our plans. It indicated the “Road Closed”. Initially we thought it was a marketing ploy by the station as they also had a small campground. It would be an easy way to get campers staying over for the night. Then we had a look at the condition of the road and our decision was made. The road was definitely closed!! It was at that point that the only other car we had seen for the day waved us down. Geoff, Eva and their family were aboriginals travelling back to Finke. They had a flat and needed help to get some air in their tyres. Geoff pulled out the compressor and fixed up their tyres while I pulled out the maps and Eva and Geoff helped me work out another way to get to Dalhousie. The trip was much longer and the road was rough and barren. We finally made it to another turn off, only to discover this road was also closed. It was at this point we decided to not bother visiting Dalhousie Springs. Instead we headed to the Mt Dare Hotel, it promised a campground. As the sun was setting we sighed with relief when we finally made it to the entrance of the Mt Dare Hotel. We set up the camper in record speed, cooked up our kangaroo snags and negotiated the vicious thistles that lay around the campsite. Other campers exchanged stories of their attempts to get to Dalhousie these included broken axles and holes in radiators.   The highlight of Mt Dare was the tame potty cow that delighted us with licks and cuddles and slept outside our camper.

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We were up and out of Mt Dare at the crack of dawn and on the road to Alice Springs. With some indecision and nervousness we decided to take the Finke Desert track to Alice. We we rocked into the town of Finke and again crossed paths with Geoff and Eva and their families, we were given a warm welcome by all and the locals reassured us we would be fine on the track.  For the next 220km we drove through thick sand along the old Ghan railway tracks, avoiding the railway bolts and nails that remained over the track. We couldn’t resist stopping to collect a few of these antique, handcrafted relics as souvenirs of our adventure. The boys were excited to see dirt bikers accelerating with speed over the dunes, practicing their moves before they participate in the world renowned Finke Desert Race held in June. Ir was a long hot drive through the desert and we were happy to turn onto the bitumen and drive into Alice Springs.

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Alice Springs offered the boys lots of fun. We stayed at the Big 4, where the kids loved swimming in the pool and playing “Bull Rush” with a massive tribe of kids (it was school holidays). The boys made lots of friends and were so content just hanging out at the campsite. This offered Geoff and I some time to chill out, read books, access the internet and fix up all the broken bits on the camper. We stocked up on fuel and food. The Tea Shrine became our favourite lunchtime café, where we feasted on vegetarian curries, laksas, dumplings and drank chilled iced teas. We loved Alice Springs, it is a colourful and edgy city surrounded by a mountain landscape. The disparity in living standards between the whites and aboriginals was ever present, and quite distressing to see. The police presence was high and explosions of violence were frequent. However we liked the vibe we felt at Alice and my aspirations to work with indigenous communities to help improve their health outcomes was reignited.

Our next destination was the West Macdonnell National Park. We set up camp at the Western end on the cliff top overlooking Redbank Gorge. We had an impressive view of the ranges and at night the howls from the dingoes echoed through the valley. We explored the gorges by foot and swam in the refreshing waterholes. The boys even got caught out doing an early morning “nudie swim!” We decided Ellery Creek and Orminston gorge were our favourite swimming spots but Red Bank was the most spectacular.

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The next National Park we visited was the Finke River National park. The drive in was interesting passing through the red cliff gorges and over sandy and rocky river beds. The final river crossing proved the most challenging. We joined a line of cars awaiting another traveler who was well and truly bogged. This gave us time to take down our tyre pressure and get set for the crossing once the path was cleared. Geoff gunned it, making it through easily. We set up camp at Palm Valley, this was the most luxurious national park campsite we have ever stayed at. It is well maintained with large shaded sites, flushing toilets and solar hot water showers. However the most impressive feature was the landscape that surrounded us, it was truly stunning. We all fell in love with Palm Valley. We met a lovely French family who were on a 12 months adventure travelling around the world. The boys played soccer and other games with their children despite the fact they didn’t speak a word of English. Our peace was broken when a crazy Australian family set up camp, they invaded our campsite literally and their youngest child never wanted to leave, he just loved hanging out with the boys. We embraced the craziness and spent time with the other families chatting and roasting marshmallows around the campfire.

