It was the holiday that was constantly in danger of being remembered as ‘that holiday’… Exmouth 2016… probably the last time we venture there in July. Rain, wind and jam packed caravan parks made for an unpleasant 10 days so it may be time to consider other options.

By day 3 I found myself saying to Danelle, ‘maybe we aren’t caravanners any more?’ Driving rain and obnoxious neighbours (yes the people I was trying to think the best of in a previous post…) were taking their toll and I was becoming a little grumpy. Maybe more than a little…

I like to remember the holidays we have had so this is nothing more than a collection of random reflections – read on if you are up for a brain dump.


Friday lunch time we hit the road – new van yet again and towed by the Colorado and ready for some fun. We rolled into Dongara mid afternoon and had barely unhitched before Sam and I hit the water for some good waves. A warm sunny afternoon and glassy conditions were a great way to start. The Wesleys were on their way but wouldn’t get there till 7 so we kicked back and relaxed. We had checked Exmouth weather but couldn’t really believe what we were reading – heavy rain for 3 days at least – one day up to 270ml they were predicting.


We had a fun first night in Dongara and hit the road for Carnarvon. Well, when I say hit the road… we made it to the S bend for fuel, then stopped in Geraldton for coffee and shortly after for a wee break, so it was a while before we were rolling at full tilt.

Neither Stu nor I like to do the grey nomad thing of sitting on 85kph to save fuel, so we hit cruise control and drove and drove at 100kph for most of the way. The fuel economy took a hit, but when we worked it out, it seems we may have paid an extra $15 for fuel and saved 3 hours of travel time. No brainer really… And driving in cruise control in so much easier than trying to keep the pedal to the floor.

Carnarvon was chilly and wet. We got there in time for a run and some late dinner before hitting the sack. The next day we drove to Exmouth and by the Minilya turn off the clouds were forming. By Waroora turn off the rain was smashing down and we were wondering what was happening. Not what you hope for…


We arrived and set up the van in the rain. Even with a minimal set up I got soaked. Stu & Carolyn had a nightmare set up with the power, gas and water not working on their hire van initially. The gas and water were an easy fix but there was no power until the next day. Still not sure what went wrong, but it righted itself and was good.

And it rained… and rained… and rained… We now know for sure our van is watertight.


On day two we decided to put the annexe up. I’m not an annexe fan, but every time we opened the door we got wet and cold so this gave us some shelter and a place to gather. I almost left it at home, but so glad we brought it.

And it rained…

Then our neighbours arrived on day 2. Sadly they weren’t warm friendly people, like most of the rest of the campsite. They had booked 3 adjacent sites – sites we needed to walk thru to get to the ablutions, but early in the piece it became clear they weren’t happy about that. The kids got told off several times and then as I walked across for a shower I heard them comment, ‘there they go again… walking across our site’. I walked another few steps and then stopped, turned around and decided to ‘hear’ the passing comment. In the end the reason they didn’t want us walking on their site was because it was ‘theirs’… hmmm… I couldn’t argue with that so I left. We met as families and agreed that it wasn’t worth causing a fight over and we’d walk 30m up the road a bit to cross thru someone else’s site.

Unfortunately that set the tone for the rest of the week as they yelled and screamed at one another descending into full frontal arguments at times and making the whole vibe pretty unpleasant for anyone who happened to be around. I could go on, but I won’t…


We got out of camp as much as we could to escape their yelling, but with the weather what it was there were only so many things to do. We had a couple of lame surfs, went fishing to no avail a few times and splashed the cars around in the mud, not remembering how difficult it would be to clean them later.

I had started ‘running’ again, well, ‘intervals’ is what we were calling it – walking and slow jogging, which felt so pathetic, but even with that low impact work my knees were arcing up. I pressed on hoping they would get better. They didn’t, so I began popping anti inflammatories instead!


After 7 days in camping purgatory we escaped and went to the National Park where we had 3 nights booked at Osprey campground – well we thought we had three nights, but in reality it was two, as I had stuffed up the booking. Even in a busy campground it felt peaceful as we weren’t listening to people bicker all day. The rain had stopped, but in its place were strong winds for most of the day. Osprey is a beautiful area and the campground is great, but on the 3rd day when the campground host came to ask why we hadn’t packed up I think we weren’t that bothered because the winds were forecast to get stronger and we were ready for a change. So in the space of half an hour we cleared out and began the trip back to Carnarvon for the night before planning to land in Dongara for 3 nights. (We had heard our previous neighbours plans to go to Kalbarri so we ruled that out as an option.)

We headed south and into a strong headwind. At 100kph the Colorado got 23l/100 with the van in tow – not pretty at all, but we weren’t going to sit on 80 to save a few $$. With a tailwind a few days later it got 15-16 at 100kph, but usually its around 18l/100. I guess you spend time or money and we will choose money.

