So what is 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!

29 May, 2012

Cape Leveque

On Wednesday the 23rd of May we headed to Cape Leveque.  We made pretty good time in the morning as we had to get all final bits and pieces into the car and say goodbye to the van for a couple of nights (something we hadn’t done since Warragul in Victoria).  We were on the road up to Cape Leveque by 10:30am.  The road up the Dampier Peninsula to Cape Leveque is about 200Km long.  The first 100Km is a sandy dirt road that has lots of corrugations and uneven surfaces.  We locked our hubs and drove in 4WD along this section of the road, but we still travelled at about 70Kmph (except when we were approaching oncoming traffic) so it wasn’t too bad.  However there was evidence that other cars didn’t fair so well with bits of muffler, shattered windscreens and the odd burnt out car along the side of the road.  The final 100Km is a good sealed road.  We stayed at a place called Kooljaman, which has a 5Km driveway with quite deep sand on the dirt road which was a bit of fun to drive on.

The Dirt road up to Cape Leveque was a bit sandy and bumpy most of the way
It was about 2pm by the time we’d found Kooljaman, booked in, unpacked the car, setup the tents (we bought a second tent for $30 at Woolies so that we’d have a place to store our gear so that our main tent wasn’t quite so squashy!) and had a late lunch.  Kooljaman was a beautiful spot, and we were very impressed with the campsite.  We decided to go for an explore over the top of the ridge and to the beach on the Eastern Side of the Cape.  On the beach, we bumped into the Leonard family who we’ve seen a few times along our travels and had a brief catchup before heading back to the tent for dinner, showers and bed.
Walking over to the east side of the cape

Eastern Beach - Cape Leveque

Our setup for the 2 nights we were there
At about 3am that night, a big wind started blowing through the campsite.  All 5 of us woke up when the wind started, and the wind only got stronger and stronger.  The tent walls blew right down onto our faces numerous times during that night and we all got up a bit tired the next day!  The wind did not abate for the rest of our time at Cape Leveque, which was a little painful, but we had a great time nonetheless.

We had finished breakfast by 7:10am on Thursday morning, so decided to go for a walk over to the Western Beach, however the wind was too strong and blew dust into our eyes and whipped sand into our legs so we abandoned the walk and jumped into the car to go for a little drive instead.

We wanted to visit a couple of other sites along the peninsula and so we drove to the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm to have a look.  We saw the Leonards again, and had a look through the Gallery as well as a walk to the lookout behind the farm.
Looking out from Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm
After the Pearl farm, we went to the Ardiyooloon community (at One Arm Point) to visit the Trochus hatchery (Trochus is a sea snail that lives in a large pointed shell which is very shiny when it is polished).  The hatchery didn’t only have Trochus, but had large tanks with all sorts of sea creatures in them.  We had a brief tour and got to look at (and touch) many of the creatures in the tanks.

The large tanks at the Trochus hatchery

Natalie, Jack and Sam patting a flat backed turtle

The tour of the hatchery

A couple of the beach huts on Middle Beach at the Ardiyooloon community

That afternoon, back at the campsite, we went for a longer walk along the Eastern Beach of Cape Leveque.  We played hide and seek in the rocks for a while and had a good walk along the beach.  When we got back to the tent our kids met the neighbours kids (who were also travelling) and spent quite a lot of time hanging out in the tree between our two camps and playing together.

We went for a nice long walk along the beach
Thursday night was windy from the start of the night :( and no one had a particularly great night’s sleep with lots of interruptions due to the noisy winds, bits of branch falling on the tent and strong winds almost pushing the tent over.  But we made it through the night, and Friday was Mike’s Birthday.  We started the day with presents for Mike, before packing up the campsite and heading out of Cape Leveque to Beagle Bay where we stopped to have a look at the famous Beagle Bay church (which has lots of Pearl shells decorating the inside of the church).

Mike's Birthday started early in the tent with some presents
The church at Beagle Bay

The inside of the church - decorated with Pearl Shells, Pearl Shells and more Pearl Shells
When we left Beagle bay, we drove back down the bitumen onto the Dirt road toward Broome.  When we were coming to the end of the dirt road, we turned off and went to the Willie Creek Pearl Farm to have a look.  We decided that we’d go on a tour as a special treat for Mike’s Birthday, so we signed up for a tour.  We had a quick bite to eat and the kids had a play at the playground while we waited for the tour to begin at 2pm.