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Our first hike at Palm Valley took us right into the valley which hosts a unique stand of Cyad palms the only stand in the world.   This trip involved a rock climbing 4WD in that was 4kms long but took over 20 mins. I frequently had to step out of the car to negotiate the safest path over the boulders, thank goodness our car has high clearance and we did that 4WD course!! Once we were in the gorge we walked through the Palm Valley and over the ridge, stunning, stunning stunning. The next day we trekked up the Finke gorge, once we reached the top we took shelter and enjoyed the expansive views over the gorge. We felt like eagles soaring up in the sky so high. Hamish earned himself a new nickname “Billy Goat”, the harder the walk got the happier he was, his endurance impressed us all.

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Palm Valley offered us many experiences with the local wildlife. The local ranger Dianne spent some time with the boys explaining what to look for and gave them a great guidebook listing all the local animal species. Dianne mentioned to keep a look out for snakes, especially at night, she advised that the Brown snake has no heat sensors so if you do see one stay completely still. During an intense game of scrabble that night a “Mulga” Brown snake passed from under our tent, under Geoff’s legs and over Griffin’s foot. Once it past over his foot Griff calmly called out “SNAKE” as we watch it slither away from our tent. Fortunately Geoff was concentrating so closely on the scrabble that he didn’t’ react when he felt something go under his legs and Griff heeded the advise of the Ranger Dianne. Other wildlife included frogs that surprised us in the toilet, dingoes slinking silently through the campsite and the impressive bucket beetle (with a shell designed to collect water). The boys loved exploring this natural landscape and Griffin left Palm Valley dreaming of one day being a Park ranger.

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From Palm Valley we were back on the tourist trail heading to Kings Canyon and Uluru. We visited the Aboriginal town of Hermannsberg, and explored the historical Aboriginal mission and Albert Namatjira’s artwork. The extreme hot weather followed us and we continued to experience a run of days over 35deg. I’m not sure if I would call Kings Canyon resort a resort, but it did have a pool. We found a shady campsite and squeezed in amongst the caravans. The dingoes were not so silent and confidently walking amongst the campsites nicking bags of food and rubbish. The next day we were up early to do the Kings Canyon Rim walk, it was going to be a hot day and the walk was to be closed at 9am due to heat. “Billy Goat “ Hamish impressed many walkers as he powered up “Heart Break Hill” with no complaints. Kings Canyon is incredible and the walk took us through many different landscapes. The sheer cliff edges tested my fear of heights and the boys enjoyed testing my tolerance levels. We walked into the waterhole at the Garden of Eden and passed through the gorges that were reminiscent of the Bungles. Kings Canyon is definitely a must see destination.

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From the Kings Canyon we headed to the highlight destination of our trip Uluru. We arrived at Yulara in searing heat, it was at least 37 deg and too hot to even consider setting up the camper. We headed into town and treated ourselves to salad sandwiches and thick shakes at the local indigenous run café. Yulara is a cool little town with a few cafes, supermarket and a big patch of grass that serves as a ‘meeting place’. It served as Lachie’s soccer pitch and he had fun practising his moves with locals and other tourists. Next stop was the pool, we put on our cleanest clothes and strode into the fancy resort with confidence. The resort pool was a much nicer option than the pool at the campground and they even supplied fresh pool towels. We continued to scam it for the rest of our stay in Yulara!

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We visited Uluru for the sunrise, sunset and walked the whole way around the rock. It is incredible to think it is one solid rock and is definitely one of the natural wonders of the world. Each time we drove up, it’s impressive size captivated us all. I took hundreds of photos in different lights but Geoff pipped me with a single photo that he took on his iphone (yep the one in the middle)! We hiked the circuit through the Valley of Winds at Kata Tjuta another amazing landscape.   The rest of our time at Yulara was spent participating in indigenous activities including dancing, spear / boomerang throwing and learning to play the didgeridoo. We visited the local art galleries and I fell in love with many pieces of artwork. By pure chance I ended up chatting with a local lady selling her artwork, it was the exact style I was after just not the right colour.   I explained to her what I was looking for and she said she would paint it for me and to come back the next day. We ended up picking up two pieces of Pollyanna’s artwork and they will hang proudly on our walls at home.

