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!

24 August, 2012

Uluru to Mount Isa

On Wednesday the 8th of August, we got ourselves organised and packed up and we drove from Yulara to Alice Springs. We checked back into the MacDonnell Range Big 4 and headed into town to collect some post that had arrived for us.  Natalie received a gift card for her Birthday and was keen to head to Kmart to spend it.  So next stop was Kmart to do some shopping before heading back to the van for the night.

The next morning we left the red centre and headed north from Alice Springs,.  We stopped along the way at a few things we had seen on the drive south but had not stopped at.  Our first stop was at the Tropic of Capricorn and then we pulled into Aileron - a small indigenous community that had large statues of Aborignal people as part of their art gallery,  we didn’t spend any time there we just took some photos of the impressive statues and moved on.
Our third crossing of the Tropic of Capricorn
One of the statues at Aileron

Driving north away from the Red Centre

We decided to camp that night back at the Devil’s Marbles as we had all had such a good time there on the way down.  When we arrived it was hot so we waited till the sun had dropped and then headed off exploring through the Marbles, there were a few dingo’s hanging around the campsite and it was a lot quieter than last time we were there.
Dinner at the Devil's Marbles

A beautiful sunset over the Devil's Marbles
The next morning we packed up early and headed out for a long driving day.  We were very keen to reach the QLD border as we wanted to go to the Rodeo that started in Mount Isa that day and went for the weekend.  We set off at about 8.30am which is very early for us.  We were very excited when we turned right at “three ways” as we were no longer back tracking - it’s always exciting to cover new ground. There are just hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of nothing out here.
A huge outback windmill we passed on the road

There are plenty of sections of Australia which are pretty barren!

We had lunch outside the Barkley Homestead roadhouse and then continued on.  We stopped at the QLD border to take a photo or two.
We made it to QLD! The 7th State or Territory on our trip

We arrived at Camooweal at about 6pm after battling a raging headwind the whole day (which meant our fuel consumption was huge and our speeds were quite low) and camped the night at the Camooweal billabong, a great free campsite.  We were all exhausted as this had been our biggest driving day since crossing the Nullabor (we had driven 580Km into a headwind to get to Camooweal!).

As we sometimes like to do at freecamps (where there is no pressure to leave by 10am! we had a lazy morning on Saturday the 11th August.  We sorted up all our school work that needed to be posted from Mount Isa and then packed up and drove the 180km to Mount Isa.  The Xstrata Rotary Rodeo was on this weekend.  It is the largest Rodeo in the southern hemisphere and we really wanted to go.  We set up camp in the towns overflow camping (at the golf club) and headed into Mount Isa to have a look around and visit the information centre so that we could find out about going to the Rodeo.  We drove to the Rodeo grounds and had a quick look at the sideshow alley that afternoon.

The next morning we headed out to the Rodeo, it was the last day of the Rodeo so all the finals were on.  We weren’t sure how long the kids were going to last, but they all loved it and we spent hours sitting in the Arena and watching the events.  It was constant action that we have never seen before.
Sitting in the arena watching the Mount Isa Rodeo

At lunch time Natalie said “I thought it was going to be boring, but its actually really good.”
A bucking bronco is released from the gates

Natalie, Josh and Sam watching the 'team roping'

This is what happens to most of the cowboys at a rodeo

Some bareback bull riding

And some bareback bucking bronco riding

After lunch we headed out to the sideshow alley and markets to have a look around and the kids each bought a lolly show bag.  By about 3pm we decided that we had seen enough so we left the rodeo and went to have a quick look at the lookout in the city before heading back to the van.  The Mount Isa rodeo was a real highlight for us all.

