Australia: Road Trip – Fitzroy Crossing to the completion of Australia

Australia: Road Trip – Fitzroy Crossing to the completion of Australia

June 4-June 28, 2019

I have lost all desire to write the ending of this trip. I know that if I don’t, I’ll regret it because this blog is meant to be a journal and memory for this amazing life adventure. I think I’ve lost my spark because my heart is back in Canada now. I’m really pressing myself to stay present to all that is around me and continue to enjoy this incredible journey we are on. So here we go. I’m already in Fiji at the time I’m writing this so I’m going to compress the last three weeks into one blog post so this could be a bit longer.

After leaving Broome we really wished we could have rented a 4×4 and driven the Gibb River Road. There is a lot of amazing gorges and scenery on that road but it wasn’t meant to be.

After Fitzroy Crossing, we drove through Halls Creek (another little town with not a lot) and ended up at another free campsite with cows! That was kind of a highlight. There was also a cat that was there. We had hoped that she hadn’t gotten lost from her family. She seemed quite tame.

Then we drove onwards to Kununnara. This town is pretty sweet. It was really clean and had a lot of amenities. We decided to spend a bit more and get a site at a caravan park. This was a great choice. We had a really amazing spot by the lagoon where there were so many different kinds of birds to watch. The camp kitchen was close by and Vivi made friends with a dutch girl. Then we made friends with the parents and we decided to stay a day longer as they were going to be there one more day too. It’s not often that Vivi gets to play with kids her own age so we really wanted to honor her and give her an opportunity to play like an 8 year old should.

Luc and I even got a chance to watch the sunset just the two of us. We also took in some live Australian entertainment at the caravan park.

The next day was a bit of a cleaning up and chilling out day. Vivi played lego for hours and I started to sort through things we didn’t want anymore. We gave away our tarp and beach shade to the Dutch. Then I read and read and read. What a day I remember, just sitting and reading by the lagoon. I felt like I really needed to sell to Luc the fact that stopping moving was a good thing. And man oh man was it ever. That night we went to a drive in movie, “Dumbo”. Vivi sat on the top deck of the Dutch’s truck and we watched from inside the van. I think that will be a memorable experience. As Anna from Holland says “you can see a ton of gorges and after a while they will all blend into each other. Do things that are different so you can remember them.” I really liked this idea.

We said goodbye to them the next day and pressed on to Katherine. First stopping at Ivanhoe Crossing which was kinda neat. Luc wanted to cross it but it’s only for 4 wheel drive so I refused. We also passed the Northern Territory border which was pretty cool and got our photo taken.

The Northern Territory roads are a bit different. They appear to be worse in wear but the speed limit is 130km on the highways! This shocked me. There’s no way we could have done that.

Not much to see this day so we rolled into a free campground and were delighted to watch a boy about the age of 12 playing with a whip. It was fascinating to watch him. There was an old guy who was a bit plastered giving him pointers. Before you knew it a ton of people were in our campsite watching the boy as he practiced. It was really cool!

Of course Vivi made friends with his sister and later they were seen playing uno on a rock with a flash light. She’s so good at making friends on the fly now.

We pushed on to Katherine where I REALLY wanted to do the same kayak/canoe tour down the Katherine Gorge that Mike and I had done but we just didn’t have time so I had to accept that this wasn’t going to happen. We did visit a “hot springs” that was not really hot but super beautiful. We stayed that night in a caravan park where we plugged in for free.

The next day we were up early as we had a lot of things to see and places to swim! First stop was Edith Falls. We did a little hike to the second pool which was breath taking! We saw a massive lizard and enjoyed to cool water. We saw signs that there weren’t crocs in the water so we felt safe(ish) to swim. It was a beautiful spot to cool off and because we started early we beat the hordes of people en route. Then we continued back to pool 1 and took off for Litchfield National Park.

We visited the magnetic termite mounds. Termites make their mounds facing North to South to help cut down on the heat. Facinating. And it was hot! We then found a National Park Campground that had flushing toilets and showers for $6 per person. BC, we really need to get our act together and provide more in our camping areas. Australia has got it figured out!

Then we drove on to Wangi Falls where I really remember well when I was here. It was packed but so so beautiful. Waterfalls into clear water. Just spectacular! Then onto Tolmer Falls and finally Buley Rockholes which was fun! A bunch of pools you can swim in with crystal clear water.

The next morning we started at Florence Falls as that’s where we camped (recommended from the whip cracking boy’s dad). A little walk down some stairs and we again were the first few people to swim. Just luscious and so so beautiful. We almost went the night before but I’m glad we didn’t. We ran into a woman who had been there the previous night and it was PACKED!

These last few days have been filled with so much swimming in such incredibly beautiful places in the Northern Territory.

We pushed on to Darwin that morning. Stopping at a free water park that of course is only closed on a Tuesday and it was Tuesday. Oh well. So we went to clean the van a bit and check into our hostel. This is a hostel that is FULL of backpackers. Brought me back to when I was backpacking here years ago. They had a deal that if you bought a drink, you’d get dinner for free. And after we went to bed I could hear them playing drinking backpacking games until the wee hours. We spent that afternoon getting all our bags ready for the flight the next day. We managed to pack two of our camping chairs in an Ikea bag we had bought for protection against bed bugs. We also fit in a bunch fo stuff we had bought along the way: a blow up chair, water shower, spices, odds and sods. So we’re officially travelling now with an extra bag until the end. Australia is cheaper than Canada and you can claim the GST on a bunch of stuff so we went a bit crazy on technology stuff before leaving Oz.

