Will We Make It?

Imagine being trapped in a caravan with your spouse for 4 weeks…

Four whole weeks and all you have is one another for company… Can you pull it off?

That was the question I was quietly asking myself as we took off. For the last 18 years or so we have been busy co-parenting two kids who have always been on holidays with us. The question we have always asked is ‘what will the kids want to do today?’ We have enjoyed the time, but we have rarely been alone together for long stretches, but now it’s just us… We had done previous holidays – 3 days here, 5 days there, but never 4 weeks so this was a genuine new experience and to some degree a test.

I’m overstating it a little – but not a lot. It was a genuine question I knew we were going to face. Would we still be able to enjoy one another’s friendship, laugh together and find things to do that brought us both joy. Or would we discover that after 18 years we had drifted more than we thought and that there was some hard work to do just to connect again?

We often joke that we have nothing in common – quite literally – outside of our shared faith and commitment to Jesus we are chalk and cheese. But it turns out we are still good friends, we do still love just hanging out and while we miss the kids we are in no doubt we can have a life without them. I sensed it would be ok, but you just don’t know until you give it a real test. I’m writing this from a caravan park in Woodman Point with one day before we head home and it has actually been one of our best holidays ever.

The lesson?

No lesson – just a sense of joy and gladness that all is well with us.

So – back to the road. We spent a couple of windy, rainy days in Esperance – fortunately we both have books to read and shows to watch so it wasn’t simply ‘sit in a caravan and mope’. I checked the surf at Esperance, but the swell was massive and no one else was out so I figured it probably was best I didn’t paddle out either.

We went from there to Duke of Orleans Bay, a place we had heard about at weekly TGIF fireside chats in Hackney Way. John and Deb had been and recommended we make the extra effort to head that way. Our travel plan was really simple – go as far east as you can and then turn around and come slowly back. This place is only 60kms East of Esperance, but I’m guessing that most people don’t make the extra effort because Esperance is far enough. I’m so glad we did! Wharton Beach was stunning and we spent two days walking, surfing, droning and 4wding the area checking it out and loving the spectacular beauty and remoteness. The Condingup Tavern is also a fantastic place for a feed. We spent one evening there and had some excellent food and great service. Danelle recommends the date and walnut crumble 🙂

Wharton Beach – Stunning!
When you wish you had brought your longboard…

We stayed here a couple of days and then decided to push further east – as far as we could go without having to drag the caravan down bush tracks. So the end of the road for us was Cape Arid Nat Park where we were the only ones in the whole campground. We thought Wharton Beach was speccy, but I reckon Cape Arid just pipped it for beauty and if you love to be remote and isolated then I don’t think you could beat Thomas River campground in winter. We walked the beaches, enjoyed the views and at the end I managed a surf in the beach-break. We drove up to the middle of the bay where the waves were cranking more than the headland and I hit the water. It wasn’t the best wave I’ve ever had, but just to be out in that stunning patch of ocean with no one else anywhere around was worth it. A few head high sets gave me some challenge and then we headed for camp again.

The only ones there…

We walked around the headlands for an hour one morning and while I went back to camp, Danelle sat on the rocks and watched a pod of dolphins hunt a school of fish in the crystal clear water. If you have never been to Cape Arid then do yourself a favour! Just don’t do it like this bloke… If I had a gripe though it would be that the cost of Nat Park camping is starting to get a little bit prohibitive. At $15/adult plus $15 entry that equated to $45 for the first night or $75 if Ellie and Sam had been with us. Yeah – it balances out a little if you stay longer, but I am thinking its time DPAW took a look at their pricing structures and reviewed them. Otherwise families will stick to caravan parks – which will work out cheaper – and everyone will miss out.

Some great waves in the middle of the bay – crowd factor = low!
The water couldn’t get much clearer
Here fishy fishy…

With the battery dying we decided to head back to Esperance and let it recharge at a caravan park. Our current 100ah battery gets us 2-4 days off grid depending on how much solar recharge we can find. Shortly I will be upgrading to a lithium battery which should give us longer use and faster re-charge – oh yeah and it aint cheap… around $1K

So we hung around Esperance for 2 days reading and chilling before hitting the road for… um… we’re not really sure. We headed west and finished up at the old Fitzgerald school site, just 40kms out of Jerramungup, another freebie in the middle of absolutely nowhere! The school had been demolished and the grounds are now available to passing travellers for camping on.

That’s us below and the old school oval

From Fitzgerald we headed to the Porongorup National Park to spend a couple of days bush-walking and enjoying the vibe of the mountains. Danelle loves to walk and I love to surf, but we are both pretty good at enjoying the other person’s stuff. The first day there we climbed the Devil’s Slide on a cold drizzly arvo – a decent effort to get to the top – and on the way back I experienced the ‘slide’ as I lost my footing and landed heavily on my left butt. I’d show you the bruising… but I think (hope) Danelle has deleted the picture 🙂 We chatted to the new managers of the Porongorup Tourist Park and discovered they had been down south on holidays, saw the park for sale and decided to buy it… as you do. So from engineering and social work to caravan park management in one quick move! They look like they love what they are doing so I’m sure it will fly.

How’s the serenity?
A nice outlook over the Stirling Ranges

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