A pair of Brolgas browsing the grasses near Willie Creek Pearl Farm

Willie Creek Pearl Farm Shopfront

Lucky this one wasn't real!
It was a very interesting tour, and the kids were engaged the whole time.  Mike got to pull a Pearl out of the oyster at the demonstration, and there were 2 Keshi Pearls inside the oyster (which is quite rare) Unfortunately he didn’t get to keep them! 
The kids listening to the tour guide explain about Pearl Farming

Mike pulling the 2 pearls out of the oyster

The two Keshi pearls that Mike got to pull out from the Oyster
Part of the tour was to take a boat out to part of the farm where they pulled up some Oysters and cleaned them up.  After looking at the farm, we took a bit of a cruise up the river to try and spot the resident Saltwater crocodile, but we didn’t see it that day.  It was quite late (about 4pm) by the time we left the Willie Creek Pearl farm and headed back to Broome.
Hopping on the boat to head out to the pearl farm

Josh inspecting the line of Buoys that have baskets of oysters hanging under them
We stopped off at the caravan quickly to drop off some gear and then went down to Broome’s Town beach to have some fish and chips at Roebuck bay for Mike’s Birthday dinner.  After dinner we had a birthday cake back at the van for dessert.  It was then time to get ready for bed.  All the kids (as well as Mike and Liz) went to sleep very quickly that night and enjoyed a wind-free night on our own beds in the caravan.

A windy fish and chips dinner at Broome's Town Beach

Mike's Birthday cake in Broome

We had a great time at Cape Leveque, and it is well worth a visit if you are in Broome.

27 May, 2012

Karratha to Broome

When we were leaving Karratha on Wednesday the 16th May, we decided to do a fairly big day (400Km’s) to take us to Cape Keraudren, we left the Karratha 'Big 4' at 10am and drove to Port Hedland for Lunch.  Along the way we saw lots of big river systems that were mostly dry.  It would be a very different experience to see the Pilbara in the wet, but we’re certainly enjoying the cloudless blue days we’ve still been getting.

At Port Hedland, we stopped at a park by the water to have a picnic lunch, and let the kids run around.  It really is handy to have the caravan with us as we travel so we can just grab all the things we need to make lunch at a stop like this.  We had a look at the port and got to see some ships being filled with Iron Ore.  We also saw one leaving the Port – it made the tug boat behind it look like a toy it was so big!  On the way out of town, Mike gave Bruiser (the car) a drink while Liz and the kids went and had a look at some old trains that were on display nearby.
Lunch at Port Hedland

After Port Hedland, we got back in the car and headed to Cape Keraudren.  We passed heaps of Road Trains that day (mostly dragging 4 cars behind them).  We were even overtaken by a roadtrain too (but it only had 1 car behind it) - we just couldn’t get above 80Kph with the headwind we had.  We pulled into our campsite about 4:30pm and setup the van right at the top of the sand dune next to the beach.
A familiar sight on out travels recently

The next day, we went to the beach for a walk before starting school.  As we walked along the beach, we beachcombed and found some really big shells washed up on the beach.  We collected some of the best ones and had a great morning walk.  We did lots of school that day.  It was a perfect location to do schoolwork as it wasn’t too hot – the breeze kept us cool all day. 
Natalie collecting as many shells as she can carry

While Josh did some school, Mike installed a new handle to Bruiser’s Boot (to replace the one that broke in Exmouth).  Mike picked this handle up in Karratha when he told the Rego inspector that the handle was broken, and the rego inspector said that he was sent the wrong one for his 80 series Landcruiser!  So $20 later the boot is now fixed again (yay - no more opening it by pulling a string)!

That afternoon, the tide was way, way out to sea, so we went for a walk toward the water.  As we were walking down to the water, we came across some humongous (and quite beautiful) shells which we took with us.  We had a huge walk along the beach and didn’t get back to the van until it was after sunset (about 5:45pm).  The kids ate dinner hungrily and we all settled down for a good night sleep.  The nights were surprisingly cold (compared with the hot humid nights in Point Samson) and we all had doona’s on – but I guess it is Mid-May and almost winter!
Some of the great shells we found at Cape Keraudren

On the beach at Cape Keraudren

On Friday morning, we got stuck into school again after the normal Morning routine (get up, get dressed, eat brekkie, do dishes, do teeth, read the Bible) and once Josh and Natalie were finished their school, we packed up and drove North East.