We didn’t see too much of Darwin TBH. But you can’t see it all.

The next day we took a taxi to the airport and boarded a plane for Cairns. See you later Western Australia and Northern Territory!

East Coast

We arrived in Cairns around 3:30pm and took a cab to the Apollo Dealership. We picked up Marvelle (said with a French accent) and headed north to our caravan park by the ocean.

It hit us with such force, it was lush and green and raining! It was like an over load on our senses! We picked up some groceries and then finally found the campground. It was dark and rainy and so we cooked and settled into the exact same camper van that we had on the west coast so everything was really common to us which was nice. Hardly even seemed like we moved from Darwin to Cairns!

Although this van had mold on the roof so we went back to Apollo again the next day and traded it in for one with less mold. And if you can believe it, the night before our van must have been keyed in the grocery parking lot because there were new marks on it that weren’t there the day before. Thank goodness we got the insurance.

In the morning I went for a wonderful walk on the beach by myself and took in the gorgeous sea and lush forest. We weren’t going to go to the Daintree but this really reminded me of it years ago. So different from the west coast and so beautiful. Humid, warm, wet, green, blue, palms, jungle. Just wow.

Before exchanging our van we visited Hartley’s Croc Park and it didn’t disappoint. The price was right and we got to see so much wildlife and crocs! The salties were the best and most impressive. We watched a feeding and took a river boat ride. We also visited the ethical croc farm part of it. Essentially what they say is if they breed the crocs for the leather purses, hats, etc… it’s better for the croc natural population as then hunters won’t hunt them. It’s all done with the animals welfare in mind so they are bred and killed ethically. Something just doesn’t sit well with me on this but anyway…

We picked up our new van called Mabel and headed into Cairns. Something else that is absolutely everywhere is sugar cane. I had forgotten that this was EVERYWHERE. It’s really beautiful against the backdrop of the jungle.

We camped in a person’s yard that had toilets and showers and an area for making food. We had thought that we might just sleep in a parking lot but we got a little skittish because there’s big fines if you do this and get caught. Our van isn’t exactly low pro either. That night we were awoken by fruit bats screaming. Crazy.

The next morning we were up bright and early to head to the great barrier reef! We boarded the boat with a bunch of other people and drove for over an hour to the reef. I’m realizing how much of this trip we’re spending on an boat and under the water. A lot!

They stopped at two places and Luc dove at one and Vivi and I snorkeled at both. The water was pretty cold so Vivi didn’t last long. I have to say that from what I remember of the GBR, it’s in a sadder state now. Less colour on the corals. Less fish. Sadly, it seemed comparable to other places that we’ve snorkeled in this trip. I had great expectations that it would surpass anything we’ve seen up to the point. We enjoyed a delicious lunch on the boat and then wine and cheese before heading back. It was a wonderful day and so grateful we got to see the GBR before climate change potentially destroys a lot of it.

We left Cairns and headed down to Babinda Boulders to sleep in a free campsite with showers! Oh wait, they were cold showers. So Vivi and I had a cold shower together (memorable!) and it was also raining so a little challenging to get warm but not impossible.

The next morning we visited the boulders and saw some incredible waterfalls  (Josephine Falls) and gorgeous walks through the jungle. Then drove south. After driving north for so long it was a little foreign to have the sun behind us now.

We stopped just outside of Townsville at Crystal Creek Caravan Park where we did laundry and just relaxed for the afternoon.

The next day  was father’s day and we decided not to stop at Townsville but just on the other side and do some shopping for various must needed items. We treated ourselves to sushi. I feel like we just drove a bunch that day and then stopped at a free caravan spot just off the side of the road. This was a bit of a shocker to us as it was basically a parking lot with bathrooms. We parked, threw out our chairs, and had a beer. A little while later some people showed up in a caravan and they asked us if we could pull forward. I said sure but that I didn’t want to go too far forward as we wanted to be close to the washrooms for my daughter. They said they had another caravan for her sister that needed to pull in too. And maybe I should have parked more closer to the bathrooms. I guess the sister heard that I didn’t want to pull forward so she made a comment so I could hear “well Australians are very accommodating but foreigners aren’t.” THAT made me react. I said “what did you say?” and the first woman said “oh she heard you say you didn’t want to pull forward” I said “I’m willing to pull forward but maybe not now after that insult”. I was feeling hot and fiery. It took a bit to settle down. In the end we didn’t have to move and they got to be beside each other. Later on that night, the woman’s husband walked over and apologized. He said that his wife is bi-polar and has mental illness and that him and the other husband were very embarrassed by what happened. No worries mate. J

After a sleep, we drove on to Airlie Beach for the day to explore. Man oh man things have changed. I remember the main drag but it’s like a tourist haven and jump off point for so many things. We headed to the lagoon which is basically an amazing outdoor pool beside the ocean where we cooked up chicken wings on the bbq. We relaxed there for a couple of hours and then explored the town and played at the massive playground. This thing must have cost a fortune to build.

We considered the Whitsunday trip but we’ve spent so much time in and on the water we felt it would be just more of the same(ish). So we headed back to the caravan park for the night.

