So ..finally I got around to my first blog of our big adventure.
Let me start with a bit of an intro and background to this trip.We left Perth on the 27th of August and hit Great Northern Highway to start our Big Adventure. Like many, we have also been thrown around quite a bit by the effects of the global lockdown due to Covid. We had big plans for 2020 which included holiday in Bali, moving to Hungary for a while, running our business in Europe, schooling the children there so they learn the language etc. Well, almost overnight we have lost all our jobs, our business came to a sudden and violent halt and all our tickets have been cancelled. In some way we managed to dampen the shock. Talking to family in Europe we anticipated and started to get prepared to what was to come. Two weeks before it actually hit Australia we pulled out our big white board from the office and started to develop a strategy for the best case and worst case scenarios. Feels like it happened a long time ago in a different universe now. This Adventure we are having was our answer on the white board to the question ;”how to make the most of the worst case scenario” We went into lockdown for a couple of months like everyone and started to prepare and make plans for a “dash for freedom” as soon as we could with whatever conditions are imposed upon us as a community. As the Western Australian Regions opened up we knew what we were going to do and as the situation started once again started to deteriorate in some states we knew we had to make a move and get on the way just in case WA was going to be be shut down as well for the second time. So here we are..3 weeks later..every day living our newly hatched dream.
We took Great Norther Highway instead of the coastal run for a number of reasons. One is the simple fact that we have done the coast before and we like to explore new places so try not to keep going on the same track. Number two reason for taking the inland drive is that we really not that fond of the coastal run unless your destination is on it for a number of reasons which I will detail in a moment. I also find the long flat drive without any really eye catching scenery difficult to enjoy.. Don't misunderstand me..it is a fantastic road with all sorts of things to see which are usually busy with tourists but doesn't really suit our style of “adventure”. We want to get off the blacktop and hit the dirt, we like free camping/bush camping, lighting fires every night, cooking on the fire, having space without anyone around us and just the whole wilderness feel. Pretty much all shires on the coast banned free camping/bush camping, banned fires and the limited, often bitumen overnight rest areas are only designed for caravans, camper vans and not for tents. Last trip I counted 48 caravans parked up 2 meters from each other like sardines at one of these spots with satellite dishes pointing to the sky and tvs on. We were the only people sitting outside with a glass of wine watching the sunset. This is when some of you feel the need to send me a message.. “oh we found a great spot here...or there” and I don't argue with that. There are some good spots and we camped at some of them but they are few and far apart. Coming up inland has opened a pandora's box for us. Not a single night was spent without a nice warm campfire, despite blacktop runs we came across fantastic bush campsites everywhere and some of the are even shire run. Just to mention one is Peace Gorge outside Meekatharra. Deviating slightly from the main drag we have found magical bush campsites by crystal clear rivers, creeks, stunning gorges, natural artisan hot springs. Once again just to mention one..Kalgan Creek. I will detail them in this blog for those who plan to venture this way. We could also do hundreds of kilometres on dirt with the most magnificent scenery that I thought is only in movies.
So the trip....
It always takes a few days to adjust to being on the road. The kids are always super exited and want to do everything in one hit so it took a few days to slow them down a bit. For us its always a nervous start when we do long trips as we are constantly thinking if our preparations were adequate, if we missed anything, if we packed everything etc. As much as we think practicality when we pack ..we always re arrange and re organise things once we leave to make it as user friendly as possible. We have also made some changes to our trailer based on what we learned in the past. I will also detail those in a vlog coming up. It takes probably 4-5 days to really work as a team smoothly. Being on the road is totally different from going on a week camping holiday where you stay at the same spot for the whole time. The prep is different, the setup is different, the workload is different. We have a very calculated approach as how we handle the children and how we deal with them at the beginning. We want them to enjoy and love the first few days , we want them to have a good start so they are working with us and not against us. We don't want to crash their excited expectation but at the same time we set a firm tone on some rules to make sure that the freedom the camping lifestyle gives us does not translate to lawlessness in their mind from day one. One of the best ways to have a good start is making sure that we spend 2 nights at the first campsite which gives them a full day of getting dirty, playing, exploring without having to drive long distances and also setting up camp before sunset is important. This time our first stop was not far from the main road on a small dirt track. Its called Paynes Find. Great little patch of dirt in the bush but not a “real campsite” as such. We were happy hear for two nights as nobody was around us, the kids enjoyed it and we could sit back and relax after such a hectic leadup to the trip. Ok, I forgot to mention that we have also rented our house out so we had to pack that up and prepare it for renting. Anyway..if you get away earlier than we did its worth driving a bit of extra for a better, proper campsite with less road noise We only left at 12 so the distance we covered was not great but it didnt matter. We are not in any hurry. Our next stop was Meekatharra. We camped not far from town at Peace Gorge. This spot is just great. Nestled amongst huge granite boulders, very spread out and has heaps of secluded spots for camping far from others. Some even have bins and tables. The sunset here is magnificent. Special place indeed. Wouldn't spend a week here but a perfect overnight or two nighter spot. Great job by the shire.We were heading to Kalgan Pool the next day but ended up spending a night in Newman as the road to Kalgan Pool is a little bit rough dirt track with a dozen or so water crossings with the longest one being about 300-400 meters. Not a road you want to take after sunset if you have never been on it. Newman was ok. Its an interesting town but there are no available spots in the caravan park as BHP booked out the lot since they cant send their crew back to home in the eastern states for their weeks off. For $20 the shire lets you camp on the sportsfield and you can use the toilet and sower but it is very average dirty/dry grass site with lots of travellers squeezed in and if you have a caravan you are to camp on the dirt carpark.