We had heard that 80 Mile Beach Caravan Park was very nice, so we drove the 100Km’s and booked into a beautiful caravan park nestled right next to the first sand dune behind the beach.  It was a great spot (albeit a bit more expensive that we thought it might be).  That afternoon we went for a quick walk on the beach, and then took Bruiser out onto the sand to drive along 80 Mile Beach.  The tide was very low, so there was lots of sand to drive on.  When we were a few Kilometres away from the caravan park, we stopped the car and looked through some of the shells on the beach.  We also had a game of improvised ‘Boules’ with rocks and shells on the beach – it was great fun.
Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park

Beachcombing along 80 Mile Beach

We had heard good things about “Barn Hill Station”, so the next day we drove there to camp for two nights.  The driveway in from the highway was pretty rough and corrugated, but we found the place OK and checked into the unpowered section (the powered section was only 4 amps and couldn’t run air conditioners or microwaves, so we opted the cheaper, unpowered sites).    After setting up the van, we went for a walk around the area and down to the beach before watching a magnificent sunset and having dinner.  Liz and the kids saw a small brown snake at the toilets so we were on guard for any footless friends that we may come across!
Driving along Highway Number 1 between Karratha and Barn Hill

The Beach at Barn Hill Station

Barn Hill's Red Cliffs - with our caravan parked up the top

The next morning, Natalie and Josh did their school work until about lunchtime, and in the afternoon we went for a long walk along the beach.  The kids and Mike played in the water on the sand for a while, building a dam with some rocks on the beach, it was a bit of fun.  Later that afternoon we went back to our caravan, and a medium size Black Headed Python slithered right under the car and past the caravan.
Building a dam at the beach

Black Headed Python - Barn Hill Station

We enjoyed our stay at Barn Hill, but for some reason our expectations were pretty high and we weren’t all that wrapped with it.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed the showers and toilets with no roof and the scenery in the area.
Leaving Barn Hill Station

After packing up the van the next morning, we set our sights for Broome.  We checked into the Broome Caravan Park at about 1pm.  The peak season has not quite hit yet (probably another 2-3 weeks before all the caravan parks start getting full) and so because it wasn’t too busy the Broome Caravan Park agreed to store our van (on our site) for $10 a night for the 2 nights that we would be up at Cape Leveque, so that made it very easy for us.  On our first afternoon in Broome, we drove into town to have a look around and then went out to Gantheaume Point in search of Dinosaur Footprints (we found 1).  Afterward, we drove to Cable beach for a look Broome’s famous Beach.  We saw some camel trains heading out for their afternoon walk along the beach.  We swam in the pool when we got back to the caravan park, as it was a pretty hot day.  That evening, the mozzies were so bad we had to eat inside the van (a rare occurrence for us).
Looking for Dinosaur Footprints

A camel train heading to Cable Beach

We spent all of Tuesday getting ready to head to Cape Leveque.  We did a big shop and then we re-organised the car because you can’t take a caravan to Cape Leveque (the road is too bad) so we packed the tents, sleeping bags and all our camping gear ready to head off the next morning.  We were treating this 2 day trip as a ‘dry run’ for our Gibb River Road trip (which we will also do with our tent and sleeping bags) so we wanted to make sure we could fit everything we needed into the car.  We managed to pack things on the roof and inside the car to find a home for everything we wanted to take with us.  It was quite a busy day, but we still managed to have a swim in the pool at the caravan park which the kids loved.

19 May, 2012


We left Point Samson on the Monday and went into Karratha.  Through BCA, we had been in contact with Les (the Anglican Minister in Karratha) prior to leaving Point Samson and once we had setup at our caravan park in Karratha, we gave Les a call to see if we could come over and do anything for him to help out.  Les was happy to have us come over, so we went to the church and had a cup of tea with Les.  After a brief chat, Liz and the kids went back to the caravan for lunch, and Mike got on the end of a Mower to mow some of the vegetation (I wouldn’t really call it grass!) out the front of the church.  Having never mowed Spinifex before, it is a really difficult job and it took ages to hack down the long, dead grasses in front of the church.  After doing some mowing, Mike also relocated quite a few rocks around the garden for Les.  By the time that was all done, it was quite late in the afternoon.  We said goodbye to Les and went back to the van for the night.

