Friday, 5 December 2014

The Wandering Watsons arrive in Queensland

So there I was thinking the worst of the long boring drives were over, I didn't factor in the long long drive from NT to QLD. To say that this was one of the longest boringest drives is an understatement. I kept laughing at my previous thoughts that the trip to Alice would be boring, but this drive was just  long stretches of nothing but dry paddocks. The only thing I kept thinking was how do farmers survive out here, how do the stations keep operating in this desolate country. The days were scorches, everyday was over 35 degrees and with the goal of palm trees and beaches firmly in our minds we just kept driving and driving and driving. 

I was anxious to be on the east coast, to be closer to airports to fly to my sister, to not be in the middle of nowhere with our unreliable car. So we just kept driving, the kids were troopers, enjoying movie after movie after movie. I wore out the iPod listening to our tracks over and over agin, even the kids were sick of the same songs. We stopped briefly for lunch in any little rest stop we could find but the temperature and bloody flies kept us moving quickly. After a massive effort we made it across to Townsville in 3 days. Some days we drove so long on hot roads that by the time we arrived the water in our camper tanks was boiling. The only highlight of this leg (well for Mike anyway) was the day our bike rack slipped from the back of the camper and dragged for at least 100 ks behind the van. When we finally were passed by someone and they flagged us down, Mike stopped to see what was wrong, well I don't think I have seen Mike so happy! He hated the bikes, the constant taking off and putting back on to set up, (even though that was always my job) Our poor Lola was devastated!! She couldn't believe we had to leave them to the Highway Gods and was shattered when she found out that we couldn't fix her wheels! All our travelling friends enjoyed the laugh when we showed them the pictures as they had seen the bouncy bikes on the back as we travelled.




So bikeless but in good spirits the landscape changed again from barren paddocks of highway driving, to the hot red dust of Mt Isa we made a final champion effort and pulled up in Townsville for a few days of RnR. We found the cheapest accommodation we could, at the local Seventh Day Adventist conference centre.  Being the model guests we are, we joined the other campers in unhappy hour, (disguising our alcoholic beverages in mugs) we relaxed, cleaned the red dust of every surface and crevice we could manage and enjoyed being back on the east coast again.

Highlights of Townsville: for me it was walking into a shopping centre to see a Myer! (Hehe) For Mike it was making it all that way without the car breaking down! And for the kids it was all the beautiful fig trees to climb in, they created such adventures playing in the branches and the vines of the trees. The one thing we all agreed on was that after months of dust, red dirt and dried earth it was heaven to have lots of lush green grass underfoot, the girls did somersault after somersault enjoying the softness. 

After a lovely relaxing few days recovering from our massive drive we slowly made our way up to our friends in Innisfail. It was a great reunion with the Warren families, the kids were so excited to see Priya and Toby and happily swam in the pool at the drop zone, whilst the adults caught up win another awesome happy hour. 

We filled in our time, celebrating Toby's birthday at the local gardens and hanging out in a little spot of paradise at Etty beach. We had so many awesome days relaxing with all our travelling friends and watching the kids playing together, building forts on the beach and performing shows for us!  We devoured awesome fish n chips at Etty beach and was so lucky to see a cassowary wandering on the beach after tea. (another bucket item ticked off) We found more falls and creeks to swim in and enjoyed the beauty of the rain forests and natural watering holes.

  



Mike also ticked an item off his bucket list and crazily jumped out of a plane! After updating the will and life insurance policy the kids and I all watched on safely from the ground whilst Mike tandem jumped with our friend Jess out of a plane! Oscar was so incredibly jealous as he watched his dad parachuting down to land! Although he was glad to have done it I don't think Mike will be doing it again, I think it took him the rest of the day for the adrenalin to stop cursing through his veins and for his legs to stop wobbling! 

    


During this time I found it difficult to enjoy the magic of FNQ. My beautiful sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and the waiting to hear about appointments, tests and ultimately when treatment would commence was unbearable. It is awful feeling so far away when all you want to do is hug your sister and never let go! 

As soon as we had a treatment plan I left Mike and the kids to enjoy Cairns and Wonga Beach  and set off for Sydney to be with my sister. In amongst the angst and waiting to see how Bernie would react to chemo we tried to fill in our days as much as possible. I won't lie and pretend that after 7 months without a single day away from Mike and the kids I wasn't trying to make the best of a shit situation. We kept busy......we had pedicures, went to markets, went out to quirky caf├ęs for lunch, coffee and tea. Hell Bernie even got me to mass (there was promise of dinner out after it!) The dreaded day arrived for chemo and I think every Saunders family member and all our friends was sending love, support and prayers for my sister. I'm sure the earths forces were shifted by the thoughts and positive vibes being sent Bernie's way as that night Sydney was hit with an horrendous storm, the crashing thunder and lightening certainly matched our moods, but as the sun rose, the weather calmed and a new day emerged breathing renewed purpose and hope. 

The rest of the week passed with me proving my skills as a SIFE (sister wife (but not in a Mormon Sister wife kind of way, just as a sister performing some '1950's wifely' duties kind of way), Dom should be proud that my tea making skills have improved vastly, and they no longer taste like dishwater!!! I also used the excess energy to reorganise Bernie's apartment. Nothing like a good bout of worry to send me into a sorting frenzy. I'm now taking appointments for all of Bernie's friend to declutter their apartments.! I think I have found my calling! 

After nearly two weeks of SIFELY duties, I left my dear sis in the capable hands of her friends and returned to my babies.  After an anxious flight,  where I felt so torn between wanting to stay with my sister but also desperate to see my babies, a delay with the transfer from Cairns to Port Douglas, it was pure bliss to see their little bodies running towards me and to be able to give them a super squeezy tight hug! 