We enjoyed another cool night in Carnarvon, people had showers and then in the morning headed for Dongara. Along the way the coffee machine had died and the chemical toilet opening mechanism had failed. No coffee wasn’t an option so we picked up a new machine in Geraldton and also got the toilet part. Sanity restored.


It was a really nice few days in Dongara, relaxing, surfing, reading, and chatting. The surf was still pretty average, the fishing was lousy but we had fun as two families together. As a holiday it could well enter the realms of the forgettable, if not for friends.

With lousy weather, bad surf, no fish, wacky neighbours and a collection of breakdowns you could lose your cool. Or, as we did, you could just be glad to be in another space for a period free of responsibility and work.

We cruised back into home on Saturday morning hoping the rain that was predicted would soften the mud on the car prior to washing. But for once the rain didn’t come and we drove home dry. The only event of the drive home was watching the caravan window cartwheel back up the road near Wedge Island. We were fortunate it didn’t hit anyone or even get damaged in the dust up. It had wiggled open as we drove and then the force of the side wind had snapped the rivets and dislodged it. I fixed it this morning and its all good – which is nice because as I reviewed online prices for parts and repair it was ugly.

So here we are back in Perth in mid-July… all thanks to our kids now having a regular edukation. I haven’t spent this much of a winter in Perth for quite a while so it will be an interesting change. Normally I come back from holidays and hit the ground running as the retic season kicks off, but being mid winter I’m not sure what to expect. It seems I already have nearly 3 weeks of work booked up and I’m not sure how that happened. But maybe its a good thing as we need to generate a bit of income again.

Next year’s mid year break won’t be in Exmouth though…






Post Holidays Car Conversation


So we just got back from a great two weeks of holidays and driving to church today I asked the family – so what was the highlight of the last two weeks of holidays?

Ellie – ‘hmmm hanging with our friends’

Sam – ‘yep – fun with the Wesleys’

Danelle ‘same’

Me – ‘haha – yeah that was it for me too’

Then Sam asks ‘what about your low points dad? Got any?’

Me ‘the never ending rain, the dipstick neighbours, the wind that came once the rain ended, the lack of surf, the coffee machine dying, the toilet breaking, our crap fishing efforts, my (other) knee giving me pain, stuffing up the campsite bookings…’ I stopped there.

I’m sure there was more, but the point was made. When you hang out with good people you can have a great time even if the weather, surf, fish and everything else conspire against you.

We won’t be heading back to Exmouth again in July, but it was a fun holiday anyway!


‘On This Day’


My Facebook feed does that ‘on this day’ thing, where it pops up memories of events in previous years and lately its been peppering me with images from our trip round Oz in 2009. Each time I see a pic something in me goes ‘boom’ and I want to be back there. Here’s one of Danelle and Sam at Ubirr in Kakadu. Danelle is showing Sam the way to Arnhem Land – and possibly hoping he and his teddy would take off there because he was being a proper little turd that day! That’s where we were on June 8th 2009…

If I had a memory/memories I would choose to carry with me every day of our life as a family then it would be the 6 months we spent on the road travelling around this country. As soon as I see the images I think ‘we should do it again!’ It triggers one of those ‘feel good’ chemicals in my brain and I want to quit everything and hit the road once more in anticipation of an awesome experience.

Then I come back to reality.

It’s not that we couldn’t do it, because we probably could make it happen. But the reality comes in knowing that part of what made it special was that our kids were 8 & 6 and still loved hanging with us. We had a ball together. They are teenagers now and while we get on really well, the thought of 6 months away from friends cooped up with us just doesn’t inspire them like it did then. Now when we go on holidays the primary question is not ‘where are we going?’ but rather ‘who else will be there?’ and often ‘when will be home?’

And then there’s the reality that seeing somewhere twice is never the same as the first time you encounter it. 2009 was a trip of ‘firsts’, of saying ‘wow!’ often, of waking up in strange new places or sometimes just on the side of the road and unsure of what the day would hold. It was our first extended time of camping and figuring out how to live on the road. We’ve been to a big slab of this country now and seen it at its best, and I know that having revisited some places since, the magic of that first visit can’t be replicated. We’re experienced campers / caravaners now and it all seems less of an adventure now.

But how good is it to have memories – thoughts that spark feelings of good times – that remind us of how good life can be?

I sometimes have to remind myself that while on that trip we lost a job and $250K in a bad investment, because those are not the things that come back to me. What does is the beauty of our country, the joy of family travel and the fun of adventure.

I’m hoping that one day we will do it again, most likely just the two of us, but who knows, maybe our kids will take their kids and invite us to join them…

And just for fun here are a few random memories that still make me smile:

homeskoolingHomeskooling in Exmouth – ok so this is going well…

brekkieBreakfast somewhere on the Stuart Highway on the way to Queensland

danelleEvening at Barn Hill… hooahh!

feedingAt Seaforth in Northern Queensland with the grey nomads teaching the kids how to feed the birds.
















