Where refreshing (some say “cold”) springs bubble through the sandy pond floor, the life source of an verdant underwater ecosystem
I found a bucket full of zip-lock bags in the garage at the weekend. Each bag was carefully filled with coloured sands from our trip.
The kids were excited to see them resurface, many of which had been squirreled into recesses in the trailer for some time. As we each only had limited space all got quite skillful at determining what they wanted to keep, and if required, tough decisions would be made to keep something or substitute it for a new arrival. Very precious finds would also be posted home every now and again!
The sands had made it and with some suitable jars a very attractive display resulted.
There is a saying that if you take sand or soil from a place you will be destined to return one day. Maybe that’s why so much came back with us!
As the weather deteriorates here in Sydney, with the arrival of winter imminent, our thoughts returned to those warmer places we visited last year as the temperatures started dropping. One of our favourites was a small eco-resort called Goombaragin, where we camped for a few days with two other families we had met on the road. Our hosts Cathy and John were very welcoming, showing us some of the local ways and putting on a communal campfire in the evenings for everyone. The area is magnificent to explore, and it is even safe to swim here from the beach. Heed the crocodile signs in this area though, particularly around the rivers and mangroves. It’s a rugged road from Broome but still relatively accessible if you drive carefully.
Look out for the Ardi festival around June, when many local artists from across the peninsula display their talents.
OK so this is a bit out of order but number 4 will follow next week when I get the youngest to provide input
What were your three favourite places and why?”
- “Cape York has to be on the list. Six weeks on the Cape was enough to have a good look around but we still didn’t see everything. The rugged tracks, and river crossings especially along the Old Telegraph Track were a fun challenge. The National Parks were beautiful and uncrowded and full of beautiful wildlife, especially the birds. For me the fishing here was highlight of the whole trip, partly because it was where the barramundi finally started getting caught but there were plenty of fish even in the dry season. The variety of habitat throughout the Cape continued right until the very tip at Pajinka. Beautiful beaches and a place where you can escape the crowds without too much difficulty”
- “Arnhemland impressed me from several angles. Firstly the sheer rugged and raw natural feel to it. On both our sorties into the region it was heartening to see rich aboriginal culture still thriving here and whilst we only had limited contact with people from the communities, those brief encounters were rich and very positive experiences. Watching my daughter being led to dance the Emu dance on the main arena by a local indigenous girl at the Garma festival was gorgeous. Even better was the fact that she was the first up and participated with quite a few dances. The camping was controlled by a permit system that works well despite the paperwork required to obtain permits.”
- “The Kimberley region in WA again provided a huge diversity of experience. Challenging driving on extremely corrugated dirt roads, particularly north of the Gibb River road, cultural glimpses into the past through some magnificent rock art sites, and uniquely refreshing waterfalls and gorges scattered through the region. The flora and fauna too is very different, the boab trees being the most obvious residents with their massively bloated trunks and relatively short spindly, outstretched branches. This was where we first encountered crocodiles in numbers, both fresh and saltwater ones.”
- Tasmania and Cape Levique would be very close behind these, places where we didn’t spend long enough and could easily revisit
What were your three favourite places and why?”
- “Hot Springs anywhere, Zebedee Springs in El Questro (WA) , Bitter Springs near Mataranka(NT), Katherine Hot Springs(NT) and Berry Hot Springs (NT), as I hate cold water and I could spend hours in these after a hot dusty drive”
- “Cape Range National Park because the campsite was beautifully located just above the beach on the Ningaloo Reef. The snorkelling was excellent there and the Whale Shark excursion was just offshore (though departing from Exmouth) and that was a bucket list trip. The experience with Cyclone Quang added some excitement here too.”
- “Broome and Cape Levique. The town of Broome surprised me with great markets and our arrival coincided with the staircase to the moon on Roebuck Bay that we saw with good friends. Fishing off the jetty was impressive to watch – seeing people catch large fish and sharks circling below. Goombaragin in Cape Levique was a great spot run by Kathleen a local indigenous lady who showed us bush tucker, how to make clapping sticks, and with her husband John shared many stories around the evening fireplace. We knew two other families with kids there so a great time was had by all. The colour of the cliffs were a gorgeous red, and we loved Middle Lagoon, a trip up to One Arm Point and the inaugural Ardi Festival.”