We stayed the last night at Wonga beach, Lola was so excited to take me for a walk in the morning,  showing me the beach, where she thought some crocodiles lived (I hoped she wasn't right) and the pool, I swear she grew a foot in the time I was gone.  We packed up the camper and as it was so hot we all jumped in the pool to cool off. It felt so cleansing to be swimming, with the warmth of the sun feeding you with its happy rays. Refreshed and ready for another leg of our journey we headed towards the Atherton tablelands.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Red Centre!


I wasn't looking forward to the long drive down from Darwin to Alice Springs. I was still annoyed our time in Darwin was cut short and even though I was looking forward to cooler nights, the thought of being in the middle of nowhere again was unsettling me, I was longing for people around, beautiful beaches and palm trees, not more harsh desert and red dirt. 
We left Mataranka and I braced myself for what I though would be the most boring drive of our trip, but again I was mistaken. As we drove down the long highway and I looked out at this great expanse I really felt I was embracing just how magical this land we live on is. Australia has such a diverse landscape, that changes so dramatically depending on what state and even what part of the state you are in.

On the way to Alice I really was just thinking 'I'll just do this bit of central Aus really quickly and and then we will make our way across to Far North Queensland'. Instead, I watched the passing landscape of Central Australia refresh me, the amazing desert flowers all just coming into bloom, the constant red dirt and rocky hills, the dry spinifex, the burnt bark of the tree trunk contrasting against the lush lime green leaves of the new growth was intoxicating........so much so that all the  beautiful scenery got my creative juices flowing and for a brief moment I had images of me setting up an easel in the middle of the dry bush and painting the visions in my head.....that was until I remembered just what a shit painter I am and that Lola could paint a better picture than me!!!! 

So putting all these creative scenarios behind me I concerned myself with what Alice had to offer the wandering Watsons, and boy it did not disappoint! Alice was a little surprise package that I had so much fun exploring. We arrived for the last day of the desert festival and wandered through the Todd mall, the kids were excited to take part in the 24 hr dance-a-thon, but decided that dancing through the window was enough. We spent time looking through the art galleries in the mall,  we went to the desert mob exhibition at the cultural precinct and was blown away by the colours of the artwork in the exhibition. We visited the school of the air, looked out at the amazing landscape from Anzac Hill. From the East Mac Donnell ranges walking through Tryphena Gorge to the West Mac Donnel ranges and swimming in Ormiston Gorge the beauty of the landscape was amazing. 
                                

The dry heat of the day and the cool air at night was so refreshing. We set up camp at the showgrounds and within a few days we had some of our own travelling family around us. We revelled in having the Cookson family with us for our central Aus time, so many enjoyable nights together hanging out, sharing meals and many many laughs (mostly at poor Steve's expense), we forged friendships with lots of new friends too and enjoyed some great morning and afternoon teas together. 

The highlight of my time in Alice was catching up with my dear school friend, Hayley. After 20 years, we chatted as if we had seen each other only yesterday, we ate till our stomachs burst, the generosity and warm spirit of my friend was still at the core of her being, that and her dry sense of humour. We had a brilliant night, the kids lounged like sloths on Hayley's couch watching as much TV as they could possibly squeeze in! Oscar was so excited to feel carpet under his feet and have a remote in his hand!!!

Hayley generously cooked up a feast fit for a king and when we thought we could fit no more in she generously filled our freezers with more delights! We were the champions of morning tea the following day when we produced rocky road, chocolates and macaroons, all thanks to Hayley! 

After exploring Alice we made the track across to Uluru. Let's not even talk about the joys of our car breaking down again.... as it was my birthday I completely ignored what had happened, grateful again to be travelling with our new friend Steve (who is a diesel mechanic, but don't tell anyone camping near him that!!) and let Mike sort out the lemon that is our car. I remained focused on where we were and how special it truly was to be in the centre of Austrlalia.....and what a majestic spot it is!!! The walk around the base is just stunning, the many changing facets of Uluru leave such an impression with you, and watching the sunset on the rock was so very beautiful. 

I ticked another item of my trip list when the Cookson and Watson family rode our bikes around the base, what an adventure that proved to be as we conjoled the kids to keep riding (ie bribed with lollies). Again we were grateful to Steve for his careful planning for the 'what if' scenarios, as our bike proved to be made by Nissan just like our car and the pedal kept falling of! Lucky for us Boy Scout Steve had a spanner in his bag and kept our bikes going all the way to the end!! 
  

We were enamoured by Uluru and the Olgas, their size, stunning colour and the amazing scenery is just beautiful. We have been privileged to see so many of the exceptional natural wonders in Australia like the Bungle Bungles and Karijini, and the rock is another iconic spot in Australia that you find hard to leave without being grateful to have been there. 

This trip is reminding that we r just a blip in the radar, that I am so very grateful for this time with my family. All the grumbling about distance ed, being hot, being bored in the car, being hungry are so insignificant against the amazing opportunities are family are experiencing. The most significant, is that I hope my children are getting a crude, basic glimpse into the oldest living culture in the world. When you see the land, hear the stories and watch your children make connections I am grateful that they are getting a greater understanding than any classroom lesson will ever skim over. They will be the next politicians, engineers, social workers etc in the future and I hope this trip and what they are learning and seeing and living will assist them and shape the decisions they make in their future careers. I love that Oscar makes connections to Uluru when he is engrossed in minecraft, that the gorges, rock formations and geology are relevant to his gaming addiction!  

  

So from Central Australia to Far North Queensland the adventure continues!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Darwin

I can't believe we are already halfway through our 5th month on the road. There has been many amazing highs and a few low on our travels. I am already wistfully dreaming of boab trees and the amazing spirit of the Kimberley's, I'm reminiscing of boat cruises on the Indian Ocean drinking champas with my sister, swimming at cable beach and snorkelling at Coral Bay. How quickly it feels these experiences in WA are becoming memories as we continue to fill ourselves up with new moments in the NT.