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Heading south we had one night at Coober Pedy, which was enough to get a feel for the place.  It is a extremely creepy place and I felt like I had walked onto the set of a horror movie.  Fortunately we had decided to have a night in a motel which was just as well as I think a night in the tent at Coober Pedy would have freaked me out.

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We are now back to civilisation, sipping wine and coffees in the Barossa Valley. The boys are itching to get home and are desperate for surf. The boys each had $10 to buy a souvenir from Uluru. Hamish bought a boomerang, but Lachie and Griff bought a Surf Magazine… that made me laugh.   We have enjoyed our time back on the road, spending hours together as a family, meeting new people and exploring new places. As Geoff always says experiencing uncertainty is important and it is all about the journey not the destination.

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What’s around the corner?

The thing I love about travel is the anticipation of what’s around the corner – the next gorge, forest, river, beach or even the people you meet on the road. When I step to the edge of places I’ve been before, I look into the unknown with a mixture of emotions – excitement, anticipation and even nerves when the roads are labeled “serious 4WDriving only!”. No matter how many reviews we read about a place, there is always that nagging doubt and uncertainty so we have to discover new places for ourselves.

Yesterday we dropped into low range 4WD and entered the Finke Gorge National Park. The scenery was captivating. Dramatic red ridges surrounded plains of lush grass, river red and ghost gums. The track was a challenge of deep sand and rocky ledges that made this place feel like a real adventure.

I had heard that the camping area was beautiful, but I’ve heard that before about other places only to be disappointed. This time our high expectations were exceeded. Apart from being the only campers there, most of the sites here are shaded by huge River Red Gums – a luxury with temperatures nudging 36 deg. Red cliffs surrounding the camp are covered in spinnifex and dotted with ghost gums. Nearby are amazing walks around gorges and another into the ancient Palm Valley – remnant palms & ferns from times when this desert was rainforest. To cap it off, the facilities include hot showers, toilets and even gas BBQ’s.

As I sit at camp I am surrounded by country that resonates a certain magic. Words can’t describe it, but it’s that feeling you get when you experience places like Wilson’s Prom, Arkaroola or Mitchell Falls. A friend of mine said of these places, “it’s the closest I get to religion”. I know exactly where he is coming from.

We will stay here for a few days, explore this country and witness it’s magic. Then we will pack up the camper and journey into more uncharted lands.

Geoff

Here’s a snapshot of the campsite & country around Finke Gorge and Palm Valley

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A four day trip to My Hotham

Well, it wasn’t an off road adventure … but it was time away from home nonetheless.

We have just returned from 4 days at Mt Hotham, staying in an old style lodge with a diverse group of other skiers. A great time had by all.

Here are some photos and video taken on day 2. I’ll admit that by the end of the day 3, the older boys were ripping it up much more smoothly than Ingrid and I.

 

Hotham 2014 from Geoff Brown on Vimeo.

Some favourite pics …

Ingrid and the boys on the snow …

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Ingrid and the boys (exhausted), after 8 hours of skiing in a day

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The view out at the Orchard area …

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Geoff and our little “Flying Starfish” …

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Photos of the Day – Robe to Broome

We are now in Broome for a 9 day holiday … a chance to be in one place with running water, hot showers, grocers, butchers and even a barber! Broome is familiar to all of us except Hamish. Ingrid and I honeymooned here back in 1998 – although we were then staying in the 5 star Cable Beach resort! Ingrid returned here for trips with her parents and sister on a couple of occasions. Pre-Hamish, we also spent time here as a family. Broome feels like a place we could spend a lot more time in.

Approaching the halfway point of our travels!!

Day 63 – Sunsets on the beach in Broome

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Day 62 – Time to say goodbye to the beautiful Whalesong Camp and Cafe … on the road south to Broome via the Church in the aboriginal town of Beagle Bay.

Beagle Bay Church

Day 61 – Whalesong was design with a hint of permaculture in mind … even the cool shower was beautiful!

