So what is www.bigaussieroadtrip.com all about? Well... hopefully, by the time we are done, it will be a comprehensive journal about a family of 5 who have travelled around Australia to see the sights and also do some volunteer work around the country! In Mid 2010 we started thinking about what it would take to fulfil a life-long dream... We wanted to bundle up our 3 kids, pack-up the house, jump in the car and hit the road - probably for about 12 months. It sounds so simple ... At the start of January 2013, after almost 15 months on the road; we finally completed Our Big Aussie Road Trip. We hope that you enjoyed following our adventures, trials and tribulations as much as we enjoyed having them!

26 January, 2013

The End of The Road...

Right from the start of our trip we knew that one day we would be looking back at our amazing journey, and writing about all the trials and tribulations we experienced as we travelled around this beautiful continent of ours! However, now that we're actually at the point of signing off from our travels, the reality that our journey is now complete has finally hit home!




On the 3rd of January 2013, after 448 days on the road, we drove into Sydney and saw our house for the first time in almost 15 months.  The kids were all very excited at the thought of being back in Sydney - seeing friends they hadn't seen since we'd left; having grandparents suburbs away (not states away); and having a full size house and backyard just to themselves. When we unlocked the house and walked in, it seemed absolutely massive compared to the home that we had lived in for the last 15 months!  It echoed with sounds of delight as the kids re-discovered their bedrooms, the empty toy room and the backyard – all of which would be re-stocked over the coming days with our possessions that we would collect from storage at our parents’ houses, or from boxes we stored under the house.

After a brief look around, we unpacked the car and the caravan into the house (and were amazed at how much we were able to fit into our rig!)  We setup our air beds, sleeping bags, camping chairs, car fridge and other necessities and just camped in our empty house for the first few days.  It was great to catch up with neighbours, friends and grandparents, but it was also sad that we had come to the end of our Big Aussie Road Trip.  As a family, we reflected together about our favourite parts of the trip and would constantly talk about when we did this or that, or about friends we made along the way.  As the days turned into weeks, we started talking less and less about our trip, but the experiences we had, and the love of our adventure was as strong as ever, and occasionally something would spark a memory of being on our trip and there would be an excited flurry of conversation about it.


We believe that our travels will be a foundation that our family will grow from over the years to come.  The trip has instilled in Josh, Natalie and Sam a sense of togetherness and friendship that will stay with them forever.  They have all grown in stature, but have also grown in an appreciation for the country that they call home.  They were schooled along the way, but the greatest learning they received was not from their formal schoolwork, but from the things they touched, built, saw, heard and experienced in hundreds of different places.  We would like to think that we have also grown in appreciation for our family, our country and our wonderful God.


Our Favourite Places

The question that we are asked most frequently is also the most difficult question to answer… “So what was your favourite place?”  We think that it’s impossible to pick one place in Australia that was our favourite as there are so many different and unique places that touched our hearts in different ways, however here are some of our highlights:

When Sam (who was just 3 when we left) is asked what his favourite place is, he normally says something that we did the day before you ask him!  So it’s a bit hard to document Sam’s favourite place, however he did thoroughly enjoy swimming in Litchfield National Park where he constantly jumped into the water from a small cliff.  He also liked “K-Space” (a kids area at the National museum in Canberra).


Natalie’s favourite place was Monkey Mia, WA, where she got to feed the dolphins in the warm shallows of Shark Bay.


Josh had two favourites (for completely different reasons!):  Josh loved Uluru because it was the one thing that he really wanted to see from day 1 of our trip.  He walked the 10Km around the rock and thought that the area was spectacular because of its uniqueness.  His other favourite spot was the Wyndham Vacation Resort that we stayed at in Hobart because we stayed in the Presidential suite which had a Wii game console (with a Wii Sports game) that was played on a huge TV.  Josh also got to sleep on a Queen sized bed all by himself in his own room – which he thought was fantastic!



Liz’s favourite places were: camping along the Gibb River Road where we stopped at many gorges and swam in their crisp, clean water and under waterfalls cascading into deep plunge pools below.  Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge were also highlights on the Gibb River Road.  Not to mention the few days we had at El Questro at the end of our Gibb River road trip.  Liz also loved Cape Tribulation where we spent time collecting coconuts, strolling along the beach and enjoying Tropical North Queensland’s beautiful warm climate.  Another highlight for Liz was Cape Range National park near Exmouth in WA where we camped for 10 days and did lots of fishing, snorkelling, hiking, swimming and watching beautiful sunsets over the water.