We have been in NT for over a month and have enjoyed the beautiful 'croc free' swimming holes of Edith falls and Litchfield National Park. We spent a week engrossed in the culture of Kakadu, listening to ranger talks, talking to people, taking in the spectacular stories depicted in the rock art and sprituality of this amazing part of Australia. We also spent the time being eaten by mozzies, poor Scarlett blew up like a balloon, reacting to all the bites, she looked so sad, she has certainly inherited her mozzie loving blood from her mother. The dawn wetlands cruise was amazing, so much birdlife, animals and the scenery was spectacular. I think the next visit to the Northern Territory will need to be in the wet so I can fully appreciate the changing seasons. Our last night at gunlom falls was a perfect way to end our time in Kakadu. As we travelled on the 4x4 track into the falls I was cursing Mike as all I wanted to do was get to Darwin, we were driving into fires on either side of the vehicle but there was no turning around and by the time we made it in and set up in the dust bowl camp site  we were all so grumpy that we decided to head straight to the falls. After a very steep climb up we where greeted with a magical  spot of little rock pools to swim in, the view was amazing and definitely worth the climb. We lazed around swimming, exploring the little pools and taking intake amazing scenery. I could only imagine what it would be like I the wet. 

The next day we prepared for the terrible drive out only to find the road had been half graded and was a much better return trip, we cruised along the highway eager for some cultural delights and Darwin did not disappoint!!!

Darwin is one of my favourite cities, so relaxed, people are  chilled and always seem to be smiling. We had such a great couple of weeks doing as many touristy things as we could! We visited the Mindle markets, enjoying the amazing food, great music, performances and time at the beach watching the sunset, sharing it with new friends from our travels. We visited every water playground, splash park, pool,spring or lagoon we could find. The kids had a great time swimming at berry springs, jumping from the rope swing into the water! (About a week after we left they did find a large female saltie in the springs, so I'm glad it wasn't looking for lunch the day we were there!) I visited every market I could get too, Mindle, Parap, Northcliffe, Palmerston, Cooinda... It was lovely to have a bit of time wandering around, and having access to fresh and cheap produce again! We spent time with our dear friends the Cooksons, Rosey and Megan are the same age as Scarlett and Lola , it was lovely watching them going off exploring and forging new friendships. 

Another great highlight of our time in Darwin was catching up with the Heath family. We first met them on our trip 3 years ago when we crossed the Nullarbor together, it was great to hear all about their adventures as they have been on the road for all that time. The boys had a great time together, their friendship kicking off from the last time we saw them in Esperance 3 years ago!

Each day was getting a little hotter and hotter, the locals said the build up was about to start and I knew this was signalling our imminent departure, I made a list of the last few things I wanted to do but our plans were quickly thwarted when we had to make a rush departure due to 'he who will remain nameless' not extending our stay!!!! With a lot of 'dagger eyes' and some fairly loud expletives we packed up unsure where to go next. 

We made our way down to Douglas Daly checked out the hot springs to find they had been closed due to a recent croc sighting, so we hightailed back to the caravan park for a respite from the heat in the pool. The next day we travelled on to Mataranka and spent the next three days drifting in the spectacular thermal pools. Lola had the best time swimming in the pools and riding her bike around and around, I don't think she even noticed the weather as it creeped up to 38, but it certainly meant she slept well at night!

So with the big drive to Alice looming we packed up and set off, Oscar was excited about a 10 hour car journey, because it meant they could have an adventure time marathon all the way down to Alice! 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Northern Territory

We have hit the Northern Territory!

We crossed over to NT and felt a little closer to home as we moved our watches forward an hour and a half, only 30min later than Victoria time. We said a fond goodbye to the west and were excited to be making our way back to our travelling friends again. We arrived at Edith Falls set up camp and Lola excitedly asked "When's happy hour???" So happy hour it was, for many hours, being the thinker that I am I prepped dinner early, just in case the sangria filled my veins and I forgot to fill my kids tummies, and it was a good thing too as the sangria was freely flowing for many many happiest hours, we caught up with our dear friends, Deb and Greg.

With a few sore heads the next morning we all took off on a walk to the upper pools, the small waterfall and rock pools were beautiful, after a quick,dip we ventured down and spent the remainder of the day relaxing, reading and swimming in the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls. It was a great start to our time in the NT.

The following morning we slowly made our way up the highway and cracked a beautiful caravan park just out of Litchfield National Park. Big grassy sites, lots of beautiful shady trees, with a definite hint of the tropics, we had a great time staying here using it as our base camp, we travelled into Litchfield and jumped in rock pools, swam in the falls, did a few of the walks, it was beautiful! We spent a day at the Wildlife park, wandering around, checking out the wildlife and enjoying the beauty of the different seasons and climates on display, NT is truly amazing!

Of course we spent many nights in the company of good friends and good wine! Lola must feel the change in the day, glances up from what she is doing and asks, 'is it happy hour yet Mum???' I may have a terror on my hands in years to come! 
 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Good bye WA

Well we have crossed the four month mark of our trip, spending the majority if our time in the amazing WA. We have had such a wonderful time exploring as much as we could of what WA has to offer. We loved the beautiful forests in the South, the amazing Karijini National Park, the Bungles Bungles, and of course my favourite, the spectacular Coral Bay. Our final hit was through the magnificent Kimberley's, I'm sure there is a little bit of magic in this area as it has the most special feel about. 

