Central Australian Scapes

So, North Australia and the Top End with all it’s warm weather, greenery, gorges, pandanus and palms, waterholes and wetlands morphed into a landscape of dry cold air, river gums and brown and red dirt.

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And beautiful clear chilly evening skies.  Tennant Creek provided us with a night’s entertainment as we stayed at the caravan park which backed onto an aboriginal reserve full of party people.  Let’s just say we were happy there was an 8 foot fence in between us and them.

The Devil’s Marbles were a strange feature in a featureless landscape.DSC_1800 (800x532)

 In the middle of nowhere these massive balls of rock stood, like giants in the middle of a game of marbles.

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It was another one of those surreal dreamscapes.  There was a campground right beside them, but I reckon it would be a bit spooky to spend the night there!

We were excited to get to Alice Springs.

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It was much nicer than we expected and perfectly framed by the MacDonnell Ranges.  The main detraction though was the temperature that plummetted below zero at night.  We had to stock up on winter woollies from Best and Less!

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We spent a few nights here before we tackled what was to be the icing on the cake of our ’round Oz trip – Uluru and the Olgas.

So we took the scenic route.  We drove west from Alice along the West MacDonnell Ranges to Simpson’s Gap.

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And Standley Chasm:

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It was a nice walk along a stunning creekbed to reach this implausible chasm.

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One of those memorable walks.

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The next stop was the wonderful Ormiston Gorge.

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It had an orange and green mountain with a picturesque waterhole at the base.

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A resident dingo, and a simple campground with an unbeatable view.  DSC_1856 (800x532)DSC_1838 (800x532)

It was so bloody cold though and you weren’t allowed campfires much to our chagrin. DSC_1855 (532x800)

The road to King’s Canyon was dirt.  Red corrugated dirt.

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When we got to the campground, we really felt like we had earned our spot!  It was a beautiful drive though.

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Rain was forecast for the next day so we hightailed it over to the canyon and Brian headed off on the rim walk,

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while the kids and I strolled our way along the bottom of the gorge.

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I am not sure who had the better view!  Me:

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Or Brian?

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I think it was me because mine was not only immensely beautiful, but I could take the pram 3/4 of the way!  Winner!

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The next day it rained as promised so we decided it would be a grand day to drive the 300 odd kilometres to Uluru.  We packed up quickly in the freezing drizzle before the red dirt could turn into red sticky mud!

We drove past the mysterious Mt Connor in the distance.

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Before we got our first glimpse of Uluru, obscured partly by cloud.

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It was very interesting up close with dark wet lines running down every furrow and crevice.

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The rain and later, the wind prevented us from climbing it unfortunately as it was closed on the 3 days we attempted it.  The cloudy conditions gave the rock a different colour.

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It was surprising how interesting a big rock was!  It just sits there, but it seems to have its’ own personality as it behaves differently, depending on the weather.

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Photogenic eh?

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The Olgas were also more than impressive.  From first glimpse to a closer approach, you really got a sense of something pretty special.

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We did a walk into a gorge, and the sun came out just for us!

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It was always cold though.  So cold.

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But, inevitably, sadly, our time was at an end.  With our money slowly depleting and our list of places to visit also depleted, we were actually feeling quite ready to end our epic adventure.  Uluru was really the cherry on top of the cream on top of the best trip ever!

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With heavy hearts and a flat battery, (our long drive home was delayed by a couple of hours due to a roadside assist) we farewelled the red centre.

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We hit the road!

The road north was straight, cold and flat, with a couple of aliens along the way.

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We spent a night at Three-Ways where the Stuart Highway North and South meets the Barkly Highway Eastbound.

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It was certainly a crossroads. And the pub there had some uber-cold beers!

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Then we headed East!

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We camped for free, we froze our bits off, we even visited an overpriced dinosaur museum at Richmond.

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And before you could say Kronosaurus Korner, we we back on the East coast and arrived in Townsville to sleep in our Jayco Eagle for the last time (for a little while anyway!)

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We lived here a few years back and this is where Brian and I actually met each other so Townsville always has a special place in our hearts.  It’s even better these days!

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This is us ready to embark on the last 388km leg of our trip around Australia.

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And this is the view from home.  (Ok, so it’s Mum’s house.  We will stay here for a few months until our tenant’s lease runs out).

Not too shabby.

And it feels really good to be home.

Over 45 amazing weeks or 315 dazzling days we travelled a total of 31300kms and spent about $35000.  

And everybody thought we were crazy, but we proved that we can do it.  We have seen Australia with 3 young kids in tow and we could spend all that time as a family while doing incredible things.  It wasn’t always easy, but it was always worth it.

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Don’t dream it, Do it!

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The Top End



The Northern Territory is a fabled land full of crocs,DSC_1719 (800x532)


Aboriginal art,

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and glorious sunsets.  

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And a beautiful gorge or two.

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We spent our first night at the Victoria River Roadhouse which, as crap as it sounds, was a lovely campsite surrounded by russet red ranges. 

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They provided us with a much needed beer as we had passed through Kununurra on a Sunday, when no beer is sold so our fridge was still bare!  

Just outside of Victoria River is Joe’s Creek Waterhole which is this awesome walk up to the Livingstonian Palm fringed escarpment where you can find some hidden rock art.

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It was a fun and challenging walk for the boys, rock hopping their way along.  We carried them most of the way back down though.

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We set our sights on Katherine.  Mostly for the wonderous Woolworths and BWS we knew we would find there.

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The Hot Springs was a bonus.

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We decided to skip Katherine Gorge, and instead camped at Edith Falls a little further north.  The campground was lovely, but the falls were underwhelming after our recent Kimberley experiences.

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Litchfield didn’t fail to deliver on granduer.  We camped and swam at Florence Falls.

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We checked out the amazing Wangi Falls.

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This is Tolmer Falls.

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The only thing wrong with Litchfield is that it is almost too accessible, and so visiting it on a weekend in the school holidays at an easy 100kms from Darwin, it was packed!