Our first ‘capital improvement’ to the camper. In Mission Beach we bought a portaloo and Danelle was excited.
















We stayed with Ken & Leanne in inner city Brisbane and it was one long narrow driveway to back the van up.

pambulaCold water surfing in Pambula – scored some great waves in those few days!

dunnyDunny at legendary Oz surf break – Cactus in the desert in South Oz

cactusMorning waves alone at Cactus – sharky
















A stormy night in Yambuk made better by this crazy slide

And I could keep going as I’m having another winter day off from retic, but that’ll do for now, or I really will want to hit the road again





So we got home last weekend and have been adjusting back to reality.

Eight weeks is a long break. I noticed that after 2-3 weeks I had some sort of a tug to ‘go back’ and get on with work and life, but 8 weeks took me to a different place, almost like I had ‘forgotten’ that old life, so coming home was harder than I imagined.

We had got quite used to life on the road and were enjoying the time down south as a family. Someone asked me if we were feeling ‘cramped’ in the caravan. It seemed like an odd question… ‘Cramped?… Nope…’ Funny how you just adapt to things. 17 square metres is plenty once you get your routine sorted. I felt we could have rolled on indefinitely, but it was time to come back and replenish the bank account.

It was hard heading home knowing that with the kids going back to school next year, this was going to be our last big holiday for a while. School holidays are now setting the tone for our life… Blech…

So this week I launched back into work and went pretty hard – even fell asleep on the couch a couple of nights this week… I haven’t quite settled back into this life yet, but I’m hoping it will come, because it kinda has to…

The final part of our time away was great – probably better than the first 5 weeks even. Koh Samui was nice, but I’m glad it was free as I probably wouldn’t pay money to go there – a bit like a clean and expensive version of Bali. We had a good time there away from the kids, but the long flights and travel time weren’t great.


We came back from there and headed down south where we spent another 10 nights. We skipped our old favourites of Busso and Margs and headed inland to Bridgetown, before heading for Walpole, Parry’s Beach, Albany and the Stirling Ranges with a final night staying with friends in Narrogin.

The real value of this trip was that it reminded us again how much we love the southwest. Its been a long time since we had been there as most of our holidays are in winter, but this was beautiful… cold, often wet, but still really nice. We dodged the weather a bit as we travelled, but did get caught in a few storms here and there. One night in Walpole I remember going to sleep and reflecting on how good it was to be in such a remote, quiet and peaceful place, then at 5.00am we woke to a strong winds making our awning flap like crazy. Danelle and I hopped up and packed it away in the cold, raining darkness before tucking back into bed, only to hear the bed end flys trying to take off. So I was back out 3 more times tying things down before finally settling again at 6.00am. Of course by then I was wide awake…


All things considered the caravan served us really well and while we aren’t deeply attached to it, I think we will keep it for a bit. The extra space, the onboard bathroom and hot water system made life a lot easier. The hills and winding roads of the south west meant driving a little more concentration and the fuel bill was a little steeper, but given we only did a total of 2000ks it was hardly noticeable.



















We had some wonderful moments while away and the beauty of being ‘cramped’ up in a caravan is that you simply have to interact as a family. We had some fun and games, DVDs, some deep conversations and then other nights there was silence as all 4 of us read books.

Our kids were brilliant. At the end of week 1 I was worried as they were making unhappy noises about not having friends and being stuck with us for another 7 weeks… but we talked and they chose to enjoy the time rather than endure it. They made it as good for us as hopefully we did for them.

Sambo got right into the fishing standing outside in the freezing cold until dark some nights, we all climbed Bluff Knoll together, caught up with old friends and generally had a really memorable time.

Given it was so good I think we might do the shorter southern trips a little more often from here on it.

So now I’ve just got to adjust my mind to the demands of real life, a business to run and a church to lead… all very different to waking up when you like and the hardest part of the day being deciding what to have for dinner!