We left Broome and made our way to the Gibb River road for Mike to tick an item of his bucket list, and although we didn't go the entire way and only went to Windjana gorge and through to Tunnel Creek, coming out near Fitzroy Crossing, we still managed to do a tyre before even getting to the corrugated road! Windjana Gorge was beautiful, the walk was through stunning gorges, lots of freshwater crocs floating in the creek, Oscar and I watched as the sun set over the gorge, illuminating the rock to a deep red colour, it was stunning. The next day we headed off to Tunnel Creek, grabbed our torches and wandered through the tunnel spotting fresh water crocks and wading through small pools of water. The girls thought it was cool getting wet nearly waist deep in some parts. We then slowly drove one of the roughest roads all the way out to Fitzroy Crossing, I sat in the passenger seat, mindfully chanting my mantra of 'round tyres, round tyres, round tyres' for the entire drive as we had no spares left and no reception if we blew another! Luckily we made it through ok and continued on the highway heading for the nearest tyre repair store and then on to the Bungle Bungles. 

The Bungles were incredible, the walk to cathedral gorge was an beautiful walk, the kids were energised and excited to be out of the car after a very bumpy 2 hour drive in! We wandered around climbed up ledges, watched sunbeams dance around the domes and change the way the the magestic rocks looked. It was a reminder of another area of the Kimberley's that has remained untouched for so long, and the beauty and the impression it leaves with you, I can understand why areas of Australia like this hold such strong connections for our indigenous people. 

We continued on to Kununurra and spent a relaxing few days exploring the town, the kids made friends at the caravan park, we had movie nights down at the river, saw some live music and we swam and swam and swam for most of our stay. After restocking we headed out to Lake Argyle for the final few nights of our time in the West. We spent time swimming in the infinity pool, over looking the amazing lake, we went on walks to amazing lookouts and did a spectacular cruise on the lake, the people running  it were so informative, the kids got to try some bush tucker and we learnt so much about the lake and the ord river scheme.  We watched the super moon rise over the lake, enjoying our final Kimberley sunsets, with mixed emotions wondering when the next time we would be in the special region of Australia.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Beautiful Broome

Wow what a wonderful month it has been, we have spent nearly 3 weeks in Broome, exploring this amazing town and truly feeling like we are blessed for the experience. The first week was spent at Broome Gateway about 30k's out of town. We had a great week with our dear friends the Warrens, many happy hours rolling into shared meals and more drinks around the camp fires. We have enjoyed the company of our travelling surrogate family and were very sad to see them head off across the Gibb River road a few weeks before us. We can't wait to catch up with the Warrens soon! We have met some lovely families on the road and spent a few nights in their company watching the sun set at cable beach. This is really what travelling is all about, like minded people meeting on the road and forging friendships that I'm sure will be maintained for years to come. The kids are enjoying each other's company and watching them all run around with glow sticks as the sun set across cable beach enjoying themselves and being so free and happy is what makes this trip so memorable. 

We spent lazy afternoons picnicking at town beach, cable beach and the water playground, the warm air and sunny blue skies making for long relaxing days. Broome has a feel all to its own. The climate is so warm and inviting ( at least it is in winter) people seem so happy and relaxed that you can definitely identify with the  existence of 'Broome time'. The streets have a laid back atmosphere, the old buildings with their wide verandas and twirling fans lull you along slowly, gently. There is no need to rush in Broome, no matter how busy the supermarkets are! The Asian influence that arrived during the pearling industry's glory days is highlighted throughout the town and makes for such an interesting mix of culture, people and environment. I think I am definitely hooked on this little cosmopolitan town! 

For the last two weeks we moved into cable beach caravan park and made the most of the proximity to the famous beach. We walked along it,  rode our bikes to it, swam in it and watched the sun set over it. We spent the second week, lazing around catching up on school work in the morning and swimming in the afternoon, the pool although cold was so refreshing and when the tides were out on cable beach then the pool was the next best option. I think all my kids are suitably waterlogged with all the swimming they have been doing. Lola is so proud of herself, she can swim confidently all the way across the pool and back and I'm sure it won't take her long to perfect the strokes with all the practise she has been getting! Our last week in Broome is definitely our favourite as aunty Bernie came to town!!!! As we made up the 'guest room' in the camper, the kids excitedly decided who Bernie would share the bed with each night, even dad was lucky enough to get a look in!!!! (Wow so lucky aunty Bernie). They drew her welcome pictures, made space for her belongings and eagerly counted down the days till she arrived. We excitedly picked Bernie up from the airport and made our way to cable beach to catch the last of the sunsetting over the ocean. The girls advised Bernie which shower had the best pressure and were all over the moon to receive gifts from Oma and Opa and the Ellis family. The kids read their letters, securing them specially in their drawers so they could bring them out again to read over later. We have managed to fit as many jam packed events as we could into the next week.

  
Saturday we were up bright and early to check out the courthouse markets, after a wander around and a few purchases we happily went back to camp and donned out togs for an afternoon of swimming, we spent the evening watching the sun set over cable beach, happily sipping on sangria and enjoying the stunning scenery (code for perving on the hot backpackers playing soccer shirtless!) 

Sunday and Monday were slow relaxing days, we wandered around town, swam at town beach and cable beach and generally slipped into Broome time, enjoying the sun and warm weather. Bernie and I managed to sneak away for a few ciders at Matso's brewery, man it's such a hard life! 



Tuesday we went into town and went to a pearl luggers tour, that described how the pearling industry came to Broome and the impact it had on Broome as a town. We wandered around the art galleries and even got to watch a famous Broome artist as she worked on her canvas, the kids were impressed with her skill and how easy she made it look to create such amazing art works. That was followed up with a camel ride along cable beach, at first Lola was petrified being so high up, but soon relaxed and enjoyed the wander up and down the sands, as I had already done this before, I was happy to watch as Mike took the kids on the ride, laughing as the camel behind Mike took a fancy to his leg and attempted to nibble on his calf for most of the ride.