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We had originally planned on stopping in Darwin for a few months and working but although Brian’s job offer came through, we changed our minds as we drove into our $60/night caravan park.  7 foot chainlink fences on every residential block does little to promote a place.  

The foreshore was nice.

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That’s the bit you could swim in.  This is the bit you couldn’t:

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The markets were like a trip to downtown Bangkok with the most amazing food.

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There were some WWII tunnels:

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I got way too claustrophobic in there though.  There were some idiots letting of fireworks at midnight that sounded to me like psychos with rifles, until they ended up starting a fire in the bush opposite the caravan park and the sirens came.  The free waterpark at Leanyer was a hit and Jasper was just tall enough to ride the giant waterslide to his absolute delight.  However, we all got a bout of gastro soon after leaving Darwin, and I am tempted to blame the same waterpark….


Out of Darwin we stopped at the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise.  A you do.

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We didn’t expect it to be so good!  As soon as you’re out on the water, you see these giant crocs making a beeline for the boat and the bait.

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Then they jump.

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They say it’s a natural behaviour, they are not trained to do it.  And looking that wild crocodile in the eye while he launches out of the water is pretty special.  They said that for every crocodile you do see here in the Adelaide River, there’s 5 that you don’t see.  That is an awful lot.  Brian was tempted to get his paddle board wet before this cruise.  Not any more!

We spent the night at Mary River Wilderness Lodge which was an absolutely gorgeous green grassy campground on the riverbank.  We really appreciate green grass.

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Kakadu was awesome.  Don’t believe anyone who says “Kakadont”.  It really rocks!

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The sunset at Ubirr was one of those magic experiences, even though no beer was allowed.

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You stroll around, look at the incredible wealth of aboriginal art on the walls, 

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Then climb this mammoth rock, and watch the wetlands change before your eyes as the sun sinks below the horizon.

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Cahill’s Crossing was the way into Arnhem Land and a great place to spot crocodiles.

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The next stop was Maguk for a perfect swim.

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And Gunlom for nature’s original infinity pool.

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You are a couple of hundred metres above the campground in these waterholes.

Daisy also turned one in Kakadu.

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Should we really be encouraging her to walk??

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For her birthday she got a wetland cruise on Yellow Water.

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It was very special indeed.  This giant crocodile followed the boat down stream while eyeing us all off.  

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Keep your arms inside the boat Dash!!

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The wetlands were stunning.

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We even saw brumby’s in the distance and a water buffalo!

We visited Nourlangie Rock for some more awesome rock art.

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The most enduring art is the stuff painted in ochre and animal blood.

Then it was farewell Kakadu and back on the highway south.  

Bitter Springs in Elsey National Park is the best rest stop ever!

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A perfect rejuvenating swim in the hot (warm) springs.

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Followed by a quick visit to the abandoned Newcastle Waters.

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And overnight at the famous Daly Waters pub with about a million grey nomads.

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Then the top end becomes Central Australia and our final destination!

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El Questro Wilderness Park – A Gibb Grand Finale

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El Questro Wilderness Park was everything the name suggests, and more.  Fabulous 4WD tracks, stunning sunsets, favourite family time, cracking campsites, raging rivers, gorgeous gorges and wild walks.  You have to drive across the pandanus lined Pentecost River again just to get into the front gate so you feel pretty special just being there.

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It was where we met Mum, Lisa, Luke, Millie and Jimmy.  We last saw Mum in Esperance, and Lisa and co in Yeppoon which was our first stop on our around oz trip all those many months ago.

They were a welcome sight.  Not least of all because they carried with them some much longed for beer and food supplies!

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It seemed Lisa had been preparing and freezing meals in advance for such an occasion!  Legendary!  The campsites on the bank of the river were unpowered though so we put a fair strain on the generator to run the microwave.  IMG_8928

We spent a big portion of each day heading off on the Morris family ATV to collect firewood so they could indulge their  new mission to feed us – via the camp oven!


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When we first embarked on our trip, we thought hard about getting a Weber, just so we could have a roast dinner every now and then.  I wish we had have bought ourselves a camp oven back then instead.  The roasts we had were just mouthwatering!

We did plenty of relaxing around our campsite which sat on the bank of the Pentecost River.

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Actually, we were busy doing laundry, endless washing up, and chasing after kids.  Jimmy mainly!

The best way to start the day was with a visit to Zebedee Hot Springs.

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Imagine a Livingstonian Palm grove with warm water forming natural pools and waterfalls through the rocks below.

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Delicious!  The closer you got to the source, the warmer the water was.  We tried to get there when it opened at 7am each morning to give us a kickstart to our El Questro day.  Then we would loll about for an hour or so, then back to base for a coffee.  Hard life eh.

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Beer o’clock would see us ascend a nearby ridge for an awe inspiring view.

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Our Prado vs Pete’s Landcruiser vs the Morris family truck.  Plus or minus the ATV.  What a crew.

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El Questro Gorge was a veritable highlight of our stay here.

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Mum was holding onto Jasper, I carried Dash and Brian carried Daisy all the way up to the first waterhole.

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This is where most people stop, however, there is the ‘Upper Pool’.  So Brian, Luke and I scaled the waterfall and promised Lisa and Mum (and Jasper, Dash, Daisy, Millie and Jimmy) that we would be back real soon.  It was a fun rock hopping and boulder bashing climb up the river to reach the ultimate destination.  A tiny narrow gorge with an endless clear dark pool at the base of a sparkling waterfall.

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It took us about an hour up and back of barefoot leaping and clambering.  They were all glad to see us when we got back for some reason.

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It was a long walk back to the carpark!

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Jasper and Millie were besties again.  Dash and Jimmy still have a bit of work to do, but once they get past bashing each other, mutual respect and adoration will surely inevitably develop.

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Brian went barra fishing with Luke and his Mum and Dad……. but no, there were no barra silly enough to be caught.  We did some fun 4WDing around the station and conquered some of the most ridiculous river crossings!

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El Questro just had so much to offer.  You could be action jackson, or just sit on the riverbank playing cars.