The next day we did a side trip to the top of a mountain to visit a national park and see platypuses! It was a gorgeous winding, steep drive. We found them and many many turtles. It was really cool. We also came across a bush turkey. We were happy to get off the mail highway and do this little tour through the back lands of Queensland seeing the farms and taking lots of little side roads. We stopped at a caravan park that was basically a lot with pads (no trees) and showers and toilets. We walked over to the local pub for dinner. It was starting to get COLD again! Dinner was pretty just ok. It was definitely a little tiny town in the middle of Queensland.

Next up we stopped in Rockhampton and visited a FREE zoo. We got to see chimps, a koala, dingos, a cassowary, lots of birds, kangaroos and a snake. This zoo was more like a place for animals that are hurt and injured to come and recuperate. That night we stopped at a free camping spot at a tavern on the side of the road in Raglan. Buy a couple of drinks and you get your showers and toilets for free. Yes Please!

Luc and I evaluated what was happening… we had been driving driving driving and it felt like our needs weren’t getting met. We decided that we would slow down the last few days and not move as much. Essentially see less. So we made it to Bundaberg and just kinda walked around town. First we visited an art gallery that had a kids home schooling group there that Vivi tagged along with. Then Luc and Vivi got haircuts. And then we headed to beach to the caravan park. It was raining and cold so we plugged in and hunkered down watching downloaded videos from Netflix in the van.

The next morning Luc went for a run and then we had a slow start with pancakes! Then we headed to the beach and flew up the drone. We slowed down and enjoyed the beach and did some meditation. It was beautiful there. We left around noon and headed to Hervey Bay. First though, some work friends called me from the annual golf tournament that I was missing which was so AMAZING! It was great to see all their faces again. I’m super missing everyone back home and I enjoy the golf tourney so I was sad to miss it – this was the next best thing.

We were famished so we splurged and got fish and chips beside the bay. Man on man was it good and cheap! Then off to the Tourist Info Centre. We made the hard decision not to go to Fraser Island. It was going to cost $500 for all of us for a day trip. The weather was cold and windy so we wouldn’t be swimming in any of the water holes. Sticking with what we had just discussed about taking things a bit slower, Fraser Island was going to be a full day (leaving at 7am, back at 6pm) so we chose to not do it. I don’t regret that choice. I’ve been there and I have those memories. Luc was fine with not seeing it. And Vivi still has a lot more time in her life to go there again if she wants. We decided to stay 2 days at Hervey Bay. Again, nothing looks the same. I looked for the tattoo place and piercing place that I got a tattoo and piercing but nothing looked the same. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the beach at the caravan park while sipping a delicious beer.

The next day we walked to the Sunday market, had lunch, cruised the jetty, and walked back. Then a stop at the ice cream store (YUM!) and groceries.

The next day we started our visiting in Maryborough which is Mary Poppinsland. Where the author who wrote Mary Poppins was born. That was a really cute town and neat to see all the Mary Poppins artefacts around town. Then we drove the long way to Noosa through farmland and jungle (so strange) keeping our eyes peeled for Koalas as it was Koala area.

Then we hit Noosa and headed straight to the Sea Scouts Campground. A cheap campground that only operates on the weekend (it was Sunday!) that is usually set up for scouts but let’s caravans park in their yard. It was really cool! We were pretty much all alone beside one other car. We then left and got some groceries and drove around Noosa and the area. Wow, this place is like Whistler. Expensive! We drove to the national park and took in the views. Stunning. Then back to the scout camp and tucked in for the night.

We packed up and drove to the river’s edge the next morning where we walked along the river which was so well equipped for enjoying the river. There was work out areas, bike lanes, boats to rent to explore the river… We headed to the caravan park and got some laundry going. Our spot was right beside the river on the beach! Ideal!! Again, taking it slow, we decided to rent a boat and explore the river and go fishing! That was a bit something different. Fishing was kinda cool! We didn’t catch anything but Vivi loved it. Luc thought he would demonstrate how shallow the water was and jumped overboard while moving, and it was deeper than he thought and got his phone and wallet wet. The phone is ok after it dried out a bit. But man, that was funny.

We loved Noosa but it was expensive. The river really makes it so welcoming. I’d love to go back there one day and actually stay and explore a bit longer. We enjoyed the sunset at our campsite drinking wine and watching the pelicans. It was gorgeous and so memorable.

The next morning we headed to the National Park to walk around the beaches in Noosa. This was incredible. The forest was green and lush, the beach was white sand and blue seas. There were surfers everywhere and we saw a koala in the tree! This was a highlight for us. What was epic was that it dumped rain and we waited in the van until it eased… we headed out after the rain stopped, did our hike, got back in the van, and it began dumping again. So lucky!!

We headed back along the Sunshine Coast and stopped in at a mall to visit JBI HIFI and buy some electronics so we can get back the GST before leaving Australia. We also wanted to hit a movie but at $25/adult and $20/kid we decided that wasn’t going to happen.

Then we took off for our last night in the caravan just outside of Brisbane. It was raining like crazy and we ended up sleeping at an old showgrounds with a bunch of other campers. There’s some interesting places out there to be sure!

I had a moment driving that day where a song came on the van… I just had this realization that this trip is almost over. It was a surreal moment and I started to cry. I really wanted to feel all those emotions as we’ve come so far and seen so much but I was driving on the freeway so pushed them down. I got tingles and it’s like a moment I haven’t felt in a while. It was also accompanied by a Fiat that drove by (I was reminded of the mini cooper we rented which seemed like ages ago).