Well earned cool shower

Day 60 – Sunrises at Whale Song

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Day 59 – Camping is all about the food … made even better in the Camp Oven!

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Cake! Break cooking Damper is served

Day 58 – A shortish and bumpy journey from Kooljamin (very north tip of Cape Leveque) to Whale Song Camp on Munget Land.

Whalesong

our campsite from the beach Whalesong Cafe the beach from our campsite

Day 57 – From Kooljaman we spent a day with Brian Lee – aboriginal leader and traditional land owner. Read more about this time with Brian here (by Lachie) and here (by Geoff).

Brian and Lachie

Bardi Dancers

Day 56 – It was hot at Kooljaman Camp and the beach was stunning for swimming and SUP’ing

Ing and the boys SUP over the reef

Day 55 – The beach just below Kooljaman Camp …

Fishing Red meets white and turquoise blue

Day 54 – The long trip to Cape Leveque’s Kooljaman Camp (via Broome for supplies). A windscreen shot of the soft and sandy Cape Leveque Road.

Cape Leveque Raod

Day 53 – Barn Hill Rock Formations along the cliff

Rock formations at Barn Hill

Day 52 – Barn Hill Retirement Camp. Fitting title with an average age 75+, this campsite crammed caravans, buses and campers in like sardines. Blessed with an amazing beach it was a good stopover on the long haul north to Broome.

The Barn Hill beach Red cliffs meet white sand

Day 51 – Cape Keraudren … a day of fishing and chocolate cake straight from the Camp Oven!

Fishing again Tidal sea walk

Another beachside campsite

Day 50 – Cape Keraudren … another beachside campsite

Cape K sunset

Day 49 – Karratha was better than expected. The Petroglyphs nearby were absolutely stunning and full of ancient, aboriginal history.

Look at those! Ancient Petroglyphs

Day 48 – A trip to Karratha and yet another change of tyre pressures as we go from gravel and corrugations to bitumen.

Changing tyres

Day 47 – A special surprise at the end of a long, hot walk. This sacred, aboriginal hot spring fed pool was like an oasis.

Millstream Homestead lily pond

Day 46 – Mill Stream Camp right by the river!

Mill Stream camp by the river

Day 45 – As we travelled the Warlu Way from Karijini to Mill Stream National Park, we took  slight detour and drove through the abandoned, haunting town of Wittenoon. Infamous for it’s asbestos mining and subsequent health impacts to miners and ultimately the demise of the whole town (ps. windows wound up and air vent close for this part of the trip).

Wittenoom

Day 44 – Karijini

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Day 43 – We made our way into so many gorges and the water didn’t get any warmer!

Cold!!!

Day 42 – Our adventures in Karijini continue. This is Circular Pool with colours that were inspiring.

Circular Pool

Day 41 – Karijini is magnificent! This stunning gorge is called Kalimina.

Karijini NP

Day 40 – A big day of travel from Exmouth, across water crossings, through Tom Price and into a very wet Karijini National Park.

Wet trip to Karijini

Day 39 & 40 – The big wet! We’ve combined these days because we were stuck inside a cabin within the Exmouth Big 4 Caravan Park. It ended up being a wise decision to abandon our camp at Cape Range … winds 50knots with 230mm to our north.

The big Wet! Exmouth Big 4

Day 38 – Cape Range NP @ Turquoise Bay. See that reef to the right of Geoff’s head? Well that extends all the way down the beach and the snorkelling was amazing. We even saw a large Green Turtle on this day.

Turquoise Bay

Day 37 – Yardi Creek Gorge

Yardi Creek

Day 36 – Ingrid’s 40th Birthday Present

This was ‘the’ day – Ingrid’s 40th Birthday – that we had planned and orchestrated around the road trip. Everything went to plan including the close encounters with Whale Sharks, Orcas, Humpback Whales and the 2.5m Bull Shark at the end of the day! The weather was perfect and we are still buzzing.

Pic. 1 Ingrid (yellow flippers on left) narrowly misses an oncoming Whale Shark (8 metres in length) with Lachie (yellow mask) with a front seat view.