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We came for 3 days, and ended up staying a week.  Lisa and Mum and I didn’t really want to go our separate ways, but they were heading to Broome, and we had to continue heading East and home.  So we said our goodbyes and drove along the sweetest piece of bitumen ever laid.

Emma Gorge was a little detour and is apparently one of the top spots in the Kimberlys.  It took us a little while to walk there, seeing as we were missing Mum’s help, but it sure was worth the hardship.

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The falls were huge!  The water was very refreshing but there was even a hot springs in the corner.  Perfection.

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It’s such an amazing feeling floating on your back in the centre of the pool at the base of the falls with the mist splashing your face, with these high cliffs surrounding you on at least 3 sides.  What an experience.  This part of Australia has surpassed my expectations and earned its place at the top of the ‘must see’ list.

The road  eventually lead us to Kununurra.  This was the end of the Gibb River Road and we could finally pat ourselves on the backs while we put a big fat red tick in that box.  No flat tyres, no issues at all really.  We saw this old fella in an old ute back on the hardest part of the dirt with two back tyres blown out and he was just flooring it and fishtailing all over the road on his back rims, still getting where he was going.

Our campground in Kununurra was on the lake and had some welcome green grass.  But the most exciting thing for us was the supermarket where we could stock up for the first time since Broome.

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We finally began to feel human again now that we were out of the dust and dirt.  Our poor car will never be the same clean again.


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The Gibb River Road


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Now, any road that begins with a “The” deserves a certain amount of respect, caution even.  IMG_8800 (800x598)

We had heard so much about the Gibb and originally intended to just have a little look in at either end of it, but, we were sucked into its vortex and tumbled headlong into the most fabulous adventure yet.  Danger lurked at every bend.  The threat of flat tyres, breakages, smashed back windscreens, crocs and dingoes was just the beginning!

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Actually, the beginning was Derby.  Here you can find the biggest tides in Australia and, as we sat on the jetty for lunch, the flat muddy water certainly seemed to come in very fast indeed.

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More remarkable was this approximately 1500 year old boab tree which was used to imprison captive aboriginals in the not too distant past.  It was fully hollow and fully spooky.

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Our first overnight was at the foot of a much friendlier looking tree with a not so gruesome history at Birdwood Downs Station.

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Windjana Gorge was our first encounter with the proper, blow-your-mind kind of Kimberly action.

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We couldn’t quite believe our eyes as we drove up to this towering cliff, the campsite was right at the base.  DSC_1344 (800x532)IMG_8611 (800x598) (3)DSC_1311 (532x800)

The gorge was this black and orange rock, and, as you followed the river along, you could spot freshwater crocodiles hanging out in the water and on the shore.

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This easy and exciting walk was such a nice way to start our Kimberly encounter.

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Not far down the road was Tunnel Creek.

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Now, I am not usually one for tunnels.  And a tunnel with a creek running through it?  You have got to be kidding!  So, as I strolled into the pitch dark abyss of cave in knee deep freezing water with a baby on my hip and a crappy torch, you can imagine what I was thinking.  AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

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However…… despite the cave roof hanging barely overhead high and covered in places with ghostbats, and despite the real possibility of freshwater crocs and despite the complete blackness of the dark, I had to be brave for the kids, and even ended up enjoying it myself!

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 It was awesome!  I think it was about 1km to the end with an opening half way, then you had to turn around and come back.  Jasper and Dash loved it big time.  Even though Jasper’s light up shoes stopped lighting up about halfway through.

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The road onto the next stop, Bell Gorge was interesting.  This is Queen Victoria Rock in the middle.

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 They say you want to follow the grader on the Gibb, but don’t follow the water truck!

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We slipped and slided up this hill crawling on the mud, behind this guy.  We are still chipping away at the concrete like mud in our wheel arches.  Our first semi-tricky water crossing out of the way, and we arrived at Bell Gorge and Silent Grove Campground.

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Bell Gorge was an impressive triple-tiered waterfall with gorgeous swimming holes top and bottom after an easy 1km walk.  We like easy walks.

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It was here that the Marshmallow Tim Tam has been handcrafted and perfected. Mmmm Mmmmm.

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We drove about 100kms per day which would take us on average, about 3 hours.  The corruguations at times were horrendous, and the sharp rocks were everywhere, trying their hardest to puncture our 6 tyres.  We only had 1 spare with us for the car, (and one for the van) but we proved that with good luck and slow careful driving, you can avoid a flat tyre yay!

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Imintji Store was an interesting place to stop and have an awesome slice of mudcake.

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You felt so remote, but yet you can score this amazing chocolate cake.  It was a refreshing interlude from the harsh and unyielding road anyway.

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The most picturesque and underrated gorge was called Galvans Gorge.

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We had this one all to ourselves for a while.  It felt like we had discovered it ourselves on some wondrous planet.  There was even a ropeswing!

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A cascading waterfall flowing into a perfectly clear round pool with a very intimate gorge surrounding.  Absolutely magic.

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Galvans Gorge.  Put it on your bucket list.

The next stop on our incredible agenda was Manning Gorge.  Our campsite was right on the bank of this crystal clear waterhole with the whitest sand beach.

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There’s this little dinghy that you use to ferry yourself to the other side which was such a novelty!

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Brian and I took turns doing the 5km gorge walk which made it such a tranquil and enjoyable experience.  Solo.  You really appreciate it sometimes hey.

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I was so overwhelmed by the majesty of the Manning Falls I almost hyperventilated as I swam across the expansive waterhole and under the falls themselves.  Perfectly stunning again.  We could have a campfire every night and did the best job cooking this delicious curry fish in the coals.

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After this was some of the worst sections of corrugated road and some pretty hairy creek crossings.  None were deeper than about 40cm, but the bottoms varied from rocky, to really rocky, and some of the banks were steep and slippery.

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There was a stopover at Ellenbrae Station on the way.  A welcome oasis with $4.50 scones and a donkey heater in the shower.  Very rustic indeed.  During peak season they sell 200 scones a day.  At $4.50 per scone, that’s a pretty healthy profit!  Probably better than the cattle!

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Home Valley Station was a very welcome sight.

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The station overlooks these ridiculously spectacular Cockburn Ranges.