Time for H to give her quick recap on trip highlights:
What were your three favourite places and why?”
- “Trial Harbour on the West coast of Tasmania was my favourite place because I love the endangered Tasmanian Devils and this was where I saw one. I was sleeping when it tried to raid our rubbish in the campsite and Dad woke me up. They are quite rare and this was the only wild one we saw. Luckily it was a healthy one.”
- “The Whale sharks can be found on the Ningaloo Reef in WA. Swimming with these huge fish was my best experience of the trip as they are not very common and they are huge! The girls in the crew were pretty cool too and I’m hoping to go back on work experience one day with them”
- “The campsite at Cape Le grand near Esperance in WA was my other favourite place. The people there were lovely and lots of kids to play with….”
- “Oh and don’t forget the chocolate factory in Margaret River – all those yummy free samples and the chocolate fondue”
- “And winning the watermelon eating contest at the Port Lincoln Tunarama festival……”
- “And trying to learn the traditional dances with the indigenous clans at the Garma festival in Arnhemland”
The following quote is from a true wanderer and free spirit from the late 19th century obsessed with obtaining physical and spiritual freedom. Isabelle Eberhardt died in 1904 after a very tumultuous and fascinating life. The following quote from her book “The Oblivion Seekers” has always been an inspiration to me and hopefully may be to anyone out there who would love to travel but has reservations. I shared it in one of my early blogs but thought it timely to share again. I hope it gives you the same inspiration as it did me and gets you out exploring. If not try reading the book!
“To have a house , a family, a property, or a public function, to have a definite means of livelihood and to be a useful cog in the social machine, all these things seem necessary, even indispensable to the vast majority of men, including intellectuals, and including even those who think of themselves as wholly liberated. And yet such things are only a different form of slavery that comes of contact with others, especially regulated and continued contact.
Not to feel the torturing need to know and see for oneself what is there beyond the mysterious blue wall of the horizon, not to find the arrangements of life monotonous and depressing, to look at the white road leading off into the unknown distance without feeling the imperious necessity of giving in to it and following it obediently across mountains and valleys! The cowardly belief that a man must stay in one place is too reminiscent of the unquestioning resignation of animals, beasts of burden stupefied by servitude and yet always willing to accept the slipping on of the harness.
There are limits to every domain and laws to govern every organised power. But the vagrant owns the whole vast earth that ends at the non-existent horizon, and his empire is an intangible one, for his domination and enjoyment of it are things of the spirit”
Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904) – The Oblivion Seekers
I knew that once we crossed the border into NSW again psychologically everyone would be thinking of home, and once you do that travelling it’s hard to keep going. Across the border Amanda and I knew we could just drive home in a day, though neither of us aired it openly. We had had to kill a week getting home on a trip that would normally be done in a day. We had deliberately tried to take our minds off it by visiting people and getting to some more out of the way places but with a couple of days left it was increasingly hard to plan.
We had planned to visit Barrington Tops but some navigation errors saw us turning off towards Tom Creek, shortly after Mt Seaview, and before we knew it we were switch-backing our way, in 2WD, up a narrow unsealed road, over 1000m again. Once again the road less travelled rewarded us with magnificent views of remote farmland and national park forest but it wasn’t in the plan. At the end of the day we stopped overnight in Barrington, kicked a footie around to let off some steam and got to bed early.
Over 13 months since we had left Sydney, and 56,000km later we realised the next morning that it was time…..we couldn’t delay it any more, and with that we waved goodbye to the outback and the countryside and crawled back into the slow traffic that congests Sydney’s streets every day.
Arriving home again was a bittersweet experience. I knew Amanda needed to get back to see her family, and a fair bit of maintenance was required on the car and belongings, but it also meant the dream was over. The kids needed to invest some time re-acquainting with school friends too, so we arranged for them to attend the last two weeks.