The final day we drove into Brisbane and Luc dropped us off at the Westin. Our next fancy hotel we will stay at for free. I was overjoyed to be able to backup my computer, send my 800 photos to the cloud, update my phone, check out the bill situation, fill in the online GST application for the airport basically do all the electronic stuff I’ve been trying to do for weeks. When all your photos are on your phone and your phone won’t upload to the cloud, you get a bit nervous about the possibility of losing your phone. I also pulled a tooth out of Vivi’s mouth which was quite exciting!

I finished that, Luc came back after dropping off the van and we met at Queens Street to exchange our Ozzie $$ for Fiji $$’s. Ate some delicious Mexican food. Then Vivi and I went swimming, we came back, watched some TV and headed to dinner at the hotel restaurant. After that, Vivi returned to the room and Luc and I ventured down the street to the Irish pub for a Guinness. We reflected on where we’ve come from. It was a nice quick date night.

The next morning Vivi and I went for a workout at the hotel gym and then another swim at the pool. We then packed up again getting ready for the flight the next day and headed out to enjoy brunch in Brisbane’s harbor. We had a scrumptious brunch and then took the free harbor ferry along the river. We got out and walked over the pedestrian bridge taking in the sights. Brisbane is our favourite big city and we could see ourselves living here. We walked through the Botanical Gardens and commented on how this city is really set up for people to enjoy it. Places to sit, lots of walking paths, it’s gorgeous! For winter time, it seemed like our spring.

We did our final pack, Luc went for a massage (his neck and hip are bugging him) and we took a taxi to our last Airbnb in Australia. We arrived and we’d booked a room in a house. It was really a great place. They gave us a ride to the airport in the morning. And when Vivi forgot her purse in the car, they even brought it back!

Australia has been a dream come true. I’m so grateful that we were able to explore and experience so much of this country. Vivi and I say that we think Australia is the best country we’ve visited since travelling. We love it’s beauty, ease and diversity. We’ve met some incredible people along the way and I’d love to come back one day and visit Sydney one more time. Thank you Australia for making our journey and experience to remember.

Next stop, Fiji!  

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Australia: Road Trip – Karijini National Park to Fitzroy Crossing

Australia: Road Trip – Karijini National Park to Fitzroy Crossing

May 29-June 4, 2019

We drove drove and drove. That was a long day of not much to see and we just needed to get there.

I think back to 20 years ago and maybe this was the drive that Mike and I did on the red earth roads before they paved it. I’m not sure if we did the Gibb river road or not but I remember spending a few days on a red dirt road in the middle of no where. I must get home to look at the photos I took to remind me of what we did and where we went.

When we got to the visitor’s centre we got some info and we were all a little spent from the day. We’d missed a turn that meant we’d have to come back 70kms the next day to see a gorge we missed.

We headed to the campground that was the cheapest campground we’ve camped at (besides free). No bells and whistles here….basically toilets and a dirt spot. They don’t really have tables here for people to eat at at the campgrounds (this is a total shocker).

We headed down to the falls and Luc went for a swim. It was beautiful. Then back to the campground to listen to music and eat dinner.

The next day we decided to do a walk along the top of Dale’s gorge. And then down into the bottom where the circular pool is. I had to have a swim in the beautiful water. There’s something about water that awakens my senses. I only wish I could have done it naked.

Then we walked from one end of the gorge to the other back to the first pool where Luc swam the day before. This, I remember walking when I was with Mike. It was really pretty and not too hot. We got to one perfect place to swim but pressed onto the falls and took a dip there. Then we went up a bit further and saw a baby snake that I swear tried to take a swipe at Vivi’s ankle that was covered by a sock and shoe. Where there are babies, there are mamas and papas.

Then we ate some sandwiches in the parking and drove back the 70 kms to the other gorge. It was beautiful and Luc was able to fly the drone up a couple of times. I hope I can post the drone video when I post this blog.

We then headed back the 70kms and then some to a free campsite where we were the only ones! That was a bit unnerving but also really tranquil. In the morning we let out a bunch of carnal roars and screams because we could and I got naked in the parking lot because I could. I’m working on a different relationship with my body and being naked occasionally is so liberating.

We drove to Eighty Mile beach where we did laundry and spent some time down at the ocean. It was a beautiful sunset on the beach where Luc and Vivi did some shell collecting and I did some meditation and “just being present”.

The next morning we took it easy and we were going to drive to a free spot outside of Broome but decided to go all the way into town. We had enough time.

We stopped at the Broome caravan park that Mike and I lived at for a few weeks. The place was similar but changed. So many memories there. A specific moment when I made a phone call that I remember… the phone booth isn’t there anymore.

We headed into town to the mother of all caravan parks. There was only wifi at the café so you know where I was in the morning. It was perfect timing as well as there was a party for the passing of Carolyn Wadel that people went live on FB so I was able to partake in that a little bit that I really appreciated.

That night we went down to the beach to watch yet another incredible sunset on Cable Beach. We might have stolen power in our non-powered site…

Boab trees are abundant here and they are so beautiful and unique. Each one different, they are so stunning and carry so much character. I feel like their energy must be 1000s of years old. They can hold oodles of litres of water inside them and won’t burn in a fire.

The next day we explored around Broome. Nothing was the same everything was new – I didn’t remember a single thing. We didn’t visit the oldest movie theatre in the world as it didn’t work out for us and with what we wanted to see. I don’t think I visited this either when I was here 20 years ago. We visited a Sunday Market where we bought some Emu Cream and necklaces. We visited some pearling shops and had lunch at a brewery that was delicious. We drove over to where the red earth meets the blue ocean. It wasn’t as stunning as you see in drone shots on Instagram. We couldn’t fly the drone up because it was close to an airport.

