Hopetoun was a little footnote on our journey across the bottom of WA, where we free-camped for a couple of nights just of the town at 12 mile beach and built fires each night and played on what was almost our own private beach. We did venture into the sleepy little town of Hopetoun for coffee and phone/internet connection however the weather was behaving for us so we mostly played in our own front yard.
Just us for miles – 12 miles actually as this is 12 mile beach!
Other direction – still nothing – random child though, who does she belong to?!
No more fishing – time for a beer
Layla decided to take a nap in Hopetoun itself (or at least pretend)
Driving across the Nullabor always seems like some magical mystery tour that all Australians should complete one day, like a rite of passage. The very name is part of Australian folk lore and it has always evoked images of desert, dust and aboriginal tribes in my mind. We initially considered shirking this rite of passage, looking at endless kilometers with bored children, however investigation into the cost of freighting the car and camper soon put those thoughts to rest! We decided to man-up and head for the border – sort of like Thelma and Louise but with a husband and two kids in tow instead – so nothing like them except in my imagination…sigh…
The launch point across the Nullabor crossing is Ceduna in South Australia, we arrived in the middle of a storm in the dark so decided to book into a cabin for the night to avoid setting up in the rain. Looking back I’m still convinced that our good friend Lisa telling us to “enjoy a night of luxury” via facebook was what jinxed us – the first indication of trouble at the cabin site was the fact they were all ATCO huts. This could have just been an aversion from years of staying in them for military purposes so we reserved judgement – until opening the door. I’m not a snob, I have no problem with budget accommodation as long as it’s clean and in good repair – this place was neither. At first it was just funny, like staying in the middle of an op shop – or maybe someones garage sale, but once we realised the extent of how grubby this place actually was it became slightly horrifying – almost as much as paying $110 when we could have been in our comparatively pristine camper. This did however make me realise how unpretentious children really are, there is no pre-conceived notion of standards with them – the girls thought the place wonderful as there were bunk beds and a deck out the front to sit on.
We were out of there first thing in the morning with a great sense of relief – and no bed bug bites amazingly, and off across the plains. The reality of the Nullabor crossing was nothing like the images in my mind – instead of dust there was this rainy, wild vista with huge cloud formations on the horizon, stretches of blue along the Australian Bight and a lot of low shrubbery adorning the red dirt beneath. There were road houses and towns so fuel was never an issue and we met a bunch of lovely grey nomads who always seemed to be towing absolute behemoths of caravans for just two people and maybe a pooch.
Did not expect pouring rain!
It was a bit frustrating at first not being able to see the coast line from the road – as soon as we came to a look-out area we pulled off to gawk at the Great Australian Bight for the first time. The look-out area had multiple warning signs, thorough fencing and a prominent cross to make sure everyone stayed away from the edge – apparently the cliffs around here are very prone to slippage. Once you glimpsed this coast line for the first time it was apparent why – there is nothing but sheer edges on this particular edge of our great Southern Land! Stunning though, reminded me of the great ocean road in Victoria but on a grander more threatening scale.
Great Australian Bight
We spent our first night in the Nullarbor National Park free-camping 52 kilometres from the border and although it was possible to drive right to the cliffs to camp this spot had no fences and edging up to take a photo made my stomach contort in ways its just not supposed to. The thought of having our five year olds racing around there just about made my stomach revolt completely so we backed off closer to the road and safety where they entertained themselves thoroughly in the piles of road construction gravel and puddles (who knew that would be natures playground?!)
The girls favourite gravel pile
Muddy Puddle Fun
Sunset over the Plains
Watching the sun go down over the horizon with a glass of wine in hand atop our adjacent mound of gravel in the middle of nowhere – really felt that we were seeing how magnificent our backyard is. Although a little nervous about being in the middle of nowhere camped just off the main highway overnight there were plenty of other intrepid travellers doing the same thing and we made it through all three nights across the Plains – only incident we had was a couple of German back packers who turned up unexpectedly at our door one night to borrow our axe – that sorted of felt like the start of a bad story but Craig ended up going over and having a beer with them all later that night so clearly I have watched one too many horror stories! As beautiful as it was we were all very glad to get to Norseman and the end of three very long driving days – the girls were absolute troupers but enough was enough of endless miles of straight road..
Sign Post at the Western Australia-South Australia border – long way from home!
Setup on the Plains – Hitched up Still in Case of Quick Getaway!