Mike working up a sweat at the Karratha Anglican Church

Mike and Les

We wanted to go and see Dampier and some of the surrounding area, so on Tuesday we got some schoolwork done and then headed out to have a look around.  We went into Dampier to see ‘Red Dog – The Pilbara Wanderer’ and then drove out to the North West Shelf Visitor’s Centre (right next to the Gas works) where the kids completed an activity sheet which allowed us all to have a good look around the displays (and the kids got a prize at the end too – Natalie got a drink bottle, and the boys got a pencil case).

Sam, Natalie and Josh at the Red Dog Statue

The North West Shelf Gas Plant near Dampier

Sam holding up the pencil case he had 'earned' at the Visitor's centre

We drove to Hearson’s cove on the way back to Karratha and stopped for a quick walk and some afternoon tea.
Hearson's Cove
When Mike was mowing the vegetation at Les’ place, he saw a portable air conditioner in the shed that was not being used, and it happened to be the exact same model as the one that had just died in the caravan.  Mike asked Les if it was for sale, and (to cut a longer story short) it was for sale!  So Mike bought it and installed it in the caravan.  Therefore we now have a working air conditioner in the van again (yippee)!

We needed to do a big shop before we left Karratha the next day, so we went to Coles and re-stocked everything we needed.  We continue to be amazed at how much food we seem to go through each week!  Food and Groceries is our biggest cost by far (followed by fuel, then accommodation).  So it’s always good to shop at a big supermarket where the prices are generally a bit cheaper (and there is more variety too) compared with some of the outback towns.

Wickham / Point Samson - A BCA stop

On Sunday morning we went to church and met Richard and Tracy Goscombe and joined in the Wickham Community Church where we met some fantastic people.  After church we drove to Boat Beach and had a fish and chips lunch at the yacht club.  The kids played in a splash pool that was there and we chatted with some of the people from the church.
The kids splashing around while we ate lunch after Church

  On the way back to the caravan park, Richard took us to a lookout and gave us a good overview of the area.
The Mason Family at the top of the lookout Richard took us to
We had organised (though BCA) to meet the Goscombes and see if there was anything that they needed help with, so on Monday Mike went over to their house and got a list of things that could be done (ranging from IT work to gardening work).  Mike spent all day at the house looking at various IT things around the house and the church office and started to improve/fix a few things.  Liz and the kids stayed around the Caravan Park and did lots of schoolwork and then went for a swim in the afternoon.    That afternoon we got a phone call from Cath and Dean Guse telling us that they would be coming to Point Samson (where we were staying), so once the kids were settled that evening we had a good catchup over a cuppa (because we hadn’t seen them since Geraldton).

On Tuesday we piled into the car and went over to the Goscombe’s to attack some of the gardening work.  The kids helped a little, but were more content playing with the two cats and chatting with Josh Goscombe (who was great with the kids).  Liz and Mike did lots of weeding, mowing, raking and sweeping (and Mike did a little bit more IT work). 
Liz doing some raking at the Goscombe's house

Mike enjoying some weeding
That afternoon, we saw that Kev and Sonia (another couple we have bumped into along our travels) had also pulled into the caravan park at Point Samson.  A bit later on, we got ready to go and see the Staircase to the Moon which can be seen from a few points in the area.  The Guse Family joined us and we went to the Cossack Lookout to watch the moon rise at about 8pm.  We saw the staircase (an optical illusion of the Moon’s reflection over the mudflats at low tide) and it was actually very impressive, it really did look like a staircase leading up to the moon (not that the photos do it justice!).
The Staircase to the moon - Cossack

The sun Rising over the water at Point Samson
Wednesday morning was a really early start for us because we needed to be in Karratha at 8am so that Bruiser could be inspected for registration.  We got to the rego inspection place about 7:50pm and started the inspection.  The inspector found that Natalie’s seat belt was not catching and so Bruiser failed the inspection.  After a few phone calls and a bit of running around, we sourced a new seat belt mechanism from a wrecker.  Mike stripped it off the old Landcruiser ready to install in Bruiser.  Mike dropped Liz and the kids at the shopping centre and then installed the seatbelt, took the car back to the inspector and got all the papers fixed up.  We also had to get a leaking tyre fixed while we were in Karratha, so we dropped the tyre at a tyre place and they fixed the slow leak (a piece of wire through the tyre).  We also needed to pickup some IT equipment to install on Richard’s computer. After we’d done everything in Karratha that we needed to do it was about 3pm, so we drove back to Point Samson, had showers and got ready to go to dinner at the Goscombe’s house.  We had a lovely BBQ dinner with Richard, Tracy, Josh and Sarah.  We really enjoyed getting to know them and chatting over a great feed.  Josh and Sarah kindly entertained our kids and everyone had a great night.