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Lucky you could get a random patch of phone reception so we could coordinate our rendezvous with my Mum and sister Lisa a few days hence at El Questro.  I absolutely could not wait to see them!  But first, we had a few days to spend at Home Valley Station.

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We were down to our bare bones of food by then and had rationed out our last drop of beer.  There was a bar though.  And a playground where I reckon the boys put in an 8 hour shift each day.  We were able to organise Mum and Lisa to pick us up some supplies on their way through Kununurra so we were able to spend a total of 3 weeks on the Gibb River Road between Derby and Kununurra!  Pretty good seeing as we originally planned for only 1 week.  No wonder we ran out of beer!

Between us and El Questro lay the Pentecost River Crossing.

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The motorbikes and oversized caravans actually made the crossing look worse than what it was so, after sitting there for half an hour working ourselves up to it, we cruised on over with no worries at all.

The Gibb River Road was no match for us!  Now along to El Questro Wilderness Park to get clean and rejuvenate for the next part of the journey.  El Questro is a story in itself……..

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All the way to Broome

Tonight I am sitting at the gateway to the famous, or infamous, Gibb River Road.  We are just outside of Derby, on Birdwood Downs Station.   Now that we have finally got the kids to settle down, I can get this blog up to date using the sneaky couple of bars of reception on my phone as its perched halfway out the window.

We are poised to visit some spectacular gorges coming up in the Kimberlys over the next few weeks.  But our love affair with gorges started in Karijini National Park.

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100kms East of Tom Price lies this national park and Dale’s Campground.

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The red dirt got under our skin after a while, but it was a beautiful, peaceful spot to stay for a few days.

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We clambered down hills, over rocks, through gorges, jumped down, climbed up, hiked around and marvelled at the spectacle that was Circular Pool.

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 A deep, cold pool which got virtually no sunlight at the bottom thanks to the angle of the sun.

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It was freezing cold, but the water trickling in from around the fern filled cracks and crevices was surprisingly warm so you just had to brave the swim across the pool to sit under the falls.  What a magic place!

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The campground was huge, it must be absolutely heaving at times, but because the walks were steep, a lot of people just did the daytrip to the lookout so the gorge floor was fairly quiet.  The boys had fun on the walks, but drew the line at swimming!

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Fern Pool was at the other end of the gorge.

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This one was turquoise, and lined with ferns and waterfalls.  It was another challenging and fun climb to reach, and you were really thankful for the delightful cool swim at the end!  Especially after carrying Daisy and coaxing the boys all the way.

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We had a quick pitstop in Port Hedland to check out the port.  It was a bit of barren plain with a lot of industry.

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Lot of workers and shacks and workcamps.  For the first time, we had to buy frozen bread from Woolworths!  Shock horror!

Just out of town was an awesome free camp called De Grey River.

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It was just a rest area on the busy Highway 1, but on closer inspection, we discovered a plethora of peaceful campsites lining the river.  And no, it wasn’t grey. Apparently there were crocodiles, definitely there were campfires!

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This is where we invented what is to become our new trademark – the toasted marshmallow Tim Tam.  Unfortunately we are still waiting for our next campfire so we can have them again!

Eighty-Mile Beach proved to be one of the most surprising stays on our trip!

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It didn’t get much praise from former visitors, so we weren’t expecting much, but it was an easy place to drive to within 150kms of Broome.

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We had been travelling parallel to a lovely family in a Windsor Rapid since Denham and together, we enjoyed some brilliant sunsets on the 80 miles of sand with a glass of wine or 2.

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Their kids Rose and Zilcomo really hit it off with ours so we had some great days of doing not much while the kids either played quietly or tore around the spacious park.

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There was a kiosk for ice-cream o’clock, markets on Wednesdays, lots of fishermen (but no fish) and a wonderful holiday atmosphere with phone reception miles from anywhere.  It ticked a lot of boxes!  We even ran into Mario and Enid from Mirani there who were some of Mum and Dad’s oldest friends.  Definitely the place to be!

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Broome was the long-awaited goal of a destination.

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As we drove in, we were struck by the beautiful tropical gardens, the houses built with colourbond steel walls and no guttering!

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When it rains here, it rains properly so the gutters are just overwhelmed.  The famous Cable Beach was so named for the communications cable that arrived here to connect us to Indonesia and then the rest of the world.

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It was a pretty, wide beach with the usual white sand and blue water.  There was a crocodile sighting while we were there too!  At sunset, it was the place to be, with hundreds of cars and camels lining the sand.

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There was the fabulous Matzo’s brewery

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with a Mango Beer and a Lime and Ginger Cider (you can get it at Dan Murphy’s – score!) lots and lots of tourists and the tropical Chinatown full of overpriced pearl shops and an outdoor cinema.

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Chinatown used to be called ‘Japtown’ for the hundreds of Japanese divers who made the Pearl industry what it is here, but the name was changed after WWII.  We stayed at the Cable Beach van park and we absolutely loved the shady sites and our proximity to the pool.  So, we stayed for a week.

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A day trip up to Willie Creek Pearl Farm was nice.  We almost went on a helicopter ride after watching it take off and land a few times, but decided 5minutes just wasn’t enough.

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All over the remote coast of the Dampier Peninsula there are these tracks and we followed a couple of random ones looking for some special spots.

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We only really found aboriginals catching mudcrabs, but it was fun exploring!

Broome is about to hit “peak” on the tourist scale so it was time for us to skedaddle.  Next stop…..The Kimberlys!!!!!!

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Ningaloo Nice and Tom Price

It’s really sad when my blog turns into a chore.

A week ago I wrote the words and then left it to do the photos later, but then somehow lost all my words and have only now become re-enthused to do it again! So this time, I will sit here until it’s finished! Must be the Broome vibe doing good things, giving me back some pizzazz!

So, we are in Broome right now. Broome is awesome by the way, I will get there….

But I last wrote about Red Bluff which is 3 weeks and a lifetime ago.

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We restocked in Carnarvon, the last Woolworths for miles, and ventured ever north, past towering termite mounds that looked a little bit wrong next to the bright green grass – they had had some very recent drenching rain.