Monday morning we did some school, picked up some school post, stocked up on food at coles and headed out of town.  After driving about 2,000km in the past 6 days we decided not to venture too far, so we picked a free campsite 60km East of Mount Isa – the Clem Walton Park and Corella Dam.  We were only planning to stay one night but once we arrived and saw how beautiful and peaceful it was we quickly decided we would stay longer and have a rest day or two (we ended up staying 3 nights there).
Corella Dam, between Mount Isa and Cloncurry
The water level was quite low in the dam but it was teaming with bird life (and cane toads).  Another caravaner came over and told us that there were freshwater crocodiles in the dam too, he had taken his boat out the night before to the far end of the dam and had seen at least 15 of them.   A couple of hours after we arrived we saw a big bus pull in towing a trailer with a 4WD on it, we thought this rig looked familiar and once they had stopped and their three kids and their cat hopped out of the bus we realised that it was the family we camped next to in Canberra on the first three days of our trip 10 months ago!  Jamie, Sheree and their kids Joel, Luke and Zoe.  After a short while we went over to say hello and the kids just hit it off straight away and played as if they had known each other forever.  We had travelled the same way around Australia, but had not crossed paths again until then.
Our kids playing with the neighbors at Corella Dam

Joel, Sam, Josh and Luke using their slingshots
 That night we Mason’s enjoyed a campfire and roasted our last 10 marshmallows before heading to bed.

Early on Tuesday the 14th August the kids had a play with their friends Joel, Luke and Zoe and then we all got some school work done until after lunch.
Natalie in her classroom!

The kids spent the afternoon playing around the campsite.  The boys loved using the sling shots to shoot rocks into the water and they all enjoyed having a go at Mike’s stock whip.  Josh has now learnt how to crack the whip as loud as Mike can, and it echoed all around the dam (so we needed to limit Josh’s turns to about 5 minute stints as the campsite was very peaceful most of the time). After a restful day, we enjoyed another campfire that night.
We had a campfire every night at Corella Dam

Wednesday the 15th August we had decided that we were not ready to move on yet and we needed another rest day (because we haven’t had proper rest days since Cape Range National Park near Exmouth in WA).  So we got some more school work done played with friends and then said farewell to our friends as they were moving on.  That afternoon we set out to walk to the Dam Wall.  However, once the path became a ‘choose your own adventure’ over the sharp rocks, Liz and Sam turned back.  Mike, Josh and Natalie continued on, but it became a little too dangerous to clamber up any more rocks, so they turned back too.  We cooked dinner, sat around our campfire and then headed to bed.

The next morning we had a lazy start.  We did some school, packed up and drove into Cloncurry.

22 August, 2012

Caravan Safety Checklist

We haven't kept count of how many times we have hooked and unhooked the caravan so far on our trip, but I can tell you, it's a lot!

Before we left Sydney, Mike's dad (a caravanner with lots of years experience) suggested that Mike create a 'Caravan Safety Checklist' to use whenever we hooked the caravan up to the car.  Mike's dad had a checklist which he had written up for his van, so Mike copied that and modified it to suit our own car and van setup.  We use this list religiously whenever we hook up to ensure that we give ourselves the best chance of arriving at our next destination in one piece!

Our checklist is literally a double sided piece of A4 paper that has 2 separate checklists:  One checklist that can be done before the car is hooked up, and then a second checklist for once the caravan is hooked onto the towball of the car.

We wanted to keep a copy of these checklists, so we thought that we'd post in on the blog.  Obviously, every car/caravan setup is unique, but we've certainly found these checklists helpful to ensure that we do everything that we need to (especially when we're rushing a little bit!).

Our 'Pre-Hookup Checklist' (ie things that can be done before the car is hooked up to the caravan):

1) Close Awning and check it is securely locked in
2) Check and Inspect Tyres and Tyre pressure
3) Stow the Aerial
4) Stow the Clothesline
5) Close all windows and check the front window cover is locked in
6) Close top vents inside the van
7) Slide the kids door across (we travel with the door to the kids room closed so the weight of the door is spread across the width of the track it hangs from)
8) Stow items on the floor in the correct position (we travel with some items on the floor of the van and put them in certain positions when we travel)
9) Turn off water pump
10) Fill the water tank if required
11) Disconnect the power cord and stow
12) Disconnect the water hose (and remember to take the fitting from the tap)
13) Disconnect the waste water hose and stow
14) Turn fridge off
15) Turn off hot water system and put cover on
16) Wind up support legs on the van
17) Close and lock the front door of the van
18) Stow the step


 Our 'Post-Hookup Checklist' (ie things that are done when the caravan has been hooked onto the car):