Yorke Peninsula is the “boot” of South Australia and home to my mum whose family all originated from this region. Visiting family again gave us the opportunity to briefly live in something other than 6×2 meters of enclosed space – although that isn’t as bad as it sounds provided the weather is fine and we can embrace the great outdoors! The girls (and my mum) were delighted to see each other again and we had the rare opportunity to spend Mother’s Day with all three of our female generations – leaving my long suffering husband as the one and only male yet again ! We did conclude Mother’s Day at the rather good local winery (Barley Stacks) where he scored his own present – a five liter plastic container of tawny port. Although this doesn’t sound particularly classy the port was good quality and the container perfect for storage and use camping – should last Craig at least two months of camp fire night caps depending on stress levels!
The Trip Poison of Choice
York Peninsula is primarily farming land however we ventured right down to the bottom of the boot’s foot to the Innes National Park (considering the name it seemed appropriate that we visit!) My mum hadn’t seen this region so we were happy to show her what was in her own back yard – it’s very true you don’t play tourist in your home State very often. Turns out this is another of those wildly beautiful edges of Australia with light houses, cliffs and jetties into the big blue, proving Craig wrong about South Australia being boring – think seeing as I originated from here he’s pushing his luck a bit there…
Our trip out of Victoria to South Australia was a nostalgic one for me, having grown up in the South East in the country town of Naracoorte. Driving through the outlying towns (or even just seeing direction signs) brought back memories of netball/football games, awkward teenage crushes, youth group shenanigans and visiting friends on their farms. Country towns must suit parents of girls – boys I liked always seemed to be far, far out of town! We stopped by the house I grew up in, where our first family pet (rough tough little black poodle called Simmaron of all things) was buried under the now huge willow tree in the front yard and I grabbed a quick picture before the now owners decided we were stalkers and called the police on us. Funny how places always seemed so much bigger when remembered through the eyes of our smaller selves.
As the husband isn’t quite as enthused about my childhood memories (particularly the first boyfriend discussion for some strange reason) it was a quick walk down memory lane before our next destination, the seaside fishing village of Robe. It had been a very long time since I visited Robe so my impressions of it were vague but it turned out to be a beautiful and peaceful sea side stop. We arrived almost at sunset in weather positively balmy for the South this time of year and headed to the beach out the front of the Big 4 to play. Other than dealing with sympathetic looks re: my black eye we had a very quiet and uneventful stay in Robe, some would say this is par for the course for South Australia however it’s always nice to go back to your roots – and realise how far you’ve grown from them!
This was our last stop on the way out of this beautiful Victorian spot and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The owner of this great establishment and I have mutual friends and had met at their wedding previously so we dropped in to say hi and let the girls have a pony ride. This was a very exciting day as not only did Cam teach them all about how to approach the horses, catch them (that had varying success) and lead them back in but by the end they were able to ride around by themselves (in a very small enclosed corral I should add!) That amounted to a few steps actually, once their very savvy horses realised that the little legs couldn’t actually reach past the saddle to give them a ‘giddy up’ in the ribs they soon stopped moving. Never the less it was unaided riding and these were two happy girls – Sophia has now decided she would like to be a horse vet (well, plus cats) – even after Cam demonstrated how you take a horses temperature – which resulted in gails of giggles and genuine concern for the horses, um, comfort??!!
We returned to the ‘mainland’ from Tasmania without incident or sea sickness (phew) and moved into my dad’s place en-masse for a few days. My dad and step-mum are always good natured about these invasions, dealing with the noise, chaos and mess in exchange for cooking, cuddles, fresh made juices and for my dad assistance with the odd job. The husband had lined up a bunch of modification to our camping setup after the trial run in Tassie – which at first I thought was just more male tinkering. However, it was proved he does know what he’s on about (no-one tell him though) as the carpet on the floors absorb noise, dust that would otherwise end up in beds and stop our feet from freezing. The new high density foam on our bed has dramatically improved our quality of sleep (and lowered the level of crankiness) and a hand held vacuum? Worth every penny with the camper now carpeted! Dad and husband spent a day making some very nifty movable steps for the girls to climb into their bed without demolishing the couch cushions and I think there were other things that were technical and essential but slip my mind – not being directly related to comfort or security.
After all this busy-ness it was a little reluctantly (again) that we packed up and hit the road for South Australia. First stop was the Grampians National Park, I hadn’t been to this area since I was a teenager on Youth Camp but I had vague memories of it being beautiful. Apparently I’m not senile yet as it is an absolutely stunning part of Victoria, driving into Halls Gap there were kangaroos literally everywhere – in the school grounds, camp grounds, by the local shops – everywhere! This was exciting until I walked around the back of the camper one morning with the girls in tow to find a reasonably large buck just lolling around behind our living quarters! He didn’t seem in a hurry to get away from us and the girls were almost hypnotised by him so we all just stood for five minutes and stared at each other. This impasse ended when Craig came to investigate and the kangaroo stood up to full height in quite a threatening manner – apparently even male humans aren’t popular with these boys.