Ingrid and the Whale Shark

Pic 2. The slow moving, 8 metre, female Whale Shark. Just 1 that we swam with!

Whale shark ahead

Pic 3. The whole boat sings for Ingrid …

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Day 35 – We all headed out for a SUP at Coral Bay

Lachie SUP

Day 34 – Coral Bay is ‘touristy’ … but the beach and snorkelling was great!

Family Snorkel Sesh

Day 33 – Merv the Groper stole the boys hearts today off the jetty in Coral Bay. Merv is a local identity and 1.5 metres in length!

Merv Boys in awe

Day 32 – Today we left the most beautiful of stations … Warroora. The view looking west from the car window.

Warroora Station

Day 31 W – A generous gift. The only other camper at Maggie’s Beach (Warroora Station) teaches our boys how to dissect and prepare our freshly caught Squid for dinner. Love these moments of learning and generosity.

Lesson on dissecting and preparing Squid

Day 30 – A family walk on a cold and wet day to cliffs above Maggie’s Beach at Warroora Station. We are all beginning to feel free now … we are the only souls for miles around.

Family Time

Day 29 – This is by far and away the most remote and stunning campsite we have enjoyed so far. Maggie’s Beach at Warroora Station.

Warroora Campsite

Day 28 – The boys (without any prompting) built a fantastic fire pit and surrounding wall at our new campsite on Maggie’s Beach.

Building the Campfire

Camp Fire

Day 27 – Getting packed up and ready to explore the next destination is always a great feeling. Saying farewell to a great week of snorkelling, surfing and hanging out with other travellers at Ganaraloo Station.

Farewell Gnaraloo

Day 26 – Stunning day, stunning beach … Gnaraloo Bay

Gnaraloo Bay

Day 25 – Plucked up the courage and Geoff had the surf of his life at Tombstones … 4 to 5 foot and glassy offshore (ps. this is not Geoff in the image … taken from the carpark after his surf)

Tombstones

Day 24 – Kids find their snorkelling paradise in 3 Mile Bay Marine Sanctuary … on our doorstep at Ganarloo

Snorkling Paradise

Gnaraloo Surf Break that is famous … “Tombstones!”

Tombstones

Day 23 – Gnaraloo Station

Sheep station camping

Day 22 – We arrive to the wildest part of the Central West Coast and on our way to Gnaraloo Station

big waves

Day 21 – Carnarvan Agriculture

carnarvan agriculture

Day 20 – Goulet Bluff

Free at Goulet Bluff

Day 19 – An unexpected ‘gem’ of a campsite right on the beach at Goulet Bluff (just south of Monkey Mia)

On the beach camping

Day 18 – The wind calmed and we experienced the intelligence and beauty of the Monkey Mia dolphins. Captured here is Nicki …

Nicki

Day 17 – It’s bloody freezing way up here … the whole of the WA coast shivers in Antarctic Winds!

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Day 16 – Monkey Mia … Shell Beach (below) and Tall Ship at sunset

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Day 15 – The Brown Boys at Kalbarri National Park

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Day 14 – The kids unwind as we arrive at Kalbarri

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Day 13 – Packed up from Coronation Beach just before this storm hit!

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Day 12 – Waves at last … Coronation Beach!

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Day 11 – Hamish on BBQ duty at Coronation Beach (WA)

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Day 10 – Mooching around the Pinnacle National Park …

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Day 9 – Breakfast at Sandy Cape

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Day 8 – Sunset at Sandy Cape … warmer weather and on the west coast of WA at last …

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Day 7 – The Great Australian Bight (above) and the flooded ‘everything’ at the end of the day’s drive!