The Expanda Experience… So Far

Thinking of buying an Expanda?
Here are some observations after 4 weeks in the Expanda… It’s a 2008 16 49-3 model which means it has two fold out beds and a bathroom and the soft bed ends.
  • We bought the soft top version for $23500, but the newer hard lid type would have been better. But… the cheapest versions of these are a fair bit more $$$ – prob about $34K for the cheapest I could find. The hard lid means no need to put up the bed end flys which add to set up and pack up time. It also gives a bit more protection from the elements. But if its $10K… then I’ll suck it up for now.
  • Having a hot water system is a huge bonus – something we didn’t have with the camper. Dishes and showering are much easier.
  • Jayco quality is average. Stuff feels flimsy and fragile but I guess you need to use lightweight materials to make a van.
  • The toilet / shower has been really good and we used it a few times when we bush camped.  The outdoor shower also allows us to rinse sand off or wash out wetsuits easily too. Both great value.
  • A water pump is much better than a hand pump, but you use more water as a result. We worked out that including quick showers we went they 40l/day as a a family, but I reckon we could trim this. We didn’t use that much with the Eagle.
  • Two water tanks is great as 1 x 80l just doesn’t go far.
  • The Expanda beds are harder to push in than you’d think. We have an an eggshell mattress cover which makes it significantly harder, but you still need two people on the job to do it easily. I thought this would have been much simpler
  • Roll out awnings are a big improvement over a canvas awning,  but they rattle and flap. We haven’t bought ‘de-flappers’ yet, but probably will. Still, once you get the hang of rolling the awning out its a two minute job.
  • Danelle likes the oven in this van whereas the previous didn’t have an oven.
  • A slide out BBQ has been great and makes outdoor cooking easy. Well worth adding to your options if you buy a van.
  • The dinette seating in this one is much bigger than the Eagle. We spent most meals seated at the dinette, partly because it was cold outside, but with the Eagle we generally ate outside as it was too squeezy.
  • The air conditioner in the wall is a bad idea. We used it just once when we were packing up in Broome and we were hot and sweaty. But otherwise it has been unnecessary. I think a roof version would be good and the room used by the air con given to a bigger fridge. I imagine we may use it if we got really hot.
  • We haven’t solved sleeping arrangements with our kids. Ellie often sleeps out in her tent, but on short stays she sleeps in on the back bed while Sam gets the dinette folded down into a bed. He is only just short enough to fit and won’t be able to fit in 12 months. We considered bunks but the bunks are pretty small and we weren’t convinced. I think either Sam or Ellie can fit diagonally but they are getting a bit precious…
  • The Jayco mattresses are a 1/3-2/3 split and you can feel the ridge a little in the mattress which means that one person gets to sleep on 1/3 of the bed while the other gets 2/3. I know the later models have been modified to include a 50/50 mattress which was obviously a response to customer needs.
  • The bathroom basin never gets used because it doesn’t fully drain and when it’s put back in position ends up leaking on the floor. Bad design flaw!
  • A battery and water monitor has been excellent. Good to know where you are at in this regard.
  • The built in radio with external speakers was a waste as we never use it. I can’t imagine playing my music for everyone else to hear and equally I can’t imagine going somewhere remote and then cranking up noise.
  • The ventilation in a pop up is much better than in a regular van and we like this.
  • At the end of the day the two ends that pop out effectively create a ‘tent’, so while it is a caravan in one sense it isn’t as water / sound tight as a full van would be. On wet nights we have to put up flys or expect to get wet. That gets old fast, but it’s what we have for now…
  • It’s been good to tow – no problems there and I like that the wheels are the same size as those on the cruiser so we effectively carry two spares now.
I guess whatever you buy is a compromise of sorts. A full van is heavier and generally less airy than the Expanda. It’s also hard to find a full van with bunks for a reasonable price. This one cost us $23500 but a full van would have been more like $40k for something similar. The cruiser also has a 2500kg tow limit and we’d be pushing it to find a family van that we could do that with legally.
I imagine this will meet most of our needs for the best 3-4 years but ultimately it will be a temporary solution. My guess is that eventually the kids will take it in turns to swag it – or maybe just Sam will get booted outdoors!

We Are Not Fishermen… (Or Maybe We Are?)



I get the sense that fishing either runs in your blood or it doesn’t. I grew up in a non fishing family, the extent of our endeavors being a one off attempt in Carnarvon when I was 11. We lasted about an hour and eventually realized neither dad nor us had any clue what we were doing. It’s s dark and repressed memory.

Since then I’ve given it a shake on a number of occasions. I even owned a boat and occasionally could bring home a feed of herring or skippy. But I was never going to be a threat to WA fish stocks. Bag limits were never in question and serious fish would laugh at me as I dangled my primitive line in the water.

I contemplated taking the rods on this trip to add another activity to our repertoire in case the surf was flat, and the kids were bored, but in the end decided against it. With rods come tackle boxes, buckets, bait etc… Space is at a premium when camping and old smelly gear wasn’t considered worthy – besides which I would have needed to get it all serviced and up to speed.

However one week into the trip we did a quick fishing afternoon with the Wesleys (using their gear) and came home with a feed – a feed I have since discovered was all undersized. It got everyone hopeful – even me… So when we got to Point Samson I had a flourish of optimism and decided to splurge and buy some handlines, some hooks and sinkers and a bucket – a $6.00 bucket! We invested $60 into fishing gear and went out to catch dinner.

You know how this story ends though don’t you?…

Some people just aren’t fishermen.

Danelle pulled in a bream we deemed edible and of size, but otherwise it was an uneventful day. I discovered a huge school of gardies swimming nearby but couldn’t entice them to consider my bait. We caught a few tiny throwbacks but that was it.