On Wednesday  we ventured out at 6.00am to see the dinosaur footprints at Gantheume Point, unfortunately the tide was already rising so we only got a quick glimpse before the water covered them. That afternoon was the highlight of the week, Bernie and I snuck away for some serious sister fun, we sailed the ocean on the Intombi, a beautifully restored pearl lugger boat, sipping champagne and watching whales frolicking in the ocean. Life does not get better than that! We had a great day, relaxing, drinking lots and lots of champagne and enjoying the company of some great people on the boat. After a few glorious hours sailing up and down, we watched the sunset over cable beach and reluctantly made our way to shore.  We definitely had our sea legs by then, as we stumbled out of the boat, I'm pretty sure that the copious amounts of champagne consumed did not contribute to our stumbling.....or to Bernie falling asleep leaning against the wall later that evening at the Japanese restaurant as we tried to soak up some of the alcohol with the most amazing dinner!



Thursday we drove out to the Willie Creek Pearl farm and did an amazing tour learning all about the oyster and how it makes the pearls, we got to cruise up and down the creek, keeping our eyes peeled for the resident salties that live in the estuarine waters. Bernie may have purchased a little keep sake for herself in the showroom to remind herself of her amazing week in Broome. (and I'm sure when I wasn't looking Mike picked me up a little surprise too) - that last sentence really needs to be typed in a sarcastic font for you to get the full effect!! The highlight of the day for Mike and the kids was when they got to go up in the helicopter, they had a quick flight around the area, seeing some of the amazing views to Cape Levique and cable beach from the air. Oscar has now added helicopter pilot to his list of future career options as he thought it was pretty spectacular! Scarlett couldn't stop grinning from ear to ear and little Lola thought it was so much fun too! 



Each night we sat down to a few ciders, and some serious sequence competition, apparently my skill level directly relates to how many ciders I have drunk! The more I drink the better I am, I will need to keep that in mind if I return to study, apparently some things never change and just like in my uni days, alcohol still improves my ability to think clearer .... well maybe only for the first half dozen....after that God help me!!!!

Friday came around all to quickly and after a final morning of flying kites and swimming at cable beach, I prised my kids (and myself) out of the good bye hugs from Bernie  and sadly watched her fly away. We had such an amazing week and I am so grateful Bernie was able to share this time with us. 

So where to from here? Mike has itchy feet and is ready to set off again, we are planning to do the start of the gibb river road, diverting out to Fitzroy Crossing to follow the highway along to the bungle bungles and then make our way to Kunnunarra for a fuel stop before heading back onto the Gibb to explore Elquestro. We think we may finally make it out of the stunning WA in a couple of weeks to start the next chapter of this year long expedition in the Northern Territory.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Karijini and Cape Kedraunenn

Karijini was everything I had expected it to be and more. The amazing gorges and spectacular look outs and scenery certainly were awe inspiring. We walked down gorges, swam in freezing rock pools, visited lookouts and were mesmerised by the beauty. Oscar was happy to attempt some of the trickier gorges, so pleased with himself to make it all the way! The days were warm with red dirt as far as the eye can see, the kids were quickly covered head to foot in the dirt, so much so, that some days I didn't know if we were scrubbing dirt or their sun tan at night before they jumped into bed. The only downside was how freezing cold the nights were, hampering our extended happy hours as we could only sit outside for so long before we were chilled to the bone! We all cursed the no camp fire rule and happily snuggled into our beds early each night to seek relief from the freezing conditions. 

We spent the week at dales camp ground and shared the camp ground with our travelling tribe of friends we met at Kalbarri. Our new friendships have enhanced this trip so much, it is great travelling in convoy with our new mates, sometimes leapfrogging in front or lagging behind to catch up in a few days. 

We left Karijini and are currently camping at Cape Kedraunen about half way on our way to Broome. We are enjoying the nights around the camp fires with our tribe of travellers and the kids are having such a great time with all their new friends. It is awesome seeing the  kids spread out over the camping grounds, Oscar has met some boys and happily jumps on his bike to play, only returning when the hunger wins out over the fun.  The girls flit between camps and I love listening to them creating imaginary worlds and games together.  Our next stop is 80 mile beach to catch up on a bazillion loads of washing and to do some serious shell collecting. We are all looking forward to Broome as Bernie is coming for a visit, the kids excited for some aunty time and I am looking forward to sister sessions!


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Monkey Mia, Coral Bay and Exmouth


What an amazing couple of weeks we have had exploring one of our favourite areas in Western Australia. 

We started the exploration of the Gasgoyne coast with the most relaxing week in Monkey Mia. All three kids were determined to feed a dolphin, so each day we would head down in the morning to dolphin feeding in the hope that they would get picked and by the end of the week they had all managed to feed one. The kids were so excited and loved the week of playing on the sand, building sand castles and watching the dolphins swim by. We had a lazy week of exploring a little of the Francois Peron national park, bathing in the 40 degree artesian hot tub, checking out the stromalites at Hamelin Pool,  shell beach and the amazing coast line. We then had the good fortune to bump into our friends again at a free camp and had a lovely few night chilling by the camp fire enjoying each other's company. Oscar had a few cool finds but his favourite was the dried up dead snake that freaked his mum out! 


We cruised through Carnavon, gorging on yummy fruit from the area and checking out the amazing blow holes at Quobba before finally reaching the spot I have been waiting for, Coral Bay. 