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Arriving in Coral Bay was like disembarking on a tropical island.

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It was a little oasis on a coral fringed white sand beach with only a couple of resorts and van parks, and heaps of grey nomads. This is where the Ningaloo Reef starts. If you ask any proper grey nomad where to go in WA, they will invariably say ‘Coral Bay’ so it was great to finally see the famous spot. IMG_8055 (598x800)

It was pretty incredible that’s for sure! The snorkelling off the beach was brilliant. While the coral wasn’t particularly spectacular, the fish life was indeed and it was as if the place was man-made, nature got it pretty perfect. There was a shallow swimming shelf, then it dropped straight off in to the deep water with massive coral bombies everywhere. Just out a little bit further you could see the waves crashing on the outer reef.

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We had a booking at the notoriously-hard -to-get-into Cape Range National Park just down the road so, as our Coral Bay experience ended, we found ourselves with a couple of days to spare before our reserved dates. Lucky for us (Brian) WA’s final surf destination was located on the way, and there was the Lighthouse Caravan Park just across the road.

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We were just outside of Exmouth, a strange town that started life as a US Naval Base and submarine refuelling station. It now hosts an Australian Air Force Base, a glut of Whale Shark Dive Tour Operators, and plenty of tourists from all walks of life. The whale sharks will have to wait for our next trip before they get to swim with us.

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The surf wasn’t too bad, and the park was better than initial impressions. We loved tormenting the resident emu with our remote control car. (The blue one was my birthday present!)

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The day finally arrived for us to take up residence in Cape Range National Park at Osprey Bay and it was pissing down rain!

Fun timing it between showers to quickly dismantle the van. We were a bit worried because all the recent rain had actually washed a few of the campgrounds clean away and destroyed the visitors centre, but it was only passing showers, nothing like the damaging 400mm that they had a few weeks prior.

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Our campsite was superb.

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The beautiful beach was only 20meters away and a perfect spot to watch that sunset and the wildlife from atop the dunes.

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Ahhh sunset, beer o clock. WA certainly delivers at this time of day!

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To the south lies Yardie Creek Gorge. It had a nice short walk and dangerous rock-hop…. well, dangerous for me who fell over and skinned both my knees. The kids were fine!

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And just to the North of our campsite you find the stunning Sandy Bay.

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We just spent hours and days in the water. We love when things are so absolutely kid-friendly!

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We changed campgrounds up to Tulki Bay which is adjacent to the crowning jewel of the national park – Turquiose Bay.

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This spot is known for the great reef just off shore and drift snorkelling along the beach. And was it turquoise enough for ya!? Just gorgeous.

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Again the coral itself was just ok, but I saw fish I have never seen before, heaps of clown fish and wrasse, an octopus (!) and I even saw a massive reef shark swim under me. Luckily it just ignored me, but it was bigger than I was so I shit myself! It looked mean. Me and Brian just took turns playing, paddling and snorkelling for the day, what another great day!

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We bought the annual national parks pass for WA which has certainly paid for itself before now, you only pay $10 per person to camp and don’t have to pay the car fee.

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The oysters at Tulki Beach were yummy, great for a beer o clock snack, but I wasn’t sure what the rules were with the national park sanctuary and all that…

With our serious tans, it was time to head East!

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Along the way and 20kms off the highway was this lovely stop at Emu Creek Station.

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It was a really cool overnighter on the glassy creek which was lined with river gums who were home to thousands of colourful native budgies, corellas, and eagles.

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I wanted to get my oil paints out… ‘If I was a painter, but then again, no.’ You could even have a campfire! The first in a long time! The campfire king was happy!

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Karijini National Park was our aim, but we had no idea that Tom Price would be a drawcard in itself! Firstly the drive into the town along a dirt road lined with towering iron ore rich hills in all shades of red and gold was something else.

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The road trains carrying 4 trailers full of red dirt passed us by and we had to brake cos all you could see was a cloud of dust! So, what we had thought was going to be a simple restock and refuel turned into a destination in itself. The caravan park was so surprisingly green and spacious and sat at the base of Mt Nameless which was all colours of ochre in the sunrise.

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Tom Price was a guy who helped to establish the iron ore industry here only as late as the 60s.

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Rio Tinto has operations here and Karratha, while BHP is more Newman and Port Headland.

The town oozed high vis, mine spec vehicles and money. The mine tour was fun>

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We drove around in a bus, you had to wear hardhats at the lookout…. Brian and I took turns

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Tom Price was a surprising place, we enjoyed racing our remote control car around the awesome skate park, and you could even get our favourite boutique beer, James Squires 150 Lashes for a bargain price. It had a Coles, not that we are mad about Coles exactly, but it is the cheapest way to buy essential groceries. After a nice rejuvenation and even a visit to the local library, we were ready to rough it at Karijini.

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Stay tuned……

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Some bloody beautiful places

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Monkey Mia.  It was busy, commercial, ‘free’ (well, not if you include the $17.50 entry), and maybe a little disappointing.  Firstly you line up with 150 others for the morning feed session, dip your toes in the water, and wait hopefully for the volunteers to pass down the line and pick you from the crowd to hand feed the dolphins.  So you look at them eagerly, clutching your gorgeous children, hoping, somehow believing that you are the special girl that gets picked today, and she looks right at you….. but no.

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She picked that girl in the ugly fuschia dress instead.

Oh well.  To be honest, we have had better, wilder dolphin experiences than that one.  So, Monkey Mia….. nah, don’t bother.

But do definitely bother with Francois Peron National Park.

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It was a 4okm trip from Denham along a soft sandy dirt and corrugated at times track with a tyre inflation and deflation station at the entrance.

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The colours were absolutely outstanding

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Even though it was an overcast day, the red soils complemented the turquoise water and the azure sky to create absolute harmony!

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We drove and picnicked and strolled and soaked it up and, for the first time, really appreciated the remoteness and the thrill of what Western Australia is all about.