We carried on to Broome and spent several hours throwing fishing gear into the ocean off the main jetty. Danelle managed to land a good sized diamond trevally and Sam hooked up to a good fish only to discover his dad’s knot tying skills weren’t up to the game and the fish escaped albeit with a hook in its mouth. We spent an evening dangling our hooks in the water while large fish swam visibly nearby but ignored us completely. Some people just aren’t fishermen…

Back in Exmouth we spent a couple of afternoons fishing off the rocks scoring some bream on our first attempt – enough for dinner – again undersize but not that we knew. That was a surprise and a feat we didn’t repeat.

On Saturday afternoon as we scrambled across the rocks, throwing out handlines and getting snagged regularly we did end up with one fair sized bream. I had since done some reading and learnt that black bream needed to be 28cm so he just snuck in. However when the fisheries officer came by she advised us that it was highly unlikely we had caught a black bream as it was pretty much all yellowfin in this area. I pulled him out of the bucket for inspection only to discover that the fins that once looked dark where now clearly yellow… Oh dear…

So as the rest of the family fished on I received an official caution – handled very well by the fisheries inspector I must add who clearly knew we were hapless hacks and unlikely to hurt anyone other than ourselves.

So we left for the cape without bait – thinking if we don’t have bait we can’t fish… But Sam has since hunted crabs, killed them and just as I finish this post he has set out to land the big one.

My hopes are a little more circumspect and I am going to check if the inverter will power the coffee grinder, as if it does then I will try and use Danelle’s tea strainer to make myself a brew.


Update – as I wrote this post Sam feeling eternally optimistic, left to go fishing. An hour later I dropped down to see how he was going. He had used the crab he had killed to catch a tiny bream, which was now his new bait.

‘Do you want to come for a walk to Yardi Sam?’

‘Nah – I’ll stay here and fish’.

Two hours later we come back to a big (easily legal) yellow fin bream and a son with a massive grin.

Kurrajong Adventures


So we pack up the Expanda – by now we are experts (and experts always get complacent) and trundle off around the cape 70ks to our new home. On the way we drop in at Dunes to check the surf – the girls have given permission for Sam and I to have one last surf before we disappear down the coast another 50ks. That said it is the kind of permission that says ‘ok… You surf and we will wait patiently doing nothing until you get back…’ Ellie is less careful ‘they’re doing what? You’re kidding!’

So we drive van and car into the carpark hoping there are no unexpected events happening that will necessitate a careful maneuver reversing out. Quite the opposite – the carpark has 4 cars and we have come to realise this means the surf is small. A couple of young Aussie blokes head over the hill to join the one Euro Touro in the water waiting for whatever waves may appear. It is high tide but the small swell is barely breaking so after 5 minutes of enjoying the view we agree  together that there isn’t much point in paddling out. Sam is agreeing less than the rest of us – he has just found his surfing legs so any wave is better than no wave. He is a compliant kid though so the family ‘no vote’ wins and we hop back in the car bound for the North Kurrajong campground.


30 minutes later we arrive to a half empty campground and locate our area, a huge bay next to Martin and Rosemary, a pair of nomads from Queensland. They seem friendly enough and are your typical senior cit on the road, traveling frugally and passing on all of their accumulated wisdom to anyone who will listen.

We set up the van – we are now experts remember?… Unfortunately none of us remembers to switch the fridge to gas and in the morning there is a distinct sense that all is not cold. It looks like we have caught it before it got ugly so we should survive without a long drive back to Exmouth to replenish.

The wind has turned strong northerly as Sam and I head up to check out the beach. On the drive down we had discussed the surf that breaks in the reefs around 600-700m offshore and agreed we would paddle out to see what we could find. Sam is keen to go. He wants to ‘get some barrels, slam some cutties, smash the lip…’ In reality he may stand up and stodgily flounder down the face of the wave before stacking it at the bottom, but I choose not to erase his grand vision.

We wait until 4pm to paddle out and give the wind a chance to drop. It mellows a little and we begin the paddle – me on my 8’8″ mal and Sam on his short board. I stop every 3 minutes to allow him to catch up. It’s mid tide, but by the time we get close to the reef my fingers are getting scratched by coral as we paddle. Each stop has me trying not to rest a foot on the increasingly shallow ocean bottom. Sam is now worried about sharks, coral, the distance and pretty much everything you can imagine. He finds fear in the strangest places…

As we reach the edge of the reef it is quite obvious we will not be going further. It would be a foolish and very un-Eco friendly walk over sharp coral to get to waves that were now much larger and dredgier than they had appeared from shore. Sam is visibly relieved when I suggest we turn back. By comparison to other days we have been here this was a very small surf day so I can only imagine the size of the waves on those reefs at other times.