Then over to the visitors centre for some much needed info and then back to Cable Beach to see the sunset one last time and see dinosaur prints! This time we got to the place where the camels were walking to get some really cool sunset camel shots.

I said goodbye to Broome for a second time. There’s something about this place that I feel really close to and I’m so glad I got to go back here one more time. It’s fascinating the feelings you have when you remember something so well and other times when you don’t remember it at all. There’s warmth and nostalgia for the memories but then disdain and frustration for not remembering. As my good friend Sheila says “it’s not the specific things you remember, just the feelings.” So true. And this place holds a lot of wonderful feelings for me.

We drove off to a caravan park 30kms up the road in the dark. It wasn’t free but they had wifi so I parked myself again in the morning at the café before the others rose so I could connect with some friends and family.

Then we packed up and pushed on to Derby. First stopping at the Prison tree where the settlers used to hold aboriginals (not very nice grrrr….), the longest cattle trough in the world (I didn’t get a pic) and to an aboriginal art centre.

We drove through Derby to the jetty and made sandwiches. Then we drove to get gas and groceries. My sunglasses broke (I can’t believe I’ve had them since well before I left) so I’m on the hunt for new sunnies.

Then we drove onto the free rest area where we got there with lots of sun left and we drank wine and leisurely made quesadillas suggested by Vivi.

Today we packed up the van and headed to Geiki Gorge where I wish we had got there in time to take a boat tour down the river but instead walked beside the gorge which was a walk that I truly did not like. I was wearing the wrong shoes (keens) and it was straight sand. You couldn’t really see the water, the rock formations were kinda cool but the discomfort of having sand and dirt in your shoes was like a torture I didn’t want to know. Then we decided to walk across the sand flats to get closer to the water to maybe see some crocodiles but little did we know that there were the spikiest grass seeds that hurt so bad when they touched your skin. OMG get me out of there.

We drove back to Fitzroy Crossing and ate our back of the van sandwiches in the tourist info centre parking lot. Then to the IGA to pick up chocolate and we wanted to by wine but FC is a dry town. Then we went to the BP and had a shower each for $5 total. Then off to the second free camping spot in a row with a spectacular view where I’m writing this blog post from now.

We have 7 days until we leave Darwin for Cairns and 6 days until we’re in Darwin. We’re about 2 days away from the border of the Northern Territory. This part of the journey feels a bit boring and dry TBH. We’re heading away from the ocean right now with tiny little Australian towns along the way. Not much to see and no network either so I’m feeling a bit out of touch with Canada.

I had the most delicious dream last night where I went back to work and saw all my colleagues again. It was so much fun being reunited with them and I woke up with the biggest smile on my face. It’s 5 weeks and 2 days until we’re back in Canada. Vivi and I are so incredibly excited to be home and see all our family and friends.

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Australia: Road Trip – Perth to Karijini National Park

Australia: Road Trip – Perth to Karijini National Park

Australia: Margaret River

May 23-29, 2019

We hit the road and did a quick drive through central Perth. We realized we didn’t really spend any time in the heart of Perth CBD. Ever since the Camino, big cities don’t really interest me. Smaller towns, outskirts, the beach all peak my interest more than going into big cities. I do feel like I missed out a bit but such is life, we’ve moved on.

We also stopped by Scarborough where I lived for a couple of months and I don’t remember it at all. All the roads and houses looked the same. So we headed to the beach and had our first sandwich making out the back of the van beside the beach. So cool. The beach was long and white with blue blue water. I wanted to stay and appreciate it but we had a ways to drive our first day and I think we all just wanted to get on the road.

A little ways along our first bathroom stop and we stopped at a National Park. We bought a National Park pass so we saved ourselves $10 (cha-Ching!). This park was amazing. Birds flying everywhere in their own natural environment. It was so serene to listen to their songs everywhere we went. And then we hit the koala area. We had no idea there were koala bears here so we were pleasantly surprised! They weren’t held in captivity but the park supplied their food so no need to stray far. We saw about 6 of them just lounging in the elbow of a tree. That was really cool. When we walked back the first one decided he needed some more leaves so moved out of the elbow and we got it all on video. I feel really lucky to be able to see these little guys.

Then back on the highway only to be turned around by an accident and a super long detour.

By this point the sun was getting low and we got to the pinnacles desert to take some really cool photos and send up the drone. The pinnacles are big mounds of rock and dirt that formed Hundreds of thousands of Years ago. A pretty neat thing to see and really cool at sunset. Sadly our sunset wasn’t stunning but the light was really beautiful. Check out the drone video

We camped our first night in a caravan park in Cervantes. A lot more expensive than we thought it was going to be for an unpowered site ($42). But the camp kitchen had sinks and gas elements to cook on. And plugs to charge all our electronics. The bathrooms were pretty good too.

It was rough the first night trying to figure out how the beds go. It felt really cramped and Luc was pretty uncomfortable with the space. I have to admit, it does take some maneuvering of our stuff and people but after a few days we got used to it. It gets challenging when we get more north and it’s hot out, you want to open the door but there’s so many flies or the sun has gone down and there’s tons of moths that love the light inside the van.

The next morning we had breakfast and packed up (more learning on how to pack up the beds) and it took us about a half an hour longer than what it takes us now 6 days later.

