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!

17 July, 2012


Entering Kakadu from the South
We left Katherine and headed to Kakadu on Sunday the 24th of June.  We stopped in at the Mary River Roadhouse to pick up our park passes and get some information before heading to Gunlom for our first night in Kakadu. The road to Gunlom was a dirt road.  The lady at the information centre had told us that the first 13km was very corrugated, but it seems that she forgot to mention that the rest of the road after that (about another 30km) was absolutely shocking! and we should probably think twice about taking our none off-road caravan down there (even though the campsite is supposed to be suitable for caravans).  Anyway we made it to Gunlom and were surprised to see another non off-road caravan there, the owners of that van came over to say hello and see what damage we had sustained after the trip down because in their van the screws that kept their fridge in place had sheered off and their fridge door had completely come off!  They had spent their whole first day at Gunlom searching the campground looking for someone who had the right screws to fix their fridge.  Thankfully we had got through to Gunlom with no damage.  By the time we had fully setup the van it was quite late in the afternoon.  We had a quick walk down to the plunge pool at the bottom of the Gunlom Falls to have a look before dinner.
Mike, Natalie, Sam and Josh in front of Gunlom Falls

That night we went to a slide show (where a Kakadu ranger gives a presentation and talks about the subject of the slideshow).  The slideshow that night was about the local Jawoyn (Aboriginal) people, we found it very interesting and the kids loved it too. 

Monday 25th June:  Our body clocks were still a bit off (and it was a bit of a later night the night before), so we didn’t get out of bed until 8am which was quite nice (normally we are up at 7am).  After some bacon and eggs for breakfast, we did our school work for the day.  Once school was out of the way we donned our swimmers and walked up to the top of Gunlom Waterfall to have a look at the falls and go for a swim at the pool at the top - where there are no crocodiles.  The water was nice and refreshing.
The pools at the top of Gunlom Falls

Mike and Josh at the top of the Gunlom Falls
After a great time at the top, we headed back down the track to the bottom for a late lunch.   We didn’t do too much that afternoon - just had some quiet time, the kids watched a movie and then we went for a small walk to Murril Billabong, which is not far from the campsite.  Afterward, we decided to have showers while the sun was still up (so that there was still hot water left in the solar showers).  That night we lit a campfire, cooked dinner (which included some damper that we cooked on the campfire) and ate marshmallows while we sat the campfire until bed time.
Josh and Mike getting their hands dirty making damper

Natalie loves toasted marshmallows
Tuesday 26th June – After doing our schoolwork in the morning, we drove back out of Gunlom to the main road.  Before we left Gunlom, we filled our water tank because we knew that the places we were going to for the next few nights didn’t have any drinking water.  Unfortunatly, the 40Km of bad dirt road took its toll on our poor old van…  When we got to the top of the road, we decided to have a look around the van to see if it had sustained any damage.  When we opened the door, it looked like we had been ransacked - our belongings (which normally do not move when we stow them in their usual travel positions) had been thrown all over the caravan!
The view of our 'ransacked' caravan at the top of the road out of Gunlom
Mike decided to stick his head under the van to check it was all OK.  When he looked under the van he saw that the straps which hold our 85 Litre Water tank to the bottom of the van had broken off and the whole water tank (and a wooden protective cover) was missing from the van!!  It had been ripped off somewhere on the trip up!!  Thankfully, it had cleanly broken all the hose connections to the caravan, so it didn’t rip the water pump out through the floor of the caravan, but nonetheless it meant that we no longer had a water tank on the van.  A 4WD pulled in behind us, and we asked the lady if she happened to see our water tank on the road somewhere, but she said she didn’t come across it, so we really have no idea where it went!  Although this event was unfortunate (and we’d had preferred if it didn’t happen) Liz and Mike thought it was quite hilarious (if you don’t laugh at these things, then you’d probably just cry!).
I could have sworn there was a watertank under this van last time I checked!!
So with a fairly philosophical view on the whole event, we drove to our next campsite – called Mardagul.  We did have our 2 jerry cans of water in the back of the car, and we keep a 10L emergency container inside the van, so we had enough water to keep us going for a few days at least.  Once we setup the van, we drove to the Aboriginal cultural centre for a look through the displays (which were very well done).  Next, we drove to Nourlangie rock to have a look at the Aboriginal rock art in the area.  We listened to a ranger talk about the rock art and some of the meanings behind the art.
Some of the rock art at Nourlangie Rock
On Wednesday 27th June we didn’t do any school in the morning because we knew we would have a pretty big day.  We left our van at the Mardagul campsite and drove to Twin Falls.  The 60Km dirt road was very rough and then it turned into a real 4WD track on the way to Twin Falls.  We did a 70cm water crossing through a river (which was fun) and they know there is a crocodile in the area near this crossing, so we were glad that Bruiser made it all the way through (and back) without breaking down in the middle.