I have such fond memories of this spot from the last trip we did that I have been eagerly anticipating our return here, and again it exceeded my expectations! I loved that for a whole week we didn't drive anywhere, I loved that oscar could ride around the bay cruising for friends to hang with at the playground with the only stipulation that he be home by dark. I loved that all my family snorkelled and saw amazing coral and sea life from the ease of the bay. Scarlet rand Lola were so incredulous of the amazing sea life they saw and took to snorkelling so well. We enjoyed more relaxed happy hours with our friends, watching sun sets across the ocean and children enjoying the simple pleasures of sand and sea. The weather was mostly kind so nearly everyday was spent at the beach, snorkelling, swimming, playing in the inflatable boat and building amazing sand creations on the shore. Oscar was at his happiest for the week, building amazing boats from what he could scavenge around the area, he was so at peace that he hummed away as he snorkelled around the reef chasing the huge fish as they swam by and delighting in the independence this little bay afforded him.  I am always so happy when my children are happy and this week was certainly a great one for my boy. 
   


We were lucky enough to be there for the 'talent search' karaoke night at the caravan park. A couple of grey nomads had bought with them the karaoke system to beat all systems, they put up posters advertising the night and by 4.00pm the other oldies had bagsed a seat in the front row, we wandered across after tea to listen to the oldies in all their glory, it was hilarious!! There was a scary rendition of 'you can leave your hat on' by a bunch of 70+ old men and let me tell you I was glad they left more than just their hat on as I was not looking forward to seeing some old looking tackle I can tell you now!!  My most favourite part of the night was when a younger guy decided he was over the golden oldies that the nomads were crooning and decided to add a little poison and gunners to the mix, the look of distaste on the old peoples faces was hysterical and I enjoyed it even more when I noticed that some were even turning down their hearing aids every time a bit of heavy metal was belted out!!!

The highlight of the Coral Bay stay was swimming with the whale sharks with my boy Oscar. It was such an incredible experience and I was so proud of Oscar and his ability to keep up with how fast you had to swim to stay up with these amazing creatures. We had such an amazing day and snorkelled on the outer reefs with manta rays, turtles, amazing coral and fish life, we even saw four humpback whales whilst on the boat. This was a definite tick for the bucket list for me and was made even greater by the absolute joy on Oscars face all day.

Mike dragged me kicking and screaming from Coral Bay, I even checked out job opportunities for Mike so we could stay longer and the kids and I could become beach bums for a few more weeks, sadly it was not to be and we headed a little further north to Exmouth for a few more days of snorkelling and exploring the cape range national park. We have one more night here and then we are heading to Karijini.  I am already looking forward to my next time in this amazing area of Australia. 







 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Kalbarri


So we left the grey skies behind for sunny days, blue skies and a relaxed camping atmosphere. We set off from Perth prising the kids away from uncle Dave's tv to arrive in New Norcia, the only monastic town in Australia. We did the tour of the town and for once even the kids enjoyed the tour (well we bribed them with the hope of lollies at the end so they stopped complaining), the tour guide was so interesting and regaled us with lots of information and personal recounts of life in a monastic town.

After the tour we visited the hotel and sank a few abbey ales (well I did, none of that boutique crap for Mike) and listened to the live music, it was such a relaxed afternoon, hopefully setting the tone for the next leg of our trip. After stopping to stock up on fresh baked abbey bread, we left early the next day and had a long 6 hour drive to Kalbarri. We pulled up at the ranch and hit jackpot. A beautiful horse ranch with lots of animals for the kids, shower and toilet to keep mum happy and cheaper than a caravan park to keep dad happy!  


We ventured over to happy hour near the camp kitchen to find a 'mixed bag' of interesting travellers, (who would soon become great friends), some were WWOOF's, who need 12 weeks on a farm for their visa to be extended, couples and other families who were travelling together around Australia.  Lola was rapt to see a little girl her age and quickly made friends, we were happy to find such a relaxed bunch of people to enjoy a beer with and such a great spot to explore the Kalbarri National Park from.



The first night we pulled up the kids were so excited to be setting up next to the penned in area which held a crazy looking goat and sheep. We all snuggled down after a long day driving for a good nights rest, in the middle of the night I was woken by a  strange noise, I couldn't work out if someone was being strangled or pleasured....or both...listening from the opposite bed to Mike I started to question whether Mike was having his own 'very bizarre alone time' in the middle of the night, but he was still snoring happily In his own bed so I ruled him out, the 'noise' kept going and going, I wasn't sure if we had some late night campers finding a romantic spot in the bush.....then I realised it was the bloody goat!!!!! The goat has clearly mistaken his blue feeding bucket for another goat and attempting to 'befriend' it in only a way a goat could, it truly was some of the weirdest noises I have ever heard, and geez I was fortunate to listen to the blue bucket loving nearly every day of our stay!!!  After a few days into our stay, we were discussing the goat, and Deb, one of the other travellers told us that the first night we arrived she thought the noises were coming from us!!!!! Hehe no 50 shades of grey in this campervan!


We have had such a great time, exploring the beautiful gorges and Murchison river, the scenery is spectacular and I know that the landscape only gets better and better on this next leg of our trip. Oscar set up his hammock and spent many a morning relaxing in the breeze, I certainly think this week has reset the kids after 2 weeks of 'city life' The kids were lucky enough to be offered pony rides, Scarlett was so blissed out, she loved it, until Krystal took her for a trot and then the look on her face was priceless!!!!  We have swam in the pool, Oscar attempting to better his balance by crossing the slack line that was set up over the pool, Lola and Scarlett have been practising their gymnastics on the slack line and enjoyed playing with all the other kids (big and little) on the grassy area, it has been a chilled out week of relaxing and enjoying the company of others at the extended happy hours around the fire.

We finally dragged ourselves away from Kalbarri, arriving at Monkey Mia just in time to have a beer and watch the sunset! The kids are looking forward to seeing their friends from Kalbarri in the next few days, feeding dolphins, a boat cruise and swimming in the ocean! Geez it is a hard life we lead:)



Friday, 30 May 2014

Onwards and upwards!!!!!