Our setup at Point Samson
On Thursday, Mike went back to the Goscombe’s on his own to continue the IT work (which involved fixing the household network, upgrading firmware of some devices, upgrading 3 PC’s to Windows 7 and migrating all the data to the right PC’s, fixing printers, connecting TV’s, and all sorts of other bits and pieces.  It was quite tiring, but Mike loved the challenge of getting his hands dirty in some IT again (as it had been a while!).  Liz and the Kids did some school in the morning, and then spent the day around the caravan.  It was pretty hot so they didn’t do too much that day – not to mention that our old air conditioner finally died so it was no use at all).  On Thursday night, Mike had to miss skyping into Prayer Group because he went to Biblestudy in Wickham with Richard and a few folk from the church.  It was a great night, the people were really lovely and Rich led a great biblestudy on prayer.

On Friday morning, Mike went back to Richard and Tracy’s house to finish the IT work that needed completing.  It was another long day to get all the things that needed to be done finished, but by the end of the day everything was in great shape for the church PC’s and the household IT.  Liz and the kids stayed at the caravan and did some school, bought an ice cream, played at the park and went for a walk to the beach via the general store.  That evening, Mike went back to Richard’s to explain all the IT work that had been done and how to use it all.
Natalie, Josh and Sam splashing in the water while out for a walk

Mike decided to give the Goscombe’s a break from his presence on Saturday, so we had a lazy morning and then did a few things around the local area.  We went to the Roebourne visitor’s centre (which is the Old Roebourne Gaol and has some fascinating artifacts from the Gaol and the local area).  The kids were shouted ice creams by Michelle from church, who was working at the centre that day, so we looked around and watch a bit of the DVD that was showing highlights of the surrounding areas. 
The Roebourne Visitor's centre (Old Roebourne Gaol)
After we left Roebourne, we drove to the ghost town of Cossack (the first port in WA’s North coast).  There isn’t much out there anymore, but the courthouse and Post office were still standing and there were some ruins of a few other old buildings, but mostly it was just a ghost town.  We had a good drive around and went to look at settlers beach.  We also went back to the place we had watched the staircase to the moon so we could see the landscape in daylight.  It was a great view of the area.
The old School building at Cossack
A Boab Tree we came across in Cossack

Looking over Cossack

Natalie at the lookout where we watched the Staircase to the moon

On Sunday morning, we went to church again in the community hall where it runs each Sunday Morning.  The kids went to kids church, and we enjoyed good fellowship and teaching.  We went back to the caravan park for lunch and had a quiet afternoon around the caravan.  When we first arrived in Wickham (the previous Sunday) we heard that ‘BBQ Church’ was on the next Sunday, so we decided to extend our stay in Wickham so that we could go to BBQ Church (and help out if we could) .  BBQ Church is run once a month on a Sunday afternoon in a park in Wickham.  A free BBQ is served up to anyone who attends.  Lots of the local neighbourhood (mostly of Aboriginal origin) turn up to BBQ church; and there were about 100-125 people there (including kids).  Everyone has a free feed, enjoys free live music, and hears a short talk given by Richard.  The week we were there, there was also a tribute to 2 Aboriginal Elders who had died recently.  There were lots of kids around and our kids enjoyed playing with some of the locals.  During the week, we had been contacted by a lady who works with ABC Radio, and she wanted to interview us.  She was at BBQ church and we had a quick 10 minute interview (which we presume was aired during the next week).  BBQ church was a great experience and we enjoyed the night.  It was quite late by the time we left, and the kids were exhausted, but it was well worth it.
BBQ Church - Wickham

Richard and Josh Goscombe getting the kids engaged in a few songs

Natalie sitting on Sarah's Lap with Josh and Nina (a new friend) behind

We left Point Samson on Monday morning and drove to Karratha for a couple of nights.

Our stop in Wickham was really busy, but really good fun.  We always love our BCA stops where we get to connect with some locals and meet some great people.  The Goscombe’s really do a great job in what is quite a difficult area and we hope that we have helped them a little bit so that they can continue to focus on the ministry they are doing.
The Mason's with Richard, Tracy and Josh Goscombe