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The next stop up the highway is Carnarvon.  The annoying thing is that everything involves some backtracking, so, it was 140kms or so into Denham, then back another 140kms or so to the highway, then along another couple hundred ks to Carnarvon.

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A nice foreshore, a jetty and museum with an overpriced vintage train:

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complete with a large population of our indigenous friends and a lively judicial scene

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let’s just say Carnarvon isn’t your typical holiday destination in itself.  But it is on the way to better places. You can buy fruit and veg direct from the farmer with an honesty box and it is the home of those sweet little lunchbox bananas.  Carnarvon is really a great place to restock and refuel and get you ready for those better places.

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There was also this radical satellite dish which dominated the skyline.  Buzz Aldrin (Dr Buzz) came to Carnarvon a few years ago to open the Museum here.  The dish was instrumental in the manned missions to the moon in the 60s.  It no longer operates but just sits there and looks really cool.

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We got a few inches of rain in Carnarvon, not enough to get that mighty Gascoyne River flowing, but enough to close a few roads around the place so we had to stay a few extra days and wait it out.

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Just up the road, well 75kms of bitumen plus 60kms of dirt corrugated track was our next destination….

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But first we had to stop at a blowhole!

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We headed past Quobba Station and bravely continued along the bumpy track to our new home at Red Bluff.  It was a trip where, once you hit the point of no return, and, as the corrugations worsened, you just had to bite it, and carry on.

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Soooo glad we did!  Red Bluff was red at sunrise,

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pink and purple at sunset,

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with these perfect left hander waves reeling off it day and night.

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You camp right at the top of the dune, about 20 meters from the biggest pounding shorebreak I have ever seen…

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There was even a cafe serving the most perfect mango smoothies.

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There’s 2 families calling this remote piece of paradise home.  Between them there seems to be about 10 kids aged between about 5 and 19, all of varying degrees of perfect tans and the blondest hair.  The most typical beach bums you have ever seen.  It got us thinking about living somewhere so remote, home school the kids, where all you have to do is surf, ……  (Carnarvon is about 2 hours away).  As wonderful as it was for 6 days, they can have it actually.

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Perfection has its price.  And its limit.

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So, Brian spent many a day in the surf magazine quality surf amidst the holiday brochure weather

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and we strolled the sandy shore, watching for sharks in the shallows and dipped in the waters between the dodgy shories.

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See the reef shark feeding in the right of this picture?:

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Ahhh, what a place!

DSC_0968 (800x532)20kms further north along more crap roads and we found ourselves at Gnaraloo.

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An apparently famed surfspot and a favourite haunt of the pros.  The day we were there it was absolutely going off with 8 foot left hand waves lining up and peeling off.

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This spot was totally special.

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Remote, intrepid, adventurous, a highlight of our trip.  An awesome way to spend both my birthday, and Mother’s Day, with the crazy gadsventure crew

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Even the toilet had a view:

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Finally, North-Western Australia has really delivered for scenery and atmosphere and Red Bluff shaped up to be a winner.

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Surviving the School Holidays Part 2

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Coronation Beach was a great place to spend a couple of days.  A couple of days and a few windsurfs.

DSC_0797 (800x532)It wasn’t busy despite the holidays raging, and it only cost us a mere $7 a night!  Bargain!  For that you got an ocean view and a shelter shed.

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Only problem was that through the dividing wall of our shed dwelt another family whose kids had terrible coughs.  We have done a great job at avoiding sickness on this trip, so we cut our stay at Coronation a bit short so we didn’t get their germs!  And we disinfected the Duplo blocks afterwards.

The drive North is getting more and more barren.  Short saltbush shrubs sprout from bright red ochre sands and there is such huge expanse of sky it is ridiculous!

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The air has a different quality and at night the stars are so clear due to the lack of light pollution.  But the highway drives are pretty boring and long sometimes.  The trip to Kalbarri passed through the historic town of Northampton which had a little bit of character:

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Then we arrived in Kalbarri in time for a couple of days of drizzly rain, and also in time for the ANZAC day long weekend.  IMG_7748

We soon discovered that Kalbarri is the place where all of WA goes for their holidays.

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Talk about a thriving little place.  The van parks were all packed out but we managed to jag a little unpowered corner for a few nights.  The showers were grotty and the playground was broken but we felt ourselves lucky to find anywhere at all so we made the most of it.


Brian had a few great surfs at Jake’s Point, and we drained the batteries watching movies in the rain.  The inverter broke, and we blew a fuse before we finally ran out of power for the first time ever on our last night.  Brian and Dash attended the dawn service (in the rain) and we all tried to partake in the pelican feeding but happened on a day that the pelicans were elsewhere unfortunately.  Dash got to throw a dead fish in the water though so he was pretty stoked with that!  Dash the menace.

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He may look cute, but geez he can be a monster!  He is always in trouble for touching things, poking fingers in dark holes, smacking/sitting on Daisy.  He is the one that will trip over nothing or bump his head on an unseen hazard every time.  What a little character.  It must be hard being 2.  He gives me the sweetest morning cuddles at usually 4am or so.  Love him!

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But we wouldn’t have it any other way really.

Kalbarri is famous also for Nature’s Window and the beautiful gorge.

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It was reminiscent of the Grand Canyon the way it dropped away to the Murchison River far below.  Of course on a much less grand scale.  Coaxing the boys along a beautifully made 500m walk to get the money shot was fun.

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Even more fun was cracking the whip to get them back up the hill to the car!

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Not looking forward to the walks coming up further north in the National Parks.  I think Brian and I will have more fun taking turns and going solo.

At last, the blasted School Holidays were over and the highway was super busy with an assortment of 4wds and trailers and caravans and boats heading home.  We are heading home too, but we get to take the scenic route!  Our next spot was Hamelin Station Stay which was a patch of dirt on a working goat and sheep farm.

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It was a different atmosphere that’s for sure.  And the ablution blocks were about the most beautiful ones we have ever seen!  DSC_0835 (800x532)

It was lovely wandering around the farm and visiting the goats and the dam.

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The goats were awfully horny!  I’m glad we didn’t have to explain that one to Jasper just yet!