Mike’s Favourite places were: Fraser Island National Park because of its abundance of wildlife and the uniqueness of the world’s largest sand island.  His second favourite was Cape Le Grand National Park near Esperance, WA.  It had beautiful white sandy beaches where Kangaroo’s would hop along the sand.  The massive granite boulders which flowed into the pristine water were awesome, and Mike climbed to the top of Frenchman’s Peak with Josh, which was a lot of fun and had great views of the entire area.


Although we have talked about a few specific places that were special to each of us, there are so many other places that fill our hearts as we think about our time there, Like the Devil’s Marbles (Karlu Karlu), Wilsons Promontory, The Nullarbor plain and the Murray River – just to name a few!  As you can tell, it’s very difficult for us to pick a favourite spot, but if you ask us what is our favourite country…

We stopped at 6 BCA Churches on our travels (Holbrook, Red Cliffs, Strathfieldsaye, Wickham, Karratha and Kununurra) where we met fantastic people and got to briefly experience the community as an ‘insider’ not just a tourist.  As we served their communities by doing a small amount of volunteer work, they embraced us as friends and invited us into their homes and lives.  It was often these times that meant more to us than spectacular scenery or beautiful beaches, because without the Australian people, Australia would definitely not have its character.  We were really glad that we incorporated the BCA work into our trip.

For all of us, Western Australia was definitely our favourite state (reflected by the fact that we spent 5 months there).  It is an amazingly remote state with lots of big distances between towns or attractions, but there is so much variety in the environments, so much amazing wildlife (both on land and in the water) and such amazing colours across the landscape.

Our Vehicle and van

We spent as much time planning our trip before we left, as we did travelling around the country and one of the biggest considerations for us was the vehicle we would take (Toyota Landcruiser) and the type of accommodation we bought (a full size caravan).  So now that it’s all over, were we happy with our choices?


‘Bruiser the Cruiser’ (our basic model, non-turbo, diesel, HZJ105 Landcruiser) ended up being the perfect vehicle for us on our trip.  Bruiser got us everywhere we needed to go (albeit slowly sometimes because he was non-turbo) but we really didn’t have too many troubles along the way.  We had an overheating problem on the Eyre Peninsula, but it was 45 to 47 degrees outside, windy and humid at the time (not to mention that Bruiser was pulling a 2 tonne van along) and although we had it all checked out, we didn’t have any expensive repairs that needed fixing.  The only other trouble we had with the car (other than 3 punctured tyres and a couple of door-lock issues) was that the alternator died in Darwin.  Other than those times, Bruiser performed flawlessly.  We had enough room in the cabin and in the boot,  The kids were high enough to see the country as it passed by their windows and we were comfortable.  If we did the trip again, we would probably opt for a newer model vehicle (with a turbo), but if the budget didn’t allow, then we’d definitely take Bruiser again.  Throughout our travels, we collected bumper stickers to remember some of the places we visited.  It was always nice to look for a new sticker for Bruiser.


Our caravan (a 30+ year old Newlands caravan that had been renovated by the previous few owners) broke down within the first 2 months and needed extensive repairs to the axle and undercarriage, but once that was all sorted, it performed beautifully for us.  It really felt so much like home for the duration of our trip.  It was spacious, could handle a little bit of off-road (although admittedly, whenever we went off-road we seemed to lose something, including a full water tank one time!), we could free-camp with it and it had everything that we wanted and needed.  We love our van and will be sad to pass it on to the next excited family.  If we had our time again, we would probably think about an off-road model caravan or camper trailer (however the convenience of a full size caravan that is ready to jump into every time you stop the car definitely has its advantages over a trailer).  If the budget allowed then we would probably opt for a newer model caravan (or trailer), however we did find that people with new vans were unwilling to get them on dirt roads for fear that they would break apart.  So would we take our caravan around if we did it again?  Absolutely (and we’re positive it would hold up to it too).