The paddle in is slow and punctuated with regular breaks, but we eventually arrive and Sam heads off in search of crabs, aka ‘bait’, around the rocks. Two hours later he reappears victorious having caught and pummeled with a large rock one small crab. He is proud of his hunter gatherer achievements and heads off back to the van to pack the crab in a zip-lock bag ready for the next day’s fishing. (Yeah… We could have just bought bait…)


fiveWe sit on the top the dunes and have a quiet drink (of tea…) with the other campers and the day ends as the sun goes down and the cold of evening suddenly sets in. Danelle is now wearing a jumper and zipping up everything on the van that can be closed. I brave the ‘cold’ to bbq the chicken outside but after 15 minutes discover that with the increasing wind, there is barely enough heat to keep the chicken warm let alone cook it.



Eventually we cook in the van and settle in for dinner with chicken and salad before an evening movie – a quirky weekly Danelle picked up from the Exmouth video store. I watch the first 30 mins, fall asleep, snore loudly and get nudged, before waking for the last half hour. ‘Julie and Julia’ is less than awesome but it did wile away a couple of hours…

Ellie has decided she wants back in the family home this evening (she has a tent she erects to escape us) so we fold the dining table down into a makeshift bed that I have constructed and Sam – being still the shortest – finds himself on there yet again. iPads and tablets light the caravan as we read but slowly one by one they extinguish as we nod off.

The night is still and quiet – it seems too good to be true, but for 9 hours the only sound is the gentle crashing of the waves and we sleep wonderfully and wake to a dead still, and even somewhat warm morning.

It has been a much needed relief from the noise and bustle of major caravan parks.


Exmouth Again – Surf, Funerals, Knobs

On Monday morning we left our camp base in Exmouth town and headed for Cape Range National park where we stayed for 3 nights. 
We were glad to leave Broome after too many noisy nights and increasing boredom. There is only so much to do… So after the stops in Port Smith and a return visit to Robe River, we drove thru to Exmouth and back to the central caravan park where we managed to get the last site going. We scored 5 nights on that site but then had to move sites for the final two nights. Who would have thought Exmouth would be so busy out of school holidays?… Turns out there are grey nomads who simply make this ‘home’ for months… Both big caravan parks in town were fully booked but there was space in the Lighthouse park – one we had been to before and didn’t like.
My first job in Exmouth was to remove the rear wheel, dismantle the Poly air suspension and locate the leak. After plunging the airbag in a bucket I discovered the leak wasn’t in the bag itself (a good thing) but was at the point of connection. So I trimmed the hose, reconnected, tightened up the cable tie and all was good. A simple fix and very happy at that.
That same afternoon Sam and I took off to look for surf while the girls set up house. Sadly there were only messy onshore waves so we drove home again hoping for better the next day. It’s a 40 k round trip from the town to the surf break and I knew it wasn’t going to be breaking, but some days you just run on hope.
The next 5 days however, turned on some beautiful waves, from the tiny and barely ridable to the headhigh and invigorating. The crowds were down and Sam finally managed to get beyond riding water water to actually riding waves and it was fun to share some waves with him each day.
The high point came on Sunday afternoon when we lobbed in around 11.30 just before high tide. The surf was small but we paddled out anyway as we’ve noticed the conditions can shift pretty quickly in Exmouth. As we surfed a crowd was gathering on the beach so I asked a local what was going on. It turned out there was a funeral at 1pm for a local bloke who had died of cancer recently.
As word got around the water slowly emptied and people left, but Sam and I stayed. By 12.30 the water was empty and the beach was packed with 300-400 people.  The funeral began at 1 and we had heard there was going to be a ‘paddle out’ afterwards so we figured we would just surf thru until then unless someone called us out.
While the surf wasn’t big, the chances of ever finding empty, quality waves in warm water on a Sunday afternoon are pretty much non-existent so we just surfed until we dropped and then paddled in – only to see my car parked 3 deep in the carpark and with no way out…
It didn’t seem cool to mingle in the funeral and try to find out who was ‘driving the Triton and the Hyundai’, so we just went back and sat on the beach and became part of the event. We watched about a hundred locals do a paddle out, and then have a fun surf for an hour or so, before the crowd began to thin, the tears eased off and we were able to locate a driver to help us get out.
Empty and perfect
10 minutes later…
We had enjoyed some great waves – alone – because the sheer volume of cars blocking the carpark meant that not only where we blocked in – but every other surfer was either at the funeral or blocked out. A rare father son moment – both beautiful and memorable.
We shifted campsites at our caravan park that day and set up home again on site 111. All was looking good until the ‘boys’ arrived behind us and then at 9pm the family with young kids pitched up and set up their tent. The boys were your average Aussie blokes on a fishing trip, but lacking any sense of social etiquette. We listened to their choice in music played loudly across the campsite so the peace that was there was shattered. Fortunately they dialled it down around 8.30 as they went to bed and got set for a big day of fishing.
We listened to the family next to us reading bedside stories in the tent at 9pm and all sounded very cute. However at 6am the sound was less cute as the kids were up and chatting away at the top of their voices. The parents seemed oblivious to the fact that a tent is not sound protection of any form, so at 6.15 while it was still dark I loudly announced the time to them hoping it might make them aware that others weren’t enjoying their children as much as they were. This had no effect and we all woke to the gradually increasing cacophony of 4 small children. At 7 they left the tent to play outside, running and screaming. At that time I moved into Phys Ed teacher mode and barked out loudly ‘It’s 7 o’clock people – tone it down!’ That did the trick… Instant silence and a decision by the parents to hit the pool… That’s the way – why teach your kids to be quiet and respect others when you can simply divert them and let them be noisy next to some one else?…
Seriously – I like kids – I have kids – but if you take your kids camping then do the right thing and consider those around you who may not have planned on waking to the sound of their voices.
They came back from the pool at 8 and packed up their tent. God had smiled on us and they were moving to another site as they only had a one night booking on this one. Or maybe I scared them off…maybe a bit of both.
Their place was taken by some grey nomads and you might think you’d be fairly safe from noise with the older crew but not so. At 10.30 that night I left the caravan yet again to go and tell a noisy group of nomads to dial it down and ‘stop being so bloody noisy’. A bit stronger than my usual polite request, but let’s just say this request fitted this scenario. Raucous laughter and booming voices late in the evening aren’t cool – and they knew it…
I have lost count of the number of times I have had to front people about noise on this trip. I don’t go looking for it, but now I’m beyond rolling over and putting up with it. It seems consideration for others is a rare commodity these days and it really makes camping unenjoyable.
From rowdy neighbours to people with clattering generators and local parties until the early hours, we have really experienced it this time around and it’s made me consider giving camping away unless we can do it off peak in remote areas. It takes the fun out of it when every few nights you have to look someone in the eye and effectively tell them they are being a selfish knob.
So we moved to North Kurrajong in Cape Range National park for our final few days in Exmouth. We booked a ‘no generator’ campground as the last thing we want in a remote area is a chorus of hacking old motors running in the background as we try to quietly chill and escape the world.
And the good news is that it was everything we had hoped with warm friendly neighbours, silent starry evenings and a beautiful beach on our doorstep.