The drive to Twin falls took 2 hours as the road was quite rough and the 4WD track was very slow going.  Once we got to Twin Falls, we needed to get on a boat to visit the falls.
Taking the boat out to Twin Falls

The view of twin falls from the boat

We were so glad we went there because they were absolutely spectacular.
Twin Falls, Kakadu National Park
A saltwater crocodile trap - a reminder that swimming anywhere in the top end can be dangerous!

We had a good look around the falls and then walked (and rode the boat) back to the car.  We had some lunch there and then drove to Jim Jim Falls.  The walk to Jim Jim falls was quite challenging; with large boulders to hop across, but the kids all did very well.  Sam takes 3 steps to every 1 of dad’s steps, so he walked a long way! 
 On the walk out to Jim Jim Falls
We got to the falls and it was another very spectacular sight - even moreso than Twin falls.
Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu National Park
We didn’t know that you could swim there, and unfortunatley we hadn’t taken our swimmers!  Nonetheless, the kids stripped off to their undies and went for a swim in the freezing water.  Mike swam in his shorts and enjoyed the icy waters too.  Josh and Mike went across to the Plunge pool at the bottom of the 100 metre waterfall to have a look and a brief swim.  After Jim Jim falls, we drove back to the caravan at Mardagul campsite.  We drove to the resort at Cooinda after dinner to watch a slideshow about Saltwater Crocodiles (called Ginga in the local Aboriginal language).  It had been a very big day and everyone was exhausted, but we had a fantastic day and saw some great sites.

Thursday 28th June – We weren’t far from Yellow Waters, so that morning we drove there to have a look.  We decided not to do the famous Yellow Waters boat cruise (as it was too pricy and the kids probably wouldn’t appreciate it fully at their ages), so we walked along the boardwalk and admired the wetlands – it really is a beautiful place.  Unfortunately some of the walks were still closed due to the water level being too high.
Yellow Waters wetlands from the boardwalk

Josh, Sam, Mike and Natalie at the end of the Yellow Waters boardwalk

Some of the stunning scenery at Yellow Waters
After Yellow waters, we picked up the van from the Mardagul campsite and drove toward Ubirr.  We stopped in at the Bowali Visitor Centre to have a look at the exhibits and watch a brief film on Kakadu.  When we left the visitor centre, we were thinking that we would head to the next campsite (called Merl) near Ubirr, but we had to stop in Jabiru to get some food and thought we’d check out the price of the caravan park.  It turned out that the kids were free, so we only had to pay $38 for a night (for a powered site (with water too – which was helpful because we didn’t have a tank)) so we opted to stay in Jabiru for the night.  We swam in the lovely big pool (which was pretty cold).  We met Cara and Michael and their 2 year old son Kevin.  Our kids had a ball playing with Kevin at the pool and Liz and Mike enjoyed chatting with Cara and Michael for a while by the pool.  We watched another slideshow that evening about Kakadu Wildlife.