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They had some real rain here and then our site became crazy with ants which kind of detracted from the atmosphere, when we couldn’t even sit outside!

Hamelin Pool was the nearby attraction which is a bay that is 10 times saltier than the ocean and supports microbial life called Stromatolites.  These are the oldest living organisms on the planet and they were around 3.5 BILLION YEARS AGO!!!! Impressive to say the least.  This is the best example of them on Earth.

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For a bunch of rocks that grow larger with algae, they were really interesting!


Shell Beach was around the corner which is, well, a beach made of shells.

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It was pretty cool, but there was more rain a’coming so we got ourselves into Denham and found the most exposed caravan park site we could to sit out the 20knot wind.  But the view was worth it!  I love being able to watch Brian windsurf from the comfort of my caravan!

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We hit the Ocean Park Aquarium with the promise of Tiger Shark feeding….. but there were no Tiger Sharks.  It was still awesome though with Stonefish, Squid, Sea snakes, Coral Trout, Lemon Sharks and all the other usual fishies.  It wasn’t all flashy like your Underwater World but it was a more authentic experience with a guided tour around a fully self sufficient eco attraction.

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It was fun and educational.  Did you know Sea Snakes have to drink fresh water?  Or that squid only live for 1 year?  And Trevelly are the fastest swimmers?  And most of the fish are hermaphroditic?  And Blue-Ringed Octopus and Puffer Fish have exactly the same paralysing poison and if you just continue CPR, even if there are no signs of success, eventually the compressions with reverse the toxin’s effect and the victim will recover?!

It also had a great view of Shark Bay.

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Denham is another daggy town which looks a bit rough around the edges.  Surprising considering this is a bit of a tourist mecca.

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 There are suddenly a lot of grey nomads around who look rather settled into the prime spots and it is coming into their travel season apparently.  Great.

We visited Monkey Mia this morning and although it was a quiet day, we still had to share the ‘experience’ with 150 other tourists.  And no, we weren’t picked to feed the dolphins.  But that is for the next blog.

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Fremantle Rocks! School Holidays Part 1

Our time in Fremantle seemed to be divided equally between the Little Creatures Brewery and our caravan park at Woodmans Point.

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Little Creatures is the best place to have a pizza and a pint of Pale Ale while the kids play quietly in the giant sandpit and watching the sun set over a pirate ship in the Fremantle harbour.

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Sounds idyllic right? It’s not often we have to drag the boys away from a pub, usually they are the ones dragging us away! We visited each evening just to keep the kids happy!

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The cafe scene in Freo is centered around some big institutional cafes run by the same family of Italians that have been there for generations.

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And that means fricken fantastic coffee! The streets are funky style but there’s a distinct feeling of history and roots here. Of European and Asian immigrants who made this place what it is today with an awful lot of hard work.

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Then there is an emerging sub-culture of hipsters who co-exist with the original inhabitants in a fragile balance of old vs new.

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This is what makes Fremantle such a charming and eclectic kind of place.

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The shipwreck museum was worth a visit

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and it was lovely just strolling around the docks soaking up the atmosphere, on the way to Little Creatures again!

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We changed caravan parks after some cranky old ladies asked us if we were going to put our child to bed because it was 830pm and he sounded tired….

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Actually, the problem was he had had a huge daytime sleep so he was anything but tired, but I wasn’t about to explain that to the rude old biddies. It made me feel like getting on the piss and cranking up the tunes just to spite them. But I didn’t. We were so cranky because of all the times we have wanted to complain about inconsiderate campers who are loud and drunk at midnight, but we don’t. To have someone whinge about our low level of noise so early in the evening was laughable really. I hope they got some really noisy school holidayers with 10 kids after we left!

But, the Karrinyup Waters Resort ended up being one of the nicest parks we have ever set foot in so it was well worth the move.

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We spent our days by the pool or 3,

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checking out the sights, fish and chips by the beach at sunset,

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or just chilling out.  This was the first time in ages we really felt like we were having a holiday!  Perhaps it was the vibe of the hundreds of other campers who had just started their school holidays that we were picking up on.

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We found the Perth City to be a bit corporate and soulless and better enjoyed from afar!

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 A lot of steel grey mining company buildings on the skyline overlooking a wide expanse of the Swan River.  Fremantle was obviously where all the cool kids were at.  But we did find Synergy Parklands at King’s Park to be an oasis, an entertaining oasis with the most beautiful green grass in WA!

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There were dinosaurs, ducks, play equipment and, above all, miles of clean soft lawn for Daisy to explore without little bits of stuff to pick up and eat.

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 That’s her new trick, crawling.  She got so good so fast!  Time to buy a playpen I think!  We have become even busier parents.  As if we weren’t already busy enough!

The Swan Valley Wine Region is the oldest and most established in WA, but we thought it lacked the personality and vibrance of the Margaret River region.

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 The Houghton Winery was pretty awesome though and we checked out the Hop Hog Brewery to taste the ‘Beer of the Year’.

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It was so good we had to take some home with us!

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We have come to realise that the end of our trip is in sight.  And with that, comes a dichotomy of emotion.  Happy and sad, relieved and anxious.  It is still a ways off, but our trip no longer feels like it is never going to end.

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There are still plans to hang for a while in Darwin, but that’s as long as there is any work that Brian can just step into.  Our tenants are renewing our lease until October, so we should end up home in Mackay around about then.  Probably.  Maybe.  We’ll see!

We thought the Rottnest Island cruises were marginally overpriced, and the holiday season also turned us off so we instead did the budget (cheapskate) ‘sunset cruise’ to the Island.

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It ended up being just run out and back on the last passenger ferry of the day so we went over in the twilight, and back in the dark.  The free Corona was a small saving grace.  Could have done with another to deal with Jasper and Dash turning wild on the way home.

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Meantime, we were a bit worried about the Easter long weekend coming up and somehow managed to fluke a spot in a caravan park in Geraldton, Sunset Beach.

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The drive here was about 420kms so it was one of our longer trips but there were a few things to break up the journey, and luckily the boys have mastered the art of movie watching in the car!