Red Dirt Adventures


A couple of months back we were sitting having lunch with good friends B & M when B announced ‘We’re going on holidays over Easter’.

‘Are WE?’ I said… ‘I didn’t realise.’

‘You can come’ says B… and the rest was history. A whirlwind trip was planned to the Pilbara to visit the gorges in Karajini and a return visit to Wittenoom. It was the first serious jaunt for the big 60 and while I was confident, it is always a little nerve racking taking a 27 year old car into that kind of territory.

We headed off on Easter Thursday evening following our church service. After a route stuff up which saw us backtrack 40ks we finally got somewhere south of Dalwallinu around 11.00pm and called it a night on the side of the road.


An early start got us on the road headed for Newman. We stopped in Dalwallinu for fuel and iced coffees and I made that horrible mistake of forgetting to check if there is toilet paper in the holder… There was no easy solution this time…

Back on the road, we managed to get to Newman by 5.30 and set up for the night. The most tedious part of the drive was over and apart from some sore butts we had done it in pretty good time. On 100k/hr the Cruiser averaged around 14l/100kms which I was pretty happy with as we were going hard and were fully loaded.


From Newman it was that sensational drive into Karajini. I don’t think there are many more stunning drives around than leaving Newman and seeing those rugged rock mountains, covered in spinifex rise out of the ground. Its a very masculine landscape and yet awesomely beautiful at the same time. It was one of the most worshipful moments I have had for a while.

We made it to our camp spot just out of the national park and where we could camp for free. We did the set up and made for Weano Gorge. It was mid 30’s and pretty warm so we were ready to get wet.

On the walk out to Handrail pool I managed to slip my leg between two rocks and scored a massive bruise all up the shin. Very painful and not fun on the first day.


The next few days were spent visiting a couple of gorges each day – Circular pool, Fortescue Falls, Joffre, Knox and a couple of others. We’d get home late in the afternoon, send Danelle and the kids out to collect firewood and then relax for the evening around the campfire.


We left Karajini after 3 days and drove into Tom Price for a night to top up our water supplies, get some food and fuel up again. It was a shame to leave the bush, but the Tom Price park at the bottom of Mt Nameless is pretty spectacular too and it was nice to have a shower…

I had managed to get a puncture while in the gorges so we got that fixed and enjoyed some coffees from the coffee machine. The next day we left Tom Price for Hamersley Gorge before heading on to Wittenoom and managing to score the prime camp spot by the gorge with the most water in it. Its a stunning spot and as remote as you will find anywhere. We hit the tracks and followed the road into the old mine, but with a heap of asbestos tailings lying around we thought it better to head back out.