1) Check that the caravan drawbar is securely clipped onto the towball (AND that the safety clip is clipped down (so that the drawbar doesn't bounce off the towball!))
2) Connect the safety chains (and cross them over each other to create a 'cradle' that would catch the drawbar in the unlikely event that it does pop off the towball)
3) Connect the Power Cable (via an Anderson Plug), the 7-Pin trailer plug, and the Rear View Camera connections
4) Remove the jockey wheel and re-tighten the housing
5) Release the van handbrake
6) Connect the weight distribution hitch
7) Connect the electric brake emergency breakaway cable
8) Remove any wheel chocks
9) Lock the caravan boot
10) Connect the caravan mirrors to the car
11) Check the indicators and lights on the van are working
12) Walk around the van for a final check

Although these checklists look quite long, we've got them down to a fine art and it doesn't take very long to do, but it gives us good piece of mind that we're ready for travelling.

15 August, 2012


Just after 10am on Friday 3rd August, we left Yulara (after putting our van in ‘storage’ at the campground - they stored our caravan free of charge which was great).  We drove through the national park and joined the Great Central Road which heads west from the Olgas.  We stopped and let down our tyres, locked the diff and engaged 4WD for the 300Km dirt road to Warakurna.  We had a couple of short stops along the way.  There wasn't too much traffic on the road, but we would have passed about 6 vehicles going the opposite direction.  We stopped at the WA Border for a photo and to have a look at the plethora of signs which lined the road at that point.  We saw a couple of camels hiding in the bushland near the road shortly after we passed into WA. 

At the start of the dirt road heading west

Driving along the Great Central Road

Just across the WA Border

Some camels on the great central road

A dusty drive to Warakurna

We arrived in Warakurna about 3pm and everyone we very excited to be meeting up with their cousins.  All the kids played around the house that afternoon.  After dinner we went for a big walk to the camel pond on the outskirts of the Warakurna Aboriginal Community.  It was such a beautiful sunset and the 8 kids and 2 dogs enjoyed running around burning off some energy. 
Heading off for a big afternoon walk

A beautiful sunset at Warakurna

Some of the kids at the camel pond

Exploring with the cousins

Nick giving Sam a piggy back ride

We were very surprised at the beauty of the country at Warakurna
As we were walking back to the house it was getting quite dark and the 'Friday night disco' had started in the community hall, so we went up and the kids joined the locals at the disco.  They all had fun running around the hall and enjoying some loud music with some of the local indigenous kids.  Once we got back at the house,  the kids had baths and showers.  Sam was so excited to see a bathtub (as it’s been well over 9 months since we’ve had a bath) and he couldn’t wait to jump in and splash around.  After everyone had cleaned up we all got ready for bed.  The kids found it very hard to get to sleep as they were all super excited.  Sam and Natalie slept in Jess and Emma’s room, while Josh slept in the big boy’s room.  The boys were up until after midnight before finally succumbing to tiredness and going to sleep.

On Saturday morning we were all up early to get to the 8:30am tour at the Giles Weather station (Unfortunately due to a redundancy, the tour will not operate anymore - which is a shame as it was a great tour).  The Weather balloon we saw released was let off manually (as opposed to an automated launch that we saw in Ceduna a few months before).  We all enjoyed the tour of the weather station.
Our tour of the Giles Weather Station

On the way back to Kath and Steve’s house; Kath, Liz, Mike and the three girls went into the shop which operates in the community.  There was very little food there with no choice of products and everything was very expensive.  It was fascinating to have a look at (but we were very glad that we didn't have to try and feed our family from this store!).  After that, we went back to the house and played for a bit before lunch.
Natalie and Jessie trying to be 'twins'

Natalie, Emma and Jess all dressed up

That afternoon, we went out to a nearby creek bed (which was dry) and the kids had lots of fun running around and playing hide and seek in the long grass. 
Em, Natalie, Jess and Sam in the Creek bed

The Boys throwing rocks and using the slingshots

When we’d had enough of the creek bed, we went back to the house, had some down time at the house.  The workers at the Weather station (Colin, Denise, Craig, Peter and Doug) had invited us all to join them for dinner at the Weather station (which is a treat because it's always a good night) and so we all got ready to go out.  We had a fantastic night with great food and we all enjoyed playing pool, playing darts, watching TV and eating ice creams!
James and Josh eating dinner at the Giles Weather Station