We visited the Pinnacles Desert just outside Cervantes.

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What a super surreal landscape dotted with thousands of these limestone spikes and pillars.

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 It was a little bit spooky to be honest!  Do you remember a movie that was The Wizard of Oz sequel?  I think it was ‘Return to Oz’.  It reminded me of that movie.  There were heads in jars in that movie too.  Hmmm.

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At Lancelin we paused for a hot-cross-bun break and were greeted by the sight of about 15 dolphins frolicking right next to the shore catching fish in the seaweed infested water.  They were so close you could have reached out and touched them.  Of course, they had moved down the beach by the time we went back for the camera!

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We arrived in Geraldton and found our place at Sunset Beach.  It really lives up to its name!

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 The families were steadily rolling in with their assortment of vans, trailers and tents to join us this Easter.  My whole family went to Hamilton Island without us.IMG_7697 (800x600)

Sometimes I wish I had a teleporter!  They made me feel a bit homesick.   Happy Easter!

The kids had a great Easter morning of course, and the Easter Bunny did find us luckily.

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 There was a bit of a dodgy playground at the park but the boys still managed to spend ages at it each day.

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The weather is gradually turning cold at night, but warm during the day so Brian has got a new favourite shirt!

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Flannelette: the shirt for all seasons!  Unfortunately, I put all our warm gear away in the vacuum bags while we were in Perth, it seems I was a little premature!

Geraldton was a bit of a wierd town.  It has spent millions of dollars on a war memorial for the HMAS Sydney which was sunk in 1941 by a German warship off the coast here.

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The memorial has so many aspects, it was a little confusing.  But was poignant in its remembering the 645 lives lost, 1 seagull per soldier.  Jasper sort of got it:  “So, did the soldiers all turn into seagulls?”

There is also a fairly impressive foreshore area with a great playground and waterpark, but being school holidays, this was getting feral so we came to avoid it.  Apart from the money spent on these things, the rest of the town was lacklustre with broken down buildings, unkempt and untidy mid-city blocks and a few condemned buildings in what you would think of as ‘prime’ positions.  Odd.  But it was windy, and that kept Brian happy!  And it had a cool retro lighthouse!

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He was even happier when we headed a little bit further north (only 20kms) to the famous (in the right circles) windsurfing hub of Coronation Beach…….   to be continued………

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Margaret my Darling

Margaret River is, by definition, one of the coolest regions in Australia! It has everything. Beaches to forests, DSC_0624 (800x532)

mountain biking to wineries,

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breweries to farmer’s markets,

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and playgrounds to sheep shearing. Throughout it all runs this common vibe of relaxation and peace.

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The area really took off in the 60’s when a bunch of surfers built some shacks overlooking some great surf breaks at Prevelly, Gracetown and Yallingup.

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Now, the ‘shacks’ have morphed into mansions and the hippies are left to live in their vans in the carparks, still overlooking the surfbreaks! Then, in the 1980s, the falling price of wool meant the local sheep farmers had to diversify, which lead to the establishment of the many wineries and breweries around the place.

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We spent the first week in Yallingup in a premier caravan park overlooking the ocean.

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The surf was gigantic one day, and miniscule the next, but gorgeous every day! It wasn’t much of a swimming beach, rather surfing, learning to surf, bodyboarding and paddleboarding.

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Luckily there was a pretty epic playground where we spent most afternoons.

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Somehow we accidentally arrived just as the Margaret River Pro was about to kick off at Gracetown.

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It was a fluke, but a happy one! It is an event on the World Championship Tour which meant we got to see the likes of Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Gabriel Medina and CJ Hopgood surfing.

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Day one there were hardly any spectators, but by the weekend the crowds really kicked in which gave it a great atmosphere.

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It was won by Michel Bourez in the end in case you were wondering…..

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In between surfing related activities, we checked out some amazing wineries and restocked our wine cellar with the gorgeous, sophisticated Margaret River wines.

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The wineries themselves were absolutely ostentatious in their design and sometimes we felt a little under-dressed! Especially when there was a chandelier in the toilet!

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The Eagle Bay Brewing Company was a great place to sit and have a beer and the kids got to run amuck on the grassy hill and the sandpit full of Tonka trucks.

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What a great set up! Duckstein Brewery had another great playground, a delicious Heffeweiss (wheat beer) and was the most stunningly pretentious building built overlooking a man-made lake.

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Cheeky Monkey was another brewery with a playground and the best ever wood-fired pizza.

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Gabriel Chocolate factory imports their own cacao beans from all over the world and makes the most delicious single-origin chocolate.  Mmmm mmmm.

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All with free samples of course! Bettany’s Nougat factory was also worth a visit (they had wines too!), but we have never had as good a pistachio nougat as that one that Nathan used to distribute. You have spoiled all other nougat for us Nathan! Though we will keep trying….

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Our favourite notable wine was the House of Cards Rose.

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Just a very small family run place with a few golden retrievers dozing at the door and a beautiful summer wine.

One other brilliant place we came across is a cafe called ‘Chocolatte’, in Dunsborough.  IMG_7302 (800x800)

It was a winner on so many levels!

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We moved camps down to Wharncliffe Mill just outside of Margaret River itself. It had a glut of mountain bike trails all through the forest and was a really nice ‘eco’ camp. We were told about it by a couple of nomads some months ago and wouldn’t hesitate to on-recommend it.

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Margaret River was a nice little town full of backpackers and the river was more a creek but it hosted the most fabulous farmer’s markets where you could sample absolutely everything!

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Watermelon, mead, feta, dukkah, olive oil, preserves, bread, smoked salmon, olives, wine, chocolate, don’t have lunch before you go, just graze your way around the stalls! And of course what these savvy farmers have realised is that if you let people have a taste, it’s going to lead to a lot of sales if you have a tasty product.

We might have spent a couple of days more, but our ‘eco’ camp was booked out for a school group so, after nearly 2 weeks, it was time to move on. We were headed north again, but not really sure where.

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The Yallingup Shearing Shed was on the way. It was only $10 per adult and was one of those really surprising and entertaining and educational things.