Friday 29th June – The weather was really hot (mid 30’s) and we decided that we needed a rest day, so we re-booked into the caravan park in Jabiru and stayed there for another day.  We got all the schoolwork done to finish Term 2 for Josh and Natalie before heading back to the pool for a refreshing swim.  After lunch, we went back into the pool for the afternoon.  The park was showing the movie ‘Crocodile Dundee’ that evening, so we went to watch it with the kids.  Josh and Sam didn’t want to stay so came back to the caravan with Mike while Natalie and Liz watched till the end.  Overall, it was a pretty restful day - which was exactly what we needed.
Saturday 30th June – When we were starting to pack up at the Jabiru caravan park, we noticed that our car battery was dead!  We jump started it off our auxiliary battery and hoped that it would keep charge.  We thought that the central locking unit which Mike installed had a problem with one of the mechanisms in the door, so Mike disconnected it until we get the chance to investigate what's going on.  So for a while we've had to live without central locking on the car – and it’s amazing how useful it really is - when it works!  Nonetheless, we packed up and hooked up the van and drove to Merl Campground near Ubirr.  It was another 35 degree day (and quite humid too), and so we all felt a bit hot and tired.  We also saw some clouds roll overhead that day – something we haven’t seen for quite some time!  There was no rain of course (we’re not likely to see any rain for another 2-3 months) and the humidity blew through fairly quickly.  We continually thank God for the weather we’ve been having.  We really haven’t had much rain for all of our trip, and we quite like not having to think about taking wet weather gear - just in case the weather turns!

After the van was setup (which only takes about 10 minutes in a free camp because there’s no water or power to hook up), we went and had a look at Cahill’s Crossing – one of the crossings over to Arnhem land.  After some lunch, we went back to Cahill’s Crossing to try and spot a crocodile (but we didn’t see one).  Later that day we drove out to Ubirr to listen to the ranger talks about the Rock Art in the area.  The Ubirr Main Gallery has hundreds of Aboriginal paintings (some over 5000 years old – and even one of a Tasmanian Tiger!).  It was really impressive to see the rock art and the detail is quite amazing.
Some of the Aboriginal rock art at Ubirr, Kakadu

A 5000 year old painting of a Tasmanian Tiger, high up on a cliff face in Ubirr
We climbed to the top of the lookout and saw a beautiful view across the flood plains and over to the mountains.  We didn’t stay for sunset (but weren’t too far off) and left the hordes of people (at least 300) and walked through the empty art sites below.  We ducked back to Cahills crossing again to have a spot for crocs (and have a fish) but didn’t see any - or catch any fish. 
The beautiful view from the top of the rock at Ubirr

Hundreds of people enjoying the beautiful view!
 We needed to eat breakfast inside on Sunday 1st July, because the mozzies were absolutely terrible at Merl Campground (especially in the bathrooms!).  We were glad we only stayed at Merl for 1 night because the mosquitos were just so unbearable.  Later that morning, we went down to Cahills crossing again to spot for crocs (and have a fish).
Mike trying for a Barra at Cahill's Crossing

Some other fishermen trying their luck (with the fish and the crocs in the water!)
Liz spotted a croc swimming along down the river a bit but Mike didn’t catch any of those elusive Barra.  We packed up the caravan and drove to Marmukala wetlands and walked to the bird hide to look at the birds in the wetlands.  After the wetlands, we drove to the Aroura Kakadu caravan park in South Alligator.  Shortly after lunch, we went back to the South Alligator river to look for crocs, and we saw eight salties in the water or on the muddy banks of the river.
A big saltie sliding back to the water

I hope his put on his sunscreen!

Another Large Saltwater Crocodile
When we’d done enough croc spotting, we went back to the caravan park for a swim in their pool to cool off.  The rest of the afternoon was spent around the caravan playing soccer and riding bikes and practising with dad's stockwhip.  After dinner we saw a few fireworks because it was Territory day in the NT – the only day where you can buy and use fireworks.

We had been wanting to go on a Jumping Croc Cruise, so we had booked into one on Monday 2nd July.  We had to rush a bit to make it on time because it was a bit further than we had thought.  We made it on time and had a fantastic cruise watching crocodiles be fed and having them jump right next to the boat.  It was great fun and the kids enjoyed watching the crocs.
It's amazing how high the crocodiles can propel themselves with their tail

Feeding a huge crocodile called 'Brutus' - they really are massive animals
When we’d finished the cruise, we drove into the Big 4 in Howard Springs (not far outside of Darwin) and setup the van (in a very full caravan park).  Our friends the Guse Family and the Leonard Family were both staying at the same caravan park, so we all had dinner together.  For us it was a bit of a farewell dinner for the Leonards because we are unlikely to see them again on our travels as we’ll head in different directions.
Liz, Mike, Kev, Sonia, Catherine and Dean
Overall, we really enjoyed our 9 days in Kakadu.  For us it was the perfect amount of time to see everything that we wanted to see without rushing it too much (and also have a rest day in the middle).

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