Well we are leaving Perth and the south west of WA, we have had a great time, enjoying campfires and exploring the caves at Margaret river, climbing tall trees and tall lighthouses, walking through amazing forests and national parks, dodging the rain as much as we can and spending time with family in Perth. 




After two weeks in Perth dealing with 'minor' mishaps with the car and the computer (and that is the last we will mention the lemon car we are driving) we have reset the sails and are ready for our next adventure. We are looking forward to warmer weather, the friendliness of fellow campers and lots of snorkelling at the amazing Ningaloo Reef! 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Southwest WA


From Lucky Bay we headed into the southwest of WA. We set up camp in the sterling ranges national park for a few nights and explored lots of great walks in the park. We attempted bluff knoll, the highest peak in WA, but it was a little tough for the kiddies, the views were still amazing though, Oscar attempted scones in the weber as part of his school project and after such a great attempt he is now on baking duty for the rest of the trip.

We arrived in Pemberton with an excited Oscar who was keen return to this area as he was on a mission to attempt all the climbing trees. One afternoon he snuck off with Mike, a mischievous grin on his freckled face, he blew me a kiss as they drove off and I knew they were going for a climb. My stomach was in knots until I received the picture of him at the very top of the 57m tree. He was so excited that the next day we went to the Gloucester tree in the national park. It is the tallest climbing tree at 67m and it had been wet the night before so I was not inclined to let him climb, but in a blink of an eye he was gone scaling as fast as he could. I watched as he got smaller and smaller, the knots in my stomach getting comparatively bigger and bigger, I think the climb up isn't as bad as watching the climb down, Oscar feeling his way down the metal pegs, me hoping he doesn't slip, my breathing only returning to normal as his feet reached the ground. Scarlet and Lola still haven't  stopped giving Mike darkies for not letting them climb and quite often remind him that it's their turn the next time we find another tall tree!

After seeing the joy on Oscars face at achieving his goal I decided to see  if I could break my record for climbing the trees, a whole 12 pegs!!!!! Well I accepted the challenge and with my knees knocking I made it to peg 13!!!!! Woohoo record broken!!! Oscar may have climbed  nearly 200 pegs by by golly I made it up 13!



Each night Mike had a big fire as the weather was a little cold and drizzly, the kids spent a lot of their nights eating the oozing goodness of cooked marshmallows.  With each marshmallow Oscar would repeat 'I'm melting, I'm melting', as his marshmallow rotated on his stick. The girls would giggle as each marshmallow met the same slow fiery death.  I was happy to have a big more space to move in and made use of the camp kitchen in the caravan park, I became friendly with a of French backpackers who were working in Pemberton and living in tiny tents for 6 weeks. Every night after work they would roll in, I'd call out 'hi honeys how was your day at work?', and they would giggle at the crazy women stirring her pots on the stove. I was always so impressed with the simple but delicious food they would whip out of next to nothing, they certainly had their cooking down to a fine art, they even made swigging on wine out of a brown paper bag look stylish and super cool!

On the final morning I went for a walk, it had rained all night so it was misty and the forest was a deep, deep green. The ground was soft underneath and the smell of the eucalypts strong. Pemberton is a beautiful little town surrounded by the most majestic trees, so tall and the smell of the forest invades your senses, I always thought I felt so at peace near the sea, but the invigorating freshness of the forest seems to be challenging the stormy seas for top place.

From Pemberton we moved to Leeuwin naturaliste national park just near Margaret River, it is such a beautiful part of the world, more gorgeous forests to walk through, cool underground caves to explore, amazing light houses to climb in Augusta......oh and did I mention the wine..... Hello heaven!!! Clever old me timed our visit to Margaret river to coincide with Mother's Day!!!! What better way to celebrate Mother's Day then touring the beautiful wineries, breweries and cideries in the area. I picked our tour to be suitable for all of us, a brewery every hour or 2 so the designated driver could complain about the 'crap'  overpriced boutique beer he drank, and most of the wineries chosen for me also had a playground for the designated driver and the kids to amuse themselves with whilst I savoured the wine tasting! Happy days, it would only have been better if I had some of my favourite women folk with me to share a bottle with, I don't think I'll be able to save any bottles for my return though....We had  a long leisurely lunch at cheeky monkeys brewery and enjoyed the music and beautiful scenery for a few hours, we finished a perfect Mother's Day at the ice cream shop just out of town.



During this lovely week exploring Margaret River we have met some lovely people and spent long nights around the campfire sharing dinners and a few beers and bottles of wine. I have got to do a few things on my list of things I love to do, hang out with really interesting people, play cards and drink wine in beautiful surroundings, go to the farmers market and stock up on delicious food from the region.....my type of holiday.  (Wow i just read that back to myself and I am so cool, markets cards and wine......maybe I really am getting old??)

So next stop who knows, we have a week or so before we get to Perth, we may stop near donnybrook, pick some apples, visit more markets and maybe even update the Watson gnome family at gnomesville with any later additions since Sharon's visit. Happy travels xx






Friday, 9 May 2014

I love.......

I love that every morning when my kettle starts to whistle Oscar screams 'you're scolding my insides!' On behalf of the kettle.

I love that the kids have a system in place so they know whose turn it is to sit next to me for tea and whose turn it is to sleep with me each night. 

I love that Lola comes up every day and gives me a big big squeezy hug and looks me in the eye and says I love you more than dad, then does the same thing to Mike. 

I love that Lola attempts to cheat when playing uno and go fish.

I love that Oscar gets up extra early to sneak time on the ipad when he thinks I won't know.

I love that Scarlett has me addicted to the stoopid bejeweled blitz frozen game and the mad excitement of her attempts to help me get to the next level!