Seemed to like the girls pink pyjamas !
Once again we subjected our children to the cruel and unusual practice of hiking for hours on end over mountains but to their credit there was only one truly monumental melt down otherwise they were complete little champions about it all. It would have been good to do some of the more challenging hikes and access the stunning scenery from these paths but that is just going to have to wait until the girls are older. Evenings were spent around the camp fire toasting marshmallows and we were glad that it was this route we had decided on rather than the Great Ocean Road (also beautiful but done many times before).
Post Short Person Melt Down – I’d had enough too!
Big Day for Short Legs!
Looks like a face to me!
Follow the Leader
Beautiful View after a Very Long Walk!
Coming up the Canyon at the Peak
The only down side of this stop-over was a slight safety malfunction that was extremely embarrassing considering I am a so called safety professional (don’t mechanics always have the worst cars??) One other modification Craig made in Melbourne was a connection for the van stabiliser legs that allows us to use an 18V hand held drill to wind them down instead of man (or woman) power. I objected initially as it seemed like quite a good upper body workout while on the road but Tim the Tool Man insisted. So in Halls Gap he passed me the drill and requested that I wind up the stabiliser legs – after looking at him blankly I think the penny dropped that I really am not that familiar with electric drills – especially not in this capacity! So a very brief instruction session followed which included making sure I slowed the drill down as the legs were nearly up – the first two were a bit quick so the next I bent down to check what where the legs were and obviously loosened my grip on the drill. I’ve never been punched in the face but in the movies it never looks like a big deal – I’m assuming this is incorrect if the big heavy handle of an 18V drill smacking me in the eye socket at full speed is anything to go by. To the husbands credit he initially cradled my head and made sure my eye was still in it’s place before commenting that people were going to think he hit me! Although no-one accused him of this, as the beautiful blue, purple, green and yellow hues of my eye emerged I did get a lot of funny looks – and very few souls actually worked up the courage to ask me what happened, I’m assuming in case I said I walked into a door (because the drill story is so much more plausible!) There have been many jokes about me not doing as I’m told or listening and needless to say I haven’t been authorised to use power tools since then….
I think we left our run to Cradle Mountain a little late – by the time we arrived in this region it was freezing, rain was coming in sideways and any thoughts of hiking through this beautiful area had turned into camp fires and hot chocolate longings! However – our first stop after Launceston was delightful, the little town of Deloraine – beautiful, quaint, featuring a meandering river with modern art on the banks and a supply of hippy types camping out on the sidewalks! I loved this spot, nestled in between mountain ranges with a melting pot of tourists, locals, hippies, overseas back-packers and picturesque scenery.
Funky Art Work
Deloraine River Bank
Our camp site was about half an hour on from here at Mole Creek – an unfortunate name for a beautiful spot at the foot of Cradle Mountain. We had tried to book a powered site at Cradle Mountain itself however none were available – after freezing our butts off all over Tasmania we decided that no heater was a deal breaker so we booked at Mole Creek – this turned out to be a stroke of luck. The van site was right next to one of those crystal clear streams that should be in an english fairy tale but was reportedly inhabited by platypus – which weren’t sighted despite the girls searching high and low. The husband was delighted as camp fires weren’t only allowed but fire wood supplied AND we had power for a heater – funny what becomes nirvana after weeks of camping. Only draw back was the possibility we (as in Craig!) offended the lovely group of young french back-packers next door by putting on a terrible fake french accent. This was partly because I’m walking around repeating french phrases constantly as I learn and partly because he just can’t help himself – seems to think that putting “la” in front of everything and putting on a bad accent is the equivalent of knowing French! Level of french affectation seemed to be proportional to the amount of red wine consumed around our camp fire so hopefully they were oblivious as well by that time of night.
Best of all was this area had relatively clear weather compared to up the mountain so while we did venture up to the peak and wander around some of the child friendly tracks the constant rain and wind (avoiding the wombat poo at every step and turn) made us very happy not to be camping up the top! W
What’s with the Weather?!
Wonderland Walk at Cradle
This was also the site of the girls fifth birthday celebrations so will always hold a special place in our memories of Tasmania. The day was marked by lamington cake, balloons, small toys (emphasis on small) and exploring the local caves – the glow worms were a huge hit as was the point at which the guide turned out all the lights in the deepest darkest spot possible.
Happy Birthday Littlest Campers
Camper Party (it was raining)
Making a Wish – hopefully not to go home!
Celebrating in the Caves!
I do wish we had made Cradle a priority when we arrived, it’s a disappointment not to have completed some of the walks around this incredible area, however the husband has pledged to bring the girls back to do the overland track when they are old enough – there was no mention of taking me though, maybe he thinks I will be too old by then???!!!