Our destination today was Kalbarri National Park. We had a lot of ground to cover so it seemed like we mostly drove for the day until the early afternoon when we stopped at the Pink Lake. It really is pink! Check out the drone video.

Then off to a few view points along coast. Absolutely stunning coastline. Rugged red rocks meet the dramatic waters of the Indian Ocean.

Light was not on our side so we headed to the campground that was 4kms in on a corrugated road. This campground was beside a river and I think Luc said some of the first settlers came there. You could tell because there was old farm equipment everywhere and a tank!

Again, way too expensive for what it was ($57 I think?). I didn’t use the showers as it was a bit too rustic for me and the toilets were so far away. But we had our first fire since we left Canada and roasted marshmallows that Vivi bought in Bali! We hung out with a couple who were beside us camping in their massive camper. They were from the east coast and were taking just over a year to travel around their country with their two girls.

The temps are already starting to get warmer just two days into heading up north.

We woke up, ate and packed up and headed out. The plan that day was to spend some time exploring the gorges on the other side of the park and then head to Denham which is close to Monkey Mia.

The gorges in this area are really beautiful. Red rocks cut out by the flowing water for thousands of years was just breathtaking.

We picked up some fly nets because the flies are getting to be unbearable when we step out of the van. And not a second too soon. Our next stop was Shell Beach and it was swarming with flies. I was really looking forward to seeing this beach as I remember it fondly. The beach is covered by tiny white shells. There really isn’t any sand to speak of. We put our bathing suits on but it really wasn’t warm enough to swim.

Then we pushed on and just wanted to get to Denham so we could have showers, wash laundry and settle in while it was still light out. We cooked in the camp kitchen and watch “The Voice” on the big screen tv.

The next morning we drove over the Monkey Mia. $15/adult and $5/kid. We didn’t want to pay that just to see the dolphins at the beach. So we snuck in through the boat ramp. Luc and Vivi ran over to them and I stayed in the get away van.

We named her too! Her name is Marvel. Because she brings us to marvelous places and she is a super hero of course!

We meandered back to the main road stopping at a lagoon and Eagle Bluff for lunch. Eagle Bluff was incredible. What a view with green/blue water. The flies were bad. To be honest, with the fly net they are just annoying. No where near the agony of the heat in South East Asia.

That night we stayed in our first free rest area. Luc’s favorite place to stay as it was free. There are places along the road that have toilets, tables and where a lot of other campers are (safety in numbers).

We took off in the morning and arrived in Carnarvon. Small town we wanted to check out the tourist info centre.

Then some groceries, gas and we couldn’t find the water fill up station so we went back to the gas station. Well I parked beside another truck and the angel it was parked at, the driver would have had to correct before backing up. Luc went in and I stayed in the van. The driver started to reverse and I could see he was really close to the van. If he didn’t hit the back corner it would have been a miracle. Oh and then he did. Sigh… thank goodness we got extra insurance. This guy was 19, from France, got his driver’s license in January and was driving around without insurance. Ugh….

So we exchanged all the particular info, sent it off to our rental company and set off to get water. Then we realized while we were waiting for water that the guy hadn’t signed. So we needed him to come back.

Back on the road again after a huge time suck.

We stopped at a road house to have lunch for the first time eating out. Another mistake. This just wasn’t our day. So we ordered two burgers and a BLT. My BLT came and it was tragic and $12!!!!!! Then we waited for Luc and Vivis food. I guess were used to not getting served at the same time as in SEA we all ate at different times. But after a while, I was done and their food still didn’t come, so Luc asked and they had forgotten about theirs!!! They got their food and the money back.

Onward we pushed to Coral Bay. We stopped once to fly the drone over a bunch of termite mounds.

We got to Coral Bay and booked a powered site. $57 with no wifi!!!! A travesty. And get this: no where in Western Australia (except Perth area I think) recycles!!!! I’ve talked to a few people who live here and they say it’s too expensive to put in a recycling plant. It also might have something to do with the fact that they produce iron in this state. I HATE throwing plastic, glass and metal in the garbage.

Vivi and Luc went swimming at the pool and then we walked down to the beach to see the sunset. It was stunning. Best sunset I’ve seen since being in Australia.

The next day we leisurely woke up and for ready. It was nice because every other day we were up by 6:30 and gone by 8. All we had planned was a day at the beach.

So back To the beach where we saw the sunset. We set up our free beach awning (we couldn’t believe we had the best awning on the beach and it was free. We were THOSE people! We snorkeled, made sand castles, read an actual book, saw a blue spotted sting ray in the water. It was a perfect day. We left there around 4pm and drove for two hours to another free camping rest area. We timed it so we didn’t have too much time with the flies before they all went to bed for the night (as soon as it’s dark). Then it becomes a battle with the moths as you cook with all the windows and doors open as it was still about 30 degrees out.

We finished burritos and star gazed for a while with our sky apps spotting Jupiter, the Southern Cross and Scorpio.

We slept well and awoke to the beautiful sunrise. Today would be a long drive day. We needed to make up about 450km to Karijini National Park. From there we have a day to chill out there and check the beautiful gorges.

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Australia: Margaret River Region

Australia: Margaret River Region

May 15-23, 2019

We left Jenny and the French and returned our rental car and then got the exact same rental car again. We had to do this as renting the car for two weeks was more expensive then renting the car for one week and the one week. 