I love that every morning the kids say what can we have for brekky and  take forever to decide, when they always decide on the same thing. I love how much this irks Mike even more! 

I love that each time we go to the beach mike tells the kids, 'don't get wet', and each time they end up saturated!

I love the slow mornings, big walks before breakfast, card games at night.


Sunday, 4 May 2014

Crossing the Nullarbor



When a lot of people think about the trip across the Nullarbor many assume it is a long boring drive of nothing. This was our second trip across and I loved every minute of it again. The scenery changes, but  the sky remains blue and the flies remain sticky. I prepared myself by stocking up the ipod with lots of Australian music, as I felt the Nullarbor, a truly iconic Australian drive, deserved great Australian tunes. Mike was not so impressed and so started the 3 day complaining about my taste in music. By day 3 of driving I was a little over his negativity so I thought he would enjoy my stunning renditions of every song I played at the top of my voice. Fair to say I don’t think he will be complaining about my music choice again! Although I was tempted to spend the Nullarbor singing the frozen soundtrack with the girls, I don’t think I could put up with the whining from Oscar and was happy with my Australian song tune decision.

at the border, one foot in SA, one foot in WA

We only stayed 2 nights crossing over, one at Eucla, which had a major refurbishment and looked amazing. It has a beautiful new pool overlooking the ocean and lovely gardens which is very surprising for the middle of the Nullarbor, the next night we stayed at Fraser Ranges, which did not disappoint again. We set up camp at the first cattle station to be settled across the Nullarbor and spent the night sitting around the camp fire with other campers having a few drinks.  I got chatting to a guy who has spent the last 35 years working the mines around Western Australia, he was so interesting and explained so much of the mining process, (either that or I had a few too many beers and I just thought it was interesting). 
the long straight road!
the pool at Eucla in the middle of the Nullarbor




the Eucla telegraph station 



fraser ranges station


After a scratchy start to the next day we finished the last leg of the Nullarbor and arrived at Lucky Bay, Esperance for a week of camping at the beach that was voted to have the whitest sand in Australia. I had an amazing start to our week at Lucky Bay, going to the dawn service for Anzac day on the beach. It was really moving and after wards enjoyed the conversations explaining Anzac Day to the backpackers who didn’t know what it was and why we commemorated the Australian soldiers on this day. We have had a great time at Lucky bay, swimming in the ocean, walking the beautiful nature tracks and pretending to do a little school work with the kids.



Saturday, 26 April 2014

Second Week Wobbl(i)es

This week we have been exploring the Eyre Peninsula. Due to our sorely depleted bank balance we are attempting to free camp/find cheaper options (aka freeload from family) as much as possible for the next 12 months. Before we left Mike spent every waking moment in the shed tinkering with the van in an attempt to make it livable for the next 12 months for ‘one disappointed mother who really wanted to upgrade to a better caravan that we could actually fit comfortably in’ and her family. So the past week has been a good chance to check a few things out and see how it (ahem….me) stands up to this free camping lifestyle Mike loves so much. 

Let’s see ….so far the battery in the camper has died a slow death, meaning we are on limited power supply…we have been managing fine thanks to our lovely electronic/ electrician neighbour who has been supplying us with led lights and low voltage options. Oh and the new whiz bang hot water system that Mike strongly advocated was just as good as a shower in a caravan has also failed….YIPPEE so far I am LOVING this free camping never having a hot shower thing!!!! Sponge baths take on a totally different connotation when you are attempting one with 3 kiddies in tow!

my studious Scarlett
Aside from my complete lack of ‘sucking it up’ on my behalf, we have had some lovely days chilling with the kids. Scarlett, my super excited studious little chick, has been busting to start her distance ed school work,  so instead of having two weeks off we have been getting ourselves familiar with their distance ed modules. Surprisingly we have got off to a good start with both Oscar and Scarlett enjoying their first week of schooling mumma style. I am not enjoying all the reading that I need to do the night before to prepare myself but I am sure once I get the swing of it we will be fine! Oscar is not to happy that I make them say “Good Morning Mrs Watson” in a sing song voice as I enter the camper to commence classes, Scarli however loves how ‘funny’ her mum is….I secretly giggle every time she sings so enthusiastically. Lola likes to sing out ‘Morning Mrs Farty Bum’ and run away, the cheeky minx!

We had been staying in a campsite with a few other travellers, mostly grey nomads and I have enjoyed having a natter with the old ducks over an afternoon cuppa, not that I can get much in as they all have a habit of speaking over themselves…(just like a bunch of other dutch aunties I know!!!) Mike has been testing out his 4 wheel driving skills in the sand dunes around where we have been staying and I have been laughing as I watch how he digs himself out of every sand bog! The kids have loved sliding down the dunes and were continually attempting the bigger dunes to throw themselves off.


Lola playing with her rock and shell collection
Lola beating me at Stacko
Oscar at the top of a look out


the cubby house the children made






sunrise from Port Lincoln National Park




We then headed to Port Lincoln to set up in the national park and wait for the Easter bunny to find us.  We were lucky enough to set up near a lovely family with kids similar ages and an older couple. We had a great five nights in the national park, playing lots of board games, walking the bush trails, watching everyone else fish, swimming in the ocean and generally chilling out. The Easter bunny still managed to find us and over supply us with lots of chocolate goodies. We cooked up a big batch of pancakes and had a great morning sitting around scoffing pancakes with our new friends.  Today we headed for streaky bay and after a very long day in the car ended up in Ceduna, we have washed clothes (and ourselves, I can tell you now that the shower I had tonight totally kicks arse over the pitiful drip system Mike calls a shower) and restocked the food cupboards in preparation for the start of the nullabor tomorrow.