We were happy here for a night but wouldn't stay longer. The toilet and shower is clean and nice but is on the other side of the field which is still being used. There is no fence so you feel a bit insecure with some interesting locals about. Driving to Kalgan Creek the next day was something very special. Something we will treasure for a long time. Beautiful scenery, crystal clear water crossings, running freshwater and the most perfect bush campsites right on the water. We were kind of planning to camp here for two days but ended up staying for 4 days as it was just a paradise. An oasis surrounded by red rocks and lush vegetation.
We camped on Kalgan Creek but did a day trip up to Kalgan Pool. Very majestic place at the bottom of the Gorge with icey cold water/pool by the cliff face. Not a huge amount of water this time of the year but really worth the trip. The road is easy with a bit of corrugation and some short rough sections and plenty of easy and fun water crossings. This natural beauty is on a BHP owned site so you need to register at the Newman Tourist Centre. To register is free but they ask for a gold coin donation to a cancer charity and it takes 1 minute. Its valid for a moth and really is just a formality. Thanks to the heavens that it is BHP site and not native title or custodian site as things are easy, free and you can enjoy it without the BS that comes at an ever increasing yet already huge part of WA and the whole country. I will leave topic that for another blogFrom here our next destination was Carawine Gorge.
It is on a privately owned station and it is free with heaps of sites right on the water and accessible for anyone with a 4WD not dissimilar to Kalgan in that respect. We were pretty exited about this stop as Nana and Grandad were waiting for us here. They left Perth 3 weeks before us with their caravan. It was a long drive on dirt tracks but we pushed through in one day and made it well after sunset. It was great to catch up. In the four days we spent here we kayaked the gorge, caught some fish, swam across the gorge, went exploring and did a day trip to the magical Running Waters.
Its a lukewarm artisan hot spring with deep clear waterwhole and campsites along it. We would love to camp here next time but this time we decided to stay at Carawine with the grandparents. Love the spot. Definitely 4WD only and no caravans. After 4 days it was time to make some progress. We popped in to Marble Bar before we took a right turn off the blacktop to travel the bore line. This turned out to be an easy, wide dirt road without any traffic really. After a few hundred kilometers of dirt driving we almost came unstuck 200 meters from the bitumen. Right through the travelling speed was comfortable around 70-80 km/hr but this last little hill had a small surprise. It didnt look anything unusual with an easy sloping uphill bit but as you hit the top all of a sudden the road just dropped into a deep whole with two big humps to follow. Getting airborne at a speed of about 60 on dirt road with a trailer is usually a recipe for disaster but we dodge the bullet this time. All was well and both the car and the trailer behaved perfectly in the situation.
I am glad we got to 80 Mile Beach at 6.30 as the sign said if you arrive after 7 you wasted your drive on 20km dirt to get there as you cant check it. Great caravan park just behind the dunes. I was up early next morning so I decided to take a walk on the beach before the sun came up and boy...was it worth it. Stunning, magnificent sunrise along the beach. I did the same thing the next morning and it was so different yet still beautiful. The beach was shrouded in thick fog so the sun was fighting to break through. We spent the day on the beach . Pretty hard sand so easy to drive it and so huge that you really can be miles away form everyone. The day after we got to Broome..where I am writing this right now. Love Broome.. Have been here a couple of times and it always has that tropical , laid back holiday town vibe. I shall continue from here next time.