We got a ton of groceries and headed south. First stop was in Capel. We rented a room in an Airbnb and the woman, Clair, was so kind. She had a family emergency at the same time so we basically had her entire house to ourselves. Vivi got a small job ($5/day) to feed the 2 cats and 2 chickens which she really liked. 

Our first stop was a winery called Capel Vale close by where we realized that all the wine tasting was going to be free. Amazing. 

I won’t go into all details of all the wineries we went to but needless to say we tasted some beautiful wines. 

We also visited Peppermint Beach where we were the only people there. White sand and turquoise water. We had a picnic there. 

The next day we visited “the longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere” at Busselton. We heard this by so many people. It was mildly humorous. There were a few other “the longest, oldest, most curved things in the Southern Hemisphere” that we came across. It’s funny, you never hear about anything being the biggest in the “Northern Hemisphere” but I guess it’s a thing here. 

We also went out to the peninsula where we visited Eagle Bay and did a little walk around a lighthouse. Luc read to us about how the French came on some epic journeys way back when to discover Australia and chart the coach and discover the flora and fauna. And meet the locals of course.

We also visited a couple of other wineries and breweries. We enjoyed cooking in Clair’s full service kitchen and dishwasher! I knew it wasn’t long until we would be without a full range of cooking utensils so I wanted to make the most of it. 

The following day we left there and headed to Margaret River. We stopped at wineries, a chocolate factory and really enjoyed the coast. We stopped at Canal Rocks where the stormy Indian Ocean battered against the rocks. We also tried to find a picnic area but we were all so hungry so settled for a place that had a bunch of cabins but no one was there. Except for a woman who said “it’s private property but you can picnic on the table over there.”

We made our way down to this little seaside surf motel called Surfpoint Resort in Prevelly where they were basically waiting for us to show before heading home. They gave us a run through and said “you’re the only ones staying here so have fun!”  They let us have a double room (we only paid for a single), a massive commercial kitchen for us to cook in, they stoked the fire in the living room and then we were all alone. Was so neat to be the only ones. We played some new games that we bought.

The next day they offered for us to stay at the same rate we were going to pay at our next Airbnb but we had committed to that place so we packed up and set off. 

A few people had recommended that we go down south to Hamelin Bay to see the stingrays that were ALWAYS on the shore. So we drove down there through the amazing Boranup Forest. The trees there are something you’ve never seen. We had to stop and take a few photos. It smelled amazing. We got there and explored around but I think the big storm the night before was still dumping big waves so the stingrays were no where to be seen. Ah well. 

Then more wine and beer touring for our last day. 

We stayed at our little cottage Airbnb and took off again the next morning to do some shopping, get my glasses fixed, look for warm clothes to sleep in, try to find the book “are we there yet” by Alison Lester (no luck) and get some robaxacet (double no luck). It was a errands kind of morning.

Then we stopped at the delicious cheese factory and headed up to the Bunbury Farmer’s Market. This market is like IKEA. You go around and around and get to try samples all the way along. We stocked up for camping.

We said goodbye to the Margaret River region. It was so lovely to spend a few days visiting the rugged coastline and sampling delicious wine and beer. 

We stopped at an electronics store and picked up a new drone! We thought this next leg of our trip, the coast of Western Australia and the Northern Territory would be an awesome place to fly a drone. It’s also something we’ve been wanting for our whole trip. Turns out Luc is a natural at it. Check this video for our maiden voyage (it was me that flew it into a tree).

Next stop our Airbnb trailer in the trailer park in Dawesville. This trailer was a bit out of the 70s but it was a good price. 

We needed to do some prepping for our road trip so we took a day to learn how to fly the drone and I did baked potatoes, quinoa and Vivi and I baked chocolate chip cookies. It felt so good to do some cooking and prepping for our 5 week road trip. 

Just so you know what comes next… we rent a campervan and take off up the coast of Australia for the next 3 weeks. Destination: Darwin. It’s actually only 19 days so it’s a lot of driving but I adore road trips and camping in a van so I’m LOVING life. Remember: I did this exact same road trip 20 years ago with my cousin. 

Then we hop a flight from Darwin to Cairns and drive down to Brisbane for two weeks in the exact same kind of campervan. 

On the 23rd we drove to pick up the campervan. That took a lot longer than we had hoped. But, total score, there was a pile at the camper pickup place of free stuff that people left behind. I grabbed: oatmeal, rice, a big water container, a tarp, a big shopping bag, a beach awning, a thing to suspend laundry from, washing pods for clothing, sponges, a plastic bowl, lemons, and a few other things I’m sure I forgot. 

Then the bad news. Luc thought we didn’t need to get the insurance for the van because he thought it was covered under our Visa but we double checked the fine print and we weren’t covered. So we needed to pay $600 more than we thought we were going to. Oh geez. That wasn’t in our budget. We decided to forgo the extra $130 for windshield and tire repair. Cross our fingers we don’t need that. 

And we hit the road…. 

Check out the video that Luc made!
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Australia: Fremantle, Perth, and Rottnest

Australia: Fremantle, Perth, and Rottnest

May 8-15, 2019

Wow. Australia. So good to be back. So good to be in a cooler place and a place where I can cook my own meals. So good to be able to drink the water out of the tap. So good to eat salads and grilled cheese sandwiches, yogurt, coffee from a bodum, start my day off with a hot water and freshly squeeze lemon. So many things I missed since leaving Switzerland. 4 months is a long time. And I realized I sort of forgot how to cook as well. While a did a bit of cooking in Switzerlerand, it feels like it’s been 10 months since I cooked something on a stove.