Jess, Em, Natalie and Sam

Later that night, we went to the accommodation block that Steve helps look after and we ran the kids through the showers there.  We weren’t back at the house until after 10pm.  The kids still had a little trouble getting to sleep that night, but it was about 11pm when they were all quiet.
After breakfast on Sunday morning we went down to look at the learning centre (where Steve works and where the kids do their school) and we had a look at the Warakurna roadhouse (and the art gallery).  Then we went to the Clinic (where Kath works).  It was great to see where Kath and Steve work and where their kids do school.
The kids looking at the Learning Centre

some of the buildings near the Roadhouse

The Warakurna Roadhouse and Art Gallery

We went back to the house and got a picnic lunch ready and drove down to the river bed (which was also dry) to setup a fire and cook some rissoles for our picnic lunch.  The kids played around, swung on the ropeswing and dug in the dirt.
Josh on the Rope swing

Nick having a turn of the swing

Kath and Liz

Steve and Mike

Our Picnic in the river bed
The Masons and the Taylor's

We ate lunch and when we were ready to leave, we headed back to the house and had a movie afternoon (because everyone was very exhausted after some late nights).  Unfortunately, Natalie came down with a fever and went off to bed for a 2 hour sleep.  Later that night, we all ate dinner and the kids went to bed.  When the kids were in bed, Liz, Mike, Kath and Steve watched a movie together.

On Monday morning, the Taylor's went to work (and the kids went with Steve so they could work in the learning centre).  We stayed at the house and Josh and Natalie did their school.  Everyone got home at lunchtime and so we ate lunch together.  Kath went back to the clinic for the afternoon and we all hung around the house.  The Taylor kids did their jobs (with very little help from the Mason kids!).  Later that afternoon, Kath called saying that they had to fly someone who had been in a motorcycle accident out via the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), so we all went down to the airstrip and watched the RFDS plane land, pickup the patient and fly off again, which is something that not many people get to see.
The kids watching the RFDS plane

A patient pickup by the RFDS in Warakurna

We then went back to the house for another great dinner together (feeding 12 people in one sitting is a pretty big exercise!).  After dinner, Steve, Mike and a few of the kids took the dogs out for a walk to the car dump at the back of the community.  The kids were all in bed by about 8pm that night and the adults watched some Olympics before retiring to bed themselves.

Tuesday was the day we were leaving Warakurna.  We decided that it would be best not to rush off in the morning, but rather wait until after lunch to drive out.  So that morning, after breakfast, The Taylor's went off to work (and the kids went with Steve for their school) and the Mason’s did school at the house and packed up their gear into the car ready to leave.  When everyone got home at lunchtime, we had lunch together, and then we all said our goodbyes.  It was hard to say goodbye as we wanted to stay longer and we all got on so well.

Our last day with the Taylor's at Warakurna

We hit the dirt road again at about 2pm (and after enjoying the sealed roads around the community, it seemed pretty bumpy!).  We didn’t stop much on the way back to Yulara.
There are so many old rusty cars dumped along the great central road

We stopped once or twice for a brief toilet stop, we stopped at the NT Border, and then we stopped at ‘Lasseter’s Cave’ which is a small cave where Harold Lasseter had sheltered shortly before he perished in the 1930’s (he had reportedly found lots of gold a few years earlier and was on an expedition to re-find it, but perished in the attempt and no one has ever found it since).  The highway from Yulara to the Stuart Highway is named the Lasseter highway in his honour.
Crossing back into the NT

Lasseters Cave

At about 5:30pm, the Olga’s were peeping into view and we were not far from the end of the dirt road.  At the end of the dirt, we pumped up our tyres again and drove back to the campground to check-in, pickup the van and get settled for the night.  We were a bit pushed for time, so we picked up a takeaway meal for dinner as well as a few groceries from the supermarket before heading back to the caravan.
Back to Uluru after our trip to the Taylor's house

Our Warakurna visit was such a highlight for us and the kids.  We certainly crammed alot into a short amount of time and we loved every minute of it.  Thanks to the Taylor's for their hospitality – we all had such a great time.