We spent the next two days exploring that area and just relaxing. I still find Wittenoon a fascinating place.

No one was inspired for the drive home, but then that’s how it goes when you’ve had a fantastic holiday and are looking down the barrel of 16 hrs of driving..

We tried to leave Wittenoom around 9, but discovered that the newly fitted radiator in the Cruiser was getting hot and had actually lost 5l of water over the time we were there. It was good we discovered it before actually hitting the road as it was well past coping. We decided to try and top it up and get by. Fortunately it worked and got us home with no dramas and its going in for its fix up tomorrow.

Our halfway stop on the journey was the aboriginal mission at Karalundi about 60ks north of Meekatharra, a great campsite with grass, showers, toilets and all you need for an overnight stop but back from the main road. We only saw it briefly but given the options are limited in that part of the world we thought it was great.

The drive home was nasty… Rain started in Cue and by Wubin it was pelting down. The final 300ks was just a case of smashing along bumpy roads in the rain and then when we finally reached home we had to unpack in driving rain.

The sunny days of the northwest were gone and it was back to the hard and (very) cold reality of home.

Until next time…


The Homeward Journey

The homeward journey is a bittersweet thing. There is the end of holidays and relaxing, but also the anticipation of home comforts and friends… And of course work… Which isn’t as negative as it sounds. I enjoy time away but a life without purpose beyond relaxing and doing what I want is not what I am made for.


We left Denham this morning after 2 days there and began the drive south and tonight we are in Port Denison listening to the wind and rain as it beats down on the camper. We had ‘finished’ in Denham and felt the need to move on, but on reflection one more day might have been wise. I always misjudge how I will feel when we re-enter clouds, wind and rain. I expect this part of the world to be like the north – sunny only colder. I don’t know why. It isn’t rational! So when we we were approaching Northampton today and the first signs of cloud and cold were appearing I suddenly felt flat and annoyed. I think next time we head north we might make the final drive an 8 hour straight thru.


Shark Bay/Denham was really nice – beautiful beaches and cool sunny days minus the wind. The school kids had all gone home so it was just us and the grey nomads – some of whom had been in that same caravan park for several months… I can’t fathom that, as there is so little to do in 2-3 days… What must a month be like?

So it was nice to enjoy some peace and quiet at last. We did the Monkey Mia dolphin thing which I really think is highly overrated. Still whoever stumbled on a way to get those fellas to rock up to shore 3 times a day every day must be laughing all the way to the bank. We explored a bit of Francois Peron Nat Park and also some of the western bays on the drive out. Its pretty stunning through there and if it were a bit warmer we would love to head back there. If I were into fishing I reckon Denham would be awesome. But as a surfer it’s probably the worst possible scenario with no surf even possible on either side of the peninsula. The local pizza shop does a great woodfired pizza though and that was one of the high points. If you get there then be sure and try one – although the nomads weren’t so excited about the pizza shop as it seems the owner turns up to work when he feels like it and goes to he pub when he doesn’t…

We drove back out to Great Northern Highway, stopping here and there to sightsee and then set sail for home. Usually we find ourselves stopping at Galena bridge on the murchison river, but today we headed thru a bit further to make the final run home a short one. We have never camped in Dongara/Denison so I suggested we head there.


It’s actually been a lovely night kicking back in the camper with the kids and chatting – two hours of questions around God, faith and the universe and the opportunity to sit there and discuss some of life’s biggest issues with your own children. Gold.

Right now though the rain is belting down and it’s probably as stormy a night as the old camper has seen since we stopped halfway across the nullabor and hoped for the best. I just stepped outside in my jocks to wack a tentpeg back in and managed to drop my little sledgehammer on my toe… Ouch!

We have a day here tomorrow exploring and then home on Thursday, but we might have to see how things look in the morning…

Once home, work kicks back in and there is already plenty lined up – the beauty of being away and letting it back up. There may be some new developments there too, but that not in the immediate future.

We have been tossing up selling the camper as next year’s big holiday is set for Ireland and we might not get a lot of use between now and two years time. It would mean booking chalets every time we went somewhere or hiring another camper. Not sure yet… I regret selling our last Patrol and I’m wary of making the same mistake with the camper. The car has been great in every way except fuel economy, where it has been a complete dog and it seems there is no explanation for it. If I could remedy that then I’d be stoked, but for now I am contemplating moving it on again… A big call though as everything else about it is great.

Anyway, that’s the homeward journey. I’ve actually got a control box to install in Gingin on the way thru and then a lot of clean up before conducting a friend’s wedding on Saturday. Thankfully I’m not doing any teaching on Sunday – that would really take he edge off the last few days!