Firsts that really put such a smile on my face:

  • cool temps. Walking outside of the airport and happily putting on my sweater.
  • The smell of grass. I haven’t smelt fresh cut grass in probably 10 months. It is an incredible smell.
  • The 2 or 3 ply toilet paper. What a treat.
  • Our first buffalo chicken Subway sandwich with blue cheese dressing. Absolute perfect thing to eat for a massage of the taste buds.
  • Shopping for white wine that tastes great and is only $10 a bottle.
  • Shopping in a grocery store. 4 months since we’ve done this. So many things to look at and now to take into consideration all the plastic consumption. So we’re buying glass jars as much as possible and avoiding brands that are in plastic. #newmarketingniche
  • Driving. OMG driving myself. While it was a bit nerve-wracking to drive again on the left hand side (it’s been a week and I still throw on the windshield wipers when I want to turn a corner), I’m enjoying the freedom of just hopping in the car and going to get what we need.

I’m so thrilled to be back in Australia after 20 years. The smell of the Eucalyptus trees is incredible. The birds! Green parrots flying wild everywhere. The funny sounds some of them make. I must confess that I spend a lot of time wondering now if sticks are snakes after seeing one on the road at Rottnest.

Interestingly, I don’t remember a lot of the places that I went before when I was here. I wonder if maybe the memories will come back as we move up the coast toward Darwin. I had to ask my cousin where we lived for 3 months… couldn’t remember. We’re going to swing by there in a couple of days when we leave Perth area. I also don’t remember Rottnest Island at all when I visited that with my cousin, Linda. I guess that’s good in a way that I get to make my own memories again with Luc and Vivi.

Our first week here has been really wonderful.

Helpx

We signed up for Helpx to find a place to live for free for a week and have a home base to explore Perth and Freemantle. Helpx is a website that puts people who need help around their house with people who need a place to stay. We found Jenny and her two dogs Nora and Charlie and her huge property just outside of Fremantle for a week. Jenny needed some help with gardening, pool cleaning, website updates, and some general maintenance for 1.5 hours a day. In return we got a room and access to her kitchen to cool wonderful meals. We also could use the pool but it’s cool here now! Vivi got the use of a blow up mattress and sleeping bag and her own room too!

There was also another couple living there who were building their van to travel around Australia. A French couple – wouldn’t you know! So Luc and Vivi were loving speaking in French. They also spent 5 months in South East Asia so we had a good time comparing stories.

We all shared meals together for a couple of nights and we went out and watched Jenny play a gig at a restaurant called Gypsy Tapas in Fremantle. She’s a wonderful singer. Check out her music.

King’s Park

Our first outing was to Kings Park overlooking Perth. We gawked at the perfectly manicured lawn that was like carpet and good enough to eat on. The views were stunning.

We walked through the Botanical Gardens and looked at all the beautiful flowers and trees. Luc took many photos to send back to his mom in Switzerland.

Then we walked over to the natural playground in the park. This playground is huge! Vivi had a great time cruising through all the structures and playing on the rocks.

Mother’s Day and Rottnest

While we were here we celebrated Mother’s day! Luc and Vivi made me a cake and we went down to South Beach and Bather’s Beach near Freo. We also visited a brewery and had some delicious dark IPA’s. I’ve been missing those dark dreamy beers. Fremantle reminded me of New Orleans with the architecture. It’s also so beautiful and really feels artsy and chilled out.

The following day we got up EARLY to catch a ferry to Rottnest and do some exploring. Rottnest Island is a must see. It’s really expensive to get there and rent bikes (it cost us $192 with parking) but I’d say it was worth it. We biked all over the island. It wasn’t too hot, just perfect. The beaches there are white sand and turquoise blue water. We found a really long beach where we were all alone (again) and I suggested we skinny-dip in broad daylight! Luc said “I don’t think we can do that here” I said “and so…?” and so we did. I was first in and last out. It was breathtaking. The water was cool and it was so refreshing to not have to strip out of a wet bathing suit. We really should do that more often. Hey now there’s an idea….

We saw a ton of wildlife on Rottnest. Birds with orange beaks, a pelican, the infamous Quokka that is so incredibly cute and tame (don’t feed, don’t touch!), a snake on the road, probably 20 or more lizards.

We had a mishap where Vivi fell off her bike near the (not so) Pink Lake but she dusted herself off and got back up again no tears.

If you go to Rottnest, pack a lunch and snacks. Food over there is EXPENSIVE!

Next stop Margaret River area!

Reflections:

  • My mood has significantly lifted. I attribute this so much to the weather and being able to cook my own meals. It wasn’t that I was in a shitty mood before but the heat and eating in restaurants 3 times a day was just kind of oppressive in a way.
  • The wildlife here is stunning.
  • Good coffee and white wine. My two staples needed to make me feel at home and comforted.
  • We’ve gone vegetarian 6 days out of 7 to cleanse our bodies and get lots of whole grains, legumes, and raw veggies into our bodies. Hummus….. yummmmmm!
  • It’s dry here so it’s a bit of a shock to go from tropical rain forest to bushland but the drop in humidity has me feeling a lot lighter and wanting to walk and explore a lot more.
  • I’m so freaking excited about getting in our van and driving up to Darwin! 7 more sleeps!
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