It was with great reluctance that we packed up and left our cosy little corner at the Bay of Fires however with less than a week left we still had Cradle Mountain on the list of ‘must do’s” so we headed off to our first stop-over in Launceston. This was supposed to be just a chance to wash clothes, buy food, have really, really, really long hot showers (after five days free camping) and perhaps sample a little of the local Tamar Valley wines (just a little, I’m still trying to dry out after the first month on holiday). So we booked into a van park just outside of Launceston – it was a little uninspiring but as mentioned we really only wanted their washing facilities anyway! Launceston however turned out to be a delightful sojourn, ticking off all the key tourist attractions in record time but nonetheless having a great time doing it. We toured the Tamar Valley and found a Pinot Gris that we fell in love with while the girls fell in love with the local winery doggy who lapped up the attention and stole their toys.
The platypus and echidna house visit was supposed to be for the benefit of the girls however I was almost as tickled by the cute little bundles of spikes that trundled around feet and stuck out almost terrifyingly long tongues to lap up food. Disturbingly discovered that male platypus have poison spikes in their paws that causes excruciating pain that can’t be relieved by morphine and will take an adult six months to recover from – not worth thinking about what happens to children – who said Australian mammals are all cute and cuddly??!! Personal favourite may have been the monkeys in central park – a city with it’s own monkey enclosure in the centre of town, who would have thought?! We spent a long time watching the monkey antics, goo-ing over the baby monks and generally being entertained (remarkable similarities to our children I thought). Last of all Cataract Gorge – wow, what an amazing spot to have in your backyard, the photos speak for themselves…
Cutest Native on the Planet
The Inns Girls at the Look Out – Cataract Gorge
Huge Trees in Cataract Gorge!
Restaurant in the Hills – Cataract Gorge
Swimming Pool with a View – Cataract Gorge
Monkey Business – Central Park Launceston
More Monkey Business
So that was it for our tourist activities in Launceston – on a personal note the setup and pack up of the camper is now occurring like clock work and we have all adjusted to living in a very confined space – mostly. Every now and then I at least feel the need for my own company – that might only be having the opportunity to shower alone (minus the children before anyone gets any funny ideas!) but even that’s luxury in a life lived in a 5×3 metre space. We may get through this holiday with all family members intact after all….standby though!
Now I am preceding this post with the statement that I was wrong. Doesn’t happen very often ( just ask the husband, he’ll tell you) but in this case, I was wrong – wrong to worry over lack of power, wrong to be concerned over no playground and wrong to delay free camping for so long! Being by the beach, camped in the sand, visited by Pademelons (see photo below if anyone is confused) and watching the girls climb tree’s, roast marshmallows around the fire and hunt for shells on the beach reminded me of what this trip is really about.
Although technically setting up and every day routine should be no different to a caravan park for some reason it was much more relaxed. Perhaps because we didn’t need to travel around each day as we were living on the edge of one of Australia’s wonders in the Bay of Fires or maybe the ritual of having fire is actually some kind of primitive trigger for feelings of well being! Whatever the reason this was another little haven in Tasmania and to really make it memorable we were camped right next to another family traveling Australia – although Debbie and Matt with their three kids put our ambitions to shame being twelve months into their planned 21 month trip around Australia! We learned some invaluable lessons from this lovely lot and picked up some great tips for the routes they had already travelled.
Our kids played together beautifully, making cubby houses in the trees while they roamed free between the camp sites. I wouldn’t have missed meeting these guys for the world, as with all the people we have met in Tasmania – there has been no shortage of good conversation, interesting stories and fascinating characters!
As for our the relaxation factor – for the first time on the trip I actually read a book, had the opportunity to sit around a fire staring at the flames and started learning French (now I look like a lunatic walking around muttering French words to myself but that’s another story!). As for the husband – he was in paradise, getting to practice his refined art of pyromania and impressing all and sundry with his camp oven cooking skills (the lamb was incredibly good!)
In particular camping at Cosy Corner taught us:
Not showering for five days isn’t at all problematic as long as the wet ones don’t run out – unlike Queensland there isn’t the benefit of ocean swims (unless you are prepared for your heart to stop).
Clothes can be scrutinised daily and if not yet standing up by themselves – good to go. We need to practice this one, running out of clothes became more urgent than the water supply!
Draw back of not having power – the heater doesn’t work in the brass monkey temperatures – but wearing thermals, fleecy jackets, merino socks and sub-zero rated sleeping bags seems to help (plus this assists with the no-shower policy).
The majority of campers are incredibly tolerant (and even indulgent) of children, restored my faith in humanity when one lady informed me how wonderful it was to see kids playing in the trees.
Free camping brings out the happy in the husband – worth it for this alone!