Sydney Distance Education Primary School were fantastic with their support, understanding and flexibility with the teaching as we travelled. Often having no telephone reception for days, even weeks, created challenges but the kids teachers were always willing to adapt to our needs and this was appreciated. It wasn’t always easy as we found being on the move so often meant we didn’t get into a daily routine. Lack of that discipline made it more challenging for us and the kids.
Our Camprite trailer was a workhorse that never faltered, and with the support we got from Perth for a few minor things, on a couple of occasions, it was one less thing to worry about. Having a trailer that can be set-up and dismantled easily in under 5 minutes (I timed it) is great, particularly in adverse weather, and being able to house 2 adults and up to 4 kids in bunks off the ground (no worrying about snakes or crocs required) is something few camper trailers can provide.
The Mitsubishi Pajero did us proud too, never shying from its job to get us into remote and rough terrain, as far off the beaten track as I dared. The scratched and dented paintwork is testament to this and if anyone knows how to get rid of bulldust please let us know as even the interior has a red tint throughout.
Everyone asks “What was the favourite place?” so I might get Fifty Toes Walkabout members to answer the obvious questions in a few more blogs to follow – just in case you’re wondering, and if anyone has a burning question or two let me know and I’ll include them. Hope you enjoy the quick recap of some of the photos from some of the great places we visited.
Back home we can now start planning for the next trip, whilst looking for work, and who knows where that might be!
Shortly after leaving Armidale we chanced upon a sign to the grave of Nat Buchanan who died at the age of 72 in 1901. Like we did, you are probably wondering who Nat Buchanan is, but we discovered that after arriving in Australia from Ireland in 1837, he went on to create an unrivalled reputation droving cattle. The plaque next to the grave explained all his feats and having visited some of the areas he was droving we could well appreciate the achievement.
Driving further along the road in the Northern Tablelands another sign triggered me to turn off to the Apsley Falls. I had read about these and also was keen to see what the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park had to offer. Two sets of falls plunge some 60m into the precipitous Apsley gorge and a series of lookouts offer some amazing vantage points to watch. The water levels were low and the river disappears beneath rubble at one point re-emerging around the next bend in the gorge.
Mooraback camp is a quiet oasis that lies in Werrikimbe National Park, and adjacent to the Oxley River National Park. Classified as a Gondwanaland forest, it is the remnant of forest from the supercontinent of the same name that split into the continents that we know today. The homestead was handed over to the National Parks in 1975 and is now critical habitat to a number of endangered plants and animals, including the River Hastings mouse. This rodent was believed extinct for over 100 years until rediscovered here in the 1980s.
Reaching an altitude of up to 1200m on the drive up it was quiet a refreshing change, from the mid 30 degrees of the previous day, as temperatures dropped to a brisk 16 degrees.
Driving into the clouds we were regularly sprinkled with fine drizzle. On arrival we had choice of the 5 sites, all recently mowed luscious green patches dispersed amongst the trees. A fire-pit and supply of wood offered us probably the last opportunity to have a campfire on this adventure. As daylight vanished and everyone else disappeared into bed the forest suddenly lit up with tiny flashing lights, and for 30 minutes a display of fire flies flitted gracefully between the trees in the forest in pursuit of one another. Hannah was still awake and came to watch this magical finale to our trip with me.
From the camp there are two easy walks, one takes you through a number of habitats in the forest behind. This 15 minute walk showcased many local birds, crimson and eastern rosellas, white-eared honeyeaters, golden whistlers, rufous fantails, red-browed finches, fairy-wrens, silver-eyes, and treecreepers.
The second walk is a 5km walk that takes you around the headwaters of the Hastings river that runs towards Port Macquarie, where it finally meets the Pacific Ocean. The streams and pools abound with platypus and Xavier and I were fortunate to see a number of them in the late afternoon.
The hillsides up in this NSW alpine region abound with colour at the moment and we had fun spotting many different spring flowers, including a few different orchids. When the clouds finally cleared and the sun emerged this place was a truly tranquil gem and worth driving the additional kilometres from the main road to visit.
One last night, and time for a final episode of the “bushman’s TV”. Each episode lasts as long as your wood supply, and though often similar, are equally riveting for young and old with every viewing. The last of the kid’s houses built from firewood were sacrificed, another display from the fire flies and it was time to farewell this remote spot.