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Day 6 – Point Lavatt Sea Lion colony …

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Day 5 – Shadows on Murphy’s Haystacks near Streaky Bay …

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Day 4 – Shop window in the Adelaide Hills town of Handolf …

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Day 3 – A walk along the edge of the Coorong (Sth Aust.) …

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Day 2 – Fireside classroom at Robe …

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Day 1 – On the road at last …

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The Final Leg of our Journey

After leaving Lawn Hill National Park, we ventured onto treacherous, narrow roads,through drought stricken Western Queensland. On these roads, road trains rule … you needed to move completely off the road as soon as you saw a road train approaching. Scary stuff! We had a massive day of driving and upon dusk pulled into the Exchange Hotel at Torrent Creek to set up camp. A clever bit of graffiti kept the boys entertained, they thought it was hilarious that we stayed at the Sexchange Hotel!
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We knew we were back in civilisation as we struck our first roadworks for months. Finally we arrived in Bowen the home of sugar cane, mangoes, the movie ‘Australia” and beaches. Bowen is still basking in the glory of “Australia” and the town’s Hugh Jackman fever (I can understand that!) continues. We indulged on fresh food and discovered the legendary bakery, Geoff had the Jackman pie, but alas he was unable to sing like him! We all looked rather feral when we pulled into the caravan park at Bowen, this created some intrigue from the many grey nomads around us. I hogged the washing machine for hours and we had our first real shower for weeks. The beaches in Bowen were amazing, unfortunately the weather was a bit wild and windy so we were unable to really appreciate them. It was sweet relief to have some cooler weather for a change.
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After Bowen, we headed South … it felt like we were heading home. We explored the coast and ended up camping in the beautiful Cape Hillsborough National Park. This would have to be one of our favourite campsites: on the beach, surrounded by palms and shade trees, with amazing bird life. Cape Hillsborough gave us a chance to relax, do lots of school work, and enjoy beach walks and fishing. We decided against swimming, as we were still in Croc country.
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Our next destination was a pleasant surprise. We needed to camp near Gladstone, and decided Yeppoon could be a better option. We enjoyed more beaches and exploring the towns of Yeppoon and Emu Park. We saw the famous whistling ship and chilled out at a local pub to watch some Footy Finals.
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From Gladstone, we left our camper at the port and caught a boat to Heron Island. Heron Island was an absolute highlight, we had 3 nights of luxury. Buffet breakfasts and lunch, a la carte dinners, fluffy white towels and our own bathroom! More amazing, was the thousands of birds that inhabit the island and incredible marine life. We snorkelled from dawn to dusk, in the mornings we would venture into the boating channel to swim with the reef sharks. During the day, Shark Bay was our favourite place to hang out, white sand, palm trees and crystal clear water. It was in Shark Bay that we saw stingrays, shovel-nosed rays, turtles and plenty of colourful fish and coral. Another highlight was when we swam out to the shipwreck and saw a school of manta rays swim by. We were in the right place at the right time! Hamish was a legend, I cannot believe how much his confidence in water has improved. At Heron Island he was a great snorkeler and I would hear squeals of delight as he saw the passing sharks and rays. Heron Island is definitely a place I could return to again.
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With much regret we left Heron Island and headed for Agnes Water – 1770. Agnes Water is a similar sized town as Aireys Inlet and has a very similar vibe. The town has a cool pub, groovy little cafe and IGA. We set up camp for 5 nights in a busy ‘free camp’, amongst back packers, other families and locals. There was a small wave breaking, and we all enjoyed getting out in the surf again. We enjoyed chilling out on the coast, in the warm weather and sunshine. On our final night we were fortunate to get a share of a massive tuna that was caught off the rocks. Amazing!
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From Agnes Water we took the scenic route into Noosa, via the Great Sandy National Park. We narrowly avoided the incoming tide as we passed Rainbow sands and with a sigh of relief made it through the rugged sandy crossing. In Noosa we felt like we were almost home, as things started feeling familiar. We got the last campsite at the Noosa River Holiday Park. Great campground but we got the dodgey site, directly behind the men’s toilet and next to the Chemical Toilet Dump. Not good! As a result we barely spent any time at our campsite. First stop … Gelati.
In Noosa, we caught fun waves at Little cove, bumped into friends and drank amazing coffee. We explored the fantastic Eumundi markets, celebrated Hamish’s 6th Birthday at Australia Zoo and Griff nearly caught a massive flathead after we hired a boat for a morning.
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Our final destination was our old favourite, Scott’s Head, NSW. This was a great place to hangout in during school holidays. We reunited with familiar campers and enjoyed magic weather and great surf! Then it was the long journey to home, sweet home!
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