Here are some of the stats from our trip
  • Nights Travelled – 448 (1 year, 2 months and 3 weeks)
  • Kilometres Travelled – 51,662 Km
  • Average Fuel Economy of Bruiser – 20.1 Litres of Diesel / 100Km travelled (we were about 5 Tonne in total with the car and the van both fully loaded)
  • Average Cost of Diesel – 160.38c/L (Minimum was 133.9c/L in Melbourne, and the Maximum was 216.5c/L at El Questro Station on the Gibb River Road).  We did see fuel for 232c/L at Kings Canyon, but we didn’t fill up!
  • 10,334L of Diesel consumed
  • 12,600 Photos taken
  • We crossed 15 State or Territory borders (as we went in and out of some states/territories multiple times) and spent the following number of days in each state or territory: 
    • WA – 149 days (33%), QLD – 95 days (21%), VIC – 65 days (15%), NT – 55 days (12%), SA – 34 days (8%), TAS – 23 days (5%), NSW – 21 days (5%), ACT – 6 days (1%)
  • The 4 most expensive cost categories (from most expensive to least) were:
    •  Food and Groceries (we had to eat, but we were quite surprised that the most expensive cost category was food and groceries!),
    • Fuel (we chose to drive)
    • Accommodation (even when you BYO caravan, it’s pretty expensive in most places), and finally;
    • Car & Caravan Maintenance (This excludes any cost from our breakdown in VIC.  We kept the car and caravan well serviced.  On top of the servicing, there always seemed to be something that needed fixing!).
      • Surprisingly, these 4 cost categories comprised 75.2% of our total spend on the trip.
  • In our 15 months of being on the road full-time, we were only breath tested once!  And even more interestingly, this breath test was on the most remote road that we went on in our entire journey – the Great Central Road (300Km West of Uluru)!!!  Needless to say, we didn’t test positive!!
Our Favourite Things

            In May 2012, we wrote a ‘Favourite Things’ Blog (http://www.ourbigaussieroadtrip.com/2012/05/mike-and-lizs-favourite-things.html).  The list of our favourite things didn’t really change after we’d written that, so you can have another look there if you’re interested in some of the useful things we took with us.  However, I would add 3 very useful items to the list (that aren’t really worthy of adding to the ‘Favourite things’ blog) and they are: Silicone, Gaffa Tape and Zip Ties!!  There isn’t too much around a car and caravan that can’t be patched with a combination of these three items.  I’ll never leave home without them again!


No Regrets…

            Many people that we met along the way commented that we were very brave (or maybe they meant stupid!) for doing what we did – uprooting our family, pausing our careers, removing the kids from school and friends, and heading around the country;  And we can definitely understand the sentiment that this seems like a crazy thing to do.  We’re not exactly sure what the future will hold for us… It is a possibility that we might not land back on our feet in Sydney – and this would have been a horrific thought for us prior to our trip, but having been through the last 15 months, we now have slightly different perspectives on many things (and feel so blessed with what we have) that even if things don’t turn out exactly how we hope them to, we’ll be content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.  Throughout the trip, we have felt a deep sense of God’s presence as He; protected us on our travels, Blessed us with sublime weather for the entire trip (this sounds very spoilt, but sometimes we caught ourselves wishing for a few clouds - after 10 months of cloudless blue skies and not seeing a drop of rain!), He kept us healthy, He ensured that all the bad things that happened couldn’t have happened in better places (with positive outcomes that we couldn’t have planned even if we wanted to), and He grew us closer as a family.  We are extremely thankful for everything, and if we could have our time again, we wouldn’t change a single moment.


Finally, thank you to all those friends and family who have followed our adventures, commented on our blog and kept in touch with us via Skype, phone calls, emails and allowing us to drop in to their place.  We are very appreciative of the support and prayers that we received.

Mike, Liz, Josh, Natalie and Sam Mason



3 comments:

Ali said...

I feel a little sad reading your final blog. Well said!!!
I will miss reading your adventure but glad we can still speak and visit each other no matter where you are.
X Ali

Aussie Roadtrip said...

Thanks Ali (and everyone else who commented on our blogs throughout our adventure). It was great to know that people were thinking of us and interested in our travels.

We are also sad that our adventure is over, but we are sure that there are new adventures yet to come as we settle back into life in Sydney.

X Mike and Liz

Anonymous said...

Hi. Just came across your blog when looking for info on driving between Broome and Karratha. Very interesting and inspiring trip. I'm sure your children will benefit in many ways throughout their lives from this amazing adventure. Totally envious!!!!